I often question my sanity.
Occasionally, it replies.
If the woman howling from the backseat of Agent Carson’s black SUV weren’t already dead, I would’ve strangled her. Gladly. And with much exuberance. But, alas, my ex-BFF Jessica was indeed dead, and ranting on and on about how her death was entirely my fault. Which was so not true. It was only partly my fault. I wasn’t the one who’d kicked her off a seven-story grain elevator. Though I was beginning to wish I had. At least then I would’ve had a reason to listen to her harp ad nauseam. Life was too short for this crap.
After rolling my eyes so far back into my head I almost dislodged them from their sockets, I glanced over at my driver and the owner of said SUV, Agent Carson. Actually, it was FBI Special Agent Carson, but that was way too many syllables, in my book. I’d tried to get her to change her name to SAC – or even FBISAC, since we could’ve called her Phoebe for short – but she’d have none of it. Her loss. No telling how much time she could save if she didn’t have all those syllables to deal with.
Fortunately for SAC, she couldn’t hear Jessica, but the other supernatural entity in the car – one Mr. Reyes Alexander Farrow, the hot hunk of corporeal manliness sitting in the middle seat of the long SUV – most definitely could. It was his own fault, however. He was the one who’d insisted on playing bodyguard ever since we found out a group of hellhounds had escaped from molten gates down under and were on their way to this plane to dismember me.
As a diversionary tactic – since I had the innate ability to visualize my own dismemberment to an alarming degree – I was working on some of the cold cases SAC had asked me to look into, to see if anything caught my eye. And the folder containing an unsolved ten-year-old multiple murder definitely caught my eye.
Well, okay, they all caught my eye, but this one seemed to pull at me. To lure me. It begged to be solved. Five people – two adults and three teens – had been killed one night while preparing to open a summer camp for special-needs kids. They were each stabbed multiple times and found in a sea of blood by another camp supervisor the next morning. Another young girl, the only daughter of the two adults, was never found.
The only real suspect they’d had was a homeless man who scavenged the campsites in the area, stealing food from campers when they went on hikes or slept. But the forensics unit found no evidence linking him to the crime scene. Not a fingerprint. Not a drop of blood. Not a single strand of the suspect’s hair.
And so the case went unsolved. Until now. The FBI had finally wised up and put Charley Davidson on the task of bringing a killer to justice. Because that’s what Charley did. Brought killers to justice. She also found lost dogs, exposed cheating spouses, and tracked down the occasional skip. And she rarely referred to herself in the third person.
I had a few other specialties as well. Mostly because I’d been born the grim reaper. I could see dead people, for one, a fact that helped me solve many a case. Odd how easy it was to solve cases when one could ask the victim whodunit. Not that I could always rely on that natural advantage. Some people didn’t know who’d killed them. That was rare, but it happened. A traumatized brain was a complicated brain. Still, I got good intel most of the time.
In this case, however, the chances of finding the departed just hanging out at the crime scene where they’d died ten years earlier were slim. It was worth a shot either way, which was why I’d agreed to let SAC pick me up at the ungodly hour of 6 A.M. to show me the crime scene firsthand. Along with me, however, came a bit of baggage, and it was sitting in the two backseats. Jessica, my ex-BFF, blamed me for her death. Ad nauseam. Reyes, my affianced, blamed me for his sour mood. I chose to ignore them both.
“The view is gorgeous,” I said as we wound up the Jemez Mountains. The sun was barely clearing the treetops, casting an orange glow over us. The pine and juniper glistened with the early morning dew, their shadows sliding across the window as we drove deeper into the pass. We didn’t see a lot of green in Albuquerque, so the fact that all this lay just an hour away boggled my mind. I loved the Jemez.
“Isn’t it?” SAC agreed.
“My dad used to bring us up here on his motorcycle. But isn’t all this reservation land?” I asked. “How did the FBI get jurisdiction?”
“Tribal law is complicated,” she said, her brown bob swaying as she glanced in her rearview for the hundredth time that morning. But she wasn’t checking for traffic. She was checking on the surly man behind her. “In a case like this, we actually would’ve had jurisdiction, because the campsite isn’t on Pueblo land. Either way, it only makes sense to bring in outside authorities. One of the teens was Native American, which is a whole other issue, but the tribal council was more than happy to have us do the investigation.”
She tightened her grip on the steering wheel, her gaze darting again to the rearview. I couldn’t blame her. Reyes was certainly something to look at. Since I could feel emotions radiate off people like others could feel the weather, I felt every infusion of warmth that rushed through her with his nearness. He affected her like hot tea on a winter’s day, but she hid it well. I had to give her kudos for that. She was curious about him but guarded. Since Reyes, dark and dangerous, was an enigma even to me, SAC was smart to be guarded. But there was no denying the raw magnetism, the sensuous allure he unconsciously sent out in sweet, pulsating waves.
Either that or I was ovulating.