Read Nothing Lasts Forever Online

Authors: Roderick Thorpe

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Nothing Lasts Forever (25 page)

BOOK: Nothing Lasts Forever
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"Bill? Can you let me talk to Kathi?"
"Sure, man. Anything you want."
"Joe? Are you all right?"
"Do you know what happened?"
"Yes. I'm sorry. If I can help you in any way, please let me."
"I got all of them but one. There's one still running around in here."
"The television picked that up. The police say they have no way of being sure, one way or the other. Can you stay where you are? Can you tell the police your location and wait for them to come for you?"
"This fellow's listening to every word we say. He's in here somewhere."
"Joe, he's not your responsibility..."
"She's telling you the truth, Joe," Al Powell said, "Look, I believe you. I don't want anything to happen to you!"
"I'm not looking for him! I'm trying to get out of here!"
"Please, Joe..."
It was like living your life for nothing. What was left? Everything he and Karen had worked for, everything they had planned, and all that had survived the disaster they had made together, was gone. It was just history and the passage of time. He pressed the "Talk" button. "What else is happening? What are they showing on television?"
"The streets of Los Angeles are jammed with cars," Kathi said. "People are trying to follow the money, which is blowing east. The building is between Beverly Hills and the direction the money is taking, and people in their Rolls-Royces can't get around the jam. If you caused all that after what you've been through, if you were the one throwing the money out the window, I'll love you forever."
"I don't know anything about any money. I never saw any money."
"Do you want me to come up there?"
"I'm going to get into the right hospital. Try to get some rest. I want everything to slow down."
"I'll be watching for you," she said.
He had forgotten that television would be downstairs, too. Something made him feel a start of fear — he didn't know what it was. Now Al Powell broke in.
"Joe, let me have a word with you. We have people coming down in twos and threes, reporting that there are people up there too exhausted or frightened to move. We have about forty down here now, but no sign of your grandchildren. On the basis of what you've been saying, Captain Robinson had devised a plan. We're sending teams of officers up all the staircases. These men are heavily armed. As they get to each floor, they're going to say so — radio that information to me. I'll relay it to you. You don't have to give us your location. When the officers are near you, sit down on the stairs and put your hands on your head. We'll get you down, I promise. I promise you, partner."
It took another forty minutes; they were being very cautious. He was on the sixth floor when he heard their voices and the scraping of their shoes. He sat down, put his hands on his head, and announced his presence.
It was as if he had been away — out of contact with people — for years. After they disarmed him and Al told them on the radio they had the right man, two of the officers picked him up and carried him down the stairs. There were six of them altogether, all trying to talk at once. Just as well, for he had nothing to say. He dreaded the talking he was going to have to do. He had lost weight; he could feel it in the ease with which they carried him, then passed him to their fellows.
"How are you doing?"
"Okay. I'm okay."
"You tell us if we bounce you around too much."
"No, you're doing fine."
He could hear the roar of voices from above the second floor, even through the steel door to the lobby. He muttered something, and the officer bearing him on the right said that he might as well get used to it.
"Here he is! Here he is! Get back!"
The door opened on a wall of people, police, cameramen, and reporters, all shouting at him, pushing each other. The light was so bright that he was temporarily blinded. A doctor started cutting at the left leg of his pants. He could see a stretcher at his feet.
"I want to stand a while."
"How do you feel?" a female reporter asked.
"Did you really kill them all?"
"Where's Al Powell?"
"Right here." He was standing back six feet, his hand on the butt of his .38, his eyes searching above the heads of the crowd.
Leland smiled. "You look better on television."
"I'll remember that." He stepped away, not looking at the short, dark-haired white man on his left. "This is Captain Dwayne Robinson."
"We're going to have to ask you a few questions, Leland. We're studying the video tapes now, and we're very interested in who got rid of that money, and why."
Leland saw Powell shake his head: the tapes showed nothing.
"I'm not answering questions without the advice of a lawyer," Leland said. "I think his first advice would be that I get medical attention."
"Let us talk to him," a dark-haired, moustached reporter said.
Leland recognized what was happening with the first sound, to his left, at the door to the northeast staircase. He wanted to get to the floor, but Robinson was blocking him, pushing him back against the wall. Karl shouted and opened fire on the reporters, whose screams and shrieks as they fell almost obscured the sound of the Kalashnikov. It was like looking in the mirror. Karl was covered with dirt and blood. He wanted to kill them all. It was another kind of madness, like the greed that had brought this down on them. Karl was not going to be satisfied until somebody stopped him. Not even Stephanie had been able to stop Leland. Not even Stephanie's death.
Now Karl found Leland. It was exactly like looking in the mirror. Karl could see no one but Leland; Leland knew it. Robinson had his gun out, but he never got off a round. Karl shot first, as Al Powell grabbed Robinson's shoulder and pulled him into Karl's line of fire. There was a ferocity to Powell's expression that Leland would not have imagined from what he had just seen upstairs on television. Robinson backed and fell against Leland, who felt himself being hit again, in the thigh, high up. Before the shock and the weight of Robinson's body knocked him down, Leland saw Powell take careful aim and, with two clean shots, tear off the top of Karl's head in a sheet of brains and blood.
Leland tried to pull himself out from under Robinson. With two hands, Powell rolled Robinson's body away. He tore at the leg of Leland's trousers. The blood felt as if someone had poured a bowl of soup in his lap.
"Medic! Medic!"
The doctor was lying dead beside Leland and Robinson. People were just stirring from where they had thrown themselves around the lobby. People started shouting.
"Give me that fucking belt," Powell said, pulling it loose. "You're not going to die on me, not now." He lashed the belt tightly around Leland's thigh. "I liked the way you ducked behind Robinson."
Leland stared.
"He died a hero," Powell said. "Don't you forget it."
"I wish you hadn't done anything."
Powell looked at him. "I know. But nobody should think that about himself — especially not the guy I'm counting on as my partner."
"Robinson made a mistake," Leland said aloud, but to himself.
"He gave his life for you," Powell said. "That's the only way to look at it. You're not bleeding anymore. You're going to live."
"You're a hell of a good cop," Leland said.
"Next to you, I'm no kind of a cop at all." Now he was crying. Cops crowded over him, craning for a look. A bottle of plasma was being set up. A new face appeared.
"Don't let go of that belt, kid."
"Sergeant," Powell said.
"Sergeant, I'm sorry. That's exactly right. Don't let go"
"You take it easy," Powell said to Leland. "You have years of living ahead of you." .
Leland had no answer. He wanted to say something, but found himself suddenly unwilling to think. He realized he could let everything go — he could let himself drift. He felt the whole long life he had already lived recede deeper into his memory. He was being picked up, rolled quickly toward the door. Somebody was holding the plasma, running alongside him with Powell. Powell smiled, the same man who had just looked so ferocious.
Leland closed his eyes. Now, and for a little while longer, he was going to think of flying.
BOOK: Nothing Lasts Forever
11.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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