Emily looped her arm through Boyd’s arm as they made their way into the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne’s CBD. The large number of people attending tonight’s Psychic Medium Seminar surprised Emily.
Banners and posters promoting their host, “Molly Williamson Internationally Renowned Psychic Medium”, were positioned throughout the foyer. Each banner displayed the smiling head shot of an attractive blonde woman in her early thirties.
Emily and Boyd made their way into the conference room. She presented her phone to the smiling male Usher standing at the door. The Usher scanned the barcode code from Emily’s electronic ticket.
‘You’re seated in row four, seats eleven and twelve. You can access them off to your left,’ the Usher said, gesturing into the room. ‘Have a good evening.’
Below the drop-in elevated stage, the conference room had been divided into three sections of seating, similar to most movie cinemas, with an aisle separating each group of seats.
As they made their way along the left hand aisle towards row four, Emily was taken aback by the number of seats in the room, all of which were filling fast. Who would’ve thought this many people believed in this stuff…
Boyd checked the seat numbers on the rows. He counted along. ‘Eleven and twelve. That’s us there near the middle,’ he said.
Emily and Boyd edged their way along to their allocated seats. Emily exchanged a smile to those who contorted their legs to the side so Emily and Boyd could pass.
They didn’t have to wait long before the room lights dimmed. A male voice-over introduced the evening’s special guest, Molly Williamson. The elevated stage burst into light.
The Medium trotted onto the stage to a reception worthy of a rock star. Most people in the room stood and applauded.
Emily glanced at Boyd. ‘Should we stand…?’
Boyd shook his head. ‘Nuh. We don’t even know who she is…’
‘Yes we do…’ Emily pointed to the blurb written on the program booklet. ‘It says here, she is a world-renowned medium and clairvoyant with an amazing ability to communicate with those who have passed on to the other side,’ Emily read with a cynical tone.
Boyd rolled his eyes at Emily.
The Medium moved around the stage like a seasoned performer as she addressed the audience. She was bubbly and upbeat. Her headset microphone projected her voice across the crowded room.
After she explained the evening’s expectations, she began interacting with the audience.
‘Who in this room has psychic skills….?’ She moved to the other side of the stage. ‘Come on…who amongst you is a practicing Medium…? Stand up if you have Medium experience.’
Emily glanced around the room. About fifty people, mostly women, stood up.
‘Fantastic,’ Molly said. She shielded her eyes as she scanned the audience. ‘Wow, there are a lot you. Isn’t that great?’ She moved to her left side of the stage. ‘Let’s start over here. Who is this area is currently working as a Medium?’
Several hands were raised from those standing.
‘That’s great.’ She gestured to an elderly lady standing around row six. ‘What’s your name, please?’
An Usher rushed to the standing woman and handed her a microphone.
‘Um, my name is Agnes…’
‘Hi Agnes…Thank you for coming along tonight.’
‘Thanks for your 140 bucks, she means,’ Boyd whispered out the side of his mouth. Emily smiled at his cynical humour.
‘And you are currently working as a Medium, is that correct?’
‘I am. I help people communicate with loved ones who have passed on…’
‘How long have you been doing that?’
‘Over thirty years.’
‘That is great. Let’s give Agnes a hand everybody,’ Molly said as she trotted to the other side of the stage.
The room erupted into applause.
‘What about over this side…? Who over here has done some work, other than what Agnes does…?’
A number of hands went up.
Molly pointed to another elderly woman. ‘Ok...We have another lovely lady standing over here. What is your name…?’
An Usher ran to the woman and handed her a microphone.
‘Hi. My name is Betty.’
‘Hi Betty. Thank you for coming along tonight. Please tell us what work you use your special Mediumship skills in…’
‘I assist law enforcement, mostly with investigations into missing people…’
‘Wow…’ Molly said as she moved back to centre stage. ‘And how long have you been doing that, Betty?’
‘Around 25 years…’
‘How many successful outcomes have you assisted with over that time?’
‘I’ve assisted law enforcement with many successful cases,’ Betty said.
Boyd leaned closer to Emily. ‘That’s not what she asked…Way to avoid answering the question, Betty,’ he said.
Emily grinned as she gently nudged Boyd.
Molly thanked everyone and asked them to sit back down. For the next twenty to thirty minutes Molly pranced around the stage talking about the special skills of a Psychic Medium. She provided several anecdotal examples from own her experiences.
Emily and Boyd exchanged a brief glance. Each was clearly bored by the self-adulation of the proceedings.
Molly explained the various ways a Psychic Medium could help almost anyone. She cited families, law enforcement cases – cold and current and private investigators.
Boyd leaned closer to Emily. ‘Learning anything…?’ he whispered out the side of his mouth.
‘Not really…’ Emily said in a disappointed tone.
‘What do ya reckon...?’ Boyd began. ‘Give her ten more minutes and if it doesn’t get any better…we bail…?’
Emily nodded. ‘Deal…’
The cynical side of Emily started to criticise most things Molly the Medium said. She wasn’t learning anything about why these people visited her in the night.
This whole seminar was a disguised promotion for Molly’s books, or her training seminars and on-line courses. She couldn’t help but feel like they had been scammed out of $280.
That was until the direction of the evening took a turn when Molly next addressed the audience. ‘Who here tonight is new to Mediumship…?’ She scanned the room. Six or so hands went up. ‘Come on, you can do better than that. Who here tonight has had encounters with people who have passed, but they don’t know, or understand why they are having these encounters…?’ More hands went up.
Emily’s eyebrows arched. She and Boyd exchanged a glance. This was getting closer to what she came to hear.
‘Come on…don’t be shy….Put your hand up if you are being visited by someone you think may have passed to the other side.’
Emily scanned the room at all the raised hands. Boyd gently nudged Emily. ‘Go on…put your hand up,’ he said. ‘This is why we came here, isn’t it…?’
‘I feel a little uncomfortable…but OK.’ Emily raised her hand.
Emily’s late hand raise caught Molly’s attention. She moved over closer to Emily and glanced straight down at her. Emily’s pulse quickened when Molly pointed to Emily.
‘Down here...’ Molly said as she gestured to Emily. ‘Would you mind standing up please…?’
Emily exchanged a brief, nervous glance with Boyd. Boyd nodded his reassurance.
Emily slowly stood from her seat. A male usher edged his way along the row and handed her a microphone.
‘What is your name, please?’ Molly asked.
For a brief moment it was like she was attending one of those group meetings where she felt she should stand up and say something like, Hi I’m Emily and I’m an alcoholic. What she did say was, ‘Emily…’
‘Hi Emily?’ Molly moved across the stage. ‘Come on everybody…’ she said as she gestured back towards Emily. ‘Let’s give Emily a warm welcome…’
The room burst into thunderous applause.
She made her way back to Emily. ‘Tell me this Emily…Are you a believer…? Do you believe in the afterlife…?’
Emily paused her answer. Should she be truthful in front of all these people, or should she play along and make out she was a believer, even though she was far from it? Her eyes dropped to a grinning Boyd. She went with truth. ‘If I am being honest… no, I’m not…’ Emily said.
‘That’s OK. Emily. Thank you for your honesty. Don’t feel embarrassed. But what would you say if I told you that after tonight, you will believe in the afterlife…?’
How do I answer that…? Emily again looked to Boyd. He smiled up at her. She knew that smile. It was his, ‘don’t look at me, you’re on your own,’ smile. He clearly found this quite entertaining.
Emily eventually said, ‘We’ll have to wait and see…’
Molly moved to the edge of the stage, closest to where Emily stood. ‘Have you recently had a visit from a person from the other side?’
‘I have. From several people.’
‘Wait…You have been visited by more than one person… Is that correct?’
’How many have visited you?
‘Four or five…’
‘Wow…That’s fantastic,’ Molly said as she scanned the audience. ‘When was the last visit?’
‘Two days ago…’
‘That is great. What do these people say to you when they visit you?’
‘See, that’s the thing that I don’t understand…they don’t say anything. They just stare at me…’
‘I see. And this frightens you..?’ she asked knowingly.
‘Scares the hell out of me…’
Molly beckoned towards Emily. ‘Why don’t you come up here on stage with me and we’ll talk about this further…’
Emily’s eyes dropped to Boyd. He smirked at her. ‘Go on…go and get converted,’ he whispered.
‘Come on Emily… don’t be afraid, we’re all your friends here…’ Molly said.
Emily edged her way to the aisle. A waiting Usher took the microphone from her and she made her way to the stage.
‘Come on everyone…Let’s give Emily a big hand for being so brave…’ Molly said.
The room erupted into applause.
Molly met Emily as she reached the top step. In the background male roadies placed two lounge chairs centre stage.
She extended her hand to Emily. ‘Hi Emily, I’m Molly. Lovely to meet you.’ They shook hands.
Molly gently guided Emily towards the lounge chairs. She gestured for Emily to sit. Emily’s chair had a hand-held microphone on it. Emily lifted the microphone and sat. The two chairs were angled towards each other.
Emily glanced nervously back towards Boyd. The blinding lights prevented her seeing beyond the first few rows of faces staring back at her. Her mouth was dry. Her heart pounded in her chest. She was now well outside her comfort zone. All she could think of was, I hope this is worth it.
‘Now Emily, you said that these people who visit you, just stare at you…Is that correct? They don’t actually say, or do anything…’
‘That’s right.’ She could hear her voice projected over the PA system.
’And is that what scares you?’
’Well, that and the fact they are there. I don’t understand why they visit me…’
‘Because you have the gift…’ Molly said.
Emily frowned in response. The Gift, she thought. Here we go…
’Not everyone has the gift, but you obviously do. These people who have passed, seek out those of us still living, those of us who have this special gift that allows us to see them, to talk to them…That is why you are being visited.’
The cynic in Emily only heard bullshit… She decided to play along. ‘OK, then if they have sought me out, why don’t they speak to me? They just stare at me.’
‘That is a good question…’ Molly said. She addressed the audience. ‘Who amongst us here tonight came across a common house spider — like a huntsman, for example — when you were young and your parents told you that the spider was more scared of you than you were of it…?’
Several hands went up, accompanied by muffled giggles.
Molly continued. ‘These people who visit us from the afterlife are just like those spiders…Well, they’re not arachnids of course, but like those spiders, they are actually more scared of you than you are of them.’
‘I’m not so sure about that…’ Emily said. ‘I’m pretty darn scared of these people.’
Chuckling laughter filled the room.
Molly again addressed the audience. ’Who here has seen the movie, Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osman and our very own Aussie, Toni Collette…?’
Not surprisingly, almost every hand in the room went up.
’In that movie Haley Joel Osment’s character, Cole Sear, was visited by a number of ghosts…people who had passed on. You will all remember his well-known line, “I see dead people”…’
A muffled murmuring flowed up from the audience.
‘Well, he did see dead people, and they frightened him…’ she turned to Emily, ‘Just like they frighten you, Emily.’ Her focus returned to the audience. ‘But in the movie he was too frightened to tell anyone about these visits…Does everyone remember that…?’ she asked rhetorically. ‘When Haley’s character learned they were not there to hurt him, but instead, they sought his help, he relaxed. He was no longer scared of them and they started to communicate with him.’
Molly turned back to Emily. ‘But some of you might say, that was just a movie...right…?’ Molly said.
Emily nodded. That’s exactly what she thought.
‘Wrong,’ she said to the audience. ‘In this instance, it is a classic case of art imitating life.’
She returned to address Emily. ’This applies to you, Emily. Your visitors are scared of you. They probably also feel your disbelief in what you are experiencing. Because of this, they are too intimidated to communicate with you. This will all change once you welcome them in and believe in them. They will probably tell you why they are there…what they want from you,’ she said.
’Easier said than done, I think…’ Emily said.
‘Actually, it’s not,’ Molly said. ‘Don’t be frightened of them. The rest will fall into place, OK…?’
‘OK,’ Emily said, completely devoid of conviction.
Molly stood from her chair and moved to the front of the stage. ‘Let’s give Emily a big hand as she returns to her seat.’
So that’s it…? We’re done here…? Emily thought as she stood from her chair. What the heck did that prove..?
The room burst into thunderous applause. ‘Thank you for sharing with us, Emily…’
As Emily returned to her seat, she couldn’t help but feel like she had just participated in some sort of evangelistic awakening session.
The hour long drive home from Melbourne to Geelong was spent reviewing the Molly Williamson Medium Seminar. Both Emily and Boyd were equally underwhelmed by the experience.
‘You know what that reminded me of, back there…’ Emily began. ‘A cross between an Amway convention and a religious seminar. You know, those sort of events where they whip believers into a frenzy while being sold a concept, along with overpriced merchandise on the way out.’
‘I agree,’ Boyd said. ‘That Molly Williamson was definitely a talented sales woman. She was a performer and very convincing in her delivery. Her well-rehearsed show told people what they wanted to hear.’
All Emily hoped for from tonight’s experience was some answers, not stories about huntsmen spiders and theories about Hollywood movies imitating life. Those were all spin and rhetoric convincingly delivered with the sincerity of a politician on the hustings.
Emily wasn’t interested in hearing about stories from people, who without one iota of evidence, claimed they had communicated with dead people for several years. All Emily could think was, ‘show me the proof people’.
For most of their trip home Emily rued the fact they were $280 lighter and none-the-wiser after the 2½ hour talk fest. She still hadn’t learned why these visions of people visited her in her sleep. In fact, after tonight, she wasn’t convinced she was being visited by people and not some sort of recurring nightmare.
‘I’m really sorry to put you through that, Hun…’ Emily said. It took her a while to work up the courage to say that. It embarrassed her to think this event could’ve been a panacea to her problems.
‘Don’t be silly, Em…’ Boyd said. ’At least now you won’t be left wondering the ‘what ifs’…’
‘I just feel so stupid for even going there…’ Emily said.
Boyd grinned. ‘It did have that…’ Boyd let go of the wheel and waved his hands in the air, ‘Hallelujah’ feel about it, didn’t it…?’
‘I promise I won’t ask you to do anything like again…’ Emily said.
‘Hey, I’d sit through all that bullshit again in a heartbeat, if I knew it would help you get rid of these nightmares.’
Emily placed her hand on his thigh. ‘Thank you, Hun. That makes me feel better.’
With everything seemingly off her chest, for now, Emily had dozed off by the time they reached the outskirts of Geelong. She next awoke when Boyd pulled into their home drive way.
Max Higgins rolled his eyes as he snatched up his warbling desk phone. ‘Detective Sergeant Higgins…’ He said. His tone was curt.
It never failed. Whenever he tried to concentrate on reviewing his case notes, something, or someone invariably interrupted him, breaking his train of thought.
The call he received was from a uniform officer who had taken a missing person report at the police station front counter last week and wanted to discuss it with a Detective.
Max checked his watch then sighed. ‘OK. Come on up…What did you say your name was again...? Constable Nina Farley…OK. Thanks Nina. See you shortly.’
Max hung up the phone. His eyes passed over the extensive case file spread across his desk. It would all have to wait, again.
Within minutes of the phone call ending a young, fresh-faced police woman entered the Bull Pen. She caught Max’s eye and moved towards him. Max hadn’t met this member before today. He liked what he saw as he watched her approach. Her blonde hair, tightly pulled into a bun, accentuated her natural beauty.
‘Nina, I presume….?’ Max said as she neared.
She smiled. ‘That’s right. Thanks for seeing me, Detective.’
‘Max…We’re not that formal in here…’
‘How long have you been at Geelong? I don’t think I’ve seen you around,’ he said. He knew very well he hadn’t seen her before. He would’ve remembered, if he had.
‘About two-weeks now…’
Max nodded his approval. ‘Nice…Well, welcome,’ he said. He gestured to the report she carried. ‘What do you have for me?’
Nina handed him the report. Max read from it while she provided her narrative summary.
‘Mrs Cartwright there, reported her husband, Dale Cartwright, 36 years of age, missing last Monday…’
Max checked the date on his watch. ‘Eight days…’ He mumbled.
‘Aha. Apparently he went away for the weekend on a bike ride…’
Max’s eyebrows arched as he peered up from the report. ’Bike ride for the weekend…?’
Nina nodded. ‘That’s right. He is a mountain bike fanatic, apparently. He camps out and goes on these cross-country mountain bike rides over the weekend.’
‘On his own?’
‘Where did he go mountain bike riding on this occasion?’
’His wife thinks he was somewhere in the Otways. She says he puts on a backpack with his tent etc., and rides his bike to Lorne. He usually gets supplies from the supermarket there.
‘And he is still missing…?’ Max said as a question.
‘Correct. But the reason I wanted to bring this to your attention is because, two days ago someone found an abandoned mountain bike on a bush track between Airey’s Inlet and Fairhaven and handed it into the Anglesea police station.’
‘How’d you hear about that…?’
‘My friend works at Anglesea. I told her about this bloke,’ she said flicking a finger at the report, ‘and she mentioned the mountain bike.’
‘Do we know what bike this bloke rode..?’
‘I rang Mrs Cartwright this morning and from what she described, it certainly sounds like the same bike…’
Max rubbed his chin stubble in contemplation. ‘OK. Leave it with me. I’ll get the Anglesea boys to do a search of the immediate area where the bike was located. Failing that, we’ll have to arrange a more extensive search.’
‘OK. Thanks Detect — Ah, Max,’ Nina said, followed by a beaming smile that illuminated her face.
Max watched Nina make her way out of the office.
He dropped the report onto his files. His eyes shifted to his whiteboard and the five faces staring back at him from the ten-by-eight photographs. He couldn’t help but wonder if Dale Cartwright’s photograph would be number six.