Part 3 of My Southwestern Gothic Tale

{Although it doesn’t pick up quite where the last bit left off, here is the next big scene in “Casanegra”. Don’t worry, I’ll fill in the missing bits eventually.}

September brought the heavy rains and with them came Señor Akelarre, from Navarra, Spain. He was an old acquaintance of Beltran and Lupe’s from their travels before they settled in the States a few years ago. He was a mysterious man, olive complexioned, with short but thick black hair and dark circles around his eyes that looked like kohl. He looked to be in his late thirties or early forties but his mannerisms were weird and he carried himself as if he were from another time.
He had sharp angular features and was short of stature, but of strong sinewy build. He spoke both Basque, and Castilian Spanish but with his lisp and use of the voseo tense, compounded by my limited grasp of the language, I had no idea what he was saying most of the time. He was very serious and always walked around with a scowl so I did my best to stay out of his way for the duration of his visit.
Lupe deferred to him, addressing him as vuestra merced whenever they spoke, but Beltran seemed a bit wary of him and called him by his first name, Dimas, just to ruffle his feathers. A liberty he didn’t seem to care for but chose to ignore rather than make an issue out of it. We would go to the kitchen every time he began discussing business with Lupe, and have Maruja make tea for me and coffee for him then we would chat about the old days when he and Lupe first met in Hidalgo.
Once, from my balcony, I caught a snippet of a conversation between Señor Akelarre and Lupe as they strolled through the cactus garden after breakfast. He spoke about a nearby cave comparing it favorably to one back home in Spain, where he and some others would gather for some ritual or another. At least that’s what I think he said.
Listening to him speak reminded me of the time I tried to read a passage from my father’s copy of Don Quixote in the original Spanish. It didn’t look like the Spanish my folks used to speak around the house. It was only later that I was able to grasp the concept that reading Cervantes in his own tongue was akin to reading Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English.
Señor Akelarre kept to himself when he wasn’t conferring with my aunt, and tended to stay clear of me as well, although once and a while when I thought I was alone I would turn to find him staring at me from across the room. The biggest surprise, however, was when on one occasion both Lupe and Beltran needed to go into town to run an errand and I was left with Maruja and the mysterious Spaniard. Maruja was busy doing her thing in the kitchen and as far as I knew Señor Akelarre was in the guest room studying some old books from Beltran’s vast library.
Having nothing of any great importance to do, I wandered outside the house until I came upon the casita which contained the meeting room, where Lupe saw her clients. Even though there wasn’t anything burning at the time, I could still smell a waft of incense whoosh into my face as I swung open the front door. I crept into the dark den with its heavy curtains and dark atmosphere, which Lupe had me maintain to create an aura of mystery for the querent, and sat in her seat at the round table in the center of the room.
At first I just got accustomed to sitting in her place getting comfortable in her velvet lined chair and messing with the tarot cards. Suddenly I felt a pull to look at the crystal ball before me. Staring into it, I tried to clear my mind of all distractions. At first, all I saw was my own reflection straining through the dim light filtering through the gauzy curtains nearby. Eventually I was able to see beyond that and faint images appeared, bleeding through a white haze inside the ball.
I saw the house on a sunny day, with its desert flower and cactus garden and the colorful bougainvilleas spilling over the walls. Suddenly a black shiny disc appeared and began encroaching upon the sun causing the sky to turn dark as a thick black vapor engulfed the scene, the bougainvilleas melted into cascades of blood and the remaining flowers withered on their stems. Luminous images appeared on the disc; first a raven which blinked and cawed, then a bat which lapped blood from an infant’s throat as somewhere out of frame I heard a woman’s scream transmogrify into a coyote’s keening howl.
I stared in horror at the vision, trying to fathom its meaning when I was startled by a voice which spoke in perfect English, albeit with a Spanish lilt.
“Did you see something in the ball?”
I looked up to see a shadow emerge from a chair in the far end of the room. It was Akelarre, walking towards me with a smirk on his face.
“Surprised? Yes, I can speak English, as well as French, Italian, Romanian, Latin, Basque, and even a little German. It is a necessity in the Old World since we are all situated so close together. You should try learning a few more tongues while you are still young and your brain hasn’t settled into stagnation. I learned the majority of these languages when I was still young and my brain pliant. Unfortunately, I decided to learn German later in life when my brain wasn’t as flexible and so my grasp is tenuous at best.
“So tell me, do you have the sight? Can you see the visions in the ball? ”
As he approached me with his hand outstretched to grab my arm, there was a noise from the foyer.
“You will tell me what you saw, won’t you? You must…”
My instinct was to scream and run, but I was rooted to the spot. His thick hairy fingers grasped my wrist in a viselike grip, his big dark brown eyes staring into mine compelling me to…”Tell me what you saw!”
“Quita sus manos sucios de mi sobrina, canalla!” Beltran shouted as he burst into the room pushing his large bony palm forcefully into Dimas’ chest which sent him careening across the floor.
“Dominate Beltran!” Lupe called out as she rushed to the aid of the fallen man.
“Estoy bien, no hay cuidado. It was a…misunderstanding.”


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