The address Jesus gave me to meet him at was in Spanish Harlem. Once upon a time the building was a church. It had since fallen into disrepair. I did what research I could about brujería. It was about dark magic, which made me nervous. I didn’t know if I believed in it, but there was enough belief in me to think maybe it was a bad idea to invite bad juju into my life by messing with it. Still, I didn’t see how trying to locate someone could be harmful.
I knocked on the door of the old church and waited. When the door opened I was greeted – I use the term loosely – by this big Danny Trejo looking guy, except his hair was streaked with gray and his eyes were all fucked up. Like a lot of the masters in old Kung Fu movies my ex-boyfriend Quinn used to watch. Cataracts or something had taken this man’s eyes to make them so cloudy.
“Tio, esta Sookie,” Jesus said when he appeared.
The man grunted and turned to walk deeper into the old church. I heard the sound of chickens inside. My heartbeat sped up.
“Come in, Sookie,” Jesus invited. “Glad you could make it.”
“Thanks.” I stepped into the church. The door closed behind me, the sound echoing off the stone walls.
Candlelight lit up the enormous room. What had once been a house of God was no more. Symbols I didn’t understand the meanings of where painted on walls. An apothecary of powders, herbs and other things stood off to the side. The chickens were stacked in cages against the wall. A large pentagram was painted on the floor.
You’re in over your head, Sookie…
“You look unsure about all this,” Jesus said.
My eyes traveled over to him. He looked like an average guy on the street. Short, dark hair with dark eyes. He was about six-feet-tall with a medium build. There was nothing physical about him to suggest that he was dangerous. It was that sixth sense I had when it came to my twin that started to tingle, telling me that Jesus could be incredibly menacing.
His expression changed to one of surprise, but also understanding.
“You’re sensitive,” he said as though he just figured something out.
“The day I met you I could tell there was something different about you. Do you ever feel like you have a greater insight into things? Like you can tell all you need to just by looking at someone?”
“Sometimes,” I admitted.
“That’s psychic sensitivity. It’s actually not that much of a surprise since you’re a twin,” he told me.
“You think I’m a psychic?”
“Not necessarily in the way that you can foresee the future, but there are lots of different types of psychic ability.”
I didn’t know what to think. First of all, I didn’t know much about psychic ability of any kind. Second of all, I always just assumed that it was the twin thing. It never occurred to me that it applied to anyone else, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was always that something extra guiding me when it came to the people I met. It told me who to avoid and who to allow deeper into my life.
“Like being able to sense someone’s intentions?” I suggested.
“Exactly,” he smiled. “Look, we don’t have to do this if you’re uncomfortable with it.”
I took a deep breath and looked around.
“I did a little research on brujería. Am I going to risk upsetting the balance of energies by doing this?”
“It depends on your intentions. Intent matters in magic. When you want to do harm to others you must be prepared for that harm to come back on you times three,” he told me. “I always warn a client who wants to curse someone. You, however, are really looking for more of the approach of a curandero instead of a brujo. A curandero is a healer. You want someone to heal your family and not fracture it further.”
“So… should I find one?”
“The line between the two isn’t that thick,” he smiled. “At least for me it isn’t. Tio Luca only practices the darkest of magic. I want to help people. It’s why I’m a nurse by trade.”
It made sense to me.
“Okay, let’s do it,” I agreed.
Jesus nodded. He took my hand and led me over to the altar. I noticed the picture I’d brought him of Hadley was set up there, along with her hair and a piece of her jewelry.
“Are you religious, Sookie?”
“Raised Methodist,” I confirmed. I hadn’t been to church in a while, but it wasn’t so long I didn’t remember the basics.
Jesus put on a white robe with a hood. His back was to me as he lit the candles on the altar. I paid attention to the warning device in my head but got nothing back telling me this was a bad idea. A deep voice began to say a Hail Mary. I’d heard the prayer at funerals but it wasn’t a staple in my repertoire. Catholics prayed to Mary and the saints. The rest of us took a more direct route, straight to God Himself.
The hooded figure before me stepped back from the altar.
“Sookie, step forward,” he commanded. I had a brief moment of panic when I realized that the voice I heard sounded a lot like the voice in the nightmare I had up at the treehouse.
I didn’t wait or question why I heard that in my head; I simply turned and hauled ass out of the church as fast as I could. I ignored Jesus calling after me. In my need to get as far away from the church as I could I was almost hit by a freaking taxi on 2nd Avenue. By the time I stopped running I’d reached 95th Street. People probably thought I was insane, but I didn’t care.
After a few deep breaths I hailed a cab to take me back across town so I could spend some time at my desk in the newsroom. There was more research I needed to do without Gran asking a bunch of questions. I ignored my ringing phone. It was probably Jesus and as far as I was concerned, we were through.
I’d find Hadley on my own.
The experience with Jesus fucked me up big time. I spent hours walking around the city in a daze. It was well past dark when I got home and I went straight to my room. I locked myself inside and I stayed there until I was sure Gran had gone to sleep. I ignored texts and phone calls from Eric and Amanda. Just for a day or two I needed to be alone.
While Gran was sleeping I got myself something to eat and took a shower. Before locking myself back in my room I wrote her a note I left on the kitchen table to explain that I would be okay, I just needed a little time alone. Gran would understand. When I got back to my room I emailed my boss to tell him I was taking two personal days. At the moment, I felt completely lost.
It was somewhere just before dawn that I decided I needed to get out of the city again. I started packing a bag with enough clothes for a few days. I sent texts to Amanda and Eric, telling them I was leaving the city on my own free will and that I would be back. Of course by the time I was ready to leave, Gran was awake. She’d found my note first thing and she looked concerned.
“Where are you going?”
“Away for a few days. Montauk, I think.”
Gran sank into one of the dining room chairs and cried. I dropped my bag and crossed the room to kneel down in front of her.
“Why does everyone leave me?” Her question wasn’t exactly rhetorical, but it wasn’t just about me. Her husband died. Her only son died. Hadley disappeared. Now I was leaving.
“Gran, I’m not leaving you,” I assured her. “I just have some things I have to sort through on my own, in my own way. I’ll only be a few days.”
I hugged her tight. Gran had her abandonment issues for good reason. I would never tell her to get over it. How uncaring to assume that she could choose to give up her hurt and sadness in the blink of an eye just to suit me or anyone else. I could never be so dismissive to her. At the same time, I was likely to try to lighten her burden. Perhaps that was the sensitive in me. I wanted to ease her suffering but if I did, at what cost?
“You call me and tell me where you are,” she demanded when I let her go.
“You’ll be the only one I tell,” I promised. “I’m going to take the car, okay?”
For her peace of mind I had a tracking device installed on it. God forbid I was ever in the car and something happened, there would be a way to at least track the vehicle down. If Gran had let me get her a smartphone, she could use the app that came along with it to see my location anytime.
“How about I leave you my iPad so you can check the app with the tracking device?” If it made her feel better to have it, fine.
Gran nodded. In that moment she was like a scared child. I was tempted to relent and let her come along, but I just couldn’t. So I retrieved my tablet from the bedroom and powered it on for her. On the note I had written I jotted down the PIN number to unlock the device. I showed Gran how the app worked. It didn’t quite update in real time, but every ninety seconds or so it would refresh so she would be able to see where I was.
It was obvious that she wasn’t happy that I was taking off, but at least she had the tools to keep an eye on me. Gran begrudgingly walked me to the door and locked up behind me after I left. The garage where the car was kept was a few blocks away. Already the streets were starting to fill with people. They never fully emptied but it could get a little bit quieter for a while overnight. I stopped at the nearby Starbucks for a venti latte and a breakfast sandwich that I ate in the store.
While I sat at the table I checked my phone. I had a response from Eric.
Eric: If there’s anything I can do, let me know. 💋
I appreciated that he didn’t want a dissertation on why I deserved some time alone. It probably helped that he was there for my last nightmare. Gran didn’t know anything about the nightmare. She was so happy and relaxed when she got back from Baltimore that I didn’t want to bring her down with my unfortunate mishap. Gran also didn’t know I had been talking to a brujo about using dark magic to find Hadley. There were simply too many puzzle pieces I didn’t want to lay out for her to understand the full picture.
Ultimately, I wasn’t obligated to explain anything to anyone. If I wanted to be alone, I had every right to be.
When I finished eating I took my coffee with me. The garage was a five block walk. An attendant had to go up and get it for me. I waited patiently for the Range Rover to appear. It had been three months since I last drove it anywhere, and it was only to Waterbury, Connecticut so Gran could attend a talk being hosted by the Northeastern chapter of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead. It felt good to get behind the wheel. Getting out of the city early in the morning was easier than I expected. Traffic coming in was another story.
The inbound side of the Cross Bronx Expressway was a damn parking lot. I put on the Arena Rock satellite radio station. No commercials, just old rock songs I could listen to with the windows down. Gran didn’t have much interest in Mötley Crüe, but I loved blasting rock music and forgetting about the rest of the world. It was something Hadley and I loved to do together.
At the last second I veered off the Long Island Expressway at the Sagtikos Parkway and headed south toward the beaches. What caused me to go that way I couldn’t say. Truthfully, I didn’t even know where I was going. I wasn’t familiar with Long Island geography at all. It was the weirdest experience of my life. Whispers in the back of my mind were telling me where to turn and I didn’t know a damn thing about where I was going. Montauk was at the end of the island, past the Hamptons. I wasn’t even that far out yet.
Then all of a sudden I was pulling into a parking lot at Cedar Beach. I didn’t know why I was there, but I was there. I turned off the car and got out. It was still fairly early in the morning. The sun was up and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Beautiful as it was, I didn’t understand why I was there. For a while I walked down by the water. It was still pretty cold since it was just mid-May, but it felt good.
I wish you were here, Had…
I closed my eyes and stood there in the sunshine, face to the sun. It was completely unexpected when I suddenly smelled my sister’s perfume. My eyes opened and I looked around, half expecting to see her. Instead I saw a woman walking a big dog. I shook my head. It must have been her I smelled passing me.
I watched the waves break for a few more minutes before I got back in the car. Bon Jovi was playing when I started the car and headed back the way I came.
Montauk, here I come…
“I’m in Montauk,” I told Eric. I hadn’t planned to call him or tell him where I was, but I did. Gran already knew. I called her first thing after I checked into the inn I found.
“Are you okay?” he asked me.
“Yeah, I just had something weird happen yesterday that freaked me out.”
“I understand needing to get away,” he said. “I just worry about you. How are you doing now?”
“Still a little freaked out, but I’m hoping the quiet will help. I uh… I met a guy who practices dark magic. He said he could do a spell to locate my sister,” I explained.
There was silence for a moment before he said, “Sweetheart, dark magic isn’t anything to fuck with… are you still going through with it?”
“I went to this church in Spanish Harlem yesterday. He had chickens in cages. Pentagrams all over. The picture I gave him of Hadley was up on the altar. He got this white robe on and when he told me to step forward, I heard the evil voice I heard in my nightmare. I ran. I panicked and I ran. A cab almost hit me on 2nd Avenue because I wasn’t paying attention. I just wanted to get as far away as I could,” I said.
“Good,” he replied. I could hear the relief in his voice. “I’m glad you weren’t hit by the cab, but I’m glad you listened to your gut. Too many people ignore their instincts these days.”
“I don’t know what I would have gotten myself into. Jesus said he only wanted to help but his regular voice didn’t sound like that. It was so creepy, Eric.”
“I’m sorry, Lover,” he sighed. “I wish I could have been there for you. I know this is something you’re doing on your own, but if you need me for absolutely anything I’m here.”
“I know. I appreciate that. On my way out I stopped out by Gilgo Beach. I don’t know what made me go there,” I said with a nervous little laugh. “Jesus said he thinks I’m a psychic.”
“Do you have psychic visions? Maybe you’re an empath,” he said. “Maybe that beach is important to Hadley somehow. Did you feel like you were drawn there by her?”
“I thought I heard whispers. When I was standing on the beach I smelled her perfume,” I admitted. “There was a woman walking by with her dog. It was probably her I smelled. The beach was beautiful but otherwise unremarkable.”
“Do you believe in psychics and all that?”
“I don’t know. I mean I think it’s possible psychics are real. Have I met one? No. I’ve heard of a few and they usually end up being phony. I don’t want to judge everyone based on a few who might be trying to scam or manipulate vulnerable people.” It occurred to me that my sister was some kind of psychic because of the experience she had with Cecile. “My sister used to see a dead woman. Actually, she wasn’t even a woman. She was only seventeen when she died. Her name was Cecile. She was a slave who became a dressmaker for my family. Compared to a lot of her peers she had it fairly easy, but at seventeen she drowned in the Mississippi River. She’s been on the property since her death. Records say it was an accidental death, but Cecile says different.”
“That’s crazy. You know it’s not so crazy to think that maybe you have some sort of gift too,” he suggested.
“It’s not,” I agreed. “I’ve just never thought of framing my experiences in the form of psychic ability.”
“Maybe it’s time you start.”
“Maybe. I’m going to do some research on it when I get back. For now I just want to enjoy the beach and clear my head.”
“At least you got to take your drive, right?”
“Exactly,” I smiled. “I’m only staying a night or two. I’ll be back by Saturday.”
“Okay. I’d say I’ll text you when I think of you but I wouldn’t have time for anything else if I did that,” he chuckled.
“How about I promise to have dinner with you Saturday night?” I suggested.
“I’d like that.” I could hear his smile. “Maybe it’s time for me to meet your friend Amanda.”
“I’d like that. I’m sure I could talk her into it.”
“Let me know if she agrees and I can make reservations for us,” he offered.
“That would be great. She hates seafood like you.”
“I’ll find somewhere good,” he said. “Well, Luna will find somewhere good,” he chuckled. Luna was his assistant.
“I have faith in her ability. Promise me you won’t work twenty hour days while I’m gone.”
“I’ll try,” he chuckled. “Can I go for eighteen hours?”
“If you must. I don’t want you to be exhausted when I get back. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of need for energy,” I told him. I was willing to bet I’d barely be through the door before he pounced on me.
“Are you saying I can’t just cuddle while I’m in bed with you?” he asked in mock offense.
“Oh you can, but you won’t,” I snorted.
“You’re so goddamn desireable,” he replied in his sex voice.
“You know, I might have to stop by your place to see you before I go home.”
“Say when and I’ll be there.”
“I’ll text you when I’m getting close to the city. It should take about four hours to get back, if traffic isn’t horrendous.”
“I look forward to seeing you.” I could hear his smile.
“I look forward to seeing you too. Have a good night, okay?”
“You too, Lover. I’ll text you before I go to bed.”
“Alright. I’ll talk to you then.” We said our goodbyes and hung up. I set the phone down on my bed for the next night or so and went outside. There was a nice breeze. I wasn’t too far from the beach. Within walking distance, actually.
Tall grass blew in the breeze, but it wasn’t like my dream. For a while I stood out there, watching as the sky changed. There was a restaurant within walking distance the inn owner suggested to me. It was as good a place as any to go for dinner. I waited until the sun sank below the horizon before I decided it was time to go eat. Tomorrow was another day.