the actual floor of the relics room at St.Roch's, used with permission
I catch my breath. Mignon can make a helluva entrance.
I’m getting used to this; nothing fazes me anymore. Well, not like it used to anyway. Police crouched against the front of the house, Mignon’s hellcat tirade at decibel levels, people recording everything with their camera phones ….
And all I can think about is the sooner I unload the Missile, the sooner I can go-
I force the thought down and away. Not going there again. New thoughts, new habits. The sooner I unload, the sooner I can handle Mr. Joachim and the newest crisis Mignon’s just handed me on a plate.
Like a pair of St.Lucy’s eyeballs.
With one bottle cuddled under my arm and against my side, I grip the neck of the second and get out to open the back of the Missile.
“Ma’am, step away from the car please.” Oh. No.
An overzealous newbie security guard. Probably his first day chasing La Mignon through the mean streets of his private gated community. Well, if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to get a guy to do the grunt work.
“You the new guy?” I ask him sweetly. Yep, flirt straight for the kill.
I turn to blind him with my smile, but the sun over his head blinds me instead. It sears my eyes and in seconds tears flow and I’m all squinch-y and then… my nose. Well, it’s not pretty.
Instinctively I raise my hand to stop what’s running away. The bottle slips from my side and before I know it the arms of one very solid man catches the bottle – and me.
“Yeah,” he whispers nice and low and a little rough, too close to my ear, too close to me. I feel his heartbeat through silky cotton, smell soap and man sweat, see stubble on his jaw and the pink of his lips and his deepset dark brown eyes… I can see again. “New guy. Name’s Herman.” He reaches behind to his back pocket and pulls out a handkerchief. “You okay?”
I want to bury my face in that piece of cotton and scrub the scent of him into my pores. But that would freak him out and so I dab daintily and sniff.
“Thanks. I’m good.”
“Mignon LeBouef?” he asks me.
Cue the hysterical lady.
“Snakes! Charley? Charley he has snakes in here!” Mignon stomps past the police and security guards to confront me.“Snakes! You hear me? Not just a scaffold, but snakes! You need to come fix this!”
Then, to Mr.Spectacular, “Oh hello. And you are…?”
Herman pulled his gaze away and I take my bottle from his hand. “Mignon LeBouef? Herman Richards , Halloween Orleans.”
Marching up to the door, I repeat my new mantra to myself for courage. “Fix the problem. Fix the problem. Fix the problem.”
Inside the reception hall the policemen stand and stare at the mural on the walls, talking in low tones to each other, sliding their feet over something on the floor.
Pennies. Shiny orange ones, dull black ones, and every shade of copper in between. Everywhere – on floors, and stair treads, on chairs and window sills.
And snakes. Two big black ringed California kingsnakes, and one big white –
“Is that a boa constrictor?” I ask out loud, as if we didn’t already know.
A policeman whistles long and low and intones “That is one big –“
“It’s Legba,” interrupts Mr. Joachim. “Oh good, you brought wine.” He gestures for me to come forward.
“They won’t hurt you! They’re nice snakes! They’re here for Legba!”
“And just what exactly is Legba?” I ask, watching the big fella on the floor that seemed to be meditating under the Lovick and Lamphier table that cost an arm and a leg –
Both of which lay on the table. A plaster cast of half an arm, a foot cut off at the ankle, and an old, rusted metal and leather leg brace.
All relics from St.Roch’s. Scattered amongst the items were candles and –
Dammit! The doberge cake from the caterers for tomorrow’s ball!
“Mr. Joachim, what is all this? What are you doing here and why are there pennies and snakes everywhere?” I ask, again as if I didn’t know.
He looks up, a mixture of curiosity and joy lighting up his eyes. “You’re back, my Ruby. You’ve finally come back to me.” Copyright2011©Pamela V. Mason, all rights reserved
actual casts of legs, feet, a heart, leg braces ad crutches, offered in thanks to St.Roch for being cured