Dave Kinson checked his look in the mirror. He didn’t look like a Tarot Reader. His dark hair was too short, he was too clean shaven and he didn’t even have an earring. He wasn’t going to get one either. The jeans were worn, though clean, and the sweatshirt he had pulled on had a psychedelic pattern on. His last girlfriend but one had bought it. Dave frowned for a minute. Was it Michelle? No, he was pretty sure it had been Keely. No, it had definitely been Michelle. The t-shirts Keely had got him were far too plain to be of use. Dave shook his head at his reflection. He looked wrong. It Icouldn’t be helped though. This was too good an opportunity to miss.
He grabbed up the cloth bag with the tarot cards, the embroidered silk cloth he had found in a charity shop and the book that had the prompts and ran easily down the stairs. This would be a break, just a breathing space, when he could work out what it was he really wanted to do.
“Hello, Mrs Gittens.” he said cheerfully as he jogged past his landlady and towards the door.
“Mr Kinson, you know my rules.” Mrs Gittens said sternly. “You have to be working to stay here, I was very clear.”
“I am on my way to work now.” Dave looked injured, his brain working frantically.
“But it’s not proper work, is it?” Mrs Gittens folded her wrinkled hands in front of her respectable dress. “Proper work is a proper job, with start and finish times and everything.”
“The rent is up to date.” Dave said apologetically. “And I am keeping busy.”
“Rent or no rent. I want a proper job for my lodgers. This self employed stuff is no good.”
“Things are a bit awkward and there aren’t that many jobs around at the moment.” Dave hefted the bag.
Mrs Gittens sniffed. “My cousin at Leeds has a dry cleaning business and is desperate for a good driver. He’ll let you have the use of the van and everything.”
“That sounds great, but I’ve got to go.” Dave could think of nothing worse than a job as a delivery driver. “I’ve got a chance with a new shop and I don’t want to be late.”
Dave jogged down to the White Hart. He remembered when it had been a pub where hard men and their harder wives had a drink. It had certainly changed. The new landscaping looked sparse in the thin spring sunlight and while the new paint on the exterior looked tasteful it was still raw. He knocked on the locked door.
The woman who opened it looked harassed and a smear of dust streaked down her face and over the cheap t-shirt. Her jeans were filthy. Dave smiled warmly at her. Underneath the dirt of the last minute rush there was a lovely woman. “Hi, I’m Dave Kinson, the tarot reader. I spoke to someone called Kadogan and they said you would be opening tomorrow and could I come and get set up.”
“I’m Fiona Greene.” Fiona waved him in. “How much has Kadogan discussed with you?”
“He just said this was a new business with a strong New Age ethos.” Dave looked around. “It looks impressive.”
It was looking impressive. The stands along the walls were filled with a range of merchandise from darkly dramatic to prosaically pragmatic. Several stands of delicately beautiful cards were dotted around the wide space and near the till there were swathes of exquisite wrapping paper. Louise was sweeping up some shreds of the packing boxes and Kadogan was looking superior as he counted the candles on the display on the far wall. A discreet sign asked people to book at the till to see the Tarot Reader.
“You do know that the tarot reading is for entertainment purposes only?” Dave said tentatively. “I don’t actually believe in stuff like tarot.”
Fiona looked at him, then over at Kadogan. “We have two stands full of tarot books, we have a locked case full of expensive tarot decks and some of the artwork was directly inspired by the Rider Waite deck.” She waved a hand over at the tasteful print of the Six of Wands. “And you are telling me that you don’t believe in Tarot?”
Dave looked at her carefully. “I’m very good at the Tarot Readings. I listened to what people say and I tell them what they want to hear. Sometimes I tell them what they need to hear. It’s sort of like counselling but with cards.”
“Like counselling?” Fiona looked at him in some disbelief.
“It’s cheaper than proper counselling.” Dave said defensively. “And I have had some training in counselling.” It had been online and at least it hadn’t cost too much before he realised he really didn’t have the patience to be a counsellor.
Kadogan came stalking over. “I am sure that there is one more white Church candle of three inches diameter than there should be according to the manifest.”
“That’s an acceptable margin of error.” Fiona said gravely.
“I am not sure that any error is acceptable when it comes to candles.” Kadogan brightened when he saw Dave. “Dave Kinson, tarot reader, I am glad you have come. You are very welcome.”
“I was just explaining that the readings I do are for entertainment purposes only.” Dave said warily.
“What does that mean?” Kadogan asked.
“It means he doesn’t believe in tarot readings.” Fiona said flatly.
“Well, of course not!” Kadogan stared at Fiona. “That would be completely inappropriate. Fiona, please will you show Dave Kinson where he will be doing the readings and if he chooses to use accommodation here I’m sure it can be arranged for a nominal rent. Now if you will excuse me I need to check on the scented candles.”
Fiona led Dave through the door behind the till. “There’s advantages to converting a pub. You would not believe the amount of storage rooms and cellars, and the living quarters upstairs are being converted into a few flats. Are you looking for somewhere?”
Dave tried to play it cool. “It would be convenient.” He said thoughtfully. “My landlady is lovely, but she doesn’t really approve of tarot reading.”
“I’m not sure I do.” Fiona said with complete truth. “Actually, I’d never even considered it. Anyway, here’s your room. We’ve shoved some basics in here, we take 10% from each consultation for the first three months then we move to a fixed rent. The bedsits are basic and we have the minimum of furnishings, but the rent reflects that. Can you provide references?”
Dave could always provide references. Some of them were genuine. He looked around. The walls were painted white and there was a plain blind at the window. One plain, square, IKEA table sat in the centre of the small room. Two chairs were pushed under it, one either side. A small chest of drawers sat in one corner and a few spare chairs were neatly lined against the far wall. “Can I decorate in here?”
“Within reason.” Fiona looked at him thoughtfully. “I mean, nothing too sinister, nothing that needs planning permission, nothing that will need a builder to put right and nothing with adult content.”
Dave looked around. “How about the floor?”
Fiona looked down at the plain, beige carpet. “What do you have in mind?”
“Just a rug, nothing dramatic.” Dave said cheerfully. “I’ll get the paint and get started.”
Fiona looked at him carefully. Dave gave her his most trustworthy smile. “How about hanging pictures?”
“As long as it’s done carefully.” Fiona frowned. “Let me know if you want one of the flats when you’ve finished painting.”
It didn’t take long for Dave to set up as he wanted. The walls were painted a tasteful pale blue as some research on the internet suggested that it was a protective colour. He had even copied the Seal of Solomon from the internet, painting it directly onto the wall and then hanging an empty picture frame over it. It looked pretty good. He looked around with some satisfaction. It was uncluttered, calm with just the right hint of mystical. There was a quick knock at the door and Kadogan came in.
“What an excellent job.” Kadogan nodded as he looked around. “Will you be decorating if you take one of our flats?”
“Possibly.” Dave said cautiously.
“It is perhaps best if you speak with Fiona about that.” Kadogan frowned as he looked at the Seal of Solomon on the wall.
“It’s just a design I copied from the internet.” Dave said quickly.
Kadogan looked at it for a moment longer, then turned to Dave. “Tomorrow we open at noon. Fiona has made some advanced bookings for your services and you have three requiring readings tomorrow afternoon.” Kadogan hesitated. “Tomorrow morning a friend of mine will be calling. He’s quite harmless, but he is a little odd.”
Dave looked blankly at Kadogan. This was a man obsessed by candles and had hired a tarot reader just by answering an ad in the paper and he thought his friend was odd. “I won’t get in the way.”
“Good. Now, let’s have a look at the flats.” Kadogan strode out of the door with a confident air. “I think you will be pleased with their standards.”