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CHAPTER 38

The grounds of Tuscany are dark. I parked my mother's shot-up Maxima at a gas station a quarter mile up the road from Tuscany's gate, then got into Livy's Fiat for the ride to the estate. As we approached the gate, she took a remote control from her purse, touched a button, and the barred fence slid back into itself. That was twenty seconds ago. We should have seen the lights of the mansion well before now.

"Livy-"

"I know. I've never seen it like this. The floodlights are always on."

"I told you he was scared of Presley."

"Look," she says, pointing at a dim light high in the trees. "They're on the third floor. Mother's room."

I close my hand around the butt of the gun in my waistband. Ike's gun.

A thin beam of light slices through the darkness and comes to rest on the windshield of Livy's car. I start to pull the gun, but then our headlights sweep across a black police uniform.

Livy slows to a stop.

The cop walks around to her window and shines his light onto her chest, sparing her the direct glare of the beam.

"Evening, Miss Marston. Everything okay?"

"Yes. My friend and I are going in for a drink. Have you seen anything suspicious?"

"No, ma'am. Not a thing."

"Why are all the lights off?"

"Your daddy said he didn't want nobody taking potshots through the windows."

"I see."

"Don't you worry. Billy and me are on the job."

"I feel so much better knowing that." She gives him a synthetic smile, then rolls up her window and drives on.

Tuscany materializes suddenly, like a spectral palace in the moonlight, ringed by towering oaks and dark magnolias. Livy pulls around to the back of the mansion and parks in a small garage.

"There's a new entrance here," she says. "To the pantry."

She unlocks the door, then takes my hand and leads me quickly through the enormous house: pantry, kitchen, breakfast room, parlor, living room. The interior is shrouded in darkness, but the sense of space, of high ceilings and broad doorways, communicates itself through the sound of our footsteps and the way the air moves. Livy stops me by putting her hand against my chest, then opens a door, peeks inside, and pulls me through.

Leo's private study looks as though it had been surgically removed from an English manor house, shipped to America, and meticulously reconstructed inside Tuscany. The paneling alone must be worth a hundred thousand dollars. Livy sets her purse on the desk and points to a Bokara rug on the floor before it.

"There."

There's a club chair sitting on the rug. As I start to move it, she takes my arm and looks into my eyes. "Remember your promise."

"Have you known your whole life that your father was a crook?"

She gives me a look of disdain. "My father made a science of walking the line between what's legal and what's not. So have a lot of other businessmen. That's the way you get rich."

"Like those adoptions?" I say softly. "Let's not forget why we're here."

"You're so damned self-righteous. You must have cut a few corners in a decade of practicing law."

"I was a prosecutor, Livy. I stayed on the right side of that line you're talking about."

"You never conveniently misplaced a piece of exculpatory evidence to keep it from the defense?"

"Never."

"I suppose you never cheated on your wife either."

"Sorry. Why don't we look at those files?"

She studies me a moment more, then drops her hand and pulls the club chair off the Bokara. I roll up the rug and prop it against Leo's desk.

Where the rug had lain, discolored floorboards outline a trapdoor three feet square. Livy goes to the desk and brings back a small metal handle with a hook on one end. Kneeling, she slips the hook into an aperture I cannot see and folds back the trapdoor, exposing the steel door of a floor safe.

She bends over the combination lock, thinks for a moment, then spins it left, right, and left again. "He hasn't changed the combination in years," she says, getting to her feet.

I crouch to turn the heavy handle of the safe, but the butt of Ike's gun digs into my stomach. After setting it on the desk beside Livy's purse, I get down on my knees, turn the handle, and pull open the heavy door.

Inside is a hoard of velvet-covered jewelry boxes, stock certificates, cash, gold coins, manila envelopes, and computer disks. Nine square feet of paydirt.

"How much time do we have?" I ask, reaching for the manila envelopes.

"Maybe five minutes. Maybe all night."

"Maybe you should go upstairs and talk to your parents. Then I could be sure-"

"I'm staying here."

The envelopes are thick and marked with handwritten labels. The handwriting is Leo's. After wading through the mountain of discovery material, I recognize it as easily as my own. One label reads: fedtax '94/NOT to be shown at audit. Another: third-party holdings (land). A third reads:

GRAND CAYMAN TRUST ACCOUNT.

"That's got nothing to do with Del Payton," Livy says over my shoulder.

Maybe not. But it could probably put Leo Marston in jail for a few years, and cost him a considerable portion of his fortune. Reluctantly I set these envelopes aside and continue searching. There are more offshore accounts, records of hidden shares in oil fields, a dozen other ventures. I am about to abandon the files for the computer disks when a label jumps out at me as though written in neon. It says only: edgar.

Inside this folder is a thick sheaf of personal letters, all signed Yours, Edgar. The first begins, Dear Leo, In the matter of the Nixon funds, please be assured that I consider your work in this area to be exemplary, and also a direct favor to me. He has his idiosyncrasies, yes, but he is a sound man, and we understand each other. The possibility of a Muskie or McGovern in the White House cannot be contemplated for one moment-

The woodwind oomph of a wine bottle being uncorked draws my gaze away from the safe. Livy has taken a bottle of red from Leo's cherrywood bar and opened it with a silver corkscrew.

"Pretend it's our lost bottle," she says in a cynical voice.

She takes two Waterford goblets from the bar and fills them to the rim, then lifts one to her lips. She drinks a long swallow and passes it to me. Her upper lip is stained red, but she doesn't wipe it. She simply watches me drink. I can't read anything in her expression. The wine is tart on my tongue, acidic. She takes back the glass, drains it, then sets it beside the bottle and lifts the second glass to her lips. Half the wine disappears in three swallows.

She is more upset than I thought.

I turn back to the safe and flip quickly through the Hoover letters, searching for any mention of Del Payton, John Portman, or Dwight Stone. Most of the letters date from the seventies, after the secret relationship was well established, and deal with political matters.

"Is there a computer in here?" I ask, glancing at the 3.5-inch floppies.

"There's a PowerBook in the bottom drawer of the desk."

I'm reaching for the disks when Livy's wineglass shatters on the floor beside me.

"Someone's coming!"

As quickly as I can, I slide the manila envelopes back into the safe-all but the Edgar file-and shut the steel door.

"The rug!" she hisses.

While I unroll the rug, Livy shuts the trapdoor and jumps clear. I slide the rug into place just as someone begins jerking at the doorknob.

"Who's in there?" says a muffled voice.

It's Leo.

Livy thumps the envelope in my hands. "If you want that file, you'd better do something with it. Quick."

Leo bangs on the door. "Who's in there?"

"It's me, Daddy. I'm coming."

Unbuckling my belt, I shove the envelope down the back of my pants, retuck my shirt over it, then zip up and rebuckle the belt. As I do this, Livy unbuttons the top three buttons of her blouse and musses her hair.

"Let's make it look real," she says, and pulls my face to hers. Her kiss is passionate, desperate even, fueled by anger and wine and God knows what else. In the few seconds that it lasts, it flushes my face and brings sweat to my skin. My senses are still buzzing when she walks to the door and unlocks it.

"What are you doing in here with the door locked?" Leo asks.

"I'm not alone."

He pushes his six-foot-four-inch frame through the door and swings his head around to me. His hard features go slack with amazement.

"What the hell's going on here?"

"Penn and I were talking."

"Talking." Leo is still wearing a suit, though he has untied his necktie. "Button that blouse, Olivia."

Livy does not button the blouse. She steps away from her father, leaving no obstacle between him and me.

"I can't believe you brought this bastard into our house," he says, his eyes locked on mine. "I want an explanation."

"Make one up. Anything you like."

Her defiant tone draws Leo's gaze away from me for a moment. "Don't take that tone of voice with me, young lady."

"I'll take whatever tone I please."

Leo looks off balance. Livy is not playing the role of favorite daughter. "What's going on here?" he asks. "What's Cage been telling you?"

"What could he tell me? Have you been keeping things from me?"

"Of course not."

"No?" She reaches into her blouse and brings out the scrap of legal paper, which she unfolds and hands to him without a word.

Leo stares at it for several seconds, then looks up blankly. "What's this?"

"Think about it," she says, her arms folded over her chest.

His face shows only confusion. He looks like he might have had a couple of drinks since receiving the warning about Presley. "Why don't you save me the trouble?"

"The adoption," Livy says in a dead voice.

"Your adoption?"

"Yes."

"What about it?"

"You took money for it?"

Leo shrugs. "So?"

"Thirty-five thousand dollars?"

"That paid a full year of your tuition at UVA."

Her mouth falls open. "Paid you sold my baby to pay my college tuition?"

" 'My' baby?" Leo's face softens as he senses the hurt in his daughter. "Honey, you didn't want that child. I tried to get you to terminate the pregnancy, but you were against it. Given that adoption was your choice, I don't see what's wrong with-"

"Selling your own flesh and blood?" Her eyes are blazing now. "Like you needed the fucking money?"

"Profanity doesn't become you, Olivia."

"Profanity? Try obscenity. Selling my misery for money. That's about as obscene as it gets. I was just another profit-loss entry, I guess. Offset the liability of college tuition with the asset of unwanted babies. What the hell, right?"

Leo reaches out to her. "Honey-"

"Don't even try to justify it," she says coldly, backing away.

His look of sympathy evaporates. "I don't have to justify anything. You made a mess, I cleaned it up. It was the only big one you ever made, but it damn sure ruined most of what came after." He swings back to me. "Thanks to this punk."

"Leave me out of this," I tell him. "You've had the wrong idea about me for twenty years."

"How so?"

Livy looks at me and shakes her head.

"Ask her."

"Livy?"

"I don't know what he's talking about."

Leo's eyes roam over the study, taking in the wine bottle on the bar, his bookshelves, and finally the desk, where his gaze settles on the Sig-Sauer lying beside Livy's purse. He is nearer the gun than I, and he knows I'm thinking that.

"It was you who said Ray Presley was coming here to kill me, wasn't it, Cage?"

"That's right. I was doing you a favor."

"I think you were lying." He stabs a finger in my direction. "I think you broke in here looking for some kind of evidence. And I think I'd be within my rights to blow your goddamn head off."

He picks up the Sig-Sauer, cycles the slide, and walks around the desk.

"Presley killed Ike Ransom tonight," I say quickly. "He tried to kill me, but I got clear by sending him after you. I told him you gave him up to the FBI as part of your deal with Hoover."

Something twitches in Leo's cheek. "You're still lying. You're using my daughter to try and get at me." He turns to Livy. "The trial's tomorrow, and he's desperate. He's using you."

A dark light shines in Livy's eyes. "The way you used me against him?"

Leo isn't much of an actor; his feigned surprise is almost comical.

"Once I got here," she says, "I realized why you'd asked me to come. What you wanted me to do. The sad thing is, I wanted to do it. I thought Penn could wipe away all the mistakes I'd made. I thought his wife's death was fate. That we were being given a second chance."

"That's only natural," Leo says in a soothing voice. "But he took advantage of you, honey. What did he ask you to do for him?"

"Nothing. He loves me. He always has." Her smile is full of irony and self-disgust. "And he has more integrity than both of us put together."

Leo snorts. "Spare me the wine and roses. Did you have to bring him here? Couldn't you have checked into a motel?"

"The way you always did?"

"Olivia-"

"Don't say anything. Just go back to your room. Go upstairs and take care of Mother. Better late than never."

Instead of walking to the door, Leo gives me the superior stare I've received in the private chambers of a dozen judges. "The trial's tomorrow," he says in a peremptory voice. "I'm going to give you one last opportunity to save face, and to help this town. Call your little tart at the newspaper and get her to print a public apology for the remarks you made about me. A full apology from you, and a retraction from the paper. If that's printed tomorrow I'll dismiss the suit."

His offer leaves me dumbfounded. There can be only one reason for it. He's running scared.

"I don't see your lips moving," Leo says. "You'd better jump while you can. The offer's good for sixty seconds."

"Dwight Stone is alive," I think aloud. "And neither you nor Portman can find him."

His face remains impassive. "Fifty seconds."

A wicked elation flows through me. "You can stick that offer right up your ass. Tomorrow-"

All of us turn at the sound of the door.

Ray Presley is standing in the study, aiming a revolver at Leo's chest. It looks like a.357 Magnum. He's abandoned his pajamas in favor of Levis, Redwing boots, and a black western shirt. Only the John Deere cap remains the same. The vulpine eyes burn from beneath its bill just as they did the day I bought my father's.38 back from him.

"Evening, Judge," he says.

Presley looks like he's lost ten pounds since I saw him last. He's still ropy and tough, but he seems diminished somehow. Imagining him raping Livy is almost beyond me, he looks so much older than she now. Yet Livy has backed against the wall opposite me like a frightened girl, like she's trying to become her own shadow.

"I'm not armed, Ray, " Leo says from behind his desk, but I see that he's holding Ike's Sig-Sauer behind him.

"Throw that Sig on the floor, Judge," Presley says like a chiding parent. "I saw it in your hand when I came in."

Marston knows better than to try to raise the gun and fire before Ray can pull his trigger. He tosses Ike's gun onto the floor at Presley's feet.

"I saw the boys outside too," Presley says, his voice almost friendly. "You knew I was coming, didn't you?"

"Ray-"

"Anybody makes a move, it's their last," Presley says, glancing at me. "I hit what I aim at."

"Like Ike Ransom?" I say.

He smiles. "That nigger talk any before he died?"

"Enough."

"You lookin' to get killed too, college boy?"

"Fuck you, Ray."

The smile disappears. "I came here to kill one, but I can kill three just as easy and damn near as quick." He motions toward Livy and me. "You two come here. Stay right in front of me, backs to me."

I move slowly, gauging my chances of getting to Livy's purse-and gun- before Ray shoots me. Less than zero at this point. But if I can get closer

Livy and I stand shoulder to shoulder, facing Leo across the desk, with Presley behind us. Presley's hand pats its way up my legs, around my waist, up my torso.

"Don't you touch me," Livy says in a voice that could freeze alcohol.

But he must have touched her, because she suddenly spins into his gun and slaps him hard enough to rock him back on his heels.

"Livy!" shouts Leo. "Don't be stupid!"

Presley's harsh laugh fills the room as Livy backs away from him, panting with outrage. If she grabs for her purse, I'll have to stop her. Presley might endure a slap with a laugh, but he'll recognize a lunge for a gun.

"Ray?" Leo says in a careful voice. "This boy's got nothing on us. He can't connect us to Del."

A snort from Presley. "He can't connect you. But he's got me nailed down tight as a tick. Don't make no never mind, though. This visit's got nothing to do with that dead nigger. This is about you and me, Judge."

Leo affects puzzlement. "I don't understand, Raymond."

Presley jerks up his gun at this use of his Christian name, what must once have been a gesture of friendship. "Yes, you do. You gave me up to the Feds while you kept raking in the money. You made me your goddamn scapegoat."

Marston's eyes flick toward me, not in anger, but with purpose in them. He's prodding me to think. Leo is first and foremost a survivor, and he intends to live through this. If that means a short-term alliance with me to neutralize the most immediate threat, he won't hesitate.

"Nobody in this room but me knows what five years of prison means," Presley says. "Five years I'll never get back. And I need them years now. You got to pay for 'em, Judge." He fingers the trigger of his gun, raises his aim to Leo's head. "And there ain't but one way to do it."

Marston remains calm. "Ray, you shot at those FBI boys on your own hook. Hoover demanded a price, and you were it. Cost of doing business, son. You understand that. You were sentenced to seven years, and I got you out in five. It cost me to do that. You want to kill me for it?"

Presley's chin quivers with rage, and the gun trembles in his hand. "It cost you? You could pass out half a million bucks and you wouldn't feel it. You'd make it back in a couple of months. But time? You don't never get that back. Make your peace with the Lord, Judge. And be quick."

"Ray!" I shout, trying to hold his attention. "If you shoot him, you'll spend every hour you have left behind bars."

Presley laughs. "If I stick around to get arrested. Which I ain't. Tomorrow night I'll be in Mexico, and nobody in this world can stop me getting there. I know ways in and out that the wets ain't even thought of."

"I can see why you'd want to shoot him," I go on. "I'd like to shoot him myself. But the way I figure it, you two are already square."

He gives me an uncertain look. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, I just found out what you did to him in seventy-eight."

"What you talking about?"

I nod at Livy. "Well, to her, I mean. That's the same as to him, isn't it? It damn sure gives him the right to shoot you, if anything gives a man that right."

"Shut up," Livy hisses.

Presley starts to turn the gun on me, but he steadies himself and holds it on Marston.

"What's that, Cage?" Leo asks. "What are you talking about?"

"Tell him, Ray." Keep tapping on the pressure point.

Presley takes a step closer to Marston, but he doesn't fire. I think he wants Marston to know the truth before he dies.

"Do you know a girl named Jenny Doe?" I ask Leo.

"Please," Livy begs.

"I've met her," Leo says.

"Do you know who her father is?"

His eyes flash with anger. "You are, you pissant."

"Sorry, Judge. I never knew that girl existed, and I am most definitely not her father."

"Then who is?"

"The man holding the gun on you."

Leo blinks three times quickly. Livy has gone white. But Presley's face is a strange mix of wonder and defiance. He obviously knew nothing about Jenny Doe until this moment.

"You and me got a kid?" he says, his eyes on Livy.

"Olivia?" Leo says quietly.

"Tell him, Livy," I urge her.

"He raped me," she says simply. "When I was eighteen, Ray raped me three times one night and got me pregnant."

"That's a goddamn lie!" Presley bellows. "She give it to me, Judge. Teasing me with it all the time, passing around like a bitch in heat, grabbing my privates. She told me she wanted it that night."

"Livy?" Leo says again.

The mere fact that he's asking tells me Leo believes Presley's story could be true. Livy knows this too. Her lips are pressed tightly together, her nostrils flared. She stares into the middle distance for a few moments, alone with her demons. Then she looks at her father with absolute sincerity.

"He raped me, Daddy. I should have told you when it happened, but I was too afraid. He told me he would kill Mother if I did. All these years I let you think Penn was the father. He wasn't. It was him."

Leo's face goes through a dozen different emotions, only a small number of them readable. But the one that finally settles in his features is rage. Pure, unalloyed rage. This is the natural reaction of any father, but there is more here. Ray Presley served Leo for more than thirty years, performing deeds too dirty for his master to soil his hands with. But whatever bond this forged between them, Presley was always a servant. A hired man. The realization that he transgressed this class boundary-trespassed into the very flesh of the Marston family line-probably offends Leo more than the act of rape itself. His jaw muscles are working with enough force to grind his teeth to nubs if he keeps it up, and his blue-gray eyes burn with a fearsome light.

"You white-trash bastard," he says, each word dripping with contempt. "You touched my little girl? I'll snap your neck like a stick."

Presley shakes his gun in front of him like a man waving a crucifix before a vampire.

"You're the one, goddamn it! Ratting me out after all I did for you? So I fucked your slut daughter. You think I was the first? She handed it out like candy in school, and God knows what she did after she left this town. Like father, like daughter, I guess."

To my surprise, Leo does not explode at this but instead seems to calm down. He drops his hands to his desk drawer. "How much will it take to buy you off, Ray? To make you go to Mexico and never come back?"

"More than you got, Judge."

"I've got a lot."

"That's the Lord's truth. But you ain't got enough to buy your life. Not this time."

Leo reaches into the drawer and feels around inside. His mouth goes slack.

Presley smiles darkly and takes a step forward. "What you lookin' for, Judge? You lose something?"

Leo freezes, his hand still in the drawer. His face has lost all color. It's the face of an animal, a predator backed into a corner by a larger one.

Presley reaches into his pocket with his left hand and removes the derringer Leo pulled on me the day Kelly backed him down. "You're too predictable, Judge." He points the derringer at Livy, who's standing to his left, and straightens the arm, pointing the.357 at Leo's head.

He means to shoot.

I have only one weapon to hand, the half-empty wine bottle on the bar behind me. Presley's attention is divided between what he perceives as the most immediate threats. He probably figures I won't even mind him shooting Leo. Visualizing the bottle as I saw it last, I reach back with my right hand, relaxing my fingers so that I won't knock it off the bar by mistake.

My fingertips touch cool glass.

I close my hand around the neck of the bottle. Now it's a matter of peripheral vision. If Presley would glance at Livy again, I could swing without him seeing the bottle until it's too late. Focusing on Livy, I concentrate the full power of my will on communicating to her what I need. Her eyes search mine, trying to read my thoughts. As she stares, I incline my head very slightly toward Ray.

Presley cocks the hammer of his.357, and Leo at last gives in to terror. "Ray, I'm begging you. Please don't do it."

Presley wrinkles his lips in disgust.

Livy says, "Our daughter looks just like you, Ray."

Presley's profile vanishes as he looks toward her, and in a single fluid motion I swing the bottle in a sweeping arc that terminates at the base of his skull. The impact of the heavy glass club slams him forward, and he falls over the front of the desk.

Somehow he still has both pistols in his hands. I leap forward and hammer at his head with both fists, thinking of Livy lying under him with her dress stuffed down her throat. As I flail away, I see Leo's huge hands take hold of Presley's IV-scarred wrists and pin them to the desktop like brittle sticks.

Presley pulls the trigger of the derringer.

Leo flinches as though stung by a hornet, but he looks less hurt than pissed off. He rakes a huge right hand down Presley's left wrist, stripping the derringer from the smaller hand and tossing it on the floor. With his other hand he yanks the.357 out of Presley's right, which is still pinned to the desk.

Presley tries to raise himself off the desk, but all my weight is on him.

Leo presses the.357 to Presley's forehead.

"Let him go, Cage."

I smack Presley once more for good measure, then heave myself off him. Despite the blows to his head, he straightens up, like a punch-drunk boxer who can remember only one thing: stay on your feet.

Leo pulls open his jacket long enough to reveal a bloodstain on the right side of his shirt, but he doesn't examine the wound any more closely than that. "This creates a problem," he says, the anger gone from his voice. Already he is computing the calculus of how Ray's actions will affect tomorrow's trial. "Cage, you and I should try to-"

He stops at the sound of Livy's voice. I'm not sure, but I think she said, "Ray? " in the intimate voice of a lover. She must have, because Presley turns from the desk to the sound of her voice, his eyes glassy but still curious.

"I wanted you to see this," she tells him.

Then she brings up Ike's Sig-Sauer and shoots him in the chest.

Ray sits down on Leo's desk as though he has decided to have a think there. Then his eyes bulge as he looks down at the red river flowing from his upper chest with a depressingly regular rhythm.

Livy stands with the automatic held stiffly before her, smoke drifting from its barrel, exactly the way it looks in old westerns. She doesn't look the slightest bit upset. She seems, in fact, to be contemplating a second shot. Before she can fire again, I jump in front of her and grab her wrist. She doesn't resist as I pull the gun from her hand.

"Lock the door, Cage," Leo orders from behind his desk. "Hurry."

I obey without hesitation, though I'm not sure why.

"The guards will be here any second," he says. "/ shot Ray. Do you understand? He broke in, tried to kill me, and I shot him." Leo's eyes are full of paternal concern. "Will you back me up?"

"Are you kidding? You can't lie about something like this. Not these days."

His eyes glow with hypnotic intensity. "Listen to me, Cage. We can tear each other to pieces at trial tomorrow. But if you've ever cared for my daughter, help me protect her now."

"You can't pull it off. Not nowadays. There are nitrate tests a hundred things." I look at Ray, who, despite horrific blood loss, is still sitting on the desk. "Besides, he's still alive."

Leo walks around his desk and takes the Sig-Sauer from my hand. Before I can ask what he means to do, he backs three feet away from Ray, aims at his head, and blows his brains out. Presley flips backward over the desk and lands with his head in the corner.

"Now he's dead," Leo says, giving me a look so matter-of-fact that it makes a psycho like Arthur Lee Hanratty look like a Cub Scout. "So much for your nitrate tests."

The study door shudders under a sudden barrage of rapping.

"Judge Marston!" shouts a male voice. "Judge! Are you all right?"

"Cage?" Leo asks calmly, the Sig-Sauer still in his hand. "Are we agreed?"

I look at Livy, who seems to be undergoing some sort of delayed shock reaction. Then at Ray Presley, the man who engineered the murder of Del Payton and the living death of Ike Ransom who killed Ike in the end and probably killed Ruby Flowers. Who raped the girl I loved at eighteen, dooming us to lose each other forever.

"Agreed," I say softly.

The off-duty cops are still rapping and yelling at the door. Leo crosses the study, opens it, and waves the officers in. Two uniforms step into the room, guns drawn.

"You're a little late, boys," Leo says, pointing at the body behind the desk. "He got past you."

The cops gape at the corpse on the floor. Without his John Deere cap Presley looks like a hundred-year-old man with three eyes.

"Goddamn," says one of the cops in an awed voice. "Ain't that Ray Presley?"

"I'll be damned if it ain't," says his partner. "You were right, Judge."

"It's a good thing I was ready for him," Leo says. "He got off a shot, hit me in the gristle. But I nailed him. You'd better call the chief, Billy, so we can get this mess straightened out. I've got to be in court tomorrow."

The cop called Billy starts around the desk to examine Ray more closely, but Leo says: "Why don't you use the hall phone?"

Billy stops. "Sure thing, Judge."

"When you're done talking to the chief, y'all come back and drag this piece of trash out of here for me."

Billy bites his lip. "Well it's a crime scene, Judge. We can't move anything. You know that."

"It's more of a crime to have this bastard bleeding all over my Bokara rug."

"Um," says Billy's partner, the one who stopped Livy and me outside. "Is your daughter okay?"

"She's fine," says Leo, though Livy is standing like a statue near the door. "A little squeamish. All the blood, you know."

An absurd laugh escapes my lips. Livy is about as squeamish as a fur trapper.

After Billy and his partner leave the study, Leo walks back behind his desk and sits in his chair. "Penn," he says, using my Christian name for the first time in two decades. "I was wrong to blame you all those years for what happened to Livy. I see that now."

"That's why you went after my father?" I ask, making sure. "Because of me?"

He nods. "I was wrong to do that too. It's a hard thing to accept after all this time. I guess Livy bears the ultimate responsibility." He gives me a fatherly look. "You call your girl at the newspaper and tell her to run that apology. We'll end this thing like gentlemen, and save the town a hell of a lot of misery."

"I might do that," I say quietly. "If you were a gentleman."

His eyes narrow.

"But since you're an amoral, hypocritical, heartless bastard, I won't. Tomorrow you're going to be indicted for capital murder in the death of Del Payton."

I turn away from him and walk toward the door.

"Goodbye," I say, touching Livy's hand. "Don't think twice about Presley. You did the world a favor. I'll tell it just the way your dad wants it." I squeeze her hand, then pause and kiss her lightly on the cheek.

She says nothing at first, but as I move away she says, "Penn, I can't let you take that file."

"What?" Leo says, his voice instantly alive with suspicion. "What file?"

"I showed him your safe. I was angry. Penn, please give me the envelope. I can't help you destroy my father. Not like that. Not after all that's happened."

I reach for the doorknob, wondering how far she'll go to stop me.

"She won't shoot you, Cage. But I will."

I don't know if he'd shoot me in the back or not. But I have a daughter waiting for me at home. And I will not bet our future on the honor of Leonidas Marston.

Turning to face him, I untuck my shirt, slip the Hoover file out of my pants, and toss it toward him. There's a flutter of papers as the letters scatter across the desk and floor. I start to leave, but then I bend down and lift the fallen wine bottle from the Bokara. It survived the impact with Presley's skull, though most of the wine has spilled out. Glancing back at Livy, I invert the bottle and pour the remaining wine onto the desk, splashing the red fluid across Hoover's personal missives to Leo.

"Pretend it's our lost bottle," I tell her. "You two were made for each other."

I reach for the brass knob, open the door, and walk out into the hall. The last thing I hear is Leo's voice floating after me:

"See you in court."


CHAPTER 37 | The Quiet Game | CHAPTER 39