Michael Prescott: Stealing Faces

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Michael Prescott Stealing Faces
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    Stealing Faces
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    Триллер / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Stealing Faces: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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To follow him would be too obvious. She had to exit first.

Elizabeth fumbled in her purse, found a bill that was either a five or a ten, dropped it on the table. If it was a ten, she was overpaying by a rather serious margin for her glass of ginger ale, but there was no time to worry about it. No time, even though ordinarily she would almost rather die than throw away money, having so little to spare.

She eased her chair away from the table, afraid to scrape the legs on the bare floor and draw Cray’s attention. Then swiftly she crossed the room to the exit, merely nodding at the bartender when he waved good-bye.

On the TV behind him, the football game continued. The Panthers were slaughtering the Saints. Not a good sign.

Elizabeth entered the lobby, then paused, pretending to adjust her purse while she glanced over her shoulder. Through the glass door she saw Cray rising from his chair, scattering bills on the table.

He would be out here in a moment.

Once in the lobby, he might leave via the front door, which led to the driveway, or via the rear door, which opened onto the terrace. There were other possibilities. He might go to the gift shop or find a rest room. She had to wait and see, but she would be too conspicuous just standing here.

“Help you, ma’am?”

The question startled her. She glanced at the front desk and saw the clerk watching her with a courteously unreadable expression.

Cray must be approaching the exit. He would be right on top of her in seconds.

She had to do something.

“Yes,” she answered. “At least I hope you can.”

She walked quickly to the desk, having no idea what she was about to say.

The clerk smiled. “We’re here to serve. What can I do for you?”

“Well, I was just wondering… Does the hotel have a tennis club? I mean, a private club for local residents to join?”

She wondered where that inquiry had come from. She’d never played tennis in her life, and there was no private club of any kind that she could possibly afford to join.

The clerk nodded. “As a matter of fact, we do. I may have a brochure here someplace.”

He shuffled through some documents, and she leaned close, averting her face from the door to the bar.

When she heard a rustle of displaced air, she knew the door had opened.

Cray was in the lobby with her. She forced herself not to look up, not to betray the slightest concern.

“Sorry,” the clerk said. “I seem to have mislaid it. But you can get the information at the tennis center. They’re open until nine.”

“I’ll do that.”

At the edge of her vision, the door to the rear terrace opened, and a figure in black passed through.

He’d gone outside.

Once he left the immediate area, he could go anywhere on the resort’s spacious grounds, and she might never track him down.

She stepped away from the desk, saying a quick thank-you.

“Do you need directions?” the clerk asked.

“I think I know where to find it.” Hurrying for the terrace.

“That’s the wrong way, ma’am.”

“I can find it.” Move, move.

“But that’s the wrong—”

She pushed open the door and emerged onto the terrace, and at the desk, the clerk shook his head slowly.

He was not actually a clerk. His proper title was night manager. He saw all sorts of people come and go. Sometimes he thought of writing a book about it. He had a degree in English literature from the University of Arizona, for all the good it had done him.

Most of the people who stopped at the desk could be sized up easily enough, but the woman in the straw hat intrigued him, and not just because she was pretty and her voice was the type he liked — hushed and shy and faintly smoky, a bedroom voice.

She had been lying, of course. She had no interest in the tennis club. He doubted she could afford it. She was wearing a yellow blouse and a white skirt, a summer outfit not quite appropriate for late September, even in the desert heat. The blouse was faded, and the skirt had begun to fray at the hem.

He was a writer, or at least he liked to think so, and he had been told that writers noticed such things.

But none of that was the reason she intrigued him.

It was some quality in her eyes, her face, something that lay behind her quick smile and bright demeanor. Something like… desperation.

And as he recalled from one of his many English classes, the root word of desperation was despair.






3


Elizabeth emerged from the lobby into the balmy night, sure that Cray would be moving fast, nearly out of sight.

But he surprised her. He stood at the railing, absorbed in the view of the city.

She stopped outside the door, once again at a loss for anything inconspicuous to do.

Damn. She just wasn’t very good at this.

Sneaking around, hiding from sight, spying on a man like Cray — there were people who could do such things, but Elizabeth Palmer was not one of them.

At any moment Cray might turn, and then he would see her. He couldn’t do anything to her, not in a public place, but once he knew she was after him, she would not be safe again, ever.

All right. Think.

There were two routes he could take when he was done admiring the view. He could return to the lobby or descend to the swimming pool.

Gambling on the second outcome, Elizabeth walked quickly to the steps and headed down, never looking back.

Two children splashed in the shallow end of the pool. A thirtyish couple, no doubt the kids’ parents, shared drinks at a poolside table, laughing softly at some intimate joke. An older man lounged in a foaming spa nearby, a white cap tilted on his head. The moon was out, white and full, and woven around it was a vast wreath of stars.

Briefly Elizabeth wished she could just stop here, recline on a lounge chair and forget everything she knew and everything she suspected.

Let Cray go. Let the world fix its own problems; God knew, she had enough problems of her own. It would be so good to rest, and she’d had so little rest in the last twelve years.

She did, in fact, sit on a lounge chair, but only to rummage through her purse in an elaborate pretense of looking for some lost item.

The ruse was getting old, and she was beginning to worry that she had miscalculated about where Cray was likely to go, when she heard footsteps on the stairs.

His footsteps. She knew it, even without looking. Footsteps that were quick and light, preternaturally nimble.

A flicker of black, and he passed the spot where she was seated, heading down a pathway.

She got up and followed.

Part of her knew it was reckless to press her luck any further. In the crowded street fair the risk had been acceptable. Here at the resort there was too much open space. She was liable to be seen at any time.

But she had to do it. This was her responsibility, and hers alone. The whole city was afraid of the man who’d murdered Sharon Andrews, but only Elizabeth might know his name.

The path was lit by small lanterns at ground level, glowing like the luminaria set out at Christmas in many local neighborhoods. The ambient light blended with the pale radiance of the moon. She could see Cray easily, fifty feet ahead.

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