Read The White Magic Five & Dime (A Tarot Mystery) Online

Authors: Steve Hockensmith,Lisa Falco

Tags: #mystery, #magic, #soft-boiled, #mystery novel, #new age, #tarot, #alanis mclachlan, #mystery fiction, #soft boiled

The White Magic Five & Dime (A Tarot Mystery)

BOOK: The White Magic Five & Dime (A Tarot Mystery)
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Copyright Information

The White Magic Five & Dime: A Tarot Mystery
© 2014 by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Midnight Ink, except in the form of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

As the purchaser of this ebook, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. The text may not be otherwise reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, or recorded on any other storage device in any form or by any means.

Any unauthorized usage of the text without express written permission of the publisher is a violation of the author’s copyright and is illegal and punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

First e-book edition © 2014

E-book ISBN: 9780738741406

Book design and edit by Rebecca Zins

Cover design by Lisa Novak

Cover illustration by Miles Hyman/Lindgren & Smith, Inc.

Steve Hockensmith photo by Cecily Hunt

Lisa Falco photo by Picture People, Topanga Mall

Tarot images from Roberto de Angelis’s Universal Tarot;
used by permission of Lo Scarabeo; further reproduction is prohibited

Midnight Ink is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

Midnight Ink does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business arrangements between our authors and the public.

Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific reference will continue or be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to current author websites.

Midnight Ink

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Manufactured in the United States of America

With his pack over his shoulder and his head held high, the Fool boldly begins his spiritual journey. But watch out for that first step, Fool. It’s a doozy!

Miss Chance,
Infinite Roads to Knowing

The phone
rang, and I answered it.

I know—pigeon move, right?

You look at the caller ID and it says something like
VALUTECH LLC
or
LUXURY LIVING
or (in this case)
WHEELER AND ASSOC
and you know what that means. Or I do, anyway. Because usually I’m the one on the other end of the line, and I only need a few minutes of your time to discuss an exciting opportunity that could radically alter your financial outlook, but it’s a limited-time offer and you’ll have to act now.

Maybe it was curiosity. Maybe it was professional courtesy, one call-center phone monkey to another. Maybe I was just in a “what the hell?” mood—that wasn’t uncommon.

Anyway, I picked up.

“Hello?”

“Alanis McLachlan?” a man said.

I pulled a Coke from the fridge and briefly considered leaving the phone in its place. Let the guy try to sell his time shares or hot-hot stocks to my leftover pizza and moldy tofu dogs.

“Yes.”

I popped open the can and took a drink.

“Also known as Sophie Harper?”

The old training paid off.

Never let them see you sweat
, Biddle used to say.

And never let them hear you spit-take Coke all over your kitchen.

I managed to swallow.

“Yes. That’s me, too.”

“I’m calling about Athena Passalis, also known as Barbra Harper.”

The first name I’d never heard before. The second made me grit my teeth.

“Does she want money,” I asked, “or is she dead?”

I knew it had to be one or the other. Either she needed something from me or she’d never need anything again.

“Oh, um, actually…” the man stammered.

And that answered my question.

Athena Passalis, aka Barbra Harper, aka Mom had finally done the one and only thing she ever could or would do to make the world a better place. She’d left it.

Or “passed on,” as the man put it.

I let that sink in a moment. Then I asked the first question that came to mind.

“Who killed her?”

What else were you going to say when you found out someone like my mother was dead? “Was it the hepatitis she picked up in the Peace Corps”? No. “I told her donating a kidney to a stranger was crazy”? No. “I can’t believe she went back into that burning building for a cat”? No.

The man on the phone gave me another “oh, um, actually…” Then: “The police don’t know.”

“Of course they don’t,” I could have said. “Whoever finally got Mom was going to be smart.”

“What happened?” I said instead.

So the guy told me the details. There weren’t many to tell, apparently. A simple case of
burglarus interruptus
. You know the old story: innocent citizen finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just a tragic stroke of bad luck.

Yeah, right.

“I’m very sorry,” the man said. “I’m sure all this comes as a great shock.”

“Eh,” I said.

T
he guy’s
nam
e was Eugene Wheeler and he was an attorney and he did manage to give me a great shock eventually. He told me Barbra had a will, and I was in it.

When we were done talking, I hung up and walked to the kitchen table and took a seat.

My mother was dead.

My mother was dead.

My mother was dead.

I even said it out loud. “My mother is dead.”

I waited for the tears to come. All I could manage was a sigh.

I didn’t owe the woman more tears anyway. She’d had plenty from me already.

There was a debt, though. One I hadn’t been sure I’d ever repay, but now perhaps I could.

I owed my mother justice.

I called
my boss.

“I’ll be out the rest of the week. My mom died.”

“You have a mom?”

“Biologically, yeah.”

“But…wait. Didn’t your mother die two years ago?”

“That was my I’m-going-to-Hawaii mother. This is my real mother.”

“You lied about that?”

“Wanna fire me?”

My boss thought it over.

“You have till the twelfth. That’s it. And no horseshit about a dead father.”

“I don’t have a father,” I said. “My mother carved me out of wood.”

I went
to Berdache, which is easier said than done. When you find out you’re going there, certain questions arise.

“What the hell is Berdache?” (Answer: A town you’ve never heard of.)

“Where the hell is Berdache?” (Answer: Yavapai County, Arizona—if that helps.)

“How the hell do I get to Berdache?” (Answer: Fly to Phoenix, drive up to Sedona, keep driving into the craggy, scrub-crusted desert until you’re thinking, “Really? People actually live out here?” Stop when you see buildings.)

And last but not least, “Why the hell am I going to Berdache?” (Answer: It’s complicated.)

A longer
answer:

In the rocky hills around Sedona there are “vortexes” of powerful psychic energy, they say. Of course, “they” want to take you on tours and sell you maps and books and crystals and guide you through ancient Indian ceremonies that will purge you of bad juju and excess cash.

Apparently there are vortexes around Berdache, too, but they aren’t as powerful. You can tell because the signs for them are smaller and their psychic energy is only strong enough to support half a dozen occult bookstores and New Age trinket shops. One of these stores is the White Magic Five & Dime.

According to Eugene Wheeler, it belonged to me.

My mother had died inside it.

Eugene looked
like a Eugene. He had small-town anchorman helmet hair and a gray mustache and a layer of belly blubber that bubbled up out of his chinos like lava. He was wearing a corduroy jacket and a powder-blue oxford shirt and a red-and-yellow striped tie with a knot as big as my fist. I got the feeling he’d looked and dressed like this since he was eight, mustache included. Maybe if his parents had called him Rocco he would’ve turned out differently. But they’d made him a Eugene, and that’s destiny.

There’s a reason people don’t name their kids Eugene anymore.

This particular Eugene had a small storefront office on Berdache’s main drag.
wheeler & associates
read the sign out front, but the associates were either on vacation or imaginary.

Eugene couldn’t work up much enthusiasm when I walked in and introduced myself. On the phone, he’d played up the advantages of “monetizing” my new assets. Selling them, in other words—with a percentage of the revenue going to the executor, of course. Him.

But no. Instead I’d come to look everything over before deciding what to do.

Some people hate it when you do that. Con men, for instance. And your average, everyday, ordinary businessman, which is what Eugene Wheeler looked like.

Sign here
, he said.

And here.

And here and here and here annnnnnd…here.

Now sign this and initial this and don’t forget to date that and would you mind giving a blood sample?

It took two hours, mostly because I always read everything I sign. Always. Everything. I don’t put my name on a Christmas card until I’ve double-checked the fine print on the back.

“Sorry this is taking so long,” I said.

Eugene tried to smile. “No problem. You’re doing exactly what I tell all my clients to do.”

The difference being
they
never actually do it.

I went back to reading.

When every
here, here,
here,
and
there
had been signed and dated and sprinkled with holy water, I was the proud owner of not just the White Magic Five & Dime but the apartment above it and the black Cadillac behind it and the $45,246.79 in the bank up the road. I could go back to my crappy Chicagoland one-bedroom richer than I’d ever been in my life.

But I wasn’t done in Berdache just yet. There was one more bit of business to attend to—one I couldn’t clear up by simply signing on the dotted line.

“Anything new on my mother’s murder?” I asked.

Eugene winced. He’d still been trying to slide by with references to her “passing.” So much less murdery.

“No, not that I’ve heard,” he said. “I’m sure it’s our police department’s number-one priority, though. A nice, respectable lady attacked in her place of business—that’s thrown quite a fright into people, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

A nice, respectable lady?

I studied Eugene’s face for any trace of sarcasm. I didn’t find any.

“How well did you know my mother?” I asked.

“Not very. I mean, I knew her, of course. There are only five thousand people in Berdache. I know everybody. But…” He shrugged. “Some better than others.”

“So you never did business with her?”

“No. Not until about three weeks ago. That’s when she came to see me about a will.”

“Did she say why she suddenly wanted one?”

“Oh, she gave the usual reasons—reaching a certain age, wanting to be sure her affairs were in order. But you know you’re never too young to have a will drawn up. That’s something everyone should do, especially if they’ve got property or a lot of money in the bank to think about.”

“I think you’re probably right.”

Eugene smiled.

“That’s why I’ve had a will since I was nineteen,” I went on. “Everything goes to my cats.”

Eugene kept smiling, but his eyes weren’t in it anymore.

It was a lie, though. I don’t have a will. I operate on the assumption that I’m going to live forever. I haven’t been proved wrong yet.

I don’t have any cats, either. They remind me too much of my mother. Beautiful, finicky, aloof, and you’re the one who always has to clean up their crap.

“Did my mom give you my phone number or did you have to track it down yourself?” I asked.

“She gave it to me, of course. I wouldn’t let a client designate an heir without current contact information.”

“Did she say how she got it?”

“Got…your phone number?”

Eugene furrowed his brow, but the hair patty just above it didn’t move an inch. It looked like a gray beret taped to the top of his head.

“I haven’t spoken to my mother in twenty years,” I said, “and the last time I saw her, I had a different name.”

“I see. I’m sorry. No. She didn’t say how she found you.”

“It doesn’t matter. She was always good at getting information…when she wanted it.”

I stood up and thanked Eugene for his time.

“Guess I’ll go take a look at my new place.”

“I’m afraid we’re not quite done yet. There’s something else we need to discuss.”

“Yeah?”

“Your mother.”

“What about her?”

“You need to decide what’s to be done.”

“What’s to be…? Oh. You mean with
her
.”

Eugene nodded. “The body’s at the county morgue. Once the medical examiner’s finalized his report, they’ll release the body to you. You should know what your plans are.”

“It was right there in the will. She wants to be cremated.”

“Yes, but where? What kind of service would you like? What kind of urn? What kind of marker? I know it’s overwhelming, especially at an emotional time like this, but you have a lot of decisions to make, Alanis. I’d be happy to make all the arrangements, if you’d like.”

Who says chivalry is dead? And I’m sure he’d only charge me ninety-five bucks an hour instead of his usual hundred.

“That’s awful sweet of you, Eugene, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated,” I told him. “Where would you go around here to pick up some charcoal briquettes?”

I was
standing across the street from the place where my mother had died—a place I now owned—and I had two thoughts in my head.

#1: What happened here?

#2: Wow, Mom…tacky.

I was looking at a dingy white two-story building between a mom-and-pop hardware store and a mom-and-pop “psychic massage studio.” (Everything in Berdache looked mom and pop—or maybe mom and mom or pop and pop. You can never tell with the New Agey types.) A neon
open
sign hung in the big picture window facing the street. Off, of course. Around it, painted on the glass, were tarot cards and a crystal ball and assorted signs of the zodiac—Leo the Lion and Cancer the Crab and Alvin the Chipmunk or whoever.

And there were these words:

The White Magic
Five & Dime

Divination
*
Revelation
*
Bargains

For obvious reasons, Mom had left off her true stock in trade: lies.

I’d come
a long way for this—to see for myself who my mother had become and what had become of her. All I had to do was step off the curb and walk across the street and use the keys Eugene had given me. Yet now, with only fifty feet to go, I found myself frozen, unable to move forward.

Why was I really here? Did I truly think I could bring my mother justice? Did someone like her even deserve it?

Anyone? Anyone…?

I turned my back to the road.

Directly across the street from the White Magic Five & Dime was its mirror image. House of Arcana, it was called. Inside I could see books, candles, incense, cards, crystals, bullshit, horseshit, and crap. And a woman looking back at me from behind the counter. She had frizzy gray hair and a macramé shawl wrapped around her shoulders and a welcoming smile on her placid face. Her baggy yellow frock looked like something Obi-Wan Kenobi would wear, and I got the feeling it was either woven from hemp or meant to look like it was.

BOOK: The White Magic Five & Dime (A Tarot Mystery)
10.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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