Face pinched with anxiety, Natasha wrung her hands. “Diadra isn’t here, yet.” She glanced at her watch. “She told me she’d be here by nine-thirty. It’s a quarter to ten, now.”
Marvin Tuestad came bounding down the stairs where they stood. In a pleasant tone he said, “Hi, Zofia.” He turned to Natasha, noticing her expression. In a lower, more aggravated voice he said, “Now what?”
“Diadra isn’t here, yet. It’s a quarter to ten and I’m running out of food.”
“Get a grip, Eleanor. So the woman’s running a little late. So what? Mediums and spiritualists are on their own clocks, not yours or mine.” He adjusted the beads over his tie-died tee shirt. Zofia had never seen him in that shirt before. The jeans and sandals were more of his trademark.
Seeing the timorous look on Natasha’s face, Zofia countered her husband’s caustic words with her own tender voice of reason. “He’s right, Natasha, these people do things differently. Besides, a person could be running late for many reasons. I waited for two trains just the other day. I must’ve sat there for nearly a half hour.”
“There, you see? There’s probably a good explanation she’s late,” Marvin said. “Now, just go throw some more soy chips into a bowl and go back out there.”
Natasha nodded. Her silver and amber earrings rocked and caught the light, throwing sparkles back into Zofia’s eyes. She turned and disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Zofia alone with Marvin.
“Deity save us!” Marvin said, blowing out a sigh of relief. “I’m so glad you’re here, Zofia.” Then, lowering his voice and leaning closer he said, “She’s been hyperventilating all day.”
“Really?” Zofia said, breathing in the rich exotic essence of patchouli oil exuding from him. Avoiding his deep gaze, her own went to the floor and found his hairy toes. Yish. She brought her gaze back up only to find her gaze now zeroed in on his nose hair. Darting her glance to the side of his face, and to his ears, she found tuffs of hair around his ears. Okay, great, I'll just stare at his forehead.
“Well, nearly. I had to step clear of it, you know? This was her big day.” He made air quotes. Straightening, he plastered an ingratiating smile onto his face as Natasha whisked by with a large green bowl of chips.
Marvin watched his wife become swallowed up by her guests in the living room. Hands behind his back, he turned to Zofia and said, “So, when can we expect to see you in for a nice, relaxing massage at my clinic? We have a very good staff, you know. And the new rebirthing classes are excellent—well, you’ve seen the transformation of my wife,” he said. “That’s how Natasha was able to dredge up buried memories of her past lives. It enabled her to realize who she really is, and let go the old, dreary persona.
“Also,” he went on, “we have some excellent psychic classes, as well as meditation. Good for relaxation, you know.”
He sounded like a radio add. Zofia wished she could simply change the dial. Mentally chastising herself for having allowed herself to be left alone with Marvin, who saw fit to push his New Age Center to anyone with ears, she turned and smiled at him. “I really don’t have time to—”
His hand came up. Zofia jerked away, but realized he wasn't going to hurt her. Long fingers brushed a wayward strand of dark hair out of her eyes.
“That’s okay, Zofia.” His blue-gray eyes were like two marbles set in ivory. A little too intense and unblinking. “I accept that you’re a very complex and intricate work of art with many layers and levels of consciousness. Just remember, the freer we are, the more powerful we become.”
She blinked at him, totally confused as to what exactly he was saying—nothing unusual for this Ugwump.
“Ah, there you are, darling.”
Dorian’s velvet voice made Zofia spin about. A rush of relief washed over her when she found him slouched against the threshold of the wide door arch, scoping out the situation he’d just walked in on.
“Dorian, meet our host, Marvin Tuestad. Marvin, this is my husband, Dorian,” Zofia said, trying very hard not to smile as though she’d put one over on the man.
“Husband!” Marvin nearly choked the word. “I-I thought you were dead—I-I mean—” He looked absolutely flabbergasted, then he covered it up with a nervous chuckle. “That's what you told me, Zofia.”
Smiling, Zofia found odd satisfaction from his reaction. Maybe he wont leer at me quite so much, now.
“That’s been the general consensus,” Dorian slurred, giving Zofia a slitted look.
Appearing to recuperate from his shock, Marvin stepped toward Dorian and offered him his hand. Dorian shook his hand briefly. Zofia made a little start, but relaxed remembering Dorian was no longer a wizard, and could no longer give anyone a nice hefty zap. She imagined, if she were Dorian, that’s exactly what she would have wanted to do to this Ugwump, if he could. The strange look that sprang onto Marvin’s face was just as satisfying. She was quite certain that the icy-cold touch of Dorian’s grasp had just sent shivers down his spine.
From the kitchen Natasha motioned to them. In a hoarse whisper she said, “She’s here!”
“Finally,” Marvin said, scooting toward the living room as if anxious to get away from a particularly uncomfortable moment.
Natasha glided into the living room, her voice spearing everyone’s attention.
“All right, everyone. Everyone, please,” Natasha said in a clear, loud voice. Motioning to Marvin she said, “Cut the lights.”
Darkness fell around them. The only illumination came from several candles strategically stationed around the room. Chairs borrowed from the dining room and kitchen were arranged in a large ellipse around the coffee table, most of them occupied. In the center was a large cake candle glowing warmly, throwing shadows across the walls.
“With no further ado,” Natasha announced, “I give you the very amazing Diadra.”
Everyone turned toward the kitchen doorway and applauded as a woman in a long, black sequined dress swept into the room. Minus the dark sunglasses of this morning, Diadra wore heavy crimson lipstick and thick eye-liner, giving her exotic Cleopatra-eyes. Gaze settling upon Zofia, it became like a scalpel cutting right through her. Zofia looked away and quickly joined Dorian who’d commandeered two chairs near the wide doorway, nearest the hall.
“Hold onto your purses, ladies,” Dorian said low into Zofia’s ear.
“Shhh!” Zofia jammed an elbow into Dorian’s ribs.
He grunted sharply, then stabbed Zofia with a cutting look, but said nothing further.
Meanwhile, the spiritualist made a trajectory toward the red wing-backed chair in front of the fireplace. The candle flames jumped as she twirled about to face the room. She paused like some overly dramatic actress, and then motioned for everyone to be seated. Once they were, she dropped into her seat. Glittering rings on her fingers winked and glimmered, as did her dress. The room became as quiet as a crypt.
“Please join hands,” she instructed in that deep, husky voice.
Everyone sat and did as she asked.
With eyes closed, she said, “There is an unbeliever among us.” She opened her eyes and stared at Dorian.
Every eye in the room followed her gaze and rested on him.
“Some people can’t take a joke, it seems,” Dorian said passed tightly clenched teeth.
“You do not believe in the afterlife?” Diadra asked him pointedly.
“I believe in it, all right.” He paused before delivering his stinger. “I just don’t believe in you.”
Zofia wasn't surprised by the chuckles, considering they came mostly from the men.
Everyone jumped, except for Dorian. Gazes snapped back to Diadra. Once again her eyes were closed.
“You’ve been away,” she said in a misty, voice. “Far, far away for a very long time.” Her eyes popped open and she stared at him again. “You are no longer the man you once were.”
Dorian leaned toward Zofia. “Who’s been telling her my secrets?” he asked
“I allow no disbelievers into my circle,” she said sternly.
“As you wish, madam.” Dorian rose. “I’ll take my leave of you all.” Lifting a chin toward Natasha, he said, “My thanks to my hosts. Good evening.” He negotiated his way between the chairs, arrowed toward the front door and was gone.
Monique parked herself in the chair Dorian had just vacated and whispered to Zofia, “Well, that was just rude.”
Zofia gave her a look, wondering who she meant; Dorian for leaving, or Diadra for telling him to.
“You think I should ask her about Kenny?” she whispered again.
“Please,” Diadra said in an unearthly voice.
The room quieted once again.
“Let us all close our eyes and take a few deep breaths before we continue. Let us get our auras in line,” she encouraged. “We need a nice, orange glow from our auras. Yes, yes, that’s it. Calm the mind,” Diadra coached. For many moments no one spoke. Zofia felt as though she were floating, and so checked to make sure her butt was firmly on the chair. It was. That would have been embarrassing.
“There is someone here who is worried about a loved one... someone who is in the hospital? Everything will turn out well,” she assured. “Please, concentrate, all of you. Give me your deepest, most troubling questions,” she intoned. “Open up your minds. Your thoughts will be transmitted to me through your auric fields, down your arms, through your hands, from hand to hand, and finally to mine.”
Another long moment of silence drew out. Zofia cracked one eye open to peek at Diadra. She sat with her eyes closed, looking as though she were concentrating very hard. She certainly had all the mystical trappings, and could command the room, but Zofia had to wonder about her abilities. After all, she didn’t have a skull to consult, not even a crystal ball, or cards, or animal entrails. There were many forms of divination. She wondered what form of divination Diadra used. Perhaps she used the flames of the candles. That was called pyromancy. However, if she were a sciomancer, she would need the skull of a dead person, like some of the Knights of the Witenagemont used.
Before Zofia could deduce the form of omen-reading used by this so-called psychic, a noise, divorced from the small coughs and throat clearing of the room, caught Zofia’s attention. It was brief, and had come from down the hall. She leaned her head back slightly and stared toward the other entrance to the kitchen. Darkness doused the entire house. The only light glowed from candles. A shiver ran up Zofia’s spine, then it slid down her arms, spiking the hairs there.
Diadra’s dramatically loud voice disturbed the stillness, startling Zofia. Heart thundering like a drum in Zofia’s ears, the odd noise came again from the Tuestad’s kitchen. Zofia looked around the room. Everyone had their eyes closed. Had no one else heard that?
“There is a woman present who is concerned about someone they are close to. A man. A boyfriend, perhaps?”
Monique pulled in a sharp gasp and squeezed Zofia’s hand.
“I’m getting a name... Mo—Mona—?”
“Ouch, Monique! Geewiz!” cried Janet who sat on Monique’s other side.
“Monique, yes,” said Diadra.
Zofia rolled her eyes. How hard was that?
“Monique, you are concerned about the man you’ve been seeing, yes?” Diadra said.
“Yes,” Monique answered.
“I’m getting confusing messages,” Diadra said, frowning deeply.
Another sound caught Zofia’s attention. She recognized it as the creak of a floorboard. Gooseflesh rose on Zofia’s arms. She had not imagined that. It had come from down the hall not six feet away. She leaned back trying to dilate her eyes, but she just couldn’t pick anything out of the shadows. It wasn’t Dorian. He’d gone out the front door.
“I’d like to know—” Monique began.
“He is not the same man as you once knew before,” Diadra spoke over her in her most theatrical, deep voice. The exchange of the two women was like listening to a couple of blenders making Margaritas.
Zofia gazed across the room at Diadra to see her smiling. It was an odd, wicked smile.
“I’m afraid, my dear, you’ll never see him again,” the medium said darkly.
Monique’s hand dug into Zofia’s palm still deeper as the room went tomb-quiet.
A sudden loud bang made everyone jump in their seats. Eyes popped open. Hands once joined, parted.
“The spirits—they speak!” Diadra said quickly.
There came another heavy thump, and a thud after that. It came from the kitchen, and they were not spirits. A sound of something large and heavy had been thrown against the wall. Then, a groan carried into the room. There was someone in the kitchen.
“Ignore that. The spirits are upset... very upset and—”
Voices from the hallway stopped everyone cold. They all turned, gazing expectantly toward the hallway. Diadra jumped to her feet, looking anxiously in the same direction as everyone else. Oddly, the woman looked more agitated than alarmed.
The hall lights blinked on.
Someone let out a sharp screech. Janet gasped, “Ohmygawd!”
Everyone shifted in their seats. Only a few men were up on their feet. Eshwan, the giant African American, who took up the space of two humans, was one of them. His voice loudly asked, “What in the name of steroids is going on here?”
“Who’s there?” Marvin asked briskly, sounding less intimidating, however.
Twisting in her seat, Zofia saw Dorian standing five feet away. In his hand was a small black pistol. She followed the direction in which he was pointing it. There, slumped on the floor were two men clad entirely in black, with black knit caps drawn carelessly up, revealing their rough features. They had dazed looks on their faces, as though someone—like Dorian—had clunked their heads together. What was he doing with the gun and how had he gotten back into the house, and thirdly, who were those men he held the gun on?
“I’ve an idea, Diadra, why not tell us all who these blokes are?” Dorian said.
In two heartbeats the circle broke apart. Everyone jumped up. Startled gasps came from women in the crowd as they scurried to the opposite end of the room. Marvin surged forward. Eshwan lumbered toward the two men in black.
“Where did these two come from?” Marvin asked bewildered, his eyes as round and large as the beads he wore.
“I saw them skulking around outside your house,” Dorian said with a smug expression, still holding the gun on the two thugs. “Men dressed in black at night tend to draw my attention. Anyway, I followed them around, saw them enter your back door and—ZOFIA, QUICK! THE FRONT DOOR!”
Zofia turned, as did everyone else, to see Diadra slipping stealthily toward the front door. She was making a break toward the door. Zofia thrust her hand out and barked, “Twizzle!” Sparks jettisoned from Zofia’s fingertips and zipped toward the door’s lock. The dead bolt clicked into place, but everyone was too busy to notice this. At the same time, Janet and Betty Unger lunged and grabbed Diadra by the arms, pulling her back. Diadra nearly fell to the floor, but they guided her awkward, backward tumble onto the couch where she landed like and ungraceful opera star. Her shimmering dress and heavy make-up making her look a little clownish, now.
“Phone the police, Natasha,” Marvin said. “We've been bamboozled.”
|Lorelei Bell's very first self-published work here as an ebook,|
complete with a brand new shiny cover.Spell of the Black Unicorn