A Psychic Eye Mystery
Clairvoyant private eye Abigail Cooper is excited to marry her beau, but planning the affair has never been her first love. So when Abby hears of a case involving a missing young mother, she’s ready to escape the world of wedding details and engage in some serious psychic sleuthing.
TROUBLE CAN COME IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE….
When a mysterious client approaches Abby about a young mother who’s vanished, Abby is more than willing to get involved. After all, it’s the perfect distraction from dealing with the headache of her sister, Cat—who has flown into town and turned Abby and Dutch’s impending nuptials into Weddingpalooza.
After Abby recruits her business partner and BFF, Candice, to assist, they meet with the parents of the missing woman. But the parents refuse to put their faith in a psychic. What’s worse, the family suspects Abby has a connection to their daughter’s husband—the man they believe to be responsible for her disappearance.
With the family blind to the truth and a potential killer in her sights, Abby is determined to keep her eyes wide open….
It was four forty-five p.m. and I was still stewing. I’d been stewing a solid nine hours now, and I was likely to continue to stew for as long as it took for me to finish working, get home, confront my fiancé, and really give him a piece of my mind.
The reason for said stew-fest was currently sitting on my desk, tucked into a beautifully polished beech-wood box, wrapped with a big red bow. It’d been waiting for me on the kitchen table with a love note and a fresh mug of coffee that morning.
Still, I shook my head at the box and grumbled anew.
The bell above the main entrance gave a jingle. “Abby?” I heard my business partner and best friend call from the tiny foyer.
Candice, fresh from the salon and looking more beautiful than any girl has a right to, sauntered into my office, took one look at my face, and said, “Cocktail?”
I eyed the clock and sighed. “You have no idea how much I’d like to take you up on that, but I’ve got a client at five and I can’t leave.”
Candice nodded like she already understood my woes. Coming in and sitting down across from me, she said, “Dutch?”
Huh. Lookit that. She did understand. I waved at the polished box on the edge of my desk. “He gave me an early wedding present.”
Dutch and I were getting married in exactly forty-five days, which, hopefully, would give me just enough time to walk down the aisle without the assistance of a cane, a goal my physical therapist and I were intent on making.
Candice reached for the box, then hesitated. “May I?”
“Knock yourself out,” I said with a sigh.
My friend carefully slid the ribbon off and lifted the catch; opening the lid and peeking inside, she whistled appreciatively. “Nice,” she said.
“Nice?” I snapped. “You think it’s nice?”
Candice’s eyes darted quickly back and forth between the present and me, clearly not sure where to go with that. It didn’t matter. The floodgates had opened, and out came my inner tsunami. “He gave me a gun, Candice! A GUN! What kind of a man thinks it’s appropriate to give his soon-to-be bride a lethal weapon for a wedding gift?”
Candice smirked and ducked her chin. “A Republican?”
I narrowed my eyes suspiciously and nodded. “Yeah. And a gun-totin’, NRA-lovin’, small-government-supportin’ one at that!” (You’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that my politics lean a weeeeeeeeensy bit more to the left.)
Candice chuckled and lifted out the offensive object to consider it. “You know, Abs,” she said in that irritatingly calm way she had, “I could totally see your point if this weren’t such a sweet weapon—for you in particular.” I opened my mouth to spout new protests to the contrary, but she cut me off. “Let me finish! This is a .38 Special, right?”
I clenched my jaw, rolled my eyes, sighed heavily, then nodded.
“It’s the new Bodyguard Smith and Wesson, right?” Candice added, releasing the chamber to check for bullets, and, finding none, closing the chamber and pointing the gun at the wall to her left.
Candice pushed a little knob at the top of the grip and a red dot appeared on the wall. She whistled again. “Integrated laser and a polymer grip. Sundance, this is one sweet weapon.”
“You want it?”
Candice laughed lightly before tucking the gun back inside the box. “I can’t think of a better weapon for you, honey.”
“Candice, you’re supposed to be on my side.”
“I am on your side! Abs, don’t you think Dutch already knows how much you hate guns?”
Recent enthusiastic history with a CIA weapons trainer aside, I had an intense dislike for guns and avoided handling them at all cost. “I seriously do hate them,” I said.
“Exactly.” Candice leaned back in her chair like I’d just made her whole case. “You make no secret about it, as Dutch well knows.”
My brow furrowed. “So he gave me something he knows I’ll hate just to show me how much he cares?”
Candice grinned. “No, fool. He gave you something he knows will protect you, in spite of the fact that you hate it. And he got you a gun that’s lightweight, compact, easy to load, absorbs recoil, and has an integrated laser so that even you couldn’t possibly miss. Don’t you get it, Abs?”
“I seriously don’t.”
Candice leaned forward to rest her elbows on my desk. “Would you say that Dutch spends a fair amount of time worrying about you?”
I scowled at Candice. She knew dang well Dutch spent much more than a “fair” amount of time worrying about me. He once dubbed me Trouble’s Mecca. “Yeah. So?”
“And it’s not without good reason, right?”
“It’s not like I go looking for trouble, Candice!” I was getting a little irritated with this line of questioning.
“Of course you don’t,” she said calmly. “But you have to admit that your line of work has gotten you into some pretty dicey situations.”
“Oh, for cripe’s sake! I’m a professional psychic. Last time I checked, that wasn’t one of the top ten most dangerous jobs.”
“You’re a professional psychic who now freelances for both the FBI and the CIA. You’re also a business partner to one badass private eye,” Candice said, bouncing her eyebrows.
“What’s your point?”
“My point is that the panic button on your key fob and that little can of pepper spray you carry around in your purse aren’t enough to protect you from the very dangerous criminals you encounter these days, toots. It’s way past time you grew a pair and got yourself armed. Dutch knows you would never properly arm yourself on your own, and he likely also knows that if he just randomly brought you home a gun, you’d take it back within the hour. So instead, he’s given it to you wrapped in a big red ribbon of love as a wedding present, because he’s telling you he worries and he wants his wife to be safe. And to make it as painless as possible, he’s gotten you a really sweet weapon tailor-made for you.”
I stared hard at her, then at the box, then back at Candice. “How come you know what Dutch is thinking better than I do?”
Candice’s grin widened. “Because I’m also a gun-totin’, NRA-lovin’, small-government-supportin’ Republican, just like him.”
I felt the corners of my mouth quirk too. “I’m surrounded by the enemy.”
Candice leaned over the desk to squeeze my hand. “Give it time; we’ll bring you around.”
She then got up to walk out of the room, only to return a minute later with a white box I recognized. “These should fit,” she said, opening the lid to my present and taking out the gun to load it with hollow points.
“You keep bullets in your office?”
Candice continued to load the gun without looking up. “Doesn’t everyone?”
“Nooooooo,” I said with a laugh. Then I started to feel like I was being handled by my business partner and fiancé. “You really don’t need to do that,” I told her.
Candice paused to eye me critically. “An unloaded gun does you no good, Sundance. Keep it in the box if you want, but keep it loaded.”
At that moment we heard the bell above the front door give another jingle. Candice pumped the last bullet into the chamber and tucked the weapon away quickly. “Better let you get to your client,” she said, handing me my cane from where it was leaning against the wall.
I got stiffly to my feet, thanked her, and took the cane, wincing with that first step, which was always the most painful.
My body was still recovering from an awful accident I’d had several months earlier when Dutch and I had been on a mission for the CIA. The mission had ultimately been a success, but we’d both nearly died in a plane crash. We’d been incredibly lucky to survive, but I’d broken my pelvis in three places. The doctors had warned me that my recovery would be slow and often uncomfortable. I hadn’t realized how much they’d sugarcoated it until I started my physical therapy. I was in near-constant pain and made progress in centimeters. There were many days, in fact, when I believed my recovery moved backward. It was one reason I was glad that my regular day job of doing psychic readings for a growing list of clients allowed me to set my own schedule, and I could take plenty of breaks and days off if needed.
I hobbled out to the waiting room and was nearly brought up short. Ms. Smith—my client—stood nervous and fidgety just inside the door. She was adorned in a large Sunday hat, red wig, Jackie O sunglasses, and bright red lipstick. Even though it was nearly eighty degrees outside, she had on a trench coat, scarf, and black leather gloves.
I wondered if she had some sort of hypersensitivity to the sun, because her only exposed skin was on her nose, mouth, and chin, but the wig was throwing me, and it was so obviously a wig. “Ms. Smith?” I asked.
Her face turned toward me, and my sixth sense picked up the waves of anxiety radiating off her. “Yes,” she said; then she seemed to search for something to add but settled for, “Yes,” again.
A lot of clients get very nervous when they first come to see me. So many people have a fear about what we psychics can see or predict. And the reputation for psychics as bad-news bearers is not without some merit: I’ve met several “professional” readers who dig deep for anything alarming they can say to their clients just to make themselves look “gifted.” It irritates me no end.
“It’s great to meet you,” I said calmly, extending my hand. Sometimes the best way to battle someone else’s fear is to simply remain as composed and professional as possible. She took my hand, pumped it once, and let go.
“We’re right in here,” I offered, turning to lead her down the hall, deeper in the suite of offices.
After I’d been released from the hospital, my wonderful friend and business partner had practically (literally) hauled me out of bed with the goal of finding the perfect office space in which to hang our respective shingles. While it was true that Candice and I teamed up quite often on cases she acquired, we each still retained a bit of autonomy with respect to our individual businesses.
So we needed a setting that could accommodate all three scenarios—my readings, Candice’s private eye business, and the joint investigations we partnered up on.
After a week of looking (and some complaining on my part . . . cough, cough), we’d finally found a gorgeous suite of four offices and a cozy waiting area in a three-story professional building on Austin’s north side. The new digs were located just off Highway 360—which was easily the most beautiful highway in all of Austin—and the road leading up to our building ascended straight into the hills, giving us spectacular views from every window.
I’d fallen in love with the space the moment I set eyes on it, and Candice and I had hung our shingles ten seconds after signing the lease. I’d finished decorating my little suite only three weeks earlier and was encouraged that my reputation and marketing efforts were starting to pay off—I had a small list of referrals, which was growing day by day. I was also kept afloat by the cold-case work I did freelancing as a consultant for the FBI. All in all, I was starting to eke out a real living again, and that felt awesome.
I led my client into the room I used exclusively for conducting my readings and felt the lovely energy of the space waft over me.
I’d had the space painted a dusky rose, the shutters were chocolate brown, and espresso high-back leather wing chairs were arranged to face each other. I’d kept the room fairly spartan, with only two accent tables, a credenza, and some choice crystals placed in small artistic clusters about the room.
Moving stiffly to my chair, I eased my way into it, much like a heavily pregnant woman. When I looked up, I caught that Ms. Smith’s lips were pursed and what I could see of her brow was slightly furrowed. “Were you injured in an auto accident?” she asked.
“Yes,” I lied. It was easier to tell people that Dutch and I had been in a car wreck than to tell them that the CIA had recruited us for an undercover espionage mission that had nearly ended our lives. Plus, if I told them about the mission, I’d have to kill them. (Ha, ha, ha! Yep. Still funny!)
“Who was at fault?” my client asked, which I thought was a very odd question.
“Uh . . .” Her question threw me, and for a minute I didn’t know how to respond.
She held up her hand. “Sorry,” she said, taking her seat. “Occupational hazard. The minute I hear someone’s been in a car accident, I automatically ask who’s to blame.”
“You’re an attorney,” I said. That wasn’t my sixth sense talking; that was just a natural assumption.
“I am. But please, don’t begin telling me about my job or my future until I get a chance to tell you why I’m here.”
She seemed to get all nervous and twitchy again, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand the fear. So I simply motioned for her to tell me whatever she needed to before I switched on the old radar.
“I’m not here about myself,” she began. “I’m here about a friend.”
Ahhh . . . the old “my friend needs a reading” excuse. Yeah. I’d heard that one before. I barely resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “Okay,” I said easily. “No worries. I can use your energy as a jumping-off point to get to your friend. Just tell me his or her name, and I’ll take a look at—”
“No,” Ms. Smith said—a bit too quickly, I thought. “You see, it’s complicated.”
Isn’t it always?
“It’s not really about a friend,” she explained, staring at the ground as if she were laying out the pieces of whatever was troubling her. “It’s about a client.”
“Of mine?” I was getting lost and we’d only just started.
“No. A client who has recently retained my firm to represent them should the police get wind of certain details.”
“Details?” I asked, switching on my radar because this was starting to creep me out a little.
“I’ll be blunt,” she said, tugging on the leather fingers of her gloves. “This client has broken the law. Several laws. And if anyone knew that I’d come to you with this, I would face immediate disbarment for breaking my firm’s attorney-client privilege.”
I squinted at Ms. Smith while I sifted through the ether surrounding her and listened to what she was saying. There was a whole lotta stuff in the ether to sort through. Most of the energy was heavy, and charged with a grim outlook, as if this woman carried the weight of the world with her when she’d decided to come see me.
In her energy I detected secrecy, anxiety, deception, and something that made me really take note. Violence. The woman had this lurking cloud of dark energy that hovered menacingly just behind her. I didn’t think she was the source, but she knew who was, and she wasn’t at all confident that she could keep this particular wolf at bay. The realization made me cold with fear for her, and I couldn’t put these pieces together yet to form a more detailed picture, but whatever this woman was involved in, it was seriously dangerous.
“You’re here because you’re terrified,” I told her. “But you’re not afraid of disbarment; you’re afraid of your client.”
Her head jerked back a little in surprise. “You’re reading me,” she said—her tone accusing.
“A little,” I admitted. “Ms. Smith, whoever this client of yours is, he or she cannot be trusted. Your client is dangerous—to you directly and to others. In fact,” I added, following the intuitive thread, “I think this person has seriously harmed someone. I’m not even sure the victim survived.”
Ms. Smith licked her lips nervously. “Yes,” she said. “I know. You’re right. The victim didn’t survive. But no one knows that yet. The family doesn’t even realize it yet. They’re still hopeful she’ll come home. But she won’t. And I can’t tell you who, or where, and I certainly can’t tell you why, but I’ve heard a great deal about your abilities, Miss Cooper, and I was hoping you could figure out what happened to the girl and let the family know. Give them some peace. Some closure. And maybe, just maybe, you could point the police in the right direction. I’m the best defense attorney at my firm, and if I go to court with this, then of course I’ll give a vigorous defense, but I’m a skillful lawyer. Skillful enough to make it look like I’m trying to keep my client out of jail without really giving it my best effort, if you know what I mean?”
I shook my head. I didn’t really know what she meant, and she was apparently giving me far too much credit. “You’re going to have to fill me in a little more, Ms. Smith. I’m psychic, not a mind reader.”
“Watch the news,” she said ominously. “You’ll know it when you see it. I need you to take the case. I read up on you and discovered that you often consult with the FBI on some of their hardest cold cases. I’d recommend you to the family, of course, but I can’t be linked to this. It’s far too dangerous for me, and I’ve taken a huge risk in coming here. I’m sorry, but that’s all I can say.”
With that, Ms. Smith got up. “Wait!” I said, alarmed that she appeared to be leaving. She’d given me nothing, just a bunch of cryptic instructions and disjointed impressions.
“I can’t answer any more of your questions, Ms. Cooper, I’ve already said too much. You’ll have to think about everything I’ve told you and start from there, all right?”
I shook my head vigorously. “No,” I said. “You haven’t given me anything substantial, Ms. Smith! Even the cold cases I work on for the FBI at least have a body or the name of a missing person to work from.”
But it was no use. My client was already halfway out the door. Still, she did pause at the door to say over her shoulder, “I hope you’ll help, but I understand if you can’t or won’t.”
I sat there with my mouth agape, struggling to find the words to keep her a little longer so that I could pull more from the ether around her, but I think she was on to me, because she turned away quickly and was gone.
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