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Книга Third Degree. Страница 79

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“No, he’s not. That three-minute deadline was bullshit. They were coming to get you when I set down on your front walk.”

Warren processed this in silence.

“I want to talk to you, but we need to get everybody into the hall first.”

“Why?” Shields asked.

“They have thermal imaging devices out there. They can see through the window blinds. But the hall walls will shield us.”

Warren slowly shook his head.

“It’s twenty feet!” Danny shouted, pointing to his right.

Shields seemed to reconsider. “You go first.”

Danny had hoped the doctor would lead the way, giving him a chance to grab Laurel and try for the front door. But if he’d tried that and failed, whatever trust he now enjoyed would be lost. He backed slowly down the hall, his eyes on Warren’s gun. His left heel slipped on something, then caught. He looked down and saw a dark, tacky stain on the floor. Blood. He’d seen whole slicks of it in the belly of his chopper. He figured the stuff on his shoe belonged to Kyle Auster.

Shields wasn’t following him, he noted, and Laurel was still stuck behind her husband in the foyer. “Warren, if you stay where you are, they’ll blow down that door and toss in a flash-bang grenade. The C-4’s already in place.”

Warren blinked twice, then came toward Danny, motioning for Laurel to follow him. He stopped after the hall walls closed around him. Danny held out his hand and beckoned Laurel forward. He could tell she wanted to run into his arms, but she moved slowly, as though Warren might decide to shoot her at any moment.

“You two stay on opposite sides of me,” Warren said nervously.

Laurel obeyed like a convict worried about a brutal guard.

Warren kept his gun hand on Danny’s side, as though he expected Danny to make a play for the weapon.

“I violated orders to come in here,” Danny said, trying to keep his voice under control. “So I hope you’ll listen to me. There’s a boy out there who shot twenty-seven people in Iraq. And that’s just what they recorded officially. He’s got a bullet chambered with your name on it.”

Warren’s face didn’t change at all.

“That’s welcome news to you, isn’t?” Danny said. “That’s what I realized when I was hovering over your house. That’s how you want to die.”

The doctor’s right cheek twitched.

“Warren?” Laurel said softly. “Is he right?”

“I’m right,” Danny said, not taking his eyes from Warren’s face. “But you’re not going to get that surgical sniper’s bullet. You’re going to get Ray Breen and his weekend commandos blasting in here with grenades and submachine guns. And if anybody gets in the way, like Grant or Beth or Laurel, well, that’s just too bad. Do you hear me, Warren?”

“Yes.”

“Is that how a good father checks out?”

The cheek was twitching steadily now.

“You know it’s not,” Danny pressed. “How a man dies is his own business, but he’s got no right to take anyone else with him.”

“Grant and Beth can leave,” Warren said. “But not her.” he jabbed his pistol toward Laurel. “She stays till the end.”

The end of what? Danny thought. The end of you, or of all of us?

Behind Warren, Laurel put a shaking hand over her eyes. For an instant Danny wondered if she might smack her husband’s head or make a grab for the gun, but she was past that point now. She was barely functioning.

“Let’s get those kids out of here,” Danny said.

“McDavitt’s a goddamn traitor!” Ray Breen shouted over the radio. “He’s telling Shields everything we got out here! Can’t you hear that mike signal? I can’t take any more of this shit!”

Sheriff Ellis said, “Danny’s about to walk out of there with those kids, Ray. Keep this channel clear. I’m giving Danny the time he asked for.”

Carl Sims lay on the wet grass behind his pecan tree and listened to the menagerie of voices on the radio net that linked the members of the Tactical Response Unit. Ray Breen was going to need a straitjacket or a horse sedative if he got any madder. Even if he didn’t, he was exactly the wrong person to send into a hostage situation. Carl had figured the sheriff would pull Ray off the TRU after his brother was shot; it just seemed like common sense. But this wasn’t the Marine Corps, and Carl wasn’t in command.

He didn’t know why Major McDavitt had risked his life to charge into the house alone, but Carl was glad he had. Anything was better than sending Ray and his cowboys in there with grenades. Carl made sure the extra poncho he’d brought was keeping the rain off his rifle, then went back to studying the LCD on the thermal camera. He suspected that the major might have gone in to move Dr. Shields back into his line of fire. If so, Carl didn’t plan on disappointing him. Any doubt about shooting the doctor had vanished. It was simple arithmetic now.

One death was better than five.

“The kids, Doc,” Danny said again. “Where’s Grant?”

Warren was staring at Danny with a strange new intensity. “What are you really doing here?”

A shiver of fear raced along Danny’s shoulders. Warren’s hollow eyes seemed suddenly to hold the very knowledge that Danny would have given anything to keep from him. Had he somehow sensed the truth? Had physical proximity triggered some primitive sensory apparatus that could detect sexual chemistry between people?

“Do you always have to be the hero?” Warren asked.

“I’m no hero. I just care what happens to this family. I don’t want to see your pictures on the front of tomorrow’s Citizen over a story about a terrible tragedy. And I don’t want to listen to every asshole in town saying, ‘It just goes to show, doesn’t it? You never can tell.’ ”

Warren’s mouth smiled but his eyes remained disconnected from the movement.

“So let’s get those kids out of here, huh?”

The dead smile vanished.

“The baby I’m carrying is yours, Warren,” Laurel said, averting her eyes from Danny. “I know it. That’s the one ray of hope in all the darkness you’ve been living with this past year.”

Danny searched her face, but he saw no sign that she was lying. Maybe Shields had fathered the child.

“I told you,” Warren said, “it can’t be mine.”

“You said it was unlikely. Not impossible.”

Shields looked at the floor, then at his gun. Laurel was playing a dangerous game.

“Is it possible?” she asked softly. “Just possible?”

“Maybe,” he whispered. “But if it is…I don’t even know if you could keep it. My cells are so screwed up now from the chemicals and hormones, the risk of birth defects would be so high-”

“I don’t care,” Laurel averred, so firmly that Danny believed her. “If you’re dying, then we have to risk it. You’re going to live to see this baby born!”

Danny didn’t know whether she was speaking from the heart, but her eyes flashed with conviction, and her words rang with truth.

Warren’s face was glistening. Maybe he’s finally breaking down, Danny thought. Maybe the hope of something positive before his death was enough to lift Shields out of the hell he had lived in so long. Danny prayed that Sheriff Ellis was hearing this conversation-and holding Ray Breen on a tight leash.

Warren wiped his eyes, then looked back at his wife. “I want you to get a blood test. Will you do that?”

She nodded, but Danny saw that the idea had scared her.

“A DNA test?” Danny asked, thinking that this alone was proof that Shields saw them both alive in the future.

“No, that takes too long. Mark Randall can come in here and draw some blood, and they can have it typed at the hospital lab in thirty minutes.”

Danny felt dizzy. “You mean now?”

“Why not? Randall lives practically around the corner, on Sagramore Street.”

“Warren…we don’t have that kind of time.”

“Why not?”

79

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