Chapter 38

CARSON fumed. Dismissed. After all he had done for her, Rosemary simply sent him out of the room like a child. She was in there now, talking to that old man who'd made him look bad in front of his friends.

She just didn't get it.

He knew her. She was always using her beauty and her mouth to get out of trouble. But that wouldn't work here. She would look for a way to save her own butt, that was all. The more Carson looked at it, the worse it got for him. If the cops moved in and they were going to offer someone up as the sacrificial lamb, Carson had to be their leading candidate.

Maybe that was what they were discussing right now.

Made sense. Carson was twenty-two now-more than old enough to be tried and convicted as an adult. He was the one the teens mostly dealt with-Rosemary had been smart enough to keep her hands clean in that respect. He, Carson, was also the go-between with the distributor.

Damn, he should have known this would happen. As soon as the Spencer kid bit the dust, they should have gone quiet for a while. But the money had been huge and his distributors were pressing them. Carson's contact was a man named Barry Watkins who always wore Armani suits. He took him to classy gentlemen's clubs. He tossed cash around. He got him girls and respect. He treated him right.

But last night, when Carson didn't deliver, Watkins's voice changed. He didn't shout. It just went cold and it felt like an ice pick between the ribs.

"We need to get this done," he had told Carson.

"I think we got a problem."

"What do you mean?"

"The doctor's kid freaked out. His father showed up tonight." Silence.




"My employers won't let it be tracked back to me. Do you understand? They'll make sure it doesn't reach that level."

He hung up. The message had been sent and received.

So Carson waited with the gun.

He heard a noise at the front door. Someone was trying to get in. The door was locked from both sides. You needed to know the alarm code to get in or out. Whoever it was started pounding on the door. Carson looked out the window.

It was Adam Baye. He was with the Huff kid.

"Open up!" Adam shouted. He slapped the door some more.

"Come on, open up!"

Carson smothered his smile. Father and son in one place. This would be the perfect way to end it.

"Hold on," Carson said.

Jamming the gun into his waist in the back, Carson pushed four digits and saw the red light turn green. The door unlocked.

Adam burst in, DJ followed.

"Is my father here?" Adam asked.

Carson nodded. "He's in Rosemary's office."

Adam started that way. DJ Huff followed.

Carson let the door close, locking them in. He reached behind him and pulled out his gun.

ANTHONY was following Adam Baye.

He kept a little distance, not much, but he wasn't sure how to play it. The kid didn't know him, so Anthony couldn't simply call out to him-plus who knew what his mind frame was? If Anthony identified himself as a friend of his father's, he might just run and disappear again.

Play it cool, Anthony thought.

Up ahead, Adam was shouting into his cell phone. Not a bad idea. Anthony took out his mobile in midstride. He dialed Mike's number.

No answer.

When the voice mail came on, Anthony said, "Mike, I see your kid. He's heading back to that club I was telling you about. I'll follow him."

He snapped the phone closed and jammed it back in his pocket. Adam had already put away his phone, and now he hurried his step. Anthony kept pace. When Adam reached the club, he took the steps two at a time and tried the door.


Anthony saw him look at the alarm pad. He turned to his friend, who shrugged. Adam started pounding on the door.

"Open up!"

The tone, Anthony thought. There was more than impatience in that tone-there was pure desperation. Fear even. Anthony moved closer.

"Come on, open up!"

He kept pounding harder and harder. A few seconds later, the door opened. One of those goths stood there. Anthony had seen him around. He was a little older than the others and the quasi-leader for that band of full-fledged losers. He had a strip across his nose, like it'd been broken. Anthony wondered if he was one of the kids who jumped Mike and decided that, yeah, he probably was.

So what should he do?

Should he stop Adam from going in? That might work, but then again it might backfire in a big way. The kid would probably run. Anthony could grab him and hold him, but if they all made enough of a fuss, what good would that do?

Anthony slid closer to the door.

Adam hurried inside, disappearing entirely, and it seemed to Anthony as if the building had swallowed him whole. Adam's friend with the varsity jacket entered behind him, slower. From where he stood, Anthony could see the goth let the door close. As he did, as the door began to slowly swing shut, the goth turned his back.

And Anthony saw it.

There was a gun sticking out of the back waist of his pants.

And right before the door closed entirely, it looked like maybe the goth was reaching for it.

M O sat in the car and worked those damn numbers.


He started with the obvious. Turn Cee into C or the third letter. Three. He took the Jay or J, the tenth number. So what did he have? 3108115. He added the numbers together, tried dividing them, searched for patterns. He looked at Adam's IM handle-Hockey Adam1117. Mike had told him that 11 was Messier's number, 17 was Mike's old Dartmouth number. Still he added them to 8115 and then 3108115. He turned HockeyAdam into numbers, did more equations, tried to solve the problem.


The numbers were not random. He knew that. Even Adam's numbers, while not telling, were not random. There was a pattern here. Mo just had to find it.

Mo had been doing the math in his head, but now he opened the glove compartment and grabbed a sheet of paper. He started jotting down number possibilities when he heard a familiar voice shout, "Open up!"

Mo looked through the windshield.

Adam was banging on the front door of Club Jaguar.

"Come on, open up!"

Mo reached for the handle as the front door of the club opened. Adam vanished inside. Mo wondered what to do here, what move to make, when he saw something else weird.

It was Anthony, the black bouncer Mike had visited earlier in the day. He was sprinting toward the Club Jaguar door. Mo rolled out of the car and started toward him. Anthony got to the door first and twisted the knob. It wouldn't budge.

"What's going on?" Mo asked.

"We gotta get in," Anthony said.

Mo put his hand on the door. "It's steel enforced. No way we can kick it down."

"Well, we better try."

"Why, what's up?"

"The guy who let Adam in," Anthony said. "He was pulling a gun."

CARSON kept the gun hidden behind his back.

"Is my father here?" Adam asked.

"He's in Rosemary's office."

Adam started past him. There was a sudden commotion from down the hall.


The voice belonged to Mike Baye.


Baye turned the corner right as Adam was arriving. Father and son met up near the corridor and embraced.

Aw, Carson thought, isn't that sweet.

Carson gripped the gun and raised it in front of him.

He did not call out. He did not warn them. There was no reason to. He had no choice here. There was no time to negotiate or make requests. He needed to end this.

He needed to kill them.

Rosemary shouted, "Carson, don't!"

But there was no way he was listening to that bitch. Carson aimed the gun toward Adam, got him in his sights, and prepared to fire.

EVEN as Mike hugged his son-even as he felt the wonderful substance of his boy and nearly collapsed in relief that he was okay- Mike saw it out of the corner of his eye.

Carson had a gun.

There weren't seconds to consider his next move. There was no conscious thought in what he did next-just a primitive, base response. He saw Carson aiming the gun at Adam and he reacted.

Mike pushed his son.

He pushed him very hard. Adam's feet actually left the ground. He flew through the air, his eyes widening in surprise. The gun exploded, the bullet shattering the glass behind him, right where Adam had been standing less than a second earlier. Mike felt the shards rain down on him.

But the push had not only surprised Adam-it had surprised Carson. He had clearly figured that they would either not see him or react as most people do when faced with a gun-freeze or put their hands up.

Carson recovered quickly. He was already swinging his gun to the right, toward where Adam had landed. But that was why the push had been so hard. Even in that reactionary state, there had been a method to Mike's madness. He needed not only to get his son out of the way of the incoming bullet, but he needed to give him distance. And he got it.

Adam landed down the corridor, behind a wall.

Carson aimed but he had no angle to shoot Adam. That left him with one other alternative-shooting the father first.

Mike felt a strange sense of peace then. He knew what had to be done here. There was no choice. He needed to protect his son. As Carson began to swing the gun back in the father's direction, Mike knew what that meant.

He would need to make a sacrifice.

He didn't think this out. It just was. A father saves his son. That was the way it should be. Carson was going to be able to shoot one of them. There seemed no way around that. So Mike did the only thing he could.

He made sure that it was him.

Working on instinct, Mike charged Carson.

He flashed back to hockey games, to going for the puck, and realized that even if Carson shot him, he might still have enough. He might still have enough to reach Carson and stop him from doing more harm.

He would save his son.

But as he got closer, Mike realized that the heart was one thing, reality another. The distance was too great. Carson already had the gun raised. Mike wouldn't be able to make it before taking at least one bullet, maybe two. There was very little chance of survival or even doing much good.

Still there was no choice. So Mike closed his eyes and lowered his head and churned his legs.

THEY were still a good fifteen feet away, but if Carson let him get just a little closer, he couldn't miss.

He lowered his aim a little, pointed the gun at Mike's head and watched the target grow bigger and bigger.

ANTHONY pushed his shoulder against the door, but it wouldn't budge.

Mo said, "All those complicated calculations-and that's it?"

"What are you mumbling about?"


"Come again?"

There was no time to explain. Mo pressed 8115 into the alarm pad. The red light turned green, signaling that the door was now unlocked.

Anthony pulled open the door and both men dived inside.

CARSON had him in his sights now.

The gun was aimed at the top of Mike's charging head. Carson was surprised by how calm he felt. He thought that he might panic, but his hand was steady. Firing the first time had felt good. This would feel even better. He was in the zone now. He wouldn't miss. No way.

Carson started to pull the trigger.

And then the gun was gone.

A giant hand came from behind him and snatched the gun away. Just like that. One second it was there, the next gone. Carson turned and saw the big black bouncer from down the street. The bouncer was holding the gun and smiling.

But there was no time to even register much surprise. Something powerful-another guy-hit Carson low and hard in the back. Carson felt pain in his entire body. He cried out and jerked forward where he ran into Mike Baye's shoulder coming in the other direction. Car- son's body nearly snapped in half from the impact. He landed as if someone had dropped him from a great height. His wind was gone. His ribs felt like they'd caved in.

Standing over him, Mike said, "It's over." Then turning back to where Rosemary now stood, he added, "No deals."