Книга Whiplash. Содержание - Epilogue

"Do you know, I've decided to join Nikki. Since I won't try to kill you again, you'll probably live for a good long time and that means I'll have years with her before you show up."

"Why did you tell me in the first place, then?"

"You had to know," Hoffman said. "I wanted to watch your face as I told you why I wanted to kill you, why I've hated you more years than I can remember, wanted you to know the truth about your bastard son.

"You took everything that should have been mine, my wife, even my first-born son. I had to call you friend, had to laugh with you, I had to feign being sorry when misfortune struck you. That's all over now. When I leave this room, I have no desire to ever see you again." He paused, gave a sharp laugh, and added, "Please don't give a eulogy at my memorial."

The vice president looked at him, deep shadows in his eyes, memories ricocheting in his brain, memories and pain and what-would-have-beens. He didn't want to accept what David Hoffman had confessed because it meant so much of what he had cherished for so many years was a lie. Aiden was his son? He could barely get his mind around that fact.

He was tired. He hurt. He wanted Elyssa. She would know what to do. Above all, he was so sad he wanted to weep. He closed his eyes and saw Aiden's face in his mind. Nikki, I'm so sorry.

He heard the door open. "I won't even come to your funeral," he said, and heard the door close. He saw David Hoffman speak briefly to the Secret Service agents, then turn and leave. The tears he refused to shed burned his eyes and his throat. He swallowed, but the damned tears burned hotter. He raised his hand to pick up the glass of water.

"Sir, please give me that glass."

Valenti stared at Sherlock as she walked quickly from the small bathroom, stared at her hand as she quickly picked up the water glass. "You're not a Secret Service agent, are you?"

"No sir, I'm not. I'm FBI. I will ask your nurse to bring you water, all right?"

Sherlock saw realization dawn in his eyes, followed by a look of utter desolation. He looked, she thought, unutterably weary.

Valenti whispered, "He lied."

"Oh, yes." She lightly touched her fingertips to his forearm. "It will be all right, sir. I will tell your wife she can see you now, all right?"

Alex Valenti slowly nodded. "Yes, I need to see my wife. Thank you."

Secret Service Agent Alma Stone came into the room, carefully took the glass from Sherlock, fitted a lid tightly over it, and wrote her name, the time, and the date on a card and taped it to the glass.

Sherlock nodded and walked quickly toward the ICU doors. She punched a single number on her cell. "Dillon? It's done. The senator is on his way down. You can take him."

She slipped her cell back into her jacket pocket, next to a small recorder.



Monday evening

"Excellent pizza," Bowie announced when he'd finished off the last slice of deep-dish pepperoni with cheese baked into the crust. He looked over at the remains of Savich's pizza-artichokes, olives, peppers, onions, and just about every other vegetable known to man. He called out, "How about you, kiddo, you full yet?"

Georgie didn't hear him. She was on the floor with Sean and Astro, their slices of pizza cold and forgotten as they took turns designing their own houses on JumpStart World. They were busy arguing over Sean's selection of bright red shag carpeting in his living room.

Sherlock said, "Would you like to try the Big Dog's coffee, Bowie? I have to admit, Starbucks would pay Dillon big bucks for his skill with the coffee bean. Erin, how about you?"

Savich toasted Erin with his teacup. "This is a nice dark oolong, Erin. Would you like to give that a try instead?"

Erin sighed. "Yes, thanks, I guess I'd better go the tea route, otherwise I'll be bouncing off the ceiling half the night. I doubt if either Sean or Georgie will spare us in the morning."

Sherlock said, "Since Georgie's sleeping in Sean's room, maybe they'll play awhile before they drag us out of bed. For you and Bowie-" She paused a moment. "Well, there's a guest bedroom across from Sean's room. And this sofa pulls out into a double bed."

Bowie said easily, "We can decide about that later. Thanks for letting us crash, Sherlock."

They listened a moment to Sean telling Georgie, "I don't think Astro's going to like you having a cat for your pet, Georgie. He might bite it good and you'd be mad."

"Astro won't try to hurt my cat. Crookshanks is a really big cat. She could bat Astro around, make him sorry he was ever born a little doofus dog."

"Astro's not a doofus! Papa, is Astro a doofus?"

"Not the last time I checked. Best beg Georgie to choose a kitten, though, Sean. That way, Astro will have time to train it."

Sean and Georgie were soon going at it again, this time over kitchen appliances.

Sherlock said, "Sean believes the purpose of a microwave is to present him with popcorn, so you can't do without one of those, Georgie." To Bowie, "You and Erin have had a long day, the flight down with Georgie, the hospital."

"There are more media there than patients," Bowie said, shaking his head, "trying to get in to see the family, the vice president's spokesperson, anyone who will step in front of a camera."

"Actually, it's the A Team," Savich said as he handed Erin a cup of tea and Bowie a cup of coffee that had Bowie smiling blissfully just smelling the aroma. "The B Team is hounding the Hoffman family and staff. This isn't going to blow over for a very long time."

Sherlock raised her cup. "At least our part in it is all over."

Bowie said after a moment, "Erin got to meet Uncle Alex."

"Poor man," Erin said, shaking her head. "I felt so sorry for him, but he was charming to me, said he wished they'd let Georgie in to give him a kiss." She laid her hand on Bowie's thigh. "The Valentis and your family are wonderful, Bowie."

"I think they sort of like you too."

"Ah, Bowie, your mom wants me to have lunch with her tomorrow."

Bowie's fingers froze on his coffee mug. "Lunch, you said? With my mom?"

"Yep. She asked me if I liked French. When I said I only ate fried snails under extreme duress, she heaved a sigh of relief and said she'd much rather eat Mexican."

"My mom isn't what you'd call subtle, Erin. Be prepared for nosy questions. Actually, she asked me if we'd like to spend the night with them. I said we'd already agreed to staying with Savich and Sherlock. I hope she didn't know I lied." He grinned toward Sherlock. "I hadn't asked you guys yet. Thanks again."

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