When Detective Richard Giordano walks onto the Broadway stage, he expects to find a young, dead chorus girl. Having the show’s choreographer so intricately tied to the victim, and now his case, is something else altogether. What quickly becomes even more troublesome is balancing his attraction with his gut instincts.
The choreographer, Empathy Delacroix, is no stranger to death. Emotional scenes from the past suck her in and force her to play critical roles in the events. They often culminate in her experiencing the victim’s demise. It’s a secret she can’t confide in the police, even if she knows how the chorus girl’s life really ended.
Time ticks by and New York’s vilest players come out of the shadows, not only threatening to detour the case but also Detective Giordano’s and Empathy’s entire lives. The bonds of death and love push them closer together and into the path of a killer, leaving both unsure of what their future holds.
Had I known the smile Em gave me by the statue was the last one I would see that afternoon, I would have taken more time to memorize it. We are on our way to our fourth address. Each time she enters that frightful trance it is as if I watch her die. Her body quivers uncontrollably until she collapses in my arms. Her breathing grows shallower until it stops. At that point, all the tension seeps out of her, and she becomes lifeless. Then she blinks, begins gulping the air as if it is water, and clings to me like I am her anchor to reality.
So far, we haven’t talked about what is going on, short of her outlining in specific detail how my victims spent their last living moments. I’m confused and alarmed about what I’m witnessing, and even a little scared of her. And yet, as confounding and outrageous as this all is, I refuse to walk away. I can’t leave her to deal with it alone. Whatever this is, it is a part of her. The burgeoning love I feel isn’t diminished by it. If anything, it grows. Now there is something I can be for Em, her anchor. She may go through the experience alone, but I am determined to never again let her deal with its aftermath that way.
The time between each site is just as bad as the sites themselves. She won’t talk to me except to insist that we continue on this madcap quest. I hear her whimpers as she fights back the emotions resulting from her experience. The tears never fall but sit heavy in her eyes as she shivers next to me. She looks battered and broken, though there isn’t a bruise marring her perfect skin. I try multiple times to comfort her but she pushes me away, saying it isn’t time for that now.
Needless to say, when she grabs my arm and shouts, “Where are we going?” I’m shocked.
“Battery Park, Em. We don’t have to do this anymore…”
“Stop the car!” she demands, cutting me short. “Stop the car, Richard! Stop it now!” We are in the middle of New York City traffic. I can’t just stop, but glancing at her, she looks green and terrified. The tears are falling and her free hand claws at the door. “Let me out! Please, Richard, I have to get out!”
I flip on the lights, directing us into the far-right lane to park the car. In an instant, she is out and racing to a trash can. By the time I join her, she’s violently emptying her stomach contents. I am at a loss for what to do as I watch her beg for water between her heaves. I don’t have any and I can’t leave her to get some. She is barely holding herself up.
“I need water!” I holler and flash my badge. “Em, stay with me.” Please don’t have this madness she’s been putting herself through steal her from me. Thankfully, a food vendor hands me a bottle.
I help her to the ground and feel helpless as she guzzles about half the bottle before pouring the rest over her head. I look at the vendor sheepishly as I fish a ten out of my wallet. He waves it off and offers to bring me more water if she needs it. I’ve come across enough burn victims suffering from dehydration to recognize the symptoms of fire damage in the woman cowering on the pavement in front of me. She needs more water. I press the ten into his hand and gratefully accept his offer.
I give her my full attention while he is gone. “What happened? What do you need?” Her eyes aren’t completely clouded over, as if we are on the edge of another trance.
She focuses through the fog and for the briefest moment, she is completely back. “Get me out of here. I can’t be in Lower Manhattan.” The words shake with her fear. Her body convulses again as it fights the wretched trance threatening to sweep her away from me. Something about this instance, though, is much worse than all the rest. I’m afraid it may actually kill her.
There aren’t many options. I don’t want to leave her, and I can’t leave the car. She can’t be in Lower Manhattan, but getting her out requires taking her deeper into it first. It pains me to take the only move I have. The vendor returns and I waste no time before ordering him to stay with her. I race to the charger, flip on the lights, and quickly maneuver through traffic to get turned back towards uptown. By the time I get back to Em, I was gone about fifteen minutes but it was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.
The vendor is still by her side and from the number of bottles on the ground it looks like he was very generous to her. “You should probably get this one to a hospital, officer,” he comments with sincere concern.
“Thank you, sir. I’ll take care of her from here.” The vendor walks back to his cart as I turn back to Em. The convulsions have stopped but she is soaking wet. I kneel before her and cup her face to bring her eyes to mine. There are hints of that damned fog in them, but it hasn’t taken her over yet. “Em, I’m here. The car’s at the corner and I’m going to get you out of here. Can you walk?” She shakes her head, and I don’t hesitate to scoop her up into my arms.
About PM Briede:
I am a lover of all things artistic. I grew up surrounded by the performing arts both as a spectator and performer. That love of creation and design is the fuel for my writing now. Being able to create and entertain is a dream come true.
The imagination is a powerful thing, able to take you places you never dreamed. I write realistic fantasy. The idea of the possible having impossible explanations fascinates me. That idea is the driving force behind the Charlotte Grace series.