Gifted Visions (Psychic Detective Romance – 1)
Copyright Chantel Rhondeau 2017
Faith Baxter struggled not to physically recoil from the darkness inside the man next to her. That was the worst part about being a psychic—Faith knew when she was in the presence of pure evil.
Dustin Granger wore a bland, sad-looking smile. He could turn on tears in his role as grieving husband as easily as flipping a light switch. Despite his acting skills, Faith Saw what he really was. The blackness surrounding him hit her with a palpable force, making even drawing in breath difficult around him.
“Janet wouldn’t just leave me,” Dustin said for what felt like the millionth time. “Something must have happened to her. The damn insurance company won’t pay out what they owe without having a body, and I need answers. I know she’s dead.”
Janet and Dustin’s two adult daughters blanched at their father’s blunt words, both blinking back tears and staring at the oak tabletop instead of making eye contact with either Faith or their father.
Faith was loath to touch anything inside the house, afraid of what memories she might See. Since walking inside twenty minutes earlier, she’d kept on her coat and gloves, careful about letting any bare skin touch anything and bring on unwanted visions of the evils that transpired inside the house. However, regardless of her personal feelings, Faith had a job to do—one which Dustin and his daughters had already paid half of her $500 fee.
Clearing her throat, Faith tucked strands of blond hair behind her ear. This moment always left her feeling exposed and self-conscious. Reading the psychic energies for strangers was never comfortable. Granted, normally she didn’t read for people with such blackness surrounding them, but for the sake of the daughters, Faith would discover what she could. If Dustin had killed his wife, the girls deserved to have a funeral for their mother and get closure.
“I need something of Janet’s,” Faith said, please to note her voice betrayed none of the chaos she felt on the inside. “It needs to be something special to her. Something she had with her at all times.”
Amelia, the older girl, stood and opened a decorative gourd that served as the centerpiece of the table. From inside, she pulled a dainty gold cross and slid it in front of Faith. “This was Mom’s. She never went anywhere without it. She wouldn’t have left that necklace willingly, so something must have happened.”
As Amelia said this, Faith couldn’t help noticing the quick darting of her eyes toward her father. It was almost as though Amelia was trying to convince her dad Janet was truly gone, not that she believed he’d done something to her.
Well, whatever had happened, Faith was about to find out.
Steeling herself against any pain Janet might have left imparted in the psychic memory of the necklace, Faith pulled off one silk glove and touched the very edge of the cross.
Pain, fear, and overwhelming helplessness hit Faith like a sledgehammer. Through sheer willpower, she forced herself to continue touching the little piece of gold.
While she didn’t always get visions, Faith closed her eyes and concentrated, knowing with this much energy, there was a good chance she’d See what happened.
“You have to leave him, Mom!”
That plaintive statement echoed around Faith’s brain for a few timeless heartbeats.
Suddenly, pictures of the house jumped at her in full color. Her cheek ached horribly and she looked up into the face of Amelia, who loomed over her, clearly agitated.
“Mom, he’s going to kill you next time. We have to leave now!”
Faith shook her head, increasing the throbbing pain. “If I leave, he’ll track me down and kill me for sure.”
The croaking voice wasn’t Faith’s own, and she understood she looked through the eyes of Janet Granger.
The younger daughter, Emily, knelt beside her mother’s chair. “Please. You can’t take this anymore. We found the perfect place to hide you. He’ll never find you. Once he stops looking, Amelia and I can move closer and see you again. For now, you have to leave. I couldn’t bear it if he did this to you again.” She sniffled and rubbed at her tear-stained cheeks. “Or if he killed you next time.”
Janet wiped tears from the cheek she could still touch. The other one had to be a mass of black and purple bruises to accompany the trickle of blood she felt crawling down her face. “If I disappear, who will protect you girls? I’m your mother. It’s my job to keep you safe from that monster.”
Amelia hugged Janet gently against her stomach. “Without us living here, he’s gotten worse on you. Emily’s busy at college and hardly sees him. She wouldn’t come over here at all if you were gone. As for me, I have my own life. Kent’s a good man, nothing like Dad. He’ll protect me if Dad ever tries anything. Once I’m sure Dad’s given up and not searching for you anymore, I won’t come back to this house again.”
“Listen to her.” Emily patted her leg. “If we’re the reason you tell yourself you have to stay, stop. Get out of here and start a real life.”
Janet’s tears came faster as bleak despair took over. “Where would I go? What would I do? I have no job skills, no money. Heck, I didn’t even finish high school.”
“It’s taken care of,” Amelia assured her. “Kent has a buddy from college who just opened a casino and hotel in Las Vegas. He needs cocktail waitresses, and Kent told him a little about your situation. He’ll help set you up with a place to stay and give you a job. He wants to help you get on your feet.”
“But why?” Janet shook her daughters away and stood, crossing the dining room to the far wall where an ornate mirror hung. Staring at her reflection, the reality was worse than she’d feared. Something in her cheek was probably broken, and what she supposed was a trickle of blood looked more of a geyser. Not that it mattered. She’d suffered more broken bones than she cared to admit over the last twenty-five years, many of them never even treated by a doctor, healing imperfectly on their own. “Who would want to help a pathetic loser like me?” she whispered.
“You aren’t pathetic,” Emily said, blinking back more tears.
“Unless you stay here,” Amelia added, putting her hands on her hips and showing a touch of impatience. “It has to be now before he gets back from the bar. We’ll steal a bunch of stuff and make it look like a robbery gone bad. Once the cops come, we’ll help forward the idea that someone must have hurt you. We’ll eventually confess our fear that you’re dead after a suitable time without hearing from you. You can escape, Mom!”
For the first time since marrying Dustin Granger, Janet felt the fluttering of hope deep down in her stomach. It could work. She could be free. Once it was safe, the girls would join her. They could all be free of that vicious man.
“Kent’s still in Las Vegas with his friend,” Amelia added, seeming to know her mom needed just a bit more convincing. “I called him on the way over here and told him dad beat you again. We have a bus ticket purchased in Kent’s mom’s name for you to use, but we have to hurry. The bus takes off in an hour. Kent will help you get settled when you arrive in Vegas, but you have to leave now.”
Janet stared at her reflection once again, watching how the light glinted over the cross around her neck. The cross Dustin gave her after the first time he beat her. With a nod, she yanked the chain from her neck, busting the clasp. “Let’s do it.” She tossed the cross on the floor, ready to start her new life.
Faith blinked several times to clear her head, withdrawing her finger from the necklace. A quick glance across the table at Amelia and Emily revealed how afraid they were. It was almost as though they screamed out their desire for her to be a fake, praying there was no such thing as psychic gifts, hoping that Faith couldn’t help Dustin find Janet.
She slowly put her glove back in place, knowing the silk fabric would act as a buffer to psychic energies. The last thing Faith wanted to do was touch something else and relive more of Janet’s miserable life at the hands of a monster.
“Well?” Dustin asked, clenching his fist with impatience. “What happened to her? Where is she?”
Licking her lips, Faith could do nothing to disguise the disgust and fear coursing through her entire being. Fortunately, Dustin wouldn’t know it was directed at him. “I don’t know how to break this gently. Your wife is dead.”
Emily let out a small squeak, and Amelia slumped into her chair. Dustin would likely read their reactions as grief, although Faith sensed the relief radiating from them. Their mom would remain safe from the monster.
“I already told you she was dead.” Dustin slammed his fist against the table. “Where’s the body? I need her damn body to get my money.”
The veneer of grieving husband had already started to disappear. Faith needed to get out of the house in a hurry.
“It’s hard to say where, exactly,” she admitted. “I could see everything that happened to the point where the robbers ripped off her necklace while trying to remove her body from the house.”
Dustin’s hard glare was difficult to look at, and Faith wondered if she was about to be beaten by a client. It was always a fear that a customer wouldn’t like what she told them. No one had ever been quite so menacing as Dusting Granger, however.
“They said something about mountains,” she hurried on, making the lies up as quickly as she could. “I had the sense of something to the west. Are there mountain ranges out there?”
Dustin snorted. “This is Wyoming, lady. There are mountains all over. Your information doesn’t help me. Can you at least describe the men who killed her?”
“They wore ski masks,” Faith said. “Janet didn’t recognize them. I’m so sorry, but I don’t have anything else. The rest of the details I Saw aren’t something a family needs to hear.”
“Like what?” he demanded.
Faith gave him a pointed look, unable to hold in her animosity completely. “Your wife was badly beaten, Mr. Granger. I won’t explain more than that.”
A smirk flitted across his face. “So she suffered?”
“Horribly,” Faith said with complete honesty, disgusted by the pleasure he seemed to take in that. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an early morning tomorrow. I need the other half of my fee, and I’ll be on my way.”
Dustin shook his head. “I’m not paying. You didn’t tell us anything.”
“Not true, Dad.” Amelia sat up straighter in her chair. “At least we know Mom isn’t held captive somewhere or worse. We can stop hoping she’ll come back home. She’s dead, gone forever. I’m not happy about it, but at least we have answers.”
Faith nodded Amelia’s direction. “I wish the news was better, but I hope this gives you some closure.”
“I have the rest of your fee in my car,” Amelia said. “Why don’t Emily and I drive you to the motel? It’s cold out tonight, too cold to walk. That’s the least we can do to repay you for coming all the way out here.”
It was good the sisters had driven to the house together. Faith would have been afraid to leave one of them alone with the monster, considering he now knew his primary prey was out of reach forever. It wasn’t too far of a stretch to imagine the bastard would move on to beating his daughters.
“I’d appreciate that.” Faith turned back to Dustin and stood. “Again, sir, I’m sorry for your loss.”
They climbed inside a late model Chevy Malibu, and Amelia pulled an envelope from the consol and passed it to Faith. “I know you’re a fake, and I don’t really care. You did what we needed you to.”
Faith tucked the money into the pocket of her coat without checking it, torn whether she should let the girls know the truth about her gift.
Emily climbed into the back seat behind Faith. “Do you think we did the right thing?” she asked. “Mom’s miserable. Pretending she’s dead won’t fix things.”
“Shut up!” Amelia hissed as she started the car.
So much for wondering if she should be honest.
Faith turned partially in her seat, making eye contact with Emily. “If you tell him that Janet’s in Las Vegas, he’ll beat the shit out of you first of all. After that, he’ll catch the first plane to go kill her.”
Amelia paused with her hand over the gearshift, fingers shaking. “What did you say?”
“Just because I See the past doesn’t mean I have to tell people what really happened.” Faith fastened her seat belt. “Don’t tell your father what you did and don’t let your mom come back. Get to Vegas as fast as you can to help her rebuild her life. I’m sorry, but your dad isn’t a good person. There’s no way to sugar coat that. She needs to stay dead, or he really will kill her.”
Amelia nodded curtly and shifted the car into reverse, backing from the driveway. “You’re better than a fake,” she said as they took off down the road. “My sister and I will do what it takes to keep Mom safe, even if it means she’s unhappy. I’d rather she be alive.”
“She’ll adjust,” Faith promised. “Especially since she has the two of you to live for.”