The Alchemical Detective: A Riga Hayworth Mystery
A high-voltage, cleverly-spun mystery that I couldn't put down. Riga Hayworth is addictive.Diana Orgain
USA Today Bestselling Author of the Motherhood is Murder mysteries
Her gargoyle's got an attitude.
Her magic's on the blink.
Alchemy might be the cure... if Riga can survive long enough to puzzle out its mysteries.
The first in the addictive, action-packed Riga Hayworth series.
Someone's killing psychics in bucolic Lake Tahoe, and the police think Riga may be connected to the crimes.
They could be right.
Riga recognizes the sinister hand of a long-dead enemy in the crime scene. Juggling demons, daimons, and a devilish casino owner, can this metaphysical detective catch a killer before she becomes the next target?
The Alchemical Detective is the first book in the Riga Hayworth mystery series and a complete, full-length mystery that can be read as a standalone. If you're a fan of Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris or Deborah Harkness, don't miss this twisty paranormal mystery, because this complicated, 40-something heroine isn't like the others...
Start reading now!
Categories: Witch mystery series kindle, mystery novels paranormal, urban fantasy mystery novels, paranormal women's fiction.
Release date: May 23, 2012
Publisher: Misterio Press
Print pages: 200
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The Alchemical Detective: A Riga Hayworth Mystery
Chapter 1: Calcination
The egg quivered, then rolled, seemingly of its own accord, to the edge of the counter.
Riga stared at it, her violet-colored eyes narrowed in concentration. Magic, she reminded herself, was a matter of will and she had that in spades. However, it was also a matter of focus and in this area, she was lacking.
The egg trembled, then slowly rose into the air; one inch, two inches, five.
“Yes,” Brigitte said encouragingly, her voice a French-accented Lauren Bacall. Her stone claws tensed, gouging tracks in the linoleum countertop.
The egg exploded, splattering the gargoyle with shell and yolk.
Brigitte shrieked, the sound of rocks scraping against each together. “Faugh! Water! Bring ze water!”
Riga hurried to the sink and turned on the tap, frustration wrinkling her brow. She grabbed a dishtowel and soaked it in warm water. Her hands trembled, and Riga swore under her breath. Two months ago, this would have been easy.
At first, she’d thought her magic was gone. Now Riga knew it had gone haywire and her rehab attempts weren’t working. If anything, her magic had become more unpredictable, more dangerous. She only dared practice with Brigitte because the centuries-old gargoyle was made of stone. But even Brigitte wasn’t indestructible.
Someone beat upon the front door and Riga whipped around, startled. She should have sensed whoever was coming up the steps. Another small failure. More pounding; the cheap wooden door vibrated beneath the blows.
“Police! Open the door!”
Gargoyle and woman looked at each other. Woman acted first. Riga tossed the towel in the sink. “Don’t move,” she said to Brigitte.
“But ze egg. It dries like cement,” Brigitte wailed.
“Later.” Riga hurried to the door and flung it open. A chilly blast of pine-scented air swept inside, tossing Riga’s auburn hair and stinging her skin.
Two sheriffs stood before her in wide brimmed hats and heavy dark brown parkas. Riga might have taken them for rangers had it not been for their belts, strapped with weapons, slung low on their hips. The older one had his fist raised for another round of door pummeling. He lowered it with what looked like regret. He was bulky, bearlike, with steel blue eyes, and she imagined he enjoyed making the door shiver beneath his fist. The tag under his badge read: Sheriff John King. The badge itself: El Dorado County.
“I heard a woman scream,” King said.
“I banged my shin on the coffee table,” Riga said.
“Are you alone?” He peered over Riga’s shoulder. It wasn’t hard – Riga was five-foot-six, and he stood well over six feet tall, imposing in every direction.
“Yes. Can I help you?” Riga didn’t budge, unwilling to let them in. It wasn’t that Riga didn’t like cops; she was friends with plenty of them, when they were out of uniform.
“It was quite a scream,” he said.
She quirked her lips. “Now you’re just embarrassing me.”
The sheriff looked at her. She returned his gaze. The silence stretched between them.
The deputy coughed. “Are you Ms. Hayworth?” he asked. Riga figured him for his early thirties, which meant she had a decade on him. He was well built, and between the startling pale blue of his eyes and the chiseled planes of his face, would have looked at home on a magazine cover. But Riga’s gaze was drawn to the sheriff. The deputy had youth, the sheriff had presence.
“I’m Riga Hayworth.”
“My name is Night, Deputy Night. May we come in? Please?” He smiled ruefully, exposing dimples and gleaming white teeth. “It’s kind of cold out here.”
Riga hesitated. But she wasn’t wearing a coat and was freezing in the doorway. She could feel the heat from the cabin oozing past her, out the door. “Okay.” Reluctantly, she stepped back, and allowed them past her.
Hands resting on the butts of their guns, they prowled the room as if they owned the place. They could have it, for all Riga cared. It was one of the lower-end tourist cabins, crammed with a mis-matched jumble of seventies era furniture. A giant picture window looked out upon a forest scene: pines, and patches of snow wetting the ground. The afternoon sun slanted low in the sky, sending beams of light glittering through damp tree branches.
Brigitte, still covered in egg, had shifted to face the cabin’s small living room. The deputy stared at the gargoyle, walked to Brigitte, and ran his hands across her stony feathers as if in a caress. Brigitte would love that, Riga thought.
“Cool harpy,” he said. “Where’d you find it?”
Night tucked his hat under one arm and ruffled his blond hair with his free hand. “Do you know it’s got egg on it?”
“Forget the statue,” the sheriff barked. Turning, he stumbled over a cheap American-Indian themed rug. “Miss Hayworth, may we sit down?”
She indicated the lumpy sofa, a cruel gesture given the state of its springs, but she didn’t want them to linger.
They sat. She remained standing.
The sheriff removed his hat and put it on a nearby coffee table, covering decades of coffee rings. “Riga Hayworth. Is that your real name?”
She raised an eyebrow. “If you mean, did my parents choose it? Yes.”
“Funny sort of name,” King said. “Like that old movie star. Were your parents fans?”
She shook her head, no. Not after she’d grown to look more and more like the screen siren; that had disturbed her parents, made them wonder if they’d really picked the name or if the name had picked their daughter. Riga’s resemblance to Rita Hayworth was uncanny; auburn hair, arched eyebrows, and olive skin.
“How well did you know Sarah Glass?” King asked.
Riga looked at him blankly.
Sheriff King shifted with impatience. “Otherwise known as Lady Moonstone.”
“The palm reader?” Riga asked, surprised. “Not at all. I think she’s a member of the Tea and Tarot group. She didn’t show at last week’s meeting, which was my first, so I never had a chance to meet her.” Riga had forced herself to attend for the first and probably last time. She wasn’t a joiner.
Now, Riga knew, she was supposed to ask why the police wanted to know about Sarah Glass. But the cops weren’t here to satisfy a casual curiosity. Something bad had happened and Riga wanted to put off learning what it was for as long as possible. Though her magic had gone awry, she sensed the tug of something dark and inexorable moving towards her. She didn’t like the feeling.
“What’s Tea and Tarot?” King asked.
“The local metaphysical professionals meet twice a month to talk shop at the Fortune Teller’s Café.”
“Who was there last week?” the sheriff said.
“The owner of the café, Tara, was there. She reads cards. Lily, a tea leaf and palm reader, was too. And so was an astrologer, Audrey. She also has an energetics practice.”
“Energetics?” Night asked.
“Reiki, that sort of thing,” Riga said.
The sheriff drummed his fingers on the nearby table. “I hear you’re a P.I. of some sort, did some consulting for the Oakland police.”
Riga crossed her arms, thinking. The Oakland connection was an odd one for them to pick up since she’d lived in San Francisco. The SF cops would have been a more obvious reference. “I’m a metaphysical detective and I have a California investigator’s license. I’m not licensed in Nevada. How did you hear of it?”
“Cops talk,” the sheriff said. “They said you knew how to keep your mouth shut.”
It wasn’t exactly a rave review, but she couldn’t blame the Oakland PD. It had been an unusual case, even by her standards. She was surprised they talked about her at all. “Are you looking to hire a consultant?” Riga placed a subtle emphasis on the word “hire.” She’d come here for an extended vacation but turning it into a work trip held a certain tax-deductible appeal.
In response, the sheriff unzipped his parka and pulled out a manila file folder. From it he withdrew an eight by ten photo. He extended it towards her.
Okay, she thought: he wanted to see what a metaphysical consultant could do. She took the photo, and returned to her spot against the counter beside the gargoyle. Riga held the picture before her so Brigitte could view it: a black and white glossy of a metal disk with a symbol impressed upon it – two concentric circles with oddly shaped letters and symbols drawn between the two and a square grid in the center overlaid with jagged lines. The expression on her face flickered, then stilled.
“You know it?” the sheriff said, leaning forward in his seat.
She grimaced in distaste. “It’s a sigillum used to summon and control a demon when you don’t know the demon’s name,” she said. “The style is similar to the Sigillum Dei Aemeth created by John Dee but there are key differences which make this unique. There was a man in Paris who used a system like this, invented it in fact, named Francois Lefebvre. The Parisian police will have a file on him. He died five years ago in a fire. Lefebvre didn’t take students, wasn’t the type to share, but he had servants. They may have learned his technique.”
“How did you learn it?” the deputy asked. He was taking notes and turning a pencil between his fingers. His hands were calloused, roughened by work, and she imagined the young man swinging an axe, splitting firewood.
“I never said I learned it,” she said.
“But you know enough to identify it,” Night persisted.
“Lefebvre tried to summon a demon in my presence,” she said dryly. “It’s not something one forgets.”
The sheriff’s bushy eyebrows rose. “Did he succeed?”
“Of course not,” she said. Lefebvre had succeeded in raising the demon, but not in controlling it. Riga had seen to that. The demon had seen to Lefebvre. Riga had managed to evade the Parisian cops, keep her involvement secret, and she wasn’t about to upset the status quo.
“You haven’t asked me what this is about,” King said.
“What’s this about, Sheriff?”
“Sarah Glass was murdered. We found this beside her, and now you tell me you’re one of the few people in the world who knows what this is and how to use it.”
Damn it. She should have known nothing good could come from telling them about Lefebvre. But she’d maintained a reasonable relationship with the authorities by not withholding evidence, even when the police neither liked nor believed her.
“I understand you’ve got some fighting skills?” the sheriff asked. “Have you studied martial arts?”
“I’m no black belt. What does hapkido have to do with this sigil?”
The sheriff leaned forward, his stare unrelenting. “So what happened here? Did a demon kill her?” His voice was mocking.
“I have no idea how she died or by whose hand,” Riga said. “If I had more information—”
He stood and replaced his hat. “Can’t give you that. Thanks for your help, Miss Hayworth. Don’t leave town.”
“That went well,” Riga said. She went to the cupboard and pulled out a bar of chocolate, broke off a block, took a bite. It melted slowly on her tongue, food of the gods and oddly comforting.
Brigitte hopped to the sink and retrieved the damp cloth. The gargoyle scrubbed violently at the drying egg on her rough face, shredding the fabric. “If by well, you mean you still cannot do magic and now you are a suspect in a murder investigation, yes, it went well. Good job.”
“Did you get a look at the sigil?”
The gargoyle dropped the cloth. Bits of eggshell still clung to her. “It was Lefebvre’s work, but it was not in his hand.”
“But Lefebvre knew how to shape-shift. If he was in doppelgänger form…”
Lefebvre’s favorite trick had been the doppelgänger, taking on the appearance, knowledge, and personality of his victim. It allowed the magician to go anywhere, be anyone, and was the sort of magic Riga despised, because it required the death of the victim the doppelgänger mimicked. It was why she’d confronted him, five years ago.
“No,” Brigitte said. “Even as a doppelgänger, there are signs. I know; I spent years in his keeping. It was not Lefebvre.”
Riga felt a knot in her stomach release. Brigitte would know; when Riga had met her, the gargoyle had been magically bound to Lefebvre. “So it’s not all bad news,” Riga said lightly. “I was starting to think I hadn’t killed him after all.”
“You did not kill him. Ze demon did.”
Riga turned and walked to the curtainless picture window. If she looked left or right, she’d see other cabins and so she gazed straight ahead into the columns of pine trees, casting long shadows upon the needle-covered ground. The view usually relaxed her – silent, ancient, still. But tonight it only made her feel small and vulnerable. Through the well-lit cabin window, she stood out like a beacon to any watcher. Was there a watcher? Had there been one earlier? The lack of curtains had never bothered Riga before; the cabin was a rental and she hadn’t planned on any naked frolics. Now the windows seemed exposed.
“Could any of his servants have learned his doppelgänger trick?” Riga asked. If one had, the killer could be anyone. Just as long as Lefebvre hadn’t returned. Riga wanted to keep that horror far behind her.
“It’s possible,” Brigitte said. “Anything is possible.”
The hell with it. She needed a drink. Riga went to the kitchen and uncorked a beer bottle she’d filled with blood-colored Cab – the remains of a larger bottle she’d downsized after opening to keep the wine from oxidizing.
“Ze man, if you can call Lefebvre that, deserved to die,” Brigitte rasped. “You have nothing to feel guilty about. He was a monster. If you had not stopped him…” The gargoyle bent to nip at something in her stony feathers.
But Riga didn’t feel guilty and when she thought about that lack of guilt, it worried her. She didn’t think about it much. The memory of Lefebvre was too frightening.
Brigitte looked up from her grooming. “You made a bargain you cannot break; without a client, you may not interfere. Besides, your magic is still weak and unpredictable. We came to Lake Tahoe for a vacation, to rest, and this you must do.”
Riga had come here because of Donovan. He’d become her lodestone, holding the fragmented pieces of her together. Riga was a magician without control of her magic and she needed to figure out what that made her. Soon.
Her cell phone rang. She dug it from the pocket of her khakis and smiled. Donovan.
“I have in my hands a bottle of 2003 Chateau Lafite,” he said without preamble.
She smiled, re-corked the beer bottle. The man knew his grape.
“Is that good?” she asked.
“It had better be after what I paid for it. Get over here before I start without you. We’re celebrating. Riga, I found a ghost who may have known my parents.”
“That is cause for celebration.” The disaster that had knocked her powers askew had given Donovan the ability to see ghosts and he’d embraced it wholeheartedly. His delight and her ability to share in it was a bright spot in her wrecked magical life. “In that case, I’ll hurry. And bring chocolate.”
“Mmm… Now you’re talking dirty. And I have a surprise for you, too.” He hung up before she could ask more.
Riga pocketed her cell phone, bracing for the explosion from Brigitte. They’d planned to train tonight. But when she turned, she found Brigitte regarding her thoughtfully.
“Dinner with Monsieur Mosse?”
“And you will spend ze night?”
“Probably,” Riga said cautiously. She’d been staying there so often, Donovan was nagging her to move in. But even at forty-something, Riga wasn’t that kind of girl.
“Good,” Brigitte said. “I have an errand to run and shall return tomorrow.”
“An errand?” Riga didn’t pry into Brigitte’s personal life, was unsure if Brigitte actually had one. What sort of errand could the gargoyle be running?
“An errand,” Brigitte said. She cocked her head, examining Riga critically. “Are you going to wear that?”
Riga looked down. She’d dressed in wide-legged khaki-colored slacks and a vintage forties black button-up sweater that hugged her curves. A red silk scarf was knotted jauntily around her neck.
“Why?” Riga said. “Have I got egg on me?”
“It is not ze most romantic look. At least unbutton it at ze top.”
Riga’s eyes narrowed. “Thanks for the fashion tip.”
“You are welcome. In ze meantime, do not pursue this poor murdered lady. It is too dangerous on your own.”
“Of course I won’t. The police consider me a suspect. Getting involved would only make me look guilty. Besides, I don’t have a client.” But the sigil nagged at her.
Brigitte shot her a knowing look. “A coincidence, you think, that a sigillum only five people in ze world know how to create appears near ze body of a dead woman in Lake Tahoe, your home for the last month? A coincidence, now that you are at your weakest and unable to defend yourself?”
“I’m not defenseless. This may come as a shock to you, but every day, billions of people go about their lives without depending upon magic.”
“These people you speak of are very silly.” Brigitte fluttered to the sliding glass door that opened onto a wooden deck. The movement was surprisingly graceful for a block of stone. “It is as I feared, Riga. They know what has happened, that you are vulnerable, and they are challenging you. Now open ze door.”
Riga hastily slid the door open before Brigitte shattered the pane of glass. “They? Who are they?”
“Stay close to Monsieur Mosse.” Brigitte crouched, her muscles tensing, then with a bound soared off over the pines, a shrinking silhouette against the darkening sky.
Riga shut the door, shifting her weight uneasily. Brigitte was right; the coincidence was too great. But if the sigil had been drawn by one of Lefebvre’s servants, the police wouldn’t be able to protect her.
Riga was on her own.
Riga discreetly undid the top button of her sweater, then waved her key card in front of the electric eye for Donovan’s private elevator. Slot machines rang faintly behind her. Riga wasn’t a fan of gambling. She had nothing against people throwing their money away; it was their money, after all. But casinos felt like purgatory to her, with their bad lighting and no clocks to tell if it was day or night, and by coming here for Donovan, she felt she’d taken enough of a gamble. He, however, lived in his casino’s penthouse. It was a temporary residence, while Donovan worked out “management issues.”
The doors slid open to reveal a hulking man in a forest-green uniform, with a fine spider-webbing of scars that splintered the right side of his face. She ran her glance over him – ankle holster, bulge over right buttock, and was that a miniature taser on the key ring attached to his belt? Riga felt a surge of weaponry envy.
“Evening, Miss Hayworth,” he said.
She smiled and stepped inside. “Evening, Cesar.”
The doors closed silently, and the elevator sped upward. Riga tried to ignore the lurch in her stomach. She hated elevators.
The elevator slowed to a halt.
“Penthouse suite,” the guard said.
The doors slid open to reveal a foyer designed in American Craftsman style, with darkened wood paneling, lofty ceilings and sweeping crossbeams. A red and green totem pole stood against one wall and beneath a chandelier of elk horns stood Donovan, straight-backed, arms loose at his sides. Riga felt a surge of pure, golden joy at the sight of him. His cousin/manager, Reuben Mosse, and Donovan’s executive assistant, Isabelle Locke, faced him.
“—regret this!” Reuben shouted.
Reuben carried the Mosse genes: startling green eyes, ebony hair, square jaw, dark good looks. But while Donovan was tall and broad shouldered, Reuben was slight. Donovan’s hair swept in dramatic waves, Reuben’s lay flat against his scalp, thinning at the top. Reuben was not quite Donovan and that, Riga suspected, was a problem.
She stepped into the foyer, the heels of her boots rapping upon the wood plank floor, and the three turned, taking notice of her.
“Riga,” Donovan said. His jade-colored eyes warmed, the expression on his sculpted features shifting from irritated to welcoming. He wore a tailored suit that was black as sin and Riga’s lips curved in a smile in spite of the tension in the air. Their relationship was still young, and her stomach fluttered at the sight of him.
“Miss Hayworth,” Isabelle said, appraising. “How nice to see you.” She tucked a wayward strand of blond hair behind one ear. Her pale green Jackie Kennedy-style skirt and jacket accentuated the alabaster translucency of her skin.
“Am I interrupting something?” Riga asked.
Reuben spluttered. “This isn’t over, Donovan.” He stormed past Riga into the elevator.
Isabelle tucked her lime green case beneath her arm. “Will there be anything else, Mr. Mosse?”
She nodded and followed Reuben into the elevator, sparing Riga a bemused glance in passing.
Riga unbuckled the belt on her suede jacket, watched the elevator close.
Donovan sauntered toward her. “Sorry about that. Reuben’s having a hard time accepting some of my changes.”
“He’s been in charge here for a long time, hasn’t he?” Riga mused. And now, he had Donovan to contend with. It would be a tough adjustment. But family was important to Donovan and if he was second guessing his cousin, the problems at the casino must be serious.
“Forget about Reuben,” he said, nibbling at her ear. His arms encircled her, his lips grazed her neck and heat coursed through Riga’s body in response. “You are a sight for sore eyes.”
“Mmm...” She leaned into him and Donovan did other interesting things with his hands and mouth. Riga felt herself melting beneath him, her brain disengaging. Reluctantly, she stepped away.
“You did say something about a bottle of Château Lafite, didn’t you?” Riga took a step toward the living room, with its wide view of the lake.
But Donovan clasped her lightly about the wrist, drawing her towards him. “Wait. I need to ask you a favor.”
Riga arched a brow. Donovan had a legion of minions at his command, and didn’t need favors from her.
“You know business is down,” Donovan began. “And not just here, in the whole region.”
Everyone knew it. It was why Donovan had moved into his Stateline, Nevada casino, rather than returning to his home in Vegas.
“I’m not sure a metaphysical detective can help you with that,” Riga said, playing along, “though I do know an excellent shaman...”
Donovan blanched. “No shamans.”
Riga looked at him, surprised. “What’s wrong with shamans?”
“What’s wrong with faeries?”
Riga stiffened. Faeries were her bête noir. “If you knew any, you wouldn’t have to ask,” she muttered.
“Huh. Well the Supernatural Channel sent a crew here to do a reality TV show about Tessie, the Lake Tahoe monster. The crew is here, but the host broke his leg skiing. They were set to cancel, but when I showed them a photo of a possible substitute host, you, they reconsidered.”
Riga’s nose wrinkled. Lake monsters. As if. “No. Absolutely not. I’m a metaphysical detective, not a monster hunter. And the TV adds ten pounds.”
“You’re a paranormal investigator and a dead ringer for Rita Hayworth. You’re perfect. They want to hire you to seek the cause of the recent uptick in Tessie sightings, and film you doing it. I didn’t promise them anything. They just want to meet you tomorrow. It’s a legitimate client, a short, two-week assignment and the pay is fair.”
“How much?” Riga asked, reluctant.
Donovan named a sum and she gave a low whistle. The money was more than fair; it was a good year’s pay.
“Think of all the Tessie t-shirt and coffee mug sellers you’d be helping,” he rumbled, his voice low and seductive. “You’d be supporting an entire line of tourist schlock.”
“Tempting,” she said. But she felt a twinge of irritation. She could use the money, sure – though she didn’t like Donovan pointing that out. And the TV show could be fun. It wouldn’t be a long commitment and it would take her mind off her lost magic. So why did this feel like a trap, closing in upon her?
His arm stole around her waist. “Everybody wins,” he murmured. “You, the local businesses—”
“You?” She turned her head and their lips nearly touched. He smelled musky, intoxicating. All she had to do was lean forward…
“Of course, the casino will be featured in the show as well.”
“Of course.” Riga laughed wryly. “It does sound fun, but I can’t do it.” She felt relief at the declaration. Of liberation?
Donovan scratched the small x-shaped scar on his chin, and looked at her thoughtfully. “That hair shirt doesn’t suit you.”
Riga almost looked down at her sweater, caught herself in time. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean it’s time to end this penance you’ve been on. Your life is worth more than that.”
“I’m not doing penance,” she said, indignant. “Look, I can’t go on TV like some cheap psychic. It’s with good reason magicians keep a low profile.”
“A vow of poverty?”
Riga gritted her teeth. “That’s unfair.”
“What’s unfair is that grotty cabin you rented,” he drawled. “Why won’t you just move in with me, here?”
Riga’s jaw settled in a mulish expression. It was an old argument. “Don’t try to manipulate me.”
“I’m just trying to make you see that what I want you to do is in your own best interests.”
Riga burst out laughing.
One side of his mouth pulled into a grin. “All the show wants is a telegenic paranormal investigator. They don’t need to know about your other skills. Just hear them out.”
She placed her palm upon his chest. “I can’t. I’m a person of interest in a murder investigation.”
He stared. “You’re joking.”
Riga explained about the sheriff, about Lefebvre.
Donovan groaned. “What were you thinking? Why would you incriminate yourself like that?”
“I didn’t have much choice,” Riga said. “I don’t have a client. I can’t investigate it. Lady – Sarah Glass deserves justice. I was duty bound to tell the police what I could.”
“Bound by whom?” He released her and began to pace the hall. His booted feet were as silent as a panther’s on the wood plank floor. “Good God, Riga, do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
“Of course I do!” This was about more than justice for Sarah Glass. If the murder had been committed by one of Lefebvre’s men, Riga would be on their list as well. But her hands were tied. Rules were rules, and as much as she regretted entering into that magical bargain, as long as she had no client…
“On second thought,” she said, “I’ll do it.” The show would be her client. True, they’d be paying her to look for a lake monster rather than a killer but if they knew she was a person of interest in a murder by magic, they’d run with it.
“Now you’re just being perverse.”
“I need a client.”
He reached into his pocket and drew out a phone. “You need a lawyer.”
“A lawyer won’t be any help against the person who drew that sigillum.” She placed a hand over his, covering the phone. “Donovan, if Sarah’s killer knows of our relationship—”
“Everyone knows about our relationship. It was in the tabloids.”
“Then you may be in danger too.” Riga slipped an amulet on a silver chain into his palm. She closed his hand around it and felt a shiver of energy run through the talisman. It was Donovan’s now. “Please, wear this until it’s all over.”
He clenched his fist around the charm, unheeding. “Dammit, Riga. You can’t stay out in that cabin. It’s too isolated. You need to move in here, where I can protect you.”
“Aunt Riga?” A mop of unruly chestnut-colored hair peeked around the corner, followed by the form of a lithe teenage girl.
“Pen?” What was her niece doing here? Riga looked to Donovan for explanation.
Pen hurtled across the foyer and into Riga’s arms, knocking her a step backward. “Isn’t it awesome? Donovan said I could be an intern for the TV crew!”
“Surprise,” Donovan said, his voice flat.
Riga glared at him.
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