It was a hot and humid day in the French Quarter, just as I had predicted. Sweat glistened on me like dew on a peach. Like condensation on a cold bottle of Jax beer. Like a sticky sugar glaze on a benoit, softening in the summer sun on an outdoor cafe table.
Despite my uncanny powers of prediction and deduction, this job could still throw me for a loop. Lob me across the court. Bounce me off the wall. Ouch. I saw alot in this job. Sometimes I saw too much. In the Quarter, toxic fumes lazily drifted off of the Mississippi, wafting north from Decatur Street past Rampart. The French Market was peddling fish as usual. The mingled aromas made me lightheaded. Giddy. I needed a cup of java and I needed it bad. But it was puzzling, what exactly was chicory, and why was it being added to coffee?! It was only 8 a.m. and the mysteries had already begun to mount.
I was on consultation with local law enforcement. Butch Deauveroux had been DOA at Tulane University Hospital. It was an unusual case. Detective Nick Stone and I had discussed the the lackluster condition of the deceased, over croissants in the morgue. "Rigor mortis, lividity, body temperature, and other factors indicate that the stiff was a fresh one upon discovery. Stomach contents revealed oysters, beer, and cheesy poofs. The victim had been exsanguinated. Pretty damned weird. But I have seen weirder." Detective Stone informed me. "Exsanguinated? Drained of blood, you mean?" ""Yes, almost completely. It's the damnedest thing. Although there is the classic punctured jugular, we are at a loss as to method or motive. Any ideas, Sheila?" Nick looked into my eyes and nervously cleared his throat. He and I had been an item, way back when. Hotter than K Paul's jambalaya. Sweeter than an oozing cream filled pastry. Saltier than a raw oyster. Tangier than a Mexican beer. Pretty damned good. We had met during his police academy stint. He was buff and could wield a mean cuff. I had been a struggling criminology student with a sweet little phone sex job on the side. We had met at Mardi Gras, after almost being pinned between two parade floats. We had discovered that danger was a turn on. "Um . . . heLLO? Sheila, do you have any ideas?" Nick reiterated. "Oh. Yes. Well. What is the meaning of life, do ya think?! . . . Oh. You mean in regards to the case . . . sorry. Well, what do the toxicology reports say?" "Our tox results indicate no poisons or drugs, only a high alcohol level." "Well, you know that I am a hands on type of consultant. I would like to look into this more thoroughly, and get back to you." "Fine. Do it. We are at a loss, manpower wise. Even I am out of the loop, detecting wise . . . personal issues you know . . . anyway, have at it!" So, we had a stiff. Sans blood. I began to peruse the case notes. Butch Deauveroux had no known next of kin. He had plied his trade as a chef, working through temp agencies. He had bounced all over New Orleans, from restaurant to restaurant, from the Quarter to the Garden District, to downtown. Renowned for his Oysters Rockefeller and Brandied Bread Pudding With Currants, he had filled a mean smock. Wielded a wild oyster shucker. Wore a big hat. He really cooked. He'd had diverse interests. Boxing and ballet. 'Gator hunting and poodle breeding. Rollerblading and juggling. His book collection had revealed keen interests in White Trash Cuisine, martial arts, S & M, the occult, and vampirism. He had collected the complete works of author Anne Rice. Now we were getting someplace. I received a phone call that evening. "Metairie Cemetary at midnight!" A muffled voice said. "What?! . . . who is this?! . . . hello?!" The caller hung up. I had a feeling that it was going to be a long night. Longer that my big gun. Longer than Nick's big gun. Not short. I changed out of my chocolate stained tee-shirt and into a light summer frock. I took a streetcar across town.
I entered Metairie Cemetary through the aged wrought iron gates. Moonlight bathed me and my surroundings. Oak trees dripped Spanish moss. Headstones were erect yet leaning. Above ground tombs were crumbling and rotting. Tree roots penetrated them. Vegetation sprouted from the tombs. The region had a distinct odor, a unigue gathering of mud, magnolia, and mold scents.
Movement caught my eye. A dark robed figure appeared from behind a massive oak. Fear tightly gripped me. Like a pervert on the bus. Like an old lover. Like a new lover. Like multiple lovers. Not loosely. As quickly as the figure appeared, it disappeared. I brandished my Mag Lite, and began to check out the area. Gingerly stepping, I walked towards the stand of oaks. Spanish moss and spiderwebs tickled my face, startling me. I slipped in the mud and fell. I righted myself. Upon inspection, I noticed a piece of paper on the ground. I picked it up and read it. '1239 First Street', it simply said. Puzzled, I pocketed it. I walked back towards the cemetary gates. The atmosphere had begun to spook me. What were those noises?! Rustlings. Skitterings. Creaks. My fearful reaction had been delayed, stifled, in an odd change from my general hairtrigger responses. Must have been the humidity. I quickened my pace and exited the cemetary gates. At home, I eagerly anticipated the comfort of my safe bed, ensconced with Cocoa and Tequila. Upon my entry, they had been asleep, a lovely sight. They now awoke and greeted me in their very special way. The following morning I pounded the pavement. The morning's Colombian had made my brain and body sing. I took a streetcar to the Garden District, in search of the mysterious First Street address. Exiting the streetcar, I hoofed it towards First. Now this was a classy neighborhood. But I sensed evil eyes peering from behind lace curtains. Danger hidden under lace doilies. The Mint Juleps were tainted. The tea parties were twisted. Southern ambiance veiled evil secrets. Evil histories.
Reaching my destination, I surveilled the house. Comings and goings revealed a small, dark, intense woman. Dramatic raven black hair and all black clothing set her apart from the precious blonde and pastel set. She tweaked my gray matter. Reminded me of someone. I could not put my finger on her identity. But I did not get out much. All I did was eat, sleep, work, and play with Cocoa and Tequila.
Then it dawned on me. The mysterious woman was author Anne Rice! Her beautiful prose had redefined the world and pathos of vampires, witches, demons, and Sadomasochism. She seemed to be connected to the case. Who had a dropped a dime on her, with their revealing note to me? And why? And why would a famous author risk all, becoming involved in a murder? I decided that I must gain access to her home, and somehow gather information. "Candy-Gram! . . . Candy-Gram!" I yelled from her porch as I rang the bell. The door opened almost immediately. Anne Rice stood before me. She snatched the Godiva sampler from my hands, ripping it open, and greedliy devoured its contents. Like a lioness at the kill. Like a vulture on carrion. Like a woman deprived. Hungry. "Mmmm . . . thanks." She trailed off, her speech slurred, her tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth. Chocolate decorated her mouth and chin. Her eyes gleamed. "Listen, may I use your phone? I seem to have a problem with my van. And I lost my cell phone." "Oh. Well. I suppose so." She said, narrowing her dark kohled eyes. "Come in." I followed her into a spacious showroom of a parlour. She showed me the phone. It was of the ancient black rotary style. I faked a call to Triple A, then decided to try to make small talk with Ms. Rice. "How about that Deauveroux murder?!" I cheerily asked. "What? I don't know what you are talking about." I had hit a nerve. "The Deauveroux case seems to be related to vampirism. The victim was exsanguinated. Drained of blood." "I know what it means." She snipped. I was beginning to think that it just might be her time of the month. Rapier wit run amok. Blood loss and chocolate consumption. Cravings of all kinds. Strong ones. "Oh. Well, alrighty then. Real good." "You should leave now. I have work to do." "Oh. Okay. And thanks again for your help!" She walked me to the front door. I left. At home I sat at my desk and pondered my case notes. Could author Rice have been involved in this ritualistic murder? It sounded too simple, like the musings of a lazy writer. Had she and Deauveroux been an item, dabbling in the occult and S&M? Was it a case of an illicit love affair gone sour, complicated by blackmail? And who was the graveyard messenger, implicating Ms. Rice? Brain taxed to the max, I decided to take a little diversion, and a little nap. Cocoa and Tequila worked their magic. Soothed my weary brow. Massaged my painful neck. Alchemized my stress. And more. After a nap and a large Colombian, I settled in with a good book. The Idiot's Guide To Criminology was very informative. I regretted that it had not been available during my struggling student days. 'Never let them see you cry' the book advised. 'Watch yer back'. Pretty smart. Suddenly the phone rang.
"Mayfair Manor . . . look in the gazebo." A muffled voice said. "What?! . . . why?! . . . can't you tell me more?!" The caller hung up. At nightfall I took a streetcar to First Street. The temperature lurked at 98 degrees. The humidity was close to 100%.
Crickets chirped. "ChickachickachickaCheeeee! . . . " They cried. I felt smothered, as if I could hardly breathe. I was reminded of saunas and swooning. People actually paid money to feel this way?! Kinky indeed. At the Rice residence I slid through an opening in the wrought iron fence. The house was dark and quiet. I saw no lights. I walked towards the back of the property. Wielding my Mag Lite, I located the gazebo. Upon entering, I tripped on a loose floor tile. I removed the tile. Upon closer inspection, I found a manila envelope hidden there. I sat down upon a wrought iron bench and trained my light upon the newfound discovery. The envelope contained photographs and a letter. The black and white 35mm photographs revealed Ms. Rice and the late Mr. Deauveroux in various S&M scenarios. Bondage, black leather, and neckbiting seemed to predominate. Photographed in a sumptious boudoir, the pictures had an artistic quality about them. I read the short missive.
'I WOrkED foR AnnE. I WAs PRiVy tO CeRTaiN KnoWLEdGe. THerE ArE sEcREts LurKiNg UnDEr CANoPIeD BedS. EViL EnSCoNCeD UnDEr siLK WalLCoVerInGS. ThERe iS BlooD And PAin. O OuT, DaMned SPoT! . . . ' Suddenly I heard a noise behind me. Startled, I jumped up, spilling the photos onto the floor. I turned around and trained my light onto a dark figure. Author Anne Rice stood a few feet away from me. We faced eachother. "Oh! It's you again! I am sick and tired of you vampire groupies! What are you doing on my property?! I suggest that you leave now or I will call the police!" "Go ahead, Anne. Call them. I think that they would be very interested in your little escapades." Anne perused the scattered photos and narrowed her eyes. " I know that you killed Deauveroux, and I know how. You sucked him dry, lady. The secret will soon be out." She hissed at me and bared her teeth. She slowly approached me, licking her lips. I pulled out my cross icon and held it up in front of me. She stopped in her tracks and quivered.
"You don't understand what it's like!!" She exclaimed. " I have no choice in the matter!! . . . I must have blood!! . . . it is a physical and emotional need like food or sex!!" "Look, Anne. I think that you are pathetically deluded. You just think that you need to drink blood. It's just a matter of attitude. Have you ever tried to maybe cut back a little? Or quit altogether?" "Aaaaaarrrrrggghhh!! . . . I am a vampire. I will always be a vampire. Vampirism has impacted my writing and has made me a friggin' fortune. You think I make this sh*t up?!?" "It's over, Anne. I'm sorry." Detective Stone and I later discussed the extraordinary turn of events, over dinner. The line at Antoine's had been long. At last we had been seated. Halfway through a bottle of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon, we vacillated between the subject of work, and of our old days together. "Who woulda guessed that Ms. Rice was psychotic? She always seemed like such a normal person." Nick observed. "But, Nick, wait. What if vampires really exist? What if she really cannot help herself? How truly sad. Stranger things have happened." "Oooooh, Sheila! Really! Don't tell me that you believe in such nonsense! I always thought that you were a little 'out there', but this is ridiculous. You were probably even worried about Y2K. You crack me up!" "What ever happened to us?" Nick sadly asked, abruptly changing the subject. "How did we grow apart? We had a good thing. At least I thought that we did." "Ooooh, Nick. We did have a good thing. But we were young, immature, and selfish. The drama of our police work stressed us out. Perhaps it was just inevitable . . . " I trailed off. "We can still spend time together. Work together occasionally. We still have things in common . . . the feel of cold marble against our skin, in a moonlit cemetary . . . hot chases through boggy swamplands . . . perusing case files together at midnight . . . and eating at the best restaurants in town!! Here's to us! Cheers!! " I reminded him.
We clinked our wineglasses. Nick seemed to perk up a bit.
"Come on now. Smile for me. You can doooo it!" I teased him. "You win." He said. I saw the familiar flash of teeth, that had become so dear. It was getting late. We gathered ourselves and walked outside to a cobbled street.
"Let's do this again real soon." Nick said. "Let's!" I replied. "Sheila . . . I must go. But . . . will I be seeing you at Mardi Gras?" He asked, a gleam in his eye. "You betcha."
Copyright 2000 By AF Waddell, Dont Ax Me Why@aol.com. All Rights Reserved.
Submitted By: AF Waddell
Sep 1, 2000 20:24