The Fool’s Journey

Author’s note: The deck used for the readings is the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, Copyright 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. It’s the one that is most easily recognizable, and also the one the author uses. References are made to the episode Remembrance of Things Past, written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming

By Ermintrude

Prologue

Monday Afternoon

Amanda and Francine were finishing their lunch at a small tea house. Francine had suggested it because they had readers who would come to your table if you asked.

The table was cleared and the young tarot reader came and sat with them.
She was in her early 20’s, dressed in a bohemian style, multi-colored clothing, with a peasant skirt and soft colorful shoes. Her dark blonde hair was tied back with a paisley scarf. “Hi ladies. I know Francine—she’s a regular.”

Francine smiled and looked eager for her tarot reading. “Annie, this is my friend Amanda.”

“Hello, Annie.” Amanda smiled warmly back, even though she was not totally sure about getting a tarot reading.

“Hi Amanda! I see you’re probably not here about love and romance.” Annie gestured to Amanda’s moderate belly.

Amanda laughed. “No, not today.”

“Let’s start with Francine—then you can see how it goes.” Annie pulled out a worn oversized pack of cards from a decorated cloth bag, and handed them to Francine.

Francine shuffled the cards and cut them into three piles to the left with her left hand. She thought a moment, and then pointed to the middle pile. Annie picked it up, and then Francine pointed to the right hand pile, and Annie picked that one up and put it under the first, and then the last pile under the others.

Annie laid the cards out—five cards in a row from left to right—face down. She explained to Amanda as she worked. “This is just a quickie reading. If you want a full reading you can make an appointment.”

Amanda nodded in understanding.

Annie started by turning over the far left card. It depicted a young couple holding two cups and looking at each other with a weird red winged lion hovering above them. Otherwise they looked happy. “This is your previous relationship. You were happy—you planned to marry and make a life together.”

Francine nodded in acknowledgment with a resigned look on her face.

The next card showed a heart pierced by three swords. “And it ended badly—did he leave you?” Annie asked.

“Yeah, the scum. Then later—a few years later—after we tried again—he died.”

“Bummer.” Annie turned over the middle card. It was of a woman standing in a garden—nine big gold coins festooned the bush behind her—she was elegantly dressed and holding a bird on her hand. “You’re doing OK on your own—you have a good life—you’re financially secure and relatively content.”

“Yeah.” Francine looked wistful. “But sometimes that’s not enough.”

“I hear you.” The next card showed a young knight on a steed holding a sword aloft and rushing off to somewhere—in this case toward the woman in the garden. “I see someone has come into your life. It’s a bit complicated—you aren’t sure how to react to him.”

“Yeah—I care for him but I just don’t know if he’s right for me.” Francine reluctantly acknowledged with a ‘please don’t say anything’ look to Amanda.

“You don’t understand him fully—he’s different from the other men in your life.”

“You can say that again.” Francine sat back in her chair with a perplexed look on her face.

Amanda smiled to herself. Ephram Beaman surely was different from the rich older men Francine usually dated.

The last card showed four upright poles with a floral garland strung between them. A town was in the background and two girls holding flowers were approaching. “Looks like things will turn out well. Maybe a wedding in your future?” Annie smiled coyly at Francine.

Francine was puzzled, and a bit taken aback. “A wedding … I don’t know … its way too soon …”

Amanda chimed in. “Don’t wait forever, Francine. You deserve a happy life.”

“Like you and Lee?” Francine shot back with a bit of a snide tone.

“No. Like you and whoever you end up with.” Amanda was sincere in her wish for happiness for her prickly friend.

Annie tried to get the reading back on track. “Whoever you end up with—it looks to be really happy. This is a good reading—be happy Francine.”

“Thanks, Annie.” Francine looked dubious but mollified. “We’ll see if it comes true.”

“Yes we will.” Annie immediately replied in a calm tone. She was a pro—she could deal with almost any reaction to her readings. She put Francine’s cards back in the deck and shuffled them briefly. She handed the deck to Amanda.

“OK Amanda—your turn.”

She took the cards. “What do I do—just shuffle?”

“Shuffle and think of a question.” Annie nodded encouragingly. “Stop when you think you’ve shuffled enough.”

All Amanda could think about was whether she should work with Lee in the field after the baby was born. Or even to work at all. “OK, I’m done—do I cut them like this?” Amanda asked as she cut the deck into three piles to the left with her left hand.

“Exactly! Which pile do you prefer?” Annie asked.

“Um—this one, I guess.” Amanda pointed to the right pile.

“OK—next?” Amanda indicated the middle pile.

Annie put the middle pile underneath the first, and the left hand pile on the bottom. She then laid out five cards face up from left to right.

“Why are those face up?” Francine asked.

Annie replied without taking her eyes off the row of cards. “It felt right.” She looked from the cards to Amanda and then back at the cards. “Let’s try this again—maybe we need some clarification.”

She laid five more cards out below but slightly overlapping the first five—so she had five pairs of cards.  “This is weird, but I’m gonna read it. It’s not about you directly, Amanda.” Annie sounded reassuring.

Amanda let out a breath. “That’s good—some of those cards look pretty bad—especially that last one.” It said ‘The Devil’ and was mostly black and not a pretty picture.

Annie nodded and concentrated on the cards. “Yeah. Someone’s up to no good here. I think this might have to do with your job. What do you do, anyhow?”

Amanda and Francine exchanged a look and Amanda answered. “We work for a film company—IFF.”

Annie gave Amanda and Francine a skeptical look, then seemed to make up her mind. “OK—I’ll read it anyhow.”

The first two cards were both mostly grey. One showed a black-cloaked figure staring at three spilled cups on the ground with two upright cups behind him. The other was of a woman bound and blindfolded, standing amidst eight swords stuck upright in the ground.

“These two cards—someone is unhappy with their life. They feel trapped and can’t see the good over what they’ve lost—or never had. This is one unhappy dude.”

“Are you sure it’s a man?” Amanda asked, intrigued despite her earlier misgivings.

“Yeah—it feels like a guy.” Annie affirmed.

The next two cards seemed more peaceful—but not happy. The first showed an effigy of a knight in a church with four swords. The other said ‘The Hanged Man’ and showed a man with a halo suspended upside-down from a tree.

“These indicate a death, or sacrifice—or something. But he isn’t dead. It looks like he’s dead, but he’s not. When is a dead man not dead?” Annie looked straight at Amanda as she asked the question.

Amanda and Francine exchanged a look, and shook their heads.

The third pair of cards were mixed: one showed a woman waking from a nightmare with nine swords hanging in the blackness behind her, the other said ‘The Moon’ and showed a full moon looking down on a landscape with two towers, a dog and a wolf, and a lobster crawling out of the water.

“These indicate bad dreams—anxiety—but also possibly deception and confusion. There’s a woman weeping, but it may not be what she thinks.”

The next two cards had yellow backgrounds. One showed a man sneaking away holding five swords with two more swords stuck in the ground behind him. He was looking backward as if to see if he had been seen or was being followed. The other card was of a man standing between three poles in the ground on a hill overlooking the sea, where ships were sailing to and from exotic places.

“Someone’s making off with something that’s not theirs—possibly using it to build a new life—start over in a new place where nobody knows him.” Annie looked at Amanda. “Ordinarily, starting over is a good indication—but with the rest of these cards—not in this case.”

The last two cards were a contrast. The first showed a boat with two passengers and a boatman, crossing the water to another shore with six swords upright in the boat. The last was ‘The Devil’—an evil bat-winged horned animalistic creature perched on a black plinth between a man and a woman who were chained by the neck to the plinth.

“This indicates exile, going away, starting anew—but not in a happy way like that previous card. The other card shows evil doings—bad choices, good people going wrong. All the bad stuff in life that results from bad, selfish, stupid choices.” She looked up at Amanda. “Your guy will not come to a good end.” She shook her head and looked sad.

“Whew! That’s certainly an interesting tale you’ve spun, Annie. But what does it have to do with me?” Amanda asked.

“Like I said, it isn’t about you personally. But you asked the cards a question—and these cards came in response. Something to do with this man who is dead but not dead will help answer your question. Whatever it was. Good luck.” Annie gathered up the cards and reshuffled them back into the deck. Once the cards were back in her bag, Annie extracted a small business card and offered it to Amanda. “Here’s my card—please call if you find anything out. This one feels weird.” She looked from Amanda to Francine and back again. “There’s more going on here than the cards are showing. And who knows? I think you’ll need my help again before you find all your answers, Amanda.”

Amanda took the card, but looked puzzled and wary.

Francine spoke quickly to stop any question Amanda might ask. “Thank you for the readings, Annie.”

“Yes…” Amanda spoke hesitantly. “Thank you, though I hope none of that bad stuff comes to pass.”

“I hope so too, Amanda. But I wouldn’t count on it.” Annie replied.

Act One

Thursday Morning, Three days later

It was a cold damp day at Arlington National Cemetery. The small group gathered around the flag-draped coffin. As Amanda stood there, she was reminded of a similar day six years before—only then the group had gathered to say goodbye to Lee Stetson—Scarecrow. That time the funeral was a sham. Lee was not dead, but in hiding from his would-be killer. This time Tom Henderson was really dead. His body had been recovered Saturday night from his car where it had driven over an embankment into the Potomac. Toxicology had shown he was drunk at the time of death.

Amanda looked at the woman and three children seated at the head of the coffin. Joan Henderson was too young to be a widow—but what woman was ever really ready to lose her husband? And their children: Tom Jr. Christine and Andy. Their father was dead. Sure, the pension and life insurance would guarantee they would be provided for, but that was no substitute for a husband and father.

Amanda shuffled and leaned against Lee—her husband. Her hands went to her rounded belly. She said a short selfish prayer that she would never be put in that situation—or Lee. But it was the nature of the business that people died. Hopefully it wouldn’t be you or yours.

After the brief eulogies and the 21 gun salute, Lee and Amanda went to offer their condolences to Joan. Then they got into the Wagoneer and drove back to the Agency. One of their number might be gone, but the rest of them still had jobs to do. The bad guys didn’t stop for a funeral—so neither could they.

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That evening, a group gathered at Nedlinger’s to remember Tom Henderson. He had been in analysis for the past five years. Before that he had been a field agent, but his field work had declined in quality so he had transferred to analysis. At first he had enjoyed the change and found a new interest in his work, but in the past two years his work had declined again—he started drinking more—spending more and more time outside the office. His death was sad, but considering the amount he drank not entirely unexpected.

Lee and Amanda got their drinks at the bar—a scotch for Lee and iced tea for Amanda—and they made their way to the large table in the back, in a secluded corner where several colleagues had already gathered—Francine, Beaman, Leatherneck, Billy, a few people from analysis and some from crypto.

“So he finally didn’t make it home.” One of the men from analysis said sadly.

“Damn shame.” Billy seconded.

“Yeah, his wife is a nice gal—she was in the steno pool before she moved into crypto. She was a real whiz. She deserved better.” Francine added.

“Why didn’t she stay in crypto after they got married?” Leatherneck asked.

“She did.” Francine replied. “But after their second child, they decided—rather Tom decided—she needed to stay at home with the kids. Then they had another one after that.”

Amanda tried not to flinch. She was facing that same decision. She wondered if Joan was happy with her decision, or if she regretted it now.

Beaman added. “I think she’d be welcomed back in crypto if she wanted that.”

Several of the people from crypto seconded Beaman’s remark.

“Not that she needs to work.” Francine added. “Tom had the maximum amount of life insurance he could get through the Agency. With that and the pension, they’re set for life.”

Amanda felt she needed to defend the man. “At least he was thoughtful enough to provide for his family.”

Leatherneck continued the theme. “He wasn’t a bad agent before he went downhill.”

Lee replied. “Face it, some of us are in it for the long haul—and then some of us just do it for a few years and move on to other things.”

Amanda looked at Lee. Was he talking about her? Did he want her to quit working or transfer departments after the baby came?

“Maybe he’s at peace now.” One of the men from analysis said. “He was really obsessed with finding his brother.”

“Brother?” Francine questioned. “He was the only boy in his family—the youngest.”

The man from analysis shook his head. “He was adopted. The family had four girls and then the wife ended up with a hysterectomy after the fourth one. They still wanted a son to carry on the family name—so they adopted him. A few years ago he started looking into the sealed adoption records—using Agency clearance—trying to discover if his birth parents were still alive or if he had any siblings.”

One of the women from crypto chimed in. “He always said he felt like he was a twin—that there was another one of him ‘out there’. He became obsessed with finding that long-lost twin.”

Amanda asked. “Did he?”

The man from analysis nodded. “Yeah—he finally did track down an identical twin brother. Sad really—he only got to meet the guy a few weeks ago.”

Amanda was touched. “Gee, that’s sad. But wait! I don’t remember any brother of Tom’s at the funeral—you said they were identical?”

The man from analysis shrugged. “I guess the guy couldn’t make it or something—he lives up in Baltimore.”

Amanda shook her head. “If I had a twin—and we’d just reconnected after being separated our entire lifetimes—I’d make sure I made it to the funeral…”

Lee cut her off. “Don’t worry about it, Amanda. Not everyone is as strongly attached to family as you are.” He put his hand on her arm and smiled reassuringly.

“I guess, Lee… Still…” she trailed off, lost in thought.

The talk ebbed and flowed around the table. Eventually the impromptu wake broke up, and they all headed home.

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Friday Morning

Next day, after the morning meeting, Lee and Amanda were up in the Q Bureau, doing routine paperwork between cases. It was an unusually quiet period. Lee was bored.

“Hey Amanda, let’s go to lunch early—we can try some fancy place since we have nothing else to do and I can spend some quality time with my beautiful wife.” He sat on the edge of her desk and kissed her fingers. He smiled at his pregnant wife. He could never guess her mood lately—she said it was the pregnancy hormones.

Amanda was accessing files from her computer. She spoke without looking up. “Lee, how well did you know Tom Henderson?”

He released her hand, and she went back to typing and checking information.

“Crankshaft?” Lee replied, using Tom’s old codename. “We worked on the same cases a couple of times. He was an OK agent—at his best.”

Amanda looked up at her husband and teased. “Not in your league, huh?”

Lee grinned in acknowledgment. “He tried to be a player but he didn’t have the drive or persistence. He hustled Joan when she was in the steno pool—they dated off and on for a couple of years—they had a couple breakups and reconciliations. She moved to crypto pretty quickly and she was a whiz. She helped him with his cases now and again—unofficially, of course.”

“So what happened to him?”

Lee sighed. “He got married—they were happy. Their first kid came—Tom Jr.—both were excited. She came back to work after having him. Their next kid came a few years later—Tom told me that it wasn’t planned—but she was determined to keep it—she quit crypto and the Agency after their daughter was born. Then another boy came a year later—again unplanned. Tom wasn’t happy. He got a vasectomy so there wouldn’t be any more. And then he started playing around on the side.” Lee paused and looked sheepish.  “Joan didn’t know.”

“Is that why his work declined?”

Lee nodded. “Partly. Tom was an OK guy—a decent agent—but he never had the fire—the passion. It was just a job to him. He drank a lot, and played around, and finally Billy gave him a choice—transfer departments or ride a desk. He moved into analysis and he was happy there. Go figure.”

“Lee—everyone who works here at the Agency has an important job.”

He smiled at his wife—she saw the good in everyone and every situation. “But the last couple of years he was doing it again—drinking—some chasing but not as much. He asked me about sealed adoption records and how to access them.  I told him doing that stuff for personal ends was outside the regs—but he was obsessed. Oddly, he had the passion for finding out about his birth family that he never had for the job. He was always around pestering whoever would listen and trying to access those sealed files. I did help him once, about three or four years ago. I felt sorry for the guy—but I only helped him the one time.”

“I guess he finally got his information—there are some files in his computer—but I can’t get in there. They seem to be personal…”

“Amanda—you aren’t thinking of investigating the guy?” Lee was incredulous. “He’s dead. Leave it alone.”

“But Lee, isn’t it strange that he finally found his long-lost brother—identical twin brother—and then he dies—and the brother doesn’t show up to the funeral or anything?”

“Amanda—sometimes you just get these wild ideas…”

“My ‘wild ideas’ have paid off in the past, buster!”

“But they won’t here. Leave the guy’s family in peace.”

“But Lee—“

“A—man—da!”

She got ‘that look’ and shut down her computer. “I’m going downstairs to work on something.”

“Fine! Whatever! Will I see you for lunch?”

“I don’t know. I’ll call you up here, OK?” She kissed him lightly, and then left.

‘She’s so stubborn—and being pregnant hasn’t helped one bit!’ He thought in frustration, as he ran his hand through his hair. ‘It’s gotta get better once the baby arrives.’

End Act One

Act Two

In Billy’s office Amanda was talking to her section chief. “He’s just being stubborn. He can’t see how this is so strange…”

Billy smiled—over six years into their partnership and they still butted heads from time to time. “I understand, Amanda. Do you want to check Tom Henderson out?”

“Yes sir—if I could get into his encoded files I might find what he knew about his brother. Maybe it’s nothing—but I think it’s worth looking into.”

“I trust your instincts—go for it. I’ll arrange for someone in crypto to help you crack those files.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Normally I’d say we had other things to keep you busy but it’s an unusually quiet week.”

Amanda nodded. “Lee’s bored. That’s why he’s so cranky.”

“And a bored and cranky Scarecrow makes everyone’s life miserable. Maybe I’ll dig up something for him to do. You follow this as far as you need to—but if something else comes up—you’re off of it. OK?”

“OK sir. All I want is a chance to see those files.”

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With help from a nice woman in crypto, Amanda got into the files and discovered Tom had been looking for his birth family for years. Only in the past two years had he gotten anywhere, and three months before he had finally tracked down his identical twin brother: Gary Anderson. Gary’s adoptive family had moved several times—twice across the country—so tracing them had been difficult. And with the common last name—it had proven to be almost impossible. But Tom had persevered, and finally tracked his identical twin brother down. He lived in Baltimore and was an accountant with a modest but successful private business.

As Amanda read the files, more and more questions piled up. ‘If he found Gary over three months ago—why did he wait to finally make contact? And why wasn’t Gary at the funeral? It doesn’t make sense.’ Amanda gathered up her printouts and notes, and decided to visit Tom’s widow, Joan.

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At the Henderson’s home, Joan graciously welcomed Amanda and invited her in for tea. The children were at school, so they could talk alone.

“I thought it was best to get the children back to school as soon as they could go. Children can bounce back more quickly if their routine isn’t disrupted.” Joan was slight, a redhead and very pretty. Amanda could see what had attracted Tom to her.

“Oh yes, I have two boys.” Amanda agreed.

“And another on the way.” Joan smiled.

“Yes. But my boys—when Joe and I divorced I could have moved—lots of people told me I should have moved—but I decided to stay in the house. The boys had their schools and their friends—it was better for the boys to stay—even though the house had so many memories… Of course, now it’s much better. I remarried and we’ve made our own happy memories.”

“Life goes on…” Joan said in a sad tone.

Amanda reached over to touch Joan’s hand. “You must be going through an awful time. But you’re still young—and you have so many opportunities—I heard you were offered your old job in crypto…”

“I don’t really need the money…” Joan sounded as if she were wavering.

“But you need to keep busy—and maybe now that your kids are older—getting back to work might help you.”

Joan sighed. “I quit working after Christine was born. We used day care for Tom Jr.—but with two—it was just easier for me to stay home. Tom wanted it that way. And I wanted to be with my children.” She sounded like she was still justifying it to herself.

“You love your kids—every mother does.”

“I also loved my job and my husband. I guess I loved Tom more than the job—at least that’s how I felt at the time… Christine and Andy weren’t planned. I was happy but Tom… Well, I think three kids were a bit much for him. I had thought lately he was happier about it though…”

“How do you mean?” Amanda asked.

“The past few months he was happy—he even spent time with the kids—he went to Andy’s games, helped with homework and everything. I thought he had finally decided to commit to his family. He told me he had taken steps to make sure we would all be well provided for and not want for anything. And the kids were so happy to have more of their daddy’s attention. I thought he had finally come to love us all like the big happy family we should have been. Ironic isn’t it? He was adopted and ever since I knew him he was obsessed with finding out about his birth family. Do you know? He always said he had a twin brother ‘out there’. He insisted that he could ‘feel’ him.”

“Lots of twins feel like that.”

“I guess so. It’s sad he never found out before he died.”

Amanda was surprised. Tom hadn’t shared his research with his wife? She decided to risk telling her. “Um, Joan? He did finally find his brother—an identical twin brother.”

“He did? You mean he was right all along?”

“I guess so. Three months ago he tracked him down to Baltimore—then a few weeks ago, they met for the first time.”

Joan looked confused. “But he never said a thing to me… why would he keep that from me?”

Amanda got an idea. “Joan, did you identify Tom’s body?”

“Yes. And I authorized the release of Tom’s dental records. They wanted to check his teeth—just to be thorough. Ex-field agent and all. The office had some sort of weird mixup—it took an extra day to come through.”

They chatted a while longer. Amanda got the name and address of the dentist before she left.

As Amanda was leaving she asked Joan the question that had been troubling her. “Joan, this is a personal question—and if you don’t want to you certainly don’t have to answer—but I’m wondering …” Joan nodded for Amanda to continue. ”Are you happy that you quit your job to raise your children?”

Joan smiled sadly. “I went back and forth on it at the time…Tom persuaded me to quit. Now I wonder if I caved in too easily. I am considering the job offer in crypto. I loved my job. I was really good at it. Better than Tom was at his, I think. That might have been part of the problem…” She looked off into the distance. “Maybe I will go back. They told me I could make my own hours—I could work when the kids were at school and be here when they got home…” She turned to Amanda and smiled—a real genuine smile.

Amanda smiled back. “It sounds wonderful, Joan. You deserve the best life you can make for yourself.”

“Yes, I do.” She said positively. “Thank you for coming by, Amanda. Good luck with your new baby.”

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As Amanda drove to the dentist’s office, she thought about Tom and Joan. And then her marriage with Joe—when she had first gotten pregnant there had been no question—Amanda would stay at home caring for their children—ironically also unplanned but greatly loved. She wondered if Joe had been as ambivalent as Tom about Philip and Jamie. Again she thought with sadness how easily he had left them all to live in Africa. His work had been important to be sure—but so was his family. Joe’s work had torn their family apart. Now she was wondering whether her job was more important than the baby to come. No, that wasn’t fair. Both were important. And if she went back to work after the baby was born—she wasn’t moving to Africa. She’d be home most every night and on weekends. She’d just be gone during the day… It wasn’t like Joe at all… So maybe she should stop thinking about Joe’s job and what had happened in the past. Her situation was different now, very different.

Suddenly she felt better about the whole dilemma. ‘I guess I’ve been so busy dwelling on what happened with Joe that I couldn’t see how this time it’s different. So that was then—but this time—it’s not the same at all.’ She smiled at the realization. Suddenly things seemed easier. ‘Maybe I can go back to work, and still have a good relationship with my baby. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I’m worried I’ll lose contact with my child like Joe did with Philip and Jamie. But I’m not Joe and Lee certainly isn’t like Joe either. So rather than thinking about Joe, I should be thinking about Lee and Amanda and what’s best for us and our baby.’

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At the dentist’s office, Amanda produced her ID and asked if she could see the dental records and files on Tom Henderson. The receptionist had her wait. Finally a woman in a suit, the office manager ushered her into an office.

“Mrs. Stetson, how can we help?”

She showed her ID again. “I need to check the dental records for Tom Henderson.”

“Yes, there were some irregularities… I’ll turn you over to the girl making sense of our records. Maybe she can help you. Please, come this way.”

The office manager brought Amanda into a small dimly lit room, with many filing cabinets and a lone desk. A young woman was sorting and filing.

“Ann, this is Mrs. Stetson. She’s a federal agent and she needs to get copies of the dental files for Tom Henderson. Please help her with whatever she wants.” The office manager left Amanda alone with the young woman.

The young woman turned, and Amanda saw it was Annie, the tarot reader. She smiled and looked at Amanda’s proffered ID. “So you work for a film company, huh?” She asked with a smile. “I knew you were hiding something, but I also knew I needed to keep reading the cards. And now you need my help.”

“Yes, I guess I do. Please Annie, you can’t talk about this to anyone.”

“I understand about secrets—I’m a reader and we have lots of secrets we keep for our clients. It would be unethical to tell anyone else about them. So what do you need help with, Amanda?”

“I need to see the dental records—really all the records on Tom Henderson.”

“Tom Henderson—didn’t he die recently? I thought I just filed his stuff away in the basement.”

“Basement?”

“Yeah, c’mon down. It’ll be lots more private down there. Everyone is into everyone’s business here. I only temp, but they’re really on me about who I date and what I’m planning for the weekend.”

They went down to the hall, opened a door, and went downstairs into the basement of the building. It was spacious, but filled with filing cabinets. “This is where the files for deceased and inactive patients are stored. They keep everything, really.”

“You’re only a temp here?” Amanda asked.

“I temp when I don’t make enough reading the cards. Which is most of the time. I don’t want a regular job, and I like the variety. I’m here because I guess the office had a break-in in the past month, and lots of records were mixed up, scattered, some were even destroyed. They said the burglars were looking to steal the dental gold—which they keep in a safe—and far away from the records. They got the gold—but why would they take time to toss around the records, too? I’m supposed to go through it all and make sense of it.”

“Do you have an idea what the break-in was about, Annie?”

“I think stealing the gold was a cover-up for something having to do with the records. Otherwise why bother with the records, why not just crack the safe and leave?”

“Yes, that makes sense. Let’s see Tom’s file.” Amanda took the file Annie had extracted from a filing cabinet.

There were notes, and X-Rays and copies of bills. Everything seemed to be in order. Amanda shrugged. “I can’t see anything strange here.”

“You wouldn’t—you don’t have any other files to compare it with.”

“Show me, Annie.” Amanda asked.

Annie pulled out a couple more files. “These are the files of two other patients that died in the past couple of months. Look at the X-Rays. The card holding Tom’s is different from the one holding these patients’.” Amanda saw they were different. Annie continued. “And also, there’s only this one set. The other patients have several sets of X-Rays, going back years.”

Amanda flipped through Tom’s file—he had been a patient for over 10 years, yet there was only the one set of X-Rays. “How often do they do X-Rays here, Annie?”

“Standard practice is to do a full set when the patient starts, and then do one quarter of the mouth each time they visit, rotating through in two years—that’s assuming regular six-month checkups. They’d X-Ray if something was wrong—but that’s the standard routine that the insurance will pay for.”

“And these are the X-Rays used to identify his body? These were sent to the morgue?”

Annie checked the card, and the file. “Yes—see these notations? That was made by the M.E. They were returned just yesterday. I remember because I had to come down here and re-file them. That’s why I knew where they were.”

Amanda saw that the other files held old X-Rays, but no others were in Tom’s. “Annie, could you copy this whole file for me please? And I’ll need the X-Rays also. I promise to return them when I’m done.”

“Sure, I’m happy to help Amanda. Oh, by the way, are you making progress on that question you asked? I’m guessing whatever brought you here for these records is about this dead guy who isn’t dead.”

“The dead man who isn’t dead… “ Amanda was lost in thought for a moment. “Annie, I think you’ve just solved my case for me! But you can’t tell anyone, please? And yes, I am making progress with my question, thank you for asking. I’m amazed you can see so much with those tarot cards of yours.”

“Hey, it’s a gift. And some of us have it. You still have my card, right?” Amanda pulled it out of her purse. Annie smiled. “I think we’ll be seeing each other more in the future, and not just about readings, either. I can help you in your ‘film’ career. I get all over town, and I see the most amazing stuff. Sometimes people ask me about committing crimes—that’s bad and I wouldn’t be breaching ethics if I told someone about it, because breaking the law is unethical in the first place.”

“I understand, Annie.” Amanda rummaged in her purse. “Here’s my card. You can call anytime and leave me a message if you hear about criminals—or anything else you might come across.”

“Thanks, Amanda. I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”

“So do I, Annie, so do I.”

End Act Two

Continued

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Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only.