Читать книгу Presumed Guilty - Tess Gerritsen


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TESS GERRITSEN

PRESUMED GUILTY

To Terrina and Mike, with aloha

One

He called at ten o’clock, the same time he always did.

Even before Miranda answered it, she knew it was him. She also knew that if she ignored it the phone would keep on ringing and ringing, until the sound would drive her crazy. Miranda paced the bedroom, thinking, I don’t have to answer it. I don’t have to talk to him. I don’t owe him a thing, not a damn thing.

The ringing stopped. In the sudden silence she held her breath, hoping that this time he would relent, this time he would understand she’d meant what she told him.

The renewed jangling made her start. Every ring was like sandpaper scraping across her raw nerves.

Miranda couldn’t stand it any longer. Even as she picked up the receiver she knew it was a mistake. “Hello?”

“I miss you,” he said. It was the same whisper, resonant with the undertones of old intimacies shared, enjoyed.

“I don’t want you to call me anymore,” she said.

“I couldn’t help it. All day I’ve wanted to call you. Miranda, it’s been hell without you.”

Tears stung her eyes. She took a breath, forcing them back.

“Can’t we try again?” he pleaded.

“No, Richard.”

“Please. This time it’ll be different.”

“It’ll never be different.”

“Yes! It will—”

“It was a mistake. From the very beginning.”

“You still love me. I know you do. God, Miranda, all these weeks, seeing you every day. Not being able to touch you. Or even be alone with you—”

“You won’t have to deal with that any longer, Richard. You have my letter of resignation. I meant it.”

There was a long silence, as though the impact of her words had pummeled him like some physical blow. She felt euphoric and guilty all at once. Guilty for having broken free, for being, at last, her own woman.

Softly he said, “I told her.”

Miranda didn’t respond.

“Did you hear me?” he asked. “I told her. Everything about us. And I’ve been to see my lawyer. I’ve changed the terms of my—”

“Richard,” she said slowly. “It doesn’t make a difference. Whether you’re married or divorced, I don’t want to see you.”

“Just one more time.”

“No.”

“I’m coming over. Right now—”

“No.”

“You have to see me, Miranda!”

“I don’t have to do anything!” she cried.

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

Miranda stared in disbelief at the receiver. He’d hung up. Damn him, he’d hung up, and fifteen minutes from now he’d be knocking on her door. She’d managed to carry on so bravely these past three weeks, working side by side with him, keeping her smile polite, her voice neutral. But now he was coming and he’d rip away her mask of control and there they’d be again, spiraling into the same old trap she’d just managed to crawl out of.

She ran to the closet and yanked out a sweatshirt. She had to get away. Somewhere he wouldn’t find her, somewhere she could be alone.

She fled out the front door and down the porch steps and began to walk, swiftly, fiercely, down Willow Street. At ten-thirty, the neighborhood was already tucked in for the night. Through the windows she passed she saw the glow of lamplight, the silhouettes of families in various domestic poses, the occasional flicker of a fire in a hearth. She felt that old envy stir inside her again, the longing to be part of the same loving whole, to be stirring the embers of her own hearth. Foolish dreams.

Shivering, she hugged her arms to her chest. There was a chill in the air, not unseasonable for August in Maine. She was angry now, angry about being cold, about being driven from her own home. Angry at him. But she didn’t stop; she kept walking.

At Bayview Street she turned right, toward the sea.

The mist was rolling in. It blotted out the stars, crept along the road in a sullen vapor. She headed through it, the fog swirling in her wake. From the road she turned onto a footpath, followed it to a series of granite steps, now slick with mist. At the bottom was a wood bench — she thought of it as her bench — set on the beach of stones. There she sat, drew her legs up against her chest and stared out toward the sea. Somewhere, drifting on the bay, a buoy was clanging. She could dimly make out the green channel light, bobbing in the fog.

By now he would be at her house. She wondered how long he’d knock at the door. Whether he’d keep knocking until her neighbor Mr. Lanzo complained. Whether he’d give up and just go home, to his wife, to his son and daughter.

She lowered her face against her knees, trying to blot out the image of the happy little Tremain family. Happy was not the picture Richard had painted. At the breaking point was the way he’d described his marriage. It was love for Phillip and Cassie, his children, that had kept him from divorcing Evelyn years ago. Now the twins were nineteen, old enough to accept the truth about their parents’ marriage. What stopped him from divorce now was his concern for Evelyn, his wife. She needed time to adjust, and if Miranda would just be patient, would just love him enough, the way he loved her, it would all work out….

Oh, yes. Hasn’t it worked out just fine?

Miranda gave a little laugh. She raised her head, looked out to sea and laughed again, not a hysterical laugh but one of relief. She felt as if she’d just awakened from a long fever, to find that her mind was sharp again, clear again. The mist felt good against her face, its chill touch sweeping her soul clean. How she needed such a cleansing! The months of guilt had piled up like layers of dirt, until she thought she could scarcely see herself, her real self, beneath the filth.

Now it was over. This time it was really, truly over.

She smiled at the sea. My soul is mine again, she thought. A calmness, a serenity she had not felt in months, settled over her. She rose to her feet and started for home.

Two blocks from her house she spotted the blue Peugeot, parked near the intersection of Willow and Spring Streets. So he was still waiting for her. She paused by the car, gazing in at the black leather upholstery, the sheepskin seat covers, all of it too familiar. The scene of the crime, she thought. The first kiss. I’ve paid for it, in pain. Now it’s his turn.

She left the car and headed purposefully to her house. She climbed the porch steps; the front door was unlocked, as she’d left it. Inside, the lights were still on. He wasn’t in the living room.

“Richard?” she said.

No answer.

The smell of coffee brewing drew her to the kitchen. She saw a fresh pot on the burner, a half-filled mug on the countertop. One of the kitchen drawers had been left wide open. She slammed it shut. Well. You came right in and made yourself at home, didn’t you? She grabbed the mug and tossed the contents into the sink. The coffee splashed her hand; it was barely lukewarm.

She moved along the hall, past the bathroom. The light was on, and water trickled from the faucet. She shut it off. “You have no right to come in here!” she yelled. “It’s my house. I could call the police and have you arrested for trespassing.”

She turned toward the bedroom. Even before she reached the doorway she knew what to expect, knew what she’d have to contend with. He’d be sprawled on her bed, naked, a grin on his face. That was the way he’d greeted her the last time. This time she’d toss him out, clothes or no clothes. This time he’d be in for a surprise.

The bedroom was dark. She switched on the lights.

He was sprawled on the bed, as she’d predicted. His arms were flung out, his legs tangled in the sheets. And he was naked. But it wasn’t a grin she saw on his face. It was a frozen look of terror, the mouth thrown open in a silent scream, the eyes staring at some fearful image of eternity. A corner of the bed sheet, saturated with blood, sagged over the side. Except for the quiet tap, tap of the crimson liquid slowly dripping onto the floor, the room was silent.

Miranda managed to take two steps into the room before nausea assailed her. She dropped to her knees, gasping, retching. Only when she managed to raise her head again did she see the chef’s knife lying nearby on the floor. She didn’t have to look twice at it. She recognized the handle, the twelve-inch steel blade, and she knew exactly where it had come from: the kitchen drawer.

It was her knife; it would have her fingerprints on it.

And now it was steeped in blood.

Chase Tremain drove straight through the night and into the dawn. The rhythm of the road under his wheels, the glow of the dashboard lights, the radio softly scratching out some Muzak melody all receded to little more than the fuzzy background of a dream — a very bad dream. The only reality was what he kept telling himself as he drove, what he repeated over and over in his head as he pushed onward down that dark highway.

Richard is dead. Richard is dead.

He was startled to hear himself say the words aloud. Briefly it

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