Prologue

Friday - November 12

 

From an upper corner of the ceiling, Dana Lewis looked down at her body sprawled across the floorboards like an abandoned doll.

So this was death.

Then the voices were right after all.

As usual.

She shifted her gaze and watched as a tiny spider inched along the dust-rimed ledge of a nearby window. Then she forced herself to look down again. At the floor.

She studied the sharp angle of head and neck. The feathery silver hair matted now with vomit and sweat. The peculiar arch of the back. The hands that had finally relaxed their grip on her favorite kilim.

Water from an overturned vase pooled across the desk, mingled with a spray of coral tea roses and dripped onto the floor in a slow, relentless rhythm. A silver letter opener in the shape of a hummingbird rested beneath one of the armchairs. Letters and bills littered the room like oversized confetti. The silver-framed photo of Isabel was—where? Ah, there it was, in the far corner.

Several dozen small glass vials formed a random pattern on the floor next to her body. Three bottles lay on their sides, surrounded by the tiny white homeopathic tablets they had once contained. On the other side of the room, an embossed silver case had released half a dozen business cards reading: Dana Lewis, MA, MSW, Individual and Group Counseling.

I should have listened.

The voices had been with her for as long as she could remember. They had given her a rare ability, a power, albeit one she never advertised, never discussed with colleagues, never even dared mention in the rarefied, advance-degreed, science-blinded world of psychotherapy.

Intuition. When she referred to it at all, that was the term she used. It was verbal camouflage, of course. Intuition. A word bland enough and big enough to convey everything. And nothing.

When people called to make appointments they often used words like psychic or medium or channel. Words Dana herself was careful to avoid. After all, whatever it was didn’t come from her. It came through her.

It came from the voices.

Her mother and her mother’s mother had both been gifted in the same way. That was her grandmother’s word for it. Gifted.

“Burdened,” was what her mother called it. “The Bible tells us that prophecy and second sight are sent from the devil,” she would say, an awful Presbyterian confidence ringing in her voice. Then she would add, “I’ve prayed it away and you can, too. God will take it away if you ask Him.”

But her daughter had never asked. And over time, the power—growing ever stronger with use—had bestowed on Dana Lewis a chronically full schedule, a roster of grudgingly respectful colleagues and the certain knowledge that her grandmother had been right after all.

It was a gift.

Early on, she had learned to disregard the voices at her own peril. But today, weary and exasperated, wanting to be separate and normal and free even if it meant blundering through the day like everyone else, she had shut the voices out. Closed the trapdoor in her mind.

Dana let herself drift back in time.

Waking late, feeling heavy and dull despite the rare promise of a sunny November day, she lay under the comfort of her favorite quilt for a few minutes and listened to her racing heart.

Why this uneasiness?

Then she remembered, like a cancer patient who for a brief time had forgotten the disease she carried.

It was that terrible business with Chaz, of course. Something had to be done. Somehow she had to convince him to talk to the authorities. Encourage him. Reassure him. Of course there would be a courtroom ordeal for both of them. She made a mental note to call Bill. What a dear man he was, for a lawyer.

Dana glanced at the small wind-up clock on the night table.

Seven a.m.

The big mullioned window next to her bed framed a pink sunrise. She forced herself to think. Her first appointment was at ten. Surely she could pull herself together by then. A cup of the herbal infusion she always kept in the refrigerator, a homeopathic cocktail of arnica, ignatia, maybe a few pellets of aconite and a dose of Rescue Remedy. That should do it.

In robe and slippers, she made her way downstairs, arguing silently with the voices.

You must listen, Dana.

Not now.

Yes, now. For your own good, child.

Why must you always call me that?

You ever were and will always be our beloved child.

Then leave me in peace.

Dana stood for a moment in the middle of the kitchen, eyes closed, palms pressed against her forehead. She lowered her hands and let her eyes open slowly. First, the tea. A nice big comforting cup of herbal tea.

Dana, no. There is danger.

She froze from force of habit. Then, slowly and deliberately, she shut the trapdoor in her mind with a firm click.

Danger? She opened the refrigerator, took out a jar of amber-colored liquid and filled her favorite cup. Danger? What could they possibly mean? Most likely the danger of a migraine. Or the danger of going back to bed, burrowing under the quilt and canceling the rest of the day.

Sipping as she walked, Dana crossed the living room, stopping at the glass-topped coffee table to pick up a large rosewood box. The infusion seemed more bitter than usual. Probably too much elecampane in this batch, she decided. Carrying the cup in her left hand and crooking her right arm around the box, she nudged open the double doors leading to her office, then paused.

It was a room that never failed to give her pleasure. The high-coved ceiling. The walls painted in a whisper of green that always made her feel safe and welcome. She loved this room.

And yet, for the past week or so, the atmosphere had been all wrong. Dark. Heavy. Almost sinister. In fact, the energy of the entire house felt somehow tainted. As to the source, she was certain of the who but not the why. Later in the day when she felt stronger there would be time to check in with the voices, make sure she wasn’t mistaken in her suspicions, and find a way to correct the problem.

She made a mental note to call Sharon Gladstone and schedule a cleansing ceremony. There were very few dark energies that could hold out against the power of sage, lavender, juniper and sweet grass, especially in the hands of an Ojibwa medicine woman.

Dana crossed the room to a desk wedged snugly under triple windows and gazed out at the back garden. Even in November, it had a certain bleak beauty. After a few more swallows of the bitter liquid, she placed her cup carefully on a coaster then stopped, her hand still clutching the handle.

Hadn’t she put that coaster on top of her appointment book yesterday? Yes. She was sure of it. So where was the book now? She ransacked her memory, willing herself to remember. After a few seconds, she shook her head. No matter. It would come to her.

As Dana lifted the catch on the box, a tremor ran through her body. Feeling the vibration snake down her spine, she hunched her shoulders. “Someone walking on my grave,” she thought. It was one of her grandmother’s sayings and for a few seconds she could have sworn the old woman was standing there, close at her side.

Dana lowered her shoulders and rubbed the back of her neck. Still feeling uneasy, she picked up a small brown glass bottle, unscrewed the cap, squeezed the rubber top to fill the dropper and released the contents into what remained of her tea.

Next, she pulled out three small glass vials, opened them, poured a dozen or so white globules into one of the caps and tipped them all onto her tongue. She waited until they dissolved before finishing her tea.

Now—where was that appointment book? In the bookcase? Unlikely but possible. She moved toward the shelves, running her hands lightly along the spines of reference books, textbooks, books on psychology and social work, spirituality, physics, religion. No, not here.

Dana moved her tongue around in her mouth. It felt thick and slightly scalded. And what was that odd taste? Metallic. Like hot aluminum.

As she turned to scan the room, a violent surge of dizziness sent her careening into the desk. She gripped the edge and, with exaggerated, puppet-like movements, managed to turn herself around and lean hard on the desktop.

Something was wrong. Terrifyingly wrong. The room was tipping. Her arms shook, her legs were giving way. She tried to swallow but her mouth and throat were parched and burning. Her breath came out in a wheezy whistle.

The phone. Must get to the phone.

She lurched forward as if struck from behind, slumped over the desk spread-eagled and clutched uselessly at the smooth surface as her body began its slow descent to the floor.

She paused, gasping, face pressed against the cool indifferent wood. Then, fighting pain and panic, with all the effort and will she could summon, Dana Lewis dragged herself along the floor, searching.

Where was the damn cell phone? It had to be here somewhere. It was always here.

 

 

And now… And now…

The currents of air that supported her were warm. And was it just her imagination or was the room receding slightly?

As the office landscape faded to a foggy grey, small white lights appeared. Blurry lights that pulsed gently, surrounding her like a miniature galaxy. She felt weightless and free and easeful and empty. But something else as well.

Something more.

Loved.

That was it.

Loved.

She was wrapped in love. Supported by love. It was as if someone or something had looked into every corner of her being, peered into every crevice of her soul. Saw all. Forgave all. And loved her in a way she could never have imagined, never believed possible.

It’s time to go, Dana.

Despite its gentle monotone, the voice startled her.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Dana felt herself being drawn away.

Time to go, the voice repeated, even more gently this time.

The lights moved in closer, grew sharper and more delineated. Panic fought its way through the dreamy haze.

“But what about Isabel?” she protested.

There was a slight pause. Then, matter of factly, an answer.

She will grieve, and heal. And you will never be far from her.

Dana hesitated. Must speak. But it took so much effort even to shape a thought.

“My friends. My relatives. What about them?”

They, too, will grieve and go on.

Quieter now. “My patients?”

They will understand.

Then suddenly and surprisingly, a small sharp wave of anger surged within her. “And the one who did this to me?”

Another pause.

There is perfect justice. Finally. In the end.

Dana let herself surrender to the warm billows that surrounded her. The office was just a few fuzzy outlines now, small and growing smaller. She heard a sigh and realized that it came from her.

Time to go.

Time to go.

She gazed like a child at the luminous beings around her, their features blurred by their own light.

Time to go.

For more information about Mantra for Murder
Phone: 734/761-8440 • Email: lindafitz@mantraformurder.com