(Continues from Habilin/Safekeeping)
He watched her fall, a red silken comet plummeting to her death. Every coffee cup he washed out held her image just before the soap and water hit the grinds and stirred them up. He wiped out another cup and filled it, adding a hint of cream at the customer’s request. Passing the order on to the pudgy smoker tapping his fingers on the bar, he collected the man’s change and picked up another used mug. But he tossed that cup into the dishpan without looking into it.
If he looked, his annoying gift of tasseomancy would fire. The future would splatter itself across those grinds. Ignorace was safer in this town. Madripoor was the kind of city where being nosy lead to a messy end. Keeping your head down kept it attached to your shoulders. So if some dame wanted to take a swan dive off a building into a pile of junk, it was her business. So what if she’d been waving around a glowing chunk of rock.
The bauble she flailed around in the vision made his gift sit up and pay extra close attention. Likely it was something special–some lost artifact or some enchanted stone. Well, it could stay buried in that scrap heap where she tossed it. He wasn’t going over there to find it. No way, he needed to keep his head down right now while a sect of magic-hating loons held their gathering.
Giving the countertop a quick wipe, he kept his eyes glued to its granite surface. There were flecks of shiny things in there, who knew. Manicured nails interrupted his study of the counter, but he didn’t raise his gaze. No, staring at the nice safe granite would keep him out of trouble. No coffee grinds here, just a few spills and he wiped them away. But those nails were lacquered red like that girl’s dress, and she waved them under his nose in a bid for his attention. He didn’t take the bait.
“What can I get you?”
“Do you have espresso?”
“Yeah, you want it straight, sweet or cut? And do you want one finger or two?” When she didn’t answer right away, he pointed to a sign over his shoulder that explained the jargon he’d just slung at her. The proprietor had all these crazy ideas about franchising, but he wanted to keep his coffee shop upscale in ambiance if not always in decor.
“Ah…can I have a small one with milk and honey?”
“Yeah, one finger of sweet cut espresso’ll run you four of those square coins you’re fingering.”
Turning, he tucked his rag into his apron pocket and poured her drink. He set it on a cloth napkin before her and added a dollop of honey. When she didn’t ask for two, he closed the jar and put it back on its shelf before adding the cream. He poured it slowly waiting for her to say he’d added enough. As the cream mixed with the espresso, an image formed. It was the same dame, and she was waving a pendant around on a rooftop as the wind tore at her dress.
Indeed it was. He tipped the pitcher back, capped it and set it back in the ‘cold box.’ Blue lumir mined somewhere up north, maybe even Shayari as rumor claimed, cooled the box’s interior. If only the propreitor would buy enough of the stone to cool the coffee shop. Oh well, at least he had a job which didn’t require him to slave away outside under the blistering sun.
“Thank you and keep the change.”
He scooped up the money she’d left on the counter and froze as he caught sight of her. The woman in the red dress from his visions stepped out of the coffee shop and headed down the road to the junkyard to meet her end. And he just stood there as another customer stepped up to the counter.
to be continued…