“About Ballard. He wasn’t killed. He’s not dead.”
“So where is he?”
She pointed to the bed. “Right there. That’s Chris Ballard.”
“Why should we believe you?” said Rogers.
“She already lied about being adopted.” Myers looked around nervously. “And there’s something else.”
“What?” asked Knox.
“Davis has a gun.”
Rogers said, “I’ve seen her use it. She saved my life.”
Myers dropped her voice to a whisper. “That’s not what I mean. She has a gun on her now. I saw her put it in her robe pocket before we left the house.”
Puller and Knox instantly rose and pulled their weapons while Rogers looked on.
They glided over to the bathroom door, one on either side of it.
The bullet hit an inch above Puller’s head. He dropped to the floor and rolled as another shot shattered the lamp on the nightstand. Knox cried out as a shard of glass cut her face.
Myers turned and fired again. This shot found its mark as the bullet slammed into the forehead of the old man. He slumped over, dead. Another shot ricocheted off a metal lamppost and burned a tunnel across Puller’s left forearm.
Rogers threw a chair at Myers, but it missed. She pointed her gun at his head.
The next instant the bathroom door was thrown open. Davis came out firing. Her first shot hit Myers in the shoulder and Myers’s gun fell to the floor. The second shot hit My
ers in the neck.
That was the kill shot.
Myers screamed and clutched at the wound in her neck, which was gushing enough blood that she would only have seconds left to live.
She looked at Davis, who still had her pistol aimed at her, then dropped to the floor, convulsively twitched once, and lay still.
Puller, Knox, and Rogers stared at Davis, their guns pointed at her head. Davis slowly lowered her pistol.
“What the hell just happened?” exclaimed Knox. “Why did Myers start shooting?”
“Because she wanted to kill all of you,” said Davis.
Puller said, “But why? We offered her a deal.”
“She wasn’t interested in a deal.”
“Why not?” demanded Knox.
“Because she’s Claire Jericho’s daughter,” replied Davis.
KNOX AND PULLER had triaged each other using supplies from Puller’s duffel. The wound on Puller’s arm wasn’t deep but had bled profusely. They had finally gotten it under control. Knox’s cheek was bandaged where the glass had cut it.
Rogers stood over Myers’s body.
Davis sat down in a chair. “Did she tell you I was lying?”
Puller nodded. “And that you had a gun. We thought you’d gone in there to get it out and then ambush us.”
“No, I just really had to pee. But I didn’t know that Myers was armed. When I heard the shooting I pretty much knew what was happening, though.”
Knox looked at the dead man in the bed. “She said this was the real Ballard. Why did she kill him?”
“Because he’s not the real Ballard. Like I told you, he’s dead.”
“How are you so sure?” asked Puller. “Did someone tell you?”
“Josh brought me on to play the part of companion to Ballard. The real Ballard. He knew I—well, he knew I was used to skirting the rules just like him.”
“Wait a minute, you were babysitting the real Christopher Ballard?” said Knox.
Davis nodded. “Then he just died. Nobody shot him. I lied about that.”
She glanced at Rogers, who was staring directly at her. “I tend to lie as my first instinct on things.” She smiled and Rogers smiled back at her.
“This was about eighteen months ago. I went into his bedroom one morning to bring him his coffee. And there he was stone cold dead. I called Josh. And he called Jericho. And they came out and had a powwow over what to do.”
“And they decided on a replacement?” said Puller.
“Two, actually. A spare, just in case. You see, Ballard had Alzheimer’s. Before he died he didn’t know his own name. So it wasn’t like the replacements would need to carry on a conversation. And nobody came to visit Ballard. He had no family that I knew of.”
“But why the need to create the impression that he was still alive?” said Knox.
“I don’t know,” replied Davis. “I just know that the staff was well paid to keep their silence. If the truth did come out they all would lose their jobs, so they had no incentive to talk. And the guys they got as replacements weren’t right in the head, so they weren’t going to talk to anyone.”
“I threw who I thought was Ballard out the window,” said Rogers.
“At first they thought the guy had gone nuts and dove out the window,” said Davis.
“And they called in the spare?” said Knox.
Knox sat down next to Davis. “Can you tie Jericho to any of this?”
“It would be my word against hers. And when they check into my background I’m not sure how credible I’ll be.”
She glanced at Rogers, who was staring at her.
“I’d believe you,” he said, garnering a smile from Davis.
Puller’s phone buzzed. When he answered it Robert Puller didn’t waste a second. He said, “Wherever you are, get the hell out. Now!”
Puller hustled everyone out of the room and into his vehicle. They sped off into the darkness.
“Puller,” said Knox nervously.
He held up a hand and then hit a key on his phone.
His brother answered on the first ring. “Are you out?”
“Yes. What’s going on?”
“Did you kidnap three people from Ballard’s estate?”
“How the hell did you know about that?”
“So it’s true.”
“I wouldn’t say abducted.”
“What would you say?”
“So they were being held against their will?”
“We think so.”
“You think so? And they’re all now safe?”
Puller eyed Knox before drawing a deep breath and saying into the phone, “One is. Two are dead.”
“Tell me everything,” barked his brother.
Puller did so and then waited for Robert’s response. He could hear his brother’s elevated breathing, which he did not take as a good sign.
“This is a shitstorm, John.”
“They’re going to find Helen Myers and an old man, who may or