Chapter 10

3.3K 310 9

Amanda Thompson lives in one of the effigies to '70s shithole living that doubles as student housing near the University of Wisconsin— Stevens Point. A fresh coat of paint every few years covers up the decay wrought by hard winters and even harder drinking. And it's always the same color: mud brown. Just like the carpets.

It's well past sundown by the time Zandra picks her way to the apartment. She wears a black, hooded sweatshirt instead of her trademark purple gown. Better to not be recognized talking to someone she paid to fake a reading for TV. Even though the apartment isn't far from Sneak Peek, she backtracks along the sidewalks often to check for a tail. Doesn't spot anyone, but her paranoia still itches. Creeps up her back. Makes her feel like someone is standing an inch behind her.

Zandra breaks from her covert pace once she enters the main entrance to the apartment. There's no lock. No buzzer, either. That's one nice thing about the '70s. No one thought to lock anything. She hides her face under the hood from the college kids drinking on the carpeted stairway leading to the second floor. Not that they'd notice. Barely glance her way before returning to their phones and beers.

Zandra knocks on Amanda's door on the ground level. Hopes her roommate doesn't answer. She's in luck.

"Zandra? What are you doing here? You told me not to contact you," Amanda says behind a crack in the opening of the door.

"Don't say my name out loud like that," Zandra says. She tries to clear her throat but ends up hacking into her sleeve. The coughing never went away. "I need to talk to you. Are you alone?"

"No. My roommate and her boyfriend are over," Amanda says.

"Well, are they otherwise occupied?" Zandra says with a wink.

"What? Oh, I get it. No, they're on the couch watching a movie," Amanda says. "I can't really talk right now."

Zandra rubs her palms together. "I'm bankrolling your tuition this semester. I think you can give me five minutes," she says.

"OK, but give me a minute to get ready. Gotta tell my roommate to clear out," Amanda says and latches the door.

Zandra waits until Amanda comes back to the door. It's a little longer than seems appropriate. And for Amanda's claim that a movie is on the TV, Zandra can't hear anything that sounds like one. Could be something. Could be nothing. Either way, Zandra's glad to have vetted Amanda ahead of time. It let her establish a base for normal behavior and mannerisms. That'll make it easier for Zandra to tell if the college student is lying.

That's something an astute viewer might notice should Zandra's TV show be picked up for broadcast. Amanda shuffled her feet and nearly fell over during the "reading" at Target. Shuffling feet is one of Amanda's "tells" that she's being deceptive. Amanda probably didn't know it was even happening, but Zandra did. Same with Amanda pointing at Zandra during their conversation. Pointers are usually liars. Politicians make for great examples.

Amanda is a smiler, too. Liars sometimes smile to cover up what they're actually feeling. This can be expressed as an outright smile, as Amanda did at Target after the reading, or just the hint of one.

Of course, these traits aren't exclusive to lying. If they were, every birthday kid smiling and pointing at a cartoon character-shaped cake would be full of it. The real key is knowing what to look for and whether it isn't normal. It's why any polygraph test starts with mundane questions like "What is your birth date?" and "What color is your shirt?" before launching into the meat of the interrogation.

Zandra gnaws on this while she waits for Amanda to return. Would being on TV allow skeptics to use the same techniques against her? Or will editing take care of the time she lets a "tell" slip? How would she let Chris know about a "tell" without blowing her carefully curated persona?

It won't happen to me. Who do you think is going to watch a TV show about a "real" psychic anyway? Morons and skeptics. There will never be a shortage of either, and they're both easy enough to keep at bay. Just deflect to the saps who signed up for the readings. Let them do the talking. "It was real to me," they'll say. That'll be enough to survive. Fuck the skeptics anyway. Chris won't care so long as the ratings are good.

Amanda comes back to the door. "OK, you can come in," she says.

Zandra enters the cramped living room of the apartment. It smells like the inside of a microwave, that noxious aroma of popcorn and spaghetti sauce.

But that's not what catches Zandra's eye as she takes a seat at the couch. It's something else. Something that confirms Zandra's suspicions about Amanda's claims about her "roommate."

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