"How can we help, Kevin?" Jimmy asks. "Archie's already under arrest. I've got to think they have more than just the cell phone."
"They do." The words crawl up his throat like bile. Kevin shakes his head and you can see that he's hurting, that he can't believe what he's about to say. "They found his fingerprints on the back doorknob." The detective seems to deflate as he exhales the words, and then silence fills the void between us.
"Has Archie visited Krystal since she moved here?" Jimmy asks in a soft tone.
"No," Kevin replies. "He's adamant about it."
Jimmy and I exchange a troubled glance. If Archie has already locked himself into a statement by saying that he's never been to the house, it's going to be nearly impossible to explain away his fingerprints.
"He's innocent," Kevin insists. "I'll take my badge off right now and retire if I'm wrong. You told me last year how amazing your partner is at murder scenes." He looks at me—studies me up and down. "All I'm asking is if you'll take a look around and see if we missed something."
Kevin looks down, flicking his finger against the handle of the paper bag. "Archie can't go to prison. It's just not right." He hands me the bag. "Jimmy said you needed this."
* * *
There's always a shoe.
It's become part of our search ritual, not because we need to check the pattern on the sole or the size of the foot. Those are some of the excuses we use, but the real reason is more complicated.
Since the age of eight, the year I died and was revived, I've had the ability to see what I call shine
. Others might call it the human aura, or even life energy, but I prefer shine; it sounds less bizarre, and it's an actual tracking term, though the shine that trackers see is far different from what I see.
To me it looks like neon color and comes in every imaginable hue. Often, multiple colors will populate the shine, though there is always one that dominates. I call this color or combination of colors the shine's essence. Every shine also has a texture. It could be sandy, rough, glassy, rusty, bubbly, muddy, woven, fuzz, or a million other textures.
Each shine stands unique.
It's like fingerprints or DNA: I've never come across a shine that duplicates another. It allows me to walk onto a crime scene and see where everyone walked, what they touched, and where they left behind blood or semen or saliva. Sometimes I know who the shine belongs to because I have a shoe, or because they're present; other times the owner of the shine isn't revealed until the case develops further.
Weird, I know.
What makes it stranger is no one can know about it, and for good reason. Imagine sitting in the jury box during a murder trial and hearing a so-called expert tracker talking about some magical glow that only he can see. Not only would the case be tossed out, but the judge would probably order an involuntary mental health evaluation.
So I pretend.
I've learned the art of "real" man-tracking to gloss over my secret. When we're in the field I study the ground intently, looking for the real clues along the path of the shine. If the suspect brushed up against a plant at some point and broke a stem or branch, the shine points the way and I can highlight the damage as a sign of passage.
There are only three people who know my secret: Jimmy, my dad, and my boss, FBI Director Robert Carlson. Dad and Carlson were best friends and coworkers in the U.S. Army in West Germany in the late seventies. I grew up calling him Uncle Robert...and still do to this day. Jimmy has a coronary every time; it's hysterical.
I suppose it's no surprise that Dad told Uncle Robert about my special ability. My mother doesn't even know, but the director of the FBI knows; go figure. So here I am, standing on wet pavement under an overcast sky, staring at a blue and white size 11½ Nike taken from Archie Everard's closet.
"Jimmy said you needed to examine it before you could start a track," Detective Mueller says, gesturing toward the shoe.
"Jimmy...is...correct," I say, releasing the words one at a time as I turn the shoe slowly in my hands. "It looks like Archie has high arches," I say, running my finger along the outside edge of the sole. "See the wear pattern? That's supination; he's not rolling his feet inward enough when he walks. You should warn him about that. He could end up with knee problems or plantar fasciitis. That's actually kind of ironic; a guy named Archie who has high arches." I
pause for effect. "Archie...arches, get it?"
"I think Archie has bigger problems at the moment, Steps," Jimmy says.
No one gets my jokes.
"Let's get to it, then," I say.
This excerpt ends on page 13 of the hardcover edition.