I open my eyes to find that no, I haven’t been transported to a new and more interesting place while I slept. I’m still in my single-room studio office, on the couch. As usual, I didn’t bother to pull down the Murphy bed. When I finally remember to do that, I’ll likely find some surprise left for me by my last assistant.
Assistants don’t seem to last long in this business. I wish I could tell whether it’s the fact that I don’t often manage to make payroll on time, or if it is something else. Me. The clients. The boredom from a phone that never rings.
I get up and put on a pot of coffee. Since the cream seems to be holding elections, I’ll have my coffee as black as night, and as strong as a black bear. It will undoubtedly put hair on my chest.
As the coffee is brewing, I notice that the afternoon sun is just breaking through the west window. Just how long had I been sleeping anyway?
Apparently I’m awake just in time, as the hall door opens, and a client walks in. I assume it is a client. I haven’t had any visitors that weren’t trouble in a good long time, and this one certainly looks like trouble. Trouble with a very nice fashion sense, but well dressed trouble is still trouble. Just well dressed. And a looker.
I look up. And down. And back up again. She is going to be trouble, so getting a good look now may be my only return on this gig. Assuming there is a gig here at all.
So trouble walks in the door, with that air that she knows she is trouble incarnate and she enjoys the effect she has on a room. Pretty quickly, she sees that I am the only one here, and pauses. Looks around. There isn’t much to see, this is a typical uptown second floor walk up studio office. My bed is already put away, so that leaves plenty of open floor space around my desk, and the little area where I keep a small table with my crystal ball and related paraphernalia.
She walks over. “You know why I’m here,” she said. I nod. She went on. “So get on with it.” She sat down where I led her.
I take her hand, and turn it to look at her palm. Then I try the other hand.
“Interesting. You aren’t entirely human, you know,” I said.
She nodded, and said, “Yes. I know.” She didn’t elaborate.
“Let’s try something else.”
I pull out a bundle of yarrow stalks, and start the process of casting the I Ching, but the stalks repeatedly refuse to cooperate. I set them aside.
Coffee grounds refuse to produce a message. Tea leaves are ambiguous. The Tarot deck picked itself back off the table and went and hid, trembling. Finally, I try a new deck of cards, an unusual deck, one that I’ve mostly heard of in rumors and only recently located. The cards are reluctant at first, then when compelled they come around.
“You said that already.”
“Well, yes. But it is true. You are a difficult client to read. But I think I’ve got a handle now.”
I consider for a moment, then proceed.
“You are an embodiment of peace, but the sort of peace that comes from the firm application of great strength. Not peace through fear or exhaustion, but peace through conquest. The same strength is applied to knowledge, which you almost will directly into existence. You dare to treat many men as puppets, to manipulate at need. As I look at the cards, I can’t help but get the sense that I might myself be one of those. Finally, there is the business of the secret amphibians. Everywhere I looked, I found frogs in the background. It is possible that is significant. I cannot tell from here.”
With that pronouncement complete, I found myself almost completely unable to move. She stared at me for a time, as if contemplating how and in what order she would dismember me. Finally, she shook herself, laughed, and found her way to the door. She stopped and turned.
“You are more right than you know, dear Michel. I will return and you will know the whole story. Until then, just be you.”
She vanished through the door.
Looking over at my desk, I saw a bag sitting there that hadn’t been there earlier. I assume it contains payment, I vaguely recall that she has visited before, and always left more payment than answers.
Perhaps a nap…