And so the story continues with Rebecca Gomez Farrell. To check out the other parts of this series we have them for your convenience here just click the highlighted below.
Ellea felt like a vise had cinched her throat. The Natural Assembly was here . . . in Pecos?
Back in Dallas, she’d worked a case on the secretive church and its leader, Reverend Peter Staff. He—it was always a man who led these cults—was in his midfifties with brown hair so gelled a tornado couldn’t move a strand of it. She’d taken an instant disliking to him from the moment she offered her hand in greeting and he held it like a dead fish. The station had called her in to question him after an embezzling charge was leveled against the Natural Assembly by a disgruntled former parishioner. There were also complaints about beheaded chickens, but sacrificing animals was not against the law. Apparently, the church had moved to a smaller pond, perhaps to draw less attention, but they’d also moved on to bigger animals.
It wasn’t remembering the sacrifices that unnerved her, though. She’d realized, without needing to rely on her special skills, that the complainant was a revengeful former flame of Staff’s. His books came out clean, and despite the perfectly coiffed hair, he had none of the trappings typical of hucksters: no Rolex, no 100-watt smile, not even a snack oil grin. He was very serious in demeanor the whole time she had talked with him. He only smiled after she had thanked him for his time and risen to leave.
“Officer Sharpe,” he’d said as she’d walked toward the door, cursing her new pair of shoes for the blister forming on her big toe, “we could use someone like you in our congregation.”
She’d laughed; she couldn’t help it. Sacrificing chickens was not a calling she felt. “Reverend Staff, thank you, but I already have a church.”
“A church that you haven’t told about your gift, I’d wager.”
That had stopped her in her tracks, giving her the same reaction she felt now. Chilled to her core. No one knew about that. No one. Sure, the station relied on her ability to use it in tough investigations, but they thought she was simply good at cracking a witness open. They didn’t know that when she had them alone in a room and relaxed, she could jump into their minds like diving into a swimming pool. No one knew that, except her mother.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she’d stammered.
“Yes, you do.” His half-smile disappeared. “Lying isn’t virtuous, Officer. When you’re ready to be who you are, why don’t you come by again?”
She’d walked out his front door without saying goodbye.
Deuce said her name, shaking her out of her memory. “Officer Sharpe? Are we done here? If these crazy people have my kid, I’d really like to get him away from them. Now.” Barely contained rage could be heard in the way he said the words through gritted teeth.
Ellea nodded and thanked Eli for his time. She didn’t believe he’d told all he knew—not with the way he’d kept his eyes firmly on his second bottle of Miller’s Lite—but she needed to follow this new lead before it got cold. And she needed to know more about Mary Jo, or she wouldn’t be able to get anything out of Reverend Staff or his congregation. Which meant she needed to get to know Deuce more . . . personally.
Her cruiser looked too shiny for this dusty town, even after the long drive from Deuce’s ranch. As they walked toward it, she considered the man beside her. Even with his cowboy hat on tight, his hair poked out from under it, longer than she’d expect for a businessman. When that business made millions, she supposed it didn’t matter how long his hair was. He walked in long, measured steps, fast enough that she had to pick up her usual hurried pace just to keep up with him. But still, he seemed too calm and assured for a man whose ex-wife had just been murdered and son was missing. And why did he have no family or associates about? Men that rich—and that gorgeous—usually attracted attention. Maybe that was why he lived here, in this podunk town. Heck, no one had even acknowledged they knew him in the bar except Eli.
Deuce reached the car a few seconds before she did and tapped his fingers against its roof. She unlocked the passenger door—keeping him in the cage would not help relax him—and opened it for him, garnering a befuddled glance from him before he shrugged his shoulders and sat down. When she slipped into the driver’s seat, he asked, “So where is this crazy church? And do you need to call in reinforcement before we get there? I don’t want anything happening to my son.”
She gulped. “We aren’t going there, at least not yet.”
She could barely see his eyes over the brim of his hat, but she could feel them. His gaze felt hotter than a shell casing right after a shot. “I’m sorry, Officer. Did you see we aren’t going after my son?”
That man probably withered his opponents in the boardroom with a glance. But his cool anger was also sexy—and she certainly wasn’t going to let him bully her into what to do next. She was the one in control here.
“No, we are heading back to your place—your dome. I have some more questions for you.”
He kept his cool, though there was a tinge of worry and frustration creeping into his voice. “Then ask them now, on our way to the church. My son’s been kidnapped! Why would we waste time going back to the ranch?”
Because I can’t dig into your mind like this. “We don’t know where they are for one. But more importantly, I don’t know enough about Mary Jo to get them off their guards. We are due for a nice, long conversation so we can get your boy back, rather than lose him if we go in unprepared. That’s final.”
Deuce relaxed back into his seat and pulled his hat over his eyes in response. They drove in silence down empty side roads, except for the occasional silo or herd of grass-munching cattle. He didn’t look up until they reached his front gate. Then he stepped out to open it and whistled. Satan appeared from the western side of the dome and came barreling forward like a puppy, until he saw her through the windshield. Then he bared his teeth and spit off to his left. Wonderful. He hadn’t tied up the llama after all.
Deuce patted the llama’s flank and led it off the road. Ellea drove the car past them and into the car port farther up. As she looked at the dome, she was amazed at how small it seemed from the outside. Its egg-shell exterior radiated heat from the sun, making it look like a UFO ready to take off. If she hadn’t been inside it already, she might have been afraid of what it contained.
She heard a click and instinctively reached toward her weapon, but it was just the sound of the door handle being pressed. Deuce opened it for her, and she said thank you, which he acknowledged with a mumbled, “You’re welcome.” Once inside the dome, he offered her a seat by the vanilla orchids again, which she took. The waterfall’s soothing rush would certainly help create the mood she needed to do her work.
“Your house is so refreshing after being out there in that heat.” She started things off friendly. He needed to relax a little, or she’d never be able to probe him.
He put two fresh glasses of iced tea in front of them and sat down across from her. “Look, I’m not really in the mood for chit chat. My kid’s missing. Just ask me what you need to ask.”
“Okay, then. How about we start with Brian? Tell me about your son. What’s he like when he wakes up in the morning?”
“Oh, he’s impossible to get out of bed. But when he lived here—it’s been about half a year since Serena left—I would pick him up in his PJs then set him down in front of the waterfall in the garden. He’d stare at the water while I poured him some Fruit Loops. I think it helped him clear his mind, you know?”
Amazingly, she didn’t have to pry the stories out of him. The invitation to talk about Brian opened some sort of cap on his bottled conversational skills. Before long, his furrowed brow had diminished, and his stance was more like that of a man—well, a man who enjoyed talking about his kid. She almost didn’t want to stop listening, but he’d calmed down so much faster than she expected—it was nice that he was so obviously in love with Brian. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes for a second, then visualized herself channeling a stream of energy from her mind to his, penetrating right above those dark grey, smoldering eyes.
She gasped and gripped the sides of her chair, dropping the visualization instantly.
“What’s wrong?” he said, jumping up and rushing over to her. He picked up her arm gently, and she let him feel for her pulse while she gathered her thoughts. His roughened fingertips felt warm and pleasant, but it didn’t matter—she was shivering on the inside.
Whenever she entered someone’s mind, there was always a sensation like pushing against a current of water. Once the sensation ceased, she’d be inside, and she could start shuffling through the memories and thoughts she found. The person never felt her energy there, and she was able to keep one eye on the conversation while rifling through his or her mind to find out what really happened. But when she’d entered Deuce’s mind, if felt like hitting a brick wall. She couldn’t move forward, couldn’t move up or around it. And it hurt too hard to try and press through it.
For the first time in her life, Ellea had found someone whose thoughts could not be breached.