Is no one listening to anyone?
Mikey frowned. “No, but he’s going to.”
Gerard’s brow furrowed as he turned a quizzical look towards his brother. “What do you mean?”
Mikey sighed. “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that he bailed us out of that, but we’re very much in the dark at the moment and if this is going to work, we all need to be on the same page.”
“You mean like I was before when Briggs asked me about the blindfold?” Gerard responded pointedly.
“I explained that,” Mikey replied with a frown.
“Well, maybe he’ll explain when it suits him. It’s no different, Mikes.”
Mikey opened his mouth to reply then closed it again as he saw the point that Gerard was making. He had deliberately held back information from him because it had suited him to and Gerard had been indignant and angry as a result; similar to how he was feeling now.
“I could have faked it, you know. You presumably did.” Gerard added. “You should have trusted me.”
He was right. Of course he was and Mikey was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt. It had been the first time he had ever sided with someone else over his brother and the realisation of it took him by surprise. Frank had suggested keeping the detail from Gerard and he had willingly accepted the idea. He wanted to tell himself that he had bowed to Frank’s experience, even if it was borne out of not knowing Gerard well enough, but he knew he could have objected, if he had wanted to. Mikey knew Gerard was more than capable of handling the situation, but he had wanted to do as Frank had asked. They had sat together for several hours planning their reappearance, discovery and stories; finalising every last detail and nuance. The hours had flown by and he had thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. Deep down, if he cared to admit it to himself, he knew that the novelty of scheming wasn’t the only thing he had enjoyed. He thought back to the final moments as they completed their plan of action.
“Okay, let’s check this off.”
Frank smiled as he stared at the paper detailing their plans. It was a job well done, all angles covered, all of the minutiae considered. To his left sat Mikey; it caused him such agony that he was seated so close to him but had to keep his mind firmly fixed on work. But now, that was drawing to a close and his heart raced as he thought of what he was intending to do. In reality, something very small but of great significance should the reaction be the one he hoped for.
“Okay, discovery. We’ve chosen the warehouse, time and the message to police. That’s all, isn’t it?” Mikey asked.
“Ray will be there to make sure everything goes to plan.”
“Yeah, good. We have the stories sorted out and afterwards I contact you? What if things go wrong?” Mikey ended on an uncertain note despite all their efforts.
“They won’t,” Frank reassured him. “Are you okay with not telling Gerard about that question?”
Mikey turned his head to look at Frank his expression one of uncomfortable uncertainty.
And that was the fateful moment. With his heart pounding in his chest, Frank leaned forward quickly and planted a brief soft kiss on Mikey’s lips. Sitting back as quickly as he had moved forward, Frank barely had the courage to look at him.
“I… I…” Mikey stammered momentarily. “I think he’ll be okay with it.”
Frank glanced up, his face blank as Mikey appeared to have glossed over what had just happened and merely continued the conversation. Only when Mikey’s features softened and he offered a shy smile did Frank relax. Suddenly exhaling in a sharp gasp, he realised he had held his breath all that time. The unexpected burst of noise and Frank’s embarrassment combined to produce a light laugh from Mikey’s lips, spreading to Frank until they were both laughing easily. Mikey reached forward and gave Frank’s hand a firm, yet gentle, squeeze. Unwilling to take things further just yet, but wanting to let Frank know that the gesture was not entirely unwelcome.
“Let’s tell the others about the plan,” Frank finally said.
Nodding, Mikey rose from his seat and followed Frank into the living room.
“You’re right, Gee, I’m sorry. It… er… there was such a lot to think about, I just agreed with what Frank said.”
Gerard’s gaze softened as he saw Mikey’s obvious discomfort.
“Don’t worry, Mikes,” he replied patting his arm gently. “Give yourself a break, it is new to you.”
“What is?” Mikey asked urgently wondering with horror if Gerard had become aware of something he was not yet ready to share.
“Well, all this cloak and dagger stuff,” Gerard cocked his head at his brother’s defensive reply.
“Oh…yeah,” Mikey sighed with relief. “Sorry.”
“Are you okay, Mikes?” Gerard asked, eyeing his brother with concern.
“Yeah,” Mikey nodded. “Sorry, yeah, I’m fine. Just a bit… you know… out of my depth a bit, I guess.”
Gerard smiled comfortingly and patted his brother’s arm again. “I guess we’re both fish out of water at the moment.”
“We’re all trying something new, all five of us. There’ll probably be some, shall we say, transitional stress.”
“Okay,” Bob turned having finished his call. “We have to go.”
“Back to Frank’s?” Mikey asked, hopeful that they could now move on to the next stage of setting up their business.
“No,” Bob shook his head as he glanced up and down the street. “Back to your apartment,” he added nodding towards Gerard before indicating for them to follow as he walked towards a parked car.
“Mine?” Gerard repeated with surprise.
Mikey nodded and sighed. Yes, realistically, this was the next part of the process. He and Gerard had to quit their jobs, which in his case meant travelling back to Chicago.
“I’m going to have to give three months notice to leave,” Mikey announced with a frown.
“You’re going to be stuck in Chicago for three months?” Gerard asked with a deep sigh.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like their newfound associates. In truth, it was actually that he barely knew them and it had surprised him greatly that they had taken care of him after being shot whilst in the process of trying to get them arrested. It was an odd arrangement, to say the least. But Gerard had noticed that Mikey seemed to get on well with them and with Frank in particular. Part of him still worried that Mikey had formed the strange alliance with his kidnappers known as Stockholm Syndrome and that any moment he would discover what they were really like. He dreaded the possibility that the moment of clarity would come while Mikey was far away, safe in Chicago and he would be left to deal with them alone. It was irrational, he knew that, but none of this had taken a normal course of events and he had already witnessed how dangerous his new life was likely to be. He would need convincing.
“Gee? Are you listening to me?”
Mikey’s voice cut through his thoughts and to Gerard’s surprise, he found himself already sitting in the back seat of Bob’s car, with Mikey at his side talking to him about something. The words had been a mere muffled noise to him as he processed his own thoughts.
“Huh?” he asked automatically; instantly wishing that he had managed something a little more articulate.
“I said realistically, they’ll probably ask me to leave immediately due to possible conflicting interests, but the fact that I’m a partner in the firm will complicate matters.”
“You’ll come back here?” Gerard asked hopefully.
“Yes, of course,” Mikey sighed. “Gee are you okay?”
“He’s got cold feet,” Bob announced with a smirk as he glanced in the rear view mirror.
Mikey turned a frown towards Bob who merely ignored the response and kept his eyes on the road.
“No he hasn’t! He’s just…”
Glancing back to look at Gerard, who was now chewing his lower lip, Mikey was suddenly lost for words.
“You have, haven’t you?”
“No,” Gerard shrugged awkwardly. “Not as such, anyway. I just want to know more about what we’re letting ourselves in for.”
Mikey drew his lips into frown. Gerard had a point; he had suggested what he had managed to convince himself was a technically legal enterprise but, despite being aware of the nature of some of the people they would be dealing with, he had neglected to consider the possibility of repercussions.
The legal system stood on the foundation of a defendant being assumed innocent until proven otherwise. But Mikey had come to realise that this single premise, the ideal upon which he had built a career, was fatally flawed. It only took one good lawyer to prove an innocent man guilty or vice versa. He had heard Frank’s tale of wrongful imprisonment and it had shaken his beliefs to the core.
Now, he felt vulnerable; stripped bare by his shattered values. Of course, added to everything else there was his confusion over his emotions. What did he really feel? He wanted so much to discuss it with Gerard; the pair had always been close and he truly felt that if anyone would understand and be sympathetic, it would be his brother. But what could he say? If he even began to tell Gerard what was on his mind, he knew that he would raise the subject of Stockholm Syndrome once more. Mikey mulled it over in his mind. He wished he could dismiss it as nonsense, but a nagging doubt lurked constantly at the back of his mind tormenting him with the possibility that Gerard was right and that he was leading them both into a suicidal pact with a gang of bank robbers. But even as the thought leapt forward, he shook his head irritably at the thoughts whirling in his brain. He would be the first to admit his confusion, if it weren’t for the fact that he desperately needed to hold on to the few beliefs he had left.
“Mikes?” Gerard asked wide-eyed as Mikey shook his head in frustration. “I’m not being unreasonable. That was not a confrontation I want to look forward to on a regular basis!”
Mikey stared at him, blankly at first, before realising that his reaction had appeared to Gerard as a reply to his earlier statement.
“No… no, I know.” He nodded in reply. “We need to talk this out. All of us.”
“Mikey,” Gerard hesitated, uncertain what to say. “Are you okay? You seem a bit out of it.”
Mikey noticed Bob smirking in the front seat and willed him not to say anything about Frank.
“I’m fine,” he replied with a deep calming sigh. “Yeah, I’m concerned about things too. We’ll talk it out with everyone when we get back to your place.”