New Orleans, LA
During the day, New Orleans’ most famous neighborhood was a tribute to architectural and cultural homogeneity. At night, the French Quarter’s multicultural legacy blurred into an unrecognizable labyrinth; especially in the eyes of the drunk and desperate.
At the moment, Joseph Lafitte was both.
Joseph careened down the dark alley and absentmindedly brushed at the dried blood beneath his nose with his free hand. His tailor-made shirt and pants were drenched with sweat and felt sizes smaller. He was overcome with the sensation that he was running in place, even though he was moving forward at a brisk pace. Until he tripped over a carton some careless individual had placed in his path.
Upon impact with the concrete his cheek flayed open, but he barely felt the sting as his priceless nickel and gold plated antique Colt Navy Revolver clattered away into the darkness, out of reach. Even now, breathing as harshly as he was, he could hear someone behind him. Somehow they managed to stay just out of the range of his sight, but within earshot.
It was the ideal moment for them to pounce, but Joseph would not give in so easily. He pushed himself to his feet, eyes sweeping the ground for his weapon. He located it near a dilapidated doorway. Clutching it once again, he felt some semblance of self-control return.
Then his dead wife called his name.
“Joseph? Joseph, where are you?”
That was all the motivation he needed. He broke into a full gallop but couldn’t outrun what he’d seen back at the hotel, or what he’d just heard.
They are toying with me. Trying to make me doubt my own mind.
This was New Orleans after all. A place with a well-documented history of trickery and alchemic manipulation. He must have drank or eaten something laced with some devilish hallucinogen. For all he knew, his own son—Randy—had given it to him.
Randy still blamed Joseph for the car wreck that took his mother’s life. Joseph had noted the murderous hue in Randy’s eyes after Rita’s funeral, and even though Joseph explained that it was an accident, he knew Randy would never forgive him.
Was this Randy trying to get some sort of revenge?
It didn’t matter. Randy was weak—always had been and always would be. As an only child, he grew up to be softer than cotton—Rita’s doing by babying and spoiling the boy.
Have I underestimated my son?
This thought, along with his first glimpse of light in quite some time, simultaneously assaulted him.
Where am I? And why haven’t they caught up to me yet? Maybe they want me to go this way.
Joseph glanced down at the revolver that had once been carried by the great Robert E. Lee. He’d show them who had the upper hand; if Randy was behind this, he would soon be joining his mother.
Rather than heading toward the light, Joseph turned left down another dark alleyway. The façade of the building was damp to the touch. Other than his troubled footfalls, there was no sound. Who knew a city nearly bursting at the seams with music could be this eerily silent?
Joseph used the quiet to collect his thoughts.
* * * * *
He’d spent that afternoon as he spent most Saturdays, sipping bourbon and talking shop with other New Orleans power brokers inside the private room in Commander’s Palace. He knew something was wrong as soon as Randy appeared at the doorway, motioning to him.
“We have to leave New Orleans right now, Father,” Randy said in a hushed tone as Joseph entered the hallway.
“What are you talking about, Boy, and why are you whispering?” Joseph replied, a little louder than he needed to.