Книга Sense Of Evil. Содержание - EPILOGUE

“Blood on my hands,” Isabel murmured.

“You and Rafe, both so guilty. I think part of him knew all along. I could feel it, even though Mallory never did. I think that’s what made him psychic. You said the trigger had to be a traumatic shock, didn’t you?”

“Yes. Yes, I did.”

“Poor Rafe. He couldn’t consciously believe Mallory could do anything like that. Not his friend and fellow cop Mallory. But I think he noticed something there where Jamie died. I’m not sure what; I’m very good at cleaning up after myself. Whatever it was, it told him Mallory had been there. So he knew. Deep down, he knew.”

“And woke up with blood on his hands.” Isabel drew a breath. “He’ll know for sure now. Both Hollis and me dead, probably Dean, too, and you-Mallory-still alive. He’ll know.”

“No, see, you still don’t get it. The change is finally complete. I got tired of only coming out sometimes, of being asleep inside Mallory so much of the time. So I’ve been taking over. More and more. Mallory’s gone now. She’s never coming back. And after I’ve taken care of you, I’ll leave.”

It was true, Isabel realized. She looked at the shell that had once held the personality, the soul, of a woman she had liked very much, and knew without doubt that Mallory Beck was gone. She had started going away when six little girls had died on a lake, and over the years more and more of her had fallen away.

Until now. There was only this. This evil thing that had lived deep inside.

Isabel knew.

This was the evil that had killed Julie. The evil Isabel had sworn to destroy. Crouching in the darkness. Waiting to sprint.

Wearing the face of a friend.

He/she glanced down at Hollis, faintly dissatisfied. “She’s not blonde. Neither was that stupid, nosy reporter.”

“Cheryl Bayne. She’s dead?”

“Of course she’s dead. Little twit hadn’t even realized, but I think she’d seen me slipping into the gas station a couple of days before your partner and I found the body. It bugged her enough to send her snooping around the place, but I don’t think she even knew what she was looking for. Until she found it, of course.”

“What did you do with her body?”

“A cop to the last, aren’t you?” The thing inside Mallory laughed. “They’ll find her, eventually, at the bottom of a well. I didn’t have time to play with her, you see. I had to get busy. Because she wasn’t a blonde. But you are, and you’ll make five.”

Isabel knew she didn’t have a hope of getting to her calf holster and second gun. Not without a distraction. But even as she thought of that, her mind was suddenly clear and calm, and she was aware of a strength and utter certainty she had never felt in her life.

She wasn’t alone.

She would never be alone again.

“Mallory.” Rafe was there, stepping from behind a tall monument at a right angle to the women, his gun extended in two steady hands.

“Didn’t you hear me, Chief?” The black-gloved hand cocked Isabel’s pistol and held it aimed at her heart. “Mallory’s gone. And I’ll kill Isabel if you so much as twitch.”

“You’ll kill her anyway,” Rafe said.

“Go away like a good chief and I might let her live.”

“Evil,” Isabel said, “always deceives. That’s what it’s best at. That’s why it wore the face of a friend this time. And that’s why we can’t let it walk away alive.”

The thing wearing Mallory’s skin opened its mouth to say something, but the wind that had been steadily gaining strength abruptly sent a gust of hot air through the cemetery, and the birch tree beside the chapel flung one of its broken branches through a stained-glass window.

The crash was loud and sudden, and Isabel instinctively took advantage of it, throwing herself sideways to the ground even as she reached for the gun strapped to her calf.

The black-gloved hand started to follow Isabel’s path, finger tightening on the trigger, but the evil inside was just a split second slower than Rafe’s training and instincts.

His shot spun Mallory around so that his/her gun was pointing toward Rafe.

Isabel’s shot finished it.

The storm, uncaring of both human living and evil dying in its path, roared louder and louder as it finally made up its mind to hit Hastings.


Friday, June 20

YOU’RE A HARD WOMAN to kill,” Isabel said. Hollis raised both eyebrows at her. “I’m not saying it like it’s a bad thing.”

Looking at Rafe, Hollis said, “You realize what you’re letting yourself in for? She can’t not be flippant.”

“I know. It’s a character flaw.”

“I resent that,” Isabel said.

“You shouldn’t. It happens to be a flaw I enjoy.”

“Oh, well, in that case.”

Hollis shifted slightly in the hospital bed to get more comfortable. Or try to. “I’m just lucky you two managed to stop Mallory’s evil twin before he could finish me off.”

They all found it less painful to refer to the creature they had destroyed there at the end as Mallory’s evil twin-a phrase naturally coined by Isabel. Not that it could be anything but painful, especially for Rafe.

Or Alan, who was still bewildered and in shock.

“What I can’t figure out,” Isabel said, “is what he planned to do once he left Hastings. He really was trapped in a woman’s body-and had been since the male personality split off from Mallory when she was twelve.”

“A sex-change operation?” Hollis suggested.

Rafe said, “I don’t think so. I think he saw a male when he saw himself.”

“A very confused male,” Isabel pointed out. “He wanted Mallory to be involved with men, not women. But I’m willing to bet he would have been angry and insulted to be called homosexual.”

“Didn’t Bishop offer a theory?” Hollis asked. “I seem to recall a discussion going on over my mostly unconscious self a couple of days ago.”

“We had to talk about something,” Isabel told her. “The doctors said you were pretty out of it.”

“I was. Mostly. But I remember Bishop and Miranda being here. And talking, like I said. What was the theory?”

“That Mallory’s evil twin was delusional. We haven’t really gotten past that part.”

“It’s complicated,” Hollis agreed.

“She-he-was right about me, anyway,” Rafe said. “I had seen something unconsciously when we were at the first murder scene. From the corner of my eye, I suppose. I’d seen Mallory touch Jamie’s hair. Something about it, about the way she did it, was like a red flag.”

“And a subconscious shock,” Isabel said. “The hardest thing to accept about evil is that it can wear a familiar face. He was very good at hiding.”

“Until Mallory did something he couldn’t accept,” Rafe said. He sighed. “Just… thinking of her dying inside all those years, bit by bit. I keep thinking I should have known. Should have been able to help her.”

“Nobody could help her,” Isabel told him quietly. “Nobody was there when that boat overturned and six little girls drowned. Nobody but him. Mallory was doomed from that moment.”

“And too many other women along with her,” Hollis said. “Plus Ginny’s father, and that poor older lady, and Dean Emery. And God knows how many others would have died if you two hadn’t stopped it.”

“It doesn’t feel very heroic, what we did,” Rafe said.

Isabel smiled at him. “It seldom does. Evil leaves so much destruction behind it that it’s like a train wreck. You don’t think about what was saved ahead on the tracks, just the devastation of the crash.”

“And yet you’re inviting me to jump on the train with you.”

“Well, I’m sort of committed. To the journey, I mean. It’s not something where you can just get off at the next station.”

“Excuse me,” Hollis said, “but are you two still speaking in metaphors?”

“You noticed that?” Isabel said earnestly.

“It amuses her,” Rafe said.

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