tagErotic HorrorFor Past Transgressions

For Past Transgressions


Elaine brushed right past Josh, without looking at him, as he entered the shack they'd discovered nestled half way up the slope from the water a quarter of a mile east along the coastline from Discovery Bay. It had been Elaine's idea to answer the call of the fortuneteller sign, which was scrawled on a small wooden plank on one of the pillars barely holding up a porch spanning the front of the weather-beaten wood hut. That's why he had let her go first. He wouldn't have gone in at all if he wasn't walking on eggs with Elaine and giving in to any whim she took the effort to express.

Josh Cameron had brought them down to Jamaica at the end of October—the whole family—to see if they could salvage something of normal family life. But the walk with Elaine along the island's northern coastline had been the first time she'd thawed enough even to recognize he was there.

The inside of the hut was dark and smoky—and smaller than he'd imagined it would be. The fortuneteller, who told him her name was Madame Lamesha, was a big blob of a jet-black woman with dreadlocks and wearing a muumuu sack that must have exhibited every color of the rainbow. A black scarf was tied around her head, and her mouth was a vermillion slash of scorn.

"You must be him," she muttered in a thick Jamaican accent when Josh entered and while he was trying to adjust his vision to the darkness. The woman's muumuu and her lipstick were the only color in the dingy room. The inside of the hut was as weather-beaten as the outside had been. Narrow rays of sunlight filtered into the interior of the hut through chinks in the wall, giving the impression of crossed laser beams. He wouldn't have been surprised if the walls collapsed around him.

She motioned to a straight-backed chair on the other side of a small round table, and he sat. He had expected a crystal ball. There was none; just a shiny black cloth spread over the surface of the table.

When he'd gotten over the wound-like slash of the woman's lipstick, he was focused on how beady her pupils were in contrast to the vast whiteness of her eyeballs, which were boring into him accusingly.

"We really don't have to do this," Josh started to say. "It was just my wife's idea to—"

"Do not speak to me of your wife," the woman hissed. "You have too many wives, and you are impure. There is nothing I can do for you, no potion I can give you, until you have purified yourself. The blood of the lamb—"

"Potion? You have no doll I can stick pins in to make the pain go away?" Josh asked, harshly. This really was too much for him to swallow. He wanted to cut into her act before she'd gone into the trance she obviously was building up to. Her chubby arms were stretched out on the table top, gripping the far edge on either side, and the table was jittering, like Josh was supposed to believe it was moving on its own. Her head was turned toward the cobwebby ceiling, and her eyeballs were beginning to roll up under her eyebrows.

She snapped out of that and leveled a disdainful look at Josh. "That is voodoo. We do no voodoo here. Here is the realm of Obeah. Potions both to bring out the good and to dispel the evil. When you are in the grip of the Devil, you first must dispel the evil before building up the good."

"I didn't come here for potions," Josh said. "I came in here because we were passing by and my wife was interested and thought—"

"There are no potions for you—not until you atone for your transgressions, until you want to do good. Obeah can do nothing for you until you release this demon of yours. Once the Devil has his claws in you, it is very, very hard to—"

"OK, I've had enough of this. What did my wife tell you?" Josh angrily demanded, as he rose from his chair. He was red faced and suddenly nonplused. What had Elaine told this woman? This was beginning to make sense—sense that he most certainly didn't want to start dealing with. "I don't want your advice or your potions," he growled as he backed the short distance toward the door he'd entered by.

"You will be back. The Devil is very powerful. You will need the potions of Obeah," the woman said. She was cackling and waving her arms in front of her face dramatically. "But you must shuck off the demon that is in you before you can combat the Devil that is in the world. If you cannot free yourself of the demon within you before Hallow's Eve turns to the dawn of all the saints, you will be back."

Josh was already out the door—where he stopped dead in his tracks before climbing down from the rickety porch. He felt foolish. It was just the usual fortunetelling mumbo-jumbo scam, and the woman wasn't even much good at it. She was way over the top. He couldn't imagine why he'd exploded like that from that claptrap she was spouting.

But then he could imagine why he'd been affected as he had. Elaine must have spent her time in there spilling her guts to the woman, and the fake fortuneteller had turned that on him as soon as he'd entered the shack. Elaine had been spiking him like this back on Long Island, and she was continuing to do so here. Punishing him for the humiliation he'd brought upon the family.

And speaking of Elaine . . . He looked around. She was nowhere to be seen. She must have taken off for the house at Discovery Bay without him. The fortuneteller must have wound her up tighter than a drum and caused her to snap. Elaine had been ready to explode since they'd arrived in Jamaica—for weeks before that, if truth be known.

He scanned the coastline in all directions one more time before striking out himself—in case she was there in the cove or on the slope, somewhere, huddled into that fetal position that had become a favorite withdrawal mechanism for her in the last month. He didn't see her, but there was a man standing on the rise toward the east and looking down at the hut. Josh's attention riveted on him as soon as he saw the man. He was young, and very black—a Jamaican muscle man. He was wearing baggy shorts, but that was all, that dipped at the hips almost obscenely, and extended down to his knees. He was serious body-builder muscular, a real hunk of a man. Maybe in his mid twenties, with dreadlocks that tickled his shoulders. The dreadlocks rang a note of familiarity.

His attention was focused on Josh, who blushed at the raw sensuality of the young man. There was something familiar about him, even though Josh was having trouble distinguishing one young, well-built Jamaican man from the rest. There was something that nagged at Josh as he turned and started walking west along the rugged northern coast of Jamaica toward the vacation house on Discovery Bay. Again, it must be something about the dreadlocks, although those were common enough on the island as far as Josh could tell.

He sensed that the young, hulking Jamaican was following him from a distance, and when he was able to, he furtively took a glance back to see if he was right—and, of course, he was.

Josh made it almost all the way around the curve of Discovery Bay to the Fontland Point vacation house compound on the other side of the bay before it dawned on him who the young man was. It was the clips of gold at the end of the dreadlock strands that surfaced the disturbing identification.

* * * *

Josh had first seen Demonde three days earlier at the Sir Donald Sangster International Airport west of Montego Bay on Jamaica's northern coast. He had been an arresting figure, one that easily drew Josh's attention. The young man was speaking to Elaine outside the baggage claim area as he loaded luggage into the back of an large SUV.

After locating all of their bags—with practically no help from either of their children, Ellie or Jason, both of whom were acting like they had been kidnapped to be here—and setting them outside on the curb of the arrivals area to await the promised transportation to their vacation villa, Josh had gone to the Security offices to pick up the Glock 42 he'd checked through from JFK International.

Elaine had been livid that he was bringing a gun on their Caribbean vacation, but he had been adamant. "Have you heard nothing about the rampant crime in Jamaica?" he'd asked.

"And so you're taking your loving family to Jamaica to be mugged and murdered?" daughter Ellie had asked. The miracle was that she'd even heard the comment, given that she had ear buds connecting her to a boom box and seemingly permanently growing out of her ears.

"It's certainly something I've seriously considered doing, yes," Josh had answered. He'd used his "I'm kidding" voice, but he was "that close" to meaning it.

Going from Long Island this late in October to vacation on the islands was something he had considered as a Hail Mary attempt to keep the Cameron family from imploding. It had been a month since Elaine had confronted him over where frustrations with life in general, and Elaine and the kids in particular, had taken him. And it had been just over two weeks since he'd discovered that Elaine had been no angel either. The back breaker, though, was when both Ellie, twenty, and Jason, eighteen, had returned home in late September. Both were supposed to have been tucked safely away in their respective very-expensive universities. But Ellie had decided that college was dull and she needed to experience life and pursue a singing career. Conversely, Jason had been virtually noncommunicative on why he wasn't in school—and couldn't be, according to the university administration. The college authorities refused to tell Josh and Elaine why, saying they would have to hear it from Jason, as he legally was an adult now. But Jason didn't want to talk about it either. Jason wanted to spend his days shooting hoops.

When Josh returned to the arrivals curb, he found a Land Rover idling outside the baggage room door and Demonde speaking to Elaine. The exclusive vacation rental company had told him they would be picked up at the airport for the ride to Discovery Bay and would have use of a car and driver, the driver also being the general handyman that went with the villa. A tall, very well built young black man in shorts and a tight T-shirt was standing at the back of the Land Rover, in deep conversation with Elaine. Ellie and Jason already were in the backseat of the car, putting on an act that mixed boredom with the reaction that could be expected from a shoplifter imprisoned in the back of a police cruiser.

Before he got caught up in the bustle of getting all of the luggage packed in the car, Josh had the sensation that he had interrupted something between Elaine and the driver, Demonde, a strapping young Jamaican buck, with a body-builder's bod and dreadlocks that went down to his shoulders, with golden clips on the ends that glittered in the sun when he moved his head. Josh could just think what was going through Elaine's mind about this young man, and Josh instinctively knew they hadn't left their marital troubles back on Long Island.

There was the ever-so-slight feeling that the two were standing a bit too close together and speaking a bit too seriously for an airport transport pickup. The sensation didn't last long for Josh, but it was to recur a few times over the next several days.

Josh looked around him at what appeared to be a whole lot of unnecessary foot traffic around the entrance to the airport. He sized up most of the milling crowd as locals who didn't have a connection to air travel beyond hitting up travelers for handouts and perhaps picking a pocket or two. Incongruously, he felt threatened by having a gun holster under his arm, as if he might become the focus of violence himself. The warnings he received from all quarters of the high crime rate in Jamaica made him want to hide the possession of an expensive firearm from all—including the driver, whose challenging physique had a dangerous element to it. As the driver was hefting luggage into the back of the Land Rover, Josh surreptitiously opened the glove compartment and stashed the Glock and its magazine of bullets behind the packets of papers he found in there.

As Demonde drove the Land Rover fast but expertly along the twisting coast road known simply as the Major Highway, he spoke in a rich baritone of what the family might be interested in doing for the two weeks they were on the island. Josh sat in front with him, and Elaine sat in the middle of the backseat, her eyes occasionally meeting Demonde's in the rear-view mirror, while the two children each were turned toward their respective side windows but studiously avoiding actually looking at any of the breathtaking scenery they were traveling through.

"You have come in time for Hallow's Eve and the parade of the saints," Demonde said. "And you are in a good location to celebrate them—the village just ahead, Rio Bueno, has perhaps the most impressive parade on the island. This was the center of the Obeah culture in Jamaica."

"The Obeah culture?" Elaine asked from the backseat.

"Yes, a rich and primitive mix of the animistic and mystical religions, brought to the island by the African slaves and embellished by the early Baptist movement here. Some liken it to voodoo, but there is more religion in Obeah; it is more Satan centered."

"Hallow's Eve? Is that like our Halloween in the States?" Elaine continued. "We were told that they don't mark Halloween in Jamaica. We'll be here over Halloween."

"Not the Halloween you celebrate, no," Demonde answered with a rich-toned laugh, "with children's costume parties, bobbing—it is said bobbing, isn't it?—for apples, and collecting candy. No, Mon, in Jamaica it is linked with the church day it is the eve of, All Saints' Day, on the first of November. Hallow's Eve is still couched in mystical religions and deep beliefs of the Devil and the fight between good and evil."

Wonderful, Josh thought. They were here because of how tiresome that fight had become in the real lives of each of the Camerons. And now they would experience it in a darker, more "woo woo" fashion.

"You must see the parade starting after dark on Hallow's Eve in Rio Bueno," Demonde continued. "Very dark—and sensual."

Josh looked up to see that Demonde was looking into the backseat through the rear-view mirror, but, sensing that Josh was looking at him, the young black man turned his gaze on Josh, who found himself trembling at the primitive beauty of the man. If there ever was an image for the word "sensual," Josh thought, it would be someone like Demonde. Raw and unbridled. On the edge of danger, with a sense of brute power just under the surface. Such a man could travel the whole scale between gentle and rough, Josh surmised. His chocolate-brown muscled torso must be something to behold unclothed.

"Only in Rio Bueno do they pull out all of the stops connecting the evening with the tenets of Obeah," Demonde said. "We do not dress up like fairy princesses or Roman emperors or cowboys as you do in the States. We pull out the deeper meaning of the occasion. One of the Obeah beliefs is that the Devil runs free on earth that night and that only those making themselves up to already be dead—ghosts and ghouls—can escape Satan's power to grab their souls. So that is how those in the parade dress, and they wear fierce wooden masks to frighten the demons away from them. Obeah has also picked up an ancient Catholic practice of wearing their clothes inside out on that day and walking backwards. They believe if you do that, at the stroke of midnight on Hallow's Eve, those possessed by Satan will reveal themselves to you and thus can be avoided throughout the coming year. Sometimes they are your closest neighbors, or even your own spouse maybe."

He turned his gaze on Josh and gave him an inscrutable smile.

"Charming," Elaine spoke up from the backseat. The fact that son Jason, at least, wasn't paying a bit of attention to the discourse was shown in his not reacting to any of this. Josh knew Jason would eat this sort of sorcery up if he was listening to what Demonde was saying. "I shudder at the thought," Elaine added.

"And there are snakes. Many, many snakes," Demonde said in a soft voice that left the impression that he himself was eating up the concept.

"Snakes?" Josh asked in a sharp voice. Elaine's reaction was more of an intake of breath and a sound of disgust. "Why snakes?"

"Very Obeah, are snakes," Demonde replied. "Snake venom is at the root of the religion. It is based on belief in the power of potions—ones to bring about good, to counter bad . . . or to do bad to your enemies. Snake venom is a key ingredient in the potions. Yes, there will be many snakes there. You must come and behold."

"Don't count on me," Elaine piped up from the backseat. Josh said nothing. The whole discussion and turning his head to watch Demonde speak of these things—the sensual allure of ancient myths and practices—were giving him a warm feeling in his loins. It also made him feel guilty; such feelings and sensations were what he'd come to Jamaica to avoid.

They certainly were far, far away from the McMansions, stark-white pasture fences, and the dark secrets of the plastic, smiling families of Long Island.

At least they were until they rolled up to Fontland Point, which was a sprawling mansion on the western point of Discovery Bay, with a small artificial harbor, square miles of terracing, and an infinity pool that jutted out from the great room and seemed to spill over the rocky shoreline into the Caribbean Sea. It would have been right at home on the shores of Long Island.

The compound was all that the rental company's brochure promised that it would be—much like home, just not under the judgmental gaze of their community.

And, although the brochure had promised that there would be a cook, a maid, and houseboy slash driver, Demonde was far, far more than was promised in the latter role.

"We were told that there was a staff provided," Josh said, as he and Demonde unpacked the back of the Land Rover and Elaine and the children started to explore the grounds, both Ellie and Jason trying desperately and unsuccessfully to pretend that they weren't impressed. "So, there is you . . . and a cook and housekeeper too?"

"Ya, Mon," Demonde said. "but the cook and housekeeper have families and live nearby. I have a room in the lower level of the house—and can be at your call, as you need me."

Josh blushed a bit when Demonde looked at him with those sleepy eyes of his, but then he stiffened as the young man's gaze slid away from him to take in the voluptuous figure of Elaine as she walked over near the swimming pool.

Why, Josh wondered, as laid back as the amenities of the vacation villa compound were, did he feel electricity and tension in the air?

* * * *

If Josh had expected that the change of venue and isolation would bring the Camerons together into the happy family that most of their friends on Long Island thought they were—or had been before his publicly revealed transgression—he was grossly mistaken. In the days running up to November, the members of the family barely saw each other, let alone interacted. Elaine took to sunbathing by the pool and reading glamour magazine after glamour magazine, always with a tall drink beside her, with coconut and rum being the main ingredients—heavy on the rum.

Sometimes Ellie was at the pool too—but always on the other side of it from Elaine. And always she was hooked up to ear buds that transported her to another planet altogether. Jason was perpetually off playing basketball at a nearby, less-extravagant vacation resort at the center of Discovery Bay. Demonde had hooked him up with vacationing teenagers and local players there and often accompanied Jason. On the rare occasion the family did come together, it was over the dinner table. But Jason was hardly ever there even then and Ellie only on occasion—still off in another universe, swaying to the music playing in her ear buds and singing the lyrics to herself in a sweet soprano.

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