Книга Sense Of Evil. Содержание - 1
Hastings, South Carolina
Monday, June 9
RAFE SULLIVAN ROSE from his crouched position, absently stretching muscles that had begun to cramp, and muttered, “Well, shit,” under his breath.
It was already hot and humid even just before noon, the sun burning almost directly overhead in a clear blue sky, and he absently wished he’d had his people put up a tarp to provide some shade. The effort wouldn’t be worthwhile now; another half hour, and the coroner’s wagon would be here.
The body sprawled at his feet was a bloody mess. She lay on her back, arms wide, legs apart, spread-eagled in a pathetically exposed, vulnerable position that made him want to cover her up-even though she was more or less dressed. Her once-white blouse was dull red, soaked with blood and still mostly wet despite the heat, so that the coppery smell was strong. The thin, springlike floral skirt was eerily undamaged but blood-soaked, spread out around her hips, the hem almost daintily raised to just above her knees.
She had been pretty once. Now, even though her face was virtually untouched, she wasn’t pretty anymore. Her delicate features were contorted, eyes wide and staring, mouth open in a scream she probably never had the chance or the breath to utter. From the corners of her parted lips, trails of blood ran down her cheeks, some of it mixing with the golden strands of her long blond hair and a lot of it soaking into the ground around her.
She had been pretty once.
“Looks like he was really pissed this time, Chief. Bit like the first victim, I’d say.” Detective Mallory Beck made the observation dryly, seemingly unmoved by the gory scene before them.
Rafe looked at her, reading the truth in her tightened lips and grim eyes. But all he said was, “Am I wrong, or did this one fight him?”
Mallory consulted her notebook. “Doc just did the preliminary, of course, but he says she tried. Defensive injuries on the victim’s hands, and one stab wound in her back-which the doc says was probably the first injury.”
Shifting his gaze to the body, Rafe said, “In the back? So she was trying to turn-or run-away from him when he stabbed her the first time. And either he turned her around so he could finish her face-to-face or she turned herself trying to fight him.”
“Looks like it. And only a few hours ago; we got the call on this one earlier than the others. The doc estimates the time of death as around five-thirty this morning.”
“Awfully early to be up and out,” Rafe commented. “Caleb opens his office between nine-thirty and ten as a rule. She was still his paralegal, right?”
“Right. Normally went to the office around nine. So she was out very early. What I don’t get is how he was able to lure her this far away from the road. You can see there are no drag marks, and two sets of footprints-we have good casts, by the way-so she walked out here with him. I’m no Daniel Boone, but I’d say from her tracks that she was walking calm and easy, not struggling or hesitating at all.”
Rafe had to admit that the ground here looked remarkably calm and undisturbed, for the most part, especially considering the violence of what had been done to the victim. And after last night’s rain all the tracks were easily visible. So this murder scene, like the last one, clearly illustrated what had happened here.
From all appearances, twenty-six-year-old Tricia Kane had gotten out of her own car around dawn at an unofficial rest spot off a normally busy two-lane highway and then walked with a companion-male, according to all likelihood as well as an FBI profile-about fifty yards into the woods to this clearing. And then the companion had killed her.
“Maybe he had a gun,” Rafe suggested, thinking aloud. “Or maybe the knife was enough to keep her docile until they got this far.”
Mallory frowned. “You want my hunch, I say she didn’t see that knife until they reached this clearing. The instant she saw it, she tried to run. That’s when he got her.”
Rafe didn’t know why, but that was his hunch too. “And it’s the same way he got the other two. Somehow he persuaded these women to leave their cars and walk calmly into the woods with him. Smart, savvy women who, from all accounts, were way too careful to let any stranger get that close.”
“Which means they probably knew him.”
“Even if, would you leave your car and just stroll into the woods with some guy? Especially if you knew two other women had recently died under similar circumstances?”
“No. But I’m a suspicious cop.” Mallory shook her head. “Still, it doesn’t make sense. And what about the cars? All three women just left their cars on pull-off rest areas beside fairly busy highways and walked away from them. Keys in the ignition, for Christ’s sake, and not many do that even in small towns these days. And we don’t know whether he was with them when they stopped or somehow flagged them down and then persuaded them to come with him. No tracks out at the rest stop to speak of with all that hard dirt and packed gravel.”
“Maybe he pulled a Bundy and claimed to need their help.”
“Could be. Although I still say that would have worked loads better if they knew who was asking. This guy isn’t killing strangers. I think the profilers got that one right, Chief.”
With a sigh, Rafe said, “Yeah, me too. I hate like hell the idea that this bastard is local rather than some insane stranger passing through town, but I don’t see any other way to explain how he’s getting these women to go with him.”
“Unless he’s some kind of authority figure they’d be inclined to trust and obey on sight. Like a cop.”
“Oh, hell, don’t even suggest that,” Rafe responded so instantly that Mallory knew the possibility had already been in his mind.
She studied him unobtrusively as he scowled down at the body of Tricia Kane. At thirty-six, he was the youngest chief of police ever in Hastings, but with a solid background in law enforcement both in training and experience, nobody doubted Rafe Sullivan’s qualifications for the job.
Except maybe Rafe himself, who was a lot smarter than he realized.
Mallory had wondered more than once if his tendency to doubt himself and his hunches had anything to do with his looks. He wasn’t exactly ugly-but she had to admit that his self-described label of “thug” pretty much fit. He had a harsh face, with very sleepy, heavy-lidded eyes so dark they tended to make people uncomfortable. His nose had been broken at least twice, he had a sharp jaw with a stubborn jut to it, and his high cheekbones marked him indelibly with his Celtic ancestry.
He was also a very big man, several inches over six feet tall and unmistakably powerful. The kind of guy you wanted on your side no matter what the fight was about. So he definitely looked the part of a cop, in or out of uniform-and it was mostly out, since he disliked uniforms as a rule and seldom wore his. But anyone, Mallory had long ago discovered, who had him pegged as all brawn and no brain or who expected the stereotypical dense, cud-chewing Southern cop was in for a surprise, sooner or later.
Probably sooner. He didn’t suffer fools gladly.
“That’s three murders in barely three weeks,” he was saying, dark eyes still fixed on the body at their feet. “And we’re no closer to catching the bastard. Worse, we’ve now officially got a serial killer on our hands.”
“You thinking what I’m thinking?”
“I’m thinking it’s time we yelled for help.”
Mallory sighed. “Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.”
Isabel Adams made her voice as persuasive as she possibly could, and her well-rehearsed arguments sounded damned impressive if she did say so herself, but when she finally fell silent she wasn’t surprised that Bishop didn’t respond right away.