মুখ্য Touching Evil

Touching Evil

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এই বইটি আপনার কতটা পছন্দ?
ফাইলের মান কিরকম?
মান নির্ণয়ের জন্য বইটি ডাউনলোড করুন
ডাউনলোড করা ফাইলগুলির মান কিরকম?
সাল:
2001
প্রকাশক:
Bantam
ভাষা:
english
বইয়ের সিরিজ:
Evil 1
ফাইল:
EPUB, 343 KB
ডাউনলোড (epub, 343 KB)

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1 comment
 
sacred
This story entails how one fights evil.It's a story which depicts brutality of evil force on human beings. In this book, Maggie , an empath also an artist heals victims by going through their pain herself and endangers her life in the end. She helped police department to catch the psychopath who brutally murders women by taking their eyes and raping them.This book is superb. It's one of the best if you love mystery.
09 July 2019 (18:36) 

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আপনি একটি বুক রিভিউ লিখতে পারেন এবং আপনার অভিজ্ঞতা শেয়ার করতে পারেন. অন্যান্য পাঠকরা আপনার পড়া বইগুলির বিষয়ে আপনার মতামত সম্পর্কে সর্বদা আগ্রহী হবে. বইটি আপনার পছন্দ হোক বা না হোক, আপনি যদি নিজের সৎ ও বিস্তারিত চিন্তাভাবনা ব্যক্ত করেন তাহলে অন্যরা তাদের জন্য উপযুক্ত নতুন বইগুলি খুঁজে পাবে.
2

Unmasking Kelsey

Year:
1988
Language:
english
File:
EPUB, 256 KB
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TOUCHING EVIL

Bishop Book 04

Kay Hooper





PROLOGUE


It was cold.

She could feel the wind tugging at her hair, hear it whining around the eaves and rattling what sounded like a loose piece of tin somewhere. The cold, moistureladen air left her skin clammy and chilled her all the way to her bones.

She supposed she was in shock. It was an odd sensation, shock. A curious sort of limbo where nothing disturbed her very much.

So it must have been instinct rather than concern that prompted her to move, to pull herself forward despite the pain. The unevenness of the floor was both a help and a torture, providing fingerholds even as it cruelly scraped her skin and gouged her body.

She felt one of her fingernails tear painfully and was conscious of dirt and crusted blood underneath the few that were left undamaged. I'm probably corrupting evidence or something. Probably really screwing things up.

But that didn't seem important either. She focused on what was. Just keep reaching out, one hand at a time. Hold on to something, no matter how much it hurts. Pull yourself forward, no matter how much it hurts.

It became automatic, mechanical. Reach. Grab. Pull. Reach. Grab. Pull. There went another fingernail. Damn. Reach. Grab. Pull.

When her reaching fingers abruptly encountered thin air, it took her several minutes of fumbling exploration to realize she was at the top of the stairs. Stairs.

Just the thought of her aching body bumping down rough step after rough step made her shudder, and she heard a thin sound of dread hardly louder than a whimper escape her swollen lips. It was going to hurt like hell. It did.

Somewhere near the bottom, her strength gave out, and she slid over the last few steps in an agonizing rush that left her sprawled, limp and sobbing quietly, on the ancient tile floor that smelled of dirt and cooked cabbage and urine.

She might have slept a while, or maybe just lay unconscious, because her body refused to go on. But eventually the same instinct that had driven her this far insisted ; she begin moving again. I have to. I have to. Yes. You have to.

That was peculiar, that other, alien voice in her head. She thought about it for a while, curling into a fetal position on her side even though the position was more painful. It was getting harder and harder to breathe. Broken rib, probably.

Three broken ribs. And a punctured lung. Listen to me, Hollis. You have to keep moving. Someone will be passing by in just a few minutes. If you aren't outside by then, you won't be found until tomorrow.

How strange. The voice knew her name.

Tomorrow will be too late, Hollis.

Yeah, she thought it probably would be too late.

Do you want to live?

Did she? She thought she did. Not that it would be the life she'd had before. In fact, it might not be much of a life at all. But . . . dammit . . . she wanted it. If only to live long enough for . . .

Vengeance?

Justice.

Hollis turned painfully back onto her belly and began the methodical effort of inching forward once again. She thought she was making progress, at least until she encountered a wall.

Damn.

Listening, she thought she could hear faint traffic sounds; that was her only clue to the whereabouts of a door that would allow her to escape the building. She began to feel her way along the wall toward the sounds.

It was getting colder. The wind that had whistled through the building during her entire agonizing journey downstairs was blowing in her face now. She guessed the building had long ago lost most of its windows and doors, so the wind found easy passage, stirring the dust and mold of many long years of neglect even as it cut into her shivering body.

Just a little farther now, Hollis.

She wondered why the voice didn't just call 911 but thought that was probably too much to ask of a figment of her imagination.

There's the doorway. Feel it?

She felt the threshold under her sore fingers, ancient weather stripping or something that was mostly rust. Beyond it was the broken concrete of a stoop or walkway. Hollis prayed there weren't any more steps.

Grimly, she pulled herself across the threshold and out of the building, shivering as the full force of the cold wind out there cut into her. There was one painful step down, then a walkway that seemed to be more rocks and gravel than concrete. It hurt like hell to pull herself across that jagged surface; the only saving grace was that it continued to guide her toward the street.

She hoped.

Not long now, Hollis. You're almost there.

Almost where? she wondered. Out in the street so a car could run over her?

He's near. He'll see you any minute now.

Before Hollis could wonder who was supposed to see her, she heard a male voice utter a shocked exclamation, then hurried footsteps coming toward her.

"Please," Hollis heard herself say in an unfamiliar, thickened voice. "Please help . . ."

"It's all right." The man's voice, near now, sounded nearly as thickened as her own had been. And shocked and horrified and compassionate. He touched her shoulder gently with a warm hand, then said, "I don't want to move you until EMS gets here, but I'm going to cover you with my coat, okay?"

She felt the blessed warmth and murmured a thanks, allowing her weary head to fall so that it rested on her forearm. She was very tired. Very tired.

Sleep now, Hollis.

She thought that was a good idea.

Sam Lewis checked her pulse just to make sure, then took a couple of steps away from her and spoke urgently into his cell phone. "For God's sake, hurry! She's—she's in bad shape. She's lost a lot of blood." His gaze followed the startlingly bright smeared trail of blood that marked her progress across broken concrete all the way back to the gaping doorway of the long-abandoned old house.

He tried to listen to the professionally detached voice in his ear, but finally cut off the 911 operator's questions by saying sharply, "I don't know what happened to her, but she's bruised and cut up and bleeding—and naked. Maybe she was raped, I don't know, but—but something else happened to her. She's . . . Her eyes are gone. No, dammit, not injured. Gone. Somebody's cut her eyes out."

CHAPTER ONE

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2001

She's not going to like this." Andy Brenner's voice was more unhappy than worried.

John Garrett stepped past him into the small, bare room. "I'll take the flak," he said, his gaze already fixed on the large two-way mirror that dominated the far wall and offered them a secret view into another small room.

This mostly bare room contained a scarred wooden table and several chairs. Three women sat at the table, the two facing the mirror sitting close together in a posture that suggested they were clinging to each other even though they weren't touching. The younger of the two wore very dark, heavy-rimmed sunglasses and sat rigidly in her chair, while the older woman watched her worriedly.

Sitting at right angles to them at the table, her back to the mirror, was the third woman, her face hidden from the watching men. It was impossible to guess her shape, since she wore a bulky flannel shirt and faded jeans, but a rather wild cloud of long, dark red hair made her appear slight.

Andy sighed. "It's not flak I'm worried about. The chief likes to pretend Maggie works for us on our terms, but the rank and file know better; what Maggie wants, Maggie gets—and she wants total privacy when she's interviewing a victim."

"She'll never know we're here."

"I keep trying to tell you, John—she'll know."

"How? I push this button, and we can hear what's going on in the room but they won't hear us, right? We see in, they don't see out. So how will she know we're here?"

"Beats the hell out of me, but she will." Andy watched the other man move closer to the window and stifled another sigh. Anybody else and he would have stuck to his guns, but John Garrett was a hard man to say no to. Andy tried to think of an argument he hadn't used yet, but before he could come up with anything, John pushed the right button, and a quiet, curiously pleasing voice reached them clearly and without any of the tinny, hollow characteristics that were usual with an intercom.

"... how difficult this is for you, Ellen. If I could, I'd far rather wait and give you more time to—"

"Heal?" The woman wearing the sunglasses laughed, a brittle sound holding no amusement. "My husband is sleeping in the guest room, Miss Barnes. My little boy is afraid of me. I can't find my way through my own house without knocking over furniture and bumping into walls, and my sister has to cook for my family and help me dress every morning."

"Ellen, you know I'm happy to help," her sister protested, her soft voice half pleading and half weary. "And Owen wouldn't be sleeping in the guest room if it wasn't what you wanted, you know that."

"I know he can't bear to touch me, Lindsay." Ellen's voice was tight, a bare note away from shrill. Her hands were clasped together on the table, and her long, pale fingers writhed. "And I don't blame him for that. I can't blame him. Why would he want to touch me after—"

Maggie Barnes reached across the table and covered Ellen's hands with one of her own. "Listen to me, Ellen." Her voice remained quiet, but there was a new note in it now, an oddly soothing, almost hypnotic rhythm. "What that animal did to you can never be undone, but you can't allow it to destroy you. Do you hear me? Don't give him that power over you. Don't allow him to win."

Listening, John unconsciously tilted his head to one side, trying to focus on the strangely compelling undercurrent he heard in her voice. It was almost... it was as if he knew that sound, as if it was something he only half remembered, like a song from his childhood or the last faint notes of music from a dream chased away by morning. Haunting.

Ellen didn't attempt to free her hands, and her rigid posture seemed to ease a bit, just a bit. "I don't want to remember," she said, low, almost whispering. "Don't ask me to remember."

"I have to." The regret in Maggie's voice was achingly genuine. "I need your memories, need every scrap of information you can give me. I need you to remember everything you can, Ellen. Every sound, every scent, every touch."

Ellen's shudder was visible. "He touched ... I can't bear to think about how he touched me. Please don't make me . . ."

"Don't make her." Lindsay's face twisted, and she put a hesitant hand on her sister's arm.

"I don't have a choice," Maggie said. "The police can't catch this animal without some idea who he is, what he looks like. We can't even warn other women to watch out for him. Ellen, some detail you remember may help me put a face on him. I—"

She turned her head suddenly, and John actually started in surprise at the abruptness of the movement—and the fact that he had the unsettling feeling she was looking directly into his eyes, even through the two-way mirror. She had very light brown eyes, the only unusual feature in a face that was pleasant but unremarkable.

And those pale eyes were looking right at him, he was sure of it. He felt it.

Behind him, Andy murmured, "Told you."

Hardly conscious of speaking aloud, John said, "She sees me. How can she—"

"X-ray vision. How the hell do I know?" Andy sounded as disgruntled as he felt. He hated it when Maggie was mad at him—and she was definitely going to be mad at him.

Maggie turned back to face the other two women and spoke gently. "I'm sorry, but there's something I have to do. I'll be right back."

Lindsay gave her an accusing look, then leaned closer to her sister as though in support. Ellen didn't say a word, but she had the appearance of someone poised on the brink, frozen, as if unable to move forward or back.

John turned his back to the mirror as Maggie left the interview room. "She must have heard us," he said.

"No," Andy said. "She didn't hear us. This room is soundproofed, I told you that. She just knew, that's all."

The door of the observation room opened and Maggie Barnes stepped inside. John was surprised at how tall she was—at least five-ten, if he was any judge. But he hadn't been mistaken in thinking her slight; she wasn't unnaturally thin, just one of those very slender, almost ethereal women. He wondered if she dressed in the bulky layers out of some need to have more weight or substance.

When he looked at her face, John decided he'd been wrong in thinking it unremarkable. Graced with very regular features, not quite pretty but pleasant, it was saved from plainness by those slanted, catlike golden eyes and something stamped into her expression, innate to it, that was more than compassion and less than pity, a kind of empathy for the feelings of others that he knew was far more rare and valuable than high cheekbones or a perfect nose.

She looked at him briefly, a head-to-toe glance that missed nothing along the way and left him with the disconcerted realization that he had been very accurately weighed and analyzed.

Andy did his best to melt into the woodwork before she looked at him but obviously felt pinned to it instead when those catlike eyes fixed on him. He held his hands out, palms up, and offered an apologetic shrug.

"Andy?" Her voice was very gentle.

"Sorry, Maggie." He shifted uncomfortably, ruefully aware that he probably looked for all the world like a scolded schoolboy.

John stepped toward them. "It's my fault, Miss Barnes. I asked Andy to bend the rules. My name is—"

"I know who you are, Mr. Garrett." Her gaze was direct, her voice matter-of-fact. "But some rules apply to you too, whether you like it or not."

"It wasn't a question of rules not applying to me. I have special permission to observe the investigation." He only just managed not to sound defensive, which surprised him.

"And that includes watching and listening like a voyeur while a shattered woman forces herself to remember a nightmare you can't even begin to imagine? Is that the observing you were given permission to do?"

John stiffened, but her accusation struck a nerve and left him at least momentarily silent. Maggie didn't wait for a response but went on coolly. "How would you feel, Mr. Garrett, if two strange men had watched and listened in silence and secret while someone you cared about relived the entire horrific experience of being brutally raped and maimed by an animal?"

That struck more than a nerve. He drew a breath and let it out slowly. "You're right. I'm sorry."

Andy said, "Sounded like you were reaching her there for a minute. The interruption won't help things, will it?"

"No. No, it won't help things. I'll try again, but she may not be willing to talk to me anymore today."

John felt the reproach, even though she wasn't looking at him. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I didn't intend to interfere. That's the last thing I want to do."

"Fine. Then you won't mind leaving." She stepped back, holding the door open in a clear invitation—if not a command—for them to leave.

Andy wasted no time in obeying, but John paused in the doorway and met her gaze steadily. "I would like to talk to you, Miss Barnes. Today, if possible."

"If you want to wait around, suit yourself." Her tone was indifferent, but the steady golden eyes never left his. "I may be a while."

"I'll wait," John said.

Hollis was awake but didn't move or make a sound to indicate that. For the first few moments it was always like this, tension and terror until her scrambling mind left nightmare and caught up with reality.

Which was also a nightmare.

The bandages over her eyes—over where her eyes had once been—were becoming a familiar weight. She didn't yet know how she felt about the fact that beneath those bandages were now someone else's eyes. An accident victim who had lost her life but left a signed donor card behind.

The surgeon, proud of his groundbreaking work, had been surprised and rather aggrieved when Hollis's only question had been one he obviously considered unimportant.

"What color are they? Miss Templeton, I don't think you understand the complexity—"

"I understand, Doctor. I understand that you believe medical science has advanced to the point that I'll be able to see with this poor woman's eyes. And I understand that it'll be days at least, possibly weeks, before we find out if you're right. In the meantime, I'm asking what color my . . . new . . . eyes are."

Blue, he'd said.

Her old ones had been brown.

Would she be able to see? She didn't know, and she suspected that her doctor, for all his confidence in his abilities, was unsure of the surgery's outcome as well. The optic nerve was a tricky thing, he didn't have to tell her that. And then there were all the other nerves, the blood vessels, the muscles. Far too many tiny connections to be certain of anything. They didn't think her body would reject the new eyes, and antirejection drugs would probably make certain of that, but nobody seemed nearly as sure what her brain might do.

Vision was as much the mind's interpretation of images as it was anything else, after all. With the intricate connection between organ and mind severed and then painstakingly rebuilt, who really knew what her brain's response might be?

Hell, maybe it was no wonder she hadn't even been able to decide how she felt about it.

Most of the other physical injuries had been surprisingly minor, given everything she'd been through. The broken ribs were healing, though she still breathed carefully, and doctors had repaired the puncture in her lung. A few stitches here and there. Scrapes and bruises.

Oh—and she'd never be able to have children, but what the hell. No kid needed to be saddled with a probably blind, certainly emotionally wrecked mother anyway, right? Right.

I know you 're awake, Hollis.

She didn't move, didn't turn her head. That voice again, quietly insistent, as it had been virtually every day of the past three weeks. She'd asked a nurse once who it was that came to visit her and sit by her bed hour after hour, but the nurse had said she didn't know, hadn't seen anyone except the police officers who came regularly to ask gentle questions Hollis didn't answer.

Hollis had so far refused to question the voice, just as she refused to speak to the cops or say any more than absolutely necessary to the doctors and nurses. She wasn't ready to think about what had happened to her, far less talk about it.

You'll be able to leave soon, the voice said. What will you do then?

"Stepping in front of a bus might be a good idea," Hollis said calmly. She spoke aloud to remind herself that hers was really the only voice in the room. Of course it was. Because that other voice was just a figment of her imagination, obviously.

If you really wanted to die, you never would have crawled out of that building.

"And if I wanted rational platitudes from a figment of my imagination, I'd go back to sleep. Oh, wait—I am asleep. I'm dreaming. It's all just a bad dream."

You know better.

"Better that it happened? Or better that you aren't just a figment of my imagination?"

Instead of answering either question, the figment said, If I handed you a lump of clay, what would you make, Hollis?

"What kind of question is that? One of those inkblot questions? Is my figment psychoanalyzing me?"

What would you make? You're an artist.

"I was an artist."

Before, you created art with your hands and your eyes and your mind. Whether or not the surgery is successful, you still have your hands. You still have your mind.

The figment, Hollis realized, didn't believe she'd be able to see with these borrowed eyes either. "So I should just turn myself into a sculptor? It isn't quite as simple as that."

I didn't say it was simple. I didn't say it would be easy. But it would be a life, Hollis. A rich, creative life.

After a moment, Hollis said, "I don't know if I can. I don't know if I'm brave enough to start over."

You'll have to find out, then, won't you?

Hollis smiled despite herself. So her figment could offer more than knee-jerk platitudes, after all. And the challenge was unexpectedly bracing. "I guess so. That or go looking for that bus to step in front of."

"Miss Templeton? Were you speaking to me?" The day-shift nurse was a bit hesitant as she approached the bed.

Hollis was learning to read footsteps, even the nearly soundless ones of the nurses. This nurse feared for Hollis's sanity; it wasn't the first time she'd caught the patient talking to herself.

"Miss Templeton?"

"No, Janet, I wasn't speaking to you. Just talking to myself again. Unless there's somebody sitting in that chair beside the bed, of course."

Warily, Janet said, "No, Miss Templeton, there's nobody in the chair."

"Ah. Well, then, I must have been talking to myself. But don't let it worry you. I did that even before the attack." She had learned to refer to it that way, as "the attack." It was the phrase the doctors used, the nurses, the cops.

"Can I—can I get you anything, Miss Templeton?" "No, Janet. No, thank you. I think I'll take a nap." "I'll make sure nobody bothers you, Miss Templeton." Hollis listened to the footsteps recede and pretended to be asleep. It wasn't difficult.

The hard part was keeping herself from asking aloud if the figment was still here. Because it couldn't be, of course.

Unless she really was crazy.

"We're no further along than we were when you were here six weeks ago." Luke Drummond, the lieutenant in charge of detectives in this division of the Seattle P.D., was accustomed to reporting to his superiors, but he disliked being obliged to divulge details of an ongoing investigation to a civilian, and his hostility showed. Especially since he couldn't report any progress.

"There've been two more victims since then." John Garrett kept his voice level. "And still no evidence, no clues to lead you any closer to identifying this bastard?"

"He's very good at what he does," Drummond said.

"And you aren't?"

Drummond's eyes narrowed, and he leaned back in his chair, deceptively relaxed. "I have a very skilled and experienced squad of detectives, Mr. Garrett. We also have some damned good forensics experts on the payroll, and state-of-the-art equipment. But none of that is much good when there's no evidence to study or witnesses to question and when the victims are, to say the least, traumatized and unable to give us much to go on."

"What about Maggie Barnes?"

"What about her?"

"She hasn't come up with anything useful?"

"Well, as everybody keeps reminding me, what she does is an art—and apparently it can't be rushed." He shrugged. "In all fairness to Maggie, she hasn't had much more to work with than the rest of us. The first two victims are—well, I don't have to tell you. But neither gave us anything much to go on right after the attacks. The third is just now well enough physically to sit down and talk to Maggie. And the fourth is not only still in the hospital but so far hasn't been willing to answer even the simplest question from any of us. All the shrinks tell us that if we push these women we'll lose any chance we might have of gaining any relevant information from either of them."

"Why haven't you called in the FBI?" John demanded.

"Because there's nothing they can do that we can't," Drummond replied tersely.

John wasn't so sure about that, but he knew he was on the edge of alienating Drummond completely and dared not push any harder. Pulling the right strings had gotten John access to the investigation, but if Drummond wanted to, he could make that access fairly useless.

Holding his voice level, he said, "So the consensus is that Maggie Barnes is your best bet to get something useful from the victims?"

"If anybody can guide those women back through the hell they experienced without hurting them even more, it's Maggie. Whether she gets anything we can use is something else. We'll just have to wait and see." He watched John Garrett shift in his chair almost unconsciously and for the first time felt a genuine pang of sympathy for the other man. He might be a pain in the ass at the moment, but his motives were certainly understandable, and Drummond could hardly blame him for muscling in on the investigation. In Garrett's place, Drummond thought he'd probably do the same.

Assuming, of course, that he had a billion or so dollars and a shitload of political influence to make both the chief and the mayor practically piss their pants in their eagerness to be cooperative.

Luke Drummond would have loved to have at least that political influence; he intended to sit in the governor's mansion one day. He hadn't made any secret of his political aspirations and, despite not being an elected official, tended to react to any situation as a politician rather than a cop, but to date that hadn't hurt either his present career or his ambitions. He was enough of a cop to be able to do his job and do it well.

At least until this damned psychopath had turned up.

At the moment, however, Drummond had neither Garrett's political juice nor his money, so it was in the cop's best interest to be at least courteous to the man.

"Maggie needs time to interview the two surviving victims," he said evenly. "We have to be patient."

"He attacked Hollis Templeton a little more than three weeks ago; how much longer do you think he'll wait before he acts again?" John heard the edgy tension in his own voice, but he was beyond being able to hide it.

Drummond sighed. "According to the shrinks, he could grab another woman tomorrow—or six months from now. So far, he hasn't established any kind of time pattern we can identify. There were two months between the first two victims, but he grabbed the third only two weeks later. Then he waited nearly three months to strike a fourth time."

"No pattern," John echoed.

"And nothing else to hang our hats on. No blood evidence other than the victims', and he was smart enough to wear condoms, so there's been no semen found. Nothing under the fingernails of the victims, no hair or fibers found on them or anywhere near them, nothing to identify where he might have held them. They're always dumped someplace else afterward, a remote or at least unoccupied building. Ellen Randall remembers being transported inside something, the trunk of a car, she thinks, but since he stuck to pavement we didn't find any tire tracks."

"How was Hollis Templeton transported?"

"We don't know, not yet. I told you, she's not answering our questions. Her doctors say Maggie can try talking to her in a few days. That's if she's agreeable, and she probably won't be, since she hasn't been anxious to talk to us so far."

"What then?"

"I don't know." Drummond sighed again. "Look, Garrett, I'm sorry as hell, but there's nothing more I can tell you, at least not at the moment. We're doing the best we can. And that's all."

Andy was waiting for John around the corner from Drummond's office and offered a wry "Told you so."

"I can see I'm going to make myself real popular around here," John said.

"Oh, don't mind Drummond. He's a nice enough guy, for a politician."

"I'd rather he were just a cop."

"Yeah, so would most of us. But we comfort ourselves with the certainty that he won't be around long, just long enough to get a secure toehold to boost himself higher up the food chain. In the meantime, however, we're stuck with him."

Andy led the way to his own corner of the bullpen, snagging two cups of coffee as they passed the pot.

"Jeez, Andy, take it all, why don't you?" a nearby younger cop grumbled. "You could at least make another pot."

"I made the last one, Scott. Your turn."

John sat in Andy's visitor's chair and accepted one of the cardboard cups. He took a sip, grimaced, and said, "This is really lousy coffee, Andy."

"Usually is, no matter who makes it." Unoffended, Andy took a healthy swallow of his own and shrugged. "You going to wait around for Maggie?"

"Do you think she'll talk to me?"

Andy thought about it. "Well, you pissed her off, so it's hard to say. Just what is it you're hoping she'll tell you, John?"

There was no easy answer to that, and John let the silence build for a few moments before he finally replied with a question of his own. "Why are all of you so convinced she's your best chance of catching this bastard? What is it that's so special about Maggie Barnes?"

Andy leaned back in his chair until it creaked in protest, and took another swallow of coffee. He studied the man across from him, wondering how much to say. Wondering how much would be believed. John Garrett was a hardheaded, hard-nosed businessman who'd made a fortune by understanding the cold logic of finance; Andy hadn't known him long, but common sense told him John wasn't the sort of man to easily accept anything he couldn't see with his own eyes or hold in his hands.

"Andy?"

"Maggie has ... a knack, John. You can call it exceptional skill, or talent amounting to genius, or amazing empathy, but whatever you call it, the result is that she talks to shattered victims of crimes and from the little they're able to tell her she manages to give us a face we can look for."

"I didn't think police even used sketch artists anymore. Isn't there a computer program just as good?"

"Not as good as Maggie."

"She's that talented?"

Andy hesitated, then sighed. "Talent's only part of it, though she has that in spades. She could make a fortune as a real artist, but instead she spends her days sitting in cramped interview rooms listening to horror stories I hope you never have to listen to. She listens, and she talks to those people, and somehow she helps them relive a nightmare without letting it destroy them. And then she comes out and starts drawing and nine times out of ten gives us a sketch so accurate the guy could use it on his driver's license."

"Sounds like magic," John said dryly.

"Yeah. It does, doesn't it? Looks like it sometimes too. I don't know how she does it. Nobody here knows how she does it. But we've learned to trust her, John."

"Okay. Then why doesn't she have a sketch of the rapist yet?"

"Because not even Maggie can work with nothing. The women haven't seen anything. And besides that—the first victim died before anybody could talk to her, the most recent one is still in the hospital, and you saw what kind of shape Ellen Randall's in."

"You didn't mention Christina," John forced himself to say.

Andy gazed at him steadily. "I didn't think I had to. She did the best she could for us, but she didn't see anything either."

"Maggie Barnes talked to her, didn't she? That's what you told me, what the report said."

"Yeah, she talked to Christina."

"Without witnesses?"

Slowly, Andy frowned. "Without anybody in the observation room, if that's what you mean."

"Then maybe she can tell me something none of the rest of you can tell me."

"Like what?"

"Like why Christina killed herself."

CHAPTER TWO

As she'd expected, Maggie quickly found that Ellen Randall had withdrawn again into her frozen shell. Pushing her would only make matters worse. So Maggie didn't protest when Lindsay announced she was taking her sister home, and she didn't try to arrange another meeting.

Even though she could hear the clock ticking away in her head. Time was running out, she knew it. She felt it. And every day that passed with the police no closer to catching the animal the newspapers had begun calling the Blindfold Rapist brought them closer and closer to another victim.

Another life ruined.

Another soul marked.

Worse, Maggie knew that he would only become more violent as time passed. It would take more cruelty to satisfy whatever unnatural hunger drove him to do what he did. Soon, very soon, he would begin killing his victims. And when that happened, when the police were denied even the shaky recollections of living victims, then they would have no chance at all of stopping him—unless and until he made a mistake.

So far, he hadn't made a single one.

Maggie glanced into the bullpen and saw John Garrett sitting at Andy's desk. She didn't want to talk to Garrett, not now. Not yet. She retreated to an unoccupied office near the interview rooms and sat down with her sketch pad open before her.

There was very little on the page. Just the vague shape of a face surrounded by hair so long that Maggie suspected he'd worn a wig. At their first meeting a few days before, Ellen Randall had given Maggie that much. Longish hair, she'd felt it brush her skin when he bent over her.

But no other useful details, nothing for her to build on. Maggie had no feeling for the shape of the face, whether his forehead was high or low, his jaw strong or weak, his chin jutting or receding. She didn't even know if his complexion was smooth or rough; both Ellen and one other victim thought they remembered the touch of cool, hard plastic covering his face, as though he'd worn a mask.

Just the possibility disturbed Maggie, on a level as much instinctive as it was analytical. What man would be so wary of discovery, of being identified, that he would wear a mask even after blinding his victims? Of course, criminals seldom wanted to be identified, but Maggie had talked to the cops working on the investigation, and all of them agreed that this particular criminal was going to unusual extremes to protect his identity.

Why?

Was there something about his face even a blinded victim could recognize when it touched her? Scars, perhaps, or some other kind of deformity?

"Maggie?"

She didn't look up and swore silently at him for disrupting a mental musing that had often, in the past, produced results for her. "Hey, Luke."

He came into the office and sat down in the visitor's chair across from hers. "Any luck?"

"No, unless you count bad luck." She closed the sketch pad with a sigh. "Ellen froze up again. We were . . . interrupted, and it broke the connection I was trying to establish. I'll have to wait a few days and then get her back in here."

"I just talked to Hollis Templeton's doctor," Drummond said. "She's doing even better than he'd hoped, physically at least. He's hopeful the surgery was a success. If it was, if she can see again, then maybe . . ."

"Maybe what?" Maggie looked at him steadily. "Maybe she'll be a little less traumatized and able to help us?"

"It's possible, Maggie."

"Yeah. Yeah, I know it is. It's also possible she noticed things the other victims wouldn't have. Since she was an artist, I mean."

"Would you go try to talk to her? She hasn't said shit to any of us, but she might talk to you."

"I'd rather wait until she leaves the hospital. The atmosphere there isn't exactly conducive to the kind of conversation I need."

"I know, but. . . there's a lot of pressure, more every day. The newspapers, citizens' groups, the mayor. There's a panic building out there, Maggie, and I can't stop it. Get me something I can use to stop it."

"I can't work miracles, Luke."

"You have before."

She shook her head. "That was different. This guy is determined his victims will never testify against him. He's not letting them see him, he doesn't speak to them, he makes damned sure they don't get their hands on him. The only sense left is smell, and so far all I've got is that he smells like Ivory soap. Deliberately, of course. He's using the scent of the soap to block anything else they might smell."

"Yeah, I know he hasn't missed a trick so far. But, like you said, his most recent victim was an artist, and I'm told artists are trained to use their senses differently from most of the rest of us. Hollis Templeton might be able to give you more to go on. Try, Maggie. Please."

She had stopped wondering if he had any idea what he asked of her, of the victims. He didn't. Luke Drummond was a fair cop, an able administrator, and a good politician, but he didn't have much in the way of imagination or empathy, not when it came to victims.

Did he even guess she was as much a victim as the women she talked to? No, probably not.

"I'll go over there tomorrow," she said. "But if she won't talk to me, I can't press her, Luke. You know that."

"Just try, that's all I ask." He got to his feet, visibly relieved. She could almost see him silently deciding what he was going to tell the chief of police and the mayor. He wouldn't mention her by name, of course, just say that they were "pursuing a good lead in the investigation."

It wasn't that Luke Drummond didn't want to share the credit, it was just that he mistrusted what he didn't understand, and he didn't understand how she did what she did. He wouldn't have understood even if she had explained it to him—and she had no intention of doing that.

"I'll try," Maggie said, because there was nothing else he would hear.

"Great. Hey—have you talked to Garrett yet?"

"No, not yet."

"He's waiting out in the bullpen, I think."

"Yeah, I know."

Drummond looked down at her with a little frown. "Don't tell him any more than you have to. He might have the mayor and the chief in his hip pocket, but I don't like civilians being handed all the details of an ongoing investigation."

"Such as they are," Maggie murmured.

"You know damned well we're holding back a few things publicly. Like the Ivory soap bit. I'm just saying I'd rather we kept that stuff within the unit—to rule out copycats, if nothing else. I'm serious, Maggie."

"I know you are. Don't worry. John Garrett doesn't want to talk to me about things like that."

Drummond had started to turn away but paused as his attention was caught by what she'd said. "I thought you hadn't talked to him yet."

"I haven't."

"Then how do you—" He broke off and frowned. "Oh, yeah. I guess it makes sense he'd have only one thing on his mind, at least when he's talking to you. You were the last one to talk to Christina Walsh, weren't you?"

"So they tell me."

"I read the report," he said unnecessarily. "Garrett read it. I don't know what the poor bastard thinks you can tell him."

"I don't know either," Maggie said, lying.

"Tread lightly, Maggie. He can cause us a lot of trouble if he wants to."

She nodded but didn't say anything else, and Drummond left her alone in the office. Pushing John Garrett from her mind, at least for the moment, she opened her sketch pad again and stared down at the vague outline of a man's face.

"Who are you?" she murmured. "Who are you this time?"

Andy said, "I doubt Maggie knows the answer to why Christina killed herself, John. She hasn't mentioned it, and I think she would have."

"Maybe not. If it had nothing to do with your investigation, she might have kept it to herself."

Carefully, wary of what he knew was still an open wound, Andy said, "John, after what happened to Christina, suicide was probably the only option she felt she had left."

"His other victims didn't kill themselves."

"He didn't do to them what he did to her, you know that. The bastard was apparently still experimenting with ways of blinding his victims, and that acid did more than take her sight. Jesus, John—I know a lot of strong men who would have taken the same way out under those circumstances."

"Not Christina." John's voice was level with the sort of control that was about as stable as nitro. "As bad as things were, it would have taken more, much more, before she gave up. She was one of the strongest people I've ever known. I'm absolutely certain of that, Andy."

"Okay. But everybody has a breaking point, and none of us can be that sure of somebody else's. I'm just saying, don't expect too much from Maggie."

"All I expect is the truth."

Andy grimaced. "Well, I'm pretty sure you'll get it from her. If she talks to you at all, she'll tell you the truth as she sees it. But . . ."

"But?"

"If you want my advice—and you probably don't—you'll be careful how you ask. Maggie's very independent, John, and I mean on the prickly side. From what I've seen, she doesn't take any shit from anybody, no matter who they are. I don't think you could piss her off to the point that she'd walk away from her work here, but I'd rather not take any chances. She's committed to helping us, and I'd like to keep it that way."

"Why?"

"Why would I like to keep it that way?"

"Why is she so committed to helping you? You said yourself she has to listen to horror stories, that she could make a fortune as an artist. So why does she do this instead?"

"I don't know."

"You've never asked her?"

"Sure I have. So have some of the others. But whatever her reasons are, they're obviously private. This time, take my advice—and don't go there."

It wasn't in John's nature to accept being warned off, not when he was curious. And not when he was feeling an unaccustomed sensation of frustrated helplessness about this entire situation. But all he said was "I'll keep that in mind."

Andy knew when he was being humored. "Yeah, yeah. Look, you want more lousy coffee?"

"I just want to talk to Maggie Barnes."

"I saw Ellen Randall and her sister leave a little while ago, so Maggie's probably free. But I don't know—"

"I'm free," Maggie said from just behind John's left shoulder. "You wanted to speak to me, Mr. Garrett?"

He got to his feet quickly. "If you can spare me a few minutes, I'd appreciate it."

"Drummond's office is empty right now," Andy offered. "He's headed across town for a meeting."

"With who?" Maggie asked.

"Dunno, but probably another citizens' group. He's catching a lot of heat, Maggie."

"He told me."

"Yeah. I'll just bet he did."

Maggie shrugged. "Can't really blame him for pushing. Or for not understanding he didn't have to."

Andy sighed an agreement.

Maggie turned away, clearly assuming John would follow her as she led the way to Luke Drummond's office. When they went in, she took one of the visitor's chairs in front of the desk, shifting it so that it faced the other one. After closing the door behind them, John took the other one and turned it as well.

The closed door would keep them from being overheard, but that was the extent of privacy; the partitions between this office and the bullpen were glass from the waist up, and though there were blinds, all were wide open. John was aware of several curious stares directed their way, but Maggie didn't seem to notice.

"I don't know what you expect to learn from me, Mr. Garrett," she said. "There's nothing I can tell you that isn't in any of the numerous reports I'm sure you've read."

He caught himself listening to her voice more than what she said, trying to identify that elusive sense of a half-remembered song. "I know what's in the reports."

She nodded and looked down at the sketch pad in her lap. "Then you know it all." She really didn't want to talk to him like this. She didn't want to have to answer the question she knew he wanted to ask her.

"Miss Barnes—" He shook his head. "Look, I'll be around until this bastard is stopped, even if I'm not officially part of the investigation, so why don't we drop the formality? My friends call me John."

She made herself look at him and nod again. Tried to distract herself with an artist's automatic inventory. He was a good-looking man, in a commanding sort of way. Big, broad-shouldered, athletic—or at least worked to stay in good shape. Though he was undoubtedly both impressive and formidable in a business suit, the more casual jeans and black leather jacket lent him a slightly dangerous air that was probably, Maggie thought, not the least bit deceptive.

His hair was very dark, but she knew there'd be a hint of red in the sunlight. Eyes an unusual shade of blue-green, and deep set beneath brows that flared slightly upward at the outer corners so perfectly an artist might have drawn them.

He'd look mean as hell when he scowled, she thought idly. Probably be mean as hell mad. But there was humor in the curve of his mouth, in the laugh lines fanning out from his eyes, and more than enough intelligence and self-control in those eyes to mitigate whatever temper he had.

Most of the time, anyway.

"Okay, John it is. I'm Maggie," she said, wishing she hadn't been here today or he hadn't. Anything to postpone this conversation a little longer. "But I still can't tell you anything about the investigation that you don't already know."

"That isn't what I wanted to talk to you about. At least, not directly." He drew a breath. "There's something I wanted to ask you."

She hadn't intended to, but Maggie found herself nodding. "Yes. About Christina."

"I guess it's not so surprising that I'd want to ask you about her," he said after a moment.

"No. But there's nothing I can tell you." Until that moment, Maggie hadn't known what she would say. She hadn't known she would lie. It required an effort to keep meeting his eyes steadily.

"You were the last person to see her. The last one to speak to her before she died."

"I interviewed her. Just the way I interviewed Ellen Randall today. Asked her questions, asked her to relive what had happened to her. It was painful for her."

"So painful she decided to kill herself twelve hours later?" John demanded, his voice suddenly harsh.

Maggie didn't blink or flinch. "It wasn't our first interview. We were going over what we'd discussed before, there was nothing new. No new impressions from her, no new questions from me. She seemed . . . the same as always when I left."

"You left her alone."

She did flinch at that. "The nurse had always been there, in the next room. I assumed she was there that day, even though I hadn't seen her. I didn't find out until later . . ."

John relented, uncertain in his own mind whether it was because he knew she wasn't to blame or because that haunting voice of hers affected him in a surprisingly powerful way. "You couldn't have known what she'd do. She was always ... a very good actress." He gazed into those strange cat eyes and had the sudden realization that here was another woman entirely capable of hiding her thoughts. But before he could do more than wonder if he wanted to pursue that, she spoke again in the same level tone.

"In any case, there's nothing helpful I can tell you. I'm sorry you wasted your time."

"I didn't waste it. I've wanted to meet you since Andy first told me they had a uniquely talented sketch artist working on the investigation. I'm curious about how you work—which is why I barged in on your interview today. I really am sorry about that, by the way."

She didn't respond to the apology, other than with a brief nod. "There's nothing extraordinary about the way I work. It's the way sketch artists have always worked. I talk to victims, ask them questions, gain impressions, and then I draw what I think they saw. Sometimes I get lucky."

"According to Andy, it's more than luck. And more than just sometimes."

Maggie shrugged. "Andy's a friend. He's biased."

"And is the police chief also biased? He was singing your praises to me yesterday."

She dropped her gaze briefly to the sketch pad in her lap, then said in a matter-of-fact tone, "His niece was abducted from her school playground about five years ago, and I helped them find the guy before he could hurt her."

"With a sketch? There were witnesses?"

"The other kids. The oldest was only nine, so it was . . . difficult. Kids tend to elaborate, to invent details using their imaginations, so we had to weed through what they said they saw to get at the truth."

"How were you able to do that?"

Maggie hesitated only an instant. "I listened to them."

"And you knew truth from an elaboration—how?"

"I ... don't know. I mean, I don't know how to explain it. Andy calls it intuition, instinct. I guess that's as good a word as any. I've been doing this a long time."

Surprised, John said, "It can't have been all that long. You're—what?—twenty-five?"

"Thanks, but it's thirty-one. The first time I sketched a face for the police I was eighteen. So I've been doing this almost half my life."

"Isn't eighteen awfully young to work for the police?"

"I wasn't working for them then, not officially." Maggie sighed. "I happened to witness a crime and I was the only one present who saw anything. I also happened to be able to draw. One thing led to another, and by the time I was in college I was also officially on the police payroll."

John had more questions, but before he could ask them Andy knocked on the door and opened it to say, "Sorry for the interruption, but—Maggie, we just got a call. Hollis Templeton says she'll talk to you Saturday afternoon at the hospital."

Maggie got to her feet. "She called us?"

"Yeah. After ignoring us for weeks."

"Did she say why?"

"No, but. . ." Andy shifted his weight the way he did when he was uneasy. "You two haven't met, right?"

"Right."

"Know each other by reputation?"

"I don't know her work. Don't see how she could know mine. Why?"

"She asked for you by name, Maggie. Said she'd only talk to you."

John got up. "Why is that strange?" he asked.

"Because," Andy said, "none of us has told her Maggie's name. And there's been no publicity about her being our sketch artist; we keep that quiet. So Hollis Templeton really shouldn't have known who to ask for."

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2

The hotel room in Pittsburgh was like every other hotel room he'd ever stayed in, and Quentin Hayes wondered idly if there was a hotel decorators' association and they met secretly two or three times every year to decide what all the hotel rooms in America were going to look like. Because surely it was beyond coincidence that they all used variations of the same floral-print bedspreads and drapes and hung the same bland landscapes on the walls. And arranged the furniture in the most unreasonable way so that there was never an outlet where one was needed and it was always necessary to unplug a lamp in order to plug in a computer or fax machine.

No, it was obviously a conspiracy. He expressed that opinion to his companion, and she gave him a wry response.

"You've been on the road too long," Kendra Eliot said.

"That does not," Quentin said, "negate the probability I'm right."

Kendra typed another sentence into her report, keeping her gaze on the laptop even as she said, "A vacation, that's what you need. A nice, long one. A couple of weeks spent not chasing after bad guys or coming up with imaginative reasons to explain how you know the things you know."

"How can you talk and type at the same time? If I try that, I end up typing what I'm saying."

"My uniquely flexible mind. I'm telling Bishop you need a break."

"A change of scene is what I need." Quentin lay back on the bed and clasped his hands together behind his neck, resting his blond head against the headboard. "I'm tired of this place. It's going to snow tonight."

"According to the weather reports?"

"No. It's going to snow."

She glanced at him, then continued typing. "Well, we should be able to get out before the bad weather moves in. Right?"

"Mmmm."

"And maybe our next assignment will be someplace warm and sunny."

"Mmmm."

Kendra stopped typing, this time turning in her chair to study him. He appeared to be looking at the ceiling, but she knew that inward-turned gaze, the utter stillness, and waited patiently.

Finally, softly, Quentin said, "Shit."

"Trouble?"

He sat up, raked his fingers through his rather shaggy hair, and swore again beneath his breath. He looked at his cell phone lying on the nightstand, and five seconds later it rang.

Kendra lifted an eyebrow but went back to her report.

Quentin answered the phone. "Hey, John."

"I wish you wouldn't do that," John Garrett said.

"Answer the phone? It rang, so I answered it. That's what they're for, you know."

"I know what they're for, and you know what I meant. Even if you do know it's me calling, I wish you'd pretend otherwise."

"But that would be denying my deepest self," Quentin said solemnly.

John sighed.

Quentin grinned, then said, "Okay, okay. But it's just so much fun to poke holes in your certainties."

"Oh, is that what you've been doing all these years?"

"It's what I've been trying to do. Without visible results. One of these days, my friend, you're going to admit that there are more things in heaven and earth than you can find in those balance sheets of yours."

"I never denied that."

"No, you just deny precognition."

"How can you see something that hasn't happened yet?" John demanded.

"I don't see anything, I just know what's going to happen before it happens."

"Bullshit."

"I knew you were going to call."

"Lucky guess."

Quentin laughed. "Yeah, I just guessed it'd be you calling on a Friday morning in November when we haven't talked for more than a month. Use that hard head of yours and admit the paranormal exists."

It held the sound of an old argument, and Kendra tuned out Quentin's side of it until something he said a couple of minutes later caught her attention and made her realize the friendly debate was over.

"... again? So it's four victims now?" He shook his head. "I had no idea, John. We've been caught up in something in Pittsburgh for the past few weeks, and I've barely looked at a newspaper. They're sure it's the same guy?"

"They're sure. He's still blinding his victims, for one thing. And I've got a hunch there are a few more similarities they haven't put in their reports. At least, not the reports I've seen."

"You said the detectives handling the investigation were good."

"Not good enough. Quentin, they don't know a bit more than they did when Christina died, and that was three months ago. Two more women have been maimed for life, and the cops don't even have a decent description they can broadcast so the rest of the women in Seattle know who to be wary of. It isn't a real fun time to be a man in this city, I can tell you that."

"You're staying out there?"

"For the duration."

Surprised, Quentin said, "I know all those companies of yours practically run themselves these days, but is it wise for you to spend so much time away from L.A.?"

"I can fly down if I have to. I need to be here, Quentin."

"Okay, but the cops there may not be happy to have you breathing down their necks, John. Why don't you back off and give them room to work?"

"They can't work when they have nothing to work with." John drew a breath. "If you're really convinced that this new FBI unit you're with can get results using . . . unconventional methods, then now's the time to prove it. The usual five senses aren't accomplishing a goddamned thing."

Quentin frowned. "Have you persuaded the lieutenant in charge to call us in?"

"Not exactly."

"By not exactly, do you mean he's wavering? Or do you mean this is all your idea?"

"The latter."

"Oh, hell, John."

"Look, I know it should come through official channels, but the lieutenant in charge is stubborn as a mule and he's not going to yell for help until he's up to his ass in outraged citizens. So far, he's handling the flak and pushing his own people to work harder. But with nothing to go on, all they can do is sit around and wait for this bastard to make a mistake. That means more victims, Quentin."

"I know what it means. But this is out of our jurisdiction, you know that. And without an official request for help made through official channels, the Bureau is not going to send us in. We're walking a tightrope as it is, bending over backward to be careful as hell every time we are called in so the locals don't get the peculiar idea that we use witchcraft to solve their crimes."

"I won't let you be burned at the stake."

"Very funny." Quentin sighed, and looked across the room to find Kendra watching him with raised brows and her patented don't-do-anything-you'll-regret expression. He sighed again. "You've still got political juice there, right? Can the mayor or governor put pressure on the chief of police to call us in?"

"They're reluctant. The lieutenant has some juice of his own, and he wants his team to handle this."

"Because he's a good cop and sure of his team?"

"No. Because he wants to sit in the governor's mansion himself one day."

"Shit."

"Yeah. I just don't think he's going to ask for help, Quentin. At least not officially."

"I knew you were going to say that."

"Then you know what I'm going to say next. You've probably got vacation time coming." John's voice was persuasive. "Spend some of it here. You haven't been home except for flying visits in years. I'll pay the tab—send the jet for you, best hotel suite, you name it."

"Best hotel suite, huh?" Quentin gazed around at the repressively unoriginal decor of the room he was in.

Kendra murmured, "Oh, God."

John was saying, "Absolutely the best. Say the word, and I'll send the jet. Where did you say you are?"

"Pittsburgh."

"Why?"

Quentin almost laughed at his friend's astonished tone. "I told you, we had a case. Unfortunately, it was here."

"Is the case over?"

"Yeah. We won in overtime."

"Good. Then you most certainly need a break."

"I'll agree with that much—but I'm not sure I can take one right now, John. It all depends on whether there's another assignment waiting for me. Let me check with the office and get back to you."

"All right. Call me on my cell."

"I'll let you know something by this afternoon, I hope. Talk to you then, John." Quentin turned off his phone and set it on the nightstand.

Patiently, Kendra said, "We aren't supposed to work unofficially, Quentin, you know that."

"I know that."

"Bishop won't like it."

"I know that too."

Kendra sighed. "Seattle, huh?"

He smiled slowly. "Seattle."

"Because he's your friend?"

"Yes. And because his sister was."

CHAPTER THREE

Since she was forced to wait until Saturday afternoon to see Hollis Templeton and knew better than to try arranging another interview with Ellen Randall so soon, Maggie found herself at loose ends on Friday. Her small house was too quiet and the bright studio where she painted held no appeal, so late in the morning she picked up the sketch pad that went virtually everywhere with her and drove across town to another small, rather shabby house.

She went around to the back door that was never locked, pushing it open and calling out a hello.

"Studio," he called back.

Maggie picked her way through the usual clutter of books, magazines, newspapers, and half-finished craft projects to the studio, an addition to the house that was in stark contrast to the rest. Not only was it roomy and very bright due to numerous windows and skylights, it was also extremely neat and well organized, with paints and brushes stored precisely and canvases stacked in wooden bins. Various props and materials for drapes were kept ready on shelves between the windows, and the assorted chairs, lounges, and tables often used for backgrounds were arranged simply to comfortably furnish the large room.

In the center of the room an artist worked at an easel on a nearly completed canvas. The subject was a woman, and though she wasn't present in the flesh it was clear from the charcoal sketches pinned to another easel nearby that she had posed more than once for the artist.

The artist himself was about thirty, a tall and lanky man with the face of an angel—or so Maggie had always thought. She'd never seen an angel, but she had seen traffic literally stop and mouths drop open when this man walked by, and she figured he was about as close to heavenly perfection as earthly mortals were likely to get. He had long, wheat-gold hair he wore tied back at the nape of his neck, and his faded jeans and work shirt were, as usual, flecked with paint.

"Half a minute," he said without looking at her, his attention fixed on the careful shading beneath his subject's left ear.

"Take your time. I was tired of my own company and just came by to visit," Maggie said.

He sent her one quick glance from very pale blue eyes that were almost unnervingly discerning, then continued with his work. "Not like you to be bored," he said.

Maggie sat down at a clean but scarred wooden table and watched him. "Not bored exactly. Restless. I'm supposed to go talk to the most recent victim tomorrow, and until then there isn't a whole hell of a lot I can do. It's very wearing on the nerves, just sitting around waiting for the next attack."

"I warned you," he murmured.

"I know you did. But why didn't you also warn me that Hollis Templeton would ask for me by name?"

He stopped working and looked at her steadily. "Nobody told her your name?"

"No."

"What do you know about her?"

Maggie shrugged. "She's an artist, but she's new in Seattle and I think the work she did on the East Coast was mostly commercial stuff, so we wouldn't have heard of her. Late twenties, single. From the photo I saw, she was attractive before the attack. I don't know about now."

"He took her eyes."

"Yes. Removed them—very neatly, according to her doctors. No acid this time. He used a knife or scalpel and seems to have known what he was doing. Little damage to the optic nerve, to the eye socket and eyelids. Which is why they decided to try the transplant."

"Was it successful?"

"You tell me."

He smiled slightly and turned back to his painting.

"I hate it when you do that," Maggie told him.

"Do what?" His tone was innocent.

"Ignore a question. I start really dreading it when you don't want to answer."

"Whether Hollis Templeton sees again is entirely up to her."

"Well, that's cryptic enough. Did they teach you to talk like that at seer school?"

"I didn't go to seer school."

"Prognosticator's school, then."

He chuckled. "That either."

When it became clear he wasn't going to say anything else, at least for the time being, Maggie sighed and opened her sketch pad. For several moments she stared at the vague outline of a rapist's face, then swore beneath her breath and closed the pad again.

"I really hate this, Beau," she said.

"I know you do. I'm sorry."

"But not sorry enough to be a little less cryptic."

"Being sorry has nothing to do with it."

"Free will."

He nodded and stepped away from the easel to begin cleaning his brushes. "Free will. You have to make the decisions and choices facing you of your own free will."

Maggie watched him broodingly. "And yet you know what those decisions and choices are going to be. Which argues that fate is set, my destiny planned—and there is no such thing as free will."

"Then let's call it the illusion of free will."

"You can be very maddening sometimes, you know that?"

"You tell me so often enough." Beau disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes and returned with two canned soft drinks. "This stuff is very bad for us," he said vaguely. "I read it somewhere." He handed her a can and sat down across from her to pop the top of his own.

Maggie followed suit. "You swear to me you can't tell me who the rapist is?"

Beau frowned. "There's no sense of identity, and I can't see his face. That's something I would tell you if I could, Maggie, believe me. There's nothing in the seer's handbook about protecting monsters."

"He is that, you know. Inhuman."

"I know."

"I have to stop him."

"You mean you have to try."

"Yes. Yes, of course that's what I mean."

"You're helping, Maggie."

"Am I? I don't have a sketch yet."

"Maybe not, but you're helping those women. If they have any kind of a life when this is over, it'll be largely due to you."

"Then why don't I feel better?"

Quietly, he said, "Because you've let yourself get too close to them. You won't be able to do this much longer if you don't back away a bit. Try to stop feeling everything they feel."

"Teach me how to do that and I'll give it a shot." She laughed, but the sound held no amusement. "We're running out of time. It's only going to get worse from here on out, Beau, we both know that."

"Even so, stop trying to carry all of the load yourself. You can't do this alone, I've told you. You have to trust someone else to help you."

"Someone other than you."

"I'm . . . outside the loop. My job is to offer cryptic warnings, remember?"

"Yeah, right."

Beau smiled slightly, but it was sympathetic rather than humorous. "I wish I could do more."

"Then do more, dammit."

"The seer handbook, remember? We all have to play by the rules, Maggie. Putting one foot carefully in front of the other, testing the ground, feeling our way, studying the signs. So wary of doing something that might make things even worse. You've been doing that too. Otherwise you would have told them the truth a long time ago."

"And how am I supposed to tell them the truth? Andy, the other cops? How will they ever understand? Hell—how will they even believe me?"

"When you don't quite believe it yourself,' he murmured.

"It isn't an easy thing to believe, to accept."

"I know."

"You could be wrong about it," she said, more of a question than a statement.

"I really wish I was, Maggie. For your sake." He watched her for a moment in silence, then said, "Is Garrett here yet?"

"Yes. He was at the station yesterday. Wanted to talk to me about Christina."

"Did you tell him?"

"The truth? No. I lied. I looked that man in the eye and lied to him about his sister's death."

"Why?"

"Because ... I don't know why. Because he wouldn't suffer less for knowing the truth. Because he'd blame himself for something he did, or failed to do. Because Christina wouldn't want him to know. Because he wouldn't believe me." She lifted her drink in a mocking salute. "Or maybe just because I'm a coward."

"I don't think that was it."

"Don't you? I'm beginning to wonder. I'm afraid, Beau. I'm scared to death."

"Of the future?"

"Of now. What if I'm not strong enough? Or smart enough, or quick enough? I wasn't before."

"You will be this time."

"Is that from the seer? Or just from you?"

"From me."

Maggie sighed. "That's what I thought." She brooded in silence for several minutes, then said abruptly, "Garrett. You're wrong about him."

"Am I?"

"Yes."

"Well," Beau said affably, "I've been wrong before. Not often, mind you, but it has been known to happen. Time will tell, won't it, Maggie?"

"Yeah," she said. "Yeah, time will tell."

Andy Brenner had been a cop almost fifteen years. He loved the work, even though it had cost him his marriage—which wasn't exactly an unusual price for cops to pay. Half the guys in the department were either divorced or trying to make a second marriage work better than the first one had. And the female officers didn't seem to have it any easier.

Like most of the spouses, Andy's had hated the long hours and lousy pay, the stress of knowing her husband waded in filth virtually every day and might not come home except in a flag-draped box. But, even more than that, Kathy had hated his commitment to his job.

Well, Andy could hardly change that. Hell, he couldn't even apologize for it. A cop wasn't much good to anybody if he wasn't dedicated, was he?

No.

Which was why he was staying late yet again on this Friday night. Going over files he'd already studied so many times the information was practically embedded in his brain cells. Only now there was nobody waiting for him at home, pacing the floor or drinking too much wine after a supper alone.

"Andy?"

He looked up. "I thought you left hours ago, Scott."

Scott Cowan shook his head. "No, Jenn and I were just in the back digging through some of the old files." He was holding a dingy gray folder in his hands.

"What the hell for?"

"Just following up on a hunch."

"A hunch about what? The rapist?" Not, Andy thought, that there was much chance it was about anything else; the case possessed all of them these days.

"Well, yeah."

"So? Let's hear it."

Scott hadn't been a detective long enough to have a lot of faith in his hunches, and he reddened a bit under Andy's gaze. "Well, I know we fed all the information we've got on this rapist through the computer to look for similar crimes, but Jenn and me were talking today and we started wondering about the old files. Some of those files go back fifty years and more, and none of the info is in the system."

Patiently, Andy said, "I doubt our rapist was attacking women fifty years ago, Scott. That'd make him—what?—seventy-five or eighty now? Not even a little blue pill could help a geezer like that get it up."

"No, that's not the way we're thinking. Something the shrink said at the meeting yesterday. She said this rapist seemed to have his rituals well established, as if he'd been at this much longer than the six months we know he's been active. So we thought he might have found himself some ready-made rituals, copying a much older string of crimes."

"Taking the information right out of our old files?"

"Not necessarily. Jenn checked, and some of this stuff has been written up in books over the years, especially the unsolved crimes. It's a popular subject, Andy, you know that. And it's at least a possibility that our guy could be following somebody else's game plan, isn't it?"

"Anything's possible." Andy pursed his lips for a moment as he considered the idea. "Not bad, Scott. It's an angle we haven't considered. Find anything yet?"

"We're not sure."

"Something else interesting?"

"Something peculiar. At least we thought so. Maybe you can say different." He opened the file and extracted a yellowed sheet of paper, which he handed across the desk. "Just for the hell of it, we started with the really old files, those from more than fifty years ago. Specifically from 1934. Jenn found this in one of them, among some case notes of a murder investigation."

Andy stared down at the sketch and felt a sensation he'd never felt before, as though a cold finger had trailed slowly up his spine. The heart-shaped face and delicate features, the long dark hair . . . "Who is this? I mean—who was she?"

"She was the victim, Andy. A young teacher, stabbed to death in an alley. Apparently she was pretty beat up, so much so that they used an artist to sketch her the way they figured she looked uninjured, just so they'd have something to show around while they tried to identify her. They found out who she was, all right, but. . . the case was never solved."

"It must be a coincidence," Andy muttered. "The artist got it wrong, guessed wrong about how she really looked. Or some kind of family tie. What was her name?"

Scott opened the folder again. "Her name was . . . Pamela Hall. Spinster, twenty-two. No family in Seattle, at least not that the cops could discover."

"Was she raped?"

"Yeah, she was. In those days, though, rape was seldom reported and never investigated, at least as far as I can tell. It was just mentioned by the doctor in his postmortem notes; the cops treated it like a murder, pure and simple. They weren't looking for a sexual predator."

Jennifer Seaton joined them at Andy's desk in time to hear that, and said, "I don't think that term even existed then." She shook her head, more in weariness than anger. "They still thought rape was a forceful act of sex—and nothing more."

"Have you found any other attacks around the same time?" Andy asked.

Jennifer shook her head again. "Not yet. But this one happened early that year, and there are more files we can go through. We just thought we should check with you before we go any further. It wasn't the attack itself that caught my attention—lots of women were killed in Seattle around that time. It was the sketch I couldn't get past."

Andy drew a breath. "I see what you mean. Shit. If this sketch is accurate, she was the image of our first victim, Laura Hughes."

"That's what we thought."

Andy propped the sketch against his phone and stared at it. Probably just coincidence. Hell, it had to be. Still . . . "Look, it's late, you two should go home. But when you come back on duty, you might want to keep digging in those files, see if you turn up anything else."

Scott nodded, eager to participate more fully in an investigation where, so far, he'd been more of a glorified gofer than anything else. "Sure, I can do that. Jenn?"

"Gladly. Beats the hell out of sitting at my desk taking call after call from panicky citizens."

Scott said, "Hey, Andy, you think we might have something here? Maybe this guy is copying old crimes by hunting for look-alike victims?"

"Maybe," Andy said. "But let's not get too excited just yet, okay, guys? One sketch doesn't mean much, except maybe that all of us have—or had—doubles in the world. Just keep digging, and bring me anything you find."

"You bet, Andy. Want us to leave this file for you?"

"Yeah." Andy accepted the file and wished the younger cops a good night. They walked out together, talking, and he wasted a minute or so wondering if they were sleeping together. Not very surprising, if so, and they wouldn't be the first pairing in the department. But he hoped they were smarter than that.

When he was alone again, he stared at the sketch of a young woman long dead and gone. Hell, twice dead and gone, or at least that was how it looked. Pamela Hall, stabbed to death in 1934 after being brutally raped; Laura Hughes, brutally raped and beaten in 2001, blinded, dying days later of her injuries.

The two women didn't just resemble each other—they were virtually identical, right down to the little mole at the left corner of their mouths. But an artist had drawn this sketch with only the battered face of the victim as a guide, and Andy reminded himself that artists were hardly infallible.

Except for Maggie, anyway.

Andy combed through the file, but it held precious little information. From the sound of their notes, the investigating cops had been saddened by the murder of this young woman but not surprised; she had been found in the bad part of town, and it was clear they considered it her own fault that she had placed herself in the path of danger. Still, they had investigated methodically for a while—and then moved on to the next crime demanding their attention.

The postmortem notes were no more helpful. The victim had died of blood loss and shock; there was evidence of forcible sexual activity, and she was beaten and bruised. It was the opinion of the doctor that she had fought her attacker, evidenced by the injuries to her arms and hands, but her strength had, clearly, been no match for his.

Andy went back to studying the sketch. Were Scott and Jennifer right in their speculation? Was their modern-day serial rapist choosing his victims from old unsolved cases?

It was, of course, ridiculous to base an assumption such as that one on a single example, but Andy couldn't help doing a little speculating himself. So far, they hadn't been able to find any pattern in the means or reasoning their rapist had used to choose his victims. Since one of the women had been abducted from a crowded shopping mall and another from her high-security apartment building, they had ruled out simple ease of access, which meant he was picking his victims some other way and quite deliberately.

Could he be using old unsolved investigations? And if he was, had he found the information he sought in books? Or in the actual files themselves?

If he was, Andy hoped it was the former. He really hoped so. Because he was pretty sure that the only people who could have gained access to the old files without attracting notice were cops.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3

Maggie wasn't terribly surprised to find John Garrett at the hospital when she arrived to talk to Hollis Templeton shortly after two o'clock. She also wasn't terribly happy about it.

"The interview will be private," she told him.

"I know that. I just thought we might be able to get a cup of coffee somewhere afterward. Talk."

She didn't bother to explain that interviews such as this one was likely to be usually left her feeling something less than sociable. "I doubt I'll have any new information," she warned him instead. "The first interview with a victim seldom produces anything we can use."

"I understand that. I'd still like to talk. And—there's someone I'd like you to meet."

Maggie was curious enough about that to nod and say fine, that she'd meet him at the waiting area near the elevators when she was finished with her interview. Then she went on to Hollis Templeton's room, braced herself as well as she could, and knocked quietly before going in.

"Miss Templeton?"

"Yes?" She was sitting by the window, her face turned toward it even though bandages covered her eyes. She was dressed in jeans and a bulky sweater, much as Maggie was dressed herself—even to the comfortable running shoes. Her brown hair was short and styled for a casual look and ease of care, nothing at all fussy about it.

Maggie crossed the small room to stand by the empty chair apparently awaiting her. "I'm Maggie Barnes."

"I see." Her face turned toward Maggie, and lips that bore a healing cut moved in a smile. "Well, I don't, really. Have you ever stopped to think about how many things we say using words like see and look, when we don't actually mean to describe doing anything visual?"

Maggie slipped into the chair. "I've thought about it a lot lately," she answered.

Hollis smiled again, her face seemingly unmarked except for the healing cut—and those bandaged eyes. "Yes, I imagine in speaking to blinded victims you find verbal minefields all over the place. I'm Hollis, by the way. A ridiculous family name. My father tried to shorten it to Holly when I was small, but I hated that even more."

Maggie had talked to too many victims of violent crime to find the conversation in any way strange; some victims had to discuss irrelevant things first, partly to delay reliving the pain of what had happened to them and partly to at least attempt to establish a feeling of normalcy. So she was able to respond easily and without impatience.

"Most people think Maggie is short for Margaret, but it isn't. I've always been Maggie."

"It's a good name. It means pearl, did you know?"

"Yes."

"Hollis means lives by the holly trees. What kind of name is that for a grown woman?" She shook her head, adding abruptly, "Dumb subject. And trivial. Sorry, I don't mean to waste your time."

"You aren't, Hollis. I'm glad you called us."

"Us." She nodded as though a private thought had been confirmed. "So you do consider yourself one of the cops, huh?"

"I guess so."

"It can't be a fun job, listening to horrible stories about. . . man's inhumanity to man."

"No, that part of it isn't fun."

"Why do you do it?"

Maggie studied the other woman, noting the stiff posture, the hands still bearing faint scratches and fading bruises gripping the arms of the chair tensely. Slowly she said, "I ... have a knack. I listen to disparate details and manage to put them together to form a picture. A face."

Hollis tilted her head slightly. "Yes, but why do you do it? Were you a victim once?"

"No."

"Somebody you cared about?"

Maggie almost shook her head, then remembered Hollis couldn't see her. It was an odd surprise; she could almost feel a gaze, feel attention fixed on her so completely that it was as if the other woman could see her. "No," she murmured, answering the question even as she wondered if what she felt was her imagination—or something more.

"Is it pity?"

If Hollis was expecting a swift denial, she didn't get it. Calmly Maggie said, "I imagine that's part of it. Pity, sympathy, whatever you want to call it."

Hollis smiled. "You're honest. Good."

"I try to be."

A little laugh escaped Hollis. "And truthful enough to know it isn't always possible to be completely honest with other people."

"A lesson sadly learned."

"Life is full of them." Abruptly, Hollis said, "I know I'm the fourth victim. I remember reading in the newspapers that the first two were dead."

"Yes."

"But he didn't leave them dead. They died later."

"Laura Hughes died of her injuries. Christina Walsh killed herself about a month after she was attacked."

"Did either of them have kids?"

"No."

"What about the third woman?"

"She has a little boy."

"I hadn't even decided if I wanted kids. Now it's a decision I don't have to worry about anymore."

Maggie didn't offer platitudes. Instead, she asked, "Is that the worst of it for you? That there won't be any children of your own?"

"I don't know." Her lips moved again in that small, brief smile. "I guess it might depend on whether the transplant was a success. The doctor's confident, but... I don't know what you learned in art school, but one of the things they taught us is that the eyes, like the spine, are hardwired into the brain. That's why there hasn't been a successful transplant before now. They can transplant corneas, of course, but not the eyeball—or at least that's conventional medical wisdom. My doctor intends to become a pioneer."

"You'll be one too," Maggie reminded her.

"I'm not so sure I want to be. But I do want to see again, so I signed the papers. Any chance is better than none, right?"

"I'd say so."

"Yeah. But nobody really knows what might happen. My body doesn't seem to be rejecting the eyes, but the odds against them working the way they're supposed to are pretty long. The funny thing is . . ."

"What?"

She drew a little breath. "They say when you lose a limb, you get phantom sensations—that you still feel the limb attached to you, moving. Hurting."

"I've heard that."

"I asked my doctor if it was the same way with eyes. I don't think he quite got what I meant until I asked him if I should be able to move them. Because that's the kind of sensations I feel, that the eyes are moving under the bandages, behind my eyelids. Like now, when I think about looking toward the door ... I can feel them move."

"What did your doctor say?"

"That it was probably phantom sensations, there hadn't been time for the muscles and nerves to heal. That was just after the operation, so I guess he was right. But it still feels the same to me, those sensations."

"When will they take the bandages off?"

"Another week or so. Until then, all I can do is sit here . . . and wait. I never was very good at waiting."

"Is that why you called us?"

"Maybe. If I could do anything to help them catch that. . . monster . . . then I want to do it." She paused and swallowed hard. "At least, that was the plan. Now I'm not so sure I can talk about it yet. I'm sorry, but—"

"Hollis, it's all right. You have to do this in your own time and way. Look, why don't I come back tomorrow, and we'll talk again. We'll talk about anything you want for as long as you want. Until you're ready."

"If you don't mind."

"I don't. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, okay?"

"Thank you, Maggie."

Hollis didn't move after the door closed behind her visitor. She turned her face back toward the window, thinking vaguely that if she'd been back in New England she might have felt the sunlight on her face even in November. But the nurses had told her it was a typical Seattle day, overcast and dreary, with no sunlight to be had. They hadn't understood why she'd wanted to sit by the window anyway.

You should have talked to her, Hollis.

"I did talk to her."

/ told you that you could trust her.

She laughed under her breath. "I don't even know if I can trust you."

You know.

"All I know is that I'm creeping out the nursing staff by talking to someone who isn't there."

I'm here. And you know I'm real.

Hollis turned her head so that she faced the chair across from her own. "If I could see, would I see you?"

Perhaps.

"And perhaps not. I think I'll make up my own mind who to trust, if it's all the same to you, figment."

Make up your mind soon, Hollis. We're running out of time.

CHAPTER FOUR

“I couldn't push her," Maggie said. "I can't push her. We just have to wait until she's ready to talk about it."

"And when will that be?" John asked. He sat back to allow the waitress to serve their coffee, wondering if Maggie had suggested this coffee shop across from the hospital because she liked it or because she wanted to spend as little time with him as possible.

"My guess is a few days. She's coping better than I expected, maybe because she has the hope of seeing again. But her emotional condition is still . . . very fragile."

"Did you ask her how she knew to ask for you by name?"

"No. I didn't want to ask anything that might have been interpreted as ... suspicious." "Bad for the rapport?" "That's one way of putting it. If I can't establish a strong bond of trust, then she won't confide in me. Especially as long as she can't see."

John didn't lack imagination, and it was not difficult for him to at least try to understand the terror of being suddenly locked away in darkness, especially as it applied to dealing with others. "No visual clues," he said slowly. "We use our eyes so much when it comes to weighing other people and judging the worth of what they tell us."

A little surprised, Maggie said, "Exactly."

He smiled but didn't comment on her surprise. "So you didn't learn how she knew about you. Anything else? Do you think she saw anything before he blinded her?"

"I don't know. She has something on her mind, but I have no way of knowing what that might be." If she hadn't been gazing directly at his face, she wouldn't have seen his instant of hesitation—and the decision to say what was on his mind.

"So what we need," he said lightly, "is a good psychic."

"Have a few on the payroll, do you?" Her voice was matter-of-fact.

"Not on my payroll, no. At least, not that I know of. But I have a friend who might be willing to help. Assuming he can, of course."

"You doubt his abilities?"

"I," John said deliberately, "doubt the entire concept, if you want the truth. I have a hard time believing in the so-called paranormal. But I've seen Quentin find answers when no one else could, and even if I'm not sure how he does it, at least his way is another option. Especially in a situation where there is so little information and so much need for more."

Maggie sipped her coffee to give herself a moment to think, then said, "I'm pretty sure Luke Drummond would balk at having one more civilian officially involved in the investigation."

"I'm positive he would. Which is why Quentin can only be involved unofficially."

"Which means access to the investigation is going to be a problem. Is that why you're telling me? Do you expect me to get him access to the victims?"

John immediately shook his head. "I wouldn't put you in that position or ask those women to talk to yet another stranger, especially a strange man. No, I'm telling you because from everything Andy's said about you, my hunch is that you're going to be at the center of this investigation for the duration—and I don't mean sitting in an interview room downtown."

"What do you mean?"

"Andy says you've walked the areas where the first three victims were found. True?"

She nodded slowly.

"Why?"

Maggie couldn't think of a simple answer and finally shrugged. "To gather impressions, I suppose. I told you, a lot of what I do is intuition."

"According to Andy, you always immerse yourself in an investigation. You don't just interview victims and witnesses or just study the crime scenes. You read all the reports, talk to the cops, comb through files, even hit the streets following up on your hunches. You talk to family and friends of the victims and construct your own diagrams of crime scenes. Andy swears he believes you have a filing cabinet tucked away somewhere at home with your own personal files of the investigations you've participated in."

Maggie only just stopped herself from flinching. "Andy talks too much."

"Maybe so, but did he lie?"

She laced her fingers together around her cup and stared down at it for a long moment before finally meeting his gaze again. "Okay so I get involved. What does that have to do with you and your friend? I won't share confidential details of the investigation."

"I don't expect you to. Look, I can get most of the information on the formal investigation myself as least as much as Andy can give me. What I'm asking you to do is to work separately—independently of the official investigation—with Quentin and me."

Maggie frowned at him. "You're planning to run an independent investigation?"

"Why not? I have resources the police can't begin to match. I can go places they can't go, ask questions they'd be damned for asking."

Steadily, she said, "As the brother of a victim?"

His jaw tightened, but John nodded and replied calmly, "As the brother of a victim. Nobody will be much surprised that I'm trying to find answers on my own, and most people will be sympathetic. We can use that if we have to."

"Ruthless," she noted.

"Practical," he disagreed. "There's nothing coldblooded about this, remember. That bastard destroyed Christina. He murdered her as surely as if he killed her with his own hands. I intend to see to it that he pays."

"I don't think much of vigilante justice."

"That isn't what I have in mind. If we get even a whiff of a viable suspect, we'll hand the information over to the police immediately. I don't want to do their job, Maggie, I promise you that. But I do believe the investigation needs a fresh start, a new slant. It's been six months since the first victim was attacked; do you believe the police know much more today than they did then?"

Reluctantly, she said, "No, not much more."

"Neither do I."

"Okay, but what makes you think you—we—can accomplish any more working independently?"

"Call it a hunch."

She shook her head. "For a man who denies belief in the paranormal, you're putting a lot of faith in a hunch."

He smiled. "No, I'm putting a lot of faith in Quentin. And in you. And ... I can't keep just waiting around twiddling my thumbs, Maggie. I have to at least try to find some way of putting this bastard behind bars before he attacks again."

She understood that drive all too well, but his plans still made her uneasy. Stalling for time, she said, "Don't you have a business empire to run?"

"What I need to do I can do by phone, fax, or modem. I've spent the past six weeks arranging things so I could take time off for this."

"And you expect me to take time as well?"

"I expect you to go on doing exactly what you would have done anyway—but with sometime companions." John leaned forward a bit. "Useful companions; I wasn't kidding about having resources. But even more than that, we can help you with the legwork, case notes, research—whatever is needed. Quentin and I can share the load."

. . . stop trying to carry all of the load yourself.

Maggie didn't have to wonder if it was a coincidence that Beau had used the same phrasing; there were few coincidences anywhere in his orbit. She drew a breath. "And when Andy and the other cops find out I'm involved in a private parallel investigation? Just how long do you expect it to take for them to slam the door in all our faces?"

"They won't do that—if we've made progress. And I expect us to make progress."

She swore under her breath and stared down at her coffee again.

"You're going to investigate on your own anyway, aren't you?"

Not yet ready to admit that she'd already started, Maggie shrugged.

It was John's turn to swear, just as softly as she had. "If I thought money motivated you, I'd ask your price. But it doesn't. So what does motivate you, Maggie? What can I say to convince you to help me?"

She finished her coffee and set the cup down, meeting his gaze with a sense of inevitability. "You just said it." And before he could question her apparently sudden capitulation, she added, "You're right, I'd investigate on my own anyway. Might as well make it a team effort."

He reached across the table and covered her hand with his. "Thank you. You won't regret it, I promise you."

The physical contact caught her off guard, and for just that unprotected instant before she could shut it out, she felt his determination as well as his conviction that she could help him. And she felt something else, something warm and very male and disturbingly familiar.

She sat back, gently drawing her hand away under the pretext of pushing her coffee cup to one side. "What's the game plan? I assume you have one."

John frowned briefly, as if something he couldn't quite define puzzled him. "The beginnings of one, anyway. Andy said you hadn't yet walked over the area where Hollis Templeton was found."

"No, not yet."

"That's as good a place as any to start. I've asked Quentin to meet us there."

As much as she hated to admit it even to herself, Maggie had put off that chore because she dreaded what she knew awaited her there. What she wasn't sure of was whether having companions on the visit would make it better—or worse.

Still . . . maybe it was time to show John Garrett a glimpse of her "magic." Time for him to at least begin to understand.

"We don't have much daylight left," she said, keeping her tone brisk. "I'm ready if you are."

"Well," Jennifer said, "we definitely have something. But I'll be damned if I know what it is."

"It's gotta be coincidence," Scott said. "It's gotta be coincidence, right, Andy?"

Andy didn't blame either of them for being bewildered. What they'd found, by mid-afternoon on Saturday, were three more files concerning murder investigations in 1934. All three victims were young women, all three had been brutally attacked, raped, and left for dead, and all three murders had gone unsolved.

In two of the three folders they had found something more than scanty case notes. They had found sketches of the victims, sketches the police had used in identifying the women, again because their faces had been so badly battered—obvious in the grainy crime-scene photos. One of the sketches was rather inexpertly done and had not, in fact, helped the police to identify the dead woman; she had gone nameless to a pauper's grave.

But the second sketch was a good one and had been backed up later once she was identified by a photograph. The victim had been the daughter of a local businessman, and not only had her reputation been spotless but she had apparently been attacked not twenty yards from her own back door—in the best part of town. Her name was Marianne Trask.

And according to the sketch, she bore an uncanny resemblance to Hollis Templeton. The same medium-brown hair and strong, attractive features, same oval face, same slender neck.

"Not identical," Jennifer noted. "But damned close. And if you read the descriptions of the other victims, even without sketches to go by, they sound a lot like Christina Walsh and Ellen Randall. Coincidence? I guess it could be."

"It's arguable," Andy said. "Four women attacked, and each case matches up with one of ours—at least as far as the description of the victim is concerned. But there are differences."

"Yeah. All the 1934 victims died within hours." Jennifer sighed and reached into her pocket for a cinnamon-flavored toothpick; she'd recently quit smoking and claimed chewing the toothpicks soothed her oral fixation. It was a mark of the respect in which she was held by the men that not one of them had ventured a lewd response. At least not out loud.

"That's not all," Andy said. "There's no mention in the case files of any of them being blinded."

Scott offered, "That could be our guy's own personal twist. I mean, maybe he's trying to find look-alike victims but making damned sure they can't look at him."

"In 1934," Jennifer pointed out, "leaving them for dead did the trick, so that killer didn't have to worry about his victims even trying to identify him."

"Why doesn't our guy kill his victims?" Scott asked, directing the question to Jennifer. "He goes to such pains to blind them; wouldn't killing them outright be a hell of a lot easier?"

"Why ask me?" She shifted the toothpick to the other side of her mouth and added, "If I had to guess, I'd say he just hasn't been quite ready—so far—to cross the line into outright murder. But I'm no expert, and if you want my opinion that's what we need on this case. Our shrink's good, but she's no profiler."

Andy grunted. "Drummond won't call in the FBI, and you know how the chief feels about the officer in charge of an investigation making that decision."

"If we can't solve this, he'll have to," Jennifer objected.

"You don't know our Luke," Andy said sourly.

Jennifer rolled her eyes. "Oh, yes, I do. I just keep hoping I'm wrong, that's all."

Scott made a rude noise not quite under his breath.

"I wouldn't mind being wrong about that," she told him mildly.

"Let's stick to business," Andy said. "Four victims. That's it for the year?"

"Well, we aren't sure about that." Jennifer traded looks with Scott and shrugged. "Files are missing, Andy."

"What the hell do you mean, missing?"

"I mean that from June—just after the fourth victim was killed—through the end of that year, there are no files. And the box is so packed it's hard to say if files have been removed or were never there."

"They had to be there, Jenn, at least in 1934. Crime doesn't just stop in June to take a vacation."

She shrugged again. "Well, they aren't there now. Jeez, how many times since then do you figure the file boxes have been moved around? This isn't the original site of the investigating station, and even this building has been rebuilt or remodeled at least three times. As the city grew, the districts multiplied; police records for Seattle are probably scattered over a dozen different buildings or more."

Scott sank down in Andy's visitor's chair and groaned. "I never thought. . . But you're right. Every station probably has file boxes in its basement or storage rooms."

"And none of it on computer," Jennifer reminded them. "It's taking all the manpower we can muster to get the modern records on computer for comparison; if the old stuff is ever part of the computerized record it won't be anytime soon."

Andy sat back in his chair and stared at the two sketches propped up against his lamp. "Two pretty conclusive matches," he said slowly, "and descriptions of two more that sound close enough to be strong maybes. Four victims closely matching our four victims. You know, guys ... I'd really like to see the files for the rest of that year, maybe the year after."

Jennifer got it first. "In case there are more rape-murders. You think if there were more victims then—we'll have more now. And maybe a shot at identifying would-be victims?"

"Hell, I don't know." Andy scowled. "Even with sketches and photos we don't have much hope of finding look-alikes in a city this big. But more files may give us more information, and God knows we could use it, so I say we look for them."

"I just had a creepy thought," Jennifer said. "What if this bastard is just yanking our chains, copying old crimes or picking look-alike victims only as long as we don't catch on?"

"How could he know we'd caught on?" Scott objected.

"If we manage to identify a potential victim, say."

"One nightmare at a time," Andy told them. "You guys want to get on the phone and try to track down those missing files?"

The building where Hollis Templeton's bleeding body had been dumped wasn't precisely in the bad part of town, it was just somewhat isolated from the buildings nearest it and in very bad shape. Intended for demolition so that a modern new apartment complex could rise in its stead, it had stood empty for at least six or eight months.

Maggie got out of her car and stood on the curb, absently hugging her sketch pad to her breast as she waited for John to park his car and join her. It was chilly, a restless wind whining around like something lost and alone, and the overcast sky was allowing darkness to approach even earlier than usual.

Maggie hated this. She hated this lonely place, hated being here with darkness creeping ever closer. She hated the cold fear writhing in the pit of her stomach and the dread that made her skin feel prickly as though the nerves lay rawly exposed on the surface.

"Maggie?"

She started despite herself and tore her gaze from the broken rubble walkway leading to the building to find John standing beside her.

"Are you all right?"

She nodded quickly. "Yes, of course. Just. . . woolgathering. Where's your friend?"

"Well, since there's a rental car parked across the street, I'd say he's already here." He studied her face, not quite frowning but clearly bothered by what he saw. "Are you sure you want to go in there?"

"Want to? No. But I'm going in."

He smiled faintly. "Determination, or just plain stubbornness?"

"Is there a difference?" Maggie didn't wait for him to answer but walked steadily up the walkway to the building.

John walked beside her. "I've always thought so. Do you have a set pattern for going over crime scenes, or is every one different?"

"I suppose each is different. And this isn't really a crime scene, anyway. She was left here but not attacked here."

He paused with her just a few feet from the doorway and looked down at her. "But her attacker was here, if only long enough to leave her inside. Is that what you hope to pick up on ... intuitively?"

As tense as she was, Maggie had to smile. "You really are uncomfortable discussing intuition, aren't you?"

"The way you and Quentin appear to use it—yes."

"I'm not psychic."

"Sure about that?"

Before Maggie could answer, a tall blond man appeared suddenly in the doorway and offered a cheerful greeting.

"I hope somebody brought a flashlight. Because unless we're damned quick in here, we're going to end up in the dark."

"I thought they taught you to always be prepared," John said.

"That's the Boy Scouts. I wasn't a Boy Scout. Wasn't a marine either."

John didn't question the latter statement, just sighed and said he had several flashlights in his car.

"I knew you would. That's why I didn't bring any."

"Don't start with me. Maggie, this is Quentin Hayes, who claims to know things before they happen." There was no scorn in his voice, merely a sort of amused mockery, and he left her to make what she would of the introduction while he returned to his car for the flashlights.

"So you're a seer?" she asked.

"Not in the true sense of the word, meaning one who sees. I don't, actually. No visions." He shrugged. "I just know things. Sort of the way most people tune in to memory or bits of information they've learned. The difference is that when I tune in, it's often to the knowledge of something that hasn't happened yet."

"That must be unsettling."

"It took some getting used to." He eyed her thoughtfully. "I hear they call what you do nothing short of magical."

"That's not what I call it."

"Oh? What do you call it?"

"An ability I've practiced nearly half my life to perfe