Cold Reading

In Fiction by Lamar Henderson0 Comments

“I know you all came here tonight because you heard I was a holy man. That I was a man of Gaw-ud. That I would reveal miracles and wonder.”

When the speaker at the front of the tent paused to sip from his McDonald’s coffee cup, Thomas glared at Henry. He hadn’t wanted to come out tonight, certainly not here. Henry, though, had insisted. Henry told him it would be worth his time. Thomas was just about to stand up and head out across the fairground’s gravel parking lot, get in his car and go when the speaker resumed.

“That’s a load of bullshit. Steaming brown bullshit. Pardon my French.”

Huh. Well, that was something different. Henry caught Thomas’s attention just to smirk.

“My name is Terrence Windsor. Well, that’s the name on the sign out front, anyway. It isn’t my real name. I’m not going to tell you that.”

Windsor — or whatever his name was — strolled back and forth across the stage at the head of the tent. The only sounds were the faint thump of his boots through the old oriental carpets tossed on the stage, and the faint wisps of the audience fanning themselves with the cheap cardboard fans the attendants handed out when they bought their tickets. At $10 a head, it’s nice to get something tangible in return, especially something you can use on a hot summer evening trapped in a tent with a hundred other people.

“You’ve heard of this kind of show before, even if you’ve never seen one. That’s why you’re here. You’ve seen preachers and evangelists and whatnot come to town, set up a tent and work magic. You want to see a little magic of your own. You need a little magic.”

Windsor sipped at his coffee again. The audience remained quiet.

“The thing is, folks, I’m going to tell you the truth. The real truth. There is no magic here. There are no miracles. Truth be told, I don’t even believe in magic. I don’t even believe in God.”

Some of the crowd gasped at that, a little. Thomas leaned forward on the rickety wooden chair.

“The truth is that the preachers and holy men who claim to be working miracles of the Lord are con men. They’re crooks and liars, the lot of them. Sometimes, they work with plants in the audience — somebody hobbles up to the stage and the preacher lays on hands and hallelujah! The crippled can walk and the blind can see. That’s all it takes. Just one miracle for the whole lot of you to believe — and once you believe, you’re mine. You’ll come back the next night. You’ll tell your friends. You’ll pay anything. You’ll give me anything.”

Windsor walked around the stage a bit, a pause to let what he was saying sink in.

“Mostly what we do, though — mostly what I’ve done since I was 10 years old, and my uncle first got me involved in his act — mostly what we do is called a ‘cold reading.’ Here, I’ll show you.”

Windsor dropped down off stage, landing with a thump on the grass. He walked down the aisle in the middle of the rows of chairs, looking around at the attendees. All eyes in the tent followed him.

He stopped at a row a few up from where Thomas and Henry sat, and pointed a few seats down from the end.

“You, ma’am. Could you come on out here? Step on out here, if you please.”

The woman, a bit reluctantly, stood up and edged her way out to the aisle. She short, middle-aged, a bit chubby — somebody’s mom. Her hair, with a few streaks of gray, was grabbed up in a loose bun. She wore a business suit, dark, just a tad too small for her. Thomas couldn’t see her face very well. She looked embarrassed, though — embarrassed, but excited, too.

“What’s your name, ma’am?”

There was a murmur over the sound system.

“Speak up, please, ma’am, so everyone can here. Right into the microphone. There.”

“Denise. Ah. Denise Callen.”

“Denise Callen. Where you from, Denise?”

“I’m from here, right here in Dorchester.”

“Right here in Dorchester. So, there must be some other people here who know you. Hey, folks. Anyone here know Denise?”

A handful of people called out. A couple clapped a few times.

“So, Denise, people here know you. Now, you and I, we’ve never met before, have we?”

“No. No, we haven’t.”

“And is this the first time you’ve come to one of my shows?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Yes, it is. So, Denise, this isn’t going to hard at all. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes, and I’m going to make some guesses about who you are and what you do, and you just have to tell me if I’m right or not, OK?”

Denise smiled back at whomever she was seated with.

“OK.”

“OK. So, Denise, tell me — you have a job here in Dorchester, yes?”

“Yeah, I’m a teller at –”

“Don’t. Don’t tell me. Just yes or no, OK?”

“OK.”

“So, you’re a teller. At the bank, I’m guessing.”

Denise didn’t respond.

“You can answer that one, Denise.”

Denise laughed and nodded her head.

“Yes.”

“Yes. Here she is wants to tell me everything and now I can’t pull anything out of her at all.”

The crowd laughed, not loudly, not long.

“So, Denise. You’re a teller at the bank. And when you aren’t working at the bank, you go to church, am I right? You can answer now.”

“Yes.”

“There you go. So, you go to church, and you go to church regularly. You go every Sunday, at least.”

“Well, we try to.”

“You try to. I know it must be hard to get to church every week, though, what with the new baby in the house, isn’t it.”

Denise started to shriek, then covered her mouth with her hand and laughed.

“So, you do have a new baby in the house?”

“Yes, yes, we do.”

“Boy or a girl?”

“A little girl. Her name’s Angela.”

“Angela. That’s pretty. So, tell me, what do your other three kids think of having a new baby sister?”

Again, Denise shrieked and laughed. The audience caught on that this was a tell, and shrieked and laughed a bit, themselves.

“It must be weird for them, being teenagers and all.”

Another shriek, another laugh. The crowd moved about, some trying to get a better look, some mumbling to themselves.

“At least your husband is helping out with this one, am I right?”

Denise looked back down the row, and a man in a work shirt in the chair next to Denise’s waved at her.

“So, am I right so far?”

“You are! You’re right on everything!”

“There you go. Take your seat, Denise. Everybody, give Denise a big round of applause.”

The crowd clapped. There were a few whistles. Henry leaned over to Thomas to whisper in his ear.

“This will be good. Watch this.”

Windsor paced slowly in the aisle, looking down at the trampled grass, waiting for the applause to die down. He looked up and held up his mike, a signal that he was ready to continue.

“So, you all saw that. Some of you know Denise, so you know she wasn’t a plant. There are several different ways I could have known those things about her. I could have happened to have seen her in the bank earlier and overheard her talking about her family. Of course, at the time, I’d have no way of knowing she was going to come to the show tonight. I might have people planted in the audience after all, but their job is listen to you all talking, and tell me over a wireless earpiece what I need to know. That’s one technique. Pretty common.

“This isn’t about any of those techniques, though. This was an example of cold reading. Now, what cold reading is, in case you don’t know, is that I meet someone for the very first time and based entirely on clues I pick up from them, I know things about them.

“Take Denise, here. I picked her at random. There wasn’t anything particularly special about her — sorry, Denise, I know you’re a very special person — but there wasn’t anything about her that was all that different from most any of the rest of you folks. I just picked her at random.

“So, what did I know about her. She worked here in town. I didn’t know she was a teller until she told me, but it’s pretty obvious that she works somewhere here in town, somewhere professional. She’s dressed in her work clothes. I imagine her husband picked her up and they came here right after work, an evening away from the kids.”

Windsor leaned over, looking down the aisle toward Denise’s husband.

“You, pal, really need to reexamine your idea of a romantic evening out.”

Again, the crowd laughed, including Denise and her husband. Even Thomas thought that one was funny.

“Now, so I knew she worked in an office of some sort. I might have figured out she was a teller, maybe not. Then, I guessed that she was a regular church goer. Anybody have any idea how I knew that? Nobody?

“Give me a show of hands, folks. How many of you are good, church-going people? Hold ‘em up.”

A good two-thirds, if not more, of the audience held up their hands.

“This is the sort of show church-going people go to. So, there’s that, plus the little cross Denise wore around her neck. I’ll bet you were that little cross necklace every day, don’t you, Denise.”

Denise nodded and called out yes, but it was hard to hear her over the murmuring of the crowd.

“Now, a lot of people wear crosses. It’s not uncommon. The thing about Denise is that she never touched her necklace. Not once. Now, she was nervous — you all saw that she was nervous. When people are nervous, they tend to touch themselves, adjust their clothing, especially their jewelry — so long as they aren’t used to wearing it. People who wear something long enough, though, forget they have it on.”

Windsor meandered back toward the front of the tent.

“She just had a baby. How could I have known that? Any guesses?”

No one spoke.

“There were two clues to that. Denise’s suit. Now, it’s a nice suit, clean, well kept, and reasonably new — less that two years old, I’m guessing. The thing is, well — I don’t mean to embarrass you here, Denise — it was tad bit tight. Just a tad bit. It was especially tight in the, well….”

Windsor sort of gestured with his hands out in front of him, cupped, as if holding something, or a couple of somethings. The audience snorted and laughed. Denise buried her face in her husband’s shoulder, although she and her husband were both laughing, too.

“There was that. Also, I happened to notice that Denise’s handsome husband over there, he’s got a bit of a stain on his shirt, right here, right on the shoulder. Now, any of you who have raised babies know that that’s where they’ll spit up on you, like as not — especially if you aren’t all that used to taking care of them.”

Denise’s husband nodded his head vigorously as the crowd continued to laugh.

“So, you may be asking yourself now, how did I know about the other kids — teenagers, three of them. For all I know, this baby was their first — a late addition to the family, maybe, but not unheard of. If you were close enough to Denise to see her hands, as I was, then you’d see that she’s wearing a wedding ring. Not just a wedding ring, though. She has on another ring with it, but not an engagement ring. This ring had four small stones, all different types of jewels. Birthstones. One of them, clearly, had just recently been added to the ring. The rest of them had been there quite some time, 10 years at least. They had that look of wear about them, but the fourth stone was new.

“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a cold reading is done.”

The audience broke into applause as Windsor stepped back up to the front, near the stage. He started to go to the side, to the steps leading back up the stage, but he stopped, and looked at a woman sitting in the front row. She was clutching something. Thomas couldn’t see what it was.

“Hi there.”

“H-hello.” It was difficult to hear her speak.

“You’ve been here before.”

She nodded her head.

“You’ve been here for the past three nights.”

Again, she nodded.

“Come on up here. Come on up on the stage.” Windsor moved on toward the steps. When the woman hesitated, he waved her to follow, and the crowd clapped and called out encouragement. She rose, holding her head low, and started to follow, but she came up short. She pulled on the arm of a man sitting next to her. He tried to pull away. The crowd clapped and called out louder. He stood, then, and allowed the woman to drag him up onto the stage.

They were both young, late 20s, probably. She was pretty, with long, dark hair and big eyes. Thomas could see them from his seat. The thing she clutched looked like a stuffed animal, a monkey with a yellow bow on its head. She looked at the crowd. Thomas couldn’t tell if she were smiling or gritting her teeth.

The man was the same age. He wore an old army field jacket over hospital scrubs. A name tag dangled around his neck. His eyes were dark, almost bruised, and he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days, at least. He didn’t look at the crowd. He didn’t look at the woman.

While they made their way up to the stage, Windsor motioned an assistant to pass him up a couple of chairs, which he sat up in the center of the stage. He motioned for the couple to sit. The woman did, still clutching the monkey, her knees together, bouncing. The man stood a moment, looking at the chair without looking at the woman or Windsor or the crowd, then sat down, slumping.

Windsor stood behind the couple. He didn’t gesture, but the crowd grew quiet as if he had. He let the quiet settle in for a moment.

“So. You’ve been here every night so far.”

Again, the woman nodded.

“You must really like the show.”

A nod.

“What’s your name, honey?” He held down the microphone toward her.

“M-michelle.”

“Michelle. How are you, Michelle?”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re fine. That’s good. And you, sir? What’s your name?”

Windsor pointed the mike at the man, who looked at it as if someone were trying to hand him a dead lizard. The woman looked at him, nodding, almost smiling.

“David.” His voice was deep and gravelly. Thomas imagined it smelled of stale coffee and vodka. Windsor turned back to Michelle.

“So, Michelle. You’ve been here for three nights now. And you managed to get your husband to come tonight. He is your husband?”

“Yes.”

“Yes. So you’ve seen the show. You know what it is that I do, right?”

“Yes.”

“I talk to be people and guess things about them and fool them into thinking I know things about them. Right?”

“Sure. Sure.”

“I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for, though. I think you’re looking for something else. True?”

Michelle nodded, and clutched the stuffed monkey tighter. Windsor stepped beside her, and put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“How long ago did you lose your daughter, Michelle?”

Michelle’s hand shot over her mouth, and her eyes clenched. David shuffled in his seat, looking away. The audience held it’s collective breath.

Michelle shook, her hand still covering her mouth. Windsor waited, his hand still on her shoulder.

“It’s all right, Michelle. You can talk to me. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

Her eyes opened, and her hand moved away from her mouth, just a bit.

“Nine months.” Thomas could barely hear her, even over the sound system.

“Nine months. What was your daughter’s name?”

“Sa-Savannah.”

“Savannah. That’s a beautiful name. And how old was she when passed?”

“Almost…. She was almost five.”

There were a few gasps and moans from the crowd. One woman a few rows in front of Thomas put her arm around a young boy next to her and hugged him.

“Almost five. I’m so sorry for your loss, Michelle. Savannah was terribly sick, wasn’t she?”

Michelle nodded. David tried to sink further down into his chair.

“Leukemia. She had leukemia.”

“Leukemia. That’s awful, Michelle. Just horrible. So terrible to loose a child, especially to such a horrible disease.”

Windsor knelt down next to Michelle, his hand still on her shoulder.

“So. Tell us about Savannah. What was she like?”

“Oh, she was wonderful.” Michelle’s eyes lit up, and her voice rose for the first time. “She was a wonderful little girl.”

“She liked to play?”

“Oh, my, yes. She would run around the house, out in the yard. She loved to chase the dog. We have a collie — his name is Max — and she loved to chase him in the backyard, and he’d chase her, and she would just laugh and laugh.”

“A sweet girl.”

“She would laugh and smile and it was just like sunshine. Just like it.”

“And then she got sick.”

Michelle’s eyes closed again, and her smile dropped away.

“How long was Savannah ill? Before she passed?”

“About… about a year.”

“A year. Tell us a bit about that year.”

Michelle looked unsure. She hugged the stuffed monkey tighter.

“It’s all right Michelle. You can tell us. I know it’s hard, but tell us a bit about what it was like for you, and for Savannah.”

Michelle looked over at David. David didn’t look back. She hesitated a moment, her lip trembling enough Thomas could see it from near the back of the tent. Windsor waved the microphone toward her softly.

“At first, once we knew… knew that Savannah was sick. Once we knew what it was. We took her into the hospital every few days for treatment and tests. They had to draw blood. A lot of blood.”

“I’ll bet Savannah didn’t like the needles.”

“No. No, she didn’t like the needles. She was brave, though. She’d cry and cry, but she’d hold out her arm and let them take the blood. She knew they didn’t mean to hurt her. She knew they were trying to help her.”

“Because Daddy was a doctor, and Daddy helped people?”

David shuffled in his chair. Thomas thought, for just a moment, that he was going to come out of it, come out of it right toward Windsor. He stayed seated, though.

“Yes. She knew David helped people, so it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. She knew her daddy loved her.”

“I imagine there were good days and bad days.”

“Oh, yes. Absolutely. Sometimes, she’d run around and play, and it would be as if there wasn’t anything wrong. She’d be….”

“Normal.”

“Yes. She’d be normal.”

“And some days….”

“And some days — the bad days — she’d not want to get out of bed. She’d cry, sometimes. Sometimes, she’d get mad, and throw a tantrum. The worst…. One of the worst days, one of the very worst days, we were at home, and I was giving her a bath. She’d been sick all that day. She couldn’t keep anything down. I was giving her a bath. I hoped that would help her feel better. And… and….”

“It’s OK, Michelle.”

“And… I was washing her hair — she had such pretty hair. I was washing her hair, and… and it started to come out in my hands.”

There was a collective gasp from the audience.

“It was so horrible. Savannah started to scream when she saw it. I mean, the doctors had talked to us about this. We all knew what was going to happen. But Savannah — she was just too young. She didn’t really understand.”

“What did you do, Michelle?”

“What could I do? I couldn’t do anything. I just held her. I just got her into bed and I held her while she cried until she cried herself to sleep.”

“Now, then, Michelle, I have to ask you. I’m sorry, but I have to ask. At what point did you know?”

“Know?”

“At what point did you know that… that there wasn’t any hope? That Savannah was going to….”

Michelle breathed in, a big, shuddery breath. She let it out slowly. Everyone could hear how shaky her breathing was over the sound system.

“Toward the end…. Toward the end, Savannah was sick enough that she had to stay in the hospital. She was in the children’s ward, and there were a bunch of other kids there. When she was feeling up to it, Savannah liked to play with them. They had a playroom with all sorts of games and toys and coloring books. The kids would play, and laugh, sometimes, but mostly, it was pretty quiet.

“We’d… we’d just had a meeting with her oncologist, the head of the team. She told us — she told David and me — she told us that they’d done pretty much everything they could. She told us that… that it was just a matter of time.”

Michelle held up the stuffed monkey, and smiled at it, although her eyes seemed elsewhere.

“She called this Snu-Snu. I have no idea why. But she loved this toy. She carried it with her everywhere. And she slept with it — couldn’t get to sleep without it.

“I was sitting with her. David and I took shifts — I’d get some rest and David would sit with her, then David would get some rest and I’d watch her. I was sitting with her. We’d just talked with her doctor. I was…. I wasn’t taking it very well, I know. It was hard, but I tried to keep it to myself. I didn’t want Savannah to know….”

There was a tremor in Michelle’s voice. An assistant brought Windsor a box of tissue, which he handed to Michelle. She took a tissue, wiped her eyes and her nose.

“I thought she was asleep, but I looked up, and her eyes were open. She was just looking at me. I don’t know why, but she just sat up in the bed then, and she held out this toy, and she said, ‘Here, Mommy. Snu-Snu will make it all better.’

“I just hugged her then. I hugged her so tight. And she hugged me back. And she said to me…. she said, ‘I love you big, Mommy. I love you big.’”

Other than a few strangled sobs and sniffles, the audience remained quiet. Windsor looked as if he were choking up a bit himself. The only person in the tent who looked unaffected, Thomas thought, was David. Waiting just long enough, not too long, Windsor stood and stepped toward him.

David didn’t acknowledge Windsor was there. For a second, Windsor looked down at him, but then turned back to Michelle.

“Why have you come here tonight, Michelle? What would you like to see happen?”

Michelle took a deep breath, let it out slowly. She clutched the stuffed monkey.

“My aunt saw you — years and years ago, she saw you. She said…. she said you talked to a woman’s husband. He was gone — he’d been gone a while, but you talked to him. And my aunt said that it gave the woman so much comfort. She could see it in her eyes. So much comfort.”

Windsor let his hand holding the mike go down to his side. He looked at Michelle a moment, looked out over the crowd a bit, then brought it back up.

“I’m sorry, Michelle. I don’t do that sort of thing anymore. I never did, really. It was just a show. An act. I told you.”

“Yes. Yes, I know. That’s what you said. And I know it isn’t real. I know it’s fake. But the comfort — that woman’s comfort was real. Aunt Elaine was sure of that. That part was real.”

Windsor held the mike in front of his face. Everyone could hear him breathing over the sound system. For a moment, Thomas thought that the man genuinely didn’t know what to say next.

“Michelle. I…”

“He can’t help you, Michelle.”

The crowd drew in a collective breath. David spoke. His voice was was drawn, tired, propelled by force of will and pure anger. He still didn’t look at his wife.

“I don’t need him to help me, David. I need him to help you.”

For the first time, David looked over at Michelle. He looked as shocked as everyone else in the tent. Shocked, confused, angry. Still so angry. Before he could say anything else, though, Michelle continued.

“Savannah…. I love her so. I will always love her so. I will always miss her. There will always be a hole in me. That will never, ever close. It won’t. But… Savannah is gone. She’s gone. I miss her so. But she’s gone. We’re still here, you and me. We’re still here, and we have to find a way to keep going, keep moving forward. We have to find a way to get on with our lives.”

“I am. I’m moving on.”

“You’re not, David. You’re not. You’re trapped. You’re so trapped you can’t breathe. All you do is work. All you do is work until you collapse from exhaustion. All you’re doing is running in place.”

David looked as if he were going to say something, but Windsor moving the mike toward him caught his eye. He looked up at Windsor, and his jaw clenched. He crossed his arms and looked down.

“She’s right, you know, David. That’s the way of it. We suffer a loss. We grieve. We never get over it, maybe, but we learn to live with it. We learn how to live with it.”

David lifted his eyes to Windsor. To Thomas, they looked as if they could cut glass.

“Have you ever lost a child, Mr. Windsor?”

“No. Fortunately, I can say, no, I haven’t. Look, I’m not going to pretend that I know what you’re going through.”

“Have you ever had a sick child in the hospital with a morphine drip running to a PICC line in her chest so she can get a shot of morphine every 10 minutes to help with the pain?”

“No. No, I can’t imagine.”

“No. You can’t possibly imagine. So maybe you can just shut. The. FUCK. UP!”

David jumped to his feet so fast, so hard, that Windsor took a step back, and everyone in the tent pushed away. David’s fists clenched nearly as hard as his face. He dropped off the stage and marched down the aisle toward the exit.

“What did she say to you, David?”

David drew up, nearly to the exit, right next to the row where Thomas and Henry sat. On his face was a struggle.

He turned back toward Windsor on the stage.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we all heard your wife’s story. We heard that, toward the end, you took shifts sitting with Savannah, so she’d never be alone. Michelle told us what Savannah said to her. She told Michelle how much she loved her.

“So. What was it that Savannah said to you?”

David breathed hard. He stepped back toward the stage, holding himself back from running up and slamming his quivering fists into Windsor’s face.

“You’re a fraud. You’re a fake. You’re a fucking con man! You don’t know anything! You don’t know shit!”

Windsor nodded. He stepped to the edge of the stage and dropped off, landing on the trampled grass with a bend in his knees. He stepped down the aisle.

“True enough. That’s true enough. Here’s what I think, though.

“You sat with Savannah. You held her hand. I imagine you smiled at her and told her silly stories and tried to make her laugh. I imagine that she told you that she loved you, too, and you told her that you loved her. That isn’t what she really said to you, though, is it? What she said to you that really mattered?”

David stood, breathing hard. Silent.

“You remember what Savannah said to Michelle, right? She said, ‘Mommy, I love you big. Mommy, I love you big.’ But she said something different to you, didn’t she, David? What did she say?”

David’s lips moved. Thomas thought he might say something, but he just clenched his jaw harder.

Windsor walked down the aisle as he talked, until he was almost next to David. He waited a moment to give David a chance to speak, but he simply glared at Windsor.

Windsor held the microphone up and spoke.

“‘Daddy, it hurts so bad.’”

Most of the others in the tent probably didn’t hear it because of the gasp that ran through the audience, but Thomas was close enough to hear the air burst from David’s mouth as if Windsor had just punched him, and to see the stricken expression.

“That must have been the worst — the worst possible thing you could have heard just then. I mean, knowing what you knew. Knowing that there wasn’t any hope any longer. Knowing that Savannah didn’t have much longer. Knowing that she was in horrible, agonizing, sickening pain.”

“Stop.” David held out a shaking hand.

“She had one of those morphine machines, you said. They have a little button you can press every 10 minutes or so to get a shot of medicine, so patients can treat their pain as they need, but they can’t overdose on it. It’s regulated. A little bit of pain relief — but only so often. Any more would be dangerous. Isn’t that the way it works, doctor?”

“Stop.” The shaking in David’s hand had spread throughout his entire body. Michelle walked down the aisle behind Windsor, her eyes wide and her mouth slack.

“The machines are locked, though, aren’t they? So the patients can’t fiddle with the settings? But you were a doctor in the hospital. You either had your own key, or you could get one easily enough.”

“Stop.” Michelle spoke as David collapsed down to his knees. Windsor ignored her.

“It was easy enough to do. Just change the settings on the machine. Maybe not even that much. Maybe just upping the dose to something that wouldn’t have even fazed an adult. For a sick little girl, though, not even five years old –”

“Stop!” Michelle grabbed Windsor and yanked on his arm. He grabbed her hands and held them while his assistants ran up and took her arms. He never turned away from David.

“And then, what? You sat by her bed, and held her hand. You thought about sending for Michelle, so she could say goodbye, but you knew you couldn’t. You had to turn the settings back, maybe get the key back in place. So you sat by Savannah, and held her hand as she closed her eyes. Closed her eyes and went to sleep.”

Michelle screamed and jerked against the assistants who held her. They held her firmly. David stayed on his knees, collapsing further, staring at nothing.

“There’s grief.” It was hard to hear Windsor, now, over the murmuring and gasps of the audience, even though Thomas was right there. “There’s grief, and that’s bad. Then there’s the only thing worse than grief, that’s harder to move on from, and that’s guilt. The only thing worse.”

For a moment, no one in the tent moved. Even with all the clamor, everything felt frozen and still.

Henry rose. His badge was still on his belt. Thomas saw it as Henry reached behind his back to pull out his handcuffs.

“Don’t.”

“I have to.”

“It was a mercy.”

“It was still murder.”

“This isn’t even your jurisdiction.”

“I don’t. Care.”

Henry stepped forward, and Thomas sat back in his rickety wooden chair.

Windsor dropped his microphone, turned up the aisle and walked away.

 

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