The Priest's Graveyard (29 page)

BOOK: The Priest's Graveyard
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Danny stood alone
in the trophy room, listening to the sound of Renee’s feet pattering up the stairs, immobilized by a simple, surreal thought.

She’s going to try to kill me
.

Brother against brother; lover turned against lover. He’d been here before, when Orthodox Christians in Bosnia had killed
Catholics and Muslims because they made a judgment.

Renee had become judge, jury, and now executioner. He, the priest, had judged and would now be judged.

The thoughts flogged his mind in the space of a few seconds before being summarily replaced by other, more practiced thoughts
born of so many years in the field.

She killed Jonathan Bourque before coming here, probably by taxi. If she shot Bourque, she has her kit with her. Now she’s
going to get her gun out of the kit. Did she reload after shooting Bourque? Nine rounds, how many left? Only one way to the
top floor, up the stairs
.

Under any other circumstance he would be moving already, focused on a clear objective, but now his aim was compromised by
competing interests.

Was she the enemy? No.

Was he the enemy? Yes.

How was it possible that he could have become the enemy of that woman who’d swept into his life and stolen his heart? The
answer was his death sentence: He couldn’t possibly improve this world by judging others, not any more than Renee could improve
her life by judging him.

Have you ever been tempted to judge, Father?

He was better off dead now. He would have been better off dead years ago, along with his mother and sisters.

But one thought rose above the others and he seized it. Only she mattered now. Only Renee, whom he did love in the only way
he knew how to love. Whatever he did now had to be for her, not for him, and not for any ideal.

If by dying he could save her, he would.

If by living he could give her hope, he would.

If by taking her place in that hellhole and subjecting himself to madness he could bring back her sanity, he would bolt the
door shut and strap himself to the bed.

Her feet padded on the marble floors over his head now. If she’d come by taxi, she would have brought her kit inside. It was
likely by the front door, where she would have set it down upon entering.

Danny turned as if by rote, walked to his bag, and took his kit in his left hand. The gun was in the kit but he would not
need it. He walked to the door that led to Lamont’s bedroom and stopped.

Consider:
That dear, precious girl was a novice. She was no match for him.

Consider:
He could hide in any one of half a dozen places in the basement and take her out when she returned to kill him.

His mind seemed to stutter, then restart.

Consider:
His mission had not failed, not yet. He was in business to better society by ridding it of the worst people who violated
the innocent. He was given to that end for his mother’s sake, for his sisters’ sake, for his sake, and for God’s sake. His
mission had not failed, but it was now threatened.

Consider:
Renee was only one person. The right moral choice is that which brings about the most good for the many, not the one.

Consider:
If Renee killed him or in any way threatened his mission, he would be unable to save other victims.

Consider:
She might be only one hundred pounds with skin as pale as the moon, but at the moment he would rather face a seasoned Serbian
commando. Renee was going to kill him unless he stopped her.

Conclusion:

But that was where Danny’s thoughts stopped. There was no conclusion this time. There was only fear and confusion. His earlier
thoughts of dying to save her seemed vacuous now. Absurd.

The sound of her crying followed her footsteps. She was returning, gun in hand, to kill him. And he could do nothing but stand
there.

But he wasn’t seriously thinking that he should kill her. How could he? The notion was as ridiculous as dying to save her.
She would not be saved by his death, only tormented by it. And there were all those victims he would fail to save.

Danny moved when her feet hit the top step. Snatching up his kit, he hurried to the side of the bed, eased himself to the
floor, and rolled under the frame. Then he scooted to the other side, closest to the door. The brown bed skirt effectively
blocked his view.

The bag was a nuisance, but it contained evidence that might wreak havoc in the wrong hands. He couldn’t leave it behind.

What did it matter now? What did anything matter?

She matters, Danny.

The mission matters now, Danny. Only the mission.

Renee sniffed back her crying as she reentered the room. Her feet whispered across the carpet.

Then she was breathing at the trophy room doorway. She’d already walked past him, but a move on his part now might give him
away. He had to be sure she was inside the office before he rolled out.

“Danny?”

Her frail cry was muted by the separation of rooms—she had gone in. But the tone of her voice filled him with doubt. What
if he’d misjudged the look on her face? What if she’d gone to retrieve a photograph of Lamont so they could be certain that
Cain Kellerman was the same person? Or done something else that had nothing to do with killing him? She wasn’t a killer by
nature, so why should he assume she’d gone for a gun?

It was in Bourque’s office that Danny first suspected there might be a connection between Cain and Lamont. There were too
many similarities between the men to write off as coincidental. Both worked for Bourque. Both were attorneys who specialized
in international affairs. Both felt threatened by Bourque. Both had vanished at the same time.

“Danny?”

He suppressed an urge to call out,
I’m here.

“Danny!” Her voice carried to him from inside the trophy room.

Now. He rolled from under the bed, pulled his bag out behind him, and was turning to rush for the door when that familiar
sound cut the stillness.
Phfftt!

A bullet tugged at his left arm.

Pain flashed up his shoulder and he released the bag, which fell away from the bed. He dropped to his palms, keeping the bed
between his body and the trophy room.

She’d shot him! It was only a surface wound, but that didn’t change the fact that Renee had not only fooled him, but pointed
her gun at him and pulled the trigger.

A small measure of clarity swept into his mind. The territory became a little more familiar.

“Renee, please! We can work this out.”

“We are working it out, you lying piece of—”

“He wasn’t who you thought he was.” He had to distract her.

“He saved me!”

“He was a monster.”

“He was my lover!” she screamed.

She marched around the end of the bed and fired again. The bullet clipped the heel of his right shoe. But in moving she’d
made a mistake.

Danny rolled back under the bed, leaving the bag on the floor behind him. Quickly, to the far side of the bed. Past the bed
skirt out into the open.

“How dare you call him a monster!” Another bullet whistled past his scalp. She’d dropped to her knees and was shooting under
the bed.

Danny came to his feet, spun toward the office, and was through the doorway in three long steps. He would be trapped inside,
but his only other option was to try to get past her. Certain suicide.

He leaped across the office, jerked the closet door halfway open, then took two steps and dropped into a narrow space between
the desk and the wall. It had taken far too long, but she would likely approach with more caution this time, knowing that
he was fully aware of her intent.

He crouched behind the desk, hoping that she would take the bait and be drawn to the closet first. If he had been willing
to use his gun, this would already be over. She would be dead.

Maybe he should be willing. Maybe he owed that to the mothers and daughters he would save by living to administer more justice.

But his gun was out in the bedroom, safely tucked away in his lost kit. Even if he did have a weapon, could he use it on Renee?
His hands began to shake.

You’re going to die tonight, Danny.

The thought was simple and clear. He was on his knees at the mercy of an executioner who knew him for who he was. He’d escaped
a thousand bullets in Bosnia, but he would not escape hers tonight.

She was sent to kill you, Danny.

“Danny?”

Inside now. Danny tried to hold his breath.

She must have seen the closet, because her words came bitter and under her breath. “You sick…” Her voice faltered.

It hadn’t occurred to him that she would be afraid to approach the closet. But that only extended his advantage. Her attention
would be swallowed by that space.

“Come out!” She fired her gun. Wood splintered. Then again.

Sweat trickled past his right temple, but now he regained some of his composure.

She was walking for the closet, striding with purpose, focused and deliberate so she wouldn’t lose her nerve.

“You son of—”

Danny lunged for his exit while her words were still in her throat. He was halfway to the door when she saw him and spun.

She fired one round that went wide and plowed into the door frame. Then he was out of the trophy room and she was running
for the doorway.

He slammed the door shut and twisted the dead bolt into place, locking her inside. He half expected her to crash into the
barrier, crying out her rage. Instead, the room went quiet.

For the moment she was contained. She’d gotten off six shots that he knew of, and he wasn’t sure how many rounds she’d put
into Bourque. She could have as many as two left or as few as none unless she’d reloaded, which, given her state of mind,
he doubted. She might try to shoot out the dead bolt, but these things were much easier said than done, especially with a
metal door. Even if she managed to destroy this one, there was another at the top of the stairs.

He could retrieve his gun from his bag and lie in wait. Lure her out and shoot her then—

He was a monster!

Terrified by the thought, he sprinted for the door, scooping up his bag as he passed the far side of the bed. Dashed up the
stairs, taking the steps two at a time. Closed the door to the basement. Locked it.

Silence poured into the glass house by the sea.

Danny stepped back, panting. So, now he was safe. At least for the moment. Until she managed to break out or was rescued.
Then she would come after him.

And then he didn’t know what. Nothing would be the same again. He’d honestly thought she would kill him down there, and yet
here he stood, breathing, with only a bloodstained sleeve to show for all her bullets.

He had to gain control of his mind and consider his options with more clarity. These conflicting emotions, so strange to him
after years of fighting, robbed him of logic.

He ran down the hall, exited through the front door, and stepped into the cool night air. A car drove by and vanished into
the darkness. It was all good out here, no signs that anyone had heard a sound. He took a deep breath and eased the door closed
behind him.

Slow down, Danny. Take your time. Find her taxi, check the exits. Think!

He withdrew his gun, slipped it behind his back, and set his kit behind the hedge that butted into the porch. It took him
just over a minute to check the perimeter of the property, find the cab waiting down the street, and assure himself that there
was no immediate threat outside the building.

Renee might have told the taxi driver to check on her if she didn’t emerge within a given time period. Whatever Danny did,
he could not afford to involve a third party.

You have to kill her, Danny. She will come after you and she will ruin everything sooner or later.

Danny had once known a man in Bosnia named Ruchov. Ruchov, the village butcher, had a wife and three daughters. He was liked
by most, loved by his family. If someone had slit Ruchov’s neck
before
the war, Danny’s mother and sisters would still be alive today, because Ruchov was the man who’d killed them. Danny had learned
all of this before he’d killed the man himself at age sixteen.

Would it have been right or wrong to kill Ruchov before he killed Danny’s mother? All Danny knew was that he wished someone
had.

If Renee stopped him from finding and killing the Ruchovs of the world, there would be a lot of weeping mothers and daughters.

He hurried along the side of the house, headed for the front entrance.

You’re a monster for even thinking of killing her, Danny.

He couldn’t rid his body of the shakes. The gun was there, at his back. He could wait for her to fall asleep. But no, the
cabdriver might try to collect her before she fell asleep.

Danny retrieved his kit, slid back into the house, and closed the door.

All quiet.

He walked down the hall and stopped in front of the door to the stairwell. It was there that he heard the sound.

A faint high-pitched whine drifted through the air, the sound of something electrical, or of wind whistling through a vent.
Then the sound ran out and began again.

Shivers spread through Danny’s skin. He walked up to the door and placed his ear on the wood. The sound was coming from below
and it wasn’t electricity or a vent. It was the sound of terror and it was coming from a human throat.

Renee was screaming.

The sound ran down his spine like long, jagged fingernails. She wasn’t trying to break out; she was down there screaming.

He twisted the lock and jerked the door open. The sound became louder, a wail of horror that raked his nerves. There was no
anger in that cry, only raw fear.

Her panic spread to his nerves. How could he do this to her?

Danny ran down the stairs, thinking it was okay. It was okay because she was in the trophy room and she wasn’t trying to shoot
out the lock with her last bullets. She couldn’t kill him as long as the door was locked.

BOOK: The Priest's Graveyard
9.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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