In Mark McShane’s paranormal thriller Séance on a Wet Afternoon, Myra Savage is a psychic—a real one with the ability to see into other people’s minds and sense the future, not one of those pathetic wannabes whom she despises. But despite her clairvoyant abilities, Myra and her husband Bill are struggling to make ends meet with the money she gains from her seances.
Myra craves notoriety and decides to take matters into her own hands. She concocts a plan to kidnap Adriana Clayton, the child of a wealthy couple. Once Adriana goes missing, Myra will contact the family and offer her psychic abilities to find the child, finally receiving the renown she so deserves.
But things go horribly wrong.
In the passage below, Myra and Bill are holding Adriana captive, while Myra conducts a psychic session with a group of women, including the girl’s mother.
Keep reading for a tense scene from Séance on a Wet Afternoon, then download the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.
Bill had a good view of the group around the table, from his wife’s profile to the unobscured face of Mrs. Clayton, and it was mostly on this face that he fixed his eyes. The young woman from Barnet was watching Myra closely, with an expression of curiosity, fear and hope. Bill could see that she was probably younger than he’d at first supposed; it was the lines and darkness of worry and sleeplessness around her eyes and the tense set of the mouth that aged her.
He looked back to Myra as she began to speak again, and listened. She wasn’t entranced, he knew by the sound of her voice, and he was interested in how she would satisfy her clients and make them happy by saying the most commonplace things. She was talking about a man, with a description that would have fitted ninety-five men out of a hundred, and the woman sitting next to Mrs. Clayton kept saying, ‘Yes, that’s Fred. That’s my Fred,’ and, ‘Ask him about Mrs. Brown’s Marion.’ Myra dodged around every leading question, and finished with the woman by pronouncing, ‘Take good care. Take good care.’
It was Mrs. Clayton’s turn and Bill tensed. There was a moment of silence before he heard Myra say, ‘You are worried about a child.’
‘Yes.’ The young woman’s voice came loud and clear.
‘You are worried because for the second time she has not come home when expected.’
‘You must be of good heart. Your child is safe. She is being taken care of by three people. They are not evil people, but …’
A noise intruded on Bill’s hearing, a rustling noise from behind, and he swung his head quickly.
Adriana was getting off the bed.
Before he could move the picture down over the peephole she had trotted to his side and was standing staring up at him. She opened her mouth to speak, but he grabbed her arm, pulled her close and clamped a hand on her lips. She began to struggle and squirm and shake her head from side to side.
Mrs. Clayton’s voice came through plainly: ‘When will I get her back?’
Adriana froze, and Bill with her. Then the child suddenly burst into violent contortions, flailing and kicking. The noise of their movements seemed monstrously loud to Bill, and he darted a fearful glance at the peep-hole; but he dare not loose her to close it for fear she shouted the moment his hand left her mouth.
He used all his strength against her, lifting her bodily off the floor and clamping the back of her head to his chest. Slowly, and with a slight feeling of exhilaration at his superiority, he began to get the better of the fight. He imprisoned both her arms in his left one, and after taking two painful kicks on the shins trapped her legs between his knees. She still struggled, but was too tightly held now to allow much movement. He curved his hand closer around her mouth as she began to make gurgling sounds, and stopped them. He quickly leaned to the wall and put his eye to the hole to see if the rumpus had been noticed by the women. As before, the medium was the centre of attraction in the séance room.
Myra said, ‘She is in a place that is built of wood. It is warm and dry, and she is being well cared for. You must not fear for her safety.’
‘The three people are now better disposed toward the child than they were wont to be, and are treating her with courtesy. They seem to be happy about something. All is well.’
Myra thought she had told Mrs. Clayton all she could, and ended with, ‘There is nothing more, except that you will see your daughter soon. Very soon. Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow for certain you will see your daughter.’
‘Thank you. Thank you very much.’
Myra moved her head slightly, toward the woman on the far right, wanting to hurry along the meeting. She knew the woman to be concerned about her husband’s affair with his secretary, and began to frame her opening sentence around ‘a young woman with a romantic attachment’.
She was about to pronounce the first word, but stopped. Her chest had suddenly started to ache. She took a deep breath and began again to speak, and again stopped. The pain was getting worse. It was as though her lungs were so full of air they were about to burst.
She became frightened, pulled her hands free, clutched them to her breast, opened her eyes and mouth and tried to breathe out. She couldn’t. The pain spread with a jump to her throat. She was choking. Her heart thumped wildly, her lungs swelled steadily, her eyes bulged from their sockets, her head roared with frantic noise, and mad fear struck like a knife zipped up the spine.
She leapt to her feet and screamed.
Bill jerked convulsively. His hair suddenly felt as if it were alive with crawling things. He was so unnerved he was barely conscious of the child still clamped in his arms. He watched unblinking as Myra, her hands around her throat, swayed forward on to the table and crashed down to the floor.
There was a frenzied bustling and babbling as the women crowded round. The ceiling light was switched on. Mrs. Clayton, the only one still sitting, looked down worriedly. Then the movement and noise stopped, and there was an expectant silence. Bill heard his wife’s voice.
She said, ‘Dead.’
He took one step back from the peep-hole. He closed his eyes tightly. He was overpowered with a feeling of horror; black dripping horror. His lips, mouth, his whole lower jaw began to tremble. The moan that escaped him tuned up to a squeak at the end. As though he’d been stung on it, he pulled his hand from the girl’s face and pressed it to his lips. Adriana’s head fell to the side.
With his eyes still closed he loosed his left arm, and felt her sag away from him and land with a soft thud on the floor. He cringed forward from the waist, holding a hand to his bubbling stomach, and forced himself to open his eyes and look, but knowing before he did what he would see. He knew the child was dead.
Adriana was lying on her back, her arms spread and her legs twisted. Her face was dark, and there was a slight frown between her partly open eyes. Her hands were clenched into tight white-knuckled fists.
Bill’s legs gave way, and he sank slowly to his knees beside her. He stared, stupefied with grief and dread, at the lifeless form, and reached out a hand that dangled like an empty glove and touched the smooth brow, and whispered, the words blurred with saliva, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’
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