Authors: Heather Webber
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #chick lit, #Heather Webber, #Lucy Valentine
After thanking him profusely, I limped to the end of the block. I was out of breath, and Ebbie was voicing her displeasure at being jostled.
I shaded my eyes against the sun and peered down the road. There was no sign of Raphael, Graham, or the skateboarder.
I must have looked truly pathetic because several people stopped to ask me if I was okay.
Although I reassured them I was fine, I most definitely was not.
That bear was my link to
My link to finding her.
I needed it back.
“I’m sorry,” I said to Ebbie as I limped to the Porcupine. I couldn’t keep carrying her around like this. It wasn’t fair to her.
A sudden anger at Jeremy Cross flared within me. I recognized that I was transferring my feelings to him, but I didn’t care. Someone needed to bear my wrath, and he was the most convenient target.
Not that there was anything I could do but fume. I had no way of contacting him whatsoever.
As I leaned against the brick exterior of the building and waited, I realized I was still holding my cell phone. I didn’t know whether to call the police at this point or not. I decided to wait for Raphael to get back.
Ten minutes later, Graham reappeared, drenched in sweat. “Did you catch him?” I asked.
Shaking his head, he doubled over to catch his breath. Finally, he said, “That friend of yours is one fast guy. He was still following him.”
A sinking pit was widening in my stomach. A mix of panic and dread.
“Let me get you a drink,” I said. He looked about to keel over from the heat.
He nodded, but as we turned to go into the Porcupine, he grabbed my arm. “Look.”
It was Raphael, jogging down the sidewalk. He looked about as bad as Graham, but when I saw what was in his hand, I nearly cried in relief.
It was the baggie containing the pink bear.
When he got closer, I limped over to him and threw my arms around him.
“Huh,” Graham said. “How come I didn’t get that kind of reception?”
Raphael pulled away. “Uva, I’m all sweaty.”
“And smell, too, but I don’t care.” I reached for the bear and hugged the package to me. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am.”
His eyebrows dipped. “For an old bear?”
“It’s not just an old bear,” I murmured.
“In that case, I’m glad it bounced out of your bag during the chase. We should call the police,” he said. “The thief still has your bag. Your wallet is in there, yes?”
“Come. We have to take action. Cancel credit cards, change locks. There’s much to do. “You,” he said to Graham. “Come inside. We’ll get you a cold drink.”
“I’d appreciate that,” he said, following us into the Porcupine.
While Raphael disappeared into the kitchen, I sat on the same stool I had before, with Ebbie on one side and Graham on the other. I said, “I bet you didn’t expect to run a marathon in a hundred degree weather this afternoon, did you?”
“Not hardly.” He admired his bicep. “Even though I’m in spectacular shape, I was huffing and puffing after two blocks.”
There was no lack of ego with Graham. “Thanks for going after the guy.”
“I’m just sorry we didn’t catch him.” He flashed bright white teeth at me. “Because I know what it’s like to lose a wallet...”
Subtle, he wasn’t. “Give me your hand. Let’s just do it this way because it’s really hot upstairs, and I don’t want to be responsible if you have heat stroke or something.”
agerly, he thrust out his hand.
“Think about your wallet, okay? Color, what’s in it, that sort of thing.”
Taking a deep breath, I placed my hand atop his. The second our palms touched, my mind spun with images. I tried to pick out details and take mental notes of what I was seeing. Finally, I took my hand away and drew in even breaths to chase away the dizziness that always accompanied a reading. “Your wallet is in a taxi, under the driver’s seat.”
He slapped his head. “The taxi! That makes sense.”
“Didn’t you realize your wallet was missing when you paid the fare?”
With a sly smile, he said, “Annie paid.”
Boobalicious Annie Hendrix, from the Diviner Whiners. “And you let her?”
“Hey, I’m a modern guy. I let girls pay for things.”
I bet he did.
After grabbing a napkin and a pen from behind the counter, I wrote down the taxi information and passed it to him.
“Thanks,” he said. “I owe you.”
I glanced toward the kitchen door, wondering what was keeping Raphael. “Not after chasing that guy you don’t. Let’s call it even.”
“Deal,” he said. Then he nodded to my hands. “Can you do a reading on yourself? To find your own wallet?”
With the tip of my finger, I traced the myriad lines on my palms and shook my head. “I’ve never had any success.”
“Want me to try?”
This was unfamiliar territory. I wasn’t used to people offering to do readings for me. And I really wasn’t used to Graham being nice. “We can try.”
He held out his hand, palm up. Slowly, I lowered my hand on top of his. Since he wasn’t thinking of anything he’d lost, I had no visions. Instead, I watched him closely. His eyes squeezed shut, and his thick eyebrows drew downward in concentration.
Suddenly, his eyes popped open and filled with wonder. “I think I saw it!”
Shock rippled through me. “Really?”
“It was at a house. Sitting on a kitchen counter. Nice house, too. Two story colonial, pewter with black shutters. The kitchen is top of the line. Stainless steel, Caesarstone countertops.” A flash of anxiety crossed his face and he shook his head.
“What?” I asked.
It was as if a dark cloud sat atop his head, blocking out his usual brightness. “It’s weird.”
“What is?” His sudden unease was starting to make me feel anxious, too.
“Your driver’s license... No. This doesn’t make any sense.”
“Graham. Just tell me.”
His gaze met mine, and I couldn’t decipher what was in his eyes.
“It looked like your driver’s license is tacked to one of the cabinets.” He paused for a second, and then looked away from me.
The hair rose on the nape of my neck, and despite the heat, goose bumps popped up on my arms. “You’re not telling me everything.”
“It just...it doesn’t make sense, Lucy. And I don’t want to worry you.”
“Telling me you don’t want to worry me makes me worried. So you already failed. Tell me. I’m a big girl.”
His jaw shifted side to side, the only external sign of the internal war he was apparently having with himself. Finally, oh-so-quietly, he said, “Your license had a red bullseye drawn on it.”
Okay, maybe I wasn’t such a big girl after all, because suddenly I was scared silly.
“But that’s crazy, right?” he added.
“Looney tunes,” I said, trying to play it off. “Are you sure?”
He gave himself a good shake. “I don’t know. This is all new to me. I could be wrong. I’m sure I’m wrong. It was just a kid who snatched your purse. Probably a druggie looking for some quick cash. Nothing sinister about it. You were an easy target, that’s all.”
I wanted to believe him, but couldn’t shake the heebie-jeebies. “Do you know where the house is? Did you see an address?” It had to be somewhere close since Graham couldn’t see into the future. What he saw had to be happening right now.
“I didn’t think to look. Do you want to try another reading?”
I nodded and held out my hand. I’d had to teach myself to look for clues that would lead me to the location of a lost object. It was a learned art, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised that Graham hadn’t seen the address. With more practice, details would become second nature.
I held out my hand again, and his warm palm settled over mine. His eyes squeezed shut, but this time when he opened them, there was no
He said, “I didn’t see anything. Were you thinking about the wallet?”
“Then I don’t understand.”
“It’s me,” I answered. “As much as I’m trying to concentrate, my mind is spinning. It’s interfering with the reading.”
“Try again?” he asked, holding out his hand.
We did, with the same result. Nothing.
“It’s no use right now,” I said.
With a quick swipe, he smoothed back his hair. “This psychic stuff isn’t as easy as it looks.”
No truer words had ever been spoken.
Raphael strode up to us, carrying a tray. He set the tray on the counter and passed us two glasses of ice water. “I finally got hold of the police. Someone will be here shortly.” He handed me a bag of ice. “For your foot.”
I’d been doing a good job of ignoring the pain, but suddenly it throbbed. I hooked my foot on the rung of Ebbie’s stool and winced at the sight. Between the swelling and the purple and blue bruising, I knew this wasn’t a simple ankle twist. I balanced the ice bag on my foot, and bit back a curse at the pain.
and shook his head. “This is the third mugging out front in the past week. At this rate we’re going to have to hire security.”
I was about to tell him of Graham’s reading, about how my purse-snatching might not have been so random, but I decided to keep the information to myself for now. There was no reason to worry Raphael when Graham wasn’t one-hundred-percent positive of his vision.
was worried. Yes, readings could be misconstrued, but a bullseye over a picture was pretty specific.
A red bullseye at that.
Red like blood.
And just like
I felt queasy.
“Do you think the police will need to talk to me?” Graham asked. “I’m meeting a client in an hour and need to make a stop,” he said, holding up the napkin with the taxi info. “And I need to shower. I’m never going to sell a house smelling like this.”
“No,” I said. “No, you’re not.”
He gave me a wry look.
“What?” I asked. “I was just agreeing with you.”
Raphael said, “We can handle the police. I can give a description of the punk.”
At least he hadn’t said “perp,” what with all the reading he’d been doing lately.
Graham pushed away from the counter. Glancing at me, he said, “You’ll be okay? Maybe I should call later and check on you.”
I adjusted the ice bag. “You’re not getting my cell number, Graham.”
He looked at Raphael. “Can’t hurt to try, right?”
“It can, in fact, hurt. Especially if Sean finds out.” Raphael wiped his forehead with a napkin.
Graham had met Sean a few times at our meetings. “Let’s forget I even asked, okay? Here’s my number in case the police need to talk to me.” He dropped a business card on the table, waved, and walked back into the sunshine.
I smiled as he left, then turned my attention to the pink bear, sitting on the counter next to the salt and pepper shakers. Relief flowed through me. Raphael put his hand atop mine and gave it a squeeze. Then he glanced over my shoulder. “The police are here.”
By the time the police took a report of what happened, and I’d called and canceled all my credit cards, it was after four o’ clock.
And there was still no sign of Sean.
“He doesn’t have much, does he?” Raphael set a stack of boxes on the floor and inspected Sean’s room at my father’s penthouse.
I’d been calling Sean practically nonstop for the past hour. No answer. The calls went directly to voicemail, and after the third message I stopped leaving them. It hadn’t seemed right for Raphael to pack Sean’s things alone, so I’d tagged along.
“Most of his belongings are in storage,” I said, looking around. After his previous relationship didn’t work out, Sean and his dog Thoreau, a tiny Yorkie, had moved in with Sam and his family. When they overstayed their welcome, they moved here. It was win-win. My father had someone to watch his beloved penthouse while he cohabitated with my mother, and Sean had a place to live rent-free while we tried to figure out our future.
Thoreau had not greeted us at the door with his usual yips and bouncing, so I figured that wherever Sean was, he had the dog with him and that Thoreau had not been dognapped (again!).
Why wasn’t Sean returning my calls?
Taking a deep breath, I let Ebbie out of her carrier and tried not to stress out about Sean.
Raphael lifted an eyebrow. “Your father’s allergies...”
I still wasn’t feeling too kindly toward my father, so I said, “Just make sure his Epi-pen is around.”
Raphael shook his head. “If he finds out...”
Limping, I walked over and closed the door to keep Ebbie confined to the room. After I solemnly promised him I’d have my injury looked at by a doctor, Raphael wrapped my foot with a thick bandage, and I’d abandoned my wedges in favor of a pair of flip-flops bought from a street vendor. “You weren’t here.”