Standoff

Hide and Seek Chapter 42

The silhouette in the doorway shifted; whoever it was, they were looking up. Looking into the angled morning sunlight. Looking at Griff.

It was a girl. She had shoulder-length hair, a slightly downturned mouth, and narrowed brown eyes filled with exhaustion, exasperation, a sharp-edged desperation. It was almost the exact same expression Griff had seen her wearing as she strode up to the safehouse mere hours ago, stepping over the corpses her murdering partner had created.

And there was a gun in her hand. Francis’s gun.

Now or never; her or me. Griff took aim, flinging his arm up in the girl’s general direction like a gunslinger in a movie might do it, and then catching himself quickly and, in a split-second, lining up the hammer of the revolver with the guide at the front, like he’d learned to do years ago playing Duck Hunt on his brother’s old Nintendo.

He pulled the trigger.

His arm jumped more than he had expected it to; the little revolver packed a kick. He noticed it in an abstract way, the same way he noticed the jolt to his wrist and elbow, and the momentary blink of light that illuminated the girl’s terror-stricken face, as if he’d shot her with a camera flash; and appropriately enough, he found that the image had, in fact, been burned onto his eyes like a piece of film, so that for what felt like several seconds, it was all he could see. Terror. Shock and terror.

And he lowered the gun.

She was still lying there, fallen onto her side now, head cradled in her arms, legs stretched out beside her and disappearing behind the doorframe. She was dead. He had killed her. Had he killed her? Was she dead?

She was moving!

The girl turned her head, gingerly it seemed, as if she wasn’t sure it would do what she was telling it do. But it did, and her arms obeyed her, as well, and then she was sitting up, and looking at Griff, and he couldn’t see any blood anywhere, and she was holding Francis’s gun and pointing it at him, and he was about to die; he had missed his shot and he was about to die, and in a way he was glad that he hadn’t killed her, because he could see that look on her face, that fear in her eyes, and he didn’t think he would have been able to live with himself afterwards, not that he was going to be living with himself for much longer, anyways, because after all he was about to die; and boy, a lot of thoughts could run through your head when you were about to die, couldn’t they? Was it like this for everyone? Had the girl who was about to kill him felt this same way, and thought these same kinds of thoughts, just a few moments ago? Was she seeing the same look in Griff’s eyes that Griff had seen in hers, the same look that he could still see on her face even right now, as she stared at him, and pointed the gun, and breathed, and stared, and pointed…?

A crow cawed.

The sound broke the spell that had come over Griff; or maybe it cast a new one. Time resumed its flow.

He heard himself ask, “So. Are you going to kill me?”

And a few seconds later, he heard her reply: “…No, I guess not. Are you going to kill me?”

Griff shook his head, and let out a long, slow sigh.

“Why not?” the girl asked. She was lowering the gun, but the muscles in her face were still tense, and something fierce and shining was reflected in her eyes.

“Do you want me to?”

“No. No! I mean… I guess I’ve kind of earned it, though.” The girl looked at the gun in her hand, turned the fierceness in her eyes upon herself. “I helped Sky murder all those people… Well, I didn’t help her directly, but I did get her past the security, and once I realized what she was doing I didn’t try to stop her or anything. I told myself it was all okay, on some level, that it was worth it for the sake of rescuing her, or that you all deserved it somehow. Or maybe I didn’t tell myself anything at all; I just shut it all out and didn’t let myself think about it. I wanted to believe what I was being told; it was easier that way. But what we did wasn’t justice, no matter what Innis said. I don’t know what it was, but it definitely wasn’t justice…”

“No,” Griff agreed, a sliver of dry defiance creeping into his voice and his hand as he tightened his grip on the butt of the revolver. “It’s hard to find much justice in killing cops.”

The girl snapped her head up, eyes narrowed, fierceness kindled brighter, and said, in a low, flat voice, the single word: “What?

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