I realize that Fresh Bones (aired /95) addressed some of these issues, but I personally found the episode rather boring and wholly unsatisfying. So, I'm forgetting it ever happened, and doing my own. I don't know anything about voodoo, and I'm the only person in my family who hasn't been to New Orleans, so I hope the research I've done pays off...
Louis Armstrong Park
The moonlight wisps through the abundant foliage of the large oak trees scattered around the park. The streetlights, still on at this hour of the inky night peer hesitantly on the crowd of people shuffling below. The houngan waits until a sufficient number of people have gathered, then motions sharply to a man, his face unnaturally ashy. His eyes burn like dark coals in his streaked face as he holds the sacrifice up casually to the crowd in Congo Square. The crowd explodes in a frenetic wail and flurry of movement. The people chant, some pound drums, answering the houngan's foreign demands. Their feet slap and thud on the inlaid stone beneath them, keeping the rhythm of the drums. There is a salty energy in the air, the tang of sweat collides with the damp night air. The drums pulsate as brightly costumed women gyrate unself-consciously in the crowd, their hips jarring onlookers, perspiration streaming between their breasts.
The sacrifice is placed on a large rock before the houngan. During the day, many sit on this rock. Teenagers crouch behind it to neck, children crouch behind it mischeviously to hide from their parents or nannies. Now, there are bright markings on the rock, chalky fingertrails that make sense to none, and yet to all. The rock is hard, but the sacrifice does not notice. Its eyes flutter around frantically, its neck cranes around for a better look. The feet scrabble against the rock, scratching and jerking for release.
The houngan raises an arm, the pounding of the drums echoes in the murky night. A flash of cold clean steel shines in the light from the streetlamps, or was it the moon? The sacrifice lets out a shrieking howl, its breath heaving in great spasms. Its body twists and rocks with the force of its shrill cries. Disembodied voices chant, some imitating the sacrifice's moans. The houngan's arm swiftly drops, and blood spatters on the rock. The nearby fountain is drowned out by the surging crowd, still chanting, as a steady ebony trickle flows down the crevices of the large boulder in the fog.
Basement, Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters
Special Agent Dana Scully was looking at her partner with an expression akin to a cross between stunned disbelief and a disgusted scowl on her face. One perfectly groomed eyebrow was raised in a gesture as familiar to her partner as the way her hands were resting on her hips, shrouded stylishly as usual in a dark green pantsuit. She repeated her question. "You want to go where?"
Fox Mulder shrugged. "New Orleans." His hazel eyes were lit up by something other than the dim flourescent overhead lamps. Lit by something only she could see, and recognize it for what it was. And what she didn't have. That bothered her sometimes.
She lost her pose of professional indignation, and her shoulders slumped in defeat. She sank gracefully into her creaky chair, as he leaned against the only tidy government-issue desk in the room. He waited.
Scully lightly tapped a decidedly chewed HB pencil against her obstinate lower lip and tilted her head up at him quizzically. "There is no good reason-" she lifted up a tiny capable hand to deter him as he started to speak, "-*no* good reason to go to New Orleans in August. You have no *idea* how disgusting it is." He tried to speak again, but she still interrupted him. "NO IDEA." Her turquoise eyes penetrated his, daring him silently to disagree with her, as he always did.
Her jaw slacked. "What?"
Mulder repeated it solemnly, "Beignets." Scully stared at him. "They're these tasty little pastry things, all covered in sugar, and hot and crispy, and flaky..." His mind wandered off, and she could swear she detected a hint of drool in the left corner of his mouth.
"Mulder, beignets are *not* a good reason to go to the Big Easy in August." His eyes were now glazed over and there was definitely saliva leaking from his slightly ajar, yet very sensuous, mouth. "MULDER!" Scully barked to snap him out of his trance. She elaborated slowly and succintly. "There are flying cockroaches in New Orleans in August. Everything rots because of the heat and the humidity. There is *no* breeze off Lake Pontchartrain. People are not allowed to own Sharpei dogs, for God's sakes!"
He wheeled back on her. "Wrought iron balconies, spicy jazz, spicier food..." She sighed in exasperaton. He leaned over her, the pencil clattered to the floor as she looked in his dancing eyes, as he continued huskily. "Fragrant magnolias crushed against your cheek like damp pale satin." Her eyes widened, as did her nostrils, almost trying to inhale the phantom scent. Damn, how did he do this to her? His voice and eyes surrounded her like rich brown velvet, she could feel his breath caressing her cheek. "Three dead women in the Outer French Quarter." Cold clammy fingers ran up and down her spine as she saw the truth in his eyes. The truth, always so elusive, always within their reach, but never ever in their grasp. She clamped down on the tingling sensations previously swirling in her stomach, and met his eyes cooly, but reluctantly.
"When do we leave?"
FBI Regional Office
Mulder and Scully were sitting in a small room in a building off St. Charles Avenue. An overhead fan whipped lazily above their heads, ruffling their hair. Scully mused that instead of cooling them off, it only managed to push the hot air around. She lifted the damp auburn hair off the back of her neck with one hand and reached into her briefcase with the other. Her slate-grey linen suit pulled across her back, and she felt cool sweat prickle between her shoulderblades and glue her cotton blouse to her skin. She *hated* New Orleans in August, had ever since she spent a summer in Louisiana with her cousins long ago.
She grunted. Mulder was obviously enchanted with the city. The murky alleys, the clinging air, the curious lilt of the native tongue. The hot sun glinting colourfully off the oil patches in the Mississippi, the Spanish moss dripping from the trees, the decay, the tarnished glamour, the funny little shops with unidentifiable objects in the sometimes dirty windows.
Instead of booking them into the Holiday Inn, or even a motor lodge, he was positively delighted to tell her that he had managed to procure rooms at a decently priced hotel in the heart of the French Quarter. When they arrived, and Scully found her room full of antiques and lovely french doors leading to a balcony overlooking the Vieux Carree, she was less sure of its "decent" price. She walked through the joining door to Mulder's room and found him bouncing on the bed and trying to order beignets through room service. She sighed, shot him an undecipherable look, and returned to her room to run a cool bath before they went to the local office.
She sat there for twenty minutes in the smooth white porcelain tub, cold water dripping slowly from the faucet. She mentally ran over the case. Three women, all from the French Quarter, found dead in Congo Square, part of Louis Armstrong Park. Their throats had been cut, and the toxicological results were, well, they were strange. Scully had to look some of the findings up on the med database before they left, and was still confused by the results. Her head leaned back against the cool tile and gardenia-scented water ebbed around her breasts and stomach. The air-conditioning chilled her wet exposed flesh, and she felt for the plug with her toes. The bathwater gurgled down the drain as she padded out of the tub and reached for a plush white towel hanging on a nearby rail. She dressed quickly and went next door to fetch Mulder.
Mulder was reading a local paper, and some empty dishes were strewn around already. He looked refreshed, however, and ready to go.
"I saved you a beignet, Scully." Her stomach rumbled appreciatively, and she took it with unspoken thanks.
Scully was looking at the case file when the door opened quietly, letting a warm coffee-tainted breeze in from the hallway. Mulder saw a sheaf of pale blond hair float around the door, then its owner entered the room. He estimated that she was around 5'6', but it looked like a strong Southern breeze would easily knock her on her flowered silk behind.
Scully looked up from the file folder on her lap when the scent of lilies enveloped her as the woman floated into the room.
"Would you like a cup of coffee?" She smiled at them, revealing straight white teeth that Scully surmised must have been compliments of an excellent orthodontist some years ago.
Mulder realized that this must be a secretary, and returned the smile somewhat deferentially.
"No thanks, we're just waiting for Agent Beauchamp."
The woman looked at him carefully, and took in their already wilted appearance. She smiled again, then crossed over to the desk. She shuffled some papers in order to excavate a phone and picked up lightly with a perfectly manicured hand.
She spoke briefly into the phone. "Joe, could you bring us-" her eyes lifted to take them in again, "-three iced teas, please?" She murmured her thanks in a charming Southern accent and sat in the large padded chair.
Scully stood up and moved towards the desk, her hand outstretched. "Agent Beauchamp, I presume."
The woman's tone was cordial, but not quite welcoming. "Amalie Beauchamp, at your service." Mulder turned a faded shade of dusty rose and started to apologize. Beauchamp waved a hand at him, cutting him off playfully. "No problem, Agent Mulder, the mistake has been made before." Her sable eyes danced as she surveyed the couple in front of her.
"Well, I'll take you down to the morgue in a few minutes, and then we'll meet up with one of N'Awlins' finest to show you the scenes. In the meantime-thank you, Joe-" she added to the young man who had slipped in the door to deposit three large styrofoam cups, "-what can you tell me?"
Scully began, "Well, three dead women-"
Beauchamp nodded. "Marlene Foster, Rena Calliaux, and Juliette Ventnor, ages 18, 42, and 27 respectively."
Scully continued, "found near Bayou Segnette, outside of Westwego. All three women's throats had been slit by what seems to be a knife of some kind, not serated, by a left-handed person.
Beauchamp interrupted. "The time of death was difficult for the ME to determine, due to advanced decomposition in the bayou." Scully nodded. "A few days ago though, a worried tourist reported bloodstains on a rock in Congo Square, and we've matched the dried blood to that of the victims. We think that's where they were killed, then dropped in the bayou."
Mulder's voice resonated in the small room, startling the two women. "Isn't Congo Square a very popular city park. Didn't anyone see anything?"
She sighed. "Unfortunately not, or if they did they're not talking."
Mulder pressed, "Wasn't Congo Square a popular site of voudoun ceremonies in the early 1800's?"
Scully started to protest, but Beauchamp cut her off, her manner becoming cooler. "Voudoun, hoodoo, voodoo, whatever you want to call it-it's not here. Yes, there were massive slave dances, demonstrations, which were outlawed in 1835, but no official voodoo ceremonies took place there then."
Mulder tried again, "Yes, but that doesn't mean that there aren't ceremonies happening there now."
Beauchamp's jaw tightened imperceptibly and her voice was like steel. "Agent Mulder, the Bureau is not entertaining the theory that voodoo killed these women. We are looking at it as the obvious work of a serial killer. You two have been called down here to work on the profile, and to assist in the investigation." Scully turned to Mulder, puzzled. Beauchamp finished her tea and stood up gracefully. "Now, I will go get the car, and meet you downstairs to go to the morgue." With that, she swept out of the room in a cloud of powdery flowers.
Mulder was silent. Scully was confused. "Mulder, I thought *you* requested this case."
He picked up her briefcase and handed it to her. "No, she's right. Skinner requested that we come down and help, but after seeing the case file, I think Agent Beauchamp and I may have different theories as to the murders." They exited the room and started towards the elevator. Scully's heels clicked on the worn linoleum floor as she tried valiantly to keep up with her partner's unconsciously long strides.
She looked up at him. "You think there was voodoo involved," she stated, instead of questioning him.
He nodded and jabbed the elevator button. He glanced down at her. "Did you see the tox report?"
They stepped inside the elevator and Scully pressed the button for the lobby. She watched him lean against the wall, watching her with his impenetrable hazel eyes.
"There were small quantities of an unknown biological entity in the remains of all three victims, which, upon further chemical analysis, looks like a kind of snake poison. Most likely water moccasin. The ME assumed that the women were bitten after death, in the bayou." She sounded very matter-of-fact.
"Assumed, Scully, assumed." Mulder sounded frustrated as he traced the word on the elevator wall. He pointed to his invisible writing. "When you assume, you make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'." Scully smiled briefly. He asked, "Were there any indications of actual snake bites on the victims' bodies?"
Scully paused, then answered slowly. "Nooo, but half of their flesh was eaten away by bacteria and other wildlife. They may have been bitted in those areas we did not have evidence of."
The doors opened onto the lazy, but focused pace of the lobby. Mulder stepped out. "Maybe," he muttered, "but I checked on something. There *are* no water moccasins in Segnette Bayou."
Louisiana County Morgue 2:45 pm
Scully murmured to Mulder as they walked down the hall to the autopsy bays, "What does snake poison have to do with voodoo?" Beauchamp was six feet in front of them, and started at the question, but gave no other indication of having heard their low conversation.
"The worship of Voodoo is paid to a snake, which is considered an omnipotent being."
Scully was silent, wanting to ask more, but nervous about Beauchamp's presence. She decided to grill him later to see what other theories he was entertaining. The trio approached a small exam room, in which a large burly man was waiting for them.
"Beauchamp, baby, you look like a cool drink of water," a voice rumbled out of the mountainous man in front of them, as his ample gut jiggled with laughter. Beauchamp reached up and hit him in the shoulder. She obviously knew him well, or at least well enough to drop some of her professional walls.
"I'm not a public fountain, Leo." She waved her hand at Mulder and Scully. "These are the two agents from Washington I told you about."
The mountain shook their hands. "Lieutenant Leo Brodeur, NOPD." His black eyes twinkled in his dark cocoa face, and his voice reminded Scully of molasses for some reason. He smiled at her, and she was overwhelmed with an urge to curl up in his lap and ask him to sing her songs. Mulder was also impressed. He detected a core of unflinching iron and brilliance behind the jovial face, which he had not quite seen in Beauchamp. Leo just seemed a little more, well, *real* than Beauchamp, Mulder surmised.
"So, where're the bodies," Scully asked. She followed Leo's finger, which pointed across the rooms to three autopsy tables. Her blue eyes widened as she realized the state that the bodies were in. Her pathologist's heart sunk in dismay when she realized how difficult it was going to be to retain any clear evidence from the victims. Mulder watched her, he knew what she was thinking. He turned to Brodeur.
"Lab reports?" Brodeur handed them to him, all the while joking about the massive heatwave that was currently bringing the city to its sweaty knees.
"I remember my grandmama telling me that all the white folks used to leave the city in the summer, they were all worried about yellow fever and cholera." He shook his bristly head. "With all the modern medical technology, it's amazing that people even die today because of this kind of weather."
Scully flipped through the charts and papers briefly, then slapped on a pair of gloves and a smock and went over to check the results for herself. They seemed dead on, she winced to herself at the bad pun. She started with Juliette Ventnor's body. Extensive decomposition, the organs were bloated and fetid. The skin was mottled and falling off in places, slack everywhere. There was faint bruising on her upper arms, and she noticed ligature marks on her ankles and feet.
She announced to noone in particular, "It looks like she was held for a few days before being killed. She was starved for sure, probably dehydrated also."
Beauchamp peered at the body in calm detachment. "How can you tell?"
"Well, the low blood sugar is a big clue, as well as the fact that there was nothing in her stomach when autopsied," Scully replied somewhat snarkily. She winced hearing the tone in her voice, and softened. "The skin is loose on her body in a way that indicates dehydration before being dumped. Also her imbalanced electrolyte levels and the consistency of her bowel matter. It's a little hard to say because she was in water for an indefinite period of time, but it looks to me as though she was given no food and water, maybe to make her more submissive."
Mulder nodded at her assessment, while Leo grinned. Amalie stood there, the hem of her dress fluttering slightly in the air- conditioned breeze. Scully continued her exploration for a while longer, then turned to the other two bodies. She found much the same things there, and, satisfied with the results, stripped the gloves and smock and threw them in a designated receptacle.
They conferred for a while longer, then decided to brace the heat at Segnette and Louis Armstrong Park.
"Well, Scully, what do you think?" Mulder was stretched out on her bed, his hands locked behind his head. His tie was already off, and his two top buttons already undone. He toed off his shoes and sighed, revealing black socks with very tiny UFO's imprinted all over them, so subtle they looked normal. Unless you knew Mulder, which she did. Scully was sitting at a nearby Louis Quinze table, typing frantically on her laptop.
She looked up, cryptic words reflecting on her glasses. "What, Mulder?"
He continued his fascinated study with the ceiling fan, which he had already realized was ornamental, thanks to the extensive air-conditioning so prevalent everywhere in the city. "What do you think happened?"
She resumed her typing. "What it looks like. Three women killed at the park, then dumped in the bayou." She stopped suddenly and turned in her chair to face him. "Why do you think that voodoo is involved?"
He sat up and pulled his feet under him cross-legged. "Well, the venom in their bodies, for one. You heard the man from the State Parks Department-he confirmed that water moccasins are not native to that bayou. There were also some strange markings on that rock in the park, some in charcoal and chalk that had not been rubbed off yet. I looked them up while you were in the shower- they're associated with a local loa, a kind of voodoo sect. And-" he reached over and yanked something out of the bedside table and tossed it on the quilt in front of him, "I found this at the park, shallowly buried by an oak tree."
Scully pushed her chair away from the table and strolled over to the bed to get a better look. It was a small sack made of very fine moss, or horsehair, the ends held together by thin sticks in the shape of a cross. She felt the bag gently, there was definitely something inside it.
"Just a minute." She placed it back down on the quilt and rummaged in her bag for a spare pair of latex gloves, and some tweezers. She then took the charm over to the table and opened it up underneath the lamp. Inside was dust, or what looked like dust. She looked at it carefully, frowning.
"Mulder, this looks like a mixture of... stuff. Salt, saffron maybe," she pointed to a distinctly yellow powder, "and I think," she inhaled slowly, "that I can smell gunpowder and feces." She looked up at him, puzzled. "Mulder, what the hell is this?"
He grinned. "The new fragrance from Calvin Klein?"
Mulder looked very impressed with himself all of a sudden. "It's a gris-gris. A very old gris-gris." She looked blankly at him. He explained, "A gris-gris is like a bad luck charm. It's usually filled with strange drugs, or even junk, and always with what houngans believe is a spell-casting powder. It's like sending someone hate mail, or a death threat. People would then go buy charms to counteract the gris-gris, and the capitalist wheels of voodoo kept turning."
"What's a houngan?"
"It's basically the voodoo equivalent of a medicine man. Not necessarily the leader, but still an important figure in the community."
Scully started to replace the dust into the bag, and put the whole thing in a Ziploc baggie. "You think a houngan is the murderer?"
He shook his head. "No. I think these women were murdered as part of some sort of ritual. By the king and queen." Scully waited for him to explain again. "A man and a woman are chosen from the sect to be the-" he searched for the right words, "- oracles of the snake or serpent god. They're called the king and queen, and essentially run the operation. The queen is the more important of the two and either one of them, or both, are usually directly responsible for sacrifices at voodoo ceremonies."
"So, find the royal couple, and you find the murderer?"
"Or murderers." Mulder lay back again, gazing vaguely in the direction of the french doors. They were both quiet for a few minutes, thinking about what he had said. She could almost hear the whirring of gears in his head, and she concentrated on what little evidence they had. Suddenly, Mulder's voice cracked through the lazy silence of the room.
"C'mon, let's go to Antoine's for dinner."
She was impressed. It was a new record for her. Bathed and dressed to the nines (or at least the sevens) in fifteen minutes. She heard water running in the next room, and cleaned out her handbag in order to give him a little more time. Mulder had slipped into his room to change his shirt and tie, and to splash some cool water on his face. He had made the reservations yesterday from Washington, but he wanted it to be a surprise. They needed a break, he realized. Granted, three grisly cult murders in the South in a heatwave was not exactly what he meant, but he was damn sure that they would try to take advantage of the situation.
They had been working much too hard lately, spending almost 24 hours a day together. Actually, their last case wasn't really that time-consuming, but they still spent almost all their time together, even their free time. Mulder couldn't help feeling a bit guilty about that. Maybe she wanted a life away from him and the X-Files. Maybe she *had* a life away from him and the X-Files. He scolded himself that she could have that, she *should* have that, but his bowels sunk at the idea that she didn't want to be with him.
He raked his wet fingers through his hair carelessly as he scowled at himself in the mirror. He hated needing her. He hated looking forward to seeing her every day, the way her bright silky hair shone in the light, or the way she absently pushed it behind her ears when she was concentrating on something. He let out a wheezing sigh and shrugged at his grinning reflection. Who was he kidding? He didn't hate her. That was the whole problem.
Scully emerged through the joining door at the same time that Mulder walked out of the bathroom. His eyes slid from her suede Feraud pumps, past her cream coloured silk sheath, to her upswept hair and whistled softly. She blushed, resisting the urge to hide in front of her gold straw bag. She knew that she shouldn't have brought this dress, it was too... too... too. Mulder continued to eye her appreciatively, and she felt tell-tale signs of a deep scarlet blush creep over her cheeks.
"Hey, Scully, did you get a sunburn already today?" He smiled. She knew he was just teasing her, but still... She moved closer to him and reached up to straighten his silk paisley tie. She started to twinkle her teal eyes at him, but he locked her in a more serious, silent gaze. Her breath dropped out of her stomach, and she had to look away. She didn't know if what she saw there frightened her or excited her, all she knew was that all of a sudden she couldn't breathe properly. She inhaled slowly, trying to be nonchalant, and started towards the door.
"A woman after my own heart." Mulder locked the door behind them, and didn't see her steps falter further down the hall at his words.
Antoine's was started 150 years ago as a boarding house. It has since evolved into one of the premiere restaurants in the United States, and made Mulder very nervous when he walked in the front door, Scully's arm tucked lightly in his own. It was a two- story maze of expensive antiques, soft crystal lighting, and meaningfully placed items of New Orleans' memorabilia. The lacy curtains looked like clouds that could still stand on their own flounces if they had to, and Mulder couldn't help gulping softly when he realized how many people were wearing tuxedos.
He glanced down at Dana, who was looking around in carefully disguised delight, every inch of her looking like she belonged here in this lazy, expensive, regal world. All of a sudden, he had an overwhelming urge to drag her back into the hazy night and find an old cajun diner on Bourbon Street. One with naugahyde seats and formica tables, and jukeboxes at every booth. One where he could wipe the gumbo off her chin and ape a truly awful Southern accent, and she could smile demurely at him and try to kick him under the table with her hundred-dollar shoes.
It was too late, the maitre d' was already showing them to their table. Damn! As they followed him through the tangle of tables, Scully spotted Amalie Beauchamp. She was sitting in a relatively secluded corner with an thin ascetic-looking black man. He was probably tall, but she couldn't tell when he was sitting. Amalie felt Scully's eyes on her, and lifted her head from their private conversation to smile and nod at her vacantly. She looked like a snowy angel sitting next to her dark escort, and just more than a little surreal. Scully's smile faltered, but she regained her composure and turned her attention to the maitre d' who was trying to seat her.
"Your waiter will be with you shortly," he informed, then nodded at Mulder and departed. Water was ceremoniously poured for them, for which Mulder was eternally grateful.
"Hey Mulder, Agent Beauchamp is here," Scully announced lightly, making track marks in the linen tablecloth with her salad fork. He was trying to count the freckles on her shoulders, but lost count at twenty-four when she interrupted him.
"Really?" He craned his head around, his hazel eyes shifting imperceptibly as he scanned the room and found her. His eyebrow lifted with amusement as he turned back to his companion, and whispered conspiratorially, "Maybe she's with her sugar daddy." Dana smiled indulgently and sipped from her water glass.
They ordered Oysters Rockefeller (which originated here in the 1880's), beef tournedos and souffleed potatoes. They decided to forgo dessert for rich sweet coffee laced with chicory and watched the candles burn down as they chattered softly about everything and nothing.
Scully started to yawn in spite of herself, and Mulder flicked his wrist over casually. 11:21. He was only mildly surprised at the late hour, time seemed to stand still for them sometimes. Or disappear, if he wanted to put it into X-Files terms. They paid the bill and started walking. The streetlamps glimmered on her bare head, illuminating her hair like light bronze. She was startled when his hand enveloped her and swung her along steadily, but didn't pull it away. A warmth crept through her veins, slow and hot, matching the lazy but pulsing rhythms of the people around them.
"Want to go to Bourbon Street?" Mulder asked casually.
Her voice was relaxed, but he heard the tinge of weariness clouding it. "Not really. It's been a long day, Mulder."
He murmured his agreement and they headed back to the hotel. He didn't let go of her hand until they reached their rooms, when he let it trail from his light grip unceremoniously. She could swear she felt burn marks where his fingers brushed against her palm. Why did he do things like that? He made her feel like she was the whole world, and then he wanted to emigrate. She shook her head, confused. Most of the time she tried to ignore his mixed signals, and concentrate on work and their life one hour at a time. But when had it become *their life*? Not *her life* or *their lives*. When had that changed? She didn't realize that she was standing dumbly in front of her own door until Mulder coughed discreetly from inside the open door to his room. She glanced over, startled.
He raised an eyebrow. "Goodnight, Scully."
She opened her door easily and tried to breeze in unconcerned. She called after her, "Goodnight, Mul-" But the door had closed. She threw her bag onto the bed, silently cursing him, and slipped off her shoes. She padded over to the french doors and flung them open. The still-hot air rushed into the cool room and shimmered in front of her face like a furnace. She stood there, her eyes closed, waiting for Mulder to knock on her door again. Her lip trembled on its own volition as she realized how much she wanted to stop playing these games. These silly little games with him. A indeterminate spicy smell wafted up to the balcony and violently assaulted her senses. Her stomach roiled unexpectedly, and she clutched the doorknob and turned, barely making it to the bathroom before losing her beef tournedo.
Her silk dress was rumpled around her hips as she sat on the tiled floor clutching the base of the toilet. The smooth porcelain felt cool against her damp hot skin and her head reeled. She struggled to stand, and reached around herself to yank the zipper of the dress down. It pooled to the floor like a rich puddle of cream, and she heaved for the bowl again. Afterwards, she managed to splash some water on her face, and grimaced as she washed her mouth out, and fell into bed. Her last thought before succumbing to the nauseous waves of velvet blackness was to wonder if Mulder had realized that she hadn't been wearing anything under her dress.
New Orleans, LA
"Hmrph." She burrowed her throbbing head further into the snowy pillow, and tried to ignore the pounding at the door. Or was it in her head? She didn't care, she just wanted to die.
"Scully!" The voice was louder now. Had she remembered to lock the connecting door last night? Mulder sat down on the bed beside here. No, she hadn't locked the door. Damn. She lifted her face from the pillow and looked at her partner. His smile faded as he took in her haggard face and hollowed eyes.
"Scully, are you okay?"
Her three favourite words. She turned on her side away from him. "I'm fine, Mulder." He peered over her shoulder at her pale cheeks, disbelieving. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to continue this.
"Leo just called. There was another murder last night."
She turned over again slowly and raised her eyes to his, silent understanding dawning on her. She sighed and started to push back the covers, until she realized that she was in her underwear. She must have awoke in the night and put on the camisole and tap pants that she was currently wearing. She raised an eyebrow at Mulder and waited. He grinned at her.
"It's nothing I haven't seen before, Scully."
She shrugged, realizing he was right. Let him have his peep show, what did she care? With cool professionalism, she flung back the blankets and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She stood up a bit shakily, and was embarrassed to realize that she had to grab Mulder's shoulder for support. A flush crept down her chest into her silk covered cleavage when she realized that even though he'd seen it before, he was certainly taking the opportunity to see it again. She never noticed him hold up a small white paper bag in front of her face until it was too late.
"I ordered up some beignets already, we can have them in the car for breakfast." Her pale face took on a waxy yellow cast, then olive green, and she bolted for the bathroom again.
Louis Armstrong Park 8:18 am
"Good morning, Agent Mulder. Dr. Scully," Leo rolled a bright pink bubblegum cigar between his teeth and nodded at them as they weaved their way around the yellow police tape. Mulder said a quick hello, and Scully murmured noncommittally. Mulder bent down and drew back the sheet covering the body. Scully caught a glimpse of blood and grey skin and tried to suppress another wave of nausea. Leo looked at her strangely, and started to brief them.
"Body was found in a shallow grave underneath that tree there," he pointed at a large Spanish oak. "Pretty hasty job of it, a local resident found it this morning. Actually, his dog had the honour. He was pretty shaken."
Mulder stood up, still eying the body. "The dog?"
"No, the owner," Leo laughed. The sound was incongruous in the quiet shuffling of feet on grass at the crime scene. Mulder looked up and squinted. It was already 75 degrees, it looked like it was going to be another scorcher.
"Looks like the others. That makes four now. Good thing somebody found it. It would smell pretty ugly in another couple of hours."
Scully spoke for the first time. "Time of death?"
Leo flipped open his notebook and chewed on his candy cigar. "Coroner estimates between 1 and 2 am this morning." Scully was staring at the fat pink cylinder between his lips. He explained, "I'm trying to quit smoking." She nodded. He blinked down at the body and shook his head. "Cocky bastard, leaving her out in the open like this."
"Any ID?" Mulder asked.
Leo shrugged his burly shoulders. "No wallet, no clothes, not even a goddamned tattoo. But we're working on it."
Scully just thought of something. "Where's Beauchamp?"
"Oh, she's coming. I called her just before I called you." Sure enough, Amalie Beauchamp soon dipped underneath the striped tape in a navy trenchcoat that seemed to dwarf her body and wash out her pale face and hair. Mulder noticed that she looked tired too. Maybe her date last night went well, he wondered, then thrust the thought from his head. She was briefed quickly, then they decided to go back to Leo's office to look up the missing person's file and wait for her parents (if they could find them) to identify the body before doing the autopsy.
After eight hours of phone calls and computer searches, they were no closer to finding the girl's parents as they had been at nine o'clock that morning. Scully, on the other hand, was closer than ever before to an award-winning impression of death warmed over. Her eyes were burning brightly in her wan face, and she hadn't been able to keep anything down all day, not even watery coffee. Mulder noticed that she was starting to tremble, and sent her back to the hotel. Obstinate as ever, she refused to leave the investigation in his hands, even for a few hours. Leo put his hands heavily on Scully's shoulders and she met his serious chocolate eyes.
"You're sick. I'm taking you back to the hotel. Now." He looked over at Mulder, who nodded with relieved thanks when he realized that Dana was relenting. After a few more minutes weak argument, she let Leo lead her to the door, and the car.
When they got to the hotel, they had another argument over whether or not she would let him see her to her door, which she lost. She turned her key in the lock wearily, and turned to Leo.
"Okay, I'm here. Now go do the job that Mulder won't let me." Leo grinned, exposing pearly teeth, then suddenly turned to stone. On the floor inside the door was a small cardboard box. He motioned her to be silent as he picked it up and opened it gingerly. In it was a small wax model of a heart, stuck full of straight pins, the kind you get at sewing stores. Leo's face turned almost as pale as Scully's, and she suddenly realized what it was.
Her voice was low and it sounded like she was in shock. "Mulder was right. It is voodoo, this must be some sort of warning to us." Leo nodded, and gently prodded her inside the room. He started towards the phone, then stopped. He changed direction and went over to the bed. Scully's tired eyes widened in interest, what was he doing?
Leo propped up the mattress with one hand, and pulled something out from between the box spring and the mattress with the other. Twirling it between his fingers, Scully could see that it looked like an acorn with white feathers sticking out of it. Now, Leo went to the phone, and punched the numbers in quickly.
St. Ann Street 7:19 pm
Dark green clouds had rolled over the sky and threatened to replace New Orlean's heatwave with a spectacular storm. Mulder tilted his head back and closed his eyes, feeling the fat drops falling faster and faster on his face. The sky rumbled violently, and the rain was starting to sting. He shook his head and pulled up the collar of his long coat. He was waiting for Leo.
Leo's call had been mysterious, but Mulder still detected an underlying note of concern, even hysteria in his usually jovial tone. That worried him, more than anything. A seasoned cop like Leo was not supposed to be hysterical. Mulder's first reaction was to ask if Scully was okay, which Leo assured him that she was. Leo covered the phone with his hand and told Scully that Mulder insisted she stay there. She started to lift her chin, then nodded in quiet assent. She could work on the report, maybe lie down for a few minutes. Leo gave Mulder an address, and the phone clicked quietly.
And here he was. Standing in the sizzling rain outside an old house. He glanced at his watch for what seemed like the thousandth time, and wondered if this was how Scully felt when he kept her waiting. He mentally vowed to pro-actively apologize profusely to his partner in the very near future.
Suddenly Leo appeared in the mist around the corner. His hands were buried deep in the pockets of his lightweight jacket and his shoulders were hunched against the rain. He stepped up to Mulder and adopted a casual pose. He pulled a bubblegum cigar out of his pocket and put it in his mouth, keeping the cellophane wrapper on.
"You know, I've lived in N'Awlins my whole life, and rain-" he plucked the cigar from his mouth and waved it around, "-has *never* cooled this city down." He smirked, and Mulder had the feeling that he had given this little speech before. "All it does is make the heat wet. Do you think that we need more humidity, Agent Mulder?"
Mulder shook his head, and shivered slightly at the droplets of moisture that manouvered into his shirt and curled down his back. He leaned in. "Why are we here?"
Leo waved the cigar around again. "One of these houses, noone's really sure which one, used to belong to Marie Laveau in the 1820's." Mulder's eidetic memory starting whirring until KA- CHUNK he remembered, and nodded.
Leo continued, "She was a hairdresser for the white folk, you know. I used to wonder if she used the hair she gathered for her gris-gris, or her spells. She vowed she was a Catholic, but she made quite a killing selling her little voodoo charms, love potions, hexes." He stabbed the air around Mulder's fascinated face with the cigar and shifted heavily in his soggy shoes. "Black magic pays more than white magic, you see. She was a sharp businesswomen, she saw the future of voodoo, and it spelled money. She held parties, attended by New Orleans elite, bankers, aristocrats, *policemen*," he emphasized the last part. "You see, Agent Mulder, Marie Laveau is one of the reasons that voodoo survived as popular culture in New Orleans. She was a very evil woman," Leo shrugged, "but she was a queen."
The wind picked up on the street, whipping palm fronds together in a wet frenzy. Mulder had to speak louder to be heard over the howling wind. "What does this have to do with the case?"
Mulder could smell old bubblegum on Leo's breath as he leaned in and shouted, "Agent Scully showed me the gris-gris you found at the scene." He clucked loudly and shook his head. "Very naughty of you not to enter it into evidence right away." Mulder waited. "According to my granddaddy, that combination of ingredients was Marie Laveau's specialty. Let's call it her signature fragrance!" He was bellowing now. He cocked his head to the left. "C'mon! I want to show you something!" They starting walking west up Dumaine Street, the rain stinging their cheeks.
The wind woke her. Scully had never heard wind like that before, shrieking and moaning at the french doors. The glass panes rattled gently and rain beaded down the open door and pooled in the carpet. She swore softly and got up from the bed to close it. The room was much quieter now, the only sound was her sighing as she padded into the bathroom to get a towel to sop up the water by the balcony. After mopping up the mess, she threw the wet towel in the tub and rummaged in her sponge bag for some aspirin. Her teeth clinked against the glass as she tilted her head back to swallow the bitter white pills.
A knock at the door made her jump, almost dropping the glass. She laughed at herself. Sheesh, she was getting as bad as Mulder. She straightened her skirt, now rumpled from sleeping in it, and strode to the door.
"Who is it?" Her voice sounded weak and almost reedy to her own ears, and she cringed at the sound.
There was a brief silence, then a familiar drawl. "Amalie Beauchamp." Scully's head pounded still, but the breeze from the hallway soothed her flaming face as she opened the door. Amalie looked at her carefully, then walked past her into the room.
"You don't look much better, Agent Scully." Scully shrugged, determined not to let this ashy waif of a woman see her weak. After closing the door gently, she pivoted on a stocking-clad heel to face Beauchamp.
"What can I do for, Agent Beauchamp?"
Beauchamp looked around the dim room at the unmade bed and ignored Scully's question. "Shortly after you left, Agent Mulder disappeared." She lifted an almost invisible blonde eyebrow. "I'd hate to think that he came back here for a quickie."
Scully sputtered briefly, then starting laughing shakily. "I have no idea where Mulder went." Could Beauchamp tell that she was lying? She hoped not. "And if you think that-"
Beauchamp waved a hand, dismissing her fears. "Don't worry, Agent Scully, your secret is safe with me." Fine, let her believe what she wants. The worst she could do would be report us to Skinner, and he wouldn't believe it anyways. Dana sighed, and repeated her earlier question.
"What are you doing here?"
Beauchamp's face hardened slightly as she reached forward and fingered the material of Scully's blouse. Her tone was casual, almost dismissive as her fingers rasped over the raw silk sleeve. "There's been something new discovered at the park that I want you to see." She stepped back abruptly and dropped her hand into her coat pocket. She lifted her face to meet Scully's questioning gaze head on. "I need your help, Agent Scully."
Scully just wasn't sure. "What about Mulder and-"
Beauchamp cut her off. "I've left messages at the station and my office, and I've tried the radio in Leo's car. They'll meet up with us eventually."
Scully grabbed her coat and, as an afterthought, her medical bag, and followed Beauchamp into the wet and wild night.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum 8:17 pm
Mulder flapped his coat, shaking the rain off like a dog. He looked around at the dark museum. Leo was talking in hushed tones to a tall, middle-aged black man ten feet away. They finished and Leo walked over to Mulder, explaining, "I called ahead to make sure that someone would let us in and open some cases for us."
Mulder nodded, still not sure what they were doing there. He hoped Leo had something good to show him, because he was cold, tired, hungry, and starting to feel a niggling worry about Scully. He wiped a wet hand over his face, his fingers gathering more water. That was silly-she could take care of herself.
Leo started to lead him down a narrow hallway. Mulder wished that someone would turn on a light, the place was starting to seem eerie in the soft amber glow of the EXIT light. Busy regretting that he had left his flashlight at the hotel, he was briefly startled by Leo's conversational tone. "Do you think Agent Scully was poisoned?"
Mulder stopped in his tracks, but Leo kept walking. "What do you mean?"
Leo halted and turned to face Mulder in the darkness. "She was sick. *Is* sick." Mulder could see him shaking his dark head. "Not heatstroke, that's for sure. Maybe some sort of potion, spell, whatever." He grinned suddenly, and his teeth reflected in the dim red light like a Cheshire Cat. "I remember my Granddaddy telling me that a popular recipe to get rid of your enemies. It sounded like something out of Shakespeare. Dried toad, dried lizard, liver of owl, eye of cat, wing of bat, hair from a dead child, oh, and my personal favourite-the pinky finger of a person dead by their own hand." He chuckled. "So to speak."
Mulder was silent, fascinated, his mind buzzing like a nest of bees. "But how? When? We ate the same thing last night."
Leo continued down the hall. "Where did you go?"
"Fancy." The brawny man stopped suddenly, Mulder almost plowed right into him. "Here we are." He turned left and entered a small room full of glass cases and bookshelves. The floor creaked ominously under their feet. They approached a case, and Leo withdrew a small key from his pocket.
He grinned at Mulder. "Gotta love being a lawman." He jangled the keys from his thick index finger. "You can do *anything*." He opened the cabinet and withdrew a small red diary.
"This is Marie Laveau's stuff," Mulder stated.
Leo harrumphed in assent and carefully flipped through the book to about two-thirds in, where he stopped and placed it on top of the cabinet. The edges of the pages were curled, and the ink was old and faded, even waterspotted in places. Half the words were in a language that Mulder didn't recognize. It looked like old French, but not quite, and Mulder struggled to decipher the scrawling lines. His eyes skimmed over several entries, riveted by the thin pages.
He looked up at Leo. "So, she had an affair with one of her mistress's husbands. Scandalous then, maybe, but so what?"
Leo's face was stony. "What was the *name* of her mistress?"
Mulder flipped through several pages until he found it, and paled. His fingers felt like they had been singed by the simple ink on the fragile paper. His voice cracked and his brow furrowed when he read it aloud.
Congo Square Louis Armstrong Park
What had happened? Dana Scully shook her wet head, then regretted the action as splinters of blackening pain and nausea produced spots in front of her eyes. She sat still, screwing her eyes shut against the traitorous ache and the plump drops of rain shattering down from the tree looming in the dark above her. She realized that her wrists and ankles were bound by thin wire that was cutting into her flesh, making her wince with every movement. The ground was soaked beneath her, and so was she. She tried to mentally fling apart the cobwebs, remembering...
Her eyes flew open, revealing bloodshot veins surrounding the milky irises. "Beauchamp," she whispered, and almost jumped at the sound of her own voice in the darkness. Her eyes fluttered shut again and she shivered against the rain streaming down her clinging blouse and pooling in her cleavage, trapped by the vee of her bra. She remembered getting in Beauchamp's car. She remembered the surreal sound of the windshield wipers against the glass as Amalie offered her a cup of coffee that she had stopped to get before picking up Dana. She said that she had gotten two, in the hopes that the appeal of hot, strong coffee would make Scully feel better. Dana paled as she remembered Beauchamp's ingenious smile, and then nothing.
Where was Mulder? Leo? What the hell was Beauchamp up to? It was clear to her now that she was involved in the murders, but how? Was she the murderer? A million thoughts jostled clumsily through her head, trying frantically to connect with each other and give her a clue as to what exactly she should do.
Mulder. Think about Mulder. A misty vision of his dark hair flopping over his hazel eyes crinkled with rare laughter filled her head, and she leaned back against the rough wet bark and sighed. No. Think! Leo and Mulder are together, where were they? She had heard the address that Leo had given Mulder over the phone, right?
The wire sliced into her wrists as she wrung her hands together unconsciously, making her bite her lower lip in sudden pain. Damn it! Why did she always end up in this situation? She was a good agent, a good doctor, and a very intelligent person. Jack, Pfaster, now this. She swore silently to herself to take some more self-defense courses when she got back to Washington.
Well, she wasn't in a position to go searching for Mulder, or even to expect a rescue, realistically speaking. He had no idea where she was. All she could hope for was that he and Leo figured out that Amalie Beauchamp had something to do with it. Preferably sooner than later, she wryly hoped as she tried to shift her now numb legs and felt the wire cutting through her soaked and clammy stockings.
If she could only find her medical bag, maybe there was something in it that she could use as wire-cutters or something. Anything. She peered around in the darkness, her eyes flitting over the benign shadows and the grass shimmering black in the rain. A larger shadow loomed over her suddenly, and the bag dangled elusively before her face.
"Looking for this, Agent Scully?"
Scully's jaw tightened, but she forced herself to remain cool. She nodded politely, but couldn't contain a small hiss at her first word. "*Agent* Beauchamp."
Beauchamp let forth a husky chuckle, obviously delighted at Scully's situation. "Yes, it certainly is easy to cover up your crimes with the federal government resources at your fingertips." She trailed cool, dry fingers up Scully's arm, and smiled provocatively. "Let your fingers do the walking, that's what they say."
An icy chill ran over Scully's heart at the now familiar syrupy drawl, and she forced herself not to tremble at Beauchamp's touch. Her teal eyes ran up Beauchamp's arm until she realized what the woman was wearing. A robe of bright crimson was plastered to her body by the rain, it looked like a slash of blood against her pale arms and legs. Her feet were bare. Scully could swear she hear the grass squishing inexorably between her bare white toes. Beauchamp was still a vain woman, and she had taken the time recently to paint her toes the same deep red as her gown. Her face was ashy, but had small designs in black charcoal on her cheeks, now dripping and unrecognizable.
It was Beauchamp's eyes that scared her. They were as pale as her face, grey and sharp, but burning with an intensity that Scully recognized immediately as pure madness. She should know, she'd looked into its glaring face enough over the last two years. Suddenly, the spell was broken, and Beauchamp yanked Scully up, making her cry out in protest at the violent chafing of the wires. Scully stumbled against Beauchamp, who righted her with a hand as cold and unyielding as steel. FBI Regional Office 10:04 pm
"Damn it!" Mulder's hand whapped the dashboard. "Where the hell did she take her?" His tense, lean fingers drummed a violent ditty on the edge of the glove compartment. Leo watched the rain beading down the windshield, and gazed into the obsidian beyond, thinking. Beauchamp had left no messages at the office, nobody even remembered when she had left. Scully was gone from the hotel, but nothing looked overtly suspicious there. Suddenly, he turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared into life.
Leo glanced at Mulder and said two words. "The park." Mulder wanted to smack himself in the head at his own stupidity for not thinking of it sooner. In fact, Scully would probably do it for him, once they found her. He would shake her silly for putting him through this yet again.
Mulder felt Leo firing worried glances at him while squealing around a dark corner onto North Rampart Street. Mulder knew he was being dour and silent, but he was thinking. He was worried. Scully could always handle herself, but she was so sick... What if...? No, he couldn't think that way. He'd get to her in time, he always did.
"Fuck!" Leo's sharp angry cry startled Mulder, until he peered beyond the headlights and echoed the sentiment. The entrance to the park on Orleans Street, where Congo Square was, was closed.
Mulder turned to Leo. "Don't you have keys or something?" He was starting to get frantic.
"Keys to the City? Oh yeah, sure," Leo replied bitingly, then he swore again and whipped the car around to find the entrance on St. Ann Street. It was open, and the car grinded to a halt inside the park. Mulder flung open the door and was in the grass, gun drawn, before Leo had turned off the ignition.
Congo Square 10:36 pm
The dancers mesmerized Scully. They writhed around in the rain, half naked and past caring, in a frenzy of sensual delight. The drums pounded in her ears as she watched Beauchamp address the small crowd in a strange tongue. The tall dark man that she had seen at Antoine's stood beside her in similar red garments, with a blue sash around his waist. Beauchamp held up a large snake, which seemed loath to be thrust out in the rain. She continued chanting, her voice seemed to alternately calm and incite the group throbbing around her.
Her eyes blazed like molten iron in her waxen face as she commanded the throng. The king echoed her statements, but let the queen do the talking. The drums grew louder, the crowd churned, and Beauchamp pointed at Scully, who was being held by a strong black man of about eighteen. His hands wrapped around her shoulders like a vise, and the wires still carved into her raw and weeping flesh.
"Aie! Aie! Voodoo Magnam!" Beauchamp screamed. Scully realized it was a signal of some sort when she was summarily shoved forward, against the rock. Her heart sunk as her cold knees bruised on the even colder rock, slimy with rain. Mulder! she keened silently.
Suddenly, the flickering light from the torches in the crowd were replaced by car headlights, and the drums were all but drowned out by the revving of several engines. Scully recognized the insignia of the NOPD, and shuddered gently with relief. Beauchamp saw it too, and howled. She moved towards Scully, steel glinting in her hand. Scully didn't know if Beauchamp planned to kill her in the confusion, or herself. Or both. Scully squirmed and dropped to the grass. The man holding her had fled with the crowd, and was now being rounded up by the police. Scully tried to push herself along in the silky grass away from Beauchamp, but the queen was too quick, and fell to her knees beside Scully. She held the knife over Scully menacingly, and then there was a muffled crack. Beauchamp's flinty eyes rolled back into her skull, and dark blood had started to drip down the handle of the knife before she dropped it into the grass, narrowly missing Dana on its downward flight.
Mulder crouched down in the soggy grass beside her, and hauled her to him. Scully bit her lip and cried out softly at the pain the movement caused, and he didn't try to pull her up. They sat there in the grass, black rain beating gently on their heads, wrapped around each other.
"Leo's getting everyone else."
She was silent. Then her muffled voice came from his now soaked shirt. "I knew you'd come." She could feel his heartbeat under her cheek and his skin turning chilly in the night. She was soaked through and shivering, but she never noticed as she sat there in his arms. His strong hands only trembled once as they stroked her hair, and sent tingles down her spine.
Pat O'Brien's Bar 718 St. Peter Street
"Um, Mulder, I don't know about this."
"Scully, we are *not* leaving New Orleans without having a Hurricane."
"Drink it!" He playfully shouted at her and she crinkled her nose back at him. Scully lifted the glass to her mouth and drank. Coughing and wheezing, she thudded it back on the table, while Mulder and Leo collapsed in paroxysms of tipsy laughter. Her face went a bright cherry red, and she didn't think it was from the alcohol.
Leo wiped the tears from his eyes and valiantly tried to stop his gut from shaking with delight. His eyes glanced at a television set, which was showing silent pictures of Amalie Beauchamp.
Seriously, he remarked, "It's amazing what a cover-up job she did. The police were informed that she was working on an investigation in the park, so they didn't disturb her. She fouled up evidence, and wiped the proverbial branch over her tracks in the dirt." He raised his glass to the two agents and beamed. "Until you two came along."
Mulder and Scully's eyes met and they smiled. Mulder replied, still lost in the blue depths, "Well, we tend to have that effect on people."
Leo watched their silent conversation, then swigged the last of his drink. "Need a ride to the airport?"
Scully started, then answered, "Um, no. We'll just catch a cab from the hotel. We have to go back there first anyways."
Leo stood up, stretched, and threw some money on the table, narrowly missing Mulder's drink. Mulder realized something, and looked up at Brodeur, his hazel eyes serious.
"How did you know it was Beauchamp in the first place?"
Leo shrugged casually. "You hear things." Mulder waited for the real answer. "Remember all the things my granddaddy told me?" Mulder nodded, Scully was a little confused. "Well, he was a houngan, and he taught me well."
Scully gasped, "You mean-"
Leo smiled down at her. "Only white magic, Dr. Scully. But sometimes it serves its purpose."
Mulder's chin bobbed up and down, he had suspected something of the sort. Leo walked around the table to stand between them, and rested his hands on their shoulders. "This is one hell of a team." His hand went into his pocket, and he pulled out a small leather pouch. He placed the weight in Mulder's hand, who looked up quizzically.
"Love potion." Mulder and Scully both turned a similar shade of scarlet, and Leo roared with laughter. When they were alone again, they were silent. Not a completely uncomfortable silence, they were both thinking. Remembering. Evaluating.
Suddenly, Mulder raised his glass and tilted his head at his partner, smiling. "To The Big Easy."
Scully grinned in spite of herself. "Easy? You call that easy?" Her wrists were still bandaged, thanks to Beauchamp and her crude restraints. She lifted her glass anyways, and corrected, "New Orleans."
The glasses clinked.
Author's note: I consulted several books while writing this story: "Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro" by Newbell Niles Puckett; "New Orleans As It Was" by Henry C. Castellanos; "Daily Life in Louisiana, 1815-1830" by Liliane Crete; "Fodor's New Orleans" "The Serpent and the Rainbow" by Wade Davis I've tried to make the events and locations as authentic as I know how, since I am the only person in my family who has never been to N'Awlins. I hope I haven't offended anyone, but please let me know if I've made any grave errors, no pun intended.]