One can feel the river as a ghost on the very winds that sweep through the streets carrying with them the pungent perfumes of people, jasmine, horses, burning oil, spilt beer and seafood. It was musk greatly to her liking. As always the dusky deep streets thronged with thousands of tourists around Bourbon but tended to thin out as she moved further away into the back streets of the Vieux Carre. Winter was passing into spring and with it a curtain of sensuality and new growth spread over the early evenings and she made a point of walking them at this time.
Pollen like honey dust, clung to her skin with her sweat and the early evening dew. It was romantic and thrilled her. It gave her images to write her music to. In her mind the notes would smell as sweet as the thoughts of deep green vine and new spring flowers. The secret at the center of the magnolia bloom envenomed with ancient wine.
She turned off of Toulouse and onto Decatur crossing in front of Jackson Square. Here the artists and street musicians would already be imbibing on the night’s blood, drinking from the vein of profits to be taken.
She thought of them as modern pirates or gypsies in their colorful ratty clothes and glittering amulets and beads. The smell of the river grew thicker as she approached. She thought to enter the Cathedral to light candles and smell the incense but the night was too sweet. The river smell mingled with coffee as she passed busy Café DuMonde and up to the river walk. She turned left and half walked, half danced through the poorly lit walkway. Towards the French Market, the more interesting occupants of this beautiful and villainous city thrived. It was here that she was going.
The Market was closing and the many vendors were shutting down, closing carts, and packing away the many wondrous foods and exotic foreign spices that could be found here beneath the veneer of cheap hot sauces and cheaper paper umbrellas.
Onto Barracks and into the darkness she went until she came to the tiny quiet shop she was looking for. Musique Pour les âmes érotiques Pécheuses was written in scrawling gold flourish across an old driftwood plank that served as the shops title. She entered and was immediately assaulted by the essence of very old books and stacks upon stacks of vinyl records. Numerous saint candles and one very old looking chandelier lighted the store.
“Bonjour mon cher doux peu Sakura,” said a voice she knew very well from behind a glass case of fossils and animal skulls. It was Donnez and from his thick gruff tone, it sounded as though he had added an extra pack of Lucky Strikes to his usual three-pack day.
“Bonjour Donnez! Dites-svp moi qu'avez obtenu vous ce que j'avais tellement désespérément demandé ?”
“I have it, I have it Ma Cher as though I could refuse you anything.”
Donnez rose and his ancient chair creaked audibly. He turned and set the needle down on his record player. The shop filled with the sound of scratching record needle. And then the sounds of Vera Lynn singing that they would meet again.
“Don’t know where… don’t know when,” Sakura mouthed.
Donnez coughed harshly, turning away from her direction. Sakura walked over to him and set her hand on top of his. He patted it and shook his head.
“Aucun non aucun mon bonbon, just uh the heavy breathing of a man regarder en bas d'un pistolet de tabagisme.” He turned to face her. “And you Cher do you really desire it?” She saw candles within the low light, reflect in his eyes. “There were a number of people swore…”
“I know I know, but I fear that my curiosity is…” she looked up at him, nearly kissing for a brief moment, “irrevocable.”
Donnez nodded and lit another Lucky Strike with an old sailor’s brass lighter. He sat back down, briefly drank from a wine glass upon his small desk and swiveled his chair around to the lock box. It was an old thing. More like a pirate chest then a safe, but Donnez had proclaimed it stronger than any bank.
Protected by a blessing from Marie Laveau herself, he once told her. From under his shirt he pulled the key and Sakura heard the heavy latch slide. And something else; chimes perhaps?
Donnez opened the chest and hesitated. He reached in and lifted the treasure from it. He turned and held it before her. Sakura felt herself respond as if the Prince Charming of the darkest fairytale had just kissed her hand. A thing of intense beauty, shaped like the unclothed back of an exotic goddess. Its finely grained wood was deep red like pooled blood and glowed in the shops dim light. Somehow it seemed to blur and capture any light that touched it. She reached... tentatively.
“Svp l'amour, comprennent que le paiement est cher.” Donnez spoke deeply. He seemed himself enthralled with pleasure and grief though she knew he had never drawn a bow across a stringed instrument in his life. She stopped, hand poised just over its surface. They regarded each other as lovers, guilty in their many acts of sin. Then she closed her hand over the Violin. Immediately she felt warmth and carefully cradling the instrument in her arm, she looked at her palm. There was no cut there, but her palm was moist with fresh blood. She looked at the violin. Clean it was and no trace of her life upon it.
“Now, please…play it for me. I have sought long to hear it,” he said. Sakura hesitated briefly. Looking at the old shopkeeper.
“Your skill with music is unquestionable,” Donnez spoke, with the sadness of a funeral march and the joy of newfound love quavering in his voice. Sakura felt it in her hand. So light and somehow terribly heavy. Yet she had no trouble positioning it and delicately placing the bow.
She began to play.
Sakura had expected beauty from such a treasure, but nothing like what she heard. The music produced by the violin and her well-trained fingers seemed to fill the very room. The candles dimmed slightly and a feeling of something very old and timeless entombed her. Yet as she played, an overwhelming sensation of passion and ecstasy filled her body and her mind.
It was like true love and heroin woven from the air by music. Donnez was weeping openly and gesturing as though the Madonna had appeared before him. Her hands dripped her life’s blood onto his floor and she was unaware that tears of that same blood were coursing down her cheeks.
Sakura played as though adrift in a sea of warmth. The notes almost played themselves. She did not think of what to play, nor did she know the music. It seemed to be in no key she had ever heard.
It just came... otherworldly and ethereal. And as she listened, the feelings that grew were rapture… bliss greater than any imaginable. Behind her closed lids, a universe of lights danced and played to the song. She felt herself separated from the world she knew, lost and adrift in a warmth and powerful eroticism.
When she finally stopped, Sakura nearly fell. She lowered the violin and looked at Donnez. His passing had been one of utter happiness for he was still smiling. His tears had become small rivers of blood staining his collar. The record was skipping and the candles had burnt to stubs. Her breath heaved and she felt her own cheeks were wet, but now they were only tears. Yet, seeing him did not make her sad.
She leaned over him and kissed his tobacco tasting lips. Before leaving she dialed 911 and left the phone off of the hook. She took the violin with her, feeling no act of thievery in doing so. She knew very well that it had claimed her. The night awaited and there was music to be made in the river-scented air of the quarter.
XXX ZOMBIEBOY XXX