Nudging Dax awake, I held it up for him to see. “You can’t wait another moment. Drink it,” I said, and watched as he carefully removed the lid and peered inside.
“It’s ready. Drink it before something else happens. Now!”
He lifted it slowly to his lips and drank.
He coughed, and a brief tremor coursed through his body. Then he lay back and smiled at me before he closed his eyes once more.
Dax had guessed right. We had washed up on one of the Turks and Caicos Islands. A scuba-dive-boat captain saw the signal fire and pulled up near the beach. Captain Dan Johnson of Rockford, Illinois, welcomed Dax and me aboard.
As we pulled away, I saw white fabric floating near the beach. Perhaps Chevalier had waded into the sea, preferring to drown rather than face a horrible and painful death from the poison in his blood.
Leroy was nowhere to be seen, but Captain Johnson said he would notify the island authorities to be on the lookout.
With the help of Johnson, we were soon on a flight back to Miami, and then on to New Orleans. I was anxious to contact Detective Broussard.
“Miss Kaytie O’Hara, I’m glad to hear from you,” he answered my call from the Louis Armstrong Airport. Dax and I took a cab to meet him at the station where I babbled out the story.
“That’s the deal,” I concluded. “Madame was really a Monsieur all along. And now he’s presumably drowned himself, and we’ll never see him again.”
Broussard wasn’t overly surprised.
“After looking into the family’s birth records, I discovered the brother and suspected that Onyx could easily have assumed the role of his sisters from time to time, and had probably intended to take over the hotel business as well as declaring himself to be the voodoo priestess.”
We shook hands after he took our statements.
“You two have had quite and adventure. I’m very glad to be closing the books on this case.”
“Not half as glad as I am,” I chuckled.
That evening, at a table in the famed Antoine’s restaurant, surrounded by white draped tables and soft lights, Dax ordered pompano grill and I chose the gumbo. Both of us sported sunburns from our island experience.
“Your tanned shoulders contrast nicely with that strappy white dress,” said Dax. He lifted a goblet and added, “A toast to the lovely Miss Flame for helping us escape at last from the threat of Chevalier and his crew.”
I clinked my glass of sparkling water against his, “And here’s to the end of the evil book of sorcery.”
A waiter filled our goblets, After he moved away, Dax said, “It’s at the bottom of the Caribbean, no doubt already decomposed.” His eyes smiled into mine with admiration and something else … that familiar hint of mischief.
Watch out Kaytie. I reminded myself to stay on guard against his masculine charm. Every woman in the place had eyed him as he’d entered the room, looking impossibly handsome in trim dark slacks, a pale yellow dress shirt, and blue tie.
Then he frowned momentarily. “I suppose Magnolia’s book is still going to be used by that Darcantel woman.”
“I think not.”
His expression changed to instant inquiry. “What do you mean? You copied it word for word, didn’t you?”
Dax placed his glass on the table and waited for me to explain.
“I copied it, but not word for word. Darcantel didn’t bother to check every page. I changed a few ingredients in the recipes for the poisons, so they should be quite harmless now.”
“And there will be no more blood sacrifices, especially concerning the secrets of eternal youth. I also changed some words in the invocations to the loas. Those prayers are now remarkably Christian in content.”
With a tone of victory, I announced, “Not only that. I prayed over every page that it would do no harm.”
Dax burst into an outright guffaw. “You little voodoo vanquishing vixen! So the world is free at last from the sorceries of that African shaman.”
His laugh was infectious. I laughed as I said, “Darcantel will be practicing Christianity before she knows it.”
He chuckled once more. Then he reached across the table and took my hand.
“I have to tell you, I thought we weren’t going to make it out of Haiti alive. At least, not until you prayed that prayer at Darcantel’s mountain cabin.”
Aware of the warmth of his hand, my heart did a flip-flop. I removed mine from his gentle grip.
The waiter arrived with our entrees and we set about enjoying them, only stopping to comment on how delicious everything tasted.
Finally I folded my napkin and said, “Dax, you bowed your head with me during that prayer. Did you pray, too?”
He nodded. “I did.”
“Dare I hope that … you prayed to Jesus?” My spirit was ready to rejoice. A smile began to form on my lips.
My heart soared.
“I prayed to Jesus.” He nodded slowly. “And to Jehovah, and to Buddha, and to Allah, and Moroni …”
“What?” My heart hit the floor with a crashing thud.
“Well, after all, we were in a tight spot.” He raised his brows and shrugged, “I wanted to be sure I covered all the bases.”
I withdrew my hand.
“Ah, Kaytie, I can see you’re disappointed. I know you’d like me better if I went to church. But come on. I’m not really an unbeliever. I’m just not certain yet that Jesus is the only way to God. You need to teach me more about Him. We’re good together, you and me. You know that as well as I do.”
I reached for my purse and stood up. “Sorry Dax. Go to church if you like. Only don’t go because you think it would please me. Do it for yourself. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
I could hear his voice sounding in my heart, all the way back to Chicago.