TRAVELLING EYE (for Red Sole Clues)
Copyright Alesia Holliday
Jack Shepherd never would have gotten involved in the mystery of who shot Santa if it hadn’t been for the red-soled, high-heeled shoes. Well, the shoes, and the long, shapely female legs attached to the feet wearing the shoes. He didn’t pinpoint the source of the problem until later, though, when yet another Christmas Eve was almost over, and Hope Springs, Utah was only a twinkle in the rearview mirrors of his Harley.
It was another diner in a long string of diners, all so similar that Jack had quit noticing them a few weeks back. He’d been aimlessly wandering around the country on his bike, without much to do but think about life choices. Specifically, his life choices. More to the point, his bad life choices.
Like joining the rebel forces. Spending ten years battling evil vampires and other supernatural punks who wanted to take over the world, or at least their corner of it.
Criminals—the stupider they were, the more grandiose their plans, or so he’d figured out.
He and Quinn had even kept a mental “stupid criminals” file that they trotted out over a few beers when talking to trainees.
Quinn. Put her under bad life choices? Nah. Fighting with Quinn as his partner had been the best part of it all. They’d attempted a lot and achieved most of it.
Falling for Quinn, on the other hand? Seriously bad choice.
And not accepting that he had no chance with her after that damn Atlantean came into the picture? Went beyond bad to stupid.
So now he was on the way to Dead End, Florida, to wrap up his late uncle’s effects, because the lawyers hadn’t been able to find Jack in time for him to make it to the funeral. A shot of pain hit him in the gut at the reminder that he’d never see Jeremiah again. The man who’d raised him; the man who’d believed in him. Gone.
“More coffee, hon?” The waitress had a look on her worn but pretty face that said she might have asked him the question more than once. Her tone was gentle, though, so he smiled at her.
“Sure. And can I still get breakfast?” It was two-thirty in the afternoon, and the few people still there were probably enjoying a late lunch.
She nodded. “Sure. It’s Christmas Eve, after all. If you want eggs, you should get them. I’m Donna, by the way. Merry Christmas.”
Jack blinked. Christmas Eve. Hell, he hadn’t even realized what day it was. Not that it mattered. He was officially fresh out of family members, and he’d never had much in the way of friends. Quinn would be with Alaric…
Jack shook his head to get that unpleasant picture out of his mind, and glanced down at the menu, although he didn’t know why. Diner menus were all the same.
Except, not this one.
“Merry Christmas to you, too, Donna. Ah, what does this mean?” He pointed to the list under the word SPECIALS:
The Gloria Ellen
The waitress laughed. “Oh, that’s Charley’s little bit of fun. Those are his three daughter’s names, and the specials are their favorite meals. So, the Ericka is a PB&J with cheese and pickles on it, Cheez Doodles on the side.”
Jack’s mouth twitched, in a grin or a grimace, he wasn’t sure which. “And the Gloria Ellen?”
“That’s my favorite,” she said, smiling back at him. “A banana, pineapple, and mayonnaise sandwich on white bread.”
Jack shook his head. “I’m almost afraid to ask, but the Kimberley?”
“Tomato soup with sliced hot dogs and macaroni in it,” Donna said.
“So, these are normal kid foods?” Jack hadn’t been around kids all that much, but if he’d ever thought about it, he probably would have expected them to eat normal food, on
Donna shrugged. “Kids are weird.”
He couldn’t argue with that. “Well, with all due respect to the girls, I’d like a stack of pancakes, four eggs over medium, wheat toast, bacon, and hash browns. Orange juice. And throw in a side of ham. And a steak.”
Donna didn’t even blink at the size of his order. “Got it. Shouldn’t be long.”
She took his menu and bustled off toward the counter, and he drank some more coffee. It had been six hours since his first breakfast, it was damned cold on the bike, and the last thing a tiger shapeshifter needed was to run low on fuel. Made him cranky, and cranky tigers weren’t fit for human company.
Not that he gave much of a shit about human company.
The bell over the door jangled, and the woman who walked in made him rethink his position on that last one. She was a sleek brunette, tall and lean in a dark green peacoat and jeans, and she was wearing a very un-diner-like pair of high, sexy black heels. Her hair curved in at chin-length and swept around her face when she turned her head. She noticed him noticing her and gave him the long, slow perusal of a woman who’s used to being stared at and can give as good as she gets. He was surprised to find himself mildly disappointed when she took a seat at the counter instead of walking over to talk to him.
“Hey, Vanessa, I’ll be there in a sec,” Donna called out, on her way to drop a steaming bowl off at the table of a tiny, elderly woman.
Vanessa languidly waved a hand, apparently in no rush. She took her coat off and put it on the stool next to her and then hooked one foot over the railing and swung the other in a slow arc, none of which Jack would have noticed if it hadn’t been for those damn shoes. The shoes were black, but the soles were red. Blood red. Hell, what did he know? Maybe there was a thing with women and shoes that they had to wear Christmas-colored soles in December, and Donna’s sturdy white sneakers secretly had green soles.
Or maybe Jack’s mind was going, and thinking about shoes was the first step toward the very early onset of senile dementia. He looked out the window, determined to quit speculating about sexy brunettes with weird shoes, until Donna showed up with his food.
“Okay, hon, this keep you a while?” She stood back and surveyed the table, now covered with heaping plates of food. One thing you could say for diners, they didn’t stint on portions.
“Thanks, I’m good,” he told her, and then he bent his attention to his second breakfast of the day and worked his way through the meal. He was on his third cup of coffee, and down to nothing but crumbs and a single honey-covered biscuit on his plate, when the diner door slammed open and a teenaged boy rushed in, red-faced and panting.
“Vanessa, you’ve got to come right now. Somebody shot Santa Claus!”