Part 7: MacNamara, Hound of the Sea
With most of the family having migrated to other shores in the world, Ruby had no family left in Guyana. She had missed the ceremonial proceedings for her grandmother; that was fine, as she preferred her personal space and time to grieve. A quiet, sunny resort gave her shelter, meals, and quiet walks on the beach to think about anything and nothing.
The bar in the lobby hosted a calypso band on her last evening. Ruby enjoyed the music from a comfortable stool at the bar. She ordered a martini and a rum punch. She startled hard when a voice called over her shoulder to the bartender.
“Miss! I pay for that! I pay for her drink.”
Ruby could hardly believe whom she was seeing! Old Bibi smiled at her. The last time Ruby saw her was many years ago during her last childhood summer to Guyana. Ruby had never seen Old Bibi without a head wrap. From her memories, Old Bibi was always dressed in a very plain, loose flowing shift, flecked and smeared with river, mud, and innards. The fisherwoman did not show any signs of aging in that time. Now she looked modern and stylish with her elegant cocktail wear and new hairstyle, cut sleek and ends tinged with red highlights.
“Old Bibi! You look fabulous!” Ruby embraced her.
“I retired,” she laughed. “I travel now.” Old Bibi was making her rounds on the islands, before embarking on a long, leisurely splurge up the Atlantic coastline. She promised to visit Ruby when she toured Florida.
They talked for a while, and finally, the older woman stood. “This Old Bibi needs her beauty sleep.” Before leaving she told Ruby, “You don’t take that bracelet off. Never.”
The next day found Ruby homebound for Sandra Bay. As she walked away from the front lobby, a young man ran after her and yelled, “Miss, you left this in your room!” He placed a bottle of water in her outstretched hand and hurried past her to get on an elevator.
Ruby stared at the bottle. It was not hers. For a moment, her Granny Milner came to her mind’s eye and told her sharply, “Leave nothing with, don’t take nothing from strange people and places.” Since it was unopened, Ruby shoved the free bottle of water into her bag and took the taxi to the airport.
Som and Ralph waved Ruby down when she emerged from the terminal in Sandra Bay International Airport, and they walked with her to pick up her bags from the luggage carousel. There was a small crowd waiting. Minutes passed. Ruby talked with a few of them about the lovely resort they had just left behind.
Children became antsy. Adults got impatient. One man fished out his package of airline peanuts and ate them. He swallowed one poorly and began to choke. Ruby thought about her bottle of water and offered it to him. He drank some and fell to the ground in convulsions. He clutched at his throat, choking and sputtering. Water ran out from the fallen bottle.
Som pulled a horrified Ruby away from him. Then he ran into the main terminal and yelled to attract security.
Another man came running over to the choking victim. Instead of kneeling to help him, this man threw a powder into the water puddling around him.
A shrill cry sounded, and the puddle began to hiss and smoke. Wisps began to come together to form a faint struggling outline.
Meanwhile, the man had stopped choking and lay still on the ground.
“Turn him on his side,” the intervening stranger shouted to Ruby. “He’s going into shock!” He was now struggling fiercely to keep from being choked barehanded by the furious figure of mist.
Ruby turned the victim onto his side.
Ralph and Som rushed to the grappling pair.
The stranger barely managed to croak, “Pocket! Pocket!”
In a flash, Som pulled out something that looked like a vial cut from cloudy blue stone.
The man of mist instantly relinquished his grasp on the stranger, diffused into air, and vanished.
The stranger swore heartily. “I almost had him!”
“You mean, he almost had you,” contradicted Som. He looked down at the stranger’s tattoo on his right forearm and exclaimed with something like camaraderie, “Damn Devil Dog!
The stranger stuck out his hand. “That was a different life. I’m MacNamara. Hound of the Sea. He,” the man pointed at the puddles of water on the ground, “zis an ancient, murderous river god named Etaname.”
Som stared at him. Ruby tapped Som. “Let’s all go somewhere where we can have a long, long talk. I need to tell you something.”
They decided in the end to go to Ruby’s condo. Over pizza and whiskey, Som and MacNamara listened to Ruby tell them about her encounter years ago in Guyana, finishing with meeting Old Bibi again at the hotel just the night before. She ended with, “Old Bibi has to be a form that Mamawata uses on land. She has not aged at all in the past twenty years. In fact, she looks younger!”
“You’re right,” MacNamara told her. “It’s her.”
Ruby did not hide her dismay. “How is it then that Etaname can move on land now? Granny Milner told me that he is bound to water, fresh water, since he is only a river god.”
Macnamara shook his head and drank deeply. “That hurricane did more than just make the ground wobble a bit, you know. Things in the ocean and deep underground shook loose, and now they’re coming out to see us. Let’s hope they stick to satisfying curiosity and not hunger. Not only creatures, but places, too, have been reshaped, rearranged.”
He stopped talking and pulled the vial out of his pocket. He passed it to Ruby. “That is from Mamawata. She saved my life. I was on a mission in Iraq, and our truck was ambushed. Our driver lost control, and we slid over a mud embankment headlong into the Euphrates River. We could not cut ourselves out of the seatbelts in time. Mamawata pulled me to the surface and told me that she would take me to shore if I promised to do something for her in return. If I refused, she was going to leave me, and I was in no condition to swim. I promised to do whatever she asked, and after she got me to shore, she made me drink a flask of something like sweet licorice. She took me to a house somewhere. I just remember that it was very warm and sunny.
“Everyone else drowned. Their bodies were recovered. Michael Murphy Macnamara the Marine has been reported missing in action. That’s fine. I got no family left, anyway. Now my purpose is to help her contain Etaname in the river where he belongs. I follow wherever the god goes. If we can catch and seal some of his essence when he is in a form of water, then we will have the power to control him.
“This vial is made of larimar. Larimar is a very rare stone found only in the province of Barahona in the Dominican Republic. It is also called the ‘Atlantis Stone’ and the ‘Dolphin Stone’. It’s a beautiful blue, colored by Caribbean waters. This we need to confine Etaname.”
Som jumped up. He hurried to check his cameras. Then he told Ruby and MacNamara, “Normally, I would think you two are psycho. Even deluded liars. But there’s something you should see.” He flipped his laptop around.
Ruby watched Melissa’s hair gradually coiling out away from her head in the water. She almost shrieked when she distinctly made out the head of a snake rippling out and back. Then Ruby rubbed her eyes.
“You’re seeing right,” Som told her.
Melissa almost fell over her tail as it fused from her legs. Then she stood on legs again.
“Hmmmm. Interesting.” Then MacNamara pulled his rifle out from what Ruby thought was simple travel luggage. “This is my rifle,” he announced unnecessarily.
“There are many others like it, but that one’s yours,” chuckled Som.
“No! There are no others like this, I made the only one, and it’s for subduing Etaname.” He began loading clay pellets into his magazine.
“You’re going after a powerful river god with dirt bullets?” Som asked, disbelieving.
“Exactly. These are made for him. Etaname’s mobility still comes mostly from water. He just recently acquired the ability to walk on land. He is elusive, almost impossible to catch when he turns into mist. But when you mix water with dirt, what do you get?”
“Clever,” Som agreed. “How much does mud slow him down?”
“Almost immoveable,” Macnamara answered. He showed them another vessel. “This ampoule contains hydride, and I already use this to dry up the air and keep him from evaporating away. I almost caught him several times already. I won’t have to wait long. Etaname can’t help looking for victims. It is what he does.”