A Mindspace Investigations Novel
History has a way of repeating itself, even for telepaths…
As a Level Eight telepath, I am the best police interrogator in the department. But I’m not a cop—I never will be—and my only friend on the force, Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino, is avoiding me because of a telepathic link I created by accident.
And I might not even be an interrogator for much longer. Our boss says unless I pull out a miracle, I’ll be gone before Christmas. I need this job, damn it. It’s the only thing keeping me sane.
Parts for illegal Tech—the same parts used to bring the world to its knees in the Tech Wars sixty years ago—are being hijacked all over the city. Plus Cherbino’s longtime nemesis, a cop killer, has resurfaced with a vengeance. If I can stay alive long enough, I just might be able to prove my worth, once and for all…
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Excerpt from Sharp
I was aware of distant speech for a long time before I decided to wake up. Slowly the sounds made words, and the words made sense, like a sharpening image finally clicking into place, far away but understandable.
“We’re not going anywhere until he wakes up on his own,” Cherabino’s voice insisted on the other side of my head, through the cracked car window. “I’m not a telepath, and I’m not messing with the normal course of events. For all I know we wake him up early and he scrambles our brains like in the movies. You want to be responsible for that?”
Freeman’s voice made a frustrated sound. “I’ve been up twenty-two hours already and regs say I can’t leave anyone at the scene.”
I realized, slowly, my headache had dimmed to a dull roar, something I could actually manage.
“I thought this was our case now,” Michael’s voice put in.
“Not until the paperwork goes through, not really,” Freeman said. “Right now it’s courtesy. If somebody screws something up, it’s still my watch. It’s still my beating to take.”
I winced, the word “beating” conjuring up far too many images and emotions.
“We’re the last on the scene already,” Cherabino said. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
“What will a few more minutes harm?” Michael said.
“Clearly you haven’t been listening, Officer. I haven’t slept in . . . well, far too long. And you’re the last item on my to-do list before a nice warm bed calls my name. I don’t cut corners. You have five minutes or I’ll move the car myself. He can sleep at the station.”
My head was pounding dully, my stomach still entirely unsettled, but neither was overwhelming and both no reason to get Cherabino in trouble.
“I told you, I’m not—” Her head came up to look in the car.
I pulled myself to a seated position. “I’m okay,” I said, echoed it through the Link with aslittle pain as possible. I didn’t mean to scare you.
“Then we’re ready to go.” Cherabino shot a dose of annoyance straight at me. Stop the pain thing. Now. Then to Freeman: “You’ll have the paperwork on your desk before your shift starts.”
She paused. “Want me to tell Branson you’ll be late?”
Freeman and Cherabino locked gazes for a long, long moment. Then, Freeman nodded. “A couple hours only.”
“I’ll tell him.”
Then Cherabino gestured for Michael to get in the car, and opened her own door. I took the moment to put on a seat belt. Only then did I realize I still had the sunglasses on. One of the arms was pasted to my head; I loosened it and felt a dissipation of some of the headache.
“Are you all right?” Michael asked. “The scene wasn’t that bad, I didn’t think. No kids or anything.” He looked to Cherabino, who was turned all the way around in her seat preparing to back the car down the twisty driveway around the trees. She made it all the way to the street before she turned on the anti-grav generators and made a highly illegal jump to airspace. Over a neighborhood no-fly zone. With a floating marker above us.
I slammed my eyes closed. We’d die or we wouldn’t, and either way I’d rather not see it coming.
She avoided the marker and we survived, at least for another day.
“I’m okay,” I said, when I finally felt safe opening my eyes. “Shell-shocked, a bit. Nasty reaction headache, but nothing critical.”
“Why didn’t you answer me about time of death?” Cherabino asked, her voice too biting. Maybe I had scared her. Maybe . . .
Shut up, came across the Link and she slammed up the blunt-edged shield I’d taught her, which made the headache worse. I gritted my teeth.
“You asked me about time of death?” I asked. “When was this exactly?” My attention wasn’t all that great these days.“Shouldn’t we be asking questions right now?” Michael asked. “You dashed out without a word and now you’re not talking. Is this a telepath thing?”
“No,” I gritted out. “It’s a cranky partner thing. What was it you wanted to know?”
“Time of death,” Cherabino said. “And who did it.”
“Not in the last few hours, not several days ago. The coroner can tell you a hell of a lot more. As for who?” I paused. “Not the husband. He’s killed this way before. It’s a . . . sharp mind. A practiced one.”
Michael asked, “Why isn’t he here, then?”
“Maybe he cut him up into pieces and stuffed him down the drainpipes,” I said testily.
Cherabino met my eyes through the rearview mirror, and a question sense leaked over the Link. I noticed her forehead was creased like she had a migraine; maybe some of my headache was leaking over.
I upped my barriers between us and accepted the resulting fireworks in my skull as the necessary price. I took a breath. Tried to remember what the question was.
“Well, did he?” Cherabino asked. “Stuff the pieces down the drainpipes?”
“I don’t think so. If he did, though, he didn’t kill the man there, or anywhere close. I only felt the one death, though in that house there could be a herd of tap-dancing psychic monkeys and I wouldn’t know the difference.”
“What’s wrong with the house?” Cherabino asked.
“Monkeys get psychic?” Michael put in.
“I told you. He beat her—and worse. And he did it a lot. Every board of that house was covered with a crazy level of emotion. And I don’t know. Maybe not; I’ve never seen testing on monkeys, and the Guild tests everything.”
“So you couldn’t see anything.” Cherabino paused. “Why not?”
Why was she pushing this in front of Michael? “It’s complicated,” I said, stalling.
“Say it with the fish tank.” She merged into air traffic without so much as checking her blindspot, and I swallowed a yelp. Michael was hanging on for dear life.
“Okay,” I said, for his benefit, once it was apparent we were going to live. “Imagine the world is a fish tank, one of those big tanks you see in doctors’ offices.”
“It has sand, a ceiling, maybe some coral, and lots of goldfish,” Cherabino said in a continuous stream. “Bottom-feeders and the like. Me and Michael and half the world are shiny orange goldfish, the Guild and you, maybe, are huge Japanese koi. We get it.”
I sighed. “Are you going to let me tell it or not?”
“Do you have to be difficult?”
“Boy, someone’s testy today,” I said. When she swerved to avoid an airbus, I swallowed my words. “I take it back, you’re the soul of sweetness and light.”
“Goldfish. Fish tank. Talk.”
I tried to find some kind of explanation that didn’t depend on either my injury or me doing something wrong. Finally I settled on, “It’s like there was algae in the water, okay? Or thousands of slow piranhas the size of a fingernail coming after me. I fell into the tank and spent most of my time fighting them off.”
She got quiet then.
“That’s why you dashed out?” Michael said. “To get away from the piranhas?”
“More or less.” I looked down, ignored the latest swerve as Cherabino decided to get in the ground exit at the last possible second. She screeched into the parking lot of a Thai restaurant, stopping hard enough to throw me against the seat belt. Great. Since last summer with the crime scene behind a Thai restaurant in East Atlanta, I couldn’t smell peanut sauce without gagging.
“Can’t we do Mexican?” I asked.
“Was that really necessary?” Michael asked her, testy.
“No and no.” Cherabino opened her car door, turned back around to look at me. “You’re eating.” Then at Michael: “Don’t criticize the driving. It’s bad for your health.”
I sighed and unbuckled my seat belt. Probably good to get fuel in me; I’d passed out, afterall, and was still feeling weak. Plus the whole head-pounding-and-possible-major-reinjury thing.
“You realize I’m nauseated already?” I asked her.
“You can have plain rice, fine. But you’re eating.” She paused as I unbuckled my seat belt.
“What else aren’t you telling me about the scene?”
Silence came from her as Michael stopped, uncomfortably, outside the car.
“The killer feels familiar,” I said, just realizing it. “I’ve seen him—or at least his mental signature—before.”
“Guild?” she asked quietly.
“I don’t know.”
©Alex Hughes . All rights reserved.