[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.He kept his body very still as he crept forward.In fact, only his eyes – which were wide open and worried-looking – moved as he took in his surroundings.Their frantic scanning of the room overcompensated for the lack of motion in the rest of his body.But somehow he failed entirely to notice the woman sitting on the couch directly in front of him.“Um, hi,” said Lola, offering a perfunctory wave.“Want some lemonade?”“Shit!” The man jumped back.At this point, it would not be unusual to be informed that the man in question “jumped a foot into the air.” In fact, however, most people who don’t play professional sports can’t jump anything like twelve inches off the ground.This particular redneck was no exception.He did jump, but he only cleared and inch or two, and most of his panic response was directed to his arms, which flailed about, waving his shotgun this way and that.He eventually got himself under control, and clutched the shotgun to his chest.This would have been a great move had he come armed with only, say, a teddy bear, but issn’t the sort of thing that is generally regarded as proper shotgun-attack protocol.Lola’s smile was pleasant and comforting.She raised her eyebrows, as though she were awaiting an answer.The man smiled back and let out a sigh of relief, he let the shotgun dangle by his side.“Well, yeah,” he said.“That’d be right nice.”For a second, Lola’s jaw hung open as she stared at the man with the shotgun who had said that, yes, he would, in fact, like some lemonade.She quickly wiped the surprise off her face, replacing it with the same pleasant smile.But then nothing happened.And after a few seconds more, nothing continued to happen.Tension crept into her smile, and the muscles in her cheeks bulged as she clenched her jaw.Liam, meanwhile, just sat and watched from behind his houseplant, causing nothing to happen.It was only a quick, sharp look from Lola that roused him to action.His first two steps toward the man were fluid – almost languid – and completely silent.And then, just as quietly, he pounced.He snatched the gun, tossed it onto one of the couches, and grabbed the man’s wrist, which he twisted and pinned to the middle of the man’s back.Then he shoved the man forward, toppling him over the coffee table, and grabbed a handful of the man’s shirt, pulling it back tight against his throat.Liam knelt on the small of the man’s back, bearing down with the full weight of his body.Liam looked up at Lola.She scowled.If they had been in a relationship, it would have been clear to everyone in the room that Liam was unlikely to get any that evening, and quite possibly the next.But they weren’t, and so Liam just shrugged and dug his knee into the man’s back some more.The man made a pathetic mewing sound.Liam leaned in and spoke into the man’s ear.“I’m going to let go of you.When I do, you will not try to escape.You will stand and do as I say.Understood?”The man whimpered and nodded his head, inasmuch as it was possible to do so with his face wedged in between a coffee-table book and the nastier bits of a small statue that some artist had carved as a tribute to the virility of well-hung and ripped youths everywhere.Lola scoffed.“They teach Jedi mind tricks in the CIA?”Liam looked up.His eyes were deadly serious.“Go check on the others.Take the gun.”“I have one already,” she said.“Um, okay.” Liam shrugged.“Use yours instead.”“I’m taking this one too,” she said.Liam let out an exasperated burst of breath.“Whatever.”“Fine,” said Lola.She picked up the shotgun and cracked it open to check if it was actually loaded, and stalked off to find the others.Liam watched her leave, and then turned his attention to the redneck he’d pinned to the table.“Ready?”The man nodded, and then added, “Ow.Ow.Ow.” The position of his arm relative to his body would have made Gumby uncomfortable.Liam stood and stepped back.The man got up, shook his arm out a bit, and then glanced around casually as if he were just a visitor checking out the décor.“Okay.Walk.” The man turned and nodded.Liam pointed to a doorway off the side of the room.The man nodded again and set off for the other room, which turned out to be a kitchen.Liam followed the man into the kitchen, which appeared to have been designed solely for the purpose of being photographed for one of those fancy, “This is how people who are richer and better than you live” magazines.It was beautiful, but utterly unusable.Liam glanced around and noticed there wasn’t even a microwave.Large, untarnished copper cookware gleamed at them from hooks on the ceiling.The countertops – made from the Elgin Marbles – were endless expanses of spotless, open space.The cabinets were “antiqued,” which means that someone paid a lot of money to have them finished to evoke timelessness and Solomonic wisdom or something, without actually looking old.Mostly they just looked expensive.To top it all off, there were five separate floral arrangements.“Sit,” said Liam, shoving the man toward the island.He spun an uncomfortable-looking – but very fashionable – stool around.The man in the crusty jeans set down a piece of plastic fruit he’d been examining and hopped up onto the stool.“What are you doing here?”The man looked around, as if what he was doing here was pretty obvious.“I guess I’m sitting.” He nodded an earnest nod.“Why did you come here?”“‘Cause I was told.” He nodded.“They told us to come here.”Liam let out a tiny, barely-perceptible sigh.He’d dealt with recalcitrant interviewees plenty of times, but this wasn’t recalcitrance.This was stupidity.“‘Us’? Who is ‘us’?”“What?” The man squinted and shifted his jaw to the side as if he were concentrating real hard.“Is there someone else here?”“I saw that lady.” The man smiled.It wasn’t a smart-assed smirk.It was a smile of recollection.“She’s here.Wherever you sent her.” He nodded and smiled an earnest, open smile that would have made June Cleaver want to start handing out knuckle sandwiches.“Did you come here with someone? Were you alone?”The man’s eyes went wide.He started to shake his head, but stopped.“Way—”Liam wondered whether the man wasn’t a lot smarter than he’d assumed.His face looked more surprised and worried than confused.Was this a new tack? Then it occurred to Liam that the man was looking at something.Something behind him.Liam spun, and three things passed through his mind in rapid succession: the words “frying pan,” a loud, clanking sound, and “ow.” He collapsed onto the floor, unconscious.Chapter 33.The Militant Arm of the American Geriatrics AssociationMost people think the City of Austin is run by a mayor, a comptroller, and a council of elected representatives.Actually, that’s not true.In fact, most folks don’t really think this at all, but that’s only because most, when asked to rattle off a list of their elected representatives, get as far as “Who’s that guy who lives in the big white house?” before they have to turn their attention back to whatever is on TV.The city could be run by fairies and unicorns for all most people know [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]