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 This is the fourth chapter of the book The Unseen Murders, which is the first in the Haunted Silence Series.  The main character is deaf and uses lip reading for most of the book.  Lip reading is far from a perfect or accurate form of communication.  It does not work with some people, nor are most people able to read lips.  In order to move forward the plot, the lip reading in this book is exaggerated.  There are times when the character is unable to read someone's lips either because a word is unclear or because of a situation such as lighting.  Additionally, a portion of this story is also in ASL, American Sign Language.  The grammar for ASL differs from English grammar.  For example, In English you would say, "I give the boy a ball."  In ASL you would sign, "Me boy ball give."  Of course there are more ways to sign that sentence, just as there are more ways to say that.  Both languages are complex and open to variation of use in communication.  However, while describing signing in this book, it is written in English grammar.  It is not a literal translation of the signs being used.  This book is not about being deaf/Deaf but just about someone who happens to not be hearing.  It does supply some information about the Deaf community.  This urban fantasy/crime series is a comedic look at life dealing with communication in general and relationships set in Atlanta, Georgia.  

 

Chapter 4

 

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office was a several story brick building on Pryor Street SW in Atlanta, Georgia.  They stopped using the term coroner in Fulton county back in 1965.  Other counties would following over the coming years.

Detective Simpson and I parked and headed inside, showing our IDs to the attendant.  I'd been to a morgue, I mean medical examiner's office, before, but not often.  I got my clues from energy, and energy faded.  I'd told Mark it was unlikely that I'd get much from a body that was more than a few days old, but he was rather annoyingly optimistic.  Sometimes the traits you like best about people are also the ones you dislike the most in some situations.

In a back room were tables, sleek and silver.  Along one wall were drawers, much the same design.  Stainless steel was easy to clean.  It also didn't hold energy well.  The whole place smelled like disinfectant, which was preferable to what we could have been smelling so no complaints.  One table had a white sheet covering a rather average sized mass, but we weren't here for that.  That was a fresh dearly departed.  Ours had been on ice a bit and were inside the doors on the wall.

“Well, How-dy!” The woman walking up to us was blonde, late thirties to early forties, attractive, and wearing a white labcoat over her blue dress.  She smiled brightly as she pulled off a latex glove and held the uncovered hand out to the detective.  “Well Detective Simpson, fancy seeing y'all around these parts.  What can I do for you sugar?”

I stepped to the side, trying to make sure I could see all parts of the conversation.

Detective Simpson nodded, smiling back as he shook the woman's hand.  “A pleasure as always doctor.  Unfortunately, I'm here on official business.” He held out the papers he had in his left hand.

She took the papers, reading over them briefly, giving them serious consideration. Looking back at the detective she smiled and said, “Official business, of course.  Always the bride's maid, never the bride.  I can get these for y'all.”

“Oh,” Detective Simpson gestured toward me.  "Doctor Ellison, this is Cassandra Forester.  She's the necromantic investigator on this case.  Cassie, Doctor Ellison is one of the medical examiners her in Fulton County, probably the friendliest."

“Probably the flirtiest,” Evelyn added.

I ignored Evelyn, shaking the doctor's proffered hand.

“A necromancer?  What fascinating work, Cassandra.”

“It's Cassie.  I expect our work has some similarities,” I replied.

She made a slightly odd face, then smiled and nodded saying, “Please, call me Lacey.  This way.”

We followed her to the wall of drawers where she used the paper Detective Simpson had given her to locate the first body we wanted.  “This is the most recent one.  He came in nine days ago.  Time of death was two days before that based on insect evidence.”  She pulled out the drawer and then pulled back the sheet.

It was a man, late fifties, maybe sixty.  He'd been dead for a week and a half and gone through an autopsy, so he wasn't looking his best.  I examined him with my eyes, just a quick once-over to see if anything stood out.  It didn't.  He was white, old in a way that looked older than his age, dead, nothing special and that was an awful thing to think.  I'd seen a lot of dead bodies, though, and this was just an empty shell.  Whoever this had been, he was gone.  Of that I was certain.

“I'd like to touch the body,” I announced, then looked up at the doctor.

“You want to touch him?”  She looked about as excited with that idea as most folks would if someone announced they wanted to touch a twelve-day-old dead body.  

It could have been worse.  I could have been someone saying I wanted to do more than touch him.  Technically I had no true want to touch him, no desire, just a need to do my job.  I didn't think saying I needed to touch a twelve-day-old dead body would go over any better, so I only nodded.

Her head turned, clearly looking at Detective Simpson as he explained something, so I waited.  Then she nodded, shrugged, and said, “Knock yourself out sugar.”

Mark stepped behind me, familiar with the process from the many murder scenes we'd investigated together.  I'd told him not to expect much here, but he was hopeful still.  I placed both hands on the man, one on his forehead and another on his torso.  Usually, I just touch a fingertip to the body, but this time I was going to try and absorb as much energy as possible.  Normally I touch a body and the energy rushes all over me, into me.  The emotions crash over me like a swelling wave does over a toddler, and I have to fight to hold onto myself.  This time it was more like sifting through a pool of water, trying to find something of value at the bottom.  Everything was muddy, unclear, and it took all of my years of experience to pick out the pearls within.  Strong emotions can be confusing for people, even love and hate looking like each other at moments.  Carefully, patiently, I panned through his emotional residue, trying to find something of value.

I stepped away, blinking as I categorized what I'd found.

“You okay girl?” Evelyn asked.

I nodded.  “Things were deluded, faint.  There wasn't much left to work with.  I found a few things, though.”  I watched Detective Simpson flip open his notebook and I said, “There was a sense of betrayal, but it didn't run deep.  I think he knew who did this, but not well.  There was fear, so he saw it coming.  I'd say he put up a fight, at least a little bit of one.  Also, and this one is harder to tell, but I think there was more than one perp.”

The detective lifted his head, asking me, “You're sure?”

“From a body this old, I can't be certain of anything.  I told you this was a longshot.  I work best on crime scenes, fresh bodies.  Your medical examiner and your CSIs will be more help than I will here Detective.  All I can tell you is the sense I got from the lingering emotions.  I'm no empath, but the betrayal involved a sense of ‘they’.  It could have been multiple people involved, or it could have been an organization that the killer worked for.  My best guess is more than one perp, but I'm guessing.  Ask your medical examiner.”

Detective Simpson looked at Lacey and she nodded.  “That would be consistent with what we've found.  These knife wounds appear to be caused by a left-handed assailant.”  She pointed to long, deep cuts on the body.  “These appear to be caused by a right-handed assailant.” Again she indicated cuts on the body.  These were obviously shallower and not as long.

“Could that be done by the same person holding the knife in a different hand?” The detective asked.

Lacey considered, then shook her head.  "The possibility does exist, but it's highly unlikely.  Both sets of cuts are smooth, straight.  An off-hand cut doesn't leave this kind of clean edge and even pressure.”

“Even if someone is ambidextrous?” I asked.

“Even those that are favor one hand over the other.  A true ambidextrous is rare.  Not saying it can't be, just not the way the human brain works.  Y'all want to see the other body?”

I looked up at Detective Simpson saying, “I'm going to get even less off of this one.”

He smiled.  “Do your best.”

I tried not to, but I think I rolled my eyes.  We followed Lacey over to the next drawer and another body got rolled out.  It was another male, Caucasian, same age range.  Thinking about the body we found in the mill, I furrowed my brow.  This was a pattern.  No wonder the detective had dragged me out here.  He wanted to link these homicides.  I touched the body but this one was even murkier, less information.  I stayed as long as I could, until the emotions faded away, then stepped back shaking my head.

“Maybe betrayal, maybe, but maybe I was just looking for it.  Maybe I should have done this body first.  I can tell y'all he didn't have a pleasant passing, but you didn't need a necromancer for that, now did you?”

The doctor didn't reply, but the look on her face told me that she agreed with me.  I'm sure she'd seen as much death in her life as I had, maybe even more.  Neither of us had a pleasant calling.

“Question for you doctor, why has no one claimed these men's bodies yet?  Even though their investigation is still open, I'd expect the bodies to be buried by now.  Haven't the families come forward yet?”  I asked.

She shook her head.  “We're having problems IDing them.  They're itinerants.”

I looked over at Detective Simpson and he said, “That makes them easy victims.”

I had to agree. “I have an idea,” I said to Detective Simpson.  “Can I get a few strands of hair from each of the men?”

“You want some of their hair?" He asked, a skeptical look crossing his face.

“Girl, what did we just say just yesterday about not seeming odd to the cute detective?” Evelyn reminded me.

I ignored her, saying to the detective, “Yes please Detective Simpson.  I can't get much of anything from these here bodies.  I may know someone who can.  She has a different set of skills.”

“And it involves hair?” He asked, still clearly not convinced.

“Yes Sir,” I replied, smiling just as sweetly as I could manage.

“You're dying a virgin you know.  I'm an expert on this here topic.”

I ignored Evelyn, but I didn't disagree.  I was an expert on history, ghosts, and ruining first dates to make sure there wasn't a second one.  We all had our skill set.

Surprisingly Detective Simpson just smiled back and said, “Well okay then.  Doctor Ellison, any problem getting this little lady here a hair sample?”

The doctor shrugged.  “I don't see why not.  Just let me grab y'all evidence bags and I'll get your samples.  How much do y'all need?”

“Just a few strands from each body, but I need the root attached,” I replied.

The doctor looked from me to the detective.

“She needs the root attached,” he said.

“You're the...” The doctor gestured toward me but didn't finish that sentence unless she said something else as she turned away, grabbing evidence bags.  I'm sure if it had been rude Evelyn would have told me.  She loved repeating rude things.

I had my hair samples and was heading out the door when I passed by the body on the slab.  It was still covered, but I came a sight bit closer to it this time than I had on the way in.  I paused, attracted to a sense of unease, the unsettled energy from the corpse.  

Pointing at the covered body I asked, “What happened here?”

The doctor replied, “Well the report on the scene listed it as a suicide but—” Detective Simpson's hand on her stopped her from speaking.

“You want to take a gander Cassie, see what you can suss out?” He asked me.

“You mind?” I asked the doctor.

“If you can provide any further insight, I'd appreciate it,” she replied, pulling back the sheet.

This body was sewn closed, but fresh.  It was a young woman, maybe my age, so early twenties.  She was Caucasian, blonde, might have been pretty before, but it was impossible to tell with all of this damage.  She was covered with bruises, broken bones visible under and through the skin.  One side of her face was wrecked.

“Cheese and crackers!” Evelyn said, pretty much summing up what I was feeling.

Nodding, not letting my emotions show as I tried to be professional, I asked, “How long ago did this happen?”

“This morning,” the doctor replied.  “I just closed her back up.”

I looked up at Detective Simpson and he stepped behind me.  A body this fresh, this was our usual process and he knew it well.  I reached out, only touching the girl's body with one finger, and stiffened as the emotions, the memories, washed over me.  As the fear hit my pulse increased, my pupils dilating to let in more light, take in more data.  Then something shifted, my pupils contracting.  Oh, fuck!  Lights, his truck lights!  My adrenaline surged as I tried to flee, hearing his voice in my memory yelling, ‘You can’t leave me!  Get back here!’  I turned, the color red and three letters clearly visible.  He was gonna kill me.  He was gonna fucking kill me.  Oh, fuck!  Oh, fuck!  I tried to run again, my feet slipping under me on this thick mud, and as I went down, the lights closed in. There was the spot where pain came, then darkness.

I opened my eyes and I was curled up against Detective Simpson's chest.  He was warm and safe; I felt safe against him.  I could feel vibrations in his chest, him speaking again and again while he stroked my hair.  I took a moment to calm my breathing, the smell of his aftershave filling me.  This wasn't the first time I'd found myself collapsed against the detective after reliving a person's last moments, and each time I felt like a fool.

“I'm fine,” I said pushing away from the detective, taking a quick walk around to collect myself.

“You okay girl?” Evelyn asked me.

I nodded at her and stood still, letting her push a touch of energy into me.  It felt good, a bit like a hug.  I smiled up at her and she smiled back.  I was glad she was here.

Turning back to the living contingent I said, “She was hit by a vehicle, a truck I think.  It was red.  I got three digits, letters from the plate: HEV.  She was scared, being chased, and someone, a man, was yelling after her, telling her she wasn't leaving him.  I'd check to see what the boyfriend or husband drives.  The person chasing her felt very possessive.”

The doctor nodded slowly and said, “Her body was found on the interstate, under a bridge, apparent suicide, but I show most of this damage was postmortem.  There were several fractures to the right side of the body that were antemortem, including one to the rib cage that nicked her heart.  She would have bled to death in a matter of minutes.”

“So she was murdered and her body was thrown off a bridge onto the interstate?” Detective Simpson asked.

“That's my finding,” the doctor replied.

The detective nodded saying, “Well we can add Cassie's findings to your report.  If the partner's license plate matches up to what she saw, that should be enough to bring him in and get a warrant for his truck.”

While the detective got the full autopsies and reports on the victims, Evelyn and I hung out in the hallway.  I checked texts on my phone, seeing that my friend Tina had texted me while I was in dealing with dead bodies.  She wanted to get together and do something for my upcoming birthday.  I also had a text from Katlyn, my police officer friend who worked the front desk down at the station where Officer Simpson worked.  She was sweet as could be and said she'd made special plans for Friday night, which was our usual night out together.  She knew I'd be spending my actual birthday with my family, but had made reservations at Dolce Italian for us.  My mouth made a happy circle and I tried not to salivate.  I had a soft spot for cheese covered pasta.  I think I sat on that soft spot.

Detective Simpson touched my arm.  “Anything good?” He asked with a smile.

I smiled back, wiggling my phone in his general direction.  “Katlyn made dinner plans, Friday night, at Dolce Italian for my birthday.  She knows me so well.”

“Katlyn.”  He looked thoughtful for a minute, then asked, “It's your birthday Friday?  Happy birthday.”

“Saturday actually, but thanks,” I replied.  “I'll be spending that with the family.”

“Oh, Katlyn isn’t ah…she and your family don’t…” He paused, his lips pursed, and I waited to see what he was saying.  He scratched at the back of his head, then said, “Well happy birthday Cassie.”

“Thanks,” I said again, utterly confused as I followed the nice detective out to the parking lot. 

He drove us back to the police station, where I'd ended up leaving my car, and I took it on a brief drive over to a main strip downtown.  With my evidence bags of samples tucked safely in my pocketbook, I had a stop to make.  There were many gifted individuals in this world, though far, far fewer than normal people, and we tended to associate with each other.  I was a necromancer and dealt with the dead and the energy they left behind.  What I needed was someone who dealt with a broader spectrum of magic.

I walked into the storefront of Mistress Minerva's, a lovely little mystical shop in downtown Atlanta.  It sold tarot cards, crystals, incense, books on everything from divination through re-energizing your chakras.  Silks hung along the walls, making it look warm and inviting, and the place always smelled wonderful.  It was very 'Woo-woo', woman power, goddess, green Earth, natural energy, and positive.  The tourists loved this place.  I waved to Pete who stood at the counter reading, and he gave me a quick wave back as I headed through a curtain and into the back room.  Anybody who was looking for any real magic knew to shop in the backroom.

Mistress Minerva’s was run by a woman named Karen.  Karen was a witch, a good witch, a very competent witch.  She was goodly also, not that she traveled around in a bubble, but she was a great person.  Evelyn adored her and got along famously with her cat, Sebastian.  I don't think the cat thing had anything to do with Karen being a witch.  I think she just liked cats.

As I walked into the back room I didn't see anyone, so I called out, “Hey Karen, it's Cassie!”

Within a minute’s time, Karen appeared.  “Well hey, sugar!  It's so great to see you.”

Karen smiled broadly, the smile lighting up her face and her red lips stretching across her face.  She was a big woman, tall and wide, what my dad would call a ‘whole lot of woman’.  She had masses of red hair that hung around her shoulders and across her back, and she usually wore a loose fitting, brightly colored dress.  Today was no exception.  She didn't fear color in her makeup either, loving eyeshadow.  Karen was larger than life and as sweet as could be.

Turning to Evelyn she said, “And how are you doing today Miss Evelyn?”

Now to be clear, she couldn't actually see Evelyn.  As a witch, Karen could see auras.  So she saw something, though I'm not sure what.  It was just a something.  Since I was there she assumed that something was Evelyn, and rightly so.

“I'm great!” Evelyn replied, glowing a bit more brightly at having been addressed.  “How are you?”

“She says she's great and wonders how y'all are doing Karen,” I said for Evelyn.

“I'm doing fine darling, just fine.  Thanks so much for asking.  Now, what brings you ladies to my establishment?  Is this business or pleasure?”

“Well always pleasure,” I said with a smile.  “Unfortunately it's business, police business.  I'm investigating some murders, and I'm drawing a blank.  I was hoping you might be able to help.”

“You've hit a dead end and need my help?”  Karen did something odd with her lips, puckering them together as she shook her head back and forth.  I think she was whistling.  I've seen ghosts do it.  It's pretty neat.  When the living do it, it looks a bit like they're kissing the air.  “Dang girl.  Death is your thing.  If you're stuck in the mud, don't know that I can pull you out.”

I nodded, seeing her point, but also still thinking she might be able to help.  “Well, thing is I don't know where these here folks were killed.  The freshest body was over two days old, and the next one closer to two weeks.  I don't have names for any of the victims.  I'm kind of flying blind here.  Hoping you can help me out, girl."

Nodding, Karen said, “What you got for me?”

I reached into my pocketbook, pulling out the evidence bags.

“The roots attached?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“You want a spell or an enchantment?”

“Y'all know I can't cast my way out of a wet paper bag.  Make me an enchantment.”

“You got more power than you know girl.  We'll make a caster out of you yet,” she replied, eying the contents of the evidence bag critically.

“You got plenty of power Karen.  You want I should teach you how to exorcise a ghost?”

“Well don't start with me,” Evelyn said as she nosed around between the racks.

Karen looked at me out of the side of her eye, then said, “You want me to bind this all together, or are you looking for separate enchantments here?”

“Three separate ones would be more likely to give us clear readings, right?”

Karen nodded.  “That would be more expensive though sugar.”

I waved at her, a bit dismissively.  “That's fine.  I want to do this right the first time.”  Karen's enchantments didn't come cheap, but she was damn good and worth the cost.  There were cheaper witches out there, but I preferred working with Karen.  I wasn't one of those women that owned dozens of pairs of shoes or pocketbooks.  The ones that I did have were what I needed for the occasion, they were high quality and classics.  That's how I accessorized all aspects of my life. 

“So what do you hope to find?  Are we looking for names, where they lived, where they were killed?”

“I think they lived on the streets.  Their names would be helpful, might help us in tracking down someone who saw us with the killers.  If I could find where they were killed, if it was the same place...” I nodded.  Pulling out the sample from the most recent victim, I held that out in front of Karen.  “This one, on this one I want you to try and find where he was killed.  On the other two, if y'all could try and get their names, or where they lived, that would surely help.”

Karen took the evidence bag back, but in her other hand to keep it separate from the two she still held.  “It will take a bit.  Come back in about three hours?”

“That would be great.  Thanks, Karen." 

As we left Evelyn said, “So supper?”

I sighed.  “Why do you always think with my stomach?”

“But it's supper time,” she whined.

I checked my cellphone, shaking my head and saying, “Nope.  We’ll go do some errands, then come back to see Karen.  Then we can go home for supper.”

“Well can we get a snack?” She asked me.

“No, we just had lunch.”

“That was salad,” Evelyn replied.

“And dessert,” I added.

“Oh come on!  In my day dinner was the biggest meal of the day.  What's wrong with your generation?  All y'all are so worried about your weight.  Men like a little meat on the bone you know.”

“I'm not worried about what men like.  I'm worried about my own cardiovascular health and well-being.”

Evelyn turned, floating in front of me and facing me so I could see her as she said, “Well in case you're curious, I think Mark likes a little plush in the tush.”

“Enough already about Detective Simpson.  I don't know why you're going on about him lately.  He's a nice man, nice looking too, I'll admit it, but even if he were interested it wouldn't matter.  He has a girlfriend.”

“No, he doesn't.”

“Wh...yes he does.”

Evelyn shook her head.  “No, he doesn't.  They broke up a year ago, year and a half at this point.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure I'm sure.  I heard him talking to her that day she dropped off his key.  She wasn't very nice about it either.  She slapped it on his desk, told him she hoped he had a lovely life with his corpses.”

I was horrified.  “Evelyn, you shouldn't eavesdrop!”

“I wasn't eavesdropping.  I was right there in the middle of the room.  She said it right in front of me.”

I closed my eyes, counting slowly to keep my composure.  Opening my eyes I said, “Darling, when no one can see or hear you and they talk around you because they don't know you're there, that's still eavesdropping.  We've discussed this.”

She just shrugged.  “Anyway, she wasn't real nice.  Remember how she acted when she met you?”

I shook my head.  “I never met her.”

“Sure you did.  You and Mark were working that double homicide over in Buckhead.  You'd pulled an all-nighter, getting a confession.  Mark was just asking if you wanted to get breakfast when that blonde gal came sauntering up to him with a basket.  She kissed him on the cheek and said she'd brought him breakfast since he hadn't come home for supper.  He introduced you two and she looked you up and down, her eyebrows going real high like.  Then she said, 'This is that necromancer y'all are always going on about and working late with!?'  She slapped the basket into the middle of his chest and told him to enjoy his breakfast and his company.  Then she stomped off and said, 'You have got to be fucking kidding me!'  You remember that, don’t you?”

I shook my head, feeling a bit stunned.  “You'd think I'd remember that.  Are you sure I was there?”

“Darling, what necromancer do you think she was talking about?”

“I don't know.  I'm not the only one in Georgia.”

“Do you think I spend time with other necromancers behind your back?”

“Well...okay that's a fine point.  I expect not.  Maybe I was checking my phone and didn't notice?”

Evelyn started laughing.  “Now that sounds like you girl.  Some boy’s girlfriend gets all jealous around you, and y'all are too busy texting your parents to notice.  That there is Miss Cassie Forester to a T.”

“She was jealous?” I shook my head.  “She couldn't have been jealous.  Why would she be jealous?  Why would anyone be jealous around me?”

Evelyn stopped suddenly, putting energy onto one of my shoulders and forcing me to turn and face a store front.  I stood there, looking at my own reflection in the mid-day sun.

“Girl, why wouldn't she be jealous?  You're as pretty as a picture and as sweet as honeysuckle in June.  You're also as sharp as your mama's best knife…on some subjects.  You're the complete package, Cassie.  The only one who don’t see it is you girl.  You can keep hiding, but eventually, some boy is going to drag you out of yourself and convince you of what so many of us already know.”

I just stared at my reflection, an objectively nice one if I weren't doing it with my own eye, and finally asked, “nd what is that?”

“That you're truly special.  That some boy is going to love you to the moon and back again.  Who knows, that boy could be Mark.”

Feeling uncomfortable with this discussion, and too much introspection, I turned away from my reflection and began to walk again.  “Stop teasing me.  Detective Simpson isn't interested in me that way.  Would you like to go grab a coffee with our errands?”

There were several seconds of silence, and then Evelyn caught up to me and said, “Sure would.  I'd like to have some short ribs with it too.”

“Want in one hand, spit in the other, see which gets filled first,” I replied.

“You want me to spit in your hand?”

As Evelyn grinned cheekily, I just kept walking.

We had a few quick errands, but one took me to the Georgia Hill Library.  This is just one of about three dozen libraries in the Atlanta-Fulton library system.  I’d hit most, if not all of them during my various and sundry research times.  I liked the open glass front this one had from a recent expansion, but I was here today because they had a book that I needed.

We had some time so we browsed for a bit.  Evelyn went to the books on CD section, and I hit first the history and then the magic section, looking for what they had on metaphysics.  A lot of what was there wasn't real, but sometimes I found gems.  To be honest, history was much the same.  I'd picked out three books, and made my way over to the books on CDs.

“You find anything?”

“These two,” Evelyn replied excitedly, zipping back and forth between two selections.

I examined them both, adding them to my pile.  They were both what I considered to be trashy romances.  Evelyn adored them.  Since they were on CD, I could just turn them on and hear nothing, and she’d lap them up like a cat with a bowl of cream.  It worked out perfectly for both of us.  Most of the librarians were now used to me getting them.  Occasionally I got someone asking me if I could hear them, to which I’d reply, ‘No.’ I gave no further explanation, and Evelyn giggled while the librarian got me my CDs.  It was easier to be the deaf girl getting CDs than explain being a necromancer to normal folks.

With our mutual loot, I headed to check out and to get the book I had reserved.  A librarian I didn't know, which was unusual, stepped up to assist me.  He was in his mid-forties with brown hair, glasses, and a beard.  He had a decent paunch going on under his rugby shirt.  I was digging through my wallet and pulled out my library card to hand to him.  When my gaze met his, I stopped and stared.  He was doing the same to me.  It was clear why.  He had a visible aura and he could see mine.  His eyes drifted to the side, where he looked at Evelyn, and then he looked back at me again and nodded, taking my library card.

Blinking several times I said, “I have a book on reserve.”

He looked at my card and said, “Of course Miss Forester.  I’ll get it for you.”

“It’s Cassie.”

He paused, looking back at me and said, “Judd.”  Then he left.

Looking at Evelyn I said, “Well he’s new.”

She nodded, clearly excited.  She loved new.  “What is he?”

I shrugged.  “I have no idea.  His aura, it’s around his eyes.  I’ve never seen that before.  I don’t know what his gift is.  Any idea?”

“I haven’t the slightest,” Evelyn admitted.  “Maybe Karen will know.”

“Good thing we’re headed back there in a bit.”

Judd headed back with my book, adding it to the pile and checking us out.  He looked curiously at both me and Evelyn a few times, but neither commented nor asked any questions.  I was hoping he worked here now, and wasn't just covering for someone.  I had so many questions but needed to keep my professionalism and be respectful.

As I took my books and CDs I thanked him and then said, “See you around Judd?”

He nodded, then said, “See you around Cassie.” Then he nodded at Evelyn.

“Yes,” she whispered.  “Cassie, he’s staying here and he nodded to me.”

“Why are you whispering?” I asked as she and I walked out.

“Because…” She thought about that for a minute.  “Because it’s a library girl.”

“You do know no one but me can hear you, right?”

“It’s good manners.  I have them.”

“Finally,” I said, a bit dramatically.

“Hardy-har-har.”

Evelyn and I made one more stop, which was uneventful, then headed back to Karen’s.  We passed Pete who was still reading at the front, and waved to him, then headed into the back room.  Karen was already there, emptying a box onto a shelf.

“Good timing ladies,” she said.  “I just finished up a few minutes ago.”

“Ask her!  Ask her about Judd!”

“Okay, okay.  Karen, Evelyn and I met someone new at the library today.  He had an aura that was visible around his eyes.  Do you know what that means?” I asked.

“Around his eyes?”  Karen tapped at her lips for a moment, then crooked a finger and signaled for us to follow her.  She walked over to a bookshelf, selecting a book.  She held her hand over it saying, “Aura around the eyes.” The book opened and the pages flipped by quickly, slowed, and then stopped.  Karen put her finger on the page, read briefly, and then looked at us saying, “Bibiomaker.”

“Say that again,” I asked her.  I was fairly certain I’d had a lip reading fail.  It happened with new words, when people talked too fast, too slowly, had thin lips, mustaches, or if they laughed a lot.  Actually, there were a lot of reasons that caused it.  Not everyone could lip read, and I couldn’t lip read everyone even though I was really good.  I’d read that the movies made it sound flawless.  It wasn’t.  It was maybe 30% accurate then a lot of guess work and context.  It was much easier with people I knew well.

She handed me the book.  It read, “A bibliomancer gains knowledge from books or other written material.  Their aura appears around the eyes of the gifted individual.”

I read a little further, which offered no further insight on this gift, then went back and read to before that section, but it didn’t explain anything else relevant either.  “That’s it?” I asked, handing her back the book.

Karen shrugged.  “It’s a rare gift sugar.  I’ve never met a bibliomancer before.  Y’all said you met him at the library?”

I nodded.  “He works there.”

“Well, that makes sense.  He must like books something fierce.  Did you talk to him about…?”

I shook my head.

“Understandable.  I have your enchantments, but you’ll want to pick out some crystals to go with them.”

“Me!  Me!  Please, Cassie!”

I nodded to Evelyn and she jetted back toward the crystal bin as I said, “Pick out three of them.”

Karen and I caught up to Evelyn while she fished around in the box of crystals.  When she found three she approved of, she handed them off to me and I gave them to Karen.  Karen had attached each of the groupings of hair to silk cords, and put the crystals onto these.  It was the hair itself that held the enchantment, but the crystal would be used as a focus as I wasn’t a spell caster and couldn’t focus the power myself.  She bagged them all up into their original bags again, though now they had an additional marking in Karen’s hand.  They read: Name, Home, Death.  It was fairly straight forward, though I needed an explanation on how to use them. 

I asked and she explained, “You’ll need something to attract the talisman, to draw its energy.  If you’re searching for the name, I’d use a phone book.”

“I don't think he was listed, Karen.”

“No, but I expect someone with the same name was.  Now I doubt this will give you his exact name, but you’ll get something.  Just hold this over the phone book and start flipping pages.  It will react when you hit the right letter.  Slow down and flip slowly.  You’ll see it circle in on the right section, the area where the name is.”

“Will it point out his name?”

She shook her head.  “No sugar.  It ain’t that clear.  It will give you an area on the page, and that should help, but it could also be confusing.  You see, his name could be William, but if he thinks of himself as a Billy, it will stop there.  He could also think of himself by a nickname, like a Bubba, and circle around the B’s.  This thing here works on energy, not drivers licenses.  If it were clearer, the police would come here and save themselves some man hours every time they couldn’t get a person’s name.”

I nodded.  That made sense.  As it looked like this man was likely not in the DMV, had no property and no one would come looking for him, this looked like my best bet.  “What about the other two?”

“Use a map,” she replied.  “I'd start big and let it narrow down for you.  Now again, it won't give you an address, but I reckon you'll get to a neighborhood.  You'll want to start with a large map and then move your way down to smaller maps once these things point y’all in the right direction.  Any questions?”

I gave her a hug.  “No, these are great Karen.  Thank you so much.”

“Well y’all are so welcome sugar.  It’s so nice to see you and Evelyn.  You both should drop by more, come on up for some sweet tea.  I know Sebastian misses Evelyn.”

“Can we?” Evelyn asked brightly.

“Not today,” I replied, “but we’d love that.  We don’t see you or Sebastian enough Karen.  I’ll e-mail you.”

“You do that sugar.”

Karen hugged me goodbye, saying goodbye to Evelyn also.  I passed along Evelyn's goodbye and her best wishes to Sebastian.  Evelyn and I headed out, on our way home to see the folks, have supper, and for me to work on my paper for school more before bedtime.  I thought about e-mailing Detective Simpson about the enchantments, but magic wasn't much of an area of interest for him.  Most people were skeptical.  I decided to just do my usual routine tomorrow and use the enchantments, then share what I knew with the detective.

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