The innocent, p.58
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       The Innocent, p.58
 

           Harlan Coben
Chapter 57

  LOREN HAD RENTED A CAR.

  Matt said, "So how do you think it worked here? Darrow got the ball rolling?"

  "It makes the most sense," she agreed. "Darrow somehow finds out about your wife having a daughter. He remembers the autopsy. Then he starts to figure out what really happened back then. He knows there was money involved. He hires some muscle to help out. "

  "That would be Charles Talley?"

  "Right, Talley. "

  "And you think he found Olivia when she answered that post online?"

  "Yes, but. . . " Loren stopped.

  "What?"

  "They found Emma Lemay first. "

  "As Sister Mary Rose. "

  "Yes. "

  "How?"

  "I don't know. Maybe she was trying to make amends. I mean, I got the whole story on her from the Mother Superior. Sister Mary Rose has lived a good and pious life since she changed IDs. Maybe, I don't know, maybe she saw the post too. "

  "And tried to help?"

  "Yes. And that might explain that six-minute phone call from St. Margaret's to your sister-in-law's house. "

  "She was warning Olivia?"

  "Maybe, I don't know. But they probably found Emma Lemay first. The medical examiner says they tortured her. Maybe they wanted money. Or maybe they wanted your wife's name. Whatever, Emma Lemay ends up dead. And when I try to find out her true identity, it sets off warning bells. "

  "And this FBI guy. Yates. He hears them?"

  "Yes. Or maybe he already knew about Lemay. Maybe he was using that as a cover to come out and get involved, I'm not sure. "

  "And you think Yates is trying to cover something up?"

  "I have a source who told me about this blackmail taping involving underage girls. He's not sure if they're real. But if they are, yeah, I think that somehow he's tied into all this. I think he took me off the case because I was getting too close. He's in Reno too right now. "

  Matt faced front. "How much longer?"

  "Next block. "

  The car had barely made the turn when Loren spotted Cal Dollinger near a trailer. He was hunched down, looking through a window. She slammed on the brake. "Damn. "

  "What?"

  "We need a weapon. "

  "Why? What's wrong?"

  "That's Yates's man. By the window. "

  Dollinger stood up. They could see him reach into his jacket and pull out a gun. With a speed that defied his bulk, Dollinger moved to the door, pushed against it, and disappeared inside.

  Matt did not hesitate.

  "Wait, where are you going?"

  He didn't look back, didn't break stride. He sprinted toward the house. He could see through the window into the trailer.

  Olivia was there.

  She stood up suddenly and put up her hands. Another woman- he assumed it was Kimmy Dale- was there too. She opened her mouth to scream. Dollinger was pointing the gun at them.

  He fired.

  Oh, no. . .

  Kimmy fell. Olivia dived from view. Matt did not let up. Dollinger stood not far from a window. Using all his momentum, realizing that time was past the point of essence, Matt leaped toward the glass. He tucked his chin and led with his forearms.

  The glass shattered with surprising ease.

  Matt got his legs under him. He landed and again there was no hesitation. Dollinger still had the gun. His mouth had dropped open in surprise. Matt did not want to lose that. He jumped straight at him.

  It was like jumping against a cement block. Dollinger barely gave at all.

  "Run!" Matt shouted.

  Dollinger reacted now. He aimed his gun at Matt. Matt took hold of Dollinger's wrist with both hands. He pulled. So did Dollinger. Even though Matt was using two hands against Dollinger's one, Matt was losing the battle of strength. With his free hand, Dollinger hit Matt in the ribs with an uppercut. Matt felt his belly collapse, the air go out of him. He wanted to collapse and writhe on the floor.

  But he wouldn't.

  Olivia was here.

  So he held on to the wrist with all he had.

  Another fist slammed under his rib cage. Matt's eyes watered. He saw dark spots. He was losing consciousness, losing his grip.

  A voice screamed, "Freeze! Police! Drop your weapon!"

  It was Loren Muse.

  Dollinger let him go. Matt sank to the floor. But only for a second. He looked up at Dollinger. Dollinger had a funny look on his face. He glanced about the room.

  Loren Muse was nowhere in sight.

  Matt knew how this would go. Dollinger would wonder why she wasn't showing herself. He would remember that she had just flown over from Newark, that she was a county investigator, that the authorities would not let her travel with a gun.

  He would realize that Loren didn't have a weapon. That she was bluffing.

  Olivia was crawling toward Kimmy Dale. Matt looked over at her. Their eyes met. "Go," he mouthed. He looked back up at Dollinger.

  Dollinger had put it together now.

  He swung his aim back toward Olivia.

  "No!" Matt shouted.

  He bent his legs and pushed off as if they were two pistons. He knew something about real-life fights. He knew that the good big man almost always beats the good little man. But he didn't care about winning. He cared about saving his wife. He just needed to do enough so that Olivia could get free.

  And Matt knew something else.

  Even the biggest, strongest men have the same vulnerable spots as the rest of us.

  Matt positioned his hand for a palm strike. He leaped up and smacked Dollinger in the heart of the groin. The big man made an oof noise and bent at the waist. He grabbed Matt on his way down. Matt tried to straighten. Dollinger was too big.

  Vulnerable spots, he thought. Hit the vulnerable spots.

  Matt reared back with his head. The skull landed on Dollinger's nose. Dollinger howled and stood up. Matt looked over at his wife.

  What the. . . ?

  Olivia had not run away. He couldn't believe it. She was still by Kimmy's side, working on her friend's leg, feverishly trying, he assumed, to stop the bleeding or something.

  "Get out!" he shouted.

  Dollinger had recovered. The gun was aimed at Matt now.

  From the other end of the trailer Loren Muse let out a cry and pounced on Dollinger's back. She reached around for his face. The big man pulled back, his nose and mouth covered with blood. He threw Loren off like a bucking bronco. She landed hard against the wall. Matt jumped up.

  Go for the vulnerable. . .

  He tried to get Dollinger's eyes and missed. His hand slipped down. They ended up on the big man's throat.

  Just like before.

  Just like all those years ago, on a college campus in Massachusetts, with a boy named Stephen McGrath.

  Matt didn't care.

  He squeezed hard. He put his thumb on the hollow of the throat. And he squeezed some more.

  Dollinger's eyes bulged. But his gun hand was free now. He raised his weapon toward Matt's head. Matt let go of the throat with one hand. He tried to deflect Dollinger's aim. The gun fired anyway. Something hot sliced into the flesh above Matt's hip.

  His leg went slack. His hand dropped off Dollinger's neck.

  Dollinger had the gun ready now. He looked into Matt's eyes and started to squeeze the trigger.

  A shot rang out.

  Dollinger's eyes bulged a little more. The bullet had hit his temple. The big man folded to the floor. Matt spun and looked at his wife.

  In her hand she had a small pistol. Matt crawled over to her. They looked down. Kimmy Dale wasn't bleeding from her leg. She was bleeding from a spot just above the elbow.

  "You remembered," Kimmy said.

  Olivia smiled.

  Matt said, "Remembered what?"

  "Like I told you," Olivia said, "Kimmy always kept a gun in her boot. It just took me a few seconds to dig it out. "

 
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