I first met the woman a month ago at the voodoo shop. She had been locking up the store, and I could sense her power from across the Rue Royal. She was practically glowing with it. This was no retail hack, she was the real thing. Why she was slumming in the Quarter, I had no idea. I carefully crossed the street, dodging in and out of the tourists drunken legs and cautiously approached the woman, whose name was Serafina. She stopped and looked around suspiciously when I plucked the fact from her head, confirming her sensitivity and power. She looked down at me, and our green eyes locked with one another. In that moment, I felt time stop.
“Who are you?” she asked with her mind.
“You know who I am. Look,” I said silently. I showed her a vision of a courtroom with wigged judges and angry villagers screaming, “Witch!” and pointing with their ignorance at innocent women and girls. I showed her another of three women hanging by their necks. Another vision came of two silly pre-teen girls fainting and accusing their neighbor of cursing them. The hysteria, the panic, the horror. And in every scene I fed into Serafina’s mind, I was there in the background, licking a paw or grooming myself in my unconcerned attitude.
“Tituba?!” she asked out loud, forgetting herself.
I turned my back to her and motioned for her to follow me with my tail.
We walked together to San Luis Cemetery. It was private, it was dark, and I felt at home near the tomb of Marie Laveau. As we walked, I answered her questions. “No, I am not a familiar. I am Tituba, the only real witch that existed during the Salem witch trials. Yes, I am always in the form of a cat now unless emergency dictates me to appear human or otherwise. I find I can get around and survive much easier as a black cat. I am nearly invisible in the shadows and undetected for what I am in the daytime. Much of the work I perform is still illegal in this day and age, so I don’t have to worry about prison. I had enough of that in 1692 to last a lifetime. You can hear me because you, too, I presume, are a most powerful witch.”
We arrived at the cemetery, which was locked up tight. I jumped to the top of the thick high brick wall that surrounded the entire property. Serafina scoffed, “Well, that’s easy for you to do. What about me?”
I looked at the girl disdainfully. “Show me what you can do. If you want through that gate bad enough, you’ll get through it.”
I watched her file through the options in her head. I sensed that she was about to take the easy way out by breaking the locks with her mind, but then she closed her eyes and got very quiet. She appeared inside the wall without having to take a step. She looked at me and grinned, clearly pleased with herself.
I nodded my head at her. “Very good. Disapparating. A nice tool to have.”
“I never did that before,” she said excitedly. “I didn’t know I could.”
“I suspect, my dear, that you’re going to find that you’ve got many gifts you are unaware of.”
We meandered through the cemetery and settled on top of a low, flat tomb. Serafina pulled a sandwich out of her tote bag. “I’m sorry, I don’t really know the correct etiquette here. Want some?” She held the sandwich out to me.
I smiled and waved a paw. “No, thank you. I much prefer the kill. My question to you is, why are you working at that tourist trap hack shop?”
Serafina pulled her right foot under her left leg. “It’s a front. I make enough money to pay the bills selling spells and fortunes. My mother is a mamba. It’s just hard to file my taxes with ‘Witch’ written for occupation. They don’t seem to like that.” She took a bite of her dinner and resumed with her mouth full. “What brings you to New Orleans?”
“Hunting what? Isn’t there plenty of food in New England?”
“Yes, yes. New England is a fantastic place for a cat to hunt and eat. All that seafood! I don’t really even have to hunt anymore, if I don’t feel like it. You would not believe how much food restaurants throw out every day. No, I’m stalking something larger. The last known descendant of the Salem trial judges just moved here. Ironic, isn’t it? For a family who persecuted witchcraft to end up in one of the last known areas in the country where it’s still openly practiced?”
Serafina swallowed audibly. “And what are you going to do once you find this person?”
It took a while for Serafina to get on board with the plan, and truthfully, I didn’t need her. I had grown to like the girl, though, and it was nice to be able to teach her a different form of magic other than the voodoo she had been groomed on. She soaked up everything I could give and wanted more. And once she started learning about Johnathan Winthrop online, she decided for herself that he was not the nicest person. He was an egomaniac, posing for photos with his shirt off and all but naked. There was a line of women he’d gone through a mile long, and he was nasty in his comments.
We were preparing curses and collecting ingredients when she asked, “Remind me again why we can’t just go into his apartment and slit his throat?”
“Several reasons. First, I’m not a common criminal. Second, I don’t want this to be pinned on a common criminal. Slitting his throat would be easy. If I were in a hurry and felt like there was an immediate danger to one of our own, I might opt for that. But I’ve been waiting centuries to send the last of his bloodline to hell, so I want to make it count. Plus, I want to send a message.” I stood up on the table, stretching my front legs in front of me.
“And what message would that be?” she asked, grinding down a dried plant with a mortar and pestle.
“Don’t fuck with witches.”
On Halloween night, we were ready. I had been following Johnathan for the past several days, learning his patterns and his plans for this evening. Magic is always easier when the veil between worlds is thin, and Halloween was the ideal timing.
When I showed up at the voodoo shop to meet Serafina, I was surprised when she opened the door dressed as a black cat. “Nice costume,” I purred.
“I decided to dress as my favorite witch.”
I had to admit, I was more than a little flattered. I twined between her feet and said, “Let’s get to work.”
We found Johnathan on a balcony at the bar on Bourbon Street where he had arranged to meet his friends. As per his style, he was shirtless and wearing very tight, short black shorts and a black mask covering his eyes. He had a ton of beaded necklaces draped around his neck.
“Ugh, could he be any tackier?” Serafina asked aloud when we caught sight of him. She was carrying me so no one would step on my tail. The crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder. The smell of sticky sweet alcohol, vomit, and body odor was cloying.
“Watch talking to me out loud. People might think you’re crazy,” I reminded her.
“Are you kidding? We’re in New Orleans. People might worry if I wasn’t talking to myself,” she laughed. A couple who hadn’t had enough to drink yet walked by and gave her a strange look. “Boo!” she said as she lurched toward them. They quickened their pace.
“Focus. We need to get his attention so we can make physical contact with him.”
We joined the group of woman below the balcony begging for beads. There were more breasts here than I cared to see in a lifetime. Serafina caught Johnathan’s eye and brought him into her like a tractor beam. “Let me see your tits!” he hollered at her. She coyly shook her head and beckoned him to come down with her finger. He said something in his friend’s ear who was standing beside him and promptly left the balcony. In a minute, he was on the street. He smelled like he had bathed in cologne. “Hi. I saw you from the balcony. I like your costume,” he said.
“Oh, my God, is he this dumb, or is it the compulsion?” Serafina asked me silently.
“Probably a little of both,” I answered.
“So, do you wanna get outta here? Go somewhere quiet?” he asked.
“How about asking my name first, dickweed?” Serafina said.
I extracted my claws into her arm gently. “Stop it. We don’t want to lose him.”
“He’s under compulsion. I could kick him in the nuts and he wouldn’t go anywhere,” she thought.
“Oh, right," he said, "yeah. So what’s your name?”
“Tituba,” Serafina said.
Underneath the zombie-like look in his eyes, something like recognition registered for a split second and then disappeared. Good. I wanted him to know who would be delivering his death to him tonight.
“Cool name. I’m Johnathan.”
“I know,” Serafina purred. She was doing so well.
“You do, huh? How do you know me? You follow my Insta, or something?”
“Something like that.”
“Awesome. So, you wanna go somewhere, let me buy you a drink?”
“Why don’t we stay right here for now? I’ve got some beads of my own for you.” Serafina slipped the piece of rope that hung Sarah Goode three hundred and thirty years ago out of her jacket pocket and placed it around his neck.
“That’s not beads. What’s this?” he asked, fingering the rope.
“It’s the rope that one of the women was hung with during the Salem witch trials. Your ancestor sentenced her to death, and now we are sentencing you.”
The rope had been boiled in a strong potion, but the activator was in Serafina’s lipstick. She kissed him hard, and I watched him melt into her. When she released him, he wore a goofy smile covered with red lipstick.
“You’re a weird one, but I dig it!” he laughed. He cleared his throat. “So how about that drink? Or we could skip it and just go back to my place.”
“Oh, we’re gonna skip that drink, alright,” Serafina said. She took a step back in anticipation.
Johnathan started to cough. The rope tightened itself around his neck. He started to choke and pulled at the rope, but he couldn’t get his fingers between it and his neck. As the rope continued to cut off his air supply, Johnathan’s face turned red and then purple. He was frantic and tried bumping into the people in the crowd around him. They just laughed and told him what a great makeup job he had. He fell to his knees. The whites of his eyes turned red as the blood vessels popped. His tongue, thick and purple, hung from his mouth before he fell over, dead.
Serafina looked down at the dead body. “See? I told you we’d be skipping that drink. Now why don’t you show me your tits?” She put me down on the ground, and I urinated on Johnathan’s head before we left the French Quarter.