Chapter 1

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She's obviously an undercover cop. What will it be this time? Theft by swindle? An accounting error? A parking ticket? This should be good.

Zandra sniffs out the disguise before the woman is through the door of Sneak Peek, her hole-in-wall "psychic services" business. It's bricked in between a head shop and a defunct coffee joint in downtown Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Just a chair behind a desk in a single room. A glorified closet stuffed with too many eccentricities that catch the sunlight as the woman closes the door.

It doesn't take a psychic for Zandra to see her latest client is failing as an undercover cop. Maybe that's because Zandra isn't a psychic. Rather, she's a proud fraud, living upon the reputation of that incident at Soma Falls years ago. An incredibly lucky guess? Sure. Psychic? No.

But when the masses spray paint the words "go back to hell witch" on the side of your house and stalk your every move, you'll settle for the psychic label. Better a psychic serving entertainment purposes than anything approaching legitimate in their paranoid eyes. Everyone knows psychics are frauds anyway. It's an unhappy middle ground. An uneasy truce.

Stevens Point didn't know what to make of her back then. Still doesn't. But that doesn't prevent people from coming into Zandra's business. Like cops making sure she knows her place as the village crone. That's probably why this latest one is here. A reminder to not get too uppity about that reputation from Soma Falls. But don't walk away from it, either. What happened with Zandra and Soma Falls put Stevens Point on the map. The tourism alone is worth millions.

The creases around Zandra's tired eyes lift into a greeting. Smize as the kids would say. Not that she's been anywhere near hip for decades, made obvious by the oversized purple gown draped over her shoulders. It's acned with gaudy rhinestones straight off a cheap stripper's ass cheek. It's all for show, just like every other trinket of sparkly nonsense in Sneak Peek. And all for sale, of course. That's the proud in proud fraud. Not like anyone in town would give Zandra a real job anyway. But they'd certainly remind her she should.

The woman takes a seat across the desk from Zandra. As she does with all her clients, the "psychic" performs a mental checklist before saying anything. Zandra's got it down to three seconds. That's all she needs for her act.

Short, blonde hair pulled back tight into a small ponytail.

Fingernails trimmed to a few millimeters.

Baggy flannel shirt to cover the concealed pistol in a holster secured inside the waistband of her jeans. Right hand seated on her thigh at the ready to draw. Legs planted firmly on the floor instead of crossed or casual.

These aren't traits exclusive to cops. But playing the psychic, Zandra knows it's an odds game. Dress up a few observations about the client in ethereal babble about spirits and third eyes, then regurgitate what the client already knows in a way that seems insightful.

The odds are in Zandra's favor this time, though. The woman's eyes reveal the "tell" the minute she walked in. Her pupils cased the entire room, checking the corners and blind spots. It's called situational awareness, and it's like second nature for people in law enforcement. Civilians, not so much. It's tough to make it seem natural, especially if you're trying to act relaxed in front of Zandra. She learned a long time ago that eyes don't lie. Came in handy after Soma Falls. Now no bullshitter out-bullshits her.

Speaking of the woman's eyes, Zandra keys in on their color. Blue. Statistically, people with blue eyes are harder drinkers. Goes for men and women. Zandra read that online somewhere before she stopped paying her Internet bill at her apartment.

Do blue eyes mean this woman is a hard drinker? Does the matching gin blossom on her neck confirm the statistic? It doesn't matter. What does is the way Zandra presents this "revelation" to the woman. If Zandra is right, it'll seem like the information appeared out of nowhere. If Zandra is wrong, her third eye will make up some excuse and move on.

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