In 2004 a young Massachusetts woman crashed her car in New Hampshire and disappeared. She had a run-in with the law shortly before her disappearance but there was no legal action pending at the time, so I doubt it was a planned exit.
I put this case through my “Train to Nowhere” missing-person spread to see what kind of story it would tell. This spread is based on a “locomotive” motif, which each of 13 positions – from the engine to the caboose – suggesting one possible location to look for the individual. I choose a court card (“Significator”) in advance to represent the subject of the reading and then shuffle, cut and deal the cards face-down into 13 piles, left-to-right. Next I locate the Significator in one of the piles and either read the two cards next to it or the entire line if it shows up at one end of the pile. I use reversals to indicate the degree of difficulty that may be experienced in conducting the search and solving the case. In this instance I used the CBD Tarot de Marseille and selected the Valet (Page/Princess) of Batons/Wands as the Significator. The Valet turned up at the top of the very last pile – the Caboose – with five cards beneath that I read as a story. In my model, the Caboose means “In the background; hard to see; not easily found.”
The tale begins, as it should, with the person of interest, the Valet of Batons upright; she had no reason to believe anything unfortunate was about to happen. Take away the staff and you have an innocent hitchhiker, probably standing next to her disabled car.
The next card, the King of Swords reversed, suggests an older man who deceived her (perhaps offering her a ride and then kidnapping her). The King is looking rather surreptitiously back at the Valet; he probably passed her and then backed up to talk to her.
Death in the third position needs no explanation. It shows the probable outcome of the encounter with the King of Swords. The King wielding his “big red sword” suggests that she was raped first.
The 7 of Coins, Temperance reversed and the 4 of Cups reversed give me the idea that she was weighted down (7 of Coins) and thrown in a deep body of water (Temperance rx) which closed over her head without a trace (4 of Cups rx). The 4 of Cups rx implies that the King was able to cover his tracks and has kept the secret to himself all this time. Some decks show a man in the 7 of Coins (or Pentacles) working the soil with farming implements, presenting another possibility for interment.
There is a repetition of the number Four in this series, among other fascinating numerological nuances. Four has an affinity for the element of Earth, the realm of sensation.
The King is the fourth court card of its suit and signifies solidity and stability as shown by his cubic throne; the man shown here may have been well-established in the community (with Swords, possibly a lawyer, doctor or other “pillar” of professional dignity). The King is the 14th card of the suit, and turning it upside-down places the “4” before the “1,” giving the idea that sensuality and desire overrode reason in his mind. The red sword in his hand symbolizes the same thing. But this King is certainly clever (and devious) enough to hide any incriminating evidence.
The number of Death (13) reduces numerologically to “4” (1+3 = 4), tying it closely to the King’s intentions. Both the King and Death are therefore connected to the Emperor, with “power and domination” two of the key concepts of that card.
The 7 of Coins is composed of an inverted triangle over a square; of the square, Joseph Maxwell says in part that the subject is “in the way of committing a serious error of judgement,” while the triangle looks like a vessel or cup, giving me the intuitive impression of “water over earth;”
Temperance is numbered XIIII (not the typical XIV), but its reversal places the “IIII” before the “X;” Pythagoras said “the Ten is complete in the Four,” an observation arising from the fact that the first four numbers add up to Ten (1+2+3+4 = 10); this has an impulsive “act first and think later” instability to it, with “temperance” flying out the window.
Reversal of the 4 of Cups imparts a doubling of the ennui usually associated with this card; the King was most likely bored and looking for excitement. The overturned cups make me think the opportunity fell in his lap like “mana from heaven.” He has been able to kept the memory sealed in his consciousness for the last 14 years (another numerological correspondence to both rhe King and Temperance).
The question here wasn’t “What happened to Maura?” but rather “Where is she?” The “Caboose” shows that the mystery will probably remain so for some time, but the cards in the narrative point to the likelihood that she was murdered and submerged in a lake or other body of water. Temperance suggests moving water, but the 4 of Cups is more placid (and – since it is reversed – possibly stagnant like a swamp where any signs of putrefaction would be less noticeable); in both cases the reversal means it’s probably a watery grave of considerable depth.