Monday, December 8, 2008

Blood is Thicker than Water: Forte meets LaVeau Part 1

While I was seeing to the morality, or lack thereof, of my niece, Father Stewart was also ministering to the souls in his care. He had taken Samuel Forte back to his rooms. Forte looked much fresher after a decent washing and a new collar. He had also combed the dried blood out of his devil’s beard. Now he reclined on the horsehair couch in the room’s small sitting area, a steak flopped over his blackened eye.

“Now, let me get this straight,” Forte said from underneath the meat. “This is kinda weird, you and the old maid, excuse me, my dear, sweet, Aunt Polly, coming to my aid and all. Things like this don’t usually happen to me. I usually have to find my own way out of things. Except for that time when me and LaVerne decided to be women from Venus—the yokels sure bought that one. Well, why don’t you give me all the particulars?”

Father Stewart put the finishing touches on stuffing a pipe with tobacco and gave Forte as many details as he thought he could. “You, being a scholarly man, and being in your field of study,” have certainly heard of Marie LaVeau?”

“Oh yeah. I hope the very well off, influential Marie LaVeau?”

“Miss LaVeau is a desperate woman. Some creatures of inexplicable horror have invaded her home. She herself has escaped their clutches. I hope we hear from her soon.”

“Inexplicable horror, huh?” Forte’s comment was light, as if he were considering removing termites or rats from the woman’s home. “You mean poltergeists? Hauntings? Something like that?”

“No.” The father lit his pipe and pulled a drag. “What would you think if I said vampires?”

“I’d think that you’d read one Hungarian folk tale too many, and that you want me to deal with undead. I don’t do undead. I do spirits. Ghosts. Wee beasties. Things that go bump in the night. Werewolves, vampires, things that make me into one of them I stay away from.”

Father Stewart grinned. “Obviously that is a luxury that you, a freelance businessman, can afford. On the other hand, I tend to go where He points me.”

Forte stroked his beard, puzzled. “Is that supposed to make me feel guilty?”


“Well, good. It didn’t.”

“Then,” Father Stewart said, “there is the sum that Miss LaVeau is prepared to offer you."

“Yeah, well, look here, Father. I may appear to be a man who can be paid off to you, but I do draw my line at undead. It’s not good advertising for a man in my line of work to drink blood at business luncheons or to be available for only night cases.”

“Miss LaVeau is prepared to give you one thousand dollars.”

“That’s not bad,” said Forte, beaming. “Is there anyway I can talk to Miss LaVeau. Get the particulars from her?”

“Perhaps,” said a feminine voice from the shadows. “But I very much doubt she’ll come out of hiding for you, Mr. Forte.”

Both Stewart and Forte looked at the door in surprise. Forte stood up and extended his hand. “Mrs?”

“Madame Legendre.” The woman nodded in Father Stewart’s direction. “The priest knows of me.”

“Yes,” said Father Stewart, “Marie has told me about you. Is she well?”

“We, she and I, are keeping her away from the demons. We thought it wise that Marie LaVeau not walk the streets at night.”

“A wise choice,” the father said. “Madame Legendre seemed familiar to him.

“I wish the circumstances of our first meeting were more pleasant, Mr. Forte. How much has Father Stewart told you?”

“Only that Miss LaVeau has fiendish undead in her home.” Does he mean the family cottage?”

“No. Her mansion. May I be earnest with you, Mr. Forte?” The old woman took a chair. “And you, Father?”

“I would prefer it,” said the priest.

“Do you recognize me, Andrew?”

Father Stewart was puzzled. “Marie?”

“Yes. After all, the streets aren’t safe for Marie LaVeau, but they are perfectly safe for Madame Legendre. So Madame Legendre graciously offered me her identity.”

Forte nodded his approval. “Nice disguise! Much better than the women from Venus.”

“Thank you, Mr. Forte. Now, all the details?”

Forte resumed his seat. “I would prefer that, Miss LaVeau.”

“The truth will sound unbelievable.”

“No. Unbelievable is that a fat English guy twice my age can duke me out and get away with less damage than me. After that, I’ll believe anything.”

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