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Книга Third Degree. Содержание - Chapter 23

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Breen studied the sniper’s face, then turned back to Shields and aimed his MP5 past Danny, right at the doctor’s head. Carl didn’t raise his rifle an inch, but when he spoke, something was in his voice that had not been there before. Disdain, Danny thought.

“You’re always asking me how many men I killed over in Iraq. The truth is, I don’t know. But I know this: I’ve killed better men than you.

The gun in Ray Breen’s hand quivered under the stress of the war raging inside him. After several seconds that held eternity within them, he lowered the weapon to his side. As Danny crawled toward Laurel, Ray lunged forward and drove his boot into Shields’s rib cage with a crack.

Then every light in the house went out.

Chapter 23

Two seconds after the room went black, something knocked Danny’s legs from under him. His tailbone cracked against the floor, but he forgot the pain when a cold pistol barrel invaded the soft flesh between his jawbone and windpipe. He tried to jerk his head back, but a strong hand grabbed his hair and shoved the gun deeper into his neck.

“Get up,” hissed a voice in his ear. “On your feet, or I’ll pull the trigger.”

Danny obeyed.

Shouts of anger and confusion reverberated through the darkness, but the whispering gunman dragged Danny across the room with total assurance. Danny stumbled on something, but his captor held him erect. Night-vision goggles? he wondered. His shoulder brushed a doorjamb as tactical lights arced through the room, and then he passed into cooler air.

“Move to the right.” A knee drove into his back. “Hurry!”

Danny saw light ahead. He thought of crying out, but the gunman read his mind. “Make a sound, I’ll blow your brains all over the hall.”

It was Warren, Danny realized. Of course it was. Who else could it be? But where were they going? Why didn’t Shields just pull the trigger and be done with it?

“Toward the light!” Warren urged, running him up the hall now.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ve got a date with destiny, you lying piece of shit.”

Grant knew he’d waited too long to pull the circuit breaker. But how could his dad expect him to wait in the pantry while everything was happening somewhere else? He’d waited as long as he could stand it, and then-just after he’d sneaked out to find his father-the whole back of the house had blown up. By the time he got back to the pantry, men were yelling and screaming all over the house. But Grant still did what his dad had told him to do and sent blue sparks flying from beneath his hands.

Now he was running through the dark, making for his father’s study. In the great room he collided with something hard-something that shouldn’t have been there. Two strong hands seized his upper arms, and a face like something out of a video game appeared before him, a black-goggled grasshopper’s face lit by the beam of a spotlight shining through the great room windows.

“Get that kid out of here!” someone shouted.

Grant was hauled off his feet, carried out through the garage, and set down in the driveway. It was still raining. The shouts of panicked grown-ups ricocheted through the night. The masked figure looked down at him for a moment, then raced back inside the house. Desperate to learn what had happened to his parents, Grant ran around to the front yard, the last place he’d heard Mr. Danny’s chopper.

The big helicopter straddled the front sidewalk like a futuristic bird that had somehow landed in the present by mistake. Its rotors were still spinning. Grant moved toward it but kept close to the shrubbery so that no other deputies would see him.

As he neared the chopper, he froze. His father and Mr. Danny were crossing the open space between the front door and the helicopter.

“Dad!” Grant shouted. “Mr. Danny! Wait for me! Wait up!”

When he reached the two men, Grant realized that his father hadn’t heard him. He grabbed his dad’s arm, then jerked back as an almost unrecognizable face whipped around and glared at him.

“Grant?” exclaimed his father, as though he’d never expected to see his son again.

“Get out of here, Grant!” said Mr. Danny. “Run!”

“No way! I want to come with you guys!”

“You can’t,” said his father. “You have to stay here, Son.”

“I’m coming,” Grant insisted. “I’m not staying here by myself.”

His father looked down at him with an expression Grant had never seen on his face before. It made Grant want to cry. Then his father yanked open the chopper door and said, “Get in the back, Son. Hurry. Harness yourself in.”

Grant scrambled into the helicopter, a machine that hummed and shook as if it were more alive than he was. Mr. Danny and his father climbed into the front seats, and then Mr. Danny did something and the whining overhead got louder. Grant could feel the rotor blades trying to pull the ship off the ground. His father turned around to say something, but then the front door of the house opened and two of the black-suited men ran out. Both were waving guns, but Grant knew they wouldn’t run beneath the spinning blades. One of the men leveled his gun and aimed at the front of the helicopter. In the next instant Mr. Danny shouted something and the ship leaped into the air. As Grant tumbled out of his seat, he saw treetops sweep past the window, and then the moon, shining high and white through a break in the clouds. He only wished his mom were there to see it.

Danny had flown in crazy conditions before, but never with a gun jammed into his gut. The pistol wasn’t the same one Shields had aimed at Laurel; this one was a nickel-plated automatic. Trace Breen’s gun? he wondered. Or maybe Kyle Auster’s, if he had one. Shields kept the pistol where his son couldn’t see it, but the range was still point-blank. Close enough for the burning powder to set Danny’s shirt on fire as the bullet ripped through his abdomen from side to side.

The chopper hurtled eastward at fifteen hundred feet, the house already far behind. Danny wondered what kind of response Sheriff Ellis was mounting to this new development. He’d started calling over the radio only seconds after they lifted off, but Shields had shut off everything but the interphone circuit.

“Where are we going?” Danny asked, as casually as he could. “Havana?”

“Upriver,” Warren said tersely. “Thirty miles. Vidalia, Louisiana. Take us up to two thousand feet.”

Danny turned north and started ascending. Vidalia was a town of five thousand mostly working-class people who lived on the floodplain across the river from the great bluff at Natchez. “Why Vidalia?”

Warren tilted his head backward. “We’re dropping Grant off at Laurel’s mother’s house.”

“I see. So this trip’s just for you and me?”

Warren didn’t answer.

Danny had a lot of experience flying at night, but almost always with the aid of night-vision goggles, and in a much more powerful chopper. Flying the Bell 206 through mountains of storm clouds was a completely different thing. He wasn’t afraid, but he was concentrating hard enough that the gun against his side kept surprising him. Blue-white flashes of lightning illuminated the towering cloudscape, and he could hear Grant’s cries of awe despite the fact that the boy wasn’t wearing a headset.

Danny couldn’t see much on the near-lightless land below, but the rivers and lakes he used as landmarks gleamed like black mirrors as the chopper raced over them. The Buffalo River, Lake Mary, the Homochitto River, and then the Mississippi, curving east toward Natchez.

“Did I hear you say we’re going to Gram’s?” Grant yelled, moving forward and setting his chin on the tight seam between Danny’s and Warren’s shoulders.

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