Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare (26 page)

BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
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He took an indirect route to where he was going, adding hours to what already would have been a twenty-hour drive, but he didn't care. It was a necessary precaution.

Every four hours, he got off the freeway or whatever road he was on, found a secluded spot, and changed his license plates. He chose from among the collection he stole before leaving LA or, if opportunity allowed, swapped them with a car parked wherever he'd stopped. Wade also used the time to relieve himself, change his clothes, alter his appearance, and tend to Rebecca. He gave her food or water and, if she was getting too clear-headed, another sedative.

Wade filled up the gas tank only when he was certain his prisoner was unconscious, covering her up with a blanket in the backseat before going to pay the attendant in cash.

There was no need to get food; he brought all the sandwiches, potato chips, water, and Coca-Cola that he needed.

Wade drove straight through without sleep. He was afraid to close his eyes. Afraid of what he'd see.

But he saw it anyway.

At night, Pike stood just beyond the reach of his head lights, smoke curling from the bullet hole in his skull. During the day, Pike's body lay in the shimmering waves of heat rising from the asphalt, blood pooling underneath him.

Pike haunted him as he had for the last eight years. But it was different now. This time, Wade knew for certain that Pike was dead. Because he'd executed Pike himself.

His son robbed a convenience store and killed a sheriff's deputy. He faked his own death and ran from the law. But it was futile. Nobody can run from the law.

You can't run from me.

It was Wade's sworn duty to see that justice was served. He'd built his life around that obligation. And Tom Wade always got the job done.

There was still one more thing to do, one last reckoning, and then it would be over.

Hour after hour passed, his mind completely blank, a single gunshot ringing incessantly in his ears for thirteen hundred miles. The world around him became a dizzying, carousel blur of passing cars and changing landscape, moonlight and sunshine.

He didn't hear Rebecca whimpering. He didn't hear his own sobs.

His attention finally focused on something familiar, the Great Northern Clock Tower rising over Riverfront Park and the Spokane Falls in the heart of the city.

The clock struck high noon. It felt right.

Soon he was driving along the same sunbaked road his son sped down eight years before in a stolen Chevy. It was a dead part of town now, lined with boarded-up storefronts and abandoned gas stations, weeds poking up through the cracked asphalt.

He passed the convenience store that Pike held up all those years ago. It was a falafel stand now. People died and lives were changed because of events that happened there, but it didn't show. Nothing marked the place. Nobody would ever know.

A few miles later, he passed the spot where the deputy was run over. Someone had made a simple white cross and staked it into the dirt along the roadside. The cross was rotted and cracked, the paint peeling. Several dried, long-dead bouquets of flowers lay in front of it. Someone kept coming back. Someone didn't want anyone to forget that blood once soaked this ground.

Not far ahead, the road curved towards the river and the roiling rapids of fate. Everything would come full circle. Justice would be done.

But when he rounded that corner, Tom Wade saw a line of police cars blocking the road, providing cover for the dozens of officers aiming their weapons at him.

He slowed to a stop twenty-five yards from the police barricade and glanced in his rearview mirror to see squad cars peeling out from hiding behind the storefronts he'd passed, coming together to block his retreat.

But Tom Wade had no intention of retreating. It was never an option, not once in his life.

He kept his left hand on the wheel and with his right, slid his gun out from under the newspaper that covered it on the passenger seat.

Dr. Mark Sloan stepped out from behind the barricade and walked slowly towards Wade's car.

Twenty-four hours earlier, it was decided, for the sake of public safety, to let Tom Wade make his journey to Spokane. It was Mark's opinion, and one shared by the U.S. Marshals' office, that Wade wouldn't harm Rebecca until he got to his destination.

There was some discussion among the various law enforcement entities, who'd gathered in an immense conference room at LAPD headquarters, about mounting an interstate dragnet for Tom Wade. But the authorities feared that stopping Wade along the way could put Rebecca in jeopardy and lead to innocent civilians getting hurt, either in a high-speed car chase or in the crossfire of a shoot-out.

They were reasonably certain where Wade was going. They knew it was a location they could control. And they knew that they'd have a day to prepare. It seemed like waiting for him there was the safest and most effective alternative.

Mark and Steve flew up to Spokane to work with the local authorities and set up the roadblock.

Meanwhile, the law enforcement agencies in California, Oregon, and Washington quietly searched for Wade along the major highways. The officers had strict orders to keep their distance if he was spotted, to do nothing that might spook him and provoke a confrontation. But if the right opportunity came up, like finding him sleeping in his car at a rest stop, the U.S. Marshals wanted to take it.

But Wade was good. He wasn't spotted until he hit Spokane on Interstate 395 and then he was closely tracked overhead by two choppers.

Now the moment had arrived. Wade had returned to the river.

There was a lot of debate over whether Mark Sloan or a trained hostage negotiator or Wade's long-time supervisor should approach the renegade marshal. In the end, it was decided that Mark would appear the least threatening and, having been at the scene of Pike's death, the most likely to talk Wade down. The only person who was still against the idea was Steve.

Mark gave a lot of thought to what he was going to say to Wade, incorporating the unsolicited advice he'd received during the night from three police shrinks, one FBI psychologist, and four different hostage negotiators.

But as Mark approached the car and saw the weariness and sadness on Wade's face, he ditched all his rehearsed lines and decided to go with whatever felt right at the moment.

Wade lowered his driver's side window and Mark stepped up to it, glancing into the backseat to see Rebecca under a blanket, half-conscious, groaning softly. She looked fine for a woman who'd spent the last twenty-four hours under moderate sedation.

"You look tired, Marshal," Mark said.

"I am." Wade's gaze drifted past Mark to the river, just beyond the edge of the roadblock. "Right down to my bones."

Only a few days ago, Wade gunned down his own son. Mark couldn't imagine the pain that Wade was feeling and the corrosive effect it was having on his mind. It didn't matter whether it had been the right thing to do or not. No man should have to do what Wade had done.

"How would you like to handle this?" Mark asked softly.

"I'd like you to step back behind those police cars and let justice take its course."

Mark tipped his head towards Rebecca. "We both know she was tried, convicted, and sent to prison. She's done her time, Marshal."

"She broke her parole," Wade said.

Mark chose his words carefully. "I don't think you took her into custody and brought her all the way back here for a parole violation."

"They murdered a deputy and drove into the river," Wade said. "They both should have died that day. Now Pike has paid for his crime with his life. So should she."

"You're a United States Marshal," Mark said.

Wade nodded.

"You've stood for the law all your life," Mark said. "You do this, and you will commit the same crime as your son. You do this and your life will stand for murder. How will that serve justice? What will your son have died for then?"

Wade took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Mark saw a change in Wade, an even deeper weariness showing itself in his lined face. The ruggedness and authority that Wade naturally radiated seemed to fade away, leaving him weak. It was as if Wade had aged five years in the time it took to exhale.

Below the dash, out of sight of the police officers behind the roadblock, Wade aimed his gun squarely at Mark's chest.

"Tell your son to drop his weapons and approach my vehicle," Wade said. "Tell him I have a gun on you."

Mark did as he was told.

Steve made a show of laying his gun on the ground and removing his Kevlar vest to prove he had no hidden weapons. Then, with his arms held loosely at his sides, he walked slowly up to the car, keeping his eyes on Wade the whole time.

"The back door is unlocked, Lieutenant," Wade said. "You may take the prisoner."

Steve looked into the car and saw the gun leveled at Mark.

"What about my father?" Steve asked.

"I'd like him to stay here with me for a little while," Wade said. "He'll be fine as long as nobody shoots me."

Mark nodded at his son. "It's okay."

Steve opened the back door, put his arms under Rebecca, and gently lifted her up. He carried her back towards the police line and the waiting ambulance beyond it.

Mark watched Steve go, then turned to Wade, who was no longer holding a gun in his hand. Instead, Wade held his badge.

"All my life, I served the law," Wade said. "Even when it meant taking my son's life."

"You didn't take his life," Mark said. "He threw it away."

Wade shook his head. "You're a father, Dr. Sloan. You know as well as I do that a son is a reflection of the man who raised him. I made Pike the man he became, so I'm ultimately responsible for the mistakes he made."

He tossed Mark his badge.

Mark caught it and saw a familiar look in Wade's eyes. He'd seen it once before, when Rebecca Jordan met his gaze from the window of her office.

Before Mark could say anything, Wade floored the gas pedal and sped off towards the roadblock.

The officers scrambled for safety, one or two managing to fire off an errant shot as they fled, shattering Wade's windshield.

But Wade kept coming.

He smashed his way between two police cruisers and then flew off the embankment, his car flipping over in midair before dropping upside down into the roiling waters of the river below.

Mark ran to the edge of the embankment just as the water surged over the car and swallowed it up in its inexorable current.


Whatever secrets his tormentor wanted to know, Mark was ready to reveal—his ATM codes, his e-mail password, his bank account numbers, anything. If only the torture would end.

Of course, they didn't call it torture. The politically correct term was "physical therapy." And they didn't call the sadistic practitioners of this evil art tormentors but "therapists."

The pain shooting through Mark's arm didn't feel like therapy to him. It felt like his arm was breaking all over again.

"Okay, let's count to three," said Paul, holding Mark's left arm against his chest. The ponytailed therapist gently bent the arm towards Mark's shoulder.

Mark, lying on a table, curled in pain.

"One Mississippi, two Mississippi—" Paul began.

"Couldn't you pick a different state?" Mark said through gritted teeth. "Like Ohio? Or Iowa?"

"—three Mississippi," Paul finished, releasing Mark's arm. The pain immediately subsided. "The flexion is definitely improving, Dr. Sloan."

Mark relaxed, his arm throbbing, his body damp with sweat in his shorts and T-shirt. "Are you sure this is good for me?"

"Absolutely, it's the best medicine," Paul said. "In a few more weeks, you'll be able to sign up for the Olympic arm wrestling team."

"You enjoy this way too much," Mark said. "Admit it, you like watching a doctor, a member of the senior staff, squirming in pain."

"If it hurts, you know we're doing some good," Paul said.

"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard." Mark knew that Paul was right, that the stretching exercises were necessary, but he didn't have to like it.

Mark was in the midst of an intense physical therapy regime to regain the range of motion he'd lost in his left arm after weeks in a cast.

"Ice that elbow up for twenty minutes and I'll see you to morrow," Paul said.

"Can't wait," Mark groused.

He was on his way out of Community General's physical therapy unit when he nearly collided with Lenore Barber as she emerged from the smoking cessation workshop across the hall.

"Dr. Sloan," she said, offering him a big smile. "What a wonderful surprise."

"You look terrific, Lenore."

She'd gained some weight, but it was a good thing. It filled her out in a healthy way. Her skin seemed softer and her eyes radiated with energy.

"I feel wonderful," she said. "I'm six weeks smoke free."

"That's fantastic," Mark said.

"Just looking at a cigarette repulses me now," she said, then glanced at her watch. "Yikes, I'm running late."

"You have a property to show?"

"My weekly Bible reading workshop, which reminds me, I have something for you." She rummaged around in her enormous purse and pulled out a Bible. "A small token of my appreciation."

"Thank you," Mark said, astonished.

She took his free hand and squeezed it. "God touched my life, Mark. He saved me."

"I can't tell you how happy I am for you," Mark said. He also couldn't tell her that it wasn't God who saved her from killing herself with cigarettes; it was Jesse Travis.

But as Mark watched Lenore hurry off, happy and healthy, he wondered about what motivated Jesse to mount such an elaborate con to convince one person to do the right thing.

Mark glanced at the Bible in his hand and decided maybe Lenore was right alter all.

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BOOK: Diagnosis Murder 4 - The Waking Nightmare
4.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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