Vince Raines eased into the high-back leather chair in his office and pressed an icepack against the back of his throbbing head. One of the few clear thoughts to cross his mind was that if Lacy had still worked for him, the psycho chick that attacked him wouldn't have made it through the doors. Lacy turned weeding out the dangerous element into a science.
Besides a bruised ego and the sickeningly large bump growing on his head where he conked it against the ground, the attacking pixie left no other evidence she'd even been there. A few candles fell to the floor, thankfully extinguishing before the carpet turned into a flaming inferno that brought him straight to hell and the chairs overturned, other then that the room itself remained unmarred.
He drove himself home; a dangerous proposition at the time given the splitting headache that pierced through his brain and knocked his vision all out of whack. By sheer luck--one of the few things Vince believed in--he avoided two new collisions and nobody pulled him over. The mailbox laughed at his misery, thoroughly enjoying the fact that the great Spiritspeaker didn't see the attack coming despite the ample warning.
Under the desk to the right, a small button activated the mechanism controlling the curtains over the giant bay window behind him. Darkness shrouded the room with the simple press of this button and alleviated some of the pain trying to burst through Vince's eyes.
Calling the cops seemed important. Let one wacko get away with something like this and dozens more follow in her place. Still, he had a reputation to uphold. Bested by a little girl half his size didn't do much for that reputation so he did the sensible thing; he tried to forget about it. Why she did it bothered him and maybe, if this blasted headache would stop shredding his thought process into a million billion pieces, he might be able to figure that much out.
Rummaging around in his desk drawers in search of sweet relief, Vince came across a bottle of whiskey that he'd almost forgotten. He twisted the cap off and drank straight from the bottle with gusto; a raging blaze tore through his chest, down to his stomach, spreading like a wildfire.
Just then the phone rang out startling him. Next to the line one button, the little red dot flashed in a steady rhythm to the ringing. Vince gripped the receiver, released it, and then punched the speakerphone on with an unsteady finger.
"What?" he called out.
Fuzzy wonder floated through his brain as the alcohol worked its charming powers of numbness. That voice, so familiar, but it couldn't be her, could it?
"Lacy?" Vince said with hesitation.
"Yeah, it's me."
A sudden, terrifying thought crossed his mind. What if Lacy sent that pint-sized psycho to attack him? "What is it?"
"Just checking on you, making sure you're okay."
"You aren't involved in this, are you?"
A sigh traveled out the speaker. "You left me no choice," she said.
Flabbergasted, unable to fathom Lacy stooping so low as to inflict physical harm on anyone much less himself, Vince reached for the bottle. His fingers brushed against the smooth glass, and then his hand dropped into his lap leaving the booze abandoned.
"Vince?" came the distance voice of his ex-lover, now regulated to nothing but sound coming from a piece of technology that Vince absolutely despised right now. "Vince, I called so I can explain. You need to know why."
"What did you hope to gain by this?"
"You're hurting people--"
"Hah! I knew it. You gave me that big speech about karma and then you turned around and--"
"Nothing to do with that. I thought about letting it go, about letting your own deeds work against you. But the longer I thought, the more I realized just how far you could coast on the backs of people you're hurting."
"I'm hurting nobody. These people need me. They're too weak-willed to live in a world where the reality is we're all alone. So they come to people like me and beg us to tell them there's more than they can see. If anything I'm doing them a favor."
"You weren't alone--not until you pushed away the one person in your life that--"
"Spare me. Thanks to you my head is swelling up to epic proportions."
"The decision wasn't made lightly. And I may very well have--"
"I need to go." Vince cut her off. Four more lines lit up on the phone, the red lights flickering on and off in unison. "More calls. No assistant to take them, so I guess I have to. Nice talking to you, Lacy."
He poked the speaker button again, disconnecting Lacy, and then called up line two. "Vince Raines, Spiritspeaker extraordinaire," he said. "How may I help you?"
"Jeff Robertson, New York Times--"
"I don't talk to reporters." Vince hung up.
For a moment he just stared at the three remaining lines as the tiny red dots winked at him. Lines three and four had reporters too, and following the same ritual answering and hanging up, his finger hovered over the final line. A reporter no doubt sat on the other end waiting for him to answer. Before he pressed the button, two more lines lit up. Insanity. What was going on?
He pressed the button for line five. "Raines here. One minute, better ask fast."
The reporter skipped any introductions, his voice struggling with the scoop of the century. He asked, "What are your comments on the alleged recording?"
"What alleged recording?"
"The tape of you, Mr. Raines? The one that's all over the news? One where you admitted you're a fraud? You don't even know yet?" This last question came out as a squeak, the reporters voice rising even higher.
"Times up." Vince reached around the phone and yanked the plug.
Through the archway, down the hall, past the dining room, into the entertainment room--Vince grabbed the remote and activated his fifty-inch plasma television. He skimmed through the channels, no breaking news reports, nothing overly shocking happening in the world. What was that reporter going on about? Then he landed on the local news and froze.
A pretty, young brunette with perfect hair and a perfect smile, dressed in a loud red blouse said, "Up next, local self-proclaimed psychic Vince Raines exposed."
The longest commercial break in the history of television danced across his screen as he stood there, one hand on the back of his black leather lounger, the other white-knuckled with strain as he squeezed the remote. When the news finally returned, the lounger was all that kept him from tumbling to the floor in a heap of goo.
When he found his focus returning to the screen, the "tape" referenced by the reporter was playing. Vince recognized the conversation right away. He'd been recording his memoirs for Lacy to type up when a phone call interrupted him. After a heated discussion with a client, Vince called Lacy in. Once the euphoria wore off, people invariably discovered just how phony the reading was; didn't take a rocket scientist to see that the majority of the "reading" was Vince asking rapid-fire questions and later bringing up answers that the client had already told him and wasn't even aware of any longer. The client ticked him off. It wasn't so much that he threatened to tell the world what a fake Vince was; people did that every day and it didn't hurt him any. No, it was that this particular client threatened him physically. No, too, was nothing new. That night, though, it just rubbed Vince the wrong way.
"...bunch of idiotic redneck trailer trash that passes through those doors for a meeting with me. Is it my fault they can't separate fact from fiction? They pay me to lie to them, plain and [bleep] simple. I didn't make this world so [bleep]! Whenever I get [bleep] calls like that, it just makes me so [bleep] enamored with my abilities to think that I can shovel so much crap into those [bleep] [bleep] [bleep]-eating [bleep]! And how [bleep] proud they are when they call and say they figured me out. Oooh, big [bleep] deal, jackass! There are thousands of websites, hundreds of books, and dozens of TV shows every single day exposing "psychic readers" but I'm still getting rich off you fat [bleep]! One more sucker in the crowd that's finally seen the light won't hurt my bank account. Once I get my own show? It's all over then, baby. The power of editing will make me shine like the second-[bleep]-coming."
Convenient place for the tape to stop, Vince thought, starting numbly at his plasma screen. The news anchor went on with some holier-than-thou bullshit as she closed the story. Certainly not epic news making, local news and all, but the tape would spread. His career was all but over now. His mind tried to calculate the number of clients he would lose because of this; a futile endeavor in the end. It was one thing for a stranger to say he was a fake and explain just how he does it. When the admission came straight from the source, nothing was more devastating than that.
Vince wandered the halls of his expensive home in a daze. That vicious redhead's attack seemed but a distant memory now; the pain still ripped at his skull. He welcomed it now with open arms and moist kissable lips. Lacy did him a favor hiring her... to attack--Vince halted in front of a mirror. So many mirrors in this house, vanity at its finest. He reached back for the conversation with Lacy; the conversation that took place right before his fall from grace shifted into a new realm of revelation. Lacy knew nothing about the redhead--nothing at all.
After the tirade, Vince, too frustrated to work any more that night, tossed the tape recorder to Lacy. "I'm done for the night," he said. "Let's get a bite and catch a movie or something before we turn in."
"Uh, Vince." Lacy wiggled the recorder at him. "I'm assuming you don't want your little overload there transcribed." She clicked the stop button and grinned. "You should be more careful; if I didn't love you so much that could of proved fatal."
Vince returned the grin. "Oops."
"Oops," Vince said to his reflection in the mirror--minus the humor this time. As un-oops-worthy as the whole situation turned out to be, the echo of the past helped him to find the rage within his being.
Before the night grew bright with day, several more bottles of whiskey disappeared, several rooms ended up trashed as much as he was, and every piece of evidence that Lacy had ever existed went the way of the dinosaurs.To be continued...