The Passage Page 29

They'd have to seal the level, Grey knew. That meant Davis would be stuck down here, too. As for what would happen to him, he didn't know. He didn't want to think about it. He wasn't really sick, he knew that much. But there was something wrong with him. He'd had bad dreams before, but nothing that ever made him puke.

"You're sure?" Davis pressed. "I mean, you'd tell me if there was something really wrong with you?"

Grey nodded. A drop of sweat slithered the length of his torso.

"Man, what a f**king day." Davis sighed resignedly. "All right, hang on." He tossed Grey the elevator key and freed his com from his belt. "Don't say I never did anything for you, okay?" He spoke into the mouthpiece. "This is the sentry on three? We need a relief worker-"

But Grey didn't stay to listen. He was already in the elevator, gone.

Chapter ELEVEN

Somewhere west of the town of Randall, Oklahoma, a few miles south of the Kansas border, Wolgast decided to surrender.

They were parked inside a car wash, off a rural blacktop the number of which he'd long forgotten. It was almost dawn; Amy was fast asleep, curled like a cub on the backseat of the Tahoe. Three hours of driving hard and fast, Doyle calling out a route he quickly assembled off the GPS, a line of lights flashing in the distance behind them, sometimes fading when they made a turn but always reassembling, picking up their trail. It was just after two A.M. when Wolgast had seen the car wash. He took a chance and pulled in. They'd sat in the dark and listened to the cruisers fly past.

"How long do you think we should wait?" Doyle asked. All his bluster had left him.

"A while," Wolgast said. "Let them put some distance between us."

"That'll just give them time to set up roadblocks at the state line. Or double back when they realize they've lost us."

"You have a better idea I'd like to hear it," Wolgast said.

Doyle thought a moment. The big scrub brushes hanging over the windshield made the space in the car seem closer. "Not really, no."

So they'd sat. At any second Wolgast expected the car wash to blaze with light, to hear the amplified voice of a state cop telling them to come out with their hands up. But this hadn't happened. They had a signal now, but it was analog and wouldn't encrypt, so there was no way to tell anyone where they were.

"Listen," Doyle said. "I'm sorry about what happened back there."

Wolgast was too tired to engage. The fair seemed like days ago. "Forget about it."

"You know, the thing is, I really liked my job. The Bureau, all of it. It's all I ever wanted to do." Doyle took a deep breath and fingered a bead of condensation on the passenger window. "What do you think's going to happen?"

"I don't know."

Doyle frowned acidly. "Yeah you do. That guy, Richards. You were right about him."

The windows of the car wash had begun to pale. Wolgast checked his watch; it was a little before six. They'd waited as long as they could. He turned the key to the Tahoe and backed out of the car wash.

Amy awoke then. She sat upright and rubbed her eyes, looking about. "I'm hungry," she announced.

Wolgast turned to Doyle. "How about it?"

Doyle hesitated; Wolgast could see the idea taking shape in his mind. He knew what he was really saying: it's over.

"Might as well."

Wolgast turned the Tahoe around and headed back in the direction they'd come, into the town of Randall. The main thoroughfare didn't amount to much, not more than a half dozen blocks long. An air of abandonment hung over the street; most of the windows were papered over or smeared with soap. Probably there was a Walmart not far away, Wolgast thought, or some other big store like that, the kind that wiped little towns like Randall right off the map. At the end of the block, a square of light spilled onto the sidewalk; a half dozen pickups were angled at the curb.

"Breakfast," he declared.

The restaurant was a single, narrow room with a drop ceiling stained by years of cigarette smoke and airborne grease. A long counter stood to one side, facing a line of padded, high-backed booths. The air smelled of boiled coffee and fried butter. A few men in jeans and workshirts were seated at the counter, their broad backs hunched over plates of eggs and cups of coffee. The three of them took a booth in the back. The waitress, a middle-aged woman, broad across the middle and with clear gray eyes, brought over coffee and menus.

"What can I get for you gentlemen?"

Doyle said he wasn't hungry and would stick to coffee. Wolgast looked up at the woman, who was wearing a name tag: LUANNE. "What's good, Luanne?"

"It's all good if you're hungry." She smiled noncommittally. "The grits aren't bad."

Wolgast nodded and passed his menu to her. "Sounds fine."

The woman looked at Amy. "For the little one? Whatcha want, honey?"

Amy lifted her eyes from the menu. "Pancakes?"

"And a glass of milk," Wolgast added.

"Coming right up," the woman said. "You'll like 'em, honey. Cook does them up special."

Amy had brought her backpack into the restaurant. Wolgast walked her back to the ladies' room to clean up. "You need me to come in with you?"

Amy shook her head.

"Wash your face and brush your teeth," he said. "And comb your hair, too."

"Are we still going to the doctor?"

"I don't think so. We'll see."

Wolgast returned to the table. "Listen," he said quietly to Doyle. "I don't want to drive into a roadblock. Something could go wrong."

Doyle nodded. The meaning was plain. All that firepower, anything could happen. Next thing you knew, the Tahoe was riddled with rounds and everyone was dead.

"What about the district office in Wichita?"

"Too far. I don't see how we could get there. And at this point, I'm thinking no one's going to say they ever heard of us. This is all off the books."

Doyle gazed down into his coffee cup. His face was drawn, defeated, and Wolgast experienced a blast of sympathy for him. None of this was what he'd bargained for.

"She's a good kid," Doyle said. He sighed hard through his nose. "Fuck."

"This will go better with the locals, I think. You decide what you want to do. I'll give you the keys if you want. I'm going to tell them everything I know. It's our best chance, I think."

"Her best chance, you mean." Doyle didn't say this accusingly; he was merely stating a fact.

"Yes. Her best chance."

Their food arrived as Amy returned from the restroom. The cook had done the pancakes up to look like a clown face, with whipped cream from a can and blueberries for the eyes and mouth. Amy poured syrup over all of it and dug in, alternating huge bites with gulps of milk. It was good to watch her eat.

Wolgast left the table when they were done and went back to the little hall off the restrooms. He didn't want to use his handheld, and it was back in the Tahoe in any event; he'd seen a pay phone back there, a relic. He dialed Lila's number in Denver, but the phone just rang and rang, and when it went to voice mail he couldn't think of what to say and hung up. If David got the message, he'd just erase it anyway.

When he returned to the table, the waitress was clearing away their plates. He took the check and stepped to the register to pay. "Is there a police station anywhere around here?" he asked the woman as he handed her the money. "Sheriff's office, something like that?"

"Three blocks down the way," she said, sliding his money into the register. "But you don't have to go that far." She slammed the drawer with a ka-ching. "Kirk over there's a sheriff's deputy. Ain't that right, Kirk?"

"Aw, leave off, Luanne. I'm eating."

Wolgast looked down the length of the counter. The man, Kirk, was poised over a plate of French toast. He had a jowly face and thick, weather-beaten hands and was dressed as a civilian, in snug Wranglers wedged under his belly and a grease-stained Carhartt jacket the color of burnt toast. A little town like this, probably he worked about three different jobs.

Wolgast stepped over to him. "I need to report a kidnapping," Wolgast said.

The man turned on his stool. He wiped his mouth on a napkin and looked at Wolgast incredulously. "What are you talking about?" His face was unshaven; his breath smelled of beer.

"See that girl over there? She's the one everyone is looking for. I'm guessing you saw something about it on the wire."

The man glanced over at Amy, then back at Wolgast. His eyes widened. "Shit. You're kidding. The one from over in Homer?"

"He's right," Luanne said brightly. She was pointing at Amy. "I saw it on the news. That's the girl. You're the one, ain't you, sweetheart?"

"I'll be damned." Kirk hoisted himself off his stool. The room had grown quiet; everyone was watching now. "Staties are looking for her all over. Where'd you find her?"

"We're the ones who took her, actually," Wolgast explained. "We're the kidnappers. I'm Special Agent Wolgast, that's Special Agent Doyle. Say hi, Phil."

Doyle waved listlessly from the booth. "Howdy."

"Special agents? You mean FBI?"

Wolgast withdrew his credentials and put them on the counter for Kirk to see. "It's hard to explain."

"And you took the girl."

Wolgast said so again. "We'd like to surrender to you, Deputy. As long as you're done with your breakfast."

Somebody, one of the other men at the counter, snickered.

"Oh, I'm done all right," Kirk said. He was still holding Wolgast's credentials, studying them like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. "I'll be dipped. Holy goddamn."

"Go on, Kirk," the other man said, and laughed. "Arrest them if that's what they want. You do remember how to do that, don't you?"

"Just hold the phone, Frank. I'm thinking." Kirk looked sheepishly at Wolgast. "Sorry, it's been a while. I mostly dig wells. Not much goes on around here, except a little drunk and disorderly, and half the time that's me. I don't even have handcuffs or nothing."

"That's all right," Wolgast said. "We can loan you some."

Wolgast told him to impound the Tahoe, but Kirk said he'd have to come back for it later. They surrendered their weapons and all piled into the cab of Kirk's pickup to drive the three blocks to town hall, a two-story brick building with a date, 1854, in large block letters set over the front door. The sun was up now, washing the town in a flat, muted light. As they stepped from the truck, Wolgast could hear birds singing from a stand of poplars that were just budding out. He felt a kind of airy happiness that he recognized as relief. On the drive over, pressed into the truck's cab, he'd held Amy on his lap. He knelt by her now and put his hands on her shoulders.

"Whatever this man tells you to do, I want you to do it, all right? He's going to put me in a cell, and probably I won't see you for a while."

"I want to stay with you," she said.

He saw her eyes had filmed with tears, and Wolgast felt a lump lodge in his throat. But he knew he was doing the right thing. The Oklahoma state police would swarm down on the place pretty fast once Kirk called in the collar, and Amy would be safe.

"I know," he said, and did his best to smile. "Everything's going to be okay now. I promise."

The sheriff's office was located in the basement. Kirk hadn't handcuffed them after all, seeing how cooperative they were being, and he walked them around the side of the building and led them down the steps into a low-ceilinged room with a couple of metal desks, a gun case full of shotguns, and banks of file cabinets pushed against the walls. The only illumination came from a couple of high windows, welled from the outside and clotted with old leaves. The office was empty; the woman who manned the phones didn't come in until eight o'clock, Kirk explained, turning on the lights. As for the sheriff, who knew where he was. Probably out driving around someplace.

"To tell you the truth," Kirk said, "I'm not even sure I'd book you right. I better try to get him on the radio."

He asked Wolgast and Doyle if they'd mind waiting in a cell. They had only the one, and it was mostly full of cardboard boxes, but there was room enough for the two of them. Wolgast said that would be fine. Kirk took them back to the cell, unlocked the door, and Wolgast and Doyle stepped inside.

"I want to go into the cell too," Amy said.

Kirk frowned in disbelief. "This is the strangest kidnapping I ever heard of."

"It's fine," Wolgast said. "She can wait with me."

Kirk considered this a moment. "Okay, I guess. At least until my brother-in-law gets here."

"Who's your brother-in-law?"

"John Price," he said. "He's the sheriff."

Kirk got on the radio, and ten minutes later a man in a tight-fitting khaki uniform came striding through the door to the office and marched straight back to the cell. He was small, with a boy's slenderly muscled frame, and he stood not more than five foot four, even on the heels of his cowboy boots, which looked to Wolgast like they were something fancy-lizard maybe, or ostrich. He probably wore the boots to give him a little extra height.

"Well, holy crap," he said in a surprisingly deep voice. He was looking them over with his hands on his hips. There was a little bit of paper on his chin where he'd cut himself, shaving in a hurry. "You guys are feds?"

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