Jack walked up to me, looming like a towering pylon. I wasn’t sure what to say to the man who was haunting my dreams and now stood in front of me. I pulled my black cardigan closed around my low-cut emerald green top, cleared my throat, and muttered a ‘hello’. Suddenly he was grabbing my arm and leading me away from the crime scene.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Me? What are you doing here?”
“I’m not the one who was led away by police escort.”
That was fair. “That was nothing.”
“It didn’t look like nothing.”
“They wanted to know how I knew Alec. That’s all.”
Jack released my arm and stared down at me for a minute. My arm was still warm from his touch. He was so close to me, I thought I could sense his heartbeat, wild and erratic. I blinked and thought I saw his nostrils flare. His spring green eyes were magnetic, peering into my most inner self, and I could do nothing but stare back in return, feeling like I was getting lost in them. And if I was feeling this way now, I was probably already halfway down the rabbit hole.
This time, Jack cleared his throat. “Well… I’m glad that it wasn’t more serious. But you still shouldn’t be here. It’s too dangerous.”
“The killer could come back. Sometimes they do that.”
“How do you know?”
Jack gave a small smirk, surveying our surroundings. “Unfortunately, this isn’t my first time being around a murder.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh really?” I paused. “Maybe you’re the one I should be afraid of…”
Jack caught my eyes. “Maybe you should be,” he murmured. Then he turned away and began resuming his search of the scene. Illuminated by the light from the parking lot, I watched his back muscles flex through his heather gray t-shirt. They rippled and moved, the sinews stretching his shirt tight. Swallowing hard, I quickly walked over to where he was and stood next to him.
“What are you looking for? Clues?”
“Mind if I help?”
Jack glanced at me then refocused his attention on the ground. “Suit yourself.”
“Thanks.” I pulled out my labradorite pendulum and began meditating over the area. I closed my eyes and softly murmured a request to the Goddess for help.
“What are you doing?” came his voice, and I felt him nearer to me. I would swear his warm breath was next to my ear, and I shivered.
Without opening my eyes, I replied, “I’m helping.”
I opened my eyes, letting them adjust to the low light, and saw he had moved away again.
“Here?” He gestured to the surroundings. “Now?”
Jack scoffed. “Probably because that sort of thing isn’t foolproof. We need hard evidence to find the killer.”
I pursed my lips, feeling annoyed. “Who says that’s the only way to find who did this?”
“I do. Science does.”
“There are some things that science doesn’t understand yet.” I could see Jack biting his tongue. Ah ha! I’d caught him there.
I continued to scry. “Everything has a vibration. I’m going to simply tap into the vibration of the scene and see if I can pick up anything you can’t.”
Jack chuckled. “Have at it, witch.”
“Thank you, friend.”
I saw Jack look at me skeptically before I closed my eyes again, and I smiled. I was used to the arguments of non-believers. Witches were always being viewed as something unusual, something otherworldly. Most commonly? Freaks. We dressed differently, wore our hair differently, pierced things, tattooed things, and spoke about the moon more often than others would like. Truth be told, there were already so many things in this world that were beyond it, we weren’t adding to it.
In many cases, witches drew from the elements: earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. Some witches communed with the dead and spirits, staying receptive to their messages. Others received their gifts from nature or were in tune with the planets. Ultimately, we understood that some things had no explanation, and we relished the uniqueness of everything, both in and not of this world.
I let the pendulum swing, feeling the vibration coursing through my body. The sensations trickled down my arm and into the chain that held the dangling diamond of labradorite. I could feel the stone twirl and rotate, arcing and moving as if magically, as it picked up the vibrations in the space. I opened my eyes and watched as it swung to and fro, then as it slowed and began leaning towards the northwest. I walked in that direction and after a few feet, stopped. The pendulum continued to move erratically, swirling in the air, then moved northeast.
As I walked forward, I noticed Jack had taken a subtle interest in what was going on. At least, he thought it was subtle. I could see him following me with his eyes, moving into place so that he could be closer to where I was standing. His masculine scent, brimming with bonfire and spices, was borderline distracting. It permeated my very being and swirled around me like a whirlwind of desire. I shut my eyes again and squeezed them tight, using it as a way to focus on the vibrating energies.
Suddenly the pendulum stopped still and straight down. I opened my eyes and looked down. Something off-white was in the grass, partially covered by it, and I bent down to pick it up. Pulling out my cell phone, I tapped on the light app and saw it was a piece of broken plastic. I couldn’t figure out what it came off of, but it was clear to me that it was part of the crime scene.
Turning around, I held out my palm, the piece laying in the middle of it. “Any idea what this is?”
Jack took the two steps needed to meet me and looked at the broken bit in my palm. “That looks like it could have come from the knife.”
“The one that killed him.”
“There was a knife?”
“Yes. I saw it in Alec’s back.”
“You saw it?” I was incredulous. “How?”
“I could see the crime scene when I got here this morning.”
“How? The police had the line blocked off so far away…”
Jack looked away. “After you left. They got distracted. I took a closer look.”
“Oh.” To myself, I added, “Must’ve been when they were booking me.”
“Anyway, that’s a definite piece of evidence.”
“So now do you see?”
“My methods can be helpful.”
“I still think they are more luck than anything else.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “What have you found, then?” My cardigan slipped open, but I was getting annoyed, so I paid little attention to my appearance.
Jack paused for a moment, and I could have sworn he stopped breathing for a minute. His brilliant golden-green eyes flickered down to my chest, and I instinctively blushed. “I… I haven’t found anything yet, but I’m think I’m getting closer to something.”
“Listen. We both want to find out who killed Alec, right? Why don’t we just work together?”
Jack stood up straight. His shoulders were wide, his sleeves tightly gripping his biceps. A wolf on his arm seemed to come alive in the dim light. Damn, he was sexy! Then he was focusing those eyes of his on me, and I felt myself heat up, like a fire had been lit from within. I had a hard time not walking up to him and ripping his clothes right off his body. I blinked and tried to dispel the image of my fingers running across his bare chest from my mind, but it remained.
“I’m not sure.” He was staring at me, hard, like he knew what I was thinking.
“What are you not sure about?”
“Like I said, this isn’t my first time being involved in a murder. These things can be hazardous, and I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
My sarcasm took a bite. “Aww. You care!”
Jack winced visibly. “You know, I’m not an asshole, if that’s what you’re implying.”
I paused, taken aback by his change of tone. “No! No, I am not implying that. I just…” I shook my head and turned around, starting to walk away. “Aww, hells bells. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that…”
“Where are you going?”
I stopped and faced him again. His expression was unreadable. “I was going to go back to my jeep. I’m going to conduct a reading of the cards.”
“Suit yourself. I think I’ve figured everything out that I can here.” I started walking again and heard him call out, “I’ll walk with you.”
“Oh. Okay.” I stopped and pushed some stray hairs behind my ears out of nervous habit. He had me all twisted up inside, feeling self-conscious, and very, very aware of myself.
He walked up to me and I proceeded towards my jeep again. I felt the heat pouring off of him as he strode next to me, and I couldn’t help but lean into it. Before I knew what I was doing, I stumbled into him, and he caught me. I heard his breath catch and his arms were around me. His large hands were on my arm and back. I looked up and his eyes were on mine, and something intense seared me to my very soul from within them. His full lips were close, so very close, and I wanted to know what it felt like to be kissed by them. I felt his thumb stroke my arm before he quickly tilted me upright and let go. He released me as if I was burning his hands, backing up a step.
Jack cleared his throat. “Are you alright?”
I finally remembered to breathe. “Yup. Everything’s good here.” Under my breath, I muttered to myself, “Everything is really good…”
I thought I saw a slight smile touch Jack’s mouth, but I blinked, and it was gone.
At my jeep, I opened the passenger door and grabbed a patchwork bag with my tarot cards inside. Unlike a normal deck, mine was an assortment of cards from a variety of decks, collected over the years and put together like a comfortable quilt of knowledge and awareness. I had multiples of certain major arcana, like the Death card and the Devil, each representing different aspects of the base meaning. I had unique cards that couldn’t be found in traditional decks, and this gave me more insight than a normal reading would provide.
Bringing my cards around to the trunk, I lifted the gate and hopped up to sit. I patted the empty space next to me and Jack sat down, his height negating the need to ‘hop’. The jeep sank a little under his weight, and I realized at that moment exactly how powerful of a man he must be. Beyond the shuffling of the cards, we sat in silence. I glanced at him now and then, and he simply surveyed the grounds, as if keeping watch over us. Once I was sure the cards were thoroughly shuffled, I put the immense deck down and looked up at him.
“Ok. Cut the deck into three sections.”
“Why don’t you do it?”
“Because if we’re going to work together, which I hope we are, I want to get your insight into this.”
Jack sighed and reached out his right hand to cut the deck. He created three smaller piles then looked at me, one eyebrow raised in question. “What now?”
“Pick a pile and that will be the one that your cards are drawn from.”
“Okay. This one.” He handed me the third pile.
“Great! Now I need you to focus your thoughts on finding the killer.” I spread the pile out into a long row. “Pick three cards from this row.”
I watched as Jack selected two cards I knew and one that didn’t seem familiar. He held them up. “Do I give these to you? Put them down? What?”
“Go ahead and lay them down, face up, in the order you pulled them.”
His first card was the Three of Cups, friendship. Three friends were celebrating together, their cups raised in cheer. This had to represent our mutual friendship with Alec.
His second card was the Hanged Man, sacrifice. This was the card that was unfamiliar to me. I couldn’t recall seeing this precise card in my deck before, but it struck me that the man in the image looked similar to Alec, with a similar appearance. A skull lay on the ground underneath the hanging man, and there was even a knife with a white handle sticking out of him on the card.
“That’s bizarre.” Jack’s voice vibrated through me, and I shivered.
“I agree. Mostly because this isn’t one of my cards.”
Jack’s head whipped up. “What?”
“This isn’t part of my deck.” A cold chill snaked its way up my spine and neck. “Someone must’ve inserted this card into my deck at some point.”
“Who had access to your cards?”
“Anyone who was in my tent. It wouldn’t have taken much for someone to slip a card into the deck when my back was turned.”
“Damn. That could be–”
“–anyone,” I finished. I tapped the third card. “This one is familiar, though, and definitely one of mine. It’s the Devil.”
“Well that’s perfect. We’re chasing the Devil?”
“Not the Christian Devil, no. We’re chasing someone that has indulged in their passions, their hungers, despite the impact that it’s created. This is a selfish person who doesn’t take the time to consider repercussions, who is blissful in their ignorance as they enjoy their indulgences.”
“That’s…not super helpful. How do we find this person?”
“We’ll have to do some digging, but its someone who was only thinking of themselves.”
I looked up from the card and Jack was looking into my eyes. I couldn’t help it; I looked at his lips and licked my own. He inhaled sharply, and I swore he leaned closer, swore he was starting a fire between us. But then he pulled away, and I was left wondering what his game was.
Jack stood up and began walking toward his truck.
“So you’re just leaving?”
He stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “Yes. You should do the same, Talia.”
He began walking again, and I called out to him, “Okay. But we’re doing this, right? Working together?”
Without turning around, he threw up his left hand, a pair of devil horns, and I smiled. We were going to figure this out together. And I would still get an opportunity to figure him out.
What game are you playing with me, Jack Soroka?