|Illustration by Louis Raemaekers|
There was a bitter chill in the air, unusual for a May morning in the French Quarter. Madam Lorraine’s Voodoo Hut and Place of Miraculous Items hadn’t opened yet, and Darius was getting antsy. He watched the three homeless vets out of the corner of his eye, hanging out on the corner throwing back a bottle of pink party whiskey in the alley. He was playing it cool, and so far they hadn’t paid him notice.
Finally, the familiar welcome sound of the bells on the door rang as Madam Lorraine opened the door. She glanced up at Darius’s nearly six-foot frame.
“Boy, you mama needs to feed you more.” She honked as she turned and walked back into the shop. “You ribs are pokin’ out of that ugly t-shirt you wearin’.”
Darius mustered a smile. Last thing he needed to be reminded of the last time he ate. He walked past the chamber of horrors, twisted macabre of painted skulls and shrunken heads, voodoo dolls, and jars of who-knows-what. Lorraine had already taken her stool behind the glass counter and pulled out a deck of tarot cards.
“Not today, Madam Lorraine, I ain’t got no money for my fortune.” Darius exclaimed.
She continued to shuffle the deck. “This ain’t for you honey child. I gots an appointment-“ She checked her pocket watch, “-who be late. SO you gotta move your behind on out of here.”
Darius pulled out an item wrapped in a handkerchief, and placed it on the glass counter. He pushed it over to the old voodoo queen.
“How much can this get me?” The hunger pains hurt worse than parting with a family legacy at this point. He needed to get out of this hellhole.
She snorted and opened up the kerchief. A soft glow from the morning sun finally broke through the clouds, reflecting off of this old golden and jewel-encrusted daggar. The Royal Hapsburg Crest, worn, but fully visible glanced off the hilt. She looked up.
“Boy, where’d you get this?” She was solemnly serious now.
“It… it was my daddy’s. He told me it was very old.”
Lorraine wrapped up the knife into a newspaper and put it into a lock box and put it in the floor safe, then she pulled out a stack of Ben Franklins and put it into the kerchief he had given her. Easily three grand.
“Go. And don’t come back.” She said as she scooted him out the front door. He landed on the front welcome mat. The three old vets were gone. Darius turned and walked the other way- the last time he’d come around.
Lorraine watched Darius through her venetian blinds, until he got on a city bus and was gone. She turned and pulled out her cell phone.
“Yeah.” The man’s voice was gruff, but benevolent.
“Simon. Get over here quick. You were right, it arrived like you said it would. Like you saw it… in your dream.”