Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 1

He couldn't hold her hand. In chilling retrospective he sees her fingers slipping from his, her mouth a large "O" in a silent scream. Of all the things in the world he could have done or should have done, this one simple thing was the most achingly haunting. He couldn't hold her hand.

Days and nights go by after events that blow your world apart, yet sometimes, where it is said that time heals all wounds, it doesn't. For David the simplest of events of one day gone wrong just didn't let go of his synapses; every breath he takes, every time he closes his eyes, every fearsome sleep full of nightmares it is repeated.

And so it was with great anger he greeted this idiot's question: "What would you say David, if I were to take you back, back so you could save her?"

On the tip of his tongue was, "Are you fucking out of your mind???" but he didn't say that. He couldn't. What if there were an off chance that this fool did actually have something that could do that. He listened to Coast to Coast Radio. He knew there were people out there, scientists, who honestly believe that the time space continuum is actually more of an ocean, everything swirling around. Hell, he had even read Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time and when he did he believed that time travel might just be possible. That parallel universes perhaps weren't just the stuff of science fiction writers.

That was before all of this though, and before reality broke through his very pleasant glass house life. So why should some shyster have the answer to his greatest wish? Sounded like some crappy movie starring Ashton Kurstner or something. No, he'd just have to keep walking.

"Sandra wants you to. She told me."

David stopped, turned slowly to face the man, staring down into his pale blue eyes. "What did you just say?" he asked, in a deep quiet voice.

"Her name was, IS, Sandra and she would like you to help her if you can. She's still here. If I take you back, she can still be here. Some things are not predestined. This I know."

"If you know so damned much, Mister," David said, "then tell me this. What does she look like? What is her nickname? How old is she?" And then quietly, "Where is she?"

The portly man laughed. "So many questions! So will you sit down and talk with me? I am Toduku the seer. Here is my card."

He handed David a business card, printed from one of those freebie business card sites (and a mental note, he must have an American address, these cards aren't available to Canadians), and on it a pentagram, and oddly, a yellow happy face with a hand holding a crystal ball.

"You know, Mister," - Toduku, the man corrected him - "you know, Toduku, this is all very interesting and I'm sure you're just great but I came to this Psychic Fair with my mother. She's the one interested in this hobledygobble stuff. Now I don't know where you got the name Sandra from, though it is common enough to guess and I suppose if you guess it enough somebody is going to respond, either that or my mother said something, but I don't have any money on me, I wouldn't spend it on this if I did, this is worse than wasting it on lottery tickets. Go bother somebody else." He flipped the business card back at him.

Toduku nodded and smiled. As David turned away, he slipped the business card into his back pocket, and he said, "She was 5 feet 6 inches tall. She had light brown hair, long, was very thin, smoked too much and her nickname was Sandie."

David kept walking.

"She liked to say that it was Sandie with a 'T' to see the reaction!" Toduku called out.

"What?" David gasped slightly, and as he was about to turn and go back his mother grabbed his arm.

"David, come here, you have to see this!" She said and pulled him away. 

She led him through a series of stands, some more crowded than others, past incense burning and light bulbs flashing and printers shusht-shushting astrology charts and stuff like that until they arrived at a booth where a woman was seated at a table. She was dressed up in a long purple robe and wore ribbons in her long black hair. At first glance he thought she might be pretty if she weren't so fucking weird. She waved him to sit down with long blood red fingernails.

"She reads auras!" His mother exclaimed happily. She had been hoping to find someone that did kirulean photographs, but the people here charged $50 a photo so she was happy indeed to have someone who could just tell her what was going on with her aura. 

"Mom," he said, "you know I don't like this stuff, I'm only here for you. You do it."

"No, no you must have yours done!"

"Mom, I have enough for parking and a cup of coffee and that's it. Tomorrow is payday. You do it."

"Just because I'm cheap," she said, "doesn't mean I'm broke. This is my treat. It's interesting. Honestly. I even brought a blank tape for you just in case I found somebody good. I think she's good. Give her a chance." And with that she handed the woman a cassette tape to record the session.

He thought about how much this reading must be costing, and how that would probably be paying a bill if he had it. The woman put the cassette tape in her tape recorder, pressed the record button, then lit some leaves in a bowl. 

"It's sage," she said, "it clears the air."

"Smells nice," David told her. He was lying. He hated the smell of sage, it reminded him of too many dry turkeys on Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the other hand, burning it wasn't quite so bad as sage permeated with grease and yams and other assorted foods intermingled.

She smiled at him. He thought, "she has the most beautiful sapphire blue eyes I've ever seen", and when he looked in them it seemed for a moment like he could drown in them. 

She picked up his left hand and very gently turned it over, studying the lines. Then she did the same with the right hand. When she laid it back down she gave him just the barest hint of a squeeze. She knew. She knew what he was thinking. That couldn't be good.

She gave a slight giggle and said, "So, your name is David? What is your birth date and place and time if you know it - please just write it down here on this piece of paper." 

She tore off a piece of notepaper that was a give away from some company that handles freight. Looking at the slogan he wondered how a girl like her got a pad of paper like that. It just seemed so incongruous.

She took the slip of paper. "Ah, Mr. Gemini. You have a Pisces moon and an Aries Venus. You like your women beautiful and fiery." Again she giggled.

His mother gripped his shoulder as she stood behind him. The psychic noticed this, looked at David, then said to his mother, "Joan dear you must go sit down. When you are in his aura, I cannot read him very well, it is clouded."

It was as though his mother had put her hand on a hot stove. She quickly retreated to a chair in the corner of the psychic's area. David asked her what her name is.

"My name is Donna," she replied.

He considered this for a moment while she flipped through a well worn book and glanced at his hands a couple more times. Donna. A little bit of a let down, that. She should have been something exotic, or ethnic or something. But no. Just plain Donna.

Without looking up, she smiled shyly and whispered to him, "Donna means 'lady' that's all. Nothing more, just lady."

Okay, that could have been a bit creepy right there. But he thought, no, it is not impossible that her train of thought would have followed his. Besides, these so-called psychic people are basically trained observers. He must have flinched an eyebrow or something.

He watched people go by as she flipped through the book and shuffled some cards and lit a white candle and tossed some more dried sage into the bowl. It flared up a bit. 

He wondered about the people walking by. Some seemed so sad, others, visibly ill. Still others like they were searching for somebody to tell them that everything is going to be alright someday soon. That their old dog won't die, that they will actually get a promotion, that the perfect lover is just waiting breathlessly around the next corner, and in his gut he felt a tightening because this parade of humanity was both sad and pathetic and silly, all at once.

Donna cleared her throat. "So tell me David," she said, " have you never bought a lottery ticket?"

He looked at her quizzically. "Of course. Who hasn't, at least once?"

"These people here, they are playing life's lottery. Granted, many are losing and it is their only hope, but others, you know, they just want to hear a kind word. Is that what you want David? Do you want a kind word?"

"No, I," he was at a loss for words. "I think you better give me what ever my mother paid you for."

"Yes sir!" she said with a one corner of her mouth smile. 

"You're making fun of me, this whole thing is a crock of shit. You know it, I know it, why don't you tell my mother than and she can keep her money. She's 60 you know and she's still working and will be 'till 65. You, you just take people's money and feed them bullroar and expect us to believe you and you know what I don't like? I don't like that little old ladies, and lonely people, and sick people, they come to you and just sit there and say whatever and you don't care, but they, they hang on your every word for eff's sake and some people then really do believe it and then what happens when it doesn't come true? Then what? Do you care?"

Her eyes darkened a little but she didn't flinch. She just sighed. "I will do what your mother paid me for. My words will be on tape. You can keep the tape, you can burn it, you can mail it to starving kids in Timbuktu, I don't bloody well care. But I will do what I promised. Heck, you may even listen to the tape. Keep it and I'll bet you in a few months you'll be surprised."

"Here's a thing. I'm saying the date right now. September 23rd, 2005. It is 3:15 p.m. and we are at a psychic fair. This lady is Donna. If Donna is the real thing she will give me her card and I will keep this tape and in some period of time I will listen to it and if it is bullcrap I will copy it, mail it back to Donna and write an article for the newspaper. How about that?"

"Which newspaper, I'll be curious to read it. Especially since I don't think you are a writer."

"Oh, the Toronto Sun. They'd publish something like this."

"I'll bet they would. So David, we're wasting time here but since you are so skeptical and I don't have appointments for another hour, how about we just keep going until there's nothing more to say. No extra charge."

"Sure. How about for free?"

"David, as I am sure you must understand, this is my vocation. I have to eat too. I may be able to see things you cannot, but I am a living thing and I do need to sustain myself. So, if you are quite ready to listen, I will be happy to talk to you now."

He shrugged. "Go ahead. Shoot."

She passed her hands from the top of his head down by his ears, his shoulders, his arms, about six inches from his skin. It felt oddly electric, tingly almost. Static electricity he surmised.

"Do you have a question you need answered David?" She asked him. He shook his head. 

"Alright then. I'll tell you. Your aura right now is green and red with some yellow. You are healing, but you are angry. I can see that there is some blue trying to bubble up but there is so much red. You have been deeply hurt not too long ago and your spirit is struggling for solace, to heal and move on."

"Well, yes but you were talking to my mother just now. You'll have to do better than that."

She carried on as though he had said nothing. "There is a tear in your aura. When there is damage to a person's aura, sometimes they become what is known as energy vampires. Have you ever heard of that?"

"So now you're calling me a vampire?"

She laughed. "No, no, not like that. It means that you have energy that is leaking and some negative energy is finding this hole and is filling you and to balance out the negative you spit it out and take good energy. I'm making you angry because you can't do this to me. I am shielded. Say what you like, you won't upset me."

"That's fine, insult me. I'm sure that's what my mother had in mind when she gave you the money for this. Anything else?"

She took his hands. "I have much else, and it is not my intention to wound you. You are wounded enough. Please for a moment, imagine yourself surrounded by the light of this beautiful candle here. Please, close your eyes, breath in sage and cleansing breath, breath out harm and sadness and anger - these are dark things, you can imagine breathing out coal black fumes and expelling it into the atmosphere. At the same time, with your feet on the ground, imagine a beautiful silver cord coming from each foot and going deep deep into the earth. Can you do that?"

Her voice was soothing, almost hypnotic, and almost against his will he felt his eyes closing. He could see white light going in and darkness coming out, he could feel roots going from his feet into the floor. He nodded yes.

She closed her eyes, stayed very still for a moment, gently holding his hands in hers. After about a minute she exhaled, and when she did it felt like he was infused with light. He felt warm, almost weightless. 

"I'd like you to open your eyes now."

He did. She looked deeply into them, and it seemed as though she were reaching into his very soul and it was not unpleasant, though a little unnerving. Her eyes sparkled in that wonderful sapphire colour again. There was something decidedly erotic about this whole thing; even though he wasn't happy with what this person was.

"Oh David. You are no longer crying outside but you are crying all the time inside. I am very sorry for you. No one should be so sad! If I say to you, none of this is your fault, you won't believe me, so I won't say it, though it is true. And I won't also tell you that some things are meant to be because that is not what a grieving soul wants to hear, even though this is also true. I have great hope for you though. You are a man who has lived a great love, and has given that back in kind, and still, though the object of your love is not physically here, she is and she grieves with you. She doesn't grieve for her loss though. She grieves for your loss. Understand that when you feel her sadness, because you do sometimes, I know you do."

He felt like crying. Damn, he didn't like this feeling. These shysters, they just poke and poke where it hurts. He felt slight breeze blow across his cheek and ruffle his hair. He took his right hand away from Donna, smoothed out his hair and put it back in hers without thinking. He felt a sudden swell of warmth and caring surging through him. He looked back in Donna's eyes. There was the hint of tear in the corner of her left eye. She blinked and it disappeared.

He was speechless. "Did you feel that? That breeze? That was your sweetheart. She does that to you often but you don't always notice."

He felt angry at that and asked her, clasping her hands firmly, "you are so good? What was her name. I want to hear you say her name! Say it!"

"You're hurting me," she said but she didn't remove her hands. "Her name was Sandie and she died falling and she asked me to hold onto your hands while we talk because she said you must have your hands held to know you are not a bad person. I don't know what this means, she's not telling me."

He tried to pull away, to stand up, to run away from this. Donna held tighter. "No. You were worried about wasting your mother's money? Well you listen to me then. I'm not done talking to you." She was stern, but not loud or angry.

"Look, just let me go. Forget what I said, keep the damn tape, just let me go."

"No. You need to hear some things and I'm going to tell you them. Now sit back down." He did. "Good. Sandie's worried for you. So am I. There is too much angry, too much negative. That just isn't good. The hole in your aura needs to be repaired, and you must not be blasting your energy at people in order to get their energy. If you believe in anything, believe in karma, all this will come back to you in spades if you don't, and David, honey, inside, you are so good. Do you even remember the man you were before you lost Sandie?"

He nodded his head. "It was a lifetime ago."

"In a sense, yes it was. Now you need to look at this life now. There are lessons in everything, even something so harsh as the loss of your love. But you must go beyond that loss, and look at what was good about Sandie, and you, and the both of you together and cling to that memory. Please tell the image of the hand reaching to go into the ether. It is something that is draining your energy. My thought would be that something else is perpetuating it, not letting you let it go, and yet you know, there is a certain pleasure in pain. Do you see that? So many people they hold onto things that hurt, because for some reason, it feels good to feel that. You know what though? If you don't let that go, you can't fill that empty space with good things, pleasurable things, because it is full of anger and sadness and you are full. The universe sees this full up person and then whatever good energy should there just goes on. So you must find ways to let it go. Meditate. Do sports. Breathe, always always breathe, imagine happiness and goodness coming in, pain going out when you exhale. Do worry about where the bad energy goes; it's all energy, and the universe knows what to do with it. Just breathe."

Again he felt like crying. "How do you do that when feeling this at least is feeling something. I let it go and there's nothing, nothing at all. I hate this." He swallowed hard, took some deep breaths of air.

"You must. In nature, there can be no vacuums. You let go of dark, there will be something. Hopefully, light. Think about that dear, and don't be afraid to cry now and then, that is the rain washing you inside."

He nodded, blinking back tears. His throat burned from the effort of not crying, so much so he really couldn't speak. 

"Now I will tell you what I see. There will be good things for you. Really. Another love, not the same as the one you had with Sandie, but different. Special in its own way. You will be a dad, someday, not tomorrow," she laughed," in perhaps 5, 10 years. You may have a child who is special, who needs a little more from you. But that is fine, that is his karma, and yours. But you must heal yourself first. If you don't your future is very dark and all lessons not learned this time around must be learned the next. You do understand that?"

He said, yes.

"Do you have any questions? Any at all? If you want I can give you my card, you can call me, make an appointment if necessary."

"Yes. I do. My question is, this new love, who is she? What does she look like? The colour of her hair? Her skin?"

Donna smiled. "Some things I'm not allowed to say. They must reveal themselves to you in their own way, I can't influence it. So, my answer is, pretty but not runway model pretty, smart but not Ph.D. stuff, dark hair, and yes, she has skin."

He laughed. "Okay, I'll hold you to the 'listen to the tape later' thing. I mean it."

"I hope you do," she said.

They shook hands and she gave him the tape and her card.

As he walked away down the hall past the other vendors, just out of earshot she whispered to him, "I really hope you do."

Chapter 2

After psychic Sandie had pretty much shoed Joan away, she spent the next while wandering around, overhearing tarot card readings and sniffing bundles of incense (in both stick and cone form), trying essential oils until the entire mixture on skin started her sneezing. She wound up in a New Age book store section where they had copies of Indigo - The Movie, which she had wanted to see and so bought a copy. 

She also bought a book on remote viewing though quite frankly she knew she had no psychic abilities whatsoever. She just loved the idea of all this hidden knowledge. Who wouldn't want to know that there is in fact more out there than one would expect, and that some of us can tap into that.

She liked using Ouija boards, and doing automatic writing, and tarot cards, I Ching coin tossing, astrology, runes, you name it. If it was anything of this nature, she was into it. She had an entire bookcase full of things related to the occult and spirituality. 

One thing she didn't own was a Bible. Once upon a time she did, when she had young children and a happy marriage and they trotted themselves off to church every Sunday in their Sunday finest, she loved how cute David was in his little suit and tie, and how adorable Karen was in her little dress and hat and gloves (though she did stop putting her in gloves when it occurred to her that little girls had stopped wearing gloves in the mid-60s and people were making fun of Karen).

The bible got burned in the fireplace after her husband fell in love with a lady in the choir and made a mockery of her; and if that weren't bad enough, her Priest counseled her to swallow her pride, love her husband and trust that this is what God wanted and be good a wife anyway. "What God wanted, my arse", she thought, and turfed her cheating husband out on his fat ass to go make his beautiful music without her. No loving God would condone that nonsense and expect her to just take it. It just didn't make sense so she burned the bible while she was at it.

Since then the void that church had left was filled with all manner of interesting spiritual journeys. She spent hours talking to Jehovah's Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists, Moonies, you name it, just to understand what it was that was so appealing to people in these religions.

Her priest called her a few years ago trying to get her to come back to the church. He told her true faith was not found on a shopping list. She told him to kiss her butt and hung up. 

Toss another coin in the I Ching jukebox, my dear, the dance continues on. Or, so she thought anyway.

David found her still staring at the books, trying to decide if there wasn't something else she should be reading. Spirit Totems? Dowsing? Maybe not today. "So David, was it worth it?" she asked. 

He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm keeping the tape and will listen to it in a few months."

She patted his arm. "Oh that's good! Never hurts to be a little bit open minded about things. Honestly. Oh hey, here's a spirit candle. It is to attract love. If nothing else it smells nice," she said, sniffing it. "Would you like it? I bought myself a treat, I can buy you one."

"I don't want you spending all your money on me, mom, I don't need it."

"Everybody needs a little bit of something to hang a hope on. Even if it is probably just a pretty candle. My treat." She paid the lady behind the cash; the lady didn't even look up, just took the money, dit-dit-dit on a hand calculator, made change in a money tray and handed the candle and change back to her. 

Joan gave it to him. He hugged her, saying, "Thanks mom."

"Want to come back to my place for a coffee?" He asked her.

"No, I've got some shopping to do yet. Let's go to Tim's and get one on the way home, how about that?" Sure, he said, and after confirming they'd both seen quite enough of the Fair they went to his car, then drove to the Tim's that was on the way to his mother's apartment.

They both ordered a large, and sat in a window seat, a little bit away from the old folks holding court at the big round table near the back of the restaurant. They had the look of permanent fixture type customers so neither wanted to get too close to that.

"So David," his mom said to him once they were settled in their seats, "what did you think of that psychic? I left when you started giving her a hard time, I thought, oh boy, just what she needs. You seem happy now though. So, anything?"

"Well," he said, turning his cup around in this hand, "I don't know. There were things that kind of made me wonder, but then you know these people are experts in reading body language and most people have some version of the same questions, don't they?"

Joan thought for a moment about that. "Well, yes and no," she said. "I think it depends on how much information you give them, and also what information they can get from you. Me, I don't volunteer information, I wait for them to say something and then I confirm it."

"But mom, all these psychics you've been to and the books you've bought and all that time you've taken doing this stuff and has any of it helped? At all? I mean are you any better than you would have been had you not done any of this?"

She pushed back a cuticle on one of her nails then chewed on her coffee stir stick. "That's hard to say because I don't know what life would have been life if I hadn't done any of this. All I can honestly say is that if I had listened to the Priest years ago I'd probably still be married to your dad, weigh a thousand pounds, smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and be a roaring drunk. I think that's the only behavior that Priest didn't mind seeing in a woman."

David laughed. "Mom, you know I've always agreed with you. But I don't think you'd ever be any of those things, even if you had listened to the Priest. You wanna know honestly what I think? I think dad would have left anyway."

"Me too," she said, smiling. "You ever hear from him these days?"

"Nope. Haven't talked to him in about a year now. No idea what's going on there."

"Ah, I'm sure you'll hear if there's anything." She took a sip of her coffee. "I want to ask you something."

"Sure, what?" He said.

"How are you these days? I mean, really how are you? You seem a little angry still to me. Please tell me you're not still spending your free time at the cemetery."

David stared out the window, trying to think of how to answer that without creating further questions. "I'm doing the best I can, mom, and no, not every day at the cemetery any more." He said, then drained the last of his coffee.

"That's a start, that's good." She said and left it at that. She looked at her watch. "Oh my, I have to run. I promised Carol I'd try to make it to the movies with her."

"Sure, I'm done." With that they walked back to the car.

As he drove her home he thought about what he should have said to her, but didn't because it would have sounded like, "No, I don't go to the cemetery when it's raining, and I've stopped buying flowers so much because they just take them away anyway; I still sleep with her favorite sweater in my arms though and sometimes it seems like she's right there beside me when I'm almost awake but when I open my eyes and she's not there it's still a dagger in my heart and I just don't know why I just don't want it to be this way, I want yesterday back."

Joan understood these silences from him. Even as a toddler he would have the dark moods and she knew that there was a lot going on behind that quiet face, and most of the time it was better not to ask what was going on in there, but to just accept that that was how it was and how he is.

He dropped her off at her door, she kissed him good bye, he thanked her for the treat today, and then after she left, he watched her walk up to the front door. From the back she didn't look like a sixty year old woman, there was something much more youthful than that in her, and once again he wondered why on earth his dad would find that old cow from the choir more interesting than his mom. Some things he'd never know he guessed.

He drove home listening to inane chatter on the radio, contemplating what to have for dinner. That, and whether or not he should light the candle like him mom said he should. Ah, why not he thought. Atmosphere. That's what the remains of this day needed. Atmosphere.

Chapter 3

When Donna was small she liked to lie on her back in the middle of the floor on that ratty old braided rug, right where the moonlight shone through the window and left a cool open door of light in the middle of the rug. Now some people would tell her that there is no difference between moonlight and sunlight and the light from filament lamps, but she knew better. She knew that there are qualities of energy that are not measured in wavelengths or ohms or some such thing. She could just feel it, and it wasn't until she realized nobody else could feel this that she stopped arguing and accept what for her, is.

But when she was a little girl and all was dark in the world except for the square of light on the rug, and if it was still earlyish a band of yellow beneath the door, she liked that the dark felt soft and silky on her skin, and she liked that if she surrounded herself with the lovely white moonlight she could block out the sounds of the world around her and just go off somewhere else in her mind. It started with her feeling like she was rocking back and forth from head to toe, like she was in a boat with her head pointing into the waves, and if she let go of thought, she could imagine standing in the street, or sitting in a tree, or flying off to some faraway place like Australia or Africa or under the ocean. Sometimes her parents would yet at each other, sometimes things would be broken or stuff would go bang on the floor, but unless somebody actually entered her room, she didn't hear anything.

That was good. She grew so very tired of hearing the shouting and crying and smashing of glass against the sink; by the time she was five she knew every swear word there was and even a few not invented yet, and while lying on the floor she would try to send her parents the moonlight with her mind, hoping that maybe what calmed her would calm them too, but that rarely if ever worked.

She had an imaginary friend back in those days. He was an Irish imp of a friend, short with wiry blond hair and sparkling green eyes with a twinkle of mischievous laughter in the corner of an eye and he would show himself to her by floating in the corner near the ceiling in bedroom. First she would smell pipe smoke, a very pleasant scent, and then she would hear him laugh; she'd look up and there he'd be, bobbing like he was sitting on a flying carpet up in his corner and she could almost hear him say, "Top of the evenin' to ya darlin'". She'd giggle and whisper a quiet hi, because if her parents heard her talking they would know she was still awake and there'd be hell to pay.

He taught her a little trick. She didn't need to open her mouth to talk to him, all she needed was to think it at him. Not just thinking, but thinking like she was talking to him. That would work, and he would think back at her, though she discovered that it didn't really matter if he spoke out loud, nobody heard him anyway. Just her. At first, when she was small, he would tell her stories of Ireland and of times long ago and of planets and worlds far far away, and how she loved to listen. It was his voice who sang her to sleep at night, and his stories that were the ones that rang in her ears. So what if they weren't the latest best selling kid's stories. Did she really need to know about what happens where the sidewalk ends? Not really. She much preferred his fables of princesses lost in the forest, of time travelers riding on dinosaurs, of people turning into tigers and roaming the savanna, all those magical things.

He also told her things she needed to watch out for, like men who stand around the street and try to talk to little girls, or of friends who are not really friends at all, they just want to get close for some other reason. He made her see why having money and beautiful things isn't the key to happiness, he made her forget her parents and most of all, to believe in herself if nothing else because when it came down to it, the only thing real in her life was herself. As she got older she took to reading books and stories on her own, and sometimes she would paint paintings of the things she saw in her dreams, and quietly she would listen to an AM radio tucked under a pillow and drift off to sleep hearing her favorite music. Less and less she would call on her friend until one day, as an adult and living on her own, she realized Seamus wasn't there any more.

It would be a while more than that before she realized what many mediums do, that a child's imaginary friend could well be their guardian angel. Just the thought of that made her smile. What a world this would be, she often pondered, if all children knew and acknowledged and dared to keep and believe in their imaginary friend, enough that when it disappeared they too would know the comfort that there is always someone watching over them. She truly believed there would be far fewer suicides, far fewer suspicious accidents and murders if they did.

It wasn't hard to go from a disappointment of a daughter born to disappointed parents, to nearly losing herself in drugs and the street, to realising that perhaps those things that had been haunting her (imagine the touch of an old man for money, knowing down inside his intestines were riddled with cancer) were best shared and not kept to herself. So she told people stuff. Now men out looking for a pipe cleaning aren't likely to want to hear that their wives have already left their cheating asses in spirit and were now working on it in life and most of them were quite vocal about her shutting up and not saying crap like that that's not what she's paid for...except there was one guy.

In his 30's he liked a toke and a cuddle (as he put it, she called it missionary position) and mostly to spend the night talking with her. She didn't know how often he did this, she didn't want to know really, but he was a welcome sight because she knew if he chose her, there would be a decent meal, a hotel or motel room with a shower, and he did pay for the entire night. He was also somewhat disfigured and basically ugly (though she could tell that prior to whatever caused him to be this way, he probably was or could have been handsome) and he did have a wonderful voice. Deep baritone that was kind of laughable given he was a fairly short (5'8" to her was short) and almost skinny man.

He called himself Ham, for some strange reason certainly because she sincerely doubted that was his real name. He was astute enough not to have on him anything truly important except his driver's license (she never looked at it close enough to read it), a bit of cash, his keys, some "rain coats" as he called them, a cell phone, and things to smoke. What he was smoking depended on his mood. Most often it was just cigarettes, but occasionally it was pot or hash or whatever struck his fancy. The way he spoke he was definitely well read and most likely quite educated; when she asked about that he just shrugged it off and said papers don't matter it's what you really know that's important. She had an inkling that maybe he was a teacher of some sort but again, he wasn't volunteering that sort of information. He was concerned enough that even her gifts were blocked from seeing, as most people can do. Whether he did it consciously or unconsciously she wasn't sure, but her guess was it was conscious.

She liked him most of all because he treated her like a person, a real woman not a thing, and it made her feel good. At one point, she felt so close to him she almost let him kiss her on the lips but she knew she couldn't break that code of the streetwalker unless she planned to make him her true boyfriend and a part of her just wasn't ready for that. She thought he'd be happy if she offered, but there was equally the risk that he would freak and say no way, he doesn't want that, or that he had a wife and five kids, or even more scary, say yes.

He gave her hope that maybe someday somebody would love her for herself. So far, it hadn't happened yet.

Tonight as she packed up her things and locked up her section of the show area - not that there was much to lock up - she wondered about David and his mother. He was right of course, to take her to task for taking money from his mother. But, she wasn't that much of an old lady that she was on a meagre pension, and she wasn't so gullible as to offer her money to fix her life, and she truly did seem to appreciate what Donna did, not just be there grasping at straws like most people.

David though, she could see was mired in sadness and self pity and anger, the last of which was starting to dangerously take over. She had tried to emphasize to him that being negative normally was not conducive to getting over anything or attracting anybody happy so that isn't a state one wants to foster, especially if it is not his normal propensity, which it certainly wasn't. She doubted she would ever see him again. The show would end on Sunday, and then she would have a week's break before she was off to ... Orillia? She forgot. These towns and cities become a blur over time. At least tonight she was in her own home area so it would be her own bed surrounded by her own things. And in her case, very much alone. She giggled to herself. The way she was feeling lately, she wondered if she could find Ham and pay him to pay attention to her for a change, ha ha. She stopped being on the street ten years ago and it was quite likely that he no longer frequently anything, she did worry about his health. She wondered if he ever thought of her at all, and how he felt when he found out she'd stopped being out there are available for a price, she never told him she was stopping that because she couldn't bear what the expression would be on his face, and yet, being a man, did he ever think of her, dream of her, desire her again? She giggled to herself again. Probably. She was good after all.

She grinned. Maybe she should just drive by the old place, see whose out there, if anyone she knows is still there, and what if she saw Ham? She could ask him to go for a cup of coffee. That would be alright.

She smiled. That's just what she'd do. And if she did see him, she would tell him what she really is and maybe give him a free reading, and if he asked nicely, maybe even a roll in the hay. With a kiss. As normal people do. The night was young.

She drove down by the old streets; she had tried to stay away from them for this time as it was just painful and shameful, memories. The streets were remarkably quiet, but in street terms it was really rather early, it was only 10 p.m. and not on terribly busy place. She didn't see any of her friends out there which could be a good or a bad thing, depending, and the energy she was getting just driving down the street was quite strong and a little dangerous so she drove on to the Donut shop two blocks down for a cup of coffee. As fate would have it, down the street was parked a familiar car. When she entered the donut shop, there in line was Ham, his arm around a woman who he was chatting animatedly with. She left to go to the bathroom, he watched her walk to the ladie's room and as he turned back towards the cash he saw Donna. He blushed all the way up to the top of his ears.

"How are you?!" Donna said cheerfully, "it's been so long! I'm not doing my old job anymore but, would you like a cup of coffee with me? Catch up on old times?"

He cleared his throat and spoke quietly next to her ear. "Hi. I'm fine, I was sorry you left. That is my girlfriend, for real, I'm with, we were at the movies. I can't talk to you now, but if you need anything, I suggest you join a church. A good pastor is a great person to talk to about things."

"I, um, I'm glad to hear that," she said quietly, "I'm very happy for you. I just wanted to say I don't do um, what I used to anymore, I'm just a regular person now." She looked at her watch, "Oh my, look at the time! You know what? I have to run. Nice talking to you."

She turned around and walked out, and as she did she heard a woman's voice say, "Honey, who was that?" very sweetly.

Donna went back to her car, started it up, tears sliding down her face. Ham, or whoever he was, would never know that that night she was going to ask him to go out with her. And now she never would. She took a couple of deep breaths, in with fresh air, out with sad, and drove home.

Does anyone ever ask the psychic how they're feeling? She wondered, key in the door. Probably not she thought, and, why don't I have a cat?

Chapter 4

While life seems mostly random, and while we taught that nothing is predestined and that everything we do is a function of our own choices, there are also some of us who know better. Yes, it would be foolhardy to think that nobody has control over their lives, but it is equally as foolhardy, not to mention extremely egotistical - to think that everything lies in your own hands.

David seemed to be having a lot of trouble understanding this concept. Oh, people had tried to tell him from various points of view that not everything was under his control yet how could he not be responsible for the loss of the one thing in his life that truly mattered, and add to that the fact that he simply couldn't grasp the idea that there could be some sort of life after death, that we aren't just meat on the hoof with brains, well, it was all this that made it all the more remarkable that when he came home from Psychic Fair that he didn't just toss the tape and the card in the garbage.

Thing is, he kind of liked Donna. There was something subliminally sexy about her, the way she carried herself, her slightly husky and soft voice, the fluid way she moved, and -

How long has it been since he made love to a woman?

He was keenly aware of how he felt on the physical level as a man, yet his mind and his overwhelming guilt blocked off all remembrance of exactly when was the last time. It was with Sandie, and knowing them, most likely the night before (or was it the morning of?) the day she died. It just hurt so damned much when a memory of her passed through his thoughts that he tried very hard to block it all out. It takes a lot of energy to block out memories like that, and he felt the effects of it definitely. Tired, he drank more coffee than is probably good, and drank too much alcohol. That he wasn't fat was a testimony to the fact that he barely ate anymore - food tasted like chalk for long enough that it always tasted that way now - and he felt an overwhelming need to feel alive so he would get on the treadmill and run and run and keep going until his lungs were on fire and his muscles ached and he was afraid he would collapse from the effort.

He learned something from this: he isn't a runner (for all his efforts he never went far according to the counter on the treadmill) and it felt like more pain than gain, but still, he felt something. As for the drinking, he didn't do it out in public by himself, not at a bar, so there was no danger of him killing anybody else (other than himself of course) or doing something foolish like going home with a woman he didn't know or something like that.

The killing himself thing was an inkling in the back of his mind. At times the thought was so very tempting - after all he's alone in the world really and basically taking up space - but beyond those dark thoughts a very stubborn streak told him he had to live with whatever happened because dammit there had to be some worth to him being here, he couldn't just be a waste of space and resources.

He just wouldn't go so far to say that he was supposed to be here.

For dinner this evening he made himself a can of fancy soup, his mother called it, not the type of soup that was a little more than congealed coloured flavour with flecks of something purported to be something that his mother usually made. No he liked the soup with stuff in it, like the country vegetable, or Thai coconut, or hot and sour soup. Tonight it was minestrone. And a beer.

He set the tape down on the table with the Donna's card on top of it. As he leaned forward to take a spoon of soup, something crinkled in his back pocket. He reached in and pulled out the card that that guy Toduku had tried to give him. What the f - the phone rang interrupting his thoughts. It was a number he didn't recognize, some weird 888 number so he let it ring. It rang about ten times before he decided to pick it up and give somebody a blast. There was no one there, just a hollow echoing sound, like someone was calling from inside a tunnel or something. He hung up.

He finished his soup, all the while staring at the card he had put on the table. It looked innocent enough, even a little amateurish with its silly happy face guy. Still, there was something decidedly eerie about it, it made him nervous and he didn't know what to do. Call his mother? No, because he didn't want her to think he might actually be starting to believe all that hoo-hah. Phone Donna? And say what? Her buddy there at the next row is giving out creepy cards that wind up in your back pocket if you hand it back? No. And there was no point asking her what she thought of him because undoubtedly she would say Toduku is no good, after all, he's a competitor. So he did the most rational thing he could think of: put it in a drawer out of sight and if by some chance something made him feel the need to talk to this guy he'd have his number.

Maybe he should call his sister. Just as quickly as he thought it, he changed his mind. There was always the possibility of getting his brother-in-law and he just didn't feel like getting the 3rd degree. As usual. So he drained the can of beer he was drinking and popped open another one.

Three hours later the t.v. was on with the sound turned down; the better part of half a 2-4 was emptied and the evidence strewn about the coffee table in crumpled up beer cans and David was also crumpled up, on the floor, with a picture of Sandie in his hands. He was sobbing piteously when the telephone rang again and after fifteen rings he picked it up with a "What the fuck do you want??" screamed drunkenly into the receiver.

"Whoa, man, what's that about?" Jason asked worriedly.

"Shit Jason, why were you ringing and ringing and ringing, Jesus!"

"Well, if memory serves me correctly we were supposed to go for a beer and talk about the project. You remember the project? That thing we were going to do that would make us both famous so we can tell our bosses they can shove it? That project? Guess you've already gone down the keg there yourself buddy. Now what? You okay man?"

David sighed heavily. "Shit. Sorry. You're right I totally forgot. I, I uh, went to this psychic fair thing with my mother and I just got all this crap about Sandie dug up and I'm hurting bad. I don't know what to do man, you have some time to talk?"

On the other end of the phone Jason weighed his options. He'd had a couple of beers himself, but what the hell, he wasn't far from David's apartment and in walking distance. If he wound up staying there overnight, who cares, he was in between women himself.

"Sure guy," Jason said, "I'll be there in ten okay?"

David said yes, and, rather unsteadily, got up and picked up the beer cans, tossing them into the garbage, then went for a quick whiz. Shortly after that, the front door buzzer was buzzing.

He pushed the open button without talking.

In a manner of a couple of minutes there was a banging on the door. He didn't bother checking the peephole, opened the door and there was Toduku.

"Wha?" David gasped, shocked at seeing him here.

"My card led me to you. Sandie has a message. Will you listen now? No charge my friend she is insistent, bothering me to talk with you."

"Get the hell away from my door you fucking freak!" he yelled, as the buzzer buzzed on the intercom. He pounded it with his fist.

"No, you must hear me!" Toduku said.

"I SAID," David yelled, "GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"

Someone down the hall yelled out their door, "The both of you get the hell out of here or I'm calling the police!"

Fortunately for David (or Toduku depending on your point of view), Jason showed up then. "Hey hey hey," he said, "chill guys! Come on, they're going to call the cops." Turning to Toduku, he said, "And who are you again?" as he sidled up beside David and put himself between the two men.

Chapter 5

Joan felt wonderful this evening, she really did. Oh how she loved going to psychic fairs, and finding a good reader, and getting new books. And that she managed to get David to come with her, that was a great sign, really, maybe he would be open to things that would be healing.

So good to go out with her friend Carol and see a movie and perhaps have a bite to eat. Or at
least it would have been if Karen hadn't called her with yet another emergency. Now Joan felt concerned as a mother, but Karen's emergencies were pretty frequent and almost invariably nothing that was that awful, so she wasn't about to cancel tonight's plans for that. In fact, she wondered if Karen didn't have radar that would bleep, "Mom's going out! Emergency! Emergency!" which was fine when she was a little girl, but come on, at 35 it's a little much.

So she did what she thought would be good enough: she invited her to the movies with them. When she arrived at the theatre with Karen, Carol was fit to be tied. Oh, she was nice enough to Karen, but this was her evening with Joan, and Joan didn't realize how hard it could be for a married woman to get out of the house. Of course, she wasn't really taking into consideration that this was the same case with Karen because, well, she found Karen to be really whiny. Some day she would tell Joan how she felt but this was a movie she really wanted to see, it had Tom Hanks in it is and she'd be damned if Joan's daughter was going to ruin it for her.

So she swallowed her bile and went into the movie, hoping that Karen wouldn't ruin it by talking. She didn't because as soon as Karen opened her yap, Carol moved far enough away she wouldn't have to hear. And a vow to herself: from now on, no Karen. She would have to make sure Joan understood that, though from previous talks with Joan, Joan said she found it just as annoying.

So, while Carol seethed and Joan wished for ear plugs, and the people around them were sushing at important moments, Karen was talking away. Joan thought, never mind David, a broken heart eventually heals, most of the time anyway, but Karen had so many things going on that she probably could use somebody insightful enough to tell her that she needed to get beyond the back of her own eyeballs and understand there is more going on in the world than herself. Not a good thing to think about her own daughter, but in this case it was true, and given that she had been dealing with it for over 30 years now, she had tried everything in her motherly power to get her to relax and live life. And, in her 60 years on this planet if there was anything she'd learned is that people are born with something that is just them, and sadly, for her daughter, it is the sheer joy of complaining.

When Carol saw Joan heading for the bathroom in mid-movie, she followed her. Cornering her in the old fashioned makeup table area, she told her friend to wait for a moment. Joan seemed relieved to be stopped. "Oh thanks, I'm glad you came with me." She said, and, "we need to talk." Which they both said at the same time and laughed.

"Just let me use the facilities first, okay?" Joan asked.

"No problem, I need them too," Carol replied.

Post handwashing they went out to the little 2-seater tables just to the side of the refreshment stand. Carol bought them a couple of coffees and they sat down, gingerly tasting their cups.

Joan laughed, "This coffee is awful!"

"Yes, almost makes me want to rot my teeth with the cola they have here." Carol offered. "So, do we have a minute to talk?"

"I hope so," Joan replied, "you never know with Karen but she seemed to be enjoying the movie. I have to apologize, I had no intention of bringing her."

"You know Joan, I love doing things with you, but Karen's here half the time, and when she is neither of us can get a word in edgewise. Doesn't she have any friends of her own?"

Joan thought for a moment. "To be honest, I really don't know. She never speaks of friends. She talks a lot about Bob, I don't know. I wish she would talk to a counselor or something, I don't think things are right with them."

"I was going to ask about that. She reminds me of a friend I had years ago, Angela, nice girl but always talking about inane stuff and underneath she was hiding how awful her husband was. She was so desperate for kids and you know, she kept having these miscarriages and you know what? Turns out that loving husband would get angry and punch her in the stomach or something. She died of peritonitis when she was 24. I never forgot that, I mean, who knew what was happening? Who knew? The brute he married again too. Makes me sick to think of it."

Joan laid her hand over Carol's. "God that's awful." She shook her head. "I'm going to talk to Karen, but she's always been a bit pushy and demanding. She means well, but oh boy, she drains me. So I make this promise to you - we will make our evenings out and I won't tell her, I'll just go. How's that?"

"That's good," Carol smiled. "Hey, maybe we need to go for dinner first, or instead, whatever, she always calls after dinner right?"

"Yes. Bob won't let her go out unless he has his dinner made and on the table waiting."

"Sheesh, I thought those days were over. Alright, we'll do that. So how do we get her to go home?"

"I'll tell her I have a meeting first thing and must go right home. Then I'll make sure she's home, I'll drop her off. I'll meet you at Tim Horton's in about half an hour after. How's that?"

"Good plan. Well, back to what's left of the movie. Have you heard any of it?"

"No." Joan laughed. It was true. She had no idea what was going on with this movie.

Karen seemed oblivious that Joan and Carol had been gone so long. She was totally caught up in the movie. "Mom, let me catch you up," she said in a normal voice.

"No," Joan said to her in a stage whisper, "these people are trying to watch it, and I'm not really that interested in this, thanks anyway."

"Alrightie then!" Karen said brightly, dipping into her large popcorn and tossing kernels into her mouth.

Carol looked back towards Joan every now and then, making faces. Joan would give her the finger, and the two would stifle giggles. A woman two rows over gave them a foul look and Joan almost lost it. Thing is, Joan and Carol had been friends since they were teenagers, and it was so easy to fall back into the silly stuff they did way back when. It was in a sense way back when for them because they never did lose some things. A long, long road they'd both trod and there would be a long road ahead she hoped.

So it worked fine after the movie, Karen being driven home and Carol off to Tim Horton's to wait for Joan's return. Good thing she had a book, she thought, as she read her latest best seller.

Joan arrived right on time, a big smile on her face. She got her coffee and joined her friend. Both agreed it was too late for donuts or even tiny bits of donuts so they just had their coffee and a long long talk.

Joan told her friend all about the psychic fair, and though Carol usually didn't think much them herself, she was kind of interested this time. She had her own questions maybe she should go? Joan offered to go with her and they decided that Saturday morning would be perfect, way too early for the assorted children and Carol's husband to care where they where they were gone. Perfect.

With that they went their separate ways, on a cool but clear night. While Joan was satisfied with her fun and interesting day, other people didn't fare so well. At this moment, David was staring down a decidedly weird psychic at his door punching the open door button for his friend Jason, Karen was smoking a cigarette on the balcony, crying because once again Bob wasn't home and when he did come home he would smell of another woman, Carol was contemplating the things she hadn't shared: the lump she'd discovered and was afraid to ask about, her son's latest disappearance, and the news she was likely being laid off before she could retire on full pension.

Joan though, she had a bubble bath with a glass of wine and her latest book, not realizing then that this would be the last night of normal for quite some time to come.

Chapter 6

If anybody would have told Jason that he would be stuck in a cell with a black eyed psychic named Toduku who was cursing in Japanese and spitting out teeth, he would have told them they were crazy. Or at least moderately unhinged. Kind of like David, who was also here, but sleeping off a very sound drunk. At last count he said he had drunk ten beer. Jason believed it. David, at least as long as he's known him, didn't seem to be somebody that drank a lot. Maybe it was just that he didn't have the money to drink a lot. You don't make much being a clerk.

This was going to be tough explaining to his boss. In fact, he had the very sombre feeling that it would likely be the last explanation he has for being absent. Jason felt pretty sure he was going to get fired. Shoot. And it was a good job too. Had promise. On the other hand, maybe he was just jumping to conclusions.

Two cells down some fool was crying and yelling out "Mommy" and somebody else was muttering something about "them all taking us to the end times now boys we going down don't you see that don't you believe them purveyors of falsehoods and incompetents they aren't telling the truth" --

Tired of this Jason hollered, "and neither are you so SHUT UP!"

Somebody cackled an old man's laugh that devolved into horrible wracking coughs. His father had died of lung cancer. He didn't like to hear that cough, he knew it well.

Toduku settled himself in the corner, on the floor, muttering and dabbing his mouth. David was moaning in his sleep. Jason could guess what he was dreaming about. Toduku muttered, "If he listen to me, I can fix that."

"Oh can it, you've said enough tonight." Jason snapped back at him. And with that he grabbed a thin lumpy pillow, punched it a couple of times (to what? kill hidden mice? fleas?) and curled up in a ball, his head resting on the pillow against the wall, him upright in bed. He didn't dare lie down. He was afraid of what germs could be lurking on that mattress. Even through his clothes he felt dirty for having touched it.

As he drifted off he thought, "I have got to talk to David when he wakes up. There's a lot about this guy I just don't know. What a night."

David was sailing in a schooner on the ocean, stars overhead, the way lighted by a huge white moon, its shadow dancing brightly on the waves. There was just enough breeze to sail the ship, not enough to make waves, the gentle rhythmic rocking soothing him. The jingle of chains on the hooks were his music, the thump thump of water against the side of the ship his drums. Oh how good it felt to be sailing away on a warm summer night, far far from anyone or anything.

In the distance a sea gull cried and as it drew closer it began to sound human. He covered his ears; this shouldn't be interfering with his blissful boatride, go away he willed it in his mind. Instead it got louder and more insistent until he opened his eyes and it standing on the bow of the boat, veritably cursing him in gull.

Gulls have yellow eyes, he realized. And red beaks. And when they get angry they peck at you.

He backed far away from this bird, close to the cabin door. Somewhere in here was a noise maker, one of those air horns people bring to football games. If he could find that, he could shoo the bird away.

The bird laughed. Okay, so that solved that question. This is a Laughing Gull from the Atlantic Ocean. He had guessed from the warmth of the water and the air he was in the Pacific. Oh well, didn't matter.

Softly, he said to the bird, "My friend, I don't have anything here for you. No fish, no drinking water. Just me and I'm a little too alive for your tastes."

He could have sworn the bird smiled. And he didn't like that little glint in its eye.

"Go on now, no need for you to be here. More fish in the ocean, right?"

The gull laughed again. It opened its beak slightly, then closed it. Gulls have tongues he noticed. Hmm.

He and the gull had a staring match for quite a while until David felt really tired. He reached behind him towards the doorknob to the cabin. When his hand touched on the knob, the gull flapped his wings loudly. This startled him, and he quickly turned it, jumping backwards into the doorway, shutting the door in front of him, and as he did he could have sworn he heard the bird say, "Don't go!" and laugh.

When David turned around he wasn't in a ship's cabin, he was in a giant cellar, damp and dark, with rocks on the walls. He could smell the water, and the mold. Underfoot it felt squishy. Not a nice feeling.

Far in the distance one plain yellow lightbulb swung from the ceiling, barely lighting anything. He didn't like this at all. He turned, hoping to find the door and the way back to the ship, but it was gone. "Damn gull," he said to nothing in particular. He should have listened. Crap.

While David was dreaming and Jason attempting to sleep, Toduku was busily surrounding himself with healing energy. The two teeth that fell out were in his pocket; he may not be able to have them put back but it was worth a try. For everything else though, he let the energy build and then with supreme concentration, willed the energy to stay in the places where he was bloody. Very quickly it congealed and not only did it do that, the skin actually began to knit itself over the wound in a healthy tan colour. The bruises faded from black to brown to green to nothing. In the space of about an hour, Toduku went from a total mess to a messy, but otherwise fairly healthy man. Minus a couple of pocketed teeth of course.

Next, feeling better himself, he quietly went over to Jason and passed his hands over his sleeping form, about six inches away. While he did this, he collected what information he needed from the energy Jason was giving off; then he passed healing energy to him, so that his body and spirit would be better when he woke up. Or at least better than it had been. To truly heal a person's spirit takes many sessions and the person's willing desire to accept the energy.

Then he knelt by David. He needed to shield himself strongly when close to him; he could feel waves of pain coming of him; despair so dark he wasn't sure that he or anyone else could save him. It would have to be David himself. Thing is though, some people revel in pain. They get pleasure from it, and the reason of course is because they are not getting pleasure from anything else so pain it is. The world was far too full of these types as far as Toduku was concerned. Hate breeds hate, pain begets pain, fear triggers more fear. There is no end to that bottomless void.

Toduku breathed deeply, taking in healing energy. Carefully he placed his hands near his body, his heart, and sent golden and green waves of energy pouring into him by his heart, and then, to his throat and the centre of his forehead. He concentrated mostly on the heart though.


Toduku was abruptly stopped in his ministrations.

Jason tapped him on the shoulder. Toduku whipped his arm out so quickly Jason didn't even see it knocking his hand away. He felt it though, it stung like a burning iron hit him.

"Never touch me again." Toduku said solemnly."I am helping your friend. Now leave me alone."

Jason was going to say something, then thought better of it. He felt good himself. He knew he should have been tired, but he wasn't. Nor was he all crampy and achy from napping in that awkward position.

He didn't know exactly what Toduku was doing, but thought that perhaps he should leave him alone. Stopping whatever it was at this moment could be dangerous. He just didn't know.

He tried to see if he could see if there was a clock on the wall. Problem was, being in jail he had everything taken away. Not finding one, he sat on the bed, one eye on Toduku's goings on, the other trying to figure out what he was going to say to his boss. He just really didn't want to lose this job, he it paid the right amount and was interesting enough. For now. If only he and David could get their act together. This was such a great idea they have but between his various woes and David's never-ending pain, would they ever have enough drive between them to do this? He wasn't sure at all.

He studied Toduku. He seemed like a caricature of a Japanese wise man (yes, he'd watched Sailor Moon, what guy hasn't?) though honestly he was starting to think maybe this weird little fellow actually happened to be the real thing. He needed for him to say to him that meant something only to him. That would be the ticket. He'd try to get the fellow to talk to him when he was done with David. He had a feeling there were going to be in this cell for a while.

David stirred a bit but seemed to still be sleeping peacefully when Toduku stood up, bowed in all four directions and a deep bow to David. When he turned around he was looking very tired.

Toduku went to the toilet. He didn't like that it was out in the open but what can you do. At least the shirt he was wearing was long, so it covered things somewhere. There was nothing that would cover the smell though.

"God damn, Toduku! Smells like something died in here! Cripes!" Jason was seriously offended. It truly stank. It was a decidedly unhealthy smell. "I think you better see a doctor, man, or maybe cut out eating those onions."

Toduku chuckled. "My apologies is I offend. It is not my body doing this, it is what I pull out of those I heal. The dark matter. Very offensive indeed. Not a physical matter, doctors would not find anything wrong. Just stinky."

Jason, sitting with his chin on his raised knees, his arms covering his nose in the crook of the elbow, saw this as his opening. "Toduku, if this is true, tell me, what do I need to know? Not about David, but me. What do I need to know?"

"You know you and your friend have put me here. There will be no Toduku at the show, and this is a lot of money I am missing. I don't know what I will have to pay to get out of here either."

"No, but we're all in the same boat, I might lose my job, I was supposed to work tomorrow. Boss won't like me not being there. None of us can afford lawyers or fines. If you are so good at this psychic stuff couldn't you do something to stop things from getting out of control there?"

He shook his head. "No. I am not a miracle worker." He laughed.

Well, at least he has kept his sense of humour, thought Jason. But really, how on earth did one creepy old man showing up at the door and David drunkenly saying something stupid into doors slamming and neighbours hitting with fists, and things getting broken and police being called. Oh shit, he realized then. Chances were excellent that David was going to get booted out of his apartment. You can't appeal being kicked out for having a brawl in your apartment, he was pretty sure of that. Okay, so in the who is now worst off contest here he had to say it was likely David, penniless and homeless.

Toduku had been studying Jason, his head cocked at a slight angle. "David will never be without. That means homes too. He may be moving very soon I do think so."

Yup, this guy has definitely got something, Jason was getting more and more curious about what he could tell him.

Toduku cleared his throat. "I don't answer to those who seek, I seek those who need an answer."

"So, um, where am I in that equation?" Jason asked.

Toduku giggled. "Where you are is not where you need me. You are fine. If you must know something, think of the name Gabrielle and somebody not quite red hair not quite brown. Pretty. You will always be fine. Remember that."

"Will do. Thanks!" He felt relieved hearing that, he really did.

David snorted and rolled over then proceeded to snore quite loudly again.

"Uh, what about my friend here? I mean, is he physically okay right now?"

"If you mean is he still drunk, no, will he be sleeping for a while? Yes, I do say so. He needs to rest, he is very very much in need of rest. After he will feel better, at least some. Not to worry."

Jason wasn't so sure about that, he did seem okay. Now all he had to do was figure out what it was going to take to get the three of them out of there, and quietly.

Chapter 7

Donna cried for as long as it took for her to realize how wrong it was for her to come back here. This was a ridiculous thing to do; what on earth possessed her to go back to all that hurt and being used and using, in what? The hopes of being rejected by a former john? She laughed beneath the tears. She had let herself feel upstaged by a john. So what if he has a girlfriend? She'd bet anything that sweetie there had no idea of his years of poking paid girlfriends. And she'd bet he didn't walk around with rubbers, just cash, some pot and a desperate grin. Yup, he's a prize.

She giggled. Relief washed over her, sunlight of revelation. Yes, she's fine. Time to go be her now self. With that she blew her nose, turned the volume on the radio way up, sang full blast with "Witchy Woman" - a cosmic wink she thought. Now what?

A smoke. She lit up a cigarette, and made her way back home. She parked the car, made her way back to her apartment. Try as she might, she couldn't help thinking she needed to clear her mind, the air, her aura. She lit some white candles, and burned smudge, doing her smudging ritual. She did this as she was certain she would have brought back with her some negative energy just from where she was. She then had to cut the ties she must have with Ham; she had to let him go. Then send loving energy to the two of them so that hopefully they could have a good life together.

After smudging, candles quietly burning all around the apartment (and she thought, maybe that's why she shouldn't have a cat) she poured herself a glass of wine and sat in the middle of the floor, first clearing her mind, then, a sip of wine, and she pulled out the tarot cards. She shuffled them, spreading them out on the floor. She thought better of reading her own cards. She would be better off doing I Ching or runes if she wanted to study herself.

Where were her coins? She almost never did I Ching. Cryptic and mysterious, sometimes they spoke to her, other times the descriptions reminded her of a bad 30's movie with Chinese fortune tellers in it. She could do a dowsing with her crystal, but then her best answer for tonight she thought would be a long hot bubble bath with some sea salt to add to the cleansing (with the added bonus it softens the skin). Yes, just cleanse the spirit and the mind and leave the wondering about tomorrow to tomorrow.

It is a little understood fact that psychics, while they can see other's paths and such, usually they don't see their own. Perhaps it's just as well that, who really wants to know their fate? Honestly? She does have dreams though, and sometimes flashes of things while meditating. When she thinks ahead, as she calls it, remote viewing others call it, the very fact she could see herself many years into the future in the context of certain situations meant that it she was likely going to be around for a long long time. Some people groan and complain that they don't want to be old and sickly, yet she didn't feel that way at all. She loved life, bring it on, all of it. She just didn't like herself very much sometimes, and she often didn't like the things that life threw in her way.

The thing is, when she did look ahead she could see there would be a child there, boy or girl she didn't know she just could sense that young being, and there would be a man in her life. He was so close sometimes at night she could swear she could feel him beside her in bed, yet, who was he? Where was he? Is she projecting another lifetime perhaps? Whatever, right now it just plain hurt to feel so lonely. How could she once be so wanted physically and now that it didn't involve money she is unwanted? It just didn't make sense to her at all. Then she guessed that is perhaps because the cost of the free girlfriend in the end was way more than the cost of the expensive one-off call girl. Yeah, that had to be it.

She also knew that being a little flaky and strange didn't help, pretty or not.

She understood too that she needed to allow herself to seek out a little, because the way that the client David had looked into her eyes that afternoon was still giving her a sharp shooting ache in her belly every time she thought of it.

Do men get this? She wondered.

For all her understanding of the way of the spirit and energy and life forms and past lives and karma and elementals and you name it, when it came to the dynamics of men and women she knew that deep down she knew absolutely nothing. There is a huge difference between the physics of a prick, and the understanding of the man attached to it.

She giggled at the thought of the prick that manages the prick. Which is which? Hee hee.

Seriously though, she knew that in order for her to progress in life and go beyond where she is now, she had to let go of the girl and her difficult beginnings, of the way off the deep end teenager, of the young woman mired in drugs and selling her body 'cause frankly what difference did it make anyway, then thinking there had to be more to life than this, and Seamus. The return of Seamus. He saved her life he did.

Now, as she cleansed herself and offered advice to others she knew her energy was eternally intertwined with all those men she had been with. She would need the help of a much stronger spiritualist to help her disconnect. Of course with her understanding of past lives, it may well have been that these were souls she is already linked with. Perhaps in an army or something? Had she been in a harem perhaps? Anything was possible. She honestly didn't know too much about her past lives, and now that this idea came into her head, perhaps this idea was given to her now as something she should be looking into. Perhaps it was time.

It made sense. If she were to understand and say good-bye to all that stuff from the last 28 years she really needed to look at how karma and such things played into this lifetime. She still wasn't sure of why she was put here, just that she knew she needed to be. A little less random than most, but how envied people who knew they had a place and why.

We can't all be Mother Theresa, she thought. And yes, neither should we all be. There needs to be an equilibrium in all things on all scales. Too much good is as off kilter as too much bad. There must be a dark and a light, there has to be that.

She climbed into her nice hot bath; steam curling up to the ceiling, bubbles, the scent of jasmine, more candles lit in the bathroom, scented raw sea salt poured and it was all set. She slipped in, the water up to her neck, just letting the warmth clear away everything. Of all the ways to cleanse the spirit, this is definitely one of the best and one of the easiest. She lay there, sending errant thoughts up to the ozone in little balloons, keeping her head clear. Then, mindful of her body and feeling like she was on the verge of flying away, she dipped her long hair into the water, swirling it around and then coming back up for air. She then lathered up and did a quick hair wash. After that, the rinse with the hose, conditioner, hose, proper washing and loofa on the various parts that were crying out for the serious scrub and she was done. She dried off, wrapped her hair in a towel, and putting on a robe and big fluffy slippers, padded out to the living room

It would be a bit of time before her hair would be dry enough to go to sleep, so she continued on with the glass of wine she had started earlier, and pulled out her journal and started to write.

What a weird day. Whatever possessed her to go back to the street? She was glad that all she did was run into Ham. Actually, her running into him tonight instead of being a kind of real, normal date it was closure. Sure, she didn't get laid but hey, it was also better she didn't go there. So yes. Tonight there was a purpose. Being with a man wasn't one of them. Even if David has brown velvet eyes. Even though he had the tape, and even though he had her card she knew he was so much the skeptic he really was just paying lip service to keep his mother happy. Still, his situation seemed so sad and she was just scratching the surface. She'd meditate on this, try some tarot but it didn't make sense to be wasting her time and energy on somebody who won't be back. Other people actually were interested in what she had to say. The ones that worried her though, were the ones who kept asking the questions, not liking the answer, kept asking the questions, or just didn't listen. They give off such waves of need and really, what they need to do is stop being a victim, however strong or mild that might be, and just do something. Anything. Anything positive at all. Take a leap.

In general, people don't want to hear that though. They want to hear that somebody has put a curse on them, or that snippy blonde in the 7th cubicle around the corner from the boss' cubicle (with a window of course) really is cursing her and banging the boss. And they want to hear that their ex really is scum (heaven forbid they should be a part of that failure), and that the lottery is just around the corner but how many corners need to be turned before the one that holds the lottery, and will that corner on the day that hubby is sick and needs to be taken to the ER for those mysterious pains that were really too much jalapeno peppers on their nachos twelve hours before?

She heard a cough in the corner of the room. She smelled pipe smell. "Seamus!" she squealed to the walls. She felt a warm river of familiar feeling flow through her.

"Hello my dear," she heard in her mind, "yes, 'tis I. Just letting you know I'm here."

"Thanks, I appreciate it. But I know you're there. You're always there."

"Yes, well, sometimes more close than others. I want to tell you something. First thing, stay away from that man from before, that isn't good darlin' it just isn't. You don't want back there. Or him. He's not what he appears. Definitely."

"Thanks, yes, it was stupid. I don't know why I did that, think it was because I just needed to close off that part of my life."

"Good then. Leave it closed."

"I will." She laughed.

"You asked the question so now I tell you something."

"What question>"

"What were you before. You see it in dreams. Look for your own dreams, nobody else's. You should speak to someone who can lead you back then guide you away if it gets too much. You know such a person."

She thought for a second. "Yes, I do. Japanese fellow. A little strange but he says he knows what he's doing. I say I do to so there you have it."

Seamed smiled, puffed a puff of pipe. "Yes. Mmm. He's a trifle busy tonight. Tomorrow you probably should find out where he is."

"Okay, I will. We both have the show."

"Uh, yes. He might not be so easy to find. Your mission!" and he laughed again.

"Before you go, tell me, am I going to have a baby soon?"

"My dearest you must learn to raise yourself first before you think of little ones. When the time is right all things will come to you. Trust yourself and believe."

She wanted to ask if she'd be even holding a hand some time in the near future and thought better of it.

"Bye Seamus, time for me to go to bed."

"Sweet dreams, dearest Donna. You have a magnificent hand. There is another to hold it, he just hasn't opened his eyes yet. All things in good time dear. Remember to ask for your dreams."

With that, a puff of smoke scent, and he was gone.

With that, she finished writing in her journal (including what Seamus said), put it away, and put her glass in sink, took her vitamin, brushed her teeth and hair and climbed into bed.

She half expected to toss and turn, but she didn't even have the chance to send up her thoughts of what she wanted in dreams. She was out cold. And between the time she fell and asleep and the time the alarm rudely nrrrrrrrrrrrrred, if she dreamt she remembered nothing.

Chapter 8

Karen stood on the balcony a long time, half a pack of cigarettes burned, the butts flipped over the side, and her glass of wine turned into half a bottle. She wasn't sure but it was beginning to look like the building across the street had a twin. "Twin towers!" she blurted out to the night. She tossed another cigarette off the balcony.

"Hey you up there! Stop it with the cigarettes! You're gonna set something on fire! Use an ashtray!"

"Fuck you," she shouted back and giggled. That felt good. She rarely ever dared to say that and here she was using it on a perfect stranger!

"Fuck you back!" retorted the voice.

She couldn't help laughing out loud, this was so much fun. She looked around, there had been an ashtray here yesterday. Down at the street she saw her car drive by. And keep going. Now where was Bob off to?

She lit another cigarette. Ooh, she was going to feel this in the morning, she thought. That and, she really should get some more before the corner store closed. She looked at her watch. 10:45. Crap. She'd have to go right now, or not at all.

She went inside, bringing her smokes with her. She decided at that moment that if her husband was going to think of this place as a restaurant and clothes cleaner place, then she'd damned well smoke inside like a civilized person. Seemed like a good determination. Her small inside voice told her that it would be a cold day in hell before she actually did that.

She weaved a little getting inside from the balcony; she could feel the fall chill in the air. Wouldn't be long before snow falls. In the meantime, the warmth of the apartment was pleasant. She picked up her purse and her keys from the counter.

She closed the apartment door behind her, locking it. The elevator ride down was quiet. The couple making out in the corner pretty much didn't even know she was there.

She ran into the convenience store just as it was about to close. The older gentleman behind the counter rolled his tired eyes. She was followed in by the couple. Her first guess was they were buying smokes and condoms. Sure enough, they were. For her, she picked up a container of ice cream, double chocolate fudge, and asked for a package of menthol cigarettes. She was surprized, they had her usual brand. She paid, putting the cigarettes in her purse, leaving the coins in his little tip tray.

"Goodnight, Simon," she said. He nodded, quickly following behind her to lock the door after her. Just as he did, someone came in the patio doors which he was just about to lock. Karen heard him say, "I'm closed." She started walking down the hall but when she heard the old man yell, and then the sound of things being slammed around, she froze. Terrified, she looked back. There was just enough junk taped to the window of the door for the people inside to not see her; she reached into her bag, put her keys in pocket for easy reach, grabbed her cell phone.

She quietly stepped to the door; and peeked in, all she could see was a very large hooded person grabbing money from the cash, another smaller, thinner person, also hooded, shoving cigarettes and stuff into a bag.

She quickly walked down the hall far enough where she could run without being heard, and when she did, she ran to the front common area and the elevators, dialing 911 quickly as she knew there would be people around. Sure enough, there were. She said, yes, yes, yes, into the phone while it rang, and then when someone picked up, she said, oh hang on a minute, it's hard to hear you.

She then went to a quiet corner past the elevators. So far she had raised no suspicion, in fact, there was somebody else there on the phone waiting for the elevators. Keeping a smile on her face and trying to look relaxed she told the lady on 911 that the corner store was being broken into, the address and told them please hurry, she thought the store owner was hurt.

The lady told her to stay on the phone and they would be coming very soon. She said okay, that she was losing reception, gave her the phone number and hung up. Her hands were shaking as she put the phone into her bag. There were a couple of other people in the foyer, waiting for the elevator. She waited with them.

When finally it came she could hear sirens in the distance. She got on the elevator, hoping the phone wouldn't ring while she was in here. She held her keys tightly in her hand as the elevator went up, and, though the other two who were waiting got off before she did, she was still very nervous. The door opened, she got off, and quickly scanning the hall saw there was no one. Good. She walked very quickly up to her door, put the keys in, shut it quickly behind her and locked it.

Phew. Her cell phone rang. It was the police. Were there cars there? She could see the front from her balcony so she went out to check. Yes, they are pulling in, she told them. Could the police talk to her? Yes, but she couldn't give a good description, she didn't see faces, she didn't want them to see her. Yes they understood that. She explained that she was now in her apartment on the balcony having a cigarette. No problem, just keep the phone handy. She said good-bye and hung up.

As she smoked she saw an ambulance pull up. Policemen were running around the building, checking bushes and trying doors on the main floor. She didn't feel good about this at all. Where were the robbers? Probably long gone, but wouldn't she have heard running or car doors slamming or tires squealing or something?

Maybe not. She was too scared to stay out, too freaked out not to look. So she stayed, smoking cigarette after cigarette until the ashtray she had brought out was full, and she was starting to get cold.

She watched as a gurney was put into the ambulance. She was too far away to see if the covers were pulled all the way up or what. She actually turned away when she saw the paramedics coming out of the store and looked back just in time to see his feet, covered, going into the ambulance. They turned on the lights which she thought was sign though the fact the siren wasn't going as she pulled out didn't seem too good. Then, as they turned the corner on the main street she heard the siren come on. Good. That meant he must be still alive.

More police cars pulled up. The cell phone rang again. The police wanted to know if they could call her tomorrow, and please keep all doors and windows locked just in case. She said sure. Of course she couldn't put the chain on because Bob wasn't home yet.

As the police cars pulled out, it was now after midnight and she had had enough. She locked up the balcony doors, pulled the curtains shut, checked all the windows, put her glasses in the sink and then started to get ready for bed. After brushing her teeth and hair and while she was still in the bathroom, she heard her husband come in. As usual he said nothing, he just plunked things down, locked and chained the door (and for a fleeting instant she thought, typical, he assumes I'm home and not out somewhere). He tried the knob to bathroom, opened the door.

"What are you doing up still?" he asked her.

"There were police cars and an ambulance and people shouting and stuff, I couldn't sleep."

"Oh. How was the movie?"

"Good but my mom and her friend left me alone for the longest time so I was by myself. That was okay though, it was an interesting film."

She wanted to ask him, how was she? She wanted to ask him, where did you go that you knew I wouldn't see you? She wanted to ask him, what kind of a fool would get involved with a married man and what's more, you? But she didn't.

"Long long meeting."

"Yeah sure," she replied.

"What's that supposed to mean?" He quickly retorted.

"I said, yeah sure, it was a long long meeting. It was, wasn't it?"

"Uh, yes."

"Well, I'm going to bed," she said. She dearly wished he would grab her and kiss her and refuse to let her go but of course he wouldn't. He hadn't done that in years. Heck, he hadn't kissed her at all in some months.

Perhaps subconsciously picking up on a clue, he kissed her cheek as she walked by. She wished he hadn't. He smelt like some woman's perfume, and the kiss itself just made her more sad; heck her mother's goodnight kiss had more passion than that.

As she passed by she muttered, as much to herself as anyone, "do you think we'll ever make love again?" and continued on towards the bedroom.

He watched her, vacillating between acknowledging what she said or ignoring it and pretending he hadn't heard.

He coughed and closed the bathroom door.

Karen did as she often did, lay in the bed crying. As she drifted off she said her quiet prayers and said a prayer for poor Simon, wherever and however, he was.

Bob sat on the toilet wondering just how much Karen knew if anything. He hadn't expected her to still be up. He hadn't cleaned up at all. It still didn't dawn on him that he might actually smell like someone if he were close, but then he just wasn't that observant anyway. He briefly thought that maybe just to keep the peace he should sleep with his wife but the thought made him cringe so he discounted that.

Some sleeping dogs are best left alone.

Chapter 9

"Okay, so what do I need to do to get out of here?" Jason asked the guard.

"Don't worry," he responded, "youse all will get your chance when it's your turn. Seems it's been a busy night tonight."

Jason sat back down on the bench. Both David and Toduku were sound asleep, curled up their various spots on the floor.

The guy down the hall still called for him mommy (and a fleeting though, why hadn't somebody shoved a pillow in his mouth by now?), and there was some lady singing something truly disgusting and obviously something she so brilliantly made up (does herpes ooze?), and someone else was laughing uproariously at nothing. Somebody else was calling the name Timothy over and over and the guard banged on the bars - "Timothy! Stop shouting your own name and go to sleep!"

Jason couldn't help it, he laughed at that one, sad as it was. Judging from what could be heard and not seen, most of these people didn't belong here, they belonged in a mental hospital. Heh, maybe he did too, after this he thought.

One guy came in with a clang and doors, he was huge, and very obviously stoned or drunk or both. It was all they could do to walk the guy down the hall. Jason hoped they would put him to bed on his side so he wouldn't choke on vomit if he did do that. His first thought was that he really belongs in an Emergency ward, but then what if he got violent. Maybe that's where he came from. Who knows. The man started snoring right away, even before the doors shut on his cell.

He heard footsteps and a guard ask for Michael something-or-other. The mommy guy stopped calling it out. Then footsteps past his own cell, and the mommy caller turned out to be a gorilla of a guy, tattooed and filthy. Huge muscles, big pot belly, too small t-shirt, stank to high heaven. A wanna be biker from the looks of things. He didn't think real bikers would let their guys go around like this, and get stuck in jail calling for his mother.

We all have our stories to tell, and as intriguing as these people were, he truly hoped he wouldn't hear their stories. What if they were mostly normal? What if the were all society's punching bags, starting from birth? What if they were just all crazy?

He punched his pillow and tried to sleep. Tried. He had to go to the toilet. He had been trying to hold it but let's face it, there's only so long you can. Well, everyone else here was in the same boat so what the heck. After a very fast pee, he tried again to sleep. This time it actually worked a bit. He remembered nothing until there was a banging on the bars.

Alright you three. Let's go. The guy who called isn't pressing charges. Seems there's an issue of an outstanding ticket or something, he dropped them pretty fast when we told him he'd have to come in a sign papers and appear in court.

The three very tired men thanked the guard and followed him to where they were holding their stuff and the papers to release them. Jason was happy; with a fast shower he might be a little late - maybe, but that's okay easily explained. Toduku thought something similar; he assumed he wouldn't be opening his booth at the show today but it looked pretty good. He could be a little late, it was his business after all. And David was thinking about how good some aspirin, a shower and a long long sleep would be. It was payday, but with direct deposit it went in over night. Or was that on Sunday overnight for first thing Monday? Didn't matter. His entire plan was aspirin and clean and sleep. He had no plans on going anywhere, and no plans on doing anything other than keeping a low profile for a while. Even the though of dry toast made his stomach feel a little sick.

So at the door each man nodded to the other and went their separate ways. David walked home, appreciating the cool morning air. He wasn't hung over but he certainly wasn't perfect either. Dehydrated probably he thought. There was a juice and water machine in the lobby of a building that just might be open. He checked the door. It was. He went in, got himself a bottle of water and continued on.

He saw a couple of men on a park bench he wasn't too keen to be walking past, but they were on the other side of the street and seemingly engaged in some important transaction so he kept going. As he turned the corner, some religious guy handed him a pamphlet. He tried to brush it off but he was very insistent so he took it. Naturally the man kept following him trying to get him to talk and David started getting fed up.

He turned around, and snipped at the guy, "I'll read this crap if you just leave me alone. You follow me any more and it's going in the first garbage can."

The man bowed his head slightly. "No problem sir, you know where I am when you want to discuss it."

David shoved the pamphlet in his pocket. He hates pushy weird religious types. Don't they realize that annoying people is not likely to win them any converts?

Anyway, soon he was home. He was glad he was getting in this early. Chances were good no one would see him come in. He was going to have to lay low for a while. And he thought, he should probably stay away from the booze too. He didn't remember ever being that drunk. How could he have forgotten Jason waiting for him?

Then he remembered how freaked out he was about Toduku. Leaving the police station this morning he just looked like a tired old man. Why couldn't he have talked to him for a couple of minutes if he was that desperate. Sandra would have been furious at him for his behaviour last night. Hell, she'd have been furious for a lot of things he'd done since she was gone, and for a few things he'd done before that.

Still, he could also hear her in his mind's eye, laughing and saying "time wounds all heels my friend" - he smiled at that errant quip. That was just the sort of thing she's come up with at times like this. Maybe Toduku was right, maybe she was around in some way, sort of.

As he entered the apartment and tossed his coat on a chair, looking at the mess he knew that was going to have to call Toduku, if only as a form of apology. After he got paid of course. If he was smart he'd go to the show tomorrow before it closes.

On that thought, he went into the bathroom, turned on the shower for a long long soak. Sleep in his own bed was going to feel very very good indeed.

As David climbed in his shower, and Jason in his, Toduku ate his breakfast. He would have a quick sink bath and then tonight, a full soak with incense and candles and Tibetan music.

Afterwards, David climbed into bed, Jason got on a bus and Toduku began the 4 kilometre walk to the exhibition hall. This was how he stayed so slim all these years; much walking and little meat.

When he got there, he wasn't the first but he was close to it. He already had his booth opened up and fresh incense burning, when Donna came by looking for him. She wanted to ask him something but she looked in his eyes and she got a flash of something not so nice. "Toduku!" she said, "Were you in jail recently?"

"Yes," he said, "it was nothing. A misunderstanding and a drunken man. All is well."

"No, no it isn't. Where are you going after this show, Timmins?"

"Home. I have matters to attend to in Boston."

When he said Boston she had a terrible image pop in her head. "You can't go there."

"I don't see anything bad. What do you see?"

"Let me take your hands," she said, grasping them in hers. She breathed deeply and allowed his energy to flow through hers. "This isn't good at all Toduku. Are you a US citizen?"

"I have a green card," he said.

"But are you a citizen?" She demanded.


"Toduku," she said quietly, "I am very sorry but if you go to the border you won't get home. Somebody tipped someone off and they will say that you are connected to something and were in jail. They're going to throw you on a plane. You will never get home. You must stay here."

He breathed in sharply. There had been always that possibility but it never really sunk in until now.

"What should I do?" he asked.

"Nothing. Don't go anywhere. Follow me to the shows. You're allowed to work here right?"

"Yes, for a certain time."

"Extend it. Keep extending it. Just please, don't go home."

"What about my things?"

"Do you have somebody who can help pack them and store them or send them here or mind your apartment for you?"

"I have an old neighbour's son, I can him my nephew."

"There you go. Just say you're going to be here for a while, the shows are great, then see. It may be fine to go in a few weeks. Just not right now. Please."

"I'll think about it."

"And I would like to ask you, can we meet about my past lives?"

"Ah, Donna. What have you seen? Why do you ask? Common people that is my work, but you, I understand you are not to know until you are supposed to know."

"Yes, and I think perhaps I am supposed to know know."

"Well, then, tonight, later, we get together and you help me, I help you."

"Good, and have a good day today; you look tired."

"Ah, I'm fine. I think the crowds will be good, I feel it."

"Me too," she said, knowing that in the crowd there wouldn't be David.

As this was going on, Joan was dialing her daughter's phone number, about to ask her to the psychic fair. If anybody needed some pointing in the right direction, it was her. And at this time, Bob was snoring on the couch, and Karen, having cried herself to sleep was sleeping the fitful sleep of someone too exhausted to stay awake.

Yes, this was going to be a very interesting day for some, it certainly was. Not the least of which concerned the fact that Joan's only son had spent the night in jail with a friend and a psychic.

And Simon? Well, this is only part of what would be interesting about today.

Chapter 10

ten times before she really registered that it was ringing. There was no question at all when, from the living room came this: "Answer the fucking phone will you??!"

She sighed, groping around the night stand for the telephone. "Hello?" she mumbled into the receiver.

"Sweetheart, is that you? Did I wake you?" Asked her mom.

"I, uh, yes." She said softly. "It was a uh, long night."

"Oh dear, we'll talk okay? Let me come take you to breakfast and then I bring you to the Psychic Fair. Now don't worry, I brought David yesterday and he seemed not to mind. I think you might like it."

"I don't know mom, you know how I feel about psychics, they're just after your money."

"That's fine by me. I don't have enough money for them to be really interested. $50, $60 for some stuff that sometimes is right and always interesting, aren't you even the slightest bit curious?"

"The church says necromancy is wrong."

Joan laughed. "You know how I feel about the church, and certainly after all we've been through in the past, can't just take it with a grain of salt, a bit of an open and questioning mind?"

"Well, yes, if it's not me spending the money, how bad can it be?" Then a quick thought, "What if somebody sees me there?"

"And they say something? Then ask them how they it enjoyed it." Joan laughed.

"Oh mom, I am so tired. What time is it?"

"Nine a.m."

"Oh God. I don't even remember falling asleep but I know it was late. Something like 3 or so."

"You can have a nap later. Six hours isn't bad. Coffee and some food in your belly will do the trick. Trust me."

"Didn't you tell me never to trust somebody who tells me to trust them?"

Joan laughed. "See, you are awake! Throw on some jeans, I'll be downstairs in ten minutes. Really."

She sighed. "Fine. See you then."

She got up, brushed her teeth, washed her face and did the various other morning ablutions. Karen had a set routine for that, but, since there would be no coffee involved, it would be much shorter. She put on her face, and then her jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt.

As she picked up her purse and keys and grabbed her jacket, Bob sat up. "And where are you going?" He demanded to know.

She gave him a quizzical look. "Out." Was her reply.

"Where's my breakfast?"

"In the fridge."

"You're not going anywhere until that coffee and my breakfast is made, and I'm not getting up yet. So sit your ass down."

Karen seethed. The door buzzer was going. "Well then. My mother will just have to come up then."

She headed to the buzzer and pressed talk. Just then Bob was behind her, grabbing her arm. "The hell you are!"

Karen hit the talk and door open button at the same time, shouting, "Get your hands of me Bob, I'm going, you hear me?"

"You are not!" He shouted, punching her in the kidney.

Karen screamed in pain and crumpled to the floor, but not before her mother heard this and the sound of the door open buzz and grabbed the door handle and pull it open.

She ran to the elevator, punching the up button furiously, saying come on, come on, come on, to the door. A fellow coming in said, "Hey, lady, chill." And she said, "My daughter is getting beating up by her husband, I have to get up there, she was screaming."

"Holy shit! Have you phoned the police?"

"No, oh my God, no I haven't, please can you call 911? It's apartment 1917. Karen Simpson."

She ran into the elevator, the fellow saying, "I'm dialing now, be careful ma'am." As the doors shut.

She pressed 19. "Please please please be okay," she said to the air.

It was just one of those elevator rides. Every second floor it stopped, people got off, people got on, and this while it was going up! Didn't that usually happen just on the down ride?

As she got off on the 19th floor she could hear the shouting. Bob's mostly, Karen was just crying and trying to defend herself. Joan fished through her purse for the spare set of keys she kept in there for times when she needed to water the plants, and then, once she found them wondered whether she should open the door. She was terrified to see what she would find, terrified not to. So she went close to the door, but on the side of the door that was the opposite of where the direction to the elevators was in case Bob blasted out the door or something; at least this was she wasn't too far from the stairs. Walking 5 kilometres a day and running the occasional 10 k marathon meant she wasn't afraid of being able to get away. Bob may be big but he's a slob and terribly out of shape.

She held the key in her hand, waiting for a noise that might signal she has to enter. At the moment was just yelling and crying. The elevator dinged, and two policemen stepped off. "Here officers, here!" she waved to them. The noise in the apartment had dropped somewhat by this time; she heard clinking in the kitchen and water running.

"Is this the residence of Karen Simpson?"

"Yes, oh thank God! You were so fast!"

"We're here about an armed robbery investigation. She called it in last night."

"You're not for the domestic dispute that was just called in?"

The two officers looked at each other; one checked the hand held apparatus he had. He spoke to central; a few moments later came the answer. "No call for that address."

That bastard. That foolish, foolish bastard. She mentally sent a plague of silverfish to that man's apartment. If there was a God, she hoped at this point he she or it would answer this particular call.

"Oh my God, I asked a man in the lobby to call 911 he said he would, I gave her name and apartment number he said he would! I came here to get my daughter and she pressed talk and then there's her husband yelling and she screamed and I came up here and they've been shouting and she's crying; right now I think one of them is making coffee. I have a key, see?" And she held up the apartment key, "But I've been afraid to use it. I didn't want Bob coming after me too, or making things worse for my daughter, I waited for you guys."

One of the officers was writing this down. The other said, "Okay, you have the key? Then we can enter if we need to. But first we'll knock - you stay there."

They knocked. No answered. They knocked again, louder this time. Still no answer. The two officers looked at each other. Another knock, much louder this time.

"Go away, we don't want any!" Came Bob's voice.

"Mr. Simpson? This is the police, we'd like to talk to your wife. Would you open the door please?"

"She's sleeping. Come back later."

Joan was even more alarmed by that. The two officers hardened their glanced. "Ma'am," one said quietly, please go stand over there. If we need you we'll come get you but for right now we need you down the hall for safety. Thank you."

She did as she was told, terrified. Once she had moved, one pounded on the door with a night stick. "Sir, answer the door, now!"

"I told you, she's sleeping!"

"Open the door! Now!"


The officer said slowly, loudly and deliberately, "I am giving you ten seconds to open this door and speak to me."

"And if I don't?"

They waved Joan over. When she got there they told him to tell him she had a key and where's Karen?

"Bob? It's me! Joan! Open the door, please! I have a key. Where's Karen?"

There was the sound of shuffling feet and after opening the door, Bob stepped outside and closed it behind him. He cast an evil gloating glance to Joan that made her blood chill; this wasn't good at all.

One officer positioned himself between Joan and Bob, the other, between Bob and the door. Bob may be loud, but he definitely wasn't too bright. "Mr. Simpson, we came here to talk to your wife. Is she in the apartment?"


The officer looked at Joan. "Yes she is. I heard her voice in there."

"I'm asking you again Sir, where is your wife? Is she in this apartment?"

Bob said, "Yes, she is, but she's sleeping. Joan, you know how she is when you wake her up and she's tired, you tell the officers."

She loathed that smarmy, I know it all look he was giving her this time. "Officers, I was talking to her on the phone. I hung up, drove here, buzzed her, she answered, Bob yelled, she screamed, I got in, came up here, heard shouting. I heard Karen. She is in there."

"No, she isn't." Replied Bob.

"May we come in?"


"Bob, I have a key. That gives me permission to go in. Let the officers in."


"Officers, what if I go in while you hold him here?"

Bob turned white. "You let them in or I will, Bob." She said.

He lowered his head. One officer edged her towards the door, the other making sure he couldn't rush her as she entered. He didn't.

Inside the apartment she could smell coffee and burnt toast and smoke was beginning to rise from the stove, where Karen had been duct-taped to a chair, jeans and underwear removed, one hand taped to a spatula, duct tape over her mouth. She had been raped, Joan was certain. Whether she was alive or not remained to be seen. Hands shaking, she went to her daughter, draping a hand towel that was hanging from the stove oven door handle over her lap and she felt her pulse. Still alive. Weak, but it was there. She ripped the duct tape from her mouth and nose, saying softly in her ear, "I'm here darling, so are the police. You will be fine."

"Officers!" She yelled, "She's here and she's hurt!"

The officer holding him grabbed tighter as the other handcuffed him then began the notification that there was a situation here; while one took Bob down to the cruiser, the other joined Joan in the kitchen. "Thank you ma'am." He said, then called an ambulance.

Pictures were taken while waiting for the ambulance, and also a quick note taking of Joan's version the events. She wasn't allowed to do much for her daughter except to go to her bedroom and get something suitable to put on her that wouldn't destroy evidence. Underwear and sweat pants and socks - loose for all of them. She also packed a change of clothes for the hospital or her house or wherever.

She made a mental note to call the superintendent of the building to have them change the locks, and her lawyer to make sure that divorce proceedings were started as soon as possible, she'd give her the down payment on Monday. She needed to do this for her daughter before Karen got sucked into taking this horrible man back, and she would because she's been brainwashed by too many people to stay in a marriage for the sake of the institution of marriage. Joan wanted to take a picture of Karen (which she did, with her cell phone) and blow it up and post it with a very loud message saying, staying in marriage for the sake of stability of society creates monsters for spouses who think they can get away with just about anything, and kids who become as wounded and twisted as their wounded and twisted parent(s). The hypocrisy of those who get married on a whim and quit at the first fight and nobody blinks an eye but heaven forbid somebody swallows it all for years and then a straw breaks a camel's back, literally or figuratively, or the dollars squirreled away forever finally total enough to escape...well, these people are demons and home wreckers and what not, even if their philandering or brutish or drug addled or whatever spouse are what drove them to it.

Well, she'd lived the repercussion herself and it was now her daughter's turn. The first thing she would do is warn her against the church. Having been through this she knew some of them would a first be nice, a few just to find out the dirt, others to score brownie points with the blue haired church denizens and then in the end when she felt better and empowered she would find them mysteriously turning away or insinuating things or gossiping behind her back. Her secrets would be a well known thing among the "inner circle" of women who, for that short while would make her feel like she belonged and then would bar her. How she loathed that church, even now after all these years, the faces got older, recruited younger blue hairs and the church elite lives on. So yes, if church is that important to her spiritually, Joan would tell her daughter to be wise and start fresh somewhere else.

The ambulance came and she joined her daughter in the back, while Bob and the two policemen went back to the station. Another car with a woman police officer would join them at the hospital to take more pictures and attend to the rape kit and questioning.

As the horror of this sank in Joan knew there would be newspaper articles and news people at the doorstep and people calling on the phone and all it would go into great detail about the state of Karen's body and their relationship how could all this happen and Joan knew that in the mind of the public somehow the blame would fall on Karen.

A message was passed to Joan at the hospital; did she have a person to call for Bob? He was being uncooperative. Her response was, so am I. He can rot in hell.

God how she wanted this day to start over, and a huge weight sat on her chest, thinking that if she hadn't phoned this morning none of this would have happened, and while rationally she knew that only a bomb waiting to be detonated could possibly cause this much damage, why did she need to be the fuse? What if a psychic had told Karen something that sank in finally? What then?

Chapter 11

Donna spent her free time that morning (where there was some) phoning Immigration. Since Toduku had a valid working permit, his main thing would be to extend it. Problem was how to have it extended since he is an independent contractor traveling to shows. The best answer she figured would be to get the information on all the psychic fairs across Canada, not just this province, and get him to fill in applications; if he had enough for the next year or so, that would be perfect. She made a note of that in her book; there would be fees to pay, and Toduku would need to have health insurance. She just knew that visitor's health insurance would be expensive.

That being said though, maybe all he needed was a little time here, not forever. She and he together would need to do some serious meditating.

He first customer of the morning was an older woman, in her sixties, looking for answers to questions that shouldn't be asked. This woman's life was a misery and from what she could tell, she would soon be treated for a very serious illness. She tried to find a bright spot to give her, but there wasn't much. She warned her that she really needed to go see a doctor, it's always wise, and besides, shouldn't she get a flu shot? The lady wasn't pleased but what could she do? She wasn't going to lie to her.

The next two were tarot people, looking for a quick read for specific questions. Those she liked, her bread and butter basically, since they happened to be her least expensive offering, and also one of the fastest.

A giggling teenaged couple stopped to have their palms read. Was there anything about them being together forever? No because that's not the sort of information you get from palmistry. For that you need tarot. So, she was regaled with a litany of swear words, acquired she guessed in the last year or so. She could have told them that what she saw holding their hands to look at them were that that girlie here was going to get pregnant before she finished school, fellow was going to do something stupid and may not be around in ten years time. Not the kind of thing she wanted to repeat to such young kids. As they left still swearing over their shoulders, she sent them a blessing and some protective energy in the hope that maybe what she saw would not be their fate. The way they were acting though, she doubted that would have much effect.

There was a lonely man, and a happy middle aged mother hoping for grandchildren (the answer was yes), the ex-boyfriend hoping for reconciliation (nope), and several more tarot card sessions. Finally it was midafternoon, and she was able to go see Toduku and ask him information. Luckily his booth was empty. He waved her in. She asked for his working permit, curious to see how he did that. He said that as a NAFTA person he could come in for specific shows but it was easier to apply for 6 months. Yes! That worked. He was good for about five months so she told him he had to apply for provincial health insurance and while they are waiting, to have purchased health insurance. He made a note of that. She explained that they would need to serious think on whether he needed to stay or just be here for a couple of more shows.

He brightened at the thought of that. However pretty and interesting Canada seemed, and however kind and helpful Donna was being, is still wasn't his nice little place in Boston filled with twenty years of accumulated memories. It is hard to explain to a Canadian born person that while it is a very good country indeed, it just doesn't have the mystique the US does. It isn't easy getting into the land of the "give us your poor and your huddled masses" and they are quick to say "out you go". At the same time, it is all about freedom and living your life to its fullest potential. It was also the land where those wonderful movies are made and most often set, where the world bows down to you because you are that, and he wanted to say, "do you know what it is to dream in the darkest of night in a shack for a home, hoping against hope there will come a day that somehow you will see the shores of the USA.

Donna had a pretty good sense of what Toduku was thinking, and the stronger the pull of Boston, the stronger her sense of foreboding was. Maybe it was just the border crossing he would use. Who knew? But she did know that it was very likely little she could do to help him really, he was likely going to be shipped home at some point, and home for him wasn't what he left and that's where the true problem lay. Regardless, if he was put on a plane, this man wasn't coming back here, ever, and it wouldn't be from a choice of his.

She tried not to think about that as they talked about how he would do the past life regression. Should it be part of the show here or should it be private? Donna didn't know because up until now she hadn't been allowed to see. She just knew that it was now time.

"So, should this be like some sort of show for potential customers or should we just do this quietly later? I just feel like it should be now. How about you?"

Toduku smiled a gentle, inscrutable grin. "My girl," had said softly, "you are young, you are vibrant, you are beautiful. I do have some things to tell you. Where I say it, it doesn't matter to me, but what if what I say explains now? What then?"

His words had the tone of a door closing inside them; she gave him a quizzical look. "Only you and I know where I have been in my life; for potential customers if there is something juicy, well, that's entertainment value! I'll make a sign and direct people to come see. I've had a great day, lots of quickie tarots and things like that. We'll do it here unless it interferes with paying customers. Okay?"

"Very good." He said and started cleaning up his area, placing freshly charged crystals on the table and around his space. The energy change was palpable to Donna.

As she got up to go to make her sign for her booth she took his hand and said softly, "After Timmins you're going to try to go home, aren't you?"

"Yes, my dear, I am."

She gave his hand a squeeze. "I really wish you wouldn't."

"The something that is warning you about me, is the something that is telling me to go. Such is my karma, there is a reason why I feel I must, and so it should be then."

She nodded. "I'll miss you, you know." She whispered to him.

He laughed softly, his eyes dancing with joy. "Donna, don't be so quick to be saying good-bye. You only are seeing part of the whole. Don't count me out completely just yet."

"I won't." As she walked away she had this overwhelming desire to cry. He didn't say how he'd be coming back again.

As she walked back to her booth she collected herself. There were a couple of people standing around, looking at her literature. She asked them if they were interested in anything and they said they were just curious, so she told them she was just making a sign telling people that she would be undergoing a past life regression with Toduku, would they like to watch? No charge, just a little information thing since she had never had that done and had no idea what they would find.

The two brightened at that suggestion; she could tell they had very little money and a whole lot of curiosity. She picked up a printed list of suggested reading material and gave it to them. "Here, this is very good stuff to read and most libraries have them. I suggest you start with Celestine Prophecies."

"Thank you!" The young woman said.

Here was a person genuinely interested. She like that. She put up her little "Back in an hour" clock with the hands sign, and with cardboard and magic marker wrote on it, Go to Booth C16 - Toduku - To Watch a Past Life Regression! Free!

She set that beside the clock, double checked that everything important was locked up, and led the couple over to Toduku's booth. She gave them a couple of extra chairs Toduku had in his booth, set them up about five feet away from the table she and Toduku sat at. Toduku set up a tape recorder, and as he puttered around getting things ready other people began to crowd around.

He introduced himself and Donna to the crowd, explaining that this would be her first regression and that neither knew what, if anything, they would find. He went on to explain that most people have been around many lifetimes in many different eras and though there was some discussion on whether you never change your sex or not, his regressions pointed to the possibility that a soul could be either, that what you chose and your circumstances depends on what life lesson you are concentrating on this time around. He warned people that sometimes regressions get graphic, and sometimes they are not very nice especially if it is a situation in war time or a concentration camp for instance. Or sometimes they are kind of boring, being just scenes of things like favorite places such as floating on a river or walking down a special path. All are valid, just not as interesting as Shirley McLain's!

People laughed. He also told them his rates and gave a quick explanation of crystals and incense and candles. He made a point of stressing that all things are energy and that there is no bad energy in the sense that people think you light a candle made at a weird time of the moon or something, but how you direct the energy that already exists, and all people can do that it is not something magic or witchcraft or anything bad it is just what is; you find that in all churches and temples, it is all the same at the basic level - energy is energy after all. Remember that next time you are angry or frustrated because that energy you direct out is not good and some people feed on it and perpetuate it and that just isn't good. So, remember, good energy out to others, negative just let it go down to the earth through your feet.

A few seemed to understand what he was trying to convey, others had that silly smile of "oh sure". Didn't matter, he was onto to talking to Donna. He pulled out an I Ching coin on a red silk string. He explained he would be putting Donna in a trance and would people please be quiet while he does this.

He then had her follow the coin with her eyes, telling her that her eye lids were getting heavy and her limbs heavy also and when her eyes closed he told to do go deep down inside far far inside back through her life passing quickly over periods of time that were hurtful; he asked her a couple of times how old she was, when she said three in a small child's voice he then led her back through her birth, the pregnancy, and then before that where is just floating, he told her to go back to the time where she is most interested in going where her spirit wants to go, and then when she is there to describe it.

He waited a couple of minutes, watching her face intently. When it appeared that she was experiencing eye movement he asked her, where are you now dear?

She smiled. "I'm on the ocean, I'm sailing away."

He asked her some questions like what she was wearing, what her name was, where was she, the date, describe things around her...when she said she was a First Mate and her Captain was Franklin, Toduku told her to stay calm and remember that she is just looking back she isn't really there now, and then asked her to tell what was most important to her.

They were finding the North West Passage, she said, and they were going to do it! They had a good crew and a great ship and enough food for two years! They would be rich and famous and see the Orient, how he wanted to see the Orient! Her face changed as this young man (17 years of age the First Mate said) talked and the excitement turned to fear and he was feeling ill but he couldn't eat the food he wasn't high enough and people were getting sick and Franklin died and the First Mate didn't like the fellow who replaced him and they were out of food and it was cold and the ships were sunken and broken and oh no they now are eating the dead, he has to eat the dead, he doesn't want to eat the dead and everybody is crazy except him 'cause he wasn't allowed to eat the tinned meat only hard tack and they are drawing lots and oh dear God bless my soul my name has chosen and the pain, oh God the pain...

Tears streamed down Donna's face; people in the crowd were horrified and Toduku skillfully led her back from this dreaded place by asking her to envision a meadow and a happy peaceful place and reconcile her understanding that it is not the 19th century at this moment she is now somewhere else is she somewhere else? She answered the nice meadow with a stream running through it and she's happy, and he asked whether she wanted to wake up now and she said she did so he led her back to today and woke her up.

He asked if she remembered anything and she said no, but she knew she'd been crying, her face was wet. Toduku stopped the tape, handed it to her with a bow, and the crowd clapped. Toduku gave her a hug and told her to go to the washroom and wash her face then to go get some water and maybe some tea or coffee and a little something sweet. She kissed him on the cheek and thanked him.

As she walked away people were clamoring to see him; he was booking appointments for next week the week between the psychic fairs.

At the back of the crowd was Jason, who left work early with a headache, he said. Basically it was because he simply couldn't concentrate, and besides it was Saturday and he wanted to see this thing that led David and Toduku to get into a brawl.

He didn't talk to Toduku. He just wanted to see him in action and he had to admit to himself that this guy actually seem like the real thing. And that lady friend, she has a booth here he said? He'd have to find her for sure.

After the demonstration he decided to wander around and see what was there. There were sellers of incense and hemp clothes and diving sticks and book sellers and astrologers and tarot card readers and ear many things he hadn't really heard of before! As he did this he looked for Donna's booth (though he didn't know her name) and stopped in between for some hemp ice cream (he just had to try it!) and some environmentally friendly coffee. He was sure it was friendly but the way this stand made it wasn't, it was mud. Strong mud. Blech. Still, he drank it anyway.

When he found Donna's booth there was just a clock thing saying she'd be back in an hour, and that she was at Toduku's booth, so he stayed there reading her pamphlets and picking up and putting down stuff that looked interesting. The good stuff was behind locked glass doors in displays that were chained to the floor to rings they had in there (and he wondered, is that why they have those rings there? Weird).

Pamphlets in hand, he pulled up a chair and started reading while he waited.

Chapter 12

To say that Bob was being uncooperative is a definite understatement. In between bouts of sullen silence, he flew into rages strewn with assorted swear words, neither of which either helped his situation or did anything to change it. Police are used to behaviour like this; he needed psychiatric assessment for sure but first they needed his details. All they had were the details in his wallet and from their own notes. They had given him a pad of paper and a pen and asked him to write out what happened that morning. He refused. They asked him to tell them what happened. He let out a stream of cursing. They asked if there was anybody he wanted to call. He told them to go fuck themselves. They told him he should take advantage of these offers, the less cooperative he is, the harder they are on him. He said he wanted a lawyer. They offered to have him call a lawyer. He told them he didn't have any damned lawyer, he didn't do stuff like this normally, the bitch had it coming. The asked Joan. She told them he could rot in hell for all he cared.

So they put him in a cell, not far from where David and Jason and Toduku had been just a few hours earlier. They would let him calm down, get the information from the officer who was attending to the victim at the moment. The officers wrote up their notes and opened the file and continued on with their work for the day.

At the hospital, as Simon the convenience store man hovered on the twilight between life and death, and as doctors examined Karen and the attending officer took photos, Joan sat in the coffee shop sipping coffee and picking at some now cold eggs. She felt like crying and screaming and sleeping for a week, all at the same time. All she could think of was how much this hurt, her heart was literally aching for her daughter, she couldn't imagine the pain that poor child - no, woman - had been and was going through. And what if she hadn't come early enough? What if those officers hadn't shown up when they did? She wanted to strangle that man in lobby; how useless and selfish can a person be promising a person who obviously was serious that she needed the Police, I mean, damn, I gave them her name and address! She thought.

She poked at her eggs, took another sip of her coffee. A thought passed through her mind briefly, and that was, the man who told her he was phoning the police also knew there was a incident, saw them leave maybe and now everyone knew the place was empty. A very strong intuition burned in her gut. She just knew that at that very moment somebody was breaking into Karen's apartment. Just knew it!

Since cell phones weren't allowed in the hospital she couldn't call but as soon as this tepid coffee was drunk she'd go out to the smoking area and call 411 and get the superintendent's phone number, give him the head's up that this is what happened and that the locks had to be changed.

She needed to call David. The three of them had each a spare key to the other two's apartments so that there was always somebody available who could get in. She checked her watch. She thought he said he had to work to today, or was it just payday? She wasn't sure.

Another call to make. She was so confused right now. Did they say she was to come back in an hour or that they thought it would take an hour or that they would come get her in an hour or page her in an hour? Oh jeeze, her head felt like it wanted to explode with all that stuff he had in it!

She checked her watch. Twenty minutes watching her eggs get greasy and cold. She gulped down the remainder of the coffee, put the tray on the garbage after dumping the garbage, and went out to the smoking area.

Twenty years. She hadn't had a cigarette in twenty years but oh man, right now that cat pissed smell that permeated the area smelled so good! The smoldering butt that was in the ashtray looked very appealing indeed. She gave herself a mental shake. Joan, this is a hospital. That could be a patient's cigarette butt! She shouldn't be touching anything out here, not even the doorknobs to be honest.

She sat down on a bench in the sun, pulled out her cell phone and dialed David. This was going to be a long call but she figured it would make more sense if he called the apartment and went to make sure everything was secured.

By this time it was about 11:30 a.m. David had been sleeping for about two hours. Hearing the phone ring was not a pleasant surprize at all. So unpleasant, in fact, he just kept sleeping. Later on if he had heard the phone ring, he wouldn't have remembered it at all.

While the message was being left on his answering machine, David was dreaming of Sandie. Instead of the usual dream of her falling, this was a beautiful dream. There she was, all bright and healthy, smiling beside her ten speed bicycle, helmet in hand, and it was a gorgeous day for a bike ride. She beckoned him over, saying David, come ride with me, please come ride with me, it's so nice out today.

A part of his heart leapt at seeing her and hearing her voice! and just as quickly sunk when he realized that this had to be a dream, she is dead and buried and it was all his fault and he lost the one soul who truly understood him and in his dream he wanted to cry and to shout in anger and Sandie, she laughed that beautiful laughter that to him sounded like bells.

Oh silly, Sandie said. Odd, David thought in that dream way, her mouth isn't moving. But oh, it didn't matter, she is such a vision.

Well, are you coming or not?

Oh yes, my sweetheart, I would go with you anywhere, forever, if I could. Yes. I would.

Did she hear? He didn't know. She was humming as she hopped on her bicycle, and not looking back, waved him down the road she was going on. David just stood there. He had no bicycle. And what's more, a part of him would much rather watch her, the memory of her healthy and happy and full of life, pedaling down a beautiful path.

When she was gone he started walking. Birds were singing, a slight breeze cooled off the slightly hot day; he wondered when she would notice he wasn't right behind her, and whether she would turn around and come back. A part of him wondered if she could do that. He could here the sound of water flowing there had to be a river nearby. There was also the slightest fragrance of flowers, wild flowers several kinds all mixed together, a very summer smell. As he walked on the path he noticed that although is was a dirt path, he wasn't kicking up any dust. He guessed there had to have been rain recently, but not so recently or so long ago that footprints and tire tracks would show. That odd in-between time in the drying of dirt.

He smiled. That was the sort thing that drove Sandie crazy! Can't you just enjoy things without analyzing them to death she would say to him. Oh God, the pain of missing her is so very palpable to him! On top of the smile, tears started to form.

Yet, in his dream self, he wondered why he felt this way, like she was gone. She wasn't gone, she was just ahead of him.

Then, a glimmer of sunlight on something metal by a tree about 500 metres ahead. When he got there, he found a bicycle! I was old and not nearly so nice and definitely not a ten speed or any speed for that matter, and the tires looked a little flat, but that okay. He was sure it would work.

He got on and pedaled quite quickly for the first couple of kilometres, trying to catch up to Sandie, not quite sure if she would even think to stop or just keep going certain in the knowledge he would be behind her.

He thought about that. She seems to always be so sure of herself, so certain of things, yet how could she presume that all would be as she thought it should be? Especially if there's other people involved. You can never expect that people will always be one thing or do a certain thing a certain way.

He called out her name. No answer. In fact, there was no noise at all anymore. No birds, no river, no wind in the trees, no tires on the dirt road. Nothing. It was beginning to feel a little creepy in the void here, so he just kept pedaling, hoping that this would be just a short anomaly and soon he'd not only be hearing birds, but he'd also be seeing Sandie just in front, slightly sweaty and beaming a big beautiful smile.

Darling, he sent the words mentally to him, where are you? Where would you be?

At the edge of the horizon the colour seemed to be changing, turned blue, darker. Night would be coming soon. That colour at the cusp of day and twilight, is that indigo? The colour that isn't really because it is seen by so few? Is it blue or is it purple? Neither. It's both.

Cobalt blue was her favorite colour. He just remembered that. Then he thought: is. It IS her favorite colour. Again, there was a heaviness in his chest when he corrected his tense of verb.

Oh Sandie, Sandie, where are you? My dear lord, girl, where have you gone?

A little girl stepped out into his path; he swerved the bicycle, falling to the ground. She ran over to him, her long dress swishing against the dirt, still no sound and no dust being kicked up.

She reached out a hand for him, and he grabbed it. She helped him get up and just stood there watching as he brushed himself off.

He tried to speak but he couldn't open his mouth, he still had to just think. So he did. "Little girl, did you see a woman come by this way on a bicycle?"

She nodded yes.

"Was it long ago?"

She shook her head no.

"Did she keep going this way or did she go some other way? Do you know where this road goes?"

The girl looked at the ground, scraping a toe in the earth and leaving no trace. "This road goes on forever and a day. I don't know where it ends or even if it does. If I were you I'd turn around and go back."

"I can't," he replied. "That woman, she is someone close to me. I need to be near her, I need to find her again."

"If you stay on this road too long, you'll never find your way back you know."

"Of course I can. I just go and I'll end up where I started."

"The road once traveled is closed. Did you not know that?"

What? What did she mean by that? He looked back over his shoulder and

Nothing. There was absolutely nothing back there. No light no trees no road no nothing. It was truly frightening. He said to the girl, "Now what do I do? Where do I go? How do I get out of here?"

"That depends on which way you want to go. Do you want to follow that woman or do you want to go your own way?"

He didn't know there was more than one way. "Well, what happens if I go my own way?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "How would I know?"

"What if I follow Sandie?"

She shook her head slowly. "That is not a good thing, you would be keeping her here. She needs to follow her own road."

"And she isn't now? I don't see her, she must be following her own road."

"She's trying to but she keeps finding you and when you keep hoping that she will stay and be with you, that's she'll come back, it isn't good you know."

He thought about that for a moment. "So what if I don't want to lose her? Can't I think of her?"

"Honour her, treasure her, remember, just don't ask her to stay, don't tell her you want her to come back."

So now what was he to do? Stay trapped?

The girl answered, though it wasn't a thought directed to her. She said, "You are only trapped if you think you are. The cage is in your mind. Time to open the door don't you think?"

How. How the heck do you open a door in your head? None of this made any sense to him, and this talking was keeping him from finding Sandie.

The girl put her small hand in his, and looking into his eyes, said, "Stop following, stop searching, just put one step before the other and move forward. Don't try to follow somebody's else's track, it isn't your own, and don't look for things that are gone, they aren't anymore.
And now, neither am I."

She disappeared just as quickly as she had appeared. Now David was scared. All alone in this place with no way back, a very strong message not to follow Sandie but go on his own path but where the heck was his path, he's already here and why couldn't he follow Sandie? In his heart he had sworn that he would, he wasn't about to give up on that now even though distance was separating them.

Lonely. That's what he felt. Terribly terribly lonely. And in his dreaming heart he knew Sandie was definitely gone. What if she had been hunting him down and not him keeping her stuck like the little girl said? But then, if she had been stuck then so was he wasn't he? Both of them mired in what? Grief? No. Guilt.

His mind tried to conjure up Sandie's terrible last moments and for the first time since it happened, he couldn't. Something seemed to be blocking him. Then it occurred to him that maybe he didn't want to think of that moment any more. Was that the answer? To just not want to anymore?

A loud ringing interrupted his thoughts, and as it became more insistent, he gradually awakened. For the first time in two years it occurred to him, he hadn't had a nightmare. Weird dream, yes, but not a nightmare.

The answering machine picked up the message. David rubbed his eyes, yawned, stretched, looked over at the clock. 1:30 in the afternoon. He had a very urgent need to pee and a pounding head and incredibly dry mouth. He got up slowly, made his way to the bathroom, performed his ablutions. After that he had a long hot shower, complete with loofa and washing his hair the wash, rinse, and repeat way (he didn't think the repeat was really necessary). One aspirin and a tooth brushing plus the hot water got rid of the aching and the pounding head. Next, a coffee to chase the cobwebs away, a poached egg and toast to calm and fill the stomach and he'd be all set.

As he went to the kitchen, he glanced at the phone. His mother had phoned three times? On a Saturday morning? That just couldn't be good. Did she find out he was in jail overnight? He figured he should pick up the messages but he had to have a coffee first.

He knew he'd have to tell his mother about the night in jail at some point, he just hoped it wouldn't be today. But if it wasn't that, what would it be?

The phone rang again. This time it was the police. Crap. They wanted something else.

He picked up the phone. "Are you the brother-in-law of Karen Simpson?"

Yes, he is he told them.

"He has asked us to call you. He's in jail and needs a lawyer. He says he doesn't have one but he thinks you do. Do you have a lawyer to call?"

"Well, yes but not a criminal lawyer. What did he do?"

They asked if he was sitting down. He said he was. Then the told them the charges.

"Let the bastard find his own damn lawyer." He told them and hung up the phone.

His poor sister. That had to be what his mom was calling about. All things to be dealt with, but he needed some food first. He poured himself another cup of coffee, put on a small pan with water for the eggs, cut a couple of pieces of bread to put in the toaster.

Oh man, he thought, this was turning out to be one hell of a day, if you start at midnight. And really, it's only just begun.

Chapter 13

Bob was getting the distinct feeling that getting out of here was going to be more difficult that he thought at first. He couldn't understand really what all the fuss was about. Sure, the duct tape was a bit extreme but she is his wife and so he had the right to do stuff long as she wasn't bleeding of course. Bruises too he guessed. Maybe that was it. The bruising. Now if they were going to make any comment on how she was dressed when they entered the apartment, well, she had every right to be dressed however she wanted to be in her own home. They entered against his permission and he planned to take them down over that one. Never mind that bitch of a mother-in-law used a key. He is the apartment resident and he was standing right there and he told them not to go in. Inexcusable.

He needed a lawyer, but who. Only one phone call. Who does he call? Not Sherry certainly. That just wouldn't be good. Nobody must know about Sherry. Mind you, if they were looking for details on the last 24 hours she would probably come up in a phone log or something. Shit. Well, what can you do. He'd have left Karen if it weren't for the fact she'd bleed him dry in alimony. Ah what to do. Get out of here first. That bitch Joan, she will pay. That he would be sure of. It was her ass that belonged in this cell, not his and he'd be certain it would be.

He knew he made too much money for a social services lawyer. But who could he call that wouldn't totally ruin his reputation? Shitty domestic dispute. All she had to do was make his breakfast. Was that too much to ask? Yup. A lawyer, male lawyer would fix things. Who to call? He didn't want to put himself in a position to lose his job. Somebody who would have this information but not close enough or interested enough to bother spreading it around. Who?

While he wracked his brain for an answer to that one, the officers finished off their paperwork on this one for today; they needed the officer's information from the hospital. Their shift was nearly over and it they were off at lunch. So even if the brilliant Bob did indeed manage to dredge up a name to phone from the cesspool that was his mind, well, there wasn't much he could do about it.

Also at the same time a rather impatient Sherry who had just had her hair and nails done and was now calling Bob to find out if he wanted to go dancing or out to their favorite tavern for a game or two of pool and darts or something. Hard to say. All she knew was she didn't want to spend her Saturday night holed up in her apartment - again - and would ring him until he answered. She left three messages on his cell phone. She decided to call every hour until she got an answer. Too bad for him if she filled up his voice mail box. That was his punishment for not answering her.

Too bad for him indeed. Too bad for her too because she gave the police, and Karen, a whole lot of ammunition to work with and would lead to her baring her intimate life on the witness stand and which would also lead to the final straw with her own ex mother-in-law who was keeping her three year old grandson while her ex daughter-in-law "found herself". Apparently finding oneselves meant cavorting with violent criminals and to a young grandmother already angry with both her own son and his love of gambling and soft drugs, and the poor kid's mother off drinking all night and going out with married men, this is not the kind of example any kid needs.

So if there was any bright spot at all in this was that one little three year old boy who spent most of his time at grandmom's and who knew he had a mommy and daddy but the granmum was his real mommy really; well, he'd be staying all the time living instead visiting. Of course it would be another couple of years before it sinks in, and before it became official, but yes, one little guy actually would wind up the better for the pain everyone else suffered.

David wasn't going to totally abandon his brother-in-law. Nope. Not at all. He just wanted to make sure he got the very best of the type of care he should get. He thought he knew who just might be the one. He called Jason.

Work said he went home, was coming down with a cold. David had to try not to snicker at that one on the phone. That was nearly as good as the old joke about grandma's on the roof and she can't come down. After that he phoned his home. Answering machine. Left a message saying something to the effect of him being a sly bugger and he had a question for him that he needed answered quickly.

Then he called Jason's cellphone. Bingo. Got him. "Hey, there you are buddy. So sorry to hear about that tragic cold you're coming down with, somebody should lock you away till you get better. Where are you? I have a question for you."

He laughed. "And you sound like somebody that just got up out of bed. I'm at the Psychic Fair. While you were off in la-la-land last night I was talking to your friend Toduku, and he's very interesting. I thought I'd come here and I saw him doing a past life demonstration on this beautiful woman psychic, and now I'm at her booth waiting for her to finish lunch and give me a reading." He laughed again. "Yup, I've lost it."

This was just too much. No doubt the psychic he was waiting for was Donna. Well, no matter. Right now the main thing is that he get the phone number. "Okay, well, have fun. But what I'm calling about is that I need to know the name and phone that lawyer that your friend knows, you know that guy that was such a useless nit, so bad he lost that case and then was the laughing stock of the firm?"

"Oh yes, that's Edmund Torkenson. He's still around there, just not doing too many cases involving people. He does the routine crap mostly, you know, closings on houses and stuff, nothing he can't do too much damage on. Why?"

"Well, how would he like to put a toe in the water with the people again and he can do his damage and you know what? If he does do his damage, one hard assed prick of a husband who beat up on his wife won't get to walk this time, hey, he might even have to pay the time! You and I both know, they got the laws but how often do you really see a husband go to jail and stay there? How well do restraining orders really work? I mean, they're pieces of paper right?"

"Uh, yeah," Jason replied, "and are you going to tell me why you want to put this idiot on a real case like this? Who are the people?"

"I don't have all the details, I have to find that out next. But the police phoned me and it seems my brother-in-law beat up on my sister and now she's in the hospital. The guy's a jerk and a half, Jason. I don't want to see him just walk away from this and I know my sister, he has her all involved in the church and I know from growing up they try and force you to stay in bad situations because marriage is a sacred bond of hell sometimes and she's one of the lucky ones who won the lottery. He needs a criminal lawyer. Assault and battery? I'm not a lawyer but I want someone who will fuck this up royally. And do it legally. I'm also guessing he's pretty cheap and no doubt pretty available. What do you think?"

"Go for it. I'll have him call you or should he call the police station himself?"

"Oh, how about you give me his name, I'll call the station and say he's probably going to call. You call him, tell him to call the station in reference to Robert nickname Bob Simpson. Sound good?"

"Very good. I'll call you when it's a done deal. You call the station I sincerely doubt this guy would turn down a chance at some real meaty lawyer stuff eh?"

David laughed. "No doubt."

After he took all the details and hung up the phone he called the police station and gave them the lawyer's name. No, he still didn't want to talk to him, but he couldn't just sit there without legal assistance, he was going to need it. They thanked him and told him they'd keep him informed."

He was seriously tempted to tell them don't bother, but sometimes it's better to keep some bridges unburned. If he cut off all contact, then that also closed his in that may well keep him in jail for quite some time. Or at least away from his sister.

That done, he called his mother back. All he got was a cell phone announcement that caller was unavailable at the moment. She must have turned it off while in the hospital building itself. He'd had to just go down and see if he can find them. They could be gone by now but he doubted it. If she was bad enough to be in the hospital, she'd also have police statements and things to have done so this was likely to be an all day thing.

He opened the apartment door, peeking out first just to make sure the neighbour wasn't there. As he went down the elevator he thought that really, he should think about moving. He didn't think he wanted to be running into that guy every day. That would be another day though, today there was this.

To top it all off, as he walked outside to a clear blue sky and a bright sun, the kind of day that makes you feel good just to be out in it. It seemed a shame that all this going on today should happen on such a day like this.

No, it just didn't seem right.

Chapter 14

The truth about ghosts is that they do exist. Beyond that, what is truth and what is conjecture, well, it all depends on who you choose to speak with. There are many experts out there who really are sensitive enough to see that energy, or to hear it, or sense it. It isn't anything that extraordinary though. Everyone is born with these things, they just go dormant as people grow up and tales told of imaginary friends because silent secrets that fade away, and voices heard are the sound of the wind in the trees and that cold touch on the back of the hand is merely a draft from a gust of cool air through a not quite fully insulated light switch or something, and that candle flame that gusts up and down is a draft too. That rapping you hear? Air in the pipes, wood expanding, metal expanding, joints contracting, somebody at the door, woodpeckers on the newel post...

Normally that's exactly right. And sometimes, it's just somebody ghostly trying to get your attention.

What needs to be understood about ghosts in that they are energy. Pure energy. So are we. That spiritual energy transcends the body. Energy can be given off, it can be exchanged, it can transmit itself millions of miles away in an instance, and become an impression on things and stay there for ages. It all depends on how strongly the energy is transmitted or impressed upon something and it is usually as a result of high emotions. Sometimes these impressions are so strong that they play back, a little like a cosmic wav file caught on a loop, triggered by a footstep of somebody walking on a certain trigger point themselves carrying the right frequency of energy. You see? Simple.

Not so simple. We get filters we put up. Like sunglasses or camera lens filters, one of the first things to go is the vision of this energy as a communication mode between dimensions; later, it is the viewing of aura colours, and then of the auras themselves. It is easy to get these abilities back but then you need to ask yourself, do you really want this information? What good is it to hear from some spirit that knows that time is like ether it isn't linear and that they can warn but then who will listen? That's the problem. More often than not such information is painful, not helpful.

Same with trying to speak to those who are gone. If they try to come to you, it is easier for them to come in a dream. Sometimes it is more effective to try and come as a spirit but very very few ever have sufficient energy to actually show themselves like in the horror movies. They show up a cold spots and scents of their favorite perfume or things that turn on or off or tip over or things that rap all on their own and yes, candle flames that flare up. It takes a tremendous amount of energy for something that truly isn't meant to be fully here are here; it is okay to communicate as thought but physical, well, this isn't their dimension. Something needs to feed them energy. So here's where technology comes in. Powerful electrical lines and things like that, electrical storms, that sort of things give them energy. So do people giving off their own energy, normally through some powerful emotion, and that is why sometimes you can sense a loved one right after they die. Ghosts, in the form that you go into a castle or something you hear stories of things they do and maybe you can actually catch something out of the corner of your eye, these are beings that are grounded. To be grounded, spirits need to be held here by something.

That's where ghost hunters come in. Mediums and spiritualists, they all like to go to haunted places and try to communicate, find out who they are and why they are there. That's a bit dangerous though, because all around us is spiritual energy. You feed energy into the atmosphere and then ask for a spirit to show up, well, highly possible you will get something. You just may not like what you get, and it may like you so much it attaches to you. Then that's problem. Some things just cause trouble to generate energy, others just suck the energy of its host, others take over the person thanks to a tear in their aura. Or some people are just worn down or weak enough or silly enough to invite them in and they get in. Not good when that happens, not good at all.

There's a lot of reasons why people shouldn't be trying to get spirits of loved ones to talk to them; the main one though is that it keeps them here. They can become trapped (attached) and then long after the caller has gone, they are still there, attached to the building or the Ouija board or the table or the bed or the room or whatever. It doesn't mean people can't go to mediums who have the ability to receive messages from spirits and convey them. Consider these people like radio receivers and transmitters. They aren't grounding them, they are simply passing on a message.

If there is any lesson any one should know about spirit and energy is is that is surrounds you, so be careful who you let in your aura. Protect yourself by protecting your aura. Imagine a nice white shield around you, and the energy will be there. Any time you feel threatened or uneasy, remember your energy shield. You will be amazed how much better you feel. Try it on a crowded bus next time you're on public transit.

Energy exists and cannot be destroyed. Much as this is so, life itself which is energy transformed into matter and later when matter is gone it actually does give back the energy taken during decomposition or ---

"Hello, thanks for waiting! I hope you didn't die of boredom, it's just it's been a very busy day and I was starving." Donna said to Jason.

Jason put down the booklet he was reading. "Interesting stuff this."

"Thank you," she said, "I wrote that. Someday I plan a book, but for now, instructional material."

"Seriously, do, this was interesting. I look forward to reading the book."

She pushed the pamphlet back across the table to him. "Here, keep it. I'm only too happy to have someone read it. Not many people do. I see more of these in the garbage after every show. They cost about a dollar each to print. Pisses me off. So, very glad there's somebody who actually read it."

He took it and put it in his inside coat pocket. "I will read it and I hope to read more. Now one thing I have to say is that I have a situation here that will necessitate I take a call if my phone rings. I don't normally do stuff like that; it's rude. My friend asked me to do a favour and I'm hope this other person will call me back. He should so I will have to take it, but it won't be long."

"No problem. I'm easy. Now, would you like me to do a tape of your reading?"

He frowned. "No, I didn't think to bring one. What a good idea though."

"I have extras. Here, I'll do one."

He thanked her, and then she explained what she had to offer. There was a full reading that touches on a number of things, lasts about an hour and costs $80. Then there were lesser ones like just tarot, or palm reading, or tea leaf reading, the half hour relationship reading, a reading based on one specific question that provides a fair bit of details. Basically whatever he wanted.

He really didn't have it to blow this month but he picked the $80 one because he never had done anyone of this and maybe he could learn something. If not, he's spent an hour with a very pretty and quite different kind of lady. "Oh, tell me everything you've got. I've never had this done before so I think a full reading is warranted, don't you?"

"Well, yes, okay. Let's start with a palm reading." And so she started his reading.

It was interrupted just as she started, but in both their minds that was great, they weren't too deep into anything.

As Jason suspected, Edmund was only too happy to accept this case, believing that it was due to the fact the guy couldn't afford a lot and didn't know anyone and he seemed to be the only available lawyer he knew that would fit the bill and it would be just great if he could start right away, the guy is in jail right now not talking to anybody and not cooperating. No problem was Edmund's reply, he'd call the station right now.

Jason called David's cellphone. It was off so he left a message there, and then called his apartment. No answer there either so he figured David was probably at the hospital right now and left another message there.

Now nobody could have suspected that Edmund had been lying in wait for months, after thoroughly studying several more precedents and assorted law books and completely dissected everything that went wrong in his disastrous case, and just waiting to be given a chance. Never mind that he didn't take into account that what the problem was basically a personality flaw in that he could just spout out all manner of stuff some of it which would relate to the events at hand, and sometimes, unfortunately, information that was meant to be confidential. Basically, he just loved to hear his own voice was all, as his mother used to say.

The officer taking the call and adding the lawyer's name thought for a bit. The name was familiar, but he wasn't one of the usual lawyers here. Why this name? And then he remembered. He had a little inward laugh, though he wasn't one of the officers who had arrested Bob, and he was only just the next shift person, but he had just spoken to Bob and Bob's attitude left a lot to be desired. So yes, he did have an inward smile over this one. This guy's brother-in-law really knew what he was doing. Good for him, he thought.

What a nice man, Donna thought, sensing his aura and reading his palm. He seemed surrounded by beautiful blue colour - not indigo or crystal, no, blue - and that's still very very nice. He seemed to exude a nice feeling of calm, but he certainly was no dummy, nor a push over either. This was turning to be a really nice reading. She could tell right away there was darn stains no tears no knives of pain, none of that. She didn't sense that he had any urgent questions either, he really was just genuinely curious.

She wanted to tell him, you know, you just made my day but she didn't. She just took a little longer holding these gentle hands.

Chapter 15

By three p.m. Joan was still waiting, still trying to get information as was in the hospital drug store buying herself from nicotine gum before she chewed her fingers off, and this while David was in the lobby wandering around trying to find her. Finally he did see her coming out of the drug store and she told him they would be here a while so come with her to the coffee shop and have a coffee.

Joan was actually reading to bounce off the walls and the ceiling with all the coffee she'd had today but she was at the point now that if she stopped she'd crash and she just couldn't do that. Still, maybe a diet cola with the gum would be enough. She'd try that.

David got a coffee, complaining this was such a wild day, he was a few quarts low; Joan laughed no he wasn't she drank it for him.

She popped a nicotine gum in her mouth, offered him one. He looked at the sheet she offered and asked what the heck? Didn't you quit smoking ten years ago? Yes, something like that she told him but when the smoldering butts in a hospital ashtray in the back yard there looked good it really was time for something like this.

He couldn't argue with that one. He took a piece and put it in his pocket. He explained that he'd just hang on in case he needed it.

She warned him when she told him what happened he might very well want it. At the end of the explanation David was so furious he didn't know what to say. He did manage to tell her that he had found for Bob the world's worst lawyer so he hoped that justice would be served.

When he told his mother that, she grabbed his hands and thanked him. Truly brilliant, was her exact words.

This whole thing just stunk. He couldn't get over how a little more than 36 hours ago everything was just normal and boring. What the heck happened? Everybody was going through the wringer and why? What was different?

"When can we see Karen?" He asked.

She said she was about to go back to Emergency and see what the status was. She offered to sit with Karen through all of this but she wanted as few people as possible around; she was just tired and sore and deeply, deeply hurt. Karen knew that her husband was really a pretty bad one as husbands go, but who would have suspected that he would just lose it like that?

As she lay there waiting for the police to come and take her statement, in her quiet bed in the Emergency all around she heard the various sounds of pain; somebody was in early labour and they were waiting for an obstetric consult, and then there was the boy in the bed three curtains down that was screaming and crying and from what she could tell she he had a broken leg; somebody else was complaining about a sore stomach but they weren't screaming or anything they were just complaining; the one right next to her was a mother with her young daughter who seemed to have a very high fever. With the mother was an older baby and the poor thing was crying and the mother was telling him, shh, shh baby we'll get you some juice or something sometime and she asked a passing nurse if there was anywhere at all she could rinse out his bottle and fill it with juice until she could bring him home, it's been four hours, his diaper is horrible and it's the last one in the bag and when she ran here with daughter she never thought to check and now there's no crackers or anything for the poor little guy and she can't find his father. The nurse just said "sorry" and kept going.

Karen thought about that situation for a moment. Young children always seem like so much luggage and carting around of things and not having had a child herself yet (yet? the word caught in her throat as a silent ache, probably ever) the intricacies of them she simply hadn't considered. Bob had always said someday on the children but there was always some reason why they couldn't. Friends and even her mom had told her that with children there is always a good reason why not to have one right now. If you truly want to have a child you just go for it and somehow, things will work out.

With Bob though, she just didn't dare do that. She never could tell what his reaction would be most of the time. He could have some pretty crazy ways of resolving his problems, and for an unwanted baby he may well have demanded she have an abortion or something. She just never knew. Or, he'd go so far the other way she wouldn't be allowed to take any tests in case they hurt the baby or an epidural or anything.

In her darkest hours she would try and remember what it was that was so special about him, enough that she would want to marry him. The problem was, when she married him he really wasn't so bad. He was a gentleman, rare in this day and age, and though he wasn't the most exciting person he was a good man to talk to and it was always so comforting when he held her hand or on that rare occasion, even put an arm around her. The other fellows she'd gone out with, they seemed so juvenile or just interested in grabbing at her, or worse, getting close to her to get closer to a friend of hers. She had to face it, she just wasn't that great looking and that meant that she got the plain-Jane worthy boyfriends.

She wondered if things were different now, fifteen years later. Ten years of marriage is a long long time. Sometimes it felt like a lifetime. (In the back of her mind was the thought: and sometimes I wished this lifetime would just be over. Just as quickly as that horrible thought emerged she hushed it.)

At times like this is was really hard not to wonder what the point of it all was. She grew up with fighting parents and dark screaming nights, and she lived with the stigma of broken parents and she never could decided which was worse, the sad disgusted looks of people who knew them, the parents who refused to let her play with their kids once she had taken them home once or twice, or the church people who insisted that they pray themselves till their knees bleed to get salvation. Problem was, she was only a kid. She did what she was told though, because the church people told them her mother wasn't following God's wishes and that she had to follow them for her. She wasn't allowed to question. They would get nearly hysterical if she disagreed with them in her weekly "counseling" sessions. Her mother calls them the blue-haired cotillion and she warned Karen always to take their advice with a bolder of salt, but it was comforting to know that they were there, and they were speaking from an angle of faith.

Her mother's leaving the church was a hard thing for Karen. For her it meant a little of sneaking around not to let her mother know that she did feel this way; after she left home though it wasn't an issue, and in university you find all types of people. For her it meant finding people who enjoyed attending church and discussing spiritual matters. The church group at her university was great, no blue-haired ladies here but there were a small group of girls who took it upon themselves to run the whole show and would quite loudly complain if their decision about how things would be run was contravened. She didn't have too much respect for the minister who didn't have the gumption to tell them that nobody else wanted that way; on the other hand if she stayed out of the politics and the how of things she could enjoy it the services and the special events very much. She liked the sense of community very much.

It was at one of their events, a barbeque, that she met Bob. He's not a church goer but their barbeques were known for being tasty and free, magic words to a university student. Bob was just your basic accounting student type. Not wild and crazy like the engineers and forestry people, not wrapped in their own strange worlds like the sciences students, and not arsty-fartsy like the Arts majors. Drama people kept to themselves. She always wondered why the drama students, so out there being on stage and the like, yet they never seemed to be seen at social things. Well, not the social things she went to. Guess that was the difference. She wasn't in the crowd that would invite her to things that involved drama students. Oh and the athletes. They were their own strata too. They also were in the upper echelon circles and so certainly they would.

Oh how her mouth hurt. Pulling off the duct tape ripped the skin off her lips and no doubt she had red rectangular strips across the button of her face. The rape kit testing thing was humiliating; not as humiliating as it could have been had her mother not found her first and covered her up. She was so thankful to her mom for that. And for being there in the first place. Then she thought, but she was the one who phoned that early on the morning after that not so good night. How could her mother know that Bob would likely be in a mood but still, if she hadn't phoned...

She mentally told herself to stop it. Logically she knew that this would have happened sometime - yes, it was her fault. She knew the rules. Why the heck did she choose to not follow his rules? It wasn't that hard. Make him breakfast. What good wife doesn't? She was foolish to just want to up and leave like that.

She knew Bob had been taken away to jail after that. Though she really wasn't hurt any more than her pride and skin rash from the tape being pulled off; oh yes, also a bruise or two, he really didn't belong in jail. Had she done as he asked this wouldn't have been necessary. After this event though, she was terrified inwardly of how he would react once they realized it was nothing and released him. She'd have to sneak away to see her mom, that much she could figure out. She wouldn't be allowed to phone, and wouldn't be allowed to give her a key when they change the locks. Knowing him, he might even decide they need to move. He did that once before after a nosey neighbour got to be too much. Then she thought about the way her husband smelled last night after he came home not expecting her to be up. Maybe they wouldn't be moving.

She should be angry, thought. She should be jealous. She should be telling him how dare he. She wouldn't. She couldn't. She didn't feel anything. If she felt a glimmer of something, that something was the sense of numbness.

The nurse asked if she would like to talk to her mother. Oh, and her brother is here. May they come in?

She asked the nurse, where's the police officer who wants to take my statement?

"She'll be here shortly she's just writing up the doctor's report".

"Let me talk to the police officer first, then I'll talk to them. No point bringing them in if they'll just have to leave right away. Oh and nurse?" She said, "Could somebody please tell me how my husband is? I heard he was taken to the police station and it's really just a big misunderstanding."

Nurse shot her faint and quick alarmed look, followed by the usual face of concern. "That will have to be a matter for you to discuss with the police officer. I'll see if I can get her to come and see you now."

"Oh and nurse?"


"Can I go home after this?"

She thought, are you kidding me? Her answer was though, "That would be up to the doctor, but you know Karen, you might be feeling fine now but the shock of all this will hit you later. I think if you don't have to stay you'd be well off staying with a friend or relative. Just to make sure you don't start having an anxiety attack or something. It happens."

What is the matter with people these days? Karen wondered. Can't they face a bit of an argument and some tape?

It wasn't too long before the police officer came in a reintroduced herself. She had been present for the examination taking notes.

She explained that she needed a step by step of the series of events leading up to her being found by her mother. She did tell her series events being careful to word things so they weren't too easily misinterpreted. She didn't want to anger Bob. This is one of the techniques she'd been taught for dealing with a bad situation; how to deflect the damage and not get them angry in the first place. It mostly consisted of not blowing the paycheques and not doing something she knew for sure would anger him. How she worded this, that would be really important.

As she was talking though, the officer kept asking her questions, she'd lose her train of thought, and then when she described how he had made love to her insisting she needed to remember being a wife and doing all of her duties one of which was this, the officer took a great deal of notes asking for more and more description. She did the same with the chair and the spatula and how did he get the duct tape on her, did she resist, what was the reason for the spatula, who turned on the stove, it got to be so many questions she didn't think she just answered and there were so many so couldn't possibly remember them all. Then the officer told her there would be someone from the rape crisis centre getting in touch with her and Karen said, "What? The rape crisis centre? Why?"

The officer leaned over and put a hand on hers, and looking her in the eye she asked, "Whose idea was it to have sex on the floor? Who idea was it to tear off your clothes when you were going out with your mother? Whose idea was it to tape you to a chair and duct tape your mouth?"

"Bob's," she said quietly, "but I'm his wife, he wanted to make love, that's fine by me."

The officer pursed her lips a little. "Answer me this then. Did he put the duct tape on your mouth before or after?"

"I forget." Karen mumbled.

"According to your statement it was before. Just after he grabbed your hand from the intercom. He grabbed your hand, pulled you in the kitchen, held you so tight you were crying and telling him to stop,"

"I never said that!" Karen exclaimed.

"There were witnesses. You were yelling and crying very loudly at one point." The officer continued, "And then he taped you up, mouth first, then hands. He threw you to the floor, you have scrapes on your back where you hit the edge of the doorway. Your head hit the floor. That's why you have a headache. You may have a concussion. The literally tore your clothes off and assaulted you. From the lacerations I'm thinking it wasn't just himself there were also kitchen implements, were there not?"

Karen started crying. "But it's not rape if you're married. There's no harm if you're into be being a little rough sometimes isn't it?"

"This is not playing it a little rough dear. Tell me you like being treated like that! Tell me you enjoy being thrown to the floor and being taped to a chair. Any time you are forced to have relations against your will, that is rape. This isn't love Karen. This isn't affection. It is all about and power and intimidation and punishment. That is very serious."

"But you can't press charges against your husband for things like that!"

"You most certainly can and there will be charges anyway because it is against the law to assault someone, wife or not. Ma'am, I'd strongly suggest you go home and pack up your things while he is in jail. Get everything truly important and go somewhere safe." She passed her a card with an address and a phone number. "This is a women's shelter. Go there. Whatever you do, don't divulge this address or phone number to anyone who would pass it to your husband."

He handed it back to her. "Thank you, but I won't be needing this."

"Pardon me?"

"I won't be pressing charges. Things got a little crazy, yes, but it was my fault and I'll take responsibility for it. I have faith in my God and in my husband and I am sure all of this will come around. Maybe we need some marriage counseling and it's my fault again for leaving it go this far before doing that. I'll call as soon as I get home. When do you think he'll get out?"

"Karen, I am very serious. I see situations like this all the time, it is my job to deal with domestic disputes, and they very often end badly. Please believe me when I tell you that while it is good to have faith in God and all that, remember, God helps those who help themselves. He doesn't expect you to be a lamb to the slaughter waiting for him to intervene. His intervention may come in the fact that you now have an open door. Please, for your safety, take it. Getting counseling you definitely should get because people who are in abusive relationships tend to get all sorts of coping skills that include doing whatever to pretend everything is fine and it's all your fault and you deserve what you get. Karen listen to me, you don't! Nobody deserves that!"

Karen turned red, angry and sad and trying not to cry. To make matters worse the pain medication was wearing off and her headache was coming back and she was starting to get sleepy.

"I made a vow unto God and my fellow man that I would honour and obey my husband until death do us part. It's become a throwaway thing the last few years but I take my vows and my beliefs seriously. I don't presume to like the hand that God just dealt me, but I know if I pray to him I will get the answer. I am not my mother, bailing when the going gets tough. I believe that marriage is a sacrament and I will do my utmost to be the one who does honour that. There will be no divorces for me."

The officer took a deep breath. "I will say it one more time. I do tell you to reconsider, for your own safety. It is not unusual for these types of assaults to escalate and I am sorry to say, women die. Do you understand that? They die. This is your life I'm talking about. You need to speak to a professional before you just say that everything will be fine. Remember what I said, God doesn't expect you to be a victim. Your husband is also meant to honour you and that means not harming you, mentally or physically."

"Oh but he doesn't normally do this, he really just lost it this time. Normally he just yells."

"You do understand that when you have somebody humiliating you, when they are yelling at you and belittling you and making you feel uncomfortable or less than acceptable, that's abuse. Plain and simple. You must get somebody professional to talk to you and help you sort out what is reasonable for a partnership and what isn't. Even total silence can be a weapon. Relationships should be uplifting not hurtful. Everyone goes through rough patches but an ongoing pattern of this means that there is a serious problem here. Ma'am, that's not going to go away on its own."

Well, the joke's on her, thought Karen. He steadfastly refuses to go to counseling. He wouldn't let her go either.

The nurse came in. "The doctor will be seeing you now. Are you finished now?"

The officer said yes and thanked her. She motioned her to speak with her in the hallway. Karen knew that the doctor would be informed of her wish to stay with her husband and she would have all sorts of notes about being uncooperative or something. Well so be it. As she told the officer, she had her faith and she was going to follow it!

The doctor came in and explained that there was some bruising, a few scratches and quite possibly a concussion and so would have to stay for observation. Given the circumstances it wouldn't be the best of ideas to release her right now. Then she asked if she was on birth control, Karen told her no they used what he could control and when asked if he used anything this time she didn't think so, the doctor said they did do swabs for sexually transmitted diseases and would she like the morning after pill?

Karen was horrified. The morning after pill? Could that be possible? To be pregnant? Because of that? A quiet inner peace came over her. Of course. That was how she would be a mother! This is the beginning of the happier times!

No, no need for a morning after pill. They are a married couple after all. She then said, but please, would you give me something for this headache? And I'm really tired. Can I just sleep for a bit before there's more questions?

The doctor checked her eyes, made her notes and told her somebody would be coming by with something for the headache but unfortunately she wouldn't be allowed to sleep, that is one sign of a concussion.

As she was leaving she said that tomorrow if things were looking better physically she would be sending in a psychologist.

Tomorrow. It would be at least a day before she'd go home then. She hoped somebody remembered to turn off the stove.

Simon, the grocer, two floors up in intensive care, sighed heavily, shuddered and stopped breathing. There was no one there with him, but the nurse who heard the alarm on the heart monitor checked.

The robbery had now turned into a homicide.

It was also about this time that Edmund Torkenson was shaking hands with a smug Bob Simpson who was greeting him with a cheery, "Well it's about fucking time you got here."

Chapter 16

When Sandie was alive she prided herself on her physical fitness. She loved to bicycle down long country roads full of trees and farms and by lakes; in the winter she would cross country ski for the same reason. Oh, she did go down hill skiing but that just wasn't the same. And anybody who tells you cross country skiing is slow poking on trails really hasn't tried it. She did skate but that wasn't really her forte; she just didn't have the right kind of leg to build up and speed and never could figure out even those silly picks on the end of the girl's figure skates. She would have them ground off before the manufacturers clued in and started making them that way for the many women who could care less about skating figure eights and twirling on their toes.

It was a surprize really, that she would ever be attracted to a man like David. Her mom called his type milquetoast, in a word, boring. David was special though, she saw beyond her pretty face and physique. Her liked her mind and her opinions and supported her dreams. Most of her growing up had been trophy girlfriend on the arm of whatever assorted jock thought she fit right and it wasn't until university that she was able to move beyond that somewhat and work on her biology degree without too many dumb "oh, you want to be a scientist?" remarks.

Maybe she had taken a left turn at Albuquerque saying yes when David asked her on a date, a real date, but they had been friends for a couple of years and they just clicked. By this time she had moved beyond the shallow boy-girl hormone looks induced pairings to who are we really?

If Sandie had a main fault it was that she really didn't much have a plan. She knew she liked her hobbies of solitary sports and reading and going to decent restaurants once in a while. She didn't like the whole makeup, suits, perfect hair and all that stuff that so many women do. To her it was a case of playing dollie and not really something she liked when she was small. She was the girl swinging from the tree branches and diving into cold rivers with the boys. Tea sets and little dolls with harlot figures just didn't appeal to her. It was so much more fun riding her bike and pretending it was a horse and the street was going down feet off the pedals, driving by pure momentum and gravity, she she was the horseback rider (bareback of course) riding these grassy plains of her imagination.

She was never meant to be trapped in a beehive as her favourite aunt called high-rise buildings. This was true. She loved dogs and cats and birds and fish and frogs and salamanders and anything breathing and crawling or walking or slithering or what have you, she was the family collector of strays and keeper of things fallen from nests and abandoned.

Biology fascinated her. Her dad thought she'd make a great nurse. Her mom thought she'd make a great veterinarian. Sandie thought she'd make a great herself, and didn't want to be either, however fascinating the various intricacies of life forms are.

Why then, she wondered, was she relegated so soon to the spirit realm. To add insult to injury (literally!) she seemed to be stuck here and she didn't quite know why. She wasn't adverse to leaving, if she saw the light she'd go there. She just wasn't sure why she hadn't seen the light. Was she too early? What?

To make matters worse, she wasn't a churchie person and David's experiences had been so bad he bailed so that left really just her own personal beliefs in the wind, the moon and the stars and the bond between all living things. She believed in reincarnation, and at the moment she was awfully glad that she had believed in life after death. This would have been a pretty hard lesson wouldn't it? But was this what her friend Maria called purgatory? If so, what was she purging and why was she waiting? It's like being on standby.

There's a strange thing being a spirit gives you. An incredible sense of peace, of timelessness, freedom, at the same time it was a little sad but not sad in the way she would have felt before she died. People were missing her. She missed them but knew being here that life is an instance, a dimension really, and after it is Spirit and this dimension and seeing the living as though they are underwater. The lifeplane is a heavy place to be and so much going on.

When she first crossed over, it was so sudden she didn't realize she was dead. She stood there, yelling at David to come get her didn't he see she fell down the cliff? Then she was angry because how come he couldn't hold on? It wasn't until she looked down and couldn't see her feet, and then she put a hand on the cliff face and it passed right through the wall.

The she realized she was floating. Looking around she did see David, there by this long lump on the ground, yelling her name and for some reason she couldn't she her own body but she knew. She knew it was herself and then the shock settled in.

Now here is where she gets confused. She always believed that when somebody dies, they would be surrounded by family and a big white light and some sort of tunnel or something like has been described in numerous books. Norman Vincent Peale. That sort of thing. She had, until that very moment, believed that no matter what we were here for a set period of time and that's when you'd go. Long gone relatives and friends rejoiced and songs were sung and that was that.

Should there not have been a guardian angel, something? Anything at all? David was screaming and crying and grabbing her into his arms, rocking her, calling out her name but it was no good. She was gone. She went to him, put her hand and his shoulder and just as soon as she touched him, pulled her hand away.

The strength of the vibration of his emotions was terrifying. She wished she was in her apartment and then as soon as the thought was created, there she was! She wandered aimlessly around her apartment. She wasn't strong enough to turn on lights or anything like that. At this point she wasn't much more than and vibration and not nearly strong enough to do anything on the physical plane. It's odd the things you think. She heard the phone ringing; it sounded far far away but she knew it was her phone. She was intrigued by the discovery that all living things give off energy. She was transfixed by one of her houseplants for who knew how long? It was giving her energy and making her stronger. No wonder walking into greenhouses always felt so good!

She felt like a child in the sense that she was discovering the world all over again, and how amazing it really is. Colours, when not filtered through atmosphere are so brilliant they cannot be captured by humans though sometimes a human can dream of such colours. And she discovered that emotions were palpable, and colourful too. That human beings were indeed vessels for the spirit and the spirit showed itself not only in auras that surround the body, but in every single thing they do and say, every movement, everything they think, everything they create all of it is spirit. And spirit well, it's energy.

How strange to never to feel tired, how odd that time has no real meaning, how sad in a semantic way to look on those she loved, no loves, and be caught behind an invisible wall that she can see them, she can call out to them, but it seemed no matter how hard she tried nobody heard her.

She knew that David was clinging to her memory so desperately it was a physical hurt for him. As he laying sleeping most nights at first she would whisper in his ear, take care honey, please be happy, please get over the loss. Over time she did that less and less because time really didn't mean anything to her, she was able to explore galaxies and under the ocean and foreign lands and pretty much anything she wanted and she was so happy and life for the living went on.

Yes, she did go to her own funeral, she did listen to the words the people said, she did ache for the tears and laugh at the memories and touch a shoulder or a cheek or two and it meant so much to her that one little niece all of five years old left a toy cell phone in her coffin so that if she wanted to talk with her, all she'd have to do was call.

The odd thing was, of all the things that bothered her the fact that the little plant who gave her energy on that very first day was left to die in its pot and then tossed down the garbage chute like so much a clump of dirt in a plastic container and that was so very wrong. As it went down chute she mentally blessed the plant that what energy remained in its roots in the garbage place where it went would somewhere grow strong and begin again. Unfortunately, the end of the chute was an incinerator, but as she knew all life is indeed energy and burned, well, dead wood, leaves, etc., it goes to heat and it goes to the atmosphere and of course energy never dies. It transmutes into something else.

That was turning out to be the thing that truly fascinated her the most. The whole universe and all the dimensions are grids, fluid grids of energy, every single thing that is a life form is energy! Even things that are not suspected to be alive really are, in a way, because of energy. Even the slowest of rocks have atoms swirling and molecules clinging together and though for a rock time is indeed very very long in its own rocklike way it too is alive. Who says things that have flesh and consume are more alive than things that just are? Hmmm. This was conundrum Sandie was contemplating when David went to a psychic and suddenly eyeballs were looking at her and she could feel the questions being asked and okay, she answered.

Then there was the one who saw her all the time. He bothered her somewhat because he himself was on the line between the realms of life and death and he knew it. He knows his powers, he is wise, but he angered her because he forced his knowledge on David and that just wasn't right. If David never figured any of this out, well, maybe next life time or the one after. People are so clingy to their lives she thought but then so was she. Oh dear God, so was she.

So where was her guardian angel? Where was her spirit guide? What was keeping her here?
Was it her? Was it David? Something or someone else? It bothered her. Not so much that she would call out and await an answer, no, she was still having fun exploring but she did wonder what was beyond this, she did wonder what would happen next. Was this heaven? Was this hell? Purgatory?

One thing she was truly beginning to believe was that hell existed on earth. Hell is what people do to each other, hell is what people do to themselves, hell is because for every good thing the balance of the universe asks for something dark. It is unfortunate that the dark lately is so much more than the light. And to make matters worse, dark feeds on things so while light must be given, darkness devours. How truly sad when darkness masquerades as light so that people will give and give and feed the darkness.

When you die, and all of the ashkenashi records of the universe (or, as Douglas Adams said, life, the universe and everything) are there for the reading. How truly astounding to see what is the truth for questions, even for questions not yet asked.

Perhaps that is why the dead can never really be among the living. They can toss a few parlour tricks, and can speak in dreams and whispers in the night, but they know too much. They just can't be that open, they don't have the words.

And so it was that Sandie, on checking up on David and seeing Karen in hospital and Joan all there together and wrapped up in their worlds that she saw a older man standing in the corner of Karen's room. She went to him and in their spirit way, exchanged the knowledge of who they were and their place and then they chose to leave together for a little while, for Sandie to explain to Simon what little she knew. Simon decided while watching Karen in bed (for he had been drawn to her familiar aura after he died) that she needed an extra guardian angel. One who had all the time necessary to first help her find herself and then to help her find her way. Pretty thing, too bad she was so wrapped up in all of this stuff. For Simon his passing was a good thing, he was tired, he was old, he honestly dreamt of the day he wouldn't be heating eggs on a burner or cooking a tin of soup with a piece of toast and he wished that his children, so far away had remembered to see that maybe his old da was okay but then isn't that life that they lived what he wanted? It was.

So. Karen sleeping, David and Joan thinking of someone other than themselves, the two spirits hovering decided to travel and visit some people, oh perhaps the jail. Simon didn't want to see the people who did this to him walk, Sandie felt so bad for Karen she also didn't want to see Bob walk. They went to the jail to get an understanding of what was going on.

At first glance at Bob, they knew it wasn't pretty.

Chapter 17

If anyone had ever told Jason that he would spend his Saturday not at work but discussing all sorts of things like ectoplasm and auras with a girl with long black hair and sapphire blue eyes and dreamcatcher earrings he would have laughed at them. He usually liked the intellectual type; but not the shaggy professor type but the kind that wore their hair short and styled and wore suits he thought about this he realised he was a bit off thinking that type of person was his ideal when he was well known to be found hanging out in bars after work playing darts with the old vets at the Legion. That when he wasn't bending an elbow with David working on their plan to be their own men with their own company.

Okay, maybe he'd been elbow bending a bit much lately. So had David. Last night was a good wake up call. For heaven's sake, they weren't university students anymore, they were in their early thirties and just because most people were married and they weren't was no excuse for brawls in hallways. This growing old stuff was getting to be a bit of drag. Who knew he'd be mentally lecturing himself like this? Ten years ago he would have laughed.

Oh but now Donna was holding one hand in hers, a finger tracing a line and his head was swirling. The booth smelled of sage and sweetgrass burning; the crystals around the table really did seems to be giving off some sort of energy he could almost feel it, but more than that his head was swimming with the subtle scent of her, beautiful. As she talked he followed the line that ran from the nape of her neck up to her jaw, her mouth, cheekbones, ears...he yearned to kiss that ear and gently kiss down that line then hold her close, bury his face in her hair and just breathe.

He wasn't listening to a word she was saying. Every so often she would use an inflection that suggested she was looking for an affirmative remark and then he would nod quickly again, pretending to be interested in what she was saying rather than her body. It didn't help that with the long flowing empire waist dress she was wearing had the top of her breasts showing when she leaned forward. Her necklace with its cobalt blue clear glass beads bounced against her upper chest and the little bead of sweat that rested in the cusp of her collarbone was driving him wild.

She let go of his hand, probably none too soon, and asked him if he had any questions. He shook his head and she giggled. "Your aura has changed a little Jason," she told him.

"How so?"

"Well, there's a little bit of a certain shade of green there." She giggled again. "It's cute."

He just shook his head in confusion. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"A person's aura is pretty much who you are but at the edges it shows current things like how you are physically, if you're angry or worried or happy or um, desiring, ah, you know."

He blushed deep red. "Oh my God, you must be a dangerous person to bring to a bar, the things you must see."

"I try to stay out of bars myself, there are too many strong impressions and it's not unusual for them to be haunted. Dark dark energy loves places like that."

"Okay. But if I were to ask you to come for drink with me after this, would you brave the darkness?"

It was her turn to blush. "We haven't finished your reading there, Sir. What if I find out you're a psychopath or something?"

He laughed. "I don't have the patience to be a psychopath."

"You'd have to understand that I wouldn't be there to be an evening long psychic reading. I have to decompress and just be human just like you do after work. I need to put up my shields when I'm not reading."

"Uh, sure, I'm not exactly sure what you mean here but yeah, I just am very curious and kind of drawn to you. I hope you don't mind."

She smiled. "You have no idea how sweet what you just said is. And yes, I certainly would like a nice chat and glass of wine after this. Throw in some chicken wings and I'm there."

"You got it! And some deep fried mushroom caps too if that's your thing."

They both laughed and smiled, staring into each others eyes for a second it felt timeless. Both of them felt a glimmer that maybe this was start of something a little important, or maybe, just something really fascinating.

Breaking the glance, Donna looked at her cards. Okay, time for tarot, she told him, and asked him whether he wanted to ask a specific question or just a general how are things now, or is there something bothering him he'd like an answer? She suggested that, for a first reading ever, it might be a good idea to do a general what's in the past, what's surrounding him now, what's the future focus type of thing. He thought that sounded good so that was what they went with.

Donna was glad to see that his reading really didn't consist of anything too shocking or had cards that pointed to things that weren't good at all, nothing like that. Only the usual hurts and worried and lessons to be learned; in the future, love and a new venture that may increase his wealth. Not majorly wealthy, but somewhat and that sounded good to him.

At the end she gave him the tape and they traded phone numbers; cell phone numbers to start with she said. She didn't like to tell people where she lived at first just for safety sake. Then she told him that she was keeping the booth open until 9 p.m. so if there was something he had to do like laundry or something that would be a good idea. She could meet him outside the Centre at about 9:30 and if he didn't mind could they take Toduku back to the hotel too?

Sure, no problem he said, and as he walked away he could feel her eyes on his back; he glanced back and sure enough that's what she was doing, watching him walk away.

He thought about what it would be like to introduce this girl to his mother; she'd be a little surprized he imagined but just as quickly as he thought that he reminded himself that this was his life and oh boy, if she is as great as he suspected she is, he just didn't care what his family would think.

Donna inwardly thought, if my parents ever acknowledged her existence again it might be if she were involved with someone like Jason. Then just as quickly thought, eh, not worth the aggravation probably. They'd still be stone cold people. There's not much you can do with people who thrive on hurting others emotionally and those two were the epitome of that. So yes, not likely to open that door any time soon.

And quick flash in both their minds: a loving embrace in a warm tangled bed.

Chapter 18

Carol. This Saturday she knew that she and her husband needed to talk. She had no choice. She had to go to the doctor and she was pretty sure what the answer would be. She was going to go to the psychic fair with Joan but she just knew she was going to call Karen to come with them, and truth be told, if Joan was true to what she'd been saying about Karen and about how the universe and spirit holds more than meets the eye, maybe she needs to come. And maybe she too really did need to go, just to hear what would be said. Thing is, she didn't know how to tell the difference between a charlatan and the real thing. Heck, did anybody? And what would she need?

Her own husband Doug is the most supportive man she could imagine, given the age they came from themselves. Mind you, her feeling was that while men of her generation didn't always get it when it came to women, the dreaded gentlemanly demeanor actually was respect and young men now don't seem to have a whole lot of that. Well, girls either really, let's be fair.

So what should she do? She got up early as planned, Joan didn't answer the phone, she left several messages and it was now early afternoon. God.

Doug was enjoying his brunch and his coffee (third cup) and his nice fat Saturday newspaper; he'd already perused the sports scores and was now laughing at Garfield's antics.

Oh what the heck, she thought. Why not bring him? There wasn't anything else to do today that was too pressing. There was something to be said for having grown children but also something to be said for having half a clue of what to do every day. After so many years of life jam packed into too few hours, she realized her life had turned around and now, she didn't know what to do with the void. Doug would tell her why does she need to fill every moment with something, but that was just the way she was. No couch potato her.

"Doug," she asked, "want to do something silly with me today?"

He grinned.

She laughed, "No, not that kind of silly. Well, not right now anyway. I promise you a boat show if you go to the psychic show with me."

He shrugged. "Sure, why not."

Yup. Even after all these years she still loved him. And that was why a huge part of her wanted so much for everything to be fine with her health, and why a huge part of her was terrified that she would have to leave him much too soon. Oh how she didn't want to die right now, or be sick, not when they finally had their lives to themselves again. It wouldn't be fair.

She called Joan again, knowing she was just going to get her answering machine and left a message saying she was sorry they couldn't get in touch this morning but she and Doug were going to go anyway and if they run into each other there, then great. If not, they'd have to have coffee and listen to the tapes they both got.

She could have called her cell phone and no doubt would have gotten her, but this little outing with Doug just felt right. It was special. It was also to be one of the last just fun outings they have for quite some time.

The passed Jason going out as they were going in. Not knowing who Jason was it meant nothing to Carol at all. Doug nodded hello to him; they worked in the same office building though not for the same company. He recognized his face from the elevator. When Carol asked him who that was he just shrugged and said someone from the building, didn't know his name.

For a fleeting second Jason worried about that fellow seeing him here then just as quickly mentally laughed it off; hey, he was here too, with his wife. Who's to say he didn't have a wife or girlfriend in there too and he was just going out the car for a break? Yeah, that's just what this looked like. No harm here.

Now Carol had to admit that not having Joan around meant that she honestly didn't know what she was supposed to be looking for or who to be seeing. At the door they gave them a program with a diagram of where the booths were. There were numerous kinds of booths. Reiki practitioners, ear candlers, chanellers, astrologers, aura readers, book sellers, amulet sellers, blessed items sellers, tea leaf readers, tarot reader, crystal readers, you name it they were all here. There was even a fortune teller specifically for reading your sex life (or the lack of it, or the eventual beginning of one, that sort of thing). Of course, there was also the Dianetics table and the "thou are going to hell rapidly, read the bible" table, and the "please donate to this charity since you're wasting your money on this nonsense" table. The safest start would be the book and assorted thing booth; it had Ouija boards and tarot cards and various incenses and candles and runes and stuff like that. The books were the best things though. Carol had no idea there were so many books on these subjects.

Joan had something about somebody that photographs auras and that can be used for health problems too. She thought she'd give that one a whirl. She checked the pamphlet. Meanwhile, Doug was buying a Ouija board set and a book about the I Ching complete with really cool Chinese coins in a velvet bag tied with a silk string.

Oh no, she giggled inwardly, don't tell me I've got him interested in this.

Armed with his objects of divination, they set off for the kirulean photographer. They found her, and she had only one person in front. The photos were expensive, even more if she wanted a full print out of what they found. $35 for the photo, $45 for the print out as well. Plus tax. Doug said, hey go for it, this is something you wanted, no?

She did. So she paid the woman and the photo was taken by a glorified Polaroid machine. From there, she typed in the results into her computer and printed off the full description. Then she sat Carol down and spoke quietly to her. Explained that kirulean photography isn't so far fetched at it may seem. Sometimes it does point out areas that for medical reasons should probably be looked at. She said that she didn't want to alarm her, but please, would she go have a mammogram tomorrow? Both breasts showed signs of hot spots and that wasn't too good. It could be nothing but she had to get that checked. She made her promise. Carol did, and then she went on to explain that her aura showed her to be an all round pleasant person, well rounded, a calming influence on others.

Carol thanked her, took her photo and her report and put them both in the envelope she had given her.

After that they stopped off for bubble tea and some cookies. Did they want to see anything else? They weren't sure. There were all sorts of demonstrations and anyone was free to listen over the shoulders of others to hear details, so they decided the best answer was to just wander around, see what was there, and if anything appealed to them to have it done. Sounded good to her. She didn't want to waste this day, not for anything. Tomorrow she was going to tell him her worries but for now, today was theirs.

They listened as somebody had a past life regression done. It was truly fascinating but neither was brave enough to try it, and the $125 price tag was just a bit too much. One woman being done was talking about living in Ireland during the potato famine, pretty interesting indeed. Still, Carol had no inkling of who she was before; neither did Doug and neither were quite sure they wanted to dig up that.

They held hands as they walked around listening and at one point Doug had his tarot cards read for a solution to which would be the better path after retirement: his own business or hobbies. The answer seemed to be to turn the hobbies into a business.

Fair enough.

By late afternoon both were getting tired and they'd seen enough. They hadn't run into Joan or anyone else so, on the advice of one tarot reader, Carol got a necklace with a pretty stone that was supposed to convey some sort of health giving vibration or something. It was very pretty so she bought it.

Afterwards they walked to the car. The day was still young really, they were out and about and neither wanted to just go home and watch some silly show about fixing up a dung heap or something so they decided they should go for a long dinner and maybe a movie. They went to their favorite Mexican restaurant, the one where they didn't rush you and you ate in stages and that was just great.

They didn't have to wait for a table because they were a little early and the good thing was they got to sit by the window where they could look out over the water and the lights of the city, after the sun went down, would be casting colourful lines across the rippling black waves.

They had nachos and guacamole and sour cream and a pitcher of sangria. Doug decided to be the driver so she took a small glass and that meant the rest of the pitcher would be for Carol? A little much she thought but it was still cheaper than, say, three or four glasses bought separately.

Over their leisurely dinner they talked about all sorts of things - the kids, Joan, Karen, and of course the psychic fair. It turned out that Doug really enjoyed it and was looking forward to playing with the Ouija board and trying out the I Ching. It seems this has always been the sort of thing he found fascinating, but hadn't really known how to get into it.

After the burritos and the flan, and after about 4 unwise glasses of Sangria, Carol was feeling just a bit tipsy. Doug called for a couple of cups of coffee and the big. They sipped their coffee and the whole while she so wanted to say, "Doug I think I'm dying" but she didn't, and the thought that there may not be many more days like this she wanted to cry. Her throat hurt from her trying not to just well up and tell him; instead she choked out a very quiet, "I love you so much Doug."

She didn't think he heard her. In fact he did, he was just getting the bill paid and trying not to pay too much attention to the foot that Carol was running up and down his leg under the table.

When the waitress took the bill he said, "Let's call it an early night. What do you think?"

She thought it was a wonderful idea. They left quickly, just as the eight o'clock crowd was arriving. Driving home they did as they loved to do, cuddled as much as it was possible in seat belts and trying to keep attention on the road, resting a hand on each other's thigh.

They could barely contain themselves as they got in the door, locking it behind them they felt like children, necking and removing clothes as they went towards the bedroom, one shoe here, a bra there, both ignoring the ringing phone and the blinking message light, this was their time.

They spent the rest of the evening making love like they used to, back in the days before children, before they became a little too much familiar territory, reveling in each other. The attention they paid to one another was wonderful; it would be the early morning before they fell asleep, exhausted, in each other's arms. Doug wanted very much to ask her about the lumps in her breasts and the dimples he saw but he didn't. Not tonight. Nothing was going to touch tonight. Tomorrow, yes.

As he drifted off to sleep, the love of his life in his arms, he swore that he would do whatever he could to make sure she was okay. But for now he wanted to run his fingers over her so soft skin, and listen to her quiet snoring, music to his ears still.

Chapter 19

David and Joan cooled their heels in the hospital until the early evening when Joan demanded an explanation. She had heard every excuse from tests to waiting for the police woman to finish her questioning and then she was tired and then it was more questions and finally around six p.m. Joan just asked straight out: what the hell was going on?

She was told that Karen didn't want to speak to Joan at the moment. It seems all this was a misunderstanding and that how she found her was embarrassing and she didn't know that's what they like to do. She just wanted to get over the humiliation and get back together with her husband.

The nurse said it wouldn't be that easy, too often battered women say exactly that and that's why the hospital insists they stay at least overnight.

Joan was concerned about the apartment, would it be okay? Had the superintendent checked things out or did it matter at this point? She really didn't know what to do, and having the nurse say Karen really didn't want to see her hurt. Did she not understand how it is very likely she saved her life? It didn't matter.

David stepped into the conversation and told the nurse that he is her brother and that he was really concerned and wanted to see her. The nurse had no answer for that. He told her, please, let Karen know that I am here and may I come talk to her by myself? At least see if there's anything she needs or wants me to do?

The nurse went to ask. A few minutes later she was back with the answer: yes, David was allowed but Joan may as well go home. She had no plans to talk now and maybe not for a while. Anything that needed to be relayed to her would be through David. Joan told David, "Just tell her I love her, I do understand and someday I hope she'll see that what I did was for the best. Good-bye."

With that, Joan went out in the early evening air, hungry, tired, desperate for a cigarette (and with that thought she popped a piece of nicotine gum in her mouth) and totally perplexed. Surely to God Karen wasn't going to take that fool back. She had to know that if she did she'd be a dead woman. She had to. How could she, in the course of a couple of hours, go from being a brutalized victim to a repentant wife? She hadn't even talked to Bob, and it was quite likely she wouldn't for a while. Joan sent a little mental note to the universe: please make sure that if Karen won't save herself, spirit will make sure that Bob is taken care of. Properly.

David wasn't sure what he should say or do and he really wished that his mother was here with him. He didn't want to hear her say that all was peachy keen and isn't it so annoying that their mother interfered like that. He'd know she was lying. Like she and Bob ever did sex games. They didn't. In fact, he doubted they even had sex at all any more. Damn, he hated Bob. He would make sure that, regardless of what Karen thought, that prick would be staying in prison for a long long time. He just had to figure out what to do to make that happen. Beyond the utterly hopeless Edmund, that is.

He took a deep breath as he entered her room. He barely recognized her. Seeing the tape burns on her face and wrists, he gasped. This was no game they had been playing. Any fool could see that. He hoped that he could glimpse just a shade of the sister she had been, that girl, as he could sometimes see. Not this time. This was just a beaten woman.

He gave her a kiss on the top of her head, afraid to touch her. "It's been a long day," he said.

She nodded yes. "I'm sorry to ruin your day," she said softly.

"What? Ruin my day? What about yours? My God Karen, what the hell happened? I look at you and I just want to take that prick of a husband of yours and snap him in half."

"Not you too!" She clenched the blankets in her fists. "I am so sick of people telling me what happened! They weren't there, I was! Sheesh!"

David took another deep breath. If she kept up like this he thought, I'm going to hyperventilate. And then he had to stifle a very strong urge to snicker at his own joke.
"So," he said, "tell me what happened then."

She sighed. "It was stupid of me. Really stupid. Last night I went out to a movie with mom and Carol. They took off half way through the movie and came back at the end. I hate it when they do that!" She sipped some water through a straw and winced as she pulled the straw from her rather raw lips. David winced seeing that. "Anyway, I came home and Bob wasn't there. I don't know why it bugged me that he wasn't there, after all it was Friday, if he wasn't working late he would be out with the boys so....anyway, I got a glass of wine. It was a nice night so brought the wine outside to the balcony and had a cigarette. I started thinking and had more smokes and wine and then somebody complained that I was flipping butts off the balcony and I told them eff off and it occurred to me I probably should have an ashtray out there and I was running low on the smokes so I decided to go down and buy some before the store closed."

He had a hard time picturing this. His churchy sister, normally just a shade on the slightly pre-1950s sensibility. He didn't know she still smoked, and couldn't imagine her drinking on the balcony by herself and swearing at the neighbours. Just goes to show the bit about what happens behind closed doors is true, that nobody really knows.

"You must think I'm awful," she said softly.

"No, not at all. Must have been something in the air. You wouldn't believe where I was last night! Tell me the truth about this Karen and maybe I'll let you in on what happened to me. It involved booze and swearing too," he laughed.

"Okay so after that I went to the store and Simon was just about to close up -" as she said this a nurse came in and checked her blood pressure and then put a thermometer under her tongue. The thermometer beeped - just fine the nurse said, then proceeded to the foot of the bed to write down the information.

Karen continued, "So after I bought my smokes Simon locked the door behind me and then I heard yelling and banging and I peeked in and saw a couple of people beating up on poor Simon and taking things and I was so scared I ran and when I thought I was safe I used my cellphone and called 911 then went back upstairs. I hope he's okay, I really do."

The nurse looked up. "The man who was the store keeper in the apartment who was attacked last night?"

"Yes," Karen replied.

"I'm sorry I have to tell you this but he died, the police officer who was here with you was sent up to write up the details."

"Oh my God," Karen exclaimed, and started to cry. "That is so wrong, he was just an old man. A nice sweet old man, trying to make enough to eat and heat his apartment. It's awful, it really is."

"Okay, that explains something." David said.

"Explains what?" She asked.

"It explains why the police that came to the door while mom was in the hall wasn't there to answer the call she had asked that guy in the lobby to make, they said they were there to speak to you about something else."

"Yes, I was a witness. Oh man," she wiped tears from her eyes, took another sip of water, crying harder when she ripped the straw from her sore lips. "I truly hate this day!"

David took her hand. "You need some Vaseline or something for your lips. That must hurt something awful." Her lips were bleeding at the spot where she pulled the straw from. "I'll go get you some if you like."

She tightened her grip on his hand. "No, stay, please. I need to tell you. You're a guy, maybe you can see it's all a misunderstanding."

He nodded. "Sure. I'm going to buzz the nurse though, your lips will get infected if you don't put something on them to protect them."

"Okay. So after all that, I had my cigarettes but I felt a little sick. I stood on balcony a bit, brought out an ashtray this time, and watched the ambulance pull away. They didn't catch the slime who did this, did they?"

David didn't know. The nurse came in, he asked about something for Karen's lips, she agreed there should be something and came back with a small tube of petroleum jelly.

"So anyway I was getting ready for bed, I was brushing my teeth, and in walks Bob. It's like one a.m. or some other time like that and he's pissed off 'cause I smell like smoke and am still up. Me, I was pissed off 'cause he still smelled like her. He didn't have the courtesy to take a goddamn shower or bird bath or something before he came home. Don't you guys know that women know what another woman's smell is? We're all different you know but we are women. Just like you. Can't you smell another man?"

David thought about that, his stomach turning a little at the whole subject. Sweat maybe, or cologne. Hmm. He was hoping that's what she meant. Had to be. So he answered, well, yes people's sweat and cologne and things sure, but then how did she know they weren't just dancing or something?

She laughed a rather cruel laugh. "Bob. Dancing? Come on!"

"Nobody ever knows the whole of a person. Maybe he does dance, just not with you." David said, then immediately realized that was a pretty mean thing to say thought it wasn't meant that way. "I'm sorry," he said softly, "I didn't mean it that way."

She shook her head. "No, you should know that is true. He won't have much to do with me these days. Not for quite a while actually. Anyway, it was really late. I just went to bed, he went to bed on the couch. Mom called pretty early, she wanted me to go to a psychic fair or something, she was going to take me to breakfast and then we'd go. I figured Bob wouldn't be up and since he never tells me where he's going, then I'd just go. But he caught me leaving, he'd heard the phone and he wanted me to make breakfast for him but mom was already on her way and he insisted and we yelled at each other a bit, threw things around and the buzzer rang and I really don't remember much, there was tape and we made up and he thought we should make it fun I'd enjoy it and I was mad but he's my husband and he hasn't wanted me for so long if that's what it took, well okay I'd dress up; didn't know that duct tape hurt so much to pull it off, and damn, David that was so embarrassing what mom and the police saw, why didn't they just leave us alone?"

David thought for a minute. "Why don't I believe you?"

She turned bright red. "I'm not lying."

"No, but you're not telling the truth either. You're leaving things out. I can tell."

She started crying again. "I'm so tired David. I really am. Nothing is ever the way we really want it. It's never ever so good as it looks either. It's like those advertisements when you're a child you see them and you think if you bug mom enough she'll buy it and it's like the best thing in the world, see all the happy smiling children and the sun shining down and you beg and beg and they break down and it's the best thing ever and it's in your hands and you open it and what is it? Some stupid piece of plastic and rubber and it needs more batteries than mom can afford you so can't use it and when you can it doesn't work right 'cause it's just an expensive piece of shit and the best thing about it is the artistry that went into the advertising but you're supposed to be happy and you're not and life sucks. It sucks David, it sucks and keeps sucking and if you don't just find some way to belong well then life will just suck the soul right out you 'till you're nothing but this empty wanting shell and you're not going to ask because you know that wonderful thing you would like to make your like better is really just a hunk of cheap plastic dressed up with fancy music and lighting."

Oh man. She really was in bad shape. No wonder she's just going to say that it was her fault. She needs some serious counseling, he knew that. He could see that, if she really looked at life the way she just said, then a husband that beat the crap out her once in a while and banged other women on the side, well hey, any husband is better than no husband at all if everybody on the board of directors of whatever important thing she belonged to says it is. Jesus Murphy, you'd think by the second millennium women would stop torturing each other but they haven't not at all. But maybe it's not just women, it's men too, we're all so busy being so darned nasty and full of anger and hate or loneliness, well, where's the room for love?

Where indeed. His love lay battered on the bottom of a cliff, her mangled bike beside her and though two years had gone by his heart was still at the bottom of that cliff, decaying as each day went by without her.

Sandie was in the room, still with Simon. They watched the parade of people and questions both at the jail and now here. It made Sandie sad to see David like this and now Karen and she thought, is there no way to show these people how short life is not to waste it yearning for something that isn't? Simon? Simon smiled and said yes. And he took Sandie's hands and said to her, the next level awaits Sandie. Can you see the light over there? It's brilliant. Look. Sandie didn't want to but Simon didn't want to let go. Look! She didn't want to, she didn't want to miss this, she didn't want to leave, and she knew if she looked she'd be gone from here. Simon knew this too, and though he was ready to go, he wasn't going to let her stay. He knew she had things to do, and that she needed to move on for life to be right. So he wasn't going anywhere unless she went with him.

Sandie wanted to do a couple of things. It seemed to her to obvious now. In her mind she told Karen, in full spirit voice, it was Sandie and she saw everything and unless she wants to be dead like her only no accident for Karen, she had to get out. To David she said, loudly and clearly, so much so he jumped and looked around, and what she told him was this:

"I love you, loved you dearly David. But I am gone to a new place. Your place is here for now and for quite some time. Dear David, you must let me go, and let yourself go too. Accidents happen. Go make a life for yourself. For me, please. I have to go and begin again. It is time for you to do that too. I love you."

Then she and Simon nodded to one another, and still holding hands, on the mental count of three, a shared three, they turned at looked at the most incredible, beautiful light either had ever seen. They were flooded with universal light and in that very moment they knew all things and were all things and were no more on this earth in any form.

For some strange reason, David felt lighter, more at peace with himself. Could it be, he wondered, that this day of doing things for other people has shown him he's needed? He is, isn't he?

Karen felt so very tired. She needed to sleep more than anything, everything was whirling in her mind and there was too much talking, too many questions, too much examining and taking samples and everything else she just wanted some sleep.

So she asked David, please could he come back tomorrow and maybe they could talk more later. He said certainly and kissed her neck as she moved away from his aim at her cheek, and she smiled and bid him goodnight.

When he left he went to the nurses station and asked that some notes be put on her file, more specifically that she appeared to be anxious and severely depressed and these things were making her accepting of stuff she shouldn't. Please could they just send in a psychologist to have a chat with her tomorrow. The nurse on duty nodded, made a note. She said that she thought she probably already was, you don't have violence done to you without somebody coming in to have the person talk about it.

Great, thank you! He told them, and then quickly walked down the hall, his hands shaking, the whole while looking for the men's room. After leaving her room he had suddenly felt quite ill; nerves, he knew, and he probably wasn't going to be sick but he needed to go to the can and splash water on his face and have a pee and maybe that would be good.

Chapter 20

Jason tried to call David several times. There was no answer and he knew that David was quite busy dealing with everything going on, and he had to admit he just couldn't keep his mind off of Donna. Everything he looked at, there was something. He laughed to himself, it's like he's 13 again but oh boy what a feeling! Even if, after tonight's dinner and drink she turned out to be a proper troll of a woman, well, just to have felt this for this while! What a woman.

Edmund called him, first on his cell then on his home phone. He answered the home phone. "Jason," he said, "I don't want to break client confidentiality, but Jason, you do realize this man is a sociopath? If not that then he's pretty messed up. I read the file, spoke with the officers involved, then spoke with my client and he is totally incognizent of having done anything wrong. How can I possibly defend somebody who doesn't even see there's a problem?"

Jason inwardly smiled. Good man, David, he thought. "I would think a psychiatric consult would be a good idea, right? He seems to me to be a violent man don't you think?"

"Jason, I think you've got the wrong man for this. I doubt I have the expertise to get this man off or at least defend him in such a way that would ensure he gets justice. There must be somebody else. I've been doing real estate law. This guy needs a criminal lawyer."

"Yes, but he can't afford a criminal lawyer. He makes too much for legal aid. You're the best he can do."

"Thanks." Edmund said, not quite sure whether that was a compliment or an insult; he was leaning towards the insult, but hey, the guy was toast no matter who did his defense. You just don't tie your wife up in a chair and rape her and get away with it. Not in this day and age. He'd give what he could and in the meantime, something was better than nothing he supposed.

Jason thanked him for doing what he had done and for answering his call on such short notice. They hung up. He felt a little bad for brushing him off so quickly but really, it wasn't his problem and he kind of resented the intrusion on his dreams of Donna.

He had a shower, put on some cologne but not too much. He looked through music to see if possibly he had some she'd like to listen to then thought, aren't we jumping ahead just a little? He wasn't sure if she'd even show up, much less really go to dinner with him, or if, if they did, that they wouldn't find out they couldn't stand each other and it would just be a few minutes of him thinking that maybe it is possible to fall in love and want to see what this person is like with a bad cold, or pregnant or any of those other wonderful things that people go through.

Life can be awfully hard when you are the odd man out.

He has come to realize though, that very few people actually lived that coveted Judeo-Christian ideal of two parents, kids, father head of the household, little Johnny on the honour roll. A lot of people these days were just glad the kids were in school. Or that the kids weren't in jail or something.

What happened to life that made it so that it was so hard to love and stay in love? He didn't think it was just the fact that people couldn't leave before the divorce laws were eased and changed all that, or the pill freeing women from the fear of pregnancy; to him it just proved that people remained shackled in situations before because they had to take it, they had to live with their mistakes. It made him sad to think that people would take the only life they have and live it misery. Society didn't allow it before and he wondered, why? Was it just the church? Or did people live like strangers in their own houses barely seeing each other, barely talking? Did women really address their husbands by using Mister?

The phone rang. He didn't recognize the number but he picked it up anyway. It was Donna! His heart leapt to hear her voice. How ridiculous he thought, but what could he do? As his mother once told him, the heart wants what it wants. And okay, there was more that the heart involved here, but oh boy, this feeling was definitely dangerous.

Her sweet voice told him that things were slowing down so she was starting to pack up, would it be alright to pick her up in twenty minutes? At the main entrance?

Oh would it ever. He was definitely ready to come pick her up. He hung up the phone, put on his jacket and headed out the door. His heart was flying, why on earth would this woman have such an effect on him? He smiled as he put the key in the ignition. Who cares why, this just felt so darned good.

In flash he was there and he was waiting outside and it seemed a little scary and a little nerve wracking, his hands were sweating on the steering wheel for heaven's sake! He wiped his hands on his pants. He fiddled with the sound on the radio, got fed up, turned it down. He checked his watch. Yes, he was early.

People streamed out the door, and he wondered if she'd recognize the car, or if she'd get cold feet or she was just yanking his chain or if she'd get here and she'd smell like a stevedore, or - had it only been one minute?

He saw Toduku, and behind him, Donna. They were laughing and joking with each other as the came out of the door. He stood outside the car, waved. Donna said, hi! and they headed towards the car. Toduku shook Jason's hand. "Nice to see you again sir," Jason said.

Toduku squeezed Jason's hand. "No sir, Toduku, remember."

"Sure thing." He smiled, and turning to Donna said, "I'm so glad you could make it. You can, can't you? I mean, this isn't just a lift home right?"

She smiled back, "Not at all. You lured me out here with promises of food and drink, you better well deliver!"

With that Jason opened the passenger door for her, and Toduku sat in the back. For a second he thought he probably should have let Toduku in the front, but Toduku grasped his shoulder as he got in saying, now you two need to talk and be sitting together. He whispered to him, "It is a good thing this, you know each other, from before." Jason looked at him quizzically. "We share paths, time and again."

Jason nodded. He knew her before? It would explain his need to see her but at the same time, this was a little unnerving. Well, she's the psychic, not he, let's see what she comes up with. And then a darker thought beneath: what if these two are in cahoots with each other and they're leading him into something? This whole thing was bizarre really. The past two days were totally bizarre. It's like some cosmic explosion happened and everything was whirled around and covered things became exposed and answers came to questions unasked and he just wasn't sure he could handle any more of this. And an inward smile. Well, if involved feeling like a love sick fifteen year old, maybe.

"So where to?" he said and they drove Toduku to his hotel room; from there he and Donna went on to the restaurant and the rest of their lives.

David came home a note on the door, a full answering machine, and a beer. The beer he opened, and then sat down to read the note. It seemed there was something in the lease that forbade him from starting drunken brawls in hallway with jack ass neighbours and when the police get involved, well, so sad too bad you're out. He had thirty days to pack up and get out. He flipped the note (that, coincidentally was notarized) that he got on the table. He knew he had it coming, and he was sick of this place anyway. He needed something a little more interesting. He preferred the older buildings with their transoms and wainscoting and real linoleum floors, bath tubs with feet and the funny old showers. That's what he wanted.

Having read that the decided to tackle the telephone. There were calls from his mother, there was a call from Toduku, there was four from the pissed off neighbour, there was one from the rental office, there was one from the police, there was a crackly one that sounded like it was being called through a pipe there was just whispery words and echoing crackles and then a soft good bye at the end. After that was a couple from Jason and a couple from Edmund the lawyer.

He wrote all the names and numbers down and it took a good half hour to go through them all. At the end, he felt tired and deflated. His beer was empty. He lit up a cigarette. This had been such a fucking long day, he just really had enough. Too much talking, too much of too much. He didn't want to talk to the lawyer. He didn't want to talk to that Toduku fellow, and his mom, well, hadn't they already said enough today? He had second thought on that. He owed her an explanation that maybe Karen didn't fully understand what was happening. Yeah, he needed to call her and at least ease her fears.

He called his mother. He let it ring five, ten times. Then she answered. She didn't sound like herself at all. Mom are you okay he asked.

She sighed. "David, I give up. I don't know what to do. I'm the mother of you guys but you know what? You're both in your thirties. Enough already. I can't bail you out forever. You must understand that."

"Ah mom, we do, we do understand that. And I know it bugs the hell out of me when I have to ask you for something. It is appreciated honestly it is."

"I'm tired David. So I save Karen's life and it's like I'm the bad guy. I get kicked out. Alright fine. Enough. I'm done."

"Mom, I spoke with Karen. She'll come around. All of this has been so hard on her and she's having to rethink everything and it hurts. She's trying her best but you know it's easy for her to blame you since you're the easiest target. She also had a bitch of a night before; the corner store was robbed just after she was there, she called the police but she found out the old fellow, Simon, died of his injuries. Now that and what Bob did, her whole world just fell apart. Give her time mom, she does need you, and not to suck you dry either, really. Most importantly right now we have to tell her that she can't go back to that asshole, she just can't."

"David, I know, it just hurts. Everything I taught you guys, it's like she's thrown it all in my face and has to do the opposite. Now it's not like I should want her to be a drug addict or anything but this old fashioned stuff, it bothers me. She is losing her sense of self, she's lost her dignity, her self worth, I don't want my daughter to go through that. A marriage should be a loving union, not a torture chamber."

"You don't have to convince me mom, I know, and honestly when I saw her face I gasped, I can't even imagine what it must have been like for you to find her there and hear them yelling afraid to open the door. I she doesn't say it, I will: thank you."

"Thanks, I needed to hear that."

"So are you okay mom? You don't sound like yourself."

"I'm really tired. Drained. And worried. It isn't easy for a mom to see her baby hurt. Even if her baby is in her thirties."

"Yeah, I know. All I could think of was this is my sister who's lying here all bandaged up. Mom, every time she took a sip of her water her lips would bleed."

Joan sucked in her breath. "You know, I'm a little glad I didn't have to see her in the hospital bed now that you mention it."

"Mom, I think we need a quiet night. Do nothing, just veg."

"Yes, I agree. I'm going to sleep in tomorrow unless the phone rings. Which it might. They don't keep people in the hospital for a long time any more."

"I know. I asked them to please send a psychologist in or something to talk to her though because she thinks this is just a little game and it's all her fault and she doesn't see anything wrong with it."

"You know David, there's not much else we can do tonight and I am so tired of thinking of this. I'm trying to get the image of her in that chair out of my mind. It was awful, I just want to sleep."

"I hear you. Night mom, I'm sure we'll talk tomorrow, bye. Love you."

"Thanks, sweetie. I love you too."

So after that he called Jason but got his machine. He called his cell phone but it was off. That was odd, he thought. Jason almost never turned off his cell phone, he usually just muted it. Unless he had a meeting, but what meeting would that be? He left a message on the cell phone, then looked at the list again.

Toduku. Did he want to talk to Toduku? If so, what would he say? Hmm. He wasn't sure. Still, they had spent the night in jail together, and it was all because he had a message for him. The realization of that had David laughing. This whole ridiculous mess was because of this message. Maybe he should hear it. Make it stop. This was so silly he laughed and laughed. Not that being nearly done his second beer didn't hurt. Oh what the hell, he decided. Let's hear what the old guy has to say. Nobody else was around and there was no way he was going to call either Edmund or the police station. Anything that would leave that jerk Bob in jail longer was fine with him.

He dialed the number for Toduku. No answer. He left a message on the hotel answering service.

He decided it might be a good idea to eat something so he threw on a can of soup. After he finished the soup he emptied and loaded the dishwasher, then went back to this beer. He picked up the remote for the t.v., turned it on, flipped the channels and decided it was all crap and turned it off. He took to pacing the apartment, trying to think of what should go and what he should toss. He made a mental list to get the newspaper tomorrow.

The phone rang. He picked it up. It was Toduku. "So we talk now David? Can we meet in person?"

"Sure," he said, "I think I owe you an apology. Where do you want to meet?"

"Well, this hotel room, much too small. Don't like hotel rooms. Would you like me to come over or do you want to meet at a bar or something?"

"You know, I think maybe we should go to the all night Tim Horton's that's between here and the hotel. Do you mind or would you rather have something stronger?"

"I don't drink much myself," he said, "I will be quite happy at the Tim place."

"Good. I'll see you there in fifteen minutes. That okay with you?"


"Oh, and Toduku?"


"No stunts from me tonight. It's been a hell of a 24 hours. I'll listen to what you have to say. Really. I even have some questions."

"Good. Very good. See you there." He said and hung up.

No sooner had he hung up than there was a banging on the front door. Every fiber of his being told him not to answer it, but he had to see who it was. The last thing he needed was another commotion in the hallway.

He yelled out, "Coming! Hold your goddamn horses, I'M COMING!" He took the phone with him; he dialed 911 and left his finger hovering over the talk button so it could dial immediately if he needed to.

He quietly tiptoed over to the door and peek through the peep hole. Oh my fucking god! It was Bob.

He whipped open the door. "WHO IN THE HELL LET YOU OUT???" He yelled at him, and then he grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him inside, slamming the door behind him.

"The lawyer," Bob said, brushing the wrinkles where David grabbed him from his shirt. "Thank you for the lawyer. I'm free now, but it seems I am barred from my apartment. May I stay here for the night?"

"Are you out of your freaking mind?" He snarled at him.

"Everyone is innocent until proven guilty."

"You are guilty, and you beat up my sister. Get out," he said.

"So where am I supposed to go?"

"How the fuck should I know? Don't you have a mother or something? Go visit her in her cave. Now get out."

"Your mouth is atrocious. It is very base to constantly swear."

"And it's a mortal sin to rape and attempt to murder your wife. I think the scale is tipping on you for the bad stuff there Bob. Now get out before I call the police. They really don't want to see you twice in one day. Don't you think?"

"Fine. I'll go. But be forewarned, I won't be forgetting this."

"Good. And be forewarned, I won't be forgetting what you did either you prick." David said and slammed the door behind him.

"Hey!" Yelled a voice down the hall.

"Hey yourself!" Bob shouted back.

A door swung open and the sound of two sets of running feet gave David great delight. In fact he laughed so hard he could barely push that talk button, but he was able to and to call in that somebody was trespassing and there were people shouting in the hall. He said he was pretty sure the noisy trespass was Robert Simpson.

As he hung up he said to the walls: Yes! There is a God!

He couldn't go anywhere until the hall people cleared out. He hoped Toduku wouldn't mind cooling his heels for a bit. In the meantime he figured he should find out how the heck this jerk got out. He called Edmund back.

Edmund sounded nervous. He explained that no, charges are not dropped regardless of what Bob may be saying, he had posted bail. He also said it was very strange, nobody wanted to help him. Well, David warned him, Bob had just been here and they got a little loud. He left and somebody down the hall yelled at Bob, Bob yelled back, the guy down the hall started chasing and now the police have been called. Was not getting in trouble with the law one of the conditions of bail?

There was a silence on the phone then, "Shit!"

David laughed. "Sorry about this, looks like you're getting your money's worth with this fellow."

"Yes, I can see that. Well, I better keep the line open, I expect I'll be getting a call."

"Yes, probably. Oh, and when you see your client again would you mind telling him that if he ever comes near my doorstep again I'm filing a restraining order."

Edmund sighed. "Will do."

Things seemed quiet out in the hall now, so David peeked out the window. There was a police car out front. If he went down by the end stairwell he could avoid that, so that's what he did, after first checking there was nobody in the hall.

Once outside he quickly walked to the coffee shop, hoping nobody had seen him leave. This moving to a new apartment sounded like a better idea all the time. Then he wondered whether the neighbour who chased Bob down the hallway would get kicked out too. He was seriously tempted to ask this because he also knew this was the same guy that complained about him, but then again maybe he should just leave it be. Sooner or later they'd realize this is somebody you just can't please.

Toduku was a little late himself, so they arrived at pretty much the same time. David saw him, and swallowed hard. There was something really disturbing about this fellow, and it wasn't in a way that told him to stay away, it's just like, he knew things he shouldn't so what exactly did he know? He guessed he'd find out.

He met up with him in the line up. "Hey, how about you let me get this, what would you like?"

Just tea black Toduku told him. David needed a good strong coffee so, with coffee and tea in hand they went to a booth in the back.

"We don't have to stay here if you don't want, I just thought this was a good place meet," David told him.

"This is good," Toduku told him. "So have you figured out why I need to talk to you?"

"Something to do with being in jail? Me getting mad at you for showing up at my door? I'm getting evicted because of that, by the way. Not that I don't mind leaving. That neighbour, sheesh!"

Toduku laughed, "Yes, he is quite the man. He will get his though, don't worry about that. I don't think he will be living there much longer that you do."

"Good," David replied.

"Sandie was here but she isn't any more. She had stayed because she was confused and felt she was being held here by you. I know now she was led across by a kind soul, so she is not trapped anymore. Do you feel any different than what you did a couple of days ago?"

"You know, this bothers me. She was my life and I couldn't save her. Why didn't I hold on tighter? Why didn't I use my cell phone?"

"David, it was her time. As much as I have a time, and you have a time, we all have a time to go. You can't blame yourself for this, you know that."

"Yes but I do. I could have done something I know I could have."

"David, she forgives you. You need to let go. You cannot go forward until you do. What you two shared was beautiful but she is not your life partner. There is one you know, she waits, she will find you, but not until you clear your spirit of the remnants of guilt and longing for the one who is gone."

He sighed. Why was he listening to this from this supposed psychic? This had been such a long day and suddenly he was feeling very tired.

"First, you need to smudge your place. I can do it for you or I can give you my smudge sticks. If you don't like smudge we can do holy water. It is the same thing, it is spirit cleansing the air and walls from negative things. Would you rather use holy water?"

"Uh, no offense but honestly, this is all pretty ridiculous. I'm fine. I just need to grieve. Grieving is normal. What I don't need is people telling me she's here and haunting me or something."

"Grieving is normal very much so. There are stages and a person can get stuck. Do you know that sometimes it is easier to love the grief than to try to live again? Did you know that?"

David was too tired for this crap. "Are you telling me that you have the audacity to think that I would much rather be sad and lonely than to go out and live my life again? Because if you haven't noticed, I am living my life. I am lonely, yes, but right now I am still getting over the fact that there is this great big hole in my life and the love of my life is gone. What is it with people that everything must be solved this very instant. Some things can't be solved this instant!"

Toduku smiled and inscrutable smile. He put his hands in front of his face, fingers together in a sideways "v", a very contemplative pose. Trying to formulate an answer. But it wasn't an answer this man needed. It would be something to start a fire under him, wake him up a bit. Perhaps he would take him seriously if he gave him something more than just her nick name.

"Once there was a time," he said, "when there was a man alone. This man alone met a woman who was beautiful, smart, athletic and with a good sense of humour. This woman is the kind of woman who can walk into a room and all eyes turn to her. The sort of woman most men dream of, and yet, few dare to ask for fear or rejection, and for the belief that of course she must be with somebody. How could she not? So tell me, what does a woman in this situation do?"

David shook his head. "I'm getting awfully tired Toduku. It has been such a long day. Is there a point to this?"

"Then there was a man who would see beyond the obvious and look into her heart. He would speak to her as a friend first, and then as a woman, never forgetting how special this woman is, and never forgetting to tell her that. What a good man. What woman could resist such a wonderful thing?"

David shook his head. There was no point saying anything, this guy was just going to keep on talking no matter what he said.

"So one bold day the man took a chance. Over coffee it was suggested that dinner be had. They went and they talked and ate tasty food and laughed and there was candle light and gentle music and stars in the sky and the man he held her hand and told her she was the most incredible person he had ever met and the woman she nearly cried. Here is was, a woman so used to attention; but not all attention is good. There are only so many comments a woman can receive concerning her breasts before it gets very tiresome. He said words that held magic to her: that no matter what she looked like, no matter what she wore or how she did her hair, it was this union of spirit that was appealing to him. She told him a secret: that for someone so beautiful she had been treated horribly by her father and she was beaten and told to submit to the whims of a pill popping mother. Not such a new revelation as revelations go, yet it touched his heart that she told him a secret and it was an important secret because it meant that inside, she didn't feel very beautiful, did she?"

"No." David replied.

"There came a time when she trusted him enough. A kiss on the lips, making love in the dark, she didn't want the lights on. There were things she couldn't allow him to see. So he felt the scars and softly, so softly kissed puckered scars where hot cigarettes had burned for a bad little girl and an even badder big mommy."

David gulped the coffee he drinking, nearly choking. After sputtering a bit, wiping his mouth he said, "Go on. Continue."

"One day she let him turn the lights on and see what he had kissed. What did the man see do you guess?"

David blinked away tears. "He ... he saw the most beautiful woman in the world." The memory of this moment had him crying. People in booths were glancing over, staring, looking away quickly, glancing back.

"She wrote you a poem once. It said, 'I will love you as long as the sun rises, as long and the moon rolls through the sky, as long as stars will shine, as long as my heart beats, as long as my breath increases at the sight of you, as long as the touch of your skin on mine sends shivers up my spine, as long as there is the will to love, the desire to do it with, and even if we ever part, know that somehow somewhere, a little bit you lives in my heart. I am so glad I love you.'"

David began sobbing, people were openly staring, one or two even giving him a filthy look.

Toduku continued, "There is a thing that lovers always do and that is they say, if I am gone, I want you to ... and they say either never to fall in love again or that they want them to be happy and to fall in love in someone else. Either thing is valid, it just depends on a person's perspective. You two did this. Do you remember what was pledged?"

David heaved a sigh, wiped the tears from his face. "Me or her?"


"I pledged to love her forever."


"So told me that if anything ever happened to her that I was to go find somebody else."


"That she would always love me and it would be a shame for me not to go and give someone else love and have children and be happy and when I went we'd all meet in heaven and laugh about everything."

"So." Toduku took David's hand in his, turned it over and tracing some lines on David's palm and said, "There is much in life for you. Do not waste it. Somewhere out there a woman waits and she cannot find you because you are so full of longing. There is longing and there is remembrance. These are two different things. Honour Sandie, certainly, always, but do not fill your heart with that which is no longer here. It serves no purpose and it makes her unhappy that you are not living this gift of being alive, you are just existing. She was not a 'just existing' sort of person was she?"

"No," David replied sadly. "She thought it was a waste for people to just sit around and mope or get comatose in front of t.v. when there was lakes to be swum in and trails to be walked and paths to be biked on."

"Are you making her happy right now David? Are you doing her memory an honour causing drunken brawls in your hallway?"

He grinned at this comment. After Bob's adventure it was just too funny. "No, no she wouldn't think that was such a good thing." And he burst out laughing. "I just got Bob re-arrested." He stated.

Toduku cast him a quizzical glance. "Sorry?"

"Oh this is another long story, one that happened after we parted ways this morning. I told you this has been a very very long day."

"It has indeed," he said. "David, I think you understand the message I wanted to give you. I must ask this again because I felt it strongly: may I please cleanse the air, the place where you live is very very negative and it is seeping into your aura and that isn't good at all."

David smiled. "Sure. That place needs all the help it can get. And Toduku? I have to move. I'm getting out of there anyway but in the meantime if you think a little smudging will help, go right ahead."

"Very good." Toduku bowed his head quickly to him. "We can go now or arrange for some other time but I am thinking that will that energy in the last day or so now would be better."

"One thing though, would this affect Sandie if she ever wants to check up on me? Sometimes it feels like she is there with me."

"And sometimes she is checking in on you but spirits have much to do in their own place. More often they communicate in dreams, it's easier for them."

"That explains a lot then."

"Yes. Remember your dreams, write them down while they are still fresh."

"I'll try." He said, and with that they decided it was high they left this place. David made a mental note never to come back here at this time of day again. He was starting to feel really embarrassed for crying like that.

Chapter 21

In the shank of the evening, as his grandfather used to say, is when the truth of a man emerges. In the shank of this particular evening, everybody concerned would be hard pressed not to say that they had had one hell of time and it wasn't pretty. Mental prayers were offered, important words spoken, dilemmas resolved, broken hearts not repaired but instead recognized and gently soothed.

Toduku did do his cleansing with a long burning bunch of sage and sweetgrass tied together. It smelled a bit like a Thanksgiving stuffing with a hint of a grass fire beneath. Toduku was right though; afterwards the oppressive feeling that had engulfed David's apartment seems to be gone. Toduku told David that he was wise to accept this smudging, wise to decide to move. The entire building was negative, he could feel it, and no one apartment smudging was going to help this building. Far better to move out.

Karen fell in to deep deep sleep in her hospital bed. Rather than stewing in her anger, Joan did what she felt was right. She lit a white candle and prayed to whatever was listening to save her daughter. Please enlighten her, she said. Please take off her blinders. Let her live again.

Prayers do get listened to and though they don't always get answered, to say a prayer is send healing energy to someone and spirit listens. It listens. And some prayers get answered.

The long neglected wife, Karen, had only one deep desire and that was why she stayed with Bob. It wasn't really the church or religion, that played a part but she wasn't stupid, she knew what was best for her. Her deep desire was to have a child and to be a mother. In her dreams that night she saw Bob as a demon and in no uncertain terms she saw what the dream was telling her: get him out of your life. And one other thing. After the nasty nightmare, she saw a mother singing to her baby, rocking in a rocking chair. It was the sweetest moment, and in her dream she walked closer and closer and she saw her own face.

Bob in his insanity had given her the one thing she so dearly wanted. Karen wouldn't know it for a couple of weeks yet, but inside a zygote was forming, the child who had hovered over her left shoulder in spirit for so very long had finally been invited in.

We all know how strong a mother's protective feeling for her child is; someone so cruel and violent as Bob would never be a part of Karen's life again, not after this.

And Bob, as he sat in his cell again, abandoned, out of money to bail himself out even if they would grant him that, was starting to see with a sinking feeling that maybe he wouldn't be walking out of here anytime soon. Maybe it wasn't okay to do what he did. Not that he agreed with that sentiment, just that well, maybe he made one huge mistake.

Bob girlfriend got pissed off for his not answering his cell phone messages and took the bold move of leaving a message at his house. She very - um - nicely said, "You stupid arse, go screw yourself. Don't bother calling me again."

At this very moment that lovely lady was preening on a barstool, grateful for the attention from that handsome guy from the sales department of a local car dealership who was saying what great discounts you get working for a dealership and man, this is the life. She ran her hand up the inside of his thigh and gave him her number. Wasn't going to let this catch get away!

Carol lay beside her husband in their bed; her husband snoring softly, she, wide away staring at him in profile, the moonlight painting a band across his face. She would tell him tomorrow of her worries. Tonight, for them, was a treasure to hold and for her, she thought of how very very fortunate she was to have this man for a partner. She sent up her own little mental prayer that went: if I should die before you do my love, we will meet up again, sometime, and I hope to be partners on the next go around. Such prayers, well meant, are often noted. Much as this one was.

Donna and Jason drank Sangria and had their Tex-Mex dinner until the wee hours of the morning. They talked as though they had a lifetime of catching up to do, and indeed they did. It didn't take much - the knowing of something they shouldn't have, the just understanding of what the other was saying - to realize that they indeed were partners from another time. Donna, before they left to have a nightcap at Jason's apartment, sat on the toilet in the women's room, wondering, should she tell him? Yes, she had to. If he were for real he would accept it, if not, then he wasn't worth the effort. So as they sat on his couch listening to Pink Floyd and the assorted tribulations of walls, sipping calvados from grape jam jar glasses, she told him her past. He put his own glass down, took the glass from her hand, grasped her jaw with his hand and looking deep into her eyes told her, "Everything that happened before today happened in another time. That was another you. Today is the beginning of this. Let's celebrate that." And he kissed her.

The kiss felt like an explosion in his heart, and in hers also. When twin souls meet, as they are some day destined to, it is a powerful force beyond understanding. It is simply to be accepted for what it is. Spirit in its truest form.

Their lovemaking was so electric and so soulful that when their bodies had simply said enough and dawn's roseate glow was edging on the horizon, they knew they would never be leaving each other's arms again. Their lovemaking was their pledge to all that is holy in the universe, that spirit carries on and for this beauty, is redeemed.

David went to sleep that night, totally exhausted. He fell into a deep deep sleep. Instead of his usual dreams about Sandie there was something else. A boat on the water, a bright sunny days, laughter, and woman walking down the shore on the edge of the ocean bare pink toes digging down in the sand, flip-flops in hand. As David walks towards her, the glance at one another and a little spark ignites inside. This lovely auburn haired woman, he knew, would be the mother of his children. Someday. Now he had seen her face, he knew she was real.

In the early morning hours, Toduku packed his bags. After the show he wasn't going to go on to the other shows like he said he would. He was going to go home. And if that meant being sent all the way home, well, so be it. Such was his fate. It was something he knew he just had to do. And in the knowing, felt good.

Joan slept, and as slept a light and happy feeling. Her life was going to get a little better, now that she learned that a mother's place sometimes, is to leave a child alone to sort out their own minds. Now that she had done that, a door opened. As we all know, open doors are invitations and Joan being Joan, she would be there, invitation in hand waiting for the rest of her life. Sometimes it takes a little while to get where you are supposed to be, but life is such that eventually, somehow, it does exactly that.

Sunday was the closing day of the psychic fair. Like the beginning of the fair, there were blessing ceremonies and energy circles and copious incense burned and fortunes told, and in the end the booths were packed up, the assorted trinkets of the trade put away until the next place. The harried crowds would have to wait another year to hear the next part of their fortune, should they live so long and should it mean anything by that time.

By ten p.m. Sunday all things were shut down, the gates were locked, the booths cleared away and all that was left was detritus of yet another stage show. The cleaner looked over his expanse of floor, and planned his attack. AS always he emptied the big garbage cans first. Then he did the recycling bins. After that he would sweep the floor and later mop and shine it.

The sweeping was the boring part. This was big hall, it could easily take him half an hour or more to do it and the only way that Adrian could stand it was to plus in his music player and make a game out of it. He surveyed the area. Somewhere deep inside surely he felt this, because rather than a back and forth sweeping he decided to be just a little different. He would go in a circle. Start big and go small. So it was he swept in an inward spiral.

He swept up the dust, the little bits of paper and gum and those plastic things from the tops of coffee lids, and paper clips and ashes from incense and little bits of various herbs and assorted other sparkly and strange things that were the fall out from a group of psychics all working with energy in a confined space. One space in particular had drawn a fair bit of energy though the cleaner didn't know this; but sometimes when you play with time and dimensions you open a portal between dimensions. The thing is that while it is open it is very powerful indeed. Not a thing for amateurs certainly, and not a thing to leave unattended.

Unless of course you are old and awaiting your ticket home any time soon.

So the cleaner sang his songs as he pushed his broom, humming, almost mantra like since this was a form of rap which is very repetitive and as he circled in the dust grew stronger and stronger until at last he had this very big pile of dirt and debris right over the spot where Toduku's booth had stood.

Such a fine collection of blessed ashes and things, left over the portal while the man went for his dust pan and garbage bin. As the energy from the ashes worked on the hole, by the time he man came back, the energy was as it had been, not 48 hours before. These intense times were over.

Little did he know that in the sweeping, he had closed the most remarkable spot light those who felt it had ever known.

And nothing would ever be the same again.

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