2 years ago
At the Port-au-Prince Airport, the mummy-like figure of Cassie Chattenoire, Henri's mother, screeched a parting curse at Miriam M'Guba. "You will not escape. When you are alone and ill-prepared, I will send my sign to freeze the blood in your veins. Then these fingers will still your treacherous heart."
"I don't believe in that mumbo jumbo, you foolish old witch," answered Miriam with as much bravado as she could muster. "Go shake your stinking chicken bones elsewhere."
When Miriam arrived in Chicago she rented a room in a seedy, transient hotel, which when compared to her old quarters in Haiti seemed like the Hilton. Moreover, it was conveniently close to 'The Loop’, the downtown area where many of the large stores were located, and where Miriam sought to employ her talents as a shoplifter. She was a consummate thief, unable to resist the thrill of the pettiest larcenies.
For airfare, she used the money given her by the Ton Macoute, Baby Doc's secret police, for betraying Henri, leader of the anti-Government revolutionaries.
Henri was subsequently tortured and killed by his captors, but that was of small concern to Miriam. He once told her that he loved her, but she never swallowed his gibberish of freedom for the masses. Some called him a saint, others an idiot. Perhaps he was both, she decided.
She just wished to escape the poverty, the despair, and the stench of the Island for a new life in the United States. Of course, the retribution vowed upon her by Henri's friends and his occult mother was only one more impelling reason.
Miriam found the brightly trimmed package at the perfume counter as irresistible as a gaudy bauble to a jackdaw. Dropping her jacket over it, she scooped it up and headed to the washroom. There, she plonked her bottom on the stool, tore loose the wrapping paper and peeked into the box.
Her blood froze at the sight of the juju conjured into the old white woman's package by the Priestess of Obeah. Then, she felt the cold, bony fingers of Cassie Chattenoire glide into her heart and silence its ticking as if it was a Grandfather clock pendulum. With a low moan she slid off the toilet, dead before her body finished slithering on the terrazzo floor.
Mrs. Nesbitt, a frail, white haired lady, placed her gift wrapped box on the perfume counter of Marshall Fields store on State Street, and requested a bottle of Shalimar perfume.
"Oh, do sample our newest essences from Paris, madam," gushed the salesgirl. Mrs. Nesbitt good-naturedly allowed the persistent young lady to dab perfume samples on her wrists.
"Yes, they are lovely," she agreed, "but it's not for me, you see, it's a present for my niece, and Shalimar is her favourite." After charging the item and placing it in her purse, she proceeded to the confectionery counter to buy a box of Frangi Mints for her grandniece.
During some pleasantries with the clerk she had a familiar gnawing feeling. What have I forgotten now? Suddenly she remembered the box she left behind, and hurried back to the perfume counter.
When she got there the box was gone.
"I put a box here," she stammered to the young lady who had attended her. "Perhaps someone has handed it in?"
"No, sorry, madam," said the salesgirl," allow me to buzz security."
In a few moments a tall woman in a dark dress appeared and introduced herself to Mrs. Nesbitt as Chief of Security.
"Would you describe the package, madam?" she asked. Mrs. Nesbitt obliged.
"And the contents?"
"I'd rather not say," Mrs. Nesbitt replied. "Please, must I?"
"Well, now," the Chief hesitated, seeing the tears welling in the old lady's eyes. "It would be helpful. A thief invariably unwraps the goods as soon as possible so a description of the contents is important." However, she called the Security Office on her cell phone, and asked them to immediately check the washrooms.
When a young guard entered the ladies' washroom on the seventh floor, she found the sole occupant in a cubicle from which protruded two bare legs. She opened the door to discover a large woman lying on the floor in an apparent faint. Sealing off the washroom, she paged Security to summon medical aid.
The Chief, with Mrs. Nesbitt in tow, was the first on the scene when she heard the call for assistance on her open telephone line.
"Stand by the door, Betty," she directed the younger guard. "I'll take over till the medics arrive. Direct any customers to another floor. This washroom is closed until further notice."
"Is that your property, madam?" the Chief asked Mrs. Nesbitt, pointing to a shoe box lying near the prone woman, its wrapping loose, and the lid slightly askew.
"VOODOO," the old lady wailed. "OH, VOODOO."
She picked up her box and slid the lid back over its contents. "You see," she rambled on absently, "I live in a tiny apartment on Lakefront Drive, and my niece, Florence, has such a lovely home in Lake Forest with a large garden and she said that I could..."
"That's quite all right," interrupted the solicitous Chief, stifling the incoherent babbling by firmly grasping old lady's elbow and ushering her out the washroom, as the paramedics arrived with a stretcher.
"Please allow me to have your box properly rewrapped," the Chief insisted. "We wouldn't want it to become undone on the way to Lake Forest, would we?"
"Oh, dear, but I mustn't miss my 11:37 train, Florence worries about me so. She will be waiting at the station for me and..."
"No problem, Madam, it won't take but a jiffy, and I'll have one of our drivers get you to Union Station on time for all your trouble."
"But that poor young lady...?"
"In a few moments she will be in an ambulance. Please don't concern yourself. There is nothing more either of us can do."
Mrs. Nesbitt beamed, as she relaxed in the back seat of the company limo and patted the box, now resplendent in Marshall Fields green wrapping paper and neatly tied with gold cord.
"What nice people they are," she whispered. "Well, we've had quite an adventure today. I shall miss you dreadfully of course, but Florence says I can come and visit as often as I like."
No answer came from the shoe box that contained Voodoo, her prophetically named, late, black cat.
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