(Chapter 28 of Senses)
It wasn't until three in the afternoon that Larry finally noticed them . He'd had a nagging sensation at the base of his neck that he should be noticing something, but at first he couldn't figure it out. He and his store were being watched.
Once he realized it, he instantly saw why it took so long to catch it. The watchers were constantly moving, in shifts. Four different people, with different looks and styles, each took that one moment extra to watch his shop.
Class four reactions, but these people weren't police. Regular plain clothes police would be far more obvious, and undercover police would be less.
There also wasn't much he could do about it, as he had customers. Not many for the time of day, but he had to be there as Morgana also had a customer. He busied himself with a man interested in Norse mythology while keeping an eye peeled outside.
Larry's customer was asking questions he could answer by rote, so Larry was especially attentive to outside detail when he heard the rhythmic tapping coming from Morgana's foot under his card table. It was a subconscious habit she had which appeared when she didn't want to divulge a reading, and Larry had learned to recognize it early. While he didn't have his brothers' ear for tonality, he could recognize rhythm almost as well. Larry politely excused himself and walked over to the card table.
"Excuse me," he said, tapping Morgana on the shoulder. "I need a word with you."
Morgana broke her concentration and stared up at Larry.
"It's important," he said. He glanced to Morgana's customer. "Do you mind? Only for a moment."
"No problem," the man said, holding his hands out palms forward.
Larry glanced at the cards, and had to stop himself from asking what the meaning of the layout was.
"Upstairs conference room, I presume," Morgana said, acting angry.
Larry caught it. His upstairs apartment was the only place they could talk privately. "Upstairs," he said. Something's got her scared, he thought.
When they got to Larry's apartment, Morgana didn't waste any time. "You saw the cards," she said.
Larry nodded. "I did. What is it?"
"No cohesive reading. None possible. That was my fourth layout of cards you saw. That man has no future!"
Larry shook his head. "Oh come on! The cards sometimes just don't want to work, that's all. Happens to everyone."
"Damn it!" Morgana grabbed Larry's arms and held them against his body. "You don't see it, do you? That man is about to die! Violently!"
Larry stared for a moment. She seems so sure, he thought. She believes it. He also thought about the people watching his shop, but they had been watching all day. No, it doesn't add. She just can't tell when she needs to stop.
"Listen," he said, "let's go back down. You collect your cards and simply apologize to the man. Say that you can't do it. That's not really a lie, as you can't tell someone they're about to die, right?"
"After you do that," Larry continued, "you just take a break."
Morgana protested. "A man is about to die! Doesn't that register to you?"
"The Tarot is not certain, you know that!" Larry responded. "The cards do not predict outcome, they shape possibilities. Rule one, as you should well know."
Morgana sighed. "All right, you win. Let's go back to the shop."
Larry nodded, although he noted Morgana's concession was simply an act. Good little actress, he thought to himself as they walked down the stairs. As they reached the bottom landing he said aloud, "At least the anti-theft alarm never went off. It's nice to have an honest clientele."
To Morgana, the first gunshot was represented by the simultaneous acts of Larry pulling her down and the sound of the front display window breaking. The second was represented by the man still sitting at Morgana's table, who gained a large hole in the back of his head. Then she lost sight of it all as Larry pulled her fully behind a counter with him.
There were easily a dozen more shots fired into the store, and Larry could hear the damage being done to his inventory. When the shots finally stopped a few seconds later, Larry remained behind the counter, waiting for the silence that followed to end before judging it safe.
When he did poke his head up, the destruction was amazing. Books and glass were everywhere, and there were two bodies; Morgana's customer and Larry's. He faced Morgana. "Go upstairs," he said, "and dial 911. We need police and medical."
"Right," Morgana yelled from the stairs. She was halfway up them before Larry had even finished speaking.
Larry looked out of the shop into the street beyond. A crowd was forming, looking in, but the observers Larry had spotted before were gone.
"You knew that was going to happen."
"Okay, so I knew. What the hell could either of us have done?"
Twenty minutes after their encounter in the street, both Rand and Constance were out in front of the same building Constance lived in arguing.
"I don't know!" Constance yelled. "Something! Anything!"
"And do you think he would have listened? Jerry never believed in any of this stuff!"
"But you and I know better, even if only you can do it..."
"And even if we had tried would that have changed anything?" Rand was fuming. "The cards don't lie!"
"He was my friend..."
"He was also my friend..."
"He was my best friend..."
"I was your best friend!" Rand roared. He began to storm away but then spun around to face her.
"Your lover, your confidant, your future husband," he counted off. "Whether or not I made an error in judgment is not the issue. I had hoped for you to stand by me. You think it was easy to let him go? I've had nightmares for months over this, added on to the nightmares I already had! And then to have you abandon me when I could have used the help!"
"But he died," Constance replied, voice lower.
"He was dead anyway!" Rand's face was red with anger. He stared at a now silent Constance until tears ran down his cheek. Then he turned and walked away.
Rand went from a foul mood to simply stunned as he passed the police line when he returned to Larry's store. "What happened?"
"Four of them," Larry said, "near as I can recall. Watching the store in shifts. Finally someone got tired of watching and blasted up the place."
"You knew they were out there?" Morgana asked.
"I didn't think about it. Remember the cops this morning? They were tagging me too."
"How bad's the damage?" Rand asked.
"To the store, not as bad as it looks. Mostly need to clean up and replace the window."
"One badly wounded, one dead," Morgana said, looking at Larry.
Larry sighed. "Yeah, one dead." He looked at Morgana. "Sorry, I was wrong about that one."
"You?" Rand said. "Wrong? If this weren't so serious it would be funny. I've never known you to be wrong."
"Client of mine," Morgana said. "Cards showed no future."
"Ouch? All you can say is ouch? A man got his head blown off in here!"
The words stung Rand, who had, after all, only just been through this conversation.
Larry noticed. "Ran into Connie, did you?" he asked.
"Yeah. It wasn't pleasant."
"Neither was this," Morgana put in. "What the hell is going on?"
"In here or with Rand and Connie?" Larry asked.
"Both goddamnit!" Morgana had stood up, then realized that she was simply letting loose pent-up emotion. "Sorry," she said. "It's been rough."
"Quite all right," Rand said. "Part two first.
"I used to do readings of close friends to try to determine how my days would go. I'm sure you do it too. Most everyone does. Anyway, Constance and I had a friend named Jerry. Usually I read him.
"One day I read that he would die that day. Jerry was a non-believer, so I didn't warn him. He would have gone boating that day even if I had told him.
"Jerry drowned at sea. The body was never recovered, but the boat was found sunk four hundred yards past Alcatraz. Constance blames me for not saying anything. That's about it, really."
"That's an ouch," Morgana said after a moment. "Sorry about my pushing."
There was a long pause, which Larry finally broke by saying, "Well, let's get some of this mess cleaned up. We can touch the stuff outside the yellow tape. Everything else has to be left alone for now."
After a moment or two of cleaning, Rand finally remembered his errand of earlier. "Larry," he said, "has Wicca any reason to be suspicious of you?"
"To the best of my knowledge," Larry responded, "we're on good terms."
"Well, Edgar doesn't think you're a good influence for some reason."
"Interesting. Edgar's leading The West now?" Larry considered his friend for a moment. "There's something big here, right?"
"Someday I'll figure out how you do that," Rand responded.
"Do what?" Morgana asked.
"You didn't catch it? Larry knows that I have some big information without me saying a single word."
"What's the big thing?"
"Well, it turns out that George Tomlinson is the second Wicca related death from the same family. Even worse, I was there when the other died. I've told you about Darkwell."
Larry considered for a moment. "Begorra?"
"A lot of death going on," Morgana observed. "Two Tomlinsons, your friend, one here. This is too much."
"Agreed," Larry interjected. "Quite a coincidence."
Rand reacted exactly as Larry thought he would. "I don't believe in coincidence," he said.
The three of them turned to see a police detective walk in a show his badge. "Agent Dylan, SFPD. Mr. Christopher, two of your clients are dead and I am presuming that someone was trying to kill you. Why?"
"You got me," Larry responded. Two beats, then Larry had it. "Holy shit!"
"What?" Three people exclaimed.
"Does George Tomlinson have any living relatives? Just one?"
"Yes, a sister," Dylan responded.
"She's in serious danger! Get someone to her home fast!"
"Done." Dylan picked up the portable radio at his belt and barked a few commands. "Now then, why?"
Larry turned to Rand. "You only talked to Edgar when you left here?"
"Two deaths in the same family, both related to the occult. You're the only one who knew that, and soon I'd know as well. So they tried to take me out before I could find out, so that the third could be killed!"
Rand's jaw dropped. "A Troikal sacrifice!"
Dylan held up his hand. "A what?"
"It's a series of deaths to promote power within Black witchcraft. Requires three siblings, all killed within a certain space of time, on specific days, within a five year period under the Gregorian calendar. There are other rules as well, but...oh goddess! Edgar was there when Roger Tomlinson died!"
Dylan didn't understand all of the witchcraft, and was a non-believer himself. But he did catch on. He turned to Rand.
"Tell me about Edgar," he said. "Edgar who? Tell me about Roger Tomlinson - George's dead brother I presume? I thought he died of a heart attack. And why not try to kill you as well?"
At nine p.m., five hours after Detective Dylan asked about Edgar, not many facts had reared their ugly heads. Among the few known facts were that Rand had simply been lucky - the hit had been planned to take out both Rand and Larry.
"Near as I can figure," Dylan said in a private conference room at the police station, "they timed it towards your return to Larry's bookstore, but when you didn't arrive they tried anyway."
"And failed," Larry said. "I had just come down the stairs when the shots were fired."
"It's a good thing you're in as good a shape as you are. We'll want to do more forensics work on your store."
"Do it quick. I live there. And why?"
"My guess is that a number of shots were concentrated around the stairwell. You dove before the shots landed. I'd like to know if they tried to follow you or just fired piece-meal into the shop."
"And that will make a difference in proving the charges," Morgana added.
"Give the lady a medal," Dylan responded.
"So now what?" Larry asked.
"Well, that depends on Mr. Lowell. We're trying to establish ties to the Tomlinson affair, which he obviously knows something about. He's already confessed to the attempt on you and the death in your store, turning evidence so we can round up the other four. You were right about that, by the way."
"Thought so," Larry responded.
Rand grunted. He was sitting at the table in the room, doing Tarot readings. He had been silent all evening long, after coming to the realization that Constance had, unawares, saved his life. It was obviously on his mind.
"He speaks," Morgana said with a chuckle. "Or grunts, anyway."
"You okay?" Larry asked although he knew the answer. "Wait a minute..." Larry walked over to Rand, standing behind him. "You're reading me!"
Rand looked up. "You noticed, eh?" Rand chuckled without much heart. "I tried reading Constance but I think I'm still a bit messed up."
"I know you're a bit messed up," Larry chided in response. He looked at the cards. "Strange reading."
"No shit. I don't think this is all over."
A knock at the door interrupted before anything more could be said. After peeking outside for a moment, Detective Dylan excused himself from the room, saying he would return shortly.
Morgana reviewed the layout Rand had set down. "I did a reading this morning that looked a lot like this."
"You've been reading me?" Larry asked.
"I did this morning. Too many person cards. Who is this?" Pointing to the King of Pentacles.
"Me," Rand said, "in comparison to Larry. Larry's the Knave of Staves."
"I gathered," Morgana responded.
"I'm a Knave?" Larry asked. "Still?"
"You're always going to be younger than me," Rand replied. "Besides, the card suits you."
"Who's the Queen?" Morgana asked.
"Not sure," Rand said. "My guess is Constance, but she's normally the Queen of Pentacles. This is Staves. As for the King of Cups, your guess is a good as mine. Whoever he is, he's bad news."
"You have a gift for understatement," Morgana replied. "Forgive how alarmist this may seem, but Cups wants to kill everybody else. You're right, this isn't over."
"Wait, hold on. I don't see that and these are my cards!"
"Look. You've got the Ten of Swords above this configuration, with the Ace on outcome..."
"The Ace signifies drastic change, not necessarily death..." Rand began.
"With the Ten?" Morgana asked. "And what of all these people? Look, this is very dangerous. Tell that Detective that they don't heave the leader!"
"You see all that in these cards?" Rand countered skeptically.
"Rand," Larry interjected, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder, "Morgana is the best Tarotist I've ever seen. I made the mistake of not listening a few hours ago and a man died."
"He was dead anyway," Rand replied in a small voice.
"Maybe so," Larry replied, "but 20-20 hindsight tells me not to doubt that ability to read the cards. Why don't you overlay?"
Rand sighed, looking even more shaken, and placed a second pattern directly over the first. It looked just as bad. "Something's wrong," Rand said.
"We know that," Larry responded.
"No," Morgana said.
"The cards," Rand continued. "Something's wrong with the layout."
Morgana caught it quickly. "Last card. The King of Staves."
Rand looked at the final outcome card for a moment, then passed his hand over it. Then he turned the card around, so that it read upside down. "That's better," he said. "How this whole thing winds up depends upon the actions of this man."
"Question is, who is he?" Larry asked.
"You got me." Rand began to pick up his cards. "Goddess! This is maddening!"
A knock on the door was followed by Detective Dylan's return. "Mr. Weiss," he said, turning to Rand, "your concerns may be unfounded. All four additional suspects have been detained."
"And?" Rand asked.
"Hitmen from the look of things. Mr. Christopher, this will sound nuts but one of them swears he tried to miss you when he shot, and could you arrange for a autograph of your brothers' to be sent to him?"
To Detective Dylan's surprise, Larry laughed. "Hell, why not," Larry said. "Jim though, not A.J. Jim would do it for its appeal to his sense of sacrilege. A.J. would probably want to simply kill him."
"You have a strange family," Dylan commented.
"You'll never know," Larry responded.
"I still think there's some danger," Morgana said.
"Oh, I think there's a slight chance you're right," Dylan replied.
"You believe?" Rand asked, incredulous.
"Yes, I do. Not in magic, or your beliefs per se, but in the fact that you do believe. I am realistic enough to see that you three know a great deal more about this stuff than I do. Therefore your intuition may have some justification."
"So now what?" Larry asked.
"Go home. Have dinner. We've done enough for one night. Meanwhile I'll have you folks under surveillance. You all come back here in the morning, say about 10 o'clock, and we'll continue."
"You'll need lots of men for surveillance," Rand said. "If we're free to go I'd like to go see Constance."
"Got some things to work out," Larry commented.
"Come with me, Mr. Weiss," Detective Dylan said, "and I'll assign you your protection. I'll take care of you two in a moment." With that Rand and the Detective left the room.
Larry sighed. "We've been made into a couple," he said.
"I guess so," Morgana responded. "How about dinner then? I'm famished. Besides, you owe me a rather large number of explanations."
"Well, a number of things have been bothering me most of the day that just don't connect, no matter what I do."
"Yes." Morgana stifled a yawn. "Oh, did you notice that Detective Dylan is the King of Staves?"
Larry chuckled, mostly to himself, coming to a decision.
"It's going to be a long meal," he said. "Yes, I noticed."