New Orleans is known for its strange goings-about, and as you know, many a tall-tale contains a grain of truth.
They say back in the days of rum running and pirate jaunts, a strange ship came in on the mist one night. Madame DeSwain, whose inn near the docks greeted gamblers, sailors, and those others drawn to its red lights, swore she saw a rat with red glowing eyes run down the gangway and into night. As she was feeling her rum, she passed it off as a trick of the eyes.
It was shortly after that the girls started finding small puncture wounds on their ankles. None could remember how they came to be. When the doc came through and checked the girls for afflictions, he looked at the wounds and said the wounds not only equaled his medical knowledge but surpassed it.
Over six months, the girls grew paler and weaker. Soon they could not perform their duties. Since medical science hadn’t a clue on how to diagnose or treat, Madame DeSwain turned to alternative medicine. She sent the orphan/street urchin/gofer, Emmanuel, for Marie Labeau.
Marie arrived after dark the next night, accompanied by two ex-pirates, now her lovelorn followers and protectors. One carried her bag and one carried her owl, Artemis. Marie stepped down from the wagon. She seemed to glide across the ground, and if one were to look behind her they’d see no footprints.
The workday was just beginning for Madame DeSwain’s inn and the piano music was loud. Emmanuel led Ms. Labeau to the back parlor, where Mme. DeSwain waited. The two women shared some of the best rum in the house, then they got to talking business.
“Ms. Labeau, my girls are barely able to rise from their beds, let alone lay down in one with any gentlemen. The doctor is clueless. Will you please take a look and see what you think?”
Marie sat back and sipped the rum. She and Lilly DeSwain had known each other since they were toddlers. Their paths had diverged once they hit adulthood, but over the years they’d collaborated and backed each other up in a city that often regarded females as toys and chattel. Bad juju hurting Lilly or her girls would not be tolerated.
“Bring one in and I’ll take a look.”
“Emmanuel, go fetch Narnie.”
Marie, although keeping her outward cool, was shocked when she saw Narnie stagger in. Eighty pounds max, the pallor of Narnie’s skin was an ashen translucent grey, with her thin veins visible through the skin. Lilly directed Narnie to the divan, where she collapsed and labored in breath.
Marie examined the now gaping puncture wounds on Narnie’s ankle. Motioning for one of her guards for the bag, Marie opened it and pulled out a bottle of garlic oil. After rinsing the wound out with rum, she applied garlic oil to the wounds. Then she stood up and went back to her seat. Emmanuel was instructed to help Narnie back to her bed.
“Lilly, you either have a very short vampire operating here, one who has a foot fetish – or something else is sucking the life out of your girls.”
Lilly’s memory of the rat with the red eyes was triggered. “Could it be a rat?,” she asked?
“From the looks of those wounds, it would have to be a big one. A huge one. I suspect a vampire or a much larger carnivore. Do you have a room for me to spend the night? I want to put Artemis in Narnie’s room and my men in a couple of the other girls’ rooms. We shall see what we shall see.”
About an hour from dawn, a terrible ruckus woke Lilly and Marie. They rushed to the room at the end of the hall. Narnie’s room. Flinging open the door, they found Artemis rolling around on the floor with a rat the size of a German Shepherd! The rat’s eyes glowed red and its canine teeth were three inches long. Emmanuel and both of Marie’s men had arrived by this time as well. Ion used his gaff hook on the back of the rat and pulled it off of Artemis, who was unable to fly away at that point. Marie, who was carrying her bag, yanked out a mallet and wooden stake. Howling and snarling, the rat was hard to hold onto. Gotu, who always came prepared, threw his net over the rat. Once they had it gaffed, netted, and immobile, Marie plunged the stake into the rat’s heart and pounded it in deep with the mallet. An unholy shriek filled the air, then POOF, the rat turned to dust.
Lilly and Marie looked at each other and each nodded at the same time. Lilly grabbed for the rum and a shot was had by all (except Emmanuel.) Marie pulled our her herbs and wrapped Artemis with a poultice that would heal and protect.
As dawn’s yellow orb arose over the river flats, New Orleans was a little safer.