Darkest Fear Page 62

“It’s on this road,” Stan said.

Myron looked out. His mouth was dry. He felt a tingle deep in his belly. The car traveled down another corkscrew of a street, the loose gravel crunching under the tires. There were deeply wooded lots commingling with your standard suburban front lawns. Plenty of center-hall colonials and those mid-seventies ranches that aged like milk left out on the counter. A yellow sign warned about children at play, but Myron saw none.

They pulled into a cake-dried driveway with weeds poking up through the cracks. Myron lowered his window. There was plenty of burnt-out grass, but the sweet summer smell of lillies still loomed and even cloyed. Crickets droned. Wildflowers blossomed. Not a hint of menace.

Up ahead Myron spotted what looked like a farmhouse. Black shutters stood out against the white clapboards. There were lights coming from inside, giving the house a glow that was big and soft and oddly welcoming. The front porch was the type that craved a swinging settee and a pitcher of lemonade.

When the car reached the front of the house, Stan shifted into park and turned off the ignition. The crickets eased up. Myron almost waited for someone to note that it was “Quiet” and for someone else to add, “Yeah, too quiet.”

Stan turned to them. “I think I should go in first,” he said.

Neither man argued. Greg stared out the window at the house, probably conjuring up unspeakable horrors. Myron’s left leg started jackhammering. It often did when he was tense. Stan reached for the door handle.

That was when the first bullet smashed through the front passenger-side window.

The glass exploded, and Myron saw Greg’s head fly back at a rate it was never supposed to achieve. A thick gob of crimson smacked Myron in the cheek.

“Greg!”

No time. Instincts took over. Myron grabbed Greg, pushed him down, trying to keep his own head down too. Blood. Lots of it. From Greg. He was bleeding, bleeding heavily, but Myron couldn’t tell from where. Another bullet rang out. Another window shattered, raining shards of glass down on Myron’s head. He kept his hand on top of Greg, tried to cover him, protect him. Greg’s own hand fumbled absently on his chest and face, calmly searching for the bullet hole. Blood kept flowing. From the neck. Greg’s neck. Or collarbone. Whatever. He couldn’t see through the blood. Myron tried to stop the flow with his bare hand, pushing the sticky liquid away, finding the wound with his finger, applying pressure with his palm. But the blood slipped through the cracks between his fingers. Greg looked up at him with big eyes.

Stan Gibbs put his hands over his head and ducked into a quasi-emergency-landing position. “Stop!” he yelled, almost childlike. “Dad!”

Another bullet. More glass shards. Myron reached into his pocket and pulled out his gun. Greg grabbed his hand and pulled it down. Myron looked at him.

“Can’t kill him,” Greg said to Myron. There was blood in his mouth now. “If he dies … Jeremy’s only hope.”

Myron nodded, but he didn’t put the gun away. He looked over at Stan. In the distance, they heard a helicopter. Then sirens. The feds were on their way. No surprise. There was no way they weren’t going to follow. By air, at the very least.

Greg’s breathing was short spurts. His eyes were going hazy-gray.

“We got to do something here, Stan,” Myron said.

“Just stay down,” Stan said. Then he opened the car door and shouted, “Dad!”

No reply.

Stan got out of the car. He raised his hands and stood. “Please,” he shouted. “They’ll be here soon. They’ll kill you.”

Nothing. The air was so motionless that Myron thought he could still hear the echoes from the gun blasts.

“Dad?”

Myron lifted his head a little and risked a glance. A man stepped out from behind the side of the house. Edwin Gibbs wore full army fatigues with combat boots. He had an ammunition belt hanging off his shoulder. His rifle was pointed toward the ground. Myron could see it was Nathan Mostoni, though he looked twenty years younger. His head was high, chin up. His back was straight.

Greg made a gurgling sound. Myron ripped off his shirt and pushed it against the wound. But Greg’s eyes were closing. “Stay with me,” Myron urged. “Come on, Greg. Stay here.”

Greg did not reply. His eyes fluttered and closed. Myron felt his heart slam into his throat. “Greg?”

He felt for a pulse. It was there. Myron was no doctor, but it didn’t feel strong. Oh damn. Oh come on.

Outside the car, Stan moved closer to his father. “Please,” Stan said. “Put down the rifle, Dad.”

The fed cars poured into the driveway. Brakes squealed. Feds jumped out of their vehicles, took position using the open doors as shields, aimed their weapons. Edwin Gibbs looked confused, panicked, Frankenstein’s monster suddenly surrounded by angry villagers. Stan hurried toward him.

The air seemed to thicken, molasses-like. It was hard to move, hard to breathe. Myron could almost feel the officers tense up, fingers itchy, tips touching the cold metal of the trigger. He let go of Greg for a moment and shouted, “You can’t shoot him!”

A fed had a megaphone. “Put down the rifle! Now!”

“Don’t shoot!” Myron shouted.

For a moment nothing happened. Time did that in-and-out motion where everything rushes and freezes all at one time. Another fed car skidded up the driveway. A news van followed, screeching when it hit the brakes. Stan kept walking toward his father.

“You are surrounded,” the megaphone said. “Drop the rifle and put your hands behind your head. Drop to your knees.”

Edwin Gibbs looked left, looked right. Then he smiled. Myron felt the dread rise up in his chest. Gibbs lifted his rifle.

Myron rolled out of the car. “No!”

Stan Gibbs broke into a sprint. His father spotted him, his face calm. He aimed the rifle at his approaching son. Stan kept running. Time did stop this time, waiting for the blast of gunfire. But it didn’t come. Stan had gained on him too fast. Edwin Gibbs closed his eyes and let his son tackle him. The two men fell to the ground. Stan stayed on top of his father, blanketing him, leaving no space open.

“Don’t shoot him,” Stan yelled. His voice sounded hurt, again so childlike. “Please don’t shoot him.”

Edwin Gibbs lay on his back. He let go of the rifle. It dropped into the grass. Stan pushed it away, still on top of his father, still shielding him from harm. They stayed there until the officers took over. They gently removed Stan and then rolled Edwin Gibbs onto his stomach, cuffing his hands behind his back. The news camera caught it all.

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