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Книга Third Degree. Страница 58

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Beth lay sound asleep on the red leather sofa in the study, thanks to a sedative dose of Benadryl calculated by her father. Warren himself was sitting at his study desk. His large, flat-panel computer monitor hid his face from Laurel, and she was thankful, because it allowed her ready access to her cell phone. The Roche-Bobois sofa was a modern piece, with spare lines and minimal padding on the arms. There wasn’t much of a crease in which to hide the Razr, but she had stuffed the phone as deeply as she could into the crack between the arm and the seat, leaving only a thin line of exposed metal.

Danny had sent two messages since she’d checked the phone in the laundry room, the first telling her he was on the way with the sheriff, the second asking several questions about the situation inside the house. She’d sent back a message that read: KA dead by W. Self-defense. Me amp; B all right 4 now. Tied up tho. More 2 come. Be patient.

Danny’s question as to whether Warren intended harm was harder to answer. Warren had hit her twice after Beth shorted out the laptop, and hard. But he hadn’t shot her. What he had done was download another copy of Merlin’s Magic into his study computer, so that he could try to break into her Hotmail account online. She wasn’t too worried about that, since she didn’t save e-mail messages online. There might be one or two of Danny’s last e-mails in her online mailbox, but she didn’t think so. Even if there were, the password-cracking program had to start again from scratch.

She was more worried about the safe room.

After taping Laurel up, Warren had carried his father’s old deer rifle and some plastic trash bags into the safe room. His shotgun was presently leaning against his desk in the study. He’d been quite open about what he was doing, announcing that the trash bags could serve as temporary toilets. There was already enough food and water in the safe room to last for days, if not weeks, and the gun was self-explanatory. But he had not tried to move Laurel or Beth in there. She had a feeling that Warren saw the safe room as his last resort, a final redoubt in the event of a police assault, rather than a place to commit some terrible crime. His primary goal still seemed to be the discovery of her lover’s identity, through cracking the Hotmail account.

She wanted to tell Danny about the guns and the safe room. But if she did, what would happen? Would she trigger an immediate rescue attempt? Were there people outside capable of bringing off a rescue without loss of life? She thought about the hostage rescues she’d read about or seen on the news. In most cases, it seemed, at least some hostages died before the hostage taker was killed.

Before the hostage taker was killed…

She craned her neck and looked at the top of Warren’s head, just visible over his monitor. Rather than hatred, she felt pity for him. She had the sense of looking at a mental patient, a man who had been perfectly normal one day and woke up schizophrenic the next. Warren’s mind had locked itself into the track of marital infidelity, and he could not disengage it. Did he deserve to die for that? Could she send out words that might doom him in the next few minutes?

Danny’s assertion that no one outside knew of their phone link gave her pause. Was he simply trying to keep their love affair secret? Or did he not trust the sheriff completely? For that matter, was the sheriff even in charge out there? Nell Roberts had mentioned federal agents on the phone. What if the FBI was outside? Would Danny trust them? She needed to know more before deciding what further message to send out.

“Warren?” she called. “Would you come over here, please?”

“Why?”

“I need to ask you something.”

More than a minute passed before his chair squeaked and he rose to walk into the great room. Time means nothing to him, she thought. He’s receding from the world. The house phone had rung a half dozen times, yet he hadn’t answered since he’d let her talk to Sheriff Ellis. She forced away the memory of Danny’s voice during those few precious seconds; she couldn’t focus when she let that sound loose in her head.

As Warren came toward her, she recalled how boyish and wild he’d looked this morning, after staying up all night searching for something Nell Roberts had warned him about. The irony was exquisitely tragic: Nell had tried to save Warren from Kyle and Vida, and by so doing had led Warren to Danny’s letter, which might ultimately cause his death. Warren stopped three feet from her and sat on the ottoman he’d used earlier. He looked as though he’d aged fifteen years since this morning.

“I want to ask you something,” Laurel said softly. “We’ve been married for twelve years, and in all that time you never raised a hand to me. You’ve been calm, rational, even kind most of the time. And now, in the span of a few hours, you’ve become a totally different person. Can you help me understand that?”

“You never betrayed me before.”

“I don’t think that’s it. I really don’t. If I’d told you a week ago that you were going to beat me and tie me up, you wouldn’t have believed it. Not even because of adultery or anything else. And in front of our six-year-old child? You couldn’t even have imagined that.”

He blinked but said nothing.

“I’m worried about your mental health, Warren. I’m serious.”

The faintest of smiles touched the corners of his mouth. “Your worries no longer worry me.”

This set her back. “And our children’s worries?”

“They’ll know someday who really cared about them.”

“What does that mean?” Laurel struggled against her bonds in frustration. “You’re talking like a Delphic oracle. You keep telling me I’ve broken a trust. All right, what if I have? From what Kyle said, you’ve done the same thing with your patients. Or with yourself. Maybe both. I don’t know, because you won’t tell me. But he was talking about prison, Warren. Whatever you did must have been pretty bad. I don’t understand it, but then I don’t have to. Because I can forgive you, whatever you’ve done. I know you’re a good man, deep down. So why can’t you forgive me?”

“It’s different. Completely different.”

“How? Stealing is a lesser sin than adultery?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what I’ve done, or why.”

“I want to!”

“And I want to know what you’ve done. Are you going to tell me?”

She bit her bottom lip. She had certainly thought about confessing. If she admitted her affair with Danny, Warren would believe her, she knew. After the initial shock had passed anyway. Because every word she spoke would ring with the conviction of truth. The question was how Warren would react once he’d accepted that truth. If her lover had in fact been Kyle, or someone else of that caliber, Warren would probably scream and yell in disgust, then kick her out of the house and divorce her. But Danny McDavitt was a different thing altogether. For Warren, the essential nature of masculine honor was sacrifice, and he respected Danny more than almost any man he’d ever met. He admired Danny’s war record, of course; that was a given. But he also saw Danny as a dedicated family man. When he and Danny coached the girls in soccer last year, little Michael had come along for most practices, and all of the games. Many times Laurel had caught Warren staring as Danny patiently tried to engage his son in activities with the other kids. And what she’d seen etched into her husband’s face at those times was a combination of pity and admiration. Once, Warren had actually climbed into the car after practice and said, “Danny McDavitt’s a better man than I am. If Grant had been born like that, it might have killed me.” This happened months before Laurel and Danny started seeing each other, but Laurel sometimes wondered if Warren’s admiration for Danny had formed some perverse part of her attraction to him.

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