Madame Zelda looked up from her card in frustration. Her Tarot layout warned of great danger, as it had for those few in Gomorra who had dared to come out to visit her in the last several weeks. But she could gain no specifics from her reading.
In frustration, she turned to her crystal ball. Although possessing no mystical powers, it often served as a focus in her meditations. Entering into what the uninformed might call a trance, she slowly tried to divine what the future might hold for her...
She drew back with a muffle scream, startled. The face that had appeared to her was that of a skull: grim Death itself.
"What is it?"
Viktor peered into the parlor through the beaded curtain that led to their sparse living quarters. Business had not been great in Gomorra, and they had little chance to expand upon their few belongings since arriving in the town.
"Nothing, my beloved," Zelda whispered. Viktor had had to supplement their income with manual labor, and gypsies were no more beloved by the townsfolk than the Chinese laborers. He had enough to worry about with other concerns, such as the dim glimpses she had seen of the future.
Both of them looked up as the bell rang above the shops door. Neither had heard the door actually open. Nor was it open now. But standing before it now were two men. The first was a tall, older man with a fringe of white hair and beard, who held himself arrogantly. He was dressed fashionably enough, although in an old-fashioned style.
The second man did not hold himself up at all. In fact, he slunk at the other mans feet like a mongrel cur. He was at least 20 years the other mans younger, with a thinning mop of black hair and a thin mustache. There was a family resemblance between the two, in the eyes and the nose.
"Were closed," Viktor said, taking a step forward to usher them out. "Come back in the..."
"Dispatch him, Saul," the older man snapped.
Faster than Viktor could react, the younger man leaped forward from his crouch like a hunting dog. He slammed into Viktor, and the two of them tumbled back through the doorway. The beads rustled in the passing. Zelda heard a single sound. The sound of a dog worrying a bone.
The older man stepped forward, his attention focused squarely on Zelda. "Good evening, Madame...Zelda, isnt it? I am Jebediah Whateley."
Not Nicodemus! was Zeldas first thought. She had run into the young man on the streets, and had sensed nothing but evil from him. She had since asked around as to who he was, and found that he was a member of the enigmatic Whateley family. The others of the clan were rarely seen. She could sense nothing from the man who now stood before her, but she could detect...something, perhaps deeply shrouded. While Nicodemus wore his evil like a badge, this man presented an acceptable face to the world.
Zelda said nothing, the mans eyes pushing her down into her seat. Jebediah seemed to expect no response, but instead continued.
"It has recently come to my attention that you have had a number of clients whom you have informed to leave town. I am afraid that is really not part of my familys plan. Your clients took your advice, you see, and some of them had children. It threatens the family business, and the Familys business."
"No children can leave this town!" he snarled, suddenly leaning down and slamming his fist down on the table. Then, recovering his composure, he straightened up and adjusted his jacket. In that moments pause, Zelda heard the...gnawing sound cease from the backroom.
"My apologies, madame. In any case, I am here to offer you a...business proposition. If you will permit me to make a seeing of my own upon your future...?" Jebediah nodded to the deck of Tarot cards from which Zelda had been performing her reading.
Zelda dared not say anything. Taking her silence as assent, or unconcerned for her approval, Jebediah reached forward and drew a single card from the top of the deck. He studied its face for a moment. Zelda watched him in terror. The Death card was already on the table, and the Tower with it. However, it would not have surprised her in that moment if her visitor had drawn either card anyway, though.
Then Jebediah turned it to her, laying it upon his right palm. It was the Ace of Swords, and Zelda uttered a sigh of relief.
A momentary smile passed across her visitors face. He touched the face of the card with the index finger of his left hand. A brief spark of blue passed into the card, igniting it with witchfire. Slowly, it rose from the palm of his hand, then began to turn. Faster, and faster.
A magicians trick, was Zeldas last thought before the spinning card left Jebediahs hand and flew across the distance between them.
In the Whateley manor, Wilhelmina paused in her knitting. Although blind, her other senses were in no way impaired. The scream, although muffled, echoed clearly in her head.
Beneath Lord Grimelys manor, she could hear Brother Elijah preaching to what sorry followers he had found in this God-forsaken town. At Elephant Hill, Dolores danced across the tombstones. The McCracken "brothers" were at the Fat Chance Saloon, tending to their personal business. Down in the nursery, young Lucifer made not a sound.
The scream was the third one she had heard since sunset. The first had been a weak scream coming from the Golden Mare Hotel. With a connoisseurs ear, Wilhelmina placed it as the sound of a man whose life blood was being drained.
The second had echoed out of the Maze, as Yut-San had his man Ironteeth tend to the business of remonstrating a defiant miner.
The third came as she expected it, as Jebediah, her eldest, tended to the family affairs. They had acquired a new business, and would profit from it as they had profited from all the properties they had "claimed" since arriving in Gomorra.
Contented, Wilhelmina went back to her knitting.