After I lost Estran, I was at my wit’s end. Sure, I caught my brother’s scent, and that brought me some hope that I would find him, but I had lost Estran again. Surely, he knew I was tailing him, he must. Our eyes met while I was on the pole, he had to know it was me. I groaned. Maybe this was not the way to go about it, but I did not know where else to turn.
“Maybe you should seek some help, child,” Tania chimed in as I left work a few nights later. I looked at her oddly. She was part-fae, and I wondered just what help she could suggest. I was shocked when she said, “A crossroads demon.”
My mouth fell open, and I shook my head. “You have got to be kidding me! I need my soul, Tania!” She just cackled and walked away, leaving me to my thoughts. A crossroads demon… Surely, I could not actually be considering it. And yet, as I made my way home, strolling through the quiet streets of New Orleans, I headed to an old library to look up information on summoning one.
The only tome I found that provided anything useful was a dusty old book that looked like no one had ever checked it out. To summon a Crossroads Demon, one must follow a specific ritual. You must collect the following items: graveyard dirt, the backbone of a black cat, the feather of a crow, and a lock of your hair soaked in your blood. Place these items in a box under the moonlight for three days. Then take the box and a candle, bury the box in the center of the crossroad, and light the candle. The Crossroads Demon is sure to appear. I read it twice and rolled my eyes. “Well, that is unhelpful.” Yet I scribbled it down and put the book back.
As I finished the walk home in the early twilight, I heard a crow caw and watched as a feather drifted down in front of me. “Okay, fine! I will summon the infernal beast!” Once I got back to the Tide, I pulled out an old wooden box, one that held the last mementos of my parents and brothers, and sighed. “Sorry, I need this.” I cleared out the contents and placed them in a different, less sentimental box. The crow feather went in first, and then I had to work out how to get a black cat’s spine. Graveyard dirt was easy. This was New Orleans, after all. I would go out tomorrow after getting some sleep and look.
Once my head hit the pillow, I was out, but my dreams followed me down the dark path I was taking. Estran was taunting me in my dreams now. He knew who I was, where I was, and just laughed, knowing he was out of my reach. When I woke up later that night, exhausted, I was even more resolved to do this. I walked the streets, wearing comfy clothing since I did not wish to wear my work attire if I had to kill a cat. Blood was a bitch to get out of clothing, and my costumes were expensive. I found my way to a small graveyard, out of the way of the primary thoroughfares of the city, and looked around. There were few places on land I liked, but the peace of this place was nice.
“You have got to be kidding me…” I groaned as I looked at one gravestone. Lochlyn… no last name. My father’s name, my legacy, and laying on top of the fresh mound of dirt was a dead black cat. “Fucking kismet,” I mumbled and looked around. No one was watching me, so I scooped the cat’s body into my satchel and pulled out the box and a trowel. The instructions did not say how much graveyard dirt. So I only took one scoop, placing it in the box on top of the crow’s feather. I put the box back in my bag and exited the graveyard quickly, almost running back to the boat. Once safely on board, I unmoored her and sailed into the night, away from the city. I did not want the blood and odour to attract attention. Once out in the Gulf, I took the cat out of the bag and laid it down on the deck, bringing a knife out.
“I am sorry, little guy, but I need your help.” The removal process took a while longer than I had expected. Who knew that vertebrae were so intricate? I did not want to damage it. Once I completed the process and cleaned the spine, I placed it in the box and then cleaned out my boat. I said a brief prayer over the cat and gave it an ocean burial. It was the least I could do. But now I was almost done. All I needed was a lock of hair soaked in blood and three more nights. The hair was easy. I sliced off a piece and wrapped it in black leather. The blood… This was the test. I held the knife over my right wrist and breathed deeply before slicing across it, letting the blood drain into a bowl before clamping down on it, staunching the bleeding. I almost passed out.
After bandaging up my wrist, I dropped the hair in the bowl, let it soak up the blood, and then pulled it out and put it in the box. Tonight was night one. I sealed the box shut and placed it out in the moonlight.
Two more nights passed, and I returned to New Orleans. I had to buy a candle because I was out, but the fourth night I called into Aces and said I would be along later and made my way to one of the more famous crossroads at Lalaurie Mansions. I buried the box in the exact center and backed up a few steps before lighting the candle.
“Hello dear, what service may I offer you this fine evening?” a man’s voice spoke in the darkness. I looked up to see a well-dressed spectral figure and was caught by surprise. I expected more creepiness.
“I need help to track down someone. Someone who organized the rape and torture of a dear friend of mine.” And her consequent suicide, but I did not add that.
“What, expecting the boogeyman?” he said with a smirk.
“Yes, I suppose I was,” I replied apologetically. “I am sorry.”
He threw back his head and laughed. The spectral figure wiped a tear from his eye, then took off his hat and bowed formally from the waist. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. John Lafayette, and I am at your service.”
I nodded at his introduction, still afraid to give my name, and held the candle tightly, afraid that if I dropped it, the demon would disappear. “Please, sir, I need your help. But I am not willing to barter my soul.” I had come to that conclusion a while ago.
“You ain’t? Well, ain’t that something, not willing to barter away your soul. Well, my dear, this is a predicament. Whatever shall we do now?” he said, his tone full of mockery.
I closed my eyes for a moment and drew a deep breath, knowing what I was about to suggest would place me entirely within his power. “I would barter services, information. Secrets. Anything I have, save my soul.”
“Ahh, now we are talking. The doctor man is flexible. Secrets and tasks both hold weight and power, but what secrets can an innocent thing like you possibly know?”
Finally, looking up into Dr. John’s eyes, I saw the black in them. I shook my head, lowering my eyes again. “I am not as innocent as you think, sir.” Why was I fighting that point? I loved letting people believe I was more innocent than I was. It garnered me more tips that way. “For all you know, I could be a murderer.”
He threw back his head and laughed again. “Oh, my child, you think you can intimidate me with a tough act? You could be a murderer? You are talking to a creature who can see into your very soul, and the darkness there is an ink spot compared to mine! You are foolish and naive. I will make you pay for it since you took your soul off the table. Why don’t you look at me when I speak to you? It’s rude! Look at me!” he growled.
My eyes shot back up to his, and I shivered. “I have murdered someone, sir. I suppose avenged may be the more correct term. But I hunted a man down and took his life in cold blood.” As a human.
“Hush now, hush. Let me show you a little trick the vampires taught me when I was alive. Just keep your focus on my eyes and my voice. You find it impossible to look away,” he said. I kept my eyes on him, realizing too late that I had fallen into his trap.
“That’s a good were. My eyes and my voice are your world now. It is all you know as your mind goes blank and empty…blank and empty, a perfect little vessel for my words to fill. My words become your thoughts, my will becomes your will,” he said, smiling cruelly. “Fall into the darkness of my eyes, it’s your world now. It is where you hear and obey my voice and only my voice. You are completely under my power now. My little were, you are completely mine. I am your master, and you will give me all homage due to me, your master. Do you understand?” He snapped his fingers.
I answered in a monotonous voice. “I understand, master.”
“Good, continue to stare and go deeper. You are a slave to my will. You are my slave. Say it,” he commanded.
“I am your slave.” My voice sounded far away and not my own.
“Good, slave. Now listen closely. I will find this person for you, as is our deal. But you will do tasks for me when I send you messages in your dreams. When I have a task for you, it will become the sole purpose of your life to finish the task without question,” he said.
He whistled, and two large dogs appeared. He stroked them affectionately. Then he turned his attention back to me.
“Now go home, sleep, and remember nothing until I come to you and activate you to do my bidding, slave,” he commanded.
I nodded slightly. “Yes, master.”
“Good, slave,” he whispered and vanished.
The candlelight blew out, and I came to, looking around in surprise. “Did it not work? I swear I had summoned one.” I looked around frantically, exhaustion setting in, and I yawned. “Ya, okay, Val, go sleep. You have had a trying last few days, especially for it to not work.” I began making my way home to the Spring Tide, the scar on my right wrist itching from the scabbing. “Tania is going to kill me. Another scar.”
My feet dragged the entire way back, my satchel lighter on my shoulder. I could have sworn as I left the crossroads, I heard demonic laughter following me out. I shook my head and yawned again. I picked up the pace back to the boat. Once there, I flopped down on my bed, still clothed, and passed out into dreamless sleep. It was the first night in years that I did not dream.