Chapter 1 - The Gift
The phone rang. It was one of those candlestick phones from a 40’s film you see reporters and policemen use. Robin picked it up by the stick with his left hand while his right hand removed the earpiece from the switch hook and put it to his ear. He put the microphone close to his mouth and spoke.
“Hello, Mrs. Johnson. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Mr. Oracle.”
“To what do I owe this call today?” He asked.
Mrs. Johnson was a regular client. He already knew what she was calling about, but he had finally decided to let the clients tell him first. He had scared a lot of people away by being “too” psychic. They did want a psychic to help them, but they also needed someone to talk to. A big part of their calling him was so that they could tell him, in their own manner, what their problems were and then have him talk awhile before he came up with answers. A lot of them were put off because he knew too much too soon. So he learned to listen first and respond later at the appropriate time.
“I just wanted to thank you again for Walter’s will and everything.”
“I’m glad I could help. I’m just sorry it didn’t turn out better.”
He felt a twinge of embarrassment making that comment, but she didn’t seem to be affected by it in the least. She merely continued as if he had said nothing at all.
“I met the other…” she paused a second or two, “Uh…. family members. There was more than enough money to go around, and since none of us knew about Walter’s little indiscretions, we decided to honor the will for the good of all of the children involved.”
Little indiscretions…? The man was a bigamist. Or is it Trigamist? After all, he had three families he was juggling under the guise of being a cross-country truck driver – not just two, Robin thought. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall for that little meeting.
In reality, Walter Johnson owned the tractor, but he never had to work a day driving it. He was actually a multimillionaire in secret. He had won a hundred million dollars in the Irish sweepstakes, invested a great deal in the right places and managed to more than quadruple his original winnings.
He maintained all three families very well. None of them were wanting for anything. The kicker was that not one of them suspected he was anything more than Walt the truck driver. Even the guys he met at the truck stops all thought he was one of them. In a way he was, because he took the courses, got his license to operate a tractor rig, and bought a new Peter Built Semi with all the comforts inside, but he had never pulled a load for anyone. The trailer was always empty.
His balancing act was working very well until he was accidentally killed J-walking across Balboa Avenue in San Diego.
One of Robin’s gifts is the ability to talk to people who are deceased. He met Mr. Johnson’s spirit the month before, while searching for the body of a child that had been brutally murdered. Mr. Johnson asked Robin to tell his wives about the will and see to it they were all taken care of. It was then that he was finally able to cross over in peace.
All Robin could think of to say to her was: “I’m glad to hear that, Mrs. Johnson.”
“So everything is working out for the best, I guess. I’m richer now than I had ever dreamed I could be and my children will be very well off when they finally grow up and move away.”
“How are the Kids?” He asked, hoping to change the subject to something less awkward.
“Well, Robert is twelve, June is ten, and Emily is six this month. She just had a birthday on the first. Time seems to fly by, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday that Robert was a baby.”
“Yes, it does, Mrs. Johnson.” The summer I spent dead I lost eighteen months. Felt like a long dream. “Tell Emily, ‘I hope she had a Happy Birthday’ for me. Okay?”
“Of course, Robin. She loves the Hello Kitty outfit you bought her.”
“I’m glad to hear that, now what can I do for you today?”
“I heard you were getting married to Nancy Velvet’s daughter next spring – Malissa, isn’t it?”
Is she ever going to get to the point of this call? He thought, but he said, “Yes, that’s right. We’re planning it now. We haven’t been able to locate a church to have the ceremony, yet, because everyone is booked up for the month – except Vegas, of course, but we don’t want to have the wedding there because our honeymoon is going to be in Hawaii – plus, we don’t really want a “quickie” wedding.”
“Really? That’s terrific,” she said enthusiastically.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Oh, no – I didn’t mean it that way. I was going to say that I was having trouble thinking of what kind of wedding gift to give you two. I mean, after all, what do you give a psychic and how do you surprise him? So I just had a thought: I’m going to pay for your wedding and honeymoon.”
“You don’t have to do that, we don’t have a money problems…”
That was true. Robin had used his psychic abilities to win a small fortune from the tables in Las Vegas to the California Indian Casinos. He invested well and had become quite wealthy. He and Malissa would never need to worry about money.
“Nonsense,” She interrupted, as if Robin were her 10 year old. “I have more money than I could spend in five lifetimes, besides, I want to do this.”
“That’s kind of you, Mrs. Johnson, but…”
She cut him off. “No, Robin. I won’t hear a word of it. In fact, I just had a great idea. Since you are going to Hawaii to Honeymoon anyway, why not get married at sea? I’ll charter the boat and…”
It was Robin’s turn to interrupt her, “But what about the guests? What about the best man?”
“No problem Robin, I’ll cover all the expenses,” she said simply.
“It would have to be a pretty big boat…” he began.
“Then we’ll just have to book a cruise. The guests can stay in Hawaii a week and fly home. You and your bride can stay on a couple of more weeks and fly back then. How about it…?”
“I don’t know… Why would you do all that for me?”
“First, because it will be fun; and second, because it’s the least I can do for our San Diego Angel.”
She said the “A” word! Am I ever going to live that down?
He had earned that nickname from his first big case. A serial killer had kidnapped a little girl and Robin helped to rescue her by using his psychometric powers. Her mother dubbed him an Angel, the press picked it up, and the name stuck. Now almost everyone calls him The Angel of San Diego, much to his dismay. Fortunately, his close circle of friends all know better than to call him “The Angel,” but other people continue to bring it up.
“Mrs. Johnson, I don’t think that’s a good ide…”
“No, no, Robin,” she interrupted. “I won’t hear of it. I’ll get back to you soon,” and she hung up.
Robin sat looking at the earpiece in his right hand as if he could see her in it. “I must be slipping Mrs. Johnson, I would have sworn you called about your missing Pomeranian,” he told it. He put the receiver back on the hook and said, “You’ll find him soon enough anyway. He’s in the backyard digging up the flower beds again.”
As he put the phone back on the desk, he looked up at the clock. Six O’ Clock – time to leave. I’m so glad I cut back my hours. I’m not sleeping in this lumpy chair and I’m finally getting some decent meals, he thought. He patted his stomach, “Maybe too many decent meals,” he said aloud.
The real reason he cut back his hours was Malissa. That’s Malissa with an “A”. Now she was a real dream come true. They met and fell in love in a dream. They dated for 10 months by dream-sharing. They finally met in real life, because Nancy, his roommate, and friend, was her mother.
Before meeting Nancy, Robin had been homeless; sleeping in open doorways, under freeway overpasses, and in the cement viaducts, which run through the city to the ocean. Normally these cement rivers are dry except for a small rivulet trickling down the center.
Unfortunately, there came the day when a freak storm in the mountains caused a flash flood through the one viaduct he had chosen to sleep in. It washed him out with a torrent of water. Before he knew what had happened, he was struck in the head by a log washing along with the flood. When he came to, he was in the hospital. It was then he was informed that he had been dead for eighteen months.
By a stroke of luck, he had signed a donor card leaving his body to science so, instead of being cremated or buried in a pauper’s grave, his body ended up in a lab. The doctor who received his body was conducting brain experiments with electrodes he implanted in Robin’s head. There was a machine that sent small electrical pulses into Robin’s brain. The doctors had hoped to record the reactions and learn more about how the brain operates. The only glitch was that after eighteen months of shocking his brain, Robin started living again. The doctors still don’t understand how or why Robin was brought back to life.
The day after they discharged him, he found himself wandering through a psychic fair in Balboa Park. It was there that he met Nancy. She was using the name of Madame Velvet the Psychic Reader. It was through her he discovered that he had psychic abilities. His powers, or “gifts” as Nancy liked to call them, grew stronger each day until he had surpassed her… and they were still growing.
He started the Psychic Detective Agency and the Hot Line to help people find their lost things. Eventually he hoped to solve crimes and help with missing person cases. That day finally came in the form of a serial killer who preyed on children.
It was during that case that he met Nancy’s daughter, Malissa in person.
Robin turned off the desk lamp, grabbed his hat and gloves, and headed down the stairs to the street. He walked past the coffeehouse, turned right at the corner, and headed for the back parking lot.
He could see Nancy’s car sitting there, waiting for him. It was a shiny blue pacer. He had bought it for her a week ago. The car cost more than a new one would because they are now considered collector’s items since they became obsolete.
Robin removed his right glove and placed his palm on the top of the car. Nothing tricky here… he put his glove back on and opened the door. He started the car, pulled into the street, and headed for home in El Cajon.
To the average person it might look strange to see him do this, but the last time he drove a car without “checking”, it almost got him killed. A serial killer had put a bomb in it and if not for an unscheduled stop for a newspaper, he would have been blown to bits. As it was, the car disintegrated into a pile of rubble. A tie rod speared his shoulder, narrowly missing his heart. Fortunately, his body heals faster than normal, so there was little left but a small scar where his chest was pierced.
When he got home he parked the Pacer on the private drive and climbed the twenty-seven steps to the front walk. Nancy’s house had a covered porch. To the left of the door were an old fashioned glider, a wrought iron table, and three ornate chairs. The porch stretched around to the left side of the house where there were several other chairs, tables, and another glider. The front door was a dark mahogany colored solid wood door with an oval stained glass window depicting humming birds in flight in the center of it. Robin climbed the three steps to the porch, walked up to the door, grasped the brass doorknob, and opened it.
She never locks her door, he thought as he removed his hat and stepped into the foyer.