The Deuce – Chapter 3

“It’s fine. Everything is going to be fine,” Bishop said. He was peering through the peephole, out into night, while Elena prepared her props. She had a set of crystals on a shelf just under the table next to her stack of trionfi cards. Arranged a certain way on the table, the crystals picked up the lights on the back wall and appeared to glow from within. The trionfi cards looked just enough like tarot cards to seem familiar, but they had enough differences to make jaded people uneasy.

“You ready?” Bishop asked. 

He sounded impatient.

“Would it kill you to be supportive instead of dismissive? This is my first night. In a way, it’s a working audition. I have the right to be nervous.”

“You’ve done this a million times,” Bishop said. He still sounded dismissive. Her fears were all of no consequence to him. 

Elena took a deep breath and held it for a moment.

“Okay. What does she look like?”

“It’s not a woman. It’s two guys. They’re maybe low-mid twenties.”

“Huh?” she asked. Twice in her life, she had read men. It was always women who came to her. Women cared more about outcomes and preparation. Men tended to fly by the seat of their pants.

“Yup. Young dudes.”

“Together?”

“I mean, they’re standing together, but they’re not like holding hands or anything. I don’t think that stuff plays well around here.”

“You’re the worst,” Elena said. “Get in character and let them in.”

Bishop narrowed his eyes and glared at her while he wrapped the veil around his head. When he opened the doors, the chimes tinkled lightly and the breeze billowed the silk drapes dramatically. The two men studied the inside of the wagon with wide eyes before they dared to climb the steps.

“Come in, my children,” Elena said, putting on her accent. She wouldn’t use it for the whole reading, but first impressions were important.

The young men approached the table and Bishop met their backs with two heavy chairs. They sat straight up in their seats. It was a good sign. Troublemakers would be going out of their way to prove that they weren’t impressed by the ambience of the wagon. These two had a reverence that suggested they were here for serious business.

“Please, you must make an offering,” Elena said. No specific price was mentioned, but if they didn’t put enough in the basket, Elena would have prompted them again. Their offering was accepted and the money and basket disappeared under her cloth. She never touched money in front of the guest.

A word popped into her head. It was, “Lugen.” Vadoma had used it in reference to a patron and Elena had asked Bishop what it meant. He said it simply meant a really dumb mark. These two looked naive, but not dumb.

“Who is John?” Elena asked. This was a stab in the dark. On her brief trip in town, it seemed like half the men set met were named John.

Her guess was lucky. One of the young men looked at the other with wide eyes.

“That’s my Grandpa. Or, it was. He passed.”

Elena cocked her head like she was listening to the wind.

“I believe he is concerned about his child. A son?” she asked. This was another guess. The name Grandpa suggested a paternal grandfather. And, if she was wrong, the young man would probably correct her and gloss over the mistake. They had come here to believe.

“Yes!” the young man said.

She got lucky again. Elena relaxed a little. One more good guess and she could say anything at all.

“He was completely concerned. Ryan said it wouldn’t matter, but he was wrong. Now, Pop doesn’t know what to do.”

“The money,” Elena ventured. Both men jolted like a small electric shock had run through them. Elena doubled down—“Yes. John is talking about the money.”

“Wow,” one of the young men said.

It was almost disappointing. Elena could have almost written this all down before the men even came into the wagon. Everything about their visit was completely cliché. 

“Let’s get you an answer quickly,” Elena said. “You may have work to do.”

In the shadows by the door, she saw Bishop’s eyebrows go up. Back at home, with her regular practice, she would have strung these two along, telling them that many spirits were competing to talk to them through her. She would casually mention that the spirits obeyed their monetary offering. Basically, the answers would only come as long as they kept feeding money into the basket. The wagon was different. It was all about volume and referrals. 

Elena pulled out a crystal from under the table and set it so it would pick up the light behind her, on the left. That light was green.

“What do you see in the crystal?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” the young man said. “Green?”

“Yeah,” the other one said.

Elena nodded. “What does it mean to you?”

“Money?” the kid asked.

“I don’t sense that’s what John is trying to tell you. He’s attempting to pass a message to you that only you will understand. Open your mind to him. He only trusts you.”

The young man closed his eyes.

“I got it. I understand!” he said. He was already halfway to his feet.

“Are you sure?” the other one asked.

“I think so.”

They stood and moved together towards the door.

Bishop ushered them out while Elena emptied the money basket and put her crystal under the table again. 

“That was good. Almost too easy,” Bishop said. “You moved fast.”

“Have to,” she said. “Who’s next out there?”

“Woman. Maybe forty, little pudgy around the middle, heels, long hair, no makeup.”

“What’s she wearing?”

While Bishop describe the woman’s shirt and shorts, Elena switched the light on her right from blue to red. This one was going to be a question about romance, she could already tell.

When Bishop opened the door again, Elena said, “Come in, darling. We have important things to talk about.”

As Bishop fitted a chair behind her, Elena looked at fingernails, cuticles, hair roots, tan lines, and the creases in her new patron’s shirt. 

“Tell me about your new love,” Elena said.

The woman’s shock was incredibly brief and then she relaxed. Elena wasn’t going to have to convince her any further. The one guess had been enough to establish trust.

“That’s the thing. I don’t know if it’s love or not. It seems too soon.”

Elena nodded. This was going to be an easy conversation. All she had to do was listen to this woman talk herself into whatever decision she had already made. The only hard part would be getting her to do it quickly.

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