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A Luminations Story
Start at the beginning of the Luminations series
A list. I need to make a list.
And check it twice?
Yes. But they're all naughty.
Christmas has been over for more than a month.
Then why are your decorations still up?
Now that was uncalled for. Why don't you know?
Know who's on the list.
Maybe I was too busy being murdered to remember names and faces.
I was told the last moments stay with you.
You were told wrong. It's a blank. A big dark stain on the movie screen that blots out what you're trying to see, and you hurt the harder you try to look at that spot.
I stand corrected. So. A list. How are you going to get it? Divination?
Yes. And detective work.
She was listed in the yellow pages between 'Prosthetics - Breast' and 'Psychologists - Educational', and I'd like to say that I picked her because of some sort of supernatural vibe or hunch. I'd be lying if I did. It was random. I closed my eyes.
Our eyes, honey. I closed our eyes and put our finger down on the page. Actually, I let Chester do that part. I'm better at momentarily switching out like that, letting him have an instant of action. I've been practicing. It will be useful when I need to throw a punch or pull a trigger.
We've had a little over two years of this. I've gotten used to having a body again. I was surprised to find that the change in gender was easy. Of course, a couple of decades without material form will do that for you. Race and gender differences shrink away to just about nothing. Yeah, the parts have changed, but the feet touch the floor and I have to use the door to leave a room.
Chester isn't into sharing, but he's come to accept that neither of us have any choice in the matter. And I'm not about to just sit in the back and go along for the ride. Things to do, you know. People to see.
Welcome to Brockton, City of Champions. The words stood on the sign, alongside the silhouette of a boxer. Champions, eh?
Rocky Marciano. And Marvin Hagler.
Guys who made their living getting punched in the head for other people's enjoyment. I don't see what the big deal is.
One hundred and eleven wins between them. And three losses.
Well, I was never much when it came to winning fights, so I guess I'm impressed.
We passed the fairgrounds, buried under a foot of snow and silently awaiting the coming of summer and the carneys and the tilt-a-whirls. A couple of guys huddled by the high school bleachers, smoking cigarettes and playing with their cell phones.
I like technology. But it's work for me. I still let Chester do most of it. When it works, though, it's a thing of beauty. The phantom voice of the GPS informed me of the upcoming right turn, "…then your destination is on the left."
Brockton is poor. That much was obvious coming into town. It was the same old set of ripoff artists in new trappings. Streets that would have been lined with pawnshops in '78 now brightly advertised payday loans and rent-to-own, and I was pretty sure that the real money still got made and lost in back alleys and on street corners after dark.
But somewhere past the fairgrounds I'd turned away from the seedy part of town and I found myself in a residential neighborhood of Victorian homes with the occasional doctor's or dentist's office. The snow was piled into mounds along both sides of the narrow streets, and I wondered if I'd have trouble finding a parking space.
Fortunately, my psychic advisor's driveway had been neatly shoveled, and I pulled in behind a beat-up Jeep with a bumper sticker that displayed a row of different religious symbols above the word "Coexist". It reminded me of someplace lost.
Alyson Majere (not her real name) was plump and middle-aged, and clearly enjoyed dressing the part, from the henna eye makeup to the crystal pendant to unruly curls and the dark red peasant gown.
The Red Robes of Neutrality.
"Enter freely and unburdened of meddlesome spirits, Mr. Hall," Alyson said.
I hesitated. Chester took over smoothly and took one step over the threshold and the result felt like I was being dragged through a barbed wire fence.
Damn it! I clamped down, digging into his mind and stopping the scream that I'd begun deep in his throat while I lost control of just about everything else and the floor came flying up at my face and hit with a thick sound that echoed over the cries of the psychic.
"Mr. Hall! Are you all right?" She was on her knees, her face close. I pulled away from her touch. Reestablished control. Sat up slowly.
"Yes. I'm fine. Tripped. Sorry." I was still pulling away, trying not to let her touch me. I stood, forcing myself to ignore the spinning of the room and the pain that was everywhere.
"I… I need to pay attention better. Everyone tells me that." I finally reached my hand out to her. She clasped both of her hands around mine, and this time was better. I could feel the touch of her mind, but it was gentle, controlled, and out at the edges, touching Chester's persona, finding only what we revealed.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Hall. This has gotten off to a bad start. I can understand if you'd rather not go through with it right now."
Alyson Majere was the real deal. She was sensitive, skilled, and strong.
I was still connected. And that meant I was stronger. Perfect.
"No, I'm fine." I forced a smile through the fading, dulling haze. "Shall we get started?"
Alyson went into her routine. Rider-Waite, Celtic cross layout. Glorious, lovely bullshit, although I had to admit she picked up on a lot. I wonder how much our body language gives away. I would guess quite a bit, to someone who knows what to look for.
She talked about conflict, about unfulfilled love, and an interruption in Chester's life path.
Life-path interruption. That's an interesting way of describing you.
I've been called worse.
Alyson was good, but she wasn't really trying. I decided I'd better get her back on track.
"Are you in communication with the spirit world?" I tried to make it sound innocent. That would have worked better coming in my own voice.
"I am sometimes sensitive to the spirits of the dead. Is there someone you have lost?"
"Someone lost some time ago. A murder victim named Mattie Ives. I have felt some connection to her since I investigated a house where her spirit was said to be active." That about summed it up. It got her attention.
She started to look. Then she started to really look. I slipped back. Chester looked around, getting his bearings. I'd been pressing hard for control and he'd let me have it. Neither of us can really force control. We can force inaction. Chester calls that "veto power". But Chester is weary from what he has seen and done. Sometimes when I am about my business, he'll just go quiet and fade into an imperceptible white noise.
When I give control back, I'm suddenly noticeable as a separate soul if the right kind of attention is being paid. Alyson was paying attention.
She pulled back. This was new to her.
I caught her hand, steadily forced it down to the table against her resistance, enjoying the chance to use Chester's strength. Physical contact focused the connection.
I saw recognition in her eyes, and fear.
"Clairvoyance? Remote viewing? You can do that, right? There's a lot more to you than shuffling cards."
She swallowed hard, waiting.
"Orchard Road in Bedford New Hampshire. August, 1980. Jimmy Carter was President. The guy who owned the house on Orchard Road was named Richard Harrington. It was a hot night, and Harrington confronted the girl he'd been cheating on his wife with. She'd stolen from him, learned secrets about him. She'd made plans to blackmail him. She'd talked her ex-boyfriend into helping her take off with Harrington's money. They were gonna go out west, buy land somewhere. Harrington paid off the boyfriend and he turned on the girl. They beat her up, dragged her out of the house. There were people waiting. A truck…"
I stopped. Damn it. I had rehearsed this part. Planned it out. Suddenly I couldn't tell it any more than I could see it. Help me.
The voice was no longer mine. "Mattie was buried alive in the concrete foundation of a barn that Harrington was building out back. The case is officially a missing person. It was never solved, and Harrington was never charged. He… um… died two years ago."
Alyson asked, "What do you want from me?"
I slipped in front again, relief washing over me. No more need to look in that dark place, at least for the moment.
"Names and faces," I said.
"I understand." She cleared the cards off the table and got up and walked into the little office area adjoining the living room. We'd been sitting in cushioned chairs across an oak coffee table covered with a velvet cloth. Candles burned in the room, which was hung with framed cross-stitch pieces depicting the Pyramids, Stonehenge, the Snake-Mound. The living room was free of clutter, meticulously dusted and vacuumed.
Seen through the open doorway, Alyson's office area was a mess of stacks of paperwork and overflowing baskets and inboxes. She returned with a yellow legal pad and a box of colored pencils.
"You're going to need to give me something to work with," She explained. "Start by writing down notes. Everything you remember. Names, colors, sounds, smells, little details. And a map. When you feel you can do it, make a map of the house and the yard."
Alyson sat and waited and I sat with a pencil in my hand and waited.
"This isn’t working." Alyson's words were the first indication that half an hour had passed.
I'd doodled on the pad. Petroglyphs again. Anything to keep from looking into that darkness.
Alyson went back into the office room, rummaged around for a few minutes, then came back into the living room and headed for the staircase.
A minute later she returned with her coat on. And a canvas shopping bag with a boxed Ouija board sticking out of the top.
"Take me there," she said.
"Where?" I didn't get it.
"I believe you. I want to help. But I can't get what I need from you. Take me to Orchard Road in Bedford. I need to see it for myself."
We took our time getting to Bedford, wandering the back roads and stopping for pizza at a bar and grille in Billerica.
We need to wait until after dark.
I know. I was impatient. Chester kept reminding me about how he'd blown Richard Harrington's brains out in the middle of Boston's First Night celebration two years back.
The Harrington family doesn't know all the details, but they know I'm a Person of Interest. Probably wouldn't look good to be seen sneaking around their back yard.
Alyson figured I needed time to work up my nerve. It was as good an excuse as any, and it didn't sound like she was the type to be scared of the dark.
"Why the Ouija board?" I put down my pepperoni slice and took a sip of beer.
"You said you needed names or faces. I'm a lousy artist. The board is a nice focus for letters and words. More direct than cards. No symbolism to interpret."
Snow was falling by the time we were back on the road. We stopped at Chester's office in Bedford and got snowshoes out of his supply closet before heading out to Orchard Lane. We pulled over onto a cross-street and made our way over the hard-packed snow through the woods.
Alyson didn't seem bothered by the cold or by all the need for stealth. She didn't ask why we weren't just knocking on the front door and asking to take a look. Some things cannot be done in the open. She understood that.
I was fine until we crossed a chain link fence onto the Harrington property. Then it all fell apart.
I could see the dark spot that was blotting out my memories, a black hole in my vision that covered the literal black hole of the old barn foundation. I stood there frozen in place.
Alyson turned back, sensing I was no longer beside her.
"You can do this without me," I whispered.
"No." She shook her head. "I can't."
What do you want out of this?
But Alyson was asking the same question.
"I want to know."
She grasped my shoulders. "No. You don't. Not badly enough anyway. Everything you want to know is in your mind. I can just about see the edges of it, but there's this dark spot on the memories. No one put that there. You did."
She gripped my hand, placed cold metal in my palm. Closed my fingers around it.
A flashlight. One of those little mag-lights.
Everything is tiny now. Your whole record collection in an iPod, The world's libraries on a computer screen.
"This is up to you, now. Shine a light through that darkness. Or walk away from this."
I was done walking away. Trying to walk away from my entanglements had gotten me killed.
I stepped forward. Tiny steps, crunching loud in the snow. I was expecting the lights in the Harrington house to come on any second and the Harrington son to come rushing out with a shotgun or a Doberman.
But there were only my footsteps all the way to the edge, and then a thin beam of light sliced an open wound in the shadows filling that pit and I bit my tongue to keep from screaming.
Alyson was beside me, pulling me down in the snow and pulling out her pencils and her legal pad and the plastic fortune-telling toy with board and the letters.
"Oh my God. I see them. Six."
She had one hand on the planchette and she was frantically writing with the other hand. I watched the scribbled letters take shape on the wet yellow pad.
R Harri Ton
Bobbert Wit ker
J Tuck n
Chr Ke ny
B Har on
C lie D v ns
Ed Mc Hur y
That was all of them. I turned my back on the pit and the connection broke. Alyson was out of breath and I helped her up and picked up the board and the plastic planchette.
Can we go now?
We stumbled back toward the woods, while the Harrington house stood dark and silent as a tomb behind us.
I paid Alyson Majere well for her service. She tried to refuse to accept the money. I insisted. It had been above and beyond the call of duty.
Sometime after midnight I found myself back in Chester's apartment, looking over the list and filling in the blanks.
Richard Harrington. Dead.
Bobby Whittaker. Dead. He was the first one I'd looked up when I got the chance. Auto accident in 1987.
Joe Tuckerman. Unknown.
Christina Kenney. I didn’t know she was there that night.
But you're not surprised?
No. Not surprised. Christina Kenney. Alive long past when she should be dead and buried. That could be fixed.
Beth Harrington. Dead. Cancer. She's the seventh. She was in the house. Didn't watch.
So Alyson couldn't see her in the vision she had.
Yes. Her name still came through, though.
The last two I don't know. Charlie. Devens or Davens? Ed. McHurrey? McHurley? McMurry?
I took a pen and slowly crossed a line through the names listed as dead.
Now we start that detective work. Search for these people. Use that Google and that Facebook you like so much.
We finish crossing out names.
Story and image by Rick Silva, Copyright 2009