St Louis Cemetery No. 1Mature

Daniel Babineaux locked the door, which was the front entrance to his shop on Bourbon Street, and turned to face the road.

Taking a deep breath of the early evening air he smiled to himself, and closed his eyes for a moment. New Orleans always smelled so good at this time, just before it began to really come alive for the night. Like that wonderful fresh smell that always comes before a thunderstorm.

It was a ritual of his to walk over to St Louis Cemetery No 1 two or three times a week, and leave a small offering at the Glapion family crypt, for Marie Laveau. The walk wasn't all that far; north on Bourbon Street to St Louis Street, and then on to Basin Street and the turning for the cemetery itself. His legs were long and he enjoyed strolling around just after dusk, so the journey never took more than a few minutes, and was usually a pleasant one.

A slight chill seemed to have set in now that the sun was no longer high in the sky, so he drew his worn, brown leather jacket a little tighter and fastened a button.

Across the street a young girl, in her early teens, waved as she peddalled her bicycle over towards him. She had the same rich, chocolate coloured skin as Daniel and unmistakably similar eyes. Her smile lit up her face and drove away any shadows trying to close in.

"Uncle Daniel" she exclaimed, stopping just infront of him and dismounting her bicycle. She flung her arms around him and squeezed him in a warm hug.

"Hello little Marie." Daniel lifeted his neice up in his arms and twirled around.

Laughing, she jumped down from his embrace once he stopped still again. "Are you going to see her?"

Daniel frowned down and tried to give a disapproving look. "And who would that be exactly?"

"You know who." Marie whined, rolling her eyes. "Marie Laveau."

It always came back to this with the younger generations. Children loved to hear tales of the mysterious Marie Laveau. Young girls even played at being the Queen of Voodoo, wrapping themselves in colouful scarves and fashioning make-shift dolls to scare their friends with. Don't you come here trying to push me around or I'll use this doll to make you sorry! For the most part it was harmless fun, if slightly distasteful to some of the elder generation, and at least the children believed in local legend enough to be mindful of it. This kept them safely in their beds at night, and not prowling the streets looking for ghosts. There were plenty of other things to be wary of after dark, aside form the walking dead or vengeful spirits.

"I'm just taking a walk to stretch my legs after being cooped up inside all day." Daniel lied.

Marie folded her arms stubbornly. "I know that you won't let me come with you, but you don't have to lie to me."

"I apologise." Daniel chuckled. "You saw straight through me, so obviously there is no point in my trying to decieve you. You are a clever girl Marie, and I am sure that you know better than to be hanging around in cemeteries at night."

Sighing, Marie unfolded her arms and let them drop to her side. "That's why I want to go with you, just once. So that I can take a present to Marie. I was named after her after all."

"Perhaps, when you are a little older." The tone of Daniel's voice was friendly, but firm. Indicating that the matter was closed. "Now, don't you think that you ought to be getting home for your dinner?."

"Ok." Marie sighed again. She picked up her bicycle and hopped back into the saddle. "Can I come and help you in the shop tomorrow?"

"Of couse, I can always use and extra pair of hands."

Standing on the side of the road Daniel watched Marie ride away, ringing the bell on her bicycle twice before disappearing around the corner of a building. He turned away once she was out of sight and began to make his way up Bourbon Street.

Although it was certainly true that tourists lapped up the voodoo spook-stories he could recite by heart, this by no means meant that he did not have the deepest of respect for the old ways. And the old superstitions. Visiting the grave of Marie Laveau was as much a part of his weekly routine as taking out the rubbish, or doing stock inventory in his shop. It was certainly not always safe to visit Marie's little part of the St Louis Cemetery at night, but Daniel was well know by all of the relevant people as a man not to be trifled with. He was kind and generous, and always opened the door of his shop to anyone who came his way, but this did not detract from the fact he was a respected Voodoo practitioner. Local gangs who frequented the ghostly hot-spots of New Orleans knew never to infringe on Daniel, in any way, with their scare tactics.

Sadly, many tourists fell victim to the gangs whilst looking for adventure after dark.

Daniel thought again of the four young English visitors he had received earlier that day. Despite his friendly words of warning they had seemed a little too eagre with their questions about Marie's grave. In the end he had given them a map and marked out a safe route to the cemetery, but had made them assure him that they would make their journey in the light of day.

He hoped that these words had not been an empty promise.

Once he reached the cemetery Daniel pushed open the gates and walked through. He could sense that there were other things here, watching him. Some were living people, some were not.

Many of the old tombs were in very similar styles of white stone, but even if Daniel hadn't known the location of Marie's tomb off by heart it was still easy enough to spot. The tomb itself was adorned with many crosses, left there by visitors wanting to ask favours and make wishes to the Voodoo priestess. Offerings also lay at the base of the tomb of flowers, dolls, candles and sweets.

"Good evening cherie."

Standing infront of the tomb Daniel reached out a hand and placed it on the cool stone. Behind him shadows moved in the dark, but they kept their distance, and he had no fear of the things that hid in the darkness here. Bending down, he reached into his coat pocket and drew out a handful of candy hearts and a single white rose. These he placed on the ground, underneath the plaque with Marie Lavaeu's name upon it.

Smiling softly he stood and said a silent prayer to Marie's ghost.

"Visiting your lover Daniel?"

The familiar voice was not a welcome sound, and Daniel gritted his teeth before turning around.

"Jean. Don't you ever get tired of that joke?"

The skinny man who now stood opposite him shrugged his shoulders. He wore no coat, despite the chill, and his flimsy white shirt hung open.

"The old ones are always the best." Jean smiled, revealing his discoloured teeth. "I didn't expect to see you here so close to Mardi Gras. I thought you would be too busy warning tourists of the dangers of us evil-doers."

Conversations with Jean always became tiresome far too quickly, and Daniel was in no mood to stand around trading insults all night.

"You must excuse me if human sacrifice and raising the dead isn't my idea of a good time." He walked closer to Jean until their faces were only inches apart. "Now, unless you actually have something intelligent to say I think I will bid you goodnight."

He stepped around his old friend and proceeded to walk away without a bacjwards glance.

"Nice seeing you Daniel." Jean shouted after him. "I'm sure we will run into each other again soon."

Daniel didn't answer, he just pulled up the collar of his leather coat and walked on.





The End

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