The Spirit Parlour excerpt

Aldo selected a key, unlocked the carriage house and flicked a switch. “Welcome to the Spirit Parlour.”

Tommy entered the softly lit space. Sheet-covered furniture stood sentinel around a central table. Draped with red silk, the table held a wooden casket, a crystal ball and a candlestick. Tommy whistled. “It looks like a medium’s room.”

Aldo snorted. “My mama’s taste was pretty classical.”

“Your mother? I thought you …”

The shopkeeper pulled out a chair. “I am. But maman was the true medium—complete with spirit guide, the whole nine yards. I’m psychically sensitive … and lucky. Sit.” Tommy perched tentatively on the edge.

Aldo pushed the candlestick and ball aside, leaving the carved box; sitting opposite Tommy, he opened the case to reveal a well-worn pack of large cards, nestled in blue silk. Aldo picked up the cards, shuffled them overhand and placed the pack in front of Tommy. “Cut them.”

Tommy looked from the psychic to the cards and back. “Don’t you want to know what I’ve told the police?”

Aldo shook his head. “This I’n’t some TV show, where I guess what’s in your pocket. We’re interested in what’s unknown—at least on the physical plane.” He motioned toward the pack. “Think on yo’ situation while ya’ll cut the cards.”

Tommy gazed at the cards, his brow furrowing like he was going to move them with his mind. Slowly he reached his left hand forward and grasped the top portion of the pile; looking relieved, he moved it to lie alongside the bottom portion.

Aldo took the card that Tommy had revealed, moving it to the center of the table where he turned it over. The card depicted a young man reclining with his hands behind his back when he, in fact, hung from a crossbeam.

“The Hanged Man,” Aldo tapped the card, “represents yo’ current situation: ya’ll’re in a state of suspension. Yo’re watchin’ events unfold but are unwillin’, or unable, to change them.”

Tommy snorted. “That’s appropriate.”

Aldo gathered the stacks, beginning to deal additional cards face-down around the face-up card, explaining the import of each position. He finished with four cards along the side of the spread. “This last card represents the final outcome of this particular future.”

Tommy looked confused. “What does that mean?”

Aldo made a steeple from his fingers. “The future is always changin’, moved about by the choices of the people involved. Some small decisions have little effect on the overall direction; other large changes affect the prospects of everyone. This readin’ represents one possible outcome, although it’s the most probable if nothin’ moves to change the course of events.”

Tommy glanced around and nodded silently.

“You seem distracted.” Aldo almost reached across the table to touch Tommy. Part of him just wanted to sweep the guy into his arms; another wished they had parted on the street. “If you don’t focus, this is pointless. Shall we proceed?”

“Sure.” He met Aldo’s gaze with liquid eyes. The psychic noticed their deep green and the gold flecks that accented them. Some caretaker-instinct yearned to tell Tommy everything would be all right. Focus!

Tearing his attention back to the table, Aldo began. The Devil—controversy. The cards felt strange. Five of wands—family quarrel, competition. Again a shiver jangled his nerves, unsettling his concentration. The Hermit—wise counsel, physical retreat. Working hard to center himself, the psychic turned each card in turn and read their meanings. King of pentacles, reversed—a dark-skinned, dangerous man.

Images flashed through his mind. Vague, unclear impressions dissipated as quickly as they came. Centering himself, Aldo sought to regain the mental pictures. Cards floated in his memory, each fighting for his attention. An image came back: a splash of white and silver against black. Now there was sound—clashing and screeching with tinkles like wind chimes. A sharp ache lanced through Aldo’s shoulder. He gasped.

Opening his eyes, the seer focused on the face across the table: emerald eyes wide in a pale face and full lips round like an O. As Aldo watched, a brown-red splash bloomed across Tommy’s tee-shirt. The student stretched a hand across the cards, reaching for Aldo.

Copyright 2011 – C.C. Williams

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