Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926, a street, Port-au Prince, Haiti
On leaving the laundrette we noted that the Fete Gede preparations now seemed to be complete. In a few hours the festival would begin, and perhaps the terrible ceremony we intended to disrupt. We hurried to the docks, feeling time slipping inexorably away from us. Unless we could convince Sebastian Senegal to tell us where the Star Pools were our only alternative to save Jack Sterling would be to wander aimlessly in the hills east of Port-au-Prince hoping that luck with point us there. I would not trust a man’s life to luck, even if I believed in it, when strange spirits and magic could twist that luck to misfortune on this island.
We could not risk our ill-tempered shadows discovering our meeting with Senegal. They would likely rush in guns blazing to arrest him, then we would never find the information we needed to save Jack Sterling’s life. It bothers me that I might be consorting with an enemy of my country, but there could be time later, when the immediate danger had passed, to perhaps assuage my conscience at duping Major Medwin and my countrymen. I have said nothing of this to my companions, for it should not be a distraction to our current task, and in any case they have different loyalties, not being sons of America such as I. How I will deal with this later I can not yet determine. My mind is in some turmoil still from the events of the last two days and this night is not yet over.
We parked a few streets away. In view of those shadows we entered a dockside bar. It was an interesting establishment, full of native dock workers who gave us suspicious looks. It was not a comfortable place to be. We did not linger for a drink, but thankfully exited the dingy place and found ourselves in a back alley. There were 3 dock workers outside, all looking at us suspiciously. We ignored them and headed towards Labaddie Imports and Exports via streets that would not be seen by our tails.
There was a group of five local children playing in the mud of the street. They were of various ages, the oldest being perhaps 12 years old. Jonah asked them if they wanted to earn a little money. Surprisingly, the youngest seemed the only one able (or wiling) to understand him. Jonah asked them to point out a different direction to anyone asking for us. We would depart in the opposite direction. The transaction was swift; perhaps the bribe was useless for the children quickly whispered amongst themselves. I was concerned they might point us out to some local ruffians who might assault us.
The ground was very muddy and I was concerned also that we would leave tracks. Henry and I set out in different directions to lay false trails while the others proceeded towards the warehouse. The children watched us split up. When Henry and I arrived back at our starting point, Henry spotted the youngest child squatting over the tracks that Jonah, Otto and Tobias had made. He approached to see what the girl was doing. She seemed to be marking them in some way. I was not as quiet as Henry, unfortunately, and when she heard my footsteps she immediately fled.
We examined her handiwork and saw that, curiously, she had been pushing nails into certain footprints. Henry worked out that specifically Otto’s prints were being tampered with, but we had no idea why. In any case, I removed the nails and made them into an arrow, pointing in a different direction, though this was probably a futile gesture at misdirection. Henry’s brainwave was to use one of the ubiquitous nets to drag over our trail. This indiscriminately obliterated the tracks at our starting point, though it was in itself a fairly obvious trail so we reluctantly gave up on that idea as we caught up to the others. One of them identified the child’s strange actions as warding off evil spirits, but we were all mystified as to why Otto should be considered an evil spirit.
It was now approximately 8:30pm. Before us was the dockside. Various cargo ships were tied up and there were containers and nets strewn everywhere. In front of us was a simple warehouse with a large front door and smaller side door. It was dark. We had reached our destination.
Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926 Labaddie Imports and Exports warehouse, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
It would be too obvious to enter by the front door, so Jonah set about unlocking the side door. He stepped back and Tobias opened the door to the office of the warehouse. It was not unoccupied. A large black man was sitting behind a desk and he spoke at us in the local dialect in alarm or anger. His hand moved to his side and Jonah guessed that he might be about to pull out a gun, so swiftly he brought his own gun up and shouted to the man to freeze. Beside me Henry was unlimbering his shotgun. The sight of impending death from two strangers caused the man to reconsider his strategy. He put up his hands, repeating a foreign phrase over and over again. Henry deduced that he was asking us not to shoot him.
I relieved the man of his weapons, a crowbar and a large knife (not a gun). We crowded into the little office and decided that we needed to tie him up so Tobias went out to get a net. As soon as Tobias had opened the door, the big man sprinted forward, trying to escape. Jonah tried to subdue him, but he kept going. I was behind the man and only able to give him a glancing blow to the head, and he still kept going. Tobias heard the commotion and promptly slammed the door in his face, but the big man bulled his way out of that as well. Henry finally subdued the man with the butt of his shotgun. We did not want to hurt him or let him die, for we only did this out of necessity, so once he was tied up, Jonah bandaged his head wound.
Once all was quiet, we began our search for the weapons we needed to bargain with Senegal. I found a copy of the shipping manifest (for farm machinery dated October 20th) in the records on his desk – this matched the one we had found in Tobias’ suitcase. There was a bay reference number on it. I continued to search through the documents for any other evidence of shipments by Sterling Industries while the others tried to locate the shipment. I had in mind that once we had successfully retrieved Jack Sterling from his predicament, there would still be the matter of illegal arms trading to sort out.
Though there was a reference number, the warehouse was disorganised and it took a while for them to discover the sixty crates on the manifest. Otto made judicious use of the pry bar on several crates. Each crate contained 10 (new) .306 bolt action rifles and ammunition. The rumours were true then that Jack Sterling was illegally supplying weapons to the rebels in Haiti. There were some 600 rifles here, enough for a small army. A very serious problem to be solved later.
Otto was just closing up a crate when another unusual tarot card appeared out of thin air. It was the Ten of Swords. Otto was a bit shaken (as I was when the second card appeared to me out of nowhere).
I am concerned because the order of cards had been broken. If the Reader would care to remember, the tarot reading of Marie Jerome had the 10 of Swords card as the final (fifth) card. Here it was as the fourth unusual card to appear. I am convinced that this change of order is significant, but cannot fathom why and to what consequence. Where is the nine of swords card? In the tarot reading this had represented the obstacle. If the fourth card represents the obstacle, then I cannot determine what that might be for the illustration on the card seems to be of a dead tree with tentacles. I wish I knew the meaning of these cards as understanding them might help us in our attempt to rescue Jack Sterling. Something supernatural is occurring for which we are ill-prepared.
I will continue our tale. We discussed how best to approach Senegal, a potentially dangerous man in charge of rebel fighters. Should we go in seeking news of Jack Sterling and use the rifles as a bargaining chip, or go straight in with the offer of weapons. Jonah’s plan won out for he said he had experience of such people (I can well imagine that he has) and only a direct approach would work. We took three rifles wrapped in canvas.
We tidied up, hiding the evidence of our visit, except for the unconscious man whom we left tied up in the office. I did take the crowbar and knife however. I took the man’s keys and we locked the side door. AS we were leaving sharp-eyed Jonah spotted one of the soldiers (Mr Grumpy) at the end of the alleyway we had previously vacated. He appeared to be searching of us. We quickly hid behind the warehouse and, because we were on the water’s edge, were forced to wait for him to give up and leave, wasting another fifteen minutes. We could now proceed on foot to Senegal’s warehouse, which would take about one and a half hours but avoid detection, or save time and retrieve our vehicle, but this would mean getting past the soldiers again. We decided speed, deception and minor terrorism would be the best solution.
Back in the bar, one of the soldiers (not Mr Grumpy) was sitting at the bar, probably uncomfortably. We moved pas him, Jonah even said hello, and went out into the street. While Jonah engaged him in conversation (for he of course followed us), Tobias, Henry and I went to our car to hide the rifles. The other soldier was not in the car, but came down the street as Jonah was talking. He was buying time for our German friend to sabotage the car. Otto was not particularly subtle about his movements, but the soldiers did not see him place the nails (we had re-acquired from the muddy alleyway) in front of the tyres and a stone in the exhaust pipe.
As Tobias sped away, the soldiers attempted to follow. Otto’s sabotage had been successful for there was a loud bang and the car lurched forward and then stopped. We had escaped our shadows and were free to head towards Senegal’s warehouse.