Monday, February 6, 2012

Finding Her (Muse 1: "A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow")

Muse 1 of 9

Rick Thompson has a gift. An extraordinary gift. He was teased about it as a child and so kept it close. His grandmother once had held him tight in a bossomly embrace, “It’s a gift, Richard, not a curse, you just need to learn when to let it out and when to keep it to yourself.” After Martin Bryant humiliated him as the ‘psycho trance kid’ during his 8th birthday party, Rick had decided to do just that, keep his terrible gift to himself. It had begun with a haze. Like a smoke filled room, milling with shadows. Nothing clear but defined shapes. Before long it became crystal, faces, people, objects and events. The haze lifted like morning mist on a summer’s day and left him with a vision so clear he could touch. It was an intimidating legacy and he a reluctant participant.

All he did was touch the back of Bryant’s t-shirt during a game of tag and he became frozen. Stopped dead still for 2 minutes gazing into an alternative universe seeing visions of a car flying over a precipice, its young driver’s face screaming with fear as it plunged into an unfamiliar ravine and exploded into a ball of fire. Someone shook him and the vision left as quickly as it came. 

“Richard? Richard? Ricky…are you alright.” Mrs Bryant’s fear causing her to shake the child so violently it gave him a headache.

“Yes, yes I’m fine, I think.” He took a moment, still with her hands clasped firmly on his shoulders, “Who did Martin’s shirt belong to?”

The tears began to well in the woman’s eyes as the memory of a son too young, and gone too soon flooded back. 

“It used to be his brother’s.” She relaxes her grip on the small boy, visibly shaken herself by his question, “Why do you ask?”

“What happened to his brother?”

“He was killed in a terrible accident…..”

With that she turned and walked briskly towards the house, wiping tears with the backs of her hands.

“Dickhead!” Bryant is quick to shame his ‘friend’ for asking such intimate questions, “Thanks for upsetting my mum on my birthday you psycho trance freak. Piss off. Just go home, you’ve ruined it for everyone you little shit.”

Rick remembers the walk home as being in the loneliest of places.  The look on the dead boy’s face. It was revealing as it was terrifying but also the first of many such encounters. He’d touch something and if it had a story, some, if not all, would be revealed. He’d helped his own mother find a lost bracelet simply by holding one of the charms that had come loose from it years ago.  He’d felt the pain when his sister had fallen from the climbing frame and broken her collar bone, even though he wasn’t there. He’d known his father was going to leave when he touched the collar of his shirt and was overwhelmed by a fragrance, exotic and alien; definitely not his mother’s.

More recently, he’d seen a hooded thief, clear as if he was standing in front of him, just by picking up a knife abandoned in flight. It was this little revelation that had brought him to the attention of the police. As a witness to a robbery and his claim to have seen the perpetrator, he'd peaked their interest. They’d asked if he was willing to be ‘tested’ and he’d agreed. A series of ‘guess what’s in this’, and ‘find what’s that’ an easy game to play as he revealed all, with 100% accuracy.

All in all, Rick made several trips back to Police Headquarters. Several barrages of tests, several psychological profiling sessions, even more physical tests from cat scans and MRI’s to ECG’s. More garments, weapons, items, thrust into his hands and quizzes about the pictures he’d seen. All accurate. All demonstrating his unique psychic ability.

His final test, a bloodied shirt which when held, exerted pain as he felt the cold steel of a bowie knife penetrate between his ribs. He’d risen with a jolt, clutching his chest and steadying himself with the back of the chair. So much fear and pain in his face that the psychologist snatched back the garment and waited for Rick to calm himself.

“What did you see?”

Rick wiped the perspiration from his top lip and caught his breath, his chest still stinging from the thrust of an invisible blade, “A girl, a white girl at an ATM.”


“A black dude. With a knife. She wouldn’t give him the money. It was just fifty bucks but she wouldn’t part with it, so he stabbed her there and then. Took the cash, and her purse and left her bleeding. He thinks she’s dead but she’s not, she’s fine.”

“Impressive Mr Thompson, very impressive. Did you see his face”

So it began. The gift emerging, working, helping. No longer ridiculed for his reactions but praised for his detection. Sure there were the doubters, and this time he’s been partnered up with Xavier Morales. A skeptic and streetwise cop. It’s an uncomfortable partnership. The 30 something sooth-sayer and the hardened boy in blue. 

Upon introduction, the two shook hands but it was more of a grapple, and the snide smile on Morales' face gave away his disbelief.

“I know, I know…” Rick begins, not about to defend his position but accept the same ridicule he’d accepted as a child. Put up with the same berating and stirring that had caused him to keep his secret just that. “You don’t believe it. You think it’s hocus pocus and I’m a fraud. Fair call. I have no problem with that.”

“Prove you’re not!” Joe, pulled something small from his pocket, a shell. Tiny and used, the scar from the gun’s barrel etched into its side.

Rick takes the bullet. Once again his universe changes. Blurred at the edges he sees Morales flying backwards, a slow moving incendiary entering his thigh and cutting into his flesh. Blood spatter showering the white car against which he falls, before firing enough rounds to cut down the shooter. Rick grasps his thigh and winces as the burn enters his quad. “Shit man, you did that on purpose!”

Morales' initial smirk now moves to drop jaw, “What can you see?”

“It’s you, moron! Got shot in the thigh at some point by that damn bullet!”

Morales retrieves his trophy, “Damn right Thompson. Damn right. The fucker shot me in the thigh but he ain’t around to talk about it.” He sheaths the good luck charm in his top pocket before his conversation is interrupted.

“Enough you two, get in here!” Detective Silverman isn’t waiting to hold the door. “Sit!”
“Thompson I want you to take this home,”  He bends sweating and with stiff difficulty to retrieve something from beside his chair. The two men look at each other with an unsurprised glance as Silverman rights himself.

Silverman, a bullish man with receding hair and a beer belly heaves a girlish rucksack onto the desk. He’s sceptical of the inclusion of a psychic on the case, and passes a glance to Morales. There’s a moment where the two men have an ‘understanding’ without uttering a word. Silverman groans as he pushes the backpack towards Thompson.  It’s heavy he thinks, for a woman, then it’s full of her belongings.

Found slumped like a gypsy begging, the flood of morning downtown suits parting like the red sea around it yet ignoring it. Too busy chasing their double decaf skim milk lattes or fighting their way up the corporate ladder. Finally it had been rescued by some bum who’d reluctantly surrendered it when he’d been quizzed for being thieving, drunk and disorderly.

“Take it home sir?” This is the first time Thompson’s been asked to scrutinise something in private or even take it off the premises. Secretly he's trepidacious about the impact of touching it's contents. There's always been someone present to 'release' him from the clutches of his visions.

“Yep. Take it home. It belongs to someone we need to talk to. Someone who’s family have influence. Someone we need to find and in a hurry! Open it, go through it, have as many of your little visions and empathic moments as you like, but try to tell us what happened to the woman who owned it. Whether she’s alive or dead. Where she is, whatever you can glean from it. Got it?”

“Got it” echos Thompson.

“Morales, you take the conventional track. We’ve run a couple of things from it through forensics. Go down to the lab, get the report, start building some scenarios. If this hits the press, we’re dogshit ,so get on it. Get on it fast.”

Nobody argues with the rotund Silverman. He's a man who gets results. Both men nod and rise, each taking heir own path, each tasked with solving the same mystery but in very different ways.


“So,”  Rick speaks to his new and as yet mute charge. "What secrets do you hide young Pandora?" He saunters into his living room, and tosses the bag on a well worn but expensive couch, The pack stares quietly back and says nothing. He pours himself a drink. Not much of a drinking man but he's anticipating what is to come and sure not all of it will be pleasant.

With the very undoing of the clasp, a picture emerges. Gentle, no pain, no drama. The picture of 'her' pervades his thoughts. Tanned skin as if she’s just returned from some far flung place while his locale is slowly cooling. A loose T shirt, slightly askew at the shoulder, revealing decolletage and a tantalising glimpse of the curvy shapes beneath. A pair of denim shorts, cut just above the knee and sandals with a South American feel to them, yet painted toes. Strange that he noted her perfectly pedicured feet when the rest of her looked like she’d been hosteling around the world. A sign of potential in the glamour stakes he quips. Thankful that there’s no burn or blade in this vision.

Inside the pack, neatly rolled clothes secured by thin rubber bands. He removes each roll, lining them up in order of size on the couch beside him. He moves quickly. Holding too long will bring on the visions and he's not quite settled enough for the stories they might tell.  At the bottom of the pack, a pair of walking boots and a pair of espadrille sandals embossed with turquoise beads, travel wallet and toiletries case.  He flips tentatively thought the travel wallet; souvenired boarding passes, white water rafting brochure, train tickets and hostel booking confirmations. No passport, no ID. He unzips the Elizabeth Arden toiletries bag. A little makeup, lip gloss, roll on deodorant and a roll on personal pesticide. Some silver earrings and a delicate horoscope pendant. A neat roll of $50 bills, again secured with a rubber band.

She’s a mystery. As he unravels each T-shirt a travelogue of her presence is revealed. Yet he has no 'impression' of her being anywhere except the Americas. Each bearing some insignia or the name of a foreign clime she never visited. A voile sundress in splashes of pale blue and violet with shoestring straps.  Luxurious underwear, expensive and feminine. It’s when he unrolls her jeans (mainly to check her size) when he notices a small leather case. It's locked and he tries each of the small keys on her keyring. As it opens, he stares agape at its silvery casing and pearlised handle. A ‘ladies’ weapon with the initials M.J embedded in tiny gold copperplate on the handle. Fastened to it's lid, tiny projectiles wrapped sleeping in their leather loops. He withdraws one of them, eyebrows raising in animation as he rolls the tiny projectile thoughtfully between forefinger and thumb. “Now this is getting interesting…..” 

His universe begins to blur.

Written for the River of Mnemosyne Challenge 2012


  1. very cool. i've got a good feeling about this, and i'm not psychic at all

  2. Now this IS getting interesting.

  3. I love this setup. But, whoa... slow the fuck down!

  4. Okay, gonna be back in a bit or tomorrow afternoon. Distracted right as I started to read. Dang it. I like the opening!