"Can the evil in Prosperity be destroyed?"
Reviewed by Debbie Wiley
Posted April 12, 2018
Romance Suspense | Thriller Paranormal - Supernatural
The Special Crimes Unit (SCU) is accustomed to unusual
cases but they've never experienced a summoning like
this. Something is calling various psychics to the town
of Prosperity, NC, where their psychic abilities will be
put to perhaps the strongest test of their lives. The SCU
wasn't specifically summoned by the force, but they felt
the psychic blast and the local police force has
requested their presence. Can they uncover and help stop
the force driving residents to suddenly attack and kill
HOLD BACK THE DARK is the sixth book in the Bishop
Special Crimes Unit series (and eighteenth in the
overall series) and is probably best enjoyed in the
context of the series as a whole. We get to reconnect
with many of the characters we've grown to love over the
course of the series. It's going to take a joint
effort if they are going to stop the evil that threatens
Prosperity. If you need to refresh your memory or are new
to the series, there is a helpful list of characters with
a brief bio that includes which books they have
previously appeared in.
One of the things I love about Kay Hooper's books are the
characters and how they work together and this is clearly
evident in HOLD BACK THE DARK. Each book features
different psychic pairings and we see how the various
powers enhance and support each other. In HOLD BACK THE
DARK, SCU Chief Noah Bishop has to rely on individuals
who have turned down working in the SCU and so we get a
better glimpse into the struggles the characters face
coping with abilities that the general public doesn't
understand. Most of the story centers around Reese and
Hollis, although Dalton Davenport's history is
particularly heart-breaking, making his current success
even more rewarding.
HOLD BACK THE DARK ended before I was ready to let go of
the characters, but I'm sure we'll visit with them again
in future books. Kay Hooper is one of my long-time
favorite authors and an immediate must-read for me as
soon as each new book comes out. If you love paranormal
and thrillers, don't hesitate to give Kay Hooper and HOLD
BACK THE DARK a try.
A town in the thrall of evil. A summons that can’t be
ignored. The SCU returns in a nail-biting novel from
York Times bestselling author Kay Hooper.
The Chosen have been warned. Powerful psychics across the
globe have gotten the same eerie and insistent message:
Go to Prosperity. Because in this small North
Carolina mountain town, madness has taken hold…
Trapped in a nightmare they can’t escape, the residents
Prosperity are killing one another, waking up with no
of the monstrous acts they’ve committed—or the reasons
Chief Deputy Katie Cole knows that whatever evil is afoot
beyond her expertise, and beyond the understanding of
Sheriff Jackson Archer. They need help.
The Special Crimes Unit is called in for its specific
of investigation, to aid the Chosen as well as the
once-peaceful mountain town. It will take all the
training, all their experience, and every extra sense
can call on to get to the bottom of things in Prosperity.
And as a sinister pattern begins to emerge, even the most
experienced and hardened SCU agents must brace themselves
for a flood of darkness unlike any the world has ever
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself
within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.
– Dante Alighieri
Olivia Castle had experienced some monster headaches in
time, but this one, she felt sure, was about to make her
head quite literally explode. It had come out of
as if something had just yanked her head into an
tightening vise without warning. A vice with teeth. In
pain, queasy, and shaking, she managed to lever herself
from the couch, holding one hand against the head she was
sure was about to fall off, and hardly spared a moment to
wonder why she'd been on the couch.
Work. She should have been at work.
Shouldn't she be at work?
Had she come home for lunch? She didn't remember.
Her head hurt too much to keep thinking about that.
She made it to the kitchen by holding on to various
of furniture as she passed, fighting nausea and
grabbing Rex's tail when she gripped the edge of the
"Sorry, sorry," she muttered, the headache so bad by then
that her cat's cry sounded like a dozen angry crows, her
quiet voice sounded like booming thunder in her head, and
even her vision was affected in some way she didn't
understand; she couldn't see the pleasant coastal Vermont
view normally visible from this window. She couldn't see
any real view at all.
She was seeing colors she was reasonably sure didn't
in nature. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Moving,
swirling, like colorful smoke driven by a capricious
opaque and translucent by turn. And everything was so
damned bright. "Shouldn't sit on the counter.
How many times have I told you. Didn't see you, pal.
damn, what is going on?"
There was a large economy-sized bottle of an OTC
near the sink (just as there was one in just about every
room of her small house, and in her purse, with a box of
extra bottles in the storage closet, in case the zombie
apocalypse came without warning and all the pharmacies
looted before she could get to them). Olivia closed her
eyes against the unnatural brightness, fumbling the
open while bitterly cursing childproof caps foisted upon
people who had no children, fumbled just as blindly for a
glass and the faucet, and managed, finally, to swallow
eight pills, hoping she could keep them down long enough
do some good.
"Prrupp," Rex said.
"I know it's too many, you don't have to tell me that."
stood there, eyes still closed, still hanging on to the
of the sink with one hand and her head with the other,
trying to breathe normally despite the pain keeping all
muscles rigid and snatching at her ability to breathe at
all, her stomach churning, the weird colors still
even though her eyes were closed, wishing pain meds took
effect faster. Like immediately. It would have been
she thought, to just take a shot of morphine and become
unconscious for the duration. But she'd discovered the
way that both the law and doctors frowned on patients
self-medicating, far less walking out the door of any
hospital, clinic, or pharmacy with their own supply of
morphine or any other industrial-strength painkiller and,
besides, they said it was only migraines.
Only migraines. Only migraines. Jesus. Even
though no migraine remedy known to medical science and
a few exotic possibilities Olivia had experimented with
herself had so much as touched her periodic killer
She fumbled blindly for the bottle again.
"All right, all right. I know there hasn't been enough
time. But if the pain doesn't stop soon, I'm gonna take
A moment later, Rex hissed.
Olivia managed to pry her eyes open no matter how much
ungodly brightness all around her hurt, and squinted at
cat in surprise. Because Rex didn't hiss, or at least
had. But as she focused on her rather odd-looking cat,
brindle/tortie coat at odds with the brilliant blue eyes
a Siamese, she realized even through the bright, swirling
colors she was still seeing that Rex was scared.
And Rex didn't scare easily. Or ... at all.
He was staring past her into the space behind her, the
kitchen and den, and his pupils were so narrow his eyes
looked incredibly creepy, like the unnaturally blue eyes
a snake. The fur along his back was standing straight
and his tail was about three times its natural size.
At the same time, Olivia began hearing a strange rustling
sound. At first it sounded like dry leaves skittering
pavement, which was weird enough to hear inside her house
with no pavement around. But then she realized it was
whispering. Lots of voices. Lots and lots of voices.
It was coming from behind her.
Olivia did not want to turn around. Her mouth
dry despite the nausea, her skin was crawling
the pain in her head was getting impossibly worse rather
than better, and she was afraid if she turned to confront
axe murderer, she'd beg him to just cut off her head and
quick about it.
Axe murderer. Idiot.
Not an axe murderer, of course. Not
Not any one ... thing. Because she heard more than one
whisper, many whispers, countless whispers. And she
know what they were saying, but she had the eerie feeling
they were all whispering the same thing. The same words.
Still holding the edge of the sink
one hand, Olivia turned slowly to see what so frightened
cat and was making her own skin crawl in a sensation
never felt before.
"Oh, shit," she whispered.
The headache that was still hellishly painful didn't seem
such a big deal now. Because despite all the swirling
colors nearly blinding her, she could see, very clearly,
Rex was afraid. Every sharp object in her kitchen and
every single one from every kitchen knife and fork she
to three letter openers, two scissors, two box cutters
razor blades visible, the iron fireplace poker, half a
pens and twice that many sharpened pencils, floated in
air. Different levels, some low, some as high as eye-
With their pointy ends aimed right at her.
And they were all whispering.
"Waaurr," Rex muttered, his voice unusually quiet,
"I'm not doing it. I'd know if I were doing it, right?
always know. I have to concentrate to do it. I mean,
unless I'm mad. Angry, not crazy. Though maybe crazy
Because this has never ... And, anyway, even if I'm
I don't ... know how ... to make anything ... whisper."
Or how to stop it when she instinctively tried, an effort
that was definitely not rewarded.
Unconsciously, both her hands lifted to her head,
as if to hold something in, because the headache suddenly
grew horribly worse, impossibly worse, dragging a
groan from somewhere deep inside her, and through the
swirl of colors that was beginning to truly blind her,
could still see all the scary-sharp weapons floating
inexorably toward her.
What was whispering? Inanimate objects couldn't
communicate, right? Not like this, at least.
The pain edged into agony, but even so she heard as if
a great distance her own shaking, pleading question.
"What? What are you saying? What do you want of me?"
And from the same great distance, she heard the whispered
demand that made no sense to her.
Prosperity. Go to Prosperity.
They were still floating eerily toward her, all the
things that promised even more pain if they came much
closer, and hard as she tried, Olivia couldn't do
about it, couldn't stop it, couldn't see anything but
or hear anything except for that whispered demand.
Go to Prosperity.
Go to Prosperity.
Olivia heard one last thing: a moan of agony escaped her,
and then everything went black.
* * *
Logan Alexander considered himself a man of hardheaded
practicality, which to his way of thinking was ironclad
proof that the Universe had a twisted sense of humor.
Because he was also a medium.
And he hated being a medium. He hated being
a medium, being dragged from peaceful obscurity into an
unwelcome spotlight of sorts, what he was and what he
do named if not understood, word spreading among those
scorned with suspicion and those who believed or
wanted to. Both always, always finding him eventually
making his life hell so that he'd have to pull up stakes
again, usually in the middle of the night, and find
place to live, in another town or city or state where he
could be anonymous again, just another stranger and left
peace. Until the next time he was found, and the lost
began to seek him out again.
Not the "Can you contact my Uncle George and ask him
he hid all the family money?" sort of questions that only
made him impatient. Those were relatively easy to either
avoid or else respond to with some bullshit answer that
would satisfy the sort of people who would even ask that
kind of silly question.
It was the truly lost ones that got to him, the religious
who had lost their faith and needed proof of some kind of
existence after death. The parents hollow-eyed and
in a very human sense by the inexplicable and
disappearance of a child. The widows and widowers bereft
the loss of the other half of themselves. And others, so
many others, lost people who were desperately hopeful
he could help them.
He hated it.
But what he hated most about an ability way too many
with no understanding of what they were talking about
called a gift or a curse (as if it could be anything so
simple as either) was that he had absolutely no control
it. And he had been told by someone who did
understand and should certainly know all about it that
"door" most mediums opened in order to communicate with
dead was, in him, always open.
Always. Or, hell, just missing entirely.
And also that mediums naturally attracted spirits.
they wanted to or not.
He didn't talk to the dead, certainly not willingly.
talked to him. Anywhere. Everywhere. No matter how
he tried to ignore them. Persistent, insistent, often
desperate. Dogging his steps. Showing up in different
places. Making it impossible for him to go out to
or to a theater and enjoy a play or movie. Impossible to
attend a party, or even to date – or at least date the
woman more than once.
He'd learned that lesson the hard way, with too many
dates ending with a woman eyeing him uneasily because
spent too much time sending brief, fierce glares at
she could see past her shoulder or over her head, or at
empty chair at their table. Most were either too kind or
too wary to say it aloud, but at least one date had told
frankly that she didn't see the sense in a second date
it was obvious he had more baggage than she did and she
wasn't getting any younger.
And the last time an instant physical attraction had cut
evening short for energetic (if not desperate) sex in his
bed, the lady had left before dawn, grabbing up her
and bolting after waking to find him sitting up in bed
having a whispered but clearly angry argument with
His bedmate's name wasn't Josephine, he was wide awake –
as far as the lady could see, nobody else was in the
So she snatched up clothing and ran.
Logan had not blamed her a bit. He was just grateful
she hadn't called the police to report an escaped
At least a few before her had done something of the sort
over the years, reporting him as potentially dangerous,
mentally ill, or just a man who had frightened them in an
age when police were finally paying more attention to
sort of thing, leaving him to spend time in this jail or
that "detention room" or in some clinic or other while
police and sometimes doctors got things sorted out to
satisfaction in the quest to determine whether or not he
actually a danger – to himself or others. Sometimes
were fines, sometimes an order for a psychiatric
All because he could see and talk to the dead.
They stole any chance he had of living a normal life,
spirits, and while his sympathy was sometimes roused by a
particularly sad or frightened spirit killed in some
brutally unfair manner and desperate for his help, he
could do anything to help them, and that only
to his resentment.
At least most of them had had a shot at a normal life,
before whatever unfair act or illness or accident had put
them in the ground. Logan, on the other hand, could
get a normal day to himself. Impossible to do
everyday normal things. Wherever he went, whatever he was
doing, there was at least one dead person anxious to talk
Like now. He was just blamelessly walking in the park
his current home in San Francisco, needing some morning
before he returned to the freelance IT work he did from
home office, because of course he couldn't work
a normal office setting with people all around him.
Besides, even the living had begun to wear on his nerves
after a while.
Maybe especially the living.
He'd just wanted some air, that was all. And there was a
dead guy walking beside him. Talking to him.
"She didn't mean to poison me, I'm sure," the
gentleman of about sixty was saying earnestly, for about
Logan paused on an arched footbridge and leaned his
on the wooden railing, gazing down at the happily
manmade creek. A quick glance had shown him no one else
was near, but he still kept his voice low; bitter
had taught him that, as with dates, office jobs, and
speaking aloud in public to people only he could see
whenever normal people were within earshot too often
quick trip to the nearest loony bin, or at least a night
Adding insult to injury, the cells too were always filled
with dead people. Usually far more hostile than his
"Listen, buddy – "
"My name is Oscar."
Logan didn't bother telling him names didn't really
"Oscar, I don't know if your wife poisoned you – "
Logan send him a glance, mildly surprised, but shrugged.
"Whatever. I don't know if she poisoned you, but if
looking for justice, I can tell you from experience that
cops take a dim view of dead witnesses communicating
mediums, and judges take an even dimmer view.
I've had more than my fair share of time on a shrink's
couch, thank you very much."
"But – "
"Were you buried or cremated?"
"Then you're really out of luck."
"The medical examiner took samples. Of ... of
I saw him." He sounded, suddenly, a bit queasy.
Logan felt the first flicker of sympathy, even though he
didn't want to. This wasn't the first spirit who had
details of his own autopsy. That had to be unnerving, to
say the least, watching your own body being opened up on
"Must not have been anything conclusive enough to
the cops," he said.
"But that's the thing." Oscar sounded near tears. "They
were convinced. They arrested her. They're going to put
on trial for murder. And I know she didn't
me. But my wife hired a P.I. and he's come up with a
of how and why she could have done it, and I know he
evidence and other stuff the police believe, or maybe
just slipped me the poison and made it look like she did.
think they're in it together, my wife and her P.I.,
I've seen them together, and I just — "
"Oscar, what do you want from me?" Logan tried his best
keep impatience out of his voice.
"My girlfriend doesn't deserve to go to prison. She
do anything wrong. She didn't poison me."
"And how do you think I can prove that?" A
showed him that Oscar was looking even more miserable.
"I don't know. All I know is that it isn't fair – "
"Life isn't fair, buddy. Why should death be?" But then
the way Oscar's voice had broken off tugged at Logan's
attention, and he looked at the spirit again.
The spirit named Oscar seemed to be enveloped in a
multi-colored aura, all the intensely bright colors
and dancing around him.
Logan didn't see auras.
"What the hell?"
Oscar shook his head slightly, as though trying to throw
an unwelcome distraction, while at the same time his
expression was straining as though trying to hear
And then he looked frightened. "I ... I don't ... I
... Oh, damn, there won't be time. Promise me, Logan.
Promise me you'll come back here and help me prove Lucy's
"Come back from where? Oscar – "
"Prosperity. When you come back from Prosperity."
A weird sensation of unease was beginning to crawl over
Logan's skin, unfamiliar and distinctly unpleasant. And
head had begun to pound. "What are you talking about,
Oscar? I'm not going anywhere. My job – "
"You have to take a leave or quit or something. You have
go to Prosperity, Logan. You have to help them." Now he
looked terrified. "We'll all be in danger if you can't
them stop it. The living and the dead."
Logan wondered abstractedly what sort of danger could or
would trouble a spirit. Before he could even form the
to ask, Oscar and his rainbow aura vanished like a soap
Decision out of my hands, Logan told himself
relief, ignoring the stab 0f guilt.
"Nothing I could've done anyway," he muttered,
and turning to head back home.
After only two steps, he jerked to a stop and stood very,
very still, only his eyes moving as he scanned the park
front of him.
There were people moving around, just as there had been
before. Couples holding hands, dog walkers, a couple of
guys tossing a football and another two throwing a
There were a few people on benches or just leaning up
against a tree here and there with a book or tablet or
laptop. Normal, even on a slightly chilly but sunny
What wasn't normal were the others.
They looked as real as the living, not transparent. But
his gaze rested on them one by one, he saw them shimmer
almost like heat off a pavement or a jittery image on a
computer or special effects in a movie before becoming
again. And every single one of them was just standing
there, utterly still.
Turned toward him.
Staring at him.
That was new. That was ... different.
Logan turned in a slow circle, scanning as much of the
as he could see from his position.
They were everywhere. Dozens. Scores. More.
A lot more. More than he'd ever seen in one place.
As he completed the slow circle, he started in surprise
find one of the spirits standing only about three feet
A woman. Too young to be dead, though people did die
and, anyway, he had learned that he didn't always see
spirits as they had appeared at death, but at some
stage of their lives. And he almost never saw what had
killed them, spared at least that horror of nightmares of
the living dead haunting him.
He had no idea why.
He didn't care.
All he knew was that he was far colder than the October
cold down to his bones, that the unpleasant crawly
roving over his entire body was getting stronger and more
unsettling, his head was really hurting now, and
very strong sense of foreboding gripped him.
"No," he said softly.
"You have to go to Prosperity," she said, her voice a bit
hollow and distant, as they were sometimes. Her face was
without expression, which was something else that was
occasionally true of the spirits he encountered.
This time, the total lack of expression on her face and
her voice was creepy as hell.
Trying to hold his voice low and not betray to the living
around him that he was a madman who saw what they didn't,
that they were moving blithely about among spirits, too
spirits, nothing normal about that even out on the
paranormal fringes of his reality, he said, "I
don't have to go anywhere. Leave me alone."
"They need you. We need you, Logan."
They always knew his name. It had always bugged him.
"Tap another medium," he advised her. "It's got to be
somebody else's turn."
"You have to go. Please, Logan. It's so important."
"What – " But the half-formed question was never
because the spirit faded away quickly and with an
he'd never seen before, like she just became smoke
by the slight, chill breeze.
It was a long moment before Logan could force himself to
scan the park as he had before. But when he did, he saw
spirits. Only the living, going about their business as
they probably did every ordinary day of their nice normal
"Goddammit," he whispered.
The day felt colder than he knew it was.
* * *
Reno Bellman was congratulating herself for what had so
been a successful brunch date. She had not, after all,
absently told her date Jake Harper any of the bits of
information that had floated through her mind like
on a calm sea since they'd met at this sidewalk café more
than an hour earlier. She hadn't reminded him not to
forget his mother's birthday next week, or told him his
treasured high school football championship ring was not
gone forever but had instead rolled under his night
or even that he was going to get that promotion he was
She didn't mention any of those things. Instead, she had
chatted casually just as Jake had, on the safe topics
generally reserved for a first date. Likes and dislikes,
the undoubtedly miserable winter looming ahead for
and how the Cubs had done during the season. They both
tacitly avoided politics and religion, those trickier
subjects more suited to later – if there was a later –
disagreements would either be handled amicably or else
judged to be insurmountable differences.
Everything was fine, just fine, so when she
conscious of a rustling sound like dead leaves
over pavement, she glanced around in surprise. This
sidewalk café was moderately crowded for a Tuesday
in October, but nobody else seemed to see or hear
unusual, and she couldn't see any leaves or anything else
Reno was about to just chalk it to up to her generally
heightened senses when the rustle of dry leaves became
instead whispering. Whispering by many by voices. Or by
... something else. Something tugging at her with
increasing insistence, causing the fine hairs on the back
her neck to stir and the skin all over her body to go
unpleasantly pins-and-needles. Her head began to hurt.
At first, it was only whispering, just sounds that seemed
normal and ordinary, the background hum of a busy city
neighborhood. But then, slowly, she believed she
sort of pattern to what she was hearing. And then words.
Words whispered by many voices, all saying the same
"Reno – "
"Hush," she said absently, all but forgetting her date in
the need to concentrate on listening. What was
What were they saying? She wasn't sure at first, but
gradually some of the static faded, and she was just able
make out words.
Words that gradually became clearer.
Come ... come to ... come to Prosperity. They ...
you. We all need you. You have to come to Prosperity –
She never found out if she might have heard something
an explanation, a reason, something she could glean
and peacefully, in warm daylight and without fear,
being touched by violence, because in that moment Jake
reached across the small table and laid his hand over
Before she could warn him.
So he was yanked with her into the hellish maelstrom of a
And this one was bad.
Anyone could have been forgiven for believing that where
they were was, literally, hell. Or, at the very least,
acid trip or horror movie version of hell. All the worst
bits of Revelation and Dante's Inferno, with even scarier
stuff added in for horror fun.
The air was full of a horrible smell and choking ash, and
Reno stood there looking around, trying to tell herself
this was no worse than other visions had been, it became
It became a lot worse.
The ash in the air thinned out enough to allow her to see
more of her surroundings. Unfortunately.
The heat was searing, the rotten-egg smell of brimstone
acrid, and the ash from unseen but roaring fires drifted
down – and drifted up – and drifted sideways. The alien
landscape, as far as the eye could see, was a sickly
brown, with jagged rocks that looked razor-sharp and
muddy streams slopping between the rocks, and here and
a stunted, twisted tree, bare limbs charred and bent
downward in defeated submission.
And ... the creatures. Dozens of them, more, dotting the
raw landscape as far as she could see. Crouched and
standing, still or swaying back and forth, with a few
up on the rocky ground making pitiful soft noises that
awful to hear and impossible to ever forget.
They might once have been human but looked deformed now,
bodies twisted, limbs partially missing, their faces
almost melted, the features blunted or open or missing.
Some of them looked skeletal but with burned flesh
to bones, crackling sounds audible as they shifted and
To stare at Reno and her forgotten companion, or to
if they had no eyes, or maybe just obeying the blind and
deaf but primitive sense of an unusual presence and
threat in their horrific reality.
"What is this place?"she demanded of the nearest
It did not answer, but cringed away as a shadow detached
itself from a towering, jagged rock and stepped forward,
toward Reno. She recognized it only because she had
of Shadow People, beings from the spirit realm, or even
deeper and much further away, that may have once been
in some distant past.
But now, from everything she had heard whispered on what
some wryly or mockingly called the psychic grapevine, the
current thinking was that they were simply the human-
utter blackness of everything wrong, twisted, sick,
perverted, and evil, the psychic spillover of horrors
into a creepily recognizable shape. Pure negative
As if they had been feeding for eons on the evil emotions
and evil acts committed by humans.
And maybe they had.
Some people had called them demons.
This one made itself taller, elongated, towering over
and the stunned, terrified date she had completely
"Neat trick," she said to the Shadow creature, tilting
head slightly to look up, but not otherwise moving. "Now
answer my question. What is this place?"
"Hell," it answered in a croak.
"No, this isn't hell," she countered immediately. "Been
A laugh like dry kindling scraping together came from the
Shadow. "This is your earth, Reno," it said in that
scratchy, unused voice.
She had been holding fear at bay, most of a lifetime of
practice allowing her to keep it out of her voice and
expression, because she knew that whatever and wherever
place was, she was here only in spirit. It was a
vision. And in her visions, she had discovered, the bad
ones at least, any fear from her gave the various ...
... she confronted power over her. And sometimes made it
more difficult for her to escape the vision if things got
dicey. But when the towering Shadow said this was earth,
she felt a genuine jolt of horror.
"What are you talking about? Some kind of war is going
do this?" The ugly landscape all around her certainly
have been the seared devastation of some insane nuclear
Without the creatures, at least.
Or maybe with them too.
"Not that kind of war. Not soldiers in uniform fighting
flag and country, dying on battlefields." The Shadow
creature's voice was still inhuman, yet managed to be
mocking as well. "A different struggle. Too much evil
building unchecked for too long. Darkness. Hunger.
Gathering. Growing stronger. Upsetting the natural
Trying to think clearly, Reno said, "I would have thought
you ... creatures ... would love that. Why show me? I'm
shown things I can change, always."
The Shadow laughed again, weirdly both scornful and
"This is something you need to change. Need to stop ...
you can. To prevent if you can. Hold the line. Better
all if the boundaries between our worlds, our realities,
... maintained. An occasional portal or door opened
and there is one thing, releasing pressure, easing the
strain. Natural. Normal. The way things are supposed
"This ... is something else. A dead and burning earth is
more use to us than it is to you. And if you die, if you
are destroyed, so are we. We need the chaos of humanity,
the destructive fear and evil you create. The negative
energy. We need to ... feed. To exist. We balance
The Universe demands balance. Go to Prosperity, Reno.
very earth there is ready to heave itself open. To spill
out evil even we can't absorb. Can't control. You must
"There will be others. Those who need to be there with
are being called. Some already on their way. Balance,
Reno. We all need balance if we're to survive."
Reno had more questions than she could count, but as
as the vision had begun, it was over. And she was
at a small table at a sidewalk café on a cool Chicago
morning, breathing in fresh air, the weak October
making her blink.
She felt the deathgrip on her hand abruptly released, and
looked up to see her date lurching to his feet. His face
was pasty-white, and though he tried several times, he
clearly unable to say a word.
Dammit, there goes another potential boyfriend.
"It's okay, Jake," she said wryly. "I don't expect to
from you again. As for this little ... adventure ... I'm
sure you'll be able to explain it away somehow."
"You're crazy!" he finally yelped.
"I expect that'll do,"she murmured.
And, as he hurried away without a backward look, almost
running, she called after him, "No, really, I'll take
of the check." And then her worser self reared its head,
and she shouted, "And don't forget your mother's birthday
By then, he was definitely running.
The shout made the pain in her head worse, but she
it had been worth it.
She was being stared at by others at the café. She could
feel it. But Reno ignored them all. After most of a
lifetime, she'd gotten pretty good at that. No use
to control what she couldn't.
She summoned a waiter with a glance, asked for the check,
then asked, "Can you give me the time?" She wasn't
The young waiter looked at the large watch on his own
and replied, "It's eleven-forty-five, ma'am."
"Yes, ma'am. Your check, ma'am." He looked after her
hastily departed date, clearly somewhat indignant on her
Reno didn't notice. She glanced at the total printed on
check and placed several bills in the folder, covering
meal and adding a generous tip, then closing it and
returning it to him. "Keep the change."
"Thank you, ma'am. More coffee?"
She looked up at him, saw him, and blinked. "No. No,
you. I'll just sit here a bit if that's okay." Less
half a dozen of the sidewalk tables were occupied by now,
the lull between the departure of early brunch customers
the next wave of people wanting actual lunch. An exodus
that had apparently happened during her vision. Which
she estimated, lasted little more than five minutes.
was always different in a vision.
"Of course, ma'am." He silently retrieved her date's
saucer, water glass, and napkin, flicked a few invisible
crumbs off the table with the napkin, and just as
went away again.
Reno reached up to rub one temple briefly, then dug in
casual purse, produced a small bottle of OTC painkillers,
and swallowed several capsules with a sip of water.
"Prosperity," she murmured.
After a thoughtful moment, she reached again into her
this time for her cell phone, grateful not for the first
time that she was one of the few psychics able to depend
having a charged phone for a reasonable amount of time,
like a normal person. She could even wear a watch when
wanted to, something else many psychics couldn't do
of how they used energy.
Someone had told her once it was because she was wholly a
receiver, her own energy not the sort that would blast
outward and interfere with electronics of any kind.
Whatever. As long as it gave her an edge.
She keyed in the single pre-programmed number and leaned
back in her chair, staring at nothing as she waited for
"Hey, there, it's Reno. Funny thing happened at brunch
today," Reno said. "Thought you might be interested."
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