Sunday, October 26, 2008

A History Mystery: Day Eight / Part One

The Personal Journals of Morgan Victoria Beauchamp

Friday, October 31

Dearest Mama,

I’m keeping a hand journal today as the laptop is too heavy to carry with me, and in quiet moments, I want to record each thought, each step, each action. The day is heavy with anticipation and the wild abandon only New Orleans can provide on such a holiday is steadily building.


Not knowing what will come tonight, I just finished putting my house in order, so to speak. The apartment is clean, my notes organized, lesson plans are set for the rest of the semester, and even my bank accounts are balanced. Heavens to Betsy, I didn’t realize how much money I have. I’ve ignored the stock accounts for years and what you all left me has now grown to a respectable amount. I can retire and continue my research in my own way. In any case, have the planets aligned and no one told me? I can’t remember the last time I had such a nesting instinct clobber me over the head.

Lord, I even have dinner ready for when Jean Baptiste is scheduled to show at six.

Carlo came to my rescue yet again this week. In the back of his storeroom he has a truly exquisite wardrobe of period dresses. Remade with the same materials and painstaking detail from dresses he’d once found in an old trunk at his grandmother’s house. The treasure trove he’d found there still keeps him busy many nights, he told me as he dug through the racks squeezed into his back room littered with bolts of fabric, patterns, measuring tapes and all sorts of design paraphernalia. How he had time to create and run his boutique I have no idea.

“So, who is he? You’ve never come to me for a slut dress or a costume in the same week.” Carlo dug deep into the clothes carefully bagged against dust and insect damage. “Come to think of it, you’ve never come to me for either.” Was that censure I’d heard in his tone?

“I doubt you know him, but he is one hot pirate,” I told him, thinking of what my modern Jean Baptiste would look like if dressed like the real pirate.

“Try me.” Carlo’s voice came back to me muffled by the yards and yards of fabric. “I know everyone in this town, honey.”

“Jean Baptiste Morgane. Just like the pirate I’ve been researching all my life.” The rustling in the corner stopped and I looked toward Carlo who seemed frozen. Had the clothes finally come to life and possessed him, I thought with a giggle.

“Jean Baptiste Morgane who sometimes goes by the name John Morgan?” Carlo began to move again, this time backing into the room wrestling with a particularly bulky bundle.

Surprise made me stop and stare. “Yes. You know him?”

“I told you, honey,” Carlo looked back at me with half lowered lids, “I know everybody worth knowing in this town. Possibly even this state.” He hung up the heavy looking garment bag and began to carefully open it. “For example, this dress was coveted by the governor’s wife last Mardi Gras but I wouldn’t let her wear it. However, for you,” he glanced over his shoulder, his eyes taking in my form as a tailor would, “this dress is begging to be worn by you.”

The garment bag dropped away and all I could do was gasp. Constructed of deep rose damask, yards of ribbon, and spills of lace, the dress was living history. My hand flew to the necklace hidden by the neck of my sweater. The rubies would come to life with that dress.

“I styled it after a dress Madame Pompadour wore when she posed for François Boucher. You have the same creamy skin and the perfect curves for this gown. I even have the proper choker to hide that bite mark on your neck.” Carlo clucked his tongue and sadly shook his head. “Some men don’t know how to mark their woman. Is this the result of the red dress?” His soft hand cupped my neck and his thumb rubbed over the barely visible hickey over my jugular.

“Yes. That dress got me laid by the most delicious…”

“Jean Baptiste Morgane,” Carlo finished my sentence and pulled away while shaking his head. “No time for modesty, girlfriend. Strip down to the skin and we’ll get started. It will take at least forty minutes to get you into this rig. And I don’t have to tell you, if you get blood on this dress, I won’t be happy.” He gave me a long, meaningful stare then twitched aside the curtains and walked into the dressing area. “I’m just going to lock the door so we won’t be interrupted. Get those modern clothes out of the way.”

“All of them?” I couldn’t believe the squeak in my voice.

“Every stitch! We’re going for full authenticity. Pull on the chemise first.” His voice carried back to me as I hurried, hoping to get the chemise on before he returned. I’m not a prude, but parading around naked for anyone not a lover was a bit disconcerting. My back to the curtained doorway, I’d just pulled the very thin and transparent garment over me when I heard the swish of the curtain.

“Yes, your body is perfect for this gown,” Carlo said with approval. “I must have had you in mind when making it.” A long arm reached past me and I felt the heat of him behind me. “Corset next.”

He hadn’t been joking about the time to dress me, but in the end, it was worth every moment. Though the weight is unfamiliar, the entire ensemble fit like a well loved glove and I find it reasonably comfortable. I am also glad it is a cool night, for the layers are quite warm despite the lack of panties or even pantalets. Stockings anchored with garters and a touch of modern technology, a special glue, are all that cover my legs beneath the petticoats. It feels wicked and decadent.

“Nice necklace, by the way.” Carlo stood back and assessed the final piece of my costume, a finger thoughtfully tapping his lips. I had a feeling he knew something about the necklace, or about Jean Baptiste, but he wasn’t about to tell me. I hate those kinds of secrets. “A touch of makeup will hide your love bite since you don’t need the choker.”

“It was a gift. My birthday present.”

“From Jean Baptiste?” A finely shaped brow arched. “A very valuable gift.”

A strange shiver touched my heart then and my hand flew to the jewels circling my throat. Was it a mistake to wear them? Carlo, whom I’d known for a decade, eyed the stones in a way that made me feel vulnerable.

“I hope he’ll meet you here,” Carlo said and turned away to hang up my street clothes. “It would be foolish to walk the streets with that on your neck. You wouldn’t make it two blocks before getting mugged.”

“Get me a cab,” I said. “He’s coming for dinner at six.”

“You have about fifteen minutes to get home then.” Carlo reached for his phone. A quick conversation, half in French, and he hung up with a smile. “They’ll be out front in two minutes.”
True to his word, Carlo had me bundled into a cab with my street clothes in a bag. With only a minute to spare, I hitched up my skirts and dashed up the stairs to my apartment.

I’m sure it’s only fancy, or the Halloween atmosphere, but I could almost swear someone, or something, watched me from deep shadows. I don’t have time to worry about it. Jean Baptiste is coming and I just put dinner in the oven to warm, the candles are lit and everything is perfect. Tonight, something momentous is going to happen. I’m just not sure what.

He’s knocking now. Showtime!


Unknown said...

Ooh, I can't wait to see what is going to happen next! Hmmm...was that Jean Baptist watching her or was it somebody intent on harm? I love this story! *L*

BTW...Carlo is perfect!



Morgan O'Reilly said...

We're going to drag this out, one little entry at a time, just to drive you nuts... lol.

Glad you like Carlo. Had we more room/time I would have given him a much larger role. I wanted to make him part of Jean Baptiste's community, but alas, time is against me. I might have to write a whole new book to give him his just exposure.