The Seekers by Heather Graham

 

Prologue

Joe Dunhill finished his follow-up report on what the media had labeled the Forget-Me-Not murders. Why that name, he wasn’t completely sure, except that the media always needed a catchy phrase, no matter what they were doing.

Night crew was coming on, and he was free to leave for the day. He was tired; it had been a challenging case. He had tracked every conceivable clue, and—until he’d called on Adam Harrison and his Krewe—Joe had been the only one convinced that the accidents had been murder, and that those “accidents” were related to disappearances—which also proved, in the end, to be murder.

Explaining his theory had been difficult, at best. He’d questioned his own sanity.

His original job had been to find a missing politician, but in searching the area of Johnson Square, a man had accosted him in the street.

He’d come out of nowhere, and said, “Detective, I don’t know how or why, but they’re all related. The deaths. Nothing was an accident. They were murders! All the recent deaths in this area...not accidents!” The man shook his head with pure disgust.

“Sir...” Joe said, and his voice trailed. The man appeared to be the very missing person he was seeking, a flesh and blood version of the picture he’d stared at day after day in his search. “I swear to you, I’m following every lead. What is your name? Are you related to Mr. Drake? If you have information—”

“I just gave you my information!” the man snapped. And he started past Joe.

Naturally, Joe spun around to stop him.

But he was gone. Disappeared, vanished, into thin air.

Just like the missing politician, Simon Drake.

Joe’s superiors had been supportive; he was welcome to pursue his theory. On his own time, of course. There couldn’t be an official investigation regarding such an unlikely scenario.

So, Joe had contacted Adam Harrison, a man he’d read about several times, along with the various cases his unit had worked.

Adam had surreptitiously sent help, and the agents had managed to find new leads where the trail had gone cold for Joe. Their help had been invaluable in solving the case and catching a murderous pair intent on keeping the transgressions of their ancestors deeply buried.

And now, it was finally done; victims all accounted for, press conferences over, the last of the paperwork finished.

He could move on. There were other cases on his desk. But for now... Hell, he was going to get out of the office. He was going to remember he had friends, he did have a life—kind of—and he needed to get back to living it, trying to be more of a regular human being.

One thing still bugged him. One thing he couldn’t shake.

Who the hell was the man who’d stopped him when he’d walked down the street by Johnson Square? He’d met most of Drake’s family and close friends and associates during the initial stages of the investigation...

Joe had lived and breathed the case too long; he needed to hang with friends, play football in the park, have a beer and whine about a game on TV. Or just go home. He was drained.

As he headed out of the office, colleagues called out to him.

“Hey, man, congrats on the Drake case!” one of his fellow detectives said.

“Bravo!” someone else said.

Embarrassed, he lifted a hand. “Yeah, thanks guys, had that FBI help,” he said.

Hell, help? The FBI had basically solved the damned thing, but then again, they’d been very different FBI, the kind that lived what they were doing, and who saw...

Saw what?

What was beyond the norm.

He waved a good-night and headed out. His little house was off Victory Street, and he owned it free and clear, thanks to an uncle who had sold it cheaply to him and moved to Arizona.

It was home; comfortable. He walked in, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, sat down on the sofa and turned his television on for company. He wished he had a dog.

There were so many factors about the case still plaguing him. Things he had tried and tried to discover, and others had found, as if by instinct. As if the investigators were omniscient. The agents had come from a unit labeled the Krewe of Hunters by their coworkers in other units and divisions—and by the press. Joe had heard that they took on anything that might be considered “strange and unusual.” Exactly what that meant, he wasn’t sure. But it sure seemed as if they had special powers.

A life, yeah, he needed a life. He’d had one, even been very nearly engaged. But then, his girlfriend had been offered a job in Nashville, and while she was hopeful, he just couldn’t leave Savannah. The fact that neither of them was willing to compromise had sealed their relationship’s fate. That seemed long ago now.

He was so damned tired. He nearly dropped the bottle of beer he’d barely managed to sip. He set it down and leaned back, closed his eyes.

“Detective?”

He startled awake at the voice and started to reach for his gun and holster on the coffee table, but paused. There was no one there. Except then there was.

Just no one who would be threatened by a .45 caliber weapon.

Joe sat up straight, disbelieving. Wondering if he was still sleeping.

Bit by bit, the image of a man formed in front of him.

It was a man he had seen before; the one who looked just like Simon Drake, who’d appeared to him in Johnson Square. The man who had disappeared...

“Detective, hey, don’t get up. I was just trying... I’m not very good at this... I know I’m leaving... I’m ready. I just wanted to say thank you. Really, thank you. I can’t thank you enough.”

And then, he faded away.

Joe stared.

Maybe he did need a department shrink.

Or maybe...

He pulled out his phone and dialed a number he’d memorized over the past weeks.

Dallas Wicker, the FBI agent who’d helped Joe on the recent murder case, answered.

“I need help. I have to get out of here—I think I need to join the Krewe.”

“What? Joe, I’m sure you could apply to the FBI. But you don’t just join the Krewe. You’re a great cop. I’d love to work with you again. But there are unique requirements for the Krewe. Agents need special abilities—”

“Well, Dallas, the ghost of Simon Drake just stopped by to say goodbye to me. How will that work for meeting any unique requirements?”

There was silence on the other end. And then Dallas said, “Well, hell, then, Detective. Come on up.”