Sunday, November 6, 2016

A French Quarter Violet

Here is the opening of A French Quarter Violet, the latest book I pitched and am waiting for responses. Any comments by my hordes of fans would be appreciated.
Chapter 1
The paramedic didn’t bother to lift his hefty ass off the rear bumper of his ambulance, but managed to flick the butt of his cigarette toward my feet as if marking his territory. I could guess his attitude came from my being female or my being a cop or maybe both. He acted like a grade school bully, with thin lips and close-set eyes that measured Lenny and me. 
Tourists wandering the French Quarter encroached as if we were street performers, but Lenny ushered them along. A piercing trumpet and dull drumming on an upside-down bucket could be heard near Bourbon Street as the afternoon sun descended. 
I pulled out my little notebook of facts, ready with my pen. “I’m Officer Violet Babineaux and this is Officer Lenny Blake. What we got?”
 “Young, white female. Looks like suicide.” The medic lit a new cigarette. “Gun in the mouth. Brains on the wall.”
“I can say the same about smoking.” Lenny’s baritone carried as he plucked the newly lit cancer stick from the man’s lips and tossed it onto Royal Street, adding to the discarded debris the French Quarter tended to collect.
“Hey.” The medic squinted, not quite sure if he wanted to mouth off to an angry black cop large enough to body slam him.
“Where’s the other medic?”
“She’s still with the body. It’s messy.”
“Is one of them the landlord?” I pointed at one man consoling another on the curb in front of Diamond Minds, a quaint jewelry store with a torn green awning. One was a thin man, curled up with his knees to his chest, showing the whites of his eyes. His unkempt gray Afro lifted in the breeze and his ears hung low. The other man was pale, with deep wrinkles.
“Black guy’s the landlord. Mr. Bud Dooley. He’s freaked out. Says the girl’s name is Charlotte something.” 
Wait. Charlotte
The medic continued, “The white guy is the jewelry store owner. Apartment’s right above.” He pointed to an aging window with yellow shudders.
Lenny turned to me. “Let’s hit it, Babineaux.”
My blood pressure had dropped and my stomach growled, and for the third time I wished we had gotten lunch before the call. The second-story window caused my intuition to rise up in my throat. Charlotte’s attempt to contact me has to be a coincidence. The demon possessing that apartment called down to me. Come up and see your friend.
We approached Mr. Dooley, who responded with a snail’s pace. Lenny bent at the waist to get his attention. “Mr. Dooley. I’m Officer Blake and this is Officer Babineaux. We’re going to check out the apartment. We’ll be back down in a few minutes to take your statement, okay?”
“Horrible. So horrible.” His lips trembled for more words that didn’t come. Poor man. I’m glad he didn’t say Charlotte again. I don’t think I could take hearing her name come off his lips. It wasn’t her up there. It couldn't be.
We entered a green door that was propped open on the side of the jewelry store. I noticed that the paramedic had crossed the street to join us, not wanting to waste another cigarette. My noodle legs climbed the narrow flight of stairs, holding the railing with a tight hand. I’d been called to suicides before, but this could devastate me, seeing my closest childhood friend who had just reached out to me yesterday, and whom I had completely ignored. 
At the summit of the stairs, a long, dreary hallway came into view. Light beamed through an open door, which had a crooked 2C barely hanging on. The medic and I entered behind Lenny as the second EMT rose from the kitchen chair. Her pants exaggerated wide curves and she had a butch haircut. Medics weren’t allowed to leave a body alone until relieved. My brain filtered Lenny’s words into sputtering noises as I crept closer to the body on the blood-spattered couch.
It was my Charlotte; the Charlotte that stood by my side during the Little Magnolia Pageants; the Charlotte whose fun-loving personality withered with our friendship until I ran away to start a new life at fifteen. It was the Charlotte who had just yesterday left a note on my door. My Charlotte.
She had shot herself in the mouth. Blood soaked her concert T-shirt above her cute pink shorts. Her body was still in shape, but from metabolism, not working out. Blackish, pasty film coated her mouth, shoulders, and chest. Bits of her skull on the couch proved there would be a nasty exit wound. The gun rested on her side, inches from her hand.
“Violet, what’s wrong?”
Ignoring Lenny’s question, I stepped up to the couch to face her head-on, leaning over to confirm what I already knew. Childhood memories prevented any thoughts of my calming down. Small points of light invaded my vision and the room swirled. Finally, my knees gave out. Charlotte’s body rushed towards me until I saw the nothingness.

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