Книга Sense Of Evil. Страница 45
Rafe eyed her for a moment, then cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled out Helton’s name.
Silence greeted the summons.
“Okay,” Rafe said, “let’s start looking around, before it gets even hotter out here.”
“Private property, even if it is a business,” Isabel reminded him.
“Yeah, but we’ve got cause with the wife missing and Helton out of touch. Judge’ll back me up on that.” He led the way, opening the gate at the end of the drive and allowing it to swing back as they passed through and headed for the cluster of barns and other buildings just a few yards away.
A slight breeze disturbed the heavy closeness of the humid air, giving them all a sense of relief from the heat-and offering a rather ripe olfactory experience.
“I love the smell of manure in the morning,” Isabel said. “Smells like… shit.”
Rafe had to laugh, but said, “Looks like he stopped in the middle of unloading a hay shipment.” There was a half-ton truck parked alongside the largest, closed barn and facing in the opposite direction, with its tailgate down and a great deal of loose hay piled all around it. A number of bales of hay remained stacked in the bed of the truck.
“I’ll check out the cab,” Isabel said, and crunched her way through the hay toward the front of the truck.
Hollis was about to say she’d head in the opposite direction and see if the other side of the barn was open, but something about the way Rafe was looking after Isabel made her pause. Just for something to say, she asked, “Why would he have stopped in the middle of unloading?”
“Maybe that’s when he realized his wife was missing. He might have been too distracted since then to worry about unloading hay.” Rafe frowned as he looked at her, and lowered his voice when he added, “What’s wrong with Isabel?”
“What makes you think something’s wrong?” Hollis countered, stalling.
Rafe’s frown deepened. “I don’t know, just something… off. What is it?”
Something off. Something turned off. Did you do it?
But she didn’t say any of that, of course. Already regretting that she had allowed this, Hollis said as casually as possible, “You’ll have to ask her. I should check out the other side of the barn, I guess, and see if there’s a door open.”
After a moment, Rafe said, “Okay, fine.”
Hollis took a step away, then turned back with a genuine question. “Is it just me, or is there a weird smell around this building? Doesn’t smell like manure now that the breeze has shifted. Sort of a sweet-and-sour odor.”
Rafe sniffed the air, and his rugged face instantly changed. “Oh, no,” he said.
Before either of them could move, the barn doors burst outward, and a thin, dark man in his thirties stood there between them, one shaking hand pointing a big automatic squarely at Rafe.
“Goddamn you, Sullivan! Bringing feds out here!”
ALYSSA TAYLOR KNEW damned well there was no good reason for her to hang around near the police station on a Sunday morning. No casual or innocent reason, that is. She couldn’t even pretend to sit nonchalantly in the coffee shop near the station, since it wouldn’t open until church let out.
She had toyed with the idea of going to church, but Ally found she couldn’t be quite that hypocritical.
She also half-seriously feared being struck by lightning if she crossed the threshold.
“You’re lurking, too, huh?” Paige Gilbert, who Ally knew was a local reporter for the town’s most popular radio station, leaned against the other side of the old-fashioned, wrought-iron light post, as seemingly casual as Ally.
“I bet we look like a couple of hookers,” Ally said.
Paige eyed Ally’s very short skirt and filmy top, then glanced down at her own jeans and T-shirt, and said, “Well…”
“Catch more flies with honey,” Ally said.
“I’ll just watch them flit past, thanks.”
Ally chuckled. “Travis likes my legs. And it’s such a little thing to make him happy.”
“A very little thing,” Paige murmured. “How’s the pillow talk?”
“I don’t kiss and tell.”
“Except on the air?”
“Well, we all have our boundaries, don’t we?”
Paige half laughed and inclined her head slightly in a sort of salute. “You’re good, I’ll give you that much.”
“I usually get what I go after.”
“Didn’t Cheryl Bayne say something like that?”
“She wasn’t careful. Obviously. I am.”
“Speculation seems to be she stuck her nose in where it didn’t belong.”
“For us too.”
Ally shrugged. “My philosophy is, no sense being in the game unless you’re willing to play all-out. I am. Like I said, I usually get what I go after.”
“You get any news on the body they found yesterday?”
Ally’s internal debate was swift and silent. “Not a blonde and not a victim of our serial killer. The theory is, she died by accident.”
“And hung her own body in that old gas station?”
“No, our resident ghoul probably did that. A nice toy for him, already dead and everything.”
“Well, we knew he was sick and twisted. Now we know he’s an opportunist too.”
Paige frowned. “If she wasn’t one of his victims, how did he get his hands on her?”
“The mystery of the thing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she had a connection to either him or one of the victims.”
“What kind of connection?”
“Dunno. Friend, family, a lover in common-something. She died by accident, he saw or knew and took advantage of the situation.”
Paige was still frowning. “There’s got to be more to it. How, exactly, did she die?”
“That I don’t know. Yet.”
“Is it true she’d been dead a couple of months?”
“Then she died before the first victim did. Maybe he liked playing with a dead body so much he decided to make a few of his very own?”
They stood on either side of the lamppost, leaning against it, and gazed across the street at the town hall. The downtown area was practically deserted. It was very quiet.
“I sort of wish I’d gone to church,” Paige said finally.
“Yeah,” Ally said. “Me too.”
Rafe wore his weapon in a hip holster, with the flap fastened; there was no way he could get to it; Hollis, like Isabel, wore her holster at the small of her back, also out of reach. Both she and Rafe stood frozen, their hands a little above waist height with the palms out, by training and instinct showing this dangerously unstable opponent the least threatening posture possible as his gun wavered between them.
“Tim, settle down,” Rafe advised calmly.
“Rose said she’d had enough,” Helton said, his voice as shaky as his gun hand. “That’s it, that’s why you’re here. She told you. She come and told you, and now you’ve brought the feds out here.”
From her angle, Hollis caught only a glimpse of what she knew Rafe could see more clearly: Isabel, at the rear bumper of the hay truck. Like the other two, she had frozen the moment the doors had burst open, but unlike them, she wasn’t visible to Tim Helton.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t visible to her either, since the heavy barn door shielded him from her view.
Worse, she was standing knee-deep in brittle, noisy hay; any movement at all would draw his attention and take away whatever hope she had of surprising him.
Standing still, Isabel silently drew her weapon and held it in a practiced, two-handed grip, thumbing off the safety.
Then she looked toward Rafe and Hollis, brows lifting in a silent question.
“Tim, we haven’t heard from Rose,” Rafe was saying, still calm. He kept his gaze fixed on Helton, though he could see Isabel from the corner of his eye. “That’s why we’re here, to look for her.”
“Liar. I heard them talking out here a while ago-they’re feds. Both of ’em. You bring feds out here and think I don’t know why? What am I, stupid? Where’s the other one? You tell her to come out, Sullivan, and I mean quick. You know I ain’t afraid to use this gun.”