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Книга Third Degree. Страница 73

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“What is it?” Ellis asked. “It’s come-to-Jesus time, Danny.”

Danny almost spoke up, but in the end he decided that revealing the truth meant giving up the only edge he had in the situation-and might result in his being barred from the scene. “I can’t put it into words,” he said lamely. “But Shields respects me. If I can look him in the eye, man-to-man, I might be able to make him see reason.”

“And if you can’t?”

“Maybe I can get his wife and kids out.”

“You’re willing to die for that chance? An outside chance?”

“He won’t kill me.”

“Why not?”

Danny thought about it. “He doesn’t believe he has the right.”

Ellis clucked his tongue three times, then turned to Trace Breen, who was watching them warily. “Have you heard anything?”

“Just mumbles and static. They’re too far from the windows. You want to try moving the mikes around?”

“Try anything that might work.” Ellis turned back to Danny with sudden purpose. “I can’t let you do it. Dr. Shields may not be responsible for his actions. I don’t just mean he’s distraught. That brain tumor may have unhinged the man. He could kill you, no matter what you believe.”

Danny shrugged. “I’ve been in tough spots before.”

“That was different. That was for your country.”

“This is just as important.”

“Not in my view.” Ellis looked at his watch, then gave Danny a long, slow look. “Not unless you know something I don’t.”

“No, sir. You know what I know.”

“Then forget it. You stay with me. Trace, let your brother in.”

Trace got up and went to the door.

“And tell me the second you hear anything on the mikes.”

“You want me to tell Carl to move around front? In case he can get a shot there?”

“Leave Carl where he is.”

Ray almost knocked his brother down as he stormed into the trailer, water cascading off the brim of his Stetson. His eyes burned with outrage.

Before he could vent his anger, Ellis said, “Ray, get your best men up to the front door and the pantry door in the garage. We’re gonna go in the old-fashioned way, soon as you place your people. I want those hostages out of there.”

Breen stared back, the light of satisfaction growing in his eyes. “And Shields?”

“If he poses any threat whatever to your men or to his family, take him out.”

Danny’s pulse began to hammer in his throat. He raised his hand to his neck as if to somehow slow the racing blood.

Ray looked from the sheriff to him. “Y’all still planning to use the chopper as a diversion?”

“I can’t think of a better one,” said Ellis. “Move out, Ray.”

Breen went out, leaving a trail of muddy boot prints behind him.

“I want to monitor the directional mikes from the chopper,” Ellis said. “I want ’em loud and clear, Trace. Make it happen.”

“You got it, Sheriff.”

“And keep a thermal cam on the kitchen windows.” Ellis walked to the door without even looking at Danny. “Let’s go, Major. We’ll listen from the ground, but I want the rotors spinning.”

Ellis disappeared through the door. As Danny moved to follow him, Trace grinned with such malice that Danny stopped. “What is it, Deputy?”

The feral eyes glinted in the dim light. “That fucker’s dead now.”

“Shields?”

“Yep.”

“That pleases you?”

“Damn straight.”

“Why?”

Trace picked up a red paper Coca-Cola cup and spat a brown stream of tobacco juice into it. “Chickens coming home to roost. That’s why.”

“What do you mean by that?”

The yellowish skin above Trace’s chin worked around the plug of snuff in his bottom lip. “What do you care?”

“Sounds like you’ve got a personal problem with Dr. Shields.”

“What if I do? From what I seen tonight, I don’t think I’m the only one.”

The deputy’s eyes flashed with glee. Danny almost crossed the little room and grabbed his scrawny neck, but that would only bring questions he’d have to lie to answer. Instead, he wrapped a Sheriff’s Department poncho around his shoulders and walked out into the rain.

Carl Sims had been staring so hard at the readout of the thermal-imaging camera that his eyeballs felt paralyzed. Even for a sniper accustomed to searching terrain through a rifle scope, this was torture. The LCD monitor displayed a full spectrum of colors as it read the heat differentials in front of its supersensitive sensor system. The coolest areas appeared blue; warmer objects looked green; while the hottest targets transitioned from yellow to orange and finally to bright red. The human beings moving behind the window blinds were faint, amorphous blobs of constantly changing color and intensity, amoebas that pulsed, merged, separated, and then vanished altogether, only to reappear in some other place. The rain didn’t help matters (the camera had already gone on the blink a couple of times; clearly it did not like moisture), but the air-conditioning inside the house did. With the air cooled to below seventy degrees, the thermal camera could detect just enough contrast to reveal the human beings moving within that air-even with the window blinds interposed between the sensor and its targets.

Carl had never been in such a bad shooting situation. He’d thought he had seen it all in Iraq, but he was wrong. He had shot through high winds, blasting sand, rain, automotive glass, and even through the water of a swimming pool; he knew exactly how a bullet would behave in each of those situations. He’d shot during the day and he’d shot at night. He’d shot prone, sitting, standing, and from a moving vehicle. He’d killed nine men from distances greater than a thousand yards. But never had he sat a stone’s throw from a well-lighted house with his vision totally obscured by window blinds, trying to locate his target on a camera before he could even put his eye to his rifle scope. In Iraq, if he needed thermal-imaging capability, he’d simply switched to a thermal-imaging rifle scope, which gave him the equivalent of X-ray vision, zeroed to put a bullet wherever he wanted it. But this…this was a sniper’s nightmare.

He didn’t want the pulsing blobs to return to his side of the house. If they did, according to the sheriff’s new orders, Carl would have to give the order to blow the windows himself, which meant that he would be guessing which blob was Dr. Shields. After the windows dropped, it would take at least a full second to acquire his target in the Unertl scope and pull the trigger. That was if he was right about which blob was Dr. Shields. If he was wrong, it might take two or three seconds to acquire. The shooting was nothing in this case; target acquisition was everything.

This situation was tailor-made for a commando assault, not a sniper shot. Delta, the SEALs, Force Recon, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team-any of those units would have had the Shields family out of there hours ago, and without a single casualty. But none of those units was here tonight. Tonight it was Ray Breen’s Weekend Warriors. Carl had trained with the guys out there in the black body armor, and though they might look like commandos, they weren’t. Most had the reaction times of an average bowling team, not the Olympic-caliber reflexes of a Delta Force operator. Yet any minute-once Major McDavitt’s helicopter lifted into the air again-they were going to crash into that house with guns blazing. The major’s earlier words played relentlessly in Carl’s head: There’s exactly two professional soldiers here tonight, and they’re both under this tent. If the sheriff reaches the point of ordering an explosive entry, you are the best hope that Mrs. Shields and her daughter have of surviving this crisis. You alone. Carl closed his eyes and prayed the major could find a way to persuade Dr. Shields to surrender peacefully. Failing that he supposed, he should pray that the red blobs would return to his side of the house. Any other outcome was likely to mean disaster.

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