www.JoanMaze.com

EXERPT FROM THE HIEROPHANT:

Sunday Marino and the rest of the team spent the entire day in their office, going through the materials confiscated from Ultimate. The computers, however, were in the hands of their tech person-and those results would take time.

They all felt pressured by the fact that the benchmark 48 yhours had passed and the likelihood of solving the Higgins murder decreased daily. Marino's mind wandered to the strange development of the two Alanas. He bet they were Alana and Georgia. What he didn't know was whether the apartment belonged to Alana. Finding out she hadn't been the victim didn't mean she was okay. If he knew where she was, he'd quit worrying. No, he wouldn't. He'd find a way to keep her safe for the chief and his wife.

His vision blurred and he scrubbed his hand across his face. The two people who might know where she was and could clear this up-Chief Higgins and his ex-were unavailable. He'd stopped by to see the chief on the way home last night, but he was still in bad shape, and they couldn't ask his ex-wife until they found her.

Marino scooted his chair back, stood, and stretched his arms above his head. No wonder he hadn't made progress on his old class notes last night. He was beyond exhausted. They didn't even have any new developments to discuss. At least that would have helped him stay awake.

"Marino," Solheim said, rolling her own chair back to see him, and breaking into his thoughts, "I haven't found a damn thing. Much more of this and I'll be snoring."

"Get used to it. Investigating's seventy-five percent drudgery."

"Ninety," Gallagher chimed in from behind his cubicle wall.

"Hmmph," Solheim said, narrowing her eyes, first in Gallagher's direction, then t Marino. "In that case, I'm getting coffee. Anybody else game?"

"Not if it's the stuff we have here," Gallagher said.

"I was planning on going to McDonald's," Solheim said.

Marino dug into his pocket for his wallet, took out a ten, handed it to her and pulled his chair back to the desk and sat. "Yeah, a large one, black."

"Ditto," Gallagher said, "along with an apple pie."

Solheim opened her mouth but clamped it shut again, grabbed her coat, shrugged into it and left.

Marino kept his eyes on the doorway long after she'd passed through it, her long legs imprinted on his mind. Hell, her whole body. He sighed and forced himself to go back to what he was doing, tedious that it was.

"Almost four," Gallagher said. He scooted his chair over to Marino's desk, skirting a cabinet from Ultimate standing next to it. He slapped two papers on the desk. "Take a look at the signatures on these timesheets."

"They're close," Marino said moments later, "but not the same. Both signed as Alana Higgins." He sneezed.

"No time to get a cold," Gallagher said, shaking his finger at Marino. "We're too busy."

Marino rolled over to Gallagher and held one of the papers to his nose. "Not a cold. Perfume."

Gallagher grimaced. "Yeah, like those orange flowers. Can't think what they are. Damn strong stuff to still be able to smell it." He set the papers on the pile on the right side of his desk, grabbing at them when they toppled. "I'll make copies as soon as I finish this drawer." Gallagher leaned over the open drawer of a tall file cabinet parked next to his desk and pulled out another folder.

"That was from Alana's folder, right?" Marino wanted to know.

"Yeah. What are you working on?"

"Time cards. Hoping to find  pattern, but I'll check the handwriting on Alana's also."

"What kind of pattern?"

Marino shook his head. "Don't know, but I'd like something on where they went when they weren't at Ultimate, the jobs assigned."

Gallagher turned over the top paper from the folder he'd taken. "Maybe from Garwood's files. He handles assignments. What about time, like late hours?"

Marino nodded. "You're thinking about the missing women."

"Among other things." Gallagher blew out a breath. "Wish these guys would learn how to write."

"They should print," Marino agreed.

"This is printing." Gallagher rolled back to Marino, papers in his hand. "What do you make of this?"

Marino studied the two stapled pages handed to him, his brow furrowed in concentration. "What file is it from?"

Gallagher backed to his desk, picked up the folder, and checked the tab. "This says 'Sylvia Woods.' Employment app's missing." He pointed to the paper Marino held. "That's all there is."

Marino shoved his chair back, stood, and brought the papers back to Gallagher. "The word at the bottom is dispatched, but it's crossed out." He ran his finger down a list. "Assignments, modeling, maybe, most at Ultimate with morning or afternoon hours. Last one says seven." Seeing the word dispatched gave him a bad taste in his mouth, shivers wracking his spine. Among gangs, that meant death.

"Yeah." Gallagher combed his fingers through his hair, leaving behind a hopeless mess. He placed the paper with those he wanted copied. "I'll ask Burger tomorrow. What about the signatures?"

"Get me copies. I'll compare 'em to those on the rental apps or contracts." Marino grinned as Solheim breezed in, accompanied by the fragtrances of coffee and cinnamon. She carried a cardboard tray filled with coffee cups and pies. he took it from her and placed it on a table against the wall. Marino reached over, grabbed a coffee and a pie, and said, "That'll keep me going another hour, and then I'm going to call it a day."

 

MEET THE BAD GUY IN "THE HIEROPHANT"

CHAPTER ONE

The watcher’s pulse sped up and his heart swelled with pride as he viewed the crime scene through his telescope. He’d succeeded. But would her parents get the message? Would they recognize their crimes, their sins?

And what about Butterfly’s brother, the cop? When would he arrive at the scene, if at all? A patrolman stood talking to the plow driver, getting his story, no doubt. Not enough activity for the watcher. He needed and wanted recognition and acceptance.

Using his swivel chair, he rolled across the floor to his desk, removed a pack of Tarot cards from the center drawer, and laid several down. His hand shook and one more card dropped to the center. As if of their own volition, his eyes focused on the pattern – and then the last, unplanned, card.

Death.

As he gazed, transfixed, a bolt of lightning rent the air.

He shot his fist into the air, and stopped, his arm held aloft, the cry of triumph caught in his throat.

What if he’d misunderstood? Lightning in the winter was rare, but not unheard of. The last time, he’d read Zeus’s sign wrong, and had suffered horrendous punishment. The smell of fear hit his nostrils as sweat ran down his arm, his face, his entire body, soaking his sweat suit. The rest of the deck slipped from his grasp, scattering onto the table, his lap, the floor.

His heart thundered and pain radiated throughout his chest. He squeezed his eyes shut, waiting, expecting to see Mt. Olympus before him, and the twelve gods gathered to discuss his fate.

Would he always suffer for the mistake he’d made years ago? He pictured Butterfly, the beautiful and delicate creature who’d taken the place of the one who’d fled.

He shouldn’t have done that, but hadn’t he made amends – over and over again?

With a wild cry, he tumbled to the floor, vomit spewing from his mouth as tears streamed down his face.