The Albina Press in Portland is a comfy way to spend a rainy afternoon…more drizzle than rain, some good ‘80’s music (not too loud, not too metal) and a longed for hazelnut latte made with Stumptown Coffee. And I’ve figured out enough of Word 2013 to get a bit further on Mae’s adventures in the Crescent City. Not totally comfortable with the HP Envy yet. No worries though. I will figure it out. In time. I am beginning to think that I got more of a laptop than I need for my simple wants and needs. Touch screen? Who talked me into that?!?
This past week has had me floating down a river of indecision, hence the flotsam and jetsam of the title. Spring is finally here, or it was in Illinois anyway. For about three days. I hear it’s 90F and windy today, a precursor of prairie summers. Here in Portland I’m wearing a sweater and wondering why I didn’t pack any socks. If I had, we’d be sunny and 75! Life works that way sometimes.
But I’m off on a tangent. That doesn’t help decision-wise of course. I’m floundering between putting my first book down as “finished” to renew my query efforts or passing through it one final time (really) before I head back to the second book and Phil’s latest adventure. Neither is a perfect solution. Hitting the query trail hard is most likely what I’ll do after I look at the letter itself, keeping my fingers crossed that someone sees my story as one that should be told.
There are times when I can—and do—make decisions in a split second. Other times not so much. I never pack for anything without hedging my bets on weather (except for those missing socks) and what we might be doing, even when people assure me that I don’t need to bring along anything fancy. I also wonder about bringing a gift….family or not, it seems right. Right? So what gift to bring? Indecision breeds indecision big time! My solution? Bring something dressy (a top) and offer dinner out as a thank you. Most of the time I don’t wear the clothes but we do have a nice dinner somewhere. A fifty-fifty split. The split second decisions are easier. Usually two choices, one definitely better than the other…or either one is fine. Can’t lose.
But…what if I had to make a life-changing decision when I knew it would affect people that I care about? Mae may have to do just that. How would you handle that? I don’t know…
Not knowin’ where I was bein’ taken, I let my bushwhackers lead me down the cobbled street, my eyes shifting from side to side to try and fix the buildings in me mind. If I ever could get loose, I’d not want to be lost. Not in on these too quiet streets with shutters drawn. After a few turns, with my captors saying not a word, the houses and storefronts disappeared and were replaced by overgrown weeds and weathered sheds with dusty paths leading to their padlocked doors. Except for the last. And, it turned out, that’s where we were headed. I dug my heels into the dirt like a stubborn mule and jerked my arms back, throwing the two holding me enough off balance that I could move a bit on me own.
“Time for you gobs to answer for this,” I managed before the third one grabbed me. “I got nothing for you to take. Find someone else to hijack and leave me to my business.” The boys looked at each other, then towards the open door of the shed.
“We got told to bring you here,” the tall one said. “And here you be. Now you need to get yourself inside and wait. We ain’t goin’ nowhere so don’t try nuthin’.” He gave me a shove toward the door. “If you please, ma’am.”
If I please? Lord save me from polite bushwhackers. His two companions stepped up next to him and crossed their arms.
“Ma’am? Go inside,” he said again. “We put some water and a chair in there before…you can drink some and sit a while. It won’t be long.”
Hell’s bells. What was I gonna do, fight three teenagers who could probably fling me over the levee? I did let loose a few choice words in Gaelic…widened their eyes a bit. Maybe they thought it was a curse, ‘cause they backed off, but they didn’t leave. So be it. Into the dark of the shed I went, more thirsty for that water than I cared to be.
Even if I didn’t want to admit it, the shed seemed cool after that walk in the bright sun. I had me hat on of course, but the very concrete of the streets had burned through my shoes. And I confess to being a bit warm after the tussle with those hooligans. I could barely make out the chair and the water bottle sitting on top of it but I wasted no time in getting that bottle open. Before I even sat down, I took a long drink. Tepid liquid slid down my throat, tasting every bit as good as a shot of Dalwhinnie. So here I was. Alone. Hoping that if I was gone too long from the shelter Drum might come looking.
“Not to worry, Miss Mae.” The voice originated from a shadowy figure in the doorway. “I won’t take but a moment of your time.” The figure moved further inside and soon arrived at my chair.
“You won’t get even a moment of my time unless you tell me why in the name of St. Andrew you had me dragged to this godforsaken excuse for a roof and four walls. Those bushwhackers were from you, weren’t they?”
Sylvain moved quickly out of the heat of the day into the dusty shed. “Only way to get you here, considering.”
“Considering what? You suddenly ashamed to be seen with a…tourist?”
“What? You’re no ‘tourist’, Mae. You’re a pistol. And I need a pistol. It’s complicated.” He shook his head. “You’re only in danger if you help me. So if you turn me down after I say my piece I don’t want you to be lookin’ over your shoulder all the day.”
“You’re in danger if you don’t stop blatherin’ about and tell me what it is that has you so bothered. I’ll make my own decision and take my own chances if you don’t mind. Me and Drum have survived a lot, and we’ll go on survivin’. So?”
Sylvain lowered his long form to the floor and sat crosslegged as close to me as he could get. The dust made little whirlies as he settled himself.
“You coulda had the cleaning staff come in, y’know,” I offered by way of a joke.
“Not mine to worry about,” he said. His teeth gleamed in the darkened room. “Fact is, it belongs to those ‘bushwhackers. It does,” he said as I shot him a disbelieving look. “A story for another time though. For now, this is what I have to tell you.”
Now I could spin you the whole yarn Sylvain laid on me though it would take a good while, so let me just give you the basics. It seems that Sylvain’s family has been part of Creole society from before the War (the one between the States) although they’ve dwindled some in the past 100 years or so. So have their fortunes. Sylvain’s parents made sure he had enough to get educated and all but his younger sister Celine was not one to study so she took her “college money” and headed to Baton Rouge to make her mark on society. According to Sylvain, that means marriage in a “good” family. Turns out she fell for the wrong sort of “good”. Anyway, she heard a few things (Sylvain didn’t say just what those were) and got herself in trouble. Last he heard from her she was calling from a coffee shop in the French Market. By the time he got there, she was gone. Now the family she got involved with has a house in the Garden District, and Sylvain has been watching there. He’s pretty sure she’s being held held inside there but can’t do much since the family knows who he is and all.
Where do I come in? Well, the family is always looking for household staff. From what Sylvain told me, I think I know why. IF I agree, and I won’t without talking it over with Drummond, he says he can get me a recommend from an agency in the Quarter for housekeeping duties. Once I’m in I’m to do my usual meddling while I keep the premises tidy. See if I can find Celine, or where she is, so that Sylvain can get her out of the mess she’s got herself into. I told Sylvain I had to think through the details and talk to my brother. Oh. And I had a condition of my own. If I come through for him he pays me by finding me and Drummond a place to stay. Near the water and something I could secure with my own lock and key. He agreed and we parted ways, me first. I waved at my bushwhackers with one last Gaelic word of goodbye and headed back to the shelter and Drum.
After we’d done our bit by clearing the dishes and cleaning the coffee pots so they could be set up in the morning, Drum and I took a breath in the sideyard of the church and spent the last of the daylight talking over the issue. I pretty much knew I was going to do it, even though I knew for a fact I could find me own living quarters, but Drum brought up some interesting factors. So, I went to bed, not sure which way I was going to let the decision fall.
So now reader I ask you–Should Mae help Sylvain? I mean she hardly knows him, it would put her in danger and leave Drummond on his own in a city that breathes alcohol and partying. But…it’s Mae we’re talking about. Tell me what you think.