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CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

SUNDAY MORNINGS often felt to Hill as if a magician had come by in the night and rolled up the streets, for as usual there was not a soul in sight. However, he well knew that inside another hour when the churches began letting out there would be a buzz of people rushing out to find a decent brunch, looking for a comfortable place to chat up their friends or perhaps to take a stroll on the beach. Anywhere and everywhere was the perfect place to catch up from the previous week. And if one was looking for a beach, there were certainly enough of those where one could always find a place to sit or stroll or simply to be alone.

Hill drove his usual route through town. He picked up a fresh cup of coffee, drove to the park and sat under an old growth tree on a park bench, watching the river drift past, sipping his coffee. The day was already hot even in the shade of the tree. There had been a promise of rain but it had yet to come. Vadoma’s tent still stood next to the Tourist Information Centre and Hill idly wondered if she had a license to set up shop, not that he cared one way or the other. She was harmless enough and was just trying to make a living, meager as it was by the looks of it.

A brightly painted, yellow canoe slid past on the falling tide. Its two passengers were each holding a fishing rod. Hill smiled impressed by their creativity, trolling without an engine on the dropping tide. In his mind he wished them luck as he rubbed his hand over the table and wondered how many people had sat in that exact spot. Tiny marks were made on the old wood: sweethearts’ initials with a heart or a cupid’s arrow to bind them. It made him think of the table that he was raised at, the one that now sat in his own kitchen. It was his mother’s before it was his and he took custody of it when she had moved into the senior’s lodge. Food never had the right taste if it was served on one of those modern, tacky pressed-board ones. The grooves on the old picnic table also reminded him of Gerry’s theory surrounding pacts and tattoos and the performing of the ritual at sunset. He looked up at the sky and calculated the hours until the sun would slip over the horizon. It made him smile at how peculiar it was for him to think about all that voodoo garbage. It was as if he himself had a pact to seal at sunset.

“Connecting the dots, are you?” Vadoma said, as if she had read his thoughts. He had not heard her move in beside him on the bench.

“No, I’m just doing the math. And I’m really bad at algebra.”

When she didn’t respond he continued, “Is this your first time in Liverpool? I’ve never seen you around before.”

“Some might say so.”

Although Hill had no idea what that meant, he went on, “Where are you from?” he asked.

“Around, I try not to stay in one spot too long.”

“Leaving anytime soon?”

“When there’s no call for me to stay, I guess I’ll press on.”

“Where’s your car?”

“I don’t have one of those,” she said, hoity-toitily, as if the chauffeur was parked just around the corner.

“Pack it all up in a shoe-box do you?” he asked her, nodding towards her fortune telling tent. The fabric flapped in the wind, periodically revealing two sets of chair legs and a tiny table.

“I guess you could say that,” she said, laughing. “Ever seen the insides of one of those before?” she asked, talking about her tent.

He eyed it and calculated that the inside could not be more than three feet square. “Can’t say as I have,” he said after a moment.

“Now might be the time,” she said, trying to lure him into a reading. “No charge today. I never ask a man in uniform for money, but today it would be a special treat from me since you’re in your regular clothes.”

“You can’t make much of a living if you’re giving it away.”

“Sometimes life is not all about the money.”

“I understand that well enough myself. I’ve been down that road too.”

“What’ll it hurt? Come on,” she said standing and waiting for him to follow. She was hardly much taller standing than sitting and Hill was again reminded how tiny she was, miniature, sparrow-like.

He felt obligated to comply. After all, he felt that she had tried to be helpful in the past few days.

Feeling like a child being led to the corner for misbehaving, he got up from the bench. She swung the tent-flap to the side as if he was the king being welcomed to court. He sat in the chair. At that exact moment she dropped the flap and the tiny space was virtually dark. Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness he saw tiny bands of light that managed to enter at each corner.

Vadoma lit a candle in the center of the table. She then took a chamois cloth and gently polished the crystal globe that sat before her. He was surprised, expecting her to do card or palm reading. In the dimly lit space flashes of an iridescent light reflected as she made each swipe. The tiny space became very hot and muggy. Suddenly she stopped and looked at him. He looked back into her eyes and was astonished to see how they were like deep chocolate-brown pools staring back at him. Light reflected from the beads of sweat on her forehead and the air felt even more humid than when he had first sat down. The minutes passed in a haze of words and impressions…little of which he could remember when he had left the tent and stepped back into the blinding sunlight.

He looked back over his shoulder wondering if he had missed something, recognizing that stupefied look in himself that he had seen on so many others as they had left Vadoma’s tent. When he had sat across from her his instincts told him to take out a pen and paper to try to capture the moments in words so that he could refer to them later on, but then he felt a fool for such thoughts and left the paper in his pocket. Now he wished that he had followed his instincts, for there was little that he could actually recall of that time with her. But he still had a murder mystery to solve and he did not need a fortune teller to tell him that. His old feeling came back to him, that fortune telling was just a lot of bollocks, a total waste of time; though just for a second he had wavered in his beliefs. Now fifteen minutes of his life had been lost that could never be retrieved, he thought, as he climbed back into his car and drove back to the home.

END OF CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

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“Linda has published fifteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”