“Pasha Shevchenko.” Von looked him over. “Let me tell your story.”
Pasha cocked an eyebrow, and looked to Vasily. “I thought you were taking me to see a tattoo artist, not a fortune teller.”
Vasily clicked his tongue. “Be nice, Pasha.” He looked to Von. “I’m sorry about my friend, Von, I suppose I should have given him a primer on your methods before I brought him here.”
“I’m not a fortune teller. Do you know what a 'shut eye' is, Pasha Shevchenko?”
Pasha sipped his coffee. “No.”
“It’s someone who thinks they can read minds. They can’t really, of course, but they’ve become so good at the illusion of mind-reading that they no longer have to think to use their skills, and it all becomes so natural that they can shake out the details of someone’s story without even thinking. They fool those around them so well, so automatically, that they begin to fool themselves. They believe, truly, that they are doing what they say they are doing.”
“So, they’re crazy?”
Von gave him a big Cheshire cat grin. “Not crazy, just deluded. Now, your story—” he paused, as though collecting his thoughts, his energies. “Shevchenko. You’re Ukrainian. Your family immigrated to American during the last war. You are…thirty-one. You remember Ukraine, but just barely. You aren’t sure that life here is that much better. You’ve spent the last…seven years in prison. Assault with a deadly weapon I think?” He paused a moment, deep in thought. “Your family was poor, your father was a drunk, your mother died when you were young. You drink a bit too much yourself, but you prefer drugs. Heroin, specifically. You’ve killed two men.”
Pasha did his best to hide how utterly unnerved he was. He laughed, hoarse. “Vasily could have told you any of that.”
“But he didn’t.” Von smiled, a thin, tight lipped smile. “Still, it’s not an uncommon story—hundreds came to this country during the wars. Poor immigrants from war-torn countries don’t often build stable homes. You don’t seem like you had the best role models, you know?
“So that’s the generalities, how about the specifics? I know that Vasily is thirty. I guessed at the number of years in your last—it was only your most recent, wasn’t it?—stay in jail. From your reaction I’d say I was pretty close.” He sat back in his chair. “Oh, and I saw your track marks when you took off your jacket.
“Just simple observation…but it tends to make a big impression. Now I’ll need you to fill in the rest.”
Nervous, Pasha deferred to Vasily again. “It’s fine, Pasha. Tell him everything.”