Mr. Lust didn’t give in easily.
She told us to have fun with our voodoo lady. It was practically an order. Like getting your salad dressing on the side. Hey, good one. We’ll be getting our Chai on the side. Besides, it’s just until Sabrina gets back.
Don’t be an idiot. Nobody gets hurt; everybody wins.
Well, can we have one for the road when we tell her goodbye?
I was out on the island, walking the wheel—the one in the back yard hadn’t done the trick. I was trying to clear my mind so I could focus on . . . well, not sure exactly if I was supposed to focus on Sabrina or Chai. They were both hanging around, which I could probably have dealt with if Mr. Lust would just shut up.
Jacking off is so junior high.
I didn’t even dignify that one with a reply.
Then a funny thing happened. One of the striking features of Avalon, S.C. is that there’s no wildlife there. Oh, I’m sure there are beetles and worms and shit. Maybe even an entire menagerie out in the forest, Bambi and Thumper and Flower and the whole gang, all watching me wide-eyed and bushy-tailed (well, except for Thumper of course). But it was always deathly quiet when I was there, at least as far as fauna was concerned.
So when a crow flew down to perch on a nearby oak and shattered the stillness with his cry, it purely shocked the shit out of me. Mr. Lust too, if his silence was any indicator.
One caw, screamed but not repeated.
In the silence that followed, I found the golden-haired woman had shooed both Sabrina and Chai away and was there lounging around in my cerebral cortex. I didn’t need to hold her there, I just needed to pay attention.
So I started to walk again.
After two minutes of blissful silence, Mr. Lust interjected, Can’t we at least . . .
And that was that. Meditation is no trick whatsoever when you have your own black-feathered enforcer.
I made my way all the way around to the west, then stopped and stared out at the water visible through the trees. “So, Nimue,” I spoke out loud, as if she were right there listening to me. And not feeling even the slightest bit foolish about doing so. “What should I do?”
“Why do you seek guidance from me, when you already know the answer? Just do it.” She didn’t speak out loud, but the way the answer resonated back and forth inside my skull, she might as well have.
I didn’t even finish the cycle; I just headed back.
It was an hour before Chai would be home from work, so I made up a mixer of martinis, then went looking for info on crows. George didn’t have any bird watching handbooks or biology texts, but I did find a book on Native American Animal Medicine. Here’s what it had to say about crow.
Crow is the custodian of the gateway between the physical world as we know it and the supernatural world that we long to know. Crow is the fanatical guardian of this knowledge, and never gives up his secrets willingly. And so this precious and sacred knowledge remains closed to us. However, crow the trickster can himself be tricked into giving up bits of that knowledge, in the same way that he dropped pebbles into the water pitcher in that archetypical fable by Aesop, which is also a common story among Native American peoples.
There was also a story about crow being eaten by his shadow, which explains why he’s sandwiched between the living and the dead. As well as why he’s black.
I finished the second martini waiting for Chai, then paced for a few minutes before dialing her up.
“Ah, Rick Whittaker. Up until this afternoon, I was sure I wouldn’t hear from you until Saturday. You’ve never struck me as the get-it-done-early type.”
I was confused by her word choice. “Um, so what happened this afternoon that made you change your mind?”
“At 3:17 this afternoon you decided in favor of the little waitress.”
That pronouncement struck me totally speechless. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, except it was my voice and not my sight that I lost. OK, not a brilliant metaphor. But I was standing there holding the phone, staring out into space, my mouth opening and closing but nothing coming out.
“Um, hello. Anybody there?”
I sucked whatever liquid I could scavenge out of my martini glass before blurting out, “How the hell did you know that?”
“Would you believe I felt it, all the way to Beaufort?”
“At this point, I’d believe anything you tell me. So, you felt it how?”
“It was like being slapped right across the Ajna. That’s the brow chakra to you Normans. And I knew the answer already, but I did a quick reading to make sure that the answer was no.”
“Slapped across the Ajna. That describes my experience perfectly.” I told her about walking the wheel on the island and the crow and the visitation from the golden-haired woman.
“Ah. The same fellow witch who would have sacrificed me on her altar if only I’d been a dimension closer. I’m starting not to like her very much. Incidentally, her card came up in the reading. The high priestess.”
A shiver ran down my spine, like my grandmother used to describe as somebody walking across your grave. Only graver.
“Chai, do you think I’m in danger?”
“Possibly. But it appears more likely that everybody else is in danger except you. After your vision today, I wouldn’t dare venture out to the island without you.”
“What do you think could happen?”
“Don’t know, exactly. But if your golden-haired woman is as powerful as she seems, she could reach across a weak boundary and draw my essence into wherever she is. That would stop my heart and trap me between realms, neither dead nor alive. No thanks.”
I had so many things to ask, it seemed like a simple goodbye conversation—if any goodbye conversation could ever be accurately labeled simple—had turned into something far more complex.
“Do you think that’s what happened to George?”
“I definitely think it’s possible. But in that case, she would have to be evil. Do you get any sense of evil from her emanations?”
I thought about it for a solid minute before answering, “I have never sensed anything that I would call evil.”
“There you go. If you’re right, then no. Of course, if you’re a typical Norman who couldn’t detect an evil emanation if one kicked you in your sacral chakra, then there’s a pretty fair chance that’s exactly what happened.”
“And does your typical Norman have visions? Not to mention visits from animal emissaries?”
“Touché. I concede that you no longer qualify as a Norman. I’ll mail you a certificate.”
I thought carefully before uttering these next words, which seemed a lot more dangerous than Nimue or the island. “Chai, is there any chance you’d be willing to stay on as my advisor in this matter? On a strictly professional basis?”
“Do you mean, on a strictly platonic basis? Or more bluntly, can I keep my hands off you? Hmm. Maybe we should meet for dinner to talk about it. I could even bring your certificate with me, save a stamp.”
“OK. I don’t have a lot going on between now and Imbolc, so I’m pretty free.”
“Any chance of getting a goodbye fuck out of this? You’d not only get laid, you wouldn’t have to drive the road from hell after dark.”
Just like she’d been reading Mr. Lust’s mind. When Chai and Mr. Lust are on the same wavelength, trouble is brewing.