The Heart Of The Matter – Part 5

Considering the matter he realized his unease had to do with the way the man had so openly studied him at the bar. Something about his eyes had been unnerving. Realizing that Alfred was awaiting a response he took another sip of brandy and spoke.

“Well, if you need me to do this Alfred, then I suppose I’ll go. I do hope you’re on the guest list also?”

“Oh yes, James. The three of us will dine together. I think you’ll find it a unique experience.”

“How so?”

Alfred waved his hand and shook his head. Taking a sip of his brandy he gazed into the fire. It took James a couple of minutes to realize Alfred wasn’t going to answer the question. It only served to unnerve him further but he held his tongue.

They sat in silence for several minutes, Alfred looking as though he were dreaming, James fair bursting to ask again what he might expect of the dinner he had agreed to attend. He took a different tack instead.

“So you say this man…I’m sorry, you haven’t told me his name. He’s a shaman of some sort?”

Alfred seemed startled. “Oh, sorry, I was ruminating. Yes, he is the local shaman. A very important man around these parts. His name is Nasio.”

James thought about the things he had read about the people of the Caribbean, especially the Carib. It was his understanding that they had a long history of cannibalism, yet Alfred had said that wasn’t true. Something was making him uneasy. He decided to risk further questions.

“Alfred, I hope it won’t cause offence but I’m curious about the subject that I apparently caused a ruckus with back at the bar. When I made a reference to a colourful history I was, of course, referring to cannibalism. Did I understand you correctly, the Carib, or…what was the name you used? They weren’t cannibals?”

“They call themselves the Kalinago, James. As I told you at the bar, the matter of their history is contentious at best, especially among the Kalinago themselves. I didn’t say they weren’t cannibals, actually, I said they weren’t cannibals in the common sense of the word.”

Alfred turned back to gazing at the fire and sipping his brandy. James was at a loss to know how he should proceed. It seemed to him that Alfred had not finished his declaration and he could only wonder if Alfred was being deliberately evasive on the question or if he felt that he had made his point in full.

He waited to see what would eventuate but Alfred seemed content with what he doubtless felt was a comfortable silence between them. He decided there would be plenty of time to speak further of these matters the following day and changed the subject.

“Alfred, do you mind if I ask what is you do with your time these days?”

Alfred stirred from his reverie. “I’m a professor dear boy. I teach at the local university. History and English for the most part, though I fill in as a substitute in other subjects as the need arises.”

James was pleased. “Ah, as I suspected when I first laid eyes on you then. The tweeds and all you know.”

Alfred chuckled. “Yes, I suppose I look the part, eh? I’ve been an academic all my life. Moved to this island near on thirty years ago. Never a regret.”

He rose from the leather wingback he was in and put his glass down.

“My good man, if you’ll allow me to take my leave I feel the need of sleep. Allow me to show you to your room.”

He showed James to a guest room on the first floor and told him where he could find towels and such and then bid him a good night. James retired soon after and fell into an uncomfortable sleep.

Part 6 Tomorrow

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