Fortune Teller


Cotton shirt, linen trousers, no tie or jacket, clean-shaven.

I gestured towards a chair and he took it. I sat down opposite. The passage of our bodies through the air flickered at the candlelight in my consulting room, releasing a fresh scent of sandalwood. My new client didn’t speak. I stared at him, blinking slowly, gently, until he dropped his shoulders and relaxed.

It is important to set the mood.

He was handsome, Caucasian, just a few years past his prime, the square jaw softening into jowls, the wrinkles starting to gather around his eyes. I smiled. For male clients, I always wear red lipstick. This colour works better than plum or pink. I took his left hand in both of mine and turned it over. No stains from ink, paint, grease; no calluses, scars or recent injuries from work tools.

You have to know your demographics.

‘The spirits tell me that you make your living from your intellect,’ I began.

He didn’t argue. His ring-finger bore a circle of pale skin.

‘You have lost a loved one,’ I continued. ‘That loss has been recent.’

He nodded, but didn’t say anything. Usually, a client will give me valuable information at this point: yes, my wife died or yes, my husband left me.

I rubbed my fingertips into his palm. Male clients are distracted by touch. Not so much the females. For older women, it’s all about evoking memories or dreams of motherhood, so I tend to wear pigtails, and pencil a smattering of freckles across my nose. For younger women, I scrape my hair into a bun and go without makeup. That’s because younger women are competitive, insecure; bitchy.

Trust me. If you want to make money in this line of business, you need to understand your client.

I traced the bumps of his knuckles, thumbed the back of his hand. ‘This loss has affected you deeply. To the world, you show a stoic face. It’s only when you’re alone that you feel that you can grieve. Why is that?’

‘Because she made a fool of me.’

‘My guides say that she loved you very much.’

‘Then why did Mother cut me out of her will?’

Oh, it’s a great feeling when you score this early in a reading. It tells you that the rest of the session will be a doddle, your chance to hook the client for years to come. Most of my long-termers are convinced that I speak to their deceased loved ones. Let me be frank: I have paid off my mortgage, secured eight rental properties, bought many cars, and enjoyed tours throughout Europe and Asia on my uncanny ability to channel the dead.

‘Your mother admires your independence,’ I said. ‘She didn’t leave you anything in her will because she wants you to keep to your path.’

‘No,’ he said, and pulled his hand free from mine. ‘Mother was duped.’


‘By a charlatan.’

An important note: if you suspect you’re being called out, keep your mouth shut. Just wait. Usually, the client will calm down and apologise.

This time, however, my client drew a knife.

The blade was thin, its tip honed to a needle, the kind of knife that was made to slip easily between ribs. He raised the knife.

‘Mother thought you could talk to Dad,’ he said. ‘She gave you every cent.’

He stood up. My consulting room is in my own house. Unfortunately, my house is in the hills, set amongst a hectare of natural bushland. If I screamed, no one would hear me. Then again, if this particular client screamed, no one would hear him either. I know this from experience. My hectare occasionally comes in handy.

‘I’m going to kill you,’ he whispered.

I shook my head. ‘Not unless I kill you first.’

He laughed. I lifted the gun, pointed the muzzle at his chin. He stopped laughing. I racked the slide. His face turned grey. He dropped the knife. I shot him anyway. Understand? Sure you do.

Now close your eyes.

Okay, here’s the final lesson: you can’t work the shadows without picking up a little darkness in your soul along the way.

~ fin ~

Deborah Sheldon's short fiction has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. Her noir novellas include 'Ronnie and Rita' and the upcoming 'Dark Waters', while her crime-themed collection, 'Mayhem: selected stories', will be published later in 2014. Other credits include TV scripts, magazine articles, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Deb lives in Melbourne, Australia. Visit her at