85 - Chicago
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO “You’ve seen him?” I could feel my heartbeat speeding up. I hadn’t realized how much hearing something like this would mean to me. It was validation. Someone else to share either the knowing or the madness with.
But she just shook her head. “No. So far as I can remember, I never have.”
“So your memory…”
“Hasn’t come back yet. That whole night is a blur.” Her voice was definitely edging towards petulant. It just made me wonder again just how old she was. She seemed so young now, even younger without all of her getup. Come to think of it, she might even have been the same age as Alex. “And it’s not getting any better.”
That was strange. Didn’t lost memories clear up over time? Come to think of it, my own memories seemed to be doing much the same thing. Her tone had gone from petulant to accusing though, so I tried to steer the topic of conversation back away from myself.
“So you haven’t seen Alex at all, but you still need my help with him?”
Her face feel ever so slightly. “Well when you put it that way, it just sounds silly.”
“Believe me. After that night, there’s not much you could possibly say that would make me think you were silly.” She looked hopeful at that, but only for a moment. “So just tell me, what’s going on?”
She looked up, catching my eyes. She just stared at me for a long moment and I couldn’t help but stare back. Without the overlarge glasses she’d been wearing the first time, she didn’t seem nearly as spacey. Perhaps a little afraid at the moment, but keeping it under control.
“I think he’s been driving away my customers.”
For the second time in as many minutes, she’d managed to surprise me. This was about business? Proof positive that she wasn’t a fraud after all, that there was actually life of a sort beyond death and the first thing she came to ask about was her bottom line? But perhaps I wasn’t being fair. “How’s that?”
She shrugged. “Business has just been really slow. And what few people do come in have been harder to read.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You do know how a cold reading works, right?” I shook my head. “It’s basically a way of getting someone, a client in my case, to tell you everything that you need to know without actually realizing they’d done it. Mostly, it’s just a matter of asking the right sorts of questions, but for the last few days I’ve just been really off my game.”
“So couldn’t it be you?” I asked, almost immediately wishing I could take my words back.
But she just smiled slightly. “Oh, I’m almost sure at least part of it’s just in my head. But I just have this feeling…” Her voice trailed off.
I couldn’t really blame her. I’d had the same feeling. That there was something off about the world, that something was different now. And come to think of it, it had had an effect on my job as well. I knew that my homily on Sunday hadn’t been quite as effective as it could have been and I’d just chalked it up to the events with the Smith’s blowing out my sleep schedule. But maybe she really was on to something.
“So why did you come to me for help? What can I do about it?”
For some reason, she looked around before answering. We were still completely alone in the church. It was still early afternoon on a weekday, those were always slow. When she answered me, her voice was quieter, conspiratorial even.
“I came to you because you’re the only other person that knows about this. So far as what you can do about it… have you ever performed an exorcism?”