The Bullet

📅 Published on April 6, 2022

“The Bullet”

Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 22 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Shorty Small, a man neither short nor small, sat with his back against a wall in a dingy bar several blocks off Bourbon Street. He concentrated on the front door and sipped on a half-consumed bottle of Nola Blonde Ale.

The din of Mardi Gras could be heard in the distance outside the establishment. The comings and goings of revelers kept the door he watched constantly opening and closing. Finally, at ten minutes past eleven p.m., Homer LaCroix rushed through the entrance.

Six-foot-five, rail-thin, hawk nose and long curly salt and pepper hair, the man scanned the occupants of the room. His eyes settled on Small, and he made a bee-line toward the table.

Small growled, “You’re late.”

The lanky man shrugged.

“So, what was such an emergency you dragged me all the way from Chicago to New Orleans?”

“Got a job for ya, Shorty.”

“What kind of job?”

He fished an object out of his jeans and placed it on the table.

Small stared at the item and then locked eyes with the man. “What the…”

“It’s a silver bullet.”

“I can see that. Like I told you on the phone, I don’t do that anymore.”

“I know what you said, but for fifty-K, I figured you’d at least think about it.”

Small’s attention bounced from Homer to the bullet and then back at the tall man. “Fifty-K, uh?”

“Yeah. Fifty-K.”

“Damn.” He picked up the silver bullet and studied it closer.

“At one time, you were the best hatchet man in the business.”

The comment went ignored as Small continued to examine the bullet. Finally, he said, “I’m not saying I will, but what do I have to do for fifty-K?”

Homer pointed toward the object. “Use that.”

“I knew that, asshole. Who’s the mark?”

“A witch.”

With a slow shake of his head, Small stood. “I ain’t getting mixed up with that kind of nonsense, Homer. Thanks for wasting my time.”

“Hear me out. It’s not what you think.”

The former hitman hesitated. With a long glare at his old acquaintance, he returned to his seat. “Ten minutes, then I’m outta here.”

Homer leaned over the table and whispered. “Voodoo in New Orleans is big business. It draws more tourists than Mardi Gras. Plus, it keeps those famous, fancy restaurants from goin’ bankrupt.”

“You’re down to nine minutes.”

“Do you know much about Voodoo and witches?”

A shake of Small’s shaggy head was the answer.

“Voodoo is basically a religion brought over during the slave trade from South Africa. Those enslaved persons brought their culture from Bambara, which is now Mali, and the Kingdom of Kongo, roughly where Angola is today.”

“Your point, Homer?”

“Bear with me, Shorty. These slaves were brought over to the French colony of Louisiana. This all started in the early 18th Century. The white settlers of French Louisiana were heavily Roman Catholic. During this time the area transitioned from French to Spanish control, back to France and then after the Louisiana Purchase, the United States. During all these changes, the two religions syncretized.”

Small frowned. “Huh?”

“Syncretized. It means the two religions attempted to reconcile and combine with each other.”

“Okay.”

“The melting pot of Louisiana transformed the African traditions into what is now known as Louisiana Voodoo. Most people think of it as a religion practiced in secret.”

“I thought Voodoo was about sticking a pin in a doll.”

LaCroix smiled. “One of the myths of the religion. However, ancestors and spirit guides are essential parts of Voodoo as are spells and incantations. Voodoo Queens are female religious leaders who offer guidance to believers with problems and sickness using charms, herbs and prayers. They use ritualistic dances, songs, incantations and beseech ancestors to ease the practitioner’s particular affliction. No one has ever told me this, but I think that’s why people started calling the Voodoo Queens witches.”

“Homer, this is all fascinating, but you’re down to four minutes to sell me on this cockamamie story of yours.”

“Shorty, my whole point boils down to this. Voodoo tourism is big business here in New Orleans. Millions of tourist dollars flow into the city coffers. Someone is trying to screw up the fun nature of Voodoo by scaring potential tourists away.”

Small tilted his head. “Okay, I just added a few minutes to your timetable. There’s money involved.”

“Big money, Shorty.” He paused and smiled. “Those who are the so-called ‘keepers of the faith’ are scared.”

“Why?”

“They believe a real witch is seeking revenge on the ancestors of those who persecuted her in the mid-20th Century.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, that’s why they gave me a silver bullet to be used. It’s the only thing that’ll kill a real witch and cleanse the earth of her presence.”

Rolling his eyes, the big man shook his head. “Homer, someone is pulling your leg. There’s no such thing as a real witch. There might be a few poor wretched souls who believe they are witches, but they’re not.”

LaCroix leaned over the table. “Who cares if the witch is real. Our employer believes she is and is willing to pay someone fifty-K to use this silver bullet to make it go away. That someone can be you.”

“What’s your cut?”

“I do this out of the goodness of my heart.”

“Bullshit. Your heart is as black as mine.”

“I’m being paid as a consultant. It’s separate from the fifty-K.”

“Do they know where this witch is?”

“No.”

With a chuckle, Small sat back in his chair and drained his beer. “Then how do they know it’s a witch?”

Reaching into his pocket, LaCroix pulled out what looked to be a folded playing card. He opened and laid it on the table. “This is one of the five Tarot cards found on the desks of each member of the tourism board. No one knows how they got there, and security cameras show they suddenly appeared around midnight.”

Small picked up the object and studied it. “A tower with lightning striking it and two dudes falling. So?”

“The Tower is one of the more foreboding cards in the Tarot deck. It means there will be upheaval or change coming.”

Rolling his eyes again, Small handed the card back to LaCroix. “I can’t believe people fall for this crap. Especially enough to spend fifty-K to stop it.”

“You would if you knew how much money the haunted house tours brings in. That’s not the only card they’ve received. Everyone on the tourism board has also received the death card in the mail. They think it symbolizes the end of the tourist trade. They are quite literally pissing their pants.”

“This seems to be something the police would need to investigate.”

“One would think so, but the police told them until some crime is actually committed, they aren’t interested. Which brings us to the need for someone else to take care of the problem. Thus, the fifty-K and you.”

Small studied the bullet again then the Tarot card. “I’ll need more than one bullet.”

LaCroix nodded.

* * * * * *

When Shorty Small exited his hotel early the next morning. He planned to walk the streets of the French Quarter and get a feel for the area. His journey took him to Toulouse Street where he turned left. At the intersection with Bourbon Street, he made a right. This early in the morning he saw street cleaners hosing off the puke left behind by the previous evening’s Mardi Gras participants, along with food and drink suppliers delivering product to the restaurants and bars scattered along the famous street. Making another right at Phillips Street he looked back and noticed a woman a block behind him staring intently in his direction.

Over the course of his career, as a man who handled personnel problems with a gun, his radar pinged when he saw her. Quickening his pace, he ducked into an open coffee shop. He waited for the woman to pass, but after ten minutes, he still had not seen her. Silently chastising himself for his runaway paranoia, he ordered a coffee to go and continued his tour of the French Quarter.

Turning right on Chartres Street he reached Jackson Square and sat across from St. Louis Cathedral on a park bench. He planned to enjoy his coffee and watch the pedestrian traffic mill about.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the woman who followed him on Bourbon Street. He paid no obvious attention to her but kept her in his peripheral vision. She remained still while he pretended to study the men, women and children roaming the area. The distance to her location at the corner of Chartres Street and St. Ann would prevent him from catching up to her. She would have plenty of time to disappear into any local business and elude him.

Standing, he found a trash receptacle to deposit his now empty coffee cup. When he looked toward the position where she last stood, the space was empty.

With a frown, he jogged toward the corner and glanced up and down St. Ann Street. He saw her a block to the northwest. As he started to follow, she disappeared. He stopped. Stood without moving for a few moments and then hurried to where he last saw her.

When he arrived, there were no doors, alleys or alcoves. She had simply vanished. Turning back to return to the park bench, a black cat scurried across the street in front of him.

* * * * * *

LaCroix chuckled as Small retold the events of his morning tour in the French Quarter. “I told you she was a witch.”

“Witches do not exist, Homer.”

The thin man pushed a box of 9mm ammunition across the table. “You asked for more silver bullets. There are twenty-five in there with the remaining one’s hollow point.”

Small put his hand on the box and slipped it under the table. “Thanks.”

“They do exist. The one spying on you may be the one causing all the trouble. Be careful out there, Shorty.”

“We’ll see if I see her tomorrow.” He paused. “Anything happen yesterday I should know about?”

A slow nod from LaCroix. “They aren’t sure it’s related, but one of the board members of the tourism board died of a heart attack last night.”

“Let me guess, he was seen with a woman beforehand.”

“How’d you guess?”

“I was joking. What’d this woman look like?”

“Blonde, mid-forties, average height, and I’m told a real looker.”

Small stared at LaCroix for over thirty seconds. “That’s how I would describe the woman who followed me yesterday.”

“Well, there ya go, Shorty. I’d load your gun with the silver bullets immediately.”

“Okay, I’ll take the job. Did you tell them I get half up-front?”

“I did.”

“Where is it?”

A plain, white business envelope appeared on the table. “There’s thirty-K in there. With the death of McAlister, they upped the fee to sixty.”

The envelope disappeared just like the box of ammo. Small narrowed his eyes. “How’d you know I’d take the job?”

LaCroix shrugged. “After seeing the look in your eyes, the other day, I figured you’d take the job.” He stood. “If I were you, I’d brush up on the history of the French Quarter. It might keep you alive.” With those words, he walked out of the bar.

Small muttered to himself. “Way ahead of you on that one, Homer.”

* * * * * *

Located on the southern edge of the French Quarter on Decatur Street, Small’s hotel ranked high on the list of best hotels in New Orleans. Close to restaurants and all the cultural offerings of this section of town, it lay only a block from a jewelry, gemstones and minerals shop that also offered psychic readings. During his walking trip on the first day, he wandered into the shop and struck up a conversation with the owner.

She turned out to be, not only knowledgeable on local history, but up to date on all the happenings within the local religious community, mainly Voodoo.

After his meeting with LaCroix, he waited around until eight p.m. when the small shop closed. Madame Claire Honoré greeted him as he walked into the store. “Ah, Monsieur Small, I am so happy you are here. I have one customer left and then we can talk.”

She hurried away while Shorty examined a display case with numerous gemstones. He heard the little bell above the door jingle and then she returned. “I did not know if you would keep our appointment.”

“I have lots of questions, Madame Honoré.”

“Please call me, Claire.”

He folded his arms and appraised the woman. She appeared to be in her mid-to-late forties, long brown hair with a silver streak prominent on one side, hazel eyes, and a smile he found inviting. “I’m Shorty.”

She looked him up and down. “You are most definitely not short.”

He shrugged. “It’s my name.”

Taking his arm, she guided him to a room in the back. “This is where we do our psychic readings. We use Tarot cards or read palms.”

He glanced at her. “Do you believe in that sort of stuff?”

Offering the sly smile he enjoyed, she grinned. “I don’t have to believe. I just have to sell it.”

He chuckled. “Tell me about witches.”

“What kind? The chamber of commerce kind, the New Orleans kind, or the ones no one should mess with kind?”

Small tilted his head. “Let’s start with the kind no one should mess with.”

“That could take a while, you buying me dinner?”

He pointed to a ring on her left hand. “What about your husband?”

She patted his arm as she guided him toward the store’s front door. “He’s been gone for ten years. I use the ring to keep the vultures away.”

“Then, I’m buying dinner. Know a good place?”

* * * * * *

At breakfast the next morning in the hotel cafe, Claire Honoré finally got around to explaining more about New Orleans and witches. “Shorty, this lovely city has a long history of Voodoo, witches, the occult and various other traditions passed down from the past inhabitants of the area. Most of it is harmless and helps support the local economy.”

“That’s what I’ve been told.”

She held her coffee cup with both hands. “However, there is a dark side.”

He remained quiet as he kept his gaze on her.

She continued. “Most witches are benevolent. Some truly believe they are witches, while others are hustlers and scam artists.” After another sip of coffee, she looked up at him. “The real witches are agents of the devil and will steal your soul. It is said they can take the shape of anything or any person.”

“How do you tell if a witch has taken a new shape? Will it cackle like the ones in The Wizard of Oz?”

The sly smile returned as Claire shook her head. “No. It is their eyes. The eyes will be a black pool. Bottomless and enticing. It is the eyes that suck the soul from her victim’s body.”

“Are there any real witches here in New Orleans?”

“There have been many over the years. Not so much recently, but now…”

“What does that mean?”

“I am hearing rumors one has returned. Returned to seek vengeance on those that make a mockery of the ancient traditions.”

“Do you believe it?”

She sipped her coffee and then studied the contents. “It is inevitable. We have strayed from the real purpose of Voodoo. It came about in this area to ease the burdens of the early slaves who toiled to make their masters rich. Now, those traditions have once again morphed into a system that exploits the workers and favors only a few rich men.”

“So, you think she has returned to do good?”

Claire shrugged. “It depends on your definition of good.” She paused. “But no, I don’t believe she has returned to do anything positive. I feel she has arrived to threaten the livelihood of those who make their living here in the French Quarter.”

“Does that include you?”

She sipped her coffee and then nodded.

“What can stop her?”

With a chuckle, the store owner said, “Two things. Fire or a silver bullet through her black heart.” After another sip of coffee, she stared at Small. “Why are you so interested?”

“I’m curious, that’s all.”

“Shorty Small, somehow I doubt that. I saw your palm last night. You are here for a specific reason.”

“Yes.”

“But you will not tell me.”

“Not right now, someday, maybe.”

* * * * * *

After Claire Honoré returned to her apartment above the store to freshen up before she opened the shop at eleven a.m., Small returned to his room in the hotel. His doubts about a real witch returning to New Orleans seeking revenge remained in place. However, after listening to Claire at dinner last night and then again during breakfast, he retrieved the box of ammunition given to him by LaCroix and loaded a magazine with silver bullets.

As he pressed the shiny objects into the black metal sleeve, he mumbled to himself. “Better to be prepared.” Once he completed this chore, he returned the weapon to the inside-the-pants holster at his waist.

At exactly noon, he walked northeast on Decatur Street until he arrived at Jackson Square. Taking the same park bench where he sat two days earlier, he watched the pedestrians and waited. Time passed slowly, but forty minutes later, a tall lanky man sat at the opposite end of the bench and said, “Any luck finding her?”

“No.”

“Have you tried?”

“I know more today than I did yesterday.”

“And that means?”

“I’m working on it, asshole. You haven’t exactly been a fountain of information.”

“More Tarot cards were found stuck to doors this morning.”

“Which cards?”

“Mostly The Tower card. One Death card.”

“Who got that one?”

“It was on the mausoleum where the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is buried.”

“Sounds like the card’s a little late.”

“Funny, Shorty. The problem is the cemetery is closed to the public due to all the years of vandalism. The only way to access the grave site is during an official tour with a licensed tour guide.”

“Okay, they slipped in after dark.”

LaCroix shook his head. “Motion detectors and security cameras protect the property at night. The card was found this morning by a maintenance man. Just like the cards appearing on the desks, nothing showed up on the security cameras.”

“So, what does the death card on a grave mean?”

“I’m no expert, but I’m told it means a life-altering change is coming.”

Small laughed. “To a grave?”

“No. The person who spoke to me believes this is a sign the future of the French Quarter is in jeopardy. They want you to hurry and fulfill your assignment.”

Standing, the hitman looked down at his bench companion. “I’ll check out the cemetery. In the meantime, tell your bosses, I make the schedule when the job is completed. No one else. If they push me, the contract will be null and void. Down payment is non-refundable. But you knew that, didn’t you, Homer?”

A nod was his answer.

* * * * * *

The guided tour of the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, where the mausoleum of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau resided, lasted an hour, concluding at half-past five in the afternoon. Small paid little attention to the tour guide as he used the time to locate the security cameras throughout the grounds. As an expert in avoiding such devices, he concluded no one would be able to get near Marie Laveau’s final resting place without being seen by no less than four cameras.

With a growing realization he might be in over his head on this assignment, he walked back toward his hotel, making a stop at Claire Honoré’s Gem store. When he approached the small shop, the front door stood ajar. Looking in, he saw nothing but chaos, smashed display cases, overturned shelving units and broken glass mixed with necklaces and bracelets covering the floor.

Small yelled, “Claire!” When he received no answer, he yelled it again.

He heard a faint voice say, “In the back. Watch out for broken glass.”

Making his way toward the rear portion of the store, he found the proprietor in the room where psychic readings took place. Zip ties held her legs and wrists to a captain’s chair. She looked up at him. “It’s a mess out there, isn’t it?”

Hurrying to her, he used a pocketknife to cut her bindings. She stood and hugged him. “Thanks. You’re the first person to come by since this happened.”

“Who…”

“Never seen her before. Blonde, mid-forties, average height, and very pretty. I didn’t hear the bell on the door. It tells me when someone enters the shop. I was redoing a display. When I turned, there she stood, next to me. She scared me, Shorty.”

“Her?”

“The one we talked about this morning. The eyes. They were black as coal and her breath smelled of Sulphur.”

“What did she say?”

“She didn’t. Just swept her arms around in the air and all the damage you see out there occurred. She pushed me into this room and that’s all I remember until I heard you calling my name.”

“Where’s your front door key?”

She pulled a set out of one of her jeans pockets and handed it to him. When he returned, he said, “You need to call the police.”

She shook her head. “Won’t do any good. They won’t believe me.”

“Just tell them a bunch of druggies broke in and did it. That way the insurance company will have a police report to work with.”

She tilted her head to the side. “I’m impressed, Mr. Small. Are you a former cop?”

“No. But I’ve dealt with the police before. They’ll buy the story about a break-in.”

Claire folded her arms. “She knows I spoke to you last night.”

“Who knows?”

“The witch you’re chasing.”

“Hard to chase someone you’ve never seen.”

“Figure of speech, Shorty.”

“I know. You sure she just waved her arms?”

“Positive.”

Small looked at all the damage. “Call the police, I’ll stick around and make sure they take you seriously.”

* * * * * *

After the police finished taking pictures and asking questions, they left and Small escorted Claire up the back staircase to her apartment. Nothing seemed out of place. He said, “Make sure nothing is missing.”

She glanced at him. “What do you mean?”

“Make sure she didn’t come up here and take something personal.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. A hairbrush or something like that.”

With a frown, Claire walked toward a closed door and entered the room. She reemerged holding a brown object. “Here’s my brush.”

“Good, look for anything you’ve used personally.”

She tapped her foot. “Are you telling me you believe she’s a witch?”

“I’m not saying anything. Just look for something personal missing.”

She went through another door into what Small could see contained a bed. Ten minutes later, she emerged, her eyes wide. “Shorty, your t-shirt I wore home last night is missing.”

* * * * * *

The stillness on the streets of the French Quarter seemed out of place as Small returned to his hotel room just before dawn the next morning. When he entered his room, he half expected it to be trashed like Claire’s small store. However, nothing seemed out of place.

After placing a Do Not Disturb sign on his hotel room doorknob, he stripped and took a long hot shower. Emerging minutes later, a towel wrapped around his waist, he stopped suddenly at the sight of a blonde woman standing in the middle of his hotel room.

Her eyes appraised him. “Monsieur Small, why do you seek me out?”

“You’ve caught me at a disadvantage, I don’t know your name.”

“Because I did not give it to you.” Her accent was French, the voice slightly hoarse. “Now, why do you seek me out?”

“I’ve been offered a contract to find you.”

“And kill me?”

He shrugged. “I haven’t yet, have I?”

“No.” She tilted her head and walked toward the door. “You have no idea of what you are involved with.”

“Care to enlighten me?”

Her hand touched the doorknob and she turned to look at him. “No, you need to discover it yourself. What you find could shake the very foundation of who you believe yourself to be.”

With a smile, she dissolved into a blue mist. It rose and disappeared into the air vent above the door. The tightness in his stomach caused him to hurry to the closet. He checked his Glock 19. It remained where he left it before his shower. Taking the weapon from the holster, he ejected the magazine and checked the number of rounds. None were missing. He carried it back to the bathroom.

* * * * * *

“Who the hell sent you to hire me, Homer?”

LaCroix raised his hands, palms toward the man sitting across from him. “Easy, Shorty. What happened?”

“A blonde bitch with black eyes is what happened.”

Raising his eyebrows, the skinny man lowered his hands. “You saw her?”

“In the middle of my hotel room. She was there, then she wasn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was there, then, poof, she wasn’t.”

“Did she call you by name?”

“Yes.”

“Damn.”

“Who is she?”

Closing his eyes, LaCroix scowled. “She knows why you’re here.”

“Obviously.” He folded his arms.

“When she disappeared on the street the other day, did you see anything strange?”

“No, just a black cat.”

“Oh, dear.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Not a good sign.”

“I’ll be leaving today. I told you I was done with the business. You’ve successfully convinced me I should have stayed retired.”

“You can’t.”

“I can.”

“They’ll want their money back.”

“Like I told you, Homer. No refunds. Besides, I have expenses.”

LaCroix examined the hitman. “Did she scare you?”

Small stared at the thin man. “Scare, no. Convince me you haven’t been telling me the truth, yes.”

“They’ll send someone to collect.”

“LaCroix, you haven’t been listening, have you? No refunds.”

“The next messenger won’t be as easy to get along with.”

“I can be the same way. Remember?”

The thin man nodded. “They don’t like people who fail at assignments.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Probably the last time you’ll see me.”

“Good, I didn’t want to see you this time.”

“No, I mean I’ll be taken into the swamp and fed to the gators. No one will find a body.”

Small rolled his eyes. “Really, Homer? You’re giving me a sob story?”

“It’s not a sob story. It’s a fact and will happen.”

Small took a calming breath. “Well, we can’t have that.” He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you think it’s time you told me the truth?”

“I did.” He paused for a second. “I might have left out a few details, but the people who hired me are really scared about the appearance of a new witch.”

“What’d you leave out?”

Taking a deep breath, LaCroix let it out slowly. “It all has to do with money.”

“It always does.”

“Yeah, but I’m talking millions of dollars.”

Small glared at his friend.

“The powers that be like the way the current system works. The tourist industry generates revenue for the area, and each of the businesses within the French Quarter pays their fair share to the tourist board.”

“Voluntarily or is there an enforcement squad?”

“Uh—the latter.”

“Thought so. And some of the local businesses don’t like it.”

With a nod, LaCroix continued. “The tourism board got greedy and raised the percentage businesses have to pay a year ago. A lot of the business owners banded together and found a way to fight it.”

“A witch?”

“Yeah, they used black magic and conjured up a witch.”

Small laughed out loud and shook his head. “You don’t need me, Homer. All of you need a trip to the psych ward. You’re all crazy.”

“That’s why they had the silver bullets made. You’ve seen her disappear. You know she’s real.”

“I don’t know how she did it, but it’s not black magic. There’s no such thing.”

The thin man shrugged. “Others think different.”

“I’ll prove it by finding her. I’ll prove she’s a fake and you guys can pay me the rest of the money.”

“They just want her gone.”

* * * * * *

After his meeting with LaCroix, Small stopped by Claire’s shop to see if she needed any help cleaning up the small store. When he arrived, he saw the sign indicating the shop would be closed for remodeling. He tried the doorknob and found it open. Stepping in, he discovered the shop in the same state of chaos as the night before. “Claire?” He waited. No response. Stepping in, he called her name again. “Claire?” Still silence.

He climbed the stairs in the back toward the apartment and knocked on the door. No response. Taking a slim tool out of his billfold, he unlocked the door and stepped in. “Claire, it’s Shorty.”

Silence.

With his concern growing, he took the stairs back down two at a time and hurried to the séance room. Empty.

He turned toward the front door and saw the blonde woman. He said, “What have you done with Claire?”

“She’s gone.”

“I can see that. Where?”

“Away.”

Small withdrew the Glock from his concealed holster and pointed it at the specter. “I don’t know who you are, and quite frankly, don’t care. I do care about Claire. Now, where is she?”

The woman fixed her coal-black eyes on Small. “She’s where you’ll never find her.”

“My patience has limits, lady.”

“You shoot me with a silver bullet, and you’ll never find her.”

“Sounds like we have a stalemate.”

“Yes.”

“You first.”

“Leave New Orleans and Madame Honoré will be free.”

“I have a counter proposal for you, let her go and I won’t shoot you.”

The response from the blonde woman surprised Small. She cackled like a witch from a Hollywood movie.

He shook his head and leveled the gun at her heart. “Was that supposed to scare me?”

She frowned and backed up toward the front door. Slowly at first, she quickened her pace and said, “The one you seek. Is unconscious and weak. Find her you must. Before the end of dusk.” Just as she reached it, the door opened by itself. Emitting another cackle, she stepped onto the sidewalk and vanished.

“Damn.” Small ran to the still open door and stepped outside the shop. He looked up and down Chartres Street, the woman was nowhere to be seen. He turned to look at the building and noticed another floor above Claire’s apartment. Dashing back into the shop, he took the stairs two at a time to her apartment. Inside, he hurried from one room to the next. When he entered the kitchen, he noticed a door on the far side of the room.

* * * * * *

Claire was indeed unconscious and unresponsive. The Paramedics loaded her into the ambulance and within seconds, the siren spooled up as it accelerated south toward Decatur Street.

He turned to a police officer, who had responded along with the ambulance to his 911 call, and asked, “Where are they taking her?”

“University Medical Center, it’s over on Canal Street.”

Small nodded.

The officer looked around the shop. “You were here yesterday, weren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Want to tell me why you’re here again?”

“I came by to see if she needed help cleaning up.”

“Doesn’t look like she got much done. When did you last see her?”

Small turned his attention to the policeman. “When I left.”

The officer’s hand slowly moved toward his service weapon.

Noting the cop moving his hand. Small said, “After you guys left last night, I made sure she was okay before leaving. I made her some tea and stayed with her until she fell asleep. It was somewhere around four in the morning.”

His hand returned to a neutral position. “You from around here?”

“No, I’m here on business.”

“Want to tell me more about this blonde woman you mentioned?”

Small debated with himself about how much to tell the officer. Finally, he said, “Not much to tell. When I first got here, the place was empty. I went up and checked Claire’s apartment. I didn’t know about the third floor at that time. When I came back down, she was standing in the middle of the shop.”

“Did she tell you were Ms. Honoré was?”

“Yes.”

“So, you think she’s the one who assaulted her?”

“Yes.”

The officer nodded. “Where are you staying?”

He gave the cop his hotel’s address and told him where he lived in Chicago. After the man left, he locked the front door to the shop and started walking toward the hospital.

* * * * * *

Small stood at the side of Claire’s hospital bed and looked down at her.

She glanced up and said, “What happened, Shorty?”

“I was hoping you could tell me, Claire.”

“All I remember is, I slept until noon. After a few cups of coffee, I went down to the shop and placed a sign on the front door about being closed for a few days. Then I woke up here.” She paused for a moment. “They told me if I hadn’t been found, I probably wouldn’t have made it.”

He frowned. “Did they say why?”

“No, just that I had a weak pulse and low blood oxygen.” She reached for his hand and held it. “A nurse told me a friend found me. That friend was you, wasn’t it?”

He nodded.

“Thank you. I was on the third floor, wasn’t I?”

“Yes.”

“I have rarely ventured up there. Too dark and spooky.”

“What’s this witch got against you, Claire?”

“I have no idea.”

Small crossed his arms. “They’re gonna let you go home here soon. Why don’t you stay with me at the hotel tonight? I can look around the shop tomorrow and see if I can find any clues who this blonde woman might be.”

She squeezed his hand. “I like that idea.”

* * * * * *

Using a flashlight purchased before he ventured up to the third floor, Small swept the beam around the cluttered area. Claire followed him into the room.

“I’ve never really been up here much, Shorty. The wiring is messed up which means, no lights. Since I don’t need the room, I’ve never made the repairs.”

He looked at her and frowned. “You own the building?”

“Yeah.” She paused. “Actually, I inherited it from my grandmother. She was the one who started the gem shop. I worked there until she died. I moved in and took over the shop.”

“Do you know the history of the building?”

She shook her head.

He turned his attention back to the contents of the third floor. He moved further into the darkness and his flashlight shown on a brick wall. “Is there a room behind this wall, Claire?”

“I have no idea.”

He detected a strained tone to her voice. Turning, he pointed the flashlight back at her and found she stood with her arms folded, shivering.

“You cold?”

“All of a sudden I’m freezing.”

He walked back to stand beside her. A distinct cold air pocket hung over the area. He heard a loud noise behind him. Pointing the flashlight toward the sound, he watched a door open in the wall. A figure emerged with a brilliant halo surrounding it.

Claire screamed and Shorty Small did what Shorty Small did best. He retrieved the Glock from his concealed holster, pointed it at the figure and started squeezing the trigger.

* * * * * *

Homer LaCroix handed the envelope with the additional thirty thousand dollars to Shorty Small. “The powers that be are very pleased with the outcome, my friend.”

“Good, I like satisfied clients.” He tilted his head. “You in good standing with them?”

“Extremely. They like your style and asked me to see if you would move to New Orleans. They have—uh—possible other projects for you. Your moving expenses would be picked up, of course.”

“Really. Let me think about it.”

“I bet Claire would like for you to move.”

“She would.”

“Then, what’d ya say.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“She doing, okay?”

“Yes, thanks for asking.”

“When did you figure out the witch lived on the third floor of her building?”

“The first time I saw the place, I didn’t notice the third floor. Almost like it didn’t exist. The night I found Claire, I stood outside and noticed there was another floor above her apartment. I honestly don’t remember seeing it before. I found the staircase to it behind a door in her kitchen.”

“How many did you find?”

“The blonde bitch with the black eyes was there. Not sure how many others. As soon as I shot her, she shrieked and dissolved into a puddle of water. The others disappeared.”

“What happened to the water?”

Small gave LaCroix a half-smile. “Sopped it up with a towel, then burned it.”

“Does Claire know anything?”

“Nah—she passed out when the door opened. She inherited the building from her grandmother. Who, I discovered after a trip to the library, was a well-known Voodoo Queen before the turn of the century. I also found a picture of the woman in a digital copy of a newspaper.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, blonde and a pretty woman.”

“Are you telling me…”

“Yeah, the witch was Claire’s grandmother. Claire doesn’t know that, so keep your mouth shut.”

“Why?”

“Think about it, would you want to know your grandmother tried to kill you?”

LaCroix smiled and nodded. He tilted his head. “There’s always something going on around here that needs someone with your talent. Why don’t you say goodbye to Chicago and join us down here?”

The big man was quiet for a few moments. He pursed his lips. “Yeah. Chicago doesn’t hold that many good memories for me. Guess, if a hurricane comes, I can always head north.”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: J.C. Fields


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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