Voodoo Island. Mr James Conway wants to make money. He wants to build new houses and shops and he wants to build them on an old graveyard, on the island of Haiti. There is only one old man who still visits the graveyard; and Mr Conway is not afraid of one old man.
But the old man has friends friends in the graveyard, friends who lie dead, under the ground. And when Mr Conway starts to build his houses, he makes the terrible mistake of disturbing the sleep of the dead . . .
Chapter 1: Island in the Sun
James Conway put away his business papers and sat back in his seat. He looked out of the aeroplane window down at the warm blue sea below. Far away, in the bright sun, there were the long white beaches of the island of Haiti. Behind them, he could just see the small wooden houses and the deep green leaves of the coconut trees, which were moving lazily in the soft afternoon wind.
‘It looks beautiful, doesn’t it?’ Conway looked at the woman sitting next to him. ‘Very nice,’ he answered. ‘Is this your first visit to Haiti?’ the woman asked. ‘Yes, but I’m not here as a visitor,’ said Conway. ‘I have a building company — it’s called Conway Construction. My company has offices all over the world — America, Europe, Africa. We’re very big in Australia too — everyone in Australia has heard the name Conway. I’m coming to get an office here, buy some land, build a few hotels, you know. The land is very cheap here — you can buy a piece of land to build a small town on, for a few thousand dollars. Sorry, I don’t know your name. I’m Mr Conway, James Conway. Just call me Conway.’
‘I’m Karen Jackson.’
‘Nice to meet you, Karen. What do you do? Have you got a job, or are you married?’
‘I’m at Harvard University.’
‘From the University? Are you a secretary there?’ ‘No, I’m a doctor. I’m teaching medicine.’
‘A doctor! That’s interesting. What are you doing here in Haiti? Are you on holiday? I know you teachers get long holidays.’
Karen Jackson was beginning to dislike the man. ‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m going to work in the hospital at Port au Prince. And while I’m here, I’m going to do some work for my book.’
‘Are you writing a book? What is it about?’ ‘Voodoo.’
‘Voodoo!’ laughed Conway. ‘Are you telling me that someone is paying you to come here and write about voodoo? I know Haiti is not America, but voodoo! I thought people stopped believing in that years ago.’ ‘Oh, no,’ said Karen. ‘People still believe in it. You see, it works, and it can be very dangerous.’
‘Surely you don’t believe in voodoo, do you?’
‘Yes, I do. We don’t really understand voodoo in America. Most people think it’s magic. They think it can kill people.’
‘That’s right. I remember hearing about it. People who use voodoo get a picture of a person or make a doll, don’t they? Then they put pins or knives into it, and the person feels terrible pain.’
‘Yes, that’s right,’ Karen answered. ‘I have a photograph here in one of my books about voodoo. Look, there’s one of the dolls. It’s not a child’s doll — it’s made from coconuts. You see, the face is a coconut, and someone has drawn eyes, a nose, and a mouth on it. And look, there’s a pin in the doll’s stomach. A few days later the man came to hospital because his stomach hurt. He knew that someone was using voodoo against him. The pain was terrible, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him. In the end, he died.’
Conway was surprised. ‘So you think that was magic because there was no reason for it,’ he said. ‘But you’re a doctor, aren’t you? You don’t believe in magic, do you?’
‘Voodoo is more than magic. I don’t believe in magic, but I know that voodoo can be very dangerous. I want to understand how it works. Here in Haiti there are still a few people who know how to use voodoo. They are called “houngans”. There are still a few “houngans” in the villages in the country. And that’s why I’m here. I want to meet some of them and talk to them. Of course they aren’t all bad people. They can use voodoo to help people, like doctors. But they can use it to hurt people too.’
‘But we’re living in the modern world!’
‘Yes, but the people here are very sure that voodoo is real. Teachers, business people, doctors, everyone believes in it … or they are afraid of it. And perhaps that’s why it works. After all, if you believe you are ill, you can be ill. And if you really think you’re getting better, you can get better. If you think that someone is trying to kill you, then you can die . . . because you are so afraid.’
‘Well, that’s a good story,’ laughed Conway. ‘If I need some voodoo, I’ll come and see you.’
‘OK,’ said Karen. ‘Excuse me for a minute.’ She got up and walked to the back of the plane. She was bored and angry with Conway, because he thought he understpod everything and he never listened to other people.
While she was away, Conway looked at the open book on her seat. There was a picture on the page which showed a black man with open eyes and bright white teeth. He was laughing, but he looked frightening and dangerous. Conway read the words below the picture:
‘Baron Samedi, the strongest and most dangerous of all the voodoo houngans. No one knows who Baron Samedi is, but they believe he is both dead and alive. He lives in two different worlds. Many people are so frightened of him that they are afraid to say his name.’
Conway looked at the picture. ‘Baron Samedi!’ he laughed. ‘How can these people be so stupid? Still, it will be easy to make money if they think like children.’
A few minutes later, Karen came back. She picked up the book and put it in her bag. As she was sitting down, the lights in the aeroplane came on.
‘ We are going to arrive at Port au Prince airport in a few minutes. Please stay in your seats and put out your cigarettes. The time in Haiti is 3.15. It is a warm day and it is 30°C. We hope you have enjoyed flying with Air Haiti, and we hope that you will fly with us again. Thank you.’
Down below them, in the village of Bussy, not far from Port au Prince, Kee was in his small wooden house among the trees. Outside, a few brown chickens were trying to find something to eat in the garden. There was not much rain in the summer and the ground was dry and dusty. The old man Kee was sitting by the window in the front room. Suddenly he felt that something was wrong. In the garden the wind blew harder, and the dust from the dry ground flew into the air. He stood up, went to the window and looked out.
‘I can feel danger,’ he thought. ‘Someone bad is coming.’ He looked out into the trees, but he couldn’t see anything. Then he looked up at the sky, and saw the plane just before it went behind a cloud on its way to Port au Prince airport.
After nine months in Haiti, Conway was a happy man. His business was going well, and he was making a lot of money. He had a large office in Port au Prince, a big house, and hundreds of people were working for him. He had some land near Port au Prince, and he was building a new town. There were already hundreds of new houses, and many people knew the name Conway Construction. But Conway had a problem, and he wanted to see a business friend, Jacques Remy.
The telephone on his desk rang. He picked it up. ‘Yes?’
‘Mr Remy is here to see you, Mr Conway,’ said his secretary.
‘Send him in immediately.’ A few moments later, Jacques Remy came into the room.
‘Jacques, it’s nice to see you. Thank you for coming. Sit down.’
‘Thanks,’ said Jacques. ‘You said on the phone that you had a problem.’
‘Yes,’ said Conway. ‘You helped me buy the land for the new town when I first came to Haiti. Some of the houses are ready, and people are living in them. But now I need more land.’
‘You can buy land anywhere,’ said Jacques.
‘I know, but I want a piece of land near my houses. People will need shops, and perhaps I can build a hotel too, and some more houses.’
‘What piece of land do you want?’ asked Jacques.
‘Well, that’s the problem.’ Conway took out a pencil and a piece of paper, and began to draw a map. ‘Most of the houses are here,’ he said. ‘Now, I can’t build on the south or the east side of the houses because of the sea. On the north side the land is no good. There is too much water in it. So I can only build on the west side. I can only build on this hill.’
‘Good,’ said Jacques. ‘Buy the hill and then you can build more houses on the other side too.’
‘I want to,’ said Conway, ‘but there’s a problem.’ He went over to the desk and picked up a photograph. It was a photograph of a graveyard. He gave the photograph of the graveyard to Jacques. ‘You see, it won’t be easy. I want to build on the graveyard.’
Jacques looked at the photograph carefully. ‘It’s very old,’ he said, ‘and that’s good. If only a few people go there, perhaps you can buy it. But if it is new and a lot of people go there, they will be angry, and it will be difficult to buy it. Go and look at the stones. Find out how old the place is. I’ll talk to some friends. Perhaps they can help.’
‘Thank you very much, Jacques. I won’t forget this.’
‘It’s nothing,’ said Jacques. ‘Tell me how old the stones are, and I’ll ring you again in a few days.’
A big lorry drove past Kee’s house. It was going very fast and it made a lot of noise. Before Conway built the new town, Kee’s village was a quiet place. There were only a few small cars. Now big lorries went past every five minutes, carrying things for the new buildings. Kee was a very unhappy old man. He was sitting in his small house, looking out into the garden.
Another big lorry went past the window.
He heard the sound of a car coming down the road. The car stopped near the house, and a woman got out. She was young and well dressed. She walked up to the gate at the end of Kee’s garden and waited. Kee saw her and went out of the house, down the wooden steps and into the garden.
‘Hello,’ she said, looking at the old man. ‘Can I come in?’
‘Yes, of course,’ answered Kee. ‘What can I do for you?’
The woman opened the gate and came up to Kee. ‘My name is Karen Jackson,’ she said, ‘Dr Jackson. I’m an American. I’m working at the big hospital in Port au Prince, and I’m doing some work for my book.’
‘I see,’ said Kee. ‘But why do you want to talk to me?’
‘I’m writing a book about voodoo,’ she said. ‘Everyone here talks about you. They all say you are the best houngan in Haiti. They say you are a very strong and good houngan, and that you always help people.’
Kee smiled. ‘I try to help good people,’ he said. ‘Come into the house, Dr Jackson. Let me get you a drink and we can talk.’
Kee and Karen went into the house and began to talk. Karen told him about her life and her work, and why she was in Haiti. Kee told her about his life and talked for a long time about the old Haiti and the people he remembered.
‘Everything is changing,’ he said. ‘When I was a young man, we lived with our families. We worked in the coffee fields. We helped each other. Friends were more important than money. People were good and kind. But everything is different now. Business people come from America and Europe and start banks and big companies. All the young men go to Port au Prince. They leave their villages and their families. They think about money all the time. They don’t think about people.’
‘Yes, I know,’ said Karen. ‘It’s happening in America too. But you can always find good people if you look for them.’
‘I know,’ said Kee, smiling. ‘You don’t have to go back yet, do you?’
‘No, not yet. Why?’
‘There’s something that 1 want to show you. It’s a hill outside the village. I often go there when I’m unhappy, or when I want to think. It’s a graveyard, but it’s very beautiful there, when the warm wind blows the leaves of the coconut trees.’
They left his house and began to walk along the road to the hill. When they arrived, they walked slowly through the graveyard. At the top of the hill, they looked down at the fields below. They could see a lot of lorries, and a lot of men were working there, building the new town. Already there were hundreds and hundreds of new houses in the field. ‘The village is changing very fast,’ he said. ‘Soon there are going to be thousands and thousands of new houses. What will happen to our village then? Once it was a quiet place and the people were friendly. But soon there will be a lot of new people and busy, noisy roads. I don’t want to live in a place like that.’
‘Can’t you do anything? Can’t you stop them?’ asked Karen.
‘Me? No. What can I do? Nothing. I’m an old man, and nobody listens to me.’
They walked on through the graveyard, and Kee said, ‘My grandfather is here in this graveyard. He was my mother’s father. I remember the day when he died. I cried for a long time when I saw that big dark hole in the ground, and we put his body in the grave. It was raining. I was twelve years old. My mother and father were with me, and they were crying too.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ said Karen.
‘Oh, it was a long time ago,’ said Kee. ‘But my grandfather’s grave was the last on this hill. After he died, they made a new graveyard on the other side of the village. That’s why nobody comes here now. Nobody remembers the old people here.’
‘But you do.’
‘Oh, yes. I could never forget my grandfather. He taught me about voodoo, about the spirit of the rain and the spirit of the wind. You see, nothing is really dead. There’s a spirit in everything, in every tree, in the sun, in the sea. If you understand voodoo, you can talk to these spirits. And there’s a spirit under this cold grey stone.’
Kee showed her the stone on his grandfather’s grave and Karen read the words slowly. ‘Tim Atty. Born 1845. Died 1906.’ Kee looked at Karen and said quietly, ‘Some people say he was the strongest houngan of all, the houngan we call Baron Samedi.’
‘Baron Samedi!’ cried Karen. ‘Your grandfather!’ Suddenly she felt afraid when she heard the terrible name. She looked at the old man.
‘I see you know more about voodoo than I thought,’ he said. ‘But don’t be afraid of me. I’m just an old man who doesn’t like the new world.’ He smiled at Karen again.
They stayed on the hill and talked for a long time. Then Karen looked at her watch and said, ‘What? Is that the time? I’m sorry, Kee, but I must go now. I have to be at the hospital at four o’clock.’ Kee got up.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Karen. ‘I can find the car — it’s not far. Please stay if you want to.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, I know how to get back.’
‘Well, then, I think I’ll stay a little longer. It was very nice to talk to you.’
‘Thank you for talking to me, too. I’ve learnt a lot today. I hope we’ll meet again.’
‘I hope so too. Goodbye.’
Kee watched Karen as she walked down the hill. And then he saw two men. They were young, and they were carrying lots of papers. They walked around the graveyard for a short time, looking at the graves and then at the papers. Kee went over to them.
‘Good afternoon,’ he said.
‘Good afternoon,’ the men replied.
‘What are you doing here?’ asked Kee.
‘We work for Conway Construction,’ they said. ‘We’re building some shops here.’
‘And a big hotel,’ said the other man. Kee was very surprised. ‘What?’ he said. ‘You can’t do that here. This is a graveyard. You can’t build houses and shops in a graveyard. It’s a very important place.’
The two men laughed at him. ‘Don’t be stupid, old man,’ they said. ‘This graveyard is very old. Nobody comes here now. The people in this graveyard died a hundred years ago.’
Kee was angry. ‘Don’t talk to me like that,’ he said. ‘My grandfather’s grave is here. You’re not going to build shops and houses on this land.’
One of the men said, ‘Yes, we are. This is Mr Conway’s land. He bought it a few days ago. He’s going to build shops here and we’re going to help him.’ ‘No,’ said Kee. ‘That isn’t true.’
‘It is true,’ replied the man. ‘We’re going to start next week. If you want to, you can go and see Mr Conway. You can talk to him. He’ll tell you it’s true.’ ‘Where does he live?’ asked Kee. The men gave him a small piece of paper. He looked at it. The paper said: ‘Conway Construction, 16 Rue de la Republique, Port au Prince.’
Kee said, ‘Don’t begin any work here. I want to see Conway first. I’ll tell him that he can’t build shops here.’
The two men laughed and said, ‘OK, old man. We’ll wait for you.’
The next morning Kee got on the bus. He bought a ticket to Port au Prince. During the journey he looked out of the window. There were new houses and offices all along the road from his village to Port au Prince.
When he arrived, he found a taxi and gave the driver the address. ‘Do you know how to get there?’ asked Kee.
‘Oh, yes,’ said the taxi driver. ‘Mr Conway is a big man round here. Very important. Rich, too. And they say he has a lot of friends.’
‘I know,’ said Kee. He sat back in the taxi as it drove away.
After a long time, they arrived at the office of Conway Construction. Kee paid the taxi driver, and went in. Conway’s secretary, Marie, was sitting at a desk. She looked at Kee.
‘Good afternoon,’ she said, ‘Can I help you?’
‘Yes,’ said Kee, ‘I want to talk to Mr Conway.’
‘What’s your name?’ the young woman asked.
‘Kee,’ he replied.
‘Please sit down,’ Marie said. Then she picked up a telephone and talked to Conway. ‘There’s a man here,’ she said. ‘He wants to talk to you.’ She waited for a moment, and then said, ‘Kee, Mr Kee. No, I don’t know who he is. He’s an old man.’ Marie put down the telephone and looked at Kee. ‘Mr Conway is waiting for you,’ she said. ‘Please go in.’
Kee walked to Conway’s door and went in. Conway smiled and said, ‘Good afternoon, Kee. My name is Conway. Please sit down. Can I help you?’ Kee was surprised. Then he said, ‘Yes, Mr Conway. My name is Kee. I live in the village of Bussy.’
‘Do you?’ said Conway. ‘I know the village of Bussy well. It’s very nice. We’re building a new town there.’ ‘Yes, I know,’ said Kee. ‘You’re building some shops and a hotel there too. But you must not build them on the graveyard. It is a very important place.’
Kee looked at Conway. He said, ‘I am a houngan, and I understand voodoo. I know you come from America, and you Americans do not believe in things like that.
But I can do many things that you do not understand. I will help you if you are good to me.’
‘You’re very kind,’ said Conway, laughing at the old man. ‘But I really don’t think your voodoo can give me all the things I want in life.’
‘What do you want?’
‘I want a lot of things,’ said Conway.
‘I want to live in a big house, with lots of rooms.’ ‘That will not be difficult,’ said the old man.
‘Oh, but I want more than that. I hate housework. I want lots of people to clean the rooms and bring me food. I want to have a lot of money in the bank. Oh, and I don’t want to work. I want a lot of things, you see.’
‘All right,’ said Kee. ‘You can have those things.’ ‘That’s very kind of you,’ said Conway, laughing. ‘Now, I’ve got work to do.’
But Kee sat quietly on his chair and smiled. ‘I can see that you do not believe me,’ he said. ‘You think I’m just an old man who doesn’t want to see new shops and houses. Just wait for a few days, and you will see. I’ll give you everything that you want. But you must not build shops and hotels in the graveyard. Do you understand?’
‘Yes, yes, yes, of course I understand,’ said Conway. He was beginning to get angry. ‘I won’t build shops and hotels there, and you will give me everything I want. Thank you very much for your help. Now, please, get out. I’m a busy man.’
‘Goodbye,’ said Kee. ‘Thank you for talking to me. But don’t forget, Mr Conway, you must not do these things. If you do, you’ll be sorry.’
‘Yes, yes, yes, I understand. Now go!’ said Conway. Kee turned and went to the door. For a moment, as the old man was walking out of the door, Conway remembered the face in the book on the plane. Suddenly he felt cold and afraid.
When Kee left the room, Conway picked up the telephone. He talked to Marie. He was very, very angry.
‘Marie!’ he shouted. ‘Why did you send that man to my office? He’s mad. Coming in here talking about voodoo! Telling me he’s going to give me a lot of money! I don’t want to see him again. Do you understand? If you make a mistake like that again, you’ll lose your job.’
‘I’m very sorry,’ said Marie.
‘Good. Now, I want to talk to Pierre and Henri. Get them on the telephone for me.’ He put down the telephone and sat back in his chair. ‘That man Kee is mad,’ he thought. Then he started to laugh. ‘He thinks he can give me everything I want!’ he thought. ‘An old man from a village! Ha, ha, ha!’
The telephone rang again. Conway picked it up. ‘Pierre, Henri, listen,’ he said. ‘A few minutes ago an old man came to my office. He doesn’t want any shops or houses in the graveyard. It’s possible he’ll try to stop us. I don’t know what he can do, but perhaps he’ll go to the police. Perhaps he has important friends. So you must start building the shops and the hotel today. Take away all the stones. Cut down all the trees. You must work fast, do you understand?’
Conway put down the telephone and thought, ‘The old man will be angry, but he isn’t important. I’ll finish building my town and then I’ll be a rich man.’
For many weeks Kee did not go back to the graveyard. He thought, ‘I’m happy that I went to see Conway. He’s a good man. He’s not going to build shops and houses in the graveyard. The people in the graveyard are dead, but their spirits are not dead. The spirits will help him. The spirits will give him everything he wants. The spirit of the wind will bring him good luck and the spirit of the rain will make him happy.’
But one afternoon Kee went back to the graveyard again. There were no trees. There were no stones. There were no graves. But there were a lot of men in the graveyard. They were from Conway Construction and they were building the shops and the hotel. When Kee saw what was happening, he became terribly angry. His face went white and his hands began to shake. Kee ran up to the men and said, ‘What’s happening? Why are you building here in the graveyard?’
The men laughed at him and said, ‘Go away, old man. This isn’t a graveyard any more. We’re building shops for the new town. Go back to your village and be quiet.’
Night came, and the village was very quiet. Kee was alone outside his house. In the garden there was a small fire and the yellow and orange flames danced in the dark, throwing strange black shapes across the ground. Kee took a stick and drew a circle in the ground. He walked round and round the circle, singing a strange song. A long way away, he could hear the sound of some dogs howling at the night sky.
Kee began to talk very quietly. He said, ‘Spirit of the wind, spirit of the rain, listen to me and help. His name is Conway. I saw him a few weeks ago. He said some things to me, but they were not true. Conway is building the shops and hotels in the graveyard. When I saw him I said, “I will give you everything you want.” Now I need your help, because the things I say are always true. I do not want to give him everything he wants, but I must. That is the law of the houngan. But something bad must happen to him too. Spirit of the wind, spirit of the rain, help me, help me . . .’
When Kee finished, a cold wind began to blow. It blew through the village, and then the trees began to move in the wind. There were clouds in the sky, and it began to rain. Soon the wind and the rain came to Port au Prince.
Conway was getting ready to go to bed. Then the wind began to blow and he began to feel cold and afraid. He looked out of the window. It was very dark, and there were a lot of clouds in the sky. He picked up his clock and put it by his bed because he had to wake up at seven o’clock. Then he turned off the light. Just before he went to sleep, he could hear the wind and the rain in the garden, and he thought, for a moment, that he could see the face of an old man at the window.
He did not sleep well that night. All night he had bad dreams, terrible dreams. In his dreams he saw Kee’s grandfather and all the other spirits from the graveyard. He was very frightened of the spirits and they ran after him in his dreams. He saw their white faces and felt their cold hands. He could hear strange music coming from behind dark trees and could hear people screaming and laughing, and shouting out his name.
RRRRING! It was seven o’clock. Conway looked at his clock and got out of bed. He brushed his teeth. He was very tired after his bad night. But he washed his face with cold water, and he began to feel much better. He soon forgot about his dreams of Kee and the graveyard.
He got dressed, and then had some breakfast and opened his letters. At eight o’clock he got in his car and went to the office. Marie was not there, so he opened the doors and made a cup of coffee. He went into his office and sat down. He was sitting behind the big desk in his office when the telephone rang.
RRRRRING! Conway woke up. He was in bed. He looked around the room. ‘What’s happening?’ he thought. ‘Where am I?’ He picked up his clock. It was seven o’clock. Conway thought, ‘That was a dream again. In my dream I got up and went to the office. But it was only a dream, and I’m still at home. How strange! I thought I was at the office.’
Conway got dressed and went to the office. When he went in, Marie was sitting at her desk.
‘Good morning, Marie,’ he said.
‘Good morning, Mr Conway,’ she said. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m fine,’ he said. ‘But I had a strange dream last night. In my dream, I woke up and came to the office. Then I woke up and I was at home.’
‘Well,’ she said. ‘You’re here now. This time you’re not dreaming.’
Conway went into his office and started to work. There was a knock on the door.
‘Come in,’ said Conway. An old man came into the office. He looked at Conway and started laughing.
‘Hello, Conway,’ said the old man. ‘Do you know my name?’ Conway looked at the old man and felt afraid. He knew the face. But where was it from? Whose face was it? Was it from the dream?… Or was it from a picture in a book? Was it the face from Karen Jackson’s book?
‘I am Kee’s grandfather!’ the old man said. And then he began to laugh and scream like a man who was mad.
Suddenly the telephone rang.
RRRRRRING! Conway woke up. He looked round the room. He was in bed. He looked at his clock — it was seven o’clock in the morning. He thought, ‘I was dreaming again. But what’s happening now? Am I sleeping or am I awake?’ He was very frightened now. He got up and went to the bathroom to wash his face. He looked into the mirror and screamed. In front of him, in the mirror, there was the head of a dead man. There were no eyes, and no nose, just deep black holes. A long thin red snake was moving slowly in and out of the holes. The snake looked at him with its two small cold eyes, and moved through the open mouth and went round and round the neck, and stopped. Then suddenly the head came alive. It had bright white teeth, there were fires in the eyes, and it began to laugh and scream. Then Conway remembered the face. In front of him was the face of Kee’s grandfather, the face of the terrible voodoo houngan, Baron Samedi, laughing at him.
RRRRRRRING! Conway woke up again. He was in bed. He looked at the clock. It was seven o’clock.
He started screaming.
A few weeks later Kee was in the garden outside his house. The village was quiet and there were no lorries or cars. It was early evening and Kee was giving the chickens some food as the sun went down. He heard a car coming along the road. He stopped and looked up. Karen Jackson stopped the car outside the gate and got out. Kee went over to meet her.
‘Karen!’ he said. ‘Come in. It’s very nice to see you again.’
‘Thank you,’ she said.
They went into the house, and Kee gave her a drink. They sat down and talked for a short time.
‘Is something wrong?’ asked Kee. ‘You look worried, unhappy.’
‘Yes. Yes, I am,’ said Karen. ‘That’s why I’m here. I want to ask you something.’
‘Yes, what is it?’
‘Well, there’s someone in the hospital who is very sick. We don’t know what to do. Can you come to the hospital and help us?’
Kee laughed. ‘American doctors don’t usually ask old men for help.’
Karen said, ‘I know, but you’re not an ordinary old man. You’re different.’
‘All right. I’ll come. But I don’t know if I can help.’ ‘You’re very kind. When can you come?’ asked Karen.
‘Now, if you want. I’m not doing anything important.’ ‘Thank you,’ said Karen. ‘You’re very kind. I’ve got a car. I can take you there.’
Karen and Kee drove out of the small village, down the road, and soon came to the houses of the new town. They passed the hill, but she did not turn to look at the graveyard. There were a lot of lorries at the side of the road. Karen looked at the names on the side of the lorries — Conway Construction.
‘They’re building a lot more houses here too, aren’t they?’ said Karen.
‘They were,’ said Kee.
They did not talk any more on the way to the hospital. When they arrived, Karen drove into the doctors’ car park and stopped the car. She got out and came round to open Kee’s door. Then they walked up to the front door of the large hospital. The glass doors opened and they went in. As they walked through the hospital, Kee noticed the strange smell, the clean white walls, and the. big glass doors. When they came to the desk, the nurse said ‘hello’ to Karen. She went round the desk to look in a book.
‘Room 473,’ she said, looking at Kee. ‘It’s this way.’ They walked to the lift and went up to the fourth floor. The doors opened, and Karen took Kee to the room. There was a small window in the door of the room.
Karen stopped. ‘Look!’ she said. Kee looked through the small window into the room. There were no tables or chairs in the room, and there were no other windows. Next to the wall there was a bed.
Kee looked at the man in the bed. It was Conway. He was wearing a big white coat, and he was screaming. While Kee was looking at the man, Karen explained. ‘His name is Conway, James Conway. It’s strange. When I came to Haiti, we were on the same plane. He sat next to me. He wanted to start a business and make money. I didn’t like him very much, I can tell you, but he wasn’t mad. Look at him now. He’s mad, and we don’t know why. He doesn’t talk to anyone and he starts screaming when he hears a telephone or a bell ringing. He’s afraid of sleeping too, and we can’t do anything for him. Some of the nurses are saying he’s like that because of voodoo.’
‘Perhaps the nurses are right,’ said Kee. Then he thought for a moment, and began to smile.
‘Can you help him?’ asked Karen.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Kee, ‘I’m not a doctor. But perhaps he’s happy here. He has a big place to live in, with lots of rooms. People come and clean the rooms and bring him food. He doesn’t have to work, and he’s got a lot of money in the bank. Perhaps he has everything he wants.’
Karen looked at the old man and for a moment she saw something cold and frightening in his smiling eyes.