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Книга Sense Of Evil. Содержание - EPILOGUE

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“You still don’t get it, do you? Mallory doesn’t live here anymore.”

Gazing into eyes that looked dead and empty even when the lightning flashed in them, Isabel fought to keep her voice calm. “So who are you?”

With an amused little chuckle, Mallory said, “This isn’t some split-personality deal, you know. That’s a bunch of bullshit, what you read in the books. I was always the stronger one. Always the one who had to take care of Mallory, clean the messes after she screwed up. Always. We were just twelve when it happened the first time.”

“When what happened?” Was Hollis alive? Isabel couldn’t tell. And what had happened to Dean?

“When I had to kill them. Those bitches. All six of them.”

“You were- Why? Why did you have to kill them?”

“Are you stalling?” Mallory asked, interested. “Because Rafe isn’t coming, you know. Nobody is coming.”

“Well, then,” Isabel said, her mind racing, “it’s just you and me. Come on, impress me. Show me all the signs I should have seen along the way.”

“The only thing you and that Bishop of yours got right was gender. Male.”

“Trapped in a female’s body?” Isabel was deliberately flippant. “I think that’s been done.”

“Oh, no, I was male first. Always. I kept telling Mallory, but in the beginning she wouldn’t listen. And when she did listen, she got confused. She thought she was a lesbian.”

Recalling the riot of emotions and hormones of adolescence, Isabel said, “When she was twelve?”

“Those girls at camp. In her cabin. There were six of them, all giggly and girly. The one who slept with Mallory started touching her one night. And Mallory liked it. It made me sick, but Mallory liked it.”

“So what happened?”

“I heard them the next day. All six of them, giggling and looking at Mallory. They knew. All of them knew. The one who’d touched her had told the others, and they were going to tell too. I knew they would. They’d tell, and everybody would know Mallory wasn’t normal.”

“What did you do to stop that?”

“I killed them.” Her voice was eerily Mallory’s and yet… not. Deeper, rougher, harder.

Isabel told herself what she smelled was the lightning, not brimstone. But she knew the truth.

Nothing this side of hell smelled quite like brimstone.

Except for evil.

“See, they weren’t supposed to take the boats out onto the lake, not without one of the counselors. But I made Mallory talk them into it. So they took a boat out, way out, and I made sure there were no life jackets. And then I turned the boat over. None of them made it to the shore, but I got Mallory there, of course. So sad, those other girls drowning like that. Mallory was never the same afterward.”

Rafe found Dean Emery slumped over the wheel of his cruiser. He knew nothing could be done for him, but he called for backup and an ambulance, then hurried through the gates of the cemetery, gun drawn, reaching out desperately with every sense he possessed, old and new.

To hell with the goddamned shield.

Mallory shrugged. “That was when her parents moved here to Hastings. So nobody would know what had happened and she could get over it.”

“But she didn’t.” Isabel was dimly aware of the voices, whispering louder, but the thunder and her own fixed concentration on Mallory kept them distant.

“No, not really. She was afraid to have girl friends after that, so all her friends were boys. She played sports, got tough, learned to take care of herself. So I didn’t have to worry about her.”

“When did that change?”

“You know when it changed, Isabel. It changed in Florida. Mallory was in college in Georgia, but she transferred to a college in Florida to take a few courses one semester.”

“There was a redhead,” Isabel said. “She was attracted to a redhead, wasn’t she? A woman. Were they lovers?”

In the eerie twilight, Mallory’s mouth tightened. “That bitch. She got Mallory drunk and slept with her. And in the morning, she acted like it was nothing. But I knew. I knew she’d tell. I knew she’d tell her redheaded friends. So I had to take care of them, of course. All six of them, just like before.”

Isabel didn’t waste her breath with any reasoned argument. Instead, she said, “We wondered why the women were going with… him. Why they didn’t feel threatened. It was because Mallory was a woman.”

“It’s not my fault if people don’t look beneath the surface.” She-or he-laughed.

“Mallory didn’t know what you were doing, did she?”

“Of course not. She wouldn’t have been able to hide our secret. I had to do that. And I had to protect her. When she got abnormal that way.”

“What about the women in Alabama?” Isabel asked, only vaguely aware that the wind was gusting wildly now. “The brunettes? Mallory got involved with a brunette woman?”

“She was staying with a cousin over there. Just for a couple of weeks. But that was long enough. Long enough to start mooning over that dark-haired bitch. I didn’t even wait for that to get started. I just took care of it. I got rid of her. And the rest of them. The other five.”

“The ones who would have told?”

“Of course.”

“How did you know they would have?”

“Oh, don’t be stupid, Isabel. I always knew who’d tell. As soon as I saw you, I knew you would.”

“But Jamie was first, wasn’t she?” Isabel asked. “Jamie was the one who caught Mallory’s eye.”

“I thought she was over it,” the thing inside Mallory said. “She was involved with Alan, she was-was normal. But then she talked to Jamie about buying a house. And she felt… that… again. That longing. That desperation to be touched like that. By her.”

“They became lovers.”

“Lovers? What they were doing had nothing to do with love. Mallory thought she deserved to be punished, because she’d lived when the other girls had died. So she let Jamie punish her. And take pictures of it. But I made her stop. I made her go back to Alan.”

Realizing, Isabel said, “And you made her forget. Always. You made sure that her attraction to other women was… like a fantasy to her. Didn’t you?”

“It was an aberration. She didn’t need to remember that.”

Isabel nodded slowly. “That’s why Mallory never reacted to anything we found out about Jamie. As far as she knew, as far as she could remember, they’d never been involved.”

“I protected her. I always have.”

“So you sent her back to Alan. Then you watched Jamie for a while, didn’t you?”

“So sick. Ugly. And she was mad at Mallory for not wanting to do those things anymore. That’s why she got too rough with her next lover and killed her.”

“Hope Tessneer.”

“I decided to scare Jamie before I got rid of her. Besides, I was curious. So I took that one’s body and hid it. It was fun to watch Jamie panic. Of course, she was thrilled when Mallory called her. Thrilled to meet her. And, you know, she didn’t struggle at all. Isn’t that interesting? Supposedly all dominant and powerful, and she died with hardly a whimper.”

“But you killed her too quickly,” Isabel pointed out, glancing toward the box she had flung aside. “You didn’t know where she’d hidden the photos. The proof of what she and Mallory had done together.”

“I thought they’d be in her apartment. But they weren’t, of course. I didn’t know where they were.”

Isabel swallowed. “Until Emily?”

“Well, you told me to put her on the list, Isabel, didn’t you?”

The sick sensation in Isabel’s stomach churned even more. “I did?”

“Sure. You told me she might have seen something. Might know something about her sister’s killer. And she’d seen the photographs, of course; I knew that as soon as she handed over the ones with Jamie and that other bitch. I didn’t think she’d seen Mallory’s, but I couldn’t be sure. So I had to get rid of her.”

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