Chapter 50

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"Captain Dobrogost is with an appointment right now," the officer in the police station lobby says, referring to Fred. "He'll be with you in a few minutes. Please take a seat."

Zandra and Herman shuffle to a set of chairs to wait. It's one of the rare times they look no more out of place than anyone else. A young man with a bloody nose and no pants on holds a towel to his face. Two women dressed identically in blue, 1950s-style dresses sob in a corner as they redial the same number on their cell phones over and over. An older gentleman asleep in a chair drools into a box on his lap labeled, "AMMO."

Zandra wonders how Fred will react when he sees Herman accompanying her instead of Amanda. She was supposed to produce Amanda alive and well for the police captain per the most recent conversation. There's little chance that will ever happen. Amanda, for reasons known only to her, is shying away from Zandra.

The keys to everything, from Amanda to Chris to whoever met me on the other side of that window, is in Dvorak's basement. Hell, even my lawnmower knife is probably down there, if his band of merry dipshits didn't sell it already.

To kill time, Zandra's attention drifts to the young man with the bloody nose. She concentrates her "powers" on reading him. Were he a client, Zandra wouldn't focus on the bloody nose. There's nothing exciting to pull from that. It's too obvious. No, she'd start with his tennis shoes, the one article of clothing that's more revealing than anything else.

She listens as he walks up to the attending officer for an update. He's told an officer will be available soon to take his statement, so he returns to his seat. It's not the sight of the shoes that catches Zandra's attention. No, it's the sound they make. Clop. Clop. Clop.

Although they're tennis shoes, it's clear they're too large for his feet, but only by a size or two. He doesn't have trouble walking, though, and in fact seems quite natural. He didn't borrow them. These are his shoes.

Who would buy shoes that are purposefully too big? Someone who grew up in a poor household, that's who. When money is tight, it makes more sense to buy shoes that are too big so that the feet can grow into them rather than going for the perfect fit. Eventually, he came to think that's how shoes are supposed to feel, so that's why he buys them a size too large.

Were the young man a client, Zandra might start the session by saying, "Tell me about the struggles you had growing up." It's specific enough to grab his attention, but full of fuzzy trapdoors if needed. Who hasn't had troubles growing up? She'd let him fill in the blanks before creating a larger profile of him in her mind. On about the five-minute mark, she'd deploy another statement, this time a little more specific, to keep the conversation going. On and on it'd go until the mass of evidence points to something actionable, like "Don't trust the banks" or "Dump your girlfriend."

"Why are you staring?" Herman says, breaking Zandra's concentration.

"What?" Zandra says and hacks into her sleeve.

"Did you pick up a psychic impression?" Herman says.

Herman, ever the intellectual oaf, begs the question that doesn't need asking.

"Yes, Herman, my third eye senses the good captain is ready to talk to us," Zandra says, rolling her eyes.

Herman raises an eyebrow. "I didn't hear them call us back."

Before Zandra can respond, an officer enters the lobby and calls her name.

Lucky guess.

"Sit. Stay," Zandra says to Herman like he's a dog before joining the officer.

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