My god, where the hell was Max?
I was the one to give in first, lowering my weapon but without surrendering it. Joe kept his gun trained on my chest.
"Joe," I asked, tears in my eyes, playing on the one thing I had left. "Do you really want to shoot me?"
He tried to catch me out. "Those tears are fake."
I shook my head silently. One, because I could not cry at will and it had taken me ten minutes to get myself into this state, so if I talked it might be ruined. Two, because they were not fake tears. I was actually crying, because getting into this state involved thinking of things that I knew upset me. And three, because, even though this worked as a bluff against his feelings for me, I still wasn't sure about my own for him.
He placed his gun next to my phone. "I'm not going to shoot you, Briony."
"Why not?" I dashed away my half-staged tears, to no affect as every time I tried this it took me ages to stop crying.
"Because I don't think I could..."
I made a show of dropping my pistol. "Mine's not loaded, anyway."
"I know. You're always so defenceless. You wouldn't have killed me if it had been."
"Probably not," my voice was shaking.
Joe took a step towards me and almost collapsed on his injured leg. When I stood there watching his obvious pain because I could barely see through the sheet of salt water, he exclaimed, "At least help me!"
So I helped him to the sofa the best I could. I was not the strongest person on the planet. Now I couldn't even stay silent because of my sobbing.
"Why are you crying?" He seemed genuinely concerned, but I was wary of his tricks.
I looked at him in shock. "My ex just had a gun aimed at me. He also faked his own death. You tore me to pieces, Joe."
He hesitated. "... do you still... still love me?"
"Do expect me to after what you've done?"
He simply shook his head. "Not at all. I don't deserve it."
So, he thought I wouldn't love him after this, maybe that was his motive all along. I thought to remind myself to have his sanity checked when he was in prison. Also... his reaction I don't deserve it revealed that he may still have had feelings for me.
"When you get arrested," I told him carefully. "They'll see to your medical needs."
"You're arresting me?"
"No. No, because Max would never forgive me for giving you the easy way out. He wants me to shoot you, but I'm not going to."
"You don't have to."
It was the last voice I was expecting to hear. I turned around to see my best friend standing in the doorway. Her left eye and cheek sported a dark bruise, and her hair looked as though it had been pulled viciously. There were rope burns on her wrists, her tights were ripped and one of the sleeves of her top had been stretched so that it hung off her shoulder.
She had a gun pointed at Joe with a surprisingly steady hand and no tears.
"Harrie, what are you...?" I trailed off as I noticed that her eyes were fixed on the window. And the gun, I realised, belonged to Max. Discretely as I could, I pressed the button in my pocket that would switch on my earpiece walkie talkie.
Seeing my movement, she flicked her eyes to me.
"Keep your eyes on me."
Eyes back to the window. I had to resist the urge to look around because that would scupper whatever Max's plan was.
"Harrie, put the gun down." I took a step to in her direction, reaching out for the weapon.
"If she moves again, shoot her."
If he tried that again, I thought, I was going to shoot him. However, I did stop moving because Harriet had her finger on the trigger.
Would Max really have her shoot me? Could he.
On Max's instruction, Harrie walked over to Joe and pushed the barrel of the gun squarely in the centre of his forehead. "Get up," she ordered. He didn't. He couldn't. There was a pool of blood at his foot, dripping from his jeans. Harrie started to squeeze the trigger. I didn't understand how she was being so cam about this.
"Harrie, don't!" It wasn't supposed to sound like begging. It was supposed to be a warning, but it was ruined by this damn crying.
"Shoot her first."
Harrie pointed the gun at me, and I shook my head slowly.
"Get her to stop bloody crying!"
"Briony," she said. "This only has one shot left... please stop crying... I don't want to..."
I picked up my own gun and aimed it at her. "My last bullet or yours."