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Broken Branches: Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten

Okay, I finally understood that my journey was an exploration of several branches to my family tree.  Well, at least that is what I thought I understood for a couple of seconds.  For I was just beginning to come to terms, so to speak, with my biological parents being a catatonic Billy Bayou and insane nymphomaniac Suzanne Kentwood when I found myself back where I had been along the way.

The place was the old abandoned barn where Tomas and the other escapees from the Alabaster Orphanage had slept during the first night after leaving the confines of their prison.  Consistent with what happened the first time, the sun came up and the boys decided that it would be in their best individual interests to go their separate ways, but instead of staying with Tomas like before, I was now attached to Martin, who hated being called Marty.

In fact, it was over being called Marty by a bully at the orphanage that Martin and Tomas became close.  For in spite of facing serious trouble from the staff, who were devout followers of the law of the jungle establishing that only the strong should survive, Tomas came to Martin’s rescue, and Tomas continued to look after Martin, who was as slight in stature as timid in demeanor.

Martin had largely grown out of all that by the time for the great escape, but Tomas still wished that he and Martin could stay together at least until both of their futures were more secure.  Martin wanted to take off in a different direction, however.

Unlike Tomas, Martin had no memory of having a previous family and just wanted to put as many miles between him and the Alabaster Orphanage as possible.  Tomas reasoned that heading west with him would do that, but Martin had it in mind for some reason that heading north was the way to go.

Martin made it all the way to Fort Smith, Arkansas before even considering a change in direction, and it was on account of coming up on the Arkansas River that he finally did.  For those flatboats heading downstream toward the east were sure making good time as far as he could see.

Martin could not have picked a worse flatboat to try to sneak onto.  For several of the passengers were actually hired gunmen guarding a fairly substantial amount of gold coming out of the mines in Colorado, and Martin was about to be unceremoniously thrown overboard before a very well-dressed lady by the name of Leila put a halt to it.

Okay, I suppose it could be also argued that Martin could not have picked a better flatboat to try to sneak onto.  For according to the lady’s husband, whose full name was Jasper Erasmus Weir, the gold belonged more to her than him, and when Leila asked Jasper if it would be all-right for Martin to stay aboard as their guest, Jasper was quite serious about her wish being his command.

No, Jasper had not been emasculated by a domineering wife.  He was just madly in love with Leila and wanted to give her everything within his power to provide.

From the look of things, Jasper had done a spectacular job of providing Leila with almost everything imaginable.  For the Weir’s lived in a splendid house in the Garden District of New Orleans that was a showcase of opulent living.

Since a great deal of Jasper’s wealth came from his prowess at a poker table, there were some who would always insist that his gains were ill-gotten, and there was more to that than what most realized.  For Jasper liked to dabble with black magic, and there were lots of times when other players inexplicably folded considering the hand they were holding at the time.

I could not help but wonder at first if there was some mind-control going on with Martin.  For the one thing that Jasper had failed to give Leila was a child, and there was Martin already acting like she was indeed his mother.

It made sense, of course, that Martin was just grateful for being allowed to remain aboard and accumulate even more miles between him and the Alabaster Orphanage, but I could see that there was much more to his behavior than that.  For there was a look of belonging in Martin’s eyes, which was mirrored in Leila’s, and I became too enamored with the image of a lost little boy finally being found by a loving family he could come to consider his own to entertain any more notions of skullduggery possibly being afoot.

Much to my delight, there was not anything underhanded about the unofficial adoption of Martin, and he quite nicely settled into his role as being the child Leila had so desperately wanted to have.  Even Jasper had to admit, albeit just to himself, that he had only thought his life was complete before Martin came around.

Ah, but not everything was perfect in paradise.  For it was becoming clearly apparent that Martin was in need of a lot of special attention.

Okay, I know what you are thinking.  For I would be thinking the same thing if I did not already know that Martin really did have some significant learning disorders to overcome.  After all, considering how much abuse and neglect he had suffered at the orphanage, who could blame him for wanting to play on the sympathies of the Weir’s for all at least a little while?

When it was revealed to me what Martin was having to deal with, I had a lot of extra sympathy for him, myself.  For on top of having an IQ that would have tested in the 50s if there was such a test at the time, Martin was also dyslexic, which requires a good amount of intelligence to overcome.

If you are not familiar with dyslexia, it is basically a condition that makes it extremely difficult to accurately read something because of the brain processing letters, numbers and symbols out of order.  An example of this is word being read as ordw by a dyslexic, and this also applies to whole words in a sentence, such as what was written is read as written what was, with there being thousands of variables that are often unique to an individual.

Since there was very little understood about dyslexia back then, along with Martin being rather dim-witted, sending him to a regular school was out of the question.  Leila considered this to be more a blessing than a curse, and she very enthusiastically took it upon herself to teach him everything she could.

Jasper was far less enthusiastic, but he was thrilled with how happy Martin made his beloved wife.  It was the beginning of the end of Jasper’s happiness, though.

It is said that love is blind, and Jasper served as a perfect example of why.  For he could not see that Leila did not have enough room in her heart for both him and Martin.

Perhaps it is more accurate that Jasper would not see, which goes along with being madly in love.  Either way, I felt really bad for Jasper.

There are those, of course, who would insist that with there being nothing holy about Jasper and Leila’s matrimony, he was just reaping what he had sown.  Considering the fact that the first night they spent together was the result of Jasper’s three eights and a pair of tens beating Captain Zach’s three aces, it is arguable that they have a point.

Captain Zach’s full name was Zachary Ignacious Phillips, and he was the owner/operator of the Mudcat, which was a riverboat that was commonly referred as being the Mudcathouse because of the onboard saloon girls being quite game to provide a patron with about anything that could be desired if their money was right.

Leila was one of those saloon girls, and she had actually felt honored to be added to the kitty when Captain Zach did not have enough chips left to cover Jasper’s call.  By the end of that night, Leila had Jasper feeling like the most fortunate man to have ever lived.

An experienced gambler will tell you that the secret to winning is knowing when to hold or fold the cards in your hand, and Jasper held onto Leila’s hand for as long as he could.  When what was left of Martin’s body was found in a swamp to the west of New Orleans, Jasper hoped that Leila would turn to him for comfort and a return to the better days of their marriage before Martin’s arrival would soon come to pass, but only much worse days were on his horizon.

No, Jasper did not, nor have someone else, murder Martin, but it took the investigators a while to concur.  Jasper called in every marker he had accumulated over the years in the area, but Leila had a few markers of her own.  With their markers canceling out each other and no clear evidence of their actually being a murder committed, the case was closed as an accidental encounter with an alligator, which happens.  Considering the fact of Martin being so dim-witted, the accident scenario was actually more plausible to the masses than one of his adoptive parent murdering him five years after welcoming the lost little boy into their home, and that was that for that.  That is, at least officially.

Now, would you want to know what really happened?  Leila convinced herself that she had no choice in the matter.

All was going reasonably well for five years.  Granted, having to go over something time and time and time again in order to teach Martin even the simplest of things became quite tiresome, but Leila did not consider it too high of a price to pay for finally being given the privilege of motherhood.

Jasper tried to help with what he could, but it became clearly obvious to all around that he did not have the necessary patience.  Leila looked at this as being a good thing.  For it kept Martin thinking that he was solely dependent on her, with whom was actually paying for where he was living and eating notwithstanding, of course.

Yes, what is his is hers should be recognized in a marriage, but individual contributions to the family should not be ignored.  Evidently, Martin was not the only one in the Weir family whom had a hard time leaning things.

No, it was not that Leila was as dim-witted as Martin.  If anything, she was too smart for her own good, and an evil genius would not be an unfair description.

Okay, maybe not.  For Leila failed to consider the possibility that being unable to become pregnant by Jasper was because of him being sterile—not her.  Three months after the beginning of Martin’s sexual education, the possibility was proven to be a reality.

No, Martin had no idea what he was being taught, but he sure enjoyed the classes.  For Leila had recruited one of the saloon girls she used to work with on the Mudcat to help with Martin’s education.  Her name was Rita, and when Leila saw Martin come up behind Rita while they were all out on the docks, cup her breasts and start dry humping her very shapely rear, Leila knew that she had a serious problem.

It could be argued that Leila’s reaction had more to do with jealousy than anything else.  For she did not mind Martin groping women out in public just as long as it was her, but when he picked Rita over her, something drastic had to happen.

There was no question of Martin’s untimely demise being an act of self-survival.  For he would have been safe if had enough sense, but Leila knew all too well that he did not, which placed her own life in peril.

Leila did not want to trust anyone to do her dirty work, and she worked really hard at making sure that no remains of either Rita or Martin would ever be found.  It came as quite a shock to her that enough of Martin was found to identify the body, but she started breathing a little easier when the focus of the investigation was placed on Jasper.  The markers she called in from high government officials she had serviced while working as a saloon girl on the Mudcat were meant to keep the focus away from her, and the rest of her plan was working to perfection until Loren and Diana were born.

The rest of Leila’s plan was to convince Jasper that they were his, and he desperately wanted to believe that it was indeed true.  The trouble was that the babies looked like miniature reproductions of their parents, with Diana looking just exactly like Leila and Loren looking just exactly like Martin.

Jasper took a long look at the twins nursing at Leila’s ample breasts and knew what the truth was.  He left the hospital without saying a word to anyone, and the next morning, Japer’s body was found hanging from the brace that ran between the dual smokestacks of the Mudcat, which he had won in another poker game with Captain Zach.

As soon as all of the legalities were completed giving Leila sole ownership of Jasper’s business empire, she sold it off piece by piece, packed up the twins and moved where it would be highly unlikely to be found by anyone who could recognize her or her children.  Leila’s plan to disappear into New York City’s huddled masses of European immigrants worked like a charm, and I meant that quite literally.  For Leila had learned a thing or two about magic, herself.

Pride and lust were the primary driving forces at the core of Leila’s being.  Nonetheless, paranoia was at the heart of her decision to obtain fake identification papers for herself and the twins, along with killing the forger afterward.  For Leila’s faith in her powers of persuasion only went so far.

Leila bought an apartment building in the northern part of Manhattan.  With her being fluent in Spanish, she blended right in with the rest of the inhabitants in an area that came to be known as Spanish Harlem.

Leila kept a low profile and lived as quiet a life as one can live in New York City, but when it came time to enroll the twins in school, Leila knew that the time for another move was at hand.  For the twins not only looked like carbon-copies of their parents, they inherited many of their other traits, as well.

It was the most clearly obvious in Loren at the time.  For he had a streak of deviousness every bit as wide as his mother’s, and with him being as dim-witted as his father, Loren’s pranks rarely went well.  There was one time when he set fire to the tail of an alley cat that almost resulted in an entire city block going up in flames.

Leila shuddered at the thought of the havoc Loren could wreak at a public school, and with him already having a juvenile criminal record, none of the private school would even consider admitting him.  So much for her powers of persuasion—huh?

There was not nearly as much potential for trouble with Diana.  Well, at least not in regards to her causing it, but Leila could clearly see where Diana could find herself in all sorts of trouble because of the inability to develop any so-called street-smarts.  No, such an innocent little lamb would not last long with all of the wolves prowling the streets of New York City day and night, and Leila did not see how she could keep Diana safe and Loren under control every second of every day.

So, Leila engaged in a search for a home where the wildlife was not so predatory.  She believed that she had found it around halfway between Buffalo and Jamestown, New York, but the area winters were typically a bear, so to speak.

New York City winters were bad enough on someone born and raised in southern Louisiana, but in comparison to where Leila had moved her family, winters around southern New York could be considered rather balmy.  For lake-effect snowfall accumulations were generally measured in feet—not inches.

Nonetheless, the area was perfect for someone who wanted to be close enough to civilization when they needed or wanted something while far enough away when they did not want to see a soul for days at a time.  Hence, the perfect place to raise two unruly children in Leila’s eyes.

All went relatively well for twelve years, and then hormones added themselves to the equation.  This was not necessarily unwelcome to Leila.  For she had grown quite tired of satisfying herself, but as they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men, so do they also apply to women.

Two years after the new family dynamic was initiated, Diana became pregnant, which did not change a thing until she became quite large with child.  This is when Leila stopped Loren from having sex with Diana for the sake of baby’s health.

All Diana understood was that Leila wanted Loren all to herself, and she stabbed Leila with a butcher knife during a heated argument.  Leila died a month before Diana’s baby was born.

Most of the people living in the far western tip of New York highly respected the wishes of their neighbors, and when someone wanted to be left alone, they were usually left alone.  Jeffery Garrison and his wife, Henrietta, had lived in the area all of their lives, but they had their fill of the winters and longed for a much warmer climate.

Henrietta had once overheard Leila ask a vendor at the Buffalo Produce Market if he ever had cayenne peppers, and when the vendor asked Leila why she would want such a hot pepper, she told him that they were an important part of many of the dishes she had grown up eating down in New Orleans.  Henrietta told Jeffery what she had overheard, and they decided to pay a visit to Leila’s place to learn what she could tell them about New Orleans when the time came for them to head south.

Jeffery and Henrietta were six weeks too late to speak with Leila, but they were just in time to save the life of Diana’s baby.  For she had to wait until Loren had enough of her mother’s milk, and there was not always all that much left.

Leila’s place looked deserted as Jeffery and Henrietta slowly drove up to the house in their Model A Ford.  Jeffery had served with distinction as a Marine during World War I, and the hairs on the back of his neck were standing at attention as he and Henrietta walked up to the front door.

Jeffery reacted on trained instinct as Diana suddenly burst through the front door with her butcher knife held high over her head and an unearthly screeching sound coming out of her mouth.  Jeffery reacted in the same way as Loren came at Henrietta from behind with an ax in his hands.

At first, Henrietta was very glad that Jeffery had insisted on carrying a small revolver whenever they were out and about, but the look of horror on Jeffery’s face sent her into a panic.  A case for self-defense could easily be made, but there was no discounting the fact that the two people Jeffery had just killed were not very old at all.

The cry of a baby from inside the house beckoned Jeffery and Henrietta to enter, and the look of horror on both of their faces became decidedly more pronounced.  For laying on the floor next to a naked baby girl was the remains of Leila, and it was quite obvious that part of her had been eaten.

Jeffery and Henrietta were like zombies as they loaded up the baby girl and a strongbox full of cash in their vehicle and headed southward.  They soon regained enough of their senses to stop and purchase new clothing for the baby, along with some goat’s milk for her to consume.

Jeffery and Henrietta were not necessarily driving to New Orleans, but it was in that direction they were headed, just the same.  They made it just south of the Mississippi state line when they came upon a police roadblock in Kentwood, Louisiana.

From the information they had received, the officers manning the roadblock believed that Jeffery and Henrietta were a budding Bonnie and Clyde, and a hail of bullets ripped through the Model A before Jeffery could step on the brake pedal.  The only survivor in the vehicle was the baby girl, who became a ward of the state of Louisiana when the state of New York declined to go bring her back.  It was written on the baby’s initial paperwork that her name was Suzanne Kentwood.      

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