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Книга Sense Of Evil. Страница 24

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Saturday, June 14, 6:30 AM

HE WOKE UP with blood on his hands.

Wet blood.

Fresh blood.

The pungent, coppery smell of it was thick and heavy in the room, and he gagged as he stumbled from the bed and into the bathroom. He didn’t bother to turn on the light even though the room was dim, just turned on the taps and fumbled for soap, washing his hands in the hottest water he could stand, soaping again and again.

The water, first bright red and then rusty-colored, swirled around the drain and slowly, so slowly, grew fainter and fainter. Like the smell.

When the water ran clear and he couldn’t smell the blood anymore, he turned off the taps. For a long moment he stood there, hands braced on the sink, staring at his shadowy reflection in the mirror. Finally, he went back into the bedroom and sat on the side of the tumbled bed, staring at nothing.


It had happened again.

He could still smell the blood, though there was no sign of any on the sheets. There hadn’t been before either. There never was, on anything he touched.

Just his hands.

He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and stared at his hands. Strong hands. Clean hands. Now.

No blood. Now.

“What have I done?” he whispered. “Oh, Christ, what have I done?”

Travis Keech yawned widely as he sat up in bed and vigorously rubbed his head with both hands. “Jesus. It’s after eight.”

“It’s dawn,” Alyssa Taylor said sleepily. “And it’s Saturday, so who cares?”

“I care. I have to. I’m supposed to work. The chief said we could come in later if we’ve worked late-which I did last night-but we’re all working overtime.”

“I suppose it’s taking all of you to investigate these murders.”

“You can say that again.”

“And I suppose you’ve got leads to follow.”

Her voice still sounded sleepy, but Travis looked down at her with a tolerant smile. “You know, just because you’re convinced I’m a yokel with straw in my hair doesn’t mean you’re right.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sounding less sleepy now, she stretched like an elegant cat. The position showed him a nice expanse of bare skin already wearing a light summer tan, which really set off her gleaming dark hair and pale eyes.

“Oh, come on, Ally. I don’t normally end up in bed with gorgeous women just hours after meeting them in our one little excuse for a bar. Unless, of course, they happen to be TV reporters from the big city and I happen to be involved in a serial-killer investigation.”

“Don’t underrate yourself,” Alyssa told him. “And don’t measure my morals with your yardstick, if you don’t mind. I didn’t set out to sleep with a cop, and I don’t go after stories on my back.”

“A lot of reporters do, I hear.”

“I’m not one of them.”

The sheet had slipped to show him most of one generous breast, and Travis decided he didn’t want to offend her. “I never said you were,” he protested, lying back down beside her and reaching underneath the covers. “But you could have had any guy in that bar and you came home with me. What else was I supposed to think?”

“That I thought you were sexy?” She didn’t exactly pout, but her body was just the slightest bit stiff when he pulled her into his arms. “That I was bored and didn’t want to go back to my hotel room alone? That I like guys in uniform?”

“Which was it?” he asked, nuzzling her neck.

“All of the above.” She sighed and relaxed in his embrace, her arms slipping around his middle and her hands sliding downward. “And you’ve got a cute ass too.”

He made an urgent sound, his body responding instantly to her caress, and she thought with faint, fleeting amusement that there was a lot to be said for catching a guy in his early twenties and at the peak of his sexuality.

A lot to be said.

She murmured, “I thought you had to go in to work.”

“Later,” Travis said.

It was nearly half an hour later when he finally, reluctantly pulled himself out of the bed. “I’ve gotta get to work. Want to join me in the shower?”

Alyssa stretched languidly. “Are you kidding? That tiny stall isn’t even big enough for you. I’ll wait my turn, thanks. I can shower while you’re shaving.”

“Okay, suit yourself.”

Alyssa waited until she heard the water running, then slipped from the bed and gathered her scattered clothing from the floor. She had to follow a trail halfway to the front door to get it all, which amused her yet again. Her purse had been left carelessly on a chair near the front door, something that made her shake her head.

Not smart. Not at all smart.

Could be she was slipping.

“Nah,” she murmured in response to that idea.

Returning to the bedroom, she laid the clothing out on the bed and then got her cell phone from the purse. She turned it on and punched in a number, keeping her gaze fixed on the half-open bathroom door.

“Hey, it’s Ally.” She kept her voice low. “I’ve found that source we talked about. A pretty good one. He’s already told me more than he realizes. He must have had half a dozen strong drinks last night, and no hangover this morning. Oh, to be twenty-four again.”

She listened for a moment, then said, “Yes, my head hurts. Well, I had to at least seem to keep up with him, didn’t I? Never mind. He’s going in to work, and the plan is to get him to meet me for lunch.”

A question made her laugh under her breath. “No, I don’t think there’ll be any problem persuading him to meet me. And I have a… hunch… that he’ll be perfectly happy to have me sticking close for the duration. So I should have a fair idea of what’s going on inside the department. Yeah. Yeah, I’ll check in at least twice a day, as arranged.”

10:05 AM

The third property they checked turned out to be an old commercial building off what had once been a busy two-lane highway until the bypass opened years before. Several companies had lost most of their customers, and more than one derelict office building or small store now stood abandoned and slowly falling into ruin. But a few, like the one Jamie Brower had owned, had been converted to have some kind of a useful life not dependent on passing customers.

“She was ostensibly using it for storage,” Rafe noted as they stood just inside the front door. The early sunlight slanted through the dusty front windows so that the interior of the front part of the building was easily visible to them.

“Just barely ostensibly,” Isabel agreed, looking around at a half dozen or so large pieces of old furniture in obvious need of restoration or repair, and a few crates labeled STORAGE. “Only enough stuff so that anybody looking in the front window would assume that was what she was using it for.”

“The real story is in the back,” Mallory called from a doorway about thirty feet from the front door and roughly halfway down the length of the building, where a wall divided the space. “The tools the locksmith gave us worked on this door and the rear entrance-which is conveniently hidden from the road. Great place to park your car if you don’t want anybody to know you’re here. And there are signs quite a few cars have been parked back there in recent months.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” Hollis wondered aloud.

“It’s about time we got lucky,” Rafe said as he, Isabel, and Hollis joined Mallory, all of them stepping into the half of the building that was quite obviously the reason Jamie had bought this place.

It was the room in the photographs.

“The submissive did know she was being photographed,” Rafe said, gesturing toward the camera set up on a tripod several yards from the bed platform. “There’s no place in here to hide that thing. The distance and angle look just right.”

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