Chapter 51

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"So do you want to stay for dinner?" Lizzie asks as she walks me down the stairs. I have her foil slung over my shoulder in its leather case.

Abort. Abort mission. "I thought it was family night? Besides, I need to get home and practice."

"Don't be silly," says a voice from the bottom of the stairs and we see Garcia appear from the hallway. He has a smile on his face but there's a confidence about him that makes me instantly sceptic. Does he know something? "We have more than enough food and I'd like to get to know you a little better."

I feel like my heart might literally jump out of my chest. I look up at Lizzie and her eyebrows are raised. Clearly she didn't expect him to allow a guest the honor of interrupting family night. "Yeah, why don't you stay Jess?"

"Uh ..."

"Come on, my wife won't take no for an answer," says Garcia. He holds his arm out toward the kitchen, even though I know how to find it. I don't know why I'm hesitant about this. It's the reason I came, right? But Lizzie wasn't supposed to be here, she was supposed to be at the shack with her friends. Now she's going to know I'm here to kill her father. If I can even bring myself to do it.

It's now or never, Jess. What are you gonna do?

I think of everything I've done up until this point. I can't back out. I can't let fear be my villain. Garcia is the villain. And he is going down, no matter who sees it.

I put on a fake grin and shrug. "Okay then. My parents aren't home tonight, so I was cooking for myself anyway."

"Perfect," says Garcia. "Lizzie can show you to the dinner table, I'll be right with you."

I watch Garcia step into the room with his two men and close the shutter behind him. Whatever they're meeting about must be important; they're drinking scotch in Garcia's house, for Christ's sake.

Lizzie takes the sword from me and drops it by the front door, and when she turns into better light, I see a very faint bruise on her cheek. I don't bring it up as she guides me through the house into the living room.

Danny is sitting at the table already, completely oblivious to the world around him as he stares at his phone. Lizzie's mother – who looks a lot like Danny and not like Lizzie at all – is setting a casserole down in the middle of the table. When she turns to us, her face is a mask of shock.

It is also hollow and colorless. It must be the cancer. Instantly my stomach sickens and the smell of delicious food doesn't help.

"Oh," she says. "Hello. Who do we have here, Liz?"

"Mom, this is my friend Jess. She came over to borrow my foil and Dad invited her to dinner."

"Hello Jess, I'm Carole. It's lovely to meet you."

"You too, Mrs. Garcia."

"Take a seat. I'll bring out the rest of the food and your father can carve the roast when he gets back."

Lizzie and I take a seat facing the pool outside. I soak in every detail; the distance between me and the back door, how many weapons are in sight, where the security is and how quickly they can get to me after I kill Garcia. But my head is buzzing with Lizzie's face as she asks me about my tournament tomorrow and I'm forced to make up lies again. I really don't know if I can do this. Garcia comes back into the room to carve the roast and I feel sweat begin to seep from my forehead as he takes a six-inch from the rack and starts sawing at the meat. It's almost like he's warning me.

I can't do this.

I can do this.

I must do this.

When we are all seated at the table, Garcia snaps at Danny to put his phone away and the room is silent.

Then they bow their heads.

"Father," says Garcia. "We thank you for the opportunity to share this lovely meal with our new guest, Jess. Let it fill our bellies and remind us of how blessed we are to be a complete family. May we cherish every moment together. Amen."

"Amen," the others murmur.

I swallow as the clatter of china and the passing of plates begins and I feel the questions are about to come. I didn't plan for this at all, I was originally going to sneak into the house and kill Garcia in his sleep. Now I have to think of a way to do it without blowing my cover. My cover is already blown. How did it come to this?

Thankfully, Garcia brings up Danny's recent report card and I'm given time to think. I always knew I'd do it with a gun and I have one deep in the pocket of my sweater. It's an R9 Stealth 9mm, something small but effective. I have other weapons but I only need one.

I could do it right now. He won't be expecting it. I run over scenarios in my head but they only make me fear more for the innocent lives around me. What if Carole gets in the way? What if Garcia's men come in, guns blazing, and shoot Lizzie by mistake? I have been trying for so long not to get innocent people killed since Belle died. I can't screw up now.

"Danny," says Garcia. "How many times do I have to repeat myself, if you don't make it through sophomore year with at least a B, I will have to pull you from the team."

"Dad–"

Garcia slams his hand down on the table and everyone jumps. Even I am afraid to meet his eyes. This is too intense for dinner conversation.

Then Danny throws his napkin down on the table and slides his chair back.

"I'm not hungry anymore."

He starts to storm to the door. Carole protests, snapping at Garcia. Lizzie murmurs to me how sorry she is for this. But before he can get to the door, Lurker steps in his way, standing at ease but not willing to budge.

Danny turns around. The other guard is outside the French doors, watching him.

"What is this Dad?" asks Danny aggressively.

"This is dinner, something I don't get to have with my family very often."

"This isn't dinner, you're forcing us to be here. Lizzie wasn't even coming."

"I want us all to be together not for me, but for your mother." He looks at Carole who sits rigidly in her chair. Garcia has this fake, puppy-dog look in his eyes that makes me want to vomit. "We don't know how much longer she's going to be with us."

Lizzie makes a small noise like a hiccup. Danny is glaring at his father, trying to hold back his rage. Then he turns to me.

"If this is supposed to be a family dinner, why did you invite her?"

I raise my eyebrows. It's a good question.

"Because," says Garcia. "I've realized since becoming so busy with work lately that I've been missing out on what's been happening with my family. I didn't even know Lizzie had a new friend until they were fencing at school. I – sorry, we –" He holds Carole's hand but she doesn't move an inch, "–decided we need to invest more time in our family while there is still time left. Now take a seat."

Danny doesn't move.

"Danny. I won't ask you again."

Danny purses his lips.

"Sit. DOWN!"

Garcia's sharp shout is so frightening, I jump again even though I am expecting it. I see Lizzie flinch away from her father and wonder if the bruise on her cheek came from him. Danny clenches his fists and sits back down and there is an awkwardness like nothing I've ever felt before.

But now, I am not afraid. I know I want to kill this son of a bitch. If not for myself and those I love, but to free this family from their psycho father.

AndI know exactly how to do it.

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