Author’s Note: This fic deals with the disappearance of two women, but like all my romances, it stays on the lighter side of things. So this fic does NOT contain any sexual assault/abuse or serious injury/death. While the danger is real, there will be a happy ending.
This story contains explicit sex.
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Finn Kelley was mesmerizing on stage, Samuel had to admit that.
He was tall and slender in that graceful way that people called willowy, with dark hair and oddly pale eyes. Finn’s eyes were actually gray, Samuel knew. He’d seen them on the poster pasted outside the theater, which offered a glamorous headshot of the stage-show psychic.
Samuel had not wanted to come to this ridiculous show, but his friend Kaitlin had invited him. Well, dragged him along was more like it. But Samuel had to admit that he was finding the show entertaining, though perhaps not for the same reasons as the rest of the crowd.
Finn had a wireless microphone, and he held it casually as he watched the crowd with a keen gaze. “I have a message,” he said, “for a woman whose name starts with J— Jennifer, Janine, Judith—” There was some murmuring from the crowd in response and Finn looked pleased. “Yes, I’m receiving a message from an older male relative who passed recently from— from something with his heart, I’m getting a heart problem of some kind.” While he spoke, Finn pressed a hand over his own heart, as if in sympathy. “And I’ve got an image of jewelry, a ring or an earring maybe. Something he gave you—”
At this point a woman in the crowd was waving her hand around. Finn acknowledged her, coming to the front of the stage and crouching down, smiling, friendly. “He wants you to know that he’s all right,” Finn said gently. “And he knows you’ve had doubts about what you said to him, and what you left out. He wants you to know that he knew what you wanted to say, better than you think.”
“My dad,” the woman said, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Your dad,” Finn repeated into the microphone, so that the audience could hear the response. “A stroke, yes. A heart-related ailment. And he gave you that ring. Was it your birthday? I’m getting some holiday. Birthday, yes,” he said with a smile, as the woman confirmed it. “Well, he’s doing quite well now, and—” Finn laughed. “And I’m getting something about a trip— long car ride— some funny story—” The woman eagerly filled in the details, and Finn repeated them.
The man was a masterful cold reader, Samuel realized. Finn’s invitations were vague half-questions, and he left it to the audience— his marks— to fit the open-ended prompts into their lives. When the show was over, they’d remember Finn being accurate in every detail, when in fact he’d known nothing and simply played the odds.
A woman whose name started with J— in a theater audience of a hundred people there had to be at least one or two, especially with Jenny being such a common name, and even more so if you were going to count nicknames and names that sounded like they started with J, such as Georgia. Almost everyone had an older male relative who’d passed on, and a heart ailment could theoretically describe any kind of death, since everyone did technically die because their heart stopped beating. Male relatives often gave women jewelry, and everybody had a funny story about a long car ride.
But the woman was entranced. She believed that Finn was speaking with her father, that Finn knew things that otherwise he could never have known. She sat down looking flushed and happy, while applause sounded in the theater.
When it got quiet again, Finn started pacing on the stage, his face twisting slightly as if he was listening to something he couldn’t quite hear. He laughed a bit, and the amusement shone on his face. “Sorry, folks,” he said. “There are a lot of spirits here, and I’m afraid they don’t like standing in line in the afterlife any more than they do down here.” There was laughter from the audience at that.
“All right,” Finn said. “I’m getting a feeling of a man— whose name starts with S. Whose grandmother—”
Samuel could not resist the opportunity. Beside him, Kaitlin’s expression was dismayed and disapproving, but Samuel was determined. He had paid for a ticket to this show, and he wanted to get his money’s worth.
Finn looked a little wary when Samuel stood up immediately. Samuel could see it in the narrowing of Finn’s pale eyes. But Finn went along with it. “You’re so sure it’s you?” he asked, smiling. “If that’s the case, I think perhaps you’ve already gotten hints that your grandmother wants to speak with you.”
“Oh, yes,” Samuel said. He had a good stage voice himself, and projected out over the audience without the help of Finn’s microphone. That earned him the second brief suspicious glance from Finn.
“Some sort of breathing trouble, your grandmother,” said Finn, watching him carefully.
“Lung cancer!” Samuel announced.
“Ah. Yes. Well, she wants you to know that she loved you—” It was here that Finn stopped. He’d not been smiling before, but he began to now. “Oh, I see, I see.” He looked out over the audience. “My friends, I believe we have a skeptic on our hands!”
Samuel had expected to get a little farther than this. Finn Kelley was definitely one of the best cold readers Samuel had ever seen. But it was still a trick. The man was no more psychic than Samuel was.
“So you don’t believe in all of this nonsense,” Finn said, emphasizing the word with an almost flirtatious expression. There were boos from the audience, but Finn held up his hand. “Now, now. Let’s hear him out. In fact, why don’t you come up here on stage?”
Samuel ignored Kaitlin shaking her head and climbed the steps onto the stage amid applause from the audience. Once there, Samuel could see that he and Finn were about the same height, though Samuel had about thirty pounds on the man. Up close, Finn looked as relaxed as he’d seemed. He wasn’t even sweating.
For some reason, Samuel felt a bit nervous himself, not so much because of the stage but in the way people felt when in close proximity to a handsome, charming man. Samuel reminded himself that Finn’s charm was nothing but a stage persona, and if he was attractive, so what? He was still a fraud.
“Will you tell us your name, please?” Finn asked.
Samuel wanted to challenge him on that— Don’t you know already? But it was a cheap shot, and Finn would have an answer for it. “Samuel Allsbury.”
“Samuel Allsbury,” Finn repeated. “Lovely to meet you. My name is Finn Kelley.”
“And you’re cold reading,” Samuel said. The accusation didn’t throw Finn in the slightest. In fact, Finn just brought the microphone closer to Samuel’s mouth, forcing him to repeat the charge so everyone could hear. It went out over a hushed crowd.
“Is that what I’m doing?” Finn asked.
“Yeah. There are lots of men whose names start with S, and by our age, of course our grandmothers have passed. And breathing trouble could mean any kind of death.”
“All very true,” Finn said. But he still wore an easy smile.
Samuel could feel himself getting frustrated. “So you give up on reading me?” he asked.
“Well, I might be tempted to give up,” Finn said, “if your grandmother weren’t speaking to me at the moment.”
There was a gasp from the crowd. “Then prove it!” Samuel exclaimed. “Tell me something only she would know.”
Finn took a few steps away now, rolling his shoulders, looking quite comfortable. “You weren’t close. You didn’t see much of her.”
“What, you get that because I’m not all broken up talking about her?”
“She was religious, you aren’t.”
“That’s a common thing today.”
Finn narrowed his eyes at Samuel, as if studying him. “But now that she’s gone, you wish you knew more about her.”
Samuel crossed his arms, then self-consciously dropped the defensive gesture. “So tell me about her. What was her name?”
“Oh, they don’t have much use for names on the other side,” Finn said. “Names don’t always come through for me.”
Samuel gave a little laugh. “That’s convenient.”
Finn maintained his smile. “She lived by the water.”
“That’s so vague! Almost everybody lives near some sort of water—”
“She used to read to you when you visited.”
“No.” It was the first outright denial, and it brought a gasp from the crowd.
Finn stopped his pacing and looked at Samuel for a second with a piercing gaze. “Yes, she did,” he said.
Samuel felt himself flush. “That just proves you can tell when I’m lying.”
“Mmm,” Finn said, smiling again. “What’s the book about the tree and all the dogs? Do you like my hat? Oh, Go, Dog, Go! She read you that.”
Samuel’s mouth dropped open. “You’re hot reading!”
“Hot reading,” Finn repeated, looking delighted. “Do you know what that is, my friends? Samuel here thinks I did research on him before the show. But, Samuel, how am I going to find out what book she read you? You’re hardly on social media, are you? And besides, you weren’t even planning to be here. Your friend dragged you along.”
Samuel clenched his hands together. “You’ve proved nothing.”
“Well, we’ve entertained the audience, at least!” Finn said, with a dramatic gesture and the crowd erupted in cheers. “And,” Finn said, leaning closer, as if he were speaking just to Samuel, but of course, with the microphone in front of his lips— “her name was Grace.”
“Proves nothing,” Samuel retorted, feeling his face blaze.
“We’ll agree to disagree, then,” Finn said, smiling like he’d won. Which he clearly had. “Now I’ve got a line of impatient spirits here. Someone is telling a story about a pair of shoes—”
Samuel waited outside the theater after the show, and Kaitlin insisted on waiting too, although she stayed in her car. Samuel stood across the street, leaving Finn access to the parking lot if he wanted, or he could cross the street to talk to Samuel. Finn crossed the street.
“You’re a fraud and a thief,” Samuel said. “You’re really fucking good at it, but it’s still a con.”
Finn was buttoning his coat, a gray, puffy jacket that looked quite warm. The wind had pinked up his cheeks, and here, off the stage, on the ground, Finn looked less imposing and instead almost delicate, beautiful with his pale eyes and fine features. He did not smile, but neither did he look particularly upset. And there was no bullshit now. “It’s entertainment,” Finn said.
“You’re taking their money.”
“To help them feel better.” Finn pulled a pair of gloves out of his pocket. “My spirit guide only lets through the loving, happy spirits—”
“You don’t have a spirit guide!”
Finn sighed. “It’s like therapy. Gives them closure after a loss.”
“How noble. Look, you want to do that, fine, but don’t take money for it—”
Finn looked at him sharply, the master cold reader returning at once. Samuel felt incredibly vulnerable in front of that gaze. “Oh, I see,” Finn said. “That’s what you do. You never take money for it.” He began to smile. “You’re in the same profession as me. So where do you—”
“What does your spirit guide tell you?” Samuel snapped.
Finn looked amused as he accepted the challenge, giving Samuel a full once-over that Samuel could almost feel. “Dark jeans and a black t-shirt. Navy blue coat, good condition. Five o’clock shadow, carefully tended. Muddy shoes. Contact lenses, no redness to the eyes even at this hour.” He gave an amused snort. “You’re a ghost hunter. You think that’s not unethical? Giving people reasons to be afraid?”
“We cleanse houses and provide resolution—”
“Oh, of course. But that doesn’t stop your marks from seeing ghosts everywhere they go after that. You terrify them—”
“It’s not like that!”
“Oh, really? Your con is so much nobler than mine?” In his irritation, Finn’s cheeks had grown even more flushed and the mark of passion on his face was far too alluring.
“Fine!” Samuel growled. “You want to see it? Come with me—”
At that moment, the streetlight above them began to flicker, and the odd random interludes of darkness and light seemed to take the wind out of their sails.
Finn said calmly, “Name the time and place, and I will.”
When Samuel finally got back to Kaitlin, he climbed into the car with an apology. “Sorry. I know you didn’t bring me here to make a fuss—”
Kaitlin shrugged. “I don’t know what I expected, honestly. Can’t take you anywhere.”
“He’s a fraud, Kaitlin. Not that we have the moral high ground on that, I guess. Anyway, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to get so loud.”
Kaitlin looked at him curiously. “Oh, were you shouting? I didn’t hear anything.”
For a haunted house, Finn thought, the place couldn’t have looked more normal.
The address Samuel had given Finn was for a plain suburban two-story home with an offset garage and reasonably well-trimmed bushes in the front. Not a place that anyone would ever suspect of being infested with ghosts. And of course, it wasn’t.
When Finn pushed open the door, he was greeted by surprised and/or dubious looks from a large group of people, two of whom he recognized: the female friend of Samuel’s who had been at Finn’s show, and Samuel himself.
Samuel looked, unfortunately, as inconveniently attractive as he had when they’d met at Finn’s show. Samuel was arrogant, infuriating, and effortlessly appealing standing there in jeans and a buttoned shirt, solid shoulders and heavy thighs, obvious strength and a sort of athletic grace to his movements. Samuel’s shirt was light-colored today, Finn noted. If the change was an attempt to throw off Finn’s cold reading, it would not help. Ironically, Finn had never had more success in reading someone than he’d had with Samuel, right down to his grandmother’s name.
Samuel had dark hair, cut just long enough to have a slight wave to it, and dark eyes that focused very sharply on Finn. He did not look happy to see Finn actually show up. “So you made it,” he said.
“Didn’t you foresee that I would?” Finn asked. That was when Finn realized that some of the people standing around in the house must not be part of Samuel’s team, because Samuel stiffened at the jibe. Finn tried to hide a smirk. So they were once again on stage.
Finn turned to the nearest person who wasn’t holding any electronic devices, a woman in a blue sweater. “I’m Finn,” he said warmly. “A colleague of Samuel’s. You must be the lady of the house.”
“A colleague?” asked a man standing nearby, shoes on as if he were ready to leave, but instead standing awkwardly in the hall, twisting his hands together.
“Yes,” Finn said. “I’m a psychic investigator as well. We thought a helping hand might be needed here, what with the magnitude of the tragedy. But you’re in good hands, I assure you.”
“Hey, Finn,” Samuel said, sounding slightly strangled. “Come take a look at this.” When Finn got near, Samuel clapped a hand on his shoulder and propelled him through a doorway into the hall. Which meant that it was unfortunately impossible for Finn not to notice what casual strength Samuel had in his arms. “What the hell are you doing?” Samuel demanded in a low voice.
Finn shrugged. “You tried to embarrass me in front of my audience.”
Samuel had his mouth open to argue, but then he relaxed a little. “You know what? Fine. That’s fair.”
Finn frowned. “That’s really not my goal here. I just want to show you how unethical this is. You’re not taking money, but one of your co-workers is out there filming, and don’t try to tell me this won’t go up on your website. And just because you’re doing this for free doesn’t mean you’re not hurting these people by making them believe in this nonsense.”
Samuel raised his eyebrows. “You make people believe in this nonsense.”
“I relay messages of comfort from loved ones who’ve passed on, not death threats from murder victims—” Finn took a deep, supposedly calming breath. “What did happen here, anyway? Anything real or did you make it all up?”
“You didn’t google the address?”
“I told you, I don’t do hot readings—”
For just a second, Samuel looked amused, almost conspiratorial. “Yeah, well, actually, this job’s all about hot reading. Okay, so back the day—”
“What day?” Finn interrupted.
“The 1940’s. There was a murder here—”
“This house is not that old.”
“There was a farm here at the time,” Samuel said in a clipped tone. “Are you done?”
Finn waved a hand. “Go ahead.”
“A young man died here. He was thrown from a horse in a storm and trampled.” Finn must have looked saddened because Samuel nodded. “Yeah, pretty tragic, accidental death. But the home owners are experiencing some stuff. Noises, footsteps—”
“Horse or human footsteps?”
“Both. Actually kind of cool to hear hoofbeats in the house, if you ask me,” Samuel said, looking honestly intrigued. “Not too common. But anyway, they think the spirit’s still here and angry or confused or whatever.”
“And you’re playing into this. An angry spirit.”
“Yes, but there is none, and more importantly, I’m helping them to believe that there is none.”
“Until the next time they hear a noise,” Finn said in a rising voice, “and they think there’s another ghost—” Finn broke off as the lights above them flickered, just like the street light from the night before.
“Hey, I’m getting some energy in here,” Kaitlin called from the other room.
Finn and Samuel returned to find Kaitlin holding some sort of gadget. “Electromagnetic surge,” she said.
“Yes, I felt that,” Samuel said, in a dark, serious tone. He approached the home owners, who looked a mix of vindicated and terrified.
“Let’s go see if we can make contact,” Samuel said, and everyone began to follow him, out of the sitting room and through the hall into a first-floor bedroom. The room was sparsely furnished, and what was there had been pushed against the walls to leave an empty space in the middle of the floor, which was now filled with cameras and other machines that made beeping noises and blinked with tiny lights.
“This is the hot room for sure,” Samuel said. Finn was impressed by how low and sonorant his voice had become, like he was speaking from somewhere far away. “There’s a lot of dark energy in here.”
The woman in the blue sweater was standing next to Finn. “Do you feel it too?” she asked.
Finn was torn, honestly. Samuel had tried (though rather ineptly) to sabotage Finn’s show. But Finn suspected that if he attempted to go the skeptic’s route here, the home owners would not believe him. They were too far gone already.
Of course, there were other ways to show how ridiculous this all was. “I hear rain,” Finn said. “It feels like it’s been raining in here since the night it happened.”
Samuel sent Finn a brief glance of something that was either gratitude or admiration. Finn smiled at him, a little too sweetly, and he could see the displeasure come swiftly to Samuel’s face as he realized what was coming.
“Such sadness here,” Finn said. “It breaks my heart. He’s so lonely, your ghost. With only his horse for company all these years. No wonder he seeks out the living.”
“Well,” Samuel cut in sharply, “he’s got family waiting for him on the other side. We just need to convince him to move on.”
“But he’s confused,” Finn said. “To die in a storm like that. In the dark, exposed to the weather—”
It was Kaitlin who stepped in now. “Well, let’s make contact with him then,” she said forcefully. “Samuel, go ahead.”
“We’re here to contact the spirit of John Bailey,” Samuel intoned. “John, are you with us?”
There was no answer. Finn wasn’t entirely sure if he should expect one, whether the crew had set up some smoke and mirrors for the home owners or if the gadgets and psychic were the whole show.
Samuel repeated his question, and then held up a hand. “I feel something. Yes, it’s John.”
“He’s not alone,” Finn said. It was a very odd thing to say, firstly because Finn hadn’t intended to interfere now that they were at the resolution of the case that would convince the home owners that they were safe. And secondly, because Finn hadn’t meant to say anything at all, even something helpful. It was like the thought had voiced itself. Finn looked to Samuel in a mix of alarm and confused apology to find an equally odd expression on Samuel’s face.
“Uh— no,” Samuel said. “Well, sometimes, the families waiting on the other side come back to help guide—” His face was growing paler in the dim light. “But it’s—”
“Someone else,” Finn said faintly. He looked across the room and saw Samuel’s face like it was a mirror, all the negative thoughts filling Finn’s head showing clearly. Finn spoke hesitantly. “Are you sure it was an accident with the horse?”
The lights in the hall and the rest of the house started to flicker, at the same moment that some gadget in the room began to give off a frantic beeping noise.
“Okay,” Kaitlin said brightly. “I think it’s time for a break. The spirits are a little too active to deal with at the moment. Let’s give them a minute to calm down.” She ushered the home owners out of the room, and when she came back she looked livid. “Samuel, I know you’re in a pissing contest with this guy, but you’re fucking things up for all of us.”
For his part, Finn felt more anxious than he had in a long time, and he was not entirely sure why. “Well, can’t you just make your stupid instruments stop beeping?” he demanded.
A tall, bearded man holding a camera answered him. “Dude, they’re measuring real stuff. Electromagnetic energy, temperature differences, radioactivity—”
“Why are you measuring radioactivity?” Finn asked.
The man shrugged. “It beeps.”
Samuel was playing with the light switch, turning it on and off several times. But the lights seemed to be working perfectly now. “Look,” Samuel said with an unsatisfied frown, “I have to agree. Finn, it’s been great, but it’s time for you to go.”
“You invited me!” Finn protested.
“You’re the one who complained that I was scaring people, and now you’re introducing murder into the story—”
“I—” Finn still didn’t have an explanation for that. “You were saying it, too, that there was someone else here.”
“I didn’t say the death wasn’t accidental—”
At that moment, all the instruments started going off, beeps and bells and alarms. A woman holding several gadgets looked up at them with some distress. “Look, whatever the two of you are doing, knock it off!”
But Finn’s attention was completely taken up by the appearance of something just behind Samuel, all white and misty. “Oh,” Finn said, suddenly relieved. “Oh, I see. That’s a neat effect. Should I go get the home owners back?”
Samuel was still glaring at him. “What?”
Finn pointed over his shoulder. “The ghost. Nicely done.”
When no one answered, it came to Finn’s attention that everyone else in the room was frozen, except for Samuel, who was slowly turning around. “Oh, fuck,” Samuel said faintly, when he saw the white gauzy thing. He took a few very quick steps backwards toward the other people in the room.
“Oh, so this is all for me, then,” Finn said. “Well, I appreciate the effort. You almost had me, I admit. But you can stop pretending now.”
“This,” Samuel said, still backing away, “is not about you.”
“Oh, really? You invite me here and then claim you have no tricks up your sleeve? You’re an illusionist—”
“So are you!”
“I’m a mentalist. I don’t fake phenomena!”
It was at that point that the misty white shape opened what seemed to be its mouth and shrieked. Gadgets crashed to the floor as everybody took off running. Illusion or not, Finn didn’t want to be alone in the room with that thing, so he ran too. Everyone ended up on the lawn, home owners and ghost investigation team together.
“It’s them!” one of the team yelled, pointing at Finn and Samuel. “Whatever energy they’re giving off, they’re riling it up—”
Finn looked at them incredulously. It was terribly disappointing that Samuel’s team couldn’t remember they were in the middle of a performance. Samuel was a gifted con artist. He deserved better than that. “Well, yes,” Finn said, “Samuel and I were working together, so the effects are stronger. I mean, you do want ghosts to show up—”
“No, man,” said the camera man, who was no longer carrying a camera. “That’s the last thing we want.” He pointed back at the house. “That’s fucking terrifying.”
Finn turned to look at Samuel, who was still pale and sort of sickly looking in the porch lights. He said not a word.
“That’s very funny,” Finn said coldly, finally dropping the pretense. “Telling me that scaring people is not the point, and then scaring them worse just because I’m here. That’s fucked up, Samuel.”
“Just go,” Kaitlin said, pointing toward the street where Finn had parked his car. “The two of you together are trouble.”
Finn could not have agreed more. As he went, he heard all the machines stop beeping.
After Finn left Samuel and the ghost hunters at the house, everything sort of flattened out and went back to normal.
Samuel did his act, talking to “John,” convincing him to walk toward the light. The team told the home owners that the house was cleansed. Samuel went home and drank some bourbon and did not think about ghosts, especially not the fact that for the rest of the evening at the house, he could still feel whatever it was that he’d felt when Finn had been there. Not John. The other presence. The malicious one.
So instead Samuel just thought about Finn Kelley. The frustrating, infuriating, handsome bastard.
If the man had just been attractive, even just an attractive asshole, that would have been something reasonable to deal with. Samuel could have contented himself with fantasies of sucking the man’s smugness out of him via his cock, and be done with it.
But there was something else about Finn, something deeper, that seemed to draw Samuel in. Like they’d known each other forever. Like they understood each other. Like they were friends, when all they’d ever done was argue and try to sabotage each other.
Samuel didn’t sleep well after the haunted house. Even if he didn’t want to think about white misty shapes screaming, his subconscious had apparently subscribed to the channel, so that was all he saw when he closed his eyes. It would have been far better just to have hot, steamy dreams about a man he despised. But instead, he got ghosts. So Samuel wasn’t sleeping well, and one morning at six a.m., he surprised his dog with an earlier-than-usual morning walk.
Monkey the dog was a shaggy tri-color mutt who looked very much like he’d started out planning to be a beagle, but then just past the shoulders, he’d discovered he had a lot of fur left that he still needed to use, and he’d sort of lumped it all on in patches here and there. The animal shelter had named him, and while Monkey did not look particularly like a monkey, he also did not look like any type of dog that Samuel had ever seen, so he decided the name was probably fair.
Samuel and Monkey had a couple of set routes that they liked to walk. Monkey was a creature of habit and liked to check his “pee-mail” every morning, sniffing at the same spots, discovering which other dogs had come by. But this morning, Monkey seemed to be in the mood to blaze trail.
Being up so early, Samuel had a while to kill before work, so he figured there was no harm in letting Monkey take them down a few streets they’d never visited before. Until they came around a corner and found a yard crew setting up, waiting for the neighborhood noise moratorium to expire at seven. There was a familiar figure raking leaves.
“Oh, my god,” Samuel said, his voice carrying easily in the early morning air. “How the mighty have fallen.”
A man turned around to face him, slender and graceful, with pale eyes. Finn Kelley was wearing jeans and a green t-shirt with the lawn care company’s name on the front. Samuel made sure to get that in the photos he was taking with his phone.
Finn stood there obligingly until Samuel put his phone away. “Like you don’t have a day job,” Finn said, but his voice did not project like it usually did.
“I’m a computer tech,” Samuel told him. “I don’t rake leaves. This is going on Facebook, by the way.”
“You don’t use Facebook.”
“The ghost hunting group has a page.”
“The same ghost hunting group that I witnessed faking phenomena?” Finn asked. “Please, go ahead and tag me in that.”
Samuel opened his mouth to say that they hadn’t faked anything, but he really didn’t want to talk about that. In any case, Finn had become a bit distracted. He’d crouched down on the sidewalk to meet someone far friendlier than Samuel.
“Hello, Monkey,” Finn said, rubbing Monkey’s oddly fur-free ears. “You’re a big fuzzy monster, aren’t you? Oh, you’re such a good dog, yes, you are.” Monkey seemed to agree with Finn, wagging his tail furiously and half climbing on the man.
It took Samuel a moment to remember that Monkey had his name printed on his tag, so that Finn didn’t actually need to cold read his dog.
“Look,” Finn said from the sidewalk, “I don’t have a degree in computer science. I don’t have a degree in anything. I’m a failed writer and poet, a failed college student— psychology, if you’re wondering— and a failed barista and administrative assistant. But I’m a good actor and a very good cold reader. Unfortunately, the act doesn’t pay the bills.”
“It could,” Samuel said, as the truth began to dawn on him.
“It could,” Finn agreed, giving Monkey one last ear scritch and then standing up. “If I made people think there were curses attached to them, that they were under attack by demons. If I made them think they needed me to free their dearly departed from Hell, or to find out secrets that their parents were trying desperately to tell them so that they could move on. I could charge thousands of dollars from frightened people. But instead, I rake leaves.”
“You’re still a con artist,” Samuel said.
“So are you.”
At that point a man who was apparently Finn’s boss yelled at him. “Hey! I’m not paying you to stand around!”
“All right,” Finn called back. He picked up his rake and started to work on the carpet of leaves covering the lawn.
Samuel went to leave, but Monkey had laid down on the sidewalk, looking like he’d be happy to hang out there all day. This was not typical behavior for walks. Samuel tugged on the leash, but it was no use.
Meanwhile Finn had started putting leaves into a lawn bag. “You know, I was actually wondering, Samuel, if you’ve ever thought about working with someone else. I mean, besides your team. Another psychic.”
“You mean, like you?” Samuel scoffed. “Oh. You want the advertising.”
“You could be a guest on my show too,” Finn said. “You don’t seem too terrible at cold reading. And we were certainly picking up each other’s signals at the haunted house. Perhaps with some practice, we could actually get along.” He gave Samuel an amused look. “And if you insist on not getting paid for it, then that’s even better for me.”
Samuel wanted to rebuff the man gleefully. Instead, he found himself asking, “Was there ever a point where you believed in this stuff?” And then somewhat reluctantly, he added, “I mean, like haunted houses?”
Finn laughed. “No, of course not. It was just that my mother used to talk about my gray eyes. Supposedly gray eyes can see more than other eyes, some such nonsense. You?”
“My grandmother said she had the Sight.”
“The other one.”
A shiver went through Samuel that was not entirely pleasant. “How the fuck are you doing that?”
Finn was now standing in the yard, rake idle in his hands, looking at Monkey with concern in his eyes, as if he’d just asked the dog a very important question and was waiting on an answer. “I don’t— sometimes I just guess right,” Finn said faintly. He switched his gaze to Samuel, and Samuel realized he was being read. “You really think you saw a ghost at that house, don’t you?” Finn asked.
“Of course not.”
Finn got an expression on his face that reminded Samuel that Finn could tell when he was lying. But Finn didn’t look smug about it. “Have you considered that your team could have staged it for you?” he asked gently.
Samuel had not considered that. “Is that what you got from them?”
Finn shrugged his shoulders. “I mean, they knew I was coming, and I imagine they weren’t happy about it. Your friend Kaitlin probably told them we’d fought after my show and they figured you and I would mess everything up.”
“Which we did.”
“Which we did. So, a little payback. Try to scare the new guy, but also the guy who invited him.”
Samuel was dubious of anyone on his team being able to fake something quite like that, but nevertheless, it was an attractive alternate theory to the horrible ghost-being-real bit. Not that he was going to admit that. “Either way, I think it just proves that we shouldn’t work together,” Samuel said.
Finn stopped raking again, for a second, but then he started back up with renewed vigor. “You started all this, may I remind you. You didn’t have to try to sabotage my show.”
“I only made you look better,” Samuel retorted. “And you made all of us look like idiots at the house—”
“You invited me as a challenge! What did you think I was going to do, fall down and worship your supposed powers?”
“I thought a little professional courtesy—”
They both broke off as the streetlight above them abruptly turned off, along with the porch light on the house whose yard they were in, and there was a sharp cracking noise as a headlight blew out on a passing car.
“Hey!” Finn’s boss yelled. “You two stop glaring at each other over there and get to work!”
“You know what,” Finn said quietly. “You’re right. We should definitely not work together.”
Monkey hadn’t liked the noise of the headlight blowing, and he was up again, pulling at the leash. Samuel followed his dog down the sidewalk without a word of goodbye.
Finn had been performing his psychic shows for three years.
He’d started out with smaller gigs, doing readings out of his house and traveling to fairs. The stage shows were a real step up, but he didn’t do them often. It was hard to fill a theater with even a hundred people. So Finn worked mornings with the lawn care company and spent the rest of the day on advertising and private readings.
But there were some things that freelance psychics often did that Finn, in his moral certitude, refused to do, and it wasn’t just terrifying people with talk of demons. Finn had decided not do anything that could truly make a difference, and by that, he meant crimes.
Finn was happy to talk to dear old departed Dad about how peaceful the afterlife was, and he sometimes took on the challenge of psychically locating lost items, but he never attempted to find lost persons. And this was because Finn was, in fact, a fraud. He was an excellent cold reader, able to guess fairly accurately about where people might have lost their grandmother’s ring, but he didn’t have the slightest idea how to solve any other kind of problem, especially a criminal one. Finn had no spirit guide. He had no connection with the Beyond.
Finn had never been contacted by the police about a crime, and he hoped he never would be. The police did not tend to seek out psychics, so Finn figured he was safe there. And if it ever did happen, Finn had promised himself that he would say no, because at best, Finn’s “help” would be irrelevant, and at worst, he would be in the way of people who could actually solve mysteries.
It was unfortunate, probably for everyone, that the first time someone did call Finn pleading for help with a crime, Finn had just spent four hours raking lawns in the hot sun and fuming about a fraudulent ghost hunter who had in his possession photographs of Finn raking lawns. That arrogant, stupidly attractive bastard Samuel had turned Finn down for a partnership that would have been beneficial to both of them (and would presumably have forestalled the pictures being posted on the internet), so now Finn had to worry about how he would have to spin things if the photos did show up online. He’d have to say something about how he didn’t charge enough for the use of his gift to make a living, try to spark admiration from people for a moral code that did exist, but was not quite what his clients thought it was.
The phone call gave Finn the second awful shock of his day. It was from a woman named Tricia, whose daughter, Ann, twenty-one, had been missing for two days. None of her friends had heard from her, Tricia said, through tears. Ann wasn’t answering her phone. The police could find nothing, but a neighbor had seen one of Finn’s shows, and in desperation, Tricia had called. And Finn immediately said yes.
Of course, halfway through the sentence Yes, don’t worry, I’d be glad to help, Finn’s prickly moral code slipped the other way and he heard himself follow it with and of course, I would never charge anyone for that. But that was all right, because helping alone was worth its weight in gold as far as advertising, wasn’t it? If Finn could add a bit to his bio about being consulted on police cases—
Finn was nearly sick in the sink after Tricia hung up. But he did not call back and decline. The way out of lawn care and into his true calling lay down this path, he told himself. All he had to do was follow it. Surely he could just do what he did at shows: offer comfort to a grieving woman. And he could be certain to stay out of the way of the police who were (hopefully) actually capable of solving the case.
That evening, Finn met Tricia at the door of her daughter’s apartment. A police officer was there, who introduced himself as Kenny. He happened to be Tricia’s nephew, and the missing woman’s cousin, and it was only as a favor to his aunt that he was allowing Finn to take a look around.
Finn did his best to notice every detail of what he was told and shown, since, after all, this apartment was now his stage. Tricia looked about 45, but she was clearly wealthy, so Finn put her at 50. She was wearing a bare minimum of makeup, and none around the eyes, so Finn guessed she was expecting to cry again. Kenny, the police officer, was tall and broad, in his late twenties. He was armed and he was happy about it, his hand resting near the gun on his belt as a matter of habit.
Tricia held a tissue in her hand and started into the story. “Saturday,” she said softly, “two days ago, was Ann’s birthday. She turned twenty-one. That was the last day anyone saw her. She was at the bank. You see, my sister Margaret— Kenny’s mother— passed away five years ago from cancer. She left almost everything to Kenny, of course, but Margaret didn’t have a daughter, so she willed some of her jewelry to my Ann, a necklace and matching earrings, diamonds and a centerpiece of rubies in a bird shape. But because it was rather expensive stuff— worth about $75,000— we all thought it should wait until Ann was twenty-one before it went to her. Ann didn’t mind, I don’t think. It was something to look forward to.”
At this point, Tricia’s voice was sounding a little hoarse and Kenny got up from the kitchen table to get her a glass of water. Ann’s apartment was small but very nicely furnished. Clearly, the family was wealthy to begin with, so Finn got the feeling Ann would have seen the jewelry more as a beloved heirloom rather than future income.
“So the jewelry was at the bank,” Finn said.
Tricia nodded. “Safe deposit box. Ann was very excited. Saturday there was a festival, the arts festival downtown, you know, and our family are sponsors every year. We had a nice table reserved for the dinner with the artists, and Ann planned to wear the jewelry there. But she never came.”
“She didn’t make a habit of that,” Finn said. Rather than letting the topic flow through open-ended questions as he did at shows, here Finn figured that anything he was reasonably sure of should come out sounding like a statement. And thankfully, the apartment was speaking to him.
There had obviously been people in the apartment, going through things, searching for clues. Drawers were open, and their contents out, and there was fingerprint dust on some of the surfaces. But you could see what the place had been like before that, subtracting the newer mess. There were no stacks of mail and papers, no heap of dirty dishes, and on the table in the living room sat a neat pile of clean clothes, probably having been folded in front of some TV show. Ann seemed to be a very organized person, especially for someone so young.
“She would never miss anything without calling or texting,” Tricia said. “Never.”
“Of course not,” Finn agreed. “So you came here looking for her.”
“Yes, the next morning. We have a key, and when we came in— there was blood on the counter. Just a little.” Tricia pointed to a small brown stain on the counter near the microwave. “We called the police. Kenny came, of course. They— they asked if anything was missing, so we looked around.”
Kenny cut in, for the first time. “Her purse, wallet, and phone are gone, but her car is still here. No activity on the phone since. We’re still checking the credit cards.”
“And you didn’t find the new jewelry,” Finn said.
“Gone,” Kenny said.
Tricia sniffled and put the kleenex to her eyes. “Mr. Kelley, could you please— is there anything you can do?”
“Of course,” Finn said. “Of course. I’ll try. Well, I’m getting—” His gaze drifted back to Kenny. “You have a suspect. An idea, at least.”
Tricia looked heartened. “That Bianca girl. Did you sense her?”
“In cases like this,” Finn said carefully, “it’s important that I get all the facts from all sources, including earthly ones. Could you tell me what you know about Bianca?”
That statement was a risk, but fortunately, Tricia didn’t bat an eye. “They used to be best friends, Ann and Bianca. Went everywhere together, since kindergarten. But then right before they graduated, they had a terrible fight, and after that they went their separate ways. Ann’s a student here at the university, pre-med, and Bianca went to some community college. But now Bianca—”
“Bianca’s missing too,” Finn said.
“Yes!” Tricia got a look of hope on her face, the kind that people got when they were buying what Finn was selling, and Finn felt sick again.
“Bianca’s a free spirit,” Kenny said, sounding very much like the voice of reason compared to Tricia’s suspicions. “Her purse, phone, and car are gone, and no one’s seen her since Saturday. But all we know for sure is that they’re both gone. They might not even be together. ”
“Bianca knew about the jewelry,” Finn said. “She knew it was Ann’s birthday.”
Tricia nodded, frantically.
“Bianca’s a good girl,” Kenny said pointedly. “And for now, there’s no proof she was even here that night. We’re still waiting on the results from the blood on the counter, and we’re still checking fingerprints. We have a lot of leads, and we’re following them up. But Aunt Trish is worried, so I said she could call you in, Mr. Kelley.” Kenny looked as if this had been a supreme sacrifice on his part, and it probably had been.
“You need to find Bianca,” Tricia said forcefully, and then there came another voice from the front door.
“And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Finn knew that voice. He turned to find himself looking at another woman who’d clearly been crying, someone a generation older than Tricia. Bianca’s grandmother, Finn guessed at once. And by her side was Samuel Allsbury.
The relatives of the two missing women got very confrontational, very quickly.
Samuel and Finn relocated to the hallway, in need of their own discussion. Samuel wanted to go on the attack with Finn immediately. But Finn must have seen it on his face, because he mumbled something about not taking money from Ann’s family.
Samuel’s anger deflated on seeing Finn’s clear distress at the situation. And of course, Samuel hardly had the high ground here. “I know Louise from church,” Samuel said. “That’s Bianca’s grandmother. She asked. She was crying, and I just—”
“Ann’s mother, Tricia, found my number somewhere.” There was no charming smile from Finn now. “Did you get the story?”
“Yeah. Missing young women. Missing jewelry. And somehow we’re mixed up with it now. I must not be psychic because I didn’t see this coming.”
Finally Finn got a hint of a smile on his face, and he put his finger to his lips. “We’re on stage, Samuel.”
“Yeah. Working together. Which we just agreed was a terrible idea.”
“We don’t have to,” Finn said. “We were hired by different families.”
From the hall, they could hear accusations going back and forth from Tricia and Louise, with Kenny trying to moderate. The gist seemed to be that Ann’s family were wealthy snobs who didn’t care about anyone and Bianca’s family were all poor drug users who attracted trouble.
“And those families don’t get along,” Finn said.
“That just makes me think maybe you and I probably should,” Samuel said. “This is bad enough as it is.”
“It is,” Finn said, in a low voice. “I mean, it feels bad in this apartment. Don’t you feel it?”
“Stop it,” Samuel said immediately, either because he thought that Finn was lying or because he feared he wasn’t. Finn fell quiet. The pain on his face made Samuel want to reach out and hug the man. The hallway was dimly lit, and Finn’s strange pale eyes seemed to almost shine in the darkness. It gave him an eerie, otherworldly look.
Eventually, Kenny managed to get Louise out the door, and soon afterwards, he ushered Tricia out as well. Kenny was red in the face and looked exhausted. “Go ahead and do whatever it is that you do,” Kenny barked out at Samuel and Finn. “For their sake. But if you bullshit me—”
“Yeah,” Samuel assured him. “We know. Don’t worry, man, we’re professionals.”
The apartment door swung shut and Samuel and Finn were alone.
“Well,” Finn said heavily. He looked down the hall at Ann’s bedroom. “We might as well— since we’re here.”
Samuel put a hand on Finn’s shoulder, just a brief touch to steer him down the hallway. He shouldn’t have, because it was somehow very difficult to let go. “Go on,” he said. “Let’s see how well you can cold read a room.”
Ann’s bedroom was neat and clean, like the rest of the apartment. Bright white curtains, sunny yellow rug. Pink comforter on the bed, but in a sort of grown-up shade rather than cotton candy. No dirty dishes, half-eaten food, or piles of clothes on the floor. So she was organized and liked things tidy.
That was about the best Samuel could do, but as he watched Finn study the room, he knew Finn was picking up more than that. Finn had flushed slightly when Samuel touched him, and he still looked rosier now as some of his anxiety melted away, replaced by his stage face: calm and composed to mask the whirling of the master cold reader’s mind.
It was a little bit sexy. Samuel was not happy that he found it a little bit sexy.
“Ann is quite cheerful,” Finn said. “Happy. Bright. You know, this is a lot harder when there’s no one to answer back.”
“You’re doing fine,” Samuel said gruffly, glad mostly because Finn had said Ann is rather than Ann was.
Finn drifted over to the desk, the one sort-of messy area of the room, with textbooks in unstable piles and open spiral notebooks. “She’s doing well in school,” Finn said. “Confident about it too. Not a lot of erasing on the pages.” He looked over the side of the desk. “Not much in the trash can. There’s no computer, but I’m going to assume the police have it.”
Finn turned to take in the room from this new vantage point. “School isn’t her whole life, though. School’s all in this one place, while she’s got swim stuff everywhere: trophies on the shelf and goggles on the back of the door. Pictures of herself with the swim team on the mirror. The room smells a bit like chlorine, and she doesn’t mind it, or she’d have taken the swim stuff out of here. She might not even notice it anymore.”
“There aren’t any pictures of Bianca,” Samuel said. “I never met Bianca, she wasn’t much for church. But Louise gave me her picture.” He held out a snapshot for Finn to look at, a dark haired girl in a graduation gown.
They investigated the apartment’s bathroom, which was tidy as well. Multiple brightly-colored swim suits were hung in the shower, almost like decorations. The living room had a few framed photos of Ann and her family, but none of Bianca.
“If they’ve really been friends since kindergarten,” Finn said, checking the books on a bookshelf alphabetized by author, “there must have been pictures at one time.”
“The question is, did she keep them after their fight?” Samuel said. He headed back to the bedroom on a hunch, and Finn followed him, watching as Samuel lifted the mattress up off the bed.
“Oh, good guess,” Finn said appreciatively, and he pulled a thin photo album from atop the box spring. Flipping through it, they found photo after photo of the girls together.
Ann was blonde, thin but strong, with green eyes and a bright, brave smile. Bianca was heavyset in a way that turned to curves as she got older. Dark hair and eyes, and always something in her hands, Samuel noted. A flute, a book, an apple. Ann’s hand.
“So why hide these pictures?” Finn asked. “Did Ann want to keep them from herself or from others?”
“I think she’d have gotten rid of them if she really didn’t want them,” Samuel said.
“Yes, you’re probably right. So who didn’t she want to see them? Her family? They don’t seem to approve of Bianca.”
“I wonder how much of that is just the stress of what’s happened,” Samuel said. “I mean, look at these pictures— they went everywhere together, even as kids. The families had to have allowed it or it would have been over far sooner.”
“But then Ann and Bianca had a terrible fight. Did Bianca’s grandmother say why?”
“No, she didn’t know.”
They went back into the kitchen and Samuel leaned against the counter while Finn sat at the table, still taking in the room. “Theories?” Samuel asked.
Finn leaned back in the chair, looking weary. “Okay. Ann gets her jewelry from the bank and brings it back here. That much we know. Then maybe Bianca is here. Bianca’s car is missing, so she could have driven here. She kills or incapacitates Ann, steals the jewelry, takes the body out and dumps it, then flees.”
“Or,” Samuel said, rising naturally into contradicting Finn’s idea, “an intruder kidnaps or kills them both and steals the jewelry. Dumps Bianca’s car somewhere with the bodies in it.”
Finn frowned. “Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s voluntary. Ann doesn’t seem like the kind of person to vanish and not be in contact with her mother. And I think that they’re together, or at least that their disappearances are linked. It’s too much of a coincidence otherwise.”
“But there’s no evidence that Bianca was ever even here—”
They were both startled by Samuel’s phone ringing. “It’s Louise,” he said, hitting the button to put it on speaker.
For a moment, there was quiet crying, and during that moment, Samuel could not look away from Finn’s face. The man looked crushed to hear so much pain. He didn’t belong here, Samuel realized. Finn was the best cold reader Samuel had ever met, and the worst con man.
“Louise?” Samuel asked gently.
There was a shaky breath on the other side of the line. “It’s Bianca’s blood,” Louise said. “The police called me. The blood in the kitchen, it’s my granddaughter.”
“There wasn’t much blood, though,” Samuel said immediately. “Not enough to mean she’s seriously injured.”
“But there was money,” Louise said. “Ann’s money, there was a large withdrawal that night from an ATM, the max, which was a thousand dollars. There was no camera, they don’t know who it was. Please, Samuel, you have to find my granddaughter.”
Samuel tried to give assurances that of course meant nothing, but he hoped they sounded heartening. When Louise finally hung up, Finn was rubbing his head like he had a headache and Samuel thought he could feel one too.
“Maybe they fought over the jewelry,” Finn said. “It could be that Ann is the one who killed Bianca and then panicked and fled.”
Samuel sat down heavily in a kitchen chair. The sun was starting to go down and the windows framed a pink sky.
“You look awful,” Finn said. “I thought you liked this gloomy stuff.”
It sounded like an attempt at an insult that Finn wasn’t quite angry enough to make. Samuel decided not to rise to it. “When people have been dead for fifty years,” he said. “Not when they might not be dead yet. Look, we could actually try to be useful here. We could investigate the families on our own. No psychic powers needed.”
“Working together?” Finn asked. Above him, the kitchen lights flickered. Neither of them looked up, but Finn got a hesitant look on his face. “Do you get the feeling,” he asked slowly, “that something is wrong? I mean, honestly, seriously, no nonsense. Pretend you believe in such things for one minute. Do you feel weird here, in this apartment?”
Samuel looked down at the kitchen floor, messy with bootprints. “It’s heavy here. I don’t know what to say about it.”
“There’s nothing you need to say,” Finn told him. “I just wanted to know I wasn’t alone.”
Samuel and Finn drove to Louise’s house in Finn’s car.
They didn’t talk about it. They just got into Finn’s car together as if they had talked about it. Finn didn’t know if he was surprised about that or not.
Louise was in her sixties, with graying hair that she wore in a ponytail. She didn’t look much like her granddaughter Bianca, but there were pictures of Bianca all over the living room, where they sat.
“I thought you were working for them,” Louise said, looking at Finn. “Ann’s family.”
“Oh, well,” Finn said, drawing up what he could find of his stage personality, “we’re old friends, Samuel and I, and when we’re together, our psychic abilities work better. Always have.” He put on a smile. “You know, we were at a house recently and all sorts of weird things happened.”
Samuel cleared his throat and cut off that story. “Tell us more about Bianca, please.”
At this, they got a proud grandmother face, but with wet eyes. “She plays the flute,” Louise said. “Beautifully, always has. She had a solo all the way back in elementary school, you know. And she played in the band when she got older, the marching band.” Louise pointed at a framed photo of Bianca in a tall green hat with a feather on it, miniature flute music clipped onto her arm.
Finn gave Samuel a glance to let him know he was going to start up his act. Samuel nodded.
“She wrote her own music,” Finn said, looking back at Louise. “Flute and voice. She wrote songs.”
“I have them on video!” Louise said, smiling at last. “Some of them. Most of them.”
“But she did have a couple of habits you didn’t approve of,” Finn said. “A little bit of substance use. But nothing too serious. She got good grades, that’s how you know it never got out of hand.” Louise was nodding in that way that people did in Finn’s audience. “She was a free spirit,” Finn said, his voice sounding hollow to himself. “But she’d never just leave like this, without giving you word.”
“Tell us about Bianca and Ann,” Samuel said. “When they were young.”
“They were always together,” Louise said. “Until Bianca got a boyfriend. That was sophomore year. But he didn’t last, and then I saw more of Ann again. Until they had their fight.”
“Do you know what it was about?” Finn asked. “What broke up a friendship that had lasted so long?”
“I bet it was Ann’s family,” Louise said. “They never liked Bianca. She wasn’t their type, their level. They have money, you know. We get by, but we don’t have that. I just retired from retail work last year and now I serve lunch up at the school. I’ve had Bianca since she was four, just the two of us on my income until Bianca was old enough to work summers.”
Louise wiped her eyes with a tissue. “My daughter, Maddie, she had Bianca with a guy who didn’t stick around. Maddie and Bianca lived here with me, until Maddie met someone else. She married him and they moved to another state. But Bianca was happy here, and my husband had just died— so she stayed with me. Maddie’s got more kids with her husband, and we see them sometimes.”
“And they haven’t heard from Bianca either,” Finn said. Louise shook her head.
“Can we see her room?” Samuel asked.
Bianca’s room was more along the lines of what Finn would expect from a twenty-one-year-old woman. The bed was not made, and there were a couple of jackets and a sock tangled up with the bedclothes. A left shoe was under the bed and its mate was across the room beneath the window. A couple of empty pop cans were on the desk next to a few textbooks (sociology and psychology, where Ann’s had been biology and chemistry).
Finn could feel Bianca’s personality clearly in the room. “Bright and colorful, like Ann,” he said. Louise had gone back to the living room, but Samuel was standing in the doorway, and Finn wondered if he knew he had a bit of a smile on his face, watching Finn work. Samuel should not have been there any more than Finn should, but somehow his presence made Finn feel better.
“Bianca was eclectic,” Finn said. “Many interests, many loves. Music— especially flute. Classical, folk, new age. She’s been to shows for different bands. She dragged Ann along sometimes, especially after they could drive themselves. She reads. Different genres. Are there pictures of the boyfriend in here?”
Samuel studied a cork board with photos pinned to it. “I don’t see any with the same guy. I do see Ann.”
Some of the pictures were the same as the ones in Ann’s album. At the beach, with Ann in an athletic one-piece while Bianca’s suit was more fashionable. At concerts, with Ann looking indulgent and Bianca clutching tickets in her hand. In the snow, in front of a school, in line for a roller coaster.
“What’s under the mattress?” Finn asked.
It was a bag of weed. “I figured,” Samuel said. “But I don’t think she was into anything harder. At least not regularly. Maybe if they passed stuff around at concerts.”
“Well, maybe only at first,” Finn said. “But then if Bianca developed a habit, she might need money. Maybe Ann was helping her with that, and cut off the funds when they had their fight. So Bianca went after the jewelry.”
“Well, what’s she going to do with a $75,000 set of jewelry?” Samuel argued. “Pawn it? The police are looking for it. And a twenty-one-year-old college kid is not going to have access to a fence.”
“Her dealer might.”
“You didn’t say anything about Bianca being violent when you read the room,” Samuel pointed out. “Anything else to report or have we hit a wall here?”
Finn sat down on the bed. He looked around for a moment in silence, but nothing else came to him, except that steadily growing dull ache that Finn couldn’t quite locate. It wasn’t a headache or sore feet or a twisted back. It was inside of him and all around him at once, a heavy, ominous weight. “It’s just that it feels wrong here too,” Finn said. “Like it did at Ann’s. Do you feel it? I really think these disappearances are related.”
Samuel was standing by the door again, and he crossed his arms. “That’s enough of that.”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Finn said testily.
“No. That’s not helping,” Samuel said. “Finn, this is still a con. No matter what your guilt might try to make it into. You can cold read a room, we can find some photos, great. But I don’t know what the hell we’re supposed to do. I think we have to be done here. Before we start believing our own bullshit.”
“You’re the one who just suggested we should investigate,” Finn snapped.
“And we have. And we have nothing.”
Finn waved his hand. “So leave then! I’ll do this on my own.”
“Finn, there isn’t anything you can do!”
“Then why are you even here?”
Samuel groaned. “Because Louise— she’s so scared.”
Finn glared at him. “When I said I did shows to give hope to scared people, you scoffed at me. And that’s real hope that I give, because they can’t disprove that their grandfather is at peace.”
“Yeah, exactly. We can’t give real hope here. And the consequences of a mistake in the real world are far worse than misreading someone at a show. This is deadly serious.”
“We don’t have to give up,” Finn said. “We could talk to the girls’ friends—”
“The police have done that. The police who are trained to do that—”
“Oh, make up your mind!” Finn exclaimed. “Either be here or don’t, and if you are, then help me!”
“Help you? By saying that things feel wrong here?” Samuel strode into the room, grabbing a book off of the desk. “What am I supposed to do, pick this up and tell you that Bianca goes to this class every Monday and Wednesday at ten and gets lunch after at a deli around the corner? Ham and cheese and fruit punch from the drink machine?”
There was silence for a moment as Samuel stood there with the book in his hand, gradually growing paler.
“Not bad,” Finn said. “You just need to work on your stage personality a bit. Less angry. More confident.”
Samuel put the book down. “This is really unprofessional. Us arguing, yelling. Whatever we decide to do, we need to stop shouting at each other.”
They found Louise still sitting in the living room, holding a tissue in one hand and a picture of Bianca in the other. She looked up anxiously when they came in. “Did you find anything?” she asked. “Do you know where she is?”
The lie came easily to Finn’s tongue, as they all did. “We’re getting some ideas. But things are very jumbled right now. Actually, we wanted to apologize to you for that. Sometimes when we work together— our ways of working are not exactly the same, and occasionally we end up arguing. I know you must have heard raised voices, and I’m very sorry for that.”
Louise’s look of hope changed to one of confusion. “Arguing when?”
“Just now, in Bianca’s room.”
Louise shook her head. “I don’t know what you mean. I was listening. I thought I might hear you find a clue. But you two didn’t speak a word to each other after you went into that room.”
Samuel watched Finn’s face grow pale. “You didn’t hear us arguing?” he asked Louise, who was still clutching her granddaughter’s photo and looking increasingly confused. “We were shouting.”
Louise shook her head.
Finn looked at Samuel, and for a moment the world rested there, at the top of a roller coaster, just before it tipped off into the terrifying fall.
“How good is your hearing, Louise?” Finn asked faintly.
“Let’s test it,” Samuel said hastily. He turned away and put a hand over his mouth. “Louise, can you hear this?” he asked in a quiet voice. “Say butterfly.”
“Butterfly?” Louise asked. “Why?”
Finn was getting to his feet and he looked a little wavery, so Samuel grabbed him by the arm. “We’ll be back,” he said, as he guided Finn outside.
They paced the sidewalk beside Louise’s house. “Call your boss,” Samuel said suddenly. “We argued in front of him and he said to stop glaring, remember? Not to shut up.” He watched Finn dial his phone. Finn put the phone on speaker mode and both of them heard Finn’s boss sounding just as confused as Louise, but more irritated. No, they hadn’t argued with each other. They hadn’t spoken at all. It was only Finn talking to Monkey the dog.
Finn hung up, his hand shaking. “Get in the car,” Samuel said, or at least thought he said, and Finn must have heard it, because he did that, and they started driving until eventually Finn pulled into his own driveway.
Finn’s house was a small place, a two-story condo with vaulted ceilings in the living room. Samuel looked up at the ceiling as he finally said it. “One of us is psychic.”
“At least one of us,” Finn said. “Oh, God.” He was pale and shaken, and his hands fluttered around, never landing on anything.
“Your stage show.”
“Your grandmother’s name. Both your grandmothers’ names. They just came into my head, and the book Grace used to read you—”
“But you were faking it,” Samuel said urgently. “You were always faking it, in shows. You never had the real thing.”
“No. Never. It was always cold reading. You? Ever, the real thing? No ghosts?”
Finn sat down heavily on the sofa. “So every time we talk, we— what, we don’t talk? We just think we do. But at my show the audience heard us. Your team could hear us, people can hear us.”
“When we’re talking to them. I think it only happens when it’s just you and me talking.” Samuel perched on an armchair beside the sofa. “Okay, we’re going to do this scientifically. A telepathy experiment.” He firmly closed his mouth and kept it closed. But he looked at Finn and thought, “Can you hear me?”
“Yeah,” Finn said. But he had a hand over his mouth, holding it shut.
Samuel still heard it. “Fuck. Say the word purple.”
“Purple. Say rhinoceros. No, spell it.”
“I’m not spelling that,” Samuel snapped. “Shit. I swear I’m talking out loud.”
“We must just intuitively communicate by thought. I guess we’ve been doing it the whole time.” Finn put his hand down and stared at the floor for a moment. “I think technically it only has to be one of us that’s psychic. Sending and receiving both. Have you ever had anyone else hear you when you didn’t talk?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Well, let’s try it,” Finn said. “Do you want to get a pizza? Call them up and order it without speaking.”
“We don’t know if it would work at that range,” Samuel protested.
“Fine. but call a pizza anyway. Pepperoni—”
“Stop that,” Finn snapped. “I don’t even know which one of us wanted that.” He looked up suddenly as the lights in the house flickered.
“And that’s another thing!” Samuel exclaimed, pointing up. “The fucking lights—”
“Are we doing that?” Finn asked. “Is that really us? The— the lights, the gadgets that your team had—” His hands sort of fluttered in space. “The ghost. Samuel, the ghost in the haunted house.”
“No,” Samuel said. “That was a trick. My team, like you said. They faked it.”
“I don’t think they did.” Finn’s voice was not harsh and accusing, but soft. Samuel felt himself sort of crumple back into the chair. Finn moved a little closer on the sofa, close enough to touch Samuel, but he didn’t reach out. “Is all that stuff your team said about electromagnetic energy bullshit?”
“Apparently not,” Samuel said. “I mean— we say that ghosts use it, or they’re made of it, or give it off— I don’t know, it never really made sense. But I guess maybe it’s true. We’re affecting lights, gadgets, and ghosts.”
They sat in silence a moment, and then Finn dialed the number of a pizza place. For the first few seconds of the call, they kept their mouths shut. Samuel nodded at Finn, who went first. Hello, I’d like to order a pizza, please.
“Hello?” asked the man on the phone. “Anybody there?”
Samuel took his turn. Hey, let me have a large pepperoni and mushroom.
“Hey, anybody there?”
Finn took over then and spoke out loud to the poor pizza guy.
By the time the pizza came, Finn was lying on the couch on his back, looking up at the ceiling and Samuel was slumped in the chair with his legs over the arm. “I just picked up that damn textbook,” Samuel was saying. “And I got the image of the class, the ham and cheese sandwich, fruit punch.”
“And that’s never happened to you before?”
“I mean— maybe? But we don’t know if it’s right. Could be nonsense, imagination.”
“Or it could mean you’re the psychic one.”
The doorbell rang then, and Finn got up to answer. Samuel trailed him to the door, offering some cash. “You know,” Finn said, as he opened the door, “if only one of us can receive messages, that would prove which one of us it is.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Finn put on a charming smile for the pizza guy, who was a teenager with bleached blond hair. “Hi,” Finn said. “How would you like to make a quick twenty bucks?”
“And keep all your clothes on!” Samuel sputtered, aghast.
“Oh, yes, of course,” Finn said.
The pizza guy seemed unfazed. “I guess?”
“We just need you to stand there and think of a number between one and a hundred,” Finn told him.
“Okay. Got one.”
There was nothing. Finn looked at Samuel blankly.
“Imagine you’re telling us that number,” Samuel said. “But without saying it out loud.”
The pizza guy shrugged. “Okay.”
“Fifty-five,” Finn and Samuel said at the same time.
“Fuck, that doesn’t help,” Samuel groaned. “We’re still transmitting to each other.”
“Hey, you were right!” the pizza guy exclaimed, looking impressed. “How did you do that?”
Samuel gave the kid an extra twenty bucks and shooed him out the door.
“Is it images?” Finn asked later, with a mouth full of pizza. “I mean, is it just words or can we do pictures?”
Samuel dug his phone out of his pocket and typed cat into the search bar.
“Cats,” Finn said. “Oh there’s an orange one. But are you thinking the word orange now?”
Samuel put the phone away with a sigh.
Finn made a noise like he was trying to say something, but the words weren’t quite ready. “Is it feelings?” he asked finally.
Finn looked down at his plate, picking at a mushroom. “I mean, could you tell that I was— hungry? Before. Or you know, tired? Or—”
“I don’t think it works with feelings,” Samuel said. He realized that he sounded quite sure, and that, perhaps, said a great deal more. Because if they could sense each other’s feelings, Finn would be getting something very much like hunger from Samuel. And not for pizza.
Finn raised his gray eyes and caught Samuel’s gaze. “I didn’t think so,” he said softly.
Samuel put his plate down. “The way I see it, we have two options. We either split and never see each other again, or we try to do something right for the first time in our lives and solve this case.”
“Together?” Finn asked.
“Let’s start over,” Finn said, “and do this like psychics.”
Samuel looked at him like he expected a bit more. “Okay?”
“Well, what do you do in haunted houses?” Finn didn’t like the way that Samuel paled at that, and he very much wanted to put a hand on Samuel’s arm. But of course, he didn’t do that. It was a very good thing, actually, that they didn’t seem to be transmitting their feelings to each other. If they were, Samuel would know how volatile Finn’s attitude towards him was: sometimes angry and sometimes grateful, irritated and soothed, disapproving and terribly, terribly desirous. Samuel was more than good-looking. He also seemed so very strong. Even in his fear and distress, he was somehow steady.
“The haunted houses are just a show,” Samuel said. “It’s whatever looks good. I say that I get visions when I walk into a room. Sense presences. I touch things and make up shit about the energy contained in them. I touch the house itself, the walls, you know, and make up shit about the people who lived there before.”
“Well,” Finn said, “we should see if we can do it without making up shit.”
They drove back to Bianca’s first. Louise’s passionate grief seemed to have faded from its high that afternoon, and now she was more muted, quiet, despairing. It was not a welcome change. Finn wanted to lie to her. He saw this distress sometimes at his shows, loss and pain and regret. He always tried to ease those feelings with pretty words and reassurances. He’s okay. He’s happy. He knows you loved him. You’ll see him again, as surely as I see him right now.
But Finn never saw anyone. And now, he could not offer anything to Louise. The stakes were higher here, and everything was horrendously real.
“We wanted to take another look at Bianca’s room,” Samuel said. Louise just nodded.
Back in the bedroom, Finn took in the messy bed, cluttered desk, and photos on the wall with new determination. “Okay,” he said to Samuel. “You should go first. Maybe start with the textbook again.”
Samuel gingerly put his hand on the top textbook on the pile. “Ham and cheese and fruit punch,” Samuel said. “Did you get that when I felt it the first time?”
“I guess so. Somewhat. Um— the classroom is rectangular, Bianca sits by the window?”
“Yeah. That’s what I see, too.” Samuel took his hand away. “Okay. This is really happening. Fuck. Um— pictures, let’s do pictures. Lots of emotional energy in those, right?”
Finn put a hand on a photo pinned to a corkboard, one of Bianca in a long black dress with her flute. “Um— I’m getting— nothing. How do you do it?”
“I don’t know,” Samuel said, sounding irritated. “I only know the con.”
Finn turned back to him, ready to say something equally annoyed, but then suddenly he was looking at a full orchestra on the stage, high school musicians laughing, and somewhere one of them was playing the Imperial March from Star Wars on the trombone.
“Star Wars,” Samuel said quietly.
Finn removed his hand from the picture. “You know, I don’t actually like this,” he said. But there wasn’t much else to say. Finn touched a few other pictures, getting senses of things, and then he put his hand on the photo of Ann and Bianca at the amusement park, roller coaster behind them, red and blue, twisting in the sun.
“Oh,” Finn said heavily. He looked over at Samuel, who had suddenly dropped onto the chair by the desk.
Samuel had a little bit of a smile on his face, but he mostly looked dazed. “Oh,” he repeated. “Well. That’s.”
“You know,” Finn remarked, “if I was a better cold reader, I probably would have picked up on this before.”
“They tried to hide it,” Samuel said. “They pretended they were just friends.”
Finn moved his hand to another photo, taken on the beach. He could feel hot sun and cold water, the rasp of sand against wet skin. And there was kissing. That was in the car, in the dark, pulled over on the way home. Lips that tasted like salt, hands sliding into damp hair. Finn took his hand back, shaking. At the desk, Samuel now looked very flushed.
“You know what I am noticing, though,” Finn said. “It’s all happy.”
“It’s very happy,” Samuel said, clearing his throat.
“No, I mean— Ann and Bianca had a fight, didn’t they? A serious fight, a breakup. But I don’t feel that here.”
“Maybe they made up.”
“But their families say they didn’t.”
“We need to talk to Louise.”
Finn tried to phrase it very carefully. Louise was leaning forward, ready to hang on Finn’s every word, just like the audience always did, but here— here, for the first time, was something real. Which meant Finn couldn’t make up beautiful lies.
“Louise, we’re picking up a couple of things about the girls,” Finn said. “They were— very close.”
“They used to be,” Louise said.
“They were perhaps closer than you knew,” Finn said.
“They were in a romantic relationship,” Samuel said gently.
Louise looked at them in confusion. “Bianca and Ann? No, Bianca had a boyfriend. She’s not gay.”
“Bianca may be attracted to both men and women,” Finn said.
“Is it possible they would go off together?” Samuel asked. “If they were worried about what their families might think?”
Louise got a fierce expression on her face. “I don’t give a shit if my granddaughter is gay. I don’t want Ann’s family as in-laws, but Ann herself— if Bianca loved her— I wouldn’t have kicked her out, if that’s what you mean. Either of them. I would have had them both here if that’s what Bianca wanted.”
Finn exchanged a look with Samuel. Cold reading alone was enough to know Louise was telling the truth.
They left Louise’s and drove to Ann’s mother’s house. Tricia was not particularly happy to see Samuel, but she let them into Ann’s childhood bedroom without a word. The hope and despair on her face was as hard to bear as Louise’s had been.
Ann’s childhood room was a lot like her apartment: brightly colored and clean. There were pictures on the wall, but none of Bianca. “It still feels wrong here,” Finn said. “I’m picking up that heaviness.”
“It might be grief,” Samuel offered, sounding thoughtful. Finn looked at him curiously. “I mean the families’ grief,” Samuel told him. “You’re always so involved in people’s emotional states. You might be picking them up.”
Finn sat down on the bed. “I don’t know how to turn it off. I don’t know how it got turned on.”
“Me either. Us working together is a disaster.” Samuel gave Finn a smile that was unmistakably, but perhaps unconsciously, flirtatious. Finn fumbled with a china bird he’d picked up and fortunately managed to get it set back down without breaking it.
“We should go through this room,” Samuel said. “Ann lived here in high school, during the time of the breakup.”
They immediately checked under the mattress, but this time found nothing there. Samuel started poking through the closet, and pulled out a green graduation gown. “They had to run into each other at graduation,” he said. “So maybe—”
With Samuel touching the gown, Finn could see it at once. A crowd of teenagers in shiny green with tilted square hats and tassels. Ann posing for pictures with the swim team. With her mother. With her principal, with other friends. But not Bianca.
“There,” Samuel said, and Finn turned his head to see a dark-haired girl beneath a tree, with her grandmother Louise. She looked up to meet Ann’s eyes and quickly looked away again. But then the tree was gone, and the sky was dark, and it was only Bianca, the graduation hat in her hands. They whispered to each other.
Bianca: I can’t do this.
Ann: You said that.
No, I mean, I can’t— I can’t not do this. I’m sorry that I got scared. But I’m ready now. I miss you. There’s a hole in my life.
I’m right here, Ann said, her voice shaking.
Samuel took his hand off of the graduation gown. “They made up.”
Samuel and Finn found that Tricia was far more forthcoming than Louise. “Yes, my daughter is gay. Is that relevant?”
“So you don’t have a problem with that?” Samuel asked.
Finn gave the obvious answer. “Only if it’s Bianca.”
Tricia gave him a sharp look. “That girl is trouble. She smokes pot, did you sense that? Ann always paid for everything, she probably paid for that too. Ann could have lost everything if she got caught.”
“But you didn’t force the breakup,” Finn said.
Tricia seemed to wilt a little, resting her arms on the table as if they were heavy. “I couldn’t break my baby’s heart. I thought I was doing the right thing. Then Bianca broke it off, and I was so happy, but Ann was miserable—” Tricia’s eyes started watering again. “Whatever happened to Ann, it’s Bianca’s fault. If I had forbidden Ann to see her, Ann would be safe right now!”
“I don’t think Bianca would have hurt her,” Samuel said.
“I know that.” Tricia pressed a tissue to her eyes. “I know that. But that girl is trouble.”
Finn and Samuel drove back to where they’d left Samuel’s car, in Ann’s apartment parking lot. They stood under a streetlight, which, of course, flickered.
“So the problem was not so much homophobia as feuding families,” Finn said. “That’s why they hid their relationship. So now, we have to wonder— did Ann and Bianca just take the jewelry and run?”
Samuel frowned. “What about Bianca’s blood in Ann’s apartment?”
“It’s a minor injury. Could have been just a slipped knife while making a sandwich. Or a ploy to fool their families.”
“But this—” Samuel shook his head. “If this is voluntary, it’s the height of cruelty. I mean, I can see them maybe giving their families the middle finger and moving in together, refusing phone calls and visits even. But making out like they were kidnapped or dead, leaving everything behind, school, family, bank accounts—”
“Well, maybe they meant it as just a quick lark and it went too far.”
Samuel spoke quietly, almost sounding like his stage voice, low and sonorous and sure. “Finn, someone else did this.”
“I know.” Finn looked down at the ground.
“Someone, possibly some drug dealer that Bianca knew, went into Ann’s apartment, found both girls there, stole the jewelry, and—”
“I know, I know.” Finn was startled to feel Samuel’s hand on his arm. He looked up into dark eyes that still seemed to hold secrets, no matter how close they’d become. Samuel’s gaze was gentle but inscrutable, and Finn suddenly wanted to know everything about him, every thought, every impulse, every spark of attraction.
Samuel leaned in, slowly, and Finn closed his eyes.
They moved back as one. “That is a terrible idea,” Finn said, out of breath for some reason.
“Absolutely terrible,” Samuel agreed.
“We’re— we’re working together, we need to concentrate—”
“And we’d probably take down the electrical grid—”
“Oh, yes, good point.” Finn fumbled for his car keys. “Good night!”
Samuel was already halfway across the lot to his car. “Good night!”
Samuel was having an incredibly weird day.
Fortunately, the day was almost over. It was nine o’clock at night, and Samuel hoped that perhaps he was going to get some sort of break now. A few hours in peace. No psychic nonsense. No grieving relatives. No mysteries. No nearly kissing infuriatingly hot men with whom he unexpectedly shared a close psychic link.
But the day was not over yet.
There was a knock on Samuel’s door, which caused Monkey to raise his head and look at Samuel. The dog was spread out on the floor, tired after a quick evening walk. He had the run of the yard and house during the day, but he always needed to check his pee mail around the neighborhood when Samuel got home. “Yeah, yeah,” Samuel said. “Some watch dog you are. I’ll get it.”
Samuel, unfortunately, did not have a psychic guess about who was at the door, and he opened it to find Kenny, the police officer who was Ann’s cousin. Kenny did not look pleased.
“I just came from my Aunt Tricia’s,” Kenny said. “She said you went by their place.”
“Well, yes, we’re working on the case—”
“No, Finn Kelley is working on the case,” Kenny said. “You’re working for Bianca’s family.”
Samuel felt a fuzzy head press into his hand and heard Monkey whine softly. Monkey wasn’t really an incompetent watchdog, and something about the situation was making him uneasy. Samuel too. “Well, actually,” Samuel said, “Finn and I have been working together. It makes things easier, really. I mean, you know, one time we were at this house and all sorts of weird things—”
“Don’t give me that.” Kenny had a hand resting lightly on his hip, near his weapon, and he fidgeted a bit with his fingers, drawing Samuel’s attention there. “We both know this is a con,” Kenny said. “I allowed Finn to speak to my aunt to make her feel better. You being over at her house, telling her Bianca is innocent— you’re interfering with a police investigation in which Bianca is the main suspect.”
Samuel was torn. A few hours ago, this not-improbable visit probably would have put him off the case, would have made the con seem far too risky. But it wasn’t a con anymore. It was real.
“I don’t think that Bianca would ever have hurt Ann,” Samuel said.
Kenny shouldered the door open and stepped into Samuel’s apartment, and Samuel started to get a feeling, that strange heavy feeling that Finn was always chattering about. Grief, Samuel had said. Maybe it was something else, too. Some other negative emotion.
A sweep of Kenny’s hand knocked a mug and a few plates off of the counter and into the sink, where they made an awful clattering noise. Monkey jumped and gave a couple of startled barks.
“Okay, okay,” Samuel said, putting his hands up in a defensive gesture. “I get it. The case is over. I’m done.”
“You’re more than done,” Kenny said, still walking toward Samuel, who walked backwards just as quickly. “You will never contact my aunt again—”
Monkey quickly put himself in between Samuel and Kenny, growling softly. “No, no, I won’t,” Samuel agreed, trying to catch Monkey’s collar and pull the dog behind him. “It’s over. It’s done.”
“What’s done?” asked a voice which was now very familiar to Samuel. Samuel peeked over Kenny’s shoulder to see Finn standing in the doorway. Monkey barked again, his tail wagging this time.
Finn looked angry. But as he took in the scene, it faded away, leaving him calm and composed, his stage face reemerging.
“Oh, good,” Kenny said, turning to look at Finn. “Both of you. Give you a little psychic cry for help, did he? Or is this a booty call?”
“As a matter of fact,” Finn said, “he did call me. Psychically.” He smiled his stage smile, charming as ever. “You think this is all fake, don’t you, Kenny?”
Samuel reached deep within himself and tried to summon his own stage persona. “Finn,” he said, his voice came out low and sonorant, the voice that Samuel used to summon ghosts. (Now that Samuel had just learned that this was not all fake, he suddenly found himself very much hoping that his own house was not haunted.) “Finn, I feel it again. That heaviness. Do you?”
Finn nodded. “Mm-hmm.” He extended a casual hand toward Kenny’s shoulder, and Kenny jerked away.
“Hands off,” Kenny snapped. This made Monkey growl again, and Samuel lost his hold on the wiggling dog.
But Finn clicked his tongue and Monkey bounded over to him instead of menacing Samuel. Finn grasped hold of his collar and stepped in front of Monkey, shielding him. “You’re very clever, Kenny. You know better than to let us touch you.”
“Well, he’s hiding something then,” Samuel said.
“Like what?” Kenny demanded.
Finn titled his head a little. “You like being a police officer. It’s your calling, and it feels right to you, holding that power. Still…”
Samuel wasn’t getting anything psychically from Finn or with Finn or however it worked. You wouldn’t have known that to see Finn’s face, though. He smiled slightly, the master cold reader at work. “I’m getting something about a car— you were a child— a long car trip. Going somewhere hot and sunny. The interior of the car was sticky and close. And then you saw the flashing lights. You drove by the accident. The cop in the road, directing traffic, just a point of his hand and everyone obeyed him. And you thought, That’s real power.”
Kenny had blanched. Samuel pressed the advantage, drawing on his own shtick. “There’s a lot of pain surrounding you,” he said. “Spirits linger, you know, when something awful has happened. Your mother—”
“Don’t talk about my mother!” Kenny exclaimed.
Finn jumped right onto that one. “Oh, I think we should. You were surprised when her jewelry went to Ann instead of you. You always thought, deep down, that it should have been yours.”
“And now it’s missing,” Samuel said. “You couldn’t prevent its loss, even with all the power you hold.”
“I don’t wear jewelry,” Kenny said. “Why the hell would I care about it?”
“Of course, you only care about Ann,” Finn put in. “But you couldn’t prevent what happened to her either.”
“I can see them all around you,” Samuel said, his voice as haunting as he could make it. “Spirits. So much turmoil—”
Kenny gave an actual shiver and he backed up toward the door. “You don’t know where Ann and Bianca are,” he said. “You have no idea. You’re fakes. If either of you ever get within ten feet of my aunt again, I will have you arrested.”
“We won’t,” Samuel assured him. “We’re done.”
Kenny gave a bit of a growl and left, slamming the door. This made Monkey bark again, and Finn let go of his collar. “Oh, fuck,” Finn said weakly, leaning agasinst the door. “I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this.”
“You came to my rescue,” Samuel said.
“I did. I felt— I think I felt it was going to happen.” Finn sounded quite flustered. “So either I foresaw that, or you did and you called me. It really doesn’t help us figure out which one of us—”
Samuel took a few steps across the kitchen in Finn’s direction. “I don’t care.”
Finn looked at him, breathing heavily. “Neither do I.”
And then they were kissing. It was hard and passionate, Samuel shoving Finn back against the cupboards and practically attacking his mouth. Finn met him just as feverishly, tangling their tongues together, his hands gripping Samuel’s hair to keep him close. Beside them, Monkey barked a couple of times but when no one responded, he wandered off into the living room.
Samuel was hard already, aching in his jeans. He angled his hips and felt the same hardness from Finn. Finn fell back from the kiss long enough to let out a desperate moan, and Samuel dragged him right back, latching onto Finn’s throat, sucking hard and nipping at him with his teeth.
“Fuck,” Finn gasped. “I have wanted you—”
Samuel cried out as Finn pushed at him, hard, until Samuel staggered backwards, colliding with the side of the fridge. Finn grabbed the back of his head and kissed him again, grinding their hips together. “Do you mean you know—” he started.
“I don’t know. Shut up.” Samuel grasped at Finn’s shirt, yanking it up to get his hands under it.
Finn gave a cry as Samuel’s hands met his bare skin, and that was when the lights went. The kitchen bulb gave a hiss and a pop and the room went dark. Monkey barked and behind Samuel the fridge began to shudder. Samuel pushed back at Finn and they ended up against the sink, where Finn yanked Samuel’s shirt collar to one side and nipped at Samuel’s shoulder.
“Shit, shit,” Samuel said. Behind his eyes, a vision shimmered into view, himself turned, bent over the counter, with Finn fully sheathed in him, both of them gasping with pleasure.
“I want to fuck you—” Finn groaned.
“Yeah,” Samuel managed to say. “I can see that. But the problem is, I want to fuck you.” He sucked a bruise against Finn’s neck, focusing on an image of Finn on his back on Samuel’s bed, his legs over Samuel’s shoulders as Samuel pounded him hard enough to make the bed shake.
“Oh, fuck,” Finn gasped. He pulled Samuel’s shirt off entirely and ran his hands over Samuel’s chest. “You’re gorgeous. God, look at you.”
Samuel went right for Finn’s fly, popping the button and yanking the zipper down so that he could shove his hand inside. Finn cried out when Samuel wrapped his hands around his cock. “Oh, very nice,” Samuel said, perfectly clearly, though his mouth was pressed against Finn’s jaw. “I like this. So hard for me.”
Finn was tearing off his own shirt, and then he dragged Samuel forward to kiss him again. “Want it inside you?” Finn asked, with a teasing heat, and Samuel got the vision again of him bent over the counter while Finn took him in slow, hard thrusts.
“Yeah,” Samuel gasped out. “But I still—” He called up the vision of fucking Finn into the mattress again and Finn groaned.
“We can take turns,” Finn said.
“Okay. But who goes first?”
Finn’s hands were busy on Samuel’s fly, and then he was wrapping his hand around Samuel’s cock. It was slick enough with precome that Finn could start stroking him immediately. Samuel used his fingers to form a tight channel for Finn to fuck into and Finn thrust almost desperately up into Samuel’s fist. “I don’t think we’re going to get there,” Finn gasped out.
“No. Shit— Finn, your hand—” Samuel needed Finn’s thumb against the head, and as soon as he’d thought it, he had it. “Fuck,” Samuel said, and came all over Finn’s fingers, just as Finn reached climax himself, spurting against Samuel’s fist.
Gasping, they leaned against the cupboards. Samuel looked out into his living room to see all of his lights out, including the porch light. One of his lamps had even fallen over.
“That,” Finn said, out of breath, “was not like I’ve ever—”
“Well. If you’re still—”
“Yeah. I’m very much still.”
“After you, then.”
“No, no,” Samuel said at once. “You can go first.”
“Now we’re being too polite,” Finn groaned. “We’re never going to figure this out.”
Samuel felt himself grinning. “Well, we’ve got all night.”
Finn woke up naked, sore, and half tangled up with Samuel, who was blinking at him in the early light.
Samuel’s bedroom, which had seemed fairly tidy the night before, was a mess of pillows and sheets, overturned lamps, and a large, fallen pile of books that Finn vaguely remembered running into while staggering into the bedroom in the midst of a kiss.
“That was the most incredible sex of my life,” Finn said.
Samuel let out what sounded like a half-embarrassed laugh. “Yeah. Shit.” He started pressing kisses to Finn’s shoulder. A delightful shiver ran through Finn and his hand found Samuel’s bare hip and squeezed it. Samuel groaned and moved his kisses to Finn’s throat.
The third body in the bed— a fuzzy dog— gave a loud sigh and snuffle as he was jostled from his position on top of Finn’s feet.
“Hang— hang on, though,” Finn said. “We need to solve this case.”
Samuel made a bit of a growling noise and flopped back onto the bed. “Fine.”
“So—” Finn turned onto his side, which meant his head ended up sort of on Samuel’s shoulder, which was actually quite nice. “What do we know? One: the girls were lovers, or at least in love. The fight was in the past.”
“Two,” Samuel said, “Kenny was awfully upset that I got Tricia doubting that Bianca was the aggressor. And he said he knows we’re fakes, so that might be because we didn’t think he was the bad guy when we first met him. And we had that weird heavy feeling around him. Whatever the hell that means.”
“It could mean we’re on the right track,” Finn said. “Kenny’s a bully. And he might have thought his mother’s jewelry should go to him. He knew Ann was picking it up, he could have been there waiting. Maybe he meant to talk her around, or just strong-arm her. But then he saw Bianca.”
“Bianca would have been on Ann’s side about the jewelry. And maybe things got out of hand.”
“And then what did he do with Ann and Bianca?”
Samuel didn’t answer, and Finn moved a little closer, stretching an arm over Samuel’s chest. “He’ll have to get rid of the jewelry now,” Finn said. “They can’t find it on him, so he’ll have to sell it. Maybe he always intended to do that anyway. He’ll have to work with a fence, and a cop would certainly know some of those. We should stake him out.”
Samuel made some sort of scoffing noise. “We have no idea how to do that.”
Finn propped himself up on one elbow to look Samuel in the eyes. Samuel looked gorgeously rumpled and entirely too sexy for someone who’d just woken up. His dark hair seemed to glow in the early daylight. “So let’s google it,” Finn said.
“That is the stupidest thing I ever—” Samuel groaned. “Fine. But sex first.”
“Agreed. Now, it was my turn to—”
“No, it was not your turn—”
Since they were not, at the moment, inside of a haunted house, Finn and Samuel decided it was probably safe to split up.
The internet had been a great source of tips about conducting a stakeout, and they now knew that they needed to be ready to follow Kenny when he drove away from their current location. But that sort of implied that they needed to know the direction in which they were going to drive away, or else they’d have to either make a U-turn or lose the target. Kenny was at the police station this morning, they could see his cruiser and his private car parked outside. So to solve the problem, Finn had his car on a side street to the east of the station, and Samuel was to the west. They could still talk perfectly well, of course.
“I could break into his house,” Samuel said. “While you hang out here.”
“Breaking and entering is a lot more serious than a stakeout,” Finn said. “What would you even do there? Look for the jewelry? If you found it, they’d say someone planted it.”
“I could put up cameras, like we do in the ghost investigations.”
“Those cameras are enormous, Samuel. They aren’t meant to be hidden. And can you please stop imagining the theme to Mission: Impossible?”
“I can’t help it, it’s in my head. It’s just as annoying for me. And I have some smaller cameras.”
“Cameras are for other people,” Finn declared. “We don’t need them.”
“We probably need them.”
“We are psychic. It’s an advantage. Anyway, cameras can only be put there by breaking and entering, and the police obviously will not be on our side in this one.”
Samuel didn’t answer, but Finn could feel his annoyance. Just then the door to the station swung open and Kenny came out, heading for the parking lot. But he didn’t get into his cruiser, instead choosing his personal car.
“Okay, get ready,” Samuel said.
“I am ready.”
“Remember to duck.”
“I am the one who googled it and told you that—”
Kenny’s car started up and he pulled away, toward Finn. Finn did duck, of course, as the car drove past.
“I’m behind him,” Samuel said. “I’ll pick you up.”
“Samuel, I’m getting that feeling, something heavy—”
“I know.” This last was said with a smile, which Finn could see as Samuel pulled up beside his car. Finn jumped into the passenger side and they took up the chase.
“Do you think he’s going to try to meet the fences right now?” Samuel asked. “That would be awfully lucky for us.”
“Well, maybe we knew it was going to happen this morning. I don’t know. We could still be wrong about all of this.”
“And we don’t actually have to do this at all,” Samuel said, with a glance at Finn. “I mean— it’s getting kind of serious now.”
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Finn told him, enjoying watching the man drive, his strong hands flexing against the wheel. Finn remembered those hands last night— Well. That was enough of imagining that, especially after Samuel turned to give him a rather smug smile.
They stayed two or three cars behind Kenny, as the internet had advised. Once they got caught behind a red light and lost Kenny’s car, but fortunately they stumbled back onto the pursuit after taking a random turn. Or at least, it felt random. Finn wasn’t really sure at this point.
Eventually Kenny stopped, parking his car on a side street next to some warehouses. Samuel drove around the corner and left their car where it could not be seen. They sneaked back around on foot in time to see Kenny head into one of the unmarked buildings.
“Okay, let’s think about this like psychics,” Finn said. “Maybe we can get something off of his car.”
“Or maybe we can leave something on his car,” Samuel pointed out. “Like fingerprints.”
“Oh, right. Well, how about this?” Finn crouched down and put his hand on one of Kenny’s back tires. He cleared his mind, waiting for a vision to come to him. Ann’s apartment, a fight, a body transported in this car’s trunk, a burial out in the woods. “Nothing,” Finn said.
“Let’s see what he’s up to in that building.”
Finn’s heart was pounding as they crept closer to the warehouse. There was a window near the door, and he took a quick peek through it. “Kenny’s meeting with some people.”
Samuel took a quick look himself. “Are they fences?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to record it.”
“Oh, now you think we need cameras.”
Finn glared at him. At least no one could hear them arguing. Finn peeked through the window again, phone camera recording. The overhead light was dim, but Finn could see Kenny there, wearing his work uniform, gun and all, though he seemed fairly relaxed. He had a package in his hand, something that, when opened, sparkled brightly in the lights. A ruby and diamond necklace. Finn recorded Kenny handing it to a shady-looking guy and getting a carefully counted pile of money in return.
“Got him!” Finn exclaimed. “But if I could just hear what they were saying—”
“Don’t you dare try to sneak in there,” Samuel warned, but it was moot anyway, as there was a sudden clatter, and Finn realized they’d both knocked against a loose piece of pipe on the sidewalk. Finn ducked away from the window and Samuel grabbed his hand, yanking him around the corner.
“What are you doing? They’ll see us here!” Finn cried, but then he was pushed against the wall and had the very pleasant shock of being kissed, ardently.
“What the fuck—” Finn asked, though his mouth was completely occupied.
“Lights! The lights, Finn.”
“Oh.” Finn grasped Samuel’s shirt, pulling him even closer, and responded to the kiss with passion. Behind them, they could hear the pop and scratch of lights going out, and the sounds of people stumbling around in the building. It was a good enough kiss to even set off the car alarm on Kenny’s car, the lights flashing wildly until they also shorted out.
Samuel pulled back and Finn gazed at him, dazed. “I’m very conflicted about this,” Finn said.
Samuel had a bit of a rakish smile on his face. “I know. Let’s go!”
There was a scramble back to Samuel’s car, Finn and Samuel’s feet sliding on gravel, making a terrible amount of noise.
Samuel clicked the doors unlocked and watched Finn jump in. They were both breathing hard, from the run and the kiss.
Circumstances aside, it had been a very nice kiss, and Samuel had to stop his mind from devoting part of its attention to imagining taking Finn again— or being taken by him. Or both.
Samuel put the car in gear and hit the gas, hearing the click of Finn’s seat belt. “Did you get it on tape?” he asked.
Finn was viewing the footage, sliding around in the seat as the car took a quick turn, and suddenly Samuel could see the video himself, a little picture-in-a-picture that was very distracting while he was trying to drive. But there was Kenny, the jewelry, the money.
“Got it,” Finn said.
“Great. But we have a problem.”
Finn turned around to look behind them, where a car was following closely. “It’s not Kenny,” Finn said. “Is it one of the fences?”
“I don’t know. I think it might even be two cars. The green one and then the white one a couple of cars behind it.”
“Shit.” Finn turned around again and frowned. “What now?”
“Google how to lose a tail.”
“Right.” Finn scrambled with the phone and then groaned. “No service. We’re out in the boonies.”
“Okay, well— we’ve seen movies, right? With car chases.”
“Yes, they always end in spectacular crashes. I don’t think that’s what we want here.” Finn grasped the hand rest. “Samuel, slow down. The cops will start chasing us too.”
“Well, then the fences will drop out.”
“But the cops won’t.”
The car did slow a little as it went around the next turn. They were heading into the city, and the roads were getting more crowded. It was harder for Samuel to drive fast, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
“I’m going to drop you off,” Samuel said. “With the tape.”
“What? Absolutely not. We don’t even know where we’re going. Anyway, we’re stronger together.”
“Then we’ll die together, Finn.”
“Oh, that’s ridiculous. Although very romantic.”
“Well, fine, let’s do this the psychic way.” Samuel rolled through a stop sign, and both cars behind him did the same thing. Despite that, it was becoming a slower and slower chase as the roads got busier.
“What does that mean, the psychic way?” Finn asked.
“Well— feel something. Tell me what turn to take. Should I stay where it’s crowded or head back out to where I can speed up?”
Beside him, Finn squeezed his eyes shut, looking ridiculous and adorable. He even put his hand up to his forehead for a moment, until a quick turn shifted him against the door again. “I’m not getting anything,” he said, frustrated.
“What happened to We’re psychic, it’s an advantage?”
“It doesn’t work on command!”
“That sounds like a cop-out from your show when you screwed up your cold reading.”
Finn glared at him. “Well, apparently it’s true.”
They got stopped for the first time, at a red light. Two cars back, in the green car, Samuel could see a man staring at him. The other car chasing them was still too far away.
“You know, we’re not just psychic,” Samuel said. “We’re also con men.” He glanced at Finn. “So maybe we should pull a con.”
The light turned green and Samuel took off as quickly as circumstances would allow.
“Well, what would con men do with evidence like this?” Finn asked.
“Blackmail,” Samuel said.
“Blackmail. Go to Ann’s mother’s house.”
Ann’s mother lived toward the edge of town, where some of the largest houses in the city had been built. Finn’s phone had service again, and he called up a map. “There’s a sort of service road behind the house. And they’re not that far from the highway.”
Samuel hit the gas. “Okay. Then it’s time for a car chase.” They’d been taking rough turns before this, but now Samuel started squealing through them. Stop signs were a mere suggestion and red lights were for other people.
“Watch out or the police will notice,” Finn scolded, bracing himself in the car with a hand on the ceiling. He looked flushed and quite pretty.
“I don’t feel any cops around,” Samuel said. “Do you?”
“There’s no way to know that we would feel them if they were! And anyway, we don’t know where Kenny went. He might already be back there, chasing us.”
“I don’t think he can get involved in a car chase, he has too much to lose.”
“Or he just went back for his squad car. And he’s bringing his friends—”
Samuel had reached a straightaway with some room now, and he sped up quite a bit. Behind him, both the green and white cars were still following, but there didn’t seem to be any others.
“You’re doing fine,” Finn said quietly, and Samuel realized that Finn must have picked up on his nervousness.
“I’m going to try something,” Samuel said.
It was just a few miles to Ann’s mother’s house now. Samuel made an abrupt turn and sped down a one-way street, going in the wrong direction. He heard Finn breathe in sharply, but he didn’t say anything. There were only a couple of cars on the road, and Samuel dodged them, before taking a few more turns.
When they pulled back onto the straightaway, Finn watched anxiously behind them. “You lost the white car,” he said. “They’re gone!”
Samuel grinned. “Okay. One down. Get ready, Finn.”
Samuel tore up the road to Ann’s house, screeching to a halt just outside the private lane. Finn didn’t hesitate, leaping out of the car, phone in hand, running toward the house. Samuel hit the gas and the car lurched away, without Finn.
Behind them, the green car also screeched to a halt, and two men jumped out. Samuel recognized them as the fences.
“They’re following,” Samuel said to Finn.
“I can hear them. Where are you?”
“Almost there. Keep going.”
Samuel couldn’t hear Finn’s panting as he ran, but he could feel the exertion, the anxiety. Samuel took a quick turn with the car and came to a quiet halt on the service road behind the house. The seconds ticked by. Samuel imagined Finn running up the drive, heading for the front door, the fences behind him.
The bewilderment on their faces when they realized they’d been conned.
Finn burst out of the bushes at the back of the house and reached the car. He jumped back into the passenger seat, phone still in hand, and Samuel hit the gas, tearing away.
Finn was laughing. “They were right behind me.” He turned to watch, still out of breath. “And there they are! Out of the bushes. Oh, they look so mad.”
Samuel made a quick turn and jumped onto the on-ramp for the highway. “Are they back there?”
“No. I bet they haven’t even gotten back to their car yet.” Finn turned and sank down into the seat. “You know, it feels awfully good to con someone who deserves it.”
“You con for a good cause,” Samuel said, annoyed at how soft his voice sounded. “You make people feel better in their grief.”
Finn was looking at him with his eyebrows raised. “Be careful, you almost sound like you approve.”
“I don’t,” Samuel said sharply.
“That’s okay,” Finn told him, brushing a few pine needles off of his shirt. “I don’t think I do either. Not anymore.” He glanced behind them. “Still gone. It’s probably safe to go to Louise’s now. But let’s do it quickly. Once they realize they’ve lost us, they’ll know where to look.”
Samuel was careful to obey the traffic laws now, signaling, stopping, staying under the speed limit. They pulled up in front of Louise and Bianca’s house and Finn looked around nervously. “We should hide the car, though.”
“Yeah.” Samuel drove down a couple of streets and parked in the lot for a strip mall. They walked casually back toward the house— or at least, they tried to look casual about it. Samuel wasn’t sure they succeeded. And, as it happened, it didn’t matter.
When they turned the corner by Louise’s house, Samuel’s heart took a lurch, as he recognized the white car that had been tailing them, parked on the side of the road.
“Should we run for it?” Finn asked, in what seemed like far too loud a voice until Samuel remembered that no one else could hear it.
But it was actually too late for even that, Samuel realized, as someone stepped up behind them. They turned to see a woman with dark hair and a pale face, looking tired and anxious, with a bandage on her temple. In her hand, she held a taser.
“Bianca,” Finn said in surprise.
Bianca put out her hand. “Give me that phone.”
Perhaps all children’s guardians had a sixth sense of their own, because Louise came running out of the house before anyone could do anything.
“Oh, Grandma,” Bianca managed to say before Louise threw her arms around her, heedless of the taser Bianca had to quickly drop on the grass.
“You’re alive, you’re alive,” Louise said, crying.
Finn felt himself relax a little, and he dug his phone out of his pocket. “So you were the one following us in that white car.”
“Wasn’t following you, I was following Kenny,” Bianca said, her tone suspicious. “You got in the way.”
“What about Kenny?” Louise exclaimed.
“We have him on video selling the jewelry,” Samuel volunteered, as Finn held the phone out to Bianca.
“Who are you guys?” Bianca asked.
“We’re, ah—” Finn started.
“We’re psychic investigators,” Samuel finished for him. “Believe it or not. Might be kind of hard to believe. Your families hired us. But anyway, you can have the phone—”
Louise was wiping her tears away. “You didn’t hurt Ann. I know you didn’t. You loved her.”
“She still does,” said another voice.
“Oh, Ann!” Louise exclaimed, as Ann stepped out from behind a couple of trees. Louise hugged her too. Ann looked surprised, but she hugged back.
Finn felt almost light-headed with relief. “You were together,” he said. “Both of you in the white car. Well, now we really should go inside. Kenny will figure out where we are, if he hasn’t already. And he’ll be planning something.”
Inside, with the curtains pulled, the story was told.
“I wanted to wear the jewelry that night,” Ann said. “On my birthday, for the festival. We were going to tell my family about us that night. I didn’t think they’d be pleased, but we didn’t want to hide anymore. So I got the jewelry from the bank and headed home. But when I got there, Kenny was waiting for me. I didn’t think anything of it at first.” Ann sniffled and Bianca reached out to take her hand. “I mean, he’s always been an asshole, but it was my birthday, and I thought maybe he’d like to see the jewelry. Maybe he remembered his mom wearing it. I know I did. Aunt Margaret and I were close, and I was so touched when she left me something of hers, especially that bird piece, because it was my favorite. But Kenny—”
“Kenny demanded to have it,” Bianca said. “Said he needed the money, had some bad debts. He’s corrupt as hell. I got there just as it was getting nasty. Kenny had already pushed Ann into her kitchen counter. She’s got scrapes and a bruise on her hip. When Kenny saw me—” Bianca pointed up, at the bandage on her forehead.
“That’s where the blood in the apartment is from,” Finn said quietly.
“Yeah, it bled a bit,” Bianca said. “And I got dizzy.”
“Kenny said if we told anyone, he’d deny it and then make our life a living hell,” Ann said. “He’d arrest Bianca for possession, and make up stuff about her dealing, anything he could. Go after Louise too. We had to let him take the jewelry.”
“He said to tell our families that Ann had put it back in the bank,” Bianca said. “That she still had it, but didn’t want to wear it. The thing was, we were a little bit tired of telling our families lies.”
“You left on your own,” Louise said.
Ann nodded. “We withdrew a little money, went to a hotel out of town, paid cash, hid our faces. We were following Kenny around, waiting for him to try to sell the jewelry. But when we got to the meeting place, these two were already there, filming.”
“Quite in the way,” Finn said, apologetically.
“I’m so sorry, Grandma,” Bianca said with a sniffle. “But we couldn’t trust the cops. We needed proof of what Kenny had done—”
“All I care is that you’re okay,” Louise said. “And we have that bastard on video now.”
“We should share it with each other, actually,” Samuel spoke up. “Make multiple copies.”
Finn was given his phone back and he set it on the table so that everyone could watch him upload the video to an online drive and add everyone’s accounts.
“So what now?” Finn asked.
“I need to call my family,” Ann said.
“You might not want to tip your hand that you’re alive,” Finn said. “We can do it.” When Ann nodded, Finn dialed Ann’s mother’s number and put the phone on speaker.
Finn took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders a little, trying to call up his stage persona. But in the middle of that, he heard a laugh from Samuel. “Sorry, sorry,” Samuel said, and Finn realized that he was the only one who could hear it. “You’re cute when you— never mind.”
Tricia answered the phone. “Hello?”
“Tricia, it’s Finn.”
“Yes? Do you have any news?”
Finn watched Ann put a hand to her mouth as she listened to her mother’s voice, and Bianca pulled her close.
“I do have news,” Finn said, sounding (he hoped) confident and capable. “We’re at Louise’s house, and we’d like to speak to you both together. Can you come here?”
Samuel gave Finn what felt like a mental nudge. “Tell her not to bring the cops,” he said in Finn’s mind.
“And it’s important that you come alone,” Finn said. “Please don’t bring the police yet. Their skepticism tends to get in the way of my connection to the other side.”
“Of course,” Tricia said at once.
When Finn had hung up the phone, Bianca looked at him with confusion. “So are you actually psychic or were you running a con? Cause that sounds like a con.”
“Well,” Samuel said. “Funny story, actually.”
Tricia, like Louise, cried when she was reunited with her daughter, and forgave the subterfuge. Unlike Louise, Tricia was ready for action. “Fucking Kenny. He’s dead.”
Finn was starting to feel that familiar heaviness in his stomach. “You may get your chance to carry that out,” he said. “I think Kenny’s on the way.”
Samuel smiled at him. “Finn, I think it’s time for one last con.”
Kenny pulled up to Louise’s house in his private car, and Finn and Samuel climbed out of their car, which was now parked around the corner.
“How much is this going to cost me?” Kenny asked.
Finn gave him a smile. “Nothing.”
Kenny’s expression darkened. “So why haven’t you gone to Louise and Tricia with the video?” Kenny had his hand resting near his hip holster again, and Finn tried not to look at it.
“Because this is a job interview,” Samuel said. “This is good publicity for us, working with the police. We want in on future cases. Feed us information, make it look like we’ve been helping you, and we’ll keep quiet.”
“No payment necessary,” Finn said. “The advertisement will be enough.”
Kenny groaned. “I’d rather pay you off.”
“You can do that too, if you want,” Finn said.
Kenny looked nervous. “So this was always a con?” he asked, sounding hesitant. “You don’t really have powers?”
“Why?” Finn asked. “Is something wrong? I mean, this is over, isn’t it? Because if there’s another shoe that’s going to drop, you should clue us in early.”
“You did kill Bianca and Ann, didn’t you?” Samuel asked.
“Of course not!” Kenny said. “I just roughed them up a little. They were alive when I left.”
“So where are they?” Finn asked.
“I have no idea.”
“Wait, they’re still out there?” Samuel asked. He looked around, seeming spooked. “You mean, they could just step out of the trees somewhere with a taser—”
That, of course, was exactly what happened. Ann held the taser now, and she pressed it against Kenny’s back. He crumpled to the ground with a surprised cry.
“I got it on video!” Bianca announced, moving into sight from behind Samuel’s car.
Tricia and Louise came running over as well. Tricia stood over her nephew, who was groaning slightly. “And now we call the feds,” she said.
There were interviews that followed, and night had fallen before Samuel and Finn were able to go home. They stood on the street by their respective cars, but neither of them seemed to want to get in.
“So we never found out which one of us is psychic,” Finn said. “Do you think it’s both of us?”
Samuel gave a bit of a shrug that was probably meant to seem more relaxed. “I suppose it only matters if we split up. If we continue to work together—”
“I meant what I said,” Finn told him. “I don’t want to work as a psychic anymore. The readings, the shows. I don’t really have the heart for it.”
“Yeah, the haunted house thing is— it was just for fun, really, but got out of hand,” Samuel said. “To put it mildly.”
“And we shouldn’t work with the police. We get in the way. We’re going to get ourselves killed. Or someone else.”
“Well,” Samuel said, “if we’re not working as psychics, then I guess there’s no need to stay together.”
“It’s just—” Finn took a step toward Samuel. “It feels like we’re meant to be together. Don’t you feel that too?”
Samuel’s voice was very soft. “I do.”
Finn could feel himself breaking into a smile. “So maybe we’re supposed to find some way to use our powers to actually do some good.”
Samuel looked a little giddy, his face flushed. “Um— what about cold cases? You know, no car chases, no active investigation. We could do it in our spare time. On our own.”
“You mean like John Bailey? The murdered ghost from the haunted house?” Finn asked.
Samuel gave a bit of a shiver. “I guess, yeah. Maybe something not quite so scary.”
“And who do we give the evidence to?” Finn asked. “If we’re not working with the police.”
“The press. We could be an anonymous source, report on findings, follow up leads. Get things out in the open.”
“Samuel, can I come home with you tonight?” Finn asked. “I miss Monkey, is all.”
“Oh, of course. You miss the dog.”
“You miss your dog, too,” Finn pointed out. “I can feel it.”
“I’d miss you,” Samuel said. “If you didn’t come home with me. Never thought I’d say that.”
Finn laughed. “Darling, you actually didn’t.”