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Blood & Bourbon

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Adán I, Chapter III

St. Columba's Vertebra

“I know the work you do now is God’s will.”
Father Fontenot

Friday morning, 5 February 1937

Adán’s friends anxiously asked him what had befallen in the many hours with Father Fontenot, but Adán waved them off, holding his tongue. Eventually, they stopped asking, especially once the semester resumed, as all were swiftly overwhelmed by the rush of finals and graduation.

Particularly for Adán, the last few months at Loyola were brutal. His private instruction with Father Fontenot continued, even increased. Nor did the exacting Jesuit lower his academic standards, as he fully expected Adán to complete his thesis with the same rigor as any other student aspiring to the Notre Dame Seminary. In his ‘free’ time, Adán hunted for the Society of Leopold’s lost relic. That search started in the university’s library, but swiftly transitioned to off-campus excursions. During such forays, he also always kept an ear out for any lead on Alcide’s host. Saul always promised to help that search, but he also always found a reason to renege and delay his aid. So stymied, Adán’s search for Marie bore little to no fruit.

In the meantime, Adán’s investigation for the relic turned up several leads. The relic was a pair of vertebrae of St. Columba of Sens, the once pagan noblewoman of Saragossa who was baptized in Venice and later imprisoned by the Roman Emperor Aurelian in the local amphitheater’s brothel’s to be raped, tortured, and killed alongside other Christians.

Spared from rape by a she-bear, Columba and the bear were sentenced by Aurelian to be publicly burned in the amphitheater. However, the bear escaped, and God sent rain that quelled the Romans’ fires. Unrepentant, Aurelian had Columba beheaded near the fountain d’Azon. According to Adán’s research, Columba was later buried by a blind man who recovered his sight after praying for her intercession, with the Abbey of Sens later built over her tomb. Her remains, however, were reportedly destroyed by Huguenots in the 16th century.

The reason for the destruction varied, with some accounts claiming the Huguenots did so as part of the French Wars of Religion. Other accounts suggested they were trying to recover, versus destroy, Columba’s body, to use as a symbol of their martyrdom, as Columba was said to have advocated for tolerance and peace between the Christians and pagans. A few rarer accounts, however, indicated that their act had to do with Columba being the patron saint of witches in Galicia, with her allegedly interceding both against witches and for witches. Further details, however, could not be found in Loyola’s archives or any other library associated with the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Fortunately, Adán’s prior visits to New Orleans’ churches was not restricted solely to Catholic ones. Indeed, over the past four years, he had made several trips to the Protestant Christ Church Cathedral.

There, he studied not only the 19th century architecture of its extant cathedral, but also its four earlier iterations. During those visits, Adán had gained the favor, if not friendship, of the cathedral’s rector. Thus, when Adán told the rector he was researching Huguenots and Columba of Sens, the rector said he would look at the cathedral archives and ask some colleagues.

A week later, Adán found a typewriter-punched letter beneath his pillow. Its message was terse:

3:33 am

Riverside corner of Canal and Bourbon.

Come alone

Summer 1937

With a prayer on his lips, Adán followed the rendezvous’ directions. He waited several minutes, and was about to leave, when a Rolls-Royce Phantom glided down Bourbon St., and stopped in front of the recent Loyola graduate. Its rear passenger door opened. Inside was dark, save for the small ember-glow of a lit cigarette.

“Get in,” ordered a voice from inside, then added, “the night vapours are simply dreadful on one’s lungs.”

Trusting that God would protect him while on His errand, Adán climbed in, only for the vehicle to speed off into the night. It would be his first but not last ride in that seemingly driverless luxury vehicle, and it was the beginning of a delicate working relationship with a man who eventually identified himself as Sir James Gallier IV.

Sir Gallier was the descendant of James Gallier Sr. and Jr., the famed if ill-fated architects who built not only New Orleans’ civic hall, Théâtre de l’Opéra, Luling Mansion, St. Charles Hotel, and Leeds-Davis Building, but also the second and third buildings for Christ Church. Moreover, Sir Gallier–or Jamesie as he eventually had Adán call him–was a Knight of St. George, of the Congregation of Vasago. Jamesie shared that a long-time rival of his in the Congregation of Foras was also searching for the vertebrae of St. Columba. Moreover, Jamesie confided that he had information on the relic’s whereabouts, but would rather help another procure it over his rival–provided the other did not intend to use the relic for “nefarious ends.”

Yet, long before Sir Gallier revealed the above secrets, or further ones, he first put Adán through a gauntlet of tests to confirm the truth of Adán’s character and aims. Some were simple tests, such as Sir Gallier ‘accidentally’ dropping a loose emerald-studded cufflink when he opened the door, as if to tempt the young man’s lust for lucre. Others were more devious, such as when Jamesie hired some local dockworkers to stage an all-too real looking, street-side beating of a confederate. Jamesie had his violent stooges time their ‘act’ so that Adán and Jamesie would pass them in the Phantom, just as Jamesie began to relate some key secret about Columba’s relic.

Fortunately, Adán ‘passed’ the test by halting the knight and car and leaping out to rescue the ‘attacked’ man. A third test involved Jamesie taking Adán to a mental asylum, where an alleged Vodouisant witch was possessed by El Taumaturgo, a demon who professed knowledge of the relic–as well as Alcide’s location. The demon-possessed witch offered Adán the knowledge of both if the young Leopoldite gave her his “virgin seed.” Adán adamantly rejected the pact and exorcised the demon–though not before both witch and fiend swore vile vengeance.

Summer 1937

The last experience rattled the would-be-priest, and made him question Jamesie’s motives to the point he nearly broke off his meetings with Jamesie. Summer had had begun, and the recent Loyola graduate longed to return to the simple, pure life of fishing Lake Pontchartrain with Pierre and his godly kin. Yet, just as Adán prepared to tell Father Fontenot and Sir Gallier of his intentions, the British-blooded ‘knight’ announced that he was sufficiently convinced that Adán had the “cœur de lion.”

During their next witching hour drive in the Rolls Royce, Jamesie revealed that both his grandfather and great-grandfather were commissioned, while designing Christ Church’s buildings, to include two secret spaces for the twin reliquaries of the veterbrae. Allegedly, the vertebrae–the very same which were cleaved by the Roman executioner’s blade–were all that remained of St. Columba. The Huguenots’ nominal leader, Jeanne d’Albret, had planned to give the vertebrae to Catherine de’ Medici as part of their peace treaty and children’s betrothal.

Learning this, several Huguenots stole the relic. When Jeanne informed Catherine of the theft, the queen consort sent Jeanne a pair of perfumed gloves that were skillfully poisoned by her perfumer, René of Florence. Jeanne perished two months before her son’s wedding, and Catherine’s agents searched for the relic in vain.

The relic remained safe in Huguenot hands for several generations, even as the likes of Marie de’ Medici continued to hunt for it during the Huguenot rebellions of the 1620s. Yet, as Louis XIV’s Edict of Fontainebleau and violent dragonnades nearly exterminated the Huguenots, a group fled with the relic across the Atlantic to Louisiana. It would be guarded and passed down for multiple generations, till it was interred in Christ Church’s first consecrated building in 1816–and then later hidden in its second building in 1837, then in its third during the next decade, and finally in its fourth several decades later.

Yet, when the Great New Orleans Hurricane of 1915 destroyed the cathedral’s steeple, the relic was lost–or more specifically one of the two vertebrae was. Jamesie shared his doubts that the steeple’s destruction was due to a ‘mere’ hurricane, noting that while many buildings were damaged by the storm, only Protestant churches–including the Presbyterian Church on Lafayette and St. Anna’s Episcopal Church on Esplanade–utterly collapsed. Rather, James had come to suspect that some manner of witchcraft or sorcery had been used to channel the hurricane to specifically target New Orleans’ Protestants, or at least their sanctums. He posited that Christ Church’s cathedral also would have fully collapsed, if not for the relic’s protection.

James shared with Adán his uncertainty as to whether the assailants–which he intimated might have Catholic ties–had been intentionally seeking Columba’s relic, or if they had been more opportunistic thieves after the magically toppled steeple revealed one of the reliquaries. Jamesie claimed the Knights of St. George sought to protect the remaining vertebra–whose location he refused to share–but also to reclaim the lost one, or at least prevent it from being in the “wrong hands.” Fortunately for Adán, Jamesie considered his rival knight in the Congregation of Foras among the ‘wrong-handed.’

Thus, Jamesie agreed to help Adán recover the missing vertebra. To that end, he shared with the young exorcist that a specific group of longshoremen had been oddly asking after the relic–the one not stolen–hinting that anyone with information would be “taken care of.”

Thus, rather than return to Lake Pontchartrain and the Jeansonnes, Adán went ‘undercover’, working on the docks of the bustling, if rough Port of New Orleans.

Summer 1937

Sir Gallier was instrumental in helping Adán forge a cover identity and teaching him the “intricacies of obfuscation and deception.” This ‘education’ was difficult for Adán, as it required him to not only live among rough and often godless, blaspheming men and similarly loose women, but it required him to lie–to claim to be things he was not. Seeking spiritual counsel from Father Fontenot, the Jesuit commiserated with the young man’s discomfort, but he advised that he continue his path, explaining:

“You once compared yourself to David, and today, I abjure you to consider how the youngest son of Jesse acted while amongst the Philistines. When he dwelt in Ziklag, upon whom did he lead raids?”

“The Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites,” replied the young scriptorian. “All of whom were Israelites’ enemies.”

“Indeed,” the Jesuit priest replied, “but did King Achish know that?”

“No, Father, he believed David led raids against the Israelites.”


Adán faltered in his answer, not because he could not recall the intellectual answer, but because of its hitherto unconsidered moral implications.

“Because… David deceived him…”

“Yes, and before then, when David was discovered hiding among the Philistines and was brought before King Achish, what do the scriptures tell us?”

Once again, Adán hesitated, nodding slowly as he contemplated his unspoken answer, which the priest voiced:

“The Book of Samuel records he pounded his head on the city gate, and foamed at the mouth, with spit dripping from his bead.”

“He pretended to be insane,” Adán agreed, “causing Achish to declare him a madman rather than his fated foe, and cast him out of his house.”

“And did such deeds deny David the crown of Israel or the blessing of God’s prophet, Nathan?”

“No, Father Fontenot… that came later….”

The Jesuit priest, nodded, but then admonished his pupil to stick to “today’s lesson.” When Adán admitted that he could not refute the priest’s logic, he still struggled to reconcile it with the myriad other scriptures that warned against deceit and falsehoods.

“I… am not sure I fully understand, Father.”

“Nor, I, my son,” the priest replied. “But I know the work you do now is God’s will.”

At that pronouncement, Adán sat silent for a long time before he eventually gave his answer:

“As God wills it.”

Fall 1937

Still, even with his spiritual conflict resolved, or at least mostly quelled, Adán did not find it easy to deceive the ‘King Achishes and other Philistines’ of New Orleans’ docks. Granted, his summers with the Jeansonnes did give him a passing familiarity with commercial fishing rigs and docks, but he was once again a stranger in a strange land–and this time, he had to assimilate rather than cloister himself away.

Moreover, there were no erudite, ecclesiastical authorities he could impress with his scholarly aptitude and scriptural knowledge. Instead, his dock bosses and peers admired crude braggadocio, lewd jokes, ability to hold one’s liquor, and bare-knuckled boxing skills–none of which were ‘talents’ Adán possessed or wanted to possess.

Still, spurred on by Father Fontenot’s support, Sir Gallier’s tutorship, and increasingly potent and disturbing visions of what would occur if he did not recover the relic, Adán managed to adopt the mien of a ‘madman.’ His cover identity–one Bruno Legaré–had him being from Lake Charles, where his father, a union dockworker, had earned the favor of the International Longshoremen’s Association and allied Teamsters during the violent, ten-week Gulf Coast longshoremen’s strike of 1935, and used that favor to leverage a job for his relatively inexperienced son in New Orleans, where most maritime traffic had permanently diverted to after the strike. That ‘pedigree’ earned Adán some measure of slack, if not respect.

That meager respect grew when Adán threw himself into the dock’s illicit boxing circuit. He lost terribly, especially as the bet-taking ringmasters placed the bantamweight against experienced heavyweights, as the crowds enjoyed the bloodsport. Still, being nearly beat to death on several occasions, only to still arrive to work on time and without complaint, earned him his peers’ and bosses’ appreciation. Moreover, when the circuit bosses rigged a fight so that Adán ‘won’ against a towering alley champion named Gator Johnson, his renown swelled.

Unbeknowst to Adán, Gator Johnson had taken the fall for some extra cash, but he couldn’t stand being heckled for losing to the comparatively scrawny bantamweight. When he threatened to expose the circuit bosses’ duplicity, they gave him a new pair of concrete shoes and took him for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. To divert suspicion, they spread rumors that Adán had killed the man for disrespecting him, stealing his broad, or some other machismo-sufficient cause. As others accepted or at least shared the dark gossip, Adán’s respect amongst the seedy, rough longshoremen soared.

Winter 1937

Due to that newfound esteem, one of Adán’s dock bosses began to hire him to do some “off the books” jobs. Initially, these jobs involved unloading or loading what he later learned was unregistered cargo for the Black Hand. Next, he was asked to act as a lookout for NOPD patrols during meetings between the union bosses and Mafia lieutenants. Adán loathed each of these tasks, and the corrupt men for whom he presumably did them, but he reminded himself that he was ultimately doing God’s–not Mammon’s–work. During these morally precarious times, he found particularly solace in silently reciting Psalm 34, which David presumably wrote about his time masquerading amongst the Philistines.

Notwithstanding, there were moments when his facade almost broke. Chief among these was after a meeting between the local union bosses and the Black Hand’s then-underboss, Carlos Marcello. The Mafia had wanted to assure the unions that “business as usual would continue as usual,” notwithstanding Don Carollo’s two-year-stint in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. At the meeting’s end, Adán’s chief dock boss, Tito, approached Marcello as the latter walked to his chauffeured car. The conversation they had was painfully, if providentially, close to where Adán had been stationed as a ‘guard.’

“C’mon, Carlos, just between you and me,” Tito had said, “you really think Old Silver Dollar Sam’s gonna shed his stripes soon?”

“Jesus on a stick, Tito, you think I’d lie to all you boys?” the Mafia underboss replied with false hurt. “It’s like I said–Sam shot a fucking fed in ’30, did four measly years, and popped out of the pen with a senator kissing his cojones the same year. This time, it was just a little coke charge, capiche?”

Adán all but bit his tongue at being forced to listen to the mafioso first take the Lord’s name in vain, and then brag about the Black Hand’s corruption of justice. Fortunately, neither Tito nor Carlos noticed. Instead, the former pressed his inquiry:

“Yeah, yeah, I remember, but this time they’re talking about shipping him with a one-way ticket to Sicily.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Tito!” the underboss exclaimed. “You worry more than a fucking nun about to get her cherry popped. It’s like I said, we–”

This time, Adán could not keep silent, but all but growled at the blaspheming, lewd underboss. Noticing the snarl and withering glare, Carlos turned to the undercover dockworker and shouted:

“Hey, buddy, you got a fucking problem?!” Turning back to the dock boss, he added, “What’s your kid’s problem, Tito, because if he don’t straighten out his face, I’m gonna give him a fucking problem!”

First confused, then conciliatory, the dock boss replied, “Bruno? He’s a good kid, just a tad touchy. ‘Member how I was telling you about Gator Johnson getting his lights knocked out, then cut? Well, that’s the guy who did it.”

“Him?” Carlos asked, his shock diverting his earlier ire. “Tito, I’ve eaten shrimp at Antoine’s bigger than him.”

“Well, it’s as you say,” Tito replied with a shrug, “it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight—”

“—but the size of the fight in the dog,” the underboss finished with a chuckle. “Sure, why not, after all, it’s easier to choke a guy with chicken wire than anchor chain.” Giving Adán another look-over, he said to the dock boss, “Look, Tito, I’ve got an upcoming thing where I could use some extra muscle of the chicken wire variety. Send your boy tomorrow to Catfish Freddy’s, and I’ll make sure you get a piece of the pie.”

Placated by the promise of profit, Tito agreed, leaving Carlos free to depart without further question. It also paved the way for Adán to do God’s will amongst the Philistines.

Spring 1938

The next day, Adán reported to Chiafreddo “Catfish Freddy” Putanesca at his Acme Truck Line garage. Like Carlos, Freddy was similarly surprised by the bantamweight’s mismatched appearance and reputation, but the impatient ghoul had “bigger fish to fry.” Namely, as he explained to Adán and the other gathered ‘crew’, the Black Hand planned to infiltrate the Boston Club, the city’s elite, ultra-exclusive gentlemen’s club.

More specifically, the Mafia had caught wind that the Boston Club would be soon hosting a lavish midnight ball, after which time its members and a few, select guests would play a tournament of the club’s eponymous card game. Individual table winners would earn items donated by club members, many of which were of historical if not material value. However, the tournament’s grand champion would earn an exceeding rare artifact: the vertebra of St. Columba.

Freddy told his crew that one of the Black Hand’s Old World benefactors greatly desired the item–and if possible its matching piece. Much later, Adán learned that this ‘benefactor’ was Don Vico Giovannini, who claimed kinship not only with the fellow Italian d’Medici who had vainly had hunted the relic, but also the Roman Emperor Aurelian who had beheaded Columba, back when the Giovannini were known by their original, millennia-old surname of Ioveanus. As Freddy related, the Black Hand’s benefactor suspected that the auction would entice the other piece’s owner to attend.

Indeed, this was precisely the aim of the auction’s instigator: Rhett Carver, the Nosferatu Invictus and de facto primogen of his clan. In mortal life, Rhett had been one of the Boston Club’s founders, alongside John Randolph Grymes. In his Requiem, Rhett continued to claim the club as his domain, granting him influence over local and state politics and commerce, as the Club included prominent judges, state legislators, governors, lawyers, businessmen, diplomats, and bankers, while also hosting the likes of American presidents, generals, and British nobility.

True to Sir Gallier’s suspicions, the relic’s theft had been perpetrated by ‘Catholics’–though not of the living variety. Rhett and Rosa Bale–both allies of Savoy and heterodox members of Lancea et Sanctum given their mélange of Vodoun and Catholicism–had joined forces to channel the hurricane of 1915 to strike against their enemies. New Orleans’ Protestants were particularly ‘safe’ targets, as neither had the protection of Vidal or Baron Cimitière. The destruction of their spiritual and mercantile bastions, such as Huguenot-owned sections of the French Market, also would foster Rhett’s political-economic schemes in the First Estate–all of which would benefit Savoy, their would-be prince.

Their ritual proved successful, if extremely expensive and dangerous, but the pair believed that if they possessed both vertebrae, its power could help gain better control of future hurricanes, allowing them to make more targeted, direct attacks against Vidal’s and the Baron’s forces. However, neither Rhett’s mortal contacts nor Rosa’s ghostly spies had been able to identify the second vertebra’s exact location or owner–though their quarter-decade hunt had revealed the relic was somewhere in the Crescent City. Thus, Rhett had devised his card tournament scheme to draw out the owner of the second vertebra.

And it worked.

Spring 1938

When Adán related what he had learned from the Black Hand, Jamesie used his high society connections to secure an invitation to the exclusive tournament. As his ancestor had built the Boston Club’s current clubhouse on 824 Canal Street, the Knight of St. George was able to share many of the structure’s architectural and geomantic defenses and secrets. These clandestine passages and passcodes would prove invaluable to the Society of Leopold, as Father Fontenot passed on all that Adán had learned to his superiors. Both Father Fontenot and Sir Gallier commended Adán on his service, just as both said they would handle the rest of the messy, undoubtedly dangerous affair.

However, the young exorcist felt compelled to see the task through to its end, even if it was a bloody one. Part of this desire was due to zeal, but another motivation was caution. Namely, Freddy and the Black Hand expected ‘Bruno’ to be part of his crew of ‘busboys’ tasked with surreptitiously eavesdropping on the tournament contestants and attendees. Thus, they hoped to identify who had the other vertebra, rig the game, and/or potentially steal the ‘grand prize’ (which the Black Hand planned to do if their benefactor failed to win the tournament). If Adán did not play his part, he reasoned the Black Hand might suspect their mission was compromised, which could foil the vertebra’s recovery. Reluctantly, both Jamesie and Father Fontenot agreed with their pupil’s logic, though both warned him to be careful.

They were right to have done so.

Spring 1938

Just as the Black Hand ‘busboys’ were to begin their shift, Chiafreddo shared their mob’s backup plan. In the event that their patron’s cardsharpe lost, or someone else tried to steal the relic, they had rigged the tournament room, so they could flood it with nerve gas. Meanwhile, the ‘busboys’ would don their gas-masks, sealing the doors and making sure no one escaped.

The Giovannini, meanwhile, had summoned the wraith of the infamous Earl Beardie, the same cardsharpe who had been cursed by the Devil to play cards till doomsday, and whose lineage included not only Mackenzie Bowes, but the Devil Child of New Orleans. The Giovannini nigramancers found it all-too easy to tempt the ghostly card addict into their scheme, and they provided Lord Glamis a host that few would suspect: Percy J. Parker, a descendant of the more famous Boston Club members and brothers, John M. and Arthur D. Parker. However, the Giovannini’s plan did not account for Rosa Bale’s numerous spectral spies stationed in the 45-foot dining room. Moreover, none of the guests and schemers–not even Adán–were prepared for the Brotherhood of St. Athanasius.

When Father Fontenot had passed on Adán’s discoveries to his Leopoldite superiors, the Shadow Congregation’s leaders had called upon Phineas Constantin, the mulatto leader of the local Brotherhood of St. Athanasius. Brother Constantin, or ‘Stan’ as he was known, led the local Brotherhood in a form of anarchist communism that tried to emulate St. Peter’s practice of proto-communism in Jerusalem. As part of the Society of Leopold, Stan and his group were known more for their brutal efficiency than their precision or concern for collateral damage.

True to that reputation, the Brotherhood barged into the clubhouse, bypassing the geomantic wards with the information Jamesie had shared with Adán. Under the thin pretense of being a working class mob protesting local labor laws, the Brotherhood stormed the tournament hall, then violently assaulted those–like Rhett Carver, Earl Beadie, and Rosa’s ghosts–whom they divined were supernatural entities “in league with Satan.” In the resultant chaos, Chiafreddo signaled his crew to strike, and nerve gas began to pump into the room. So exposed, the poisoned mortal guests and Leopoldite intruders began to sweat, convulse, and involuntarily soil themselves.

Adán, meanwhile, donned his mask, then knocked out one of his Black Hand ‘colleagues.’ He then opened the door he was supposed to be guarding, preventing most of the room’s inhabitants from asphyxiating or going into cardiac arrest. Then, taking the gas mask off the knocked-out mobster, Adán fought his way through the chaos to rescue Jamesie, placing the extra mask over his toxin-afflicted friend, and helped him upstairs. There, they faced several of Rhett’s ghouls, who had been charged with guarding the relic that had been hidden in a billiard table. Adán tried to defend him and the aged Jamesie against the ghouls, but he was quickly outmatched. He would have been undoubtedly slain or worse, had not the puissant Knight of St. George summoned a goetic demon that slaughtered the Nosferatu’s thralls.

Thus, Adán and Jamesie were able to flee with the relic before the Vidal-backed police arrived to quell the unrest and cleanse the scene of its myriad Masquerade breaches. Chiafreddo and several mobsters were able to flee, and eventually concluded that ‘Bruno’ had betrayed them. Meanwhile, most of the Brotherhood were slain, or worse, ghouled by the Lancea et Sanctum. This later group–which included Brother Constantin–was eventually detected and eradicated by the Shadow Congregation, but not before several of the ‘double agents’ passed on significant Leopoldite secrets to their vampire domitors.

Furthermore, Adán initially returned to Father Fontenot empty-handed. Jamesie had refused to relinquish the vertebra, as he was wroth with the Society of Leopold for almost causing his murder and near-loss of the relic. Adán’s own temper was hot, as he felt betrayed by Jamesie–first for not relinquishing the relic, but second for his demonic summoning. Harsh words were exchanged between the Catholic and nominal Protestant, and when the former exited the latter’s Rolls Royce, Adán promised he would never take another breath inside the “Hell-tainted machine.”

Spring 1938

Thus, with his prospects of attending Notre Dame Seminary slim, his relations with the Society of Leopold in tatters, and the Black Hand searching for him, Adán returned to Eden Isle and the Jeansonnes to heal his physical and spiritual wounds. While the former quickly healed, the latter were more persistent, as Adán struggled to find God’s will in all that had occurred. He never doubted his own will to do God’s, but he worried whether he had strayed from the path of righteousness. Moreover, Adán was unsure what he should do next. Those questions only increased when, after partaking of the Feast of Corpus Christi at Our Lady of Lourdes, he sat at Sister Jolicoeur’s deathbed. Her final words to him were simple, yet piercing:

“God is not done with you.”

Her death and subsequent funeral made him ponder his childhood and first vision–experiences that seemed unfathomably distant. He tried to seek the old cypress grove, but found the swamp had been drained for commercial development. Unsure what to do, Adán eventually returned to the Jeansonnes. There, Pierre gave him an unmarked parcel that had appeared during Adán’s absence. The butcher block paper had no indication of its sender or intended recipient, but the fishermen had sensed it was meant for their adopted ‘priest.’

Opening the parcel, Adán saw it contained the vertebra of St. Columba. A typewritten note accompanied the relic:

Perhaps mine are also the wrong hands

May yours be better, Cœur de Lion

Adán was shocked by the gift, but his prayers of gratitude soon became prayers for guidance, for he was unsure what he should do with the relic. Similarly concerned that his presence could cause harm to his adoptive family, he borrowed a small boat and sailed into the center of Lake Pontchartrain to fast and pray. As the days passed, and his starved body ate itself, Adán struggled to divine God’s will. So intent was he on some esoteric epiphany, that Adán missed the heavens’ more exoteric omens.

Monday afternoon, 15 August 1938

One summer day, a hurricane crashed into Louisiana’s southern coast. Its sudden fury caught Adán completely unprepared. Lake Pontchartrain’s waters whipped into giant waves that towered over his small sailing vessel. The hurricane’s wind savagely tore apart Adán’s sails just as Jamesie’s demon had devoured the Nosferatu ghouls. Adán tried to pilot the boat back to Eden Isle, but the massive waves broke over his boat, swiftly swamping it. As the boat sunk, Adán tied St. Columba’s relic around his neck. The waves dragged him to the depths–and what he was sure was his death. His prayer to God in that moment was similar to that of the Lord’s disciples upon the storm-wracked Sea of Galilee, petitioning not only for himself, but also the hard-won relic:

“Lord, save us! We perish!”

No sooner had he silently prayed those words, then did the hurricane’s fury miraculously cease. As Adán surfaced, he realized he was under the eye of the storm. Knowing that the providential relief would be temporary, he tried to swim to the storm–as his boat had sunk to Pontchartrain’s depths.

Yet, belong long, his long-starved and already enervated muscles began to fail him, even as the winds and waves resumed. The shore was in sight, but he could swim no farther. As he started to sink a second time, he felt something, or someone, take hold of his hand and lift his head above the water.

It was hard to see amidst the storm, but Adán recognized the face that stared down at him. It was his father’s. Tomás’ spirit had pulled him up onto a floating bole of cypress–the very same from Adán’s first vision. Cut down by loggers, the tree had been swept out into the lake by the storm. Riding upon it, Tomás’ spirit shone like a pillar of bright blue fire. Tomás wept as he bade farewell to his son:

“As God wills it.”

Tomás’ spirit then ascended up a heavenly ladder, disappearing from mortal view. Yet, the bright manifestation had alerted Pierre to Adán’s location and plight. The Jeansonnes had been looking for their ‘priest’, but they had been forced back to shore by the redoubling storm. With the aid of the buoyant cypress, Adán was just able to hold on and float long enough for Pierre, his brother Andre, and their neighbors to haul him from the water like the miraculous fish of four years past.

Once safely sheltered inside, they marveled at the good fortune of seeing “St. Elmo’s fire” shinning from the cypress branch. Adán–half-drowned, near-starved, and utterly spent–could only call out his father’s name before physical and spiritual exhaustion pulled him firmly into sleep’s embrace.


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