Cursed(4)

By: S.J. Harper



“What about login access for things like email, social networks, and other accounts?”

“Nothing for a couple weeks.”

“I almost hate to ask, but could this be a publicity stunt of some kind?”

I remember the sense of urgency and concern in Haskell’s voice when we spoke. “My gut says no, but I don’t think we should rule anything out.”

Zack nods.

“According to Haskell, it’s not unusual for Amy to go incommunicado when she’s finishing a project. But it’s highly unusual that she’d up and leave town without telling her. And Patterson’s car is still in the building’s parking garage.”

“I assume they checked local taxi and car services?”

“Yup. That turned up zip, too.”

“No signs of a struggle in her apartment?”

I push back from my desk. “Not according to the police report. I haven’t personally searched the place yet. It hasn’t been declared a crime scene. No sign of foul play. Haskell said she couldn’t get away from the gallery this morning. She’s the only one there. But she’ll give us the keys so we can check the place out on our own. She’s expecting us.”

He rises. “Want me to drive?”

“Sure. The Haskell Gallery is on Prospect Street. I can give you directions.”

Zack follows me toward the elevator. “I know where Prospect is.” He punches the call button. The doors slide open instantly. He holds them and waits, allowing me to enter first.

He did most of the driving in Charleston, which made sense. We were in his territory. San Diego is mine.

“You aren’t one of those guys who pretends they know where they’re going because they’re too stubborn to take directions from a woman, are you?”

We face forward. The doors close.

“Do I look like one of those guys?”

The elevator makes its descent. Our reflections stare back at us in the polished steel of the panel door. Zack’s expression remains neutral.

“Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes you think you know a person, and then you realize you don’t really know him at all.”

He nods. “I suppose that’s true.” There’s a hint of sadness in his tone. Zack’s shoulders tense—a reaction so brief I doubt he’s even aware he reacted at all. “Everyone has secrets.”

He makes his way toward the exit and I wonder again what really brought him to San Diego. I wonder why he left his pack behind in South Carolina. I wonder if he’s joined one here. Mostly I wonder if he’s been wondering about me.

We walk through the foyer of the FBI building into the light of day. I pause, close my eyes, and tilt my face up toward the sun. How many more days will pass? How many more women will I have to save? I silently recite the same words I do every time I go out on a new case. Redemption could be one rescue away.

“You coming, partner?”

Zack has passed me and is waiting next to one of the Bureau’s many black Chevy Suburbans parked near the entrance.

Before I can answer, a silver BMW convertible pulls into the lot. It whizzes by, making a sharp right turn and pulling up to the row of SUVs directly in front of Zack. The car’s curves are sleek, its paint job gleaming. A woman steps out of the driver’s side. Zack’s eyes are glued to her. I can’t blame him. Her long legs emerge first, toned and sporting a pair of expensive red heels that boldly accentuate her black-and-white dress. As she approaches Zack, she removes her dark designer sunglasses and the silk scarf covering her head. She’s pretty, even-featured. Her makeup is meticulous. Long blond hair spills out and hangs loose in waves that brush her shoulders.

The tension in Zack’s body tells me the woman is more than a stranger stopping to ask for directions. He knows who she is and he’s not happy to see her. His shoulders bunch, his mouth turns down. I can’t quite make out what she says to him as she approaches, but his response is clear. He shakes his head and motions her away. The gesture is understated, discreet, but it carries with it a sense of finality. He looks past the woman, at me.

Her head turns, following his line of sight. Her eyes connect with mine briefly before she dons the glasses once again. The fraction of a second is all she needs to convey a warning. All I need to determine that she, too, is Were. One intent on marking her territory? I resist the urge to let my hand slide to my hip, where my gun rests securely in its holster. I choose instead to annoy her further by smiling and waving.

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