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Authors: Karina Halle

Tags: #David_James

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BOOK: Red Fox
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Luckily, the bartender was
pleasant enough to serve me my three beers. She didn’t make any
small talk but neither did I.

When I got back to the
table I was relieved to see that they weren’t involved in any
intimate conversation. I plunked the beers down in front of them
and Dex visibly relaxed. I motioned for him to scoot over so I
could sit down and he did.

Cheers,” Maximus said,
holding up his beer. We all clinked.

To new beginnings,” Dex

Ain't that the truth,” I
muttered. I didn’t want to be reminded of how new everything was
for me at this moment. Not just the here and now but what waited
back for me at home…uncertainty. It had being pawing at my
subconscious all day long.

And at that I took the
longest swig of my beer. Nothing has ever tasted so good in my
life. I put the bottle down, surprised to see it half gone already.
Everyone else’s was as well.

We’re going to need more
beer soon, I reckon,” Maximus laughed. “This time I’m

I’m counting on it,” Dex
said. “In the meantime, why not fill Perry in a little on what’s
going. I haven’t told her too much.”

Maximus nodded, his face
growing more serious but his eyes still frothy in the harsh
afternoon light.

Well then Perry. As you
may or may not know, I’m a ghost mediator-”

I felt Dex kick me lightly
under the table at that.

-who helps people connect
with their loved ones. Most of the time they just want to know if
they are OK, want to know if they are still remembered. I don’t do
anything special, I can’t really pass on messages like people seem
to think. All I can do is go to a place that someone has died and
get a sort of life energy from that spot. I don’t know how to
explain it scientifically, hell it would all be considered hooey to
most people, but I feel like when people die, the act of death
itself leaves a magnetic mark. Somehow I am able to see and feel
this mark. I can know how they died, how they felt at the time and
right before.”

I was trying to keep an
open look on my face while listening to this, in case he thought I
was being judgmental. But it was hard not to be, even though in the
context of what I’ve been through it was actually perfectly

So you can’t really
communicate with them…the dead?” I said.

No. It’s a one-way street
at best. But most people still ask me to tell the dead things…I
don’t argue. It’s money.” He shrugged then continued, “And it’s
because of that belief, I get most of my business. I helped a
widower with her late husband a while back. Nothing unusual, the
man just had a heart attack. But she wanted to know if he felt
loved. Seems they had an argument earlier that day about something
stupid like the dishes or something. The man didn’t die happy, I
can tell you that much but I didn’t tell her that. No one dies

I felt Dex tense up beside
me. I stole a quick glance at him. He was peeling the label off his
perspiring bottle. I had an abstract thought about sexual
frustration then turned my attention back to Maximus.

But from what I felt, he
had lived a pretty fulfilled life and he loved his wife, I guess,
so that’s what I told her. She told a lot of people she knew,
including one of her cousins. Will Lancaster. Will lives here in
Red Fox. Called me about a week ago about a disturbance at his
ranch. Sort of your stereotypical haunting stuff if you ask
me…rocks being thrown at the window and roof, doors slamming shut,
the feeling of being watched, sheep carcasses turning up all
bloodied and disfigured, crows flying through the

I shuddered at the mention
of crows. I looked out the window to the house across the street
and sure enough they were still there, that black blot on the dead
tree. Maximus followed my gaze and nodded.

So I went there and tried
to do a reading to figure out what was going on. Wasn’t much help.
Will was scared, clearly, but ashamed of it. He’s a big Navajo man,
he didn’t like to admit to his ranch hands that he brought me
there. Let alone his wife. Sarah, she’s blind and…well, kind of a

Dex laughed. I wanted to
but felt like I should admonish him. Maximus caught my eye
sheepishly. “Well, it’s true. Lordy, she did not want me there. And
she’s not going to want you there, so I’m warning you

Fabulous,” I sighed. “So,
what did you find?”

Nothing.” He held up his
earphones, which were connected to an mp3 device. “I’ve been going
back and listening to my notes, our conversations…nothing died
there, that’s the problem. I couldn’t pick up on anything at

He leaned across the table
and lowered his voice. “But I’ll tell you this…there is something
strange going on. I don’t know what but that’s why you’re here

Dex finished the rest of
his beer. I looked at him for his opinion but he wasn’t very
forthcoming. He just tapped his foot on the floor to the beat of an
unknown song.

So…how do we begin?” I

For starters, I was hoping
that Rudy would be here. But he’s not in until tomorrow

I raised my

Rudy owns
the bar,” he explained. “He’s also a guy who knows a lot. Knows a
lot of people, has lived here his whole life and has seen a lot of
things. A

So we come back here
tomorrow night. And what do we do until then?”

Dex impulsively reached
over and grabbed my left hand and displayed it for Maximus to

Made an honest woman out of
her, like you said.”

Maximus laughed and leaned
back in the booth, giving me a wry look. “Sorry about having you
get hitched to Dex here. Will and Sarah are fiercely Christian. At
least Sarah is…real old school. Now I’ve dealt with a lot of
religious mamas in Lafayette, but she takes the cake. Pretty much
walks around with a cross. She’d probably throw holy water on you
if she found out you weren’t actually married. Two singletons
sharing the same bed? Blasphemous shit.”

He laughed again and got
up. “Time for more beers.”

Jack Daniels,” Dex shot at
him. “You owe me a double.”

Maximus waved him off and
walked his hulking body over to the bar.

I inched away from Dex to
get a good look at him. He had the label off and was working at
folding it into an origami figure. He looked pale, his eyes were
burning holes into this project, his brow furrowed, jaw clenched,
and toe tapping.

Finally, he stopped, put
down the paper (a bird of some sort) and closed his eyes. “What is

I looked behind me to make
sure Maximus was at the bar and, satisfied, I leaned in closer to
his ear. “I just wanted to see how you were doing.”

He let out a chuckle. “You
care suddenly?”

He was acting like a little
boy, not the Dex I was used to seeing.

Of course I care. I mean,
you know…I’m worried about you. The medication withdrawal, meeting
an old friend-”

He’s not a friend,” he
said. He picked up the origami bird and shoved it down the bottle
of his empty beer. He took out a match from one of his pockets, lit
it on the table and dropped it in the bottle. The paper began to
curl and smolder, smoke rising out of the neck. I watched,

What do you mean?” I asked.
“You were in the same band, same school…”

He raised the bottle up and
watched the smoke snake around. “I don’t have to tell you that it
all means nothing. Do I?”

I guess he didn’t. I hated
90% of the people that I went to school with.

Well, OK then,” I said,
annoyed. “You know, I have to work with you for the next few days.
I just want to make sure you’re OK…OK?”

I put my hand on his
shoulder and squeezed it lightly. There was something so
irresistibly vulnerable about him. He eyed my hand for a moment,
then spat in the bottle to put out the flame. Pretty disgusting way
to ruin a moment, Dex.

He looked at me. “Don’t
worry about me. Just worry about yourself.”

That was easier said than

I am worried about myself,”
I blurted out.

He raised his brow, the
eyebrow ring glinting. I said too much. Now he looked

Remember I said I’d get to
the bottom of you…”

I nodded and switched the
subject, “So do you trust Maximus here?”

Dex held my eyes for a few
beats. I could see he wasn’t satisfied. But he looked over at
Maximus who was now walking back over. “I don’t trust anyone Perry.
Neither should you. But I’ll give him the benefit of the

Your refreshments,” Maximus
said proudly, placing our drinks down. I think he knew we had been
talking about him but it didn’t seem to bother him. Wish I had that
ability to just shrug things off like that.

As we drank our drinks, the
conversation went to more “normal” topics. Unfortunately, they were
topics that seemed to make both Dex and I a bit apprehensive. I was
asked a lot about my life: what I did, my family, my personal life.
I felt like I lied through all of it, even when I told the truth.
Guess I was just so used to it now. Dex could tell too, he was
watching me, which made me even more nervous. I’m not sure why I
still felt like I had to lie and pretend everything was peachy back
at home but there it was. It was like I had more power in the

Then Maximus told us a bit
about what he had been doing after college and how he got into the
business of “ghost mediating.” Apparently he always had the gift, I
guess you could call it, but just thought he was a bit mad. But, as
interesting as it was to me, the more Maximus talked about the
dead, the more annoyed Dex became. And any mention of their times
together in college, or in the band, were always approached with
caution and tension. Dex reminded me of the sketchy addicts that
wandered around in Portland’s Chinatown.

Thankfully, by the time
that Dex finished his Jack Daniels (straight up, by the way) and we
talked about the show and what we wanted to do with it, he had
loosened up considerably.

I, on the other hand,
hadn’t. I felt more apprehensive about Dex with each passing hour,
I wasn’t sure if I could trust Maximus (though I wanted to), I
thought the whole married couple staying with a blind bitch and a
poltergeist was ridiculous,
I was freaking starving. The only thing I had
eaten that day was a bag of chips I pilfered from the hotel’s
vending machine. The beers went straight to my head at a time when
I needed clarity.

The heat didn’t help
either. When it was ready to roll, we got back into the sweat
mobile, dropped Maximus at his motel and followed his truck out of
town, and into the rocky hills until we came to a sprawling ranch.
We had arrived.





The Lancaster’s ranch was
spread over a variety of terrain; flat desert, scrubby valleys
grazed by muddy-looking sheep and horses, low hills dotted with
pine building to a crooked mountain range topped with high alpine
plants. It was beautiful, sprawling and a hundred shades of sienna.
Fences of gnarled wood framed it all with a poetic bow.

Past the gates with the
stereotypical overhanging ranch sign (“The Lancasters”) and open
cattle grate there were two barns and various sheep related chutes
and shelters, plus the main house. The farm looked deserted and
down at its heels, but given the rest of the town, and the harsh
surroundings, that didn’t really surprise me. I looked over at Dex
as he drove our car over beside Maximus’s and parked it at the side
of the house. His eyes were alert and searching, probably thrilled
that the location was so photogenic and charismatic.

We stepped out of the car
into the dust and walked over to Maximus. He gave us a cautionary
look and glanced up at the house. There was a woman standing at the
second story A-frame window. I couldn’t see her clearly from our
angle but it seemed she wasn’t actually looking at us, rather, past
us at the farm. If that was the blind woman, Sarah, then it made
perfect sense. It also gave me the creeps.

Hello there,” a deep voice
called out from behind us. We turned to see a lumbering native
fellow coming towards us from across the paddock, wiping his dusty
hands on the sides of his faded jeans.

Maximus gave the man a
quick wave and spoke to us out of the side of his mouth, “That’s
Bird, the main rancher.”

Bird stopped in front of
us, greeted Maximus like he was an old friend and set his eyes on
Dex and I. He was about the same height as Maximus but despite
Maximus’s breadth, Bird made him appear tiny. He was built like an
ox but with sincere dark eyes, and when he said he was glad to
finally meet the “famous duo,” I could tell he meant it. My hand
disappeared into his when he shook it, but it left me feeling safe,
something I hadn’t felt yet on this trip.

BOOK: Red Fox
10.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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