“Betrayed” – Excerpt from ILLEGAL PURSUIT (Section Psi)

SectionPsidecalWhen the past becomes the present, the greatest terror isn’t what happens next, but what might not happen at all. Detective Jack Peterson was a normal guy, and a member of the Martian Colonial Armed Response, until a shuttle crash left him stranded in the midst of one of Mars’ dangerous Dead Zones. He survived, but his ordeal in the Dead Zone left him battling for his life against the dreaded Martian Fever, and his scars run a lot deeper than his skin, his genetics forever altered. Jack’s never fully accepted the changes he’s undergone, and refuses to learn how to make use of his Psi abilities. But when he’s faced with losing the woman who gives his life meaning, he’ll have to accept that his abilities might be the only way of saving her life.

“Betrayed” — Excerpt from ILLEGAL PURSUIT (Section Psi, Book 1)

He was going to kill her!

Jack slammed his fist into the metal and concrete amphitheater wall and swore beneath his breath. Even physical pain wasn’t enough to drive away the sting of her manipulation. It would be an understatement – and a fatal one – for anyone to think he was angry. He was damned well beyond angry. And, to make matters worse, the woman whose beautiful neck he wanted to throttle so badly was long gone. Rage and hurt knotted together in his gut, a typical reaction to one of Kathrin’s stunts and, like normal, he honestly wasn’t sure what he wanted more – to throttle her, or hug her. At the moment, he’d put his money on throttle, if for no other reason than that he was twice as angry at himself as he was at Kathrin. He let his guard down. He thought he was safe with Kathrin.

He should know better, should have been prepared for this. He’d been here, in this catch-twenty-two between duty and friendship, before. Six years ago, it was Xander Mylonas who hadn’t listened, too obsessed with his pursuit of justice, at any cost, to see any of the dangers to himself or others. And the worst part was, Jack wasn’t sure Xander was ever sorry for what he did.

Jack winced as one crystal clear reminder chimed in his brain. Kathrin wasn’t Xander. She was everything but immune to the feelings of others, and he could at least understand her crusade, even if he saw the dangers to her she refused to acknowledge. Jack squeezed his eyes closed and pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers as he fought to control the frustrated urge to burn something.

Kathrin was different, no matter how he looked at it. The whole damned situation was. Hell, he’d been falling for her since the first day he looked into those indigo eyes. She used his feelings for her to manipulate and distract him, and the betrayal stung. But what hit him hardest was knowing, after that kiss, she had to know how he felt about her. And she still used him.

The need to burn something, to release the pain and tension Kathrin’s betrayal stirred in him, grew unbearable. He was going insane with the heat of rage pulsing in his body. His blood was boiling, and his skin felt hot and too tight. If he didn’t release this energy soon, he was afraid he’d explode.

His gaze cast wildly around as the pressure built, and he snatched up a trembling fistful of discarded plastisheet fliers, relief pouring through him at the feel of combustible material in his hand. Eyes closed, he focused the energy into his hands, the same way he did when he charged his Wulf-120. Heat swelled in his blood, and fire licked through his pulse like lava rushing toward release. He could feel his hands growing hot and saw the glow of red against his eyelids that told him his ability was gathering power. He caught the acrid scent of smoke and flesh before there was an audible hiss, and the pages burst into flame. The fumes of burning plastic and acetate reached his nose, and, within seconds, the fliers were a pile of melted goop in his hand. It left a disgusting mess, but at least his temper disappeared with the flames, and he could think rationally again.

As calm settled over him, Jack drew a deep breath of relief and stared at the goop in his hand as it cooled and hardened into a plastic lump. He couldn’t help but wonder if that lump was a sign of how close he really was to the edge. Funny, how the mere sound of Kathrin’s voice was capable of calming him, making him sane, while her actions inflamed his rage, and abilities. She had the power to destroy him with her little crusade. And that was the most troubling thought of all.

“In Harm’s Way” – Excerpt from Dead Men… (Section Psi)

SectionPsidecalAnyone who knows me knows I have a lot of faith in and respect for science. I believe that, in time, science will answer a lot of questions that are currently mysteries, and will allow us to travel to and live in places where at current we can only imagine what life would be like.

My love for science is part of what inspires me to write Science Fiction, to ask the “What if” question of science and technology. What if we could? What if we found ourselves exposed to new things we can’t even currently imagine are out there. History and science have proven that the coming together of an established society and a society or location completely unknown to them often results in situations outside of human control. The influx of Europeans into the New World sent the Native American death toll spiraling from disease alone – exposure to viruses and germs they lacked the immune system to combat.

So, what would happen if you took humanity from its home planet, and found a way to make human life possible on Mars? We can send all the robots we want – we still have no idea what kinds of pathogens or problems we might encounter from the natural environment of Mars, alone.

This “What if?” was the inspiration behind Section Psi, set in the 25th century, after portions of Mars have long been colonized. However, a virulent infection known as Martian Fever is still a very real threat. No viable vaccine or cure has ever been manufactured for it – disaster has dogged every one ever created. It strikes nearly 75% of the children born on-world. While most recover with little to no lasting effect, some children suffer genetic mutations to their brain and body chemistry, turning them into what are known as Psis – people with extrasensory and paranormal abilities. And children aren’t the only ones at risk. All new arrivals to Mars risk the same infection. While most adults arriving never even contract the Fever, those who do and whom are genetically altered by it suffer far worse than children do.

So how do you police a group of people with paranormal abilities written into their DNA? You form a special off-shoot of the on-world police force, designated solely to deal with crimes against and committed by Psis – Section Psi.

Hope you enjoy!  As always, please leave comments and let me know what you think!

 

“In Harm’s Way”  – Excerpted from Dead Men… (Section Psi, Book 4)

At the Section docking hanger, Calli powered down her Flitter and unstrapped her helmet as she made her way into the nearly deserted facility.  She dropped the helmet on her desk and kept going toward the Lexus Chamber.

“What are you doing back here?”

Calli stopped as Bethanie stepped out of the lab, and her own brows lifted in mock surprise.  “I could ask you the same thing.”

Bethanie grinned.  “I never left.  I’m running a hazardous chemical analysis that’s very sensitive.  I can’t leave until it’s done.  What’s your excuse?”

“I had a breakthrough.”

“More like a breakdown,” a new voice said, and Calli swung around to glare at Cade accusingly.

“You followed me!”

“Damn straight I did, darlin’.  You’re determined to kill yourself.”

“Go to Hell!” She brushed past him to reach the Lexus Chamber.  If she was lucky, he wouldn’t follow her.  But, of course, she wasn’t that lucky.  She could hear his booted feet on the concrete floor behind her.  She ignored him, setting up for a direct jack-in that would allow her a straight free-dive into restricted space.  She had a name to find, and she didn’t have time to scour the Lexus for a back door.

“Do you even know what you’re doing?”  Cade’s hand slapped over the power conduit, keeping her from plugging the jack in.

She jerked back and glared at him again.  She sure as hell knew what she was doing, unlike him.

“I’m working.”

“Bullshit, angel.  You–”

”Like you’d know.”  She straightened then, her breath frozen in her lungs and her eyes wide as what he said finally registered.  Angel.  “What did you call me?”

He frowned, as if replaying his words in his head, and she swore she caught the flicker of panic in his eyes, if only for an instant.

“Nothing.  Calli, you haven’t worked this hard on a case in years, from what I’ve heard.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “From who?”

“Your brother.  The captain.  Hell, everyone.”  He gave her a strange look she couldn’t decipher.  “They all say you’re a workaholic, but that you’ve never taken a case personally, before.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Who says it’s personal?”

“Please.  You’ve been ready to go to the wall – Hell, you hacked an Earth Council facility – for this case.  I want to know why.  What makes this case different?”

She glared at him, even as her suspicion meter pegged out.  Just how the hell did he know what she did in her home Lexus Chamber?

copyright 2008 by Esther Mitchell

Section Psi – Coming Soon from Desert Breeze Publishing

“A Question of Values” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalSomething that’s always fascinated me about mythology is the interplay and interweaving of the concepts of good and evil. In the earliest polytheistic myths, the concepts were twined together so intricately, it was clear that early man had a depth of understanding about the duality of both good and evil that later morality tried to divorce itself from. With the advent of more monotheistic religions, and polymorphic derivatives like Christianity, the waters of good and evil became muddled with absolutism, and the concept became one of holy vs unholy, and one could not be both, or have any kind of interplay between the two. The grey area between good and evil began to disappear, and would not re-emerge until the Age of Humanism.

 

However, even the most holy ancient texts of Christianity and monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam make reference to a deity that is both benevolent and wrathful, a protector and a destroyer. I wanted to explore this, and my Guardians, Inc series became the perfect vehicle for exploring the fine line between good and evil, and where religion loses the concept of faith and becomes zealotry, instead.   And, since I’ve always had a fascination with the concept of the Faustian Contract, I found myself very drawn to the creation of the character of Mephistopheles – a Para who is a demon/devil, but who has made his own deals, if you will, and has a code and set of rules he follows, even in his “business.” I came to really like this character, who straddles the line between what is inherently good in all of us, and what is drawn to acts many might consider evil… He is a necessary evil, and I find myself quite liking him. I won’t be the least bit surprised if he ends up turning up in more than one book in this series…

 

“A Question of Values” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 6) –

 

“What can I interest you in, today? We have a fine collection of Ch’in sculpture, or Berber rugs, perhaps?”

Jonathan stared the tall, emaciated-looking old man down. “I’m not in the mood for games, Mephistopheles. We both know you’ve got a lot more hidden away than a few illegal artifacts.”

Thin lips curved upward ever-so-slightly in a cool smile. “What you’re asking for is very expensive, Agent Caulder. Are you certain you want it?”

Jonathan laughed shortly. As if. “You and I both know you can’t make those kinds of bargains with me, Mephistopheles.”

The old demon sighed exaggeratedly. “More’s the pity, too. You’d make a fine addition to my collection. I could get a lot at auction.”

Mardi Gras tourists not doing it for you, anymore, huh?”

One thin shoulder shrugged up. “You know how it is. One vice, no imagination. No value, there.”

“Wouldn’t know. What I do know is, word has it you might have a lead on the whereabouts of Elizabeth Prescott.”

Mephistopheles’ slim brow raised. “Sweet girl. And very much not my type.”

“Too innocent for you?”

A chuckle answered that. “No such thing, my dear boy. Everyone has some kind of darkness, some price. Well, almost everyone,” he admitted grudgingly. “Young Miss Prescott is incorruptible.” His gaze narrowed on Jonathan. “You, however, have a price. You’ve had value for years, but I see that one — of little enough value, as vengeance always is — has been paid off in full. But you’ve got a new one, now. Much more valuable. Ah, love, maybe? Yes,” he nodded as Jonathan tensed. “Definitely love. I could help you out.”

Jonathan’s fists clenched. He wasn’t playing this game. “I don’t need your help. You even think about messing with her, and so help me God…”

A derisive chuckle met his unguarded oath. “It has been an eternity since the god of Abraham saw my showroom floor. We have an understanding, he and I. I don’t barter for that which is pure, and he doesn’t interfere with my…” He cleared his throat tellingly, “legitimate business.”

“Wonderful.” Jonathan wasn’t interested in any business that didn’t involve his case. “My sources say you helped someone ‘acquire’ Elizabeth.”

Mephistopheles tsk-ed regretfully. “Someone has been talking shop off the showroom floor. It is so difficult to find reliable help, these days.”

Jonathan laughed without humor. “You, complaining about vice? I don’t buy it.”

“You never buy anything,” Mephistopheles complained. “But I have hope for you. Someday, I’ll find the right price.”

Those words drove a cold spike through Jonathan. Mac had a stalker no one had seen yet. Could that be because they weren’t supposed to see? “What have you done?”

“Nothing, yet.” Mephistopheles appeared blandly unconcerned. “As for your Miss Prescott, don’t look my way. I had a Dark Court partisan inquire about acquiring her a few months back, but he didn’t like my price and I’m afraid I was required to have him removed from the premises. Rather forcefully, I might add.”

Meaning, of course, that one of Mephistopheles’ thugs likely vaporized him. Another potential suspect gone. Great.

“I would suggest,” Mephistopheles tapped his steepled fingers against his bony chin, “if you are looking for Miss Prescott, you look into her brother’s associations. Dear Maximillian has a very high price on his head.”

“Body Dump” – Excerpt from NIGHTSTALKER (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalWhen a body turns up in the middle of a National Forest with no visible evidence of how it got there, but clearly having been torn apart, the case is instantly handed over to Bunker team to investigate. And when as the body count starts mounting, the only evidence they uncover points to the impossible. Only, Faith and her team have already learned, when it comes to their cases, nothing is impossible.

Witch Hollow brings together a wide variety of my life-long fascinations, from forensics and anatomy to the paranormal and mythological.  Add in characters who have literally snagged not just my imagination and interest, but also my heart, and this is fast becoming one of my favorite series to write.

 

“Body Dump” – Excerpt from NIGHTSTALKER (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow) -

 

Linda lowered the camera from her eye with a frown.  “There aren’t any footprints.”

Faith glanced up. “What?”

“Footprints.” Linda gestured to the soft earth around them. “Aside from yours, mine, and Agent Caulder’s, there aren’t any footprints anywhere around here, and absolutely no tire treads. How did the killer get the body in here?”

Faith sighed inwardly as she realized Linda was right. Looking back down at the body, the sick certainty this was going to be another of Jonathan’s oddities clenched in her gut. “That’s not all that’s wrong with this scene.  The corpse has been mutilated, and the liver, spleen, and heart are a pulverized mess.” She poked around inside the torn-open abdominal cavity, and sat back on her heels with grim certainty. “And the posterior ribs and pelvis have been shattered.” She looked up at Linda again. “I don’t think he was dumped here. I think he was dropped here. From a considerable height, too.”

Linda looked up. “Passing plane, maybe?”

“Maybe.” Faith couldn’t help the doubtful tone of her own voice.  “If it was a low-flying, relatively slow plane. Anything higher than five thousand feet, and there’d be a lot more extensive trauma than this.”

“Like a biplane. Or a helicopter, maybe?”

Faith nodded. “We’ll have to test the hypothesis, but I hope you’re right.”

Linda snapped more pictures. “Why?”

“Because otherwise, I’m not sure I want to know what did this.”

 

 

“A Question of Trust” — Excerpt from LOVE ME TO PIECES (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalWhile I know there are other projects I really should be working on, for some reason this series has totally captivated my attention. I love these characters, and where they’re taking me, as a writer. Over the years, I’ve become more and more adept at and involved in the process of what I call Character Continuities – series that carry the same core characters throughout. I like the concept better than I do series with books that just end with the resolution of a certain storyline. I always find myself unsatisfied with the outcome, wondering where those characters went from there, what the rest of their story is.

 

With Guardians, Inc’s Witch Hollow series, I get another chance to keep the story going, and every day, I find a new reason to love these characters.

 

Excerpt from LOVE ME TO PIECES (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book # 9) –

 

Faith sighed as she pulled in behind Jonathan’s truck and saw him, seated on her front porch steps, turning his cell phone end-over-end in his hands. She should have known her escape from the Bunker wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Levering herself from her car, she snagged her purse and headed for the house. “What are you don’t here, Jonathan?”

His worried frown stopped her at the foot of the steps. “Where have you been? Joyce called me in a panic two hours ago, saying you weren’t in your office, and she couldn’t reach you on the phone. I’ve been trying for the past hour and a half, and it kept going straight to voicemail. You have a stalker, Mac. You have to know disappearing like that scares the hell out of people. Out of me.”

She glanced away, guilt settling over her. She was so distracted, lately, she forgot about the stalker. Contrite, she muttered, “Sorry. I had an appointment.”

“What?”

“I was at the doctor’s, okay? I turned my phone off.”

The worry in his eyes ratcheted up another notch as he sprang to his feet. “What’s wrong?”

She smiled in tender exasperation. While it was great he cared, sometimes his protective streak got a little overwhelming. “Everything’s fine. This was a scheduled appointment.”

He looked like she just punched him in the chest, and there was definite hurt in his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

She blinked at him, confused. “Why should I have?”

“Unbelievable!” He scrubbed a hand through his hair as he paced away from her, clearly agitated.

“You’re angry.”

He turned, pinned her in place with his glare, before turning to stare out over the yard, again, his hands clenched on the porch railing. “Yeah, I’m angry. When are you going to let me in, Mac?”

His words smacked her, and she barely bit back the gasp of pain as the accusation settled in her chest and stung her eyes. She was such an idiot, to not see it sooner. Jonathan invested himself emotionally in their cases, despite his best efforts to maintain objectivity, so why wouldn’t he do the same, now? Guilt twisted in her.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, moving to his side. She laid one hand on his back. “I’m so used to dealing with my life alone, I guess I’m having trouble remembering I’m not alone, this time.”

He turned to look at her again, the anger gone from his gaze, as a smile spread slowly over his face. “It’s okay, sweetheart. We’re okay.”

It was her turn to look away, even as she gnawed her lip anxiously. He might not feel that way once she told him the rest. Partnerships were built on trust. How long before her secret ripped theirs apart?

“Eviscerated” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians Decal

Watching Faith and Jonathan’s characters develop and learn to trust each other, over the course of these books, is some of the most fun I’ve had with a series, to date. Particularly Faith, as she comes to grips not only with her developing relationship with Jonathan, but also with the evidence of the paranormal her involvement with Jonathan continues to drop in her lap. For a woman so terrified of the paranormal she’s gone out of her way to declare it non-existent, being faced with evidence to the contrary is a difficult thing to accept.

So far, she’s only faced villains who involve the paranormal. Can she trust Jonathan enough to accept someone involved in the paranormal as a victim?

“Eviscerated” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 6)

“Max didn’t do this, Mac.”

“What makes you so certain he’s not responsible?” Faith whipped around to glare at him. She was getting sick of his refusal to accept what was right in front of them both. “So far, all the evidence says Maximillian Prescott is the killer.”

“I know Max, okay? He doesn’t operate this way.”

That brought her up short. She expected him to bring up some kind of psychic mumbo-jumbo about reading Max’s mind or something. “What does that mean?”

“Max is Covenant-bound. And he’s been around long enough to abhor unnecessary bloodshed or cruelty.” Jonathan eyed the eviscerated corpse pinned to the parking garage wall with railway spikes. “This would take someone with a sick mind to even come up with. You’ve talked to Max. Do you really think he’s capable of it, or are you just being disagreeable because of me?”

Faith crouched beside the decedent’s mutilated feet under the guise of examining the damage, but she was aware she didn’t fool Jonathan for a second. They both knew she was hiding her discomfort with his accusation from him.

“Whatever did this, it hardly left much in the way of flesh on the feet. Almost as if it started there, and worked its way up.” She glanced over her shoulder at him. “And no, I don’t think your friend is capable of that. I’ve never seen trauma that presents quite this way, before. It’s not even ritualistic. It’s almost like something was… eating the feet, and then just scraped the rest of the flesh and organs from the body.”

Jonathan frowned. “How do you know that?”

She jerked her head toward a bloody mound in the shadowy corner near the support beam. “Because who or whatever did this left them all behind.”

Jonathan shined his flashlight over the darkened corner, and grimaced. “That’s just nasty.”

“On that, we agree.” She studied the feet a moment longer. Strangely, just enough tendon had been left attached to keep all the bones in place. Almost as if the killer knew exactly what he or she was doing. She frowned. “This body was posed. Our killer knows anatomy.”

“That seems kind of obvious, since they helped this guy out of his skin like an old suit.”

“Yes.” She rose to her feet, still frowning. “What I don’t understand, yet, is why.”

See how this unusual partnership begins, in SIGHT UNSEEN, coming soon.

“Walking Ghosts” – Excerpt from TAMIA (Underground)

TamiaCover

“Walking Ghosts” – Excerpt from TAMIA (Underground, Book 1) :

As he and Jen moved through the trees on the south side of the complex, a bullet ricocheted off a tree next to Watchdog’s head, barely missing his ear.

“Shit!”  He swore as he dropped down behind the cover of the bushes.  Then, in a whisper, he said, “We’ve been made, Cat!  Some motherfucker’s shooting at us.”

She didn’t respond, and he turned to see why.  His blood congealed as he saw her, lying half-propped against a tree. Dark blood soaked her sleeve, and her hand was clamped to her shoulder.

“Cat!”

She reached to touch her ‘link as he crawled to her.  “Damn bullet winged me, Watchdog.  Wasn’t fast enough.I’ll be all right in a minute…”

“Like Hell you will!”  Savage fear launched through him, and his words emerged more growl and speech as he tapped his hand to the group COMlink on his belt.”  Angel, this is the Hornet’s Nest.  We’re down one.  Meet you at the front gate.  Watch out, the ghost is walking.  Repeat, the ghost is walking.”

“I am on the way.”

 

To find out more about Underground, and other titles, please visit my website

 

As always, please leave a comment! :)

“London Tubes” – Excerpt from THE MEADOWTHORNE THICKET

This is a little First Person POV paranormal I’ve been kind of kicking around, when my Muse needs a break, for the past couple of years. I don’t know that it’ll ever really go anywhere or amount to anything more than an exercise meant to keep my creative muscle in shape, but I thought I’d share and get your take… think it’s worth pursuing?

“London Tubes” — Excerpt from THE MEADOWTHORNE THICKET –

People always tell you that it isn’t until you’ve stared into the face of death that you begin to realize the truth about life. If only those people knew how right they were.

It’s not that I have more or less love of life, these days, but more that I have an understanding of just what Death is, and the reality isn’t nearly as terrifying as the holy rollers and priests would have you believe.

I grew up one of those waifs time forgot about – and I don’t mean all that Oliver Twisty rubbish full of “pleases” and “sirs.” It’s not such a bad life, really. Not that it’s easy, or anything like that, but if you figure out how to survive, you can make a pretty decent run of it. I never really knew anything else, anyway. And it wasn’t like I was uneducated, either. I read whatever I could get my hands on, taught myself how to calculate the amount of dosh it took to get from the High Street Station to Greenwich by Tube and back again, and listened in to every business deal or gossip session held by mobile, so I’ve always been pretty much in the know. At least, that’s what I thought until the day Death found me.

Oh, it’s not all dramatic and scary ghost-story, like I heard from the old birds who bilked tourists getting off the Greenwich Tube in the city. They liked to talk a lot of guff about some black-caped figure with a scythe and bony hands, that’d come and suck the life right out of you, if you weren’t careful. I don’t know who they were trying to scare more – us kids or themselves.

Death don’t look anything like that. Fact is, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed them, if I hadn’t needed fare, that day. Sometimes, even picking a pocket can be an act of Fate.

london tubes

“Missing Pieces” – Excerpt from BLOOD MOON (Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalThis series began life over a decade ago, but when the first book was originally published, it was edited into a pale, awkward version of itself, and pretty much killed the series on the spot. I couldn’t see going on with any more books, at the time.

Now, twelve years later, I have the opportunity to share with you the story and characters I originally got to know and love. I’m hoping you’ll love them as much as I do. :)

When three bodies show up, all hanging from the same tree, in one of Pennsylvania’s oldest state forests, the Bunker crew is called in to investigate a possible ritual serial killing. What they’re about to discover, though, goes deeper than any cult, and could put them all in peril.

“Missing Pieces” – Excerpt from BLOOD MOON (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

He shook his head in wonder. She never ceased to surprise him. “You still don’t believe, do you? After all this time, you still don’t believe.”

“It’s not about what I believe.” She looked up at him in exasperation. “After everything I’ve seen since I first met you, I’d have to be an idiot to not accept the possibility there are things out there I can’t explain logically. I’m not an idiot. But I am a scientist, Jonathan. I have to approach every case from that angle, first. Statistically, it’s impossible that every case we have will involve the paranormal, no matter what your connections are.”

“Maybe, but it sure seems like we get an overwhelming number of the weird ones, doesn’t it?” He quipped sarcastically, earning himself an annoyed glare from the woman crouched beside the mutilated corpse. “Look, Mac, all I’m saying is, you don’t have to act like it’s an insult to consider all the possibilities.”

She didn’t respond, a frown marring her face that told him she wasn’t paying attention to a word he said. She bent closer to the body, her expression pinched in concentration as she reached one hand into the gaping abdominal wound on the corpse. There was a gag-inducing squelching sound he was certain couldn’t be normal, before Faith pulled her hand free and her gaze shot to him. The shock and fear in her blue eyes punched him hard in the gut.

“What is it, Mac?”

“There’s no liver.”

Okay, that couldn’t be good. “You’re sure?”

She glared at him again. “I’m a pathologist, Jonathan. I know where the liver is supposed to be.”

“Okay, stupid question. What do you think happened to it? Scavengers?”

She shook her head. “The body’s too undisturbed. I ruled out scavengers when we first got here. Besides, whoever or whatever did this removed his liver with clean, surgical precision. And I think he was still alive when they did it – there’s a lot of blood in the abdominal cavity. It’s early, but I’m calling cause of death as profuse internal bleeding from a severed hepatic artery.”

Jonathan’s gut roiled. This really wasn’t good. “And the only thing missing is his liver?”

Faith peeled off her bloody gloves as she rose to her feet. “Confirmation will have to wait until I’ve had a chance to perform a full autopsy, but so far it appears the only things missing are his skin and his liver.” She glanced his way. “Any idea who or what could do something like this?”

Did he ever.

“You don’t want to know,” he muttered, eyes closed. If he was right, they were all in some very deep shit, indeed, and he needed to talk to Damion. Fast.

“No Coincidence” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalWhen the murder of a local philanthropist turns out to be one of a string of homicides uncovered over several counties, Forensic Pathologist and criminal profiler Faith MacKenzie finds herself with a very big problem – she’s sharing jurisdiction with the Feds, whether she likes it or not. To make matters worse, her temporary partner is a man who believes the origin of these murders is supernatural. To find the truth, Faith will have to put aside every preconception she has about the supernatural. But can she really trust her new partner, or is he at the middle of this deadly game?

“No Coincidence” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book #1)

Faith paled. “There’s another body?”

Jonathan nodded grimly. “This one was called in by a couple of hikers, out in the woods. The officer on the scene couldn’t tell me much, but he says there’s not a lot left of the body that he can see. Hopefully, it’s enough for an ID.”

Faith started walking, already digging in her purse for her car keys and cell phone. “I’ll call Linda. She can be there faster, and start taking photos and measurements. She’ll get us an ID. I just hope there’s enough flesh left for toxicology.”

“You’re not just planning to run a random tox. screen, are you? You’re looking for something.” He fell into step beside her.

Faith didn’t respond, phone to her ear. “Linda, did you get the call about the new body?  Yes. Can you get out there and start your preliminaries? Take the camera, too – you can get some wide angles and preliminary position shots. Also, if you can do it without disturbing the body, I’d like a few rough reconstruction sketches. Just to give Caulder something to start working with until I’m finished with the body.  Thanks, Linda.”

She ended the call and glanced at Jonathan. “You were saying?”

“You have a hunch.”

“I don’t have hunches. I rely on facts.”

“You’re looking for something. Otherwise you wouldn’t be running a tox. screen.”

She sighed, punching the disengage button for her car alarm as they neared the vehicle. “I couldn’t find any of the traditional poisons in Ramsey’s body, or in any of the prior victims.”

He met her gaze, saw the flicker of suspicion there. She knew something she wasn’t telling him. “But?”

“Remember when I told you I smelled some kind of incense around Ramsey, when I first examined him?”  She looked distinctly uncomfortable, and he knew she was onto something.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I took your advice.”

He blinked. This, he hadn’t expected. “Excuse me?”

“I thought outside the box.  I researched toxins that could be breathed in, rather than ingested, and I think I found something.”

“What?”

She shook her head. “Until I can confirm it from a second source, I’m not comfortable making a full assessment. At the moment, it could be nothing more than some kind of weird coincidence.”

Jonathan froze. “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

She shot him a look as she slid into the driver’s seat of her car and reached for the door. “I wasn’t aware there was anything you didn’t believe in, Caulder.  I’ll meet you out at the scene.”

With that, she closed the door and started her car. Watching her pull out, her tail lights retreating through the parking garage, Jonathan had the strangest sense of someone else there, watching. Someone who was none too happy of his presence in Faith’s life.

Stay tuned for SIGHT UNSEEN, coming from Esther Mitchell and FyrRose Productions, Spring/Summer 2014