In order to get from Chicago to New Orleans
unnoticed by the Visitors was not easy. Due to the present circumstances,
few people went on pleasure trips. The only people out and about
were those who had to travel. Anyone who had a choice stayed home
and out of sight of the Visitors. One could not be too careful .
But the barges still traveled up and down the Mississippi and men were
needed to sail them. With the help of the Underground, Tyler was
taken to St. Louis where a Resistance connection provided Seaman's papers
and a berth on a New Orleans bound coal barge.
On the New Orleans docks it was easy to blend
into the surroundings. Seamen from all over the world came to the
port city and one more made no impact. Tyler knew the city from previous
visits before the Visitors came and it had always been a favorite place
to come to for a little "divertissement". Now he found the city very
No throngs of carefree visitors strolling through the French Quarter, peeking through open doors at the strippers
in the bars or trying to decide which restaurant for dinner that night. It was subdued but not completely dead. The Cajun zest for life and fun was too great to let a little thing like the Visitors cramp their style if they could help it. Tyler was amused to learn that K-Paul's, a famous and favorite restaurant was almost closed when "Blackened Gator" was offered as a speciality. The Visitors were suspicious that it was a veiled threat (they were right). For all their soft, slow Southern accents and polite manners, Tyler knew the citizens viewed the Visitors as another occupying force, like those Yankees at the end of the Civil War, only worse (maybe).
Tyler checked into a small, family owned hotel that fronted as a meeting place for the Resistance. After a quick shower and change of clothing he was on his way out when he noticed a note under his door. "8pm Royal Orleans", was all it said. The Royal Orleans was an old, grand hotel in the heart of the French Quarter and only a few blocks away. There was plenty of time for a good dinner and then to leisurely make his way there.
Shortly before 8pm, Tyler was in front of the hotel watching a family getting into one of the horse-drawn buggies for a sightseeing trip through the area. Only collaborators would have the means for such a luxury. Tyler watched the driver get down and help the gray-headed couple and what appeared to be their grandchildren into the carriage. As she turned to mount the driver's box, she smiled at him and said, "Hey mister, how about a ride?"
"No thanks," Tyler replied as politely as he could.
"Don't you like my mule?" she asked with a smile as she patted the spotted mule on the rump. "He's one of a kind. See the polka dots? His father was a donkey and his mother an Appaloosa, so I call him an Appamulsa."
"Oh, he's a fine mule all right, but no thanks," Tyler replied, wishing this bunch of tourists would leave so his contact could meet him. The driver stepped to the side of the mule and made some slight adjustment to the harness. Out of the side of her mouth she hissed, "Get your ass in that buggy now, Tyler." Then she straightened up and said with a smile, "Come on, mister, I'll even let you sit up on the driver's box next to me. Now how can you refuse that offer?"
Startled, Tyler looked at the driver for just a second. Dark blonde hair neatly french-braided under the top hat, a pretty face that smiled and dark green eyes that didn't. "You're right," Tyler smiled back. "A ride with you would be nice." And with as much grace as he could manage he climbed up on the box.
"Everybody ready for the trip?" she called out gaily and gently clucked to Speck who sighed and then stepped off, pulling the carriage down the dark streets. To anyone watching, it was just another sightseeing ride with the driver pointing out places of interest to her tourist passengers. The truth was far different. "The Visitors are using the old Chartres sugar refinery as their lab. They have developed an antidote that works but the effect must be short lived because of the enormous amount they are planning to make. Of course, we could just blow it up with the bazookas but that is kind of crude. We'd rather find a way to do it to make it look like it was an accident...maybe even their fault. That would save a lot of trouble for the local people, not to mention bringing down the heat on the Resistance even more than it already is now."
"Shut up," Tyler whispered furiously, glancing back at the other passengers.
"Oh, them? Why, they're family. That's my aunt and uncle and two cousins. I'm not entirely stupid , you know," she sniffed.
"Oh, ah... sorry" he mumbled. "What was that you said about bazookas? Where on earth did you get those?"
"From the Louisiana National Guard, of course," she said, looking at him as if he were an idiot. Maybe this Yankee boy wasn't as smart as they had been told but, for now, he would have to do. "We'll be meeting with the others later tonight," she told him.
After an hour's tour, the carriage stopped at the Cafe du Monde and the passengers departed. Tyler was anxious to get off the main street but, to his horror, Kate calmly climbed down from the carriage box. "Where are you going?" he demanded.
"To get beignets and coffee, of course," she replied. "You take sugar in your coffee?"
"No," he grated out between clenched teeth and she headed into the sidewalk cafe. These crazy cajuns! And this one, in particular.
"I'm Mary Katherine Rose Marchand, but everyone calls me Kate," she had introduced herself, as if this were a sorority dance. And now, just strolling off for her coffee and doughnuts as calm as could be. What madness. What amateurs. What was he in for now? And , now, here she comes back, calling out greetings to friends and giving Speck his warm beignet before remounting the drivers box and setting off again.
"You didn't hurry on my account, did you?" he growled at her.
"No, I didn't, don't worry," she replied with a smile. 'Yankee' she thought. 'Red neck' he thought. "For your information, Cafe du Monde is where I get my instructions. I don't know who puts the note in the bag, but there it is. We're going to the old fish camp on Dupree Island."
"Oh," was all he could think to say. And the beignets all warm and covered with powdered sugar were as good as he remembered.
"Put your arm around me," she suggested. "It'll look like you're my boyfriend. Just a couple on their way to the barn to put up the rig." And so they drove off down the quiet street. As they rolled past a pair of Visitor Security men, Ham hid his face by giving Kate a soft kiss. She smiled sweetly and murmured, "Don't get too caught up in your act, boy." Ham did take the opportunity to take a good look at her. Mid-twenties, about average height with an athletic build. Nice voice until it got that edge on it . And pretty green eyes until they got that look in them. Little Miss Sorority just might have what it takes to get the job done but she gave all the signs of a spoiled southern belle out for a little adventure with no real idea of the possible costs.
After Speck was unhitched, groomed and put in the trailer for the ride home, Tyler slipped into the empty side of the horsetrailer and covered himself with a horse blanket. "I don't expect any trouble," Kate whispered to him. "They see me taking my boy Speck home every night. But just in case..." She handed him a .38 special. "Just try not to shoot Speck." She did not smile. As she pulled the blanket back over his head, Tyler muffled a curse. "Oh, no, Miss Chi Omega, I'd never do that. Who the hell does she think she is...and who does she think I am. And if that damn mule steps on me, then he's Alpo for sure."
The trailer ride was uneventful. Kate
was a good driver who was careful to keep the ride smooth and comfortable...for
Speck. They arrived at a large, white barn out in the country.
Speck was bedded down and the other horses nickered their hellos to him
in the darkness. Tyler and Kate walked down a path through the dark
woods and came to a small river. Kate went straight to a thicket
of bushes and brought out a small boat. "We cross the bayou here
to that island," she whispered as she stepped in to the boat. They
each took a long pole
and silently glided the boat across the slow moving water. The faint light from the moon lit their way through the cypress trees. Tyler was lost within minutes but Kate never hesitated. Soon the nose of the craft was against the bank and they were on land again. As they walked along the path, Tyler saw a large white house across the river.
"Is that one of the old plantation houses?"
he whispered. "That's my house," she replied. "After the Visitors
took my parents and brother I gave it to them as a country get away house...to show there were no hard feelings. I was hoping to catch them in it and burn it down but they don't stay there very long," she said matter-of-factly, as if planning an afternoon brunch. "Some one is there now," Tyler said. "Look, you can see a light in the attic." Kate looked at the house and at the flickering light that could only be made by a candle and then gave Tyler a long look. "That's Aunt Rose. I'm named for her."
"You leave your Aunt to live alone in that house?" Tyler was surprised. So much for Southern family values!
"Aunt Rose married a local boy just before he rode off to join the Confederate army. She sat in the attic every night with a candle to guide him safely home. But she caught pneumonia and died before he returned. When he came home and found that she had died, he died on the spot from shock. If you were there now, you could hear his horse coming up the driveway and then his wail of grief." Tyler and Kate looked at the old house and thought of the lost lovers. As Kate turned away, she suddenly grinned at Tyler. "Who would have thought those lizards would get run off by Aunt Rose and Uncle Henri?"
And in the moonlight he saw her wink and laugh.
Tyler had a whole new take on this girl who
appeared quite able to take care of herself. After losing her entire
family to the Visitors, she played it cool, took the guise of a collaborator
who didn't blame the Visitors for her loss. Instead, she gifted them
with a beautiful ante-bellum home as a means of atonement for her family's
offences. Of course, she meant to kill them in it and the only reason
she didn't was because the Visitors were scared away by the family ghosts.
But not a bad plan. Tyler was beginning to like her more and
more. And to trust her judgement.
After a half hour walk, they came to an abandoned shack. Inside were the local Resistance members. After carefully covering the windows, a small glow bar was popped to give off a faint light. Tyler could make out the faces of the hotel owners where he was staying but the others were strangers. Talk centered around plans for destroying the factory. Good plans were examined and discarded. Tyler was glad to see that no egos got in the way of the decision making. And Kate was impressed with how Tyler sat and listened to the others instead of coming on like the big-shot expert. He listened and learned from the others, his face intense in the faint light and his eyes moving from face to face. Out of nowhere, she found herself wondering how that face would look in a different situation...with her in a different situation... But not now, she told herself. There is no time for that kind of thinking now.
Tyler began to speak. His voice was deep and husky. As he spoke, his hands moved in a surprisingly graceful manner as he explained his plan. On his trip down the river, the bargemen had spoken of the large amounts of coal that were being delivered to the old Chartes refinery. It seems the plant was running 24 hours a day to process the antidote. "Boilers that run that long without being allowed to occasionally cool off for safety inspections just might blow up," Tyler said. "And if the safety valve gets jammed, why that old place would go sky high." He grinned suddenly. "I think I need to get into that place for a little maintenance work."
A plan was quickly formulated. The time was set for the following night.
Sunday night was always a quiet night at the factory. The weekend shift was looking forward to a few nights off and some much needed rest. No one noticed the new man. His papers were given a quick glance by the sleepy guard who was looking forward to his time off also. The dark haired, dark eyed man went quietly about his work. So quietly that no one noticed him fade into the shadows and slip away. Tyler silently made his way to the boiler room, deep under the plant. As he expected, the man who was supposed to watch the gauges was asleep. A long, hard week had taken it's toll. Working quickly, Tyler removed the gauge face and jammed the pin at 1400psi, well within the safety limit. If it were found in the wreckage, it would appear that the boilers had exploded from a unknown weakness and no one would be to blame.
Except the Visitor engineers who passed the boilers for use. Then Tyler closed off the safety valve and let the pressure build.
When the boilers began to shake and hiss, Tyler awakened the sleeping man. "Get out of here! There must be something wrong with the equipment! It sounds like it's going to blow!"
Running through the passageway, Tyler pulled the alarm. This must look like an accident and what saboteur would pull the alarm? That had been Kate's touch and a good idea. With seconds to spare, all the men had cleared the building and were still running through the parking lot when the factory exploded with a roar. Metal and bricks rained down from the sky . Men took cover where they could. And no one noticed the quiet, dark eyed man slip away into the shadows again. Later, the watchman would swear he had found the boilers about to explode and had sounded the alarm. He was no fool. There was no one else, only him that had saved so many lives with his vigilance and quick thinking. A model employee, to be sure.
Kate was waiting at the dirt side road that ran just outside the fence. There was a gap under the fence from an eroded gully that was grown over with weeds. Tyler pushed his way through the weeds and under the fence. The weeds closed back behind him and left no trace of how anyone could have left the compound except through the main gates. The dome light was disconnected, so there was no telltale light when Tyler opened the door. Kate quickly drove off in the truck (stolen from a known collaborator) as Tyler changed clothes. Driving by moonlight was not easy, but Kate managed a few quick looks as Tyler stripped off. Big wide shoulders, muscled arms were the impressions she got...no time for more. Tyler caught her looking. "Just watch the road, OK?" he said with a mischievous grin that caught her by surprise. She blushed and giggled guiltily.
And now to hide him. It would be too risky for him to leave town just now. Although the explosion looked like an accident, the Visitors were no fools. Every way in and out of New Orleans would be watched closely for the next few days until the Visitors were satisfied that it was indeed an accident.
And Kate knew just the place. A place that the Visitors feared and never went near. A big, old white house that was home to two old ghostly lovers...Aunt Rose and Uncle Henri wouldn't mind the company of a pair of new lovers.
Tyler sat in the big kitchen and watched
Kate cook breakfast for them. As was his habit, he though back over
last night's mission. No matter how successful, there was always
room for improvement, always something new to learn. It was the small,
overlooked details that could spell ruin for any group. But last
night's operation was well planned and executed. "Borrowing" a collaborator's
truck for the get-away was a nice touch. If anyone noticed
near the factory that night and remembered the license number, it would trace back to a traitor . After ditching the truck near a bayou, Kate and Ham found the small boat she had left earlier that afternoon. The electric motor was silent and allowed them to slip away down the river. "Now the only ones we have to worry about is the Louisiana Fish and Game boys...they might take us for a couple of poachers," Kate had laughed. "Or the real poachers,
for that matter, might get a little hostile if we interrupt them." Luckily, the trip was uneventful, if long. It had taken almost four hours to get "home". During the trip, Tyler had noticed many small, unblinking yellow lights on the water. "Are those fireflies?" he had asked.
"No, darlin'," she had answered. "Those are 'gator eyes glowing in the moonlight. " Tyler had hastily taken his hand out of the water.
Now he sat in the kitchen chair, sipping at
a cup of coffee and watching Kate "fix us a little bite to eat".
Barefoot, dressed in comfortable jeans and a big LSU football jersey,
she padded around the kitchen. "Wasn't it nice of the Visitors to
fill the propane tanks when they took over the place? Too bad they
didn't stay around long enough to use any of it," she giggled. Scrambled
eggs, ham, fried potatoes ("I though you might prefer this to grits"),
thick slices of French bread buttered and put under the broiler for oven toast made a fine meal. They leisurely ate and discussed the night's events and what would happen now.
"This is a safe place for you to stay.
There is a small saferoom where you can hide if you get any unwanted
company . And you have already met the security guards" she said,
referring to the two small, grey donkeys that had greeted them that morning,
braying loudly until they had run out of breath. Magnolia and Blossom
were an enthusiastic welcoming committee and could be relied upon
to announce visitors and Visitors alike. And then there
were the peacocks who also added their welcomes. No way was anyone going to slip in here unnoticed. "Sometimes we meet here if the weather is too bad to go to the island. We try not to use the same places too many times. Tonight, around 9pm, some of others will be here to go over last night with you. Leon you know from the hotel. The others you met the other night."
Even now, she did not use names...what you don't know you can't tell. "They will come in from the river like we did. Leave the kitchen door unlocked and they will wait for you in here."
The kitchen was cleaned and the freshly washed dishes placed under the slightly dusty unused plates. Kate lead Tyler through the big house, up to the second floor by a wide, curving staircase. The windows were all covered with wooden shutters, supposedly to keep the sun from fading the carpets and furniture but also to block spying eyes.
"Don't forget to take the linens off the bed
in the morning when you get up. The Visitors never come here, but
you never know. Don't leave cups, books, clothes, stuff like that laying around. Keep them in the saferoom so that..." she hesitated when she saw the look Ham had on his face. "I know you know all this," she hastily apologized. "Sorry, I guess I just got carried away. Let me show you the saferoom. I'm not sure who built this or when but it was a great hiding place for me and my brother when we were kids." She showed Tyler the recessed catch in the wainscot that opened a small panel. Beyond was a small room maybe four feet deep and the length of the room. A small chemical toilet was in the far corner. Two sleeping bags were rolled up and placed against the wall, next to two folded canvass director's chairs. Six gallons of water and a box of army field rations (courtesy of the Louisiana National Guard) were stored at the other end of the room . A small transistor radio with earplug and extra batteries were on a narrow shelf over the food. Next to that was a bag of light bars that would glow with a faint light when "popped". There were a few paperback books on the shelf.
"Is this all right? What else do you need?"
Kate asked him. He walked through the small room, carefully
checking the supplies while Kate watched him. When he turned back to her, he was smiling. And he had such a nice smile. It always took Kate slightly by surprise. Tyler was so serious and intent that his smile was rare.
"Perfect! I couldn't have done better myself." His deep voice boomed in the small room. "I may never leave," he teased.
Tyler practised finding and releasing the hidden door several times until he was satisfied he could find it in an emergency. Kate sat watching him, trying to decide her next move. True, they were in a life and death situation by being in the Resistance but that was no reason to forgo life's pleasures. Happiness and pleasure must be taken when they presented themselves. Tomorrow was too far away and uncertain. Now was now and not to be wasted. But why on earth hadn't she put on fresh makeup this morning? Her hair must smell of the morning's breakfast and this was some sexy getup she was wearing. Perhaps a brief delay would be best.....give her a chance to tidy up her appearance.
"Well, if you don't need anything else right now, I'll just be running along" Kate said as she casually turned for the door. Big strong arms slipped around her and swung her up off her feet. "Not so fast," Ham said. "There's something else I need but I just can't remember what." He carried her over to the bed and sat down on the side of it. "Now, let's see if we can think of what that might be."
"Why, Mr. Tyler, this is all so sudden! I hardly know what to say," she cooed.
"Lady, you don't have to say anything except 'yes'," he growled softly into her ear.
It was Kate's experience that good kissers made good lovers and, damn, this boy was some fine kisser! Fingers laced through her hair pulled her face into his, his breath soft on her cheek. Warm lips traveled slowly across her skin as he took his time slipping off her jersey and easing off her jeans. "Oh my, what's this?" she gasped in pretended fright as she tugged his jeans off. "Oh, I'm frightened," she giggled and slipped across the bed away from him.
"You can run, kid, but you can't hide," he whispered as he followed her. "You're mine."
(In observation of good taste and Censors,
we will leave the lovers and draw the curtain of privacy over them.
But let it be noted that giggles, groans and gasps floated through the
room for a long, satisfying time. And Aunt Rose and Uncle Henri smiled
in their attic haven.)
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