Authors: Rebecca York
In Search of the Dove
To Linda, for sharing our year of adventure
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Her psychic vibrations led her into the heart of the Crescent City and into the arms of a devastatingly handsome stranger.
He changed identities the way some people changed clothes.
Jessica’s brother had gotten into something dangerous in the chemistry department at Chartres University.
The voodoo priestess knew the secrets of Dove.
Dr. Jackson Talifero—
The director of Blackstone Clinic had some unusual methods of behavior modification.
The Royal Street boutique owner wanted nothing to do with the police.
Lt. Hugh Devine—
He suspected Jessica knew more than she was telling.
Had the chemist created a monster in his lab?
The Russian had a financial interest in Talifero’s plans.
We were delighted when Harlequin Intrigue told us they would be republishing our Peregrine Connection trilogy. They are some of our favorite stories, and we had a wonderful time creating daring women and dangerous heroes and catapulting them into plots swirling with high-stakes intrigue and jeopardy.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restructuring of Eastern Europe, the world has changed at warp speed over the past eight years since the Peregrine novels were written. Yet, with spy scandals at the upper echelons of the CIA and even a terrorist attack at the World Trade Center, themes of preserving peace and the balance of world power are just as relevant today as they were in the eighties when the Peregrine Connection was written.
When we considered a setting for In Search of the Dove, we thought of New Orleans, with its aura of intrigue and romance. Over the past twenty-five years we’ve had numerous occasions to visit the Crescent City. Eileen and husband Howard honeymooned there. And Ruth and husband Norm have made several trips to the area where they explored the bayou, the French Quarter and the Garden District. One of her most memorable impressions was of the spooky above-ground cemeteries, which became the setting of a major scene in the novel.
And what better place than New Orleans to tell a story featuring voodoo and ESP? Paranormal elements have always appealed to us, and this was the first time we had an opportunity to use them. At first, we had a hard time researching voodoo because all the library books on the subject had mysteriously disappeared from the shelves. But we kept on digging, learning about secret ceremonies and potions for binding a lover or warding off bad luck. When you read the novel, you’ll see how strong a part both the rich setting and spooky themes play in our story of Peregrine agent Michael Rome and Jessica Duval and their quest to find the source of the mysterious drug called Dove.
After reading In Search of the Dove—and all the Peregrine Connection books—we were pleased with how well the books stood the test of time. We hope you think so, too.
Rebecca York (Ruth Glick and Eileen Buckholtz)
he thought he was fumbling in the kitchen drawer for a can opener, but when he turned to her, she saw his fingers were wrapped around the handle of a stainless-steel knife.
She stared at him in stunned silence, almost hypnotized by the ragged, shallow wheezing of air in and out of his lungs and the wild desperation in his dilated eyes. They might have been symptoms of a physical illness. His grip on the knife was not. He was holding it like a weapon, not a tool.
“Aubrey, no,” she whispered, astounded that she had misread him so badly.
“Why did you have to come here and interfere?” he hissed.
“I care about you. I want to help you.”
“I don’t need your damn help.” The words were flung like a slap across her face.
Though Jessica’s heart was slamming against the inside of her chest, she kept her voice calm and turned her hand palm upward. “Give me the knife.”
“I’ll give it to you all right.” As he spoke he lunged across the dirty tile floor, the weapon flashing in an arc. She screamed and dodged, slamming her ribs against the edge of the counter. She didn’t feel the injury, didn’t know that the knife had plunged into the cabinet above her, splintering the wood.
All she knew was that Aubrey’s hands were empty and that they were reaching for her throat. He was only a few inches taller than she, but his lanky build concealed a wiry strength. There was no doubt he could choke her to death.
Her own arms came up, gold bracelets jangling as she tried to find leverage against his chest, or shoulders, or face—anything. He laughed, a maniacal sound from the depths of Bedlam that froze the breath in her lungs. She might have wondered at his transformation if she hadn’t been fighting for her life.
Her nails raked scratches down his cheek, yet his angry assault didn’t slacken. Wildly she kicked at his leg, knocking it out from under him as her leather sandal flew across the room.
When Aubrey tumbled backward to the floor, he dragged her with him, tangling them both in the flowing fabric of her skirt. But she could feel him weakening. With all the strength she had left, she slammed her arm against his nose. There was a trickle and then a stream of dark blood.
He went slack, and she stared down at him, amazed that he was still breathing—and that she was too. Then she leapt toward the telephone, her fingers frantically jamming against the buttons as she punched 911.
“It’s my brother,” she said, gasping, to the night dispatcher. “He’s unconscious.”
“Some kind of drug...I don’t know. He tried to kill me.”
“Give me your location.”
She supplied the address on a side street off Jefferson Boulevard.
“Sit tight. A unit is on the way.”
The trembling didn’t start until she hung up. Then her whole body began to shake uncontrollably as the realization of what had almost happened sank into her. Her legs were putty, and she slipped to the floor, pressing her back against a kitchen cabinet. Across the room, the figure on the floor moaned, and she cringed away.
She ran clammy fingers through her short auburn hair. God, how had Aubrey’s life deteriorated in only a few short months? Why hadn’t she, of all people, sensed something was wrong?
Things hadn’t been easy for him since Aunt Edna had died, but over the past few semesters, she’d thought he was finally getting it all together. He’d been excited about his graduate assistantship in the chemistry department at Chartres University here in New Orleans, and he was close to finishing his thesis.
But then his letters had stopped. At first she’d assumed he was just busy, but the silence had continued. When she’d finally called last month, the experience had been unsettling. If Aubrey had been sullen or uncommunicative, she might have dismissed it as one of his moods. Instead, his thoughts had spewed out of the phone like popcorn from an air popper, scattering in a thousand different directions, impossible to follow. When she’d asked if anything was bothering him, he’d instantly switched from giddy amiability to cold rage.
The next call a week later had been the same. By then the bad vibrations were too strong to shut out. Leaving her jewelry boutique in her assistant’s competent care, she’d caught the next plane for New Orleans.
A distant wailing noise somewhere in the darkened city grew in intensity until it seemed to fill the inside of her head. Sirens. A memory of grim-faced, disapproving policemen made her fists clench.
Pushing herself up, she half staggered to the door just in time to admit two men in white uniforms carrying a stretcher. One made sure she was all right before joining his companion who had crouched over the limp figure on the floor.
Fingers probed, instruments flashed.
“Respiratory depression. Start the oxygen.”
“I don’t like his pupillary reflex.”
“Maybe he’s just toxic.”
“PCP?” The drug was associated with unpredictable violence.
“No. Something different. Your guess is as good as mine.”
Whitefaced, Jessica hovered over their shoulders, afraid to hear what they were saying, afraid not to hear.
“Do you know what ripped him?” one of the paramedics asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Too bad. He needs detox right away. How long has he been on the stuff?”
“Six weeks? A month?” she guessed.
The paramedic whistled through his teeth. “He’s pretty charged up. It must be something more than brain ticklers.”
The street talk sent a chill down Jessica’s spine. She watched numbly as the men lifted the stretcher and carried Aubrey’s unconscious form out to the waiting ambulance. A wave of despair threatened to drown her, but she fought it back. They might not have been close over the past few years but he was her brother, her only living relative, and he needed her now more than ever. Slipping into her sandals and grabbing her purse, she hurried outside after the departing men. She was going with Aubrey to the hospital to do what she could, even though it probably meant making a police report. And, God knew, for her that was the ultimate sacrifice.
* * *
HILE HE WAITED
for the light to change, Michael Rome studied the Bryant Hotel. With its pink plaster façde, louvered shutters, and iron grillwork, it was typical of the French Quarter, he thought. When the signal turned green, he ambled across the street, his rattlesnake boots clicking softly on the macadam. A moment later he turned into the passageway that led to the hotel’s courtyard entrance—another New Orleans hallmark. There the bright September sun was filtered through the leaves of banana and avocado trees that grew in massive planters. The tropical foliage sheltered a small bubbling Spanish tile fountain.
He stood in the cool shade, thumbs hooked over the pockets of his stone-washed jeans, as if he were a well-heeled visiting Texan debating whether or not to drop some money. The relaxed posture was a deliberately calculated effect, as was the expensive western garb, which included a plaid pearl-buttoned shirt and a wide-brimmed Stetson tilted down on his forehead. From the shadow of his hat, alert gray eyes sized up the hotel, which he knew to be a first-class establishment for discreet rendezvous. However, he wasn’t here to make himself comfortable. He was more concerned about possible escape routes if he had to leave its charming confines in a hurry.
A lithe blond dressed in a jungle-print sundress drifted to the open doorway and smiled.
“What can I do for you, sugar?” she asked, not bothering to hide her frank appraisal of the tall, whipcord-lean man who stood in the courtyard. Although his face was too blunt-edged to be called handsome, there was a certain rightness in the way his high cheekbones, square jaw, and uncompromising nose complemented each other. Somehow he didn’t look like the type who had to pay for sex.
He acknowledged her smile with a slight dip of his head. “I was looking for Daniella,” he drawled. The voice was deep, the accent Dallas. It went with the healthy tan—and probably the roll of crisp green bills in his pocket.
“She’s not here right now. My name’s Cheryl. Maybe I could help you out.” She swayed toward him, bending at just the right angle to provide a view of her creamy white cleavage.
An amused smile flickered at the corners of his firm lips. “No, ma’am, I’m sorry. I was real set on Miss Daniella.”
“I’m afraid she’s gone.”
“Gone?” He tipped back the Stetson and gave her a direct look.
“Last night she was packing like the devil himself was after her. This morning you wouldn’t know that she’d ever been here.”
He didn’t have to fake the surge of disappointment that coursed through him. He considered asking to see the empty room. But that would arouse suspicion. He didn’t want anyone to know that someone other than an eager customer was making inquiries about a high-class prostitute named Daniella La Reine.
As if undecided how to broach a slightly embarrassing subject, he hesitated for a moment, dragging the pointed toe of his boot across the flagstones. “I understand she had something special, an—ah, voodoo love potion she uses. Something that, uh—”