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October 03, 2022

The Overactive Imagination of Lucy Jade, Part 1

By Mel Trent

"Do you have children, Detective Runner?" Valerie Jade asked. She was nodding her head slightly, as if to encourage Jack to answer with an affirmative. She was convinced that he had been sent because he had experience working with children. It was true that he had dealt with kids a number of times in his years with the Agency, but he had no particular expertise in that area. He got sent on calls involving kids because, to most of his superiors, he was still young enough to relate to them.

"No, I don't," Jack said.

"Oh. Well, there's plenty of time. Are you married?"

"Uh ... no, ma'am. I'm ... single."

"Well, Mrs. Tyler's daughter is looking for a husband. I could -- "

"Valerie, honey, Detective Runner isn't here to talk about his personal life," Maxwell Jade said.

Jack looked down at his hands on the kitchen table, very aware of where his fingers had been the night before and wondering if they could tell. Of course they couldn't. How could they? Valerie was making him uncomfortable, though. If she continued the conversation, he was going to have to say something he would rather not say. He was grateful for Maxwell's interruption.

"But, dear, he seems like such a nice young man," Valerie said, as if Jack were several rooms away. "There's no reason for him to be alone. And don't you think Olivia would like him?"

"Valerie. Honey. Stop it. Have you forgotten why you made me call the Agency in the first place?"

Valerie pouted a little, but she dropped the subject. Jack was relieved.

"So, Detective Runner, what do you think is wrong with Lucy?" Maxwell asked. "Is she psychic?"

Jack looked up at the Jades. For a moment, he hated them. There was such loathing and fear in their expressions. Hating them made it easier to tell them truth. "If she's seeing these apparitions, yes, she is," he said.

"What ... what causes these things to happen?" Valerie asked. Her mousy hazel eyes glazed over with tears. "She's a perfectly normal little girl. I don't understand how my baby could be so sick."

It's not a goddamned disease, Jack thought. His stomach was getting cold with all the hate he was having to swallow down in front of these people. He understood their concern. He had seen the same thing in his parents. At least his parents had been concerned about him, had only wanted what was best for him. They left the tough choice to be cured up to him. Lucy Jade's parents weren't going to be that understanding. "I don't know why it happens," he said. "It's genetic, maybe, but no one really knows for sure."

"But wouldn't one of us ... " Maxwell said. He scrunched his face up, confused.

"No. You wouldn't. There isn't any evidence that it's a direct genetic link from parent to child. Coulda been someone in the family tree a hundred years ago."

"Well, what about these things she's saying she sees?" Valerie asked. "Where do they come from? How are they getting in my house?"

"They could have already been here."

"My house is not haunted."

Jack shrugged. "She could be drawing them to her somehow. She could be creating them. They might even come from some object she has." He thought about the pirate in his grandmother's mp3 player. He was Lucy's age when that happened.

"What about hormones? She is twelve. She hasn't gotten her first period yet, but -- "

"It's not puberty, Mrs. Jade. It's brain chemicals. Chances are Lucy was psychic at birth."

"What are we supposed to do about this, Detective?" Maxwell asked. "We called the Agency because we want our daughter to be normal. Can you help her be normal? There's a cure, right? I've heard there's a cure."

Several rude things to say occurred to Jack, but he kept those to himself. He wondered if Lucy could read his mind. "There's a cure," he said. "It's effective. It involves a regimen of psychoactive drugs and the installation of a small computer in the brain to help regulate the brain waves." He felt sick explaining it so matter-of-factly, but from the looks on their faces, what he was saying gave them comfort. Stupid fucks, he thought.

"Is it ... safe for someone so young?" Valerie asked.

Jack hesitated. He didn't want to tell them about what had happened to him. "Well, the medications can be started pretty early."

"What's the youngest someone's been cured?"

"Fourteen or fifteen. I don't remember exactly. For the computer installation. The drugs were started before but weren't enough in that case."

"How long ago was that?"

"About fifteen years now."

"Is the psychic still cured?"

"Yes."

Liar. You are not.

The clarity of the voice in his head startled Jack. He looked past Valerie and Maxwell. Lucy was peeking around the corner of the hallway. He could only see one of her large brown eyes and the dark smudge of sleeplessness under it. Yeah, well, don't tell them that, kiddo, he thought. I wanna help you. They don't understand.

Lucy's dark eye vanished, and there was only the faintest swish of her long dark hair when Maxwell and Valerie looked over their shoulders to see what Jack was looking at.

"Lucy, I thought I told you to stay in your room," Valerie said.

"She needs to hear this, dear," Maxwell said.

"But, honey, she's -- "

"I'd like to talk to Lucy, if I could," Jack said.

Maxwell and Valerie turned their attention back to Jack, staring at him in shock as if asking to talk to a child about the child's problem was the most scandalous thing they had ever heard of.

Valerie composed herself first. She stood up, smoothing down her skirt, which hadn't gotten wrinkled up while she'd been sitting there. She drew her little sweater tight around her and gripped her elbows. "All right," she said. She nodded, her chin ending a bit higher with each head bounce until her face was pointed at the ceiling. She turned on a heel and walked to her daughter's room. Meanwhile, Maxwell seemed to deflate, and he remained at the table, not looking at Jack or at his wife as he withered and folded in on himself. Jack got up from the table and followed Valerie.

Valerie knocked on the door with small, sharp raps, one arm still holding the sweater over her chest and her head down. "Lucy," she said. "Open the door, darling. The detective would like to speak with you now."

"Fine," Lucy said.

Valerie opened the door and stepped inside. "Lucy, honey, this is Detective Runner. He's with the Agency. He's going to get rid of your ghosts and get you some help so you don't see these things any more. I'm sure he has a lot of questions for you. Make sure you tell him everything and be honest. All right, Lucy? Understand?"

Lucy was sitting at a desk in a corner of the room, hunched into the chair. She looked past her mother at Jack. He had trouble reading her eyes. She was tired and scared, but she seemed more afraid of her parents than of the ghosts she was seeing.

"Lucy? Are you listening to me, young lady?"

"It's all right, Mrs. Jade," Jack said. "I'll take it from here."

Valerie cocked her head over her shoulder. Her eyebrows arched up as if he had just suggested he was planning to do something lewd once the door was closed.

"It's okay, really," he said. He found himself nodding at her the way she had nodded at him to coax a yes out of her. Except it worked for him.

Valerie sighed, turned and slumped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

"Mind if I sit down?" Jack asked.

Lucy shook her head, and Jack sat down on her neatly made bed. The room didn't strike him as a typical pre-teen girl's room. The walls were a light pearly grey, and the one poster on the wall across from the bed wasn't of some cute actor or unicorns or butterflies or anything like that. It was of a painting called Icarus. Jack couldn't remember the name of the artist. The room was also too clean and neat. It wasn't a kid's room at all.

Lucy noticed him looking at the poster. "It's called Icarus," she said.

"Yeah," Jack said. "I know. Who's the artist? I don't remember."

"Henri Matisse."

The name didn't ring any bells for Jack at all.

"I guess I kinda like it, but I didn't wanna put it in my room. I wanted a picture of a gargoyle."

"Your mom didn't like that idea, did she?"

"No. She said it was scary."

"But it doesn't bother you."

"No."

"What about these ghosts? Do they scare you?"

"Not all the time. Sometimes. But they usually go away. The last time ... yesterday ... it didn't."

"What happened?"

"It scratched me." Lucy held her right arm out. There was a long thin scratch down her forearm.

"So they can touch you."

"I don't like it when they do. It feels ... I don't know."

"Like cold knives cutting clean through you."

Lucy nodded.

"What did the one that scratched you look like?"

"It was a cat."

"Where did it come from? Do you know?"

"I'm not sure. I was ... I wrote a story about a cat that went insane and thought it was a bird. It was a really stupid story, so I tore it up. But ... the ghost cat looked exactly like the cat I was writing about."

"Do you write a lot of ghost stories?"

"Yeah. I read a lot of 'em, too. Mom doesn't know that. The librarian at my school tells me which books have good ghost stories in them. And vampires and monsters and stuff, too."

"Do the ghosts you see look like the things you read about?"

Lucy shook her head. "They look more like what I write about."

"Can I read one of your stories?"

Lucy glared at Jack skeptically. "No one reads my stuff."

"Why not?"

"Well ... "

"How's anyone supposed to read it if you don't show it to anyone?"

"Mom doesn't like it. Dad doesn't read. Mr. Jones will, but sometimes I'm scared to give them to him."

"Mr. Jones?"

"The librarian at my school."

"Oh."

"Do you like scary stories?"

"Yeah. That's why I do this job. I got all kinds of scary stories."

"Do you write them down?"

"No. Not allowed to. They're real stories, not made up.

"But ghosts are supposed to be not real."

"Fake ghosts can't leave marks like that on your arm, Lucy. They are real. You just have to learn to not see them."

"I don't wanna not see them."

"I didn't either when I was your age. But I didn't wanna see the scary ones. I was lucky to have the Agency ask me to work for them. I can do something about the bad ones now."

"What about your stupid cure that doesn't work?"

"We'll keep that between us, okay?" 2"Mom says secrets are bad."

"This isn't really a secret. It's the truth. The truth is, these things exist. The truth is that there's no such thing as a cure for being psychic. The computer and the drugs can cover it all up, but it never goes away. So you have to accept the truth and learn to deal with it." 2"How do you deal with it?"

"By drinking more than I should. But that's not healthy. You need to find a healthy way to deal with it. Like writing about it."

"Are they gonna make me get cured?"

"Yeah. I won't lie to you about that. If you don't get cured, you'll end up being one of ones I have to hunt down. I don't wanna do that. And I'm not gonna lie to you about how much it hurts. It hurts a lot more than I thought it would. You could get lucky, though. Maybe the drugs will be enough. Maybe you can just say that the drugs are enough."

"That'd be lying."

"Yeah, well ... it'll be up to you when the time comes."

"But it's not like I can do stuff. I don't have like telekinesis or anything. I just see stuff. And sometimes hear people's thoughts."

"I know. I was the same way."

"Can it get stronger?"

"I don't know. It's too late for me now. I guess that's the point of the cure. Just in case I was going to have the power to blow shit up with my mind."

Lucy giggled. It was nice to see her smile. She reached down and pulled open the bottom desk drawer. She flipped through the hanging files in the drawer until she came to what she wanted. She pulled out about twenty typed pages stapled together and handed them to Jack. "That's my favorite one," she said. "It's called The Heart."

"Thanks. I'll bring it back to you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay."

"I will stop the ghosts from coming after you, but it's gonna take me some time to figure out where they're coming from and how to stop them. So I need you to be careful until then. I don't want you to try to use your powers. If you can pretend like you don't have powers, just for a little while, that might help, too. I'm not saying that because I want you to stop being psychic. I want you to be safe. Once you're safe, then we'll worry about what to do with your powers. Got it?"

Lucy smiled and nodded. "Got it," she said.

Valerie and Maxwell were waiting tensely at the dining room table where Jack had left them. Valerie was on her feet as soon as Jack emerged from the hallway. Maxwell straightened in his seat, inflating again.

"Well?" Valerie asked.

Jack shrugged. "I don't really have any answers yet. I'm going to look into some things, and I'll come back tomorrow. Same time good for you?"

"That should be fine." Valerie's eyes wandered down to the papers in Jack's hand. "I see she gave you one of her stories to read." She sneered. "Wretched stuff for a twelve-year-old girl to be writing. I'm hoping it's just a phase she's going through. She'll never be a famous professional author."

"What ... " Jack stopped himself from saying a number of things that were inappropriate and forced another question that opened with the same word. "What school does she go to?"

"Sandusky Middle. We wanted to send her to the private school over on Borden Road. It's got a very good reputation, but she didn't pass the entrance exam. I don't understand why. She's normally a very good student. Anyway, thank you for your time, Detective Runner."

"Yeah, no problem. I think I can have this wrapped up by the time I get here tomorrow."

"Wonderful. We'll see you then."

... To be continued

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-06-25
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