Authors: LL Bartlett
|When The Spirit Moves You (The Jeff Resnick Mysteries)|
|Jeff Resnick [4.50]|
Jeff Resnick's curiosity is piqued when he sees a sign advertising
psychic readings. At first he's sure the medium is a fake, but then his
funny feelings lead him to suspect that a murder has taken place in the
dilapidated house where Madam Zahara holds her readings. Just who died
and how? And why is Jeff compelled to look for bodies buried in the
Jeff Resnick's curiosity is piqued when he sees a sign advertising psychic readings. At first he's sure the medium is a fake, but then his funny feelings lead him to suspect that a murder has taken place in the dilapidated house where Madam Zahara holds her readings. Just who died and how? And why is Jeff compelled to look for bodies buried in the medium’s yard?
When The Spirit Moves You
A Jeff Resnick Story
By L.L. Bartlett
Copyright © 2011 by L.L. Bartlett ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously--and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
Other Print & Electronic Books by L.L. Bartlett
The Jeff Resnick Mysteries
When The Spirit Moves You (A Jeff Resnick Mystery)
(A Jeff Resnick Mystery)
(A Jeff Resnick Mystery)
* * *
This short story takes place after the Jeff Resnick novel DEAD IN RED.
When The Spirit Moves You
A Jeff Resnick Story
By L.L. Bartlett
I’d passed the hulking, ramshackle house every few days for the last three months on my way home from my girlfriend Maggie Brennan’s house. The yard hadn’t seen the services of a lawnmower or weed whacker in quite some time. But it was the glowing pink-and-green neon sign that seemed to call to me: PSYCHIC $10.
Since I got whacked on the head with a Reggie Jackson baseball bat last winter, I can sometimes sense people’s emotions. And sometimes I know stuff about them, and it’s usually not good. I don’t consider myself a psychic. No way. In fact, I’ve come to view that as a dirty word. But being mugged by a couple of teenage thugs changed me. Slammed my brains into my thick skull—mooshed them up a bit—and . . . now I’m not the same as I was before. Not the same at all.
It was all still pretty new to me, and I wasn’t sure I always trusted the feelings—insight—that came to me. I mean, I did—and I didn’t want to.
But that day I had an extra ten-dollar bill in my wallet and I decided—why not test it? If the person advertising such a trait was for real, I might find a kindred spirit. If not—okay, when you’re broke, ten bucks is a lot of money, but I had a roof over my head, a part-time job and, thanks to the generosity of my older half brother, I was nowhere near starving. Maybe it was the neon that seduced me on that hot August afternoon when I found myself pulling into the gravel drive.
The sign on the lawn said “For Entertainment Only,” but I was pretty sure the gullible would expect something more than that. And why was I so intrigued anyway? My friend Sophie Levin was like me. The old Polish lady didn’t like the word psychic either. She read auras—or as she put it, she “saw colors” and then
I looked through the car’s passenger-side window at what once might have been a lovely home. Hard times had fallen on the old two-story house. Was it supposed to be a poor man’s Tara? The Corinthian columns that held up the porch roof were rotted at the base. Flaked paint chips the size of oatmeal cookies hung from the weathered clapboards. A rusty Buick LeSabre with current plates sat parked at the side of the house. Apparently psychic-for-hire was not a particularly lucrative proposition.
I got out of my car, my footsteps crunching on the gravel as I made my way to the porch steps. They creaked under my feet. Were they rotted enough to collapse or should I trust them to hold my weight?
The porch floorboards groaned under me as I shifted my weight and raised my hand to knock on the old screen door. A woman’s voice called out. “I’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?”
The words were disconcerting. I’d only decided to drop in on a whim. Or maybe that was part of her shtick.
I opened the wooden screen door and stepped inside. The interior didn’t look much better than the exterior, but at least it was neat and tidy. A broad staircase wound up to the second floor. Only a few of its balusters were missing. The entry’s floor was in desperate need of sanding and refinishing, and some of the old oak was warped and a large portion of it was discolored from water. A glance at the stained ceiling told me where the problem had originated. Probably from a bathroom.
In here,” the female voice called again.
I crossed the entryway to a side parlor and shuddered. Something in that room was not right. From her position behind a small square table, the woman could see straight through the window should any customers pull up the drive and approach the steps.
The room had little charm. The cracked and chipped brick hearth was in as sad a shape as the mantle, which had once been painted white. Instead of a fire, seven or eight white vanilla-scented pillar candles of different heights glowed in the old fireplace, and appeared to be the only source of heat or light in the gloomy room.
Two sheet-covered side chairs flanked the mantle, but instead of shabby chic, they just looked shabby—as did the faded wallpaper which, like the ceiling in the entryway, had its share of water stains around the windows. A tall, newish cabinet held up the wall behind me. No doubt a TV was stashed behind the closed doors. I’d bet the days were long and the customers few and far between, and soap operas and game shows helped to the pass the hours.
Please, sit,” she invited, and waved a hand at the worn upholstered chair before her.
I did as asked and, apart from feeling foolish, a growing disquiet seemed to radiate through me. I tried to shake it off and concentrated on the woman before me.
Talk about adopting a stereotype. The table was covered in a couple of layers of jewel-toned tablecloths and what looked like a lacy white shawl draped on top. A massive crystal ball sat in the middle of the table, and in front of the woman was a neatly stacked deck of worn Tarot cards.
I looked up into the woman’s piercing blue eyes. She must have been in her early fifties, overweight, with a lined face and jet-black, shoulder-length wavy hair held back from her left ear by a rhinestone dragonfly clip. Seated behind the table like that, I could only see that she had on a white blouse with a black shawl drawn over her shoulders. But I suspected her outfit included a long dark skirt hidden beneath the table. Despite the candles, the pong of cigarette smoke still hung in the air. A trace of white on the edge of the table told me she’d hastily ditched her ashtray—probably onto her lap.
I ask that my clients pay in advance, if you wouldn’t mind.”
Sure.” I grabbed the wallet from my left back pocket, withdrew the ten-dollar bill and offered it to her. She grabbed the money and stowed it under the table.
Now, how can I help you, Mister—?”
Resnick. Jeffrey Resnick,” I supplied.
Her eyes flashed and seemed to give me a quick once-over—evaluating me, and perhaps my stupidity factor.
I saw your sign and wondered what you could tell me about . . . things.”
That sounded lame, but I really didn’t know what I expected. Probably just to find out what kind of cock-n-bull story she’d hand me. I get vibes from people, and so far the only vibe I got from this lady was that she had just robbed me of ten bucks.
I can contact the spirit world in a number of ways. Via the crystal, the Tarot, or through my animal guide. How would you like me to proceed, Mr. Resnick?”
Animal guide? Cat? Horse? Rhinoceros?
“I have no preference.”
She nodded, moved the cards to one side, and pulled the crystal ball toward her. Leaning forward, she held her hands inches over the glass orb and gazed into it, her blue eyes going wide, her whole act looking kind of hokey to me. The ball’s short gold-tone base was peeling on the side closest to me, not unlike the paint and wallpaper around us.
I see you’ve fallen on hard times,” she said, still gazing into the ball. She was one to talk. And did she have the gift of clairvoyance or had she deduced that by the wreck I’d parked outside her window, and the fact my shoes needed a shine?
Go on,” I urged her.
You have not been well.”
Another brilliant deduction. After the mugging that had almost killed me five months before, I’d lost weight and had never gained it back. I wasn’t exactly gaunt, but I could have used another five or ten pounds to help me stand upright on a blustery day.
What else do you see?” I asked.
She seemed to be puzzling over the crystal for an awfully long time and I was getting antsy. This wasn’t much of a show for ten bucks.
It was then I noticed movement over her shoulder and in the darkest corner of the room. I squinted. I hadn’t imagined it. A forty-something white man stood there. He had brown hair and a really bad haircut, dressed in dark slacks and a plaid flannel shirt. Funny thing was, I hadn’t seen or heard him enter the room.
The feeling of disquiet grew within me.
I was about to ask the woman who the guy was, but he held up his right hand and pressed his index finger to his lips as though to shush me.
I sat back in my chair and frowned. I hadn’t expected an expanded audience at this little performance.
I’m curious about this house. Have you lived here long?” I asked the woman.
She waved a hand in the air as though batting away a pesky insect. “That has no bearing on your future—or your past,” she said with the slightest bit of an edge to her tone. “I see trouble ahead for you.”
What kind of trouble?”
With the police.”
Oh yeah? “A traffic ticket?”
She shook her head. “Something much more serious.”
As I’d already helped track down two killers in the short time I’d been back in Buffalo, I found her observation oddly disturbing. I’d figured she was a blatant fraud. Now I wasn’t so sure.
I looked back to the corner of the room but the guy in the plaid shirt was gone.
How? He hadn’t made a sound and I swear he never walked past the fortuneteller’s table to escape the room.
Where the hell had he gone?
Thanks to my stop for psychic entertainment, I was late getting home for dinner that night. I live in the apartment over the garage on my brother’s property, and I often join him and his wife for meals at their house, although house was a bit of a misnomer. Mansion wasn’t quite right, either, but came pretty close. At any rate, it was a comfortable arrangement.
That night my sister-in-law, Brenda, had roasted a chicken, and had included all the fixings. Whipped potatoes, homemade sage-and-onion stuffing, peas, salad, and a bowl of jellied cranberry sauce, along with a plate mounded with grocery store dinner rolls.