“No, it’s just me and I’m going home,” I replied turning around and heading for the car. I didn’t give him the pleasure of even looking back. I opened my car door with a little more passion than was actually required and got inside. Reaching up for the keys I’d left in the ignition I fumbled around and couldn’t find them. Frustrated, I turned on the overhead light and peered around the steering wheel to see my keys weren’t there.
I checked both my pockets and started to lean down and feel around in the floorboard when the passenger side door opened and Leif slid in with my keys dangling from his fingers.
Grrrrrr... I reached out and snatched them easily from his two finger hold and then shoved them into the ignition. “What do you plan on doing Leif? Going inside and visiting with my mom? Hmmm... because more than likely Gee is going to be there shortly after I arrive and she’s chomping at the bit to kick your ass.”
Leif leaned back in the seat making himself comfortable. “No, Pagan I just think you and I need to talk.”
“About what? The fact you want to take my soul off to some voodoo hereafter or the fact that you stalked me my entire life then took my memories away from me? I know! You want to talk about how you lied to me about everything from the very beginning and made me think you were this nice guy. Pick a topic because I’m all talked out with them all.”
Leif let out a weary sigh and rubbed his palm over his blue jean covered knee almost nervously. Back when I thought he was human I’d thought that was a cute gesture. Now, I wasn’t very fond of it. “You’re angry with me. I get it. I even understand it. I always expected you to be once you knew--”
“Then why do it?”
“Because I picked you. It was your purpose. It is your purpose. Don’t you get it? You’d have died Pagan. Died. Gone on. Gotten another life and completely lost the chance at this life. Because you were going to die. Death wasn’t in love with you then. He was going to take you like he was supposed to. There was nothing anyone could do to stop him, except your mother. She could choose to hand you over to Ghede and she did. She may not have realized it but when she begged a voodoo doctor to save you with voodoo magic she gave you over to my father. So you lived. You didn’t die. Death didn’t take you. You got to grow up with your mother and have friendships with Miranda and even Wyatt. You got to LIVE. Those were years you wouldn’t have gotten had I not chosen you. This life you have now would have ended that night in the New Orleans Children’s Hospital.”
Hearing it explained like that was hard. Swallowing against the sudden lump in my throat I started to turn down my road when Leif grabbed the wheel.
“No. We aren’t done talking.”
I tried to turn but the wheel wouldn’t budge. The car stayed headed east toward the outskirts of town and the old East Gulf bridge.
“Okay, fine. You kept me alive. I got to live this life. I appreciate it but now I want to keep it and you don’t care. You claim to want me and need me but you couldn’t care less what I want. It’s all very selfish with you. It’s all about what Leif wants. You take no consideration as to what I want. You act as if I’m your possession and I should just be happy about it.”
Leif didn’t respond right away. I tried to turn the wheel again and couldn’t. I suspected if I took my hands off the wheel the car would drive itself. The idea that Leif might not let me go home began to set in. My heart rate picked up and I tried hard to remain calm. If that wasn’t his plan I sure didn’t want to give him any ideas.
“I’ve tried to make this easy on you. I’ve tried to make this transition one you could accept. I’ve sheltered you from the truth. I wanted you to make this decision because you wanted it. Not because I was forcing it but we’ve run out of time. There is something you need to know,” Leif pointed toward the side of the road right before the bridge, “pull over.”
I wasn’t sure if he was directing me or the car because I wasn’t about to pull over but the car pulled over and came to a stop without my help.
“What is it I need to know?” I asked hitting the stupid steering wheel for betraying me.
“You aren’t going to like this. I didn’t want you to ever know. But when you refused to accept that your soul was the restitution for the life my father granted you, my father decided he’d take his restitution elsewhere.”
What in the world did that mean? Did this mean he was paid in full and I could get away scot free now because if so there wasn’t anything about that I didn’t like.
“Pagan, look at me,” Leif ordered and I turned my head to meet his steady gaze.
“Wyatt’s death was only the beginning. Ghede will take more. Everyone close to you. He’ll take them one at a time until you either cave in and agree to come with me or there is no one else left to take.”
Numbness settled over me as I stared back at Leif. It was as if he’d just spoken in a different language. I’d understood what he said but the meaning behind it was almost impossible for me to accept. I wanted to push it back, shove it away. He couldn’t possibly have said what I just heard. There was no way that this restitution on my soul could affect others. Just me. Not... not Wyatt. No, I’d been there. I’d seen Dank. Leif was lying.
Shaking my head almost violently I yelled, “NO! YOU are lying. You are a liar. I saw Dank. I saw him draw out Wyatt’s soul. Dank would have never taken a soul for your father. He would have never--”
“Dank didn’t know.” Leif interrupted me. “Did he tell you about it beforehand? Did he prepare you for the death of your friend? No. He didn’t. Because Wyatt’s death wasn’t that of fate. My father used his power over your unpaid restitution to kill the body Wyatt’s soul inhabited. Dank was drawn there to retrieve the soul from the body because that’s his job. He was as surprised as you were.”
I had no response. Dank hadn’t told me. He never prepared me for it. Could this just happen? Could this spirit lord of the dead just take souls because I didn’t do his bidding?
“But... but you said my death and Wyatt’s death were to be the tragedies this school year. That would mean Wyatt’s death was fate.”
“I lied to you. I wanted you to be angry at Dank. I could feel your pain and I knew you were staying away from him.”
Lies. Leif only seemed to know how to live by lies. He wanted me with him so he’d lied every way he could to get what he wanted. And now, his father was going to kill innocent people I loved if I didn’t give in. Who would be next? My mom? Miranda? I couldn’t wait and find out. This would not happen again. Dank had said he was bigger than this. He could end this but it was too late now. Wyatt had already lost his life because of me. I couldn’t sit back and wait for someone else to die. The pain and guilt would be worse than an eternity with Leif. I let go of the tight grip I had on the steering wheel and my shoulders sagged in defeat.
“Okay. I’ll go with you.”
Leif didn’t respond right away. The car started and it pulled back out onto the road. I watched in a haze as it drove itself toward the bridge. Instantly, my head slammed back on the headrest from the speed of the car and I reached frantically for the steering wheel and began pumping the useless brakes.
“Leif! Help me!” I cried and the steering wheel made a sharp turn to the right as soon as we were on the middle of the bridge.
“I got you Pagan,” Leif’s voice was calm and even as the car broke through the railing and we went careening out over the ocean waters below us. There wasn’t even time for me to scream before everything went dark.
Gee appeared in front of me stopping me from going any further on my pursuit of voodoo spirits in their main mecca of New Orleans. I knew they had a portal here somewhere that led to Vilokan, the voodoo spirit afterworld. Only three places in the world had a portal. Over time New Orleans had become the most popular portal for the spirits. The humans here welcomed and celebrated them. Even the Catholics began accepting them and integrating them into their religion here.
“We have a problem,” Gee’s words weren’t laced with sarcasm or humor. She was serious. Which meant whatever the problem was, it involved Pagan.
Bracing myself I asked, “What?”
“I went to check on her like you said. There were cop cars at her home. Her mother is very close to an emotional breakdown, if she hasn’t already suffered one, and there are rescue boats, helicopters, and ambulances swarming the East Gulf Bridge. Pagan’s car was found a mile or so down the river. There are skid marks on the bridge and a car sized opening on the railing where her car crashed through.”
“She’s not drowned,” I stated, knowing Pagan’s body was not dead. I’d not been summoned.
“Of course she isn’t. But they all think she has. She brought Miranda home last night and Miranda was drunk. Leif helped get her to the house according to Miranda’s mother. They’re now guessing that she was probably intoxicated too and of course Leif is also missing, again, and they think both of them were in the car when it drove off the bridge.”
“Vilokan,” I growled. Leif had taken her to Vilokan. It was known to be an island under the water. But only voodoo spirits could enter through the bottom of the sea. The portals were the only way for anyone else to get in.
“That’s what I thought too but he couldn’t take her if she refused to go.”
He’d told her. Leif had told her about Wyatt and of course she went. She’d do anything to save those she loved. I’d seen her give herself up for me without question. My beautiful soul was once again sacrificing herself. Damn Ghede. He’d pay for this. He’d pay for it with the extinction of Voodoo. His world would be sealed off from this world. I’d make him wish he’d never come near Pagan.
With a roar of fury, I shoved the lamp post beside me hard enough to send it flying forward toward the center of the busy street. Glass shattered and people ran screaming as car horns blared.
“Brilliant move, Hulk. Go and kill somebody that isn’t meant to die today, why doncha? As if the Creator isn’t pissed enough right now.” Gee grumbled before shoving past me and stalking away angrily.
I hadn’t killed anyone. The most I’d done was caused some damage to a few cars and the lamp post. The chaos I’d created hadn’t been intentional but it would come in handy.