Michael Prescott: Blind Pursuit

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Michael Prescott Blind Pursuit
  • Название:
    Blind Pursuit
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  • Жанр:
    Триллер / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Michael Prescott


Blind Pursuit

I look back on my life like a good day’s work; it was done and I am satisfied with it.

— Grandma Moses

1

In darkness, the urgent buzzing of an intercom.

Erin Reilly surfaced from sleep, blinking alert. Propped on one elbow, she studied her bedside clock’s digital display, luminous in the night.

2:16 A.M.

From the living room came another prolonged buzz, insistent as a stabbing finger.

One of her patients? At this hour?

Like any psychologist, she occasionally received post-midnight phone calls and beeper messages from anxious or depressed people in need of help. But an unscheduled visit to her apartment was something new.

She’d never even released her home address, and she wasn’t listed in the phone book. So how…?

As the intercom blared again, she kicked aside two layers of blankets and swung out of bed.

The hardwood floor was cold. Her toes curled reflexively.

A pair of slippers lay somewhere nearby, but she didn’t take the time to hunt them down.

Barefoot, she hurried into the living room. Carpet in there, thank God. Warmer.

Again and again the intercom blatted at her, bursts of angry noise, distressing as a baby’s wail. She groped for the controls. “Hello?”

The voice that crackled over the speaker was familiar, the most familiar voice in her world, but startling now: “This is Annie.”

“ Annie?” Not a patient with a problem. Her sister, and her best friend. “It’s after two a.m. What are you doing here?”

“I’m in trouble. Please. Need to… talk.”

In the oddly halting quality of her speech, Erin thought she heard suppressed sobs.

“Of course,” she said instantly. “Come on up.”

She was already holding down the Enter button to release the lock on the lobby’s security door. After a count of eight she let go.

Agitated, she unlocked her own door and flipped the wall switch. A brass torchiere and two end-table lamps threw crisp ovals of light on the white walls.

She drew a breath of comfort from the pristine orderliness of her home and, by extension, her life. No muss and clutter, no untidy loose ends.

The white sofa, glass coffee table, and teakwood entertainment center were objects of minimalist design and spare, elegant simplicity. They mirrored her soul no less exactly than the careful notations in her appointment book, the crisp lines of her signature, her manicured hands, the styling of her hair-swept back from her forehead, trimmed short at the nape.

She returned to her bedroom and, without switching on a light, found her slippers and robe.

Her apartment was on the top floor of a four-story building, a high-rise by local standards. The bedroom windows framed miles of moonlit rooftops and brush-choked vacant lots. In the distance the lights of downtown Tucson flickered faintly, cupped by the dark humps of mountains and canopied with stars.

Beyond the rows of carports at the side of the building, traffic hummed past on Pantano Road, and a dry wind shivered through the fronds of palm trees.

Erin shivered, too, as she left the bedroom. Forty-five degrees tonight-chilly for southern Arizona-though the temperature would climb to eighty by mid-afternoon.

The desert in springtime was an environment of extremes-cold nights and hot days, long stretches of aridity punctuated by brief bursts of punishing rain, prickly pear cacti and ocotillo costumed overnight in garish floral blooms.

Living here in this season ought to teach a person to be prepared for abrupt changes, for the constant certainty of surprise.

But Erin had not been prepared to hear her sister’s voice over the intercom.

Admittedly, Annie did tend to get emotional about things. But she’d never disturbed Erin so late at night, not even with a phone call.

Something must be really wrong.

I’m in trouble, she’d said.

Whatever trouble it was, it must have just come up. Annie had sounded fine on the phone a few hours ago, when Erin called her to make a lunch date for tomorrow.

Not tomorrow, she corrected herself, remembering the time. Later today.

She paced the living room, running through a mental checklist of possible crises. None seemed remotely plausible. Well, she would find out as soon as Annie arrived at her door.

It was taking her a long time, though. The elevator was slow, but not this slow.

What if Annie was afraid to face her for some reason? Afraid to disclose this secret of hers?

Unthinkable. The two of them had been close-more than close, inseparable-for their whole lives. Holding something back would be completely out of character for Annie, wouldn’t be like her at all.

But coming to Erin’s place at this hour, desperate and mysterious-that wasn’t like her, either.

And she still wasn’t here.

“Damn,” Erin murmured to the stillness around her. “I’d better see if she’s downstairs.”

She found her purse, the shoulder strap looped over the back of a dining room chair, and took out her keys. Briefly she wondered if she ought to slip on some clothes-embarrassing to be caught roaming the building in her robe.

Oh, forget about it. At this hour no one else would be up.

She scanned the hallway-deserted-then shut and locked the apartment door behind her. Rows of closed doors passed by as she walked quickly to the elevator, her slippered feet padding on the short-nap carpet, the terry-cloth robe gently swishing against her pajamas. She punched the call button.

Hum of cable. Squeak of gears. The doors rattled open.

No Annie inside.

Erin got in, pressed Lobby. The elevator descended, groaning.

Third floor. Second. She jangled her keys nervously.

Lobby.

The doors parted. She stepped into the building manager’s fantasy of potted ferns and saltillo tile.

The exterior door was closed. A glass door. Annie was not visible outside it.

Near the elevator was the manager’s glassed-in office, dark. No one in there, either.

But it made no sense. There was only one elevator, and Annie hadn’t been on it.

Had she taken the stairs? Why would she?

More likely she’d lost her nerve, gone away. If so, she must be badly upset. Must be Behind her, a rustle of movement.

Erin turned. “Annie?”

Froze.

Not Annie.

Her heart kicked. Breath stopped.

The man was tall and heavyset, red-bearded, an uncombed shock of scarlet hair spilling out from under a baseball cap, the bill cocked low over his eyes. On the fur collar of his winter coat lay a bristle-toothed leaf, deposited there by the sword fern in the alcove where he had lain in wait.

His hands were gloved. In his right first, a gleam of metal.

She almost screamed, and then his left hand shot out, seized her shoulder, slammed her up against the elevator doors.

The impact winded her. She had no breath, no voice.

Thrust of his right arm, the metallic thing digging into her stomach below the breastbone, two sharp prongs pinching her skin through the robe and pajama top.

From a yard away she stared into his eyes, blue and cold.

His forefinger flexed.

Pain exploded in her. Her jaws clicked shut and her vision blurred as the pain went on and on, singing in every nerve ending, a single high note held unwavering at its peak.

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