In celebration of her new release, ELYSIAN FIELDS, book three in her Sentinels of New Orleans series, Suzanne Johnson has written an exclusive piece of flash fiction for She-Wolf Reads. DJ, Jean Lafitte, and a pirate movie. That’s all I have to say. Read it.
Note: “Pirate Flicks” is an original short-short set in the world of the Sentinels of New Orleans series, featuring wizard DJ Jaco, her partner (and maybe more) shapeshifting enforcer Alex Warin, loup-garou enforcer Jake Warin, the undead 19th-century French pirate Jean Lafitte, Cajun merman Rene Delachaise, and a cast of many—few of them are actually human.
I stood at the ticket window of the Prytania Theater, trying to pay for two seats while keeping an eye on the undead pirate behind me. If Jean Lafitte engaged too many humans in conversation, it might take some fancy wizarding footwork to undo the damage.
I couldn’t resist, however. As soon as I saw the newspaper ad that the Prytania had a matinee showing of the old 1958 film about Jean Lafitte, “The Buccaneer,” I had to bring him. It was his first movie, although he’d seen TV a couple of times and grasped the general concept. And I had warned him that he was not to be noisy or draw a weapon.
He wasn’t talking to anyone, though. Instead, he stood in front of a big movie poster, frowning. “This naked man, he is supposed to be ‘Lafitte the Pirate’?” He pointed to the offending text. “I was not a pirate but a privateer, Drusilla, as well you know.”
I nodded. Potato, potahto. “Absolutely right.”
He poked a finger at the image of a sword-wielding Yul Brynner. “And I would never fight thus. One would be easily stabbed if fighting naked.”
I’d warned him the movie was about his role in the War of 1812, and that he shouldn’t take it too literally. “He’s not naked; he’s wearing pants and boots.” Brynner, who played Jean in the movie, also wore a bandanna-style do-rag and a skimpy little moustache but I wouldn’t point those things out. I’d never seen Jean wear either.
“This Monsieur Brenner, he is French? Is this an acting name? What was the name given by his parents? Only a Frenchman should play the famous privateer Jean Lafitte. And what is on his head?” Jean’s dark blue eyes had narrowed, and I began to wonder if this was as bad an idea as Alex had insisted. He’d refused to come with us, saying if he wanted to hear someone talk like Pepe le Pew he’d watch cartoons.
“He’s Russian, I can’t pronounce his real name, and he’s wearing a do-rag on his head.” I hooked an arm around Jean’s and pulled. “Come on, you’re gonna love popcorn. And I’ll get you a Coke.”
He followed me with one last, scathing glance at the poster. “I like Coke,” he said. The pirate—er, privateer—had a sweet tooth.
He watched the popcorn machine with much interest as we waited at the counter, taking in the comforting smell of musty theater carpet and butter. We made the short climb up the stairs and stood in the theater doorway; it wasn’t too crowded.
Might as well give him the real experience. “Follow me,” I whispered, and led him down the aisle to the middle of the fifth row.
We started with the big tub of popcorn on my lap but after a couple of mouthfuls, he slowly slid it onto his. Like I wasn’t going to notice? “Stop being a popcorn hog. I’m going to get my own tub.”
“Very well, Drusilla.” He wasn’t even listening to me. He was too busy examining the cardboard tub and licking his fingers. Probably trying to figure out how he and Rene, his merman business partner, could sell it in Old Orleans, just across the metaphysical border from the modern city.
By the time I got my own popcorn and returned, the previews had begun. The popcorn lay forgotten in Jean’s lap and his eyes widened as, onscreen, a giant, young Meg Ryan cavorted with Kevin Kline, who played a Frenchman with a Pepe le Pew accent in the trailer for “French Kiss.” Which of course they did.
“They show such intimacies in these movings?” Jean asked in his outraged 19th-century Frenchman voice, which earned us a chorus of shushes from the theatergoers farther back. I slid down into my seat.
“It’s movies, and you have to whisper,” I whispered, praying to God no trailers containing anything more raunchy than a simple kiss would play.
“Why is it a French kiss? Qu’est-ce que c’est?” Like I was going to explain tongue dancing with a 230-year-old lusty pirate.
Luckily, we went straight into a vista of open water and a sailing ship, and Jean forgot the topic of French kissing and settled back with a satisfied grunt and resumed crunching popcorn.
I thought all was going well. He mumbled a few “hmphs” and “mon Dieus” but behaved himself until the scene where an annoyingly sincere Inger Stevens, portraying the governor’s daughter, proclaims her love for Jean and demands he help the Americans.
“Bah,” he said to an answering hiss of “Shhhhhh” from behind us. “The governor had no daughter,” he muttered. “It was Jean Lafitte’s decision to side with the Americans. No woman was involved. War is men’s work.”
We would revisit that topic later, but for now I nudged the tub of popcorn. “Absolutely right. Just eat.”
All was calm for a while, until Yul Brynner, wearing his finest Jean-like outfit, finally had his first meeting with Andrew Jackson, played by Charlton Heston. “They make me appear wide and squat. Monsieur Jackson was a wraith, and not taller than I,” Jean whispered, loud enough for the back row to hear.
“Absolutely right. Now hush.” I elbowed him, causing him to spill a bit of his Coke and thankfully distracted him from the rest of the encounter with Jackson. Unfortunately, he was alert again by the time his movie incarnation confessed to sinking an American ship and was dragged off to be hanged with a length of drapery cord.
“Mon Dieu. This is an outrage!” He was on his feet before I could stop him. He lapsed into a torrent of French aimed at the traitorous governor and his daughter as if they could hear him through the screen and respond.
I heard rustling and voices behind us, and I dug my nails into his hand. “Sit down and shut up before you get us thrown out.”
He was beyond hearing, though, and when the tall, strapping Andrew Jackson swooped in to save his unworthy friend the pirate, Jean was in a fine rage. Hopefully, no one spoke French. I had no idea what he was saying, but I doubted it was nice.
The movie stopped. The lights rose. Whispers erupted around the theater. I wanted to die, but didn’t think God would spare me this indignity. It takes a lot to be tossed out of a theater in New Orleans.
“Sir, I must ask you and the lady to leave, or I’ll have to call security.” A nervous, twitchy theater manager who looked like he was barely out of diapers stood in the aisle. Good God, they probably thought Jean was going to whip out a gun and start shooting. It could happen.
“Jean.” I stood up and shoved him toward the aisle. “I just got a text message that Monsieur Brynner is outside, and wishes to speak with you.”
Yul Brynner was as dead as the human version of Jean Lafitte, but his historical undead self probably was running around somewhere. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Jean gave me a suspicious look, assessed the quavering teenage manager, and gave a curt nod. He still thought text messaging had to do with some sort of magic. “Very well. We shall speak with this impersonator and ask how he allowed such an outrage to be put into a moving.”
I kept my eyes on the floor as I trailed behind Jean and the manager, praying no one I knew was in the theater. When we reached the lobby, the lights went down again behind us, and I pushed Jean outside before he could go back to see what historical atrocities came next.
“You lied about Monsieur Brynner, Jolie.” Jean’s voice had settled back into its normal, pleasant baritone as he walked past the Buccaneers poster with a sniff. “But I wish to continue our talk about this ‘French kiss.’”
It was going to be a long, long afternoon.
Copyright 2013 Suzanne Johnson. May not be reprinted or shared without written permission of the author.
To read more of Suzanne’s flash fiction set in the Sentinels of New Orleans world, please visit her archive here!
An undead serial killer comes for DJ in this thrilling third installment of Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series
The mer feud has been settled, but life in South Louisiana still has more twists and turns than the muddy Mississippi.
New Orleanians are under attack from a copycat killer mimicking the crimes of a 1918 serial murderer known as the Axeman of New Orleans. Thanks to a tip from the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, DJ Jaco knows the attacks aren’t random—an unknown necromancer has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans, and his ultimate target is a certain blonde wizard. Namely, DJ.
Combatting an undead serial killer as troubles pile up around her isn’t easy. Jake Warin’s loup-garou nature is spiraling downward, enigmatic neighbor Quince Randolph is acting weirder than ever, the Elders are insisting on lessons in elven magic from the world’s most annoying wizard, and former partner Alex Warin just turned up on DJ’s to-do list. Not to mention big maneuvers are afoot in the halls of preternatural power.
Suddenly, moving to the Beyond as Jean Lafitte’s pirate wench could be DJ’s best option.
What do you think of Pirate Flicks? If you haven’t read the series, I hope this has whet your appetite. It’s one of my favorites.
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