Fiction Series: Playing With Fire - Chapter 12
We leave the security team to unpack the trucks and vans. Mario and Isaiah follow Paxton closely as we make our way up the stairs behind Mrs. Camren and Novia. I look around and notice Miguel isn’t with us. “Cruz, where’s the twin?”
“I asked him to take care of something for me.”
“Take care of what?’
Cruz ignores me. “Pax, how’d you do on time?” Paxton looks back at him and chuckles. “This is the first and last time you’ll be able to call me out, brother.” Cruz’s laughter fills the hallway. “You’ll never be better than me. It’s time you face it.”
“You had the easiest part of the whole job.” Paxton replies.
We reach the top of the stairs and continue down the hallway. Cruz continues to give Paxton a hard time until Mrs. Camren stops abruptly in the doorway of Big Pax’s office. Novia steps in beside her and her eyes grow wide. She steps back out and behind Mrs. Camren. Paxton calls out to his wife as we approach. “Noelani… what is it?” He eases Novia out of his way and follows Mrs. Camren’s gaze. The smile falls from his face as he falls to his knees. The life seems to leave his body with each deep breath.
Mrs. Camren remains paralyzed, eyes fixed in front of her. Tears begin to fall. Cruz rushes forward to his brother’s side drawing his gun. He moves inside the office as the rest of us gather in the doorway behind Mrs. Camren and Paxton. He walks over to Big Pax’s desk. He looks from his brother to his father with each step. His hands are shaking. My brothers are peering over my shoulder. When Cruz reaches the desk he looks over at his brother once more before placing his hand on Big Pax’s shoulder. When he does Big Pax’s lifeless body shifts suddenly. His head turns slightly so that his face is visible. Cruz closes his eyes for a moment and then opens them again. He runs his hand down the back of his father’s head. His body begins to tremble. It isn’t sadness. It’s rage.
“Close his eyes.” Cruz doesn’t hear Mrs. Camren’s barely audible command.
“CLOSE HIS EYES!” She screams it this time sending a quake through the office. Cruz gently closes his father’s eyes and takes a step back. His chest rises and falls harshly. Panic taking over him. He stumbles and falls back into the wall clutching his chest. I step around Paxton and rush towards him taking his weapon from his hand. I pull his weight into me. Mrs. Camren’s eyes dart around the room. She pushes Novia away and kneels down in front of her husband.
“Look at me.” Paxton’s eyes remain on his dead father. “Paxton, look at me!” She grips his face in her hands. “Baby… Pax… Paxton… LOOK AT ME!” His eyes meet hers. His breaths are sharp, short. Tears continue to stream down Mrs. Camren’s face but her voice is calm as she directs him. “You’re going to stand up. You’re going to go downstairs. You’re going to signal the secondary alarm.” His eyes dart from his wife to his father and then to his brother. “Paxton, you have to focus on me.” He brings his eyes back to her. She repeats herself. “You’re going to stand up. You’re going to go downstairs. You’re going to signal the secondary alarm.” She nods her head. “Okay baby, tell me what you’re going to do.”
Paxton swallows hard. “I’m going to put my code in for the alarm.” He looks towards Big Pax once again and back to Mrs. Camren. “Lani…” Tears form in his eyes as he looks back at his wife. She shakes her head no. “No, not yet. You have to go downstairs. Okay?”
“Okay… we’ll stand together. Keep your eyes on me.” Mrs. Camren rises and Paxton follows her lead. Her hands still gripping his face she asks, “You ready?” He shakes his head. His eyes glazed over. She slowly lowers her hands and Paxton turns his back to his father and quickly exits the office.
Mrs. Camren points at Mario and Isaiah. “Follow him.” They do as they’re told. Mrs. Camren shifts her attention to Cruz. She wipes away her tears as she walks towards him. He’s pressed into my side. He is in full panic. His entire body is trembling. His mouth is open, his eyes are wide and his breaths short mirroring Paxton’s from just moments before. When Mrs. Camren is close enough she places her hand to his chest. She blinks back her tears and whispers, “Cruz… you’re here with me. Breathe with me.” She slowly lifts his hand and places it to her chest. “See. We’re here. Together.” Cruz finally closes his eyes and a single tear falls. Mrs. Camren continues. “That’s it. Breathe with me. Ten… Nine… Eight… Seven…” Cruz opens his eyes and looks at her. “Six… Five… Four…” He falls forward shifting his weight from my side into Mrs. Camren. She catches him as he lands on his knees, arms wrapped around her waist. He begins to sob.
I reach for him in an attempt to relieve some of his weight off of her small frame but she brushes me away. “Don’t.”
I take a step back. The phone sitting on the desk rings. Again, she blinks back tears. “Enrique, hand that to me.” I step around her and pick up the cordless phone. She leaves one arm wrapped around Cruz. The quaking of his body continues to shake her tiny frame. She presses the phone to her ear. “Yes, this is Mrs. Paxton Camren. Code 1122. I am requesting a full shutdown…” Her voice cracks. She’s losing control. She speaks quickly ignoring protocol. “Darien, Big Pax is dead. We need you now.” She listens for a moment with her eyes closed. “I know. I will. I SAID I KNOW!”
She pauses again. “Fuck the procedure, COME NOW!” Mrs. Camren calmly hands me back the phone. “Hang it up.” She looks down at Cruz and then calls for Novia. “Take his hand.” Novia looks uncertain. “Novia, take his hand.” Novia looks down at Cruz. She gently places her hand over his tugging it from around Mrs. Camren’s waist. Cruz relaxes giving in to Mrs. Camren’s instructions. “Take him downstairs. Take him to Paxton.”
Novia tugs at Cruz taking his weight from Mrs. Camren until he finally stands on his own but buries his face into Novia’s chest who is visibly unsure of how to comfort him. The size difference makes Novia’s movements more awkward. She looks to Mrs. Camren who points to the door. “Go.” She does as she told.
Mrs. Camren looks to me. “Give me that.” I look down at Cruz’s gun and extend it to her.
She takes it. She adjusts and then aims it directly at my head. “Down.”
“Wha… what are you doing?”
“Get. Down. On. Your. Knees.” Her eyes are different. “This is your fault. You and your bitch. DOWN!” I move slowly. “You’re not thinking straight.” She’s unmoved. She’s usually difficult to read but not this time. This isn’t a drill. This isn’t one of her tests. I look at Big Pax’s body. I speak quietly, “I loved him, too.”
“You didn’t fucking know him. You came here for help. YOU DIDN’T LOVE HIM!” She steps closer so that the barrel of the gun is pressed against my forehead. “You, that bitch and your bastard brothers are going to die.” She leans forward and speaks softly as if someone could be listening. We’re the only people still in the office.
“Enrique, what did Big Pax tell you about me?”
I clear my throat but say nothing.
I stare directly into her eyes. “He said if you didn’t kill me, one of his sons would.”
Then, Mrs. Camren smiles.