Papa Don't Preach

March 02, 2016:

Lynette meets the fabled Papa Midnite

Bristol - Gotham

North of Gotham City across the Gotham River lies the storybook come to
life lands of Bristol with it's rolling hills, acres upon acres of peaceful
farmland, rich pastures and lush woodlands.

Bristol is a stepping stone between New York City and Gotham itself along
Interstate 98 before one reaches the Robert Kane Memorial Bridge that leads
in to East End.

Within the attractive expanse of Bristol one can find Brentwood, an
upper-class suburb, the Gotham Heights surburbia district and the very
wealthy Crest Hill community. This wide strip of residential area is
generally called the Palisades and much of it doesn't even fall within
Gotham City limits, especially Crest Hill and Brentwood.

Brentwood Academy, the Palisades Country Club and the Gotham Cemetery can
also be found here.

Characters

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Lwa

NPCs: Papa Midnite

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*N/A None.]


Fade In…

It's oddly warm for an early March evening. Maybe it's something in the vast ecosystem that supports New York— maybe it's just weird weather patterns. Maybe it's something special.

When she makes the darting passage from one street to another, weaving in the narrow gap between buildings, the shadows length disturbingly. There's a whisper in the air around her, a voice hailing another presence, then… several presences.

A cane clicks on the concrete and a man— a tall, broad-shouldered man— moves into the light. His skin is the color of good, dark chocolate, eyes pools of brown in flickering white. A double-breasted suit in plum, distressed messenger sandles that leave his toes bare— a yellow scarf and a daisy in his boutonniere, and endless jangling bracelets both expensive and tacky cover his wrists, competing with rings of silver and bone.

"G'wan ter run back to Constantine, neh chil'?" he asks her in a rumbling, deep drawl— a heavy Jamaican accent, polished and urbane, with all the inflections of that nation on his tongue. "Lil' girlchil', you need to onnerstand John, he don't love no one or nothin'. I an I see you an' him an' pain comin'." Wisps of smoke climb from his fingers, where a blunt cigar dangles negligently near his hip.

The annoyance of people finding her was starting to become both disturbing, and irritating, at the same time for the young mambo. Dressed in jeans with missing knees, boots, and a red sweater that is just a bit too big so that one shoulder is shown bare, the girl pauses and turns, looking in the direction of that tingling sensation. "Merde…not anot'er one…" Mutters the Creole as she crosses her arms loosely under her petite chest.

"What? De magic girl dat a coyote warn me, too. Now you? Ain't nobody lettin' a girl jus' deal wit t'ings on her own time…" Rolling those snake like eyes, she reaches up and rubs at her large and in charge floof idly. Giving him the once over, she takes a deep breath, but her full lips perse regardless of her 'relaxing' state.

"Go'on den. Tell me how m'gonna die, or go t'hell, or be betrayed or whateva…M'listenin'."

The cane clicks on the pavement and he steps closer, and closer. He's a big man, and there's a substantial presence to him alone— the unnerving way he doesn't blink when staring at Lyn, the cool, even haughty arrogance of a prince wrapped around his shoulders.

And the whispers follow him, like loving murmurs in his wake or hateful sneers behind his back. Many voices. Many presences, many spirits, and it's impossible to imagine that he's not aware of the cavalcade around him.

"You askin' fah readin' from De Houngan?" he says, a grin splitting his shadow-darkened features with a glimmer of bright teeth. "Presum'tus, dear chil', but you would be. You would be," he nods, examining Lyn head to toe with a frank and rather penetrating gaze.

"You don' know me, so I an I make de propah introduction— Papa Midnite," he says, his thick shoulders dropping forward as he bows a few inches, never quite taking his eyes from Lyn. "I speak for de Loa."

And he makes no qualifier for that statement, which means either he's a voodoo bullshit artist who professes to speak for the dead… or he's no issue claiming communion with every family of loa that whispers from the grave. Which is a terrifyingly bold claim to make.

Lyn feels it. It's impossible for her not to, but she is quick to shake off any fear bubbling up in her belly and just stare daggers at the man. "Non, ain't askin' f' a readin'. Y'de one came t'me wit de warnin', remember? Y'got somet'ing t'say, den y'say it." She explains, her arms still crossed. As he comes nearer, she takes a step back. Keeping a stiff upper lip, she moves her hands to press against her hips in a more defiant pose.

"De Houngan? Y'don' say. Guess dat make me a baby mambo." Then comes the name. Blinking, her eyes widen and her face softens. Her lips round, making an 'o' shape as it all just dawns on her. "Papa Midnite? Constontine spoke of you b'fore. From what I c'n tell, y'pretty powerful. If y'are who y'say y'are." She hears them, those whispers, and she feels that grip of shadow play around her. Without thinking, she presses the shadows back and away from herself; or at least tries to.

"Well, y'speak f'um, n' I listen to dem. Well, when dey ain' tryin' t'claim squatin' rights on m'body. What brin's y'up here den? Jus' t'tell me bad t'ings 'bout John?"

"John's a friend sometimes," Papa Midnite says, not feeling a need to clarify that statement. "But he an idjit an' got no head where prettypretty girls come knockin'. De' loa tell me 'bout Maniette, she slaverin' like a bulldog fer blood an' warm flesh to ride in," he says, his fingers waving through the air, caressing a shadow that flickers through them. "I make a point of knowin' why de ladies of loa upturn in they graves an' come hungerin' fer a lass like you. I tink I see why," he says, eyes gleaming appreciatively at the slender waif.

"So I hear John pluck a girlie from Maniette, sen' her screamin' rage through de unnerworld, I tink I best find out what he doin' on my island, y'dig," he explains. "An' come meet dis girl what got his head turn' round wrong."

"Yeah…" Lyn murmurs gently, her stance slacking as her hands sink into the back pockets of her jeans. "He saved me. Don' be gon' n'dead if he didn' step in." She listens, intently, her face twitching slightly as the conversation continues. "So it my fault, den? De way I hear it, he de monster t'poor girl hearts." She can't help her eyes rolling, and taking a step to the side, she slumps against it and returns her grip to hugging herself gently.

"Know he don' love me. Tryin' not t'love him, neither. So…what? Y'gon' give me advice or y'lookin' after y'friend?" There's a sadness there, instant and noticeable. "Stupid a'me t'inkin' I found a home." She comments under her breath, looking down at her toes. The shadows around her begin to return.

"Tryin' to decide what do wit' you," the big man corrects, stepping closer to Lyn. "John walk on de edge of our world, but he don' unnerstand it," he explains. "He don' live wit de loa, he don't listen to 'em unless he need somethin' from them."

Papa's hands curl around shadows flickering around him, the loa soothed by his voice and presence. "I a custode of de loa. I check dey grave, I deliver they gran'chil'," he explains. "I live wit' one foot in they world, an' dey come to me fer help an' sustenance."

"John don' know loa, an' he not a houngan. He uses our prayers an' ritual fer hisself, not fer de Loa. He never onnerstan what you need to learn, girlchil', to become a proper mambo an' not amateur piker wit' a knife an' attitude. You want to learn de way of yo momma's home, of de lady mambo an' Hoodoo, you nee' a propah teachah."

"Don' give two shits 'bout my mama or my home." Lyn spits cooly. "Dey try n'kill me. Don' t'ink I don' t'ank de loa wit me dat help me live dat day, but n'some way, it de loa dat put me on dat rock n'coax de hand a'd'Mambo t'pierce my chest." All she could be was just a small face, with a glare and slightly snurled up nose. Angry, as she was, to someone like Midnite, she probably looked no more intimidating than a baby chick.

"Who gon' teach me den? You? Dat tall fell named f'a Wolf? One a John's exes or dere mentors?" If she bit any harder into her lower lip, she was as risk of nipping the plump thing off. Sniffling, she rugs at her cheeks and looks away, not daring to look directly at the Houngan, as if her tears would show more weakness than she already was.

"I could, if you willin'," Papa says, nodding. "It owed to you by bein' paid to me, by long line of shaman goin' back to de screamin' winds over Africa tellin' us de rain comin'. Voodoo is de way, but it ain't de means. I kin teach you how to call de spirits, how to move wit' dem. It' sacred, dis tradition," he murmurs, shadows flickering around him, one darting at Lyn as if sniffing the air around her. "An' you come here wit' de aspect of de serpent on de eyes— you blessed, chil', an' marked." He puffs on his cigar, smoke pluming around his head. "Dat wil' powerful magic, an' I show you how to sing to de wind an' make de rain come 'pon de sugarcane if you wish."

Lyn doesn't move as the shadow draws nearer. She played with them, always had, since she was a girl. Her adoration of them was by no means the same as Midnites, but, it was still there. Her head low, she covers herself and becomes silently thankful for the shade that her hair cases against her face and features. "Truth, I wan't'learn everyt'ing I c'n. 'Bout what I c'n do, how t'not be 'fraid of it no mo'. M'learnin'…"

Breathing in, she sighs out and presses off the wall. Turning to face the towering figure, she looks up and studies his features, his clothing, the smell of his cigar and the jingling of his trinkets and charms. "When I gotta decide?"

"Now. Never. I be like de loa, I forward an' back, never goin' less comin'," Papa says, a bit enigmatically. His brown eyes flicker to John's old townhouse, stark and a bit separate somehow from the rest of Gotham.

"You nee' unnerstan', though, about John, dearchil,'," he says, his voice dropping to a soft rumble. "John a good man. But he's a 'orrible person. You might tink you special, but John pick up broken toys on de wayside all his life." He clicks his tongue, hissing a bit behind his teeth. "He find people in need an' ride to rescue dem. He love it. He love bein' de hero, 'cause he tink it makes okay all de times he failed— all de people he kilt, an' all de lives he didn' save."

"We all love John. An' haht him, you hear— hate him," he says, dragging the word out. "He a 'orrible friend, he steal your wommin, he take your booze, he break your tings, an' show up unrepentant an' smilin' to get yoah help a week later. He no care if he die— an' dat is de most terrible waste of all, because he coul' straddle de cosmos if he cared to do so. But he rathah drink stupid an' gamble wit his soul den imagine doin' de world a better turn."

"You onnerstan me heah, dear chil'?"

Lyn stares and is silent. Her eyes swell with tears, so full that they flow over, fat liquid rolling down her cheeks and dripping to the top of her sweater. With a sniffle and a brush of her arm under her nose, she looks back toward the townhouse. "Maybe he jus'need somebody save him sometime." Shrugging, she turns her head back toward Midnite and blinks. More tears flow from the build up, some slicking her long lashes together in clumps. "I call on y'sometime." She decides, turning and heading for the place that she, for the time being, also called home.
"At yoah service, chil'," Papa murmurs, stepping back to the shadows. He watches her go— watches her cross the street, move up the steps, and slip into the old townhouse. His expression is silent and impossible to read.

He's silent, caressing the loa, and then turns and steps back into the shadows. A moment later, headlights pan across the corner, revealing nothing but weathered old concrete.

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