Lettsworth, La. : 1921
As a mob stood before him with pitchforks and lit torches, screaming and yelling his name, Jean-Paul Rideau eyed them one by one with laughter in his dark eyes. Upon the porch on which he stood, they all looked like tiny specs, much smaller than his six foot five, slender frame. His toffee tinted skin glistened in flickers of the flames as they grew closer and closer. Obscenities went in one ear and right out the other, followed by all of the ‘wrong-doing’ and problems he’d caused.
He pitied them. All fools to think they held any power within or around his sanctuary. To think they scared him in any way.
They’d converged on his home, seeking to oust him from their Creole village once and for all. The love and admiration they once had for the Great Prince of Magic, turned to fear and hate for all they failed to understand or chose to ignore.
Too many times, he supposed, he’d played with their lives. Flipped the cards of their fortunes in his favor when they failed to pay their debts. But they’d all been warned, time and time again about the dangers of breaking deals and time and time again they returned for more. Karma stacking against them slowly.
And, what was so wrong with a man wanting to collect on unpaid debts if he were rightfully owed, he often wondered as threats made their way around the small village day after day as more individuals saw that consequences came with the desire they made wishes and trades for. He had had enough. And so had the villagers.
Jean-Paul Rideau and his powers had to go.
“We gave you until sundown! Leave voluntarily, or we’ll remove you ourselves.”
“Remove me? How grand.” Jean-Paul laughed, heartily, doubling over until it seemed he were unable to stop himself. The villagers all stared in confusion until he stood tall and a cloud of dust formed around him at the wave of his arms. When it cleared, he was gone. “My, my, my how we seem to forget who holds the advantages here. I mean sure, you could beat me.” He popped up behind an older woman, smiling in delight at the way she shrieked when he touched her shoulder. “Oh, but you’ve done that already and how’s that worked in your favor.”
As a single shot rang out, he vanished again. The bullet barely missed the head of the woman Jean-Paul had scared. They saw nothing, only heard the rich baritone of his voice as he cackled and cooed gently. “Oh, foolish people. There’s a price one must pay when they obtain riches and luxury by ways unnatural. All would have worked out fine had you listened to and done all that I said. How’s it all the fault of one little man that all in your life go astray?” He reappeared on the front porch, startling the villagers. The women screamed, whimpering and cowering behind men that were mere cowards themselves. “I only do what you say. I only give what you ask for. The rest comes your way because you hold evil intentions when asking, not because my intentions are evil when I give. But I tell you what, I’m really a nice man. Much more than the scary witch doctor you tell the people in Opelousas , and Palmetto, and other cities. I shake this curse you believe you’re under, if you leave me be from here on out.”
Many of the villagers began considering his offer. One, however, wanted to make no deals. Wanted to hear no excuses. “You’re a dead man, Rideau!”
The first torch was thrown, followed by a second, and more. Jean-Paul stood still, watching and feeling heat swell around him as the flames of the fire burned and spread, destroying his lavish home. Now was the moment he could have disappeared, done mass harm in one sweep and had the final laugh. But he’d seen it coming.
If little old Lettsworth thought they’d suffered before, they’d truly known no fury like that of his.
“Die you evil bastard!”
Jean-Paul smiled, tipping the hat he wore as he nodded, giving a small glimpse of his curly red hair. “As you wish. But just know; for the price of murder, you’ll pay. You, your children, your children’s children, and any who should continue to inhabit this village. Mark my words, you’ll live to regret this night. And you’ll die wishing you’d done differently.”
Another shot rang out, the bullet hitting him in the chest, followed by two more. As Jean-Paul Rideau hit the porch, the life draining from his body; he made one last motion. Turning his head to his audience, he stared into their eyes as he died. “See you all, in a Hell made on Earth.”
The villagers watched on with a mixture of relief and fear flowing around them. Before long, the fire had engulfed the large, plantation style home that had been owned by the great Rideau family. One of the last of their descendants, burned with it. When all had settled, they began the task of covering their tracks. The strongest men wrapped the charred body in cellophane and large plastic tarp. Loading it into the back of a truck, they drove a few miles to an area that hadn’t been used in over a decade. A camp, abandoned when dark practices became the preferred religion over Christianity.
With no ease, they unloaded the body of Jean-Paul Rideau and dumped him into the pond located at the edge of the camp area. Solemnly, the men said a prayer for themselves and for the village of Lettsworth. They asked God for forgiveness, believing they had finally done right by ridding the state of Louisiana, and the world, of a great evil.
Turning away, with one final look, they agreed to never speak of their deeds to anyone that wasn’t in attendance with the original mob.
An explanation for the burning of the Rideau home? Jean-Paul’s disappearance? The story given to his wife and young child as they returned from a trip he’d advised in advance? The crazy witch doctor simply did the village a favor and made himself scarce after accidentally burning his own home, taking his wicked ways elsewhere to bother some other unfortunate souls. They drove his wife away with stories of where he could have gone, sending her on a decades long search for the love of her life, the father of her child.
That’s what was told. That’s what was believed. Until, one by one, year after year, strange things began to happen around the time of his ‘disappearance’. The original mob dissipated, in a rash of unexplained deaths. Their children, haunted. Their grandchildren, instilled with a fear of living and growing up in the small village until someone finally decided it was best to leave Lettsworth altogether.
Still unincorporated, and hardly acknowledged within the state of Louisiana, Lettsworth was abandoned after forty years of suffering. All at the hands of, most felt, the tortured soul of Jean-Paul Rideau.
A song was often sung on the rare instances his name was brought up in conversation of the great Voodoo and Hoodoo Priests and Priestesses of the south. A song children of the seventies remixed to fit their call and response games of hopscotch and double dutch, sung just for fun with no belief in a real person behind the words.
“He came from New Orleans. He was a Voodoo King. Rideau was his name. Black Magic was his claim to fame.“
So the myth goes.
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