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The stench of rot, mildew and decay jammed Danny's nasal passages. He'd tried breathing through his mouth for about a minute, but that only made him want to retch, so he returned to his original tactic. Slow, shallow breaths through his nose, taken one small whiff at a time.
If he survived this revolting trek through Phoenix's sewer system, he'd be showering for the next three days. And he'd spend every minute of those seventy-two hours inhaling the scent of fresh shampoo until his lungs went numb.
"You better be right about this, Van Doren." Detective Nick Samuels snorted, then gagged, before letting a gob of spit loose. It landed somewhere in the vicinity of Danny's feet. "If you're dragging me through shit for nothing, I'll spend the rest of my days making you pay. God as my witness."
"Right, Detective. Because this is where I always take my evening stroll."
Nick let out a groan that said he didn't give a damn if Danny walked off a cliff without bungee gear. "You just better be right. That's all I'm saying." No threat this time, but Danny heard it just the same.
Despite the fact that he'd helped the Phoenix P.D. solve six homicides in the last nine months, Nick didn't like him much. He never had, not even when he'd been married to Danny's sister. That was probably Danny's fault. They'd gotten their relationship off to a rocky start the first night he found Nick groping Elena in the front seat of his car. A decade later, Nick still hadn't forgiven him for that bloody nose.
The shape he followed flickered in the distance. She was short, maybe four foot six at best. Probably about ten years old. She ran ahead of them, but he couldn't give chase. Being blind made treading on a newly paved sidewalk as treacherous as skating on bare feet. Slogging through the sewers with the rank stench of waste sticking to his lungs and his feet sloshing through inches of foul water meant he had to shuffle rather than walk, and running was out of the question.
"Come on, honey." Danny kept his voice low, soothing, even though he had no idea whether the little girl could hear him. She pretended to, sometimes, and other times he might as well have been talking to a brick wall. A bystander watching him hold a conversation with himself would think he was doing just that. Most people who knew him already assumed he'd lost his mind along with his eyesight.
Hell, most days he thought the same.
"Right behind ya, pumpkin."
The sarcasm in Nick's voice grated on Danny's nerves. If he didn't need the man to identify the location of the body when Danny finally led him to itand to guide him back out of this hellhole once his ethereal guide disappearedhe'd have been just as happy to leave the detective sitting in front of a box of donuts at the station.
Well, no, that wasn't entirely true. Danny wasn't stupid. Or reckless, for that matter. He needed Nick to watch his back on this ill-advised expedition, almost as much as the little girl's ghost needed him.
Two years ago, before Danny lost his sight, Nick had been tall, lean and handsome. These days, Danny liked to picture him based on his surly demeanor and gruff voice. It took some effort, but he pictured a barrel-chested, beer-gutted man with a bad comb over and a permanent snarl on thin lips crusted with powdered sugar. Danny grinned at that mental image and momentarily forgot his resolve to take small, shallow breaths. He sucked in a mouthful of the funky air before catching himself, and his stomach writhed.