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|Dennard is talking to someone and it's freaking me out. There is no one in front of him but his eyes are focused to a point just above him. There is terror in his voice, there is terror in his eyes and I can't see what's terrifying him. He topples backward with force like he's shoved or kicked in the chest and he is laying face up on the tarmac. Then as plain as is possible in a driving rainstorm, two chunks of his full beard rip away from his chin at the roots. He shrieks and the tufts drop to the ground and float away on a rivulet of water towards the gutter.
"I'm a coward I know! I've always been a coward. Forgive me I'm sorry...I'm sorry Captain Claibourne!" he sobs.
The scene is too much for me. I have to leave. I am devoid of enough courage to help this man and whatever demon is persecuting him. That name has come up twice in the last ten minutes and I'm not equipped with enough brain power to figure this crap out.
The keys to the jag are still in the ignition and I start her up not caring that the fan belt is broken still. The rain has started to decline but it's still very dark for two-thirty in the afternoon. I peel out of the station and head towards Homer where I can get back on the highway to New Orleans.
A solitary female figure hobbles at the side of the road ahead of me. There's only one person that can be and I pass her with enough velocity to splash a flood of water over her. Good riddance.
I crack my neck bones and try to relax enough to think logically about what I'm going through.
It's working, but then my gut cavorts and I need to use the bathroom again.
I take a deep breath into my lungs to calm my bowels but lose the battle right at the same time the crow in the back seat spreads her wings and squawks.
It is not easy keeping the Jag on the slick road with the crow's talons planted in my neck and ripping at my cheek flesh. Her wings flap at such high frequency in front of my eyes that I do not see the culvert edge until its too late. Feathers are swirling like I'm in a black snow blizzard and the car ends up on its side crashing into the water-filled ditch.
The damned crow is startled by the collision and begins a screeching whine before she flies through the broken passenger window. Although I see her disappear behind the branches I still hear the annoying whining which stops the instant I close my mouth.
I manage to climb out the driver's side door and the rain, I swear, has turned to acid, the way how it burns the lacerations on my face. My blood stains the front of my wet shirt conch pink, but I engineer this distress to remind me I'm still alive. There are two houses a short distance away on a dirt road and I trudge through the muck to get help. I don't know what the odds are for country folk to let strangers in to crap in their bathrooms but I'm guessing it's pretty low.
I pick the green house on the left for no particular reason and before I decide whether to knock with my knuckles or pound with my fist the door swings open and the woman standing in the doorway says. " Mr. Benoit...you don't look so hot. Ha Ha. I've been expecting you."
My open jaw is locked in place and I cannot utter a word of English. DeShawn Washington's mother smiles as she holds the door ajar. She is dressed as I left her hours earlier; She's a pretty creole. A pleated turban-like wrap crowns her caramel face and her eyelashes are naturally thick. They curve with flair at the ends of her lids.
"Why don't you come in out of the rain? You probably want to use the bathroom right? Come this way, dear."
I am completely confused. This is not the house I visited earlier. I'm sure of it, but as I enter, all of the furnishings are familiar. To calculate the odds of this occurrence is impossible but the need for me to relieve myself is urgent and I just follow the direction of her index finger. I am tracking mud and dripping water and blood all over this woman's floor but first things first.
The bathroom is such an oasis from the maelstrom of the past hour. It's clean with a feminine touch and the lavender fragrance calms me. On the wall ahead, a varnished wood plaque hangs above a mirror. It reads; WRETRIBUTION and before I fully appreciate the wordplay I come across the disheveled monster sitting on the toilet staring back at me. I am a disgusting royal mess. I remove my ruined Italian shoes and finish up in the bathroom. Retracing my steps, the floor is already spotless and I can finally say thank you to Mrs. Washington who sits at the dining table where we spoke this morning. She motions for me to take the same seat I sat on previously.
"Mrs. Washington. Thank you so much for helping me out. I'm in your debt...but how did you know to expect me?"
"You're welcome, dear. Please, call me Regina, I'm not Mrs. Washington. I've already called a wrecker truck for your car but you already know it'll take two hours right?" she says, stirring a cup with a teabag string hanging over the edge. The silver spoon clinks against the saucer as she rests it down.
On the table before me is a glass of water and some white medical gauze pads in a ziplock bag. "Okay, Regina-- a crow got into my car somehow and attacked me as I was driving..." I can't complete my explanation because there is something else on the far end of the table that grips at my windpipe.
A box cutter knife sits in the middle of a worn rubber belt. The engine belt has been clearly sliced with a sharp edge.
I shudder through my wet clothing. Part of it is due to my realization that this woman might not have my best interest at heart but most of it is from a cold draught of air wafting through her home.
"Is---is that my fan belt?"
"Hmm. I'm not sure. DeShawn leaves things all over the house. He's quite talented with his hands outside of football you know."
She sips her tea and calls DeShawn from the garage. He comes in shirtless, with more than his fair share of muscles exposed, wiping his hands on an oily rag.
"Is that Mr. Benoit's fan belt?"
"It could be, Miss Regina. But with all the work I'm doing making my custom motorcycles I'm not really sure."
He looks right past me and says," Oh hey, Gert."
"Gert? Gert! You all know her? She's here?"
"Oh, of course, we know her. She's standing right behind you."
I whip around out of my chair but there is nothing there except the condensation from my breath. The temperature drop dries out the film of water on my corneas and I blink repeatedly to replenish the moisture.
I've had enough. I'm exhausted from being afraid and confused. I'm wet, bleeding and someone in this house owes me answers.
"Who are you people? Dammit, tell me what's going on? How do you know Gert and why can't I see her anymore?"
Miss Regina looks at the big ropey veins I know have swollen on the sides of my neck. I've seen them bulge before when I've been frustrated and she seems impressed.
"Do you know what I do for a living, Mr. Benoit? Hmmm?" She stands and circles behind me. "I'm a negotiator, and I'm very good at it. The reason why I'm so good, is because I can communicate with certain energy forms on very specific frequencies."
"I don't understand what you're talking about."
"Well shut up and listen... You're a wretch, you've done many wretched things in your life. DeShawn's future success in the NFL is guaranteed already because of my negotiation to bring you here so I don't need your money. Your bowel affliction will never leave you just so as you know, but you're going to have to go with Gert and the motorcyclist if you don't agree to do one more thing."
I can hear the blood pounding against my eardrums. " Wha...What?"
"Free DeShawn's father."
"Miss Regina Who...?"
"Marcus Washington. Ring a bell? He's on death row because you destroyed evidence that cleared him from the murder you knew he didn't commit. Begin to fix it today or you will see all of your new friends again."
"I'll be disbarred, maybe jailed. Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because I'm a Claibourne too, Mr. Benoit. We spinster ladies stick together whether in the now or the hereafter."