By A. C. Mason
Mystery, 317 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
Susan Foret is thrust into a murder scene when one of the town’s wealthiest citizens dies near her as the local Krewe’s parade is ending. A gris-gris bag containing tarot cards and several other fetish items is left dangling from the knife in his chest.
A horn blared and two twerps of a siren sounded from the fire truck, a signal the Mystic Krewe of Helios parade had come to an end. A lone street sweeper followed to clear the streets of broken beads, other discarded throws, and more important, any poop left by the horses belonging to the Allemand Parish Mounted Posse. Some of the revelers on the opposite side of the street started strolling off on their way back to homes or vehicles.
I inhaled the delectable aroma of jambalaya steaming in a huge black iron pot under a canopy behind Lucky Jack’s Café. Laughter, upbeat voices and the celebration of carnival were just what I needed to raise my spirits.
The long ordeal for me and my twin brother was finally over. Dealing with a couple of killers and the slow court system had taken a toll. Justice took sixteen and a half years to officially vindicate Steven and convict his wife’s killer. The voice of my neighbor, Rachel Marchand, broke into my thoughts.
“No matter how old I get, I always enjoy Mardi Gras.” She removed a multitude of colored beads from around her neck and stuffed them into a plastic grocery bag.
“What’s with all this talk about getting old?” I teased.
Rachel laughed and pointed to her salt-and-pepper hair. “Susan, I’m not exactly a spring chicken.”
“Age is only a frame of mind.”
“So true.” She surveyed the area with her gaze. “This day couldn’t have been better. The morning started out a little chilly, but at least the sun’s shining. And to think you didn’t want to come today.”
“I know. I know.” I slipped an array of beads from around my neck and placed them in my own bag. “I’m glad I came. Too bad the parade didn’t last longer.”
“All good things must come to an end,” Rachel said with a joking tone.
Her remark turned out to be prophetic and no joking matter. A man wearing a full-face rubber mask staggered out from behind the fire truck and directly in front of the street sweeper.
I stared at the man. My brain didn’t quite register what my eyes observed. Did I actually see an object protruding from his chest? No, he’s in costume. Or else I’ve been out in the sun too long.
“Crazy fool,” Rachel muttered. “Is he drunk?”
In the back of my mind, I thought I’d seen a second man wearing a short black mask some distance behind the man who ran into the street. I checked again, but didn’t see another person wearing a mask. Confused, I returned my gaze to the man staggering across the street and tried to make sense of the scene unfolding in front of me.
The street sweeper swerved and came to a screeching halt, but not before the side of the vehicle clipped the man and knocked him to the pavement face first. Rachel and several men in the crowd rushed over to where he lay. I took a few wary steps closer. Even from this distance, I could tell the man was dead.