1,6 - Majeaux
FBI Casefile 4815/1623-42
Evidence Entry Log: Audio Recording of Interview 1A, Incident 16X1. Recorded at Chicago Precinct Interview Room L-5 on date redacted.
Subject: Maliyah Johnson, waitress, 27, employed at Casey’s Midtown Diner
Interrogator: Special Agent Juan Garcia Madero
Supervising Division XIII Liaison: name redacted
Fast-forward 12 minutes, 36 seconds
Johnson (crying, distraught): They just started shooting. I thought it was bombs going off. All these explosions, it was so loud in there. But I saw their guns. I saw the fire coming out of the guns.
Madero: Ms. Johnson, I know this is difficult. You’re doing very well. You’re a strong person. You are. And just now you said that “they” started shooting. Can you clarify that please?
Johnson: The men who came in to the diner.
Madero: How many men was that?
Johnson: I don’t know, three, I think. Two of them stayed right at the front door and one of them came in, walked toward me, I had a tray of Cokes I was taking to table eight.
Madero: Was that the table where the man in the nice hat was sitting?
Johnson: No, he was at table two, up near the counter, it’s a booth by the windows.
Madero: Tell me what happened, step by step. The two men were by the door, and then one of them came toward you.
Johnson: Yes. (pause) Yes, and the man who came toward me looked over to my right. I think he saw the man who was at table two. I think the men with the guns were looking for him.
Madero: And then what happened?
Johnson: It was almost like I dropped my tray before the man in front of me took his gun out and started shooting. I mean, I’m not really sure, but I think I dropped the tray before, and the Cokes on the tray tipped over and fell off. And then all the guns were firing. Oh god, there were customers, (crying) there were people in the booths, and people were falling out of the booths onto the floor. But I was down, I was down on the ground because the tray fell and the Cokes fell and Coke went everywhere (sobbing).
Madero: Ms. Johnson, it’s alright. You’ve been through something horrible. Something no-one should ever have to go through. Take your time. (long pause) Before we continue I want you to know that you are a brave person, and the work you are doing right here, now, in remembering what happened, well it’s going to ensure the men responsible for this will come to justice.
Johnson: But they’re all dead.
Madero: (pause) Excuse me?
Johnson: All the men, they’re dead. Didn’t you find their bodies?
Madero: (long pause, sound of pen scratching on paper ) I’m afraid that’s classified.
Johnson: (sniffling) I don’t understand. All the gunmen were killed. I saw it.
Madero: Please describe what happened.
Johnson: I can’t forget it. Something came through the window. Right at Gabriel’s table.
Madero: (interrupting) Why did you just call him Gabriel?
Johnson: That’s what he said his name was.
Madero: Ms. Johnson, you didn’t tell me this before.
Johnson: I must have forgot to.
Madero: It’s alright. It’s all alright. But we’re relying on you, Ms. Johnson, to tell us the whole truth about what happened.
Johnson: I am telling the truth. I just forgot that part. (pause, then quietly) Am I in some sort of trouble now?
Madero: Not at all. No.
Johnson: (nervously) Alright.
Madero: When did the man at table two tell you his name?
Johnson: When I brought him a coffee, he said he could tell by my accent that I was from Louisiana.
Madero: I see.
Johnson: And he said it was lovely to meet a nice young woman from back home. He wished me a happy new year and I said it wasn’t the new year for a few hours yet. He laughed, and he asked me what my name was, and I told him, and he told me his. I said to him that he was a proper gentleman and I told him I missed the manners of the South, I said it was cold in Chicago and I don’t mean the weather, and he laughed out loud. I thought he was just like one of my Uncles, Uncle Ray, who passed when I was eleven. (pause) Now that I think about it, he was so much like Uncle Ray, he even looked exactly like him, and his laugh was the same laugh.
Madero: Let’s continue with the events of the shooting, if you feel you can continue, Ms. Johnson.
Johnson: I’m alright, yes.
Madero: You said that something came through the window of the diner, right at table two.
Johnson: That’s right. I was down on the floor but I could see between the booths and I saw the glass break, I saw all the windows along the side of the diner exploding, and I thought it was from the bullets of all the guns going off but then I realized that something had come through, something landed inside, in front of Gabriel, and shattered glass was in the air all around it.
Madero: Describe what you saw, please.
Johnson: It’s hard. I’m not sure. I thought it was a man but it was bigger. (pause) You’re going to think I’m crazy if I say what I saw.
Madero: No, Ms. Johnson. It’s extremely important that you tell me what you think you saw, no matter how strange it is.
Johnson: It was… well it might have looked like a man but it wasn’t a man, I’m sure of that. It was something else. Some kind of animal. It stood in front of table two and I saw bullets hitting its chest. And then it jumped right over me and the man with gun, the man who had walked toward me at first, all of a sudden that man went right through the side of the diner and flew out into the street. Dead. And I looked away. I put my face down and covered my ears because there was screaming and there was another sound, a ripping sound. And the other men with guns were dead. And I opened my eyes and looked around because it was all real quiet now, it was all over. (takes a deep breath) It was all over.
Madero: Did you see the man at table two?
Johnson: He was gone. And the thing that came in through the window. It was gone. And I walked out of the diner. I walked into the street.
Madero: You were in shock.
Johnson: Yes. I kept walking.
Madero: You were found at your apartment. You walked across the city to get there.
Johnson: I saw him again, Agent Madero.
Madero: (pause) You saw Gabriel.
Johnson: I forgot that I saw him again. I forgot until just now.
Madero: Where did you see him?
Johnson: It was like he was waiting for me. I don’t know where I was. I was just walking. There were people around us on the sidewalk. He came out of the crowd. He took hold of me, he put his hands on my shoulders. (crying)
Madero: And you felt threatened.
Johnson: No, Agent Madero, I felt safe. He said, “You’ll be fine, Maliyah,” and I just closed my eyes and fell asleep, right there, standing up. I just passed out. And I woke up in my apartment, the police were knocking at the door, but I don’t remember how I got there.
Madero: Yes. It would appear that the man at table two took you back to your apartment.
Johnson: Agent Madero, may I ask you a question?
Madero: Of course.
Johnson: It’s him you’re after, isn’t it? Gabriel.
Madero: (long pause, silence, then) Ms. Johnson….
Johnson: (interrupting) Were the men that were shooting at him… were they from the government?
Madero: Ms. Johnson that’s classified information, but let me assure you it would be extremely improbable that anyone working for any agency of the government would open fire on civilians in a diner.
Johnson: But why are you after Gabriel? He helped me, he’s a good man, I know that he is.
Madero: No. (pause) No. He is not a good man. No matter what happened in the diner, or after. He is not a good man.
FBI Casefile 4815/1623-42
Third handwritten journal entry in small black notebook.
It’s getting late but I can’t sleep. Not sleeping in the bed, if you’re wondering, no, can’t risk the dreams—I’m sleeping on the floor next to it, with my back against the wall and the bedsheets wrapped around me like a coffin shroud.
I was telling you about the Sorrow, and how it came over me, and how Jenny was there with me. Just as I was writing that part, Karen knocked on the door and asked me down for a whiskey. I have to oblige. I’m their guest. And I like these girls, I do. Jenny believes I’ve come here to heal; she wants to know what’s happened to me but she’s careful not to push it. Karen just wants to recount the things she believes we shared years ago, stories about the people she worked with, the cases that came through her law firm, things I know absolutely nothing about. But I listen and laugh and agree with her and it’s enough for now, if not for long.
Alright. It’s time to write about what happened last night.
This part is scary. You’re not going to like it.
You know that I was walking back to the B&B after having a coffee at the Vegan Diner—what kind of town has only a Vegan diner anyway, and all they served there was decaf—when those men set upon me with ill intentions, out of nowhere, forcing me to defend myself. Crybaby and I took care of one of them, and he was motionless where he’d fallen. The one with the pistol was in front of me, and there was a third man behind.
Always three-man teams. Trinities.
This melee took place on a bend in a street where there were no houses, just trees on either side—an encroachment, a reminder of old wild lands here in the midst of man-made habitation. No-one to see what was taking place, either.
The man behind me moved to strike. From the start I had stilled the language of my movements so that what he read in me was only that I was unaware of him. A kind of rope-a-dope, misdirection. He was armed with the same tactical baton as his fallen cohort. I felt it whistle by my ear as I ducked underneath the attack. His follow-through took him several steps toward the other man, who held his pistol ready yet pointed down. If you’re a professional, the only time you raise your gun is when you’re about to fire it.
Before, I ‘d thought they didn’t really want to kill me; they might have orders to take me in and take me off somewhere. Right then it crossed my mind that maybe I should just surrender. Where would they take me? Who would be there to ask the questions, make the threats? Who was my enemy, this time? At least I would find out.
The man with the pistol nodded his head. “Yes sir,” his lips moved to say, a soldier’s reflexive training upon receipt of an order. He must have had an ear piece, must have been given a command to change the fight. Sure enough, his arm lifted and the pistol leveled the open O of its muzzle at my heart.
Then something terrible was among them. It came from the wild copse of trees at the side of the road, hidden all this time, now burst from concealment and murderously swift at its bloody work. An arm flopped to the ground at my feet, spouting gore from the torn shoulder joint. An appalling, rising scream of agony was choked short and deliquesced into the quiet gurgling sounds of life pumping out, slowing, stopping.
It was a thing that looked like a man. Its arms were stained red up to the elbows. It wore clothes in close semblance of what we might wear, with mistakes: jeans that were ripped and caked with stains and dirt; no shoes over the black feet; a once-white dress shirt and a paisley necktie—a necktie!—worn crudely around the collar in a loose slipknot. Its uncut hair was a wiry mass, thick from its head down to its feet, a wild madness of crusted tangles and evil-smelling, matted clumps.
“Mon Tataille,” I said.
It came to me and curled itself up at my feet.
“Get up,” I said, “come on now, none of that, get up.” I stepped back, loath to touch it or to be touched.
The Tataille rose to its hands and knees, crouching like an animal or an insect; I could see its face now between the parted lengths of its hair, a malformed, misshapen face. Unfinished. It used dangling mouth-parts, squeezing air through them to wheeze out a sound resembling speech that I had always been able to understand.
You have a warm place, it said. A home where two women live. They make food for you.
I shook my head. “You can’t come with me, Tataille, you know that.”
“That can’t be helped.” I pointed at the carnage around us, the bodies of the three men. “You need to take care of this.”
“Where’s your coat? Did you leave your coat in the trees over there?” The Tataille nodded. “Go put it on then.”
Sometimes you give me a book to read.
“I don’t have a book for you right now.”
Next time I come to save you will there be a book for me to read?
I sighed. “Next time, maybe.”
It lowered its head to the ground. If you want to you can pet me before you leave me.
I stepped toward it. Covered my mouth as I lowered my other hand and placed it on the top of its head. The body of the Tataille shuddered and trembled.
I walked away. I tried my best not to listen to the sounds of devouring that my Golem, my creation--mon Tataille—made as it satiated itself on the remains of the men it had torn apart in order to protect me.
FBI Casefile 4815/1623-42
Fourth handwritten journal entry in small black notebook.
I forgot to write about the most important part, Little Wing!
Before the men attacked me that night, before the Tataille finished them off, I had been at the diner, the Vegan diner. Crazies.
It was an odd place, I thought, sitting down at a booth near the bathrooms in the back. The decor was an untrammeled mixed-bag of seemingly random elements: Hollywood memorabilia; Native American cultural artifacts removed from their context; framed pictures of Hippies taken in Haight-Ashbury, 1969; what must have been local children’s artwork; strings of blinking Christmas Tree lights. I was slightly dumbfounded. Then I took the menu from its wire holder on the table next to the homemade ketchup and hot sauce, and saw that every food option was vegetarian, and that the coffee was only decaf. “Crazies’ Jumbo Smoothies are the Best in the Land” was written at the bottom of the menu. I had a small amount of money left; I would not be spending it on a Jumbo Smoothie.
It was almost midnight. For the late hour there was a good crowd at the diner: a few couples chowing down on dishes that admittedly looked delicious, heaped in sizable portions on the plates; a throng of school-age teenagers pretending disaffection; others in their twenties talking rapidly and laughing loudly in the spaces between total absorption with their smartphones. As I looked around the place, a man who had been seated by himself near the door rose and left his table and the fluorescent lights in the diner reflected with a flash from the lenses of his glasses.
I sighed a long sigh. The Sorrow had gripped me the night before and I had slept only fitfully afterward, waking well past noon the following day. In the hallway outside my room in the B&B I heard Jenny telling Karen to let me be, give me space, let me sleep, and truthfully I was grateful to her for it. I managed to make an appearance for the reunion dinner Karen had made for us, but I slipped away in due time, deciding that a walk in the cool evening air would help me overcome the aftershocks and echoes that the Sorrow always left behind.
My long walk took me down many of the quiet streets of Park Heights and at last, perhaps inevitably, to Beech Boulevard, where I saw that the diner was still open. So I went inside.
At my table near the back, by the bathrooms, I sipped on decaf and gazed through the window out into the night’s deep darkness. I felt the weariness and tightness inside me lengthening, dissolving in the space provided by sitting in a public place, drinking coffee, listening without concentration or intent to the conversations of other people all around.
As I often do in moments of relaxation, inattentiveness, I produced my deck of cards and worked them onto the table. Not to form a pattern or catch the magical energies of the locale—instead to extend the randomness of disassociated thoughts, to peel away the power of one thought so that another might take its place, and another.
A girl went past me to the bathroom. I took no notice of her. There was no reason to.
The cards had flipped. Their Tarot suits looked up at me, asking me to read them. I resisted them, not moving to take them off the table, not moving at all, frozen for a moment in hesitation and reluctance.
I didn’t want knowledge. I didn’t want fortune. I didn’t want to stay in this town. I didn’t want to read the future of anything.
“Look at those cards.” It was the girl who had gone past me. She had returned and now she stood at my table. “They’re incredible,” she said. “No, really, they are. You know what, I’m going to sit down, I’m drunk and I’m sick of standing.”
The girl slipped into the booth opposite me. I looked up from the cards and saw who she was for the first time.
Fear and a strange thrill went through me. It was the young blond girl I had been dreaming of before I came to Park Heights.
“I’m Linna,” she said. “Did I say that I’m drunk? I’ve never been drunk before. Everyone thinks it’s really fucking hilarious.”
“Linna,” I said.
“Yep, that’s me. I’ve never seen you around town before. But I don’t know anyone.” Her eyes were drawn to the cards again. “Are you doing readings over here?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Will you read my future?”
There was a spark of energy that surged between my fingertips and the cards. A force more than magnetism or inevitability. I would not be able to stop. I was shuffling the deck. This was everything that I didn’t want and I was helpless now, caught in the nexus of power that had suddenly formed between the girl—Linna—and me, and my magic.
“Only three cards,” I managed to say.
“Um, sure,” she said uncertainly.
My hands moved as blurs across the table. I weaved each card through the deck a dozen times in a few seconds until the moment split and asked me to deal. Then there were three cards, face up. Three Arcana.
"Well,” the girl said, “my future looks pretty shitty.” She pointed at the last card of the three. “There’s lots of, like, death going on there.”
“It’s the End of the World.” The card depicted a walled medieval city on fire in the distance, with tilled fields in the foreground filled with the bodies of men and women reaching up with elongated arms to the starless night sky.
“Is that a real Tarot card, or….”
“And this one’s the Fatal Queen,” I said. In the card there was a beautiful, wrathful woman on a throne, her hair unbound, holding a sword in one hand and a wand in the other, and there were broken crowns strewn at her feet.
“How about that one?”
“The Mirror.” There was an oval pool of silver water around which grew five symmetrical golden flowers. On the surface of the water there was the reflection of a person, indistinct, little more than a shadow.
“Your cards are really weird, aren’t they?” she said.
Little Wing, I looked into her eyes and everything converged. My hands trembled on the table. Reality tumbled.
I could see what the cards had revealed. The Mirror, the Fatal Queen, the End of the World. I saw the eventualities as they unfurled in the future. They were terrifying.
The girl in the booth with me. Did she know? How could she know. Our futures were bound. I had been dreaming of it already.
One of us would die; one of us would live. This little slip of a teenage girl, and me.
Would I be the one to cause her death or would she cause mine? I couldn’t see separate fates for us, I couldn’t see who it was that lived on because the other did not.
A time was coming to us, a moment in which I would only remain alive through her death.
Or she would choose her life, and it would kill me.
© 2016 by C.D. Miller