The Judge and The Jury- a short story

Photo by David Gavi on Unsplash

Her eyes had never left me since I entered the club. It was more than a little disconcerting.

The building was fairly tasteful; it was clear this place had been an undercroft in a previous life, all the original stonework and arches were there. Fake sconces hung in the recesses of the wall, the electric light flickering to give the impression of flames. Snug tables were squeezed into the gaps giving people a modicum of privacy as they drank and listened to the music drift through from the piano at the open end of the bar.

She was sat in one of the booths. I tried to ignore the icy sensation creeping down my back as I sat on one of the stools at the bar. The swivelling seat rolled round slightly as I sat, making me rotate round as if rocking.  I rested my arms on the side of the bar, my sleeves sticking slightly to the residues of alcohol. Liquor fumes tickled my nose as the barman poured my drink. Nothing too strong; I was working after all. A couple of men sat at the other end of the bar but I didn’t gain their attention, they were too busy staring at her.

Even the alcohol couldn’t dampen the prickling on the back of my neck as she watched. I didn’t turn, I refused to out of sheer bloody-mindedness. If she wanted to talk, she could come to me, I wasn’t sliding in to her poky little booth where she could act like the boss of the place, the boss of me. I focused on the lilting, upbeat jazz rhythm, my foot tapping along on the metal strut of the stool.

Eventually, she broke. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as she neared. I often wondered if beings like her gave off some kind of static electricity field. The mirror at the back of the bar let me see her more closely. A black mini dress sat low on her shoulders allowing all a full view of her ink work: a sea of blues and purples that matched her hair colour. I though she looked like a snow queen or ice fairy but knew better than to say it out loud. This woman was more dangerous than  both of those.

As she placed her glass on the bar with a clink, I saw the intricate webs of ink continued down her hands. Symbols I often vaguely recognised adorned her fingers. Not one of her tattoos was by mistake, every one meant something and some of them could do things. I wasn’t sure what or how, Lyle had been suspiciously vague about that part.

“It’s not often that people come asking for me,” she spoke with a hint of amusement in her voice but I knew better than to relax yet.

“I’m looking for a man, Max Engwell. I heard you and your sisters had an interest in him as well and I was just wondering if I should stop looking?” I picked my words carefully. You didn’t just come out and accuse one of the Fates of something and if you did, you definitely didn’t give an impression that you disagreed or would do something about it.

“We are interested in him yes, but not in the way you think. And no, we do not already have him,” the Fate picked up her drink and swirled it round in the glass so that it clung to the sides. “In fact, our efforts have been actively blocked.”

“I didn’t think that was possible,” I got carried away and turned to look directly at her. Her icy blue eyes were encased in black eye make up, contrasting starkly against her pale skin. The lip rip in her bottom lip caught the light from the bulbs in the bar and gleamed brightly. A smile plucked at the corners of her mouth as I regarded her.

“It isn’t, for most,” she replied.

I knocked back an extra-large swig of my drink and let it burn the back of my throat. I didn’t want to think what kind of big nasties were powerful enough to block the Fates from being able to find someone. I didn’t stand a chance of finding him.

“We have an interest in you too Eve,” she looked away coyly.

My blood ran cold. It was not good to be interesting to the Fates, they were able to consign you to an eternal life of misery and were known for being rather bitter and vindictive.

“No need to panic so much. For a private detective you are a worrier,” she chuckled at my expense. I let it go. I like self-preservation. “You see the truth. Sometimes, it is obscured from us. Your ability would be rather useful.”

I screwed my face up, “Are you offering me a job?”

“Think of it more like free-lancing. There are a lot of bad things that have gotten into the world and we need to redress the balance. You can help us do that,” she fell quiet as the barman drew closer again. He sensed her frosty reception and retreated quickly to the other end of the bar. My instinct was to ask what is in it for me, but my self-preservation alarm bells went off again. So instead I bit my tongue.

She slid a card, face down, across the bar to me. “When you find Max and you have what you need from him, bring him to us. It can be your interview,” she grinned, a girlish glee creeping into her voice. Warily, I looked across at her again but the woman had vanished into thin air. It wasn’t worth looking around the club for her; she was gone. It took me a couple of minutes to get up the courage to turn the card over. It took a few seconds to recognise the tarot card: judgement.

It was a very old style card, but as I raised it closer to my eyes for a better look, there was no denying the figure in the centre of the card looked remarkably like me…

Written in response to a prompt on from Thursday 3rd May (3/5/19)


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