The Medium (Chapter 7, page 1 of 21)

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I'd been wrong about the peddler. She did show up at a little after ten o'clock that morning, except...

"That's not her," Celia said, staring at the woman standing on our doorstep.

"Who am I then?" the woman asked, thrusting out one hip. She was dressed in a gown that could once have been deep red but had faded to a dull rust-brown. The shawl draped over her shoulders looked more like a rag than a garment and the bonnet sitting lopsided on her head had frayed at the edges and lost all of its ribbons, if it ever had any.

She pulled back the cover on her basket to reveal her goods but did not take any out. Usually she began her sales spiel before the door had fully opened but this time she seemed to sense our disinterest in her wares from the start.

"She's the previous peddler," Celia explained. "The one before the one who sold me the amulet." She glanced up and down the street. "Are you alone?"

"Alone as any soul can be in this Godforsaken city." The woman smiled, revealing a top layer of teeth worn almost to the gums.

Celia recoiled. "Yes, quite."

I shifted my sister aside gently and smiled at the peddler. "Who worked your area last week?"

The woman shrugged. Her shawl fell off her shoulder and she didn't bother to pull it back up. "No one."

"Somebody must have," Celia said. "You are not the woman I bought an amulet from on Thursday."

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