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Things Done & Left Undone- Part 2
Get here by accident? Part 1 is here...
- Things Done & Left Undone- Part 1
A jaded ghost tour operator in New Orleans believes she's seen and heard it all, but things are about to take a turn for the weird.
It was part of her usual wrapup. The tour had lasted a little over two hours, returning to the Mesa for Cat to explain a little of her family's history of owning the mortuary for 150 years, and get in some plugs for some of their other tours.
“Call them what you will- ghosts, souls, life forces- as you saw earlier today, they are here always, and they want us to know their stories and learn from them. It is a little like tuning a radio and I was born with my frequency attuned to their broadcast. It made for some quite awkward situations when I was a child- asking out loud why everyone is crying when they all knew the dead was a bastard can make everyone a little uncomfortable- especially when it’s true. Before long I wasn’t allowed to go upstairs with the families.”
Cat smiled, dropping a conspiratorial, wasn’t-I-naughty wink. Most of the group chuckled, a show of tension breaking disbelief. “We’re playing along,” the sound said. “We don’t really believe this, even if we’ve all been standing here perfectly still and perfectly silent for the last five minutes. Ha ha ha.”
“If you’re interested in the Mesa- its history and its haunting, we offer evening ghost hunting tours of the building. They last up to four hours, and we provide all the equipment you’ll need to explore all four floors, including the embalming rooms and crematorium.
“Regardless, I’m glad you joined us today, and the time has finally come. Are there any questions I left unanswered? Anything you wanted to know that was overlooked?”
Silence. No raised hands, only a glare from the middle aged hubby from earlier. She smiled pleasantly. “Good, I’m glad- that means I’ve done my job. But if you think of anything, please feel free to drop us an email. Miya will be happy to add you to our mailing list and answer your inquiries, or book future tours for you and yours. Thank you, everyone, you’ve been a wonderful group.” And with a slight dip of her head, she turned to return up the staircase. Miya started the applause, as always, but it was picked up and traveled around the room as polite audience might do at the end of a performance.
It meant no tips, of course. Catori had weighed that consideration, but since not that many people actually tipped on these things, it was better to leave ‘em with a memorable exit than hope for a few bucks to come her way. Besides, it seemed to result in more repeat business. Strange but true, her ‘guests’ seemed to appreciate the studied arrogance; the more of a superior she came off as, the quieter they were, the more cowed, the more awed. It wore off, she knew. Later, many would think back on the experience and maybe notice some holes in the narrative, maybe they’d snicker at the light drama of it all, and surely they’d lose much or most of the larger than life awe of it all.
But hopefully, they’d remember they had a good time, and learned a bit about the city, too. And certainly they’d left some money behind, which was all to the best, as far as Cat was concerned. It didn't hurt that they were drifting over toward the postcards, tee shirts and chotskies.
Back to business
Catori had just pulled her boots off when Miya came through her office door. “All gone, boss,” she said. “How’d it go?”
“Oh, fine, I guess. I’m a little rusty for the daytime tour, had to throw in a little of the nighttime magic show, but I don’t think they cared much.”
“Nah. The couple of comment cards that were left were just fine. Somebody complained about the water prices, though.”
“Yeah, well, what else is new? I’m not going to worry about that one too much.” The drink machine had been put in after the owners of the new juice bar refused to kick back a fair share if the tours stopped there for a drink. Particularly in summer, standing in the middle of bright, sun-absorbing marble, it wasn’t uncommon for tourists to drop like flies. Water was essential- especially for those who were already dehydrated from too much cheap Bourbon Street booze from the night before. The Mesa offered ice cold water bottles to take along, and strongly encouraged them by refusing to take responsibility for the consequences of not buying the bottles, at a markup of a mere 400%.
“Heard from Wynston?”
“No, he hasn’t called yet. I think you took those boots off too fast, though. I doubt he’ll be in for tonight’s tour, either.”
Cat sighed. “I suspect you’re right. Still, he’s going to be flat broke after setting up house, so he really is gonna need to bring his ass to work.”
Miya scowled. “Like you’re really gonna dock him. And, of course he knows that- you’ll pay him as per usual, so give it up.”
Catori scowled back at her. “You know, I really prefer the subservient, terrified assistant Miya to wiseass Miya.”
“Truth to power, baby,” she laughed.
“Yeah,” Cat grunted, looking down at the stack of bills scattered over her huge mahogany desk. “Well, I’ll give him his flat rate, I suppose, but that’s all.”
“Plus his referrals,” Miya added.
“Only fair.” Miya was close to snickering now.
“Yeah, it is. But that’s all. Period, and I’m serious.” Cat pointed at Miya. “Don’t put him down for a penny of commission on attendance.”
“Even if they buy his stuff?” Miya smirked, referring to the personalized merchandise in the shop. Each guide had a miniature selection of themselves on a few different items- tee shirts, fans, and the like- and got 10% back if they sold.
“Don’t push it, kid,” Cat said, gathering up the envelopes and trying to impose some order on them. “I said on attendance. And track down Ashley. See if she can do the damn tour tonight. I need a night off.”
“Even if I could figure out where the hell she is, you don’t want her doing this one, Cat.”
“Oh, you have no idea. I ran into William this afternoon.”
“What was he doing up here during the day?”
“Who the hell knows, but whatever it was, he was doing it in Holt an hour ago with four kids and a guitar. He didn't say too much, though- just stood up and scowled, though he did give a snotty little wave and say ‘see you tonight,’ in that faux ominous way of his.”
“I told you- you really don’t want her to take this one.”
“I know she doesn't have the night patter perfected yet, but she’s got to get some practice, so-“
“Not tonight.” Miya interrupted. “I don't know who those ‘four kids’ William was with, but it’s a good bet it’s some band or other. Voodoo Fest’s coming up this weekend, remember? The bands are starting to come in, their handlers first. A lot of the reservations we’ve gotten have come right from concierge desks, so I don’t know if they’re big deals, or advance people, or what, but this one’s gotta be done right. Wynston would be great, of course- but you’d be better.”
“Dammit,” Cat said, scattering the envelopes back across the desk. “I was wondering why a Wednesday afternoon tour would be so busy. Voodoo. Shit.”
The “Voodoo Music Experience” as it was fully titled was one of the newest annual festivals in the city, and one of the few focused more
It was a mixed bag for Mesa. Private tours were often booked last minute- profitable, but a pain in the ass, with regularly scheduled events still going on. And those regular tours were rowdier, more crowded, and there was guaranteed to be at least a few stoners with big mouths and the attention spans of gnats. Well, she kind of liked that, usually. Enforcing discipline on impressionable youth could be fun.
But Miya was right, dammit. There'd be advance people here on the ground, and even if the concierges took a hefty referral fee, they had to be kept happy. It looked like she’d be doing the tour tonight after all. “Try to get Ashley out of bed anyway, dammit. She could use a little modeling.”
“Right, boss,” Miya said, pulling the door shut behind her as she left. “No reason to not spread the pain around.”