Welcome and Happy Wednesday! Today is the day for highlighting my mysteries/adventures. So I present to you, an excerpt of 'Dead Men Don't Dust,' a fun read that'll go fast.
I stopped trudging toward the picturesque plantation and turned, seeing an alligator wearing a tiara heading right for me. It was odd, but even stranger was the man running behind the alligator. He wore a long white dress with a lace veil trailing to his waist.
While backing away as fast as I could with my suitcases, the duo got closer. I wanted to run, but it was magnetic, watching the couple heading in my direction.
What was going on in this area of Louisiana? Was it something in the water? Or was I nuts, waiting for an alligator to eat me?
The man finally grabbed the alligator's rhinestone-studded collar and leash, stopping both of them a few feet in front of me. He looked up at my face and tipped his head—and veil—surveying me from head to toe. "Morning."
My open mouth caught insects because I'd never seen such a thing before in my life. "Good morning?"
Should I run or just laugh?
Before I could decide, the man wiped his hand on his dress, took a step closer, and stuck it out for me to shake. The alligator stood still with its giant smile and one eye facing me. "My name's Tim," the man said.
Tim pushed his hand even closer, but I wasn't sure I wanted to touch this guy. The thought turned my stomach.
"I'm your neighbor," he said. "Is ya married?"
I did a double take of the scene, dropped my suitcase handle, and clasped both hands behind me so I wouldn't have to touch him. "Why are you asking?"
He moved his outstretched hand back to his dress, smoothing out the skirt. "I want to take you out. Get ready for dinner, because we're going to a fancy place. They even have a drive-up window."
A drive-up window? Fancy?
I didn't know what to say. It must've been a southern thing, with his accent, but I was surprised.
I pointed toward his outfit. "You're going out in a wedding dress?"
He looked down and lifted some of the lace. "Oh, this? It's just to get Clarence in the mood so he'll take a fancy to some of the girls." He pointed toward my right. "That there's my place and I raise alligators for a living. Your aunt and uncle sold off some of their land, and now it's mine."
I collected myself, still staring at the veil. How did he know I was related to the owners of the huge white plantation sitting in front of me?
I had to answer him. "Well, sir, I'm dating, so I can't go out with you, even to a place with a drive-up window."
Why he'd think that was classy was still beyond me. With him as my neighbor, it was going to be an interesting summer, to say the least.
"Ditch the guy and go out with me anyway." His grin was as slimy as his alligator's fake smile.
The door to the plantation flew open and an older black woman marched out, looking like she was on a mission. Her jaw clenched and her eyes narrowed, swinging her arms as she approached us. "Tim, don't you need to be somewhere with that animal?"
"Yes, ma'am." He nodded toward her, winked at me, then turned and pulled on the leash. He and his alligator strolled across the property toward his home while I watched, still surprised at the scene.
The older woman reached out and shook my hand. "Welcome, Miss Allison." She wore a red handkerchief tied over her hair with a streaked brown and red apron covering her old blue dress. "My name's Louise. I'm the caretaker of the kitchen here at the Lunviere Plantation. Missus Charmaine said to treat you right fine and we intend to do just that. I see you've already met one of our neighbors."
"Yes, I did, I think." I looked up at the white plantation with the giant pillared porch, sitting on a few acres of manicured land. Various trees such as weeping willows covered in Spanish moss surrounded the huge place. It was a setting no one should ever miss in their lifetime. And to think, I got to play owner of this Louisiana plantation for a whole month. "I'm sure Aunt Charmaine left me with instructions?"
Louise checked her watch and turned back toward the plantation. "Yes, and I'll give you the envelope at lunchtime, in three hours." She lifted her head and gasped aloud, taking a step backward, right in my eyesight. She studied the second floor as her mouth fell open and her eyes grew in size. While crossing herself, she said something in French and then looked up to the heavens and back to the house.
"What? Is something wrong?" I followed her eyes to see a curtain on the second floor move back to its natural place. "What did you see?"
She leaned closer and whispered, pulling her rosary beads out of her apron pocket. "The evil one." She moved the beads deftly through her fingers while whispering, then kissed the string. This woman was completely terrified of something.
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