Read an Excerpt
JACK DAVIS FOUGHT DOWN the air bag and scrambled from the cab of his truck. The woman he'd rammed into was already out of her sporty red mini-SUV and on her hands and knees looking beneath the vehicle.
"What are you doing?" Jack swallowed the epithet he'd been about to use. He'd learned to apply politeness regardless of the circumstances.
Still entranced with the underside of her car, the woman didn't respond.
Standing in the center freeway lane, Jack surveyed the slow-moving traffic on both sides of him. For once, he could appreciate a Silicon Valley rush hour. If they'd been going faster, they wouldn't have made it through the collision without serious injury. Christ. Jack turned to the gold Cadillac that had rear-ended him when he'd slammed on his brakes. The Caddy's driver hadn't moved yet, though his air bag had deflated.
Jack ran back. Squatting by the Caddy's closed window, he shouted through the glass. "You okay?"
No answer, but at least the old man's eyes were open, though dazed, and he'd turned his head. Jack whipped his cell phone off his belt and punched in emergency.
With the call made, he opened the door slowly. The cars in the commute lane to his left moved over to the shoulder, giving him room. He held the man back against the seat when he tried to move. "Just stay put until the ambulance gets here. They need to check you out. Feel like anything's broken?"
The old man shook his head, but would he really know? His eyes couldn't seem to focus on Jack's face. At least there wasn't any blood. Jack stood.
Then he saw the woman again, the one responsible for the accident. This time her head was under his truck,her butt in the air, short skirt barely covering her essentials. "What are you doing now?"
Stalking back, he grabbed her arm and pulled her out. Still on her knees, she stared up at him with the bluest, most freaked-out eyes he'd ever seen.
"Didn't you see it?"
"See what?" he asked as calmly as possible. She'd started to worry him. He looked for blood on her head, or any sign of trauma.
"The body. It fell off the overpass right in front of me. I ran over it."
She was young, mid-twenties or so. Blond hair that curled softly over her chest, ocean-blue eyes, a healthy bloom to her cheeks and, from his vantage point as she knelt beside his truck, nice...nice everything.
Despite being nuts. "I didn't see a body flying off that overpass, ma'am." Jack struggled to retain that ingrained politeness.
She bit her lip, then looked through his legs at the Cadillac. "Maybe it's under there."
Jumping up, she tipped sideways on her high heels, leaning dangerously close to the commute lane. Jack reached out to grab her, but she recovered on her own and rushed around him to peer beneath the old man's gold car.
She leaned into the open door of the Caddy. "Did you see a man fall off the overpass?"
The old man shook his head. He still hadn't spoken, and Jack was anxious about him. The gas fumes and the noise started a pounding in his head. "You could have killed someone slamming on your brakes like that."
She sucked in a breath. "Oh, my God, I didn't...are you all right?"
"Fine. Thanks for asking." He didn't point out she should have shown the concern before she crawled under his truck.
She put a hand on the old guy's shoulder. "What about you?"
He smiled up at her blissfully. And nodded. "I'm so sorry. But the body fell right in front of me." Jack closed his eyes and shook his head. "There is no body."
She stared at him with guileless eyes. "But I saw it." He didn't know why he was trying to convince her, but he walked to the front of her car, leaned down to look under it, did the same with his own truck--aw, Jesus, the crushed bumpers and tailgate made him wince--and finally the Cadillac. Then he spread his hands. "Nothing here."
Sirens sounded in the distance. Behind them, traffic was stacking up.
"Nothing back there, either," he said when she looked at the stream of cars with blinkers on, trying to merge around them.
She stared back at the overpass. She'd skidded several feet beyond it. "But I saw it."
He cocked his head. She had that odd manic look, overly bright eyes, flushed skin, like a fever, manic fever. He'd seen it on his mother enough times to know. "You have a name, ma'am?"
She stared at him for a few too many seconds, and he had the gut feeling she couldn't remember.
"Opal," she finally said. "Opal Smith."
Ah, thank God, she knew her own name. Nice name, too. "You have insurance, Opal?"
"Of course. It's illegal to drive without it." She was still staring up at the bridge, and her lips moved. Over the traffic sounds, he couldn't make out the words.
"What'd you say?"
"It was a vision."
He put his finger in his ear, jiggled it. "Come again?"
"I had a vision." She lifted her shoulders and fastened her baby blues on him. "You know. A vision. A premonition."
Oh man. She was schizo, a malady with which he'd had far too much experience. Jack looked off down the shoulder lane next to the median where red lights flashed at least a freeway exit away. The ambulance. Or the cops. Another warm June day, but the hot exhaust fumes turned it into mid-August weather. He'd started sweating in his thin T-shirt. Or maybe it was the months of insurance red tape he envisioned. "Don't tell the cops about any visions you had."
She tipped her head to the side. "But how am I going to explain about slamming on my brakes?"
"Tell them you saw a dog."
"Jumping from the overpass?"
Jack closed his eyes and took a really deep breath.
He'd never bought the old axiom before, but what they said about blondes might be true. The beautiful ultimate proof stared him right in the face, albeit a few inches shorter than his own six-two. "No," he enunciated slowly as if she were deaf. "You tell them it came from the side of the road."
"We're in the fast lane. Somebody else would have hit it."
He knew he shouldn't have gotten up this morning. Monday. Late for work. The boys at the site were probably sitting on their butts waiting for him to get there. "It was in the median lane, probably got trapped out there, then made a run for it."
"But that would be a lie."
He could see himself repeating this story months from now over Monday Night Football at Donahoe's, and he actually had to smile. The poor woman needed help, a lot of help. The most he could do for her now was make sure she didn't tell the cops she'd had a vision.
"Maybe there really was a dog."
"Dogs don't fall out of the sky." Neither did bodies. He'd always considered himself a patient man, but he had his limits. "Have you been drinking?"
Her pretty eyes widened with horror. "It isn't even nine o'clock in the morning."
"Head start on Happy Hour?"
She eye-rolled him.
"How about drugs, then?"
She gave him a pressed-lip look. Nice red lipstick.
"If you tell the cops you had a vision, they're going to test you for every illegal substance known to man."
Or, more likely, haul her off to the nearest psych ward. He really did not want to have to call her family to break that news since he knew exactly how it felt. "You have that much time?"
She passed a look from the now-crushed rear of her little red SUV, over his double-whammied truck, to the crumpled front of the gold Cadillac, then to the old man still sitting dazed in the front seat. "All right. A dog." She tipped her head again. "Did you see it? Just in case they ask."
"I didn't see anything but your rear end." Especially when she was peering under his truck. Now that was a vision.
"I HAD A VISION. A REAL ONE." Opal had waited all day for this moment, to make her spectacular revelation.
Grandma Blue's head thunked against the scarred Formica tabletop, her fingers clutching spasmodically at the ceramic coffee cup. The last of the sun's rays shone through the kitchen window making the fuschia blossoms on her muumuu glow.
"Grandma Blue?" Opal had always thought of her grandmother as, well, ancient, though the older Opal got, the less ancient she seemed. Opal's heart thumped.
"Are you all right?"
Her grandmother raised her head, her eyes just a little glazed. "No, I'm not all right. I have a daughter who's proclaimed herself 'psychic to the stars," a grandson who appears on TV calling himself a medium and cavorts with dead people and a granddaughter who gives tarot readings. And actually makes a good living at it." Grandma Blue sighed, world-weary. "You were the only normal one."
Opal had never considered herself normal, at least not in the context of her family. Even her father, who had died almost thirteen years ago--Opal still missed him terribly--had a spectacular gift. Blake Smith had been a world-renowned telekinetic, manipulating objects at will. Each member of her family had a special talent. Opal had been waiting all her life to find her own psychic gift. "Will you love me any less if I had an honest-to-God vision?"
"Won't love you any less, sweetie pie, but I will be losing the only one of you I had anything in common with."
Opal ringed her coffee mug with her index finger. "You know how important this is to me."
Grandma Blue heaved an even deeper sigh, her white hair glistening with blue highlights. "Tell me all about it."
Excitement exploded all over again inside Opal, and the words burst out. "It was a premonition. I saw a man jump off an overpass on the freeway. But when I got out of the car, he wasn't there. There was nothing there. I looked underneath the car, under the truck that ran into me--" She stopped. Oops.
"Someone ran into you?" The glaze had left Grandma Blue's eyes completely. She pierced Opal with her see-everything, know-everything gaze.
"Yes, well." Opal cleared her throat, then took a gulp of her sweet coffee. "I was on the freeway, you see, and naturally, since I thought what I saw was real, I slammed on the brakes to avoid running the man over, and the guy behind me hit me, and another car hit his truck and..." Her voice trailed off. She felt sixteen instead of twenty-eight, trying to explain how she'd wrecked the family car.
If anyone had been hurt in the accident... Opal couldn't bear to think about that. She'd called the hospital to check on the elderly gentleman, and she simply couldn't put words to the relief she'd felt upon hearing he'd been released and was just fine. If he'd been injured, if Jack Davis had been injured, well, her vision would have been a terrible thing. Thank goodness that hadn't happened.
"It was just a little fender bender," she added meekly.
"How little?" Grandma Blue stared her down.
"All right, I had to have the RAV4 towed because there was no way I could drive it, and I won't know for a couple of days how bad the damage is." Then she sat up straight. "But I don't care about the car, if it means I had a psychic vision."
Grandma Blue muted the two televisions she had on high volume in the living room. Opal was so used to the background noise, she hadn't even noticed them. Grandma always had two TVs going, one for stock car racing and one for hockey. Since Dale Earnhardt died at Daytona, she was trying to wean herself off the races. Hockey was supposed to do the trick. It hadn't yet.
Grandma Blue snorted. "You sound exactly like The Mother when she started that 900 number to do psychic readings."
The Mother was Opal's mother. Grandma Blue never called her by her name. In fact, she didn't call Opal's brother Julian by his name, either. The oldest, and the golden child with the weightiest psychic gift, Julian was The Brother.
But Opal was getting off track. "I'm not being stubborn, I just want you to be my witness."
"I can't be a witness unless someone actually jumps off that overpass." Grandma Blue's fingernails tapped her coffee cup. She stared hard at Opal. "Did someone actually jump?"
Opal pushed aside the plate of gooey chocolate chip cookies and gripped Grandma Blue's free hand. "That's the beauty of it. He hasn't jumped yet, and I'm going to save him before he does." She sat back, her face feeling all rosy and hot with triumph.