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“That’s me, boy. Make it fast, office is closing up soon. It’s almost sundown.”
Patrick hesitated a little. He had been preparing this speech in his head for years now, but now that the moment had come, he felt the words catching in his throat and he forgot everything he had been about to say. Oh well, he thought, just gotta wing it, I suppose. “Mister Howell, my name is Patrick Evans.” He took a deep breath, unsure of how to continue.
“Well, Patrick, how can I help you today?” Seth Howell was a prominent business man, although no one Patrick had spoken to seemed to know exactly what he did. Howell looked young for his age, and seemed to glow with the picture window behind him.
“I’m your son.” His voice was unsure, and he really had no idea how to continue. What else could you say to the man who you haven’t seen in twelve years? The silence in the room was stiffening, and made the hairs on Patrick’s neck stand up. He could hear himself breathe, but that’s about it.
Seth sighed after a long while. “Evans, you said?”
“As in, your mother is Anita Evans?”
“Was, sir. She’s recently passed on,” Patrick explained quietly, looking down at his feet.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” There was another break in the conversation, another awkward silence which made them unable to meet each other’s eyes. “I remember your mother,” Howell told him, his eyes growing dark. It wasn’t quite anger that surfaced here. There was a certain sadness to it that Patrick couldn’t quite place. “She was a strong woman,” Patrick nodded. “She’s the one who walked out, you know. Took you with her and left me with nothing.” Patrick cringed at his father’s words. There was a bite to them that he’d never heard in anyone’s voice before. He had been in a lot of fights throughout school, and had heard a lot of harsh words and harsh voices. The bitterness was tangible now. He could taste it in the back of his throat, threatening to gag him.
“I’m… sorry?” he offered, not exactly sure what to say. Seth Howell stood up from his desk. He was tall, and it was suddenly obvious to Patrick that the two were father and son. They had the same facial structure, same bony hands with their large knuckles, same long legs and odd proportions. Howell just shook his head slowly and walked over to the boy.
“Twelve years,” he said, with a sigh, “twelve long years.” He led Patrick down the hall and out the building, stopping only to mumble something to his secretary outside his office. “We have a lot of catching up to do, now don’t we?”
“Seems like it,” Patrick replied, feeling a bit better about his trip down to Louisiana. He had been expecting his father not to have believed him; to have sent him away and back to New York. The sun was starting to go down and the summer air was starting to cool off a few degrees. Or at least that’s what it had seemed like. The bitter taste still hadn’t left Patrick’s mouth, although it wasn’t as prominent at this point. “So,” he started, looking up at his father, “what do you actually do for a living? No one really gave me any straight answers about it.”
“Nothing illegal, if that’s what you’re thinking,” his father said with a laugh, keeping his eyes on the road ahead of them. He stopped at a green jeep and opened it. It had been unlocked, which struck Patrick as strange. Granted, things were different down south than they were up in the city, but an unlocked car was just asking to get stolen. When Patrick got in on the passenger’s side, he realized why it wouldn’t.
“What’s that smell?” he asked, really gagging this time. He opened up the window and stuck his head out.
“Goat,” Howell told him, not even phased, “and probably chicken feces. Not the cleanest animals, but they do.”
“What do they do?”
“What’s the matter, boy? Your momma never show you voodoo before?” It was the first time he had caught on to the southern drawl his father had.
“Where are we going?”
“I’ve got a client waiting for me.”
“You sure ask a lot of questions, Patrick. Not a good trait to have. Sometimes it’s just better to go along with the flow.”
Patrick remained silent the rest of the ride. His father rambled on for awhile about his mother. How they had met in New Orleans one year over Mardi Gras, dated awhile until they moved in together. Anita hadn’t married him because she had qualms over his ‘questionable business practices’ but Patrick had come out of the relationship. Anita hadn’t wanted Patrick to live in New Orleans and grow up in that sort of negative environment. She had left right before Patrick had turned five. He was trying to pay attention to the words but now that he had noticed his father’s voice it was hard to pay attention to the content. Besides, Patrick knew this half of the story himself. It had been the past twelve years of his life. Seventeen is tough enough when you’re not going from New York to Louisiana to meet the man that had never been part of your life, he thought to himself.
They pulled into a cemetery nearby the river. Rationalizing things, Patrick realized he should have been worried. Scared even. He had only ever been to a cemetery for his mother’s funeral. It dawned upon him that things might be coming OUT of the graves rather than going into them on this particular trip.
Patrick knew a little about voodoo and zombies. He remembered his mother vaguely mentioning things about it here and there. You could make a live sacrifice and raise the dead. The older the dead, the bigger the sacrifice needed to be. “You raise the dead?”
“Smart boy. Now this client of mine needs a very old zombie raised. So old, that a chicken or goat won’t do the trick.”
Patrick wanted to ask what would be enough, but he didn’t really want to know the answer. He also wasn’t too comfortable asking his father any more questions, anyway.
They pulled along the side of the path and got out of the car. Howell got out a large duffle bag and handed it to Patrick. “Careful with that stuff. I need it for the raising.” The bag wasn’t all that heavy, but it was bulky and difficult to carry. Patrick fell behind quite a bit, but followed his father, until he went over a hill out of site.
“Pst!” Patrick heard to his left. “Hey! You!” The voice was close to a whisper, just barely loud enough to hear. He turned and saw a girl come out from behind a small building. It was unlike any cemetery he had ever seen in his life. Instead of rows of headstones and plots of land, there were rows upon rows of mausoleums. He walked over to her, not sure what to expect. “You need to get out of here.”
“You need to escape! Quickly! They’ll kill you.”
Patrick blinked a few times, letting her words sink in. He wasn’t sure he trusted her. He wasn’t even sure she was alive. He put down the bag, and he reached out to touch her. She grabbed his hand and ran with him. He yelled, it was closer to a scream.
“What’s going on back there?” he heard his father yell back. This girl was fast and strong. His legs kept going once he was out of the cemetery, leaving the girl behind him. He must have blacked out, because he found himself stumbling around the French Quarter’s decorative streets, almost crashing into a pillar that was holding up some sort of awning.
He stumbled into a payphone booth, and called for a cab. He didn’t know, or really want to know what had just happened. He’d go back to the hotel he was staying at, pack his things back up, and then catch the first flight back to New York. Dear old dad had turned out to be a real whackjob after all.