underside. She found it under the third drawer. A plain white envelope, yellowed on the edges. She pushed the glue-caked flap open to reveal one photograph inside. Her heart twisted when she saw her mother’s face, the familiar pink silk scarf wrapped around her neck. Johanna looked alarmed and with good reason. The photo showed her being held back (or pushed forward?) by two beefy men. Jolene couldn’t make out their faces as they were obscured by the angle of the picture and Johanna being in front. One man had a thick black beard, the other frizzy brown hair. They both had scowls on the parts of their faces she could see. A wide, hairy forearm obscured the foreground of the picture. The picture had been taken at dusk and she couldn’t make out many of the details, but what she could make out froze her blood. From the angle, she could tell it had been taken from the waters below her home with her mother and the men standing on the cliff … the very spot Johanna had supposedly jumped from. Jolene’s heart raced. This was the proof she’d been looking for. She backed out of the storage unit, her attention still focused on the picture in her hand. As she started to turn, she felt a prickle at the back of her neck. Her stomach tightened. She ripped her attention from the picture and spun around. Two dark figures came toward her and she focused on her internal energy, trying to bring it forward to fight them off. Why couldn’t she see their faces? she thought just before she started to feel incredibly sleepy. One of the figures was holding something out toward her—she couldn’t quite make out what it was, but she thought it looked like a geode of some sort. The intense feeling of tiredness overwhelmed her. It felt like someone had pulled a plug and all the energy was draining out of her. She slumped into a pile on the ground, the picture falling from her fingertips. Her heart sank. She had no idea what these guys were planning, but she was weak as a baby, unable to open her eyes more than a small slit, much less defend herself. What happened next was a hazy blur. She remembered a lot of shouting and then strong arms picking her up. A faint memory of a familiar face. Mateo. The man she thought she’d seen following her in town. Then she woke up, the hard, pebble-strewn ground outside the storage unit jabbing painfully into her side and the faint image of Mateo’s velvety brown eyes fresh in her memory. He’d saved her once before in a similar situation. Maybe he’d saved her again today. But if so, where was he now? She shook her head and pushed herself up to a sitting position, scanning the area for enemies. No one was there. Did all of that really happen? The kid in the office was probably too out of it to notice, but did the office have cameras on the units? A quick survey of the corners of the building told her they didn’t. No witnesses and nothing recorded on camera. The only evidence Jolene had that something had happened was a stiff neck and aching muscles. Slowly, she felt her energy return. She stood and brushed herself off. Closing the storage unit, she replaced the padlock and then slid into her car. It wasn’t until she was out of the gate that she realized she no longer had the picture of her mother.
Jolene trudged up the steps to her office, tired and drained. She probably should have gone home to take a nap. Male voices filtered down the stairs from the open office door and she froze in her tracks. Jake and Luke. The last two people she wanted to see. Jake was supposed to be out in the field and she’d planned to sneak in and get some of her files without having to face him. Luke being with him was even worse. She’d already decided in the car not to tell anyone about the strange incident that seemed more like a dream than reality now, but the two of them had good detecting skills and were bound to figure out something was wrong with