“Ridiculous,” she said, switching the television off abruptly and promising not to turn it on again for another six months.

At Pacific Pet Hotel, the business she’d been scraping a living off of for the past five years, Sidney found something far more unsettling than the Sunday morning news: Candace Hegel’s hell-hound, stalking the fence line.

“Why me?” she whispered, slowing to a stop in front of the gate and resting her head against the steering wheel. It made no sense. The kennel was miles from Sidney’s house, but she knew with one hundred percent accuracy that this dog’s barking had disturbed her slumber.

Grumbling, she got out of her truck to unlock the gate and roll it open. As she drove into the small parking lot, the dog made no move to follow. He merely watched as she exited the vehicle again. By the time she called the police department, he could very well bolt.

She knew enough about dogs to understand that this one would need careful handling and a lot of finesse, two attributes she didn’t associate with most officers of the law.

Keeping her truck door open, she whistled engagingly. “Go for a ride?”

He sat on his haunches.

On impulse, she lowered the tailgate and sat, thumping the space next to her. “Go for a walk?” she tried.

He didn’t move an inch.

She sighed, feeling a reluctant respect for a dog that couldn’t be bought so cheaply.

After disengaging the kennel’s rinky-dink security alarm and entering through the side door, she wrenched open a can of puppy food and dumped it into a stainless steel bowl. Grabbing another bowl, she filled it with water from the sink and walked back out.

He was still sitting there, watching her.

She placed the bowls just inside the fence line. His jet-black nose quivered with interest, but he didn’t move. Intending to trap him in once he came, Sidney rolled the gate until it was almost closed, leaving him just enough space to get through. As she waited for hunger to overcome good sense, she studied him.

It had to be the same dog. He was tall and rangy, more German Shepherd than Australian, now that she saw him in person. He probably weighed at least ninety pounds, and he didn’t have that energetic, innocuous expression Aussies wore. His ears were straight up, not floppy, alert rather than playful, and his coat was more wiry than soft.

If not for his coloring, he’d look purebred, but that thick, charcoal-gray fur, liberally spotted with black, was a dead giveaway for his mixed heritage. Blue roan, they called it.

“So what’ll it be, Blue?”

He cocked his head to one side.

“Is that your name?” she asked softly, not surprised she got it on the first try. She had a gift-or a curse, to be honest-for guessing right.

The dog entered the space warily, his hind legs shaking, ready to run. Instead of going for the food, he came right to her, sat down and put his head against her jeans-clad thigh in a move that was positively heartbreaking.

“Oh, honey,” she said, securing the fence behind him and placing her hand on his trembling head.

In an instant, she was swept away into a maelstrom of images.

Blue was running, running. His teeth were numb from chewing and his head hurt. Fuzzy. Everything was fuzzy.

He was running in shallow water, through fields and over gravel roads, running. Running away from the bad man, the pain, the sound of gunshots and the acrid odor.

He had to follow the river.

He had to get back home.

The last thing he remembered was walking with his mistress, like any other day, before everything went fuzzy. He woke up in a strange car, chewed and clawed and broke his way out. He searched for his mistress, knowing she was hurting.

He smelled her blood.

Then gunshots and the bad man and now he was running.

He had to get home, find his mistress. So he was running. Running along the river that flowed into the ocean, running home…

Sidney lifted her hand, returning slowly to reality as the stream of consciousness ended, feeling drained. She hadn’t experienced such a strong outpouring of emotion in a long time, maybe never, and she was far out of practice. Her touch didn’t always produce a vision, which made her particularly unprepared for the strong ones.

Normally she took precautions against physical contact, even with animals, but the dog had been so forlorn, so needy. She couldn’t deny him the simple comfort of her touch.

“Damn,” she whispered, hating herself for being so careless. Keeping this information from the police would be like failing to report a heinous crime. Whether they believed her or not, she led the risk of ridicule, humiliation and exposure. “Damn,” she repeated, trying to think of a way to share what she knew without sacrificing her anonymity or revealing how she’d discovered the information.

She clenched her hands into fists, and felt a hot sting cut into her palm. Opening her hand, she saw that a chunk of safety glass had embedded itself in her skin. Scowling, she yanked the glass out and threw it aside before she realized it might be evidence.

Examining Blue critically, she saw burrs, stickers and a few more shards of safety glass. Perhaps he was carrying enough clues in his mottled gray coat as to make divulging her secret unnecessary.

After all, what did she know? Dogs weren’t exactly a fountain of specific information, any more than humans were. Brain waves weren’t as easy to read as storybooks, and visions didn’t provide foolproof information.

She rested her elbows on the top of the fence, a more practical problem occurring to her. The police would have to open the gate to get in, or to get Blue out. If he ran away, and she figured he was wily enough to do just that, so would the evidence.

She’d have to take this troublesome mutt to the station herself.

Lieutenant Marc Cruz had seen better days.

Deputy Chief Stokes had sentenced him to two Sundays of desk duty as punishment for failing to use his allotted vacation time. He couldn’t, in good conscience, take off in the middle of a case, and it seemed he was always in that unenviable position. Worse, she was making him catch up on paperwork, his least favorite activity.

He hated sitting at his desk almost as much as he hated idle time, but for every minute of actual police work it seemed like he had to complete an hour of computer-generated logs.

“I’ve got a lead on a missing person,” Stokes said to the mostly empty room.

Marc straightened immediately.

“Some woman outside says she’s got Candace Hegel’s dog.”

Dog? He hunched down at his desk, trying to make himself invisible.

No such luck. “Cruz, you and Lacy take it,” she said, narrowing her shrewd eyes on him. “After Crystal Dunn yapped her fat mouth all over the news about the connection to Groene, we can’t afford to treat this like anything but a possible homicide.”

He arched a glance at his partner, Detective Meredith Lacy, who was hiding her smile behind a manila folder. She was here on Sunday because she was new, barely out of beat, and didn’t have any choice in the matter.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said under his breath.

“What was that?”

“I said we’re on it,” he replied, and Lacy strangled a laugh.

Stokes waved a hand in the air, indicating that his presence was annoying and superfluous. She’d been especially testy since the trail for Anika Groene’s killer had grown cold, but she couldn’t seem to stay home, or let it go.

“Your favorite,” Lacy said as they walked down the hall.

“What’s that?” he said, his mind still swimming with computerized forms.

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