Martha C. Lawrence

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Contents © 1996 - 2015 by Martha C. Lawrence except where noted. All rights reserved. No part of the contents herein may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

from Pisces Rising


It's been nearly ten years since I earned my Ph.D. in parapsycholgy from Stanford University. The certificate collects dust on the wall of my office, framed parchment from the archives of a more innocent era. I suppose the degree has a place in my life, but these days it doesn't serve me as well or as often as my 9-millimeter Glock, from which I can hit a bull's-eye at fifteen feet, four times out of five.

My name is Elizabeth Chase. I'm a licensed private investigator with a specialty: I am a psychic.

I know-I hate the word, too. So many charlatans and rip-off artists have hung out their shingles under the term psychic that it's hard to take the title seriously. I use it for lack of a better alternative. To call myself a sensitive makes me sound like a character in Star Trek: The New Generation. Parapsychologist detective? Too many syllables, wrong image. Makes me sound as though I hunt ghosts instead of people-people being the more dangerous of the two.

Ironically, the person who encouraged me to take pride in being a psychic detective was a lieutenant commander for the NYPD, hardly a touchy-feely organization. "Don't apologize," he told me when he caught my self- deprecating tone. "We've closed several cases on psychic tips. Under the right circumstances, using a psychic certainly merits consideration." So sayeth the NYPD.

Like any other professional, a psychic isn't infallible, even a good one. I'd like to think that my successes as a psychic-finding lost children, fingering rapists and murderers-have alleviated some suffering. The thought helps me deal with my black moments, when I'm face-to-face with my second-sight failures.

My second sight failed Tom McGowan.

I first met McGowan five years ago, when he was still a sergeant with the Escondido Police Department. His friend's recent death had been classified as a routine traffic fatality, but McGowan suspected murder. The quintessential doubting Thomas, he hired me as a last resort. I don't know who'd been more skeptical of whom: the hard-headed cop of the psychic, or the psychic of the hard-headed cop. In time our differences bonded us like the opposite ends of a magnet. I was attracted by his down-to-earth street smarts; he was drawn to my metaphysical skills. But those skills let me down at a critical moment during my last investigation, when McGowan had needed them most. By the time I realized my mistake, he was dead.

Anyone who's lost their beloved knows how cruel grief can be. The mind replays scenes from the past in heartbreaking detail, and not necessarily the ones you'd expect. I keep remembering McGowan's first kiss, a peck on the forehead. Over and over I hear the poem he recited that moment: "Take this kiss upon the brow/And in parting from you now/Thus much let me avow--/All that we see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream." How could I not have fallen in love with a cop who quoted Edgar Allan Poe? The most relentless memory is from last summer, the night he nearly pitched us out of a hammock under a star-filled sky. He'd been reaching into his pocket for a diamond ring. Three weeks later he was dead. I put the ring away in a cedar box, along with my PI license. I'd intended to let the license expire.

Then came a 4 A.M. phone call on a Sunday morning in September. It was Scott Chatfield, an investigator I'd met during that last terrible case. The sound of his voice jerked me right back to the horror of those final dark days in June.

"Scott," was all I could muster.

"Sorry to call at such an uncivilized hour, but this won't wait. Is there any way you can get down to the University Medical Center, like in the next hour or so?"

My heart jumped. An urgent call from a hospital at four in the morning has that effect.

"Has someone been hurt?"

"No," he said, clearing his throat. "I mean, yes, but---"

I heard a commotion in the background and then the conch-shell sound of his palm covering the receiver. After a few seconds he was back.

"Shoot. I gotta go. I'll meet you out front." And the line went dead.