'Hello,' said the short man standing on the threshold of Whittier's office. He aimed a black gun at Mary's chest. 'My name is Marc Videon and I'll be your lawyer tonight.'
Mary stiffened with terror. She couldn't speak. She didn't know who he was. She didn't know what to do. She couldn't believe it was happening. She didn't want to die.
'You must be Mary DiNunzio behind those Foster-Grants.' Videon smiled, his thin lips curling unpleasantly. 'You're practically famous. Got a talk show yet?'
The sunglasses. She had forgotten she was wearing them. For some reason she snatched them off her face and saw him better. His eyes were small and slitted, his hair dark, and his goatee came to a waxed point. He reminded Mary of the Devil himself, but she had just come from church. Or maybe it was his gun. Her stomach felt cold and tight.
'Congratulations. You have found your way to my partner's office, having identified him as the malefactor. You were half-right. Or is it half-wrong? Is the glass half-full or half-empty?' Videon cocked his head as if he were actually considering the question. 'I say half-empty, but you look like one of those relentlessly perky, half-full types to me.'
Panic told Mary to bolt, but she knew she wouldn't make it. He'd fire as soon as she moved. She had to think of something. Brinkley's gun was still in her briefcase. The security guards and paramedics would be here soon. Stall him. 'I thought Whittier was the bad guy,' she said.
'Of course you did. I planned it that way. Big Bill Whittier had the stature and the pedigree but he didn't have the brains or the balls. I'm the one who drafted the prenup, wills, and trust documents.' Videon licked his thin lips with
amusement. 'I made Whittier rich. As Honor kept sending him more matters, he collected from the Foundation as billing partner, as managing partner, and soon as executor of Honor's personal estate. He kicked back half to me, and I fed him what he needed to know about Honor. Surprised? You're in good company. The firm thinks I'm the skanky divorce troll with the office under the bridge. I'm not one of the Tribe, you know.'
Mary could see Videon wanted to brag, and she needed time. 'Did you kill Whittier?'
'Of course not. The fall did. All I did was push.' Videon smiled. 'Aw, don't look at me like that. Big Bill had to go. He got all worked up when he found out that I had the boy kill Honor. He said he'd steal, but not kill. A lawyer with scruples, no?' Videon's smile vanished. 'Dumb fuck. He actually thought Jack did it. That's what the boy – Trevor – was doing in the office last night. Tattling on me.'
'But Whittier told the police Jack did it -'
'He lied. Thought the truth would make the firm look even worse in the newspapers. Nobody could malign Tribe when Big Bill Whittier was around. Not to mention that his livelihood – and pension – would vanish if the firm went under.' Videon laughed, an audience of one. 'And your meddling got to him, my dear. He was actually worried about you. I couldn't rely on his discretion. I had to make sure he never went to the police.'
Mary felt a stab of guilt. 'How did you get Trevor to kill Honor?'
'I bought him out of his first drug charge, for a criminally high sum, for dealing to Big Bill's kid. Told him to get there before Jack got home. But why did I have Honor done away with? That's a better question than how, isn't it? Aren't you curious?'
Mary nodded. Where were the paramedics? Where was security? She could have had a baby by now.
'I knew that when Honor divorced Jack, she'd take the Foundation business elsewhere eventually, and I couldn't
lose that cash cow. She was pushing for those divorce papers, and I had to stall her by having typos in the draft. Sure, we'd shifted a lot of the Buxton business to Whittier, but why would she stay with her ex-husband's firm? Where's your Tribe spirit?'
Mary gathered it was rhetorical. The gun was pointed right at her chest. He stood only four feet away. Even a lawyer couldn't miss. Especially a lawyer couldn't miss. How could she get to Brinkley's gun?
'I can see I'm boring you, even at gunpoint. You've been reviewing your options, but you have none. I gotcha. I was coming up to gather a single loose end and I ran into you. Had to go back for my gun.' Videon took a step closer, raising his gun point-blank over Mary's heart and she could swear she felt it stop beating.
'You can't kill me here. You can't explain another body.'
That's why you're coming with me.'
'No!' she shouted suddenly, and threw her briefcase at Videon's gun with all her might. The gun exploded with an earsplitting sound but Mary sprinted out of the office, running for her life.
'Help!' She started screaming as soon as she hit the hall. Where to run? She flashed on running from Trevor that night, but it was close quarters this time and Videon was smarter. He hadn't missed a trick and he wouldn't start now. His footsteps pounded the soft carpet behind her as she turned the corner. He was waiting for his shot.
'Help!' she shouted. She raced past the reception area, breathing hard from fear. The security guard and the paramedics had to be searching for her by now, didn't they?
Where was the fire stair? She tried to remember the layout she'd seen at the reception desk. Where had the stair been? Left? Right? She took a chance. Right. Yes!
Ahead lay the red exit sign for the fire stair, past a lineup of secretaries' desks with lawyers' offices behind them. The hall was a long, straight line. It would give Videon a clear
shot. She glanced back. A squat figure, he stood at the end of the hall, aiming at her with a two-handed grip.
'No!' she screamed. She hurtled forward, zigzagging to throw him off, tears of fright in her eyes. She was at the fourth desk when she heard the gun go off, an explosive crak.
The pain arrived before the sound. Jesus God, she heard herself say. Heat shot through her right calf, stalling her in mid-stride, but she pitched forward and didn't stop running. She banged through the fire door and hit the concrete stairs. She couldn't die now. She had the bad guy. She had Jack. Her parents needed her. She had to take her father to the doctor and her mother to church. She grabbed the banister and slid her hand down it as she half stumbled and half ran down the stairs.
30TH FLOOR, read the stenciled paint on the fire wall. A caged bulb threw dim light on her stair, and she spotted bright red spurting from her leg. She grabbed it reflexively and felt its slick wetness. Her own blood. She felt faint. She broke out in a sweat. Her stomach turned over as she ran around the landing and kept going.
She hit the next stair and saw a red fire alarm with a lever. She yanked the lever on the fly. The siren sound was instantaneous, screaming in her ears, but she kept running downstairs. It would tell security where she was. But it would tell Videon, too.
29TH FLOOR. He would be after her. Down the stairs in a minute to finish her off. There was a red door on each floor but she decided not to take it. She had to get closer to twenty-three to help. Where was Videon? She couldn't hear the closing of the exit door over the siren.
28TH FLOOR. Would he take the elevator? Meet her from the bottom up? She suppressed her scream. Her leg gushed blood. Each movement brought agony. She didn't know if she could go on. She had to. Where was security? Where were the paramedics? Didn't the fire alarm matter?
27TH FLOOR. Suddenly a shot rang out. Mary flinched
and stumbled down the stair and past the red door. She didn't know at first if she'd been hit. She didn't know where the shot had come from or where it had gone.
26TH FLOOR. She glanced at her arms, whole in an intact suit. She was fine. He had missed. She felt herself laugh, hysterical with relief and terror as she flew down the stairs. Out of breath, in pain. Weeping with fright.
25TH FLOOR. She was almost there! She pitched down the stair and stumbled as her bloodied leg buckled under her.
'Help!' she shouted as she went down, but the siren swallowed her cry. She hung on the steel banister and almost swooned when she saw fresh blood staining her suit on her right side, near her hip. Videon had shot her in the side. He hadn't missed; she'd been too adrenalized to feel it. Jesus, God.
She looked up in the dim stairwell. Videon was scurrying down the stair, only a floor up. Terror paralyzed her but she hoisted herself to her feet. Dots popped before her eyes. She couldn't see but she started to run. She must be losing blood pressure. She kept her bloodied hand on the banister as she ran past the fire door and down, down, down.
24™ FLOOR. It was getting darker. Was it getting darker? Was she going the right way? She was in such pain. Was it worth it? She ran down the stairs, at least she thought she was running.
'Help!' she screamed, but even she couldn't hear it over the din. She fell again, in the dark, and her hand slipped free of the banister. She didn't have the strength to get up. The red door was right there but she couldn't make it. Everything hurt so much. She was drowning in the sound of a siren that hadn't brought help.
Her eyes fluttered closed as a dark figure stood above her. The last sound Mary heard was the sickening crak of a gunshot.