By Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael
Visions of blood and death haunt Richie England. A new serial killer is stalking the city, and Richie finds himself in the middle of a frightening pyschological battle with the killer and the spectres behind the evil.
As the detective in charge of the Vivisectionist case, the last thing Julian Anders needs is a damn psychic telling him about visions. When another body is found, Julian is forced to accept Richie's help. The killer has seen Richie, and with his life at stake, both Julian and Richie need to find the answers and the killer before it's too late.
Julian wrapped his hands around the cup of coffee and took a sip, savoring the flavor. He hadn’t slept well that morning and needed the coffee boost before he headed into work. Hearing a voice next to him and recognizing it as familiar, he turned and saw Richie not too far away. Julian’s brow rose but he said nothing, noting the near shy look and red creeping over Richie’s cheeks plus the close proximity of the clerk.
When the clerk brought his espresso, Richie smiled as the young man returned the sentiment. “Thanks,” he said softly.
“Interesting book,” the clerk said, gesturing to Richie’s well-worn book of Celtic tattoos. “You have any?”
Richie nearly choked on his espresso. “Um, yeah.” He cursed himself under his breath for blushing again. “A dragon around my bellybutton, and a Celtic cross on my left shoulder blade.”
Attention on his coffee, Julian tried not to listen in on the conversation. But it was impossible. Listening to a potential pickup wasn’t his idea of a fun way to pass the time. He idly read the stream of information displayed in the lenses of his glasses and pretended not to notice the two near him.
When another customer waved for service, the clerk smiled and nodded, then walked away. Richie took a sip of his espresso and said, “How’s your ankle?”
A tight little smile compressed Julian’s lips. “My ankle is fine, thank you for asking.”
With a perturbed sigh, Richie set his cup down and turned around sideways on his stool. He set his elbow on the counter and rested his head on his palm. “Okay, what is it about me you don’t like? Detective Mooney has no problem with me.”
“I have no problem with you. Since I don’t know you, there is nothing to like or dislike. What makes you think I do?”
“Because you have yet to look me in the eye.”
His brow arched into his hairline as he eyed Richie. He could have been rather rude, but Julian swallowed that. “I’m trying to figure out after two meetings, why I’m supposed to have a problem with you.”
“Because my abilities annoy you? Because you have no use for psychics who wander into the precinct to you tell where to look?” Richie shrugged and turned back around to continue enjoying his espresso. “He’s not a copycat,” he said in an offhand manner.
“They’d be great leads if I had something to back them up. I know you want to be helpful, but your imagination, visions, whatever don’t go down well in a report, England. And that’s a cold hard fact.” At least he didn’t dismiss the kid as a total crackpot, and he was being bluntly honest.
“Imagination.” Richie turned around again, narrowing his eyes on Julian. “Do you think it’s fun waking up at three, four o’clock in the morning with images of someone dying a very bloody death?”
A vacant, hard expression took over Julian’s features. He was a fucking cop. In fifteen years, he’d probably seen more of the worst humanity could do than Richie would see in ten lifetimes. And Julian had the nightmares to prove it. When he finally managed to speak, he said mildly, “No, I don’t suppose I would know anything about that.”
Standing from his stool, he gave Richie a polite nod before he turned toward the door.
“Detective...” Richie called after him as he slid off his stool. He knew he hit a nerve and felt horrible about it. “Look, I’m sorry. Okay? Most people think I’m a fucking flake, and I guess I have a hard time letting that go.”
Hearing himself addressed, he turned, giving Richie a blank look. It took a moment for the apology to sink in. A glimmer of a smile appeared on his lips. “You are a fucking flake, but that’s not such a bad thing to be.”
Richie laughed as a hint of pink crept over his cheeks. “Okay, I’ll give you that. I am weird to an extent. Look, I really am sorry. I know I hit a nerve, and I shouldn’t have said that. Sometimes my mouth works before my brain and the rest of my body can catch up.”
“Just like the rest of us.” Julian chuckled and he relaxed slightly. “Let it go over your head, England. Your worth isn’t determined by what I or anybody else thinks. And I shouldn’t have let the remark get to me.”
* * * *
Richie opened his mouth, then shut it quickly, thinking better of what he almost said. Another one of those moments of his mouth running away before his brain could catch up. For a moment, all he could do was stand and try not to stare at the way the detective’s eyes looked when he laughed, or how he looked much younger when he wasn’t scowling or dead serious.
“How old are you?” he asked, then felt his cheeks heat when he realized what he had said. “I-I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked that.” He shook his head, cursing himself inwardly.
The question and blush disconcerted Julian. “I’m thirty-five. It’s a matter of public record so no reason you couldn’t ask.”
“You look much younger when you smile. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable, but...” He bit his lip then bravely continued. “You’re an attractive man. I’m sure you’d make any woman happy.”
There. He’d said it. Despite the fact that he now wanted to melt into the floorboards and never be seen again, he had just made the ultimate fuck-up: he came onto a cop.
“Considering I’m not interested in women, I doubt if I would ever make one happy.” A new display flit across the screen of his glasses, forcing Julian to focus momentarily on it. Reaching up to turn on the transmitter clipped to his shirt collar, he said, “I’ll be there in five.
“Don’t go too far, England. I might need to talk to you in a few hours.”
Richie’s mouth dropped open. For a minute or two, he simply stood there, stunned and looking like a total idiot, at least in his eyes.
“Richie England, you’ve officially lost your mind,” he said to himself. “I can’t believe I just hit on a cop...”