It’s the final day before Lightning & Power‘s release and you have one last free read. That’s right, chapter three is also free! We’ve had two other free chapters (one and two) so if you haven’t read those yet, then check them out!
Not to mention, to make this especially sweet…
There’s even more money off the first book in the series from tomorrow if you use the code in the above picture at Smashwords!
But, without more ado, lets get to that next free read!
CHAPTER Three: A Family Affair
The GoDrive bleeped to remind me of the speed limit. My foot eased on the accelerator, sensing Simon’s silent, scrutinizing gaze. Wipers flipped across the windscreen, obliterating the smatter of raindrops once again. We were on the wrong side of the road (which was the right side in New York) and it felt uncomfortable, but I couldn’t be bothered to listen to Simon’s comments about how autodrive was lazy and had, instead, opted to drive manually. Besides, it gave me a reason not to talk to him as much.
Thoughts of Logan swirled in my head. Maybe Simon was right, but I wasn’t about to admit it. He was doing a great job lately of being irritating and getting under my skin. Which one of them was doing that? Both, but Simon more than my brother.
I tapped my fingers against the wheel, watching the exotic smear of orange sky slicing through the sadness of blues and greys above. Most of the other cars had autodrive engaged. Why was I even pandering to Simon’s stupid comments? I needed to focus on the case; not his idiosyncrasies.
“So,” he started slowly, “good cop or bad cop?”
I raised an eyebrow, feeling my lips tighten against each other.
“Bad cop, then…”
“Just be professional, Simon,” I muttered with a sigh of irritation. “This woman is going to be pretty distraught and she won’t need you making it worse.” We turned off from the highway, heading into the city.
Simon shifted in the passenger seat. It felt strange to have him on my right instead of my left. He was staring out of the window, the painted sky reflected in his spectacles. “You really have a low opinion of me, don’t you?”
My fingers squeezed the steering wheel. “I just don’t want to fuck this up.” He glanced my way, but I ignored him, glaring at the road. My head thumped. “It’s my first proper case since my condition became public. I can’t mess it up.”
He narrowed his eyes on the word ‘condition’, but didn’t mention it. Turning his angry gaze on the world outside, instead, he replied, “And you think I will?”
“I’m just saying that everytime I take you on a case you get Daphneed.”
“I get what?”
I cringed inwardly. Fingers rubbed against my forehead, but I couldn’t hold back now. “I don’t know,” I muttered. “It’s something Logan said about a cartoon and you getting kidnapped all the time.”
His face paled and stilled. His lips had tightened and his words dropped low. “Scooby Doo.”
“Something like that,” I admitted. “Look, we just need to get through this without you getting taken hostage again. I can’t come to your rescue all the time.”
“Then what do you suggest? As you keep pointing out, I have no special abilities to defend myself with.”
My eyes flipped onto his snippy words. I turned the wheel, moving us down the next block as the GoDrive directed. “Mace or something. I don’t know. Maybe a rape alarm.” I wet my lips, the next words muttered under my breath. “I just wish you were normal.”
He didn’t reply, crossing his arms over his chest and staring out of the window for the rest of the journey. We sat in silence, listening to the tyres skimming the tarmac. The air hummed uncomfortably. And then we were there, pulling carefully into a space by the kerb. Simon had his seatbelt undone before I’d even turned the key in the ignition.
The house was across the road. A thin terrace, it was squeezed in the centre of the row with a small railing and a blue door. Simon moved up the steps as I locked the rental, stuffing the keys into my pocket. I met him by the door as his knuckles rapped against the wood.
“Hello?” The woman appeared before we had time to collect ourselves. Her eyes were red around the edges, hair loose and lightly dishevelled, makeup nowhere to be seen.
“Mrs Jemima Glass?”
“Miss,” she corrected with cracked lips.
“I’m Detective Violet Eonsen and this is my associate Simon McHale. John Maloney sent us.” A spark of recognition entered her sore eyes. A client that was truly pleased to see me. What a novelty. “He said you could do with our help.”
“Oh, of course.” She held the door open, ushering us inside and then taking us through to her sitting room. “I didn’t expect you so soon. Is he on his way?” I exchanged a confused glance with Simon. “Can I get you anything to eat or drink? How was the teleport?”
Calmly, I motioned towards her pastel sofas. “Miss Glass, why don’t we take a seat and talk properly?”
“Sure. Sure,” she answered, settling herself in an armchair whilst running trembling hands through her hair. “I’m sorry. I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself.”
I nodded gently. Despite the worry, she had a pretty face with soft, light brown hair, highlighted by a smattering of golden strands. Her eyes were a pale azure but glassy with emotion. My thoughts crossed over to Maloney. How did these two know each other? He hadn’t mentioned their connection, but she looked awfully close to his type.
Simon stood up. “How about I make us all a drink, instead? Kitchen through here?” He stepped through an archway into a room at the back of the property.
“Oh, yeah, sure.”
I turned to the woman, her eyes still following Simon through the gap. She had to be worried about her son, the reason why we’d been called to her house. Maloney had told me as much as he could, but that was between whatever he was stuck doing in the office. “I’m afraid Maloney sent me because he couldn’t escape work. I’m sorry, Miss Glass.”
“Oh, no, sure. It’s okay.” She took a deep breath and ran her hands through her hair again. “I’m just in such a state that I forgot. I really wish John had been able to come.”
I settled on the pastel pink sofa opposite her blue chair. “Do you mind if I ask how you know each other?”
“He was married to my sister, April,” she replied, an edge of surprise to her voice. She almost looked concerned that my ex colleague hadn’t revealed their relationship.
“Really? I didn’t know he was married.”
She sniffed, looking to a side quickly. “They divorced about sixteen years ago. There’s no reason why you would know.” Her hands were in her lap, wrists facing upwards and pressed together. “He’s a good man. I always feel less anxious with him around.”
“It’s nice that you guys still keep in touch.”
Azure eyes met mine like a woman threatened. “Yeah.”
“So, your son,” I said, trying to change the subject as Simon reappeared with what was apparently a tray of soft drinks. He placed one before each of us. Cold drinks were great, but after a teleport I would much prefer a hot cup of tea. Still, I guess it would have been iced tea all the way over here and that was less than appetising. “Maloney didn’t have much chance to tell me all the details. Now, your son’s name is Jason Glass, is that correct?” She nodded, taking a sip of her orange juice. “And how old is he?”
“He’s fifteen, but he looks and acts pretty mature for his age.” Her voice wobbled and tears clamoured in her eyes, forcing the azure shades to swim. “Do you think he’s still alive?”
Simon put his hand on hers, giving it a squeeze, and opened his mouth before I could cut him off. “We certainly hope so, Miss Glass.”
And that was why I’d warned him in the car. There was no use giving false hope when we could find the boy dead that same night. What the hell was he thinking? An angry glare fired surreptitiously in his direction. “But you should prepare for the worst,” I cautioned the mother, “just in case. Now, can you tell me much about his disappearance; the last time you saw him and his mood?”
“He was fine,” she replied, staring down into her orange juice like it would bring her son back. “Just normal. He was talking about going out with a friend the next day. And then he left for work.”
“When was this?”
Her lip trembled. “Two days ago about half five in the evening.”
“And where does he work?”
“It’s this little retro bar a couple of blocks over.”
“He’s working in a bar at fifteen?” Simon exclaimed, jolting the woman’s head up and widening her glassy eyes. So much for Mr Sensitive…
“I’m a good mother,” Miss Glass wailed, the tears snaking down her cheeks as her lip trembled. The glass of juice in her hand wobbled as dangerously as her voice. “Really, I am. He just does it for a little of his own money and it’s only glass collecting!”
I watched the Adam’s apple in Simon’s throat bob as he swallowed down his stupidity. Glancing at my disappointed expression, he wet his lips and touched her arm again. “I’m not disputing that you’re a good mother. I promise I’m not.”
The faster we got these questions over and done with, the faster I could spare the victim’s mother of Simon’s conversation skills. “So he was in a good mood?” I asked, trying to divert the awkward moment.
She gulped. Tears were strung across her lower lashes like raindrops in a spider’s web, the skin below glistening in the light. “Y-Yes.”
“And this is the first time he’s disappeared or is it a common thing for him to do?”
“No,” she choked out. “No, never. Jason is a good boy. He’s quiet and thoughtful and a great student. He even helps around the house. Why would a happy, helpful kid like that want to run away? I mean, that’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? You and the police? You don’t believe me. You think he’s run away. You think I don’t understand my own son!”
She was shaking and crying again, now. Sympathy eked into my veins, but I had to shake it. After nearly losing Logan, I knew what she was going through. And to have the people who were supposed to help you questioning your credibility was not the most pleasant experience, except they had to do it. I had to do it. She had to realise that.
Simon gingerly put his arm around her shoulders, clearly afraid that touching her at this stage might burn him. “Honestly, Jemima,” he cooed, “these are just routine questions. I’m sure Maloney said to you that Miss Eonsen really is a great detective, but she does have to cover all bases.”
Great detective? My eyes narrowed on Simon. Seemingly oblivious, he was still watching the woman’s face as she slowly nodded, another tear dripping into her lap. Was that really what he thought of me? That I was a great detective? It was almost as if he admired me in some way. Hard to believe when he second guessed me so much.
I cleared my throat, shoving the thought to the back of my mind. There was no room to ponder that right now. We had a case to work on. “I understand this is hard for you, Miss Glass. I only have a few more questions about your son. So, Jason didn’t come home after his shift. Does that mean that somebody at the bar would be the last person to see him?”
“I guess so.”
“Do you have a name and address for us?” Simon asked gently.
“Sure, just give me a minute.”
We both watched in silence as she vacated the room, heading into the kitchen as she attempted to dry her eyes on the backs of her hands. A low breath whistled from Simon’s lips before he quietly added, “You’re really crap at talking to people, you know?”
An eyebrow raised. “Says you after making her out to be a bad mother. I thought we’d talked about being professional?”
“That was unintentional and you know it,” he huffed.
“Excuse me? So you’re saying that yours was an accident but I’m intentionally a horrible person?”
His face reddened, eyes wide. “I–”
Miss Glass returned, a scrap of paper trembling between her fingers. She handed the note to me. I opened it, reading the name and address of the little bar. “I’m sorry about before,” she muttered. Her face was less red now and her eyes dry. She must have spent the extra time in the kitchen composing herself. “I’m just a little stressed.”
“That’s perfectly understandable,” Simon responded as the victim’s mother placed herself back on the edge of her armchair.
“You said you’d spoken to the police,” I clarified, shifting the subject back to the main priority. “Do you know if they have any theories at all?”
“They didn’t say anything, but they don’t seem to care. I mean, why would they?” A tinge of anger stained her cheekbones.
“What do you mean?” I pressed.
She shook her head as if trying to dislodge the bad feeling that had crept over her. “I’m not stupid, detective. My son is almost a mute. His abilities are barely worth mentioning and because of that the cops aren’t interested. I mean, who would miss one less handie in the world, right? But I love my son, detective, and I want him found.”
Futile determination washed Simon’s features. “We’ll do our very best, Jemima.”
“You’d better do.”
I pushed back on topic again, hoping to conclude the interview as soon as possible. It didn’t look like we were going to get much more useful information from the boy’s mother. After all, it was his work colleagues that were the last to see him and the closer we got to where he’d disappeared the better. “Are you aware that there have been news stories of similar low level and mute individuals disappearing lately, Miss Glass?”
Surprise scattered across her features, followed immediately by regret. “No. I had no idea. I would never have let him go to work on his own if I’d known.” Her eyes began to glitter with emotion again. “If there’s more than one… That doesn’t mean a serial killer, does it?”
“Not as far as we can tell,” I assured, “but I’m going to check further into them to see if it could be anything to do with Jason’s disappearance.”
“But what would anybody want with Jason? Even the powers he has aren’t anything that anybody could really use. He’s a healer for god’s sake!”
“The other disappearances could still be unrelated to Jason’s. He still might not have even been abducted. However, if you can think of anyone that might have a grudge against him…?”
“No, no one. I told you. He’s a good kid.”
“What about a girlfriend or a boyfriend?”
She shook her head more vehemently this time. “No, neither.”
“Okay. Well, we’ll check in with his workplace,” I explained, “and find out his last known movements. If you can give me a contact number so I can call you if I have any more questions?”
I rose to my feet, signalling that we would be leaving to Simon who almost toppled out of his seat. Miss Glass arose too, plucking her iCom from the coffee table and swiping through it to find her number. Pictures danced across the screen as she searched.
“Do you have any recent photos of Jason?” I asked.
“Yes. Yes, of course.”
A small smile played her tired face as she settled on an image of her son. I held my iCom beside hers. The devices touched at the side and she swiped a finger towards my screen, allowing the data to jump from one phone to the other along with her contact details. It was a good picture. The kid was grinning, his hair stuck up at the back, with a nose that looked slightly misshapen, much like his mother’s. I tried not to narrow my gaze on the image as I realised how startlingly similar the boy’s eyes were to a certain detective that had set me on this case.
“Is that what he was wearing when he headed to work?” I asked.
“Near enough. His trousers were black instead and he was wearing some flat work shoes too.”
“Thanks Miss Glass. I’ll be in touch with you if we need anything else.”
“Yeah, sure. I just want my son home, detective.”
I nodded reverently and began heading for the door. Of course, it took Simon a minute to follow. He’d touched her shoulder gently as I’d rounded the corner into the narrow hallway and I could hear him thanking her for the soft drinks and reassuring her that I was better than my ‘manner’ suggested a moment before I wrenched the door handle open.
Next time I was leaving him in the car.
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