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«Chill Of Fear», Кей Хупер

Leisure, Tennessee Twenty-five years ago

The little girl huddled, shivering, in the back corner of the closet. She didn't like the darkness, and shut her eyes tightly so she wouldn't see it. She held her hands over her ears, pressing hard, to shut out the sound. Tha-thum. Tha-thum. Tha-thum.

But she couldn't close it out, no matter how hard she tried, and had the frightened notion that it was inside herself. Sometimes, if she put her hand over her chest, she could feel her heart beating, and thought it would sound like that. Tha-thum.

But this sound was in her head, thrumming, beating like tiny wings as though something tried desperately to escape.

"Go away," she whispered.

Tha-thum.

Look.

Tha-thum.

Listen.

She couldn't read very well, it had always been difficult for her, but she could see these words as though they were etched in her mind in bright, flowing script. They were always like that, the weird, shiny letters spelling words she understood.

Hurry. Look.

She couldn't not look. Had never been able to ignore or withstand those commands.

Hands still covering her ears, she reluctantly opened her eyes. The closet was dark, as she'd feared, but light seeped underneath the door. And even as she focused on that sliver of brightness, she felt the slow, heavy vibrations in the floor underneath her.

Hide.

"I am," she whispered, trembling. Her gaze was fixed on that sliver of light, and the dread inside her was swelling, huge, filling her.

It's coming.

Her breath caught on a silent sob as a bit of darkness crossed the sliver of light, and the vibrations beneath her ceased.

Then the bit of darkness swallowed the light, and she heard the closet door rattle.

Tha-thum!

Tha-thum!

Tha-thum!

Oh. No.

It's here.

 

Five years ago

"You're a hard man to find."

Without taking his eyes from the papers spread out on the table before him, Quentin Hayes said, "But not impossible, obviously. Who was looking for me?"

"Noah Bishop."

Quentin did look up then, his brows rising. "Of the Spooky Crimes Unit?"

Bishop smiled faintly. "I've heard the nickname."

"Telepathically? That is supposed to be your psychic ability, right?"

"It is. But I didn't need telepathy to pick up on the ridicule." He shrugged. "We'll probably always hear variations of that. But respect will come with success. Eventually."

Quentin studied the other man, noting the curiously light gray eyes and scarred but striking face that spoke of strength and danger, and undoubtedly prevented all but the bravest souls from expressing open ridicule. That, plus his extraordinarily high success rate as a profiler, had earned Noah Bishop quite a lot of respect within the Bureau, even if this new unit of his was earning just as much mockery.

Still, Quentin had earned his own considerable reputation as a solid investigator who preferred to work alone, and wasn't at all eager to join a team — or go public with abilities he had been at some pains to conceal.

"So why're you telling me?" he asked.

"Thought you might be interested."

"Oh, yeah? I can't imagine why."

"Of course you can." Bishop came into the room and sat down on the other side of the table, still wearing that faint, amused smile. "You saw me coming. Months ago? Years ago?"

Refusing to reply to those dry questions, Quentin said, "I'm not on the clock, in case nobody told you that."

"What I was told was that you've spent at least two previous vacations here in Tennessee. In this same small town. Probably sitting in this same seldom-used conference room of a police department that hasn't had to deal with much except traffic tickets, domestic disputes, and the odd bootlegger or meth lab in the last twenty years or so. Here you sit, going over the same old dusty files while the local cops shrug and keep the betting pool going."

"I hear the odds are tipping in my favor," Quentin said.

"They admire sheer persistence."

"Most cops do."

Bishop nodded. "And most cops dislike mysteries and unsolved cases. So, is that why you're here?"

"You mean you don't know?"

The mockery didn't appear to disturb Bishop in the least. Matter-of-factly, he said, "I'm not clairvoyant. Not a seer, like you. And I'm a touch-telepath, not an open one. Not that touching you would necessarily help me to read you; virtually every psychic I've known has developed a shield to guard themselves."


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