Friday, 28 August 2015

Through a glass darkly

Image courtesy of John Boyer

Cobham West had the look of a weasel about him, albeit a well fed and self satisfied weasel.   His naturally thin features had filled out as a result of the high life he’d been living for the last few years and it made him look slightly wrong, like a bad photoshop of himself.   He took the towel from the stage hand and mopped the back of his neck as he left the stage, the applause of the credulous still ringing out.   Always leave them wanting more he had been  told, and he always did.   Not a dry eye in the house by the time he’d finished his show.   The living consoled with messages from their departed loved ones, words of wisdom passed on from the great beyond, a few cryptic messages of uplifting import to inspire the world toward blah blah blah.   It had been a good show.

West stepped into his dressing room and tossed the towel over the back of a chair and poured himself a tumbler of water from the bottle on his table.   The mirror on the wall revealed more than he expected.  He turned very very slowly and looked at the gunman, and at the gun.   It was an automatic pistol and it was pointed casually at West’s stomach.

“Are you genuine?  Or are you a fraud?” the man asked.   He was in his mid twenties, tanned, unshaven, dressed like someone who didn’t care much.  He didn’t smell of drink, didn’t have any tremors in his hand, his pupils were neither dilated or unduly small.   West took in all these details in a manner of seconds, a habit long cultivated.   He had no idea which answer would get him killed so he made a different move and sat down  trying to look unruffled.

“You’re hurting aren’t you?” he asked, “You lost somebody.”    The first statement was an obvious hit.  Nobody would be doing what this man was doing without some pain.   The second was cleverly phrased.   It sounded like a statement but it was really a question.   Given his profession and the man’s anger it was likely that this was the case, but stating it as a fact could convince the hearer that he knew more than he could be expected to.

“Yeah,” said the man.

West nodded.   “They never really leave you, you know,” he said very quietly and calmly.   “I can sense a lot of love for you, right here in this room.”   To provoke a reaction like the gunman was having, it must have been someone very close.   Love was a good word.  It could mean a lot of things but it never meant nothing.   Let them fill in the blanks.

“She’s here?”  the man sounded half startled, half awed.   She, West noted.  She.

“She’s here,” West said, “She’s watching you now.  And she’s hurting for you.   For what you’re going through.”

The man winced a little but the gun didn’t waver.  “She always looked out for me.”   Something in the word always…  this was not a short term relationship.

“Family has always been important to her,” West said, nodding.   Mother?  Grandmother?  Sister?  Aunt?   Hitting the right note could save his life.   The man’s clothes were scruffy but they were not very old.  Unlaundered, but not worn.   “It’s hard getting used to missing her isn’t it, she passed so recently,”

“Yeah.  Just a few weeks ago.   Car accident.”   That gave no clues as to the age of the dead woman West thought.  If only it had been something a little more debilitating.

“She didn’t suffer,” West assured him, “She wants you to know that.”

The man glared at him, hope and anger mingled.   “They had to cut her out of the wreck.  She was kept alive on a machine.”   Damn.   But West shook his head, he’d dealt with that before, it was easy.

“That was just her body,” he said, “inside, her soul, she was at peace even then.  Already prepared.   There were loved ones on the other side helping her across.”


“Yes she says her grandmother was there with her.  She’s been a guide to her since she went over.”

“We both missed our Nan,” said the gunman.  Bingo.

“Your sister still loves you very much,” said West. 

The man nodded and sniffed.

“Why have you come here?” West asked.

“My sister used to believe in all this stuff,” said the man, “All this… new age stuff.   She came to your show a few times to speak to Nan.   But you told her she’d get a good job if she kept trying, told her she’d find the right man.   And then…”  He stopped, and shook his head.

“I’m sorry,” West said, “but the spirits can’t see everything.   All those things they promised, “ they not I in this situation I think…, “would have come to pass if not for the accident.   But she will have all those things in the world beyond.     You can count on that.   And you know what?”


“She’ll be looking out for you every single day,”  West smiled and stood up very slowly, “She wouldn’t want you to throw your life away like this.   You’re hurting, you’re grieving.   But you have a long life ahead of you.  Better spend it well.  Yeah?”

“Yeah,” said the man, “Is Lucy really watching over me.” 

“Your sister is right here,” he said, “and your Nan.”  He wouldn’t confirm the name just in case.    “Now why don’t we put the gun down and just talk, eh?”

The man took a breath and sighed.   Then he shot West three times in the chest and stomach.

“Never had a sister,” he said as West writhed on the ground, “and both my grandmothers are alive and well.”

He picked up the holdall containing West’s laptop, ipad and wallet that he’d stolen earlier and headed for the restroom where he’d left the window open.   His name was John.  Or Jim.  James?  Jacob?  Something with a J in it anyway.

In answer to the prompt "Clairvoyant" from Studio30Plus


  1. Good job, never saw that coming.

  2. It's always a J name. Great build up to a twisted ending.

    1. And if it isn't a J name there's always a way out. "Maybe it sounds like a J? K? A? Double-f***ing-u?"
      Glad you liked it.

  3. Excellent, as always. Great buildup to the big misdirection at the end, and I love the hard, dark reminder of reality. Well done!