I hear a chorus of 'Merry Christmas' as Ana says a toast and raises her glass. I sip whiskey and smile at the warmth on my tongue, so welcome on this cold Christmas eve in Vegas.
"I can't wait to show you all the presents and the big surprise, but until then, please enjoy the refreshments. In a few moments, George will present the musical entertainment of the evening. He's been singing non-stop these last few weeks in preparation and I know you'll love the songs he chose."
I rub my hands together with excitement and the smiles of all those around the table makes me forget the one that is not here. I won't let thoughts of Ray ruin Christmas Eve this year. I swear it.
My phone buzzes with several message alerts, but I don't want to bother with anything or anyone at this moment. Reaching in my pocket, I hold the button until the phone shuts off and I turn my gaze towards Ana.
"Make sure everyone has enough whiskey," I say, watching her holding the bottle out towards the guests.
She winks and I respond with a look of feigned shock, which brings a laugh from the table.
"Enough flirting, Ana, fill my glass!"
She kisses me on my forehead and obliges, pouring me a double whiskey, neat. Oh, George would smile at my thoughts - he corrected me on how to order this drink the first time we met. It seems like so very long ago now and it makes me feel a sudden rush of melancholy.
Speaking of George - where is he? It's not like him to keep me waiting. I think about turning my phone on, but decide against it and try to calm my agitation by taking a large gulp of whiskey. Tears form in my eyes, but I swallow without coughing.
At that moment, I see George enter the library. He looks pale and motions for me to leave the table to meet him. I rise, a pit forming in my stomach as silence grips all the ladies around the table one by one. George doesn't look as if he is ready to sing at all. I approach him and take a spot near the door, waiting for him to speak.
"Something has happened. I've locked the gates and put all security forces on alert," he says, eyes moving over my shoulder to make contact with Saul.
"Tell me, George," I say, leaning close to him so nobody else can hear.
He puts his mouth against my ear and whispers, "It's that man you met. Roger. He..."
The pounding of blood in my brain blocks out the rest of what he says. I don't even need to hear the details, I just know. The urge to vomit passes over me while I try to lock onto his words. The only thing I hear is massacre.