I completely forgot about the blog this morning! Well, in my defense, I have been out of town (out of the state, even!) for more of June. So here is a short story to — hopefully — amuse you!
It’s All In The Cards
He lifted the beer to his smiling lips. The scent of old peanuts and stale smoke permeated the bar, but he didn’t notice anymore. He hadn’t really paid attention to those scents in decades. Besides, there was something much more important to notice standing in the doorway.
She was a classic beauty. Maybe not much by today’s standards, but she would have been considered a knockout just a few decades earlier. When had those standards changed?
She looked through the bluish-grey haze as if searching for someone in particular. She took a few tentative steps while he watched, not breathing, from behind his beer mug. Maybe he would get lucky and she would grace the empty barstool beside him.
“Excuse me. Is this seat taken?” Her voice was as sultry as he’d imagined it to be, with a Mid-West accent he couldn’t quite place.
“It is now.” He motioned to the bartender. “Let me buy you a drink.”
One drink let to another and soon he knew all he needed to about the young woman seated next to him. She was indeed waiting for someone — a man she’d been chatting with on-line. She was a receptionist for one of the CPA firms downtown and lived alone.
Actually, he already knew all that. He had been corresponding with her via the computer for a few months now.
Computers are wonderful things. They allow people to live lives they never would otherwise. She thought she’d been conversing with an accountant, a mild-mannered gentleman, divorced and balding. Instead, he had never been married, had a full head of hair and was definitely not an accountant.
The drinks kept flowing, and a game of pool allowed them to continue their conversation. Hours passed and he knew she was none the wiser.
He invited her back to his apartment, never letting on what his plan was or that he had known all about her for quite some time. There was no need to make her uncomfortable. That wouldn’t suit his purposes at all.
Once inside the third-floor apartment, he offered another drink. Wine this time, in a crystal chalice. She sipped the red liquid quietly and with appreciation. He was beginning to regret the way this must end. There was no other option, though. It must end this way.
He coaxed her to the couch. She sat, taking in her surroundings. He casually glanced around the room, as if trying to see what she was seeing. The dark wood furniture matched the flooring, but was a beautiful contrast to the light fabric he had selected for the cushions and pillows. The walls were a subtle hue and a light-colored painting he found at a yard sale was the only wall hanging. Everything in the room was selected for its ability to put people — women — at ease.
“Do you live alone?” He couldn’t believe she asked that. Was she trying to move things too quickly? That would never do. Things must be done in order, of their own accord. He ignored the question and guided the conversation to the cards sitting on the table.
“Here, let me tell your future.” His smile conveyed a message of jovial frivolity. There was no reason for her to decline. He reached for the Rider Tarot deck without waiting for her to respond. It was a deck he was used to, one he cherished. Purchased at a mall fifteen years ago, this was the deck that gave him a purpose for his life. It was not the deck that spoke to him these days. No, that one was put away where she would never see it, but this was a deck many people had seen at one time or another. It was a deck that was easy to explain with its more primitive artwork.
This step was important. She didn’t know how important it was. There was no way to take the next step — the step that must be taken — without the approval of the cards.
He handed them to her and asked her to shuffle. She did and he dealt three cards for her: The World, The Magician, and Judgement.
“What do they mean?” Her hands reached for the Magician — the same card that decorated the box. He grabbed all three cards before she could touch them. It wouldn’t due to have her leaving too large an imprint on them.
“The World tells me that you have had many experiences,” he said. He watched her eyes, wondering when the drug would start to take effect. They usually didn’t last this long, but maybe she had a higher tolerance for the chlordane he’d slipped into her chalice of wine. Experience told him that she would show signs of the poison anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours after she consumed it. It had only been about forty-five minutes, so there was still time. Plenty of time.
She nodded. “Yes. I’ve done some interesting things in my life.”
“I can tell.” He stood, taking the cards with him. The World also meant “end of a journey,” but she didn’t need to know that. She didn’t need to see the end coming for her.
He showed her the next card — the Magician. “This is the first card in the deck. It means self-confidence. It tells me you’re a very confident woman. But I could see that already.” Another smile and a nod to her. There was no need to tell her the card also meant things are not as they seem. She’d find out soon enough.
“What about the last card? Judgement doesn’t sound so good, does it?”
He took another step into the kitchen, calling “I’ll tell you in a minute. Let me get something first.” Grabbing a glass of water and the butcher knife, he knew it was time to make his move. He held the water to his lips, sipping the cool liquid and feeling it wet his dry throat. The knife, he slid into the waistband of his Dockers, feeling the pressure in the small of his back.
The three cards he’d dealt her never left his hand. They told of her future and he must obey them.
Entering the living room once again, he placed the glass on the table. He couldn’t turn his back on her now. That just wouldn’t do.
“Judgement isn’t such a bad thing. We must all face it, you know. This card, particularly, tells us there will be a renewal.”
“A renewal? How interesting. I wonder what that could mean.”
It was time. Everything in his being was screaming out “NOW!” He came to a stop directly behind her. “I think you’ll find out before you know it,” he whispered into her ear as his left arm encircled her neck, his right hand reaching for the hidden blade.
What happened next was a bit of a shock. She said something — he didn’t catch what it was — and there was a crashing behind him.
Overall, he wasn’t too surprised when the police broke down the door. The Judgement card had also told him that harsh criticism was coming.
Her last words were the unexpected surprise.
“You’re under arrest. We’ve been after you for a long time. And now the Tarot Card murders will end and you will become like one of your cards — the Hanged Man.”