Wednesday, May 5, 2010
ONLY THE HAUNTED REMEMBER
As Samuel McCord regards his past, his memories are angels of lightning and storm, sweeping his mind's eye over flashes of pain through the mists of his epic life.
The dying of his mother and sister. His murder of his own father. Discovering the true face of Elu. Losing him to a strange limbo.
Riding beside his new family, the Texas Rangers. Losing that family as he turns his back on the Alamo to rescue a small boy from kidnapping Comanches. At the age of fifty, having his blood mingled with that of the Angel of Death. Never aging from that moment on. An eternal old man.
Loving the mysterious, undying Meilori Shinseen. Losing her to his compulsion to rescue lost children and battered women.
A man with no home of his own, making his night club, Meilori's, a home for all the frightened street orphans and hollow-eyed women that cross his path. But it is a dangerous home, whose back hallways, some say, lead to Hell itself. Samuel himself remains silent on the subject.
Some say he has seen too much to believe in a loving God. Others say he wants to believe but cannot. Still others whisper his silence is because he is already damned.
Meilori's, among more shivering things, is a jazz club. The people of New Orleans atrophy when kept too far from music and from that special kind of life found only where melody and magic dance in the heavy shadows.
That life is the religion in a city in whose population can be found the most profane, pagan, and deliciously wicked. And their temple? Meilori's, of course. That feared club in which almost anything can happen and in which almost everything has.
Now, for a glimpse within Meilori's from FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE as Samuel regards his nightclub newly repaired from the damage done by Katrina :
RIGHT TURN ON DEAD
"I move in all kinds of circles, meet all sorts of people. I learned
engraving from a counterfeiter, accounting from a swindler.
A succubus once tried to teach me the tango. But nothing doing. I didn't have the
hips for it."
- Samuel McCord
I turned around and faced my newly re-minted night club. Meilori’s was back. And it had only taken a small fortune to make her return breath-taking. Luckily, I had stumbled across more than a few lost treasures in all my manhunts. When the last owner of a fortune is several centuries dead, it made giving it back harder than just keeping it. But I spent it wisely. Or tried to.
My night club sparkled in the dim illumination of spinning, sparkling chandeliers. Meilori’s stood on a busy French Quarter corner. But even so, it seemed to go on for much longer and wider than it appeared from the outside.
Which made sense. It was wider and longer within than without. Courtesy of Rind, the Angelus of Death, my place led into a dimension that only a few could enter and from which even fewer could return. Everyone was safe who stayed up front. Those who ventured deeper did so at their own peril. The sign to my place read : HERE BE MONSTERS. TO VENTURE DEEP WITHIN IS TO CHANCE NEVER RETURNING AT ALL.
Not that many paid much attention to the words, mind you. But they had only themselves to blame if they never returned from the shadows. Besides, New Orleans had lost a good many visitors long before my place showed up. The city had just lost a cite more since then was all.
Hicock was playing poker in the far table, his new spectacles gleaming on his nose. He nodded. I nodded back. He gestured to an empty seat beside him. I shook my head. I kept my gambling limited to my life not cards.
Major Strasser, immaculate in his black Nazi uniform, sat closer to me. I ambled to his table. He smiled with sharp white teeth.
“Still hold Casablanca against me?”
“Not so you notice. Remember I shot you in your withered heart, not in the acupuncture point that could have killed you.”
“Just so. Is it really the year 2005 out past those doors?”
“Yes, but I’d advise against going out there. Go back the way you came. You’ll still have years of blood and madness across all of Europe if you return that way.”
He stared at me curiously. “You know how the war ends?”
“Yes ... everybody loses.”
I turned from him and made my way to the gleaming bar. And yes, if you are wondering --- there were mirrors on the walls -- when you could see them. Each table surface was reflective as were the steps of polished marble scattered in random spots along the length of the red carpet sweeping it seemingly into eternity. Elu got lonely sometime. And he also got --- hungry.
What can I say? Meilori’s is that kind of place.
I was in my dress black western suit. Black shirt, black tie, vest, long coat, slacks, boots. Even my broad Stetson was black. I sighed. I missed Sammy in his all white attire. Samuel Langhorn Clemens was probably having them all in stitches somewhere in a far better place than my night club of the damned. I blinked back hot tears. Sixty odd years is a long time to know a friend. I missed him.
I slowly moved through the room that seemed to become larger, wider, deeper the longer I was in it. The president of France sat with his young love. They were chatting with Marie Antoinette, her slender throat neatly stitched so well only I could see the slight scar of the incision. She smiled coldly at me.
I tipped my Stetson to her and moved on. That was one of the problems to my night club. Every aisle led to a place you’d rather forget. Every table brought back memories of what you had done or should have done.
And every woman reminded you of another woman. Or in my case, one woman. The only woman. Meilori.
Off to the left was one of my internet jazz stages. Erin Bode was singing in the middle of its spotlight. She was an up and coming jazz vocalist. She didn’t like to be type-cast as a jazz vocalist. There were worse things to be called. I should know. I had been called most of them.
I liked her. Meilori would have, too. Erin had called me up and volunteered to sing at my place. She had wanted her fee to go to the Katrina Relief Fund. All the money from the live internet feeds of tonight and the nights to follow would help the hurting in my adopted city.
As Erin was singing “Alone Together,” Toya, the club's manager, swayed up to me. I smiled wide at her, the image of the six year old I had found out by my dumpster settling over her Cleopatra features. Skin the color of milk coffee gleamed under the swirling lights above us. Her black dress was so short that it could have qualified as a long blouse. Any shorter and it would have been a wide belt. Tonight she was dressed as a buccaneer. Lafitte would have made her captain of his ship, if not his heart.
And one of the jazz greats who sing in Meilori's is Medeleine Peyroux. Here she is singing one of Samuel's favorite songs, "Dance Me To The End Of Love."