The Heart Of The Matter – Part 4

They climbed into and old but well-kept Mercedes 450SL and Alfred kept up a line of light banter as they climbed upwards through the hills along twisting, turning roads. James’ heart raced as they negotiated hairpin turns. Alfred took no notice familiar as he was well used to the road.

Arriving at an impressive stone house at the top of the island they hurried inside. James felt like kissing the ground.

“Now then, James, there should be a nice fire in the hearth in the den. What would you say to a brandy and cigar while we dry off and get warm?”

“Sounds wonderful Alfred. Thanks again for you hospitality. A grand place you have here. Do you live alone?”

“I do, but I have a cook and a maid that work for me and sometimes stay over.”

Returning to the hearth with two brandies he handed one to James.

“To your health good sir.”

They settled in and James waited for Alfred to get around to what he wanted to impart. It didn’t take him long.

“James, about the events at the bar tonight, I know you must have been quite shocked. I have to tell you that everything that happened was connected. The fight that you witnessed, well, it had to do with you I’m afraid.”

He sipped his brandy and waited for James’ reaction. His face remained placid but James could tell he was keen to see what would come of his declaration.

“I see. You mean my remarks when I first came in set off a chain of events, is that it?”

“Quite. Everyone in the place was…how should I put this? On edge. You see; the Kalinago are a proud people. They feel very maligned by the stories about them that date back to the first visit of Christopher Columbus.”

“Columbus, eh?”

“Yes. You see it was he that gave them the name Carib, a Kalinago word that means person, from whence we get the word cannibal.”

James shifted in his seat. “So when I mentioned their colourful history…”

“Precisely. It’s a sore subject with them. I don’t know what your study of the history of this part of world led you to think but The Kalinago were never cannibals per se.”

James drank deeply and considered what he should say next. Alfred’s steady gaze unnerved him.

“Mind telling me what, exactly, the fight was about?”

“Well, I’m afraid one of them was a bit of a sore head and wanted to lure you outside and kill you, old man. The other didn’t want any dishonour brought on the bar and told him it wasn’t going to happen.”

James took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“I take it the one with murder in mind is the one that died?”

“Indeed. You’re a very lucky man in that regard.”

“Alfred, mind if I ask about the old man who spent his time staring at me? You seem to know him and I know he discussed me with you. I’m curious as to what that was all about.”

“I was just about to broach that subject James. You are correct; he was quite fascinated with you, more so after the fight. It has to do, of course, with your comments early on.”

“I guess I really stuck my foot in it.”

Alfred chuckled and then assumed a serious look.

“That you did. The man in question, James, is a pyjai, a shaman, or medicine man if you will. He is a respected elder, a very important man in the community. He asked me to invite you to stay with me.”

Alfred took out his pipe and lit it, then leaned in and seemed to consider his words before continuing.

“He wants you to come to his place tomorrow night for dinner, James. I must ask that you do this. It’s a very serious matter.”

James stared into the fire for a long moment. Trepidation set in.

Part 5 Tomorrow

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