#novels #suspense #mystery #literary #art #artists #Tarot cards
It all began with a reading of the Tarot Cards.
Oh, by the way, we’ve met before. I’m Alexander Wainwright, the one who strolls the Victoria Embankment just outside my studio on many evenings. My author, Mary E. Martin, insists on stating that I am Britain’s finest landscape artist. True or not, I find it somewhat embarrassing as I am a solitary sort and shun the public limelight. I am also the main character in The Trilogy of Remembrance but I have a life outside of those pages.
Last evening, I met my friend, Charles, by chance on the Victoria Embankment and because it was a fine evening, we strolled for more than half an hour.
“Haven’t seen you here for several weeks, Alex. Where have you been?”
“I’ve been travelling. Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg.”
We passed the Obelisk from Alexandria which always made me think of great adventures in exotic lands filled with fabulous creatures and much danger.
“Business or pleasure?” he asked.
“Actually a bit of both,” I said. “I like to call the trip my Night Crossing.”
“Sounds very mysterious. I love travelling. Did you meet some interesting people?”
I stopped to gather my thoughts.
“Yes. very interesting. I’ve been mulling over two women I met on my trip—Miss Maureen Trump and Lia, the Tarot card reader and her baby, Celestine. Lia earned a living by reading cards and playing the lute on board. I‘ve never met one so wise and yet so young as this Tarot card reader.”
I shook my head as if to clarify my thoughts. “None of us had ever met before and yet some force created an inexplicable union of the three of us for some unfathomable purpose. To speak of conspiracy would be far too strong. In any event, both of them taught me a very great deal.”
“Who was Miss Trump?
”“She was an elderly, rather disheveled lady, whom I met on the train from London to Portsmouth. But she brought home to me just how deceiving appearances can be in this world. At first I thought she was not too bright and I did my best to ignore her. But then she asked me the most intriguing question about art—what was in the empty spaces in a painting?”
“What on earth did she mean?” Charles asked.
“When I asked her that question she said— what’s in the empty spaces between the horse and the barn in a landscape painting. Then she said— Maybe that’s where all the stuff of creation can be found. You know where artists find their inspiration and their materials. Because I paint landscapes of the countryside with horses and barns, I found her question cut astonishingly close to home.”
“Likely a coincidence, I think. Or she probably recognized you as the Alexander Wainwright the landscape painter.”
“Hmmm. Perhaps…I had almost dismissed her as a garrulous old woman, but in the short time I knew her, I began to wonder if she were a savant.”
Charles seemed oddly uncomfortable as he glanced up and down the river.
I continued. “And then there was Lia. Of course I have no picture of her but do you know the painting by Vermeer, “Girl with the Pearl Earring?”
“Yes, indeed, I do.”
“I mention that painting because Lia reminded me of her—a great deal. Not so much in physical appearance but there was something about her gaze which seemed to penetrate the artifice of this world. Just like Vermeer’s painting of the girl. “Lia earned a living on the ship by reading cards and playing the lute. I‘ve never met one so wise and yet so young as this reader of”
At first, I was embarrassed at having stated my intense feelings so boldly—but then I thought there was no other way to convey the vivid impression Lia had made upon me almost instantaneously.
My friend nodded slowly. “Yes, I think I know exactly what you mean, Alex. It’s almost an other-worldly sense—that she sees something others do not.”
“Yes, exactly! But more than that. She seemed to have just walked into my life at that precise moment and for a very special and particular purpose.”
“Really? What purpose?”
“I can’t really say. I assumed she knew the purpose but I certainly did not.”
My friend chuckled. “I guess that’s only appropriate for a Tarot card reader.” Then he looked up at me sharply. “You don’t believe all that nonsense, do yoI shrugged and watched the water flowing past us dappled with golden lights from the structures lining the banks. “Can’t really say. It’s a harmless pastime.” I continued with my story. “She read Miss Trump’s cards.”
“And, pray tell, what did the cards reveal?”
I knew my friend was mocking me. I suppose I cannot blame him because the story is so inexplicable. “As soon as Miss Trump sat at the table with Lia for the reading, a strange atmosphere crept over the onlookers. Lia seemed overcome by Miss Trump— the presence of the savant. Stranger yet, you could almost sense the joining of their two spirits in one to carry out this purpose.”
I gazed upon Big Ben, it’s clock face hanging over the Thames like a pale and mysterious moon. I was having trouble finding the right words to express such an ineffable sense or feeling.
“I will not forget the Tarot card reader’s words—This Tarot card tells me you have already accomplished much. But your present mission will be difficult, involving much travel. You and a helper will need great strength and determination. You must have faith in your helper and the success of your mission. You have already made the right choice.”
“And what meaning did you take from her words?”
“I felt drawn into an intimate circle with these two women to play a role…to serve some purpose…perhaps to be that helper.”
My friend said nothing. He shifted on the bench as if to leave.
I shook my head. “But wait you must hear the rest of the story—about the fate which awaited Miss Trump.”
I grasped his sleeve and drew him closer. Only when he stepped back from me and shoved his hands in his pockets, did I realize he found my story-telling a bit too fanciful—a bit too dramatic. But I could not speak of the events which had shaken my world in any other fashion.
“In the middle of the night, the ship began to sink. I tried to save both Miss Trump and Lia and her child.” As we walked, I reached out for the balustrade running along the Embankment to steady myself.
“Alex! Good Lord, you’re trembling!” Charles grasped my elbow and ferried me to a nearby bench.
“She was the only one on board who drowned. I tried to save her but she pushed me away saying that I must save Lia and her baby daughter.”
“Oh dear! Awfully difficult position for you.”
“Even now I wonder whether I could have tried harder and saved them both. It’s a terrible choice to make but I was astounded at how easily I made it.”
“Well you can’t blame yourself. If a person pushes you away….”
I tried to steady my breathing. “No…I suppose not.”
By now the sun had set and the Thames stretched before us in all its glistening glory. I said, Lia, her child, Celestine, and I, spent several days together in Caen while she waited for the return ship and I to deal with the morgue.”
“One night at dinner, she said the most perceptive words I have ever heard.”
“Really? What about?”
“She said—one lifetime is like a chapter in a book. Part of the story is told. The entire story is told in a novel or a trilogy of novels—even more. Maybe even enough to fill a library with endless shelves!”
“You’re right! Beautifully put!”
“ Lia brought a certain calm to me. At the same time, she seemed to be guiding me towards Miss Trump. You see, when I visited Miss Trump in the morgue, I was shocked to see her hands were twisted in agony. I had some stupid notion that her passing was peaceful—no suffering, but that view of her laid all such ideas aside. She had fought off death as best she could but it was in no way peaceful or easy.”
My friend leaned back on the bench and took out his pipe. He stared out onto the Thames for several moments. “So what did you conclude?” he asked.
“ I don’t really know. So much of the trip was a fabulous mystery. After all what greater mystery is there than the mystery of life itself.”
“Because of a series of incredible circumstances, I carried Miss Trump’s ashes to Paris and then to St. Petersburg. Only after thousands of miles of travel did I come to understand just what sort of help I was meant to give.”
My friend seemed alarmed. “Good grief, Alex! I hope it’s all written down somewhere. It sounds incredibly fascination.”
I leaned back and took a deep breath. “Of course, it is and you can find it right here in Night Crossing, the third in The Trilogy of Remembrance.
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