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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

THE MARDI GRAS MURDERER



"When I am dead, my dearest,
  Sing no sad songs for me;


 I shall not see the shadows,
  I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
  Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
  That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
  And haply thou may forget."


 -  Christina Rossetti

 The night was chill.  The wisps of fog swirled about me like accusing ghosts.  They needn't have bothered.

My own memory accused me every waking moment.

It was Three Kings Day -- 

the Day of the Epiphany.  

The Carnival season kicks off with this day ...
as did the murders.

For the past six years, each Carnival season had the tolling of midnight bring the discovery of a new butchered body.

Each victim had been found innocent though they had been anything but.

The crowd milling around the yellow police ribbons was ugly.  Lt. Trifle beside me was beautiful, her long hair the red of a dying sunset.

The flayed alive man hung upside down on the alley wall, his body smeared in garishly loud green, gold, and purple paint.

The Mardi Gras colors were green, gold, and purple ... each holding hidden meanings.

Green represents faith, gold symbolizes power, and purple is justice.

One burly pimp growled, "How long you gonna let this go on, McCord?"

The drug-thin girl to his left whined, "You're a piece of shit, Cowboy!"

Another voice in the back shouted, 

"Hell, you been hiding in that club of yours for the past six years!  What's wrong?  The big Hoodoo scared of this killer?"



As if separating from the shadows themselves, a tall gaunt man in black robes suddenly appeared beside me and grunted,

"You could kill them as easily as I yawn, McCord-Pasha."

I flicked weary eyes to the Ningyo.  "It would be redundant."

He barked a laugh matching the mood of the crowd and faded into the shadows once more.

Lt. Trifle rasped, "Who the hell was that?"

"Hayato, my wife's deadly, oblivious counselor."

"Meilori?  But she left you six years a...."

Her voice trailed away as she realized the significance of the number of years these murders had been going on.

I sighed, "And Meilori must be dead for Hayato to be allowed to do this for so long."

Trifle said, "I thought you said you would sense it if your wife died."

I shook my head. "Meilori must have been so mad at me that last time that she ... severed our bond."

I sucked in my cheeks.  "Meilori died ... and I never knew it until this night ... until this night."

I wrapped the shadows around me as had Hayato and disappeared to my sanctum named for the wife I now knew to be dead, Meilori's.



The club was deserted due to the Mardi Gras festivities.

Hayato sat waiting for me at my table.  I smiled wryly.  He was sitting in my chair, symbolic in a sense:

He had wanted to be Meilori's husband for as long as I had been married to her.  

I didn't object.  His loving Meilori only showed his good taste.

Hayato, Ningyo for Falcon.  Fitting name since his face resembled a falcon's.  

I sat opposite him and asked, "How long have you known?"

His voice sounding like desert wind wisping over sandpaper, Hayato said, "All these six long years."

That I did object to.  "Why didn't you tell me, damn you?"

He shrugged.  "It amused me to see you grieve, the light of an impossible hope burning in your eyes."

His own piercing eyes stabbed into me.  "Now, you know how it feels to harbor an impossible hope."

"Why tell me now?"

Hayato's face became a mask of dead love.  "I grow bored.  Now, I go seek a good death."

The shadows swallowed him ... and me.

***
"Out of a grave I come to tell you this,
Out of a grave I come to quench the kiss."
-  Edward Arlington Robinson

 (Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning "farewell to the flesh.")
*** 

 "I lived as best I could, and then I died,
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide." 
- Michael R. Burch

***
Follow the Xanadu, the 1st Air-Steamship
as it sails the skies of the world
on Meilori's and McCord's 1867 honeymoon
in
THE NOT-SO-INNOCENTS ABROAD
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EUFRKKI
 
 

Monday, February 20, 2017

HAUNTED MARDI GRAS



The setting sun cast cold ghosts of gold across the bruised dark of the French Quarter alley.  

Were any ghosts awakening to haunt tonight’s Mardi Gras festivities?  

I scowled at myself.  

Alleys and houses were not haunted.


We are haunted, and regardless of the landscape on which we stand, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.



I looked at the cracked store-backs and really didn't know who I was for about ten strange seconds. I wasn't scared.  

I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.  

I was behind the haunted Mardi Gras Den

which had once been a corrupt police station with innocents murdered in the cells. 

Then, I remembered who I was: 

Captain Samuel McCord, cursed guardian of New Orleans.

“At night, the dead come back to drink from the living,” I murmured.



And at my words, a ghostly parade of garishly painted wooden floats appeared before me, 

drawn by black skeletal horses.  Spectral riders wore iridescent blue masks over their gaunt faces.  

They looked down upon me … for permission to go down St. Charles Avenue. 

I nodded slowly.

“Drink from no innocent, and you may pass.”

They showered me with sparkling gold doubloons that passed right through my body, 

for the coins were bound to this cursed float for eternity. 

Ghosts were simply unfinished business.

Sadly, these insubstantial riders would not find those who had murdered them.  Some killers left the city right after the murders.

But all murderers were claimed immediately upon their deaths … some debts did not remain uncollected long after the final breath.

Murder was such a debt.

As the floats passed through me in icy tingles, I noted grimly that there were more of them than last year, packed with many more spectral riders.

I thought of my own ghosts:

The people you loved and lost became ghosts inside of you, and by cherishing them you kept them alive.

I turned and walked into the haunted night with only my ghosts for company.





Sunday, February 19, 2017

I HATE MARDI GRAS


Blasphemous words here in
 South West Louisiana for sure!

Billed as the biggest free party on Earth, 
Mardi Gras is known worldwide.

  Colorful costumes. Spectacular parades. 
Elegant pageants. Masked balls. 

 People dancing in the streets to rhythmic, intoxicating music. 

All with an air of carefree abandon. As the music reverberates, alcohol flows. 

Wildly elaborate floats glide down the street, with frenzied masqueraders onboard. 

Crowds of onlookers shout encouragement. 

 This may come as a surprise, 
but Mardi Gras long predates Christianity. 

 The earliest record comes from ancient times, 

when tribes celebrated a fertility festival that welcomed the arrival of spring, a time of renewal of life. 

The Romans called this pagan festival Lupercalia in honor of “Lupercus,” the Roman god of fertility. 

Lupercalia was a drunken orgy of merrymaking 

held each February in Rome, after which participants fasted for 40 days. 

Am I a party-pooper?

No, I am a rare blood courier, 

and I see the bloody toll the partying and alcohol-fueled driving and anger takes on my community.

Countless times today I was delayed and detoured on stat runs 

to make way for the parades and for drunken people staggering to line up hours in advance of the parades.

When a patient is bleeding to death, 

and a drunken woman staggers off the sidewalk directly in my van's path, I sigh.

The parades all seem to be routed directly in front of the hospitals.

Waiting for a traffic light to change, 

I watched the crowds on the sidewalk as a grandmother bumped and ground like  ...

an  exotic dancer.  

I was impressed with her limberness, 

saddened by her two young, perplexed grandsons watching her, a bottle held tightly in her fist.


Laissez le bon temps roulez! 

Roughly translated, it means: “let the good times rule.” 

The French saying comes alive during Mardi Gras.

Surely,  Mardi Gras must be good for the economy, right?

Tell that to the short-staffed nurses 

(since many of their co-workers call in sick with the Mardi Gras Flu

as they struggle in the E.R.'s and the I.C.U's dealing with the aftermath of those good times.

The jobs that support Mardi Gras in particular 

and tourism in general tend to be service industry positions that oftentimes do not pay high wages.

In fact, frequently the wages are so low 

that employees have to work multiple jobs to keep the lights on and the cupboards from going bare.

My supervisor long since stopped taking his young daughters to the parades 

since one was knocked down to the sidewalk by an adult lunging to catch cheap beads --

and his other daughter had her ankle mangled by a stomping foot of a drunken reveler. 

Mardi Gras 
has become a sad term to me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

WEP_WHERE DO THE WORDS GO? Back of the Drawer Flash Fiction







Rats!

For the first time in WEP history, I missed an entry.  

But I do not enter to win but to honor my friend, Denise Covey.

So in that spirit here is my entry:




 Where do the words go?


The words we should have said, the words that lodged deep in our throat because our heart was in it.


I am Lucanus.   

Once I stopped at a stable upon hearing the cries of a young girl giving birth.


I was called a physician, though over the centuries I learned how little I deserved the title.


I helped as best I could at the time.  I was forty-five.  Since then I have stayed looking the same. 


Is this punishment or reward for my inept attempts to help?  I have never decided.


None still live who could say.


Like a ghost through a wall, I pass in and out of so many human lives, leaving a piece of my soul behind.


I have become a coward. 


It tears at me to see those I care about slowly wither into caricatures.  I leave them when they start to age and begin to look at me strangely.


Rachel had been so difficult to leave – she of the smoky soul and the hearth-fire eyes.


Now, I sat at her Victorian desk with the rolled cover and many drawers.  It took years for the lawyers to find me, telling me I was the executor of her will.


The taxes were long overdue.  I paid them.


Anthony Trask, the senior partner of the law firm that finally found me, glared down his fine patrician nose at me.


“Rachel was a wood-fire spirit, sir.  She spoke often of you with such loss, I cringe to remember the sound of those words.  She wrote you a note should you ever care enough to return.  It is the only drawer that is locked, the second down to your left.  Here is the key.”


He stood over me much like a vulture or perhaps just a man who thought his friend deserved better.


I took the key and opened the drawer.  It was empty but for one time-stained page.  I read it:



“Any minute now


the words will replay themselves


within the mind’s ear;


the jester and the singer


fail at last,


juggler of hearts


and orphan of the crossroads


falter,


footing lost, voice broken,


embracing in the downward spinning


the clown takes up the cry,


falling farther,


catch the heart’s staccato,


slipping netless


into the mind’s tomb.”



The poem’s epilogue pierced my own heart: “I waited for you, my love.  You never came back.”


Trask asked, “The estate and grounds are yours.  What would you have me do with them?”


I thought of Rachel’s abandoned heart and said, “Make them an orphanage.”