The Reluctant Psychic Ch. 05byonly_more_so©
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* * *
As Bambi and I rode the elevator to my day's first appointment, her question lingered in my mind. When would I finally stop punishing myself for all the evil things that I've done? I expected to hear Anna's voice speak to me on the issue, but she remained as silent.
Just as the elevator bell pinged, Bambi quickly leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. She said, "I know you don't need the luck, but you do need to know that I love you and believe in you."
I looked at the seemingly somber redhead in her dark gray suit and didn't for a moment doubt that she loved me. That is one of the few aspects of my power that never seems to leave me: knowing that my girls love me. I am often confounded as to why they do, but never that they do.
The doors slid open before I could phrase a reply. As we stepped out of the elevator there was a receptionist's desk a dozen paces in front of us. Throm and Lowe is one of the bigger law firms in the city and occupied the entire floor and half of the next one. This was my first experience having them as a client; I was more used to working with the DA proving guilt than innocence.
The blonde receptionist obviously knew we were expected because she made a quick call and said, "Please follow me, Mr. Throm is expecting you." She took off down the hall rather more quickly than decorum would dictate. I sensed that she was a bit afraid of me, but quite afraid of Mr. Throm.
Ahead were imposing double doors that were flanked by a small incongruous sign that read, "Conference Room A". The blonde knocked quickly on the door and walked in without awaiting a response. I heard a distant clock chiming the hour as she said, "Mr. Throm, the consultants are here."
I walked into the conference room with a deliberate casualness and took stock of the other people in the room. At the head of the oval conference table was Mr. Throm in his tailored suit and starched shirt. Along the right side of the table sat a half dozen junior lawyers who looked at me with disdain in their minds if not on their faces. In the center of the left side of the table sat a single man in a white cotton suit.
I took the seat at the foot of the table and Bambi took the seat to my left. This left two empty chairs between her and the white suited client, a distance which didn't seem enough. I sized up the client with a single glance, but found the man sitting directly across from me more interesting. Mr. Throm was the sort of man that people, especially juries, seemed to trust immediately. But as I looked at the vultures sitting to my right, and remembering the receptionist's reaction, I knew that he was rotten to the core. But as I scanned his mind yet again, I realized that despite his corrupt nature he had never broken the law.
I sat quietly and waited. Junior lawyer number 5 was the first to begin to fidget. It only took a few minutes before all of the junior staff exhibited some sort of impatience. But Mr. Throm and the client sat quietly as they both looked at me with cold deliberation.
I could see the client, a Marty Tribido, counting dollar signs with each passing minute. Finally he turned to glare at Mr. Throm. Throm said, "We have asked you here to help our client, Mr. Tribido. He has found himself in a rather tight spot and hoped that your particular expertise might help."
I said, "You have informed him of my fees?" I didn't really need an answer, but it was part of the game. I received a nod from Mr. Throm and Mr. Tribido. "You have also informed him that I will not work for a guilty client and that he will be charged for this session whether I take his case or not?"
I knew that last part broke Bambi's heart. She believed that even the most guilty client deserved the best defense possible. Part of it was her firmly held faith in the adversarial justice system, but a greater part was the naive belief that a guilty person who was graced with forgiveness would mend their ways. She still believed that if her father hadn't been labeled a criminal, he wouldn't have died a criminal.
Mr. Throm said, "I would give you a lecture on how the legal system in this country works and a lawyers obligations ethically and under the law. But you are not a lawyer and have no such ethics. I have advised Mr. Tribido of all salient points." I would have laughed as the shark impugned my ethics, but this was a job. Instead I merely nodded.
The slow play finally wore down Marty's nerve and he blurted out, "Gregory, how is this cutthroat going to get me off for my wife's murder?"
Gregory Throm's facade cracked slightly at his friend's outburst. I knew the man had killed his wife and I was preparing to leave when Gregory said, "He isn't! He has been asked here to consult on the resisting arrest charge."
Marty stood and slammed his hands on the table. He began a rabid rant as a fierce discussion erupted among the junior lawyers. I looked at the crafty shark sitting across from me and wondered what his game was. I looked to Bambi for advice and saw a shocked expression on her face.
I read the surface thoughts running through her mind and realized I had been trapped. The man was not guilty of resisting arrest and a host of other minor included offenses. But he was guilty of murdering his wife. The trap was that I couldn't consult for the district attorney on the murder while I was consulting for the defendant.
The chaos in the room didn't subside until the hour consultation was up. Marty Tribido and the junior lawyers seemed to be in a battle about who could out shout the other. As the battle raged, Gregory Throm and I stared at each other the vast expanse of table. Bambi said things to me during this time, but I can't recall exactly what it was.
Finally I stood and walked out of the room. The tumult hadn't subsided much as Tribido insisted to know why he was spending ten grand an hour to get out of a thousand dollar fine. Bambi followed on my heels and said, "I'm sorry, I should have known."
"You have nothing to be sorry for Bambi, I am the one who should have known." I wanted to blame Bambi, or Betsy who set up the appointment, but I couldn't. One thing I have learned is that I can only hold myself to blame.
We were soon to the elevator and I punched the button with more vehemence than was necessary. The receptionist could tell from our body language that our meeting with Mr. Throm has not gone well. She felt guilty, not because she knew what was in store, but because she had unwittingly lured someone else into Mr. Throm's web.
I looked the girl's mind over and saw that she had potential, but that working for Throm and Lowe was slowly killing her spirit. The lawyers were dismissive and condescending, the other secretaries cold and cutthroat, and the wealthy clients disturbed her deeply.
Bambi stepped into the elevator when the door opened, but I hesitated. Finally I reached into my pocket and pulled out one of my cards. I handed it to the blonde girl and said, "Call this number and tell the woman who answers that you are interested in a job."
As I stepped onto the elevator, I wondered if Betsy would ever get a call from this girl. I thought about giving the girl a mental push so that she would make the call, but as always I decided not to. The doors closed on my thoughts and Bambi said, "You just can't resist giving girls a second chance, can you?"
"Not quite," I said. "I only offer the second chance, it takes someone special to take advantage of the opportunity."
I smiled as I realized I could still make Bambi blush.
* * *
After the night I left Bambi sitting dazed at a table in a French restaurant, I put her entirely out of my mind. It took a lot of effort, but for her protection I had to. I erased her from my mind so completely that four years later I had to ask Betsy who Bambi McIntyre was, and why she would be inviting me to her graduation from Oxford. A little voice inside my head said it still wasn't safe, so I sent a short note in my stead.
Nearly three years after that I received a package. Under the plain brown paper, I found a box, and in the box I found a copy of a Judicial Doctorate thesis, and in the thesis a dedication to a dangerous man who believed in second chances. I also found a hand written invitation to a graduation ceremony at Harvard Law. This time Anna's voice wasn't so little, and she said I should go.
* * *
I lurked in the back of the room as the graduates went through their capping ceremony. One by one I watched as they became doctors of law. For most of them it was the next stone on their garden path through life. For a few, including the striking redhead, it was something that no one thought they would achieve, but through hard work, hard-earned scholarships and determination they did it anyway.
As Bambi's turn came, I could see her scanning the crowd. She wasn't looking for a friend or loved one, she was looking for me. I let my shroud of obscurity fall from around me, and let her see that I had made it. Her gaze riveted me in my seat and I realized that somehow, after one night I had become her friend and loved one.
Luckily the ceremony was a short one, and when it was over Bambi rushed over to me. She stopped suddenly a yard away, and without using my powers I could see the thoughts rushing through her mind. She suddenly realized that she didn't know me at all. Up until the moment she was face to face with me again, she thought she did.
I was the man who paid for her education. I was the man who had talked the dean of Oxford into having her admitted without transcripts or test scores. I was the man who took her out of a strip club and placed her on the path to real freedom. As I looked down at her, I realized I was also the man who paid to have her breast implants removed.
Perhaps it was my examination of her breasts that made up her mind, or maybe not. But I soon found myself with an armful of happy woman. Her tears of joys gave way to a different kind of tear, and her hug became more possessive. "Please don't run away again," she thought, loudly enough that I couldn't help but overhear.
* * *
We walked outside arm-in-arm, and I led her out to where my car waited. I opened the door of the Rolls for her and walked around to the driver's side. I could feel waves of doubt and excitement surging through Bambi's mind as I drove through Cambridge towards Boston. She wanted to know so many things, but couldn't find the words. After almost seven years of silence, I decided a little more waiting wouldn't hurt anything.
"Where are you taking me?" she finally blurted out. She knew it sounded more like what a kidnapping victim would say, than a prodigal child, and regretted it. But there was genuine concern in her mind. The longer I remained silent the greater her trepidation.
"Isn't it traditional for a graduate to be treated to dinner? And unless you are wearing an old sweatshirt and jeans under that graduation gown, you are going to be more suitably dressed than the last time I dined with you."
I could feel the relief surging through her, and the self-recrimination that she had any doubts in the first place. "What if I told you I wasn't wearing anything underneath the gown?"
"I would call you a liar and a tease. Even Joanne wouldn't have gone bare under her gown, and you are six years and six thousand miles separated from her."
"How do you know?" She asked. I could feel the doubt gnawing at her again. Was I going to steal away her freedom now that I've given her a taste? Was I really a benevolent spirit, or did I have a deeper sinister plan for her?
"I saw a hint of white where the gown is closed at the bottom," I lied. I had seen no such thing, but I saw in her mind the possibility and I pounced on it. "You can stop being so suspicious of my motives. You invited me after all."
"I invited you to my Oxford graduation as well..." She let the thought hang in the air, waiting for me to bite.
I stopped the car in front of the restaurant and got out, leaving the car running for the valet. I claimed the ticket as I walked around to find Bambi climbing out of the passenger side door. I stood two paces toward the door of the restaurant from where she stood on the curb.
She stood resolutely. Her body language said as strongly as her mind that she wouldn't move until I gave her an explanation. Finally I said, "Giving you a second chance was one of the first steps towards my own second chance. You can walk away now and never see me again, or you can join me for dinner and we will be friends."
"But why now, and not three years ago?" She struggled to only ask the single question. They had accumulated inside of her for years, begging for release. She really wanted to know why I was freeing her from obligation now, after a further three years of paying for her education and living expenses.
"Because three years ago I was still too dangerous for you to be around. Even now you are at risk being with me, but you have matured enough to make your own decision." I wanted to tell her everything, to allow her mind to be at peace, but I couldn't.
I took a deep breath and said, "Three years ago, I had to ask my secretary who Bambi McIntyre was, and why I would be invited to her graduation. When I received your invitation this time, I didn't have to be reminded, but it was a near thing. I'm saying this not to be cruel, since forgetting you was the greatest kindness I could have done for you at that time, but to let you know that there are no machinations that I have been planning for years. Your second chance was and is a gift that a poor wretched man gave a girl who showed him what hope could look like."
She took a step towards me and said, "You really know how to charm a lady, forgetting about her entirely while she wonders and waits. I know nothing about you, except that you are a gambler who keeps his promises. Yet, I had a feeling all those years ago that you knew everything about me, and looking into your eyes, I see that's still true."
She stopped speaking, and I could feel a shiver run down her spine as she thought of the question she needed to ask, "When you said that if I joined you for dinner we would be friends, you meant it. Not that it is possible, or as a figure of speech, but that we would be friends. That is the decision you waited three years to have me make, isn't it? I either become a part of your life, or leave it forever?"
I didn't trust my voice, and I didn't trust my mind. Closing both my mouth and my powers, I looked into her eyes and gave a short nod. As I waited for her answer, I wondered if I had really meant it that way, or if I had pulled the thought from her mind. As she spoke my supposed ultimatum, it sounded alien and cruel to my way of thinking, but I also realized it was the sort of finality that she needed. Or maybe it sounded alien and cruel to her, and I needed the finality?
I never did decide the truth of the matter, as Bambi put her arm through mine and said, "Let's eat."
* * *
Later that night, I found myself in an elevator with Bambi. She was wearing a simple white dress, with one arm wrapped in her graduation gown, and the other wrapped around my waist. She hummed quietly as we waited for her floor. Eventually the doors opened and she led me down the hall to her apartment. It wasn't as luxurious a place as she could have afforded on the stipend that my secretary sent her, but the modesty made her feel more secure.
Inside the apartment was even more modest than I expected. The kitchen and living room were the same room, and an arched opening and a beaded curtain barely delineated a bedroom towards the back. There was a single door, which I assumed led to the bathroom, since her clothes hung on a bar in the corner of the bedroom.
"You may be rich and powerful, but I have modest needs. To you this is a shoebox, but it is twice the size of the room I rented when you found me. I saved the extra money you sent me. At first it was because I was afraid it would stop coming, but also because I never had any extra money."
As she put her gown and cap away and hurried to clean up the spotless apartment, she told me about the last seven years. That the first year at Oxford was difficult because she still had her implants. How she returned the next year with new clothes and a new body, and began to feel really free. By her senior year she was happy and felt cleansed. But she knew she couldn't stay in England, there were too many bad memories. So she came to New England and fit right in.
I perched on the edge of the single chair in the room as she puttered about. I knew she was self-conscious about having me in her space, that it wasn't as perfect as she thought it should be. Finally I grabbed her hand as she wandered past and made her face me.
"Bambi, you are an amazing woman, and I am amazed at what you did with your second chance. You can stop cleaning your lovely apartment, it is nothing to be ashamed of."
She squeezed my hand and with downcast eyes said, "It's not that... I am just nervous. I want... I want to make love to you, but it has been a long time." I felt a flinch go through her and saw a thought flash through her mind. The last and only time hadn't been pleasant or voluntary for her. To make it worse it had been her brother, shortly before he was killed.
I nearly told her that if I had wanted to sleep with her for the second chance I would have done it seven years ago. But I heard Anna's voice, "Be careful. She is fragile right now. If you say that it will tear her up. If you used your powers to correct what you say you would destroy the wonderful woman she's become."
Instead I said, "Then we'll take our time."
* * *
I soon found myself leaning against the headboard in Bambi's bed, with the covers up to my waist. The only light in the apartment was cast by the moon through the windows, and the golden glow around the rectangle of the bathroom door. Soon the glow switched off, and the rectangle narrowed and was replaced by a pool of darkness.
Bambi slowly emerged from the clinging shadows. As she stepped into the pool of light from the first window her pale body was lit in silvery details by the moon's soft light. Around her neck glittered the necklace she had worn all those years ago. As my eyes traveled down her body I saw that was all she wore. She stood in the light offering herself to me.
Her long limbs were more rounded than I remembered, but still slender and enticing. Her breasts now matched the natural beauty of the rest of her body as they stood proud on her chest. The vivid pink nipples were taut with arousal and heaved slightly with her quickened breathing. My gaze devoured the rest of her body, the long narrow waist that flared wantonly towards her round hips. Her mound was cast in the shadow of her hips, leaving me to wonder what I would find.
I heard her thoughts and even without seeing her face I knew she was smiling. With a movement of her foot, she rotated her hips slowly, allowing the light to fall on her glistening red curls that formed a neat triangle above her sex. It must have been a trick of the mind, but I could swear the movement also sent me a whiff of her arousal that sent tendrils towards me from across the room.
I swallowed and took a deep breath. I wanted to say something, to tell her how beautiful she was, but the gentle glow of the moonlight forbade any sounds. Instead I pulled back the covers to invite her to join me. With careful subtle steps she walked towards the bed. Each step swung her hips enticingly, and I could almost feel the soft pad of her foot making contact with the floor.
For a moment she passed into darkness again, but the diamonds around her neck still sparkled brightly. In fact her whole being seemed to cast glow against the darkness holding it back until she joined me in the pool cast across the bed. She continued moving towards me, walking on her knees across the bed, until she swung a leg over mine. She knelt above me, the outside of my thighs making the slightly contact with the inside of her smooth legs.