Book Excerpt: Haunting Whispers by VK Powell
As part of our effort to profile more authors within the LGBT community, we present VK Powell. VK is a thirty-year police veteran. She served as a walking beat officer, homicide detective, vice/narcotics lieutenant, district captain, and assistant chief of police. Now retired, she enjoys writing, traveling, volunteering, and interior decorating. Here is an excerpt from Haunting Whispers:
As part of our effort to profile more authors within the LGBT community, we present VK Powell. VK is a thirty-year police veteran. She served as a walking beat officer, homicide detective, vice/narcotics lieutenant, district captain, and assistant chief of police. Now retired, she enjoys writing, traveling, volunteering, and interior decorating. VK has five books from Bold Strokes Books: Haunting Whispers, Justifiable Risk, Fever, Suspect Passions and To Protect and Serve, along with several short stories in BSB anthologies.
Here is an excerpt from Haunting Whispers, which is available from Bold Strokes Books.
Audrey’s skull throbbed and the loud echoing voices nearby, one male and one female, weren’t helping. She felt disoriented, unsafe. Her nose burned with the sharp scents of alcohol and antiseptic. She kept her eyes closed, trying to block the voices and remember what happened.
“You know who this is, don’t you?” The man’s voice.
“Audrey Everhart, the mayor’s publicist. Why the hell was she at Grantham alone?” The woman’s voice, strong and professional was full of determination.
Only a cop or relative would have such an immediate need for answers and justice and she didn’t have any relatives. But cops dug into people’s lives until they satisfied their curiosity. She had no interest in being a specimen for their dissection. Audrey hissed through dry lips, “Shush."
The same female voice, too close and way too loud, responded, “Can you hear me? Ms. Everhart?"
“I’m whispering,” the woman said. “You’re at Kramer Hospital."
Audrey lifted her eyelids a fraction and pain streaked through her head like a sharp odor. She squeezed her eyes closed. “The light."
“Kill the overhead, Trevor. Try again when you’re ready.” The woman’s concerned whisper made Audrey want to please her.
She inched her lids open and stared into eyes as green as Irish shamrocks. Wavy auburn hair framed the woman’s oval face and feathered toward full red lips. “You’ve got pretty eyes.” She suddenly remembered those eyes and the woman behind them— Detective Rae Butler, Kramer Police Department.
“Must be the drugs,” the man said.
Detective Butler stepped back from the bed. “I’m Rae Butler.” She motioned to the short man with stark-white hair beside her. “And this is CSI Trevor Collins.” The crime-scene investigator nosed the air in greeting. “Are you up for a few questions? I’ve just come from the scene."
The scene? That implied something bad had happened to her. She hated feeling confused and helpless. The sensation registered like a block settling on an unstable foundation. “Where did you say I was?"
“Kramer Hospital. Do you remember what happened?"
“I was in the Grantham Homes development. Then I woke up here with you staring down at me with those—” She stopped, certain that disorientation had hijacked her restraint.
Audrey had heard about Rae Butler in her year with the mayor’s office. It seemed odd at this moment that she could recall gossip more readily than the last few hours of her own life. They’d met when Audrey was going through rookie school, a requirement for non-sworn personnel in the police department. Rae had been an instructor in the training course and had impressed Audrey professionally and personally. She was drawn to Rae as a woman—and that hadn’t happened in years.
But Rae’s ability to discern the real from the bullshit had been so disturbingly accurate that Audrey avoided her whenever their paths crossed again. She couldn’t afford the intimacy that friendships required or allow anyone to distract her from her goal. She needed access, and her position in the mayor’s office provided it. She returned her attention to the detective, determined to dispatch her as soon as possible.
When Audrey tried to sit up, Rae grabbed a pillow and started to position it behind her back. The gesture seemed like second nature, gallant and thoughtful in a way Audrey found endearing but a bit too presumptuous.
Audrey shifted sideways and took the pillow. “I can manage, thank you.” She couldn’t let Rae touch her. She fought to control her senses at the best of times, but under duress she often failed.
How odd Rae must find her—an injured woman frightened of the smallest kindness, the most benign touch. But she continued as if Audrey’s blatant refusal of her assistance occurred often. Audrey thought that sad.
“What were you doing in Grantham Homes?"
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“Scouting a location for the mayor’s press conference. He secured federal funding to revitalize the area and wanted to make the announcement on site."
“You went alone?"
“I didn’t see the harm in the middle of the day.” Trevor Collins pinned her with a look that shouted “idiot.” She sensed his disbelief like a solid wall. Rae’s expression remained neutral.
“Can you remember what happened?"
“Detective, it’s hard to focus.” She ran her hand over her head and flinched as she struck tender spots and matted knots of hair. “Jeez, I must look like death riding a crippled spider."
Rae flashed a grin that dimpled her cheeks, but quickly returned to business. “Anything at all about the assault would help."
Audrey’s temples pulsed as Butler’s words registered. “I was assaulted?” She remembered walking around the community building, nothing more.
Trevor Collins grunted. “How else would you have gotten those bruises?” Audrey wanted him to take his negativity and leave but was afraid the request might sound like she had something to hide—which, of course, she did. No need to call attention to the fact so blatantly.
She looked at the purple splotches forming on her arms then back at Rae. The muscles in her abdomen contracted with the feeling that always accompanied her knowing. Inhaling deeply, she calmed the urge to throw up. She recalled pain and an eerie feeling of déjà vu. It’s only a few bruises, she told herself. Why did it feel like more?
Rae glared at Collins and inclined her head toward the door. Audrey waited until he left. “I’m confused."
“Are you saying you didn’t see who assaulted you?” Most people who had never been victimized found it difficult to imagine the event or the ensuing aftermath. For some reason she thought cops would be different, or should be different.
“For all I know, aliens could’ve abducted me.” That much was true. “I didn’t see anyone.” She knew more than she wanted about most things, so how was it possible to be so clueless about something so personal?
Detective Butler’s brow furrowed. She clearly thought Audrey was being less than forthcoming. Audrey couldn’t admit, wouldn’t admit she’d been assaulted. Perhaps this once her feeling was wrong. Besides, the specifics of what happened were still blurred.
“Maybe you’ll remember more after you’ve slept.” Rae said as she gathered her belongings and headed for the door.
Audrey wanted to cooperate to keep Rae here a bit longer. While her questions were probing and uncomfortable, her presence soothed Audrey’s unsafe feeling. Something more foreboding had or was about to happen. “I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful."
“We’ll get to the bottom of this. Rest now."
When she was alone, Audrey tuned the television to a music station to block the noise inside her head. She focused on Rae Butler, regal in stature with a handsomely sculpted body, her movements fluid and efficient. She got what she wanted and didn’t accept “no” easily. When Audrey failed to answer her questions, Butler was obviously disappointed and no amount of smiling could conceal her reaction.
She tried once again to reconstruct the afternoon’s events. No matter where she started in the scenario or how she tried to creep up on the memories, something stopped her. She felt the violence in her gut, not to mention the aches and pains that dotted her body like a well-placed beating. Perhaps she’d become too good at burying unpleasantness. The nagging feeling that she was missing something obvious seemed like a premonition.
But Audrey didn’t believe in omens or fortune-telling. That was another lifetime ago, and she was determined not to go back. She couldn’t explain to pragmatic, logical Detective Butler that she had a feeling about the incident. She shivered as a cool breeze swept through the almost-airless room. She’d keep these thoughts to herself, along with the details of her past. Such information would only stymie her attempt at a new and different life.