Baseball, Werewolves and Me
My life, right now, is a mess. My husband's about to shift again, as it's nearly the full moon, and the last time he killed three possums, two chickens and a small dog (by mistake; he'd been going for another possum). My psychic consulting business has been down lately--probably because I made the mistake of telling someone her real fortune, rather than moonbeams, rose blossoms, and kittens (which are always safe)--and I don't know how we're going to make rent, much less put food on the table. And perhaps worst of all, my favorite baseball team, the Brooklyn Knights, has lost twelve games in a row.
"Unthinkable," I muttered.
"Are you worried about the Knights again?" my husband Fergus asked. "You do know there's not one single blessed thing you can do for them, right?"
"If someone down there would just listen to me, then I could--you know how it works."
"Yeah, yeah, I know the drill," Fergus commiserated. (He's a good husband, I will give him that.) "You do have a new client today--Manuela Argos? Why not focus on her instead? Even though that name can't possibly be real."
"Probably another wannabe celeb who wants me to tell her she's about to hit the big time," I grumbled. "But what can you do?"
"Lie?" Fergus suggested delicately.
"I can't, and you know why." Some days, I wish I could, but I truly can't lie outright to people--a witch put a spell on me years ago after one of her family members had believed my "moonbeams, rainbows and kittens" tale, but was promptly run over by a bus. Which is why I now can only use the "moonbeams, rainbows and kittens" philosophy on people who aren't due for any good or bad fortune in the near future, as it's not necessarily misleading and it does give people hope.
And goodness knows we need some hope in today's horrible economy.
"Too true," Fergus agreed. "If I could just find that witch, I'd do her what-for--"
I shivered. "Best not, love. You don't want the authorities believing werewolves really exist, do you?"
Fergus snorted. "So you get to talk with Ms. Argos, whoever she is. You will be kind?"
"When am I not kind?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Fergus rolled his eyes.
"Let's not, and save steps," I said briskly. "Anyway, let's talk about the Knights."
"Do I have to?" he whined. "I've heard so much about their losing streak, why Rayne is a total jackoff for not figuring out how to use his pitchers, and even about how the team must be cursed. What else is left to discuss?" Then his eyes narrowed. "Unless you're seeing something?"
"Maybe." I frowned. "Whatever it is, it won't come clear."
"Figures," Fergus grumbled.
"Maybe our new customer will be Rayne's wife," I mused. "Wouldn't that be a kick?"
"If it is," Fergus said quietly, perhaps humoring me, "just don't blame her for her husband's mistakes, OK? 'Cause it's not her fault."
The front doorbell buzzed.
"That must be her now, whoever she is. Do go get her, Fergus--it's not nice to keep a lady waiting."
Fergus went to the front door and opened it, all politesse now that a customer was here. "Ms. Argos, I presume? How good of you to come. Please, walk this way--"
Argos, whoever she was, was tall, blonde, and would've looked athletic if not for the cast on her right leg or the long, wooden-handled cane she carried in her left hand. "Madame Arletta!"
That's me. At least, to the marks.
"What can I do for you?" I asked, ushering her into my private studio. I closed the door, carefully but firmly, on Fergus; of course he'd listen at the door, damn him.
"First, I want a demonstration of your abilities," Argos, if that was indeed her name, said. "Tell me who I am."
"Um, you're a woman, with a cane and a cast--"
"No, not the obvious!" She looked like she was ready to smack me upside the head with her cane, but then decided against it. "Tell me who I really am."
How had she known I could do anything of the sort? I certainly didn't bruit those abilities about.
"I can do what you ask, but it takes a lot out of me."
"I need to know your bona fides, Madame Arletta, otherwise you won't be of any use to me. And I'm willing to pay twice your going rate, just for the demonstration."
She felt genuine--I have some empathy--and I knew that I couldn't afford to pass up a double fee right now. I'd just have to deal with the energy expenditure later.
"All right." I guided her to a leather chair, pulled up a straight, wooden chair beside her, and sat down. "I will need to take your hand."
"Do whatever you must," Argos said. "But do it as fast as you can. Time is of the essence."
My psychic sense agreed with her; whatever she'd come to discuss was some seriously bad juju.
I slowed my heart rate and breathing and put myself into a trance. After three beats of my heartbeat, I started to pick something up. Images--a child, an adult . . . then . . . this was odd. I saw TransContinental Park, home of the Knights. Seats down the first-base line, expensive ones. This woman was seated with a bunch of the baseball wives--I recognized Laila Lezcano, Pauletta Arnold, and Jaime Harkness--and they were deferring to her. Which meant only one thing.
"You're Heather Rayne," I said as I dropped out of trance. "The reclusive manager's wife. You're almost never seen on camera, and usually when you are, you're wearing big, dark sunglasses and a huge, floppy hat, which is why I didn't recognize you right away."
"Would you want to be recognized in my place, considering my husband's team has lost twelve games in a row?" she asked.
I ignored this.
"Unusual that you would come to me, of all people." I hope she hadn't read my blog. I wasn't exactly a fan of her husband, or his seemingly nonexistent managerial skills.
She didn't have a gun on her, did she?
To distract myself, I said, "Your husband manages the Knights, and has for several years. I'm a huge fan of the team."
"I know that," Mrs. Rayne said. "That's why I came to see you--well, that and your blog posts, that is."
Mrs. Rayne went on with, "Several of my friends visited you. They say you do good work."
"Which friends?" I demanded. I didn't know any of the baseball high-rollers in this town personally--did I?
She didn't answer. Instead, she said, "You know your baseball, and you're a psychic. Right?"
"That's what my husband tells me," I answered calmly. "What about it?"
"My husband's going to get fired, and soon, unless he can start winning some baseball games." This wasn't news to me. Managers were always "hired to be fired," as the truism went, and were more often fired when their teams were in the midst of a horrendous losing streak. "I thought maybe your gift might be able to help."
I decided not to mention that there were some things common sense should've told her husband long ago--like not to keep a starting pitcher out on the mound when he was getting shelled, say. Or when a reliever throws a pitch or two over the backstop, then can't get the first two guys out, it might be time to get that reliever out of the ballgame . . . my Lord, if Rayne couldn't figure that out on his own, how could anything I do help?
Yet I'd had that strange feeling that I needed to talk with someone connected to the Knights, as I was sure the team had been cursed. Was Mrs. Rayne my ticket in?
Even if she was, I couldn't tell her any of this, so I temporized instead. "Managers don't pitch, hit, or field, last I checked. What good do you think I can do, under the circumstances?"
"I don't know, but Buffy said--"
"Buffy Malone?" I asked, feeling faint. Buffy knew I was genuine.
When I had to be.
"Yes, her," Mrs. Rayne said. "She said you can help, that you're a genuine clairvoyant, especially if you already understand the subject. That's why I know there has to be something you can do to help me--something I maybe could tell him that will keep him from getting fired!"
"He'll still get paid, though," I pointed out. "That's one good thing. At least you won't immediately be out of money." Though I would be, if I couldn't bring in the business--under the circumstances, I should be welcoming Mrs. Rayne, but something was making me hold back. I didn't know why this was, but I trusted my instincts.
"Excuse me, but do you think I want a forty-five-year-old man in the prime of his life home all the time? Hell, the last time he got fired, he took up macramé, of all things--now I have fabric art all over the house, and I can't even get the cat to ruin it!"
Mrs. Rayne didn't appreciate this; her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. "I know you can help me. If you want. And my goodness! You're a loyal Knights fan--or is that the problem? You honestly think the team would be better off without my husband?"
"I didn't say that." I knew I had to pick my words carefully, or Mrs. Rayne would bolt. "I think something is going on down there that's very . . . unusual. And I think I can help--but unfortunately, I cannot work for free, and even the doubled fee you've already promised will only go so far."
She pulled out a big wad of greenbacks, and threw them on the desk. It was far more than double my regular fee for the entire day; it might even match a doubled fee for the entire week. I tried not to salivate.
"That's your start fee," Mrs. Rayne said, "but on one condition."
"You must help my husband win tonight's game!"
"How can I get near him, much less get him to listen to me, if he won't listen to you?" I'd been listening behind the words. "Much less get him to listen tonight, of all nights?"
"You know what tonight is, then," she muttered.
"Yes, I do. The Knights are playing the Kumquats. That's a huge rivalry. Historic context. Massive media coverage. Losing this game will probably result in exactly what you fear." I didn't need to be clairvoyant to know that.
"Which is why he--and the Knights--need to win at least two out of the next three games, so he'll keep his job and not macramé the cat to the wall. Or any other damned thing that takes his fancy."
"You don't know how awful it is to have your husband home, criticizing every little thing you do."
"Yes, I do," I said quietly. "Mine works with me."
"That's your husband?" she pointed to the door. She must've known he was listening, somehow. "Him?"
"What's wrong with Fergus?" I asked defensively. Your basic red-haired, blue-eyed Southerner, Fergus--not his fault he doesn't care much for baseball. Or that he's a werewolf, either.
"He doesn't look--flashy enough, somehow," Mrs. Rayne said. "Not the type of guy I'd have expected you to go after."
"Don't believe the hype when it comes to psychics," I said, trying to keep my voice soft. I really didn't want Fergus to overhear this. "We like solid, normal guys as much as anyone else."
Even when they're werewolves.
She nodded. "When my husband is working--managing, that is--he's a really good husband. But when he's home all the time, watch out!"
I judged that our private moment had gone on long enough. "Major league managers--they're tough guys, inured to criticism," I said loudly. I pointed to the door; Mrs. Rayne nodded and smiled. "As it stands, nothing anyone has said has changed your husband. The baseball writers, the guys on ESPN--even my blog, Hank Rayne's Ill-timed Missteps, hasn't made him change a thing." I tossed my head.
"You have an extensive readership, yes," Mrs. Rayne said. Oddly, she looked better now, much more relaxed. "Which is why I know that I can get you in to talk with him today, before the game; I'll tell him about Buffy--"
At my dark look, she added, "About how Buffy introduced us."
"And I'll mention how kind and generous you seem in person--you are kind and generous, right?"
"Sometimes," I said faintly.
"So maybe you can tell him something--anything--that might help."
"I can try," I told her. "But you haven't even asked to see if I can do a reading for you. What makes you think I can help your husband in any way?" I started gathering up the greenbacks--there had to be at least a thousand dollars worth of money, maybe more--and hoped my overall exhaustion from my vision trance didn't show too much. "What's in it for me?"
"You want the Kumquats to lose, don't you?"
"Of course--any Knights fan wants that!" I said, stung.
"Then that's what's in it for you--plus, I'll give you the same amount of money tomorrow if you'll just help my husband win tonight's game."
The time finally seemed right, so I agreed. "If you can get me in to see him, I promise that I will do my best to help."
"That's all I ask, Madame Arletta."
"Call me Arl," I said. "It sounds more baseballish."
She laughed, then stood to take her leave. "I'll send a car for you--here is good?"
"That should be fine," I said. My head was spinning; that meant something big, something important, was on the horizon, unless being so tired from the recent vision-trance was interfering. Sometimes it did, which is why being clairvoyant is no fun whatsoever.
Still, I knew that I had to do this, even though I didn't care for Hank Rayne. And even though the bad juju might be more than I could handle under the circumstances, especially considering that I was already tired and drained.
"I'll send the car at four, then."
Five hours from now--that didn't give me much time to recover my energy. But before I could even try to find the words to discuss energy drain and how it affected me, Mrs. Rayne smiled, grabbed her cane and purse, and walked to the door. She didn't even seem surprised when Fergus opened the door before she touched the doorknob, then ushered her out.
"You're really going to do this, Arl?" he demanded once she'd left.
"I have to," I said mildly. "I'm a sucker for true love."
Fergus snorted. "You need some food, I see."
"I went into vision-trance for Mrs. Rayne," I explained.
"Arl, that drains you way too much! Why--"
I held up the money.
"Oh, yeah, that," he said. "I'll go make you up a plate--rare meat, again?"
I nodded. (You'd think I'm turning into a werewolf, too, but I'm not. Long before I ever met Fergus, I had figured out that eating meat--the rarer, the better--would help restore my energy.) "Thanks."
After he'd returned, I ate and drank, then asked if he was ready to back me up, if need be. He'd saved me, once, from a very bad situation--that's how I'd found out he was a were--and even in full human shape, his sense of smell was far better than average.
He agreed quickly, which was worrisome. When Fergus isn't cracking jokes, something is desperately wrong. And if he was picking up leakage from my clairvoyance--which had only happened a handful of times--things were even worse off with the Knights than I'd thought.
Did I really want to put myself through this?
Well, I'd promised. At least Fergus would back me. And it was too late to back out now.
The car, a sedate four-door sedan, let me out nearest the player's entrance at TransContinental Park--I'd liked this place better when it was just old Lombardi Stadium, but of course the Knights hadn't consulted with me about the name change. The driver, a young Asian in his late teens, told me, "Just go up the stairs and to the right, Ms. Arletta. He should be expecting you."
I tried to tip the driver, but he wasn't having any. "Just get him a win, will you?" he pleaded. "Mom really doesn't want Dad around all the time--and I don't, either." He frowned. "The last time he was home long-term, he ran off three of my girlfriends. I'm not having that."
Ah, that's how she managed to get him to drive me, I thought irreverently. "I'll do my best."
"I'll be back later to get you," he promised.
I walked up the stairs, took a right, and went inside a long, low room. It had a desk, several chairs (none that looked comfy), and a coffee cup with a few dregs left inside.
"Now what?" I murmured. I took a seat, positioned the chair so I could see the doorway, and dropped into a light meditation.
Odd, that! I could see lines radiating out from this place--lines of force that shouldn't be here, that were distorting Hank Rayne's judgment. I didn't know what I could do to remove these lines--I'm a psychic, not a witch--but as I prayed on it, I saw the lines loosen, then dissolve.
Would that be enough to help Hank Rayne, in and of itself? Or was there more? (Surely that couldn't be all there was?)
Then I heard a throat-clearing sound. I looked up, abruptly out of my meditative trance. I saw a well-made man in his middle years, black hair shading to gray at the temples, and a nose that looked like it had been broken once too often. Hank Rayne, to the life.
"It's a pleasure, Mr. Rayne."
"Call me Hank," he said. "All of Heather's friends do."
Oh, so I'm to be Heather's friend now? I thought. Not what I'd expected, but I'd just have to deal with it. "My name is Arletta James. People usually call me Arletta, though my husband Fergus sometimes calls me Arl."
"I'd best stick with Arletta, then," Rayne said. "Now, Heather said that you might know something about the Kumquats--something that will help me win tonight's game. What is it?"
"Um, I--" I thought hard. Heather hadn't wanted him to know I'm psychic, so what was going on here? Yet my talent was open, and I heard myself say, "You know that Dingall's about to come off the disabled list for his back, right?"
"Everyone knows that," he said. "What about it?"
"He's favoring his right leg," I said. I knew this to be true once it came out of my mouth, even though I didn't know how I knew--that's how my gift worked. "He's not going to be able to steal bases, and he'll have trouble running. If he gets a hit that normally would go for extra-bases, I'd try to throw him out at second base; you'll have a better than even chance if you do."
He wrote that down. "What else do you know?" he asked intently.
This was odd. He wasn't even arguing?
Then I heard my voice say, "Morgan--the starter for the Kumquats tonight--is one short step from the disabled list." Again, I didn't know how I knew this, as Morgan had been healthy all season, but it was the truth. "Jindal's been told by the 'Quat management that Morgan's to be pulled if he throws more than twenty-five pitches in any inning in order to keep him off the DL. So if your men can be patient, and draw walks for a change rather than lunging at pitches far outside the strike zone as is their wont--"
"Careful," he warned.
"--you could get Morgan out of the game sooner rather than later."
"Anything else?" he asked. His dark eyes narrowed.
I thought, opened my mind to that dizzying sensation, then said, "If Franklin comes in for the 'Quats, look for a fastball." That seemed counterintuitive; Franklin threw in the high 90s. I shrugged. "That's all I have. Look for a fastball."
"But that's his best pitch!" Rayne yelled. "Why would my guys want to look for that rather than a change-up?"
"I can't tell you why," I said. My gift had given me all the information it could. "That's all I have for you right now. That, and some good common sense." I frowned. "Which seems to be in rather short supply around here."
"You try managing twenty-five huge egos and see how you like it," he said darkly.
"Even so, it doesn't seem all that tough to pull a pitcher who's thrown twelve solid balls in a row to load the bases before that same pitcher gives up a game-winning homer," I said mildly. "Yet for whatever reason, last night you refused to do it, and the Knights lost again. Why is that?"
"Most of the time it's because I know the guy I put out there is the best available option," Rayne said quietly.
"Really? How can a guy who's just walked the bases loaded, like Perrini did last night, be the best available option? He seems more like the best available bad option."
He snorted. "The other guys--they might be drunk, or sick, or they're 'one short step from the DL,' as you say Morgan is--they're not in any shape to pitch, or they look so awful in the 'pen that it would be ruinous to bring them in." He shook his head. "Believe it or not, I really do want the Knights to win ballgames. I'd not put someone out there I didn't think at least had the chance to win."
Maybe those lines had distorted his judgment, too--and since they seemed to be gone now, maybe he'd make better decisions. And at least he'd answered me. I appreciated that, and told him so.
"Believe you me, if I'd had anyone better, I'd have brought in someone else," he said. "I don't enjoy watching bullpen meltdowns any more than anyone else. And you can tell the folks on your blog I said so, too."
"You've read my blog?" I was surprised he hadn't taken a gun out and shot me on the spot. Especially considering those lines, which were trying to creep back in--damn it, they hadn't completely gone away!
"My wife does," he said gruffly. "Why do you think I asked her to bring you here? It's certainly not just for your psychic gifts."
"I have just a touch of the gift," he explained with a smile.
As he said that, my empathy told me that he believed it to be true. Yet he didn't seem like a clairvoyant.
"That's why I can stay employed, usually; I can tell when something's up. And I knew chances were good that I'd get fired this weekend, unless I could reverse our luck. So when Heather told me about you, and about how Buffy had introduced you two--well, I knew I had to meet you. Which is why we're here."
I thought of telling him about the lines I'd seen, but didn't know how to go about it. They still hadn't re-established themselves, as something in the room seemed to be repelling them. "I think your luck is about to change," I ventured. "But if I could see the dugout, and maybe the clubhouse, too, I might be able to tell you more."
Fortunately for me, Rayne agreed, as he quickly led me to the clubhouse. None of the players were around yet--as we were three and a half hours from game time, that wasn't altogether surprising--but I sensed something off.
"What is it?" Rayne asked.
"I'm not sure . . ." I said. Then I felt something attack me, something dark and cold and evil. "It's bad . . . ."
As my body fell, I was pulled out of my body through a long, dark tunnel and into a black foulness.
"Dammit, not again!" I screamed. "You didn't get me last time, and you won't get me now, either!"
"Your husband isn't here to save you this time," the blackness growled.
Quickly, I visualized a white, solid barrier and did my best to feel my husband's love, as well as the love of God. Those things were the only defense against that blackness, and at minimum should shield me from the worst of it.
"You will surrender," it said inexorably.
"Or you will die . . . horribly, slowly, and in as much pain as I can create," it said.
"Promises, promises." Then, as the black thing continued to mutter imprecations, including how I'd deserved to be cursed by that witch, I did my best to block it out. (Perhaps I had deserved her curse, once, but I'd grown beyond that a long time ago.) I knew I had to have hope that I would somehow get out of here. Once I lost that hope, I'd stop feeling my husband's love, much less the love from the Godhead. And that black thing would have me for lunch.
Besides, while I couldn't get out of here just yet, I could at least try to figure out what had happened. And I really did want to know.
Someone must've set a trap for a psychic in the clubhouse, I realized after a few minutes. But who had done so, and why? Had it been designed to get me? Or had it been designed instead to get the marginally sensitive Hank Rayne?
I knew Rayne himself hadn't done it--his surprise had been genuine. And I'd have felt that sort of treachery, I'm sure . . . plus, realistically, there was nothing in it for Rayne other than silencing an angry blogger. And if he'd wanted solely to do that, he could've come to my house at any time and made an attempt on my life.
He hadn't; instead, he'd asked for my help. Ergo, it couldn't be him.
Even though I'd faced it once before, I didn't know what that blackness was, aside from pure evil. It wasn't the Christian-inspired Devil, because it couldn't quote scripture and it wasn't interested in God, whatever God truly was. But it was interested in corrupting anything living . . . had one of the Knights players sold his soul to this monster, then not known what to do after it was loosed?
. . . um, no. My psychic senses would've picked that up in a heartbeat.
So who had? One of Rayne's rivals? One of his coaches, trolling for a better job? Who?
I knew I wouldn't get out of here until I knew. That much was certain. Which meant I had to go into vision-trance again. Even though it was dangerous. Even though it was desperate.
It was my only hope, and I knew it.
Before I did, though, I did my best to reach out to Fergus. I didn't know if he could hear me--were he fully transformed, and at the height of the full moon, then he would, but I was never sure what he could do otherwise aside from track me by smell--but I knew I had to try. Love, that black thing has me again, I thought. I will try to get out. But I have to first figure out how it grabbed me . . . it's holding the Knights' season hostage, and I will not have that!
Then I told him I loved him, prayed really hard to God (whatever It was) that Fergus would hear, and prepared to go into trance again.
Even though I wasn't really breathing, in this place, and also had no real heartbeat, I pretended that I did as it was far easier. I went deeply within myself, to a place where that foulness had never existed, would never exist . . . and opened myself fully to whatever was there.
I felt colors, tasted music, saw beauties past imagining . . . but that was just me, seeing the Godhead and sensing it. And if God, whatever It was, had wanted me to know what had happened that easily, I'd already know it.
Reluctantly, I let go of all that, all but the love. I turned instead to the one, bare wall, and looked for a door. Surely there had to be a door, a window, something?
Ah, there it was. A purple diagonal line, criss-crossing the aether--so this was a spirit opposing Hank Rayne and the Knights, then? Why would a spirit mix in?
"You know why," a female voice said. A door formed, limned in dark purple. Then a dark-clad woman strode out, bejeweled, crowned, and veiled.
A mystery. One I must solve.
"Ah, but I don't," I said lightly, pretending this was all in a day's work. "Why should you care what happens in the world below? You're here, well beyond it."
"But I'm not," she said viciously. She peeled off her veil. I saw an Asian woman of good countenance and indeterminate age. "My son is down there, and I can't help but watch!"
"You think Hank Rayne is a bad father, then?" Ah, now I understood . . .
"No, of course not," she said. "But he should be home more. Baseball managers are on the road too much. No matter how much they call, or text--what an odd world you live in, now!--they're just not there often enough."
"Your son seemed to be doing rather well," I pointed out cautiously. "His adoptive parents love him. He has had several girlfriends. I know he volunteers in the community with the Knights Foundation--he works with homeless kids, even. So how can Hank Rayne improve upon whatever he's doing, if your son has turned out this well?" Then I attacked. "You're a spirit, and you've obviously passed over. You really shouldn't be this involved with the mundane world any longer."
Dammit, I am not a medium! I'm a psychic. She shouldn't have been able to pull me into this blackness, all because she wanted to talk with me and had no other obvious way to do it.
Deliberately, I calmed myself. "So you're upset that your son's father isn't there enough," I said. "Which is why you somehow cursed him, and his team, so he'd be home more often?"
"Yes," she hissed. "I made a deal with . . . that . . ." she pointed outward, presumably at the black thing. "He'd make sure that Hank Rayne stayed home with my son. Then I'd give myself to it until my son lives his life . . . then I'm to be released."
"Um, I have news," I said. "That black thing doesn't give people up, once it has them."
"Well, what else was I to do?" she flared. "No one was listening to me. I couldn't make myself understood--aren't there any mediums any more?"
"Not many, no," I said. Clearly, this situation had grown far more complex than I'd thought. "But I'm here now, and I'll try to get you out of this. If you want."
She laughed hollowly. "Will you make sure Hank Rayne stays home?"
"I can't do that, ma'am," I said. "But if you lift the curse--"
"I didn't set it, so how can I lift it? I'm just making use of it," she said.
Oh, damn! Now what?
"Let me get this straight," I said. "You made a deal with . . . that thing. Then it cursed Hank Rayne?"
"Yes," she hissed. "It's a mild curse. It won't kill him. It will just make him stay home."
"But his wife and his son--your son, lady--do not want their father home all the time, as the last time they were unfortunate enough to have to deal with him, he'd covered the walls with macramé. And ran off all your son's girlfriends--"
"Tramps. I didn't like them anyway."
I snorted. "But the intent of the curse was yours?"
"Reverse the intent, and all of this goes away," I said. "Better still, you won't be trapped in that foulness . . . trust me, you don't want to be mixed up with that. And you'll be able to check in on your son from time to time, too . . . you do still want that?"
"Join hands with me," I said. Then, when she and I were linked hand-to-hand, I reached out with my mind. Can you hear me?
Yes, she replied in the same way. Now what do we do?
Here's what your intention looks like right now. I showed her what I'd seen of those lines, that I hadn't understood before--blackness coursing through dark purple, intermixed with both her son's astral signature and Hank Rayne's. (Good thing for me it was easier for me to see such in a trance.) Then I showed her what it needed to look like instead--a healthy green color, infused somehow with both her son and Hank Rayne's souls.
I can do that? she thought. How?
The black foulness struck, but didn't get through my shields. I knew I was starting to tire, but I did my best to hold on to my vision as I knew talking to the woman was important.
Erase your former intention, I commanded. Then put green there instead. You're the only one who can.
Then I fell out of trance. My shields collapsed, but before the dark thing could consume me, I felt something--someone?--grab hold and pull.
I woke in a hospital room. "What am I doing here?"
Fergus stood up from a nearby chair, walked over, and took my hand. He'd obviously been crying. "Hank Rayne called me. He told me that you'd collapsed in the clubhouse." He was about to say more, but a nurse came in to take my vital signs.
When she left again, I told him that wasn't what had happened, no matter what it looked like.
"Rayne said that, too." Fergus bent over and kissed my forehead. "Rayne saw that black thing. But he couldn't do anything about it."
"Did he see his son's mother?"
"You mean Mrs. Rayne isn't?" Fergus asked. He settled himself back in the chair again.
"Son's Asian, which means he's adopted," I said. "I didn't get the mother's name--you know how it is in that place, names don't mean much anyway, if you don't already know 'em--but she was . . . concerned about her son."
"That's what all this was about? Then how did you get out of there?"
"I think God--whatever It is--intervened," I said very quietly.
"It's not wise to stir up the powers," he said.
"You don't think I know that?"
A different nurse, this one a fortyish man, bustled in. "You aren't upsetting your wife, are you? We can't have that."
"No, I'm fine," I said. Grabbing for inspiration, I said, "Just upset about the Knights, and their losing streak."
"But that's over," the nurse said. "They won tonight, 8-6."
"Yeah, the oddest thing happened, too, love," Fergus said. "You know the 'Quats' closer, Franklin? Well, he threw a fastball right down the middle of the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and Quantrill hit it so hard, it's still bouncing down Wisconsin Avenue. Game over." He smiled. "Hank Rayne's very pleased with your advice, and he said he wants you to help him again, soon."
"Well, that'll be good for the money supply," I said. Just no more curses, please? I prayed. Thanks.
"In fact," Fergus said, "Hank Rayne's now calling you the official seeress of the Brooklyn Knights. He's thinking about putting you in the program and everything!"
"I don't think we have to go that far, love . . . but I guess I will have to mention it on my blog, won't I?"
"Just say that Hank Rayne listened to you, and leave it at that, huh?" Fergus grinned broadly. "We don't want those angry 'Quat fans to egg us now, do we?"
"Of course not." I smiled widely. "After all, they're paying customers, too."
And what do you know? Hank Rayne actually kept listening to me, and the Knights won all three games against the 'Quats!
I was home in time to watch all of Sunday's game, which was the first time I'd cheered all season. (OK, not really. But it felt like it.) And Fergus was so happy that I was home, he made some popcorn, even though he loathes the stuff.
"I hope Mrs. Rayne will be pleased," I told Fergus.
He threw some popcorn at me.
What's oddest of all is, I hadn't been able to come up with any advice for Rayne regarding game three at all. Which just goes to show you that without that curse, Rayne could make good decisions.
Rayne ended up keeping his job. Which meant he'd not take macramé back up, or needlepoint, or start tattooing the cat; Heather said she'd tell all her friends what I'd done--discreetly of course--gave me more money than she'd promised, which proved how happy she was, and went away again. Her son thanked me profusely, too, which made me wonder if he had just a touch of the gift (as I hadn't told him anything about what his mother had said, nor all that much to his parents, either).
After the Knights swept the 'Quats, Rayne told the reporters that his wife's friend Arl had given him some good advice--Rayne didn't say what kind of advice, of course--and all the reporters looked for "Arl," who they thought was a big, burly man with red hair and blue eyes.
Fergus always was a showoff.
Barb Caffrey is a writer, editor and musician from the Midwest. She is the author of the humorous urban fantasy/romance An Elfy on the Loose, and is the co-author of the Adventures of Joey Maverick series (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey). Other stories have appeared in How Beer Saved the World, Stars of Darkover, and Bedlam's Edge. Barb is a huge baseball fan (Go, Brewers!), reviews books at Shiny Book Review, follows politics, is mystified by the Maury show, and wonders when her little dog will ever stop doing "the paw trick." Find her at Elfyverse, Facebook, or Twitter.
Published by permission of the author.