Kingsley searched for a private spot in the Sutherland mansion to inspect his treasure. He found a dim corner of the library and sat on the floor beside a tall, cherry cupboard that smelled of tobacco and gunpowder. He pulled the pendant out of his pocket and traced the six-pointed star with his fingers. He pondered all he had learned about the dolphin disease. It caused brain tumors. Maybe the two boys in Billy’s neighborhood who’d died had it. Maybe the stallion had it. None of the girls he knew had it. Not Amanda. Not his mother. Kingsley rubbed the pendant against his cheek, hoping it would give him good luck. Hoping it would cure him.
Unread books filled the library shelves and unappreciated paintings covered the walls. The closest was of a small boy running across a springtime landscape followed by a pack of hounds. No spelling tests marked with A+ or school photos taken every year since kindergarten hung on these walls, not like what his mother used to tack up all over their tiny apartment back in New Orleans. Across from the painting was a long poem in a gold frame. Kingsley started to read the poem.
They that have the pow’r to hurt, and will do none…
The door opened and a blade of light sliced through the dark. “Kingsley?” Amanda stood in silhouette, carrying a black and white composition notebook. “Are you in there?”
He quickly slipped the pendant back into his pocket. “Yeah.”
“Why’d you run away from Dr. Jacobs’ house? Why didn’t you wait for me?”
Kingsley shrugged. “I had to go,” he mumbled.
She walked toward his voice and sat with him beside the cherry cupboard. “My great-great-grandfather bought this from Robert E. Lee’s estate.”
“This cupboard,” she said. “It’s the most valuable thing in this house. That’s what Daddy says. My great-great-grandfather went to Arlington after the Civil War. He bought it just before the government turned Lee’s plantation into a cemetery.” She leaned against Kingsley. “What are you doing?”
“Me too. I’ve been thinking about that snake. The one your mom shot.”
“The snake! I’m sick and you’re worried about that snake?”
“It’s all connected,” Amanda said. “My father says the best measure of a person is how they treat animals. He told me never trust anyone who’s cruel to animals.” She bluntly added, “That’s one reason why I don’t trust your mom.” The sad truth was that Kingsley didn’t trust his mother, either. “Grandmother used to write poetry before her stroke. Poetry gives life to ideals, that’s what she used to say.”
Kingsley pointed to the long poem in the gold frame. “Did she write that?”
“Of course not,” Amanda scoffed, “That’s Shakespeare.” She opened her black and white notebook, “I wrote a poem. Want to hear it?” Before Kingsley could answer, she started reading. “Black Snake by Amanda Santos Sutherland.
I do not blink.
I do not cry.
nail me to a tree.
I am small.
You are too big,
You are too blind
She closed her notebook. “The end. What do you think?”
“It doesn’t rhyme,” Kingsley said.
Amanda stood up in a huff. “You know nothing about poetry.” She left Kingsley alone in the gloomy library.
August in eastern Virginia was just as hot and muggy as July. The only good thing was that there weren’t as many bugs, which was strange. Last August Kingsley was constantly running into spider webs and he was horrified when he found a big tick on the inside of his thigh. Kingsley sat in a rocking chair on the wide front porch of the Sutherland mansion, wearing shorts and a sweaty t-shirt, wishing he was inside playing video games. His mother had pulled the plug on his game console and threatened to throw it out the window if he didn’t go outside. He sat with Floyd, who was wearing long pants, a white shirt and a tie, as always. Floyd was slicing an apple with a paring knife. He offered Kingsley a piece of apple.
Kingsley took the piece. “I start ninth grade in September. All the kids at school already think I’m a wimp, if word gets out about me fainting at my birthday party, I’ll get beat up for sure.”
“Bullies will do that.”
Floyd had a deep vertical scar that bisected his dark face. Kingsley had been afraid of Floyd’s scar the first time they met, but now they were comfortable friends. “Is that what happened to you?” Kingsley asked. “Did you get in a fight with a bully?”
Floyd nodded. “A knife fight.” He swiped the paring knife above his scar.
Kingsley sat up in his chair. “Really?”
Floyd laughed, almost choking on a piece of apple. “No, not really.” It took a minute for him to clear his throat. “I was born this way. I was teased about it when I was a boy so I told everyone I was in a knife fight to look tough.”
“Did that work? Did the bullies leave you alone?”
“Most times,” Floyd said. “Guys’ll back down if you give them half a reason.”
“That’s true.” Kingsley knew he’d back down from a fight, but he wasn’t so sure about Amanda or his mother. They were still arguing about the dead snake. “Amanda’s the bravest person I know,” he murmured. “Must be nice to be rich and brave.”
Floyd nodded. “Yep, must be nice.”
“And to live in a mansion and have a chauffeur,” Kingsley added.
“I wasn’t always a chauffeur, you know. I used to work at the Sutherland Shipyard. That was way back before your Momma started taking care of Mrs. Sutherland. Back when Mr. Sutherland was still alive.”
“Did you like it?”
“Sometimes. Lots can go wrong building aircraft carriers. I almost—”
“You built aircraft carriers!” Kingsley interrupted. “Did any Blue Angel jets land on your aircraft carriers?”
“Once or twice,” Floyd said. “I mostly worked in the office, bidding on Pentagon contracts. Drove me crazy. Every two years a new crop of congressmen would come in and change the rules. One year they’d worry about saving money, the next they’d worry about national defense. Too much politicking.” He cut another piece of apple and handed it to Kingsley. “But I do miss those big ships. I was too old to learn welding and too loyal to fire so Mr. Sutherland took me on as his chauffeur. Good thing too since he ended up selling the company.”
“Is that how the Sutherlands got rich?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Floyd said. “Their fortune started with the dawn of the ironclads.”
“Iron battleships,” Floyd said. “Amanda’s great-great-grandfather started Sutherland Shipyard. His portrait hangs in the front hallway. Amanda’s grandfather looked just like him, except for the whiskers.”
Kingsley remembered the portrait. “White hair. Crazy sideburns.”
Floyd finished the apple, holding the naked core delicately between his fingertips. “Cyrus was conscripted into the Confederate Navy about the same time the Union blockaded Hampton Roads Harbor.”
“Drafted,” Floyd said. He stood and threw the apple core into the azalea bushes in the front yard and gave Kingsley a sheepish grin. “Don’t tell your mother I did that.” He returned to his rocking chair, and his voice turned somber. “When the Confederates captured the Navy Base in Portsmouth, the Union burned and sank all their ships. They didn’t want their ships used against them. But that’s exactly what happened.
“Cyrus Sutherland was part of the Confederate crew that raised and restored one of the sunken Union ships: the USS Merrimack. The Confederates welded four-inch thick metal armor to her hull and renamed her The CSS Virginia. The Confederate States Ship Virginia.” Floyd glanced around and lowered his voice. “The Cock Sucker Ship Virginia, I like to call her. Ten guns, steam powered, and an impenetrable hull. The old girl had been through a lot but she came back fighting, harder and meaner than ever. She attacked the Union blockade and sunk two of the Union’s best ships, the Cumberland and the Congress.”
Kingsley imagined the battle. Cannons booming, ships on fire, hand-to-hand combat. He shielded his eyes from the bright midday sun and looked south. Somewhere in the distance, the James River merged with the Elizabeth River and the Nansemond River, forming the Hampton Roads Harbor at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The long Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel, completed in 1992—eleven years before Kingsley was born—spanned the harbor and memorialized the famous naval battles.
“The Virginia destroyed five of the North’s most powerful warships in two bloody days,” Floyd said. “Lincoln declared the battle of Hampton Roads the Union’s greatest calamity since Bull Run. They were scared, especially in Washington, D.C. The Virginia could speed up the Potomac, point her cannons at the White House, and hang Lincoln’s head from her bowsprit. The Union had to find a way to defeat the South’s warship. They came up with a brand-new design, an ironclad like no ship ever built. The USS Monitor looked more like a submarine than a warship. She had a metal hull and the first-ever rotating gun turret. Overnight, wooden fleets became obsolete. Iron warships were the world’s first weapons of mass destruction, you might say. After the war, Cyrus started his own ship-building company.”
“So the Monitor won?” Kingsley asked. “The Union’s new ship beat the old CSS Virginia?”
“Not exactly,” Floyd said. “But she did change the world.”
Kingsley and Floyd were startled to see Amanda marching up the front steps. She was sweating under her heavy riding helmet, wearing her usual dirty riding boots, and she looked like she was itching for a fight. “Don’t get in my way,” she warned, arms waving. Dirt clods flew as she stomped into the mansion. Enrique followed Amanda, hat in hand. Kingsley and Floyd gave each other a quick glance, and then scrambled out of their chairs, not wanting to miss the fireworks.
Joyce was sitting on the couch in the den, doing Mrs. Sutherland’s nails. Mrs. Sutherland was hunched in her wheelchair, a blue blanket draped over her legs. “Boots,” Joyce said, pointing the emery board at Amanda’s dirty riding boots. Enrique slipped off his boots. Amanda left hers on.
“Who are those men looking at the mares?” Amanda demanded, hands on hips.
“They’re men looking at the mares,” Joyce said matter-of-factly. Mrs. Sutherland’s sizable jewelry box was open and Joyce was wearing a pair of Mrs. Sutherland’s dangling diamond earrings. They sparkled in the sunlight streaming in through the bay window. Joyce waved the emery board at Enrique. “Boy, you’d better get on back to the stable. Let them know you’re a half-decent horseman. Maybe they’ll give you a job.”
“I better what?” Enrique asked. “I already have a job!”
Amanda pulled off her riding hat. Her long black hair fell about her face. “You’re selling the mares, aren’t you?”
“Not me. They’re your grandmother’s horses. She doesn’t want them anymore.” Joyce put down the emery board and opened a jar of hand cream. “And why should she? She can’t ride them. Why should she keep a bunch of stinky horses?”
“For me. For my mother. For Uncle Jack.”
Joyce let out a sarcastic snort. “Your mother? Oh, hon, don’t tell me you’re hanging on to that delusion. Your mother’s not coming back. You know that. She’s moving in with the senator.” Joyce massaged Mrs. Sutherland’s hands, gently rubbing the white cream into every crease, every pore, and every cuticle. “And tell me the last time anyone heard from your Uncle Jack?” She grabbed a bottle of ultra-pink nail polish, shook it vigorously, and applied polish to the curled fingernails of Mrs. Sutherland’s left hand. She carefully outlined the edge of each nail then filled in the center. “He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. Your grandmother doesn’t even know if Jack’s alive. What’s wrong with your family? I’d be ashamed if I’d treated my mother the way your kin treats sweet Mrs. Sutherland.”
“My grandfather built those stables,” Amanda said. “He taught Clare and Jack how to ride. Grandmother would never sell the mares. You’re a liar.”
Kingsley gawked at Amanda, stunned by her daring. Even Mrs. Sutherland, soundless and stooped, looked up and fluttered her eyes. Kingsley was sure his mother would slap Amanda but Joyce didn’t flinch. She just smiled and began polishing the fingernails of Mrs. Sutherland’s right hand. “Sit down, hon. Sit down next to me.” Amanda folded her arms and stood firm. “Come on,” Joyce said, patting the couch beside her. “I won’t bite.” Amanda sat, arms folded. “Think about things for a moment,” Joyce said. “Your father’s moved to Hampton and your momma and the senator are building a house in Chesapeake. I bet you’re hoping to go live with your father soon, right?”
Amanda loosened the fold of her arms. “Yes.”
“And when you’re gone, who’ll ride those horses? Me? Your grandmother? Kingsley? You know we won’t. Don’t those mares deserve a full life? Don’t they deserve someone who’ll love them? Isn’t that what we all want?”
Amanda murmured under her breath.
“Your stallion’s dead, hon, and let me tell you, a bunch of mares without a stallion is a sorry sight.”
“You don’t know anything about horses,” Amanda countered.
Joyce just smiled and stopped painting Mrs. Sutherland’s fingernails. “A sorry sight indeed. I miss my Darryl every day of my life, and I know Mrs. Sutherland misses her husband, too.”
The front door slammed open and Joyce’s sister, Maureen—the sister Kingsley didn’t like—shuffled lazily past Kingsley, ignoring him completely, and flopped on the couch beside Joyce, yawning, her purple hair slick and unwashed. Kingsley gawked at her. Her gruesome tattoos had multiplied during her days off, covering her neck and face, giving her the appearance of a psychotic kaleidoscope.
Joyce tenderly held Mrs. Sutherland’s hands, careful of the freshly painted nails. She looked into the old woman’s eyes. “Hon, I’m taking the evening off,” she cooed. “Maureen’s here to take care of you.”
Mrs. Sutherland’s eyes opened wide. She stared fearfully at Maureen and moaned as if she were in pain.
Joyce gently patted her knee and turned to Maureen. “Now listen to me, this is important. Mrs. Sutherland needs to be dressed and fed by eight a.m. tomorrow morning. She has an appointment with a lawyer to sell the mares. Be sure she takes her arthritis medicine before she goes or she’ll be hurting all day. Don’t screw it up like you usually do.”
“Whatever,” Maureen said. She rolled her eyes and wheeled Mrs. Sutherland out of the den.
Joyce capped the polish, and placed it and the emery board into the pocket of her apron. “Time to go. I’ve got a big day tomorrow and have to get ready.” She closed the jewelry box but didn’t take off Mrs. Sutherland’s dangling diamond earrings. She smiled at Amanda. “Pretty, aren’t they? Your grandmother gave them to me. She thinks I’m an angel.” Joyce stood and took off her apron, handing it to Amanda. “I’m so glad we had this little chat, Mandy.” Amanda started to argue but Joyce cut her off. “Tomorrow, hon,” she said, “tomorrow’s the day everything changes.”
The next morning, Joyce, Mrs. Sutherland, and Kingsley headed to the lawyer’s office in Norfolk to sell the mares. Kingsley was wearing new pants and a new shirt. Both were itchy and too small, especially the pants, which felt like barbed wire wrapped tight around his belly fat. He didn’t know why he was forced to tag along. He’d rather have stayed at the mansion and played video games.
Joyce drove Mrs. Sutherland’s van from Marlbank in Yorktown to the lawyer’s office in Norfolk. She insisted on driving—over Floyd’s protests. “I’m the chauffeur!” he said. Joyce ignored him. In downtown Norfolk, she searched for handicapped parking until she found a space on Colley Avenue. Joyce pushed Mrs. Sutherland’s wheelchair over the crowded, bumpy sidewalks and Kingsley trotted behind. The air was hot and humid and full of auto exhaust. He couldn’t wait to get inside air conditioning again.
When they arrived at the lawyer’s office, the door was locked. Three people stood outside: two tall men in suits and ties, and a short buxom woman wearing a flowered skirt and a shimmering yellow blouse with big red buttons shaped like tulips. Perspiration pooled at her temples and stained her blouse. One of the men checked his phone as the other pounded on the office door.
“I don’t understand,” said the woman. “He’s never late.”
The man stopped pounding. “You work here?”
The woman nodded.
The man let out an irritated sigh and peered down his perfectly straight nose at Mrs. Sutherland. “You must be Leslie Sutherland,” he said. “And you must be her nurse.” He didn’t look at Joyce, which annoyed Kingsley. His mother might not be as beautiful as Clare or as honorable as Amanda, but she was his mother and he loved her.
A cough came from the other side of the door, something banged, and a man cursed. The door swung open and the worst stench ever radiated from a handsomely dressed man standing just inside. “Please come in,” the man offered his hand. “I’m Randolph Setter.” The two tall men recoiled in disgust and Mr. Setter pulled back his hand. “Are you here for the sale of the Sutherland mares?”
“Yes, and we’re in a hurry.”
Mr. Setter barked at the woman in the yellow blouse, “Doris, bring everyone a beverage. Coffee? Tea? A cola for the young man?”
Doris scurried past the stinky Mr. Setter to a desk in the corner, grabbed a manila folder, handed it to Mr. Setter, and then scurried away again, presumably for the beverages. Mr. Setter turned to Mrs. Sutherland. He kneeled and took her thin, limp hand. “It’s wonderful seeing you again, Leslie.”
Joyce blanched. “You know Mrs. Sutherland?”
“Not exactly,” Mr. Setter said, standing, “I met Mr. Sutherland when I was in law school. A pillar of the community. He spoke to my torts class about reforming—”
“Can we get on with it?” one of the men asked. “It smells like shit in here.”
“Yes, I know.” Mr. Setter led them to a small conference room. “I must apologize for that. I was deer hunting last night when I stepped onto a hollow log, in which, to my utmost mortification, a family of skunks had made their humble abode. I stumbled and was at once set upon by the scoundrels. I considered rescheduling today’s appointment, but, as the French say, c’est la vie.” He gestured dramatically to the chairs around a rectangular wooden table, “Please have a seat,” and called down the hall, “Doris, where’s the Sutherland file?” Doris yelled back that the file was in his hand. “Voilà! Ask and you shall receive!” He sat down with a flourish and opened the file. “Deer hunting at night is technically illegal, but only if you get caught.” He gave Joyce a little wink. “I ended up skinning the skunks. I think I might mount the mother on the wall once she stops stinking.”
Doris came in carrying a tray with a pot of coffee, a stack of Styrofoam cups, and a can of cola. Kingsley eagerly grabbed the cola, but none of the adults accepted her offer of coffee. Mr. Setter passed papers to the men and asked for identification. “Just to be clear, I’m handing out the sales contract for eleven Sutherland mares: Four Hanoverians, six warmbloods and one Holsteiner. If you would sign at the bottom, gentlemen, where it says purchaser.” He passed a copy to Joyce. “And, Ms. Smith, if you would have Mrs. Sutherland sign where it says seller.” The men signed their papers. Joyce wrapped her hand over Mrs. Sutherland’s and together they signed Mrs. Sutherland’s name. More papers were handed out, more signatures. One of the men gave Mr. Setter a check and left in a hurry, his chair scraping against the floor. The other man followed without even a goodbye.
“That was easy,” Mr. Setter said. “Now to the distribution of the funds.”
Kingsley sipped his cola. He was finally getting used to the stench.
“And the matter we discussed earlier?” Joyce asked, smiling coyly, ramping up her New Orleans drawl.
“Yes, yes.” Mr. Setter handed Doris the check the men had given him and she scurried away. He hummed as he flipped through the rest of the paperwork. “I was about twenty-six or twenty-seven when I met Mr. Sutherland. Quite a striking man. Very handsome. I believe he had two children.”
Joyce nodded. “A boy and a girl.”
“The girl was gorgeous, as I remember. A blue-eyed angel with a charming touch of prepubescent chubbiness.” He licked the corners of his mouth and returned to the papers. “The boy was a different story. Very rebellious. Isn’t he in prison?”
“I can’t say,” Joyce said. “I’ve never met him.”
“He was a wild one,” Mr. Setter said. “Handsome, but troubled.” Mr. Setter handed a stack of papers to Joyce. “Here you go, Ms. Smith, your new identity. Social security card, insurance card.” He lingered on the photo on Joyce’s new driver’s license, “Twenty-nine years old, hmm, I wish I were twenty-nine again.”
“What about Kingsley?” Joyce asked as she snatched the license from his fingers.
Mr. Setter waved his hand like a magician. “All taken care of. You’ll receive a new birth certificate for Kingsley in the mail, and he’s already on your insurance.” Doris returned with two checks and gave them to Mr. Setter. She left and Mr. Setter handed the checks to Joyce. “Here you go,” he said, “Mrs. Sutherland’s check for the agreed upon amount, and your check. We’ll call it a finder’s fee.”
“With my new name on it,” Joyce said. She glanced at the checks then slipped both checks in her purse.
“Absolutely.” Mr. Setter stood and escorted them to the front door. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about the smell.”
“Take a bath in tomato juice.”
“I wish I had the time. I’m due in court in an hour.” Mr. Setter opened the front door and shook Joyce’s hand. “Call me the next time you need my services,” he said, giving Joyce a wink, “I’d be happy to help you sell the rest of Mrs. Sutherland’s holdings.” He laughed. “In the meantime, nice to meet you, Lily Fells.”
Kingsley mulled over what had just happened. “I don’t like this, Mom. Why’d that smelly lawyer call you Lily Fells?”
“That’s my new name, hon,” Joyce said as she wheeled Mrs. Sutherland back to the van. “For when we go to Charlottesville to see Dr. Barlow. My name is Lily Fells and your name is Kingsley Fells, hear me? It’s important you keep this straight.”
Kingsley frowned. “This is because of what happened in New Orleans, isn’t it? Because of what happened with Dad. That’s why I have to lie to Dr. Barlow that my name is Kingsley Fells.”
Joyce bit her lip as she loaded Mrs. Sutherland into the van and took the drivers’ seat, Kingsley sat beside her. She turned to Kingsley, her face flushed. “Your Daddy’s dead and gone and can’t do a thing for us now,” she said, “so you listen to me.” She paused and playfully tickled the fat under Kingsley’s double chin. “Just do it, hon.” She handed Kingsley her cell phone. “And do me a favor. Call Floyd. Tell him to meet us at the automobile dealership in Hampton, the big one on Aberdeen Road. Tell him to bring Latonya so one of them can drive Mrs. Sutherland’s van back to the mansion. We’re buying a new car, hon. I’m giving my old Charger to Mavis and Maureen.”
When Joyce and Kingsley arrived at the automobile dealership, Floyd and Latonya were already there. Floyd had driven Mrs. Sutherland’s glossy black limousine. “You do know that I’m Mrs. Sutherland’s chauffeur, don’t you?” Floyd said as Joyce handed him the keys to the van.
“You can drive me around anytime, Floyd,” Joyce said with a coy grin. “I’ve always wanted a black chauffeur.” Floyd sniffed and handed the keys to Latonya, who drove Mrs. Sutherland back to the mansion in the van.
Floyd stayed. “I’d like to see what kind of car your Momma buys,” he said to Kingsley.
Joyce looked at a used BMW and almost bought it until Floyd opened the hood. “This car’s been in a wreck,” he said, pointing to a welded axle. “See there. Nothing but trouble. You want one of those new electric hybrids. My son-in-law says they’re the best cars on the road.”
Joyce took one of the new hybrids for a test drive, a royal blue Nissan Pegasus. Floyd sat beside her, Kingsley in the back. “Smooth,” Floyd said. “She’ll pay for herself in no time with all the gas money you’ll save.” The Pegasus was as sleek as a 1966 Mustang and could run sixty highway miles on one gallon of gas. When they returned to the dealership, Floyd waited with Kingsley while Joyce filled out the paperwork. Floyd ran his hand down the side of the new car. “Needs racing stripes.”
Kingsley agreed. The Pegasus was the coolest car he’d ever seen.
Joyce returned with the keys, and Floyd headed to the limo. “Want to drive back to the mansion with me?” he asked Kingsley.
“No, thanks. I want to ride in Mom’s new car.”
Floyd tipped his hat. “Suit yourself.”
Kingsley imagined himself driving the beautiful new car. He imagined one hand on the steering wheel and the other wrapped around Amanda. Maybe she’d lean her head on his shoulder. He grinned from ear-to-ear and lowered the window so he could feel the warm summer wind in his face. Joyce zoomed east on the interstate, all the way to Virginia Beach, to the smell of the Atlantic Ocean and the sound of the waves. They passed a row of high-rise hotels and a sagging amusement park stuffed with oversized people riding the Ferris wheel and roller-coaster. They rounded a corner and drove by a long white building with blue awnings. Joyce slowed the car. She seemed mesmerized. The building looked like it had been plucked off a postcard from another place, another era, as if it belonged on the Atlantic City boardwalk during the bootlegging twenties.
Kingsley was surprised when his mother made a U-turn at the next stoplight, returned to the white building, and pulled into the parking lot. “What are we doing here, Mom?” he asked. He read the sign in front of the building, Edgar Cayce Foundation for Enlightenment and Research.
Joyce stopped the car and stared at the building. “I feel like something’s tugging at me, hon, telling me I should be here.”
“What do you mean something’s tugging at you?”
“I don’t know, Kingsley. Something’s telling me to go inside.”
They got out of the car and Kingsley followed Joyce across a tile labyrinth with the yin-yang image of two dolphins in the center, and then walked up a flight of white, wooden steps. His mother had done a lot of questionable things in her life but he’d never known her to act so spooky. Inside, the building was fresh and cool, like a pine forest after an afternoon rain. Soothing music played over unseen loudspeakers. No one was at the reception desk. Joyce picked up a brochure and read it aloud:
The Sleeping Prophet
Edgar Cayce emphasized the spiritual nature of humankind, what he believed to be the truest part of ourselves. Although we possess physical bodies and mental attitudes, ultimately our deepest connection is to our spiritual nature. Spirit is the Life, Mind is the Builder, and the Physical is the Result. The impact of our choices will find expression in the physical, affecting ourselves, our relationships, and our world.
Joyce handed the pamphlet to Kingsley, who reread it, trying to understand. He’d never heard of this man and didn’t know why he and Joyce were there. “Who’s Edgar Cayce, Mom?”
“I don’t know, hon,” she said, looking around, searching for clues. “I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m looking for. All I know is that it has something to do with you. I feel like these people are gonna tell me how to help you.”
“Is Edgar Cayce going to cure my headaches?”
Joyce pointed to a large painting of a balding man wearing wire-rimmed glasses. Under the painting was an engraved plaque. “See there,” she said, “That says he died in 1945.”
Kingsley’s confusion grew. “Then why are we here?”
A tall, slender woman suddenly appeared. Kingsley assumed she’d come from around the corner but he wasn’t sure. She seemed to just materialize, like she was an angel or maybe a witch from Harry Potter. She had auburn hair and wore an ivory shirt with a simple, tan skirt. She headed straight toward Joyce, didn’t waver or pause. She grabbed Joyce’s arm and placed her other hand on Joyce’s forehead. “Your daughter is the zenith that will change the world.”
Joyce tried to pull away. “I don’t have a daughter.”
The woman held tight. Her high-pitched voice sounded like an alarm. “The Collapse is upon us. The years ahead are full of sorrow. Many will not survive the heartache but you will.” The woman released Joyce’s arm, leaving indentations in her ruddy skin. “But you will,” she repeated, and then disappeared around a corner.
Kingsley started to follow, but Joyce held him back. She shivered and rubbed her arm. “Let’s get out of here.”