"You see him at the bar, the scruffy looking one with hardly any hair"
"Well he’s got a large red rash on his inner thigh. Looks quite nasty. I’ve got no idea what it is. I’ll do a quick search on the internet before he comes in next time".
Doctor Karl Sebastian was the district’s local general practitioner, so he had most of the residents on his books. He wore a suit most of the time, was bald with tufts of greying hair above his ears, meeting at the back of his head. He also wore thick, black rimmed spectacles, meaning nobody could really discern his eyes behind the distorted glass. He was 53, divorced, and lived in a brand new apartment.
His friend, Neil Hughes, earned a living as a psychic, albeit one with a growing reputation of being accurate, his popularity gradually increasing due to word-of-mouth. He had rented a room above a hairdressers, a lot of the women there deciding to have a reading as well while they were there. He used a crystal ball, bought from an antique shop, and didn’t believe he had any powers, and would trade on the gullibility of those who believed enough to part with money. His reputation was boosted by Karl, who broke the doctor-patient confidentially rule for a cut of the profits. Neil gave him a small percentage everytime he learned of a new person who had booked a reading. He would insist on appointments being made so he could find out as much about them beforehand as possible.
A cheap, faux diamond stud earring was embedded in his left ear. His hair was cut very short, almost to skinhead level. He was thin and bony, and was 47.
Karl practically knew most of the locals, knew their privacy, knew of most aspects of their lives, as it would usually be voluntarily told to him, even if it had nothing to do with their ailment. Patients would tell him in confidence things they would never tell their closest loved ones. Karl only told Neil because he knew he could trust him, and was providing him with valuable information for a price.
They were in their local pub, and even though it was daylight outside, the lights were on as though it was night, creating a strange illumination that could not be called comfortable.
"That fella sitting on his own over there, reading the paper" said Karl, nodding in the direction. "He’s got glaucoma, and that woman sitting by the entrance with a few of her mates, the one with the flowery dress. She’s got gonorrhoea and dysentery. She’s in a right mess. Anyway, I take it you have another person who you know nothing about". Neil nodded.
"Yes, an appointment for next Wednesday. Mr Oakes".
"Mr Oakes," said Karl to himself. "Mr Oakes, it rings a bell. I’ll let you know as soon as I can".
The following day Karl pulled up in his Audi sport at the kerb on the edge of a local football playing field. He had told Neil to meet him there. A chill wind had blown up and Neil stood there in a winter coat as though he was waiting for a bus. He walked across to the car and got in. Karl immediately handed him a piece of paper full of scribbled notes.
"Typical bloody doctor," said Neil, "How am I supposed to read your handwriting?" Karl smiled.
"It’s tradition, anyway you should be grateful". Neil reached into his pocket and pulled out and handed him a £20 note.
"There you go," said Neil, "I’m grateful".
"That’s always been my handwriting. You’ve never had a problem before".
"I have to do my best to read it. What do we have here" He tried to read it:
"..Mr Oakes has empha…what?"
"Emphysema. He smokes too much, and he’s got a gammy knee caused by playing squash. The ball smacked directly onto his kneecap, dislodging it. The idiot can’t be bothered going to the hospital for a simple operation. He can’t stand the fact that he would be required to do without his cigarettes for a while, even though I’ve told him he can go outside, but there’ll be times when he’ll have to go without.
Another thing he told me was that he lets his missus sleep with other men. He said he can’t satisfy her in the bedroom, so she goes and brings fellas back. He said he’s become friends with some of them".
"Some of them," said Neil. "Why is the there a queue outside her house?". Karl shrugged.
"Where to?" he asked, pulling away from the kerb.
"Back to the place, I’ve got an appointment in half an hour".
Just another paranoid individual who thinks he’s got the plague when he sneezes, or near enough, thought Karl, looking at the pale, thin, reedy figure of a man who looked at him with big dark blue eyes full of hope, hope that the doctor was the answer to all his ailments, and ailments he had plenty of, but they could all have been cured by the supermarkets own-brand of medicines and remedies on the shelves. Mr Simmons, 52, wore a long dark coat, beneath which he wore pyjamas. It seemed he almost wanted to be admitted to hospital, as he seemed the ideal patient, if only he had something worth going in for. He had a sore back, was constantly snivelling into a handkerchief, had various sores all over him, and occasional pains. Karl was convinced he was simply paranoid, and would be better served if he was to see a psychologist. He thought that he would refer him the next time he would come in, which he knew would be soon. He wrote him his prescription and Mr Simmon’s face broke into a smile, and soon the door was closing behind him.
He typed a few notes on the computer, then put his file back in the cabinet. Before he sent for the next patient, he opened the drawer beside him and took out a sudoku puzzle magazine. He’d already had one half filled in. He completed it, put it back, then sent for the next patient.
Mr Oakes slowly made his way up the stairs, knocked on the cheap white door and waited. He was small and stocky, 52 years of age, wore ill-fitting jeans and a white shirt with uncombed, unkempt hair. He looked ten years older than what he was.
"Come in," came a muffled voice. He entered, and Neil stood up and came around the table to shake his hand.
"Nice to see you. This is your first time, yes?" Bernard Oakes nodded.
"I’ve come for my reading. I wondered if you could tell me what my future holds".
"That’ll be fifteen pounds" Neil said. Bernard took out his wallet and produced a twenty pound note.
"Have you got change?" Neil’s face turned sour slightly. He took the note and walked across to the chest of drawers in front of large crimson curtains draped across half of the room, cordoning it off, leaving the main area by the large windows where the readings would take place. He rummaged through the top drawer and returned with a torn, sellotaped five pound note, and a painted smile.
A few minutes later, they were sat at a round, sap green draped table, Neil gazing into the crystal ball almost transfixed. Even though most of the clients wanted their futures read, Neil would often tell them about themselves, and it would usually work. Although their future would not be made much clearer, they would leave happy in the knowledge that Neil was right, that he had paranormal insights and gifts.
"I’m getting a pain" he said, "A pain in my leg. No…my knee. My knee. It’s..It’s caused by a sport. I see white. You were wearing white when it happened". Neil looked up at Bernard whose face was that of surprise. He nodded.
"Yes. Squash. I got it playing squash".
"Yes, that’ll be it". Neil gazed back into the crystal ball.
"I also see, something inside your lungs. Are you a smoker Mr Oakes?"
After half an hour Mr Oakes left the place with a beaming smile. His future involved a new job as a gardener. It meant no or few regulations when it came to smoking. He would be outdoors so could light up whenever he wished, and Neil always liked it when a client left happy. It meant they would probably return, as a lot of them did. He usually simply told them similar information to what he had said before, but worded it in such a way that they thought he was telling them new information. He basically had nothing much else to say to regulars. Their information was kept in the drawers, reviewed before an appointment, and spun out to them in such a way as to make them think he had inside knowledge and prophetic foresight.
If he had been a smoker, he would have lit up. Instead, he looked into the crystal ball, and frowned when he saw what looked like glittering stars swirling around. He looked closer and they brightened and then cleared to reveal an image of himself with a knife in his back. He was on the floor, crawling through a carpet of money. Karl was there also, picking it up and throwing it into the air. He then turned and looked out at Neil, and grinned with jet black, piercing eyes. The image faded, the lights returned, and then they too faded to leave what he usually saw when he looked into the ball. Distortion.
He stood up, backing away from it as though it had become a big spider.
"He’s going to betray me" he said to himself. "That’s true. I can feel it". He genuinely believed it, and he also wondered if he had real powers. Do I really need the doctor? he thought. Perhaps I really do have a gift.
He wondered if he should test the doctor’s trust. Give him a morsel to grab his attention and see how much of a friend he was.
"If you could put your clothes back on now Mrs Haversham" said Doctor Sebastian, I’d be most grateful, he thought. Mrs Haversham was 73, was practically wrinkled all over, as though gravity was having more of a pull on her. She was small, and had dark grey hair pulled back in a bun.
"Thank-you doctor," she said, putting on her skirt. Karl wondered why she had taken half of her clothes off simply for him to examine to small of her back and her hips. She even declined to go behind the screen.
"I’ve got nothing to hide," she had said, winking at him. Yes, you have, Karl had thought. She was simply complaining of pains in those areas, and an examination had revealed nothing unusual. He had put his stethoscope on her pale chest, her black bra seemingly loose, not even holding anything of any substance, just large, empty wrinkles as far as he could see. He wondered if she was hoping for more of a thorough examination. He had seen far too much of her recently.
Fully dressed, she crossed to the exit and turned around.
"Thank-you doctor. I’ll make an appointment for next time at reception".
"Er, no, make it if you have a problem. Honestly, you’re fine".
"Just incase," she said, closing the door behind her.
Karl sighed, leaned back in his creaky chair, then made a few notes about her which basically consisted of there being nothing to report. It was his last appointment of the day, and he was soon out walking along to his local pub where he was expecting to meet Neil, who was there with a drink ready for him.
After a while, Neil decided to throw him the bait.
"I had a strange reading today," he said, "It was a young woman who has always been brought up to be careful with her money. She’s a student, living in uni accommodation, but told me she’s keeps £30 grand under the bed in the house. Doesn’t know what to do with it. Doesn’t trust banks".
"I suppose that’s where we’re similar in a way," said Karl, "People simply tell us a load of personal information, but then it’s your job to tell them before they tell you, isn’t it?". He took a sip of his shandy.
There was silence for a few moments.
"So…er," said Karl, "This girl, whereabouts does she live?"
"Just up the road," said Neil, hooking his thumb over his shoulder, even though it wasn’t in that direction.
"Er, 53 Lenmere street"
"I’ll tell you what," said Karl, "That Mrs Haversham is getting on my nerves".
Stood in a telephone box, Neil was visibly trembling as he lifted the receiver. He was a hundred percent convinced that the vision he had seen was correct. So much so he had to warn the police that Karl was about to commit theft, even though he knew that the house at the address he had given was empty. It was up for sale.
After a few more seconds hesitation, Neil rang.
He did not mention the vision, simply that he suspected that Karl would turn up expecting to enter an empty house and collect the money.
An unmarked police vehicle had arrived outside the semi-detached, an irate looking police officer in his thirties who would rather be golfing, or drinking herbal tea sat with his arms folded, staring at the place. His companion also had his arms folded, but was fast asleep, and had been for the past half hour.
After ten minutes, an Audi sport pulled up outside the house, and Karl got out, standing on the pavement, frowning at house with his hands on his hips.
"Doctor Karl Sebastian" said the policeman’s companion, his eyes weary with sleep. Karl looked at him.
"You’re under arrest".
At the police station, Karl sat like a sulking child, but he wasn’t mute.
"He set me up, he bloody well set me up. Neil Hughes, the town’s local psychic, you may know him. Well I’ve got news for you, officer, he’s a shark, a fraud. I give him the information and he preys on gullible people who believe in all that. Search his premises, you’ll find everything he has on people who have had appointments with him". The droopy moustached policeman nodded.
"Yes, ok, we may just investigate".
Neil couldn’t keep still, pacing around the small parlour as though he was waiting for an important test result. What if this happened? he thought, what if that? Does he suspect it was me? He was looking out of the window, half expecting the riot police to come screeching around as though he’d just tried to assassinate the prime minister. Was Karl telling all about him? Maybe it would be a good idea to leave the area for a while, he thought.
Turning from the window, he stopped, as hovering above the table was the crystal ball. It was at eye level, then slowly drifted towards him and stopped around two feet away. More fear surged through him. He could see roiling dark clouds within the sphere, which cleared to reveal a vision of Karl sitting on a bed, in a prison cell. It then slowly panned around and zoomed out to reveal that there were two beds, and it was he who was sitting on the other. The ball then fell, and shattered on the floor. Neil quickly ran out, panic surging through him. He made his way hurriedly down the stairs, only to be greeted by two policemen, one of them holding out his badge.
"Neil Hughes," the man said, "You’re under arrest".