Captain Samuel McCord.
The last of the first Texas Rangers. They do not acknowledge his existence. They will not even mention his name.
But should they run across a foul, horrific crime, they will send a Ranger to his jazz club in New Orleans to request his assistance.
No Ranger ever to have made that trip will agree to make a second.
- Spurgeon's Macabre History of the West.
Renfield and I both walked through the wide doorway of Marie Laveau's home. The dark quiet within quivered like the grasp of dying fingers. It took a moment for even my eyes to adjust to the near total darkness. I figured Renfield was having no such problems. My stomach tightened.
It was said the Angel of Death had a list of names, places, and dates. My name could be matched with this place and date. But I doubted it.
I knew deep within myself that when I died the last death, I would die it alone. All alone. Still, I figured I'd see her soon for that last time. And if your name is next to mine, I guess I’ll see you too.
Marie still liked thick Persian rugs. The one we walked on had a different pattern than the first one I had seen. This one seemed like an ornate design of a snake's hungry open maw. Subtle Marie wasn't.
I heard throaty chuckling from the first doorway to our right. We turned as if walking to our deaths. Maybe we were.
It was a darkened drawing room, filled with impressive looking books that crowded the bookshelves lining the two opposing walls. I knew she had read each and every one.
Her crude dialect was all an act. She was sharp as Renfield’s canines. An elegant mahogany desk was at the far end. And behind it sat Marie Laveau. She glowed like a crucifix in the presence of evil, her face gleaming like an instrument of dark grace.
A long boa oozed slowly across her wide shoulders and along her arms. Despite being over two hundred years old, Marie was still a striking woman -- even without the snake. Despite her years, Marie looked no more than forty.
She smiled no warmer than her snake. "Dere was a time when your hair was darker."
"And my heart was lighter."
Renfield frowned. "All that shortwave screaming? Just a trick?"
She cackled. "More like a slap of water thrown in dat fool's blue funk face. The only way he crawls out of dat night club of his is to find some way to get hisself killed, disguised as helping innocents. Hah! Fool Ranger, dat don't fool nobody."
"Dat ain't so hard no more."
"Reckon not. What did you want?"
"To spit in your face, white man. 'Cause of you I can't die."
I shook my head. "You chose the path that led you here long before I met you."
"It was 'cause I pointed out da Gray Man to you dat he cursed me!"
"Maybe. But the path you were already on would have cursed you somehow."
"Easy for a white man to say. I was a woman of color. Not many choices for me back then. Fear. I had to make the whites fear me."
Renfield looked sick. "There was another path, Marie. You could have chosen --"
"Don't you dare say it, vampire! Lessen you want my curse."
"I already am cursed, Marie."
Her smile was colder than even her snake's. "I could improve on it, leech."
"No, you won't," I sighed.
"You gonna stop me?"
"You'll stop yourself. You've always been a good woman, Marie."
"Fools before you have died thinking that way."
I shook my head. "DayStar only tortures the good ones."
The glow around her shifted to a sick, bright green. Her snake and she exchanged eyes. It made my flesh crawl. It took everything I had to keep my face from showing it. I don't think I succeeded.
It was unnerving to see slit snake eyes staring at me from her face. And somehow it was worse seeing her human eyes blinking at me from the skull of her snake.
"I knows now why your Meilori left you."
"DayStar told me."
"He told you a lie."
"And the truth?"
Her smile grew wider. "I'm keeping to myself."
Her snake eyes glowed. "Dere! Dat's the look I's been waiting to see. I ain't gonna tell you, Ranger. But knows this: dere's a new order coming, and you won't live out its first day. Now, get out of my home! Both of you! Go!"
We left, her cackling following us out into the night. I tried to tell myself Marie had been lying. But I knew deep down she'd hadn't. Damn.
Renfield glanced at me, his eyes uneasy. "So she's one of the good ones, huh?"
"Good's always been a matter of comparison."
I made a face. "DayStar?"
"Oh, then I guess that makes me a bloody saint."