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Authors: Rebecca York

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In Search of the Dove (8 page)

BOOK: In Search of the Dove
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When she heard him move down the hall again, she grabbed a robe and scurried into the bathroom. A long hot shower washed away some of her body’s aches and postponed the moment of truth. But finally there was nothing she could do besides slip into a cotton shift and march forth to meet her own dragon.

As she entered the kitchen, he was sitting at the table, his large hands wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee. He was dressed in his jeans but had borrowed a clean T-shirt from Aubrey’s dresser. It was a size too small and emphasized the strength of his chest and arms. There was something about his posture that suggested brooding frustration. Sensing her presence, he looked up, his gray eyes unfathomable.

Michael’s gaze swept over the woman he’d held in his arms last night. He’d told himself that there hadn’t been any emotional involvement on his part. But the sight of her made something inside his chest contract. She was wearing a simple amber cotton shift and sandals. With her curly hair still wet from the shower and no makeup, she looked like a teenager. He could see that she was struggling to keep her features neutral, yet it was impossible to completely hide the embarrassment she felt.

“How are you doing this morning?” he finally asked, his voice very gentle.

“I feel as if I’ve been run over by a Mack truck.”

He laughed, grateful for the touch of humor. Then he sobered again. “How much do you remember about what happened last night?”

Her cheeks flamed and she looked away. “Too much.”

“You don’t take drugs, do you?”


“That’s one reason it hit you so hard. And they must have given you a huge dose.”

She shuddered.

“How about some café au lait?”

“Thanks.” She watched as he got up and made the half milk—half coffee concoction with the practiced ease of a man who was used to taking care of himself. When he returned to the table, she had pulled out the chair opposite his.

“What can you tell me about the drug’s effects, besides...?” He didn’t have to finish the sentence.

“At first I couldn’t move. Then I felt as if I was flying.”

“You said that in the car.”

She nodded.

“Did it affect your senses?”

Her eyes widened. “Yes! They were mixed up and very intense. I could feel things that I usually only see, taste things that should have been aromas.”

“Like what?”

She looked down into her coffee. “The scent of your body is like a deep pine forest. I could taste it,” she mumbled and then paused. “Please don’t make me talk about it anymore.”

He took a sip from his mug. Her words brought back memories of the way her skin had felt under his fingers—like warm silk. And the way her body had moved restlessly against his. Damn! This was a hell of a morning after. He wanted to reach across the table and cover her hand with his. Not knowing whether she’d welcome the contact, he decided not to take the chance. Besides, he reminded himself, he had no intention of getting emotionally entangled with this woman. They both needed to distance themselves from the intimacy that had been thrust upon them. He had better stick to business.

“Jessica, this is difficult for me too, believe it or not. But I need information.”

“Who are you, Michael Rome?”

“I’m a drug enforcement agent.” There was no need to tell her what else he was.

“So you were just doing your job last night?”

“It was more than that.” Suddenly, despite his recent resolve to be strictly objective, he needed to bridge the gap between them. He pressed his fingers over hers. She flinched but didn’t pull away.

“Michael.” Her voice was very low. “I have to ask you a question.”

He waited.

“Am I addicted to Dove? Am I going to go crazy the way my brother did?”

He squeezed her hand reassuringly. “You’re going to be all right. It takes more than one dose to cause addiction.”

She let out the breath she’d been holding. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Listen, Jessica, how did you get mixed up with those guys?”

“I was trying to help Aubrey. You heard about what happened to him. The doctor told me it might help if he knew what he’d taken.”

“But you knew it was Dove. You said so on the campus.”

“I didn’t know Dove was a drug. I didn’t know what it was.”

“Where did you hear the name? From him?”

She looked down again. “From you.”

“Come on, I didn’t let that slip.”

“You didn’t need to. I got the image from your mind.”

“Do you expect me to believe that?”

“It’s the truth. Sometimes I can do that.”

He let out a curse. “After last night, I thought you might be willing to level with me this morning.”

“Is that why you were so accommodating?”

He ran an exasperated hand through his thick hair. “Damn it, no. You were a fellow human being in need.”

“Spare me the pop philosophy.”

They glared across the table at each other. Jessica broke the eye contact first. “I’ll show you what led me to Harley’s.”

“That ought to be interesting.”

She got up and moved to the living room. In a few moments she reappeared with the napkin, which she flung onto the table.

He picked it up, noting the cheap recycled paper as well as the printed “H,” doodles, and number. “So, what’s that supposed to prove?”

“I’d never been there. But when I held it in my hand, I could see my brother sitting in one of the booths with another man—who turned out to be Lonnie.”

He raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Do you tell fortunes too?”

“I’m not surprised at your attitude. After all, you
a policeman.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Forget it. Don’t you have to go question that guy you handcuffed to the water pipe?”

“I checked in with the police this morning. That guy’s not going to tell me anything. After we left, Lonnie apparently came back and killed him.”

Her face whitened. Lonnie had killed his friend to keep him from talking. What had he planned for her?

“These guys are playing for keeps.” He pushed back his chair and stood up. “So listen, baby, stay out of this from now on.”

The offhand endearment was the same one he had used so tenderly the night before. The way he said it now made her feel patronized. Despite his frightening words, she bristled. “Don’t think that last night gives you any right to tell me what to do.”

“Well, my official capacity does. Keep your nose out of my investigation.”

Without waiting for an answer, he turned on his heels and left the apartment.

* * *

had also had a close encounter with Dove during the night. Unlike Jessica Duval, she had administered the dosage herself and knew exactly how much to take to get the desired effect. After all, the drug had started out as a chemical distillation of rare swamp plants that had been used in voodoo rituals for generations.

She wasn’t addicted, but when the silver disk of the moon hung round in the sky, she allowed herself to fly on the white wings of the Dove. For those who took the drug intravenously, the aphrodisiac effects wore off with overuse, and the next phase of addiction was a lot more violent. She knew how to avoid the danger by making it into a perfumed cream that was absorbed slowly by the skin. Even in this relatively safe fashion, she never overindulged.

Each man who was invited to share the ceremony of the full moon with her counted it as an honor. Into the small hours of the morning under the stimulation of the drug, she and her chosen partner paid tribute to the goddess of love again and again with their writhing bodies. The pleasure was beyond compare. But, as the ritual demanded, each man was required to leave her bed before the first rays of the sun tinged the sky with pink.

She was feeling thoroughly replete when the phone rang around nine. But she wondered who in the Crescent City had dared to disturb her on a day she was known to be fasting after the moon ceremony.

Her tone was imperious as she answered. When she heard the voice on the other end of the line, the haughty words she had intended froze in her throat.


Jackson Talifero from the island of Royale Verde was the only white man who knew that secret voodoo name, or who would dare to use it.

She sat up in bed, pulling white satin sheets up around her breasts. The contrast against her richly colored skin was striking. “What do you want?”

“You know what I want. Gilbert Xavier.”

“He isn’t here.”

“But you know where he is.”

“He’s in the city. He wouldn’t tell me where he’s hiding. But I’ve made sure he won’t leave.”

“How did you do that?”

“He came to me for help. I gave him a potion ’to ward off his enemies.’ It was really a charm to bind him to this place.”

A string of imprecations sizzled across the phone wires. “You’re using that voodoo garbage for something this important!”

The priestess’s voice dripped with venom. “It suits your purposes well enough when you want it to.”

“That’s just for show.”

“Don’t be so sure. If I wanted to I could cover your body with boils—or something a lot worse.”

His voice took on a steely edge. “But you know very well that if anything happens to me, a very thick folder on your activities will be delivered straight to the New Orleans police commissioner. It would make very interesting reading—particularly the times your sacrificial ceremonies have gotten out of hand.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Push me and find out.”

They were both silent. It was a stalemate that had spanned almost a decade. Each had a grip on the other’s throat. The one whose hold loosened first was the one who would strangle to death.

Talifero finally broke the silence. “Xavier on the loose is a threat to both of us. You’re a lot safer if you deliver him to me.”

“The man is about to crack. If you take him by force, he’s liable to do something crazy, and you’re not going to get what you’re after anyway.”

Unfortunately, the woman was probably right. “Can you help him make the right decision?”


“You’d better.” He didn’t say what would happen, but the threat was there nevertheless.

Despite her bold manner, Moonshadow shuddered. She could sense the long arm of Jackson Talifero stretching toward her from the Caribbean island of Royale Verde. She suspected that it had the power to reach all the way to New Orleans.

* * *

laid down the black sheets of paper covered with tiny white letters and glanced at her watch. It was already close to 3:00 p.m., and Amherst would be waiting for her in the solarium—probably rattling the teacups.

After taking off her half glasses, she rubbed her aching eyes. Whoever had come up with the idea of photostating microfiche should be roasted in hell—preferably while reading a continuous ream of the stuff. Perusing the blurry white letters produced an almost instantaneous headache. Long association probably led to blindness.

Thank goodness the newer material was being archived to optical disks and could be accessed from the terminal in the Aviary. But when the information needed had to be dug out of the old newspaper articles, there was really no alternative to the microfiche.

The photostats had been sent by special messenger from the Library of Congress this morning. A rapid scan of the material had verified the startling contents. Knowing that the Falcon would want a summary, she’d set to work at once.

Within minutes she printed out a report, slipped it into a folder, and was on her way to the solarium.

Gordon was indeed almost at the edge of his control. Glancing up as she entered, he bit back a sharp comment about punctuality. He knew his assistant had spent the better part of the day getting ready for this briefing. If she’d been able to finish any sooner, she would have. Besides, judging from the glint in her usually calm blue eyes, he surmised that she had found something very interesting indeed.

However, he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of asking what it was. The folder lay between them on the table while she poured herself a cup of tea and cut a piece of the chef’s excellent chocolate butter cake. The rich concoction was almost an adequate compensation for her labor with the photostats, she thought.

“I’m sure you’re eager to hear what I’ve found out,” she told the Falcon after she’d enjoyed several bites of cake.

Her employer grunted.

“Jessica Duval is quite an unusual woman.”

“Go on.”

“Twelve years ago when she was a junior in high school in New Orleans, a seven-year-old girl in the neighborhood disappeared. When Jessica handled the girl’s schoolbooks and scarf that were found in the woods, she had some sort of extrasensory experience in which she visualized the child being trapped in a dry well. She was able to lead the police to it and they found the child battered but still alive. The girl had been molested. She was so frightened by the whole experience that she wouldn’t talk about it at all. Naturally the papers sensationalized Jessica’s part in the rescue.”


“Jessica was quite upset by the publicity. And her parents, rather than giving her support, told her that her psychic ability meant she was possessed by the devil. However, the next time a child disappeared, the police came to her for help. She was afraid to have anything to do with the case. But when they insisted, she went behind her parents’ back and provided the lead necessary to find the boy. He, too, had been molested, and as in the first case, he refused to talk about what had happened.”

The Falcon reached for the folder on the table and quickly scanned the material. “Do you believe she accused the right man when she named the molester?” he finally asked.

“Why should she have made it up?”

He shrugged. “Hysteria, maybe. The need to find a convenient target. Like the Salem witch trials where young girls went around accusing old women of putting spells on them. Later, after several poor souls had been hanged, they confessed their little prank.”

“In the Salem incident, as I recall, the girls were egging each other on. Jessica acted on her own. And she was certainly right about the location of the missing children. I’d say there’s no parallel at all.”

BOOK: In Search of the Dove
5.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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