“You predicted death and you were right. Four times.” I hold her hands on her glass orb. When she tries to pull them back, I grip them tighter. “You told them to get their affairs in order. You told them to write their wills. They listened. When you had their wills out in the open, you killed them. You switched the wills. Four murders.” Her blue eyes bulge.
“You’re crazy,” she says. She’s about to shout when I start to use my gift. The fortune teller is silenced when my mind invades hers.
The tattoos on her hands aren’t runes of magic. They’re Klingon she copied from Google. She paints her eyes heavily with red shadow because it makes her appear otherworldly. She has a foot pedal that makes the lights of her tent flicker. Some of her tarot cards have slivers of metal in them. The metal is drawn by the magnet she has beneath the table.
The glass ball on the table between us isn’t anything special. It sits on a battery powered projector that is triggered by a remote she has stashed in her enormous purple sleeves. The sign on her car that says Magda the Mystical should name her as Paula Williams.
Her mother was a mystic as well. Unlike Paula, Bethany was a good woman. Paula has never held people in high regard. We have no inherent worth to Magda the Mystical. She was a bully in school because she enjoyed seeing children cry. She had pets to perform experiments that had nothing to do with scientific enquiry.
People I meet usually hurt or kill others because they were indoctrinated by those they looked up to. Paula is only the second psychopath I’ve met who isn’t killing with an ideological aim. She kills for profit and pleasure.
She’s fighting me. I didn’t know anyone could do that. I look further into her mind, and I find something I’d never imagined.
Paula can see the future. With one stipulation. She must kill those whose future she sees within a day. I see more victims. Not just four. Five. Six. She has been killing for decades. Fortune telling isn’t a way of life for her, it’s window shopping. She waits until someone comes to her who looks rich enough to take money from.
The latest to die was Michaela Gooseberry. She arrived with fingers heavy under the weight of diamond rings. Paula saw a woman dressed in a designer suit. She saw desperation to know if her husband was cheating. She never expected a prophecy of death. None of them did.
The killer stalked Michaela to her country home. Paula is quite an acrobat it seems. She climbed a six-foot-high wall as if it was a picket fence. She entered the house knowing Michaela had already disabled the security system. She found the heiress with a Last Will and Testament in her hands. She smothered Michaela and forged the signature from the original will on the fake.
Michaela’s husband is awaiting trial for murder. The killer made a cool million dollars as a ‘trusted friend.’ Paula is good at the confused benefactor routine. She’s had plenty of practice.
There’s a problem with Paula that I only have with psychopaths. She inherently doesn’t care about people. I can drain her dry of memories. I can take away all the knowledge and skills she built up following this lifestyle. She’ll just start over again. If I take so much of her that she becomes mentally incompetent, she’ll never face justice for the lives she ruined. Michaela’s husband might spend his life behind bars for the murder Paula committed.
What did I do with the last one? I faked an overdose and wrote a confession to all his crimes. All I needed was an investigation. The same thing should work again.
I wipe Paula clean. She’s a tabula rasa by the time I’ve taken it all. I hold her hand and write a note on the back of the poster she had outside. My DNA is all over it. It’s another risk I’m willing to take if it means justice for her victims. I wrote down her victims and the money she stole from them. How much. When.
If she ever recovers the desire to commit murder Paula should be too old and feeble to act on it. She’ll be watched for the rest of her days. I sit in my car while an ambulance takes her away. I stay as the police arrive. They tape up the scene.
I drive away before anyone notices me. I have faces flashing up in my head as I drive. The people Paula killed. I should feel happy that they have a shot at justice. As always, the good I’ve done is tainted by the memories of the sins I’ve absorbed.
I’m not a psychopath. Seeing them die at her hand crushes my heart in a metal fist. I sniff and try to blink away tears as I speed along a lonely road with fields around. Mountains frame the picture of both sides. Wispy clouds roll by before me.
I play Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas and wish I’m one of Sam and Dean in the Chevrolet Impala. I wish the monsters I fight were actual monsters instead of shitty people. Even a bit of magic doesn’t make them the mythical creatures that might make some sense of what they do.
I scream at the steering wheel as my speedometer turns past 90. I keep my foot down. I want to be home so badly. I want to shower. I want to wash the feeling of revulsion off me. People I meet leave stains that don’t wash out but having a shower helps a little.
My phone rings. It’s buzzing on the seat next to me. My foot eases up on the accelerator.
I reach for the phone.
I don’t know how but the wheel spins to the left and the car flips.
Gravity throws all its toys out of the pram as I spin.
I hit something. I’m out.
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Thanks for reading. If you want to read the next story in the series then you can use the link below. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/u3npny/
Nice continuation of this plot and character, Graham. This has been my favorite series of yours since Making Peace, so it's always great to see you're still writing it. You've got the American writing style down too. I'm excited to see where you're going to go from here, considering how this one ends. You could totally write a novella from these pieces, for real. I'm positive there's a market out there for it. Thanks for sharing this one. Keep 'em coming. P.S. My favorite sentence was: "Gravity throws all its toys out of the pram as I spin."
Thanks Zack. Here's the next one. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/u3npny/
Some cool ideas in this story! I like only being able to predict the future at the cost of a life, and the ending very much makes me suspect the absorbed memories played a role in the crash. Maybe a lifetime of absorbing horrible memories adds up, kind of like a drug sniffing dog. Or maybe it's like that old idea, where you get an organ transplant from a serial killer, and their personality takes over.
Really interesting concept and character you have here. Will be curious to see what happens next!
Thank you. I've just uploaded the next one. Here's the link. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/u3npny/
Graham takes a basic situation and makes it a symphony. The reading is smooth, the characters are shades of power, evil and humanity.
Thank you Tommy, high praise.
This is great and I've just read your prequel. Love the way you've met the 2 very different prompts with the same character.
Thank you Wendy.
Great job, I was not brave enough to tackle this prompt! (I went with a different one from this week). Will have to go read the story this is a sequel to.
Thank you. It was a very specific prompt. I only used this prompt because I was planning to do them all. I have a baby now so I doubt I’ll have much time to write.
Is this a sequel I see? That's wonderful. I like this idea you have: this person absorbing people's memories. This character kind of seems like a kinder judge jury and in a way, executioner. The way they work is interesting. I wonder what else will happen..
Thank you. I’ll try to keep this going and build up the character.
This had a very interesting concept of someone who could actually tell the future and someone who could read minds. I wish the latter's character and motives were revealed a bit more.
It’s a sequel to another story, here is the first. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/qt7692/
You're an archaeologist of pop culture. Your compendious knowledge of contemporary cultural production, of the nuances of plot and character in action stories, is revealed in these Xander installments. I could easily see these becoming a Netflix series.
Somehow films and tv are about the only stuff that ADHD sort of lets me remember. I can make plot references like there’s no tomorrow, even when I’m not sure what day it is tomorrow.