Tea Story: Lady Lavender & the Poison Tea, Part 3

By Mike Bevel


Madame Cassandra

Snow swirled absently, lost on its way down to the muddy London streets. Though only 7 o'clock in the evening, the sky was already black; the cloaked figure moving through the snow and through the streets seemed made of the surrounding blackness, or a murderous afterthought.

The cloaked figure walked with a purpose, heeding not other pedestrians it passed, forcing women laden with packages onto the street itself and bumping into men indiscriminately. It stopped at door on a side street off the main road - a door adorned with an eye surrounded by a triangle and the words "MADAME CASSANDRA LIPTON: Seer of the Future, Guardian of the Past."

"Pity you didn't come just ten minutes earlier," Madame Cassandra said to the cloaked figure, tying the strings of her bonnet under her chin. "I'm currently closed for the evening but-" and she sniffed the air, rolling her eyes into the back of her head, "-yes! The spirits do tell me that you should, nay, you must come tomorrow. I open at half-past ten, though no later than noon."

The figure stood unmoving.

"That's all the spirits said, sir or madam as the case may be. But I'm sure they'll tell you more on the morrow. You know how the spirits are. Or maybe you don't; of course you don't. That's why you've come to see me, Madame Cassandra Lipton, seer of the future and guardian of the past. But Madame Lipton as an evening's appointment before she heads home and puts her feet up. Do come back tomorrow."

The cloaked figure seated itself at Madame Cassandra's table.

"Right. You probably walked a long way. You need a bit of a sit-down yourself, I've no doubt. And if only I were a reading library or a train station, you'd have plenty of opportunity to sit down as much as you'd like. But, see, I'm not a reading library; nor am I a train station. I mean, I see that that's pretty self-evident - however, I am Madame Cassandra and you're not and maybe I just see things clearer. Like, right now? I'm seeing the door. The door I'd like to go out right after you go out of it."

The cloaked figure picked up Madame Cassandra's tarot cards and began shuffling them.

"I'm sorry. Maybe I gave the impression that I'm some sort of do-it-yourself psychic shop. I'm not. And I'm-" Madame Cassandra stopped short. The first card the cloaked figure turned over was a macabre figure with a death's mask and a scythe. "Goodness." She sank down onto the chair right across from the cloaked figure. "Well, that doesn't signify anything of course. That card means lots of things - most of them hardly mortal. Like, sometimes it means you'll change something. Like, for instance, I'd say that maybe it's time you stopped wearing such gloomy colors. It's winter, but there are lots of yummy colours you could try. Cranberry is going to be the rage."

The next card turned over showed a bloody red heart with nine daggers pierced into it.

"That's...that's not even one of my cards."

The next card turned over was a daguerreotype of a headstone. Snow covered the ground that covered the grave, but it did not obscure the writing on the headstone at all: CASSANDRA LIPTON. Madame Cassandra gasped, and reached out to grab the gloved hand in front of her. Her fingers encircled the uncovered wrist. Madame Cassandra had never had a true vision. As far as she was concerned true visions were an oxymoron. And yet...

A woman with a cruel mouth in a chorus girl dress shoves a young woman down a well.

The same cruel-mouthed woman on her wedding day, marrying... no! Lord Lavender Pekoe? Madame Cassandra hadn't seen her half-brother since they were both twelve years old and living in Wessex.

Lord Lavender's will. She sees his hand signing it, and she sees her own name. But why should he remember her after all these years? Why, when he never kept his first promise would he make good on his last?

Lord Lavender appearing to die, tea and froth spilling from his mouth as his new wife and her long-time lover watched from an adjoining room.

A man, looking very much like Lord Lavender, lumbering out of his estate manner. Is this before or after his poisoning, Madame Cassandra wonders?

Lord Lavender's new cruel bride lying lifeless next to her lover. Only she, too, stirs.

This same woman, dressing in a black cloak and walking to a door. Madame Cassandra's own door. And in her pocket - a silver dagger.

"You-?" Madame Cassandra began, waking from her trance. But she never finished her question and besides: the silver dagger silenced the answer.