Lucy stopped in her tracks and joined a group of people standing on the sidewalk watching a man stumble in the middle of the street. She turned to the collection of males gawking at him, not one of them was going to attempt to guide the man to cross the street. She wondered if they were his friends and if they were, why didn’t they help? She turned back to the man. From where she stood she could see he was dressed in some kind of suit and he was obviously drunk from the way he staggered. She shook her head, one wrong step and he was going to get hit by a car, or cause one to go careening into a pole, or Goddess forbid, another car.
“Excuse me, but aren’t you going to help him? He’s going to cause an accident.”
The young man standing to her left looked down at her with a wide sloppy smile. Great, she thought, he was drunk as well. “Hell no, this is eh-enner-ennertaining.”
“Isn’t he a friend of yours?”
Lucy pushed past him, hoping to find someone who was more sober and hopefully a little more helpful, but each man was drunker than the last and every time a car honked, they’d laugh. She wondered what was wrong with the world when someone would stand idly by and allow a person to get hit. She made her way to the other side of the pack with no help and turned back to the man in the middle of the busy street. She could see his face more clearly. What she saw made her blood run cold. His expression wasn’t passive or oblivious like a drunk might be, his features wore pure, unadulterated terror.
Sighing, Lucy didn’t dare wait a moment longer to see if anyone would step forward. She paused, watching the traffic and remained on the sidewalk until there was a lull. Then saying a quick prayer, she ran into the street. She reached out to that section of her mind that seemed to control her power and slowed the traffic. Drivers gradually came to a stop and those who were behind those lead cars stopped as well and honked at her. She ignored everything but the stranger in the street. Grabbing his hand she pulled him with her back onto the sidewalk then released the cars slowly until the drivers once again had control of their vehicles.
She turned to the group, “All right, nothing more to see here, go on about your business and get more smashed. Although you, in the blue shirt. You should stop or you’ll wake up tomorrow in the E.R. with alcohol poisoning.”
“Screw you,” said Blue Shirt.
Lucy’s eyes narrowed, but she held back the curse she wanted to spit out. You couldn’t fix stupid, he would learn his lesson the hard way. Turning back to the stranger she found him staring at her with his mouth open. “And you! Are you out of your freaking mind?! What the hell did you think you were doing in the middle of the effin’ street? Are you trying to kill yourself?” She paused, “Well?”
The stranger had turned away during her rant. His gaze was fixed on the street and the cars that zoomed past them. He moved down the sidewalk a bit to peer into storefronts and parked cars before turning to watch as several drunken revelers passed him, he was particularly fixated on a woman in shorts. He shook his head as he peered into a garbage can and then jumped back from the stench emanating from it. His back hit a lamp post behind him and he turned, wide-eyed to stare at the light above them. Slowly he made his way to the pole and touched it. “What kind of magic is this?”
“It’s a light.”
“It’s not powered by gas?”
“Not in the last hundred and fifty years or so,” Lucy said as she followed him. She grabbed the sides of his face with her hands and pulled it down to meet hers. “I am talking to you.”
“And I am speaking to you as well,” he said as he pulled away looking down his nose at her.
Lucy felt the thrill of his accent wash over her, she was a sucker for Englishmen, and this one looked as if he stepped right out of a Victorian romance novel. He was clad in long black breeches and a dark navy frockcoat. Beneath that his once white shirt was stained with mud and dirt and his tie was askew. She looked up and up again until she could see his face, he was about a foot taller than her own five foot seven. His dark hair was long, to his collar and brushed back. He had short sideburns and a hint of a shadow on his cheeks, making her wonder if he’d just shaved. His eyes were dark brown, almost black, and the confusion she saw in them was absolutely real. His jaw though, was set and stern as if trying to hide his puzzlement.
He noticed her looking him over and he ran his hands over his body self-consciously. He patted his head and sighed. “Forgive me, madam, I seem to have lost my hat.” He searched the area and walked toward the street.
Lucy grabbed his arm, “Um, you have to wait until the light changes, Einstein, or you’re going to get run over.”
“What are those contraptions that move without the aid of horses?” he said as he pointed at the street.
“Contraptions? You mean the cars?”
“Cars?” he spoke the word over and over as if trying it on for size.
Lucy shook her head. This was just what she needed today, a loon who was taking his costume persona very literally. She’d heard of cosplay but never at Mardi Gras. “Yeah, well I should let you go find your friends, although if I were you, I’d get a new group. Friends don’t let friends play in traffic.”
Lucy turned back.
“Please, help me.”
“Help you what?” she asked as she stepped away from him. He approached her slowly and Lucy tried to get a sense of his intentions, but her abilities were not cooperating.
Lucy relaxed a little. “Okay, what hotel are you registered in?”
“I’m not registered in a hotel.”
She arched a brow. “So where did you come from?”
The man turned and pointed across the street.
Lucy’s eyes widened and then she felt her anger rise. “That’s not funny.”
“It’s the truth. I exited that gate.”
“So are you telling me you’re a ghost? Because that, my friend, is Saint Louis Cemetery Number 1!”
“I assure you I am flesh and blood; I am no ghost.”
“A what? No!”
“Good, ‘cause zombies are Ronnie’s forte and I’ve already got a ghost and he’s a pain in the ass.” She turned and walked away.
She heard the sharp staccato of his boots following her. She stopped and faced him. “Why are you following me?”
“I have no idea where I am and I’ve nowhere else to go. Please help me.”
She pointed down the street. “Bourbon is that way. You can’t miss it; all the crazies are out tonight. If you hurry, you can find a good spot to watch the parade.”
He frowned, “Miss I am in not in need of spirits. I am lost and just want some assistance in finding a way back home.”
“You were showing me where to obtain Bourbon.”
Lucy grimaced, “As if you needed any more alcohol. Bourbon is the name of the street,” she pointed to the sign above them. “See this is Rampart and Bourbon is that way.”
She turned and walked away, speeding up slightly when she heard his footsteps behind. Instead of going straight back to her house, Lucy decided she should try to lose him in the crowds around Bourbon Street.
She moved quickly, bumping into revelers and workers with signs proclaiming two-for-one drink specials and body shots. She glanced over her shoulder every now and then to find him keeping up with her, though the scandalized look was back on his face. She watched as a drunken co-ed stepped in his way and lifted her shirt, much to the joy of the men around her. She shook her shoulders and the mystery man gawked for a good five seconds before he gently moved her out of the way then looked around for Lucy.
Lucy took the opportunity to duck into a doorway behind a group of girls around the corner from her house. Stomach rumbling, she cursed; she’d forgotten to get her meal. She supposed a Lean Cuisine would have to do. Suddenly she heard footsteps coming up behind her. Turning slightly, Lucy saw him on the corner coming toward her.
“Can’t he catch a hint?” Lucy shook her head and began to run. Her house was only a half a block away, if she could get to the gate she could lock him out and be done with it. Then maybe he’d finally go find his friends.
She unlocked the wrought iron gate between her house and her neighbor and swung it shut, grateful that the lock clicked behind her. She ran to the courtyard at the back of her home and entered through her rear door. She didn’t want to turn on a light for fear he would see which house was hers. Slowly she made her way up the narrow stairs to where her bedroom was and grabbed the bat she kept by her door. With a flick of her wrist she lit a candle and only then did she wait to see if he would try to come in.
Long minutes went by until finally she decided to look out her window. She moved her sheer gray curtain to one side and slowly pulled on the tilt rod of her plantation shutter and looked down.
“What are you doing?”
Lucy screamed and turned holding the bat up.
“That’s not going to help you.”
She rolled her eyes and lowered her weapon. “Do you mind not sneaking up on me?”
“What good is being a ghost if I can’t scare people?”
Colin came with the house when Lucy bought it and while for most normal people it would have been a deal breaker, as a witch Lucy liked having him around. He’d been haunting the premises for at least two hundred years and she didn’t feel right asking him to leave when the house seemed to belong more to him than her. They lived in peace, for the most part. He gave her space when she needed it and in return she tried to help him figure out how to move on.
He had told her he was a pirate, murdered for his booty, but Lucy had seen the truth one night while meditating. Colin was just a normal day laborer who’d gone out with some friends one night, fell into the Mississippi and was never found.
“Did you know there’s a man pacing in front of the gate?”
“Are you hiding from him?” Colin asked with a small grin.
The ghost stuck his head through the wall to look down. “No he’s not,” he said when he came back in. “If he were drunk he’d be on Bourbon. He looks lost.”
“I hate it when you do that.” Lucy opened the shutter and window to poke her own head out. The man was sitting on the steps outside her front door. He would flinch every time a group passed him. As he rubbed the back of his head, Lucy saw the blood on his collar.
Colin crossed his arms over his chest. “Are we going to take in another stray?”
Lucy grimaced, “Oh, as if you don’t like Snowball.”
“Only you would name a black cat, Snowball.”
She giggled as the cat jumped on her bed and flipped onto her back with a long purr. “I’ve been having this strange feeling all day,” Lucy said as she rubbed the cat’s stomach. “Maybe he’s the reason for it?”
“Possibly, what does your guide say?”
“Nothing, I haven’t been able to talk to any of my guides all day. It’s like they’re closed off to me. I’ve only been able to tap into the other side sporadically. It made work a real bitch.”
A worried expression crossed over his face. “Well that’s strange.”
“I know,” she heaved a heavy breath and walked to her nightstand where she kept her personal tarot cards. She shuffled them quickly then dealt them out and looked over the message.
Colin poked his head over her shoulder. “What does it say?”
“Change. Big changes and it surrounds a stranger. A lost soul.”
“A handsome stranger?”
Lucy bit her lip. “It would seem so.”
“Well, don’t do anything hasty yet. Men today aren’t like they were in my time. I watch that box you call a T.V. and I see how they act. All they care about is sex, sex, sex.” He paused a moment then smiled broadly. “Well I suppose they are a lot like the men in my time.”
She shook her head and picked up the phone on her nightstand. Hitting the button for Ronnie she waited until she heard the familiar, “Hello, Chere.”
“Ronnie, I need your advice or to look into some bones for me or whatever.”
“What you goin’ on about?”
“Long story short, there’s this guy–”
“Ooh, girl, you bit the bullet and went out. Is he cute?”
“Ronnie! Listen, remember the weird feelings I’ve been having?”
“You think this guy is the cause?”
“What does your guide say?”
“I can’t get an answer there and I just finished a reading that sort of muddied everything.”
Ronnie was silent a moment then chuckled. “There is no uncertainty in your reading. You know what to do.”
Lucy grimaced. “Do you feel anything?”
“I think you need to follow where this leads, but be careful.”
“I will. Listen, call me in an hour to check on me.”
“Will do. Hey, you didn’t answer my question.”
She frowned, “What question?”
“Is he cute?”
“Yes,” Lucy said quickly then hung up and slumped back on her bed. “Colin, get lost. Looks like I’m taking in another stray.”