Jasi McLellan drifted in and out of consciousness, her thoughts like waves lapping restlessly against the shore. When she opened her eyes, distorted faces flashed past her and indistinct words assaulted her ears. She reached for the names that belonged to those faces, but they eluded her. She tried to swallow, but her mouth and tongue were sandpaper-dry. She inhaled slowly, trying to place the smell, a mix of antiseptic and sweat.
Where the hell am I? And why is it so dark, so cold?
She blinked once and everything changed.
Before her lay a long, murky corridor. At her feet, the bare hardwood floor was polished to a reflective shine. Her sandals clicked as she headed toward the door at the end of the hall. A crack of backlighting outlined the door's shape. As she moved toward it, the door appeared to drift further away.
She paused and leaned down to look at her reflection in the gleaming floor. A face she didn't recognize stared back at her. Amidst charred skin, blue eyes blinked at her.
I have green eyes.
She cried out in terror when the face became two.
The dead girl from her closet was coming for her.
Jasi faced the girl. "Why can't you leave me alone?"
"I can't leave. You need me, and I need you."
The girl's accent was soft―from
maybe―and the pink skipping rope noose cut deeply into her lolling neck with every word she spoke. South Carolina
"He keeps callin' me," the dead girl whispered.
The girl began to sob and Jasi reached out to touch the child's blistered shoulder. She snatched her hand back when it encountered skin that was morgue cold.
"Who are you?"
"Emily," came the soft reply.
"What do you want, Emily?"
The girl's next words turned Jasi's blood to ice.
"I want you to find me."
Confused, Jasi shook her head and took a few steps backward. "What do you mean? You're right here."
The girl said nothing.
"I've seen you ever since I was a child," Jasi said. "You've never spoken to me before. Why now?"
Emily lowered her head. "You jes never heard me before. Now you're open-minded. Now you're hearin' me fine."
A light flickered at the end of the hall and Jasi glanced over her shoulder.
"It's okay, Jasmine." Emily smiled weakly. "Go."
The girl drifted backward toward the shadows.
"Emily, wait!" Jasi cried. "How do I find you?"
"When you're ready, I'll find you."
As Jasi drifted off into a peaceful, healing sleep, she made a solemn vow to the dead girl in her closet.
I'll find you, Emily. I promise.
The dead girl finally had a name―Emily.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
~ Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, BC
Natassia Prushenko was scared―really scared.
She looked down at the woman lying motionless in the bed. She's so pale, so still. Like death.
The door opened behind her. Someone stepped into the room.
"Is Jasi awake yet?"
Natassia glanced over her shoulder. "No, she hasn't moved an inch. I'm worried about her, Ben."
Benjamin Roberts crossed the room, bringing with him an air of calm authority. When he reached Natassia, they stood side-by-side, keeping vigil over the woman in the hospital bed.
It had been nearly two weeks since their partner and team leader Jasmine McLellan had taken a bullet high on her left arm. She'd been doing well, was even out of
for nearly a week, but then she'd taken an unexpected turn for the worse. Her arm had swelled painfully, the bullet wound festering. Without warning, a blood infection invaded Jasi's body, causing serious complications and a sudden trip back to the hospital. That's where they discovered she had a concussion and mild swelling of the brain, probably from when she hit the ground after an explosion during the last case. Vancouver General Hospital
Natassia stared down at Jasi. "I don't think she's getting any better, Ben. She looks like she's barely breathing." She reached out to touch Jasi's arm, but snatched back her hand as if she'd touched a hot flame.
Ben raised a brow. "Natassia…"
"You know what can happen if I touch her. After all she's been through, the last thing she needs is me poking around in her mind. Anyway, we already know what happened during the Gemini Murders. It's not as if we need to know any more."
She studied the woman in the bed, taking in the tangled mane of shoulder-length auburn hair and the sprinkle of cinnamon freckles that appeared much darker against the creamy whiteness of her face.
"It's up to Jasi now," Ben said quietly. "We both know how stubborn she is."
He turned away, but not before Natassia saw tears in his eyes. "Where are you going?" she asked.
"I want to check on her status. I'll get her doctor."
Natassia felt a void in the room as soon as he was gone. She couldn't help but feel a little better when he was around. If there was one thing she'd learned, Ben knew how to take care of things―especially the people he cared for.
She watched Jasi. "And he sure cares a lot for you, my new friend."
Although she'd only known Jasi for about three months, she'd grown fond of her. The slender redhead had a lot of spunk. That was something she could appreciate.
Natassia had spent a few years consulting with a Russian agency similar to the Canadian Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had been formed in 2003. As a Victim Empath capable of receiving cryptic flashes from the minds of victims, she was responsible for bringing down some notorious criminals. After a brief scandalous affair with a married field agent, Natassia was 'traded' to Canada's CFBI. Recently, she'd been assigned to the PSI Division and relocated to
, B.C. Vancouver
"Remember when we first met, Jasi? You thought I was an escort hitting on Ben." She laughed. "The poor guy practically fell over in his chair when I sat down with you two."
It had been an awkward first meeting.
Natassia let out a sigh.
She still felt like the new kid on the block, having only been a Psychic Skills Investigator with the CFBI for the past three months. As a PSI, her gift of reading victims, live or dead ones, had helped crack the last case. But not before Jasi had been shot. Natassia hadn't been able to prevent that. Or Jasi's subsequent heartbreak.
She pulled the chair up to the side of the bed. "Get well, my friend. We've got cases to solve, murderers to catch and good-looking men to tease."
There was no answer.
She leaned closer. "Jasi? Can you hear me?"
"Jasmine McLellan, it's time to wake up now."
The woman in the bed remained still.
Out in the hall, footsteps approached. Ben entered the room, followed by Jasi's father and Brady, her brother. Dr. Mohinder Habib entered the room after them and immediately picked up the chart at the end of Jasi's bed.
"So?" Natassia said impatiently.
When the doctor looked up from the file, his expression was guarded. That made her nervous.
"When is she going to wake up?" she blurted.
"We've been monitoring her stats closely," Dr. Habib said, his black eyes drifting to the bed. "Ms. McLellan has been only slightly responsive to antibiotics."
Natassia frowned. "But she's getting better, right?"
"Your friend is too exhausted to fight off the infection, and the swelling in her brain is impeding her recovery." Dr. Habib tried to smile. "She's in a very deep sleep."
"You mean she's in a coma," Ben stated.
The doctor nodded. "Yes, but she's still breathing on her own."
Jasi's father looked stunned. "When will she wake up?"
"I'm afraid we don't know when," Dr. Habib said gently. "The body often reacts this way when it's under attack. Some people wake up within days, once an infection is under control. Some remain in a coma for longer periods of time." He made a note on Jasi's chart and adjusted the IV drip.
"What's the worst case scenario?" Ben asked.
Natassia knew it was the one question everyone had on their minds.
"Well, worst case―and I mean very worst―would be that we can't control the swelling in her brain or the infection in her arm." He turned away from his patient. "And if the infection travels up her arm toward her heart, we might have to take more aggressive action."
"What kind of action?" Jasi's brother demanded.
"Brady," his father warned. "Let him finish."
Dr. Habib's expression darkened. "If the infection spreads upward, it could reach her heart or brain and that would complicate matters. There is a slim possibility that we might have to amputate her arm."
Natassia let out a soft cry. "No!"
"We might not have a choice," the doctor said quietly.
Natassia moved closer to the bed. As she gazed at Jasi, her mouth tightened. I won't let them take your arm.
"For now, her vitals are good," Dr. Habib said, moving toward the door. "We have every reason to believe she'll fight the infection and regain consciousness. When she's ready. I'll check in on her in a couple of hours, but I can assure you we're doing everything we can for her."
Brady and his father followed the doctor out into the hall, while Natassia sank into the chair by Jasi's bed.
"They might take her arm, Ben. Oh, God…"
Ben placed a gloved hand on her shoulder. "Hey, you heard the doctor. She's stable and she's a fighter. She'll wake up soon enough, and when she does, she'll be bossier than hell."
Natassia studied the woman in the bed, yearning for Jasi to open her green eyes. "Come on, Jasi. You've gotta fight this thing."
Behind her, Ben said, "She's probably dreaming about lying on a tropical beach somewhere, sipping mojitos and getting that tan she always wanted."
While her partners discussed tropical beaches and tanning, Jasi drifted on a turbulent river of unconsciousness, reliving flashes of conversations and glimpses of past murder scenes that all led her back to the one case that had hit close to home.
She'd let her guard down, opened herself to a personal connection instead of her ordinary measure of distance, something she always strived for.
In her drug-induced world, faces flashed before her.
A burnt corpse floated past her on a cresting wave.
The dream took her closer to the water. She saw her reflection. And something else just below the surface.
She scrunched her eyes. What is that?
Suddenly, a hand broke the surface. Fingers clawed at empty air, yet as quickly as it had appeared, the hand sank below, returning to its watery grave.
A rush of emotions assaulted her. Death…loss…pain.
Jasi was suddenly transported to the day she had returned to Divine Operations, the covert location of the PSI Division. Divine Ops was cloaked within an isolated, heavily guarded complex in the
Rocky Mountains. Not even the one hundred or so residents of Divine, BC, knew what went on inside the complex―or underground. They believed the signage that stated it was a company called Enviro-Safe Research Facility.
In her dream world, Jasi found herself standing in front of Matthew Divine, the mysterious creator of the PSI Division. With shoulder-length gray hair tied in a ponytail and old-fashioned tortoise-shell glasses, the man could be easily mistaken for an aging hippie or a computer geek.
The latter was true.
"Hi, Matthew," Jasi said.
She knew he wasn't pleased. Why should he be? She had another dead body on her hands, someone who could've been saved if she'd bothered to call for back up. Plus, she had a wounded friend who wouldn't have been shot if it wasn't for her stubborn refusal to follow protocol.
"I-I'm sorry," she told him.
A bright flash sent her muddled mind back to the case that still haunted her. The Parliament Murders. Memories flooded her mind. She couldn't fight them, or stop them. All she could do was remember.
As usual, everything had started with a dead body...