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Книга Third Degree. Содержание - Chapter 17

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“There’s some kind of roadblock up there,” Missy said, pointing to Dr. Shields’s street. “You want me to stop here or what?”

“No, keep going. But slow.”

“What the heck is going on, Nell? Why are they guarding Dr. Shields’s street?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s something to do with that lawyer, isn’t it?”

Nell scanned the lawns and grassy lots beyond the lines of cars parked along Cornwall, Avalon’s main street. Knots of people were gathered along the curb, many of whom she recognized. Most wouldn’t know her anywhere but in the window of Dr. Shields’s office, but some would. A white deputy standing in the road ahead was turning cars back toward the highway. A young black deputy stood at the roadblock, talking to a couple of men in polo shirts. She was pretty sure he’d been to the office for his departmental physical.

“What do I do?” Missy asked, easing her Mustang forward. “Come on.”

“I’m going to get out. You go on back to work.”

“No way. It’s too late for that anyway.”

Nell had her hand on the door handle when she saw Agent Paul Biegler less than fifty feet away. He was standing behind a black sedan, talking to his two assistants. He had a pressure bandage on his right cheek.

“Uh-oh,” Nell said, sliding low in her seat. “Get out of here!”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“Just back up and park somewhere!”

“Okay, okay, calm down.”

Nell shut her eyes and tried not to freak out. She’d known something bad was happening out here. Dr. Shields had pretended different on the phone, but she knew his voice too well to buy that. He was trying to protect her, rather than himself. God only knew what kind of trouble Dr. Auster had caused out here.

“Missy, I need your help. Will you come with me?”

Her cousin shrugged. “Why not? Maybe I’ll finally find out what all the fuss is about.”

Chapter 17

Five men and four cowboy hats were jammed into the mobile command post around Danny: Sheriff Ellis; TRU Commander Ray Breen; Detective Rusty Burnette; Carl Sims (wearing a black baseball cap); and Trace Breen, who was supposedly there to facilitate communications. Each passing minute had made it clearer that the tiny trailer had been designed to accommodate only half their number with comfort.

On the positive side, the architect’s plans for the Shields house had finally arrived and now lay spread across a Formica dinette table half the size of the blueprints themselves. One page showed the landscape contractor’s plan, and on this Carl had marked the surveillance and sniping positions now occupied by TRU officers. Sheriff Ellis stood like a bent tree over the table, and Ray Breen leaned against the door to keep out unwanted visitors.

During the time it had taken to gather everyone in the trailer, Danny had formed a pretty clear picture of how each man felt about the situation. The Breen brothers believed Kyle Auster was dead and were ready to assault the house with flash-bang grenades immediately. Detective Burnette favored delaying the assault until they had more information about where everyone was inside the house. Only Carl Sims kept close counsel.

“All right,” Sheriff Ellis said, bringing the meeting to order. “Two things. What we know, and what we don’t.”

“Three hostages in the house,” said Ray Breen. “One probably dead already. The subject is armed and dangerous, which his own son told us. And we’re losing light fast, quicker because of this storm coming up.”

“Thank you, Ray,” said the sheriff. “What don’t we know?”

“We don’t know if Dr. Auster’s alive or dead,” drawled Detective Burnette. “We don’t know what part of the house they’re in, which it’s a damn big house, by the way. We also don’t know exactly how the subject’s armed, though he’s well-armed for sure. And most of all, we don’t know why he’s done any of this. He claims he’s gonna come out when he gets done with this computer program he talked about. Told Ray he’d come out quiet and peaceful.” Burnette glanced over his shoulder at the door. “Right, Ray?”

“That’s what he said. Don’t make no sense to me, though. What’s a guy doing messing with a computer when he’s already shot somebody and his own boy’s running from him?”

“We don’t know,” Burnette said doggedly. “That’s my point. Considering what I heard that government fellow yelling about, I’m thinking our two doctors might be up there destroying evidence while we sit out here jawin’.”

“You’ve got a point there,” Ellis said. “I hadn’t thought about that.”

Danny watched the faces, his gut aching with guilt. He could answer several of the most important unknowns, but he had no intention of doing so. Not yet. If he revealed his secret link to Laurel, the consequences were impossible to predict, but he doubted that many of them would be positive.

Ellis looked at Carl. “What’s the shooting situation?”

“Not good. I don’t know where they are yet, obviously. I’m thinking they might be in that great room. Three reasons. The blinds are shut, there’s a phone in there, and the blueprints show a hardwired Internet connection in that room. But the blinds and curtains are drawn all over the house, and he’s got cordless phones and Wi-Fi in there.”

Danny couldn’t believe he’d forgotten to ask Laurel what room they were in. At this point he wasn’t about to wait. He took out his cell phone and keyed in the message. Trace Breen watched with suspicion but didn’t challenge him.

“You all heard Agent Biegler,” said Sheriff Ellis. “We need to end this thing before we get the FBI crawling up our backsides.”

“Amen,” said Ray.

“How are we going to pinpoint them in the house?” Burnette asked.

“Directional mikes should tell us which room they’re in,” said Ray. “Exact position’s going to be tougher. If the supervisors would’ve coughed up for the FLIR unit we been begging for, we’d be sitting pretty.”

“FLIR couldn’t see through those blinds,” Danny interjected. He had extensive experience with the miraculous technology known as forward-looking infrared radar-he’d had a state-of-the-art unit on his Pave Low-but while FLIR could detect humans in absolute darkness (and sometimes through glass and water) it couldn’t “see” through an opaque solid.

“What about our little private-eye video camera?” Ellis asked, referring to a tiny camera on the end of a flexible tube, often slipped by detectives beneath doors to film couples in flagrante delicto.

“On the blink,” Ray groused. “That’s what you get when you buy cheap. The mikes’ll be enough. All we need is to know which room he’s in. We’ll come in from six different points at once, and so fast he won’t know what’s hit him.”

Danny made a soft cluck of disapproval with his tongue.

“What is it, Major?” asked the sheriff. “You have a better idea?”

“When I first moved back to town, I saw a story about a rich guy who’d lost a grandkid in a fire. If I remember right, he was going to donate a couple of thermal imaging cameras to the fire department, to let firemen see through smoke. I don’t know how good they are, but-”

“I don’t think they’ve been delivered yet,” Ray said. “And the ones they have now are real low quality.”

“Call Chief Hornby and make sure, Trace,” ordered the sheriff.

The younger Breen hurried outside with a cell phone to his ear.

Danny tried desperately to think of another way to locate Shields within the house; he didn’t want to reveal his link with Laurel simply to answer the question of position.

Ray Breen said, “We could slip up to the windows and have a look. You can probably see around the edges of those blinds.”

“They looked pretty flush through my scope,” Carl told him.

“Shields would see you coming,” said Danny.

Ray looked skeptical. “How you figure that?”

“Through his cameras.”


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