Authors: Jennifer Fulton
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian
Brought to you by
E-Books from Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
© 2007 By Jennifer Fulton. All
ISBN 10: 1-933110-74-0
ISBN 13: 978-1-933110-74-5
This trade paperback original is published by
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.,
New York, USA
First Edition: Regal Crest Enterprises, 2005.
Second Edition: Bold Strokes Books, April 2007.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Editor: Stacia Seaman
Production Design: Stacia Seaman
Cover Design By Sheri (
“Last night I dreamed of Iris,” Phoebe said. “I promised her I would come.”
Cara looked up from the morning paper. “Shall I call our friend?”
Phoebe’s face fell into shadow. “Perhaps it was my imagination.”
Cara took her twin’s hand. “You say that every time.”
Where two paths crossed beneath the low silvery boughs of a huge birch tree, a woman lay on a quilt of brown and yellow leaves. Her hands were roped behind her back. Twigs and earth matted her honey-colored hair.
She lifted her head as Phoebe knelt. “You found me. I knew you would.”
Phoebe unfastened the rope and cradled her. Hot tears spilled down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry. I tried to come sooner.”
“It’s okay. You’re here now.” The woman tried to smile, but her face was contorted with bruises.
“Who did this to you?” Phoebe asked urgently.
“I don’t know his name.” Her head grew heavy on Phoebe’s shoulder. “I’m so tired.”
“No. Wait!” Phoebe shook her.
“Tell my folks I love them.” She closed her eyes.
“Iris!” Phoebe begged.
The body in her arms felt like lead. She sank down on the leaves next to it and sobbed uncontrollably. The smell of earth and decay invaded her nostrils. A hand touched her shoulder.
“Phoebe?” Cara’s voice. “Sweetheart?”
Phoebe rolled over, blinking into the light.
Her twin cupped a cool hand to her cheek. “Is this the place?”
Phoebe nodded. Exhaustion drained the strength from her limbs. Her legs wobbled as Cara helped her up.
Standing a few yards from them, in suit and tie as always, Special Agent Vernell Jefferson put his cell phone away. He looked awkward. Men like him folded their arms when their instinct was to reach out.
“Is she okay?” he asked Cara, as if Phoebe couldn’t speak for herself. That was nothing unusual. Most of the world preferred talking to Cara.
The FBI agent drew a few steps closer, his keen brown eyes assessing the leafy site. A long, rectangular mound of earth corrupted the contours of the forest floor. Phoebe shivered. It was not the first time she had lain on someone’s shallow grave.
Cara removed some tissues from her coat pocket and placed them in Phoebe’s hand. “We should get going,” she said.
They walked back to the car in silence. Overhead, the sun was trying to come out. Until it did, the day would remain damp, the wind weak but biting. Within a couple of months this area would be knee deep in snow. It was lucky they had found Iris before winter set in.
“We really appreciate this,” Vernell said, opening the passenger door for Phoebe.
She met his eyes and watched his pupils betray him. Vernell was much more excited than his demeanor suggested. In his line of work, the dead spoke through their physical remains. Clearly he was impatient to decipher those of Iris.
“I have a message from her,” Phoebe said.
His face quickened. “About him?”
“I’m sorry.” She dispelled his hopes. “She just wants someone to tell her folks she loves them.”
Vernell did a good job of masking his disappointment. “I’ll take care of it.” His eyes moved to Cara. “If you want to wait a while, I can have someone drive you to the airport.”
“No. You folks have work to do.” Cara glanced up the forest road north. “And what do you know? Here come the troops.”
Phoebe followed the direction of her sister’s gaze. A convoy of police vehicles was closing in on them, lights flashing. Hastily she retreated into the car. Law enforcement didn’t know she existed. That was part of her deal with the FBI.
Vernell walked Cara to the driver’s side and waited for her to get situated. “Don’t forget what we talked about,” he said.
“I’ll be in touch.” Cara started the motor.
Vernell thanked them again, then stepped back and slapped the car roof as if it were a horse’s rump. Phoebe watched him in the side mirror as they accelerated away. He waved briefly before turning to face the approaching patrol cars. She wondered how he was going to explain chancing upon Iris Meicklejohn’s body miles from civilization, ten minutes’ hike into a dense forest near Maidstone Lake in Vermont. Or did FBI men capitalize on their mystique at times like this? Vernell said local police tended to be in awe of the Bureau.
“What did he mean?” she asked Cara. “What shouldn’t you forget?”
“Routine stuff. Nothing you need to worry about.”
Phoebe knew she should protest. It wasn’t fair that Cara always took responsibility for the practicalities. But they had been through this a hundred times. Cara said they were identical twins, not clones. There was no reason for Phoebe to struggle over things her sister could manage easily, like computers and talking to strangers.
It was Cara who had made their deal with the FBI. Phoebe would never have had the nerve to claim she was a psychic, let alone expect to be hired for her services. Besides, she wasn’t a real psychic. She didn’t read minds or look into the future. She didn’t concentrate on people’s clothing and get images—not often, anyway. She dreamed, that was all.
It hadn’t always been that way. Before the accident, she’d had the same garbled dreams as everyone else. But head injuries and several months in a coma had changed everything. When she returned to consciousness she was convinced that a woman called Samantha needed to talk with her and was waiting near a willow tree north of Liberty in the Catskills. Cara had indulged her, and they drove to a spot on Route 47, then hiked for half an hour until Phoebe heard Samantha’s voice. A few yards off the track they found clothing and a body.
Cara phoned 911, saying they were hikers who had stumbled on human remains. The whole experience had been straightforward, even rewarding. They gave statements to the authorities and received praise and gratitude. It turned out the local police had suspected Samantha Lewis’s boyfriend of killing her. Finding the body led to his conviction. It was Cara who testified in court. The prosecutor said she was better on the stand than Phoebe, who spoke too softly and came across as kind of…“dreamy” was the word he’d used. Phoebe knew he really meant “flaky,” which was something no one would ever accuse Cara of being.
When she had her second dream, nobody connected the two discoveries—they were in different states. Yet again, she and Cara were hikers who found a body.
Then came the Sally Jorgensen kidnapping. The case was all over the television. A prominent Philadelphia judge, Sally had vanished from her home, and her kidnapper demanded the release of a prisoner in exchange for her life. By then Phoebe had already seen Sally in a dream and knew where her body was. This time, since the location was in the heart of the city, they could not pose as hikers. So Cara phoned the FBI and left a tip, declining to give her name. To Phoebe’s surprise and dismay, Vernell Jefferson turned up on their doorstep a few days later.
The African American agent had traced their call and connected the dots. He could accept that two grisly discoveries might be a creepy coincidence, but three? It looked suspiciously like they had information not known to the authorities. After ruling them out as suspects, he had asked point blank which one of them was the psychic. They’d been working with him ever since.
At first, the arrangement was unofficial. The FBI does not employ psychics, and according to Vernell, most people who claimed to have such powers were opportunists and attention-seekers. Only a few individuals were the real thing and, of these, Phoebe was in a league of her own. Her complete anonymity was a condition of their agreement.
She had not asked for money, but after she’d led Vernell to several bodies, Cara arranged a meeting with him and his masters, and the FBI hired Phoebe officially. Awarded the phony title of Consultant Forensic Botanist, she now earned fees that made it unnecessary for her to hold down her 9 to 5 admin job. Vernell said he wanted her free to travel anywhere, anytime. Cara said Phoebe was his ticket to the top.
Iris Meicklejohn had disappeared four weeks ago. It was not Vernell’s case, but it would be now. On their way to Vermont, he said Iris might be the latest victim of a serial killer now on the radar. Phoebe wished she’d been able to tell him something that would help solve the case. But her dead visitors seldom wanted to discuss their killers. They were more interested in sending messages to loved ones. That’s why they wanted their remains found. So the people who grieved for them could have closure. Once they’d attained this, they no longer wanted to talk.
Maybe she would try to reach Iris again. If she concentrated on her late at night, perhaps Iris would visit. Or, if there were other women killed by the same monster, maybe one of them would invade her sleep. Phoebe wished she had some control over the process. She had questions of her own.
For a start, it would be nice to know if her visitors were in heaven. And if they were, was Jesus really God’s son who died to save us all, or just a guy far too liberal for his times? Also, could anyone explain why, if God was all powerful, he stood by while good people suffered hideous fates? Phoebe couldn’t be the only one who wanted an answer to that.
Rowe Devlin did not believe in ghosts. She’d said as much to the realtor standing in front of her. Not that it made any difference. Bunny Haskell ran busy fingers through her diligently corkscrewed platinum hair and continued her pitch.