Fans of Harper Connelly and TV’s Medium will love the psychic detective in this New York Times bestselling series....
Abby Cooper can’t believe her eyes after the police show her surveillance video of her best friend and business partner, Candice Fusco, shooting a man in cold blood. And when the cops tell her they think the victim has ties to the Mob—and perhaps Candice does too—Abby can’t believe her ears. Surely there is a logical explanation. But Candice is nowhere to be found.
Trusting her intuition, Abby decides to search for the truth in Vegas—which may be the biggest gamble of her life. Once in town she begins to uncover a rigged game of dirty double-dealing where the stakes are no less than life and death. And if she’s not careful, Abby can forget about ever leaving Las Vegas...alive.
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New York Times bestselling author and real-life professional psychic Victoria Laurie drew from her career as a gifted intuitive to create the characters of Abigail Cooper in the Psychic Eye Mystery series and M. J. Holliday in the Ghost Hunter Mystery series. She lives in Michigan with two spoiled dachshunds, Lilly and Toby, and one opinionated parrot named Doc.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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My eyes popped open just after three a.m. I’m not sure what woke me except that I had a bad feeling the second I sat up in bed and looked around. My hubby, Dutch, was sleeping peacefully next to me, the sound of his light snoring filling the room.
Instinctively I reached for my cell phone, which was facedown on the nightstand and turned to silent. I always mute my phone before I go to bed because anyone calling after eleven p.m. usually has only bad news to share, and in recent months I’ve had all I can handle in the bad-news department.
Focusing on the phone’s display, I saw that my best friend and business partner, Candice Fusco, had just called—and she’d left a message. I pressed play and held the phone to my ear.
“Abby!” the voice mail began, and the urgency in her voice made my back stiffen. “You have to trust me. It’s not how it looks.”
It’s been my experience that nothing good ever starts with those words.
Immediately I paused the message and called Candice. It went straight to voice mail. “Shit!” I whispered (swearing doesn’t count when you whisper), and tried calling her again, only to get the same result. I looked at the time stamp of Candice’s call. Three oh four a.m. It was now three oh six.
I tried a third time to reach her and again the phone went straight to voice mail. Either Candice’s phone was turned off or it had lost its charge, because otherwise it would’ve rung before clicking over.
“Where are you?” I muttered, tapping the phone to go back to that paused voice mail. “You have to trust me,” I heard the message repeat. “It’s not how it looks. But it’s gonna look bad, Sundance. Real bad. Listen carefully and whatever you do, don’t share this voice mail with anybody. This is for your ears only. I need you to go to the office the second you get this and do something for me. In the back of my closet is a wall safe. The combination is Sammy’s birthday—you remember it, don’t you?”
Sammy was Samantha Dubois. She was Candice’s older sister, who, tragically, had lost her life in a fatal car crash just outside Las Vegas when Candice was in her teens. Candice had been in the passenger seat at the time of the accident and had nearly died too. She’d pulled through after spending several months in the hospital. I couldn’t imagine how difficult that time must’ve been for her, but I knew it still affected her deeply, because my best friend almost never talked about the accident. Still, I’d see the deep emotional wound appear in Candice’s eyes twice a year on two specific dates: August 5—Sam’s birthday—and June 17, the date of Sam’s death.
I also knew that in years past Candice had kept a Nevada driver’s license with her photo but her sister’s information on it. As Candice was a private investigator by trade, she’d confessed to me that the fake ID came in handy on occasion, and it actually had come in very handy on one particular occasion that I could remember.
“Inside the safe you’ll find a file,” Candice went on, and it was then that I noticed her breathing had ticked up—as if she’d started running. “Take the file and hide it. Don’t show it or share it with anyone, Abby. No. One. Not even Dutch or Brice. I’ll be in touch when I can.”
The cryptic message ended there. I replayed it and held the phone tightly, as if I could squeeze more information out of Candice’s voice mail. And then I got out of bed and looked around the room trying to figure out what to do.
After a few seconds I did what comes naturally to me. I flipped on my intuitive switch and tried to home in on Candice’s energy.
I’m a professional psychic by trade. I have my own steady business of personal clients, and Candice and I work private investigation cases together. We work so well together that we’ve nicknamed each other after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’m Sundance, and, as there’s nothing butch about Candice, she’s just Cassidy. When I’m not working a case with Candice, or busy with my own clients, I also sideline as a psychic for the FBI—although my official title at the bureau is “FBI civilian profiler.”
Kinda makes it sound like I have a fancy degree in psychology, doesn’t it? For the record, I majored in poli-sci, and there wasn’t much fancy about it. As long as nobody asks too many questions when they read my official ID, the Feds are happy.
My husband works for the bureau too. So does Candice’s.
Brice Harrison, Candice’s husband, is my boss at the bureau. Brice and Candice were married last month, when they eloped to Las Vegas and stayed there for a week and a half on their honeymoon. I wasn’t invited to the wedding, but then, nobody else was either. I guess it’s only fair, as Candice wasn’t exactly present for my wedding to Dutch. And it was probably a little bit my fault that she hadn’t gotten married locally. My sister, who’d attempted to orchestrate my wedding extravaganza, was still looking to exercise her wedding planner muscles on someone. The rest of us were just looking to exorcise my sister. She’d been like a woman possessed ever since Dutch and I had gotten engaged, and our wedding had hardly turned out like she’d planned (and planned, and planned!).
Still, it would’ve been nice to watch Candice and Brice exchange their vows. I’m pretty sure she thought the same about Dutch and me, which is why I pretended to be thrilled when she called me from Sin City to let me know they’d eloped. I think Candice knew I was a little hurt, but the weird thing is that ever since she got back from Vegas, she’s been different.
Candice has always been a pretty cool cucumber—it’s rare to see her lose her composure—but when she came back from her honeymoon, it’s like someone turned the temperature of that cool demeanor down another few notches. She’s become a little more withdrawn, and a little more—I don’t know—secretive?
It’s not anything I can put my finger on, but lately she hasn’t been as open with me about what’s going on in that highly intelligent mind of hers. I’ve been chalking it up to the fact that she and Brice have been busy house hunting and easing into their married lives. But deep down, no matter how I’ve been trying to rationalize it, I’ve been worried about her. And my radar has certainly pinged with a sense of urgency every time Candice and I hang out. I kept thinking a big case must be coming our way that just hadn’t appeared yet, but now, in light of the voice mail I’d just listened to, I knew I’d completely misinterpreted the signal.
“Abs?” I heard Dutch whisper as I fished around on the floor for my slippers.
“Go back to sleep,” I told him. The last thing I needed was for Dutch to get involved in whatever this was before I had a chance to figure it out.
The light on his side of the bed clicked on. “What’s wrong?”
I hid my phone behind my back and adopted what I hoped was an innocent smile. “Nothing, sweetie. I couldn’t sleep, so I’m just gonna go downstairs and watch some TV.”
Dutch rubbed his face and yawned. “Is there any cheesecake left?”
“No,” I lied, willing him to roll over and go back to sleep.
Dutch blinked. “You ate six pieces between yesterday and today?”
My smile got bigger and more forced. “Yes. It was too tempting to resist.”
Dutch focused on me, his eyes narrowing. Instantly I could tell he knew that (a) I was a liar, liar, pants on fire, and (b) I was hiding something.
“Abs,” he said, his gaze traveling to the hand holding my phone behind my back. “What’s up?”
He sighed heavily. “So it’s bad, whatever it is.”
I opened my mouth to insist that there was nothing wrong when Dutch’s phone rang. He glanced at it, then looked back at me as if to say, “I knew you were hiding something.”
Heat tinged my cheeks, but I held my ground and motioned with my free hand for him to answer his phone.
“Brice,” he said as he picked up the call, and a shiver went down my spine. I knew Brice was calling about Candice, and if Brice was calling Dutch at three a.m. about Candice, whatever was going on was as bad as bad gets.
If I needed any confirmation, the expression on Dutch’s face said it all. As he listened, he visibly paled and then his jaw clenched before he said, “When?” followed by, “Where?”
I shoved on my slippers and eased out of the room. Rounding the hallway into our beautiful new kitchen, I didn’t even bother to click on the lights. I just navigated the darkness the best I could, muttering the occasional “Dammit!” (swearing doesn’t count when you bump into furniture in the dark), and making my way toward the counter with the little copper dish that held my car keys.
“Abby?” I heard Dutch call from the bedroom.
I ignored him and hustled to the door leading to the garage, so thankful that I didn’t require the use of a cane anymore. I’d had a nasty accident eighteen months before that’d nearly permanently crippled me, but with a whole lot of physical therapy (and maybe some tough love from Candice when I didn’t push myself to get off the cane), I’d finally gotten the full use of my legs back.
“Abs?” I heard Dutch call again as I slipped out the door, closing it as quietly as I could behind me. I tapped the button for the garage door opener, then hurried to the car, tucking inside my shiny new SUV with my pulse racing. If Dutch discovered that I was slipping away, he’d grill me for details, and I felt intuitively that I had to get to the office and retrieve that file for Candice because time wasn’t on my side.
I backed out of the garage and closed the door, hoping that Dutch wouldn’t see me leaving before the door closed. My hubby had coated the garage door with enough silicone to make a Slip ’N Slide look sticky. Dutch liked that it barely made a sound as it moved up and down, and at the moment I was really glad he’d used two spray cans of the stuff on the gears. It’d give me a few extra seconds before he gave chase, and I knew he’d give chase because that’s just how Dutch rolled when it came to me.
Crouched over the steering wheel, I navigated the dark neighborhood streets, for once ignoring the beauty and quiet of our lovely suburban Austin community, and drove to the office I shared with Candice. My phone rang through the SUV’s Bluetooth a couple of times, but I ignored the calls from my husband, focusing instead on getting to the office as quickly as I could.
Once I was within sight of the building, I circled the block, hoping to spot Candice’s yellow Porsche nearby, but there was no sign of it. I parked in the alley between two buildings a couple of blocks down from the office, guided by my intuition, which was sending me lots of “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” signals, and, after looking around the all but deserted streets, I got out and trotted toward our building.
Along the way, I paused once or twice to listen and look, every nerve tingling with trepidation, and at last made it to the front door. I peered through the glass, looking around, but the place was so dark that I couldn’t see anything inside.
It took me a minute to fish around my key ring for the right key—no way was I going to risk using a light to find the key—and when I finally had it, the sweat from my palms made fitting it into the lock tricky.
At last I gained entrance and practically ran to the elevator, pressing the button a dozen times until the elevator doors opened. After selecting the fourth floor, I pressed the DOOR CLOSE button another dozen times, then tapped my foot anxiously as the elevator climbed its way up. “Should’ve taken the stairs,” I muttered.
The second the doors opened, I squeezed through and rushed down the hallway to our suite. The corridor was dimly lit—the main lights wouldn’t come on for another two hours or so. Still, it was enough light to see by and I had no trouble getting in the door this time. The first thing I did was call out Candice’s name on the slim hope that she was there, hiding. I felt my phone vibrate in my back pocket and I took it out to look at the display.
It was Dutch. Again. Trying to reach me for the sixth time.
I clicked the call over to voice mail and called out again. “Candice? Honey, it’s me. Are you here?”
There was no reply and the office was eerily silent. The hair on the back of my neck stood up on end and goose pimples lined my arms. I realized I was alone and vulnerable.
Turning back toward the door, I checked to make sure it was locked, then squared my shoulders and got on with it.
Candice and I have shared the suite of three private offices and one central lobby for nearly two years. We had a similar setup even before that when we both lived in Michigan. The arrangement of sharing space together worked really well for us.
Like me, Candice had her own set of private clients—the easy adultery cases or background-check stuff—and she and I tackled the more difficult missing persons and such cases together. It was a wonderful partnership, as we each brought something different to the investigation process. Candice had a wealth of PI experience, smarts, and a handy assortment of deadly weapons. I had my intuition, my sunny disposition, and a cache of colorful expletives I’d been saving just in case of emergency.
Candice’s office was just to the right of the front door, and my two smaller offices were to the left. Anxious to follow my best friend’s instructions and get the hello Dolly outta there before anyone was the wiser, I headed to the right of the tiny lobby and found Candice’s door closed. I tried the handle, but it was locked. “Son of a bitch!” (Swearing doesn’t count when your best friend doesn’t tell you she’s locked her office door and you need to get a secret file from the back of her closet before the poop hits the fan.)
Standing back from the door, I thought for a second, then remembered that I had a spare key to her office hidden somewhere in my desk drawer. We’d exchanged keys just in case of an emergency right after we’d signed the lease, but I hadn’t seen the key since I’d moved in.
Grumbling to myself, I moved back through the lobby to my office and over to the desk. Once there, I risked turning on the little lamp at the edge of my blotter and began rummaging around in the drawers when I felt that same prickly tension creep up my spine again.
I stopped rummaging and turned off the desk lamp, listening for any sound that might suggest I wasn’t alone. The seconds ticked by without incident, but instead of feeling less anxious, I began to feel even more nervous.
Turning around, I moved to the window and peered outside, and that’s when I saw a patrol car ease its way down the street. “Shit!” I hissed. (Swearing doesn’t count when you’re creeping around in the middle of the night and you think the cops may be about to rain on your parade.)
As my heart rate ticked up, I swiveled back to the desk and used my phone to shed some light on the drawer, frantically pushing at all the odds and ends I’d shoved into my desk over the past two years. And then, miracle of miracles, I found the key. “Eureka!”
Clutching it to my chest, I hurried out of my office and back ov...
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