Gabriel slid behind the wheel of his charger on a full stomach of waffles, bacon, runny eggs, and frustration. His mind was clouded but buzzed with fragments of stray thoughts. Nothing really formed coherently in his head anymore; giving his psyche a veneer of emotional grime as malleable as sun fried rubber. He needed sleep.
He pulled out his phone and dialed Bastiaan again. After a few rings the screen lit up with a live video feed of Bastiaan.
“I’m gonna stay here tonight and head out sometime tomorrow.” Gabriel said watching smoke seep out of the shaman’s nostrils. “Should be back in New Orleans by Wednesday.”
“Hurry back, mon. Sooner you get me that crystal, sooner you get paid.”
A smoldering fire at the back of Gabriel’s head belched a lick of flame. “I’m not doing this for the money!”
Bastiaan just grinned two rows of brilliantly white teeth restraining his yellow tongue. “That’s what they all say at first.”
“Sabine’s only been doing this a year longer than me.”
“And she do it for the money now.” Bastiaan retorted.
“Whatever. I’ll get there when I get there.” Gabriel scoffed and hung up the phone.
He knew he couldn’t afford to linger in this city much as his last retainer from Bastiaan was almost gone. So he drove to a drug store to pick up something to help him sleep, and after that he rented a hotel room and collapsed on the bed. Within minutes he was miles and years away, back to when this chapter of his life started.
As executor of his newly deceased wife’s estate he now was filing taxes for two. Sifting through her income slips, bill receipts, and processed checks he found a payment of three thousand dollars to someone named Bastiaan LeFeure. If it had been a small amount of money he probably wouldn’t have given the matter much thought, but due to the size of the payment and that Michelle had never discussed it with him he was both curious and angry. After another hour’s search through desk drawers and shoeboxes, he found a coffee-stained business card giving Bastiaan’s address and phone number in New Orleans.
He dialed the number on the card and a young Creole woman’s voice greeted him.
“Yes?” she asked impertinently.
“I’m looking for a Bastan La Foo.” Gabriel said.
“What you want with Bastiaan LeFeure?” she said emphasizing the undertone of “stupid white man” in her voice.
“My wife paid him for something. I want to know what.”
“Maybe you should ask her.”
“I can’t she-”
“She don’t talk to you about it, then mind your own business.”
“Look,” Gabreial shouted, “she’s dead, and now it is my business! I want to know why she paid Bastiaan three thousand dollars.”
“…Just a moment.” the woman said, and then there was a long pause on the line.
“Yes.” eventually came the dark voice of a Jamaican man.
“Is this Bastiaan LeFeure?”
“My name is Gabriel Whindam. My wife did business with you.”
“What her name?”
“…You say she dead, now?”
“Last week. Look, what’s going on here?”
“You come see me. We sort you out.” Bastiaan said and hung up.
Gabriel’s anger and curiosity got the better of him and he made the long trip from Suffolk, Virginia to New Orleans, Louisiana. When he got to the address on the card he found himself looking at a townhouse on the intersection of three streets populated by some decent looking shops and cafes.
He rang the doorbell and then was looking down into the face of a young mulatto woman in overalls, white linen shirt, red bandana, and rubber gloves. She smelled of disinfectant, but would have been attractive if not for the you-are-wasting-my-time aura radiating off her.
“I’m Gabriel Whindam. We talked on the phone.”
“Oh?” she said and pursed her lips in thought. Then she stepped back and gestured through the door way. “Come in. He’s in the parlor.”
In the parlor Gabriel met Bastiaan sitting reading the newspaper. Bastiaan was a tall lean Jamaican, with a bald head, wearing a white dress shirt, pleated pinstripe pants held up with suspenders and alligator loafers. This offended Gabriel’s stereotypes of black poverty in general, while Gabriel himself was wearing jeans, T-shirt, and an old White Sox jacket.
Bastiaan put down his newspaper, rose, and extended a hand to Gabriel. Gabriel shook firmly resisting the urge to drive his nails into the back of the other man’s hand.
“Bastiaan LeFeure.” the man said. “How can help you?”
“I’m Gabriel Whindam. We talked on the phone.”
Bastiaan nodded retrieving his hand from Gabriel’s uncomfortable grasp.
“Who’s the girl?” Gabriel asked, noticing the definite lack of the rude girl’s presence.
“My niece, Rachael.”
Gabriel looked around the room. “You do pretty well for yourself here.”
“Yes, I do.” Bastiaan grinned proudly.
“On my wife’s money.”
“…Yes, I do.” Bastiaan sneered defensively. “Money already spent.”
“On a suit?”
Gabriel grimaced at Bastiaan for a long moment before either of them spoke.
“What is it you do here?” he said.
“A Voudoun priest, mon. Twelve years ago Legba came to me and told me to come here and watch over this loa.”
“I protect the spirit of this place.”
“No, mon. The intersection.” Bastiaan said pointing out the window to the street. “Is ripe with the crossing of the lines.”
“Okay, you better start making some sense right now.”
Bastiaan’s brow furled as he took a moment to translate his thoughts into something that Gabriel would be able to understand.
“I’a shaman. I give…spiritual healing and communicate with spirits of the dead.”
Gabriel was unconvinced. “Michelle came here to talk to a dead person?”
“No, mon. She…come to be put right. Her soul were…out of balance.”
“I’m not buying any of your voodoo crap. You just conned my wife into paying you three thousand dollars and I want it back.”
“Whether you believe or no, don’t make it not true.”
Gabriel paused in order to sort out the negatives of the last sentence while fuming anger wafted off him. Bastiaan obviously was hiding something, but right now Gabriel was too angry to think clearly about sorting out what that might be.
“What you do, mon?”
“You job. What you do?”
“I’m a sanitation engineer.”
“You a garbage man.”
“No, I’m…Yes. I’m a garbage man!”
“You know how things get bad when trash pile on the street. Same thing with Michelle. I clean out the garbage of her soul. Clean her head.”
Gabriel thought about this. Michelle had been feeling depressed in recent years. She had gone to therapists, and then one day about nine months ago she felt happy and lively again. Gabriel had put it down to a break through in her therapy sessions. Michelle was doing well, their marriage was happy, and then out of left field she hung herself in the kitchen.
“How did Michelle die?”
“She killed herself.”
Bastiaan frowned. “I see.”
“Wait a minute.” Gabriel suddenly glared and jabbed Bastiaan in the chest with his finger. “You did something to her. You put this in her head!”
“No, mon. I help her. But a loa—a bad spirit, maybe were watching and got in her.”
“You said the loa was a street.”
“The loa be spirits. All spirits. Places. Good. Bad. In everything.”
“And you exposed her to one of these spirits?”
“No. I clean her up. She become more…receptive.”
“So you’re saying it’s still your fault!”
“No. No, mon. Not what I saying.”
“Yes it is! If she hadn’t come to you, none of this would have happened.”
“Yes. But she come to me. She find me. Her choice.”
Gabriel swung at Bastiaan, but the spry Jamaican dodged back; and with Gabriel off balance, Bastiaan got him in a headlock.
“Fighting me no bring you wife back!”
“Get off me!”
“But I can help you find her.”
Gabriel stopped struggling and listened. He listened to Bastiaan explain about the Spirit Healing, about loa and guedes, about how Bastiaan believed that certain angry dead spirits were the cause of most suicides and mass murders. About how Bastiaan had sent off people to collect these guedes before they caused further harm. He explained the crystals.
“And I pay you five thousand dollars for every crystal you bring back.” Bastiaan said.
Gabriel looked down at the blue crystal in his hand, watching the light refract through it onto the floor in a rainbow of dancing symbols. “So you want to pay me to find these dead spirits for you.”
“No, mon.” Bastiaan grinned. “You want me pay you, so you can be finding you wife.”
To be continued…