The Deuce – Chapter 8

Elena felt out of sorts all night. She had to work his job, too—peeking through the peephole, spying on the line, and letting in the next patron. Then, at the expense of her stature, she had to cross the wagon with the patron and sit down at the same time as them. She was supposed to be holding court. Instead, she felt like a hairdresser, guiding the patrons to their seats.

And she got tons of blank stares and shaking heads. Every time she made a guess, the patron frowned and told her she was wrong.

Normally, in a decent reading, a missed guess was often helped along.

In a good reading, they would say, “I don’t know a John. Could you mean James?”

Those were the best patrons—the ones who would offer their information on a platter. She didn’t have any of those all night.

Instead, she actually had a grandmother tell her she was a fake, right to her face. More than one person snatched back their money from the basket when Elena failed to give them insight into their problems. After a few hours, the line outside was gone. Word had spread that she was no good and nobody wanted to see her.

Elena parked herself next to the peephole for twenty minutes. The closest anyone came to her door was a pair of little girls who only pointed and laughed.

“How did it go bad so fast?” she whispered to herself.

All she could imagine was the Great Madame Vadoma. She pictured the old woman wandering through town, disparaging the new psychic at the carnival. Elena went back to her chair and sat. After a moment, she pulled out the crystals and began polishing them with one of her scarves. From her angle, they were just dull glass. With the lights behind her, they didn’t hold any sparkle.

With two quick raps, the wagon door opened.

Elena tucked away the crystals. For a fraction of a second, she expected Bishop. Then, she settled that it must be Lean. He was coming back to tell her to pack up and get out.

The chimes tinkled. Pushing past the drapes was a man that she realized that she didn’t recognize.

Elena sat up straight.

“Welcome, my child. Please, have a seat.”

He either cleared his throat or chuckled. She couldn’t tell which. With his protruding brow and bushy eyebrows, his eyes were lost in shadow. When he smiled, she was reminded of someone, but it took her a moment to place the memory. In their deep holes, she saw a glint as his eyes sparkled.

“The spirits are confused as to why you’ve come to visit. Why are they so mystified?” she asked.

In response, the man pointed at her with his index finger. His pinky was also extended.

“Vadoma,” she whispered, finally placing the smile. The man had the same predatory smile as the Great Madame Vadoma. He used the same hand gesture as well.

Elena had a decision to make. She could fight or run. With some predators, the fiercest attack came when their prey ran. Elena had the sense that the only way to survive was to hold her ground. Her confidence would be her best defense.

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