Lucy Jones had finally moved out of her French Quarter apartment over the beauty salon on Royal Street. The only things left in the apartment were an old bed and mattress. Her intentions were to turn the room into a revenue producer by flipping it to inventory for Club Twilight, Lucy’s after-hours business—entertainment for the rich, political powers of the city and the outright sexually deprived men and women in her black book.
It was time to move on to the prestigious Lakefront community of New Orleans. It was a purchase she made a month ago and had a hard time coming to terms with, being an impulse decision. It wasn’t about the money. She had legit money banked to pay cash, but guilt followed Lucy. No one in her family had ever owned a house—much less one this size. Her father’s words were embedded in her mind. You were born into a poor family and will die poor like the rest of us. Edgar, her father, reminded Lucy and her mother they were poor white trash. He had drilled into them the idea not to expect anything more out of life.
The Lakefront mansion was a residential area where “new” money lived. They weren’t the “old” money people who lived in Antebellum mansions in the Garden District. Those people never worked a day in their life and got their wealth the old-fashioned way—by inheritance.
Lucy’s trusted bodyguard, Darby, now a live-in companion, dropped the last box in the bedroom closet. Darby turned into a godsend, doing everything for Lucy. She was her personal driver, the voice of reasoning, bodyguard, and sometimes would make a questionable attempt at cooking. The saying applied don’t quit your day job. Cooking dinner wasn’t Darby’s forte.
In earlier days, a move was easy. The clothes on Lucy’s back and a small handbag carried her possessions.
Running cons in Tupelo with her father was not the life she wanted, but it was the life she was forced to live. A break came when Edgar sent Lucy and Wanda to New Orleans. They jumped at the chance to leave Tupelo and never questioned how he knew Vivien and arranged for them to work in the salon. They went, expecting him to follow a week later.
Edgar was the king of cons, and the last one he pulled was on Lucy and Wanda. He got them out of his life and never met them in New Orleans.
Taking over Vivien Bluff’s business was natural for Lucy. She worked her way from running glasses of champagne to the rich in the salon to managing where the real money was made. Two tiny apartments above the salon made more money in one night than the salon made all week. Vivien, called the “French Quarter Madam” by her clients, kept their names in her black book safely at Club Twilight, her after-hours business. The ladies of Club Twilight were the moneymakers who paid the bills and did not have Vivien want for anything.
Now, things were different. Lucy was known as a businesswoman on the board of the French Quarter Merchant Association and was recently elected to the New Orleans City Council. She was well-liked by most—especially the people in her black book.
It wasn’t until Lucy took control of Club Twilight and the black book and studied the names that to her surprise, she saw her father Edgar’s name. Not only was he a customer of Vivien’s after-hour business, but he was also a pimp earning a commission. Edgar had spent a lot of time in New Orleans, coming home later to brag about the cons he ran in the French Quarter.
The book showed Edgar was paid a fee to bring men and occasionally women to Vivien. He often talked about the con he ran on men dressed in suits–watching for name tags from a convention or checking coats for logo pins on the collar. These easy signs they were conventioneers and wanted to party.
Vivien never mentioned Edgar being a customer and a pimp. Like Lucy, Vivien had a lot of secrets, and she knew how to keep them to herself.
An unmarked van backed into the garage, and the overhead doors were closed. It was not ideal for getting Vivian’s heavy old safe to the bedroom closet. The best way was the front entrance on a hand truck and a lot of muscle pulling and pushing up the stairway. Lucy wanted to hide the van and crew from curious neighbors, so the garage, which led into the house with many turns through rooms and the back stairs, was the best way—but not the easiest.
She called the content of cash, jewelry, and diamonds her emergency fund, and it was twice what most made in a year. Another vehicle arrived and parked in the spacious garage. It carried racks of clothes, including some with store tags, showing they had never been worn. The mission was accomplished, and soon all evidence of anything moving in and out of the garage was gone. They left Lucy to arrange her personal items.
It was a little after eleven that night when Darby stopped talking Lucy’s arm off—and headed downstairs to her new pool house residence.
Giving off a broad smile, Darby’s eyes sparkled. “We’re like sisters of a secret society.” She flipped the light switch off. “Good night.”
The hall light reflected Darby standing in the doorway. “Does that mean I can take you off the payroll? Since we’re like sisters?”
“Let’s not get crazy.” Darby’s voice echoed from down the hall.
It was an exhausting day, and Lucy finally crawled into bed. She plopped her head down on a soft pillow that gave off that fresh linen smell. It only took a few turns to get comfortable, and she drifted off to sleep.
A glowing streetlight peeked through a crack in the drape. Lucy wasn’t sure of the time, but it must have been the middle of the night. She buried herself in the pillows and tried to shut her mind off from all the things she needed to do the next day. It worked until she was frightened by the weight of a man on top of her. He had one hand over her mouth and the other around her throat.
He whispered, “My orders are to kill you if demands are not met.”
Rapidly her mind wondered how this person entered the house without tripping the alarm. If she screamed, could Darby get to the bedroom before she took her last gasp? She flipped around the bed, barely audible.
“I can’t breathe.”
She felt the pressure come off her throat.
“If you scream. It will be the last thing you ever hear.”
She was sure it was a man’s voice.
Lucy was a professional on how to observe. Her father preached the gospel of discernment ever since he took her on the road for their first father and daughter scam. The first thing was to observe the surroundings, look at the mark for tattoos or scars, and pay attention to their voice. It was something she thought she’d never need to know.
This was an attack, and the surroundings were her own house. It was a bold move for anyone to make. Lucy applied the same principles. Do you know the person? Most of all, keep them talking. All she had to go on was a whisper in the dark. Not recognizing the voice, she knew waiting for the perfect opportunity was the best move. Pelting him with questions—doing anything to stall for time. There was no reply.
The entire time he was on top, she wiggled to the edge of the mattress. “What do you want? Money, sex, what?”
Lucy had kept a knife tucked between the mattress and box spring as a teenager. She never had to use it but slept better knowing it was available. Moving to New Orleans and teaming up with Vivien allowed her to save money. To protect herself and the working girls of Club Twilight, she afforded a specially made mattress.
A seamstress who made many of Lucy’s clothes cut pockets into both sides of the mattress. It was the perfect place for the women of the night to hide a weapon of choice: easy access with a wide pocket and no possibility of a struggle when pulling it out. A woman Lucy trusted came up with the design. A hardwood box fit inside the pocket allowing access to the weapon even if someone rolled over the top of the mattress.
Her fingers crawled the sheets to the edge of the mattress the entire time, whispering to her attacker. “Come on, talk to me? If not sex or money, what do you want?”
Lucy got him to relax and promised she would not scream. The pressure let off her body. Her fingers felt the pocket at the side of the mattress. If she pulled the 38-snub nose revolver, she had to be ready to put three rounds squarely into the man’s chest.
A few moments later, her hand was on the gun.
“Where do you think you’re going?” He pulled her by the waist to the center of the bed. The gun clutched in her hand and slipped out of the pocket just as it was designed.
It startled Lucy even more than when she first discovered him in her bed. It was the first time he spoke, and he knew her name.
So—this is not a random break-in of a mansion on the lake with the fancy cars out front, she thought. This asshole knows me.
A message from Juan Vargas. Felipe is dead.” Lucy was sure she could not place the voice.
She wiggled the best she could, but his size overpowered her. “Who are you?”
“You don’t get to ask questions.” He paused. “Juan Vargas is taking over the drug business in New Orleans. We expect you to help with the police and your political connections.”
Lucy squeezed the butt of the gun and tightened her finger on the trigger. “I’m not washing Vargas’s money.”
“We’re not asking. You’re out the drug business and money laundering.”
He was on his knees with his body across Lucy’s feet. She arched upward, giving her a little breathing room. “What are you willing to pay me for my connections?”
“What we’re paying?” He laughed. “You do what we say, and you get to live. One step out of line, and you’ll get two to the head.”
“Those are Juan Vargas’s orders?” Lucy had to keep him talking and learn much before she blew his guts out. Her former girlfriend, Stella, told her about crime scenes. Blood will shower as much as ten feet. She quickly pictured blood and body matter sprayed, covering her beautiful bed, custom sheets, and probably the walls too.
“That’s not Vargas’s orders. It came from Tony Bozzano.”
“Bozzano is partnering up with a Colombian Drug Lord?” Lucy got most the information needed.
“It was Bozzano’s idea. He wanted Felipe out, and you? He’ll allow you to keep living—until he has no more use for you,” the man said, leaning back chuckling. “Didn’t see that one coming—huh, Lucy?”
“Why not address this at my office?” Lucy’s eyes shifted, and she did her best to adjust to the dark room, making sure he was directly in front of her. “Instead, you break into my house in the middle of the night. Why?”
“Bozzano wants you to know he means business,” the thug said, giving Lucy a little more freedom of her legs. “Me sitting in your bed proves he can take you out at any time.” He let off another irritating laugh. “Now there is no confusion. Take the demand seriously, or you’re dead.”
Lucy lifted the gun and pumped three into the man’s chest. The impact flipped him off the bed.
“Didn’t see that coming—huh?” Lucy sat up as tears ran down her face. “Darby!” She screamed.
It didn’t take long for Darby to come running upstairs, “Lucy!” she screamed from the landing. Then she went silent and tiptoed through the exercise room into the bathroom. With a Glock pointed in line with her body for a perfect shot in the dark, she scanned the bedroom from the doorway. The image of Lucy came through clearly in her night goggles—Lucy sitting up in the bed, her gun pointed, in the darkness.
“Lucy, are you okay?” Darby flipped the light on.
“Is he dead?” Lucy asked.