In Dame Marie, sleeping villagers walk in the dead of night - they return without memory, naked and soaking from the sea...when they return at all...
"It's a ceremony to Agoué, loa of the sea," says Laurent. "That basket is a little boat that they'll set adrift at dawn, and they'll throw the sheep into the sea as an offering." He looks back behind Pierre. "There's a pale figure running down the beach. I wonder if it's our American ami. It looks like he's not wearing any clothes."
Laurent collapses down into the sand, panting raggedly, completely exhausted. He watches the figure disappear into the darkness up the beach, towards to Azagon Hotel.
He hasn't been able to see any distinguishing features of the man but did notice that his left calf had a pattern of several dark marks, like a bite wound.
Eventually Fabrice and Lt Etienne catch up with Laurent and help him up. Glancing into the darkness that has completely swallowed the man.
Florence and Marise continue to make their way slowly back into town, finally the three men join them, still breathing heavily after their unsuccessful chase.
"We couldn't catch him," says Laruent, panting for breath. "I was fast, but he was faster. He ran toward the Azagon Hotel. I did see that it looked like he'd been bitten on his left calf." He describes the man.
When they arrive back at the house the children are all asleep, even Pierre. Marise slumps into a chair, her face expressionless. Fabrice turns to Laurent, 'Mèsi for all your help tonight, compère.' His face is dark, 'I do not know what happened to my pitit fi but I intend to find out.' A look of anguish comes over him, 'But Pierre and I need to take out the boat tomorrow morning, I promised to pick up George Benson from Cap Matelot, some St Joe City politicians are taking out his big cruiser, Ti Maman.'
Laurent knows all about George Benson. "I was glad to do what I could," he says, though he likes Americans in general. "I could help tomorrow."
Despite Florence's best attempts Marise remains sullen and quiet. She won't make eye contact and will not speak.
George Benson is an American fisherman. He's been in Dame Marie about six months with his wife Alice. He was hired by the St Joe government, or provided by the US government, to teach the local fishermen in modern fishery techniques. He has an office in Dame Marie and a 30ft twin engine cruiser Ti Maman that is usually moored in Pointe Pierre. Since his boat is provided by the St Joe government it is sometimes lent out to politicians as a pleasure cruiser. Most of the fishermen are pretty happy with George's help. Before George came along it had been a good day if the fishermen's wives or merchants had a few jacks or Spanish mackerel for sale, along with trash fish that nobody really wanted. Now it was a poor day if you couldn't find grouper and weakfish and mango snapper and sometimes even pompano as well, along with what old timers still called poisson rouge and poisson noir - and even herring sprats.
The name Ti Maman is St Joe slang, it means somewhere between 'little mother' and 'sweetheart', a mistress or sweetheart who has borne a man a child. It kindles memories of the old song:
- Ti maman
Fe ti ha pou mwen
Pa kitém allé...
'Ti maman, give me a little kiss, don't let me go...'
Florence stares at her daughter, she used to be such a kind and loving girl, the last few months she has been increasingly detached, irritable, complaining of headaches and spending more and more time out at Pointe Pierre. Now Marise seems barely there at all. Pushing up her chin and looking into her eyes, Florence sees what Laurent was talking about, usually hazel, they have a deep green colour in this light, like seawater. She was so beautiful, so full of life, but now her usually lustrous complexion looks flat and grey. Recently she's shown little concern about her appearance but this glistening hairclip is new.
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