Michael Prescott: Last Breath

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

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C.J. circled the room, pausing at the nightstand to handle a shapeless blob of blue, unidentifiable in the low-resolution image. She left it where it lay and entered the bathroom to get a drink of water.

“She’s checking out the place,” Rawls said. “Wants to make sure she’s alone.”

“Of course she’s alone. That’s the whole point-to lure him to her.”

“I guess she’s not taking any chances. Can you blame her?”

“No, but I’m betting she’s got nothing to worry about. He’s had three hours to make tracks. I say he’s nowhere near her house. This whole thing is an exercise in futility.”

Rawls smiled. “You can go home if you like.”

“Hell, no. I’m staying put, even if we have to pull an all-nighter.”

“You mean, in case you’re wrong?”

“It could happen.” Brand shrugged. “There’s a first time for everything.”


***

C.J. took some comfort from the sight of her purse on the nightstand, and more important, from the feel of the handgun inside. Nice to know it was still there. The off-duty gun was an old friend, and she liked having it close.

She considered removing it from the purse and putting it inside her jacket but decided against it. If Treat was watching, he would wonder why she had moved her purse out of camera range. And if he so much as suspected a trap, he would not come.

Besides, she didn’t need the gun. She already had one, a 9mm Beretta that Tanner had given her, which was now tucked into the waistband of her shorts beneath her LAPD jacket.

“There’s no chance you’ll need this,” Tanner had said.

“So why are you giving it to me?” she’d countered.

“Well, there’s that old Murphy’s Law business. Just take it, and keep the piece out of sight when you’re in the bedroom.”

The bedroom, yes-her private sanctuary, which had turned out not to be private at all. For a month she had slept here, worked on her exercise rig, showered, brushed her teeth, dressed and undressed, and because the curtains had been closed, she had thought she was unobserved.

Wrong. The curtains were closed now, but she knew that eyes watched her as she made a pretense of putting some laundry away. Gavin Treat’s eyes, perhaps. The eyes of Detective Walsh and Detective Cellini and Deputy Tanner, certainly-they were observing her on a computer monitor in an unmarked car down the street. And other eyes-the eyes of strangers, visitors to the Web site, lonely men who spied on her in secrecy late at night.

Those eyes troubled her most of all. Possibly there were only a few dozen watchers of that sort, yet they were scattered across the country or around the world; they were faceless, nameless; they could be anyone, anywhere; and they had been in her bedroom, had invaded her life, just as surely as if any of them had come through her window wearing a ski mask.

A shiver ran through her. She felt the need to get out of the bedroom, if only for a minute or two.

She walked down the hall, past the spot where Adam had ambushed her and she’d dropped the knife-gone now, bagged and tagged by the evidence techs. Then into the living room, past the den where her computer was set up. The computer looked different to her now. It seemed vaguely menacing, and when she saw her reflection pass across the blank monitor, she felt her stomach twist.

Maybe from now on she would not haunt the online auction sites. Maybe she would just start going to garage sales-or find another hobby altogether. She had always liked using the computer, had liked the thought of connecting with the world through her telephone line, but now she knew that the same thread of wire could allow the world to connect with her.

Into the kitchen now. Looking out the window at the dark backyard. The Metro D Platoon was out there-the SWAT team-concealed in the bushes, watching her as she watched the night.

Watchers everywhere.

Was Treat one of them? Had he seen her in the bedroom? Would he come?

He had to. Both of them had waited too long to play the deciding round of this contest.

They had to end it now.


***

On elbows and knees Gavin Treat wriggled through yards of dust and nets of spiderwebs. There were many fine arachnid specimens down here, enough to get him started on a new collection, but at the moment they held no interest for him.

Caitlin was all that mattered. Caitlin, home at last.

He had seen her on the laptop’s screen, of course, Caitlin in her LAPD jacket-a borrowed jacket from the look of it, lent to her by some chivalrous member of the constabulary.

And of course, he had heard her too.

The construction of the bungalow was reasonably good, but the floorboards still creaked with every footstep.

Lying in the dark crawl space under the house, he had heard her enter, had traced her progress through the living room and down the hall, had known of her presence even before she entered the bedroom and became an image on a screen.

The crawl space had been his hiding place for the past two hours, ever since he quit his aimless driving and decided to hole up out of sight. He had come here, to Caitlin’s house, partly in hopes of taking her by surprise when she returned, and partly on the principle so admirably set forth in that old short story by Poe-“The Purloined Letter,” wasn’t it? Hide in plain sight. Wherever the police might be looking for him, they would not think to check Caitlin’s home.

It was easy enough to pick the lock on the back door and slip inside, locking the door behind him. He had planned to stay above ground, naturally, but the living room and kitchen were no good-too many windows to be seen through. And the bedroom, too, was out. Although the drapes were closed, the Webcam was still running, and he could not afford to let his image go out on the Web. There was no reason to think the police knew of the Web site, but others did-Steven Gader and his like-minded subscribers to the site. He did not wish to be seen by them or by anyone.

By process of elimination, the laundry room remained as the best place of concealment. It was windowless and not under surveillance. He entered it, and then he saw the trapdoor in the floor.

He knew at once that it led to a crawl space. The irony of it pleased him immensely. She had hidden from him in a crawl space years ago. Now he would turn the tables.

He had waited, prone under the low subfloor, amid the rusty plumbing pipes and the scuttling bugs, with only the glow of his laptop’s screen to light the darkness. The computer, wired into the AC, could run indefinitely. He was unaware of any hunger or impatience or discomfort. For him, there was only the soft glow of the screen, the creak of the house settling, the distant, steady beat of his heart.

He passed the time by preparing for the kill.

He intended to take her in her bedroom. He did not want an audience.

His preparations were nearly completed when she entered the house.

Now he bellied his way to the trapdoor and pushed it open slowly, wary of any sound that might give him way. Then he hoisted himself into the unlighted laundry room. Standing, he listened at the closed door to the hall. Footsteps passed by, diminishing.

She had gone back into the bedroom.

That was fine. That was perfect.

Treat opened the door and stepped into the hall.

61

“Something funny about the feed,” Brand was saying.

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