Dear readers, tonight with us is a P.I. from 1976 Harlem — the cat you call when your hair stands up, a supernatural brother like no other.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I was born in New Orleans but came to New York with my parents when I was seven. We stayed with my Uncle Silas till he passed. I was raised on West 115th in the Foster Projects in Harlem. They call ‘em the MLK Projects now. It was cool growing up. We had the big playground, monkey bars, ball courts…good old PS 170. When my daddy died and my mama got run down by a taxi, I stayed with Consolation Underwood in East Harlem. She was a bookie for King Solomon Keyes, and an Ifa priestess – an Ìyánífá. She taught me divination with the opon Ifa, had me memorize the 256 odu, while other kids were doin’ times tables. Said ‘cause I was born with a caul I ought to learn, maybe become a babalawo some day. She was Mama to just about every orphan in Harlem at one time or another. Always some kid coming or going in her kitchen. Me and her niece, little Phaedra Williams were the ones who stayed the longest. I used to walk Phaedra over to the pool at Marcus Garvey Park in the summer, stand under the monkey bars to catch her if she slipped. That was before ‘Nam.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
We couldn’t afford much in the way of toys. Played outside most of the time. One of my favorite memories is of sittin’ up late with my Daddy and my Uncle Silas beatin’ on these handmade mahogany Rada drums he had. My uncle taught me to beat the rhythm on the Boula when I was six. My mama would dance till the sweat made her arms shine in the dark.
What do you do now?
I’m a private investigator now, got an office on 33 St. Marks Place. I run down stray husbands and wives mostly, but sometimes folks call me when the hair on the back of their neck stands up, you dig? I got a reputation around town after I took down a rakshasi one night at the Empire Roller Disco in Brooklyn. Brought it in a lot of weird business. Weirder by the day, sometimes I think. Lucky I inherited a library from my godfather, Fish Marmelstein. He used to own a supply company, Brother Hoodoo. My daddy was his top salesman. Anyway, it’s got most everything I need. I got books on Vodoun, Hoodoo, Kabbalah, Hermeticism…you name it. And if I don’t have it, I know where to find it.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Well, I wouldn’t call it an adventure. Adventures are supposed to be enjoyable, right? Where do I start? It’s been an eventful year. I took down a clique of vampires in the Harlem Hospital morgue, helped out my Uncle Silas’…..I don’t know what you call Verbena Mechant, a partner? Husband? Wife? Hell, you call her whatever she wants to be called. I learned that the hard way. Anyway, Auntie Verbena had a boo-hag causin’ problems with her girls in Crown Heights. Let’s see….there was that time Lou Lazzeroni found Genie Jones shrunk and floating in a lava lamp and called me in….there was that thing eatin’ graffiti taggers in the subway. Then there was that other thing running rampant at the Vatican…sorry, that’s what Pope used to call the apartment building where he housed his girls….ugh…sorry, Pope’s the pimp whose ghost haunts my car….eh, that’s a long story. I don’t wanna get into that mess. Let’s see….my last ‘adventure’….finding the dude who shot Preacher dead with an arrow in front of Hekima Books. Preacher, that was Benny Galarza, one of my oldest friends. We started the 167th Street Black Enchanters back in ’69 when we got outta Vietnam see….him and me and Black Adam. It had to do with a butchered gorilla carcass the cops found laying in an intersection in the Bronx. I just got out of the hospital from all that. It was a bad scene. Nearly got my black ass pitched off a roof.Continue reading “John Conquer (of Conquer, by Edward M. Erdelac)”