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Книга Third Degree. Страница 81

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“You have to kill him,” Danny said as though reading the message aloud, but he was speaking to Carl Sims.

“I guess there’s only one thing left to learn,” Warren said. “Who fathered the bastard in her belly.” Keeping his pistol pressed firmly against Laurel’s stomach, he reached down with his left hand, moved his computer mouse, and clicked a button.

“Warren, don’t,” Laurel begged in a voice close to breaking. “Don’t look.”

But he did. He stared at the screen like a man witnessing his own death. “No. Goddamn it…it can’t be.”

Danny expected the gun to swing toward him, but instead Warren clicked frantically at the mouse. “It’s not here! Doesn’t he fucking sign anything?” He swept the monitor off the desk with a crash.

“It’s over, Warren,” Danny said with relief. “You can’t find out what you want to know. Not tonight. Put down the gun, man.”

Shields stared at Danny as though reality had finally sunk in. After hours of insanity, he was no closer to learning the truth than he had been at the beginning. A glimmer of real hope sparked in Danny’s heart-

Then his cell phone began to chirp.

Warren’s eyes dropped to Danny’s pants.

As Danny cursed himself for forgetting to silence his phone, Warren seized Laurel’s neck in the crook of his elbow and dragged her around the desk with his gun jammed into her stomach. When he reached the point where Danny stood between him and the windows, he threw Laurel to the floor.

“Put up your hands!” he said, aiming at Danny’s chest. “I don’t want to kill you, Major, but I need to know what the sheriff’s telling you.”

Danny put up his hands.

Warren patted Danny’s pockets with his left hand. When he found the cell phone in the back pocket, he shoved his pistol hard beneath Danny’s sternum and fished out the phone with his other hand. Then he backed away, taking care to keep Danny between him and the windows, and flipped open the phone.

Warren didn’t yet understand what had happened with the phones, but he would in seconds. Danny prepared to dive onto Laurel, which would clear Carl’s line of fire and shield her from Warren’s revenge.

“Danny?” Warren said softly. “Look at me.”

Danny knew he should dive, but now that it had come to this, he found himself unable to do it. He had betrayed this man. And he couldn’t consign him to the grave without accepting responsibility for what he’d done.

Warren’s gaze cut through him like the eye of God, to the darkest reaches of his soul. Danny sensed no judgment in the gaze, though, only grief. A profound sadness that a man Shields had believed to be noble had turned out to be merely, even terribly, human.

“It was you?” he asked. “All along? It was you?”

Danny nodded once.

Warren flinched as though Danny had shoved a needle into his heart. “Why? Can you tell me that?”

Danny saw no point in speaking anything but the truth. “I love her.”

Shields seemed to take this explanation with equanimity. He looked down at Laurel, who watched him fearfully from the floor. It struck Danny then that there were four of them in the room: the woman; two men; and the unborn child, who might belong to either man. Perhaps the same realization struck Shields. Whatever emotion came to him, he could not endure it. He screamed something unintelligible, then swung the pistol at Danny’s head. Danny leaped out of its path, lost his balance, and rolled onto the floor. He’d planned to cover Laurel with his body, but she was too far away now. He clapped his hands over his ears and tucked into a fetal position, facing away from the windows.

“You coward!” Shields screamed. “You’re supposed to be a hero! Look at him, Laurel…there’s your fucking hero!”

Danny closed his eyes and prayed for death to take the right man.

Carl stared at the thermal imager like a snake watching a transfixed bird. Every atom of his instinct told him that the only red blob still standing represented Warren Shields. A moment ago it had been twice its current size-

“Blow the windows,” he said into his headset.

He put his right eye to the Unertl scope, closed it against the coming flash, and squeezed two pounds of pressure out of the rifle’s three-pound trigger.

The dim rectangles of the study windows flashed white in his left eye, and bright yellow light spilled across the lawn. Carl glassed the study with robotic efficiency, searching for Dr. Shields-

There. The doctor stood alone, aiming a pistol at something below the windowsill. You couldn’t ask for more justification to fire. As Carl applied the last pound of pressure, Laurel Shields lurched into his sight picture and seized her husband’s gun hand. Carl longed to revoke his shot, but his motor cortex had already sent the signal to his trigger finger. Shields and his wife both flew backward-

Dear sweet Jesus, no, please no-

Searing flashes lit up the interior of the Shields house, then detonations like impacting mortar rounds rolled across the lawn.

Carl jumped to his feet and started running.

Even with his hands over his ears, Danny heard the shattering concussions of the grenades. When he felt confident there would be no more, he scrambled over to Laurel, who lay motionless on her back, her eyes closed.

“Laurel! Can you hear me? Are you hit?”

She didn’t respond. Blood was seeping through her top. She’d been hit in at least four places, the wounds widely dispersed. How was that possible? He’d heard only one rifle shot after the windows went down.

Glass, he thought. Shards of window glass.

A man screamed to Danny’s left. Danny turned and saw Warren on his back, gasping for air and waving his pistol as though having a seizure. His shirt, too, was peppered with blood.

Danny got to his feet and stamped on Warren’s wrist, pinning his gun to the floor. He was about to reach down for the weapon when someone screamed, “Get on the floor! Get down!”

Danny turned and saw what appeared to be a creature from outer space. Clad from head to foot in black ballistic nylon and Kevlar body armor, it had enormous insectlike goggles covering its eyes-

Ray Breen.

“Get out of the way!” Breen shouted, brandishing a submachine gun. “Or I’ll drop you where you stand!”

Danny held up both hands. “He can’t fire! I’m standing on his arm! I’m going to take his weapon!”

“Get out of the way, Major!”

Keeping his left hand aloft, Danny bent and tugged the gun from Shields’s unresisting hand, then tossed it away, into the great room.

Two more figures in black appeared behind Breen, but the TRU commander didn’t lower his weapon. Instead, he moved to his right, angling for a clear shot at Shields. Not knowing what else to do, Danny dropped to his knees and shielded the doctor with his own body.

“Somebody stop him!” he shouted, realizing as he did that Ray Breen was the senior officer in the room. “Get Sheriff Ellis!”

“Get off that bastard!” Ray yelled. “This thing ain’t gonna end but one way!”

Breen’s gun was an MP5, Danny saw, capable of firing eight hundred rounds per minute on automatic. If he pulled that trigger, both Danny and Shields would die.

“Go ahead,” Warren rasped from beneath Danny. “Shoot.”

Breen moved closer, trying to fire around Danny-

“Put the gun down, Ray.”

Danny turned and saw the long gray barrel of Carl Sims’s Remington 700 jutting through a shattered study window. Carl held the rifle almost casually, at waist level, but no one in the room doubted that a bullet fired from it would strike its intended target.

“He killed my brother!” Ray shouted in a voice beyond reason.

“I don’t want to shoot you,” Carl said softly. “But I will.”


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