PROLOGUE <

CHAPTER 01 <
CHAPTER 02 <
CHAPTER 03 <
CHAPTER 04 <
CHAPTER 05 <
CHAPTER 06 <
CHAPTER 07 <
CHAPTER 08 <
CHAPTER 09 <
CHAPTER 10 <
CHAPTER 11 <
CHAPTER 12 <
CHAPTER 13 <
CHAPTER 14 <
CHAPTER 15 <
CHAPTER 16 <
CHAPTER 17 <
CHAPTER 18 <
CHAPTER 19 <
CHAPTER 20 <
CHAPTER 21 <
CHAPTER 22 <
CHAPTER 23 <
CHAPTER 24 <
CHAPTER 25 <
CHAPTER 26 <
CHAPTER 27 <

EPILOGUE <






Barry Hoffman's HUNGRY EYES

Chapter Twenty

Jonas came by at one. He had called at eleven-thirty, told Deidre the day had flown by, and he still had lots to do. Could he come by at twelve-thirty? He'd again called at twelve-fifteen saying he'd be leaving shortly, but he hadn't arrived until one.

Deidre told Jonas of her meeting with the Sheffields'. How Paul Sheffield had eliminated four of their suspects.

For his part, Jonas told how the phone calls had gone. He'd reached all but Sheila Jeffries and Roberta Bracken. He'd taken a chance, one of several Deidre was to learn, and called Jeffries' precinct, saying he had an important message for her. He'd been told she was on a stakeout. Would he leave a number where he could be reached?

Shara Farris hadn't been reached in person, but he had a taped message from her answering machine; as good as the real thing. Sheepishly, he told Deidre he'd called back several times; the last at twelve-thirty, just before he'd left for Deidre's house.

"We talked about needless chances," she told him, with a hint of anger. "I don't want to raise any suspicions."

"What's the harm? If she answered, I'd say wrong number and hang up."

"You got her on tape."

"Yes, but . . . "

"But nothing, Jonas," she interrupted. "We're this close," she said, her fingers a half-an-inch apart. "I don't want to blow it now."

"A bit overzealous, perhaps," and he shrugged. "No harm, no foul, though."

It was as close to an apology as she'd get. She was tired, and knew she was overreacting. It wasn't like Renee knew Deidre was zeroing in. It wasn't as if Renee knew how important her clue had been. As long as Renee hadn't been approached directly, Jonas couldn't be faulted for what he had done. Deidre knew she needed rest. Unfortunately, when she had tried to take a nap earlier that evening, she'd had so much on her mind she lay awake tossing and turning. A hot bath and good dinner had helped, but her testiness with Jonas was a clear sign she was on edge due to fatigue.

Her mind was drifting, some part of her subconscious told her, and she pushed everything away and focused again on Jonas.

"So, you got the tapes, or you just here to schmooze?" she said, with a smile to break the tension.

He took out a tape, and she put it in the tape deck.

None of the voices sounded remotely like Renee's. She replayed Shara Farris' voice three times, but shook her head.

"No. Not even close."

"Bracken, you think?" Jonas asked.

"If one of the six is Renee, and if Paul Sheffield is right and we can eliminate the Jeffries woman, it's got to be Roberta Bracken. Damn, wish we had a sample of her voice."

"She's stalking," Jonas said. "Told you as much."

"It all points to her. Still . . . "

"Tail or break-in?" Jonas asked.

"No break-in, Jonas. You've got to promise you won't go off half-cocked and do something rash. I know your adrenalin's flowing. Mine's been since I first saw the message at the last crime scene. But now it's time for caution. And remember what Paul Sheffield said. The woman we're hunting is not the Renee I knew thirteen years ago. I'm fairly certain she wouldn't harm me, but I can't say the same for anyone else who got in her way. Don't try to be a hero, and have me find you one of her victims.

"So no break-ins. Don't even think about one," she said with a tight smile. "A tail, however, would certainly be in order at this time. Someone discrete. Someone . . ."

Jonas held up his hand like a traffic cop signalling stop. "That's why I was so late. Thought we'd need at least four tails. If it were me, I'd still tail all six." Another shrug, when Deidre gave him a scathing look.

"Want the best on Bracken?"

"Your best on Bracken. No one yet on Jeffries. From all we know she might spot a tail in minutes. For now keep trying to get a tape of her voice. She has to go home sometime. I seriously doubt it's her though. Paul Sheffield eliminated her without knowing she'd kept a high profile. Brackens' our best bet for the moment. Hell, our only bet."

"Any chance Sheffield would steer you away from Renee?" Another shrug, when Deidre shot him a warning. "Just playing Devil's advocate."

"You mean he knows . . . might have known all along Renee was the killer?" She considered the possibility and shook her head no. "My instincts say no. Much as he and his wife loved her, he's still a cop. Retired or not, once a cop, always a cop. He knows she'd be caught sooner or later, anyway. No, he's a straight arrow. It's Bracken or Farris, if it's any of them, and the tape eliminates Farris. So, who's your best?"

"Jack Bishop. Ex-marine. Ex-cop. Heads a security firm. Goes on night jobs at times. Hates desk work. Say the word, he picks Bracken up after she punches out tomorrow."

"Do it then."

"Jonas got up to leave. "Sorry . . . "

She waved him off. "Your intentions were good, and no harm was done. Just be careful now. Have Bishop call the minute he learns something. Nothing else. No heroics. And, if he suspects he's been made, tell him to pack it in."

She gave him a kiss on the cheek, and he was off.

One-forty-five. She was exhausted, and had to be up at seven. She tossed and turned for half-an-hour mulling over the day's events. She drifted off to an uneasy sleep, thinking she'd missed something. Why had Renee disappeared when she did? Paul Sheffield's explanation rang hollow. It was within her grasp yet still it eluded her.

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