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A Nose for Trouble

Jill Webb


Novella Published by SinCyr Publishing, University Place, WA 98466 Copyright © 2018

“A Nose For Trouble” Copyright © 2018 Jill Webb

All rights reserved. Any reproduction or distribution of this book, in any format, without the written permission of the publisher or authors is theft. These stories are works of fiction and any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.

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ISBN: 978-1-948780-03-2

Edited by Rhiannon Rhys-Jones

Copy edit by Harley Easton

Cover by Lee Moyer

Inside Layout © 2018

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

About the Author

For my mother and all her support.

Chapter 1

Lisa Wong-Osunbar leaned against a streetlamp, waiting for a bank robber. Finding the lost and kidnapped was a more satisfying way to use her talent.

Aren’t there guards in the bank?” She looked up and down the sidewalk. The least she could do was look like she was waiting for someone to meet her. Maybe she could download a new app for her phone while she waited around.

"Heads up, Lassie. We've got a thief coming your way. Sniff this one out, and I'll make sure we have a nice bone waiting for you."

Broadcast. Her least favorite telepath. "Bite me, ‘Cast."

"Run along like a good doggie, now."

She kicked her foot back against the lamppost. Couldn’t they assign any other telepath to contact her?

Her target should be coming out of the bank any second now, if he wasn't already out. She sniffed the air for the inky scent of the dye packet in the cash bag. Got it. The smell of the pack placed her quarry on the sidewalk across the street. The bag threaded its way through the crowd, but she couldn't get a glimpse of the thief.

Just as she started to follow, someone crashed into her shoulder, spinning her half around. Intentional or accident? A quick glance around as she trailed the bag of money didn't show her who'd run into her. She smelled a dog somewhere, but didn't see one.

She slipped her phone into her pocket and strolled along the sidewalk, glancing in store windows as she passed. The bag of money stayed half a block ahead of her, across the street. She crossed at the next light to close the distance. The sidewalks were busy this time of day. Between shoppers, she got a glimpse of the man she tailed.

"Are you going to get an ID on him before he leaves the pedestrian zone?" Broadcast asked.

"I've got four blocks. Run a search on security cameras. Look for a male, medium height, tan jacket, and blue jeans."

"You're sure he's male?"

"Smells like it. Nearly hundred percent. Tiny chance it's a 'she' wearing her boyfriend's clothes. Match it up with the bank's cameras."

She stretched her short legs to catch up with the thief. In the brief glimpses she'd had of him, he didn't act like he'd noticed anyone following. The smell of the dye pack was stronger the closer she got. With focus, she could block out all the other smells: sun-warmed pavement, too-sweet floral perfume, that dog from before.

She was close enough to see him now—tan-coated shoulders and a mop of brown hair bobbing as he wove around the other pedestrians. The scent was stronger now, but not as strong as it would be if the dye packet had broken. If the bureau could figure out how he managed that, they might be able to stop this rash of bank robberies. She could get back to using her powers on more important things, like finding lost hikers and kidnapped children.

Two blocks before the end of the walking district, she was closing in on the bag-holder. She hurried to close the distance and pulled the Taser from her purse.

A dusty navy hatchback idled at the curb just past the barricade keeping vehicles out of the walking district. Less than ten feet away. Now she knew the scent of the thief well enough to pick him out of a lineup. Not even the sauerkraut on his breath could mask his unique smell. Closer now. A couple more steps 'til she could reach out and touch him.

She tripped and wobbled, almost dropping her Taser. The time it took to recover her balance gave the man time to reach the vehicle barricade. There was nothing there to trip over, no excuse for that much clumsiness.

Say something, quick. "Excuse me, sir, did you drop something?" She came three steps closer as she spoke, pointing at the ground with the hand not holding the Taser.

The thief didn’t answer but turned enough to give her a clear view of his profile as he opened a car door and slid inside.

"Stand down, Lassie," Broadcast said. "Let this one go. Just got word that another department is tracking your guy and they want to follow him to ground."

Lisa turned her back to the hatchback pulling away from the curb, the bank robber and the bag of money inside. She dropped her Taser into her purse and studied a store window’s shoe display. "What department? Why didn't we know this before I tracked him this far?" The boots were cute, probably from last season. Low heels, good for running after bank robbers.

Cast was slow to answer. "Huh? Repeat, Lassie. I've got another conversation going here."

"Nothing. Hope they have a good reason for wasting our time out here."

"Morrison called a briefing at eight tomorrow. Conference room three. Maybe they'll tell you then. You're off duty for the rest of the night."

Maybe she should buy those boots. Sneakers were great for moving fast, but those would look better with most of her short skirts. She tilted her head to read the price tag. Nope. More than she could afford right now.

She raked her fingers through her hair, pulling the curls back from her face. Thick and black, her hair went wherever it wanted if she didn't braid it. She slipped her fingers out of the tangle and checked her appearance in the window's reflection. Passable, but I’ll need a comb and flat iron if I go out tonight.

“Dude, she’s an amp, right?”

Lisa caught her breath and looked out from under her eyelashes. How could they tell? Nothing about her screamed ‘superpowers’. This mission was supposed to be undercover, not advertising her as a bureau agent.

Two guys carrying skateboards stood to her right, on the edge of the sidewalk, looking across the street as a slender blond jogged past on long, elegant legs. One elbowed the other. “Right? She has to be. Look at her.”

Not me then. Good.

Dude smacked his friend in the back of his baseball cap. “You can’t tell an amp by looking at them, moron. They’re faster and stronger, sure, but don’t look any different than anyone else.”

“But the city’s full of them, there’s bureau offices here.”

“More than your podunk town, but they’re everywhere, you just can’t tell.”

The blond was out of sight and the pair crossed the street, changing their conversation to some video game.

Lisa’s car was on the opposite end of the downtown zone, past the bank. At least the weather was decent. She gave the window boots one final glance and headed back towards her car. A man in a damp t-shirt jogged past. Ugh. Sweat. She took shallow breaths to avoid any other unpleasant odors.

Her phone vibrated against her hip. Lisa checked the number and answered. "Iona! I'm off early. What time are we meeting?"

"Sorry, have to cancel." There was a catch in Iona's voice.

"Work again? But you just got back."

"Emergency. Call me later. I'll see what I can explain."

The National Bureau of Amplified Human Enforcement used Iona's firestarting to combat natural disasters as well as control super-powered criminals. Flashier than Lisa's sense ability, but harder to control. Harder to keep undetected, too.

Being able to use her power in public was a trade-off that Lisa gladly accepted.

Chapter 2

Lisa's phone rang as soon as she reached her second floor apartment. She unlocked the door and kicked it closed while checking the phone. It was her dad's number. She calculated how long it'd been since last talking to her parental units and answered. Not so long that she'd be chided for it. Four years out of college, and she still worried that they’d be disappointed in her. She dropped her purse on the entry table and perched on the edge of the couch.

"Li-Li! It's Dad," her father's fake Chinese accent boomed over the line.

"Hi Dad. What's up?"

"Your mother worries, you haven't called this week." He dropped the accent he’d used to embarrass her as a teenager. Now, it was kind of endearing. "But don't tell her I told you to call. How's work?"

"The usual, tracking people here and there."

"Your mother has an opening at her shop. You know she could use your help."

Both parents were after her to quit the bureau and work for her mother's chocolate business. "Around all that candy? I'd gain too much weight. Anyway, I'm working on a big task force now. The bureau keeps me busy."

"You know she'll keep asking," her dad warned. "Have you talked to your sister lately? She got a promotion, leads the spatial geometry team now."

Gah. Lisa knew her dad wished she had inherited his mental power like her sister, Mia, instead of her mother's sense power. "I'll make sure to call her later. And Mom. Hey, Dad, I've got another call. Thanks for calling, but I've got to go." She waited for Dad's usual, "Love you, Li-Li," and ended the call.

Lisa went into the kitchen and searched the fridge for take-out leftovers. The Thai food from two nights ago smelled good and she ate it cold from the carton while leaning against the counter.

She tossed the empty box into the bin and grabbed her phone on the way to the couch. Untying her sneakers, she kicked them off and put her feet up. Was it late enough to call Iona? Lisa sent a quick text message—You free to talk now? —And sat back.

Her phone rang within a minute. "Thanks. I'm going out of my mind here," Iona said.

"Where are you and what happened?"

"Bureau. It's Brad," Iona whispered.

Oh, shit. Lisa ran through a dozen bad scenarios, but they all came down to Iona and fire. "Can you talk about it? Are you okay?"

"He's here. Bureau hospital."

"Will he recover?" Iona had only been dating Brad for a couple of months.

"He won't remember," Iona said. "I should have known better. My control was already slipping during the mission. Instead of sorting it out, I went to his place as soon as I got in and we started making out on his couch. Couldn't even make it to the bedroom. The fire started in my hands. Like always. And I had my hands under his shirt. I-I didn't even notice it until he screamed. There are burns over most of his back." Iona's voice broke and sobs came through the phone.

"Oh no." Lisa couldn't think of anything else to say.

"I panicked and pushed away from him. But that set his couch on fire. I managed to get it out and call for help. His burns will heal, but they wiped his memory. The fire, me, everything. It's like we never met. I thought he and I could be different. He's the first one I’ve told about being an amp."

Lisa had only ever dated other amps. Easier to have a relationship when you didn't have to lie about your extra power. Someday, when the government and bureau could agree on how to announce full disclosure to the public, the lies wouldn't be necessary.

"Did you get hurt?"

"They've got me on suicide watch," Iona whispered. "But I won't."

"Oh, Iona. Let me know when I can visit. You need hugging."

"I'm meeting counselors tomorrow so we can figure out why I lose control. Emotions always make it worse."

"We can be old maids together. No more men for us," Lisa suggested.

"I can't. I need regular sex to keep the fire under control. Lots and lots of really good sex."

"Then have the bureau issue you a top-of-the-line vibrator. Solves all the problems."

Iona's laugh sounded forced. "Maybe. But that isn't the same as really good sex."

"I wouldn't know. At least as good as so-so sex. That, I know something about."

"You need to meet the right man."

"I've tried. They all smell. Sooner or later, it gets to me."

"They aren't all going to be like Carl."

Bleh. The smell he'd developed came from the other woman he'd been sleeping with.

"Yeah, sometimes they're like Phillip, or Chen, or Ravi." Who either couldn't handle her out-of-town assignments, cheated on her, or moved away. "No thanks, I'm done looking."

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