Scene of the Crime Mystic Lake - By Carla Cassidy

Chapter One

Amberly Nightsong watched the children pouring out of the grade school, the variety of shapes and sizes and colors decorating the last of the summer grass as they raced to awaiting school buses and parked cars.

As always, her heart swelled as she saw the small, slender dark-haired boy running toward her, his face lit with a beatific smile. Max. At six years old, he owned her heart in a way no other male ever had before.

He opened up the passenger door, threw his bright blue backpack onto the backseat and then got into the car. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Max, how was your day?” she asked as she waited for him to buckle in and then pulled away from the curb.

“Good, except for at recess Billy Stamford called me a sissy boy because I wear a necklace.”

Amberly glanced over at her son and the necklace she’d placed around his neck when he was three years old. It was the same necklace Amberly’s grandmother had placed around her neck when she’d been three years old.

The silver owl had been hand pounded and crafted by her grandfather and was a talisman against evil. The rawhide string that it hung from had been replaced many times over the years, and even though Amberly didn’t live the Cherokee way of her ancestors, when she’d draped it around Max’s neck, she’d figured a lucky charm from her grandfather, intended for protection, couldn’t hurt.

“Did you tell him it isn’t just any necklace but a very special protection necklace? Did you explain to him that the owl and the cougar were the only creatures that stayed awake for the entire seven days of Creation?” she asked.

“Nah, I just told him he was a poo-head, and then we played baseball.”

Amberly bit back a smile, wishing all conflicts could be resolved so easily. But as an FBI profiler, she knew that wasn’t the way life worked. Conflicts got messy and people could be twisted, and by the time she was called to work a case, somebody was almost always dead.

“I’m ready whenever you are,” Max said, a touch of eagerness in his voice.

“Okay.” Amberly slowed the car a bit as they drove by a coffee shop where several people were seated outside, enjoying the early-September sun. “The man in the red shirt,” she said. Their car drove slowly past the shop, and then she stepped on the gas. “Go.”

Max frowned thoughtfully and then began. “His shirt was red and he had on blue jeans. One knee was ripped out and he had on blue-and-white sneakers. He had blond hair and a mustache.”

“Excellent, Max,” Amberly said proudly. “You’re going to be the best FBI agent in the whole world when you get old enough.”

It was a game they played every day on the way home from school, honing his powers of observation. He loved it, especially when he noticed something about somebody or someplace that she hadn’t noticed at all.

They were almost home when her cell phone beeped to indicate a text message. She dug it out of her purse and frowned.

“Looks like I’ll be going to Dad’s,” Max said as he saw her expression.

“Looks like,” she agreed and hit one on her speed dial. Her ex-husband, John, answered on the second ring. “What’s up?” His deep voice, as always, whispered an edge of guilt through her.

“I just picked Max up from school and then got a message that I need to go in.”

“Bring him by. Tell him we’ll order pepperoni pizza for dinner.”

“Okay, be there in ten.” She clicked off and glanced at Max. “Dad said he’ll order pepperoni pizza for supper.”

“Awesome, that’s my favorite. Am I going to spend the night there?”

“Hopefully not, but you know how this goes. I need to find out what’s going on, and then I’ll call later and let you know the plan.”

“Okay,” Max agreed easily.

Amberly thanked the stars that when she and John had divorced four years ago they had remained close friends, both committed to maintaining a healthy relationship for Max’s sake. She was also incredibly lucky that John worked from home and was always available to keep Max, as her work hours were so unpredictable.

Within ten minutes, she pulled into the driveway of the neat ranch house where she had once lived as John Merriweather’s wife. She’d kept her maiden name when they married as an honor to Granny Nightsong, the grandmother who had raised her. Max was a Merriweather by name, but definitely a Nightsong in spirit.

John greeted them at the