Authors: PM Drummond
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.
Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2016
Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
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To W.E. Lynn, Jr., the greatest storyteller in the world.
Life has less color without you.
CHAPTER TWO C
CHAPTER FIVE D
CHAPTER EIGHT W
CHAPTER THIRTEEN L
I give a universe of thanks and love to my husband,
for his unending support and patience in being married to a “creative type” and author. He shares a house with not only a nature-loving writer/artist, but with all the stuff that accompanies those endeavors. Somehow his love for me has changed him from a “perfect-thirds towel folder” and “one-inch apart hanger spacer” into a shoulder shrugging, but sometimes eye-rolling, partner who only complains a little (usually when he trips over something or I bring another stray home). We are proof positive that not only do opposites sometimes attract, but they can make a long-lasting, dynamic, happy duo.
I’d also like to thank Brian Kaufman of Dark Silo Press for his editing and encouragement; the entire Kindle Scout team for their hard work and support; my sister Debby Waisanen for her love and faith in me; and Michael Slusser, Debra Claypool, and Rob Wilkins from Hot Shot Mountain Writers’ Group for their friendship and help to keep me on track.
If I didn’t list you, and you think I should have, please consider yourself acknowledged/thanked, and remember I space things out when I’m writing.
The pen wobbled, floating midair in front of my face. It was a bad sign. I hadn’t consciously willed the thing to rise, and it was dancing around like a drunk bridesmaid at a wedding reception.
I sat at my desk, my hands poised with indecision on the blotter. My boss, Carl, stood across the dingy basement office with his back to me as he rifled through file drawers and cussed under his breath. His middle-aged, fireplug frame vibrated with anger. I wondered, for the hundredth time, how his sweet little wife, Nancy, had put up with him for twenty-five years.
“I’ll show those executive idiots,” he said. “Tell me I don’t run my department right. Take it from me, Marlee Marie. No one has your back. Never forget that. You’re your own best advocate, especially around here.”
“More like my own worst enemy,” I mumbled.
Carl half turned toward me, making my pulse race and the pen spin like a gyroscope.
“What?” he said.
“Nothing,” I said, praying he wouldn’t turn all the way around.
I kept my eye on the pen and Carl at the same time, unsure of whether I should grab for it and risk drawing his attention or just keep sitting there and trying to will the thing to drop. The chaotic energy he threw off sizzled as it hit my skin, stinging like sparkler embers on the Fourth of July—except these embers melted into my skin and amped up the already dangerously high energy pulsing in my body.
Carl slammed a file drawer just as I reached out to grab the pen. I jumped. The Bic shot across the room and impaled itself in a file storage box two feet from Carl’s head. He flinched and scanned the room.
“What was that?” he asked.
I shrugged and turned to my computer.
“Don’t know,” I said, hoping to sound nonchalant. “Maybe that rat’s back in the walls again. Want me to call University Pest Control?”
He jerked open another drawer.
“No. That rat can eat the whole damn place. Hope it gives him the trots.”
A chime from my computer announced an instant message. I didn’t have to look to know the sender. Mike Williams from the Psychic Powers Chatroom was the only person who ever messaged me. I’d joined the chat room seven weeks ago, when my telekinesis had come out of its twenty-one-year dormancy, in an effort to find a way to get rid of my lifelong curse once and for all.
Mike was also the only person I could call a friend, even though I’d never met him face-to-face and never would, thanks to my parentally ingrained “Don’t tell anyone you’re a freak” rule. Okay, I was bending the rule a little. I told him about the freak part, but he would never know who I really was thanks to the magic of the Internet.
I pulled the keyboard toward me, made sure the monitor was turned so Carl couldn’t see it, clicked “Frizz’s IM,” Frizz because of my hair, and started typing.
hey frizz whats up
Carls on his monthly rant & energy is way too high
Why too high
dont know. been feeling like somebodys watching me or something bads going to happen
probably nothing. U b ok
don’t think so. things flying everywhere. gets much higher afraid what will happen
u still worried about the cat
I touched the picture taped to my monitor of BooBoo Kitty lying on the back of my sofa, belly up, warming her fur with the sun. Sudden tears blurred my vision, and I wiped at my eyes with the back of my hand before continuing to type.
yeah still missing
maybe thats it
I didn’t think so. BooBoo had been gone just a few days, while the paranoia and crushing sense of foreboding had been building for weeks. My neck tingled just thinking about it. I cringed and darted a look at the wall behind me. There was nothing there but a large bright green moth. Dots on each of its lower wings looked like eyes, and when it fluttered, its pseudo-eyes blinked at me. Creepy. I shooed it away with a flick of my hand, and it flew toward the dark open maw of the storage room.
The computer screen on my desk snapped and flickered—another bad sign. I pushed my chair away from the desk and stood up before I shorted something out. The IT department was getting cranky about replacing electronic devices in my office. If I could just get out of the room long enough to uncharge a little, I’d be fine. My phone rang, and out of habit, I answered it rather than making my escape.
“Marlee Burns, Orange County University Records, Assets, and Archive, how may I help you?”
“Are you the lady with the lost cat?” a raspy male voice asked.
“Yes, yes, I am. Have you found her?”
My heart beat double-time. I tucked the phone on my shoulder and slammed my hands on several items rising off my desk. Carl glared over at me, and I smiled at him with what I hoped was an innocent “who me?” look. It worked. He turned back around and continued banging drawers and abusing papers.
“I have the cat. Your home phone message said to call this number.”
My shaking knees gave way and dumped me back into my chair.
“Right, oh my gosh. Thank you. She’s been missing for two days. Who am I speaking to?”
The tingle in my neck increased, vibrating the base of my skull. Hair rose on my nape, and I glanced behind me again. The empty wall mocked my paranoia.
“Smith. Bob Smith. Listen, I’m in a little bit of a rush here. I can bring the cat by your place after five today. Just give me the time and address.”
The tingle intensified. I chalked it up to nerves.
“It’s 2554 Alice Lane, but I won’t be able to get home till about six fifteen. I get off at six, but I only live about a mile away. I have a class at seven, but I can be late if I need to.” I shut up long enough to roll my eyes. I was such a babbler when I was nervous.
I gave up holding things down on my desk and shoved them into a drawer to keep them from waving around in front of my face.
“Right,” Mr. Smith said, “see you at six-thirty.”
The line went dead. I looked at the receiver. He wasn’t much of a talker. I hung up the phone. When I lifted my hand from the handset, the tingling in my neck stopped. When I put my fingertips back on the phone, the tingle resumed, but it was fainter. It gave me what Grandma used to call “heebie-jeebies,” but I didn’t have time to analyze it.
I felt Carl glaring a hole into me and made the mistake of looking up. It seemed to give him the idea that I needed his input on the situation.
“You just gave your address to a complete stranger, didn’t you, Marlee?” He shook his head, causing a scraggly piece of graying hair to fall into his eyes.
“Yeah, but I’d do anything to get BooBoo back.”
“That’s asinine. What are you five-five and one-twenty?”
“Five-nine and one-thirty-ish, but—”
“You’re defenseless, alone in that house. Don’t know why your grandma willed it to a single, twenty-six-year-old girl. This guy could be a serial killer. You should’ve let the damn cat stay lost. The world would be better off without animals mucking up the works.”
He waited for an answer. I couldn’t think of a reply, so I stupidly said the first thing that came to mind, “Without animals, what would we eat for meat?”
Carl’s eyes narrowed, and his voice grated, “How about one each other?”
I grabbed a rubber band off my desk and fastened my rising waist-length hair into a frizzy black ponytail. If he noticed my hair suddenly lifting and crackling, he didn’t let it show before he stormed out of the office and slammed the door.
I turned back to my computer and was shocked to see my reflection in the monitor’s glass. My normally medium-green eyes shone bright green, almost glowing.
Oh joy, a new side effect of my social-life mangling abilities
. I wiggled my mouse to turn the screen saver off and block my reflection, then typed
to Mike and got to work inputting scanning requests for the next batch of university records going to the document imaging company. Before I knew it, it was time to leave.
“Good,” I said. “I can finally get out of here.”
I talk to myself a lot. I answer myself, too. I’ve heard that may be something to worry about. Yeah right, I’d add it to the list.
I grabbed my things and rushed to my 1959 Chrysler Imperial in the parking lot. As soon as its long, red body, huge chrome bumpers, fake tire on the trunk, and pointy tail fins came into view, my heart did a little happy dance, and my shoulders ratcheted down a notch. My grandfather bought the mammoth car new off the showroom floor for my grandmother. Over the years, it had broken down to the point where auto mechanics said it was hopeless, but my grandfather would always bring the old bucket of bolts back to the living. These many resurrections earned the car the family nickname, The Jesus Chrysler, or JC for short.
The pastor at my grandmother’s church had used the car in a sermon once, saying if a machine could have the perseverance and reliability of our savior then the rest of us should be able to follow suit. It hadn’t broken down in the five years since my grandfather died, which was more than I could say for myself—especially today.
With a double-scoop of doom still consuming me, I backed out and sped as fast as the JC would go to meet Mr. Smith.