Story Excerpt Sunday: From Tainted Waters by Leah Cutter

Tainted WatersTainted Waters

by Leah Cutter

The bomb blew up. Again.

Damn it. What was I missing? I pulled back along the time thread, still following the brightest of the blue lines that represented the timelines surrounding the event.

There had to be something I was missing. Something we’d all missed. There had to be a way to see the guy planting the bomb.

The strongest blue line in that great fanning wave of lines spread through my area of knowing represented the present. This world. My modern-day self.

The lines that traveled along either side of that bright blue one were all weaker.

Alternate timelines. Alternate pasts.

Different me’s. Usually still bleached blonde, tall, zaftig, with great boobs.

On the one hand, I had to be able to swear under oath that I’d found the guy in my timeline. Lawyers were freaky clever like that, once they’d learned that some of us could see more than one past or future.

Most of the blessed hadn’t come to grips with that as fast as defense attorneys.

Not that I blamed them. Much. It meant that a bunch of us, the ones who had been labeled crazy, were now part of their club.

They weren’t always chummy about it.

Maybe there was a clue in one of the other timelines about who’d set the bomb. So far, I’d stuck with the primary past, despite how tempting the other lines were. I didn’t want to look at those alternates until I was forced to.

Not that I’d ever admit how tempting they were. Traveling alternate pasts was slightly addictive.

Whoever had planted the bomb on the sidewalk in the middle of University Avenue on a slow Sunday morning had done a fucking good job of hiding his footsteps.

The guy had assembled the bomb in an abandoned warehouse building in northern Minneapolis, close to the Mississippi, where the gentrification hadn’t taken hold.

Then the asshole had hired someone to torture and murder people on the site. The creep had created three “masterpieces” before the cops had caught him.

That much emotion messed up any kind of reading. No one had been able to get through the pain of the other events. They’d just been too big. The lines were too blurry.

The police might have some physical evidence that a bomb had been created on that location. But they didn’t have anything else.

So now it was up to the PAs, those with paranormal ability, to figure out who this fucker was.

Before he did it again. Because the rambling note that the news released promised more retribution. He’d only killed two people with the first bomb—couple of kids. The next deaths would run in the thousands, or so he said.

Other, better trained post-cogs had been working on this puzzle for a week. Sam had finally called me in.

Okay, so I may have bugged her about it a little. Teased her that her and the other blessed just didn’t want to get their minds dirty.

Possibly threatened to withhold sexual favors until she let me try.

But now I saw what she meant. The event happened too damned fast. The bomb kept going off before anyone could spot who planted it.

Either that, or…

I opened my eyes, slipping out of the area of knowing where I’d been traveling along the past timelines and into Sam’s place. I’d been lying on her couch—a wave-like piece of furniture that was far more comfortable than it looked, supporting my back fully while keeping my knees slightly raised.

The July day outside her lovely suburban apartment with the AC blasting looked perfect—that thick Minnesota summer sky, so blue it could choke you. Just beyond the perfectly manicured lawn was a private lake, surrounded by sturdy maples and oaks. I think even some elms had survived Dutch elm disease and prospered there.

I wasn’t about to step one foot outside the wonderful cool of Sam’s place though. It might look lovely outside, but it was probably ninety-five degrees out, with ninety percent humidity. The grass that looked so lush was more harsh to walk on than AstroTurf. And that scenic lake bred mosquitoes the size of crows.

I picked up my phone. No messages. I’d told Tom we might hang out later, but I’d been vague about it. Didn’t surprise me that he hadn’t called. I was going to have to remember to call him, and de’Angelo, and maybe Tess….

With a sigh, I got up off the couch and stretched how I usually stretched, arms up over my head then down toward the floor. I wasn’t about to touch the floor—I was pretty sure I hadn’t been flexible enough to do that since I was seven. Particularly with my tits. They always got in the way.

I heard Hunter’s voice in my head, telling me that I needed to be serious about stretching.

Hunter had been wrong about a bunch of stuff. Being more flexible hadn’t been my problem in the least. Not when he was trying to teach me that funky kung-fu shit of his.

For once, thinking about Hunter didn’t automatically get my back up. I mean, yeah, he’d kind of screwed me with that whole blood-brother shit, bringing me into my powers like he had.

I couldn’t get a job as one of the blessed. No employer trusted me because I hadn’t had decades of training. I’d interviewed everywhere and was always turned down for the same reason, if they gave me a reason at all—no official training by the Jacobson Consortium. They considered me a rogue, a wildcard, not trustworthy or employable.

I sighed. Nothing I could do about it. Had already burned that bridge. Back to the case.


Leah Cutter writes page-turning fiction in exotic locations, such as a magical New Orleans, the ancient Orient, Hungary, the Oregon coast, rural Kentucky, Seattle, Minneapolis, and many others.

She writes literary, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and horror fiction. Her short fiction has been published in magazines like Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Talebones, anthologies like Fiction River, and on the web. Her long fiction has been published both by New York publishers as well as small presses.

Follow her blog at



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