Chapter 57

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Zandra ups the ante by asking for a volunteer from the audience. After the stagehands pass a microphone to the first person to raise a hand, she hurries into an even colder reading.

Don't do an introduction. Don't even bother to get the person's age or gender. It looks more impressive and it doesn't matter in the end anyway. Bulldoze the sap until the information sticks.

"I'm getting water with you, something about water. What's this spirit trying to tell me about water?" Zandra says, as if water is some sort of novelty in central Wisconsin.

"Water? I...uh...," the reply comes. Sounds like a young man.

Try harder. Fill in the blank for me, asshole.

"Water. It's coming in strong. Think. Water," Zandra says.

"Well, this guy I knew, he died in a boating accident not real long ago," the young man says.

From the wobbly confidence in his voice, Zandra pegs him to be in his 20s. It's a good bet not all of his grandparents are still alive, and males live shorter lives than females on average. She remembers it for later.

"OK, good. But now he's telling me something about a hat," Zandra says, coincidentally identifying the gender of the "spirit" in contact with her.

"A hat? I mean, I wasn't there or anything, but..."

"He's pointing to his head, though. There's something about his head."

"He ran up on some rocks in the night, that's the way the boat accident happened."

"So he hurt his head?"

"Yeah," the young man says.

But you weren't there, so how would you know? This is why it's important to ask questions without pausing for too long. It would let people think. That's bad.

"OK, so he hurt his head and died from a boating accident. Wait, wait, this is all wrong. This isn't your friend telling me this after all. This is a different spirit telling me about your friend's death. It's a warning," Zandra says. She mumbles under her breath to give the impression she's asking the spirit to clarify. "Yes, I see now that this is an older gentleman telling me this. Does that make sense to you?"

Zandra can't see him, but she assumes the pause in the young man's response is from the shocked look on his face.

"Yeah. My grandpa. He died when I was in my teens," the young man says.

"And he was a stickler about you being safe, wasn't he?" Zandra says.

"I don't know. I only saw him every now and then."

That's a miss, but not a fatal one.

"He still cares about you deeply, child, and he wants to tell you to be more careful with your life. Your friend was reckless and he paid the price by hitting his head on those rocks. Don't take your safety for granted," Zandra says.

"Wow. I don't know what to say," the young man says. The applause from the audience ushers him away from the microphone.

Time to go bigger.

"Is anyone missing a piece of jewelry?" Zandra says into the microphone. This is one of her favorite maneuvers. Many people have lost jewelry before, and it's easy to throw out vague answers to their locations. If they haven't lost anything, she'll rush straight into some bullshit about a divorce, referencing a finger that "lost" a ring. Nearly everyone knows someone who's been divorced.

In either case, the question works especially well with women. Just her luck, the stagehands deliver a microphone to someone matching that exact description.

"I did. I lost an earring," the woman says.

"This is something that has sentimental value, isn't it?" Zandra says.

It's either an heirloom or expensive. Otherwise, you wouldn't be talking to me right now.

"Yes, it was my great-grandmother's earring," the woman says. Her voice puts her age around 40 or 50.

"That must be the spirit talking to me now," Zandra says, keeping the pace of the conversation up. "You've looked everywhere for it, haven't you?"

"I have. Does she know where it is?"

Zandra purposefully fails to make a promise, but she does say, "Look in your purse. Someone get her a flashlight."

The stagehands run a flashlight out to the woman. After a minute of shuffling inside the purse, the woman returns to the microphone in disbelief.

"It...it...it's here. It's right here," the woman says as the rattle of surprise cuts through the audience.

"Your great-grandmother loves you, child," Zandra says.

High risk, high reward. This time it paid off.

When people lose rings, bracelets or watches, they'll look in their purses, but they won't when it comes to earrings. They'll assume it fell onto the ground somewhere, so that's where they'll look. But more times than not, at least with my clients, those earrings popped out while they were hunched over their purses.

Had the earring not been in the woman's purse, Zandra's trapdoor laid in wait with some other personal object, probably a photo. Then it's a matter of keeping the dots connecting by shifting the conversation somewhere else.

The audience might be impressed, but her opponent is not. Sloggins lets Zandra know time is running out before Dvorak's turn. She wraps it up with a final thought.

"There's nothing super about the supernatural. It's as much a part of the natural world as anything else. You just have to know how to listen for it. That starts by recognizing that it's there in the first place," Zandra says. "This kind of intuition exists in that same place as our emotions. Love, hate, sadness, happiness, these things cannot be measured in physical terms. But would anyone deny they exist? That's why technology can never offer more than the supernatural. It doesn't play ball on the same field."

Dvorak interrupts before the audience can respond. He leans into his microphone and says, "You're full of it and you know it."

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