Michael Prescott: Last Breath

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

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“Bedtime, Caitlin,” he breathed. “Rest in peace.”


***

“Look at this.”

Rawls had accessed the Web site’s file manager and was studying the list of uploaded files. He pointed to the date next to one of the entries. Today’s date.

“It was just updated,” Brand said. The hour and minute were listed alongside the date. “Less than five minutes ago.”

“Check out the filename. ‘WebcamOne. avi.’ ”

“What the hell? That’s not live video.”

“Not anymore. He recorded three hundred K of the feed”-there were software programs that could capture a video stream as an. avi file-“and uploaded it to the file manager. He’s got it linked to the Web page, so we think we’re seeing a real-time shot when actually-”

“It’s a goddamn loop,” Brand finished. “That’s why it looked wrong. Flickering-”

“Whenever the loop restarts.” Rawls nodded. “Call Walsh. I’ll try to get the live feed back.”

Rawls figured the signal was still being sent. He simply had to relink it to the site.

He opened an editing program built into the file manager and brought up the Web page, which appeared as a clutter of HMTL code. The link to the live video had been replaced by a link to the WebcamOne file.

“You remember the original link?” Brand asked as he flipped open Rawls’s cell phone and punched redial There was ringing on the other end of the line.

“I made note of it. Mind like a steel trap.” Rawls deleted the new link, typed in the old one, and saved the changes, then pulled up the Web page and hit the Refresh button.

A live image of the bedroom appeared. Not empty anymore.

“Oh, Christ,” Brand said, nearly dropping the phone.

C.J. Osborn was sprawled on her bed, a man on top of her, a tall man with sinewy arms, a man who was strangling her to death.


***

Walsh’s cell phone was chirping at him. He groped for it in his pocket, still watching the laptop computer, and then the video image shivered and miraculously changed.

Cellini gasped.

Tanner was already on his feet, yelling into the microphone. “Code ninety-nine, she’s down, she’s down!”

On the screen, C.J. writhing as strong hands gripped her throat-the hands that had strangled Nikki Carter and Martha Eversol.

The phone was still ringing. Walsh grabbed it. “Yes?”

“This is Brand, FBI. You see it?”

Walsh took a breath. “We see it. SWAT’s going in.”


***

C.J. hadn’t expected to die like this, spread-eagled on her back amid the tangled sheets, fingers on her throat, air cut off, vision dimming, until only his eyes remained clear and sharp in the descending darkness-eyes that cut through her, laser eyes, eyes that spoke of hatred and desperation and the singing joy of revenge.

Noise.

The boom of gunshots from the front and rear of the house.

Doors being blown open.

Rescue.

Treat heard it too. Released her throat and pivoted at the hips, still straddling her, and then the gun was in his hand, the Beretta he’d taken from her.

He fired three times at the bedroom doorway to hold off the assault.

And C.J. twisted on her side and reached out to her nightstand.

Treat swiveling to face her again.

The purse in her hand.

His gun tracing a slow arc toward her.

Her hand inside the purse, finding her off-duty gun, the Smith. 38, her finger slipping inside the trigger guard.

Treat about to shoot, point-blank range, no way he could miss.

But she fired first

Not aiming, just thrusting the purse in his direction and snapping the Smith’s trigger, blowing the handbag to tatters as she fired again and again and again, each shot blossoming like a many-petaled rose on his chest, his neck, his belly, and his eyes still staring, not with hatred any longer, only with dazed surprise.

She emptied the gun, and Treat tottered, slumped, fell off the bed.

Over the ringing in her ears she heard the smack of his body on the floor, a sound as final as the thump of earth on a coffin lid.

Then SWAT was in the room, two teams, ten men or more, guns everywhere, and she was holding up her hands in a protective reflex, saying, “It’s all right, guys. It’s over. I got him. It’s over.”

It was, too. Really.

The boogeyman was dead.

Epilogue

They called it “C.J.”

To Adam, this was the bitterest irony. The Los Angeles County Central Jail, to which he had been transferred this morning after two months of reconstructive surgery on his right hand, was known to its inmates by those initials. In the echoing cell block where he had been installed during the pretrial period, he heard the other prisoners yelling and laughing and cursing, and every other breath out of their mouths was “C.J.”

“Pissed off to be back in C.J., baby…”

“Hey, motherfucker, what you doing here in C.J.?”

“Food in C.J.’s pretty damn good compared with the shit I been eating.”

“You fucking with me, man? Ain’t nobody got nothing good to say about C.J…”

He shut his eyes. Even here, he couldn’t escape that name and the memories it stirred.

After a long time he found the courage to examine his cell. A commode in plain view. Two bunk beds. No window. Steel bars, cement walls painted green. The paint was layered so thick it felt spongy, like an encrustation of moss.

He sat on the floor, hands in his lap. His right hand had been repaired in a series of painful operations to knit bone and tendons and minimize the awful scarring. He had not regained full use of his hand-the fingers did not contract fully, and his fingertips were numb. He could barely hold a pencil. He would have to learn to write left-handed.

Write what? he wondered desolately. A resume for my job search? An ad in the personals? Yeah, that would work.

Single White Professional Man, 30, currently incarcerated, awaiting trial for attempted murder of ex-wife, seeks college-educated female for friendship, dating, maybe more. Background in criminal law a plus.

Perfect.

In all his fantasies of killing C.J., he had not imagined this outcome. His worst expectation had been a dramatic standoff with police, ending in his glorious death. He had not conceived of this slow descent into degradation and despair.

His condo had been sold in an attempt to raise money for his legal defense, but he had so little equity in the property that the gesture was largely futile. His BMW, of course, had been trashed on the night of January 31. Under the circumstances, his insurance company refused to cover the damages, not that he could blame them.

Brigham amp; Garner fired him as soon as his name hit the papers. The only member of the firm to visit him in the hospital was good old Roger Eastman, and he had come not in friendship but in anger. Adam’s “shenanigans”-that was the word Roger used-had bestowed unwanted publicity on Midvale Office Park, delaying plans to resume construction and jeopardizing Roger’s investment. “The wife will kill me when she finds out how much money I stand to lose,” Roger said darkly. “Not if you kill her first,” Adam replied, but Roger hadn’t seen the humor in this riposte.

Well, what the hell. Being an attorney was boring anyway. And he could always be a jailhouse lawyer. Trade legal advice for cigarettes or something. Trouble was, he didn’t smoke. Maybe he would start.

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