Char twisted the hem of her jacket and jiggled her knee up and down in her chair. Sammy still hadn't put down the photo of Moira.
She didn't know what he hoped to discern from staring so long and figured he was stalling - trying to figure out how he could chicken out of doing the right thing so Bud woudn't be mad. Just the idea of it started her blood boiling.
No, she wasn't being fair. She was just scared.
Sammy's office was as overdone as his hair-do. Every award or certificate ever earned was framed out and hung like it meant something to anyone in this filthy business. And though the walls were covered, the desk and file drawers were spotless.
He finally dropped the photo and rubbed his face with both hands. "Does Bud know?"
"Not about Martin." Char leaned forward and set her elbows on the desk. "Sammy, I'm scared. They - I... I know this ties back to Philly. I feel it. I was just the go-between there, but I know you know more. You and Bud run the show."
Sammy smoothed his blue tie and pressed his lips together. "I don't know what you're talking about. Nothing unusual happened there."
"Don't you lie to me, Sammy." Char went still, staring her oldest brother in the eye. "Not when Martin's involved."
"I'm not lying. I don't know what went down, that was all Bud." His gaze flickered away for a second, telling her all she needed to know.
Sometimes she didn't think she even knew this man. What had Bud done to him to make him such a coward?
He tilted his head to the side and considered the envelope with Martin's finger in it. "It's too bad. Martin always was one of my favorites."
"One of your favorites? You son of a..." Char stood up and kicked the chair back hard enough for it to hit the wall. The resulting crash didn't seem nearly loud enough. "I can't believe you. He's your brother, for God's sake."
"Charlotte, I have no idea what you expect me to do. Or how the Philadelphia job has anything to do with either him or Moira." Sammy remained seated and shook his head at her like this was a tantrum. "If you need some time off-"
"I don't need time off. I need my brothers to reach down in their pants and see if they still have a pair. From what I see, Bud's had you all neutered." She paced between him and the office door. "Come on, Sam, even Paulie knows things went hinky in Philly."
That got his attention. Sammy narrowed his eyes. "What does Paul know?"
"Why? If he knows too much, he has to disappear, too?"
Something in the way he said it. The way his eyes stayed blank. Just the fact that he even responded to the question, indicated that the implication wasn't so far-fetched.
"Jesus." Char stopped pacing, not sure if the pain in her chest was residual anger or if it was from realizing that her own flesh and blood could be so cold. "Who are you?"
Sammy glanced at the spot in the corner where they both knew a security camera set. She finally realized why he sounded like such a robot. He gave her a slight nod, letting her know he was on it.
Footsteps pounded outside the door before it was flung open. Paulie and Orin Burke spilled in.
"Everything okay in here, Mr. Templeton?" Orin looked back and forth between the two of them. Short, thick, and covered in scars, he was the kind that liked it when he 'had to' deliver punishment.
Char looked him up and down. "You gonna protect the Big Boss from his little sister?" She snatched the envelope and photo off Sammy's desk and pointed at him. "If they die, you die. You understand me? I'm out."
She shoved past the men in the doorway, ignoring the intentional elbow jab from Orin.
Paulie's voice floated after her into the grungy hallway, "Out? Why's she out? What's going on?"
Char barely registered the sting from the developing bruise on her upper arm. Orin had had it out for her since she'd told him she'd rather cut off her breasts than let him touch them. Well, that wasn't exactly how she'd said it.
She charged out into the darkening night, pleased with the performance she and Sammy had put on. Sunset came on fast during the Fall, streaking the sky orange and pink. It could be mesmerizing for people who had time to look.
Char didn't have time to do anything but move. Now. Before Bud knew he had a problem with her. Sammy could buy her some time.
She pulled out her cell phone and connected to a cheap local airline. One way ticket to Philadelphia, please. Tonight. She fired up the jeep and headed out. After confirming the flight, she slapped the phone shut.
It immediately started ringing. She rolled to a stoplight and checked the screen face. Unknown caller. That could be anyone from the business. She ignored it, resigned to having to ditch the phone after she left her apartment for good.
The ringing stopped. Then started again. And again. She finally arrived in front of her place. The phone rang again. She shouldn't answer. She knew she shouldn't. Just turn off the ringer.
She flipped it open. "What?"
"Miss Templeton, nice of you to answer." The voice was unfamiliar. It slid into her ear like the eager tongue of a bad blind-date. "That was an interesting exchange back there with Samuel."
"Who is this?" She checked her mirrors, waiting until she wasn't distracted to get out of the car.
"A better question is what do I want?"
She clenched her jaw, extremely aware that she was on a tight schedule and the sky had gone completely dark. "Okay, what do you want?"
"Well, to play ball, of course. You've got something we want, we've got somethings you want."
Char closed her eyes. First contact. "If you hurt them again, I swear I'll-"
"Hush, now, Miss Templeton. We just want you to know that we'll be seeing you when your plane lands."