1,2 - Majeaux
FBI Casefile 4815/1623-42
Evidence Entry Log: one black notebook, 5 x 8.25 inches, blue-ruled lined pages, handwritten journal entries in black ink, last 2 pages torn out and missing.
Little Wing, I had a dream. You were in it at first, you always are, pointing out the way. I wanted to write down these dreams since you’re part of them, that’s why I bought the notebook. Then I realized I want to tell you more, there are things happening, events I need to record. I’ve been on my own, going from place to place, not talking to anyone, not since Chicago. Holding back every word I should have spoken. I started writing and now I know I’m not going to stop. Not until I see the end of what I started.
I stood behind you with my hands on your shoulders and you pointed east, in my dream, toward the morning sun risen on Los Angeles. A black sun, occluded, giving no light, no heat, veiled by smog the color of light pollution, sodium vapor orange. The city around me was empty, quiet. A fluttering darkness descended from the low sky and became two people walking toward me down the middle of the street, holding hands. A white girl with long, loose blond hair and what looked like her twin brother, they had nearly identical faces, both of them heartbreakingly beautiful, otherworldly. The brother stopped and let go of the girl’s hand; she came closer to me, and she was about to speak, and I knew that what she would say would reveal something so terrible, so horrific, it would change everything, it would change me, and I could never go back.
I woke in my hotel room beyond the middle of the night and packed my things quickly into the pink Hello Kitty backpack, setting out on foot at once. It was silent and still around the Motel 6 in San Dimas, all the world here still asleep. A Shadow lingered in a doorway: could’ve been someone departed that night, could’ve just been an after-echo of malice, violence, strong enough to take a shape.
Walking, then. Keeping no destination in mind. Only west. The opposite direction of where, in the dream, you had told me to go.
I can’t follow you, Little Wing. You know that. I have to find my own way forward.
In some cities I present as a gentleman to be respected and left alone about my business; in others, people see me as a menace and cross the street when I approach. In Los Angeles I seem to pass as a homeless man, which is disconcerting. There might be something wrong with my hat. Its name is Anpenpan—but you know that already—I think it might be losing its luster these last days and that’s no surprise since I’ve kept it a long, long time now. I can’t exactly control its effect. When I interact with an individual, Anpenpan gives them a version of me that’s something ideal, something they want to believe is true. When no-one’s paying attention, maybe someone glances at me when as they drive by, Anpenpan generalizes, drawing on the attitudes of the locality. It was dispiriting, in L.A., when some folks I walked past cast me looks of pity and disgust, but if I had thought about it, passing as homeless served me just fine.
Unknown. Unseen. Lost on purpose. These were my directives. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was nearing the end of remaining hidden. I was sick of skulking across the country. Deep down, I no longer cared about the consequences.
So I traversed the city, facing myself always to the west, passing shopping centers in the suburbs where SUVs filled the parking lots; then older neighborhoods where sedate homes rested behind sprinkler-wet, new-mown lawns—a police cruiser followed me for a few blocks to make sure I wasn’t stopping—then the inner city, where other homeless men tracked me as I crossed their territories. Finally I gained the downtown, where I was one forgotten pinpoint of humanity among thousands. I was weary from the day’s walking, from months of walking. The morning had come and gone, the afternoon, again it was evening. The setting sun swam through lakes of red-gold in the mirrored sides of skyscrapers.
There was a courtyard amid the downtown towers. Low walls of polished granite bound a public space where small trees and quaint flowers grew in rectangular planters. A riverine flow of pedestrians was endless in both directions beneath palm trees on the street-side promenade. I came to a stop here. Looking straight up I could see the tops of five skyscrapers appearing to bend toward one another from a trick of perspective. Here at the center of five Yggdrasil towers spanning earth to sky: in this place a concatenation of countless different energies would conceal any workings of my own.
I set my backpack down and unzipped the main compartment, took out the folding table I use for cards. Extended the legs to make it the right height for standing. From the left inside breast pocket of my suit I removed a deck of true cards and unwound the thin snake skin strap that held them together. I dealt the standard deck out onto the table, gathered, sprang them from left hand to right, re-dealt them as Tarot cards in a Crowley Configuration. The action of moving the cards on the table, changing their nature from trick deck to Tarot, should generate enough magical tension in the area to draw someone in.
Sure enough, a tourist couple found themselves diverted from the rest of the pedestrians passing by, the wife pulling on her reluctant husband’s arm. In her eyes I saw an adventurous spirit overcoming reticence, and her appraisal of me was surprisingly almost entirely composed of anticipating the pleasure she would receive from having her fortune read. Her husband’s eyes held mistrust and annoyance with a far edge of fear that was a latent racial bias he probably didn’t even know he possessed.
“How much to read my cards?” the woman asked me. Her accent was pure Nebraska Midwest. I’m not sure why but no-one wants card tricks anymore, it’s something I’ve noticed, there’s an uncertainty in people and they need to see a reflection of themselves more than they need the opening into wonder that a good card trick can initiate.
I began my piece. In other days I might have allowed some Creole vocabulary and inflection into my performance, but just then I thought better of it. Something about being perceived as little more than living detritus all day long had affected me, made me angry without realizing it. You know I studied at the fucking Sorbonne, excuse my language—I am no gutter trash.
I spoke with a stage magician’s mastery of certainty. “The reading is free of charge. However, you may pay what you feel is right once you’re sure I’ve given you a glimpse of the beyond.”
The husband rolled his eyes at me like a thirteen year old girl, yet the wife came forward to the table, already rapt. Such was her enjoyment that I could already feel my weariness subsiding.
“Would the lady wish to ask a question of the cards?” I asked, “or seek to understand the past, or sweep aside the shroud of time and look into the future?”
“Oh,” she said, “my future please.”
I pointed at her hand, then pointed at the deck of cards. She didn’t understand. “You may split the deck to begin,” I cordially said.
She reached over the flimsy, scratched-plastic surface of the folding table and handled the deck hesitantly, dividing it into two sections. I tapped on the top card of both halves, making sure the woman’s touch and intention had changed and settled the cards into their Tarot suits and Arcana. I made the deck whole again then dealt the cards out slowly so the woman could watch each one revealed until the Celtic Cross was finished.
“Oh wow,” she said, “these cards are beautiful.” She looked from the table up to me. “Where are they from? I don’t recognize some of them.”
“This is a 52-card Trionfi deck, it actually predates Tarot,” I explained.
“What’s that one?” she asked, pointing at the card in the upper right, last position of the Celtic Cross, which represented the Outcome.
“It’s called the Fountain,” I said. “In this position it means inspiration and creativity.” The card depicted a pastoral of forested green; an obelisk-shaped boulder stood in the center, canted toward the upper left, revealing a gush of white water that trickled down toward the lower right into a rippling pool where a red fox and a black dog lapped up their fill. I continued, hearing a strangeness come into my voice as this working of magic we were a part of now took over the words I spoke. “You are coming into a time of productivity. When you return home from your vacation you will feel renewed and refreshed from the sights you’ve seen, so much that you’ll get more things done in a day than you thought possible.”
The woman smiled happily, having just heard precisely what she wanted to be told, most of all. She turned to her husband and said, “Maybe I’ll finally finish that scrapbook.”
I quickly explained the rest of her reading, more by rote than for any good reason since she had already received what she’d been looking for, and I could feel my full strength returned to me, my hunger and thirst abated. At the end, the man put his fingers into a money belt which went over the waist of his cargo shorts, underneath his Golf shirt, and took out a twenty.
The couple left, holding hands. They would discover soon enough that I had reversed what the man had paid me: the twenty dollar bill was back in his money belt, by itself, the rest of the belt’s contents now in my possession, being counted. It was enough cash to buy another hotel room, maybe for a few nights. I had his driver’s license and Mastercard as well, which was unfortunate for them, but of no use to me. I tossed them into the nearest garbage can.
It was time to Travel. I decided to risk it, a working of more power than the card reading I had just completed. Enough of L.A., I thought. Too many people, too much noise, and I had no desire to be seen as homeless, not for another second.
There was an alley nearby behind a Chinese restaurant. The garbage bins leaked a rancid smell of old grease and decaying chicken bones. The back door into the restaurant was unsuitable for me, it was unlocked and often used, not worth the risk of someone opening it at the precise moment I was using it for something else. There at the blind end of the alley was another door into the back of a different building, and this one had a padlocked chain across it.
I prepared myself. At the heart of me there is brokenness. A gap. It makes me who I am, what I am, it always has. A working of real magic, real power, consists of this: forcing or finessing what’s outside oneself and what’s inside to meet, to join, to be the same. I put one hand on the locked door. I bent my will inward, focusing the weariness I felt, the pain, the anger, driving my emotions—controlled by reason, by thought—like a spike into the emptiness at the core of myself, the infinite space.
And an opening dilated, inside my mind, in the world. I went through it.
Admittedly, it was careless. I knew better. The card reading would have remained unseen, unfelt, in the center of the city. Not, however, the working I had just done.
I Traveled. I did not know where I was. No time had passed, only distance. I was outside the back door of some kind of store, closed for business. There was a small, empty parking lot bordered by the beginning of a deep green tangle of underbrush and trees.
I had held in my mind two simple ideas. West. A hotel. I went around to the front of the building, which was a strip mall on the main street of some moderate-sized town. I thought I might have been up in the hills west of L.A. since the strip mall had a few artsy shops in it and the main street had a decent upwards slope. The cross streets had signs reading Beech Boulevard—the main street—and Leaf Avenue, which seemed to lead downhill toward houses. Beach and Leaf, I thought, feeling a coolness in the names like shade in the heat of midday that was welcome after the press of energies around me in the city.
On the other side of Beech Boulevard there was a motel. Beneath the neon letters of the motel’s name, The Evergreen, the No in the vacancy sign was unlit. The main office was thankfully still open at this hour.
A tall and narrow-shouldered man with thinning hair combed-over between graying temples was folded like origami into the cramped space behind the motel office front desk. His name tag said Gary Cooper. He smiled with a friendliness that caught me off guard at first. Anpenpan still worked, I thought with relief. Whatever the man saw me as being, it wasn’t homeless. He saw my gaze linger on his name tag.
“Yup,” he said, “it’s my name alright.”
I said, “I was hoping one of the maids was Brigitte Bardot.”
“We do have our share of celebrities around here,” Gary Cooper said. “Do you need a room? For instance there’s Barbara Bellamy. She lives just up the road in fact.”
“Just for one night, thank you,” I said. “I don’t know who that is.”
“I’ll need a credit card for incidentals. Barbara Bellamy was in those crazy horror movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s made by that weird German director who was murdered.”
“I only use cash,” I said, “if I can put some down for a deposit. I don’t watch too many movies, not these days.” I grinned. “Love the classics, though.”
“That makes sense since you mentioned Brigitte Bardot and not, say, Julia Roberts or Jennifer Lawrence. My wife and I watch a lot of movies.” He pointed at a small TV that was ensconced behind the counter. “Passes the time. I didn’t see you drive up,” he pointed out.
“Any luggage you need help with other than the briefcase?” He nodded toward the pink Hello Kitty backpack I had unshouldered and set down on the floor next to me.
Gary Cooper shrugged. “Cash will be fine. You’re my only guest tonight.” He considered what he had just said. “That sounded like a line from the movie Psycho.”
“Yes it did,” I said.
He took a sheet of paper that a printer had just produced and passed it to me over the counter. “All your information there please. The rate’s at the bottom, if you want to initial that. Plus 50% for the deposit, which is refundable so long as you don’t smoke in the room. Total is next to the rate right there.”
I noticed a brochure on the counter top and took one, pocketing it. I handed over nearly all of the money I had obtained from the tourist couple in L.A., as well as the information sheet, filled out. Gary Cooper looked over the sheet. “Mr. Gabriel Majeaux,” he said, reading my name aloud. “Sounds French.”
“Louisiana,” I said. It’s one of the main reasons I rarely stay in hotels. I’m not capable of writing down a false name. I just can’t do it, I can’t even type one into a computer; if I write or type a false name into a place where my name is required, my real name appears there instead. Some day I’ll tell you why, it’s a good story.
Gary Cooper put the keys to the room on the counter and I took them. As I was leaving the office to walk down the front of the motel to the room, he called out to me. “Mr. Majeaux?” I turned to look at him.
“Great fedora,” he said. “The worst thing that ever happened to men is hats going out of style.”
I touched a finger to the brim of Anpenpan. “Thank you, Gary Cooper.”
“Goodnight, Mr. Majeaux.”
In the room, I took the brochure out of my suit pocket. What to Do in Park Heights. I set it aside without reading it. I wouldn’t be in Park Heights long enough to do much of anything.
That night I had another dream, but I always do when I’m sleeping in a bed. You weren’t in this one, Little Wing, but the beautiful teenage girl and her brother—I had dreamed about them the night before—appeared once again.
I was outside. It was nighttime. There were many people all around, dressed in formal attire, drinking wine and champagne. A string quartet played upscale renditions of pop songs. The party was situated in the grounds of some kind of estate. There was a tent nearby, set up in case of rain, but the night was cool and clear and the air was sharp yet pleasant. I turned and saw a mansion presiding over the estate, an immense and ancient house with wings to either side that were later additions, and a front portico in classical Greek style that had been restored more than once throughout the years.
Someone touched me on the arm. I turned. It was the girl. Her brother stood apart from her but he was watching me as intently as she was.
“Where’s my gift?” she asked me. Her long blond hair was done in a half-up, half-down style and stray strands drifted around her face. The dress she wore was old-fashioned, something from the ‘20s, a black and gray flapper’s dress that seemed more suited to a costume party than the black tie formality that everyone else here had observed. Her brother wore an immaculate pinstripe suit with a tie the same color as his sister’s dress.
“I don’t have anything for you, Linna,” I said to her. I didn’t think it was strange that I knew her name.
She shook her head. “You know that’s not true.” Her brown eyes were soft, coy—her smile was vicious. I received what she said as a threat. I looked at her brother. He was holding a gun, its muzzle pointed down at the ground. He was waiting to see what I would do next.
© 2016 by C.D. Miller