Friday, November 03, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch" -Part Three


Vogel crossed the bridge, passed the cathedral, pausing for a few minutes on the island, to watch two bus loads of German tourists disembark and line up for a tour. A young French nun, speaking German, began a history lesson on the cathedral and he tarried under the trees to listen to her. When she finished, he continued his march to the left bank, where he walked a hundred yards along the Seine, before he turned into the Place Triangle.

Once in the Place he sniffed the air and smelled hundreds of nests in the old trees of the park and noted that the birds-the ravens, rooks, and crows-were away, flying about the city, scavenging for food.

He walked slowly down the park’s gravel paths, hoping for Branwen to appear.

Vogel didn’t know what she was exactly but he imagined her as the spirit of the Place, the mistress of the birds. All he really knew was that she inhabited the park, in some form, and the birds belonged to her. Sometimes he believed she was a bird herself.

He remembered an old Netsilik Eskimo origin story that said that in the beginning the world was dark and at that time men and animals existed in the darkness and they spoke to one another and mated with one another, not knowing if their mate was animal or human. Animals could shift their shape to human and humans could become animals. Animals and men were one and both spoke freely to the gods. When the light appeared they separated according to their kind but by then some humans were part animal and some animals were part human. Over time many forgot their origins and fell into a great forgetting.

Vogel suspected that Branwen and her twin brother, Brandon, were ancient animal people. He also believed that Branwen was very old, as old as the earth itself, although she liked to speed around Paris on a red Italian motor scooter and appeared to be a twenty year old Parisian.

If he were to catch the bruja, he would need her help. The problem with her was that she appeared when she wanted and where she wanted. There was never anyway to contact her, no trick, no address, no prayer, and no call. More often than not she was traveling with her twin, Brandon, following the memory lines of the earth, looking for sacred places that the Christians, Jews, or the Moslems had not covered with a church, synagogue, or mosque.

Vogel walked the whole length of the Park but he could not pick up any scent of her. He turned toward the buildings on the south side of the Place Triangle and crossed the street, walking slowly, tapping his cane on the concrete.

Felix Beinix was serving a coffee to a customer sitting at a table in front of the café. When he saw Vogel, he waved and walked toward him with his free hand outstretched.

“My old friend,” he said, “have you come for lunch.”

“Of course, why do you think I would walk from the Marais.”

“You should rent a place here. I have a nice apartment on the fourth floor, facing the east.”

“If I lived here I would have to have a view of the Park.”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sorry, there is nothing available now.”

“Then I will have to stay in the Marais.”

“Do you want to eat outside today?”

“That sounds right, yes, outside.”

Marc de la Croix, a history professor at the Sorbonne, sitting inside next to the window, waved at Vogel and Vogel smiled and waved back. De la Croix rose from his chair and came outside to shake Vogel’s hand.

“My friend, I just read your book on Georg Löwe. It is a masterpiece.”

“That’s high praise coming from you.”

Beinix pulled out a chair for Vogel. As Vogel sat down, de la Croix stood over him talking. “I am just at the point where the Russian shaman takes him into the woods. Is it true, this story?”

“From everything that I have been able to determine, it is true.”

“Your notes indicate that you went to Siberia and met both the shaman and his son.”

“I spent four months in the village where Löwe was imprisoned and I talked with the people there. I then traveled north into the forest where I met the shaman and his son.”

“Strange. It is a very strange story.”

“Strange but true. The shaman recounted the story to me exactly as Löwe wrote it in The Siberian Idyll.”

Vogel suspected that de la Croix wanted an invitation to lunch but Vogel did not want to talk shop with the professor of history; instead, he wanted to think and to ask Felix if he knew where either Branwen or Brandon was at the moment.

“Do you think the shaman read The Siberian Idyll?”

“The man did not speak Russian or German so his son interpreted for me. It is highly unlikely that he has read The Siberian Idyll or any other book for that matter.”

“Maybe someone told him the story.”

“It’s possible but I prefer to believe Löwe and the shaman.”

Vogel wanted de la Croix to go away but he didn’t seem to get the message. Felix returned with the menu and de la Croix simply moved out of the way for a moment and continued to ask questions as Vogel looked at the menu and then ordered the rabbit.

In the distance, Vogel heard the sound of a scooter and he noticed a red one turning the corner and heading for the café. It was Branwen and she stopped at the curb near Vogel’s table. She wore a red helmet, a black linen shirt, and black woolen pants. A black cashmere sweater was tied around her shoulders. She pulled the scooter up on its stand and then pulled off her helmet.

She smiled and waved at Felix and shook de la Croix’s hand, as she moved toward Vogel. He was rising to greet her when she placed her right hand on his shoulder and pushed him back into his seat. She then kissed him three times on the cheek and took the seat opposite him.

“I am sorry to be late but I had pressing business on the other side of town.”

Felix presented her a menu, which she looked at cursorily and ordered the rabbit and a glass of the Lalande de Pomerol. De la Croix stood awkwardly behind her.

She turned and said, “Marc, you are still here. If you don’t mind I have some business to discuss with Dutch.”

He bowed to her and then returned to his table inside the restaurant.

“He is in love with me,” she said, turning to Vogel.

“What can you do?”

“Exactly,” and then she laughed.

She switched to English and her thick Irish accent always surprised him.

“I heard your call. How can I be of service?”

Vogel told her about Coyote and Snake and the lost pup. She listened carefully and said, “After lunch return to your apartment. I will contact you there if I find anything. It seems that she has placed a spell on both the pup and herself to prevent Coyote from tracking her.”

“Why would she come to Paris?” he asked later, as they ate.

“I agree with Coyote. I think she is one of our witches. She could be really old-one of ours that migrated to the New World with the Spanish or the French.”

“Why steal the pup?”

“Because she can and because she has a score to settle with the old man. I don’t care who you are, you don’t let a man use you the way he did with impunity.”

“Use her?”

She smiled and said, “I know that she started it but she intended to end it as well. He pulled a fast one on her, had his way, and then hit the road. She is paying him back. It’s sexual politics bruja style.”

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