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 It s blood, Sheila, he said.
Her heart flip-flopped.  Do you think they might have taken him hostage? Tim
asked.
She shook her head.
 Where is he, then?
She stared at him for a long moment, then rose. She ran back outside,
suddenly heedless of the dark and wind and pelting snow. She plowed her way
through until she reached the old Cadillac.
 Sheila, stop, Tim said, racing up behind her.
 But 
 There s blood on the snow, he said quietly.  I ll look.
 I ve been a deputy for most my life, she told him.  I ve seen it all.
 He was a friend of yours.
Was.
She swallowed.
 Help me, she said to Tim.
Together they dug away the snow with their hands and struggled with the door
to the Cadillac. As soon as they got it open, she directed the beam of her
flashlight into the backseat.
 Oh God, Tim breathed.
EIGHT
Quintin told Scooter to keep everyone together, then walked toward the front
door and opened it. A blast of cold hit them like a ton of bricks.
 Quintin, what the hell? Scooter complained.
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 I heard something, Quintin said.
 It must have been the wind, Frazier said.  Blowing stuff around.
Quintin flashed him an angry glance, then returned to staring into the night.
There wasn t much to see. The snow was too thick.
David cleared his throat.  If you want the generator to work all night and
through& through dinner tomorrow, you can t overwork it. You don t want the
heat giving out, do you? he asked rationally.
But Quintin wasn t even listening to him.  Someone s out there, he said.
Quintin turned suddenly and aimed his gun at the group.  Craig, Scooter, get
your coats on.
 Come on, Quintin, you ve gotta be joking, Scooter complained.
 I m dead serious, Quintin said, nodding meaningfully at Skyler.
 What do I care if you shoot her? Scooter grumbled.
 What ll you care, doing life in prison? Quintin said.  Anyway, Mr. Softie
there will care.
Swearing, Scooter headed for the closet. Craig followed suit. As he buttoned
his coat, he turned to Quintin and asked,  What the hell are we looking for?
 Someone is out there, Quintin said.
 How the hell could anyone be out there? They d be frozen by now, David
pointed out reasonably.
Quintin stared at him coldly, then turned to Skyler.  Mom, come over here.
Now.
David tensed as if he were about to move.
 I told you, I ll shoot her next time, Quintin said very softly.
 Just chill, everyone. It s fine, Skyler said, walking over to Quintin. He
pulled her against his side and slipped an arm around her. It wasn t an
affectionate gesture. He held her with the muzzle of the gun pointed to her
cheek.
 Get out there, Quintin said coldly.  And if either one of you tries to pull
anything, just remember that Mom here will end up with half her head blown
away. Got it?
Craig followed Scooter to the door, figuring Scooter still had a gun.
 Lookit all this damn snow. What the hell are we supposed to do? Scooter
muttered to him.
Craig shrugged.  Plow our way through it, he returned, his heart thundering.
Kat had to be out here. But the snow was so deep, there would be no way to
hide the trail she d be making through the deep, white blanket that surrounded
the house. And if Scooter found her&  Look, we ll just stay out here long
enough to make Quintin think we really searched. Hell, Scooter, David was
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right. No one could survive out here.
He thought they were making their way down the front walk to the road, but it
was difficult to tell. The wind was still high and flakes were still falling,
and that combined with the depth of the snow on the ground made it almost
impossible to tell where they were.
 Listen! Scooter said suddenly.
 To what?
 A motor.
 You hear a motor? Craig said. He tried to make his tone incredulous, but he
could hear it, too.
It wasn t coming from anywhere near the house, though. It was distant, the
sound carrying unnaturally because of the wind.
 What the hell do you think it is? Scooter demanded tensely.
Craig shrugged.  It s nowhere near here, he finally said, as if he d only
just managed to hear it.
 You sure? Scooter stared at him.
Scooter had been the one to want him in the group, he reminded himself.
Unlike Quintin, Scooter trusted him, and he could use that to his advantage.
 Scooter, listen, he said calmly.  It s probably just a fire engine or an
ambulance or something. No one is coming to this house. There s no reason for
them to.
 There s the car, Scooter said.
 Buried now. No one can see it.
Scooter stood there, staring at the moon as it tried to peek down through the
heavy cloud cover. Snowflakes fell on his gaunt face and stuck to his
eyelashes. After a moment he smiled.  I don t want trouble tonight, he said.
 I know. It s warm and comfortable in there. And the food s good.
 I like having Christmas, Scooter said.  I never had Christmas when I was a
kid. I never knew who my dad was. And my mom& she drank. And then there were
the men. She d rather buy a gift for any asshole she thought might marry her
than for her own kid. He looked at Craig.  None of her men ever stayed
around, though, so she drank herself to death. And there was never Christmas
until I made my own. First year after the old lady was dead, I hit up one of
those department-store places. I stole a tree and all kinds of ornaments. But
I got caught, and I was old enough to do real time. Haven t had Christmas
since then. What about you, kid?
 Me?
 Did you even know who your dad was?
 Oh, yeah. I knew who he was.
 And your mother?
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Craig shrugged, looking away.  She died young.
 She drink herself to death?
 No.
 Then 
Craig swung around.  Look, I want to have Christmas, too. I want turkey
tomorrow hell, I think even old Quintin wants turkey tomorrow. We ve just got
to keep things calm and him on an even keel. We can t have him going all
ballistic every time he hears a noise.
 Yeah, yeah, but& what the hell is it about you that he doesn t like? Scooter
demanded, staring at him.
 Damned if I know, Craig told him, shrugging, but inside he felt sick.
I wanted to stop him from killing the old man, he thought. And maybe
Quintinhadn t killed him. Maybe&
Quintinhad killed him. He knew it. He had failed. God, he had failed.
He couldn t fail now. Somehow he had to find a way to disarm both men, to get
them going after each other instead of the O Boyles.
Scooter spun around.  Hey, I hear something! Over there.
Scooter started plowing his way through the snow, his gun out. Swearing
softly in dismay, Craig followed.
He saw the trail leading away from the basement window through the snow and
his heart sank.
Kat.
He forced his own path through the snow, somehow getting ahead of Scooter
even though the other man had started off first, and then, even over the sound
of the storm he heard her. Heard her desperate breath as she tried to run
through the mammoth buildup of snow.
Then he heard the explosion of a bullet, followed by the soft sucking sound
as it shot through the snow and into the wet ground.
 Stop! he shouted to Scooter.
 There s someone. Thereis someone!
Another bullet ripped through the night.
 Stop shooting! he shouted to Scooter.  You re going to kill me.
He had to reach Kat first. He redoubled his effort, but she was young and
fit.
And she was running for her life. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]