This is part of a serialized novel. Reading this chapter is not going to make much sense to you unless you’ve read what came before.
GO HERE to find the list of chapters.
Oscar frantically turned the page of the Levesque journal. Sixty year old evidence written in a dead man’s journal — a man who, it seems, was convicted of the crime in question — wasn’t worth a damn as far as the law was concerned, but Oscar had to know. People had been killed over what was written in this journal. Each and every death that these people were responsible for, or that the thing out in the bayou was responsible for, weighed heavily on him. The long dead cried out from the pages for justice, or vengeance. Oscar was beginning to realize that he wasn’t going to be able to live with the knowledge he was carrying any longer. He couldn’t run forever — he had the feeling that they’d catch up with him — and he couldn’t very well return to Bayou Bonhomme as if nothing happened. But he was still missing pieces. He may have his suspicions about who he was up against, but what if he was wrong? Or what if he got blindsided because he trusted the wrong person?
He was thinking of Marla, and that last name of hers. Oscar knew that she had to be involved somehow, but couldn’t bring himself to think ill of the young woman. He’d trusted her with his life on occasion, and she’d never let him down. Still, doubts sat uneasily in his over-sized gut, and he reckoned he needed to read more. A pattern was beginning to emerge from reading the history of Bayou Bonhomme as told by the Levesque men, and the Chief could only imagine that what Mattieu’s son, Jean-Baptiste had to say would shed some light on more recent history. But first, he needed to know who Matthieu saw, and how he ended up in jail.
There was another boat out on the bayou that night. I was out fishing, and had already caught my fill. I was floating around, shining my flashlight under roots, looking for whatever had taken those soldiers a few months before. Some nights when I was out in the bayou, I’d hear strange voices. I ain’t a hundred percent sure they weren’t just in my head, but they were there all the same. Sometimes I’d hear other things I couldn’t explain. That night I was poking around the roots of an old cypress when I saw a tiny light out the corner of my eye. I quickly shut off my own light and pulled my boat up against the trees, hoping to stay hidden.
Holding my breath, I watched a boat approach and come to a stop not twenty yards from where I was hiding. I don’t know if they saw me, but if they did, they didn’t call out to me or nothing. I was terrified. The night was clear and the moon was full, and if I could see them, they sure as hell could see me. There were three men aboard the boat, a proper fishing boat, not the little rowboat I’d been paddling around in. The three of them stood up, and two of them held the bodies of the Benoit girls in their arms. They wasn’t squirming or fighting at all, and they were naked as babies. I expect they was already dead, and I thought for sure those men were just going to dump their bodies into the swamp, but then the third man started speaking in the same strange language I’d heard in my mind sometimes when I was out in the bayou. He raised his arms up over his head, and that’s when I caught the glint off the knife he held — a huge pig-sticker. He kept speaking those strange words, and then he thrust the knife into the belly of one of the girls, and tore her open as the man holding her held her up over the side of the boat. I could her her insides splash into the water, and felt my own stomach try to crawl out my mouth. Instead, I curled up in the bottom of my boat and prayed to become invisible. I could hear the rest of the girl’s body splash into the bayou, followed by her sister. The chanting man was joined by the other two, and the sound of the three men speaking in that strange, inhuman language gave me chills.
I don’t know how long they kept it up, but after some time, one of them asked why nothing was happening.
“Why isn’t he coming?” The voice asked. I couldn’t make out the voice, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was one of the Ammon boys. I can’t never tell them apart.
“Shut up,” one of the other men said, and I knew that voice.
The Ammon boy (later, I’d get confirmation that it was Jacques — Jackie Ammon) seemed angry. He kept saying that they’d promised him — that he hadn’t helped them do this for some crazy joke. And then he said a name, and suddenly something from my daddy’s journal made sense. I don’t know how to properly write it, but it sounded like he said Kathew Unchuck. He said “You promised I would see Kathew Unchuck. You promised I’d see our god.”
The third voice spoke, and I was pretty sure I knew his voice as well. I remembered him screaming at me, calling my mama a whore, as he lay a beating on me one day when I was just a kid, all because I’d been talking to his sister Josephine.
“Maybe we need a fresh sacrifice,” this one said, clear as day, and then I heard Jackie Ammon grunt, and I poked my head up, which I never should have done, because I saw them. I saw them gut the Ammon boy and toss him bleeding into the bayou, and I saw their faces, and they surely had to see me. But there was something about those men’s faces, a kind of dull, unfocused look, as if they was drunk or something. They started speaking in that strange language again, but it didn’t seem like they wanted to stick around, because they started up their boat again, and started to move. I was sure they were moving toward me — that they had seen me, and were coming to do away with me. I was damn near shitting myself, and they passed right by me.
I told your mama that night that I saw the faces of the two men, and that I knew them. I told her that knowing their names was my burden, and that I was only keeping it secret to protect you and her. If I’d told her that the two men who’d killed those Benoit girls, as well as Jackie Ammon, were Georges Bergeron and Phillip Hereford, the two most powerful men in Bayou Bonhomme, why, you’d both likely be as dead as those two little girls. As for me, well, you know how I paid for my silence.
What I didn’t tell your ma, because I didn’t want to complicate things by makin’ her think I was crazy, was that I finally found what I’d been out looking for all those nights. That night I finally saw the thing that lived in the bayou, and it saw me. And I get the feeling it wasn’t particularly impressed with me.
After the other boat was gone, and Jackie Ammon left behind, bleeding out into the swamp, something rose up out of the water — something enormous. It was like the roots of the trees themselves came to life and reached out and grabbed Jackie’s body and pulled in under. I heard a crunching, chewing sound and had to fight the urge to vomit again. I could hear a voice almost laughing in my head, and I realized that this thing — whatever it was — knew I was there.
I whispered the word I’d heard: Kathew Unchuck, and I felt the water all around me sway, as if suddenly something gigantic had moved toward me. I bit my lip in terror, trying not to scream, and my mouth filled with the taste of my own blood.
Then I heard a voice. It wasn’t in my mind this time, I’m sure of it. It had an audible quality that was different than the voice I heard in my head, as if the thing that was speaking wasn’t used to have to actually talk.
“Run away, little thing,” the voice said. That’s all. Just ‘run away, little thing,’ and then the strangest, wet, sort of choking sound that I think might have been this thing’s version of laughter.
Well, I didn’t need to be told twice. I pulled my boat even closer to shore and made my way to ground. I hopped out of the boat onto a dirt road and started running as fast as my legs would carry me, which wasn’t likely very fast. My legs felt like rubber bands, like fear had sapped all the strength out of them. And all the way down the road, as I ran, and my lungs burned, and my eyes teared up, I kept hearing that wet, choking laughter.
By the time I got home, it was near daybreak. I told your mama to pack up a few things and grab you, and within an hour, we was gone. Ed Cayce dropped us off at your Aunt Jeanette’s place in Abita Springs and the next day, all the papers was talking about was how them two girls had been found.
It took the police in Bayou Bonhomme all of a week to pin the murders on me. Papers was full of speculation about voodoo cults and the big bad scary Negro threat, and all kinds of other nonsense. Folks was scared, and they needed an answer, and in the end, I ‘spect they got exactly the one they wanted all along. The Benoit girls’ brother suddenly remembered seeing some scary black fella with voodoo powers, and then people started talking about my habit of going fishing at night. When the police searched our house, well, the reports say that they found a voodoo shrine in my little tool shed, surrounded with chicken feathers (never mind that we always had chicken feathers about — we kept a few chickens out back of our place for eggs and for the occasional dinner) and then the final damning bit — the two girls’ nightgowns. When this news started circulating around town, Ed Cayce, God bless him, he dint know no better, he told the police that where he’d taken us.
When the knock came at the door, I wasn’t surprised. I told your mama to take you into your Aunt’s back room and not to come out, no matter what happened. I opened the door and was greeted by what could only be called a lynch mob, with Chief Marcel Duchesne leading the pack.
He didn’t even arrest me or read me any rights or anything, he just said ‘You’re coming with me, nigger,’ and right then I knew I wasn’t making it to no jail cell alive.