Adel could hear music coming from Jackson Square two blocks away on St. Ann, brass instruments battling it out in perfect harmony. Ordinarily, he’d have quickened his pace, hurrying there as though summoned by the Pied Piper himself. Billie felt his excitement, already pulling ahead of him on her leash, and he had to rein her back.
Four black men had set up in the usual place by the Cabildo—the 18th Century building adjacent to St. Louis cathedral where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. Two of the musicians—sousaphone and trumpet—sat on one of the benches there in the slanted morning light, the luxuriant vegetation of the square’s garden shimmering behind them. The other two—trombone and clarinet—stood facing each other with eyes screwed shut, lost in a duel of bright mournful notes. A crowd of white tourists had gathered around to listen in speechless rapture, Adel wondering how many of them knew that disobedient slaves were once executed in this very spot, their dismembered bodies displayed at the city’s gates as a warning to others.
Adel immediately recognized the trombonist, Glen David Andrews, who used to play at King Bolden’s in the early months after the storm, back when Maya was still alive. Maya’s father, the bar’s previous owner, knew every musician in town and they’d all performed there at one time or another.
Glen noticed him and nodded hello as he played. Adel stuck around for a little while to listen, memories cascading through his mind. Heroin had kept them at bay for four years, but not anymore. He looked at Billie panting next him and again was reminded of the night he’d first met Maya after taking her father to the hospital. If he hadn’t gone to talk to her then she might still be alive today. Guilt hit him like a fist to the solar plexus, staggering him, the music momentarily fading from his ears. He left, heading for Decatur Street and the levee, just as Glen started to sing behind him, his raw, bourbon-drinking angel’s voice suddenly booming, rising above the Place D’Armes and cathedral, Adel only now placing the hymn—‘Walking through Heaven’s Gate.’
A few minutes later he strolled at the Mississippi’s edge, Billie’s snout testing the air as the mighty river flowed placidly past them toward the Gulf, a giant tanker making its way under the Crescent City Connection bridge. Adel could see the Natchez docked along the levee up ahead, more tourists gathered there, some standing, gawking at the sternwheeler replica, others sitting on benches. The Algiers Point ferry announced its imminent departure from the West Bank with a brief toot that rolled languidly across the water, just as Adel’s cell rang in the pocket of his shorts. He took it out, looked at the screen.
“That’s funny,” he said, “I just was thinking about you yesterday. How you been, Officer?”
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