Linwood Barclay: Clouded Vision

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Linwood Barclay Clouded Vision
  • Название:
    Clouded Vision
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  • Жанр:
    Криминальный детектив / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Linwood Barclay


Clouded Vision

PROLOGUE

Ellie

She’d been dreaming that she was already dead. But then, just before her dream came true, she opened her eyes.

With what little energy she had, she attempted to move, but she was secured, tied in somehow. She lifted a bloody hand from her lap and touched her fingers to the strap that ran across her chest, felt its familiar texture, its smoothness. A seat belt.

She was in a car. Sitting in a front seat.

She looked around and realized it was her own car. But she wasn’t behind the steering wheel. She was buckled into the passenger seat.

She blinked a couple of times, thinking there must be something wrong with her vision because she could barely make anything out. Then it dawned on her that it wasn’t a problem with her eyes.

It was night.

She gazed out through the windshield, saw stars twinkling in the sky. It was a beautiful evening, if she overlooked the part about how all the blood was draining from her body.

It was difficult to hold her head up, but with what strength she still had, she looked around. As she took in the starkness, the strangeness of her surroundings, she wondered if she might actually be dead already. Maybe this was heaven. There was a certain peacefulness about it. Everything was so white. There was a sliver of moon in the cloudless sky, and it lit up the landscape, which was dead flat and seemed to go on forever.

Was the car parked on a snowy field? Far, far off in the distance, she thought she could make out something. A dark, uneven border running dead straight across the top of the whiteness. Trees, maybe? The thick black line, it almost had the look of a… of a shoreline.

“What?” she whispered quietly to herself.

Slowly, she began to understand where she was. No-not understand. She was starting to figure out where she was, but she couldn’t understand it.

She was on ice.

The car was sitting on a frozen lake. And quite a ways from the shore, as far as she could tell.

“No no no no no,” she said to herself as she struggled to think. It was only mid-December. The temperatures had plunged a week ago, and while it might have been cold enough for the lake to start freezing over, it certainly hadn’t been cold long enough to make the ice thick enough to support a Crack.

She felt the front end of the car dip ever so slightly. Probably no more than an inch. That would make sense. The car was heaviest at the front, where the engine was.

She had to get out of this car. If the ice had managed to support something as heavy as a car, at least for this long, surely it would keep her up if she could get herself out… She could start walking, in whatever direction would get her to the closest shore.

If she could even walk. She touched her hand to her belly. Everything was warm, and wet. How many times had she been stabbed? That was what had happened, right? She remembered seeing the knife, the light flickering across the blade, and then The knife had gone into her twice, she thought. And then everything had faded to black.

Dead.

Except she wasn’t.

There must have been just a hint of a pulse that went unnoticed as she was put into the car and buckled in, then driven out here to the middle of this lake. Where, someone must have figured, the car would soon go through the ice and sink to the bottom.

A car with a body inside it, dumped in a lake near the shore, someone might discover that.

But a car with a body inside it that sank to the bottom out in the middle of a lake, what were the odds anyone would ever locate that?

She had to find the strength. She had to get out of this car now, before it broke through the ice. Did she have her cell phone? If she could call for help, they could be looking for her out on the ice, she wouldn’t have to walk all the way back to Crack.

The car lurched. The way it was leaning, her view forward was now snow-dusted ice instead of the far shore. The moon was casting enough light for her to see the inside of the car. There was no sign of her purse, which was where she kept her cell phone. Whether she had a phone or not, that didn’t change the fact that she had to get out of this car.

Right now.

She reached around to her side, looking for the button to release the seat belt. She found it, pressed with her thumb. The combined lap and shoulder strap began to retract, catching briefly on her arm. She pulled it out of the way and the belt receded into the pillar between the back and front door.

Crack.

She reached down for the door handle and pulled. The door opened only slightly. Enough for freezing cold water to start rushing in around her feet.

“No, no,” she whispered.

As water started to fill the interior, the car tilted more. She had to put her hands forward on the dash to keep herself in the seat as the car shifted forward. With one hand on the dash, she pushed on the door with the other, but she couldn’t get it to open. The front part of the door, at the bottom, was jammed on the surface of the ice.

“Please no.”

The last crack she heard was the loudest, echoing across the lake like a thunderclap.

The front end of the car dropped suddenly. Water rushed in, swirling now around her knees. Then her waist. Her neck. Then everything became very black, and very cold, and then, in an odd way, very calm.

Her last thoughts were of her daughter, and the grandchild she would never see.

“Melissa,” she whispered.

And then the car was gone.

ONE

Keisha

Keisha Ceylon stared at the house and thought, Sometimes you can tell, just by looking at a place, that there’s hurt inside.

Sitting in the car with the motor running so she could keep the heater on, Keisha was sure her feelings about the house were not influenced by what she already knew. She told herself that if she’d been strolling through the neighborhood, and had merely glanced at this home, she’d have picked up something.

Despair. Anxiety. Fear.

Not that there was anything to distinguish the home from any other on the street, other than that the inch of snow that had fallen overnight had not been cleared from the drive, or the walk up to the front door. Plus the fact that the curtains were drawn, the blinds shut.

Keisha thought about what the man inside must be going through. How he was dealing with it. Whether he was at the point where he would be desperate enough to accept-and pay for-the extraordinary service she could provide.

She believed her timing was about right. This was always the tricky part. Knowing when to move in. You couldn’t act too quickly, but you didn’t want to leave it too late, either. If you waited too long, the police might actually find a body, at which point no distressed relative was going to care what kind of visions Keisha Ceylon might be having that would lead them to it. Fat lot of good they’d do then. You had to get hold of these people while they still had hope. As long as they had hope, they were willing to try anything, throw their money at anything. This was especially true when all the conventional methods-door-to-door canvasses, sniffer dogs, aerial patrols, neighborhood searches-had turned up nothing. That’s when the relatives were open to something a bit unorthodox. Like a nice lady who showed up on their doorstep and said, “I have a gift, and I want to share it with you.”

For a price, of course.

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