“Lagniappe” - A little something extra
On a sunny Thursday afternoon in June, Charmaine sat across from her newest “client” and stared back at her. A small air conditioner worked to keep the humid New Orleans heat at bay. All the bad vibes from this woman made Charmaine feel claustrophobic, as though her usually pleasant home office was stuffed with greasy smog. From the top of her flaming red hair to the tips of her gaudy rhinestone encrusted acrylic fingernails, Kiesha Front screamed “gold digger”.
Keisha got up and started making a circle of the room examining the decor. She started by reading framed degrees and certifications on the wall. Charmaine proudly displayed her diplomas. She loved being a therapist with a little something extra, psychic ability. Her gift of sight gave her a rare insight into her clients. She’d had terrific success helping them find the source of their pain and recover. Others she’d helped avoid dangers creeping toward them from the past. Despite her attempts to keep that part of her practice discreet, the word got out.
For the past year most who came to her wanted more of the supernatural help than therapy. Most couldn’t pay much. Charmaine’s professional reputation among her more conventional colleagues had suffered. Referrals from local psychiatrists and other counselors dried up. Three insurance companies removed her from their provider networks. Charmaine had had to supplement her income with part-time jobs for the past two years, including a stint working at a local dollar store. And now this.
“Impressive credentials,” Keisha said as she leaned closer to stare at one document. “You’ve re-invented yourself since we were kids in the projects.”
“So have you I see,” Charmaine said in a dry tone. She remembered Kiesha from high school, though she’d been a year behind Charmaine. Keisha had always been determined to get attention and get ahead.
Keisha gave a short laugh. “Yeah, you could say that.” Then she turned and read out loud from another framed document. “So you’re a ‘Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist’. Bet that comes in handy.”
“It does at times,” Charmaine replied.
“Don’t think you can try it on me. I’m resistant to that kinda mess,” Keisha said, tossing the words over her shoulder without looking at Charmaine.
“Would you like a glass of sweet tea?” Charmaine asked.
“See, that’s what I mean. You start off with a simple request. Nothing important, but you establish a connection and start a chain of me doing what you suggest.” Keisha came to a decorative mirror on another wall. She gazed at her make-up, patted her hair and turned to Charmaine. “No, I don’t want tea. Can’t stand the stuff.”
“I offer everyone some form of refreshment. Maybe you’d like…”
“I’m fine, Ms. Joliet. Hmm, that sounds too formal. I’ll call you Charmaine,” Keisha said and smiled. “Nice how you turned this addition your mama used as a beauty shop into your office.”
Charmaine smiled back at her. “Thank you. And of course you can call me Charmaine. You’re right. No need for formality.”
Keisha raised an eyebrow. She strolled back to the chair facing Charmaine’s desk, sat down and crossed her shapely brown legs. “You’re good, but it still won’t work. Look, I’ve done my homework on you. I have… friends who specialized in... Let’s just call it research.”
“Research, right.” Charmaine folded her arms.
“Okay, don’t get an attitude. This proposal can do good things for both of us,” Keisha said. She sighed and uncrossed her legs. “My husband has a lot of money. He’s as mean as a bucket of rattlesnakes, and he has lots of enemies. You need money, and you have skills and experience in making a man... disappear. I’ll keep your secret, pay you money and you’ll have something on me.”
“So we’ll both have to keep our mouths shut,” Charmaine added and clenched her teeth.
“Exactly.” Keisha nodded with satisfaction.
“Why shouldn’t I just go to the police? You don’t have proof that I made anyone ‘disappear’ as you put it. Or I could go to your hubby and tell him of your sincere desire to get rid of him,” Charmaine shot back.
Keisha’s expression hardened. “You don’t really want to put your dear, emotionally fragile baby sister through the stress. She’s had a few issues since that ugly incident back when you were kids, hasn’t she? Poor little Jessica. In the past two years alone she’s been arrested twice for soliciting, three times for possession of weed, three times for assaulting her male customers. One might even wonder if she’s about to become a female serial killer. Girlfriend has some serious anger issues.”
Every hair on Charmaine’s body stood at attention. A prickle of fear mixed with loathing shot through her. “Don’t threaten my sister.”
“We don’t have to be enemies. You two had it hard growing up. I’ve been there, girl. I’m like you, Charmaine; a survivor. I learned to use men for what I want, instead always being used by them,” Keisha said with a grimace.
“No, you’re not like me. And you’re damn sure not going to be my friend coming in here trying to blackmail me into killing your rich husband,” Charmaine hissed.
Kiesha stood and looped her expensive gold metallic leather purse over the crook of once arm. She actually almost looked elegant, minus the hair and fingernails. “Jessica is in trouble again. She’s going to need a good lawyer.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Charmaine gripped the imitation leather covering the arms of her cheap office chair.
“Call her hooker pal Diamond if you don’t believe me. You haven’t talked to Jessica in three days. That’s because she’s in the Orleans Parish lock-up, sweetie. She knifed a guy over drugs or something.” Keisha picked up a small note pad from Charmaine’s desk. She wrote down a phone number and held out the pad. When Charmaine didn’t take it, Keisha tossed it onto the desk. “Call me when you’re ready to talk.”
“You’re lying,” Charmaine said trying not to panic. Dread washed over her like bone chilling water on her skin.
“You already know I’m not. Go help your sister. I can give you the bail money as part of your payment. We both know she won’t do well in a jail cell,” Keisha replied. She put on designer sunglasses and walked out.
Shaking, Charmaine went to the office door leading to the outside and slammed home both deadbolts. She went back to her phone to call the parish jail. Then she stopped and put down the cordless handset. Charmaine’s second sight, the gift that was both a blessing and a curse told her that Keisha, aka Mrs. James LeLand Front, had not lied. Jessi needed to be rescued. Again.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish