L is for Love (A Serial Killer Story)

Scarlett: Part II
The taxi dropped her off on the corner of Dauphine and Toulouse in the French Quarter. It had taken her two years to work her way down to Louisiana. She should have made her transition more quickly, but there were things that needed to be taken care of. There was no real way the Chicago police would chase her down, but she needed to be more careful. She was getting sloppy. That truck driver in Iowa was sure to cause uproar, not to mention the waiter in Kansas. He had been in the navy and was just recently separated from his wife. Scarlett had given him an escape from both the loneliness and the pain. She shouldn’t have left him like she did, but at least the last thing on his face was a smile. That had been only a month after she left and she had only killed two other times on her journey and it was killing her. She got out and walked to the passenger window to pay the cabbie.
“What do I owe ya?” She asked in the most cordial tone she could manage.
“Fifty two twenty” he said with a grunt. Scarlett handed him sixty.
“Keep the change. Hey, by the way you know any crematoriums that might need help?”
“Hell woman!” He said snatching up the cash. “I’m just a cab driver not a damn want ad!”
“Sorry” She said backing away so the cab could speed off, “for nothing! Jack ass. Well, now where to?” Even though she was alone she spoke out loud. It was a really bad habit she just couldn’t rid herself of. Not far down the street there was a newspaper stuck in the gutter. She picked it up, sat down on the curb, lit a smoke and opened to the want ads. She scanned the listings and found a place that was advertising help wanted. She bundled up the paper and shoved it in her backpack.
“Now all I need is to find out how to get there.” Suddenly a voice boomed from behind her.
“Gets to where darh’lin?” Scarlett jumped at the voice. She thought she had been alone. Whirling around she saw what appeared to be a kitchen hand smoking a cigarette right behind her.
“I need to get to the Charbonnet-Labat funeral home.” She said spat out.
“Well why the hell would you wants to go there? Not a death in the family I hopes?” he said taking a drag.
“No, nothing like that. I used to work in a crematorium back in Chicago. I really like the work.” She could tell what she said made the man uncomfortable so she added, “Well, what I mean is, at least the customers can’t complain or anything. As long as you have a strong stomach, it’s not so bad” trying to cover up for her bizarre but honest comment.
“I knows what you mean little lady!” The old Creole man said laughing. “All you’d need here is the ability to tune out the bitchin’ customers. Well, I guess you’d need a strong stomach too.” He laughed and coughed at the same time and she joined in. “All you gotts to do is walk thata way down Dauphine till you gets to St. Phillip’s. Turn left and it’s on the corner of there and Robertson. Ain’t far but a damn good walk.” He said pointing as if she could actually see through the buildings.
“Perfect. Walking doesn’t bother me. Thanks!” She said heading away from the man.
“No problem little missy! You stay outta trouble ye hear! And come have a bite to eat if you thinks you can stomach it!” He yelled laughing after her.
“Will do!” She yelled back with a giggle. After about an hour of walking, stopping only to eat, She finally made it to the Charbonnet-Labat funeral home just before closing time. She smoothed her hair over her eye making sure the scar was well covered, pulled her gloves on and pushed open the door.
A bell chime rang as she entered the building and walked up to the empty reception desk. She waited for a minute or two and no one came. There was a bell on the desk that had a sign which said “Ring for service”, so she did.
“I’m coming I’m coming!” an elderly yet strong voice yelled from behind a door behind the desk.
“Just hold on a minute, not like someone’s dying!” An old, very skinny man covered in wrinkles with white hair pushed his way backwards through the door pulling off his latex gloves. “Damn ashes get everywhere!”
“Um, hello sir. I am here about your want ad in the paper.”
“You! Ha! Right. What is it you really want missy?” he said glaring at her twitching his white handlebar mustache back and forth as if she were about to admit she was part of a very mean joke.
“No sir,” she began, “I’m serious. I have had experience in more than a few funeral homes and I just moved here and wanted to keep up my line of work”. Her tone became much more confident as she spoke.
“Really?” the old man asked.
“Yes really” she answered.
“How old are you? Nineteen?”
“Twenty seven sir.” His eyes said he didn’t believe her. She always had this problem. Scarlett had looked nineteen since she turned twenty two, before that it was even worse. He stared at her a little longer then pressed on with the interrogation.
“Got a strong stomach then?”
“Yes sir. Made of steel” she said confidently.
“Can you work an incinerator?”
“Probably the only thing I can work sir.”
“What’s your name darlin’?”
“Scarlett. Scarlett Roget.” She had decided to use her first name this time since she had used her middle name in Chicago. She hardly ever used the same name two places in a row and had enough fake identification to keep it that way, however, something about this particular place made her only want to hide what she did, not who she was.
“Scarlett huh? Parents must have been hippies. Still gots a lot of those around here, hippies, gutter children, witches, gypsies and voodoo priests. You’ll fit right in. I normally wouldn’t do this, but help is damn hard to finds these days and I like your gusto kid. You’re hired.” The old man said slapping his old wrinkly hand on the desk. “When can you start?”
“Now?” She was shocked at how easy that had been. Usually she had to convince the mortician she was right for the job.
“Now is right, well now as in Monday. I ain’t open on Sundays.” the old man said. “I’m Bruce. Bruce Nichols, but just call me Bruce. Do you have anywhere to stay yet?”
“No I just got here barely an hour ago” She replied.
“Well then!” Bruce began, “there is a small apartment in the basement near the incinerator room that has one bedroom, a bathroom and a very small kitchen. You want it? It’s cheap and I can take it out of your pay.”
“Uh, yea fine that sounds fine.” She had to repress her excitement. She would be staying right in the home again? That was fantastic, all the easier to get rid of her “clients” that did not work out. Usually she had to figure out how to get them from her place to the home without anyone noticing, Chicago excluded since this same situation had happened there as well. This was working out great.
“Fine” Bruce continued. “Here are the keys to the backdoor of the home and the key to the room. It’s the only other one down there. I live one block down Robertson at Ursuline. You can come and call whenever you need me. Not that you would being that you have worked in these places before.” She listened carefully so she would know when she would or would not be visited by her new boss.
“It’s only me, well and now you, here. We open at nine in the morning sharp and close at six in the evening, but I wouldn’t expect you up here until around ten or eleven. I know how the young like to party around here. Used to be quite an animal myself back in the day.” Bruce gazed off into some far away land behind the wall and Scarlett had to giggle a little. “Any who, you won’t find me botherin’ you none. I like to keeps my distance a little. No use getting’ too close to employees. Usually don’t last long here. Can’t stomach it and it’s always harder to let ‘em go when you like ‘em.” Bruce headed toward the front door. “No use staying any later today. Got nothin’ to do now that you’re signed on. I’ll lock up here and the back door is yours, but you can get to your room down the staircase at the end of that hall there” Bruce indicated by pointing to her left. “I’ll see you Monday as today is Saturday. Ain’t open on Sundays, as I said before. We all needs rest.” She followed Bruce through his closing duties to get a feel for the place.
About twenty minutes later he left her alone in her room. She flung herself on the bed. Was this really happening? She had free reign of the place from six at night to nine in the morning, her own room in the building and her own key to it? She decided to wait to set up her things and grabbed her book bag. Inside she put her wallet, the book she was reading and her camera. She shut the door behind her making sure it locked, ran down the hall to the door that Bruce had indicated as being the back exit, jumped the last four steps up from the basement, ran past the incinerator room, no use stopping to look at being that they are all pretty much the same, and headed out for a night of scouting.

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