Chapter 49

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"It called you a fraud," Herman says after he and Zandra return to the taxi. They left Diana feeling both better and worse than she had in a long time, especially after Zandra's offer.

Did I lose a True Believer?

"I heard it say something that rhymed with fraud. It didn't accuse me of anything, if that's what you mean," Zandra says.

Herman strokes the locks of his beard and looks out the window. "That spirit said the word, 'fraud,' and I think it was talking about you."

"And what do you think, Herman?" Zandra says after reminding the taxi driver of Sneak Peek's address.

Must not be a regular customer.

"I think it reminds me of the Liar's Paradox. You know about that?" Herman says.

Oh, great. I'm on the cusp of another session of The World According to Herman, and there's no escape from here in this taxi.

"I bet you're going to tell me about it anyway," Zandra says.

Herman turns to face Zandra. "It goes like this. Someone says, 'This sentence is false.' Is that person telling the truth or a lie?"

Zandra fiddles with the ghost box to buy her some time. Her mind needs to complete one more revolution around Diana's orbit. She'll serve as Zandra's ace card at the showdown. A couple days of stewing on the possibility that Dvorak murdered her son should be all it takes to complete her transformation as a human prop for Zandra's performance.

It's like what the lawyers always say. If the truth is on your side, argue the truth. If the law is on your side, argue the law. If the truth and the law aren't on your side, attack the character of your opponent.

Truth and law be damned. I'm going for the jugular. It doesn't matter if Dvorak killed James or not. I want to make Dvorak squirm while he denies it. Politicians pull this shit all the time. They say LBJ once circulated a rumor that his opponent fucked barnyard animals. Of course it was a total lie, but it's famously said that LBJ just wanted to hear his opponent deny it. Accusations, even if they're baseless, carry plenty of weight when applied at the right time. I can fill in the rest with the usual psycho-bullshit and glittering trinkets that make the world say, "ooo" and "ahhh."

"I don't know, Herman. Is the sentence true or false?" Zandra says, making her disinterest clear in her tone.

"That's just it. It's unknowable. That's why it's called the Liar's Paradox," Herman says.

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning that if a spirit you summon calls you a fraud, as in you're pulling some trick on us rather than calling up a dead person through a ghost box, you're both a fraud and a genuine psychic at the same time. It's unknowable which version of you is true, at least from the outside," Herman says.

"So what?"

"Doesn't that strike you as strange? You're like a walking version of Schrodinger's Cat, which is a concept that says that it's possible for multiple, distinct outcomes to exist simultaneously up until the point of observation of those outcomes. Leave a cat in a box with some poison and walk away. The cat is both alive and dead at the same time up until the outcome is observed," Herman says.

"Uh-huh," Zandra says in a monotone voice, hoping to deflate Herman's enthusiasm for this topic.

He's treading a little too close to the truth.

"This is what I was trying to tell you about before, about the way our minds can control reality simply through our perception and our intentions," Herman says. "If you apply that to what we just witnessed with the ghost box, maybe we created James's spirit simply because we decided to believe in one. We manifested a ghost all on our own where there wasn't one before."

"The truth trumps whatever philosophy you're pushing, Herman," Zandra says as the taxi nears Sneak Peek. "And the truth is that I believe what my eyes and ears tell me is real. We all heard what came out of that ghost box. That's the truth. Don't explain away what we know is true."

"I think it's more subjective than that, and that's what I've been working on ever since I left for the woods. I used to think I needed my knifemaking in order to get back to that place upstream. I'm not so sure about that anymore. There must be a different way," Herman says.

"Good for you. Let me know how that works out," Zandra says as the taxi comes to a stop outside Sneak Peek. There are still no signs of Chris.

If I were a psychic, I'd think something's up with that. And if I were outside this taxi, I'd light up a cigarette.

Herman exits the taxi, but Zandra calls him back inside. She turns to the taxi driver and recites Dvorak's address.

"Chris is supposed to be running recon on Dvorak's house," Zandra says to Herman with a concerned look on her face. "This could be bad."

A few minutes later, they spot Chris's van in an unusual spot. It's parked in Dvorak's driveway.

Oh, shit.

"Scratch that," Zandra says to the taxi driver. "Don't stop at that house. Go right on past and keep going until you reach the police station."

"There are problem, lady?" the taxi driver says. "I've got a cell phone if you gotta call the cops."

"Yeah, there's a big problem," Zandra says. She looks at Herman. "I think Dvorak's got Chris."

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