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Книга Third Degree. Страница 17

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“Give me the computer,” he demanded, holding out one hand.

She lifted the lightweight Vaio and hurled it at the floor with all her strength.

Warren’s foot shot out to deflect the computer, and the machine hit the carpet with no more force than her cell phone did when she dropped it at the market. Laurel balled her hands into fists and screamed at the top of her lungs. She didn’t know what she was saying, but whatever it was, it was the wrong thing. Warren raised the gun, aimed at her face, and pulled the trigger.

Fire spurted from the muzzle, and something stung her face. She reeled back in shock, her ears ringing from the blast in the confined space. Her left cheek hurt badly, but she didn’t think she’d been hit by a bullet. The pain was in her skin. Warren must have aimed just to the right of her ear. She wanted to slap him, but she didn’t dare risk it.

“That shut you up,” he said, his eyes like blue ice. “And don’t think the police will come running because of that shot. Not even the Elfmans heard it, and they’re the closest to us. Now, pick up that computer and hand it to me.”

She blinked away tears of impotent rage. “No.”

He stepped forward and laid the hot barrel flush against her forehead. She jerked away from the scalding steel and stared back at the man she had slept with for more than a decade and saw no one she recognized. She bent at the waist, picked up the Sony, and handed it to him.

“What now?”

Warren smiled like a wolf at cornered prey. “Let’s see what you’re hiding.”

Danny McDavitt turned his pickup truck east off of Highway 24 and rolled into Avalon. He drove as fast as he could without drawing attention to himself. In this neighborhood, in this truck, everyone would assume he was coming to cut someone’s grass or to fix a faucet.

Danny had been to a few parties in these palatial houses. Some moneyed folk in Athens Point didn’t mind mixing with the common people, and he had actually been making some pretty good money himself for the past year. He’d sold two songs before March, but that was chicken feed compared to what he was making on his oil deals with John Dixon. The geologist had invited Danny to buy into a couple of wildcats he felt good about, and one had come in with twelve feet of pay. At $60-a-barrel oil, even Danny’s one-eighth interest was worth real money. But the timing was bad, maritally speaking. That oil well-plus the four others they were working over now-was the main reason Starlette wanted to stay married to him.

Danny turned left onto Lyonesse Drive and slowed down. The Shields house was a big Colonial set well back from the road on a wooded lot. If the garage door was shut, he wouldn’t be able to tell a thing. But three seconds later, Danny saw Laurel’s midnight blue Acura parked behind her husband’s gray Volvo, which stood halfway out of the open garage.

They’re both at home, he thought. In the middle of the day.

He knew from experience that this almost never happened. For one thing, Laurel should still be at the school. For another, Dr. Shields didn’t usually get home until after his evening rounds, unless his kids had an athletic event scheduled. Danny could hardly believe that he’d coached soccer with Warren Shields only last year, but he had. Their daughters were the same age, and since Danny had been teaching Shields to fly, the doctor had suggested that they coach a team together. All in all, the experience had been good, but Danny had discovered that Warren Shields approached everything with deadly seriousness, even soccer for five- and six-year-old girls.

Danny drove to the end of Lyonesse, then executed a three-point turn and rode back by the house. Nothing had changed, of course. He felt like a high school boy cruising past the home of a girl he had a crush on. As a teenager he’d swing past a girl’s house five or six times a night, just on the off chance of catching a glimpse of her. Stupid, and yet as primal as the mating rituals of Cro-Magnon man.

“Jesus,” he muttered, pulling to the curb. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

Laurel’s message had been too vague. Warren knows. How about a little detail with that, lady? Warren knows what, exactly? Did he know that his wife had recently had an affair? Or did he know she’d had an affair with Danny McDavitt? Danny had to assume the latter; otherwise, why would she warn him to get out of town? And to take his son with him? That was the worrisome part. Why the hell would Laurel think Michael was at risk? Maybe she knew Danny wouldn’t leave town without his son, so she’d named Michael in the message. But then again…maybe things were worse than Danny was letting himself believe.

He craned his neck over his shoulder and looked at the house. Worst case, what could be happening in there? Shields could be beating the hell out of his wife. He might even be threatening her with a weapon. Truth be told, Danny thought, he could have killed her already. But that was nuts. Warren Shields was no killer. Danny hated to make assumptions, but Shields wasn’t going to shoot the mother of his children-not for screwing somebody on the side. Maybe if he’d walked in on Danny doing her doggy-style in the conjugal bed…maybe. But certainly not based on hearsay evidence, which was all he could possibly have, barring a confession. Someone must have seen Danny and Laurel together somewhere. It could have been the hug they’d risked this morning. And that was easily deniable. Danny had coached Laurel on what to say in this type of situation; she knew to deny everything, no matter what.

He didn’t envy her having to bluff it out with her husband. Warren Shields was smart, and not just regular-doctor smart. Danny had known doctors who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel. But Shields wasn’t one of them. He was obsessive about everything he did. He had only been flying for a year, but he probably knew more aerodynamics than Danny did after thirty years in the cockpit. If Warren really suspected that Laurel was cheating on him, he’d tear at it like a bulldog until he was satisfied. On the other hand, he was like any other man. Deep down, he didn’t want to believe that his wife would open her legs for anyone but him. It just went against the grain of the masculine mind. If Laurel stuck to the plan and denied everything, she would be fine.

Danny wondered if he should risk sending a reassuring text message. If Warren had possession of Laurel’s secret cell phone, it was all over anyway. He would already have seen Danny’s message about “Star” going to Baton Rouge for the day. From that alone he could figure out everything. Even if Laurel had deleted that message as soon as she read it, Warren could trace the phone to Danny’s obliging friend. So where was the additional risk in texting her? Another possibility was that Laurel’s clone phone was stashed safely in her car, as it should be. But Danny knew from experience that she sometimes risked taking it into the house with her. At least on those occasions she always set it to SILENT. His only other option-the only one that didn’t involve losing Michael-was reporting a Peeping Tom at the Shields house. Or better yet, a bomb threat. The Sheriff’s Department would have to go inside, then. But if Laurel had things under control, that kind of intrusion would only make things worse. Best to leave it at sending a reassuring text message.

“Hey there!” called a scratchy male voice in the upper register. “You lost or something?”

Danny looked across the passenger seat at the sunburned face of a bald man in his late seventies. “No, sir. Just sitting for a minute.”

“You making a delivery out here?”

“Nope.”

“I thought you might be bringing me my crossties.”

“Pardon?”

The man spread his arms as far as they would go. “Railroad ties! To border my garden, shore up the bank.”

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