Why kill me?” Sierra Raines said. “I’m just the go-between.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Raines,” Parker Keegan said. He aimed the pistol at her. The weapon shook a little in his hand. Keegan’s eyes were wild with lust—not the sexual kind; a different sort of madness, but just as dangerous. “I’m afraid this is the end of our business association.”
Another crazy, obsessive, paranoid collector, Sierra thought. Should have seen this coming. The problem was that most of her clients qualified as crazy, obsessive, or paranoid—usually some creepy combination of all three. If she avoided all the collectors and dealers in the hot artifacts trade who fit one or more of the three categories, she would be out of business in a day.
Keegan, however, was proving to be more of a problem than the majority of her clients. There was the gun, for one thing. Thankfully, very few of the collectors and dealers she did business with had gone so far as to pull out a pistol, although one or two had produced large knives, and there was the scary dude who had tried to lock her up in the trunk of a car that he intended to push off a pier on Lake Washington. Most collectors were thrilled to conclude a successful transaction and were eager to do more business with her. She was slowly but surely establishing a reputation as reliable and discreet.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that there were a few drawbacks in her new business. There had been glitches and major disasters in all of her previous attempts to discover her calling. She was starting to think of herself as a serial career killer.
They were standing in Keegan’s private gallery. Like the galleries of most collectors who were obsessed with artifacts that had an association with the paranormal, the room was a converted basement. There was no one else in the big house and the nearest neighbors were a mile down the road. If Keegan shot her, no one would hear the crack of the pistol.
“Don’t misunderstand, Ms. Raines,” Keegan said. “I am very grateful to you for locating the artifact and delivering it so promptly and so discreetly. The problem is that you now know far too much about my collection and my business affairs.”
Keegan was not particularly dangerous looking. Thin, short and middle-aged, he had the vibe of a fussy academic. But if there was one thing Sierra had discovered in the past few months, it was that when it came to collectors and dealers, looks were invariably deceiving.
Mirrors, however, never lied, not to someone with her talent. And there happened to be one—a large, elaborately framed nineteenth-century looking glass—hanging on the wall directly behind Keegan. When she jacked up her talent she could see the reflection of his energy field. Unstable was the only way to describe it.
Not that she had needed a mirror to arrive at that diagnosis, she thought.
“I’m a Vault agent, Mr. Keegan,” she said, keeping her tone polite but firm. “You know as well as I do that Mr. Jones is not going to be happy if one of his go-betweens gets murdered on this job.”
“I have considered the problem of Mr. Jones. Don’t worry, Ms. Raines, your body will never be found. I intend to tell Jones you failed to deliver the artifact. He will be convinced you stole it and disappeared with it.”
“No,” Sierra said. “He won’t believe it. You do not want to cross Mr. Jones.”
“I’m not afraid of Jones,” Keegan snapped.
But he sounded as if he were trying to convince himself rather than her.
“There is no reason to kill me,” she said gently. “You’ve got the artifact. Mr. Jones has built a reputation for confidentiality. As long as his clients don’t try to cheat him, he keeps their secrets. So do his agents.”
“Unfortunately, I have trust issues,” Keegan said.
“No kidding. As it happens, I have a few myself.” She gave him her flashiest smile and casually stripped off one of her sleek black leather gloves. “That is, of course, why I take precautions at every stage of the delivery.”
Keegan frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Sierra raised her ungloved hand to the small locket she wore. She flipped it open to reveal the mirror inside. It was not a standard mirror, but rather a flat circle of highly reflective crystal.
“I won’t bore you with a lengthy explanation of how this works,” she said. “That would involve some complicated physics. All you really need to know is that