Through Her Eyes by Deborah Camp

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Through Her Eyes 


 
Evil roams the streets of New Orleans...


Surrounded by the romance and mystery of the French Quarter, psychics Trudy Tucker and Levi Wolfe search for a taker of lives. Combining their unique skills, they zero in on a serial killer who has been murdering for more than a decade. Their suspect is in a wheelchair, partially paralyzed in an accident a few years ago, but the latest victim was murdered after his paralysis.

Are they on the wrong track or has the murderer found a protégé to continue his reign of horrors?

 

 

 

 

Sneak Peek

Deborah Camp’s

 

THROUGH HER EYES

 

Chapter 1

 

The paint-chipped sign in the shape of a tea cup creaked on rusty hinges, barely set in motion by a lethargic breeze. The words “Madame Jazeem – Fortune Teller” written in curled, smoky letters floated above credit card symbols and “All sales final. No refunds.”

Chuckling under her breath, Trudy Tucker fanned her face with the paper fan she’d bought on Bourbon Street and looked up and down Camp Street. For late February, it was unseasonably humid even for Louisiana and only a few people were out. Her gaze lingered on a couple holding hands and laughing as her thoughts winged to her own love – Levi Wolfe, who was waiting for her back in Atlanta in the penthouse she now shared with him. Her heart constricted with longing. Was he thinking of her right now as she was thinking of him?

Three children riding bikes zipped by and waved at a woman sitting across the street on her porch stoop, shelling peanuts and tapping her foot to whatever was playing in her earbuds.

Trudy turned back to examine the wrap-around metal roof, seldom seen any more in New Orleans. They’d been used primarily on old neighborhood groceries. She congratulated herself for squirreling away that bit of architectural trivia. Levi would be proud of her. Levi, with his vast knowledge of subjects as varied as architecture, psychology, and, oh yes, all things paranormal.

“I know you hate the commercial part of it,” Quintara said, breaking into her thoughts as she nodded at the sign overhead. “But it’s necessary in this day and age. When you work for free, giving away your gifts, people don’t value them. It’s a fact, dear.”

She knew that Quintara, her psychic mentor, referred to the credit cards and “no refunds” warning on the sign, although she hadn’t been dwelling on that. But Quintara liked to think that she could read minds, so Trudy didn’t correct her. Instead, she placed an arm across her friend’s rounded shoulders and hugged her. This little jaunt with Quintara to New Orleans to attend a psychic fair was a gift after six months of nonstop upheaval mixed with extreme bliss. Last fall Trudy had agreed to work on a serial killer case with Levi and Quintara that had completely changed her life. For the good, she conceded, but she needed a few days away from the whirlwind that was Levi Wolfe just to center herself. Spending time with Quintara was an extra dollop of divine.

“You’re preaching to the choir, Quintara. I like being paid the same as the next psychic.”

Quintara patted her hand. “You’ve been doing well for yourself, dear, and I’m proud of you. You know that.”

Trudy dropped a kiss on her forehead. Quintara was her and Levi’s tireless cheerleader. “Thank you. So, you met Jazeem . . . when did you say? Twenty years ago?”

“Something like that.” Quintara stared up at the sign, watching it swing slightly to and fro, its hinges singing. “Right here in this place. She was just starting out and it was my first visit to New Orleans. This place just drew me in.” Quintara’s bright brown eyes shone in the failing light. “It was destiny, my dear. We’ve been fast friends ever since. You’ll get on like gangbusters, I promise you.” Leaning closer, she whispered, “When it comes to reading tea leaves, nobody does it better than Jazeem.”

Suddenly, the door swung open and purple-tinted light fell across them. A girl, probably seventeen or eighteen, stood on the threshold. Her straight, black hair was shiny and her brown eyes were wiser than her years. A white crop top and low-rider pink jeans exposed a large wedge of creamy brown skin and an “inny” navel. She smiled and deep dimples buried into her cheeks.

“Jazeem expects you, Ms. Quintara and guest.” Her sneakers squeaked on the gray linoleum as she stepped back. “I’m Kit Kat, her protégé. Please, enter.”

Trudy hesitated, so Quintara breezed right past her.

“Where’s Jazeem?” Quintara glanced around. “Jazeem! Get yourself in here. I know you’re hiding back there so that you can make a grand entrance.”

The interior of the front room was dark, lit only by a few tea lights and two small table lamps that had sheer purple scarves draped over them. From what Trudy could make out, the walls were dove gray. A ceiling fan whirred, stirring the long, flowing drapes at the two front windows and the wind chimes hanging from the exposed ceiling beams. The usual posters of astrological signs and seeing eyes adorned the walls. A round table just big enough to seat two or three people held reign over the room. A silver tea service on an ornate silver tray sat on the table next to scattered Tarot cards.

It was a shotgun style house, but the rooms beyond it were obscured by a deep plum velvet curtain with gold tassels along the hem.

“You’re her protégé.” Smiling, Quintara ran her detecting gaze up and down the girl. “How old are you, dearest?”

“Nineteen.”

“How long have you been studying under Jazeem?” Trudy asked her.

“Two years.”

“I wish I’d started that young.” Trudy shrugged. “I’m a novice like you.”

The curtain over the doorway parted and a strikingly sexy woman entered the room. She wore a leopard body suit that left little to the imagination and her brown hair streaked with white sprang from her head in a blown-out Afro. Smoky, cleverly applied make-up emphasized her almond-shaped brown eyes and a bronzer made her skin glisten in the dimly lit room. High cheekbones, a haughty nose, and full lips combined to grace her with unquestionable beauty.

“You think she is a novice, Kit Kat?” Her voice went along with her package – exotic and memorable. A strong Creole accent shaped her words. Although she spoke to the girl, her gaze never left Trudy.

“No, Madame. Her aura is too strong to be newly born.”

Sans doute.”

Trudy shifted uneasily. She believed she’d just been called a liar, but in a complimentary way. The woman’s gaze slipped over to Quintara and a smile of pure joy spread across her beautiful face.

“How it delights me to see you again, mon amie.” She held out her long-fingered hands and grasped Quintara’s bejeweled ones. “I dreamt of this meeting last night and it has filled me with excitement, and ultimately I hope, relief.”

The two women embraced, holding tightly to each other as the seconds ticked by. Trudy and Kit Kat exchanged a bewildered smile before the two women finally separated.

“Relief?” Quintara’s penciled brows arched. “I am intrigued. You think I will bring you relief?”

“Not you so much as your protégé.” Jazeem nodded in Trudy’s direction. Stepping around Quintara, she held out her hand to Trudy. “I am Jazeem, Trudy Tucker. Welcome.”

“Nice to meet you.” Trudy shook her hand. Her skin was cool and soft. “You think I’ll relieve you of something? I hope it’s not a debt . . . or gas.”

The others chuckled at her little joke. Jazeem kept hold of Trudy’s hand and led her to the table.

S’il vous plâit, sit. You, too, Quintara. Let’s have some tea and see what the leaves say.”

They sat at the table while Kit Kat did the honors of pouring the tea into dragonware china cups. Before Kit Kat poured the dark amber tea into her cup, Trudy lifted it toward the light to admire the translucent image of a geisha girl’s face in the bottom of it.

“Lovely,” she murmured. “My family has pawn shops, so I’ve gained a working knowledge of antiques and collectibles. This is a treasure of a tea service.” She set the cup down so that Kit Kat could finish pouring.

“It was my grandmother’s. She bought it right here on the docks of New Orleans.” She motioned to the Tarot cards scattered on the table. “Gather those into a pile, won’t you? Make some more room for yourself.” She took a sip of the tea as she watched Trudy pick up the cards and stack them. “Do you really see yourself as a novice?”

“Well, yes. I haven’t been promoting myself as a psychic for very long.”

“But you’ve had the gift your whole life.”

Trudy set aside the deck of cards and tasted the brew. It was strong with hints of orange. “I didn’t try to reconcile with it until I was an adult. Until I met Quintara.”

“You fought it.” Jazeem surmised.

“I fought and it won.”

Jazeem lifted one shoulder in a lazy shrug. “As for me, I prayed to be special. My grandmother was a voyant, but it skipped my mother’s generation. I had older and younger sisters, but none had shown any signs of the third eye. Then, when I was ten years old, my grandmother summoned me. She poured tea, read the leaves, and told me I had the gift. I was the one to carry it on. I felt as if I’d been crowned. A coronation, if you will. From that day on, she schooled me.”

From the rooms behind the plum curtain came a rattling of what sounded like pots and pans. Jazeem looked at Kit Kat and they both rolled their eyes and heaved huge, put-upon sighs.

“Is someone else here?” Trudy asked.

“Just Henri,” Kit Kat said, replacing the teapot in its cozy. “I’ll go settle him.”

“Tell him to scat like a cat.” Jazeem flicked her hands in a shooing motion before turning back to Trudy and Quintara. “He is a ghost who comes here every week or so. He was a chef and he likes to stack and unstack my skillets. La peste.” She hissed the last like a feline.

Trudy swallowed the tension that corkscrewed in her throat. Talk of earthbound spirits unsettled her. She didn’t want to believe in them, but she had little choice.

“Ghosts bother you?” Jazeem asked, clearly catching on to Trudy’s apprehension. “Have you ever seen one?”

“One. I’ve seen one. My . . . uh . . . spirit guide, I suppose you could call her. Ethel. She pops up every so often.”

Jazeem smiled, knowingly. “I have seen more ghosts than I can count.” She drank more of the tea. “A few nights ago I was driving home from visiting friends in the countryside. I passed some cotton fields and I saw . . . oh, a dozen or more spirits in those rows, picking cotton and singing low. I could barely hear them.” She looked at Quintara. “Former slaves. Why would they go back there?”

Quintara shrugged in bewilderment. “They’re caught, I suppose. Caught in a loop of time. Poor souls.”

“Can they be released?” Trudy asked.

“The right person could do so, I think.” Jazeem lifted her gaze slowly from her nearly empty cup to Trudy and then to the engagement ring on her finger. “Your Levi could set them free.”

Your Levi. The sound of that made her heart expand a little, sending a ribbon of giddiness through her. An image of him filled her mind – his achingly handsome face with his piercing dark blue eyes, strong jawline, perfect nose, and barest of a cleft in his chin. She ached for him. Seven months ago if someone would have said that the enigmatic, sexy, gorgeous, talented, Levi Wolfe would want to work with her, much less become her fiancé, she would have busted a gut laughing. The world was full of strange, inexplicable occurrences and her relationship with Levi was one of them.

“You like working with him?” Jazeem asked. “It’s a good partnership?”

“Yes.”

“And he protects you? He shields you?”

“Um . . . well, yes. As much as he possibly can.”

C’est bien. That makes me feel better about this.”

Trudy furrowed her brow and glanced at Quintara, who also looked worried and confused. “Better about what, exactly?”

“Drink the rest and let me read your leaves.”

Not sure about the whole tea leaves thing now, Trudy swallowed the last of the brew and handed the cup to Jazeem, who had slipped on a pair of cat-eye glasses. With obvious relish, she peered at the scattering of tea leaves marring the geisha’s face. Her gaze flicked up to Trudy a couple of times before she finally spoke.

“No surprise, the spiritual signs are strong. Incredibly strong. Beside you is a man. A troubled soul, but a man with a pure heart.”

“Levi,” Quintara said what everyone was thinking.

“Yes. You’ve undergone many changes and you don’t handle change very well. There are more changes to come. They will build more patience in you.” She squinted and studied the leaves for a few moments. “There is danger ahead, of course, given what you do. Ah, here is a woman – a wily, worldly woman, who will try to take what’s yours. There will always be females testing the bonds of your relationship.” She glanced over at Kit Kat and then at Trudy with a quick grin. “You must learn how to deflect them while keeping your bond strong with your man.” Looking at the tea leaves again, she wrinkled her nose. “There is a man in your future who is a real threat. He isn’t who he appears to be. He is set on disrupting your life because he is riddled with jealousy. You must step carefully and keep Levi always at your side. You see and feel more than he does, but he knows and understands more than you do about the world.”

Trudy smiled grimly. “I won’t argue with that.”

Jazeem tapped her long fingernails against the table for a few seconds as she studied the leaves. “You lack confidence in yourself and this holds you back. Quit fighting your instincts and you will become stronger and happier. You have a task ahead. A personal task that has to do with someone you love. It will take time, but the rewards will be sweet.”

She’s talking about Levi, Trudy thought. Sorting through all his phobias and inner demons had become a priority for her. And Jazeem was right. It would take time. She filed away everything else Jazeem had said for a closer inspection later. “Is that all?”

Jazeem nodded and set the cup down. “The rest you already know.”

Trudy leaned forward to examine the leaves for herself. She gleaned nothing from them. They just looked like little brown flecks and globs. “Will I get married?”

Oui!” Jazeem’s laugh was like a distant, melodic fog horn and Quintara joined in with her girlish belly laugh. Jazeem’s fingers closed around Trudy’s and she rubbed her thumb lightly across the large tear-drop shaped diamond surrounded by dark blue sapphires that Levi had chosen for her. “We don’t need the leaves for that! You have this, don’t you? Just set the date and do it.”

“From what I hear, Trudy is the one dragging her feet,” Quintara offered up.

Trudy scrunched up her nose. “I’m not dragging my feet. I’m just trying to plant them firmly before I dive into another deep end. I mean, marriage is a big deal. And we’ve only been together for a few months.”

“Since September,” Quintara said for Jazeem’s benefit. “But they met a year before that.”

“The key word being ‘met,’” Trudy emphasized. “We saw each other and exchanged a dozen words at a few of Quintara’s Psychic Roundtable sessions. But I never dreamed that he’d give me a second glance, much less want to be with me.” Sometimes, it was still hard for her to believe. Levi was a modern day Prince Charming and she was . . . well, more like Cinderella before the Fairy Godmother did a number on her.

“Lack of confidence,” Jazeem noted, her eyes warm with wisdom before she closed them slowly. Everything in the room seemed to still – even the candle flames – for a few moments before Jazeem opened her eyes again. “You have always felt as if you’re second best. You’ve taken the back seat, purposefully hiding in the shadows so that you wouldn’t be made fun of or ridiculed.”

Trudy shifted in the chair, feeling like a specimen under a microscope. She couldn’t argue with the woman, but she didn’t want to agree with her either. Jazeem’s sudden smile felt like a beam of sunlight falling on her from a cloudy sky.

“But you’re emerging from the shadows. It’s scary, but it’s good. Think of it as breaking out of a cocoon to spread your lovely wings. Let us see you, Trudy. No more hiding.”

Kit Kat came back into the room, glancing from one person to another. “Henri hit the road. He wasn’t happy about it, though.”

“Ah, well.” Jazeem’s hand slipped from Trudy’s. “That one is never happy.” She leaned back and crossed her arms. “I have a tale to tell you, Trudy. It is an odd tale and one that, I know, will haunt you as it has haunted me. Will you allow this telling?”

Trudy looked at Quintara from the corner of her eye. The woman was fairly glowing with excitement and anticipation. Quintara loved this spooky crap. Trudy . . . not so much. However, she gathered her courage and nodded. “Sure. Go ahead.”

“Right before Christmas I had a client in. A well-off lady. She comes to me two or three times a year. This particular time, she brought a man with her. She introduced him as her brother. He was in a wheelchair and he sat over there, by the door.” She nodded in the direction. “I did her reading. She likes the Tarot cards.” Jazeem picked up the deck and then turned over the top card. She hunched her shoulders as if she had a sudden chill.

Trudy stared at the Death card. From her basic knowledge of the Tarot meanings, this one signified change. Wait . . . was Jazeem reading her cards? She groaned inwardly, realizing she’d fallen into a trap when the cunning woman had asked her to pick up the cards and stack them, which was the first step in a Tarot reading.

Jazeem tapped the card with a long fingernail. “Changes for you. See?”

Trudy tensed in anticipation of the next card. A year ago she’d had her Tarot cards read by one of Quintara’s “students.” Since the woman was new at it, Trudy hadn’t put much stock into the reading – until the prophecies had begun to come true. The woman had said she would be given the opportunity of a lifetime that would greatly impact her professional and personal life. She’d said that Trudy would relocate and that wealth was in her future.

“Back to my time with the wealthy client . . . it was a difficult reading that day,” Jazeem said, capturing Trudy’s full attention again. “The man caused a disturbance. He had brought with him many tortured souls. They swarmed around him with open mouths as if they were crying or screaming. I couldn’t hear them. I could sense them. See them.” She looked toward Quintara. “You understand?”

“Yes. The souls were attached to him somehow?”

Oui. That’s a good word. Attached. They could not escape, although they wanted to leave this world for the next.” She angled forward a little, her expression so serious that it chilled the blood. “I believe this man took their lives and that’s why they circled him. Until he is punished or dead, they are tethered to him. I don’t know why. Maybe they’re angry and wish to torment him more than they wish to move on.” Jazeem revealed another card. “Ah-ha! The Empress.”

Trudy shook her head. “I’m not well versed in Tarot.”

“The Empress teaches us to be kind and put your heart into your undertakings. She also predicts an impending marriage.” Jazeem smiled impishly at Trudy and then Quintara.

“Oh.” Trudy shook her head, feeling flushed and a little giddy. All the talk about marriage was getting to her. “So, back to this man with the ghosts all around him. Who is he?”

“Forté. Desmond Forté. He lives with her. I don’t know why he is in the wheelchair. I didn’t ask anything about him because I was so . . . so . . .” She made a helpless sound and looked toward Kit Kat. “How do you say secoué?”

“She was all shook up. Rattled by her vision,” Kit Kat explained, getting a nod from Jazeem.

“Yes, that.” Jazeem waved a finger at the girl. “Mrs. Jewel – my client – Mrs. Jewel Forté Chambers said he was recently retired as a teacher. Then he interrupted her, saying she should get on with her business. Later, I wondered if he didn’t want her speaking to me about him.”

“So, you believe he’s a murderer,” Trudy said.

“A many times murderer.” Jazeem’s brow puckered and she looked at Kit Kat. “What is it called, girl?”

“Serial. A serial killer.”

Jazeem gave an emphatic nod. “That’s what he is.” She turned over another card and her eyes widened. “Ah. Look at this. Levi Wolfe makes an appearance with this King of Pentacles. He is a big influence in your life and he brings with him riches. He is at ease with his station in life and his responsibilities and he wants to share it all with you. You must allow this if you want to build a happy nest.”

Fait accompli, Trudy thought. Levi was wealthy – many millions wealthy – and that was something she was having difficulty embracing. She’d grown up being frugal and suddenly having her mortgage and student loans paid, the keys to a fancy car placed in her hand, and calling a luxurious penthouse “home” was doing a number on her.

“He’s very generous,” she said, then cleared her throat and steered the conversation away from her crazy, but good, private life. “But this man you’re talking about was in a wheelchair. So, how dangerous could he be?”

“Perhaps this is a recent thing for him. Perhaps he retired from his work because he was injured and can’t walk anymore.”

Trudy mulled it over. “Yes, that’s certainly possible.”

Jazeem turned over another card. “The Queen of Swords!” She rested a fingertip on the image’s crown. “You see the butterfly? That’s as I told you. You have experienced depression and rejection, but now you accept the truth of who you are and your destiny. Now you can fly.”

“That’s good.” Trudy examined the picture of the queen and felt some of the tension lift from her shoulders and neck.

Jazeem flipped over another card. “And the Two of Wands.”

“That has something to do with business, doesn’t it?” Trudy asked.

“It does. You are in the beginning of a new venture and it’s a good one.”

Quintara patted Trudy’s arm. “See, dear? You’re on the right track.”

“She is. You’ve already had successes and this partnership with Levi will be a prosperous and emotionally satisfying one.”

“I knew it!” Quintara beamed.

Jazeem revealed the face of another card and laughed. “The Page of Cups.”

“The psychic card,” Quintara said, also chuckling. “I’d be shocked if that one hadn’t turned up.”

Oui. But it doesn’t always show itself. I’ve read for many spiritualists and seers and it isn’t unusual for that card not to appear. That it does for you represents the depth of your talent.”

“Levi believes she hasn’t even tapped into some of her abilities,” Quintara said.

“Oh? Interesting.” Jazeem arched a winged brow. “Let’s see. One more card to guide us.” She slipped it off the top of the deck and displayed it.

“The Moon,” Quintara whispered, sending a shiver down Trudy’s spine and tension back into her muscles.

Kit Kat moved closer, her gaze flicking from Jazeem to Trudy and back again.

“This is a most important revelation,” Jazeem said, lowering her voice to a near whisper. “Deception is ahead. You must exercise extreme caution when dealing with others because they’re wolves dressed as sheep.” She pointed to the two wolves on the card that were howling at the moon. “The truth will come to you in visions and dreams. Trust your instincts even if they seem to lead you to darkness or danger. Denying what your instincts tell you to do will only bring you chaos and pain.”

“Great,” Trudy quipped as she rolled her shoulders to relieve some of the tightness. “Are we finished with the card reading now? I’d like to get back to your mysterious tale.” And away from my future and impending doom. “Do you think he killed people in New Orleans?” Even as she asked, the answer seemed to zip into her brain like an arrow. An arrow possibly released by Jazeem since she was staring at Trudy with a jarring intensity. “Oh! You think he’s the salvage yard murderer, don’t you?”

“You know of this?” Her brown eyes reflected the flicker of flames from the tea lights scattered around on the furniture in the room.

“Levi and I read about the discovery of the buried bodies in the Slidell salvage yard. It was in the newspaper.”

“After the recent flooding, one of the bodies floated up to the surface and was discovered. Others were also partly revealed. So many. They eventually found the remains of nineteen. All young, barely adults.” Jazeem removed her glasses and set them aside.

“Levi and I were thinking about looking into the murders, but then we had so much hit us all at once. I moved from Tulsa to Atlanta. Some of Levi’s construction projects were finishing up, and he had his big fundraiser event for his charity to stage, and then his personal assistant was married on Valentine’s Day and I had to persuade Levi to attend her wedding.”

“He didn’t want to? He didn’t want her to marry?” Kit Kat asked. She’d made herself comfortable on a black velvet love seat, her legs curled under her.

“Oh, no. Nothing like that.” Trudy paused, drawing in a breath and trying to word it as delicately and kindly as possible. “He has a church phobia.” She waved a hand in a dismissing gesture. “Long story. Anyway, I convinced him that he could attend the wedding and make his assistant and the man she married believe that he’d sat through the entire ceremony.” She smiled, recalling how they’d snuck into the church just as the final vows were being recited, taking their places in a pew near the back. She’d never forget how pleased Darla had been to see Levi, since he’d told her he probably wouldn’t be able to make it. So, no one was the wiser that Levi had sat stiffly, sweating, and breathing deeply in that church for only a couple of minutes before the happy couple were declared husband and wife.

“A church phobia?” Kit Kat repeated. “Like a vampire?”

Trudy chuckled. “Sort of, I suppose. He doesn’t hate churches or religions or anything like that. He had some bad experiences when he was a child and they scarred him.”

“Oh.” Kit Kat’s lower lip puffed out in a pout of sympathy. “That’s so sad.”

“Kit Kat thinks your man is . . . what did you call him? DDG?”

Kit Kat giggled and wrinkled her pert nose. “Yeah. I guess.”

“What’s that?” Quintara asked.

“Drop dead gorgeous,” Trudy translated.

“Oh.” Quintara gave a firm nod. “That he is, my dear. And he’s well aware of it.”

Trudy laughed in agreement. Levi wasn’t stuck up, but he did use his looks to get things he wanted and he did so without apology.

“You’ll send for Levi? You will expose this man for what he is?” Jazeem asked.

“It’s not that simple, I’m afraid. Levi’s wrapped up in some business things right now, which is why I’m here with Quintara. I decided to give him some space to get his work done. When I’m there, I . . . tend to distract him.” She sent Quintara a quelling glance when the woman laughed naughtily. “I’ll certainly discuss this with him, and once we’re both free, we can look into it. Hopefully, the serial killer will be caught by then. I’m sure the New Orleans police and FBI are all over this. Did you tell the police about this guy?”

“What’s to tell?” Jazeem flung her arms out. “That I sensed tortured spirits surrounding him?”

“But here in New Orleans, they must take the spiritual arts more seriously.”

Jazeem looked away, obviously troubled, perhaps even embarrassed. “A few years ago, I had another protégé.” She swung her gaze around to Kit Kat and smiled kindly at her. “Not like my Kit Kat, who is respectful. Ambrosia was headstrong. She took up with an older policeman who patrolled around here. She became pregnant and tried to blackmail him for money.” Jazeem pressed her hands flat against the table and stood up, suddenly agitated. “It was atroce. The police were here every day. Every day for weeks on end! They lumped me in with her like we were the same. From then on, they looked at me as their foe. That policeman resigned early and his wife divorced him. His children were mad at him. Turned out that the baby wasn’t his, after all. Quel bordel!

“I’m used to the police not being helpful,” Trudy said. “I just thought it might be different here. New Orleans is rife with voodoo queens, black magic, white magic, all kinds of magic.”

“It is, but the police deal with facts they can bring to court,” Quintara pointed out. “It’s understandable.” She flicked open the jeweled cover of a ring on her middle finger to reveal a watch face. “While I could bask in your company all evening, dearest Jazeem, we must be getting back to the psychic fair. I promised to meet some people for drinks.”

“I understand, but I’m sorry to see you leave.” Jazeem lifted a corner of the plum table cloth and removed a rectangle of paper. “I made a sketch of the man from my memory,” she said, offering it to Trudy. “Take it.”

Staring at the paper and feeling as if it were a key that would unlock a door she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to open, Trudy finally chided herself and took the paper. She unfolded it and examined a charcoal drawing of a balding man, moon-faced, wearing glasses. “So, he’s retired, but he doesn’t look old. Maybe in his fifties?”

Quintara leaned closer to look at the drawing. “There is something about his eyes . . .” She shook her head and sat straight again. “I don’t like him. The likeness of him gives off bad vibes.”

That’s when Trudy felt the first stirrings like the rustle of dried leaves rattling about in a corner of her mind. A shadow passed behind her eyes, dimming everything for a split-second, but it was long enough for her to recognize the telltale signs.

Someone evil was knocking at the door to her psyche. Eventually, she’d have to unlock it and let him in. It had begun and she was helpless to stop it.

 

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