Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Alex Hughes’s Detective Isabella Cherabino from Vacant.
Nothing ruins a romantic evening like a brawl with lowlifes—especially when one of them later turns up dead and my date, Detective Isabella Cherabino, is the #1 suspect. My history with the Atlanta PD on both sides of the law makes me an unreliable witness, so while Cherabino is suspended, I’m paying my bills by taking an FBI gig.
I’ve been hired to play telepathic bodyguard for Tommy, the ten-year-old son of a superior court judge in Savannah presiding over the murder trial of a mob-connected mogul. After an attempt on the kid’s life, the Feds believe he’s been targeted by the businessman’s “associates.”
Turns out, Tommy’s a nascent telepath, so I’m trying to help him get a handle on his Ability. But it doesn’t take a mind reader to see that there’s something going on with this kid’s parents that’s stressing him out more than a death threat…
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a print copy of Vacant.
In My Mind’s Eye
“Come on.” Cherabino pulled me forward, past the shoe store. I trotted to keep up. We were in the mall. The mall! And worse, it was Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when the malls were at their worst. Shoppers darted this way and that, a constant sea of excited and desperate emotions that slammed me in Mindspace like the people nearly hit me in real space, over and over. Isabella pushed through, uncaring, an armada on the frothing sea.
“I don’t understand why we’re here,” I said, fighting real pain from all the people. “Can’t you buy some cookies from the drug store like everybody else?”
Cherabino stopped cold in the middle of the mall’s walkway, turning all the way around to look at me. “Seriously, you want me to get my sister and Jacob cookies from the drug store?”
“They’re never busy this time of year,” I said. “And they have eggnog. You know, the nonalcoholic stuff in the carton.”
People pushed past us on either side, jostling, but Cherabino didn’t move.
“Eggnog! Packaged crap? My grandmother would shoot me twice if I brought that crap home. No, we’re getting sweaters for the kids and a watch for my sister and tools for my brothers and—”
“Hold on,” I said, grabbing her shoulder and looking behind her.
Immediately, the cop’s wariness came back into her eyes. “Can I turn?” she asked so quietly the words washed into the crowd noise. I heard her anyway, through the fading Link between our minds.
Slow, I told her mind-to-mind, directly.
She winced; she didn’t like the reminder of the telepathy. But she turned, slowly, casually.
There was a two year old standing on the railing like a tightrope, the open space below her at least two stories down, with a tile floor at the bottom.
Her eyes went to where I was looking. “There’s nothing there.”
“Yes, the two year old—” I stopped. In my mind’s eye I saw the child falling, screaming while she fell. But the railing was empty. My stomach sank. My precognition, my stubborn unpredictable future-sense, was trying to tell me something. What was it?
Behind me a giggle came, and the same two year old came running past me on my right side. I grabbed at the back of her shirt as she went by, and missed.
“Don’t—” I yelled.
Cherabino, quick on the uptake, put herself in front of the two-year-old and scooped her up into her arms. The child squirmed, and Cherabino set her down, keeping her hands on her shoulders as she knelt down.
“Where’s your mommy?” Isabella asked the child.
The two year old stared at her.
We were gathering a crowd now, people stopping to stare, worried about stranger danger maybe. Lucky I had Cherabino with me, who had a big family and could look maternal when pressed. I’d have an old lady threatening me with an umbrella by now.
I scanned the crowd, and a burst of fear came from behind me.
A pregnant woman with a stroller was trying to get through the crowd twenty feet behind me. “Please, let me through,” I heard her say, the words coming through the babble of the crowd only through the desperate emotions she was battling.
“Found her,” I told Cherabino, and went back to get the woman, pushing through the crowd.
The woman was nearly in tears when I found her, and I pushed through the crowd again to get her back. She did cry when she found her daughter.
“You scared your mommy,” Cherabino told the two-year-old. “Stay close when there’s a lot of people, okay?”
We watched as the two embraced.
“You don’t usually get visions about this sort of thing,” Cherabino told me, as the crowd started moving again and the world descended back into the uncomfortable babble of too many minds.
I shrugged. I didn’t, usually. If I hadn’t been here today and the precognition hadn’t decided to work… I shivered, cold all of the sudden.
Cherabino looked at me. “Well, if it happens again you yell, okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
She nodded, still looking at me cautiously. Finally, she said, “I still need sweaters for the kids, and with this many people they’re going to be sold out soon.”
“Yeah,” I said, and followed her.
Meet Alex Hughes!
Alex Hughes, the author of the award-winning Mindspace Investigations series from Roc, has lived in the Atlanta area since the age of eight. She is a graduate of the prestigious Odyssey Writing Workshop, and a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers. Her short fiction has been published in several markets including EveryDay Fiction, Thunder on the Battlefield and White Cat Magazine. She is an avid cook and foodie, a trivia buff, and a science geek, and loves to talk about neuroscience, the Food Network, and writing craft—but not necessarily all at the same time!
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Thank you Alex for taking part in Literary Escapism’s Black Friday!
Alex is giving away a print copy of Vacant. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: What’s your worst fear about venturing out into the Black Friday crowds? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered. (US/CA only)
Have you checked out the other Black Friday contests yet? Check out the Master List to see all the Black Friday giveaways. To enter the main contest, don’t forget to leave a comment below. All Black Friday contests will remain open until December 31st. All giveaways are subject to LE’s Giveaway Policy. Here’s the Rafflecopter widget for the $50 giftcard giveaway.