Chapter 11

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"Your roommate wasn't here watching a movie, was she?" Zandra says as she brushes cat hair off the couch before taking a seat. She notices a stack of tarot cards resting on the top of a flimsy coffee table. Zandra's gift to Amanda for a car ride six months ago.

"What makes you say that?" Amanda says and opens a beer from the fridge. "Are you saying I don't have a roommate?"

"No, I think you have a roommate. I think you just lied about her being here watching a movie," Zandra says. She peers down the hallway leading from the living room. It terminates at two open bedroom doors. It's obvious no one is inside.

Amanda notices Zandra craning her neck. She hides a blush behind her beer. "So? It's no big deal. My roommate is away at her boyfriend's place."

"Why'd you lie to me?" Zandra says.

That's the nice thing about hiring college kids. They're smart enough to take the money and do what they're told, but too dumb to get away with anything.

"I was embarrassed," Amanda says. She looks put off by the question, but she's not displaying any of her usual tells.

"About what?" Zandra says.

"I had to put away my cats. They're not allowed in apartments," Amanda says. "But they're therapy cats, so I need them."

Zandra rolls her eyes and a wad of cat hair from the couch. She holds the hair up. "Damn, child. How much therapy do you need?"

Therapy cats? Is that what's en vogue now? If this is the kind of wishy-washiness that's about to graduate to being full-time consumers, I'm going to make a killing on this TV show.

"Thanks. You know, most people react like that. That's why I don't tell them," Amanda says. She takes another swig. "Do you treat everyone who has a hard time saying they need help like that? You keep up this psychic act like you're some saint or something, but I know the truth about you. You're no saint. Saints aren't frauds."

Are all college kids this uppity nowadays?

Zandra just grins in response. "You're right, I'm not a saint. But I'm also not a fraud."

"You paid me to lie for you for a TV show. I think that makes you a fraud."

"Not at all, child. Do you wear a seat belt when you drive?"

"Of course."

"Have you ever been in a car accident?" Zandra says.

"No," Amanda says.

"But you still wear one for the same reason I paid you. It doesn't cancel out the fact you're a good driver. It reinforces it. I could pay 1,000 people to lie like you did, but that doesn't mean I'm not a psychic. I either am or I'm not. And I promise you, child, I most assuredly am."

Amanda doesn't seem satisfied. She brushes a strand of her long, black hair from her face. "Prove it," she says.

With pleasure.

Zandra rubs her hands together and closes her eyes. It's a struggle to breath in deeply through her nose given the collegiate diet glued into the stale air, so she switches to her mouth instead. It's all for show. She spotted her trapdoor the second she sat down on the couch.

"Do you remember the deck of tarot cards I gave you?" Zandra says and opens her eyes.

"Yeah, for me giving you a lift from the gas station a while back," Amanda says.

"You might not know this, but once a person builds a connection with a tarot deck, it never goes away. I worked with that deck for a long time before I gave it to you," Zandra says. She pictures a card in her mind. It's from a classic deck, the kind where the art looks like medieval woodcuts. "I'm calling up a card right now. Or, rather, the card is calling to me."

Amanda walks from the dank kitchen into the dark living room for a better look. Her eyes fall to the tarot deck on the cheap coffee table. She reaches to pick the cards up, but Zandra stops her.

"No, child, leave them. Let me show you how a tarot deck really works," Zandra says. It feels good to put on a performance like this. Gives her confidence a boost. "Fool. The fool."

Amanda pulls her hand back. "You calling me a fool?"

"No, the card. The Fool, from the major arcana. I commanded it to jump to the top of the deck. It likes to greet me," Zandra says. She motions to the deck. "Go ahead. Pick it up."

Amanda flips over the top card. She glances at it and holds it to her chest so Zandra can't see it. "You're sure it's The Fool? I'm not so sure," she says with a raised eyebrow.

"Positive," Zandra says.

Amanda turns the card over. It shows what looks like a court jester from the Middle Ages.

Bingo. Recognized the markings on the back of the card.

"Happy now? Maybe we can get to why I'm here in the first place," Zandra says.

"Not yet. Let's make this harder," Amanda says. She gives the deck a good shuffle. Holds it tightly in her outstretched hand. "Make it jump to the top again."

Don't play with me, kiddo.

"Seriously? Are you going to move the goalposts all night or can we skip the bullshit and get to business?" Zandra says. "You want to talk about fraud, let's start with the UW code of student conduct. The last time I checked, students are forbidden from taking money to misrepresent themselves in a commercial venture. One phone call and it won't matter that your tuition is already paid for this semester. You'll be done."

No such policy exists. Zandra made it up, but it's the confident way she talks that makes it real. When faced with a threat like that, it's easier to choose the path of least resistance. Amanda relents. She puts the deck down.

"Kids in your generation spend money like it's their right. No respect for where it came from or how it's earned. Just wait until you hit the real world. You're going to get your ass handed to you on a plate if you get uppity with your employer like that," Zandra says. She gives herself a moment to cool down before continuing in a calmer voice. "Now, are we going to talk or play games?"

Amanda sniffs. "I'll listen," she says.

"Good girl," Zandra says and hacks into her sleeve. "Do you know what a Dvorak typewriter looks like?"

"A what typewriter?"

"A Dvorak. It looks like a normal typewriter, except the keys are arranged differently. All the vowels are in the middle row. Make sense?" Zandra says.

"Not really."

Zandra rubs her temples. "Look, it's a typewriter with a weird keyboard, OK?"

"OK."

"Good. I need you to get the word out around campus, see if anyone has one of these typewriters. Make up a story about how you want to buy one. Got it?"

"Dvorak. That's how it's pronounced, right?"

"Yes," Zandra says and spells the word out. "I want you to start immediately. Put a post on the Internet, ask your friends, try the classifieds, whatever. Once you find this person, you need to tell me right away."

"This person," Amanda says, mimicking Zandra's cadence. "So you kinda know who you're looking for?"

Zandra starts for the door. "Don't play smart with me. Just do your job."



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