Home > Four Live Rounds(6)

Four Live Rounds(6)
Blake Crouch

“I apologize for the mess. As you can see, I’m a bit of a workaholic.”

Devlin was already sweating. Kalyn grabbed three diet Cokes from the fridge, and they sat on the sofa, fanning themselves with sheets of paper, sipping the cold soft drinks.

“So here’s the plan,” Kalyn said. “We leave Devlin here, and Will, you and I drive over to Mr. Estrada’s residence, see if you can’t make that identification.”

“I thought I was just going down to look at a lineup. That’s what you—”

“No, you’re going to do what we call a ride-along. Don’t worry. You’ll be up front with me. It’ll be fine.”

“But I thought you already—”

“Look, we can’t pick him up unless you ID him.”

Devlin looked at her father.

“Will my daughter be safe here?” he asked.

“She’ll be fine. She can watch TV. I don’t have cable, but you can get the network stations.”

The last thing Devlin wanted to do was sit in this hot, disgusting apartment all afternoon.

“I want to go with you,” she said.

“You heard Miss Sharp.”

“Dad!”

Her father stood up, said, “Come with me, Dev.” He glanced at Kalyn. “I need to talk to her for a minute in private.”

Devlin followed Will outside and shut the door. They stood by the railing overlooking the downtrodden courtyard.

“Listen to me,” he whispered. “I know you don’t want to stay here, and I don’t blame you. The thing is, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on yet. This just feels off, but she has us in a bind. If you get scared, if anything happens while we’re gone, you call me on your cell. I’ll come back here and get you.”

“I just wanna go home. I’m missing a sleepover at Lisa’s tonight.”

“I know, baby. I’m gonna take care of this, and then we’re out of here. We’ll fly back to Colorado if we have to.”

“You promise?”

“I promise. You’re earning major points today.”

“You’ll take me shopping in Durango?”

“Yes.”

“On a spree?”

“Okay.”

“Three hundred dollars.”

“Two fifty.”

Devlin smiled, said, “All right. I’m not gonna let you forget.”

SIXTEEN

Fifteen minutes from her apartment, Kalyn turned into the driveway of a five-story office building and pulled into a parking space near the entrance.

“He’s here?” Will asked.

“No, this is the Phoenix Field Office. I just have to run in and grab something.”

Kalyn left the Buick running and hustled into the building.

She returned five minutes later, hopped in the car, sped out into traffic.

The road into Scottsdale was lined with palm trees.

“So how’s this going to work, exactly?” Will asked.

“I have to be honest,” she said. “I’m not wild about doing it this way.”

Will laughed nervously. “Makes two of us.”

“First, we have to see if he’s home. If he is, I’ll arrest him, bring him out to the car. You can give me a thumbs-up, thumbs-down on whether or not you recognize him.”

“What if I don’t?”

“This is the guy,” she said.

“But what if I can’t—”

“Can I trust you with something?”

“I guess.” They were passing strip malls at the rate of ten per mile.

“Here’s the dilemma. Mr. Estrada is wanted for a whole host of things, many of them much easier to prove than human trafficking. You ID him early on, we can go that route. Maybe we get some answers. If you don’t, well, somebody else gets a crack at him. Border Patrol. Phoenix PD. DEA. Mexican authorities. And then we can forget about ever getting him prosecuted for what he did to your wife, or finding out what happened to her. I really don’t like where that leaves you in terms of the pending charges.”

“Is this how it’s normally done?”

“No.”

“Is it legal?”

Kalyn glanced at him. “Something you should know about FBI agents.”

“What’s that?”

“We’re always by the book.”

They were driving through residential neighborhoods now, the houses on steroids, lavish and ridiculous.

“How’d you become an agent?” Will asked.

“I was a cop right out of college. Did that for four years, went to law school. Then the Academy. Typical route.”

“Did you always know—”

“Look, I can’t do the ‘Is this what you always wanted to be when you grew up?’ conversation right now. I’m trying to get my head straight for this takedown.”

They rode in silence for another few miles, and then Kalyn turned into a gated community. At the guard station, she flashed her badge and creds. The gates opened, and they drove into one of the swankiest neighborhoods Will had ever seen, six- and seven-thousand-square-foot homes being the runts of the bunch, private security gates, driveways that looked like Jaguar and Porsche dealerships.

They followed Superstition View Boulevard up the lower flanks of a brown mountain turreted with rock outcroppings and desert flora. The properties were exquisitely and exotically landscaped. Hundreds of species of cacti. Yuccas. Rocks in place of grass.

A mile past the guard station, Kalyn pulled over to the curb.

“This it?” Will asked.

“Next house on the right. You got your cell with you?”

“Yeah.”

Kalyn took hers out of her purse. “Give me the number.” She programmed Will’s number into her phone, then turned off the engine and opened the door.

“Wait. I thought—”

She tossed him the keys, said, “Leave your cell on and hop in the driver’s seat.”

“No, I want to know exactly how this is—” She shut the door and walked quickly up the road, disappearing behind a row of hedges. He scooted over behind the wheel. With the AC off, the heat soon became unbearable.

Will was sweating again. This felt all wrong.

He turned, looked through the back window. The road had risen several hundred feet above the city of Scottsdale. He had a commanding view.

Thirty miles to the east, mountains soared over the desert, looming mythically in the afternoon sunlight.

He thought about Devlin, hoped she’d found something to do to pass the time.

His cell rang. Kalyn calling. “Hey,” he said.

“Bring the car into the driveway now.” There was noise in the background.

“Did you—” She hung up. Will shoved the keys into the ignition and cranked the engine. He gave the Buick a little gas, edged toward the driveway, readying himself to see the man who’d taken Rachael. Surprisingly, he wasn’t angry, just nervous and scared, wanting to get this over with, get back to Colorado with Devlin.

When he turned into the driveway, he caught an eyeful of the sprawling multi-level residence, lots of steel, glass, and adobe, like something that belonged in a textbook on modern architecture. A virtual forest of saguaros and organ pipe in the front yard. Two cars in the driveway—a black Land Rover and a silver Lotus.

He pulled up behind the sports car, palms sweating on the steering wheel. Where are you, Kalyn? Every passing second, this whole thing was feeling worse and worse.

The front door finally swung open. He exhaled, dizzy. Here we go. But a boy walked out. He had dark hair and eyes, light brown skin. Next came a thin blonde wearing hot pants and a purple halter top, red-faced, barefoot, her hands cuffed behind her back.

They walked down the steps and onto the sidewalk, Kalyn following, a gun in her hand. What the fuck? Will watched as they all approached the car. Kalyn opened the door behind the driver’s seat and the boy and the woman got in, the woman crying, the boy silent, stoic.

Kalyn climbed into the front passenger seat and slammed the door.

“You got no right!” the woman said.

Kalyn got onto her knees and faced the backseat. She looked at the boy. “What’s your name?” she asked. He glanced at his mother. “Don’t look at her. I asked you—”

“Don’t you fu**ing think about talking to my son like that, you piece of—”

“Raphael,” he said, his voice still prepubescent.

“How old are you?”

“Eleven.”

“Raphael, I want you to do me a favor and buckle your mother’s seat belt for me.” He leaned over, fastened it. “Now buckle yourself in.” When he’d done that, Kalyn leaned down and snapped a second set of handcuffs around the boy’s slender ankles. “That too tight?” He shook his head. “Start driving,” she said to Will.

“They under arrest?”

“What does it look like?”

“This isn’t how you said it’d go.”

“Roll with it.”

“I don’t feel comfortable—”

“Drive, Will!” He shifted into reverse, backed down the driveway.

“You’re dead,” the woman said. Glancing in the rearview mirror, Will could see her eyes narrowed and raging, eyeliner running down her cheeks. “Jav will take you apart. You have no idea what you just did. You just killed yourself, your family, friends, anyone who ever knew you.”

“Where is he, Misty?” Kalyn asked.

Misty spit in her face.

Will turned onto the main road and headed downhill toward the guard station.

“Where’s your father today, Raphael?” Kalyn asked, wiping her face. “At the Boulders?”

He said nothing.

Will didn’t see it happen, but he heard the bone crunch.

“Fuck!” Misty was wailing, and looking in the rearview mirror again, he saw blood pouring out of her nose. Raphael was crying, too, Will swerving.

“You can’t do that! I have rights, you bitch!”

“I know the wife of Javier Estrada better not say one word to me about rights. Now I’m gonna crack your son’s head right the f*ck open in front of you if you don’t tell me where your husband is.”

“Kalyn, what are—”

“You can’t do that!” Misty screamed.

Kalyn raised the Glock.

“The Boulders.”

Oh my God, Will thought. Oh my God. They were nearing the guard station and the front entrance. Kalyn turned around and sat down in her seat.

“By the book?” Will said under his breath. “Was that by the book just now?”

The gates parted. They passed through. Will punched the gas, boiling inside, and he hadn’t gone half a mile before he stomped on the brake and pulled over to the curb. He turned off the engine, opened his door, and jumped out into the brutal heat.

Kalyn got out, too, slammed her door. They met at the front bumper.

“Let me see your badge right—”

“Just listen.”

“You broke that woman’s nose, threatened to hurt her son. Let me see your—”

“I used to be an agent.”

“Used to?”

“Listen to me, Will. Please.”

He glanced back into the car. “I’m out of here,” he said. “I’m done with this.”

She grabbed his arm. “I was an agent up until a year ago. They wouldn’t let me open this case. I investigated anyway. Used Bureau resources.”

“They fired you.”

“No one was doing shit to find out what happened to these women.”

“They fired you.”

“Yeah.”

“Well that’s . . . that’s just great. You’ve manipulated me into this.”

“I can’t get Javier on my own. I need you.”

“So does my daughter.”

“I know you’re scared,” she said. “I understand that. But we are this close to finding the man who took your wife. This close.”

“She’s gone. Dead. I have a daughter to raise. He isn’t worth prison.”

“Is your wife?”

“What are you talking about?”

“What if she’s alive, Will?”

“She isn’t. It’s been five—”

“But what if she is? Isn’t that possibility worth this? Look, I lied about Javier. Nobody has anything on him. Just me. And today is our chance to talk to him.”

“You threw away your career for these women? That makes no—”

“You remember the pictures I showed you last night?”

“Yeah.”

“Lucy Dahl? Remember her?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Her maiden name was Sharp. She was my younger sister. Putting it together yet? Now, Javier is the man who took your wife. My sister. Wouldn’t you like to know where they are? Wouldn’t you like to ask him a question or two?”

“Yes, but—”

“Well, no one else is gonna get that information for you, and this is the price. This is what it costs. So man up.”

“I’ve never done anything like this, and I can’t risk prison.”

“Well, unless you figure this out, you’re already going away for your wife’s murder.”

“What’s that? Blackmail?”

“I’d hate to, that’s the truth, but I’ll turn you in, Will. Maybe I get back in with the Bureau. Maybe I get some interest in my sister’s case. Don’t think for a second I won’t if you jeopardize my getting my hands on Javier.” Will stared at a passing car, the air above the pavement rippling with heat. “I have you by the balls, Will. You got no other play.”

“We talk to him,” Will said. “That’s it. We only talk.”

SEVENTEEN

Five minutes later, Will pulled the Buick into the parking lot of an abandoned mall that appeared to have been gutted by fire in the recent past. It was 4:00 P.M., the light beginning to lengthen. Kalyn helped Misty and Raphael out of the backseat, removed the handcuffs from the boy’s ankles, and led them at gunpoint through one of the shattered front windows of a Belk Store, Will following close behind.

It was dark inside, and smelled like a fireplace. Kalyn had brought a flashlight, and she swept the beam through the store as they followed one of the aisles past the footwear section, the south wall scorched black, the odor of melted plastic and glass and linoleum growing stronger. Clothing racks still populated the store, most laden with singed, molding clothes. Will didn’t know if it was the stench of the place or the fear of the situation, but he felt sick to his stomach.

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