Warning: crime and gore.
Lex Parker paced in front of the small frame house, mounting his courage to continue with the plan. A sign was attached to the mail box: Madame LaFarge; Guide to the Unknown; 1301 Poplar. He had double-checked the address to assure himself that he was at the right place.
“This has got to work,” he muttered. “It’s my last chance to get back to a normal life. I owe more than fifty thousand from gambling debts and these bums are threatening to kill me if I don’t make good on it. I hope that Arthur LaFarge, a guy I met in a bar, knows what he’s doing with this plan.”
With that, he walked to the front door of the house, knocked, and waited. The door opened and he was greeted by a heavy-set, exotic-looking woman.
“Welcome to my studio — let me introduce myself,” she said. “I’m Madame LaFarge. I'm going to assume that you know about me and that I specialize in exploring the occult? How can I help you?”
“I’m Lex Parker,” he replied. “I have passed your place many times but it only recently occurred to me that you can help me. I am an ordinary person, not accustomed to visiting the unknown but I think that’s about to change.”
“Everyone has the essence of greatness in them that only needs to be explored and nurtured," she responded. "I assume that’s why you’ve here.”
“You may find my request unusual,” Lex replied. “I’ve been working on my family tree and focusing on the life of my great-uncle, Amos Parker. I discovered that he had killed his wife about a hundred years ago and served a life sentence. I decided that I wanted to try to chat with him with your help. I’ve never had a conversation with a murderer and I’m getting nervous just thinking about it.”
All of this caught Madame LaFarge by surprise. One of her skills was organizing seances. Usually this involved channeling a discussion with a dead child or spouse with whom the client had a relationship. Never had one expressed the desire to talk with a murderer in the family. But, money was money.
She thought for a moment and then responded: “Yours is an unusual request but I can help. However, it’s going to be expensive. It will be difficult to coax Amos out of the shadows. He may have a guilty conscience and not be willing to communicate with the living. My fee will be $1,000 for the first seance — several more may be necessary to convince his spirit to talk with us.”
“Sounds OK,” Lex replied. “This must be heavy lifting for you. But I do insist that the seance will be held late at night with no one else around. We must have complete privacy."
“OK. You will be speaking with your great-uncle before you know it. Meet me here next Wednesday at midnight,” she said.
Lex arrived on the Wednesday night to find the room lit by candles. There was the heavy aroma of incense in the air. Madame was seated at a large, round table in the middle of the room that was covered by a thick, embroidered cloth. Oriental rugs covered the floors. She was wearing a black satin dress and a billowing caftan decorated by the signs of the zodiac.
LaFarge told Lex to take a seat at the table. She then began the seance by chanting in a monotone, trying to coax Amos to emerge from the timeless mists. After about an hour of this, she announced that he had agreed to come forward. The air in the room started to swirl in warm eddies.
“What questions do you have for Amos,” Madame asked.
“What was in your mind when you shot your old lady?” Lex volunteered.
A quivering but masculine voice emerged from nowhere and caught Lex by surprise: “This is Amos Parker. I understand your question. I think, however, that you may have knocked on the wrong celestial door. Parker is a common name. I didn’t have much family that I was aware of and left no kids.”
Lex responded with surprise at the direction the seance was going. He was sure that Madame had installed some jerk in the basement with a microphone, reading the script she had prepared. Why was she doing this? But, he then thought to himself, no need to panic. The closing scene of this play was going to be the same whatever the drift of the “conversation” with Amos.
With that, he whipped out a Ruger GP10 from his jacket. In a quiet but methodical way, he pointed the weapon at LaFarge and pulled the trigger. There was a loud popping sound, she moaned softly, and slumped over in her chair. A gaping red, circular hole had appeared in the middle of her brow, from which a stream of blood began to flow.
Lex sat in one of the overstuffed chairs, pulled his cell phone from his pocket, and texted a message. In ten minutes, there was a knock on the door and Arthur LaFarge hurriedly entered the room.
“Well, Lex, it looks like you got part of the job done,” he said as he glanced at the supine body of his sister, Madame LaFarge, slumped over the table. “You’ve earned most of the money I promised.”
“We’ve got more work to do though and we need to do it fast,” he continued. “Hidden somewhere in this room is a bunch of precious stones and jewelry that she swindled from her clientele. We need to find it quick and get the hell out of here. Neighbors may have heard the gunshot.”
Lex responded: “Didn’t you say she bragged about her jewelry and showed it around to convince her customers about her fortune-telling skills. Her stash must be hidden somewhere in this room.”
The two men nodded to each other in agreement and began in a rush to pull out all the drawers in the furniture and dump the contents on the floor. After about twenty minutes of this frantic searching, they sat down together at the table, exhausted and unsuccessful.
“We’re going about this all wrong,” Arthur said dejectedly. “Not using our heads for sure. We need to think more clearly. Where would that bitch be hiding her jewels? It has to be somewhere obvious where she could grab them quickly to show them off to her clients.”
Having said this, he glanced around and his eyes rested on a two-foot-high, black, ceramic cat sitting on an end-table.
“Hmmm,” he continued. “Cat. Nine lives. Let’s see what we’ve got here?”
He walked over to the cat and twisted its head. The head yielded to the pressure and dropped to the floor. Arthur peered into its hollow cavity, shook it, and heard a metallic sound. He tipped the cat over and spilled a large, tangled web of jewelry and precious stones on the the table.
Both men stared at the pile of jewelry spread before them, mesmerized by it. Their paralysis lasted only a few seconds. Arthur picked up one of the largest uncut stones and began waving it in the air, holding it between his thumb and forefinger.
“We’re rich, we’re rich,” he shouted in a dazed delirium.
Lex, now in a more relaxed state, said to Arthur: “Let me take a look at that stone, Artie. Something does not feel right. That stone is way too big for her little scam.”
Having said that, he grabbed it from Arthur’s fingers and placed it on the table. He removed his right shoe and hammered the stone with the heel. It shattered into small pieces that scattered across the carpet.
“Oh, that bitch! Oh, that bitch,” Arthur screamed in desperation. “Look what she’s done to us. We killed her for a pile of cheap, costume jewelry. I am going to go to jail for life for nothing.” He collapsed on the floor.
Lex was carefully watching his partner Arthur go berserk. A wry smile passed across his face. This was not a good situation.
“Well, it’s time to proceed to the next act in our little play,” he muttered to himself. With that, he pulled his still warm Ruger from his pocket, pointed it at Arthur writhing on the floor, and pulled the trigger. Arthur stopped moving. Lex walked over and pulled Arthur’s dead body beside that of his sister.
He then returned to the seance table and delicately placed a jeweler’s loupe in his right eye. He inspected every item in the jewelry pile, setting aside a few stones as he worked. After this task was complete, remaining on one side of the table was a large pile of trash jewelry. On the other was three, large uncut diamonds. With a sweeping motion, he pushed the trash pile on the floor and stared at the remaining sparkling pile.
“Arthur was a fool. He should have recognized, that there must have been something of value in her collection after her long history of scamming. I think that these three stones are worth a lot on the street. Oh well, I seem to have come out on the long end of this job.”
As Lex stuffed the three diamonds into his pocket, he noticed that the embroidered cloth covering the seance table was beginning to ripple. Eddys of warm air began again to circulate in the room. This was followed by what sounded like a low moan coming from the air. He found this unusual but did not pay much attention in his hurry to get out of the house, not to mention the need to distance himself from the two bodies.
Suddenly, the room was filled by a booming male voice. “Lex, Lex, sit down in one of the chairs. This is Sheriff Parker. You have done me a big favor. I thought that my career of keeping low-life's off the street and behind bars had come to an end when I passed. You have now provided me one last chance to corral a bastard like you because of Madame’s error of summoning the wrong Parker.”
Lex looked around the room, grimacing, but not sure exactly who to address. He said breathlessly: “What a crock of shit! I made up this whole ‘Uncle Amos’ story. Whoever you are, come out of the basement with your hands up. I already killed two people and a third won’t bother me much.”
With that, Lex felt his body begin to stiffen while, at the same time, he was being pulled upward. It felt as though someone was grabbing him by his collar. His arms were pinned to his sides and immovable. With that, his Ruger flew out of his jacket pocket and was suspended in the air. The barrel of the weapon then rotated and pressed tightly against the skin of his right temple.
A voice appeared from nowhere. “Lex, this is your ‘Uncle’ Amos speaking to you again. I noticed you talking before with that thing in your pocket. Pull it out again and call 911. Tell them that there is some trash that needs to be picked up at Madame LaFarge’s home. And then we will wait. I am anxious to get back ‘home’ but I’m willing to see this thing through to the bitter end.”
Lex made the 911 call on his cell phone as ordered by Amos.
“Hello! This is your 911 operator. What is the nature of your emergency?"
“This is Lex speaking. I need to tell you first that I am an honest, upstanding citizen of the town. You’re not going to believe this but I am being held at gunpoint by a murderous relative who’s come from 'I don’t know where' and is really not my great-uncle. Anyways, he’s upset because he says there are a couple of dead people lying on the floor. I have no idea how they got there. He also ordered me to call you guys but I am not sure what he wants me to tell you.”
The 911 dispatcher replied: “Listen, Lex, I don't know what kind of stuff you’ve on but it’s not helping you. You need to go to bed and sleep it off. If the dead bodies are still on the floor in the morning when you’re sober, call us again.” The line disconnected.
Lex looked around the room and said to Amos who was not visible: “Look, amigo, let’s terminate this whole deal. I called 911 as you asked but they did not take me seriously. Let’s part ways. Drop the gun and let me walk. All of this will be our little secret. I should also tell you that I intend to make a contribution to the local police department in your name for flowers for fallen officers and stuff like that. How about seeing all of this my way for a change?”
“Not a ghost of a chance,” Amos replies. “I am going to take care of this problem by myself AGAIN and get back home.
BANG. BANG. BANG.