Priestess Miriam knocked on the door of the shabby building perched on sagging pilings above the river. When no answer was heard, she hammered at the door with her stockman’s cane. The rattle of a lock and the clank of heavy chain was heard from within and the door opened just the barest crack. The single red-rimmed eye swiveled up and down to see who had the audacity to make such noise at her door and a sigh was heard from within. A shriveled crone opened the door and glowered at Miriam.
“What is it you would want?” her thin raspy voice inquired.
“If you were half the seer you claim to be, you would already know why I am here, Bella,” the priestess retorted. “I have come to ask for your aid in a serious matter.”
“Ask? You already know how this works. One does not simply ask for my help.
You may try to beg for my help with your face pressed to the floor alongside some offering meant to appease me, or you can go away! Other than your ugly cane, your hands look empty to me and there is no one else with you,” the raspy voice mocked looking from one side of Miriam to the other. What could you possibly offer me in exchange for my help?”
“I have something you want,” Miriam added hastily.
Bella appraised the voo-doo priestess through slitted eyes as though she must have missed something the first time. “Reconsider this foolishness. I can hear the desperation, the wind rattling through your bones, Les Lois have abandoned you. l am not amused by this.”
“Hear me, Bella. You will want..., perhaps even yearn to know what I have discovered.”
“And why should I take heed of the words of the fallen.”
“Because I wish to redeem myself in the eyes of the Vaudouisant.”
“Don’t try to flatter me. When your golem was destroyed, the minds of my people were torn to the point of uselessness. They can no longer feed themselves! Your name is not spoken in these halls.”
“Even if I were to bring you news of..., let us say, the Monsieur Andre Boudreaux?”
“Bah! You take me for a fool? Fortunately for us both, itis dead and gone these many years or you would not dare to speak his name aloud.”
“The Monsieur Boudreaux has a grandson who is sensitive..., perhaps even greater than it’s grandsire.”
“You lie to save your own skin!”
“I have seen it with my own eyes in Little Bayou Pigeon, Bella. It had just entered the awakening when I arrived. Adrienne herself admitted she suspected it was a sensitive the night it was christened as a babe!”
“It is here?! How..., how old is it?”
“I don’t know..., ten, maybe eleven years. It was still possible to calm the spasm with the belladonna and elderberry wax then. Weeks have passed; it may have already risen by now.”
“And you waited this long to bring it to my attention, why? Oh wait..., I see. You probably thought you could bend it’s will to your own purposes, didn’t you? Maybe put a limit on it and make it serve you, I might guess.”
“Nnn-no, Bella! I swear!”
“Fortunate that you did not try. Andre tore the minds of more than one fool who fancied herself strong enough to place a limit upon him and you believe this one may be even stronger yet!”
“Surely not..., I mean, it couldn’t possibly have, not yet...,” Miriam’s eyes became furtive and she fell to an uneasy silence remembering the fitful night she spent in the pirogue the night of the storm.
“What is it? What have you not told me!?” Bella demanded seeing her reluctance. With a sudden grimace, Bella cried out, “You fool, how do you know you weren’t followed here? You have led them to me! Go away, I don’t know you!”
Miriam stumbled back when the heavy door slammed shut and the clang of bolts being driven home was heard from within. Miriam had been stunned to see the sudden terror in the eyes of the crone. With the tables unexpectedly turned, Miriam had become the hunted and sought the safety of the shadows, anxiously peering back the way she had come.
“Mais maman! Ce n'est pas faire semblant!” (But Mama! It’s not pretending!)
“Deidre, dear, when you were four or five, your imaginary friends and fantasy worlds were absolutely adorable, but at the age of eleven, it becomes tiresome.”
“Mais maman! Ce n'était pas un fantasme. C'est vraiment arrivé!” (But Mama! It wasn’t a fantasy! It really happened!)
“Yes, of course it did darling ... and Deidre, please remember to use your English. We paid ever so much for your private tutor.”
“Mom! You’re not even listening to me!”
“Of course, I’m listening dear. Oh, and Deidre?”
“Oui, Mère?” (Yes, Mother?)
“English, please. We will be entertaining a family guest tomorrow. Your Great Aunt Therese is coming to visit from Winnipeg and she expressed a special interest in seeing you. Please try to be on your best behavior, dear.”
“Of course, Mother.”
Deidre turned then and fled the room with her fists balled tight; walking with that peculiar stiff-legged stomp pre-teens often employ to illustrate their displeasure with a confrontation. When she could no longer trust her tongue lest she utter some snide remark, she would often sing ‘Allouette’ at the top of her lungs. Once in her bedroom with her back pressed against the heavy wooden door, she sought solace in the company of her closest soulmate, one of the two human beings in the world that could possibly understand.
“Jamie chérie, s'il te plaît, dis-moi que tu es toujours éveillé.” (Jamie dear, please tell me you are still awake.)
“Your Mom again, Deidre?” Jamie replies sleepily.
“You have no idea how lucky you are that your parents know about and accept your gift. My mother thinks I’m pretending and talking to imaginary friends,” Deidre sighs in exasperation as she flops on her bed.
“Oh, I heard, believe me. Deidre, when you are upset, you talk and sing really loud. Hmm ... I wonder how many sensitives were called crazy when they spoke to people no one else could see or hear,” Jamie reasoned.
“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be on my side?” Deidre replied with a pout.
“Ma belle fille aux yeux sombre, je serai toujours de ton côté.” (My beautiful dark-eyed girl, I will always be on your side.)
“Oh, that was very good. You’ve been practicing,” Deidre gushes with a grin.
“Not really. That’s just what I hear when I think the words,” Jamie replies. “English still seems easier but I can’t explain why.”
“Anyway, my great aunt Therese is coming here to visit tomorrow all the way from Winnipeg. That’s almost as far away from Quebec City as Baton Rouge is.”
“Really? I wonder, is your great aunt from your grandmother’s or your grandfather’s side, Deidre? Has she ever come to visit you before?” Jamie inquired curiously.
“She was my grandmother’s sister I think, why?”
“My Grand Ma-ma told me something once and I didn’t understand, but she told me to remember her words. She said the gift skips a generation because sometimes things can happen that could be regretted afterward and then she said, one vessel cannot wield the whole gift alone.”
“Did she explain what she meant by that? Did she say anything else?”
“No, only to remember the words. Have you heard anything about why your great aunt might be coming to visit?”
“No, only that she was very interested in seeing me, for some strange reason.”
“She came all that way to see you?”
“Yes, that’s what my mother said anyway. I thought it sounded a little odd at the time. Maybe there was something else that I wasn’t told.”
“Okay, how about this. If your Mom doesn’t have a gift and if the gift skips a generation, then your grandmother on your Mom’s side could have had a gift. My Grand Ma-ma said she could feel it strongly in the water when we stopped that ferry boat. Maybe your great aunt felt something, too.”
“Jamie, you really have no idea how much I look forward to talking with you.”
“Grand Ma-ma always said, forewarned is forearmed.”
“Au revoir, chérie.”
“Jusqu'à ce que nous nous revoyions.” (Until we meet again.)
As the trim Learjet 25 touched down and taxied from the runway at Jean Lesage International towards a row of private hangars, a dove-grey Cadillac Fleetwood was threading 7e Avenue de l’Aéroport E to rendezvous. The twin GE turbojet engines slowly spooled down as the jet came to rest in a transient aircraft area. The copilot began to update the logs as he communicated with the tower and ground control to arrange for refueling. The pilot opened the door and lowered the stairs to the tarmac. Standing beside the aircraft, he came to parade rest.
The sole passenger, a Canadian JTF2 operator, Major Therese Bellerose descended the steps carrying a metal briefcase and returned the crisp salute of the pilot.
“Good flight as usual, Captain. If all goes well, I will conclude my business here rather quickly. Unless I communicate otherwise, I’ll be back in less than 24 hours for the return leg to Winnipeg base.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Any special instructions or just the usual protocols?”
“No, I don’t anticipate trouble. I am here under the pretense of a family visit and at least this time, it should be unnecessary to keep the aircraft idling or prep for any sort of altercation. As in the past, plans have been known to change suddenly. I will be in touch.”
“Understood, Ma’am. We’ll be ready.”
The Cadillac pulled up close enough alongside the Learjet to provide cover and the pilot opened a rear door for the Major to enter. The pilot then loaded a hard-side overnight bag into the trunk and watched as the car left the transient aircraft area.
Opening an armrest, the Major lifted the receiver of a bag phone and dialed a number from memory as the Cadillac wound its way toward an entirely different location on the Route de la Bravoure that is the home of the local DRDC, the Defense Research and Development Canada installation. The connection only rang once at her niece’s home before being answered by a familiar female voice.
“Hello, Jeanette? This is your aunt Therese. How are you?”
“Oh, Aunt Therese! We are all so anxious to see you! Are you here in Quebec City this very minute? Can I send our driver to bring you out to the house?”
“No, that won’t be necessary, dear. I don’t want my visit to be a burden on your household so I have arranged for my own transportation,” explained the Major.
“Please, Aunt Therese, it’s really no trouble. If you are at Jean Lesage, my driver can be there in ten or fifteen minutes,” pleaded Jeanette distressed.
“No, thank you. My plane has just now landed and we are taxiing to the terminal. I still need to locate my luggage and then I must deal with the airline to finalize the details of a return flight that involves a transfer. You are still on Rue Des Rosiers by the river, I trust?”
“Yes, Aunt Therese, we are. When can we expect to see you, then?”
“If I have no trouble, an hour, maybe two at the most,” replied the Major.
“A private room is ready when you arrive. We can’t wait to see you again.”
“Thank you, I’ll call if I have a problem. See you soon.”
The Cadillac turned into the gate at the DRDC and the driver flashed his credentials to an armed guard who compared the info to a document on a clipboard. The guard walked to the rear door of the car as a surprisingly thick window was rolling down to reveal the face of Major Bellerose. The guard saluted and held his gaze somewhere above the car’s roof until the Major placed him at ease.
“Welcome to the DRDC, Ma’am. You were expected earlier.”
“Thank you, Sergeant. I suppose I shouldn’t keep them waiting any longer then.”
“No Ma’am ... and, Ma’am?”
“It’s good to see you again, Ma’am.”
“Well, to be honest Sergeant, I never thought I would say this, but it is good to be back,” the Major said with a satisfied nod.
The Cadillac drove through the gate, circled around to Building 2 and stopped under a portico shielded from view of the road. The Major left the car with her briefcase and made her way toward the entrance.
On the other side of the continent in Little Bayou Pigeon, Ma-ma Boudreaux gasps and drops her cane to desperately cling to the rail of the porch stairs with both hands. Involuntary cramps close her hands on the railing as tendons stand out in her thin wrists from the sudden strange exertion.
Through clenched teeth she gasps, “Merciful Father, what is this? Ugh,” she grunts as the exertion increases yet again. “This cannot be my little Jamie or his Deidre, but who?”
“How could I have allowed such a ... oh no, the young Docteur,” she realizes as she recalls pronouncing the illumination over their final farewell holding tight to the young doctor’s hand. “It can’t be, surely not, not so soon ... he couldn’t be, but,” her arms spasm again as power flows into the air in shimmering waves completely beyond her control.
Though deformed with arthritic joints, Miriam tries to hobble faster than her legs can safely be depended on to carry her; perhaps trusting more of her weight on the stockman’s cane than is prudent as she looks back the way she has come fearing the pursuit she is certain follows her; her eyes wide with fear and her breath coming in tortured gasps.
If Dr. Williamson’s arrival had occurred two minutes later, their paths likely never would have crossed, but they collide at a shadowed corner and Miriam is almost knocked from her feet.
Suspecting treachery, the voo-doo priestess snarls, regains her footing and draws a wicked blade that glitters darkly in the half light, menacing the doctor with wide sweeps of the black ceremonial kouto, before the good doctor can respond.
The young doctor backpedals in surprise, showing open hands as he tries to back away. The oblivious voo-doo priestess advances on him raising her knife high for a slashing strike, but abruptly freezes in disbelief. To the young doctor’s astonishment, a glowing, spitting orb of energy appears to erupt from the palm of his right hand to throw brilliant arcs of violet fire into surrounding objects as it advances toward the terrified voo-doo priestess. With a wild haunted cry, she drops the black kouto and flees with the floating phantasm in relentless pursuit.
The Major freezes mid-stride as the wash of power flows over and through her; barely suppressing an instinctive urge to take cover only to realize a moment later that the source is not close but very distant.
“A sharp pulse unlike the others were, yet this one felt familiar somehow. That makes three and I’d be willing to bet this one came from Louisiana, too,” grumbled the Major as she glanced at a grey gathering storm front on the southern horizon.