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 Claimed by the Immortal

by

Rachel Lee

Chapter 1

Police sergeant Carolyn Hamilton stared at her captain with utter disbelief. He was a large man with one of those Irish mugs that seemed to perpetually smile, even when it was totally inappropriate to. Like now. “I’m suspended?”

“Not suspended. Indefinite medical leave, Caro.”

“I’m fine! There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“Except for seeing things that are impossible.”

She glared at him, grinding her teeth. Captain Malloy was usually a good boss. Until today she had even liked him. “I saw what I saw.”

“That’s the problem, isn’t it,” he said kindly. “Men don’t get lifted into the air and impaled on the horns of a stuffed elk head by invisible forces. Just doesn’t happen.”

“I saw it happen. You explain how he got there.”

Malloy shook his head. “I’m sure we’ll figure it out. In the meantime, you were involved in a shoot-out last week and that can have unpredictable effects. Delayed shock, that sort of thing.”

“Captain...”

But he shook his head sternly. “Take the time, Caro. I don’t want anything to keep you from getting promoted to detective next month.”

That effectively silenced her, although it didn’t prevent her from grinding her teeth some more. She’d worked hard for that promotion. If he was going to hold that over her head, she’d better do as told.

But she didn’t have to like it.

At least he didn’t ask for her badge and her service pistol. She grabbed a few things from her desk, then headed over to Robbery-Homicide to talk to her friend and mentor, Detective Pat Matthews.

“I’m out of here,” she told Pat, a striking woman in her forties with short, steely hair and equally steely eyes.

“Not suspension?”

“Medical leave. Indefinite.”

Pat waved a hand as if to reassure her. “After that shooting last week...”

“Pat, I never even had to draw my gun.”

“That’s not the point. You go running around here talking about that guy being impaled, your credibility will be shot. Understand? So you’re going to take this leave with all the grace you can muster, and you can probably come back in a week or so if you just don’t talk about this anymore.”

“I know what I saw.”

Pat’s eyes softened a shade. “I believe you. I believe that you saw it. I believe you didn’t imagine it. But we’re cops, Caro. We don’t handle that kind of stuff, not as part of our jobs and not as part of our worldview. You need to stop talking about it.”

“Great. I see a guy murdered and have to shut up about how it happened.”

“Only around here,” Pat said. She pulled open a desk drawer and hunted around a bit, then handed a business card to Caro.

“Messenger Investigations?” Caro asked.

“Jude Messenger handles the kinds of things we don’t. The kinds of things we can’t. He’s on the weird side, evidently suffers from some medical problem that makes it impossible for him to tolerate daylight, but he’s never let me down yet. You talk to him about this, Caro. He won’t think you’re crazy.”

At that moment, Caro honestly didn’t know if that was good or bad. She had to admit her story sounded nuts, but she had actually seen it happen. What would it mean about a guy who would believe it without seeing it?

“I’m serious,” Pat said quietly. “This isn’t cop stuff. This is Jude Messenger stuff. He’s good, he’s honest and you can trust him.”

* * *

Caro wandered the streets for two hours after leaving the station. She was back in civvies, her pistol at her waist under her navy blue jacket in a belt case. Its weight seemed to be all she had left to remind her of who she was.

Worse, she continued to feel watched. It had started right at the moment she had witnessed that man’s killing, and the feeling hadn’t left her since. She was a little psychic but had always kept that to herself, knowing her grandmother’s insistence that she was descended from a long line of witches wasn’t any kind of proof that would hold water with her fellow policemen.

And she should have had the sense not to mention what she had seen in that house. What in the world had made her think it was her duty to relay a story no one would believe? Simple, stupid honesty, that’s what. Because it was her job to help solve such crimes, not impede investigations by withholding information.

Hah!

Now here she was, wandering the darkening streets alone, with neck-prickling certainty that whatever had killed that man was now keeping its eye on her. Who the hell would believe that?

But she couldn’t ignore it any more than she could ignore what she had seen. Finally, not knowing what else to do, she caught a bus to go see Jude Messenger.

* * *

She found Messenger Investigations in one of the seedier parts of town. Not unusual for a P.I. who probably made less than the average cop. The office was just below street level, but there was a light on over the door, making it possible for her to see the steps.

At the bottom, facing the closed door, she hesitated. He wasn’t going to believe her. She didn’t know how much more of that she could take. Yet Pat had recommended him.

She scanned the signs beside the door, saw the agency kept night hours only, but Pat had warned her that Messenger was ill. She also saw a security camera and a button to push for entry.

It seemed like a lot of security for a small-time P.I. She pressed the button, though, and heard a voice say, “Can I help you?”

A young woman’s voice that sounded just a little suspicious. Cataloging impressions was second nature for Caro after eight years as a cop. Why would the woman be suspicious?

She shrugged the thought away. “I’d like to see Mr. Messenger. Detective Pat Matthews sent me.”

The magic words worked, because she heard a buzzer and was able to open the door.

She stepped into a dark hallway that put her immediately on high alert. Light spilled from an open doorway. She headed for it and stepped into an ordinary-looking office furnished with a desk, two computers, three chairs and a sofa.

What wasn’t ordinary was the young woman who greeted her. Enough black eye makeup to keep a cosmetic company in business. Spiky dyed-black hair, scarlet lipstick, and a combination of black leather and lace clothing that straddled the border somewhere between punk and stripper. Not your typical receptionist. Who was this Messenger guy?

“Have a seat,” the woman said, indicating a chair near her desk. “I’m Chloe Crandall, Jude’s assistant.”

This day was just getting better and better, Caro thought as she sat in the metal chair with a padded leather seat. Who had a receptionist who dressed like this? A lunatic?

“So Pat Matthews sent you,” Chloe continued cheerfully. “You work with her?”

“I’m a cop, yes.”

“Cool. Pat’s a great lady. What can we do for you?”

Caro’s mouth locked closed. Absolutely nothing about Chloe inspired her to tell her story. “I need to talk with

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