Home > Fortune Teller

Fortune Teller
Author: Jana DeLeon





I lifted the crate off the floor and was surprised at how light it was given its size. I looked over at Gertie, who was paying Walter for what felt like empty crates.

“Are you buying air?” I asked. “Doesn’t feel like anything is in this.”

“Jell-O,” Gertie said.

I stared. “You’re buying two crates of Jell-O? Why?”

“Nope,” Ida Belle said. “That sounds like a question that will lead to things I don’t want to hear about. I’m just going to assume she’s about to visit fifty recent tonsillectomy patients and go on my merry way.”

Gertie shot a sly look at Walter. “I bet Walter wouldn’t mind hearing about my plans for that Jell-O. Might get some ideas…”

Walter turned an adorable three shades of red and fled the front of the store.

“See?” Ida Belle pointed at his retreating figure. “You’ve gone and scared the man.”

“How scared can he be?” Gertie asked. “He’s married to you.”

Ida Belle and I grabbed the two crates, and Gertie tucked her receipt in her purse as we headed out to Ida Belle’s SUV, loaded up the crates, and then climbed in.

“I need you to swing by Nora’s place before you drop me off at home,” Gertie said as Ida Belle pulled away from downtown.

“Uh-oh,” I said.

Ida Belle gave her a suspicious look that quickly shifted to horrified as she put it all together. Nora was a Sinful local with lots of cash that she used almost exclusively to travel the world in search of the best buzz. At some point, she’d decided she could do a better job than her suppliers and had become an amateur chemist, which might not have been so problematic if she hadn’t also tacked amateur pharmacist onto her many professional titles.

“Why do you need to stop at Nora’s?” Ida Belle asked. “I thought your legs were better.”

Just the week before, Gertie had put her legs through the wringer with a runaway horse ride and then this whole church/pigeon/catching-on-fire thing—Gertie caught on fire, not the pigeon. To help her out, Nora had hooked her up with some of her magic pills, consisting of something that everyone was afraid to ask about.

Gertie nodded. “My legs are better. I just need to pick up something for the party.”

“The party is at Nora’s. Why are you taking things away?”

“Because I’m making gummy worms with Nora’s new home brew. I was going to use our new Sinful Ladies grape, but we sold it all at the Mardi Gras festival on Saturday and we don’t have time to make more before tomorrow.”

Ida Belle stared in her rearview mirror in dismay. “You’re going to infuse children’s candy with something from Nora’s stash?”

“Children won’t be eating them. Only adults are invited to the party.”

“The word ‘adult’ is up for discussion.”

I had to agree with Ida Belle on that one, although no way was I missing this show. Nora had decided that because her New Year’s party had been such a hit—meaning no one had been arrested or died—she wanted to do it all over again for Mardi Gras. Technically, Sinful always held its Mardi Gras festival on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. That way, if anyone was brave enough to venture into NOLA for the real throw-down, their Tuesday was open.

The Catholics mostly attended the Sinful festival on Saturday, used Sunday through Tuesday to recover, then confessed about it all and gave it up for Lent on Wednesday. The Baptists followed the same timeline, except they replaced confession with deniability. But I had zero doubt that both religions, and quite a few unapologetic, unrepentant sinners, would be represented at Nora’s place tomorrow night.

“That woman is going to kill someone playing chemist,” Ida Belle said. “You won’t catch me eating or drinking anything there that didn’t come straight out of the manufacturer’s package. And I have to be the one who opened it.”

“I’m eating a pizza before I go and bringing a protein bar,” I said.

Gertie rolled her eyes. “It’s just CBD. We’re not loading up gummies with meth. Beer will pack a bigger punch, but the gummies might help with pain and inflammation. This is a blue-collar town. Lots of injuries walking around here.”

Ida Belle laughed. “You’re one of them.”

She pulled up to the curb in front of Nora’s house, and when we climbed out, I heard a ruckus inside. First there was a crash, then Nora yelling. As I took off running for the front door, Nora’s cat jumped through the living room window and onto the porch, taking the curtain with him. The giant orange tabby, appropriately named Idiot, was clearly scared because his eyes were half the size of his face.

Or maybe he was high. Idiot had a bad habit of pilfering from Nora’s stash.

At first, I thought the curtain was freaking him out as it was covering his lower body, but after only a second of hesitation, he leaped out from under the curtain and off the porch, and I could see that the real source of the problem was the purse he was tangled in. The strap was wrapped around his neck, and his back legs were stuck inside the open handbag. Every time he took a step, he felt the constriction on his back legs and likely choked himself a little.

Then the first shot rang out.

I dived behind the trash cans, pulling my weapon as I went, did a quick roll, and popped up to scan the area. Ida Belle and Gertie, who were farther behind me, had retreated to the SUV and were crouched near the front bumper, looking as confused as I was about where the shot had come from.

Idiot froze for a split second in the middle of the yard. Then a piece of paper blew across the sidewalk, and he jumped straight up in the air—as only cats can do—and another shot fired. This time, I saw smoke coming out of the handbag.

Good. God. There was a loaded gun in that handbag.

The second shot sent Idiot into another round of panic, and he took off across the lawn and did an impressive jump over the fence, firing off another round.

Nora burst out onto her porch, waving her arms in the air. “Don’t shoot the cat!”

“I’m more worried about the cat shooting us!” I yelled back.

“I just need to get the purse off him.”

“Neither the cat nor the purse is worth dying over.”

Nora ran back inside—presumably to the back door—and I looked over at Ida Belle and Gertie and threw my hands up in the air. They both shook their heads, clearly with no better idea of how to handle the situation than me.

Two more rounds went off, and I heard sirens in the distance. If we didn’t figure out how to get that purse off the cat, he was going to be occupying his favorite spot on Nora’s mantel as taxidermy.

Gertie grabbed the curtain as we ran across the porch. “Maybe we can get him wrapped up in it and cut the purse off.”

“I’m not getting near that cat as long as he’s trigger-happy,” Ida Belle said. “A cat with a loaded gun and the ability to fire it is what a lot of nightmares are made of.”

We dashed down the hall, then paused at the back door to peer outside. The cat was on top of a storage shed, eyes still huge, and I could see him panting. If he didn’t shoot himself, he was going to have a stroke. Nora was standing in front of the shed with a can of tuna, trying to entice the frightened animal down.

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