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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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“No, I’ll take the case.” Which was nothing unusual. Sometimes families needed his services for closure. Hell, not just his services, but psychics in general. The police could tell the bereaved over and over that it was suicide, or an accident, and they would still hold on to the hope that there was a bad guy, a reason, a focus for their rage and despair. That’s where a Psy came in—and it was one of the reasons they’d become big business, even in a world that was mostly filled with Norms who were uncomfortable with psychic Gifts. By communicating with the spirit of the dead person directly, a psychic could help families come to terms with the truth, move on, find closure. Of course, Raef personally usually preferred a good, old-fashioned murder case—hatred and anger he could deal with. Despair was another story.

“Aubrey told me she was killed.”

Raef shook himself mentally. “I thought your sister’s spirit was having a hard time communicating about her death.” He’d witnessed that. He’d asked her about her murder and she definitely hadn’t communicated with him.

“She is having a hard time communicating. When I say she told me I don’t mean that she actually said, ‘Hey, sis, I was murdered.’ I mean she told me in here.” Lauren closed her fist over her heart. “There are things she’s not allowed to put into words, but I can feel them. She and I have always been two halves of the same whole. I don’t know how else to explain it because if you’re not us, it might be impossible to comprehend. Add to the whole confusing mix that whatever is going on after Aub’s death is affecting me, and you have some serious weirdness. Raef, the truth is, even I don’t understand what’s really happening. I was hoping you could help me—help us. Please help us, Raef.”

Raef paused, studied Lauren and collected his thoughts. When he finally spoke it was slowly, as if he was processing information aloud. “The police ruled her death an accident, but your twin has made it clear to you, and only you, that she was murdered. Is that correct?”


“And even though she manifests to you, which I’ve witnessed, there still seems to be some barrier between the two of you, as if she’s being blocked or controlled by another force?”

“Yes, especially when she tries to communicate with me directly about her murder.” She sounded incredibly relieved. “You can’t know what a relief it is to talk to someone who doesn’t call me a freak and who will actually listen to me!”

His smile was authentic, but grim. “Try being a nine-year-old who can Track negative emotions, and only negative emotions. I understand what it’s like to be discounted and called a freak.”

Lauren expelled a long breath in a relieved sigh. Her shoulders relaxed and she finally took a sip of her coffee. “Good. Then we talk the same language.”

“So your sister is actually possessing you,” he said, looking up from the notes he was taking. That was unusual. Possession by a spirit wasn’t unheard of, of course, but spirits didn’t usually possess family members. He couldn’t remember ever hearing of one twin possessing another.

“Well, I don’t know if you’d call it real possession. She manifests, like she did earlier, and we can talk.” She paused, blinking hard as if trying to keep herself from crying. “I miss her. A lot. I don’t feel normal without her.” Lauren shook her head and wiped at her eyes. “But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that when she does try to communicate with me about her death, she gets ripped away from here and I can feel what’s happening to her, and it’s like …” Lauren’s words trailed off. She shuddered. “It’s like I’m being killed, too.”

“Hang on. Your sister’s already dead. Maybe what you’re feeling is her struggle to stay attached to you while her spirit is being drawn to the Otherworld. Lauren, the truth is that for most spirits it is difficult for them to remain on this plane of existence. They should be moving on.” He tried to speak soothingly, but he wasn’t good at the touchy-feely stuff. Plus, it was looking more and more as if he should just refer Lauren and her family, dead and alive, to the After Moonrise medium.

“You’re not getting it,” Lauren said, looking more and more animated. “Aubrey isn’t moving on. She can’t. He’s not done killing her.”

“Come again?”

Lauren sighed. “This is what Aubrey has been able to tell me: her killer has bound her spirit. He’s bound all of their spirits. Physical death was just the beginning of their murders. He doesn’t stop until he drains their souls of life, too. You have to find him. He’s not done killing.”


“And you know that this psychic serial killer is draining spirits because your sister told you in there.” Raef pointed to where Lauren still clenched her fist over her heart.

Her spine stiffened and her chin went up. “Don’t patronize me, Raef. I know it the same way you know you’re talking to ghosts of the dead instead of your own overactive imagination, even though no one else can see and feel what you do.”

“All right.” He nodded his head slowly. “You got me there.” He stood up and took his keys from his desk drawer. “Then let’s go.”


“To the scene of Aubrey’s accident.”

“You mean to the place she was murdered,” Lauren said firmly.

“Either way, I need to check it out.” He raised a dark brow at her when she didn’t move. “You did know that it is my standard procedure to go to the site of the death, didn’t you?”

“Yes—yes, I knew,” she stuttered. “It’s just that, well, I haven’t been back there since.”

“Not once? Not even when your sister has been manifesting to you?”

Lauren shook her head. “No.” The word was a whisper.

“I can take you home first,” he said, walking around his desk to her. “We can talk afterward and—”

“Would it be better if I come with you?” she interrupted, her voice sounding firmer. “I mean, for you and the investigation.”

“It probably would be, especially because your situation is so unique.”

Lauren stood. “Then I’ll go.”

THE TRIP FROM THE After Moonrise downtown offices to Mid-town’s Swan Lake was short and silent. Not that Raef minded. He was naturally quiet and never had understood the need most people felt to chatter uncomfortably to fill a peaceful lull. He also had to ready himself for what would happen when he visited the site of a death and opened himself to the psychic images left there. Accident or murder, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the damn park, and it was always better to take a quiet moment to center himself first.

As he drove down Utica Street, he glanced at Lauren. Her face was pale and set. She was staring straight ahead. He thought she looked like a marble sculpture of herself.

“It’s not going to be that bad,” he said, turning right at the entrance to the lake and parking his car along the curb that ringed the area. “I’m the psychic, remember?” Raef tried to add some lightness to the moment.

She turned cold blue eyes on him. “She was my sister. My twin. We’ve been together since we were conceived. Psychic or not, going to the place where she was killed scares me.”

Before he could even try to come up with something comforting to say, her gaze moved from his to Swan Lake. She shook her head and gave a little humorless laugh, saying, “It’s stupid to call this place a lake. It’s tiny. Except for having water, there’s nothing ‘lake’ about it.”

“They call it Swan Lake because Swan Pond doesn’t sound right,” he said.

She looked back at him. “I hate this place.”

He nodded. “That’s a normal reaction, Lauren. Your sister died here—of course you have a strong negative reaction to it.”

“There’s more to it than that.”

He wanted to tell her that the relatives of the dead always felt like there was more to it than simple death, even if it took their loved one peacefully, in the middle of the night, during the winter of life. Instead, he swallowed back the condescension and said, “Are you ready? You can wait here if you need to.”

“I’m ready, and I’m going with you.”

She sounded one hundred percent sure, but her face was still unnaturally pale as they walked slowly to the sidewalk that circled the oblong-shaped body of water. Raef thought that Lauren had been right—the place was no damn lake, even if it was pretty and well tended. The sidewalk had only a fourth of a mile circumference, or at least that’s what the helpful signpost said. It was the same signpost that talked about the different types of waterfowl that could be found in the area, in particular noting the mated pair of swans for which the lake had been named.

The sign also asked visitors not to feed the fowl, including the swans. And it insisted everyone except “authorized personnel” remain outside the fence that ringed the area.

“The entrance to the dock that takes you to the island is over there.” Lauren pointed down the sidewalk to their right.

Raef nodded and they continued walking. He glanced around them. The October morning hadn’t turned cold and cloudy yet, as Channel Six weather had predicted. Big surprise that they got it wrong. So it was a gorgeous morning, but an off hour, only just before 10:00 a.m. Too late for morning walkers and bird-watchers, and too early for those who liked to eat their lunch at the park. There was only a retired couple sitting on a bench on the opposite side of the lake, reading a paper together. Good. Less gawkers, he thought, while he followed the line of the sturdy green fence that ensured park visitors didn’t disturb the waterfowl. A flurry of honking and splashing pulled his gaze to the lake. One of the swans was bullying a group of ducks that must have drifted too close to his personal space.

“They’re mean,” Lauren said. “Doesn’t matter how pretty they are—they’re mean and dirty. And the biggest reason my company has to come out here so often.”

“You still have the contract to maintain the plants here?”

Lauren nodded, but she looked uncomfortable. “Aubrey wants it that way. She doesn’t like to let a little thing like her death get in the way of good business.”

“But you said you hadn’t been here since her death.”

“I haven’t. I have five employees, remember?”

Then Lauren’s use of the present tense about her sister’s wishes caught up to his thoughts. “So she communicates with you about your business?”

“She communicates with me about lots of things, just not about her murder. Actually, I don’t feel right unless she and I are talking. I don’t feel whole without her….” Lauren’s words trailed off as she came to an awkward silence. As if just realizing what she’d said, she shook her head and attempted a smile. “I’m repeating myself, but it’s hard not to. My life isn’t the same without her.”

Raef started to comment, but Lauren’s humorless laugh silenced him. “Yeah, I know. It’s normal for me to feel her loss. Normal for things to be different. Normal to grieve.” She shook her head, looking out at the small lake. “I’ve heard it all. Not one single person really gets it.”

There didn’t seem to be anything Raef could say to her that hadn’t been said, obviously to no effect, by others. Plus, maybe Lauren was right. He’d never heard of a twin manifestation and possession before. Maybe there were unusual forces at work in this death. Who was he to scoff at the abnormal? Hell, he lived in Abnormalville; even the other psychics at After Moonrise kept him at a distance. You don’t have to be a Greek god to know that if you invite Discord to a party, all hell is gonna break loose.

Shit, his life sucked.

They’d come to a locked gate in the fence, and Lauren stopped. Just inside the gate there was a small wooden dock and a slim, slatted walkway that led from it to the island of craggy stone, foliage and a waterfall-like fountain cascading down one side of it that sat in the middle of this end of the lake. “There.” Lauren’s voice was pitched low. “It’s out there that it happened.” The eyes she turned to him were haunted with sadness. “You’ll need to go out there, won’t you?”


She drew a deep breath. “Then let’s go.” Lauren flipped open the metal cap that held an elaborate keypad for the locking mechanism on the gate. Her hands shook only a little as she pressed the series of buttons that made the gate whir and click, and finally open. Without waiting for him, she strode through it and onto the dock. It was only then that she stopped, hands fisted at her sides, eyes looking at her feet, at the water, at the shore. Everywhere except out at the island.

“I’ll be right behind you,” Raef said.
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