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Crossroads in Crescent City

Crossroads in Crescent City

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Published by Lisa Arnopp
Maggie is too practical to believe in ghosts - but that doesn’t stop one from believing in her.

On a trip to New Orleans, a tarot reading reveals that Maggie is on the Crossroads of the spiritual and the physical. Being a grounded individual, she not only doesn’t buy it but won’t have it. Unfortunately, the spiritual realm isn’t obliging. Her unwanted quest forces her to deal with her personal ghost and demons and a few impersonal ones as well.
Maggie is too practical to believe in ghosts - but that doesn’t stop one from believing in her.

On a trip to New Orleans, a tarot reading reveals that Maggie is on the Crossroads of the spiritual and the physical. Being a grounded individual, she not only doesn’t buy it but won’t have it. Unfortunately, the spiritual realm isn’t obliging. Her unwanted quest forces her to deal with her personal ghost and demons and a few impersonal ones as well.

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Published by: Lisa Arnopp on Jul 24, 2011
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12/21/2012

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“Maggie Gregoire.” A slick man, who she didn’t know, asked. “Wayne sent me
to get you back on your path. Where is Tony?”
“I don’t want your help. Go find Tony if you want.” She stammered and stepped

away.

Shamefaced, he feigned a pout, “Don’t be like that. I’m your friend.”
“I have plenty of real friends. Now go. I’m on my way to see Zed now.”
“Liar. You just left him.” He leered at her. “Who would have thought someone
so beautiful could be a descendant of the notorious Jean Gregoire?” Slick moved in.
“But then, your stubborn streak is telling enough that it’s quite possible.”
Maggie didn’t wait for him to get closer. Turning she bolted but Slick had her in
his grasp before she knew it. Kicking and flailing, she struggled to break free but he
pinned her face-forward against a vacant ticket booth. He nuzzled into her neck and took
a deep whiff.

“Get off me you cretin!” She screamed.
“Mmm, you smell delicious.” Slick’s tongue ran up her neck. “You taste even
better.” The night air chilled the trail of spit left behind.
Getting an arm free, she elbowed her assailant, which only angered him. He
grabbed her wrists, twisted her around and held her hands over her head far enough to be
uncomfortable. Smiling to see her immobilized his wicked tongue licked the tips of two
long, pointed canines that sprang out, at least Maggie hadn’t noticed them before.
“You need to learn a lesson on the pecking order. I’m on top and you are at the
very bottom.” Easily Slick lifted Maggie and ground his needy self into her to show he
meant to use her sexually to drive his point home. “Don’t worry, we’ll have time.” His
right hand roughly pulled at her tank top tearing the left strap. When she yelled he
covered her mouth with his. He mauled her right breast and then ran his fingers under
her bra strap. “Why do women today wear these things?”
At first Maggie felt helpless. But she didn’t have time for emotions so she dialed
back her fear and summoned her inner strength. She moved her only liberated limb.

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Maggie kneed Slick in the groin, which evidently was as sensitive to vampires as human
men.

Rather than a scream, Slick howled in pain. He struck her with a fierce blow of
his open hand and let her fall to the pavement like a rag doll. Maggie locked her feet
around one of his ankles and yanked until he was down as well. She scrambled up but he
held her calf. Kicking at his face, he skillfully dodged a direct hit. Catching her sneaker,
he flipped her on her back never losing grip of her shin. The pain shot up her leg and she
was sure the bone would shatter. Slick pulled her to him as she pushed her palms on the
ground for purchase.

Out of nowhere, Tony plunged down on Slick. Another howl, this time ear
piercing, screeched into the night air and then Slick was gone in a puff of vapor.
Flattened clothes lay where he fell. Tony rolled on his back with a wooden stake in his
hands.

Panting and more frightened than Maggie believed possible she stared in
disbelief. It was a clean kill and no remains. “What happened?” She registered
throbbing in her hands, a sharp ache in her lower leg and tender spots on her bosom most
notably but she didn’t inspect the damage.
“You know what happened?” Zed said offering a hand to assist her.
“No I don’t.” She wouldn’t say it. She wouldn’t say it looked like a vampire
death straight out of Hollywood. She would not accept her insanity that readily. Unable
to stand, she held up her hand to Zed’s to politely refuse his leverage. Sitting on the
pavement she did her best to recompose breathing in through her nose and out through
her mouth.

O’Malley sent Tony on an errand and then ran his hand down Maggie’s face. He
wasn’t dressed as an office any longer. Instead he was in old fashion clothes, a blousy
shirt and ordinary brown britches. His touch was like ice but he did not pass through her
as he had done before. “We shouldn’t have let you leave. We didn’t want to force you. I
am not your master, I am your kin.”
“You’re so cold.”
“I’m dead.” He smiled as if that wasn’t a deficit. “I’m only solid when I’m near
you. My spirit is reinforced in substance because we are family.”

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“O’Malley, that makes no sense at all.”
“Does everything have to make sense? Does math and science hold the only
truths? No.” He answered for her. “There are mysteries in this world that cannot be
quantified by conventional academics.”
“You passed through the door when I was there.”
“With concentration, yes, I did.” The ghost answered and released Maggie.
“Now, if you could do me a favor, please call me Jean or Gregoire, O’Malley was the
name of a long lost friend of mine.”
“All right, Jean.” Something was changing in Maggie. Her mind struggled for
explanation. The absurd was looking like the only plausible solution.
Tony was back with a boutique bag. “How’s this?”
Maggie peered inside to see a pink shirt. Taking it out, it looked a bit large. The
slogan “Life is a Bowl of Gumbo” was written across the front in bold cartoonish
lettering. “Perfect.” She smirked trying to lighten her mood. Her mind told her that they
could not be what they claimed but her heart was grateful to see them after her scare.
“Thank you.”

“You can’t walk around with a torn shirt.”
“I meant thank you for saving me.” She glanced at the empty remains of her

attacker.

“Well, thank Jean Gregoire. He told me to stake him. I don’t know why I
listened other than I didn’t have a better plan.” Tony teetered on the fence between the
real world and whatever world was seeping in to create chaos. He was doing much better
than Maggie but then he knew the stories even if he hadn’t believed them before. Under
his breath he muttered “vampires?”
One of Slick’s pockets lit up as a cell phone alerted an incoming call. Jean
retrieved it but too late to answer. “He’ll call back.” He said grimly.
Maggie looked at the ghost who she still thought of as O’Malley. Was he her
ancestor? Was there any truth in their fantastic tale? She didn’t know how he could walk
through a wall, let alone touch her without touching her. She didn’t know how Slick
disappeared in the blink of an eye. But she also knew that illusionists had done many
inexplicable things.

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Zed took out the talisman and clasped the necklace on her. “They can’t harm you
with that on. That’s why they didn’t take you. Once you have it, why would you hand it
over unless they had something treasured by you?”
“Not something, someone. I can’t keep this if it’s the only way to save Carmen.”
Maggie’s phone rang and she sighed. “It’s Wayne.” Or she assumed since the caller ID
read Carmen.

Jean answered for her. “Hello Wayne or do you go by Estelle’s bitch now?”
Maggie could hear the muffled indignation float out of her iPhone. Mentally, she
questioned Jean’s judgment to rile up a vampire.
“That’s right, I’m involved and if you want the talisman, you’ll have to meet
Maggie somewhere outside of the French Quarter, on neutral territory.”
Maggie slipped into her new shirt and removed her tattered tank top as Jean
worked out the final details for the exchange. Regretting the lose of her favorite summer
top, she tossed it.

“Good news and bad news.” Jean announced after the conversation was over.
“The good news is we have an hour. The bad news is they will bring reinforcements.”
“Is Carmen okay?”
“He wouldn’t let me speak to her.” Jean frowned. “She is alive. They need her.”
That was as small as consolation could get.
“We do have one thing in our favor. They won’t expect me to go with you or that
I will be able to fight them. It’s only because you are my descendant that I can leave the
area or even Crescent City altogether. That isn’t common knowledge.”
“How did you bargain for time?” Tony asked.
“Time is needed if we won’t meet them in the city. We are to go to the bayou.
Here the spiritual is woven into the physical because of the history but it’s patchy.
Vampires are prone to spiritual realms for they live in both worlds. Within the Quarter,
they are as dangerous as their legend warns. Leaving the city weakens them and leaving
the protection of active spiritualism makes them susceptible. They cannot travel a
straight path because of this. There are only a few enemies of vampires but they are
proficient enough that the vampires have to take precautions.”

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Maggie’s mind jumped to werewolves having seen enough movies. She shook
her head sure that regardless how real everything seemed, she had to be dreaming.
Praying with all her might, she hoped her subconscious wasn’t going to bring in another
movie monster before she woke unless they were going to be hunky romantic monsters.
Rubbing her hands clean, she saw they were free of wounds, even her leg had stopped
hurting. Wasn’t that proof she wasn’t awake?
“Are you saying they will be powerless outside the Quarter?” Tony prodded.
“They will be formidable but not invincible.”
Looking at the charm around her neck Maggie asks, “Why do they want this?”
“It is a key to a treasure.”
“A stolen treasure.” Tony remarked harshly.
“Not if your family hasn’t found it.” Jean barked back.
“That’s not the way I heard it.”
“Of course not. But then history is written by the winners.”
“What does that mean?” Maggie asked.
“I was killed by Pierre Lambert, this man’s ancestor.” Jean said mournfully.
“Because of him I was not there for my children. Because of him I have been bound to
walk these streets until a rightful heir frees me from my onus. Once you and the talisman
are safe, I will pass on to the next realm.”
“What onus?”
“The treasure is modest.” He said evasively. “Among the gold and jewels is a
ring forged from the Spear of Longinus, the weapon the Roman guard used to ensure
Jesus was dead before taking his body to the tomb. The metal was smelted and made into
that charm and a ring. A vampire cannot touch the holy metal unless it surrounds him. If
it circles even a small part it could exercise the demon from the vampire. It’s theoretical
but it’s the demon within that can’t go into the sun, leave the spiritual realm, subjected to
holy water. If the wearer retains the supernatural dominance, the vampire would be
unstoppable.”

“Estelle.” Zed covered his mouth fearful of the idea.
“What does this do to them?” Maggie held out her talisman.

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“Burn them and if they touched it long enough, destroy them. It isn’t a complete

circle.”

“If they can’t have it, why do they want it?”
“As long as it doesn’t touch their skin. This…” Jean touched the charm and
paused. “I can hold it. I know I am not truly physical but even this simulation is
awesome.”

“You were saying?” Tony encouraged impatiently.
“The talisman opens the crypt where the treasure is stowed.”
“A crypt?” Maggie didn’t want to go into a cemetery during the day let alone at
night. She reluctantly planned to visit some the next day with Carmen, at least that was
the plan before everything went hay-wired. She had crossed it off the agenda about ten
minutes ago.

“If Estelle wears the ring, how would that affect her children?” Zed asked pale as
a ghost – a ghost without an ancestor around to give him substance that is.
“Only once has a vampire worn the ring. Vlad Dracula walked into daylight and
Van Helsing cut off his finger and then ran his sword through Dracula’s heart. Who
knows what havoc would have ensued if Van Helsing hadn’t been proactive? Those
corollary vampires turned by Dracula died when he died.”
“So why are there still vampires?” Maggie asked.
“Vlad Dracula wasn’t the first. The first vampire was Estelle Roux. When the
world was flooded, she wasn’t destroyed only suspended. When the waters subsided, she
found a new home in Eastern Europe. It wasn’t more than wilderness for years. She
lived a hard life feeding off animals. Animal blood isn’t satisfying but it is sufficient.
When humans began to spread out over the land, she was ravenous. Before the flood, she
never killed her prey. Even today it is rare for a vampire to kill without provocation, they
prefer playing with their food. But Estelle fed on humans so deeply that they were left
dead or very near. When the black plague struck the vampires, for there were many
created by then, they would die if the drank contaminated blood. That reigned in their
bloodlust. Five centuries passed before Estelle learned of the ring, she has sought it ever
since.”

“How did you get it?”

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“He stole it from my family.” Tony groused.
“Your ancestor was a cutthroat. Pierre took it from me and gave it to his wife
Antoinette. It had been entrusted to my family for a millennium or more. When we
arrested Pierre’s ship, Antoinette traded it for his life. It was the only time I disobeyed
orders and a stupid act on my part since he killed me not two years later.”
“That’s a lie.” Tony said impetuously.
“That was life in the eighteen hundreds. It took me almost two hundred years to

accept that.”

“You killed Pierre and Antoinette.”
“No Tony, Pierre killed me. Estelle had Pierre and his treacherous wife killed
when she came to claim the ring. Antoinette had promised it to Estelle if she turned her.
She wanted eternal life. She didn’t know the ring already gave that to her.”
Tony seethed. “You’re wrong.”
Softer Jean said, “You are nothing like them.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Boy, I have no reason to lie.”
“You do if you want me to help you fight Estelle.”
“I have told you to go, that you are not needed. As much as I sense you are
honest, I cannot trust someone that looks every bit like the man who murdered me, even
if it was decades ago.”

“What proof do you have?” Maggie challenged out of curiosity.
Jean was wounded that she questioned him. “A written agreement from
Antoinette. It is with the ring.”
Tony didn’t look up. He was processing everything Jean told him looking
desperately for the contradiction that would eradicate its validity.

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