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Книга Third Degree. Страница 18

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Danny smiled. “No, sir. But I’ve used some of those myself, now and again.”

The man stared at him as though awaiting an explanation of what Danny was doing on this street.

“Well,” Danny said, grinding the truck into gear. “I guess-”

“Do I know you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Sure! I saw you in the newspaper. Something about the war. Iraq or somewhere. You won some medals over there, right?”

Military fame is a funny thing. You can leave a town as a pimply faced teenager and not come back for anything but funerals, but as long as you have a living relative there, or somebody still remembers you, your picture will pop up in the Sunday paper above an announcement of your latest promotion or, rarely, an item trumpeting the receipt of a medal for bravery under fire.

“No, sir,” Danny lied. “I’m over from McComb, checking out sites for cellular towers.”

The man’s face scrunched into a near parody of suspicion. “Cell towers? Here in Avalon? Now listen, we got restrictive covenants against that kind of thing.”

“Is that right?”

“Damn straight we do! That’s why these lots are so expensive. You need to just drive on down to Lake Forest or Belle Rive, mister. Ain’t gonna be no cell towers round here.”

“I reckon not,” Danny said, smiling. “My mistake. Thanks again.”

“Don’t thank me. You get on out of here.”

Danny drove off, wanting to make a last pass by Laurel’s house, but knowing he was already late for a flying lesson with a lady lawyer. He wondered if the old man had noticed that his truck had Lusahatcha County plates.

Warren held the barrel of his revolver against Laurel’s right ear as he searched a pantry drawer with his free hand. His motions were jerky, his breath bad. He hasn’t brushed his teeth since yesterday, Laurel realized. Her left cheek stung as though someone had poured acid over it, and when she ran her fingers over the skin, she felt hard particles embedded in her flesh. Gunpowder. The idea was too surreal to fully accept. Then Warren lifted a heavy roll of duct tape from the pantry drawer.

He’s gone over the edge, she thought. I’m in serious fucking trouble here.

“Get back into the great room,” Warren said, shoving her ahead of him, driving her through the kitchen and back down to the sectional by the coffee table. When Laurel reached the sofa, he forced her down onto it.

“Lie on your back,” he ordered.


“Shut up!” He ripped a long strip of tape off the silver-gray roll and wrapped it tight around her ankles.

“Why are you doing this? I don’t understand.”

“You understand, all right. It’s because I can’t trust you. You’ve proved that.” Another long strip of tape tightened around her ankles. “All that remains is to find out how deeply you’ve betrayed this family.”

“Warren, you don’t have to do this. Can’t we just talk?”

“Sure we can.” A false smile split his lips. “Tell me why you’re so afraid of me looking into your computer, and I’ll send you on your way right now.”

Send me on my way? What the hell does that mean? Freedom? Or death?

“More love letters?” Warren asked. “Pictures? What? Just tell me where the files are, and you can sit with me and have a glass of pinot noir while we look at them together.”

She couldn’t think of a thing to say.

He nodded slowly, as though settling something in his mind. “Every word that comes out of your mouth is a lie.” He wrapped two more lengths of tape around her calves. “I ought to tape your goddamn mouth shut. Hold out your arms.”

Laurel began to cry. She didn’t want to, but the realization that she was now helpless was overwhelming. Not in her deepest troughs of guilt had she imagined something like this. Warren bound her wrists with the thick tape, then pulled her into a sitting position.

“Don’t move unless I tell you to.”

He dropped the tape roll onto the coffee table and retrieved her Vaio from the kitchen, where he’d left it. He set it up on the coffee table again, carefully plugging in the AC cable, which looked as though it had suffered minor damage when Laurel ripped the computer loose. “Let’s see if this baby survived your little escape attempt.” He pressed the power button, avidly watching the screen.

Laurel prayed that the Sony’s hard drive had been smashed, but a moment later she heard the halting mechanical sounds of the computer booting up. Then the clicking stopped. Prematurely, she thought. Warren’s face was taut. He unplugged the Sony, removed its battery, shook the computer, then reinserted the battery and plugged the AC cord back in. This time the Vaio booted normally.

“You just dazed it,” he said with a smile.

Laurel smelled adhesive as her skin warmed the duct tape. When she moved her wrists farther apart, the tape tugged painfully at the hair on her arms.

“You may as well come clean now. I know there’s something on this computer, or you wouldn’t have tried to stop me from looking at it.”

“You’re wrong,” she said in a shaky voice. “That’s my computer. Mine. Those are my things on it. My personal things. I have a right to my own things, you know. My own thoughts. You don’t own me. I’m your wife, not your property.”

He shook his head. “I’ve treated you like a queen for twelve years. And this is how you repay me.”

She closed her eyes, trying to find some way to break through to him. “Warren, what were you looking for when you found that letter? Will you please tell me that? You were awake all night. You must have been looking for something related to the IRS audit, right?”

The skin around his eyes tightened. “What do you know about that?”

“I know what you’ve told me, which is almost nothing. As usual.”

His stare intensified.

“Why won’t you tell me what’s really going on?” she asked.

“You’re the only one in this room who knows what’s really going on.”

Laurel shook her head in frustration. “I know nothing. Please tell me what you were looking for last night.”

He was studying the computer screen again. “The letter. That’s what I was looking for.”

“Why would you be looking for a love letter?”

His gaze came back to her, and his eyes smoldered with fury. “Because someone in this world actually cares about me. A lot more than you do, obviously.”

This floored her. “Are you saying someone told you to look specifically for a letter in this house?”

Warren snorted. “You don’t get it, do you? I already know who wrote the letter. And I already know who you’re fucking behind my back.”

Cold sweat popped out on her neck. Had someone spotted her and Danny together after all? Maybe. Because no one-not even Danny-knew she had kept that letter. Laurel paid a cleaning lady to come in once a week, but it seemed unlikely that her maid would flip through her collection of Jane Austen. Cheryl Tilley had got married in the eleventh grade and, by her own admission, had read nothing since her graduation two decades earlier but Star magazine, which she bought religiously after her weekly grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. Even if Cheryl had accidentally found Danny’s letter, would she have told Warren about it? The two had hardly spoken to each other since she began working at the house, nor was Cheryl a patient of Warren’s.

“I see goose bumps,” Warren said, his eyes glinting. “Piloerection.”

“Who told you I was having an affair?” Laurel asked. “Whoever it is, they’re lying to you.”

“Does it matter? It’s someone who’s offended by adultery, unlike you and your lover. And half this goddamn town, I think sometimes.”

“Warren, I didn’t-”

“Did you think I wouldn’t find out?” he shouted, his eyes blazing. “Did you really think that?”

She drew back from the force of his fury.

“Right in my fucking face, both of you! You’ve lied every single day. Him, too! Every day! Smiling and acting like a friend…goddamn him. Both of you!”


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