Originally published by Spinetingler Magazine 2006
My name is Robin Webster, and I’m a rip-off artist. I never planned to be a thief, but I am one. I mean, I didn’t wake up one morning and think, ‘Gee, I think I’ll pretend to be a psychic and steal people’s money, live off of their hopes and fears.’ It just happened that way.
I’m trying to think of a good place to start telling you what happened. With the murder, I mean. I know that you expect me to tell you that I didn’t do it. They all do, right? The prisons are full of innocent people.
Anyway, you’re here to hear me explain how the cops found me with a dead girl in my arms. So I’ll tell you.
I don’t come from what you’d call a privileged background. I had to work all through high school for stuff I needed, and I had to work to save for college tuition and books.
So I’d done all kinds of jobs, sometimes two or three at a time when money was tight. But there was one thing that I’ve always been really good at. You could say I’m a natural at it. Some say it’s a gift. I knew that I could make some pretty good cash doing it if I wanted to. The thing is I’m really intuitive. I can read people really well. I get a feel for them within seconds and I can’t think of a time when my instincts about someone were ever wrong.
My friends have always been in awe of my ability to predict what someone will do. You know, just silly stuff. Like sometimes we’d take off to the mall after school, or on Saturdays, and we’d sit on a bench and they’d pick someone out for me to make predictions about. Then we’d follow them around the mall and I’d tell them what stores the person would go into, whether they were meeting someone, what restaurant they’d go in to eat dinner. I’d be right. It’s like breathing to me. But my friends thought it was ‘bitchin’’, this being a good thing. My mother always called it ‘eerie’.
They always wanted to know how I did it. I really don’t have an answer except that I’m observant. I notice the tiniest thing about someone that very few people ever notice. It could be the way they carry themselves when they walk, or the way they make a gesture. It could be something in their eyes, or the expression on their faces. Who knows? It’s instinctual. People are pretty predictable, to tell you the truth. All you have to do is watch them to figure out what they’re going do. Even unpredictability has patterns. Really, try watching someone you know sometime and it’ll freak you out. I wouldn’t suggest going out and stalking people. That could get you into some serious trouble. Believe me. I know.
My friends always said that I should do the psychic sham. You know, that I could make a lot of money with my skills. I refused. After a while, they stopped trying to get me to do it. They wanted in on the deal, but partly it was all just talk. When it came right down to it, I don’t think that they could have ripped people off any more than I could have at the time. The truth is, they were good guys.
I used to be a good guy, too.
Things changed during my freshman year at college, when money got really tight, and even my two part-time jobs weren’t bringing in the cash in time for rent. I lived off campus in a bachelor apartment on a street filled with college students. It was a pretty decent little place. But after gas, car insurance on my beat up old Blazer, books, and all the other little incidentals, I was cleaned out. That doesn’t even include food. Food was a luxury that I could barely afford. I basically lived out of various cracker boxes and a jar of peanut butter. Things were lean, to say the least.
Then the battery in my Blazer died, and I had to have it towed. I didn’t have the cash for the battery or even just to get it back. We’re talking about $200, which might as well have been a million for me. Digging in my pockets for bus fare, I realized that I had to do something. I hit bottom while riding the bus to school. After paying the fare to get to school I was completely broke. I literally didn’t have a penny to my name.
That’s when I began to devise my plan to get back on my feet. Sitting there, staring at the brightly painted leaves from the window of the bus, I took all of the things about people that I knew to be true, and I figured out how to turn them into money. I felt badly about it, but I was starving.
Let me tell you. When you’re hungry and you are one step away from living on the street and eating out of garbage cans, your principals fly out the window. Or, at the very least, become compromised.
I did try to maintain some sense of twisted integrity by telling myself that I’d only rob the rich kids. It didn’t seem so bad taking money from the students who had daddy’s platinum cards in their wallets, who spent money like it was water on the most trivial things, like hundred dollar haircuts and five dollar fancy coffees. I mean, they had more money than they knew what to do with, so what would twenty or thirty bucks here and there matter. I could even rationalize it that I was giving them peace of mind for their buck. I could tell them what they wanted to hear.
My first victim was easy pickin’s. She was sitting on the grass with a large mochacino in one hand and dabbing her eyes with the other. Her fingernails were professionally done in pearly pink with butterfly designs at the tips. I’d seen nail places in malls. That nail job was an easy seventy bucks, minimum. In one glance, I had her down. I already knew that she was sobbing about some guy who had dumped her for someone prettier, with more money, who was better in the sack, whatever. I watched her hungrily for a moment, and then I pounced.
I walked over to her and asked if she was all right. She lifted her honey colored head to me and a look of distaste crossed her pretty face before she politely said, “Um, no thank you.”
I wasn’t to be deterred. I had expected such a reaction. After all, she wasn’t part of the artsy group that had accepted me with open arms after seeing me as I was; wild, longish wavy hair, old jeans that were ripped at the knees. Those rips were genuine thing, too, not strategically cut with a razor blade like a lot of kids do after spending a bunch of cash on their designer jeans. My sneakers were falling apart; my jean jacket had holes at the elbows. Yep. I was the poster boy for grunge.
“ I know it sounds like a cliché, but he’s really not worth it,” I began. “I can’t believe he’d dump you for her.”
She stared at me wide-eyed. “Do you know Hartley?”
I paused for a moment. “No.”
Her perfectly plucked and shaped brow furrowed. “Then how did you know?”
I shrugged. “I’m known for sensing certain things about people. Like I know that your father gave you that heart pendent you’re wearing, and that your mother gave you the earrings.”
Her breath caught and she gazed at me in awe, and I knew that I had her.
I started estimating how much I could squeeze her for over the next hour or so that I’d be telling her about herself. It would be amusing to her, a game. “That’s amazing!” She said, and patted the spot on the grass beside her.
Just like that, I was in. It wouldn’t be long before I had her friends and their friends as well. Just like that old shampoo commercial ‘they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on . . .’
“ How do you do it? Is it a trick?” Her blue eyes were clearing of any residual tears.
“ No, I just always had this . . . sixth sense; I guess you could call it. I pick up certain things about people.” Here’s where I laid it on thick. “You’ve got a really strong presence.”
“ Wow!” She said, offering her hand. “I’m Mandy Fields.”
“ Robin Webster, at your service.” I actually kissed her hand, here.
She blushed and fought back revulsion. I had something she wanted.
I patted my jacket. “I actually have a business card, but I’m out. I have to get more printed.”
“ Oh, you’re a professional psychic?”
“ Well, I wouldn’t charge for it, accept that I’m pretty high in demand, so I spend a lot of time helping people. This leaves little time for a part-time job, and I do have to eat.”
She didn’t even care to know what I was taking in school or where I was from. From then on, it was all about her. It was just the way I wanted it.
“ Tell me more!”
And I did.
Before long I was able to quit both my jobs. As it turns out, I was high in demand, and it really left no extra time to work. I barely had time for my school work. This new career of mine fit well into the journalism field, though, because I spent so much time investigating my clients that I became an incredible researcher. Although I am a very observant and intuitive person, I still needed a little help here and there, just enough to give me that extra edge of believability. I was making money hand over fist, but I didn’t want to lose my air of legitimacy. I had to make sure that I could always deliver. I wasn’t about to risk ending up back where I was before, hanging around the cafeteria and waiting to inconspicuously lift someone’s partially eaten sandwich or donut and shoving into my pocket for later. I just refused to let that happen again.
So that meant that I had to follow my clients and their friends around. It was the only way to stay in the loop and make sure I knew what was going on with them so that I could predict what would happen in the future. This would keep the cash rolling in.
Mandy was obsessed with her ex-boyfriend, who had dumped her for a pixie-like brunette from the Theater Arts program. This enraged Mandy because this new girlfriend, who’s name was Lauren, had no money or connections to speak of. She was not sophisticated or refined. She was just very cute and as smart as hell. She had acted in and written a couple of her own plays, and she was now adding the title ‘Director’ to her repertoire. I was impressed. I was also in love.
The more I followed them, the more intrigued and taken I became with Lauren. I was a little disappointed in her choice of men, but I wasn’t blaming her because I knew how charming this guy was. I could see what most women would see in Hartley, with his red Porsche and dapper clothes. He had that movie star quality that most women find irresistible. He had a polished grin that I just knew he’d rehearsed in front of the mirror. I knew that in time she’d see right through him.
So I followed them. I followed her.
I ended up spending more time watching her from my car than I spent anywhere else. I even skipped classes to watch her. I was enthralled with her, but I had also become aware of a creeping feeling of foreboding. There was something in the way that Hartley watched her when she was in the presence of other men that spooked me. He had also begun to tug and push her in any direction he wanted her to go at any given moment. She had become afraid of him. I had become afraid for her.
When she broke it off with him, I was filled with a weird combination of relief and dread. Hartley’s eyes had taken on a glazed, narrow look. I knew that he wasn’t letting her go that easily.
Before long, it was me watching Hartley watching Lauren.
She looked over her shoulder a lot. Her normally bright face had become drawn with anxiety. Hartley was always there, watching her. He left nasty notes on her car, and he called her incessantly. He paced outside her apartment, ranting. Nobody left him. Nobody! I got so scared for her that I started making calls to the cops from various phone booths. I never left my name.
But he kept stalking her.
One night she came home late to find him sitting on her doorstep crying his eyes out. It was a new ploy for him. A humiliation, but it worked. She let him in.
I knew he was going to kill her. In his mind, he was giving her one last chance to come to her senses. Then if she rejected him, he would kill her. If he couldn’t have her, nobody would. It’s an old story. It happens to countless women.
I could imagine his hands wrapped around her slim throat.
I called 911 from my cell phone this time. There was no time to go to a pay phone. I screamed into the phone, demanding that they send someone. I kept shrieking her address to the operator. But it was taking too long! I had to stop him.
I ran to her door, but it was locked, of course. I pounded, yelling, screaming.
I ran around the house to her bedroom window. Her apartment was in the basement, so the window sat just above the ground. It was locked. I kicked it in. The shards of glass cut me, but I didn’t feel the pain until later.
Hartley was gone. But Lauren was still there.
She lay on her bed, eyes fluttering like panicked butterflies. The knife was still in her stomach. Her hands rested on it, too weak to pull it out.
I didn’t even think twice. Gently moving her hands, I removed the knife. Lifting her so that I could hold her, I watched the light fade from her eyes.
It hadn’t even occurred to me that I would be a suspect, let alone arrested for her murder. It couldn’t have been a better set up, really.
As it turns out, Lauren had noticed me following her. She’d kept a journal of all the times and dates I’d been watching her. She also had the make of my car. But she’d become so afraid of Hartley that my presence must have taken a back seat to her fear for him. She’d filed a restraining order on Hartley the previous day. That must have pushed him over the edge.
Before she ended it with Hartley, he had told her not to call the cops when I showed up because it was better for her to record as many sightings of me as possible, first. He had told her that it would help build a better case against me. He said to pretend that she didn’t know I was there, watching her. So she never had filed any reports on me. Having me stalking Lauren was just what he had wanted. Somehow I knew that he was accusing her of seeing me behind his back. Suddenly I was another boyfriend just waiting for him to leave so that I could be with her.
Hartley was brilliant. All the time I was following her around, I was falling right into his hands. He had known that I would come running when I knew that she was in danger. I never even saw it coming. I had been so wrapped up in saving Lauren that my ability to predict a situation had all but flown out the window. All I saw was the obvious. I saw just what he had wanted me to see. He had planned the perfect murder.
The cops had all the evidence they needed. They had calls I made to them, they had my crazed call to 911, they had me breaking her bedroom window and shredding myself crawling through it, they had Lauren’s journal, and they had me holding her dead body, and just in case that wasn’t enough, they had the weapon that killed her with my fingerprints all over it. The entire scenario couldn’t have been more perfect for him.
Sound far fetched? You bet. That’s why it’s so perfect. I can tell by your face that you don’t believe me. The sympathy in your expression doesn’t quite reach your eyes. I don’t blame you. Really. Who would believe me?
Hartley paid me a visit shortly after my move to my new digs, here. He confirmed everything that I’d already figured out, too late, about his plan. He actually thanked me for helping him out. I wanted to tear that arrogant smirk off his smug face.
I know that I’m in here for life. On top of everything, Hartley’s father is a big-wig judge. Not that it matters, anyway. Hey, did I tell you that Mandy took him back?
As for being in here, well, my talents help me out some. There’s not a high demand for clairvoyants in prison. But the guys do see the value in someone who can read people.
And let me tell you, my friend. In this place, I need all the intuition I can get.
For more information on Tracy Sharp please see her website at www.tracysharp.com
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