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I couldn’t get the blood off of my hands! I clumsily tried wiping them on the cool night grass. Hastily I took off my shirt and managed to wipe most of it off my hands. Hoping that there wasn’t much other evidence linking me to the crime scene, I started to jog down the darkened back path. If I could get back to road and to my truck, I could put some miles between this crazy place and me. But when I reached the where the dark path meets the road, I saw the flashing lights of several police cars. I realized I was too late.
As I crept a little closer to the road, I could see several of Louisiana’s finest were already looking over my truck. Now my only hope was to double back and head into the swamp. I silently made my way down the path and through the jungle-like woods. I jogged past the spooky-looking mossy hanging trees to the water’s edge. Without hesitating, I quietly waded to the cool water. I was more afraid of the cops and a murder rap than the possibility of alligators. If I could get to the other side without making noise...
Suddenly the laser-like beam of a flashlight cut through the night and hit me—fingering me, like the mark of Cain, with the accusation of guilt.
“Police! Freeze or you’re a dead man!” commanded an angry voice from the dark.
A second light shone from the woods and illuminated me waist deep in the water.
Like a deer frozen in the headlights I stopped. I had failed to escape the police web and there were several guns trained on me. Should I give up? Should I turn myself in or run and get gunned down?
This whole mess was not like me. I’ve always been quick on my feet. For the first time in my life, events and circumstances had defeated my street-wise wits and keen sense of self-preservation. For the first time in my life, I simply didn’t know what to do!
I didn’t want to run, but no one would believe my upside down story! How do you explain black magic and shamanic medicine? How did I get into such a jam? Up to 2 days ago, I was a sharp operator. I thought back to the day when I decided to drive to the crazy, hellhole known as New Orleans.
Most people come to New Orleans to party or listen to the Jazz or taste the Cajun cooking. Hell-I came to the big easy for the easy money. Back in my neighborhood in Texas, they used to call me “Easy Money” Eddie. It’s not that I’m a real bad guy. In the back of my mind, I had some straight up plans. I figured if I got a hold of a lot of bread, I could make things up to my old girlfriend Angelica. I owed her a ton of money. Also I thought maybe…just maybe if I made something of myself, I could win her back. I knew with Angelica beside me, I could be a straight up guy again and leave my shady past behind me.
I really looked up to Angelica. She always brought out the best in me. She once told me that “there is a fine line between love and hate.” If only she could see and understand the hell I’ve been through. What a lesson I learned. I found out it is possible to love, hate, fear, and go insane all at the same time.
It was two weeks after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. I drove all day and all night through Texas to make some easy money on the cleanup. On the way down South, I was playing a CD of Santana’s greatest hits. It was a gift from Angelica and it put me in a good mood. About 20 minutes before New Orleans the CD suddenly stopped working. It was a bad omen.
When I finally cruised into New Orleans, I was taken back by the sheer magnitude of devastation. Most of the city was still underwater. The dry part of the city was full of miles and miles of homes shattered like matchsticks and hordes of desperate poor people. It was hard to believe that all this destruction was caused by one storm. It broke my heart to see all the people down on their luck, but I figured I’d make some money now and do charity work later. I kept driving until I hit the south side of the city. I was almost to St. Bernard’s Parish when it started to get dark. I spotted a nightclub that was still standing and looked open. I decided to grab a beer and ask someone where the lucrative construction work was.
I parked the truck and looked around. The club had a beaten up sign that said “Black Magick Café - Music and Drinks.” The club was next to a motel complex that barely weathered the hurricane. The sign “Deluxe Economy Motel” was half fallen down. It looked like a dump. On the other side of the club was a restaurant that was still standing but was closed.
For some reason, I hesitated before I went in. From somewhere deep in my gut came an instinctive message not to go in. As logic could not identify a clear reason not to go in, I pulled the wooden door and walked in.
The air conditioning didn’t work and the thick air had the same dammed humid Louisiana feeling. The cheap sound system was playing New Orleans dixieland jazz music. I always hated that old stuff. As I walked over the fancy wood floor to the bar, I noticed that most of the people inside seemed to be locals who were interested in getting drunk and forgetting their problems. After a shot and a beer I felt more at home, but still wondered if I was wasting my time.
I started making small talk with the bartender who turned out to be the owner of the beat up motel and the beat up club and the beat up restaurant. He said that there was a lot of profitable construction work in the area and he had all the contacts. I decided it would be good for me to stay around and get some leads. I got the bartender‘s attention and ordered another beer. Then it happened.
It was the moment when the owner casually stepped away to get my beer and I eased back and slowly turned to lean on the rail and the piped in dixieland jazz music suddenly stopped leaving a strange hush in the room. That was when I first saw her. From the back room, the most beautiful and mysterious woman I’ve ever seen was staring directly at me. She had dark skin, with dark flowing hair across her shoulders and was wearing a black dress that was so tight that it looked like it had been painted on. As her sleek body walked across the room toward me, I wondered what a dynamite, babe like her was doing in a dump like this.
“You look like you’re from out of town,” she said in a soft, sexy Caribbean accent. “What brings you to New Orleans,”
I couldn’t believe my luck! This lady was drop dead sexy. She could have had any guy in the place, but she only seemed interested in me. She talked with me for a good two hours. She said she was a voodoo priestess or boker and tried to explain some of her strange craft to me.
Most of the mysterious things she talked about went way over my head. She spoke about aligning with dark forces and manipulating the universe. She spoke about bending energies that create a ripple effect in space/time. When she got too far out there, I nodded my head and pretended I was following what she said.
Finally, she invited me back to her place. She was staying in a cottage behind the motel. I should have said no. I should have stayed true to my feelings for Angelica, but she was so young and beautiful. I just couldn’t say no.
I don’t remember much else about that weird night. But I remember walking out the Pub door and following her past a long row of motel rooms and down the back path. I vaguely remember was walking into her cottage room. There was a table in the center of the room with knifes, bells, rattles, and bowls on it. In one of the bowls was a dead chicken. Stacked high against all the walls were bottles if every imaginable size, shape. Each bottle was carefully labeled as to the contents: herb, exotic root, powered flower, or whatever weirdo substance. The last thing I remember was her asking me about “love spells.”
I opened my eyes. I was in a strange motel room sitting on the floor with my back to the wall. I immediately sat up and a blinding headache sent a sharp spike of pain through my brain.
“Man,” I groaned. I pressed my hands against my temples and leaned back against the wall. That’s when I saw the body.
On the bed was a young man with a large knife in his chest. The bed was soaked with blood. In the partially darkened room, it was hard to tell how dry the blood was.
Crazy thoughts went through my dazed mind. Did I kill this man? What was I doing here? Did I get so drunk that I passed out? What happened to the beautiful, mysterious woman?
I had a lot of questions, but there was no question that I had to get the hell out of there. I peeked out the drapes. The motel hall was empty. It was dark out. Like a cat, I slipped out the door and noiselessly moved down the stairs to the street. Once on the street, I tried to stay in the shadows and walk at a steady pace, not trying to attract attention. Whenever I saw headlights, I ducked out of sight.
I walked steadily in the direction of New Orleans until the sun came up. It was about 5:00 when a store sign said I was in Jefferson Parish. Figuring I had put enough miles between me and the crime scene, I hitched a ride.
When I asked a guy who gave me the ride what day it was, he looked at me like I was crazy. But at least he told me that it was Tuesday. That meant that I had blacked out for only 5 hours. I had no idea what I had done in those missing 5 hours. He dropped me off at the Black Magic Café. My truck was still parked out front.
Deciding that I had had enough of Louisiana for one lifetime, I climbed into my truck. I squealed the tires as I pulled out of the parking lot and started back home. After a couple of hundred miles, I hit the Texas border. When it started to get dark, I stopped at a cheap motel in a little Southern Texas town. As I turned off the engine, I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything all day. The driving, the lack of food and the fear of New Orleans had weakened me.
I quickly ate a greasy meal at the greasy local diner and headed back to my greasy room. I turned on the TV to a New Orleans station. When a news show mentioned the murder, out of paranoia, I turned the sound down low. The paranoid part of me half-expected cops to jump out from behind the cheap drapes.
The news story on low volume said that the body of a suspected New Orleans crime figure was found and the police were asking for anyone who saw anything to come forward. I turned the damn news off and immediately felt safer. Logically I knew I was safe. The dumb cops would never think to come to south Texas. Tomorrow I would be home and the nightmare would be over. Without taking my clothes off, I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
The cold tile floor felt cool to my cheek. I opened my eyes. My head was aching. I was lying on my side in a front tile hallway. I slowly sat up. That was when I saw the body.
Ten feet away was a middle-aged man in a white shirt and a stylish tie. There was a nasty red spot on his chest. I started to rise to my feet and I noticed that there was a .45 handgun in my hand. Where did I get this gun? How did I lose control of my life?
This time there could be no doubt that I was in trouble. I looked out the window. Outside was an upscale New Orleans neighborhood. Somehow I had made it back to New Orleans and got involved in another murder.
I put gun on safety—although at this point, nothing in my life was safe—and stuffed the gun in my belt. I pulled my shirt out to cover the weapon and slipped out the back door and into the night.
Hoping that no one in this classy neighborhood ever looked out their windows, I quickly walked down the street. I had no idea where I was going. After I walked several miles, my head began to clear.
The sun was coming up when I noticed a newspaper stand. I checked that date on the paper and was shocked to see that it was Thursday. Where was Wednesday? That last thing I remember was falling asleep in a south Texas motel Tuesday night. How did I get back to New Orleans?
I had no idea what I had done in the missing day and I had never been so frightened in my life. I looked in my pocket and found I still had my wallet full of spending money. I dropped 50 cents in a pay phone and made a collect call to Angelica in south Texas. I didn’t deserve her to accept the charges, but she did.
“Angelica, I...I’m kinda in a jam.”
“I can’t tell you. But do you remember you had a friend in college that told you about voodoo.”
“Didn’t she say that it was possible for a voodoo boker to take control of a live person and turn him into a zombie-like state.”
“Yes, but I don’t know if she was right. She said it could be done with a combination of two medicines. The first medicine creates a death-like trance in a victim. The second puts a person in a zombie-like trance where the victim has no will of their own.”
“Angelica—you deserve better than me. I have to take care of something and then come home.”
“Be careful. There is a lot of voodoo in New Orleans.”
I made some small talk and got off the line. I wondered if the voodoo woman put something in my drink that first crazy night. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew I had to go back to the voodoo woman if I ever wanted to break free from her control and get back to Angelica.
I hitched a ride back to the Black Magick Café. My truck was still outside. I reached into the glove compartment and pulled out my hunting knife. I walked quickly past the motel rows to the back voodoo cottage. I was determined to confront her. Wanting to show I meant business, I pulled the out the .45 and I barged through the front door.
She was calmly sitting in the center of the room waiting for me. Somehow she knew I was coming. She slowly stood up.
“You’ve done such a good job, come to me.”
For some reason I stepped toward her. I strangely felt as if everything was OK.
“Now put the gun on the table.”
I slowly laid the gun on the table. I felt my free will melting away and found myself blindly obeying. Instead of fear, I only felt great love and devotion to her. I reasoned that she must have some kind of black magic spell on me. Even though I knew it was some kind of unnatural psychic connection, it all felt comfortable, warm and even normal. Even though I was terrified at the prospect of permanently losing control over myself, I still strangely felt safe.
“Is this all a love spell?” I said.
“It depends on the inner man you are and your motives and goals and the intent of your heart. Now—I have one more thing for you to do. She came towards me and was about to put her lips to mine.”
From the depths of my inner being, came the last desperate gasp from my soul and the inner man that I am. I felt I had to do something now or forever lose my freedom. I quickly reached into my pocket for the hunting knife and blindly slashed outwards again and again and again until I heard her body drop to the ground.
When she dropped to the floor, I instantly felt the release of her voodoo hold on me and the return of my free will. Suddenly I was no longer a living zombie slave.
I stepped back from the body. The knife and the gun had my prints on it so I grabbed them. Hoping no one saw me going to the back cottage, I ran into the night. Knowing that the police can nail a murder rap on you leaves you with a fear high. It’s not a fun feeling. With shaking hands, I threw the gun and the knife into the swamp.
“Freeze!” the police voice repeated.
Standing in the swamp, I thought about my dismal prospects for the future and, in the end, I didn’t run. Somehow it seemed worse to commit suicide by running and having the cops gun you down like a dog. The cops dragged me out of the swamp and cuffed me. As they led me up the path to the main road, the Pub owner/bartender ran out of the bar and yelled at me.
“I called the cops on you, but you killed her anyway! You fool! She was going to let you go after three times! She was going to be the voodoo priestess for all of New Orleans.” The cops pushed him back.
“Don’t you realize she was the most powerful boker the world had ever seen.” The dude started to become hysterical and his voice became a shrill, shriek. “We hired her and she was going to save us! She was cleaning up the New Orleans scum that looted homes after the hurricane and the crooked politicians that betrayed us. Then she was going to use her voodoo powers to protect the city from future Hurricanes. She was going to save us from the next big one!”
I tried to answer, but no sound came out of my mouth. I simply stared at the man as the goon-like cops pushed me toward the cruiser. I knew I should never have come to devastated New Orleans for easy money and to rip people off.
“She was going to set you free. Now we’re all going to get wiped out again—just like Katrina!”
The big beefy cops stuffed me into the back of a cruiser. When the cop car pulled out of the parking lot and into the street, I didn’t need to look ahead to know the road I was on. I was trapped on a one-way street where the cold, unfeeling wrath of the machinery of criminal justice system was going to put me away. No one would believe a defense of black magic and voodoo. No one would believe I was only trying to escape her evil hold on me.
But my inevitable downfall and punishment isn’t the whole story. I have another cross to bear. Also on my conscience is the fate of the city of New Orleans. Some people feel a sense of guilt because of not doing enough to help the people of New Orleans who suffered in the Katrina hurricane tragedy. I bear a much larger guilt. She--I don’t even know her name--was the most powerful voodoo priestess in the world. She was going to use her voodoo powers to save New Orleans from the next Hurricane tragedy. When the next big hurricane destroys the city and hundreds of innocent people die, it will be my fault. I will have the blood of those that die on my hands. This time I will never get the blood off of my hands.
Just because you don't believe in it, doesn't make it false. Interesting story. Well written. Dogpatch
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|Time Wars & other SciFi Tales|
by Gordon Rowlinson