Disclaimer: Don't own, just building a sandcastle in someone else's sandbox. Reviews and constructive criticism welcome.

The Night Of The Gypsy Soul Reading

By Spotted Pony

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.

Aristotle

Dr. Loveless gleefully rubbed his hands together as he watched the unconscious pair of Secret Service Agents as they sat slumped against each other on the couch in the middle of the ten by ten foot cage he'd prepared for them. This time, he was sure, they wouldn't be escaping. He'd taken the precaution of removing much of their clothing and emptying their pockets. So all they were wearing was whatever underwear they had on, shirts, trousers and socks. The remainder of their clothing was neatly hung on a clothes tree on the opposite side of the room; their shoes and the contents of their pockets were on a bench next to it.

"Is everything ready for Madam Forses," he asked Antoinette, who was arranging a table covered with all kinds of dainty finger foods for a hearty tea.

"Yes, Miguelito," as she accepted a teapot from Voltaire and placed it within easy reach for her duties as hostess.

Meanwhile, Secret Service Agents, James West and Artemus Gordon, began to regain consciousness. Both of them were experienced in waking up in strange places and getting some sort of idea as to what was going on before opening their eyes. First was to determine if the person sitting next to them was their partner. With the instincts developed through the years of their partnership, they knew they were together in yet another tight situation. That was good. What was bad, was that they had been stripped of nearly all of their 'toys', and that their captor was Dr. Loveless. Together, they opened their eyes to see the gloating figure of Dr. Loveless standing on the other side of their cell.

"Welcome gentlemen," he said, bouncing on his toes with glee. "I'm sure you are wondering why I've brought you here."

"The thought had crossed our minds," Artemus replied as he took a moment to stretch.

Jim added, "but we're really not that interested. In fact, this couch is quite comfortable, and I'd like to continue my nap, if you don't mind. How about you Artie?" Jim then snuggled back into the couch and closed his eyes.

"Good idea, Jim," Artie replied as he leaned back and closed his eyes, "we've been working hard lately, and a little more shuteye is always welcome."

Dr. Loveless growled and stomped his foot, his face got red and one could imagine steam coming out his ears. "Well I'm going to tell you anyway! You're going to finally learn the error of your ways and beg my forgiveness for your persecution of me!"

"Yeah, right," Artie muttered out the side of his mouth to his partner who merely rolled his eyes in agreement.

Dr. Loveless continued in a testy tone of voice, "we are all going to have a soul reading, and then you'll learn how your persecution of me harms your souls. I'll release you knowing that you'll never bother me ever again." A self-satisfied smirk came over his face.

There was a knock at the door and Dr. Loveless said, "there she is. Voltaire, would you Please show in our special guest."

The woman Voltaire escorted into the room was clearly a Gypsy. She carried herself with confidence and dignity. She was dressed in the flowing and colorful style of her people. Her hair was mostly covered with a purple scarf, but what was visible was mostly dark threaded with white. Her face was lined showing she was an elder who had lived a long and hard life. She wore a bright green blouse with a yellow vest and a blue skirt with a red overskirt and her feet were bare. Her belt, bracelets, and necklaces were made of coins of various denominations in silver and gold. She wore gold hoops in her ears. She gave the captive Secret Service Agents a long look as she passed by.

"Welcome Madam Forses," Dr. Loveless greeted her with a bow, "I am Dr. Miguelito Loveless. I am the one who has requested your unique services." He then led her to the table where Voltaire seated her.

With Antoinette serving, the three of them exchanged pleasantries as they ate. Voltaire took his plate and sat at a table a few steps away from the table where his master ate. Jim and Artie weren't offered anything.

Finally the meal was over and Dr. Loveless was ready to get down to business. "Now for the service I asked you here. . ."

Madam Forses interrupted him, "first cross my palm with silver."

"Of course, Voltaire," he replied with a trace of annoyance in his voice. He took the bag Voltaire handed him and passed it to Madam Forses. "Here you are, as agreed, one hundred silver dollars."

His annoyance grew when she dumped the bag out on the table. She then stacked them in piles of tens and then checked each coin before placing it back in the bag.

"I assure you, Madam," Dr. Loveless said, "it's all there."

Madam Forses gave him a cold hard stare and replied, "don't trust gadjo."

Everyone sat in silence until she had checked each and every coin and was satisfied that it was what it was supposed to be. She then tucked the bag away in her vest.

"Now are you ready to do the soul readings," Dr. Loveless asked.

"Yes," she replied. "But first I explain. To read the soul, is not something that can be taught. It is something very few of my people are born with and develop to greatest ability. I am one of those few."

Dr. Loveless indicated for her to go on.

She continued, her hands outlining a human shape as she spoke, "it is way of seeing the soul of person. For those of us with gift, we see soul as layers of color surrounding person. The more complex soul, the more colors flow around person. The state of person's soul can be determined by colors, indicating whether person is selfless or selfish. When person does a selfless deed, colors of the soul get lighter and lighter with each deed. The soul of saintly person will be nearly white with a faint touch of soul's colors visible. A true saint will have soul that is blindingly white, no color visible at all."

The smug look on Dr. Loveless' face indicated that he truly believed that his soul was the pure blinding white of a true saint. Antoinette's look of adoration confirmed that belief. However, Jim and Artie, who were now standing at the bars of their cell, weren't buying it.

Madam Forses continued, "on other hand, doing selfish deeds will darken colors of the soul. The more selfish deeds done, the darker the colors of the soul become. A soul that is truly evil will be totally black, no colors visible. A person who is only wicked will still have color visible in soul."

At that statement, Dr. Loveless gave his captives a smug look that said that he knew what color their souls were, and it wasn't white.

"Once soul becomes the blinding white of the true saint," she said, "or total black of truly evil, it can not be changed. Both very rare, neither represented by people in room. Nor are there any saintly or even completely wicked souls present." Dr. Loveless' face fell at that bit of information; Jim and Artie were also surprised, they expected Dr. Loveless' soul to be dark enough to be wicked, at the very least. "Most somewhere in between, the soul being of true bright colors that lighten or darken according to the selfless or selfish deeds performed by person."

"What are some of the deeds that would cause the soul to become darker or lighter, Madam Forses," Antoinette asked.

"Murder," she replied. "Killing someone, or causing someone to die, will darken soul, no matter reason. True sorrow or remorse for killing will lighten soul. Killing in defense of others will balance the darkening of the soul by lightening the soul. The more lives saved by a particular killing, will lighten the soul of the one who kills."

She paused to drink some tea before continuing. "Persons who put themselves in danger to protect others, this will cause soul to lighten. Stealing, cheating or hurting others will cause soul to darken. Being kind, healing, and helping the less fortunate will lighten soul. Causing harm to others and taking delight in misfortune of others will darken soul. Anything that benefits person at the expense of others will darken soul. Just as person who causes benefits to others at own expense will lighten soul."

By now Jim and Artie were finding this conversation very interesting. In fact Jim was trying to think of where he heard a description of himself that sounded similar to what the gypsy woman was talking about. Then he remembered, it was his and Artie's first assignment as Secret Service Agents, to put a stop to General Juan Manolo's plot to start a war between the United States and Mexico. General Manolo, in his disguise as a Chinese shopkeeper, had remarked to Jim about the colors flowing around him. He didn't think much about it, as the man had been smoking opium at the time. But now he wondered if there was something to it.

Dr. Loveless was getting a bit impatient. "That's very interesting," he said, "now about the soul reading?"

"Yes, yes," the gypsy woman replied, "I must speak of soul bonds first."

"Of course," Dr. Loveless said in an irritated tone of voice, "proceed."

At this, Jim muttered to Artie, "it sounds like she doesn't really want to tell Loveless about the state of his soul." Artie nodded in agreement.

Madam Forses began her explanation, "soul bonds are rare. Most souls flow around only own person. Souls mostly just brush against each other, less complex soul giving way to more complex soul. Most common are bonds between lovers, between parent and child, between brothers and sisters and good friends. These bonds I see when the persons are close together, they twist and flow around each other. Soul colors of one person flow around the outside of soul colors of other person. When they move apart, soul colors flowing around other will pull back and flow around own person like soul with no bond."

She stopped and held her cup out for more tea. Antoinette filled the cup, and with five sets of eyes on her, Madam Forses calmly sipped her tea before continuing with her explanation. "True soul bonds of soul mates, soul brothers or sisters, I see having a cord connecting the two souls, no matter distance between persons." Addressing Dr. Loveless, "I see strong soul bond between you and this lady. There is also a bond between you and this man," she said, indicating Voltaire.

The three looked at each other, clearly very pleased to have this connection.

"You must know, with such bonds, the deeds done by one will effect the souls of all who share the bond. Selfish deeds by one will darken the souls of all, while selfless deeds will lighten all souls. Deeds of most complex soul will have more affect on less complex souls. Of the three of you in this bond, Dr. Loveless, yours is most complex soul. Lady has less complex soul, while man has very simple soul."

"Now what about these two," Dr. Loveless asked as he walked over to the cage containing the two agents.

Madam Forses set her teacup down, rose from her chair and gracefully joined Dr. Loveless at the front of the cage where Jim and Artie watched their approach. She narrowed her eyes and looked them over carefully, a puzzled look coming over her face. "Very complex souls. Layers and layers of colors flowing around them. Well balanced souls, these, colors mostly bright, many tending toward the light, very few toward the dark. These men appear to be selfless types."

This statement clearly didn't please Dr. Loveless, as he scowled. "Any thing else," he snapped.

"Something strange here," she said, "you," pointing at Jim, "move over there," gesturing to the left front corner of the cage. "You," pointing at Artie, "go back there," gesturing to the right back corner of the cage. They moved as indicated, wondering what the gypsy woman was seeing. She looked from one to the other, frowning and muttering in Romani.

"What is it, what is it," Dr. Loveless demanded.

"Something very unusual here," she told him. "I have seen this only in identical twins."

"See what, see what," Dr. Loveless replied, his voice going up the scale in frustration.

"How to explain," she said, "These men don't each have soul, they share one soul."

What! Was thereaction of everyone in the room.

"One soul," Madam Forses replied firmly. "I thought first a soul bond between these two, a very strong bond, but no. Every soul is different in layering of colors, these two, just the same, no difference." Waving her hand at the pair in the cage, she continued, "when souls bond and form cord between, the soul extends and twists around the other so that the soul of one flows around the soul of other. I see the twisting of the cord of the souls and a gap between each soul with you three, but not with them. The same colors flow around these two, no twisting of the soul bond and no gap between the souls, only one soul."

"What happens if one of the people in a soul bond is harmed," Antoinette asked. "Will the others in the bond be harmed also?"

"Yes," Madam Forses replied. "Souls may feel distress if one soul is selfish and the other is selfless. They try to balance each other. Less complex selfless soul for a time can prevent more complex selfish soul from becoming wicked or evil. But more complex soul will win in the end, making less complex souls darker or lighter, depending on complex soul being selfless or selfish."

She again waved her hand at Jim and Artie as she moved past Dr. Loveless so that he was no longer between her and the door, "these two with one soul can not do anything that would harm other, because both are selfless. On other hand, as your soul is dark, it is the less complex souls in your bond that is keeping your soul from being wicked or truly evil. It is their selfless desire to please you that keeps you from becoming truly evil, but in time, if you continue your selfish ways, the darkness of your soul will overwhelm what is left of the lightness of their souls and all three of you will be totally evil. Think well of my words and consider how they effect not only yourself, but others, if not for your soul's sake, then for theirs."

As she spoke she edged her way to the door, and as Dr. Loveless absorbed the meaning of her words, she bolted for the door and slipped through it with a speed that was remarkable for her advanced age. Incensed, Dr. Loveless yelled, "Voltaire, catch her before she gets away!" But before Voltaire could even get to the door, the sound of galloping hoof beats could be heard. Dashing to the side of the cage nearest the window, Jim and Artie got a glimpse of the gypsy woman pulling herself up on the bare back of a horse in full gallop. Then no sooner had she was seated on the back of the horse, it cleared a three foot fence. Her horse was fast and she was soon out of sight. There was no way Voltaire or anyone else was going to catch her with the head start she had.

"What a woman," Jim commented in admiring tones for her superb horsemanship.

"And I guess we won't be apologizing to Loveless for persecuting him after all," Artie added with a grin.

In the meantime, Dr. Loveless was engaging in one of his typical tantrums. "DARN, DARN, DARN," he screamed as he stomped his feet. "Voltaire, go hitch the horses to the carriage, we're leaving NOW!"

All three dashed from the room, and a short time later, a carriage could be heard leaving the area at a quick pace, leaving the agents still locked in their cage. The agents looked at each other nonplused.

"Somehow I don't think Dr. Loveless is going to come back and turn us loose," Artie said.

"And Madam Forses may not think to have someone check the house either," Jim added.

"So we have to break out ourselves."

"It looks that way. What have you got?"

"Not much," Artie replied, as he looked at their clothing on the other side of the room. "Loveless was very through this time."

They then began searching their cell, only to find the iron bars were firmly set in the floor and ceiling. The floor was polished smooth, not a bit of roughness where they could tease out a splinter and fashion a lock pick. The couch itself was new and every bit of it was covered with a very sturdy fabric that would need a knife to cut open.

"Well then," Artie said, "I guess we'll have to see how this works." He then carefully loosened a thread that held a button to his left cuff. "Now where would be the best place to make use of it? These bars are thick, and I don't think I have enough to burn through even one, let alone the amount of bars we need to remove to get out."

"What about the latch," Jim asked as he strode over to the door and looked at the part in question. It was about an inch high and a quarter inch wide.

"Yes, that will do," Artie replied as he had a look at the latch. There was more than enough room for Artie place the button on top of the latch and secure it with the thread. With his thumbnail, he broke the button. A few drops of acid ran down the thread and with a hiss, a pop, and a puff of smoke, it began to burn into the latch. A few minutes later, after the smoke cleared, the two agents could see that there was a slight indentation on the top of the latch and faint lines along the sides. Removing the second button from his left cuff, Artie repeated the process.

Next to go were the two on the right cuff, then the two on his collar points and the one in the back of his collar. Starting at the top, one by one the buttons down the front of his shirt were used. After the last one burnt itself out, they hunkered down to have a close look at the latch. There was still a good quarter inch of the latch left in the groove made by the acid.

"What now," Jim asked.

Artie shrugged his shoulders, "I figure that it's your turn now."

Jim nodded, took another look at the remains of the latch, positioned himself, then launched himself at the door with as much force as he could muster. The door shook but the latch held. Jim tried again and again with the same results, but now the latch was bent a little.

"I think I'm going to need a little help with this, Artie," he told his partner who was relaxing on the couch.

"Always willing to help," Artie replied as he took up a position beside his partner. On the count of three, they slammed themselves into the door. They repeated the process several times until the latch finally gave way, the sudden release of which caused them to stagger through the door and stumble across the room. It had taken them more than two hours to free themselves.

After dressing and returning their 'toys' to their proper places, on Artie's suggestion, they finished what was left of the tea Dr. Loveless had served. Though by this time, the tea was cold and there was no way to heat it up again.

Afterwards they checked the barn, to find unsurprisingly that there were no horses. Looking around, they could see no sign of any near neighbors.

"I guess we're going to have to walk," Jim said.

"Looks like it," Artie replied as he started down the lane.

At the end of the lane, they noted the tracks left by the carriage Loveless and company escaped in, turned to the right.

"Which way," Artie asked. "Do we follow Loveless? Or do we figure that he'll be heading away from the nearest town to avoid capture when we get there?"

Jim sighed, "I think you're right Artie. Loveless will be trying to get as far away from us as fast as he can."

"Then left it is."

After walking for about an hour, they stopped to rest at a crossroad. The sign said they had five miles to go to get to the town where they had left the Wanderer. As they rested, they heard the clop, clop of horses' hooves and the crunch of wheels on the road from the road to the south. Soon a buckboard came into sight, driven by tired looking teenager.

"Hello," Artie called out, "I'm afraid we've lost our horses, is it possible for you to give us a ride to town?"

"Sure," he replied, "hop in."

Jim and Artie climbed into the back of the buckboard, which was coated with a thin layer of sawdust and smelt faintly of new lumber. The driver wasn't inclined to talk, so they just leaned back and rested their feet. It was just getting dark when they arrived in town. Artie offered the young man some money for the ride, but was refused, he said, "my Mother would skin me if I took your money. An' I was going this way anyways. Have a good night."

"You too," Jim and Artie told him before turning toward the train station and their train.

"Now there was a nice kid," Artie said.

"Yes, and I imagine his soul just got a shade or two lighter," Jim replied with a grin.

Once back at the train, Jim fired up the telegraph with messages to be on the lookout for Dr. Loveless while Artie made them something to eat. Then, as they ate and soaked their sore feet, they discussed their latest adventure.

"What do think about this soul reading business? Do you think there's anything to it," Jim asked, doubt in his voice.

"It's hard to tell," Artemus replied, "Gypsies do have a reputation for strangeness, and many claim to have the second sight. So a Gypsy being able to see souls would appear to be reasonable. Dr. Loveless apparently believed it enough to seek out Madam Forses and have her do a soul reading."

Jim snickered, "not her fault that he didn't like the reading he got for himself. Nor ours. He really thinks that he's a saint. I wonder though if he will follow Madam Forses' advice and think on the things he does."

"Not likely," Artie replied, "you know Loveless, he thinks he is always right, and Antoinette and Voltaire believe he can do no wrong. In any case, whether or not certain persons can see souls and if they can be shared, if I'm going to share my soul with anyone, I'm glad it's you!"

"Me too, Pal," Jim replied with a smile, "me too!"

The end.

July 15, 2012