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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 4

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Sunday night

"That's got to be the weirdest thing I've ever seen," Sherlock whispered against Savich's ear.

They stared at something filmy white floating through the trees, not quite opaque, not quite transparent-"otherworldly" was the word the senator used, Savich recalled and dismissed the thought immediately. He very strongly doubted it was anything like ectoplasm manifesting itself in the small knot of woods at the back of Senator David Hoffman's backyard in Chevy Chase, Maryland. With all the wickedness in the world, it was far more likely the senator's specter was what he'd described to them-a swatch of carefully cut feathery material about the size of a standard pillow.

They watched the white object move slowly toward the house, pausing every few seconds, as if the person feeding out the wire it was attached to was having some difficulties. Open mind, Savich thought, since he really couldn't tell what it was.

"It appears outside my bedroom window," the senator had told him and Sherlock that morning as they sat in front of his impressive desk in his elegant home office, his voice low, strained, as if he knew even saying this out loud would bring ridicule down on his head. He cleared his throat, his eyes darting to Sherlock's curly red hair, then beyond her to the bookcases that lined the wall. Sherlock followed his gaze. "You see something, Senator?"

"What? Oh, no, Agent, I was just thinking I should read some of those books. Do you know they came with the house? I've never touched them." He shook his head. "This house has been my local residence for nine years now. That's not right."

Savich said, "Senator, this thing you see dangling outside your bedroom window, what exactly does it do?"

"It simply flitters around," the senator said. "Back and forth, then it sometimes just floats or billows a bit. The first time I woke up and saw it, I thought I was having some sort of weird hallucination, but it just kept dancing around. I got out of bed and walked to the window, I was scared, I'll admit it. Whatever it was just continued to float up in front of me, then it was gone, from one moment to the next"-he snapped his fingers- "it simply vanished. I stood there and waited for it to come back, but it didn't. I was convinced I'd dreamed it, that, or it was the consequences of too many oysters-until it happened again."

"How many times has this thing appeared?" Sherlock asked.

"A dozen times now, I've counted them. Actually, I've written each occurrence down in this notebook." He tossed a small brown leather notebook back into his desk drawer. "If I was going crazy, I wanted to be able to show the course of my mental deterioration." He gave a quiet laugh. "Now, I simply lie in my bed and watch the thing dance around until it disappears after ten minutes or so. I've timed it. And every single time, the thing is there one instant, gone the next."

Savich asked, "How does it wake you up?"

"I'll be dead to the world, then I hear this sort of huffing noise, like a person trying to suck in a breath, and it's loud enough, insistent enough, to wake me up. The draperies are open and there the thing is, dancing outside the window. I really can't give you a simpler description of how it acts."

Sherlock said, "Can you see through it?"

He shook his head, his eyes again on her hair. Sherlock cocked her head at him.

"Sorry," Hoffman said. "My wife-her hair was red, not as beautiful as yours, Agent Sherlock, but it was bright and warrior fierce, even curlier than yours."

Warrior fierce, Savich liked that.

"Thank you, Senator," Sherlock said.

"The thing is, I can't exactly see through it in the dark, but it isn't exactly solid either. It's sort of filmy, like one of those very fine old linen nightgowns or a thick wedding veil, and like I said, about the size of a pillowcase."

A pillowcase certainly makes it sound earthbound. Savich said, "Senator, have you tried sleeping in another bedroom?"

He shook his head, his deep voice austere. "It has never been in me to run and hide, Agent Savich. This is my bedroom, my house. No ridiculous manifestation or whatever it is, is going to scare me away. I will, however, admit to taking sleeping pills once. It still woke me, that huffing noise, it went on and on."

"Have you told anyone about this manifestation?"

"Yes, my aide, Corliss Rydle. Corlie won't say anything to anyone for the simple reason that she doesn't want the crazy squad to come cart me away. That would mean temporary unemployment for everyone, including her.

"She insisted on spending several nights, in a sleeping bag right by the window. The thing didn't show. She then took her sleeping bag outside, maybe fifteen feet from my bedroom. Again, it didn't show.

"She talked me into hiring a private investigator to watch the house at night, telling him I was concerned about being stalked. Nothing out of the ordinary happened when he was there, either."

"Who else besides Corliss Rydle knows?" Sherlock asked as she put a check in her small notebook beside the woman's name.

"My two sons. I called them both over here after it had appeared about a half-dozen times. I told them about it, all very straightforward I was, because, to be honest here, I wanted to see their reactions. I remember they looked at each other like, The old man's losing it, and what the hell are we going to do? But they also insisted on camping out several nights in the backyard, but again, the thing didn't appear. I think they believe I'm teetering on the edge."

Savich said, "Have you ever gotten a sense of why this is happening, any signs of any sort to alert you to the meaning of all this? And the huffing sound that wakes you, have you ever heard it without the manifestation appearing?"

The senator shook his head, then paused. He raised pain-glazed eyes. "Oh, yes, I've heard that sound. When my wife was very ill, she couldn't breathe well. She made that same huffing sound. I'd sit by her bed and listen. I often counted how many times she had to make that sound in a five-minute period to stay alive. It was horrible, and this has brought it all back." He paused a moment. "The sound disappeared when she slipped into a coma and the respirator breathed for her."

Savich continued, "Have you ever felt this thing, whatever it is, was trying to communicate with you?"

Hoffman's dark eyes cut to Savich's face. He grew very still. Slowly, he shook his head. "I'll tell you, after the sixth or seventh time it appeared, I wasn't so freaked out. And I started talking to it. I asked it what it was doing here, asked if it wanted anything. All it ever did was move around, near the limits of my vision. I'll tell you, I felt like such a fool. I never approached it again, simply watched it from my bed."

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