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Authors: Lynn Hightower

Fortunes of the Dead

BOOK: Fortunes of the Dead
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF LYNN HIGHTOWER

“Lynn Hightower is a major talent.” —Jonathan Kellerman,
New York Times
–bestselling author

“Hightower is a writer of tremendous quality.” —
Library Journal

PRAISE FOR THE SONORA BLAIR MYSTERIES

Flashpoint

“Diabolically intriguing from start to finish.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Miraculously fresh and harrowing.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“Rings with gritty authenticity. You won't be able to put it down and you won't want to sleep again. Riveting.” —Lisa Scottoline,
New York Times
–bestselling author

Eyeshot

“Hightower has invented a heroine who is both flawed and likeable, and she knows how to keep the psychological pressure turned up high.” —
The Sunday Telegraph

“What gives [
Eyeshot
] depth and resonance is the way Hightower counterpoints the murder plot with the details of Sonora's daily life in homicide.” —
Publishers Weekly

No Good Deed

“Powerful, crisply paced.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Refreshingly different … A cracking tale told at a stunning pace.” —Frances Fyfield

The Debt Collector

“Hightower builds the suspense to an almost unbearable pitch.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Well-written and satisfyingly plotted. Best of all is Sonora herself—a feisty babe who packs a red lipstick along with her gun.” —
The Times
(London)

PRAISE FOR THE ELAKI NOVELS

“The crimes are out of
The Silence of the Lambs
, the cops out of
Lethal Weapon
, and the grimy future out of
Blade Runner
… Vivid and convincing.” —
Lexington Herald-Leader

“One of the best new series in the genre!” —
Science Fiction Chronicle

Alien Blues

“Hightower takes the setup and delivers a grittily realistic and down-and-dirty serial killer novel.… Impressive … A very promising first novel.” —
Locus

“Brilliantly entertaining. I recommend it highly. A crackerjack novel of police detection and an evocative glimpse of a possible future.” —Nancy Pickard, bestselling author of
I.O.U.

“[The] cast of characters is interesting and diverse, the setting credible, and the pacing rapid-fire and gripping.” —
Science Fiction Chronicle

“An exciting, science-fictional police procedural with truly alien aliens … An absorbing, well-written book.” —
Aboriginal Science Fiction

“Truly special … Original characters, plot twists galore, in a book that can be enjoyed for its mystery aspects as well as its SF … A real treat.” —Arlene Garcia

“Hightower shows both humans and Elaki as individuals with foibles and problems.
Alien Blues
provides plenty of fast-paced action.… An effective police drama.” —
SF Commentary

“Hightower tells her story with the cool efficiency of a Mafia hit man.… With its lean, matter-of-fact style, cliff-hanger chapter endings and plentiful (and often comic) dialogue,
Alien Blues
moves forward at warp speed!” —
Lexington Herald-Leader

“A great story … Fast and violent … Difficult to put down!” —
Kliatt

“An intriguing world!” —
Analog Science Fiction and Fact

Alien Eyes


Alien Eyes
is a page-turner.… Fun, fast-moving … A police procedural in a day-after-tomorrow world.” —
Lexington Herald-Leader

“Hightower takes elements of cyberpunk and novels about a benevolent alien invasion and combines them with a gritty realism of a police procedural to make stories that are completely her own.… A believable future with a believable alien culture … Interesting settings, intriguing ideas, fascinating characters [and] a high level of suspense!” —
Turret

“Complex … Snappy … Original.” —
Asimov's Science Fiction

“The sequel to the excellent
Alien Blues
[is] a very fine SF novel.… I'm looking forward to the next installment!” —
Science Fiction Chronicle

Fortunes of the Dead

A Lena Padget Mystery

Lynn Hightower

For Laurel

My beautiful, intelligent, talented daughter,

who makes the world a better place.

In the pursuit of illegal gun sales, the federal enforcement agency of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms analyzes the time period that occurs from a weapon's date of sale to the date the weapon is recovered from a crime scene. This interval is referred to as …
time to crime
.

C
HAPTER
O
NE

I have had nightmares all my life. I do not know if this is unusual. But sometime late last September, when the leaves were on the verge of turning, and the sun was still strong in the afternoons, I started sleeping the night through. Gone were the two
A.M.
sweats; the late nights surfing the Net; flipping channels to catch a movie at four
A
.
M
.

It felt like happiness.

I stood on the front porch of a gray stone cottage on a gentrified and tree-lined street. I held a newly made key in my right hand, a bucket of paint in my left. The wind blew rain at my back and a sudden gust toppled the Sold sign in the middle of the yard.

Joel and I started looking for a place to buy together six months ago, in September. I knew as soon as we pulled into the driveway of 1802 Washington Avenue that this cottage was
it
, and before Joel had even stopped the car, I told him this was our place.

Joel never gets excited. He glanced up at the porch where the realtor was waving and said, “You want to make an offer now, or should we take a quick look around?” Joel's humor is so low-key and dry that he has friends who don't know he makes jokes.

Our little cottage is in an eclectic neighborhood called Chevy Chase. Due to the ever-rising real-estate values in Lexington, Kentucky, this means we pay top dollar for our square footage. We are close to the university, not too far from downtown, and a ridiculously short drive from Billy's Barbecue. Chevy Chase Inn, a watering hole popular with divorcées in their forties, is right across from Billy's, as is an ice-cream store, a doughnut place, and a bar that used to be called The Library. The bar has burned down twice that I know of. After that the name was changed to Charlie Brown's, and it hasn't burned down near as much since.

If you want to go dancing you can hit the Blue Moon Saloon, which is on the opposite side of the road from Charlie Brown's. Some nights they have a line of people waiting to get in. This strikes me as funny. Lexington is not big enough to have clubs with long lines, but at least they don't have velvet ropes.

It took a moment for me to work the key in the lock—old doors always have little tricks. The door was a solid oak arch with black hinges. Inside, to the left of the foyer, a staircase went straight to the second floor, or you could go right, through an arched doorway that opened into the living room.

I went right.

The smell of fresh paint made the cottage seem like a brand-new gift. The house was built when ten-foot ceilings were run-of-the-mill, all floors were wood, and heating registers blew warm air through scrolled metal grilles in the floor. My boot heels sounded loud. They echoed.

It was chilly in the house and I looked at the fireplace, wishing. It was the last day of February, the rain was cold, and I was damp and shivery. February is the worst month of the year in Kentucky.

Rain pounded the windows—broad, heavy panes of glass that stretched from midwall to a foot below the ceiling. The glass was so old it looked wavy. The fireplace was flanked by built-in bookshelves enclosed with diamond-paned wooden doors, in the style of barristers' bookcases. It was the shelves that sold Joel the house.

And I was missing Joel, who was supposed to help pick out the paint. He was in charge of drop cloths and brushes, and today was his scheduled day off. But Joel was a cop, a homicide cop, and days off were a maybe at best. He'd left in a hurry this morning without saying why, and I'd been edgy all day, because it was the Cheryl Dunkirk case that he worked. Joel had spent eight sleepless weeks on the trail of this girl, and had yet to come up with anything other than her car—neatly parked in the lot of her apartment house, stained with traces of blood and bodily fluids, and ravaged by a web of newly made cracks in the windshield. Her trail ended abruptly at a Pilot gas station on Richmond Road.

Joel did not know that I was considering taking Cheryl Dunkirk's family on as clients. And I saw no reason to tell him until I made up my mind. I will have no argument before its time.

Cheryl's stepfather, Paul Ellis Brady, a Pittsburgh developer who dealt in multimillion-dollar commercial and government projects, was dead set on hiring me to “do anything” I could. He and his daughter, Miranda, who lived in Lexington, were due in less than an hour to work out the details—as in look me over, and bring me a check. Brady was very clear on the phone. He wanted me to keep the investigation going until I could find out every detail of what happened to his daughter. He wanted me to take up the slack in the official investigation.

The first thing I told him was that there wasn't any slack in the police investigation. This I knew firsthand, though I didn't tell Brady that. I tried to talk him out of hiring me. Uncertainty is the hardest thing to live with, but in the case of Cheryl Dunkirk, I didn't think she would ever be found.

I was uneasy about Joel's reaction to me working this case. I'd almost told him the night before, when he came to bed after working late, and had been deciding exactly what to say when he pulled me close, my back to his front, and put his arms around me to keep me warm. The truth is that I chickened out, but what I told myself was that it was better to make a decision on my own, uninhibited by the thought of his disapproval. Because that's how women get lost in relationships—pleasing everyone but themselves.

BOOK: Fortunes of the Dead
10.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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