Ebook ISBN: 978-1-60174-024-3
[ Paranormal Romantic Suspense, MF ]
When psychic Leah McKenna “sees” the abduction of a small boy, she knows she must help find him. David Logan, the boy’s uncle, doesn’t believe in psychics. As they search for Jeremy, their mutual attraction grows. Can Leah convince him her visions, and her love for him, are real?
Leah McKenna swept out her arms, imitating the wings of a dragon. “Gertrude the dragon told Toby to have faith. But Toby was afraid of flying. What if she fell off Gertrude’s back? What if she got airsick and threw up all over Gertrude’s beautiful shiny green scales? ”
She paused as her audience of four-year-olds hooted with laughter. She’d told groups of kids the story she’d created about Gertrude and Toby many times, changing bits and pieces in each retelling. But the pleasure she got from telling stories to children never changed.
“‘Have faith, Toby, and hang on!’ Gertrude said. Suddenly they were in the air. The dragon spread her giant wings and they soared over the edge of the cliff.
“Toby closed her eyes as tight as she could, too afraid to look.
“But Gertrude told her, ‘Open your eyes and see how beautiful everything looks from up here.’ Toby opened one eye, and then the other eye. She saw her village and all the people below waving at them. She saw the fields that looked like her mother’s beautiful patchwork quilt, all different colors and shapes. And then she saw the ocean. It was such a beautiful blue-green color, exactly the shade of her baby brother’s eyes. Toby threw her arms around Gertrude’s scaly neck. ‘Oh, thank you,’ she said.
“And Gertrude said, ‘You are very welcome. See what happens when you believe? You can fly!'”
Leah’s young audience cheered and clapped. She laughed with them, their exuberance infectious. Contentment flowed through her as she watched their happy faces. How lucky she was to have a job that let her work with kids on a daily basis.
“Okay everyone, we’re going to read one more book before snack time. This is one of my absolute favorite–”
The ground suddenly shifted beneath her as daylight turned to darkness…
Leah trembled on the edge of consciousness, trapped in the shimmer of light that marked the onset of one of her visions. She wanted to scream at the injustice of it all. The visions had been absent for two years, since the tragedy that had shaken the foundations of her world. She’d started to believe that she had finally been left in peace. Now that peace shattered into a thousand tiny shards.
The ringing in her ears reached a crescendo. Waves of panic and nausea rolled through her stomach. All traces of her normal, everyday life disappeared. In the next instant she was transported onto a quiet residential street. Leah shivered in the cold, rubbing her hands across her arms to warm herself.
The bare branches of stately elms canopied the snow-covered street, which was lined with older two- and three-story homes. The street looked familiar, almost like her own neighborhood in Winnipeg, the city on the Canadian prairies where she lived. A small boy wearing a winter parka and a bright blue knitted hat walked towards a deserted school.
Oh God, please not another child.
A car stopped at the curb. A man got out and stepped toward the boy, his hand outstretched. The boy shook his head at first and attempted to go around him, but after a few steps, he turned around. He listened with rapt attention. Finally he reached for the man’s hand and together they walked to the car.
Leah tried to scream at the boy to run, but no sound would come from her closed throat. Her heart hammered in her chest as she helplessly watched the car pull away with the boy staring out the back window.
As suddenly as it appeared the scene vanished.
When Leah’s sight cleared, ten pairs of anxious four-year-old eyes stared at her with a mixture of curiosity and fear. She knew only seconds had elapsed, though the vision had seemed to pass in a slow, dreamlike state. She took a deep calming breath, remembering that this was Friday and she was in the Winnipeg Public Library where she worked. Her regular Friday morning story-hour group sat in a semi-circle in front of her. Relief flooded through her when she caught sight of a well-worn copy of Peter Rabbit beside her on the floor, and she remembered they’d been about to read it. She picked up the book with trembling fingers, the familiar feel of it giving her a much-needed sense of normalcy.
“Okay everyone,” she said. She forced a smile, hoping to reassure the children. “When we finish the story it’s snack time.”
Why now, after two years? Why couldn’t these visions leave her alone? All she wanted was a normal life like everyone else.
She struggled to keep the panic at bay.
But as she finished reading the book and watched the children jump up and head toward the snack table, she knew instinctively that what passed for normal in her life had just been irrevocably altered.
* * * *
As soon as Leah bundled the last of her young students into his snowsuit and sent him off with his mother, she sought out her supervisor. Should she tell Helen she was seeing things again, that the visions that had nearly destroyed her two years ago had returned? Should she insist she needed to rescue a child whose identity and location she didn’t know, from an unknown man who may or may not be dangerous? She couldn’t even say for sure that the vision was real. Why should anyone believe her?
She found Helen in her office. Leah knocked softly on the open door and stepped inside, closing the door behind her. She ran her suddenly sweaty palms across her jeans.
“Helen, I need… I need to take some time off.”
Her supervisor stared at her computer screen. “Okay,” she said absently. “Fill out the forms and I’ll look at them tomorrow.”
Leah felt close to tears. “No, you don’t understand. I need to go now.”
Helen looked up sharply. “What’s happened?” She got to her feet. “Are you ill? God, you look as pale as a ghost. You’re shaking.”
“I’m fine. I just need to take a few days off. I don’t know how long. For…for personal reasons.”
“It’s happening again, isn’t it?”
Leah closed her eyes and nodded.
After a long moment Helen nodded. “Okay, go. I’ll look after the paperwork. Don’t worry about anything here.” She pulled Leah into a quick hug. “Just take care of yourself, please.”
“Thank you, Helen. I’m sorry to leave so abruptly–”
“It’s okay. You take care of…whatever you need to take care of.”
Leah rushed home, hurriedly dropping her winter jacket on the floor and kicking off her boots as soon as she stepped inside her house. She needed to know the truth. Had she just witnessed an abduction, or was there a less sinister explanation for what she’d seen? If a child was in trouble and she could help in some way, she had to step forward, no matter how frightening. She couldn’t live with herself if a child suffered because she was too afraid to act.
There was one way to find out.
She flipped through her address book until she found the number she wanted, then picked up the phone and quickly punched it in before she lost her nerve. Her call was answered on the first ring, giving her no time for second thoughts.
“Winnipeg Police Service. Detective Hampton speaking.”
Hearing the detective’s voice again after all this time brought back painful memories. For a moment her courage faltered and she nearly hung up. But the image of the small boy kept her on the line.
She cleared her throat, her voice wavering slightly. “Detective Hampton, this is Leah McKenna. I… I saw something this morning. I need to know if it was real.” She described her vision and the little boy.
Silence greeted her description. She held her breath.
“Leah, I think you’d better come down here right away. You’ve just described a little boy who went missing this morning.”
* * * *
Less than an hour later, Leah sat facing Detective Hampton while he scribbled in his notebook. As he wrote, she tried to distract herself by taking a guess at the detective’s age. Thirty-four, she ventured, old enough to look mature, but young enough to appear lean and fit. He had a full head of dark hair, with no gray that she could see. Detective Hampton didn’t strike her as the kind of guy who dyed his hair.
She clasped her hands together to keep them from twitching and looked around the detective’s office. Files and papers littered his desk and overflowed onto the floor. The institutional beige walls were covered with posters, calendars, and sticky notes in bright neon colors. The office looked overworked and slightly rumpled, much like the detective himself.
He finished writing in his notebook, and then looked up at Leah. “Okay, tell me once more, from beginning to end, about this vision.”
Leah took a deep breath and recounted what she’d seen. The vision had lost none of its clarity or strength. When she closed her eyes she saw every detail of the little boy’s clothing and the shape of his face. He seemed so familiar to her.
“What about the man who took the boy? What does he look like?”
She opened her mouth to speak and then realized she had nothing to say. “I don’t know. I didn’t get a look at his face. The only thing I saw clearly was his hand when he held it out to the boy.”
“How about the car? Do you know the make and model? How about a number on the license plate?”
She hung her head, feeling like a failure. “I was so focused on the child, nothing else registered with me. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Maybe something will come to you later.”
Leah didn’t feel confident of that happening. Just as in her last case, she felt inadequate and useless in the face of crisis.
Detective Hampton asked several more questions about where she was when she’d had the vision, what the time was, who she’d been with. Leah answered the questions as best she could as he noted her responses.
“Do you think my description will help?” she asked when he finished writing.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s pretty difficult without a description of the man or the car.”
If only she could have seen something useful. What good were her damned visions if they didn’t help anyone? These small, incomplete pictures only served to frustrate her and the people she tried to help. She’d rather see nothing at all.
A knock sounded at the door. A man with the bluest eyes she’d ever seen entered the room and stared at her.
Leah stared back, unable to wrench her gaze away from him. His dark hair just brushed the back of his collar, the thick waves mussed, as if his fingers had combed through them in frustration. Stubble shadowed the elegantly formed jaw line. As he scrutinized her, his beautifully sculpted mouth turned down in a frown. But it was his eyes that captivated her. They were so familiar, dark blue, almost indigo, and framed by thick, black lashes. They were not the sort of eyes a woman could easily forget.
The answer flashed into her brain, causing her heart to triple its pace. This man’s eyes were identical to those of the little boy in her vision. As she stared at him, another image raced across her mind, one of this man and the boy playing in the snow and laughing together as they tossed snowballs at each other. She knew with complete certainty that this man loved the child with all his heart and would do anything for him. She also knew, in that moment, she had to do whatever she could to reunite them, no matter how frightening it was to her.
Detective Hampton stood to make introductions. “Leah, this is David Logan. He’s the uncle of the missing boy. Mr. Logan, this is Leah McKenna. We’ve worked together on missing person cases in the past.”
David Logan extended his hand to Leah and she took it. His handshake was firm, his palms calloused and his skin cold. She noticed the lines of strain around his eyes and her heart went out to him.
“I’m very sorry about your nephew, Mr. Logan.”
David murmured his acceptance of her sympathy but said nothing more. Detective Hampton cleared his throat and continued. “Ms. McKenna has been useful to us in cases of missing children because of her ability to ‘see’ things.”
“See things? What do you mean?” David asked, frowning.
“She’s psychic, Mr. Logan. In the past she’s led us to the location of missing children.”
David stared first at the detective and then at Leah, an incredulous expression on his handsome face. “Why are we wasting time with this? Are you telling me that the police with all their technology and skill are reduced to using this–this witchcraft to find my nephew?”
Detective Hampton spoke calmly. “We’ve checked your ex-brother-in-law’s alibi. We’ve interviewed people at your nephew’s school. We’ve conducted house to house searches in the neighborhoods of the school, your house and your sister’s, and search and rescue is combing the riverbank for evidence. I’ve consulted with the RCMP and other police departments. We had every available officer in the city looking for him within three minutes of getting your call. We’ve found nothing. At this point we have no other leads to go on. It’s not even clear whether the boy wandered off himself or was picked up.”
David slammed his fist on Detective Hampton’s desk. “My ex-brother-in-law took him. I know he did. I told you, Hal’s been pushing for joint custody, and we’ve been fighting him on it. He’s decided to get even by taking the boy.”
“And I told you,” Detective Hampton said with a weary sigh, “we checked his story. He has a witness willing to testify that he was working at his job miles away from where your nephew was abducted.”
“It has to be Hal. Who else would want to kidnap him?”
Leah averted her gaze, remembering another child and the kind of man who had kidnapped her. The detective cleared his throat.
“We have to be prepared for all possibilities at this point, including a kidnapping for ransom. Your family is pretty well known in this city. It’s no secret that your father was a very successful and wealthy businessman.”
David paced the room, as restless and angry, Leah thought, as a caged cat. The comparison was apt. With his dark hair, and lean, muscular build, he reminded her of a panther. She suppressed a shiver, thankful they were on the same side. David Logan would make a formidable enemy.
“Ms. McKenna is already on the case, so to speak,” continued Hampton, taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose. “She has some interesting things to tell us about the abduction.”
David eyed him suspiciously. “What do you mean?”
Leah broke in, hoping to make him understand. “I spoke to Detective Hampton earlier about the vision I had.”
“Vision?” His voice exuded anger and contempt.
Leah refused to be intimidated. “At approximately the same time that Detective Hampton believes your nephew went missing, I had a vision of a small boy being enticed into a car.”
Logan found a chair and sat down wearily. He closed his eyes and massaged his right temple as if a headache was forming.
Leah found herself wanting to reach out to touch him, to bring him some small measure of comfort. The impulse unsettled her, and she clasped her hands together in her lap, as if that would prevent them from touching him of their own accord.
“How do you know that Ms. McKenna isn’t in on the kidnapping?”
Detective Hampton straightened in his chair, annoyance flitting across his face before he carefully composed himself once more. “As I mentioned, Ms. McKenna has worked with the police before. I can assure you her background has been thoroughly checked.”
Logan turned again to Leah, a challenge burning in his blue eyes. “I don’t believe in psychic phenomena.”
His skepticism didn’t come as a surprise to Leah. Few people took her seriously.
“Perhaps if I told you what I saw,” she ventured.
She didn’t miss the cynicism in his voice. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, her mind conjuring the image of the small boy. “He has dark curly hair which is hanging in his eyes and sticking out from under his hat. He really needs a haircut,” she said, smiling. “He has blue eyes, big blue eyes. They’re very beautiful. I think he’s about six years old.” She paused for a second and opened her eyes.
Logan still looked skeptical, but there was something else in his face, something Leah thought looked a bit like surprise. She closed her eyes again.
“He’s wearing a blue knitted hat… it has a Toronto Maple Leafs logo on it. He has on black snow boots, jeans and a winter parka. The parka is black with red sleeves.”
She opened her eyes once more and met David Logan’s blue stare.
“Very impressive, Ms. McKenna, but you haven’t told me anything you couldn’t have gotten from the police or my nephew’s school.”
“We didn’t give Leah your nephew’s description. She came up with that on her own,” Detective Hampton assured David.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone at your nephew’s school. To be honest, I don’t even know which school he goes to,” Leah said.
“What’s my nephew’s name?” David challenged.
“I don’t know,” Leah replied, looking unflinchingly into his eyes. “My abilities seem to be more with clairvoyance then with telepathy.” David’s blank expression told her he didn’t know the difference and probably didn’t care, but she decided to explain anyway.
“If I were telepathic, you could pick a card from a deck, look at it, and I could tell you which card you picked from reading your thoughts. As a clairvoyant, I have better success if you pick a card and place it face down without looking at it. I concentrate on the card itself to determine which one it is.”
He appeared unconvinced, but Leah couldn’t worry about that right now. Something nagged at her, something she’d missed previously. She closed her eyes once more.
“He’s not wearing mitts. That’s strange for February. There’s something on his hand, his right hand. I think… on his index finger. It’s a blemish of some sort. A cut, I think, and covered with a band-aid. Did he cut himself with a paring knife?” She opened her eyes.
The color had drained from Logan’s face. He straightened in his chair, and after a long moment, nodded at Leah. “Yes, he has a small cut on his right index finger. His name is Jeremy.”