Funny Business - Terrance Riverdarb

In this story, a psychic's best friend persuades him to start a P.I. service. Hesitating at first, Tristan finally agrees. In what's more than a rocky upstart, they stumble upon a case that will unravel even their reality. From absurd prophecies to encounters with sexually frustrated ghosts, they share an adventure that will either destroy them or launch them into a series of others. That remains to be decided.

He almost fell out of his chair, suddenly awoken by the sound of the crashing beads by the door. Business was slow today, and he must have dozed off. But he had a customer now.

Tristan sat up straight and gave his crystal ball a quick spit polish, anxiously glancing up at the doorway. Sure enough there was a young woman, about twenty-five, he guessed. She seemed to be fighting her way through the strings of beads that hung in the doorway, he could see that one was tangled in her hair. Resisting the urge to laugh, he got from his old, cushioned throne-like seat and helped her out, stealing a few glances down her neckline as he did.

"Welcome, your fortune awaits you!" He declared in a tone of voice that suggested he didn't take himself seriously, but she didn't seem to notice.

He offered her a seat in front of the old, but sturdy table on which his crystal ball stood, and then went around and sat in his own. Once he was seated, he gave her his most charming smile, hoping that he might be able to do a bit more than give her a fake reading; she was an attractive one.

She blushed and brushed her bangs away from her face. "I'm a bit nervous," she said. "I've never done this before."

A set of fireworks went off in Tristan's abdomen. The nervous, never-done-it-before ones were always easy to dazzle, even easier to please. He smiled, holding out his hands and gestured for her to put hers in them.

They were soft, and he rubbed them gently, but in a way that seemed like he was only doing his job, when he was thinking about so much more. "So warm…" he muttered. "…and fuzzy."

He watched as her face formed into a mixture of confusion and curiosity, but without waiting for her to ask what he meant, he continued. "Tell me something, did you have a warm and fuzzy past?"

She shook her head and frowned. "No…really the opposite."

Tristan allowed his expression to appear thoughtful, but he wasn't thinking at all. "Well then, that must mean your future will be warm and fuzzy."

Her frown turned upside down, and eagerness seeped through her eyes. "Well tell me more. Is it gonna start now?"

Tristan's thoughtful expression deepened, but inside he was roaring with laughter at her gullible nature. "Ah yes, actually. Today. I'd look out for rowdy children though, because then it might not work…"

"But I have a son, what —"

Before she could finish, the beads crashed again. Tristan looked up to see his best friend's familiar build. He shook the woman's palm and set it down on the table, half glad that he didn't have to worm his way out of her dilemma. On the other hand, Tommy's excursions into his parlor were never exclusively pleasant.

"Thank you, Miss," he said. And then in a mystical tone, he added, "buy a turtle."

But she didn't budge, instead she sat there with a puzzled expression.

Ignoring her, he walked across the parlor and greeted his friend with a slap on the shoulder. "Why aren't you at work?" he asked.

"Well I was, but then I got an idea—"

"—a turtle?"

"Yes miss, it might repel that child of yours' negative energies…have a nice day, Miss."

But she still didn't budge, and Tristan couldn't be bothered to make her. He turned back to Tommy, rolling his eyes slightly. "An idea?"

"Yes, I'm thinking, we could be private investigators."

Tristan rolled his eyes harder. If he had a penny for every time Tommy had some idea like this while laboring in his boring job…

Tristan and Tommy had been friends for over a decade. They had met in college, Tristan being Tommy's weird roommate who claimed to see right into his soul. It didn't take long for Tommy to realize that even though Tristan was really quite weird, he really did have a glance or two into his soul; He seemed to know things. It marked the start of their relationship; the blond Tommy had taught the black haired Tristan everything he knew about scoring one night stands, and in return the psychic would do everything he could to see into the big-man-on-campus' 'bright' future. After their deal expired — mainly because Tommy ran out of things to teach, and Tristan became quite sparse on his visions— they decided that they knew enough about each other to become best friends.

And so it was.

"Come on," Tommy said. "Think about it, we wouldn't actually have to work, because you would be able to solve…things…with your visions."

"Yeah," Tristan paused. "Didn't you have this idea already? I mean, look around you. Does this look like the place of a psychic who uses his powers for personal gain?"

"Whoa, take it easy there buddy," Tommy retorted in a prosaic tone, "just 'cause you have the occasional vision doesn't mean you're all powerful, you know."

Tristan's eyes narrowed. "Don't forget, I can turn you into a—"

"—wait a minute, that could have gone in any way!"

Tristan almost jumped out of his skin at the sound of his client's voice. "What the hell are you still doing here?" he asked, scratching his head.

Tommy rolled his eyes and glanced at her. "Trist, please tell me you've not been feeding her that 'warm and fuzzy' crap. See this is exactly what I'm talking about. You've got to get a real job."

"And how is pretending to be a P.I. any diff—"

"—I want my money back!"

"Will you shut up? Can't you see we're trying to have a conversation?" Tommy suddenly swung towards Tristan's client with a childish stomp. "I swear, sometimes, you women aren't even worth it…"

"Excuse me? No…" she said, and then turned to Tristan as though he would side with her. "Tell him he can't talk to me like that. I am a customer…a customer! He cannot talk to me that way! Tell him! And I want my money—"

Tommy stomped his foot again and shook his head. "Do it Trist, just do it."

Tristan seemed to hesistate; he glanced nervously between the two before shutting his eyes. And the second he closed his eyes, was the second his outraged client ceased to speak, and her face became blank, his canvas. And on it he painted a pretty smile, because he made her forget everything that troubled her, and filled her up with warm and fuzzy thoughts. And she strutted out of the parlor, baring teeth and all.

"Why did you make her happy?" Tommy asked. "She was a pain in the ass."

Tristan frowned, shaking his head in grave disapproval. "Pipe down, before I do the same to you," he warned. "I don't know why I let you put that in my head. I don't like doing that kinda stuff."

It was true. Because although she had it coming, Tristan had learnt that meddling with a person's thoughts did more harm than good at times, however convenient it was. Tommy saw things differently.

"Oh, but luring them into bed you seem to enjoy," he jeered. "If you wanna play hallowed, Trist, don't play it with me; I know the sorry little scumbag you are."

"Thomas Cummings should be the last person on earth to call somebody a scumbag," Tristan said. "Remember that, you."

And that was Tommy and Tristan. Like every walking thing on the great green earth, they said things. But it was seldom that what they said, those words, conveyed what they meant, their true thoughts. At times there would be insults exchanging like currency on Wall Street between them, but with no offence. It was their mutual subconscious understanding that prevented confusion between them.

It was that very understanding why Tommy didn't give up on his plan when Tristan said no the first time.

"So private investigators, what d'you say?" Tommy asked. He secretly hoped that the sudden change of subject would catch the psychic off guard.

"No," Tristan said. "Bad feeling." And suffice to say, Tristan's gut feelings had been right 70 of the time. It was a steep risk, in his opinion.

"Come on, Trist, ever since I was a kid…"

Tristan narrowed his eyes and glanced around his shabby parlor. His eyes fell on a threadbare mattress in the corner that he slept on, camouflaged by all the useless junk—old magazines, newspapers, beer cans, rat poo—that was scattered about the place, and suddenly Tommy's wasn't such a bad idea at all. He wouldn't mind having a stable job for once; after all, weren't college graduates supposed to? How was he supposed to know that his degree wouldn't get him a job? What on earth was that smell? As his eyes moved over a three day old cheeseburger, a piece of which he had for breakfast, he decided that it had to stop.

No more eating stale food. No more being offered charity. No more regretting his college major. No more being poor. All because he was too decent to be otherwise. Now he had a chance to do something about his condition. Was he supposed to sit back and let it slip by, using his unwillingness to use his blasted abilities for his own gain as an excuse? Where should he draw the line? It wasn't like he was going to cheat on the lottery or something; no, this was simply using his skills to get a better job, like everybody else.

Of course, inside he knew Tommy had other motives. Motives he would have to do his best to ignore.

"Stop your whining Tommy, I'll do it," he said. "just…please, don't let my mom find out."

Tommy's bright smile suddenly shifted into something that represented a mixture of annoyance and confusion. "And how am I supposed to do that? First thing about business, Trist, is that you have to get the word to every shitbag out there, including your mom."

It was then that Tristan realized what he had put his word to. Thomas Cummings wasn't the nicest of God's creations…Thomas wasn't nice at all. Tommy was interested in one thing and one thing only, so badly that Tristan often wondered how they could be such good friends, and that was Tommy's personal gain. So much so that when the time came, Tristan knew that he had better step out of the way, else Tommy would screw him over if and when saw it fit, and exploit him and his abilities until they were barren.

"No funny business, Tommy," he warned, but he knew it was futile. Tommy wasn't even listening; he had already whipped out his cell phone and pressed his speed dial.

"Hey Joe, how're those P.I. licenses coming?"

Wed Aug 29, Sentence removed for conflicting with plot...
Tue Sep 18, small correction made...