When Willie Rae Flynn woke up one morning and realized that killing people for money was no longer a satisfying way to make a living, she knew it was time for her to get out of the hired assassin game.
With all trace of her previous life erased and a new and completely fictitious back-story set in its place, she left New York where she had been headquartered for nearly twenty years, and headed to New Orleans, the city in which she had been born and raised. There she purchased an apartment-cum-office overlooking Bourbon Street, hung out her shingle, and waited for the work to roll in.
That was in the Spring of two-thousand-five. Just a few months later what had rolled in was a hell-bat they gave the innocuous-sounding name of Katrina. The aftermath of that bitch brought in more work than Flynn could have handled if she had an army of people working for her, which she did not. Most of the initial work came from insurance companies desperate to find reasons not to pay out to people whose homes and livelihoods, and in too many cases, loved ones, had been lost or destroyed in the hurricane that finally brought New Orleans to its knees after many years of waiting and occasionally praying. It did not take long for Flynn to realize she was disinterested in helping the insurance companies to further deprive people who had already had so much taken from them of a few bucks in compensation. So she worked with the claimants rather than work against them, and she soon built up a name as the kind of investigator was willing to overlook the odd anomaly here and there.
Flynn was not able to exist in New Orleans in complete anonymity. To apply for a PI’s license and a permit to carry a concealed weapon required a police check. Flynn was not unduly worried. She had been careful to create an airtight back-story. The NOPD were stretched, manpower at a third of what it had been pre-Katrina, so any background check they conducted was cursory at best. On one of her first non-insurance cases she did come into contact with an NOPD detective named Pierce Boudreau and that led to a much closer relationship between the two.
Today it was not Pierce Boudreau who was on Flynn’s mind. She was thinking instead about Dana Jordan, a reporter with the Orleans Weekly, a small-time newspaper trying its game little hardest to compete with the mighty Times-Picayune. A free-sheet handed out in various hotels, bars, and cafes, the OW got its revenue from advertising and from subscription fees. People liked it because the reporting was even-handed, and the writing was of solid quality. Flynn admired the paper’s pluck. She also admitted to admiring its lead crime reporter, the aforementioned Dana Jordan, although for qualities other than her pluck, it had to be said.
Dana Jordan hailed from Boston, a family of old-bloods who had connections to Capitol Hill and more money than you could shake a whole firm of accountants at. She had attended the most prestigious schools and colleges that the North had to offer, and was destined to become a serious political journalist in Washington DC. That was until she spent one summer working on the Times-Picayune as an intern and got thoroughly bitten by the New Orleans bug. Dana Jordan had even chosen to stay put whilst the hell-bat Katrina rained down death and destruction, rather than flee as so many of her fellow Fourth Estate members did. It was after Katrina that the OW had sprung up and Dana became one of the first journalists with real kudos to go to work for it.
Not that it was Dana’s faith in the little newspaper, albeit a touching faith, that Flynn admired her for either. No, Flynn’s interest in Dana Jordan lay primarily in the woman herself. Dana was a fox. Plain and simple. Although nobody really had black eyes, Dana Jordan’s were such a dark dark brown they damn near were black. She had black hair too, straight to her shoulders, and long dark eyelashes, and a profile that made her look like some kind of Egyptian princess. Five-eight, making her just a couple inches shorter than Flynn, and with a very nice build. There might have been something between them, if Flynn had allowed there to be. More than once the reporter had indicated her reciprocal interest in Flynn.
The problem was, Flynn just did not like letting anyone in too close. People got close to you, they wanted to know stuff about you. They started asking about your past. They simply could not help it, humans are nothing if they are not curious. But that kind of close scrutiny Flynn did not need, even if she had covered her tracks through the past six ways to Sunday. It was still a chance that she was unwilling to take. And a reporter as good as Dana was bound to be very thorough in her curiosity. Already she seemed to suspect there was more to Flynn’s story than Flynn was telling her.
So Flynn kept her distance from the gorgeous, smart reporter, and stuck instead to the kind of relationships never had a hope of getting to the late-night cuddling and tell-me-about-yourself stage. Interestingly, Pierce Boudreau’s being a cop, naturally creatures of great curiosity, was not proving to be any such hurdle. Flynn reasoned that had something to do with Boudreau having something to protect herself - a good solid career and a very respectable life-partner. Human nature being the twisted thing that it is, however, it was Dana whom Flynn wanted in the worst way, and Dana whom she was thinking about as the rain came down outside of her office on Bourbon Street on a mid-Spring afternoon. Flynn was waiting for a new client to show up. Already twenty minutes late for a two o’clock appointment, the woman had called three days ago, in something of a tizzy, pleading for Flynn’s help to find her daughter, gone missing just over one week ago. The NOPD had been of very little help and the mother was desperate. Flynn had checked it out with her police contacts and although no one was admitting as much, the feeling she got was that the police were leaning toward the girl having gone away of her own accord. However, the mother had sounded so upset Flynn agreed to see her. Now she was looking like a no-show. Maybe her errant daughter had come home and Mom, in all the celebrations, just forgot to call and cancel.
It was a nice fantasy, but it probably wasn’t the case. Flynn had just about decided to forget the whole thing, go out and get some coffee and maybe a beignet, when the telephone on her desk rang, the sound loud and echoing in the high-ceilinged room. Flynn leaned forward, reaching over and picking up the receiver. “ Flynn,” she said. The twangy, slightly roughened mix of Brooklyn and Deep South in her accent, a legacy of her family’s Irish Channel origins, was becoming more pronounced with the more time she spent in her home city.
“ It’s me,” said Detective Pierce Boudreau. There was background noise so the detective was outside. “ Y’all might want to come see something.”
“ Where are you?” Flynn asked.
Boudreau’s voice was tight with tension. “ I’m at a vacant lot corner of Law and Desire. And I’m not alone. There’s a woman with me. Unfortunately she’s dead.”
“ Uh huh. What’d you know about how she got that way?”
“ Not a whole lot as yet. I just got here myself so I haven’t had a proper look-see. The vic is naked but we found her pocketbook discarded in a Dumpster nearby. There was a slip of paper in it has your name and address on it.”
A bad feeling had just got hold of Flynn. She tried to rein it in, tell herself it was coincidence, then Boudreau went and spoiled that by adding: “ Driver’s license was in the pocketbook too. Photo matches the vic. Name was Jeannette Larue. That mean anything to you, Flynn?”
It did. It was her no-show client.