Staying close behind LeRoys truck Reez followed him onto Dixie while trying to calm his self directed anger.Gripping
the front of his shirt to grasp the large sterling silver cross on it's silver and black onyx rosary bead chain under it that
he had kept wearing after the last time he had taken Schlomo's Eye from it's hold he spoke whisperingly to himself,"I knew
better.It's been so long with nothing happening I thought nothing would,,but I knew better.And he even got cocky last time.I
should have realized then that he had done something.Oh,Père miséricordieux,Seigneur des armées,please let me get him locked
away right." and kept repeating that last pleading phrase over and over as he wound through the curve and untill they came
to the house on the south side of the cemetery where he spotted,through various vegetation and trees that obscured his view,an
old beatup red and black truck with wood sides added above the bed backed up close to the rear of the house.
shivered like he had caught a chill despite the heat of the late afternoon and his mantra stopped for a moment before continueing
through literally chattering teeth with," before I get killed." added to the string of words.
his litany going in between gulping down the rest of his bottle of beer he scanned the windows and doors of the old two story
house looking for any sign of activity as he drove past.The windows were all dark and no doors were open but there was a slight
tail of greenish tinted oily looking smoke rising from the chimney and being whipped away into the breezey,lavender,violet
and purple cloud filled red,orange and yellow washed sky.
Noting the smell from it he tossed the now empty bottle
onto the passenger side floor board then turned his attention to the cemetery itself that began a scant fifty or so feet from
the north side of the house and stretched to the dirt road cutting west off Dixie between it and the church.
The cemetery was enclosed with a five foot tall picket style wood fence whose whitewash had seen thicker days that
ran west through scrub oaks and pine along the southern perimeter all the way to the road up the hill.It's overgrown southern
section gave way to a more tended area that was littered moderately with gravemarkers,headstones and an occasional tree before
a large gate facing the northern road cutting up the hill between it and the church marked it's northern boundary.
of the corner of his eye Reez seen his friends trucks left hand turn light begin blinking in the gradual yet insistantly lengthening
shadows cast by the papery barked melaluca trees on the west side of the church lot and turned his attention back to the road
in time to push in the clutch with his left foot and bring his right down on his brake pedal in response to the dual red flares
of brake lights joining with the blinking yellow one.
Following the truck as it turned west off Dixie he drove through a wide entry way with tall sabal palms behind
four foot tall curved concrete walls on each side which bore the words 'Whispering Palms' and a stylized wind stroked palm
tree onto a boulevard stretching up the hill whose center strip was dotted with smaller sabal palms every twenty feet or so.
driving through the plainly new homes to just over the other side of the hills crest his friend turned north onto the boulevards
last cross road before it ended abruptly one lot deep at the edge of a large sandy field.
the street which was almost full of houses he watched as his friend pulled into the gravel driveway of a white awning adorned,blue
two bedroom concrete block house with a carport in which sat a creme colored 52 Ford Country Sedan.He pulled his truck up
behind LeRoys truck as the man stepped out,shut the truck door then planted both feet a little wider than shoulder width apart
and stood with arms akimbo smiling widely waiting for Reezes reaction.
Getting out Reez shut his door and looked at the house's northern side expanse which was well grassed up to and
past the chain link double gate and into the fenced back and it's southern yard which had a silver oak about eight feet tall
sticking out of another well watered and manicured green swath then back at it's owner who had the smiling face of an obviously
"Eksepsyonèl,Bertand!!Qu'est-ce un lieu privilégié pour élever une famille!A place to be proud of my friend!"
he exclaimed while walking toward the man to grab and shake his hand while clapping him on the shoulder enthusiastically.
you.I'm glad you approve,Ezekiel!" the beaming man said then turned,reached through the open window of his truck door to grab
the now five pack of beer and headed off toward the carport as he continued with,"Now,,let's crack open another beer and I'll
dig out that stuff for you."
After leading Reez in the front door,handing him a Busch,setting one down on the kitchen table for himself and
putting away the beer while Reez passed reacquainting pleasantries with his wife and daughter LeRoy popped out the back door,went
to the utility room off the carport to grab a six foot ladder and a flashlight then took them to the attic access in the ceiling
at the junction of the small houses bathroom and two rooms entrances.
After setting up the ladder he quickly slid
the door aside,shone his flashlight in and peered around to check for critters before placing the elbow of both arms on the
holes edges,curl his legs upwards and disappear into the dark hole which was barely lit by the lights beam.
a few moments he called out from the dark square hole,"Reez,,can you come catch this?" and stuck his left arm down with an
olive drab canvass duffle bag about two and a half feet long dangling from his hand by it's short straps.
course." Reez replied and with a polite,"Excusez-moi, maîtresse." he quickly stepped near enough to take the surprisingly
heavy bag from his friends hand with both of his and set it down on the floor next to the wall with a slight thud while LeRoy
came out of the attic and halfway down the ladder in one smooth motion only to abrubtly stop in order to slide the hatch closed
before stepping completely off.
Closing and picking the ladder up he looked at Reez with a smirk on his face and
asked,"Was it a bit too heavy for you?" . "For a brief second I was surprised.Why so heavy?" , "It's chock full of goodies."
"Bert,,what are you doing?" his wife asked as he carried the ladder past her on his way to the back door.He stopped
and said calmly "I need that stuff you said we would never need again."
Her face paled slightly as a severely serious
look came across her face and she asked in a somber tone,"Oh?Should I take Iris and leave?" , "No,,it's not quite like that,sweetheart.Even
tho,,if it were,,right here is the safest place I would want you two to be."
The look softened a little bit and
she said,"I need to be filled in,gentlemen." LeRoy nodded,closed and hefted the ladder and then said over his shoulder as
he headed on his way again,"Then put Iris in her room and come out to the carport.Reez,,could you bring the rucksack?"
a word Reez picked up the duffle with no problem and followed him as she turned to the little blonde haired girl sitting on
the sofa along the south wall watching the black and white console television in front of the double jalousie window facing
west and said,"Come on Iris,honey.Mommy and Daddy need you to wait in your room while we do something real quick,okay,baby?"
The little girl lookd away from the Bugs Bunny cartoon and said cheerfully,"Okay,Mommy." then climbed off the sofa and took
her mothers outstretched hand with a wide bright smile.
Reez set the duffle down in front of the Ford and stepped back inside to grab his and his friends now sweaty bottles
of beer off the kitchen table while LeRoy put the ladder away.
Reez stepped back out in time to hand a bottle to
his friend as he came out of and shut the utility rooms jalousied door.LeRoy took the bottle and pulled an opener from his
pocket,popped the top off it and handed the opener to Reez who asked,"Did you see that truck behind the gris-gris womans house?"
, "The house south of the cemetery?" , "Yes.That's where I was to meet an old,ugly woman named M'rie Odem to purchase some,,"
, "Whoa there Reez." his friend said hastily,"That's the pastors house and as far as I know he took his family up north for
the next month or so."
"Marie Odem is the name of one of the cemetery caretakers sisters." said LeRoys wife as she stepped out the kitchens
jalousied door.Smiling demurely at the two mens startled reactions she shut the door and continued with "Now,,even though,,and
I hate to say such,,she is one of the ugliest women I have ever seen and smells like the river at low tide,,she seems rather
nice and I rather doubt she is a gris-gris woman,Reez."
"Really?Well,,all I know is she said to meet her there right
before sunset if I had the price for what she had." Reez replied as LeRoy squatted down next to the duffle bag,opened it and
begin rummaging through it.
"Well,,if you say so,what were you after,Reez?" she asked right as LeRoy stood up and stuckout a metal box toward
Reez and said,,"Some of this stuff." which got an "Oh." out of her.
Reez took the can from LeRoy and said gravely "Unfortunately,,I do believe the truck parked behind the house was
the same one that young lady spoke of so it would seem they have the advantage of holding the target ground,Bright Raven."
LeRoy took a series of large swallows from his beer,belched and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before
asking,"Do you think they know you are here?"
"Quite possibly,,although,,it's doubtful his communications amounted to much more than an impression of me and
Hiram along with a compulsion to come here to this cemetery as he couldn't know where Hirams cabin actually is.Nonetheless,,they
soon will.Not only did it smell like they were cooking up a scrying formula when we came by which would allow them to locate
me and therefore,,Schlomo,despite the hold we have him in but I have yet to apply the sigils needed to complete the lock so
I have to open the hold,,,"
Catching the pause in Reezes words LeRoy finished the sentence for him by saying "And when ya do they will make
a beeline straight for it." Then smiled real big and said firmly while sticking his right hand out "And,,God willing,,have
their hopes be foiled when they run smack dab into you,,and me,,and my bag of goodies,my friend."
After a moment of looking into the eyes of the man who had faced death,,and worse with him on several occasions
he grasped the offered hand with an obviously relived sigh and a slightly emotion cracked "Yes,they will,,Bright Raven.Yeshuah
Emmanuel smiled very wide on me when He sent you along today.Thank you."
After a brief moment they stopped shaking hands as Reez said "Well,,we need to get out of here,then.I'm pretty
sure they wouldn't move on us until dark,,but,,we need to be elsewhere."
They both then looked for the quickly dropping
sun which was currently behind the large bruiselike purple and violet clouds that covered the lower portion of the western
"We've got about an hour." muttered Reez as he frowned into the darkening evening which LeRoys gloomy addition of
"Maybe less." seemed to make just a bit dimmer.
"Well,,one of you need to tell me a bit more before you do anything else." LeRoy's wife said in a rather angry
tone that got an immediate reaction from him which resulted in her being filled in on what Reez had told him and ended with
LeRoy asking Reez,"Is there anything you should add?"
Reez looked at the two sets of concern filled eyes locked on
him,cleared his throat then began with "Well,Yes,,there is,actually." before reaching into his pocket to pull out a wallet
apparently thick with cash which he held out to LeRoys wife and said "Now,,,maîtresse,,no nay saying.I did not have to pay
that woman and I honestly do not think I will get the opportunity to spend this,,,take it and use it to make your précieux
child happy with my blessings."
She glanced at her husband who said "He's serious." to her before she turned back
to look Reez in the eye,say,"Thank you.I will." and take the proffered wallet.
"C'est fini.Now,,Bright Raven,,I must leave or they will come here first." , " They can't step foot on this lot,Reez."
"Ahh,,yes that is true if you did what you said you did." responded Reez then added "But if they know I was here,,they
will mark this place and wait for any of you to step foot off of it,my friend and besides that,unless we can destroy them,they
will be need to be drawn away from the cemetery so I can have time to locate the right grave."
LeRoy squatted back
down next to the duffle then said while zipping it up,"Well,,let's go somewhere.Get in your truck and follow me."
Grabbing his face with both hands as he stood back up and slung the duffle over one shoulder his wife said,"Roy,,be
careful." then kissed him as Reez turned and began walking toward his truck.
Getting in he set the tin next to the
seamless dark metal box covered with arcane looking designs,leaned over it,happily said "Now,,Monsieur Jumbie Master,I can
dress you with an even stronger set of chains." before turning back forward and cranking his engine.
As he did so LeRoy pointed his right arm to Reezes left and called out "North." as he approached his truck and
laid the duffle in the bed with his left before turning and using that same hand to open the door then slide into the cab
in a graceful yet almost uncanny fashion.
Reez backed out to his right and rolled far enough to allow LeRoy room to do likewise then followed his friend
up 6th drive which turned east and became 1st untill he pulled off the right side of the road,parked opposite where 5th drive
t-boned 1st and stepped out with a clipboard in his hand.
Stepping to Reezes truck window LeRoy said "We're away from the house and outside the boundaries of my hedge line.If
they come from the graveyard up 5th here we'll be able to see them as they top the hill and if they approach from Dixie they'll
have to slow for the corner.If we need to run on foot,,we can hit these woods.Now,,I'm gonna draw a layout of the subdivision
so we can work up a plan for handling these mooks."
Reez said "Very good." then reached over,grabbed the tin and held it up before adding,"While we do,,I have to prepare
Schlomos prison garb.It won't take long.And then I can dress him up real pretty."
Leroy looked at him with a smirk
on his face and asked,"Why don't you just stuff him like a game hen?" That caused a contemplative look to come across Reez's
face for a brief moment before he replied with a little chuckle while opening the tin to look at it's contents "He is rather
small and there is plenty of spice.It wouldn't take even a fourth of it." Placing the lid back on it he looked at LeRoy and
"Capital idea,Bright Raven!!I will stuff him like a squab!"
Laughing,he leaned forward to reach under his seat then sat back up straight with a small light green tackle box.Popping
his door latch he said to LeRoy "Excusez-moi."
LeRoy backed up a bit and began sketching as Reez stepped
out,leaned over the truck bed side and put the tin and the tackle box in it before reaching back into the cab with a cheerful,,"Come
After Reez set the seamless dark metal box covered with arcane looking designs in the bed he remained leaning over,opened
the tackle box and took out an empty bottle and a bottle full of a slightly irridescent purple liquid.Setting those aside
he took out and set aside an apothecary scale along with a metered wide mouth float bottom glass tube before opening the tin
Leroy gave him.
When LeRoy finished sketching he stepped up beside Reez and asked,"Reez,,you aren't going to open that here,are
Reez paused in his measuring of the powder from the tin,looked up at LeRoy and replied with,"No,Roy.Not at all.I'm
just mixing up what I need for the binding sigils.It won't take but a few moments,,then I'm to going to make a box just like
Schlomos for you."
"For me?Won't they know the difference?" , "If the real one is not open they can't."
LeRoy appeared to get lost in thought for a moment as Reez went back to what he had been doing,then with a barely
audible 'Yes,,you're right." preceding it he stated "We can do a bait and switch.If they come after me because they think
mines the real one you could,," Reez didn't stop what he was doing yet cut him off with,"That's a thought.But let's don't
get confused. There's five Os men,,who probally are,,if those were actually their names,,originally Brethren,maybe Lowe's
crew,,well soaked,,along with an unknown element,,their handler.According to that young ladys description their handler is
more than likely a fresher one of their ilk or maybe one whose flesh has lasted better.Either way,,it's even odds that he,,if
not more than just he,,is a sorceror of some magnitude and quite likely able to discern intense surface thoughts so this isn't
going to be a simple game of keep away by any means."
LeRoy looked at him with one eye brow raised and said,"I assumed all that.Er,,well,,other than who their captain
was." before setting the clipboard in his hand on the bed next to Reezes paraphanalia while adding "Here,,take a look at this
and try to think where we should stage the bait and switch.And I'll show you a good bag of goodies."
While still making up his preperations Reez glanced over the crude map.LeRoy had included not only the subdivison
but also the surrounding area between U.S.1 and the north-south running canal behind Whispering Palms from the east-west canal
above 1st which was to their north all the way down to Oslo.The paved roads were obviously represented by thicker lines with
the dirt roads and paths LeRoy knew of by lighter and dotted lines.
As he finished mixing and bottling
his formula LeRoy came back,went to the back of the truck,laid the duffle in the bed where Reez could see,opened it and took
out what looked to be gas line valves and pipes arranged to look like some kind of gun.There were four pipes arrainged around
a central pipe with small valves and copper tubing.Two ran to the front of the valve body which split the pipe toward the
back slightly behind the four surrounding pipes.The other two ran to a short section of pipe that had a coupling on it.
handle was made from bent half inch copper tubing and had a trigger which could be seen actuated a rod that ran to the barrel
end where it was attached to a spring valve that opened the end of the pipe when it was squoze.
Reez put away the implements and materials he had been using and looked at what his friend was obviously proud
of based on the allmost silly grin on his face.
"What is that,Bright Raven?" Reez asked in a tone thta matched his
puzzled facial expression.
Taking a capped pipe about eight inches long from the bag he looked over at Reez and said as he removed one end
of the pipes caps "It's a dessicater,,or a chemical dehydrater,,yet,,however you term it,, it's,,a bone dryer,Reez.All science,no
magic.It works as designed but I have yet to field test it." Holding out the pipe so Reez could look inside the opened end
he said,"Our favorite powder.Highly refined." before hefting the contraption up and begin screwing the pipe into the coupling.
with that he held it barrel up,pointed at the four outer pipes and said "I open the valves,," as he did,,",,so Aunt Iris's
Tincture mixes with it here and with the big valve open like this,," as he turned that valve,,",,Uncle Cecils Best mixes with
that.The barrel valve keeps the pressure in until you pull the trigger.Then,," he turned,stepped a pace west,pointed it at
the grass about ten feet away in between them and the start of the sand scrub field to their north and squoze the trigger
which released a not loud deep gurgling hissing sound along with a semi visible in the much dimmer evenings light,violet and
sky blue liquid like gaseous cloud not unlike flames from a flame thrower yet without such an intense heat which ceased as
quick as it began.
Reez looked at the grass,then at LeRoy who was now examining the barrels spring valve
then back at the grass again,,then back at Leroy and said,,"Nothing happened."
LeRoy looked at Reez with a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eye and said,,"Keep looking,Reez.Wait for a
breeze." which seemed to call a barely felt yet definate shift in the air fully qualified as the faintest example of one those
that none the less blew an elongated area of grass stretching around twenty feet long up into the air like no more than green
colored ashes leaving the bare shellmarl fill and sand exposed to the old black mans amazed eyes.
As the cloud slowly
spread,drifted and dissapeared by dissipating into nothing discernable within twenty feet northward over the scrubfield
Reezes' incredulous look turned back to LeRoy who had a very self satisfied look on his face as he stepped back to the truck
while saying,"I tried it first on an unbled two hundred fifty pound hog,then a ten foot three hundred pound gator.The hog
took ten minutes to totally dessicate like that.The gator only took eight and a half.Oddly,,a whole four hundred fifty pound
steer took less time than both of those.Seven minutes."
He set the weapon down in the bed of the truck then leaned
his elbows on the edge of the tailgate as he continued with,"Then,,I tried it on fresh bones from comparative carcasses.The
hog bones blew away in three minutes,the steer bones took about two and the gator in like one and a half."
his voice and exclaimed,"Cher Seigneur,Bright Raven!Qu'est-ce un dispositif ingénieux!That is astounding.!" which enlarged
the smile on LeRoys face so much his sppech seemed slightly impeded when he pulled another double capped section of pipe out
of the bag while saying,"One of these packed tight will last about an hour and a half.I have ten in this bag.The ancilliary
cartridges exhaust at about a four to one rate so they give about three and a half to four hours each.I have five each."
the cartridge back in he stuck one hand into the bag then said in a slightly more somber tone,"Now,,since I fully anticipate
having a son,,one day,," and bared his upper arm with his other hand to reveal a professional looking tattoo of a flying bannered
heart with a slightly red,less refined three letter name across it before ducking his hand in with the other one and continueing
with."I made another one which you are more than welcome to use,my friend." before pulling out another device identical to
the first but shiny like it had been buffed.Leroy held it out revealing an engraved inscription along the barrel that Reez
read with an inquisitive look then asked,"Your future sons name?King Protected,, Calmside,, or,,Safeside, Son of Bertrand?Oh,,wait,,Son
of Bright Raven.Ha!And Bright Shining Warrior.Either way,,a witty,many faceted and yet very powerful name for an heir,Bertrand."
as he took it respectfully and hefted it's weight.
LeRoy handed him a cartridge as Reezes attention was grabbed by
a light colored pick up truck passing by on Dixie heading south with three dark wooden barrels tied down on it's flat bed.
Visibly alarmed,,he said softly,"Père Miséricordieux,not four more." as a greyish truck following the first popped
into view.There were a cask top,lighter than the ones in the other truck,poking over the bedsides and what appeared to be
an elbow protruding out of the truck passenger window.
LeRoy whistled softly then said in an obviously faked jovial
fashion,"Well,,He heard you,Zeke.It ain't five.It's seven.Add those to the other six,,and it looks like a bakers dozen to