Kitty Raises Hell Page 22

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Stress, I decided. I wondered if I should say something.

“And you—” Jules pointed at his colleague. “What was that? What are you, some kind of psychic? Medium? Have you been holding out on us?”

Tina stopped laughing. Because Jules reminded us of what had happened right before the fire.

The room went quiet, and Jules stared at her. She stared back, looking like she’d been hit by a truck. Jules’s eyes were wide with revelation.

I stepped in. “Maybe we should all talk about this over coffee.” I raised my brows hopefully.

The hospital cafeteria had just opened—it was something like five in the morning—so we went there.

Jules, completely sober now after whatever post-traumatic hysteria had gripped him, almost sounded betrayed. “Tina, I’ve never seen anybody work a Ouija board like that.”

“And you can tell what I am just by looking at me,” I said.

Jules again, even more insistent: “What’s your angle on all this? What aren’t you telling us?”

I felt like I had a front-row seat to my own private reality-TV show; too bad the cameras hadn’t followed us here.

They communicated by stares. Jules leaned over the table, demanding an explanation from Tina with his accusing gaze. Tina turned sullen, like she was a kid who’d just gotten in trouble for something.

“I’ve been doing it since I was a kid,” she said at last, voice soft, all humor gone. “And not just with the board, but with dowsing, automatic writing, runes, most of the old tricks. It all works. I walk into a house, and I know if it’s haunted or not because it talks to me. Things talk to me. I sense things. Ghosts, spirits. Whatever.”

The old tricks Tina mentioned—using rods or pen and paper to communicate with the spirit world, reading tea leaves, shapes in a plume of smoke—they were old tricks exactly because they must have worked for someone, at some time. But it wasn’t a science, because the results weren’t reproducible. The methods worked for some people and not for others, and even those people with talent didn’t have it all the time. With the Age of Reason and rise of science, what couldn’t be dissected and explained was discredited and abandoned. Still, the tricks lingered, and thousands of people clung to them, used them—or abused them—because they so desperately wanted them to work.

What happened when someone like Tina came along? Someone who actually could make the tricks work? And what did that say about the world?

We stared at her.

“Really,” Jules said flatly.

“Really,” she said, echoing. “I don’t advertise it because of people like you, who assume everyone who picks up a forked stick or holds a séance is faking it.”

I bet she used her looks and humor, as well, to distract from those moments when she stared out into space, as if listening. She was the show’s eye candy; she couldn’t possibly be its resident psychic.

Paradox PI had a resident psychic. A real one. I so wanted to be the one to break that story.

“So, Tina,” I said, trying to sound encouraging. “I’d love to have you on the show next week to talk about this, how you discovered this, what it’s been like to live with it—”

“No,” she said. Didn’t even think about it.

“Why does everyone always tell me no like that?” I said. “Am I really that bad?”

Ben patted my hand. “I think it’s the predatorial gleam in your eye when you ask them.”

“What gleam?” I grumbled. Okay, so there might have been a little predatorial gleam.

“Gary doesn’t know?” Jules said. “All this time you’ve had this information, this access, and you’ve let us mess around with our cameras and microphones and infrared monitors and EMF readings?”

“Because even if you and Gary believed me, I have no way of proving what I know. So I keep my mouth shut. So the legitimate paranormal investigative community will take us seriously, as you’re always saying.”

“Then why reveal yourself now?” he said. “Why give away the secret now?”

“Because this isn’t about the TV show anymore—this thing is dangerous. I thought I could help. That I might be able to do some good.” She crossed her arms and looked away. I wondered if she regretted revealing herself.

Jules sat back, rubbing his face and staring into space. “God. God.” I worried that something in his brain might have snapped.

“Jules? You okay?” I said.

His smile was sad. He spoke to Tina. “You know, I’m not surprised. I’ve worked so hard, searching for evidence. I’ve tried to be so thorough. But you’ve always seemed to have this talent. That’s why the show works, not because of my methodology, but because of your talent. Things just happen when you’re around. What I wouldn’t give for an ounce, a microgram, of what you have. To be able to touch it, just a little bit. I’ve been looking for it my whole life, and I’m as far away from it as ever.”

“Try walking into an old church, and the whole thing just presses on you like a weight because there’s so much there,” Tina said. “I hate it, Jules. I’d give it to you in a heartbeat.”

And that was how we all grew closer and learned to share in a very special episode of Paradox PI.

“I hate to interrupt,” I said. “But we’re still not any closer to figuring out what it is that’s after me. Did you get anything out of that séance?”

“Besides the fact that there’s some seriously pissed-off mojo floating around you?” Tina said.

“That’s obvious and not helpful,” I said. “Did you sense anything ?”

“Yes. No.” She furrowed her brow and shook her head. “I’ve never felt anything like it.”

“Well, we know a few things about it,” Jules said. “It’s violent, destructive, and associated with fire. I could do some research. I’d need to get back to some of my books, contact some people I know in the SPR.”

Tina smiled the smile that had probably helped get her the job on the show. “See, we need you!”

“Huh?” Jules said.

“You were worried that we didn’t need you because you aren’t psychic, but you know way more than the rest of us. I could never do that kind of research.”

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