Bone Island Abattoir / Part 4, The Incrimination of Keith

Author’s note: This is the fourth book of The Shades of Hemingway series. While reading this installment, Bone Island Abattoir is complete in itself, it is recommended that the reader search out the beginning of this incredible story…

~

Jake Barnes is anxious but maintains an appearance of calm. I watch him drum his fingers on the table as a cigarette he has carelessly stubbed smolders itself out in the half shell ashtray. The conversation between Lord Cristobal and myself has taken a turn that he is unprepared for so he fidgets uncomfortably. As a detective, Jake must adapt to the situation so this requires him to observe and keep quiet. This seems difficult for a man accustomed to being in charge. Lord Cristobal implicating himself as being an accessory to the suicide of one of the most prolific American writers of the 20th century is a bit un-nerving but also appears to fascinate the big guy. The voodoo priest’s announcement is as solemn as a schoolboy’s confessional and matter-of-fact as a lifer in prison methodically detailing his crime without fear of reprisal or further incrimination. Lord Cristobal seldom had an audience with which he could embroil by his admission of guilt.

“The kyklos tod mene’ is a tool, part of the arsenal of the babalaos… a means of defense used against sedition from within the faith of the Vadou.” Lord Cristobal is seated once again and reflective, almost melancholy. “A priest can acquire many enemies, even from amidst his own followers.”

“But surely Hemingway was not your enemy, sir. He was not a threat to your faith or your position as babalaos. Yet you took this form of defense and used it aggressively against a man who raised and befriended you, why?”

“Yeah, and while you’re at it, explain why did you authorized it’s use on a cop from Key West?” Jake Barnes was emboldened to chime in but is stumbling on his verbiage. He looks at me and winks as if to say, “Don’t worry kid, ol’ Jake can still count the clues and add ‘em up.”

Lord Cristobal gives Detective Barnes a nod with renewed interest. I had not made the connection between my former friend, Keith, and the voodoo ritual employed by Lord Cristobal but now it made perfect sense. The reason why the shades were so interested in the death of Robert Jordan was because he had been done in by the same method used on Ernest Hemingway, a forced suicide. Lord Cristobal breathes heavily; burdened, I assumed, by his conscience.

“Sometimes a man’s drive for vengeance overrides his ability to think… or feel. My coming to Vadou was not of a pure motive, the power I sought was to inflict pain on my adversary. It was only afterwards, with reflection due to time and maturity, did I realize my error and poor judgement. My anger over my father’s death had choked my heart and turned it to stone. After Papa’s suicide, I realized I lost a great benefactor and friend. Suffering with belated grief, I swore never to use the kyklos tod mene’ in such a manner again.”

I looked at the old man’s fragile, leathery skinned hands and saw a slight tremble. Instinctively I reached out to touch and try to sooth him. Anselmo and guard approached immediately but Lord Cristobal lifted his free hand to stop them, then smiled sadly at me.

“I believe that with all I know about the shades of Hemingway, there is no animosity now in their realm of existence.” In my heart I knew this to be true and offered my sentiment free of any doubt or reservation. Lord Cristobal gratefully nodded his head and softly spoke a low chant I could not understand.

“But what of Keith and Officer Jordan? Where does this Kinkos tomfoolery fit into that?” It was Jake again, impatiently waiting for an answer to the garbled question he had asked moments before. I became confused.

“Jake, I thought Robert Jordan died in the line of duty. What makes you believe Keith and the kyklos tod mene’ were involved?”  I knew somehow the voodoo ritual had been used because of the information Papa had shared with me back in Key West, but I could not make the connection to Keith.  Jake’s mental wheels were grinding, his years on the force had built into him an ability to deduce the clues that were right in front of me… his bullshit detector was firing on all cylinders.

“Keith was somewhat exposed to this guy, wasn’t he?”  Jake points a thumb towards Lord Cristobal.  “He had to have access to the beliefs and practices of the voodoo religion. Ain’t that right?” His question was directed to our host who nodded grimly. “Jordan was killed in the line of duty, but not in typical fashion. He shot himself trying to protect someone else.”

“Then it was an accident?” I had overlooked Keith’s loose affliation with the Vadou faith.

“That’s the way it was logged at the time for simplicity, the details were just too freaky. The department thought it best to make it an open and shut case… cut’n’dry… a closed book. But I’ve always had my suspicions otherwise.”

“You mean like a cover up?”

“I mean like a simmerin’ stew with the lid clamped down. Fuhgettabout it, kid… it’s all in the past.”

“But he was Brett’s brother.”

Anselmo approached and leaned low to Lord Cristobal’s ear with a whisper, who nodded then again pulled away from the table to stand.

“I regret I have to end our discussion, gentlemen. I trust you can find your way to your room?”

The guard stepped up as our apparent escort. Jake looked across the table to me and shrugged. I rose and Jake followed, I reached out to shake the hand of the voodoo priest and he weakly accepted my gesture, as if the topic of our conversation had suddenly sapped his strength. Lord Cristobal then shook hands with Jake Barnes.

“I appreciate your takin’ us in, sir.” Jake began, “I guess the arrangements with your government will bring our visit here to a close tomorrow?” I looked questioningly at Jake but he shook his head slightly. “I’ll fill you in later, kid.” I had Jake’s confidence and that reassured me a bit. Lord Cristobal agreed with Jake then allowed himself to be led away by Anselmo.

Jake and I had set out for the same thing, the rescue of Brett Jordan, but now my attention was drawn more on the circumstances surrounding the death of Ernest Hemingway and the similarities to Robert Jordan’s demise. If he had shot himself protecting someone else, who was it and how did it involve the Kyklos tod mene’ as a forced suicide? It seemed the closer I got to solving the riddle the more confusing it got. Rachel had been here, but how? Who had brought her here and where was she now? I found myself grateful for the fact that Jake Barnes was there with me as we formed our alliance. I imagined him to be the big brother most kids wished they had growing up. It was easy to feel confident with him in your corner.

We marched back up the stairs to our room with the guard following close behind. I could not help but wonder for as big as the Villa Vinales de Eden was why Jake and I remained sharing a room but figured since Jake had initially thought I was a criminal we would have to make the best of the arrangement. Jake had an overnight bag and offered to let me use some of his toiletries, so with the guard strategically standing out on the balcony keeping one eye on the doorways between our room and the bathroom at the head of the stairs, we both managed to prepare ourselves for bed.

As Jake took his turn in the bathroom, I lay on the bed and stared up at the ceiling thinking of Naty Revuelta and her mother leaving me at the entrance to the Villa earlier that day. Originally we had said she should return in an hour, then every half hour until I appeared at the gate again but that had been six hours ago. I knew that she would have given up way before now and wondered what she was doing, knowing I was still confined here. Did she imagine I was alive or dead? I came to regret having involved her and her family in all of the drama. I knew it was the last thing she needed then and I had no way to contact her to let her know I was all right.  Soon Jake returned.

“I hope you’re not a light sleeper.” He announced, plopping down on his side of the bed, removing his shirt and trousers. I had not slept with another male since grade school and I felt uncomfortable with the ease Jake displayed while I lay on top of the bedspread fully clothed.  “Why do you suppose we couldn’t have our own room, I mean… you told him I was no longer a suspect, right?”

Jake shrugged and pulled the spread back and bounced in between the sheets.  He pulled off his wristwatch, double checked the time and then placed it on the end table. He pulled a cigarette out of the pack he had lying there and lit it, propping one arm behind his head and laying his head back on it. He took a drag then exhaled, pursing his lips and letting the smoke shoot out with a chuckle that sounded like steam escaping.

“You don’t mind if I open the window, do you? The smoke kinda gets to me.”

Jake shrugged then added, “Just don’t trip the alarm, kid.”

“How ‘bout I leave the screen on?”

“That should do it.”

I walked over and let the right side of the window fully roll out, allowing the tropical breeze to filter in through the untouched screen. There was no couch or easy chair, just the hard backed seat I had been tied to earlier. I walked over to the bed and surveyed the room I had, imagining a center line splitting the mattress in two and Jake’s bulky figure crowding my side.

“Relax, Maryann… you’re not my type.”

“No… it’s not that, it’s just as big as this place is…” I let my voice trail off.

“Why are we sharing a room? I don’t know, kid… there’s some stuff here that don’t add up, I’m sure of that. But I don’t think we look like a mister ‘n’ misses… you catch my drift? It’s probably just an oversight so don’t worry ‘bout it. We’ll be outta here tomorrow.”

“How can you be sure?”

I sit down on the edge like my butt is a toe checking the temperature of swimming pool water, ready to lurch back up should I feel too uncomfortable.

“Look, my department has been working with these Cuban Nationals trying to get a handle on this human trafficking business for some time and if my hunch serves me correctly your friend Keith is our guy.”

“You thought I was your guy a little while ago.”

Jake turns his head giving me the once over. “And who kicked who in the balls?”

“Okay, ya gotta right to be sore.” I kicked off my shoes and carefully lay back on the bed. Jake chuckled, took another drag off his cigarette then flicked the ash off on the floor.

“Besides… it was kinda odd that you showed up.”

Now it was my turn to give him the once over. “Well, I sure as hell did not expect to find you here.”

“What did you expect?”

“I dunno, Jake… since arriving here with Sgt. Garcia I was more or less just letting the spirits move me.” I thought I was being humorous but Jake’s face snapped back at me in disbelief.

“Garcia brought you to the Villa?”

“No, someone else. Why, what’s up?” He turns his head back and relaxes.

“Nothing, fuhgettaboutit.”

“Jake… I’ve been up front with you from the get go…”

Jake Barnes stubs his cigarette out on the half shell ashtray, places it back on the end table then cradles his head with both of massive arms propping his head up off the pillow and exhales a smoke stack shooting up towards the ceiling.

“I probably shouldn’t be tellin’ you this, I don’t know why I am but here goes… remember I told you Robert killed himself trying to protect someone?”

I nodded, watching Jake’s face grow soft, half silhouetted by the table lamp on his side of the bed. I knew why Jake was talking to me. It was the shades, every bit of my interaction with Lord Cristobal had been under their direction, Jake must have felt it, too.

“A year or so ago, Brett and her brother had shared a house together. Nice place, more than I could afford. Anyway, we’ve been workin’ on this human trafficking case, which turns into a kidnaping racket run by some guy with connections in Cuba holding an American couple for ransom. Brett’s the lead detective on it, I’m brought in later as her sidekick. Evidence builds, names and places, appears to be an inside job with someone from our department. Next thing you know… a call comes in that Brett is distraught… threatenin’ to shoot herself, holed up in the house and won’t come out. Robert’s on patrol and rushes over, because it’s his sister, ya know? She lets him in, tells him it’s all over and she’s gonna do herself right there in the kitchen. Robert manages to get close enough and they struggle for the gun. Next thing you know, Robert has his finger on the trigger and the gun goes off. Brett blames herself and spends months getting help trying to cope with the guilt.”

“God, that’s terrible! What about the case, the leads and evidence you had?”

“Case goes cold, evidence gets misplaced or destroyed, Brett loses interest and almost leaves the department. She’s just recently been cleared for duty.”

“So whatever drove her to try and kill herself was never discovered?”

I know I’m pressing Jake into divulging more than he wanted to but I am still at a loss trying to figure out where a suicide ritual fit into Robert Jordan’s death. By all accounts it appeared to be an accident. Even though Brett had initiated a suicide attempt that had been thwarted by her brother’s intervention and fatal shooting. Jake rolled over on his side facing away from me.

“It’s a funny business, kid… law enforcement. New cases come and gain priority, old ones fall by the wayside and cool off. I guess, the original Americans held hostage paid up and didn’t wanna press charges fearing the publicity.  Jordan’s death really shook up the department so we were more than willin’ to let it drop… until recently, that is.”

“Another kidnaping?”

“Yeah, guess the S.O.B. that got away with it once figured it was time to try it again. Crooks rarely do the one time deal then fade off… they become bolder, kinda like a gambler, feelin’ they’ve beat the system once and can do it again.”

“Now you’re on the case as lead dog?”

I was proud to use a phrase I picked up from a T.V. show. I felt like I was a regular cop sharing inside, privileged lingo.  Jake keeps his back to me but turns his head to speak over his shoulder.

“I wouldn’t be layin’ here with your limp dick if I wasn’t!”  Then he turned his head back around and murmured to himself, “At least, it’d friggin’ BETTER be limp.”

And with that he dozed off.

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