Game Over
by Chris Anderson

It hits me like a curse, this reality of being wrong. And yet how could I have thought that it wouldn't be over now?

I want to scream, put my fist through the wall. And I want to throw myself into somebody's arms and weep. But there's nobody there.

I thought we'd taken care of everything. Stupid, really, but I've been fighting so long, always looking over my shoulder...

I should have kept it up just a little longer.

My best friend's body slumps against the wall, trail of blood showing the way she must have fallen. At least it was quick. One bullet to the head.

I hear the click behind me. Turn my head.

It's Francie. But it's not.

"Too bad," she says, and the voice isn't Francie at all. "Another few minutes, I'd have had this cleaned up, and you'd never have known."

"Who the hell are you?" I ask.

"Would you believe a friend of a friend?" She smiles. "Arvin Sloane says hello."

Tears, of fury, of rage, fall slowly down my face. "No..."

The door creaks open; Francie was going to fix that today. I pray she doesn't notice.

"Oh, yes." She smiles. "You would never have realized, you know. Not in a million years."

"Want to make a bet?" I snap.

"Enough games. You-"


Instinct recognizes the voice even if my conscious mind doesn't; I throw myself to the carpet as a shot rings out.

She has time to scream, and I realize she's not dead.

"Drop the gun. Now."

This time I recognize the voice. "Dad."

"Are you alright? Good. Get her gun."

Behind him I can make out the black dressed forms of a CIA tactical team. I look at- no, I can't call her Francie, and I won't- I look at her, waiting.

One thing I will say for Sloane; he recruits tough people. She's had one kneecap shut out, and though her face is twisted with pain, she's holding onto the gun.

I kick it out of her hand. From the sound, I probably break the small bones in her fingers when I do this, but I don't much care.

The gun lands near one of the others, who retrieves it.

"I trust," Dad says, "that you aren't actually Francie-" He catches sight of her body against the wall. "Oh, God."

He holds out his hand to me, and I take it with fingers that feel numb. He pulls me to my feet, leads me out of the house. I throw my arms around him, hold tight.

"Sloane sent her, daddy," I whisper. An endearment I haven't used in years.

He pulls back; doesn't look surprised, only resigned. He whips out his cell phone, dials. "Vaughn. Check on Tippin, now. Yes, she's fine. No, I'm afraid not." Hangs up, dials again. "Get me Kendall. No, it cannot wait. Yes, sir- No. My daughter's roommate-"

I stop listening. Watch the neighbors come outside to find out what's going on. I wish I knew what to tell them.

They're bringing Francie's body out now. I turn away; I can't look.

"Can we get out of here?" I ask my father. He nods, and we go.

We drive for what feels like forever; he has no better idea where to go than I do. There is a long silence, and we break it at the same time.

"I'm sorry-" he says.

"Thank you," I tell him.

Suddenly I remember my second confrontation with my mother, before she turned herself in. Gun held so steady in that two-handed grip, and her eyes- Knowing she would shoot. Maybe she wouldn't want to, but she would do it.

I think I understand that expression- and my mother- much better now.

"She didn't do anything," I say. "She didn't even know anything. She died because she was my friend." And I weep.

Dad pats me on the shoulder, one hand on the wheel, and produces a tissue from somewhere. I glance over at him, and realize- he may not know what to do, but his expression... the sentiment behind it all is right.

"I should have killed him years ago," Dad says. Philosophically. Like it's nothing; and this is what we've come to. That it is nothing- and yet somehow also it's everything.



"I'll do it." I am whispering now, and barely even that.

"There is no kind of justice that will make this go away, Sydney."

"I know."

I was wrong. It's not over.

But the rules have changed.


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