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Книга Third Degree. Страница 62

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“I thought we wasn’t supposed to be talking to nobody on the outside,” Trace said from behind Danny. “Who’s he talking to?”

Sheriff Ellis said, “Major McDavitt has a family emergency. So how ’bout you shut up and focus on your job?”

Trace ducked his narrow head. “Yessir.”

Thinking of Laurel’s message, Danny moved closer to the blueprints and said, “I was actually in this house a couple of times, back when I coached soccer with Dr. Shields.”

“Really?” said the sheriff.

“Yep. And if I remember right, Shields has a computer sitting on the desk in his study, which is right off the great room.” He pointed. “Right there. If Shields was telling the truth about working at his computer, he might be sitting at that desk to do it. And if I’m not mistaken, the study windows are just like the ones in the great room.”

Carl nodded. “They are.”

Danny looked at the sheriff and let his voice take on its pilot’s authority. “I think I see a surer way to end this thing. It was your idea to start with, Sheriff.”

Ellis stood a little straighter.

“If the thermal imagers pinpoint Shields in that study-or in the great room-I should take the chopper up as a diversion, just like you suggested on the way here.”

The sheriff nodded to confirm that this had, in fact, been his idea.

“We put Carl on the ground with his rifle scoped on those windows and the thermal imager beside him. When I turn on my searchlight, Shields will come to those windows like a moth to a candle. When he does, Ray can blow the windows out with plastique-all the back windows. Shields will be silhouetted like a duck in a shooting gallery. And that’s when Carl takes his shot.”

The sheriff’s eyes narrowed. “Carl only?”

“There’s your surgical strike. One shot, one kill. No collateral damage.”

Ray Breen was winding up to argue, but Ellis silenced him with an upraised hand. The sheriff’s eyes bored into those of his sniper. “Will you make that shot, Carl?”

Carl looked back steadily. “No problem, sir. There’s a pecan tree forty-three meters from the back windows. I ranged it with my laser. I can set up behind that. The doctor won’t even know I’m there.”

“I didn’t ask if you could make the shot,” Ellis growled. “I asked if you would.”

The sniper’s face tightened as he realized exactly what was being questioned. “Understood, sir. I’ll make the shot.”

“No wounding, nothing like that.”

Carl nodded once, his jaw set firm.

Sheriff Ellis didn’t look convinced, but he finally turned away and gazed at the semicircle of faces pressed close around him. “All right, listen up. I like Major McDavitt’s thinking on this. But my first plan is to talk Dr. Shields out of there.”

Ray Breen snorted, but he tried to make it sound involuntary.

“I know Shields has stopped answering the phone, but that doesn’t mean he won’t answer the next time we call. If he won’t answer, I’ll go to the bullhorn. But-at the rate we’re losing light, our options are going to shrink mighty quick.”

“Storm’s coming up fast,” Burnette noted.

“And maybe the FBI, too,” Ray intoned.

Ellis grimaced. “Ray, set up your directional mikes.”

“They’re being set up now.”

“Good. The second those thermal imagers get here, I want ’em up and running. I want to know where every person in that house is and hear every word they’re saying. Once I’ve got that intel, I’ll make my tactical decision.” Ellis dug into his pocket for something-chewing tobacco, Danny figured-but came up empty. “Anybody else got anything to say?”

Nobody did. Except Danny, who throughout the meeting had been haunted by an image so vivid that it might be a premonition: Ray Breen charging into the great room with an MP5 submachine gun on full auto-and one solitary slug finding its way into Laurel’s heart-

“I’d like to say something,” Danny said quietly. “What I’m about to tell you is only what I’ve heard Delta Force and SEAL commanders tell their men before an assault. Don’t ask me what assaults, because I can’t tell you.”

The room went silent as a prayer vigil, just as he’d intended. He looked Ray Breen in the eyes. “This is no training exercise. And it’s damn sure no movie set. If you men assault that house, you’re as much a threat to the hostages-and to each other-as you are to Dr. Shields. You have no way of knowing how Mrs. Shields or her daughter will react to your intrusion. The little girl might bolt for her father the instant those windows go down. You’ve got to know what you’re going to do in that event before you go in.”

“What would you do, Ray?” asked the sheriff.

“Depends if he’s holding his gun on the little girl, I guess.”

“That’s no time for guessing,” Danny said. “You think he’d hold a gun on his own daughter?” asked Burnette.

“Who the fuck knows?” Ray snapped. “He’s the nutjob taking people hostage.”

Sheriff Ellis looked down at the blueprints, his eyes clouded with doubt. “If Dr. Shields is holding his little girl when the windows go down, Carl is the only man authorized to shoot.”

Half of Danny’s fear left him in a single sigh.

“Jesus!” cried Ray. “A million things could screw up Carl’s shot. We need to be able to do whatever’s required to get the job done.”

“A sniper ain’t no better than we are up close,” Trace argued.

Carl looked at the younger Breen with barely disguised contempt. “You want to put a thousand dollars behind that mouth?”

“Any day, boy.”

“You’d have to borrow it to pay me.”

“Shut up!” bellowed the sheriff. “My order stands. All this is hypothetical right now anyway. Everything could change in five minutes. Danny? Anything else?”

“Only this. I never knew a real hero who wanted to be one. We’ve got one objective: the safety of those people inside. Keep your minds on that, and maybe we’ll end this night without killing anybody.”

“Which is exactly what we want,” Ellis concluded.

A soft beeping sounded in the trailer.

“Shit fire!” Trace exclaimed, his eyes on the comm rack. “That’s him!”

“Who?” asked the sheriff.

Him. Dr. Shields! His house, anyway.”

“Answer it!” snapped Ellis.

Trace picked up the phone and, after trying to swallow his bobbing Adam’s apple, said, “Hello? Deputy Breen speaking.”

Everyone watched his rodent’s face bunch in concentration. “No, that’s my brother. Is that who you want to talk to?…Okay. Wait a minute, please.”

Sheriff Ellis stepped forward, expecting to be handed the phone, but Trace put his hand over the mouthpiece and shook his head.

“He’s asking for Danny, Sheriff.”

Ellis looked nonplussed. “Danny?”

“Um, ‘Major McDavitt’ is what he said. Ain’t that Danny?”

The sheriff turned and looked back at Danny.

Danny shrugged, unable to guess what Shields wanted with him. Unless he’d somehow forced Laurel to confess their involvement, that is-

“Major, do you want to talk to Dr. Shields?” Sheriff Ellis asked stiffly.

“We’d better think it through before I try that.” Danny looked at Trace. “Tell him you’re going to find me, and I’ll call him back.”

Trace was about to do this when Ellis said, “Ask if he’ll talk to me instead.”

Trace followed his orders, then hung up, looking embarrassed. “He said Danny or nobody, Sheriff. Then he hung up.”

Ellis rubbed his strong chin. “Okay…everybody get into position. Stay on the secure radio net, but keep the chatter down.”

The trailer emptied fast. Soon only Trace Breen remained with Danny and the sheriff.

“Where are you supposed to be?” Ellis asked Trace.

“Right here. This is my post.”

“Well, clear out for a minute.”

Trace looked happy to oblige.

After he’d gone, Ellis gave Danny a penetrating look. “What do you make of this development?”

“I don’t know what to make of it.”

62

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