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Книга Third Degree. Страница 13

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“Of course. An unloaded gun is useless.”

Oh, boy. “Where did you get it?”

“I bought it a couple of months ago. Some punks hassled me one night when I was riding my bike on the south end of town. I carry this in my seat bag now. I’ve got a permit for it.”

Warren was still an obsessive cyclist; he’d won dozens of regional races, and even a couple of nationals a few years ago. He rode countless miles in training, but she’d heard nothing about any gun, or any incident where he’d needed one.

“You keep that in the house, with our children?”

She’d tried to sound suitably shocked, but Warren ignored her apparent concern. “I have a lockbox for it in the storeroom. Top shelf. It’s kidproof, don’t worry.”

It’s not the kids I’m worried about right now. “That doesn’t mean it’s Grant-proof.”

A smile crossed Warren’s face as he thought of his mischievous son.

“Why are you holding it now?” she asked.

“Because I’m very angry. And this makes me feel better.”

Oh, God-

“Apparently,” he went on, “you don’t want to tell me the truth. But you should know this: you’re not leaving this house until I know who wrote that letter.”

“I don’t want to leave the house, Warren. I want a shot of Imitrex.”

He frowned as though he were being greatly inconvenienced. “Give me your cell phone.”

A shiver of panic went through her, until she remembered she was carrying both phones. There had been days when she’d only had her clone phone in her pocket.

“Hand it over! Your car keys, too.”

She slid her hand into her right front pocket and drew out her legitimate Razr. Warren reached out and took it, then laid it on the coffee table.

“I’ve already gone over your cellular records online. I’ve got a couple of questions for you.”

She shrugged. There was no danger there. She had always used her clone phone to call Danny.

“The keys, come on.”

She drew her car keys from her left front pocket and passed them to Warren, who shoved them into his own pocket. She hated to give them up, but she couldn’t risk him searching her and finding the clone phone in her back pocket. Danny was probably trying to call her right now. He would be sitting in the clearing on his four-wheeler, expecting to see her Acura come rolling between the big oak trees. He’d wait awhile, thinking she was only running late. Then he would start to worry. She had to contact him. A sickening wave of nausea hit her, and she tensed against it. As it passed, she got an idea about how to text Danny.

“I want your computer, too,” Warren said. “Where is it? In the kitchen?”

The blood drained from her face. There were things in her computer that could destroy her. Danny, too. “I’m going to throw up,” she groaned.

She ran for the master bathroom.

“Goddamn it!” Warren cursed, jumping up and rushing after her.

She ran all the way to the toilet cubicle, hoping that Warren would stop in the bedroom, but he didn’t. He stood over her as she fell to her knees and put her face in the toilet bowl. She had no choice now. Retching loudly, she stuck her finger down her throat and brought up what remained of her breakfast.

Warren didn’t flinch. He’d seen things in his medical career that made a little vomit look like a picnic. She was terrified that he would notice the flat, rectangular bulge of the second Razr in her back pocket, but he suddenly walked out of the cubicle. She heard him rummaging in the medicine cabinet on his side of the marble-floored bathroom. Could she risk texting Danny now?

“Is the Imitrex in there?” She coughed. “Did you find it?”

“I’ve got it. Come lie on the bed, and I’ll give you the shot. Stay away from the bathroom windows. I noticed Mrs. Elfman nosing around out there this morning.”

Laurel’s throat constricted in terror. She prayed that the e.p.t box still lay behind the hedge beneath the bathroom window.

“Hurry up!” Warren said irritably, suddenly standing above her again. “You’re done, aren’t you?”

“I’m still nauseated.”

“The sooner the better, then.”

He grabbed her pants right above the pocket that held the Razr. As she screamed and tried to protect the phone, he yanked down her waistband and jabbed a needle into her hip. After what seemed a savage twist, he yanked it out again.

“Ow!” she cried. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Me? I’m ‘cold, logical, held-in, almost sterile.’ ” He slapped the spot where he’d injected her, something nurses did to distract patients from the pain of injections-usually before the needle went in-but his slap was hard enough to bruise. “Tell me who wrote that shit. Tell me who else has been looking at that ass.”

His voice had a proprietary edge. “No one! I told you.”

“When was the last time you fucked him?”

Laurel tried to stand, but Warren seized her neck and pressed her back down. In twelve years of marriage he had never laid a hand on her in anger. Fresh fear twisted her insides. “Warren, that hurts! Please think about what you’re doing.”

“You want to talk about pain? That’s funny. I don’t need to think about this.”

“Yes, you do. I haven’t cheated on you. I’d never do that to you!”

“You’re a liar.” He shoved her against the toilet, then walked away again.

She scrambled to her feet and ran to her side of the bed. There was no point in trying to flee the house unless she could slow him down first. Pulling back the comforter and sheets, she crawled under them and pulled them up to her neck.

“Get up,” Warren said from the foot of the bed. “I want to check your computer.”

“Go get it, then. I’m going to lie here until the aura goes away.”

“If I leave you here, you’ll climb out the window.”

Damn right I will. “Ten minutes in the dark, Warren. Please. If the aura stops, I’ll do whatever you want.” She closed her eyes. “You can lie here with me, if you want to.”

“I don’t,” he said, but he flicked off the light switch. “The windows are locked, by the way. All of them.”

She shifted under the covers, then slid her hand into her back pocket and eased out the clone Razr. In one continuous motion, she opened the phone and slipped it into her front pocket. Warren was a black silhouette in the dark, leaning on his bureau.

“When I read that letter,” he said hoarsely, “I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart.”

She slid her thumb lightly over the Razr’s keypad. Keying in a message was child’s play, but blindly pressing the proper sequence of buttons to put the phone into text mode wasn’t. She turned her head and looked at Warren as she worked her thumb over the faintly tactile buttons, trying to keep his eyes focused on her face.

“I’m not having an affair,” she said softly. “I haven’t had one in the past, either. I would never do that to Grant and Beth.”

Warren flipped out the cylinder of his revolver and spun it. “I wouldn’t have thought you could.” The cylinder snicked home. “But the letter says different.”

“That letter is bullshit.” Laurel had the Razr in text mode. She began keying her message to Danny, her eyes never leaving her husband’s face. “Someone faked it to mess with your head.”

To her surprise, Warren seemed to be considering her suggestion. “Who would fake something like that?” he asked, as though talking to himself.

“Somebody who wants to drive you crazy. And it’s obviously working. Warren, if you lift a hand to me again, I’m calling the police and hiring a divorce lawyer.”

This was pure bravado. Even in near darkness, she could see his neck and jaw muscles tightly flexed. Danny’s letter had utterly transformed him. With an infinitesimal movement of her right thumb, she pressed SEND and slid her hand out of her pocket.

“I still have the aura,” she said with genuine anxiety. “My arms are tingling, and I’m craving ice cream.”

13

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