"Good morning, Mr. Michaels," the woman's voice on the other end of the telephone said, "this is Detective Jeannie Roberts from the Virginia Beach Police Department's Eighth Precinct. We met a few months ago at an Alzheimer's Research fund-raiser event at the Beach Convention Center."
"Good morning Detective. Yes I remember meeting you. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, you told me that you were sitting in the center of the fifth row..."
"...and that I had no clue how you cut your assistant in half in spite of the fact that two audience members held her feet and her head. I'm sorry Mr. Michaels; I didn't mean to cut you off mid-sentence," Detective Roberts said.
"That's quite all right. How can I help you?" John asked.
"I ... umm ... would it be possible to meet with you?"
"May I ask the reason for this face-to-face meeting?"
"I'm investigating the murder of a Tarot card reader."
"I see; do you want me to come to the police station?"
"Actually, Mr. Michaels, I would prefer to meet at your house," Detective Roberts answered.
"All right; when?"
"I can be there in 30 minutes."
"I'll be here," John replied.
"Great. See you then."
John had just put the phone back in its base unit when Stella entered John's home office with two steaming mugs of coffee. She placed one on the magazine table between two charcoal grey high-back wing chairs and kept the other one in her hand.
"Who called?" she asked, after she sat down.
She crossed her feet at the ankles, raised the mug to her lips and gently exhaled over the hot coffee before taking a sip. John sat motionless at his desk; a blank stare on his face.
"What's wrong, John?" she then asked.
He didn't reply.
"John!" Stella said with determination.
"I'm sorry, Stella," he finally answered, snapping out of his trance.
He got up from behind his desk, walked to the empty chair and sat down.
"What's wrong, John?" Stella asked again.
"That telephone call was from Detective Jeannie Roberts at the Eighth Precinct. She's investigating the murder of a Tarot card reader and wants to talk with me."
Stella's eyes opened wide.
"Why you?" she asked.
"I don't know," he replied.
Stella looked into her mug.
"You have to finish drinking the coffee before you look at the grounds to read them," John mischievously said.
"I didn't know anyone reads coffee grounds," Stella replied.
"The only way they can be read is if the grounds are individually arranged to form letters of the alphabet that, when placed alongside each other, spell out a word."
"Why would someone kill a Tarot card reader?" Stella asked.
"Why would someone indiscriminately kill another human being?" John replied.
Stella looked him squarely in the eyes, but didn't answer.
"There is no justifiable reason for one person to kill another. Everyone's life is something to be valued," John said, as he picked up his mug.
He felt the heat from the coffee on his lips as he raised the mug to his mouth. He gazed over the rim as he exhaled and saw the coffee ripple ever so slightly; then he cautiously took a small sip.
"Do you know any Tarot card readers?" Stella asked.
"Not personally," John replied, placing the mug back onto the coaster. "But I know there are quite a few of them in the city."
"Isn't there a Tarot card reader booth on Atlantic Avenue?"
"I wouldn't call it a booth; it's a ... well ... an actual store, but not in the sense of one that sells tangible goods."
"I thought it was open only during the summer tourist season."
"I think they make the bulk of their money during that time of year, but like any other business in Virginia Beach it's probably open year-round."
Stella looked at John as she took another sip of coffee.
"I don't remember seeing anything in the newspaper or hearing about it on the evening news. I wonder when this happened," she said.
"We'll know after Detective Roberts gets here," John answered.
"I'm still curious to know why she wants to speak with you."
"It's because I'm a swell guy," John replied, with a straight face.
"John Michaels, you're a nut."
"But I'm a talented nut," he answered.
They both laughed.