They are a part of life but I still haven’t grown accustomed to them. In fact, I hate them so much I stopped taking walk-ins years ago…
It was a Tuesday morning and I had just poured a fresh cup of coffee. The aroma was rising in my nose as my computer booted up for the day. I was about to sit down and work on putting the final touches on the first draft of Johnny Walker Ranger: Demon Slayer, Vol. 2. I didn’t even get to sit my butt in the chair when the doorbell rang.
“I moved outta neighborhoods cause of crap like this.” I glanced at the bottom left of the computer screen. It was 7:59 a.m. “Better be Girl Scout cookies.” I placed my mug next to my computer and walked towards the door.
I turned the knob and pulled. The sunlight danced across my night-laden eyes and I squinted. I raised a hand over my forehead to shield my face from the light. I blinked a few times to focus on the shadowy figures standing before me. They came into view and I saw a man and woman around my age.
The man stood with his hands crossed in front of him. He was lanky, had scraggly facial hair and donned tattered jeans and red Dr. Pepper shirt. The lady had short brown hair with round features. She was wearing a white tank top and cut-off jean shorts.
I eyed them up and down. “Look, a homeless man and a hooker.” I motioned at the guy with my head. “Good thing you’re not an add for Dr. Pepper, cause if you were, I’d never drink the stuff.” I started to close the door.
The lady thrust her foot forward and stopped the door.
“Mr. Kincaid, please,” the man said and placed his hand on the lady’s shoulder.
“I don’t do walk-ins. Hold on, let me get my secretary so you can make an appointment.” I peeked over my shoulder. “Hey, Janet!” I paused for a moment then looked back at them. “She must be out. Sorry, you’ll have to reschedule—never.”
“Please!” The man raised his voice. His eyes rounded and a look of desperation flowed over him. His lip quivered. “I’m a friend of Trisha’s.”
The name punched me in the gut.
She came to me on a whim. She was having nightmares about an entity with the head of a goat skull, body of a feline, and tail of a serpent. To make a long story I short, I used my ability to save her from being cult stew.
I narrowed my eyes and glared at them for a few moments. “Fine.” I eased off the door. “You got five minutes to make sense or you’re gone.”
“Thank you,” the man nodded and came in.
“Stubborn jackass,” the woman said then walked over the threshold.
“Don’t mention it, Roxanne,” I huffed.
“I hate that song!” She snapped back.
“Who hates that song?” I snickered.
I stepped in front of them and made my way into the kitchen and arrived at the coffee pot. “Anyone want some? I just put it on.”
“Yes,” the man said. “We would both like a cup.” He gave the woman a brazen glare.
“We would.” The woman’s voice was flat, monotone.
The couple moved toward my table. He pulled the chair out for her and let her sit. He took his place next to her.
I poured them each a cup of coffee and placed it before them on the table.
“Thank you,” the man said and took a sip as the steam snaked around his face.
I pulled out a chair from the table, turned it around, and sat down with my arms draping over the back. “Your five minutes start now.”
“My name is James,” the man said. “This is my wife, Alice.”
I acknowledge them with a nod.
“You helped Trisha, and now I need you to help my wife,” James said.
I glared at the woman as she wrapped her lips around the cup. “Someone looks like they think I’m a fake.”
“Excuse me,” the woman strutted her head back like a turkey.
“Yeah. I seen that look a thousand times,” I said.
Alice wrapped her hands around the mug and glanced down, her eyes heavy. “I—I do have a hard time believing any of this.”
I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms. “Number one, its early and I don’t like morning interruptions. Number two, its early and I don’t like morning interruptions. And three, I don’t like interruptions so get on with it. You either want my help or not.”
“My wife has lost something very important to her,” James said.
I rolled my neck then rubbed the back of it. “Dear Lord, please?” I lifted my eyes while my head was lowered. “I’m not a psychic lost and found. Get out.” I waved my hands at them.
“Told you he was a fake,” Alice said and pushed her cup away.
James gripped her wrist. “Just wait.”
“If I was a smoker, I would light one up right now,” I said. “The mood calls for it.” I placed my forearms on the table and interlocked my fingers. I breathed in deep and exhaled. I could hear the ringing of my computer as updates and messages dinged off. I shot a glance over at it then returned my eyes to my audience. “People usually call me a fake to try and manipulate me to do what they want. Doesn’t work on me. If you think I am a fake or a circus side show, you can drag your ass out the same way you came in. We are done.”
I stood up from the table and kicked my chair back. “You want a prediction? You both will die one day. How’s that?”
Alice placed the back of her hand over her mouth and gasped. James hung his head.
“Alice, stop.” James lifted his eyes to me. “She doesn’t mean it.” He glared at Alice. “Tell him.”
Alice placed her hands on the table and cleared her throat. “I am sorry I offended you.” She wouldn’t look at me. “Please, I need your help.”
I grabbed the back of my chair, lifted it, then slammed it down and scooched it toward the table. “Fine.” I sat down.
“Tell him why you are here, babe.” James set his cup down on the table.
Alice adjusted in her seat. “Someone very close to me—well who used to be very close to me—gave me something when we were young. Two white stones.”
“Who gave them to you?” I asked.
“My younger sister, Rachel. I was eight and she was five when she gave them to me. I carried them everywhere. They were special because she used her own money to buy them then gave them to me as a birthday present.” Alice teared up. “She died fifteen years ago in a car accident. Since then I have been looking for those stones and can’t find them.” Alice wiped her eyes. “So, Mr. Kincaid, I need to find them. They are all I have to remember her by.”
I gave a slow nod. My heart was moved with compassion and I all the sudden wasn’t annoyed by her anymore. I stretched out my hands across the table. “Let me see your hands, Alice.”
Alice was hesitant. She looked to James for assurance and his expression told her it was all right. Alice placed her hands in mine.
“First, I am going to prove I am not a fake.” I closed my eyes. “I am searching your memories.”
Alice gave a slight twitch when I started.
“I see—your childhood.” My countenance fell. “So much pain and sadness.”
Alice let out a soft whimper.
“Someone. They threw things at you. A red thermos.”
Alice went to speak but I cut her off.
“No. I’m confusion two things. I see a red ball, two black eyes, and a thermos—”
“Lock.” Alice said.
“Yes.” I nodded.
We opened are eyes and gazed at one another.
“I was bullied bad. From elementary through high school.” Alice began to cry. “The bullies—”
“Shayna, Julie, and Amanda,” I said.
Alice pulled her hand away from mine and placed it over her lip. Her fingers trembled. “How did you—”
“Tell me what happened.” I held her other hand tight.
“One day at P.E.,” she swallowed. “They cornered me with those red rubber balls you use for dodge ball. Then they pelted me with them. Shayna hit me right in the nose and blackened both my eyes.”
“What about the locks?” I asked
Alice closed her eyes and bit her lips. “When I would run up or down the stairs in the hall. The kids would throw locks at me. The brand was thermos.”
“Dear Lord,” I said and shook my head. I stared at her with mixed emotions. Part of me felt sorry for her and the other part of me wanted to track those people down and shove the locks into every open cavity of their body. “Give me your other hand. I need to keep searching.”
Alice reached so I took hold of her hand. Her fingers and palms had grown clammy.
I searched her memories again. “You’re one constant was your teddy bear, Clark.”
Alice teared up again. “Yes.’
Then I was in deep. Her memories were flashing before me. “Alice. I see you as a child. You are in the woods. You are burying your toys.” Then my voice changed. It was that of Alice when she was a little girl. “It’s okay, no one will find you here. You are safe.” My voice returned to normal. “Alice, what is this?” I opened my eyes.
Alice’s body shook as she sobbed. “How did you know I buried my toys? I have never told anyone that. Not my mother. Not my sister. Not even James. I had forgotten.” The look on Alice’s face was one of amazement and sorrow. “I am so sorry I doubted you.”
I held out my hand to stop her. “Why did you bury your toys?” I asked.
“Because the kids. The bullies. They would steal my toys or destroy them. So, I started to bury them.” Alice said.
I closed my eyes again. “I saw young Alice again in the woods next to her buried toys. “I see you holding two white stones. You buried them with your toys.”
Alice jerked her hands from mine and placed them over her mouth. “My God. I did! I remember! I buried them there because Shayna tried to steal them from me at school one day.”
“There still there.” I told her. “Do you remember where the place is?”
Alice nodded. “I do. My mother still lives in the same house I grew up in. I remember the stop between the two trees.”
I looked at Alice then at James. “Take her there. She will find the stones.” I stood up from the table.
James reached across to shake my hand. “Thank you,’ he said. His eyes were wide, and his face beamed with thankfulness.
I clasped his hand. “Glad I could help.”
Alice ran and gave me a hug. “Please forgive me for doubting. Thank you so much.”
I pulled her away and smiled. “Don’t thank me yet. You haven’t been to see if they really are there.”
“Oh, they are.” She gave me a half smile. “I remember it clearly now.”
I saw the couple to the door and gave James my number. “Call me if she finds it.”
“Will do,” He took the slip of paper with my cell number.
We said our goodbyes and I returned to my computer to work on Johnny Walker Ranger: Demon Slayer, Vol. 2.
Four hours later my phone rang.
“Mr. Kincaid, it’s James.”
“Yeah, hey James.”
“Alice found the stones right where you said they would be.”
“Good,” I smiled. “Glad she found them.”
“Thank you again.”
I hung up the phone and kept writing.