Lou jerked the pull chain and the neon sign for La Chaudron de Sorcière flickered to life. They were already starting to draw an evening crowd, myself included. Being a back-alley bar in New Orleans wasn’t the most accessible location in the world but convenient for other reasons. The trip was unavoidable. We all found our way here no matter how far off it seemed. In little time I recall grabbing the next ticket leaving Chicago and set upon a wild goose to find her. My family hasn’t heard from me since.
Justine sat in her favorite chair. She was as beautiful as I last saw her, always dressed to the nines. Tonight she sported a silk top hat with pheasant plumage and peek-a-boo veil. The slit running up her black pencil skirt meant business. Sidesaddle on the stool, her coattails tapped against the brass foot rest as she giggled and flirted with the crowd around her. Everyone wanted her; no one had a choice.
She was quite the thief, a dealer in hearts of the human variety. They gave her life. Travelling abroad, the world was her garden. She’d harvest the most intense blossoms for her bouquet. In its place, she’d plant a stone. Such an exchange would drive the person mad, and they’d eventually find themselves a slave to her.
This slave couldn’t stand it anymore. The whole experience was walking a fine line between the living and the dead. There needed to be some way out. I had to break free of this curse. So, I decided to meet her head on. As I walked up to her, she smiled with the promises of sweet nothings.
“I can’t go on like this. I feel nothing. I am nothing. I can’t even cry myself to sleep. Please, give me back my heart. It belongs elsewhere.” My pent up thoughts slid out on the floor with as much grace as the average wino.
Taken aback by the unusual statement, Justine leaned upon the railing. She spent a moment studying my face and frowned.
“Oh, I’m sorry, mon cher, but I had that a long time ago.” By now she was touching my cheeks with the tips of her fingers. If I weren’t so anhedonic to it all, it’d be a welcomed gesture.
“That means there’s no way back. I’ll be stuck here forever.”
Pausing a moment, Justine pulled her lapel flower close to her nose for a whiff. It reminded me of the arrogant grace that lured me into this. As she set it upon her ruffled blouse, she smiled.
“Louis,” she purred with predatory satisfaction, “another bloody mary, s’il te plaît.” His bulkiness turned with mechanical compliance as he prepared the drink for madame. In his former state, he was an ill-tempered brute of man. No police docket would be complete without a bar brawl involving him. It wasn’t until Justine pulled his heart strings that he became as docile as a lamb.
There wasn’t much left for me to say. I certainly couldn’t take back what was stolen. It was gone. There was no hope for any of us. I turned to meditate on the conversation and looked up at Lou. We stared at each other for some time, and a common link formed between us. We both knew what we wanted. The marionettes wanted to detach themselves no matter what the cost.
With his back to the madam, Lou pulled out a hidden flask from the bar. Justine was too busy being entertained by her entourage to notice. With a flick of the wrist, a bottle of arsenic was added to the bloody mary. There was no living without her. We’d all be dead by morning.
© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved