I've really enjoyed working on this book, and the research into things I had absolutely no clue about. Hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Catherine kept her hands inside the boat, but couldn't help being drawn into the beauty of the Bayou as the marsh sparkled in the later afternoon glow. An alligator scampered away from the bank as the canoe approached. Herons, egrets and seabirds flew up from the grasses. The Bayou was certainly wild, beautiful and deadly.
"How far do we have to go?" Catherine asked, noting the shadows were getting longer around them. She really didn't want to be in this water after dark.
Aureole spoke with her grandfather who shrugged and kept paddling. "Grandpa says patience is a virtue."
Catherine bit her lip to keep from cursing out loud. Grandpa hadn't really said anything. It was clear Aureole didn't like her. Yet at times there was something in her eyes. Something very sad. There were so many questions Catherine needed answered and Aureole was her only hope of getting those answers.
"Tell me about Voodoo, and how my mother got involved."
Aureole shifted in the boat, causing it to rock gently and Catherine to reach for the sides.
"There are several religions referred to as voodoo, or voudou. There's also hoodoo which is similar in some respects. Our religion is a combination of Roman Catholic, African animism and Christianity. We believe in one God who is all powerful. Many of our traditional ceremonies are presided over by Roman Catholic priests.
"In the old world we call God "Bondje", meaning "Good God". We reach him/her/it through the spirits. We worship God, and serve the spirits.
"There are twenty-one nations of spirits, called the "lwa-yo". The more important nations of Lwa are Rada, Nago and Kongo. The spirits sometimes come in families such as Ogou, Ezilli, Azaka or Gede.
"Rada sprits are familial and mostly come from Africa. Petwo spirits are native to Haiti and can be more demanding and require more attention to detail. Both can be dangerous if angry or upset, although they are not good or evil. They simply are.
"Everyone has spirits, and each person has a special relationship with one particular spirit who is said to "own their head", but we have many lwa, and the one that owns our head, the "met tet" may or may not be the most active spirit in our life."
Catherine listened to the recitation, which sounded like it came from a history book, but her mind honed in on the twenty-one nations. Each of the victims had been stabbed twenty-one times. Why?
"Do you want to know more, or are you bored yet?" Aureole turned giving her a condescending look, clearly expecting her to be bored.
"I think it's fascinating. Of course, I could have read everything you just said in a textbook. Do you find it that boring?"
Aureole rocked the boat again, this time almost capsizing it, and gaining her a rebuke from her grandfather.
"Sorry," Aureole mumbled, clearly not sorry at all. Unless she was sorry Catherine hadn't fallen out of the boat.
" You still haven't told me how my mother became involved in this."
"I can only tell you what my grandfather has told me. Mother Rose was a Catholic nun who served in Haiti for many years. There she met my grandfather, and from there we came to New Orleans. When I say "we" I mean of course the Duprè family. She brought us to the Blanchard plantation where my family worked for yours. When grandfather saw your mother she was surrounded by spirits, and he knew immediately that she was born to be a "manbo" or high priestess. He trained her for many years, although to hear him tell it she trained his as well. She was an amazing woman."
"You knew my mother?" Catherine asked, noting the emphasis Aureole had placed on was an amazing woman.
"I told you, we came over with Mother Rose. We lived with you."
"Catherine. . . . come play with me."
"Were we friends?" Catherine asked.
Aureole turned, leveling her with an angry gaze. "I thought we were."
Catherine remained quiet as darkness closed in around them. The Bayou came alive with strange noises, and ravenous bugs. Thank God she had on jeans and long sleeves, but she found herself constantly swatting giant mosquitoes from her neck and face. Surely they didn't have much further to go.
Almost as if Grandpa had read her mind the canoe slowed and they approached the bank. Taking off her shoes Aureole jumped into the murky waters and pulled the boat ashore, tying it off to a huge tree.
Catherine followed Grandpa's lead and walked to the front of the canoe, stepping gingerly onto the bank. Once again she thanked God she'd worn boots. Five hundred dollar boots that were now covered in Mississippi mud.
Grandpa disappeared into the trees and Aureole slipped her shoes back on mud covered feet. "We walk from here."
Catherine looked around her, hearing the sound of a huge splash behind her in the water. "It's almost dark, how are we supposed to see where we're going?"
Aureole tied her shoe laces, glancing at the alligator now about ten foot from shore. "Guess you'd better keep up then hadn't you? The Kayiman looks hungry."