"There is a house in New Orleans..." - (Marigny St., New Orleans)

The kitchen table was littered with books. Books from Jaiden's room, an atlas open to the surrounding city, and an old Compaq laptop all cluttered the pine surface which dominated the front room. He'd re-written the collected notes from Jaiden's scribbles in context to spot a pattern, but the pencil between his fingers couldn't de-obfuscate his son's hasty messages.

His home was cramped, a trait shared by all shotgun houses in his area, with a front sitting room arranged to be both dining room and living room, the second room the kitchen, and the master bedroom and Jaiden's room at the aft of the house. A common walkway along the East side of the building permitted access to the entire floor plan in a single line, save for the altered back of the house which was split into two rooms and an adjoined restroom. Shotgun houses were, by convention, named for the ability to shoot said gun through the open front door and the bullet could exit through the back without hitting a thing.

Owen sat at the table flipping through "Totems and Symbology in the Practice of Haitian and Caribbean Voodoo Ritual", but his eyes weren't taking in the words any more. His mind was on his wife, Ebele. From what he'd skimmed in the passages surrounding Jaiden's notes? His mind was opening to just the sort of otherworldliness his wife had participated in. As a man for whom faith played little to no part in the internal monologue of his thoughts, Christianity, Voodoo, hell, even atheism were all on common flat footing. It required mental gymnastics on his part to entertain any mystic force, life after death, or general good feeling in the world. Fighting in a war, for him, had shown him God; ugliness with a universal name.

But Jaiden seemed to share his mother's fascination. His notes, though sparing, indicated excitement at putting the puzzle together. Owen thought he could picture the urgency of the inscriptions, the dawning of some unknown line of thinking that led his son to the torn out page; to Azanath. His fingers traced the ragged edge of torn parchment protruding from the book's spine. From the corner of his eye, he spied the hutch where he'd stashed Ebele's journal. It was a talisman he'd scarcely touched in the more than three weeks since she left this house on Marigny Street.

Even as he drew out the drawer, it lay there, in its patchwork leather bound cover, an amalgamation of someone familiar and something wholly other. In his hands the book felt heavy, and the hair at the nape of his neck rose as he drew it close. It smelled of wormwood, leather oils, and patchouli, but the binding felt dry like it was stiffening. Owen recognized the herbs because they'd become staples around the house in the year or so that Ebele had been reconnecting with her grandmother. From where he stood, he could see the pouch of ruda he'd helped her place above the front door.

He set the journal next to the other books which Ms. Katherine Bight had insisted he bring home from the library. Why the punk had changed her tune he could only guess at, but the time she'd spent hunched at the reading table beside him hadn't gone unnoticed. Still, he owed her for the three books spread in front of him now--the closest connection he had to Jaiden's flight.

With a nod, Owen entered the kitchen and flipped the stove burner on. A pot of water with ginger roots warmed and boiled. He pulled a blue tin cup from a cupboard and poured his pungent tea. It reminded him of sweltering summer nights and listening to Jaiden practice his trumpet through his bedroom wall.

Settling again, Owen loosened two buttons at his throat before taking in the sight of "Totems and Symbology in the Practice of Haitian and Caribbean Voodoo Ritual" one more time. Tugging the laptop lid open, he began searching for symbols and marks, brows knit in the blue light, tendrils of vapor rising from his ginger tea.

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