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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He passed between two buildings. Someone sat on a second-floor balcony smoking a cigarette. Through a ground-floor window a TV was visible, casting a blue flicker on a large bed with an ornate headboard.

Elizabeth thought of the motel where she was staying. The bed sagged, the TV didn’t work, the toilet had a funny smell. In the afternoons she heard noises of frantic passion through the walls; the adjacent rooms seemed to be booked by the hour. For this opulence she was paying nineteen dollars a night.

She wondered what it cost to stay at this resort for just one day. As much as she could earn in a week, probably — if she had a job. Which, at the moment, she did not.

Cray seemed to know where he was going. Elizabeth kept her distance as he crossed from one path to another, skirting a second swimming pool, smaller and less busy than the first.

On the prowl. He hadn’t found what he wanted in downtown Tucson’s crowded streets, so he was looking here. Hunting prey.

She couldn’t imagine how he meant to handle the abduction, but he would find a way. He had experience in such things.

Or perhaps he was just a lonely man taking a nighttime stroll on the landscaped grounds of a resort. Perhaps he had no sinister purpose.

She wanted to believe this. She wanted to leave Tucson and resume the life she’d led, and to feel no pang of conscience on sleepless nights.

Ahead, Cray went down a short flight of steps and disappeared amid the mesquite trees and weedy underbrush. A sign read FITNESS TRAIL.

Elizabeth hesitated at the top of the staircase. The trail seemed empty and dark. A good place for an ambush. Suppose he had seen her in the bar, after all. Suppose he was deliberately leading her here, to the edge of the resort, away from more public places.

Well, she was ready for that.

She opened her purse and reached inside for the Colt.22 she’d bought at a pawnshop after arriving in Tucson. It was a small gun, lightweight but fully loaded, and she knew how to use it.

She had used a gun once before.

The thought made her tremble, and for a moment she worried that she couldn’t go forward, that the old memories might swamp and capsize her, as they sometimes did.

Not tonight. Tonight she had to be strong.

There might be a life at stake, the life of some woman who was a guest at this hotel, a woman who would be kidnapped and killed and buried in the wilderness, like Sharon Andrews.

She slung the purse over her shoulder to free her hands. Holding the Colt down at her side, out of sight, she descended the staircase and advanced along the trail.

Immediately she spotted him. He was not lying in wait for her. He was moving quickly, at a brisk walk, perhaps working off the effects of the two drinks. She followed, taking care not to make a sound.

Foliage hemmed in the trail on both sides. Moonlight glistened on cactus needles, pale as ice. A saguaro, its thick arms outspread against the sky, loomed like a monument in the night.

Cray increased his pace, almost jogging.

She hurried to catch up, but she couldn’t run without being overheard.

The trail curved. Cray shrank and vanished, lost to sight behind stands of prickly-pear cactus and palo verde trees.

She risked a short sprint, hoping to close part of the distance between them, and then she rounded the curve and stopped.

Dead end.

The trail finished here.

And she was alone.

But she couldn’t be. Cray had to be somewhere nearby.

Unless he’d left the trail and continued through the brush, and why would he do that?

He must be hiding.

This was an ambush. Had to be. He’d led her to this desolate spot, and he meant to strike.

Her gun came up, gripped in both hands, and she spun in a full circle, then back again, daring the darkness to attack her.

There was only silence and the strange, pensive stillness of the desert in moonlight.

If Cray was here, watching her, he had not chosen to show himself. Maybe the gun had scared him. Or did he have a gun of his own, a silenced pistol, and even now was he drawing a bead on her, ready to take her down with one shot…?

She had to get away, get away now.

The gun was shaking in her hands. He must be laughing at her. Enjoying her stupid panic even as he lined her up in his sights.

She took a backward step, then turned to confront him if he was behind her, but he wasn’t, and she ran three yards down the trail and turned again, certain she had heard him or heard something, but there was no noise, no movement, and finally she couldn’t take it any longer and she broke into a reckless run, gasping as she retraced her route along the trail in a blur of moonlight.

Once or maybe twice she blundered off the path, and sharp teeth bit her, teeth that were cactus spines or the pointed tips of agave leaves. Pain surprised her but did not slow her down.

She was out of breath and shaking all over when she reached the staircase and climbed back to the path.

Amid the lights of buildings and pathways she remembered the gun in her hand. Clumsily she stuffed it in her purse, leaving the clasp unfastened so she could grab the.22 instantly if she needed it.

Voices floated to her — a family walking back to their room. The same family she’d seen earlier, the kids in the swimming pool and the parents drinking at a poolside table.

As they passed her, the father looked at her strangely, and the younger child, giggling, was shushed by his mom. Elizabeth didn’t understand until she stopped at a fountain and caught her reflection in the water.

She was a mess. She’d lost her straw hat somewhere on the trail, and her hair was windblown and tangled and studded with broken bits of leaves, and her face was inflamed with a wild-eyed, panicky stare that almost scared her.

She looked like a street person or a drug addict — or perhaps just a girl who’d had a good roll in the hay.

The thought coaxed a smile from her. She relaxed a little, then stiffened again, superstitiously afraid that by lowering her guard she had invited an attack.

But there was nothing.

“Stop it,” she whispered to herself. “You’re driving yourself crazy.”

These were not the right words to use. She regretted them as soon as they were spoken. They touched a part of her that was still tender, still too easily liable to be hurt.

She sat on the rim of the fountain and combed out her hair, allowing herself to be soothed by the simple, repetitive chore.

Then she set off once more, searching the hotel grounds.

Cray was here. Somewhere.

She would find him.






4


But she didn’t.

She wandered up and down the network of paths for more than two hours, the purse clutched tight, the little Colt within instant reach. She found the tennis courts, lit up but deserted. She climbed the stairs to an observation deck and found it empty as well.

Cray was not loitering near any of the three swimming pools, he was not in the restaurant or in the bar, and the gift shop and the wellness center were closed.

She even dared to try the fitness trail again, venturing along its entire length. Cray was not there either.

At the trail’s dead end, where she had panicked before, she forced herself to probe the brush. With a pocket flashlight she swept a cone of amber light over cholla cactus and wild purple sage. She found no shoe prints, no sign of human passage.

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