“I’m getting something,” I whisper excitedly as I wave my hands over my crystal ball. I rattle my bracelets for affect.“
What, what?!” The middle aged woman squeals.
Her husband divorced her, I think it was some time ago but she’s just worked up the courage to take off her ring from the look of her ring finger.
She cut her hair short, had her brown curls highlighted with blonde streaks. Her shirt is tight her tits are out, yeah she’s on the prowl, out to catch a man.
“A man….” I drawl. “Tall…. Dark…. handsome.”
“Yes!” She gushes.
“But you must be patient, he will be shy but sweet.”
“When will I meet him?! Where?!”
I tap the pedal beneath the floor that makes the lights flicker.
I collapse back into the chair with a whimper.
“You have so much energy to channel, I must save some of my strength for my other customers. You will burn me out with your vivaciousness.”
“I have more money! I will buy their spots!” She digs into her purse.
“I’m sorry, she really is booked up for the afternoon.” Smith says, waltzing through the curtain.
My lip curls up as I stare at him, black suit, black tie, gun bulge at his right hip. Flashing gray eyes, dark brown hair and a scowl that could pickle a pig’s foot.
“I am with a customer right now, you must wait your turn.” I say sharply, the woman just yanked about three-hundred dollars from her purse.
“Yes!” Susan shouts angrily. “Wait your turn!”
She needs to find out about her mystery man.
Smith pulls his badge flashing it.
“FBI, I need to speak to Ms. Thompson.”
Susan looks back to me, eyes wide. “You work with the FBI?”
I sit in shock.
“Oh my god! You’re really real!”
I grin, thanks Smith. You just paid this month’s shop rent.
His nose flares as he realizes what he’s just done.
“Ma’am, please.” He says tightly gesturing towards my bead curtain.
“You must tell me more!” She hurries to stuff the money back in her purse. “I will make an appointment, I will be back! Oh yes, oh yes!”
Susan leaves in a hurry, purse clutched to her chest, eyes wide, I’m sure soaking up every detail to tell her friends, cha-ching.
“How do you live with yourself? Lying to these poor desperate women day after day.” Smith looks disgusted.
“How do you know I’m lying?”
“You really see anything in that crystal ball?! Can you?!” He snaps.
I shake my head, “no.”
He huffs looking around. “Is any of this real?”
“All of it is real, not everyone can do every type of reading. Necromancers are good with Ouija boards, seers are fantastic with crystal balls. Druids with tarot cards and palm readings. Some use tea leaves, others dice. It’s all real to someone. But the people that walk through my door expect certain things, I do my best to give them their fantasy of reality.” I shrug, “for a price.”
“Well if you can give her a ‘real’ reading with the cards why not just do that?”
“Fair market value. You can get palm readings done all over the city for $5. I can’t charge more although mine would be more accurate. No one would come here if I charged more, I rely on curbside appeal. I was serious, it takes power and energy for me to read echoes. So here I am doing extremely accurate palm readings for $5 each, when I can only do five maybe six a day safely? I wouldn’t make rent. But throw in a $40 crystal ball of bullshit here and there and I can clear a couple hundred a day. I try to talk people into the cards, they are both financially viable for me and an honest reading. I’m not a bad person Smith, those that I feel really need my help, I help.”
“And who are you to decide who needs help or not?”
“I’m a fortuneteller, it’s what I do. So what do you need help with?” I smile.
He looks more angry than usual suddenly. “Did you read me?”
I huff, “no I have to touch you for that. But what other reason would you be here?”
He clears his throat uncomfortably, realizing he just got angry over nothing.
“Your usual fee, I’ll give you five minutes.” He walks back through the bead curtain, I look after him smiling.
The possibility of what I’m telling him is becoming more and more likely in his mind, he hasn’t quite accepted it, but he will.
I take off my ceremonial divination robe, underneath jeans and a deep green tank-top to bring out the color of my eyes. I have black sandals on, and as long as I’m not traipsing through the forest again, I should be fine. I turn around and put on my tennis shoes before I leave. Knowing Smith, who knows what I’ll be in the middle of today.
Cam is in her usual spot, behind the glass counter, as I come out.
“Did you even try to stop him?” I ask her perturbed.
“What would be the point?” She shrugs her shoulder and blows a bubble not concerned with my ire one bit.
I huff and walk to the door, “Just lock up.”
“Sure thing boss.” She drawls.
She only calls me boss as a sign of disrespect, when she thinks I’m being an idiot.
The sound of a bubble popping echoes out. Why do I put up with that girl?
“A woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them!” Mrs. Mulaney rages as I step into the stairwell.
“Leviticus chapter 20 verse 7. Got it Mrs. Mulaney, but don’t forget, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the first stone…”
I wave and turn to step out into the sun, I’ve been brushing up on my bible since Mrs. Mulaney, it really grinds her gears when I quote scripture right back at her. The first time it had shut her up for an entire week, probably trying to figure out how a demoness touched a bible in the first place. Ah the good ol’ days.
Smith has his big black SUV parked on the curb again, right in front of the no parking sign. I wonder if I could call the police and get him ticketed just once to teach him a lesson. They’d probably think it was a prank call and I’d end up getting in trouble.
I sigh and open the back door.
“Get in front.”
Guess I’m back to being more than a civilian. I close the door rolling my eyes and get into the front.
“I don’t want to know why … or how. But I’m glad your hands are healed.”
I huff, Smith is still in denial. I tried to warn him, I tried to tell him he didn’t want to know.
He hands me a file, I take it slightly rolling my eyes, the man is always handing me something to read.
“This is everything we could get on the bastard. Name’s Harold Greenwich, twenty-eight.”
I open the folder as Smith pulls off.
Harold Greenwich, his booking picture is on top. He looks about forty but they have another picture of him, one from before I disturbed his time loop.
The second picture of him he looks so very… normal. I hate when monsters don’t look like monsters. I wish the evil of the soul showed on the flesh, it would make it so much easier to tell who was who and what was what.
Who suspects a nice young man, at the height of his life, of being a kidnapper? Dark hair, clear brown eyes, charming smile. He could be buying a coffee right next to you, hell he could be your kid’s teacher, and you’d never know. Not to look at him.
“Went to Georgetown, graduated with a B.A. in economics, works as an analyst for Peters and Kelling. No debt, no record, for God’s sake he’s the fucking youth mentor at his church!”
“It’s hard when the bad guys can look like good guys.”
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but who are in truth vicious wolves.”
“Matthew Chapter 7 verse 15.” One of Mrs. Mulaney’s favorites. “Didn’t take you for a religious man Smith.”
“I like parts.”
I scoff, I don’t even need to ask which parts. Probably the same ones Mrs. Mulaney enjoys, they should start a bible study group.
“So what do you need me for?” I ask closing the file.
“He says there are more, demanded to see you at the hospital last night.”
Smith nods slowly.
“And Dawson said okay?”
I look out the window, we’re still in the city, driving over the Anicostia Bridge.
“Where are we going?”
“After Dawson refused to let him see you, things got a little rough. Greenwich was handcuffed to the hospital bed. Dawson start throwing his weight around.”
I huff, that’s code for ‘fucking the guy up’, can’t say he didn’t have it coming.
“What’s the official report? Greenwich tried to escape.”
Smith nods. “We pulled Dawson off. But something hasn’t been right with Greenwich since then, guy starts banging his head on the side rails of the bed. Trying to claw his own skin off at his wrist to get to the veins. He keeps saying ‘I need their wings to fly’.”
“I need their wings to fly?” I say softly.
“Yeah, same thing he said last night. The book is clear once a perp exhibits suicidal tendencies…”
“Send him to Saint Elizabeth’s.” I say softly.
“After Dawson went ape-shit on him, he sent him over.”
“Doesn’t want to add fuel to the fire.”
“Carlson tried to get Dawson to let you see him. Greenwich said the wings are still alive, that he only needed two more pair.”
“You… you think the kids are still alive?”
“We can’t risk it either way.”
“So what… Carlson told you to get me and take me to see the guy without Dawson’s okay?”
I mean I’ve known her to go off books, but never anything like this.
I look at him sharply. “Smith….”
“If you’re afraid of reprisal I’ll take you back right now.”
I huff, “manipulation doesn’t work on me.”
I hate that I pause, that I’m so money hungry, that I actually pause. I hate that Smith sees me that way, a fortuneteller mercenary, willing to do or say anything for the right price. But isn’t that the truth? Isn’t that what I’ve become? That one thing guilts me into doing something incredibly foolish.
“My usual fee will be fine Smith.”
He reaches in his jacket pocket and hands me my FBI consultant’s badge.
“You may need this.”
“I’m not coming back. This is just for today.” I take the badge.
He doesn’t respond and I sigh sitting back. I get the feeling Cam was right, they’re just sucking me right back in. Or rather, Quinn is. I’m too intrigued by him to tell him no. I need to figure him out. Then maybe my heart won’t squeeze when I see him.
I’m not supposed to have a mate, it wasn’t in my Echoes. I will die alone. Whatever this is, it wasn’t supposed to be. He’s… unpredictable.
After the bridge the city ends, and rolling hills of grass and tress appear…. All of this will burn one day. No, there isn’t any point in getting involved with anyone, even someone as delicious and mysterious as him.