I knew something bad was going to happen the moment I woke up. And I’m psychic (Really.), so I trust those feelings.
Usually when I get a bad vibe like that, I don’t leave my apartment. Actually, I try not to leave my apartment whenever possible. Going outside is tough when you can’t step into a café without getting a vision of how the barista is cheating on his girlfriend, and crossing the street means risking the psychic residue of a lethal car accident from two weeks earlier.
So yeah. Staying inside. I’m a fan.
But on that day, a package I really wanted had arrived, and I figured going downstairs to the apartment office would be safe enough. I stepped into the elevator and made it down one floor before the doors opened and Miss G walked in with her little dog.
I think her real name is Geraldine or Georgina or something like that. A Caucasian woman in her late fifties or early sixties, she has short, colorless hair and glasses. She always wears fine jewelry and colorful clothes, and her fluffy white dog looks like a walking stuffed animal, cleaner and better groomed than most people I know.
“Cassidy, sugar!” she cried. “How are you?”
And she loved to talk.
“Fine,” I said, staring ahead as the doors closed and resigning myself to a conversation. Hopefully, I could shake her in the lobby.
“Business going well?”
She waggled her eyebrows. “Any interesting young men to speak of?”
“I like women, Miss G.”
“Oh!” Her hand flew to her mouth. “Pardon my assumption, sugar. Any interesting young women, then?”
I looked away. “Not right now, no.”
“You know Tammy Dunlap in 408 is—”
Miss G pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Yes, she’s not really your type, is she? The girl’s as pretty as a peach, but she doesn’t have the good sense God gave a rock.”
I snorted, because that wasn’t inaccurate.
“You know you’re never going to meet anyone if you don’t get out more.” Gripping a bright pink dog leash, Miss G put her hands on her hips. “You’re such a shut-in.”
“And where are you headed?” I asked, desperate to shift the conversation away from me as the elevator doors opened on the ground floor.
“Oh, Biscuit needs a walk. Poor thing’s been wanting to go outside something awful.”
Biscuit barked and scampered forward.
“Well, try to stay cool,” I said, not envying an afternoon stroll at the height of summer in Atlanta. It had to be at least ninety outside.
I turned and crossed the shiny tile floor of the lobby, making a beeline for the front desk. To my disappointment, Miss G followed me instead of continuing to the door.
“I know. It’s hotter than Hades out there, isn’t it? My friend Louise lives outside of Portland, and I’ve been telling her nothing compares to a hot Georgia summer. Did you know some houses in Oregon don’t even have an A/C unit? Can you imagine?”
I reached the front desk and hoped she would take that as her cue to leave, but of course she didn’t.
Buck was working behind the desk that day, his name engraved on a shiny metal badge. Twenty something, Scottish roots, good-looking—though those weren’t the reasons he stuck in my mind. He was… “bright,” for lack of a better word. The psychic impressions I got off him were stronger than other people’s, and he was almost always radiantly happy, shining like the midafternoon sun.
He worked in customer service, so I had no idea how that was possible.
“Package for Cassidy Chen,” I told him.
“Oh, yeah. It’s down here somewhere…” He looked below the desk and pulled out a small cardboard box. “Here you go.”
He passed it to me, and his hand brushed mine.
The vision hit me like a bus.
Buck was lying on pavement outdoors. It was dark, car horns and other city noises drifting through the humid air. He was still wearing his uniform, a dark green polo shirt with the apartment’s logo on the top left above his name tag. And a knife was buried in his chest, blood soaking the fabric and pooling under his back.
Shock, fear, hopelessness, sorrow. The emotions slammed into me one after another, making me stagger. One of Buck’s hands was gripped loosely around the handle, as if he’d tried to pull it out before dying. And he was definitely dead. His eyes were open and glassy, and the blood had started to dry. A fly landed on his mouth and crawled along his pallid lips, and something in his sandy hair sparkled strangely…
My knees buckled, and I would have hit the floor if Miss G hadn’t grabbed me. She had a surprisingly strong grip for an older woman. She smelled like soap and strawberries, but it wasn’t enough to chase away the coppery stench of blood from the vision.
“Oh my God. What do we do? Should I call 911? I’m calling 911.”
I couldn’t see Buck (Were my eyes closed?), but I could feel his clueless panic. Biscuit kept barking, adding to the chaos, the sound like needles piercing my eardrums.
“No…” I tried to open my eyes, but my eyelids felt too heavy. My whole body felt heavy. Miss G was the only thing keeping me upright. “No ambulance. Just need to… rest.”
“I’ll get you upstairs, sugar,” Miss G said gently. “Come on now. The elevator’s right over yonder. Oh, Buck, stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off. She’ll be fine. Probably just low blood sugar. Make yourself useful and hit the button for us.”
Their voices faded in and out. I felt so dizzy that I couldn’t tell if we were in a moving elevator or not. The emotions from the vision lingered in my body, making my knees tremble. So much terror. So much loss. I couldn’t shake the image of Buck’s pale face, his expression screwed up in pain and fear even after death.
“Come on,” Miss G said. “Just a little farther.”
I stumbled along woozily. Who would want to kill Buck? And when would it happen? The vision had been set at night. Tonight? Two weeks from now? I had no way of knowing.
My knees bumped into something soft, and Miss G eased me down onto a couch. I sank onto the cushions gratefully, letting my exhausted body go limp, and waited for unconsciousness to take me.
“Don’t fall asleep yet,” Miss G said. “You need to eat something, get your blood sugar up.”
“Not blood sugar,” I murmured drowsily. “Buck…”
“Yes, he’s useless, isn’t he? Some people just fall to pieces in a high-stress situation.”
“He’s going to die.”
Miss G had no response to that.
“Stabbed…” I mumbled. “Saw it… Someone’s gonna kill him…”
I passed out before I could run my big mouth any further. I must have only been half conscious at the time, because I never would have talked about a vision if I was thinking straight. Rule number one of being psychic: don’t advertise your powers. Those people you see with signs, business fronts, and hotlines—they’re all frauds. If they were the real deal, they’d know the danger of exposing their powers to the world.
(And if you’re calling me a hypocrite because I told you I’m psychic, it’s because I’m not using my real name. I’m not using anyone’s real name and am fudging all the details so no one can find me. Anyway, I’m only writing this down as a favor to Maggie in the first place.)
I was out for a while—about an hour, I’d learn later. When I woke up, my mouth was dry, and my head felt fuzzy. I sat up groggily, a quilt I didn’t recognize sliding down my body, and found myself on an unfamiliar couch. Jolted and confused, I scrambled to my feet. I was still wearing the last thing I remembered putting on: gray slacks, white blouse, black blazer. (I always dressed dapper and professional. If I stayed home all day and wore sweatpants, I’d lose all energy and motivation.)
I twisted around, taking in my surroundings. Old-fashioned oil paintings hung on the walls along with decorative porcelain plates. The floral pattern on the curtains matched the flower print on the couch pillows, and a glass cabinet along the wall held a cluttered display of statuettes, figurines, and other knickknacks. I spotted my reflection in an ornate mirror. My short black hair was mussed, and there was a red line on my face from the couch pillow, but otherwise I looked all right.
The clatter of tiny paws on tile made me turn, and I saw a small dog come barreling out of the kitchen.
Biscuit. This must have been Miss G’s apartment. It all came rushing back to me then: the apartment lobby, Buck, the vision…
I sank back onto the couch. Biscuit jumped at my legs and barked at me.
“Hush, Biscuit! The poor woman just woke up. Give her a break.”
Miss G came out of the kitchen smiling. “Glad to see you awake, sugar. You gave me quite a fright. I would’ve brought you to your apartment, but I didn’t know the elevator code to the penthouse, and you were too out of it to answer when I asked.”
Okay. That explained what I was doing in her apartment, though it didn’t make me feel any more comfortable about it. I edged away from Biscuit, who was sitting at my feet and looking at me expectantly. Humiliation and annoyance swirled around me like cheap perfume. I didn’t want to be there, didn’t want her help. But I’d basically collapsed in the lobby, and she’d stopped Buck from calling 911, so…
“Thanks for your help,” I said through a clenched jaw.
“No trouble at all. Can I get you something to drink? Water? Sweet tea?”
“I really don’t—”
“Water’s probably best,” she said to herself as she returned to the kitchen. “It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re not feeling well.”
I felt well enough to make a run for it and eyed the door longingly. But Miss G had saved my butt, which made me feel obligated to hang around for a while. Besides, my mouth was dry, and a glass of water didn’t sound so bad.
She came back with a fancy serving tray holding a pitcher of ice water and two glasses. Sitting on the couch beside me, she poured me a glass and pressed it into my hands. It was too cold to gulp, so I sipped, trying to calculate how long I would have to stay there until I fulfilled my social obligations. Five minutes? Fifteen?
“So I did some digging while you were asleep,” Miss G announced.
“About what?” I asked.
“Buck and who would want to kill him.”
I jerked, water sloshing out of the glass and spilling onto my pants. How did she know? Had the murder already happened?
She leaned forward, eyes alight with excitement. “Now, I talked to Jo Ellen McCall in 511, and she says—”
“Wait. What about Buck?”
Miss G tilted her head. “About how you said you saw him getting murdered, of course.”
“I didn’t say that,” I said, hands shaking as my brain processed what a horrible mistake I’d made. “I didn’t see anything.”
She patted my hand reassuringly. “Oh, there’s no need to be embarrassed, sugar. I’m a little bit clairvoyant myself. When Earl—that was my second husband—had a stroke at work across town, I felt an ache in my chest and just knew something terrible had happened.”
I slammed the glass on the coffee table and shot to my feet. “You’re wrong. I’m not clairvoyant. I— I must have been delirious. I need to go.”
She stared at me, open-mouthed. “But Cassidy—”
I dashed for the front door, fumbled with the lock, and ran out. When I reached the elevator and jammed my finger into the button, I feared Miss G would come out into the hallway after me, but she didn’t. I made it inside the elevator without incident, took it to the top floor, and locked myself in my room.
Leaving my apartment had been a definite mistake.
I didn’t sleep well. I kept wondering if Buck was outside getting murdered, or if he’d already died, and his corpse was lying there all alone, waiting for someone to stumble on it in the morning.
It wasn’t my problem—or at least that’s what I told myself. I’d given up trying to warn people about my visions years ago. In the best cases, they smiled politely and then hurried away, thinking I was crazy. Worst case, they screamed at me for calling them fat (I was trying to warn them about a heart attack) or insulting their boyfriend (who was going to put them in the hospital.)
So yeah. I don’t try anymore. The one exception was when I saw my ex-girlfriend getting into a car crash, so I slashed all her tires. I didn’t see the security camera outside her apartment, hence the ex part, but at least she didn’t die.
But I didn’t see a practical way to prevent Buck’s death. I didn’t know when it would happen, just that it was dark. There was no way to narrow down the location beyond in the city on some pavement. I wracked my brain for more details, but all I remembered was the blood, the fear, and something oddly sparkly in his hair. I could warn him not to go outside at night, but even if he believed me, it might not save him. If the killer really wanted him dead, they could just find him somewhere else.
So that was that. There was nothing I could do. I should forget the vision and move on with my life. Agonizing over it wouldn’t do anyone any good.
I told myself that over and over, but I still couldn’t sleep.
In the morning, my personal trainer came over for our usual Friday session. My head was in the clouds—dark storm clouds full of dread and death—and I could barely hold a conversation with him. Once he left, I showered, dressed, and took the elevator downstairs. I told myself I was just checking my mailbox, but I wanted to see if Buck was manning the front desk. If someone else had taken his place, called in to cover his shift because he didn’t show up for work…
The elevator doors slid open with a ding, and I stepped into the lobby.
No Buck. Whitney stood behind the front desk. She was a middle-aged white lady whom I was surprised wasn’t besties with Miss G, given how she loved to gossip.
She called out good morning, and I managed a tense smile in return as I walked jerkily toward the mailboxes. Should I ask about Buck? Was he supposed to be at work today? It could just be his day off. Would Whitney even know if he was dead? Someone must have found him by now, right? His body couldn’t still be lying on the pavement.
My stomach lurched, and I scanned the room for a trash can in case I hurled. Then the door behind Whitney opened, and Buck strode out carrying a stack of cardboard boxes.
“Hey, where do you want this glitter stuff?” he asked Whitney.
“It’s confetti,” she replied. “Put it out by the pool with the rest.”
He walked around the desk and stopped when he saw me, his face lighting up. “Miss Cassidy! Hi! Are you feeling better?”
Whitney’s head jerked up from the computer screen like a fox that had scented a juicy chicken. “Oh, what happened? Were you ill? I hope it wasn’t anything serious.”
Oh, great. I did not need the entire apartment building knowing that I’d fainted yesterday.
“It was nothing,” I said. “I had a headache.”
Then I stared hard at Buck, wishing my psychic powers came with telepathic communication so I could tell him to keep his mouth shut.
He winked at me, his smile full of warmth and understanding. “Yep. Glad it’s not bothering you today.”
I shifted guiltily as he walked toward the back door to the pool area. “What’s all that stuff for?”
“Casino Night,” he said excitedly. “You’re coming, right? We’re going to have professional dealers for blackjack and stuff. Plus cocktails and food and even an Elvis impersonator. There’s a donation to get in, but all the proceeds go to local homeless shelters.” He lifted his head proudly. “I got to choose the charity this year.”
I felt like I was going to hurl again.
“Yeah. Sounds… great. I’ll be there.”
“Awesome! See you then.”
He carried the boxes outside, and I trudged back to the elevator, forgetting about my mail. Once the doors slid closed behind me, I leaned my head against the wall and let out a long, moaning f-bomb.
Miss G opened her door five seconds after I knocked, Biscuit yipping excitedly at her feet.
“I need your help,” I said. “I think the murder’s going to happen tonight.”
She beamed like I’d announced my upcoming wedding and ushered me inside. The whole story wanted to explode from my mouth immediately, but Miss G got me seated on the couch and then hurried to the kitchen, reappearing a few minutes later with sweet tea and shortbread cookies. I thought about what my personal trainer had said that morning, ignored him, and scarfed down a cookie. Then I summarized the connection I’d made between the sparkly stuff in my vision and the glittery confetti for Casino Night, possibly throwing in some anguished confessions about how guilty I felt over not wanting to help Buck earlier. When I finished, I sagged against the couch cushions.
“Have some sweet tea, sugar. You look worn slap out.”
I obediently took a sip. “You said you did some digging about who would want to kill Buck?”
“You bet I did.” She leaned forward, lowering her voice, though nobody but Biscuit was around to eavesdrop. “I heard from Jo Ellen who heard from Whitney from the apartment office that she caught Buck in flagrante delicto with Angela Galang-Dunn in the swimming pool a few weeks ago.”
I tried to remember Angela and came up with an image of a classy older Filipino woman in designer clothes. She had some big important job at some big important tech company.
“She’s married, right?” I asked. “To that red-headed guy?”
Miss G nodded. “Cillian Dunn. Finding out another man slept with your wife is motive enough for murder, don’t you think?”
“Or Angela could kill him to keep her husband from finding out about her affair.”
“Very true.” Miss G took a sip of her own tea. “I’ve been trying to think of an excuse to interrogate—er, talk to them. Casino Night should be the perfect chance.”
“Right…” I shifted uncomfortably on the couch cushion. “Perfect.”
“Would you be able to tell if they’re lying or not?” she asked.
I looked down at my glass of sweet tea. Talking about my abilities wasn’t something I ever did. No one ever took me seriously, and if they did, they were scared of me. Then again, I’d never met anyone like Miss G before.
“Sometimes if I touch someone—or one of their belongings, or a photo of them—and focus, I can get an impression,” I said. “But most of the time it comes and goes on its own. I can’t always control it.”
“Worth a shot anyway,” Miss G said.
“Yeah, look…” I forced myself to make eye contact with her. “You can’t tell anyone about my… About what I can do. It’ll put me in danger. I’ve seen it.”
When I’d first started using my powers to play the stock market, I’d raked in money with success after success. Then the vision had hit: a windowless white room, locked door and cameras always watching me, and an endless parade of scientists observing, testing, and injecting me with things. I didn’t know if it was the government or a private corporation, but I knew I didn’t want to get on their radar. So I’d purposely made a series of bad investments and lost most of my fortune.
When the weight of the vision had eased and I finally got the courage to try the stock market again, I mixed winning choices with losing ones. I gained profits much more slowly, careful to make it look natural. The vision remained fuzzy, always a distant possibility, but no longer one I was in immediate danger of triggering.
I couldn’t let Miss G change that.
“It’ll be our secret.” She smiled at me and then looked down at her dog. “Do you hear that, Biscuit? We’re not to tell a soul.”
Biscuit yipped as if in agreement. I didn’t feel particularly reassured.
“Oh!” Miss G clapped her hands together. “Can you read me?”
I blinked. “What?”
She held out her hands for me to clasp. “Use your powers on me. Read my future.”
I gaped at her for several seconds before the part of my brain that controls speech kicked in. “No. That’s… a bad idea. It might not be the future I see. It could be anything—private things I don’t want to know. I can’t—”
“That’s all right then.” She lowered her hands. “No need to panic. I won’t force you.”
I already knew more than I wanted about Miss G. I felt the aura of loneliness that infused her apartment, the reason she talked the ear off of anyone she met. Her only child had moved out of state and rarely called, and both her husbands were dead. The second had died from a stroke like she’d said, but the first…
The first had been a violent abuser. Miss G had told the police he’d died in a boating accident, that he’d been drunk and fallen overboard. He had been drunk, and he had gone overboard, but only because she’d pushed him. I didn’t blame her after what I’d seen, but I wished I’d never had a vision of it. That was the kind of secret someone entrusted you with after years of friendship, not something you should learn before you even knew their favorite food.
“Casino Night starts at five o’clock,” Miss G said. “I’ll meet you in the lobby at five on the dot?”
“Sure,” I said listlessly.
I went back to my apartment, thinking that the night was going to end in disaster. And no, it wasn’t an “official” psychic prediction, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t true.
The lounge chairs and umbrellas had vanished from the pool area, replaced by tables for blackjack, poker, and craps. An Elvis impersonator stood on a makeshift stage singing a decent cover of “Jailhouse Rock.” The heat and humidity lingered in the evening, and dealers sweated in their black vests and bow ties. I spotted Buck refilling a bowl of chips at the snack table.
Angela and Cillian were nowhere to be found, though many other residents had turned up. My apartment isn’t particularly affordable, and most people who live here are older, having retired from high-paying jobs with things like pensions and good healthcare. Then there are successful businesspeople like Angela and the rich kids whose parents pay their rent.
And, of course, there’s me.
“I’m going to grab a drink.” Miss G slung a flower-printed purse over her shoulder. “You want anything?”
She walked to the bar, having left Biscuit in her room for once. I wondered if she feared the dog might get hurt by the murderer.
I ambled over to the snack table and said hi to Buck.
“Great turnout, right?” He shined as brightly as ever. “It looks like everybody’s having fun.”
Some people were genuinely having fun. Others were trying desperately to look like they were having fun, like they were happy and successful and better off than their neighbors. The aura around the pool was a mix of excitement and jealousy, mostly. I sensed boredom from one person, desperation from another who probably had a gambling addiction and shouldn’t be here.
But I didn’t sense any murderous intent, and Buck didn’t feel afraid at all. Was I wrong? Would the murder not happen tonight?
I glanced down at the snack table, seeing sparkling gold confetti sprinkled across the tablecloth and spilling onto the floor. It would probably get into the pool and clog the filter. And I still felt sure it was what I’d seen in Buck’s hair in my vision.
Miss G sauntered back over with a fruity cocktail. “How about we play a game while we wait?”
“Not really my thing,” I said.
“Oh, come on.” She looped her arm around mine and led me to the closest poker table. “It’ll be fun!”
Thirty minutes later, I’d cleaned out Miss G and everyone else at the table.
“Cassidy…” Miss G said as I collected my chips and went to donate my winnings. “You didn’t… use your abilities, did you?”
“I told you,” I said with a smirk. “It comes and goes on its own. I can’t help it.”
She stared at me for a second and then cackled like a wicked witch. “You rascal! Why didn’t you say so sooner? You and I need to plan a trip to Vegas.”
That sounded awful. Well… maybe not too awful. It could be kind of fun. I felt weirdly conflicted.
“Oh!” Miss G grabbed my arm. “Look. There they are.”
Angela and Cillian had just arrived. She looked like I remembered: forty-something with elegantly styled hair, a simple but fashionable dress, and Gucci shoes. Cillian had never left much of an impression on me other than his bright red hair. He was younger than his wife, thirty at the most, and looked like he belonged modeling clothes in a magazine.
They split up, Cillian heading for the bar while Angela joined a group of chatting ladies.
“I’ve talked to Angela before,” Miss G said in a low voice. “I’ll take her. You handle Cillian.”
Then she left before I could decide to agree or disagree.
Shoulders slumped, I trudged to the bar, took a seat next to Cillian, and ordered a Roy Rodgers. If I was going to confront a murderer, I wanted to do it sober.
I sipped my drink and contemplated how to start a conversation with a man who was basically a stranger. Spoiler alert: as an introverted homebody, I didn’t know how to talk to people at parties.
I tried to get a read on him instead. He wasn’t giving off much, and I didn’t know if the vague sense of annoyance I received was a psychic impression or a guess based on the grumpy look on his face. He didn’t seem like he wanted to be there.
Hello, common ground.
“I wish they’d turn down Elvis’s microphone,” I said.
Cillian snorted. “For real. Whose dumb idea was this Vegas theme?”
I wanted to defend Buck but forced myself to shrug. “At least it’s for a good cause.”
Cillian took a swig of beer and didn’t reply. I still didn’t sense any particularly strong feelings from him. It looked like I would need physical contact, damn it.
I spotted a napkin holder on the bar by him and gathered my nerve.
“How’s Angela?” I asked, reaching for a napkin and accidentally brushing his arm.
“She’s fine,” he said, voice sounding like it was underwater, drowned out by psychic impressions. “Busy with work.”
He felt no rage in association with his wife, no jealousy. He didn’t give off any powerful feelings because he didn’t have any. The man was careless and content, happy to drive a Ferrari and play video games on a multi-thousand-dollar entertainment system on Angela’s dime. He knew she slept around, and it didn’t bother him.
“You okay?” Cillian asked.
“Fine,” I said, a little dizzy. I grabbed the napkin (black and gold with the word JACKPOT printed garishly on the front) and used it to dab at my forehead. “It’s hot out here, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” he grumbled. “What dumbass thought an outdoor party in the middle of summer was a good idea?”
I stayed long enough to finish my drink and then made a beeline for Miss G, who’d drifted away from Angela’s group.
“Anything?” she asked in an eager whisper.
“It’s not him. No motive. He doesn’t care about her infidelity. And he wouldn’t risk his cushy life as her trophy husband for something like murder.” Disappointment weighed on my chest, and I tried not to let it show on my face. “Did you find out anything about Angela?”
“Just that she’s stuck up higher than a light pole,” Miss G said with a roll of her eyes. “But I don’t think she’s our killer, either. She wasn’t shy about commenting on attractive men who aren’t her husband. I can’t see her bothering with something as messy as murder to hide that she’s been unfaithful.”
I sighed. So we were back to square one. I looked around the party, hoping to spot someone glaring murderously at Buck because we were completely out of suspects, when a jolt went through me.
“Language,” Miss G chided.
“Buck’s gone,” I said.
Miss G looked around and paled. “Shit.”
I searched the pool area again, hoping I was wrong and Buck was standing behind a group of people or something, but I didn’t see him anywhere.
“Okay.” I swallowed, trying to stay calm as my heart raced like I was on a treadmill. “Um… He can’t have gone far. In my vision, he was lying on pavement like a sidewalk or something.”
“I’ll check the front of the building,” Miss G said. “You look around back—and be careful!”
We rushed off. I opened the gate on the fence surrounding the pool and slipped out, moving cautiously around the building. There was sidewalk there, though I couldn’t tell if it was the same pavement from my vision. The sky overhead had darkened, and now that I’d left the lights of the pool area, it got harder to see. Air conditioning units next to the building hummed loudly, and chatter from the party was still audible behind me.
That was good. It meant if I screamed, they’d probably be able to hear me.
Movement to my right made me jump, but it was just a small animal scurrying across the grass—hopefully a squirrel and not a rat. I put a hand to my chest and took a moment to let the jackhammering of my heartbeat ease. Splitting up had been a terrible idea. What was I thinking going after a murderer alone?
And worse, what if the murderer was in front of the building? I’d let Miss G go off unprotected. What if something happened to her?
I hurried forward, intending to circle the building and meet up with her as fast as possible, but a sudden cry made me stop.
“N-No! Back off!”
It was Buck.
I raced forward and spotted him ahead by the dumpsters. He must have left the party to take out some trash. A figure advanced on him, wearing a jacket with the hood pulled up despite the heat. Even from a distance, I could tell he held a knife.
“You’re so bright,” he said in a raspy voice. “So wonderfully bright. I want to snuff that light out and drink it in.”
What the hell? The killer could see Buck’s brightness too? Did that mean he was psychic? And who was he? The hood obscured his features in the darkness. Was he an apartment resident or someone else?
My head was spinning, but every thought froze as the killer moved closer to Buck. My vision flashed again: blood, fear, death. I couldn’t let that happen.
“Hey!” I shouted.
The killer stopped, and Buck turned around with wide eyes.
“Get away from him!” I fumbled for my phone. “I’m calling the cops!”
I’d thought the threat would make the killer run away, but instead he ran straight at me—clearly intending to stab me before I could dial 911.
I wish my fight-or-flight instincts had kicked in, but nope. I went for the third F: freeze. My legs went stiff, and I gaped in horror as the man charged me with the knife. I hadn’t seen this coming. Shouldn’t I have predicted my own death? This was what trying to change a vision got me. Would my murder give Buck time to escape, or would the killer just stab him next? Oh God, why had I ever left my apartment? If I survived this, I was turning into a hermit forever and—
A gunshot went off. The killer stumbled and then collapsed onto the pavement.
About ten feet behind him, Miss G stood on the sidewalk with a small pistol in her hand.
I stared at her in silence for several seconds before I could speak. “You— You brought a gun?”
“Of course I brought a gun, sugar.” She lowered it and walked forward. “We’re chasing a killer.”
A thud came from by the dumpster, and I looked over to see that Buck had dropped to his knees.
“I should—” He was shaking. “Should I call 911?”
“Yes,” Miss G said gently. “Now’s the time to call 911.”
Buck pulled out his phone and dialed. As he spoke to the dispatcher in a shaky voice, Miss G cautiously approached the killer’s body. I could see more of his face now. His skin was pallid and greasy, stretched tight across an almost skeletal face. Even accounting for how he’d been shot, he didn’t look well. Had he been sick? On drugs? Or something else?
“Do you recognize him?” I asked.
“Never seen him before,” she said, only a few inches away from him. “I wonder—”
My vision blurred, which I figured was my near-death experience catching up to me. Miss G seemed to lose her cool too, because she staggered back from the body and nearly fell.
I rushed toward her. “Are you okay?”
“Fine.” She waved me off. “Just fine.”
We waited for the police to arrive, and then there was a whole big ordeal as we got interviewed and the crime scene got investigated. The partygoers finally realized something big had happened and came over to gawk. But most importantly, Miss G didn’t get into any trouble since both Buck and I could attest she’d shot the guy to save us.
Buck didn’t recognize the killer, either. All that time Miss G and I had spent identifying motives and interviewing suspects, and it was just some random psycho—or at least that’s what I assumed at the time.
Hours later, when the other apartment residents had retired for the night and the police were packing up, Miss G and I finally got the okay to leave. We went inside and waited for the elevator in tired silence.
“You want a drink?” I asked hesitantly. “I’ve got a pretty decent liquor cabinet.”
“No, thank you,” she said. “I’m weary and need to rest.”
The elevator doors opened, and we stepped inside. When we stopped at her floor, Miss G stepped out without a word.
“Thanks for saving me,” I called after her awkwardly.
She stopped and gave me a thin smile. “Of course, dear.”
The doors closed, and the elevator continued up to the penthouse, me too exhausted to decipher the niggling sense that something was wrong. I went to bed thinking the ordeal was over and feeling grateful to be done with it.
Anyway, you’ve probably been wondering what this story has to do with Bea. The answer is nothing—yet.
I’m just trying to give some background on how Miss G got possessed.