Liliana picked her way through the silent stones while Kak did her best not to trip over unseen obstacles.
“Will your grandfather stay with you tonight?” Kak asked.
“He’ll drive back to Miami. He has a class in the morning.”
“What’s he taking?” Liliana clucked her tongue. “Nono is professor of computer science at Florida International University. He’s teaching a class in the morning.”
“Judging the book by its cover? Odd mistake for a writer.”
“It’s just, an Ifa priest college professor computer wizard? With a Santeria priestess massage therapist granddaughter.”
Liliana stopped. “Are you one thing every minute of your life?”
Touché. Kak was no one to talk. In the course of the week she’d been betrothed, depressed, dishonest, delinquent, unfaithful and phony. Barring a miracle she’d be dead in less than seventy-two hours.
They walked on.
“Please tell me this Archie I have to see is in Key West,” Kak said.
“Bring the light,” Liliana said, kneeling. “He’s right below us.”
Kak crouched beside Liliana. The candlelight illuminated another grave stretched out before them, this one much more recent than Kufi Chizoba’s. It was capped in concrete. In the center of the cap a jagged hole gaped, large enough for a person. The edges of the hole crumbled into whatever lay below. Here in the dark it was something from a horror movie. Kak imagined ghoulish hands clutching the edges of the opening to climb out. Or that something had come out already and watched them from the darkness.
“Tell me we’re not going down there,” Kak said.
Liliana put both hands on the concrete, leaning far over the grave.
“Light,” she said.
Kak braced herself on the foot of the grave with her free hand and leaned out beside Liliana so that the candle illuminated the space below. Would she peer into the broken grave and see a casket, or worse, remains visible through the deteriorating coffin? It violated everything she’d ever known about respect for the dead.
No. Just a foot below the craggy opening she saw the missing piece to the puzzle. A large bronze plate, originally laid into the concrete cap, had fallen in. It lay on the ground below, surrounded by and partially covered in dried grass clippings ejected from passing mowers as the groundskeeper did his job.
The inscription on the plate said ARCHIBALD JOHN SHELDON YATES 1911–1966. A cross adorned the plate over the inscription. Cresting waves decorated the edges all the way around.
“Kak, meet Archie,” Liliana said.
Kak opened her mouth to ask why she’d been brought to see the grave of another dead man, much less say hello. These introductions became less helpful as they went along. She hadn’t experienced a real breakthrough since Rudy. More and more, the cemetery seemed a dead end, pardon the pun. That was the thought occupying her mind when she saw the woman at the other end of the grave.
Even in the candlelight Kak could see the woman’s anguish. Her naked form perched on the rounded pedestal. Knees and lower legs pulled up onto it. Arms drawn behind her. Head thrown back as if recoiling from something in front of her or invoking heaven. Maybe both. Her expression wasn’t visible from this angle so Kak got to her feet.
“Pleased to meet you, Archie,” she said, making her way around the broken slab to inspect the odd statue of this woman at the head of the grave.
“Tour guides call her the Bound Woman,” Liliana said. “No one knows the significance. Or why she’s placed at the head of Archie’s grave. Some people say it’s his wife. Or a lover pining for him, sitting on his face for all eternity.” She shrugged. “It’s a mystery.”
Kak ran her hands around the base the woman perched on, tracing the raised outlines all the way around it. They were similar to the carvings on Archie’s tablet. Yes. Cresting waves. The edge of the sea. At the base of the woman’s back her wrists were bound alright, by carved rope from what Kak’s touch told her. Chains would have been more accurate to the mythology but her bondage captured the idea.
“It’s Andromeda,” Kak said. “Chained at the edge of the sea.”
“To be devoured. To be sacrificed into sacred marriage to the monster, Cetus.”
“Because her mother mocked the gods. Andromeda’s death was necessary to satisfy them. It would consecrate her union with Cetus and save the kingdom from destruction.”
“Screw that. I’d have run like hell.”
“Well. She was chained to the spot.”
“Before that. I’d have run away.”
The candlelight threw its wavering glow over Andromeda’s upturned despair. Kak lay a hand on her troubled stone brow. “Maybe she tried.”
Kak wanted to say more. To tell someone, even Liliana, that except for the bottle of doxepin with her name on it she’d nearly run out of time and options. That the monster was no myth. It was quite real and lurked in the waters at her own feet. Before she could speak, a sound in the distance broke the silence of the old cemetery. It was Nono. Singing. In the same language he’d used at Kofu’s grave. His voice carried to them through the old markers, slow and rhythmic, between the dead and the stars. Whatever he sang, sad and ancient, he seemed to have been made for it.
“Nono sings to his angel,” Liliana said, answering Kak’s unspoken question. “He’s done it since he was a boy.”
This was the real reason he’d dismissed them. He wanted to be alone at the grave.
“It’s beautiful,” Kak said.
“I have it memorized. Every note. Every word and inflection.”
Kak understood. “Someday you’ll sing it to Nono.”
It was a comforting thought. An angel to sing to. One that might hear you. Intercede for you in your times of need. Someone to sing to you when you were gone.
The two women listened until the rise and fall of Nono’s song faded into silence. They didn’t talk on the way back to the gap in the fence. The dense foliage didn’t bother Kak this time. She slipped through easily and Liliana followed.
Kak took the handles of her bike, pulled it away from the cemetery fence and swung a leg over it. “Do you really think I’m crazy?”
“I don’t know,” Liliana said. “Could be we’re all a little crazy.”
“Will you be around tomorrow?”
“Carter and I have plans.”
“This could be it then.” She opened her arms, hoping it would be accepted. They were both going through something. When you met another traveler on the path you offered them what you had. She had only this.
“This is it?” Liliana mused. “I should be so lucky.” She stood her ground with no intention of accepting Kak’s gesture. “And just so you know, you’re pointed the wrong way on a one-way street.”
Kak looked over her shoulder to the east and back to the west. “I’m getting used to it.”
She pushed off and pedaled west, the wrong way, into the center of a dark and quiet Olivia Street. There were no headlights as far as she could see. Maybe Rudy would be up. Maybe they could talk. The day and night had been a complete bust. She’d lost precious time. Talking to someone normal sounded good for a change.
Liliana called out from behind her. “Andromeda!”
Kak braked and slowed. Had Liliana just called her that? She rounded up to stop.
“Did she save the kingdom?” Liliana asked. “Did her sacrifice save everyone?”
“No. Perseus showed up at the last second and killed Cetus.”
“Andromeda and Perseus lived happily ever after?”
“I guess so.” They watched each other watch each other.
“Rudy isn’t Perseus,” Liliana said.
“So what are you doing here?”
What was she doing here? It had been so clear when she left Sanibel.
“Maybe,” Kak said, clutching her head between both hands and drawing them into fists to gather bunches of hair until it pulled and hurt. “To get what you want inside? To get to the start so you can see the end? You have to be willing to tear out what’s already there.”
Said out loud, it struck her as dramatic. In a normal setting she’d begin to revise it in her head to try again. This wasn’t a normal setting. She pushed off, pumping the pedals rhythmically to flush her thoughts away. To feel the wind and forget the gods she’d dared to come after her. They were the same gods that had protected Ugarte this very night. The same gods that betrayed Kufi Chizoba all those nights ago. One thing was sure. You couldn’t trust the gods.