Chapter 64

2.5K 248 31

Every face and camera in the auditorium searches for the source of the clomp-drag sound approaching from behind the upstage screen. It reveals itself as a shadow, rising and stumbling in rhythm with the clomp-drag as it shuffles to the edge of the screen. A few gasp when Zandra turns the corner and steps out into hot lights that bake the blood into the fabric of her purple gown.

A confused Sloggins, already off his game from the fire alarm, mumbles something into his microphone, but there's no need for words to describe what's happening. And what it is heads toward Sloggins with labored clomp-drag steps that soak up the auditorium's atmosphere. Clomp-drag. Clomp-drag. Clomp-drag. Zandra makes sure each hard, forced step echoes.

This is the sound of your funeral toll.

Zandra elbows Sloggins away from his podium and looks out at the audience. She can't see them, but she imagines their eyes averting her gaze when it falls upon them. When the police don't charge the stage, Zandra supposes everyone thinks this is part of an act, that there's nothing wrong. Another lucky break.

I only need 15 more minutes of luck.

Zandra licks her dry lips and leans into the microphone. With 25 years of rage spilling out with her every word, she says, "Ladies and gentlemen of Stevens Point, your reckoning has arrived."

Sloggins tries to reclaim the microphone, but Zandra moves him away with a crusty shove. He stumbles and scurries off the stage.

"There's been a change in the schedule. My opponent has agreed to remain backstage until I am finished with you, Stevens Point. You see, during the intermission I received several powerful psychic impressions regarding the activities many of you only thought were secret. But I'm a psychic. You can't hide from me," Zandra says into the microphone. Dvorak may have her files, but he doesn't have her memories. All she needs to do is close her eyes and pull from a quarter-century of dirt.

"Rena Conklin, you work as a customer service representative for the big insurance company in town. When your boss isn't looking, you take a picture with your smartphone of the sensitive information that pops up on your computer screen when a customer calls. You've been applying for credit cards in other people's names for the past five years.

"Munny Meng, you're supposed to keep Stevens Point safe as a city health inspector. However, everyone knows you take bribes from restaurant owners to pass inspection. Good for you, but bad for the three year old who died from an intestinal infection back in '06. Maybe the guilt is why you've shown up drunk to work ever since. They can't fire you because everyone knows about your bribes, and they're afraid you'd talk.

"Richard Owen, better known as Pastor Dick at the New Life Church, claims a message from God instructed him to start his congregation. You built a large following with live rock music, celebrity speakers and charity motorcycle raffles. Pastor, does your flock know about the way you launder money through the church? The one tied to a child porn ring in Madison? Maybe you should let them know what their tithing is really buying.

"Alexandra Pedroza, as a volunteer you won several health care awards for your outstanding service to the terminally ill in hospice care. Your compassion is a cover for the paperwork you get those sick people to sign mere hours before they die, directing their money to your charitable organization, Hands for Healing. Good thing they're not alive to find out that your charity spends 10 percent of its revenues on hospice programming and 90 percent on staff compensation. Isn't it strange how there's only one person on the Hands for Healing staff?

"Leroy Hendricks, you served as a Portage County medical examiner for a brief period a few years back. Using some cute lawyer tricks, you successfully sued the county for $2 million on charges of wrongful termination. Because of the way the case ended, the public, meaning the taxpayers you bilked, never found out why you were fired in the first place. Is necrophilia not a good enough reason?"

Zandra's breath turns hot as fire as she recites the worst examples of humanity she can remember from her years running Sneak Peek. She chooses the shitbags holding positions of trust or authority versus the minor offenders. The audience reacts differently depending on whether the alleged is in attendance. Some scream. Some stay quiet. Some shout and argue. Some run for the door. But no one stays still. The uncomfortable shuffling of bodies in seats turns up the volume in the auditorium.

And still the police are letting this go ahead. Maybe Fred and company don't know what to make of this yet.

Few escape Zandra's tirade or her memory as she fires accusations off in rapid succession. She only pauses when she exposes Dr. Sondheim's transgressions, smiling to herself as satisfaction momentarily washes away the rage.

Zandra says, "And you, Taylor Odell, you're known as one of the most generous people in Stevens Point. You show up to every tragedy with a truckload of good will. You're the shining example of everything good about this town. You're also a liar and a thief. The reason you're so generous is because the things you donate – vehicles so those down on their luck can get jobs, toys for kids who lost everything, groceries for the food shelf, money for the homeless – are all stolen goods. You donate most of what you steal to cover your tracks. You're no saint.

"I can't forget about Aaron Gwozdek, either. He coaches football at the university. You might wonder why someone who boasts about being drafted into the NFL spends his time at a small university with a tiny football program. Maybe he's reliving his glory days by helping the players cover up the young woman they raped together at a party not six months ago. I'll not mention her name now, the poor thing, because it doesn't belong in the same sentence as that slimy pigshit coach, Aaron Gwozdek."

The shouting coming from the audience rises to a roar. Zandra can't tell if it's directed at her, but the feeling of something flying past her face lets her know not everyone in attendance can handle the truth. A glance at a digital clock built into the podium shows how her 15 minutes is almost up.

Now for the coup de grace.

"I saved the best for last, Stevens Point. Are you ready for this? I think you'll really enjoy it," Zandra says. "To his credit, this town wouldn't be half what it is without Gene Carey. His massive insurance company employs the lion's share of workers in Stevens Point, and he pays them all well. If and when Gene becomes the next governor of Wisconsin, something that he's fully capable of buying his way into, the state resources I'm sure he'll pump into Stevens Point's economy will bring about even more prosperity.

"Be careful about the people who can give you everything, Stevens Point, because they're also the ones who can take it all away. Gene Carey is an utter fraud. He was when he started his business by rigging his customer's insurance claims and he still is to this day. He paid off inspectors to change their findings ever so slightly so that his company didn't have to pay out as much. Over the years, the savings from this con accumulated into an extraordinary amount of money. Meanwhile, his competition wondered how Gene could survive economic ups and downs and still grow.

"His competition didn't figure out Gene's scam, but my husband did 25 years ago. He never lived to tell the world about it. Gene killed him and dumped his body in Soma Falls.

"I call for a full investigation into Gene's business practices and for an outside law enforcement agency to re-open my husband's case. I have all the evidence they need to prove what I say is true.

"However, Stevens Point, you will not survive that investigation. When Gene goes out of business, so will you. I'm not sorry. This entire town is built on a lie, and it's about time you fuckers got what you deserve."

I hope you heard that, David. I hope you know how much I miss you.

The irate chaos in the audience spills over onto the stage. Several charge toward Zandra's podium. The curtain closing in front of her cuts them off momentarily. Before she slips out of view, Zandra raises her hands to the ceiling and croaks into the microphone, "Good night, Stevens Point."

Black Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective #2 (Watty Winner)Where stories live. Discover now