“Do you think they’re going to arrest him right here?” Marcus said, keeping his voice low.
“No idea. I hope not. He’s probably armed, and, from reputation he doesn’t sound like he’d go easily.”
“Or she,” Marcus said.
Up until that day I might have rolled my eyes at that one, but I’d seen a couple pictures of the Executioner in the Feds’ database and Gena might just fit. Come to think of it, I told myself, she’d said she worked in an office, but she hadn’t said which one.
I checked over the FBI agents in the buffet line again, wondering whether or not I should talk to them.
I decided not to. If they wanted to talk to me, they’d already be doing it.
Besides, mentioning something to the FBI would make it harder to meet our goal of not starting a fight in the middle of the party.
“I’m going to fill my plate again,” I told Marcus, and walked over around the far side of the buffet where there wasn’t a line.
By the time I came back, Marcus had moved a few feet away and started talking with one of his uncles. Haley had introduced me, but I couldn’t remember the man’s name. Not that that was a surprise.
I stood and ate next to the door to the kitchen, hoping that Haley would come back soon.
Halfway through the food, a balding, black-haired guy stepped up to me. Just and inch or two shorter than I was, he had a thin, wiry build. I pegged his age as mid-thirties. He held a can of beer in his right hand and a plate of food in the other.
“Hi, I’m Ray, how are you doing?”
“Pretty much okay,” I said, trying to remember if Haley had mentioned a relative named Ray. “I’m Nick.”
“So,” he took a drink, “are you with the family?”
“I’m dating a member of the family.”
“Yeah? That’s cool. Me, I come up from Chicago most years to have Christmas with a friend of mine. Then we drop by.”
“Really? Does your friend live close?”
“Just a couple houses down. He’s got a nice place.”
“I think I know which house you mean.” Cassie and I had climbed around it.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s got a good view.”
I caught a flash of gold from his left wrist.
He angled his plate so I could see his watch better. “It’s a Rolex.”
“Huh,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real one.”
“Rolexes or watches? All you kids just use cell phones these days.”
“Good point,” I said, “I’m trying to think if I’ve ever owned a watch that didn’t come out of a Happy Meal.”
He laughed. “Ha. You make me feel old.” He moved his arm to a more comfortable position.
“So, you’re dating someone here? Where is she?”
“Well,” I said, “the kitchen right now. She was summoned by her mom.”
“Really? Think she made any of the food?”
“I’ve got no idea.”
“It’s great stuff, and no wonder with half the family in the restaurant business. So are you in high school? College?”
“High school. Senior year.”
“Man that was a long time ago. Having fun?”
“Mostly, it’s been a strange year.”
“Yeah. Grand Lake’s been exciting this year. I’ve seen the news coverage. Crazy.”
The kitchen door swung open and Haley walked out carrying a tray of meats and cheeses. She smiled at me as she went past.
“Seems I can barely turn around without finding another kid has grown up. Well, I won’t keep you. I gotta catch a couple people before I go. I’ll see you next year.”
“You bet,” I said.
He walked away and struck up a conversation with a group of Haley’s relatives and people who might have been neighbors. I couldn’t be sure.
“Are you done?” I asked Haley as she walked up to me.
“I am if I stay out of sight,” she said. “Let’s get away from the kitchen.”
“Over here,” she said. She led me toward the edge of the crowd and also, incidentally, the wall. We followed the wall down to the stairway that led to the second story.
“The downstairs stairway is in the kitchen, but even if my mom didn’t snag me,” Haley said, “we’d end up with the little kids. No one’s upstairs.”
Someone had hung lights all the way down the banister along with some kind of green, plastic leaves. We walked three fourths of the way up the stairs and sat down next to each other.
I could still hear the murmuring of conversation below us, but at least I didn’t have to see anyone.
“I ran into some guy named Ray downstairs,” I said, “Do you know who he is?”
“A little,” Haley said. “He’s friends with the guy from Chicago a couple doors down from us. He comes for Christmas most years. Why?”
“I don’t know. Just trying to make things make sense. I haven’t met anyone yet that really seems like a hit man. The only hint I’ve seen that anything weird is going on is the FBI agents, and they’re raiding the buffet.”
“Everyone gets hungry,” she said.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if that were the only reason they’re here?”
“Your tax dollars at work.” She grinned.
“Yours, maybe,” I said. “I couldn’t find a job last summer.”
I looked a little closer at the railing behind Haley. The fake plastic leaves had red berries.
“Is that supposed to be mistletoe?”
“It’s supposed to be.”
“You’re under it.”
I leaned toward her and she leaned toward me. We kissed. Then we kissed a couple more times.
I’d wanted to kiss her before. We’d had a lot of opportunities, but the moment hadn’t seemed quite right. Now, with a possible hit man downstairs, the moment couldn’t have been more wrong, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
We pulled apart, still looking at each other, my arm around her waist.
What were we supposed to do now?
“I wonder,” I began, but downstairs, people started shouting.