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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 44

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Late Friday morning

Four hours of sleep did wonders for the brain, Bowie decided as he sat down at the conference table in the police station. He felt alert and focused. Erin didn't look bad either, what with a couple of aspirin on board to keep the throbbing down in her back. She'd refused Vicodin, said she wanted to be able to face the two Schiffer Hartwin directors with a clear head. He knew no one was going to like the fact Erin was here-this was an official meeting, after all-but she'd looked at him and said simply, "I've got to come, Bowie. Surely you see I've got to come."

He'd said nothing more, simply touched his fingers to her cheek, then nodded. Where'd she get all this grit, this bravery, in the face of all the bad stuff raining down on her? She'd even managed to keep Georgie in the dark, hard to do at any time, but she had, laughing with her, helping her dress, brushing her hair and French braiding it, something he did well himself. At least he'd put out the Grape-Nuts and made toast, with apricot jam, Georgie's favorite. They'd taken Georgie to school together, hugging her, telling her to have a nice day, and bless her heart, she'd been oblivious to her early morning car ride to a murder scene. They'd come back to Erin's apartment, Georgie never stirring.

It was eleven o'clock Friday morning before the four of them congregated in the conference room to await the arrival of Adler Dieffendorf and Werner Gerlach. Sherlock looked over at Dillon, wondering how he could look so well rested when he'd slept for only an hour after they'd gotten back to their B&B room with its Psycho posters. She'd awakened to hear his beautiful baritone in the shower, recounting the story of a cowboy named Ben who'd lost his horse to a bordello madam.

Bowie's cell played a very nice rendition of "Silver Bells." Bowie felt around in his pants pockets, then his jacket pockets, frowned, tried to track the sound as the song segued into the chorus.

Erin said, "It's under your briefcase."

He pulled it out, stared down at the ID screen, and looked harried. He looked like he was going to ignore it, then realized he couldn't. They heard him say before he turned away, "Dad? Listen, I've got to get back to you. I'm pretty tied up here-"

His dad? Erin watched Bowie's face as he listened. At first he looked utterly blank, then he started shaking his head back and forth, back and forth. Finally, he said, "This is incredible. I'll get there when I can, Dad."

He flipped off his cell, dropped it in the small tray that held pens in the middle of the table, blankly watched it settle in among the three Sharpies, and finally looked at them like he'd been kicked in the head.

Erin was at his side in an instant, her hand on his arm. "What's wrong, Bowie?"

"That was my dad. Alex Valenti-the vice president-he's in the hospital, just went into surgery. Dad doesn't know if he's going to make it."

Erin said, "What? The vice president? As in the United States? What happened? Why is your dad calling you?"

"I've known the Valentis since I was born. No blood relation, but he and my dad have been best friends from grade school. He's been 'Uncle Alex' forever. His son and daughter, they're like my cousins."

Savich said, "None of us has been listening to the news. What happened?"

They heard a shout and ran from Chief Amos's conference room to join the half-dozen cops on their feet in the bullpen, staring at a small TV screen. One of them turned up the volume.

A newscaster stood twenty yards or so from a black Mercedes sedan. The camera zoomed in to show the entire front of the car smashed against a huge oak tree, the impact so powerful the car had accordioned. He held a microphone to his mouth even as he turned his head toward the mangled car.-Vice President Valenti was driving to his daughter's house in Jessup, Maryland, some eighteen miles north of where I'm standing, to attend a birthday party for his six-year-old granddaughter, Patty. The police aren't yet certain how this happened, only that it appears the vice president lost control of his car and hit a tree head-on. The EMTs left with the vice president minutes ago.

They switched to footage of an ambulance driving away, siren wailing. The camera panned back to the crushed car once again, then broke to a woman newscaster standing in front of Washington Memorial Hospital. She said, in a subdued voice that just barely managed to contain her excitement, A hospital spokesman has announced that Vice President Valenti is in surgery. There has been no word from his doctors as to the extent of his injuries. His family and friends have been gathering inside to hold a vigil. President and Mrs. Holley, we are told, will remain at the White House, awaiting word. No one in the family has been available for comment. Wait! Here is Senator Carl Blevins from Florida. Senator Blevins, can you tell us anything about the vice president's accident, or his condition?

They watched the elderly senator pause to allow the newswoman to stride up to him, and looked into the camera. All I know is there's been a terrible accident. I'm joining his family, all of us will be praying for Vice President Valenti's full recovery. And he walked toward the hospital without looking back. Senator, sources are telling us this wasn't necessarily an accident. Do you know what happened? Do you think he will die?

The cops cheered when the Secret Service barred the hospital doors to keep the newswoman and the cameras out.

The coverage returned to the newsroom where four talking heads were already gathered, looking sad and shocked, but not sad enough to keep them all from talking. It only took them a minute to speculate about who President Holley would pick as his vice president if Alex Valenti died.

Bowie stood there shaking his head, looking shell-shocked, unable to take it in. He took a cup of water from Savich as they went back into the conference room, stood silent as he drank it down. "I can't believe this is happening. Georgie and I were visiting my folks in Chevy Chase two weekends ago and we had dinner with Uncle Alex and Aunt Elyssa. His son and daughter, and their spouses and their four kids, all of us were there. One of the kids wanted me to tell them an FBI story and so I told them about a bank robber we caught in L.A. a couple of years ago who was using some stolen bills to light his stove. When he was questioned about this at his arraignment, he told the judge they were only twenties.

"Uncle Alex really liked that story, laughed his head off. Listen, this is a guy who takes care of himself. Sure, who wouldn't be stressed, with the job he has, but I was surprised how upbeat he was, joking about how he'd nearly made an eagle on hole fifteen, just a bad roll that made it end up a bogie." He looked around at them, not really seeing them. "No, this can't be right. The thing is, Uncle Alex is an excellent driver. He's always loved cars, used to be his own mechanic until he became vice president and didn't have the time. He taught his kids how to drive, pounded safety into them. He even kidded my dad that he should teach me how to drive since my dad had had three fender benders in that many years. No, this just can't be right."

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