September 21, 1970
Not a month after Stephen Hereford and Olivia Bergeron got married (for the second time, apparently), Ellie Duchesne drank herself to death, leaving those two boys orphans of a sort. Their daddy was still alive, a-course, but him being locked away in Greenwell Springs Mental Hospital took him pretty much out of the picture. When he woke up in a jail cell after I’d brought him back to town, he’d been raving about the Good Man of the bayou, and screaming that he wanted to see the face of god, and that he was being tested like Abraham was tested. He was babbling about how Remy LeVert told him to sacrifice his babies, and that he was promised by his prophet that he would hear the voice of god. When Chief DuBois asked him who his prophet was, he got real quiet and wouldn’t say any more. As I hear it, he got some visitors that night, and after that, he didn’t say much of anything at all. If my daddy were still alive, he could tell you from experience that that’s the way things work in Bayou Bonhomme.
Oscar was suddenly very glad that he’d gotten out of town, and was having serious second thoughts about ever going back. Part of him wanted to just throw his shit in a bag and drive off in the middle of the night, leaving Luanne and Celine behind and driving to Mexico. He was a coward. He didn’t have it in him to face the kind of horror he had as a younger man, and yet somehow, that’s exactly what he was gearing up to do. The problem was, the more he read of the Levesques’ journal, the less he knew who the real enemy was. What exactly was he supposed to do about these… Faithful.. as they called themselves? What evidence did he have to bring against them? He was still thinking like the Chief of Police, when deep down he knew this wasn’t going to be solved within the law.
Then there was the matter of Chuk. He had held out some hope that somewhere within the pages of the journal, there would be some secret weapon or that maybe Jean-Baptiste had uncovered some weakness that he could exploit. But so far, nothing. Not that the journal wasn’t valuable — it had answered a lot of his questions, and even named Olivia Hereford as the head of the cult that worshipped Chuk. But even that was useless unless he found some way to use the information to hurt them — hurt them so badly that they’d never recover. But other than Olivia, and some educated guesses at who else might be involved, Oscar didn’t know who he was up against — who he could trust and who he needed to fear.
It was too big for him. He balled up a fist and punched the wall of the motel in frustration.
“Even if I were to take them all down — even if I could somehow justify killing them all,” he thought out loud, mumbling under his breath, “Chuk would just reach out to others, put them under his spell.”
Merde, he thought, rubbing his skinned knuckles.
“Chuk has to die,” he sighed, and then laughed at the absurdity of it, as if he’d just said that the Easter Bunny had to die.
He looked at the journal, open to where he’d left it.
“Goddammit, J-B, give me something I can use!”
October 3, 1970
There wasn’t but a handful of people at Ellie Duchesne’s funeral, and I was only there on account of it’s my job. It’s sort of poetic, in a way — I take care of the dead of Bayou Bonhomme. I drive my backhoe and dig their graves, and then I keep the grounds of the cemetery, which is far too large for a town with our age and population, if you ask me. I take care of the dead, and in this here book, I take care of the history — the secret history, anyhow. I’ve never been a fan of gallows humour — I seen too much death to have anything but fear and respect for it — but you can surely say that when it comes to Bayou Bonhomme, I know where all the bodies are buried.
I thought it was strange that Stephen and Olivia Hereford were there, considering the vast gap between their social standing and that of the Duchesnes but then, Levi had told me that he’d been there on the very night that the two were married. I can’t figure the connection between them, but then, if you were to make a family tree of the old families of this town, I imagine the roots and branches would criss-cross dozens of times. For all I know, Olivia was kissing cousins with the Duchesnes.
Stranger still, though, was the presence of the two children — Gilles and Darrel — standing at their feet. It appeared that the Herefords had adopted to two orphaned boys, if not legally, than certainly unofficially. I got a chill just thinking about those kids growing up under Olivia’s influence. And what had Levi said? That she’d said that he was special — that she had a special purpose for him — something like that. What would she make of two tiny children?
They would bear watching.
“Yeah, no kidding,” Oscar mumbled. He’d opened a bottle of bourbon and had begun to drink. He hadn’t been sleeping since they’d made the drive up to Greensburg.
He flipped through the next few pages, finding only notes about marriages and deaths — mostly natural — and then, in April of 1975, it seems that he and Josie Ammon started having an affair.
April 29th, 1975
It’s wrong, and I know it, but damn if she doesn’t make me forget every horrible thing in this world.
We all been through hell these last couple of years — we were still recovering from Hurricane Carmen, what did terrible damage to the Hereford’s sugar crops and put a lot of people around these parts out of work. Lucky for me, people kept dying.
I can’t lie and say that I think this will last. I ain’t foolin’ myself that she’s going to leave Ben, and I don’t know that I could live with myself if’n she did. Ben Ammon’s a friend of mine, and I ain’t being a good friend to him.
Who am I kidding? I’ve been wanting this for damn near twenty years, I’d kill Ben Ammon myself if I thought Josie’d run away with me. But even when she’s with me, I can tell she’s only half there. Except every once in a while, when she’s on top of me, digging her nails into my chest — and then, for a split second, she looks into my eyes as her body tenses up and she shudders and shivers — then she’s completely there, and she’s mine, mine, all mine.
November 8, 1975
Everyone has their secrets. Me, too, I suppose, and not even this book hears them all. But tonight, Josie came a-knockin’ at my door in the middle of the night, and I was busy reading back through my daddy’s journal, hoping to find something that might help me decide what to do. I was trying to work up the courage to tell Josie everything — the truth, as I understood it. If she believed me, and if she didn’t think I was crazy, then I would offer her a way out of all of this. I would ask her to leave Bayou Bonhomme with me forever.
So when she came inside my little house, I didn’t hide my family journal, instead, I invited her to sit down with me while I poured my heart out.
When she left, she didn’t seem alarmed or surprised. In fact, looking back, the real surprising thing was how easily she had accepted and believed what I’d told her — and some of it was downright unbelievable.
She did say that she needed to think about what I was suggesting. I got the feeling that I shouldn’t have asked — that perhaps I’d just pushed too far, and ruined everything.
January 6, 1976
It was a chilly night, and I had a fire going when Josie decided to drop by. There was something different about her; she was acting strangely. She wasn’t in the door thirty seconds when she threw herself at me, kissing me and groping me furiously. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have minded, only she tasted strange, and she didn’t seem herself — she seemed drunk or stoned, and her eyes didn’t look right.
“You okay?” I asked her, and she smiled a big toothy smile. It looked like she’d been chewin’ black licorice, but smelled like the bayou.
“Never been better,” she sighed, swooning. “I brought you something new.”
Since we’d started seein’ each other on the sly, we’d also been trying other new things. At first just a little grass, and then some mushrooms. Josie said it would expand our minds, but it just gave me strange dreams, and I had enough of those as it was.
“Hold out your hand,” she said, and I complied. She stepped closer to me and started to rub me… down there. I couldn’t help myself. I would have done anything for her.
She placed something wet in my hand — it almost looked like a scallop or something.
“What is it?” I asked, honestly curious, and more than a little aroused. The sex that we’d had on mushrooms had been strange but unforgettable.
“You eat it,” she explained, still grinning, and then added, “you’ll hear the voice of god.”
I felt a shiver of déjà vu and looked up at Josie, who was staring at me expectantly.
“Go on,” she urged, “eat it.”
And I was about to, when I felt whatever it was twitch in my hand, and without thinking, I tossed it into the fire. As it hit the flames, I heard a terrible screeching in my head, followed immediately by Josie’s shrill cry, mirroring that of the inhuman voice in my head.
Josie slapped me across the face, and when I recovered, I turned to her and saw that her eyes had gone completely black. She opened her mouth and spat a string of words at me in some guttural language that I didn’t understand. Then she turned and ran into the night, still shrieking.
December 2, 1976
Josie hasn’t set foot in my house since that night back in January. Not until tonight. I almost didn’t let her in, remembering what happened that last time. But I loved her — love her still — and sometimes the heart overrules the head. She was trembling, and not just from the cold. It was windy tonight and her auburn hair — now streaked with white — was a tangled mess. How I wanted to run my hands through it and brush it out with my fingers — but she wouldn’t let me touch her.
She didn’t even say hello when she came in, she just walked past me and into my bedroom, coming back out a minute later with a suitcase. She opened it up and looked at me with wild eyes.
“You need to leave, Jean.”
I looked at her sadly, wondering how deep in it she was. It broke my heart worse than never having her at all, to think that she had been pulled into the horror that lived in the shadows of Bayou Bonhomme.
“Where is it?” she asked. “Jean, where is that damned book?”
It didn’t occur to me at the time to wonder why she was asking about it, but now I wonder. And I worry. Did Josie sell me out? Did she tell Olivia Hereford everything I knew? Did she tell her about what really happened to Phillip Hereford? I have no idea now what they know or don’t know about me. I have to assume the very worst, for to do anything less is to let my guard down, and open myself up to attack.
“It’s safe,” I told her. “What’s this all about?”
“I’m frightened, Jean,” she said, and when I tried to touch her, to comfort her, she pulled away.
“Don’t,” she said. “I’m dirty, Jean. I’m unclean. The things I’ve done…”
“I don’t care what you’ve done,” I lied, because that’s another thing that lovers do.
“You need to leave, Jean. You need to take your cursed book and get out of town. Something is coming, Jean. Something bad. Something terrible.”
“What’s coming, Josie?”
“Its time is coming around again, Jean. And it’s worse. She says that we’ve been lazy and unfaithful, and that she’s so hungry.”
Josie began sobbing and shaking in terror, and fell to her knees and held her hands over her face.
“You’re not safe, Jean,” she cried. “You’re not safe, she’s so hungry, you’re not safe, you need to leave.”
I took her by the shoulders and shook her, gently at first, and then more vigorously.
“Josie, I don’t understand. Who says? Who’s hungry? Olivia?”
“No,” she said, dropping her hands and looking up at me with wide, mad eyes. “God.”