What foot traffic there was in the warm afternoon saw Bad Bill coming and steered well clear, other than a wizened, coffee-colored crone, head tightly wrapped in bright silk and shawl bouncing wildly about her shoulders as she trotted up to Bill and pressed him with a handful of assorted objects.
“Luck, sir?” she offered, shoving a pink string-doll into his face. “Love? Protection?” She fanned a handful of the little dolls in his direction, wound together of different-colored yarn but each with pins for eyes and tucked into a tiny shift of rough cotton fabric.
“No, ma’am,” Bill declined, trying in vain to step around her. Vodun was not his brand of superstition, though it was common enough in New Orleans that he’d become accustomed to seeing it.
“Beybey?” she changed propositions, scooping all the dolls into one gnarled hand and using the other to show a strand of leather on her shoulder bearing a series of brass medallions, like a thin belt threaded with multiple buckles. The medallions were elaborately cut with the loops and lines that Bill recognized as the holy symbols of various Loas. “Legba, he bring you luck. Agwé for a sea journey, or if you a fisherman.”
“I am not a fisherman, ma’am,” Bill objected mildly, “and I try very hard to avoid ever setting foot on any ship.”
She looked him up and down, spying his pistols and his saber. “You a fighter, ah? A fightin’ man? Fine, you want Ogoun, he swing the big machete, he watch over fightin’ men!” She showed him the beybey of Ogoun, a web of triangles and asterisks framed by scrollwork. “You want? Ogoun, he a real bargain, big mojo Loa!”
“Jesus is my Loa,” Bill turned the medallion down. Bill was not a devout man, not a theologian, but he was a Christian, baptized and married as such, and he counted on God taking notice of the fact.