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Книга Third Degree. Страница 80

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“Because the guys outside are about to blow this house apart. You want them to sit around while you perform some kind of in-house paternity test?”

“I don’t see why that’s asking too much. It could resolve everything.”

“How far along is she?” Danny asked. “How could they even get a needle to the fetus without, I don’t know, ultrasound or something?”

Laurel spoke with a feminine power that made both men turn. “If you truly loved me, it wouldn’t matter whose child I’m carrying.”

Warren gaped at her.

Danny wondered why the hell she’d said that. Did she have a death wish? Asking a man to accept another man’s child from the woman he was married to…that was definitely outside the envelope. Wasn’t it?

“You don’t know what love is,” Warren said. “I see that now.”

“On the contrary,” Laurel replied. “It’s you who has no idea what love is.”

Danny was trying to think of a way to get her off this tack when a disembodied voice said, “Merlin has broken the password! It’s MAGIC!”

Danny nearly jumped out of his skin, thinking someone else from the TRU had slipped into the house. When no gunfire erupted, he figured Grant was playing a video game on one of the home computers. But when he saw Laurel’s face, he knew he was wrong. She was terrified.

A triumphant blast of trumpets echoed through the house. Then the voice repeated, “Merlin has broken the password! It’s MAGIC!”

Warren’s face was shining as though all his fatigue had suddenly melted away. “Everybody into the study!” he cried.

Waving his pistol, he herded Danny toward the back door to his study. Danny had little choice but to walk ahead. As he did, some of Warren’s words during their earlier negotiation came back to him:

“I’ve got another computer working on it.”

“What is it you’re waiting for?”

“The name, Danny.”

“What name?”

“The guy who was screwing my wife. Or still is, for all I know.”

Danny stopped in the study door, his heart banging in his chest. My name is about to pop up on his computer screen… “Warren, if we go in here, one or all of us is going to die. They’ll see us on the thermal cam, and they’ll fire this time.”

“At least I’ll die knowing the truth.” Warren pushed past him with Laurel in tow. She brushed against Danny as Warren yanked her down the single step, and the scent of her pierced him to the core.

“You won’t live to read the screen!” Danny yelled.

“You’re free to go, Major. But not Laurel. Everything that’s happened today was leading to this moment.”

Danny couldn’t abandon her. He stepped down into the study, but he made sure that the men outside knew where he was. “If you’re set on committing suicide, all right. But I’m not giving up on you. Maybe they won’t fire if I’m in here with you.”

Seeing that Danny meant to stay, Warren gestured for him to stand on the far side of the desk, opposite the Aeron chair that faced the computer screen. Then Warren stood Laurel to the right of his chair-between himself and the study windows-and sat before his computer. His wife was now a human shield, one that had probably merged their two figures into one on the thermal camera outside. Shields’s ultimate goal might be suicide, but he meant to live long enough to discover who’d been screwing his wife.

“Merlin has broken the password!” the computer announced yet again. “It’s MAGIC!”

Warren laughed like a gleeful twelve-year-old playing a video game. As he began clicking his mouse, Danny flicked his eyes back and forth, working out the geometry of the room. He had to get Carl a shot, fast. If Warren pulled Danny’s name out of Laurel’s Hotmail account, he was a dead man. Shields had already shot a deputy and his medical partner. How hard would it be to shoot the guy who’d impregnated his wife?

Warren had set his pistol in his lap so that he’d have both hands free to work the computer. Laurel stood two feet to his right, with the desk separating her from Danny. Her eyes locked onto his, willing him to do something, anything, to stop her husband from opening her e-mail messages.

What’s Warren looking at now? he wondered. A list of old e-mail from me? Danny never signed his name to casual e-mails-notes about where and when to meet, like that. But the longer ones-those describing his feelings for Laurel-he’d always signed. And being a woman, Laurel had probably chosen to save exactly those for posterity.

“What do you see?” Danny asked, trying to stall.

Shields shook his head in wonder. “I’m reading a message telling my wife to meet her lover at the usual place. Strange, isn’t it?”

That one won’t be signed, Danny thought. But the next one might.

“And I’m waiting to find out who the father of my wife’s child is. This is a real red-letter day, wouldn’t you say?” Warren clicked the mouse again, probably moving to the next e-mail.

Laurel’s face twitched with fear.

Five more seconds could kill us both, Danny realized. Screw the risk, Carl has to shoot- “Warren, you’ve got to stop this! You’ve given Laurel the third degree all day long. They could blow you away right now! Right where you sit. You make an easy target because you’re sitting-”

Warren’s hand flicked out like a striking snake and grabbed Laurel’s right wrist. A split second later he was on his feet, jerking her hand out of her pants pocket.

It’s her phone, Danny realized. He’s seen her phone!

Danny started around the desk, but Warren’s gun snapped up, its black eye staring a hole in Danny’s chest.

“Third degree?” echoed Sheriff Ellis, sitting in the command trailer with Sandra Souther. “Third degree. Jesus, Danny’s telling us to shoot. He’s telling us to kill Shields.” Ellis grabbed a walkie-talkie off the table. “This is Black Leader, we’re going to blow the windows on Carl’s order. Repeat, Black Diamond has tactical command. Carl, the second you have a shot, take it.”

“Understood. I’m looking at the thermal image, but there’s no separation. Either the wife or Major McDavitt is in the line of fire.”

“Danny said Shields is sitting down. If you can’t see him on the thermal, blow the windows and take your chances.”

“Will do. Be cool, everybody…I’ll say when. Scoping now…”

“Damn it, Billy Ray,” cursed Ray Breen. “Let my men take this bastard out. This is exactly what we train for.”

“Negative,” said the sheriff. “Carl has the call. Acknowledge, Ray.”

Ray clicked his radio twice.

Warren held his wife’s Motorola Razr high like a trophy. The silver flip-phone had obviously been open while in her pocket, and Danny was sickeningly sure that this Razr was her clone phone, the one she used exclusively to talk to him.

Warren lowered the phone and looked hungrily at its screen. “You’ve had your hand in your pocket all day. Even when you were taped up. That was one too many times.”

Laurel was wavering on her feet. Danny wished she would faint and give Carl a clear shot.

“Let’s see who you’re trying to call,” Warren said, working at the tiny keys. “Or were you texting somebody?”

As Laurel’s eyes found Danny’s, Warren’s thumb stopped working at the keypad. He looked up at his wife, and a shudder went through him. Then he stuck the barrel of his gun into Laurel’s belly. “I knew that wasn’t my baby.”

“Warren?” Danny said softly. “Buddy?”

Shields laughed strangely, then tossed the cell phone to Danny. Danny caught it and looked down at the screen, which displayed a message beneath SENT MESSAGES. On it were five words written in the pseudo-shorthand of cell phone messaging:


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