[Edge1.1.2] Welcome To Brimhill – Dave Bailey

[Edge1.1.2] Welcome To Brimhill

“Hey, Art! Good to see you again. Welcome to the city that never sleeps.”

“Thanks, Johnny! Good to see you too. Sorry for the delay though.” Art replied.

“Nah! C’mon. Don’t mention it.” Johnny said. “I know it wasn’t your fault. I’m just happy you’re finally here. We’ve been trying to make this happen for a long time now.

Art smiled back at the large, burly man with the pointed nose who was almost twice his size. He had only met Johnny once before, but he already felt like an old friend. There was a relaxed, open vibe that surrounded Johnny and made it really easy for Art to connect with him.

Johnny had the gift of gab and knew how to shoot the breeze without boring you out of your mind. And he was also an excellent listener. He knew how to talk people to draw them out of their shells. But Johnny also knew when to shut up to make them feel understood and appreciated.

Art attributed the first part to Johnny’s upbringing in Brazil. Almost everyone there seemed to be born with that warm, friendly vibe. But the second part about him being a good listener was a completely different story. He could tell that was a talent that Johnny cultivated very purposefully.

His new friend was extremely intuitive which spooked Art initially. He felt like the burly man could read his mind. But after talking with him for a bit, Art realized that the man was cold reading him.

Art knew about cold-reading because of his Aunt Georgina. She was a gypsy on his mother’s side of the family. Well, she was married to his mother’s brother. So, she wasn’t a blood relative.

Georgina had traveled with a circus. She made her money as a fortune teller before meeting his Uncle Marcos. She was a nice woman and very fond of Art. She always gave him candy and treated him like an adult even though he was only twelve at the time.

Uncle Marcos was a wealthy man and didn’t want his wife working. He said it offended him if she didn’t depend on him and let him support her. But that didn’t stop her from scrying or reading cards for people when he was out of the house.

Art was there once when his uncle came home and saw her putting her cards and crystal balls away. Marcos screamed at her about doing that devilish stuff under his roof. Art felt bad and tried to apologize to her for his Uncle’s behavior. But she just laughed it off.

Georgina had a bit too much to drink that day and confided to Art that she never got any secret info from angels or contacted the dead. She even confessed to him that she wasn’t a direct descendant of the Gypsies. It was just a persona she had taken on after joining the circus.

The Gypsy woman who traveled with the circus knew she was dying. So, the circus master had paid the old woman a healthy sum of money to teach Georgina to take over her work after she died.

Georgina explained to Art the basic principles of cold-reading that afternoon before passing out. He asked her about it later. But he could tell she was scared he would tell his uncle she wasn’t a real Gypsy and let everyone else know she was a hoax. So, she tried to blow it off. She never did talk to him about the cold-reading process again, but Art didn’t need much theory to understand how it worked.

Art was very observant and watched her like a hawk when she did her thing. He acted like he wasn’t interested. The boy would just sit around the house and pretend to read. She caught on to what he was doing after a while, but he had already gained her confidence by keeping his mouth shut.

Georgina eventually took him under her wing and consented to teach him more about the topic. He knew she never taught him much more than the basics though. And even then only if he asked about it. Art wouldn’t have called himself proficient in the use of cold-reading, but he knew how to recognize it when someone was using it. That’s how he knew what Johnny was doing after talking to him for a few minutes.

Art even brought up the topic of cold-reading during their first meeting. But Johnny acted like he didn’t know what Art was talking about. Art didn’t know if the burly man was lying to him, or if he was a natural who really didn’t know what the term meant.

But either way, Johnny was excellent at asking questions to extract information from people. That was his real power. Later in the conversation, he would feed back what people had told him in a slightly reworded way. It made them think he was able to read minds. There was more to the process than that of course. Things like reading body language, making educated guesses, and using vague words that could be interpreted different ways. Johnny did all of it even though he acted like he didn’t know anything about cold-reading.

The nice thing about Johnny though, was that he didn’t do it a weird, creepy manner. The man did it in a way that was so subtle that most people didn’t even realize what was going on. It had an almost hypnotic effect on people that made them want to tell Johnny their deepest, darkest, innermost secrets.

Art kept that thought in mind coming into these negotiations. He considered Johnny to be a nice guy, but he knew the man would act professionally in this situation. He would use any information Art gave him to help his boss gain the upper hand in the deal. That was why he had become so successful in such a short time after moving here from Brazil.

“Have a seat,” Johnny said. “We’ll keep this brief because of the hour. But I feel it’s important to give you an overview of what we’re looking at here. We’re on a deadline, so I need you focused. Then you can catch up on the details later over the next few days.”

Art sat down and looked around the room. It reeked of money. And not the gaudy kind of wealth that middle-class people liked to fling around to convince themselves they had made it in life. There was a classy elegance designed to make it look like they hadn’t spent as much as they did.

Art liked that. He considered it to be classy. That’s the way he wanted to be when he became rich someday. Nobody would have called Art tight-fisted or a miser. But he was frugal and didn’t waste any more than necessary. He was also big on saving up for the future. He ran a tight ship at home and never spent more than he made. He even had his bank account set up to automatically transfer thirty percent of his money into short, mid, and long-term savings accounts each month.

Johnny smiled at him and waited patiently as the secretaries finished laying out a small banquet of fruit and finger food. They poured Art and Johnny each a cup of juice, water, and coffee. It seemed a little over exaggerated considering the late hour, but maybe Johnny was just being thoughtful after his long journey here.

“I was in a meeting till just before you got arrived,” Johnny said with a boyish grin. “And I didn’t have time to eat supper. So, I asked Jane to stock up on something for us. I hope you’re hungry.”

“Thanks,” Art said as he reached out for a tart, green apple. Art realized he was hungrier than he thought because as he raised it to his mouth, he gleeked saliva all over it. He had learned to squirt a stream of saliva out of his mouth whenever he wanted to as a kid. But it had been years since he had done that.

He looked over at Johnny. The man had filled up his plate with food but hadn’t actually eaten anything. He was just pushing pieces of chicken through yellow rice leaving long stripes and strange symbols. It looked like the letter S inside of a circle split in half.

“What’s wrong, Johnny?” he asked. His friend looked up at him, and Art thought he was going to cry. Johnny swallowed hard and pushed back his plate.

Dave Bailey

Dave Bailey started writing short stories when he lived in Brazil to help his students learn English. Now, he lives in Florida again where he continues to write fun and inspiring sci-fi and fantasy fiction stories. You can read his weekly short stories here on his blog. Make sure to join his advanced reading crew so you know when new stories become available >>> https://davebailey.me/go/crew