Home > Wicked Deeds (Krewe of Hunters #23)

Wicked Deeds (Krewe of Hunters #23)
Author: Heather Graham

Prologue

    In Dreams

    It was dark, and it was night, and she was following along a strange wooded path.

    Vickie Preston fought against it; good things never started this way.

    But she wasn’t in deep woods. She was not far from some kind of a city—she could see light through the trees.

    The light seemed strange. It wasn’t the contemporary, bright luminescence of electricity that shined with such fervor that it was easily seen from space. This was different. Soft light. As if it came from candles or...gas. Gas lamps.

    She had, she thought, stumbled into a different time, a different place. She made a turn, and the darkness was gone, things changing suddenly in that way of dreams; she was in a city, and it was day, late afternoon perhaps, with evening on its way.

    People were rushing about, here, there and everywhere.

    “Vote! Fourth Ward polls!” someone called out.

    A woman with a big hoop skirt pushed by Vickie, dragging a man about by an ear. “Harold Finder! Voting is no excuse for my husband to show himself in public, drunk!” she said angrily.

    Harold was twice his wife’s size, but Mrs. Finder seemed to have an exceptional hold on his ear!

    They had just come from what appeared to be a tavern. Vickie looked about, wondering why no one noticed her. They were all dressed so differently; men in frock coats and waistcoats and cravats and women with their tightly corseted tops and great, billowing skirts. Granted, she was sleeping in a long white cotton gown, “puritanical,” or so Griffin had teased her.

    No, no, oh, yuck! You know how I feel about our dear historical Puritans! she’d told him.

    Vickie, like Griffin, had grown up in Boston. She’d become a historian and wrote nonfiction books. Despite trying to understand the very different times they had lived in, she just didn’t care much for the people who had first settled her area—they were completely intolerant.

    Griffin could usually just shrug off the past; he’d been a cop when she’d first met him and he was an FBI agent now. The past mattered to him, but mostly when it helped solve crime in the present.

    He’d been sleeping next to her, of course. They were on their way to Virginia from Boston, ready to start a new life. But they’d stopped in Baltimore, at a hotel... They’d laughed as they got ready for bed, he’d teased her about the nightgown...

    She did not look like a Puritan!

    Griffin had assured her that she wouldn’t wear the “puritanical” gown long, and she hadn’t, but then, freezing in the air-conditioning of their hotel, she’d put it back on...

    She was glad, of course. Otherwise, she’d be walking stark naked around this unknown and bizarre place.

    Where was she?

    She turned to the doorway of the “polling place” where Harold and his wife had just departed. She could hear all manner of laughing and talking. It was definitely a tavern. Gunnar’s Place.

    And there was nothing indicating Puritan Massachusetts here—she wasn’t in Massachusetts and these people certainly weren’t Puritans.

    She walked in, wondering if women were welcome. It didn’t matter. No one seemed to notice her.

    The place was smoky and dusty. Barmaids were hurrying about, handing out drinks. Men were being solicited for their votes.

    There was a lone man seated on a wooden bench at a table, head hanging low. But when Vickie entered, he looked up, and he beckoned to her.

    “I’ve been waiting for you,” he said impatiently. He stood, wavering.

    He was a small man, just a little shorter than Vickie, maybe five-eight to her five-nine. His hair was dark and a curl hung over his forehead. His eyes seemed red-rimmed and sunken in his face, which was quite ashen, with a yellow pallor.

    She knew him.

    She’d seen his picture throughout her life; she’d loved his work. She’d loved that he’d been born in Boston—even if he had come to hate that city. There was a wonderful statue of him now, a life-size bronze figure of the writer, hurrying along with a briefcase and a raven.

    She knew his face from so many pictures and images, a man haunted by demons in life, most of those demons brought about by his alcohol addiction. She’d always wondered if more knowledge during his age might have helped him; a really good therapist, a good program...

    “I’m hallucinating you, you know. Delirium tremors,” he told her gravely. “But I have been waiting for you, Victoria.”

    “I love your work!” Vickie said. She flushed. It was a dream, or a nightmare, and she was having a fangirl moment. She needed control and decorum.

    “Yes, well, then, you are brighter than my insidious detractors,” he told her. “But here’s the thing. You must stop it. I am being used—my work, my memory. It was good—it was all good, until I came here, until I reached Baltimore. Then, they...were upon me.”

    “They who?” she asked. “No one knows—it’s still a mystery.”

    “They were upon me,” he repeated.

    Vickie reached across the table and set her hand gently upon his. He was trembling, she realized, violently. “You’re not looking very well,” she said.

    And he turned to give her a rueful smile. “No. I will not be here long, you see. But I’m glad that you made it, so glad that you’re here. It’s happening again. And you must do something. You must stop it. No one will see, because it’s much the same. Do you understand?”

    “Not a word,” she assured him.

    He looked across the room and seemed concerned; he stood suddenly and hurried toward the door. Vickie raced after him.

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