Okay, it’s not usual for me to release the first draft of a story, but time is against me. The original title of this piece was ‘The Devil’s Apprentice’, and I had intended for the protagonist to speak native Gullah. However, to get this story ready for a Halloween reading at Southcart Books, I had to compromise, using English in place of Gullah (I would never roughly estimate the sound of a dialect, so I decided not to try).
Trigger Warning: The N-word appears in this story.
“The subject is a textbook example of an unprincipled narcissist,” the report said, “consumed by a supreme sense of entitlement and desperate for both the attention and admiration of others, yet lacking any form of conscience. Deceptive, disloyal, exploitative, a brazen liar and a domineering confidence trickster contemptuous of others, unable to handle criticism, vindictive when opposed, and dismissive of others’ feelings.”
The Donald smiled at the assessment. He paid no attention to such accusations, but the conclusion that he was unfit for the role of president was not one he could allow to be submitted. Thankfully the author had had been persuaded to reconsider, and it had gone away. His stubby finger hovered over the laptop keyboard before crashing down on the return key that confirmed its deletion.
Donald John Trump smiled with uncontainable satisfaction. Life, of course, wasn’t about having an ego, it was about being the best at closing the deal. And Donald was the best. Of course, being the best made it easy for people to mistake his tremendous success for something more delusional. There were plenty of naysayers out there, making up shit that might stick if enough people believed it. But… so what? So long as he stuck to the script, played the part, and gave them the man they expected, nothing would change. His part was the role of a lifetime. Billionaire, business magnate, playboy, reality TV star, and would-be President of the most powerful nation in the free world.
No, not would-be, will be.
There is, he reminded himself, no room for doubt. In fact, he expected his opponent to concede even before Election Day, because he could throw more poison at that nasty woman than she could possibly imagine. All those years of fake friendship, buying off her supporters, entertaining her husband by offering the best whores to him. They didn’t know they were whores, but what the Donald wants, the Donald gets. That was the good thing about it. Power protects. Besides, people expected the Donald to be a cheating philanderer who enjoys random pieces of ass in between deals with other people’s money. So what if his father lent him the first million? So what if he was about to cut a deal with the devil to guarantee his place in the big chair.
No done deal is a bad deal, he reminded himself, and becoming president was, here in his own back-yard, at one of his own hotels, about to be secured with the biggest in history.
Switching browser tabs from his email to Google, he decided to waste a couple of minutes doing a search on himself. The usual stuff was there, although he was pleased to see the links that his campaign had paid for were trending way above the opposition’s smear campaigns. He smiled to himself. All that talk about rigging things? They didn’t know the first thing about it, and there was nothing–
He paused as the search refreshed. Something new had climbed up the rankings. He’d never seen it before. Curious, he clicked on the link.
There were hundreds of such threats online, and they rarely trended. No liberal was going to follow through on that crap. At least this site had a nice approach. Crowdfunding. Some shmuck was using crowdfunding to raise enough money to hire a hitman. Sweet, he thought. People were pledging fifty bucks a pop to reach a ten million dollar target. Well, he conceded, that might be enough to get a half-decent hitman. But the target was too high. Election Day was just a month away and they’d barely raised $50k. Besides, he was pretty sure the FBI would round up every backer if anything came of it.
Maybe I’ll get the site cloned and set up one called killhillary, he thought. Yeah. He smiled to himself.
Just then his desk intercom buzzed, and he shifted his attention away from the Internet, pressing the speaker button.
“Your visitor has arrived, Mister Trump. Are you ready for me to send him in?”
Good girl, he thought, she remembered the cue. Men might be better than women 99% of the time, but a good woman was worth as many as 10 good men. It was a pity she was getting older though, and if she put on any more weight he would have to consider letting her go.
“Give me ten,” he replied. One of the secrets of a good deal was to keep ’em waiting, even if you were negotiating with the devil himself. “Has the coffee machine been fixed yet?”
That was another cue, this time to Barb. It meant ‘do not give him a drink’. Another tactic.
“No sir. Apparently it’s a problem with the water supply.”
“Never mind. Tell him there’s a whisky waiting when we meet.” Carrot and stick, never failed.
In the time that he had, Trump took up the slender manila folder that rested on his desk. His business intelligence was the best, but his international espionage links were tremendous. Putin delivered every time, and the folder would tell him everything he needed to know about his visitor.
“Doctor John Domingo, aka The Black Constable. Born London, 1955. The subject claims to be a direct descendant of the original John Domingo of Charleston, South Carolina, a notorious Hoodoo man whose death in 1888 was subject to poor paperwork and local superstition. There is a line of descendants traceable to Dr. John Domingo of Bermuda (d. 1937).
“It is claimed that Domingo was conceived in a black magic ritual held by a mixture of black migrants and white would-be witches, who sought to adopt voodoo practices through the coercion of his mother, Marguerite Domingue (d. 1955), who was killed in a fire on the day of his birth.
“Domingo was subsequently adopted by the renowned businessman and satanist, Sir Clive Throckmorton, and was educated at Eton before attending Keble College, Oxford, where he was a member of both the Piers Gaveston Society and the notorious Bullingdon Club. Here he achieved a Doctorate in Theology, after which time he and his stepfather parted company.”
Whatever happened to Clive Throckmorton? Trump wondered. When he was younger the man had been an inspiration, but in recent years his name and legacy seemed to have faded from history. He made a mental note to check it out.
“Domingo returned to his ancestral home in Charleston for five years, where he set himself up as a babalawo and Hoodoo practitioner, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, before returning to England to become a ‘Master of Gullah Hoodoo’, selling charms, providing consultations and other supernatural services for the curious rich.
“Of particular interest were the services he rendered to the Dragovskaya Bratva, a criminal syndicate from Russia whose heavy investment in the London property market saw considerable payments made to Domingo. It was on the recommendation of Timur Komarov, the late founder of the Dragovskaya, that Domingo’s name was put forward as the best man to provide services of a metaphysical nature.?”
Trump closed the folder. There was plenty more detail, but he hadn’t time for that right now. Leaning forward, he activated the intercom.
“Send our visitor in now, thanks, Barb.”
As the door opened, Trump appraised the man that stepped into the room. He was tall and imposing, with dark, piercing eyes that had something of the snake about them. Despite his dark brown skin he had an almost oriental look about him, his long, black, slick hair tightly tied into a ponytail, with two long strands hanging down to frame his hawk-like moustachioed face.
Beneath his great Union-blue cavalry coat (a period piece that looked new enough to have come from a reenactment group) the man wore a silk gown underneath. Like a kimono, with silver snakes picked out against a red background. It wasn’t oriental though, it looked to be more East European.
Finally, slung over his shoulder, Domingo carried a battered black leather satchel, onto which strange occult signs and symbols —the vevres of his craft–had been picked out in white and orange.
“Mister Domingo? Take a seat.”
With a curt nod, the hoodooman sat, his eyes unwavering in their attentiveness. “You wanted my help, Mister Trump?” He said at last in a well enunciated English accent that seemed at odds with his appearance.
“Indeed I do. It’s super to finally meet you,” the Donald stood, offering his hand. “I’ve heard such good things…”
Domingo ushered away the proffered hand with a sweep of his left. Long, sharp fingernails made him look like some kind of mandarin. A black Fu Manchu, thought Trump, withdrawing his hand and taking his seat.
“By heard, you mean read,” said Domingo. “That is my file?”
Before the billionaire could answer, the stranger had swept up the folder, opening it up and tracing its words with his long fingernails.
“Accurate, but sparse,” he said at last, returning the folder to the table. “What would you have of me?”
“I need help,” the billionaire replied, struggling with the words. “Magical help.”
“Well, I am a conjure-man, so that stands to reason, although I was led to believe you had no truck with religion.”
“I’m a Presbyterian, old-testament kinda guy, but I don’t bring God into politics or business. That just gets messy.”
“But you do know that as a conjure-man I deal with spirits empowered by the divine?”
“Sure, kind of. I thought Saints and Angels and Devils and such.”
“Quite,” said Domingo. “I deal in charms, curses, conjurings and readings, Mr Trump. Which, exactly, do you want from me?”
“Something pretty big, pretty powerful. I need to win this vote. Whatever it takes.”
“You’re asking me use my powers to rig the election for you?”
“It’s already rigged. This whole Campaign has been a disaster. The worst. I think she’s already using poison against me. Traitors, a hitman maybe. She’s crazy, and it’s up to me to stop her. I’m the only man that can, but I need your help. Just make me win. I need to win that election. Everything is at stake.”
“Very well. First thing I want is a potation of that whisky you offered, then I’m going to fix you up a mojo hand that does exactly what you want.”
“A mojo hand?”
“You’ll see,” said Domingo, reaching into his satchel and drawing out a stencilled board made from three strips of polished wood long-since liberated from an old dockside packing crate. It had been thickly coated with blackboard paint before being ornately transformed into what Trump recognised as a ouija board.
“This,” said John, “is my planchette. The summoning board that I use to bring down the loa. Your people call it Ouija, but we call it by its true name. Ouidah, named for the spirit of its people and the land of their birth.”
Laying the board out on the billionnaire’s mahogany desk, Domingo quickly set to work. First he took out a piece of white chalk, drawing four symbols upon the board and muttering a short but unintelligible prayer over each. Then he set four dishes at the cardinal points of the board, and into each he poured a measure of water from a small stoppered leather skin. Into each of these he placed a floating tallow candle, each of which he lit in sequence.
He then withdrew a small metal bowl–a crucible–which he placed in the centre of the board, with a small gas-burner set beneath it. Then he waited, shushing his client when the billionaire tried to speak, and furrowing his brows as the metal began to glow red with the heat.
Taking out the dessicated wing of a whippoorwill, the jawbone of a squirrel, and the fang of a rattle-snake, Domingo crumbled them into the bowl, reducing them to ash. As he did this, he withdrew a small pouch of grey dust, taken from the grave of an old and wicked person. Sprinkling it over the ashes, he then added a spattering of blood, freshly drained from the throat of a cannibal sow.
Lowering the heat, The conjure-man took a weathered wooden spoon and stirred the mixture into a thick paste, shaping it into a small cake in the centre of the bowl.
“Now, give me some tow-hair,” he said.
“A lock of hair from your head. I need it.”
Reaching forward, the hoodooman grasped at Trump’s fringe and tugged sharply, plucking a small clump of golden hair as his client yelped into pain.
“Owww! Is this absolutely–?”
Drawing three small hen feathers from his satchel, Domingo wrapped them tightly with the blond hair before inserting the bound tangle into the grey ash-cake. Blowing upon it to harden the mixture, he set the cake aside and reached into his satchel once more, withdrawing a small bag made from flesh torn from the haunch of a living cat. Placing the feather-cake inside the bag, he took out a long white skein from his satchel, setting it aside before adding other materials–red clover blossom, some chewing tobacco, more grey tomb-dust, a sliver of tin foil and a ball of silk thread.
“Whisky?” He held out his hand, and Trump raised a golden box from beneath his desk, embossed with the symbolic letter T.
“This,” he said, “is the finest whisky, ‘Trump Scotland Single Malt Scotch’. Twenty Five years old,” he added. “I’m incredibly proud. It’s from the Benriach Distillery Company, and they made it just for me. It’s the absolute best,” he added, pouring two fingers of the golden spirit into a cut glass, also embossed with the billionaire’s trademark T.
Domingo then took the tobacco, stuffing it into his mouth before starting to chew. As he did this he snapped the skein into four parts, each a foot and a half in length, then doubled and re-doubled them, skilfully braiding in an equal length of silken thread as he did so.
“There,” he said at last, still chewing. “I’ll use these skeins to bind the spirits, but first–”
He picked up the glass and filled his mouth with the whisky before making weird mumbling and gurgling noises as he sloshed the whisky and tobacco around inside his mouth. As he did so he tied his first end, then mouth-sprayed a measure of the saliva-infused mix over the knot. This he repeated three more times as he used the skein to bind the bag.
“Now,” said the conjure-man, “More whisky!”
Trump refilled his glass and repeated the incantation, pausing to mouth-spray the red clover and the foil before slipping them in amongst the tangle of knotted skeins and sprinkling them liberally with more tomb dust. He then picked up the remainder of the silk yarn and began to wind it tightly around the ball until it was a good inch-and-a-half in diameter.
“There,” he said at last. “No loa can break those knots. Ologun before me, Ologun behind me, Ologun inside me. May this ball bring election success to Donald Trump. May it bind the spirits, and may it cast down his enemies before him so that they will be brought underfoot. May it bring him followers aplenty, and may it bring the loyal to him so that he is honoured, so that he has power and wealth, so that it may bring his heart’s desire, so that he will succeed in all that he undertakes, so that it brings him happiness. I fix it in the name of Ologun. As the roads twist and turn, as the rivers flow, be with me by day, be with me by night, be with me by day and by night.”
Is that it? Thought Trump, whose confidence in the magic had waned as he had watched. This is so primitive. So uncivilised. But it was always worth hedging your bets.
“Promise,” said Domingo, holding up the ball so that it came between his own eyes and those of his client, “that you’ll treat this lucky-ball well, Donald Trump…”
As he spoke, his words washed over the tycoon, the ball seemed to take on a life of its own, spinning and dancing before him, and a strange but distant sensation came over him, as if he was far away, barely hearing the conjure-man’s words. Then he was aware of a conversation. Was he being interrogated? There were and answers, but he didn’t know what they were, not whether they came from his own mouth, that of Domingo, or from some detached spirit.
“Come closer.” He then heard John say, and felt himself drawn back towards the hoodooman. It was if he had taken a big, big hit of cocaine.”
Then he felt a spray of whisky as Domingo’s mouth bathed his face in another glassful of spirit and saliva.
“It is done.”
Wrapping the ball in tinfoil and a little silk rag, the hoodooman handed it to his client.
“I want you to place this ball in a small linen bag. Attach it to a piece of string made from hemp or flax. Then I want you to swing it over your left shoulder so that the back ends up under your right armpit. Is that clear?”
“Good. The ball should rest under your right arm, touching your skin. Once per week you must remove the bag, bathe the ball in saliva and whisky, and then repeat the procedure. Over the left, under the right. Yes?”
Again the Donald nodded.
“If you do not do this, its potency will subside.”
Gathering his things together, Domingo reached across the table and took what was left of the whisky, slipping it into his satchel before he stood and made his goodbyes.
“Our business is concluded,” he said, passing over an invoice for his services. “You shall not see me again. Congratulations on your election victory.”
As the hoodooman departed, Trump examined the invoice.
“Ten million dollars or one immortal soul?” He sneered, screwing up the invoice and throwing it into the bin. “Stupid N*****.”
November 8th, 2016
When the election results came in it was clear that the exit polls had called it wrong. America had marched, with its eyes wide open, into oblivion. All the poison thrown at Secretary Clinton had done its work, and Hillary was beaten. Donald Trump, secure in his tower, smugly patted the little ball that nestled beneath his right armpit. It was, perhaps, time for a press conference.
On the other side of the world a different billionaire sat in front of his laptop. One browser window was live-streaming Trump’s inauguration. The other recorded the closing minutes of a deal on his business’s website. The billionaire went by the name of Dr John Domingo, the sole beneficiary of Sir Clive Throckmorton’s fortune, the sole beneficiary of Timur Komarov’s criminal fortune, and soon to be the sole beneficiary of Donald J Trump’s.
And if that wasn’t enough, his crowdfunding website, killdonaldtrump.com, had just made more than six times its original goal.
Slipping the red gris-gris bag from his right wrist, Domingo pulled it open, withdrawing a small man-shaped fetish. There was a lock of golden hair tied to the crown, and it reeked of Trump Scotland Single Malt Whisky. The conjure-man casually reached for the long red-hot metal nail that rested upon a metal crucible that was heated by a gas burner.
Ten minutes later, halfway through his inaugural speech, Donald Trump felt a throbbing soreness under his left armpit and a searing, burning sensation in the middle of his chest…
Afterword: At some point I expect to rewrite this story, anonymizing the antagonist and adding the proper dialect, but in the mean time, enjoy.
Copyright © 2016 Adrian Middleton