I was a mark. I was the meal ticket for a nest of borderlines. While surrounded by their darkness, I became privy to their secrets. Calculating the depth and breadth of their lies, or trying to reach the kernel of truth, seemed impossible. Unsolvable. It was too arcane and complex to fathom that which engendered the duping. Once you begin to look, it’s everywhere. This story reveals those secrets as well as what galvanized the darkness. It exposes the hierarchy and how this well-oiled machine is organized, societally. Through my experiences I learned discernment, which I proffer to you. It’s easy to see where the duping ends, but where it begins… ah, that’s the question. Who is duping whom? The unravelling is up to you.
New Orleans, Louisiana, October 6, 2014
The bells in St. Louis Cathedral clanged furiously, with alacrity, calamitously, heightening awareness of the presence and power of the assembly of men in red ties, flanked by cardinals and bishops. Jackson Square was in the cross hairs of secret service sharpshooters on the ready to fire from parapets and rooftops if there appeared to be anything untoward in the Vieux Carre. Judges and lawyers with perfectly coiffed wives or paramours who preened in bright red dresses with matching red lipstick, flooded into the cathedral. The men were glad-handing, the women striking their best angle for paparazzi.
Mafioso, Cosa nostra distillates, looked stereotypical; sunglasses, Italian suits, curving closed-mouth smiles, a satisfied smugness, as if Silvio Berlusconi had scripted their complicity. Vatican City’s message was dictated to decision makers around the world on this day, October sixth, the day of the Red Mass.
Judge Hertzog and his advisor, who was always at his side, the ex-senator most folks in Attaway called Speedy, were in the center of the thrall. Voris, a retired Air Force General, now C.E.O. of Seymour Youth Detention Center, stood beside them, his head bent, listening carefully to the aged politician and judge. They eyed each other in agreement and slowly climbed the steps, entering the famous Basilica. The judge spoke quietly as he ascended: “As our illustrious Governor Edwards was fond of saying, it looks like nothing stands in our way unless we are caught with a dead girl in our bed…”
Speedy, the confidante, finished Voris’ sentence: “Or a live boy.”
The Red Mass dates to the thirteenth century. Its specific purpose is to promulgate the Vatican’s platform for lawyers, judges and elected officials… and, evidently, powerful men with controlling interest in boys’ detention homes throughout the state. They had all received their invitations in envelopes bearing the ornate, dark wood papal seal.
Blood-red tapestries had been taken out of storage. They were used only for this special mass, adorning the entrance and draping the altar. The perfume from sprays of ruby red roses filled the air. The pews were packed.
Security guards and local cops held their own vigil outside, guarding the entrance blocked with barricades, as tourists gawked, pigeons fed, a violinist played, and fortunes were revealed at fold-out tables on the gypsy side of Jackson Square.
“Tarot and palms!” called out a woman at a tiny table with a placard bearing the name Novena, written in calligraphy, as she assessed the others with her eyes. She looked familiar to the old general as he waited at the top of the stairs to be admitted. He squinted in the bright sun, looking in her direction, the gypsy side where she was stationed, and then followed his friends into St. Louis Cathedral.
As the host was raised high a stream of Latin issued forth from the cardinal, proclaiming the transubstantiation. Baby-faced altar boys rang bells in earnest, punctuating the phrases. Unctuous incense made rivulets in the rose-scented air.
Amelia, the tarot card reader, noticed the three men from her home town. She recalled blacker masses, and the underbelly of society into which she had inadvertently stumbled. She turned up a card from the center pile. It was the Tower. A lightning bolt from the black sky strikes, toppling the crown. People fall, upside down, from high places.
I stared into the abyss until it stared or rather leered back at me. I fell in love with a man who was bad. Evil. All the signs were there that something was wrong, but he said, looking deeply into my eyes, that he was telling me the truth, and I forgave reality. I let it blend into the backdrop of illusion, like dogs baying at the moon in the tarot deck. They bark with longing at what they can’t reach, or understand….
It was my third return to Attaway in my adult life. Seth Smith had always appealed to me. He’d been Farmer of the Year. The Mississippi alluvial soil spawned skipped row cotton; his was the first bale in and the heftiest load. He had a perfect ass, was a college kicker, and wore 32 Levi’s starched and tucked into Wolverines. Olive skin and dead sexy. Now, he’d seem more sexy dead. I had a Glock .40 caliber, and I intended to use it.
The trouble began upon my return to Attaway, Louisiana. My friends had a plan to get me into Tulane Medical Center through the emergency room, to get treatment for “edema of unknown etiology.” I had intermittent borderline congestive heart failure, and sudden swelling hit me hard.
My body had been through a lot. Three years earlier, Hollis, my husband of eight years had fallen asleep at the wheel. He’d suffered brain damage from the car wreck and had no emotional memories. Having a broken hip as well, he was on a walker. He could not remember names, children’s birthday parties, or that he had ridden bulls to put himself through college. He recalled business accounts and the number of 18-wheeler loads of lawn furniture his company shipped out to Target each day. But his limbic system was damaged from the injuries to the left side of his head, which had smashed, repeatedly, into the driver’s window at eighty-two miles per hour. The vectors of being airborne at that speed, after leaving the grassy median and hitting the tarmac, plus eight rolls of the vehicle, had also broken his neck.
I had crushing injuries from the car wreck. I received over a hundred units of blood products and was left open from my pubis to sternum for eleven days, in a Propofol-induced coma. My liver was in pieces and I was on life support. My lungs had shut down from ARDS. Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. My three sons were instructed every afternoon, during the I.C.U. visiting hour, to say goodbye to me, and were told there was no reason my heart still beat, except for the fact that I’d been a nationally ranked triathlete before the accident, with a very strong heart. My youngest son Lucky, who was eleven, had grown tired of this litany. He refused to believe I would die, and I was told that he said, “Mom, it’s true about your liver and your broken legs, but your face and teeth are fine. You can come back. Everything is going to be okay.”
We had gone from our amazing life together as a loving, supportive couple and happy family living healthy lives on an eighty-acre peninsula of a lake in our home town, to what we were now: both of us irrevocably damaged from the accident. These days, Hollis struggled to shave, negotiating around his neck brace, one hand on his walker. Tearfully, I read out loud to him a love letter he had written to me in the past.
“Hmm. Doesn’t mean a thing to me. I can’t imagine feeling that way. I sure don’t feel that way now. Listen, do you need…medicine? or should I drop you back off at that place…, what’s it called… the hospital?” His voice was devoid of emotion. He had no memory of the richness of the invisible body of oneness we had breathed life into for eight years.
“Significant shearing of the left parietal lobe,” the neurosurgeon had told us. The same thing the boxer Alexander had suffered defending his W.B.O. World Title. I had watched from Winky Wright’s seat, second row at the MGM Grand in Vegas. Jesus Lopez had pummeled Alexander’s brains loose from their moorings. I was a boxing journalist after the inevitable divorce from Hollis.
I had driven through Mexico alone in my older model Mercedes, touring ten cities to unearth stories about famous Mexican boxers. Or, to escape the feeling of being a ghost while still in a body. My former life had disappeared. My love was gone. Others were crying to me that I had to bury the man I had known and loved. My sons were out of control.
I drove without a map, not speaking the language, only having to ask, “Donde esta Aguascalientes?” or some other locale, and after someone did the pointing, with sincere gratitude I would offer “Muy amable” (very kind). Mexico is a great place to heal.
I had a fluid tumor from the carnage of surgeries, which burst in Mexico. I was taken to the hospital by the fight doctor, in Torreon, where, in a pinch, I was the corner man for Jesus Lopez. The empty spaces in my body — the result of sixteen surgeries — regularly filled up with lymphatic fluid, and sometimes these pockets became infected. My right fallopian tube played double jump rope with my right ureter, as well. I was a mess, filled with scar tissue, but time after time, surgery after surgery, I managed to stay alive.
The hospital bill, diagnosis, cat scan, follow-up visit, and meds came to only ninety-five U.S. dollars. I lost twenty-three pounds in five days as non-serous fluid, chyle, shunted through a superhighway of fallopian tube, 3.3 cm in circumference, and out of my vagina. The body, with its vast intelligence, works hard to heal itself.
I felt so well when the fluid came out, after years of pain and swelling. I felt so light and free that I competed in a race in San Miguel de Allende, and was top female across the finish line (after the cash runners) in a 4.5 miler at 7,000 ft. altitude. Away from my almost adult three sons, I felt marvelous.
The boys and I had left Louisiana and now lived in a beautiful home which abutted a nature preserve, Wild Basin Ledge, in Austin, Texas. The back yard had a creek frequented by deer, which featured two-thousand square feet of decking, and a hot tub. After heavy rains, we had waterfalls. That is where I first fell into the boxing world.
Despite the limits I would set, despite my left hook and my grip on the check book, without a daddy in sight the boys were out of control. All three were good looking and highly intelligent. Renting out our house for a University of Texas frat party as well as other pranks, were everyday occurrences. The house fire that resulted from squirting lighter fluid across my bedroom, aiming at the white marble fireplace was the last straw.
Yet, I recalled other nuances of my existence which had presented their own challenges. I scaled Suicide Cliff to enter the valley that was my home on the east end of Molokai, in Hawaii. Footholds were tiny pukas in black lava rock and Big Jack waves threatened to lick me off and swallow me whole if I incorrectly counted the sets of Pacific pounders or missed my footing.
Honoko’i and Halawa Valley comprised one of the seven chakra points on the planet, as defined by the harmonic convergence, or so we were told. Sub-Pacific ley lines connected with old Druid sites in the U.K., along the Molokai fault line.
Our valley was filled with spirits. Queen Lilliokalani banished the kahuna kahunas (her advisors, the “wisest of the wise”) to Honoko’i when she heard of a coup forming. The magicians/alchemists buried their dead in the mountain face, creating hermetically sealed crypts.
The remaining members of the Manson family would trek to Honoko’i once a year to rappel, trying to reach and open one of these secret chambers. I watched them through Swarovski binoculars. They were naked except for bright red loincloths. Jade said they were less of a threat than the Vietnam veterans who grew pot and occasionally came down the mountains to pick Opihi (monovalve limpets) on days the sea was flat, when Kona winds cancelled out the Trades.
The growers showed up. I was alone. The leader inquired if anyone else was inside the koa where our framed-up ‘town lumber’ house was situated. I lied and said “yes.” The threatening looking men moved aside and allowed me to access the stream to put water in my plastic ten-gallon container and carry it back to our garden.
We had hurled the wood, piece by piece, down the mountain side from narrow trails. These switchbacks were a much longer route to our home site than crossing Suicide Cliff, but they provided a way to get the construction material into our valley.
Before my adventure of outdoor living on Molokai, I had been a commodities broker, when the prime was twenty and one-half percent. I was selling silver futures in Dallas and running a discount construction company with the help of Mexican runners, who put flyers on door knobs promoting Creative Companies. One call will do it all. Additions. Enclosures. Discount Carpentry.
The phone room for Creative Companies was in my house, on lower Greenville, near the Greenville Avenue Bar and Grill, the Three Coins, and The Grape Restaurant. The phone lines were registered under the name Scarlett O’Hara.
More recently, I’d authored papers presented on the Hill to change HUD pricing. I had an apartment in London. I was also an international representative for the alligator industry, meeting with designers and vice presidents, purveyors of high-end luxury goods, providing education about crocodilians, particularly genuine Louisiana alligator. I promoted saving a species through first saving its habitat; sustainable use.
The tangle-eyed woman who cleaned my teeth, as well as many others in Attaway, had assumed I was lying about my clients. “Someone from Attaway couldn’t work for Gucci and Prada, like she says.”
Money making was something I was good at, because I understood it was all about networking, connections, and belief system. “People buy because they like you,” I was fond of saying at my sales training seminars.
I had been hired by the Richemont Group to train their sales staff about exotic skins and genuine American Alligator, most of which came from Louisiana’s swamps and bayous.
I would fling myself into new and exciting environs as often as possible. My life jumped from outdoor living in Hawaii to studying spirituality in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From radio production and sales to caring for street kids in the French Quarter. I worked with and learned from healers and task master yoga teachers around the world. I enjoyed the dinner party circuit in London; I had a generous expense account while employed by the biggest money maker in the U.K.
I knew artists and authors, from viscounts to vagabonds. It’s hard to tell the difference between those two in some places, such as the Caribbean, the southern coast of Italy and France, and San Miguel de Allende in the high desert of Mexico. I was particularly fond of crusty old men, curmudgeons with piercing insights, vast experience, and genius. Perhaps my flexibility and openness contributed to being an easy mark for those dark beings who found me and ferreted me away to the underworld, like Persephone, but called it Paradise.
Upon my return from making a boxing documentary in Mexico, I remember praying, “If only the universe would send a man.”
I could picture him, dark, sardonic, and a deep lover. An incredible man who was powerful and controlling. I wanted him to be strong, because I no longer wanted to mistake weakness for strength in my mad dash to unearth it in a man. I wanted to share that strength with a partner who could live life displaying his truth. God had put a burning desire in me to be the one to see and support that strength, that masculinity, my feminine nature no longer languishing, but met in a double strike of lightning. I wanted him to sleep with me and make love to me and for us to love each other fiercely in every aspect as our lives together unfolded. But I always recall the words of the Tarot reader. “The dark stranger will destroy you.” The thought made me shiver.
“Duped thrust me into a world so captivating and explored so intimately and descriptively that I could not put it down. I feel like I’m standing right there with the protagonist, Amelia, as she navigates the lurid underbelly of society that for most remains hidden. Amelia’s determination to find truth and to know truth in the midst of many dark conjurers should be inspiration for us all. Clear, helpful insights and many literary references and humor. This epic novel is grounded in truths about human nature, light and darkness.” –Natasha Sanchez
Duped is a novel written by Christine Manyard. If you liked these 2 chapters you can buy the book here.
Christine Maynard is a warm, friendly interesting southerner who is often elusive and who definitely hates rules. She is originally from Louisiana and has a deep history as a researcher, an investigative journalist and a seeker of the truth. She has lived and worked in many parts of the world, from The Big Easy to D.C., on both coasts and in the Caribbean, Europe, and Mexico. She has three sons and three grandsons as well as three lovely daughters-in-law. Two are Taureans like herself. She was last spotted in the hills of Fiesole, Italy, living in a limonaia. Unduped, another detective novel, is scheduled to be released in 2018. Connect with Christine Maynard at firstname.lastname@example.org