Jean-Luc LeBeau hadn’t thought that he’d ever be returning to New Orleans when he left on that dark night in 2000, leaving his son in charge of the Thieves Guild. He wasn’t supposed to have to return. Yet, there he was, nearly five years later, pulling up to the Boudreaux mansion on an equally dark night. He couldn’t help but sigh to himself. It seemed that leaving Remy and Bella Donna in charge of unifying the Thieves and Assassins Guilds was a mistake.
His long-time friend, Mattie, had been keeping him informed of the events at home while he was gone. She had called him two days prior and practically begged him to come home. Jean-Luc knew it was important…Mattie Baptiste never begged anyone for anything. Ever.
"T’ings jus’ ain’ right, Jean-Luc. Bella Donna’s been in charge of de Guilds since Remy left, as you know, but de girl ain’ really runnin’ de Guilds herself." Mattie had told him.
"What do you mean? If she’s in charge..." He was perplexed.
"Her new beau...man by de name of Donyell Taylor...he’s usin’ her. Tellin’ her what to do, callin’ all de shots for bot’ Guilds...an’ dey’re listenin’ to him! He showed up outta nowhere an’ waltzed right in...he’s takin’ over. An’ t’ings are good on de job front, but dere is so much unrest...no one will confront Bella ‘bout him...b’cause dey’ve all seen what would happen."
"What do you mean?" Jean-Luc repeated.
Mattie sighed. "She kicked me out of her home an’ will kill me if I go back...b’cause I told her I got a bad vibe from Donyell an’ didn’ trust him. Nor am I de only one. Emil got into a huge fight wit’ her an’ nearly got himself killed, when he told her de same t’ing I did. Only she did worse to him...she went to Donyell an’ b’tween de two of dem dey got a majority vote from de others to kick Emil out of de Guild."
'Where is he?" Jean-Luc’s voice was soft. He loved his young, impulsive nephew more than just about anyone in the whole Guild and had worried about him since he left.
Mattie sighed again. The redheaded thief was sleeping beside her at that moment, his head resting in her lap, his expression filled with sadness and uncertainty, even in slumber. "Here wit’ me in Slidell. He’s been stayin’ wit’ me since dat day. Poor boy is so lost right now…I feel so bad for him...You know how he can be...but at least dis time he had a valid point. He didn’ d’serve to be kicked out for speakin’ his mind…for speakin’ de truth."
"What about de others...didn’ dey defend him?"
"Mercy and Zoë left awhile ago…dey went to New York, picked up Shirow an’ went to Japan. Zoë an’ Shirow wanted to go back an’ start a business of some sort in a small town, an’ Mercy was sick to death of de way t’ings were goin’ in de Guilds since Remy left so she d’cided to go wit’ dem. Dey’re doin’ well, from what her letters to me have said. She loves it dere. An’ she loves bein’ away from Guild activities. Mais, dat was de start of it." Mattie explained. "Emil hasn’ been himself since Mercy left. It was bad enough when Remy left an’ jus’ got worse. Theoren, Claude, Genard, Gris-Gris, Fifolet, Questa an’ Singer tried to defend him to Bella Donna, but couldn’ say much or else dey’d all be kicked out too...an’ someone has to keep an eye on t’ings. Dey all come visit him, an’ Gris has sworn he’s gon’ kill Donyell for all of dis...but as it stands, none of dem are allowed in de mansion now. B’cause dey spoke ‘gainst Donyell to Bella. Dere’s no reasonin’ wit’ her."
Jean-Luc laughed. "An’ you t’ink she’ll listen to me?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. But somethin’ needs to be done. Please, Jean-Luc. Please come back an’ try to save dis Guild b’fore it’s too late..."
So there he was, fresh from a vacation in Paris, walking up to the front door of the Boudreaux mansion in the pouring rain. He was going to talk to Bella Donna and try to talk some sense into her. Once he did that, he was going to Slidell to comfort his nephew.
He rang the doorbell feeling somewhat uneasy.
Donyell answered the door himself, looking Jean-Luc up and down. He didn’t know who the man was. "Can I help you?"
"Oh Lord...dis is Donyell Taylor? Where on earth is Bella Donna’s brain?" Jean-Luc thought. He immediately disliked the man. There was something about him that was very dishonorable and unworthy of even being in the Guild, much less running it. "I’d like to see Bella Donna, if you don’ mind."
"Maybe I do mind." Donyell said curtly.
It took every ounce of self-control Jean-Luc possessed to not get mad or roll his eyes or tell this imposter off. Fortunately, he didn’t have to, as Bella Donna herself showed up behind Donyell at that moment, curious.
"Jean-Luc!" Her face lit up. She’d always liked Remy’s father, even though Guild rivalry kept her from knowing him very well when she was growing up. She had always known that her own father respected Jean-Luc, so that helped. "What are you doin’ here?"
"Well I’m tryin’ to talk to you, but your bodyguard here won’ let me in. Where’s Gris? At least he would have had de decency to let me in out of de rain."
Donyell snorted and stepped aside after Bella put a hand on his shoulder, silently asking him to let their guest in.
Bella got a towel for Jean-Luc to dry off and they sat in the living room. Donyell made a point of leaving them alone, but he wasn’t far.
"What brings you back, Jean-Luc?" Bella asked.
"Mattie phoned me two days ago an’ told me some t’ings dat alarmed me. She asked me to come home. So here I am."
"Did she tell you to talk to me, too?"
"Yes, but she also said she didn’ t’ink it would do any good. Bel…what’s wrong wit’you?"
Bella Donna bristled. "Dere is nothin’ wrong wit’ me."
"Mattie told me you’d kicked Emil out of de Guild…an’ told de others dey weren’ welcome here anymore an’ dat dey’d join Emil if dey said anythin’ ‘gainst Donyell to you. To be honest, dat doesn’ surprise me as far as de t’ieves go, but de idea dat you’ve said dat to people who have been your best friends an’ mos’ trusted advisors all your life...dat’s alarmin’, Bel."
"It is not!" Bella practically screamed.
"Bel, hush." Jean-Luc commanded. "Don’ you raise your voice at me, young lady. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion ‘bout t’ings. It don’ mean you have to listen to dem, but it also doesn’ give you de right to condemn dem for it."
Bella Donna pouted.
"Did it ever occur to you dat maybe dey have a valid point ‘bout him? I sure didn’ get a good first impression of him. What do you really know ‘bout him anyway? Jus’ what he’s told you? How do you know he ain’ lyin’?"
This was not what Bella wanted to hear. It didn’t matter to her who was saying it, and she didn’t want to listen. So she didn’t. Instead, she got mad and did the same thing to him that she did to everyone else. She kicked him out of her house.
"Get out! Go join your no-good fam’ly an’ leave me an’ my boyfriend alone!" She slammed the door in his face, tears streaming down her cheeks. She was more upset over the fact that deep down inside, she knew he was right, just like the others were. She wouldn’t admit it…at least until she had solid proof in front of her face…but she knew that things were just all wrong. Her problem was she didn’t know how to fix it without screwing things up even more.
Jean-Luc left Bella’s house with a heavy heart, although he hadn’t expected anything more than what he got. He just hoped that he’d been able to plant that seed of doubt a little deeper in her mind. Maybe someday she’d come to her senses.
He got in his car and drove towards Slidell. It had been years since he’d been there, but he knew the way like it was only yesterday. He went to the old one room shack that Mattie had been raised in and parked outside it. The place was rundown and old, but it was Mattie’s home and now it seemed that it was Emil’s home as well. The place had a lot of charm, and a cozy quality to it that Jean-Luc and the other thieves had always loved.
Jean-Luc opened the door and stepped in out of the rain, letting his eyes adjust to candle light again. Mattie was sitting in one corner in her rocking chair by the old wood stove, knitting. On the other side of the stove was one of the two small beds in the room. Emil was lying on it, sleeping. Jean-Luc silently crossed to Mattie and gave her a hug.
"He sleeps a lot now." Mattie whispered. "Showin’ a lot of signs of depression. I don’ blame him for dat."
"Non." Jean-Luc whispered back. He went over and knelt down on the floor in front of Emil. It was warm and comfortable there, by the stove. He reached out and gently ran a hand through Emil’s thick red hair, his expression soft and loving. Emil was twenty-eight years old, but to Jean-Luc and Mattie, who were a hundred years older than him, he was still a child and always would be.
Emil stirred, his normally sparkly blue eyes opening sleepily. They had lost quite a bit of their sparkle, but some of it returned instantly and a smile crept slowly across his pale face when he saw who was there.
"Uncle!" He exclaimed, tears in his eyes in spite of his joy at seeing Jean-Luc. He sat up so Jean-Luc could hug him and that is exactly what the older man did. He pulled his nephew close and held him while he cried.
"Shh, baby..." Jean-Luc soothed. "It’s not your fault. In fact, I t’ink you’re right ‘bout him. It’s jus’ gon’ take Bel awhile to realize dat. I don’ t’ink any of dis is permanent. An’ I’m gon’ stay here wit’ you an’ Mattie an’ everybody, b’cause I’ve started to realize dat my place is here. So don’ you worry. T’ings are gon’ get better. I promise."
Emil nodded and eventually cried himself to sleep in his uncle’s arms, the way he did when he was a little boy. Jean-Luc sat with him all night, falling asleep himself after awhile.
They had a long road ahead of them, but Jean-Luc was confident that Bella Donna would eventually figure things out and realize how wrong she was. When she did that and kicked Donyell to the curb, things would start getting back to normal.
It was just a matter of time.