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Книга Sense Of Evil. Содержание - 2

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“Preliminary. And before you ask, Alan, we won’t be sharing the details of that profile unless and until the knowledge can help our citizens. At this stage of the investigation, all we can realistically do is advise them to take sensible precautions.”

“That’s not much, Rafe,” Alan complained.

“It’s all we’ve got. For now.”

“So what’s the FBI bringing to the table?”

“Expertise: the Special Crimes Unit is sending agents trained and experienced in tracking and capturing serial killers. Information: we will have access to FBI databases. Technical support: medical and forensics experts will study and evaluate evidence we gather.”

“Who’ll be in charge of the investigation?” Alan asked. “Doesn’t the FBI usually take over?”

“I’ll continue to head the investigation. The FBI’s role is assistance and support, no more. So I don’t want to read or hear any BS about federal officials superceding states’ rights, Alan. Clear?”

Alan grimaced slightly. He was a good reporter and tended to be both fair and even-handed, but he was close to phobic about governmental “interference,” especially from the federal level, and was always loud in protest whenever he suspected it.

Rafe took a few more questions from the assembled reporters, resigned rather than surprised to find that several of the people were from TV stations in nearby Columbia. If the investigation was getting major state coverage now, it was only a matter of time before it went national.

Great. That was just great. The last thing he wanted was to have the national press looking over his shoulder and second-guessing every decision he made.

Bad enough he had Alan.

“Chief, do you believe this killer is local?”

“Chief, has anything else turned up linking the victims?”

“Chief…”

He answered the questions almost automatically, using variations of “no comment” or “we have no reliable information on that” whenever possible. Even though he had called the press conference himself, it was only because he’d gotten wind of some pretty wild speculation going on and hoped to head off the worst of it before it was in print or other media, not because he had any real progress to report.

He was concentrating on the crowd in front of him as he answered their questions, but even as he did, he felt an odd change in the room, as if the very air had somehow sharpened, freshened. Cleared. It was a weird feeling, like waking suddenly from a dream thinking, Oh, that wasn’t real. This is real.

Something had changed, and he had no idea if it was for better or worse.

From the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of movement and was able to turn his head just a bit, casually, so that none of the reporters picked up on his suddenly diverted attention.

Still, he was surprised that no one else seemed to have observed her entrance, even though she came into the room from the hallway, behind the flock of reporters. Rafe doubted she went unnoticed very often. He saw her pause to speak briefly to one of his officers, producing what appeared to be an I.D. folder, saw Travis’s visible surprise and undoubtedly stuttering response, then saw her move past him and take up a position near the door. She scanned the crowd of reporters and their tangle of cameras, a small half smile that was not so much amused as it was rueful playing around her mouth. She was dressed casually and for the weather in jeans and a sleeveless top, her hair pulled up into a neat ponytail. She could easily have been one of the reporters.

She wasn’t.

When her gaze met his fleetingly across the crowded room, Rafe was conscious of an instant certainty that made him go cold to his bones.

No. The universe couldn’t hate him that much.

“Chief, could you-”

He cut off the question abruptly. “Thank you all very much for coming today. When there are further developments, you’ll be notified. Good afternoon.”

He stepped away from the podium and went straight through the crowd to the other side of the room, ignoring the questions flung after him. When he reached her, his statement was brief and to the point.

“My office is across the street.”

“Lead the way, Chief.” Her voice was as extraordinary as the rest of her, one of those smoky, husky bedroom voices a man would expect to hear if he called a 900 sex-talk line.

Rafe wasted no time in leading the way past his still-goggling officer, saying merely, “Travis, make sure nobody bothers the mayor on their way out.”

“Yeah. Okay. Right, Chief.”

Rafe started to ask him if he’d never seen a woman before, but since that would have resulted in either stuttering incoherence or else a lengthy explanation that would have boiled down to “Not a woman like this one,” he didn’t bother.

He also didn’t say a word as they left the town-hall building and walked across Main Street to the police department, although he did notice that she was a tall woman; wearing flat sandals she was only a few inches shorter than he was, which would put her at about five-ten.

And her toenails were polished red.

With most of his people out on patrol, the station wasn’t very busy; Mallory was the only detective at her desk in the bullpen, and though she looked up with interest as they passed, she was on the phone, and Rafe didn’t pause or greet her except with a nod.

His office looked out onto Main Street, and as he went around behind his desk he couldn’t help a quick glance to see whether the reporters had left the town hall. Most were still clustered out in front, some obviously recording spots for today’s evening news and others speaking to each other-speculating, he knew. It didn’t bode well for his hopes of keeping things calm in Hastings.

An I.D. folder dropped onto his blotter as he sat down, his visitor taking one of the chairs in front of his desk.

“Isabel Adams,” she said. “Call me Isabel, please. We’re pretty informal. Nice to meet you, Chief Sullivan.”

He picked up the folder, studied the I.D. and federal badge inside, then closed it and pushed it across the desk toward her. “Rafe. Your boss saw the profile, right?” was his terse response.

“My boss,” she answered, “wrote the profile. The updated one, that is, the one I brought with me. Why?”

“You know goddamned well why. Is he out of his mind, sending you down here?”

“Bishop has been called crazy on occasion,” she said in the same pleasant, almost careless tone, not visibly disturbed by his anger. “But only by those who don’t know him. He’s the sanest man I’ve ever met.”

Rafe leaned back in his chair and stared across the desk at the special agent sent by the FBI to help him track and capture a serial killer. She was beautiful. Breath-catching, jaw-dropping gorgeous. Flawless skin, delicate features, stunning green eyes, and the kind of voluptuous body most men could expect to encounter only in their dreams.

Or in their nightmares.

In Rafe’s nightmares.

Because Isabel Adams was also something else.

She was blond.

The voices were giving him a pounding headache. It was something else he was getting used to. He managed to unobtrusively swallow a handful of aspirin but knew from experience it would only take the worst edge off the pain.

It would have to be enough.

Have to.

Still exhausted from the morning’s activities, he managed to do his work as usual, speak to people as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Nobody guessed, he was certain of that. He’d gotten very good at making sure nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary.

You think they don’t all see? Don’t all know?

That was the sneering voice, the dominant one, the one he hated most and heard most often. He ignored it. It was easier to do that now, when he was drained and oddly distant from himself, when the only thing for him to do, really, was wait for his next opportunity.

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