“Hey, Ms. Gardeen, Andrew Bassen here, I wanted to see about getting a reading this afternoon if you can see me,” explained a worried young male voice.
I hesitated for a moment, not exactly sure why. At the behest of my husband, Jess, I started doing personal readings. He wanted me to use my talents to bridge a gap between doing TV appearances and connecting with individuals who needed my help one-on-one. I made a name for myself as a medium on a national level – getting booked on Montel regularly and the Today Show for New Year’s Eve. My blond hair, blue eyes, petite stature, and business attire made me look more like a district attorney than a typical medium. I also only charged for my $90 per reading. Keeping prices kept me accessible to a wide variety of people. If there was an extenuating circumstance, the rate would drop to $20. As my schedule continued to fill, these instant requests were getting harder to accommodate. A disquieting sound in this man's voice made me pause.
“I’ll pay you double or triple your usual rate, please!” he begged.
"It's not necessary," I replied. "There is a slot open around 12:30 if that works for you – otherwise, it will have to be in a few weeks."
“No, 12:30 is perfect. Thank you!”
I put down the phone and felt a little uneasy. When people are that insistent, they typically expect me to give them a revelation that will make all their problems go away. It's never that simple. The first thing I do when reading someone is to check my BS meter. Are my own thoughts or issues being projected into the reading? Am I trying to make a connection that's not there? I then open myself up to the entity needing to come through. Sometimes they are right there - behind or in front of the person, and sometimes they are just in my mind's eye – it depends on the spirit and how they want me to perceive them.
Generally, my statements are based on the information coming from the other side rather than ask leading questions. For instance, "Roger says you both used to hide out in the middle school athletic building to avoid Mr. Baker, your PE teacher. Does that sound right?" rather than "Did you have a friend with the first name of R who you used to play with?" My clients are amazed at my accuracy. If the person I’m talking too does not get the answers they need – there is no charge. At this point, I’ve done about 200 readings, and no one has asked for their money back.
Andrew arrived at 12:20. He was a young man in his 20's, with a slight build, short light brown hair, and green eyes that could not hide a touch of cynicism. He declined my offer for something to drink and talked to me as I prepared my green tea. I assured him that the clock on his session would not start until we were both sitting at the table, and he could ask me questions directly. As he fidgeted, there appeared an older female apparition standing behind him, trying to calm him down. She looked at me and smiled dolefully.
We sat down at the round mahogany table in my office with two plush red velvet high backed chairs. I asked Andrew to close his eyes if he was comfortable doing that and to breathe deeply. I took out a tape recorder and told him about recording our session and would give him the tape which he could keep. He looked surprised at this and seemed to relax a little. His eyes remained open – carefully fixing them on me. The older woman put her hand on his shoulder.
“Just so that you know, I’ll relay the information as I get it and from those that come through. I’ll tell you what they tell me.”
“Okay, sounds good,” he replied uncertainly.
“There is an older woman near you – about 70 years old, short and heavy set – wearing a blue dress with a rose broach. She's showing me a hand full of M&Ms. Does that mean anything to you?" Andrew looked surprised. I said something which rattled him a bit.
“My grandma used to give me and my brother M&Ms, actually sneaked them to us while my mom made dinner.” The old woman talked to me directly with a slight Hungarian accent.
"I'm Ella – but my grandchildren called me Grandiella. My son married his mother who was a terrible cook and rarely let me into her kitchen. You know how competitive women can be, especially a daughter and Mother-in-law. I would come by and leave a casserole from time-to-time, but those poor boys never got a decent home-cooked meal. She never allowed sweets into the house," she said, touching the top of his head. Andrew batted at his hair trying to swat away an insect.
“She’s telling me her name is Grandiella and that your mom is not a great cook and that she used to bring a casserole by – that your mother felt competition from her.”
Andrew looked more uncomfortable, which was normal. It's one thing for him to know about the conflicts at home; it's another for a stranger to get that information from beyond and relay it.
"Yeah, they had issues. Is there anyone else there with my Grandma?" he asked carefully.
At this, the old woman looked sad and disappointed.
“He wants to hear from his father, but my son is not dead. My son left his family – his wife and two sons because he was afraid of responsibility. He married her because he falls in love easily but falls out of love just as quickly. He managed to say with Vera, Andrew’s mother, for four years but left for another woman. In my daughter-in-law's eyes, he was dead to her, and that's what she told her sons. But she made it a heroic death so her sons would not know he abandoned them. I tried to make it up to my grandchildren. They were all I had. Vera would let me visit. She would leave so I could babysit, but she had a hard time looking at me for a while, but we grew close. When he left for the other woman – we fought that night and he vowed to never see me again. He didn’t come to see me on my death bed. Vera stayed with me in the end. The one who truly loved me,” she broke down in sobs.
I took a deep breath and tried to size up the information I had just gleaned.
"I'm not sure how to tell you this, your grandmother just gave me some information about your father –"
"Yes, what is it? Please, I have to know how he really died!" he said insistently.
I took another breath and told him what I knew.
“Your father is not dead. He left you and your brother when you were both very young. Your mother told you he was dead, so you could still look up to him. He also had a falling out with your grandmother. He never saw her again either. Even when he knew about her dying, he stayed away. Your mother was there at her side. She loved your grandmother, and that gave comfort to her. I’m so sorry you had – “
“LIAR, you are a fake and a LIAR,” Andrew yelled. “All you psychics are liars. That’s not true! It can’t be – my father died trying to save a child in a burning car. He loved us – he’s a good man.”
“I’m so sorry that you found out this way – “
"I'm going to call my mother, and she's going to expose you as the fraud
His grandmother tried to calm him but placing her hand on his shoulder, but he instinctively jerked it away. He looked at me with his eyes flashing.
“You’ll never take another dime from another poor sucker! You people are all alike- thieves and I have the audio,” he shouted as he pointed to the tape recorder. I tried to stay calm, but he got so agitated that I felt that my personal safety was in danger.
"Hey Mom, I'm putting you on a speaker," he said. "I'm here with a so-called psychic, Sophia Gardeen. I tried to contact Dad. She dared to tell me that he's not dead. Tell her she's full of bullshit!" he said with a bitter but vindicated smile.
There was a sigh on the other end. Andrew looked at me and the phone.
"Mom, are you there? Tell her how Dad died," he said as his confidence started to waver.
"Andrew – take me off the speakerphone – NOW!"
“No, I want her to hear the truth!”
“Andrew, stop it – this is not one of your magic shows.”
“Tell her he’s dead. She needs to be exposed for the fraud she is.”
“Dammit Andrew! Your father is not dead. I lied to protect you and your brother.”
“Wait, what?” Andrew’s face looked like that of a young boy who just found out the truth about Santa and the Easter bunny at the same time.
“Take me off speaker so that we can talk,” she said softly.
Andrew picked up his phone and stood in the corner of my outer office as he spoke to his mother quietly.
“But what are you going to tell Randy? He idolized Dad… it was all a lie?”
I prayed that Andrew, unlike his father, would still have a relationship with his mother. I felt for the poor young man, not sure if he should have ever found out the truth.
He got off the phone, kept his back turned to me, and wiped his eyes. He started to chuckle in a weird tone. He then turned to me with his green eyes flashing.
“You must have had a solid hunch,” he said. “Hell, even a broken clock is right twice a day. You got lucky this time.”
I saw his grandmother fly over to protect me. She was not sure what he would do next.
“I’m sorry this is not the answer that you expected. You don’t have to pay me – you can just go.”
“Oh great – I don’t have to pay you for ruining my life. Thanks so Goddamn much!" he said as he started to move towards me with his left fist clenched. His grandmother knocked the phone out of his other hand.
“What the fu—” he started to say.
Just then, Ella started to pull books off the shelves that lined my office, and they fell to his feet. It stopped him in his tracks. Both he and I looked startled. I didn't think the old ghost was capable of what she was doing, but her anger gave her the ability to move objects.
“YOUNG FOOL!” she shouted, and I could tell by his sudden reaction that he heard it as well.
"I don't know how you are doing this – but I'm not impressed. Probably some springs on the bookcase. I'm not one of your rubes. Stop it now!" Andrew shouted trying not to show his fear.
"YOU ARE TOO PROUD – THIS WOMAN TRIES TO HELP, AND YOU MOCK HER. I LOVED YOU ANDY, AND THIS IS MY THANKS? GO TO YOUR MOTHER AND TELL HER YOU LOVE HER!" his grandmother bellowed. All her fury she felt at her son was manifesting towards her grandson.
"You must think I'm pretty stupid. This is all a lie – to trick me, but I must admit your production values are pretty good," Andrew started to laugh in a weird high-pitched tone. He began to walk over the books toward me, his face flushed with rage. Just then, I heard the door to my outer office open.
"Hey babe, you want to get some lunch?" my husband Jess asked. Just then, he saw Andrew sauntering up to me, his hands opening and closing, and the frightened look on my face.
“Sophia, what the hell?”
Andrew turned and saw Jess as while I backed away. I stumbled over the chair, falling back to the floor. Jess, who used to be a sprinter in college, literally leaped between us.
“Tell the yard boy to leave, this is between you and me," Andrew said, thinking that because Jess was black, that made him the hired help. That remark, along with the sense that I was in imminent danger, sent my usually mellow husband into grizzly bear mode, capable of mauling anyone who came near me.
"Get the fuck away from my wife!" Jess said, using his entire muscular 6'2" frame to tower over Andrew.
“YOU ARE NOT MY SWEET LITTLE GOO-BOO – YOU ARE GYENGE AND VILE TO THIS WOMAN WHO ONLY WANTS TO HELP YOU!" Ella bellowed, and Jess heard it too.
Andrew looked like someone had thrown cold water in his face. His skin looked mottled and red. His eyes holding back more tears. He backed off.
“I am not GYENGE – I’m not weak!" he yelled back to his grandmother and then centered himself. His anger faded slightly, and now he just looked like a lost little boy trying his best to not let on how frightened he felt.
"You need to get out of here now before I call the cops!" Jess said in a quiet, menacing growl that I had never heard before as he helped me up off the ground.
Andrew looked down and then realized that the tape continued to run and the entire episode had been captured on audio. He seized the tape recorder triumphantly.
"Here is the evidence that she's a fraud!" he said, holding up the device which was still recording.
"Evidence of your mother telling you that my reading about your dad was spot on or the evidence of your grandmother speaking from beyond. Or the racist remark you made toward my husband. Take your pick. Please use it so the public can decide,” I said. Now that I was standing, I wanted to punch the crap out of this arrogant little pisser.
Andrew realized that I had snatched victory from him and looked enraged once again.
“You will not prevail – I will spend my life proving that you are a fake, that all mediums are fakes just like Houdini! I don’t know how you knew what you did and how you replicated Grandiella’s voice, but you are a sham. I will unmask you and expose you for the fake you are! Alakazam!!”
He took out something the size of an egg and threw it down on the ground. It let off a puff of red smoke so he could escape out the front. As the smoke started to dissipate, we saw him struggling to open the office door. He threw down another flash pot. This time, he managed to get out the door, but we heard him coughing and hacking as he left the building. It seemed so absurd, Jess and I started to laugh out of relief.
"Sophia, that guy was a total nut job. Are you okay?" he said, holding me close to him.
“Yes, just a little shaken up,” I replied.
“You need to cancel the rest of your appointments. I don’t want you doing this anymore.”
“Jess, I can’t just cancel. Some of the people seeing me today traveled a long distance to meet me. If I stop seeing people suddenly, that Andrew person will have gotten what he wants. I’m not giving in to that ass wipe!”
“Then get an office in my building, there’s a security guard in the front and a coffee shop. I know how you love your tea and java,” he said as he smoothed my hair down to calm me.
“That is so sweet, but my clientele like coming to a non-descript location. An office building where they would have to sign-in is not private. There are all those office people around and their dead relatives might come through; I'd get overloaded. “
“Okay, okay, but no more seeing your clients alone. I don’t have any more appointments today, so I’ll call the office and finish my proposal from here. I brought my laptop and cell phone so I can work on getting you an assistant happens to be a linebacker,” he said as he turned my face to his and kissed me. The warmth of his chest and lips were comforting. Oddly enough, I was grateful that we were having this time together since our schedules tended to fill up and quiet moments were few and far between. Ella watched us and smiled.
“My Andrew will probably be back, Miss Sophia. I will try to keep him away, but he is a stubborn boy. As you can see, not the magician he fancies himself to be. The ‘Incredible Andy’ is what he calls himself. He has a hard time realizing he is wrong.” She smiled again and faded out.
Jess and I ordered pizza and put my office back in order before my next client, a single mother who was trying to get closure on her mother's death in a car accident. Much to Jess' chagrin, I would only charge her $20.
As I started to close the shades around my office at the end of the day, I saw Andrew across the street, peering towards my office window. His face looked passive and emotionless. He waved, and then took out another flash pot which let out a curtain of green smoke. This time he managed to disappear.