N Is For Noose Page 101

I jumped. Brant was standing in the doorway. I was standing in horseshit up to my underpants. The sight of him wavered, shimmering, image moving side to side. I couldn't think of a way to answer. Nystagmus. Something in brownies, possibly PCP. Aggression, paranoia. I was smarter than him. Oh, much smarter. I was smarter than anyone that day.

’’What are you looking at?’’

’’Tom's notes.’’

’’Why?’’

’’I can't make heads or tails of them. The code.’’

He stared at me. I could tell he was trying to determine if what I'd said was true. I kept my mind empty. I don't think I'd ever seen him looking so lean and young and handsome. Death is like that, a lover whose embrace you sink into without warning. Instead of flight or resistance, voluptuous surrender. He held out his hand. ’’I'll take the notes.’’

I passed the notebook across to him, picturing the Smith Wesson. Where had I heard about a gun like that before? I could feel my brain crackling, thoughts popping like kernels banging against the lid of a popcorn pan. There was no way in the world he would give me a gun unless he intended to see that I was killed with it. Rafer LaMott wasn't outside and neither was anybody else. This was a charade, setting me up in some way. I envisioned the scene-the two of us skulking through the house, ostensibly waiting for an attack that would never come. Brant could shoot me anytime he chose, claiming later he'd mistaken me for an intruder, claiming self-defense, claiming I was stoned out of my gourd, which I was. Even as the thought formed, I felt the drugs kick up a notch. I could feel myself expanding. I could outsmart him. He was strong, but I had more experience than he did. I knew more about him than he knew about me. I'd been a cop once. I knew everything he knew, plus some.

’’Is the car still out there?’’ I asked.

Brant dropped back into his fantasy. He moved to the window and put his face close to the glass, peering off to the right. ’’Down half a block. You can barely see it from here.’’

’’I think we should turn the lights out. I don't like standing here in plain view.’’

He studied me for a second, picturing the house black as pitch. ’’You're right. Hit the switch. I'll take care of all the other lights in the house.’’

’’Good.’’ I turned the den light out. I waited until I heard him moving down the hall toward the front. Then I eased to the window, flipped the lock, and pushed the sash up about six inches. I dropped down to the floor, felt my way across the room to the cabinet, and slid myself feet-first into the space beneath the bookshelves.

Birth in reverse. I was hidden from view. Moments went by, the house becoming darker by the minute as lamps were being switched off in every room Brant entered.

’’Kinsey?’’ Brant was back.

Silence.

I heard him come to the den. He must have stood in the doorway, allowing his eyes to adjust to the black. He crossed to the window, bumping into cardboard boxes. I heard him force the window open and look out. I was gone. There was no sign of me running across the grass. ’’Shit!’’ He slammed the window shut and said, ’’Shit, shit, shit!’’ He must have had a gun because I heard him rack one into the chamber.

He left the den, hollering my name as he went. Now he was mad. Now he didn't care if I knew he was coming. I pulled myself out of the cabinet, hanging on to the shelf as I staggered to my feet. I crossed to the desk and opened the bottom drawer as quietly as possible. I took out Tom's handcuffs and tucked them in my back pocket. I could feel myself swell with power. I was suddenly larger than life, far beyond fear, luminous with fury. As I turned right out of the den into the darkness of the hallway, I could see him moving ahead of me, his body mass blacker than the charcoal light surrounding him. I began to run, picking up speed, my Reeboks making no sound on the carpet. Brant sensed my presence, turning as I lifted myself into the air. I snapped a hard front kick to his solar plexus, taking him down with one pop. I heard his gun thump dully against the wall, banging against wood as it flew out of his hand. I kicked him again, catching him squarely on the side of the head. I scrambled to my feet and stood over him. I could have crushed his skull, but as a courtesy, I refrained from doing so. I pulled the handcuffs from my pocket. I grabbed the fingers of his right hand and bent them backward, encouraging compliance. I lay the cuff on his right wrist and snapped downward, smiling grimly to myself as the swinging arm of the cuff locked in place. I put my left foot on the back of his neck while I yanked his right arm behind him and I grabbed for his left. I would have stomped down on his face, pulverizing his nose if he'd so much as whimpered. He was out cold. I double-locked both handcuffs in place. All of this without hesitation. All of this in the dark.


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