When the truck had broken down, Chuck hadn’t said a word. He and Bishop had walked at least two miles, each carrying a big box of parts for one of the rigs. At first, every time they heard an approaching vehicle, they dropped the boxes and stuck out their thumbs. Nobody wanted to pick up a pair of sweaty, greasy-looking men.
Eventually, they gave up and kept slogging.
“Forget these parts,” Chuck finally said. “I’ll hide them in the bushes and come back for them.”
With aching shoulders and arms, Bishop eagerly agreed. They stowed the boxes behind some scrubby bushes, marked the spot with a stick in the dirt by the road, and picked up the pace. Once they got back, found another truck, and drove back out, it only took them two or three hours to find the boxes again. Somehow the stick had been lost and Bishop had slogged through at least a mile of jagged branches before he had spotted the boxes.
All Chuck had to say about the day was, “Nesanse.”
“What does that mean?” Bishop asked. He had a good ear for language, but he had never come across this word before.
“It means bad luck,” Chuck said. “It means the Deuce is following us.”
Instead of pointing in the direction of the carnival, Chuck drove the opposite way. They still had to pick up the other truck. When they got there, they used one truck to jumpstart the other. For no reason at all, it ran just fine.
“I’ll follow you,” Chuck said. “In case it stalls again.”
Driving back to the carnival, he realized that Elena was probably working the wagon by herself, wondering where he had gone. It was good to have some time apart. They had been getting on each other’s nerves lately.
Since he was already late, he decided to shower before he went back to the wagon. The water stung his fresh scrapes. Bishop borrowed a fresh shirt and nearly snuck past Lean’s trailer without being caught. It was dark out. He should have stayed deeper in the shadows. The old man rattled the screen and called his name before Bishop could escape.
“Hey,” Lean said. “Get in here and tell me where you’ve been all day.”
Bishop did as he was told. He had no doubt that Lean would check out his story with Chuck, but he had nothing to worry about. He hadn’t done anything wrong.
“You better get over to your rig. Elena isn’t having a good night.”
“No? She did so well yesterday.”
“Crowd went sour. There hasn’t been anyone lined up at all. Get some whispers going or seed a fake line. Drum up some business.”
“Sure,” Bishop said, backing out. He was glad to be out of Lean’s trailer. The old man’s anger gave the place a heavy feeling.
Bishop headed towards the Psychic Wagon. He figured it would be best to check in with Elena first, to see if she had any ideas about how to foster some interest. The carnival was packed. Elena’s wagon should have been packed too. Bishop saw the problem as he rounded the corner and headed towards the lonely wagon. It was spaced a little away from the rides, to get it away from the loud music. There was no line, and the light should have been on to indicate that Elena was unoccupied. The issue was the power cord. It snaked through the grass, providing power to the wagon. Someone must have hit it with a cart, or tripped over it. The cord had been pulled from the jack on the side of the wagon. The wire for the panic button was also disconnected.
Bishop bent and plugged them both in.
He realized that Elena couldn’t be in the wagon. She wouldn’t be sitting in the dark.
Still, he went to the door to see if she had left a note or anything.
The chimes sounded and silks blew, startling him, as he opened the door to the wagon. He could see Elena, sitting in her chair, with a halo of lights behind her.
“Sorry,” he said. “Broke down in Chuck’s truck.” He came in and shut the door behind himself.
“I heard business was slow?”
He moved forward, wondering why she was sitting perfectly still.
Bishop took another step. She had a hand up to her face. Her fist was pressed to the bridge of her nose, propping her head up, like she was concentrating fiercely.
Her other hand was clutched around a large crystal. The jagged end of the glass was stained with black fluid.
He heard a thunder of feet behind him. Several people were thudding across down the path to the trailer. As Bishop moved forward, he heard them burst through the door.
“What’s wrong, Elena?” Bishop asked.
He reached forward, realizing how stupid he had been before his hand even touched hers. From across the room, he should seen that her head wasn’t propped on her fist. Bishop swayed as the strength left his legs. Elena’s index finger and pinky were extended, penetrating her eyes. A sick realization rolled through him—her fingers would have to be all the way into her brain. Bishop sank to the floor, not even hearing the sharp intake of breath from one of the people who had come in behind him.
Elena’s head slumped to the side and a terrible sigh leaked out from her slack jaw.
“The Deuce,” someone whispered behind him.
Bishop’s fingers were numb from where he had touched her cold flesh. He felt the cold begin to cinch around his heart.