This story is for the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain Psychic Powers.

The challenge was to use one of twenty randomly selected psychic powers in a story.

The RNG gave me: Psychometry.

I had to google that one, but think it’s a pretty cool ability and had fun using it in this week’s story.

I tried to put a focus on dialogue this week. I’m pretty satisfied with how it came out.

 

“Hello?” A woman’s voice at the front of the office.

I didn’t glance up from my paperwork, Claire would assist her.

“Mr. Verhaal?” The same voice again.

I then remembered Claire had left hours before. Past closing time on a Friday and I was still here.

Damn paperwork.

Those stacks of papers on my desk attested that I wasn’t hurting for work. Still, something in her voice snagged my ear. I shoved the sheaf of papers before me into a folder, swept the brass key in after them. An echoing tingle ran up my arm as I touched it. Faces snapped into view, owners past and present, some vivid, others distinct. A little girl, and her parents. This one found safe and unharmed. I ignored them, tossed the folder in a drawer, and stood as the faces faded.

Another day another, disembodied line-up. I did my best to smooth my rumpled suit coat as I crossed to my office door.

“Can I help you?” I called out.

She was standing in the doorway before I got there, wearing a long dark coat that gleamed like oil in the light of my desk lamp. I barely saw it, my eyes were drawn to her face. Wide eyes, arched brows, full lips, and blonde curls. That face could have led any of the million ad campaigns across the city. Her eyes said she’d never consider it.

“I need your talent, Mr. Verhall,” the woman said without introduction. Her deep, green eyes were on my face, unblinking, direct.

Something not unpleasant shifted in my stomach.

Talent. Not talents, not help. Her use of the word was specific. My eyes saw the E.S. painted after the P.I. behind my name on the outside of my door. Most people focused on the first and ignored the latter. Not her, she knew exactly what it meant.

I put on my best meeting the client face I could manage at the end of a long week.

“Of course, Miss?” I asked, offering my hand.

“Verloren,” she replied as she took my hand. Her skin was cool, her grip firm.

Pretty, and clever too, or playing at it. Her gaze didn’t waver, said she wasn’t playing at anything.

She wore a silver ring on her index finger. I let my thumb brush across it as our hands separated. That was as much a habit as brushing my teeth, or using reflective surfaces to check my six. My arm was tensed, ready for the familiar tingle. I felt nothing.

I paused then, just for half a heartbeat, but she saw it. She’d been waiting for it, I saw it in her eyes. She was more than clever, she was something else entirely. Something like me.

Danger churned my stomach. Only another talent could block mine. We’d learned that day one. Talent meant trouble. I knew that better than anyone. I should have sent her on her way right then, except I was intrigued. She’d worn that ring just to get my attention.

I invited her into my office. It wasn’t everyday another eskill dropped by.

I was momentarily distracted as she took a seat. Her calves were as lovely as her face, but that sensation passed quickly. My defenses were up now as I leaned back against the edge of my desk, my eyes probing her face, her hands. Unlike my own face, I didn’t see a government mark anywhere, or the telltale smudge that indicated she’d had one removed. A natural then, or untagged private work.

Curious, and curiouser.

She removed a ring from a coat pocket and placed it on the armrest of her chair. The thin gold band was simple, but had the look of something deceptively expensive. My fingers itched to touch it.

“Two nights ago, a man was found dead in a south-side warehouse.”

“Go to the police,” I said. The words left my mouth on their own. This was another habit. Homicides were messy, and solving them a short road to nowhere.

How typical. Her words had punctured the moment I’d felt. Tension leaked from the room. I should have known that even another eskill would have the same needs as everyone else.

“This isn’t a matter for the police,” she said.

“Many things aren’t, but murder isn’t one of them.”

“Who said it was murder?” she asked.

“You did by coming here,” I said. My disappointment tilted my tone harder than I’d intended.

She didn’t seem to notice.

“I want to hire you,” she said.

I scrubbed a hand across my face, felt the two day old stubble, the grit in my eyes.

“Who was he? Your brother? Your husband out cheating on you?” I’d heard all this before.

“None of them,” her words were clipped short. Irritation tightened her eyes around the edges.

She started again, “This man, he didn’t turn up in any database. No one knows who he was.”

“Homeless perhaps, an illegal. There are lots of people the system doesn’t know about.”

She opened her mouth again.

“Who go undetected,” I said. I didn’t hide the look I gave her. The look that said I knew what she was.

She stared past my gaze without wavering.

“Mr. Verhaal, I heard you were the best.”

Flattery, the last card of the desperate. I felt insulted and pushed up from my desk.

“Miss –”

Now she cut me off.

“Mr. Verhaal, I don’t say this to inflate your obviously grand ego, but to make it clear I sought you out because I need someone with experience. I need a professional who knows his business and knows how to follow through on a job.

“You’ve been writing me off since we started talking, and that was a mistake. I suggest you correct that mistake and pay attention now. A man no one knows was found dead two nights ago. This ring was his. I want you to use it to tell me just who it was that I killed.”