Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Blood is Thicker than Water: Peril for Marie LaVeau

Chapter 2: In Which the Reader Sees a Reunion Between Very Old Friends, and Meets Ulysses Simpson

After calling Father Stewart, and, inadvertently, myself, the mysterious “they” came for Marie LaVeau. She was now waiting to see the woman who had invaded her home. The home itself was a mansion of sorts, deep in the heart of the bayou, away from New Orleans proper. Marie had kept a residence in the city, but that residence was now occupied by Madame LeGendre, the first Marie LaVeau’s daughter. Since the good Madame had arrived in the city, Marie kept her voodoo activities to a minimum. She planned on staging a death for Marie LaVeau, and then moving on to some place new, with a new identity, as she had been doing for the majority of her long life. Then Shalimar had arrived in the city.

Ever the show woman, Shalimar arrived in style. Marie had been amazed when she first saw her old mistress at the theater, gems practically glowing out of the woman’s raven hair. Shalimar had always been pale, but now she had achieved a luminescence, probably because she was picking up the habits of the vampires who served her and seldom went out during the day. Years before, Shalimar had tried to live in New Orleans and make it her own place, and Marie had helped to drive her out of the city. Now, perhaps, Shalimar had returned to even the score. When Marie discovered that Shalimar had indeed come for revenge, she attempted to shake Shalimar and her servants. But Shalimar and her servants had caught her, and now she was waiting for Shalimar’s summons.

Shalimar had searched Marie’s room thoroughly. She had removed the materials for charms and gris-gris. While Marie was capable of casting other spells from an older magic, iron shackles clasped around her wrists, and her powers were rendered useless. One candlestick lit the room, a kindness from Shalimar to her one time handmaid. It was better than absolute darkness. Marie knew Shalimar would have put her in a dungeon if she’d had the option; luckily, there were no underground structures in New Orleans.

The waiting taxed Marie’s nerves. The shadows hung heavily on her, and time pressed her even more as she waited for Shalimar to decide her fate. That idea did not comfort her, and Marie kept an eye out for every opportunity to escape.

Two silent men came to take her to her judgment. They were probably low on the scale of service here. Marie walked between them with as much dignity as she could muster. The French doors to the study were open, and Shalimar sat in a large velvet chair, the walls on each side of her lined with books. Shalimar looked strange to Marie in the corset and dress. Perhaps she was a little older than the last time? That was odd indeed.

“You’ve done well for yourself,” Shalimar spoke, giving Marie a sweeping head to toe glance. “So Marie LaVeau now, is it? You aren’t being very original. This city has had a Marie LaVeau of some sort for around sixty years. Will you claim to be the daughter’s daughter this time?”

Marie hoped she could choke down the anger that attempted to overpower her, and keep her voice calm in front of this woman. “Are you still calling yourself Lalaurie, my lady? Are you still torturing slaves?”

Shalimar laughed, a cool and coquettish laugh. “In emancipated America I can no longer keep a private stock. But we still meet our needs.”

“They will recognize you again. The people of New Orleans will not take you back again after what you did.” Marie smiled with some satisfaction at the memory. “They tore your house to splinters my queen. White people and black people.”

“So they did. But we will not ask them if we can stay. We will take what we want.” Shalimar walked around the desk, closer to Marie. “For example, we will stay at your home. No one disturbs Marie LaVeau, the voodoo queen.” Shalimar wound some of Marie’s hair around her fist and jerked upward. Marie winced, but did not make a sound. “I can be voodoo queen as easily as you.” Shalimar snaked her hand out of the hair. “And you. After all this time, I have finally thought what to do with you. The solution was so simple that I don’t know why I didn’t think of it years ago. Since I cannot kill you, I will feed you to my associates. Provided they do not drain you dry, you can produce blood for them for eternity. Of course,” Shalimar moved her lips close to Marie’s ear, “one of my greatest pleasures will be finding out how much pain you can take.” Her voice lowered to a husky whisper. “How much do you think?

Marie perspired. Years ago, when Marie was a girl, Shalimar had beaten her brutally because Marie had dropped the queen’s necklace. Marie had almost died in the servants’ quarters afterward. Shalimar’s savage desire for torture had made her famous during several of her stops in history, and Marie knew full well the damage Shalimar was capable of inflicting on the human body, both hidden and seen. She would have a fresh victim for torture in Marie every time, because of Marie’s special gift. Probably Shalimar felt justified in torturing Marie for a long time.

“Take her away,” Shalimar commanded the guards. “I will play with my toy later.”

The two men turned Marie around. Shalimar was confident she was held here for the time being. Where would she go with several vampires roaming the grounds? Shalimar left the library. Downstairs she quickened her pace to the parlor. Two men waited for her there: one, an immaculately dressed blond, hair cut slightly longer than the norm, in the fashion of a romantic. The other man was more striking—tall, white hair, and he wore what appeared to be the dress uniform for a vampire: the black tails of evening dress, a swirling opera cape, and a touch of individuality in a top hat. Like the blond, he had found ways to walk the streets in daylight. There were part of Shalimar’s inner circle.

Shalimar took the hands of the blond. “Have you been discussing my plan, Monsieur Lalaurie?”

The blond kissed her cheek. “We have, dearest. Dalia to the priest was an excellent idea.”

“But,” the white-haired man said, “we have had a complication. A woman. Stewart has contacted her, and he’s certain to tell her everything. Or he will.”

Shalimar shrugged her shoulders. “Then we’ll have to kill her. Anyone else we need to kill?”

“Do you want me to kill her?” Monsieur Lalaurie asked.

“Oh no. Marion can take care of it. How hard can it be? Since Dalia’s with the priest, the two of them can take care of it.”

“Swell,” the blond muttered. “Dalia’s going to love this.”

“The woman has a niece,” the white-haired one spoke.

“Well, Benjamin, what do you think we should do about the niece?”

“Kill her?” the white-haired vampire ventured.

“Excellent assumption,” Shalimar returned. She returned her attention the blond. “Marcus, there of course remains Mr. Simpson. He requires your special attentions.”

“Don’t worry. I’m going to give Mr. Simpson every consideration before I destroy him.”

Shalimar shook her head. “Haven’t I told you not to hold grudges? Just because he helped us out of New Orleans before—”

“You mean you don’t want me to make him suffer?”

“No. I didn’t say that. I want you to make him suffer for me, not for yourself. Please remember that I am your queen.”

Marcus gave her a slight bow and a smile. “I don’t think I could ever forget that, Shalimar.”

“Good.” Shalimar sat down on the red velvet sofa. She ran a finger in one of the grooves of the carved wood arm. “We cannot kill Marie. I’d like to put more of the fear of—well, some fear into her. Benjamin, I want you to help her escape.”

Benjamin seemed puzzled. “What purpose would that serve?”

“She will attempt to ferret out all those in New Orleans who will be of use to her. Besides the priest and Ulysses Simpson. If we let her do the ferreting, we can intercept possible aid. We can—well, you know—to anyone who gets in our way.”

Benjamin nodded curtly. “Consider it done.” He left the room, cape billowing around him.

“I do wish I knew how he managed those dramatic effects,” Marcus said.

Shalimar pressed her body against Marcus. “Remember, I want you to hurt Simpson. Very personally. Usually the best way with him is through someone else.”

“It is necessary to take our revenge from someone else?”

“Most definitely. It is the only way to cause Simpson real pain. Simpson must be eliminated from our game. He is the only man who could expose us before we finish. He must be dealt with before he is allowed to begin any investigation in our general direction.” She nuzzled him again and slowly he relaxed. “There is one more thing I’d like to do this evening. And Marie will have better chance to escape if we are otherwise distracted.”

Marcus smiled. He had wanted to try out the mahogany bed in the master bedroom, but for the moment the velvet couch was serviceable.

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