It's In The Cards


Ava_icon.gif Dan_icon.gif Nicolae_icon.gif Seth_icon.gif

Summary: Ava reads the cards for Seth and Dan, even though Dan tries to disrupt her mojo.

Date It Happened: December 1, 2001

It's In The Cards

Grand Central Market

It's just after the lunch crowd has departed, giving the food vendors a bit of a break after the rush. Now all that's left are the touristy types and the housewives applying a bit of shop therapy to their otherwise dull lives. Ava's hanging out over by some benches, and every now and then she can heard to offer to a passer by, "Hey, miss - how about a tarot reading?" "Would you like a reading sir? Only ten dollars."

One of those wandering pedestrians actually stops when he's asked about a reading. Seth Ward is always - always! - entertained by two-bit fakes, and he's already taken care of his business in the market if one were to judge by the wrapped package he has tucked in the crook of his right arm. He resumes his uneven stride and starts hobbling towards Ava's bench, his cane clacking loudly against the ground. Subtle he is not. "Ten dollars for a reading?"

With the lunch crowd dispersed, Dan has his own lunch break and is spending it wandering the stalls as always, munching on an apple. His destination is aimless, but he happens by the place where Ava is touting tarot readings, and it doesn't take him too long to recognize her. Oh yeah. One of the Everything Happens Around These Two Duo. He still bears bandages and stitches under his shirt from his last encounter with her and her buddy. So he ambles over and takes up a place nearby within easy hearing range.

Ava smiles up at her mark (sucker!) and nods. "Mmmhmm. Pretty inexpensive, I know - but I'm a new face, so you have to give a little if you want to get." Pulling a deck of cards wrapped in lavender silk from her patchwork messenger bag, she inquires to Seth, "Can I interest you, sir?"

Sucker? Perish the thought. The cane in the warlock's hand is spun upwards and then flipped, its carved bone handle soon thumping the bench in front of Ava. "Inexpensive? I'd say it's overcharging for a reading done out in the middle of a crowd of people. You've none of the flash and style of the normal mountebanks one sees around here." Still, Seth is the type to turn his opinions on a dime, and a moment later he's thumbing through his billfold. "Yes. I am interested."

"You'd better be careful about that," pipes up Dan from his place in the peanut gallery. He points at Ava with a finger, the other four wrapped around his half-eaten apple. "Strange things happen around that woman. Strange and violent things."

Ava gives a mild shrug. "The table readings are anywhere from twenty to fifty dollars a pop." She's unruffled. She can find another mark if she needs to. But she spreads the silk out and pauses as Dan speaks up. Interfering with the important craft of making money off the gaje. "Excuse you?" she says with an edge in her voice. "I'm about to engage in a reading with a client. Don't you have fried rice to deliver somewhere?"

"Oh, no no no. This just won't do." Vague warnings from strangers? Animosity between random people? It's just too good to be true. Seth frees a ten dollar bill and tucks away the rest of his cash, but instead of handing over the money he uses the bill to point at Dan, his eyes still on Ava. "I'll pay for him to have a reading."

Dan is equally unruffled by that remark. He's used to such things — and worse — being spat at him. "I'm just trying to make sure no other injuries or unfortunate deaths occur," he states flatly. At Seth's offer, he shoots the man a sober look. "I don't want a reading." Dan's not a superstitious man, but the stuff he's seen surrounding Ava in the past week is almost enough to make him convert.

"He's crazy." Ava says flatly. "And I don't know why he's got it in his head to ruin my business. We can go someplace else if you still want the reading for yourself," she says, moderating her tone because well, Seth's still a potential customer, "But I don't think you could pay me enough to read for him anyway." She shoots an angry look in Dan's direction. "Go away."
Seth lets the two strangers bicker as they will, holding his money in the air without the smallest shake of his hand. They seem to be uninterested in his proposed game, however, and he simply sets the ten down in front of Ava. "Don't be rude. The rice-man can stay if he likes, and you can work your magic right here. It should be entertaining." He smiles, leaning his weight onto his cane.

"I'm not here to ruin your business, I'm here to make sure your customers know what they're getting into." Dan all but shrugs his shoulders affably and takes another bite of his apple, crossing his arms and waiting. He's not going anywhere. Maybe he's just the least bit curious about this 'reading'. "If she tells you that you'll be eaten by a giant worm in the future or attacked by leftovers in the fridge, you should believe her." And okay, maybe he's just the least bit snide too. It almost sounds good-humored. Almost.

"You're ruining it, regardless." Ava hisses, and she turns her smile to Seth. "I'm sorry. You want me to read for him? He'd have to be willing, and it'd be fifty." She doubts he'll step it up that much just for his own edification and entertainment before going back to Dan. "Look, I'm trying to help with my rent money, and I'd really rather not be homeless because you feel like being an asshole."

Harrumph. "You misunderstand. I'd like you to read for me at this point, young lady. I can take no for an answer." This is accompanied by a wink, and Seth turns a bit to beckon Dan over to his side with a few inward rolls of his wrist. "If you manage to impress me I'll double your little fee." It may or may not be noticed that the warlock's attention becomes that much sharper when the words 'giant worm' are mentioned.

But Dan doesn't venture much closer. A few steps, perhaps, but nothing more. "Being homeless isn't that bad, and if I manage to make you homeless, you can have my apartment for free. I don't really use it." He indicates Seth with his apple-hand again. "If it costs fifty for my reading, then I'll do it, but I won't pay it." He can't afford fifty bucks on a woman who may or may not cause some monster to suddenly crop up and kill him.

"It doesn't matter," she says to Dan, "Because he would not want to pay what I'd insist on to read you." She looks back at Seth, and holds out her hand. "For you, ten. If you decide you find the reading adequate, you can tip me the extra." The cards are slightly over-large and well worn. It's not a standard Ryder-Waite, but rather look like a copy of some kind of medieval or maybe Renaissance printing.

Seth swings his cane down to give the bill, which lies on the bench, a tap. He's not going to be picking it up again, because that would be totally lame and would be giving Ava an unnecessary leg-up. "Again: impress me. We'll see how good you are. If you're decent I might just spring for this gentleman too."

And once again, the peanut gallery falls silent, munching on his apple and watching the proceedings with some interest. Dan doesn't even try to hide his interest.

Ava takes the ten and quickly stuffs it in her pocket. Then she dips into her patchwork messenger bag again, pulling out a small wooden box. The box is opened, and a five small semi-precious stones are placed at the corners of the silk: hematite, moonstone, tiger's eye, amethyst, and one small but very clear quartz are now spread out on the bench between herself and Seth. She shuffles the cards with the smooth ease of familiaity, and places them in a stack between them. "Cut them, if you please." she says to the gentleman. "As many times as you like."

The warlock sends a brief glance over towards Dan, his jaw tightening for a moment as he tucks his cane under his arm. He leans down to cut the deck, and very cleverly takes only the top card off instead of cutting it in even halves like most normal people do. Then he slaps the majority of the cards down over the first one before straightening up again with a frown. "So. Do you two have names, or should I just call you Bum and Hack?"

"Some call me Bum," retorts Dan, his eyes remaining on the cards. "Others call me Asshole, Piece of Shit, Filthy Arab, and Get a Job. But I prefer 'Dan'."

"Ava." the young woman replies. "And if I didn't already have your ten bucks, I'd tell you to stuff it for being rude. But since I do, you'll get your reading." She then picks it up and sets up a simple six card spread - like a pyramid. Three, two, one. She's silent for a bit as she studies the cards awhile.

While Ava inspects the cards, Seth turns most of his attention to Dan - because the response he got was interesting - though he keeps his eyes on the cards. "I think I'm going to go with Ghettajobhi. It sounds more ethnic. Do you often encounter giant worms that eat people?" It's a fair question. Dan brought it up in the first place!

Dan points his chin at Ava with a brief jerk of his head. "Only when she's around." It's less an accusation and more a statement of fact. "And I have a job. Two, actually." They just don't pay all that well.

Ava completely disregards Dan, even if in both cases, she showed up after the fact. Instead, she focuses on the cards, hmming Then, "You're solitary. It wasn't always so, you had a partner. But eventually it got bad. And at one point, it got really bad." She scrunches her nose a moment and looks up at him. "Do you have a cat?"

"Sure you do, Ghettajobhi. How's the dental on that?" The relatively gentle taunting could could continue.. god knows Seth has the capacity to keep it up. But Ava speaks up and draws him in, his brows knitting as he fixes her with a stare. "Right so far, and yes. I have a cat. Did the cat hair on my sleeves tip you off?"

Dan just goes silent again, finishing off the fleshy parts of the apple and absently digging at the core with the nail of his thumb.

Ava looks right back at Seth, eye to eye. "As if you'd ever leave the house without being less than perfect to your standard. And there isn't any, but nice try." She looks back down at the cards again. She starts to frown. "You - you're a seeker of power, and you'v been one almost all your life. You grew up near an ocean, but not this one. There's a parent missing, too. Not dead, but missing…and something about ivy."

Color Seth impressed. In fact he almost looks spooked; which is probably due to the fact that he suspects Ava might actually have something magical going on. His first guess is that she's some sort of low-grade seer, not that he vocalizes it. Wordlessly he reaches back into the pocket of his blazer, pulling out his wallet and billfold. Another ten-dollar bill is dropped down, this time to land beside the cards. "Anything else?"

Dan could say something snide, but he doesn't. He knows something's happened here. Ava seems to have struck a nerve somewhere.

Ava is seated on a park bench, her cards laid out as she reads for Seth while Dan provides the peanut gallery. She briefly touches a card. "You're working on something, but there are obstacles in your way. Be careful…whatever it is you're doing, the results might not be what you expect. Sometimes power applied in the wrong place can produce an unexpected effects." She shrugs, leans back. "I can try and read for more, but that's the gist." She's quick to pocket the extra ten.

It's generally useless to try to squeeze anything specific out of this kind of reading, but another three bills soon hit the bench: two twenties and a ten. "Do Ghettajobhi. I'm interested. Bonus points if you include something about giant demon worms eating him alive within the next month." Seth is a charitable man.

Grunt, says Dan. If he's supposed to be somewhere in close proximity to the cards, then he fails, because he stays right where he is and eyes the gypsy and her deck with a mixture of wariness and curiosity.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ava doesn't take the money just yet. "He'll need to sit down here, and cut the cards. I can't read for him if he's going to treat me like Typhoid Mary." She picks up the cards and starts shuffling them, the movements almost negligent, so familiar is she with the activity.

Nicolae emerges from the traffic of the market, where his 'aura' of surliness is of little use in making navigation of the stalls any easier. Shoppers are a tenacious and nervy lot, and he's just another impatient soul among those making frantic holiday purchases. A paper sack weighed down with purchases, most obviously a baguette, occupies his left arm, with a plastic bag dangling from his fingers. The rustling of his parcels forewarns of his approach as he draws near enough to be heard, clearly on his way toward the gathering.

"Stop being a pansy. She doesn't look like she's going to bite. If she does, it'll be an even better value for the money I'm spending on you." Seth jerks his head, gesturing meaningfully towards Ava while giving Dan a look that very clearly indicates that he should Grow Up And Comply instead of being a grunting neanderthal. "You've got nothing to lose unless you believe in superstitious nonsense." Unless it's not nonsense. The warlock smiles.

Dan's not being a pansy, he's looking out for his health. But fine, fine, he'll go along with this. So he does move over and seats himself cross-legged on the ground nearby. When Nicolae shows up, he almost looks like he regrets it. Now they're both here, which could mean that one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eaters aren't far behind. Dan, however, makes no comment and rests his apple core on the ground near his knee.

Ava rolls her eyes. "Look, if I'm reading for you, you sit there." she points at the spot in front of her, which may or may not still be occupied by Seth. "What are you, seven?" She follows Dan's eyes, and her face lights up when she sees Nicolae, but does not call out to him.

"He's not seven, obviously. Ghettajobhi's a bum. It means 'uneducated leech on society'." Seth has since started walking, circling around behind Dan to give the seated man a quick thwack on the back with his cane to urge him forward in Ava's direction. It's not meant to hurt the man, just… give him a little more encouragement.

Nicolae makes his way closer without interrupting, with a slight hitch in his step as he's recognized. He offers a slight grin to Ava and then watches the others with a mild but undisguised wariness.

Dan flinches some when he's nudged with the cane and shoots Seth an annoyed look over his shoulder. However, he soon takes the man's recently vacated spot and reaches out to cut the deck — down the center, like a normal person. "Why does it matter where I sit?" he inquires, the cheekiness at a minimum and overshadowed more by plain curiosity.

Ava doesn't even bother answering the question. After he cuts it she lays out her pyramid spread, and once more studies the results, letting out a soft hmmm. "You're a watcher." she announces matter-of-factly. Now, if certain people in the know hear that as a capital W, that's not her fault, but it's not what she meant.

Having worked the grin out of his system, Nicolae lets his features lapse back into the bland and vaguely hostile expression they typically wear. He does shoot a look toward Seth, with a quick flash of genuine antipathy coinciding with the shift of the weight of his parcels in his arm. It passes just as quickly, and he watches the proceedings with mild interest.

Seth does hear that as a capital W, though that might be because he's a little bit paranoid. No matter the cause he's suddenly giving Dan a much more careful look-over, stepping forward to loom right behind the other man like some sort of overgrown bat. For the time being Nicolae is ignored - he might as well not even exist as far as the warlock is concerned.

Dan is unruffled. He doesn't hear it with a capital W, but the effect of the word isn't entirely lost on him. He glances at Seth with an odd expression, then at Nicolae (just be sure the guy is there and not pulling some sort of creature thing out of his pocket) before his attention returns to Ava. "That's a given." He'd been standing there watching this whole time; it's not hard to figure that the guy likes to observe.

Ava shakes her head. "I don't mean like a voyeur. You keep a journal, don't you?" Now how can she possibly now that? "It's in your nature to observe and record. You exist outside of things, but over time, you'll be drawn in. You come from…no. Your parents, they're the ones who aren't from this land. But they brought their gods with them, and someone has to watch Kali-Ma dance." Her expression is neutral, almost bordering on serene.

"For someone who only watches," Nicolae chooses to speak now, his accent thick, each syllable sounding bitten off awkwardly, "you do not so good a job." He offers this observation to Dan. There's a note of approval in his voice. He looks over to Ava and inclines his head, apologizing for the interruption.

Dan can't help but smile at that. "So you've seen me with my notebook." It's not unusual to see him sitting on the sidewalk or on a stoop writing away in it. "And I'm obviously the son of immigrants. You're one of the few to guess correctly, though. Most mistake me for an Arab these days." Skeptical Dan is skeptical. Nicolae's comment is met with a smirk, but the self-appointed hobo's attention returns to Ava shortly thereafter.

Ava shakes her head. "There's a lot of fire around you. You lived someplace that is connected with fire, and fire is what made things go wrong for your family." A brief explanation for Seth. "The past is often easier to be specific about. What's done is done. The future's nebulous, you know?" She looks back to Dan. "It's only the beginning." she says, but then reaches a hand to collect her cards. She seems ill inclined to delve further into the reading. And did we mention she pocketed that fifty right quick? Oh yes.

It's a good thing for Ava that she's hidden away Seth's money, because he doesn't think that her second reading is quite worth it. The man frowns at her - scowls, really - and drops the handle of his cane to bounce the bone carving off of Dan's right shoulder. "No bonus points, then. Our little Watcher is just going to have to keep on living without the benefit of demon worms."

The paper sack Nicolae's carrying starts to rustle noisily again, coinciding with the look of agitation on the scowling brute's face. His eyes narrow as he watches Seth prod Dan with the cane, but then he gives the 'watcher' a puzzled look, as if questioning him.

The last of Ava's readings gets a solemn nod from Dan, and he withdraws a ten from his own pocket. Well … actually it's a five and five ones, but it's still ten dollars, and it's still held out to the card reader. The prod from the cane gets another flinch — ow, ow, ow, ow, there's still a burn and some wounds there — and he casts a look at Seth. "I would appreciate it if you didn't prode me with your cane," he states flatly. This is DanSpeak for "BITCH, STEP OFF". But Dan would never use the word 'bitch'. That's crude.

Ava halts stacking her cards to collect the money with a greedy snatch, then puts the stones anchoring the silk back in their box before tucking it in her bag. Then she finishes stacking the cards, folds the silk carefully, and it then goes in her bag too. Eighty bucks in an hour. Not a bad day's haul, that's easily groceries for a week. "Hope you were suitably entertained." she tells the two men as she rises from her bench with another smile for Nicolae.

Seth breezily ignores Dan's request, though he does lift his cane. This time it's to give it a shake at Ava. "Do you have a card? Or a shop?" Obviously there's something that's interested the man in the fortune-teller. Dan has also earned a place in L.A.'s Who's Who, but is probably less trackable due to being a shiftless bum.

Continuing what seems to be a mutually agreed-upon pattern of refusing to directly acknowledge one another, Nicolae reacts to Seth's inquiry by giving Ava a quick, conspiring look. He spares a glance toward Dan, whose plight seems to have inspired some sympathy from him. When Ava rises, he offers a nod and moves to stand closer, ready to accompany her.

Dan picks up his apple core from where he left it and rises to his feet with a grunt. "I'd better get back to work. Thank you for the diversion." And with that, he turns to head back to the stall to prepare for the dinner rush.

"I mostly go to clients." Ava admits. "I can give you my phone number if you like." Seth is regarded more carefully - now she's sizing him up as a potential mark. She steps closer to Nicolae; her smaller shoulder nudges against him. Dan is regarded a moment, and she looks up at Nicolae. In Romany, "<He told that man that we're responsible for the worm, and what happened in the restaurant. As if we didn't arrive after that all happened!>" Her tone is somewhat disdainful.

It's like a light goes on in Seth's brain as soon as Ava switches languages. Romany isn't a language he personally knows but he can recognize it when it's spoken. "Gypsies." He says it as though it should explain everything, and he offers the pair a bright smile. "I'd love your number." Dan's retreating form gets a short glance.

Nicolae settles his free arm around Ava's shoulders, and draws himself up a bit taller in a subtle correction of his posture, the sort of thing that tends to forewarn of upcoming violence. Only the fact that the man with the cane is a paying customer prevents things from escalating any further. "<Typical troublemaking gaje. I was sorely tempted to feed him his cane. I—>" And that's when Seth speaks up, calling them what they are, and earning a sullen, angry glare for his trouble. "Phone is disconnected," he declares, exerting great effort to properly form the syllables. "No one calls." And with that he makes his bid to guide Ava away from the man, intent on shunning him with all the might he'd otherwise be using to get himself brought up on assault charges.

Ava blinks. "No, not him." she says in English, and points at Dan's retreating back. "Him." She then digs into her messenger bag, comes up with a little notebook with a pen attached. She jots something down, disengaging from Nicolae briefly to offer it to Seth with two fingers.

Seth reaches out to take the the piece of notepaper, smiling at Ava while landing Nicolae with a look that might just be knowing. Silly lying gypsy; no one ever believes the disconnected phone fib. "A pleasure, Ava. I'm sure we'll meet again. Next time you can do a more detailed reading for me. I'll even buy you dinner."

A look of reluctant comprehension battles its way onto Nicolae's face, briefly easing the shadow of surliness from his countenance as he looks at Dan's departing back. Of course, it all comes settling back into place as he mulls that bit over, especially since while he's doing that Ava is giving Seth the number to a phone which is purportedly disconnected. His designs on Seth's cane don't seem to have changed much, if the look he gives the man is any indication.

Ava steps back and puts a gentle hand on Nicolae's arm; tis beauty that soothes the savage beast. "Maybe I will." she replies easily enough, and with that, seems content to let Nicolae lead her off. "What's in the sack?" she asks as they stroll away. "Are you cooking dinner tonight?"

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