So, Zobop Bebop is about as done as it’s going to be for a bit. Thus, in an effort to show the transition from Weekly Pitch to prose (and, in preparation for a wild run of self-promotion and eventual self-publication,) here are three sample chapters.
For your mental casting reference, Desamours is played by Forest Whitaker. L’il Sheba’s played by MeShell Ndogeocello. Frankie Five-Angels is played by Christopher Walken at his most restrained.
Beware, bad swears and bad behavior ahead.
Voices of thunder
The gunman didn’t talk much. He drove a roundabout path and dumped his gun and each of the gray pawns in the shadow of a different church before parking in the garage of a half-built high-rise by the harbor.
The cargo elevator moved slowly to the penthouse, gliding past level after level of open floors and flapping plastic sheets. The night breeze chanted and whispered as it moved through the building, hissing warnings and murmuring threats.
Sacred architecture. The Man, whoever he was, had very carefully made the building into some sort of waystation. Good way to get the word first. Better way to get burned, if you weren’t very careful.
Desamours was led into a small, spartan room where a white-haired man sat, sketching loops and arcs onto parchment with a worn paintbrush.
“I was surprised to hear that you were still up and moving,” the white-haired man said, staring into the middle distance and pointing toward a chair in the center of an elaborate protective circle. “Not many of us from back in the day still above ground.”
“You look good, Frankie,” the bokkor said. “Righteous living’s done well for you.”
Frankie Five-Angels smiled. It didn’t move much past his lips.
Desamours remembered Francis Pentangeli as a punk with a gambling racket based on Enochian numerology and a daemon in his ear who kept him one step ahead of a bullet. Now, dressed in raw silk and linen, signet on his pinky, he had the well-fed, comfortable look of a don’s court sorcerer. Nice work if you could get it.
“Talked to a friend of mine,” Five-Angels said, hand moving smoothly as he looked Desamours up and down. “I hear that you put together a crew, started some shit, raised some heat.”
“Not me, Frankie,” the bokkor said, hands raised. “I’m out of the game.” Five-Angels raised his hand, still writing.
“Talked to another Friend,” he said. “This Friend, I trust. I’m told that you’re digging around, asking questions. Starting shit. Raising heat.” He looked down at the paper, raised his eyebrows and stood.
“This thing of ours, it’s quiet. Easy,” he said. “Mostly because you and the rest of the savages ground yourselves to dust and let it become… quiet. Last thing I need is you staking a claim. Starting shit. Raising heat.”
Desamours saw the uncertainty in Five-Angels’ eyes. Noted it.
“No claim, boss,” he said. “Just want to clear my name and put it in the wind.”
“The wind speaks to me,” Five-Angels said, folding the paper into a precise square. “In voices of thunder it speaks. Know what it says?
He smiled again, flipping the paper between his fingers once, twice and gone.
“Skip town, hoodoo man. Mumbo-Jumbo, god of the Congo, ain’t welcome in my city. I abjure thee the fuck hence.”
Out of Fight
The waiting was easy enough.
Desamours sat at a corner table, far enough from the stage to show respect but close enough to draw attention. He tipped steadily and well. He breathed in the scent of cigarette smoke, sweat and baby oil, watched girls spin and writhe on the stage, nursed his coffee and waited for her.
He’d followed the old forms, hoping to find her in a nostalgic mood. New suit with a flash of cotton-candy pink silk in the pocket. Shaved with rosewater. Candy and flowers in the chair next to him. Softer than a pimp, by far. He looked like a mark, like a lovesick deacon throwing the building fund at some sweet young thing with eyes like a shark and thighs made of coiled steel.
She strode to the table with a presence that threatened to burn through the body of the half-starved girl she’d chosen to wear. She looked down at Desamous coldly.
“Swiv mwen, nonm chassés,” Erzuli je Rouj said, holding out her hand. Follow me, hunted man.
He followed, feeling the bass line of the music repeated in her pulse.
Erzuli je Rouj led Desamours to a row of doors and pushed him into the first booth. He sat in an overstuffed chair, feeling surprisingly out of his depth as he looked at the young girl swaying in front of him to barely audible music. Erzuli je Rouj had chosen a white girl, thin blonde hair in haphazard pigtails and tattoos on her neck and arms. She looked at him and bared her teeth in a near-smile as she motioned to an ice bucket near the chair.
“Pour our champagne,” she said, sitting on his lap. “You buy your time, hunted man.”
Desamours opened and poured, and Erzuli je Rouj dropped four tablets into her glass before drinking.
“Ro-hyp-nol,” the loa said, rolling the syllables off of her tongue as her eyes rolled back. “This bitch fights, and I don’t want her fighting right now.”
She straddled him as the music rose, hips twitching to the beat. He watched her face, seeing muscles go slack and a string of drool slip from the side of her mouth while the drugs kicked in.
“Better,” she said. “You called. You came to my house. What is it you want?”
“Understanding, sister,” he said, trying not to grit his teeth. “Teenie Belno. Her death’s been put on my door.”
Erzuli je Rouj smiled, arched her back, twisted. “That’s nothing to me, hunted man,” she said, cheek twitching. “La Petit‘s not under my arm.”
“She was,” Desamours said, swaying despite himself. He felt a victim’s scream at the edge of his throat, heard the rattle of plastic sheets and the sound of deep, cold water. “Ou te chanje, sou kote.” You’ve changed, mistress, he said, trying to pull out of her wake.
“World’s changed, old man,” she said, running a cold hand down his chest. She gasped, coughed, looked at him with eyes effortlessly rolled back. “La Petit dirtied herself. She was of no use to me, so I sent her on her way and she walked down the wrong alley. Nothing to me, cheri.”
“Dirtied herself? How?”
A rattling gasp. “Does it matter?” Another. “This bitch is out of fight, cherie. Too.” She breathed deeply, gulping air. “Bad.”
“Sister, if you don’t mind I’ll be on my way,” he said, starting to stand. The loa moved her hand to his shoulder, squeezed.
“She was no use, but you could be,” she said, still. “You wanna come under my arm, hunted man? Show you a good time, find a girl who’s not as weak as this bitch.”
He smiled, stood.
“I’m sorry, sister,” he said. “I made a promise to a girl, and I’m not that bad a man.”
He walked out as the body slumped to the side.
The regulars quickly stopped coming to Roro’s.
Cursed, they’d say, talking about the place. Over his head, they’d say, talking about Roro.
They wouldn’t talk about Desamours, who’d taken to sitting at a table outside of the cafe, smoking and reading the racing form, coco macaque in the seat next to him.
The regulars saw him lay out playing cards, burn cigars, spill rum under his seat and toss scraps to an old, blind back-alley mongrel that slept under the table. Roro brought him cup after cup of coffee, ran errands for him, shrugged and grinned and rubbed the back of his neck.
Poor Roro, they’d say. In over his head.
The bokor was following his PO’s advice. Routine helped with the transition. He’d rebuilt his old honfour in the basement, brought in a black goat and heard Ti-Jean Petro smacking his lips at the sacrifice. Roro was running the streets for him again, getting the lay of the land, trying to get Bebe’s scent. The readings grew increasingly ordered as the days progressed as word began to spread that Narcisse Desamours was open for business.
Staking a claim. Starting shit. Raising heat.
Three days in, Desamours was watching cigar smoke disappear in the still air, eaten by one of the mindless ghost-fragments fluttering around the place like gnats in high summer. He heard the cherry-red Brougham drive up the suddenly empty street before he saw it, felt misplaced wards sawing against each other and sat up, watching the newest player and her entourage make her entrance.
The diabolist was short, hair trimmed to stubble, curves made architectural with dense muscle. She was dressed in a wine-red suit with a diamond-encrusted padlock hanging from a thick chain around her neck, a Seal of Solomon on a second chain beneath it. She wore a signet ring on a blocky, scarred-knuckled hand, snakes twisting on its face.
Script curved over the left side of her face in neat rows. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils,” the tattoo said. “Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils.”
She came with two escorts, jittering and twitching with the promise of mayhem. One, a lush young woman, left nothing to the imagination in stiletto heels, leather hot pants and a ripped tank top. Desamours saw old scars up and down her neck, NO NO NO NO freshly carved across her face under rough-knotted hair. The other one, a young man with lips sewed back to reveal filed teeth, hooked nails clicking on the sidewalk as he paced behind his mistress. He walked bent, crooked-legged like something uncomfortable on two legs.
Striver, he thought as she sat, smiling at him with iron-capped incisors. Put on her Sunday best so she’d look like a player. At least he warranted that sort of respect.
“What can I do for you, young blood?” Desamours said, pushing his chair back and reaching for the coco macaque. The diabolist’s escorts stiffened, the female moaning softly as the male snarled.
She raised her hands, still smiling, showing dark, tattooed crosses. “Bene, Cool Breeze. It ain’t like that.”
“What’s it like, then?”
“Name’s L’il Sheba,” the diabolist said, putting her hands slowly on the table. “Words on the wind told me you was reaching out, and I wanted to offer a hand early, see you land on your feet.”
“I do for myself,” Desamours said, hearing the prison hard-sell in the young woman’s voice. “Learned that inside.”
“This ain’t that, Cool Breeze,” Sheba said, serious. “This an invite. We makin’ something in the Pit, think you could fit right in.”
“I’ve been gone a long while, young blood,” Desamours said. “Don’t know from the Pit.”
“The Pit,” she said, warming to her pitch. “Open land in Southeast. Five high-rise projects and the low-rises in between. They burned in ’91, in the riots. Door opened for three days, walk-ins left and right, and then BAM! Shut. Everybody out the goddamn pool.”
Sheba grinned. “Them that got left behind, they didn’t know what to do. Trapped in dying meat, no way to return. They started to beef, brought the old beefs back from Below. Morningstar Rangers hit Marrow-Eaters, Marrow-Eaters roll up on the Viscount with Ten Thousand Legs, Crawling Ones jump the Horde of Sharpened Bones. Fight, fuck, rebuild, tear down. You know how they do.”
“Where you fit in, girl?” Desamours frowned, knowing the end of this story but waiting to hear it from her mouth. “Where you want me to fit in with this?”
“You know how they do,” she said, rubbing her hellhound’s neck. “They got needs and they got bodies to trade. They want a little sherm to help them forget, food, that sort of thing.
“It’s open territory, man.” She smiled again, letters bending on her cheek. “No one touches it. I got fifty names in my book, I got clients from uptown want a taste of the dark. I could use someone with some history, give this thing some legs. Make it real sweet for you, Cool Breeze.”
The female strode past her mistress, eyes rolled back. Possessed, Desamours thought to himself. Bred for it. She put a cold hand on his chest, scraped long nails up his neck, purred low in her throat.
“I got you, baby,” Sheba said. “I can cut you a pass with those who’d see you low. Get you a chain all your own. Good life.”
Desamours shook his head. “Don’t think I’m a pen dog, Sheba. I’m too old to learn a new place.”
Sheba stood, her familiars snapping to attention.
“You think on it,” she said, tossing him a sheet of wide-lined notebook paper with a snaky sigil scrawled in heavy black marker before she turned to walk away, familiars trooping obediently behind. “Words on the wind say clock’s ticking for you, Cool Breeze. Better to rule in Hell, baby.”