history lesson-


Bell. Glass. Candle.
by Kate Bolin

"Are you certain of this?" she asks, a single eyebrow raised, a slight tilt to her head.

"Of course," I reply, holding out my hand to her as I exit the carriage.

The stairway is rickety, the house is old, and the woman we are calling upon lives on the top floor, renting out a large space like a common charlatan.

But the signs have read clear, and we walk up the stairs to the small wooden door at the very top. I gently tap next to the handwritten sign.

"Celestine Lawrence, spiritual medium
Please knock softly."

Miss Lawrence comes to the door wearing silk slippers and a white dress. Her eyes are wide and she stares at the girl with me. "So this is the girl," she says softly, her voice barely above a whisper and yet echoing through the hall.

My young companion takes a step back, frowning at me. "You have spoken of me?"

I nod slightly. "It was necessary," I say, removing my hat. "As you will see." I gesture towards the open door. "Shall we?"

Her frown deepens, but, like others of her status, goes in proudly, her eyes alert and careful but her demeanor proud and strong.

Miss Lawrence waves her hands towards a small table, unadorned and covered in a simple black cloth. "Please, sit," she asks of us, pointing towards three simple wooden chairs.

I slowly sit down, removing my gloves and placing them on my hat underneath my chair. My companion sits down carefully, her head slightly jerking slightly as she takes account of everything around her.

After we are seated, Miss Lawrence finally sits, seeming to float down to the chair. She reaches out her hands. "Please, we must join hands for this. It is to faciliate communication."

I reach out my hands, grasping Miss Lawrence's papery soft hand. I glance over at the girl and, after a few seconds, she frowns and holds out her hand. I glance at her, reproachful, and the look she gives back is fearful.

The gloves on her hands are kid, dyed pale blue, and a gift from me. I stroke her palm with my palm, attempting to comfort her, when Miss Lawrence suddenly moans and slumps in her chair.

"We've been watching you..." Miss Lawrence slurs, her body stiffening, her head rolling back on her shoulders.

She gasps and squeezes my hand tightly.

"Watching watching...seeing who you are...what you've become..."

"Who has been watching us?" I ask, my voice strong.

"Not you....her..."

And she gasps, still squeezing my hand, nearly to the point of breaking. I take deep, shallow breaths, and attempt to be strong.

"Watching...watching..." Miss Lawrence pauses, breathing deeply, then, with a whisper that sounds like a million voices, breathes "Thank you..." before slumping against the chair again.

There is near silence for several minutes, the only sounds being the slow steady breaths of Miss Lawrence, my quickened yet steady breaths, and the near-hysteric gasping of my companion.

After several more minutes, Miss Lawrence opens her eyes, staring at me directly. She removes her hand from my grasp, and it is only when it is gone do I realize how damp my own palm has become.

"Mr. Wyndham," Miss Lawrence says, her voice rough. "I think you should be leaving. She..." Miss Lawrences glances over at her. "Is looking rather tired."

I stand, my hand still clenched tightly in hers. The sensation of me standing startles my companion back into the world, and she quickly lets go of my hand before standing. As I give my thanks to Miss Lawrence, her eyes are focused entirely on the floor and she is making her way to the door, even as I shake Miss Lawrence's hand and congratulate her on her gift.

I watch her, turning my head away from Miss Lawrence. Miss Lawrence tugs slightly on my sleeve and pulls me close to her. "They gave me another sign," she whispers. "Yesterday." She slips a folded piece of paper into my coat pocket, then, straightening, shows me to the door.

As the door closes behind us, the girl takes a deep breath. "Are many of these spiritualists frauds?" she asks, loud enough to be heard even through the closed door.

I reach into my pocket and pull out the sheet of paper. "In any venture that produces wealth, some are, of course," I say as I unfold the note. "But many, including Miss Lawrence, do seem to be gifted with a great talent -- one that science has yet to explain." I pause as I read the note, standing on the staircase as she continues down towards the waiting carriage.

As she reaches the bottom of the stairs, she turns and looks back to me. "Is something the matter?" she asks. "I had hoped for a brief training session before patrol."

I re-read the date written in Miss Lawrence's near-perfect hand, and then look up at the girl. "No, everything is fine," I say. I resume my descent, slipping the note back into my pocket so that she never sees the date of her demise upon it.

She smiles brightly as I assist her into the carriage. As the driver proceeds, I lean back against the seat and close my eyes.

The date is today.

Another will be called.