Home > Four Live Rounds(7)

Four Live Rounds(7)
Blake Crouch

“What are we doing here?” Misty asked. Her question went unanswered. “My nose is burning.”

In the far corner of the store, they came to the children’s department.

“Head back toward the dressing rooms,” Kalyn said.

Misty was crying again. They arrived at the door to the last dressing room, which Kalyn pushed open. On the floor lay two sleeping bags, a stack of paperback books, four flashlights, two cases of bottled water, and a canvas bag brimming with nonperishable food.

“What’s this?” Misty asked.

“Sit down, both of you.” Kalyn uncuffed Raphael and Misty, then recuffed their hands to two of the metal legs of a bench that was bolted to the floor. She put the water and the food and the flashlights within reach.

“You’re gonna leave us here?” Misty asked.

“Think how terrified the women your husband kidnapped must have been.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Right. Am I going to find him at the Boulders?”

“Yeah.”

“You do not want to lie to me.”

“I’m not.”

“If you’ve told me the truth, the police will come get you tonight. If you haven’t, I will, and God help you.” She looked at Raphael. “Nothing’s going to happen to you, okay? I need you to be brave for me for a little while longer.”

As Kalyn and Will walked out of the dressing room, Misty screamed after them, her voice filling the dark, empty store.

EIGHTEEN

Now Kalyn drove, speeding north up Scottsdale Road.

Will stared out the window, and despite the fear, he had to acknowledge that there was a part of him that wanted very much to be here, to see Javier Estrada.

He pulled out his cell.

“What are you doing?” Kalyn asked.

“Calling my daughter.”

Devlin answered on the first ring, “Hey, Dad.”

The sound of her voice crushed him. “What are you doing, baby girl?”

“Watching a cooking show on PBS.”

“How is it?”

“Awesometastic,” she replied, echoing her mother’s sassy spunk. “You almost done? Kalyn’s channels suck even worse than ours.”

“Not yet.”

She paused, said, “Did you see him?”

“I can’t talk right now, honey. I’ll tell you about it later. Just wanted to check in.”

He closed the cell.

North of Scottsdale, they passed through the gates of the Boulders, thirty-six holes of legendary golf links, sculpted into desert foothills.

“You play?” Kalyn asked as they approached the clubhouse.

“Used to.”

“So how do we find this guy if he’s somewhere out there?”

“This is a very nice course. I’m sure he needed reservations, so the pro shop would be the place to start.”

Kalyn pulled into a parking spot and they walked together into the pro shop. The man behind the counter was forty-something and tanned to golden perfection, his brown hair gilded by sunlight. Will could also see that he was brimming with attitude, that rare, sophisticated superiority effused by those with just enough talent to be the local pro but who lack some crucial ingredient to win their PGA card. His name tag read Dan.

“Help you with something?” he said. Kalyn reached into her purse, took out her expired FBI ID, let it flip open, carefully watching Dan’s eyes. They weren’t really reading it, just registering the shock of seeing FBI in bold blue letters.

Kalyn snapped it closed. “I wonder if you could help us, Dan. We’re trying to locate a gentleman named Javier Estrada. I believe he may be playing here right now.”

The club pro stepped behind a computer, began typing.

“You don’t need a warrant or anything for this?” he asked.

Busted, Will thought. You better handle this with grace, Kalyn.

“No, sir,” she said. “Now if I wanted to know how many times he’d played in the last month, or access to his locker, that would require a warrant.”

“What’s this all about?” He was still typing.

“I’m sorry, I can’t go into that. Do you know Mr. Estrada?”

“I’ve given him several lessons in the last month. He tips very well.”

“Look at me, sir.” Dan looked up. “I’m not going to tell Mr. Estrada whatever information you give me, and you’d be wise not to discuss this with him. He’s a dangerous man.” Dan’s eyes cut back to the computer screen.

“He had a one-thirty tee time on the north course,” he said.

“Can you tell exactly which hole he’s on right now?”

The door to the pro shop swung open.

“No, but he should be getting—” Dan glanced up, his tan paling. He caught himself, smiled broadly, now looking past Kalyn and Will. “Javier!” he said. “How’d we do today?”

“Seventy-seven.”

Will heard pride and a faint accent in the man’s even voice. Javier Estrada walked up and stood beside Kalyn, decked out in knickers, Payne Stewart–style, the sides of his white-collared shirt darkened with sweat stains. He was fanning himself with a golf cap.

Will wandered away from the counter and Kalyn discreetly followed, hanging on to his arm as if they were just perusing the clubs and golf bags.

“Seventy-seven?” Dan said. “No. I don’t think I believe that.”

“That thing you showed me? The wrist turn thing? You are a beautiful genius.”

“Well, I’m happy for you, Jav. That’s good stuff. Good stuff.”

“I’d have shot seventy-five except for that par five on the back.”

“Fifteen?”

“I four-putted. That green was much slower than the others.”

“You know,” Dan said, leaning forward confidentially, “yours isn’t the first complaint I’ve heard about that green today. Between you and me, one of the groundskeepers overwatered it.”

“Who? Which groundskeeper?”

“Brian.”

“Brian cost me my personal best.”

“We still on for a lesson Monday afternoon?”

“Absolutely. Give me a bucket of balls. I need to straighten out something on my sand wedge before I head home.”

Kalyn pulled her Buick around to the side of the clubhouse so that they had a view of the driving range. The sun was setting, turning the rock formations pink, the fairways gold.

“I have to admit,” Will said, “seeing him here, dressed up like a golfing dandy—it kind of undercuts the badass, Alpha mystique.”

“Your cell on?” Kalyn asked.

“Yeah.”

“Program my number.” She gave it to him. “The moment he starts packing up to leave, call me.” She grabbed her purse, opened the door.

“Where are you going?” She got out, left Will sitting in the hot silence, fifty feet back from the range.

With his smooth, fluid swing, Javier was putting most of his balls on the nearest green. After awhile, he took out his driver, set up a tee. He settled into his stance, stood there shifting his hips, staring down at the ball, nodding his head. He did this for fifteen seconds, then brought the club back and swung. Will heard the impact of the huge titanium club face meeting the ball. Javier followed through, froze, then looked up, watching as the ball arced toward the back of the range.

Sitting there, watching this kidnapping, drug-running murderer, Will felt surprisingly calm. It’s because you don’t really think you’ll go through with what you’re about to do. Javier drove the last ball and slid his driver into the golf bag.

Will opened his cell, called Kalyn. “He’s hoisting his bag onto his shoulder right now.”

“Wait there. I’m coming back to you.”

Will closed the cell, Javier walking toward him now. Will could hear the crunch of his golf spikes on the pavement. Javier passed by his window. Smell of cologne and sweat. He wore RayBan sunglasses, and Will didn’t like not knowing where the man was looking. Glancing in the side mirror, he watched until Javier disappeared around the clubhouse. Then he stared through the windshield, but he couldn’t concentrate, kept watching the side mirror.

Calm down. Calm down. Calm—

Someone knocked on the driver’s side window. He flinched. It was Kalyn. Will unlocked the door and she opened it and climbed in behind the wheel.

“What’d you do?” he asked.

She cranked the engine, shifted into reverse. “You’ll see.”

NINETEEN

The new Escalade slowed as it neared the entrance to the Boulders, right turn signal blinking.

“What’d you do?” Will asked again.

Kalyn cut her eyes at him, grinned wickedly. The Escalade pulled out onto N. Tom Darlington Road. They followed.

“Do me a favor,” Kalyn said. “Reach in my purse and pull out the Glock. You’ve held a gun before, right?”

“Yeah, at Webelos camp about twenty years ago.” Will lifted out a small black semiautomatic handgun. “Loaded?” he asked.

“Yep. Now very gently, pull back on the slide. You see a round?”

He saw the copper-tipped brass casing. “Yeah.”

“You can put it back.” Will looked up through the windshield, saw Javier’s SUV fifty yards ahead, but something was clearly wrong with it, the Escalade drifting toward the shoulder.

“Why’s he swerving?”

Kalyn smiled again.

“Oh God,” he said. “You didn’t.”

After another half mile, Javier pulled over onto the shoulder. The way it dipped forward and to the right, Will could tell the vehicle’s right front tire was flat. Kalyn slowed down, and twenty yards past the front bumper of the Escalade, she veered over onto the shoulder.

She turned off the engine, said, “You ready for this?”

“No.”

“Listen. You just do exactly what I say, and it’ll be fine.” Will looked in the side mirror, saw Javier’s door swing open. “When we come back,” Kalyn said, “I want you to drive. Javier’s gonna be beside you. I’m gonna be in back with the gun.” Kalyn reached into her purse and pulled out the Glock. Will saw Javier squatting down by the deflated tire, sunglasses in one hand, running the palm of his other across the rubber tread.

Kalyn holstered the Glock in a shoulder rig, which was concealed by her jacket.

“There’s no turning back once he’s in the car, Will. You understand that, right?”

Will took a breath, opened the door, and stepped outside.

Traffic was light, and with this stretch of road still five miles outside of Scottsdale, the landscape was predominantly sunlit desert as far as Will could see. He steadied his hands as they approached the Escalade, trying to process everything that had happened in the last two hours, marveling at how fast it had come to this.

Kalyn ran her tongue against the roof of her mouth, moistening it so she could speak. He had to buy it, or they could forget the whole thing. She rubbed her hands against her wool skirt.

Javier looked up when they were fifteen feet away, and Will watched Kalyn work up a big smile. She was originally from Texas, and she conjured up the accent she’d fought so hard to shed.

“Got yourself a flat tire there?”

Javier nodded, and Will tried to read him, but he wasn’t smiling or scowling, just receiving information. He wondered if he had a gun on him, would have staked the savings he didn’t have that the man had something lethal in the Escalade, probably under the seat or the dash. Javier let loose a lukewarm smile, not a shred of warmth to it. Will was praying Kalyn’s accent was so appalling, she’d offended whatever sensibilities he had, thereby distracting him.

“Did you run over something sharp?” Kalyn asked. “You got a spare?”

He sighed. “Yes. I have a spare.” He was still staring at her, his eyes processing her face. “Could you tell me something?” he asked.

“What’s that?”

“I’m certain I’ve seen you today. Could you tell me where?”

“I never seen you before in my life. I was just stopping to help a—”

“Ah, yes. The pro shop. You were speaking with Dan when I came in from my round.” At light speed, Javier’s eyes cut to Will, then back to Kalyn’s face. “This is the gentleman you were with?”

Will estimated that they were seven feet apart, wondered how fast Javier could move. Blink of an eye. Draw, Kalyn.

Javier said, “Your palms are sweating.”

Draw.

“Your hand is anxious to reach for the gun under your jacket. My concern, being that I don’t know you, is that you would try to do it quickly and accidentally shoot me before I’ve given you actual cause. So let’s circumvent that possible outcome. Take two steps back. Then slowly draw your weapon. Here are my hands. I’m unarmed. I will not move.”

She stepped back, reached into her jacket, drew the Glock, holding it low as she moved around behind him. “Get on your knees,” she said. He did. “Now put your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers.” Will was feeling confident in Kalyn’s ability to control the situation now, the Escalade keeping them shielded from the view of passing cars. From an inner pocket of her jacket, she took a pair of handcuffs and snapped them over Javier’s right wrist. “Lie flat on your stomach, with your hands behind your back.”

Javier made no argument, carefully prostrating himself on the pavement.

She locked the cuff around his other wrist.

“Get up on your feet slowly.” He rolled over onto his back, sat up, then stood up. “Approach your car, lean against it, and spread your legs.” She frisked him, found nothing but his wallet and a BlackBerry in the knickers pockets. “Now walk to my car.”

TWENTY

The passenger door opened. Javier Estrada ducked his head and climbed into the front seat.

“Buckle his seat belt,” Kalyn said. Will hesitated. “He’s cuffed; he isn’t carrying any weapons. It’s fine.” Will felt Javier’s eyes taking inventory of his face as he leaned over and pulled the seat belt across the man’s chest and locked it into place. Kalyn shut the door, opened the one behind it, and climbed into the back. “Javier,” she said, “just so we’re clear, you have a Glock pointed at your spine through the seat. Drive, Will. Don’t speed, don’t run stop signs, and for God’s sake don’t get us into a wreck.”

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