Brian Denman, a retired CIA agent and lethal mercenary turned private investigator, unearths the scum and scandals among the politically powerful. When his friend Phillip Wilder, owner and editor of Urban Legends tabloid, recruits him to gather information for a blockbuster story, Brian cascades into a series of unexpected events. Sent to New Orleans, Brian probes into the centuries-old myth of what the Vatican conceals on the third floor of the Old Ursuline Convent. As he delves deeper into the mystery, Brian is hurled into New Orleans’ dark and dangerous underworld, a labyrinth culminating in an epic battle of destiny and revenge.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
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The Lost Reflection
By Bruce Jones
Koehler BooksCopyright © 2013 Bruce Jones
All right reserved.
Chapter 1 The night air in Jackson Square clung like a warm, soggy, wool blanket, just another ordinary August night in the French Quarter. The spicy aroma of Cajun cooking filled the air. Tourists, diners and shoppers blending with the vast assortment of locals fill the marketplace. Deep earthy blues from a nearby restaurant reverberate off the historic walls of the surrounding buildings. Saint Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic Church in the country, towers over the square, keeping a watchful eye on the events of the evening as they unfold. Dim gas glow flames scintillated from the street lanterns and buildings barely illuminating the festive night. The usual assortment of artists, musicians and gypsies all work their crafts to the delight of the nightly gatherers. Stella La Rue was the oldest and wisest of the gypsy fortune tellers. She was a throwback to the classic gypsies in Lon Chaney movies of days gone by. Stella was old, exactly how old nobody knew. An advancing scoliosis had given her a pronounced hump on her back. Crystal blue eyes, so clear you would swear you could see right through them, highlighted her cinnamon brown, leathery and weathered face. Gray hair, tightly pulled back, framed her bandana covered head. Her love of jewelry was evident, as it excessively draped her neck and wrists. Most of it was worthless, but to Stella, it did not matter. She valued it all with great reverence. Her mismatched, bright, layered, oversized clothes stated simply, “I am a fashion maven.” She did not waste her talents on the typical tourists. Leaving them to her brethren fortune tellers, Stella would wait, biding her time, for the one to approach her. If she sensed there was something of value to share with this person, she would offer them her unique insight. Even though the square was crowded with tourists, she felt no calling strong enough to spark her desire to make a little cash. She sat at her table and watched in amusement as many of the other girls worked their craft. They were indeed “working” the crowd, a skill she had taught most of them. Although most had never developed the gift she possessed, they were all good at mixing a little truth with a dose of bullshit. Occasionally, Stella would casually eavesdrop and force herself to conceal a smile of amusement when she heard a good whopper. Stella was a firm believer in hope and promise, not gloom and despair, tap dancing around bad fortunes, most of the time, offering only a glimpse of a potential tragedy to come. “What good is it to tell someone they are going to die tomorrow?” she would say. “Better to tell them that a loved one is about to suffer a great tragedy, show love to all near and dear. Tell them only a half truth, for it is never wise to share all of life's mysteries.” She could sense bad karma like a mouthful of sour milk. Her purpose, she believed, was to set things right. And that is exactly what she did, masterfully blending truth and fiction. In the end, her message remained an undying constant. Love for another, yourself, the planet; it didn’t matter, love conquers all. Tonight was slow. There were no spiritual emergencies looming from any of these walking, talking, specimens of sociologically decaying humans. Although it was a quiet night, Stella felt there was an ill cast to the moon tonight, but the where or why had not become apparent. Imminently, this was about to change. “Good evening, Madame Stella,” a young woman purred in a deep velvety voice as she approached. “Good eve’nin to you Lady Isabelle,” came a smoking induced, raspy reply. The old woman was seated at a rickety fold up card table with mis-matched chairs. The set appeared to have come from the Salvation Army dumpster. On the table was a deck of well loved tarot cards and a crystal ball concealed by a blue velvet cover. Accentuated by brilliant emerald eyes, Isabelle's face was hauntingly flawless. Her dark brown hair spiraled down just past her bare shoulders, contrasting against her cotton white skin. She was tall and slender and provocatively dressed, as usual. Making her routine nightly rounds dressed in black, low cut, lacy attire, she commanded a magnetic effect on passing men that crippled their resistance. And she knew it. It did not matter if they had a female companion with them, her presence always demanded attention. It was ten o’clock, and like most nights Lady Isabelle was on the prowl, constantly searching for fresh meat. As fate dictated, she was the anointed leader of the modern day cult of vampires which inhabited New Orleans. As the stories of vampirism traveled throughout the country, many a wayward soul found the city's rich heritage an ideal place to settle down. This modern day cult consisted of many types: the classic coffin by day, blood drinking by night; wanna be’s and posers, to the more modern day sexual or psychological vampires. But, they all shared one common thread: Lady Isabelle was their leader. Her mysterious persona, natural sex appeal and gothic style made her a natural leader of this bizarre cult of misfits. Her orgasmic consumption of blood was legendary amongst the clan of "living dead". “It looks like a slow night,” Isabelle began. “It’s been steady ‘ere, but I’ve got ‘dis uneasy feeling bout the spirit ways tonight. I’ve been keepin away from dose people," Stella reported, as she thumbed in the direction of the tourist littering the square. I’m jus sittin’ 'ere listenin’ to da wind, what little dere is.” Listening to the wind, as Stella put it, was her unique way of connecting with her Karma. She claimed that she could hear voices calling to her, telling of things to be, and things that had passed, all carried on the soft, gentle breeze that would occasionally caress the senses. Occasionally, the local police would visit Stella concerning unsolved crimes or missing persons. She would provide them with insight as to what had occurred, but often times those clues were jumbled by insensible rants and ravings from the spirit world. Stella was unable to interpret her messages, as she was in a transient state, totally unaware of the words flowing from her mouth. She existed somewhere between the world of the living and the dead and had no memory of these sessions. Only when the messages were comprehensible and clear did the police find her helpful. Although somewhat inconsistent, her gift was known to many. “Lord Child, sit down,” Stella exclaimed, alarmed by a sudden revelation, “It’s you.” “What do you mean it’s me?” Isabelle replied unaware of Stella’s sudden premonition of ill events to transpire. “I’ve been feelin' something foul in the wind. Felt it ‘dis morning when I got up. Been feelin’ it all day. Now ere you are and it’s plain as the black on your dress. It’s you! I can feel it.” Having known Isabelle for many years through frequent nightly visits, they had grown close. Often, the wise gypsy would give stern advice, as one would their child. Like any daughter, Isabelle would choose to ignore or heed the advice. The tone of the warning, along with the belief the old lady’s craft was authentic, instantly sparked Isabelle’s curiosity. “What is it? Can you tell me?” “I don' know. Maybe Kahlea can say.” Kahlea, Stella’s crystal ball, was her link to the spirit world. But unlike most portals to the spirit world, Kahlea worked, or at least Stella believed it so. Whether the globe was indeed a medium, or in fact it was merely her psychic abilities, through Kahlea, Stella witnessed glimpses of the future. Isabelle did as instructed, sitting down and pulling her chair close to Kahlea. Stella began caressing the ball with slow, intimate strokes. Kahlea suddenly developed a steamy condensation from within. Swirling cloud patterns flowed in a clockwise motion, intermittently mixed with dark abstract images that hovered against the current. “I see a man." Isabelle inched forward, attempting to discern the strange images being interpreted. “He comes on wings. Misery and great danger surround his existence." The patterns intensified and began to change hues. "I see evil, a great evil rising from da past. It clouds all our futures. Dere is so much death.” Stella paused and reflected. Unwillingly entangled, she fell deeper within the globe. Genuine concern inched across Isabelle’s face. Never had Stella sounded such an alarm, or steered her down the wrong path. “Much remains unclear,” the old lady continued in a mesmerized tone. “There is great conflict witin dis man.” Abruptly the activity within the ball dissipated, transferring its energy to Stella’s eyes. Her once crystal blue eyes quickly turned opaque gray, blinding her sight. Fear welled up in the old woman. “Flee 'ere child. Dere is much danger." “Ohhh,” Stella moaned woefully, as she glanced up searching, unable to make out the silhouette of the familiar woman before her. “Kahlea has lost her sight. Some evil from beyond has blinded us. Never before as dis appened,” Stella wailed, confused, but not panicked, by this anomaly. Isabelle remained transfixed on Kahlea, waiting for the globe to once again burst to life and reveal a sign, or restore Stella's sight. Neither happened. The gateway to an ancient evil had been breached and unexpectedly terminated by forces unseen. The evil had indeed blinded Kahlea and Stella. The danger of dwelling in the spirit world was never knowing who will awaken to answer the call of the medium. All of her long life Stella had encountered spirits of many types, their triumphs and miseries, all laid out within the reaches of her enlightened mind. Even the most sinister of the spirit world could be tamed by her compassion. But the source from which this message came was not to be interpreted, communicated or reasoned with. Its’ sole purpose was to forewarn of an unleashing of great evil to come. Stella sat in despair. The frightful calamity foretold paled in nature to the violent disruption from the message. Her eyes, painstakingly began to clear as she continued to stare at the blurry silhouette before her. Isabelle's fine details remained shrouded in haze. “I fear Kahlea as been injured. I must take er ome now,” Stella rose, and steadied herself against the table. “But Stella, what does all this mean?” “It means child, you must leave dis place. Leave now and done return any time soon. Your future remains unclear, but dis man, if you stay, his pain you will endure. You must leave. Dat is the only way.” “I can’t leave here, this is my home,” Isabelle proclaimed boldly. “Besides, I have many friends here who will protect me from this man." “I fear dat will not be enough. Dis man brings death to us all. Who lives or dies? Dat vision is lost. I don know your part, but if you stay, you will be consumed in dis, dat much is certain,” Stella lectured, as she hurriedly gathered her belongings from the table. “Listen to me," she said, pointing a crooked finger at Isabelle, "I know your people will try to take care of you. I know you believe you ave to stay, but please leave. Do dis for ol Stella.” “I promise I will be careful.” Taking the old lady’s hand into her own, she gazed about the only city she had ever known. "You know I have nowhere else to go. Besides, traveling for my kind is not as simple as packing a suitcase.” “Your kind,” Stella huffed, “I been tellin’ you for years 'oney, you need new friends. Good people. Dose people ain’t doin’ nothin’ but bringin’ you down baby." “I am one of those people,” Isabelle proclaimed stubbornly. “I know you think I can just change my ways, but you are wrong. I am what I am, and no desire to change will ever alter that.” “And so it is," Stella sighed, gazed up to the heavens, then back to Isabelle. "We are what we are, and dere’s no denyin dat. I know you 'ave no faith, but I pray, God be wit you.” With that, Stella broke hold of Isabelle’s hand and finished packing her belongings into a worn tapestry bag. Isabelle stood and watched Stella clumsily disappear around the corner. Silently, she contemplated the dire warning. But no man controlled her destiny. And after all, it was only one man. Besides, Stella did not know everything. She had never seen, or believed in Isabelle's peculiar circumstances. With the old gypsy gone, Isabelle scoffed defiantly, "What do you know of my kind?"
Excerpted from The Lost Reflection by Bruce Jones Copyright © 2013 by Bruce Jones. Excerpted by permission.
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