Reggie Foster has done an amazing job of blending into the small town of Irvine, Kentucky. For five years, she has laid down roots, started a new career, and even made a few friends. Even more impressive? She’s hiding in plain sight and no one even remotely suspects she’s not who she says she is.
When a six-year-old girl goes missing and she begins having visions that might help find her, Reggie has no choice but to take the risk of telling the police only one of her many secrets…that she’s a psychic. She gambles with her freedom when she turns to Detective Jack Benton, a former big-city cop trying to escape a traumatic past, and offers to help with the investigation.
Reggie finally convinces Detective Benton to give her a chance. With the help of Warren Harvey, a search and rescue organizer battling his own personal demons, the three form a rather unorthodox task force.
Somehow Reggie must help the team find the missing girl while keeping the others from discovering the truth about her past.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was visiting my family's hometown, which is very tiny, and I began wondering if there were people hiding in plain sight there…people with dark secrets they wanted no one to know about. Reggie was born. Then I just started brainstorming plot twists from there and Presumed Dead was born!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I used to watch a lot of the TV show, Medium. One day I was watching a rerun while I was brainstorming this book and the notion of making my main character a psychic just hit me and I couldn't shake the idea. Thus, my main character with a dark, secret past became Reggie Foster, a secret psychic.
There were only so many options in Irvine for a professional gal like myself to unwind after a stressful day at work, so I locked up the office and walked to J’s Place, a few blocks down on Main Street, to enjoy a sweet tea, a cheeseburger, and some relative solitude. A tiny bell jingled above my head when I opened the door, drawing everyone’s attention my way. I say everyone, but there really were only a handful of patrons — the regulars — in the restaurant.
At the bar sat Willie, the retired postal worker who drank himself into near oblivion every night before stumbling home. He was nice, though, and often asked how my day had been; he was just a harmless old drunk. Then there was Sheri, the barfly with a bad dye job, red lipstick, and crooked teeth, who hovered over Willie every night until he was intoxicated enough to find her somewhat attractive. Sheri could be cutting with her comments, but she usually left people alone if they paid her no attention, so I often pretended she wasn’t there. Short, frail, and bug-eyed Eddie was the town loser who didn’t fit in any other social circles, so he hung out at J’s Place where no one would notice him, let alone bother him. He made me a bit uncomfortable, but he always nodded to me every time I walked in, and today was no exception.
Finally, there was Junior McQuerry, the bartender/cook/owner of the establishment. He was about my age — I was twenty-eight at the time — with sandy blond hair and brown eyes that reminded me of a golden retriever for some reason. Junior was handsome, in a small-town, former prom king kind of way, but he walked with a significant limp. He complained to anyone who would listen about being stuck in this “God-forsaken town” and tending this “shithole” for a bunch of drunks who never even bothered to tip him. Local lore had it that Junior had been the star quarterback in high school, but lost out on a scholarship to Eastern Kentucky University due to a knee injury right at the end of his senior season. It was no great wonder he was so hostile.
He and the regulars all nodded in acknowledgment of my arrival, except for Sheri, who just rolled her eyes. I sat down at the other end of the bar, as far away from Willie and Sheri as I could get. I couldn’t handle watching them paw at each other as the night wore on. I asked Junior for my usual — a sweet tea with extra ice and a plain cheeseburger with fries. He flopped a hand towel over his shoulder, placed both hands on top of the dull wooden bar top, and leaned in toward me.
“Reggie, you’ve been coming here for, what, four years now?”
“Almost five,” I corrected him.
“Okay, five. And you never order alcohol. I’ve even offered it to you on the house, but you always stick to your damned sweet tea. Why is that?”
My answer was automatic. The same one I’d been giving for years. “I’m allergic.”
Junior’s face scrunched up like a pug and he sucked his teeth. After pondering my lame excuse for a few seconds, he shook his head. “No one’s allergic to alcohol, Reggie. Not really.”
“Yeah? Well, I am.” My tone brokered no further discussion on the matter.
Junior must have read my I’m-not-talking-about-this-anymore body language because he held up his hands and changed the subject immediately. “How’s that big case going? The one about the McGuire kid?” He slid a tall glass of tea across the bar.
“Trial starts next month.” I took a gulp of my non-alcoholic beverage. If there was one thing I loved about the south, it was their syrupy sweet tea. “But you know I can’t tell you any more than that.”
“I know, I know. Attorney-client privilege, and all that. I’ve heard it a million times from you and all the other lawyers who come in here.”
“You know I’m not a lawyer.” I looked at him over the rim of my glasses. “I’m just a paralegal.”
“Well, from what I hear, you do all the work.”
I dipped my straw in and out of my drink. “Yep. All the work for half the pay and none of the glory.”
“Don’t seem fair.” Junior leaned against the bar and used the questionably clean white rag to clean the inside of a glass.
“Nope. It’s not fair, but I love what I do. And it pays the bills, so there’s that.”
“Tell me about it,” Junior said with a sarcastic grin.
The bell over the door jingled again and I turned around on my stool to see who else could possibly be coming into such a fine establishment. Being late October, it was too early for anyone besides the other regulars and me to be patronizing J’s Place.
The unfamiliar man who walked in was about six feet tall with short cropped brown hair, and by the way he carried himself, it was obvious he was a member of law enforcement. Given that he was in plain clothes, I pegged him as a detective. I’d never seen a police officer set foot in J’s Place. The cops had their own bar a block down, closer to the precinct.
The detective scanned the small bar and when his eyes met mine, my heart rate doubled. I only realized I’d been holding my breath when I became lightheaded. I forced myself to slowly let the air out and keep my breathing steady. My feet were twitching and itching to run out of the bar, but I willed them to stop. I turned back around and stared down at my tea, pretending his entrance didn’t matter to me, one way or the other.
But it did matter. I’d gone out of my way for nearly ten years to avoid law enforcement officers. I’d even moved to one of the smallest towns I could find in hopes that I’d never have to face a cop head-on in such a tiny community. All I could do was focus on my drink and pray to God I blended in with the others.
He approached the bar, only a couple stools away from Willie, and sat down. When he glanced my way again, I saw that his eyes were the color of root beer. His biceps were clearly defined, even under his light blue button-down shirt, and a dimple appeared on each cheek when he smiled and nodded his head at me. If I hadn’t had such a strong aversion to cops in general, I would have found this detective extremely attractive.
“What can I get you, Detective?” Junior asked in a tone I couldn’t quite decipher.
Detective. Nailed that one.
“I’m not here for a drink, Junior. I’m on the job.” The detective’s words were succinct, but not unkind. “I’m here in an official capacity.” His eyes shifted toward Willie and Sheri. “William Riddle, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Willie’s eyes went wide and he began spinning his beer bottle around nervously. “Sure, Officer. What can I help you with?”
The detective reached into his pocket, pulled out his phone, and swiped the screen. I couldn’t see what was on it because he turned it quickly toward the old drunk. “It’s Detective. Have you seen this girl, Willie?”
“Lord, no,” Willie said immediately. “I know what this is about, Detective, and I ain’t seen that girl nowhere. Why you asking me, anyway?”
“Just a question, Mr. Riddle. No reason to be defensive.” He turned the phone around to face Junior. “How about you, Junior. Have you seen this girl?”
Junior shrugged his shoulders. “I know her mamma. Went to high school with her. But no, I haven’t seen her, neither.”
“How about you?” The detective swiveled in his chair and held the phone up for me to see. “You know anything about this girl?”
My hands were cold and shaky, so I pulled them down from the bar top into my lap. “No,” I answered honestly. “Who is she?”
“Her name is Abigail Casey. She’s six years old and she’s been missing since last night. Well, technically yesterday morning, since she apparently never made it to school. You haven’t heard?”
“I’m not originally from here.” I immediately wanted to suck the words back in.
“I mean, I don’t listen to town gossip, so I don’t know much about what goes on around town.”
“I’ve seen you before, but I’ve never gotten your name.” He raised one eyebrow.
“Regina Foster,” I answered quickly. “But people call me Reggie. I work for Jonathan Blackwell. The attorney? Maybe you’ve heard of him.”
“Yeah, I know Jonathan.” He regarded me for a few seconds longer than was comfortable for me, but then pulled the phone back and slid it back into his pocket. He patted the top of the bar and stood up. “Well, thank you folks for your time. If any of you see or hear anything suspicious, call the station. Ask for me.”
Everyone nodded. The detective walked out of the bar and let the screen door slam shut behind him.
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