By Allison Whitehouse
Key Themes: fiction, murder mystery, psychic phenomena, visions, fantasy
Chloda Delaney is an investigative journalist on The Daily. When the newspaper receives a phone call stating the intention of ridding the world of all psychics they think it is a hoax – but this is followed by the murder of renowned psychic, Raoul Marlo.
Glen Lassiter is assigned to the case along with his partner Merryfield. But with Glen’s hatred of reporters he is quick to pick an ex journalist as his prime suspect – whilst Chloda is equally convinced that Vaughan Tyler (an ex magician) is guilty.
Meanwhile, Father Jacobson, a vocal protester of the wickedness of mediums, is a suspect too – and, as he is plagued by visions of the murders taking place, he is as keen as anyone to track down the killer – especially as he believes that the murderer is his son.
About the Author
The author has suffered with depression and anxiety for several years and finds that the only way that she can feel in control is in the release experienced through writing.
As an avid reader she often wished for the story to take an alternative route to the one in which the author was compelled to go. So, in an effort to escape her problems she sought to control the lives of the characters that she created.
It was not what Chloda had expected. The hall was larger than she had imagined and more people had squeezed into it than she had considered was either possible or safe. It was also noisier than she had expected – the audience was not the subdued group of people that she had anticipated would visit this event and the air had an edge to it – it was fraught with tension and expectation.
She opened her notebook and wrote down these impressions in her typically big and brash hand writing – she still enjoyed writing in long hand even if it did take longer than the shorthand she was obliged to use in order to get interviews down verbatim. “Investigative journalism,” She snorted derisively.
This was not an interview, though, was it? This was a kind of critical review. She had half expected to see signs advertising ‘Madame Zelda – Here Tonight! Get your fortunes told and discover what is in store for next week’. But, of course, Marguerite Bourne was not a fortune-teller – she was a medium. The cynic in her wanted to quip ‘she looks more like a large’ but she bit her bottom lip and used her shorthand to jot down some of the snatches of conversation that drifted within earshot instead.
“… and then she said that Billy had laughed when my chestnut hair dye turned my hair pink and I thought ‘yes that’s my Billy alright’. She was spot on about Auntie Mabel too …”
“I’m telling you its spooky how she knows it but she does. ‘it’s in the sideboard’ she said – and how on earth could she know what I’d lost let alone where it was?”
Chloda wanted to tell them that this stuff was a load of rubbish and anyone could get lucky with a few ‘stabs in the dark’ – but she did not say a word. Her job this evening was to investigate Mrs Bourne’s ‘gift’ and to speculate on how genuine it was. Not that she believed that it could be – but an assignment was an assignment and she took pride in her work. Plus there was the added bonus of that psychic guy – what was his name? Marley? Marlon? Anyway, his murder was still hot in the news and anything even remotely related would get printed.
Marguerite wobbled onto the stage and hobbled to the centre where there stood a chair and a microphone on a low stand. She appeared to be in her mid to late fifties and seemed to suffer with arthritis. This was probably not helped by the ample weight her joints had to support. She smiled in a pained way that was evidently meant to convey that they were lucky to have her there and she coughed as if reminding her audience that she was now ready to begin.
The cough worked and the audience became silent in eerie anticipation. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes then cocked her head onto one side.
“I’m getting an ‘E’ – Edna, Eileen?” She frowned, as if trying to concentrate, “Anyone here for Edna or Eileen?”
“Could it be Ellen?” piped up a young woman in the front row.
“No, I don’t think so,” Marguerite opened her eyes and scanned the audience, “No-one knows an Edna or Eileen who has passed over?”
Heads shook and glances were exchanged. “Very well,” Marguerite sighed, “Now I’m getting a ‘B’ – Billy?”
“Ooh!” squealed the lady of the pink hair dye incident, shoving her hand into the air as if wanting to be chosen as the next contestant on a game show, “What does he say?”
“He says you have to be more careful,” Mrs Bourne was being playfully scornful as if talking to her own dotty aunt, “What have you mislaid this time?”
“See? Now how do you know that I lost my keys?”
“Your Billy is shaking his head, but he’s smiling,” Marguerite assured her, “And he knew where they were – he was trying to tell you.”
“I knew it!” Mrs Pink hair beamed, “I had a voice in my head telling me they’d slipped down the side of the cupboard – it had to be Billy telling me because I just didn’t know where to look next.”
Marguerite nodded as if her marvellous visions had just been confirmed and the audience broke into applause.
Chloda was not impressed. Making a stab at names, when you pick an initial out of fresh air, was not her idea of being a psychic – and people lose things every day. Now, if Marguerite had been more specific – even named the lost item, or given its location without being prompted, then Chloda could have given her some credit. As it was, Chloda could have been up on that stage instead and given much the same performance. The icing on the cake would be if she later returned to ‘E’ and announced that yes, of course it was Ellen, and then spouted out some more information that could easily apply to any number of people in the room.
An hour and a half later Marguerite’s migraine – always brought on by these visitations – became unbearable and she left to a rapturous applause. Chloda shook her head as she closed her notebook and slipped her pen through the spiral loop at the top. What a fake!
“What did I tell you?!” Mrs Pink hair was excitable, “Isn’t she amazing?”
“Well, she seemed to have something,” admitted her friend, “does she do private sittings?”
Father Jacobson’s elderly form knelt at the altar. His rosary was clenched in his wrinkled, liver spotted hands and his eyes were closed tightly whilst his thin, blue lips mouthed his prayers in hushed tones. His face did not hold the serene, peaceful pose that had accompanied the prayers of his youth – indeed, his craggy, fatherly features looked fearful and forlorn as he repeated the same words over and over again.
“Please cast these demons out. Please cast these demons out. Please cast these demons out…”
Glen Lassiter read and re-read the murderer’s note – if you could call letters cut out from a newspaper, and stuck onto a sheet of A4 paper, a note. It was even questionable if the murderer had sent it. But, this was the only lead that they had pertaining to the homicide of the renowned psychic, Roaul Marlo. It was something everyone had joked about at one point or another – ‘surely he saw this coming?’ – but seeing that very sentiment in print was a little sick. Ok, the guy was probably a fraud – very probably – but did he deserve this?
“Have we narrowed it down at all?” He asked his colleague Merryfield – who, ironically, was the least merry person he had ever met. In fact he often thought that he was totally suited to the homicide squad.
“The letters are from ‘The Daily’ – no way of knowing which edition because the typeset is the same for all of ’em,” He sounded completely bored with this particular case already, “Until he strikes again I don’t hold out much hope.”
“Well thanks for your vote of confidence,” Glen narrowed his eyes, “I’m sure every psychic in the city will sleep safe in their beds tonight.”
“Proves they’re frauds,” Merryfield shrugged, “I doubt there’s one genuine one amongst the lot.”
“So we thank the guy for ridding us of a bunch of money grabbing bloodsuckers do we?” Glen replied, “Maybe he’ll take care of the drug dealers and pimps next and really put us out of a job.”
“We don’t work in narcotics or vice, but I can see where you’re coming from,” Merryfield gave one of those lopsided twitches that passed for a smile.
“Hey, can I book you for my nephew’s party next week? My sister’s been looking everywhere for a clown.”
“Shove it ladyboy.” Merryfield gave him the finger before swaggering over to the coffee machine.
Glen sighed. Merryfield was right though. This guy would strike again and until he did they had very little to go on. No witnesses had come forward and no camera footage from the surveillance equipment at Marlo’s home meant that the note was the only clue that they had to go on – and they had been warned.
That was what made it so annoying – the murderer had telephoned The Daily to announce his intention of ‘ridding the world of fakes and frauds’. The Daily had not taken it particularly seriously, but the voice disguising equipment that had been used was an indication that they were not dealing with their usual hoaxer, so they had informed the police department straight away. Not that it had done Marlo any good.
Glen sighed again as he re-read the note: “If he’d been really psychic wouldn’t he have known?” He had to concede that the killer had a point.
Chloda transcribed her notes and read through the finished article. It was not particularly flattering and, in view of recent events, it was not going to do the psychic world any favours either – but it was honest and she was not the type of person to hide behind false sentiments or shirk her responsibilities as a serious writer.
The telephone rang and she made no attempt to answer it. The answer machine sprang into action and after her voice announced ‘Chloda here, please leave your message and a contact number after the beep’ a nervous voice, little more than a whisper, erupted onto the line.
“Chlo it’s me, Leroy – if you still want the dirt I’m willing to dish it up,” She grabbed the receiver before he could ring off.
“Leroy? Great to hear from you. When can we meet?”
“Know that little café on the corner of Maddison?”
“Sure do,” She assured him
“There in half hour,” He hung up before she could ask him what had changed his mind.
She did not try to quell the excitement bubbling up inside of her – this was the stuff that great scoops were made of. The low down on Vaughan Tyler was just what this story needed to elevate it from tabloid trash to a Daily Exclusive. She knew that the ex-magician was a fake – he had done mind reading as part of his act for Pete’s sake – but to have an eyewitness account of how he managed to be so convincing would be the icing on the cake.
She had to give the guy credit. He had risen from being a very average magician to a spectacular psychic in the time it takes to say “I suddenly heard my late grandmother say ‘you have a gift Vaughan – use it wisely’ and I’ve been a voice piece for the dead ever since”.
He had also been very rich ever since too – but he dismissed these claims as irrelevant. Money was unimportant to him – all he wanted was to reassure the living that their loved ones were at peace on the other side.
“Yeah, right,” She snorted as she grabbed her bag, left her apartment and headed for her rendezvous with Leroy.
Leroy looked edgy. He took long, nervous drags on his cigarette as his eyes darted around the café, taking in the enormity of what he was about to do. He would lose his job – even if Chloda restrained from using his name as her source, it would not take a genius to determine who was in a position to be privy to that much inside information. Vaughan was paranoid about his ‘act’ and was therefore very careful about letting anyone know or learn too much – and the only reason he trusted Leroy was because he had been with him from the beginning.
He did not have any qualms about what he did to ensure that Vaughan’s shows went without a hitch – it was show business after all. Vaughan’s act was an act like any other – he had honed it to perfection and was an entertainer of the highest calibre.
Until the murder of that Marlo guy he had not even considered the possibility of the public’s reaction to the genuineness of the profession. Were they really that gullible? But now that was all he could think about. What if Vaughan was next? He admired the man and did not like to imagine him being killed – and the only way he could think of, to ensure his safety, was to come clean.
After all wasn’t that what the murder had been about? The fact that Marlo was considered to be a fraud and had been unmasked as such by his inability to determine that he was to be the victim? If Vaughan was to be unmasked now, maybe it would prevent the murderer from striking again – after all he would have nothing to prove as the psychic would have already been unmasked and publicly humiliated.