The Seer

The place is a zoo, I thought, a little disturbed, as more and more people packed themselves into Casey’s Irish Pub. A Karaoke DJ was going full swing in the corner, and what seemed like hundreds of milling bodies pushed and gyrated on the dance floor. Beer flowed endlessly from the taps as several pretty young waitresses rushed beverage after beverage to their customers.

I took a sip from my mug, my eyes never leaving the door of the bar, watching the people enter. I had been sitting at the corner of the counter since two o’clock this afternoon, talking and drinking with William Casey, the owner. He had long since gone home, and now his two daughters and son were running the show. Bill Junior is running the counter right now, and his sisters are frantically mixing drinks and attempting to keep running conversations with different patrons.

I took a last gulp from the glass and looked at my watch. Already midnight. I nodded at Bill after I caught his eye and he passed another mug in my direction.

And then he walked in. I blinked my eyes, surprised to see such a well dressed individual in this place, a simple back woods bar whose owners would never get rich. A place for country kids. Yet here was a man dressed in what was probably a several thousand dollar made to fit suit, cutting through the crowd like they weren’t even there. He made his way to the bar, and Denice Casey looked over and smiled. She quickly wiped her hands off with a dish towel, took his order, and gave him a bottle of St. Paulie Girl.

The guy smiled at her, handed her a bill, and stepped away. His dark eyes swept across the bar, settled on me, then looked away at the people in the crowd. A moment later, still sensing my interest, he looked back again and began to move my way. As he drew closer, I noticed the thick cane that he walked with, though he couldn’t have been more than thirty years old. He had a nasty limp; his left foot dragged noticeably. And with a grunt of pain, he heaved himself onto the stool next to mine. His piercing blue eyes studied me for a moment and then he smiled and held out a hand. “Francis Dunbar, at your service,” he said in a thick accent that I thought for a moment might be Czech, or perhaps Belarus.

“John Miller, yours.” He squeezed my hand firmly, although not too hard. But I sensed a grip that might be able to break bones, if he so desired. “Just move into the area?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No. Just passing through.” He looked across the bar at several young girls, surely no older than twenty two, and nodded politely with a smile. One of them, a blonde with gorgeous legs, smiled and whispered into the ear of the other one and giggled.

I shifted uncomfortably. Talking with people I didn’t know was not one of the things I’m good at. “Do you live around here?”

He gave me a strange look. “No. Just on…business. I’m here to settle an account.” He must have found this amusing, for he smiled to himself. I looked up from my beer and studied the two girls a bit more closely. The blonde was still watching Dunbar and giggling to the other one, who seemed, to be honest, a bit more interested in yours truly. She smiled shyly when she saw me watching her and looked away.

“She seems interested in you, Mr. Miller.” Dunbar gestured to Bill Casey, who came over. “Send her a drink,” he urged me.

Not a bad idea. “Give the brunette over there with the blonde one of whatever she’s drinking,” I said. “Put it on my tab. And give me another.”

“And one for the blonde, Jessica,” said Dunbar. He dropped a hundred dollar bill on the counter.

Bill gave me a surprised look. I shrugged. He picked up the bill, held it up into the light briefly, checking its authenticity, then smiled. “Yes, Sir.”

Bill brought two beers over to the girls and gestured over at us. The brunette smiled at me and took a sip from hers. The blonde smiled a too-sweet smile at Dunbar and took a gulp. Dunbar nodded in return. I found that I couldn’t look away from the brunette.

“Mr. Miller, how would you like to have that fine girl tonight?” asked Dunbar, and I grinned. “I wouldn’t object to anything but what you called me, Sir. Call me John or Johnny, not Mr. Miller. And that blonde does seem quite taken by you, as well.”

Dunbar chuckled. “Does she now, or is she just playing a game? I think Jessica’s morals and personality may be as garish as her looks are whorish. Look closer at her, John. Look at her makeup, her eyeshadow, her lipstick. Look at her hair, the way it is done up. She may be blonde, John, but I wager what I’m worth that she’s not natural. Look at the way she comports herself and giggles to her friend behind her cupped hand. The way she’s looking over here at us, at me. And watch what she does now.”

I looked at Francis Dunbar for a moment, but he seemed intensely interested in what was happening over there. And so I watched also.

The blonde, Jessica, was laughing out loud at some witticism that she had just made. The other was looking at her drink, embarrassed. She wouldn’t meet my eyes. For a moment, I was thankful that I couldn’t hear Jessica over the music and chatter, but I still somehow sensed who she was discussing when the guy next to her gave her an disgusted look and then glanced at Dunbar and myself. Jessica drained the rest of her beer, and Dunbar gestured for another to be sent.

“Why are you giving her more?” I asked. “She’s a tramp!”

“She is,” agreed Dunbar. “But tonight, she’s my tramp. Now watch, see how she acts, and what her friend, Beth, does. Indeed, John, I think that by far you have made the better catch of the evening if you take her!”

And so I watched.

“Look at Beth, John. Her nature is so sweet, so meek. She’s totally plain, no makeup, nothing done to her hair. It hangs as natural as the rest of her, falling innocent and straight over her shoulders. Her shirt is baggy enough so you wonder at those sweet breasts that they cover! While her friend has made herself to look like a cheap jewel, Beth is a natural diamond.”

Jessica took her beer without a look in our direction and took a large swallow. She gestured our way and began chattering at Beth again, who looked at her and smiled.

“Yet she does not mean it!” said Dunbar. “See how she looks away again quickly? See how embarrassed she is? She is feeling…” he paused, eyes narrowed tightly, searching. “She feels sorry for her friend. She thinks Jessica is really good inside, that what she says is just the occasional bad side of how she acts. She puts up with her out of shame and sorrow. She understands what she went through as a child,” said Dunbar softly.

I stared at him, aghast. “How do you know these things!” I demanded. “What, are you reading their fucking minds?”

He flashed me a look of amusement. “Read their minds?” he said, voice trembling. “No! That is quite impossible.” He relaxed and tipped his bottle back. “But it is a just thought,” he said, considering. “I understand where you get the idea from. Tell me, after your last book you published, do you intend to write more?”

“You recognize my name?” I asked, surprised and gracious.

He gave a low laugh. “Sure, I recognized your name,” he said. “Now answer the question, please.”

“I’m working on a little something now. Whether or not it will turn into a larger effort, I don’t know.”

“And your characters, where do they come from?”

“I randomly pick the names from a phone book,” I said, even though I knew that I didn’t really answer the question that he was asking. Then why did you give that answer? The thought seemed to jump into my mind from nowhere, but still I considered it. “I suppose I get my characters from watching the people around me. I watch to see how they act and I wonder what they must be like inside. I wonder what makes them act the way they do. I suppose I make inferences on what they must be like at home and with their friends. That is how I get my characters. Some of them, anyway.”

“And you infer from watching people what they must be like. I watch people and simply know what they are like. How they behave at home and around their friends. I look beneath the mask they put on for the public and I see what I see.” He shrugged. “I can tell almost everything about a person just by watching them. I don’t have to read their thoughts.”

But I can inject my thoughts and influence their minds!

I jumped. “Jesus Christ!” I whispered. “Oh my Jesus, please, I think, I think I need to go home now, it’s getting late…”

“Sit down, John,” said Dunbar calmly. “Drink your beer before it gets warm.”

And I felt something touch my mind. Against my will and with a wave of fear washing over me, I sat and closed my hand around the mug’s glass handle. A bit unsteadily, I took a large gulp. And then the peculiar sensation was gone.

“Feeling better? I’m sorry, John just a demonstration of what I am talking about. And please relax, I won’t hurt you. That’s not what I’m here for tonight.”

“But how?” I asked. Fear was being replaced by awe. I found that though I was still a bit frightened of Dunbar, I did trust him. I believed him when he said that he wouldn’t harm me, though I was sure that he could kill me if he so desired.

“Something I’ve always been able to do,” he said. “I’ve managed to hone it down over the years to perfection.” He grimaced and tapped his leg. “God knows I’ve had the time to work on it.”

“Were you in an accident?”

“No. Polio, many years ago…”

I paused, thinking, carefully choosing my words before I spoke. “I thought they…cured polio?”

“They did…finally. It still hurts bad sometimes, but it’s liveable. And it beats a wheelchair any day,” he said, smiling. “But all that aside, how are the young ladies doing? Ah, but look at Jessica, sweet little Jessica!”

I was astonished and disgusted to see her mimicking my companion’s limp, only in a much more grotesque manner than I would have believed. She dragged her foot behind herself as she returned to the barstool in a manner that reminded me of a bad actor in a bad horror movie. She collapsed on her bar stool, howling in drunken laughter. Her friend, Beth, looked aghast and then looked at us. I’m so sorry, she mouthed carefully at Dunbar, who merely shrugged his shoulders and turned back to me.

“It’s sad, isn’t it? I mean, look at her. Cheap gaudy clothes. Cheap gaudy personality. Did you know that she was abused as a child, John?” He paused and gave the still giggling blonde a consoling smile. Her laughter abruptly stopped and she looked away. “Her father, I think. Maybe her grandfather. It happened after her mother died. Since then, she’s jumped from bad relationship to bad relationship, fucking anything with a dick that will demean himself to crawl onto the cheap foam rubber mattress in her rundown white trash trailer in the park down the road. She’ll rut like a pig anytime she can, John. She’d fuck me if I so desired, and if you want to know the truth, I think she wants to fuck you.”

I shuddered, but didn’t take my eyes from her. Beth got up and headed for the lady’s room. Jessica turned to the man next to her and cut in on his conversation. I saw the pretty young blonde that the guy was with turn red at something she said, and Jessica was laughing again.

“She’s drunk,” I said.

“Not really. A bit buzzed, but the last one I sent her was only her third one. She’s playing the alcohol as an excuse for her actions.” Francis raised his hand and tapped his bottle. Bill brought us both over two more beers. “Thank you, Mr. Casey.”

“Thanks, Bill,” I said.

“No problem, Johnny,” said Bill. To Dunbar, he added, “Please, Sir. Call me Bill.”

“As you wish,” answered Dunbar with a grim smile.

Bill hurried off to more patrons, and Dunbar smiled. “Sincere man. Very nice. Did you know that he’s gay?”

I was shocked. “Bullshit! I’ve seen his girlfriend!”

“She probably doesn’t know either. But he’s definitely a homosexual. After work tonight, he’s heading down to the city to buy a male prostitute for a few hours.”

I watched Bill for a moment, thunderstruck by the revelation that Francis Dunbar had dropped on my head. He caught my eye and grinned, then dropped a sly wink before he turned back to the young couple that he was chatting with. But the more I watched, the more it seemed to me that it was the guy he was talking to, and he was doing his best to tune out the young lady that he was sitting with. I looked down in shock and shook my head. “I had no idea…”

“Why would you have?” asked Francis Dunbar. “You never opened your eyes!”

“But I thought I did! I thought I saw people! And now you’re telling me these– these things? I’m blind!”

“No, John, you’re not blind. You simply see the mask and invent the character around the mask that the person shows you. Don’t get me wrong,” he said, holding up a hand to silence me before I interrupted, “You write good. You use good characters. The traits that your characters possess and portray are honest and believable, but you must remember the inner traits that they also possess! That is your failing, and also why you will never make it as a writer.”

“Fuck you, you bastard!” I shouted, and several people turned in our direction and stared at me. I had risen from my seat. the beer gripped in my hand like a club. “You listen to me, you son of a bitch, I’m a damn good writer. I’m a success and I put food on my table and I’ve got a roof over my head. And you call me a failure? I think you ought to…”

“John, sit down and shut your mouth,” he said. I felt that strange grip on my mind once again as I closed my mouth and planted my rear on my stool.

“You will not move from that stool until I tell you otherwise. Nor will you open your mouth to speak. Now drink your fucking beer and listen to what I have to say!” He waited until I raised my mug and drank, my eyes once again fixed on Beth at the other side of the bar. She watched me with a concerned expression. She hadn’t missed the little spectacle a moment ago. I smiled to tell her that everything was fine, and she relaxed. Jessica gave me a snide look, though, along with a smirk that seemed to say fuck me, if you can. I ignored her, concentrated on Beth.

“She is quite the little fox, isn’t she?” said Dunbar.

I nodded, still unwilling (or unable?) to speak to him. I didn’t care what the bastard said, I was still positive that he was reading my mind as easily as I could drive a car.

He gave that low chuckle that was starting to crawl on my spine. “You are a good writer, John. Forgive me for inferring that you weren’t. You are a good writer in that you are a good story teller. I happen to know that you will be very wealthy some day. But you still have much to learn about people. That is your failing. The bloodsuckers that want nothing more than your money that they know you will make. For instance, the contract that your agent offered you today. The one that made you come here to drink and celebrate. The one that forces you to legally remain under his control for the next five novels and gives him a much higher percentage than he deserves of any royalties fall your way. Your first book is a winner, John. It will shortly be on the New York Times bestseller list. So will all the rest of your books. But if you sign that contract, you will be giving away better than thirty million dollars over the next ten years.”

I sagged down in my bar stool and stared at my beer. Of course I knew that the contract was extremely stiff, I had sensed that when I read it. But it was also the only contract offered, and I thought that I had to have one with a publishing house.

“Of course you don’t need one,” said Dunbar.

“Why should you?”

Why indeed?

“A man who throws money away is not a true man, but a slave to those around him. As I said, you need to learn more about people, John. If you do not, then you will screw yourself out of a talent that is growing and maturing.” Dunbar drained his bottle and gestured for another. “And one for the ladies, if you will please. And why not tell them that we request their presence as well, Bill?”

“No problem, Sir.” Bill moved over to the other side of the bar and leaned over the counter to talk to Jessica and Beth. Jessica leaned around him and looked our way, a knowing smile on her face. Bill straightened up and grinned at us as the two girls moved through the swelling crowd in our direction.

“Look at them, John,” said Dunbar. “Watch Jessica move. She flaunts herself like any cheap street whore. She leaves nothing to the imagination. Look at her skirt, my friend. Barely goes halfway down her thighs. And you know what, John? I don’t think she’s wearing underwear tonight!”

I looked and smiled. Black leather rubbing on smooth tanned skin. At that moment, I knew she worked at a tanning salon, and would probably continue to do similar jobs for the rest of her life. I saw how she moved through the crowd of strangers, rubbing her breasts “accidentally” on good looking guys and often pausing to talk for a few seconds. She laughed too loudly and too often, in many cases making the people she stopped to talk to turn away from her.

And Beth was quite the opposite. She talked to no one, and tried her best to avoid contact with those around her. And her eyes never left my face. She was dressed in a baggy shirt and jeans that I knew concealed a gorgeous body. My heart started beating faster.

Jessica sidled by me with a condescending look and immediately fell into Dunbar’s open arms. He embraced her and squeezed her tight bottom as Beth sat herself on the barstool next to mine. I smiled and said hello. She looked up and gave me one of her shy smiles that I loved. “I think I recognize you,” she said. “You wrote The Seer, didn’t you?”

I was surprised. “You read it?”

“I loved it. I’ve read it twice. I recognized your picture on the jacket, Mr. Miller.”

“John. I hate Mr. Miller.”

She smiled warmly. “Okay, John. My name’s…”

“Beth,” I said, smiling. “Right?”

“How’d you know?” She gave me a funny look. “Were you asking about me or something?”

“No. Francis here told me your name.”

Dunbar looked across at her and grinned. “That I did, dear. And don’t ask me how I guessed, either. Just lucky, I suppose!”

I laughed, and so did Beth. That seemed to break the tension like a hammer. “You want to dance?”

“I’d love to,” she said, and I stood up. She slipped her hand into mine and we both headed for the dance floor.

“I’ve got to warn you, I’m not a good dancer,” I shouted in her ear over the loud din of drunken karaoke Aerosmith.

“Neither am I!” she yelled back.

And it didn’t matter. The singing was just as bad as our dancing, if not worse. Besides, I had been drinking all day and the alcohol loosened me up. Beth lied, as I knew she had. Her dancing wasn’t just good, it was terrific. Dunbar and Jessica stayed at the counter, and to me it looked like she was dancing in his lap. She was gyrating wildly back and forth, and he seemed quite caught up in her rhythm. Dunbar caught my eye and gave me a wicked grin as he squeezed her firm bottom once more. I looked away quickly, disgusted by what it was I thought I was seeing.

“I think your friend is giving Francis a run for his money!” I said to Beth, who made a face.

“She’s not really my friend anymore,” she said. “I don’t know why I came here tonight with her, and I was getting ready to leave because of the way she was acting. Like now,” she said, making a face as she stared at Jessica and Dunbar grinding at the bar. “I was going to leave until I saw you, anyway. And I was thrilled to see that you noticed me and seemed interested in me.”

“And I’m glad you stayed.” I kissed her softly on the mouth, and she locked her arms around my head and returned it with a passion that I wouldn’t have believed existed an hour or so before.

We danced until two in the morning, and then we returned to our place at the counter. Both of us were exhausted. Francis was whispering some bit of nonsense in his girl’s ear, and I found that I couldn’t care less what he was saying to her.

But apparently Jessica did. She slid out of his lap and looked at him red faced. And with a blur of her hand, she slapped him across the face. “Come on,” she ordered Beth as she flounced towards the door. “We’re leaving.”

“So go,” said Beth. “I’m staying here with John.”

“He’s a geek. Let’s go!”

But Beth turned back to me and ignored her. “She gets like that sometimes,” she said. “She’s stupid.” She looked over at Dunbar, who was watching Jessica with an amused look on his face. The red marks from her fingers were already fading away. “Are you alright, Francis?” she asked, and he smiled.

“Of course, dear. She just showed a mild display of temperament, really.” He watched her as she gathered up her jacket on the other side of the bar. “Really, Beth, I think she’s gonna come back after all.”

And as Jessica stalked over to the exit, I saw that he was right. She abruptly stopped, her hand on the door, and looked back over her shoulder at us. From the red glow of the EXIT sign, I could see tears streaking her face and makeup. She turned, jerkily, as though she was trying not to, and started taking short, awkward steps back to us. Steps that appeared to be unwilling. And the more I watched, the more I knew that this was the case. It was Dunbar, controlling her as he had briefly controlled me, forcing her back to us. As she rounded the bar, she lost the jerky wind-up doll walk and began to take what appeared to be normal strides.

“Jesus,” I whispered, watching. I could feel Beth’s hand tightening on mine, and I could sense her confusion.

“I’ve never seen her like this,” she murmured to me. “Jessica, are you alright?”

But Jessica ignored us both. She brushed by Beth and stepped right into Francis’ arms for the second time. She pressed her lips against his, and for a moment it looked to me like Dunbar was going to eat her. But then he released her, bent close to her ear, and whispered something to her. Jessica nodded, fell to her knees, and fumbled with his zipper. A moment later and I was looking away in disgust and horror as she took him in her mouth.

“Look at me John,” said Dunbar. I felt my head turn. “This is what I was telling you about people,” he said as Beth watched Jessica in shock. Bill was watching open-mouthed, and not a few others were looking away, either. “Weak-minded people will do whatever you ask of them. Whatever you order them to do.” He paused, grimaced, and looked down at the tangle of blonde hair in his lap. “Swallow it, dear. Make sure you get every drop so I don’t spill in my pants. God knows this suit is worth more than your cheap little soul,” he added dryly. I winced.

And she did. She zipped him back up and licked her lips, but I could see the abject terror in her eyes. Dunbar narrowed his eyes for a split second, and she looked at him and smiled a horrible smile. “Th-Thank you,” she said, “I hope I did good.”

“You did very good, Jessica. And you’re welcome.” He looked up at me. You want some, John?

“No, I don’t think so. I do not think so.”

But Jessica was already feeling for my zipper. “Let go of her, Francis,” I said. “Can’t you see you’re hurting her?”

Dunbar grinned. “I’m not touching her, John. See?” He wagged his hands back and forth in the air and laughed.

I grabbed her by the hair, pulled her head away from my crotch, and pushed her back into his arms. “Let her go, Francis, now!”

“Alright, John, alright. Sit down, kitten. No, here, in my lap.”

Beth was cringing against the counter, tears rolling down her cheek. Now, she stepped forward and slapped Jessica, hard. “I hate you!” she cried out, and I took her arm. She fell against me, head buried in my shoulder, sobbing. Jessica merely watched, not moving a muscle.

“Hey Beth, it’s okay, it’s over now,” I whispered, and I stroked her hair. I glared at Dunbar who looked back, calmly rubbing Jessica’s head..

“Did you know that Jessica has three kids? Two little girls and a little boy. She’s not sure who the fathers are,” he said matter-of-factly.

I shook my head. “I don’t care!”

“She abuses them regularly, John. You see, she blames them for her life. She thinks it’s their fault for her crummy little trailer, her lousy job, her station in life. Yet she refused to abort them because she remembers her mother, who raised her in the Baptist church before she died.” He paused, stroking her cheek. I hugged Beth tighter to me and tried to cover her ears so that she couldn’t hear the awful truths that Dunbar was spewing into the air. “I think that it is her father that she remembers when she beats the children, though,” he said. “Is that it, Jessica?” He wiped away a tear that rolled down her cheek as she stared at an empty beer mug on the counter. Her expression did not change as several more tears spilled. “Do you want more beer, Jessica? Of course you do.” He snapped his fingers and Bill was there with four more fresh mugs of beer. “Drink,” he said. Jessica mechanically took hers and drained it in a single swallow, her throat working overtime as it convulsively swallowed. Amber fluid spilled over her lips as she dropped the mug back on the counter and gagged.

Francis held up his mug. “Cheers,” he said, taking a leisurely sip. “Thirsty? You or yours?”

I shook my head. Beth sobbed.

“Finish the other two, dear,” he told Jessica, and she quickly did in the same manner. He took another drink and used a silk handkerchief to wipe away Jessica’s tears. “Stop crying now,” he told her, and she did. He carefully folded the handkerchief and tucked it back in his pocket. Her blank gaze dropped back to one of the empty mugs and she continued staring at it.

I was horrified, but a grim fascination held me in place. “Will she remember this later?”

“Oh, yes, I imagine so. Don’t you remember it when I held you for a few moments?” Dunbar asked. He sighed as he studied the back of her head. “John, I pity this poor creature. I can’t help but feel sorry for her. It’s not normal that I would feel this way for someone as unprincipled as my little Jessica. But I understand her desire for a life, someone to take care of her and feed her and her children so that she wouldn’t have to work. Did you know that she once told her children that she would kill them if she found a man who loved her but didn’t want kids? She told them that she would burn their little bodies after she cut their throats. That’s no life to lead, John,” he said, shaking his head sadly. He brushed his long blonde hair back over his shoulder. “I feel sorry for the people around her. The ugly girl who runs the counter where she works at, who feels her blemishes every time Jessica points them out to her. This poor, sad looking girl who has often contemplated suicide, even though she has a devoted boyfriend who loves her with all her heart. All the people that Jessica has lashed out at, including your Beth, who have been made to feel so inferior because of her lack of self-esteem. Her need for making others feel ugly as she was made to feel ugly. It’s not your fault, is it Jessica?”

Jessica shook her head, and I knew that he had released her. I don’t know how, but I did. Her movements were once again…natural. Francis snapped his fingers and another beer was placed on the counter by Bill. Francis looked up at him and grinned. “Going for a fine young buck tonight, eh?”

Bill’s smile faltered and he backed away to where his friends were.

“Jessica, pick up your beer and take it to that empty table in the corner. Drink it and then do what you have always wanted. I think you’ve had enough, don’t you? It’s time, now.”

She slowly nodded her head as she once again started crying. She stood uncertainly for a second or two, then picked up the beer and moved unsteadily through the few people who remained in the bar. She took her seat at the table with her back to us and began to drink, her back and shoulders shaking with fierce sobs of agonized misery.

“Will she be okay?” I asked. My hands were shaking.

Beth looked up at Francis and rubbed her eyes. “How could you possibly know any of those things?”

But Francis only smiled at us. “John, have you learned anything tonight?”

I nodded. I had.

“Good. Take care of Beth. You two will be good for each other. And John, her father owns a small publishing house in town. And she’s an English major. And,” he said with a smile, I think that you both already love each other.”

We both smiled and looked into each other’s eyes. We kissed as he stood up and took his cane in hand. “Keep the rest of the hundred, Bill. And dump your girlfriend. She’ll be happier and so will you.”

Bill nodded, pale. “Yes, Sir.”

To me, he said one more thing. “Don’t be weak-minded, John Miller. Don’t be one of the herd, one that anyone with a will can control. Don’t be a sheep. Be a wolf. You’ll be much happier in life.” He limped towards the door, pausing only once to touch Jessica on the shoulder. She sat slumped over on the table, and as he released her, I saw her head loll over to the side. He looked over at me and nodded. She’s at peace now, John Miller.

And then he was out the door and gone. I laid a trembling hand on the counter and stood up. I fished another hundred from my wallet and dropped it on the counter. “Come on,” I told Beth, and steered her towards the door. I was careful not to let her go near Jessica, who didn’t move and never would again. I knew without looking that the mug lay broken in front of her on the table, and in her right hand she still clutched the broken shard of glass that she had just used to cut her throat with.

I steered Beth out the door, and never again did I go near Casey’s Irish Pub.

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