Emily Post, Part VIII
In the distance Emily heard voices. She couldn’t understand what they were saying or tell who was speaking at first. There were two men and a woman. The woman was saying, “I decided I didn’t want to run anymore.”
“Just how did you find, Ms. Post?” asked a deep, gravely male voice. Emily liked the sound of this voice. She trusted this voice. This trusting wasn’t a quick, snap decision either; she had trusted the voice and its owner from the very moment she met him. That’s right – she had met him before. He was quite handsome and muscular…..
“It is easy to find a psychic if you yourself are psychic. We recognize our own kind, even if one of the psychic’s doesn’t accept, or know they have that bestowal. Do you want me to tell you the process or just accept it, because that is exactly how he found her after moving into a new city?” The woman was confident. It wasn’t smug confidence either. No one spoke for a few seconds. Emily didn’t want to rejoin the group. She knew that if she let the conscious mind fully surface she would be the center of attention again, and she didn’t want that. Period.
Emily heaved a heavy sigh.
“I think she is coming around,” said the strong, handsome voice. Emily became aware of a cool cloth being dabbed against her forehead, and then onto her wrists. It felt good.
Emily’s eyes opened slowly. The first face she saw was of the bald, handsome, muscular man. He was the most pleasant sight Emily had seen in quite a while. He was kneeling beside her. His big hand moved the cool cloth to her left temple. Emily smiled up at her knight. He smiled back. I know you, Emily thought. I have always known you. This man was even more handsome than Detective Spells.
Awareness and memory surged back into Emily, stealing part of the warmth from her smile. Vincenzo Shields slid a strong arm under her shoulders and lifted her easily. Emily moved her legs off the couch and she was sitting. Shields moved to the couch without removing his arm from her back and shoulders for a second too long. When his arm was gone, Emily felt a little cooler.
Azz was pacing the living room across from the couch and coffee table. Wilhelmina Chastain was in the desk chair. Benny was in her lap. His bright, intelligent eyes were super interested in Emily’s movements. Emily laid her left hand onto the empty cushion to her left and Benny jumped down from the other woman’s lap and came to Emily’s hand. Emily’s best friend sniffed her hand curiously, almost cautiously, and then scrunched up against her side and leg as if he was both protecting and being protected. Emily curled her left arm around the dog. She felt better afterwards, too.
Wilhelmina Chastain attracted all of Emily’s scrutiny. Wilhelmina was wearing a yellow fleece jacket coat and had a gauze scarf now dangling around her neck. A pair of dark glasses peeked out of one of the coat pockets. Underneath the coat was a very expensive sweater and luxurious slacks in gun metal gray. The boots on her feet were well-tooled and looked expensive. Her lips were full-ish and colored a rich plum with her nails to match, looking as if they were just done. Emily didn’t see a purse.
The woman’s hair was a rich dark blond, full and bouncy. It was down to her shoulders and formed waves around her face. There weren’t any wrinkles from what Emily could see, and the woman’s hands were immaculate and sans age spots. She looked to be somewhere in her late twenties to early thirties. If this was really her, how had she managed to stay alive so long? What was keeping her alive?
“I understand your curiosity, Ms. Post, I would be most curious myself if I were in your position,” Wilhelmina Chastain said in an almost sultry English accent. She sounded very well educated. “For starters, shall I explain why I sought you out?” Everyone nodded. Azz leaned against the doorframe leading into the kitchen.
“All of your information is correct. I was born in the latter part of the 19th Century in England. I was married to Mr. Green. The marriage was ghastly, but he was as good to me as he could be considering the time, I suppose. We didn’t have children, in fact, I’m not sure I can have children. I’ve never really had to go to a doctor for being sick. I just don’t get sick, at least not like most people do.” Wilhelmina paused; her eyes looked inward and back.
“Ms. Chastain, do you know the man who is doing this?” Shields had a leg curled under him on the couch, careful to make sure his shoe wasn’t on the cushion.
“Please, call me Willie. I haven’t been that name for quite a while.” Willie threw back her head and chuckled as if this was one of the most amusing things she had heard in…forever. “To answer your question – in short, no, I don’t know him, at least not personally.”
“Do you think you could recognize him with your…ability…if you were close enough to him? Could you find him like you found Emily?” This time it was Azz who had spoken. The two men were very good at tag-team questions.
Emily shook her head, no, and crossed her shapely legs. “In 1940 I was living in Hawaii. Just before Pearl Harbor I received a challenge the same as everyone else. I’m not exactly sure what, but it didn’t surprise me. I had already lived long enough by then to understand a few things about myself and felt curious to know what a psychic duel was honestly.
“I trained with my abilities for almost a full year and then the attack on Pearl Harbor came and America was in the war. I didn’t know if the man, Death is what he called himself; would keep his appointment or if he was in the war fighting, so I decided to keep the appointment he had given me six months into the year he was giving me: It was a letter telling me the location of the duel and when to meet him there. I showed up but he didn’t.”
“Did you ever hear from him again?” Emily asked as she silently wishing Shields would put his arm around her again.
“Yes, in 1946 I was in a place called Jewell, North Dakota. It was winter and snow was everywhere! I was working at a diner there waiting tables. One day I went to sign in for my shift and Charlie, the cook, handed me an envelope and said my brother had left me a note. Plus, I don’t have a brother, a biological brother that is.” Willie laced her perfectly lacquered fingers together over her knee. “It was a note saying he was glad he had found me. He said he would be back, but he never came and there were no more letters. Charlie couldn’t really describe the man who had left the note because he was wearing a hat low over his eyes and a big heavy wool coat. Charlie did say my brother looked really down on his luck. A lot of returning soldiers had a hard time of it when they got back. There weren’t any classes for them to readjust to civilian life, and most of them were still very high strung from the fighting.
“I didn’t hear from him again until ten years later, in August of 1956. I was living in California under the name of Mary Louise Hughes. I had created a nice life for myself as an art dealer. Picasso was man of the hour with his frantic, frenetic paintings and vision. Poetry and independence went around like fine wine at parties. The pot wasn’t too bad either. I would go so far to say the weed we had in the Fifties was much better than the weed we had in the Sixties, but nothing can touch the different flavors circulating now. Oh, darlings, don’t look at me like that! Weed has been the best ‘silent’ drug of the entire world as long as the world has existed!” Willie said with a happy laugh. “Nothing like that should shock you,” she added, smiling knowingly.
“Anyway, he contacted me in 1956 and said he had a different idea for the game, the duel. He said he had found a student he was then training. He encouraged me to find a student for the contest. I refused – I didn’t see why anyone else should be harmed in this mess he had created in his head for the two of us. I am no slouch in defending myself physically or mentally, but I had accepted a challenge from him not his student. I said so, as such, in an open add in one of the little radical newspapers, because that was how he said to give him my answer.
“I didn’t know any of the killings were still going on until I heard in the grapevine ‘another challenge’ had been sent out last year.”
“What grapevine?” Emily asked, leaning forward now. Benny lifted his head to give her a sizing look to determine if she was getting up. When he was satisfied Emily was staying in the same place more or less, he lay his head back down with a contented sigh.
“Those of us with true talent have our own network, of sorts. I had actually dropped out of it for quite a number of years because I was tired of all the talk of making money. I have enough money. I have lived and worked and saved, and married, money a couple of times. I don’t want money. Companionship and friends who understand is a lot harder to come by than money, let me tell you!” Willie added with an emphatic nod of her head.
“So this is the first you have heard of the continuing challenges?” Azz countered, almost like a lawyer with a witness on the witness stand.
“Yes, I had just recently come across a long-time acquaintance of mine and she informed me the group had moved its communications onto the Internet and that each year there was a message for me. Another message had come from Death and it had been an open invitation to me to find my student for the next duel.”
Azz dug frantically into his pocket for his pad and pen. “May I have the name of this acquaintance and the name of the Internet site?”
“No,” Willie said flatly, and definitely.
“What do you mean ‘no’?!”
“I am speaking the Queen’s English and I do believe you have been educated, so the definition of the word is not lost on you at all. No. Although you have talent, you haven’t gotten control of your emotions yet and thus are disqualified from being in the club young man. Learning some manners would actually put you ahead in the world despite the current youth’s trend.”
Azz’s mouth opened and closed several times but no words came out. He was truly speechless.
Shields shifted forward a little, he didn’t hide a happy smile. Azz’s speechless was obviously rare and very amusing to him. “Ms. Chastain, Willie – how did you know to come here?”
“According to my acquaintance, and according to the website, he has left the name of each intended student, along with their contact information.”
Emily shuddered to think it had been so easy to find her. True, the web was out there and anyone could find out a lot of information about a person using it, and she had done a fair amount of shopping for Benny and Friskers on the Internet so it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. She had even used it herself to find friends who had moved to other states, but all she had done was Google them. It was easy enough, she supposed, for Death to Google her, but how did he know she had ‘gifts’ was the question.
“Emily, you can answer your own question. You know the depths this young man is capable of going to get his revenge. You feel it, you know it. You knew something was different about him the moment you saw him, now, didn’t you?” Emily nodded, casting her eyes back on Azz for just a moment. “Your partner is a powder keg waiting for the perfect excuse to erupt, Vinnie. You feel it, too, just a little differently than we do. This is why you keep such a close eye on him, which is exactly what he wants, because it makes him feel very special…and dangerous. It must get very tiresome for you.” Vinnie rubbed his bald head, but didn’t deny anything Willie had said.
“The question remains, what are you three willing to do about this? I am willing to teach Ms. Post and the two of you aren’t going to be five feet away from her while she is training – I know. You want Death and so do I. This has gone on for far too long, and it is time it should stop. The police aren’t going to help until it is too late and someone else of talent has lost their life. I can’t have that on my conscious any longer.”
“So, Ms. Post, what is your answer?”