Kadogan knocked on Dave’s door. “Good morning. Are you sure you do not read Tarot cards?”
Dave sat up sleepily. “What?! Of course I read Tarot cards. I do it every afternoon – the Tarot cards that is.” He rubbed his eyes.
“But you say that you do not believe them. You must, surely, have some sight.”
Dave looked at his phone. “Kadogan, it’s 6am. I didn’t get in until midnight.” He yawned. “Let me get a cup of tea.”
Kadogan knocked again. “I have tea waiting for you in the kitchen. You must read the Tarot cards.”
“No, really.” Dave stretched and yawned again. “I can’t do the magic stuff.”
“There is also bacon.” Kadogan said persuasively.
Dave groaned. “Is Mrs Tuesday up?”
“Yes, she is the one making you breakfast.” Kadogan said encouragingly. “She is a marvellous cook, though possibly to old for you to enjoy as a romantic attachment.”
Dave swore. There was no way he could get back to sleep after having that image imposed on him. “I’ll be five minutes.” He said.
Dave walked into the kitchen in jeans, t-shirt and his hair still damp from sticking his head under the tap. “Morning,” he muttered.
Mrs Tuesday gave Kadogan an exasperated look. “You said he was already awake.”
“But I have just thought of it.” Kadogan said. “Here we have one of our own…”
“I’m a contractor, an independent agent and a paladin.” Dave gratefully took the large mug of tea. “Thanks. And I don’t actually read the cards. I just read the people.”
Kadogan frowned. “That does not seem a fair bargain.”
“It says on the sign, ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only’. It’s not meant to be real.” Dave took a mouthful of tea. It tasted of awake.
“We need a new assistant.” Kadogan said. “It is impossible. Louise wants time off for a wedding, coach parties seem to be arriving all the time, Fiona is having no time for romance with Steve Adderson, it is insupportable.”
“We are managing.” Mrs Tuesday said. “And it’s summer. It’s not likely to be as bad in January.” She slid a bacon sandwich in front of Dave who took it gratefully.
Kadogan sat down on a kitchen chair. “We need more of us. I cannot manage the till. Usually it is Fiona but when it is busier then Ian Tait will sometimes help. However he is busy with the mail order. We are getting a lot of orders.”
“He puts in a lot of extra hours, you know.” Mrs Tuesday said. “He’s finding hard work useful.”
“But he is so busy with stock and boxes and dust and packages.” Kadogan waved a vague hand. “Louise and you deal very well with the café, but if one of you need a day off then it is trying. And what will happen when you go home?”
“I’m in no hurry.” Mrs Tuesday said. “But I see what you mean. You are needed walking the floor and helping with enquiries.” She added. “You do a really good job. Besides, we need you to sort out any trouble makers.”
“Thank you.” Kadogan said absently. “Steve Adderson is a help but often making deliveries. He is looking for extra drivers for the less complicated orders. I don’t know where he’ll find them.”
“I know a few young boggarts that would be glad of a job with a bit of a challenge.” Mrs Tuesday said briskly. “I’ll pass their names on to him.”
“But that still leaves us with needing more staff.” Kadogan grumbled. “And Suzuki said that she thought Dave would be the one to find our next member of staff.” He looked at Dave. “So, you can read the cards and tell us who to hire.”
“Suzuki?” Dave asked.
“A very close friend of mine.” Kadogan said airily. “Obviously not as close as, for example, Steve Adderson with Fiona Greene, but we have a remarkably calm friendship and have mutually aided each other many times. She is from Leeds and often has insights.”
Dave stood up and poured himself another cup of tea. It was too early for this. “I just thought that ‘Suzuki’ was an unusual name for a non normal.”
Mrs Tuesday gave him a sympathetic look as she sat down with her own cup of tea. “The elfen don’t always stick to the same name,” she explained. “Kadogan here has been active in these parts for a few thousand years and he’s not the oldest. Some stick to the same name, like Kadogan, and I don’t think Lord Marius has changed his name since the Romans left, but some are more flexible. One of the elfen over at home has changed her name to Rioja as it’s her favourite wine, and I know a few others that change their name every year or so.”
“It’s not just elfen,” Kadogan was adding sugar to his tea with a liberal hand. “The Prince of Huddersfield is a vampire and has just changed his name from Lord Edvard to Lord Spike. Apparently he watched a different television programme.” He sat down with them. “Suzuki just liked the name so changed it from Mercedes. And a lot of the elfen from Leeds have a sense for magic. She said she had one of her feelings.” He sat down and took a satisfied sip of his tea. “The last time she had one of those feelings she made a fortune investing in shares for…” Kadogan frowned and waved a hand. “Something to do with computers. Anyway, she is very accurate when she gets these feelings.”
“But I don’t do proper Tarot readings.” Dave said. “I don’t do magic. I can’t.”
“And you shouldn’t.” Mrs Tuesday said firmly. “It’s not safe for a paladin to do magic, nor a templar.” For a moment she looked sad.
Kadogan laid a gentle hand on her arm. “You did your best, we all know that. I think he was glad that you did your duty.”
Mrs Tuesday cleared her throat. “I’m sure he was. But I’m very grateful that I’ve got a chance to be useful here instead of just moping around. It’s good to be busy, but you’re right. We do need someone else that can cover tills.” She sighed. “Kadogan, I think you and Fiona are going to have to go over the books. You could do with more than one extra pair of hands. It’s getting complicated.”
“Excuse me one moment.” Kadogan put his cup down, splashing his Earl Grey and rushing out of the door.
Mrs Tuesday shook her head. “You would think he would be old enough to know better,” she sighed. “But this business has given him a whole new lease of life. Honestly, I’ve never seen him better.” The microwave pinged and she got up to get her porridge. “In fact, I think that this shop has been a lifeline for all of us.”
“I’m not sure about me.” Dave said carefully. “I mean, I’m breaking even, but…”
“Can you imagine finding out you were the paladin without knowing people like us first?” Mrs Tuesday asked. “I mean, if you hadn’t known Ian, how would you feel about werewolves? If the first time you had met a werewolf was that fight at the back of the allotments?”
Dave thought about the awful fight and the knowledge that he had someone like Ian on his side. On the other hand, being a Tarot reader was a lot less fun than he thought it would be.
Kadogan erupted back into the kitchen. “Dave Kinson, you have no bookings today and there is a notice saying that no bookings will be taken today. That means that you will be able to attend a Servant’s Register…”
“Temp agency.” Mrs Tuesday said, adding a sprinkling of sugar to her porridge.
“That means you will be able to attend a temp agency – is that what they are called? What is temperature to do with anything? What was I saying?”
“I can’t go anywhere.” Dave said firmly. “I’m booked to attend a psychic fair. Ian’s going to help me set up, remember, and Fiona’s sorted out business cards, catalogues and flyers for me. We talked about it last week.”
“Well, when you are there then you can perhaps ask one of those who do believe in Tarot to find someone.” Kadogan said with some satisfaction.
“I’m not going around a room full of potential rivals at a psychic fair asking whether they believe in magic.” Dave said sharply. He slotted his empty plate and mug in the dishwasher. “I’m going for a run.”
Fiona knew they needed at least another member of staff, but she didn’t know where to look either. At least it was quiet that morning. Louise was making a list for the next run to the wholesalers and Mrs Tuesday was making a similar list at the herb stand. She was jotting down notes about what cards were left and what gift wrap was needed. She jumped when Steve came up behind her.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Steve smiled. “You must have been lost in a world of your own.”
“I’m just trying to work out what’s needed.” Fiona looked down at her list. “We keep getting coach parties. I’m sure it’s just because it’s free parking and it’s not too far to walk to York centre, but they’re spending some money here. I’ve had a couple of calls from tour companies checking our policy on the coaches calling in.”
“An elfen called Henwen from Leeds wanted to know if we could cater a dinner party for her here.” Steve found himself admiring the curves under Fiona’s blouse and remembering them in detail. “I told her that wasn’t something we could currently offer.”
“That’s a good move.” Fiona glanced quickly around the shop. Mrs Tuesday was still checking the herbs and Kadogan had just brought out a box of candles. “Are you still able to come over tonight?”
“Try and keep me away!” Steve smiled. “I’ll call round about eight, and I’ll bring pizza.” Inside his jacket pocket was a faint groan. “And I’ll bring Armani’s stuff as well.”
“I’ll get some wine.” Fiona smiled up at him. “Any preference?”
Steve shrugged. “I don’t want anything too strong. I want to concentrate on you. Why don’t you pick up a few beers for me?”
Fiona fought back a blush. “It’s a deal.”
Dave was unimpressed. It was the first psychic fair he’d been to, and he had never felt more out of place. The former church hall was cold and damp from the awful weather outside. The facilities were basic and the trestle tables ranged around the room had seen better days. The stall holders had done their best with dramatic cloths, crystals and incense but it was hard to fight the depressing atmosphere.
Only a few days ago he would have considered it a place for frauds to meet. Now, well, he found it harder. There were some frauds like himself around, he could spot those easily enough, but there were less than he expected. There were those who seemed well meaning enough but vaguely clueless. And then there was a few who actually seemed to have an idea of what it was all around – including at least one non normal. Dave was getting used to the sensation of the blurred outline or the weird sense of static around a person. They only thing lacking was paying customers. One or two people were drifting around, but there wasn’t much of a rush.
He’d not done too badly. He’d put a lot of thought into his stall and it looked quite professional, to say he had been reading Tarot cards less than a month. It was friendly, not the cheapest but not the most expensive and it looked safe for those who weren’t familiar with the occult. Dave didn’t think he’d get away with anything trying to read for someone clued up. At least he’d covered the cost of the stall.
A young woman shook her umbrella and sat down on the chair opposite him. Dave frowned. She didn’t look like his normal type of client. She was decisive, she was assertive and she was, well, boring. She wasn’t wearing weird earrings. In fact she wasn’t wearing any earrings at all. The plain jeans and sweater seemed almost too much of a contrast to the rest of the hall and her plain, dark blonde hair was caught back in a basic ponytail.
Dave smiled professionally. “Hello, I’m Dave, how can I help you? Are there any questions you need answered or are you just looking for guidance on the mysteries of life.” He reached over and shook her hand, noticing that the hand was cool and as dry as it could be after dealing with the umbrella and the handshake was firm. The nails were short and unpainted but neat and she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Dave guessed she was single.
She sighed. “How confidential are you?” she asked carefully.
Dave was curious. That question usually meant she was actively unfaithful but he wasn’t getting any romance vibes from her. “I would feel I had to report something like a confession of murder,” he said smoothly, “But anything of a personal nature is kept strictly locked down. I consider it a sacred trust.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Are you sure?”
“I have two rules that I hold as absolutes.” Dave wondered what she was about to confess to. “I cannot allow you to hurt yourself or others and I cannot disclose anything – anything at all, that you tell me during the reading, especially if it’s of a personal nature.”
She pursed her lips, took a breath and nodded. “I’m Adele. My mother said I should come here as it was safer.” She tapped her fingers on the table. “I’ve two really important questions. The first question is the hardest. You see, a month ago I was in a car accident. It wasn’t bad, and I wasn’t hurt, but ever since then, well, I can do this.” Adele looked around quickly, put her plain bag on the table to shield what was happening, held out her hand and concentrated.
Dave looked at the practical hand in front of him. It looked like someone who had worked shops or waitressed. He frowned in professional concentration. “May I?” he said, reaching over.
Adele batted his hand away from him. “Hang on.” She concentrated again.
Before Dave’s horrified eyes a blue glow appeared around Adele’s hand. It flickered slightly, like something you would see in a coal fire, dancing and playing around Adele’s outstretched fingers. “I’ve never seen anything like that.” He said faintly.
From a distance he heard Adele speaking. “I can make the flame go over my whole body, but I have to concentrate.”
“That’s interesting.” Dave managed as he watched her twist her hand backwards and forwards, the blow glow snaking like a living thing.
“My mum said it was psychic discharge from the shock of the road accident, but my dad reckons it’s a superpower. He says it’s a rubbish superpower.”
“Can you do anything with it?” Dave said, still mesmerised.
“I use it like a torch when I’m putting the bins out at night. It makes it easier to see.” Adele put her hand flat on the table. “My other question is that I need a job. Can you see a job in the cards?”
Dave managed to pull his attention away from the glowing hand. “You’d better dial that back.” He said. Kadogan was going to be insufferable.
Fiona ran quickly into the stock room. “Ian, can you keep a secret?”
Ian looked at her suspiciously as he sealed an envelope filled with assorted incense. “Why?”
“Seriously, I need to ask you something that I can’t ask Kadogan or Mrs Tuesday and Dave is still at the psychic fair. Promise you won’t tell Kadogan. Or Mrs Tuesday. Or Lord Marius.”
Ian grinned as he added the envelope to the neatly stacked trolley. “It’s about Steve, isn’t it?”
“You won’t tell, will you?” Fiona begged, glancing quickly over her shoulder even though she knew Kadogan was out and Mrs Tuesday was covering the till.
“I promise.” Ian said, still grinning, checking the order off his list. “Go on, what is it?”
Fiona dithered for a moment as she watched Ian assemble the next order. “Steve’s coming round for pizza tonight. I suggested wine, but he thought beer would be better.”
“Did he suggest getting some lemonade as well?” Ian worked his way along the shelves. “Why is he coming round?”
“You know how keen Kadogan and Lord Marius are about us two, well, dating.” Fiona absentmindedly straightened the boxes of Tarot cards. “They’re an almost irresistible force. So we thought we’d see if we could get along on the quiet, without them interfering. If we can get on then it’s great. If we can’t get on then we can work on tactics to get them to shut up.” She blushed. “It’s been fine so far.”
Ian’s eyes narrowed. “So that’s why you were so stiff the other morning.” He chuckled. “Hang on, was Armani there?”
“Yes.” Fiona looked confused. “Steve doesn’t like to leave him overnight in case he tries nesting somewhere difficult.”
“Right.” Ian was laughing out loud now. “So it is true what they say.”
“Say about what?” Fiona asked.
“Never mind.” Ian couldn’t keep the smile off his face. “Pass us a Vampire Tarot, please.” He took the Tarot deck and added to the box. “So you want to get some beer in.”
“But I’ve never drank beer.” Fiona said, handing him the order form and money off voucher. “And I have no idea what’s what.”
Ian thought of Steve. He was slim, sharply dressed and unnervingly magical. “I would have thought sparking water would have done him.”
“Ian, please.” Fiona watched Ian double check the carton’s contents. “I’m stuck. And I know that you drink beer because you drank it when you were out with Dave.”
“I drink all sorts of things.” Ian said. “But I take your point.” He frowned. “Pass me your phone.” He called up the website of the local supermarket and clicked on the beer, ale and cider section. “I don’t think there’s any point in wasting craft ale on him,” he said, scrolling through, “And you don’t want anything too strong. There’s no point getting a big case.” I’ve added a few to the basket that will probably work. Check them out in the supermarket and see what you think.” He grinned. “But I want to know all about how it goes tomorrow, okay?”
“Deal.” Fiona took her phone back and looked at Ian’s selection. They all looked fine.
“But not in too much detail, if you know what I mean.” Ian winked. Fiona blushed.
Fiona was still burning from embarrassment a few hours later as she stood in front of a wide shelf full of ales and beers. She had already got a nice bottle of sparkling rose for her, some salad and a cheesecake for dessert tucked in her trolley. All she needed was the beer. She picked up what looked like a craft ale and checked the label doubtfully. It looked quite strong. She put it back and moved along the shelf. She picked up her ex boyfriend’s favourite. It wasn’t particularly strong but she felt the fury of his betrayal just looking at it. She quickly put it back on the shelf.
“I didn’t think you were a beer drinker.”
Fiona had been lost in her thoughts and jumped wildly as Kayne appeared next to her. “Sorry, I was miles away. How are you? Have you figured out the heating system yet? Tim said it took him ages to sort it out.”
“I think I’ve got the hang of it,” her new neighbour said, picking up the bottle Fiona had just replaced. “Is this your favourite?”
“I don’t drink beer.” Fiona sighed. “That was the favourite of my ex-boyfriend. I’m supposed to pick beer up for someone special,” she said carefully.
“Are you sure he likes beer?” Kayne asked.
“To be honest, I think he’s more of a wine person.” Fiona confided, “But I think he’s worried about looking like a wine drinker, and he didn’t want anything too strong.” Inside she winced. She didn’t need to share everything with a complete stranger. “Can you recommend anything?” She asked quickly to cover her confusion.
“Hmm.” Kayne scanned the shelf. “I’m more of a wine drinker myself as well, but how about this?” He pulled down a four pack of bottles. “It’s quite sweet, and I’m sure your boyfriend will like it. Am I going to bump into him a lot?”
Fiona felt cold. The last thing she needed was Kadogan finding out about her and Steve from the neighbours. “It’s complicated,” she said, putting the bottles in the basket. “I’m not really ready to share with friends about him. He’s a good man, though.”
“So there’s definitely no chance for me, then?” Kayne leant towards her but Fiona was too busy rearranging her basket.
“It’s got very intense very quickly.” Fiona wasn’t sure she felt red hot with embarrassment or frozen with mortification. “Let me know if there’s too much noise, just bang on the wall.”
“I’ll wear headphones – and hope!” Kayne grinned and walked off, whistling.