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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 34

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She turned her beautiful Hummer right on Munson Avenue, just five minutes from the interstate. In her rearview mirror she could see a car she recognized turn right some twenty feet behind her.

It was the same car that had been with her since she'd left her apartment.

She couldn't make out the license plate. Her grandfather hadn't believed in coincidences, nor had her father. Genetically, she wasn't predisposed to, either.

Time to test it out. She pressed her foot down on the gas and took a quick right onto Marple Drive, her tires screeching.

The car turned a moment later, its tires screeching as well, even accelerated, gaining on her now.

Coincidence would have been nice. This wasn't good.

She tried to make out who was driving and how many were in the car but she couldn't tell because the windshield was darkly tinted, and who did that? No one on the up-and-up, that's for sure. It was time to do a U-turn, though her Hummer H3 didn't like them very much, and drive as fast as she could back to the police station.

No, not yet. She had to find out who was after her. She speeded up again, turned a sharp left and another sharp left, and came out again on Munson Avenue. She was only a half-mile from the police station, so she slowed down, hoping the car would close with her, when she heard a sound like a gas stove lighting and saw a glimpse of flames from the corner of her eye outside the left rear door. She unclipped her seat belt, hit the brake hard, flung the door open, and threw herself out of the car. She hit hard on her shoulder against the asphalt, and rolled just as the explosion ripped through the roof of her Hummer, burst out the side windows and the windshield, sending shards of glass flying out everywhere and waves of boiling air and shooting flames into the sky. She curled into a ball, covered her head with her arms, and prayed. The noise deafened her, made her ears ring, and the smell made her gag as she curled tighter. She tried to suck in air, but the explosion had eaten it all up. She felt something strike her back, and shook it off. She saw it was part of a car seat, burning brightly beside her. She didn't know how badly it had burned her, but she didn't hurt, didn't even feel it yet.

She staggered to her feet and ran behind an oak tree at the edge of someone's front yard, and watched the lighter debris raining down. The road behind her Hummer was empty, her pursuer gone. But her car was a torch, and she felt the air boil hotter now than it had just a moment before. How was that possible? She was watching a nightmare, but it was real and it was happening here, right in front of her, in a nice middle-class neighborhood with no one around, thank God.

Her beloved baby, her Hummer H3, that she'd proudly owned for three years since she bought it from a gentleman from Cabot, Vermont, who made cheese and whose fiancée had hated it. It was light blue and so beautiful all the guys envied it, and now it sat in the middle of the street, only its frame intact, a flaming, stinking, smoldering mess.

Someone had meant for her to be in it.

She heard a woman scream.

Then a guy was yelling, "Go inside, kids. You heard me, Get inside. Jennifer, Todd, get inside now!"

She looked at the still burning jagged piece of car seat that had struck her back, felt the sharp impact again, but it still didn't hurt. But the moment Erin heard sirens in the distance, a pain in her back detonated just like her car had and burned her all the way through to her backbone. Air whooshed out of her as she fell to her knees, and bent over on her hands and knees, sucking in big gulping breaths to keep from yelling.

Someone leaned over her, she could see his shadow. "Miss, are you all right?"

Her brain was mired in a wasteland of pain, throbbing hot pain.

"No, she's not, Rick. Call an ambulance. How'd she blow up her car?"

"It isn't a car, it's one of those big-ass Hummers. It exploded right in front of my house. Jeez, it smells bad."

"What's she doing driving a Hummer?"

"Call freaking 911!"

Their voices washed over her, not really touching her. She was focused on the vicious pain in her back.



Dr. Henry Arch said, "I hope you're not vain, Ms. . . . ?"

A long pause, then Erin said, "I don't remember if I'm vain or not."

"You might end up with a bit of a scar on your upper back, near your right shoulder, Ms. . . . ?"

Erin was lying flat on her stomach, drifting along in a cloud of morphine. She grinned up at him. "The way I'm beginning to feel, I really don't think I care."

She heard a man's voice outside the cubicle. It was Bowie arguing with a woman. She'd lose, Erin would bet her currently fairly healthy bank account on it. Then he was there, beside her, and Dr. Arch said, "You her husband?"

"No, I'm FBI Agent Bowie Richards. She's my daughter's ballet teacher."

"I had no idea teaching kids how to demi-plié was so hazardous. You wouldn't think parents would get that pissed at her."

Bowie looked down at her back and swallowed. The burn looked really bad-fiery red, oozing and angry. Thank the good Lord it wasn't all that big. He drew a deep breath and asked, "How serious is it?"

Dr. Arch said, "If she's a back sleeper, she'll have to find another way for a couple of days. Almost all of the burn is second degree, but I'll admit, it looks like misery. Fortunately, the jacket she was wearing protected her from a truly critical burn. There aren't many deep spots, and all of it should heal without a graft. What's her name? Her purse wasn't with her when she was brought in."

"Erin Pulaski."

"I'm an Irish-Polish-American."

"Me, I'm a Russian Swede." Dr. Arch was laughing as he lightly touched his gloved fingertips to her back.

She reared up. "It doesn't hurt much but I think I'd be yelling without the morphine."

"Sorry," Dr. Arch said.

She felt Bowie's hand on her shoulder, lightly pushing her down. He leaned next to her face. "You hang in there, kiddo. I'm here and I'm not leaving."

"What happened, Bowie? I sort of left the planet when the paramedics picked me up."

"The paramedics got there fast and brought you in, that's all. Since there were half a dozen 911 calls, the whole police station knew about it real fast. I didn't realize it was you until I heard one of the patrol officers talk about 'Erin's poor Hummer' still burning on the street. Are you together enough to tell me what happened?"

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