Apple of My Eye (Tiger's Eye Mystery #7) - Alyssa Day
A man named Lucky walked into my pawnshop carrying a skull and a pie pan.
The skull was not in the pie pan, to be fair, but it was not the kind of thing I took in for pawn, either.
It was human.
"Please tell me that's fake," I said, torn between competing impulses to clutch my head or call the sheriff.
Lucky, who had a super cute, blue-eyed, blond-haired, boy-next-door thing going on, but with muscles that showed he just happened to be ex-Special Forces, squinted at me. "No, it's not fake, it's the pan from the pecan pie you baked for Molly last week. She asked me to drop it by."
I took a long, deep breath. "No. The skull. Please tell me the skull is fake. Halloween decoration you want to pawn, maybe?"
He laughed. "Oh. Sorry. No, it's real. I'm on my way to find the sheriff and thought I'd drop off your pan. I didn't want to leave the skull in the car because what if someone broke into my car and stole it?"
I stared at him for a moment, because what were the odds that someone would:
1) break into his car, and
2) break into his car at the exact time there happened to be a skull in it, and
3) break into his car at the exact time there happened to be a skull in it and decide to steal the skull.
Maybe he was thinking the same thing, because his cheeks turned a little pink, and he shrugged. "Anyway, I thought maybe you'd want to see it, in case you and Jack…"
His voice trailed off, and we both glanced over at the door that connected my half of the building—the pawnshop—to Jack's half of the building, where he housed his fledgling private detective business, Tiger's Eye Investigations.
"Still no word from him?"
I shook my head and started polishing the already-sparkling glass countertop, avoiding his gaze. Jack and I had been on the verge of finally—finally—going on our first official date when an old friend from his days as a rebel leader in the vampire wars had contacted him for help on some secret, urgent mission.
I'd barely heard from him in the several weeks since he'd left. So, on the too-frequent occasions when I caught myself wondering where he was and whether he was safe, I'd tried to stop. Maybe out of sight was out of mind for tigers.
Maybe Jack hadn't been all that interested in me, after all.
Maybe I needed to quit thinking about Jack.
I shoved the polishing cloth in the drawer, slammed it shut, and pointed a finger at poor Lucky.
"Please take the skull out of my shop. Now. I've had more than enough dead bodies and body parts in here to last me a lifetime."
Lucky gently put the pie pan down on the counter and then hastily stepped away. "I'm sorry, Tess. I wasn’t thinking about the amputated foot. I'll just go downtown and find the sheriff."
The bells over my door chimed, and Sheriff Susan Gonzalez walked in. "I hear—and I can't believe I'm saying this—you have a skull for me, Lucky."
Susan Gonzalez was the kind of beautiful that makes you catch your breath and then wish you had a better skincare regimen. She had silky black hair she always wore up in a bun when she was working, rich golden-brown skin, and huge, dark eyes. She'd been a couple years ahead of me in high school, but we'd been building a friendship since she returned to Dead End and joined the sheriff's department as a deputy a few years back. Ever since she'd helped me with a black-magic-coven situation, I'd considered her to be part of my family. She was looking tired and thinner than usual today, though, which made me realize we hadn't seen each other in a few weeks.
Now that she was the sheriff, I'd been involved with her in her professional capacity more often than I'd wished. She didn't seem that happy about it when I showed up at crime scenes, either. Unfortunately, all too often the crime scenes seemed to find me, rather than the other way around.
"Hey, I was having a perfectly normal day until he stopped by with a skull. This one has nothing at all to do with me," I said, giving her my 'I'm completely innocent' look.
She winced. "Tess, are you in pain?"
I sighed. "That was my innocent look."
"Huh. I was guessing 'severe hangover.'"
"Anyway, how did you know I was here?" Lucky asked, switching the skull to his left hand. He