The story takes place in Mississippi. In 1925
Lucy stepped into the old weather beaten boat moored to the dock at the edge of town. She had been told by one of the men at the station that a man named Thomas knew where her Godfather lived and would take her up stream in his engine boat.
Thomas had helped her place her lone suitcase in the bow next to the provisions they were taking with them. Thomas was a kindly black man in his sixties. He made his living by taking supplies up and down the Crow River too out of the way farms and homes.
Lucy still was not used to the heat this far south. Her home was in Boston until the death of her parents last month. A fire had claimed their lives while they slept. It was all very sudden and at just sixteen Lucy’s life had been turned upside down. The family attorney, J.T. Windsor, could not locate any family for poor Lucy to live with. He was finally able to find her Godfather, a man known as Harold Bushnell, but commonly called “The Colonel” in his circles. Lucy had found an old letter in the burnt ruins of her home with his name on it by some miracle.
He lived on a small farm in southern Mississippi. The farm was located on the banks of the Crow River, a branch of the Mississippi river proper. The Colonel had been a friend of her father many years ago when they were much younger. Lucy was surprised to hear that he would be happy to help out his old friend and take care of his goddaughter.
The engine boat chugged up stream slowly. Thomas was a nice enough man but he was constantly taking sips from a small bottle whenever he thought Lucy wasn’t looking. There wasn’t much to see on the voyage, Spanish moss, and trees lined the river banks making her feel as if she was traveling back in time to some primordial world.
As they came around a bend in the river Thomas stood up and pointed. “There’s yo Colonel’s farm Miss Lucy.” he said. Lucy turned to see an island close to the far shore. She could just make out a two-story plantation style house with a wooden walkway leading up to it. There was a small dock with some colored children playing on it. They began to wave at their boat and one ran up to the house to tell them she had arrived she supposed.
Thomas pulled the boat up to the dock and threw a line to the oldest child who quickly tied it to one of the posts. Thomas then placed Lucy’s suitcase on the dock and helped her out of the boat.
“Thank you Thomas.” she smiled and handed him a new silver dollar.
Thomas shook his head sorrowfully. “No ma’am, believe me I ain’t done you no favor bringing you here today.” and with that he cast off the line and steered the small boat back into the main channel.
Lucy watched as Thomas and his steam launch chugged out of sight. She picked up her suitcase and started towards the house up the boardwalk path. The house was in fair condition but needed a paint job most urgently. There were two ancient weeping willow trees on either side of the path in the front lawn. As she got closer the children that had been playing on the dock all came running up to her and began to walk with her giggling and laughing.
“Y’all not from around here is ya?” the oldest said.
“No sweetheart. I’m from way up north. From a place called Boston.” she said smiling.
“A Yankee, a Yankee.” they hollered and ran back to the dock laughing.
When she reached the foot of the stairs to the front porch she heard the spring of the front door squeak as the door opened. Out stepped a colored woman in her late twenties. She was wearing a simple cotton dress and a bandana wrapped around her head. She was wiping her hands with a kitchen towel. She made her think of one of her teachers back home. A Miss Franklin, she was kind and very pretty. What a difference one’s birthplace makes.
“Y’all must be Miss Lucy that come from Boston.” she said. She sounded very tired and looked like it as well.
“Yes ma’am, I’m Lucy Simms, Mr. Bushnell’s god daughter.” she smiled.
“Lawdy child, we never call him by that name round here, he’s the Colonel plain an simple. You’ll call him Colonel too if you know what’s good for you.” the woman said.
“I’m Caroline, nothin else but Caroline. I does the Colonel’s cookin’ an washin’. Them’s my chiluns out there playing. Don’t mind them, they won’t give you no trouble.” Caroline said.
“I’m pleased to meet you Caroline.” Lucy stuck her hand out for Caroline to shake.”
“Child, you is one dumb Yankee. White folk don’t touch no colored folk down here.” she laughed and went into the house. “Colonel! Yo white girl is here.”
Lucy walked cautiously up the old steps and looked inside the rusty screen door. Caroline was nowhere to be seen. She heard the sounds of someone moving in the room down the hall.
“You black witch ! You probably left her standing on the porch.” a voice said angrily. A man stepped out of the doorway and into the hall. It was hard to make him out through the screen.
“That you Lucy Simms?” the man asked.
“Then step on in and let me see my only god daughter.” he said.
Lucy opened the door and went in and set her suitcase on the floor next to the door. That was the first time she got a good look at the Colonel.
He was her fathers age, about fifty but the Colonel’s years had been hard on him. He was about six feet tall and weighed close to three hundred pounds. He was dressed in white cotton pants and a pinstriped shirt with no collar. Leather suspenders held up his pants. He grinned at her revealing a gold tooth. His hair was long and curled from the humidity. He wore a pair of thick glasses with one of the lenses blacked out to cover his missing eye. He was leaning on a black lacquered cane topped with a large snakehead made of silver. His right leg was missing just at the knee and was resting on a finely carved peg painted china red and had gold trim. The carving was of a dragon or a snake. It had been so worn down that it was hard to tell.
“Why you’re the spitting image of your dear mother child.” he said smiling with his gold tooth. “Come and give your god father a hug.” he reached out to her revealing his sweat-stained pits. Lucy was mortified. She was looking at the rest of her life. She had know where to go but with this fat old sweaty man. She walked over to him and gave him a courteous hug.
“Now that won’t do.” he said and gave here a big bear hug squeezing her close to his sweaty body. She caught herself before she vomited and forced it back down. How could her parents have ever known a man like this let alone make him her godfather?
“What’s the matter dear, you look a bit peeked. I guess you northern folk take a while to adjust to the warm climate.” he said putting his arm around her. He looked her up and down. “My my girl you surely do make me think of your dear mother…um…yes indeed.”
Lucy pushed away and picked up her suitcase. “Where is my room …Colonel?” she asked. His last comment had made her a bit uncomfortable.
“Caroline!” he yelled. “Damned darkies ain’t never around when you want one.” he smiled. “Caroline, come take my Lucy upstairs and show her the guest room.” he yelled down the hall. Caroline stepped out of the kitchen and walked up to Lucy.
“Now take her suit case and show her upstairs girl.” he said as he wiped his brow with his handkerchief.
Caroline took the suitcase and looked at Lucy. She tilted her head in the direction she wanted her to follow and started up the steps giving the Colonel a dirty look.
“Don’t give me no evil looks girl, you mind your sass or I’ll take this cane to your back.”
Lucy was shocked to hear the Colonel speak to Caroline that way.
“Don’t forget Mr. Delacroix is coming for his weekly visit Colonel.” Caroline said. She didn’t seem to pay any attention to the Colonel’s threat. Lucy followed her up the stairs to the second floor. She went to the room all the way at the end of the hall at the front of the house and pushed the door open. Caroline walked in first and dropped the suitcase in front of the dressing table with a thud. The room hadn’t been used in a long time. There were sheets covering most of the furniture to keep the dust off of it.
“This here’s yo bed miss Lucy. The last person what slept in it was the Colonel’s brother. He’s dead now so he won’t be needin’ it.” Caroline said as she pulled the sheets off.
“Did he…die in that bed?” Lucy asked nervously.
“No. He died right where you’re standin’, he never made it to the bed.” Caroline answered calmly. She went and opened the windows to let some air into the room. Both windows needed to be propped open using an old piece of wood.
“Look here miss Lucy, yonder comes Mr. Delacroix up the road. You watch yo self around him. That man is the devil himself.” she said as she looked out the window and wiped her hands on her apron. Lucy went to the window and looked out in the direction Caroline had been looking. She saw someone driving a big shiny black convertible up the road from behind the house. She couldn’t get a good look because of the Spanish moss hanging down from the trees.
“I better be getting’ back down stairs so I can get the Colonel and that Mr. Delacroix some cold drinks.” Caroline said as she walked out of the room.
“Once you get yo self put away you’d better come on down and meet Mr. Delacroix. If you intend to stay here you better learn what you got into as soon as possible.” Caroline said over her shoulder as she walked down the stairs.
Lucy heard the big car stop out front and looked out the window again. The driver had already gone in so all she could see were the two women still sitting in the car’s large rear seat.
One was about her age but she was a light skinned black girl. She was wearing an old sundress that was cut in a way to show off her full breasts. Lucy thought it strange that a girl that young would wear such revealing clothes. Her hair was done up in a bunch of tiny bows all tied with a small bit of white linen. She had a scowl on her face that made her look older.
The other woman was in her late thirties and was also black. She was very pretty and was wearing a white cotton blouse that hung from one of her shoulders. A sash was wrapped around her waist holding up her pleated ankle length red dress. Her hair was held back with a green scarf like they wear it in the Caribbean islands in the picture books. Her hands and wrists were covered in hand fashioned jewelry and trinkets as well with an odd assortment of necklaces hanging from around her neck. Next to her was a long walking stick topped with a crest of feathers and a bird’s skull.
“Lucy, come down. I want you to meet an old friend of mine.” the Colonel yelled up the stairs. Lucy walked to the top of the steps and listened. She heard the Colonel laughing and speaking to another man. She walked down the stairs slowly and peeked down to take a look at Mr. Delacroix. He wore a large white Panama hat with a rooster feather in it. His jacket and pants put her in mind of the old riverboat gamblers she had seen pictures of. His shirt was light blue with a white collar topped with a thin black bow tie. On his left hand he had a large gold pinky ring with a bright red sapphire in it. On his right hand there was a ring bigger than the other made of silver in the shape of a wolves head.
He had a long cigarette holder clenched in his teeth occasionally taking it out to tap the ashes onto the floor. The man took off his hat and fanned himself with it as he listened to the Colonel speaking about something Lucy couldn’t quite make out. She noticed Mr. Delacroix was wearing large black boots that were covered in dried mud. They seemed not to go with his suit at all. When he put his hand on his hip his jacket was pushed back to reveal a huge bowie knife worn under his left arm where most men would carry a pistol.
“Lucy come down here girl. I want you to meet Mr. Rober’ Delacroix. He knew your mother and father as well.” the Colonel called.
Lucy brushed her hair down with her hands a cautiously walked down the steps. She could see Mr. Delacroix’s face for the first time. He was about the Colonel’s age by his features but he looked more tired around his eyes. He sported a pencil thin mustache and a piece of his left ear had been removed at the top.
“My Colonel, our Miss Lucy is a true angel that has been sent to us.” Rober’ smiled.
“Thank you Mr. Delacroix.” Lucy felt like someone had just dumped a bucket of snakes down her back. There was a darkness to this man’s soul, if he had one at all.
“Caroline! Fetch diner. I have two guests tonight.” the colonel called.
“What about the two women in the car? Won’t they be dining with us?” Lucy asked.
“It’ll be a cold day in hell before that nigger witch steps in this house again.” the Colonel said rubbing his empty eye socket angrily.
“She said she was sorry Colonel.” Rober’ grinned.
“Caroline, make sure that you take something out to Rober’s women. Just let them eat on the porch if the have to.” the Colonel added.
The three went into the dinning room and took their seats. Caroline came in with a big plate of fried chicken. There was corn on the cob and beans as well. As it turned out Caroline was a fine cook. Lucy had noticed that Caroline’s children ate in the kitchen and Rober’s women ate on the porch. There was an unspoken way that things were done down here. Unspoken yet understood.
After diner they all went out and sat on the front porch. Mr. Delacroix had one of his handrolled cigarettes while the Colonel puffed on a big cigar. Lucy relaxed a little and enjoyed a large glass of iced tea that Caroline had made just for her. The one thing that kept bothering her was the two women in the back of Mr. Delacroix’s automobile. They were just out of her peripheral vision behind her sitting in the car. No one had introduced them or even mention them the whole time Rober’ was here.
“Mr. Delacroix, excuse me for asking but who are those two women in your car?” Lucy asked in a hushed tone so the women wouldn’t hear her question.
“ The young one is my concubine. I bought her from her daddy two years ago. I call her Sissy. The other is my Voodoo woman. She brings me luck and helps me with any… problems that I might have with the locals.” his answer was blunt to be sure. He didn’t try to hide anything. He had no fear of eternal damnation it appeared. It seemed he understood that his eternity had already been sealed long ago.
“What is the voodoo woman’s name?” she asked.
“Best if you don’t know child. You see once you know her name she can get into your mind and make you do things.” He laughed and slapped the Colonel on the knee.
“Damned voodoo nigger bitch.” The Colonel said under his breath as he rubbed his missing eye.
“ Well Colonel it seems to be that time, will you accompany me on my rounds. There is a chance that I may need your assistance tonight.” Mr. Delacroix said standing up.
“You know I will but I have to make sure my Lucy is safe for tonight.” the Colonel said.
“Bring her along, she’s bound to be involved in the family business soon anyway. I say the sooner the better. We’ll take my car.” said Rober’
The Colonel, Rober’, and Lucy went out to the big car parked by the side of the house. Rober’ opened the back door where the two women were sitting. “Lady’s this is Lucy Simms. She’ll be accompanying us on our rounds this evening. Lucy is Daniel and Martha’s daughter so treat her nice.”
Lucy hesitated and looked at the women for a second. They looked back and slid over. Finally Sissy smiled a shy little smile. Lucy smiled back; she had been raised to never treat coloreds differently than any one else. The Voodoo woman just looked down her nose at her and looked straight ahead.
The Colonel and Rober’ climbed in the front seat.
“Heavens, I’ve forgotten my bible. Lucy be a dear and run back inside and grab it for me. It’s on the desk in the front hall child.” the Colonel said smiling.
Lucy got out of the car and ran into the house. Caroline was standing just inside the doorway holding the bible. Lucy looked at Caroline. “The bible, he sent me for it.”
“Take it girl the Colonel needs his protection as always.” Caroline said as she handed the good book to Lucy. She wondered what Caroline meant by what she had said. Lucy turned and ran to the car and climbed back into the seat. She handed the bible to the Colonel and Rober’ gave a little chuckle. He put the car in gear and they drove off down the back driveway.
“Colonel, I thought this was an island. How did Mr. Delacroix get his car here?” Lucy asked.
“Well this is what they call an isthmus darlin’ it’s like and island but there is a small strip of land that connects it to the shore so it’s an isthmus.” the Colonel replied.
“ The only thing now is that this time of year the river is up so it covers the small strip of land so I guess it is an island right now.” said Rober’
“ It don’t matter if the land is underwater. It’ still there so it’s an isthmus.” the Colonel said correcting Rober’
“Well I’m sure we’ll need to take the ferry to the mainland in any case.” Rober’ honked the horn as they came to a small shack that was in pretty bad shape. The ferry barge was docked but no one was around. Rober; honked the horn again. They all looked at the shack for the ferryman to come out.
Lucy let out a scream as a hand grabbed her wrist. The man had something wrong with him it was obvious. Neither of his eyes looked the same direction and his head had been shaven. His ears were big and floppy and his teeth stuck out of his mouth like a woodpile.
“The Colonel turned around and with a speed that surprised Lucy he struck the man square in his face with his cane sending him falling backwards.
“No Beaufort! No, No! He yelled.”
The man lay stunned for a moment. Lucy was terrified of the man. She grabbed the voodoo woman’s arm for comfort but the woman pulled her hand loose and let it drop with out even looking at her.
“ The ferry Beaufort. Get the barge Beaufort.” the Colonel yelled at the man.
Beaufort stood up from a blow that should have killed him and walked to the barge. He lifted the gate and Rober’ drove onto the wooden craft. Beaufort pulled on the rope that guided the barge across the swollen river. Lucy cringed at the sight of Beaufort as he grunted and tugged at the rope.
“You don’t have to worry about him Lucy. He’s my idiot nephew Beaufort. I keep him on my property so he can be away from normal folk. They get scarred of him and sometimes that causes trouble. He broke a mans jaw that had knocked him down about two years ago so I keep him here.” the Colonel said.
“Why not send him to an asylum?” Lucy asked.
“You don’t understand darlin’, down here we take care of our own.” the Colonel said correcting her.
“Yes sir.” Lucy said.
They drove for about a half an hour along an old dirt road. There were several houses spotted along the road all owned by colored folk. They nodded their heads as the car went past. It didn’t seem they were just being friendly they were paying homage to them. There was a sinister feel to the whole ride. It was nearly dark now and Lucy could see the lights of a town ahead.
“That’s Boone’s Landing up ahead Lucy dear. Me and Mr. Delacroix have some business to attend to here.” the Colonel said leaning back over the seat. They drove down the main street of the town. Lucy watched as women pulled their children close to their sides as the car slowly went past. Once and awhile a man would see the car and tip his hat at them. The Colonel and Rober’ would nod in response. They turned down a tree-lined street and drove past a large house. There was a sign that read “Miss Concetta’s Apartments for Women” on it. It looked to be a very nice place. The car turned down the side street and around the back of the building. A large man wearing a big hat stepped forward and opened the gate that lead to another part of the house. Past the gate was a parking lot full of cars. There were men coming and going from the back of the apartment building. When they saw Lucy looking at them they would pull their hats down to cover their faces. Rober’ pulled the car up to the back door.
The Colonel stepped out of the car. “I’ll go in and smooth things over for you Rober’. Lucy darlin’, stay here for a spell. I have to go and speak with Miss Concetta for a moment.” he took his cane and his bible and limped inside.
They all sat in the car for a long time. It had become a little cooler and a breeze was starting to blow some cool air around.
After a while the Colonel came out with a dark haired woman. She looked angry. Two big men in their shirtsleeves followed her.
Rober’ looked at the Colonel who just shrugged his shoulders.
“Still angry at me Miss Concetta?” Rober’ asked calmly.
“You have a lot of fucking nerve coming here.” she said with a heavy Italian accent. You still owe me for the Hobb’s bridge screw up.” Concetta said shaking her finger at him.
Rober’ took of his hat and began to fan himself. “ Miss Concetta do you really think I would want you or your friends in Chicago angry with me?” he lit up one of his cigarettes and stepped out of the car. The two men each took a step closer but Rober’ put up his hand to show them it was all right. Miss Concetta put up her hand and the two men stopped. Rober’ stepped behind the big car and opened the trunk. Concetta looked inside disappointed. “There should be two, you said there would be two.” she put her hands on her hips.
“There will be, the other one is due in by Thursday. I’ve got the Rollins boys waiting at the house. They’ll bring the other one when she shows up I promise.” he said crossing his heart.
Concetta looked at Rober’. She motioned with her hand to the men and they went to the trunk. They leaned over and pulled a girl from the trunk. She was drenched with sweat and naked. Her hands were tied behind her back. Her ankles were tied as well. She had a terrified look in her eyes. Lucy couldn’t believe what she was seeing. This house was a brothel and Rober’ and the Colonel were involved with white slavery. The girl looked squarely into Lucy’s eyes. She had a gag in her mouth and couldn’t speak. Lucy looked at Sissy for help. Sissy just closed her eyes and looked down. The Voodoo woman gave Lucy a big grin that made it even more horrible. She wanted to help the girl but she was too scared.
“You better have the other one here Thursday night. They’re not twins unless there’s two of them you know.” Concetta said.
“Consider it done my sweet, sweet raven haired temptress.” he smiled.
“You’ve got till Thursday or I’ll cut your balls off you lying bastard.” she said smiling. Rober’ tipped his hat and smiled. “Your servant, Miss Concetta.”
The girl had been in the trunk the whole time. She had been in there when he drove up to the house, while they ate, at the ferry, the whole time. Lucy sat back stunned. They all knew it and were in on it. And to make it worse they were going to take the girls sister as well.
The Colonel and Rober’ climbed back into the car. Rober’ started the car and drove out of the backyard and back onto the side street.
“You must understand something child. That girl we took out of the trunk was a bad girl. Round here bad girls wind up at Miss Concetta’s apartments sooner or later.” the Colonel said in a matter of fact way.
“Where to now Colonel?” Rober’ asked.
“We need to go to the work farm for a spell. But first we’ll need to pay a visit to Anastasia.” the Colonel said.
The car lurched out onto the main street and headed west. Nobody said anything about the kidnapped girl or why she was considered bad. It was completely dark now as Rober’ turned onto a small dirt road that quickly became overgrown with branches hanging down that the Colonel would on occasion have to hold them up out of the way so they could pass. The over growth finally receded and the road was clear again. Lucy could see they were now riding along side of the river. The car suddenly stopped with a jolt.
“What are you doing Rober’!” the Colonel shouted angrily.
Rober’ crouched down in the car and pointed ahead of them. Lucy could just make out some sort of structure on the riverbank. There was a light on inside moving around as if someone inside was looking for something.
“I think we have mice Colonel.” Rober’ said.
The Colonel stepped out of the car and went around to the trunk. He opened it and pulled out a hatchet and an ax. He walked to the drivers side and opened the door for Rober’.
“You take the ax, I can’t swing it while I’m holding my cane.” the Colonel said as Rober’ stepped onto the road.
“Now you ladies stay in the car while me and Rober’ see what our visitors are wantin’ at this hour of the night.” Rober’ tipped his hat and slipped down the road quietly with the Colonel.
It was quiet except for the frogs and the insects as they chirped and croaked in the darkness. Lucy leaned against the front seat and squinted her eyes for a better look. She could see the structure was an old dilapidated riverboat. It must have been tied up here for years. She could just make out the name on the side, Anastasia.
They waited in silence for what seemed like an hour. Lucy had just put her head down to grab some sleep when she heard a scream. She jumped and looked at the Voodoo woman for help. The Voodoo woman just looked at Lucy and smiled. She knew just what was going on but she wasn’t going to tell Lucy. Sissy slammed her hands over her ears and began rocking back and forth humming loudly. Lucy stood up and was about to call for her godfather when she heard another blood curdling scream and then another. The screams kept coming from the Anastasia. The light went out and still the screams came. Then there was silence.
Lucy couldn’t stand it anymore. She jumped up and ran down the road towards the riverboat. Suddenly a door flung open and a man burst out of the Anastasia. He was running right at Lucy. “Help me!” he screamed as he ran. As he got closer she could see his lower arm was gone about half way between his hand and elbow. He was covered in blood. Lucy saw the Colonel hobble out of the door the man came from and with out hesitation threw the ax at the man hitting him in the lower back causing him to fall face forward into the dirt.
“Go back to the car darling, go ahead Lucy. We’re just finishing up here, nothing for you to worry about.” he said limping up the road in the dark.
“God a’mighty miss, don’t leave me!” the man was crying now. Lucy turned and ran back to the car. She looked back once to see the Colonel picking up a thick branch. She didn’t want to see anymore.
There was a sickening thud and the sound of cracking wood and then the man was silent.
Lucy got back into the back seat and slouched down trying not to be seen. The Voodoo woman looked down at her and laughed. “Next time you stay in car, eh?”
Rober’ had made his way to the Colonel’s side. He handed the Colonel his cane that must have been lost in the battle inside the boat. They spoke quietly and looked around to see if anyone had seen what had just transpired. Satisfied, they each grabbed a leg of the dead man and drug the body back to the Anastasia. After awhile Rober’ walked up the road towards the car and got in. he turned and looked at each one of the woman in the back seat and smiled. “Just as I thought, mice!” he laughed at his own sick joke and drove the car up to the Anastasia. The Voodoo woman laughed out loud along with Rober’. Lucy looked over at Sissy. She was still sitting with her hands over her ears.
They stopped in front of the door on the boat. The Colonel had already started to bring out several boxes of Cuban rum and stack them on the ground. He had the lantern lit again inside and Lucy could make out three men lying dead on the floor covered in blood. There was blood on the walls and floor as well.
“Lucy be a dear and help Rober’ take these boxes around to the trunk.” The Colonel asked.
Lucy opened the car door and stepped out. Rober’ stepped close behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders as they walked. “Nothing for you to be afraid of Lucy, you’re with family now.”
The Colonel gave Rober’ an angry look. Rober’ quickly took his hands off Lucy’s shoulders. Lucy walked quicker and grabbed a box of rum and went back to stand by the trunk.
“Go ahead and open it darlin’, it ain’t locked.” The Colonel said.
Lucy looked at the trunk. The place they had pulled the kidnapped girl and the axes from. What other horrors lay inside for her to witness? She slowly opened it up and looked inside. It was empty now except for some rope and burlap bags. She put the box in the trunk. Rober’ carried up two more boxes and put them in the trunk as well.
“Lucy come here please.” the Colonel called. Lucy walked over and stepped onto the boat. The Colonel was sitting on a crate on the river side of the Anastasia wrapping a chain around an old engine block laying on the deck.
“Hand me one of them bolts in the toolbox darlin’.” he said. Lucy looked inside and found a box of nuts and bolts; she took a bolt and handed it to the Colonel.
“These were bad men Lucy. They were trying to steal our property. We had to protect what is ours, you understand don’t you Lucy?” and with that said he put the bolt through the chain and screwed it into the engine block fastening the chain to it.
Lucy said the only smart thing she could. “Yes Colonel, I understand.”
“Good, that’s good child.” he turned and with his real leg kicked the engine block into the river. There was a clattering of the chain as it was drug across the deck pulling the three bodies out of the cabin and into the water. To her horror one of the men grabbed onto the edge of the deck, he wasn’t dead. Lucy looked down into the dark water and saw his face looking up at her wide-eyed. The Colonel cursed and with the last fall of the hatchet cut off the mans fingers and let him slip into the depths below.
“Alright, alright everybody back in the car.” the Colonel said clapping his hands together.
“Colonel we must hurry if we’re going to make it to the farm before nine o’clock and they close the gates.” Rober’ added.
“Lucy be a dear and throw this in the trunk so we can be on our way.” the Colonel handed her the hatchet. She took hold of it as if carrying a dead animal. She went round the back of the car where Rober’ was holding open the trunk. He had his ax in his hand but he would allow Lucy to put her weapon in first like any good southern gentleman would. Lucy looked up at him in the dark and could have sworn his eyes were glowing like a cats in the dark.
“Go ahead child put it in, we’re waiting on you.” he said with a smile that brought her to mind of an alligator’s grin. She dropped the hatchet in the trunk with a thud. She was careful not to take her eyes off of Rober’ as she walked backwards around the car to the back seat. Rober’ dropped the ax in the trunk and closed it. He walked around the car the same way Lucy did tracing his finger along the edge as he went.
“Maybe next time we go for a ride you can ride up front with me Miss Lucy.” he grinned again.
“Rober’! You’ll frighten the girl with that talk, now stop your horse play and start this machine up.” the Colonel snapped.
Rober’ tipped his hat and then climbed in the front seat. He started the engine and drove the car down the road laughing. They drove for a while until they came to a paved road. Lucy had no idea were they had been or where they were now. Once on the road they drove into the country and past field after field of crops. They finally turned onto a dirt road by a large sign that read “ Mississippi Correctional Work Farm for White Women”. They kept going until they came to a gate connected to a ten-foot high metal chain link fence. The guard came out and they stopped in front of him.
“Evening Burt.” said Rober’.
“Y’all almost didn’t make it in time. You know she wouldn’t have liked it if y’all was late a second time.” he spat his chew off to the side.
“I know Burt and we’re terrible sorry but we had to take care of a rat problem before we left.” Rober’ said as he slipped him one of the rum bottles the Colonel had brought out of the Anastasia when he got into the car.
“Well as long as you’re here I recon that’s all that matters.” He said smiling.
Burt walked over to the gate and opened it to let them in. He tipped his hat to Lucy as they drove into the main compound. The yard was lined with tarpaper shacks. Each one was about thirty feet long. The lights were out in all the shacks o nly the lights on the poles shown down into the compound. Lucy was startled when five dogs came running out of the darkness and began to chase and bark at the car. The Voodoo woman made a few gestures with her hand and the dogs all began yelping and ran away.
“I love when she does that.” Rober’ laughed to himself.
The car came to a stop in front of an old three-story house. It must have been on the land before they built the correctional facility here. A woman stood on the screened in porch waiting. She was wearing a white silk blouse and riding pants and boots. She had on gloves and was tapping her leg impatiently with a riding crop.
Lucy thought it strange that she didn’t see any stables or horses and wondered why the woman was dressed that way.
There were two men in khaki uniforms standing behind her. Both armed with pump shot guns. A girl wearing only a simple prison tunic ran out of the house and waited for the car to stop. Once the car halted she ran to each door and opened it. She quickly ran back and helped the Colonel out of his seat holding his cane until he could stand on his own. The girl ran up the steps and held the door as they started up the steps.
Lucy was the only one in the car by now. The Colonel turned and said, “Come on darlin’, you don’t want to sit out there all alone do you?” Lucy didn’t want to go inside. Nothing she had witnessed this night had been pleasant to say the least. She got out of the car and went inside with the rest. They all went into the parlor and sat down. The woman that was standing on the porch sat with her back to the bay window in the center of the room the two men with shotguns stood just outside the room in the main hall.
Something about the woman was familiar. She made her think of someone else. When the woman spoke it hit Lucy why she seemed familiar. The woman had a thick Italian accent like Miss Concetta. They must be sisters. The Colonel called her Teresa when he addressed her.
“Is my sister still mad with you Rober’?” she asked smiling.
“Not as much as before Teresa, I’ve given her partial payment. The rest of her order will be delivered by the Rollins brothers on Thursday.” he smiled.
“That’s what I like to hear, now we’re all good friends again.” she leaned forward and pinched Rober’s cheek.
“Yes yes, we’re all good friends again. Now we should be getting down to the business at hand. How many do you have tonight Teresa?” the Colonel asked impatiently.
“I have six my good Colonel.” Teresa turned to the girl that helped the Colonel from the car. “Betty, go get the other girls and be quick.” the girl nodded and ran down the hall. Rober’ stood up and walked to a small table in the corner of the room as if he’d done it a thousand times before. He set the table down in the center of the room and pulled the tablecloth off revealing a large pentagram carved in the top. It had other cryptic symbols carved in it as well. Once the table was in place they all began to pull their chairs up close. The Colonel snapped his fingers at Sissy to hand him the candle behind her. She looked at Lucy ashamed and handed the candle to the Colonel. He took it and set it on the table’s center.
Betty came in with the girls. They all had their hands tied behind their backs and a hangman’s black bag over their heads. The girls were all bare foot and wore only a prison tunic like Betty.
The Voodoo woman stood up and signaled Teresa to turn off the lights. The Colonel lit the candle on the table. They began chanting something in an ancient African dialect long forgotten. Everyone was swaying back and forth around the table. Lucy heard one or too of the girls crying from fear. The Voodoo woman started to dance around the girls shaking her staff at each one. She went to the first one and pulled her head back exposing her throat. The Voodoo woman pulled a long slim knife from under the sash she wore around her waist and held it in the air. She asked the girl if she willingly would serve their organization and if she declined they would kill her. The Voodoo woman went to each one and asked the same question. All of them accepted the offer. A piece of hair was then cut from each one and stuffed into a cloth doll. Sissy sewed them up as soon as the Voodoo woman handed them to her. One of the dolls was then handed to Rober’.
“Take them hoods off their heads, I want them to see this.” Rober’ said.
Betty went behind each one and pulled the hood off.
“Now watch what happens if you go back on your agreement.” he put the doll close to the flame. Suddenly one of the girls began to squirm.
“ Its hot, stop, please.” the girl pleaded.
With a sinister laugh he put the doll right into the flames. Lucy was horrified to see the girl’s tunic suddenly go up in flames. The girls all started screaming as the fire grew brighter.
“ Are you mad?!” Teresa screamed. The two men with shotguns threw a carpet over the girl and put out the flames.
“You see darlin’.” the Colonel said. “Nothing to worry about.” he smiled and wiped his sweaty brow.
“Must you always put on a big show? We all know her power, you don’t have to burn the house down to prove it.” Teresa said angrily.
“You must admit my dear Mediterranean siren, none of these girls will cause you and your sister any trouble from this day forth.” Rober’ grinned.
“It works like a charm.” the Colonel said grinning. He was jokingly referring to the spell put on the girls. They all laughed at the joke the Colonel had snuck in.
“Now how about the fee Teresa?” Rober’ said as he lit his cigar using the candle on the table.
Teresa frowned at Rober’. “Pick one.” She said disgusted.
Rober’ paced back and forth in front of the girls sizing them up. He seemed to be trying to sense something in them instead of judging them by their physical beauty. He reached into his shirt pocket and produced a small leather bag. He swung it slowly over each one as it hung from a thin gold chain. They all looked down at the floor as Rober’ passed by. Suddenly the second to the last girl jumped to her feet as he swung the bag over her head and ran out the front door.
“That would be the one.” He said smiling at Teresa.
Lucy wasn’t sure what she had just witnessed. Why didn’t they chase after her?
Rober’ calmly went to the window and stroked his wolfs head ring as he looked out. There was a scream from outside followed by the barking and snarling of the dogs they had passed on the way in. The others in the room went about their business of putting the table back and sending the remaining girls out of the room.
The front door opened suddenly as the girl who ran stumbled back inside and fell on the floor. Her tunic was torn and bloody from the dogs. Lucy looked up from the girl to see them standing in the doorway looking at Rober’. He smiled at them and made a kissing motion with his lips causing the dogs to turn as if hearing some silent command and scurried down off the porch and back into the night.
Rober’ walked over to the girl and knelt down in front of her. “The next time you run I’ll let them finish the job damn it.”
The girl looked around the room with eyes pleading in the vain hope of finding a sympathetic face. The color drained from her face when she found none. She looked at Rober’ horrified. “I’ll be good…I won’t run again.”
Rober’ smiled down at her. “That’s a good girl. You’ll see it won’t be as bad as all that.” He leaned forward and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
“Put her in the trunk.” He said to Teresa’s two men. They grabbed the girl and carried her outside. The girl began to sob as she was dragged from the house.
“Too late for tears girl.” Rober’ shouted to the girl.
“Too late for anything now.” He murmured too himself.
Rober’ stood up and brushed himself off making sure he was clean. “Well unless somebody has something else to say I guess we’re done here.” He said as if he had just finished buying his groceries.
Just then three men burst through the front door. It was the sheriff and two of his deputies. They all had their guns drawn and were pointing them at the Colonel and Rober’.
“We got you now dead to rights. Ya’ll put them hands in the air and don’t try anything funny.” The sheriff said.
At last the nightmare was over. Finally the law had caught up with these people and she would be taken somewhere safe Lucy thought.
Rober’ and the Colonel both put up their hands. Everyone froze for a few seconds. You could have heard a pin drop.
“Aww I got you good that time, admit it Colonel, I got you good.” The sheriff said grinning a gapped tooth grin. Everybody began to laugh and slap each other on the back. It had all been a big joke. The sheriff and his men were all part of this unholy alliance.
“Sheriff Dobbs must you always be playing the fool?” Teresa said smiling. The sheriff smiled and wiped his sweaty brow on his sleeve.
“I got all you good that time.” he smiled and holstered his gun. “What do ya’ll have good for us tonight?” he grinned and winked at Teresa.
“There’s three willing and waiting at the top of the stairs for you boys.” Teresa said. They all tipped their hats to everyone in the room and stomped up the steps to the second floor.
“Where’s my Bible?” the Colonel asked frantically.
“It’s right here Colonel.” Lucy had picked it up and was holding it in front of her.
The Colonel grabbed the Bible out of her hands and quickly opened it as if looking for something. He relaxed and looked at Lucy. “That’s a good girl Lucy. Now remember its bad luck to look inside another persons Bible dear.”
Lucy had never heard of this superstition before. It must be one common to the South.
“Come on now, we’ve taken up far too much of our darlin’ Teresa’s time my friends. We should be takin’ our leave.” The Colonel said ushering his party out of the room. Lucy was glad to be leaving such an evil place as that house. She breathed in the hot night air. It was fresh and clean. She thought of the new girl in the trunk suddenly. The ride home would be awful if she thought about that poor girl too much. She stopped abruptly when she saw the glowing eyes of the prison hounds watching them from the darkness. “They won’t harm you lamb.” Rober’ had materialized behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. They were like ice. Even in this heat they felt cold and dead. Lucy twisted away from Rober’ as he laughed. She quickly got into the back seat and shut the door.
Rober’ laughed his chilling laugh as he headed down the road towards the gate. The man opened it allowing them to drive through completely unchallenged.
The Colonel put his arm over the front seat and looked back at Lucy.
“Now you must be a bit confused by what you’ve seen tonight lamb but we’re all family here and family looks out after one another.” He smiled trying to comfort her.
“I understand Colonel.” Lucy said simply. The less said the better at this point.
The car and its occupants continued along for a few miles until they came to a crossroads. Everyone in the car was silent as Rober’ stopped and looked both ways. As they sat waiting Lucy could hear a faint crying sound coming from out of the darkness. It became a little louder and then Lucy remembered the poor girl in the trunk behind her. Nobody else seemed to take notice of the crying but her. Lucy wanted to protest and make them take the girl out but she was too frightened to act once again.
Rober’ finally put the car in gear and pulled off. She began to recognize the road they had turned on. It was the one that lead to the Colonel’s home. They continued on in silence until they reached the barge. Beaufort eventually came out of his shack and hauled them back across to the other side. The car pulled up to the house and they all got out. Caroline and her children were sitting on the front porch waiting for their return. She calmly flicked a spent cigarette butt onto the lawn and exhaled the smoke sending the flittering moths in all directions.
“I was beginning to think you wasn’t coming back.” Caroline said to the Colonel as she leaned against one of the pillars next to the stairs.
“Best take the car into town tonight Caroline, just be back by ten o’clock tomorrow.” The Colonel said as he climbed the steps with the help of his cane.
“Aren’t you forgetting something Colonel?” Rober’ asked standing by the rear of the car.
“Damn! Turn your heads children and cover your eyes. We got us a big secret in the trunk we don’t want anyone to see again. You know what to do now.” He said almost playfully.
As if on cue the children turned away and shut their eyes and covered their little ears tightly. This was nothing new to them.
Caroline looked angrily at the Colonel.
“Shut your damned mouth woman.” The Colonel spat at her.
“Sissy come over here and help me you lazy girl.” Rober’ said.
Sissy went over with her head down and helped Rober’ pull the girl from the prison out of the trunk. She began to whimper and cry from fear.
Rober’ pushed her down hard on the ground and drew his huge knife and held it across her throat. “You hush up now girl…you’re frightening the children with all this fussin’.”
The girl froze with fear. Her eyes darted around looking for someone to help her but there was no hero in this assembly of people.
Rober’ and Sissy carried the girl up the steps and into the house as calmly as any movers would bring in a new piece of furniture.
Caroline then hurried her children into the car and quickly drove off down the road to the landing.
Once everyone was inside the girl was laid on the floor and Sissy and the Voodoo woman tied her hands behind her back and then tied her ankles together.
Rober’ winked at Lucy and began to take his jacket off.
The Colonel sat heavily in his big chair and fanned himself with his hat.
Quiet the productive evening if I do say so myself.” He said grinning at everyone. He set his Bible on the end table next to him only to have it fall on the floor. He was distracted by what was about to happen with the girl.
“Can you pick that up for me Lucy? I don’t like to get up once I’m down.” He joked.
Lucy went over and knelt down in front of the Colonel to pick up the Bible. Her body was blocking the Colonel’s view of the good book as she picked it up only to see it had been hollowed out and there was a German Luger pistol hidden inside.
The Colonel leaned forward and gently stroked Lucy’s hair. “It’ll be so nice having you here to help me out with such things from now on Lucy.” His voice was quivering. She sensed him becoming aroused.
The smoke could be seen clear from the town. It hadn’t taken long for the Sheriff and his men to arrive. By the time they got there the entire house was engulfed in flames. The only one to have survived the fire it appeared was Lucy. They found her standing in the yard out front holding the Colonel’s Bible closely to her breast.
“The poor girl, that’s how her parents died I hear. Now she’s got nobody.” the Deputy said looking at the inferno.
“That is a strange coincidence now that you mention It.” the Sheriff said glancing over his shoulder at Lucy.
“What did she say happened?” the Deputy asked the Sheriff.
“She said some men came by boat shortly after they had all returned and went inside. She was lucky because when they attacked she was in the convenience out back. Since she arrived only just today they most likely didn’t know she was here at all.” The Sheriff said spitting his tobacco juice onto the lawn.
“Who do you think done it Sheriff?” the Deputy asked.
“Shiiiiiittttt boy, half the damned county was under those twos thumb. It could have been just about anybody…Hell I’ve toyed with the idea myself once or twice if the truth be told.” The Sheriff said with a sense of relief.
Lucy smiled at the Sheriff. She had known what had to be done. These people were evil. There was nobody to stop this evil so it was left to her to do it…just like with her parents and her school.
“Is there anyplace you want us to take you Miss Lucy. It looks like you’ll be needing a new start again I’m afraid.” The Sheriff shouted to her over the roar of the flames.
“I think I’ll go to Miss Concetta’s if you don’t mind. That seems like a good place to start.” Lucy said smiling.
If you have enjoyed these stories please check out my first all original book series at Amazon.com. The title is Beyond the Crystal Heaven.
Once again thank you for your support.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 10 September 2013 01:32)