This fourth and final Solomon King story was written between the 6th and 13th of May, 1988 Era Vulgari. A very rough, sketchy draft of a fifth adventure was written, but never finished. It has been two decades since this story was written and my skill as a writer has improved somewhat (let us hope!) over these many years.
It is possible that I may return to Solomon and Kyoko in the future, rework their characters and write better stories, but with all of the other characters beating on the inside of my skull, demanding to be freed to live their lives in print, it is more likely that these will be the only stories through which Solomon King and Kyoko Toshiro will manifest. Therefore, despite the immaturity of style, I hope you enjoy what may very well be the final adventure of Solomon King.
"And now back to Let's Talk with our host, Phillip Donovan!"
While the studio audience applauded as enthusiastically as possible on command of the electronic applause sign, camera number two zoomed in on the set as Donovan stepped back onto the stage, his horn-rimmed glasses and artificial smile securely in place.
"Thank you! Thank you very much," the host said. "We have a really wonderful show for you today. It's all about ... Voodoo." Donovan turned toward the set behind him where his guests were seated in a row of chairs facing the audience and cameras. "We have with us today the Reverend Doctor Lady Antoinette French." Camera one closed in on a very large black woman wearing a tent-like black dress adorned with brightly coloured scarves and glittering costume jewelry. About her head she wore another brilliantly patterned scarf Aunt Jemima fashion and large gaudy earrings dangled from her equally large ears. The Reverend Doctor Lady, her face a mask of mock sophistication and hautiness, nodded slightly to the camera. "The Reverend Doctor Lady French is a Voodoo priestess," Donovan explained, "a mam'bo."
The cameraman, who was occasionally panning the studio audience for reactions, momentarily froze upon the visage of a tall, slender black woman. Her hair was tied back and she wore a rainbow-coloured cap with her otherwise conservative and expensive ensemble. The woman was the picture of regal elegance as she, apparently unaware of the camera lens focused on her, impassively watched the proceedings before her. Ever so slightly her lips moved as she whispered a word that of course could not be heard since there were no microphones in the vicinity.
"Caplata," a man many miles away repeated as he watched the television program. The fact that the first guest on Let's Talk was a fake bocor, a low-calibre herbalist or "witch doctor" at best, was obvious to the woman in the studio audience as well as the man watching television. The general public, however, would no doubt accept "The Reverend Doctor Lady" as the genuine article, representative of all Voodoo mam'bos.
"Also with us today," Donovan continued, "is Ms. Louise Pembroke." Camera one moved from the black woman to a young, skinny white girl with a very WASPish appearance. "Ms. Pembroke has been initiated into the Voodoo religion and has written a book entitled The Beautiful Side of Voodoo. And last but certainly not least," the cameraman slid away from the Vassar graduate to focus upon a tall, imposing black man with slightly greying hair, wearing a severe dark grey three-piece suit, "Doctor Wat'ta Doumey." The man, his face seemingly carved from the finest ebony, nodded gravely to the camera. "Doctor Doumey is an anthropologist and an expert on African and Haitian Voodoo beliefs and practices."
The camera pulled back, returning to the host."
"I would like to thank you all for being here. It is a real pleasure." Again, on command, the audience applauded, but briefly this time, after which Donovan began the program in earnest. "Reverend Doctor Lady French, would you please tell us something about Voodoo?"
"Well," the large black woman began, "first of all you must realize dat Voodoo is a religion. It is da ting dat most people here do not realize. Voodoo is da oldest religion in existence which originated in Guinee ... in Afreeka ... from which place all of mankind came. It is not a bad ting. We do not curse people. That is all Hollywood fantasy. We of da Voodoo religion are peace-loving people."
"I see," Donovan replied. "Then there are no such things as zombies and you don't use Voodoo dolls to place hexes upon people?"
"Zombies are only mythological characters and we do not put curses on people."
Donovan lifted two featureless stuffed dolls up to the camera. One of the dolls was made of black and the other of red material. Their heads, hands and feet were squarish.
"You never employ anything like this?"
"Yes. We use da poppets, but not for curses. We use dem for blessings and healings only. We do not practice da black magic or witchcraft."
"Reverend Doctor Lady, would you show us a typical Voodoo ritual?"
"I would be happy to." Beside the pseudo-priestess was a cardtable upon which numerous articles had been laid out--such things as tiny bottles of brightly tinctured oils and a gaudy statue of a woman in red robes with a great deal of gold ornamentation. "Dis," the woman said, gently touching the cheap religious statue, "is Saint Barbara..."
"Saint Barbara?" Donovan asked.
"Yes. Many years ago when da Christians tried to convert da followers of Voodoo we absorbed Christianity into our religion since dere is really so little actual difference. We worship and invoke many loas which you might call spirits and saints, and many of dese are identified with your Christian saints. Saint Barbara is da one dat we wish to pray to here because I am going to do a love ritual."
"Will this work for anyone?" Donovan, going through his third and very public divorce, asked with a smile.
"Yes. Dis will work for all peoples."
"Then I'd like to talk with you after the show." The studio audience laughed. Without the prompting of a cue-card. The Reverend Doctor Lady's round dark face remained perfectly expressionless.
"First," the woman continued, taking the joke seriously, "you must take a picture of da loved one, cut out da face like this," she cut it into a circular shape with a pair of children's safety sissors, "den you must put it into da bottom of an empty pineapple can." The Reverend Doctor Lady gently laid the picture into an empty can, the label still on it, then she placed her hand over the open top. "I always use Dole pineapples because you must give da very best to da loas." The studio audience chuckled over her impromtu commercial endorsement. The woman was serious, however, and her expression did not change. "You must be sure to put da photograph in face up. Den you add a little Do As You Say Oil." She uncapped a small bottle of green oil. "It is important dat you use exactly seven drops."
"Like a physician's medication the proper dosage is important?"
"Dat's right, Mr. Donovan," she either ignored his smile or failed to notice it, "in Voodoo obedience and discipline as well as precision are very important." She then picked up another bottle and poured a syrupy red oil into the can. "Next you might wish to add a little Love Drawing Oil. Maybe den some Don't Forget Me Oil." The woman added an amber liquid. "And even a bit of Desire Me Oil for extra good measure." A clear fluid was mixed in with the rest. "To give it some extra power we add Power Oil and maybe some High John da Conqueror root."
"High John the Conqueror root," Donovan said, "is a very powerful herb?"
"Very powerful, but not da most powerful. Da most powerful is da Devil's Shoestring."
"What do you do with the pinapple that was originally in the can?"
"Dat we bury in da west end of da cemetary along with someting personal from da loved one ... someting like his underware or da seat of his pants." The audience chuckled again, and once more the woman paid no attention to the guffaws.
"After all dis," she continued, "we pray, fast and send da magic on its way."
"We might say, for instance, da thirty-eighth and nineteenth psalms and maybe da hundred and forty-first psalm to ask God to work quickly."
"Reverend Doctor Lady, were you always a member of the Voodoo religion?"
"Always, Mr. Donovan, since I was a little girl. But I was also born a Catholic."
"Thank you Reverend Doctor Lady French." Donovan turned to the audience. "Before we talk to our other guests I'd like to introduce the Battre Tambour troup as they perform a Nago ritual dance."
The set was immediately filled with the beating drums of Voodoo as two lithe black men called upon warrior spirits by way of dance. The men were barefoot and wore only bright scarlet pantaloons and headbands along with scarves tied around their left biceps and the hilts of the shiny silver swords that they swung about as they inacted a stylistic battle. While the dancers moved with a serpentine undulation, the drummers picked up the beat and began to chant. The swords, of course, never made contact, and the entire performance seemed little different from any nation's ceremonial dance.
The audience applauded upon the completion of the performance, there was a commercial break, and then again to the sound of on-cue-applause the program continued.
"Our next guest," the host announced as the last echo of the applause was fading away, "is Ms. Pembroke. I'm glad to have you with us," Donovan said, turning to a well if conservatively groomed woman.
"Thank you," she replied all prim and proper.
"I've read your book, The Beautiful Side of Voodoo, and I enjoyed it very much. Now isn't it unusual that a white person whould be admitted into the Voodoo religion?"
Not as unusual as one might think, but you have to remember that I was born and raised in South Africa and Voodoo was all around me since the very beginning. My nanny, for instance, was a practitioner of Voodoo."
Donovan questioned the young lady a while longer but having received very little of interest from her, practically nothing of her personal beliefs and feelings, he moved on to Doctor Doumey.
"You are not a Voodoo practitioner?"
"That is correct. I am a professor of anthropology with a special interest in Voodoo."
"And you originally come from Haiti?"
"No. Originally I come from Africa, but as a child my parents took me to Haiti."
"Was that during the time Papa Doc was in power?"
Oh yes. François Duvalier, who died in 1971, was Haiti's president at the time and it was because of his regime that I left. Duvalier was a tyrant, an excommunicated Catholic, even a practising physician at one time, but when his Ton Ton Macoute, his 'bogeymen' or secret police began dragging people out of their homes never to be seen again, I knew it was time to get out."
"Do you think it is true that Papa Doc...Duvalier...put a death curse on JFK and the entire Kennedy family after the president denounced him and cut off American aid to Haiti?"
"Well...I will not say no, but very often these stories are apocryphal and entirely fictious. Certainly such things can and do happen. While Voodoo is a religion that concentrates upon the good of the société, there are those practitioners like Duvalier who will use the power of Voodoo to gain control over others. It is only the red Voodooists that require human blood in their ceremonies, they are considered criminals by the majority of Voodoo practitioners, but they do exist nevertheless."
"What about animal sacrifices, zombies, that sort of thing?"
"Zombies, as the Reverend Doctor Lady has pointed out, are merely mythological characters. As for animal sacrifices, this is common to all religions, although it is mostly symbolic in these modern times. It is the cessation of the actual sacrifice and its replacement with a symbolic gesture that some Voodooists believe has taken the power out of most of the world religions and one of the reasons for the religious crisis in America today. Voodoo, although it has of course changed with the centuries, absorbed elements from other religions and combined various traditions, remains very much the same as it was in the beginning. To some, Voodoo practices may seem primative or barbaric, but no one attending a ceremony doubts the power of Voodoo. You see, the average Jew or Christian, for example, goes to temple or church and prays to God. The Voodoo practitioner attends ritual services at the oum'phor and becomes God. The loa or loas invoked ride the choual or 'horse', possess the Voodooist, and this is a great blessing upon both the individual as well as the entire société."
The program continued, the guests answering questions from the studio audience, responding to telephone call ins, and inquiries from the host himself, then Phillip Donovan turned toward the television camera and bid farewell to the viewers. When the credits finished rolling and the commercials had been aired, a news anchorman appeared on the TV screen for a moment to entice people into viewing the eleven o'clock news by mentioning the Pope's planned visit to the city, his staunch stand against all occultism as "devil-worship", and the latest on State Senator Richard Thoreaucill, whom many believed would be the next President of the United States.
At that point Solomon King switched the television set off and turned to his companion, Kyoko Toshiro.
"Lady Olwyn would not have liked what that fat lady say." King smiled as Kyoko spoke of the Wiccan High Priestess, not only because what she said was true, but the way she said it was incredibly cute. Even after all the years they'd been together King could never be quite sure about how much of Kyoko's accent was genuine and how much was affected.
"You mean when 'the Reverend Doctor Lady' equated Witchcraft with black magic?"
"Yes, you are right about that and I wouldn't blame her. Such careless usage of words leads to a great deal of misconception promoting further ignorance in society. Most people do not realize that there is a great difference between so-called black magic, satanism, Voodoo, Witchcraft and Thelema, for example. They may have a vague understanding of black magick ... the practice of the arts and sciences for purely egocentric reasons at the expense of others as well as the true aim of magick which is the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, the True Self, Genius, Daemon, and so forth, and the eventual union with That, ones own indwelling god, the Supraconscious Self, and the accomplishment of the True Will or purpose for existing, which is more often than not completely different from the simple desires of the ego or false self. Even the civil law makers have tried to lump religions like Voodoo and the Craft under the heading of 'satanism' in efforts to pass bills prohibiting the tax exempt status for 'satanic cults' while continuing to grant it to the more 'acceptable', 'true religions'. Not only is it damned unconstitutional to discriminate against some religious beliefs and practices, but it shows a great deal of ignorance and folly.
"Witchcraft, Wicca, the Craft of the Wise, as you know, never worshipped the Judao-Christian Devil. Doesn't even believe in such an absurd concept. No true esoteric fraternity or mystery religion believes in an absolute evil, a kind of anti-god. How can God be absolute, omnipresent, all, in fact, and yet be separate from the devil ... Satan? In one breath the ignorant religionist tells us that God is everything, that God created everything, and that evil is of the devil and not God ... that God and the devil are in a constant state of warfare. If God created everything then however you look at it he is ultimately the author of evil as well as good. If God is all, if God is everywhere, then God is the devil, within the devil, or however you wish to word it. The constant contradictions in the reasoning of the typical religionist are absurd. No ... the Pagan idea is more logical. Wiccans, for instance, recognize God, or Goddess, if you will, as manifest in all of nature. God is both life and death, good and bad, so to speak, and they worship God under two aspects ... aspects ... as the Horned God whose celestial representative is the sun and whose horns are not a sign of evil but a sign of power, strength and fertility, as was originally conceived. Even today you can find pictures and statues of Moses descending the mountain, holding the Commandments, with two small horns jutting out of his skull. And as for the other aspect of God we have in Wicca the Goddess who is represented by the moon. The idea of God having both a male and a female aspect is quite rational, especially as the Bible and other religious writings claim that 'mankind' was created in God's image. Most followers of the Judao-Christian religions today do not realize that the word translated as 'God' in the Book of Genesis is Elohim, a word that denotes both the male and the female gender and that it is better translated as 'Gods'.
"As for Voodoo, perhaps an even older religion than the 'Old Religion', it too is a true religion that worships God in an animistic manner. The Voodooist recognizes that there is one God who is manifest in all things, in fact even in all of us, and that the various gods are but aspects of that one omnipresent God. Neither the Wiccan nor the Voodooist contradicts him- or herself by saying first that God is all and then that God is not this, that or the other thing. All is God, all that is, is a manifestation of God, whether we perceive it as good or evil, and all comes from God. It is, in fact, the narrowness of Judao-Christian thinking that makes a difference between monotheism, polytheism, animism and even atheism. The truth of the matter is, as every true student of the esoteric and practitioner of the mystery religions knows, there is no difference! We are all polytheists in that we recognize the various aspects of God, and, as a matter of fact, respect the god-forms of other people. We are all animists in that we recognize God manifest in all things. We recognize this truth through personal experience and don't simply mindlessly mouth the words because someone who proclaimed himself an authority told us what to believe. Likewise we are all monotheists as we believe that all gods are but forms or aspects of one God, that all is God, and yet we are, as well, atheists since we accept only that which can be proven by way of the scientific method, thus the mystical and magical practices that are far from the mumbo jumbo some choose to believe they are without serious investigation, and these practices prove to us that 'there is no God'." King pointed to his heart, his 'centre', then Kyoko's. "Here is where we will find God and here only. Not in the skies, not on some star like Sirus, not even in a church, temple or synagogue, but here, within the core of our very being, the centre of all, is where to path to understanding God begins. As it is said even in the Judao-Christian Bible, 'The kingdom of God is within'."
"And satanism!" Solomon King smoothed his mustache and laughed. "The funniest thing about this is that while pseudo-christian fanatics rant and rave accusing Thelemites, Wiccans and Voodooists of satanism it is a fact that satanism has nothing to do with any of us, that it has nothing to do with the Path of the Wise at all. Satanism is the bastard child of the Judao-Christian culture and religions! It is a perversion, primarily of Christianity, and the only people the Christians have to blame for its existence are their own religious leaders and themselves. Satanism is a direct result of and reaction to the suppressive and repressive Judao-Christian culture. I agree that it is not a true religion, reveling in the petty often self-destructive desires of the false self, but the ties to the Judao-Christian religions are much tighter than they are to the esoteric, the occult fraternities and the mystery religions. My personal opinion is that while I have no liking for satanism it is at least somewhat honest in its unabashed search for ego gratification. The greatest form of 'satanism' seems to be in television evangelism and other such fundamentalist, hell-and-damnation, elitist sects that pervert the splendidly simple teachings of the master Jesus and that use and abuse the Bible, spreading inane propaganda, to accumulate money and power for personal gratification and what is virtually the pursuance of the quest for world domination, of which they falsely accuse others. One of their goals seems to be the accumulation of economic and political power so that they can dicatate by way of house bills and laws what is 'good' and what is 'evil', as if these relative concepts were absolutes. All the while these pseudo-christian groups bilk the public for personal gain and power, planning the domination of society's collective body, mind and soul, masquerading as devote followers of Jesus the Nazarene, a good Jew, who, if alive today, would probably be the very first to condemn the whole mess of pseudo-christianity and fundamentalism."
King noted the smile on Kyoko's lovely oriental face. Smoothing the white streak in his otherwise dark hair he too smiled.
"You baited me."
"It can't be because you wish to know more about satanism as we have had enough encounters with that absurd perversity for you to have become an expert on the subject. And you know as much about Wicca as our good friend Lady Olwyn. Certainly, being within the heart of Thelema, as it were, there's little to learn that you haven't already learned, therefore I can only assume that you, my little Phoenix, have developed an interest in Voodoo."
"Well then," King said with a mock sigh of resignation, "curiosity invoked must be served and a desire for knowledge should always be satisfied."
"Will there be animal sacrifices?" Kyoko asked with a little obvious distaste.
"Perhaps chickens, but it will be nothing like the movies, at least not within the société we will be visiting. And certainly you do not have to worry about the infamous sacrifice of the hornless goat!"
Ralph Murchison's scream rang throughout the empty warehouse and immediately the other men hired to ready the structure for its new owner came running to him. Ralph never thought he would scream. He was a man and men don't do such things. He was a big, burly man who had served in the Marines and he had seen it all. He was sure he could take anything in life like a man, but when he could scream no more Ralph Murchison turned away and heaved up his breakfast.
"What the hell's wrong, Ralph?" Murchison did not have to answer, which was a good thing as he was still gagging and incapable of speech. The other men gathered around and a horrified silence filled the vast filthy structure. A few more men turned away to gag and retch.
"Sweet Jesus," one man gasped.
Before the men there was a rectangular altar around which extinguished candles and various other things were scattered with some wild yet purposeful pattern. There were bowls of food, now alive with cockroaches, and a cloud of flies hovered over the altar. Upon that altar, which was covered with candle wax, the torn apart remains of a few chickens and other things that the men could not immediately identify, there was what remained of a very young boy. Over his face, in and out of his open mouth, the flies and cockroaches swarmed. Maggots were everywhere literally feasting upon the corpse, its torso split open from the throat to groin. Clotted blood and internal organs were scattered about, the boy's now still heart nowhere in sight. This proved not to be entirely true for a very small portion of the heart was later discovered among the litter on the floor. The organ fragment possessed the marks of human teeth.
The stench of rotting food and flesh, which had attracted the attention of Murchison in the first place, as well as the sight of the corpse of the young black child, quickly became too much for the labourers to bear and they rapidly filed out of the old warehouse. The crew foreman was the one to call the police and it was Detective Sergeant Harris, who was already having a bad day, to whom the lieutenant assigned the case. Lieutenant Cleveland assigned Harris because Harris is black, the victim was black, and he thought that inquiries made in the black community might go a little smoother that way.
Detective Raymond Harris went to an all-white school, lived in an almost exclusively white neighbourhood all his life, and graduated with honours from the University of Pittsburgh before moving north and entering the police academy where he was one of only five black rookies in a class of 583. Only in college did he find himself amonst a relatively large black population and most of his "brothers" and "sisters" did not consider him black enough to be Black.
Detective Harris knew that his investigation would lead him into strange avenues of human existence. He had expected Mama Marie's, for instance, to be as it was. The place was dark and filled with all manner of things from dried roots hanging from the rafters, to bottles of liquid, obviously homemade and placed in whatever glass containers were handy. The establishment smelled musty and old and had an odor more disagreeable than some of the asian foodstores he had been in where such items as dried squid could be purchased along with rice cakes and items that were quite inedible looking in their unprepared state. Yet along with the homemade oils and lotions in Mama Marie's, Detective Harris also found items that were common to all such stores, mass produced by some out-of-state company.
Detective Harris discovered, for example, a jet cross that was advertised as a potent charm against the evil eye, said to shatter when looked upon by one with evil intent. There were crude Voodoo dolls, poppets made of material, wax and other things as well as black and red candles in the shapes of men and women, crosses and penises. Littering shelves were creams such as Seven African Powers Lotion, Love Lotion, Gamblers Lotion, Wisemen Offering Lotion and other manufactured items such as Double Cross Powder. Mama Marie had it all. Ouanga bags came in all shapes, sizes and colours and were sold alongside Confusion Powder, Holy Spirit Powder, Jinx Removing Soap, Money House Blessing Soap, something called Bat's Blood, crystal pendulums, crucifixes, Christians statues and prayer cards, as well as imitation gold and silver Stars of David.
While the very air of the place seemed to whisper names like Doctor John, Malvina Latour, Doctor Yah Yah, Marie Laveau and the Reverend Father Jo Watson, to name but a few, there was also a touch of carnivalism and charlatanism in the little shop.
Ray Harris had expected to end up in such places during his investigation of the little boy's death, but he never in his wildest dreams imagined that he would meet one of the city's most powerful mam'bos and be invited to a Voodoo ritual.
"Come along, my fine young man. Dere's noting to be afraid of!"
Detective Harris, who had introduced himself as a civilian interested in his "roots", followed the Voodoo priestess around her house and to the place behind it. His investigation had led him out of the city to the home of Madame Leoma and upon meeting the mature lady in Mama Marie's he was instantly struck by her charismatic character. Madame Estelle Leoma was a tall, slender, imposing woman with a striking persona. When she met the undercover policeman Madame Leoma was resplendent in a loose-fitting, flowing robe of gayly colourd silk. She wore a matching cap, rather circular and flat-topped, which matched perfectly her riotously coloured outfit. About her neck the mam'bo wore necelaces of all kinds--coloured beads, pearls, silver chains sacred to Erzulie, the loa of love and passion, the moon to Papa Legba's sun--and her stance, the very way she moved, impressed the young man with the woman's power, at least her power of character. Although age, only slightly apparent in the few lines of her face and the touch of grey in her hair, was upon Madame Leoma she was still a lioness of a woman, vital and strong.
"Thank you for inviting me to witness your ceremony," Harris said to the woman walking ahead of him. "Are you sure it will be all right with the others? Isn't it against your laws to admit the presence of an outsider?"
"Child..." she said smiling as she turned to look at the police detective, "I am de mam'bo. I am de law in dis place!"
Then she turned around to look forward as she led him into what was once a backyard but which had been turned into a Voodoo temple or oum'phor. The floor of the oum'phor was earthen, there were no walls, and reaching from the centre of the earth to the top of the roofed-in area there was a square pole, this centre-post being the poteau-mitan. About the base of the poteau-mitan, sitting upon the three-tiered pedestal or socle into which the square center-post had been set, were various food offerings to the loas placed in earthware bowls that were obviously made by hand.
"The wooden poteau-mitan represents Legba Ati-Bon, the chief God of Voodoo, whose name essentially means the 'wood of justice'." Detective Harris heard these words spoken by a strong masculine voice, obviously the voice of a white man, and surprised, he turned about to view the speaker. The man was tall and slender, with wide shoulders and trim hips. He was a striking sight in his white suit, with his neat mustache and dark hair that sported a natural white streak which ran from his high, wide forehead towards the back of his head. In his right hand he held a curiously fashioned walking stick (his baton Legba or cocomacaque) and beside the man, whom Harris noted was barefoot despite his formal attire, was the loveliest Japanese woman he had ever seen in his life--an absolute vision with long straight black hair falling down her back, wearing a very sheer white summer dress, and like her companion, and in fact everyone in attendance, she was barefoot.
Taking his eyes off of the couple was difficult for Detective Harris, yet he managed to do so in order to take in the complete effect of his surroundings. Thinking of the murdered boy he saw the rectangular altar which the Voodooist called the pé. This altar stood about as high as his chest and it was loaded down with ritual rattles, bells, candles, thunderstones that are supposed to be the repository of supernatural powers, magic charms, ritual necklaces, chaplets, books of magic, many covered pots and jars, some of which were, he later learned, called pots-de-tête which supposedly contain via magic part of the spirits of those who worship at the oum'phor. Other jars upon the pé were called govis, and it was into these, he was told, that the gods of Voodoo descended for consultation when called by the mam'bo.
"In earlier times," Harris overheard the white man telling his oriental companion, "the pé was constructed with a hollow interior for the indwelling of a live serpent whose body was inhabited by Danbhalah Wédo Yé-H-we." The detective found the couple so compelling that he could not help himself and found that eavesdropping was an imperative.
"And who is this Danbhalah Wédo?" the oriental asked.
"Danbhalah," the white man replied, "is the serpent god whose companion is the goddess Aida Wédo. The concept of these two is not unlike the two serpents that are entwined around the caduceus of Hermes, the Ob and the Od of the Hebrew Qabalah. Legba, hower, is the king of kings, and his companion is Erzulie, both of whom are represented by, respectively, the sun and the moon. In a way all the Voodoo gods are, however, only aspects of the Grand Maitre who is the one God recognized by Voodoo worshippers. The various loas are believed to assist the members of the société with their personal relationship with the Grand Maitre."
"It sounds very much like the Craft."
"There are many similarities between the Craft of the Wise and Voodoo ... or to use its more popular name today, Santeria. Although there have of course been changes throughout the centuries, they have remained two of the purest of the world religions in existence. It might also interest you to know, Kyoko, that the Voodoo followers have a concept called Maite Tête. This is a kind of personal spirit or patron saint, a loa that is acquired through special rituals and which permanently resides in the individual's head, metaphorically speaking. It is this personal god or spirit which offers guidance in times of need."
"That sounds like something silmilar to our Dæmon or True Self!"
"Precisely...or Abra-Melin's Holy Guardian Angel, the Hindu Atman, the German Zeitgeist, the Roman Genius, even the Christian Guardian Angel to some degree, and a host of similar concepts throughout the world including the Supraconscious Mind or Self of the more enlightened students of psychology, that is to say the perfect union of the conscious and the subconscious minds of the human animal."
"Odorokimashita! I am surprised! The more I learn about Voodoo the more I realize that it is not only a legitimate religion and esoteric system, but it is, despite its barbaric appearance, a very enlightened one."
Solomon King smiled.
"You must excuse me for a moment," Madame Leoma said, touching Detective Harris' arm. He was startled, having forgotten her presence, so enrapt was he in his eavesdropping.
Madame Leoma quickly walked over to the white man and his oriental companion and greeted them with great joy and warmth. As the police detective listened in on their brief conversation he noticed that the heavy accent he first detected in Madame Leoma's speech had entirely vanished.
"Maitre Solomon!" Madame Leoma took King's hands in both of hers. "I am so very glad to see you. So very glad indeed. And who is this?" she asked while warmly appraising the woman by "Master Solomon's" side. "Is this your new doudon?"
Kyoko looked inquiringly up at King.
"Koibito," he smilingly said to her in Japanese before looking back to the mam'bo. "Estelle, Kyoko is much more than my sweetheart, much more indeed."
Madame Leoma was positively beaming with delight as she felt the love in Solomon King's heart as a soothing warmth that radiated through his strong hands.
"Then the papillon no longer flies from flower to flower?"
King laughed. Kyoko too had often referred to him as a butterfly that flew from flower to flower drinking the sweet nectar, never staying in one place for too long.
"It is partly because my little Phoenix does not try to cage this butterfly that I find all that I want and need with her."
"I am happy for you ... for both of you." Madame Leoma removed one of her elegant, dark hands from King's and took Kyoko's hand warmly. "It will, however, be sad news for our beloved marabou." Madame Leoma glanced in the direction of a tall, beautiful woman with a deep black complexion, long straight black hair not unlike Kyoko's, and large firm breasts. At the moment their eyes followed Madame Leoma's glance the marabou looked up, caught their eyes, and flashed the warmest smile imaginable. The woman's eyes were large and clear; her lashes naturally thick, long and dark.
"Who is this Marabou?" Kyoko asked.
"Marabou is, well, a kind of title. Not a name," King replied.
"Go ahead, Solomon. I would like to hear you explain what a marabou is to your lovely companion."
"Oh! I'm sorry. Kyoko Toshiro, meet Madame Estelle Leoma."
The women exchanged brief pleasantries and then Kyoko looked back up at King.
"Not good enough, Solomonsan. My big Dragon cannot escape that easily. What is a marabou?"
They both looked back to the lovely woman seemingly fashioned of the purest jet, and again she smiled with great warmth, her eyes being incredible instruments of seduction.
"A marabou," King explained with some trepidation, "is a woman of great clairvoyant powers, and at an early age she is taught everything about the techniques of lovemaking. It is the main object of her life to take care of the, ah, sexual needs and desires of the houn'gan or mam'bo."
"And it was after Solomon had taken the asson that..."
"I think that will be enough for now, Estelle," King quickly interjected.
"The asson?" Kyoko inquired.
"The asson," Madame Leoma replied, "is the ritual calabash rattle. It is the symbol of office of the houn'gan or mam'bo, taken from the calebassier courant tree, the tree-reposoir par excellence of the great mystère Danbhalah Wédo."
"Solomonsan has been initiated into the Voodoo religion?" This surprised Kyoko very much.
"He is a greatly respected houn'gan..." Madame Leoma looked from Kyoko to King, "even though he has chosen the Way of Thelema."
Kyoko looked up at King and after giggling charmingly put on as grave an expression as she could muster.
"I think we have very much to talk about later, my colourful butterfly!"
Both King and Madame Leoma laughed heartily at the exaggerated seriousness which Kyoko affected.
"Not to change the subject or anything," King said smiling, "but who is your guest over there?" Although black like everyone else under the roof of the oum'phor, bar King and Kyoko, Detective Harris obviously did not fit in with the rest of the gathering crowd. In fact, he looked completely lost and terribly uncomfortable.
"Oh! I am such an ungracious hostess. I forgot all about him. Just a moment please." Madame Leoma left the two, went over and took Harris by the arm then led him back to the Thelemic magicians. Upon introducing Raymond Harris to Solomon King the two men shook hands, then when Madame Leoma introduced the man to Kyoko, without stating his position or purpse for attending as she had not been given this information, Harris gently took the asian woman's hand. So unexpectedly that the detective whinced, Kyoko squeezed his hand as an automatic reaction to something that neither King nor the mam'bo had been aware of.
"Gomen nasai!" Kyoko stammered upon realizing what she had done. "Excuse me! But he was so young, Detective Harris. So very young."
"Solomon," Madame Leoma said looking into the other woman's eyes, "not only is your belle doudon a marabou in her own right, but she is a divino as well. She has eyes that see into the soul!"
Harris was completely bewildered by the proceedings, however, Solomon King did not seem at all surprised, having witnessed Kyoko's clairvoyance at work before.
"That she is, Madame Leoma. My dearest tiefie, as you might say, possesses the prix des yeux to a far greater degree than me."
"Solomon, her clairvoyant gifts may even be greater than my own. I see it in her eyes. Your beautiful paramour ... quatre yeux! ... has 'four eyes'. She may be the most clairvoyant person I have ever met."
"Are you people saying that this woman has read my mind?" Detective Harris was naturally skeptical and he thought that perhaps it was all a set-up of some kind.
"It is a very crude way of putting it," King replied, "but it is as good a way of explaining it as any other."
"It is more like a feeling," Kyoko explained, "than anything else. I'm so sorry. I did not mean to intrude nor to hurt your hand like that, but the shock was so great I could not help myself. You were there. You saw it."
"Saw what?" Madame Leoma asked.
Harris looked to her. "Your accent is gone, Madame Leoma."
"I merely gave you that which you expected, Detective Harris."
"Madame Leoma," King explained, "has taught comparitive religion and she has earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University. If I were to list all of her degrees we would no doubt delay tonight's ceremonies until sometime tomorrow."
"I'm impressed," replied Harris.
"With degrees?" Madame Leoma asked. "Don't be. You can be impressed by the fact that I will not allow you to sidetrack us that easily, Detective Harris. What was it that you saw? Why are you really here? I am afraid my own powers are not as acute as this lovely lady's." Madame Leoma and Kyoko exchanged smiles.
"Better get it over with, detective. I wouldn't want these two women ganging up on me!"
"I think you are right, Mr. King." Detective Harris took a deep breath and then proceeded to tell them about the corpse of the young boy found in the warehouse. When he was finished Madame Leoma hissed under her breath: "Petro Société!"
"Excuse me?" said Harris.
"The Petro Société," King elucidated, "is an extremely violent and bloodthirsty société. You might call them devil worshippers. The sacrifice of the hornless goat, that is to say child sacrifices, is not an uncommon practice for them. Of course there are modern Petro cults today that have toned down their practices, but the more traditional ones are as I have described them."
"Until yesterday," Harris said, "I thought all of this was only in the movies."
"Such things as you witnessed," Madame Leoma explained, "are very rare ... thank the gods ... and criminals like the Petro Société, bokos who practice only black magic and great evil, are widely scattered, almost unknown in many parts of the world ... and they are very hard to find, if one is foolish enough to seek them out."
"Madame Leoma, we would like to stop this thing before more people lose their lives. Have you any idea as to who might be responsible?"
The mam'bo bit her lip and glanced up at King and then into the eyes of Kyoko. Those deep dark eyes implored the priestess to say what was on her mind and asked that she help as much as she could. Madame Leoma smiled at Kyoko as if to say Thank you for the courage that you give me.
"Until yesterday I had heard only rumours."
"What happened yesterday?" King asked.
"Yesterday I watched the antics of a woman no better than a gangan, a second-rate mam'bo at best, but more likely a simple charlatan that sells charms and spells to the desperate."
"And you think that she might be responsible?" Detective Harris asked.
"No. No, of course not. Perhaps your bunko squad might be interested in the Reverend Doctor Lady French, but certainly she is not responsible for such things as the murder of a child." Madame Leoma and King exchanged glances. He knew what she was getting at, and thinking back on the television talk show he found that it was not difficult to believe her suggestion.
"We must talk about this later," Madame Leoma said briskly. "My people are becoming impatient and it is time that we invigorate the gods. Detective Harris, I will leave you with Solomon and Kyoko here. You are in very good hands. And I trust, knowing Solomon as I do, that you will soon have invaluable assistance with your case."
This was the night that the boulé-zin ceremony would be performed, a sacred rite that was only performed once every two years during which the most important of the Voodoo gods would be called upon to mount the bodies of the chosen to be reinvigorated by way of sacrifices and rituals so that they might better serve the société. Although Madame Estelle Leoma was something of a modern, progressive mam'bo, she would not have normally invited an outsider like Detective Harris to such a ceremony. Then when she saw that Solomon King, who was always welcome, had been in attendance she understood her subtle urge to invite the police detective. These two men, she had known instinctively, were fated to meet.
Wine-and-herb drinks called trempés were passed around as was such foods as chadek, which is oranges and grapefruit, piment or extremely hot peppers, grillot, pieces of fried pork dipped in a special hot sauce called ti malice, and akra, being corn meal balls that are believed to be a favourite of the loas and also to be found upon the altar.
Solomon King as well as Kyoko were formally greeted by Madame Leoma when she paid her respects to the visiting houn'gans and mam'bos. After a while Legba was greeted with the seven traditional chants that are sung in his honour, imploring him to open the barrier which permits the living to commune with the mystères. Finally the other loas were greeted in order of their place in the hierarchy.
Music was played upon the rada drums--the bé bé, the secondé, and the largest being the maman--as well as the ogan which gave a bell-like sound and the vaccines or bamboo flutes.
Veves, intricate symbols made with cornmeal upon the ground, each one representing a specific loa, were drawn and the ritual went into high gear. At a certain point the called-upon loas mounted the chosen followers who immediately danced wildly to the primative music, uttering phrases appropriate to the particular loa which had taken possession. The "mounting" was almost violent, yet when the loa departed the choual returned to his or her normal state so gently that in many cases it was more startling than those who had felt momentarily faint upon the departure of the spirit.
One thing that struck Kyoko as particularly important was that although chickens, kokolo as they were called, had been sacrificed, contrary to Hollywood sensationalism, their throats were not slashed, spilling blood everywhere. With great expertise the necks of the live chickens were quickly wrung, with very little blood involved at all, and then they were soon plucked, cleaned and cooked so that not only would portions be offered to the gods, as had been their lives, their lifeforce, but the rest would be served to the celebrants so that nothing was wasted. Kyoko thought it an entirely noble end to a chicken's life. Far more civilized and merciful, far more meaningful, than simply hacking a chicken's head off with a hatchet and then using its carcass merely as food. When an animal is used as food its lifeforce is merely returned to a spiritual reservoir to eventually find reincarnation within its previous species form. However, when an animal, with all due dignity and concentration of will, is ritually sacrificed in honour of God its lifeforce is absorbed by the worshippers and it comes a bit closer to a higher, more evolved state, the ritual act actually assisting it along its evolutionary path.
Through the course of the long ceremony words like "Abobo!", roughly the same as "Amen!", were shouted at random by the participants. The Voodoo religion is not one in which the celebrants are mere passive spectators. It is a very lovely religion in which everyone takes an active part, some even to the point of becoming mounted so that the loas, spirits, saints or gods, might communicate with the members of the société. And unlike the Judao-Christian religions that treat women as second-class citizens, refusing to allow women to become rabbis and priests, ignoring the fact that the Holy Spirit was originally conceived of as a female god or goddess, the Christians only allowing some honour to go to the Virgin Mother as a kind of concession to womanhood, Voodoo, as with Wicca, treats womanhood with the same respect with which manhood is treated. The women, the mam'bos and the female loas or goddesses, are equal in every way to the men, the houn'gans and the gods. In fact, for every masculine god-form there is a co-equal feminine god-form, the aspects of God thought of as loving couples rather like the Hindu concept or the concepts of all enlightened religions of the world, similar to the God Hadit and the Goddess Nuit of Thelema. It is only the irrational, unnatural and prejudicial modern religious concept that refuses to accept the divinity of womanhood.
Throughout the ceremony Madame Leoma felt uneasy, although she did not show it to those around her. It was an important night and she realized during the rites that it was important to the Petro Société as well.
"Ago! Ago! Quiet down and pay attention!" the big black man shouted. Immediately, as if God himself had spoken, everyone in the large ballroom became perfectly silent. No one dared to even breathe too loudly for the houn'gan's word was law--especially the commands of this particular houn'gan. "Tonight we prepare for the greater ceremony that will give our brother the power he needs to achieve his goals ... our goals!" The houn'gan with the slightly greying hair glanced once in the direction of a figure hidden by the shadows. A handful of people in that great room silently throught "Fut blanc!" but no one actually dared to voice such an opinion. Damn white!
This particular fut blanc was a long-time associate of the papa roi, or high priest, and it would not have been wise to show any disrespect towards the white man. The papa roi, some said, had once worked very closely with Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti. However, the papa roi tried to usurp Duvalier's position, was found out and had to run from Haiti as fast as he could. It was whispered among the Petro Société that their houn'gan, by the great power alone that he had at his command, escaped the death curses and the Ton Ton Macoute commanded by Papa Doc. It was also rumoured that he had made an engagement, a pact, with several evil loas in order to acquire his great supernatural powers and on more than one occasion he had proven those powers. These were not the imaginings of an uneducated group of followers easily impressed by conjuring tricks. Many of the members of this Petro Société meeting in the grand ballroom of the white man's very private home were renown surgeons, lawyers and men and women holding high political offices in both the state and federal governments.
Unlike the ceremoney over which Madame Leoma officiated, these were wild, barely controlled rites. Whereas the participants of Madame Leoma's société either wore street clothes or simple apparel of a sheer white fabric during special ceremonies, the participants of the Petro rites generally wore bright scarlet.
During the ritual held this night two men armed with scimitars that caught the light danced wildly in mock battle. It was very much like the dance performed on the television talk show Let's Talk but for one major difference-- this time the young black men danced more fiercely and their swords drew blood, lots of blood, and each time metal sliced into flesh the dance became wilder, the dancers further lost in the ritual, the bloodthirsty loas inhabiting them free to do as they pleased without inhibitions. If, when the dance finished, one or both men died it would have only been looked upon by the société as a great blessing--and that night the ceremony was doubly blessed.
Suddenly a woman screamed "Mai yo! Mai yo!" over and over again-- "There you are! There you are!"--denoting that she had become possessed by a loa. Her lithe black body convulsed with the débâtement as the spirit took possession of her. The diablesse took control of the woman and in a wild frenzy she tore her clothes off and danced madly among the bloodied corpses of the two men who had danced to their death. This woman's corybantic performance was more lascivious and unrestrained than even the infamously lewd Voodoo banda, and she revelled in the blood of the corpses at her feet, smearing the still hot red fluid all over her sweat-soaked black body. Pandemonium soon broke out until otherwise civilized men and women, some of them very respectable ages, pillars of the community, followed the lead of the possessed woman. Soon the room was full of screaming, writhing bodies while in the darkness the white man seemed to grow in stature and substance--the houn'gan calmly standing above it all, absorbing and directing the great power generated by the insanity below him on the ballroom floor.
"O great Baka, my lord, from me take some of the power that I offer you and help me to place this blanc in a position where he can do us the most good!"
The possessed woman, an experienced bousin, prostitute, lowered herself upon the bois of one of the dead dancers and gave satisfaction to the demon possessing her. When the light of dawn touched the tightly covered windows and French doors of the grand ballroom the revelries were over and the celebrants left the house later that day with a great display of dignity.
"The papal visit is still the hottest news today and preparations are being made to honour the holy father."
King watched the news program with mild interest only. He had more important, more deadly things on his mind. He and Kyoko had decided to accept Madame Leoma's invitation to stay over after the boulé-zin ceremony and Kyoko was still peacefully asleep in the large bed of the guestroom that Estelle had made up for them.
"While both the governor and the mayor will be present," the television newscaster coutinued, "State Senator Thoreaucill, who had been expected to greet the pope, will not be able to do so. In his own words Senator Thoreaucill explained..." The face of a very distinguished man with white hair was flashed on the screen. "Due to another pressing engagement I cannot be there in the flesh, but I will most certainly be present in spirit."
King switched off the television.
"Awake already?" Kyoko said sleepily as she continued to lay in bed.
"I've been awake for hours."
"Still all excited over the ceremony last night?"
"Still thinking about the talk we had last night with Estelle... especially after Detective Harris left."
"Why did she not want to tell him the name of the man that she suspects?"
"She has no proof for what she feels, Kyoko."
"And maybe she was afraid for the policeman?"
"Yes, I think maybe she was worried about him coming to harm. The police are very good at their job under normal circumstances, despite what most people tend to believe, but under circumstances such as these, well, if they find it difficult to collect evidence to convict a simple satanist of child molestation when all the world knows he's guilty, how much more difficult must something like this be? And how much more dangerous for the policeman involved in the case! Most satanists turn out to be little more than perverts dressed up for a perpetual Halloween, but when one is dealing with the perverse Petro cult...that's another story indeed! No, if Estelle is right about what she thinks, and I think she may be, Detective Harris is better off left in the dark. He can be brought in afterwards."
Kyoko sat up in bed, completely unconcerned about being beautifully naked, the sheet sliding down to her waist.
"You mean after you and Madame Leoma have dealt with this...what was it she called him?"
"A pas-bon-moun. A man of violence. An insane and sadistic person. Yes. I suppose so. I really see no other alternative. I don't think the police alone can handle this and I certainly cannot allow Estelle to tackle this man by herself...and I know she will if I do not help, now that she realizes the full extend of this man's actions. Now that she knows that at least one child has died as a result of his insanity."
"Then I will help too!"
"The hell you will!" King almost roared as he turned towards the oriental woman. "I want you out of this one completely."
"Why? Because I am a woman?"
"No," King said tenderly, "because I love you."
Kyoko slid across the bed and embraced Solomon, holding him very tightly--her lovely warm body, her gentle musky scent, stirring King's blood as they never failed to do.
"But I love you too, you big bad Dragon, and I want to help." Kyoko suddenly let go and sitting on her heels on the bed, back erect, breasts small, firm and perky, she looked at him with determination and said, "Am I not your Scarlet Woman, my Beast, your priestess...your mam'bo?"
"Yes, of course you are...and a bloody great high priestess as well!"
"Then remember that according to the Book of the Law in your woman...that's me you big dumb Dragon...'called the Scarlet Woman is all power given.' You cannot go into battle with this...this..."
"Arigato, Solomonsan. You cannot go into battle with this pas-bon-moun without me! I won't let you. If you refuse to let me fight by your side I will sneak into the battle anyway."
King signed heavily, his face a weary mask touched by amusement as well as love.
"I have no alternative then. You are truly a woman 'girt with a sword'!"
"Domo arigato gozaimasu!" Kyoko fairly leaped upon King and both of them went tumbling to the floor where, after the initial shock of the fall, they laughed wildly and then ended up by making love for a long time.
It was with great amusement that the man went after Louise Pembroke. The young lady was not much to look at, but the fact that she posed as an expert and initiate of Voodoo, and most especially the fact that a very thorough investigation had revealed to the man that Ms. Pembroke at 27 years of age was still a virgin, made the whole idea too delicious to put aside. Besides, a woman of her--condition--was absolutely necessary to appease the demands of Baka. The houn'gan had been finding it increasingly difficult to constrain the 'evil loa' Baka of late and he thought that perhaps Ms. Pembroke would do the trick, so to speak, and make the loa happy, more pliable. And certainly he, as Baka's earthly representative and vehicle, would manage to derive some pleasure from the deflowering of that particular bit of flesh!
The night following the mad ritual in the stately ballroom, the man, with his assistant Karl, a large black man weighing in at over 300 pounds, broke into Ms. Pembroke's flat and with no trouble whatsoever made off with her. The rag soaked in chloroform made the job easy.
The man took the Vassar girl to his caye, his place of residence, and there in his private temple she regained consciousness to find herself strapped down upon a table-like affair in a room alight with candles and oil lamps, smelling foully of stale sweat and urine, rotting meat and things that she did not even wish to think about. Louise Pembroke soon realized in what kind of a place she had found herself, for although she was something of a fraud she was not totally ignorant of the subject of which she pretended to be an expert. While she was not certain exactly what was going to happen to her, Ms. Pembroke was fairly certain that she would not like it and so she screamed herself hoarse. It was, of course, all in vain for the room had been expertly sound-proofed and the caye of the houn'gan was a brownstone otherwise unoccupied. The brownstones on either side were unoccupied, the owner being a man that no one could identify, a man with connections, money and power.
"Scream, Ms. Pembroke. Scream all that you like. No one will hear you. I'm sorry if that sounds like a terrible cliche out of an old movie, but it is true."
The young woman looked at the man in the room and was surprised by whom she saw.
"You? But you said..."
"I lied," he shrugged. "It is sometimes wise to do so. Tell me, Ms. Pembroke," he sat upon the edge of the crude altar to which she had been strapped, then he gently stroked her small breast and for the first time she noticed that she had been completely stripped, "do you know much about the loas?"
"I am an initiate! Of course..."
"You are a bloody liar, Ms. Pembroke. Merely a plain little virgin trying to get some attention and notoriety."
Louise Pembroke was about to rebuke the man but words did not come out of her mouth. He was, after all, completely correct in his conclusions regarding her.
"Do you know the name Baka?" her kidnapper asked.
"Baka!" the girl gasped, eyes wide with fear. "You are mad. Insane! Not Baka!"
The black man with the slightly greying hair laughed. It was a sound so deep and vibrant in its unpleasant quality that it seemed to shake the very walls of the filthy room.
"Perhaps I am mad, Ms. Pembroke, but soon I will be one bloody powerful madman and by comparison the late François Duvalier will seem like a naughty little boy."
There came a tap at the door.
"It is time, Ms. Pembroke. You will have the honour of being taken by Baka himself, through me, of course, and it will be the most wonderful experience of your life." A small select gathering of followers began filing into the room. "You might even say," the man told her while removing his shirt, "that it will be the climax of your life."
Again the man laughed as the drummers began. There was a brief orientation, prayers of a somewhat degenerate type, and various other rituals before the rite was literally consummated. The perverse priest was successful in his evocation and Baka took possession of his body. After a very long time, screaming until she could scream no more, Ms. Pembroke fainted away in complete exhaustion. She would be found weeks later walking naked in an upper New York state forest, pale, filthy, emaciated, having eaten only insects, leaves and dirt for the few weeks she had been missing. When questioned she would only say, eyes wide and staring into space, nose running and saliva oozing out of her mouth: "I am Baka's...the mother of his child."
Months later, in the mental ward of a hospital, Ms. Pembroke would die while giving birth to that baby which would fortunately be still born. The thing removed from the girl's womb would be so deformed that it hardly appeared to be human. The physicians in attendance would surmise that the father of the "child" had been suffering from an acute case of what Madame Leoma would have called sang gâté as well as the grand chaleur, that is to say, syphilis and gonorrhea.
The rapist, they'd conclude, would certainly not last very long in the condition in which he had to be. Little would they know then that their concern for the man and anyone else that he might infect was a moot point.
Although it was not his case, Detective Sergeant Ray Harris did a bit of snooping into the disappearance of Louise Pembroke. First there was the obvious ritual sacrifice of the child and then the disapperance of a woman who was allegedly an initiate of Voodoo. Harris thought it to be too much of a coincidence to ignore. There were virtually no clues at the scene of the crime, which was determined to be the girl's bedroom. The scene of the crime is rarely filled with clues as is almost always the case in television cop shows. The disappearance itself might have gone long unnoticed had it not been for the fact that the girl had a roommate who had, unfortunately, or fortunately depending upon one's point of view, been sleeping over at another girl's apartment during the night that Ms. Pembroke had been kidnapped. It was rumoured that the roommate was a lesbian, but that Ms. Pembroke herself was too much of a prude to be anything but a virgin for life. The contradiction of Ms. Pembroke's sexuality, or lack thereof, and her alleged affiliation with a cult known to be quite sexual in its orientation only seemed contradictory if one did not understand the odd twists and turns of the human mind.
There was, however, something nagging at the back of Harris' brain and he struggled to grasp it until finally he ran down to the television station that had aired Let's Talk. The tape of the program on which Ms. Pembroke had appeared was pulled from the files and Harris watched it with his full attention as before he had only glanced at it in passing. Funny, he thought, that he had even caught a portion of the program before. Normally he did not have the time for the boob tube, nor the desire to watch it, especially the typically droll talk shows, but this one he had caught part of and the detective was beginning to believe that there was a certain pattern to it all--a kind of inevitability that could not be dismissed.
Harris watched and listened to the Reverend Doctor Lady Antoinette French very carefully, but he could not take her at all seriously. Then he saw something that surprised him. There in the audience, only momentarily caught by the roving camera lens, was Madame Estele Leoma in a brightly coloured cap.
Had she something to do with the disappearance of the Vassar girl?
Harris wondered about it until he finally decided that he needed an expert opinion on the matter. Certainly that man he had recently met, Solomon King, seemed to be an expert. However, he was obviously an old friend of Madame Leoma's and Harris could not trust him for that reason.
The program that Harris was watching turn it's attention to Doctor Wat'ta Doumey and the detective decided that he would consult with that man as he was an expert on the subject of Voodoo and apparently an objective, disassociated party.
King and Kyoko once more made the drive to Madame Leoma's caye and oum'phor. Normally Solomon would have enjoyed the drive, but driving, lately, did not hold the same pleasure for him that it once had. He missed his Mercedes 450 SL, which had been sacrificed in an accident that rid the world of a particularly evil, if anyone can actually be said to be evil, person. By comparison to his "only vanity", as he had referred to the Mercedes, the late model VW Rabbit loaner that he had been stuck with was a real clunker. The engine lacked the horsepower that he had grown accustomed to and it just did not seem to fit him--like a jacket that was too tight in the shoulders and short in the sleeves.
In front of and indeed around Madame Leoma's house were arbres-reposoirs--trees sacred to Voodoo that were encircled by rocks, denoting that this place was an oum'phor. These trees, King had explained to Kyoko upon their first visit together, served as sanctuaries for the Voodoo gods. There the gods permanently abided and the basins and pedestals encircling the foot of the trees often held food offerings and lighted candles in honour of those gods.
Having survive the drive, King, Kyoko and Madame Leoma sat in her beautifully decorated living room to discuss the matter most on their minds.
"I tell you, Solomon, as I sat there in the audience watching and listening to that man I knew that he was lying and that there was more to him than he would admit to. I also felt the sickness as I gazed upon his face and I am certain that he is a caco, a crook of some kind...perhaps even a dyok."
"A priest who possesses the power of the evil eye," Madame Leoma clarified for Kyoko. "And despite his protests to the contrary," she continued, looking back towards King, "I think he is magie, a very evil sorcerer...no mere n'gan."
Kyoko looked at King who understood her expression and so he replied to it: "A fake. A charlatan."
"Then," Kyoko said, breaking a few moments of thoughtful silence, "perhaps we should confront this pas-bon-moun." She found the usage of these Voodoo terms delightful.
"Eventually," King signed, resting upon his walking stick, "we no doubt must. However, we should find out more about him first. We should learn with which loa, for instance, he most works."
"Detective Harris told me some of the details of the sacrificial murder that had not been printed by the newspapers," Madame Leoma said. "Not only had the poor child been disemboweled, but his heart was missing...all but for a tiny piece that was determined to have human teeth marks in it."
"You mean," King asked, "that we may be dealing with mange Moun and that our man, on top of everything else, may be a cannibal?"
"Someone had eaten the victim's heart. There is no doubt about that. The medical examiner was certain that they were the impressions of human and not animal teeth."
"Ti-Jean-Pied-Sec?" King suggested.
"No," Madame Leoma answered slowly, thoughtfully. "I don't think so. He is a very evil loa...extremely violent and he has a tendency to possess men and cause them to commit rape...but I don't think he is the loa that our mauvais, our sorcerer, is working with." Madame Leoma gave it a moment's thought and then said, "I should think Bacalou would be more likely as he has cannibalistic tendencies that would need to be appeased by human sacrificial offerings."
There was a moment of silence, then Madame Leoma again spoke.
"I'm not sure. Perhaps if I had something from the scene of the murder, or even if I could look into Detective Harris' soul for a moment since he had been at the scene of the atrocity and all that was there would be upon his soul imprinted..."
"When I held the detective's hand," Kyoko interrupted, "there was a word that came to mind that might have been a name. I did not recognize it, but then this is all very new to me and I understand that there are a great many loas in Voodoo, the religion essentially being one of ancestor worship."
"What was that word, Kyoko?" Solomon placed his hand gently on her shoulder for reassurance as he asked the question.
"Solomon, you have an exquisite high priestess here!"
"I am in complete agreement," he smiled, then his smile turned to a frown, "but we also have a grave problem."
"What is this Baka?" Kyoko queried.
"Baka is an extremely evil loa feared by all members of the société," Madame Leoma replied.
"He creates havoc in the lives of his victims," King added, "and he can cause instant death. Baka cannot be trusted and may easily turn upon the priest or priestess who evoked him instead of the intended victim."
"This demon," Madame Leoma continued, "can only be appeased by blood sacrifices and sex play with a virgin, during which only the houn'gan can act as Baka's representative. Generally the blood sacrifice can be accomplished only with a l'kabrit, a black goat, or a black rooster, and the evil loa rarely demands both sex and sacrifice."
"But he might require both?"
"He may, Kyoko, and he may require not the sacrifice of a black rooster or goat, but the sacrifice of the hornless goat." King's expression was grave.
"The sacrifice of a child?"
King nodded assent.
"And," Madame Leoma concluded, "only the most powerful houn'gan or mam'bo can break a spell involving Baka...and the operation is not always successful."
"But you...or surely Solomonsan...?"
Kyoko looked to one and then the other but neither gave her a reassuring look.
"But what is it all about?" the lovely oriental asked. "What would he want with Baka? Why take such a chance and deal with an unreliable entity like Baka? What could Doctor Wat'ta Doumey hope to gain?"
"Power, Detective Harris. If you are correct that is what she must be after."
"What kind of power? For what purpose, Dr. Doumey?"
"Who knows?" Doumey shrugged. "Perhaps she desires power simply for power's sake. It is addictive you know."
Harris sat back in Doumey's quarters, pondering the matter. Perhaps Madame Leoma was responsible for the child's death, but simply for the accumulation of power was not a specific enough motive to his way of thinking.
"May I offer you something to drink, Detective Harris?" A massive, bulky man had entered the room. Harris looked up into Karl's face, a thoughtful expression passing over the policeman's features before turning back to Doumey.
"No. Thank you." Again he looked at the giant. "Your employee..."
"Karl? Do I know him?"
"Karl," Doumey said, turning towards the man, "have you ever met Detective Harris before?"
Karl answered by merely moving his head slightly to indicate a negative, arms as big as most men's thighs crossed over his great chest.
"Karl has an excellent memory," replied Doumey, turning back to Harris, "and I'm sure he would remember having met you before."
In an instant, as Karl turned to one side to leave, Harris' facial muscles relaxed.
"Now I remember. Some time back the parole board asked for my assistance over the matter of a certain prisoner eligible for parole. The man's name was Karl Gouverneur. A rather moronic individual, if I recall, who had been convicted on assault charges. Seems he had a very bad temper and easily flew into rages." Karl's impassive features tightened a bit. "He had thrown a bartender right through his own window and banged up half a dozen or so patrons pretty bad...a few of them were in critical condition for weeks." The muscles in Karl's bared biceps began to bulge. Harris looked towards Doumey who remained calm and impassive. "And it was not until after Gouverneur's arrest that his involvment with Voodoo was discovered." The wan smile on Doumey's face vanished. "Of course the cult had nothing to do with the religious aspect of Voodoo and it was more sham to con the gullable than anything else. Gouverneur was very good at playing a zombie." Harris glanced back up at the monsterous man. "I can see that playing a zombie would not be all that difficult for him...since he's at least half a zombie by nature." An almost inaudible growl escaped the big man's tightly clenched teeth.
Harris returned his gaze to Doumey's now icy face.
"Why someone of your high standing, doctor, would hire such a man for an assistant poses some interesting questions."
"My reasons for hiring Karl are simple, Detective Harris. He has had experience with the primary subject of my study, Voodoo, and when I find myself in rough circles, as sometimes happens, especially in the field, he is a handy man to have around. Karl can be quite intimidating." Doumey sat back in his chair and spread his hands in a carefree gesture. "Besides...I am an equal opportunity employer!"
"Very good, doctor." Detective Harris then leaned forward, his dark eyes boring into Doumey's. "Is it true that you only study Voodoo and that you do not practice it?" Doumey did not reply. His face was a frozen mask of hate. "I wonder...can you account for your whereabouts during the estimated time of the child's sacrificial death?"
"Of course I can, Detective Harris, and I was in the company of several important businessmen and politicians at the time, individuals who would be glad to corroborate my story." Doumey then rattled off a few names, one of which struck a chord with Harris, the man mentioned being very successful but with a well deserved unscrupulous reputation. The joke going around about this man was that he employed an astrologer to advise him in his business dealings. The less savory rumour was that he is interested and perhaps even involved in "devil worship" and "black magic".
"I've no doubt that you can have your alibi corroborated, but it may interest you to know that not all of the individuals you have mentioned are reliable sources of information in this case. In fact, some of them are likely to have, themselves, been in that warehouse during the sacrificial rite."
"These people are all very important figures in the community! Completely above suspicion and reproach!" Doumey's icy exterior was melting away.
"Apparently, but some of them are also under investigation."
Doumey glanced nervously at his watch.
"Have you an appointment, Dr. Doumey? Am I holding you back?"
"Yes. You are becoming an inconvenience, Detective Harris, and I'm afraid I haven't the time for that sort of thing right now." Doumey looked up and nodded. Harris was not quick enough. By the time the gesture was noted it was already too late to move and reach for his service revolver. The big mountain of a man lifted Harris up by the shoulders as if he were nothing more than a stuffed doll, then he threw him across the room. Harris' back and head banged against the far wall and he slid to the floor unconscious.
"Remove the gun from its holster," Doumey commanded, "then tie and gag him securely."
"Why not kill him?" Karl boomed.
"Later. Why waste a perfectly good life? We can give him to Baka later. Right now we have more pressing matters to attend to and we haven't the time to spare."
Doctor Doumey and Karl Gouverneur left the brownstone. On the front steps they exchanged a few words then each went his separate way.
In a VW Rabbit across the street three people sat watching the house of Doctor Wat'ta Doumey.
"Kyoko," King snapped, realizing that time was of the essence, "Ray Harris is still in there...probably unconscious, bound or...or perhaps dead. I do not believe there is anyone else in the house so I want you to go in and do whatever you can for Harris."
"Estelle." The black woman turned to face King. "We'll have to split up. There's a cab over there. Please follow Doumey. You know more about the matters he is involved in than I do. I'll take this clunker and follow the big man. He doesn't look like someone I'd want either of you ladies to tangle with."
"Then let's go!"
Kyoko and Madame Leoma left the car, Kyoko for the brownstone and Estelle for the cab. Doumey was just pulling away from the curb in his shiny white Cadillac when Madame Leoma in the taxi was right behind him. As King pulled out into the street, following Karl as he drove off, Kyoko, with an expertise any burgler would have envied, picked the lock of the front door and entered the brownstone.
The interior of the brownstone was old fashion and gloomy. It reminded Kyoko of the house Norman Bates lived in. Yet the house was not what the oriental woman had expected--something like a cross between a satanic "grotto" and an amusement park "haunted house", which, when you thought about it, were not all that different from one another.
Although careful not to make any noise, just in case, Kyoko bumped into a chair which made a sliding sound on the polished hard wood floor. Harris, bound and gagged in Doumey's private and perverse oum'phor, heard the noise above him and the frozen silence which followed. Obviously, he deduced, someone was in the house who was not supposed to be there, and especially after what the detective had overheard before Doumey and Gouverneur left he hoped it was a potential ally.
Kyoko froze when she heard the stamping and muffled grunts. At first she thought that the place might be haunted. Norman. Norman! Get that bitch out of here! she heard by way of her imagination. Then she realized that the sounds had a more natural origin, followed them and upon opening a door under the stairwell which led to the basement, she was immediately assailed by the fetid stink of rotting meat and other things too obnoxious to even think about. The sounds were coming from down there. Cautiously she descended the stairs.
A quick glance around to make sure it was not some kind of a trap while she also took in the perversity of the private Petro temple of the red Voodooist, and Kyoko was down the stairs and undoing the nylon ropes that secured the policeman.
"We've got to stop them!" Harris cried out as he tore the gag from his mouth. "I don't quite understand it, but I overheard Doumey and his man talking and there's going to be another sacrifice...this very day...and it is something big, someone important!"
"More important than a child?"
"Miss Toshiro, you know what I mean! Some very influential person is going to die soon if we don't stop it!"
As Harris untied his feet, Kyoko, with disgust, stepped over to the filthy altar and picked up the police revolver that had been deposited on it as if it were an offering to the loas that Doumey served. She handed the pistol to Harris who automatically checked the chamber and then holstered the weapon.
"Where did Doumey and Gouverneur go?"
Kyoko only took an instant to identify Gouverneur in her mind as the massive black man.
"I don't know. They went in separate directions. Madame Leoma followed Doumey and Solomonsan followed the big one."
"Then I can only think of one thing to do. I overheard a name... I couldn't believe it...but somehow he is tied in with this thing, whatever it is. I think Doumey may be headed towards that man's local estate. We have to get there as quickly as possible!"
In accord with Madame Leoma's commands, the taxi driver slowly eased the cab over to the curb, keeping it as much out of sight as possible. Sitting there she watched as limouisines drove through the guarded front gates of the large establishment and not only did she recognize many VIPs in the business community and the world of politics, but some of them she recognized as people who had expressed an interest in Voodoo. These people had initially sought her out but seemed disappointed when they discovered that Voodoo was, after all, a religion primarily and they soon seemed to lose interest. She now suspected that they had finally found what they had secretly desired.
"I've got to get in there," Madame Leoma said to herself.
"Sorry, lady. I just drive people to where they want to go."
"Of course you do, and here's what I owe you." Reaching into her beaded shoulder bag to get the cab fare she glanced at the silk pouch within. As Madame Leoma handed the money to the cabbie, including an impressive tip, her eyes studied the two men in suits at the front gate: men, she thought, who were probably well armed.
"I want you to do me a favour."
The cabbie's smile turned upside down. "It figures."
"It's important, but it shouldn't be much trouble for you. Use your radio and have your dispatcher put in a call to the 93rd precinct for Detective Raymond Harris. Tell him that Madame Leoma is at the Thoreaucill estate and that he should get here as quickly as possible, prepared for the worst. Got that?"
"Ah, yeah. The Nine-three. Detective Raymond Harris. Madema Leoma at the Thoreaucill estate. Rush it and bust it."
"Good enough. Now please do that right away."
Madame Leoma stepped out of the cab and clamly walked across the street towards the open front gate.
"Sorry, madam," said one of the guards holding up his hand in a halting gesture. "Can't let you in without an invitation."
"Oh yes. Of course. Let's see..." She began rummaging in her purse. "I know I had it in here somewhere." She removed some cosmetics and handed them to the guard in front of her. "Would you mind? Thank you. You're a dear." She continued to go through the purse and pulled out more things--tiny bottles of coloured liquid, some feathers and other items one would normally not find in a woman's purse, but which these two men no longer found unusual. These things she handed to the other guard who had come over to see what was up. "I know I have it here somewhere. Ah! Yes! Here it is!" Madame Leoma pulled her hand out of the purse, opened it to reveal a little pile of what appeared to be fine ash, and smiled. The two men exchanged querious looks--maybe this lady was even weirder than the rest of them?--then they looked back at her. Madame Leoma was still smiling as she bid them sweet dreams and blew the fine ash into their faces. In seconds they were on the ground and sleeping for what would be days.
Unfortunately for Madame Leoma, things are only that easy in the movies. There were two more guards on the other side of the gate, purposely out of sight, and with revolvers in hand they stopped her as she passed through the portal.
"I'll take that," one of the guard said, roughly tearing the purse from her shoulder. "Chris, you take her in to the senator and I'll pull these guys out of sight and stick by the gate. And Chris...be careful. This bitch is a tricky one."
With excessive force, the other man grabbed the woman's arm and roughly pushed her ahead of him, his automatic in his other hand aimed at the lady's back.
Traffic in the city was insane, partly because of the blocked off streets and partly due to the excessive number of motorists and pedestrians. King had seen the city crowded before--it was a daily occurrance--but he had never seen it this bad. Except, he thought, keeping his eyes on Karl's car well ahead of him, during the Thanksgiving Day parade.
An impatient motorist swerved over into King's lane ahead of him, putting yet another car between him and Doumey's man, missing the Rabbit by mere inches.
"Bloody lunatic!" King growled.
Not wishing to let his temper get the better of him, King turned on the radio hoping for a little soothing music. What he got instead was a news break discussing the Pope's visit to the city, already in progress.
"Of course! That's the reason for this mess. All of those devout Catholics coming into the city to see the man who is ultimately responsible for all of the inane restrictions upon their personal lives, even their very private sexual preferences, slavishly hoping to kiss the hand that binds their souls."
The man who cut in front of King again swerved radically to change lanes without employing his turn signals as warning. This time he was not so lucky and he collided with another motorist. King had to brake quickly to avoid becoming another highway statistic, but the brakes of the Rabbit were quite inferior to those that he had been accustomed to and apparently the driver behind him did not even know what a brake was. King's automobile screeched to a jarring halt, slamming into the left rear quarter panel of the car ahead of him, and a split second later the driver behind him tried very hard, it seemed, to park in his hatchback. By the time King cleared his head from the shock, he realized that he had lost Doumey's man entirely and he had no idea whatsoever as to the man's destination. Intuition, however, told Solomon King that he was not headed to a church social.
"Madame Estelle Leoma," Doctor Doumey said with an evil grin on his ebony face. "I have always wanted to meet you. I just never thought..."
"I have never wished to meet you, Doumey. Your papers on the religion have always gone just a little too far in trying to prove the sanctity of Voodoo...so much so that I had to listen to you, to see you in person."
"Ah...so you were in the studio audience during my talk show appearance?"
"Yes, and my suspicions were almost confirmed." The statuesque woman looked around regarding her surroundings and those in the room. Certain faces that she recognized from personal meetings she lingered upon for moment. "My suspicions," she said, turning back to Doumey, "are now completely confirmed. Mauvais! Magie! N'gan!"
Doumey laughed. "Sorcerer perhaps," he stopped laughing abruptly and looked very seriously at the woman, "but I am no fake...as you shall soon see." He commanded the man who still held her, "Bring her into the ballroom. I want her to witness the power of Baka."
"Doctor Doumey," a slender man with blond hair and glasses beckoned--he was Senator Thoreaucill's private secretary, "the senator is getting impatient with the delay in the proceedings."
Doumey turned fiercely upon the young man and was about to speak sharply to him, then he remembered to remain calm. Let Thoreaucill believe he is in charge for now, that he gives the orders. Later on he will discover that he is merely a puppet on a string--but by then it will be too late. He, Doctor Wat'ta Doumey, planned to be holding all the strings.
"Convey my apologies to the senator. We have an unexpected honoured guest. I will begin in a moment."
The young man, shaken by the look he'd seen in Doumey's reptilian black eyes, nodded and returned to the senator with the message.
"You will appreciate this, Madame Leoma. It will show you what real power is like."
Solomon King was not sure what to do next. It had been one hell of a job getting out of the mess on the street, but finally he managed to extricate himself and pull the Rabbit over to the curb. Steam was shooting out of the damaged radiator and the hatchback would never be the same again. He hoped that the loaner was insured!
When he had his 450 SL and needed to make a telephone call King only had to pick up the car 'phone. Not having his Mercedes any longer made King realize that a good, well equipped automobile in this day and age, especially for the kind of adventure he was always finding himself involved in, is an indispensible tool--not a mere vanity. With a better vehicle he might have avoided the accident, and certainly it would have been easier to check with the police station. However, as it was, a pay 'phone was not too far from where he left the loaner. It was one of the few telephone booths still in existence, although the folding door had been removed and it smelled of stale urine. But the telephone worked--even if the receiver did feel like a kid with a lollypop had handled it--and he got through to the desk sergeant with little difficulty--that is, after being put on hold for nearly ten minutes.
"Yeah? What can I do for you?"
"Has Detective Ray Harris come in yet?"
"Ah...no...he's still checked out," the desk sergeant replied. "Hey, is this...ah...Solomon King?"
"I am he."
"Got a message for you from officer Harris. It doesn't make much sense to me. Had it patched through from a taxi cab."
"Please let me have it," King said.
The desk sergeant cleared his throat before relaying the message.
"'Going to Thoreaucill's with Kyoko. Must stop Doumey's man. Papa Roy in danger.' Then there's something about 'ritual sacrifice' and 'political power'. I didn't quite get it all. Say, does this have something to do with Senator Thoreaucill?"
"Thank you, officer." Ignoring the policeman's question, King abruptly hung up. There was no time for chatter.
Okay, so he knew that Harris and Kyoko were headed for Thoreaucill's. All things considered it seemed logical to assume that Estelle too would be headed that way as, probably, if there was a connection between the men, Doumey was leaving for the senator's estate when last he saw him. The senator and the red Voodooist seemed to be obviously linked in some scheme. King had never trusted popular politicians. But who was papa Roy? Of course! Papa roi! Not merely a priest, but a high priest. In danger? Of death perhaps? Another sacrifice? For what purpose? Death releases the soul. The soul is power. Such power can be captured and employed for any desired purpose...
And State Senator Richard Thoreaucill was incredibly popular and already a shoe-in for the presidency! One more shove in the right direction and he would be holding the highest office in the land.
With Doctor Doumey right behind him all the way.
King could not believe that this thing had turned out to be so big. It could not possibly become more twisted, he thought.
The question as to who the papa roi was vexed him, however. What person's life would be sacrificed to help put Thoreaucill over the top and into the White House? Certainly Madame Leoma was not the target for the reference was to a houn'gan and not a mam'bo. King never even considered himself, and besides, Karl had been headed toward the heart of the city and not in any direction that King would be likely to have been found. What houn'gans did he know who lived or operated in the city?
"'Cuse me, sonny. Could you spare a quarter for an old man down on his luck?"
King turned to see an old black man in ragged clothes, leaning on a crudely fashioned crutch.
"Sure." King absently took out his billfold, removed a bill and handed it to the old beggar. It was a twenty.
"Thank you, sonny. You are most generous." There was a moment of silence as the old man regarded the younger man. "Something troubling you?"
"Huh? Oh. Yes. Kind of."
The ancient cripple jerked his thumb to indicate the car which was still steaming and leaking fluids by the curb.
"Looks like you had a bit of an accident there."
"Aw...it's all the papa's fault."
King looked at the old man. "Come again?"
"Papa. Papa. You know...the Pope. Don't you listen to the news, boy? The Pope's in town and the whole city's a mess. Might be a bunch of bullshit, but you gotta admit that people invests a lot of power in it."
"That's it! And I thought that it couldn't get any worse! Thanks, old man. You don't know how helpful you've been!"
With that Solomon King, his walking stick in hand, dashed off on foot in the hope of getting to the holy Father before Doumey's man.
The old beggar, leaning upon his crutch, merely watched King as he ran down the sidewalk--a twinkle in his eye and a smile upon his ancient wrinkled face.
The gros baka, the special Voodoo drum used in Petro loa ceremonies, gave forth a deep, grave tone as it was beat, struck by the flat of the hand. Likewise, the pititt or the ti-baka drum took up the wild beat. Each beat of the drums, every pause in between a beat, was especially calculated to do just what they were doing. The blood of the celebrants, white as well as black, seemed to heat up to the boiling point as subconsciously they matched their breathing patterns to the rhythm of the primative music. The chants, vibrating in the air, added to the sensation of what was essentially sexual heat--a sexual heat so strong that it inflamed violence. The mixture of sounds and evocations was like an intense flame within the brain, driving the participants of the Petro ceremony to near madness.
Although the ballroom was more richly decorated and impressive than Madame Leoma's simple outdoor oum'phor, despite the fact that all of the ritual furnishings, the pé, the asseins which held burning candles and even the porteau-mitan itself were finely handcrafted works of art, richly finished, there was in that great room an air of intense perversity and sickness. An atmosphere of what most people would describe as evil permeated the Petro oum'phor--an atmosphere completely different from that of Madame Leoma's outdoor oum'phor. It was not long before Madame Leoma realized the intent and focus of the ceremony and she did her very best to at least delay it as long as possible
"Doumey! Doumey!" she screamed out. "Maman cabrit! Maman cochon! Your mother is a goat! Your mother is a pig! Papa Legba's curse upon you! Papa Legba..." The man holding her clamped his hand tightly over her mouth.
"Keep her quiet!" Doumey cried out before returning to the altar. Upon the altar were the usual govi jars, food offerings, beads, a machete, and some books on occultism to mention but a few items. There was, as well, a complicated veve made of red brick dust, dried blood, the ashes of a cremated corpse and gunpowder. Upon the pé was the talisman of Baka depicting a furred demonic creature with forked tail and erect phallus. This talisman the perverse houn'gan held up for all to see as he called forth Baka to take possession of his servant. Then Doumey took from the folds of his blood-red robes a small stuffed doll that had been dressed in white, a small white skull cap on its squarish head. A large cross was drawn on both the front and the back of the poppet.
"Papa Baka! Lord of lords! Great loa! Accept the sacrifices offered."
While men held on tightly to a black goat and a black rooster, two other men sliced their throats with great expertise and the blood of the victims was allowed to run all over the veve drawn on the floor.
"Ride the chosen one now, Baka, and take for yourself the supreme sacrifice!"
At that moment a shot rang out. A man groaned outside and fell. Then the doors to the ballroom burst in. There in the doorway Kyoko and Detective Harris, service revolver smoking in hand, stood.
"It's over, Doumey. It's all over."
"For you it is over!" Doumey screamed. He thrust his hands forward, clutching the talisman of Baka. The candles in the room, the only illumination, flickered wildly. Some went out. There was a terrific rush of wind moving from the altar towards the doorway--a hot, sticky, noxious air that struck the policeman squarely in the chest. Harris felt as if someone had pounded his ribcage with a sledgehammer. Surprised, he lost his grip on the revolver and it went flying. Doumey's security men, at that moment, laid their hands upon Harris and Kyoko to hold them fast, although at that point Harris, who could not catch his breath, was no threat whatsoever.
The man still holding Madame Leoma screamed and pulled his bleeding hand back. The mam'bo had very sharp teeth and an extremely strong jaw.
"I curse you, Doumey! By the power of Legba and Erzuli, by the great power of Danbhalah Wédo, I curse you!"
The man who had held the Voodoo priestess balled up his bloody hand and smashed it into her face. Like a poleaxed calf Madame Leoma hit the floor, no longer a threat to Doumey. She was out cold.
"Now," Doumey gloated, "we will continue."
A special stage had been erected for the Pope's visit and the proceedings were resplendent with pomp and display. Although police were working extra shifts for the sake of crowd control and security, the city was insane with the clamoring rabble of humanity--each person there, for one reason or another, trying to get as close to the holy father as possible. Amongst the crowd of devout and mostly nominal Christians there was one whose purpose for wanting to be near the Pope Solomon King finally understood.
Karl found a place hidden by shadows, a place where he could not be seen well by the masses that swarmed around him. There, in that hidden place, his great body began to quiver and shake as, many miles away, Baka was called upon. The débâtement had begun. The conflict between the loa and the gros-bon-ange, the man's soul, was taking place. They fought for control, for although Karl was a willing vehicle for the loa there was That which rebelled against the temple's invasion.
After the struggle was finished, after Baka took complete control of Karl, the gros negre of the Petro société, the demon-man stepped out into the light. The body of the man had undergone a subtle yet startling transformation. His exposed face, arms and hands seemed to be covered with a light matted fur and his eyes no longer appeared to be human, so wild were they in their bestiality. Furthermore, the inhuman body reeked in a sulphurous manner, yet much worse than sulphur itself. Oddly, despite his appearance and the stench of his demonically possessed flesh, no one seemed to pay the demon-man much attention at all. It was as if to them his metamorphosis, his hideous appearance, had been completely undetectable to human perception. It was an unsettling sight indeed to see such a being striding amongst mortal men and women without, apparently, the least little bit of attention being given to it. Of course, upon closer examination, there were a very few who had noticed something disagreeable about the man, but it was very much upon the subconscious level and so difficult for them to clarify in their conscious minds that they paid little attention to their feelings.
More startling still was how easily the thing that was once human walked right past the police who not only did not challenge it but who apparently did not even notice the shambling demon-man.
All this Solomon King witnessed from a distance, unable to get past the throngs and cordons of police. To his trained mind the transformation of the man had been perfectly, horribly clear. The loa, King knew, had taken possession and was riding Karl all the way to the side of the Pope.
Suddenly a great cheer went up. The Pope was making his entrance, stepping up to the stage, his white robes and cap bleaming in the bright sunshine.
Solomon King gripped tighter his walking stick, his cocomaque, and forced his way through the people unavoidably knocking some down as he went. There was actually very little room whatsoever to move. When a police officer stood between King and the stage, still hundreds of yards away, the two men stared at one another for a second before each made his way to the other. Without warning King gently tapped the man on the side of his skull with the head of his walking stick and the uniformed officer went down to his knees, dazed as if beaten with a stout club. King merely stepped around the young man and continued to force his way forwards, towards the stage, but it seemed hopeless.
The Pope raised his arms in blessing, his aged face cracking with the effort to smile, his failing eyes squinted against the relentlessly harsh sunlight. He could not see the beastial man making his way towards the stage, and apparently neither could the holy father's personal security men. Whatever power disguised the demon-man and allowed him to pass unchallenged by the city policemen was also having its effect upon the Pope's bodyguards.
King, however, was not thus impaired and more than once his forward movement had been challenged, an officer ordering him to turn back. One way or another the magician removed or circumvented each obstacle as it was encountered, yet still the stage seemed to be miles and miles away, the demon-possessed man closer than ever to his intended victim.
Moving in that crowd took a great deal of time, even for the creature that stalked the Pope. By the time the thing had reached the edge of the stage, the holy father was finishing his oration upon the "satanic cults" that he insisted brought only evil to society, indirectly implying that any mystical belief other than that which he was the recognized authority of is "satanic". Having finished subtly condemning the greater part of the world's populace to the Christian hell--Buddhists, Jews and others right along with Wiccans, Thelemites and Voodoo practitioners--the Pope gave a final blessing then turned to leave the platform.
Solomon King seemed to be miles away. The crowd was even denser near the stage and the policemen and papal security vitually impossible to pass through. The magician could hardly see the Pope as he descended the steps to the back of the stage. He was horrified to note that the demon-man was incredibly near the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The drums beat maddeningly and the air was charged with a kind of electrical force that effected everyone present. The ballroom was filled with people who had become possessed by the Petro loas, and there was a great deal of wild dancing, thrashing about and incoherent screaming and babble. Doumey still chanted and although Baka possessed the gros negre miles away he was also present at the Petro oum'phor--time and space meaning nothing to a noncorporal being. Such an entity lives outside of the normal time-space continuum and to be in more than one place at a time, as we measure time and space, is quite natural.
"Ahi, Baka, Baka! Tambour moin Rélé!" Doumey called out loudly, still holding the talisman aloft. Reaching down with his right hand Doumey took from the altar a machete. "Tuer, Baka! Abattre! Baka, détruire!"
On the floor the mam'bo was still unconscious and some distance away from the now closed doors the police detective stood, bent forward, his weapon lost, gasping for air, a burly man standing by his side. Beside Harris stood Kyoko, a strong man on either side of her, tightly holding her arms. While everyone in the room breathed heavily, roughly, her breathing was becoming more and more measured and smooth. Her lovely asian eyes were focussed upon the mauvais houn'gan who chanted, holding aloft the talisman of Baka in one hand and a dangerous looking machete in the other.
Something was happening--something that the men holding the delicate oriental woman began to notice.
Madame Leoma, who should have remained unconscious for hours, began to regain consciousness. Her eyelids fluttered and groggily, ignored by all around her, she got to her knees on the floor. When she looked up and saw Kyoko she whispered in astonishment, "Ma Dieu! Take from me, sister, what power you can. It is yours and I give it to you freely!"
"Baka! Maitre Baka!" Doumey bellowed. On the point of saying more the perverse priest of Baka suddenly froze.
"Kadie Bossou, Yahiwé, Yahwé, Yahwé, Ya Bossou, a Dié; couline ça-c, cé pou Yahwé...!" Kyoko called out loudly.
The entire assemblage froze and turned towards the woman still held prisoner before the closed doors. Even the drummers ceased in their drumming, their trance broken.
"Cé pou Yahwé-Aida Yahwé, Yahwé!" Kyoko continued with tremendous authority. "Cé la police, O ya lagué la police 'lan cò-ou. Cé pou Yahwé Camblarmin!"
"No! No!" Doumey screamed, brandishing the machete. "I am the Grand Roi Voodoo! I have the right to be here! To wield the machete is my right! I am a houn'gan! I am the Grand Maitre Houn'gan! I hold the asson!" And setting down the talisman of Baka, Doumey grabbed from the altar the ritual rattle, the symbol of a houn'gan's and mam'bo's office.
"N'gan! N'gan!" Kyoko charged in a loud, authoritative voice. Then as if they were mere invalids that held her, Kyoko broke free from the two thugs--not only broke free, but when she suddenly jerked her arms out to either side the men were sent sprawling to the floor as if knocked over by a bull. "N'gan!" Kyoko again charged in a loud voice, her right arm extended, pointing directly to the man by the altar. "You are a fake! A charlatan! You are not a true houn'gan! You have no right to hold the asson, to wield the machete!"
Kyoko seemed to glow with power in the darkened room, while Doumey was obviously weakened by the attack which made him forget his position as he reacted not from intellect, but according to the dictates of ego. Little did he realize at the time, blinded by ego, that he had broken contact with Baka by putting the talisman down and allowing his concentration to be broken. Consequently, Baka was angered and free to do as he would.
"Legba," Kyoko continued, Madame Leoma still kneeling on the floor, virtually in a trance state as she gave what she could of herself to the oriental woman, "cé ou minm' qu'a paré soleil pou moin! Cé ou minm' qu'a paré soleil pou moin! Le brûler! Brûler n'gan Doumey!"
Behind Kyoko the doors of the ballroom suddenly burst open, swinging to with such terrific force that they were all but torn from their hinges, and behind her there was an incredibly intense white light from which everyone in the room was forced to shield their eyes.
Doumey screamed, dropping both the asson and the machete, trying desperately to shield his eyes as well, but it was to no avail. The damage had already been done. As if they were set on fire, Doumey's eyes burned in his skull. Screaming, thrashing about in pain, he turned and fell upon the altar, knocking govis, bowls of food and other things to the floor.
Amidst his screams and the screams of the other celebrants, the high-pitched whine of sirens could be heard. After Harris had relayed his message for King via the taxi cab's radio on the way to Thoreaucill's estate he had attempted to request a police back up. However, there had been interference and he could not get his request through. Yet somehow, Madame Leoma later insisting that thanks was due to Kyoko, the police had nevertheless been alerted.
The demon in the man's body was almost upon the Pope. It was infuriating to be yet so far away when he--when it--was so close to the papal visitor. It was frustrating to see how easy it was for the possessed man to get so close despite the multitude of city police officers and special security guards. Causing his heart to skip a beat, Solomon King caught the flash of metal as it was stricken by sunlight. The magician increased his struggle to break through the crowd of people and police. His frustration increased. It was the blade of a machete that had caught the light and Karl, or Baka, had it by his side ready to strike out.
At that moment King was overcome by an odd feeling. He seemed to feel Kyoko's presence although what he felt somehow seemed to be more than Kyoko herself. As if repeating words he heard whispered in his ear, King quietly called out: "Papa Legba! Papa Legba! Cé ou minm' qu'a paré soleil pou moin!"
"Walk behind the sun, young man. Walk behind the sun and let it light your way."
King was only vaguely aware of the old man's presence, for suddenly his attention had been captured by the way the people before him parted, shielding their eyes. To him nothing seemed to have changed. The sunlight was bright, but no brighter than before, and yet the people ahead of him were moving aside as if he held before him a great flaming ball that threatened to blind anyone who stood before it. Taking advantage of this phenomenon, the magician moved forward until, within seconds, he found himself beside the possessed man. King grabbed the man's muscular arm and spun him around. It was mere seconds before he could lift the machete and strike his intended victim, and the delay gave the Pope and his special security men enough time to move out of range, although they seemed completely unaware of what was going on, they themselves blinded by the light that did not at all effect King's vision. Later it would be reported that some practical joker or freak accident had caused the momentary blinding light, but King would know that the answer was to be found elsewhere.
The possessed man turned upon King, growled like an enraged animal, raised the machete, then screamed in pain as his eyes burned in the light of the sun and as his evoking houn'gan, at the same time, felt the might of Papa Legba through the medium of Kyoko. At that precise moment King raised his walking stick and struck the transformed man sharply between the eyes. The creature reeled back, dropping its weapon, and King called upon his Innermost Self, the Dæmon or indwelling god that was his True Self. Quickly he thrust his body forward, extending his arms, holding the baton Legba out, pointing it directly at the possessed man. In the sign of Horus, the Enterer, King called upon the name of the ancient Egyptian sun god, the present æon's supreme God, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, and the possessed man literally flew off of his feet and backwards to slam into a wall screaming. By the time he slid to the ground King noticed that his physical appearance had returned to normal with but two exceptions: not only had the man's eyes been burnt out of his skull, but there was a still smoking burn in his chest His heart had literally been consumed by solar flames from within.
The light that blinded the others dimmed and the body of the man was quickly discovered by the police. The commotion caught the attention of papal security and the Pope himself. The holy father looked down, quickly took in the scene, the dead man, the machete lying on the ground, then he looked up from the scene and saw Solomon King. He was never certain how he knew it, but in that instant he knew not only exactly who and what King was but what he had done--that he had saved his life.
King smiled at the head of the Catholic Church.
"Do what thou wilt," he said and then in an instant he was gone, lost in the frenzied crowd of people.
People, driven half mad by the unexpected turn of events and the frightening display of power, tried their very best to rush out of the ballroom. Many of them actually made it only to be stopped in the next room by a wall of police officers with weapons drawn and aimed in their direction. The media frenzie was already beginning.
Doumey, kneeling on the floor, rested his arms and head against the pé and wept. As he did so Thoreaucill came out of the shadows. "Bastard!" he cursed through clenched teeth. "I might have had a chance had it not been for your big plans! I might have made it without you!" Before anyone could stop him, Senator Thoreaucill picked up the fallen machete in one hand, sharply turned Doumey around with the other and then quickly disemboweled the beaten Petro houn'gan.
A wild look in his eyes, a bestial expression made even more hideous by the contrast of his dignified appearance and apparel, Thoreaucill turned to face the officers entering the room. The bloodied machete was still in his hand as he took two steps foward, not hearing the command to halt given by one of the officers. Before his third step was completed, lead slugs tore into his body. As the corpse fell to the ground both Kyoko and Madame Leoma saw that which the policemen could not see. It was the ghostly form of a thing with matted fur, a forked tail and a revolting and fierce demonic aspect, and it seemed to be seeping through the pores of the senator's body to escape and then disintegrate into the atmosphere.
"Baka," the Voodoo mam'bo whispered as she stood beside Kyoko.
The officers were stuffing the last of the red Voodooists into police vehicles when Solomon King arrived on the scene. He had managed to disappear--figuratively speaking--in the midst of the frantic crowd back in the city and quickly found a taxi. The cabbie was in a good mood having already earned a twenty dollar tip and he was glad to do all that he could to get King to his destination as quickly as possible. Why not? He knew the way having already been there once before that very day!
"Solomonsan!" Kyoko called out as he entered the dishevelled ballroom. She dashed over to him, wrapped her arms around the Thelemic magician and kissed him soundly on the lips.
"I must tell you later about your mam'bo, Solomon!" Solomon looked at Madame Leoma and then into Kyoko's sparkling eyes.
"Whatever you have to tell me, Estelle, wouldn't surprise me in the least."
Detective Harris, fairly well recovered now, reentered the large room.
"I guess that about does it. But this is going to be one hell of a mess that won't be cleared up for months! Have you any idea how many VIPs there were in this stinking place!"
King and Kyoko walked back towards the altar where Madame Leoma and now Detective Harris stood. Doumey's and Thoreaucill's bodies were still laying where they had fallen. They were all thankful that Doumey had fallen face down.
"Doctor Wat'ta Doumey," King mused with a cynical smile, "what a dummy. He thought that he could master something that cannot be mastered, and look where it got him. But of course it was very close. He had almost succeeded. If it hadn't been for that old beggar hobbling along on a crutch I may not have been able to handle my end of this godawful mess."
"An old beggar on a crutch?" Madame Leoma queried. "Dressed in rags?"
"Yeah. Sure..." King replied, the expression on his face changing.
Kyoko stooped down and slipped the book that had been knocked off of the altar out from under Doumey's bloody hand. With fascination she read the passage that the book had lain open at: "'He is a loa commonly identified with Saint Peter and is represented by a feeble old man dressed in rags. His symbol is the crutch. Known as the "spirit of the sun", Papa Legba is the keeper of the gate to the beyond and he is considered a good loa who tries to help those in trouble'."
Kyoko looked up at King with an amazed expression upon her beautiful face.
"Solomonsan...you don't think...?"
"Kyoko," King replied, "to quote from the Book of the Law, 'Yet there are masked ones my servants: it may be that yonder beggar is a King. A King may choose his garment as he will'. Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility."