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I heard Cora’s scream all the way across town. Everybody in Hot Springs did. Of course, I wasn’t sure who it was at first. It was just a blood-curdling scream. It had been years since I’d read for that little girl, back before she packed her bags and set off for Par-ee. She’d pulled “The Chariot” then, a good a sign for setting off on an adventure as I could imagine. We’d all been a little jealous of her over there all la-di-da. But just a week or so ago, I started hearing rumors. Within an hour of the scream, everybody in town knew everything. It’s a small town. That’s how small towns work.

I’m the only one who knows the future, though.

She called me, no shame, no explanation, at 1 in the morning. “Please, Jimmie Sue, just one card.”

“Without even touching them?” I asked.

“Oh I don’t have time,” she whined. She was always one for whining, that Cora. “Please, just one card.”

I don’t like one-card readings and I especially don’t like one-card readings over the phone. But you have to feel a little bad for a gal who’s just found her daddy splat on the floor, being used as catnip.

“Okay,” I said. “Just don’t blame me if you draw ‘Death.’”

“I won’t, Jimmie Sue! I promise.”

“Then concentrate,” I commanded. “And focus on  your question.”

I could practically see her squeezing her eyes tight.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m ready.”

I unwrapped the silk scarf and took out my cards, cradling the phone against my ear. Throws your whole posture off, doing that. It can lead to a herniated disk. Only for Cora. “I’m shuffling,” I said. “Tell me when to stop.” I led her through the shuffling and the cutting of the cards, and finally pulled her card, which turned out to be number 15 of the Major Arcana.

The Devil.

I hesitated.

“Not Death?” she said.

“No,” I said. “The Devil.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It depends on your question, Cora, but it usually aint good. It’s the beast inside you, your dark side, addiction.  Everything you’ve been hiding from the world. It’s evil, Cora.”

“But is it me, necessarily?” she asked, pleading a little. “Couldn’t it be Medhi?”

“Maybe in a full spread,” I said. “But a single card reading, that’s you. And I’ll tell you something else. You’re not done with that man. On the card, at the Devil’s feet, are two people, a man and a woman, naked, connected by a chain. ”

“So should I have come home, back to Hot Springs?” Cora asked me.

So that was the question Cora had formed when I’d asked her to concentrate. I’d hoped for the Six of Cups for Cora, the nostalgia card, the one that always reminded me of garden gnomes and fairy tales.

“I don’t know,” I said. I felt a little shiver. Not for Cora but for Hot Springs. The Devil had come to town, and it didn’t bode well for any of us.

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