Impossible Dream by Janet Rochester by Janet Rochester - Read Online

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Summary

She had The Sight, but she never saw him coming…

Detective Alex Quintana has a plan: promotion to lieutenant before he turns 30, captain by 35. But first he has to make sergeant, and there’s no way he can do that with his life being invaded by a Cajun gypsy who thinks she’s psychic.

Dulcie Beaujolais may make her living as a fortune-teller, but she doesn’t think she’s psychic. She doesn’t want to be psychic either. She just knows she is.

And she knows things about Detective Quintana that are going to turn his carefully-calculated life into a mess only magic can mend.

51K words

Published: Janet Rochester on
ISBN: 9781497781788
List price: $2.99
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Impossible Dream - Janet Rochester

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SHARK

1

The Fourth Dream

Her heart pounded, her chest heaved. The pressing scent of damp earth filled her head. She tore through the trees as if blind, despite the violet haze of dawn. A root grabbed her shoe and she stumbled, almost fell. A little farther. A few more feet, a few moments, and everything would be all right.

She shot into a clearing and pulled up, spinning in a circle. Which way? Steps sounded behind her, back the way she had come. A sound tore from her throat, a whimper as she dashed back into the trees. Here! A bird screamed and she looked up, took her eyes off the ground for a moment and then she was falling.

A cry tore the darkness and she jerked awake, the force pulling her to her knees before she realized where she was. After a held-breath moment she collapsed, rolling onto her back and covering her face with her hands.

How many times would this dream come? How many runs would she take through those early morning shadows before she escaped whatever it was?

"Maman," she whispered, slipping into patois as she always did when talking to her grandmother. Why did the dreams wait until you died?

For several minutes the only sound was her breathing as it eased back to normal. Once she felt safe again, she closed her eyes and tried to recall the vision.

It was the same as always. The woods, the filtered light; cool dirt, and the panting breaths behind her. Who was she running from? Why was safety just a little deeper in the trees? Why did she always wake up as she fell?

The truth hit her with the same force she’d hit the ground. She wasn’t being chased, despite the thudding footsteps at her heels. She was running toward something. Something she needed, in the deepest desperate corner of her soul. Something just out of reach.

-:- -:- -:-

Stop the truck!

Alex wrenched the wheel and pulled into a parking lot, spitting gravel. Out! If you puke on my upholstery—

But Tony wasn’t moving. He leaned forward a little, staring through the windshield at the soft pink glow of neon coming from somewhere.

Whassup? Jimmy asked from the back.

Tony pulled at the door latch. I’m gonna get my fortune told! He wrenched the door open and stumbled out.

Alex groaned. Get back in the— the rest of what he started to say, was drowned out by whoops as the Three Boozeteers poured out the back. He watched them sway across the parking lot toward a narrow, two-story building whose front window did indeed promise, Psychic. Tarot/ Runes/ Palmistry. Fortunes Told.

He climbed out, recoiling as Illinois’ August humidity slapped his face. Come on, guys. We have an early day tomorrow.

Scott paused in mid-wander on the gravel and looked back. Why did we invite you? he asked no one in particular.

You needed someone to stay sane, Alex replied.

Tony turned and headed toward him. We invited you ‘cause you’re the bes’ man. The bes’ man! he shouted. Bes’ man for the job. He got behind Alex and started to push. C’mon. Lessee what the future holds.

Alex already knew what it held. A big wedding tomorrow, a few hours of fun and laughter, then back to work. Back to frustration, politics, the daily trudge through all the crap that kept him from doing his job.

He gripped Tony’s arm as they hit the stairs. The groom couldn’t have a cast on his leg tomorrow. Try explaining that to Ana.

Greg opened the door and they walked through a small entry hall, entering a sitting room lifted from a Victorian bordello. Velvet sofa, round tables draped in shawls, rose shades on all the lamps. Alex checked to make sure his wallet was still in his pocket, even though the madam hadn’t appeared yet.

Wow, Jimmy murmured. Do you s’pose she sells something besides psychic powers?

Nah, Tony said. He patted his hair with both hands. She’s got a big turban, eyelashes this long. Glow-in-the-dark nail polish.

Three hundred pounds, Jimmy supplied.

And three hundred years old, Scott announced.

Let’s get out of here. Alex turned toward the door, then Jimmy let out a low whistle.

Alex looked back. A woman stood in the opposite doorway, studying them with two large, dark eyes. Raven waves glossed down her back, held away from her face with a gold scarf. An emerald dress slid over her body, clung to her thighs, and spread into a wide skirt that ended just short enough to reveal a chain of tiny bells on one ankle. He felt the funny twitch in his middle that he always got before a case broke open.

Witchy woman, Jimmy whispered.

Good evening, gentlemen, she said softly, her voice the low croon of bayous and summer nights. Alex could smell the Spanish moss. May I help you?

Jimmy started toward her but Alex caught his arm. Tony spoke up. We want to have our fortunes told!

Her gaze swept across them, lingering a moment on Alex. All of you?

Alex shook his head. Sorry we bothered you. Let’s go, guys.

You’re already here. Where’s the harm in stayings? she spoke only to him. He could think of a great deal of harm that might come from getting too close to those shimmering eyes and that liquid dress. If you don’t like the results, it will cost you nothing.

Nothing? That was a new one. Oh, pl—

C’mon, Allie, Tony wheedled. Someone needed to pour coffee down that boy. I never had my fortune told.

Alex let go of Jimmy and held up his hands in surrender. Help yourselves.

Again Jimmy stepped forward, but the fortune-teller stopped him with one upraised finger. The groom will come first. The detective can wait until last, assuming we get him in here at all. A chorus of gasps erupted from the others and Alex caught a wicked gleam in her eye. She was laughing at him. He watched as she disappeared, taking Tony with her.

How’d she do that? Jimmy mumbled, still standing in the middle of the floor. Alex gave him a careful push toward the sofa before he fell over.

It’s simple, he said, folding his arms and leaning against the narrow strip of wall between the two windows. She examined the clues.

Shut up! Jimmy told Scott and Greg. Allie’s gonna examine the clues!

Dyerville’s finest is on the job. Scott grinned at him.

Four drunks and one upstanding citizen, out near midnight on a Friday. You, he pointed at Jimmy, with a pair of lace panties hanging out of your pocket, have clearly been to a bachelor party. Jimmy looked down and shoved the offending lingerie out of sight. Tony’s desperate to know the future: that makes him the groom. I’m sober, that means I’m the cop.

But she said, ‘detective,’ Scott pointed out. How does she know you aren’t just a regular cop?

Those ‘just regular cops’ keep the streets safe for losers like you. He was stalling. How did she know that? He felt a cold tickle on the back of his neck.

The inner door opened and Tony burst out, grinning. She loves me!

Alex surged away from the wall. What do you mean? The girl appeared. Her eyes touched him again and he met them, blaze for blaze.

Ana. She says Ana loves me.

He forced his gaze to Tony. Of course she does. Or I wouldn’t be here, saving your sorry butt one last time.

Saving him from what? Blanche DuBois cut into their conversation.

From you, he almost told her.  From himself. He’s always been a bit wild.

The gypsy tsk’d, touching Tony’s arm. We’ll have no wildness here. She was mocking him again. What did she know of his feelings about recklessness? Maybe he had good reasons for keeping his distance from women who brought every misgiving to the surface.

No, ma’am, Jimmy promised, lurching toward her again and Alex watched him go, admiring her for having the guts to take them in that back room one at a time. Not every group of drunken frat rats brought their own chaperone. Then he considered the possibilities and frowned. It wasn’t gutsy. It was stupid. He’d have a talk with her when it was his turn.

His stomach curled at the thought of talking to her alone. Looking for distraction, he scanned the room again, taking in the engravings on the walls, and the corner palm tree. He was relieved to see it was real. It wouldn’t be good if some fake frondery went up in flames, sending the fire and police departments out here in time for everyone to see Detective Alex Quintana getting his fortune told. That would mount the gravestone on his promotion for sure.

He scanned the mantle for a photo to study until the original returned from her inner sanctum. There weren’t any. The glitter of something caught his eye and he moved toward a tall glass case against the opposite wall. It was filled with strange things—carnival masks, a scrapbook, contraptions he couldn’t identify. Most of them as intriguing as their owner. On the bottom shelf was a glass box, like a sealed aquarium. Inside lay a small concertina, its paint cracked and faded. Beside it, half hidden in the shadows, was a piece of engraved metal; a badge of some sort. He bent for a closer look.

Alex! Jimmy poked him. S’your turn.

He looked up. Everyone was watching him, the guys curious, the gypsy and her amusement now tinged with a hint of defiance. He glanced at Scott. What about you?

We all went. You’ve been staring at that cabinet forever.

He checked the front door. He could run for it. No, that would really get them talking. Besides, he needed to explain proper safety precautions to Little Miss Mardi Gras. He straightened up and walked in without looking at her. She didn’t quite get the door closed before he heard Tony say, I can’t b’lieve he’s gonna do it.

The room was much dimmer, for the only light came from an eight-pillar candelabra in the corner. By the time his eyes adjusted, the gypsy had sat down at a small table in the center of the room. He looked over at her and saw that his safety lecture wouldn’t be needed.

Seated beside her, its head level with hers, was the largest Great Dane he’d ever seen. Wondering if it was really that big, he peered around the edge of the table. It was sitting on the floor.

Her name is Gumbo, said that lilting voice, drifting into his ear and setting his nerve endings on hum.

He looked back at the girl, and for a moment almost believed she could be the real thing, if such a thing existed, of course. Which it didn’t. Strange name for a dog.

She patted Gumbo, then lifted a deck of large, oblong cards from the table and wrapped her slender fingers around them. Her hands were beautiful, the light catching on tapered nails as she turned the cards in her palm. That’s because you’ve never seen her eat the stuff.

He doused a smile, turning his head to examine the faded wallpaper. It was hard to see in the faint light, but he thought it might be printed with lily-of-the-valley. His mother used to grow that.

And what is your name?

He didn’t turn back. Alex Quintana.

Strange name for a guy with such light brown hair, and blue eyes besides. You aren’t Mexican.

He shook his head, struggling against the pull of her voice to remain on his feet and at a distance. He pretended great interest in a dark painting of a magnolia blossom on a table. My great-grandfather came over from Spain. You are?

There was a pause, and he heard the cards set back down. Dulcinea Beaujolais.

He snickered, then faced her. No, your real name.

"Dulcinea Violette Beaujolais." Her jaw clenched, and those blazing eyes dared him to laugh again. He didn’t.

How did you know I’m a cop?

Didn’t you see the sign outside? I’m psychic. At last, something tugged at the corner of her mouth and she ducked her head to hide a smile. Before he could breathe, he was seated across from her, unsure how he got there.

Up close, her skin was smooth, with faint shadows under her eyes. Now that he’d heard her speak a bit more, he could tell the accent wasn’t exactly Southern. Her name was French. He took a guess. You’re Cajun?

He received two raised eyebrows in response. Very good. I guess the newspaper was right.

What newspaper? She still read newspapers? Apparently, there was more Victorian going on here than just the decor.

Last week’s. Friday, I think? That was a nice picture of you. It made it easy to tell who you were when you walked in.

Alex stared for a moment, then fell against the back of the chair with a silent laugh. Now he understood. This was a chess match, his opponent highly skilled. He wouldn’t underestimate her again. So you already knew my name.

She picked up the cards again and he saw her relax a little, although her eyes remained alert. And that your friend Tony is getting married tomorrow to a very pretty girl with curly hair and dark eyes. And that your chief thinks highly of you. That was a big case.

Not big enough, he muttered, before he could stop himself. He cringed, waiting for her to pounce on that slip-up with her divining rod or I-Ching or whatever she had up those tight, elbow-hugging sleeves. He could probably run his fingers down her arm and feel the outline of every muscle through the fabric.

Unhappy at work?

He heard concern in her voice and thrust his hand toward her, fingers splayed. How about if you tell me when I can retire to Virginia, and I’ll get out of your way.

She stared at his hand as though he were offering her week-old jambalaya. You’re a bit young to be thinking of retirement, Detective. Besides, I don’t see much point in wasting my time on that. She gestured toward his hand.

Was she admitting to fraud? Excuse me?

Why should I read your palm, when you won’t believe me or care?

You’re the psychic. You tell me.

A flash of pain crossed her face. That sign was in the window when I bought this place. I’m a fortune-teller.

There’s a difference?

My family has always thought so. Her voice sharpened. We’ve been counseling for generations, but my grandmother was the only one with—abilities.  She sounded as if she were trying to avoid saying something. Why? He couldn’t care less. He knew it was all what Grandpa Raul called snake oil.

Counseling? he latched onto the word. That’s a new way to put it. Don’t think I’ve ever heard that one from the carnies out at the midway.

For a moment he thought she was going to walk him out and he nearly apologized, but instead she only moved her imaginary knight a bit closer to his rigid king. "It’s a lot like your job, Detective. We read people, note what they have