“I need to get out of this rut.” I took a swig from my tiny box of wine—adult juice box, if you asked me—and looked down at my companion from my seat on the fire escape outside my flat.
She didn’t look up from her work, busily digging through the rubbish bins squeezed into the alley. I had no idea how a raccoon had made it all the way to London. Technically, they weren’t supposed to live in England, but this old girl had made a tidy home in the alley behind my block of flats.
Cordelia, I called her.
Now, when I drank wine alone on my fire escape, it was like I was having a girls’ night out. As long as no one looked too hard at the fact that my gal pal walked on all fours and dressed like a furry bandit. Not to mention the fact that she had a real thing for rubbish.
“Cheers.” I raised my glass to her, grinning from my perch on the second story of the building.
Who needed human friends when they had a box of wine and a feral raccoon, anyway?
I’d had a real friend once—Beatrix. She was gone though. Murdered last year, and the pain still tore at me. I’d tried to find the killer, but the leads had run cold months ago.
Which left me here, alone with Cordelia.
The night sounds of London echoed in the distance, sirens and shouts since I didn’t exactly live in the nicest part of town. I stared down at Cordelia, watching to see what she might pull out of the bin. It was like telly. Almost.
I was too broke to own a telly, so it was good enough.
As if on cue, Cordelia chucked something up at me. She rarely acknowledged my presence. Shocked, I reached out to catch whatever it was that she’d thrown.
My hand closed around an old rag, and a vision slammed into me.
I gasped, closing my eyes, as the image flashed in my mind. I had no idea why the visions came, but this one was a doozy.
A man getting his head bashed in.
Well, hell, that would get me out of my rut.
The body was still warm when I found it.
He’d been a man once, but now he lay sprawled on the rain-damp cobblestones. His bashed face resembled ground meat.
Pity made my heart clench; nausea made my stomach lurch. I saw death more than your average girl, but I still didn’t like it. Who would?
Quickly, I scanned my surroundings, adrenaline making me feel like I might burst. Humans were still animals, and right now, there was a hunter out there.
I didn’t want to be its next prey.
Heart pounding in my ears, I searched the shadows of the darkened alley. There were no nooks or crannies to hide in, and the roofs were high above me. Even if someone were standing up there, they were too far away to do any harm. Sure, they might shoot me. But from the look of this poor bastard’s face, they preferred another type of weapon.
I turned my attention back to the body. Everything was slick from the recent rain, even him. A tattoo wrapped around his neck, garish and big. A dragon. Blood ran in rivulets down the cobblestones, mingling with the rainwater. I edged away from it, not wanting to disturb anything.
I wasn’t a detective—not technically since I’d failed out of the College of Policing—but I did help the local department, and I was still keenly aware of my training.
Except I wasn’t going to follow it, because that was how I did my best work.
I couldn’t explain my skills, just like I couldn’t explain why I’d seen a vision of this man’s death and known that I needed to be here. I always hoped to beat the killer to his terrible job—to get there before he did.
I never did.
Death won, every time.
Every freaking time, I’d failed. Even the most important time.
Bitterness twisted my heart. Just once, I wanted to save someone. To help. I’d tried to save Beatrix, but I’d been too late. I’d found her dead in an alley, just like this. She’d been killed the same way. Tears pricked my eyes at the memory of my failure. Sometimes I saw the future, but when it came to death, I only saw the present. Or the past.
I should go. Run. If I were caught standing over the body, it would be the end of me. The cops had found me at the scene of Beatrix’s death, too. They would think I was the killer. You could only get caught at the scene of a crime so many times before logic pointed to you, and I was getting up there. Especially when you knew things about the death that they didn’t.
But I couldn’t go. My feet refused to move.
This poor man had had his face bashed in. I’d been too late to save him, but I could find justice for him. Maybe even stop the killer from getting someone else.
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