Chapter 5

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A young woman with long, black hair greets Zandra in the clothing department. At least, that's how Chris describes her. Zandra holds her hand out for the young woman to shake it.

"And who am I speaking with?" Zandra says. She's quick to interject before the young woman can reply. "Actually, don't tell me. I don't want to know. Names can reveal information all on their own. Isn't that right, William?"

William huffs and says, "Yeah, I guess they do. You sure you can't see through that bandana?"

"Positive. You can go try one out for yourself if you want, but you may want to stay put. I'm already getting an impression," Zandra says.

"What does that mean, an impression?" the young woman says and points at Zandra.

Zandra doesn't respond. She freezes in place, as if in a trance. The pause quiets everyone else down as they wait on with rocking heels and perked ears.

"You fall asleep or what?" William says, breaking the silence.

Chris shushes him. "Quiet. You'll ruin the scene."

After another minute or so of keeping her audience in suspense, Zandra clears her throat and drops her bomb.

"Your name is Amanda Thompson. You go to college at the University of Wisconsin here in Stevens Point. You're studying something in the sciences, like biology. Your interests in the occult as a hobby are at odds with your strictly Catholic family. This has you worried about making peace with your father, who suffers from a heart condition that will require extensive surgery next month," Zandra says. She tugs the bandana away from her eyes. Looks at the young woman. "How'd I do?"

The young woman looks drunk with awe. She shuffles her feet and nearly tips over while she says, "That's's do you know that?"

"I'm a psychic, child," Zandra says. She turns to William. "Are you satisfied now?"

William shakes his head in defeat. "I don't know how you did that, but I'm curious about one thing," he says.

"What's that?" Zandra says.

"How come you only talked about things that already happened? How about putting a prediction to the test?" William says.

"Moving the goal posts, are we? Fair enough," Zandra says and angles her body toward Amanda so they both fit inside the camera's shot. "Amanda, I want you to know your father will be just fine. In fact, it'll be like he never had the surgery at all."

Because he won't.

Amanda clasps her hands to her chest. "Really? It's all going to be OK?" she says and smiles.

"Yes, child. In fact, listen for the doctors to say that exact phrase. They'll say, 'It's like he never had the surgery at all,'" Zandra says and holds out a business card for Amanda. "If I'm wrong, you come let me know. I'll make sure the camera crew is there to record it for the whole world to see. But I don't think it'll be an issue."

Chris motions for the scrawny camera guy to stop filming. It's a perfect ending to the scene.

"I still say you're a fraud. Just because I can't figure your con out yet doesn't mean you're not faking something," William says.

Zandra gives Amanda a long hug instead of replying to William. "Stay strong now. It's going to be just fine," she says.

It's going to be better than fine.

Amanda returns to her shopping while Zandra and the crew head back to the parking lot. Chris got what he needed for the pitch. It'll take some time to get the post-production right, but Chris says they're a month or two away from making the pitch to networks.

"Just between you and me, do you mind telling me how you did that?" Chris says back at the van.

Zandra lights up a cigarette and sends a toxic cloud toward the sky. She smiles at Chris and says, "I don't really know, either. I didn't choose this life. It chose me. Some people get the sixth sense. Others don't."

Chris seems nonplussed. "Maybe it's better I don't know then," he says.

"Maybe not. The mystery is half the fun," Zandra says.

And the other half is what I paid Amanda. What college kid can refuse the kind of money I offered? Figure it's the best I can do to pay her back for that ride from the gas station back to my apartment six months ago.

"Just be careful while we work toward this pitch. One of these debunker types could ruin everything. There's going to be a lot of money on the line," Chris says as he helps load a case of gear into the van. "Do me a favor, will you? Lay low and don't fuck this up."

"Oh, come on, Chris. I've dealt with skeptics my entire life. All it takes is a reading like this last one to shut them up," Zandra says.

"Yeah, but what about the first one with that woman by the cart corral? I'm more worried about that," Chris says.

Zandra rubs her hands together. Feels the spot under her sleeve where the lawnmower knife would normally sit in its sheath. She left it at Sneak Peek, where it gets more use opening the mail. Wouldn't want the crude blade slipping out on camera.

"You let me worry about that. Go work on your pitch. I expect to hear back from you with good news," she says.

"Same here," Chris says.

The crew drops Zandra off back at Sneak Peek. She takes a look inside the mailbox just for good measure.

Empty. Good.

Zandra burns another cigarette before stepping inside Sneak Peek. Even if her bad ankle isn't an issue anymore, a bath still sounds good. Then maybe she'll take a nap, order some takeout and unwind with a movie. She used to fill her evenings with obsessive note-taking, but the

But someone interrupts her plans as she opens the door.

What the hell?

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