Six of Hearts(10)

By: L.H. Cosway

I’m proud of that speedy subject change. He eyes me for another second before letting go. “No problem. Take as long as you need.”

First I go get the papers for him to sign, and he spreads them out over the kitchen counter, reading all the small print. I sit at the table and unwrap my chicken and onion relish sandwich, taking a big hungry bite.

“This is a six -month lease,” says Jay. “You think your old man might be open to extending it to twelve months? I hate moving once I’ve settled in a place.”

“I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask him yourself.”

He nods thoughtfully but doesn’t bring his attention immediately back to the papers. Instead he walks over to the few picture frames hanging on the wall opposite him. Gesturing to a photograph of me sitting on the couch with my old cat Maggie on my lap, he observes, “Nice cat.”

“She was,” I tell him, chewing. “She died last year.”

“I’m sorry. You gonna get another?”

I shake my head. “No cat could ever live up to Maggie. She was a feline of mystery. Every evening when I came home from work, I’d find her sitting in the back garden, smelling of lavender perfume.”

“Oh, yeah?” Jay says, coming to sit across from me at the table, a look of interest on his face, so I tell him the story.

“Yeah. I made it my secret detective mission to find out how she was coming to smell like that. So, whenever I had the morning off, I’d follow her. She was too quick for me, though, and I lost her every time. I never found out what the deal was until she died. An old woman who lives a few doors down showed up at the house, bawling her eyes out. She had a bunch of photos of Maggie from her house, and she reeked of lavender. Apparently my cat had been living a double life. Spending the daytime hours with this old lady and the evenings with me.”

“Sounds like Maggie was one clever cat, Watson.”

I burst out laughing. “Oh, she definitely was.” A pause. “Why’d you call me that?”

“You know, because of your detective work. Watson and Holmes.”

I wrinkle my nose. “Why can’t I be Holmes?”

Jay folds his arms and quirks an eyebrow. “Because only I’m allowed to be Holmes.”

“Well, he was a bit of a lunatic,” I agree teasingly. What’s this? Am I actually flirting? Jay looks like he’s suppressing a big smile. It’s enough encouragement for me to go on, “So, am I a Lucy Liu Watson or a Martin Freeman Watson?”

He leans forward, resting his elbows on the table and bringing our faces closer. “Which do you want to be?”

“Eh, Martin Freeman, obviously. That way I could be BFFs with Benedict Cumberbatch.”

“But if you were Lucy Liu you could be BFFs with Jonny Lee Miller,” Jay counters.

“Ugh, no, thank you. I’d have to listen to him whine on and on about missing his chance with Angelina Jolie and how it’s the biggest regret of his life.”

Jay’s mouth opens as he lets out a loud guffaw of a laugh. “That was a good one, Watson!”

Ignoring his compliment, I ask, “Do you want the other half of my sandwich?” My belly is too full of butterflies in his presence to eat it all myself.

“Give it here.”

I push it across the table to him, and he eats it in less than four bites. There’s something about watching him eat that gives me a pang of déjà vu. Strange. Jay signs the tenancy agreement and tells me he’ll be around some time tomorrow evening to move in, provided his references all check out.

“Can I ask you a question?” I request shyly as he’s driving me back to the office.

“Fire away.”

“Did David Murphy really die because of the ordeal you put him through?”

Jay’s fists reflexively tighten on the steering wheel, and he doesn’t look at me as he answers, “What am I, Matilda?”

“Uh, I don’t….”

“What’s my profession?”

“You’re an illusionist.”

“Right, and what’s an illusion?”

I hesitate a moment before replying, “Something that isn’t real?”

“Exactly. Despite what some of the crazies out there would have you believe, everything I do is a trick. Sleight of hand, misdirection, smoke and mirrors. I show people a table and make them believe it’s a chair. But in the end it’s still a table. David’s heart attack would’ve happened that night whether he’d taken part in my stunt or not.”

“But Una Harris’ article said you gave his family twenty grand,” I practically whisper.

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