You couldn’t arrest for murder someone who had killed in his last life. You couldn’t bring a civil suit against such people, either. They could only be legally penalized for what they did this time around—and what a dark circus the legal system had been before that legislation passed! (It was still a dark circus, but perhaps not as dark.) But you could spot them, and watch them. You could set traps for them.
Leah Nazir is an Insighter. Reincarnation is her business. But while her clients’ pasts are a mess, Leah’s is nothing short of tragedy. She’s been murdered. A lot. If left to that bitch, destiny, it’ll happen again. Leah wants to know who’s been following her through time, and who’s been stalking her in the present...
P.I. Archer Drake has been hired by Leah’s mother to keep an eye on her. But the more time he spends watching, the more he finds himself infatuated. Before long, he even finds himself agreeing to help find the person who wants her dead. Over and over again.
Now going full-on “rewind,” Leah hopes it can stave off the inevitable. After all, she’s grown fond of this life—and even fonder of nerdy Archer. But changing her pattern means finding out who her killer is today. And as Leah fears, that could be anyone she has come to know and trust. Anyone.
About the Author
Date of Birth:1969
Place of Birth:Minot, North Dakota
Read an Excerpt
Clinic notes: Alice Delaney, Chart #6116
INS: Leah Nazir, ID# 29682
Cc: Dr. Riario, CF; Maura Hickman INS ID# 30199
Patient is a well-nourished Caucasian female who presents with anxiety, loss of appetite, fatigue, and night terrors.
"When are we going to figure out what's wrong? This is our fifth session," #6116 complained.
"It will be fine," Leah assured her. Like Liz Lemon, if she rolled her eyes many more times, she risked her optic nerves cramping. "We're getting close. We're not filling a cavity; it's not a one-trip fix. Now take a long deep breath."
"Okay, but I don't-"
"Less talking. More breathing." She kept a smile on her face, which wasn't easy.
Symptoms began thirteen days ago.
Yes indeed, because putting up with unpleasantness for even two weeks is asking too much. Ugh.
Referred by her GP Gary Riario. DOB 8/1/1993.
Gary, Gary. Not a fan of Insighters, unless he needed to refer. Then he was all Insighters, all the time. What secrets from sticky past lives are you hiding, Gary? "Feeling all right? Nod, don't speak."
Chart #6116 nodded, eyes closed.
"Meds bothering you?" The hypnotic analgesic, applied five minutes before the session began, sometimes triggered nausea. And catastrophic brain injury. But that almost never happened with the new protocols in place. Acceptable risk.
Chart #6116 shook her head. Oh, well. There was always the chance she might throw up later. Dare to dream!
I used to be nice. Didn't I? It was hard to remember. Once upon a time, she liked her patients. Tried to like them, at least.
She bent forward so she was almost looming over #6116 and adjusted the IV. Chart #6116 was lying snugly on the green padded couch, so plush a patient didn't sink into it but was swallowed by the greedy sofa. A necessary evil, as the couch had built-in sensors that continually monitored blood pressure, heart rate, temperature. It was always good to have advance notice if a patient was about to stroke out. Being devoured by a couch did not go over well with her claustrophobes; she kept a cot for them, and monitored their vitals the old-fashioned way.
The diplomas and certificates on the wall behind her trumpeted her expertise via large font and dark dramatic lettering:
anesthesiology (The American Board of Anesthesiology hereby certifies that Leah Nazir, a licensed graduate of etc., etc.), library science (By virtue of the authority vested the trustees have conferred upon Leah Nazir etc., etc.), competitive reading (Leah Nazir earned this award for participation and completion of the fifth-grade reading club), and Insighting (Leah Nazir: Certified Insider, ID #29682).
The last one, she knew, either impressed or horrified people. The first one just impressed them. They were indifferent about her library science and fifth-grade reading awards. Maybe it was time to go back to school, get a doctorate in . . . God, anything that sounded like it could be good for a few laughs. Criminal psych. Cannabis cultivation. Fermentation sciences. Auctioneering. Gunsmithing?
"Who are you?"
"My name is Alice Delaney."
"Why? It's . . . it's my name. Is why." Chart #6116's expression = pay attention, dumbass.
Chart #6116 was not yet down deep enough. She could only see herself, which was a large part of her problem. Problems.
Who are you to talk, sunshine? You see yourself and all your past mistakes and has it made you happy or well-adjusted or pleasant to be around?
Ah . . . no.
Leah double-checked the feed and hummed. She did this more or less unconsciously; she scarcely heard it anymore, though colleagues occasionally teased her about it. It had a tendency to soothe her patients. And herself, of course. If she didn't hum, she might stab.
"Who are you?"
"Alice . . . hmmmm . . . mmmm . . . my name . . . my name is . . ."
"Who are you?"
"My name is James Clark McReynolds."
Excellent. Leah crimped the tube. Past memories would come easier now; Rain Down (generic name: reindyne, courtesy of the good people at Pfizer, discovered by accident in 1987 when Pfizer was trying to develop a heart medicine/diet aid) was invaluable for that, possibly more invaluable than Leah or any of her colleagues. But if she kept the IV running wide open, Alice/James/etc. would fall so far down the rabbit hole they'd never make it back.
"My name is James Clark McReynolds."
"There you go."
"Nothing, Judge McReynolds." Leah flipped through the chart. DOB February 3, 1862. DOD August 24, 1946. Aquarius, a masculine sign. A fixed sign, with keywords like "stubborn," "sarcastic," "rebellious." American lawyer and, later, judge. Possibly the most vile wretch to ever sit on a Supreme Court bench.
Even by the standards of the time, Judge McReynolds was a gold-plated jerkass, foisted on the unwary by President Taft, and what the hell had el presidente been thinking? Thanks to history's long memory, and her job, Leah knew exactly: Taft was thinking what he was saying, and what he was saying was McReynolds had been "someone who seems to delight in making others uncomfortable." Wasn't that a terrific quality for any judge to have? Why, it ought to be a mandate! Oh, and lest he hadn't been clear, Taft also described McReynolds as "selfish to the last degree . . . fuller of prejudice than any man I have ever known . . . he has no sense of duty."
So naturally, the politicians of the time were in full agreement: Hire that man! And keep promoting him. Eventually promote him just to get rid of him. Promote him again. And again. Eventually give him a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. Because in politics, shit flows uphill.
Leah was not surprised to find she was not surprised. Her research-hours and hours looking up birth and death certificates, hours on the online juggernaut that was the Insighter database-helped her figure out who Alice was, and who Alice had been. Chart #6116 was leaking McReynolds all over the place. And that wasn't even the bad news. She had the same thought about almost every patient: if only they'd come to see me sooner. Before she did things she can never undo.
were here now. Leah would help as best she could. Of course, her idea of help and her patient's idea of help were likely different.
". . . the only way you can get on the Supreme Court these days is to be either the son of a criminal or a Jew, or both!" #6116 was ranting in a shrill old man's voice.
Be glad you didn't live to see the twenty-first century, McReynolds. African-Americans in Congress, the House, the White House, and the Supreme Court. Jews roam freely, secure in the absurd notion that religion doesn't have to dictate career paths. Lesbians brazenly being lesbians. Homosexual couples marrying! And then adopting! Legally!
She swallowed her snicker. "Further, Judge McReynolds." Leah checked the IV crimp. "Go back further. There's all kinds of stuff in there. You have to dig for it."
Her voice changed at once; no hesitation, Rain Down was working nicely and #6116 was deep in EffRe (Effortless Recall). #6116 went from a self-confident young woman to a shrill old man to . . . "My name is Westley Allan Dodd."
There you go. I cannot tell you how much meeting a serial killer before lunch brightens my Wednesdays.
"Mm-hmm. Tell me all about yourself, Mr. Dodd. This is your chance to be heard." The thing they all needed. The thing they would kill to get. If she were nicer, she would be sympathetic.
She wasn't nicer.
Leah skipped past the McReynolds section of the chart. Westley Allan Dodd. DOB July 3, 1961, DOD January 5, 1993. Cancer. An astrological sign of contradictions, as keywords were "loyalty," "oversensitivity," "caring," "self-pitying," "dependable," "self-absorbed." Convicted serial killer and child molester. His execution was the first legal hanging, at his own request, since 1965.
The manner of his death was the least unique thing about him. He also claimed a stress-free, happy childhood of wealth and leisure and his first victims were his cousins, because all ordinary children with happy lives molested their cousins and then went on to rape, torture, and kill other children. "Dear Mom and Dad, happy eighteenth birthday to me. Thanks so much for a carefree childhood and instilling appropriate values in me and protecting me from all trauma, but now I'm going to be a sociopath, for funzies. Thanks again!" wrote no well-adjusted teenager ever.
Dodd's first victims: cousins. All victims: below the age of twelve. Number of victims: over fifty. Attitude toward children in ten words or less: "I'm only nice to the ones I want sex from."
". . . told them, I said if I escaped I'd immediately go back to killing and raping kids-"
"They should have taken you at your word, Mr. Dodd. Further now. What is your name?"
"My name is Nathaniel Gordon."
"You bet it is." DOB 1834; historical records do not recount exact DOB. But they sure as hell paid attention to his death: May 8, 1862. Nat Gordon, the last pirate ever hanged, and the only slave trader ever tried, convicted, and executed for stealing one thousand slaves. "Real" piracy was punishable by death, but it was hardly ever enforced when the plunder was merely people with dark skin. The paperwork alone hardly made it worth it.
Of the one thousand slaves Gordon stole, 172 were men and 162 were women. According to John Spears, author of The Slave Trade in America, "Gordon was one of those infamous characters who preferred to carry children because they could not rise up to avenge his cruelties." Nice.
Hilariously (to Leah, at least; she knew her job had turned her into a jerk extraordinaire and that people were right to avoid her at parties), Gordon tried to kill himself the night before his execution. The local authorities found that annoying, especially since it meant postponing Gordon's execution from noon to 2:30 so the guy could recover enough to be murdered by the state. Leah wondered just how that went down: "He was definitely too sick at noon, but now that it's 2:30 he hasn't barfed in over an hour and can walk under his own power." "Great! Let's go kill him. Good news, Mr. Gordon, you're well enough to execute." Or, as Leah preferred to think of it, the classic "well, sir, we have good news and bad news" scenario.
He left behind a mother, wife, and son, but Judge Shipman (a man who almost a century earlier was a hundred times the "justice" McReynolds was) commented on Gordon's real legacy: "Think of the cruelty and wickedness of seizing nearly a thousand fellow beings, who never did you harm, and thrusting them beneath the decks of a small ship, beneath a burning tropical sun, to die in of disease or suffocation, or be transported to distant lands, and be consigned, they and their posterity, to a fate far more cruel than death."
". . . family to support," Gordon was whining from the plush couch. "How can it be a hanging crime to move property?"
So! A pirate, a serial killer, and the worst bigot the Supreme Court had ever seen. And Leah was trapped in a room with all of them. All right, "trapped" was inaccurate, since she had obtained patient consent, drugged #6116, and called all her shadows forward.
"So what was it?"
"Wrong question," she told Chart #6116. "'Who was it?' would be more accurate."
Chart #6116 rolled her eyes. "I never bought into that past lives crap. It's just one more thing to blame your problems on. I mean-I believe it," she added when Leah raised her eyebrows. "I'm not one of those weirdos who say there's no such thing as past lives, that we're just here for one lifetime and then go to heaven or hell or wherever."
Ah, the afterlife. You don't have to learn anything in your single solitary lifetime, and then you can live in the sky forever after! Unless you live in a lake of fire beneath the earth forever after. Well, there were stranger theories. Tabula rasa, for one. The goal of goals, an ideal so unlikely as to be mostly unattainable.
What would it be like, born with a clean slate? Nothing to make up for? Nothing to relive or regret? It was such an amazing concept Leah couldn't grasp it. Like trying to explain the science of reproduction to a preschooler: "He does what? And then what happens?"
"It does seem to defeat the purpose of living," Leah put forth with care, shaking off the daydream. "No point in trying to learn from your mistakes since this is your only chance to get it right . . . it calls a lot into question."
"Exactly. I'm not a Denier. But I'm in control of this life. Whoever I was before, they had their time. Now it's my turn."
"That mind-set can work," Leah said carefully, "sometimes." It depended on who the person used to be. And what that person used to do. If in her past lives #6116 was, say, a humanitarian who mentored needy children in her spare time, then sure. Except . . . "About seventy percent of the populace can remember some or all of their past lives. But it's fragmented, they get flashes. Or they remember it all but they don't feel it." One of her patients had explained it as being akin to watching a movie. You might care about the characters on the screen, but no matter how the events unfold, it doesn't affect the viewer on a personal level. "Or, in your case-"
#6116 shuddered. "Nightmares. But they never bothered me before."
You weren't escalating before. "Sometimes a traumatic event will change how a person perceives their past lives."
"Why are you talking like you're narrating a documentary? I know all this."
Leah ignored the bluster. It was barely possible the woman would hear what she was really trying to say. "I've had patients who didn't have any sense of who they used to be, but then a loved one dies, or they survive a violent trauma-assault, rape-and suddenly they're flooded with images of who they used to be."
Then there were the others, the last group, the smallest percentage. About 5 percent of the population not only remember their past lives perfectly, and feel them on an emotional level, they are able to help others access their past selves. And to this day, scientists were still arguing about why.
Once upon a time, Insighters were routinely burned alive, thought to be in league with Satan. These days, nobody burned and Insighters were only in league with whatever HMO covered their patient. The meds helped, too, of course.