Michael Prescott: Riptide

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Michael Prescott Riptide
  • Название:
    Riptide
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  • Жанр:
    Триллер / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Riptide: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Hare felt a slow, steady pounding at his temples.

And when he rose from bed, he knew what he would do.

He rummaged in his jacket until he found the knife-a black wooden handle and a sharp blade, ground to a deadly point.

Knife in hand, he left his room and stepped along the empty corridor to the door nearest his own.

His blade, inserted between door and jamb, made quick work of the latch, springing it silently. He eased the door ajar and peered inside.

The room was lit by a single guttering candle on the nightstand. Its glow reached the bed but not the farther corners.

Amid the tangled sheets, his back to the door, the foreigner was humping the crone. The hag had not even troubled to undress, had merely lifted her copious garments over her hips to expose the devil’s mouth between her thighs.

Preoccupied with carnality, neither of them had seen him.

Hare swung the door wide and burst into the room. A crashing blow with the knife handle caught the foreigner on the back of his skull and sent him tumbling to the floor. Hare scrambled over the fallen man onto the bed where the whore, dazed with drink and lust, had only just registered his arrival. He seized her disheveled clothes and jerked them higher, covering her face, then twisted the loose folds of her chemise into a knot and wound it tight. She was both strangled and smothered, her fists beating on the mattress until they could beat no more.

He climbed off her, leaving her as she’d died, her face shrouded, her body nude below the armpits.

Her death had been quick. He hadn’t wanted her to suffer. She could not help being what she was. She was no more responsible for the despoliation she caused than was a toxic bacillus. She must simply be eliminated, cleanly and swiftly, in the name of preserving health.

Hare checked the hall. Still empty. No alarum had been raised. No one had seen or heard. He shut the door and locked it, then took stock of the situation.

The foreigner was his most immediate concern. Half dressed, hatless, he lay outstretched and inert. Dead? No, blood ticked in the carotid at the side of the neck. The man lived.

Hare returned his attention to the harlot. His gaze settled on the forbidden area, the deep hollow of her sex. She had used that secret place to lure men astray. Even in death, it was the source of her power. But not for long.

He stripped to his underwear, neatly folding his clothes. He meant to do the job carefully, methodically, but he was out of practice and the first incision was clumsy, missing the central part of her abdomen and slip-sliding along her left side in a long curling gash that opened her up from the breastbone to the base of the spine. Her insides were hot-he could warm his hands over them-hot and reeking with the charnel-house odor that drove him mad. His twitching hands plunged inside her and found the slick ropes of her intestines, and he was unpacking her corpse, opening a path to her inmost female parts.

He turned her inside out, found one of her ovaries, tore it free. He would unsex her. She had been a cunt, nothing more. Now she would not be even that much.

“Not even that,” he whispered as sweat slimed his face.

His blade took savage bites out of her. He jabbed again and again, perforating her body, then rolled her onto her side and slashed a furious X into her left buttock.

X marks the spot, said the treasure maps. There was no treasure in her. X marked only her bloody rump.

Finally, exhausted, he threw down the knife. Breathing hard, he gathered himself. The room was suddenly hot and close. He propped open the window with one of the whore’s shoes. A moist breeze seeped in, carrying distant drunken cries.

When he looked back at the bed, he saw something only half-human amid the sheets.

Blood was everywhere, gouts of it, drenching the mattress, staining his hands and wrists.

And there was still the foreigner to be dispatched.

Unless a better alternative presented itself.

Hare’s knife lay on the floor. He did not retrieve it. He sat naked on the bed, formulating a plan.

Then carefully he wiped himself clean on the foreigner’s shirt and trouser legs. When he was done, it was the blond man who reeked of blood.

Hare dressed, then left the room. Of course he could not stay the night. He must find lodging elsewhere. The doors to the street would be locked at midnight. After that, the foreigner would be trapped in the hotel, unable to leave without the assistance of the night porter. His bloody clothes would shout for attention. Mary or some other minion would eye him shrewdly: “Whose blood is that, mister?” Imagine the blond ape struggling to answer in his pidgin English, his rude face flashing fear. The room would be entered, the knife and its victim found. The case was open-and-shut.

It was best that way. Best if the crime could be solved this very night. The authorities would not inquire too closely if a scapegoat lay conveniently to hand.

At a few minutes to midnight Hare descended the stairs. The office on the first-floor landing was fortuitously unoccupied, but the tavern on the lobby level was more crowded and boisterous than before. He avoided it, slipping down an adjacent corridor to an outside door. He crossed Water Street and walked along Catherine Slip, keeping clear of the street lights.

No one saw him. No one ever saw him. He was invisible, blending with the fog.

one

She had been in the water for less than twelve hours, but already the fish had begun to feed. Men in wetsuits gently cut her loose from the snarl of fishing lines, separating her from the piling. As she bobbed to the surface, her head fell back, exposing her face to the sun.

The plastic bag was still tied in place, ribboned with kelp, a caul pasted to her features. Her eyes bulged, bloodshot with petechial hemorrhages. Her swollen tongue lay against the plastic like a purple snake.

High above the water, Jennifer Silence stood on the Venice Fishing Pier, hands in the pockets of the nylon windbreaker that beat against her chest.

Beside her, Draper said, “I don’t know why you had to see this.”

“I had to see her.”

“Seen enough?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll take you to her house.”

***

The house was a Craftsman bungalow on Centinela Avenue in Mar Vista. Three black-and-whites were slant-parked on the street outside. No coroner’s van, no SID unit-not yet. Draper had brought her in before the house had been processed.

A uniformed Pacific Area cop guarded the front door, the radio on his hip chattering unintelligibly. Down the hall, in the dining area, there were more uniforms, laughing and joking, their joviality somehow obscene after what Jennifer had seen in the water.

Draper led her into the bedroom at the rear of the cottage. The room had been vandalized. The desktop computer-a Mac, she noted-lay in pieces on the carpet. The mirror over the dresser was spider-webbed with cracks. Chairs were overturned, hanging plants yanked off their ceiling hooks and strewn around the floor, trailing dirt-encrusted roots. A bookcase had been pulled down, scattering its contents-not many books, mostly CDs and videos and a couple of snapshots in metal frames.

On another tabletop lay a spray of porcelain pieces from smashed figurines. Enough recognizable parts remained to identify the figures as owls. On the floor was a larger owl in carved ironwood, and another one chiseled out of some dark green stone.

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