Chapter 35

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Zandra spots a familiar face leaning against the porch sighing its final breaths against Dvorak's house. Cobain haircut. Light beard. Awkward bulge in the pocket of his pants.

"Tell Dvor-, uh, William I want to see him," Zandra says and stops at the base of the porch.

The man on the porch only grins. He looks Zandra's injuries up and down. "You back for more?"

Were the man a client at Sneak Peek, Zandra might pry open the psychology behind his appearance. He's too put together to look that sloppy, if that makes any sense. A quick Ouija reading might hit on the privileged upbringing he's pissing away at a dope house. Probably got a trust fund and a taste for the kind of adventure European backpacking couldn't offer.

What a douche.

"I need to test your stairs again," Zandra says, the memory of her trip down into the basement still percolating in her bruises.

The man spits something onto the ground, then pats the bulge in his pocket.

"It's loaded this time," he says and laughs before heading into the house.

Good. It's probably not in a pocket holster. He'll probably shoot himself in the thigh the next time he pulls it out. Hopefully the shot takes his gonads out with it. People like him have no business procreating.

"Back so soon?" Dvorak says as he walks out onto the porch, flanked by his gun-toting toady. She can't help but notice the knife in his hand he uses to pretend to pick at his teeth. The lawnmower knife. Her knife.

Zandra restrains herself from leaping up onto the porch and tearing out his throat with her teeth, but only barely. Chris's cameras are on her anyway. But were this a dark alley beyond the unblinking, digital eye of recording equipment, it might be a different story.

"Honestly, Dvorak, I'm a little surprised you're home," Zandra says and hacks into her sleeve.

"Really? Why's that?" Dvorak says.

Because there are three dots of spray paint on your left elbow. Don't worry, Dvorak, lots of people miss that blind spot when they're cleaning up.

"Don't play stupid with me," Zandra says. "Five letters for you: F, R, A, U, D."

Dvorak flashes his best liar's smile and says, "I have no idea what you're talking about, but I know that I'm looking at one."

"Then why do you have green paint on your elbow?" Zandra says.

"Green?" Dvorak says. He stretches to catch a look at his elbow. "I thought it was red."

"The spray paint was red," Zandra says. She can't tell if Dvorak is being coy. "But you said you weren't there."

The man with the gun starts for his pocket. Dvorak waves him off.

Zandra shows her palms and takes a step toward the porch. She says, "Look, a little vandalism isn't going to change things. I thought you were above pissy little pranks like that given the technology you claim to be sitting on, but you're probably not as smart as you think you are."

Dvorak rolls his eyes. "Why are you here, Zandra? I'll let you know when our little showdown is ready. Until then you should be channeling the ghost of George Washington or some bullshit."

Zandra takes another step forward. Dvorak doesn't know it, but that's part of her routine when priming an audience. Breaking down barriers, usually psychological but sometimes physical, must happen before one of her readings can take place. Trust is relative to distance.

"I'm here because I want to show you I'm not a fraud," Zandra says, another step closer.

"Exactly how are you going to do that?" Dvorak says.

"I'm going to predict the outcome of our showdown," Zandra says.

Both Dvorak and the man with the gun laugh.

"That's so fucking stupid, I don't know where to begin," Dvorak says.

Zandra remains slate-faced. "It's not a joke. I want to show you."

Dvorak digs into his pocket and takes out a quarter. He flips it so it lands at Zandra's feet.

"Here. It's a 50-50 shot, right? Either I win or you lose. Go ahead. Give it a flip. I call heads," Dvorak says.

Zandra takes another step, putting the quarter under her foot. She's on the porch now, a few feet away from Dvorak. They could pull another ambush and toss her in the basement, but she knows they won't.

"Give me your palm," Zandra says and stretches out her hand.

"What are you trying to pull?" Dvorak says, unmoving.

"You're the ones with the gun and knife. Humor me."

"Humor you? I was saving all my jokes about you for later. I feel another one coming right now."

"William, be serious," Zandra says, using Dvorak's real name. "Aren't you even a little curious?"

I wouldn't be standing this close to you if you weren't.

Dvorak shrugs and gives up his left hand. He keeps a firm grip on the lawnmower knife in his right. "Whatever. I take it you're going to do a palm reading?"

"Exactly," Zandra says and lightly cradles Dvorak's upturned hand in her.

Her eyes scan for the typical lines and swirls, the ones the books she sells at Sneak Peek reveal a fate imprinted from birth. By those standards, he's in pretty good shape. A long life, if he can keep it. Personal and professional success, but only if he jumps when opportunity knocks. A creative streak that could be profitable in the right situations. The usual psycho-malarkey.

She focuses intently on the lines near Dvorak's wrist, mumbling some nonsense about them holding insights into overcoming challenges. That doesn't mean it's useless. She didn't come over to make a prediction to stroke Dvorak's ego and convince him of something.

No, she's far more interested in the medical alert bracelet on his wrist. It lists his full name, the words "KINDEY TRANSPLANT RECIPEINT" in all caps and apparently typed by Dvorak himself upon ordering the bracelet. That's good news, because it means he personally ordered the bracelet. That must've happened on the website listed beneath his name.

Zandra's no hacker, but the website is still plenty helpful. There's a six-digit code beneath the address. Even Zandra knows what this means. It's for first responders to quickly look up someone's critical medical details. They go to the website, type in the code and can learn about allergies, medications, history and other notes.

It's a private service, but enough people know about these websites that it's practically a given. So long as someone has the code and the unique website address, that information is accessible.

What were you saying about technology trumping psychics, Dvorak?

Zandra sighs and does her best to look disappointed.

"Well?" Dvorak says, pulling his hand away.

"You're going to win," Zandra says.


"Really. And you're going to walk off that stage with a line of investors beating a path to your door," Zandra says. She lets her shoulders sag as she turns to leave the porch.

"I didn't need a psychic to tell me that. Don't be getting cocky thinking you're one now, either," Dvorak says. "If your prediction is true, you're a psychic. But in order for it to come true, your reputation as a psychic has to be ruined. It doesn't make any sense. You're better off with that quarter I gave you."

Zandra ignores him and hurries away. She got the information she needs. There's no reason to stay a second more. She's working against time. And, as it turns out, fate.

Every line on his palm says he's going to win.

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