Priceless A Sexy Urban Fantasy Mystery - By Shannon Mayer

Priceless

Shannon Mayer

1

The couple in front of me looked like any other parents who’d lost a child—their hands gripping one another, dark circles under their eyes, skin sallow from not enough food, water or sleep—except for the faintest glimmer of a possibility, a scrap of hope that someone had thrown them, by sending them my way. That was the only difference. A difference they were banking on. Every parent’s worst nightmare is the reason I have become the best at what I do. Or maybe more accurately, the only reason I do what I do.

“Please, the police, they say there is nothing; that they can’t help us. They say she’s gone, and there are no clues, and they just can’t find her. Please, we were told you could help.” Maria, the mother, pleaded with me, her whole body begging for me to do what no one else would even dare offer her hope for. Her voice was cultured, upper crust and very East coast snob. But right now she didn’t look it. Clothes rumpled, designer but not pressed or even that clean, hair in disarray, and bags under her eyes. A very childish part of me took pleasure in seeing the mighty brought low. I only wished it wasn’t because her kid had been snatched.

I didn’t answer her right away, though I had already decided to help them. Her fear and hope filled the room with a tangible weight that choked me, kept me from saying a single word. I wouldn’t leave a child out there if I could find her, not even if the kid’s parents were wankers. Which, looking at the child’s father as he puffed up and prepared to verbally assault me, was obviously the case. I guessed he was a lawyer, or maybe a judge.

“Damn you!” He shot to his feet. His clothes hung off his frame like he was wearing his older brother’s hand-me-downs; his fists vibrated at his sides. “Why did you make us come all the way here if you’re not even going to try and help? To the middle of North Dakota of all places, to what, tell us ‘Oops, sorry, not going to happen?’ What kind of sadistic bitch are you?”

I let him—Don, I think his name was—continue his tirade stalking around the cheap hotel room, but didn’t interrupt him. No point. He would talk until finally the silence would catch him and smother his words. Maria sat in an overstuffed chair, body all aquiver; her husband’s anger a physical energy that obviously upset her. It rolled off me, which only energized him further, gave him more fuel for his wild temper tantrum. The only parent’s anger that ever bothered me was my own, and they were both gone from my life. Of course, it had been their decision, forcing me out of their lives when I was sixteen. But what can you expect when I, their adopted child, was accused of killing their biological daughter?

I waited, and another minute passed before he ran out of steam and stood blowing like a spent beast pushed too hard, too fast.

“Are you quite finished, Don?” My voice was low, calm.

He nodded once, a sharp movement that in another circumstance would have me reaching for one of my blades, if I’d had them on me.

I motioned to the couch. “Sit next to your wife. Speak when spoken to, answer my questions, and other than that, shut the hell up.” He sat and I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Good job, Rylee, for a moment there you almost sounded like a grown up in control of a situation. My vision of him as a lawyer dried up when he didn’t even bother to argue. Old money then, working for Daddy’s company all his life was my next best guess.

I looked down at the pictures on the cheap hotel coffee table. A little girl smiled up at me; seven years old or there about, with deep auburn hair, not so unlike my own, and hazel eyes—quite different from my own tri-colored ones. Each picture held a different pose, a different place. The park, Christmas sittings, dinner parties. And each picture held a small, seemingly insignificant blush of light, close to the girl.

“What’s her name?” My first question of the entire meeting was met with silence. I glanced up only to see Maria close her eyes and tears trickle down her cheeks. Don met my gaze; his hazel eyes the perfect mirror image of his daughter’s.

“India.”