Agent Cloud Beaudry ventures out to the crime scene in the middle of the night. As expected, he sees remnants of the Old South, ghosts of the slaves and slave owners tilling the fields and haunting the big house. He interrogates the most prominent Master of the house, seeking clues that could lead him to the Slave Quarter Killer. What he didn’t expect was to have a run-in with the killer himself.
Chapter 12 – Ghosts of the Old South
By Rock Kitaro
When the crickets go on like this, I do wonder if it’s the middle of their mating season. I left my rental car on the side of Waynesboro Road and trekked through the field of crunchy branches. The beauty of the full moon is about the only thing that makes the crickets tolerable. It casts a dim light over the glistening field of white cotton, creating silhouettes out of the trees and the big house.
After the first two minutes, my eyes adjust and beyond the fields I see a massive wall of black that make up the towering woods reaching up to mesh with purple stardust.
I shouldn’t be here. I confess, I’m a little afraid. But there’s something about the suspense that’s making me a bit giddy. At any given moment someone could come up and stab me from behind and I’d just die laughing, thinking about Miranda’s advice and how she told me to wait till daylight. For all intents and purposes, she’s right. It’d be insane for anyone to come out looking to find a tiny silver barrette in the middle of the night.
However, I’m convinced KeNedra’s spirit is bound to the barrette. Which means if the barrette’s here, KeNedra’s here. I’ll ask my questions and solve this mystery. Case closed.
Each step I take is with caution, touching toes first before planting the rest of my sole. I keep looking over my shoulders. It’s a little after one on a weeknight so I don’t expect anyone to drive by, but you never know.
Approaching the slave quarters, I emerge from the dense thicket of brittle branches into a clearing of softer flat soil. A car hasn’t passed by in over fifteen minutes so I’m comfortable enough to take out my smartphone and activate the flashlight app. A small needlepoint bulb shines a beam, carving through the darkness and crawling along the soil. That’s when I hear it once more. Gospel music.
The chirping of the crickets fade out. It gives way to a soulful hymn that gradually picks up in volume. It’s the tune of people making the best of a bad situation. I hear footsteps in the bushes behind me but I’m not startled. Instead, something strange washes over me. A cool breeze penetrates my sweater and massages my chest like a refrigerated ointment.
Given in to some inexplicable compulsion, I’m brought to my knees. I close my eyes and let go if just for a moment. Gospel music is so therapeutic. Well…I say it’s gospel but for all I know it could be the blues.
More than twenty deep voices hum in blended harmony while ten tenors sang lyrics I couldn’t quite understand. So badly, I wish I could make out the words. Only one was discernible. God. The way they enunciated “God” with such passion, over multiple octaves. I never knew Gospel music could have such a psychological effect. It’s similar to the way metal helps me cope with the rage. Gospel seems to heal. I can’t remember the last time I felt so transported.
Slowly, I open my eyes and I’m awaken to a forgotten scene that obliterates the serenity. Around the slave quarters, I see dozens of dark billowy apparitions toiling in the fields. Their movements are drawn-out and perpetual, like seaweed swaying in a murky lake. There must have been thirty of them and that’s just what I saw in front of me.
Scanning my surroundings, I observe the length of three football fields teeming with paranormal activity. Hundreds of slaves continue to till but with no taskmaster. I heard no crack of the whip or racist taunts driving them on.
The closest to me is a large male raking a stretch of sand. Most of his form is that of dark smoke but his eyes are yellow. He can sense I’m staring and rewards my curiosity with a resentful scowl. His face gains solid definition with a hardened rough texture. I see the grooves of his nostrils snarl like a hostile Rottweiler about to lash out.
I avert my gaze, not out of fear, but sadness. I want him to know, I want them all to know that I’m not their enemy.
A spray of dirt scrapes over my shoes. I looked down to see dozens of small gray wisps, curious faces blended with animosity. High pitch laughter squeals out as the mischievous children realize they’ve been caught. As soon as I see them, they scurry off in all directions. Some disperse in thin air.
Even inside the slave quarters, I spot yellow eyes glowering at me, some with contempt and others with concern. They stare at me for close to three seconds and then fade back into the shadows of the roofed shelter.
A piercing scream sends shivers down my spine. There’s a scuffle, a struggle over life and death emanating from inside the slave quarters. My eyes gloss over with rage as I’m immediately reminded of what happened to Tiquasia Payne. Her pleas, her wailing, the vision of her being brutally manhandled and raped, it stokes the fire inside and snaps me out of this stupid melancholy.
KeNedra. Where are you? If your barrette is here, so should you. With that strong indomitable spirit, one would think you’d be the first to show yourself and steer me in the right direction. Were you really possessed by some evil spirit? Is that why you committed suicide? Were you driven mad? Demoralized?
I sit down on the frame of the doorway facing outward towards the cotton fields. Amidst the whimpers and bludgeoning thuds, the whacks of Tiquasia getting hit over and over again, my eyes stay open. I’m glowering at the fields and any resenting ghost that’s staring my way.
Screw that! I refuse to believe KeNedra was possessed. No! I won’t have it. KeNedra was strong. She stood up against injustices fully aware of the consequences. So what happened? Where the freak are you?
Great… Just what this situation needs, an entitled little schoolgirl from the 1950s showing her pale face for all to see. Maggie steps out of the other doorway ten paces to my right. Her arms are crossed and she’s wearing that signature squinty-eyed scowl of a rich girl who wants to play with the poor girl’s toys. We lock eyes. Both defiant. I bounce my eyebrows as if to say, “Problem?”
“GO KILL CRYSTIANNE!!!” she screams.
A wave of frightened wisps scurries off into the cotton fields. Even the larger slave kept his eyes down and suddenly timid as if he had a drunk Andrew Jackson bearing down his back. Maggie starts in an angry approach. Her face convulses and glistens as sweat and black mucous oozes from her pores.
“Why are we here?! Crystianne is still out there! She’s still alive!!!” She screams, adding monstrous bass in her voice like the growl of a mastiff.
“Damn it, Maggie! For craps sake, quit your hollerin. For the past few days you’ve gone on and on about wanting me to kill Crystianne. You know I will, so hold your fucking horses!”
“NO! SHE’S THE WORST!”
“Then why didn’t we kill her first? Hmm? I made you a promise, didn’t I? When have I ever let you down? When have I ever gone back on my word? Against my better judgment I’ve done every-goddamn-thing I said I was going to do for the sake of keeping my vow! So how about you get off my back and try helping someone else for a change! The sooner I solve this case, the sooner you can go back to hoarding all my undivided attention for yourself. Alright? ALL RIGHT?!”
It’s explosion of frustration and fury that takes her by surprise. She backs up and literally clean up her act. At once, her sweat ashes up and returns to the chalky complexion that was her default. I stand up. Everything I told her was exactly how I felt, save for one minor detail. I honestly don’t want to kill Crystianne so soon after the death of Florence Leach. If anyone picks up on the fact that these two senior citizens were in the same sorority, it could make things a bit difficult. A little patience could go a long way but it looks like Maggie’s fresh out of all that.