Chapter 62

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Zandra lights up the second of the cigarettes stuffed inside the loose hem of her purple gown. This time no one bothers her about the smoking policy except the sign on the wall. She can hear Dvorak's "team" in the room down the hall congratulate him on a job well done. They're loud. Arrogant. Oblivious to the pain crushing Zandra into a cube. Laughing while she tries to control the tremors coursing through her body, the ash from her cigarette settling onto her chest.

She closes her eyes and listens, hoping that for once in her fraudulent career that she's wrong about everything. Wrong about there not being a gateway in her mind to the other side. Wrong about what happens after people die. Wrong about the way she fooled her clients. Wrong about this town, this predicament, this life. She listens for signs of these things and more, but she receives only silence in return. Not even the logical side of her brain, silently ticking away in just below the surface of her consciousness, can make sense of things anymore.

There is nothing. There is only her dilapidated body, the green room, the cigarette and the mirror. And the one thought she doesn't dare say out loud.

Could Dvorak be right? Is that why David never contacted me?

Zandra opens her eyes, careful not to extinguish the loose cigarette between her lips with the tears that follow.

All this time I thought I was ripping off my clients, were they actually talking to the dead and I was the sap? Is this my curse to bear for having killed David?

She thinks back to that time years ago, when Soma Falls was as fresh as the mist coming from the water spilling onto the rocks. Zandra read how some murderers black out when they commit their atrocities.

Did I turn out to be so good as fooling people that I fooled myself? The brain is a powerful thing, but it's not perfect, either. False memories happen all the time, even on a large scale. It's called the Mandela Effect.

But no matter how many times she recalls that dark period in her life, nothing is so dark as to blot out her memory. Every detail is clear as the mirror in front of Zandra's face, from the moment she got up the day of David's disappearance to the exact second the police confirmed they found his body.

No, it wasn't me. Dvorak is wrong. Gene killed him. And now Dvorak is killing me.

Still, Zandra knows it's not enough to be innocent when you're being recorded by as many cameras are in the auditorium. To be accused is enough, and footage of Dvorak's allegations is already being distributed. It's the same tactic Zandra would've used had Diana survived. It wouldn't matter how many times she denies it when the showdown resumes. In the eyes of many, the more a person denies something extraordinary, the more likely the claim is to be true. That's especially true in the celebrity world she stepped into since the Elle Carey case. Too many cynics. The hope for a decent outcome is gone. She's fucked.

David, if you're there, speak to me now. Give me a way out of this mess. Let me know I didn't trick myself into thinking I had nothing to do with your death.

The door behind her opens. She turns, expecting a stagehand to give her an update about the time. There's three minutes to go. Instead, she sees nothing.

The logical part of her brain ticks away. Perhaps the door wasn't latched all the way and a draft pushed it open. Maybe a stagehand opened the door instead of going into the room because of the last encounter with Zandra's style of "palm reading." Or it could be the building shifted in the changing temperature outside, adjusting the doorframe ever so slightly.

But Zandra's intuition tells her it's more than that. So does her desperation.


Zandra knows that if she were looking into a crystal ball right now, she'd be the one handing over the money to the "psychic" instead of the other way around. All these years, she completely underestimated the feeling. She could've charged 10 times her normal rates at Sneak Peek. To receive confirmation, however dubious, of something she wants to believe in so much that it physically pains her cannot be priced. Money is irrelevant at that point.

I know it was you, David. I can't explain it. I just know.

As soon as Zandra rises from her chair in front of the mirror, she's given the answer to what to do. It's so clear in her mind that she almost hears it spoken out loud. The same thoughts tell her to act now or the timing will be wrong. This is her only chance.


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