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Книга Sense Of Evil. Содержание - 17

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Isabel stood just inside the area blocked off with yellow crime-scene tape, her hands on her hips, grimly studying the clearing.

“Jesus, I don’t know where to start,” T.J. said as she and Dustin arrived with their crime-scene kits.

“Follow procedure,” Isabel advised.

Eyeing the ME, who was examining the body, Dustin said, “Even Doc looks queasy. And he was a state medical examiner, until he got tired of the parade of bodies.”

T.J. murmured, “Bet he’s sorry he chose Hastings to finish out his professional life.”

“I’m having second thoughts myself,” Dustin told her.

“I know what you mean. Come on, let’s get to work.”

Hollis joined Isabel as the two technicians moved away, saying, “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t be. I lost my breakfast the first three times I was called to an early murder scene.”

“I’ll remember that. Next time. I thought I could handle something like this, especially after a couple of weeks of classes at the body farm. But, Christ…”

“Yeah, he made a real mess this time.” Isabel half turned as Mallory joined them. “I’m betting her car’s clean, though.”

Mallory nodded. “Looks like it. It’ll be towed back to the station so T.J. and Dustin can go over it thoroughly, but the only difference I noticed is that she didn’t leave her purse in it.”

Isabel said, “If the doctor confirms that she died around midnight, then she’d have had to leave her house just after the patrol was called away for that accident. Maybe she left in a hurry and didn’t even bring a purse.”

“Had to be to meet someone,” Hollis said. “You’re a twenty-something blonde in a town where twenty-something blondes are being killed, including your own sister, and you go out alone near midnight? She was either very stupid or really trusted whoever she went to meet. Or both, if you ask me.”

Isabel looked at Mallory. “When we were in her home, I didn’t get any sense of a steady boyfriend.”

“Far as I know, she didn’t have one. Dated, but never anybody serious.”

Hollis shook her head. “Who could she possibly trust enough to meet, around midnight, at the scene of her sister’s murder?”

“And why?” Isabel mused, frowning. “The only reason I can think of is that someone must have told her she could help by coming out here so late. That there was something out here she needed to see, and after dark. If that’s true, I can’t see any possible answer as to who called her out here except-”

“-a cop,” Mallory said. “Has to be.”

Hollis looked around at the police technicians and the dozen or so uniformed officers searching the area surrounding the crime scene and in various positions between this clearing and the rest stop at the highway, which had also been roped off, and sighed. “Great. That’s just great.”

“We still can’t rule out some other authority figure,” Isabel reminded them. “For that matter, we can’t rule out a member of the media. Who’s to say some reporter didn’t offer Emily a nice big chunk of cash to meet out here where her sister was killed? And being here well after dark was the only real guarantee a passing patrol wouldn’t see them, since we’ve had all these areas under watch. Her car was well off the road and behind that thicket, so either the killer moved it there afterward or told Emily to park there to avoid being seen by a passing patrol.”

“But a reporter? For a story?” Hollis said. “That’s sick. Would Emily have gone for something like that?”

“To step out of Jamie’s shadow? I’m thinking yes.”

“That might explain this,” Mallory said, “but what about the other victims? Could a reporter have lured them out of their cars and into the woods?”

Hollis said, “You know, maybe we’re making a giant assumption that he does it the same way every time. He could be gearing his approach to each woman individually. Isabel, you and Bishop both believe he has to get to know his victims. Maybe this is why. To find the right bait for each catch.”

Isabel looked at her for a moment, then said, “If you ever feel useless in an investigation, remember this moment. Damn. Why didn’t I see that?”

Hollis was pleased, but nevertheless said, “You’ve had a lot on your plate.”

“Still.” Isabel took a step toward the body, then stopped and turned back. The other two women also turned to watch as Rafe approached them from the highway. He looked grim, and on a face as rugged as his, grim was an expression to make even the bravest soul take a step back.

Isabel met him halfway.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said. “I got held up at the station.”

“What else has happened?” she demanded, reaching out without thinking to touch his hand.

His fingers immediately twined with hers. “The accident that pulled the patrol away from the Brower house,” he said. “There were two fatalities.”

“I’d heard that much.” She waited, knowing there was more.

“Hank McBrayer was one of them,” Rafe said flatly. “He was driving too fast, drunk, and apparently crossed over the center line. Hit the oncoming car head-on. The other victim was a sixty-five-year-old grandmother.”

“Jesus,” Isabel said. “Poor Ginny. This is going to eat her alive.”

“I know. I’ve got the department counselor with her and her mother now.” He glanced past her at the taped-off crime-scene area.

“He was incredibly vicious this time,” Isabel warned. “He cut her throat, probably first, and with enough force to nearly sever her head. And then he started to enjoy himself.”

Without releasing her hand, Rafe continued toward the crime scene. “Has the doc offered his preliminary report yet?”

“No, but I think he’s about to.”

They ducked under the tape that Mallory and Hollis automatically held up for them.

“If nobody minds,” Hollis said, “I think I’ll stand right here. I’ve seen all I want to.”

Nobody objected, and as they walked toward the body, Isabel murmured, “Hollis is dealing with her own guilt. She saw Jamie again, last night in the conference room, obviously desperately trying to say something.”

“And Hollis couldn’t hear her.”

“No. At the end, Jamie was so frustrated she apparently focused enough energy to scare the hell out of Hollis by scattering half the paperwork on the table across the room.”

Rafe looked at her, frowning. “I seem to remember you telling me something like that would be unusual.”

“Oh, yeah. Jamie was a very strong lady. And she was trying very, very hard to communicate. She must have known her sister would be the next victim. Which is another indication to me that Emily knew something dangerous to the killer.”

“You don’t believe she was killed just because she fit the victim profile?”

“No. She was too young, I think. Not successful enough for his tastes. I also think she would have died no matter what color her hair was. Emily snooped in her sister’s life, and it got her killed.”

“And we still have a reporter missing.”

“Who may also have found out something dangerous to the killer,” Isabel said.

They stopped several feet from where Dr. James was still examining the body, and Rafe muttered an oath as he saw her up close for the first time.

Isabel didn’t respond to that. Neither did Mallory. There wasn’t much they could say.

Emily Brower lay sprawled out almost exactly as her sister had lain and almost exactly three weeks afterward. The slash across her throat was so deep the white vertebra of her neck was visible, and the gaping wound had literally drenched her in blood. Her once-pale T-shirt was soaked with it, and her blond hair lay in a pool of congealing blood and dirt.

“You were right about the escalation,” Rafe said, his deep voice raspier than normal. “That son of a bitch. Sick, evil, twisted animal…”

The killer hadn’t just murdered Emily, hadn’t just repeatedly stabbed her breasts and genitals as he had the previous three victims. It looked as if he had stabbed her once in each breast-but had twisted and turned the knife as though trying to bore holes through her body.

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