“This is why I didn’t want kids,” Sam said, clipping a magazine into his gun and belting it at his side, moving fluidly in the car.
“Adopting the kids was your idea,” Henry reminded him lightly. They turned left. The fact that Henry was driving above the speed limit was the only sign he was upset.
“I didn’t say it wasn’t. I said I didn’t want kids. Before we met these kids, I mean.”
Henry snorted. “And this is why?”
“Yes, Shrike, this is why,” Sam snapped, Henry’s old codename slipping out by accident. Sam checked the sharpness of his knife, nicking a finger on his left hand. It was good, so he sheathed it and went to check the next one, wiping the blood on his pants, finding the pain helped him focus. “Because we’ve hurt people. And those people have friends. And those friends have guns. I told you that as soon as they found out that they can hurt us by pointing them at our kids, they would.”
“Yeah,” Henry agreed. He sped up, the car swinging back and then forth, around someone, Sam figured. “They’ll be okay.”
“What if they’re not?” Sam whispered. He didn’t…he didn’t know what he’d do if Todd and Derek weren’t okay.
“Then a lot of people are going to die.”
“Yeah,” Sam agreed. Including them, he thought.
God, he sounded like such an idiot. “When did we become these people?” he asked.
“Soft little normies who can’t live without their kids?”
Henry was quiet for a second. “When we found the kids. They’ll be okay, Sam. They can take care of themselves.”
Derek could fire a gun and Todd had his combat knife, and they had basic martial arts training. That wasn’t going to help them if they’d been zip-tied to a chair and were having body parts cut off. There’d been no body parts in the letter Sam and Henry had gotten, but…
Well, it was what Sam would have done, before he’d gone soft. “It was stupid of us to think we could retire and nobody would care.”
“Yeah,” Henry agreed. “We should have…”
“We should have gone farther away,” Henry said with a sigh. The car stopped. “We’re here.”
It was five hours before the time they were supposed to drop off the ransom. One of the kids had been smart enough, or fast enough, to hit his panic button, and it had brought Sam and Henry here. Sam hoped it hadn’t cost either of them a hand. If it had, the pond slime that had taken it would regret having hands.
“Read it for me,” Sam said, sheathing another knife and opening the glove compartment. He reached past the false back to pull out a belt of gas canisters and opened the car door.
“Residential neighbourhood, SUV in the driveway. Two steps to the front door, no porch. Lights on in the house, only on the first floor, the kitchen. No movement. I don’t see anyone. No garage, back door probably goes right into that kitchen.”
“We’ll go in the front,” Sam said, and let Henry lead him up to the front wall, hand on the doorframe, staying out of the light.
“It’s not locked,” Henry muttered.
Sam took out his gun. Something was wrong. His children had been kidnapped by professionals, and they’d left their front door unlocked? “I’ll go low.”
Henry tapped Sam’s shoulder twice, and pushed the door open, quiet. He stepped inside and Sam crouched behind him. “I can hear voices in the kitchen,” Henry whispered.
“Todd and Derek will be upstairs or in the basement,” Sam said.
“Yeah, let’s put holes in these fucks.”
They went into the kitchen, guns out. “Dad!”
Sam lowered his gun. “Derek?”
A chair scraped, and Sam braced for impact, prepared to fight. A second later arms wrapped around Sam, holding him, and Sam relaxed immediately. “You came,” Derek said.
“Of course I came,” Sam said, holding him back. “Fuck. What’s your status? Is Todd here?”
“Yeah, I’m here.” Todd’s voice was beside him, muffled, hugging Henry. “We’re both green.”
“Where are the guys who did this?” Sam asked, letting go of Derek so he could hug Todd. “Are they still in the house?”
“Yeah,” Todd said. “They’re, uh, in the living room.”
“In the living room?” Henry asked.
“We weren’t sure what to do with them?” Derek sounded sheepish. “They’re also super heavy, so…”
“You killed them?” Sam asked, heart skipping a beat.
“Well…yeah,” Derek said. “Sorry, I know you said we’re not supposed to kill people unless it’s an emergency. But they were making jokes about raping us after they killed you, and one of them left his gun on the table, so…yeah. Sorry.”
“They tied us up with rope,” Todd said. “And like, it wasn’t even good rope. I didn’t even have to try to get out of it.”
Sam…laughed. He couldn’t help it. He reached out, held, both of them tight as hell, and he laughed. Henry was there too, and they all held each other. “I’m so proud of you guys,” Sam said. “So proud. How’d you even learn to do that?”
“Osmosis, I guess?” Todd asked. “Does this mean you’ll start teaching us some of the cooler stuff you know? Cause I kind of want to learn how to poison people and Derek also came up with some really cool codenames for us.”
“You know what?” Henry asked. “We’ll teach you guys everything you want to know.”
“It’s not a promise,” Sam said, grinning wide. He felt so…amazing. He felt like he’d felt when he’d first killed someone. Maybe having kids didn’t mean he and Henry had to be retired after all. Maybe it was time to come out of that retirement where they belonged. After all, the dead assholes in the living room were too stupid to have done this alone—they’d had a boss. Someone had hired them. Someone had done this. Someone had tried to make Sam’s family a target. Someone had made the last mistake of their life. “It’s a threat.”