The Immortal Beside Me, Book II

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Chapter 2

He was running, running hard. The muscles in his legs ached, but they pushed him forward. He had no idea why he was running. It was pitch black outside. Somehow, he managed to see. He buzzed past trees, rocks, bushes, and small forest creatures. They didn’t interest him, nothing did. He was surely running after something. After a seeming mile, he finally saw what he was chasing. It was a woman with long red hair. Where did she come from? How did she get here? Hell, how did he get here? He certainly didn’t know where he was. Shouldn’t he know?

Lynch didn’t know why he was chasing the woman. Was she running from him because she knew he was a cop? That had to be the only reason. He simply wasn’t into chasing women unless they had done something wrong. It was totally out of character for him to be doing this. It didn’t seem to matter. He was running, she was running. She was also screaming for help. She was screaming for help? What the hell? What the hell was going on? He wanted to stop, to regroup, but he couldn’t. His mind, heart, and body were all into the chase. He wanted her. He wanted her very badly, just not in the sexual sense. It took a moment for him to realize this. He wanted her for food. Food! It didn’t make sense. As long as Jenna gave him his injections, there was nothing wild or violent about him. He craved normal foods as any human would. He didn’t think of humans as prey. This time, however, he did.

His strong, super human stride allowed him to catch up to her in relatively short order. He grabbed a handful of her dress. The tug was so violent that the woman jerked her body backward. She tumbled onto the hard ground. Foolishly, he stared down at his hand, it was full of her dress. He didn’t stay this way for long.

Lynch pounced on the screaming woman, ripping at her clothing, her flesh, anything that was in the way of his goal. She fought him valiantly, so sure she was about to be raped. He cared nothing for that. What he wanted was her blood. That was it. He didn’t speak to her, he didn’t have to. As soon as he had her arms batted aside, he sank his teeth into her neck. A wonderful spurt of warm fluid filled his mouth. It was heavenly, a lovely taste he could never describe to a mere mortal. They would never understand the glory of the kill.

Lynch awoke suddenly, his heart pounding in his chest. He looked all around him, immediately relieved to see his bedroom. He looked at his arms and hands. In the dream, they were covered with blood. Before his eyes, they were covered in nothing more than light sweat. It was a bad dream, but it was a dream with one difference. Lycans didn’t simply drink blood, they also ate the flesh. This dream involved something sucking blood from a human. It was odd, somehow wrong.

He had had these before, right at the time he was becoming immune. He again had the thought: how can this be? He had just begun a new course, for God’s sake. He shook the thoughts away. It didn’t matter. Nothing had happened. He hadn’t killed an innocent woman. After a moment, Lynch realized he was shivering; the taste of blood was still in his mouth. It was horrifying. How long had it been since he killed a human as a lycan? He didn’t even have to think about it, really. It was a hundred years ago, still so sickeningly vivid, almost as so when he murdered Jonas Coyfield two hundred years earlier.

At the time, Lynch was a drifter. He had no home, woman, or regular wage. There was no Jenna or Andy taking care of him. Every day, he lived as a drifter, killing only when he absolutely needed to. Mostly, he took down small animals to manage his cravings. He was attacked one night by three men. They saw him as an easy target. He was alone, starving, and on the verge of transforming. He felt the pain of the club as it struck his skull. This would have easily killed a human. It was nothing more than a tap to him. It was enough to turn him into a killer.

The instant the three men saw the silver tint to his eyes, the canines growing rapidly, the muscles rippling through his raggedy clothing, they turned to run. All but one managed to get away. The unlucky one felt deep claws digging into his back. Incredible pain seized him, keeping him from taking another step. Within moments, Lynch was on the man, his fangs making quick work of his neck, piercing the pulsing vein that signified his beating heart. Moments later, he tore into the flesh. He quenched his hunger, two times over. This was the moment he had also watched two people so very dear to him. Yet the horror of what he had done overwhelmed him.

Turning away from the bleeding sack, Lynch walked to the docks and hurled his body over. He washed up, alive and well, at the next town where a young couple took him in. They piled him up into their wagon and took him to what he assumed was a doctor. Instead, the woman was something of a kook. She was the only person knowledgeable of medicine for a hundred miles or more. They left Lynch with her. She was a sensitive woman, she knew things. She fed him a type of soup that was gritty and horrid. It contained an enzyme, she had said, that would help with his ‘temper.’

When he recovered, she gave him the recipe, ensuring he knew of the ingredient which would help him. He continued eating the soup for years thereafter until the medical field improved enough to sharpen the recipe, to make a serum of it to inject. The enzyme eaten gave him relief for a few months, once injected, it lasted much longer until he became immune. Once that happened, another ingredient was added to make it stronger or the serum was refined.

It was a year or two after the incident when he finally met one of Andy’s ancestors. This man was a lot like Andy in body, mind, and spirit. He was sensitive, like the woman who nursed him back to health. It was all over him that he knew of Lynch’s secret. The man introduced himself to Lynch without a thought about his personal safety. In those days, Lynch wasn’t clean cut or particularly concerned with hygiene. He was immediately suspicious of Wit Hoff. Who wouldn’t have been?

The odd thing about it was that Wit’s family was all familiar with lycans. Somehow, they had known of the first group that wandered the earth. It seemed unlikely that lycans had gotten their start in Holland. Lynch didn’t buy it primarily due to that fact. His father never mentioned they were from Holland, but Wit insisted it was true. Although Lynch was unsure of Wit’s angle, he accompanied him to the library where he lived and worked.

Wit presented him an aging book so large it almost covered the desk where he laid it out. It was a ledger of some sort with names and dates written in it. Wit Hoff explained to him that the names were of his now deceased relatives who relied on lycans for protection from a band of immortals, which he called schuifelen,the Dutch word for snake. These creatures weren’t snakes, exactly, but possessed venomous fangs and reptile like eyes. They walked upright, had human features, and could not be killed by mortal hands. Some of them also had the ability to shape shift. They fed on the farm animals before acquiring a taste for human blood. After murdering a young field worker, Wit’s relatives were beside themselves, not knowing who or what the culprit might be.

Upon hiring another person to replace the murdered worker, the new guard was attacked late one night. Wit’s great-great grandfather witnessed as the worker transformed into his lycan form. He attacked the creature, managing to kill it by sinking his teeth into the creature’s left wrist. This move alone reduced the body to nothing more than a powder-like substance. For reasons unknown to Wit’s grandfather, this was the only way they could slay these odd creatures. After this happened, his family were forever indebted to lycans. The way Wit and all his family after him knew the lycan clans were by a small mark visible on their bodies. It resembled a mole in the shape of a crudely drawn ‘V.’ In all cases, this mark was located on top of a lycan’s left hand.

He explained to Lynch that in order to control the urges of the lycans they cared for and protected, it was necessary to keep small shards of silver embedded within their skin. However, they thought of this as cruel punishment for those who protected them. When Lynch mentioned his ‘cure,’ Wit’s eyes lit up tremendously. He knew exactly what they needed to do next. Wit’s family on his mother’s side were the Vos,’ all of whom were brilliant science minded individuals. After meeting Wit, believing in and befriending him, Lynch was introduced to Drak Vos, whose great-great grandson would be the one to sire Jenna Vos, the woman he relied so heavily upon to this day.

It was chance or perhaps fate that led him into their lives. They gave so freely of their time. They created the documents he needed to live a normal life, they ensured someone would take care of him after they were gone, and were the only family he probably would ever have. It was those early days, those so far in the past he often dwelled upon as he walked about the planet. The man he was, the one so pathetic and sick, was a far cry from the man he was today.

The death of William Thornsmith had been a very long time ago. It was fresh in his mind, especially after dreaming about killing the woman. When he fed on humans, he wasn’t particularly interested in blood as much as the flesh. It sated his lust more than anything else about them did. He wanted the image to be erased from his mind. If he had a soul, he would have prayed to God to take it away. Although he fed on human flesh before, he never enjoyed the hunt or the destruction in his wake. It weighed him down with guilt. Yet, he didn’t know if it was the truth or if he was trying to avoid the reality of what he had done.

Lynch had always valued human life. His dream reminded him of the awful stories written about lycans. What he knew for certain, was that most of his kind weren’t nameless, faceless killers. He thought of his father.

Nikolas Tackett was a good man. His only fault was marrying a mortal woman. She never knew her husband was a lycan. Throughout their marriage, it was the only secret he ever kept from her. Lynch never knew her, as she died during childbirth. He only knew her name, Constance Bridget Tackett. Pa had said many times that she was a good woman and he believed him. As an infant, when his father spotted the mark on his hand, he had a breakdown. He hoped Lynch would have been a mortal. He didn’t pretend to understand genetics, but knew it was possible. Even if it would have been an anomaly of sorts, Keagan still had a good chance of coming out human. It wasn’t to be.

Lynch was almost at the onset of puberty before his father told him about the life he would lead. He had no way of understanding it or truly believing it. He had seen horrid images of werewolves in story books, of tales told about babies being snatched in the night. Nikolas explained that these stories were wrong, that Lynch wasn’t a monster. His father knew that as soon as Lynch hit puberty, it would only be a matter of time before his first transformation. It was a dirty little secret in the family, as much as masturbation or wet dreamsin human families.

The movies and story books described transformation as painful. It was, but they didn’t come an inch close to how painful it truly was. His arms, legs, and muscles grew, stretched. It could only be compared to how painful heroin withdrawal appears to a junkie. There were unimaginable torturous processes at work. It felt as if his body was on a medieval rack, the kind that would stretch one’s body until the arms and legs were pulled out of their sockets before they were ripped from the body. When the coarse hair began to grow, even that caused incredible pain. The fangs which replaced human canine teeth felt most like the wisdom teeth growing in, but the pain was amplified a thousand times.

Snarling and slobbering was combined with the final process of transformation. It was the body’s way of dealing. It was also the only way a lycan could vocalize. The vocal cords no longer worked, so speaking was impossible. When the change was complete, he felt like begging for death, because if the way he became human again was anything like the change to lycan form, there would have been no way he wanted this feeling to recur.

Of course, the change back was faster, the pain less severe. The first time a lycan changed was the most painful, like sex, but far less enjoyable. His father strapped him down, he had no choice. If he hadn’t, he would have easily made his first kill. He lay on his bed, tied down, and screamed with sheer agony. He wanted to be free, to do what his body was telling him to do. Nikolas Tackett slaughtered a deer, fed him the meat, raw and bloody. Lycans didn’t necessarily crave human flesh; they simply craved flesh, period. For the Tacketts, a prey item would be human if that was their only choice. There were a band of lycans that did kill for sport, his father said. They, however, did so because they had something wrong inside them, much like a psychopath. Although he hadn’t vocalized so much to his son, but he had thought of Sophia when he spoke of killing humans. That was how he knew the image of the red haired woman was a dream. He would never touch a human in a harmful way. His father taught him better, and he would never go back on that conditioning.

Most of the lycans that were turned had done so in one of three ways. The first was the most classic way, the overdone cliché in movies where a victim begins as a prey item, then escapes, only to realize they have become a werewolf when they encounter their first full moon. The second way, which wasn’t explored much in cinema, was through the process of lovemaking. At the moment of climax, a lycan might transform briefly, thereby biting their mate. Any bite from a lycan, no matter how minor, would bring on the curse of immortality. The only exception was using a human as a drone. This was accomplished from a nick with a claw, usually the index finger. The final and less interesting was that some of them were born already doomed. Nikolas Tackett was, and Lynch as well.

His father never discussed how he came to be. Lynch guessed it was the same way as he. One of his parents was mortal. Nikolas Tackett died more than two centuries ago. A foe of his betrayed him, burning him alive, along with his wife, Lydia, and another person Lynch kept buried in his mind, because it hurt thinking about her. Whether in real life or cinema, silver and fire were the true enemies of lycans. He could not begin to explain why. He didn’t care to, actually. He avoided both like the plague.

Sighing heavily, tiredly, he glanced at his bedside clock, realizing he was awake hours before he was due to rise. The house was quiet, so it meant that both Andy and Jenna were asleep. It was a good thing, because he needed some time to deescalate the situation that had built as a result of his dream.

He threw back the covers on his bed, stood, and yawned dramatically. Slowly, he walked over to the worn wooden doors that led out to the balcony. Through the slats, he could see streams of sunlight. He opened the doors and noted that the day would be beautiful and perfect. His property was well shaded by dozens of trees, making the light somewhat weak, hazy, and incredibly attractive. Lynch made his way to one of two chairs awaiting him. He chose the most rickety to settle in. Lazily, he propped his feet onto the balcony railing. Despite the dream, despite the unease, he felt at peace. It was something he definitely couldn’t explain.

Lynch sat in blessed privacy for about an hour before a craving for coffee hit him. He had begun to make moves to get up until he caught the whiff of a familiar perfume. He turned his head slightly and saw Jenna approaching from inside his room. She was dressed in a billowing blue nightgown that floated about her body fluidly. Her hair flowed loosely for once, cascading brilliantly down her shoulders and back. He saw she was carrying two cups of coffee. It was strange how she could read his mind. Lynch thought he should have smelled the coffee perking. He must have been distracted by the pungent odor of the pine trees facing his bedroom.

Jenna sat in the vacant chair and passed a cup over to him. “I heard you mumbling in your sleep,” she said before sipping her coffee.

Lynch didn’t meet her gaze as he drank from his own cup. “I didn’t realize I was so loud. Sorry I woke you.”

She smiled somewhat sadly. “You didn’t. Thin walls. Remember?”

He chuckled. “Oh yeah. Old houses in bad repair tend to have those.”

“Do you want to talk, Lynch?”

At her question, he turned to look at her. Despite the early hour, she looked wide awake, fresh. She wore no make-up yet. Actually, she didn’t need any. Her natural beauty was enough for him, would be for any man. Once again, he felt overwhelming guilt at having trapped her in his hell. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask her to leave again. It would be no use. She would refuse, as she always did. Her life’s work was Lynch Tackett.

He started to beg off like he normally did. Something about the dream, the way he felt stopped his usual response. “I had a vivid dream. In it, I killed someone, a woman.”

Jenna bristled at his words. It wasn’t his admission of a dream where he killed a person. What shocked her was the fact that he had finally decided to open up to her. “You don’t often have dreams like that,” she said tenderly, telling him something he already knew. “Usually, it’s about things you’ve done in your…past.”

He noticed the way she hesitated at the word ‘past.’ Both she and Andy knew what he did that led him to Wit Hoff. “This was different, Jenna. It seemed as if I really murdered a woman. It’s how I felt when I killed before.”

Lynch had chosen law and order due to his past. It was something he lived to fight every day of his life. Sooner or later he would have to retire, to move on before anyone grew suspicious. A man who never ages would set off more than one alarm. Jenna understood how much stability meant to him, yet he could never have it. As far as she knew, there wasn’t a cure for immortality. She had tried everything she could think of to create that for him, to give him what he wanted, but she had failed. It was impossible.

“What made it different than before if it felt the same?”

He looked away from her and out into the distance. His sharp eyes identified a squirrel running crazily along the base of a tree. “It was the blood, Jenna. I had a blood lust. It…it was all over me and I loved it.”

Her hand reached out and settled over his. He never moved; even to acknowledge her gentle touch. It was sad how much he longed for closeness only to shy away when he had it. “It was just a dream.”

Her words should have offered him comfort. They didn’t. She knew as well as he that he didn’t just dream. It was always a manifestation of one thing or another. “You know better than that,” he said as he continued to watch the squirrel. Vaguely, he wondered what she would think if he took off after it. He hated those little rodent bastards.

Jenna tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She tried to see what he was staring after, to no avail. Her eyes weren’t as good as his even on her best day. “I know, but you know how much I like to pretend.”

He chuckled again. “That I do.”

She moved her hand away from his. “Why don’t we go out to lunch today? Act like normal folks for once. I need a day away from acting like the mad scientist.”

He knew what he was about to say would throw her for a loop. After all, it threw him to say it. “I like that idea.”

Both Lynch and Jenna had simple tastes, so it made sense that he chose a diner for their lunch date. It was a local joint, one that saw patrons who normally stopped by for an early lunch as a short break from farm work. By the time they arrived, it was almost one, which meant it was virtually deserted. This didn’t necessarily bother Lynch. He preferred to eat without a crowd. Although the place was favored amongst farmers, it was often crowded elbow to elbow. Their midsize hamlet was populated with thousands of farmers. When he came here, he ensured it was always after the noon hour. Otherwise, dozens of folks would be all ‘up in his business,’ as an old friend was fond of saying.

Lynch chose a booth beside a window where Jenna sat opposite him. They sat for a while in silence. It might have been awkward if it was another couple. The two of them had lived together for so long, a lot of small talk wasn’t necessary. Their booth already had two menus placed face down before them. While Lynch stared out of the window, Jenna picked up her menu and began to browse. Although he once mentioned his father had a mercantile business that Lynch had also worked. His gaze focused down the street for a couple of blocks. Coyfield & Tackett was now housed by a specialty shop for women who had nothing better to do than look around and choose an expensive perfume or a knick knack for their overpriced China cabinets. It made him sad that no one wanted to know the history behind it. Perhaps someday, he would share it with Jenna. She was the only woman who cared for such information.

After a few moments, Lynch turned to focus his eyes on Jenna. She had donned blue jeans and a smart lavender blouse. Her hair was down, but she had gathered the sides and pulled them back from her face, securing her locks with a black clasp. Jenna was a beautiful woman. Today, she looked younger than her years. She reminded him of a sorority girl out on the town with her football player boyfriend. He smiled and once again focused his eyes on the window. He wasn’t certain if she had been aware of his staring eyes, but she was sharp. She knew. She was simply too proper to say anything.

Lynch heard the cowbell over the front door jangle as another customer entered. He didn’t pay any attention to that as his eyes roamed the block. His sharp ears picked up the sound of Jenna reading the menu under her breath. Human ears didn’t have this capability. He tried to hone in on her words, practicing his most beloved skill of eavesdropping. It had helped make him a better cop. Perhaps it meant he was cheating. It didn’t matter; it was something that gave him an edge. If he hadn’t been so distracted by Jenna’s murmuring voice and the cars at the end of the block, he might have seen a woman approaching their table. He didn’t.


At the mention of his name, he turned to look at the person calling him. It was Hugh’s sister. She wore a colorful maxi dress and summer sandals. Her trendy haircut was styled quite differently than when he saw her before. She had it pinned back from her face with a series of tiny clips. Callie looked younger than before, very much so. It was hard to believe she was a woman in her twenties. He looked quickly back at Jenna. Her expression was slightly irritated, but also very curious.

Callie saw that Lynch was casually dressed today. It took years off his appearance. She kept her eyes focused on him, only glancing momentarily at the woman with him. She remembered Hugh’s words about a possible relationship with a woman whom he lived. She deduced that his lunch partner must be her. She was nubile, blonde, and absolutely beautiful. For no reason at all, she felt an instant pang of jealousy.

Not being one of those individuals who ever forgot a name or a face, he smiled at her. “Callie. How are you doing?”

His smile was crooked, appealing. Her jealousy of the other woman grew an octave. “Fine. Since Hugh has yet to get a day off, I’ve been exploring on my own. I went to the university earlier to check out their science programs.”

At the word ‘science,’ Jenna began to pay more attention. She was apparently Hugh’s sister, but Lynch hadn’t said much about his night out with them. “Lynch can be rude sometimes,” she said lightly. “I’m Jenna Vos.”

Lynch’s face pinked considerably. “Sorry about that, Jenna,” he said with a shame faced look on his face. “This is Callie Norwood, Hugh’s younger sister.”

Jenna reached out to shake the other woman’s hand. With no hesitation, Callie stuck out her hand to take Jenna’s into hers. “Very nice to meet you, Callie.”

Callie didn’t see a ring on Jenna’s finger. Perhaps there wasn’t as much going on between them as Hugh suspected. Lynch didn’t introduce her as his wife or girlfriend or significant other. He said nothing but her name. “Very nice to meet you, too.”

“Would you like to join us for lunch,” Lynch offered.

“Please do,” Jenna said. Although irritated at her intrusion, her offer was completely genuine.

She wanted to have lunch with them, to get to know Lynch better, but she didn’t want to do that with another woman present. “Thank you both. However, I promised Hugh I’d have lunch with him at home. I only stopped by for lemonade. Hugh says they make the best here.”

“That’s certainly true,” Lynch said. “I hope Hugh isn’t cooking.”

She laughed and shook her head. “No, he isn’t. I think he’s nuking something. It was nice meeting you, Jenna. Maybe I’ll see both of you around.”

They watched as she turned to approach the counter to order her lemonade. Lynch picked up his menu and began to peruse it. He was aware that Jenna’s eyes were on him. Right at the moment, he didn’t want to acknowledge her.

“I never thought Hugh would have such an attractive sister,” Jenna said lightly. Lynch didn’t speak. Instead, he grunted his approval. “It’s okay if you think she’s attractive, Lynch. I won’t get jealous.”

He looked over the top of his menu at her. “You know I’m not one to act upon impulses, especially with members of the opposite sex.”

Jenna knew this well, and it was unfortunate. “That is a formula for loneliness, you know.”

He dropped his menu and brought his forefinger up briefly to his upper lip. Thoughtfully, he replied, “Better to be lonely than spreading the sickness.”

Lynch and Jenna had barely managed to get into the front door just before Andy sought them out. Lynch had never seen Andy acting so nervously. He was wringing his large hands. His face was pale save for bright red spots on his cheeks. Something had obviously happened. Something big.

“Andy, what’s going on?” Lynch asked, his voice tinged with deep concern.

“I was listening to the scanner down in the lab. There has been a murder.”

Andy looked as if he was about to pass out. News of murders hadn’t ever affected him like this before. It usually meant Lynch would be putting in a lot of overtime. “Okay,” he said calmly. “Has anyone at the PD called?”

The other man shook his head slowly. He continued to give his hands a work out. “You don’t understand, Lynch.”

“What are you talking about?” Jenna piped.

Andy ignored Jenna, keeping his eyes on Lynch. “The murder is not in your jurisdiction. It happened in Calember County.”

Lynch knew Calember County was only ten or twelve miles from LeVale. Their county sheriff’s office would be responsible for investigating it. He absolutely had no idea what the big deal was. “And?” He asked impatiently.

Andy sighed heavily. “I have a few friends on the inside at the sheriff’s office,” he began. “However, they could give me just a few details. The victim was a woman and it appears as if she was viciously attacked. Lynch, her body was…was torn apart, most of her blood drained. There was no evidence that this was a sexual attack.”

Finally, he understood. Suddenly, the burger and fries he had eaten for lunch felt like a hot lump at the pit of his stomach. Beside him, Jenna drew in a gasped breath. Although Andy didn’t know of the dream he had last night, Jenna did. His friend was being as forward and honest as possible. He knew Lynch had killed humans before, but it had been dozens upon dozens of years since the last time he had done anything of the sort. He clearly didn’t entertain the idea that he thought Lynch was capable of this crime, but he was certainly relying on a large dose of realism.

Andy didn’t understand Jenna’s reaction. “Is there something I should know?”

Lynch fought the urge to vomit with as much strength as he could muster. “I had a dream about killing a woman last night.”

His confession sent Andy reeling. “Surely, you don’t believe…”

Lynch let out a frustrated growl. “I don’t murder humans,” he stated emphatically.

“We know you don’t,” Jenna said softly. “What if there is another immortal, one who clearly targets humans?”

“You know that cannot be. I would know, Jenna.”

“What if you didn’t?” She asked, her voice laced heavily with hopefulness. “Couldn’t another exist without your knowledge? Couldn’t something else help cloak it?”

“Impossible,” he insisted.

“Nothing is impossible, Lynch,” Jenna told him in her most reasonable voice. Sometimes, it worked, and sometimes, he was irritated by it. Today, it was the latter.

With that, Lynch banged upstairs to retrieve his badge and gun. He knew he couldn’t do anything about the investigation, but he relied on networking. His brothers in Calember County would share information. They lived in a small town, so the other county would likely ask for help. He intended on visiting Hugh first. Perhaps he knew something.

Jenna and Andy watched worriedly as Lynch pounded downstairs before slamming out of the house. He began the drive toward Hugh’s apartment, during which he reviewed the details of his dream. It was so real. Was it possible he had left his bed in the night to wind up in another county, killing a human? Jenna was aware of his every move. If he left last night, wouldn’t she have known instantly? Damn it. It was their jobs to ensure he didn’t do anything like this. Yet, he couldn’t blame them, either. It was difficult keeping an eye on an unpredictable lycan, even if he hadn’t been such in a long time. As he pulled his car into a slot near Hugh’s apartment, he realized he had already convicted himself before he was sure of anything.

After leaving his car, he trotted up to Hugh’s front door and banged on it heavily, impatiently. He had opened his mouth to shout out at Hugh as the door opened, but shut it immediately as soon as he saw Callie.

“Wow. I didn’t expect to see you so soon,” she said with a smile.

Lynch hid his irritation with a fake smile. “Hello again,” he managed. “I saw Hugh’s car out front. Is he in?”

“He went for a run about twenty minutes ago. I expect him back any minute. Do you want to come in and wait?”

Lynch wanted nothing more. He needed to see if Hugh knew anything about the murder in Calember County. “Sure.”

Callie moved out of the doorway to allow Lynch to enter. When he was inside the apartment, she closed the door. She turned to see that he had already made himself comfortable on the couch. “Do you want anything to drink?”

“No thanks.”

She watched him with great interest. He seemed quite agitated, completely different than when she saw him earlier. She said nothing else as she moved over to an easy chair and sat down. She was tempted to sit beside Lynch on the couch, but he seemed uninterested in company.

“I realize you hardly know me,” she began. “Is something wrong? You seem out of sorts.”

Somewhat relaxed now, he let out a deep breath. He smiled again, this time, it was genuine. “No offense, but I’d rather speak about this with Hugh.”

“Okay,” she said lightly. “No offense taken.” She looked at the backs of her hands before planting them firmly on her knees, and then she focused her eyes on Lynch once again. “Was your lunch buddy your wife?”

The question was innocent enough. Even so, Lynch could almost read another meaning behind her words. He was sensitive, sharp, and direct. Although he knew what she was truly interested in finding out, he found himself at ease with her. “No,” he said. “She is a friend of the family. I’ve known her for years.”

Wasn’t that statement loaded? He had known her family much longer than that, Andy’s as well. This information was something she surely didn’t need to know. He found himself wishing that Hugh would hurry his ass up and get back home. His sister had a strong, inquiring mind.

“I see,” she said. “She certainly is a beautiful woman.”

He nodded. “That she is,” he finally said. “How do you like it here so far?”

“It’s not so bad. It’s definitely not New York. I’ve found that’s not entirely a bad thing. The university has a good Chemistry program.”

“How much more schooling do you have ahead of you?”

She shrugged. “Oh, I’d say no more than half a year as long as everything transfers.” Callie understood that he was distracted. It still didn’t stop her curiosity about him. Changing the tone of their conversation, she said, “I’ve noticed a small mole on your hand. It’s something I’ve never seen before.”

Unconsciously, Lynch rubbed the mark. “A genetic anomaly in my family.”

“I see,” she said. “I had an interest in genetics a long time ago. It’s not really my forte these days.”
Lynch opened his mouth to respond when the front door opened. Hugh entered the apartment, digging headphones out of his ears while he fiddled with his MP3 player. When he noticed his partner sitting on the couch, he did a small double-take look his way. He certainly hadn’t expected to see him so early today. Absently, he took a bandana out of his shorts pocket and mopped his face with it. His tee-shirt and shorts were soaked with sweat. He wanted nothing more than to hit the shower before dealing with whatever was on Lynch’s mind. However, he seemed quite disturbed, so he decided to wait.

“Lynch? What has made you grace me with your presence?”

There was confusion written on Hugh’s face. Lynch had no way of knowing if he had heard of the Calember County murder or not. “Can we talk for a minute?” He cut his eyes briefly at Callie. “Privately?”

Callie smiled and brought herself to her feet. “I can take a hint. Nice seeing you again, Lynch.”

Lynch watched as she made her way out of the room. He had no way of knowing that she hung back, her lithe body just out of sight. Once she was supposedly out of earshot, Hugh sat in the chair she had just vacated.

Hugh mopped more sweat off his face. “What’s up?”

“I’ve heard there was a brutal murder out in Calember County. Do you know anything about it?”

He eyed Lynch carefully. With their caseload, why was he so interested in a murder they would have nothing to do with solving? “Nope, not a word. Why so into it? Unless they need our help, it really doesn’t matter to us, does it?”

Hugh’s lack of empathy didn’t surprise Lynch. He had been a homicide detective in New York before coming to LeVale. Murders didn’t rock him as much as it would any other citizen. “Not exactly, but I would like more information.”

He rubbed the back of his head. “Okay,” he said distractedly. “I know a guy over there who will probably tell you anything you want to know about it.”

“Terrific,” he said, his voice hardened slightly by sarcasm.

Callie heard Lynch’s request, his interest in a specific murder. She wanted to know about this herself. Suddenly, enrolling in college was a lesser need. She waited and listened.

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