Friday Flashback: A Game of Cards

Two years ago, suffering from the onset of severe ulcerative colitis, and suffering even more from the steroids prescribed to treat it, I began writing a mystery novel. I wrote four chapters and then, having at last recovered, abandoned the writing in the midst of the fifth chapter. I was in a near-hallucinatory state when I wrote much of it. I’m thinking of picking it up where I left off. Here is the last completed chapter:


linda bergkvist game of cardsThis is the fourth chapter of what is evolving of its own accord into a strange sort of mystery novel. The first chapter, Miro, is published here. The second chapter, Letter to Ariela, is published here. The third chapter, the Faeries of Morpheus, is published here. Chapter five, Review of the Evidence, is in progress. The novel consists of a set of fragments, recollections and memorabilia, that are  discovered by Inspector Tom·s Moreno LÛpez in a carved box in the home of Miro, an engineer who has mysteriously disappeared and is now assumed dead. The carved box was apparently made by Miro’s estranged wife Ariela, a famous artist, who has turned up at a country inn, incoherent and delirious, and fallen into a mute trance, oblivious and unresponsive to everyone, including the couple’s two adult children. So Inspector Moreno must try to piece together the puzzle from the ‘clues’ in the box, each of which is contained in a numbered envelope, and each of which, as Moreno reads and ponders them, becomes a chapter of the novel.  Here are the contents of the fourth envelope:


The four of them — Miro, his neighbours Wolf and Kristen (parents of the delightful Birgit, who had brought him the abandoned Puppi and Kitti, the wonderful creatures who filled some of the empty space left by the departure of his beloved Ariela), and Elena, the community school principal, who frequently borrowed Ariela’s artwork and Miro’s architectural drawings as inspiration for her students — met monthly for a game of cards in Miro’s solarium.

The game of cards was just a pretext for their monthly get-togethers, which often evolved into artistic and philosophic explorations that lasted well into the night. Each ‘game’ evening had a different theme, and Miro prided himself on creating an atmosphere in the entirely glass-surrounded solarium that reflected the theme and inspired the evening’s activities. Tonight, the theme was Sensation and Intuition, and the game played was a Basque bluffing game that used an unusual Tarot deck — each card was illustrated with a unique work of art that suggested the meaning of the card, so that readings could be entirely intuitive rather than based on ‘learned’ meanings of the cards.

The card game involved the collection of runs and sets, using the Tarot deck’s four suits and the arcana as a fifth, higher-ranking suit, but also involved a declaration in which not all the cards were revealed, and, unless challenged (which carried a penalty if unsuccessful) it was the best declared hand, not the best actual hand, that won the round. But before a challenge, potential challengers were permitted to ask questions of the declarer and discuss with the other players whether they thought the declarer’s body language betrayed a bluff or not. Miro quickly discovered the symmetry of ability to bluff and ability to suss out bluffing in others– since he lacked both.

Read the rest of this chapter.

Artwork above is from Sweden’s Linda Bergkvist at furiae. Some of her extraordinary work is available for sale through her site.

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