Martin didn’t speak as the car rumbled away from the crowded streets of Hollywood, away to some more remote place where he could carry out the plan he had for Oliver. At first, I’d wondered if we could strangle him, but even as the thought crossed my mind a thin tinted screen rolled up between us. Oliver’s hand was gripping my wrist. He leaned closer, and when he spoke, I could feel his breath warm against my ear.
“We could break the windows.”
I cupped my hand around my mouth and whispered into his ear. “What with? I think our best chance is to jump him at the same time.”
“When the car stops?”
“Yes. Until then, just…”
“Hope we don’t get killed?”
I smiled wanly and sat back in my seat. In the front mirror I could see Marin watching us, eyes partially hidden behind his sunglasses. He smirked as he caught my eye.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I did what I did, and why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
“Actually I was wondering if you were going to go the cliché route of revealing your entire plan to us before you killed us, but in a roundabout way, yes. I suppose I was.”
Oliver snorted. Martin, disconcertingly, didn’t look annoyed. Instead he smiled- the smile of cat licking its jaws free of cream.
“You’re a clever little one, Edmund Nightingale. I suppose that’s why Oliver loves you. But you have to die, I’m afraid. Just like all the others. Oliver loves me. Only me.”
Something was twisting in my throat, my heart, some primal instinct, perhaps, of survival. The windows were showing only barren land- some grassy, secluded area where no one could hear us and there was nowhere to run to. Oliver was still gripping my wrist. I shifted and held his hand instead. If death was imminent, I wanted him to know that his feelings were returned.
The car came to a juddering halt. Martin opened his door with ease and slid out onto the grass- here, brown and burnt. The lights of Hollywood seemed far in the distance. His door closed with a click.
“Our doors are locked, Edmund. Can you see him?” Oliver sounded panicked for the first time since we’d climbed inside. I wondered whether it was from our situation, or Martin tearing away the delicate curtain Oliver always seemed to construct around his feelings.
“No, it’s too dark. Oh God, what if he sets the car on fire?”
“If he does…no, he won’t do that.”
“Oh, thank goodness.”
“He wants to kill us personally.”
I glared at Oliver. He shrunk under my gaze. “Sorry. I just…he seems a little bit insane.”
“A little bit? Oliver he murdered Jackson, Marie-Ann, Melissa, and now he wants to murder us and we don’t even know why.”
Oliver went quiet, eyes cast down at his shoes. “I think I do.”
Before I could ask what he meant, a face loomed in the window behind him. Martin was grinning like some insane skull. “Come on out Oliver. You too, Edmund.”
The doors unlocked with a click. Oliver caught my eye. “Remember what we’re going to do?”
“Okay.” He opened the door slightly, glanced at me once more, then slid out. I followed him, and together we prepared to pounce on Martin.
He was nowhere to be seen.
Oliver turned to me, a frown on his face, but it was quickly replaced by an openmouthed look of horror. The blood seemed to rush from my face, leaving me cold.
The cold barrel of a gun was pressing against the back of my head.
“Always look up, boys. Always.” Martin climbed off the roof- I could feel his body sliding down the side of the car against my back. I shivered from the uncomfortable proximity. Martin pressed ever closer, once clammy, shaking hand curling around my upper arm while the other held the gun.
“Now, Oliver, do you remember me? I know you remember me. Say it.” His voice was as shaky as his hands.
Oliver’s face was taut, eyes flicking from me to Martin. When he spoke, he sounded strained. “Martin Hawthorne. I remember you. I remember you. Just don’t kill him, please Martin.”
“Please Martin.” He mocked Oliver in a high-pitched, sing-song voice. “I remember those words, oh yes I do. You said you loved me, you loved me then you left without a backwards glance.”
“It wasn’t serious Martin, you know that-”
“Shut up!” The echo of his words seemed to echo against the starless, infinite sky. “I’ve been following you, Oliver, and they don’t deserve you, none of them deserve you, to speak to you. They had to die because they don’t love you. I love you, Oliver. You deserve me.”
Oliver’s hands had risen unconsciously in a pacifying gesture. “Okay. Okay, you love me. I understand, but Edmund hasn’t done anything, if you let him go then everything will be okay.”
The side of Martin’s head pressed to mine. I could feel the oil in his hair against my cheek. “You’ll love me if I let him go?”
Oliver hesitated just one fraction of a second before answering, but that was all it took. Martin’s body tensed, and he fired wildly at him. Oliver threw himself to the left, and I dropped like a dead weight from Martin’s arms, running to him. He was on his feet when I reached him, eyes fixed firmly behind me.
“Edmund, duck!” I dropped to the ground again, the bullet so close to me it seemed to ring inside my skull. More shots followed, but they were wild and missed by miles, flying to the blackhole sky.
“You said you loved me and you left me, Oliver Smith! I love you! I love you! Not them! They don’t understand you! I’m the only one who does! Let me kill you Oliver! I want you to die!”
More bullets followed the screeched words of Martin, bangs that filled the air like stuttering heartbeats. Oliver yelled something to me, perhaps telling me to duck again, but the bullets had deafened me. I didn’t hear.
Then, suddenly, a reprieve. I glanced up from the ground and looked behind me. Silhouetted in the car’s headlights were two figures- Martin and Oliver. A thin drizzle of rain was starting to fall, framing them in stars. Oliver was walking towards Martin, arms outstretched in surrender. The gun trembled in Martin’s hands, even as Oliver stood so close it pressed against his chest. I held my breath as he reached out a hand to take it.
Martin pulled the trigger, and the sound tore through me, mimicking the bullet that tore through Oliver’s chest.
He seemed to fall in slow motion, knees giving way, body going limp as he crumpled to the ground and lay there like someone had dropped an angel from the sky. I let my gaze meet Martin’s.
He smiled at me and knelt down beside Oliver’s head, stroking his hair with the still smoking gun.
I stood calmly and approached him. He didn’t meet my eye, even as I bent and prised the gun from his fingers.
My hands were steady as I levelled the barrel with his head. Finally, he looked up, and I saw in his eyes not fear, but relief.
I pulled the trigger.