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.The door had sagged on its hinges; it scraped along thefloor as she pushed against its weight.The windows were unshuttered and uncurtained exceptby cobwebs, and so filthy the sunlight was dimmed to a paleglimmer.There was only one room, plus a small bathroomand kitchenette, the latter barely large enough to contain asingle sink, a small refrigerator, and a two-burner gas stove.The surfaces were all dusty but unstained; when she openedthe refrigerator she saw bare shelves, without so much as arotted lettuce leaf or smear of catsup.It might not have looked so cheerless and cold when it wasoccupied, with curtains at the windows, books on the shelves, Vanish with the Rose 47clothing hanging from the pegs behind a curtain in thecorner.But she couldn t picture it that way, couldn t con-jure up the image she sought.The reality was too depress-ing.I ve got to get out of this awful place, she thoughtwildly; it s a waste of time, and worse than I expected; it sdead, decaying, just as.She forced herself to return to the kitchen.Might as welldo the job thoroughly, she d never have the courage to comeback.One by one she opened the cupboard doors, climbingon a chair to investigate the farthest corners.Nothing.Noteven an empty match packet, or a fragment of torn label.The medicine chest in the bathroom was equally unproduc-tive.The shelves were solid with rust.She was on her hands and knees looking under the bed,when she heard a sound.Guilt and superstitious terror cur-dled her stomach.Scrabbling backward like a corneredmouse, she turned her head, and didn t know whether to berelieved or even more afraid. You!He clapped one hand to his chest, fingers spread, andopened his eyes till the whites showed all around the pupils. Yes!  Tis I, Sir Rupert Murgatroyd, vile seducer of innocentmaidens! Sorry I don t have a mustache to twirl.At that, headded, sobering,  you re damned lucky it is me.Anyone elsemight wonder what you re doing under the bed.Diana got to her feet, brushing locks of tumbled hair awayfrom her face.He didn t offer to help her; arms folded, leanbody relaxed, he remained where he was, half in and halfout of the open doorway. I wasn t expecting anyone. It cost her quite an effort tokeep her voice steady, but she managed it. What are youdoing here? Looking for you.Why didn t you tell me you were stay-ing at the house? I didn t find out till last night. From whom? There s not much to talk about in a small town andvery little privacy.He hadn t answered her question.But then, she thoughtwryly, she hadn t answered his either. 48 Barbara MichaelsHe didn t pursue it. I could have told you this was a wasteof time, he said. We cleaned the place last fall, Mary Joand I.Not that there was much left. You didn t find. Not even a note pinned to the pillow.I told you. Heshifted his weight and moved back a step. Are you satis-fied? Come on, then.Mary Jo will be here pretty soon.It sher day to clean, did they tell you? Afternoon, they said. Sometimes she s early. He motioned impatiently and sheedged past him, out into the sunshine.With a single heave ofhis shoulders he lifted the sagging door and slammed itshut.Diana was uncomfortably conscious of the height andbreadth of him as he towered over her, and the strength ofthe shoulders that had lifted the heavy door so easily.Hisshirt collar was open under his shabby windbreaker; a pulsebeat, strong and steady, in his throat. It wouldn t have mattered if anyone had found me, sheargued. I m supposed to be making plans for landscaping  The inside of the cottage? Curiosity  Look, lady, I m going to be in deep trouble when theydiscover you aren t what you claimed to be.Try not to giveyourself away before you have to, okay? There was no reason why you should have questionedmy references  Maybe not.But I d have to be a damned fool to fail tonotice your lack of experience. Will you kindly let me finish a sentence? Diana de-manded.Her anger was directed as much at herself as atWalt, and he knew it.His smile infuriated her; she went on,with increasing heat,  I ve gotten away with it so far.I canstall for another week or so.The Nicholsons can t blame youif they were deceived too [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]