Home > Dream Man(9)

Dream Man(9)
Author: Linda Howard

She was seeing it through his eyes.

It had been his mind that had caught hers, the mental force of his rage that had blasted through six years of blank, blessed nothingness and jolted her, once again, into extrasensory awareness. Not that he had targeted her; he hadn’t. The enormous surge of mental energy had been aimless, without design; he hadn’t known what he was doing. Normal people never imagined that there were people like her out there, people with minds so sensitive that they could pick up the electrical signals of thought, read the lingering energy patterns of long-ago events, even divine the forming patterns of things that hadn’t yet happened. Not that this man was normal in any sense other than his lack of extrasensorial sensitivity, but Marlie had long ago made the distinction to herself: Normal people were those who didn’t know. She had the knowing, and it had forever set her apart, until six years ago when she had been caught in a nightmare that still haunted her. Traumatized, that part of her brain had shut down. For six years she had lived as a normal person, and she had enjoyed it. She wanted that life to continue. She had slowly, over the years, let herself come to believe that the knowing would never return. She had been wrong. Perhaps it had taken this long for her mind to heal, but the visions were back, stronger and more exhausting than ever before.

And seen through the eyes of a murderer.

Part of her still hoped … what? That it hadn’t been real, after all? That she was losing her mind? Would she really rather be delusional than accept that the visions had returned, that her safe, normal life had come to an end?

She had looked through the Sunday paper but hadn’t been able to concentrate; the memory flashes had been too frequent, too strong. She hadn’t found any mention of a murder that had triggered a response. Maybe it had been there and she had simply overlooked it; she didn’t know. Maybe it hadn’t happened anywhere nearby, but by some freak chance she had happened to catch the killer’s mental signals. If the woman had lived in some other town, say in Tampa or Daytona, Orlando’s papers wouldn’t carry it. Marlie would never know the woman’s identity or location.

Part of her was a coward. She didn’t want to know, didn’t want to become part of that life again. She had built something safe and solid here in Orlando, something that would be destroyed if she became involved again. She knew exactly what would happen: the disbelief, followed by derision. Then, when people were forced to accept the truth, they would become suspicious and afraid. They would be willing to use her talent, but they wouldn’t want to be friends. People would avoid her; little kids would daringly peek in her windows and run, screaming, if she looked back. The older kids would call her “the witch.” Inevitably some religious fanatic would start muttering about “the work of the devil,” and sporadic picket lines would spring up in front of her house. No, she would have to be a fool to get involved in that again.

But she couldn’t stop wondering about the woman. There was an aching need to at least know her name. When someone died, at least her name should be known, a tiny link with immortality that said: This person was here. This person existed. Without a name, there was only a blank.

So now, still shaking with fatigue, she turned on the television and waited, in a daze, for the local news to come on. She almost dozed several times, but shook herself awake.

“It’s probably nothing,” she mumbled aloud. “You’re just losing it, that’s all.” Strange comfort, but there it was. Everyone’s private fears were different, and she would rather be crazy than right.

The television screen flickered as the talking heads segued into another story, this time devoting an entire minute to an in-depth look at the effect of crack and gangs on inner-city neighborhoods. Marlie blinked, suddenly terrified that the visual images would overwhelm her with mental ones, as had happened in the past when she had picked up on the emotions of the people she had watched. Nothing happened. Her mind remained blank. After a minute she relaxed, sighing with relief. Nothing was there, no bleak feelings of despair and hopelessness. She began to feel a little more cheerful; if she couldn’t receive those images and emotions the way she had in the past, maybe she was just going a little crazy.

She continued watching, and became a little drowsy again. She felt herself begin to give in to the fatigue, effortlessly sliding into a light doze even though she tried to remind herself to stay awake for the rest of the newscast——


Marlie jerked violently as the name blared both inside and outside of her head, her inner awareness amplifying the name just spoken by the television announcer. She struggled to an upright position on the couch, unaware of having slumped over as she dozed. Her heart pounded frantically against her ribs and she heard her own panicked breathing, fast and shallow, as she stared at the screen.

“The Orlando police aren’t releasing any information about the stabbing murder of Mrs. Vinick, as the slaying is still under investigation.”

A photo of the victim was flashed on the screen. Nadine Vinick. That was the woman Marlie had seen in the vision. She had never heard the name before, but there was a strong sense of recognition, too strong to ignore. Just hearing the name spoken on television had been like a bullhorn sounding in her head.

So it was true, it was real. All of it.

The knowing was back.

And it would tear her life apart again if she did anything about it.

On Monday morning Dane stared at the stark photographs of the murder scene, examining each minute detail over and over as he allowed his thoughts free range, hoping that some crucial, previously unnoticed item would slip into focus, something that would give them a direction, any direction. They had nothing to go on, damn it, absolutely nothing. A neighbor across the street had heard a dog bark around eleven, she thought, but it had stopped and she hadn’t thought anything else about it until they had questioned her. Mr. Vinick had definitely been at work; he had been helping another dockman unload a trailer, his time completely accounted for. The medical examiner couldn’t give an exact time of death, because unless there was a witness, such a thing was impossible, and the time frame unfortunately included the half hour before Mr. Vinick had gone to work. Dane still went with his gut feeling: Vinick hadn’t done it. According to his co-workers, Mr. Vinick had been completely normal when he had arrived at work, joking around. It would have taken a real monster, which Mr. Vinick had never given any indication of being, to have butchered his wife, coolly cleaned up and changed clothes, then gone to work as usual without any vestige of nervousness.

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