Detective Lindsey Sayers contemplated the idea that her new boss hadn’t been totally forth coming about the remoteness of the address she needed to visit as she eased her old sedan up the narrow dirt drive at a snail’s pace. She winced each time a branch scraped against the faded paint or the car bottomed out in one of the deeper ruts. The aging vehicle had served her well for almost ten years and had been up and down almost every street and alleyway in the city, but this was the first time she’d taken it on an unpaved road. Either her new department was going to have to issue her more appropriate transportation, or she would have to invest in something better suited for this type of travel. It was a fact that forays into places where roads weren’t in the best shape would happen more often now that she’d been assigned to the cold case division in a smaller rural station. Some of her peers at her previous station house had intimated that they thought the transfer had been a demotion. In a way it had been, and she understood why they’d done it. Lindsey didn’t see it as a bad thing, in reality it was probably the only thing that would have worked. At any rate, to her, the thrill of solving cases that had stymied her predecessors and left loved ones without closure was far more fulfilling than any of her prior positions had been.
She brought the car to a stop where the dirt road ended, turned off the engine, and leaned forward to peer out the dust covered windshield at the dilapidated old house. The case that had brought her to this desolate location today was the disappearance of Macy Stapleton. A twenty-five-year-old wife and mother of twin infant daughters. Macy had vanished just over sixteen years ago. This house was the last place anyone had seen her. Her husband’s interview transcript stated that she’d been busy cleaning house and caring for the children when he’d kissed her good-bye before leaving for work. She hadn’t told him of any plans to go anywhere that day. When he’d come home later that evening he’d found the children alone and inexplicably hidden in their bedroom closet and his wife nowhere on the property. Macy’s body had never been found, but investigators had dredged up enough circumstantial evidence to convict her husband. That evidence included an affair Macy had been engaged in with an unknown subject and her husband’s history of anger issues and infidelity. He was currently serving life in prison for her death. He claimed he was innocent. They all claimed they were innocent, but Linsey believed Paul Stapleton’s claim. His eyes had been too haunted, and the tremble of the hands he’d scrubbed back through his hair over and over again during their interview too real to believe otherwise.
Her own hands trembled slightly as she shoved open the car’s heavy door and stepped out onto the hard-packed dirt of what had probably once been the front lawn. The squall of the car’s old hinges as she pushed the door closed sounded unnaturally loud in the quiet. She pressed her hands into the small of her back then bent back over them to stretch out the kinks of the three-hour drive then straightened to survey her surroundings. The scene seemed serene. Trees waved their thick leafy branches in the gentle breeze and the tall grasses that surrounded the old house rustled softly as they swayed to and fro. Multitudes of wild flowers in riots of different colors filled the air with soft fragrance. If it weren’t for the tingle of death that danced across her skin, she would have been captivated by it all.
Her gaze shifted to the house where the vibe was much different. Wooden walls, devoid of paint, had faded to a dull silvery grey. Unadorned windows stared out at her like eyes full of accusation and reproach, and the old front porch sagged in a frown of disapproval. The screen-less screen door banged listlessly against its frame with each puff of wind. It felt as though the house itself blamed her for the long stretch of time that had passed before she’d shown up to release the secrets it held. Frustrated by the sensations, she shook off the building apprehension and made her way carefully up the rotting porch steps.
One hand hovered over the doorknob while she gave herself a few much needed seconds to mentally prepare herself for what was to come. No one but she and a very open-minded psychologist knew how she’d suddenly gotten so proficient at solving these old cases. Hell, no one would have believed her if she’d tried to explain it to them.
It had all begun a little over a year ago, shortly after she’d been shot while responding to a domestic. She’d died and been brought back twice during the subsequent trip to the hospital and emergency surgery. The changes had started slowly as she recovered. First it was just feelings. She’d felt death. Felt danger. Felt things normal people couldn’t – or shouldn’t. Then came the visions. Quick snapshots. Pictures seen so briefly she’d thought she’d imagined them. Touch a knife, see who’d wielded it. A gun and see a victim. When she’d gotten her first full-on immersion into the past, she’d thought she was going insane. It had taken time, and a lot of experimentation, but she’d eventually come to understand what was going on. She was experiencing a crime that had been committed from the perspective of the victim. It didn’t happen for current cases only the old cold ones.
With a shake of her head, she pulled herself from her memories. Then, because she knew that if she paused too long and gave herself too much time to consider what she was doing that she’d never do it, she shoved open the door and stepped inside. It took a couple minutes for her eyes to adjust to the change in light. Once they did, she looked around. The house was small, four or five rooms at most. She’d entered into what had once been the living room. A quick survey of the rest of the house yielded an eat-in kitchen devoid of everything including appliances to the right, and two bedrooms and a tiny bathroom to the rear. The lack of furnishings and personal items worried her. To see what had happened, she needed to find just the right object to use as a conduit. The only item left in the entire house was a single straight back chair sitting in front of a small fireplace in the front room.
Avoiding the inevitable plunge into fear and death that would come if the chair worked, she walked back through the house. She moved slowly from room to room, taking the time to run her hands over walls and countertops. Memories absorbed by the structure flickered around her. A petite blonde woman smiling from where she stood by the stove in the kitchen who had to be Macy. The babble of small children in one of the bedrooms. The more she gave herself over to the house, the more she saw. She knew when the house had settled into the day it had happened because she felt the eagerness of its desire to release it all to her. It was only then that she made her way to the chair. With trepidation, she lowered herself into the seat and closed her eyes.
Sensations slammed into her with so much force she cried out. Fear. Panic. Pain. Sorrow. Then the memories came and shoved her unceremoniously into the mind and body of Macy. Events began to unfold around her. She heard the crunch of tires on the drive outside. Felt the confusion about who it could be. A trip to the window and a gasp of surprise that quickly morphed to fear. The mad dash to the bedroom where her girls slept peacefully in their cribs. Frantically lifting them from their cribs and putting them into the small closet praying they’d stay asleep and quiet and out of harm’s way – he hated them so much. The soft click of the closet door as she eased it closed was followed closely by the bang of the front door against the wall as it was kicked open by the intruder. She made a mad dash out into the living room where she took a defiant stance with manufactured bravado and faced down the man who came toward her with rage and lust filled eyes.
He stopped close enough for her to smell the sweat and alcohol and feel the spittle that flew from his flabby lips as he berated her. They’d had a deal. He could do to her what he wanted in exchange for his not arresting Paul. She’d denied him long enough using the excuse of child birth. He wanted payment. She squared her shoulders and planted her hands on her hips while she told him the deal was off. She’d asked Paul about his supposed crime and he’d denied it. Given her proof that he hadn’t been involved. She no longer owed him anything.
The fist came out of nowhere and sent her sprawling. She scrambled on hands and knees away from him, but was too slow. He caught her and was poised with fist raised again when Lindsey’s eyes flew open. Her breath came in raged gasps as she tried to disentangle herself from Macy. This was the first time she hadn’t had to experience the death. The one time she needed to so she could find the body and the proof she needed to exonerate Macy’s husband. She now knew for certain that Paul was innocent, and the guilty . . . oh God the guilty.
Her head swung toward the sound of tires on gravel outside. Unlike Macy, she didn’t need to go to the window. She knew who was here. There was only one person who had any knowledge of her being here. One person who, while he didn’t understand how she did what she did, knew about her near perfect track record for solving cold cases. The man who’d killed Macy. The same man who’d given her directions out here to the Stapleton homestead. Why had he sent her here knowing she’d figure out what he’d done? Had it been a test? Why was he here now?
The door swung open and slammed into the wall and a huge man barreled into the room. Macy moved to Lindsey’s side as she unholstered her service weapon and ordered the man to freeze. Listened with her as he raged about what he’d heard and seen on some camera he’d installed in the empty house. What had he’d seen and heard? Did she act out what she saw when she became the victim? When the intruder charged and Lindsey pulled the trigger, Macy screamed and then went silent and Lesley briefly wondered if the death of her murderer had allowed her to move on.
After the county came and took away the body of Sheriff Hadley and Lindsey had answered all their questions and given her official statement, she noticed Macy standing next to the chair beckoning to her to come and sit back down. This was new. Never had she seen the victim after the crime had been solved. Then again, while the perpetrator had been found, Macy’s remains had not, so only one piece of the puzzle was complete. She waited until the last of the emergency personnel left the property before she went to do as Macy requested. Would she have to relive the death to finish this? She hoped she wouldn’t, but even if she did, she couldn’t deny Macy or her family the closure they needed, so she sat.
The exhumation of the body of Macy Stapleton from the back yard of the sheriff’s house took place on a warm and sunny day in August. Not only had Macy been able to point Lindsey to her body, she’d been able to help her locate enough evidence to back up claims that the sheriff had been her killer and Paul was innocent. Lindsey had pulled some strings and called in some favors and that was how Paul and his girls were able to be there to witness the disinterment. They’d invited her to the funeral set to take place in a couple weeks. Her therapist said she should go, she wasn’t sure she’d have time.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to go, not really. The thing was, free hours were scare these days. That straight back chair from Macy’s house now sat in Lindsey’s living room and she wasn’t sure requesting to take it had been such a good idea. All day the chair sat empty. A silent reminder of how close she’d come to death and how precious life was, just as she’d intended. The evenings were a whole different story. As each day ended and the dying light spilled across the chair, a figure would appear, seated on the chair. The first had been a man from Nogales Texas. He’d been murdered and the wrong man had been arrested for it. She’d ignored him for three days before she’d gone to Texas. Finding the truth had taken two weeks. The evening of her return home had brought the spirit of a teenaged girl who’s death had been ruled a suicide. It hadn’t been. Sheriff Lindsey Sayers was currently at the local high school questioning the girl’s best friend about exactly what had happened to her friend. With any luck, the spirt world would give her a break long enough to bid farewell to a young mother who’d died too soon. She wondered if Macy would be able to help with that.
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