Darkest Journey (Krewe of Hunters #20)(11)

“Randy!” Ethan said.

“You know him?” Jackson asked.

Ethan nodded. “We’re both from St. Francisville. He’s a good guy,” he added, pausing to grin. “He quit opening beer bottles with his teeth years ago and became a solid, tough and decent man. Seriously, he’s a good guy. We were actually at Loyola together, too. But—”

“I’m sending you because Angela referred the call to me. She receives all our ‘invitations’ and inquiries, and she has a great way of reading between the lines and determining if the case is right for us.”

Ethan knew Angela, a special agent with the Krewe who handled a lot of the administrative and back-end business. They were often inundated with cases, and she had an amazing ability to determine which ones might best benefit from the Krewe’s assistance.

She and Jackson were also married and had been among the original six members of the Krewe.

“Yes, of course,” Ethan said.

“I believe you’re the perfect man for this situation. You know the area. If I’m not mistaken, you even used to live in the parish.”

“I’ve been gone a long time,” Ethan said. “I have family in the area, but they’re mostly in New Orleans now.”

“But you know people there. The lead detective is an old friend, you said. That’s always a good thing.”

Ethan was still curious. So far he’d always worked with at least one other Krewe agent, but it sounded as if he was being sent on his own.

He knew there were other Krewe agents who came from Louisiana, even if they didn’t come from West Feliciana Parish. Jude McCoy, another recent addition to the Krewe, had been an agent in New Orleans before he joined the Krewe.

“If you find something, I’ll head down with Jude McCoy by the end of the week,” Jackson said, as if he’d read Ethan’s mind.

“All right,” Ethan said. He hesitated and then shrugged. He might as well just throw it out there. “I love this job. I’m ready to go wherever the assignment leads, do whatever needs to be done. You know that. But I’m surprised. There are other agents who’ve been with the Krewe a lot longer than I have. Even Jude. He’s pretty new, but not as new as me. We’ve even become friends because we’re both from Louisiana. The Krewe started out in New Orleans. So...not to take anything away from my own abilities, but...why me?”

“We were specifically asked if you were available,” Jackson said, his light eyes, so striking against his dark hair and tanned flesh, hard on Ethan.

“By?” Ethan asked.

“A woman who found one of the bodies. She spoke with some friends of hers with connections here, and they made a persuasive case. She’s a local actress, name of Charlene Moreau.”

“Ah.” Ethan hoped that the memories suddenly flooding through him weren’t visible on his face.

“You do know her, then?” Jackson asked.

“I did know her,” Ethan said. “When we were kids. And I know of her now. I’ve seen her on a new cop show they’re filming down there, and in a couple of commercials. I haven’t actually seen her, though, since I was nineteen. She must have been fifteen or sixteen.”

“How close were you?” Jackson asked.

How close?

Jackson must have seen his confusion, because he went on. “When we’re young, we’re often more open to what’s around us, to seeing the kinds of things we here in the Krewe see every day.”

Ethan remembered being home from college, talking on the phone to his mother about something boring like his laundry. He was already taking criminology courses, and his mother brought up the killings that had occurred just north of Baton Rouge and how people were growing nervous in the entire area around the capital city.

And then he’d seen the soldier at the window. A Confederate cavalry officer. The man had seemed to be beckoning to him, and at first he’d naturally thought the man was a lost reenactor needing help.

But the soldier had led him across fields, pausing only to glare at Ethan when Ethan stopped, irritably demanding that the ghost explain what he wanted. Somehow Ethan felt compelled to follow him despite his silence and his strange behavior.

In the end he’d followed his spectral guide to Grace Episcopal Church.

That was when he’d seen Charlene Moreau. She’d been tied to a gravestone.

Her head was bent as she pulled against the knots that had held her there, and despite the situation she’d been ethereally beautiful in the moonlight, hair tumbling over her shoulders, a flesh-and-blood version of the worn stone angel that stood over a nearby grave with her head bowed deep in prayer.

Ethan pulled himself back to the present when Jackson spoke.

“Apparently Ms. Moreau is friends with Clara Avery and Alexi Cromwell, two young actresses I know from previous cases. They’re here in our area at the moment, involved with Adam Harrison’s theater project—he’s restoring a historic theater and has hired them to deal with creative management—although they’re both from the New Orleans area originally. Both of them are also gifted—or cursed—the same way we in the Krewe are.” He paused, then went on. “And speaking of previous cases, there’s another strange association here, too,” Jackson said.

“That being?”

“We’ve recently worked two serial-killer cases involving the Celtic American cruise line. The cruise company wasn’t at fault, of course, but both killers carried out their work aboard their ships.”

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