Julia’s Hellmark Card
by Charles C. Cole
“When I came home, there was a package outside my door, about the size of a jewelry box, wrapped in plain brown paper. I wasn’t expecting anything, and the sight of it made me nervous. I couldn’t touch it. So I came right down.”
“Why exactly are you here, Mr. Janko?” asked the interviewing police officer.
“I’m a good person,” I said. “A little anti-social. I wash dishes at an Italian restaurant a few blocks from home. I do my job and retreat to my rent-a-room. People don’t notice me, while my ex-roommate, Julia Libby, expects to get noticed.”
“Ex?” asked the officer.
“We’ll get to that. Anyway, if you don’t notice her, she takes offense. Like the business guy who didn’t give up his seat on the subway. She complained for days, joking about different ways his life could get worse.”
“Are you here to report a crime?”
“I might know something about a murder, a couple of months back, of that psychic entertainer guy, the Fabulous Flynne.”
“Who?” asked the cop.
“He was big about twenty years ago. They had a parody of the guy on some late-night talk show where the host held an envelope to his forehead and predicted what was written inside.”
“I read the guy died of pneumonia,” the cop said.
“What if he had help from someone who knew his weakened condition and used it to their advantage?”
“We’d seen him at a comedy club. He was pretty good, maybe a little past his prime. Tired-looking, you know? Anyway, before he started, we were warned the show was interactive. They passed around a magician’s hat and if we were willing to participate, we dropped something in. The guy got a vibe off the object. Julia made me remove a penny from one of my loafers.”
“She made you?”
“Let’s say I didn’t want the Evil Eye used on me. We were roommates but we weren’t close.”
“Nothing in it for you?” the officer asked.
“My drinks, that’s it. You don’t argue with Julia. I once saw her knock this poor slob to the floor because he’d spilled his drink down her arm.”
“Talk about the magician and how they met.”
“Psychic,” I explained. “It was pretty cool. I don’t know how he did it. He said he read things, like personal history or emotions, from objects. It’s called psychometry. Anyway, he never did my penny, and Julia was ticked. I figured maybe it fell out a hole or something. But her expectations had been dashed. Outside after the show, his lady driver was double-parked, motor running like a getaway car.”
* * *
“Wait!” yelled Julia.
“Can I help you?” asked Flynne.
“You can start by giving my friend his money back.”
“Before the show, I dropped a penny in your hat,” I explained.
“Must have missed it,” said Flynne.
“We’d be grateful if you could look again,” I said.
He turned to the driver. “Why don’t you go around the block? No one leaves disappointed, that’s my motto.”
The driver took off.
“The penny,” insisted Julia.
He pulled his collapsible hat out of a large pocket inside his tuxedo. With both hands, he snapped it back to its full shape. The penny flew out, bounced against a parked car, and fell to the road.
“That’s what I call magic!” he joked, picking it up. “I suppose you’re going to want a reading now.”
“If it’s not too much trouble,” I said.
Flynne closed his eyes and took a long, deep breath, rubbing the penny tightly between his palms.
“No wonder you want it back. It must feel odd with one shoe heavier than the other.”
“Anybody can see he’s got penny loafers on,” sneered Julia.
“But can anyone tell this penny was a gift from his commitment-phobic first love?”
Julia’s eyes softened; she was impressed. Flynne snapped his hat flat, enjoying the moment.
“Are we believers now?” he asked.
“Teach me,” said Julia.
“Take me with you. Pour your knowledge into me.”
“You’re okay with this?” Flynne asked me.
I didn’t see her for a week. I woke up to a door slamming. She was steaming mad. This was about ten days before he died. She barged into my room. “He can’t do this! He used me and disposed of me. He’ll be sorry.”
“Maybe to him, you were just another groupie,” I reasoned.
“You’re wrong. He mentored me. We shared something.”
“How do you mentor in psychometry?” I asked.
“Wordlessly. We spent hours together for days, alone in his apartment, his hands—”
“No details, please.”
“Not like that,” said Julia. “You know when you rub a magnet against a needle and then the needle becomes magnetized? Like that. He gave me his gift. Something passed between us, like electricity. I’m not the same person. My skin tingles. Colors look brighter.”
“So do you want to test something? I’ve got my ex-girlfriend’s engagement ring. I’ll bet it burns to the touch.”
“I don’t want to dilute my rage,” she said. “He said he had to go on some club dates. I said a road trip sounded fun. He laughed. Said it was too late to change his routines, but he’d give me a call. It doesn’t matter. I took something from him.”
“I hope it wasn’t valuable,” I said.
“I have his gift,” she said. “I can channel my rage and, instead of reading an object, maybe I can write into an object. Imagine me writing my rage into a Get-Well card. Imagine a sensitive someone reading the card. Imagine what happens if he pulls when I push.”
* * *
“Did she send the card?” asked the officer.
“Definitely. Then I moved. He was really run-down. I mean, what if he accidentally inhaled pure rage? That’s no accident then, is it? I mean that’s got to be a crime.”
Copyright © 2012 by Charles C. Cole