(From UNDER A VOODOO MOON) :
In his room at Meilori’s, Victor Standish has been told that three dooms are descending upon New Orleans. His friends are shaken. Victor decides if he is to die, he’ll do it with style …
Sfumato with this! I had to change the mood to this party. The tune had changed down below. I recognized the artist. Jim Stubblefield. He was playing the gypsy tune, “La Selva Negra.”
It was just starting up with all the sound effects and everything.
I twirled Alice around with a flourish. “If it’s the end of the world, then let’s go out doing a danse macabre!”
Alice sputtered, “A what?”
“Well, a salsa actually.”
She slapped her sides with her arms. “I cannot do any of these modern dances, you dunce!”
“Sure you can.”
“Since you merged with me in your mist form, some of me rubbed off on you.”
She pressed her lips together like a fired-up librarian. “I suddenly feel like taking a bath in Listerine.”
I laughed, “After the dance. I lived for awhile in the back of a dance studio. I learned enough to make a few dollars teaching dance steps. So your body knows those steps, too.”
Margaret rolled her eyes. “What a scamp of a life you would have us believe you led. Is there anything you didn’t do? ”
I smiled wide. “I never made my bed. ‘Course I didn’t have one! But that’s just silly details.”
I grabbed a startled Sam. “C’mon! You, too.”
“Whoa, son! Who do you think I’ll dance with?”
I winked at Ada Byron. “You get the honor of dancing with Lady Lovelace.”
Margaret Fuller glowered at me. “And just who would you suggest I dance with, Marshal Hickok?”
“Great idea!, I laughed. “Glad you came up with it!”
She snarled through clenched teeth, “You street rat, I didn’t come up with it!”
“Sure you did,” giggled Alice. “Oh, do dance with the poor lovesick Marshal. He took that wound for you. The very least ….”
Ada chuckled at the outrage and cornered look in her lover’s eyes. “Oh, do that little for the poor man.”
Margaret gave me a look that I actually felt. “I will remember this, Standish.”
Magda had a faraway look to her violet eyes. “It has been too long since Renny and I danced. Yes! I shall tell him now!”
And POOF! She was gone. I shook my head. Last month all this would have struck me strange. Ah … it still did actually.
I hurried Sam and Alice down the hallway before Jim Stubblefield finished his tune. Ada bubbled in laughter beside a glowering Margaret. We reached the head of the stairs in no time at all. A beaming Magda and a ruffled Renfield stood waiting for us. I guess the Padre didn’t care for teleporting at the drop of a collection plate.
He glared at me. “I take it this is your hair-brained idea?”
I nodded. “Yup. There are folks down there who want me dead. I plan to dance on my grave right in front of their eyes.”
I winked at Alice. “And make them jealous over my dance partner.”
Renfield shook his head and laughed, “You and your stunts, Victor. Sure, but you’re going to be making another tale to add to the collection told of you.”
“So as long as they get my dance partner’s name right I don’t care.”
STRANGE, I’VE SEEN YOUR FACE BEFORE.
I stood at the top of the velvet staircase, looked down, and smiled. Jim Stubblefield was still playing “La Salva Negra.” He and his band were really putting their heart and soul into it … plus an avalanche of sound effects. I smiled wide. Whoever those other Two Fates were, me and Alice were going to show them some steps.
Sam looked over to me and winked, “Race you to the bottom!”
Ada gave a surprised but delighted squeal as Sam swept her up into his arms and blurred down the stairs. I’m not being poetic. He and Ada actually blurred Sam was moving so fast.
“Oh, Captain,” gasped Ada. “You are quite taking my breath away. And I thought never to say that to a man again!”
Alice smiled mean. “Oh, so it is to be that way, is it?”
I yelped (in a manly fashion, of course) as she picked me up like I was balsa wood. I kept forgetting how much stronger than me she was. The lower half of her did some blurring of its own as she became mist and flowed so quickly down the stairs the world became all foggy.
It was a tie as she and Sam made it to the dance floor at the same time. Sam was grinning from ear to ear. That soft-hearted wolf. He let her catch up to him on purpose. I smiled wide myself. I had never seen him so happy.
Magda was suddenly beside me with a re-ruffled Renfield. “It is you, you scamp. You and your gh….”
I saw Alice begin to stiffen in preparation for the insult. Renfield raised an eyebrow. Magda sucked in a deep breath and finished ….
“… your Gothic love.”
She spun Renfield in an intricate Salsa twirl. “And for the record, scamp, I can teleport. I let you and Sam win.”
Alice looked at Magda’s dancing body and paled. Her voice became like that of a little girl’s. "I cannot move like that!"
I laughed, slowly swaying up to her, lightly pressing my lower body against hers. "Of course, you can."
“I can eat the lips from your face if you do that move again.”
She suddenly giggled, “Oh, do look at poor Margaret’s face.”
I turned to the beat of the music. Margaret looked like she was swallowing a whole can of sardines. She approached the table of the glum Hickok, wrenching the surprised Marshal to his feet.
“This is never to be spoken of again, Hickok. Understand me?”
“N-No. But I surely am not gonna argue with you, pretty lady.”
Margaret looked at him with a Medusa glare. “You do know how to Salsa do you not?”
“No, ma’am. But I am the best faker you will ever meet.”
Margaret snorted, “Of that I have no doubt. And watch those hands!”
Alice giggled at the sight of them and the exchange of words like crossed sabers. She was so caught up in her amusement she wasn’t realizing how expertly she was doing the Salsa.
Son of a ....
Sam glanced hard my way. Son of a gun. My guess had been right. I felt just like Elu. At the thought of him, I looked at the closest mirror. He was glaring at the front door to Meilori’s. Uh, oh. Trouble was coming.
Alice caught my look so I caught her up in fancy stagger step of my own before the smile left those pretty lips. Her eyes widened, but she giggled as her feet moved with a life of their own to match me step for step.
Stubblefield started to strum a wild gypsy riff as I smiled, "The Salsa is several dances melted into one. The guaracha --"
I gyrated my hips in a way that made Alice’s neon blue eyes get even wider. "The Cuban Bolero ---"
I swirled around her, tapping my, ah, bottom against hers. "And the rural Rumba, which is really a dance of exhibition, not of participation."
Alice stopped dancing to glower, "I do not know, Mr. Standish, your gludius maximus seems to be participating with mine just fine. Too fine!”
I quickly swept her up beside a similarly dancing Renfield and a glowing Magda. I swirled Alice out, then swept her back into my arms. For the first ever, her face was flushed. I smiled wider.
"The steps are quite simple, Alice. Here, see? The rhythm is set in counts of four of equal time. Look, the basic footwork is even more simple. Three steps taken on the first three beats of a measure, with a hold ---"
"A what?," she frowned.
I moved in, kissing her lightly.
She nipped at my lips half-heartedly as I pulled away. "A hold, silly rabbit. No step on the fourth beat."
"Oh, certainly. I knew that."
I raised a skeptical eyebrow, sweeping her closer. She laughed throaty, moving her hips in a way that made me want Captain Sam to turn away.
"Of course, you did," I said out of a throat grown suddenly thick.
Her eyes grew heavy somehow, as her hips began to sway hypnotically. Alice moved closer and closer to me. She reached out to my hips, grabbed them, starting to move them in time to her own.
There was something else about Alice I kept forgetting. She was a woman in a teen’s body. And I had just awakened that woman. I might just have outsmarted myself this time. Mother kept saying there was one thing I didn’t know : enough.
"Let me help," she breathed. "That is right. Move, flow with the music."
"Can you not feel the pounding of the blood in your ears? Listen. Listen as I rub my hips against yours. Now? Can you not hear the music I am hearing?"
That was the trouble. I could. I could also see Magda’s and Captain Sam’s outraged eyes. And worse, the music was gone. I couldn’t hear the guitars anymore.
Stubblefield was gone. Grace Jones was in his place. Meilori’s was like that. The stages would become misty, exchanging one artist for another. I never got used to it.
Grace was singing, “Strange, I’ve Seen Your Face Before” to the tune of Libertango. Alice and I flowed to the new melody, the new steps, as if we were one. Two new dancers were beside us. I went cold. Ghosts. They were ghosts. And not just any ghosts.
Captain Jean Lafitte and the little step daughter of New Orleans’ Jill the Ripper, Madame Delphine LaLaurie.
They said as one, “She is coming.”
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