Because of the tricky situations I always seem to get into, I began training in Aikido. Aikido is a martial art that includes techniques from Jujitsu and Kenjutsu and is based in self-defense, where one uses an opponent’s energy to gain control of them, or throw them, or even escape a hold.

I began these classes only a few months ago, and just passed my fifth kyu test, which is cool, but not anywhere close to a black belt or anything. Getting a black belt would probably take me three or four years, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

Anyway, my barely teenage daughter and I (yikes is she really a teenager now?) went to the Saturday class. It was a lot of fun, mostly because it’s totally satisfying to throw a few big guys around.

Sensei, our teacher, decided to show us how to do atemi, which is a technique used to disrupt an opponent’s attack of a grab or a strike. It throws them off and helps you gain the upper hand. Atemi is done by kicking, or throwing a punch at just the right time. It can’t be too early, or they’ll see it coming, and if it’s late, it won’t do you any good.

After demonstrating the technique a few times, we partnered up and went through the technique in slow-motion before picking up the pace. By the time we changed partners, I was starting to get pretty good at the timing part which was a good thing since my next partner was a big dude.

That meant my kick would have to be pretty hard, and maybe a little higher than I’d practiced, but I could aim my punch for the stomach, so that would work. We slowed our moves down to start with, and then traded attacks. Sensei told us not to use atemi all the time, so that when we did, it wouldn’t be expected.

Sticking to his advise, I waited until after several attacks to throw in a high kick. The only problem was my attacker was a little slow… and… YUP… you guessed it… I kicked him real good right where it counts. The poor guy fell to the ground on his hands and knees, and groaned, barely able to breathe.

My face turned red and guilt burned a hole in my stomach. This was terrible. Everyone stopped what they were doing and glanced at me thinking I’d gone too far. Poor Daniel, I’d really gotten him good. He’d probably never partner with me again. Why was I kicking so hard?

Savannah gasped and covered her mouth. She glanced at me in wide-eyed horror, embarrassed at what I’d done. But underneath her hands, her mouth twitched with laughter, which she wisely held back.

By now, Daniel was showing signs of recovering, so maybe it wasn’t so bad. After my horrified apologies, he grunted a few times, and waved me off. I glanced at Sensei and he just shook his head, but he was thinking that it wasn’t all my fault. Daniel was a little slow with his reaction time, or I wouldn’t have been able to get him so good. It was also a given in the dojo that if you got hurt, it was most likely your own fault.

That helped me feel a little better, but not until Daniel was able to stand up. Guilt keep me immobile until he finally walked over to the drinking fountain and took a few swallows of water.

Everyone else went back to practice, leaving me the odd person out until Daniel came back. I was hoping that Sensei would make everyone change partners, but he was thinking that Daniel and I needed to work together again, so there wouldn’t be any hard feelings.

After a few minutes we got back into the routine and took turns between being the attacker and the attacked. When it was his turn to attack, I waited for the right moment to do a ‘fake’ kick again, making sure I didn’t go overboard this time.

As Daniel lunged at me, I timed my kick at the perfect moment to thwart him, hoping he’d see it in time to avoid it. Just in case he didn’t, I didn’t kick quite as hard. Still, somehow I managed to connect… again!

He fell to the floor, hardly believing that it had happened again. At least it wasn’t as bad this time, but still… what the hell? Did I have it in for him or something? Was his timing really that off?

Everyone felt bad for Daniel, but most of us were trying not to laugh out loud. I mean… sometimes when something untoward happens, your first impulse is to laugh, right? I had a hard time keeping the chuckle inside, especially as I asked him if he was okay.

This time Sensei clapped his hands for everyone to stop, deciding that for Daniel’s sake, and maybe mine, it was time to move on to something else. I wasn’t sure who was more relieved, me or Daniel. But still, twice in one day? Sheesh!

After that, Sensei decided to have us practice with the jo so we wouldn’t need partners. The jo is a wooden staff that’s about four feet long. He had us hold it close to the center and practice doing circle eights so we could get a feel for it. Then he told us to try going a little faster.

I concentrated hard and sped things up a bit, thinking it was just like twirling a baton like they do in the marching bands. All at once, a big thwack sounded, and Daniel’s jo fell to the mat. He held his hand to his jaw where he’d hit himself with the jo!

I burst out laughing. I knew it wasn’t nice of me, but I couldn’t help it. I tried to hold it in and turned my face away so Daniel wouldn’t see, but my shoulders shook so bad I could hardly breathe, which just made me laugh even harder.

It was one of those times I had the giggles so bad nothing was going to keep me from laughing. Then I noticed everyone else was laughing a little too. Even Daniel. With a shrug, he said something about it not being his day, and the tension left the room.

Still, it wasn’t until Savannah and I were driving home that we could finally let loose and have a good laugh. We both agreed that Aikido was a blast, and even if embarrassing things happened, we wouldn’t want to stop going.

I thought that would be the end of it, but at dinner Savannah spilled the beans. “Dad… guess what Mom did to a poor guy in Aikido…”

 

I just got back from New York a few weeks ago, and it was a blast. We stayed in a hotel close to Times Square, so naturally, that was the first place we went once we got there. It’s kind of a crazy place, with so many people and all of those bright lights.

There’s also people there who dress up as different super heroes and other things like the Statue of Liberty. Naturally, I wanted to get my picture taken with one of them. Then I noticed that people who stopped and got photos always slipped them some cash after. Not sure I wanted to pay for a photo opp, I glanced at some of the other things going on, content to watch without participating in anything that might cost me money.

A large crowd had gathered around four shirtless, muscle-bound men, so naturally that caught my attention and I hurried over to join them with Miguel, who was with me, trailing behind.

They asked for a volunteer, and a boy around nine-years-old raised his hand. They told him to stand real still while one of the shirtless guys did a jumping flip right over his head. Everyone cheered and clapped at his feat. After taking a bow, one of the men pulled the tallest guy from the crowd and had him stand behind the kid.

That’s when they turned to the crowd and asked, “How much do you want to see our brother jump over both of them?” A few people handed them some dollar bills, and they collected a nice little stack. Then they pulled another guy from the crowd and had him stand between the other two. This time they got a few tens and fives and began their little chant of how we’re all part of the human family, no matter what our differences may be.

I stood there beside Miguel and figured we could stay and watch without giving them any money, especially since we were at the back of the crowd. Next thing I know, they are grabbing Miguel to stand in the row of people, making it four tall guys.

I picked up his embarrassment, but of course he went along with it, because what else could he do? They used his addition to get more money from the crowd, especially zeroing in on the girls who thought Miguel was hot-stuff.

Then they asked him if he was there with someone, like a wife or a girlfriend. He pointed in my direction and the nearest guy came to my side. “Is this your wife?” he asked, dragging me into the center of the crowd, and thinking I looked a little old for him, but in a good way. Of course Miguel said, “No, she’s my cousin.”

The guy dramatically wiped his brow and said. “So it’s all right if I kiss her?” He stood beside me and leaned in to kiss my lips. I stood frozen, and probably would have let him kiss me, but he stopped at the last moment and sent me a wink. Then he asked me, “How much is your cousin worth? If you want us to jump all-the-way-over-him, we might need some motivation.”

Dang! With everyone watching, I scrounged through my purse and found that my smallest chunk of change happened to be a twenty-dollar-bill. I handed it over, and he got the crowd to cheer for me while I smiled politely and gave Miguel a thumbs-up.

After that, they added another man to the line, which now made five people in a row to jump over. Then they did their little thing and asked for more donations. I didn’t see how they planned to jump over all these tall guys and the kid, but what did I know?

Flush with cash, they added a woman to stand between the boy and the next man, taking the number up to six and making the row of people go from shortest to tallest.

They did their little spiel and gathered several more bills. At this point it looked like they had close to three-hundred dollars. Not bad for half an hour.

Finally, they said it was time to do the jump. It was a good thing, since most people were ready to move on by then. Anyway, they made the girl and boy stand off to the side. Then they asked the four guys to face sideways and touch their toes. Not all of them could do that, but a few got pretty close.

With the line of men all hunched over and standing close together, the jump seemed a lot more reasonable. Still, that was quite a formidable distance. Starting a countdown, the jumper took his place, then took off running and did a big flip over them, going to his knees on the other side before standing up.

From where I stood, the jump looked a little off to me… like he’d jumped a little crookedly and not exactly right over them, but I wasn’t about to point that out. After he landed, everyone clapped and cheered, and they thanked the crowd as it dispersed. Miguel came to my side, relieved to have that over with, and we started back to our hotel.

Anyway… I didn’t feel too bad about losing twenty dollars since it was part of my whole New York experience. Plus, I nearly got kissed by a hot guy… how could I complain about that? But next time, I think I’ll just get my picture taken with Captain America, like I wanted to in the first place!

All of you know how much I love going on motorcycle rides. But after yesterday, I’ve decided that it’s mostly because of the person taking me on the ride.

Yesterday, I got a call from my friend, Holly. She told me that her husband got her a scooter for her birthday. I think it’s a Vespa. Anyway… I hurried over to see it and maybe take a ride. It was so cute … kind of a lime green color. And the thing I liked most, was that it didn’t have any gears you had to shift, and it was small enough for me to handle.

As you know, on a motorcycle, you have to do that whole gear shift thing on the handlebar and with your foot, which can be a little intimidating… at least for me. Plus, the motorcycle that I usually ride is pretty big. If I tried to take that out by myself, I’m not sure I’d be strong enough to hold it upright. Still, I’m sure they have smaller motorcycles that I could try, right? Plus it might be a good thing to learn how to ride one just in case… you know… something happened.

With that in mind, I totally jumped at the chance to try out Holly’s Vespa, just to get a feel for it in a non-threatening way. If I liked it… who knew? Maybe I’d want to get one, or try out a smaller-size motorcycle?

She drove it around first and showed me how it worked, driving it up and down the street a few times. Then it was my turn. The handlebars have a brake lever and the one on the right side is the one you pull toward you to make it go.

It seemed simple enough, and it kind of reminded me of the wave-runner I took out at the lake a few years ago. I had my two kids on it behind me, and we started out pretty slow. Then the need for speed hit me, and I twisted the handle. We took off and it was great fun, until the kids lost their grip and flew off behind me. Luckily they both had on life jackets, but I didn’t realize they were slowly losing their grip because of the speed, or I would have slowed down…

Anyway, I tested the brakes and then twisted the handle and started off. I was going pretty slow, but I veered to the left where there’s a two-foot drop-off from Holly’s driveway to the neighbor’s driveway. I was holding onto the handlebar so tight, that I forgot that I needed to let go in order to stop.

I managed to turn the wheel in time to avoid going off the edge, but it was close, and I heard some yelling going on behind me. By then, I had come to the end of the driveway. Luckily, I shifted my hand on the handle. With a deep breath of relief, I slowed in time to look both ways before pulling out and turning up the street.

I made it to the top of the street and decided to go around the block, since I wasn’t sure I could turn it around. By the time I’d made it back around the street, I was starting to get the hang of it. I’d even managed not to tip over or anything. But my legs were a little shaky from all the excitement.

With relief, I turned into the driveway and pulled to a stop in front of everyone almost like a pro. I even remembered to put my feet on the ground so the scooter wouldn’t tip over.

Holly smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She reached for the handlebar, thinking how grateful she was that I’d make it back alive, and that I’d almost killed her brand-new scooter. She also wasn’t sure she’d ever let me ride it again.

It kind of hurt my feelings. Sure I’d sort of messed up at the beginning, but I’d made it all the way around the block just fine. Still, I knew it would take a lot more practice for me to feel totally comfortable riding around on it.

That’s when I realized that maybe having a motorcycle of my own wouldn’t be such a good idea after all. I really liked riding on the back much better than driving it myself anyway. Especially when I could wrap my arms around the one person who liked to take me on those rides… yeah… I think it’s safer for everyone if I stick to that plan from now on.

 

 

As most of you know, I’m a paid consultant for the police. I help out when they have a difficult case and not much to go on. They don’t know the truth that I can read minds, and I try to keep it that way by telling them I have psychic abilities – like premonitions and such.

This works great when they are questioning suspects, mostly because I can pick it up pretty quick if the suspect is guilty. After that, it’s usually easy for me to ask the suspect leading questions that either trick them into admitting their guilt, or trick them into giving away important information that only they would know. This usually freaks them out so bad that they confess to the whole thing. In the process, it makes me look pretty awesome.

Only today didn’t go quite so well.

I was at the precinct waiting for Dimples to arrive, when the chief got the call about a double homicide. Dimples is the only detective who knows the truth about me, and we’ve become partners. But since he wasn’t there yet, the chief asked me to go with Detective Bates.

Normally, Bates would have refused to take me with him, since he doesn’t like me much. But things have changed in the last couple of months, and he’s more accepting of my psychic abilities. He’s now a believer, since he’s seen first hand how good I am at finding the guilty party.

But right then, I wished he still hated me, because I wasn’t sure how I could help at a crime scene. I couldn’t read dead people’s minds, and the killer was probably long gone. But what could I do? As I stood there with indecision, Bates smiled encouragingly, thinking I hesitated because he hadn’t been very nice to me, but he was willing to let bygones be bygones.

Great! How could I tell him to go without me after that? “Uh… I’m not too good with blood. Maybe I’d better stay here?”

At this point the chief noticed my hesitation and frowned at me, thinking that with my ability, I might pick up something his detectives would miss and they’d get a jump start on the killer. So why was I hesitating? Isn’t this what they paid me for?

“But if you really need me,” I continued. “I’ll go.”

“Good,” the chief said. “Detective Harris has been held up on another case, but I’ll send him to the house as soon as he’s available.”

I let out a relieved breath since Detective Harris is my partner, Dimples. I hoped he didn’t take took long since he could run interference for me if things got tricky. Plus, I didn’t like going out on a case without him. I knew Dimples had my back if something went wrong, and I couldn’t say that about Bates.

Before I knew it, we arrived at the house with the dead bodies, and a wave of dread washed over me. Even worse, there were a lot of police officers there, but Dimples wasn’t one of them.

Bates noticed my white face and thought I was a big wimp. He shook his head thinking it was a mistake to bring me. Sure, I’d been right a few times, but I didn’t seem to have the mojo to be a real detective.

The grudging respect he’d held for me slipped a few notches. So I offered him a quick nod, and jumped out of the car. I even led the way to the door, but a police officer stopped me from entering, and Bates had to tell her it was okay to let me in. As obnoxious as that was, it restored Bates’ good mood, so I couldn’t be too upset.

With misgiving, I took a deep breath and followed him in. The first thing I noticed were the rusty red blood spatters all over the living room wall. Then came the coppery smell of death and the sight of two women’s bodies sprawled out on the floor. I stopped in my tracks, then managed to cover my nose and avert my gaze until I found an out-of-the-way spot near the doorway to the kitchen.

I swallowed a few times to keep from throwing up. I hadn’t expected the dead people to be women. Somehow, that made this whole thing worse. I glanced into the kitchen and noticed food on the table along with three place settings. So where was the other person? Was that person still there? Was that person the killer?

My neck tingled and a sudden chill ran down my spine, as if someone’s icy breath had brushed against my skin. I hunched my shoulders and glanced behind me, catching sight of blond hair and wide eyes before it registered that my reflection looked back at me from a tall mirror at the end of the hall.

Letting out a breath of relief, my shoulders slumped and I closed my eyes. Then I heard a sound, like a woman singing. What the freak? It came from the end of the hall where two doors stood open.

I wasn’t about to go that way, but an icy tingle crept against my neck and across my shoulders, pushing me in that direction. The singing got a little louder and I followed the sound to the room on the right.

I held my breath and peeked inside, letting it out to find the room empty. As I took a step inside the singing stopped, and I caught the scent of roses. Then a picture frame on the dresser toppled over. I inhaled sharply, then squealed with alarm as a hand clamped down on my shoulder.

“Whoa! It’s just me,” Bates said, catching my arms before I hit him. “Didn’t you hear me? I called your name twice.”

“You did?” My breath came hard and fast. At his nod, I shook my head. “I didn’t hear a thing. But I think you’d better take a look at whoever’s in that picture frame on the dresser.”

“Why?”

“Because it just fell over for no reason!”

His eyes narrowed. He was thinking that maybe my imagination was working overtime. He’d seen that happen at homicides before, because of the shock of dead bodies and all that blood. But what if there was something to it? Was it part of my powers at work?

“Sure. I’ll get it.” He moved to the dresser and pulled on some rubber gloves before picking up the frame.

I glanced over his shoulder into the photo of a smiling man wearing a suit and tie. “I don’t know who that is,” I said. “But I think he might be the killer.”

Bates glanced at me, thinking that maybe it wasn’t a waste to bring me after all. “Sure. I’ll look into it.”

I closed my eyes and let out a relieved breath. “Is it okay if I go sit in the car now?”

“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I held my breath and hurried out of the house, keeping one eye closed so I wouldn’t see the dead bodies again. After pushing through the door, I stumbled down the porch steps in my haste to get out of there.

I managed to keep my balance and continued toward the car, where I stopped to plant my hands on my knees and lean over to settle my stomach. Sheesh! That was horrible!

As I opened the car door and sat down, I decided then and there, that I was never going to a crime scene again. I’d much rather sit in on a suspect’s questioning than get scared half to death by a departed spirit.

On the other hand, at least it was Bates and not Dimples who’d been there. Bates wouldn’t question my ability, but Dimples would have had questions that I didn’t want to answer. How could I tell him that sometimes I heard dead people… Of course, since he knew I could read minds, did it really matter?

Probably not. But maybe working for Uncle Joey and not helping the police so much would be better for me… even if it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do.

Christmas Errands

Posted: December 16, 2016 in Advice

In December I don’t usually do a lot of work for Uncle Joey, so I was surprised when he asked me to run an errand for him. I’m always a little bit nervous about running errands for Uncle Joey, mostly because it seems like I always get into trouble, even when he says I won’t.

But this errand didn’t seem so bad. He wanted me to pick up the gift he’d ordered for Jackie at the diamond jewelry store. Since I was curious to see the expensive gift he’d bought her, I was happy to do it.

I was also supposed to stop at the Nut Warehouse and pick up his order of Christmas gifts for his friend and associates. He’d figured that since the stores were close to each other, it made sense to take care of them both at the same time.

He gave me his credit card to pay for everything and sent me on my way. I stopped at the Nut place first and went inside, telling them I was there to pick up the Manetto order. The person at the front desk said she had several orders waiting in the back, and told me it would take a minute to sort through them.

Just then, two more people came in wanting their orders, followed by a third. She took all of their names down, and left to find our orders at the same time. A few minutes later she came back with a heavy box. After setting it down, she went back again, repeating the process several times.

Once she had all the boxes in front of her, she then had to check the orders against the papers with the orders on the boxes. I was hoping that since I was the first one there, she’d help me first, but of course, that’s not what happened.

Needless to say, everyone else got their orders before I did, and it made me a little cranky. In fact, the first box that she’d carried out was on the bottom of the stack, and it was the one with the Manetto name on it.

After everyone else had left, she finally brought up my order and held out her hand for my credit card. I reached for the card in my purse, and came up empty. I checked my coat pockets, but it wasn’t there. My jeans pockets were also empty. Next, I unzipped every little nook and cranny in my purse to check there, but still couldn’t find the damn thing.

As panic began to set in, I tried to remember what I’d done with the card. I knew I’d had it in my hand when I first entered the shop, so where had it gone? Maybe I’d dropped it? I glanced at the floor, then got down on my hands and knees to see if it was underneath something.

“What’s wrong?” the clerk asked.

“I’ve lost my credit card. I know I had it when I came in here, but now I can’t find it.”

“Oh, that’s not good.” She glanced at all the paperwork in front of her and lifted papers up to see if it had ended up on her desk. Then her eyes widened as she remembered that I’d handed her my card, but she couldn’t remember what she’d done with it. “I’ll be right back,” she said, making a bee-line for the back room.

I stood, heaving a sigh that at least I hadn’t lost it, and waited for her to come back. After several minutes with no sign of her, I hurried around the partition to her desk to search for it myself.

It wasn’t on the desk, or on the floor, or anywhere else that I could see. So she must have taken it into the back room with her. Just as I started back there, she came out with her eyes round as saucers. “Did you find it?” she asked.

“No.”

“I can’t find it either.” She was thinking that she’d never told me that I’d given it to her, so maybe she’d stick with that and hope I thought I was the one who’d lost it.

I wasn’t about to go along with that. “Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I gave it to you. So what did you do with it?”

Her shoulders sank. “I don’t know.”

“Let’s go over everything that happened from when I first came in.” I took her through it, and we retraced her steps, still coming up empty-handed.

Then I noticed that she had front pockets in her plaid shirt. “Did you look in your shirt pockets?”

With a startled gasp, she reached in and pulled the card out. “Oh my gosh! Here it is!” After apologizing several times, she ran the card and handed me my box, making sure I had the receipt and the card. “Just a minute.” She ran to the back room, then came out with a small box of nuts. “This is for all the hassle.”

I thanked her and left, grateful that it had turned out all right in the end, but seriously? Why does this always happen to me?

I made it to the jewelry store, holding the credit card tight in my fist where I wouldn’t lose it. The jeweler recognized me from the last time I’d been there with Billie when we’d picked out Dimples’ wedding band. It took him by surprise that I was the one Uncle Joey had called him about. “You’re Shelby?” he asked.

“Yup.”

He thought that I sure got around, but maybe that’s why I worked for Uncle Joey. He took out the velvet box containing the necklace and earrings set that Uncle Joey had bought for Jackie and caught my gaze. “Do you want to see it?”

“Sure.” My eyes widened as he opened the box. The set was stunning with a combination of sapphires and diamonds in beautiful white gold. Then he pulled out a couple of smaller boxes.

“Which one of these do you like best?” he asked, opening the boxes to reveal a different set of earrings inside each one. One style was more formal with a single diamond on a swirl of white gold, while the other was more whimsical with three strands of white gold chain laced with smaller diamonds.

I caught his gaze. “For me, or Jackie?”

He smiled, thinking nothing got past me. “Would it matter?”

I shrugged. “No. They’re both beautiful, but I like one with the strands the best.”

“That’s the one I would have picked for you,” he said, thinking that my husband would be pleased, and he hoped he hadn’t given too much away. Covering his tracks, he went on to explain, “A friend asked me to pick something out for his wife, and she is a lot like you. That’s why I asked.”

“Oh, I see. Well, your friend’s wife is lucky. She’ll love them.”

He smiled, pleased with how sneaky he’d been, and got the jewelry for Uncle Joey all packaged up. After the transaction, he handed the box to me, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

I made it back to Thrasher Development in one piece and everything turned out all right in the end. Yes, I know about the earrings, but there’s not too many presents I don’t know about, if you know what I mean.

So, I can’t complain too much about running those errands for Uncle Joey. Even if one was a pain in the butt, the other more than made up for it.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas! (With lots of surprises under the tree!)

XOXO,

Shelby

 

I know it’s rude to just drop in on people, but sometimes if you really want to know what’s going on, that’s the best way to find out.

So today, I decided to stop by Chris’ office and see how things were going. He has this gorgeous new secretary – er – executive assistant, who kind of has the hots for him. Because she sometimes forgets, I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to stop by to remind her that my husband is not up for grabs.

I exited the elevator and made my way to Chris’ office. I found Elise sitting at her desk with her head down. As I approached, she glanced up with an expression of sadness which quickly changed into a smile for my benefit. She greeted me pleasantly enough, telling me that Chris was in court, but underneath that I picked up that she was barely holding herself together.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Uh… nothing,” she said, lying through her teeth. Her mind went to the results of her LSAT and how she’d just missed getting a good enough score to go to law school. If only she could get someone to help her study. Maybe if she told Chris, he could help her, and she could take the test again. That way she could spend more one-on-one time with him, and get the help she needed. Win-win.

I wanted to say, “Hell, no!” but managed to keep my mouth shut. Instead, I asked her when Chris would be back, and if I should wait.

“You could,” she answered. “But he might be an hour or so.” She didn’t really want me around, mostly because it reminded her that Chris was off limits.

Just then, Ethan came around the corner with a stack of files. He was a junior associate at the firm and Chris was mentoring him. Ethan had a few secrets of his own, and one was a connection to the district attorney’s office. They wanted him to snitch on Chris in order to get to Uncle Joey.

“Mrs. Nichols,” Ethan said. “Nice to see you.” He knew that I’d told him several times to call me Shelby, but he just couldn’t do it. My presence also reminded him that Chris was a good guy with a great family, and guilt swamped over him that he was supposed to spy on Chris. He wished there was a way out of that.

“Hey Ethan,” I answered. “You too. Uh… how did you do on your LSATS?”

“Pretty good,” he said, thinking that he had one of the highest scores possible, and wondering why I asked.

“Great. Did you know that Elise is studying for the exam?” I caught a blast of surprise from both of them before Ethan answered.

“No, I didn’t.” He turned to Elise. “That’s great. How’s it coming?”

She stared at me, thoroughly confused at how I knew, then swallowed and glanced at Ethan. “Uh… I already took it, but I didn’t pass. I know all this stuff, but taking timed tests just freaks me out.”

Ethan nodded, thinking that he’d been trying to figure out a way to talk to Elise outside of the office. Maybe helping her would get him a date. “I could help you, if you’d like. I got a pretty good score and maybe you just need a good coach.”

Elise nodded, then smiled at him. He was cute in his own way, and spending time with him might be fun. Not as great as with Chris… but Ethan was a smart guy and knew his stuff. “That would be great.”

As they worked out the details, I told them goodbye, and left the office with a smile, knowing I’d just killed two birds with one stone.

Now Elise had someone besides Chris to focus on, and Ethan might be distracted with her enough to forget about spying on Chris for a while. I always liked it when things went right for a change. Now if only I could count on that happening all the time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheesh! After everything I’ve been through lately, you’d think I’d learn, right? I mean, I’ve been scared more than a few times in my life, but never like this!

Let me start at the beginning. My son, Josh, asked me if I’d take him and his friends to a Halloween-themed haunted house. I should have known it would be bad with the name “The Haunting House,” but I know just as well as the next person, that it’s all make-believe. Still, I don’t like people jumping out at me in the dark.

Needless to say, Josh and his friends kind of ganged up on me to go. It helped that they thought I was the coolest mom ever, and would be even cooler if I went in with them. How could I say no to that? After a lot of energetic persuasion from them, I finally gave in, and told Josh and his friends that I’d take them, as long as it wasn’t too scary.

We arrived at the house around six-thirty and got in a line that snaked around and down the street. By the time we got to the gate, I found the house wasn’t at all what I pictured. In fact, even though it was on a major street, it was basically a normal two-story old Victorian-looking mansion. There weren’t any decorations or people dressed up in costumes, so what was the draw? That’s when the kids started talking about how this house was supposed to be haunted for real.

That raised my blood pressure real fast, and I started to panic. Oh crap! In my line of work, I’d actually picked up a few voices from the great beyond, so if it was really haunted, I could be in trouble. Too bad I’d already paid a hefty entrance fee, or I might have backed out.

Just then, our group of four, plus six more people in the line were allowed through the front gate. With a sense of impending disaster, I followed the boys to the front porch and met our guide. I listened real close to his thoughts while he explained the history of the house, trying to pick up if he actually believed it, or if he was reciting from a script.

He wove a story that this home was over one hundred and fifty years old, and had been built by a wealthy merchant. One night the whole family had been murdered by the merchant’s angry partner, who was tried and hung a week later. In the aftermath, the city took possession, and turned it into an orphanage. The orphanage functioned for twenty years before it was shut down, but by then, it had earned the reputation of being haunted with all kinds of spooky happenings.

It had passed through several owners after that, all with the same stories of unexplained events. The recent owner had even invited a team of paranormal investigators who actually documented some of them.

With that auspicious beginning, our guide told us we would now be entering a real haunted house, and he assured us that anything we saw or heard was not part of an elaborate scheme to scare us. It was real.

It might have scared me to death, except I knew from his thoughts that he wasn’t telling the whole truth. Sure, the part about the murdered family was real, along with the orphanage, but the special effects we were about to experience were definitely rigged.

I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful to know I could pick up what would happen from his thoughts before it actually happened, so it wouldn’t be so bad. Still, I moved closer to Josh, just in case I needed to grab onto someone.

The first room we entered was the living room with a fireplace and furnishings circa the late 1800’s. The lights flickered, and the fireplace burst into flames, but that was all part of the scheme. The guide did a good job of acting a little scared, which built up the pretense.

From there, we followed him into the dining room where the table was set for six people. A tablecloth hung nearly to the ground, so when the table shook, rattling the plates, it wasn’t hard to guess that someone was under there. Our guide backed away like it scared him, but it was all part of the act.

Then loud footsteps pounded across the room, coming from the ceiling above us, and we all jerked in surprise. The hairs rose at the back of my neck, and I picked up that our guide hadn’t expected that, but he figured it was new, and covered well by saying the children’s rooms were above us, and that explained the latent energy.

We skipped the kitchen, thank goodness, and he led us up the stairs, telling us how the family had all been killed while sleeping in their beds. He said their rooms; especially that of the sixteen-year-old daughter, was where most of the paranormal activity had been recorded. He saved that room for last, and took us through the other bedrooms first.

The parent’s room was dark, with only two small lights coming from the bedside tables. As he spoke about the wife, a small breeze caressed my check, carrying the smell of roses. I swallowed and glanced around the room. It came again and my breath caught. “Did you smell that?” I asked. “That rose smell?”

Everyone turned my way with rounded eyes, and I did a mental head-slap. Oops. Everyone sniffed, and a girl nodded, agreeing that she could smell it too. I let out my breath with relief, and found the guide staring at me. He was wondering if I was a plant by the owner, because nothing like that had ever happened before. Had I sprayed that perfume?

Oh great! Now what?

Shaking his head, he continued the tour and took us into the children’s rooms. I held my breath, hoping nothing else crazy happened. The rocking chair in the corner began to move, but that was staged, as well as a toy that fell from a shelf. Still, it scared the crap out of me.

Our last stop was the teenager’s room, and I realized I was hanging onto Josh’s arm pretty tight, and couldn’t seem to let go. Our guide opened the door to the room, and a blast of cold air hit me in the face. Everyone felt it, and our guide explained that the cold meant there was likely a ghost inside the room. But not to worry, no one had ever been harmed by this ghost.

He led the way inside we all followed behind with fear and trembling. There was just enough room for us to crowd around the side of the small bed. The room was dimly lit, just like the rest had been, and it was freezing. Luckily, I knew that was part of the act, but it still made my heart race.

He told us about the girl, and how many of the orphans had heard her singing at night. Then he asked us to all be quiet and listen carefully, while he asked the ghost to sing for us. It reminded of the phantom saying, “sing for me,” in Phantom of the Opera. I would have laughed, but the whole thing was freaking me out.

I picked up that the guide always did this, and he waited for the singing to start, but nothing happened. Puzzled, he asked again, only more forcefully, hoping his counterpart would get the show on the road.

All at once the door slammed shut and the lights went out.

In the dark, all pandemonium broke loose. Amid the frightened screams I got pushed against the bed and fell onto the mattress, right onto a hard body. I tried to get away, but found an arm clamped tightly around my waist.

In desperation, I grabbed my stun flashlight from my purse and pushed the on-switch for the light, only I got it wrong, and pushed the stunner instead. It crackled with green light and caught the guy in the arm. He let out a strangled yelp before collapsing on the bed, pulling me down on top of him.

Just then the lights came back on and everyone froze. I pushed off the guy, recognizing him as part of our group who was there with a cute girl. I scanned the room for Josh, and found him jerking guiltily away from the same cute girl, who he’d been holding onto rather tightly.

Oops. Somehow, we’d gotten mixed up, and now the guy was lying there like he was dead.

Both the guide and the girl rushed over to the bed and I had to explain that my stun-gun had gone off in the mix-up. I assured them that the fellow would be right as rain in a few minutes, since I’d only gotten him in the arm.

Lucky for me, the guy started to blink and moan right away. Soon, he was sitting up, wondering what had happened. By then, everyone had gathered around the bed, and we all let out relieved sighs that he was all right.

That’s when we heard it; a young girl’s laughter, echoing through the air in whispered glee.

In sheer panic, everyone high-tailed it out of there. Even the kid I’d zapped lurched out like his pants were on fire. Not me. I started laughing. I just couldn’t help it. What a prank she’d pulled! Josh came back and grabbed my arm to drag me out of there. He was thinking that I’d lost it, and that sobered me up pretty quick.

On the drive home, the boys expounded in great detail about all the special effects, and how real they were, saying that was the best haunted house ever. They even laughed at me and how I’d stunned that guy by accident, thinking I was pretty awesome.

But under that, I picked up that they were mostly trying to assure themselves that none of it was real. Even telling each other that there had to be a girl hiding in the closet who set the whole thing up.

I just laughed and agreed, telling them that was the best joke ever, and keeping my mouth shut for a change. No use telling the truth and giving them all nightmares, or worse, making them think I was nuts instead of awesome, right?

Still, how do I get into these things?

So from now on, I’m swearing off haunted houses. The next time my kids want to do anything even remotely insane like that, they can find someone else to take them. I have enough on my plate without adding ghosts, even if they do have a wicked sense of humor.

Helping the police has always been a little nerve-wracking, mostly because the local mob-boss, Uncle Joey, doesn’t like it much. So I try to keep a low profile when I’m helping my partner, Dimples, or I should say, Detective Harris, solve a difficult case. Since Dimples knows my secret that I can read minds, we make a good team. I also feel like it eases my conscience to help out the good guys once in a while, since I’m sort of obligated to help the bad guys out the rest of the time.

This can sometimes be a little tricky, but I do my best to keep things on the low-down. Even so, things can get complicated. Like today.

Dimples and I were  just returning to the police station when a call came through about a man with a gun at the State Capitol Building. We were only a block away, so naturally, Dimples flashed on his lights and siren, and swerved the car around to rush to the scene.

We were the first to arrive, and Dimples told me to stay in the car, while he jumped out to run inside and save the day. Naturally, I couldn’t let him run into danger like that if I could help. So, much to his consternation, I quickly followed.

“What the … Shelby, you can’t come, you’re not armed.”

“I’ll stay behind you.”

Since there wasn’t time to argue, he just swore a blue streak in his mind, and continued up the steps with me right behind him. Then I caught that he wished I wasn’t there, since he’d have to worry about my safety, and it kind of hurt my feelings. I mean, seriously, I can read minds… that’s a huge help, and it can also keep me safe since I’ll know what’s coming ahead of time, right?

We passed several people running out the doors, and I picked up that the man with the gun had cornered s few people in the rotunda by the busts of all the former governors. As we hurried inside, I relayed that information to Dimples, and his annoyance with me dissipated a little.

As we approached the back of the rotunda, Dimples slowed his steps and then came to a stop just out of sight. We could hear a woman trying to calm the man with the gun, so I took the opportunity to zero in on the man’s thoughts.

His underlying desperation hit me first, but his thoughts didn’t make a lot of sense. The harder I listened, the more I realized I could hear three distinct voices all trying to talk at the same time. They were arguing about doing whatever it took to get what he needed. One was pushing him to put the gun down, but another was arguing to use it to get them to listen to him. It scared me so bad, I jerked out of his head.

“What’s wrong?” Dimples whispered, noticing my widened eyes and shallow breath.

“He’s crazy.” At Dimples’ raised brows, I continued. “I mean, literally… he needs his medication. Wait…that’s what this is all about. He has no insurance and can’t pay so he came here to get help. At least that’s what it sounds like.”

“Do you think he’ll shoot someone?”

“I don’t know…” I listened to the different voices and thought I just might go crazy. Then I caught it. “I don’t think the gun’s loaded.”

“Are you positive?”

Before I could answer, we heard soft footfalls and turned around to find a fully armed and loaded SWAT team slowly coming our way. A couple of them crept up the stairs where they could get a clean shot and take him out before he killed someone.

Knowing I didn’t have much time, I caught Dimples’ gaze, then took a deep breath and walked around the corner. “Hey Benny, it’s Shelby. I’ve got your meds for you.” He turned around, pinning me with his startled gaze, and raising his gun in my direction. “Uh…Jerry wants you to put the gun down now. He says everything’s going to be all right. But you have to put the gun down first. You should listen to Jerry and not Cindy. Jerry’s got the right idea. He doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, and I don’t think you do either.”

Benny’s brows rose  with astonishment. “He… told you that?”

“Yes.”

His mouth opened and closed, then he shook his head. “Cindy’s going to be mad.”

“She’ll get over it. You should listen to Jerry and put the gun down. He’s right you know.”

“O..kay. If you’re sure…”

“I am.”

With his brows drawn together in confusion, he lowered the gun to the ground.

Dimples rushed in and kicked the gun away before pulling Benny’s arms behind his back and cuffing him. All at once, police officers came out of the woodwork and surrounded us. They had Benny subdued before I could blink. That’s when I realized that with Benny’s focus on me, all the hostages had taken off.

I glanced toward Dimples to find him examining Benny’s gun and hurried to his side. His gaze caught mine and he shook his head, thinking that I’d taken a hell of a risk talking to Benny like that… because the gun was fully loaded.

“Are you serious?”

He let out his breath and nodded, then thought that even though I was wrong about the gun, I was right about everything else, and it was kind of creepy the way I talked to that guy. But it worked.

I let out a breath, grateful it was over, and a little wigged out by the whole thing. And now I had to worry about the unwanted attention that was sure to come my way. “You did this, not me,” I whispered. “I’ll meet you at the car.” I turned around to get out of there before someone stopped me.

Luckily, I made it to the car before I heard my name. Cringing, I turned to find Billie Jo rushing my way, and knew it was time to lie my head off. “Oh hey Billie, Dimples saved the day in there. You should go talk to him.”

After asking me a couple of questions, she high-tailed it up the steps and I breathed a sigh of relief. That was close, and I thanked my lucky stars that the hostages and the police didn’t witness my conversation with Benny. At least I sure hoped not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My summer’s been pretty good so far, and I hope yours has too.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating getting those fake eyelashes that they glue onto your own eyelashes. Mostly because, as I mentioned in my last post, all my friends had done it, and they looked pretty great. Of course, I already have naturally long lashes, but without mascara, they’re pretty much invisible. Which brings me to wonder how much easier it would be to have the fake ones. Looking good all the time without putting on mascara sounds awesome.

The only drawback I can see is the expense and the maintenance. My friend told me that after the first application, you have to go in every two weeks to keep them filled, or at least three to four weeks or they start to fall out and look kind of weird.

That seems like a big commitment to me, but her lashes looked so amazing, that I’m really tempted. But is the cost and maintenance worth it? She absolutely loves it, so it definitely is for her.

I’d almost made up my mind to do it, but then I remembered something that happened to me not too long ago. I broke out in hives all over my neck and face from a new face cream I was using. I’d ended up at the doctor’s office, needing a shot and a few days on steroid pills because of my allergies.

Since I’d heard similar horror stories about people having an allergic reaction to the glue that was used on the lashes, it made me wonder if that would happen to me. I could just imagine how bad I’d look with swollen eyes no amount of benadryl could cure. My doctor would probably think I was pretty stupid to even try it, which would mean I couldn’t go to him for help. And I’d just have to live with it until all my eyelashes fell out. How would I look then?

Just thinking about it sent chills of terror down my spine, so… I think I’ll just stick to mascara for now. It may take a few minutes to put on, and run down my face at inopportune times, but at least I’ll avoid the trouble of something even worse. I mean, if there’s something I’ve learned lately, it’s that if anything bad might happen to me, it probably will. Knowing that, it would be irresponsible to even try it. So I think I’ll wait. Who knows what they might come up with in a few years anyway, right?

I met some of the girls I’d grown up with for dinner the other night.

As you can imagine, I’d managed to avoid dinner with them for a while, mostly to save myself from hearing thoughts that might hurt my feelings. Not that these friends are mean or anything, but there’s always that element of competitiveness that comes when a group of women get together.

The drill goes like this: We start out by getting updates on what everyone’s doing in their lives. This is accomplished by going around the table so everyone gets a chance to talk about themselves. That’s when we get to hear about the cruises, trips, new cars, houses, and what activities the children are involved in, and how smart they are. Then we usually end with the latest gossip about other people we know. Pretty standard, right?

In some ways, I really wanted to go because I’ve got some crazy stories I could tell that might just top anything anyone else had to say. I’d also know how much of the truth they told, and how much they embellished their stories just to sound good.

But on the other hand, I’d know what they really thought about each other … and what they really thought about me. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea, even as much as it enticed me to know.

Anyway, it just so happened that I was free on the night of the scheduled dinner. And in a moment of weakness, I told them I’d be there. That’s how I ended up in the restaurant, surrounded by six other women whom I’d known since grade school, but hadn’t talked to in almost a year.

When it got to me, I decided to tell them about my consulting agency. I picked up curiosity, and a lot of astonishment, that I had the guts to do something like that. They had a ton of questions for me about what kinds of cases I’d worked on. Mostly because they didn’t quite believe I was telling the truth, or that I was totally legitimate.

In fact, there were a couple of them who thought I couldn’t possibly be a real investigator, and it was just a hobby, or something I said to impress people. Then someone asked if I’d ever worked on a murder case, but she was thinking that was the true test of my legitimacy as a consultant.

So naturally, I took the bait, and told them about the case where I’d helped a young woman find her mother who’d been missing for ten years, but whom I found out had actually been killed by a serial killer. That got their attention, and they listened with astonishment to the whole story, amazed that I got out alive. And who was this Ramos person? (I’d sort of glossed over that part, since I couldn’t exactly tell the truth. But I had to say something about him. I mean, how could I leave him out when he’d saved my life?)

By the end of our dinner, I had their grudging respect, but they also didn’t want me to think I was too high and mighty for them. So they took what I said with a grain of salt, not quite believing all of it. (Mostly the Ramos part.)

It also made me realize that if one of them had told my story, I’d probably have a hard time believing it too, so maybe it was all right.

Still, as we left, I had a strong desire for Ramos to show up on his motorcycle and take me for a ride, just to prove it was all real. That would show them, right? Plus, they’d probably all die of jealousy.

But, as satisfying as that scenario might be, all it would really prove was that I was lots more competitive than I thought. Even worse, that I’d enjoyed being the center of attention and having the best story of them all.

Dang. I hoped that didn’t make me a bad person. It might also mean that I’d better keep my mouth shut next time. With as much trouble as I seem to get into, it’s probably a good idea.