Night had fallen on the delta. Not with a sudden thump, as one might perhaps expect, but the darkness had crept forward enveloping the cypress trees, moving its fingers along the water in the creek and up the banks of the swamps, and now a gentle blanket of darkness spread itself over all of Baton Rouge.
Back up in the bayous, an old mojo man had lit candles in his thatched shack, and a stick or two of incense, and he was making his evening prayers.
It had been a good day. Two old black women had come to him for help -- their husbands had gotten into trouble, could he make them a good luck sachet?
Another woman had come to him seeking help with the lottery. “Give me a number, mahn. Better still, triple it up. Make the numbers work for me, I need to win. Ahm poor, old man, and my Social Security doesn’t go far. One little win, and I can make it through the month.” He gave her the number and she played it the next day and it came out just as he had written it, and she pocketed a nice wadful of cash. These were some of the wonders the mojo man could work, and despite the bad teeth and dubious genetic origins, his was a good and godly soul.
And there were others who had come to him -- “Light a candle, say a prayer. . . Mah grandmother is very sick, mahn, say a protection spell for her. . . My teeth are falling out, can you brew me a tea? . . . The parishioners have asked for mah prayers, and I thought you could make us a good luck charm.”
There were days when the demands for help seemed end-less, though today had certainly been manageable. And then, little by little, whatever good luck he could dispense seemed to come back to him -- a check in the mail here, a gift there. And nobody in positions of law or authority ever hassled him. He was liked in the community, revered and beloved among the poor, perhaps all the more because he lived so humbly.
Now he turned when he heard the door open, and there was someone standing against the flickering shadows cast by the candlelight, someone he had hoped never to see again.
“I brought an item of clothing,” the voice said. “Something personal.” And he dangled Spud’s jockey shorts in the dim light. “Put the jinx on him, old man. Lay him low, and do it hard.”
The old man frowned. Then cash money graced his palm.
“I have a prize,” the stranger said. The mojo man was puzzled.
Then the gunny sack the stranger had brought with him was tilted and out flopped Horace Hazelton’s head. “I want you to shrink it down, tiny as possible. I’d like to wear it on my belt.” The mojo man was aghast, but endeavored to hide his
revulsion. “Where did you get this?”
“I took it from someone who no longer needed it. Shut up, no questions.”
“I warned you before, it is dangerous to meddle with the Big Katt.”
“I can handle that one,” the stranger said. “In less than two days’ time, she’ll be mine again. Plant the curse on her husband and get that shrunk down for me. I’ll be back tomorrow. And mum’s the word, Mojo Johnny. Oh, and hey, tell me something -- how do you do it?”
The mojo man threw him a puzzled look. “Shrink the heads.” “I don’t,” the mojo man said.
“Shrink it, old man, and shrink it good.” And the stranger was gone. The mojo man eyed the bloody head that had rolled onto the floor, then stuffed it back in the sack. He held up the jockey shorts, shook his head.
As soon as he heard the truck start up and the wheels crunch down the road, he went to the phone.
“This is John -- Mojo John. I think we have to talk,” he said to the officer at the other end.
“Oh yeah?” The police were somewhat skeptical of what they considered to be a witch doctor.
“Ah’ve got something that might be of interest. A human head. Or at least, it was.”
“Oh Christ.” They knew, they knew immediately. “Don’t move, we’ll be right over.” And the police sirens commenced to wail in the Baton Rouge night.