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Final Call, An Autumn Rain Novel
Copyright ©2012 Rachel Ann Nunes.
All rights reserved. No part of this text may
be reproduced, in any form or by any means,
without permission in writing from the author
I lifted the Ruger LCP .380, racked it quickly, and fired. Three shots in rapid
successionboom, boom, boom. Three more shots emptied the magazine. My target
jerked repeatedly. Not unlike the jolting of my heart.
"Not bad." Detective Shannon Martin looked over my shoulder at the man-shaped
paper target. Four of the rounds had hit the chest. Another through the head.
Only one was missing. "You sure you haven't done this before?"
"No," I snapped. Truth was, I didn't want to be doing this now. My consulting
position with the Portland police had led to my being imprisoned in an
underground cellar, shot, and injured in numerous other ways, but a gun was
going too far. I'd never shoot anyone, even if my life depended on it. That was
the way I'd been raised.
"What's wrong?" Shannon's eyes went from my face to the Ruger and back again.
"You aren't picking up any imprints, are you?"
We were alone inside the range, so I pushed off the earmuffs he'd insisted I
wear to protect my ears from the soundsgreat idea, it turned out. "No
imprints," I said. Well, one faint imprint of satisfaction that Shannon had left
when he'd shot the gun a week earlier, and even now I was probably leaving a few
of resentment and maybe a little pride. Fortunately, these less vivid imprints
didn't bother me.
"The older lady I bought it from said she'd only shot it a few times," he added.
"You know that if I ever actually used this on someone, I'd never be able to use
it again. I'd have to relive the memory every time I touched it."
He shrugged. "I'd just find you another one."
I guess as a police detective that didn't bother himshopping for guns, the
possibility of shooting someone. All of it bothered me. I mean, I know people
have the right to defend themselves, but it was quite another thing to be the
one actually pulling the trigger.
"Can we quit now?" I started to hand him the gun, barrel down as he'd drilled
into me these past few weeks.
"Not yet. You have to shoot at least a hundred rounds a month to stay in
practiceand that's assuming you're hitting anything, which you are,
fortunately. Now load her up again."
"A hundred? Please tell me rounds are individual bullets and not a whole clip."
I'd gone shooting with him only once before and couldn't remember the
terminology. My faulty memory might have a remotea very remoteconnection to
his unusual eyes. There's something about them, something in the green-blue
color that illuminates his face. Or maybe it's something in the framing of his
light brown lashes that make them so compelling. It's hard to think about
anything else if I get caught in his gaze, so mostly I try not to look.
"Magazine," he corrected. "It's a not a clip. I know people call them that, but
that's not what they are. The magazine is what holds the roundsin this case,
six rounds. And yes, rounds are individual bullets."
So six bullets went into the magazine, which in turn slid into the bottom of the
gun grip, or handle as we rookies called it. Not rocket science by any stretch.
Sighing internally, I pushed the magazine release button, placed the gun on the
small stand in front of me, and began pushing bullets into the magazine.
Shannon stopped me when I went to put the magazine back in. "Visually check the
chamber first, just to make sure nothing's caught."
I did as he asked before proceeding to shred more of my target.
Shannon seemed more puzzled than pleased at my success. I didn't see what was so
hard. You aimed and you shot. It was, well, rather easy. Kind of fun, too, which
I would never confess to Shannon. I derived a strange sort of contentment
irritating him, a trait he definitely shared when it came to me.
I shrugged. "I have good eyesight." Once again I had to raise my voice to near
yelling because of our earmuffs.
"All those herbs?" he mouthed a bit derisively, pushing the box of bullets at
I didn't take offense. Everyone was entitled to his opinioneven the annoying
Detective Martin. My adoptive parents had been self-proclaimed hippies who owned
an herb store, so naturally I'd consumed more than my share of herbs. Growing up
with them had been unusual, but I wouldn't have traded it for anythingwell,
except maybe the opportunity to grow up with my twin, but that couldn't be
"Satisfied?" I asked when the man-shaped target finally tore in two at the chest
and fell to the ground.
Shannon allowed himself a grin. "I've seen longtime police officers do worse."
Not exactly a compliment, but Shannon was careful that way. Maybe it was because
he liked me far more than he wanted to. Or maybe because he'd finally started to
trust me and my weird gift of reading imprints and begun to realize that there
was nothing to hold him back from his attraction to me now.
Nothing except my maybe boyfriend Jake and my own reluctance to trust a man who
up until a few months ago thought I was mostly nuts.
"Shannon was staring at me with those eyes that probably were responsible for
more convictions than any detective work he'd ever done. I looked instead into
his hairline. His hair, usually somewhere between brown and blond, was on the
darker side now that we were in November. He needed a haircut, and the ends were
beginning to curl with the length.
For a long time he didn't speak, though the air was suddenly heavy with whatever
he'd left unspoken. Carefully, he began packing things away. He handed me the
Ruger, zipped in a lightly padded cover. "Keep it in your purse until I get you
an ankle holster. There's an extra magazine in there, too. I've filled them both
with hollow points for a bigger impact."
"No way." I pushed the weapon back at him. "I don't even use a purse half the
"Well, you can't carry it on you without a holster."
"I'm not going to carry it at all."
"What do you think that class and all that fingerprinting was about? Your
concealed-carry permit arrived in the mail, didn't it? You should have it on you
at all times, whether or not you're carryingin case you end up with a gun while
working a case."
Okay, I had taken a class on gun safety and found it interesting. Since I'd been
shot in the leg during our last adventure and had somehow ended up with the gun,
albeit unloaded, I'd wanted to feel more comfortable with handguns in case such
a thing ever happened again. But I wouldn't have taken the class at all if I'd
known Shannon was going to insist that I actually carry a weapon.
"I've got the permit in my wallet, but I read that women who own guns are more
likely to be shot than those who don't," I told him.
He snorted. "That's only women who aren't trained and who aren't going to
practice every few weeks." He scrubbed a hand over his hair, and I followed the
motion. "Speaking of which, there is a more intensive training I'd like you to
attend. It's only three days. You get great target practice in a lifelike town.
Popups and stuff."
"No, no, and no! Look, I have a niece now, and I can't have a gun around my
apartment or at my store. If you make me take it, I'm just going to put it in my
"You don't even lock your car." The way he said car left me no doubt that he
didn't believe my rusty Toyota hatchback was worthy of the name. He might have a
point. It was always breaking down.
"Oh, right. Guess that sets me up for all kinds of liability."
"Yeah, the jail kind." He was kind of cute when he was upset, though that was
certainly not why I was arguing with him. "Look," he continued, "your niece is
only, what, three months old? It's going to be a while before she can rack and
shoot a gun. By then you'll have a safe installed."
"At the department's expense?" They'd agreed to start paying me a consulting fee
for reading imprints, but it wasn't a lot.
"Sure." At this point, he'd say whatever it took to get me to take the gun, but
I doubted the safe would come from the department. They didn't care if I carried
a gun. They'd probably rather I didn't. But Shannon was president of the Autumn
Needs to Be More Careful Club, which meant he cared about me. I wish he
wouldn't. It made my life more complicated.
I took the gun and put it in my coat pocket. "There's not a bullet in the
chamber, is there?"
"No. You'd have to rack it before you can shoot. But you should have checked
yourself if that's the way you plan to carry it. Remember the class?"
"Oh, right." I wouldn't carry the gun with a bullet in the chamber like he did,
though my permit gave me license to do so. I didn't trust it not to go off
accidentally, but an unracked gun couldn't fire, so I was safe.
Outside it was rainingagain. The wind was doing its thing, too, which made
Portland bitterly cold this time of year. Shannon glanced instinctively at my
feet, perhaps forgetting that during the most bitter winter months, even I
usually wore something to cover my feet when I went outside. Instead of my
customary winter moccasins, today I wore the boots my sister, Tawnia, had given
mewithout a heel, fur-lined, and advertised as footwear that made you feel as
if you were barefoot. They were almost like wearing thick socks, but unlike the
socks I occasionally resorted to, they were waterproof. I hated not feeling a
connection with the earth as I normally did in bare feet, but cold weather like
this usually convinced me to use the boots or my moccasins.
I'd begun using gloves, too, something I'd done before every now and again in
winter, though not for the same reason I used them now. I'd realized only in the
past month that gloves protected me from accidentally finding random imprints
and reliving experiences that weren't mine.
Of course I wasn't prepared to wear gloves all the time. My shoe-hating,
herb-loving, spirit-connected-to-the-universe upbringing wouldn't let me go that
far. But sometimes after stumbling on a particularly virulent imprint, I was
Zipping my coat, I ran to Shannon's truck. Yes, a truck. I knew his house was
built on an acre of land, so it made sense he might need a truck for something
related to that, but I'd been so accustomed to seeing him in his white, unmarked
police Mustang that when he'd come to pick me up, I'd felt a little taken aback.
For some reason the blue truck made him seem more realnormal, maybe. Almost as
though I'd seen a part of him that was too private to share.
It's just a truck, I told myself.
The weight of the Ruger felt heavy in my coat pocket. At least it could sit in a
drawer at my antiques shop while I was working. My niece wasn't old enough even
to crawl yet, much less open a drawer. Before much longer, though, it'd have to
be in a safe or in a holster.
The idea of needing a gun was enough to seriously consider getting out of the
imprint business. Except I didn't choose to read imprints. That just happened.
Psychometry was the official name, the ability to pick up scenes and emotions
left on certain beloved objects or on objects involved in extremely emotional
situations. I used my talent to find missing people, and the police used it
through me. Some scientists believed that people like me had part of our brains
develop which ordinarily remained inactive. For all I knew, they were right. I
believed it was also hereditary, though because I was adopted, I wasn't sure
where the ability had come from.
"Who's that?" Shannon asked.
We'd arrived outside my shop, where a bundled figure was pacing in front of my
store. My employee, Thera Brinker, should be inside, but even if she weren't and
the door was still locked, all my customers knew they could reach Autumn's
Antiques from the Herb Shoppe next door, owned by my friend and maybe boyfriend,
The person outside was not a customer, then, but someone else waiting to see me.
"I don't know." I peered at the tall figure. Besides the fact that the person
was likely male, I couldn't see much beyond the coat and the beanie he wore. I
started to open the truck door.
"Wait. I'm coming with you."
I sighed. Shannon had been annoying before he'd stopped being so suspicious of
me, but this was ridiculous. Ignoring him, I jumped from the truck and hurried
toward my store.
The figure stopped pacing when he saw me. "Autumn," he said, a tentative smile.
"Hey, are your eyes two different colors or is it just the light?"
I'd know that smile anywhereand the familiar greeting. My eyes were a different
color, but only those who really saw me ever actually noticed. "Is that you,
Bean Pole? Did you grow another three inches? Long time no see." It'd been
months, in fact, since I'd seen Liam Taylor. At least seven.
Liam nodded. "I need to talk to you. It's important." Before I could respond,
his eyes went beyond me to Shannon, who'd finally caught up to us. "Is he a
cop?" Liam asked in an undertone.
If Liam hadn't been so serious, I might have laughed. He'd made Shannon in
civilian clothes on a Saturday afternoon. In the rain. That said a lot about
Shannonor about Liam. I hoped it was about Shannon and not Liam because I'd
thought he'd come a long way since I first caught him shoplifting in my store.
"Why? You got something to hide?" Trust Shannon to make a comeback like that.
"Shannon's a friend," I said to Liam, throwing Shannon a glare. "What do you
need to see me about?"
Liam shivered. "Can we go inside? I brought you something to, uh, see."
He meant something to read, as in imprints. A knot formed inside me. I hoped he
wasn't in trouble. Either way, I had to get Shannon out of the picture.
"Okay, let's go inside." I turned to Shannon. "Thanks for the lesson."
"You sure you don't want me to stay?" He was using those incredible eyes to full
advantage. I wondered if he knew. Probably.
"I'm fine. Jake's next door if I need help."
Shannon stiffened. Wrong thing to say, but he knew my feelings for Jake, and I
wasn't going to start hiding them now simply because I was also attracted to
"Liam's harmless," I added. "He used to work for me."
Only a little bit of a stretch. I'd put Liam to work after I'd caught him
shoplifting one of my antique music boxes last year. He'd seemed sincere when he
said it was to send to his sister for her birthday. I hadn't simply given it to
him like my father would have doneor invited him to dinner and ask if he needed
a place to stay. I was too poor to go that far. But I had let him work off the
music box in exchange for helping to move and arrange my displays. I even gave
him the music box wholesale so he wouldn't have to work more than a few days.
After that I'd given him several more odd jobs I could barely afford whenever he
was desperate, just enough to keep him honest. Then he'd graduated from high
school and found a real job for the summer. He was supposed to be in college
now, living on a merit scholarship and a bit of help from his parents.
"I'll call you about the safe." Shannon's eyes followed Liam, who was already
opening the door to my store.
It was awkward leaving Shannon, though it hadn't always been. Now I never knew
if I should hug him or say something to push him away. Lately, I'd really,
really wanted not to push him away, but there was still Jake, and I didn't want
to hurt him.
I followed Liam into my store and motioned him to wait in the back room so I
could help Thera with the rush of people. Normally, I would have taken time to
at least wave to Jake, but there was no chance of that now. Saturday mornings
were always brisk in the antiques shop, and I had to hurry from my early morning
Taekwondo class to get there in time to help. The afternoons usually picked up
from there. It was good for my pocketbook, though it made it hard to dart out at
lunchtime for a brief shooting lesson. Unfortunately, Saturday was the only time
Shannon was available during the day, and an evening seemed too much like a date
"How did the lesson go?" Thera asked. As usual her white hair was swept up on
the top on her head in an elegant knot, and she was wearing all blue, which she
insisted was a calming color.
That reminded me of the weight in my coat pocket, one I couldn't rid myself of
in front of my customers. "Apparently, I'm a natural."
"I thought you might be. You have good instincts."
I shrugged off the coat and set it under the counter, followed by my boots. I
wiggled my freed toes and sighed with relief.
"Well, about most things," amended Thera, glancing at my feet in disapproval.
She was always worried I'd catch my death of cold, even in midsummer, or
contract some strange illness, no matter how many times I told her I washed my
feet more than most people washed their handsand how they touched a lot worse
things on doorknobs. She didn't want to hear it.
"I hope you got a chance to grab some lunch," she added. "Because it's been like
this the whole time you were gone."
"I did." We'd grabbed a sandwich on our way to the range. I felt bad for leaving
Thera on a day when it was so busy, but Shannon had been insistent. I knew he
still felt responsible for the last time I'd been hurt.
When we were down to the last customer at the register and two more who were
browsing, Thera turned to me, waving a blue-clad arm. "I can take care of the
rest. That boy seems kind of anxious. He's poked his head out a half dozen times
In my narrow back room, which ran the width of my store, Liam wasn't sitting in
the comfortable easy chair that beckoned to me with an almost hypnotic call.
He'd taken off his coat and laid it on the long worktable but was pacing from
the shop door to the bathroom at the far end. He was as lanky as alwayscollege
life hadn't improved thatand his hair looked as though he hadn't combed it in a
week, though it didn't seem greasy.
"So what's up?" I asked, ignoring my easy chair and going to heat water on the
stove so I could make a nice soothing tea. I wanted to ask if he was in trouble,
but he'd come to me, and I'd let him tell me what he wanted in his own time. I
took two mugs from the overhead cupboard.
"It's Rosemary, my sister."
I turned to look at him more closely. His brown eyes were worried and tinged
with red that probably came from too many late nights and cram study sessions.
"What about her? Is it her birthday again? Do you need a present?"
My attempt to lighten the mood didn't even register. "She's missing."
"What makes you say that?"
He stopped pacing and pulled at the side of his hair. "She was supposed to meet
me yesterday for lunch when she had a rehearsal break, but she never showed up."
"Maybe she forgot."
"She wouldn't do that. We haven't seen each other in like a year. She's not even
answering her cell. I'd go to her apartment, but I don't know where she's
staying. My parents say she's a flake and not to worry, but that's only because
they're still mad about how she dropped out of college to tour with that theater
company a year or so ago."
I had to play devil's advocate. "What makes you think they're wrong?" I placed a
tea bag in each mug. Peach, Liam's favorite, with no caffeine or anything else
to get him more worked up.
"She's only been back a few weeks, and she wouldn't leave without seeing me.
We've talked a lot on the phone, and she was all excited about a new part she
was trying out for with some other theater company. Said it was a smaller outfit
but with better connections. She practiced day and night to get the part, and
then she did. She was so excited. I know she wouldn't just disappear. I went
over to the company, but she hadn't shown up to rehearsal yesterday." His eyes
held mine. "Please, Autumn. I don't know who else can help."
"Maybe the police."
"That's why I asked if that guy was a cop. I thought I recognized him from the
newspaper article about that real estate fraud business going on last summer. I
was hoping he was and that you might get him to help."
Oh, I'd read that wrong. I'd been thinking Liam's problems were the kind that
bordered on unlawful and that it'd be easier to convince him to make good
without Shannon hovering over us menacingly. "Well, she's an adult with a
history of taking off, so the more proof we have, the better. But if your sister
really is missing, we'll need to let the police search for her. They have
information I don't have access to."
"Yeah, but they can't read imprints." He crossed to the worktable and yanked a
plastic grocery sack from the pocket of his coata deep pocket by the size of
whatever was in the bag. "She had a cubby at the theater company. I took these
from it when they weren't looking." Liam flushed. "It wasn't stealing."
"Of course not." I poured the hot water into the cups and took a deep breath.
Probably these imprints wouldn't tell me anything. Since the items had simply
been sitting on her shelf, it wasn't likely I'd have to relive a murder or a
Liam waited, the sack extended. I handed him a warm mug before removing the
antique rings I wore to dull any unexpected imprints I might accidentally touch
when I was out and about. When I wasn't wearing gloves, that is. The rings held
comforting imprints that would counter any negative ones, but they would also
get in the way of my perception.
I removed the rings slowly, deliberately. I knew I was delaying. Months had
passed since I'd come across a seriously evil imprint, but I remembered how it
had sapped my strength. I wondered what might happen if someday I went too deep,
if the imprint was too strong, too horrible. Would I recover?
"There was no one to ask, so I didn't know. I'd been helping Shannon and his
partner, Tracy, on cases, but I suspected Shannon had deliberately kept me from
consulting on the really bad onesmurders, rapists, brutal muggings. I hadn't
pushed. Now I felt guilty. While protecting myself, how many more people had
Leaving my tea untouched, I reached for the grocery sack. Liam watched me
intently, not pushing. He was that sort of kid. Patient, studious, dedicated to
Gently, I shook out the contents of the sack onto the worktablea worn copy of a
play script, a square bag with a makeup brush peeking out the zipper, a pair of
leather gloves, a brush, and a small see-through purse filled with elastics,
hair clips, and bobby pins. It wasn't much, but if she'd used these objects
every day, there might be imprints. Probably not on the gloves, though they were
leather and had a better chance than regular cloth. Clothes that were often
washed and things easily dismissed or forgotten never evoked enough emotion to
hold imprints. Fortunately, or my life would be a living nightmare. I'd have to
wear gloves to buy fruit and milk at the corner grocery.
There were imprints on the objects. I could feel them radiating, beckoning. What
I couldn't tell without touching them was if they were positive or negative
imprints. If I could figure that out, my life would be a lot more simple.
"Autumn," came a voice from the door.
I looked up to see Jake's dark, good-looking face, framed by the black
dreadlocks that always made people stop and notice. In his typical snug T-shirt,
he looked strong and a little dangerous, but if you'd seen him helping little
old ladies in his herb shop, you'd change your mind about that in a hurry. He'd
been my best friend for years and a little bit more than my friend this past
summer. I'd trust him with my life.
His eyes took in the objects Liam had brought and the antique rings I'd set down
next to them. A flash of hurt registered on his face. Once he'd been my biggest
supporter where imprints were concerned, but after our summer run-in with a
branch of organized crime and a crooked attorney who'd stooped to kidnapping and
illegal adoption, Jake had begun to exhibit reluctance about my reading
imprints. He no longer brought in anyone who wanted imprints read, and he didn't
encourage me to talk about helping people. I knew his guilt ran deep about
having been unable to protect me, and nearly dying himself hadn't helped
matters, but I figured that was something he would have to get over on his own.
I'd finally been honest with myself about what I now saw as my calling, and I
couldn't let his fear stop me, even if I knew it stemmed from love. Besides,
what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
Or so I'd thought.
There had been a time when finding me about to read something Jake would have
put his arms around me and drawn me close for a strengthening kissand a part of
me still wished he'd do that. But he knew I was torn, and that was enough for
him to back away. Not completely, though. He'd made it very clear how he felt
about me. Now it was my turn. He was my best friend, and I loved him, but I
didn't know if I loved him enough. As much as he loved me.
"You remember Liam," I said to cover the awkwardness.
Jake dragged his eyes from the table. "Oh, yeah. Hey, Bean Pole, how you been?"
"Okay." Liam nodded a greeting but didn't elaborate, anxiousness exuding from
him in waves. I'd better hurry, or he might lose it altogether.
"His sister's missing," I added. "I'm going to" I shrugged. "You know."
Jake's gaze came back to me. "You should have called me. I'd like to help."
I knew what it cost him to say that, but I wasn't sure I wanted him to
staythough if the imprints were bad, it'd be safer for me if he did. He knew
what to do.
Jake glanced out the door into the store and frowned as though remembering
"Did you need help in the Herb Shoppe?" I asked. He could be here only to see
me, but he'd had just as many customers or more than I had, so I suspected
"No." His face became more animated, but the line of concern on his brow
deepened. "There's a woman in the Herb Shoppe. Her name is Suzy Olsen. She came
in looking for your mom."
"For Summer?" My adoptive mother had died when I was eleven, and I was surprised
one of her acquaintances hadn't heard.
"Not Summer. Well, not directly. She was looking for Summer but only to ask
about Kendall. She says she knew her."
All at once there wasn't enough air in the room. Kendall was the almost
sixteen-year-old who'd died after giving birth to my sister and then to metwins
who'd been separated by the attending physician, Floyd Loveridge, and given to
two adoptive couples. I knew little more than that, and every lead we'd
researched had gone dry.
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