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Vanished

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Vanished

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Author: Kat Richardson
Publisher: Roc, 2009
Series: Greywalker: Book 4
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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(6 reads / 3 ratings)



Synopsis

For Seattle investigator Harper Blaine, her own case may prove the most difficult to solve. Why did she - as opposed to others with near-death experiences - become a Greywalker? When Harper begins digging into her own past, she unearths some unpleasant truths about her father's early death as well as a mysterious puzzle. She sets out to find his ghost but encounters only a void where he should be, leaving her with more unanswered questions.

Before she can continue her search, Harper gets an offer she can't refuse to go to London and pursue an investigation on behalf of some very demanding vampires. But there are unpleasant surprises waiting for her, and Harper soon discovers her present trouble in England is entangled with her dark past back in Seattle - and her ultimate destiny as a Greywalker.


Excerpt

Chapter 1

It started just like it had in real life: The man belts me in the temple and it feels like my head is caving in. I tumble out of the chair, onto the hardwood floor. In the dream I can see its pattern of dark and light wood making a ribbon around the edge of the room, like a magic circle to contain the terror.

I grope for my purse, for the gun, for anything that will stop him from beating me to death this time. I am still too slow. He rounds the edge of the desk and comes after me. I roll up onto my knees and try to hit him below the belt.

He dodges, swings, and connects with the back of my head. Then he kicks me in the ribs as I collapse again. This time I don't shriek - I don't have the air and that's how I know something's changed. It's not just a memory; it's a nightmare.

The man's foot swings for my face and I push it up, over my head, tipping him backward. As he falls, I scramble for the door into the hall. This time I'll get out. This time I won't die....

But he catches up and grabs onto my ponytail - an impossible rope of hair a yard, a mile long and easy to grip. Was it really so long? I can't even remember it down to my hips like that. But in the dream it's a lariat that loops around my neck and hauls my head back until I'm looking into the man's face.

But it's my father, not the man who beat my head in. Not the square-jawed, furious face of a killer, but the bland, doe-eyed face that winked like the moon when I was tucked into my childhood bed. He read me Babar books and kissed my cheek when I was young. Now he calls me "little girl," and slams my skull into the doorpost.

I don't fight back this time. I just wrench loose, leaving my long hair in his hand. He lets me go and I stumble toward the ancient brass elevator, my legs wobbling and my pace ragged. I feel tears flooding down my cheeks, and the world spins into a narrowing tunnel.

I see the elegant old elevator at the end of the tunnel, the gleaming metal grillwork shuffling itself into shape, as if it is formed from the magical grid of the Grey. There's a vague human figure inside, beyond the half-formed doors. There never was anyone there before....

I stagger and fall to my knees at the elevator door. The ornate brass gates slide open and I tumble into the lift, sprawling like a broken toy at someone's feet.

He's much too tall from my position down on the floor: a giant blue denim tree crowned with silvery hair. My dream vision zooms up and in, and something tightens in my chest until I can feel it strain to the breaking point.

Will Novak, my ex-boyfriend, looks down at me with a cool glance. "Oh. It's you," he says.

The too-tight thing in my chest pings and breaks. Pain lashes through me like the unwinding mainspring of a broken clock.

I woke up with a scream in my mouth that twisted into shuddering tears. I huddled into my bed and cried, feeling that something had been wrecked or wrenched apart in a way I didn't understand. I wished I was cuddled up with Quinton in his safe little hole under the streets and not alone with the lingering desolation of my nightmare.

I'm not much for emotional outbursts. They're counterproductive and ugly and they tend to put someone at a disadvantage. Even alone in my condo I felt a little ashamed of weeping like a brat, and I was glad the ferret wasn't going to tell anyone. But I still felt bad about it.

The dream was a bad start to a bad day filled with unpaid bills, lying clients, dead-end investigations, and ghosts behaving badly. So with the past and my death on my mind, I guess it wasn't such a surprise that I got a phone call from a dead boyfriend. The dead seem to have a thing about phones.

I didn't recognize the number, but that never stops me. I answered the phone, "Harper Blaine," like usual.

"Hiya, Slim."

"I think you have the wrong number."

"Ahhh...no. I had to whistle pretty hard, but I think I got it right."

Whistle? What the - ?

"Hey," the voice continued, "you know how to whistle, don't ya?"

I couldn't stop myself from finishing the quote. "You just put your lips together...and blow." That was Slim Browning's line from To Have and Have Not. Lauren Bacall to Humphrey Bogart. My favorite film. It was someone else's favorite film, too....

He laughed. "I knew you wouldn't forget."

A chill ran over me. "Who is this?"

"You're disappointing me, Slim. It's Cary."

"Cary...?" I echoed, feeling queasy.

"Malloy. From LA."

Cary Malloy had mentored me through my first two years as a professional investigator. We'd broken the rules about interoffice romances. Then he'd died in a car accident on Mulholland Drive. Two fast cars racing on the twisty road with a distracting view across the nighttime basin of lights; a bad curve; Cary's car parked on the shoulder as he observed a subject's house, pretending to admire the view; one car swinging a little too wide, sliding out the side of the curve... I hadn't been there, but I always felt as if I had, as if I'd heard the sound of the cars colliding, scraping across the road in showers of sparks and the screech of metal. The two cars had tumbled over the cliff, milling down the canyon side as the third rushed away into the darkness.

The subject had called it in. After all, it had happened right across the street, and the small fire started in the dry chaparral by hot metal and spilling gas was a menace. The entangled state of the burning cars made it plain both drivers were long dead by the time LA County Fire arrived. The residents of the canyon had simply stood at the edge of the road and watched. There was nothing else they could do.

My silence gave my thoughts away, I suppose. Cary's voice said, "Yeah... dying really bit."

My own voice shook a little when I replied, "That's what I hear. Umm... why did you call?"

"It's complicated." I could almost hear him shrug. "But, look, I have to tell you - " He choked and coughed, his voice straining now. "Have to say, it's not what you think."

I could hear a noise, a crackling sound.

"You don't know what you really are, Slim. You need to come here and look into the past," he muttered, his voice fading as if he was moving away from the phone. "There're things... waiting for you...."

"Cary? What things? Cary!" I shouted at the phone, feeling tears building and trembling over my eyelids.

But he'd already faded away, and the flat, dull hum of the dial tone was the only sound from the phone. I put the receiver down and pressed my hand over my mouth, squeezing my eyes shut against the burning of saltwater tears. Coming on the heels of the nightmare, this was too much. But I wasn't going to cry. Not over Cary Malloy. Not again and after so much time. I wasn't twelve anymore, and blubbering wasn't going to help anything.

I wasn't crying when Quinton came tapping at my office door a few minutes later, but I must have looked pretty horrible. He glanced at me and slid in, locking the door behind himself as he dropped his backpack on the floor. He crouched down beside my chair and tried to catch my eye.

"Is the ferret OK?"

I frowned in confusion. "What? Why are you asking that?"

"Because you look like your best friend just died. What's wrong?"

"I just got a phone call from a guy who's been dead for eight years."

Copyright © 2009 by Kat Richardson


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