Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining me as I share this little sojourn into the realms of the Paranormal. Have a marvelous Halloween, my friends. 🎃
Suzanne Burke 2019.
The set was frantic with activity as always when only two hours out from a live broadcast. The host of the popular documentary series ‘The Sceptic” sat looking over the script that had been meticulously vetted by the station’s army of lawyers. The station could afford the cost of a defamation suit, but not the resultant publicity. One defamation suit had given them a huge ratings boost, but more than that could do the exact opposite. Show host Harrison Taylor was warned again to stick with the script as much a possible in a live interview situation.
Director Cindy Rasmussen wasn’t looking forward to the discussion she needed to have with the star of the show. She approached him just as the makeup artist finished readying him for the telecast.
Cindy Rasmussen gave the girl a smile and walked into his dressing-room. “Harrison, we need to talk.”
“Can’t it wait till after the broadcast, Cindy? You know I like to prepare myself quietly before we go on air.”
“No. It can’t wait, and you must have been expecting this conversation. You’ve seen the current ratings. You know the network will cancel the show if those ratings don’t improve significantly. This live to air program needs to be riveting! Your future here depends on it.”
“How the fuck can it be riveting when I’m restricted in what I can say?”
“Screw the lawyers! By the time any defamation suit comes to trial, the show will be back on top again.”
“So, are you saying that I can stop pussyfooting around and let this charlatan take his chances with me uncensored?”
The director laughed, “Go for it, but watch the language. No x rated stuff, are you good with that?”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Good.” The woman checked her iPhone. “We need to head out soon.”
The cameras were ready to roll, and forty-nine-year-old Harrison Taylor straightened his tie and turned on his blazing smile, giving his huge audience exactly what they expected of the popular host of the must-watch Documentary series; The Sceptic. Harrison Taylor was purported to have debunked more charlatans than anyone now living. Or so said all his press-releases.
He watched and waited and timed his entrance perfectly as always. The cameras focused on his face.
“Good evening, Ladies and Gentleman. In celebration of Halloween and in the spirit of finding and debunking yet another fraud playing on the misery of others, I’m bringing you something special, tonight. I’m going on air live with self-proclaimed Psychic Medium, Sheldon Cain. I’ll introduce you in a moment. Mr. Cain has given his consent to have his premises checked thoroughly for any devices known to assist alleged Psychic mediums with the myriad of deceptions they use to dupe others. That has been done to my satisfaction. Now let’s join the man. I have never met or interacted with Mr. Cain previously.”
The camera panned to a closeup of Sheldon Cain. He had a face the camera loved, chiseled features, good looking and unexpected. He extended his hand, “Please, Mr. Taylor be seated. May I call you Harrison?”
“Go right ahead.”
Harrison took a long slow look at the room, it was a little shabby and lined with overflowing bookcases. There were two easy chairs separated by a wooden coffee table. Sheldon Cain watched him and then asked, “ I’m having a drink would you care for one?”
“Hmm, I believe I’ll have bourbon. And you’ll have Scotch, ‘Glenfiddich 12-year-old single-malt, yes?”
“Yes. So, you’ve mastered google, congratulations. No ice, thanks.”
The man gave him a small smile as he handed him the glass and seated himself comfortably opposite.
He reached over and picked up a packet of cigarettes from the coffee table, extracted one for himself and held the packet of Marlboro across to the interviewer. He smiled at the look on his guest’s face. “Did I get the brand right?”
“I was a smoker. But, I gave up years ago.”
The man inhaled deeply and sniffed as he responded and leaned toward the show host, “Realy? Forgive me if I’m blunt. I only smoke very occasionally, and you Harrison, you appear to still smoke heavily. Heavy smokers carry an odor that smells like overfull ashtrays.”
Harrison was visibly offended and tried to mask it, without success, much to the delight of the show’s Director. “I find that comment offensive, Mr. Cain.” He finished his scotch and waited for an apology.
But the man merely gave a small shrug. “I could lie of course if that’s what you would prefer. Do you want me to lie?”
Those watching on drew a deep breath and waited for Harrison to explode. He barely kept a lid on it and responded coldly, “I prefer the truth, no matter what the situation.”
“Ah, perfect. No matter what works for me. Shall we continue? I’ll simply sit here in silence for a while to gain a feeling, a pathway to find your connections to another place at another time if such a pathway has intersected with yours.”
“Relax, Harrison. Help yourself to another whiskey if you’d care to. I’ll speak to you in a few moments.”
Harrison poured a double measure of the good scotch and finished it as he watched Sheldon Cain’s face compose and his features relax and hoped like hell the camera was getting that look. The man seemed to be in some sort of trance, but his blue eyes remained open.
One minute passed and then another and the television host was growing impatient. He needed a ratings winner, and this was moving too damned slow. He poured another shot of whiskey.
The man spoke suddenly. “How did you earn the nickname of Abe?”
Harrison hoped like hell he’d masked his surprise as he responded, “What? I, that is, um, it was my Grandfather’s name and apparently I look just like him. So, the family called me young Abe, or Abel for a while”
“Indeed. Does the name Mike Morgan sound familiar to you?
“You ran a feature on him for your show. The man was brutalized on every media outlet because of your attack on his credibility. You did that expose based on supposition only. Nothing could be proven against this man. He lost his career, his income, his home and finally his family and his sanity. His attempt at a defamation suit was poorly represented, and the Lawyers from your Network had it quashed inside two days. Mike Morgan took his own life seven weeks later. How did that make you feel?”
“I sent the family my condolences.”
“No, I asked how did that make you feel?”
“Feel? The man made his own choices.”
“So, no regret?”
“I see. It’s odd, but I can find no spiritual connection to another living human being in the energy you’re transmitting.”
“Yes. Why do you believe that your mother betrayed you?”
“What? How could you kn …?” He felt himself shudder, “Jesus.”
“Tell me about her betrayal. Your mother’s name was Elizabeth. A pretty name for a pretty woman.”
Harrison felt sick, “How could you know that? Those records aren’t available.”
“How indeed? Now, about her betrayal. Tell me about that.”
Harrison hadn’t intended to answer the question, he was ready to deny it. He heard his own voice respond, “She left us. I was ten years old. It was a couple of days out from Halloween and my mom ran off with some guy. She promised she’d be back for me and my brother, but she never came back. She never made contact with me or my kid brother again. My dad never got over it.”
Sheldon Cain fell silent for a long drawn out moment, “She didn’t betray you. She died. She and the man she left the house with were killed in a car wreck. The vehicle exploded on impact with the rocks below when they hurtled off a cliff face in San Francisco. The two people in the vehicle were incinerated. They were unable to be identified. They are still listed as John and Jane Doe. You need to have the San Francisco police check their records for 11.58 p.m. on October 31st, 1980.”
“Oh, my God. How? Tell me, how can you possibly know these things?”
“Tell me again why you are here?”
“I intend to expose you as a fraud.”
“Go right ahead.”
“I’m not sure how you did this. How could you possibly know that my mother is dead?”
“Are you not grateful to know you weren’t betrayed.”
“Grateful? She still would be alive if she hadn’t run off like that!”
“Your bitterness clothes your life in dark shadows, Harrison. What would you say to her if you could see her?”
“I’d tell her I hate her!”
“Do you want to see her again? Do you want the chance to say that to her face to face?”
“I can arrange it.”
“What? How? When?” His words tumbled over themselves in fear and a latent excitement.
“You need to tell me something first.”
“Why did you take all that money from the people who really do make a huge living from this profession? It runs into many hundreds of thousands of dollars that you keep in a numbered account in Switzerland. Was it on the proviso that you never attempted to debunk them on your show? You guaranteed it would never happen. Are you a fraud, Harrison?”
Harrison stood suddenly, and screamed, “Jesus Christ! Cut the live feed! Do it now!”
The Director held up her hand and spoke into her mouthpiece, “Keep the fucking cameras rolling. This is dynamite!”
A message came back into Harrison’s earpiece a moment later. “Sorry, Harrison. It went out live to air.”
The frantic man stood and looked down at his tormentor, “You’ve just ruined me! You’ve wrecked my career.”
Sheldon Cain stood and smiled at his guest. “I enjoyed every moment of it.”
The camera finally stopped recording the events, and the crew turned away unwilling to face the star of the show. The director was already on the telephone with the head of the network and Harrison heard her delighted response to the call. “Thanks so much! Of course I’m delighted. The response should be enormous.”
A large ornate wall clock ticked over, to 11.50 p.m.
The television host staggered a little as he stormed from the premises, regretting the heavy intake of Scotch as he sat behind the steering wheel of his car. His fury awakened anew and he revved the engine and sped out of the street. He drove like a man possessed with a need to escape, for five minutes. He fumbled in his suit coat for his hidden cigarettes and lit one. He dropped the lit smoke and on reflex bent down to retrieve it from the floor, and the vehicle continued at speed. As the clock hit 11.56 p. m he sped through a red light and was hit head-on by a garbage disposal truck. His vehicle exploded and he was incinerated at precisely 11.58 p.m.
As midnight rang out he and his mother were reunited after thirty-nine years apart. He could spend eternity telling her just how much he hated her.
The tall good looking man gazed around him well satisfied with his night’s work.
He walked outside into the cool air of the early November morning and breathed it in deeply, savoring the taste. He’d store it in memory to play over with pleasure until Halloween dawned again next year. The air where he existed except for one brief sojourn back here once a year was always hellishly hot.
Abel was dead once again. Cain’s deep laughter echoed through the morning. Smoking had finally killed the man. Cain loved Halloween.