The Heist of Tarot Bell

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Set your story in an oracle or a fortune teller’s parlor.... view prompt

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Urban Fantasy Crime Fantasy

Skilled mages know the difference between seeing the future and divination: Divination - using cards or bones or the stars or such - gives a vague answer for a question asked about some distant future. Actually seeing the future can only happen if the future is definite... which lets one see about ten or so seconds into the future: longer if one limits one’s view to the immediate region. My grandmother was a ninja - able to see her opponent’s moves a full fifteen seconds into the future if she focused.

I tried my hand behind the tarot desk at the drive-thru of Tarot Bell. I was given the job outright because I’m an elf... and, I suspected, because the manager liked how I looked in the uniform. Once a month we’d get some loser asking about the lotto numbers.

“Sir, we don’t do that here,” I responded to the first one to ever ask me that at the drive up.

“Oh, you keep ‘em to yourself then?” the deep voice bellowed.

“That’s not what divination is for, sir.”

“Ah haha,” he said, mimicking a parrot mimicking an announcer of some mixed martial arts show. “I see your game.”

“No you don’t sir. Would you like to order something else.”

A sigh, and then: “Grrrr... all right. I’ll take a reading on wealth for... one gold.”

“Oooh, big spender!”

“What was that?!”

“Sorry sir, I was talking to a coworker. Please pull up to the fourth window. Use the roundabout.” I made my way to the underground dock and back up to the wealth window. Presently, a cat-sized dragon flew up to the window and dropped its little coin into the waiting basket. I opened the window and he flew in to the dark room. I closed the window - which was darkened - and the candles fwooshed on. He looked around, annoyed.

“All right, all right,” he said in his deep booming voice as he alighted on the little table. “As you can see, I’ve already let go of my only gold coin, so let’s get on with it.”

I had him pick three cards: one for the past, present and future. No dramatic cards like The Fool, or Death, or The Tower, just a bunch of coin cards.

“All right!” He said, his yellow eyes flashing when I interpreted the results. 

Of course, I had shuffled them very carefully for him, but divination was always murky. I looked at his little body flapping at the window as he waited to be let out.

“I’ll definitely fill out a card for this,” he said, “thanks!”

I stood to let him out and he did as he said: he filled out the comment card and gave me good marks. I looked into the future and told him to look out for an accident that had just occured. He flashed his fangs.

“Thanks again!”

He flew out.

Every month, like clockwork, my little friend would come back and deposit a gold piece. After that first visit, I decided to be honest with my new little friend, but he actually was lucky with wealth. He had found a little dragon mate and had had little dragon babies and was able to expand his roost into an apartment. True, it was an apartment on the south side of town, but still.

Eventually, I came up with a plan.

On his tenth visit or so, I stood to let him out but then I had an idea. “Excuse me, but... would you be interested in making some gold sooner?”

He turned. “Yeah, yeah,” he said uneasily. “I’m your best customer for the wealth table, I reckon, so yeah.”

“I have a plan,” I began. “This place is so confusing... they don’t collect the gold until the end of the week, on Fri’sday. ...and I know where it’s kept: A vault below the property.”

The dragon lighted on the window and didn’t look at me. “Look...”

“Lumina,” I said.

“Ovazenachaiakar,” he said. “Nice to meet you, Lumina. I like you a lot: I’ve filled out every single comment card.”

“I know!” I chirped: He was my nicest customer. “You’re my nicest customer: I feel like I owe you.”

The little dragon turned, his scales reflected the candlelight. To my relief, he had a little smirk on his muzzle. “Why now?”

I returned his smirk with a satisfied smile. “The Ultrabowl is next weekend. Our busiest week of the year.”

His yellow eyes opened wide and had that charming flash. “You’re right! The gambling crowd...”

We discussed specifics and then my shift continued. Tarot Bell was popular that day, especially with people drunk on the food they had gotten from the weird shop across the street: fried and folded tortillas which - amazingly - were filled with various foods such as seasoned meat, beans, lettuce... and even tomatoes. 

At around seven I took my long golden hair out of my hairnet and clocked out. The sun was hiding behind the trees, now, and the air was filled with the laughs of teenagers going on evening adventures. 

Across the street, I treated myself to one of the “tortilla food beds” they were offering - not bad. Then I walked past my old high school and past my current community college back home. Slowly the sky turned orange, and I even saw someone who was a Junior when I was a Senior and waved at him as he passed.

“Hey Loomy,” my dad called from the kitchen as I opened the door. I rolled my eyes and cracked a smile and set my bag on the dining room table.

“Loomy, hi!” My mom called from the living room. 

It was weird how calm I felt. The weekend was going to be very exciting, but I just felt like... like it was owed to me? I wasn’t sure.

That’s when the Phune rang. I could see my mom in the living room watching the news, then dipping into the Phune and bringing out the living voice. I froze.

“Who is it, Phune?” She asked. The blue, translucent creature answered.

“A dragon: Ovazenachaiakar.”

My mom squinted before I raced in.

“Thank you, Phune!” I said. I put my hand over his floating mouth. “Mom? Some privacy?”

My mom awkwardly stood and left the room to join my father in the kitchen before I uncovered Phune’s mouth.

“You know I can speak even though you’re trying to cover my mouth, correct young one?”

“I know, Phune,” I said as he mansplained to me. “I know how Phunes work. Everyone does.”

Phune rolled his eyes and opened his mouth.

“Lumina?” a strong and familiar voice said over the other end.

“Hey, Ovazenachaiakar - you have everything you need?”

“Yes - I’ve gone over your plans and I can’t think of anything you’ve overlooked.

“I’m assistant manager, Ovazenachaiakar: Been working there since I was a sophomore.”

“I... I don’t know if I trust a teenager, though,” the voice said, wobbling for the first time since I had met him. I sighed.

“Ovazenachaiakar, Ovazenachaiakar, Ovazenachaiakar,” I said, chuckling. “I’m not a teenager, I’m a college student majoring in philosophy,” I said, proud of myself.

I could hear Ovazenachaiakar turning the thought over in his tiny brain. “I suppose that makes sense.”

“Thank you for calling, Ovazenachaiakar,” I said, before stopping. “Ovazenachaiakar! One more thing...”

“Yes?”

“Don’t forget to eat a lot of hot food the morning of, yes?”

“I won’t forget, Lumina,” he said. Phune closed his mouth.

“What was that all about?” The blue genie creature asked.

“Don’t worry about it, old man,” I said, waving my arm. Phune - with his stupid, shocked face - disappeared back into the large white and purple flower next to the leather chair, and I went back to planning.

Far too fast, it was suddenly the night of the Ultrabowl: It was the Rams versus the Titans, and it was planned to last two days. Patrons to the Tarot Bell were all decked out - and in a few cases transmogrified into - their favorite team while we dutifully read out the fortunes of all the betters and gamblers, hungrily looking for any sign that they’d have a lucky night.

Of course, the only people having a ‘lucky night’ during a bloated Ultrabowl were the billionaires who owned the teams, the millionaires who own a Tarot Bell... and - hopefully - me and my little dragon friend.

At around 3 in the afternoon, things quieted down significantly. I had asked for this shift specifically for lots of reasons, including that I didn’t give a damn for that bullshit game - no matter how interesting it would be to see goats take on titans.

Right as I heard the tv in the dining area say “Rams ahead, two-nothing...” I saw my little friend flying in through the door. 

“Ovazenachaiakar!” I said, smiling. “You ready?”

I directed him to a vent that went directly into the basement. Focusing and closing my eyes - ready to stop if I felt the classic divination headache coming on - I looked into the future and saw that it was mostly clear: I could see him navigating the the old ventilation shaft down to the bowels of the building.

When he reached the bottom, I could hear my dragon friend’s voice echoing back up the vent. 

“All right, Lumina, I’m at the bottom.”

“Do you see any paths down there?” I shouted down the shaft. I saw a little glow from the vent.

“Yeah... I do!”

“Go ahead,” I said, concentrating again. I exhaled as I left the divination state. “I don’t see you getting into any trouble, Ovazenachaiakar.”

“Wooo!” He yelled up to me. “It’s all here: A week’s worth of Ultrabowl gold!”

Over the next few hours, Ovazenachaiakar brought up as many gold pieces as he could - about one a minute. Once he came back up, we counted out our winnings.

“Well, well!” He said. “Not a bad haul!”

“Yeah,” I chuckled. “Not bad at all. A couple hundred gold pieces for each of us.” I had brought some burlap sacks, and they were straining with the weight. I put it all in my mom’s hatchback and delivered Ovazenachaiakar’s half the next day. 

When the owner drove up the next day, I could tell he was suspicious but I put on my dumb, young girl act and got away with it.

We only got to do the Tarot Bell heist once, but it was a good pile of money. I stayed in touch with my dragon friend for a good long while afterwards. I quit a couple of months later and went with my friends to the lake to celebrate leaving that stupid job.

No, I don’t have any guilt over it either: Why should I? Way I see it, I was destined for that payout. My future would be fun, I could feel it.

At the lake it was a few ales, the orange sun setting on a lake, laughter with good friends, and a warm summer wind.

July 01, 2022 20:57

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