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No part of this poetry should be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author, Joe DiMino, who retains all rights: contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"Dancing Can Be Deadly" (another Halloween Tale)
by Joe DiMino
As a psychologist for some thirty years, logic-paramount to the profession one would thing-should be a dominant quest of mine. Yet, an interest in the occult, which started back in medical school, much to my surprise and that of others, has been my ongoing exploration.
I have myriad volumes on the various related subject; and am considered an authority in my own right-and have been called in on more than several occasions to help the New York City Police as an adviser on some rather bizarre cases, where practice of the supernatural was the suspected protagonist.
Looking back over the years, a particularly strange case I recall. Not having chosen "Strange" to describe arbitrarily-but using such definition in the strictest sense; for till this present day I have yet to logically explain away many of the puzzling circumstances, well documented by generally rational individuals besides myself. In fact, on that fateful evening, when asked to assist, I had sensed the phone about to ring beforehand, with genuine intuition as to the exact conversation to follow:
I arrived home after an extremely hectic day; and settled down in my study behind my desk to do some necessary patient' charting. My schedule had been, four schizoids, two manic-depressives swinging me back and forth like a Yoyo till complete exhaustion; then there was Mr. Gladestone, a paranoid encyclopedia salesman, convinced that alien pulp-worms were plotting to take over his empire. Startled from paperwork, my attention was abruptly directed to the evening newspaper, when the rubber-band used for rolling by the delivery-boy had snapped revealing the front page in a rather spectacular way. Immediately I began reading the gruesome details of the "Saw Throat" murders; so coined by a sensational press due to the singular manner and method of the killings. The victims heads were missing-all having been savagely amputated at the Adam's Apple by a crude, toothed instrument, type of which yet to be determined. Oddly enough, it was just then that the phone rang, the topic of the conversation to follow about the very same subject.
"This is Detective Lambert?"
"Drop the Detective, Dale (Dale Love, captain of the Detective Division for the 112th precinct). We've had too much to do about most everything over the years to be so formal".
"There's been another!"
"Sore-throat Murder?" I replied without hesitation.
"Within the past hour. A female torso found alongside the Grand Central Parkway, in some tall weeds, just off the Main Street entrance, in Flushing. Her torso sealed in a plastic garbage bag."
"Missing like all the others."
A short while later I was at the city morgue, examining the body in the presence of Dale and the coroner.
"What do you think Roy?" Dale impatiently asked. The press had been giving him a rough time; and with good reason: the city was shaking with panic. Women feared to leave their apartments without a male escort, equally fearful to remain home alone.
"I'd say in her late teens," if venturing an educated guess, based on the her firm looking breasts, and the absence of loose tissue on her neck and beneath her chin. The coroner nodded in agreement. Then my attention was drawn to some odd symbols painted in, what appeared to be, blood (the Coroner confirming my assessment) on the insides of both her thighs, just below some rather hideous bruises.
"Sexually assaulted?" I asked.
"Brutalized!" the coroner replied, Dale clenched his fists.
I made careful drawings of the symbols, also noting the obvious: The victim, a black female, trim figure, appearing quite athletic-possibly a dance student-but there were no distinguishing scars or physical anomalies to further help with identification. I left.
A short while later I was back in my study searching through an old volume. That's it! I exclaimed, as I compared my renderings to an image in the chapter on Voodoo. And that's what brought me the following evening to Madison Square Garden. There was an exhibition of West Indian Folk-dance.
Many folk-dances are interpretations of religious mores and customs. As is the case with West Indians. Voodoo, a poignant topic of quiet discussion-certain daily society, though some practices outlawed, are yet replete with subtle references.
After the exhibition, my reputation made it easy for me to get backstage. I approached a female member of the troop. She was stunning even from a distance. Golden-brown-complexion, with a mixture of Oriental and Caucasian features. As I approached, her eyes riveted to mine; their intense look beckoning while warning to be guarded. But before I was close enough to introduce myself, the leader, I presumed for his air of authority, stepped between us.
"May I be of assistance?"
Momentarily distracted, when I looked back over his shoulder, she was gone; exited on her own or quietly ushered away in the crowd: Besides the troop, which consisted of some thirty dancers, there were press, stagehands, other patrons who, like myself, had exhibited great interest during the performance, and come backstage wanting to learn more. My attention went back to the leader of the troop. He was an enormous black male; with massive arms, developed from playing the drums for hours on end I would suspect. His deep gaze bottomless, eyes the color of coal. I imaged them to see my most secret thoughts-unnerving to say the least. His answers to my probing questions curious; weaving replies with obvious elements of Voodoo mysticism. When I showed him the drawing, my crude but accurate reproduction of those on the thighs of the most recent victim, there was no attempt to hide a scowl.
"Where did you get this?" he questioned. Although his tone was threatening, his accent was none-the-less musical therefore fascinating.
"Then you've seen them before!" I replied.
"Veve!" he exclaimed. "Black Voodoo!" he added, in an overly respectful tone. "Years ago," he went on, "when yet quite young, my grandfather told me stories about our island; and how it was wise, during Sabots, not to go out after dark. Most Voodoo is good. But Black Voodoo-a devilish affair! Not to be scoffed at. Followers would comb the island at night, looking for sacrifices. The fate of captives, poor souls foolish enough to have ridiculed their faith, were used as human offerings-to appease the "Death Loa (Spirit of Death)". Then he smiled. "But that was long ago, and if the practice was more than mere myth, covens were probably small, and their evil influence grossly exaggerated-a good way to keep youngsters home after dark. Voodoo today," he insisted, "is mostly dancing. People acting out sexual fantasies; perhaps imagining consummation of a great love affair-in pantomime emulating acts of violence against perceived rivals and enemies. A good way of lessening dangerous emotions to reasonable intensity, allowing for amiable solution through non violent cooperative discourse." He further explained, that though he has spent most of his life in Nassau, in addition he attended school in Europe-Cambridge, in fact, on a scholarship; and has a masters in abnormal psyche. Voodoo, he insisted, could be equated with western "Primal" or "Scream" therapy, and the Eastern and Far-Eastern forms of meditation; Voodoo, he insisted, is a curious blend of sophisticated modern culture spiced with delightful flavors of African superstition.
After having dinner with Dale, during which time he was brought up to date, I returned home by myself.
Upon exiting the elevator, on the third floor, starting toward my apartment, ahead I could see a female backing away from my door. Somehow I sensed it was the same dancer from the Garden, the one I had approached earlier in the evening, wanted to speak with, but mysteriously vanished before giving me opportunity. She continued to retreat down the hallway; and after turning to enter the elevator, upon seeing me while fleeing, she exclaimed, quite terrified:
"Talisman! Gheber Loa! Spirit of Death!" Her body fearfully shook as the door closed.
Adhered to my door I found a small, strangely painted canvas sack-about the size of a fist; with a crude looking, wood crucifix stuck in the top. That night, before retiring, I held the Talisman in my hand; and while toying with the representative object, in my mind I went over the profile of a Cultist. He's generally an individual who feels misunderstood, rejected by society. Who is much more comfortable defining people as amalgams, for it is far more difficult to reject and harm individuals. He readily gravitates toward societies feigning nonjudgmental acceptance, regardless of evil tenants or philosophies. That makes him exceedingly dangerous with sufficient motivation-homicidal!
I retired with many questions swimming though my tired brain. Awakened on numerous occasions by numbness in my right arm, and a recognition of slight palsy in my left leg; a general sense of decaying health, a sense of helplessness with impending doom. Through sheer will, or, perhaps, simply profound stubbornness, often having been accused of such, I survived the night.
In the morning I was awakened by a call from Doc Clevale, the leader of the dance company performing at the garden. Excitedly informed me of his acquiring additional information of great interest, however, the nature of his discovery required profound discretion for revealing esoteric secrets put his life in grave danger. I was told an address on the lower Eastside-a rundown hotel in not the best of neighborhoods, which should in itself having given my pause. And was told to come alone-and to hurry; which I did, though I felt barely physical strength enough. The palsy that effected my limbs seemed now to have progressed throughout my entire body, causing my breathing to become labored.
"Who's there?" Clevale called from inside.
"Lambert," I replied; and following his direction let myself in. The lights were out. Clevale seated across the room, moonlight entering through the window making him appear a spectral vision. His eyes most of all glared at me from out the darkness, making them seem headless orbs floating toward me. Hypnotic, swirling black pupils, the whites which were red as hot coals, prompting a feeling of severe nausea as they closed distance between us.
He held a familiar object in his right hand, close to his chest, over the heart.
"Trouble with your arm?" he asked. For following the temporary pause, palsy had also again begun in my right leg, and was spreading quickly up my entire side nearing my heart. Fear mounting, my only thought now was to reach Clevale, and yank the horrid doll from his maniacal hands. He then squeezed the legs harder, causing me to instantly fall to the floor, well short of my intended target.
"You'll find that you can no longer speak nor call for help," he boasted, laughed tauntingly. Removing the pin from my tongue and focusing again on the chest area, he continued the assault: "Listen! do you hear it? Your heart swelling to twice its prescribed size." The thump, thump, thumping was becoming a deafening echo. I wondered how the entire hotel did not hear it, a host of good Samaritans, I prayed, soon to come to my aide. No help came.
"Shortly your chest will burst, gushing your meddling life " At that precise moment, interrupting the climactic event, the female dancer of the troop, the same one from the theater and latter seen at my apartment, apparently a powerful priestess in her own right, stepped from the shadows aglow with moonlight. "No! No more killing," she cried out! I was still helpless upon the floor. Clevale began to roar with laughter. Then she raised her hand, pointing a handgun.
"Are you mad?" Clevale warned, "Have you no fear for your soul!" He stood up, preparing to rush her, exhibiting that same air of omnipotence I had come to dread.
"No more killing," she shouted! Defiant of her declaration, Clevale lunged forward. She pulled the trigger, his powerful hands continuing to clutch while she emptied the entire magazine into him.
The rest of the story you probably recall from the newspapers-the dancer's entire confession. She explained how the murder victims were human sacrifices. Although spared the death penalty, upon completion of the trial when handed a life sentence, she informed the judge that her days were already shortly numbered. And not a force on earth could negate such unholy determination.
Using my influence, grateful to the young lady, I convinced the court to allow me to treat her mental state as prison psychologist. And so I did, for several months afterward, reconciled to show my appreciation. One morning she was found dead in her cell-dead and old beyond years-the shriveled, mummified remains of centuries. An autopsy could not determine the cause of death, and rapid deterioration. Perhaps an undetectable poison? As for myself, soon as Clevale had expired I regained my health, almost immediately; and have been well since. To this day I cannot account logically for much of the bizarre that transpired. Had I been drugged and hypnotized, to imagine real mere supernatural suggestion? Some auto response perhaps, due to the influence of a master mentalist? Some Voodoo drug administered me without my knowledge?-As for true spiritualism being at the route of the mystery, the foundation of my profession excludes such naive speculation. And the possibility that I will never have a satisfactory explanation, as the years pass, begins to appear the conclusion I must accept.
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