Docstoc

The Psychic

Document Sample
The Psychic Powered By Docstoc
					Psychic/Dahlke

1

1

The Psychic by Rebecca P. Dahlke “What kinda psychic we gonna see, again?” “A blind one.” “That‟s what I thought you said,” Marvin grunted, uncomfortable not only with his partner‟s choice of late afternoon activity, but also safety belt chafing against the bulk of his holstered side arm. Marvin did his best to glare at this latest in a series of rookie partners. Benjamin, or Ben as he liked to be called, was as a freckled as Howdy Doody and twice as fresh. So, it was no surprise when Marvin‟s best glower bounced off the rookie‟s shining good nature. “I got an Ouija board at home, coulda saved us both a trip,” Marvin drawled at the passing monotony of open space. It had taken an hour before the landscape shed itself of high rises and commercial industry and became the softly rolling hills of the mid-west. “You begged me, remember?” grinned his young partner. “Enjoy the ride, Marv.” “Yeah, well, one word of this gets back to the Feds, and I will personally ….” “Don‟t worry about that. Besides, if the Feds want to use voodoo, I‟d be willing to try it. ” “Those bastards will snatch this case away so fast you‟ll catch pneumonia in the breeze.” Marvin growled. “It‟s our second dead girl in four months and the chief O.K‟d it, so what do you care?” It was a statement, not a question, and it gave Marvin heartburn. Rookies were supposed to take his lead, not dictate it. Ignoring the tightening around his senior partner‟s mouth, he cheerfully repeated the litany of evidence from both murders. “He took her without a struggle and then tossed her dead body into a gully not five miles from the intersection where her car was found. Doesn‟t that give you the creeps?” When Marvin didn‟t say anything, “Look, Marv, you‟re the one who‟s been telling me we don‟t have a single lead; no prints, no fibers, no tire tracks at either the victim‟s car or the drop-off site, right? The press is calling him The Stoplight Strangler and hinting that we got ourselves a rogue cop. Tell me that doesn‟t look bad.” “Could just as well be any uniform, Ben: EMT, lineman, medical scrubs, or even a business suit, for Chris‟ sake. Buy a badge, an overhead beacon, drive an unmarked dark sedan. It‟s been done before.” Bored with the subject, Marvin rolled down the window and tested the country air for microscopic traces of pollution. Why couldn‟t he be in a nice dark bar, hugging a sweating long-neck instead of wasting the end of his double shift consulting soothsayers—blind ones at that. But, if the old woman was going to stumble onto something important, better he be there. “How long is this gonna take?” he asked, looking at the yellowing sky. “Am I keeping you from something?” grinned Ben, reverting to his usual cheerful self.

1

Psychic/Dahlke

2

2

It was hot, Marvin was tired and the kid didn‟t mean anything by it. He gave the kid a look. “Yeah, sure, back-to-back women, all night long. That‟s why I‟m so beat.” Ben smiled at the sour humor, flipped the right-turn signal, giving the long expanse of empty road notice of his intentions and eased the car onto a bumpy dirt road and geared down to crunch slowly over the scattering of walnut hulls along the rutted, dusty road. “There it is,” he said, pointing to the farmhouse. “Home, sweet home.” A one story, one gabled, falling down clapboard with the ubiquitous screened-in front porch hunkered between a grove of leafy green trees. At the slam of car doors, a flock of pigeons were startled into flight from somewhere under the roof. They circled the men in a white halo of wings and then spread out over the tops of the orchard and disappeared. Ben rapped on the screen door, setting the door chattering in its frame. From somewhere inside a popular country music station was playing Dwight Yokum. Marvin cupped his hands at the dusty screen, squinting into the murky interior. “Nobody‟s home,” he whispered hopefully. But as Ben raised his hand again, the tiny sound of a radio was cut off mid yodel and a smoky voice called, “Ya‟ll come on in!” Ben grinned, but Marvin simply jerked a chin at his partner, holding open the screen door. “You first, Kid.” The screen door closed and they stumbled across the threshold into a darkened room. Then, like the flat gray of a developing negative, the contents of a simple living room took shape. Two windows on each side of the room filtered amber light through cracked shades pulled down to their sills. No faded hooked oval rugs covered the shiny wooden floor to trip up a blind person, nor were there any of the other do-dads Marvin expected to find in an old woman‟s house. No teacup or spoon collection, no dolls; not a porcelain pig anywhere. He‟d thought she might at least have a seeing eye dog, but there wasn‟t even an arthritic farm dog at her feet. A couple of ragged stuffed arm chairs sat side by side near an oak trestle table with a big bowl of wildly colored yarn spilling over the top. To the rear, Marvin could see into a kitchen with a door leading out to the back. Ben, still blinking, called in the general direction of the furniture, “Uh, Miz Phillips?” “I know who you are, young fella,” the whispery voice cackled from the end of the table. “Kinfolk don‟t bother to knock, they let themselves in the back door. Besides,” she said leaning forward as if letting him in on a secret, “your chief called and told me y‟all might be comin‟ out.” She was small and wrinkled, and as faded as the afgan over her bony shoulders. Her hands lay still on her lap covering some needlework she‟d probably been working on when they arrived. It was all Marvin could do to keep from laughing—Ben standing gap-mouthed, already in awe at the idea of talking to an FBI sanctioned psychic. Dumb kid. Wouldn‟t take a psychic to hear the youthfulness in Ben‟s voice. But Ben, already star struck, was unable to control his stutter. “Miz Phillips I‟m, uh, … .” Marvin, having had enough of this old hag‟s private jokes, opened an accordion folder and pulled out a stack of eight by ten crime scene photos from the latest murdered girl. Fanning them across the table, he nudged his partner into speech.

2

Psychic/Dahlke

3

3

Ben cleared his throat and tried again, “Miz Phillips, uh, we‟re hoping you can tell us, if you can, that is, please, uh, is there anything you might be able to glean from these here photos.” She didn‟t bother to pick them up, but instead turned her blind eyes toward a spot between the two men. “Mighty dry out here this time of day. There‟s a pitcher of ice tea in the fridge. The glasses‟re on the shelf to the right. Sugar‟s in a little jug, same shelf. Tell your big friend here to have an extra scoop. Looks to me like he could use it.” Then she held out her hand, keeping her face directed at that same neutral position. But, Marvin wasn‟t fooled. She was speaking directly to him, telling him to give her the photos and leave the room so she could puzzle over the flat sheets of slick paper in private. He shrugged, scooped up the photos, dumped them on her lap, and nodded for Ben to follow him out to the kitchen. In all this time, he‟d studiously managed to keep from saying a single word. Oddly enough, she‟d not spoken to him either, at least not directly. Only to Ben. Not that she was the least bit confused which one was which. There was a message in this for him somewhere and it was beginning to make him sweat. The two men stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the open refrigerator door. “How does she do that?” Ben whispered, shaking his head. Marvin lifted his shirt away from his big chest, and said in his normal voice, “Well, for one thing, I haven‟t changed clothes in twenty-four hours, and if you can‟t smell me, I‟m sure she can.” He grabbed the pitcher and sloshed dark liquid into two mason jars, skipping the sugar. Ben mopped up the spill with a neatly folded tea towel from the counter and then followed his partner into the living room. She was silently holding the photos between her hands, then surprised the two detectives by asking, “What time did the coroner say she was murdered?” Marvin smirked. The old witch was trying to squeeze enough information out of them to make her dog and pony show look real. Ben pursed his lips and shuffled through his notes. “Close as he can figure, between two and four AM.” And giving Marvin a sideways glance, added, “Any particular reason why you ask?” “No,” she shrugged, “Just making conversation. Excpt for my grand niece coming to clean twice a week, I don‟t use my speakin‟ voice much. Church on Sundays, but that‟s just the one day a week.” Her voice wound down till there was nothing but the creaking floorboards under their feet and the sound of ice tea being swallowed. The old woman sighed.“Well, might as well get started.” She picked up the first photo in the stack and rubbed the corner with a thumb and forefinger, then laid it on the table. “Dead,” she said. She held up the next one, did that touchy-feeling thing with her fingers again and laid it on top of the first. “Dead,” she said again. Then she did the same with the next five or six until she got to the last photo. She lifted it up to about waist level, as if weighing this one against the sins of the others, and said, “Not dead, but …” and went to squinting at some cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling. “Just not dead.” Then she thrust the stack at Marvin.

3

Psychic/Dahlke

4

4

*Comedian,* thought Marvin, handing the photos over to Ben. Ben rushed through the prints till he came to the last picture. As a ringer Marvin had added his own graduation photo from the academy.Sure enough, it started up another bout of “golly-gees” from Ben. “Wow! Miz‟ Phillips, you sure got him right,” he said, chuckling. “Not dead yet. Yeah, you should see the gut on my partner now. I‟d say he‟s about five burritos short of a … ,” Marvin gave him a look and Ben‟s joshing skidded to a halt. The psychic smiled kindly at Ben.“Do I pass the test, Detective?” “Oh, gosh, yes ma‟am.You sure do,” he gushed. “But, what we were hoping was,” he said, looking again at the glossies.“Uh, could you tell us what else you see, uh, besides dead?‟ Then, as if something fierce had blown across her mind‟s eye, the fun went out of the sightless eyes.Could it be that the photos had imprinted its own horror and she was seeing it all as it happened?The girl twisting under the big hands of her murderer, and that terrible moment when those once lively blue eyes had lost their light, and panning away from the scene to where there was nothing but the sigh of tall weeds covering a girl‟s body from all but a couple of can collectors stirring at the long grass for crushed aluminum. “I can‟t tell you who done it, if that‟s what you were hoping for. Oh, I can sometimes get something from the clothing of folks who are already gone, if the murderer has touched it, you got any of her clothes with you? No? Well, maybe next time.That would be nice. It might work even better.Now with photos, like these, I get feelings that bounce off the paper like radio signals, if that can explain it.Sometimes, I think it‟s left over from the folks who‟ve taken the photos, or developed them, or handled them, and seen what was there on the paper—their reactions, you see? It‟s like the dead person‟s telling their story to the photographer or this other person, and then it‟s passed on to me.” Marvin found himself stuck on the word “handled”. How many people had handled these prints before him? And what could she really tell? “You mean it‟s like some kinda psychic fingerprint?” he asked. Her smile was triumphant. And like a good teacher, she rewarded him with a clap of her hands.“Yes! That‟s just what I mean.” Marvin squirmed in his seat. He didn‟t want her applause, and he didn‟t relish being caught in the crosshairs of that sightless stare. His jaw clenched against a slow burn. For a person who was supposed to be sensitive beyond the natural range of perception, the woman appeared to be incredibly obtuse. Or was she simply toying with him, having some private party at his expense. Well it wasn‟t going to work. Marvin stood up. “This is hopeless, Ben. And I got better things to do with my time. Let‟s go.” Ben reluctantly stood. “Can‟t you at least give us a description of the perp‟s face?” “No. Sorry.”

4

Psychic/Dahlke

5

5

While Ben was still awkwardly struggling with his notes and the photos Marvin turned on his heel and slammed out the door. He‟d been right the first time. The woman was a fraud.They all were.He shouldn‟t have bothered to come. But, as he sat in the car waiting for his partner, Marvin found himself starting to sweat again. What was it she‟d said? “Not dead … not dead yet.” *Well,* thought Marvin, *Did she have something to say after all? Something she didn‟t want to share while he was in the room? Is that what was taking the kid so long?* “I guess you were right, Marv ,” Ben said as he slid into the driver‟s seat. “Other than picking out your photo she really didn‟t have much to tell us. Nice old lady, too. Sorry I wasted your time.” Marvin grunted, “Don‟t worry „bout it, Kid. Just get me back to the station, my feet are killing me.”

It was ten PM before Marvin let himself in through the kitchen door. He thought about calling out, “Hi honey, I‟m home!” But, the joke died on his lips as he thought of the job he must do. “Did you forget something, Detective?” Of course she was waiting. In the same chair as this afternoon, still holding her knitting in her lap. Waiting for him. He‟d been right to come back. Even if she was a quack, she‟d gotten something that he knew he‟d have to erase. Marvin moved around till he was standing in front of her chair. He had time. No one knew that he was coming back. He had to know how she did it.“So, you did see something in those photos after all. Anything you want to tell me?” “You made a mistake, Detective, when you added your photo to the rest of „em. I felt it then.I knew right away you‟d murdered them two girls, though I doubt I‟d ever be able to prove it.” “No, I guess you won‟t,” he said, lifting his revolver from his holster.“Whatever you told Ben after I left won‟t matter now. I took care of Ben on the way back to town. So don‟t count on any posse to the rescue.”Then he carefully took aim. But, before he could pull back the trigger, a shot rang out.The detective dropped his gun and staggered back, his eyes widened in shock. “You … you …” The distinct trail of nitrate powder drifted out from under the old woman‟s knitting. “I haven‟t always been blind, Detective.I was once a crack shot in this county. And since I lost my eyes I use every sense I own to get me where I need. Which, in this case, is alive—where I need to be as opposed to you, Detective, which if my guess is right, I shot you through the heart, and in a minute more, you will be just what I predicted—dead.” Marvin‟s body crumbled to the floor, his gun falling from his hands. Then the psychic picked up the receiver of the old rotary phone she kept close at hand and called the police, ending the mystery of the Stoplight Strangler.

5

Psychic/Dahlke

6

6

The End

6


				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:15
posted:11/9/2009
language:English
pages:6