Cold Moon, December 1987
Nyack, New York
As midnight drew near, Yvette Augustine removed the dead rat from her refrigerator, along with a pint of milk. She placed the Tupperware container with the slightly flattened rodent on the counter, then carefully poured a saucer of milk for her cat, Madeleine. Both animals, the dead and the living, were crucial components of the sacred vodoun ritual known as Anvwa Mo.
On the stovetop, a large pot boiled furiously. Yvette dropped a bundle of dried herbs, twigs, and bones into the hot water. A pungent, grassy aroma filled the tiny kitchen. She bent her head over the pot and breathed deeply, drawing the potent steam into her lungs.
Yvette had barely slept a wink the past two nights, spending hours preparing and conducting the sacred ceremony. She was old, suffered from diabetes, had already lost her sight. The work demanded all her physical energy and all her spiritual power. But she had no choice. The young woman she had helped raise now needed her more than ever before.
Anvwa Mo, translated from her native Creole tongue, meant “sending the dead.” The spirit of a dead ancestor could be dispatched—and attached—to a living person’s soul for the purpose of aiding in a goal. Or the spirit could be sent to bring about a person’s demise. On this particular occasion, Yvette needed to do both.
Ever since Ida Gold—she now called herself Angelica Davenport—reappeared in her life, Yvette felt her spiritual powers returning to their full capacity, to the strength she had known as a young woman. Many years ago, she taught young Ida how to cast a spell, how to see into the minds of her friends and foes, how to use wild plants to treat illness and bring on prophetic dreams. Ida was a natural healer, with more talent than Yvette’s own mother Isabelle once possessed, and Isabelle had been the mambo of their small village.
Yvette left Haiti the same year Ida was born, their two lives destined to intersect. Earlier that same year, Yvette's mother had passed on to the next realm. Now she called upon her dead mother, the strongest spirit she knew. Isabelle’s spirit could only be used for good—she had been an herbalist and a witch doctor in life and would never participate in evil doings. She asked her mother’s spirit to attach itself to Ida’s living soul, to feed and nourish it, to make it stronger. Ida was up against a formidable enemy. There was much at stake.
As Yvette chanted in Creole, the candle in the center of her makeshift altar sputtered and crackled. She felt the flame grow warmer. Her mother's spirit had arrived; this was her way of making her presence known. It was a sign the ritual was finally succeeding. Perhaps the third time was the charm.
“Merci, Maman.” She pressed her palms together and whispered her thanks. Her hands trembled and tears of gratitude rolled down her round cheeks. She was so very tired.
But Yvette could not rest yet. It was not enough to send help for Ida. She also needed to disable her adversary. To put a permanent end to their rivalry. In this conflict, evil could not be allowed to prevail.
Yvette removed the dead rat from its container. Holding it by its thin tail, she lifted the creature high over her head. While communing with the underworld, she must resist the pull of darkness. The spirit she would call upon next would just as likely harm her as help her. She couldn’t be too careful.