Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Christmas Gifts

Posted: December 5, 2017 in Experiences, Thoughts
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It’s been a while since my visit to the grocery store on that fateful day in April. That’s when the bank inside the store was robbed and I got shot, leaving me with the ability to read minds. If you want to know the truth, it’s been a mixed blessing. Sure, I’m mostly glad to have this ‘extra’ sense, but there are times when it’s gotten me in a lot of trouble. Like working for a mob-boss.

Of course, I’ve been able to help the police and solve a lot of cases, as well as start my own consulting agency. So I can’t complain. But as much as I like knowing things I probably shouldn’t, there are times I’m not real happy about it.

One of those times is Christmas. Even though I do my best to block my mind from hearing thoughts, I’m not always successful. As you can imagine, it takes a little of the enjoyment out of opening Christmas presents, since I usually know what I’m getting ahead of time.

Like this year. I accidentally heard my husband, Chris, thinking about this great present he was getting me. Mostly he was thinking how much money it would cost, but that I would love it. That got me real excited, and I tried not to listen to anything else he was thinking.

Since he knows I can hear his thoughts, he does his best to guard them as well, so that helps. Still, I feel bad about that, because it’s a lot of work for him, and he’s not always successful. It also leaves me in the position of sometimes lying so I won’t hurt his feelings. It’s a fine line.

But today, all my good intentions went out right the window because I heard him thinking about the toilet seat he was getting me for Christmas. I tried really hard not to react, but seriously? A toilet seat? For Christmas? And it cost a lot of money? Was it made out of gold or something?

“You’re joking, right?” I blurted.

“What?” Then it hit him that I’d heard all about the toilet seat. He took a deep breath and swore in his mind. Which I also heard. So this time, he said it out loud. “Dammit.”

“Sorry, but… are you serious?”

Chris shook his head, thinking that having a mind-reading wife was going to drive him… “Uh…yes, but it’s not what you think. They’ve got these great toilet seats that do all kinds of things. And it’s heated!”

“Oh, right. I didn’t think about that.” Then I glanced at him and smiled. “Okay. Maybe that is something I’d like.”

Chris groaned a little and closed his eyes, but managed to block his thoughts so I wouldn’t hear that he thought I was driving him crazy, but it didn’t take a mind-reader to figure that out.

I also felt bad that I’d ruined his surprise, so I quickly pulled him into a hug. “I’m sure I’ll love it.”

“I don’t have to get it for you. I can figure out something else.”

“No. Now that I know more about it, I think it’s great.”

He pulled away and narrowed his eyes, clearly not buying it.

“I do. Really. I mean…now that I know, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get it. A warm toilet seat! That’s pretty sweet.”

“Shelby…” He shook his head, exasperated. Was I mocking him? He wasn’t sure if I was just saying that, or if I really wanted it. “You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want it.”

I smiled. Poor Chris. “I do want it. It sounds lovely.” Oops, maybe that did sound a little patronizing.

He smiled back, thinking that at least I hadn’t picked up the other thing he was getting me…he caught my gaze and widened his eyes.

“I didn’t hear a thing about that.”

“Good.”

He left right after that for work. Kind of like he was eager to get away from his mind-reading wife. It would have hurt my feelings, but I couldn’t blame him, since I’d ruined his surprise.

Now I’ve been wondering all day if he’s really getting me something else, or if he just said that to throw me off. Oh well. Whatever happens, I’m really looking forward to my new toilet seat, but I’ve decided that, if I pick up the other thing he hinted at giving me, I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear about it. Even if I have to lie.

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Last Monday around four-thirty in the afternoon, I got a phone call from Ramos. That wasn’t unusual, but what surprised me was the desperation in his voice. If you know Ramos at all, you know how crazy that sounds. He is the King of Cool.

Then he explained the situation, and I couldn’t help blurting out my surprise. “What? You’re babysitting? Are you kidding me?”

That might not have been the best thing to say to someone who’s sounding desperate, especially when that someone is a renowned hit-man for a mob-boss.

“No. I’m not kidding.” His voice sounded a little menacing, so I quickly changed my tone.

“Oh, okay. What do you need?”

He explained that his neighbor had taken his wife to the hospital because she was in labor, and the guy’s mother-in-law couldn’t get there for a while. For some reason, they asked Ramos to watch their five and two-year-old kids until she got there.

“Wow. How did you get roped into that?”

“I was in the yard raking leaves, and I guess they were desperate. What could I say? I mean, she was moaning and crying with pain, and I thought that baby might just be born right there in the driveway.”

As he spoke I heard a child yelling in the background. Then came a high-pitched scream and something clattered to the floor. “Can you come over?” he asked.

“Sure.” He gave me his address, and I jumped in my car. As I drove to the house, it hit me that now I’d finally get to see where he lived. That was something I’d wondered about for a long time.

He spent a lot of time at the apartment at Thrasher Development, but I’d always known he had a house somewhere. Now I’d see it and maybe uncover a little more about the hit-man that I didn’t know.

The neighborhood in which he lived wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. He didn’t live in a ritzy part of town, and the houses were nice, but not huge. Still, they were well-kept and the neighborhood had a feeling of community about it.

I recognized his black car in the driveway of an older, red-brick home. Large maple trees lined the street with golden color, and piles of leaves rested in many of the front yards. The leaves in Ramos’s yard were heaped in a pile, with a rake lying haphazardly across the top of them.

I parked my car in the driveway behind his, and got out. Ramos must have been watching for me, because he opened the door in the house on the right and called my name.

I started toward him and paused in mid-stride with my jaw dropping open. He stood there holding a two-year-old girl on his hip like a regular person. It was a picture of Ramos that I never thought I’d see in a million years. It was so jarring that I really wanted to take out my camera to record the moment, but his frown was enough to dissuade me from doing anything of the sort.

Putting a happy smile on my face, I continued to the house. The five-year-old boy was adorable and talked a mile-a-minute, but he was a little upset that his parents had left him in the care of a virtual stranger.

My presence calmed him down, and once he was settled, his little sister wanted to get down to play. He showed us his favorite toys and explained what they did and how they worked.

Soon, we were all sitting on the floor, playing with a hot wheels play set where the little cars could race down a spiraling track. He got Ramos to pick a car and have a race with him, and it was something he wanted to do over and over again. It reminded me of how Josh was at that age, and I got a little nostalgic.

I tried to coax the little girl over to sit by me, but instead, she walked right over to Ramos and sat down in his lap. Ramos’s eyes widened and I knew it made him uncomfortable, but then he glanced at me and shrugged. He was thinking that all the girls liked sitting in his lap, so he shouldn’t be too surprised.

I laughed, glad that he was relaxed enough to joke about the situation.

Half an hour later, their grandmother showed up. She thanked us profusely and we got up to leave. The little boy told Ramos that he needed to come back and play some more. Ramos’s brows rose, but he smiled and told him that he’d see him around.

Then we left. The outside air cooled my face, and I glanced at Ramos, noting the relief in the deep breaths he took.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “Right?”

He shook his head. “I had no idea what to do with those kids. Thanks for coming.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I just have one request,” he said, catching my gaze.

Of course I picked it up from his mind. He didn’t want me to tell anyone, because it would ruin his reputation. “Not even Uncle Joey?”

His lips thinned, so I relented. “Okay. I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

“Good. Thanks.” He walked back over to the pile of leaves and picked up his rake. “You want to help with this, too?”

I chuckled. “I think you can handle that just fine. I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you later.”

He gave me that chin lift thing, and I got in my car, grateful that I could come to his rescue for a change. As I waved, I noticed the little boy watching Ramos from the window of his living room. I backed out of the driveway, and started down the street.

Glancing back at Ramos, I had to chuckle. The boy had escaped his house and stood at Ramos’s side, talking up a storm. Then he jumped into the leaves and scattered them all over the place.

Whether he liked it or not, it looked like Ramos had a new friend. Ramos might not like it much, but it sure warmed my heart. Plus, I knew I’d have fun giving him a hard time about it. What could be better than that?

 

What is Normal?

Posted: October 3, 2017 in Experiences, Thoughts
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Sometimes I’m not sure what “normal” is anymore. Just the other night, I was sitting down to dinner with my family. Eating dinner together is important to me, because it’s a way to connect and keep informed of what’s going on in our busy lives. Dinner together doesn’t always happen, so I looked forward to chatting with my husband and two teenage kids.

Chris, my husband, asked Josh and Savannah how their day went. They weren’t too forthcoming, but with my mind-reading ability, I picked up lots of things that mattered to them. I don’t usually like to invade their privacy, but when they don’t want to talk much, I just can’t seem to help it.

At least what I picked up wasn’t earth-shattering, or out of the ordinary. But at thirteen and fifteen, and with their hormones kicking in, there were times it was just better not to know… mostly because it was hard not to roll my eyes because of all that teen angst. Still, it made me glad I could draw them out with a comment or two, and help them deal with whatever it was that bothered them.

I asked Chris about his day, and he said it went really well. He’d even made a breakthrough in one of his cases that would help his client, so he was pretty happy about that.

Then it was my turn, and everyone glanced my way. Suddenly, things weren’t so clear, and I didn’t know what to say. I mean… do I tell them about my meeting with Uncle Joey, where he had me listen to an investor who was trying to swindle him out of a huge sum of money?

What about the motorcycle ride I went on with Ramos so I could let him know what the person receiving a package was really going to do with it?

Or how about the murder suspect I listened to for Dimples, whom it turned out was hiding behind a wall of grief to mask his joy of poisoning his mother-in-law?

Right then, none of that was anything I wanted to share. But I had to say something, so I glossed over the stuff with Uncle Joey and Ramos by saying that I ran a few errands in the morning, specifically leaving out the motorcycle part. Not that it was bad, but you know… it’s Ramos, and I may have enjoyed that part the most.

That little flush of guilt made me emphasize the part about helping the police catch a killer, so no one would ask me about my errands. That did the trick, and it was fun to tell them a little about the case, and how many poisonous plants people had in their own homes that could kill someone.

I may have gone on too long about the poisonous-plant-part, because everyone went quiet with widened eyes, and stared at me like I was a crazy person.

Then Josh smiled and thought that was pretty cool, even though he didn’t say it. Savannah’s thoughts filled with admiration that I could help the police like I did. But Chris was thinking that I shouldn’t be talking about an ongoing investigation. As a lawyer, he was probably right, so I quickly told them not to tell anyone.

I shouldn’t have worried. My kids had learned not to share much about me because what I did just wasn’t normal. Of course, they didn’t know the truth that I could read minds, but thought I had ‘premonitions,’ which was how I wanted to keep it. At least they thought it was cool, so it didn’t hurt my feelings too much.

It also made me realize that my normal wasn’t really normal at all. Around everyone else, I have to keep most things to myself, which isn’t always easy to do. But most of the time I manage just fine.

Still, it hit me all at once how crazy my life had become. But it also gave me a little thrill to be different. Of course, that thrill didn’t include the times I’d nearly been killed. Looking at my family, I knew that part wasn’t so good.

See what I mean about being normal? Maybe it’s not so bad, but thinking about my normal life before I could read minds, and my abnormal life after I could read minds… for the most part, I’m glad to be abnormal, even if there’s a lot of stuff I have to keep to myself.

 

 

 

Shelby’s Total Eclipse

Posted: August 25, 2017 in Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

Like many of you, I traveled a few hours with my family to see the total eclipse, and WOWZA, was that an experience!

We all had our special eclipse glasses so we could watch the moon overtake the sun. I marveled that without the glasses, I never would have known the moon was even in the sky because the sun was so bright.

As the moon closed in, the sky naturally darkened, and the temperature dropped. Still, even with a sliver of the sun showing, it was too bright to look at without the glasses. Then the moment came and, all at once, the moon completely covered the sun.

Jumping up, we took off our glasses, and stared up at the dark side of the moon. Rays of light shot up all around the orb, but everything went dark, with a three-sixty degree sunset of colors all around the horizon. The temperature dropped, and we could even see stars in the sky.

All of those amazing events happened between one second and the next, sending a shot of pure astonishment through me. I even got a little shaky. Then it happened. All at once, I heard everyone’s thoughts shouting like a chorus of wonder into the sky. Not only that, but there was an edge of harmony, almost like tinkling bells that reverberated through the atmosphere.

The hairs on my arms and on the back of my neck, stood on end, and I could barely catch my breath. Mesmerized by the sounds in my head, I could hardly pull my gaze away from the beautiful phenomenon in the sky.

Then it was over, and I had to hurry and put my glasses back on with everyone else. Even the tiniest ray of sun was too bright to look at. I began to breathe again, and all the sounds and thoughts I’d heard retreated to a memory in my mind.

I hugged my husband and my kids close, grateful to have shared this experience with them. Then my legs gave out, and I sat down in my chair. We watched and marveled at how bright everything started to get, and how the temperature rose so we weren’t so cold.

We stayed outside until the whole thing was over, and I picked up that none of us wanted the experience to end.

“When’s the next eclipse?” Savannah asked.

“Yeah,” Josh chimed in. “I want to do this again.”

“Me too!” I glanced at them and we all laughed.

After that, we decided to go out to lunch for a burger and bottomless fries to celebrate the amazing event. We spoke about the shared experience while the wonder of it still lingered in our memories. Then it was time to go home.

Even though it didn’t last long enough, the experience was something we would share forever, and brought us closer together. It also took me a little longer to recover. I never would have thought that reading minds would make an experience like the eclipse any different, but boy, was I wrong.

Who would have thought I’d hear everyone’s thoughts like a chorus? And what about the tinkling bells? Come to think of it, they were like wind chimes. Then it hit me that maybe what I’d heard had been a neighbor’s wind chimes, only magnified by all the wonder going on.

I guess I’ll never know… unless I go to another eclipse. I heard there’s one in the U.S.A. in twenty-twenty-four. I think I need to be there for it, just so I’ll know for sure about the wind chimes.

Now all I have to do, is find a place to stay. Will any of you be in the path of the next eclipse? Do you take reservations? Let me know!!

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.

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.