"I'm going to take that one."
"Fine-I'll do that fellow over there." They bought the pumpkins and went back to Jade's place. Coming up the stairs to enter by the living room on the second level, rather than through the courtyard and casual area below, they passed Renate's door. Shanna grinned. "Boy, I sure would like to know just how things did go for good old Matt last night."
"He's not Renate's type-and Renate never minds telling him that.''
"Ah . . . but if she had enough champagne and caviar . .."
"Well, she didn't."
"She should have. The poor boy was trying to celebrate.''
"Go tell her that she should have given him a celebration one-night stand."
"All right," Shanna said, staring down the hall.
"Don't you dare!" Jade said, dragging her sister back.
Later, as they were carving out their pumpkins, Jade asked her, "Would you really have been that rude and brazen-to tell her she should have slept with Matt."
"Rude and brazen? How can you be more rude and brazen than Renate?" she said; then she laughed. "I don't know. Thank God you stopped me."
They talked about their Halloween plans, since the holiday was coming up quickly. "We need to have a party," Shanna said.
"New Orleans is a party. Every restaurant and every jazz club will have a party. And we have little half brothers, remember? We have to head out to the Garden District and see Dad and Liz and the boys.
They'll be so cute- Liz always does such a great job with costumes."
"We could have a party at their house," Shanna said. "I mean, it was our house for years and years.
When Mom was alive. Remember?"
Jade was quiet for a minute. "It's not our house anymore."
"Of course it is."
"No, something is different. But did you have a bad time with Liz this morning?"
"No. In fact, I felt pretty close to her."
"Then ... ?" Jade said, puzzled.
"I don't know. Something just didn't seem right about the house."
"Well, still ... let's think about it, huh?" Jade said. "It might be more fun just to ride out, see the kids, and come back and club hop."
"Yeah, maybe-ugh! I just cut the stupidest pumpkin teeth you've ever seen." Jade looked at her sister's pumpkin. "They're pointed."
"I was trying to cut squares ... oh, well. Thank God I never wanted to grow up to be a pumpkin artist.
I've had it; I'm done. I've got to get going. I want to wash my hair ... bathe in exquisite body salts, powder and perfume, and try on half a dozen outfits. Some of us know how to do this sex thing properly."
"You're going to have sex with a total stranger?" Jade asked, appalled.
Shanna grinned. "No-I'm going on a first date. You have to be beautiful, charming, devastating, and smell divine for just such an occasion. That way he'll probably ask you back out, and it will be your choice if you see him again or not. Understand?"
"I thought you said it wasn't really a date."
"It's not-it's still a 'first' kind of a thing. And you are so, so far from a first date with that cop! Do the bubble-bath thing tonight-"
"I did it last night."
"And you think it will last forever?"
"No, I just-"
"You asked him last night. You know he'll make it tonight."
"Probably," Jade agreed.
Shanna pushed her pumpkin back, stood, headed for the sink, and washed her hands. "I'm outta here." She started straight for the door.
"Your pumpkin!" Jade said.
"Keep it. I think I have to start over. I messed up the teeth." Shanna exited. The door closed, then opened again. "Don't mess it up with that cop!"
"I won't," Jade said. "And don't go accepting any more dates with this guy until we know more about him, until you let me check him out for you."
"Yes'm, big sister. Sure. And you lock this door when I'm out!"
Shanna had barely departed when the phone started to ring. It was Rick, and Jade knew immediately from the sound of his voice that something was wrong. "I'm not going to be able to do anything tonight," he old her regretfully. "We should be going somewhere great for dinner."
"Hey, I eat all the time," she said lightly.
"I've been sick as a dog all day."
"I sure don't know what I picked up, but it's awful. I've been burning up, having chills, delusions, even.
Slept all morning, and now I've got to head back to work. The kid who was killed in the awful accident-"
"I have to go back to the morgue again. Terry Broom was the M.E. on the case, and he's a stickler.
Seems he thinks there was some foul play."
She suddenly remembered Al asking Sean Canady if he had been assigned to the kid
. There was going to be a task force on it, Canady had said.
"It is the kid from the accident, then," she murmured.
"Wait a minute-what do you know about this?"
She hesitated. "Shanna and I went down to talk with Gavin today."
"Jade," he said, sounding worried. "I told you I'd go with you."
"I'm all right with all this, really," she said. "I'm not going to lose my mind or go off the deep end or anything." She hesitated and added jokingly, "I even met a cop who told me there might be people who believed they were vampires, and if they believed it, well-"
"Sean," he said flatly, interrupting her. "Lieutenant Canady." She was silent a moment. "Yes. Sean Canady."
He was quiet, then said carefully, "He's a good cop."
"Why do you say that so carefully?"
He hesitated again. "Well, there was some trouble right here in New Orleans-"
"I remember it! Those gruesome murders."
"Well, we've had lots of gruesome murders, but these were really specific. Sean had a lot to do with solving them, and then again, there was a lot that went unanswered and unsolved."
"You sound as if you don't trust him."
"It's not that I don't trust him, it's just that..."
"I just think you might want to keep away from him. He could add fuel to the fire of past fears and ...
well, he's good guy. Just.. .just maybe not good for you right now." She didn't answer. "So you're heading back to the morgue?"
"Then home again. I can hardly stand up."
"You should tell them that. You shouldn't have to work when you're that sick."
"Well, you've got to realize, the cop powers that be don't often care if we make each other sick as hell-they can't afford to. We have to worry about the general public we protect and serve, but I can hardly pass anything to the kid now," he said his tone even but with a sense of sadness beneath. "Forgive me?"
"Forgive you?" she murmured, confused by the sound of his voice. "For what?"
"For ... for being entirely worthless."
"You're not at all worthless. There's nothing to forgive."
"You're just about the best thing that's ever happened to me."
"Same to you, Rick," she said softly. "Call me tomorrow."
She hung the phone up slowly, curious that she felt...
No, I'm not relieved, she told herself.
But I am.
She suddenly wished she had asked Shanna where she was going. She could have shown up and seen this new man who might be entering her sister's life.
She went back to the dining room table where they had been working on the pumpkins, finished picking up the mess they had made, then took the pumpkins one by one and dried them out.
When she finished, she decided to put votive candles in the jack-o'-lanterns, and see how they looked.
Hers was okay, spooky enough once it was lit.
Shanna's pumpkin looked downright evil.
"Those are pointed teeth, little sister!" she mused aloud.
The pumpkin made her acutely uncomfortable. To her amazement, she found herself afraid. She blew out the candles and she set both pumpkins out on the brick balcony wall.
Coming back inside the apartment she loved so much, she realized that she felt very restless, and that she didn't want to stay home. She could hear music from the street below, and laughter. Someone was having an early Halloween party.
You're not invited!
But this was her city, and she knew it. She didn't need a party to go out. The French Quarter was beautiful, and she knew the shopkeepers in her neighborhood, and the waiters at the coffee houses, and the bartenders at the lounges.
She'd just go out for a drink or a coffee.
She brushed her hair, grabbed a jacket, and headed out. A long walk alone might be just what she needed.
Terry Broom was young, fairly new to his job at the medical examiner's office. He'd been hired by the head coroner, Pierre LePont, he had shown LePont his findings, and LePont had told him to bring in the Homicide cops.
Terry was six feet tall, very thin, and had a freckled face and wild red hair. He was only a few years out of school- although he was greatly relieved to be able to say that he had turned thirty.
Still young compared to the more experienced doctors here, but he knew his stuff.
He had always been at the top of his class. He had learned from a doctor in Gainesville, Florida, who had had such a passion for his work that he had all but branded it into his students.