Читать онлайн "Sudden prey" автора Sandford John - RuLit - Страница 78

 
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She hit the glass doors and went through the lobby like she was on a motorcycle.

Two bellman huddled at the reception desk with a couple of clerks, and one of the bellmen saw her and just had time to turn, to open his mouth and shout,

''Hey,'' when she was past him. The elevators were straight ahead, and a brass plaque with an arrow pointing to the right said ''Stairs.''

She took the stairs. Ran up one flight, two, then a man shouting again, from the bottom, ''Hey…'' Third floor, not even breathing hard. Anna got off at the fourth: there'd be security on the fifth floor, and the desk people might have called them. She ran into the hall on the fourth floor, looked right and left, decided that the right end would be the far end of the hotel. There should be another flight of stairs that way.

She ran down the hall, now aware of her heart pounding in her chest, turned a corner past a niche with Coke, ice and candy machines, to another stairway. She pulled open the door, looked up and down, heard nothing and ran up to five. She took three seconds, two long breaths, pulled off her headset, shoved it with the

Nagra up under her jacket in back, held it with one hand, and sauntered into the hallway.

Halfway down, three older men-security, probably- stood outside an open doorway.

A dozen kids were scattered up and down the hall, a few of them talking, most just looking down at the open door. All the kids were dressed up, the boys in suits and ties, the girls in pink and blue party dresses, all with the stark-white look of fear on their faces.

One of the security men looked toward Anna, and even leaned her way-but as he did, a woman shrieked, and the men in suits turned and ran through the open door.

My God, Anna thought, he jumped.

The girls in pastel dresses were looking at the door, the boys were looking at each other, all were frozen: Anna knew that this was one of the moments she'd remember: they were like sculpture in some modern wise-cracking installation called California Kids.

Then Anna moved, and when she did, a couple of the girls began sobbing, and one of the boys yelled, ''Oh, no. No, Jacob…''

Anna ran lightly down the hall, found another open door a few rooms closer than the one where the security men had been. She looked inside: a man and woman, both gray-haired, horrified, were standing at their window, looking out. Anna stepped inside.

''Did he jump?''

The woman, white-faced, looked at her, her mouth working, nothing coming out, then: ''Oh, my God.''

Anna stepped around an open suitcase, walked across the room, and looked out the window. The jumper was facedown, a black and white silhouette on the yellow stone, six feet from the pool. Ten feet from the body, Jason was moving in withhis camera. From across the pool, Creek also focused on the body.

Anna took out the recorder, hit the record switch, held it by her side: didn't hide it, just held it like a purse.

''What happened?'' she asked.

''I don't know… I think it was just kids, having a party. They were making noise, we could hear them running in the hallway. The next thing we know people were screaming and the hotel people came.''

Anna could feel the recorder taking up tape: ''Did you see him go?'' she asked the gray-haired man.

''I think he was coming in,'' the man said. ''He turned and it was like he lost his balance and all of a sudden he jumped, like he was trying to make the pool. ..''

The woman turned to her husband, ''Jim, let's get out of here.''

Anna stepped back, looked at the luggage tag on the suitcase: James Madson,

Tilly, OK. ''Are you Mr. and Mrs. Madson?''

The woman turned toward her. ''Yes, yes… Are you with the hotel? We'd like to check out.''

''You'd have to talk with the people downstairs. Are you all right, ma'am? What is your name?''

''Lucille… I'm all right, but the man, the boy, he… Jim, I think I'm going to throw up.''

She started toward the bathroom with her husband behind her, one hand in the middle of her back, patting her, and Anna stepped to the door and looked out.

Hotel security was there in force, along with four or five uniformed cops. She stepped back, said, ''Madson, M-A-DSO-N, Tilly, Oklahoma, T-I-L-L-Y,'' to the

Nagra, then popped the recording tape and slipped it inside the waistband of her pants. She had two spare tapes in a black pouch on the carrying strap: she took out a spare, slipped it into therecorder. Hotel security usually didn't ask if they could have the tape, they simply took it, destroyed it, and apologized later.

Anna stepped into the halclass="underline" two of the men who'd been in the room were just coming back out. Hotel security and a manager-type. Before either could say anything, Anna said, ''Could somebody help my mother? I think she's gonna be sick.''

The manager-type asked, ''What's wrong?''

''She saw the man jump, she's in the bathroom…''

The manager went by, into the Madsons' room, while the security man ran down the hall toward the elevators. Anna turned the other way and walked back down the hall to the steps.

Into the stairwell, down and around, and around, to the first floor. Pause, listen. Nothing. She stepped into the hallway, saw a sign that said, ''PARKING

RAMP,'' and went that way.

CREEK WAS STANDING FIFTY FEET FROM THE BODY. NO blood, no movement, nothing but a hotel clerk and three cops walking reluctantly toward it. Creek saw her coming and made his open-handed ''Got anything?'' gesture.

She'd pulled the headset back on. ''Quick quotes from a witness,'' she said into the mike. ''They said there was some kind of party before he jumped, or fell, or whatever.''

''I'm having a little trouble dealing with this,'' Jason said. He looked at the body.

''With what?'' Anna cocked her head, puzzled.

''I'm just… my head's fucked up,'' he said. Then: ''Anna, I'm sorry, but I gotta go.'' He pulled off the headset and handed it to her, shamefaced. ''I'm sorry, but I've never seen this before. I've seen bodies, but this was… He was smiling at me.''

He turned his knees in, so he was standing on the edges ofhis tennis shoes, head down, like an embarrassed little boy. ''I gotta go. You gotta couple of bucks I could borrow until we sell this shit? Take it out of my cut?''

Anna stared at him for a second. Concerned, not angry. ''Jase, how bad is it?''

''It's not nothing,'' Jason insisted. ''You're probably done for tonight, anyway. You gotta couple of bucks?''

''Yeah, sure,'' Anna said. She dug in her pants pocket, came up with a short roll of twenties, gave him two.

''Thanks.''

And he went, hurrying away across the stone patio, Creek peering after him. In the background, they could hear sirens: fire rescue, too late.

''What was that all about?'' Anna asked, watching as Jason went out to the street.

Creek shook his head. ''I don't know.''

''Well…'' Anna hoisted the camera, looked through the eyepiece, focused on the group of cops around the body, and ran off fifteen seconds of tape. Then she ran it back, forty-five seconds, and replayed.

The jump was there, in-and-out of focus, but undeniably real, taking her breath away: and at the last second, the man's arms flailing, his face passing through the rectangle of the lens display, then the unyielding stone patio.

''Jeez,'' she said. She looked at Creek. ''This is…'' She groped for a concept, and found one. ''This is Hollywood.''

     

 

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