Disclaimers: Here we go again with these slightly tilted bad history lessons, so if you want to stick to the facts I suggest a Louisiana Civics class. Some of the characters are of my own creation and some I borrowed from the Civics class I took in the ninth grade, but hey he was an outlaw himself so fair is fair. If you decide to sue though know that I am a poor person not worth you time and effort.
Now for the sex part, if you find that a relationship between two women distasteful try eating Halloween candy it does wonders for that. But seriously if you are underage and live someplace where that is not allowed move on, literally.
Sit back and enjoy the story and if you have something wonderful to say about it write to me at email@example.com.
I want to thank my betas for correcting this for me. Jaden and Deanie you are both godsends, thanks for making me sound so good.
This one is dedicated to every person that has sent me all those wonderful words of encouragement since the first story I posted. Thanks for taking these journeys with me and for letting me know how much you like them.
Bell of the Mist
The small blonde walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water out of the refrigerator. At the stove, an older woman stirred a pot of shrimp gumbo that had been simmering for hours.
"All squared away sweetie?" asked Mona looking up from her task. The experienced cook tapped the wooden spoon in her hand on the rim of the pot and turned off the low flame under it.
"I guess, but I wish Harry had explained exactly what our costumes are supposed to be. The theme of the LeFleur Halloween party this year is "Legends", but unless Elvis wore some knee high boots in one of his concerts in Vegas, I dont have a clue as to what legend we are going as," answered Desi.
After moving in with her lover, Dr. Harry Basantes three months prior, Desi enjoyed spending her afternoons with Harrys long time housekeeper, Mona. The feisty woman had kept Harry in line for years as well as making sure that the orthopedic surgeon took care of herself.
"This is done cooking for now, so how about you and me go up and see what the big trouble maker brought home with her. What time do you expect Harry to be home?" asked Mona taking the large pot off the hot burner. Mona was glad to see Harry starting to join the world of the living after getting Desi back into her life, and the party the two were going to the next evening was going to be their first official social outing since getting back together.
"They just started a knee replacement about thirty minutes ago, so she should be home around seven," said Desi talking about Harrys surgical team. She looped her arm around Monas and dragged the cook out of the kitchen. "Come on Mona lets go upstairs, sit outside and have a drink."
The two women made their way up to the large master suite that Harry and Desi shared and stopped in front of the two garment bags that Harry had left there that morning before heading out to the hospital. When Mona unzipped the one that was meant for the tall surgeon to wear, she smiled and knew instantly who Harry and Desi were going to dress as. Having worked for the Basantes family since Harry and her brother were children, Mona had taken great pleasure in telling them about some of New Orleans more famous citizens and some of their infamous deeds.
The muddy road was littered with water filled ruts that were well disguised in the fog coming off of the Mississippi River. The coachman moved the six horse hitch slowly forward, not wanting to take the chance of either overturning or losing a wheel, either of which would strand he and his passengers in the middle of nowhere for the night. To his left, the small lantern was throwing off enough light to see about fifteen feet in front of him, which was why he didnt see the man sitting on his horse in the middle of the road until the last possible moment. When the driver pulled back forcefully on the reins the coach skidded a little to the left coming precariously close to falling down the embankment.
"Whoa, driver. Dont you know that these are dangerous roads to travel at night? God only knows who you will encounter in your journeys," the deep voice rumbled from in front of him. With the fog and no moon, all William the driver could make out was the knee high black boots that seemed to throw off their own light, they were so well polished and taken care of. When the man rode closer all the driver could concentrate on was the pistol pointed at his head. He looked up when the man spoke to him again and for his own self-preservation he put up his hands. "If Im not mistaken, you should have the gold deposit for the bank somewhere along with the luggage you are carrying. Be a good boy and go up there and find it for me."
The black mask that covered his face and his polite manner told William that this could only be the robber known as The Land Pirate. Others had mistaken his politeness for weakness and found themselves bleeding from the forehead from the always accurate shots the man discharged from the two pistols he carried. For William it was an easy decision; the banks money was not worth his life. In the back of the coach the passengers sat motionless hoping that the thief would be content with the gold and leave them alone. From the roof they could hear the driver throwing down bags until he came to the locked chest and threw that over the side as well. The impact with the ground broke the chest open showing the thief the two-tied money bags inside. "If you please, my good man." William jumped down and hefted up the two bags and placed them in the saddlebags on the large black horses flanks.
Struggling with the bags, William was able to study the thief, wondering what the face behind the mask really looked like? Into the well-oiled boots were tucked tight black pants and there was a black cloak draped over the mans shoulders as well. The hat he wore was black and in the style the riverboat gamblers liked. The only color the thief wore was the white shirt that peeked out every time he moved in the saddle. "Whats your name, boy?"
"William, sir," answered the driver as he heaved the bags onto the horse. When he was done the thief motioned for him to get back on the coach. The black horse moved forward and stopped when the rider was even with the back windows. He looked in and studied the passengers he knew were traveling from Napoleonville to New Orleans for the start of the season. Rich planters and their families usually kept a house or an apartment in New Orleans, as well as their large plantations along the river. Leaving the homesteads in the hands of their foremen, the families would go into town for the parties and balls that came after the Christmas holidays.
The stillness was broken when the robber flashed a handsome smile to the young woman seated between her an older couple. Pressing the end of the pistol into the old mans head, the man made another polite request. "Would you mind terribly changing seats with the young woman sir?" The man shook his head as sweat poured down his face. Standing up, he moved to sit next to his wife as his niece moved to the window.
"I seem to have found two treasures tonight," said the deep voice. Pulling off a black leather glove with his teeth, he gently cupped the young womans cheek in his palm and leaned in for a kiss. The man was so gentle that the young woman almost moaned when his soft lips met hers. The thief broke the kiss and leaned back on his horse. With the ungloved hand he reached into a small pocket in the top of his pants and pulled out a small velvet bag. "Such beauty and generosity should be rewarded, my dear," he said placing the gift in her hand.
"William, you done well tonight, boy. The bank lost its deposit, but you will live to drive another day. Thank you and good night. Stay your course and you will find the next town about five miles away." As he flicked the horse to move away, the gentleman robber flipped William a gold coin before disappearing into the mist. Behind him in the coach, the young woman pulled the string on the small pouch and poured the contents into her palm. If there had been any doubt to the robbers identity, this removed them. There in her hand, were two beautiful emerald earrings. The young woman, whose lips were still tingling, would have traded the jewelry for another kiss and another look into the brilliant blue eyes behind the mask.
Jackson Lafitte stole from the rich but the gifts he left behind were purchased. The law had yet to find any jeweler willing to admit that they furnished the emeralds The Land Pirate gifted to the women he picked out. With each heist the stories and rumors grew as to who this handsome man was. No one had ever seen his face, but his gentle manner and heart stopping kisses were becoming legendary.
"Mona who was Jackson Lafitte?" asked Desi. She ran her hand through her hair, in what Mona had come to recognize as an unconscious habit on the young womans part. "Ive never heard of him." They were sitting outside enjoying the cooling temperatures and the stars from the large veranda off the master suite. Between their two chairs sat an open bottle of wine, and being so caught up in the story, neither heard Harry drive up and come into the house. Both Desi and Mona almost spilled their wine when the deep voice from behind them answered the question.
Harry remembered this story as being one of her favorites Mona had shared with her growing up. Many a night she had been put to sleep dreaming of the adventures of Jackson and what he did with the loot he stole.
"Thats because you werent around when Mona was spinning her tales. Jackson was real and a hero to the slaves in the area back before the Civil War. A modern day Robin Hood if you will, only in the Deep South during the black period that was slavery," answered Harry. Mona smiled at the tall surgeon knowing that she had something to do with the way that Harry perceived people, or didnt perceive them. To her employer and friend, Harry saw a person and what they were about. Nowhere in the equation did the color of their skin play a factor. If Harry liked you or didnt like you it was because of who you were and how you treated people.
Desi jumped up and into the arms she had missed all day. As fascinating as the story Mona had been telling was, the allure of Harrys lips won out. "Where are Kenneth and the fruitcake?" asked Mona when they came up for air.
"The fruitcake was about a block behind me and Kenneth is coming in from Mercy in about thirty minutes. That should give me a chance to run and shower before we eat," said Harry, never breaking eye contact with Desi.
"Good God, girl, I guess if I want you to do anything from now on Ill have to attach one of them sticky notes to Desis forehead for you to see it," grumbled Mona as she moved back into the room. The miffed tone was only in teasing though since Mona couldnt be happier that Harry had found her one true love and had settled down to a more balanced life. The green eyes that followed the tall brunette around the room were winning the battle of attention for the workaholic surgeon. Harry still worked hard, but now instead of finding more work at the hospital she came home to spend time with Desi.
"If you need us Mona, well be in the shower," said Harry as her surgical scrub top hit the old woman in the back of the head. The low cursing was drowned out by Desis laughter as she followed Harry into the bathroom.
"Shes just going to put you over her knee one day and spank you. You are aware of this arent you?" asked Desi. Harry pulled the sweater the young woman had been wearing over her head and reached behind her to unfasten her bra. Desi returned the favor by pulling the string of the scrub pants watching as they fell to the floor. "Im already clean you know," Desi commented as she lost more clothes to the agile fingers running along her body. Harrys agile digits were as talented out of the operating room as they were in.
"Honey, you can never be too clean," was Harrys answer. They spent some quality time in the shower just touching and kissing not taking it any further yet, knowing that their guests for dinner would all be there soon. When they were dressed, Harry gave her lover a piggyback ride down the stairs, hearing laughter coming out of the kitchen. "Guess the boys got here ok."
To set the mood for a nice dinner, Harry built a fire in the fireplace in the kitchen and dimmed the lights. Desi and Tony helped Mona set the table while Kenneth opened another bottle of wine. They sat at the table next to the bay windows and toasted Mona on another pot of her legendary gumbo.
"Ok so finish telling me about this Jackson Lafitte character, Mona," said Desi. The dinner was slow and relaxed since it was Friday night and neither Harry nor Kenneth were on call and didnt have to go to work the next day. Both couples were going to the costume party and had been looking forward to it for weeks.
"Ill let Harry take over from where I left off. Now that we have Butch, the good doctor has become a better story teller than I ever was," quipped Mona. Harry threw a piece of French bread at her that the housekeeper batted away and laughed.
"To tell the tale of Jackson, you have to go back to the beginning," started Harry.
"Are you going to the Quadroon Ball this year Jean?" asked Philip. The two had sailed together from the time Jean Lafitte had become the rogue pirate famous throughout the Louisiana territory.
"Of course man. Jewel has spoken of nothing else for three months. She is out getting her final fitting for the gown shes going to wear," answered Jean. The New Orleans social season was littered with balls and large parties, but this one was the one most enjoyed by the gentleman and ignored by their wives.
The Quadroon Ball was the one social occasion for the slave mistresses that almost all gentlemen and plantation owners kept. It was their night to shine and forget the miserable existence that was their lives as someone elses property. Jewel was different than most though. Jean had seen her on the auction block next to the port one day and bought her on a whim. Nursing her back to health, the pirate didnt treat her like a slave but as someone he was courting. She had the run of his large house in New Orleans, and was given an allowance while he was away at sea.
In time the small and delicate woman came to love the pirate, and he in return had fallen in love with her. Jean Lafitte would never marry, but Jewel was as close as he would ever come at this point in his life. Because she was colored, Jewel was not allowed to attend the other balls with him, so the Quadroon Ball was something she looked forward to. It was an exquisite feeling for her to be twirled around the ballroom in the arms of the man she loved. Jean was a pirate, but he was a gentleman with impeccable manners and an easy charm. He was tall with black hair that he kept long enough to pull into a ponytail, blue eyes and tan skin from all his time at sea. Despite his profession, the man was considered a worthy catch to any debutante that could capture his attention.
With a quick check of his pocket watch, Jean paid his bar tab and headed to the dress shop he had dropped Jewel at an hour before. Jean made his way along the wooden sidewalk tipping his hat to the ladies who crossed his path. Through the window of the dress shop he could see Jewel talking to the seamstress about what he assumed were last minute changes.
Both women looked up when the bell over the door chimed admitting the large strong body of a man. "Ready, cheri?" asked Jean. Jewel in his opinion was aptly named. Small in stature, the woman was beautiful. Her light colored eyes and dark soft hair had a way of stirring his passions like no other woman before her, and the man called The Terror of the Gulf lived to see the young woman smile at him.
"Whenever you are my love," answered Jewel in flawless French. The only difference between her and the cultured ladies of society was that the law considered her a slave. The two lovers made their way home where Jewel talked Jean into spending the afternoon napping with her. When they woke up from a long afternoon of love making, Jewels dress was hanging in the room ready for the ball that night.
The man at the door announced them when they stepped into the room, and more than one man turned an envious eye on Jean. The low cut blue silk ball gown Jewel had on, accentuated her coloring and showed off her figure like a second skin. Toward the back of the room, a set of brown eyes followed the pair as they greeted friends and drank champagne.
"Who is that?" asked Henri Lecompte. He couldnt take his eyes off Jewel and in that instant vowed to have her. Henri was a cruel man who had just taken over the Twelve Oaks Plantation after the death of his father. The over two hundred slaves that worked his property had learned to fear the son more than they had the father. A long bullwhip was always coiled at Henris hip, and he never spared his shoulder to inflict punishment.
"Forget that one Henri, she is Jean Lafittes consort, and even though she is his slave he loves her. Beautiful though, isnt she?"
"That she is," answered Henri in an almost thoughtful voice. The man standing next to him noticed the glare of his eyes and the malicious smile curling his lips. "For an animal," he added after the man walked away.
Jean and Jewel danced and enjoyed each others company for the rest of the evening unaware of Henris constant vigil on them. It would be one of the last pleasant nights that Jewel would enjoy, in what would turn out to be a painfully short life.
Seeing Jewel standing on the dock waving him goodbye would be the last time Jean Lafitte saw the woman he loved. Had he known she carried his child it might have persuaded him into not sailing that day, and had he done so, Jean would have changed three fates that day.
Two weeks after Jean set out, four men broke into his home and kidnapped Jewel. The young woman was never seen again and no one had any idea whatever happened to her.
"Well, what happened to her?" asked an impatient Desi. The group of friends had moved into the sunroom and another fire after they had finished dinner. Even Kenneth and Tony who had heard the story countless times before sat mesmerized by Harrys low voice.
"I can see if we ever have children that you will teach them to turn to the last page of all their story books. Jewel was never seen again and until he died Jean looked for her. It was rumored that after her disappearance his face always had a look of longing and sadness. Now if you kiss me, Ill tell you the rest," said Harry. The blonde that was practically sitting on her lap softly pressed her lips to Harrys as encouragement to finish. Harry held her tight glad to know that despite all her own difficulties in their separation, the innocent child that Desi had been was still buried in there. The person Desi had been came back stronger every day that she spent in Harrys heart, and the love that had started years before grew stronger as well. The other three in the room could see that they completed each other and despite the pain, they knew the two were better and happier together than apart.
"How was that?" asked Desi when they broke apart. She moved the rest of the way into Harrys lap putting her head down on a strong shoulder. The fact that she could feel the burl of Harrys deep voice as well as hear it made Desi smile in anticipation of the rest of the story.
"Fabulous. Where was I?" joked Harry.
Jewel woke up in a small shack that held a stale smell. The windows had been boarded up and the only light was the sunlight that filtered in between the boards. She still had her nightgown on and her head hurt where the men had hit her with some hard object. It took her only a second to realize that she was not alone in the room when she heard the breathing coming from the corner of the room.
"How do you like your new home precious?"
"Please sir, I am the property of Jean Lafitte," said Jewel. The room was too dark for her to make out who the man was and his voice didnt sound familiar to her. From his vantage point her captor could make out her face through the dust floating in the air.
"Not anymore my dear Jewel. You will live out your life here in this room servicing me. I have been sitting here thinking about all the wonderful fun we are going to have together," he continued. Taking one more gulp of whiskey Henri Lecompte unbuckled his pants and prepared to enjoy the fruits of his stolen goods. He ignored her crying and pleading beneath him as he savagely raped her.
The only thought that played out in Jewels head when he was done was for the welfare of her unborn child. For the next seven months this last connection with Jean was the only thing that kept her sane. Jewels body was littered with whip marks and burns from Henris cigars, but still the life within her moved in her belly. When she was alone she smiled, thinking that Jeans child held the same fierce spirit as the man who had sired him.
On a cold night in October, Jewel gave birth to Jackson Lafitte with the help of the slave midwife that worked for Henri. The woman never spoke to her except to tell her to push, and her swollen left eye told Jewel that no slave on this hell she had been brought to was safe from the masters vindictiveness.
"The little bastard even looks like him," commented Henri as he watched Jewel breastfeed her child. Jackson was born with Jeans tan looking skin, black hair and bright blue eyes. The child he would never know about or meet.
"I will do anything you want if you leave my child alone," pleaded Jewel.
"Precious, you will do anything I want anyway. You have no bargaining power with me. I own you, dont you realize that by now?" asked Henri. Holding the baby up to the lamplight he considered just smashing his head into the ground ridding himself of one more mouth to feed, but he could tell the long boned child would grow to be a fine worker for him.
Before her death, Jewel had whispered her wishes to the midwife as if having a premonition of what was to come. Jacksons adoptive mother, kept her promises to the woman who lived out her last days in the dark shack, telling the child of the parents who loved him. A month later, Henri killed Jewel in a drunken fit of rage and Jackson was sent to the slave quarters for the midwife to raise. Henri called him "Dog" and forbade the slaves to give the child a name. The midwife told him when he was old enough what name his mother wanted him to have and that is the name he adopted.
By age ten the strong back was littered with permanent whip marks from Henris favorite toy as punishment for Jewels weakness. At age eleven Jackson ran for the first time, only to be caught by the dogs two miles away in the woods. On the third attempt at escape, Henri branded a large R into Jacksons back to mark the slave as a runner. Two years later, Jean and Jewels child ran into the night and was never seen again.
With white skin and blue eyes Jackson had no problem living the life of a southern gentleman. Watching the men that visited the whorehouse that had provided a job, Jackson learned what clothes were right and what language was acceptable. Only a few of the slaves on Henris plantation knew of his parentage, so it was the blood of Jean that made Jackson a masterful thief. One that was as rich as he was elusive to catch.
He arrived in New Orleans three hours after relieving the coach of its gold shipment. The people that were up with the sun watched him pass making comments on how much the young man looked like the rogue Jean. Everyone thought it, but no one ever told him to his face the rumors of who his father might be. Jackson had chosen the name Lafitte not only in memory of Jewel, but also to hide in plain sight.
After a bath and a long sleep he was planning on attending the Batiste party that would kick off the season. Jackson always attended alone, and there were no women within the social circles that could brag that they had ever bedded the sometimes aloof Jackson Lafitte. The man obviously had money, but no one ever questioned its origins, and he had charm, which was apparent by how many women he attracted to his side at any social event.
Jackson walked in to the party alone, looking handsome in his dark suit and boots and ignored the looks his way from both men and women. Leaning on the bar, the thief surveyed the room as he sipped his first drink, stopping when he looked upon the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
He caught glimpses of her smile from behind her fan as she talked with another young woman. Her blonde hair was pulled up into curls on the top of her head as was the fashion of the day, and her dress was such a dark burgundy that it looked black as she moved. As if feeling someone staring at her, the woman looked in his direction and Jackson was lost in two eyes as green as the emeralds he gave away to women as a reward for a kiss.
Like the conversation that had taken place years before Michael, the bartender said, "Forget that one Jackson." The old slave behind the bar had worked for the Batiste family since he had been a boy, and like most of the slaves around the New Orleans territory knew of Jacksons exploits. The Land Pirate lived well, but some of his ill-gotten gains were given back in the form of medicine and food to the area slaves on the sly. Folks would get up for a long day of labor and find staples no owner would provide, and they knew that Jackson was alive to ride another day. Any slave that would try to sell him out to the white law would find punishment at the hands of their own. The ultimate joke was the way the city people threw themselves at the ex-slaves feet, trying to gain his good favor. They would kill him if they ever saw the brand on his back along with the whip marks that never quite faded no matter how many years past.
"Why Michael, shes pretty enough?" asked Jackson. He smiled back at the woman and dipped his head in respect to the lady.
"Shes taken, boy. Last month she was wed to Henri Lecompte," answered Michael pouring the man another dark rum. The bartender saw the dark look that passed over Jacksons face at hearing Lecomptes name. Before he had a chance to say another thing, Michael watched Jackson walk across the room toward the young woman as a waltz began to play.
"Madame, may I have the pleasure of this dance?" asked Jackson. He bowed at the waist as was expected and held his hand out as an invitation.
"May I ask your name, sir?" asked the soft voice in front of him. Her fan was low enough for Jackson to see the beautiful eyes that had drawn him across the room.
"Jackson Lafitte, at your service Madame .?"
"Lecompte. My name is Bella Lecompte."
"And beautiful you are Madame Lecompte," said Jackson taking her hand and placing a kiss on her knuckles. He smiled at the blush making its way up her neck, distracting her enough to lead her to the dance floor.
The other partygoers murmured how much better the girl looked in Jacksons arms than those of her new husbands. Instead of the envy Henri thought his marriage would bring, it had only made him a laughing stock for picking someone so young. Having no dowry, Bella had no choice but to marry him when her father struck the deal. The one saving factor of the whole ordeal was the fact that while Henri liked to stare at her, after a month he hadnt touched her in any intimate way.
"Are you having a good time Madame?" asked Jackson with a smile.
"Please call me Bell, Mr. Lafitte, and yes Im having a wonderful time. Do you know the Batiste family?" asked Bell.
"Yes, I sometimes hunt with Stefan at their plantation. Are you here for the season Bell? And please feel free to call me Jackson." Bell followed Jacksons lead so flawlessly that they looked like they had danced together for years.
"Yes my husband and I have a set of rooms at the hotel on the square. This has all been so exciting for me since this is my first time to the city. My family never ventured off the homestead very often. Do you live here in town?" asked Bell. Neither one of them noticed that the song had ended and another had begun.
"I have a house here close to the river. If you will permit me, I would love to show you and your husband some of the sights and treat you to lunch during your stay," offered Jackson.
"I would love to," started Bell before seeing Henri at Jacksons back. His brown eyes seemed almost black with hate and the rest of her response died in her throat. Jackson stopped dancing at her expression and turned around to see what had upset her so much. Behind him stood the man that had killed his mother and made the first years of his life miserable, but Jackson held in his contempt and held out his hand.
Henri looked at him as if trying to place where he knew the man from. There was something so familiar about Jackson, but the connection eluded him for the moment. "Mr. Lecompte, I presume," said Jackson.
"Yes and you are?"
"Jackson Lafitte, sir. I would like to thank you for the privilege of dancing with your lovely wife. As a repayment I hope that you will except my invitation to lunch tomorrow," offered Jackson. There was no reason not to accept so Henri did so and after reclaimed his wife for the rest of the song. Bell watched the man leave as Henri twirled her around the room, hoping that Mr. Lafitte would fulfill his promise of lunch so that she could talk with him again.
"I saw him tonight for the first time since leaving," said Jackson. The woman taking off his shirt was the only servant allowed in his private suite of rooms. Monique spent her nights with Jackson, but they had never been lovers. They just both enjoyed the company of sharing the bed with someone else. She was the only one Jackson trusted to keep all his secrets, which was why Monique was the only one that had a key that unlocked the doors where Jackson was free to be himself.
"My love, that must have been horrible for you," said Monique. She unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it from his trousers.
"No cheri, I was actually calm. Henri Lecompte has no more power over me. He is married now, has been for a month. I was dancing with his wife when he walked up so I invited them both to lunch tomorrow," said Jackson as Monique unbuttoned the pants he was wearing. Sitting him on the bed, Monique pulled off Jacksons boots then stood him up to remove the pants. When he was as naked as she was, Monique admired the body of Jackson Lafitte and the hidden treasures that were covered by the fine clothes.
Monique was one of the only people still living that knew Jackson Lafitte was actually the daughter born to Jean and Jewel. The tall woman had inherited her fathers build as well as his facial characteristics. The deep voice had made it easier to pass herself off as the gentleman that everyone had come to know, and after her escape from Henri she had become an accomplished fighter as well as marksman. Of the house servants in her employ, the one that shared Jacksons bed was the only one that knew the complete truth, not only of her gender, but where the money they lived off came from. Till the day she died Monique would keep Jacksons secrets as payment for saving her from the auction block.
"You are taking them to lunch?" asked Monique. She kissed Jacksons chest and led her to the bed. Monique straddled Jacksons lower back and began a deep massage waiting for the woman to finish her story.
"Yes I am. I am interested in getting to know this woman that Henri has married. I am convinced that she is too young for him, so she was either forced or is brainless. Something about her intrigues me," said Jackson. The muscles in her back relaxed under Moniques knowing touch. They went through the same ritual every night when Jackson was home. The woman would massage her back then finish with a kiss to the angry brand on Jacksons back.
"Arent you afraid that Henri will recognize you, Jackson?" asked Monique. She was not anxious to return to the life of a normal slave if anything should happen to Jackson.
"He looked at me hard tonight as if trying to remember me, but I dont think he will figure me out for the runaway slave from twelve years ago. My eyes are still blue, but I have grown into this body now so Im not concerned cheri. Im not that child he was free to whip whenever it struck his fancy to do so. Come, lets get some sleep, I have a full day tomorrow."
Monique draped herself along Jacksons left side pillowing her head on the broad shoulder. Dawn wasnt too far away and across town Bells last conscious thought was of Jackson and if he would call on them in the early afternoon. The man had the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen and the thought of spending more time with him was definitely appealing.
"Jackson was a woman!" exclaimed Desi, pulling her head off the shoulder she had it lying on. They had all been listening to Harrys story for over an hour and no one looked like they wanted to move until they had heard the end.
Mona came in with hot chocolate for everyone and laughed at Desis constant interruptions. The older woman couldnt wait to see Harry as a parent telling these stories before the small Basantes children went to bed. Mona was certain the tall doctor and her small companion would be naturals at the task of raising children. When that time came, she was going to take a more supervisory position leaving the running after small bodies to the younger set.
"Yes Jackson was a woman. She was a strong woman that was ahead of her time, and who became a living legend to the African American people who were living as slaves in the area during that time. From her came the medicine and supplies that saved a lot of them from beatings at the hands of their masters. She also left food for the children who werent given as much because they werent old enough to work yet. I think your partner did well in picking yalls costumes," said Mona.
"Ill say, I never even heard of this woman and yet she did so much," added Desi. Knowing that Desi wasnt going to move, Mona handed her a large mug so that she and Harry could share. "Come on honey, lets get on with it."
Jackson hired a carriage for her trip to the Riverside Hotel where Henri and Bell were staying. Monique sent one of the young boys ahead to the restaurant to secure Jacksons reservation if indeed the Lecomptes were going to join her for lunch. She saw Henri in a deep discussion with a man that Jackson recognized as an exporter figuring they were discussing prices for Henris crops.
"Good afternoon gentleman, I hope Im not disturbing you," said Jackson. She took note of the half-empty whiskey bottle on the table and the contracts sitting next to it. The buyers glass still held what she guessed was his first drink and by looking at Henris eyes knew were the missing half had gone. Jackson smiled back at the buyer when he figured out she knew his best bargaining tool when it came to doing business with Henri Lecompte.
"Actually, Mr. Lafitte, we will be a few more hours. I apologize for not sending a message along to you to tell you that we couldnt make it. I use this time in the city to take care of business as well as indulge in a little fun," said Henri with a slight slur in his voice. He looked over the young man again trying to figure out why he looked so familiar to him but the whiskey was starting to take effect. It was the only explanation for his next offer. "Why dont you take Bella with you instead? You look like a gentleman that I can trust with my wife, Mr. Lafitte. Im sure shes tired of looking at the walls of our rooms by now."
"She will be perfectly safe with me, Mr. Lecompte. You have my word as a gentleman. I thought she might enjoy seeing the new church before we have lunch," offered Jackson. It took restraint not to rub her hands together in anticipation of spending the afternoon alone with Bell.
"Im sure she will, now, if you will excuse us," said Henri ready to get back to his talk with Jasper. As a token of thanks Jackson poured the next round for them before heading to the front desk to collect Bell. The two men engrossed in cotton prices never noticed Jackson and Bell leaving.
Stepping outside, Bell was glad to take Jacksons arm as he led her to the carriage he had waiting. "What a beautiful afternoon Mr. Lafitte," said Bell.
"Please Bell, if we are going to spend the day together call me Jackson." She settled Bell in the back of the carriage and tapped the driver to go. Jackson sat a respectable distance away from her not wanting any talk about the young woman with her.
"Thank you Jackson." Bell opened her parasol and admired the buildings of the French section of the city as the carriage started forward.
"I thought you might like to see some of the sights before we head to Antoines for lunch," said Jackson. She turned a little in the seat to face Bell loving the smiles that came across the womans small mouth. They stopped at the church as Jackson had told Henri, but they had covered most of the city by the time they sat down to have lunch. A few conversations stopped when Bell entered on the arm of the most sought after bachelor in New Orleans. The owner of the restaurant sat them personally fawning over one of his best customers.
"Is there something on my face Jackson?" asked a confused Bell. The naive woman was noticing the side-glances and open stares toward their table.
"No Bell you look fine. If you dont find me too forward, Ill tell you what they are looking at," said Jackson with a smile.
"Jackson, youve been nothing if not well behaved all day, I would never think you forward," said Bell. In the back of her mind she wondered how she would react if the man did step out of line.
"The men sitting around us are jealous that I am here with the most beautiful woman in the city, and the women are wondering what your secret is to get the standoffish Jackson out to lunch. I think this is the first time I have come here in the company of a lady," said Jackson. The blush that was coloring Bells cheeks was sure to start a rumor all on its own. The waiter arriving with wine saved the young woman from having to respond to Jacksons comments.
Jackson enjoyed Bells company on a few more afternoons before she and Henri left to go home. The more time they did spend together, the more that Bell dreaded going back to the life of being Mrs. Henri Lecompte. Jackson talked to her like a person worthy of an opinion, and they shared a lot of common interests. How different would her life be if Jackson had asked her father for her hand instead of Henri she wondered?
"Im leaving tomorrow," she said softly. Bell was sitting in the empty church as an excuse to see Jackson one more time. Her friend was sitting one pew behind her and she heard him exhale.
"I know cheri, and I will miss you," answered Jackson. The French endearment tumbled from his lips before he could pull it back and because of her position, Jackson missed the smile that lit up Bells face. "I would write you but Im sure that your husband will not appreciate me doing so, so I will have to wait until next year to see you again."
"I too will miss you, Jackson. Will you promise to think of me often?" asked Bell. She had no right to ask that of him, but she was beyond reason now. The thought of waiting a year to see him was killing her, and what if he found someone in that time?
The touch on her shoulder was so light and quick that Bell barely registered it, but she knew he could do nothing more and not compromise her reputation. For months she would remember the soft voice in her ear telling her, "I will find it hard to think of nothing else cheri. Be well and I promise we will see each other again."
Later that afternoon Bell and Henri boarded the coach that would take them back to Twelve Oaks Plantation. Having spent his morning in the hotel bar, Henri slept for most of the trip out of the city stirring only so often. They would spend two days traveling back to their home and Bell hoped that her husband would stay drunk. On the second night the young woman looked out of the window to the water of the river glittering in the moonlight, enjoying it while it lasted before the fog set in. A couple of hours later Henri had barely spoken to her and Bell was lost in thought when the coach came to an abrupt stop.
"Why in the hell did you stop driver?" screamed Henri from the back. The lurching of the coach pulled him out of his sleep and almost onto the floor.
"Please sir, be still. There is a man blocking the road ahead of us," replied the driver before turning his attention back to the still figure ahead of them. Dressed in black and draped in fog, the man on the black horse almost looked like a ghost, but his pistol looked very real. "Sir, we carry no valuables so please let us get on our way."
"I shall judge what is valuable or not driver, but not to worry I wont hurt anyone unless provoked." Nudging the horse closer brought both pistols into view for the driver and the nervous man stared down the barrels. "Please jump down and start walking back down the road and take the gentleman with you. If you return before the hour I shall have to reload my weapons before the night is done. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," answered the driver. The man was on the ground before he finished his statement and had opened the door of the carriage.
"I will not leave my wife behind you bastard," said Henri as he leaned his body out of the coach.
"Sir, I give you my word that she will not be harmed or touched in any way. You can chose to believe me and return to her alive in an hour, or I could just shoot you now and still keep my promise."
Jackson kept her position until he couldnt see or hear Henri and the driver on the road. Years of experience at the job she had picked told her that they were still walking and out of hearing range. The fact that Henri had acquiesced so quickly told her that he was indeed a coward and a bully.
The courageous one in the Lecompte family looked at her from her seat in the coach as if steeling herself for the worst. It had only been two days but Jackson had missed Bell more than she could have guessed, and it was the only reason for this stunt tonight. Once the two had reached Henris plantation Jackson would have missed her opportunity.
"I came only to steal a kiss from the beautiful lady," she said softly. Jackson kept one pistol in her hand just in case but removed the glove from the other.
"Then you will be on your way?" asked Bell. Her nerves and fear made her not recognize the voice.
"Then I will be on my way cheri," answered Jackson. It was the endearment that brought her head out of the coach for a closer look at their robber. There under the mask were the blue eyes she had come to love and below it the smile that made her wish she werent married to someone else.
"Jackson, I knew you would come," Bell said in a whisper. Bell touched Jacksons jaw with her fingertips and gave him a beseeching look. Without her having to ask, Jackson removed her mask for the first time while in disguise. Jackson leaned in and claimed the lips she had been dreaming about for weeks, wanting nothing more than to touch Bell all over, but settling for the stolen kiss. It was for Bella her first real kiss, and it was everything she had read in her romance novellas. Jackson stirred feeling in her with one kiss that no one before her ever had and she prayed it would never end.
"I love you cheri and I couldnt go another day without telling you," said Jackson. She leaned in for another kiss and Bell opened her mouth willingly in acceptance. The young woman was about to cry because of the pure pleasure of it all and because of Jacksons confession.
"I love you too, so much that it scares me Jackson. How am I supposed to wait a year without seeing you now?" asked Bell. If God granted her a wish it would be for Jackson to pull her on the horse and ride away.
"Ill think of something Bell, until then be well and know that I love you." Jackson kissed her again and disappeared into the mist like she had never been there at all. From further down the road Jackson waited until the two men she had sent away returned not wanting to leave Bell unprotected in the road.
"Did that bastard touch you?" demanded Henri when he did return.
"No Henri, he didnt. He was a man of his word despite his actions. If you dont mind I would like to go on now," said Bell looking away from her husband. Each day without Jackson would be like a slow death for her.
"She kissed Bell and then just rode away?" asked Desi. It had started to rain as Harry was telling her the story causing Desi to burrow further into Harrys lap. The cold weather was something unusual for the New Orleans area so early in the year, and Desi was glad the house Harry had bought had so many fireplaces in it.
"Yes baby, she kissed her and rode away. With more planning, Jackson would have been better off paying Henris cruelty for her parents by kidnapping Bell, but she had more honor than that. If she had to spend her life loving Bell from a distance I think she would have done it, but circumstances didnt work out for them like that.
"What happened honey?" asked Desi.
"If you are asking me all these questions I cant tell you baby," said Harry. She laughed at the sheepish look on Desis face before taking up where she had left off.
Two months went by at Twelve Oaks and Bell tried to fill her days with any activity that would keep her mind off Jackson. She would eavesdrop on her husbands conversations with some of their neighbors when they talked about The Land Pirate that was seen in the area. They were convinced it was the same man that had been robbing the coaches for years even though there were no more gifts or kisses for the pretty ladies riding.
Henri predicted that it would only be a matter of time before the son of a bitch was brought to justice at the end of a noose. His statement was overheard not only by Bell, but also by the old slave woman pouring her a glass of lemonade. Sally had been the midwife that had brought Jackson into the world years before and had prayed for her safety ever since. The rumors of Jacksons good deeds had traveled even to Twelve Oaks among her people and the old slave knew her runner was still alive. What puzzled her was the terror on Miss Bells face when her husband threatened Jacksons life.
"Are you all right Miss? Do you need me to get the master for you?" asked Sally. Bell shook her head and got up to go inside. Sally followed her up the stairs to the room Bell occupied in the house. Master Henri stayed down the hall and was still taking his pleasure out in the shacks at the back of the property.
"Miss Bell you look like you seen the dead or something," said Sally. She walked to the window to make sure Master Henri was still talking to the man that had ridden up that afternoon.
"Im sorry Sally, that talk downstairs just frightened me," said Bell. She too looked down on the two men deep in conversation as a feeling of dread made her shiver.
"You dont have to worry none about that pirate Miss. In a way hes doing what you refer to as Gods work," said Sally trying to calm the girl down. For the first time since they stepped inside the room Bell turned her full attention on Sally. Could the woman know Jacksons secret?
"What do you mean Sally?"
"Nothing Miss, please forgive me for talking out of turn. I meant no harm, just an old womans foolishness."
"Please Sally, you can trust me, I mean him no harm either." Bell moved closer to the old woman as encouragement for her to go on.
Sally thought about that statement before saying anything else. Bell was nice enough to them, but was it a ploy to gain their confidence for Henri to punish later? In the past two weeks Jackson had made it as far as the Twelve Oaks as the news of the parcels left in the night spread through the slave quarters. Getting up for water one night, Sally even swore she saw a cloaked figure coming out of the shack Jewel had been kept in during her captivity on the plantation. Henri had kept it boarded up and empty since the womans death, becoming even more maniacal after Jewels demise.
"Him, Miss Bell?" asked Sally. The midwife looked at the young womans face trying to read her motivation behind the search for answers.
"The Land Pirate, Henri and that man were talking about," said Bell. Taking a breath before deciding on taking a leap of faith, she prayed she wasnt wrong about the old woman standing in her room.
"Do you know Jackson, Sally?" asked Bell, as she clenched her hands into fists waiting for an answer.
"You know my runner?" Sally asked in return.
"I dont know what you mean, but Ill tell you something Ive never told a soul, I love him. If you break my confidence Sally, I hope you know Henri will kill us both," said Bell. Her hands now twisted in her dress as she waited for the slave to say something, anything.
"I love Jackson too Miss Bell, and dont you worry none child. Thats one rascal they will never catch with his hand in the honeycomb." With that said Sally left Bell to her thoughts as she contemplated this new development, and how the lady of the house had come to fall in love with Jackson.
A week later Sally got her answer in the middle of the night when a horse appeared at her window with the rider slumped on its back. Jackson fell from the saddle before her adoptive mother could get outside. She worked all night trying to get the bleeding in Jacksons side and thigh to stop. The gentleman pirate had finally been standing on the wrong end of two bullets that had left her weak and feverish before the morning. Sally laid her on the same bed Henri had used to rape her mother and prayed to all the gods listening that young woman didnt moan through the day calling attention to herself. It was the only hiding place Sally could think of since no one had entered it in years.
"Miss Bell, its such a nice day out, why dont you go for a walk? If you like Ill come with you and hold your parasol," offered Sally. Bell and Henri were sitting down to breakfast and as was the norm neither of them spoke throughout the meal.
"Shes right Bella you should get out more. Youre getting paler by the day. Keep Sally with you and Ill see you tomorrow afternoon. Im riding to Hughs place for the day to see if there is any news on the capture of the bastard that stopped us that night." Bell only nodded her head absently not really caring about much.
"Miss Bell, would you like to see my house?" asked Sally as they started their walk. The quarters would be deserted except for a few women and children who werent expected in the fields by Henris foremen. Those Sally had given an assignment to before heading toward the house. They were off roaming the woods looking for berries leaving the compound of little houses empty.
"You asked me to trust you Miss Bell. Now Im asking you the same thing. I have to show you something that could be my death, but Im thinking you want to see it." Bell looked at her and nodded her eyes filling up with tears when she saw the scared look on Sallys face.
In the dim light, Bell made out the big body lying on the bed. The white shirt the man wore was covered in blood and his breathing looked shallow even from where Bell stood. With lighting speed Bell was at Jacksons side, a sob escaping her throat when she saw his pants were wet with blood too.
"You have to help me Miss Bell, if not, Jackson gonna die. Before we start though, there something about Jackson you gotta know," said Sally.
"It doesnt matter Sally, help him," said Bell through her tears. Sally nodded and started unbuttoning the shirt knowing that the binding would show giving away Jacksons secret. Her only hope was that Bell didnt run back to the house screaming when she figured it out. All Bell did do once all the clothes did come off was cry harder, and Sally wasnt sure how to proceed.
"Please Sally, save her. This doesnt change the way I feel. It may be a sin, but I want Jackson well enough to kiss me again like she did all those nights ago." Together they cleaned the two wounds and tried to get Jackson comfortable. The sun had been down for a while before Sally convinced Bell to go back to the house. She promised to come and get her if there was a change in Jacksons condition during the night, and the slave didnt want anyone to tell Henri the next day that Bell hadnt stayed in her room.
When the sun came up, it found Bell walking the property again carrying a small basket of supplies from the house. Jackson was still feverish, but her breathing seemed to be less difficult. The blue eyes fluttered open when Jackson felt the small hand on her face and the equally soft voice in her ear.
"I love you too cheri, and oh how I have missed you." Bell brought one hand up to her mouth to stifle the sob that wanted to escape at hearing Jacksons voice again. "Im sorry I didnt tell you sooner," said Jackson wanting to explain now.
"It doesnt change my heart love," said Bell. Sally turned away as the mistress of Twelve Oaks kissed Jackson hello. Would the kind lady still feel so full of love when she learned the rest of Jacksons secrets was the real question? Sally hoped that Bella was as genuine as she seemed for Jacksons sake, for the sake of them all.
Sally and Bell worked for the rest of the morning to make sure that Jackson was comfortable and that her wounds were clean and bandaged. Bell left to head back to the main house long before Henri was due to return from his overnight trip. When the master rode up the long oak lined road to his house, he found his wife sitting on the large porch reading a book.
Henri didnt love Bella, and had only married her because it was what was expected of him. His tastes for more intimate matters ran a spicier gambit than he was willing to try with the young blonde. Eventually they would have to consummate the relationship so that Bella could provide him an heir, but that could wait another couple of years as far as Henri was concerned. He had watched her grow more reclusive once they had returned from New Orleans, but Bella and her problems werent important enough to give much thought to.
"Welcome home Henri," said Bella looking up from her book but not making eye contact with him. One of the stable boys ran up and took the reins of his horse when Henri dismounted, running off before the bullwhip came off his belt for any reason. Henri took the seat next to her but didnt touch her, which made Bell sigh in relief. Knowing Jackson was so close to her made an advance from Henri that much more repulsive.
"Im sure I was missed," said Henri with a small laugh. He looked at his wife again and wondered how pleased shed be if he rode off never to return. "Good news my dear, the posse that was chasing the thief thinks they may have wounded him, badly from my understanding. It will only be a matter of time now. I promised along with all the other landowners that anyone found aiding him will be killed on sight. Just think Bella, you wont have to fear our trips into the city if we are successful."
"I have no fear of our trips into the city now, Henri," was Bells only reply. It amazed her that she didnt feel more afraid of her husbands reaction if he were to discover her involvement in trying to get Jackson on her feet again.
"Really my dear, such romantic notions from one so young. It makes me wonder what the rogue did to you while the driver and I were out for our stroll in the moonlight?"
"No notions, Henri. The man was simply true to his word."
Another week went by with Henri returning to work and Jackson recovering from her wounds. Sally reported Jacksons progress to Bell every morning after Henri left to oversee the slaves in the fields. Bell thought she would go mad without seeing the tall pirate when a perfect excuse to do so came in the form of another rider. The man reported to Henri that the robber was seen in the area again and the posse was reforming to kill him once and for all. Playing the role of the dutiful wife, Bell listened from behind Henri wondering who this new rider was since Jackson was still on the cot on their property.
"A group of young bucks saw the bastard not two days ago Henri. Said there was a small cut on his arm and he was riding a new horse, but it was him for sure. A group of us are going to ride out for about a week to try and track him and wanted you to join us."
"Give me an hour and Ill be ready to ride out," Henri told him, already heading into the house. The man tipped his hat to Bell and took the seat she pointed out on the porch. Her next trip was into the kitchen to see Sally.
"Wasnt it helpful of those boys from the Destrehan Plantation to help the law like that Miss Bell?" asked Sally when she saw Bell enter the kitchen. The other women working on the evening meal wondered what was going on when Bell threw herself at Sally and wrapped the old woman in a hug. With that one question Sally had posed, Bell knew why the slaves had given their masters the false lead.
"How are you feeling love?" Bell asked Jackson later that night. Bell had waited until the house was quiet before slipping out in a dark cloak headed for the shack Jackson was in. Tonight they were not going to be separated, since the pirate was all she had thought about after Henris return.
Jackson was standing in the middle of the room in a loose homespun looking shirt that Sally had provided, looking like her strength was returning. For the first time the couple was able to embrace without fear of anyone seeing them. The dark thoughts that Jackson was trying to sort out disappeared from her head when she felt Bell press her body to hers.
"Much better now cheri. Thank you for coming back. I wanted to see you before I ride out again," said Jackson. There was no missing the sad look in Bells eyes at that news and Jackson quickly explained why she had to go. "I am getting better Bell, and it is too dangerous for you for me to be here. If Henri ever finds out you have helped me, I fear for you my love, but dont worry I am going to find a way for us to be together."
"I cant go on without you now Jackson. Please dont leave me here with Henri, I couldnt bare it." Jackson dipped her head down to kiss Bell wanting to show her how much she loved her. The action that was meant to convey her affection soon turned passionate and needy.
"Touch me love," said Bell. She wanted her first time to be with this woman who had won her heart. The actions that had made Bell shiver from fear when she imagined Henri doing them, now made her shiver in anticipation when Jackson initiated them. The large hands removed her clothes slowly while the soft lips peppered her skin with small kisses. The more Jackson touched, the closer Bell wanted to be to her, and when she felt Jackson settle on top of her, Bells world spun out of control.
Jackson was moving slowly, trying to put Bell at ease figuring the girl didnt have much experience. It was becoming increasingly difficult as she watched the nipples on Bells full breasts become painfully hard. When Jackson sucked one into her mouth Bell almost came off of the cot. "Please Jackson," pleaded Bell. She didnt know what she was asking for, but she needed more from the woman above her.
Jackson moved her hand down Bells body and poised her fingers at the young womans opening, looking up to the green eyes that she loved. When Bell nodded her head Jackson slipped in only a little, finding something she didnt expect. Bell looked like she was going to cry when Jackson removed her hand and brought it to the young womans face.
"Please love, I want it to be you," said Bell. The tears welled up in the green eyes were making Jackson hesitant.
"But youve been married to Henri for months now."
"He doesnt want me like that Jackson. Henri comes out here for that and I dont question it because I dont love him nor want him in my bed. I want you love, and I want my first time to be with you. I love you Jackson," said Bell pulling Jackson back down on her.
The tall pirate didnt need any more words and forgetting her surroundings set out to make Bells experience memorable. Jackson ran her fingers up and won the wet heat getting Bells breathing to become almost labored, and preparing her for the next step. The small hands on her shoulders tightened their hold as Jackson broke through the small barrier claiming Bell as her own. After the initial pain, Bell reached a pinnacle that was like finding the secrets to life in that one blissful moment. Jacksons touch and her whispered words of love in Bells ear brought tears to the young womans eyes from the intensity of it all.
When they were done, Bell laid on Jacksons side listening to the beat of her heart and reveling in the feel of the womans skin on hers. The voice below her was so soft that Bell almost missed what Jackson was saying.
"My mother died in this room soon after I was born."
"What?" asked Bell. How would Jacksons mother come to be at Twelve Oaks?
"Sally finally told me the whole story just the other day. You drive me to such distraction cheri that I find myself telling you things about myself long after I should. You have a right to know who it is you love and after I am done you may find Henri a more acceptable choice," said Jackson. She ran her hands up and down Bells back to soothe herself as well as Bell.
"Never my love," answered Bell. The sun was coming up by the time Jackson finished her story. Sally had promised Jewel to raise Jackson as a male child, knowing it would be the only way to save her from Henris bed. Had the master figured out Jewel and Sallys secret, Jacksons life would have been even more miserable than the last months of her mothers. Jackson thought her heart would stop when Bell moved away from her when she stopped talking. Relief came when it was only to look at the brand on her back so that she could put a kiss on it.
"I am so sorry that happened to you Jackson, but that wont change the way that I feel. It doesnt matter now how we exist as long as we exist for one another. I want to be with you more than I want to live without you."
"I will find a way cheri, I promise you," vowed Jackson.
By the time Henri returned, Jackson was gone. After their third night together she felt strong enough to travel back into the city. Jackson planned to stick to the same route that had allowed her to escape from Twelve Oaks before and if everything went according to plan she would return for Bell within the month.
From the minute Henri dismounted he noticed something different about Bell, like there was some new sexuality about her that brought out her beauty even more. It was in that look that Henri decided it was time to sample what he had bought in the form of a wife that night.
He walked into the house without a word and Bell never looked at him once. Her attention was trained on the tree-lined path leading to the house as if waiting for someone else to ride up. The plantation mistress had been able to think of nothing else but the touch of Jackson Lafitte for the two days since the woman had left. Bell could swear that Jackson had some magic in her fingers that set fire to her blood with only a simple touch.
At dinner Henri sat down looking across the table to the empty chair of his wife. She had been sitting on the porch all day as much in a fog than the one that was now covering the property. After he finished his meal it would be time for Bell to become his wife in every way that was expected of her.
Stepping out of the house smoking a cigar, Henri paused to look at her again in profile. Her eyes had not moved in all the hours she had been sitting there, and he wondered if she had even blinked. The searching look disappeared instantly and was replaced by a look of total anguish as Bell brought her hands to her mouth. The tears confused Henri until he looked down the path as well and saw Jackson Lafitte staggering up. There was blood pouring out of the mans chest and from the look of his wife, it hurt Bell more than the wounded man.
"Oh god, my love," screamed Bell not caring what Henris reaction would be. When she flew off the porch to Jackson, Henri retreated back to the house. Sally watched the tableau play out as if molasses had slowed the hands of time.
The gunshot wound that had hit Jackson was to be a fatal wound, and by sheer determination she had made it back to see Bell one last time thinking that Henri was still with the posse that had chased her across the woods. Bell had her back to the front door when Henri stepped out with his hunting rifle cradled in his arms. Without warning he brought it up to his shoulder and fired a single shot into his wifes back.
"I love you Jackson," were the last words she uttered before slipping into death. Her spirit waited for the moment it needed to not go on alone. Bells last words were the ones Jackson had just told her before wrapping her up in her arms.
The no that Jackson screamed when she felt the hot blood seep across the green silk of Bells dress sounded like the cry of a tortured animal. It was the last sound Henri heard before the pistol shot pierced the center of his forehead. He was dead before hitting the ground.
With the last of her strength Jackson cradled Bell in her arms and walked back toward the river. Sally watched as the mist seemed to swallow them whole and they were never seen again.
"You made me listen to this whole story and they both die in the end?" asked an outraged Desi. Before Harry could explain Desi turned her ire to Mona. "And you. What in the world kind of story is that to tell small children before they go to bed? That would have given me nightmares."
"Baby, calm down a minute. Its a Halloween story in actuality. And if you let me tell you the end you would understand. Sally never saw them again and the bodies were never found, fueling rumors that the lovers had escaped to live out their days up north. The only problem with that theory was that Sally had witnessed Henri kill Bella," said Harry. She got a poke in the ribs from Desi when she stopped to take a drink of water.
"Jeez, youre impatient. The legend of Jackson and Bell is that on certain nights when the moon is full and the foggy mist off the Mississippi is just right you can see them walking the banks of the river hand in hand. They died for the forbidden love they shared, but their eternal reward was to be able to spend it together in the place the love was born. Till this day they haunt the house and grounds of Twelve Oaks Plantation. Only those people standing on the top veranda with their soul mates have been able to see the legendary Land Pirate and the woman that stole her heart."
"And this is where were going tomorrow for this party?" asked Desi.
"Yep, and the couple that host it play it up to the hilt. You have to park about a mile away and ride carriages to onto the grounds. They turn off all the electricity and do everything like they would have back then except for ice. Molly figures people would revolt if she didnt have that," explained Tony. When Harry had told him who she and Desi were going as, the decorator decided he and Kenneth would go as Jean and Jewel. He had even made Kenneth grow a thick mustache for the occasion to look more the part of the even more infamous pirate of the gulf.
At three the next afternoon Harrys pager went off and with a lot of protests from Desi left for the hospital with a promise to keep it short. At seven Kenneth, and a very lovely Tony, arrived to pick up a miffed Desi having agreed to meet Harry at the party. Kenneth had dropped by earlier to pick up Harrys costume and hung it in her locker for when Harry got out of surgery.
"That dress looks divine on you sweetie," said Tony. The period piece that Harry had picked out for her partner was a dark green colored silk dress that accentuated the color of Desis eyes. With her hair pulled up it made the line of her neck look longer because of the low neckline.
They parked in the designated lot and boarded the only covered coach the LeFleur family had hired hoping that Harry would be at the other end to meet them. Ten minutes into the two-mile trip the coach came to a stop as the three riders heard someone say "Whoa, driver."
Tony leaned out of the window to see why they had stopped when his eyes filled with tears at the newfound sentimentality of his old friend. "I think that we are being held up," was all he said as he sat back to wait.
Desi heard the clopping of another horse as it drew near to the back windows, looking up to a living replica of Jackson Lafitte. From the hat and mask down to the black shiny boots, the rider was a draw back to a lost era. The rider held a pistol in each gloved hand as she looked into the back of the carriage. As she drew the huge black horse closer to the window she holstered one weapon as she pulled one of the gloves off with a tug of her teeth. The other pistol she aimed at the driver and with a smile started making demands.
"Driver, your gold." Grabbing the small velvet bag of Godiva chocolate coins out of the air in her bare hand the rider turned her attention back to the passengers. "I see that I have found two treasures tonight," she said leaning into the back. Long fingers cupped Desis cheek and the small blonde sunk into the kiss. Her bad mood had vanished when she saw Harry sitting on that horse. This would be the story she told their children before bedtime. The original legends could wait until they were older.
"Such beauty and generosity should be rewarded my dear," Harry said in a voice lower than normal. Before riding off, a small pouch was pressed into Desis hand. The emerald necklace spilled out into her hand along with a small note. Desi read it through her tears as Tony put the choker around her neck.
On a night made for fantasies I realize that you are mine, have always been, and always will be.
Happy Halloween my love,
Harry was waiting for them at the end of their short trip, her smile flashing below the mask at seeing Desi wearing the necklace. Desi stepped off the coach into a welcoming hug and deep kiss that left her feet dangling for a few minutes. Without a word, Harry led her partner to the second floor for a moment of privacy.
The two lovers shared a waltz on the second floor veranda alone, stopping momentarily when a small blonde woman appeared at the top of the levee across from them. Even from this distance they could see her smiling at them. From the fog a larger body joined her. The tall dark pirate tipped her hat before taking her lovers hand and gave them a smile as well. Together they vanished into the mist unseen by the two now sharing a kiss on the veranda.
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