Coming Soon

Enjoy this excerpt from Agent Bayne: PsyCop 9, coming in January 2018

 

As we walked to the car, Jacob’s fingertips brushed my forearm to signal me to keep quiet. I was glad enough to have a reprieve from talking. Because when I realized there was now a murder investigation on my plate, I found myself awash in relief. And eagerness. And…dare I say, happiness? Not just because I’d no longer have to deal with the Fifth Precinct, either.

Imagine that.

The sprawling site was outside city limits, on an ungainly scrap of land that was part industrial, and part weedy, unintentional forest. Jack Bly and his men hadn’t shut down the entire operation, just the good parts—the section where they’d found the body.

Jacob bent his head to mine and said in my ear, “I didn’t mean for you to get dragged into this. I know homicide was wearing you down.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” I admitted. Because if I were to be totally honest, I’d choose walking through a crime scene in the bitter cold to sitting in an office any day.

We wrapped up our conversation when Agent Bly came out to meet us, black overcoat flapping in the wind and cold winter sunlight glinting off his shaved scalp. He strode up with grim, broad-shouldered purpose and motioned us over to the big metal machine staked off with crime scene tape. Over the course of my career, I’d encountered corpses in all kinds of places. Vehicles and homes, parks and parking lots. But the ginormous wood chipper? That was a first.

The massive metal contraption consisted of a toothy conveyor belt that drew branches into a big metal housing, then shot them out a tall spout to add them to a pile of wood shavings three stories high.

Jacob jotted a few notes, then said to Bly, “This investigation is sensitive. You can’t discuss it with anyone at headquarters other than Director Kim.”

“Not my first rodeo. I know the drill.” He turned to me and asked, “You knew Agent Parsons?”

Bly was the most sensitive empath I knew…in my current circle of acquaintances, anyhow. Since he’d already be privy to my distinct lack of grief, I didn’t bother sugar-coating my response. “He wasn’t exactly my favorite babysitter.”

“Even so, a word of warning. It’s not pretty.” He walked us over to a set of access stairs and onto the conveyor belt itself. The belt led into a massive, round textured barrel, like a giant’s rotary cheese grater. And there at the base, where the wheel met the belt, was Agent Parsons. Or what was left of him.

He’d gone in feet first. His body was crushed up to the chest, but his face remained whole. His expression in death was slack. Mouth open, like we’d caught him mid-yawn. Or maybe snoring. Dead faces are disturbing enough. But the blood? Wow. So much blood.

Bly said, “It gets weirder. The chipper was easily strong enough to shred the body in five seconds flat—it can cut through a tree limb thicker than a man’s thigh. But when the Agent’s firearm was crushed, the ammo ignited. One of the workers caught a fragment to the face, damn near lost an eye. And the foreman was quick on the kill switch.”

So Agent Parsons managed to shoot a civilian in the head even after he’d died. Talk about taking incompetence to new heights.

Jacob and Bly, however, were supremely competent, and they had scads more experience under their belts from all their years as actual PsyCops. Moving smoothly, they formed a muscular barricade to shield me from prying eyes. “Getting anything?” Jacob asked urgently.

If by anything, he meant the ghost of the dead agent charging up and telling me how he’d ended up in a wood chipper, then no. But I hadn’t put any effort into finding the guy just yet. I looked up at the bleak, grayish sky, took a deep, cleansing breath, and opened myself to the white light. Weirdly, it was harder to visualize in the cold light of day, even with all the practice I’d had, but I was familiar enough with my own limits by now to know the intangible process was working. When a glance revealed nothing around the body moving but the dry foliage rattling in the wind, I pulled down some more. Looked again. Still nothing. And then I thought back to the dead homeless guy I’d blundered across at Graceland without even trying.

The ghost’s body hadn’t even been present, but I’d seen him plain as day. So, logically, that spot must’ve been where he’d died.

Carefully avoiding anything that looked like it might once have been a piece of anybody, I climbed onto the giant metal rig and peered down at the corpse. No less gruesome up close than it was from a distance. The chipping mechanism used both pressure and cutting to pulverize the branches into shreds, and the blood had been pushed up into his head before he bled out, which left his eyeballs scarlet in his rubbery, pale face. Since the top third of Agent Parsons was spattered with his own guts, I couldn’t tell for sure, but I was betting that forensics would uncover some telltale lividity that indicated he’d died somewhere else and been brought here for disposal.

I looked back at Jacob’s hopeful face and shook my head. “No luck here. We’ll need to track him back to where he bought it.”

Jacob frowned. Unfortunately, if he’d thought working with a medium would solve all his murders and have us home in time for dinner, he could think again.

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