Spirit and Dust - By Rosemary Clement-Moore


THE LOCAL COPS kept staring at me. I couldn’t decide if it was the plaid miniskirt in subarctic temperatures, or the fact that they’d never seen anyone talk to the dead before.

At the moment, I was mostly shivering, but that had more to do with the gray Minnesota afternoon than residual psychic energy, though there was that, too.

“What do you see?” asked Agent Taylor, my FBI handler and the reason—other than the dead man—that I was there.

I had to swallow before I could speak. I like to pretend I’m all Daisy Goodnight, kick-ass teen psychic, when really most of the time I’m all Please don’t let me puke in front of the FBI.

The medical examiner had carted off the body of the man I was supposed to read, and a daylong drizzle had washed away any physical traces from the sidewalk. But an afterimage—one that only I could See—remained where he’d fallen, the vivid imprint of his violent death stamped into the intangible fabric of reality.

It wasn’t a pretty sight. I mean, the guy hadn’t been pretty even before someone had shot him in the head.

“One guy. Big, bruiser type.” I gestured to the curb. “Shot here, in the back of the head with a small-caliber pistol, I think.” Psychic traces of him smeared the sidewalk and grass beyond. Unlike bloodstains, they couldn’t be rinsed away by the rain. “Bruiser definitely died here, but it looks like maybe he was dragged out of sight, around the back of this building.”

Chief Logan, the local guy in charge, exchanged looks with Agent Taylor and his partner, Agent Gerard, but I already knew I was right. Not because I was Daisy Goodnight, kick-ass psychic for the FBI, but because the death was so recent that the details were way more clear than I needed.

Standard procedure was to let me read a murder site cold, with no prior information. And boy, was I reading this one cold. Like, icicles-on-my-belly-ring cold.

Four hours earlier I’d been in Texas—freshman chemistry lab, to be precise, trying not to blow myself up before I’d even finished my first college semester—when I’d gotten a 911 text from my uncle Sam. By which I mean Uncle Sam in the person of Agent Taylor. I’d given a cover-story excuse to my professor—because the feds are a little weird about the whole psychic-consultant thing—then headed outside, where a big black sedan waited for me on the street.

“Hey, Agent Tasty,” I’d said, when I saw Agent Taylor waiting beside the car. I liked Taylor, and not just because he was young and really hot for a buttoned-up guy with a G-man haircut and a newly minted FBI badge. I sort of like liked him, but we worked together and I was still three months shy of legal age, so it stayed within the boundaries of “sort of.” None of which kept me from noticing that he did not skimp on the FBI physical training program.

“Watch it, Jailbait,” he replied, like he always did. Then he sized up my outfit, which was perfectly adequate for a sunny San Antonio autumn day. “I hope you brought a sweater.”

I hadn’t. And his partner, Agent Gerard, stick even farther up his butt than normal, had refused to stop by my dorm for a jacket.

An hour later, the three of us—Taylor, Gerard, and I—were on a plane to the Midwestern tundra. Their haste made me uneasy, and not just because they’d whisked me off to hot chocolate country in my iced tea clothes. The feds like to exhaust all other avenues of investigation before they call in a psychic. Even me. Which made me wonder why I was risking hypothermia while I looked for clues on the mean streets of Elk Butt, Minnesota.

The college town was picturesque—dead-guy psychic slide show notwithstanding. Its biggest claim to fame, other than two liberal arts colleges, was that Jesse James botched a bank robbery there.

Taylor had briefed me on that much before we’d pulled up in front of a redbrick building on the Charleston College campus, where bright yellow crime-scene tape held back students who were taking pictures with their phones. It was a girls’ dorm, surrounded by lawn and overlooking a small lake in back. Not exactly the low-rent education district.

Bruiser did not look like a college student capped on the way to sociology class. He looked like a thug, his spirit traces felt vile, and worst of all, the freshness of his death had slammed me as soon as I’d climbed out