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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61

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

Rawls squinted at the image of the empty bedroom. “What about it?”

“I don’t know. Doesn’t it look different to you?”

“Same room. Same lighting. Same camera angle.”

“Yeah, but there’s something…” Brand waved his hand, searching for the word. “Flicker. That’s what.”

“Streaming video always flickers.”

“I’m not talking about that. I’m saying-oh, hell, maybe I’m just tired.”

“I’ll bet you are.” Rawls swiveled his chair closer to the computer. “But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong.” He started tapping the keyboard.

“What are you doing?”

“We know the user name and password for the remote sysadmin. We can get into the site’s file manager, see if anybody’s been monkeying with the video.”

“It’s probably nothing,” Brand said. “Forget about it. I’m beat, that’s all. Seeing things.”

Rawls kept typing. He didn’t answer.


***

The most difficult thing was not to look at the camera.

C.J. knew where it was. Detectives Walsh and Cellini had told her that it was most likely installed inside the curtain rod over her bedroom window. The rod was a hollow cylinder, large enough to hide a miniature camera, and it was painted dark brown, so dark that a tiny hole drilled in the surface would not be visible except on close inspection.

Treat must have entered her house when she was at work, planted the camera, and run the electrical wire through the rod and into the wall, tapping into the main circuitry.

She wished she could study the wall for signs of spackling and repainting, but she didn’t dare. Anyway, she knew she would see nothing. Treat was a planner, not unlike Adam. He would leave nothing to chance. Most likely he had found the can of interior house paint she kept in the garage and used it when painting over his handiwork. The color would match exactly.

He was smart. Had to be, if he’d eluded capture for more than two decades, an extraordinarily long run for any criminal, and unheard of for a serial killer. Then again, only the ones who got caught were known. How many other men like Gavin Treat were out there, moving from town to town, state to state, changing their MO and their selection of victims-killing children sometimes, then adults-using different methods, different strategies-leaving no clues? Was Treat an isolated freak, or was he only a single soldier in an unseen army, one among hundreds, thousands?

She paced the bedroom, then stopped. He might be watching her right now. She should not appear agitated. She had to act normal.

What would she normally do in her bedroom at ten minutes to two in the morning? Go to sleep, obviously. But she couldn’t undress in front of that camera, not when she knew it was there.

Maybe she would just lie on the bed, fully clothed. Pretend to read or something. But to look natural, she had to take off the borrowed LAPD jacket. And that posed another problem-the Beretta in her waistband. Couldn’t let the camera see that.

Casually she sidled up against the bureau, orienting herself so that her right hip, where the gun was hidden, would not be visible from the Webcam’s vantage point. She slipped off the jacket and placed it in the top drawer of the bureau.

Now just take out the gun and slip it in the drawer also. No one would see.

She reached behind her right hip for the Beretta.

Another hand reached it first.

Plucked it free.

Him.

In her house, in her bedroom, directly behind her.

She tried to turn, but his arm-his taut, skeletal arm, all skin and bones-hooked her by the throat and yanked her backward against his chest.

“Got you, Caitlin Jean Osborn,” he whispered in that voice she remembered from her nightmares, the voice that called to her when she lay in the crawl space so many years ago.

She wanted to speak, to say anything, but the pressure of his elbow on her throat was too strong.

“You shouldn’t have come home.” Gavin Treat’s lips brushed her ear. “There’s such a thing as pressing your luck.”

62

“Where the hell is she?”

The voice on the radio belonged to Deputy Pardon, team leader of the Sheriff’s SWAT squad.

Another voice-the D Platoon leader-answered him. “We were hoping you could tell us. Team Leader Two. We’ve lost visual. No sign of her in windows four or five.”

“Nothing in window one,” a voice said.

“Negative on windows two and three.”

“All clear on window six.”

“How about the camera?” the Metro SWAT leader asked.

“Negative.” This was Tanner speaking, as he sat beside Walsh and Cellini in an undercover car a block down the street from C.J.’s bungalow. “She left the room five minutes ago, hasn’t returned.”

The computer resting on Tanner’s lap showed an empty bedroom, lit by the nightstand lamp.

“She’s disappeared,” somebody said in the radio cross talk.

“All right, cut the chatter,” Deputy Pardon ordered. “Stay alert. She’ll resurface.”

“She’d better,” Cellini said in an undertone only Tanner could hear.

“Are there are any other rooms besides the bedroom where the curtains are closed?” Walsh asked.

Tanner shook his head. “The bedroom’s the only one.”

“Why don’t we have infrared lenses trained on the house?”

“We do. On the front of the house anyway. But she’s not showing up. No body heat.”

“Then she’s in the rear. There’s nothing back there but the rear hall, the laundry room, and the bedroom.”

“Well, she’s not in the bedroom.” Tanner tapped the computer screen for emphasis.

“Maybe she’s doing her laundry,” Cellini said, trying for humor. Nobody laughed.

“This is wrong.” Walsh’s face was set in deep lines of worry. “Maybe they should go in.”

Tanner considered it. He wanted to agree, but he knew C.J. would be furious if they blew their cover in a misguided attempt to protect her. “Another minute or two,” he said. “If we go in now, the game’s up. We’ll scare him off for sure.”

Walsh frowned but nodded. “Minute or two. That’s all.”


***

Treat had the impression Caitlin wanted to speak. He had to admit to a certain curiosity over her final words. He eased the pressure on her throat incrementally.

“They’ll see you,” Caitlin whispered. “They’re looking at you right now.”

Treat almost smiled.

So it was a trap. They had known about the Webcam, the Web site, all of it. They had simply pretended to suspect nothing. Really, the authorities were more clever than he gave them credit for.

Still, all their cleverness would avail them nothing.

“I’m afraid, dear, I could hardly allow live video of a homicide to go out unedited over the Internet. Suppose impressionable young children were watching. I wouldn’t want to warp their innocent minds.”

“What…” She was trying to speak, but the words wouldn’t come.

“No one can see us,” he said more plainly. “We have the rarest luxury of all in this crowded, interconnected modern world. We have total privacy, Caitlin, just you and I.”

He felt the tensing of her neck muscles and knew she was about to scream, but already his hand was on her mouth, forcing it shut, muffling her cry as he forced her away from the bureau.

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