Chapter 53

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"I suppose this isn't the kind of family dinner you're used to, right Jess?"

I pretend that the shudder that rolls through me is of fear and not blind rage. Then I pick up the pudding, walk carefully around Carole and cross the floorboards to the table. They creak with every single step. I place it on the centerpiece where the casserole dish was and pretend that everything is fine.

"Dessert look amazing," I say right to Garcia's face.

The room is dead silent. I see Lurker's eyes swipe left to Garcia's, as if asking for a command. I can feel my heart racing in my chest. Please eat the pudding, please eat the pudding.

Garcia suddenly raises his fist and throws it across my cheek. My jaw clamps together and I feel blood fill my mouth.

"Dad!" screams Lizzie.

"Stay out of this," he growls, glancing at each of his family members. "I don't trust strangers in my house and this one has been on my radar ever since I saw her on my cameras the night you had your party, Lizzie."

Lizzie looks from Garcia to me in absolute shock. I'm shocked too, not because he caught me on camera, but because he doesn't know the real reason I was there that night. He would have definitely killed me by now.

Screw the pudding. This has gone way too far and someone is going to get hurt soon. Better it be Garcia than any of his family. I reach into my pocket for my gun when I realize it's not there anymore. What the fuck happened to my gun?

"Alonzo, stop."

We all turn to Carole. She has her hand pointed at her husband. And in her hand is a gun. My gun. Shit fucking fuck.

The room turns cold as ice. Danny and Lizzie gasp. Carole's hand shakes as she aims the gun at her husband.

"Carole? What are you doing?"

"Sir, we–"

"Quiet," he snaps at the long-haired man, who is still holding me tightly. "Don't hurt her."

"I have cancer," says Carole with a quivering voice.

"I know, darling," Garcia mutters gently with his hands raised.

"No, you don't know. You don't know what it's like to have a husband who cares more about murdering and stealing and screwing people over than he cares about his dying wife!"

I don't think I can be more shocked at how quickly this has escalated.

Garcia, too, is stunned. Probably more over the fact that Carole knows about his escapades. She clearly hasn't discussed it with him.

"Don't act so surprised, Alonzo. You don't think I know what you do for a living? That every time you lie to me, you drive me further and further away? We haven't been honest with each other in years and look what it's done to us. To our family!"

"Carole, I'm–"

"It's too late for apologies. It's too late to change things. I'm going to die in a matter of weeks and I will not live out my last days on earth watching you beat my children to the ground."

Garcia looks worse than Carole. He actually starts to cry.

But she doesn't even glance at him. Her eyes are piercing my soul. Her hands are finally steady as she says to me, "You need to protect my children from him, protect the world from his cruelty. Give him what he deserves."

My knees nearly give way. If Garcia didn't know about my attempt to assassinate him, he certainly does now. And despite my fear, I feel the urge to nod.

Garcia still doesn't move and I know that something is about to happen that can never be taken back. I should throw myself at her, knock the gun out of her hand or even angle it so that she pulls the trigger and shoots her husband instead. But I'm powerless. My muscles know something I don't and they won't let me move.

"Mom," says Lizzie with tears running down her face. "Please–"

"I love you," says Carole. "Both of you."

Garcia steps forward "Carole–"

She cocks the hammer of the gun and yells, "Stay back!"

Garcia obeys. I do as well.

"I'm so proud of the two of you. You be good to each other. You do great things with your life and don't waste a minute of it. And most of all, I hope you find love that not only sweeps you off your feet but that is honest, loving, and never fails. If you get stuck with worthless human beings like my husband–" She turns to Garcia and utters a small, choked laugh. "Get out while you still can."

Thenbefore anyone who wants to can stop her, Carole rests the barrel of the gununder her chin and pulls the trigger. 

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