“Dark Carnival” by Suzanne LaBerge
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Suzanne LaBerge takes us to New Orleans, where one couple’s Mardis Gras doesn’t go as expected.
by Suzanne LaBerge
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Angie made Ed jealous, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. She loved to drink and flirt. Drugs too, if somebody else was buying. But after Katrina it was different. Most of the bars were closed, most of the men gone to Baton Rouge, Houston, who knew where.
Katrina’s howling winds turned Ed’s place in the French Quarter into a pile of sticks. He and Angie made it through, hunkered down in his bathtub under a dirty mattress. After the storm, they squatted in an abandoned duplex, its sodden walls blooming with slippery mold. They raided the grocery store and the drugstore, and after its owner fled to Memphis, they cleaned out the Redbird Bar. Every day they scavenged through the city’s ruined neighborhoods, and every night Angie built a big bonfire in the street.
“Katrina made me love you,” she said to Ed. “Before the storm, I couldn’t imagine settling down like this.”
It was his dream come true. He had Angie to himself, no other men around, no need to work. They had plenty of everything—food, booze, drugs—and everything was free.
Ed felt bad when he heard about the mayor’s push to clean up the Quarter. Cleanup meant store owners coming back, cops snooping around. A bulldozer crushed the stinking duplex to shreds, and a dump truck hauled away the remains of Ed’s new life. After that they slept under a bridge, but it made him uneasy. He was never sure if Angie would be there in the morning.
Ed’s friend Vinnie owned a flood house over in Algiers, its drywall nothing but slimy pulp. Ed had hung plenty of drywall. He traded the work for six months free rent.
He found Angie at the Spotted Horse, drinking tequila shots with a couple of the house musicians.
“I’ve got a place for us to live,” he told her.
“I don’t like it across the river.”
“Me neither, but we can’t stay here. Things are changing.”
“I don’t know anybody over there.”
“Baby, please come with me. I can’t go without you.”
Ed woke up happy on Fat Tuesday. He reached for Angie. She must have gone to the parade without him. He ran for the eleven-fifteen boat, leaping off the end of the dock. The ferry landed at the foot of Canal Street and he scanned the crowd, looking for her. He pushed through the crush of jesters and harem girls and transvestites dressed like Marilyn until he reached Magazine Street. Their place. The corner where he and Angie always watched the parade. In front of him, a girl raised her shirt above her head, screaming for a golden coconut. She caught it in two hands, then turned and held her prize up for him to see.
Ed left Canal and made his way over to the Marigny, to the Spotted Horse. The bar was crowded, revelers with plastic go cups spilling out the door and into Frenchmen Street. He found Angie behind the stage, splayed out on a busted couch with a man on top of her. Ed stood in the backstage gloom and watched, anger seething and popping inside his skull.
Vinnie dropped by the house in Algiers a few days later. Ed came to the door. “Not still sleeping off carnival, are you?” Vinnie asked.
“No,” Ed said. “I’m fine. Come on in and see the drywall. Turned out real good.”
The foul odor assaulted Vinnie as soon as he stepped inside. Something like tangled dark spaghetti bubbled in a big pot on the stove. Two foil turkey roasters filled with charred meat sat on the counter next to it.
Ed told the police detectives that it was Angie’s head in the pot. Her legs in the turkey pans. But when they asked him why, at first he didn’t answer. Just laid his head down on the table and cried. The woman detective brought him a Coke from the vending machine. He looked up at her and leaned back in his chair.
“I couldn’t help it,” he said. “I loved her, and I caught her with another guy during Mardi Gras.”
At the Redbird they had always liked Angie. The bartender said, “She treated Ed bad, but he didn’t need to go and kill her.” The regulars sitting around the bar disagreed. They all knew a woman could drive a man to murder. But there was something none of them understood. Why did he cook her?
SUZANNE LABERGE lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She attended the Writers in Paradise program at Eckerd College and is currently at work on a novel set in medieval London.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jun 20, 2016
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