Chapter 1

11.5K 406 52

"Daughter? But I didn't think you had a daughter," Captain Fred Dobrogost says from behind his desk at the drab offices of the Stevens Point Police Department.

Well, no shit, Sherlock.

Fred acts like Zandra shouldn't be so worried, as if she needs a reminder about the head count of her blood relatives. He holds the photo of the mystery woman Zandra received in the mail to his face. Twists and turns it, pantomiming concern. There isn't much to analyze. Her face is concealed behind a thick mane of hair as she digs inside a mailbox in the photo.

"That's the point. I don't have a daughter," Zandra says and hacks into her sleeve. Her ankle might be feeling better after the surgery, but her lungs still secrete charcoal specks into her throat. It's a smoother hack, though, now that she switched to brand name cigarettes.

"So why are you here? Just ignore it," Fred says. The taut skin of his bald head reflects the ceiling lights. His hair parachuted off his scalp after Charlie's death. "You can't expect us to investigate every piece of threatening mail you get. That's all we'd do. We're police, not celebrity bodyguards. Until one of these threats becomes credible, I can't justify putting resources into this."

The burn out is obvious in Fred's flat, monotone voice. No spark behind the dead eyes, either. Zandra glances to a picture of Fred's family on the wall. Pretty wife. Two kids. One dog. They're probably all taking it on the nose.

If Fred were a client at Sneak Peek, Zandra would exploit that for all its worth. Feed him some line about needing a vacation. She might even suggest Florida. The renewed fame of cracking the Elle Carey case brought in a flood of partnerships, aka "kickbacks." Money isn't a problem anymore, especially after that book deal went through.

Of course, not all the attention is positive. What was it Gene Carey had said? That there's a "burden" to success? The international attention of solving not one but two high-profile missing persons cases with her uncanny "psychic powers" floods her mailbox daily with threats, pleas for help, marriage proposals and dubious sponsorships schemes.

The same would be said of her e-mail and website if she had either. Despite her newfound wealth, Zandra still doesn't have Internet at her new luxury condo above Sneak Peek. Sure, she could easily afford it, but staying disengaged prevents those over-the-Internet readings that skeptics and psychic-busters love to record and criticize. Her reputation, and her money, needs better protection. Staying off the proverbial grid is the only way to go.

The money will dry up eventually, though. Zandra knows that. Best to ride it out for as long as she can, then get back to business. Gene Carey's gubernatorial campaign needs sabotaging. Stevens Point still hasn't paid for what it did to Zandra 25 years ago. And her files, the ones with enough blackmail to line every birdcage on the planet, are still somewhere in the bowels of Gene's estate.

That can wait. For now, she's more interested in keeping the peace with Stevens Point. Smile. Wave. Cut ribbons. Write books. Give polite interviews. Look presentable for media. Even her flowing purple gown received an upgrade, although it's still suffocating beneath an ocean of tacky rhinestones.

Zandra refocuses on Fred. "What about this?" she says. Sets the photo bearing her likeness fetching mail outside Sneak Peek. "Does this count as enough of a threat?"

Fred examines the photo with the same amount of interest reserved for the paint on the walls of his office. He flips the photo over to read and reads the words, "IM COMING FOR YOU FRAUD," typed in block letters.

"The real crime here is the grammar," Fred says. "There a return address on the envelope?"

Of course not, idiot.

"Don't you think I would've mentioned that?" Zandra says.

"Just being thorough," Fred says.

"And lazy. Look, I get it. You're under a lot of pressure. One of your detectives wound up kidnapping a little girl for ransom. That didn't reflect well on you, and now you're worried about dipping your toe back into the same cesspool that shit crawled out of," Zandra says and wheezes. "But as a taxpaying citizen of Stevens Point, I deserve to get my money's worth. I'm being threatened and you're not doing anything about it."

That wakes Fred up. "Fine. I'll stick a detective on it," he says.

"Great. Which one? I'll want to be in contact."

"I, uh, I guess it depends. We're dealing with some other issues right now. We'll get to it when we get to it."

Zandra slaps her palm over the photos on the desk. Slides them back toward her. "I'll just take these with me then," she says.

"You're not thinking about handling this yourself, are you?" Fred says.

"Of course I am. You're obviously not going to be much help."

Zandra stands to leave. Fred cuts her off at his office door.

"Don't do anything stupid," he says.

"Too late. I already came here. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to check the mail at my business for non-threatening threats," Zandra says and leaves. Heads back to the remodeled Sneak Peek across downtown.

Had she been the psychic the world claims she is, Zandra might've predicted the bloody pink shoe in her mailbox – complete with a mangled foot wedged inside – waiting for her when she arrived.

Black Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective #2 (Watty Winner)Where stories live. Discover now