The Double-Souled

6 Jan

Soon after arriving in Dandriga, Detective Lucan Walker was compelled by circumstances to change the emphasis of his investigative mission. After all, this was the peculiar Garifuna Zone of southern Belize. There was something extraordinarily eerie in how this transformation of the case came about.

Walker was a tall, athletic Creole, a combination of African and Anglo-Saxon genes. Emerald green eyes possessed an inner fire that never wavered. Coffee skin and rusty red hair identified him as a descendant of both slaves and buccaneers. One of the most experienced investigators of the Belize National Police, he had been picked by the Minister of Justice to look into the activities of the secret underworld gang spoken of in fear as the Houngans.

Once settled comfortably in a hotel, Lucan decided there was no time to lose in starting on his job. He telephoned the office of Loxa Enterprises on opticalphone, made an appointment for that afternoon, then went out for a walk that took him to the shanty district where he was soon to meet Mr. Leonard Loxa, reputed leader of a criminal group of smugglers. The plan was to present himself as a buyer from Belize City, eager to purchase forbidden and illegal items of commerce. His task was only to set up the enticement trap. Uniformed agents would be the ones making arrests at the appropriate moment in time.

Lucan had seen police photos of the racketeer he was about to meet. He now recalled the intimidating eyes and face of Lenny Loxa. The color print had shown dark cordovan leather skin color, a result of mixing black dye and copper. A formidable person to contend with, the detective had concluded at first glance. This was a different kind of Garifuna criminal.

Approaching the derelict storehouse that served as the center of the smuggling business, the Creole knocked at the front door of unpainted planks. It took him several raps before someone came and opened it.

“You were created with two separate souls, my son,” his mother had once said to Logan Surprise. “Neither will find its purpose unless the other also does.”

Perhaps the uncertainty concerning himself was subconsciously the motive for the trip to Dandriga to meet his maternal uncle. At any rate, the young man from Belize City felt an uncanny exhilaration as the roadbus he was on entered the southern town of 9,000 inhabitants. This was the heartland of the Garifuma, to which half of him belonged. His mother, a Black Carib, had run away from home to marry a Creole from the north. But she had passed on the Logan a secret, silent heritage of enigmatic mystery. Was his inner fascination with his invisible Garinaga inheritance behind the sudden decision to make this journey? So wondered the young man to himself.

If he were fortunate, his family relatives in Dandriga would help clear up many questions and riddles for their long lost relative.

A logwood-colored man, tall and thin, seemed to recognize Logan as soon as he stepped down from the bus door.

“Is that you, cousin Logan?” laughingly smiled the stranger.

Dark aquamarine eyes looked out in surprise at the person who had to be the relative named Pen Canoe.

The traveler took the narrow hand offered to him and shook it.

“I have been sent here to welcome and guide you. Where is your luggage? I can help carry whatever you have brought along with you to our house. Father and my sister are waiting there we all plan to sit down to early tea with you, cousin.”

Pen accompanied his relative to the rear of the roadbus, where luggage was being removed from the storage compartment. Each cousin took a suitcase from the driver who was distributing the possessions that had been entrusted to him by passengers.

“Follow me,” said Pen to his cousin. “Our home is down near the creek.”

Logan walked along beside him, surveying the clapboard structures on high stilts on the sides of the unpaved street. His cousin continued talking.

“Father is greatly busy in preparation for the coming Settlement Day. It will soon be upon us, and there are many drums that must be readied by then.”

Logan smiled to himself. “My mother told me once that drum-making has been a kind of family tradition among the Canoes, that her brother learned it from their father, and so in an unbroken chain through countless generations.”

Back to the Bay Islands, St. Vincent and Dominica, and to West Africa, thought Logan as his mind extended itself backwards almost unconsciously.

“Yes,” said Pen, turning his head toward his cousin. “I am the one who will have to carry on the heritage some day.” He halted and pointed to a dilapidated house at the end of a row of similar rotting buildings. “That is our humble domicile, Logan.”

Suddenly, the front door of the house opened and what looked like a teenage girl appeared. Her face was of a rich mahogany shade. She climbed down from the front porch and moved toward the two men with suitcases in their hands.

Before Pen could make any introductions she addressed him with undefined emotion in her enormous dark eyes. “Father is not well again,” said sister Melinda. “He had to lay down in bed and is now asleep. What should we do, Pen?”

She exchanged curious looks with the coffee-skinned stranger.

“You will have to wait a little before meeting your uncle, Logan,” said the tall young man. “I have to see to the work on the drums we are making for the holiday. But Melinda can show you about Dandriga until tea time later on in the afternoon. I am certain that will hold much interest for you.”

Once the suitcases were deposited inside the shanty-like home, the tour of the coastal town began for the newly arrived Logan.

Shy and cautious, Melinda made a minimum of comments, it seemed to her cousin. Thus, the visitor found himself doing more talking than his guide to Dandriga.

“It is as if I have been here and seen all of this before,” gushed Logan with bright enthusiasm. “Mother told me what it was like, of course, and I remember her every word about the place where she was born. But this goes much deeper. I suspect my mind may contain some sort of inherited memories, if that be possible, Cousin Melinda.”

The two stopped and gazed into the muddy waters of Stann Creek.

“I never saw your mother,” murmured the short young woman. “She never returned here, though she was invited many times. Not even at the very end of her life did she come back.”

Logan looked at her face from the side.

“Mother did not tell me that…”

His cousin turned toward him, her large eyes full of unexpected fury.

“Why did you come to Dandriga now, at this moment?” she suddenly demanded. “Did my brother not write you that father is not at all well in health?”

Logan opened his mouth, yet could find no words that seemed adequate.

All at once, Melinda’s face changed from an expression of anger to something else. Her cousin was uncertain what this signified till she spoke to him.

“Forgive me, Cousin,” she said in almost a whisper. “I should not take out what is inside me upon you. That is not fair or just, and I cannot blame you.”

Trying to smile, Logan decided to ask her the question bothering him.

“What is my uncle’s ailment, and how long has it afflicted him?”

She averted her eyes from his inquiring gaze.

“The condition is only recent,” she coolly replied. “It only began in August, when we learned of his sister’s death.” There came a somewhat long pause. “He took the news very hard and has mourned ever since.”

“She died all of a sudden, unexpectedly,” moaned Logan, remembering the shock of the tragedy. “I did not know that they were so closely connected to each other, Melinda. Perhaps I can offer your father some comfort by talking to him.”

Her face seemed to become a stiff, secretive mask.

“Yes, tell him all you can about her and what happened at the end. He shall want to hear how it came to pass that she died first.”

“First?” Logan discovered himself saying.

She looked down at the moist ground of the creek’s bank.

“My father believed that she would be the one to remain alive to mourn for him. He has been unable to accept or understand how she could have gone first. That was not how it was foretold.”

“Foretold?”

Melinda, with sudden realization, drew away from her cousin. She started to go back to the house on stilts.

“He intends to explain how things have fallen off the path. Be patient with us, Logan.”

The two of them ambled back in uneasy silence.

Enoch Canoe propped himself up on his elbows, not rising from the mattress in the corner of his sleeping room. The woolly hair atop his small head was sugar white.

Logan thought of his mother the moment he saw his just awakening uncle. The same Black Carib features existed in both of them, he realized.

Pen and Melinda had both departed as soon as the introductions were finished.

“Sit down, my boy,” croaked the hoarse voice of the drum-maker.

Once his nephew was seated on a small stool, Canoe began.

“I thought it right that you come and meet us, especially now that you are all alone. I did not see your mother after she left here. As you know, we wrote often to each other. But she never returned here again. That was very hard on both of us, I truly believe.

“Did she teach you of the old Garifuna love concerning drums, my boy?”

Logan sensed an inner jolt, as if the uncle was reading his mind.

“Yes, we often talked about the power of the drums. In fact, mother claimed that she could feel when you played on them here in Dandriga. Isn’t that amazing? I was only six years old when I received my first set of drums.”

Enoch Canoe’s eyes seemed to flame up. “You were given drums? I never knew that. No, she did not inform me about that, but it is a good thing you tell me so now. My own drumming has had to be suspended because of my present malady. I cannot even make instruments any longer. But Pen continues in the trade, as best he can.”

“I should like to watch him work, Uncle,” proposed the young visitor. “Mother claimed that the family craft of the Canoes was something valuable that I deserved to claim as a kind of legacy that she dreamed of passing on to me.”

The old man suddenly grew animated. “A splendid idea, my boy! That would have pleased my sister, I know for sure.” A grin of satisfaction fell over his mouth. “Go find Pen and tell him that he must see me. I will explain to him why he is now about to take on an apprentice. Yes, the Canoes will have a new drum-maker among them!”

“Most of the drums are sold to tourists from other countries, I have heard.”

“Those are the ordinary drums,” muttered Enoch in a low tone of voice. “The special ones that we keep are for our own purposes.”

“For holiday rituals, I take it?”

The uncle gave him a keen, searching look. “You have interest in our Garifuna ways?”

Logan gave a simple nod. “A great curiosity, sir,” he replied with seriousness.

For a long time, both of them remained contemplative.

“Call Pen in to see me,” said the ailing elder. “I shall instruct him how to proceed.”

In the following days, Logan reached some disturbing conclusions about the attitude of Pen Canoe toward his new assistant. A coolness was unconcealed in his treatment of the relative who had come from Belize City. Yet the training of the new drum-maker progressed with speed despite the hostility shown by the teacher.

Logan frequently came to his uncle’s room when his sessions in the workshop on the ground level were over. The two conversed at length, Enoch Canoe telling of the importance of drums in Garifuna culture.

“Our ancestors in Africa knew the power of drums before they were carried to the Caribbean. A terrible shipwreck landed them on St. Vincent and Dominica. As they joined with the Red Caribs of the islands called Arawaks, they perfected methods of communicating and even healing over long distances. The oldest beliefs we have are called Obeah. They allow the practitioners to focus and increase the spiritual power within their souls and direct it outside onto others.

“It was back in 1796 that our forefathers rebelled against the planters. Their great leader, Joseph Chatoyer, along with scores of others, was killed. Over five thousand of our people were then transported to the Bay Islands in the Bay of Honduras. But they refused to stay there as slaves. In simple canoes, the Garifuna escaped to the mainland. We are now located in Honduras, Guatamala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and here in Belize, wherever the waters took our ancestors.

“Within a few years, a hundred were settled in Stann Creek. More and more families migrated here. In 1823, the Garifunas on the Honduras coast rebelled. Alejo Beni was their commander in this bitter civil war. Their enemies defeated them. Six boatloads of refugees escaped, fleeing to the river banks here. They were welcomed by those who had come here over twenty years before.

“So, on November 19 we re-enact the arrival of Alejo Beni and his followers to Dandriga. This festival is a week long, and Garifunas come from far and wide, from many different lands, even the United States of America.

“Many travel here to witness the gubida ceremonies. The center of attention is always the person called the obeah man, one who knows all the ritual secrets and formulas. He is the special intercessor who can send and receive messages from the spirits.”

“Messages?” said Logan with astonishment. “What sort of messages?”

Enoch looked down at the earth floor. “Have you not been told by your mother?”

The nephew shook his head.

“To the dead and from the dead.” He looked up, staring into the face of Logan. “I have decided to teach you all the obeah rhythms. Three drummers will play on three drums, each with his own separate tempo. You see, Logan, I inherited the role of obeah leader from your grandfather. It has been passed on in our family for generations. Did my sister not tell you of this?”

“No,” admitted Logan. “Not a word about it.”

“Our third drummer is too old and exhausted to go on any longer. I think that you will make a good replacement for him, my boy. Are you willing to learn and take part in our trio of drummers?”

An inner force seemed to take hold of the young man’s mind and soul.

“Yes,” he firmly agreed. “I believe that would help me to cope with he great loss I suffered in Belize City. It was that which drove me to come here.”

I now have something to look forward to, thought Logan to himself.

Pen grew sullen and morose after he was told that his cousin was to play a drum on Settlement Day. The object of this enmity failed to sense or understand such an invisible, silent emotion. Yet he soon knew that Pen held a negative attitude toward himself.

One morning, Melinda took Logan with her to the outdoor growers’ market to buy vegetables and fruit. This gave him an opportunity to make inquiries in private. The two strolled back to the clapboard house built on stilts and Logan asked her questions as he carried the cloth sack holding her market purchases.

“I don’t understand your brother, Melinda,” he muttered in vexation. “There is a solid wall of reserve between us. Does he resent my presence here in Dandriga?”

She turned her eyes on his face from the side, not saying anything.

“Let’s sit down and rest a bit, Melinda.” He pointed to a long log lying on the ground. The pair sat down there, beside each other.

The tiny woman took up the question that he had posed to her.

“My brother has a moody, clouded character. Even father does not always understand him. I think it has to do with our mother and her death more than anything else. He has never been the same or fully recovered from his grief.”

Logan turned his head and stared at her. “My mother once told me that she died during the birth of Pen.”

“Yes, and that has shaped his life to the core. You see, they have tried all these years to make contact with her by using the drums. But that has never succeeded. Each failure has eaten into the soul of my baby brother. But father still has hopes of connecting and communicating with her spirit.”

Logan gazed at her with awe and wonder.

“I have spoken with my uncle about the Garifuma obeah practices, but I never suspected that…”

“He inherited the ability to summon spirits with the drums he makes,” declared Melinda. “Many times, miraculous cures have resulted. And there have been messages received from those that are no longer alive. You see, my father has a special sensitivity toward the dead. Unfortunately, Pen was born without it.”

“That is what troubles him so deeply, I surmise,” ventured Logan.

All of a sudden, Melinda turned away, toward the nearby flowing creek.

“My dear brother can not contact our mother, and that thought haunts him every day, hour, and minute of his life.” She appeared to shudder. “That is why he is jealous of you, Cousin Logan.”

“Me?”

She looked over her shoulder with a forlorn expression on her face.

“He fears that you have potential power of Garifunda obeah and that father intends to make you into his eventual successor in that post. You, like him, will finally come to possess two souls, one of which is capable of talking with the spirits not of this world any longer.”

The pair sitting on the log stared intently at each other for a short while.

“Let’s go home, Melinda,” suggested her cousin. “They will be expecting us there with these purchases you made.”

On the morning of Settlement Day, Enoch gave final instructions to the new drummer as the two walked toward the festival pavilion.

“Remember, each of us at the drums must preserve his own tempo and never take that of another. Do you understand the need for keeping each line of rhythm separate and untangled with the others?”

“Indeed, sir,” replied Logan, in his hands a new drum that he had constructed with his own hands. “I shall strive to stay on my assigned tact and never stray away from it.”

The old man gave a wide, warm smile. “You have inherited the inner gift of obeah, and it will take you to the highest possible achievements.” Suddenly, he stopped, but then continued. “Like me, you hold the potential for more than a single soul within you. I felt that from the first, Logan. It is a magnificent condition, to possess two souls instead of just one. But there are potential dangers involved as well. I plan to instruct you how to avoid the many temptations to misuse the powers that will be developed in you.”

The two proceeded in silence toward the old gazebo where a large crowd had already gathered.

Pen was already sitting on the floor of the raised platform, his drum resting between his extended legs. The drum of his father had been placed at the center of the pavilion. The two cousins took player positions on either side of the senior obeah figure of Enoch.

A standing crowd of Garifuma people had assembled. Logan nodded to Melinda, in front of the throng of watchers and listeners. The audience grew still and quiet, anticipating what was to happen next.

Enoch started on his drum with a slow, hypnotic beat that was controlled and steady. He kept himself under strict control, not presenting any variation whatsoever. At an unexpected point, Pen entered with a distinctly different sound and rhythm of his own. The two drums seemed to be conversing with each other on a supernatural level. A breathless excitement held sway over all who heard them.

Waiting for a cue, Logan sensed a rising inner power within him.

All of a sudden, he became certain that he had the potential to become two-souled like his uncle. The knowledge of how to communicate with the mother he had lost was there in his future.

The smuggler named Lenny Loxa led the visitor to his warehouse through the piles of objects to a wooden slab on which rested the comatose body of the detective from the capital of Belize, Lucan Walker.

The owner of the goods stopped a yard from the unconscious policeman and turned around and addressed the young drum-maker named Logan Surprise.

“I depended upon you to guard my wares from this meddling intruder, and you have succeeded in placing the man into a sleeping trance with your drum. But what comes now? Will the investigator live or die? What shall his future be, and what will we do with his body?

Logan rubbed his chin as he formed his decision. “I belief it will be safe to allow him to exist as one in an idiotic state, with no knowledge or memory of who he is. I have wiped his mind clean. There is no trace of his past inside his mind or soul. All that has disappeared forever. He can pose no danger to any of us in Dandriga.

“I intend to take him by bus to Belize City and leave him there at an asylum for the insane and incompetent. He will be comfortable and cared for. There is no reason to worry about what I have done to him. He shall spend the rest of his days in peace and quiet.”

With that, the double-souled drum-maker turned around and departed from the storehouse of the Garifuna smuggler.

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