Книга Third Degree. Страница 47
“Grant’s going first, okay? Then you and me.”
“Mama, I can’t,” Beth said in a shaky voice. “It’s way too high. Let’s use the stairs.”
“We can’t, honey bun. Daddy might see us.”
“What’s wrong with Dad?” Grant asked. “Why is he acting psycho?”
“Daddy’s sick, honey. He doesn’t know what he’s doing right now. We need to get away from him, just for a little while. Ready?”
Grant pumped his fist. “Spider-Man time!”
Laurel flipped a latch and raised the window. To her horror, their home security system chimed in response. Warren must have set the chime only moments ago, because it hadn’t rung when Kyle opened the front door.
“Hurry!” she urged. “Go!”
Grant climbed quickly though the window and started down the slope of the roof, using both his hands and feet. Then Laurel crawled through, keeping one hand on Beth, who was crying in terror. “Come on, baby,” she said, reaching back into the bedroom. “We’re going to be fine.” She was pulling Beth up to the sill when Warren’s feet came pounding along the hall.
Laurel snatched Beth through the opening, banging the child’s head on the window frame. Beth shrieked in pain, but Laurel didn’t stop moving. She set her daughter firmly on her lap, meaning to skid down the steep, shingled slope on her behind. Then Warren snatched her hair and tried to drag her back through the window. Laurel screamed for him to let go, but he only pulled harder. A chunk of hair ripped out by the roots. She’d lose every strand on her head to get Beth out of danger.
Beth squirmed around on Laurel’s lap, probably to get better purchase on her mother’s chest. Laurel had thrown back one hand to jerk Warren’s hand free, but she needed that hand to hold Beth fast.
“You’re going to make her fall!” Laurel screamed. “Let go!”
Warren’s other hand caught Laurel just under the chin and began hauling her into the open window. She couldn’t even draw breath. If she didn’t stop fighting, she might black out and drop Beth. With tears of frustration in her eyes, she went limp.
As she waited for Warren to let go, she prayed that Grant had made his escape and not waited for his mother and sister.
“Grant!” Warren shouted. “Get your tail back up here, boy!”
The oak limbs shook as though a huge raccoon were moving in the tree below. Then Grant’s feet hit the floor of the tree house with a bang.
“I’m talking to you, Son! You do not want to make your father angry!”
The hand loosened slightly at her throat.
“Pass her up to me!” Warren ordered. “Come on!”
Laurel did. As he lifted Beth through the window, Laurel saw a saucer-size bloodstain above his left collarbone.
“The bullet clipped my trapezius,” Warren said, noticing her gaze. “It’s nothing. As if you care.”
She turned away, fighting a mad impulse to scramble down the roof to the safety of the oak tree.
Then a whir like the world’s biggest fishing reel sounded from below. Laurel looked to her right and saw Grant sailing away from the house like a commando in a POW rescue movie. He was kicking his feet to make the wheel mechanism speed along the zipline. She felt like cheering out loud.
Warren cursed in fury, and something dark moved behind her. Leaning back, she saw his gun come up and steady in his hand, as if to fire at Grant’s receding form. She knocked the gun aside and scrabbled onto her knees, facing Warren in the window like an angry mother wildcat. She was spitting mad, her skin as hot and itchy as if electricity were crackling along it. “Point that gun at him again,” she snarled, “and I’ll claw your eyeballs out. I swear to God I will!”
Grant hit the sand clean and started sprinting without even a hitch in his rhythm. Compared to doing a 180 off a half-pipe, it was nothing. He looked over his shoulder as he ran and saw his father silhouetted in the window of his bedroom, staring silently after him while his mother waved from the roof to keep running. The sight scared him more than anything had in a long time.
He ran toward the creek first, because it was downhill, but then he cut left and started making for the Elfmans’ house. As he did, Christy broke out of the trees below and raced to catch him, elated to have someone to run with. The corgi circled Grant as he ran, smiling as she always did. All he could think was that he needed to get to a telephone. He wasn’t sure whom to call, and he had no idea what to tell Mrs. Elfman. My dad’s sick? My mom needs help?
He swerved around some azaleas and kept pumping toward the Elfmans’. He could see Mrs. Elfman herself, standing in her backyard by the pool, wearing a big flowery dress. It looked like she’d already seen him. A second later, her yardman appeared beside her. Grant liked George a lot better than Mrs. Elfman. He was glad George was there. Grant figured he must look pretty scared, because a second later George started running toward him, and even Mrs. Elfman started walking fast in his direction. He was scared, too.
He wasn’t sure what was wrong with his father, but he knew his mom was terrified. He’d never seen her face so white or her hands shaking, and he’d sure never seen her wallop his dad in the face. But what scared Grant most of all was what he’d seen in the TV room upstairs. It was hidden in his dad’s pocket, but the outline was plain as day. Grant’s throat had been tight ever since he realized what that outline meant, and when he heard the shots later, they’d come as no surprise.
“Whoa there, little man!” George called, dropping to his knees so that Grant would be eye to eye with him. “What you running from so fast?”
Grant was breathing so hard that he couldn’t talk. By the time he found his voice, Mrs. Elfman was coming up. She took his hand and looked down at him with all the kindness in the world.
“What’s wrong, Grant Shields? You have to tell us, if we’re going to help you. Did some little boy blow his finger off? I heard firecrackers over there.”
Grant shook his head, trying not to cry. “It’s my dad,” he panted. “My dad’s sick!”
“Sick how?” asked George. “Did he grab his arm or his chest? Is he awake?”
Grant pointed at his own temple. “He’s sick up here. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s got a gun, and I think he shot somebody. My mom tried to get us out, but only I got away.”
“Dear Lord in heaven!” Mrs. Elfman exclaimed. “You poor child. Run call the sheriff, George. Double quick. Tell him to bring every man he’s got.”
Danny McDavitt was sitting on the elevated deck at the Athens Point Airport, drinking a lukewarm Schaefer and listening to Marilyn Stone give him an informal legal assessment of his custody situation. No alcohol was sold on the premises, but a mechanic friend had come up with a cold six-pack for Danny. He and Marilyn had been talking for over an hour, but he was in no hurry to get home. The only other thing on his mind was what might be happening with Laurel, but he’d checked his cell phone a dozen times, and she’d sent no text messages.
“Bottom line?” said Marilyn. “Starlette can get physical custody of Michael, and she can probably limit you to minimum visitation. Every other weekend. It all depends on the judge. But she will not be able to institutionalize Michael if you’re willing to take him on. No judge is going to warehouse a special-needs kid when there’s a parent ready and willing to take on that responsibility.”
Danny nodded. “Every other weekend’s not good enough. Michael needs one-on-one attention, all the time.”
Marilyn was obviously sympathetic. “What about his teacher? Laurel Shields would make one hell of a witness for us, if she’d get up and tell the truth about Starlette.”
Danny sipped his beer but said nothing. He was trying not to think about Laurel. After Marilyn landed the Cessna, he had broken down and sent Laurel a third text message, this one an almost panicked plea to alert him as soon as the encounter with Warren was over. But she still had not answered.