Sal bobbed the shotgun at them. “Empty your pockets. Slowly. Let’s start with you, Red.”
Remley blinked and pointed a finger at himself. Sal nodded.
“Do it,” Tom whispered. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
Remley’s dreams of being an action hero were dashed as soon as Uncle Paul relieved him of his gun. He carried it over to Sal, who started to laugh.
“The hell is that? A pea shooter? You come up here with a goddamn pea shooter?”
“In retrospect,” said Remley, “I have been more prepared in my life.”
Sal turned to Ellen. “Your turn.”
She removed the recording device and held it in the air. Sal motioned for her to drop it. “Anything else I should know about? Blow darts? Rubber bands? Thumb tacks?”
“A pack of cigarettes,” Ellen said. “But tax is a bitch. I’d like to hang on to them.”
Sal glanced at Paul. “Kids, right? Wise asses, all of them. My old man taught me a little thing called respect.”
Tom desperately wanted to check his watch. He hoped Mrs. Day hadn’t fallen asleep watching A Bridge Too Far. that she’d remember to make her phone call. That’s when he noticed the familiar Toyota coming down the road, slowing to make the turn in front of the Everything Store.
Uncle Paul glanced back. The detective was coming up the drive, and through the windshield they could see him reaching to unholster his gun. It was an awkward maneuver for a man that size in a car that small.
Sal turned and groaned. “Oh, Christ, not this fuck.”
Valiss didn’t have a chance. Sal pointed the shotgun at the detective’s windshield and fired. Valiss was already trying to turn hard, one hand spinning the wheel, the other still fumbling for his gun, but the shotgun blast was true. The side window of Valiss’ car exploded into green shards, and the car continued, Valiss’ leg dead weight on the gas pedal, until it crushed itself against a telephone pole.
“Jesus Christ, Sal!” Paul grabbed at the shotgun. “Jesus fucking Christ! What are you doing?”
Sal swung the butt of the shotgun across Paul’s jaw. He fell hard against the gravel, blood coming thickly from the gash that split like a new mouth across his face.
“Man oh man,” Sal said, rolling his shoulder. “That shit hurts.” He knelt and picked up the .22 pistol. “The three of you. On your knees.”
“I should have known,” Tom said. “You fed me lies the second we met, didn’t you? Your speculations on Rebecca, those were grounded in truth, weren’t they? And that smoking gun fingering Valiss as the last guy to see her alive. You made that up, didn’t you?”
“It’s funny,” said Sal. “You’d hung onto that file, you’d have seen my name crop up. Hell, I half thought you did, and it was all some weird set up. But I guess you aren’t that bright.”
“My uncle trusted you,” said Tom. “So I did. My mistake.”
Tom took a step forward and tripped on his own feet. Sal jumped back as Tom tumbled, his face scraping against the gravel before he rolled onto his side with a groan.
“The hell you doing?” Sal asked. “Get your hands up. Get where I can see them.” His finger hovered over the trigger of his shotgun.
“Not going to warn you again,” said Sal. “Hands.”
Tom’s left hand went up first, raising slowly into the air. His fist was open, fingers straight, but from his index finger something dangled in midair.
“What is that?” Sal asked. “What are you holding?”
“The other half of this,” said Tom. He rose slowly, right hand cupped around a dark, fist-sized object. His movements were cautious, delicate, as if he were trying to protect the last egg of some endangered reptile. It took Sal a moment to understand what he was seeing, and longer to believe it. Tom’s right hand was clutched firmly around a grenade.