Prologue

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It wasn't the first time Miles DuCote had seen a dead body. But this one was different. The girl's cheeks looked deeply sunken as if she was blowing kisses at the orange sky. Miles arranged her backpack to the opposite shoulder and knelt deeper into the bushes outside a prim yellow house with green pillars in the Saint Claude neighborhood of New Orleans. She swept the leaves of the bush aside and saw the complete face of a young girl, once unconventionally pretty with full lips and a long, dark ponytail. The girl's body once coppery brown and now ashen, tangled with her own long limbs in a twisted fetal position against the brick foundation of the house. She was less in age than Miles' seventeen years and with her fashionable clothing, Miles surmised she was likely from the more affluent section of New Orleans, definitely not her neighborhood. Gripping the collar of her t-shirt and putting it over her nose and mouth, Miles quelled the stench of the rotting body. A smell of death she knew would only get worse in the New Orleans heat. The flies had already begun parading about her skin and in her orifices.

"Whatcha doin' there, girl?" A deep Creole voice broke Miles from her curiosity and made her step back from the bush, the shirt falling from her face.

She squinted to see an old man shuffling towards the closed screen door of the yellow house. From her angle on the sidewalk, she could only see his head, a cotton ball of curls against dark skin. When Miles heard the door hinges creak atop the elevated porch, she did the only thing she knew. She ran.

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