Day 2: Friday 31st October 1926, a dilapidated-looking warehouse on the outskirts of the docks, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Senegal’s warehouse from the outside appeared to be in poor repair, but this was probably a facade. There were around ten burly looking men milling around this portion of the warehouse, and we suspected there would be more at the back and inside. As we approached with our bundle of merchandise three or four of them came towards us. They tried to warn us off in Creole, I suspect. None of them spoke English, Jonah was leading our charade and resorted to mentioning ‘business’ and ‘Senegal’ several times with various hand gestures. After about 10 minutes of trying to make ourselves understood, one of them motions us to follow them. At the door to the warehouse, Jonah reveals a portion of the concealed rifles. Some men come out with rifles on their shoulders (.45 martini henry rifles). Then the rifles are pointed at us and we are ‘invited’ inside.
The warehouse is about three or four times as large as Labaddie Imports’. There are about twenty armed men inside, all armed with used or old rifles. There are two offices on the left, a large side room on the right and another small room on the right. There are weapons and maps strewn around and loose floorboards hinting at rooms or passages beneath the warehouse. Very obviously to me our lives are now in their hands. We know about their secret hideout and we are foreigners. We must impress Senegal otherwise we may not be allowed to leave. This is a sobering thought. We are instructed to disarm ourselves, and do so without complaint or delay, though we were hardly in a position to refuse being at gun point.
Senegal is a gaunt man in his late 30s with greying hair, weathered skin and a sour expression. He is occupying one of the offices, with obvious furniture, including a safe. Behind him on a shelf is a strange object. At first glance it appears to be a sculpture of an adult human skull with a third eye in the centre of the forehead. Otto mentions the skull and Senegal gives him an intense unfriendly stare. The tension in the room increases. Otto’s knowledge of the human body is impressive considering he is not a trained doctor (he is a rocket scientist). He noted that the skull was, impossibly, real with the jawline accentuated and lizard-lie. Some hideous mutation perhaps? In any case he looked shaken. Tobias’ self-inflicted wound appears to be troubling him.
Senegal demands to know where we are from. Jonah steps in and takes control of the conversation with an outright offer of weapons. Senegal asks how many, and Jonah says 600, more or less. Jonah does not indicate a monetary amount for the rifles, instead turns the conversation to our ’employer’s’ desire to paint the Star Pools. Senegal seems bemused. He motions to a guard to fetch one of the rifles.
When Senegal examines the rifle himself he becomes angry. He calls us liars and frauds. They are his guns, he says. He has already paid for them, but they were not delivered. It transpires that he paid Jack Sterling for these weapons, but he went missing two weeks ago before delivering them. He calls the guards and it seems we are in trouble before Jonah’s quick wits jump into smooth things over. He says we are not trying to sell them twice. In fact we are trying to arrange delivery of Sterling’s weapons, but we were not aware that Sterling had been paid. Tobias chips in and practically accuses Senegal of kidnaping Sterling.
We explain that we need to go to the Star Pools and that is the price we want for delivering the weapons. Senegal wanted us to get the weapons for him, but we demurred, giving him the location instead. Senegal then agrees to giving us the information we need in exchange for the weapons. He spits on his hand and Jonah does likewise, they shake on it. We breathe a little easier.
Tobias explains that we really want to go to the Star Pools to find Jack Sterling. Senegal warns us that the Cult of the Floating Horror is very dangerous. It has been in Haiti for a long time. Fifteen years ago (the last time the stars were correctly aligned) the ritual took place. It did not succeed. The skull which so obviously disturbed Otto is in fact of Senegal’s brother, Miguel. But he was not sacrificed. Senegal proceeds to explain this strange fact. The Reader may view his explanation with skepticism, but he seemed sincere and moved as he told it.
The cult’s ritual requires a host for the creature being summoned. Miguel was to be used in that ritual and was cut with a sacred stone. Then he changed. He went missing and Senegal tracked his brother to the ceremony. He saw that his brother had changed and looked scaly, like a lizard, and he had a third eye. His stomach swelled and something was moving inside him. Senegal knew that his brother was clearly no longer human. To prevent the beast from forming completely, he shot his brother in the stomach. His brother died, but the ceremony was halted.
Senegal understands that the ceremony is being attempted again. If it is successful, Haiti will fall into a pit of dark despair. Haiti will be cleansed however. He believes this means the American scum will be wiped out, or it will facilitate his uprising. My companions are quick to point out that they are not American. I am obviously an enemy, but I try to mollify his seething hatred but saying that I understand his desire for us to leave. He does not buy that, and I am not sure I truly believe what I said. I said I would be happy to return to my previous life, but in fact here there is a great story waiting to be told. I should find out more about this resistance. It may be that some atrocities have been committed by my countrymen and that the resistance has some justification. I will think on this more.
It dawned on us then that we may have been duped. Madame Josephine may have tricked Tobias into becoming the sacrifice. We say as much. Senegal had not considered the Great Mambo to be involved with the Cult. We explain about the Sharp Stone and the potion that Tobias drank. Tobias worriedly rolls up his shirt sleeve. To our horror the skin around the wound is turning black and scaly. I has been itching. Senegal confirms this is how Miguel’s skin looked.
How can I have been so stupid to trust Madame Josephine’s story? Why did I not realise the extreme co-incidence in her just happening to have the Sharp Stone, yet knowing that hours earlier I had read the fable of the Ashanti Warrior and the Sharp Stone in the The Masked Messenger. Of course he would be able to evade the Lurker if he was supposed to become the host for the Floating Horror. However, Dr Northeast’s journal indicates something had already been done to Jack Sterling. Perhaps Mr Sterling is to be the sacrifice? How can I have forgotten in such a short time? My inattention to detail is worrying and may cost Tobias his life. For we now believe he may be the sacrifice for the ritual and that going to the Star Pools may be dangerous for him, yet we must still find Jack Sterling. What should we believe?
We have much to consider tonight. Senegal said we must stay here while the weapons are retrieved and tomorrow someone will take us to the Star Pools. He did say that Miguel had been unconscious and this may accelerate the change. Tobias must attempt to stay awake at all costs. I hope we are able to save him in some way and he does not succumb to the Mambo’s spell. That is if we survive the night and Senegal does not eliminate us as potential witnesses to his secrets.