Michael Prescott: Last Breath

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

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How old was he? A teenager only a few years older than herself, or an adult? She couldn’t tell. His whispery voice gave nothing away, and she couldn’t see his face.

She hoped she never saw it. If she did, it would mean that she had lost the battle.

“Why me?” she called hoarsely.

“It has to be somebody, Caitlin.”

“Why me?” she repeated.

“Because you’re so very pretty. Do you know how pretty you are? Your hair is so smooth and shiny, chestnut brown streaked with sun. I’d like to run my fingers through your hair.”

She shuddered.

“I’ve studied you,” he went on. “In town… and here at the ranch. You fascinate me. You’re a very special little girl.”

“Just go away.”

“I wish I could. But then I’d never learn the answer to the question that’s been haunting me. What color are your eyes, Caitlin? Are they brown or blue? I’ve never gotten close enough to see.”

Her eyes were green, but she didn’t tell him. She didn’t want him to know anything about her-even though he already seemed to know too much.

“I’ll bet they’re pretty eyes,” he said, and then the gloved hand was upon her again, closing over her right wrist and jerking it back, and she dropped the knife. He grabbed for it, but she snatched it first with her left hand and slashed at him furiously, and she heard a hiss of pain.

He retreated again. In the glow of the flashlight she saw a thin red line painted on the knife blade. She had nicked him in the hand or the forearm. Hurt him.

She had never intentionally hurt any living thing before tonight, but now she wanted to maim and cripple and mutilate. He had called her a fighter. He was right.

“Bitch,” the voice breathed.

Droplets of blood pattered on the gravel.

“Go away,” C.J. whispered.

But she knew he wouldn’t.

She steadied the knife. When he struck again, she would be ready. She would hold him off all night if she had to. She would never give up. Let him try again and again to invade her hiding place. She would inflict cut after cut until he either gave up or died.

“I’m going to kill you, Caitlin Jean Osborn,” he said in a deadly monotone. “And I’ll do it slowly. I’ll make you pay-”

“Fuck you,” she snapped. It was the first time she had ever said that word aloud.

She waited for the next onslaught. Strangely she wasn’t scared anymore. Later there would be time for fear, but now there was only the beat of her heart and the feel of the knife and her total concentration on survival.

Come on, she thought. Try again. I’m not afraid of you. Try again

The flashlight disappeared.

For a startled moment she thought he had switched it off. Then she heard the creak of floorboards in the kitchen, the tread of receding footsteps, and she knew he had left.

Had to be a trick. He was trying to fool her into coming out.

Or was he going to get a gun?

No, couldn’t be. If he had a gun, why wouldn’t he have brought it with him in the first place?

Well, because he was crazy, of course.

If he was planning to come back with a gun, then her only chance was to get out now, while the kitchen was clear. But suppose it was a trap, and she climbed out only to be attacked…

The fear was back. When things had been clear, when there had been only the simple job of fending him off, she had forgotten how to be afraid. Now that there was a decision to make, she was aware again of her terror and confusion, and aware also that she was only a ten-year-old girl, alone without a sitter for the first time ever, and this was all too much for her.

The house was silent. Had he gone? Really gone?

Maybe she could risk emerging. If she saw him waiting for her, she might have time to get back into the crawl space. She Footsteps again.

Returning.

Too late. He was back.

He must have brought a gun, must have.

No escape now. The knife was useless. She waited in terror until his silhouette appeared above her, his long, scrawny shadow stretched on the dirt floor, and she looked up into his face.

Her dad. Blinking down at her.

“C.J.? C.J., what the hell…?”

“Daddy, is he gone, is he gone?”

“Is who gone? Get out of there, it’s filthy down there!”

“ Is he gone?”

“There’s nobody here, C.J. Get out now,”

By the time she climbed up, her mom was there as well, staring at her in bewildered concern. “What in the world?” her mom kept asking, over and over. “What in the world?”

C.J. told them what had happened. She told them about the man who had come for her, who had gotten into the house without making any noise, who had known her name, who had said he’d been watching her. “We have to call the sheriff,” she said. “Please, let’s call now before he gets too far away!”

Her parents made no effort to pick up the phone. They merely traded a resigned glance.

“Come on,” C.J. insisted, “we have to call!”

“C.J.,” her dad said softly, “there was nobody here tonight.”

She stood stunned, unable to register the fact that they didn’t believe her.

“You got all worked up,” her mom said in a gentle, soothing tone. “Maybe it was something you saw on TV. You know how that imagination of yours can get going sometimes.”

“It wasn’t imagination,” C.J. whispered. “I cut him. Look.”

She showed them the knife, but the blood on the blade had already dried to a thin dusky line like a gravy stain.

“C.J…” her mom said, losing patience.

“There’s some of his blood on the floor of the crawl space. You can see it!”

But no blood was visible on the gravel. She must have obliterated all traces when she climbed out.

Still, she wouldn’t give up. She made her parents accompany her on a tour of the house. The man had broken in. There would be signs of it. A forced window, an open door…

There was nothing. Every door was locked, every window sealed.

“Are you willing to admit that it was your imagination now?” her dad asked sternly.

“He was real,” C.J. said stubbornly. “He was the boogeyman.” Even as she said it, she knew this was the wrong choice of words. Everyone knew there was no such thing as the boogeyman. Even she had known it until tonight.

Her parents wouldn’t listen. When she pressed the point, they lost their patience. They sent her to bed, telling her that she would not be left without a sitter again.

The Sheriff’s Department was never called. After a while C.J. stopped talking about the intruder. Meekly she acknowledged that she must have imagined him. It was the safest thing to say. But it was a lie.

That man was real. And he might still be out there. Waiting, as he had said. Studying her. Biding his time.

How he had entered the house remained a mystery for a month or so, until she remembered the doggy door. The Osborns had no dog, but the ranch’s previous owners had kept two schnauzers and had built a small swinging door at the rear of the house. It had not been used in years, but when she tested it, she found that the door still opened easily, and the hinges made only a faint squeal, inaudible at a distance.

The opening was small, and she herself could barely pass through it. But she recalled the man’s long, skinny arm. He had been bony, almost skeletal, and somehow, by some incredible contortion of his shoulders and hips, he had crawled through the little door. And when he heard her parents returning, he’d crawled out again.

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