- Ghost Walk
Nikki nodded, not knowing why she was feeling disturbed when Andy was amused.
"Strange, though, huh? I'll bet she could tell I'd been a junkie once upon a time." Andy sighed. "Hey… you don't think, if Max knew about my past, that he'd fire me, do you?"
"No. And who knows about Max's past, anyway?" Nikki joked. Then she turned serious. "Andy, you had a hard life, but you've risen above it. Contessa gave you good advice. Watch out for anyone who might want to drag you down again. That's it."
"She warned me to watch out for strangers. Let me tell you, there were some damn strange people in my past, that's for sure."
"So leave them in the past."
"Yeah, well… sometimes I wonder if they'll come back to haunt me, no matter where I leave them." She hesitated. "Did you ever smoke, Nikki?"
"Smoke… you mean cigarettes?"
Andy laughed. "Yes, I meant cigarettes!"
"In high school and college. Then I quit."
"Yeah, but were you ever really addicted?"
"You bet. I went to a hypnotist, and I chewed the gum like crazy."
"They say cigarettes are the hardest addiction to break," Andy said. "But you know how it is. You quit smoking—you may have given it up for years—but sometimes you'll see someone with a cigarette, and you just want one so badly you can barely stand it. But you know you can't have that one cigarette because you'll wind up with the addiction all over again, no matter what you tell yourself. Do you know what I'm saying?"
"Yes, I know I can't have one cigarette."
"It's like that with other stuff… Every once in a while, you think, man, I'd love to have that high, just one more time. But you know you can't do it."
"You're not afraid you'll be tempted, are you?" Nikki asked her, worried.
Andy shook her head. "No. Because I know what could happen. And I've seen far too many lives destroyed. I'm straight as an arrow now."
"Good for you," Nikki said.
"And I love my job."
"That's great. Hey!" Nikki said suddenly. She lowered her voice. "Speaking of drugs and addictions… look."
"There's that guy again."
"The one we saw today, at Madame D'Orso's."
Andy turned, looking across Conte. There was a crowd around the popular bar on the corner, which was supposedly haunted by a cool jazz guitarist. "Where?" she demanded.
"Right there. Great. I gave him a twenty, and he used it to go drinking," Nikki said in disgust.
"I don't see him," Andy said, craning her neck and frowning.
"There… right there." Nikki pointed. The man was there, staring straight at her. He still looked as if he longed to reach out, touch her… talk to her.
Then the crowd moved. People laughing, talking. A sad trumpet lament began to play. And he was gone.
"Well, go figure. No more twenties to junkies, huh?" Andy said. She walked on.
And Nikki followed, trying to shake off the sudden chill that seemed to wash over her like ice from a not-so-distant past.
A junkie, lying beneath one of the highway overpasses, nearly covered by newspapers and other debris, needle by his side.
Detective Owen Massey and his partner had been called in after the patrol cops had cordoned off the scene. The ME had arrived, too, and agreed that this was just another life wasted, tragic but simple.
Not dead too long. At least the poor sucker hadn't rotted and decayed like a misbegotten rat. By the ME's estimation, this particular John Doe had only been a goner for a matter of hours. Cause of death seemed obvious. Heroin overdose.
Nearly quitting time, and he was tired. He loved the French Quarter like he might his child, if he'd ever had one. But there were days…
A few more lines to fill in, and he could go home, he thought, sitting at his desk.
Massey had nearly finished with the paperwork—not a homicide, death by misadventure—when his partner came striding across the room.
"Hold the presses," Marc Joulette said.
"You got an ID?" Massey asked. "A match on the prints'?"
"Yeah. Tom Garfield. FBI. Under cover for the last three months."
"FBI," Joulette repeated.
Massey groaned, nearly letting his head fall on the table.
It would be one hell of a long time before he'd be going home that night.
"The feds will be sending someone."
He let his head crash to the desk.
No one noticed. A bunch of uniforms were heading out, talking as they went.
Massey looked up, frowning. "Politics," Joulette told him. "Going to provide security for some rally."
Massey arched both brows. Joulette shrugged. "It's a hot race for that senate seat," he explained. "I haven't seen this much activity in a coon's age."
"Politics. In Louisiana. There's a cesspool for you."
"Hey!" Joulette protested. "There are a lot of good guys out there, trying to make a difference. Not to mention right here in the department."
Actually, Massey agreed. There were plenty of good men in the department. And he hated the fact that Louisiana politics had too often been on the shady side. It was a good state. He loved New Orleans with a passion. He shrugged. "Problem is, no two guys seem to have the same opinion when it comes to what constitutes the greater good."
"Well, we're not politicians. We're cops. And we've got a dead fed on our hands."
"Right," Massey said.
"Hey, Massey, Joulette." It was Robinson, a street cop who had spent some time in forensics.
"What's up?" Joulette asked.
"Purse snatcher," Robinson said. Young and wiry, he was a good cop, capable of running down perps who were convinced they could outrun any of the parish's beignet-eaters.
Massey cleared his throat. "Um… wrong fellow to get after a purse snatcher," he said.
Robinson grinned. "Hey, I know."
"You mean you didn't run the guy down?" Joulette asked him.
"Naw, I got the call too late."
"So… ?" Massey prompted.
"This is just curious. Maybe nothing. But I thought that I'd show you."
Robinson produced the small sketchbook he'd been carrying. He was a good artist, and the sketch he'd produced appeared to be a likeness of Tom Garfield, their dead FBI agent.
Frowning, Massey stared hard at the picture. "What's this?"
"The woman whose purse was snatched told me that she never saw the man who swiped her bag, but she said she'd seen a suspicious-looking down-and-outer right before it happened. On Bourbon Street. I asked her to describe the guy. And this is what I got. A picture of your corpse."
"Robinson, you've seen the pictures of Garfield. You just drew him 'cause those images were in your mind," Joulette said.
"No. The woman told me this was the guy she saw—to a T."
"Couldn't have been. If this purse snatching just happened, Garfield was already dead," Massey said more gently. He liked Robinson.
"The woman swears up and down that this is who she saw."
"So our fed is dead but snatching purses?" Joulette scoffed.
"Maybe he's got a look-alike running around the city, that's what I'm suggesting," Robinson said. "Who knows how or why, but it could mean something. I just thought you two should know."
"Did you show the boss?" Massey asked.
Robinson nodded. "Weird, huh?"
"Thanks," Massey told him. "Hey, can I keep the sketch?"
"I'll make you a copy," Robinson assured him. "The boss already has one." He gave Joulette an aggravated stare and moved on.
"Everybody's just got to get in on the act, huh?" Joulette said.
Massey shook his head. Robinson was a bright officer, and the sketch was disturbing.
It was going to be a hell of a long night.
Brent Blackhawk fought the dream, because he knew what the dream meant. But it was too strong for him.
First there was the mist.
Then there was his grandfather.
Finally he was back on the day when they had gone to the battlefield where Custer had made his last stand. Where the combined forces of many tribes had conquered.
As a child, he had seen them.
There had been awful moments when he had felt sheer terror. He had seen the soldiers and the warriors. Heard the savage war cries. The shouts of the cavalry.
The cries for mercy.
He had seen the agony and fear, tasted the acrid scent of gunpowder.
He had kept silent, had not corrected the tour guide. It would be wrong for a little boy to correct his elders, even though he knew what they did not. He had listened to the tours; he had gone to the encampments. He had sat with his grandfather in a sweat lodge, and the old men and the younger ones had discussed how Custer's last stand had in reality been the last stand of the American Indian.
Later his grandfather had talked to him. He had known.
"It's all right," he had assured him. "It's all right."
"Is it because I'm a quarter Indian?" he had asked.
And his grandfather had taken him into his arms. "Well, boy, I don't know. Your mom, now, she was what they called a truly lovely lass from the old country. And her people are known for being what they call a bit 'fey.' What matters is that you have a gift, and you have it for a reason. Perhaps in time you'll see that it's not frightening, and you'll know why it's been given to you. And that it's good."
Sometimes, he still wondered when the "good" would kick in. He had learned to use it, just as a policeman learned to use his weapon. There were times when he knew that his help changed lives, even made them bearable again.