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Книга Sense Of Evil. Страница 21

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“This is a little hard to swallow,” Rafe said finally.

“I know. Sorry about that.” She might have been apologizing for bumping him in a crowd.

He stared at her, then pulled the Jeep away from the curb and continued on their way. “So, worst-case scenario in a situation like that, the host goes nuts and ends up in a mental institution being treated for a mental disease he doesn’t have.”

“I can think of worse things that might happen, but, yeah, we do believe that has happened. Theoretically, if the host mind and spirit were really weak, the invading spirit would just take over. You’d have a person who appeared to suddenly develop a whole new personality.” Isabel reflected, then said, “Which, I suppose, could explain teenagers.”

Rafe didn’t smile. “What happens to the host’s spirit?”

“I don’t know. We don’t know. Withers away, maybe, like an unused limb. Gets booted out and passes on to whatever awaits all of us when we leave this mortal coil.” Isabel sighed. “Frontier territory, remember? We have a lot of theories, Rafe. We have some personal experiences, war stories we can tell. Even a few nonpsychic if not unbiased witnesses to testify to things they’ve seen and heard. But scientific data to back us up? Not so much. For most of us, we believe because we have to. Because it’s us experiencing the paranormal. Hard to deny something when it’s part of your everyday life.”

“And the rest of us have to take it on faith.”

“Unfortunately. Unless and until you have your own close encounter with the paranormal.”

“I’d rather not.”

Isabel’s smile twisted a bit. “Yeah. Well, let’s hope you get your wish. But don’t count on it. Maybe it’s just because we psychics are present to pull in and focus the energy, but people around us do tend to experience things they never would have imagined before. Fair warning.”

“You keep warning me.”

“I keep trying.”

It was Rafe’s turn to sigh, but all he said was, “You made a distinction earlier between a spirit and a-what did you call it?-a noncorporeal force? What the hell is that supposed to be?”

“Evil.”

He waited a moment, then said, “Evil as in…?”

“As in the force opposing good, the negative to offset the positive. As in the precarious balance of nature, of the universe itself. As in worse than you can imagine, breath smelling like brimstone, glowing red eyes, straight-out-of-a-fiery-hell evil.”

“You’re not serious?”

When he glanced over at her, he found something in her green eyes older and wiser than any woman’s eyes should ever have held. Than any human eyes should ever have held.

“Didn’t you know, Rafe? Hadn’t you even considered the possibility? Evil is real. It’s a tangible, visible presence when it wants to be. It even has a face. Believe me, I know. I’ve seen it.”

Alan had every intention of taking the note to Rafe and the federal agents. Just not right away.

He wasn’t stupid about it, of course. He made a copy and put the original in a clear plastic sleeve to protect it. And then he spent a lot of time staring at the note. The words. Trying to figure out what the author was trying to tell him.

And trying to decide if the author was the killer.

Despite his sometimes provocative attitude in print, Alan wasn’t a big fan of conspiracy theories, so his natural inclination was to believe that the note had been written by the killer. It was the simplest explanation, and it made sense to him. What didn’t make sense was that someone in town knew who the killer was and had done nothing to stop him.

Unless that someone was very, very afraid.

And if that was the case… how could Alan flush him or her out of hiding?

It would be such a coup. And stop the killings, of course.

But how to bring that person, if he or she existed, out of the woodwork?

Musing over that question, Alan left the original of the note securely locked in his desk, but took the copy with him when he left the office-a bit early-for the day. He didn’t go straight home but stopped by the town-hall building, which had become the unofficial hangout for most members of the media.

There were quite a few hanging around, but most were talking companionably, with the relaxed posture that came of having passed the deadline for the six o’clock news. The pressure was off, at least for most of them and for the moment.

Dana Earley, the only blond female in the bunch, was also the most obviously tense. Understandably. She was also the only TV reporter still present today, and kept her cameraman close.

Alan doubted it was because she liked the guy, who was skinny, clearly bored, and appeared to be about seventeen.

Some protection he’d be, Alan thought.

“You,” Dana said to him, “are looking far too smug. What do you know that the rest of us don’t?”

“Oh, come on, Dana. You think I want a Columbia TV station to scoop me?”

Her brows disappeared up under her bangs. “Scoop you? What old movies have you been watching?”

Refusing the bait, Alan merely said, “It’ll be dark soon. I think if I were a blond TV reporter, I’d want to be inside. Behind a locked door. With a gun. Or at least some muscle.” He eyed the cameraman sardonically.

“I hear you have some muscle of your own,” she retorted. “Police muscle. Sleeping with a cop, Alan?”

“If I am, it’s hardly newsworthy,” he said dryly, showing no outward sign of an inward flinch. Mallory was not going to like it if this news was common knowledge, dammit. “Unless your station prefers tabloid gossip over substantive news.”

“Don’t sound so superior. You were the first print journalist to use the phrase serial killer, and however you intended it, it sounded gleeful and excited in your article.”

“It did not,” he found himself countering irritably.

“Go back and read it again.” She tucked an errant strand of blond hair behind her ear, smiled at him gently, and wandered off toward a magazine journalist here to research serial killers.

“Here you go, Alan.”

He jumped, and frowned at Paige Gilbert, who was holding out a tissue to him.

“Jesus, don’t sneak up on people. And what’s that?”

“I thought you might need it. For the spit in your eye.”

For just an instant, he was blank, but then he glanced after Dana and scowled as he looked back at the radio reporter. “Ha ha. She was just being all superior because she’s a talking head on the six o’clock news.”

“Not today she wasn’t,” Paige murmured.

“None of us has had much to report today,” he reminded her.

“True. But you might as well have canary feathers smeared all around your mouth. Come on, Alan, give it up. You know we’ll find out sooner or later.”

Alan made a mental note to stop playing poker with Rafe and a few other of their friends; obviously, his serious lack of a poker face was why he had lost so much imaginary money to them.

“I’m done for the day,” he informed Paige. “And even though this is your first really big story, if you want some advice from a veteran, you should go home and get some sleep as well. You never know when you’ll get that call that pulls you out of bed at two in the morning.”

Paige gazed after him, then jumped slightly herself when Dana said at her elbow, “He knows something.”

“Yeah,” Paige said. “But what?”

The rented car she and Isabel were sharing was parked near Caleb Powell’s law office, so Hollis was able to make it that far. Once locked inside, though, engine and air-conditioning running, she sat behind the wheel and watched her hands shake.

Bishop had warned her that until she learned to fully control her abilities, the door that devastating trauma had created or activated in her mind was likely to open up unexpectedly. And that the experiences were apt to be particularly powerful ones in the midst of a murder investigation when several people had died recently and violently.

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