Yay! Here is a sneak peek of Checked In, the next Autumn Rain Imprints novel, which I’m working hard on now. You can read the description and see order links here.
Oh, and by the way, I grabbed this right from my manuscript, which means there will be additional tweaks and edits before the book is published. Entire paragraphs may disappear or I might write new ones, depending on feedback. I might even make up a new word. That is exactly what a work-in-progress means. It’s unedited. After it’s finished for real, I’ll update the chapter here. Hope you enjoy this sneak peek!
The sight of the bed and breakfast belonging to Shannon’s parents made me forget, at least for a moment, the strange circumstances bringing us to Jacksonville Beach, Florida. I’d been expecting Haven Retreat to be a nice place, maybe even something special, but the lovely red-bricked Victorian mansion set in a copse of lush trees swept my breath away. The hanging baskets of cascading white and pink flowers set at regular intervals along the wide wraparound porch beckoned welcomingly and the attached gazebo made the place look like something from another time.
“That’s strange,” Shannon said as we climbed from our white rental sedan. “They usually rush right out to meet me, or at least Mom does. I texted her when we landed.”
“Maybe she’s making dinner.” My stomach rumbled at the idea. Part of our agreement with Holt and Bonnie Martin for coming here was that they provided meals. Shannon had bought a lunch on our flight from Portland, but I was pickier with my food choices and had to content myself with snacks from my carryon. Even though it was only two o’clock in the afternoon back in Oregon versus five in the evening here, I was famished.
“Maybe.” He went around the car to open the trunk.
I tore my eyes away from the gray-roofed third-story turret on the right and reached into the back seat to grab our carryon luggage. For all of three seconds, I considered donning the white jacket I’d been wearing on the plane over my red tank top and flowy red and white skirt but decided I cared more about relief from the August heat than I did about making a good impression.
Shannon hefted the suitcases, and we started up the flower-lined walkway toward the porch. The cement walk felt warm on my bare feet, not hot as I’d expected. Perhaps because of the many trees, bursting in bright pink and ivory blossoms, that arched partially over the walk. Someone here had a green thumb, and I was betting it was Shannon’s mother.
“There’s a parking lot around the side,” Shannon said, “but it’s easier to dump the luggage here first. At least it is if we’re in the Wedding Suite instead of the cottages.”
He’d told me that each of the seven rooms inside the house had theme names, like Royal Chamber, African Safari, Space Walk, and Sea Scape. They sounded nice, but I was personally crossing my fingers for one of the three cottages instead. I’d met his parents at our wedding and liked them, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about spending the second week of our honeymoon under the same roof.
We arrived on the porch, where none of the bed and breakfast guests were in sight among the inviting clusters of wrought iron furniture. I hoped their absence didn’t tie into the reason we were here, because we still had no clue as to why his parents had insisted that we come.
I was leaning toward a mystery we could solve quickly with the combined advantage of my psychometry ability and Shannon’s homicide detective skills. For free flights and a week at the beach, it would be well worth our time, even if they hadn’t been family. But an uneasy feeling in my gut had me wondering why his parents would go to such costly measures and interrupt our honeymoon—certainly not for something easy.
Shannon’s father, who was a retired beat officer with the Portland Police Bureau in Oregon, should have skills and connections enough to solve a casual mystery, even if he’d hated police work and had left the force the minute his twenty years had been served. But maybe I had it all wrong, because Shannon suspected financial woes, health problems, or structural issues with the bed and breakfast itself.
This last seemed unlikely as we entered the unlocked house and stood in the wide, vaulted entryway under an enormous gold chandelier. Not one but two sweeping staircases led to an upstairs floor. Two kinds of vibrant paper decorated the walls, from the elaborate chair rails clear up to the thick, ornate crown molding. An amazing free-standing coat rack stood to the left of the door, and an antique wall table that I envied sat next to it. Several nice paintings, one of which I was sure was an antique, completed the entryway.
“Wow,” I murmured feeling torn in every direction. I wanted to pull off the thin polyester gloves I’d worn to protect myself from stray imprints, as I usually did now in public places, and explore the house, reading all its secrets. But I’d remove them soon enough, depending on why we were here, and what I could do to help his parents.
Shannon chuckled. “I knew you’d like it. Of course, it didn’t always look this way. My parents did all this wallpaper and trim work themselves.” He set the suitcases on the marble floor. “No use taking these up before we know what room we’re in.”
I dropped my bags and sniffed deeply. “Smells like heaven. Your mom has to be in the kitchen.”
He took my hand, and we followed our noses into the kitchen—or I followed my nose because Shannon had obviously been here before. Soft singing reached our ears as we entered the large kitchen where a huge island and off-white cupboards greeted us. A lovely bronze-skinned woman with black curly hair pulled back in a loose ponytail was behind the counter, chopping vegetables and singing in a language that sounded somewhat like Spanish but definitely wasn’t. She wore jeans, topped by a bright orange tee.
She stopped singing as she noticed Shannon. “You’re here. Good!” She looked a little too relieved to see us, especially since we were expected.
“He’s here! He’s here!” shouted another voice, the tone higher and a little muffled. An instant later, two heads with short, black hair popped up behind the counter, one on either side of the woman, each belonging to a boy that looked exactly like the other, their skin tone a shade lighter than their mother’s. They rushed around the counter and threw themselves at Shannon.
“Whoa,” Shannon said as he bent to give them a simultaneous hug. “How’ve you guys been, huh?”
“Will you play hide and seek with us?” asked one of the boys. “Mom’s too busy working.”
“Not now, he won’t,” the woman said, picking up a towel to wipe her hands. “Remember what I told you? He’s on a honeymoon. And he has to help Vovô.”
“That stinks,” the boy retorted.
“Dimas Eduardo da Silva de Carvalho de Santos Ribeiro!” his mother said. “Say you are sorry right this minute.” The part of her sentence that was in English was as good as my own; the boy’s name sounded like fluid music.
Dimas hung his head. “Sorry,” he muttered, obviously not sorry at all.
Shannon grinned. “That’s okay. Everyone, this is Autumn Rain, my wife. Autumn, this is Micaela Ribeiro and her boys, Dimas and Lucio. Micaela has worked here for at least ten years, before the boys were even born.”
Micaela came around the counter to hug Shannon and shake my hand. “So pleased to meet you,” she said. If she wondered why I was wearing gloves and no shoes, she didn’t bring it up.
“You too.” I grinned at the boys to include them, but they were poking each other and seemed to have forgotten us.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t come to the wedding,” Micaela added. “It looked beautiful from the pictures. But someone had to take care of our guests.”
“Our fault for marrying on such short notice.” Shannon motioned to the counter and the vegetables. “But since when do you cook anything besides breakfast here? And what did you mean about helping Vovô?” To me, he added, “That’s what the boys call my dad. It means grandfather in Portuguese.” Looking back at Micaela, he added, “My mom hasn’t given me any details about why we’re here, and this whole thing is a little strange. My dad’s not sick, is he?”
Micaela shook her head, her forehead creasing. “I was preparing one of the guest rooms when your mom called me down to watch the food because the police were here. They wanted to talk to your dad.”
Shannon gaped at her for several long seconds before questions rushed out: “Why? How long ago? Where are they?” The fact that the police were here on a Saturday wasn’t a good sign.
“They went out to Rose Petal Cottage. That’s where your dad is. You just missed them.”
“But why do they want to see my dad?” Shannon demanded.
Micaela turned her attention to the boys and snapped her fingers. “Saiam! Esperem por mim lá fora.” The boys straightened immediately, alerted by the tone in her voice, and hurried from the room.
When they were gone, their mother heaved a sigh. “You know about Welby Carr, right? The owner of Magnolia Inn next door?”
“That he died?” Shannon nodded. “I was sorry to hear.”
“Well, his granddaughter, Lyndia, was supposed to inherit the inn—she’s been running it all this time with him since her parents died. But Welby’s other son, Nigel Carr, showed up out of nowhere a few weeks before Welby died. He’s been terrorizing Lyndia ever since, trying to steal the inn from her. Then a week and a half ago, he went missing.”
“Maybe he went back to whatever gutter he crawled out of,” Shannon muttered.
Micaela snorted. “I doubt that. Lyndia says he plans to sell Magnolia Inn to a big developer, who will make more of those box-sized retirement apartments, or maybe a high-rise hotel. He wouldn’t have gone anywhere without a big pay-off.”
“But what does all that have to do with Shannon’s dad?” I asked, sensing Shannon was growing more frustrated by the second.
“Nigel claimed the land one of our cottages is on actually belongs to Magnolia Inn, even though Holt and Welby had an agreement. Holt was furious when he learned about it, and he confronted Nigel at Magnolia Inn the day before he left to attend your wedding. No one has seen the man since. And it looked suspicious that your dad was out of town when the police started searching.”
“But that’s got to be old news now,” Shannon said. “Something else must have happened to bring them here again.”
Micaela nodded. “That’s what I think. But they would only talk to your dad.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll clear this up.” Pursing his lips, Shannon turned on his heel to head back the way we’d come. I hurried to keep pace with him.
“You might as well take your luggage out in a golf cart,” Micaela called after us. “Your mother put you in Rose Petal Cottage. That’s why your dad’s out there, making sure it’s ready.”
“Well, that’s something, at least,” Shannon said to me as we hefted our luggage once again. “Once we figure this out, we’ll have all the privacy we want.”
“I don’t know,” I said, keeping my tone light. “You were really looking forward to that heart-shaped tub in the Wedding Suite.”
We were out on the porch now and Shannon stopped short, turning to me, suitcases still in hand. “We shouldn’t have come. This was our time. I’m really sorry.”
“Of course, we had to come. I’m part of your family now, bad timing and all.”
He stepped closer until our bodies were tantalizingly close. “I’ll make it up to you.”
“We’ll make it up to each other.” With a wink, I hurried down the steps ahead of him.
As Shannon promised, there was a small parking lot on the side of the house, partially hidden by more flowering trees. An unmarked police cruiser was there, clearly recognizable by the state license plate and the light bar embedded in the front grille. There were also two golf carts, and we loaded the suitcases into one of these. Shannon started it up with a code he typed into a tiny touch screen.
From the parking lot we could see a tiny bungalow with a swing set, slide, and play area. “That’s Family Chalet,” Shannon said, steering onto a wide cement path cutting through the yard. “Rose Petal Cottage is next. It’s the prettiest, so I’m not surprised Mom put us there.” He allowed himself a smile. “She likes you.”
I wasn’t sure we’d spent enough time together in the two days they had been in Portland to be sure of that, but I was determined to do what I could to encourage a relationship with his parents. How I’d eventually tell them I could read emotions imprinted on certain objects, I had no idea. Shannon hadn’t believed I was anything but a fraud for months, even when he was half in love with me, and they’d raised him, so I figured my chances of them easily accepting my strange ability wasn’t strong.
“Frontier Cabin is the closest to Magnolia Inn,” Shannon said into the silence. “That’s the cottage on the disputed land Micaela was talking about. It was derelict for years before my parents talked to the neighbor and took it over. I can’t believe the guy’s son is trying to steal it from them. I remember hearing he was the black sheep of the family.”
“Maybe his past has caught up with him.”
“If it has, this could very well be a homicide my dad’s stumbled into. My parents should have told me earlier.”
“I agree.” I removed my gloves, stuffing them into my bag, and reached to take one of his hands from the wheel, holding it in mine. “But I’m kind of glad they didn’t.” The private week we’d spent alone in the Oregon mountains had been a slice of perfect.
His heated look sent a shiver through me. “Yeah. You’re right.”
After passing Family Chalet, the sidewalk turned sharply to the right around a bush, revealing the next cottage. Roses grew all around the small, tan structure, climbing up trellises against the house. Dark brown trim and a thatched roof gave it a quaint look, as if Snow White lived there with her dwarf companions.
“It’s amazing,” I said, drinking it all in.
Shannon chuckled as he stopped the golf cart, but it sounded forced. “Door’s open. Looks like they’re still here.” Leaving the luggage where it was, he vaulted from the cart and hurried toward the house. I went after him.
Inside the cottage, short Bonnie Martin stood in the center of a room that was not only a sitting room, but a kitchenette and dining nook as well. She stood with her hands on her ample hips, her pale, freckled face tinted with heat and her strawberry blond hair matted to her head with humidity.
Two people stood near her, a thin, wiry man with blond hair, whose dress pants, white button-up shirt, and shoulder holster screamed detective, and a wideset woman with close-cropped hair and skin as dark as midnight, who loomed over both of them. They were all staring upward away from us at a loft that jutted out over the kitchen and dining area.
“Are you just about finished?” Bonnie called up to the loft.
“Almost,” Holt answered. “Don’t get your panties in an uproar.”
“Whatever that means,” she grumbled. “How long does it take to put one little gift basket up there? The officers need to talk to you, and our son will be—” She broke off as she glanced in our direction and noticed our arrival.
“Oh, sweetie,” Bonnie rushed toward us, in a flurry of gray and yellow floral, throwing her arms around Shannon. “I’m sorry I wasn’t at the house to meet you. Dinner’s almost ready. Are you hungry?”
Shannon stared down at her with a frown. “No, I’m not hungry. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on here?”
Ignoring her son’s question, Bonnie stepped over to hug me too. “How was your flight?”
“Long.” I smiled to soften the response. “We read, though. I even dozed off. I can sleep anywhere.”
Shannon blew out an impatient breath at the small talk. “You should have told us about this,” he said to his mother. To the detectives, he added, “Is my dad a suspect? If you’re planning to arrest him, you’d better have solid evidence.”
“You must be the homicide detective son.” The female detective strode over to meet us and extended a hand to Shannon. “I’m Detective Nisha Wallace and this is my partner, Detective Remy Burke.” Wallace’s black dress pants and short-sleeved, wine-colored shirt could belong to any civilian, but the badge and large gun clipped to her waist said otherwise.
“I’m Shannon Martin.” Shannon shook her hand and that of her partner.
“Autumn,” I said, reaching for Detective Wallace’s hand as I hadn’t her partner’s. She wore a ring, and I was curious to see what might be printed on it. The scene came in a vibrant flash, pulling me instantly into it. For that moment of the imprint I was Detective Wallace, experiencing all her feelings and seeing through her eyes.
“If the chief wants an arrest to shut up the ex-wife, I say we give him one,” Detective Burke said to me from the passenger side of our vehicle. “The blood shows that Martin guy knows more than he’s told us.”
“Maybe,” I said with a glance at him, my fingers clenching the wheel so tightly that my ring dug into my flesh. “But without a body, it’s all circumstantial. If we mess up, we’ll be passed over for the next promotion.”
“Well, we can at least bring him in for questioning.”
I frowned. If we brought him in, the chief would make us arrest him. I had more time on the force, and I was a woman besides, so I’d be blamed if someone else ended up being guilty, or if the missing man turned up unharmed.
A new imprint was beginning as Wallace drew her hand from mine. She was staring at my eyes, so she’d noticed my heterochromia—my left eye was blue and my right hazel, a genetic condition I shared with my sister and biological father—but she didn’t ask about it.
I wished I could tell Shannon what I’d seen from her ring. Knowing that these detectives were under pressure to make an arrest, even if it wasn’t the right arrest, might help him know what to say to them.
“You’ve known about my father’s argument with the missing man for more than a week,” Shannon said, not catching my intense stare. “What’s changed?”
Detective Wallace opened her mouth to say something, but Holt spoke from the loft, drawing her attention. “Glad you two got here safely.” He stood next to the small railing which appeared to be more decorative than secure. In his hand he carried a large wicker basket stuffed high with items I couldn’t identify. “Guess our surprise is ruined, though,” he added good-naturedly, lifting the basket. He frowned at the detectives. “Why are you here again? Did you find Lyndia’s uncle?”
“Mr. Martin, if you’ll please put that down,” Detective Wallace said, tipping her neck back to see him better. “We need to ask you a few more questions.” It didn’t escape me that her hand now hovered near her big gun. What did she think Holt was going to do?
“Oh, sure.” A line of puzzlement appeared on his brow. “I’ll put it on the bedside table, I guess. I already tried the bed and it tipped over and all the stuff spilled. That’s what’s taking so long.” He disappeared again and returned seconds later on the left side of the loft without the basket and began his descent down a steep, narrow staircase that hugged the wall.
Holt reached us in seconds, his curly blond hair and broad shoulders reminding me of Shannon, even though he was a head taller than his son. “I already told you I don’t know where Nigel Carr is,” he said to the detectives. “That isn’t going to change.”
“We’re here because forensics came back on your hoe.” Detective Wallace approached Holt warily. “Nigel Carr’s blood was found on it. We need you to come to the station for another chat about his disappearance.”
“Wait, what!” Bonnie hurried to Holt’s side, flushing an angry red. “This is ridiculous! Just because my husband argued with the man, it doesn’t mean he whacked him over the head with a hoe.”
A shocked silence filled the room—or at least Shannon and I were shocked. The detectives didn’t appear fazed.
“Where was this hoe found?” Shannon demanded.
“Here on the property,” Detective Burke said, shifting uncomfortably. “We found it in here during our initial search after we learned about the altercation between your father and Mr. Carr.”
Shannon’s chin raised an inch. “That doesn’t mean a thing and you know it. Who else has access? Everyone in the house and probably half the neighborhood.”
“Nevertheless, it was Mr. Carr’s blood,” Detective Wallace said. “We need to know how it got there.”
“Of course it was his blood,” Holt interjected, pulling the attention back to his annoyed face. “Darn fool kicked my hoe himself when I was out weeding the flowerbed at Frontier Cabin. He was wearing those ridiculous flipflops that we used to called thongs in the old days. Ridiculous footwear, even for the beach.”
Detective Wallace glared at him. “And you’re just telling us this now?”
Holt shrugged. “I didn’t spend twenty years as a police officer for nothing. I knew you’d think some dumb thing, especially when what happened was so lame.”
“And what exactly did happen?” Detective Wallace asked.
“I just told you. I was out weeding, and he comes along and asks why was I bothering when the land was his, and he was going to sell it to some big developer. It was the first I’d heard of that, so I explained that Welby and I had an agreement, and it was in his will that he wouldn’t dispute my claim.” Holt’s bottom lip curled in disgust. “Nigel just laughed and said there wasn’t a will, but I saw it myself. I didn’t slave over at Magnolia Inn for the better part of two years for nothing, so I said I’d see him in court. He tried to kick the hoe from my hands, and it sliced him good. Blood went everywhere. Then the jerk said he’d make sure the new development cut off our easy access to the beach.” He gave a sharp shake of his head.
“We have a leeway,” Bonnie protested. “Everyone uses it.”
“It doesn’t have to be in that exact spot, though,” Holt said. “And making our guests go around to something that’s not as nice, will eventually force us to lower our rates.”
“So you knew it was his blood?” Detective Wallace was like a dog with a bone.
“Yeah, and he probably had to go to the hospital for stitches.” A note of satisfaction tinged Holt’s voice. “It was his own fault, and my hoe certainly didn’t make him disappear.”
Wallace jerked her head toward the door. “Can you show me where this happened?”
Holt sighed. “Guess so.”
We followed him outside and down the cement path a short distance to the next cottage, nearly invisible behind a thick stand of palm trees and vegetation. Bonnie and Holt were in the lead, then the detectives, with Shannon and me pulling up the rear.
“It’s all circumstantial,” Shannon said, as we closed in on the detectives. “For all we know, he got gangrene. Have you checked the hospitals?”
“Of course we have.” Detective Burke gave him a sour look. “He’s in none of them. That’s why we suspect foul play.”
“If you arrest Holt, the attorney will have him out by morning,” I said. “And when we find out where Nigel really is, you’ll both look bad.” Playing on Detective Wallace’s imprint might not be fair, but this was Shannon’s father we were talking about and fair didn’t weigh into it.
Wallace slowed her steps, turning her head to meet my gaze. “We’ll wait to see if there’s anything at the site before we decide what to do.”
“But you already searched here, right?” Shannon pressed.
Detective Burke rolled his eyes. “We miss things all the time, especially when we aren’t sure there’s been a crime.”
“And you still can’t be sure.” Shannon spoke as if trying to hold in a snarl. I didn’t blame him. “No body, no way to prove a crime.” The detectives didn’t respond.
We arrived at Frontier Cabin, which was a tiny, rustic-looking log structure. Like everywhere else on the property, the trees gave it an air of seclusion, though I doubted the entire Haven Retreat was more than three-fourths of an acre, which was still a small fortune in this location.
“Right here.” Holt pointed down at an expansive flowerbed which burgeoned with wildflowers and small pine trees. I wasn’t sure how he could tell weeds from the wildflowers, but the terrain looked realistic.
We all stared, with Detective Wallace squatting down and getting close to study the dirt. “Nothing here now,” she said.
“We’ve watered every other day,” Bonnie said.
“When was the incident?” Wallace asked.
Holt shrugged. “Tuesday, I think. Yeah, that was it, a week ago last Tuesday. I stewed about it all night before I went to confront him at Magnolia Inn the next morning.” Holt took a step back. “That’s proof he was fine afterword. Lyndia was there and saw the whole thing. Look, do I have to call my attorney?”
Detective Wallace, still crouched down in the flowerbed, glanced up and shook her head. “I guess not. But I want you to write out a detailed description of what happened. And I want to know if anyone can vouch that your neighbor gave up his claim to this cabin.”
“Lyndia should be able to verify,” Bonnie said. “She’s the one who scheduled all the work Holt did on their property in exchange. Didn’t she tell you already?”
“Not that I recall.” Wallace arose.
I moved back to give the detective room and stepped into a rush of cool air. I turned to it, hoping to feel it on my face, but not a breeze stirred the trees.
That doesn’t make sense, I thought. Then I saw it, a patch of aqua blue showing behind a spray of yellow wildflowers poking out from under one of the squat pine trees. As I stepped in that direction, the cold became more apparent.
I’d felt a similar thing before in my last case, but that had been nearly a month ago now. My birth father thought it signaled a recently deceased person, and maybe it was. Or maybe I’d just stepped into the shade.
I bent and reached for the object. A baseball hat, I had time to note before I was swept up into a vivid imprint.
Dear old dad was good for something after all. Anticipation shuddered through me as I stared at the tiny cabin in the darkness, the only light coming from its small windows. Soon there would be a huge high rise hotel here, and I’d be back sitting on the beach drinking. I could appease the ball-and-chain with a cut and get her off my back. Even that no-good son of mine would have to admit that I’d done good. Too bad I couldn’t tell him the truth about how it came about. That would be signing my own death warrant.
Of course the girl was something I’d have to take care of, but she’d served her purpose for now. Maybe she wouldn’t have to end up like her grandfather.
A rustling sound made me look around, but all I saw were a few palm trees that looked out of place so near this little rustic cabin. Well, now that I’d had my smoke, it was time to get back to the inn.
A glimpse of something in my peripheral vision made me hesitate. I turned.
Pain burst into my skull, zipping across the entire right side of my head. A cry rose in my throat but stuck there without sound. I was falling, the world going dark. My face hit the ground. I smelled grass and dirt. The terrible pain ebbed until there was only numbness.
More rustling noises.
The part of me that was still Autumn knew this wasn’t my reality or even my memory. I needed to release my hold on the cap. Doing so was normally no longer a problem, but now my hand refused to obey. It had been a tiring day, and this imprint had been completely unexpected. I was still inside the imprint—and might be until the imprinter lost consciousness.
Footsteps. I knew that whatever had hit me was coming again. Who are you? I wanted to scream. Wetness dribbled down the side of my face and into my mouth. Blood. My muscles clenched, waiting for the next shot.
The scene vanished as the cap was wrenched from my hand. I gave a sigh of relief and opened my eyes as Shannon gathered me from the grass into his arms.
“You okay?” he whispered into my ear.
“Yeah.” My head pounded and my heart was jumped up on adrenaline, but I was all right. I was pretty sure whoever had imprinted on that hat couldn’t say the same.
He held my gaze for a long moment, verifying for himself that I was fine. This time I didn’t protest. He’d saved me from whatever else had been on the cap, and I was grateful. Unfortunately for Holt, I couldn’t touch the cap again—it was too dangerous.
I sat up and pulled away, noting that the others had all turned toward me, staring. Great.
“What happened?” Bonnie asked. “Are you sick?”
No way to get around explaining imprints to Shannon’s parents now—not in front of the police, of course, but sooner than I’d hoped. I opened my mouth to speak, hoping to plead exhaustion.
Detective Wallace beat me to it. “That looks like Nigel Carr’s Miami Dolfin’s hat. According to his ex-wife, he always wore it, and it’s not in the items he left behind at Magnolia Inn.” She removed a pen from a pocket and bent over to carefully pick up the cap where Shannon had tossed it. “And if I’m not mistaken that’s blood and a bullet hole.”
Shannon helped me to my feet, and we moved closer to Detective Wallace. Sure enough, there was a little hole and one side of the hat was stiff and darkly stained with what might be dried blood.
Wallace’s nostrils flared as she pulled a plastic bag from her pocket and slipped the cap inside. “I’m sorry, Mr. Martin, but you’ll have to come with us.”
“It’s still circumstantial,” Shannon said. “Even if this turns out to be this missing guy’s hat and his blood.”
Detective Wallace straightened her shoulders. Every bit as tall as Holt, her posture gave her the impression of looking down at all of us. “Will you come with us?” she asked Holt. “Or do we have to cuff you?”
Holt’s shoulders sank. “I’ll come.” To his wife, he added, “Sorry to mess up dinner tonight. You better call our attorney. He’ll know who to recommend for this.”
Bonnie clutched at Shannon’s arm. “Do something.”
Shannon gave the detectives a withering glare. “I’m coming too.” He leaned over and gave me a kiss. “Text me everything you saw,” he whispered.
We watched them go, with Bonnie’s freckled face drained of color. She looked lost and more than a little afraid.
She had every reason to be afraid, because after the imprint I’d seen, and the strange cold, I was betting that Nigel Carr wasn’t missing but very thoroughly dead.