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Scene Title Free
Synopsis Fortune Telling. Jobs. Tricks.
Date October 13, 2009

Roosevelt Island, Carnival

There electronic warble of carnival music is distorted from the age and wear of machinery. Between the screams of children enjoying the teacups ride, to the quiet creak of the Ferris wheel, this carnival on Roosevelt Island — that small strip of land wedged between Manhattan and Queens — serves as a much needed time of relief and respite for the people of New York City. From bombings, to shootings, to the collapse of a federal building, everyone could use a fantasy — something to escape to.

Within the carnival, stands of cotton candy and deep-fried pretzels accompany the odds and ends of shooting galleries and other surely rigged games. On the far eastern end of that ground, is a large purple cloth tent, held to the ground by black cords bound to wooden stakes. The tent looks like something out of an old gypsy story, the entrance obscured by a flap of black velvet cloth, and an old wooden sign posted out front that plainly reads, "Fortunes ReadFree"

In the times that New York is facing, socially and economically, free tends to be about just the right word in any language. And sometimes, a fortune told can be just the inspiration needed in the face of a mid-life crisis.

If he had the kind of friends for it, his mid-life crisis-like behavior would probably have long been pointed out to one of the carnival's current visitors. Zachery is not quite sure what he's doing here, but roaming has become somewhat of a dayjob for him. Ever since his actual dayjob slipped out from underneath him a couple of months ago. But no such friends of his exist, and so his recent acting out has largely gone unspoken. In fact, a lot in his life has gone unspoken lately. With his career permanently behind him, he's found his life has grown increasingly quiet. Perhaps that is what drew him here, though you may be hard pressed to have him admit anything of the sort.

His gait is unsteady, as he wanders intoxicated trough the grounds, eyes darting to and past the many things designed and placed specifically to catch one's attention. Until, at last, they land on something that doesn't quite seem like it belongs. 'Free'?

His eyes narrow, and almost instinctually he approaches the tent to pull the cloth back and state factually to whoever cares to hear it, "Nothing is free."

…and he's talking to himself.

There's no one inside of the tent, just a small wooden table with a pair of old chairs lit by a stained glass lantern hanging from the metal supports inside. On the table, an old box of tarot cards sits untouched. For a moment, perhaps, it makes sense. It's free because it's a serve yourself fortune teller? There's not even a way that could possibly make sense, but the slight buzz a few beers afford can go a long ways.

"Peeping tom or interested customer?" Comes the chirping voice from behind Zachery in the way ghosts sneak up on people. Five and a half feet of black and white clothing without a touch of color anywhere. Hokuto Ichihara looks like any other carnival goer, with a stick of cotton candy hed greedily in one hand, a periwinkle blue shade of spun shugar delight. Dark eyes drift up and down Zachery, one inky brow raised as she threads a lock of dark hair behind one ear to keep it out of her face.

"Nnhah!" With a start, Zachery swings around and throws up his arms in order to defend himself from this horrible— … unintimidating Asian person. Well then. He rights himself, returning the look over while his arms slowly drift back down again. "I—" He starts, uncertainly, then clears his throat and puts on a more serious face. "It wouldn't be a customer if they're not going to charge, now would it?"

"Well I don't know about that…" Then, taking a bite out of the cotton candy and chewing as she sidles past the taller man with a crooked smile, one side of her mouth full of quickly melting blue cotton candy. She stops once inside of the tent, head quirked to the side and a dark brow raised, curling a finger of her free hand in a beckoning gesture towards Zachery. Once she's gone feeding on the confectionate treat, however, she adds. "Actually I think you're perfectly right about that. So— " she takes another bite, talking with her mouth full. "I guess that just makes you a peeping tom." Dark brows rise at that notion, and Hokuto settles down on her chair, nodding her head for Zachery to come inside.

"You coming in or do I need to get you some binoculars?" Hokuto adds with a Cheshire smile, twirling the stick of cotton candy around in one hand.

Well, he's got all the SIGNS of a peeping tom— certainly Zachery's keeping an eye on the strange, uh, stranger. He frowns as he watches her enter the tent. Waitaminnit. Annoyance starts showing on his face, and he immediately looks inclined to back away. He's been had. "Wh— …" He stops again, this time to shoot a nervous, lingering look over his shoulder. Eventually, though, his attention lands back on Hokuto. The grin he cracks never quite reaches his eyes. "I suppose with you working for free, manners really aren't very necessary." He steps forward and inward, carefully, as though he's expecting his footing to be pulled out from under him when he's not looking. In a mutter, he adds, "As if they would be, otherwise. Fortune teller." Pff.

Dark brows waggle in suspicious content as Hokuto follows the stranger in, eyes halfway lidding to conceal them beneath dark lashes. "Well…" her attention goes to what is mostly now just a tacky stick with the blue stain of what was once a snack. "If you can't attract flies with honey, attract them with a little sarcasm." Her dark eyes wander to and fro, side to side, then she bites down on her lower lip and not very subtly throws away her cotton candy stick— on the ground in the tend.

Clearing her throat, Hokuto reaches the hand less likely to be cotton-candy sticky out to Zacher. "Hokuto Ichihara, by the by. This— isn't really my day job." She admits with a grimace. "I run a bookstore on the island here, this… it's for fun." Her grimace shifts to a smile, eyeing Zachery's grumbling cadence with amusement. "Have you heard of fun before?" The impish comment comes with a wrinkle of her nose, "It's infectious." Her other hand flips open the tab of the card box, sliding the deck out before turning it around and pushing it across the table towards the empty seat temptingly.

"Yes." Zachery answers curtly, his expression by now having shifted to something slightly more thoughtful. There's still a vaguely disapproving look to him, though. He shakes the offered hand almost as a reflex, adding a nod as per habit. "Infectious. That's one way to put it."

With all the grace of a slightly drunk man, he proceeds forward and sinks into his seat. His own amusement shows clearly now, through a clueless smirk at the cards. He'll play along. It should be clear he probably hasn't got much else to do. "Cards. All this technology, and fortunte tellers are still using cards."

"Would you be more comfortable if I pulled out an iPod touch or something?" Hokuto's head quirks to the side, "I think there's an app for that." Lips purse together in thought as she taps her fingers down in a drumming motion atop the deck. "This deck belonged to my mother," Hokuto admits in a slowly dawning smile, her tone just a touch more sincere and less smirking. "She used to do readings for family members back when I was a little girl. When she passed away," her eyes dip down to the deck, "I started doing them at her store when I took it over. So… it's a sentimentality thing." Those dark eyes track back up. "But, I still think there's an app for that."

Wrinkling her nose, Hokuto pushes those cards the rest of the way over, eyes meeting Zachery's. "Shuffle." More of an order than a suggestion. "However you want, whatever feels natural to you, then give them back."

The attitude is something Hokuto's so-called customer can appreciate, and finally, she gets a genuine grin from Zachery. A brief and lopsided one, but still genuine. A definite step up from mockery and disadain. Sentimentality he gets, even if he can't quite relate.

After a quick glance between the cards and their owner, he leans forward and does as he's told. He pauses a beat, thinking back to a moment in time— the last time he's shuffled a deck of cards, surely over ten years ago. Too long. But even despite his current intoxicated state, the ex-surgeon's hands make quick work of the job, riffle shuffle style. Though a bit more careful (and thus, slower) than he would have liked, so as to not bend anything too far by accident. After he's done, the cards are neatly pushed back again. "Do you often get people who just spread them out on the table?" Random drunken curiosity is random.

"More often than you'd think," Hokuto notes with a crooked smile, taking the deck back and cutting it in half, stacking the bottom on the top. "Everyone has their own unique shuffling styles, I think that's what makes this so unique, so fun." There's that word again, leveled out for Zachery as if it should be something new and exciting to him. "So, how this works… is you posit a question about something in your life you want insight into. Maybe career or money troubles, love life…" her index finger traces along the back of the cards, dark eyes drifting down to the table. "Then, we see what the cards have to say about it."

Before Zachery can even scoff out a response, Hokuto's eyes flick up to him. "And no," she inclines her head, "I don't believe the cards are magic. Spooky at times, but not magic. They're a psychological aid, sort've like writing in a journal or having a stranger offer up advice. Sometimes they make you think of something, or see things in a way you might not have considered." Dark eyes narrow just a touch with a teasing smile. "So what's on the mind of my peeping tom?"

The 'no' comes just in time, and like a dog that's just been told off mere moments before peeing on its owner's newly purchased fern, he slumps down with disappointment showing clearly on his face.

"Sounds fair enough." He admits, doing his best not to do so through gritted teeth. "And it's Zachery. Miller." Maybe she'll stop calling him names now. Or at least the wrong ones. "So tell me, then, non-magic human eight ball. Will I…—" He freezes once more, what remained of his grin now fading. Not a clue on how to finish that sentence, apparently.

When nothing comes of that sentiment, Hokuto slouches forward towards the deck of cards and rests her chin on the heels of her palms, squinting as she assesses Zachery. "You're a strange person…" This, coming from the cotton-candy eating fortune teller, of course. "Come on, there has to be something in your life that's making your curious. What do you do for a living?" Dark brows go up and Hokuto settles back in her chair, and just keeps going back as the chair rises up onto its back legs, rocking up and down in a way every parent in the world would tell her not to do.

"Maybe you want to find out how to get at they new secretary? Or— paper boy?" A teasing smirk creeps up on Hokuto's lips as she gives a shrug of her shoulders and an impush wrinkle of her nose. "Come on you can't be that chronically boring that there's nothing in your life that makes your curious…" But as she trails off, she has to wonder, is that it?

Zachery stays quiet. He's thinking! It's hard. Especially with the few drinks he knocked back earlier to take the edge off, uh. There was something at the time, he's sure. Right now, though? He seems to be pulling a blank. A semblance of expression finally comes back to his face at the mention of the hypothetical paper boy, and he's quick to wrinkle his nose and shake his head. Hono. Changing subjects now.

"I'm— between jobs." He answers promptly, choosing his words carefully. So carefully that he doesn't even seem to be believing in them. "My previous job kept me very busy, so I'm still sort of…" he gestures vaguely, though isn't really sure exactly to what end, "… getting back into the swing of things?" He would have preferred that to sound less like a question.

"I pay terrible and the electricity is off more than it's on." That impish smile turns into a grun as Hokuto laces her fingers together and rests her chin on the backs of her folded hands. "You can read allt he books you want, we get about six customers a day and most of them just browse, and I have an honest to god gypsy living in my back lot and working as my stock girl." Dark brows rise up slowly, and Hokuto rocks her head to one side, having forgotten the questions entirely.

"My regular cashier is doing volunteer work at the Suresh Center…" There's a small shrug of what can you do about it, "so I have an opening." Dark eyes wander down to the deck of cards, then back up to Zachery. "Now what's your excuse?" Again, the wrinkle of her nose. Was she kidding or…

… Somehow working in a book store seems like a step down from deputy coroner. For some reason. So it's not surprising that another grin is cracked, and Zachery leans back in his seat to eye Hokuto, scrutinizing her in silence for a good few seconds.

For the first time since he came in, he looks at ease. Shooting a curious look first at the cards, then at Hokuto, he asks, "So, cards. How long do you think it would take me to read all of the books in this store's inventory?"

One black brow quirks up, and Hokuto tilts her head to the side as she watches Zachery with one narrowed eye. All she does, is puff out her cheek and then huff out a sigh thoughtfully. One hand slips down to the deck of cards, and she only pulls up one singular card as an answer. It's back is offered to Zachery first, and only this up close to the deck does he see a curious little symbol on the back patterning, a shape that looks like half a DNA helix imprinted in blue and white.

But just as quick as he sees it, Hokuto turns the card around. Its image is upside down to him, a picture of a glowing moon over a river flanked by two squared stone towers. On the fore of the card, a wolf is howling up at the lonely moon. Hokuto arches one brow, looking to Zachery as if wondering what his own input on the card is, a sly smile spread across her lips.

The symbol does not go unnoticed, yet whether it goes unforgotten, consciously or subconsciously, remains a mystery for now. There's much more of a reaction to the upside down front of the card, and Zachery pulls a face. But instead of speaking his mind proper, he whines, "Can't you just give me an estimate, little cards? A number of sorts? What's the use of telling people things if they're too cryptic to figure out with certainty? I'll go find two towers to bark at then, shall I?"

Willfully ignorant, he pushes a hand down onto his seat and feigns getting up to find said towers— before slumping right back down again and giving Hokuto a dry look. "I don't know what that means. Am I supposed to?"

"No, I just wanted to see if you'd guess and risk being wrong." Teasing and delighted all in one, Hokuto waggles the card around in one hand. "The Moon," she elaborates on the upside-down name printed on the card, "and since it's inverted it means something different than if it was drawn upright." A coy smile crosses the fortune teller's lips as she leans back in her chair and lays the card down on the table in front of Zachery.

"The card means a lot of things…" Dark eyes wander from it to Zachery. "Clarity, for one. So coming to work for six dollars and seventy-five cents an hour would afford you that." One black brow rises slowly. "Control," her head nods once, "and peace in troublesome times… I think we can both agree you're a little troubled." Nodding her head pintedly at that, Hokuto shifts her weight in the chair, folding her hands in her lap. "The card also implies increased psychic abilities." She looks down to the card, then back to Zachery in quiet. "Maybe you… have an ability?" Her nose wrinkles again, she's almost like a rabbit in that respect. Always nose twitching. "The card means that you'll find temptations," that doesn't get any further elaboration, just a crooked smirk, "and that small problems and minor setbacks you've faced in recent months will be overcome. The card is for new beginnings." All that, in one piece of glossy card stock.

"How's that for definite?"

And just like that, Zachery's confidence flies right out the proverbial window again. More with every word the explanation is made up of, though it takes a definite dive about halfway through. By the time Hokuto finishes, he's absently rubbing at the back of his neck, amusement drained from his face. His gaze is pointed downward until he realizes, a bit too late for comfort, that it's probably his turn to talk again.

… Ultimately, after a quick swallow of what is probably his pride, he states more quietly, but with a definite attempt at smugness, "So, I suppose I'll… need you to write down that store address for me, then."

Rolling her tongue across the inside of her cheek, Hokuto cracks a smile and tilts her head to the side, brows waggling up and down like some sort've victory dance for her forehead. "Nice to have you aboard," she says with a crooked smile, ovvering that pale hand out across the table again. "I have a cat too, I hope you're not allergic— of a gypsy." Because one of those is hard enough.

"N-… not since last time I checked." Allergic or a gypsy. Eyebrow victory dance! It is studied. Meticulously. Even while handshaking. By now, Zachery is well out of his usual thoughtbox, and doesn't even seem to think before speaking anymore. "You are strange and full of possibly misplaced trust." And he's not quite sure what to think about it, though his expression hints at the fact that he's leaning toward something positive.

"If you think that's misplaced," Hokuto notes with a smirk as she snatches up that card, taps the corner of it on the table and points it towards Zachery, "You should see where I tend to take a nap." No, no she's not like a rabbit. She's like a cat.

And just as mischevious.

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