Kitty Goes to War Page 2

“What do you think they were doing?” I said, intrigued. I tried to imagine it, cloaked men walking around the store, every month—during what phase of the moon, I wondered? The whole thing screamed ritual.

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m calling. I thought maybe you would know.”

“Well, that these men repeated the same action every month for—how many months?”

“I worked that shift for maybe six months. It happened every month,” she said.

“And do you know if it was at the same time of the month? The same phase of the moon maybe?”

“I didn’t pay attention—do you think it’s important?”

“I don’t know. The thing is, repetition says to me some kind of ceremony or ritual was going on. That means some kind of magic, some kind of power. Or at least they thought so—it may not mean anything. Can you tell me where this was?”

“No, I can’t, I shouldn’t even be calling, I—goodbye.” The phone clicked off.

Dang. I’d have marked that spot on the map with a big star next to it. Of course, it could be coincidence—some weird local club had an initiation ceremony involving nothing more devious than wandering around the local Speedy Mart. Somehow I didn’t think that was likely.

I checked the clock, and we had the time, so I clicked the next call through. “Hello, Charles from Shreveport. What’s your story?”

Charles from Shreveport talked fast. “You’re right about Speedy Mart. And Harold Franklin. He’s up to something. And someone has to stand up to him before it’s too late.”

I assessed the voice: male, quick, a little thin. Kind of eager, or desperate. Not laid back, not a disbeliever calling in to try to get a rise out of me, not someone with a deep personal problem. He didn’t have the accent to go along with his Louisiana location. After doing this show for years, I’d become a pretty good judge of voices. Most of my callers fell into certain categories, and I could usually tell which one after a sentence or two. This guy had something to say, and he was the kind of person who thought late-night talk radio was a good soapbox.

“What’s he up to, Charles?”

“I’ve been tracking Franklin’s movements for decades. For example, in late August 2005, he spent four days in New Orleans, did you know that?”

“No. What has that got to do with anything?”

He sounded like he was reading off a list. “Biloxi, Mississippi, in August 1969—that was his first big showing. He was supposedly on a fishing trip right after college, but you know what happened next. He’s only gotten more ambitious since then. February 1978 in Boston, April 1991 in Bangladesh, October 1991 in Nova Scotia.”

How intriguing. My favorite kind of call—devoted and a little crazy. “How do you know all this? Have you been stalking him?” I was buying myself a little time, trying to figure out what Charles’s pin markers in space and time meant. I wished I had an Internet browser on hand.

“He always leaves a couple of days before the worst of it hits. Always.”

“The worst of what?”

“The worst of the storms!”

New Orleans, August 2005. Matt, my board operator, knocked on the booth window, and I figured it out at the same time I read the scrawled note he pressed to the glass: KATRINA.

Biloxi ’69: Hurricane Camille, wanna bet? And if I looked up the rest, I’d probably find other epic hurricanes, blizzards, perfect storms.

I leaned into the microphone. “What are you saying, Charles? That Harold Franklin has really bad luck with the weather?”

“I’m saying it’s not luck,” he said.

“Do you know that experiments have shown that people have a tendency to find patterns, even when no actual patterns exist? In our attempts to make order out of the universe, we see connections where there just aren’t any.” Playing the skeptic—the term devil’s advocate made me nervous when we were talking about the supernatural—usually got my callers riled up, which had high entertainment value. But it also made them explain themselves. Made them delve, and often exposed more information.

Frustrated, he said, “If he was at any one of those locations it would be a coincidence but not noteworthy. But the fact that he was at all of them? Right around the time of some of the most destructive storms in modern history? And doesn’t it make you wonder about the storms before modern history? That maybe Harold Franklin is just the latest in a long line of weather terrorists? Did you know that some people believe that the storm that scattered the Spanish Armada in the English Channel in the sixteenth century was created by English witches?”

“How did you get so interested in this?” I said. “How did you know to look for Franklin?”

“Have you ever met him?”

“No.”

“Well, I have. And there’s something off about him. I think he should be brought to justice for what he did to New Orleans.”

He certainly wasn’t alone in thinking someone ought to be brought to justice for happened to New Orleans. But most people were referring to events after the hurricane, not the hurricane itself.

“The thing is, Charles, science provides us lots of perfectly reasonable, natural explanations for how storms happen. Most people will say that Katrina wasn’t anyone’s fault. There’s no need to go looking for malevolence.”

“It’s a nice little arrangement, isn’t it? He wreaks all this havoc and everyone just writes it off on convection currents.”

The guy may have been a crackpot or he may have been spot on the money. But I ran into the problem I usually ran into when dealing with the supernatural: how did we go about proving this connection?

“Charles, thank you very much for calling, but I’m running out of time and need to move on, all right?”

“As long as you listen to me. You have to listen. You’re the only one who can do anything to stop him.”

I highly doubted that. I highly doubted there was anything to do.

Matt gave me a neck-cutting signal through the window, then held up a finger—one minute to go. I’d been doing the show long enough that my sense of timing was pretty good—I’d given myself just enough time for a closing.

“All right, folks, we’re out of time. I want to thank everyone who called in for helping me out on my little research project. I’ll certainly let you know if anything comes of it. In the meantime, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you never can tell what’s out there. So good night, stay safe, and until next week this is Kitty Norville, voice of the night, on The Midnight Hour.”

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