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Detective Wade Callahan had nothing against mind readers, or fortune-tellers, or whatever they were calling themselves nowadays. So long as they stuck to their tarot cards and beaded curtains and refrained from activities that might conceivably engage the interests of the bunko squad. As far as he was concerned, those so-called psychics had no business in a police squad room unless it was as a victim or perpetrator of a crime.
And, given the nature of their business, he figured one scenario was about as likely as the other.
They sure as hell had no business wandering around a crime scene. Particularly his crime scene.
For some reason the fact that this one happened to be a particularly attractive woman only made matters worse. What in the hell was the captain thinking? And who'd ever heard of a psychic with tousled sunshine hair and big, innocent blue eyes, freckles scattered across her rosy cheeks and pert little
"You're growling again," Ed Francks said, giving him an elbow nudge in the ribs.
"Wasn't growling," Wade growled. "Muttering. That was muttering. There's a difference."
"Uh-huh." His former partner looked him over, eyebrows raised in mild rebuke. "Best get used to it, man. You heard what the captain said. She's part of the task force from now on." He shrugged. "Anyways, from what I hear this one could be the real deal."
Ed Francks was a Vietnam vet who'd seen too many young lives wasted in the jungles and rice paddies of the Mekong Delta and was spending his life making up for that by teaching young police recruits how to stay alive in the urban jungles of Portland, Oregon. He was a gentle bear of a man and a tough task master of a police sergeant and one hell of a fine police officer who, in Wade's opinion, should have been made detective long ago. And no doubt would have, if he'd wanted any part of it.
It had been a long time since Wade had been partnered with Francks, but he'd requested him for this task force because he had a fine analytical mind and more common sense than anybody else he knew, and was the person he most wanted watching his back when push came to shove. Which didn't mean he always agreed with him. "Yeah, well, she looks more like a damn high school cheerleader than somebody that talks to dead people," Wade muttered. Muttered, not growled.
"That's not what she does." Francks had shifted unconsciously into his drill sergeant's posefeet planted apart, arms folded on his chest. Now he tilted his shaved head toward the woman wanderingapparently aimlesslyaround the section of park playground that had been roped off with yellow crime scene tape. "You heard her at the briefing. She picks up vibes. Feels things."
Wade made an ambiguous noise.
Francks looked over at him, black eyes reflecting sunlight in a way that turned them the color of dead ripe plums. "I don't know. Could be something in it. The way she explained it, she says all thoughts and emotions give off electrical energythat's a proven factand it stands to reason intense emotions would give off a whole lot more energy. Like fear rage the kinds of things you'd expect from somebody involved in a crime, particularly a homicide. So, say there's all this energy floating around, it seems like there might be people, certain people, that are more sensitive to it, that could maybe pick up on it. Like, you know, the way dogs can smell things we can't." He stiffened his stance, as if to shore up his case. "Sounds possible to me."
Wade snortednothing ambiguous about it. "Come on."
"Look, all I know is, she's had some success working with other departmentsSeattle, San Francisco, L.A.and there was that kidnapping in Yreka last summer, she was involved with that. Hey, man, let's face it, we're not getting anywhere with these murders, and she lives right here in Portland. Be pretty dumb not to give her a shot, seems to me. What've we got to lose?"
"Credibility?" Wade said dryly. "Self-respect?"
He looked over at the woman. She was sitting in one of the swings with her head down and her hands over her face. She didn't look so much like a cheerleader now as a little girl who'd lost her mommy.
Well, hell, he thought. I've got to talk to the woman sooner or later. Might as well be now.
"Play nice," Francks called to him as he hitched his jacket more squarely on his shoulders and stepped over the curbing into the sandy playground.
Darkness cold so cold.
Fear paralyzing fear can't think should fight, struggle maybe if I could scream I am screaming! Why can't I hear myself screaming?
Don't hurt me! Please don't hurt don't hurt nohurtnohurtnomorehurtpleaseplease
Oh God No! No no
Can't be happening not real can't be real!
I can't die! Please I don't want to die!
I don't understand why are you doing this?
Why why why
The voice was deep and flat, and came from somewhere outside the terror that held her in its clammy web. Tierney Doyle clung to the voice, used it like a lifeline and managed to haul herself back to corporeal reality, the tangible, tasteable, seeable world. As she struggled to focus on the tall figure of the man standing in front of her she felt the reassuring hug of the swing seat around the backs of her thighs, the warm Portland sunshine beating down on her head, the bite of the steel chains she'd gripped so hard she knew there would be red indentations and white ridges across her fingers and palms when she let go.
She touched a toe to the depression in the sand beneath the swing dug by small, pushing feet, making the swing rotate slightly as she looked up, up, up, past the slightly rumpled tan slacks, the darker brown sport jacket with the Portland P.D. detective's badge pinned to the pocket, the unbuttoned shirt collar and the hard, square jaw wearing a hint of five o'clock shadow, though it was not yet noon. On up to eyes the color of mountain lakes under cloudless skies, with lashes any woman would die for.
"What?" she said vaguely as she met the look of cold appraisal in those deep-blue eyes. This she recognizedshe'd seen that look often enough before. A skeptic, obviously, like so many in his line of work.
"Are you all right? You looked like you were about to pass out." It wasn't an expression of sympathy; his mouth hadn't softened, though there was a pleat of frown lines between his dark brows.
Skepticism, but compassion, too. Nice, even though he doesn't look it.
She tried to produce a smile, but it was too soon. Too soon. "I'm fine," she murmured, and mentally added a determined, I will be.
She rose from the swing but kept one hand tightly on the chain, uncertain of her legs. She brushed at the seat of her pants and nodded in a way that took in the sandy playground, the children's play equipment incongruously painted in happy primary colors, and the peoplenot children, but grown-ups, dressed in muted shades of gray and tan and brownmoving purposefully among them. Like sparrows, she thought, foraging in a bed of flowers. "It gets to me sometimes, that's all."
"Yeah, crime scenes can be tough," the detective said, slipping a pair of sunglasses from his inside jacket pocket and putting them on. "Especially on civilians."
She glanced up at him, and this time she did smile. "You're not a believer in what I do."
His eyebrows lifted in mock surprise. "Wow, you are a mind reader."
"I read emotions, not minds."
And he watched her eyes change, an effect so unmistakable it startled him, but which he couldn't have described to save his life. A veil a shadow and yet, neither of those. Somehow, though they continued to gaze into his, her eyes seemed to be looking at something else, something only she could see. He wanted to tell her to stop whatever it was she was doing. She was creeping him out. But before he could open his mouth, she spoke again, in a hoarse almost-whisper.
"He tortured her tied her here" she gestured toward the swing that hung limp and empty next to the one she clung to "so her feet wouldn't touch the ground. He cut her, burned her " And as she spoke the words in a breathy undertone her hand wandered here and there over her body, showing him where.
A strange prickling sensation washed over his skin. He "I don't care, just" She nodded toward the parking lot, to her flimflam. And for not being smooth enough to think of a way to rid his arm of the oddly disturbing weight of her hand without seeming churlish.
They walked, slowly. He had the interrogator's knack of patient waiting, and in due time it paid off. She began to talk, in a voice that seemed completely normal, nothing like the hoarse half whisper of a few minutes ago. She had a nice voice, he had to admit, with an almost musical lilt to it. Out of the blue he found himself wondering if she did sing, or play an instrument of some kind.
"I don't know if I've been able to pick up muchanything that will help you identify the killer, that is. She didn't know him. She was so afraid, at first. Later, she just wanted to knowshe just kept asking Why? That was what was in her mind when she At the end."
Wade let out a breath, shook his head. He couldn't believe what he was about to ask. "What about him? The killer? Pick up any vibes from him?"
There was a long pause before she answered, and this time while he waited he allowed himself to look down at her, thinkinghopinghe might get some kind of clue to what made her tick. He didn't, of course, but what he did get was an unexpected kick right square in the libido. Damn, but she was pretty, even with a little watermark frown marring the creamy perfection of her forehead.
She jerked a look up at him, as if she'ddamn it, he wasn't going to believe she'd read his mind.
But he saw a pink tinge in her cheeks before she looked away again.
"Yes," she said finally, with a small frustrated shake of her head, "but it's all confused. Muddled. I can't make sense of it. He's he was in a terrible hurry, for one thing. And distracted, almost, as if his mind wasn't entirely on herthis victim. That really doesn't seem right, does it?"
He stopped walking, mentally gritting his teeth at the thought of what he was going to say next, and turned to face her. "Okay, how about this? Don't try to make sense of it. Just tell me what you saw. Uh, felt. Whatever."
She nodded, touched the fingertips of both hands to her lips and closed her eyes. "Fear. That's what he feels. He's afraid, like a child is afraid. And in a hurry. He must hurry finish this. He wants it over with. He's not enjoying it. But he has to do it. Has to. He isn't seeing her. Orhe sees her, but she's all mixed up with others. Other faces. I can't"
"Other faces? His other victims, you mean?"
"I don't know some of them, maybe. Yes, definitely some. But others " She shook her head, opened her eyes and aimed them at him, and instinctively he threw up his emotional defenses to block against the pain and confusion he saw in them. "I don't remember seeing any of them at the briefing this morning."
"Could be more victims we haven't found yet " He heard himself say the words, musing, half to himself, and couldn't believe it. His mind flashed a silent blasphemy.
She'd started walking again, but now she stopped and looked at him. "Uniforms. He's I think he's afraid of uniforms."
Wade almost laughed, but snorted instead. Talk about obvious. Once again he'd almost bought it, whatever it was she was selling. "Cops, you mean? Well, he damn well better be," he said in the even tone he employed when he was on the verge of losing his temper. "Because we're going to nail this creep's ass."
Hopefully, he thought, before he kills anyone else. Tierney stared at him, frowning a little. Uniforms cops ? No, that's not it's something something Wait I can't
But it was gone, the emotions dissolving in her consciousness like smoke in the wind.
She studied the detective's profile, noting the narrowing of the eyes behind the dark glasses, the tension in the jaw. He was struggling with his disbelief, fighting hard to hold on to it. She didn't have to have The Gift to deduce that. But other than that
I can't read him. He's shielding himself from mewhich is proof he does believe, even if he doesn't know it yet.
Okay, except for that one moment, that blast of pure lust. He hadn't quite been able to shield thatfew men could. She was used to that sort of response from men, but she didn't think she'd ever get over being embarrassed by it.
Probably she was just tired. Crime scenes always did that to her. The intensity of emotionsthe pain, the fear, the rage and regretsapped her energy the way a bout of the flu would, leaving her wobbly and light-headed. Utterly drained. She wantedneededto renew her soul. Maybe go up to the Rose Garden, to feed on the pure joy and simple beauty there. Or to the empty quiet, the complete absence of emotion that was her home so often these days