The cousins’ plan was elaborate. Arthur was astonished at the detail, skill, organization, and timing they demonstrated. Additionally – and much to his frustration – everything was compartmentalized; the clear leader was Gerald Jr. and while he knew all aspects of the plan, the rest of the cousins knew his or her individual part and the end result, but was in the dark about everyone else’s assignment. Beatrice imagined they were putting on a play; each person had a role and as long as they executed it flawlessly, they didn’t need to worry about anything else.
The “Invasion,” as she called it, continued until well after midnight. Gerald had allowed the cousins with the youngest children to leave (even baby villains have a bedtime), but everyone else worked vigilantly until being dismissed. Her apartment had gone from a neat home, to a war zone. Maps, charts, schedules, and surveillance photos wallpapered the previously ivory walls, pizza boxes littered the floor, soiled napkins and plates sat on every flat surface, the Gatorade stain on the carpet had grown with foot prints extending from it, and poor Pepe had gum in his fur from the second generation of cousins’ spitting contest – naturally, someone missed. Even her mother was appalled by the unsightly mess left behind.
As Gerald Jr. returned from escorting the last of his siblings to the door, he glanced around with a grim smile, “You certainly let yourself go, haven’t you, Bird? This apartment is the pits!” Beatrice looked at him blankly. His eyes shifted between her and her mother, “Now, when I leave you could call the cops, you could pack up and try running away again, but you’re smart, you’re related to me after all. So I suggest, you stay here, take care of your mess, and keep your mouth shut. We have your name and information embedded into this plan more than anyone else to ensure you cooperate. If we go down, so do you. Understood?” Beatrice and her mother nodded, with Pepe whimpering between them. “I’ll be seeing you later – and go to the grocery store for Christ’s sake, those rice cakes are shit.” Beatrice held her breath until the door closed behind him; she turned to her mother, “What are we going to do?”
Arthur watched as Beatrice and her mother started cleaning up the wreckage left behind by her cousins. He acquired pieces of the puzzle he had never seen before, video and audio feed of their hide out, but he still hadn’t solved the biggest mystery and the only one that mattered – where did they go? Regardless, he knew it was time to confront Beatrice and her mother, to tell them his role and how to proceed moving forward. He grabbed his jacket, phone, and a bottle of wine to help soften the blow.
It was exactly 2:44 AM when Beatrice heard the knock. She slowly turned the doorknob, terrified they had already returned.
“Hi Beatrice,” Arthur said with a smile, “it’s about time we really get to know each other.”