The Tarot Card Mystery part Four


I started writing this story back in 2016. I wrote three parts and then life was interrupted by my wife’s illness. The story is a mystery involving my favorite detective, Sam Barton. Here are links to episodes one, two, and three. I’m now in the frame of mind to continue with the story. It’s been sitting, patiently waiting to be told. So here’s part four!

“She says you tried to rob her, Sam!” the police captain yelled. He had been doing this for about half an hour. Sam was driving around in his car trying to figure out what to do about this case when a squad car pulled him over. The police had went to Madame DuPree’s shop after Sam’s call and found the old woman tied up on the floor where he had left her. Taking her to the station, she claimed that Sam had come to the shop and tried to rob her. She said that she had never seen him before.

Pounding his hand on the Captain’s desk, Sam shouted back, “You can’t be serious! You know me Captain! You know who I am. You know I’d never do something like that. She hired me to find her niece. When I found more than she’d wanted, she had her gorilla knock me out and lock me in a storeroom. Look! She gave me this card.” Reaching into his pocket, Sam retrieved the Tarot card Madame DuPree gave him. Christi had tossed it into the back seat of his car after he rescued her and for reasons he couldn’t understand, he grabbed it and put it back into his pocket before the cops stopped him. “Why do you think I’d have something like this, Captain? Where do you think I’d get a Tarot card, if not from her?” Sam flipped the card over to show the Captain the face side, which had been the Death card except now it wasn’t. “What the hell…?” Sam said. “This, this isn’t the right card.”

“That doesn’t prove anything,” the captain said. “You’re not that stupid Sam, and neither am I. Having a playing card in your hand doesn’t mean squat! Now I know you didn’t try to rob her but your explanation isn’t all that convincing. So why don’t we…Sam? Sam!

“Sam looked up from the card and said, “This isn’t the right card. She gave me the Death card, but this isn’t it.” The card Sam was holding was the Hermit card. It showed an old man standing alone on a mountain top holding a lantern in his out stretched hand. “There’s something wrong here Captain…”

“You bet yer ass there is,” the Captain interrupted.

“She only gave me one card, Captain. It was the Death card. This isn’t it. How, how could that happen?

Sam’s vision started to blur. He dropped the Hermit card on the desk and rubbed his eyes. He started feeling nauseous and dizzy. Looking at the Capatin and back at the Hermit card he saw the figure of the Hermit turn it’s head toward him. Sam thought he must be going crazy as the figure began to grow larger in his vision. The Hermit lifted his lantern to illuminate Sam’s face and said, “You’re alone. You’re all alone, with no one to help you! Death will come to you in it’s time but for now, You’re all alone.” Sam fell forward out of his chair, and remembered nothing more.

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The Tarot Card Mystery part Three

Here you are folks, part three!
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Dull pain from his right shoulder to his hips caused Sam to wake and with his eyes still closed he sensed light coming through the office window. When the Jamaican girl shifted beneath his left arm he realized why he was in pain. Two people sleeping on a cot made for one did not afford him the best night sleep he’d ever had. Rising slowly so as not to wake her, Sam massaged some life back into his arm. Looking down at Christi, her lustrous black hair and brown bare shoulders silently invited him back to bed but he knew he shouldn’t. He wasn’t a guy who worried over much about morals but at this moment he was certainly hoping she wasn’t younger than twenty. She never did say how old she was. After a quick shower and a change of clothes he left a note for her on the desk: “Taking care of some business, be back later.” Then he left the office.

Sam stopped at a local eatery for breakfast. One of the neighborhood cops was sitting at the counter when Sam went in. “Hey Sam,” he said. “Long time no see.”

“Yeah Charlie,” said Sam, “How’s the family?”

“Oh everyone’s good. You know Martha,” he said, rubbing his large belly, “Always baking something for me.”

“Having a good woman in your life can be hazardous to your health Charlie. Better be careful,” Sam said as he sat down.

“Say, Sam, you haven’t heard any rumblings in the area about drugs have you?” The hairs on the back of Sam’s neck prickled.

“I don’t know what you mean, Charlie.”

“Well it seems Downtown has been getting some unofficial reports about a drug war taking shape around here. Two rival factions maybe. Just wondered if you’d heard anything.”

“Not me,” Sam said. “I try to keep my nose out of that kind of business.”

“Yeah I figured as much.” Charlie got up to leave. “If you hear anything you let me know, yeah?”

“You got it Charlie. See you ‘round.” Sam ate his breakfast in silence wondering again, just what he got himself into.

Finished with his breakfast, Sam went to see Madame DuPree. She was sitting quietly behind the counter when Sam opened the shop door. “So you found my niece. That was quick work Mr. Barton. Most impressive. But you did not bring her to me. Unfortunate.”

“She’s safe.”

“In your office. I sent Michael to collect her there.”

Sam was beginning to wonder if this old lady wasn’t psychic after all. “Well the office door is locked and…”

“Michael does not worry about locked doors, Mr. Barton. You may remember that I told you it would be most unfortunate if there were any entanglements between my niece and yourself. You should have heeded my advice.” Sam imagined the third frosted glass window of his office door in as many weeks smashed all over the floor and wondered just how the hell this lady knew what happened last night. Time to change the balance of the conversation.

“Look, here’s the situation. You asked me to find your niece. I found her, and got shot at and chased in the process. I intended to bring her to you but she insisted that she wasn’t going to come. I also learned a few things last night that you neglected to say. Christiana tells me you’re involved with drugs. She…”

“The girl lies.”

“That may be. However a couple things her captors said last night while they were trying to kill us suggest that she may be telling the truth. Now personally I don’t care what you’re into but when you withhold information that can get me killed I resent that. I did what you asked so if you don’t mind I’ll just take my check and our business will be concluded.”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Mr. Barton. I told you to simply bring back my niece and not get involved with her. You also know more now than you should. I’m afraid I can’t have you walking out of here and telling what you know. Your fat police friend would love to hear this tale, would he not?” Sam heard a noise and turned to find all six foot four inches of Michael standing right behind him. Michael reached out with his right hand and grabbed Sam by his coat. Sam took hold of Michael’s middle finger and bent it backward. It had no effect. He bent it further back until he heard it snap. Michael still held Sam firmly paying no attention to his broken finger as he pulled back his left arm and punched Sam square in the face. As Sam’s knees buckled under him, the lights dimmed and went out.

Sam woke lying on the floor with a massive headache and a swollen, possibly broken nose. At first he didn’t understand what had happened. He remembered talking to Madame DuPree and nothing more. Slowly, the big man standing behind him swam into his mind and then it all came back. Why didn’t they kill him, he wondered? Sitting up with his back to a wall, he surveyed his surroundings. He was in what looked to be a store room. Boxes and crates stacked haphazardly here and there filled most of the room. There were no windows that he could see through his blurred vision and only one door. Thinking of how he could get out of the room gave him an idea. He located a large crate with the lid sitting off to one side. Looking inside it he found packing material. Sam climbed in to the crate and pulled the lid back on top. Inside he pulled the packing material over him and settled in to wait.

While he lay concealed in the crate he thought about everything that happened. Something was bothering him. He was missing something he couldn’t quite get. Something someone had said. Everything Madame DuPree had said was pretty straight forward except the mumbo jumbo about tarot cards, so that wasn’t it. The same with Christi. Michael didn’t talk, so that wasn’t it. He hadn’t talked to anyone else involved with this thing. Sam thought about the two guys on the ship. What did they say? He thought about what he had heard and then it hit him. It was Jerry. What did he say? He was complaining about losing the girl. Yeah, that was it. He said, “The big man’s going to be pissed.” The big man. What did he mean? Who was the big man? Michael, of course was a big man. Could he mean… That didn’t make sense. Michael was a big dumb oaf who worked for Madame DuPree. And didn’t talk, unless the need arose, as DuPree had said. Could he, do you suppose… The thinking was making his head hurt worse so he tried to calm his mind. The crate was cramped and Sam felt like he was getting a charlie horse when he heard the door being unlocked.

“Well Mr. Bart…” Madame DuPree began and then stopped. “Michael! Get in here!” Michael stepped into the room. “Where is he Michael? Where did he go?” Sam heard the noise of boxes being moved. Shuffling feet told him the room was being searched. “It is impossible for him to have gotten out of here! He cannot have left.”

Suddenly Michael spoke. “I don’t know, Madame. He’s not here.”

“Then where is he!?” she yelled in her scraggly voice.

“I don’t know Madame. There are no windows and the door was locked.”

“Well he’s gone! This is bad Michael. We need to find him. And with Christiana gone also, it is doubly bad.”

“I’m sorry Madame. I went to his office like you told me. She wasn’t there. The note said he would be back. He was expecting her to be there, but she left.”

“We need to find them both. Use your resources Michael. Go! But keep in touch. Find them!”

“I will Madame. I will.” Sam heard them leave, and shut the door. They didn’t lock it. So much for her psychic abilities, he thought. He waited for a good ten minutes before sliding off the crate lid as quietly as he could. Climbing out of the box, Sam made his way to the door. Opening it and looking out he found he was in the same hallway in the back of the store as before but at the far end. There was no back door. He crept up the hallway and through the curtain saw Madame DuPree sitting behind the counter where she had been before. No sign of Michael. There was only one way out, nothing more he could do. Sam strode through the curtain, turned to look at the old lady and said, “Madame,” and kept walking for the door.

A screech came from behind him and she was on his back. She was light weight but seemed powerful. Her long red nails dug into Sam’s neck as she bit him in the back of the head. He swirled around hearing the jangle of her bracelets and smashed her into the shelves full of merchandise. Her products flew everywhere and the shelves collapsed. She hung on. Screeching and digging with her nails, Sam could feel blood running down his neck. He turned and ran backward as fast as he could, smashing her into the wall. She lost her grip and fell to the floor. As she attempted to get up, Sam punched her hard on the side of her head. Her head went back, banging into the floor and she lay still. He stood over her catching his breath. Reaching over and grabbing a lamp off the counter, Sam ripped out the electric cord. Flipping Madame DuPree onto her stomach he tied her hands behind her back and then tied her hands to her feet. Sam looked behind the counter and found a roll of paper towels which he used to stop the bleeding. As he left the store he pulled out the cell phone he rarely used and called the police. Telling them what had happened there, but nothing more, Sam quickly faded into the night. For night it was. He must have lain in that room for several hours.

Now he had to find Christi. If she had stayed in his office, Michael would have found her but she was gone. Unless. Unless Michael did find her there. Which would mean that Michael was not who he seemed to be. One way to find out. Sam’s office was on the second floor of an old building not far from DuPree’s shop. He went up the back stairs and peeked through the door. No one in the hall way. Sam reached for his 45 and realized that it was gone. Dammit, he liked that pistol. He could see glass on the floor at his door from his position by the back door. He heard no noise so he went in. The glass had been smashed out of the window and his office was wrecked. Most importantly though, Christi’s clothes and shoes were still there, telling him that Michael did find her there but did not tell Madame DuPree. Which meant that Michael was probably ‘the big man’ that Jerry the sailor had mentioned and was playing each side against the other in some kind of drug war.

Sam quickly pulled off his shirt and put on his Kevlar vest. Finding his 357 in the desk drawer, he put that in his coat pocket along with a hand full of extra bullets. He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked like hell. Holes in his neck with blood trickling from them, two black eyes and a broken nose. And the back of his head burned from the bite Madame DuPree had given him. “That’s it,” he said to his reflection. “Now I’m pissed. Time to go shoot some people.”

The Tarot

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In my last post I mentioned that I was learning to read tarot cards. The older I get the more I want to do and learn new things. My spiritual side seems to be awakening more all the time and maybe that is in response to the current political farce we find ourselves in these days, and maybe for other yet to be revealed reasons. Whatever the reasons are, I’m sure I’ll come to know them eventually. So I’ve taken an interest in tarot reading. Now you may think, fortune telling? That does seem to be what a lot of people think when they hear, “tarot cards.” But after a few weeks of investigation and a lot of reading I have come to a different conclusion. Tarot has been used in fortune telling and whether or not it’s real is left up to you, but what I have found is different. Tarot has been portrayed in popular media; books and movies as being done by psychics, gypsies and witches for divination. Today’s modern tarot readers run the gamut from that, to people who use it to help others see their lives more clearly, to understand the hidden meaning of thoughts and feelings so they can better their lives. I would fall into the latter group.

So what are tarot cards? They are a deck of 78 cards with images on them. The modern idea of the tarot came about during the Renaissance period in Europe. Today’s most popular deck was developed by A.E. Waite and the images painted by Pamela Colman Smith in England and published in 1909. The history of how the images came to be chosen and the names of each card is long and I won’t go into it here. There are five suits including: Wands (Clubs), Cups (Hearts), Swords (Spades), and Pentacles or Coins (Diamonds), and Trumps. You notice the names in parentheses are the names of the four suits of everyday playing cards. Now you know where Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds got their names. Each of these four suits has Aces through Kings with an added Court card called the “Page” which comes before the Knight (Jack) and are called the Minor Arcana. The “Trump” suit has 22 cards called the Major Arcana. The images on the cards are all Renaissance style art with not a few of them having Christian symbolism. Each of the four suits, not including Trumps, coincides with one of the natural elements, Fire, Earth, Air and Water. A very simplified explanation which I hope sums it up.
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The tarot reader learns the images on the cards and what they mean. Intuition plays a big part in deciphering the meanings of the cards and what they mean for the Querant or questioner, the person who the reading is being done for. The Querant asks a question or asks for a “general reading” that they want answered. The cards are shuffled and spread out and the questioner picks the cards for the reading. The idea is that while concentrating on the question to be answered you will be drawn to the cards that have meaning for you. It is then the job of the reader to explain the meaning of the drawn cards to see if they make sense to you, answer the question you have or relate to your life. In a general reading the reader will help you better understand your past, the present and help you “divine” ways to make your future better. So, not so much fortune telling as it is a way for you to make your life a better place through your own efforts. The tarot reader helps you do that.
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Learning the cards has been fun so far. There is a lot of hidden symbolism in the images and with 78 cards there is a lot to learn. On some decks the artwork is beautiful. I have a few friends who may shudder when they read this post and that’s alright. I have heard of far stranger beliefs. And it’s not a belief. It’s just symbolism that’s deciphered into meaning. Astrology is another thing that has been used for divination and fortune telling. While I’ve not given that much thought, it is amazing to me how my much I am like the explanation of my Zodiac sign. I don’t have all the aspects of a Virgo but I do have many of them. So I’m having fun with this and if I lose interest well, no harm done. But I do think I’m going to collect tarot decks. There are many with beautiful artwork as I said. And many that have similar images and some different. I think this is going to be fun.

The Tarot Card Mystery part One

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As I get older I find myself interested in things I’ve never considered before. I’ve decided to learn tarot reading. I’ve started to do some studying and found some fascinating things. A lot of people believe tarot is just fortune telling but I’ve found different. Each of the cards in the deck have meaning for the one being read for. Giving insight to the past, present and future they help one see how things have been, how they are, and with changes, how they could be better. I’ll write about it more when I know more. In the mean time, I’ve started a new Sam Barton Private Eye story. Enjoy!

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Sam Barton in, The Tarot Card Mystery part One

As Sam entered the dimly lit shop the first thing he noticed was the incense. A dark smell that conveyed mystery and went well with the candle lit atmosphere. Pushing open the door triggered a bell somewhere in the further reaches of the store. The shop of Madame DuPree, a local psychic, had been in the neighborhood for as long as he could remember. Never having met her however, there was always talk. A mysterious woman, Madame DuPree was rumored to be very old and only half baked. She read fortunes with a crystal ball or tarot cards, sold incense and other esoteric things used for who knew what. No one could remember ever seeing her outside the shop. While waiting for someone to appear Sam looked around. Stepping up to a shelf along one wall he found plastic packages of dried chicken’s feet. He was about to turn and walk out when a man entered through a curtain on the back wall.

The man was large. About six feet four wearing a tight black shirt that showed a lot of rippling muscle underneath. With clean shaven large jowls and short stubby fingers, the man wore a bowler hat. He stood and stared at Sam. After about thirty seconds of this Sam finally said, “I’m here to see Madame DuPree.” The man turned slowly and went back through the curtain. After leaving Sam alone in the shop again he started to wonder what he was getting himself into. Sam wondered that a lot. Shortly the big man returned and held the curtain open. Pressing his arm to his left side Sam felt the reassuring pressure of his 45 in its shoulder holster. Ducking and walking through the curtain he found himself in a hallway. Mr. Bowler passed him and walked to a door a few steps along. Opening the door he gestured for Sam to enter. The big man did not seem menacing but his not speaking was unnerving. Sam entered the room.

It was small, about ten by ten, lit by candles with oriental carpets hanging from the walls. Opposite the door was a woman seated at a small table, presumably Madame DuPree. Between her teeth she held a stubby tobacco pipe which she puffed enthusiastically. In her hand was a pack of tarot cards with three of them on the table, face down. With her back to the wall there was an empty chair opposite her. “Sit,” she said. Uncomfortable with sitting with his back to the door, Sam hesitated. “You need not worry,” she said. “You are safe here. Michael will let no one enter.”

“What about Michael?” Sam asked.

“He will not enter unless I am in distress.”

“Your weapon is of little use here. As I said, you are safe.” She could have guessed about the 45 and about Sam’s unwillingness to sit with his back to the door or she could be psychic. Sam thought she guessed.

After sitting down Sam said, “I got your message. You wanted to see me about a problem?” He couldn’t tell how old she was. She seemed ancient and at the same time she appeared not so old. Her skin was very dark and her eyes shown with extreme clarity. She wore a loose fitting blouse gathered at the neckline and what appeared to be about twenty pounds of necklaces and bracelets on both arms. They jingled and flashed in the candle light. Long, red painted fingernails and thin bony fingers held the tarot deck. Her other hand played across the cards lying on the table.

Motioning to the cards on the table she asked, “Would you like a reading? These are for you after all. Just a simple three card read.”

“No offense Madame, but I really don’t believe in this.”

“Belief means nothing,” she quipped, her voice thin and ragged. “A man may choose to believe or disbelieve anything. It does not make a thing so or not so. Shall we start?”

Tapping the card to Sam’s right she flipped it over. “This card represents your past. It is the High Priestess. It can symbolize virginity, which by no means applies to you.” She looked at him over the rims of her wire framed glasses. “It can show a strong feminine influence for a man or represent a very important women in your life. Perhaps one you lost?” Sam’s thoughts drifted to Scarlet. He sometimes wished they had still been together. “It also shows that you should rely on your instincts.” Flipping over the middle card she smiled slightly. “This represents the present. The Three of Cups. Celebration, happiness. Chance meetings, love affairs and flirtations. Kind of follows the first card eh?”

Puffing strongly on her pipe and tapping the last card she said, “And the future.” Turning over card she said almost under her breath, “Death. I wasn’t expecting that.” Looking up at him she said, “Oh it can mean death, that is for certain. But in your case, hmm, I think not. Getting rid of the old, as in the death of bad habits or old ways making room for something new. It can mean a harsh fate, not necessarily death but something equally hard to deal with. Most certainly a major change.” Sam sat back in his chair. He didn’t believe in this mumbo jumbo but he wasn’t happy about the death card all the same.

“So, you are wondering why I sent you a message.” It was a statement, not a question. “I am in need of the services of a private investigator. I do not want police or media attention. Bad for business, you understand.” She hesitated. “I have a niece. A strong willed girl, my late brother’s daughter. He asked me to look after her when he passed. She is, how should I say, promiscuous. She likes the drink, she likes parties. Hollywood would suit her better but she is here, with me. She is missing. Three days now, I have not seen her. I am worried, you understand. With her, loose ways I am afraid she could be in trouble. I would like her to be found before something bad happens.”

“No offense Madame,” Sam said as he took out his pipe and began to fill it, “But you’re the psychic. Can’t you find her?”

“There are dark forces at work here,” she said gravely. “Even to one such as myself, not everything is revealed. Something is blocking my sight. This has never happened before. I am afraid.” Her hands fidgeted on the table and she suddenly dropped them into her lap. She hung her head and sobbed. Pulling a kerchief from her sleeve she wiped her eyes. “Will you help me? I can give you some assistance. There are some things I have seen. And Michael will be at your disposal.”

“Yeah, about Michael, does he talk?” Sam asked as he lit his pipe.

“When the need arises.”

Sam sighed. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll look around, see what I can find. There are people I can talk to. People that know things. Why don’t you tell me what you know and I’ll get started. And I don’t think I’ll be needing Michael.”

“You may be surprised at what you will need,” she said.

When Sam left the shop it was late. Walking back to his office his shoes were loud on the hard pavement. This was his world, the city at night. He’d always been the most comfortable at night and alone. And sometimes, with a little company. Before he left her, Madame DuPree told him that she had a vision of a ship in the harbor. An old ship, maybe painted red that could be connected with her niece. She warned him to be careful. There was something about the ship she said, that could be dangerous. As he was about to leave she said, “Take this with you.” She handed him the Death card. “To remind you to be careful, and for luck. My niece’s name is Christiana Maria DuPree. As I told you, she is, loose. And very beautiful. From your reading I gather what kind of man you must be. I do not disapprove but it would be most unfortunate if there were any how should I say, entanglements between Christiana and yourself. You understand? Unfortunate.”

The kind of man I am? he thought. What did she mean by that?

Stay tuned for part two of the exciting new Sam Barton mystery!