Chapter 1

October 27

3:30 pm

Judge Landon makes his way back to the bench. His heavy tread warns the courtroom that the brief recess is over. At the bailiff's command, a hundred people rise; the murder trial is about to continue.

I'm a bit late in getting to my feet, and am one of the last to sit again. It's not a lack of respect on my part, just the normal nerves of any witness more focused on questions and answers than protocol. I've been on the stand since noon, and I'm about to face the defense attorney and her cross-examination for the second time. I can't remember her name, but know her type. She's one of those lawyers who take on sensational cases for the media blitz. Our interaction this afternoon has been unpleasant. My stomach is tight, my palms are damp and there's a minefield of silence.

The judge's calm voice interrupts my thoughts. "Let me remind you that you're under oath, Mr. Marcum."

I take a deep breath and glance in his direction. Since I'm just an ordinary person, maybe he thinks I need coaching, but I've testified before. With a nod, I say, "Yes, sir."

From across the wide aisle, my adversary walks toward me. "Mr. Marcum," she begins, "earlier, you told us how you worked with the Sacramento Police Department to locate the body of Tommy Martin."


"How did you, a man who lives 100 miles away, get involved in the case?"

Placerville and Sacramento aren't that far apart, but I don't correct her. Instead, I repeat myself for what seems like tenth time. "I was given the boy's teddy bear. I saw things when I held it. Mental images. It led me to the body."

"Let me rephrase," she says, deliberately slowing her words, making me feel like I'm three instead of close to thirty. "How did you first get involved? Did someone call you?"




"You just walked into the police station at random—"

The district attorney stands. "Objection, Your Honor."

"Your Honor," she replies, "Mr. Marcum has admitted he's not a professional psychic accustomed to this sort of work. The court is entitled to know what initiated his contact with the police in this case."

The judge agrees. His robe rustles as he shifts his weight in his chair. Staring down at me, he says, "Answer the question."

My response is simple: "Tommy asked me to come."

"When and how did he make this request if you never met him?"

I remember it vividly. "June 14, around one in the morning."

"According to the coroner's report, Tommy Martin died on June 13 between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m." She sneers at me, and I can tell where this line of questioning is headed. This courtroom circus act can only end with me in the spotlight for all to examine. The headline buzzing in my brain isn't pretty.

But it won't do to appear weak and be less than convincing to the jury. My voice is strong as I reply, "Yes. He left me a note the next morning."

"A note?"

I'm quite certain her hearing isn't impaired, so I just blink and wait for the punch line.

"This note?" She walks over to the evidence table and lifts a yellow legal pad that had been marked by the prosecution but not introduced. "Are you trying to say that Tommy Martin wrote this note?"

"Not exactly."

"Define 'exactly'."

"In conscious writing, it's the writer who moves the pencil. In automatic writing, it's the pencil that moves the writer."

She waves the papers like a flag. "So you wrote this, didn't you—this drivel about being kidnapped and held in a closet."

"I wouldn't call it drivel."

"That's right. You're a bestselling author." She marches toward me in the witness chair, this time holding up a hardcover book. The title is Cheating Hearts, and my name, Hale Marcum, is displayed in gold letters. "Did you also write this in your sleep?"

The District Attorney stands. "I object, Your Honor. Badgering the witness."

I understand this is my cue to stay silent. I trust Joel, knowing him for a number of years as a competent DA and friend, but I'm sorely tempted to defend my dignity, or at least my book. I bite my tongue and try to keep my face blank. As the attorneys argue legal principle and admissibility of automatic writing, I look around the courtroom. The jury seems sympathetic; one nods in active encouragement. I need to remind myself this isn't about me.

Stiff from sitting, I roll my shoulders and take a few deep breaths. Silence in the courtroom reminds me that someone should be talking. All eyes are on me. Maybe I was supposed to answer some sort of question, so I prompt, "Can you repeat that?"

"Have you ever sought psychiatric help, Mr. Marcum?" Her head tips to the side, and her long brown hair falls over her shoulder. The look she gives me is coy, a false smile pasted on for a camera.

"Objection," the DA says again.

"It goes to credibility, Your Honor," she says, "My client is entitled to know the state of mind of his accuser."

I'm not sure I'd attach such a label to myself. I'd prefer not to be involved at all and will do my best to forget as soon as I leave here today. I didn't even know Tommy. Why he found me and told me his story is a mystery I'll never unravel.

As I feared, the judge lets the drama continue. "Answer the question."

"Yes," I say with a sigh. "I went through a couple years of therapy a decade ago."

"What were you in therapy for?"

"Grief counseling."

"Do you have a problem with death, Mr. Marcum?"

I shrug. "No more than anyone else."

This seems to be humorous, because she laughs. "I would have answered that question with a 'no', Mr. Marcum."

The DA objects, and the judge warns, "Be careful, Ms. Gleeson."

My back stiffens. Medical records are confidential, but I have a feeling she knows more and plans to play it. I spent quite a bit of time on the therapist's couch.

She surprises me by saying, "I'll withdraw the question."

There is a pause while she walks back to stand near her client. She places a protective hand on his shoulder, as though he were the one being persecuted. "Mr. Marcum, do you consider yourself psychic?"

"Unfortunately. But I don't practice it as a profession, and I don't charge money for sharing what I see."

"But hasn't the publicity of this case helped your career?"

"I doubt it."

"But it's possible?"

"Objection, Your Honor, anything is possible."

I'm starting to feel sorry for Joel. He's been up and out of his chair a lot this afternoon. I decide to answer anyway. "I hope not, actually. I live alone, and prefer to keep my private life private."

"You're here on a book tour, Mr. Marcum, yes? Wouldn't you admit that having your name in the newspaper promotes your fame and your book?"

"I would never assume that."

"It's not a logical assumption? Are you not a logical person?"

Joel hops up again. "Objection!"

"Move on," the judge says.

"I'm sorry, Your Honor," she says, "I was on the topic of Mr. Marcum's psychic abilities, which he does admit to. I'd like to test a theory if I may; I'll keep it simple." She picks up a pad of paper and pen, jotting something down quickly. "I'm thinking of a number…"

"Your Honor," Joel sighs.

The judge leans toward me. I can smell the garlic on his breath. "Do you wish to answer, Mr. Marcum?"

I'm a bit surprised by this option, but I agree rather than question. "I have no problem with it." My word choice is deliberate, but I doubt anyone will get the joke. "But I'd like to write it down."

I don't close my eyes. I feel a bit like a trained seal, but I carefully bank my resentment as she walks towards me and hands a fresh piece of paper.

"Your pen?" I ask.

Her hesitation is barely discernible as she passes the pen to me. The DA is arguing the point, even as I take a deep breath and concentrate. I'm not reading her mind, just focusing on the writing, letting my hand move as hers did. What comes back doesn't make much sense. I was expecting a single digit, something between one and ten, but I write down two numbers anyway.

The attorney takes this as her cue. "Did you pick the number three?"


She flashes her pad of paper with the number showing. "Is this the number you wrote?"

"No," I repeat.

There's some awkward laughter and muttering from the crowd.

But I'm not done yet. "Move your thumb."

"Excuse me?" she says.

I show my writing, which has the number 31. I don't wave it at the jury; I'm not a showman. I carefully watch the face of my opponent. She's good at masking her expression, but I know I'm right. Just like her chipped nail polish tells me she's not as collected as she'd like everyone to believe. "I said, move your thumb."

She does as I ask, revealing two numbers. Her thumb had obscured the 1. No doubt if I'd said yes to writing down a 3, she'd have claimed her number to be a 1.

The DA stays seated this time, waiting for reaction.

She just blinks. "Parlor trick."

"Then you do it. I'm thinking of a number—"

The jury chuckles, but a snap of the gavel suspends the show. The judge asks, "Are you finished with the witness?"

"Hardly," she grumbles.

I take a look at her client for reaction, surprised to see a half smile on the killer's face. The grin reminds me of too much, and I look away first.

The judge says, "In that case, we'll adjourn until tomorrow. Court is in recess until 9 a.m. Friday."