The hallway was deserted. Half-lit in gray shadow. I knew this place, didn’t I?
The office doors that lined the marble hall were locked for the night, their opaque windows darkened. Waist-high ceramic pots cupping giant plastic rubber plants were situated between the doors to give the hall an illusion of warmth. I shivered as I watched her crouch behind one of the pots, hiding like a terrorized child. Her blond head shook while buried into her knees.
The door from the stairway access crashed open. A bulldog of a man lumbered in. The veins in the side of his neck accentuated the swastika tattoo half-visible, as if it crawled from under his collar. He gazed around, his little eyes alert for any movement.
Click. Clink. She dropped her activated cell phone into the pot. He didn’t see that, but he heard the sound. He grinned, showing straight white capped teeth that contrasted with his swarthy cruel face.
“Gotcha, bitch.” His voice was softer than his face, girlish almost.
When she stood to face him, I marveled at her naïve bravery. Faster than his bound muscles should have allowed, he hoisted one of the huge pots and hurled it at her. Her hands covered her head against the impending lethal blow.
The vision evaporated. I was looking at her, Laura Bishop, but she was no longer in the hall or in mortal danger. Instead, she sat in front of me. One of my tarot clients, one of those who arrived dubious and would leave dubious and pissed off. I’d had enough doubters in my practice to recognize them and still not let them deter the process.
I looked at the tarot cards spread on the small table in the anonymous hotel room. I wasn’t surprised to see the image glaring at me from one particular card. A body sprawled facedown, blood oozing from wounds caused by swords quilling the corpse’s back. The Ten of Swords: betrayal.
“Ms. Bishop, do you see that card there, in the future position?” Disturbing images could be upsetting to clients, so I always addressed them immediately. Waiting only made clients focus on them to the point of missing anything else I had to say.
“Uh, yeah, I do, Ms. Rosten. Do you psychic folks throw those things in there to scare your clients into coming back? Because, trust me, it won’t work.” One side of her jaw twitched as she tossed her accusation.
“You may call me Devorah, or Dev, if you like. And, no, we don’t create such cards to manipulate clients. In fact, that card makes rare appearances. So I suggest we discuss it for a moment before we move on.”
“Yes, let’s.” She sat back in her chair as if waiting to be entertained but not expecting much. My work was rarely entertaining, but she wasn’t ready to swallow that piece of information and probably not the rest of it either.
“Well, you have a Ten of Swords there, and tens show up when stagnation is occurring. Often a client is complacent, not really attending to a situation that demands attention.” I had a bad feeling, a dreadful foreboding for this dazzling woman. That vision of the thug proved she required my “extra” services beyond the little card reading, but how to sell her on the idea?
“And what situation are you referring to, Ms. Rosten?”
I glanced again at the cards and saw the Two of Cups. This was not going to be easy, probably impossible, judging from the hostility she was mustering. She had informed me that she was an attorney, so I wasn’t willing to engage in a verbal argument with her.
“The Two of Cups usually means a relationship, generally of lovers. Coupled with the Ten of Swords and other, uh, impressions, this will not end well.” I knew she wasn’t ready to hear I had visions whenever I gave readings. In this case, I was grateful I wouldn’t have to share what I’d seen with the swastika-neck guy. I even hated saying the word “swastika.” Some words don’t glide off my Jewish tongue.
Her fingers were tapping the chair arms. “Did I ask you about any relationship, Ms. Rosten? If I had, then you could talk about it; otherwise, stick with my law practice, please.”
“I just think you should know that this guy…”
“I’m a lesbian, Ms. Rosten. There is no guy. Can we move along? My friend Margaret said you were good; now show me. Tell me about my law practice and my plans to open my own firm. Stick with that and I won’t feel like I’ve wasted Margaret’s overpriced birthday present to me. Okay?” Beauty coupled with a galvanized backbone. I liked it. I liked her. But she was a client, and my costly tarot reading was her birthday present.
“Right. If that’s what you prefer.” I kept my breath even and looked for any pentacles, symbols of work and money, in the spread. “There’s the Knight of Pentacles, Ms. Bishop. Knights usually are on a quest. They work hard. That’s probably you. See those plowed fields? They mean your work will pay off…”
I rambled on about how her law practice would be a ripping success, that she’d have to avoid overworking. However, my mind was really back in that hallway watching the brute of a man throw a giant ceramic pot at her head. That was going to happen to Laura Bishop. I couldn’t tell when, maybe in ten days, maybe ten years, but it would happen. And there was nothing I could do to help her. I was sure she would reject my offer of enhanced services.
When she was ready to leave, she shook my hand. “Thanks, Ms. Rosten. I liked what you said about my professional future. Let’s hope you were accurate. As for the other situation you mentioned, please forgive my anger. I’m under some pressure these days and would rather not discuss my private life. Anyhow, it was nice meeting you.”
“Likewise, Ms. Bishop, and if you need any further…consultation, here is my card.” I handed her my business card and hoped she’d call. She would need me someday. She dropped the card in her oversized cloth bag.
I stood at the window of the downtown Seattle hotel room and watched her exit the building. Her orange bag kept her in my sight longer than the drizzling rain would usually allow.
After Laura Bishop’s tarot reading, I followed her career for years. She resigned from the prestigious Meyers, Gaines, and Stratton and started her own firm she called Bishop and Associates. I learned that her offices were located in the historic Smith Tower. I had been in the Smith Tower on several occasions and realized the hallway I’d seen in the vision where Laura was attacked was a Smith Tower hallway. She would be harmed there.
Her public career entailed her representing clients in high-profile divorces and family custody battles. She also offered many pro bono hours per week in defense of abused children, and she led charitable drives for safe houses for abused families. I read every article about her in the Seattle papers, both general news and gay news. I was enthralled by her, and she appeared to be single. She was in extreme danger, but only I knew it.
I would not do the research into her possible nemesis since she hadn’t requested my help. Someday she would need more from me, my extra services. I both hoped for and dreaded seeing her again. She unsettled me in a way other clients never do.
Several years before the session with Laura Bishop, my “enhanced” services began from what I thought was a hallucination. It was the first time I glimpsed the future.
I had spread the cards for a well-to-do client and settled in for the interpretation. Without warning, I found myself in a motel room, watching my unclothed tarot client. She was having sex with a man half her age. A boy really, maybe sixteen years old. They were loud and exultant. I grabbed the dresser to steady myself, and zing, I was back sitting in front of the now fully clothed and silent client. The worn familiar tarot cards were spread innocuously on the table before us. Each image on every card whispered potential meaning to me, but the Five of Pentacles held my attention. The card, sometimes interpreted as wretchedness and alienation, told all I needed to know about the future of my client and her boy lover.
The client was watching me with delicious expectance, waiting for the cards to reveal her prospects.
I coughed. “Oy, that was interesting.”
“What? What did you feel…see?” Anxiety tightened her face, but it didn’t match the apprehension I struggled to hide.
“Is there a younger man in your life? Someone you may be…attracted to?” I had no idea how to broach this. I’d never had a vision while reading cards, but I’d studied enough about psychic phenomena to acquiesce and go with it.
She jutted her chin. “I’m not sure what you mean, Devorah.”
“Well, let’s just say that if there is a young man, there will be some short-term fulfillment to the relationship. However, I can’t tell you that it will end well.” The vision left me with more foreboding than my familiar neuroses usually provided.
“Why? How will it end…if there is such a relationship?”
“Remember that I can’t tell you how to live your life, right? You choose what to do with any information I give you. I just get the feeling that this will cost you much more than pay dividends.” Most of my clients responded to money references best.
“Okay, I’ll take that under advisement. Tell me, that giant sword there, what does it mean?”
She was pointing at the Ace of Swords. It was placed, tellingly, in the future position, and it made me squirm in recognition. “Well, sometimes the swords are about intellect and communication. How we make our choices and how we rationalize them to ourselves and others.” I was completely unclear how to convey the information to a woman who was making devastating choices for herself. I had to pause for a few moments and gather myself. The card was staring at me, daring me to reveal what I knew to be true about my client.
“Look, I have to go back to the young man. I know this is difficult, but I’m compelled to tell you what I’m learning from the cards.” I wasn’t ready to inform a stranger that I’d just had a vision of her having sex. Her face was frozen as she watched me. “There is some information about this young man that you need to know in order to continue with your…your friendship. You must learn more about him or this will probably end poorly.” I hated giving my clients bad news, but this time it felt crucial to this woman’s well-being.
I could tell she was a little deflated but unwilling to let go of whatever it was she was planning with the boy. The coy bend of her head informed me that she knew exactly who I was talking about, that she was deluding herself somehow and making the choice to continue.
“If this information about the young man is so important, Devorah, why don’t you go and find it out yourself. Then you can call me and fill me in. In the meantime, I intend to trust my instincts.”
I knew she was being facetious about me finding the information about this boy, but there was a sense of rightness about it. A mission. However, I didn’t want to become involved with my clients and their misery.
I didn’t know if I had caught a peek of the future or the past. Or even if it was just a ghost of my client’s deepest wish. But the visions continued, not occasionally, but with every reading thereafter. Over the years, I came to realize my visions were not hallucinations but possible futures, likely to become certain if nobody intervened.
And the outcome of my first vision? The young man was a notorious, drug-addled teen actor. Six months after that reading, my predictably jilted client descended into acute depression and gun-blazing suicide.
The chilling suicide incident churned gnarling guilt that kept my stomach in a constant state of complaint. I had to ask myself some uncomfortable questions, and those questions led to an idea. If I could see what might happen in the future, could I do something to change it? Should I get involved?
So I started telling my clients what they could do to fix their situations. A breakup, maybe, or a threatened lawsuit. They were just suggestions, and my clients almost always swore they didn’t have the courage to carry through the necessary steps to change their lives. A few times I was asked to write a breakup letter, and in each case, the letters I wrote worked. My clients emerged from their predicaments with fewer wounds than their readings had predicted.
So I started testing things. I would give clients a strong suggestion about how to handle a sticky situation that was bedeviling them. Then I’d follow up with them. Even if they carried out my suggestion to the letter, the results weren’t satisfying, only half complete. However, if I carried out the suggestions myself, the results were exemplary. A client would win a lawsuit, get the dream job, obtain revenge. The measures I had to take were spelled out to me in the tarot cards through their images, numbers, and meanings.
It was as if some cosmic game had me as its only strategist and player. Why me, I wondered. Well, why not, I’d answer back. And would my clients pay me to alter the probable outcome as testified in their cards? Yes, they would. And they did, substantially.
Soon I was doing more than just reading tarot cards for clients. I was “reorganizing.” I adore euphemisms. Words like “enhanced interrogation” or “reeducation” to describe torture are morbidly amusing to me. Reorganizing was an enhanced service for my clients, for an exponentially larger fee that varied depending upon difficulty of the assignment. I took steps to realign my clients’ trajectories. I wrote authentic-appearing letters, impersonated attorneys, mildly threatened light blackmail, and posted convincing packages. Whatever it took to alter the likelihoods in my visions, my clients paid me to do it. Was it a little lawless? Yes. was anyone harmed? I’d like to think not, but I’m not sure. Was my work dangerous? I hoped not. Did I love it? I used to.
I was probably the best paid tarot reader on the planet. My name wasn’t famous. No infomercials, websites, books, or sycophantic followers. My clients kept my name and contact information in strict confidence. There would be a month’s worth of tabloid caterwauling if the paparazzi knew what I knew about each of my clients. A Hollywood or Washington D.C. psychotherapist had less career-killing information than I had. I was the uneasy carrier of secrets, and I performed the deeds that secrets are made of. I was the ultimate professional kochleffl, a mixing spoon, the meddler who fixed people’s lives for a fee.
To protect myself as much as my clients, I kept no notes. No little black book. No diary for my tell-all memoir. I had a plain off-white business card with my work-dedicated cell number printed under my professional name, Devorah Rosten. My social friends believed my money came from a little light card reading and a giant trust fund. I figured “family money” would be generic enough to avoid scrutiny of Dev, the social animal. If, in the upscale clubs and cocktail parties I frequented, I crossed paths with one of my clients, I wrung my hands for a few minutes. But then I remembered that my clients thought I knew their dirty secrets. No client would dare break my cover. I knew too much.
I crept out of my fortified psychic compound to tell this story. I was obliged to go against all my personal and professional ethics to record one client’s tale. She deserved to have the dangerous truth recorded somewhere, by another person, to keep her safe. I couldn’t refuse Laura Bishop.