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Книга Third Degree. Страница 16

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Before the kids got home.

I can text Diane! she thought with dizzying relief. Tell her to take the kids home with her rather than drop them here. Laurel was about to slip her hand into her pocket when she realized the risks that such a move would entail. She’d be texting from her clone Razr, which was registered to Danny’s helpful friend. The unfamiliar number might confuse Diane enough to make her call the house. Or what if Diane had something else to do after school? What if she tried to call back? Laurel’s Razr was set to SILENT, but if Diane got no answer, she might call the house phone. Warren would answer, and in less than a minute he’d learn that Laurel had just texted Diane from a cell phone. Game over. Laurel slid her hand away from her pocket. She couldn’t risk losing the clone phone yet.

I’ve got to get out of here, she thought. Could she hit Warren hard enough to disable him? If so, she could take back her car keys, which would seriously shorten the distance she had to run. She looked around the great room for a heavy object. A thick blown-glass vase on the console table against the far wall might do. But she’d have to choose her moment perfectly. If she tried to hit Warren and missed, there was no telling how he might react. At the very least he would tie her up, and then she’d be truly helpless when the kids walked into this horror show. With that thought came the first ripples of true panic, fluttery jerks in the heart muscle that made her swallow hard even as the saliva evaporated from her mouth.

Don’t give in to panic, she told herself. The phrase made her recall her days as a counselor at a girls’ summer camp, where she’d taught lifesaving to young teens. Panic will kill you. So do everybody a favor, remain calm, and focus on safety, even if you’re partying- “Safety,” she said softly.

“What?” asked Warren, looking over at her with red-rimmed eyes.

“Nothing. I’m out of it. My head’s starting to hurt bad.”

“The Imitrex will kick in. It’s working on those vessels now.”

Warren was talking on medical autopilot. She’d heard that robotic voice thousands of times, when nurses called the house at night for instructions. But Laurel wasn’t listening now. She was thinking about a room that she’d insisted be added to the house before they moved in. Some people called it a panic room, but the architect they’d worked with had simply called it the safe room. Located under the staircase, it was a windowless, eight-by-ten-foot cubicle with steel walls, a reinforced door, and an electronic lock that operated from the inside. The safe room also had a dedicated phone line that ran underground to a box at the street. Warren had stocked the safe room with canned food and water for use during hurricanes, and also with blankets and pillows for comfort. Grant and Beth had “camped out” in the safe room a couple of times; they called it their “fort,” the place they’d run to if “bad guys” broke into the house. Laurel had never imagined a day when the “bad guy” she would need to escape would be her husband. But that day had come.

She knew she could reach the safe room before Warren stopped her. He was so deep into her computer files that she could be halfway there before he got up off the ottoman-

Wait, she thought, already flexing her calf muscles beneath the comforter. Think it through. So I get to the safe room. Then what? Call 911? No. Call Diane and tell her to take the kids to her house without telling anyone else about it. If I say “family crisis,” Diane will handle it, no questions asked.

Once the kids were safe, Laurel could call the police. Or better yet, a lawyer she knew who was friendly with the sheriff. He would get a more serious hearing. And when the law arrived at the house, Warren would have no hostage to threaten. He would effectively be alone with his gun and his wife’s computer.

The most likely risk at that point, Laurel realized, would be suicide.

She closed her eyes, wondering if Warren could really be that far gone. He seemed more angry than depressed, but more was going on inside him than she knew. There had to be. But now wasn’t the time to question him about it.

Leave that to the TSTL girls…

She flexed her fists beneath the covers, then her forearms. When she felt the blood flowing, she tensed her biceps, shoulders, and abdomen. Then her thighs. Flex, release, flex, release. It was like warming up for one of those classes at Curves, only her life might depend on this little exercise. She wasn’t about to spring up off her sofa like a lioness and then collapse in a heap because her feet were asleep.

Should I grab the computer? she wondered. That would be a tacit confession of guilt. Plus, Warren might tackle her before she could get clear with it. She could wait until he walked farther away to make her move, but that might not happen for hours. Warren could go for most of a day without urinating, and he might well be expecting her to try to damage the machine.

While she debated when to run, Warren stood without a word and walked away from the Sony. Laurel didn’t follow him with her eyes. She flexed her calves but maintained the illusion of a woman at rest. His footfalls stopped, then started again. She risked cutting her eyes to the left. Warren had walked most of the way to the door that led to the master bedroom, but now he’d stopped again. He was watching her with obvious suspicion.

What the hell is he doing? she thought.

As if in answer, he muttered something, then took the blown-glass vase off the sideboard, unzipped his pants, and began to urinate into the vase. He looked straight at Laurel as he did this, a cloud of self-disgust over his features. See what you’ve brought me to? he seemed to be saying. Laurel didn’t give a damn. She used his primitive act as an excuse to sit up. Then she gave him a withering glare.

“That’s gross,” she said, listening to the steady splash of piss in her expensive vase. “Can’t you use the toilet?”

“I didn’t think you’d want to get up.”

She shook her head as though this were beneath contempt. Warren often peed for more than a minute, but she wasn’t counting on that. As though battling nausea, she hung her head between her knees. Then she exploded off the couch, snatched the Sony off the coffee table, and raced for the front stairs.

The AC cord nearly jerked the computer out of her hands, but it popped free as Warren screamed. The urine-filled vase rang against the maple floor as she reached the first door and cut left. Warren roared with anger, and heavy footsteps pounded after her.

“Go, go, go!” she cried, darting through the foyer and snatching open the wooden closet door that concealed the steel entrance to the safe room. Joy flooded through her as she grabbed the handle and pulled-

And almost ripped her shoulder out of its socket.

At first she thought Warren had yanked her arm back, but the truth was simpler: the safe room was locked. A racking sob burst from her throat as she wrenched the handle once more, but it was no use. Then she realized what was wrong. There was a child-protection mechanism to keep children from inadvertently getting locked inside the safe room: a three-digit code that could seal the safe room from outside but not override the master lock, which was controlled from the inside. Laurel frantically punched 777, then jerked the handle again. It didn’t budge.

Horrified, she whirled to try for the front door, but Warren was already standing outside the little closet, staring at her with a malevolence she had never suspected in him.

“I changed the code,” he said.

She felt tears on her cheeks.

“You’re like a five-year-old caught in a lie,” he went on. “Totally predictable.”

Nothing he could have said would have enraged her more.

16

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