Sal didn’t lower his gun, but he didn’t shoot Tom, either. So there was that.
“You must think I’m pretty dumb,” said Sal, “if you think I believe that thing’s live.”
“Where’d you get your gun, Sal?”
“Not the same thing,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s one thing for your uncle to get a little number like this. Quite another for him to be dealing in serious arms.”
“Maybe you weren’t there in 2005,” Tom said. “But I bet you saw it on the news. That was the year Uncle Paul had to call in the bomb squad to remove a mortar shell a history enthusiast had packed in a crate in his storage shed.”
Sal bit his lip.
“Or maybe you remember the year after,” Tom continued. “That’d be the year he accidentally bought a tank of VX nerve gas. That made the news, too, and got the ATF a lot more interested in what kind of business he was in. Compared to that, selling a couple of stolen paintings qualifies as positively cushy.”
“Say it is real,” said Sal. “We got a stalemate. In the time it takes you to chuck that thing, I can blow a hole in your chest the size of a phone book. But I can’t let you leave, either. What’s your next move here, ace?”
“I don’t plan to leave,” Tom said. “Not without my uncle.”
“You’re not leaving with him, either.”
“Ellen,” said Tom. “Remley. Get the car.”
Sal waved the shotgun. “I said, you’re not leaving.”
“Right,” Tom said. “We are in agreement on this point. But it has nothing to do with them. Let them go.”
“And call the cops?”
“You’re not thinking, Sal. What kind of head start did you think you’d have? You don’t think I left your name anywhere? When the police go to my apartment, they’ll find out what I know. They’ll come for you.”
Sal’s face knotted up, and his neck became an anatomy lesson of stiffened muscle and tendon.
“You really fucked things up, kid.”
“Get in the car, guys.”
Ellen moved first. Tom didn’t look, but he could tell because she swore at him with every step, moving slowly and carefully over the gravel. Sal glanced over, but didn’t move to stop them, didn’t keep pace with the barrel of his shotgun. Tom heard a car door open, then another, then the two doors slam shut in unison.
“Once they’re gone,” said Tom. “All bets are off.”
Sal snorted. “Goddamned right.”
The engine failed twice before it finally turned over. For a crazy moment Tom wondered if Ellen would try to run Sal down, use the car like a missile from hell, but instead it just sat, idling in the drive.
After a minute of this—the longest of Tom’s life—Sal looked over at the car.
“The hell are they doing in there?” he asked. “Oh for fuck’s sake. They couldn’t wait until they got home?”
Tom looked. There, in the front seat, Ellen and Remley sat pressed together, hands and mouths moving hungrily, the car visibly starting to rock from side to side.
“You assholes!” shouted Tom, waving his arms. “Get the fuck moving!”
“Hey, hey!” said Sal. “Would you quit with the flapping? Jesus Christ, man. Be calm, all right?” Sal walked to the car and tapped the window with the butt of his shotgun. “Hey lovebirds! Let’s break it up, all right? I gotta wrap things up with your buddy.”
Ellen glanced over Remley’s shoulder, his face buried in her neck, fingers running through his hair. Sal misunderstood the heat in her eyes, thinking it was somehow from Remley. If he hadn’t, if he’d really known what burned in those coal black pupils, he would not have been as surprised when she raised a .22 caliber pistol from behind the passenger door and fired three shots through the window.