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      MARDI GRAS

      MADNESS

      Luke Jacobs, PI

      A novel

      Ken Mask

      DIARY ENTRY

      When a thing is simple, it is surely true. True like an orange-red sunset on a calm lake horizon. True like crescent moonlight shining through sparse racing clouds, honest. New Orleans is always true in simple terms. This is my city, and I don’t like sharin’ it with the faint of soul.

      There is little relief from that blade which slices seasons into pieces of pie like blended moments of day, time, occurrence, and place. The Louisiana sun is knife like piercing, year-round. Interrupted by the occasional rain, which may last for 15 to 30 minutes, there is some relief, but that eye of heaven beams through with dominance-on-off-rain-sun-rain-sun. The combination produces a sauna. Currents of the mighty river turn in every wake as if there is no direction for tides; when moon or sun hits the muddy waters a light brownish-grey hue robs surrounding landscapes of justification. These currents have roared for billions of years. Sounds, smells bounce off the meandering slopes of water like echoes in deep caverns, there is no visible life in those channels-only moving stillness deep, desperate.

      This land is your land this land is my land, star spangled land of multicolor flavors, dreams and hopes dance in the shadows of laughs, cries of long ago of fog and low lying waterways which coat the space like glaciers of flat chocolate milk unforgivingly hard yet giving in the most immediate and primordial manner.

      The centuries old place on the curve of the Mississippi conjures up sounds of long ago-pirate yells, gun fire, banjos, fiddles, drums, smells-spiced garlic crawfish, mint laced roasted pork, sights-tingling spiny dull-green Spanish moss dangling from oaks along bayous, Storyville, multicolor Mardi Gras floats, painted faces, plenty of molasses-sweet beverages and good times flowing all hours day, night. Constant. The pulse and the beat of the streets, the texture of the narrow passages can send you into a tailspin even if you’re careful. ‘Yeah your right’-day or night the place es caliente.

      Let’s talk about a few things that went on leading up to one Mardi Gras. Let’s figure out if the heat of the place and the energy of that heat could have possibly reached not only to nearby locales but to far-off lands. Yeah, talk about friends, family, and strangers; talk about local problems and foreign intrigue.

      Four years ago:

      The Times Picayune

      Matos Found Guilty

      New Orleans- Today prominent New Orleans Lawyer Jake Matos of the firm Matos & Matos was convicted of killing a police officer in Venice, Louisiana. The year-long trial ended after the jury took only three days to come to a decision. Matos’ sentencing hearing begins in two weeks.

      Counselors on both sides failed to comment. In one of the most controversial jurisprudence cases in recent Louisiana history, tensions ran deep: law enforcement versus lawyer, white versus black, establishment versus elite New Orleans inner city connected politics. The trail had been transferred to Orleans Parish after a long battle to keep it in Plaquemines Parish. The events of the day in question remained vague throughout the trial, the only witness being a fellow officer who made the stop along with the victim. The defense had promised another eye witness; however, they were unable to provide one.

      The account is that Jake Matos was traveling back home to New Orleans when during a routine traffic stop in October of last year, on highway 23, an argument began and an altercation erupted. The encounter resulted in gunfire, with the exchange leading to the fatal injury of Officer Jed Phillips, a 25-year veteran of the force. Matos was treated for injuries and released after minor surgery.

      Jury selection proved difficult and subsequent proceedings tense. Today’s long awaited verdict relieved stress among local supporters of the lawyer and state wide opposing law enforcement groups.

      Mixed emotions were expected to lead to violence following the outcome.

      Chapter 1

      “Let’s talk about Jake now.”

      The receiver went dead.

      “Hello, hello, hello!”

      He finished the call with a quivering-voiced young man and blew a deep sigh into a smile. Then in-out, in-out through pinched nostrils. This was the person who had witnessed the encounter that day four years ago, when Jake was stopped by the police in deep country Louisiana. The witness they’d all had been desperately waiting for, needing! Tossing his head back, closed eyes shopped darkened eyelids for a script.

      Excited, heart racing, his breathing deep and rapid, with striking determination, Luke whisked the keys off of the cluttered desktop and proceeded out of the door. The move was reactionary though. Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. He had nowhere to go, really. Where would he start? Should he head down to the precinct to see if the police had talked with the boy? Should he go to the laboratory and corroborate the poisoning story of ‘the new case,’ the Funky Butt Club murder? Should he get down to the jazz club and see how things are playing out there?

      Perhaps he should visit Jake in the Orleans Parish Prison and let him know about the boy's recovery. Maybe let him know that the boy would be available to testify.

      Sweat appeared, rolled downed his upper brow. Halt. Hold on private eye! Is this a full recovery or a temporary break? The doctors said this could come and go.

      And, how was he able to put together the pieces with last night’s Funky Butt Club murder case? The details were on point! How could he relay the events- of Iris French’s scheme and subsequent murder with such precision and clarity?

      He blew whale spouts through his mouth-spinning as he proceeded out of his Bayou St. John private eye office. The keys he’d grabbed weren’t familiar. Frowning, he’d left the apartment just before he’d met Swift in the yard. No, he had been with Margaret, but they were at the apartment-they’d had their nooner. Oh, yes, then he had come here to the office. The Times Picayune rag Swift Gardener (hopelessly preoccupied with feisty waitress, Jan) would be no real help at this point. Whew. Did he? Nagh.

      Strange keys? He scratched his temple, reached around his left ear into the short cropped hair with a wave of fingers. He surveyed the two-room office space for his set of keys. The bunch he’d mistakenly scooped must have been Felicia's, his secretary. But where would she have gone without them? This set clearly looked strange, different. Never did pay attention to keys?

      He placed the unfamiliar keys on the desk, sat on an adjacent stool and scanned the area: desk, sofa, clutter boxes, bookshelves, and cabinet tops. Ah, there beneath a notepad on the end table. A slow sigh melted into a one-sided smile.

      Maybe Phelps had actually been pulling for Jake after discovering his status in New Orleans-after realizing their police officer's story was incoherent, that he’d been lying to the jury, wouldn't he see it that way? Eventually? They were the good old boys down in deep Louisiana south but had quilt, aye?

      He glanced up, down, left, right, around. Shiiggt. He’d need a stenographer from the DA’s office to get down to the country, find the boy’s folks, get a statement. No, he should start an appeal process, get the criminal court office to send someone, a detective to talk with the boy.

      Luke sat in the comfortable sports car parked beneath large live oaks on the Moss Street sloped banks of Bayou St. John. His eyes drooped in the late afternoon Spanish Moss shadows. He daydreamt next moves.

      Wooirriee. Woooirrrieee.

      "Ya,ya. Ya ya?"

      "Jacobs?"

      "Yayayaya. Yes! Yes?"

      "You heard about the boy?

      "What? Who’s this?”

      “Parker, Fifth Ward. Can ya meet us down ‘ere?”

      "Hold up now. Hold up. What cha’ll want from me?"

      "Come

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