The Dead Room


Page 55


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His gun was drawn. She knew that he had killed before. She swallowed, suddenly realizing what the pile on the far side of the room was. One or more of the other girls. He had left their bodies here with Genevieve so she would know her inevitable fate. So she would behave. So he could bend her to his will.


"Leslie, why couldn't you have died in that blast? Then…you could have stayed away, but you didn't. Ask Genevieve-there's only one way to handle women. She had such a fit about those hookers going missing. She was going to do something. So she had to come here. She's been a delight, I have to say. But then, she wants to live."


"Leslie wants to live, too," Genevieve said.


"Robert," Leslie said, a shocked whisper of disbelief. "I just can't believe it's you."


"Who else?" he asked lightly. "Who else had access to sites and houses and cars, and who else could go all over the city, doing as he pleased? These tunnels are quite something, you know. You can get right into Hastings House. Of course, you figured that out, didn't you, Leslie? But did you know there's an entrance right into that crypt you discovered? I would have taken care of things the morning you were down there alone, but then Laymon had to show up before I could drag you away. No one would have known. But he showed up and I had to leave in a hurry. You're remarkably hard to kill, young lady. Not even a push onto the subway tracks could do it. You've got to understand. I never wanted to hurt you. But you know way too much. I don't know how you know, you just do. You would have discovered me eventually. You have some kind of a touch or a sight, and it got even stronger after you survived the explosion. A shame, that. Four people dead, but I missed the one I meant to kill. I'm really sorry, Leslie," he said softly.


She saw that his fingers were twitching on his gun.


He was going to shoot her. Then and there.


"Stop!" a voice roared. She heard running footsteps.


Joe!


Robert turned and fired into the tunnel, but his arms jerked and the shot went wild. It looked as if he was fighting with himself-or an invisible opponent. Despite that, he kept pulling the trigger.


Again and again.


The blasts were horrendously loud in the confined space, and he was cursing and screaming even as he kept firing, the shots still going wild.


Suddenly he was slammed up against the door, his mouth an O of horror, but he wouldn't let go of the gun.


Matt! Leslie thought joyously as Robert twisted, struggling to aim his gun up the tunnel.


Suddenly Joe loomed out of the darkness, and it looked as if Robert couldn't possibly miss him. "No!" Leslie shouted.


She jumped on Robert Adair's back. Genevieve shouted, desperately trying her best to distract him. A shot rang out from the tunnel, and Robert was spun around by the force of it, staring straight at the two of them.


He smiled.


Leslie wondered why.


Then she knew.


He fired one last time, even as he died himself.


"No!"


She heard Joe scream out the single word. But she was falling. Genevieve tried to catch her as she fell, but the other woman had no strength. Leslie could only imagine what she had endured over the past weeks. They fell to the floor together as Joe raced toward them.


But she didn't see Joe.


She saw Matt.


He was down on his knees beside her, wrapping her in his arms.


There were tears in his eyes. "No, Leslie, no…"


"Leslie!" Dimly, she heard Joe shouting. He was desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood coming from her chest.


"Leslie, hang on, hang on…."


She was dimly aware that the tunnels were alive with footsteps.


She smiled. She'd been blessed with good friends.


"Leslie," Matt whispered, cradling her. "Fight. Fight."


She couldn't fight. And she knew it. She reached for Matt, saw his eyes, the tears. The love.


"Some things," she whispered, "are meant to be."


EPILOGUE


Joe sat on a concrete bench in the cemetery, staring at the newly tamped ground. He was alone; he needed to be. The funeral had been far too huge; he'd felt that he needed to take a step back, so this afternoon he'd come back on his own. So many good people had loved her. Adam. Nikki, who had been with Leslie when she'd discovered the street-level entrance to the tunnels, the route by which Robert had escaped the night Joe had chased him. Nikki and Adam had been there when the paramedics had desperately tried to save Leslie. They had been there when she was pronounced dead. They had suffered. As had Brad Verdun, who had cried like a baby. Even Dryer had broken down when he had to go on TV to talk about what had happened.


But that was over now. Just as the torture Robert Adair had inflicted on his victims was over. Genevieve had been able to shed some light on what had made the man crack, based on his lunatic ramblings when he came to visit her in her makeshift prison. He'd never had much of a social life, so he'd turned to hookers, then finally turned on them. In his opinion, prostitutes deserved whatever happened to them. Genevieve hadn't been alone there when he first grabbed her and he had hurt them all, she said. When he tired of a girl, when she angered him…he killed her. Joe was there when she stoically informed the police that she'd done what she had to do to live. She'd also informed them that she thought he'd gone psychotic because he was impotent. A powerful respected man with no one to come home to-because, in his way, he was powerless.


Joe's astonishment was fading. Despite the fact that he had listed the man as a suspect himself, he had never been on top of the list, even at the end. It was still almost inconceivable. And yet, and in retrospect, someone should have figured it out before. Except that Robert Adair had been the lead detective on the case.


The pain of Leslie's death seemed dulled now, but sometimes it struck him like a knife. He went over and over the series of events in his head, trying to create a scenario in which everything worked out differently. In which she lived.


He was carrying a single rose, and now he tossed it gently onto the grave. "I failed you," he said softly. She had no tombstone yet, but Matt's was there, a handsome, simple memorial in white marble. He'd chosen it himself. "I failed you, too," he said.


He closed his eyes. It had been an oddly beautiful day, pure blue sky, soft breeze. He had waited, though, until it was late afternoon to come back. A time when the sun was gentle, when the air was balmy, and he'd sat there until the colors of sunset had washed the sky, as if the pastel shades of the coming evening could somehow make sense of everything that had happened.


Why had he come?


Did he think one of them would talk to him? Maybe, he admitted.


He felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned.


Genevieve O'Brien stood there. She was almost shockingly beautiful, with her eyes the color of the sky, her hair a muted flame color that seemed to promise an inner wildness. She was slim and very pale-hell, she'd spent two months as a terrified prisoner in an underground cell-but other than that, she looked good. Her gaze was steady. But then, she'd been strong from the beginning. Strong enough to survive.


She'd spoken at the funeral. It had been an outstanding tribute to the woman who had died. For her. It had stirred every heart. For a while, at least, Joe had thought skeptically, it might improve man's behavior to his fellow man. Leslie had been a true heroine.


Earlier that day, Genevieve had been standing at the grave, ready to set her flowers on the casket, when a reporter had come up to her. That had been too much for Joe. He'd interposed himself between the two of them, and he wasn't exactly sure what he'd said, but the reporter had run, and Genevieve had looked at him with her immense blue eyes filled with tears, and she had said simply, "Thank you."


Now she joined him on the bench.


"How are you holding up?" she asked.


He stared at her. "I'm good. You…?"


She stared down at the graves. "I'm good. Grateful. More determined than ever to make my life count."


She was amazing, he thought, then looked back at the graves. "I tried so hard," he murmured.


She set a hand on his shoulder. "You two saved my life. And you stopped a monster."


He shook his head. He hadn't been able to save Leslie.


"I could use a drink," she said.


"What?"


"Would you please take me somewhere-O'Malley's, maybe. I could really use a drink."


"I…yeah. Sure." What good did it do, sitting in a graveyard?


She stood first and offered him a hand. He accepted it, rising. They started out of the graveyard, down a gentle slope.


She stopped, turning back. "She's with him now," Genevieve said softly.


"Pardon?"


"Look."


He turned.


"Look over there. Right where we were sitting."


He did, and blinked. It was the fading sunlight. It was the wishful thinking of his numb and tangled mind.


And yet…


There they were. Matt. Tall, broad-shouldered, hair gleaming gold, smiling at the slender beauty standing beside him. Leslie. Leslie, elegant face lifted, eyes sparkling as she looked up at the man she loved. Matt caught her hand, laughed, took a seat on the bench and pulled her against him, cradling her there in the last rays of the setting sun.


Joe blinked. He looked at Genevieve, then back at the little rise. They were gone, of course. A cloud had dulled the brilliance of those last rays.


"Do you ever think that maybe, just maybe, she escaped death the first time because she was meant to do, because she was still needed here?" Genevieve asked softly. She squeezed his hand. "Maybe someday we'll see them again," she said pensively.


"What?"


"I'm just being whimsical," she murmured.


He couldn't help but look back again. The cloud was gone, but so was the last of the light. Maybe they were there, together, two wonderful beautiful people, impossibly in love with each other.


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