It took Jane several seconds to get her bearings as she stared incredulously at Kit.
“I figured you’d be surprised to see me,” Kit said, closing the door. Jane attempted to sort out the scene in silence. Kit looked down and saw the handheld phone Jane had thrown in anger. She picked it up and placed it on Jane’s desk. “That must have been what I heard hit the door.” Kit dropped her tapestry satchel against the lone chair reserved for clients.
“Your face looks much better. I told you that Arnica works.”
“What in the hell is going on here?” Jane said, regaining control of her domain.
“Are you going to offer me a seat?”
Jane searched valiantly for words to match her confused thinking. “We talk outside the meeting and…what? What is this?”
“I guess I’ll offer myself a seat,” Kit replied, pulling the chair away from the desk and plopping her round frame into the cushion.
“Wait just a goddamned minute!” Jane said, coming to her senses.
“Sit down and I’ll explain everything to you,” Kit replied succinctly as she removed a series of envelopes and folders from her satchel.
A bolt of anger erupted inside of Jane. “No! I will explain it to you! You don’t follow me from a bar to my private turf outside an AA meeting and talk to me as if you’re one of us and then just waltz in here! That was sacred territory last night!”
“I understand and respect that,” Kit said in earnest.
“The fuck you do!” Jane yelled, feeling terribly exposed and vulnerable.
“Hell, I don’t care if you’re a recovering alcoholic! That doesn’t make you less of a person in my eyes. Frankly, it makes you more human. If you were all bravado and no vulnerability, then you couldn’t work from your heart, and I know you work from your heart. Last night, it was imperative for me to look into your eyes and really see you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You do the same thing with others before you agree to form a relationship.”
“Excuse me?” Jane said, in a semimocking tone.
“You did it with me last night! You looked into my center. You felt who I was.”
“Let’s not play games, Jane P. Time is of the essence, and I don’t have any desire to fill that time with bullshit.”
“Get out!” Jane ordered Kit, pointing toward the door.
Kit dug her backside into the chair and flipped her long, salt‐ and‐pepper braid over her shoulder in a defiant thrust. “No! I’m not leaving until you hear my petition.”
“If you don’t move your ass out of that chair—”
“What are you going to do, Jane P.? Take a pool cue and knock me across the forehead?” Kit let that statement sink into Jane’s ears.
Jane was dumbstruck. Kit had somehow witnessed the fiasco at The Red Tail the previous night. Grabbing a small digital clock, Jane slammed it on the desk. “Five minutes and then you’re out of here!” Jane sat down.
“Do you believe in fate?”
“Do I believe in fate?” Jane repeated with a wicked edge.
“Yes or no, Jane P.”
“You just chewed up twenty seconds of your time with a dumb question.”
“Oh, you’re going to play tough with me?”
Jane tapped the back of the digital clock. “Four and a half minutes, Kit.”
Kit angrily slapped the clock off Jane’s desk, sending it against the wall. “Scratch the badass cop act! That’s not who you really are!”
“You don’t know who the fuck I am!”
Kit sat forward. “Yes, I do! I followed the Emily Lawrence story very closely this past summer,” she said, referring to the high‐profile homicide case that had propelled Jane’s name into the public eye. “I was fascinated by the case and the way you so deftly solved it. When I found out you were going to be on Larry King Live, I taped the show.”
“What are you, a detective groupie?”
“Far from it. I’m deeply interested in any story that deals with a child and a murder. I saw you on Larry King’s show. I looked into your eyes and I saw a kindred spirit. You can stiffen your back and say ‘fuck you’ until the cows come home. I know it’s all a comfortable front to hide your pain and disarm stupid people so they don’t see how sensitive you really are.” Jane cringed at Kit’s backhanded compliment. Having her vulnerability exposed skewed her normal leveraging capabilities. “I don’t want you to think I’m sucking up to you, because I don’t suck up to anyone. Now, I do need to get to the point of my visit. It’s a matter of life and death and time is running out.”
Jane didn’t know what to make of Kit’s disturbing appeal. “Life and death?”
“I assume you’re aware of the breaking national news story of the moment?”
Kit removed the Denver Post from her satchel and slid it toward Jane. “Charlotte Walker, age twelve, kidnapped from her hometown in Oakhurst, California.”
Jane stared at the photo of the hazel‐eyed child. “What about it?”
“I think I know who has her,” Kit replied in a shaky voice.
Jane furrowed her brow like a judge debating the sanity of a defendant. “Yeah?”
“I’m not 100 percent sure, but my intuition is a helluva lot sharper these days. And it does add up if you look at his pattern.”
Kit leaned forward and spoke with defining authority. “Lou Peters. He’d be thirty‐three years old now. He’s slim, has sandy brown hair, resembles a Greek god or Brad Pitt, take your pick. He’s utterly charming and smart. That’s who Lou Peters is. What he did was kidnap, rape, and kill my granddaughter, Ashlee, fourteen years ago in Northern California. Big Sur, to be specific. That’s where I used to live until I couldn’t live there anymore. Too many memories. Too much pain. I live in Boulder now.”
Boulder. To Jane, this pronouncement was akin to saying, “I’m a Leftist and proud of it!” When Jane was a member of the Denver PD—traditionally, a conservative band of folks—they delighted in a running jag of derisive comments about the 100 percent organic, free‐range‐thinking town that sat twenty miles northwest of Denver. Comments such as “He’s from the People’s Republic of Boulder,” “Welcome to Boulder, where the streets run red from all the bleeding hearts,” or “There’s only one age in Boulder: New Age” offered an example of what cops thought of the town.
“Here,” Kit handed Jane a photo. “That was taken of Ashlee and I just a week before Lou kidnapped her.”
Attached to the photo with a paper clip was a business card made on a home computer. Kit had found a yin‐yang symbol in her clipart and positioned the small circular design above her name, address, phone number, and e‐mail. Jane sat back and looked at the photo. A younger, more vibrant Kit was seated cross‐legged on the grass, her back against a giant redwood tree. Ashlee lay across her grandmother’s lap, comfortably leaning into Kit’s body and tilting her head lovingly toward her shoulder. Her slim, agile body wrapped around Kit’s rounder frame, showing off her tanned legs and bright red toenail polish. The child’s shoulder‐length brunette hair was parted into two braids with crimson ribbons tied on the ends. Her form‐fitting yellow T‐shirt showed off her well‐developed breasts and the subtle outline of bra straps. Ashlee’s frayed shorts were also tight fitting, but cut modestly several inches above her knee. Jane looked into the child’s hazel eyes and saw a kid with a beautiful inner light. There was a sweet joyfulness about her—an incredible effervescent quality that literally vibrated off her body. It seemed almost incongruous that the girl was no longer on this earth. She handed the photo back to Kit.
“You keep it. That’s a copy,” Kit instructed. Jane reluctantly slid the photo under the flap of a nearby file. “Lou Peters went on trial for Ashlee’s murder. There were the usual attempts to create as much reasonable doubt as possible, thanks to devious defense attorneys who bully elderly witnesses until they doubt what they know they saw, and then put so‐called ‘experts’ on the stand who have no business being there….” Kit took a breath, her emotions getting the better of her. “Lou was rightfully convicted of Ashlee’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, there was always a cloud of doubt that his attorney kept encouraging throughout the appeals process, focusing mostly on the semen left on a condom that was found near Ashlee’s body.” Kit handed a stack of manila folders to Jane, each bursting at the seams with newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, and police reports. “Every last detail you need to know about Lou Peters’s trial is in here. I was there in that courtroom every day. When I wasn’t in the courtroom, I was making myself at home with the detectives on the case, getting them to make copies of any relevant material they could release to me.”
Jane gave the bulging files a cursory exam and surmised that Kit must have been a veritable treat to deal with during the trial. In scanning the files, Jane found a mug shot of Lou, dated June 26, 1990. Here was the photo of a nineteen‐year‐old guy who allegedly raped and murdered a fourteen‐year‐old girl, and yet he looked more like a Calvin Klein model in a T‐shirt ad. Between his tousled light brown hair and piercing blue eyes, Jane knew that Lou could easily beguile and infatuate any number of girls. In her years at DH, Jane had viewed a lot of mug shots. But this one was different. Jane detected a profound heartache behind Lou’s eyes. That brief but nagging perception disarmed Jane. Criminals were criminals. There were no shades of gray allowed in her book.
“I couldn’t let go of it,” Kit interjected, taking Jane’s attention away from Lou’s photo. “I had to know what Lou did to my beautiful girl. Every ghastly detail. I know that sounds sick, but I was responsible for what happened.”
“How were you responsible?”
“Ignorance. Stupidity. Confusing discernment with judgment.” A deep gulf of emotion caught in Kit’s throat. “My daughter, Barbara, has never forgiven me for what happened to her only child. But no one will ever know how I’ve punished myself over the years. When the prosecutor showed the photographs of Ashlee’s battered body, her face bashed in with a rock to the point where you couldn’t identify it as a face any longer, I made myself look at the photos and carve those images into my mind. I listened to the testimony of the medical examiner when he described how she had been raped repeatedly with the handle of a hammer over the fourteen days that Lou held her captive, and finally how Lou had raped her before he killed her. They always threw in the word, ‘allegedly’ because the goddamned condom they found wasn’t a solid match to Lou’s semen. Tried to make my Ashlee out to be a whore at fourteen years—”
Jane tried to get a gut feeling for Ashlee’s case. Drawing a cigarette out of a nearby pack, she was just about to light up when Kit raised her voice. “Please don’t smoke. I can’t be around the toxins. Besides, there are No Smoking signs posted all over this building.”
Jane lowered her lighter and plucked the cigarette out of her mouth. Yes, there were signs all over the place, but Jane never let a pesky sign stop her from doing anything. “Fourteen years ago,” Jane said, thinking out loud, “the DNA technology—”
“Wasn’t what it is today,” Kit said, finishing Jane’s sentence. “That was one of the big problems. All they could surmise was that there was a one in a hundred chance that Ashlee and Lou had been in close contact. They determined that from a drop of blood found on her hip. But because Ashlee and Lou knew each other, the defense shrugged it off as opportunistic contact.”
Jane’s ears perked up. “They were friends?”
Kit let out a long, tired breath. “Friends…I don’t know. Lou rented a guesthouse that sat behind my house off Highway 1. He liked the place because it was quiet. It was tucked in a stand of trees and skirted the creek down below. It was the one and only summer he lived there. Ashlee always came to visit me from San Diego for the month of June. She loved Big Sur. She loved the ocean, the people, and the freedom. My daughter and son‐in‐law were really strict with her. Barbara tends to be repressed, just the opposite of her ol’ mom. But Ashlee was a free spirit who couldn’t be contained.” Kit’s eyes moistened with bittersweet tears. “She was an old soul. It sounds arrogant, but Ashlee flourished with me. She was my twin flame. I bought her clothes that her parents would never buy her. Other things, too, like bright blue eye shadow and red nail polish. Every fourteen‐year‐old girl needs those! I taught her how to meditate and do yoga and to understand the significance of Native American animal totems. We’d knock back shots of wheatgrass juice and burn Nag Champa incense. I gave her books on the Dalai Lama and love poems by Rumi. Ashlee lived a bread‐and‐butter existence at home. She yearned to break out and taste life! Thankfully, I could give that gift to her. I took Ashlee to her first R‐rated movie.” There was pride in Kit’s statement. “There wasn’t violence in the film, just nudity. I think violence is abhorrent, but nudity is beautiful. All the things we shared together were our little secrets. It made me feel very special, and I wanted to continue that relationship with her. So I didn’t create a lot of boundaries for her.”
Boundaries. God help us, Jane thought. Yet another buzzword of the New Age community.
“When she first laid eyes on Lou, she was smitten. She was fourteen and coming into her sexuality. And like I said, Lou was nineteen, built like a Greek god, and walked around half the time with faded jeans and no shirt so everyone could see his tanned physique. She’d talk to him and he would talk to her. It was always innocent, at least on Ashlee’s part. Lots of girls were taken with Lou Peters. That’s how he lured them into his web.”
“There were other girls?”
“Oh, yes! Ashlee wasn’t the first. She was the first he killed. But he raped at least two other fourteen‐year‐old girls before Ashlee!”
Jane observed Kit’s presumptuous attitude. “Was that proven?”
“It was never used at his trial because the assaults took place when he was under eighteen. And since the two girls in question never pressed charges, it became a moot point.”
“You knew these two girls?”
“No, I just know it happened. I had a very reliable source.”
“Hold on. Two fourteen‐year‐old girls get raped and there are no charges? What about the girls’ parents? Weren’t they at all interested in justice?”
“Justice? Please. There’s no such thing as justice in our court system!”
“Yeah, I hear you. But you’re telling me it’s common knowledge that two fourteen‐year‐olds are raped in your community by the same guy and nothing is done about it?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”
“Why would you rent your guesthouse to a guy who raped two fourteen‐year‐old girls and then allow your own granddaughter to fraternize with him?”
Kit lowered her head. “First off, I didn’t know he raped those girls until after Ashlee’s murder. However, we spent a great deal of time together talking. I’d have him to the house for dinner or coffee and we got to know each other. He had issues.”
“He had problems…severe problems rooted in his childhood, which he openly shared with me in great detail.”
“He suffered horrific physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the hands of his mother—”
“Sexual abuse by his birth mother?”
“Yes. The woman was insane. She should have been locked up.”
“Why would a nineteen‐year‐old guy tell you, his landlord, something that personal?”
“Look at me, Jane P. I give off that ‘Earth Mother’ vibe. I was always the ‘cool gal’ who lived in Big Sur. I made a good living as an artist. I did my share of Big Sur seascapes, but I was famous for my nudes. Both men and women. Sometimes together in the same painting. I was cutting edge.”
“Yeah. Right. Cutting edge,” Jane said, not impressed.
“I was an outspoken militant against anything that stifled human development. I still am! I marched in Salinas for migrant farm worker reform and boycotted any number of items to draw attention to injustice. Most important, I was respected as one who would not condemn you, no matter your sexual preference, religion, lack of religion…you get the point. People could tell me anything. Anything. They knew I could be trusted to keep their secrets and I wouldn’t turn them in—”
Jane’s ears perked up. “Turn them in?”
“For drugs,” Kit said, being more specific. “You know, pot, coke, whatever.”
“Yeah, right. Whatever,” Jane said, a stinging tenor of judgment in her voice. Jane hated drugs. They had become the defining core of most crimes she investigated. “It’s always wise to keep your personal supply line running smoothly, isn’t it?”
Kit regarded Jane with a sideways glance. “I smoked pot. No hard drugs.”
“In front of your granddaughter?”
“No, of course not!”
“And she never smelled it on your clothes or your furniture or in your house?” Jane was quickly turning the conversation into an interrogation.
Kit’s back stiffened. “I always smoked it outside, and what in the hell has that got to do with the reason I’m here?”
“Just trying to get an accurate visual, Kit,” Jane said in a cool tone. “So, back to you being the ‘Earth Mother’ and Lou confessing his deep, dark sexual secrets to you.”
Kit took a moment to organize her thoughts. “I was aware that his childhood trauma created some twisted ideas in his head, much of them circling around fanatical Christian fundamentalist religion, sex, violence, the Devil, and on and on.”
“Sex, violence, God, and the Devil? This shit didn’t send up a red flag to you?”
“Back then, I bought into the New Age sermons about not judging others. Like I said before, I sadly confused proper discernment with judgment. So while my left brain was concerned about Lou’s disturbing comments, my right brain kept admonishing me to not judge him!”
Jane had to force herself not to roll her eyes when she heard right brain/left brain. She understood the difference between the logical mind and the creative mind, but she hated the New Agers and their patent terminologies. “Okay, after Ashlee’s murder, you hear stories about two fourteen‐year‐old girls supposedly raped by Lou—”
“Not supposedly! He raped those girls, Jane!” Kit stressed, jabbing her index finger several times onto Jane’s desk. “Those rapes proved that Lou Peters had a criminal mind as well as a criminal pattern. That’s the most important part of all of this! Lou has a definite pattern. The two girls he raped were both fourteen years old. Ashlee was fourteen years old. The girls were brunettes. Ashlee was a brunette. The girls had hazel eyes. Ashlee had hazel eyes. The pattern is a complicated, psychological mesh of Lou’s tweaked perspective. Lou’s mother was a brunette with hazel eyes. I know it sounds like bad, cookie‐cutter psychology, but there it is. Choosing a fourteen‐year‐old also had meaning. Lou was fourteen years old when his mother raped him.”
“His mother actually physically raped him?”
“I already told you that!” Kit replied, sounding a bit irritated.
“You said she sexually abused him. That’s a broad umbrella term these days. It can run the gamut from fondling and masturbation to exposing him to porn or making him watch her have sex with another guy.”
“Well, Lou’s mother did all that and she raped him with her own goddamned body. Get the picture?”
“So, what’s the meaning around the number fourteen?”
“I was getting to that. During our conversations, Lou mentioned a saying to me many times: ‘The Power of Fourteen.’ It was a strong belief he had. He said that when a boy or girl reached fourteen years old, it signified a pivotal moment in his or her development. It was at that age, he said, that a child was highly impressionable and could easily be altered spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. His feeling was that whatever occurred in your fourteenth year framed and defined who you would become as you grew into an adult. As much as I hate to admit it, ‘The Power of Fourteen’ theory has merit. I’ve paid more attention over the years, and I have noticed that it is a defining age. Look at that little girl in Utah who was kidnapped and held captive for all those months. What was her name? Elizabeth…. Elizabeth Smart. She was fourteen years old when that occurred. I know that tragedy and trauma can strike at any age, but there does seem to be something to the whole ‘Power of Fourteen’ idea.”
Jane nervously rubbed the old scar on the right side of her forehead. She had been fourteen when that defining moment in her young life occurred. And that runaway kid on the street in front of The Red Tail…she was fourteen. Coincidence? Jane wasn’t about to entertain a warped theory from the mind of Lou Peters. “You believe that shit when a Devil incarnate like Lou says it?”
“Even the Devil speaks the truth sometimes, Jane P. He just doesn’t couch that truth in love. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that truth or insight can pour from his lips.”
“I’m afraid I see the world as a bit more black‐and‐white than that, Kit.”
“This is not a black‐and‐white world. If you see it that way, you create polarity. And when you do that, you’re not open to the wonderful, frustrating, enlightening gray middle part.”
“Cops don’t see gray. We can’t. It would eliminate that ‘polarity’ we call ‘guilt.’”
“Lou’s own experience proved his theory. He was actually speaking about himself. His mother raped him when he was fourteen, and that event altered and twisted him and turned him into what he became. It’s the classic cycle of victimization.”
Jane had listened to the “abuse excuse” too many times during her career. If she applied that reasoning to her own violent childhood, she would be working the other side of the law instead of enforcing it. “Do me a favor, Kit. Don’t use Lou’s childhood trauma to sell your appeal. A lot of us got the shit kicked out of us and we’re not out there raping and killing people.”
Kit eyed Jane carefully. “I was right,” she said, more as an acknowledgment to herself than a statement to Jane. “I saw it in your eyes during that Larry King interview. I saw your pain. I just wasn’t aware where it came from.”
Jane was not used to anyone so readily peeling away her well‐built, protective armor. Sergeant Weyler was the only other person who saw through Jane’s tough shell, and that pissed off Jane no end. She leaned forward, digging her elbows into the desk. “Cut to the chase, Kit. You said that Lou has a pattern?”
“Yes. First, I have to tell you what happened last year. Lou’s lawyers fought hard and were able to convince the court to reexamine the semen from the condom. The DNA proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was not Lou Peters’s semen. That opened up the door. There were four weeks of emotional court appearances, all of which I went to and witnessed in California. Barbara and Paul, her husband, didn’t attend. They live in Henderson, Nevada, now and can’t go through the pain all over again. There were the same attorneys and the same asinine ‘expert witness/doctor’ who testified that Lou Peters was a good Christian who had been wrongly accused. I wanted to offer my two cents, but the prosecutor felt I was too much of a loose cannon. The judge ruled that reasonable doubt existed, and Lou was ordered out of prison on bond. He’s set to have a new trial in twelve months, and will probably get off, knowing his luck.”
Jane looked down at the newspaper and Charlotte Walker’s school photo. “So he’s out on bond and suddenly he’s responsible for Charlotte Walker’s kidnapping?”
“I took a good look at Lou Peters in that courtroom last year. I listened carefully to the personal testimony he gave to the judge. I was completely open to the idea that he was reformed and not a danger to society anymore. But every time I looked into his eyes, I saw darkness and a willfulness to repeat his past behavior. I knew he was going to do it again. I didn’t know when or where, but it was only a matter of time. That’s why I’ve kept my eyes wide open this past year. When I saw the bulletin about Charlotte Walker yesterday afternoon, my gut told me to act on what my heart felt. And believe me, my intuition is a lot sharper these days.”
“Well I’m not getting the hard and fast connections between Lou and Charlotte.”
“After his release from Chino Prison, he moved to Mariposa and then over to Oakhurst, California.”
“How the hell do you know that?”
“His bondsman told me.”
“You know his—”
“I made a point to get to know the guy, and he liked me as much as he hated Lou. He was more than happy to share Lou’s relocation destination with me, off the record.”
Jane leaned back in her chair and observed Kit. Up to this point, Kit’s kooky, pot‐smoking, New Age spouting attitude had lowered her credibility in Jane’s eyes. But now the word chutzpah was warranted as a description, and Jane respected people with chutzpah. She attempted to picture Kit, with her long hair in a braid and ‘Earth Mother’ aura, walking into the coarse environment of a bail bondsman and winning him over. That took guts and the kind of unflagging determination that Jane rarely saw anymore. But still, she had questions. Serious questions related to supposed patterns. “Charlotte Walker is twelve years old. And she’s blond. That kind of blows your ‘Power of Fourteen’ theory. Not to mention the pattern of choosing brunettes—”
“I’m aware of that. But I’ve also done a great deal of study on the criminal mind and those who choose patterns versus random hits. A criminal doesn’t start off with the same pattern he ends up using. The pattern builds upon itself as the criminal feels more confident in getting away with his crime.” Jane was well aware of this fact, but was interested to see exactly how much research Kit had done. “Lou started out raping two girls who were both fourteen. Unfortunately, I don’t know if there were differences in his approach between victim one and victim two. What I was able to gather from reliable sources years ago was that victim one was raped and let go immediately. Victim two was held for a period of several hours before he let her go. He realized he could get away with it, and so he decided to add to his pattern with Ashlee. This time, he held his victim in a remote location and for a longer period of time. He didn’t stay with Ashlee twenty‐four hours a day during the two weeks he had her. He’d ride his motorcycle to the cabin where he had her tied up, spend a few hours there, and then motor back to town. He worked his maintenance job, went to the market, and ate at the coffee shop—all with the premeditated intention of creating alibis during those fourteen days. Finally, after fourteen days, for whatever reason, it was time to add to his criminal pattern. He raped her with his penis, not the hammer handle, and then he killed my Ashlee.” Kit eagerly dug into her satchel. “I’ve got reams of information on this kind of offender—”
“That’s okay. I know the beast,” Jane assured Kit. “So why would Lou now go for a twelve‐year–old blonde?”
“I’ve given that great thought. Once criminals get away with a certain crime, they don’t so much change their patterns, they add to them. I have a very strong feeling that Lou is adding something different to this one. Something twisted. I can’t explain it. As I said, my intuition is stronger these days. Maybe Lou’s prison time convinced him to alter his ‘Power of Fourteen’ theory.”
“What does his bail bondsman say about his behavior since he got out?”
“The gentleman told me that Lou called him to let him know he moved from Mariposa to Oakhurst. Then he called him again a couple months later to let him know he was having phone problems but it would be resolved soon.”
“Why would Lou call his bail bondsman about a phone problem?”
“That’s what makes Lou’s mind so criminal. He understands what is expected of him and he goes out of his way to do things that he doesn’t have to do in order to earn points with those in authority. But it’s all done with a highly manipulative motive. He is an A‐One class charmer, believe me! Lou once alerted one of the guards at Chino Prison that his cell door wasn’t locking correctly, knowing full well that alert would get back to the warden and make him look like an up‐front fellow! It’s all about external impressions with Lou. He professes to be a strict, fundamentalist Christian who believes in the importance of family because he knows that sort of posturing will work in his favor.” Kit was obviously tiring quickly. “Look, we’ll have plenty of time to talk about Lou when you and I travel to California.”
“Whoa! Hold on! I didn’t agree to take this case!”
“I looked up on the Internet what private investigators get per day. Since you’re relatively well known, I factored that into the equation. I came up with five hundred dollars a day as a fair fee. Meals, hotels, fuel, and anything else you require is on me—”
“I’m hoping you can figure this out in ten days or less for the sake of that child. Either way, I’m prepared to give you five thousand dollars up front for the job—in cash.” With that, Kit withdrew a thick envelope from her satchel and slapped it on Jane’s desk. “It’s in hundreds. I hope that’s all right.” Jane looked dumbstruck at the envelope. “Feel free to count the money. It won’t insult me.”
“Where did you get five thousand dollars?”
“From my savings account, of course. If that’s not enough, I can withdraw more. But you’ll have to let me know right away since I want us to get going tomorrow.”
Jane’s head was spinning. “I have another case—”
“You mean that debacle you were involved in last night at The Red Tail?”
Jane bristled at Kit’s “debacle” description. “Yes, that one—”
“Do you truly like dealing with those lowlife scumbags? That swarthy fellow last night would have put your lights out if that big bruiser hadn’t intervened! From what I witnessed, you’d do well to hightail it out of town for a bit!”
“It’s a little more complicated than that!”
“Jane P.! A twelve‐year‐old girl’s life hangs in the balance! What is there to discuss?”
Jane quickly realized that Kit’s fervent tone was probably the same one she used when she debated any number of pet political causes. “Kit, there is not enough hard‐core evidence for me to link Lou with Charlotte Walker’s disappearance. Your gut intuition isn’t enough to convince me to travel all over hell and back with you—”
“I’d do this alone. But I don’t have the energy, nor do I possess the credibility and knowledge that you have. And tell me, Jane P., how many times did your gut intuition lead you to a killer?”
“It’s not my gut talking here! It’s yours!”
“And you don’t trust my intuition. I see. Well, get to know me and you’ll see that my intuition is right!”
“That’s not good enough for me!”
“When I sat down in this chair, I asked you a simple question: Do you believe in fate? The reason I asked that has everything to do with my intuitive abilities. Call it fate or coincidence, but isn’t a coincidence simply a co‐incident?”
“You’re losing me, Kit—”
“Call it coincidence or synchronicity, it’s the same beautiful magic. Life serves them up to everyone; the trick is understanding the messages they seek to deliver.” Kit leaned toward Jane. “Forget about logically explaining them. They defy explanation! When you begin to recognize how these ‘coincidences’ weave in and out and of your life, only then will you understand the governing power of a higher plan.”
The conversation was becoming too spiritually deep for Jane. “Yeah, okay, I—”
“You want concrete examples of what I’m saying? Fine. How about this: Because of my interest in children, I collected everything I could find on the Lawrence murder case you were involved in this past summer. Then I see you on Larry King’s show and I’m drawn to you. I can feel that you’re a kindred spirit. And then yesterday afternoon, I’m watching CNN and they break the story of Charlotte Walker’s disappearance in Oakhurst, California! Within two hours of seeing that story, for no reason at all, I feel a calling to go for a drive. I get in my car and what do I see immediately? A red‐tailed hawk circling above me! The Native Americans will tell you the red‐tailed hawk is a messenger. It is telling one to pay attention to all signals and coincidences! And so I drive for miles, letting my intuition lead me the entire way, until I end up in Denver on Colfax Avenue. That’s not exactly the neighborhood I choose to frequent. But there I am. And I’ll be damned if I don’t look up and see The Red Tail Hawk Bar. Well, it couldn’t get any clearer than that now, could it? Coincidence? Not to the untrained eye! I walk into the establishment and who do I see at the pool table but Jane Perry. At that moment, it all came full circle: my odd kinship with you, Charlotte’s disappearance in Oakhurst where Lou resides, the circling hawk, the bar, and you. Now, I know to a skeptic, that line of reasoning wouldn’t hold water. But to the intuitive person, those connections are solid!” Kit sat back, seeming a bit worse for wear after her passionate plea. “Open your mind, Jane P. There are greater things in heaven and earth than we’ll ever know. Pay attention! The synchronicities in life boggle the mind!”
Jane recalled the subject of synchronicity at the AA meeting the night before. And yet, she still wasn’t convinced. No matter how much money Kit threw at her, she wasn’t about to embark on a wild‐goose chase that would make her look more foolish than she did getting the crap beat out of her in a Colfax bar. And there was still that little issue of saving her current case and making things good with the FBI. Jane let out a deep sigh and rubbed the scar on her temple as she tried to engender a softer, less strident voice. “Kit, I’m sorry. I need more.”
“We’ll find proof when we get there. Isn’t that how it works? Learn as you go?”
Jane looked at Kit with an empty stare. “I’m sorry.”
Kit’s face fell. In stunned silence, she gathered the files and envelope of money together and carefully tucked them into her satchel. Jane recognized a sudden frailty as Kit rose to her feet and walked to the door. After a good, well‐thought minute, she turned to Jane. Her voice was choked with emotion. “When I said this was a matter of life and death, I was referring to Charlotte Walker’s life…and my death.” Jane stared at Kit in questioning silence. “I have inoperable, terminal lung cancer. Just hit stage four. I’ve got maybe another three months left. I don’t want your pity. I want your help. I couldn’t save my Ashlee from Lou. But I believe I can save that little girl in California with your assistance. I have to go there. My life must come full circle. I can’t die knowing I’ve lived an unfinished life, Jane.” Kit got control of herself. She reached into her satchel and brought out an eight‐inch square, purple suede drawstring bag. “I know you’re cautious of anything that is ‘woo‐woo’,” Kit said, gently moving toward Jane’s desk, “but humor me. This is a bag of animal stone totems I use for divination. Would you draw one out of the bag for me?”
If it had been anyone else, Jane would have replied with a string of obscenities. Kit opened the bag and Jane reached in, drawing out a flat stone the size of a silver dollar. Carved onto one side was a slithering snake.
Kit’s eyes widened, as if she were witnessing a pivotal moment in history. “The snake. My God! You’re on the verge of radical transformation. Your soul is ready to shed the skin of the past and move on to a more enlightened path.”
Jane did her best to hide a sarcastic smile and not utter an equally cynical retort. Instead, she handed the stone back to Kit. “I’m still not taking your case.”
Kit dropped the bag into her satchel, sans the snakestone. “You keep it. It’ll remind you of where your soul wants you to go.” She headed toward the door. “Oh, keep an eye out for proof that the animal you chose is legitimate. Very often, the universe delivers the animal to you in some form, as cosmic proof of its validity. Just another synchronistic event.” Kit exited the office and disappeared down the hall.