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All in the Cards

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After several minutes of ignoring the fortuneteller’s stare, Sherlock finally strolls up to the makeshift booth and faces the old woman directly. She’s dressed like the kind of stereotypical mystic psychic you’d see on TV. Very over-the-top. Much too kitschy for Sherlock’s taste. In any other setting, she would look out of place. But here in the middle of a crowded street festival, she looks right at home between the carnival style game and food booths crammed together.

Before he says anything, Sherlock takes a deep breath, noting that the overpowering odor of incense seems to be tinged with a hint of something else. He’s not quite sure what it is yet. Another few sniffs and he’ll probably be able to identify the odd smell.

“You look eager to peddle me a fortune,” Sherlock says. He’s never given much stock to this sort of thing, being that he was already familiar with all the techniques fortunetellers used to read their targets. He always called the whole thing a load of crock designed to steal money from easily susceptible people. The only reason he’s standing in front of the booth now is because Joan’s still waiting in that awfully long line for soft pretzels and, by Sherlock’s calculations, he still has about six minutes left to kill.

The old fortuneteller nods at him with a voracious smile. “Yes I can tell you your fortune,” she begins in an unbearably obnoxious tone just like how he imagines every faux fortuneteller sounds. “I can peel away the shadows of uncertainty regarding your future and help you uncover the mysteries of your life.”

Her spiel about mysteries almost makes him laugh out loud, but he takes another sniff of the air instead. There’s still that vaguely familiar smell lingering around. Usually it wouldn’t take him so long to pin it down, but there’s a crowd of people here and that’s interfering with his nose. “I prefer my future to be uncertain,” he says.

The fortuneteller remains undeterred. She pulls out a deck of tarot cards and begins shuffling. “The first reading is free of charge,” she tells him. She flourishes her hands in an attempt to look mystical as she shuffles her cards one last time. Sherlock ignores this and casts his eyes past her into the booth darkened by the paisley-patterned fabric hung up on all sides. He supposes that adds to the quote-unquote mysterious vibe. In the back, he can see a large wooden trunk. Probably what the fortuneteller uses to carry all her decorations and materials in, he deduces.

“I will now tell you your fortune.” The lady’s trying-too-hard mystical tone interrupts his thoughts and grates on his nerves.

Sherlock just shrugs since she seems intent on doing it anyway. He sniffs the air again while she begins laying cards out on the table. He’s not well-versed in the art of tarot reading, but he’s almost positive that she shouldn’t be laying down the same card over and over. And yet, spread out in front of him is the same card with a skeleton on it, five times in a row.

“What the…?” The lady mutters under her breath, breaking her mystical act. “I don’t even have this many Death cards.”

“Figures,” Sherlock says without much sympathy. He finally identifies a distinctly coppery smell faintly mixed with the heavy incense floating around. As the fortuneteller scratches her head at her cards, he casts another glance at the large wooden trunk, taking note of the dimensions and doing a few calculations in his head. Now that he’s got a working theory in mind, he takes a few steps over to the side of the booth and rips the fabric down, giving him easier access to the trunk. Lucky for him, there’s no lock on the trunk and he easily opens it.

“Perhaps you were reading this man’s fortune?” Sherlock quips, pointing to the bloody dead body stuffed inside the trunk.

The reveal causes a small commotion to break out amongst all the nearby people, but a local cop patrolling the festival keeps things under control and puts the fortuneteller in handcuffs. Sherlock makes a quick phone call to Captain Gregson to let him know about the situation.

“Can’t you take even one day off?” Joan asks with a half-amused, half-annoyed laugh as she returns with her pretzels. She offers one to Sherlock but he declines. “Who carries a dead body around in a trunk to a street festival?” she comments on the weirdness of the situation.

“I believe the idiom is it takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round,” Sherlock replies with a half-hearted joke. Joan doesn’t say anything else as she hurriedly finishes off her soft pretzel and watches as more cops show up to the scene. Sherlock suggests they help out.

In the ensuing chaos, the tarot cards still scattered on the table are forgotten momentarily. While the police and Joan are busy investigating, Sherlock picks up the cards to examine them more closely. There’s nothing unusual about them except for the fact that none of them are Death cards at all. Not one skeleton to be seen in the entire deck that he shuffles through.

“Strange,” he mutters to himself. The change in the cards defied logic. He would have puzzled over this mystery a bit more but he hears Joan calling his name to assist in examining the trunk. He sets the cards back down and walks away.

Perhaps there are some things best left shrouded in mystery.