New Orleans

by 

EmmaLynn Rose

 

 

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“You want to do what?” one Lee Benjamin Crane asked as he and his best friend, one Charles Morton, alias Chip, were walking down the crowded streets of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Lee knew of his friend's quirks and hobbies, but this caught him completely off guard. He darted around a couple and their three children as he tried to keep up with Chip.

“I said I want to see Marie Laveau’s tomb,” Chip was saying. Lee, until now, hadn't noticed they were heading in the direction of the famed cemetery.

“And why are why marching to visit the tomb of a dead voodoo queen?”  Lee asked, finally catching up to Morton and walking along side his best friend.

“Legend says if you mark the tomb with three “x”’s, and ask a question, she'll grant you one wish.”

Lee was seriously regretting his decision to go along with Chip's vacation plans. What had started out as a simple couple of days to take in New Orleans and Mardi Gras was now turning into a field trip to New Orleans St. Louis Cemetery #1, to scratch some itch Morton had up his six.

“Can we talk about this?” Crane asked, knowing that Chip had a full head of steam now, and nothing short of an explosion would stop him now.

“I’m curious. What’s going to happen? Nothing? I’m crazy not to come down here and try. Who know maybe we’ll learn something.” Chip was saying as he weaved and ducked round pockets of tourists and party goers.

Before Lee knew what was happening, the two of them were standing before the white stone mausoleum reported to be the final resting place of the legendary voodoo priestess.  From the pocket of his denim jacket, Chip pulled a large rock and quickly etched three “X”’s into the stone, mixing in with the hundreds of other on the walls.

“Now what?” Lee asked, skeptically. Hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo, all this stuff sounded like so much nonsense to him. There was no such things as ghosts. Chip was crazy for dragging them down here. 

“We wait. We don’t leave till tomorrow night. Plenty of time to see if the legend is true.”

“What was your wish?” Crane finally asked, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall of the mausoleum.  He let his hazel green kissed eyes roam over the marble and concrete tombs of the cemetery and suppressed a shudder.  He was twenty-three years old, too young to be thinking about death.

Chip ran a hand through his white blond hair and with the fingers of his other hand traced the surface of the rock he had picked up out of the gutter a while back.

“After knowing me all these years, you have to ask that?”

Lee rolled his eyes. “I don’t have to ask. I want to hear you say it.”

“Come on Lee, don't you ever wonder where you're going to end up? We're busting our sixes in class, I'm just one grade point behind you, and what's this going to get us? I would like to know.”

“Of course I wonder, but that doesn't mean I'm skulking around in grave yards vandalizing mausoleums. . .what the hell . . .” That last came out a strangled whisper, Lee's gaze drew up from Chip to a figure stepping around the corner from the closest rows of tombs. Lee could not stop staring as he moved to stand closer to Chip.

The woman was dressed all in white. Long white skirts, white petticoats, the tips of white satin shoes peeked out from the ruffles. Long sleeved blouse with a boat neck bodice. Rows of brightly colored wooden beads were strung around her long slender neck. Her head was wrapped in a white turban. Her skin was like creamed coffee, her eyes almost black. She was tall and there was a sense of power about her that made Lee take two steps back, colliding with Morton, who seemed frozen.

“You have a question?” a rich cultured voice asked.

“How did you know that?” Chip asked, not sure if his voice carried loud enough to hear.

“You marked the tomb of the Madame Laveau. Most who come and mark the tomb have a question. It's been a long time since a man of the sea has sought my advice. Ask your question, sailor. Perhaps I can answer you. ”

“Who are you?” Chip asked laying a hand on Lee's shoulder. This was certainly more than he bargained for.

The woman regarded the young blond man for a long moment. Time seemed to stand still before the elegant black woman answered.

“Names are not important. You don't know me,” she turned her head sideways, smiling slightly as she gazed with amused dark eyes at the two young men. “Would you like to get to know me?”

“How do you know us?” Lee asked trying to gather his wits about him, trying to come up with a logical explanation for all this. How did she know they were Navy?

“I know a great many things. Ask your question. You came a long way for answers.”

Chip took a long breath, and forced out the question in a rush of air.

“What's going to happen to us after graduation?”

“You are destined for much. I will tell you what I see. Give me your hand, dark one.”

Long elegant fingers, slender and smooth, pulled Lee towards her, and she grasped his right in  hers, palm up. She traced the lines of his palm with the tips her her fingernails, lingering on the long life line that ran across the center of his hand.

“There is man. Eyes like sapphires, hair like the setting sun and four stars to his name. Fiery temper he has, not one to suffer fools. A father figure he is, his first born an elegant gray lady, a true queen of the sea. In fire and blood, she will lose the first man chosen for her.” She turned her gaze to Morton, her dark eyes narrowing in concentration.

“You and he, are light and dark. Two halves, joined on this plane. You will be the bridge, the link between this one and the other, an man with an old name of power. Together you will be a triumvirate of men. The power of three, trust, devotion and duty. Your lives are intertwined.”  She looked up a Chip, who stood with a protective hand on Crane's shoulder. Her ebony eyes locked on Chip's glacier blue eyes and the young man felt a chill that started at his toes and ran up his spine.

“Old souls, you are, having passed through the ages together,” she said, her eyes now taking on a far away look, as if she were looking beyond into something only she could see.

“Old souls? We’ve known each other from another life?” Lee asked, not sure he was even having this conversation. It was too weird.

“Long long times back, you have been brothers, and now you are brothers of the soul. You must support each other when the time comes. And the time will come.” Her eyes bored into Lee's, and Crane felt something deep inside of him reach back. It was unnerving and he pulled his hand out of her grip.

“You will both court death. Death will call to you both like a lover, but your time in this life is long. She will not claim you. The dead watch and wait. Some for good, some for ill. Beware, Lee Crane. The dead are watching you, waiting to make you one of them, or maybe just to walk among the living once again.  So long as your brother and your father stand by you, death will not have you.”

Lee couldn't stop the shiver that ran up his spine. “My father's dead. How can he stand by me if he's dead?” he whispered. He felt Chip tighten his grip on his shoulder.

A groups of giggling tourists made Lee and Chip turn in that direction, distracted from the woman in white.

When they turned back, she was gone, vanished as if she never existed.

“Lee, lets get the hell out of here,” Chip said in a low, rough voice. Lee wasn't arguing.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

Pacific Ocean-twelve years later.

The derelict hulk of the U-444 seemed to stare right at them through the observation windows. Lee Crane was at a loss to explain it. A ghost ship? Come to life? Had the dead come back for one last battle? What were they waiting for? Lee could sense the Admiral's presence on his right, steadying, reminding Lee of his own father. At the periscope, Chip stood and watched as if keeping eye on both men at the plot table. Reassured by those two at his side and back, Lee waited for what would happen next.

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