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Things Done & Left Undone- Part 1
Catori makes her entrance
She was out of time but still took another minute to check herself over. The right entrance made all the difference how much control she’d have over her pupils. Besides, another fashionably late entrance should ensure Miya’d had time to collect everyone’s money. Nothing blew the mood like the sound of the credit card machine puking out receipts while she was laying down the law.
So. Her tight black braid rolled down her back, over the curve of leather to dangle just beyond the fork of her legs, not a hair out of place. Pants, duster and boots all flowed seamlessly, one into the next, ending in three inch chunky heeled boots, all matte black. The only contrast was her red corseted top, exposing much less than it suggested.
Most of her employees thought the pale vampire-ish look was the way to go, but Cat had never agreed. Always look better than your audience, that was her motto, and part of that was looking so healthy you figured she could take you down and rip your throat out with just a glance. Three hours a day in the sun had taken care of the healthy glow and the eyebrows tweezed into permanent high arches telegraphed that she would have no problem kicking your ass in the arena of your choice. Verbal or physical, they said- you will live to regret pissing me off.
In the unlikely event I decide let you live, that is.
Everything Cat choose for her wardrobe was a prop- each designed to project power, authority, superiority, and none more than her boots. At five foot three, she needed the height, and the boots were the last thing she checked, tugging to make sure they seams aligned properly, stomping lightly to get everything set. Teetering down the stairs would not be a good way to start the afternoon.
Okay. Two fifteen. Miya surely was done by now. The group would be starting to get antsy.
Perfect. A last sip of diet Dr. Pepper and then down the long winding stair.
What she saw from the landing made her smile. Two dozen tourists were assembled in the foyer, examining the posters and testimonials that hung around the room. Experience had made her expert at these calculations. At $24 each ($18 for students, seniors and active military) the total would be just north of $500. Not bad for a Wednesday afternoon; if the other groups were as full today, it’d be a nice take.
Cameras were gripped in the majority of hands. She recognized three boys from the night before- college kids, in from…where? Someplace Midwestern.
As Cat appeared on the top step Miya glided to the foot of the staircase, sweeping her arm upward even as she averted her gaze, looking subserviently down at the marble floor as she announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, your tour into the strange and mysterious history of the New Orleans cemeteries is about to begin. I introduce you now to Mistress Catori, owner and proprietress of Haunted Heights!”
The stairway was a long, graceful slope, wide and curved, and Cat moved down the center, touching nothing but the small crop she dangled at her side. She was halfway down when Miya finished her short welcome speech, perfectly timed as always.
The Ground Rules
“Welcome, everyone,” she said, her rich voice filling the hall as she reached the bottom riser. “I will indeed be your guide for the next hour and a half.” The riding crop went out, bringing Miya’s chin up to look at Mistress Catori, who was looking not at her but at everyone else. “I trust you’ve all been well cared for?” Silent nods around the room, mostly confused. “Good,” she purred, and gave a nod to her assistant along with the briefest of glances. “I would hate to have to start out with any…unpleasantness.”
Miya’s eyes were back to the ground in an instant. “It happens, occasionally,” Cat said, arching an eyebrow. “And, contrary to what you might have heard, I do not like unpleasantness, which is why we have certain rules before we step out that door.”
Pausing to take the measure of the room, Catori sternly pointed her crop at the lesser of the frat boys. “Nice to see you back, boys. These gentlemen have come with us before. Well behaved, they are- at least they are…now.” She dropped a sly wink and quirked up a grin that disappeared quickly.
“This will be remedial for them. Is there anyone else who’s been with us before?”
A girl’s hand went up in the back of the room. “I came day before yesterday, for the French Quarter tour with Wynston,” she squeaked. “It was great!”
“Ah, Wynston. A nice boy,” Cat purred. “But lenient. I run a much tighter ship. We’re so glad you've returned. I’ll be sure to let Wynston know, he’ll be so pleased.”
“Becky from Bradenton,” she grinned. “ But I thought he would…”
“Be here today?” Cat interrupted sharply. “No, pet, I’m afraid not. Wynston has been unavoidably detained and so you’ve gotten an upgrade. To me.”
The girl’s face sagged just a bit. If she knew Wynston was using the day to move-in with his new boyfriend her face would’ve fallen all the way to the floor. That boy was such a flirt, Cat thought. Well, good on him. It got him lots of return business and excellent tips.
“Alright, then.” Catori looked over the room. “Before we set out, there are rules. Unlike many of the other tours in town, I provide a lot of information and not a lot of garbage, and your tour is carefully structured to get it all in.
“Also, I ask you all to remember that I have been giving this tour much longer than you have been taking it, which is why I do not take questions. I assure you that there is no question you can think of that I haven’t already heard, considered, and integrated into my lecture. Your answers will come as part of your tour. If, in the unlikely event that you find something I have missed, you may ask your questions at the end of the tour when we return here and not before.
“And if I consider questions a rude interruption, must I tell you what I think about cell phones?” Hands reached into pockets and purses. “I do not refer only to ringing, but texting, email checking, and any other thing your shiny little machines do for you. We are here to forget the outside world for a little while, to immerse ourselves in a past that will seem entirely alien to you. If you cannot suspend the outside world for this little while, I will not be able to properly show you this new dimension.”
“Riiiight,” a middle aged guy in the front of the room said, rolling his eyes. “Good luck with that one, honey.”
Cat sighed. “Experience shows- and if you think of time spent enduring school or meetings, you’ll see I’m right- in any group there will always be one person who isn’t paying attention, or who wants to show off their wit, how utterly brilliant and above it all they are. These people will interrupt. slow things down, and annoy everyone else.” The group turned to look at the complainer, who suddenly seemed like That Guy. Even his wife edged away a little.
“So you see, these rules are not for any one person, they are for the good of the group entire. Particularly since I am not a very nice person when annoyed, so it’s very good for everyone if that doesn’t happen.” She paused, smiled. “Or, of course, you don’t have to come. It’s up to you, naturally. I’m the boss after all- I can make sure you get your money back, if that’s what you’d like…?”
His wife shot him a warning glance, and he quieted, muttering something and waiving a hand to show how little he cared. Cat knew it wasn’t the end of this guy. She hadn’t been exaggerating- 15 years of running three tours nearly every day had taught her exactly who was going to be a problem; who was going to need to be shut down. There was always one, but this one wasn’t going to be too bad. Mid life, midlevel career, from the look. He was going to need to comfort his ego, show he was the boss at some point. Ah well.
Cat again cocked an eyebrow. “Now that we have that unpleasantness resolved, let me welcome you to Mesa Mortuary, founded by my Great- Great Great grandfather 150 years ago, just after the Civil War. We’ll speak more of that when we return. However, you will note that it is an excellent place for a mortuary,surrounded by over a dozen cemeteries, and at the end of the streetcar line..."
- Things Done & Left Undone- Part 2
Upon returning form her tour, we discover that maybe Cat isn't quite what her image portrays.