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I speed up, just three blocks from my destination on Marlborough. The steps get closer. A woman was murdered walking by the Charles River last month, less than a mile from here. Point of fact: the steps pound harder, faster, a man's stride. He's broken into a run, catching up.
Or closing in? Should I thrust at the groin with my umbrella? Smash his nose with the heel of my hand?
Or is it two people running? I hear many footsteps, so it's hard to tell. One or two? The murdered woman was struck from behind while walking, bludgeoned to death. I veer to the curb and stop, silent, invisible, I hope. The soles strike hard enough to crack cement.
Then a noise erupts in the fog just feet from where I stand-a sudden grunt, a scuffle. A cry of pain sucked in and stifled. Muffled? Gagged? A gargling sound too. It's over in a flash. A sound bite.
I don't move. It feels like forever. The steps recede, but with a new sound-a scraping. Dragging a heavy bag? A body? Every muscle in my body clenches.
What did I hear?
I force myself down Dartmouth to Marlborough, fighting fear as I hurry along a vapor trail of odors-exhaust fumes, balcony barbecues. Also garbage, pet waste, mildew.
At 9:06 p.m. this third of May, I meet Meg Givens at the Marlborough townhouse front door. Huge relief just to get here. Sensibly, she drove. We stare at this house in somber silence, and my pulse rate hikes back up. Neither of us wants to be here tonight. No one comes to greet us. There's no welcome mat beneath our feet. Not a single lamp glows from any window, upstairs or down. A small campaign sign for the Massachusetts governor's race pokes from the tiny front garden, but the whole townhouse is dead black, and I don't expect the interior to be a bit cozy and welcoming, not with the task ahead of us.
Meg's Lanvin wafts in the thick air, along with hints of something rotting. Compost? Sewage? Rain starts falling, thick drops mixed in the fog and mist. Should I tell her about the footsteps? The sickening sound, the dragging? As a Realtor, Meg found a tenant for my upstairs flat, but she's not a close friend. Why didn't I drive tonight?
"I appreciate your willingness to do this, Reggie," she says. "So let's get going." Meg keys in. We step into the pitch-black interior, and a sweet, sharp odor hits my nostrils. Gas. "Meg, gas. Let's get out of here."
"They should've left a light on." Her nails scratch the wall like chalk on a board. "Out. Now." "Here, got it." Click.
Light flares to reveal a front room sectional sofa in hot orange and wall-mounted hunks of scrap metal. No, they're armor: a breastplate, a visor, a mailed glove. It's like a dismembered knight. Then I see the chandelier, a massive work of medieval blades, halberds, swords, knives. Some are fused, others swing free. The whole fixture hangs from slender wires. We're ankledeep in a rug that needs mowing with a John Deere.
"My God, a hall of armor. What do I smell?" "It's sandalwood, Reggie."
Not gas, but sandalwood. The joke's on me. I'm wound way too tight from the weather and the footsteps and noise ... and those ghastly blades that look ready to crash. "Meg, I think somebody just got mugged."
"Muggings in the Back Bay are fairly common, Reggie. Should've warned you about the scent. I recommend citrus air fresheners, but this couple loves sandalwood. It's the night noises that wake them up. Random noises."
"That's it, Meg-some disturbing noises that I heard when I was walking over here."
"You walked? Reggie, I forget you're new to the city. I'll drive you home. I insist. And this shouldn't take us long. The owners are out for dinner. They prefer we leave by ten. Let's get to it." I wrench my mind to the task at hand. Let go of that sidewalk incident, forget the weaponry of the Middle Ages, focus on the here and now-which feels, however, like a setup for failure. I tried to duck out of this, but Meg begged me. "You say these people hear slamming doors?"
"Hard slams, Reggie, always late at night. The noises started the week they moved in. I sent our firm's best handyman. Every door latch works perfectly. I hope you can help. Are you ready to start?"
"I'm ready, but are you certain there's no object or artifact left in the house from previous owners?" She shakes her head no. As I've told her, I work hands-on. To start off, I need something tangible to hold. Bare-handed, it probably won't work. "Just give it a try, Reggie."
Closing my eyes, I try to clear my mind and concentrate on rhythmic breathing. And I wait. We wait together. Five minutes? Fifteen?
Meg's knuckles crack. She whispers, "How're you doing? Any vibes?"
"Nothing so far."
"Take your time. I'll lower the light." She turns the dimmer, and the room goes sepia. Minutes pass.
"Anything?" I shake my head. "Maybe if you sit down? Or walk into other rooms? Are you concentrating?"
"I'm concentrating." But I sound as tense as I feel in this nineteenth-century Boston townhouse whose owners think it's haunted. That's why I'm here this gloomy evening. I'm supposed to ID the ghost.
The fact is, I sense nothing but a mix of sandalwood and Lanvin. Maybe there is no resident ghost. Or maybe my sixth sense is blocked, since I'm both empty-handed and distracted by the sidewalk episode. In either case, no vision, no spirits. Meg twists the dimmer down to brownout and stands close. "Let me prime the pump. I'll tell you some terrible things, Reggie. These quaint Back Bay houses the tourists love-the slate roofs, the ornamental ironwork, the old brick-the naive tourists think they're so charming. So do our clients." Her voice drops low and gets grainy. "How wrong they are.
Dark secrets haunt these houses. We Realtors know the true stories of Back Bay murders. Daggers, Reggie, and poisonings from tonics laced with mercury."
Is she making this up just to coach me?
"Imagine this, Reggie: under the Victorian facades, under the stiff collars and lace, are crazed opium addicts, jealous younger brothers cut from parents' wills. Fratricide, parricide. A cousin in formal evening attire trampled by a carriage horse. A beloved uncle strangled. On a night like this, Reggie, angry spirits can stir. They can slam doors. And psychic powers can summon them. You, Reggie, can hear them if you concentrate."
I try. I imagine a rearing carriage horse, the uncle whose eyes pop as the killer crushes his windpipe. I picture it all. So would you. Which doesn't make it psychic.
"You don't feel anything?" "Wait-" Behind closed lids, I see pricks of light and hear a sudden whoosh. Ghost? No, the ventilation system. "Meg, my sixth sense is vacationing."
My laugh sounds brittle. Wrapped in her own troubles, Meg can't possibly know why I'm on edge. It's not only the sidewalk scare in the fog but also my entire new Boston life. Or, as my businessman ex used to say, the whole enchilada.
Stifling her disappointment, Meg runs a hand through her dark brown hair. Her face is heart-shaped, dark eyes quick. She's wearing a purple dress with a brooch shaped like a festive red hat, oddly jaunty in this somber scene. "It was worth a try. Anything to block a lawsuit."
"You really think they'd sue? For ghosts?" "Or disturbing their peace, whatever. The wife is convinced the house is haunted. They paid top price in last year's hot market and spent big bucks renovating. A lawsuit could drag on for years and cost a fortune. As the listing agent, I could be named as a defendant. Even if they don't sue, they could smear our firm. The husband is a new player in big development deals in the city. They're political people. They host fund-raisers. You saw the yard sign outside for the primary."
We move through the dining room, and suddenly, I recognize the pattern in the wall covering: neat rows of clenched fists. "Aren't these the fists of the Black Power movement?" She nods. "They papered this room in Black Power salutes?" "This paper was custom-milled in France." "Are your clients black?" "He is. They moved in two months ago, even though the kitchen's still not done. Here, sit down a minute while I write them a note."
We're now in the kitchen, a construction zone of tile and stainless steel. I verify that all kitchen door latches do work. "The new owners are the first to complain about the slamming, right?" Her pen stops. "Why do you ask?" "A house can have a history." "Reggie, the whole Back Bay is historical." "Let me ask this: I won't say 'haunted,' but is the house notorious for unexplained incidents? Do the Realtors gossip about its 'dark secrets'?"
She pauses and taps the pen. "Nothing specific, but for some reason, this house goes on the market every few years. For Realtors, it's a merry-go-round with a brass ring. The insider joke is, who's next to grab the sales commission?" "What do the sellers have to say?"
"When they leave? The usual, job transfer, out-of-state move." "No compaints about night noises?"
"A seller wants a good price, Reggie. And 'ghost' isn't on the disclosure sheet." Meg meets my gaze. "Some of the Realtors are ... shall I say, a bit superstitious? One of our younger agents did some research on the history of the house, and we teased her because she got so obsessed and moody and complained about cold and chills. Bad for business, I told her. We called her Igloo Sue." "What did she find out?"
"We never knew. She met a pilot and moved to Dallas, one of those whirlwind romances. Personally, I think the problem is the style of the house. It's the only neo-Medieval on a block of Italian Renaissance. It doesn't get enough light on the first floor. That's my theory." Meg finishes the note and manages a grin. "Guess you're not a ghostbuster psychic, Reggie."
"Guess not." My faux buoyance hides a certain angst. Not about this Marlborough house in particular, but my health as a psychic. True, this gift has bruised and scraped me raw, scarred my arm, nearly killed me, yet it has provided a surge of energy the NFL could use in Super Bowls. The care and feeding of my sixth sense is topmost priority.
But on that sidewalk, I felt plain fear, and in this house, nothing. At the moment, I'm a psychic flatliner who can't handle the city on a foggy night.
So what? you ask. So first thing tomorrow morning, I'm discussing a homicide case with Detective Francis Devaney. He's counting on the newfound psychic ability that recently put me in a working relationship with the Homicide Division of the Metropolitan Boston Police. No, it's not a paid position. I'm an unofficial adviser. The reward is beyond a Wall Streeter's comprehension: quite simply, it's adventure beyond my wildest dreams. Me, Reggie Cutter, ex-executive wife and twenty-fiveyear authority on ensembles for ladies' luncheons, volunteer committees, banquets, teas, corporate galas. I tell you, as the ultimate makeover, helping cops solve a murder beats a face-lift by a light-year.
For the past month, Devaney has waited while my wounded arm healed from my "rookie cop" adventure. Well, my arm is now hoisting ten-pound free weights, and I've counted down the hours to tomorrow's talk. Devaney'll offer me a psychic's deputy badge, so to speak, and I'll salivate like Pavlov's dog. I'm just that eager. But if I blank out, I'll be sidelined. He'll be polite and distant.
"No hard feelings, Reggie." "Of course not, Frank." Oblivious, Meg clicks her ballpoint and reaches for her briefcase with a pro's nimbleness. "My car's at the corner. Maybe lunch next week," she says. "And love that green jacket, Reggie. Bet it's terrific in decent light."
"I like your purple too, Meg, and your brooch." "It's my Red Hat outfit. You must know the Jenny Joseph poem about wearing purple and a red hat when a woman gets older? It's about breaking free."
"Vaguely." "It's a great women's group. You have to be over fifty." "Not quite yet." "We'll welcome you. You'll love us. It's a fun bunch. I'm flying to this year's convention. I'm looking for a hard-shell hatbox for the overhead."
Outside on the stoop, I fumble with my umbrella as Meg reaches to close the front door. Neither of us can explain the next moment. Meg's arm is outstretched, fingers ready for the knob. Before she can grasp it, the door starts to move. We watch it, standing still as two statues. Neither of us touches the door, but both of us feel a sharp cold draft. All by itself, the massive front door swings shut with a hard slam.
Excerpted from Now You See Her by Cecelia Tishy Copyright © 2005 by Cecelia Tishy . Excerpted by permission.
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Posted December 9, 2008
In Boston, Tania Arnot believes that the townhouse she is renting is haunted so she informs her realtor Meg Givens that unless she gets rid of the unwanted ghost, she will see her in court. Not wanting a court date or the negative publicity, Meg turns to the only person she knows who dabbles with the beyond, her friend psychic Regina Cutter. Reluctantly since Regina insists she is no ghostbuster, she agrees as she isn¿t afraid of no ghost, but finds nothing supernatural about the townhouse.--- While the Arnot case seems cold, Boston Homicide Detective Francis Devaney asks Regina for her professional judgment on the Henry Faiser conviction; Henry a black drug dealer was convicted of killing Peter Wald, son of a State Senator, thirteen years ago. Henry insists he is innocent and that the real killer still walks the mean streets. However, her ESP fails to determine anything so Francis goes with the original finding while Regina decides to investigate the old fashion way.--- Regina is an interesting character though her paranormal skills seem wanting at least when they count in this story line. The plot is at its best when she fumbles and stumbles with her psychic powers or with reassuring her two adult children, but seems inane when Regina turns amateur sleuth investigating the homicide. Fans will enjoy Regina paranormal detective but wonder about Regina investigator. Though that detour takes away from an interesting tale, readers of a different kind of heroine will enjoy NOW YOU SEE HER, but expect more of the psychic than the inquiring shamus in future adventures.--- Harriet Klausner
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Posted October 12, 2005
Murder, politics, fire, haunted houses. When Regina Cutter agrees to consult as a psychic with the Boston Police Dept., she doesn't realize how deeply involved she'll become. Soon, she's ignoring her own personal safety in order to discover if a man was unjustly imprisoned for murder thirteen years earlier. Reggie criss-crosses Boston searching for answers to the mystery. Reggie Cutter is an interesting new character with a lot of possibilities for the future.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 26, 2009
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