Believe Me snippet


The scratching of pen against heavy paper had always been an evocative and pleasurable sound to Lila. Something about the noise, the way it made her think of the sensation of holding the satisfying weight of the implement in her hand, the smell of well-made paper, the idea of creation and creativity being unleashed… they all pleased her.

It was a complete conceit of vanity to be doing it now; she knew that. It didn’t lessen her enjoyment, however. If anything, it was enhanced by the knowledge that doing it this way made it all seem so much more theatrical and magical. After all, part of the allure of what she did was tied up in public perception. No one believed – or wanted to listen to – a psychic who just told them something point blank. They wanted a show, they wanted waving hands and obscuring smoke and the idea of someone scribbling prophecies by candlelight.

For all intents and purposes, that was exactly what she was doing right now. Close enough, at least.

Lila had been at the table, scribbling idly, mostly to feed her own self-image and partly to pass the time, for five hours. She knew it would probably be another two at least before she had news and could write something of substance, but it soothed her nerves.

She wasn’t certain why she should be nervous; after all, the gig had been going for three months already and every step had been as carefully choreographed as any large-scale dance production. But there was always the nagging voice that could never be fully silenced, the one that asked things like “what if he screws it up,” “what if he turns you in,” “what if they find out” and possibly worst of all, “what if this is wrong?”

She hated that question the most. Perhaps because she knew it was.

Thinking about it wasn’t helping her any; she pushed the thoughts back, raising her head to stare at the door, then glancing pointedly down at the gaudy gold watch that hung limp against her thin wrist.

Still to early. You know that.

She did, but it didn’t change the fact that she just wanted this part to be over. Tom Petty’d had it right; the waiting was the hardest part. But the dividends that waiting paid out were worth it.

Sighing, knowing there’d be nothing more of value to write until Kelsey got home, she flipped her notebook shut, pulling the elasticized velvet strap into place to hold the page she’d begin writing on once the deed was done. Setting her pen, a stainless steel, gold and silver monstrosity that had cost more than most people’s cars, alongside it, she pushed out of the chair and drifted out of her writing nook and into the living room.

As she went, she trailed one hand along all the things her labors had gotten her; the wrought-iron chairs imported from some European country she couldn’t name, let alone pronounce. A table supposedly hewn from a thousand year old tree in a forest that no longer existed and polished to a mirror sheen by weeping orphans in a Chinese labor camp. A hand-stitched leather davenport, dark green with gold filigree in a fleur-de-lis pattern.

For someone who’d grown up in a doublewide trailer alongside more siblings than she could count, Lila Morrigan felt she was doing pretty good for herself.

She’d only had to commit a handful of murders to do it.

Not like you did them yourself, she thought. That was the voice she preferred to listen to, the one who didn’t harass her by begging moral questions about the ends justifying the means. That was the voice of the woman she wanted to be, the grown-up voice of the child she had been, the one that had been beaten down and kept locked away and found a thousand reasons to be silent until recently.

It was also true, Lila thought as she sank into the sensual smoothness of the davenport, letting her bare feet dangle over the edge. She balled one fist up against her cheek and stared at the door. Part of her hoped she could fall asleep, not just so that the time would pass faster while she was unconscious, but because she knew Kelsey thought it was cute when he came home and found her asleep and facing the door, like a child waiting for their father who is too tired to still be up when the door at last opens and a booming voice announces “Daddy’s home.”

Her brain didn’t seem to be on board with the idea, though, chasing itself in circles. When she’d been sitting at the desk and testing out phrasing for her next grand prediction, she’d been focused, able to easily ignore the otherwise near-constant debate inside her skull. With nothing to occupy her but the waiting game however, they now had free reign.

Just because you didn’t do the stabbing doesn’t mean you’re responsible, one of them pointed out. And profiting from it, doing nothing to stop it…

The voice trailed off, but Lila had heard it often enough – both from her shrink as a teenager and from inside her mind – she knew what came next. To derail it, she took a deep breath and assumed a pompous, stuff-cheeked bass voice.

“The only thing that evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” she boomed into the empty house.

Words. Empty words, just as empty as anything else she’d told her clients. Uncle Joe was not watching out for them, Aunt Shelly hadn’t given her dying breath to whispering how much she loved an estranged grandchild, and your husband Bob had been a cheating scuzz who wasn’t proclaiming his eternal innocence from the afterlife. Just words. Words that had kept her just above the poverty level for almost a decade.

But real words, words with some power and knowledge behind them, like those that had just “come to her” after Susanne Winters had been murdered last year, or perhaps the message from the other side that Darlene McClintock had offered her a couple months ago, or even the as-yet unwritten post scripted suicide note that Candace Meyers would surely be whispering to her by the end of the day… those words had a purpose, a guiding direction to them. Who was she to deny them?

You’re Lila Morrigan. You used to be a good girl. There’s still time to change things, you know.

She hmmphed, rolling over and facing the couch cushion. Good girl. Yeah, right. Nobody’d ever thought so before, no reason for them to start now.

He’ll kill you, too. One day.

Lila jerked up, moving without thinking about it. She slid on the leather and found herself hitting the ground with a harsh thump that left her spine aching and made her clip the tip of her tongue with her teeth, flooding her tastebuds with the too-salty taste of blood.

“Horseshit,” she hissed to the empty room. “He loves me.”

Does he? Or are you just convenient?

“Shut up!” She launched upward, digging her nails into her scalp and twisting her fingers into her thick blonde hair. Eyes wide, teeth bared and bloody, she swept her head from side to side, daring that voice to show itself, to give her a target, something she could hit, and claw and bite until it was silent. Part of her realized how idiotic the idea was; the voices all came from inside, and she knew it. That part was buried in the rubble of the Lila-who-was’ panic at the very idea and the smug satisfaction of the Lila-who-could-be’s insinuations.

Only one thing would shut them all up. She didn’t want to do it. Kelsey would be mad, and it would mean an extra day before they could really get the ball rolling on their latest masterpiece. But if she didn’t they’d drive her crazy long before he got home.

She turned away from the living area, eyes narrowing as she focused on the bathroom door tucked discretely against the stairwell.

Don’t. Please.

The voice wasn’t frightened, as Lila would have liked it. It wasn’t even angry. It just sounded disappointed.

“Please, my ass. I do as I please.”

Lila had long ago stopped worrying about talking out loud to her own internal monologues. No one was around to hear it, anyway. When Kelsey was home, those voices were quiet, overruled by his own confident tones. When he was away… well, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, that was her motto.

She started towards the door, undoing the buttons on her silk blouse and letting it drop to the floor. Caught in the sudden chill, her bare shoulders and neckline instantly rippled into tingling ridges of gooseflesh. Lila caught herself wondering what Kelsey would say if he was here. Would he have been turned on? Would he have asked to see more, maybe interrupted her self-destructive tantrum with his touch and tongue?

No way to know. No matter. He wasn’t here, and she wouldn’t be stopped. But that didn’t mean she had to ruin a good blouse, especially a white one.

She pushed open the door to the bathroom, reaching out and flicking on the lights. The small room had been done entirely in black tile with chrome accents. Even the sink, toilet and tub matched. When she was in here, alone as she was now, she could believe she’d stepped into a hidden pocket in space where she could float freely and nothing would disturb her. The reflection of the single fluorescent bar bounced from the mirror and against dozens of tiles, enhancing the illusion by dotting space with a myriad of stars.

She let the door swing shut and reached forward, pulling the mirrored cabinet open. Finding her way by touch, her searching hand danced across the bottom shelf before finding something hard, flat and sharp. Tweezing it between her fingers, she brought the object close, tipping it from side to side to catch the light.

Put that thing away. Walk out. Call the police.

The voice was finally showing some signs of distress. Not that it would make a difference. Smiling, Lila angled the razor blade with the cutting edge turned towards her palm. She raised her arm above her head, cocking the elbow. With the blade hovering just above her shoulder, she used her free hand to swing the mirror shut.

There was enough light for her to see her face. Twisted into a manic grin, blood dribbling over her lower lip from her wounded tongue, eyes wide, pupils dilated, small traces of maroon in her hair at the temples, where she’d dug her nails in without realizing it. Others might have thought her insane; Lila considered herself fierce.

Locking her tongue into the corner of her pursed lips, keeping her eyes on the eyes of the Lila in the mirror, she brought the blade closer. Cold as her shoulders already were, she still felt as though there was a pocket of frost around the tiny blade as she brought it to barely an inch above her vulnerable flesh.

“Shut. Up.”

She began the cleansing.

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