Wednesday 13 – Thursday 14 January 2016
‘Tens of thousands of people go missing every year. Hell, probably even hundreds of thousands in this country. Gone . . . without a trace. Some are returned home, some come back of their own accord, but many, many are never seen again.’ A new hush fell over the audience. Beatrice Corman stared, unflinchingly, out into the throng of people who had come to see her perform wonders. She thrived on the attention, and had done so since she was a small child. Her other gift, however, she’d worked hard to cultivate. In her line of work, it was important for her words to be taken as gospel, and her persona to be caring, compassionate, and trustworthy. The fact that she didn’t care for a single client past their bank account was why it was imperative for Beatrice to be credible, and an excellent performer.
‘A few of those who never returned home are here with us tonight and, if you’ll allow me, I’ll have a conversation with some of them. Some of you out there will perhaps get some closure. Obviously, with time restraints I can’t deal with everyone, but at the end of tonight’s presentation, there will be an opportunity for those of you who wish to make a booking for a more personal session with me.’ She let the information settle with the audience for a few seconds before moving on. It was a practised technique that guaranteed she’d be inundated with bookings after the show.
‘So, shall we begin?’ A murmur rippled through the crowd. ‘Then let us start.’ Beatrice took her seat on the stage, looked out into the audience, and gave her best modest smile.
‘Oh please,’ whispered Julia. Her partner, Detective Anderson Greene, leaned in closer.
‘What’s up?’ he whispered in reply.
‘She’s faking it.’
An irate woman sitting in the row in front of Poole and Greene turned to them, and issued a sharp shush. Three others from the woman’s row turned to Julia and Anderson, and grimaced at them.
‘Shit! I hope Susan hasn’t seen us,’ he said, and sat up slightly higher in order to see over the other bodies blocking his view of Susan Quartermaine. ‘I think we’re good. Doesn’t seem like she’s looking over here. You think she’s here because she wants some info from the other world about where Holly is?’
‘I think, Anderson,’ Julia replied, ‘you should shut your pie hole before we get thrown outate here.’ Her warning was as sharp as the shush that came from the woman in front of them.
The house lights dimmed, and a spotlight was trained upon Beatrice Corman. She settled into her chair, stretched her arms out in front of her, and inhaled deeply. She closed her eyes, and sat quietly. It was the show she made of opening herself up to the spirit world, and she had the audience eating out of her hands with that simple gesture.
‘Okay, ladies and gentlemen . . . friends . . . the first one coming through is,’ she paused for effect. ‘I’m getting a message for Maria from Luigi Giovanni. Maria, where are you?’ She looked out into the crowd. An older woman, perhaps in her late sixties, raised her hand.
‘I’m Maria,’ the woman called out.
‘Hi, Maria. Do you know a Luigi Giovanni? Is that name familiar to you?’ Beatrice asked.
‘Yes, yes . . . he was my husband.’
‘This is good, ladies and gentlemen. We’re on the right track. The spirits are true tonight.’
Julia and Anderson watched as the psychic reeled off con after con.
‘How does she do it, d’you think?’ Anderson asked.
‘I’ll introduce you to Beatrice after the show. You’ll understand everything then.’
* * * * *
Ross would normally have kept on the move. He usually wanted to put as much distance between him, and Holly Quartermaine’s mother as he possibly could. By now she would have the police involved, so it was imperative that he alter Holly’s look. A filthy, run-down truck stop would be the ideal place to cut and dye her hair without anyone noticing.
‘I’m sorry, Holly, but it’s something that we need to do if we’re going to make a go of our new life. Your mom would have called in the police, and they’ll be on the look out for a gorgeous, young blonde. If you’re a gorgeous, young brunette, or a gorgeous, young redhead the cops won’t spare us a second glance.’
She wasn’t entirely convinced that it was a good idea.
‘Look, once we get set up in Switzerland you can grow your hair out, and go back to your natural colour. Honey, it’s just so that we can get across the country without any trouble. You trust me, don’t you?’
* * * * *
‘Anderson Greene, this is Beatrice Corman. Beattie, meet Detective Anderson Greene.’
Beatrice offered her hand. Green hesitated in shaking it.
‘Don’t worry, detective, you won’t catch anything,’ Corman joked.
‘And she won’t be able to read anything from you either,’ Poole added.
‘You’re such a bummer, Julia. You know perfectly well I have a gift.’ Beatrice grinned, and Anderson struggled to figure out if she was being serious or sarcastic.
‘Pffft, you’re as psychic, and as clairvoyant as Greene, and you know it.’
Beatrice’s grin grew larger. ‘Ain’t no getting around you, is there, girl?’
‘Put him out of his misery, and tell Greene how you do it,’ Julia replied.
Just as she’d settled herself in a chair on stage, she sat opposite Anderson Greene in her dressing room.
‘Detective Greene . . . your father wants you to know that he’s okay, and he’s proud of you.’
Greene sucked in a breath of air, and wide-eyed, looked over at his partner.
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake, Anderson. She got the information from me, you fool!’
Beatrice giggled. ‘I’m sorry, detective. I couldn’t resist. Look, let’s just get down to what you want to know.’
‘Susan Quartermaine . . . she was in your audience tonight. We want to know what you know about her, what you know about her daughter, what she’s told you about the guy the daughter was seeing. We want everything you know about Susan, her ex-husband, her daughter, and anyone else that she’s mentioned to you.’
‘Julia, you know I have client confidentiality. I can’t just give you that information. It’d be unethical.’
‘Everything you do is unethical, Beatrice. Let me put it to you this way . . . if you don’t tell us, we’ll haul your ass down to the station, we’ll question you as a suspect in Holly’s disappearance, and then we’ll expose you as being the fraud that you are. Simple really.’
Beatrice theatrically sighed as if the request was a huge chore for her to complete. She snapped her fingers, and a young male assistance came running.
‘Ted, can you pull up Susan Quartermaine’s file on the laptop, and then get everything we have in the office sent over to Julia at the police station please?’
He looked both horrified and confused.
‘It’s okay, Ted . . . think of it as assisting in a police investigation which, as far as I can see, is a hell of a lot better than being arrested as a suspect in a police investigation.’
Anderson gawked from Beatrice to her assistant.
‘You still don’t get it do you, Anderson?’ Julia asked. He shook his head.
‘Detective Greene, Ted here is, shall we say, one hell of a hacker. He can find information from anywhere on the World Wide Web. The Internet is his playground, and the home of my spirits’ world. There’s nothing psychic or clairvoyant about what I do . . . Julia, on the other hand, well . . . she’s got everything a wannabe psychic like me wants. Actual psychic ability.’
. . . To be continued . . .