“It’s all in God’s hands now, I think.”
Sunday evening, 30 August 2015
GM: Dinner eventually rolls around.
Nurse Green sets down the still-steaming, delicious-smelling bowl of beans and rice on Emil’s tray without a word. Per his request, there is also a green apple, glass of water, and crepe topped with a gooey nutella and powdered sugar drizzle.
“What’s his majesty want for breakfast tomorrow?” she glares.
Emil: Emil’s mouth waters as he looks at the delicious-smelling meal. He picks up the apple, preparing to take a bite. He can’t help but feel a knot twisting in his stomach, worse than when he ate his first meal in the hospital. Whether the knot comes from not being acclimated to such good food or from guilt he’s unsure. Either way, it feels wrong to eat this ill-gotten grub.
His eyes drift to the nurse. Emil imagines what she must think of him. He’d like to apologize, to be a better man, but he has appearances to maintain. He doesn’t want to risk his bosses ire on either of them. He replies instead, “Some scrambled eggs and a yogurt cup if you would, Nurse Green. I would really appreciate it. And I’m no king, ma’am, you can call me Officer Kane.” He feels a little dirty, but when in Rome, you must do as the Romans do.
He bites into the apple and swallows the knot.
Monday afternoon, 1 September 2015
Emil: Emil’s mind becomes clearer over the next few days of his hospital stay as the fog that seemed to clog his head slowly dissipates. He can think easier, stay awake longer, and enjoy the meals he gets each day. However, he also suffers more from headaches which seem to last longer every day. The clock seems to have cruelly slowed down time’s passage. He needs to do something to get the pain and the boredom out of his mind.
He talks to Dr. Brown every time he visits. He tries not to speak too much, but encourages the man to stay and talk with occasional strokes to his ego. Emil finds it interesting to listen to people drone on about their lives. He can sort out truth from embellishment and guess at what they choose not to admit. It’s a fun little game that keeps the mind sharp. Even when it isn’t fun, it’s better than silence.
When the nurse comes in, he tries to open her up as well. She was so quiet before that it makes it even more interesting to listen to what she might say. He waits for his daughter too. He’s sure that she’ll come to visit him. All he wants is to speak with her. He eventually asks the nurse for access to a phone so he can call his daughter and invite her to visit.
GM: The ever-smiling Dr. Brown stops by often, and is never without an encouraging word as he talks about Emil’s treatment (and soon-approaching discharge date). He does not speak about himself, but playfully chides the bedridden cop that he has other patients to see.
Nurse Green brings Emil delicious-smelling meals each day. She sarcastically addresses him as “your majesty” and still barely talks at all. She looks like she wants to spit in his food during the occasions Emil talks with her.
“You’re all just a bunch of thugs,” is one of the few (glared) sentences Emil is able to pry from her.
When Emil asks for a phone, Nurse Green wordlessly opens one of the cabinets in his room. She removes a heavy white plastic bag stamped with PATIENT BELONGINGS and a ‘name’ and ‘room number’ field. She pulls out his phone and just as silently thrusts it in his face.
Emil: It hurts to be called a thug. He’s not a thug. He wants to help people. But he has to act the part if he’s ever going to get in a position to help these people substantially. He takes the phone, calmly thanks her, and dials the most recently inputed number, his daughter’s.
GM: He first sees there’s a text from her.
you ruin everything
Emil: He sighs deeply. Great, he thinks. Just fucking great.
He presses the green call button and practices breathing. He has to stay calm.
GM: It rings, but no one answers. He eventually gets a pre-recorded teen girl’s voice saying to “leave a message, and I’ll probably call you back.”
Emil: He waits for the beep and then speaks shortly and sweetly, unsure if shell ever hear what he says.
“Sadie, I know you’re mad, and you can be mad. Just know I love you and I miss you. I can help you right now. Please call me.”
GM: Emil ends the call. His fervent words replay in his hood as he surveys his bare hospital room, the TV for now turned off.
Emil: He searches his phone for another number. He dials to reach Sadie’s mother, Stephanie, doubtful about her response. That bridge may be burnt for good, but he can’t be sure unless he tries to reach her.
GM: He reaches another answering machine that ends somewhat less irreverently with, “…leave your name and number, and I’ll get back to you.”
Emil: He sounds less intense this time and speaks with plain concern.
“Stephanie, we need to talk. Sadie’s future prospects depend on it. I know I’m a jackass, a piece of shit, what have you. But we need to protect our daughter from a potential situation. Call me when you get this.”
GM: Emil ends another call. Another set of words replay in his head. The bare hospital room remains the same as it last was.
Emil: He wants to yell. Or cry. Something to release all this tension building inside him, his innards twist, but all he is able to do is grunt. You make one mistake. One misstep and the city knocks you down. He has to be more careful next time. There has to be a next time. He remembers the start of this mess, right before he got that phone call from Sadie. He licks his lips as he remembers the taste of the shitty coffee he drank, and starts to scroll through his contacts while he remembers that package he never opened. He finds the number of his apartment complex, The Preserve. He presses the call button and waits.
GM: He reaches the residential manager, Bess Cunningham, after a few rings. “Hello, Emil, what can I do for you?” she greets.
Emil: “Well I just wanted to know how far back security camera footage is kept. Do you have ready access to it?”
GM: There’s a pause. “I’m sorry, but why might you be asking after that?”
Emil: “Well sorry for the trouble, ma’am, but I found an unmarked package at my doorstep four days ago. It’s probably a surprise arrival gift from my family, but there’s always a risk it was placed by someone maliciously. I’d handle the situation, but after receiving the package I ended up in the hospital. I’m recovering right now, but I was hoping you could check the footage from that day and send me a picture of who placed the package. Can you do that for me, Bess?”
GM: “All right, I can do that,” the thick-voiced woman answers. “Though really, I’m not sure who would go around leaving you packages but a neighbor or UPS. You didn’t make an extra key for your family, now did you? They should just buzz you whenever they want to come in.” There’s a hint of reproach.
Emil: “Thank you Bess, I know. I’m sure it’s nothing,” he returns with nothing but calm respect.
GM: “You know, Emil, I have a boy who’s grown up now. When he was in high school, I’d ask him, ‘did you do this’, and he’d nod and say, ‘I know, mama.’ Not ‘yes, mama, I did,’ or ‘no, mama, I didn’t.’ He’s working in a law office in San Antonio now.”
She adds after a pause, “The job suits him.”
Emil: “Well I apologize, I meant I didn’t, Bess.” Emil speaks to her with the same lightness with which he speaks to his own mother.
GM: “That’s better. And I hope you’re feeling better, too, after your hospital stay. Nothing too serious?”
Emil: “Nothing too bad. But it’s a head injury so the doctors want to observe my recovery a bit longer than usual. I’ll be back in a few days’ time,” Emil says reassuringly.
GM: “I’m sorry to hear about your head injury, Emil. I hope you have a full and speedy recovery. But there is a late fee if your rent isn’t paid today.”
Emil: “Well I’m probably gonna have to eat the fee, I have the check but no one to deliver it for me. I could do a money order right now if you’d be all right with that. If not that’s perfectly fine.” Well not perfectly, but his predicament is not Bess’ fault in the least.
GM: “I’m afraid that’s not the payment method specified in your lease, Emil. But thank you for letting me know now. Get well soon.”
Emil: “Thank you, Bess. Once you find the footage, just call me. I’ll be waiting. Goodbye.”
GM: “Goodbye now,” his landlady (well, residential manager) repeats, hanging up.
Emil: Emil slouches back against the bed and chuckles to himself that getting late on his rent is the most positive interaction he’s had all week.
Monday afternoon, 1 September 2015
GM: Emil’s next visitor several hours later is a 40-something-looking woman with a toned figure, vibrant complexion, and sandy blonde hair. She’s dressed in a blue and yellow sundress printed with lemons and carrying a large shoulder bag.
“Hi there, I’m Diana Flores, the dance teacher at your daughter’s school,” the woman smiles. “I was visiting some other students, and heard about another girl’s father winding up in the hospital… thought I’d drop in and say howdy. Have we met before at the PTO meetings?” she remarks, extending a hand as she approaches Emil’s bed.
Emil: “We haven’t met there, no, I’m newly returned to the city. I just began to settle in before I landed in here.” He shakes hands with her and adds, “I’m Emil Kane, Sadie’s father.”
GM: The woman sits down on the chair by Emil’s bed and un-shoulders her bag, then fishes out two smaller ziploc bags containing a sandwich and apple slices. “You hungry for any real food, Emil? I know they don’t serve anything close to it at most hospitals…”
Emil: He really isn’t that hungry. He had eggs for breakfast, but it would be impolite to deny a visitor’s gift. “This one ain’t too different. So kind of you to bring me something, Diana. I really appreciate that.” He gestures for her to place the baggies on the bedside tray.
GM: Diana sets them down, then pulls out another baggie for herself and munches on an apple slice. “You just say the word if you want any more, I made more than anyone could eat before I came by. I figured better safe than sorry, with how many families there are here right now. People get so caught up taking care of their loved ones when they’re in hospitals, they forget to take care of themselves too.”
Emil: “Well, thank God you’re here, I suppose.” He smiles at her, unsure whether her kindness is just a polite facade, but hoping it runs deeper.
GM: “Oh, that’s sweet of you to say. The girls and their families have plenty to eat without me, of course, everyone’s been sending them gift baskets. And everyone’s happy for the families help themselves, it’s just that most of it’s candy and snack foods.” She laughs. “I swear, it’s worse than Halloween. The grown-ups will eat well if they have real food in front of them, but I didn’t have much luck getting the younger girls interested in plain ol’ apple slices, not when there’s candied ones they can munch on.”
Emil: “Well, kids will be kids I suppose. But it’s the effort that counts here. I’m sure they appreciated the visit. I have.” He smiles and grabs an apple slice. “Are you close with the girls’ families?”
GM: “We aren’t on each others’ Christmas card lists, but I’ve taught all of their daughters in my classes for going on eleven years now,” Diana answers, taking another munch of her apple slice. “They’re all wonderful girls. And wonderful families. It’s so sad to see them in the hospital like this.”
Emil: “I’m sure. It’s a damn shame when bad things happen to innocent people. Especially children. Those girls should be in school learning right now, not stuck in a hospital.”
GM: Diana finishes her apple slice. “Speaking of that, Emil, if you don’t mind my asking, how did you get stuck here yourself? The girls said something about you hitting your head?”
Emil: He remembers Caroline’s advice and considers how much he should really say.
“I don’t remember much of that night, the doctor says I had a stroke and then I got hit on the head. It’s honestly very confusing for me,” Emil sighs, rubbing his temples.
GM: Diana’s eyebrows raise. “Oh my goodness, that’s awful. You look so young to’ve had a stroke… you can’t be more than what, thirty?”
Emil: “I’m twenty-nine. I thought the same thing, but, uh… that’s life, I guess. Presents you with challenges when you least expect it.” Emil smiles halfheartedly.
GM: “I guess so. At least taking blood thinners can’t be too bad at your age, you can still bounce right back from anything.”
Emil: “You’re right. I’m trying to look optimistically at this whole situation. The important thing is that everyone is alive and recovering.”
GM: Diana’s face falls just a bit at Emil’s words, but she nods in seeming agreement. “You’re right, everyone is still alive. Always count your blessings where you can.”
Emil: “That’s right. Things are looking up I’m sure. My biggest worry is about getting my rent in on time. But that’s nothing compared to life.” His eyes smile.
GM: Diana’s lips smile back. “That’s a happy thing to be worrying about, at least. Does your landlord let you pay online? You’ll probably think I’m old-fashioned for saying this, but ‘I hear that’s a thing’ nowadays. It sounds so convenient, next to sliding a check under a locked door.”
Emil: “My building has us mail it in. And sorry. I meant was my biggest worry. When someone gets injured, it really puts things in perspective. Those girls have long roads ahead of them, hopefully they’ll get the support they need.”
GM: Diana nods more soberly. “It’s all in God’s hands now, I think. Two are in comas, I suppose doctors can only do so much about those. That poor Sarah especially. I think she might have even been clinically dead for a few moments.”
The dance teacher pauses, then adds more quietly as if it’s insensitive to be discussing, “No one knows if she’s going to be herself when she wakes up, or if the brain damage is going to leave her a whole different person. I have her in one of my classes, and she is just such a sweet and thoughtful girl. Just like her aunt was. I can’t even imagine what this might be like for the family.”
Emil: “Oh no. That’s horrible. Sometimes life is cruel, though maybe if enough people pray, God might intercede. In the meantime, we have to support the families as best as we can.” Emil looks on solemnly.
GM: “They’ve all been spending a lot of time in the chapel for sure. If your doctors don’t mind you stopping by, I’m sure they’d be grateful to know their daughters are in someone else’s prayers.”
Emil: “I’d have to get my doctor’s approval, but I’d be happy to visit if the family is willing. It’s the least I can do to support them,” Emil replies seriously, his brow furrowed.
GM: “Every lil’ bit can count. Say, you want any more sandwiches? I made more than anyone could eat, like I said… they’re tuna and mayo, so they’ll just taste soggy if they sit in my fridge for too many more days.”
Emil: “No thank you, I don’t think I should eat too much food outside what the hospital provides. I don’t want to risk angering a nurse by being too full to eat the food they cook me.”
GM: Diana actually laughs. “Oh, you are just the sweetest man. A little funny, but definitely sweet.” She goes on, “The nurses don’t actually make your food, Emil, they won’t take it personally. Pretty much all that stuff gets delivered to the hospital frozen, then shoved in an oven. If anything, they might be obliged if you called ahead and saved them a trip to your room… the amount of time those women are on their feet is crazier than a soup sandwich.”
Emil: The corners of Emil’s eyes wrinkle as he laughs with her. “Well in that case, I’ll take another two sandwiches if you please.”
GM: Diana pulls two more out of her bag and sets them down on Emil’s tray.
“That oughta keep you filled up for a little while. You want any more apples too?”
Emil: “No, that’s fine, Diana. I’m all set with those sandwiches. In any case, I think I need to get some rest. Thank you for visiting me. I hope we can meet again at a less somber moment.”
GM: “Maybe we just will at the PTO meetings. But yes, you should rest up. With strokes especially, you want to take things easy.” Diana rises from her seat and shoulders her bag. “Let your daughter know I said hello when she stops by, will you? She’s a real sweetie.”
Emil: “For sure. Have a good day, Diana.”
GM: “You get well soon,” she waves as she closes the door to his room.
Emil: He thinks he will. If he can find kindness like Diana’s in other people, they might be able to effect some real change.
Maybe there’s hope for this city yet.
Sunday evening, 30 August 2015
Emil: But real change is for later. For now, Emil wants to help pick up the pieces of his mistakes. He waits for Dr. Brown, chewing on both his thoughts and on Diana’s sandwiches.
GM: Emil sits in bed as the clock ticks and ticks. He has some time to wait until his doctor’s rounds tomorrow morning.
Emil: He struggles not to stare at that clock, worried that even a peek might turn the world back an hour behind his expectations. Nevertheless, the clock’s hands prove too mesmerizing as they move in slow circles, following the same paths for an eternity and change. Emil turns on his phone and checks the notifications to force his eyes off the moving arms of time.
GM: There’s some updates to various apps, news stories, and posts on his social media circles. Little of true note, but enough to distract oneself. It’s another few hours later that he gets a call back from his landlady, asking at what time he received his package.
“A day has 24 hours in it, Emil. I’m not watching the footage for them all.”
Emil: “Sorry about that. I got it on Friday, the 28th. Relatively close to midnight,” he says immediately.
GM: A few minutes pass.
“Hmm, that’s funny. The footage shorts out.”
Emil: “Oh. That is weird. Do you have footage of the parking garage then? Any unfamiliar cars?”
GM: “Only people who live here can park in the garage. But you seem to have lucked out, as one of our cameras covers the sidewalk parking spots.”
Emil: “Oh, right. Silly me. What do you see there?”
GM: “There’s a taxi pulling up and someone getting out. I can’t make out a lot.”
Emil: “What can you see? What does the person look like generally?”
GM: “It’s nighttime and raining. The person is wearing a coat and holding an umbrella. Male, I suppose. Could be a bulky woman too. As I said, there’s not a lot to make out.”
Emil: “All right. Anything about the car? What’s the company? Do you see what number cab it is? Maybe its plates?”
GM: “Hold your horses, Emil. The name on the side is for Checker Cab Taxi. The plate says…” Emil can picture the woman squinting. “T… G… M… 368.”
Emil: “Thank you so much, Bess. I really appreciate you doing this. One last thing. What’s the timestamp for that footage?” Emil opens a notepad app and jots down the information for safekeeping.
GM: She gives him the time. It’s a few minutes before the package was delivered to his door.
Emil: He taps the information into the note on the screen. “Thanks again, Bess. If you ever need anything, I owe you one.”
GM: “I’m sure something will eventually come up. You get well, Emil,” his landlady wishes in farewell.
Emil: “Goodbye, Bess.” The call ends with a press. Emil’s mind roils like the open ocean over the new information. Who might have delivered that package? And why did the footage short just when he arrived? Was it more than a coincidence? Emil doesn’t know any of the answers. It will be difficult to find them. Despite that, he grins wide as his eyes loop through the note.
Excited by his success in finding a lead on the package, he switches over to his internet browser. He begins a digital hunt for information on the house where his troubles all started. The LaLaurie House. He sifts through a myriad of URLs from Google, Bing, and to be thorough, Torch and the Hidden Wiki, from which he can find links to the dark web. He wants to find out if any other visitors to the house had similar experiences and injuries. He passes from forum to forum and archived page to archived page. He collects the bits of information, types it in his notes, and tries to fit it together in his head to make sense of it all.
The story about Madame Delphine LaLaurie and her house is difficult to put together. The truth is buried under centuries of embellishment and the primary sources are found in newspapers which were more interested in getting attention and money than in maintaining journalistic integrity. Despite this, a discerning researcher can suss out some basis of the truth.
Marie Delphine Macarty was born in New Orleans to a Creole family and went through two marriages before marrying Dr. Leonard LaLaurie. Six years later, she purchased a property at 1140 Royal Street and finished construction of the LaLaurie mansion within a year. It acted as her family’s lodgings until 1834, when it burnt down in a fire set by Delphine’s cook in fear of punishment. Prior to marrying Dr. LaLaurie, Delphine was reportedly courteous to black people and only after the start of her third marriage did rumors of her abuse of slaves begin to circulate.
Those rumors were proven horribly true when a slave girl named either Lia or Leah fell to her death from the mansion’s roof running from a whip-wielding Delphine. Whether she fell, jumped, or was pushed by Madame LaLaurie is unclear. This event resulted in the LaLauries being convicted of the abuse of nine slaves, whom were confiscated but then returned after being purchased by Madame LaLaurie’s relatives. Rumors continued to fly until 1834, when the house was set ablaze by Delphine’s cook, who was found chained to the stove. Once the fires were put out, the house was investigated. Seven men and women were found in the slave quarters above the kitchen, shackled, and having undergone various degrees of torture. Later accounts make the descriptions of their treatment increasingly extreme and horrific. For instance, they reported a hole being drilled into a man’s head so that Madam LaLaurie could fit a stick inside to stir the brain, and that a woman had her skin peeled off in a circular pattern to look like a human centipede. Few historians give these gruesome reports any credulity. They were pushed by authors trying to spice up their novels, tour guides exaggerating the truth to spook tourists, and simple storytellers whose embellishments morphed the events they described from from historic account to urban legend.
An enraged mob descended upon Madam LaLaurie’s house after the fire exposed her abuses. They tore up the remains of the house, but the LaLauries never were brought to justice. They fled the scene in a great stage coach as the mob howled for their blood, and allegedly immigrated to Paris. Speculation persists that they later returned to New Orleans before Madame LaLaurie’s death.
All of the remaining slaves were kept in jail until they could be purchased. Madame LaLaurie did not free any of them before she died. Two of the seven found slaves died soon after they were saved from the flames, and the rest were never interviewed. Their fates are unknown. Corpses of dead slaves were allegedly found buried on the premises of the house, including one of a little girl suspected to be Lia, and especially around the property’s condemned well.
The house was rebuilt and changed hands many times after the fire. It was a high school, a bar, a music conservatory, an apartment building, and filled in for a variety of other purposes. Its haunted reputation started a few decades after the fire and ramped up during the 1890s into the now-legendary site that it is today. It’s been privately owned in recent decades, so tourists have been barred from entering the premises.
This has not stopped people from trying to break in. Many people who claim to have done so also claim to have had supernatural experiences. Accounts describe visitors as hearing a crying girl, rattling chains, and wailing from the attic. Interestingly, none of the older reports described these alleged spirits as angry or aggressive. The crying girl, which people attribute to the ghost of Lia, makes it seem as if the ghosts were downright docile.
Emil come across another story about the house, though, that sounds less peaceable.
The story of the Demon Baby of the French Quarter.
His brow furrows as he reads over the disturbing tale. There’s something…
Then he freezes.
No no no no no NO-
He tears his eyes from the phone’s screen. He fights down the bile rising in his throat and clutches his chest as his heart pounds like a war drum. He mashes the call button before it’s too late. He screams into the plastic at the top of his lungs:
Monday afternoon, 1 September 2015
GM: The medical team rushes Emil’s gurney towards the surgery room. Jargon flies back and forth over the motionless and unresponsive lawman. They’ll place a clip to seal off the bulge in his artery wall to keep it from bleeding further: maybe surgery would have been best after his first stroke after all.
The physician holds up a hand, places a stethoscope on the patient’s still chest, and waits. She watches for him to take a breath. She thinks about the surgery’s details, and soon realizes the question is moot. She places a hand on his neck and looks up.
“No surgery for this one.”
A first-year medical student brings up shining a bright light into his pupils and ‘assessing for pain’ with a sternal rub. The physician tells him such practices are to be avoided. They aren’t necessary. Anyone could call this one.
She will soon face the inevitable pile of paperwork, which one hospital she worked at labeled the ‘Final Discharge Packet,’ and another, in bold letters on a red binder, the ‘Death Binder.’ That will be followed by calls to admitting to report the death, minutes that feels like hours on hold with the medical examiner, death certificates returned if she signs on the wrong dotted line. One of the worst parts of having a patient die is those bureaucratic forms and phone calls.
No one pays attention to the phone that slipped from Emil’s trembling hands back in his now-vacated hospital room. It only took 60 seconds after he dropped it for the screen to lock and forever blot out the deceased lawman’s final sight.