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Книга Third Degree. Содержание - Chapter 4

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“Good-bye,” Laurel said, and then she turned and led Mrs. Mayer over to the round table, not even looking up when Danny closed the door.

“Is he all right?” Mrs. Mayer asked, her eyes hungry for details.

“He will be.”

“Lord, he really lost it, didn’t he? Looked like he flat broke down to me.”

Laurel frowned. “I’m sure he wouldn’t want anyone to know.”

“Oh, of course not. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m just surprised, that’s all.”

“Why?”

“Well, my husband told me Major McDavitt killed dozens of Al Qaeda terrorists over there in Afghanistan. He flew with some kind of commando unit. That’s what the newspaper said, anyway.”

This local legend was partly true, Laurel knew, but in some ways a gross exaggeration. “I think he saved more people than he killed, Mrs. Mayer.”

Her eyes flickered. “Oh, really? Did he tell you that?”

Laurel pulled Carl Mayer’s file from her stack. “No, Major McDavitt taught my husband to fly last year. He doesn’t like to talk about his war experiences, but Warren dragged a few things out of him.”

“Oh, I see,” said Mrs. Mayer, relieved-or bored-to hear the word husband brought into the equation. Laurel could plainly see that in Mrs. Mayer’s eyes, she and Danny made far too natural a couple to spend any innocent time alone.

Laurel felt precisely the same.

Chapter 4

Laurel was in the middle of her seventh conference when her vision started to go. The rapt face of the mother across the table wavered as though fifty yards of broiling asphalt separated them; then the center of Laurel’s visual field blanked out, leaving a void like a tunnel through the world.

“Oh, God,” she said, in utter disbelief. “Oh, no.”

She had lied to Diane Rivers about having a migraine; now the lie was coming true. Already the blood vessels were dilating, pressing on the cranial nerves, interfering with her vision. Soon those nerves would release compounds that would drop her to her knees in unremitting agony.

“What is it?” asked Rebecca Linton, a woman of fifty with a mildly retarded daughter. “Are you all right?”

Could the pregnancy be causing it? Laurel wondered. She’d read that some women’s migraines worsened during their first trimester, but in other women they improved. It’s probably the shock of finding out I’m pregnant, on top of all the other stress. Ultimately, the cause didn’t matter. But coming on the heels of the positive pregnancy test, the incipient migraine made her feel she was being pursued by furies intent upon delivering retribution for her moral transgressions. A wave of nausea rolled through her, which might be part of the prodrome or merely fear of the crippling agony that would soon lay her low. A shower of bright sparkles burst like fireworks beside Mrs. Linton’s right ear. “Jesus,” Laurel breathed, pressing her fist into her eye socket.

“You’re covered in sweat!” cried Mrs. Linton. “Are you having a hot flash? I mean, you’re too young for it, but that’s what happens to me when I get them.”

Laurel gripped the edge of the table, trying to get her mind around the situation. Best case, she had forty-five minutes before the headache hit. Worst case, fifteen. Just enough time to make arrangements for the kids and get home to her dark and silent bedroom. “I’m afraid I need to cut our meeting short.”

“Of course. Is there anything I can do?”

“Could you wait here and tell my last appointment I had to leave? I’m about to have a migraine headache.”

“Of course I’ll wait, darling. Who’s coming next?”

Laurel looked at her schedule sheet. A blank spot like a bull’s-eye hovered in the middle of it. “Mrs. Bremer.”

“You go on, sweetheart. I’ll call Mary Lou. All us moms are like family now.”

“Thank you so much,” Laurel said, grateful for the graciousness of Southern women. “I don’t get these much, but when I do, they’re severe.”

“Say no more. Go, go, go.”

She picked up her purse and computer case and hurried across the driveway to the elementary building’s office. She told the secretary that she had to leave, then walked down to Diane Rivers’s classroom and poked her head through the open door. Twenty-nine third-graders looked up as one. Diane looked over from her desk and saw instantly that Laurel was in distress. She got up and walked out into the hall, her face lined with concern.

“Migraine worse?”

“Deadly. I have to go home. Do you think you could drop my kids off after school?”

“You know I will. It’s right on the way.”

Laurel squeezed Diane’s hand, then walked to the door at the end of the hall. She was crossing the drive to her car when her aide called out from the playground behind the school, where the children of the parents Laurel had been meeting were playing. Erin Sutherland was a local girl in her early twenties, an education major from USM. Laurel didn’t want to stop-if her students saw her, some would come running-but Erin waved both hands as she jogged to the fence, so Laurel walked over and forced a smile.

“Hello, Erin. Is something wrong?”

“I wanted to tell you one thing. Early this morning, Major McDavitt came out and sat with his son for a while. I figured it was okay since you and he are friends, and I know how much he does for all the kids.”

Laurel nodded warily, then cringed as another wave of nausea hit her.

“The thing is,” Erin went on, “he looked really upset. I think maybe he was crying. Michael definitely was.”

Laurel had known Danny was upset, but crying was totally out of character for him. She looked past Erin, scanning the playground until she found Michael. He was sitting alone on a motionless swing, a small, dark-haired boy with his hands floating before him as he rocked forward, then back, again and again. “Did Major McDavitt say anything to you?”

“No. I went up and asked if everything was all right, but he just kind of waved me away. You know, like, mind your own business.”

“And then he left?”

Erin nodded as though worried Laurel would scold her. Laurel was about to reassure the girl when her cell phone vibrated against her left thigh. It had been so long since Danny had texted her that she ignored it at first. Then she remembered that her clone phone was in her left pocket, and her legit one in her right. The clone was registered to a friend of Danny’s, and Danny paid the bill in cash. Danny also carried a duplicate phone, so that he could speak to Laurel without Starlette finding out about it. This message could only be from Danny.

Laurel patted Erin’s arm, then turned and walked briskly to her Acura, flipping open the Razr as she went. Danny’s text read, Sorry about today. Please call. Star gone to Baton Rouge for the day.

Laurel shut the phone without typing an answer, then climbed into her car and drove quickly out to Highway 24. In her mind Michael still sat on the motionless swing, endlessly rocking. With a stab of maternal guilt, she forced the image from her mind. She needed to drive to Warren’s office and get a shot of Imitrex. But Warren was the last person she wanted to see right now. He rarely noticed when she was angry or upset, but he would have to be brain-dead not to see that she was on the ragged edge of a breakdown today. Besides, she was pretty sure that her old Imitrex injection kit was still at the house, in the back of Warren’s medicine cabinet.

Only…there was Danny’s message to consider. Her pride told her to ignore it, but she had been praying for just such a message for more than a month. And now she’d gotten it. Danny was waiting to hear from her right now. Waiting in his lovely old cypress house on fifty acres at the end of Deerfield Road-less than five miles from where she stood. That was where they’d spent most of their extended time together, except for a couple of overnight trips they’d managed to take last summer. Starlette frequently left town, usually driving to Baton Rouge to shop in the upscale stores there, or to have her hair and nails done in a “real” salon. Her expensive habits had given Danny and Laurel hundreds of hours to get to know each other over the past year, so that instead of a frenetic affair that consisted of hurried sex in cramped and inconvenient places, they’d enjoyed long afternoons taking walks, swimming, riding horses, and even flying together.

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