Page 68 of The Innocent

The cops started running—one toward the right, one to the left. Lance looked at Marsha. She stared back at him defiantly.

That was when they heard a woman’s scream.

“What’s going on?” Olivia asked.

“That was Midlife,” Matt said. “Charles Talley and Max Darrow are both dead.”

“Oh, my God.”

“And unless I’m mistaken,” he continued, gesturing toward the window, “these guys are here to arrest me for their murders.”

Olivia closed her eyes, tried to ride it out. “What do you want to do?”

“I have to get out of here.”

“You mean, we have to get out of here.”

“No.”

“I’m going with you, Matt.”

“You’re not the one they want. They have nothing on you. At worst they think you cheated on your husband. You just refuse to answer any questions. They can’t hold you.”

“So you’re just going to run?”

“I have no choice.”

“Where will you go?”

“I’ll figure that out. But we can’t communicate. They’ll be watching the house, tapping the phone.”

“We need a plan here, Matt.”

“How about this,” he said. “We meet up in Reno.”

“What?”

“Tomorrow at midnight. The address you said—488 Center Lane Drive.”

“You still think there’s still a chance that my daughter. . . .”

“I doubt it,” Matt said. “But I also doubt Darrow and Talley were doing this on their own.”

Olivia hesitated.

“What?”

“How are you going to get across the country that fast?”

“I don’t know. If I can’t make it, we’ll figure out something later. Look, it’s not a great plan, but we don’t have time for anything better.”

Olivia took a step forward. He felt it again in his chest, the gentle thrum. She had never looked so beautiful or vulnerable. “Do we have time for you to say you still love me?”

“I do love you. More than ever.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that,” he said.

“Even after . . . ?”

“Even after.”

She shook her head. “You’re too good for me.”

“Yeah, I’m a prince.”

Olivia laughed through the sob. He put his arms around her.

“We’ll get into this later, but right now we need to find your daughter.”

Something she had said—about this life being worth fighting over. It resonated in him, even more than the revelations. He would fight. He would fight for both of them.

Olivia nodded, wiped her tears. “Here. I only have twenty dollars.”

He took it. They risked a glance out the window. Lance Banner was approaching the front door, flanked by two cops. Olivia moved in front of him as if readying to take a bullet.

“You sneak out back,” Olivia said. “I’ll wake up Marsha, tell her what’s going on. We’ll try to stall them.”

“I love you,” he said.

She gave him the crooked smile. “Good to hear.” They kissed hard and quick. “Don’t let anything happen to you,” she said.

“I won’t.”

He headed downstairs and started toward the back door. Olivia was already in Marsha’s room. It wasn’t right to drag Marsha into this, but what choice did they have? From the kitchen he could see another police car pull up to the front.

There was a knock on the door.

No time. Matt had something of a plan. They were not far from the East Orange Water Reservation, which was basically a forest. Matt had gone through it countless times as a child. Once inside he’d be difficult to find. He’d be able to work his way toward Short Hills Road and from there, well, suffice to say that he needed outside help.

He knew where to go.

His hand was on the back-door knob. Matt heard Lance Banner ring the bell. He turned the knob and pushed open the door.

Someone was standing right there, already in the doorway. He nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Matt?”

It was Kyra.

“Matt, what are—?”

He signaled her to stay quiet and beckoned her inside.

“What’s going on?” Kyra whispered.

“What are you doing awake?”

“I—” She shrugged. “I saw police cars. What’s going on?”

“It’s a long story.”

“That investigator who came by today. She asked me about you.”

“I know.”

They both heard Marsha shout: “Just a minute.”

Kyra’s eyes widened. “You’re trying to run away?”

“It’s a long story.”

Her eyes met his. He wondered what Kyra was going to do here. He didn’t want to involve her. If she screamed, he would understand. She was just a kid. She had no role in any of this, no real reason to trust him.

“Go,” Kyra whispered.

He didn’t wait or say thank you. He started outside. Kyra followed, veering the other way back toward her room above the garage. Matt saw the swing set he’d put up with Bernie a lifetime ago. It’d been ridiculously hot the day they assembled it. They’d both had their shirts off. Marsha had waited on the porch with beers. Bernie had wanted to put in one of those ziplines, but Marsha had nixed that, claiming, correctly in Matt’s view, that they were dangerous.

What you remember.

The yard was too open—there were no trees, no bushes, no rocks. Bernie had cleared out a lot of the brush with the anticipation of putting in a swimming pool—another dream, albeit a small one, that died with him. There were white bases laid out in the shape of a baseball diamond and two small soccer goals. He started to cross the yard. Kyra had gone back inside the garage.

Matt heard a commotion.

“Wait!” The voice belonged to Olivia. She was intentionally shouting so that he would hear. “Why are your men going to the backyard?”

There was no time to hesitate. He was out in the open. Make a mad run for it? There was little choice. He sprinted into the neighbor’s yard. Matt avoided the flower beds, which were a strange thing to worry about at a time like this, but he did it anyway. He risked a glance behind him.

A policeman had made the turn into the backyard.

Damn.

He hadn’t been spotted. Not yet. He searched for a place to hide. The neighbors had a toolshed. Matt leaped behind it. He pressed his back against it, like he’d seen done in the movies. A pointless move. He checked his waistband.


Tags: Harlan Coben Thriller
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