Tom brought the car to a halt in the car park that was filled to three-quarter capacity.
“This is it” he said. “He lives here”. Daylight had faded, but night-time had not truly taken over yet, as the sky was a prussian blue, laced with grey wispy clouds. Somewhere behind them, a half moon glowed, and what little light it gave out was reflected in the windows of the block of flats which loomed above them. It looked dark and ominous. A few windows glowed yellow and orange, but even they seemed swamped by the darkness surrounding them. Malcolm looked up with a confused look of altered expectation.
“Well,” he said, “I would have thought he lived in a house, some posh place, but obviously not. He’s not that rich”. Tom nodded.
“So are we going to wait for him? You know where he lives now, and this has got nothing to do with me, so I don’t want to be waiting for hours for someone who you think can get in touch with your parents, who you’re willing to give money to”.
“He can get in touch with my dad. I told you about Ian, didn’t I?” Tom nodded.
“A set-up. If Ian had have caught you, he would have done nothing”.
“Oh really? So why did he die in the attempt to get to me? If he’d have caught me, he’d have killed me”.
“Still, though. I reckon this Curio is just another con-man. If you want to throw money at him, then fine, go right ahead”. Malcolm looked out of the window for a few moments. He could barely make anything out, and nothing moved.
“Money”, said Malcolm, looking back. “That’s one thing I’m short of”.
“Aren’t we all?” said Tom, who then frowned and said: “Hold on, no, what am I saying? I’ve got buckets of the stuff”.
“Thing is…” said Malcolm, but before he could continue, Tom grinned and said:
“How much do you want? If it’s to give to him, you can forget it”. He pointed at the block of flats.
“Curio said last time, he wouldn’t get in touch with my Dad again, because he was dealing with dangerous forces, but the thing is, of the other psychics I’ve been to, Curio’s been the most…correct, so I need to persuade him. I just hope my Dad is speaking to me now”. Tom shook his head.
“Honestly. You believe this now, don’t you? You’re asking me to give you money to give to Curio, so he can talk to your Father?”.
“He was the one who discovered where my Mum was, and spoke to my Dad who led me to Ian. He must have something”.
“If he can get money out of gullible people then that’s a gift,” said Tom. Malcolm sighed. All was quiet for a few moments.
“I can’t let you have it for nothing,” said Tom. “I know you probably won’t be able to pay me back, so perhaps a favour would be in order”.
“I don’t know, I haven’t thought of it yet. How much do you want?”
“How about a hundred?” Tom looked at him with complete distaste.
“A hundred? You want a hundred to give to him?” He pointed at the flats again, and continued:
“Don’t forget, he can probably just tell you anything he likes and pocket the cash. Actually, that’s what they probably all do”.
“I’m not sure whether a hundred will be enough, though. Perhaps he might want more”.
“Well, see how much he wants, then come back and tell me”. Malcolm got out of the car and closed the door. Tom got out also and locked the vehicle.
“I’m not waiting here while you go up there. What if he does your reading there and then?” he said, “You could be ages. How’s that going to make me look if I just drive away? Anyway, I can tell whether or not if he’s genuine. I’ve only seen con-men so far. I wonder if this one can prove me wrong. I doubt it”.
“What do you have in mind?” asked Malcolm as they walked across to the entrance.
“Nothing. I’m just going to observe. That’s all”. He pressed the round, steel button of number 38, and waited. Silence hung around them like fog. It was broken by a loud crackle and a hazy voice.
“Hello,” it said.
“Curio Enchantment? This is Malcolm, remember? You’ve given me two readings. I need to speak to you again”.
“Are you with Melissa?”.
“No. I’m with Tom, a friend”. There was a pause, followed by what Malcolm thought was a sigh.
“Come up,” he said. There was a loud buzz as the door allowed them through. They walked into a dimly lit hallway. The flats seemed as though they were not occupied. The fog of silence followed them, their footsteps reverberating throughout the corridor. They walked its length, looking for the stairs, and eventually found them at the end, near a lift. Tom tried opening the door, but it would not budge. It looked as though it was stuck between floors. Malcolm pointed at the stairs.
“Come on, it’s good exercise” he said.
They began their ascent to the fifth floor.
“So who’s this Melissa?” asked Tom.
“She and some other students are doing a group project at uni, about the paranormal or something, and she’s using the readings I’ve had as part of it. As it’s related to what their doing, a documentary, she’s incorporated my ‘investigations’, I suppose, into it. It’s part of her coursework”. They reached the corridor.
“Is she nice? Do you fancy her?” Malcolm smiled, and said nothing. His face reddened slightly, but in the poor light, Tom couldn’t see it. They reached Curio’s door, and Malcolm knocked.
“Nevermind that,” he said. “How’s Ryvak coming along?”. Tom looked surprised .
“Didn’t I tell you?” he said. “Ryvak is no more,” He lifted both his arms in the air, his hands in fists. The door opened.
“Ryvak is closed”. Curio leaned against the door frame.
“Ryvak?” he said, “Isn’t that some research company?” Tom’s hands shot down.
“Er..yes. I heard that they’re closing. They won’t be using animals to experiment on now. Lack of funds or something”. Curio nodded, and looked at Malcolm, who was looking at Tom with a cynical expression. He looked at Curio.
“I meant what I said,” said Curio.
“If I can at least just try,” he said. “I’ve been to other psychics”.
“Really?” He stepped back and nodded for them to come in. They walked into the living room, trying to make it seem as if they were not looking around.
“Sit down,” said Curio, gesturing to the well worn, food stained rex two seater sofa. Curio sat in the armchair, opposite the television which was off. A small lamp in a corner illuminated the room.
“I’m afraid I cannot perform such an act without some form of recompense,” Curio said. “It’s like asking me to just enter an enemy compound, rescue your daughter, and walk out. There are forces in this universe that are unexplored, and these I believe, can present differing levels of danger. Also differing levels of positivity. These energies are balanced out, each having an opposite. Now what these represent, or perform is something I cannot answer. Now when I contact your father, a negative, hostile energy comes through, and from within it, he emerges. What he has dealt with, and what he is still doing out there, I do not know. Now if you wish for me to bring him here, in this room, I will be metaphorically playing with fire, and if you wish for me to play with fire, then I’m going to require an incentive. Do you wish for me to perform this now?”.
“What would it take? Actually, maybe you could get in touch with my mother, or Ian, if my Dad still isn’t speaking”. Curio was quiet for a few moments.
“Do you know how serious this is? I know you’re not a true believer, but you’re at least 98% there, I can see”.
“You were right, though Curio. You were closer than the other psychics. Ian was real”. Curio nodded.
“The forces I am involved with are as real as that sofa, that window, as real as you or I, or Tom”. Tom had been surveying the room, and looked around at the mention of his name.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” said Curio, still looking at Malcolm. Tom continued surveying the room, and when he found nothing of interest, looked back and listened to Curio.
“….and this, spirit world, is equally as factual as this, real world. The occupants of that world have passed through this existence, so can be contacted. Some psychics will cold read, leap on information you give them and tell you things that they couldn’t possibly know without unknowing assistance from the believer. Unlike them, I actually do commune with the other side. I have proven the existence of the paranormal. Five bodies in a row must say something, must point to some form of truth that science cannot answer. Basically, the spirit world exists, and that’s a fact. Your mother, father, and Ian are there, within the differing levels of energy and forces. Within the most sorrowful, most negative, those who are dealing with these forces dwell. It is where they went after death. That is an area of the spirit world where I would wish not to venture. Ever used a ouija board?” Malcolm shook his head.
“Nor have I,” said Curio. “They are like gateways directly to these negative forces. I’m not an expert. I wouldn’t entirely call myself a professional. Maybe other people would, but I am rather like a person who is progressing through the ranks of the martial arts grading system. I’m not quite a black belt, but I’m close. I know one day I will have to learn a ouija board, and to understand these forces, but they are for the more advanced than I, for the black belts, the professionals. You cannot learn to swim by just throwing yourself in at the deep end. You cannot run a marathon on your first day of training. I learnt that when I saw your father. It ‘hurt’ speaking with him, and I mean ‘hurt’. I am very reluctant to do it again. However. I will do it for a price, but please, do not ask me again until I am versed. It could be many years, but it is certainly not here, not now”.
“Wouldn’t it be good practise though?” interjected Tom.
“Yes. It would,” said Curio. “It is still painful, and I honestly do not wish to venture there again, but I will do it for an incentive, or ask me again at a later date, if I am ready”. There were a few moments silence.
“Just ask them what all this ‘realm of the partisan’ means’” said Malcolm. “This virus, and why on earth my father killed my mother. Well, just get him to talk about it, or my mother, or Ian”, Curio nodded, looked at Tom, then back at Malcolm.
“How much?” Malcolm asked. “What will it take?”
“Five hundred. No less. You have no idea of the forces I am dealing with”.
“Five hundred!” He looked at Tom with wide, surprised eyes. Tom shook his head, but did not speak. Malcolm sighed, then stood up.
“No less?” he asked.
“No. I’m sorry. It’s the way it has to be”. Malcolm nodded, solemnly, then turned and headed for the door.
“Come on Tom, I want to go home”. He opened the door and walked out. Tom was still sitting on the sofa, looking in the direction of where Malcolm had left. He then looked at Curio, shrugged, then stood up, bid farewell, and followed Malcolm.
He was soon walking across the car-park to where Malcolm was leaning against the car. They were soon closing the doors behind them. Tom started the engine.
“Well?” asked Malcolm. “Was he genuine?”. Tom gave a slight, wry smile, and pulled away.
“Maybe,” he said, leaving the car park. Curio watched them from his window. He sighed, closed his eyes, and turned away.