Authors: Michael Prescott
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Psychological, #Suspense Fiction, #Stalkers, #Pastine; Tuvana, #Stalking, #Private Security Services, #Sinclair; Abby (Fictitious Character), #Stalking Victims
The Shadow Hunter [042-4.9]
By: MIchael Prescott
Abby Sinclair hunts stalkers, bringing them down before they explode. And when the stalker of a television news anchor steps out from the shadows, Abby moves in—for the kill…
Also BY michael prescott
COMES THE DARK
A SIGNET BOOK
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.” 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
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Hannondsworth, Middlesex, England First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
First Printing, June 2000 13579 10 8642
Copyright Douglas Borton, 2000 All rights reserved
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Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book PUBLISHER NOTE This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
First, I invite readers with Internet access to visit my website at http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/, where you’ll find information on my two previous books. Comes the Dark and Stealing Faces, as well as updates on my current and future projects.
Second, I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who helped me in the writing and publishing of this novel, including Joseph Pittman, senior editor at New American Library; Carolyn Nichols, executive director;
Louise Burke, publisher; my literary agent, Jane Dystel, president of Jane Dystel Literary Management;
and Miriam Goderich, vice president of JDLM.
Their sensitive comments and strong support made all the difference in guiding The Shadow Hunter from a rough synopsis to the finished book you hold in your hands.
She had a gun in her purse, and she was ready.
“I hate men,” Sheila Rogers said, gulping her daiquiri. “Know what I mean?”
The dark-haired woman nodded.
“They’re pigs, is what they are. They use you and throw you away.”
“Like, there was this guy I told you about. What we had was really special, and then all of a sudden it’s over, and he won’t even talk to me.”
“That’s rough. Really” The dark-haired woman had a name, which she had mentioned earlier when they’d met at the Roxbury, a club down the Strip, but Sheila had already forgotten it. She was no damn good with names.
She wondered why the woman was hanging with her, anyway. They’d been club crawling all night, moving from the Rox to the Viper Room, then to Babylon and the Teaszer, and finally to Lizard Maiden at the west end of Sunset Strip. Along the way, Sheila had imbibed a variety of liquid refreshments, settling on daiquiris as her drink of choice. The alcohol had fuzzed up her brain, and she was vaguely aware that she was talking too much. She couldn’t seem to stop.
“He was a really great guy,” she was saying aimlessly as she leaned on the mahogany bar.
“I mean, he was a pig—he turned out to be a pig—but when we were together, it was like magic, you know? Like we were meant for each other.”
“Like goddamn destiny. That’s what it was. What I thought it was.”
Sheila shook her head slowly.
“I guess I said all this stuff already, huh? Back at the Viper Room or somewhere?”
“It’s okay. You can tell me again. Sometimes it helps to talk things out.”
“What are you. Mother Teresa?”
“Just a friend.”
“Well, shit, I sure can use one of those. Lately… I’ve been kind of messed up.”
“Over him. He—I don’t know, I can’t get him out of my mind. It’s been two goddamn months. You’d think I’d forget the son of a bitch by now. You’d think…”
“Maybe you don’t want to forget.”
“No. I don’t.” Sheila leaned closer to the dark-haired woman on the bar stool beside her.
“Can I tell you a secret?”
Sheila wanted to whisper, but she couldn’t, of course. Lizard Maiden, known to aficionados as the Liz, was not a place for subdued conversation. It was one of the raunchiest clubs on the Strip, a den of flashing lights and thunderous music from the live band, where the dance floor was always packed with swaying, spastic bodies, and along the bar and at the tables lining the walls, patrons leaned close together and shouted to be heard.
“The thing is,” Sheila said, “I’m running around from club to club because I figure if I go to enough places like this, I’ll run into him.”
“He comes here?”
“Sometimes. Usually on a Friday night, or a Saturday.”
Tonight was Friday.
“I mean, he hangs at all the clubs, so I never know when I might see him. He’s a club crawler. I met him down the Strip at the House of Blues.” Sheila chuckled wistfully.
“Even if you do run into him, how will that help?”
Sheila looked away.
“It just will, that’s all.” She shifted her purse in her lap and felt the weight of the pistol inside.
“Maybe if you meet someone else, you’ll forget about him. There are other guys out there.”
“Not like this one. He wasn’t just anybody. He’s famous.
You’ve heard of him. Everybody’s heard of him.”
“So who is he?”
Sheila hesitated, reluctant to reveal much more. She studied her companion. The woman was a few years older than Sheila herself, maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight, of medium height, slender and self-possessed.
Framed by a fall of dark brown hair in a pageboy cut, her face looked pale and angular, her cheekbones high and strong. Her cool hazel eyes betrayed no hint of judgment or reproach.
“Devin Corbal,” Sheila said finally “That’s who.”
“I told you he’s famous. He’s been in, like, six movies. Six. And he’s only twenty-three.”
“And you went out with him?”
“For two whole weeks.” Sheila frowned.
“It was great. Me and Devin were, like, soul mates. For two weeks anyway.”
She swallowed the rest of her daiquiri.
“Two weeks,” she said again.
The dark-haired woman dismounted her bar stool.
“Save my seat for me, okay? I need to use the can.”
Sheila nodded, lost in memories of Devin. She barely even noticed as the woman walked away into the surging crowd on the dance floor.
“Need a refill?”
She glanced up and saw the bartender, a guy she knew by sight, though she’d forgotten his name.
“What the hell.”
The bartender poured another daiquiri.
“Who’s your friend?”
“Ain’t seen her in here before.”
“She’s just somebody I’ve been dubbin’ with.”
“I remember when you and Dev went clubbing.” He handed her the drink.
“Get over him yet?” “What’s it to you?” Sheila asked sourly.
“Oh, nothing,” the bartender said.
“He’s here tonight, that’s all.”
Sheila looked up slowly.
“He’s here? Devin’s here?”
“Just thought you’d like to know.”
Lizard Maiden offered a unisex rest room in an alcove near the entrance. The dark-haired woman went past the door, then past a row of pay phones, and stopped at the end of the alcove outside what might have been a supply closet.
No one was around. She reached into her purse, removed a cell phone, and speed-dialed the first number in the phone’s memory. The music was not so deafening here, and she could speak in a tone of voice that was almost normal.
“Paul, this is Abby,” she said when the call was answered.
“You still at Babylon?” Paul Travis asked.
“No, we’ve moved on. We’ve been bouncing from club to club all night.
She’s starting to open up finally.”
“Talking about the client?”
“Yeah. She’s angry, and she could mean business.
She keeps touching her purse in a way that makes me think she’s got more than mascara inside.”
“If she’s carrying, you better watch yourself.”
“I always do. Look, I have to get back to her. I’ll update you at the next opportunity. Right now we’re at a place on the Strip called Lizard Maiden.”
“They call it the Liz. Its just west of Bar One—”
“I know where it is. Its where he is.”
For a moment Abby couldn’t process what Travis had said.
“The client. He’s there. At Lizard Maiden. He showed up a half hour ago. He’s in the V.I.P Room, god damn it.”
“Bodyguards with him?”
“Get them on the phone and tell them we’re Code Red. If there’s a way to get him out of the club without being seen, have them do it. But don’t let them move him into the main room, or Sheila may spot him. Got it?”
“I got it.”
“I’ll stay close to her. Even if she sees the client, she won’t try anything.”
“Make sure of it, Abby. Make damn sure.”
The call ended. Abby stuffed the phone back into her purse, next to the snub-nosed Smith .38 she carried when on the job.
Naturally Corbal was here. He had to be here, and not in some other club in another part of town.
“Of all the gin joints in all the world,” she muttered, leaving the alcove.
Still, it was no big problem. A complication, sure, but as long as she kept Sheila within arm’s reach, nothing would happen. Sheila Rogers was twenty-two, anorexic ally thin, and highly intoxicated—no match for Abby in any kind of fight. If Sheila made a move for the gun in her purse, Abby could drop her simply by closing off the blood flow in the carotid arteries of the neck. She had done that sort of thing before, in similar circumstances.
She skirted the dance floor and approached the bar, and that was when she began to be afraid.
Sheila wasn’t there. The stool she had been using was unoccupied.
This was bad.
Abby stood at the bar and signaled to the bartender.
He bared his teeth in a predatory smile when he saw her.
“Hey, sweet thing.”
She ignored this.
“Where’s the woman I was sitting with?”
“Sheila?” His smile became a smirk.
“I think she went to visit a friend.”
Abby’s heart sped up.
He leaned close.
“Listen, forget about her. She’s a loser anyway. You don’t need to hang with her. I just wanted to get rid of her, so maybe you and me could get to know each other.”
“So you told her Devin Corbal is here?”
“How’d you know—”
“Never mind. Where’s the V.I.P Room?”
“Sorry, you can’t go in there. Celebs only. You know, I get off in a couple hours—” Abby reached out and grabbed his right wrist, applying painful pressure to the scaphoid bone below the ball of his thumb.
“Where is it?” she hissed.
The bartender paled.
“Around back,” he said through gritted teeth.
“That way.” He jerked his head to the left.
She released his wrist. He rubbed it, gasping.
“Jesus, lady, what the fuck’s up with you?”
Abby barely heard him. She was already pushing through the crowded dance floor, praying she was not too late.
Sheila’s pulse was roaring in her ears, and her eyes didn’t seem to want to blink anymore, and there was a hot, crawling queasiness in her gut.
She knew what she had to do. She had rehearsed it, fantasized it, but in her fantasies she had never been shaking with fear, and her stomach hadn’t bubbled like this, and the music hadn’t been so loud, the dancing crowd so close and hot.
She had the gun. She was ready. She had to be ready.
He would be in the V.I.P Room. It was where he always went when he was here. He had taken her to that room one night. She remembered it well—a small