Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Psychic and the Damsel in Distress

My short story, THE PSYCHIC AND THE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS, is out for 99 cents. It'll be a Kindle e-book exclusive for 90 days so I can make it free March 29-April 2 (yes, download it free then!). There are no DRM restrictions, and it'll be available everywhere in e-book after that 90 days. You can also buy it in print through Amazon or here: https://www.createspace.com/4713026. (Click here for the Kindle UK URL.)

Blurb and excerpt below. (I'll send a reminder email on March 29 or thereabouts about the freebie.) By the way, while this is not lesbian fiction per se, the characters are all women. There's no het romance or anything like that.


Telah Costner has enlisted the help of psychic after psychic in a quest to find her missing daughter, Claire. Dani is the latest psychic, and Telah is hopeful because she senses something different about Dani.

To Dani, however, Telah and Claire are just two faces in a sea of clients and missing people. Dani doesn’t believe in psychics and never has. She and her sister Kate have perfected a scam in which money is the only thing that matters. That is, until weird things start happening to Dani.

This short story is about 9,000 words.

Excerpt (starts at beginning of story)

Chapter One

The first psychic seemed promising. Telah liked her very much. Miss Theo was quiet, serious, unsmiling. Dedicated. She knew what she was doing. But a car hit and killed her. Telah wondered if Miss Theo saw it coming.
Telah hated the next psychic. Merry had been loud and disrespectful after the first few sessions. She said Claire was dead, but Telah knew Claire wasn’t dead. She felt it in her bones, in her gut, in every fiber of her being. Claire was alive and needed her mother. Telah didn’t waste much time with Merry.
Number three had been better. The fact he was a man didn’t put Telah off. She’d never heard of a male psychic, but so what? All that mattered was finding her daughter.
The man called himself Robert Joe, and he was like Miss Theo: quiet, expressionless, driven. Telah’s cause became his, and finding Claire obsessed his life much like it did Telah’s. Then came the day when, his face gaunt, his eyes black and unreadable, he stared Telah down from across the table. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I can’t do this anymore. I sense that Claire is dead.”
Telah left immediately, and now she was about to meet a prospective number four. She already knew a bit about the psychic. She had read about Dani in the newspaper, how Dani helped the police find a missing fourteen-year-old girl. Telah didn’t care that Dani charged an arm and a leg. Finding Claire mattered—money did not.
So it was that Telah gathered in her breath and knocked on Dani’s elegant Georgetown townhouse a few blocks from the Potomac River. Telah glanced back at the gleaming BMW parked at the curb, and a candle of happiness flickered inside her. A psychic with money meant she produced results. Genuine results. The other three hadn’t lived like this Dani. Dani would be different, Telah knew in her gut. Dani would find Claire.


Telah wasted no time getting down to business. She gave Dani a look over, satisfied herself with what she saw, and shook her head impatiently at the psychic’s offer of a beverage.
“I don’t have time to waste,” Telah snapped. “Now, I want you to tell me why I’m here.” She opened that way with each psychic except Miss Theo, who had been a bit of a different case.
Dani looked not at all offended, and Telah smiled in approval.
“Well.” Dani clasped her hands together. She had deep, piercing blue eyes and a rich, husky voice. Her hair was fiery red, and she stood at least five inches taller than Telah. But it was these eyes…these startling, penetrating eyes that gave Telah a start.
These eyes! They’re unnatural. Another sign that Dani will find Claire.
“You’re here to find your daughter,” Dani said.
Telah blinked. Yes, Dani was the one. The other psychics had started with generalities. “You’re worried about someone” or “You’ve suffered a great loss recently, and you’re trying to get in touch with someone” or “You’re in a great deal of pain.” Sooner or later, they arrived at the right place, but it took a while. Not so with this Dani.
“Your daughter was, ah…”
Telah jerked in a breath. The police could never say why Claire went missing, much less how. Miss Theo swore that a woman who craved a child abducted Claire. Merry said that Claire wandered off and somehow drowned in the Anacostia River. “Water…I see lots of water…it’s the Anacostia! There’s a body at the bottom. Your daughter,” she said. Robert Joe didn’t know what happened, and he hadn’t been afraid to admit it. Telah liked that; she didn’t want people blustering their way through sessions, fooling her, tricking her.
Dani shut her eyes, and her tongue went click-click-click against her teeth.
Telah clutched her purse in her lap. Please, don’t let Claire be suffering.
Dani stopped. Her eyes flew open as if she had been dead and revived. “I don’t know how your daughter disappeared. Do you?”
The psychic kept her face expressionless, and Telah’s skin pricked with gooseflesh. Is she judging me? Does she think it’s my fault? “What should I call you?” Telah asked.
Telah wrapped her arms around herself. “Dani, I’d like to ask a few more questions before I decide if I want to proceed with you.”
“Of course.”
“How old is my daughter now?” One psychic Telah had rejected (between Merry and Robert Joe) made the error of saying: “You mean if she’s still alive?” Telah didn’t give that sallow-faced blonde further consideration.
Dani’s reply was immediate and brisk: “I can’t tell you that.”
“Why?” The other psychics hadn’t provided Claire’s exact age either, but they came close. Good enough.
“Because,” Dani said, and for the first time, a hint of impatience shone through her voice, “she might not be alive.”
“Damn you,” Telah snarled. She rose to her feet and jerked toward the door. “I thought you were the one.”
Dani’s harsh, demanding voice stopped Telah: “Make no mistake, I will find your daughter.”
Heat crushed Telah’s cheeks. “Claire’s alive! She’s alive! I know it. A mother knows. I feel my daughter’s presence on this Earth.”
Dani’s lips pulled back into a smirk. “Let me tell you something,” Dani said. “I get results. I mean business. I don’t mollycoddle. I will find your daughter, but she might not be alive. Come back when you’re prepared to accept that.”
Telah’s jaw dropped. “Who do you think you are?”
A hollow laugh. “I’m the person who will find your daughter. That’s who I am.”
Telah’s throat closed in on itself. No wavering and doubt existed in the psychic’s eyes, in her voice, in her posture.
“My daughter’s alive,” Telah mewled, her voice cracking.
“She very well might be. In any case, I will find her. Moreover, I will find her within three months.”
Telah’s heart thudded. “Three months? For how much money?”
“One million dollars. What is your financing plan?”
Telah gasped. “One million?”
“You heard me.”
Anger overwhelmed Telah. “You think I’m made of money, like you?”
“One million dollars but only if I find Claire.”
“What do you need a million for? All you have to do is feel some of Claire’s dolls, recite some chants, close your eyes and do your voodoo thing.”
“I do not tolerate belittling. If you continue to mock me, you’ll leave and not return.”
Telah was shaking, so surprised and angry she was at Dani’s price. “One million dollars. How can I afford that?”
Dani shrugged and flicked back a strand of her flaming red hair. “That’s not my concern. So, do we have a deal? Come back when you find financing.”
“What, uh…” Telah flailed for a word, any word. “What are the terms?”
“I find Claire, and you pay me a million dollars. I don’t find her, I get nothing. The sooner you figure out financing, the sooner you have Claire back.” Dani made a distasteful sound. “If your financing methods aren’t exactly legal, I won’t hold that against you.”
Telah’s heart dropped. “You’re serious. A million dollars.”
“One million dollars for your daughter.”
There was no price for Claire, no price at all. But it wasn’t right of this psychic to manipulate Telah. “You’re taking advantage of me.”
“Perhaps,” Dani concurred. “So. Leave. But guess what? Ten years from now, when Claire’s still missing, you will come back to me. Truth is, I’m doing you a favor.”
“A favor?”
Dani inclined her head. “A favor. I charged the Higgenbothams two million dollars to find Ariel. That is how you heard about me, isn’t it? My helping the police track down the girl?”
Telah gasped. “Two million! But wasn’t the father a—”
Dani held up her hand. “They came up with the money. I had no doubt they would. Nor do I about you.”
“A million,” Telah whispered. She ran her tongue over her lips. “How do you operate? Your methods? What do you use?”
Dani cocked an eyebrow. “That’s not your concern.” She glanced toward the front door. “I have an appointment in a few minutes. Need anything else?”
“The other psychics, they…”
“They charged me per session. One hundred and fifty dollars. They were up front about their methods.”
“How much money did you waste, hmm? Look, I’m so confident I’ll find Claire that I refuse payment until I do find her.”
Telah pointed an accusing finger at Dani. “You’re going to say Claire’s buried in some forest, she’s dead, now give me my money and go away.”
Dani sighed. “No. I will find Claire alive, or Claire’s body. I will bring her to you. Nothing less.”
 Claire dead, her face lifeless, popped into Telah’s brain. She couldn’t shake off the image.
The doorbell rang.
“Goodbye,” Dani said, and Telah shivered as she turned away from the other woman’s unnatural blue eyes.



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