Chapter Eight – Tasseomancy

17 Jul

Finally, I asked: ‘So, what do you do? Apart from drinking rose tea, of course.’

Rosie chuckled and finished her rose tea before saying “I’m a cartographer. I mean, I studied horticulture here about ten years ago and then I found this place. Since then, I spend a few hours every day charting everything in this town – even though it moves around a lot. I can’t even begin to tell you how fascinating this place is.’

‘ I can imagine. Look, do you know anything about playing cards? My house is absolutely crammed with them. What’s more, when I got a papercut, they all started going ballistic.’

Everyone in The Caffe Noire went silent again. This was really starting to piss me off, couldn’t they all just mind their own business for once? Rosie just stared at me blankly before putting her hand on my shoulder and whispering ‘Don’t mention the cards. They’ve already taken two of our regulars. Leave them alone and they’ll move on.’

I nodded and we sat in silence for what seemed like five minutes before I dared to ask another question. This time, I asked about the cathedral. Since I’d left the only torch I had back in my card-infested room, there was no way I was going to have a proper look inside there today.

Rosie ordered yet another cup of rose tea and smiled at me before saying ‘Usually it’s locked. If you managed to get in there, I’d like to know what you saw.’

‘Just darkness. I mean, I should have brought a torch. But it was completely unlocked when I went in there.’

‘Well, that’s another mystery which turned out to be less interesting than I expected. Unlocked, you say? Excuse me, I really have to take a look at it whilst it’s still open.’ She drank the tea in a single gulp before getting up and walking over to the counter and asking for a torch. The shopkeeper handed her an old torch with a huge square battery underneath it as well as a folder and a couple of pens.

‘Thanks. It’ll probably be locked again by now, but I should try anyway.’ She smiled at me and then, unexpectedly, kissed me on the cheek before rushing through the creaking door.

I just sat at the table and stared at her empty cup. There were a few stray leaves in the bottom of it – although I’d only ever read a couple of books about divination back when I was a new age hippie of a teenager, I thought that I’d try to read them. As I expected, they were nothing more than a few random leaves. No matter how hard I looked at them, no symbols or sigils revealed themselves. Some detective I was turning out to be.

I went to the parrot-infested bathroom and ordered another coffee before sitting down at Rosie’s table again. Waiting for her seemed like the only decent thing to do, plus I was curious about what she would find too. It’d probably be something strange. No, I mean, something normal. Normal for this place.

Anyway, three cups of coffee and another fight with an inquisitive parrot later, she still hadn’t come back. It was getting dark outside and I was starting to feel more than a bit worried. Finally, the shopkeeper walked over to my table and said: ‘We’ll be closing in five minutes. Don’t worry about Rosie, she can spend days wandering around here if she finds anything interesting. Believe me, she once spent three days tracking a runaway apothecary on Terrace Road.’

I thanked him and left another tip before heading for the cathedral again. The streets were still pretty empty and I noticed a couple of unusual shops, but everything seemed fairly ordinary.

By the time I stood under the crooked spires again, it had started raining. Not just ordinary rain, but the kind of heavy rain which you only get around the coast. The kind of rain that trenchcoats were designed for. A droplet of rainwater ran down my forehead and landed on my lips. It tasted like strawberries. Somehow, I just wasn’t surprised.

I reached for the dripping door handle and turned it. It didn’t budge. No doubt that Rosie had come here and tried the door too before swearing under her breath and going home again. Although I still wondered why she hadn’t come back to The Caffe Noire again. I guess that she probably found something else interesting.

As I heard the deep crackling of thunder above me, I decided to take shelter somewhere. Since my house might still be filled with deadly cards, a pub seemed like a good idea. I was less than a minute’s walk away from The Demon and it was rock night there tonight too.

And, after everything I’d seen, I needed a real drink.

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