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Night Creature: Crescent Moon Chapter 23

A quick trip to the Intranet revealed that Arianna Beasly’s in-laws owned a home in the Garden District, while her family, the Favreaus, still lived in the French Quarter. The calendar might read century twenty-one, but in New Orleans the old ways prevailed.

The original Favreaus had come to Louisiana before the area’s purchase was a gleam in Thomas Jefferson’s eye.

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Back then, the upper-crust French resided in the Quarter, eventually the Spanish did, too. However, when the Americans showed up, they were shunned miserably. Kind of like what happens in France today.

Being Americans, they’d taken their filthy money and built the American Quarter, which began in the business district and stretched into what is now known as the Garden District

Americans – gotta love ’em. Bigger is always better, and if we can’t buy what we want, we’ll just build what we want and call it superior to the original.

Mrs. Beasly would be considered a Creole, a descendant of Europeans born in the colonies. That and the family residence in the high tax bracket of the Quarter explained the crypt at St. Louis Cemetery Number One.

No doubt the Beaslys owned a crypt in the more modern Lafayette Cemetery Number One, which bordered the Garden District. Perhaps Arianna had chosen to be buried with her side of the family. Not uncommon. Around here, where you were buried was almost as big of a deal as where you were born.

At any rate, Cassandra and I rang the bell at a gorgeous nineteenth-century home on Burgundy Street. The door was opened by a tiny, wizened old lady sporting a ferocious scowl.

“We do not have ghosts, good day.”

She began to slam the door, but I blurted, “We came to talk about Mrs. Beasly.”

The woman hesitated, blinking through thick bifocals. Considering the murky state of her gray eyes, her cataracts were the problem, not her prescription.

“You’re friends of Arianna’s?”

“Yes,” Cassandra answered before I could say, Not really.

Cassandra shot me a silencing glare as the elderly woman invited us inside.

“I’m sorry I was rude, but there are stories about this house, and all those damnable ghost walk tours stop outside and stare at us. Some rude people even ring the doorbell and ask to see the room where it happened.”

“Where what happened?” I asked.

“The murder, of course.”

“Of course,” Cassandra said.

The woman tottered to her chair, and Cassandra took the opportunity to whisper, “There’s always a murder or a ghost around here. That’s not what we came for.”

True. If we got started on the ghost stories in the French Quarter, we’d never get to the werewolves.

“You seem awfully young to know my Arianna.” She motioned for us to take seats nearby.

“She was your…” I hesitated.

This woman resembled Mrs. Beasly around the eyes and mouth, but was she a sister, an aunt, a mother? Once people bit ancient I was no good at determining their generation.

“Granddaughter. I’m Marie Favreau.”

“Ma’am.” I nodded respectfully, earning a small smile. “Mrs. Beasly and I met at the library. I was sorry to hear about her… accident.”

Mrs. Favreau’s lips lost the smile and pressed together as if she wanted to keep the words inside. But she couldn’t “That was no accident”

Cassandra and I exchanged glances.

“How so?” Cassandra asked.

Mrs. Favreau looked around, then beckoned us closer. “We wouldn’t have buried her so quickly, without benefit of a church service, if we were only talking about a dog.”

“What are we talking about?” I asked.

She made an odd motion with her arthritic fingers – half sign of the cross, kind of an FU. I wasn’t sure what to do.

“Protection against evil,” Cassandra murmured.

Mrs. Favreau considered her with a contemplative expression. “You know the old ways.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Then you know why we stuffed her mourn with monkshood and drew a pentagram on her chest” Mrs. Favreau continued.

“Monkshood?” I asked.

“Wolfsbane,” Cassandra translated.

That made sense. I guess.

Of course I hadn’t seen anything in Mrs. Beasly’s mouth but teeth and hadn’t gotten a gander at her chest. Considering she was ashes, I’d have to take Granny’s word for it.

“Loup-garou,” Mrs. Favreau whispered, and made the sign of the FU again.

Now we were getting somewhere.

“The bitten must be encased in cement and properly prepared or they’ll rise and walk as a wolf,” she continued.

“I’m afraid she rose anyway,” Cassandra said gently.

I wondered how long we’d had before Mrs. Beasly turned into a wolf. Now we’d never know.

Mrs. Favreau went white. “She’ll come for me. She’ll know I’m the one who had her buried that way.”

“Relax,” I said. “She’s dead for good this time. Shot with silver, we think.”

The woman slouched in her chair, shaking fingers pressed to her mouth. “Thank you.”

“Wasn’t us.”

“That doesn’t matter as long as she’s truly dead. She wasn’t Arianna anymore.”

Remembering Mrs. Beasly’s sharp teeth and propensity for drooling, I had to agree.

“What do you know of the loup-garou?” I asked.

“Only the legend.”

“You’ve never seen a werewolf?”

She closed her eyes, took a breath, then opened them again. “We take care to bury certain bodies in certain ways so the dead don’t walk.”

“What ways?”

“If a person is killed by an animal, monkshood and a pentagram.”

“Any animal?” I pressed. “Not just canine?”

She stared at me over the tops of her glasses, and despite the murky cataracts, I could swear she saw right through me.

“The wolf creates the werewolf. Other animals create other monsters.”

Other monsters? Terrific.

“One problem at a time,” Cassandra murmured.

I must have been hyperventilating.

“What else?” I asked.

“If there is suspicion of vampirism, garlic and a cross. Salt for zombies. If you think their spirit may walk, bury the dead with Apache tears.”

I glanced at Cassandra for clarification again. I wasn’t disappointed.

“Obsidian,” she said.

Mrs. Favreau sniffed. “Better safe than sorry.”

“Do the methods usually work?”

What I really wanted to know: Was there something special about Arianna Beasly that had made her rise despite the precautions? Or did all the bitten do so, but no one ever knew?

“I never had occasion to try the practice until now.”

“What about your friends?” Cassandra asked.

“An acquaintance of mine was forced to bury her husband with garlic and a sixteenth-century crucifix made in Provence.”

“And that worked?” I leaned forward in my chair. “Her husband stayed dead?”

“I assume so.”

“Could I speak with her?”

“She fell off her balcony a few days later. Broke her neck.”

Uh-oh.

“Anyone else?”

“A dear Mend’s child was bitten by a rat.” Mrs. Favreau frowned. “My Mend had a heart attack not long after.”

Another nasty pattern. I had a sneaking suspicion that those who’d been the recipients of the “precautions” visited the ones who’d imposed them as soon as they became undead. Lucky for Mrs. Favreau her granddaughter had exploded in a burning ball of fire. Lucky for us all, I was thinking.

Note to self – leave off the monkshood, garlic, salt, obsidian, and pentagrams. They didn’t work anyway. Silver, on the other hand, might be useful.

“Mother.” Another tiny white-haired woman stood in the doorway. She bustled in, casting Cassandra and me a curious glance. “Isn’t it time for your nap?”

“I’ll be napping forever soon enough,” Mrs. Favreau grumbled. “I was just visiting with some Mends of Arianna’s.”

The newcomer’s face fell. “My little girl.”

Though I knew Arianna Beasly had a mother, everyone did, it hadn’t occurred to me I’d meet her today. Although why it hadn’t, since I was speaking with Arianna’s grandmother, I wasn’t quite sure.

To have three generations alive at the same time is achievement enough. To have them alive at this age was pretty darned amazing. Of course they weren’t all alive anymore.

“We’re sorry for your loss,” I said, feeling keenly how useless those words were.

“Thank you,” she said, though she didn’t look grateful. She looked a little pissed. “Now I have to get Mother some lunch and a nap. She isn’t as young as she used to be.”

I wanted to ask how old she was, how old they both were, but I didn’t dare. Such questions would be considered rude even above the Mason-Dixon Line. Down here, I just might find myself drawn and quartered.

“Don’t worry, Anne.” The older woman patted the younger on the hand. “Arianna is at peace.” She tottered toward the door, stopping in the entryway. “Someone shot her with silver. She went kaboom.”

Silence settled over us as Mrs. Favreau disappeared down the hall. Uncertain of what to expect, I cast a cautious glance toward the other woman.

“My mother-in-law’s a little – ” She twirled one finger around her ear in the universal hand signal for nuts.

“Really?” Cassandra murmured.

“She was telling you the werewolf story, right?”

I stilled. “That’s not true?”

Anne gave a short bark of laughter. “You believed her?”

Cassandra made a staying motion with her hand when I would have spoken. “We shouldn’t have?”

“This might be New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean we’re all lunatics. My daughter was not bitten by a werewolf.”

“OK,” Cassandra said. “Then why did you bury her so fast?”

Anne’s laughter died and something nickered in her eyes before she turned and headed for the front door. We had little choice but to follow. I guess our welcome had runout.

To my surprise, as we filed onto the porch she answered the question. “We buried Arianna so quickly because my mother-in-law insisted. She was hysterical. It was easier to do as she wanted.”

The door closed behind us. Cassandra and I stood in the brutal afternoon sun until someone said, “Psst”

Marie Favreau beckoned from the corner of me house.

‘I did see a werewolf once,” she whispered as we joined her. “I was a child. My papa took me to Mardi Gras. We were coming home and down an alleyway I saw a man and his dog. My papa said the man had drunk too much wine, so he was resting, with his good friend Mr. Dog to watch over him.”

She passed a frail, shaking hand over her eyes, as if she were seeing it all again. “Then Mr. Dog began to eat the man’s face. I screamed and the animal glanced up. He was not a dog.”

“A wolf.”

“Yes. But that’s not why I screamed and screamed as my papa scooped me into his arms and ran with me all the way home.”

“Mother!” Anne’s voice came from the rear of the house. “Where are you?”

“I have to go,” she said.

“Wait” I reached out, and she tilted her head expectantly. “Why did you scream?”

“The eyes.”

A chill went over me, which was downright amazing considering the blistering heat of the sun. “I don’t understand.”

“I mink you do.” She glanced over her shoulder, men back. “Though the form may be that of a wolf, a werewolf always retains its human eyes.”