Tell no one, p.46
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       Tell No One, p.46

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 45

  We turned off the highway and headed into the rural. The number of streetlights dwindled until the only illumination came from the car's headlights. Hoyt reached into the backseat and pulled out a manila envelope.

  "I have it here, Beck. All of it. "

  "All of what?"

  "What your father had on Brandon. What Elizabeth had on Brandon. "

  I was puzzled for a second. He'd had it with him the whole time. And then I wondered. The car. Why had Hoyt gone to the car?

  "Where are the copies?" I asked.

  He grinned as though happy I had asked. "There aren't any. It's all here. "

  "I still don't understand. "

  "You will, David. I'm sorry, but you're my fall guy now. It's the only way. "

  "Scope won't buy it," I said.

  "Yeah, he will. Like you said, I've worked for him a long time. I know what he wants to hear. Tonight it ends. "

  "With my death?" I asked.

  He didn't reply.

  "How are you going to explain it to Elizabeth?"

  "She might end up hating me," he said. "But at least she'll be alive. "

  Up ahead, I could see the estate's gated back entrance. Endgame, I thought. The uniformed security guard waved us through. Hoyt kept the gun on me. We started up the drive and then, without warning, Hoyt slammed on the brake.

  He spun toward me. "You wearing a wire, Beck?"

  "What? No. "

  "Bullshit, let me see. " He reached for my chest. I leaned away. He lifted the gun higher, closed the gap between us, and then started patting me down. Satisfied, he sat back.

  "You're lucky," he said with a sneer.

  He shifted back into drive. Even in the dark, you could get a feel for the lushness of the grounds. Trees stood silhouetted against the moon, swaying even though there seemed to be no wind. In the distance, I saw a burst of lights. Hoyt followed the road toward them. A faded gray sign told us we'd arrived at the Freedom Trails Stables. We parked in the first spot on the left. I looked out the window. I don't know much about the housing of horses, but this sprawl was impressive. There was one hangar shaped building large enough to house a dozen tennis courts. The stables themselves were V-shaped and stretched as far as I could see. There was a sprouting fountain in the middle of the grounds. There were tracks and jumps and obstacle courses.

  They were also men waiting for us.

  With the weapon still on me, Hoyt said, "Get out. "

  I did. When I closed the door, the slam echoed in the stillness. Hoyt came around to my side of the car and jammed the gun into the small of my back. The smells brought on a quick spell of 4H fair deja vu. But when I saw the four men in front of me, two of whom I recognized, the image fled.

  The other two - the two I had never seen before - were both armed with some sort of semiautomatic rifle. They pointed them at us. I barely shuddered. I guess that I was getting used to weapons aimed in my direction. One of the men stood on the far right near the stable entrance. The other was leaning against a car on the left.

  The two men I had recognized were huddled together under a light. One was Larry Gandle. The other was Griffin Scope. Hoyt nudged me forward with the gun. As we moved toward them, I saw the door to the big building open.

  Eric Wu stepped out.

  My heart thumped against my rib cage. I could hear my breath in my ears. My legs tingled. I might be immune to weapon intimidation, but my body remembered Wu's fingers. I involuntarily slowed a step. Wu hardly glanced at me. He walked straight to Griffin Scope and handed him something.

  Hoyt made me stop when we were still a dozen yards away. "Good news," he called out.

  All eyes turned to Griffin Scope. I knew the man, of course. I was, after all, the son of an old friend and the brother of a trusted employee. Like most everyone else, I'd been in awe of the burly man with the twinkle in his eye. He was the guy you wanted to notice you - a back-slap buy-you-a-drink compadre who had the rare ability to walk the tightrope between friend and employer. It was a mix that rarely worked. The boss either lost respect when he became a friend, or the friend was resented when he suddenly had to be the boss. That wasn't a problem for a dynamo like Griffin Scope. He'd always known how to lead.

  Griffin Scope looked puzzled. "Good news, Hoyt?"

  Hoyt tried a smile. "Very good news, I think. "

  "Wonderful," Scope said. He glanced at Wu. Wu nodded but stayed where he was. Scope said, "So tell me this good news, Hoyt. I'm all atwitter. "

  Hoyt cleared his throat. "First of all, you have to understand. I never meant to harm you. In fact, I went to great lengths to make sure nothing incriminating ever got out. But I also needed to save my daughter. You can understand that, can't you?"

  A shadow flickered across Scope's face. "Do I understand the desire to protect a child?" he asked, his voice a quiet rumble. "Yes, Hoyt, I think I do. "

  A horse neighed in the distance. All else was silence. Hoyt licked his lips and held up the manila envelope.

  "What's that, Hoyt?"

  "Everything," he replied. "Photographs, statements, tapes. Everything that my daughter and Stephen Beck had on your son. "

  "Are there copies?"

  "Only one," Hoyt said.

  "Where?"

  "In a safe place. An attorney has it. If I don't call him in an hour and give him the code, he releases them. I don't mean this as a threat, Mr. Scope. I would never reveal what I know. I have as much to lose as anyone. "

  "Yes," Scope said. "You do at that. "

  "But now you can leave us alone. You have it all. I'll send the rest. There is no need to hurt me or my family. "

  Griffin Scope looked at Larry Gandle, then at Eric Wu. The two perimeter men with the weapons seemed to tense. "What about my son, Hoyt? Someone shot him down like a dog. Do you expect me to just let that go?"

  "That's just it," Hoyt said. "Elizabeth didn't do it. "

  Scope narrowed his eyes in what was supposed to be profound interest, but I thought I saw something else there, something akin to bemusement. "Pray tell," he said. "Then who did?"

  I heard Hoyt swallow hard. He turned and looked at me. "David Beck. "

  I wasn't surprised. I wasn't angry either.

  "He killed your son," he continued quickly. "He found out what was going on and he took vengeance. "

  Scope made a production of gasping and putting his hand on his chest. Then he finally looked at me. Wu and Gandle turned my way too. Scope met my eyes and said, "What do you have to say in your defense, Dr. Beck?"

  I thought about it. "Would it do any good to tell you he's lying?"

  Scope didn't reply to me directly. He turned to Wu and said, "Please bring me that envelope. "

  Wu had the walk of a panther. He headed toward us, smiling at me, and I felt a few of my muscles contract instinctively. He stopped in front of Hoyt and put out his hand. Hoyt handed him the envelope. Wu took the envelope with one hand. With the other - I've never seen anyone move so fast - he snatched away Hoyt's gun as though from a child, and tossed it behind him.

  Hoyt said, "What the-?"

  Wu punched him deep in the solar plexus. Hoyt fell to his knees. We all stood and watched as he dropped to all fours, retching. Wu circled, took his time, and placed his kick squarely on Hoyt's rib cage. I heard something snap. Hoyt rolled onto his back, blinking, his arms and legs splayed.

  Griffin Scope approached, smiling down at my father-in-law. Then he held up something in the air. I squinted. It was small and black.

  Hoyt looked up, spitting out blood. "I don't understand," he managed.

  I could see what was in Scope's hand now. It was a microcassette player. Scope pressed the play button. I heard first my own voice, then Hoyt's:

  "Elizabeth didn't kill Brandon Scope. "

  "I know. I did. "

  Scope snapped off the tape recorder. Nobody spoke. Scope glared down at my father-in-law. As he did, I realized a number of things. I realized that if H
oyt Parker knew that his house was bugged, he'd also know that it was more than likely that the same would be true of his car. That was why he left the house when he spotted us in the backyard. That was why he waited for me in the car. That was why he interrupted me when I said that Elizabeth didn't kill Brandon Scope. That was why he confessed to the murder in a place where he knew they'd be listening. I realized that when he patted me down, he did indeed feel the wire that Carlson had put on my chest, that he wanted to make sure that the feds, too, would hear everything and that Scope wouldn't bother frisking me. I realized that Hoyt Parker was taking the fall, that while he had done many terrible things, including betraying my father, this had all been a ruse, a last chance at redemption, that in the end, he, not I, would sacrifice himself to save us all. I also realized that for his plan to work, he had to do one more thing. So I stepped away. And even as I heard the FBI helicopters start to descend, even as I heard Carlson's voice through a megaphone shout for everyone to freeze, I watched Hoyt Parker reach into his ankle holster, pull out a gun, and fire it three times at Griffin Scope. Then I watched him turn the gun around.

  I shouted "No!" but the final blast smothered it out.