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Книга Sense Of Evil. Содержание - 18

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Rafe nodded. “We’re not in the Southeast’s tornado alley, but close enough.”

Isabel didn’t say anything else until they were in the Jeep heading back to town, and then her voice was tentative. “Back there at the scene when we… did whatever it is we did, I got a flash of something. That box. The box of photographs. We have to find it. The answer is in there, I know it.”

“If it’s in a bank under an assumed name-”

“I don’t think it is. I think we’ve missed something.”

Rafe frowned as thunder boomed again. “We’ve checked all the properties she owned.”

“Have we?” Isabel turned in her seat to look at him. “Jamie had a secret life. A secret self. And she hid her secrets very, very well. What if, once Hope Tessneer died, Jamie decided to bury all the secrets for good?”

“We found her playhouse,” Rafe reminded her.

“Yeah, but Jamie didn’t count on dying herself. I think if she’d been granted just a little more time, we wouldn’t have found anything but an empty storage building there. And nothing at all of her secret life.”

“Wouldn’t she just have burned everything? I mean, if she had wanted to destroy the evidence of that other life.”

“She didn’t want to destroy it. Destroy the strongest part of herself? No way. It would have been like cutting off her arm, or worse. She wanted to bury it. To put it where nobody but she would ever find it. Look, when Hope’s body turned up missing-and I’m still convinced the killer took it from wherever Jamie had put it-she had to know someone else knew about the death. She had to be afraid that at best the body would turn up and it would be traced back to her, or-possibly worse from her point of view-that someone could be planning blackmail.”

“So,” Rafe said, “she would have wanted to remove any possible evidence of their relationship.”

“Of all her secret relationships. If we found one, we’d find them all; that’s what she would have thought. So she started to move, and fast. Listed her properties for sale, maybe started shifting money she wasn’t supposed to have, between accounts we weren’t supposed to know about.”

“We’ve got people checking area banks today.”

“Maybe they’ll at least find evidence of those secret accounts. But I don’t think they’ll find the box. I think Jamie was planning to leave this place, or at least go on a long vacation somewhere until Hope’s body turned up and she could determine whether she was going to be suspected of murder.”

“And spent the final days of her life trying to erase or hide all the secrets,” Rafe said.

“Exactly. I think she found or created a place to bury the Mistress for Hire. The box of photos went there right away, especially since she must have suspected Emily of snooping. The stuff in her playhouse would have followed, but the killer got to her first.”

“Okay,” Rafe said. “I’ll buy the theory. But how do we find out where this hiding place is? We’ve tapped every source we have, short of going door to door and asking every soul in Hastings. What else can we do?”

Isabel drew a deep breath. “We ask the one soul who knows.”

The heavens took their own time in opening up. By three that afternoon, it was twilight, with a hot wind blowing gustily and thunder rolling as though it had miles and miles to go. Flashes of lightning provided eerie strobelike images of very little traffic on Main Street, and clusters of media camped all around the town hall across from the police station. Print media, at any rate; most of those with electronics to consider had, as Isabel predicted, wisely chosen to remain indoors.

“You can feel the nerves,” Mallory said, gazing out the window of the conference room. “Even the reporters. I don’t have any extra senses, and I can feel it.”

“Extra senses make it worse,” Hollis told her. She was sitting at the conference table, both elbows propped on it and her hands cupping her face. “My head is throbbing in the weirdest way.” She yawned as if to clear her ears. “And I feel like I’m going up in a plane.”

“Not the best time to try a séance, I guess.”

“God, don’t call it that.”

“Isn’t that what it is? Technically, I mean.”

“I don’t know, but I can’t help feeling a stormy afternoon spent summoning the dead just can’t be a good plan.”

“We’re not doing it in a haunted house.”

“Oh, goodie, one for the plus column.” Hollis sighed.

Mallory turned her back on the window and half sat on the sill, smiling faintly. “You two are unconventional investigators, I’ll give you that much. But, then, this hasn’t exactly been a conventional series of murders. If there is such a thing.”

Before Hollis could respond, Travis rapped on the open door and said, “Hey, Mallory, Alan Moore is here. He says it’s important, and since the chief and Agent Adams are out in the garage with T.J.-”

“Send him in. Thanks, Travis.”

Since the bulletin boards were already covered, neither woman had to move, and Mallory remained at the window as Alan came in. She said, “The chief of police has no comment for the media. Didn’t you hear him on the front steps a couple of hours ago, Alan?”

“I did,” he replied imperturbably. “Which is why I went back to my office. Where I received two bits of news I thought I’d be gracious enough to share with the police.”

“I think he rehearsed that,” Hollis said to Mallory.

“Probably.” Mallory frowned at him. “The news?”

“First, Kate Murphy called a friend who happens to work at the paper. Seems she left town in a hurry-and on a bus-because she got a threatening call from an ex-lover and panicked. Especially with blondes getting killed in Hastings.”

Mallory said, “We haven’t found a sign of a lover in her past, and we’ve looked.”

“Yeah, but this is about ten years ex. Even she admits the panic was somewhat extreme.”

“Sounds like it,” Hollis murmured. “Not that I can really blame her.”

“Anyway, she’s safe,” Alan said. “She claims she left a note for her store’s assistant manager but hadn’t had a chance to call until today. I think she’s about four states away, but she refused to say where.”

Mallory shook her head. “One less on the list, thank God. And thank you for sharing. What’s your other bit of news?”

“This.” He produced a folded paper from his pocket and unfolded it on the conference table. “Probably no prints other than mine, since there weren’t any on the last one.”

“Envelope?” Mallory asked.

He pulled that out of a different pocket. “I figured it’d be worthless for prints, too, considering how many people handled it. The postmark is Hastings. Mailed Saturday.”

Hollis leaned a bit sideways to read the note, brows lifting. “Well, well.”

Mallory joined them at the table to study the message. Like the previous note to Alan, it was block-printed yet virtually scrawled in a bold, dark hand on the unlined paper.






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