BY YVONNE LANG
Copyright is held by the author.
THERE WAS a salty sea breeze stinging my cheeks as I trudged down the old, wooden pier. I’m sacrificing another weekend to support my continuous victim sister, Marie. It’s out of season, everything shut down for winter and no else is around. A freezing cold beach and closed arcade didn’t appeal to anyone else apparently. We weren’t here for fun though.
Marie’s partner had gone missing almost four months ago. The police had no leads, he had simply vanished. I didn’t miss him; I knew my sister was better off without the asshole. The police didn’t seem to be searching that hard for him. He was a grown man with a checkered past and no signs of foul play — he wasn’t high on their priority list, for which I was glad. I had hated her dating him, was distraught when he moved in with her but knew I couldn’t intervene. I had fixed anything that ever went wrong with my sister’s life. I took the role of older sister very seriously after we lost our parents and looked out for her. Perhaps too much. The first significant choice she had ever made alone was to date that loser.
His disappearance should have been a chance for her to get her life back on track, but she was devastated. She had no idea if she had been dumped or if he had been a victim. The uncertainty drove her mad and when the police could provide no answers, she started turning to more unusual sources. Ever the supportive sister, and to make sure she wasn’t ripped off in her fragile state by some charlatan, I traipsed round with her visiting psychics and mediums. All spouted tosh and none agreed with each other.
Then someone from one of my sister’s online support groups had mentioned a fortune teller doll that seemed to know things that were impossible to know. It was giving grieving people answers no-one else had bene able to provide.
So, here we were, on a frigid weekend to see if a mechanical doll in its little Perspex booth could help Marie move on. We found the booth; her name was emblazoned on a brass plaque above her — Izabella. Everything else in the arcade looked old, faded. Yet Izabella’s face still looked brand new, serene, her blue silk outfit pristine. Something about her gave me the creeps.
Marie’s eyes glistened as she approached, the pound coin already in her hand. She pushed it into the slot and waited expectantly. There was a whirring of gears as the doll creaked to life and aged bulbs flashed behind her. The pale white hands moved awkwardly over the cheap looking crystal ball and an automated voice asked, “What answers do you seek?”
Marie told her tearfully. There was more whirring and then the lights faded as the doll stilled. A slip of pale-yellow paper popped out from the machine. Marie snatched at it, but her face fell as she read. She screwed up the paper, tossed it to the floor and stormed off — obviously another dead end.
Curious, I picked up the paper and unfurled it,
“Your sister made sure he was removed from your life for your own good.”
I stared, slack jawed at the doll, “You grass,” I said softly.
How did it know? If it knew it was for her own good why throw me under the bus? Maybe that was why Izabella had left out the word “murder” since she knew my motives were pure. Small mercies.