This is the third in a series of short stories and you can find the full story here

Dave stretched and worked his shoulders. Life as a Tarot reader could be remarkably stressful. He checked the clock and grimaced. There wasn’t really time for a decent run before the next booking, but he would definitely hit the gym when the store closed. That was one advantage of having a room for Tarot reading over a new age supplies and book shop. He could keep to shop hours. There was a knock on the door. Dave groaned inwardly. “Come in.”

Martin strode in and took the chair opposite Dave. “You’re a funny sort of Tarot Reader. You don’t believe in it.”

Dave shrugged. “It says ‘for entertainment purposes only’ on the booking form. Besides, what I do is a sort of counselling. I’ve even been taking night courses for therapists.”

“I heard that you claimed them on your expense forms,” Martin said. “Anyway, I’m not here about the Tarot. It’s Paladin business.”

“What have you done?” Dave asked. Tarot reading was his side business. His main purpose was to be the Paladin of York, the defender of the unknowing normals who lived in the area against the supernatural creatures that lived among them. This wasn’t the easiest of jobs. He worked in a shop run by half the non-normal population of the area and they all seemed to have their own version of reality that they refused to abandon.

“It’s not exactly what I’ve done,” Martin said. “It’s more what I was seen to have done.”

“Does Lady Freydis know?” Dave asked. The ancient vampire shifting uncomfortably in the seat opposite him was married to the Prince of York, the ruler of the non-normal population and a barista downstairs. They weren’t exactly difficult, and they weren’t generally considered dangerous to people in general. However they had the potential for more havoc that was good for Dave’s mental health.

“Of course,” Martin said. “She thinks that it’s hilarious but that you ought to know.”

Dave’s heart sank further. “So what exactly happened?”

“I was minding my own business,” Martin said. “I had met with one of my young ladies.”

“That’s one of the ladies you feed from,” Dave said. “I thought that there were alternatives to feeding from young ladies.”

Martin ignored that. “As you know, I take great care of my young ladies, and we were having a very pleasant moment.”

“You were feeding,” Dave said.

“Yes, I was feeding, but I don’t want you to think that there was anything non-consensual involved.” Martin said. “I take great pains to make the experience pleasant for the young lady.”

“So I believe,” Dave said dryly.

“The young lady involved was very much enjoying herself. And I was rather lost in the moment myself.”

“So you were seen feeding,” Dave said. “What happened then?”

“The man interrupted us and pushed me away, telling Kayla that he would defend her.” Martin winced. “It didn’t go down well.”

Dave shut his eyes for a brief moment and shuddered. “What did you do to him?”

“I didn’t do a thing!” Martin said. “Kayla was the one who drove him off. But he said that he would hunt me down, that he wouldn’t forget this, and that he would find me and stake me.”

“What did Lady Freydis say?” Dave asked.

Martin shrugged. “She hasn’t stopped laughing at it. He is probably traumatised and out there somewhere. I’m quite worried about him. I thought I may try and look for him, but that I had better let you know. And he may come to you through the usual channels.”

“When you say you are going to look for him, you mean to explain things and reassure him, right?” Dave looked hard at Martin.

“I have not survived these endless centuries by indulging in mindless cruelty,” Martin said firmly. “And the young lad looked distressed. I want to make sure that he is alright.”

Dave ran a tired hand over his face. “I’ll have a look out for him as well,” he said. “And I’ll give Darren and Luke the heads up. What does he look like?”

Martin thought for a moment. I suppose he is about the same height as you, so tall but not too tall. He’s slim, but not skinny. He has blond hair, not bright blonde, but sort of dull like old sacking. And he has a black eye.”

“I thought you said you didn’t do anything to him,” Dave said.

“I didn’t,” Martin said. “But Kayla was really upset and has a surprisingly good right hook.” He winced in sympathy as he remembered it. “And perhaps we had better find this young man before she does.”

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