A little Discord to whet your appetite! =)
“My son wouldn’t take off,” the woman sitting across from me insisted. She was gripping her black clutch purse tight enough to whiten her knuckles. “He’s a good boy. He wouldn’t do this to me.”
I ignored the flicker of movement at the periphery of my vision. Nothing was there, especially not what, or rather who, my mind insisted was. There was work to do. I didn’t need my recently reoccurring nightmare distracting me during my waking hours. I nodded and said exactly what she needed to hear. “I believe you, Mrs. Guerra. But if we’re going to find out what’s happened, we have to ask certain questions.”
My new partner, Dane Soames, offered her a sympathetic smile and the cup of coffee he’d poured. Mrs. Guerra was a short, plump Hispanic woman in her late thirties or early forties. She released her purse, her hands trembling as she took the cup, and I winced, expecting hot coffee to slosh all over her.
Fortunately, Soames hadn’t filled it to the brim. The dark liquid did make an escape attempt, but it was unsuccessful. “Gracias.”
She turned her bloodshot brown eyes back to me. “I’m sorry. I’m…”
“Terrified,” I said. “It’s all right. I completely understand.”
Boy, did I, after my mom’s kidnapping. I had a whole new level of sympathy for clients with missing loved ones. “Did you bring something of his with you?”
“Sí.” She placed the cup on my desk and fumbled with her purse. Its clasp stuck, causing her to mutter a couple of choice words in Spanish before forcing it open. I hoped the boss was giving her a big discount on our services. She wore a light brown dress with a white apron and nametag under a worn workman’s jacket. The nametag had the name of a small diner I’d had breakfast at a few times, with my dad. Jobs like that didn’t pay much.
She retrieved a little tissue-wrapped bundle, handing it to Soames when he held out his hand. Unwrapping it first, he put it on my desk next to the open folder in front of me. A class ring from W. H. Preston High School, the only high school for the Palisades, sat in silver glory in the center of the tissue.
“Frederico is proud of that ring. He wears it often.” A single tear escaped from Mrs. Guerra’s left eye. “He’s the first of our family born here, the first to graduate high school and go to college.”
“That’s awesome.” College required math, and math had broken things in my brain once I’d gotten past the simple stuff. Who needed trigonometry to be a private investigator? Not me. “Which college?”
“’The community one,” she said, lifting her chin as though daring me to think less of her son. I didn’t, because college was college as far as I was concerned. You just had to pay a hell of a lot more for the ones with fancy names.
“Cool.” I looked down at the folder Tabitha had given me when seeing Mrs. Guerra into my office. There was a short list of names included under the scanty details of Frederico’s disappearance and small photo of him. None of the names were female. I studied his photo. Frederico was a good-looking guy. ‘’He doesn’t have a girlfriend?“
‘’He dates, but no special girl yet. My boy has plans for his future, so he’s not interested in anything serious.”
“Okay.” I glanced at the ring, debating whether or not to handle it in front of her. If my psychometry felt like working, I could find out if her son was alive or not.
“They say you are a bruja.”
I looked up. “No, Kate’s the witch. I’m a psychic. Basically, I have more than the usual five senses.” Among other things, but since I didn’t understand exactly how my abilities worked, just that they did and how to control some of them, I left it at that. “Not any magic.”
If people wanted to believe what I could do was magic, nothing I said would convince them otherwise, but I always tried. Truth in advertising wasn’t a bad thing. I smiled, and she returned it. She hadn’t touched her coffee. I wondered if she’d slept last night while glancing at the ring again.
“Can you tell me if he’s alive?” Her voice was small and soft.
Crap. I closed the folder and pushed it aside before pinching the corner of the tissue and pulling it closer. “Maybe. This doesn’t always work immediately.”
She nodded, her gaze on my hand as I reached for the ring. I hated trying this in front of clients, because when it came to being clubbed over the head with death, my poker face needed loads of practice. Picking up the ring and closing my eyes, I waited. For several seconds, nothing happened, and I felt a guilty rush of relief. “I’m not get…”
The loud brrrrring of a school bell. A flash of satisfaction over a test with a perfect score. Annoyance as someone yelled, “Hey, polla!” A girl’s giggle. Boxes stacked next to store shelves. Music with a heavy beat. Mrs. Aguerra’s smiling face and a thick, warm rush of love.
And thank you, God, a golden shimmer. I opened my eyes. “He’s alive.”
Mrs. Aguerra burst into tears.
Once we’d calmed her down and seen her out, Soames looked at me as we stood in the waiting room. “What do you think?”
“You first.” This was only our fourth case together, but he’d proven to have good instincts and not to jump to conclusions.
Tabitha, our still new receptionist, folded and propped her arms on the edge of her desk, her gaze avid. I had the feeling she found the private investigation stuff fascinating, but she hadn’t quite reached the point of feeling comfy enough with us to offer her opinions—yet. She’d only been with us for about a month, and I felt certain she’d realize no one would mind if she started participating in our case discussions.
“She’s a nice lady, loves her son and thinks the world of him, but she could be overreacting. Just because he didn’t go home last night, that doesn’t mean anything’s happened to him. He’s an adult.” Soames paused. “Then again, parents don’t always know what’s going on with their kids, and he might not be as great as she thinks he is. They do live in the Palisades. He could be in a gang and maybe ran into some trouble last night.”
I nodded. “But…”
“I know. Living there doesn’t mean he’s a bad kid. He did graduate, and is going to college. Maybe it’s something really simple, like the stress got to him, so he’s taking a break. Maybe with a girl.”
“All good possibilities. What I picked up is that he’s proud of his accomplishments, and loves his mom. Felt like he’s a hard worker, but I heard music too, so I think he takes time out for fun.” I shrugged. “I’m going to grab my stuff. We’ll have lunch and hit the campus to look around.”
“Do you want to go eat with us?” I asked Tabitha, who smiled.
“I’d love to, but Kate has an appointment coming in at one, and I’ve already ordered delivery for us.”
“Maybe tomorrow then.” I’d yet to time a lunch invite right where she was concerned. However, having two co-workers with unique fashion sense had pushed me into stepping up my game and stop wearing so many tees to work.
Jeans were a requirement, but I’d traded my running shoes for a pair of black, combat-inspired boots with good tread. My royal blue, scoop-necked sweater looked more professional than a T-shirt. I went to my office and grabbed the dark blue peacoat I’d found at a thrift store, as well as my new black purse, which was a lot smaller than my old zebra print one.
Soames was pulling his leather jacket off the coatrack in the waiting room. Mr. Whitehaven’s gray trench hung from it. Funny how only the men in the office used the coatrack. “We’ll see you later.”
Tabitha waved us out, and we crossed the small parking lot to my car. A light dusting of snow made my beloved chariot sparkle in the weak sunlight. “I love my car so much.”
My partner chuckled. “You should’ve seen Logan working on it. Biggest job we had at the time, and he wouldn’t let anyone else touch it. Did everything himself.”
“Wow.” My car had been reduced to a nearly complete junk pile by a couple of angry vampires some months prior. “That was a lot of work for one guy.” I brushed snow away from the driver’s door lock, chilling my finger, and tried to ignore the faint flutter in my stomach at the mention of Logan’s name.
“Yeah it was. He’s really proud of it. Has before and after photos hanging in the garage office.” Soames grinned at me over the roof of my car. “There’s a rumor going around that you two are supposed to have dinner sometime.”
I felt my cheeks warming and ducked my head to unlock the door. “We talked about it.”
Actually, I’d babbled like an idiot and embarrassed the hell out of myself, because Logan had been shirtless and washing my car.
Soames waited until we were seated before saying, “And?”
“Yes, I am. And?”
I started my car. “We’re probably going to have dinner sometime. After I’ve moved and stuff.”
That changed the subject. “How much longer is that going to be?”
“Final meeting tomorrow.” My shiver wasn’t from the cold, but excitement. “I get my keys then. Dad’s promised to get a lawn crew out as soon as possible. It’s his house warming gift to me.”
Warm air from the vents began to fill the car as I backed it out of the parking space. Soames changed the angle of the vent on his side. “Housewarming gift?”
“Presents for family or friends who are moving into a new place. It’s a traditional thing, but I think it’s going out of style.” I was driving slower than normal. It had been decades since Santo Trueno had seen heavy snows, or for that matter, even regular snowfalls. We hadn’t seen any snow at all the previous two winters, just occasional bouts of freezing rain.
Long enough for everyone to forget how to drive when it did snow. There’d been accidents galore the past two days, mostly minor fender benders. The alternating icy and slushy road conditions freaking everyone out meant hair-trigger overreactions, and I’d narrowly missed being sideswiped on my way to work that morning.
“What’s acceptable aside from lawn crews?”
“I don’t know. Bottle of wine? House plants? I don’t want any house plants though. Always forget to water them. Not that you have to get me anything. Housewarming gifts are optional.” I slowed down to a complete crawl a few seconds before the car in front of us hit an icy patch. The backend slewed sideways as the driver tapped the brakes and over-corrected. I concentrated, using my telekinesis to stop the slide before he hit a station wagon with a “Baby on Board” bumper sticker. Regaining control, the driver managed to straighten his car out without sliding again. “I’m seriously considering teleportation as my main means of transport this winter.”
“I can see why. What’s for lunch?”
“There’s plenty of places to choose from around the campus.”
I groaned. “Dude, we ate pizza four times last week.”
Soames shrugged. “What can I say? I like pizza.”
“So do I, but not in excess.” I barely swallowed a gasp of surprise as a figure stepped in front of my car. The car ahead showed through her as Ginger smiled and lifted her hand in a wave.
Guess she was tired of being ignored. I drove right through her, checking the rearview as she disappeared from sight.
“You seem kind of jumpy lately,” Soames said.
“I haven’t been sleeping well. One of the perks of being psychic is really vivid dreams.”
“Dreams, or nightmares?”
“Both. I’m used to it.” I was, to a degree. The constant dreaming about Ginger was new, and I’d begun seeing her while conscious roughly two weeks ago.
Soames gave me a healthy side-eye. “Uh huh. Any chance you’re regretting breaking off things with Nick?”
“No. I mean, I feel bad about hurting his feelings, and I miss some of the stuff we used to do together, but I know it was the right decision.” Completely true. It’d taken me a couple of weeks to figure out why I’d jumped into dating Nick, but I finally had admitted that it was because I’d been lonely. Almost all my friends had significant others, so I’d also felt left out.
Terrible, awful reasons to get involved with someone.
Throw in the fact Nick had been a bossy butt and overprotective, it’s a wonder we’d lasted even a few months. Besides…”There are some things,” I saw Ginger standing on the sidewalk to the right, a stake jutting from her chest and her blood-coated nightgown glued to her figure. “You just can’t come back from. He went through my phone to see who I’d been talking to. People who trust each other don’t do stuff like that.”
When I’d broken up with him, Nick had also gotten angry enough to nearly lose control and shift. Why? Jealousy of Logan.
And what had I turned around and done? Agreed to a future dinner date with Logan.
Gah, why did everything about life and adulthood have to be so damn complicated? I downshifted and used my TK to nudge another car when its front tires lost traction. Ginger waved at me from the backseat of it as we passed, baring her bloody fangs in a smile. The teen sitting beside her, furiously texting on his phone, obviously had no clue he was sharing the backseat with my delusion.
She was a delusion. A visual hallucination brought on by guilt and lack of sleep. Had to be that. No one else ever reacted to her presence, not even the dogs.
I seriously needed to find a new therapist.
A clump of snow fell from a traffic light, hitting the hood of my car with a thump. Soames sighed. “I love this weather.”
“It makes a huge mess and results in tons of accidents.”
“Wow, aren’t you the little downer? Think of the fun. Snowball fights and building snowmen.”
I wrinkled my nose. “That requires being outside and freezing off body parts.”
“Fine. How about the fact it’ll melt and help fill up the lakes?”
“Okay, that’s a plus.” Texas had been suffering from drought conditions for nearly a year.
“See? Bright side to everything.” He smiled at the street ahead. “Plus, it’s beautiful.”
I scanned the slushy street, dirty cars, and hunched, scurrying people on the sidewalks. No sign of Ginger now. The sky was a dreary mass of gray clouds. “You need your eyes checked, dude.”
He laughed. “Winter used to mean the clan spent a lot of time together, after working hard the other seasons to make certain we’d live through the cold months.”
Ah, the simple life of days gone by, before the Melding. Back when the supes were merely scary stories to humans. They’d been stuck in their own realm, circa the Dark Ages or similar, and apparently spent a lot of time trying to kill each other, from everything I’d learned.
Yeah, I could see why he’d find the depressing view beautiful. No one was after him, and all he had to do to fill his belly was stop at a restaurant or a grocery store.
For some, times were easier in the modern world.