Almost Angels, Chapter 3
I stood against the wall, near the foot of St. Philip Street, watching the vendors setting up in Market. It was just after 7 AM on Friday, October 24, 1811. Across the way a small, dark man, wearing a dark jacket and a vest the color of dark wine, gazed back at me from under a tall conical hat with a wide brim tilted over his right eye. In his hands he held several bottles. Small bottles, the kind in which perfumes would be found.
It had to be him. I had inquired at a warehouse on Bourbon Street. They said he would be here. A lady, a fine lady, approached him. She curtsied, he bowed. He said something to her, she smiled. He took one of the bottles and held it out to her. She smiled again. She took the bottle and held it just a little bit in front of her nose. As the recognition of scent reached her olfactory nerves, her hand went to her heart. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, nor him either. He reacted to the pleasure in her voice, and his posture and bearing took a different mode. Yes, it was him. Yes, this was Jean Lafitte, the Privateer/Pirate/trader/smuggler. He was in his late 20’s obviously. But you could see an image, even now, that of a man that will have fame and adventure. I watched. I wanted to get closer…..
The morning was busy. I watched casks of different sizes and kinds wheeled out by slaves, black men, sometimes shabbily dressed, sometimes barefoot on the brick and cobblestone. They went about their tasks, emotionless, mechanical, almost thoughtless. You could see the resignation stamped in to their faces. The smells became stronger, as more and more goods were brought out and stacked.
Never in my world could you dream of a melody of scents that could resemble what was here today. There were spices, boxes of onions, and garlic. There were two other men there displaying scented oils, some clearly for perfume, others for flavors, and baskets of spices and seasonings. There were barrels of coffee, great horns of sugar, casks of salt. As well as chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and cheeses. Bread could be smelled baking somewhere nearby. I instantly became hungry. I know, don’t eat the food. Your system might not be able to handle it. Damn, this wouldn’t be easy! I wouldn’t be able to get close to him, not in this crowd, and not be able to remain un-noticed, Maybe later.
I turned to go back up St. Phillip Street some where to find an ally to step into and disappear, just a step or two into the future.
“Mon cherie! You, with the beautiful cloak, come back!”
I turned and looked behind me.
“Here, mon cherie, up here.”
I looked up. Oh. My. God. There really were angels, and they have halos and everything, at least I thought.
“Cherie, did you loose your tongue? Where did you find the beautiful cloak? My, it is bon! I would bet that it would keep two warm as well as one.”
Aw, I bought it in Carondelet, up the great river.”
“Oh, you are an American boy. I like American boys. Come up and see me.”
All the while I am looking up at this goddess. Slightly dark, almost olive skin, wearing a white gown of sorts. It hid nothing. Her breast didn’t need it, the rest of her didn’t need it. Long legs, her long hair hanging over the rail. Looking up, it was astounding. My mouth would not form words. I could not help but to stare. Oh My…..
“I am so sorry lass, I have not the time. Perhaps a rain check?”
“Perhaps.” She pouted, and stuck her leg through the railing of the balcony and wiggled her toe.
“Perhaps, for you, American Boy.”
I continued on down St. Phillip’s to Royal and made a left turn. No one was looking. I stepped into the doorway of what looked like a blacksmith shop, but was void of man and beast. I touched my ring.
December 14, 1814. I had no idea where, but history said that Andrew Jackson had a meeting with Lafitte. Jackson had been here since Dec 1st. Some said he was fighting mad. The city was without defenses. Others said he was despondent, worried, desperate to be ready for an eminent attack by the British. What ever, he was about the city. I had checked in for a few hours everyday, following him, then skipping time, and following Lafitte. It kept me busy everyday. In the midst of these excursions I studied all the records. So many versions of stories, so many stories themselves. Some things written about him were simply not true. I gained experience by simply watching him. He was a faithful friend, he bonded with his people. He was a man of the times. He loved to drink, he had no qualms about slavery, yet his own slaves were treated with the utmost respect and care. He had little regard for the rule of law. In the 20th century he would have best been described by using one of the terms from the Star Trek Series. He was a Ferengi, making wealth was what drove him. I’m sure he must have born in poverty, to have such an obsession. I stood in the doorway of a warehouse in the 200 block of Bourbon Street. It was getting dark. Lafitte and two of his cronies exited the building and turned up toward Canal Street. I followed back far enough to stay out of sight. At Canal he turned right for one, two, three blocks, then entering a tavern. I stood watching. Shortly, from across the street, came three men. One tall, wearing a dark cloak. Another in buckskin, with a coonskin cap. Another in homespun. They crossed the street, walking rapidly. Then I saw maybe a dozen more move from the shadows.
I need to get inside. I walked to the batwing doors, but when I went to push the door and step inside, a burly man in deerskins stepped in front of me.
“Sorry, stranger, tavern’s closed. Ye’ll need to go some ‘ers else to slack yer thirst. Go’on now, thas’ a good lad.”
I looked across the room as I turned. It was Jackson and Lafitte sitting at a table in the back of the room. The strong hand pushed me out and stood blocking the door. I moved away, back about a block, and found a doorway to step into. Minutes went by, then an hour, then two. Then I heard conversation coming toward me. I stepped back into the darkness, they passed me. I took a moment, then followed. As I turned on Bourbon, I was grasped by the arms. Lafitte stepped in front of me.
“Mon Ami, you are everywhere I look. And have been for weeks. What business of mine interests you so much?”
“Aw, M’suier Lafitte, you are a legend. I would like to be a part of your crew, if I may?”
“Hmmm, and why did you not come and ask me at first instead of standing in my shadows?”
“I was…. I was afraid you would say no to an American.”
“Nonsense, mon ami. I like the Americans. You come and see me tomorrow at my warehouse at the corner of Rue de St. Philip and Bourbon. But a warning, if you are seen in the shadows anymore, it will be, well, like this…..!” He pulled his dagger and pretended to draw it across my throat. “Do you understand?”
And he was gone. In the darkness I touched my ring, and I was at the relief station, my heart still thumping.
My friend Randy looked up as I materialized. “Damn man, you look as if you had seen a ghost!”
“I think I almost was one.” I related the circumstances of the evening.
“Yeah, well, you need to be careful. I am sure I don’t have to tell you, the men of those periods played for real, and violence was a part of life.”
“Yeah, I usually have a shield up. But it was just too crowded tonight.”
Well, now my cover was blown. I had verified that Jackson and Lafitte had met, so someone else would pick up the story. I would take a few days off, go see my girl, and look forward to my next assignment. I know he and his men helped the Americans defeat the British, and then he went back to his old pursuits. Then, sometime about 1823, he got into a sea battle and was rumored to have been killed. I will check back later and see what really happened. History is wonderful. Over the centuries you see the same mistakes made over and over again. I hope now we have evolved to a point we can rise above that kind of ignorance.
Well, end of my journal tonight. I need to focus on the beautiful lady with me. We lay here on this beautiful lake, with tall, lush mountains to our rear. Our Sun has set for the evening. Now, one moon appears, to our north, and the glow of the second moon appears to the east. It is just an awesome place. Gravity is at such a low level that as the moons reach their zenith, we will be made to float in our transparent pod and will spend the evening making love, wrapped in each other arms, floating in the moonlight next to a beautiful lake that will almost float with us.
Life is good.