The Fortune Teller by Pat Byrne
‘it’s me. Colin. Let me in.’
Her brother nearly fell on top of her as Cora opened the door.
‘What’s up?’ She caught his arm as he staggered.
’Looks worse…that’s his, no mine.’ He patted his bloodstained shirt.
’My God. Look at the state of you.’
She helped him to the couch. One eye was swollen and half shut. She touched it and he winced.
‘Lie back. I’ll get some ice.’ She wrapped some ice cubes in a tea towel.
‘Who was it this time? Hold this against it.’
‘Can a stay here.’
‘I want to know what happened. You promised mum…’
‘Nuthun. Slight difference of opinion. A need you to do something for me.’
She poured him a glass of water and went upstairs to get him a clean t-shirt. Always something with Colin. Always complications.
She handed him the clean top. ’That eye’s gonna be something else tomorrow. We’ll talk then. I’m away back to bed.’
She was just going out for her run when Colin shouted. ‘Hang on. I really need a favour.’
She made them tea and sat down. ‘What’s the story?’
‘It wisnae a fight as such. I had tae protect myself so I hit him and ran. Thing is av left something there. I need you to get it.’
‘I don’t want involved. You need to chuck the drink.’
‘Anno, anno, don’t lecture. Thing is it’s for Grace.’
‘Buy her something else.’
‘It’s special. Fur her Christmas. If you say it’s yours he’ll just hand it over. Honest. I wouldnae get you into any bother.’
‘Do I know these folk?’
‘Peter McPhail. Sties up the hill. Mind Herbie, who went to America – his wee brother. Right bastard. Angie’s awright. You might just need to speak to her.’
‘Is that the girlfriend?’
‘If there’s the slightest hint of trouble I’ll be phoning the police.’
‘He’ll no touch you. Tap you mer like. He’s hooked on the gee gees. Don’t gie him anything.’
‘This is the last time, Colin. What’s the address?’
‘Number 41. Middle flat. Four up. It’s in a big box in the hall cupboard. Might no even have noticed it. It’s heavy. You’ll need a back pack or something.’
‘Are you going to tell me what it is?’’
Colin just looked at her.
‘A crystal ball.’
‘It’s an investment. Grace’s making a fortune reading the cards. It’s a beauty. Rose quartz. Don’t drop it. ’
She wouldn’t have jogged up the hill if she’d thought the lift would be out of commission. She lent against the wall to get her breath then rang the bell. A dog started barking. The door opened. A black and white spaniel ran out and jumped up on her. A young woman came out at its back.’
‘Whatever it is we don’t want it,’ she said.
‘I’m here for something of mine. Cora pushed the dog down. Your dog needs its nails clipped.’
The girl lifted one of the dog’s paws and turned it over. ‘He’s only doing that because he likes you.’
‘My brother left a box belonging to me in your hall cupboard. Could I just get it and I’ll be on my way?
‘Who’s there, Ange?’
‘You better come in?’
Cora followed her along a passageway. It was lit by the same wall lights she’d bought at Ikea. There was a strong smell of vanilla air freshener. The guy was big, much bigger than Colin, and smirky-faced. He sat at a table near the window. On front of him was a pale pink globe resting on a carved mahogany plinth.
He looked Cora up and down but didn’t say anything. His nose was swollen.
‘I’m Colin O’Hara’s sister. I’ve come for that.’ She pointed to the crystal ball.
The man laughed. ‘The famous Cora O’Hara. You couldnae make it up. I heard you were a school teacher but here you’re an actual Klerr-voy-ant.’
‘It’s Coraline actually. I’ll take this.’ Cora bent forward to lift the glass ball.
He put his hand up to stop her.
‘Take a seat and we’ll have a chat. Fancy a cuppa?’
‘I said take a seat. Fill the teapot, Angie. Maybe Coraline here can read the leaves.’
‘I’ll need to burst the tea bags,’ said Angie.
Colin was watching out the window as she came up the path. His eye was a mess. She took the back pack off. When he opened the door he grabbed it with one arm and hugged her with the other.
‘No trouble? I was a wee bit worried,’ he said.
‘Have you let mum know you’re here?’
Colin shook his head. ‘I’ll phone in a minute.’ He lifted the box out of the bag and sat it on the coffee table.
‘I owe you big time, sis. Was it just Angie?’
‘No both of them.’
‘Did he give you a hard time?’
‘Not really. He was quite pleasant once I agreed to tell their fortunes.’
Pat Byrne, 31 December, 2017
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