Читать онлайн "Mind prey" автора Сэндфорд Джон - RuLit - Страница 1


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 « »

Выбрать главу

John Sandford

Mind prey


The storm blew up late in the afternoon, tight, gray clouds hustling over the lake like dirty, balled-up sweat socks spilling from a basket. A chilly wind knocked leaves from the elms, oaks, and maples at the water's edge. The white phlox and black-eyed Susans bowed their heads before it.

The end of summer; too soon.

John Mail walked down the floating dock at Irv's Boat Works, through the scents of premix gasoline, dead, drying minnows and moss, the old man trailing behind with his hands in the pockets of his worn gabardines. John Mail didn't know about old-style machinery-chokes, priming bulbs, carburetors, all that. He knew diodes and resistors, the strengths of one chip and the weaknesses of another. But in Minnesota, boat lore is considered part of the genetic pattern: he had no trouble renting a fourteen-foot Lund with a 9.9 Johnson outboard. A driver's license and a twenty-dollar deposit were all he needed at Irv's.

Mail stepped down into the boat, and with an open hand wiped a film of water from the bench seat and sat down. Irv squatted beside the boat and showed him how to start the motor and kill it, how to steer it and accelerate. The lesson took thirty seconds. Then John Mail, with his cheap Zebco rod and reel and empty, red-plastic tackle box, put out on Lake Minnetonka.

"Back before dark," Irv hollered after him. The white-haired man stood on the dock and watched John Mail putter away.

When Mail left Irv's dock, the sky was clear, the air limpid and summery, if a little nervous in the west. Something was coming, he thought. Something was hiding below the treeline. But no matter. This was just a look, just a taste.

He followed the shoreline east and north for three miles. Big houses were elbow to elbow, millions of dollars' worth of stone and brick with manicured lawns running down to the water. Professionally tended flower beds were stuck on the lawns like postage stamps, with faux-cobblestone walks snaking between them. Stone swans and plaster ducks paddled across the grass.

Everything looked different from the water side. Mail thought he'd gone too far, but he still hadn't picked out the house. He stopped and went back, then circled. Finally, much further north than he thought it would be, he spotted the weird-looking tower house, a local landmark. And down the shore, one-two-three, yes, there it was, stone, glass and cedar, red shingles, and, barely visible on the far side of the roof, the tips of the huge blue spruces that lined the street. A bed of petunias, large swirls of red, white, and blue, glowed patriotically from the top of a flagstone wall set into the slope of the lawn. An open cruiser crouched on a boat lift next to the floating dock.

Mail killed the outboard, and let the boat drift to a stop. The storm was still below the trees, the wind was dying down. He picked up the fishing rod, pulled line off the reel and threaded it through the guides and out the tip. Then he took a handful of line and threw it overboard, hookless and weightless. The rat's-nest of monofilament drifted on the surface, but that was good enough. He looked like he was fishing.

Settling on the hard bench seat, Mail hunched his shoulders and watched the house. Nothing moved. After a few minutes, he began to manufacture fantasies.

He was good at this: a specialist, in a way. There were times when he'd been locked up as punishment,,was allowed no books, no games, no TV. A claustrophobic-and they knew he was claustrophobic, that was part of the punishment-he'd escaped into fantasy to preserve his mind, sat on his bunk and turned to the blank facing wall and played his own mind-films, dancing dreams of sex and fire.

Andi Manette starred in the early mind-films; fewer later on, almost none in the past two years. He'd almost forgotten her. Then the calls came, and she was back.

Andi Manette. Her perfume could arouse the dead. She had a long, slender body, with a small waist and large, pale breasts, a graceful neckline, when seen from the back with her dark hair up over her small ears.

Mail stared at the water, eyes open, fishing rod drooping over the gunwales, and watched, in his mind, as she walked across a dark chamber toward him, peeling off a silken robe. He smiled. When he touched her, her flesh was warm, and smooth, unblemished. He could feel her on his fingertips. "Do this," he'd say, out loud; and then he'd giggle. "Down here," he'd say…

He sat for an hour, for two, talking occasionally, then he sighed and shivered, and woke from the daydream. The world had changed.

The sky was gray, angry, the low clouds rolling in. A wind whipped around the boat, blowing the rat's-nest of monofilament across the water like a tumbleweed. Across the fattest part of the lake, he could see the breaking curl of a whitecap.

Time to go.

He reached back to crank the outboard and saw her. She stood in the bay window, wearing a white dress-though she was three hundred yards away, he knew the figure, and the unique, attentive stillness. He could feel the eye contact. Andi Manette was psychic. She could look right into your brain and say the words you were trying to hide.

John Mail looked away, to protect himself.

So she wouldn't know he was coming.

Andi Manette stood in the bay window and watched the rain sweep across the water toward the house, and the darkness coming behind. At the concave drop of the lawn, at the water's edge, the tall heads of the white phlox bobbed in the wind. They'd be gone by the weekend. Beyond them, a lone fisherman sat in one of the orange-tipped rental boats from Irv's. He'd been out there since five o'clock and, as far as she could tell, hadn't caught a thing. She could've told him that the bottom was mostly sterile muck, that she'd never caught a fish from the dock.

As she watched, he turned to start the outboard. Andi had been around boats all of her life, and something about the way the man moved suggested that he didn't know about outboards-how to sit down and crank at the same time.

When he turned toward her, she felt his eyes-and thought, ridiculously, that she might know him. He was so far away that she couldn't even make out the shape of his face. But still, the total package-head, eyes, shoulders, movement-seemed familiar…

Then he yanked the starter cord again, and a few seconds later he was on his way down the shoreline, one hand holding his hat on his head, the other hand on the outboard tiller. He'd never seen her, she thought. The rain swept in behind him.

And she thought: the clouds come in, the leaves falling down.

The end of summer.

Too soon.

Andi stepped away from the window and moved through the living room, turning on the lamps. The room was furnished with warmth and a sure touch: heavy country couches and chairs, craftsman tables, lamps and nigs. A hint of Shaker there in the corner, lots of natural wood and fabric, subdued, but with a subtle, occasionally bold, touch of color-a flash of red in the rug that went with the antique maple table, a streak of blue that hinted of the sky outside the bay windows.

The house, always warm in the past, felt cold with George gone.

With what George had done.

George was movement and intensity and argument, and even a sense of protection, with his burliness and aggression, his tough face, intelligent eyes. Now… this.

Andi was a slender woman, tall, dark-haired, unconsciously dignified. She often seemed posed, although she was unaware of it. Her limbs simply fell into arrangements, her head cocked for a portrait.

Her hair-do and pearl earrings said horses and sailboats and vacations in Greece.

She couldn't help it. She wouldn't change it if she could.

With the living room lights cutting the growing gloom, Andi climbed the stairs, to get the girls organized: first day of school, clothes to choose, early to bed.

At the top of the stairs, she started right, toward the girls' room-then heard the tinny music of a bad movie coming from the opposite direction.

They were watching television in the master bedroom suite. As she walked down the hall, she heard the sudden disconnect of a channel change. By the time she got to the bedroom, the girls were engrossed in a CNN newscast, with a couple of talking heads rambling on about the Consumer Price Index.



2011 - 2018