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Книга Third Degree. Страница 59

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No confession, she decided. If Warren were to find out now that I’m in love with Danny-and that Danny loves me-he’d self-destruct. A colder woman, she thought, might reveal the truth to try to drive her husband to suicide, but Laurel couldn’t consider it. First because she didn’t want her children to lose their father. Second because Warren might decide to make his wife and children precede him into death. A lot of fathers had done so in the past. All you had to do was watch the news to know that. And last, of course, there was the selfish consideration. Danny might be in love with her, but he was unwilling to give up custody of Michael to marry her. Even if Warren died tonight, it would bring her no closer to a future with Danny.

“We both need to talk about the bad things we’ve done,” she said. “But not right now. Right now we need to find a way out of this trap we’ve made for ourselves. We need to make sure our children are safe.”

Warren actually looked as if he was considering it. “What about Kyle?”

“What about him? He tried to kill you. You acted in self-defense. I’ll testify to that.”

Warren looked toward the study. “I just want you to know one thing. Everything I’ve done this past year was for the children. And for you. Even the bad things.”

“Warren, how can that be? Please help me understand!”

“I can’t. You know how I am. Some things I just can’t talk about.”

The phone rang again, but he ignored it.

“Don’t you think you should answer? They’re probably getting pretty antsy out there.”

He nodded. “They are. I can see them on my computer.”

Laurel was thunderstruck. She had entirely forgotten about the security cameras they’d installed when the house was built. She’d never used them, but Warren had the cameras connected to his computer via wireless connection, and he was obviously monitoring them now. No wonder he was so calm! Sitting there while the phone rang endlessly! He’d know the assault was coming in plenty of time to retreat to the safe room. She needed to text Danny about the cameras right away.

“I don’t think they know I can see them,” Warren said. “Or they’d be concealing themselves better.”

“The cameras are pretty hard to see,” Laurel observed, remembering how well the architect had hidden them in the molding outside.

“You insisted on that, remember?”

Yeah, great. “So, you’re not going to answer the phone anymore?”

“Ray Breen’s an idiot. Sheriff Ellis isn’t much better.”

“You need to talk to somebody. So they don’t come charging in here and hurt Beth.”

Warren nodded slowly. Then, after a few moments, he said, “Danny.”

Laurel’s heart thudded. “What?”

“I wouldn’t mind talking to Danny. He was in the chopper with Ellis, remember?”


“Danny’s a family man, all the way. And his wife is a little…difficult. The major would understand what I’m going through.”

Laurel wanted to smash Warren’s face. Here in the heart of hell, she was being compared to Starlette McDavitt, one of the women she despised most in the world.

“Ask for Danny, then,” she said. You son of a bitch.

Like a man suddenly remembering he’d left something on the stove, Warren got up and walked back to his computer. Laurel rolled to face the sofa back, then slid her Razr from its niche and began working the keypad with her thumb.

Bonnie Elfman had led Danny and Sheriff Ellis to a TV room at the back of her house, where they found Grant Shields sitting on a wicker sofa with Deputy Sandra Souther, pretending to watch TV. Ellis had questioned the boy gently enough, and he got a recap of what Ray Breen had already relayed to him: a nine-year-old’s perspective on a violent family argument and possible murder. Now the sheriff was trying to tease out details.

“How many shots did you hear, son?” he asked. “One? Or maybe two?”

Grant closed his eyes like a psychic trying to guess what card someone was holding. “Three, I think.”

Ellis glanced at Danny. “How many guns does your dad own?”

The boy’s eyes opened. “Um…three.”

“What kind are they?”

“He’s got one of every kind. A shotgun and a deer gun and a pistol.”

The sheriff smiled. “You’re a smart boy, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know.”

“What about you? Do you have a.22 or anything?”

“No, sir. Dad says I’m not old enough. I am, though.”

“I believe you are.”

As Ellis slid his chair closer to the boy Danny’s cell phone vibrated against his thigh. He took it out and read the new text message with an accelerating pulse. W mentaly unstable. Handgun amp; shotgun close. Rifle n safe room. Stocked for days. Intent uncertain, but W not n hurry. Trancelike. Bth asleep amp; close 2 him. PS B careful! He can c u! secuty. cams! Danny replied, Understood. Take care. I love you, knowing as he did that the contents of these secret messages were almost certain to be read by the sheriff one day.

“Grant?” said Ellis. “Have you ever seen your daddy as upset as he got today?”

The boy’s eyes started to glisten. “No, sir.”

“Close even?”

Grant shook his head. “He was like a different person or something.”

Ellis nodded, then glanced up at Danny. “You want to ask anything?”

Danny squatted in front of the boy that he had once believed would become his stepson. Grant had his father’s face and sandy blond hair, but his eyes were Laurel’s. “Is there anything else you want to tell us, Grant? Anything at all?”

Grant shook his head, but then without warning two rivers of tears washed down his cheeks. “Please don’t let them hurt my daddy, Mr. Danny. He didn’t mean any harm. He’s sick, that’s all. He’s not thinking right! That’s what my mama told me.”

Danny took hold of the boy’s hands and squeezed. “Don’t you worry, son. We’re going to make sure everybody gets out of there safe and sound.”

Grant wiped his face and nodded. “Okay.”

Danny started to get up, then added, “Your mom’s a strong lady. She’s going to do whatever she has to do to get back to you.”

Grant looked unsure. “I don’t know. She acts that way, but sometimes I see her crying when she doesn’t know I’m looking.”

Danny nodded as though this were part of his everyday experience. “All grown-ups cry sometimes. I’ve seen some of the toughest soldiers in the world cry. That doesn’t mean anything bad.”

“Do you cry, Mr. Danny?”

He felt his throat tighten. “Sometimes I do, Grant. You just wait here and try to think about something else. You’ll be back with your mom before you know it.”

“And my dad,” Grant said firmly.

Danny nodded again.

“We’d better get moving,” Sheriff Ellis said brusquely. “We’ve got that ops meeting to get to.”

Danny squeezed Grant’s hand once more, then stood.

“Sandra?” said Ellis. “Why don’t you find this boy a soda pop or something?”

“He said he didn’t want anything.”

“All boys want a soda pop.”

Danny forced himself to walk out of the room, thinking that on a night like this, Grant might be luckier to be like Michael, just for a while.

“Slow down, Missy! There’s a bunch of cars up there.”

Nell Roberts was barely holding herself together. She’d felt some relief after talking to Dr. Shields, but it hadn’t lasted long. She’d called her second cousin Missy Darden to pick her up and run her downtown to Dr. Shields’s lawyer’s office, but the office had turned out to be closed. Nell got the lawyer’s home number from information, but when she called it, she got an answering machine. After convincing Missy to drive her out to the man’s house, she’d worked up her nerve to knock on the door, but no one answered. Throughout this odyssey Missy had questioned Nell endlessly, but Nell remained evasive, unsure how her cousin would react to the news of Vida’s injuries.


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