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Книга Third Degree. Страница 71

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“He’s going to kill her,” said Danny, quickly checking the instruments on the helicopter’s panel. “We can’t wait any longer.”

“Christ!” Sheriff Ellis cried from the left-hand seat. “Take us up!”

“I can’t yet!” Danny waited in near panic, urging the rotors to full rotational speed. The light was gone now, thanks to the storm clouds. For all practical purposes, night had fallen.

“Black Seven, this is Black Leader,” said Ellis, calling Ray Breen. “We’re going airborne in a matter of seconds. A soon as we’re in a hover over the backyard, Major McDavitt will hit the spotlight, and I’ll give the command to go. The command will be ‘Go,’ repeated three times. A no-go order will be ‘Abort,’ but don’t expect to hear that. Acknowledge.”

“Black Seven, ten-four.”

“Black Diamond, are you in position?”

“In position,” Carl Sims replied. “I’m aiming at the target indicated as most likely by the thermal imager.”

“Are you ready and willing to fire?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll acquire the target as the windows go down, and fire on your command.”

No hesitation in that voice, Danny thought. Death was hovering over the Shields house.

“You’re cleared to fire on Dr. Shields as of this moment,” the sheriff said. “As soon as the windows go down, take the soonest available shot.”

“Understood,” said Carl.

“It better be. Everyone else acknowledge by turns that you’re in position.”

The radio started clicking. “Black One, copy that. In position.”

“Two, in position.”

“Three, in position.”

“Black Four, in position.”

On it went, up to fifteen. The Bell’s rotors were churning now, pulling the craft away from the earth. Danny pulled pitch with the collective and put her into a hover, then pushed the cyclic and applied power. The chopper rose into the darkness over Avalon.

Danny swung away from the house, knowing that the noise of the engines would already have drawn Warren’s attention. Do a pedal turn, hover over the backyard, and hit the searchlight. Shields will think the sheriff is trying to see into the great room through those arched windows above the blinds. He’ll probably open one of the blinds a little and peer out, trying to get a fix on the chopper…

Two seconds later he’ll die.

With that thought came a hint of new awareness, but Danny didn’t have time to dwell on it. He was making his turn, then crossing over the house to the backyard at seventy feet. He imagined he could see Carl Sims scoping the glowing windows, waiting for the brightly colored blob on an LCD beside him to become a living man. In that moment Warren Shields would cease being Carl’s parents’ doctor and instead become a warm target consisting of center mass with a head and four limbs attached. Carl’s bullet would arrive like a freight train compressed into a quarter-inch-wide spear of copper-jacketed lead-

“Go lower!” shouted Sheriff Ellis. “Hit the spotlight!”

Danny switched on the thirty-million-candlepower searchlight mounted beneath the chopper’s nose and aimed it at the second story of the Shields house, keeping it away from the lower windows to be sure it didn’t interfere with the thermal imagers. He nudged the cyclic until they were hovering over the center of the backyard, just forty feet off the ground. He’d already sent a text message warning Laurel to keep away from the windows; he only prayed she’d been able to read it in time.

“Black Team,” said Sheriff Ellis, “prepare to go on my order.”

Danny could see the strain Ellis was under in the set of his jaw and the flexed muscles of his big forearms. He reminded Danny of a first-time skydiver preparing to jump-

“Black Leader, this is Black Diamond!” cried Carl. “We’ve got a problem, repeat, a problem at my position.”

“This is Black Leader, what’s happening?”

“I’ve got a kid on the roof of the house!”

Ellis glanced at Danny, his eyes unbelieving. “You’ve got what? Say again!”

“A kid on the roof. A child-on the back roof of the house, south side.”

Danny peered down at the roof, wondering whether Laurel could have gotten Beth up there while Warren was talking to him. He saw no child, though, no movement of any kind.

“Is it the little girl?” Sheriff Ellis asked.

“Negative,” said Carl. “Male child, maybe ten years old. He’s trying to get into the house! Through a dormer window.”

“It’s Grant!” said Danny, sighting the little shape at last. He aimed the searchlight just to the right of the dormer. “See him? There he goes.”

An agile figure vanished into the house with simian speed, then pulled the window shut after him.

“Damn it!” bellowed the sheriff. “Where the hell is Sandra Souther?”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Danny, holding his hover. “What do we do now?”

Ray Breen’s voice crackled from the radio. “Let’s hit Shields before the kid can get downstairs. Right now!”

Sheriff Ellis’s lips parted, but no words emerged. Danny wasn’t sure what the best course was, but he knew one thing: you didn’t learn how to handle this kind of situation on a football field. Ellis was far out of his league.

“What’s happening on the thermal camera?” Ellis asked.

“We lost the kid, but my target is steady,” Carl answered. “Target may even be a little closer to the study window. Can’t tell for sure.”

“Let’s do it!” barked Ray. “This is our chance!”

Ellis’s head bowed in the ghostly glow of the cockpit lights. He’s praying, Danny realized. Oh, Jesus-

“Hold it!” shouted Carl. “Target’s moving laterally now. Toward the kitchen.”

Ellis’s head snapped up, and he squinted uncertainly at the house.

“Abort,” Danny said softly.

As though Danny were speaking through his mouth, Sheriff Ellis cried, “Abort! Abort! This is Black Leader. Abort!”

“Come on, Billy Ray!” pleaded Ray.

“Abort,” Ellis repeated, his voice firm. “Everybody stay in position. Trace, can you route the directional mike signal to the chopper?”

“I think so.”

“I’ve lost my target,” said Carl. “He’s off the thermal. I think he’s in the kitchen.”

“This is Black Six, with the thermal cam in front of the house,” said a new voice. “I have a faint reading in the kitchen area.”

“That’s Shields,” said Ellis.

Ray Breen’s pumped-up voice distorted the headset speakers. “Forget Carl! Let’s do it the old-fashioned way!”

Danny felt a rush of panic, but Ellis only shook his head and said, “Stand down, Ray. Land by the command post, Major.”

“Are you sure?” Ray pressed.

“Goddamn it!” Ellis yelled. “I gave you an order! Do not, repeat not, blow those windows. Acknowledge!”

Two clicks sounded in the headsets. Ray Breen couldn’t bring himself to speak, so angry was he over the aborted assault.

Danny swung the Bell around the house toward the stand of trees that sheltered the trailer. As he flared for the landing, he saw the sheriff’s hands shaking in his lap. Sensing that he was being watched, Ellis quickly rubbed his palms together as though for warmth. Danny hadn’t judged the man a coward for his nerves. He knew that the minute he took his own hands off the controls, they would be shaking, too.

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