Science Fiction Drama

It was hitting off as one of those days where Lucy Clare could have really used a psychic. Another one, in fact, since she herself was listed as “psychometrist” under the NSA’s experimental assets category. Ideally, this other clairvoyant could walk into the underground lab facility armed with an arsenal of sarcastic quips and no emotions compromised.

“Nick Sheridan,” Georgia Phillips, head of the NSA’s classified psychic division, announced by way of greeting as everyone settled into their seats in the conference room.

The image of a happy couple was displayed on the wall screen. The man had his arms wrapped around the woman’s waist; by their classic yet understated clothing choices, Lucy determined that these photographs were either taken as engagement or newlywed stills. “Thirty-two years old. Diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder. He’s wanted by the police for the murder of his wife, Lily.”

Only “wanted” came to Lucy’s mind. “So then we need to help this guy and figure out who really killed her.”

Erin cleared her throat. “Um, yeah, about that? Nick definitely knocked her down a staircase. There’s security camera footage – Lily worked as an auctioneer and this shot was taken as she was leaving her office.”

She tapped her tablet and the video of Nick and Lily Sheridan began to run. The room fell into stony silence as the footage showed Nick shoving Lily down a flight of stairs, and then finally it cut out.

Eventually Max spoke up. “If the police already know who killed Lily, then why are we getting involved?”

“Because no one knows where Nick Sheridan is now. He’s severely unstable and could possibly hurt more people,” said Georgia briskly.

Or himself, Lucy thought, disquieted.


Blindfolded, Lucy settled into the water tank, letting it tickle around her ears.

From his station Max announced, “Okay, people, here we go!”

Lucy submerged. Remote viewing always provided a subtle rush, and this time was no exception. Lucy’s soul sparked to life, forgetting that her body was still resting in a water tank.

She heard Max’s voice through the microphone. “What do you see now? Do you see Lily?” he asked.

She turned around. There was Lily Sheridan, slight and dark-haired, in a long white dress that made her look like a fairy. Even though her Lucy’s eyes were still closed, her subconscious mind was now in an office, one furnished with shiny leather upholstery and bearing a vague lemon verbena scent in the air. Everything in the room was haloed by the sunlight that filtered through the window shades. Lily was there, pacing around the office as though she was contemplating an exit.

Then, “Hello, Lily. I’m glad to see you.”     

She watched as Lily shook hands with a man with reddish-brown hair and hazel eyes. “I’ve been meaning to see you for a while, Jake. It’s just that things at home have been…”

“Lucy, it’s been over a minute,” Max’s voice reminded her. “What’s happening?”

Lacking the time to listen to Lily’s reunion with Jake before her mind was stuck into place, Lucy took a peek at the books stacked behind his desk.

“Understanding You. Breakthroughs in Mental Health. Profiling the Person…Max, I think Lily was talking to a psychologist about Nick.”

In a low voice, Jake was telling Lily, “This could be a good time to take a break, you know?”

Lily shook her head. “Oh, I can’t leave him. He needs – .”

“Help. Professional help,” interjected Jake bracingly. “If you bring him in, we can explain this to him. Tell him that it’s the best way to save your marriage, I’m sure he’ll understand.”

Max’s voice broke through again. “Okay, what’s the doctor’s name?”

But before she could answer, someone else whispered, “Lucy.”

She spun around, Max’s voice fading from her attention.

A young boy stood in the doorway, watching her. “I have to stop you,” he said, and hushed her with a finger on his mouth when she finally regained the capacity for articulation. “The doctor. No one else can know about him.”

Then what am I supposed to do? Just pretend I never found out anything else about him? Lucy wondered.

“Yes,” he said simply, although she had not spoken. “And then you solve the case. Only you...and me.”

“Why?” she finally said aloud. The space beneath her feet began to rock and teeter. She felt cold, tingly, and from a distance she could hear Max calling. It was time to get out.

The boy stared at her with unnervingly familiar piercing eyes. “Evergreen Park Avenue, the Wyatt Building. Suite 507.”

Lucy’s eyes opened, and she let out a gasp. It felt like she’d taken a soft blow to the stomach.

Max raced over to help her out of the tank. Shaking his head, he asked, “Why do you always wait ‘til the last second, huh?” Then his voice took on an elevated level of concern. “Lucy, are you okay?”

She wasn’t. The floor still felt unsteady. And it wasn’t only because of the effects of the tank.

“I think I need to lie down,” she said softly, shaking the haze out of her head.


“Wake up Lucy. We’ve got work to do,” said a familiar voice. A child’s voice, belonging to the same boy from the vision of Lily’s doctor’s office. Where was he? Fearful of his appearance, her eyes snapped wide open; heart flying, she launched up from her sofa, wild and fully awake.

It’s okay, the calm voice inside her head intoned. Take two breaths and swallow, one breath, swallow.

She likely needed to tell Max at this point. Lucy could call him over right now. Then he would sit there, quiet and attentive as she postured to him the terrifying theory that she was finally cracking. Finally, he’d reassure her in any way he could, promising he wouldn’t rest until he found a way to help her.

The phone was in her hand, ready to be dialed, when she noticed a small blue business card taped to the otherwise pristine refrigerator door.

Where did

She was aware that sometimes she’d sleepwalk when her focus was on a case. Sometimes she wrote herself messages and taped it to the fridge. But it always, always, left her feeling frightened and vulnerable.

 With the trepidation that anyone would have while walking into a B-rated horror trap, Lucy drew closer to the fridge, until her hand was able to snatch it from the piece of tape that had been holding it there.

A local Connecticut-based phone number was printed across the front in large block print. Above it was a name in a smaller script. The name of Lily Sheridan’s doctor.

Shaking, Lucy’s other hand set the phone on the counter. “Oh God,” she breathed, staring at the card.

Dr. Jacob Clare, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Evergreen Park Avenue, the Wyatt Building.

Suite 507

Hours later, standing inside an office that Lucy had already seen through the eyes of a dead woman understandably felt eerie. And she couldn’t help throwing a nervous glance over her shoulder every ten seconds to make sure the increasingly creepy little boy wasn’t standing under the threshold. But to think – this whole time, the psychologist that Lily Sheridan had been meeting

with was none other than the son of Mitchell Clare – and just happened to be Lucy’s brother.

“Can I help you?” a mild voice interrupted her thoughts. Her posture stiffened, the sudden tension in her nerves an automatic response. Yet she managed to turn and

greet Jacob Clare with a well-practiced formality and her identification badge. Just as if it were any other case.

“I’m an agent with the NSA.” Damn it, she thought, realizing that her voice had accidentally slipped and made that last word sound like a question. Continuing onward, she said apologetically, “Your door was open. I probably should have made an appointment.”

Lifting his eyebrows quizzically, Jacob replied, “I suppose there are worse ways to spend my lunch hour. What can I do for the NSA?”

Curious. There’s so much neutrality in his voice, thought Lucy. Normally she would have never felt so uncomfortable speaking to a leading source, but this situation had to be handled carefully.

As in, the “don’t crack the egg before your chicken hatches” kind of carefully.

“We are looking into Lily Sheridan’s death. She was one of your patients, wasn’t she?

This time, the surprise on Jacob Clare’s face was unmistakable. “Lily Sheridan…wouldn’t that be a case more appropriately handled by the local police? Why is the NSA getting involved?”

Well, there was a question she didn’t get asked every day. But the longer Lucy looked at Dr. Clare, the less guarded she felt. He wasn’t really challenging the extent of her qualifications (hello, I’m a psychic!), just displaying curiosity about her job. “We

have a professional liaison relationship with them,” she fibbed. “So, here we are.”

And here I am, hoping that you don’t know enough about the way the NSA works to contradict me, came an unbidden voice of self-doubt. She shoved it out of her mind just as Jacob gestured towards the polished leather armchair in front of his desk. Lucy sat down, slightly surprised. It was more comfortable than it looked.

Looking at her from his desk made Jacob seem older. How young would he have had to have been to earn a PhD in order make it this far into his career by his late twenties?

“Who told you Lily was my patient?”

Lucy’s eyebrows knit in confusion. “You mean she wasn’t?”

“She was a friend. I was advising her, free of charge and off record. Although,” he added, “if Nick had come in for treatment it would have been different.”

“Why didn’t he then?”

Jacob sighed. “Some people like to handle their problems, no matter how difficult, on their own.”

“Why do you think he killed Lily?”

The way Jacob’s responding stare switched to (at least what Max would have called) the Death Stare was downright startling.

“Why do you think I’d have any idea why Nick killed Lily? I wasn’t a witness to it.”

She had to do it. It felt dirty, preparing to look into her brother’s private thoughts. But Lucy mentally reached for Jacob’s aura, his consciousness, and began her probe.

She saw her old home. It was captivating, but the attachment was elusive. Lucy wanted to keep exploring it until it felt real. So she stood outside, the distant whistling of summertime birds heard amid the backdrop of a golden sky.

“Excuse me,” a young boy said softly from behind her.

A jolt of tension sprung inside her. But as she turned around, the voice of a young girl piped up, “Who are you?”

She froze, the nerves inside her as tight as a wire. It was herself, little Lucy, who couldn’t have been more than nine years old. Meanwhile, the boy was watching her from his bicycle. He wasn’t pay attention directly to the real Lucy. But it was still the boy who spoke to her in the other memories. His dark brown, near-auburn hair stuck out like straw; meanwhile his piercing hazel eyes were staring at little Lucy as though she had run off with his Nintendo console but he was told to be polite to her about it.

 The epiphany hit her hard. “Jacob,” she whispered, feeling enough cold and shock for a thunderstorm. This wasn’t just her brother’s memories.

The long-lost memory started to fall back into a more conscious place in Lucy’s mind. She could remember it now, how Mitchell Clare had found the kids sharing juice boxes as Jacob was letting Lucy try out his bike. How he’d angrily taken Jacob away, telling Lucy to never speak to them again. And all this time…

“My name is Lucy,” she said told Jacob, opening her eyes in his office and releasing her tears. The burn of everything she’d tried to forget over the years flooded down her cheeks. “My father is Mitchell Clare.”


The first time Lucy had seen Jacob Clare’s office, she’d smelled what she thought had been lemon verbena. But now that she was in it again, sitting in the large leather chair, it seemed entirely possible that she’d been wrong and it was the lingering scent of Pledge that she was breathing in. It was strange how a perspective could turn sideways within a mere twenty-four hours.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Jacob told her. “Look, I think I should apologize for my attitude yesterday. I should have taken you more seriously.” He blew some air out of his lips, apparently not accustomed to swallowing his pride.

Lucy made it easier for him. “I figured Nick Sheridan was never going to hurt anyone. Because of your information, we were able to place him in a mental hospital and close our case.”

Jacob smiled ruefully. “I know. Again, thank you. Not a lot of people could have done what you did with genuine empathy.”

“Well, I’m happy everything worked out,” said Lucy, smiling back briefly. “But I’m not here to talk about what happened with Nick Sheridan.”

Jacob frowned, perplexed. “What else would we have to talk about?”

She said softly, “Did you think I wouldn’t remember?”

A wide-eyed Jacob shook his head, realizing her meaning. “To be honest, I wasn’t even sure it was you until you told me. I never thought our paths would cross again.”

“That would have been a shame. Because I have no relatives. My mother’s dead. And…” she sucked in a breath. “Our father ditched when I was eight.”

Sitting stiffly, Jacob informed her, “I don’t consider Mitchell Clare my father either, you know. Not anymore. He left us a second time and never came back.”

Lucy nodded in understanding. “But we’re still family. And I’ve been looking for him for a while now. I thought if you knew anything -.”

A faint scowl formed across Jacob’s mouth. “If I knew anything? I don’t, and I wouldn’t want anything to do with your finding him even if I did. Lucy, he left us too. He didn’t only hurt me. My stepmom raised me, but she was never quite the same after he was gone.”

“Neither was I,” said Lucy quietly. For one long second, she wondered whether this was a good idea, or whether she was going too far. But it felt right to her, that he should know. She told Jacob, “Dad was kind of a novice scientist. He did something to me… I was sort of a test subject in his experiments.”

Astonished, Jacob stood and paced his way to the front of his desk. “What sort of experiment? How?” he asked.

“I could do…certain things. Things he wanted to research.” He treated me like I was barely human, and you know what? Maybe I was. I don’t know,” she sighed.

Jacob blinked, obviously trying with difficulty to grasp this revelation. “You shouldn’t say that.”

She chose her words carefully. “Being with the NSA gives me access to…resources. Connections with people who had the means to help me out.”

A curious concern glassed over Jacob’s hazel eyes. “That’s good. That’s really good,” he repeated, swallowing. “So, uh…why, then?”

Lucy frowned. “Why?”

“You want to find Mitchell Clare, even after what he did to you. Why would you want that?”

Lucy shrugged, her shoulders suddenly taut. “I guess I just want him to know. I want him to look me in the eyes and know what he did to me.”

Jacob looked grave at this admission, even graver than Max did whenever she talked about it. “It’s just some unsolicited advice here, Lucy, but letting a grudge or grievance drive you in your search could end up in a lot of pain. I don’t want that for you, so I don’t think we should keep in touch if that’s where you insist on going. Can you understand that?” he asked her when she seemed unresponsive.

But Lucy, staring at the nameplate on his desk, was listening to every word. Some people would rather solve their problems, no matter how difficult, on their own. But she didn’t have to do that.

“I understand,” Lucy finally told Jacob. “I actually have some concerns about that. Sometimes, lately, my emotions - they’ve been interfering at work. There are things that I can’t talk about with my friends and coworkers, because they involve my friends and coworkers. I think I should see someone. A neutral third party,” she emphasized, giving Jacob time to take the hint.

“Oh,” he said softly. “I do want to help you. Really, Lucy. But I don’t know if it’s a good idea to help you professionally. Things are a bit complicated already with the way they are.”

Her spirits sinking, Lucy rose to her feet. “That’s fine,” she said, because she didn’t know what else she could say. “No, I get it. Thanks anyways. It was great to meet you.”

Jacob nodded, seeming conflicted. “You too.”

Well, at least Lucy knew her brother existed. And that he was a decent human being, even if he didn’t want a relationship with her.

“Lucy?” said Jacob. Lucy paused just outside his office. “I, uh…have Thursdays off. Usually I’m at home, going through files and documents and such. Do we have time around 4:30?”

Lucy smiled, facing him. “We have all the time in the world.”


January 26, 2024 07:22

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