Notes: Voodoo Remoulade takes place after the events in Progress of Love. The first chapter contains the essentials of the backstory for new readers.


Chapter 1: Monsters

Federal Building. Wednesday, February 22, 2006.

The slice of king cake wasn't necessary, but it was a nice touch. When Neal showed up at Peter's office with two plates of the colorful pastry along with French roast coffee, Peter didn't need to be a mind reader. "You want to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras?"

Neal grinned. "How'd you guess?"

"Clue Number One is that purple tie."

"It's actually plum-colored," Neal corrected, removing the lids from the coffee cups.

"With green medallions," Peter continued, undeterred. He tucked a paper napkin over his tie to protect it from the brightly colored sugar. "It also helps that I overheard you and Travis discussing Mardi Gras yesterday afternoon."

It wasn't a surprise that White Collar's tech expert planned to attend. His partner Richard was from New Orleans and still had family there. But Peter hadn't expected they'd want someone else along on the vacation. Besides, he'd assumed Neal had been to Mardi Gras with his cousin Henry during the years they lived on the road.

"Richard's been in New Orleans for the past week," Neal explained. "His company was so intrigued by that Cthulhu Mythos video game we invented to catch a piracy ring that they decided to explore it further. Richard's down there with a couple of other artists scouting locations and drawing concept art."

Peter remembered Richard's boss explaining that the company had been playing with the idea of a Lovecraft-inspired game for a while. "Does that mean White Collar will receive royalties? As I recall, Diana dreamed up the fictitious scenario."

"I wouldn't hold your breath."

"You mean Diana hasn't hired Mozzie to negotiate suitable reimbursement?"

"She probably would have but he's currently in Japan. He's discussing a movie idea for the Masked Avenger with the anime company that produces the cartoon series. Apparently our yellow-faced bee hero has become a Godzilla-sized Japanese sensation." Neal eyed him hopefully. "Does that mean I have your approval?"

"How many days will you be away?"

"Monday and Tuesday. We'll take the red-eye express back to New York on Tuesday night."

"So you can sleep in the office on Wednesday and call it work?" Peter challenged.

"Never," Neal declared, with a smile alerting Peter to not take his words too seriously. "Unlike some I know, I sleep very well on planes."

"Don't rub it in. When will you leave?"

"Friday after work. Richard and his fellow artists rented a house in the Garden District for a week. The others have already experienced Mardi Gras and will leave on Friday to return to their families."

Peter thought for a moment. "You're due comp time from the Wilkes case. That should take care of Monday and Tuesday. You got an early start today. If you work through lunch and put in some extra time this afternoon, no one's going to object to you only working in the morning on Friday. The same applies for Travis."

Neal's smile broadened. "I should buy you king cake more often."

Peter waved away his thanks. "I'm taking Friday afternoon off too, though something tells me I'd much rather be flying to New Orleans."

Neal gave him a sympathetic wince. "Dentist appointment?"

"Worse. We agreed to babysit a two-year-old. El's sister and her husband are going to spend the weekend at a romantic inn for her birthday. They're dropping off their kid with us."

"You're taking care of a toddler? Have you ever had that pleasure before?"

"No, and El is as nervous as I am."

Neal's face lit up. "You're test-driving having a baby, aren't you?"

Peter exhaled. "Not me so much as El. She can be very sneaky. She may have instigated her sister's trip expressly for this purpose."

Neal nodded, making commiserating sounds while munching on king cake. How he managed to eat it without getting a single fleck of green sugar on his purple—not plum—tie escaped Peter.

"But now as our day of reckoning approaches, El's beginning to have cold feet as well. She spent the entire evening reading parenting books. I want you to appreciate how noble I am in letting you go to New Orleans. I was counting on your help."

Neal crossed his arms in front of his chest, making an X. "What makes you think I'm any good with toddlers? I've been around small fry less than you. Surely you received basic training with your brother's girls?"

"Not really. I avoided them till they were in grade school. You, I can reason with. At times, you may act like a three-year-old—"

"—gee, thanks."

"Don't mention it, but I can wear you down with logic and reason. Even though it can take far too long, there's still hope. A toddler has no concept of right and wrong. There's no reasoning with them."

Neal rolled his eyes. "After being damned with faint praise, I don't know why I should help you, but I will."

"You'll call Mozzie and order him to return home so he can take my place?" Peter asked hopefully.

"Would you really leave him alone with El and a baby over the weekend?"

Peter made a face. "Forget I mentioned it."

"Henry would be a fine choice, but he's working in Baltimore this week. The person I'm thinking of is already here and has to obey you."

"Who are you talking about? Jones? He's taken care of his sister's kids on numerous occasions, but he and Helen are going away for the weekend."

Neal grinned. "So you admit you already asked him! But you left out the logical choice, and that's Diana. The way I see it, she owes you. She was the one who sanctioned El adding a pregnancy thread to Arkham Files. That arguably is the cause of your present predicament. Make Diana help out. It's the least she can do."

WCWCWCWCWCWCWC

What would Diana be like around a toddler? As Neal returned to his desk in the bullpen, he imagined the coming bedlam at Burke manor. Peter would be wise to call upon her assistance. If nothing else, bossing her around would make him feel better. And Diana had learned to tolerate Mozzie as a co-writer for her Arkham Files stories. How much worse could a two-year-old be?

Jones and Diana were in the breakroom helping themselves to slices of the king cake Neal had left on the table.

Jones beckoned him over. "Much appreciated, Caffrey. You're welcome to bring us back a cooler of crawfish or gumbo from New Orleans."

"Already taken care of," Neal assured him. "June asked her chef to prepare a gumbo lunch for you at the Arkham Round Table meeting next Tuesday. Costumes are optional but I'm told there will be plenty of beads and perhaps even a few doubloons."

Diana swallowed a bite of the cream-cheese-filled pastry. "Will Mozzie be back for the meeting?"

"I don't think so. If his business is done, he mentioned flying to New Orleans instead."

"Good. That will let the rest of us discuss his outline for the next story. What do you know about the Tudor Crown?"

Was this a trap? Neal eyed her warily. Surely Mozzie hadn't discussed his latest obsession with the woman he still called Lady Suit. Ever since Mozzie had latched onto a possible connection between Columbia University, the Culper Revolutionary War spy ring, and the Illuminati, he'd become convinced the fabled treasure was hidden somewhere in New England, perhaps even in Manhattan.

"Not much," Neal hedged, treading carefully. "It was a crown worn by Henry VIII. It disappeared during the English Civil War a century later. Most believe it was broken up with the jewels sold off separately. Why do you ask?"

"Mozzie wants to include it in the next Arkham Files story. He's concocted a bizarre plot around it." She scowled. "He's being very mysterious about why he wants it included." She jabbed a finger at him. "Does he suspect Rolf knows something about the crown?"

"He hasn't mentioned it to me," Neal said, staggered by the possibility. If there was a connection he couldn't see it. "It would help if you could tell me more about the plot."

"Not on your life," she rebuffed. "That's top secret." She wheeled toward Jones. "Since you're a recent inductee to the group, let this serve as a reminder. Our discussions are all need-to-know, and no amount of delicious pastries will weaken our resolve."

Neal didn't argue the point but by the way Jones rolled his eyes, Neal suspected he'd found a potential mole. A judicious amount of Jones's favorite Scotch would be the only grease needed. "Diana, did it slip your mind that you were the one asking me for information? As a gesture of goodwill, here's something to chew on. Mozzie is attracted to any lost treasure like a moth to the flame. It doesn't matter if it's an original Dante manuscript or crown jewels. You shouldn't necessarily attach any hidden significance to it. Look how long he's been searching for Hitler clones."

"God, thank you for reminding me," she said, shuddering. "He'll probably want to write them in as well."

Neal turned to leave. There was no need to warn her about Peter's plans for the weekend. Why spoil the surprise?

"Before you go," Jones said, "got a question for you. Does Diana have any tats?"

"Don't answer that," Diana said sharply.

"I've never seen any," Neal answered honestly, but Diana's reaction made him wonder if he'd missed something.

Jones crossed his arms. "Proving my point."

Work could wait. "What's this about?"

"Diana's been pestering me about what tats I got in the Navy. She refuses to believe I don't have any."

Pouncing on the chance to score yet more points with Jones, Neal said, "I always assumed you're like me. Tats aren't advised if you engage in undercover work."

"Unless they're very well hidden," Diana countered. "Christie wants me to get one."

"What of?" Neal asked.

"An octopus. I already have an octopus mug. Why not?"

Neal groaned, inwardly dismayed. "Couldn't it be of something else? Maybe a starfish like your beanbag Peachy? There are enough tentacle creatures in the stories. If you insist on getting one, please don't tell me about it."

She frowned. "Are you getting sensitive to octopuses? Damn. I was going to ask you to make an octopus origami for my collection."

"Will you tell me what's happening in the next Arkham Files story?"

"Of course not."

He shrugged his shoulders. "Then I guess you're out of luck."

WCWCWCWCWCWCWC

Much as he would have preferred it otherwise, Neal was forced to shove thoughts of Mardi Gras out of his head till Friday. Thursdays he spent at Columbia. The combination of an overstuffed schedule and an art history advisor who persisted in questioning him about his still-undecided dissertation topic had him cross-eyed by the end of the day. Sherkov's questions were particularly discouraging. Since Neal had to meet with him to discuss his master's thesis, he'd been unable to dodge the inquisition, and Sherkov was getting as good as Peter at demolishing his deflections. By his own timetable, Neal didn't even want to consider the topic till after spring break, but the brilliance of his reasoning escaped Sherkov.

After being pummeled by Sherkov, he was looking forward to a less stressful evening with Myra Stockman, his visual arts advisor. That used to be a non sequitur. During his first year at Columbia, she'd been only too happy to live up to her reputation of the Impaler. But in the past few weeks, Neal had detected a noticeable softening. Richard had remarked on it as well. Was she beginning to grow nostalgic now that they were in their final semester?

This evening he wasn't disappointed. She positively glowed with enthusiasm.

"Britta's holding a reception for the new artists she's added to her gallery. You're on the list," she said. "I'll do my best to keep it from going to your head."

"Too late, I'm already floating!" Britta was Myra's partner. She owned an art gallery in Morningside Heights. On Myra's recommendation, she'd included two of Neal's paintings from his first-year exhibition and both had sold.

Myra smiled. "An apt analogy. She'd like to feature that painting you did of bicycles floating in the clouds over the Manhattan skyline. I suggested she also include the one you'd painted of the Hudson River. The emotional range of the two is impressive."

An odd coincidence she'd picked those two. Neal had painted the river when he was convinced he'd have to flee New York to avoid being framed by Garrett Fowler for a crime he hadn't committed. He'd painted the bicycles when he was at the final stage of the con that cleared his name. That painting had been completed in a few hours—a new speed record that he had no intention of divulging to his advisor.

"Britta needs to hire an events planner for the reception," Myra added, "and I suggested she contact Peter's wife."

"I'm sure she'd be delighted. Elizabeth studied art in college, and she enjoys catering art-related functions. When will the reception take place?"

"Britta hasn't picked a date yet but it will be sometime in March. For now, put that out of your mind. I want you to take me through your progress on your exhibition paintings."

Neal had already lined them up along the wall, intending to start with the works that were the furthest along. Instead, she pounced on his most recent addition—the Miskatonic River. He'd started it at her recommendation. She'd challenged him to break through boundaries, but he wasn't at all sure the nightmarish depiction he'd painted of the fictional river was what she had in mind. The town was being whipped by a gale. The river seethed with hints of monsters lurking beneath the surface—an eye, the tip of a tentacle. Would she even spot them?

As Neal walked her through it, for once she didn't interrupt with a thousand questions.

"I haven't read any Lovecraft until last year," she said. "When you entered two paintings in the art competition at the sci-fi convention last year, I knew I needed to broaden my horizons. You've improved since then. There's a sense of lurking terror in the work that is evocative of the author."

Her praise was unexpected. "I doubt anyone will be interested in purchasing it," he said ruefully.

"Don't count the painting short," she retorted. "Look at how popular horror movies are. Apparently many people have a latent wish to be terrified. Turner did all right with his paintings of ships being tossed about during a hurricane." Her face grew stern. "You're new at this, and I'll give you a pass this time. It's natural to desire validation by selling your art, but you must never think about what a hypothetical purchaser might find appealing during the creative process. It will suffocate you more thoroughly than any tentacles."

As she pointed out aspects she liked, Neal was astonished to discover she'd found hints of monsters he hadn't realized were there. Had he subconsciously added them? Yesterday at work, even Diana's octopus mug made him uneasy. And Jones's joshing about an octopus tattoo had made his stomach feel like a cephalopod was churning inside him.

That was probably why he'd had a nightmare about being trapped underwater last night. He might be overly identifying with his Arkham counterpart. Or perhaps it was because of the cases he'd worked on with the Winchesters. He was starting to see monsters where none existed. Where was the kid who used to love haunted houses and wearing Dracula costumes at Halloween?

Myra was hammering at him to free himself from artificial constraints. Peter might scoff that he was already too much of a loose cannon, but Myra was right. He was letting himself be hemmed in by monsters both real and figurative.

Neal took a breath. Octopuses would be his first test. Before he developed a full-blown phobia about them, he vowed to turn them into his friends. He decided to make a watercolor sketch of one with long eyelashes and bows. Diana should love it.

Problem solved, he refocused on Myra, who was currently bashing his painting of the Seine. What would she look like in a t-shirt emblazoned with a pink octopus?

Maia's House, New Haven, CT. Friday afternoon.

After Dean's call, Sam sought Bobby out, Maia's Russian wolfhound Tatyana trotting alongside him. Whenever Maia was at Yale, Tatyana latched onto Sam. Maia claimed she liked him better than her.

Bobby had appropriated the garage as his workshop and that's where Sam found him. He was fitting boards together at the worktable while the Siamese cat Daphne supervised the proceedings from her perch on top of the hood of Bobby's truck.

"Are we guilty of seeing monsters that aren't there?" Sam asked. It had been bugging him all morning and his conversation with Dean just reinforced it.

Bobby paused long enough to scowl at him. "What kind of dumbass question is that?"

"Look at us. We've been walking around on eggshells in this house, worrying about what cursed objects or hexes may be among Astrena's belongings, but so far we haven't found anything dangerous."

"I know where this is coming from," Bobby grumbled. "You're feeling guilty that you're not in New Orleans with Dean. Here we are enjoying the good life in this posh mansion while Dean stays at some fleabag motel to investigate rumors."

"Not just that, but okay, it's part of it. Maia has been urging me to fly down and join him." Dean drove off in the Impala last weekend. A report had surfaced in the local newspaper about a couple of people who'd died after thinking they'd been cursed. New Orleans was currently without local hunters since a rugaru ganked the only one left.

Sam had been taking turns with Dean, working solo jobs ever since they moved into Astrena's house in New Haven. Once Maia's sister Electra was discovered to be the meatsuit for the goddess, a major concern was how much magic remained in the house and its furnishings. Astrena was the Greek goddess of witches and vampires. No one knew anything about what spells she could command, but they were bound to be extremely powerful. He and Dean had persuaded Bobby to move in to help monitor the situation.

What they'd learned was unsettling. Maia and Chloe were convinced many of the objects were enchanted, but figuring out the nature of each enchantment was proving to be a challenge. So far Maia had broken hexes on two paintings. Chloe could sense that some of the orchids in the grow room had spirits, but she couldn't tell if they were malicious or not.

The women didn't want to destroy the orchids because the flowers could prove to be beneficial. Chloe was especially adamant, claiming that the orchids were the equivalent of the armaments in the Impala and much too valuable to be destroyed. One species of orchid had been essential to sever Astrena's link to him and Neal. Were there others even more powerful?

"You should go," Bobby declared. "You'll feel guilty no matter where you are, but Dean could use your help."

Sam winced. Bobby had him nailed. When Maia was at Yale, he felt like he was a fifth wheel. "You'll call me if anything surfaces?"

Bobby raised an eyebrow. "You're already stressing about leaving? Yeah, I'll give you a holler."

Tatyana whined as if she understood he was taking off. At least she could be placated with dog treats. "What are you working on?" he asked Bobby idly.

"What's it look like, idjit? I'm building a box."

"Not just one box. You got boards of different sizes . . ." Sam lifted a canvas tarp and saw two dark boxes. One was shoebox-sized. The other looked like it could hold a painting. Both were painted with sigils. He turned to face Bobby. "What the hell's going on?"

Bobby shrugged dismissively. "Just a little insurance. These are curse boxes. Those sigils you see are in Enochian. You do know the angel language, right?"

Sam hesitated. "Not as well as I should."

"Here's a thought. On those long rambles you like to take with Maia you should enlist her help. She's an expert on ancient languages and Enochian has some similarities to Hebrew. Dean likes to brag about his geeky brother. This is a good time to reinforce it."

Looking at Bobby, it was easy to forget the depth of his knowledge. Despite his rough-hewn mannerisms, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Enochian, Japanese, and maybe other languages Sam didn't know about. Bobby's idea was a good one. He might not feel as guilty about enjoying life in New Haven if he was learning something practical. But Bobby's effort to change the subject wouldn't work.

"Why are you building curse boxes? And what do they do?"

"Relax before you get yourself into a snitch. I'm not building these just for the girls. I used to make them for your dad, and my supply's gotten low."

Sam wasn't about to let him off the hook that easily. "But?"

Bobby took a slow breath. "Look, it's only prudent to take some precautions. The girls are sensing enchantments. By rights, every suspicious item should be shut up in a box like this till we learn more. The sigils will keep an enchanted object contained until we can figure out how to dehex it." He scratched the side of his neck. "We probably should start with that netsuke collection. Chloe was studying them yesterday evening. She said her fingers tingled when she touched them."

"I hope it wasn't the rabbit. That's just about Dean's favorite object in the entire house."

When Sam's cell phone buzzed, he assumed it was Dean. He could tell him he was flying down and no matter how much Dean razzed him for being a mother hen, he wasn't going to change his mind. But instead of Dean, it was his look-alike.

"Hi, Henry. What's up?"

"Hey, Sam. I'm in Baltimore this week on business. The trip gave me the chance to track down descendants of Chester Ratherston."

"He was the friend of Seth Winslow, right?"

"That's the one. He was killed shortly before Seth disappeared. I located Ratherston's great-great-niece. She has a diary he'd kept."

"Does it contain anything helpful?" Sam knew Henry was counting on Chester to shed some light on what had happened to Seth.

"I'm not sure. He stopped writing in it about eight months before his death, and there's no mention of anything threatening."

"So, a dead end?"

"Not entirely. In one of his last entries, he referred to a group called the Men of Letters. Do you know anything about them?"

"No, but I'll check around," Sam promised.

When Sam ended the call, Bobby said, "I gather that was about your common ancestor."

"Yeah, Henry was able to obtain a diary from one of Seth's friends in Baltimore. He mentioned some group called the Men of Letters in his diary, and, get this, there's only one other entry after the note. Up to then, the man had made meticulous records of his daily activities. Henry said it was pretty boring stuff. He wondered if there could be any connection between the group and the fact that he stopped writing in his diary."

Sam noticed Bobby's scowl deepen as he related the gist of the call. "You know something about them, don't you?"

"Yeah, and it ain't pretty. The Men of Letters is a secret organization of scholars dedicated to tracking down monsters."

"So they're hunters?"

"Sort of. They're also egotistical snobs who hate our guts. They consider hunters to be riffraff unworthy of their notice."

"Why haven't I ever heard of them?" Sam demanded, shocked that a group of monster hunters could have escaped their notice for so many years.

Bobby pulled up a metal stool and perched on it. "Because they ain't around no more, at least not in the States. They were founded in England. American chapters popped up in the nineteenth century, but they'd all disappeared by 1960."

"What happened?"

Bobby shrugged. "Maybe internal squabbles with the Brits? Or they might have gotten fed up with hunting monsters. It's not exactly a glamor job."

Daphne jumped on top of Sam's lap and rubbed her head on his chest, demanding to be stroked. As Sam scratched behind her ears, he considered how the Men of Letters could be related to Seth Winslow. "Do you know if there was a Baltimore chapter?"

"No, but I could probably find out. You think Seth could have joined them?"

"Yeah, think about it, Bobby. Chester might have become a member then told his buddy Seth about them. Chester got killed fighting vamps or some other monsters. Maybe he'd enlisted Seth's help and Seth joined the chapter to help avenge his friend's death."

Bobby nodded slowly. "That makes sense. Seth's wife said he was having nightmares about vampires. Seth could have gone to Baltimore to help Chester eradicate a nest and Chester died during the struggle. The fangs could have followed Seth back to Philadelphia."

"It also explains the murder of Seth's neighbors. Seth could have feared the vampires had discovered his location and he had to flee in order to save his family."

"And change his name?" Bobby shrugged. "Others have done the same."

"And get this, Seth studied classical languages in college. A scholarly group probably would have welcomed him with open arms."

"Yeah, it sounds like he was a natural. In any case, it's ancient history. It helps to explain why Seth Winslow changed his name to Winchester and why he might be your great-great-granddaddy, but it ain't worth much in this world. " He raised an eyebrow. "Unless, that is, you wanna claim to be a Winslow?"

Sam chuckled. "Being a Winchester's good enough for me. Besides, our own lives are looking up." Tatyana rubbed against his leg as if to agree. "We're making the world a little bit safer, and now we've got a home."

Bobby nodded. He didn't have to add Enjoy it while it lasts. Sam already knew it would most likely be fleeting, but he still had a good feeling that this time they might beat the odds.

Sam stood up and deposited Daphne back on top of the truck hood. "I'll give Dean a call."

"To tell him about the Men of Letters?"

"Nah. That can wait. To let him know I'm coming down."

Bobby smiled. "Good. Keep him and yourself out of trouble. I'll do the same with the girls."

WCWCWCWCWCWCWC

Richard was waiting for Neal and Travis at the airport when their plane landed. The house Richard had rented was in the Garden District near Loyola University. The pale green frame house looked to have been built in the late 1800s. A second-floor balcony and black wrought-iron railing added to its charm. Richard explained that the furnished four-bedroom house was used for short-term corporate stays.

After stopping just long enough to drop off their gear, they strolled over to St. Charles Avenue for the parade of the Krewe of Morpheus. Neal had stripped off his jacket before leaving the house. The humid warmth was a welcome change after the snowy conditions in New York.

Hurricane Katrina had hit only six months ago. This year's Mardi Gras was a scaled-down version of its normal size. The theme of the Morpheus parade was "Dreams of Travel" and as Neal scrambled for trinkets, he was one of the lucky ones to catch a doubloon. The plastic beads weren't up to Sara's standard, but he could make a joke out of them.

One of the floats appeared to be inspired by 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. A giant octopus grappled an old fishing boat mounted on a trailer. An octopus had never figured into Neal's dreams of travel but he laughed along with everyone else. It was a good test of his plan to desensitize himself to tentacles.

Once the parade had moved past their location, Richard recommended letting the crowd disperse before heading for the French Quarter. They took advantage of the lull to have dinner at a Creole restaurant near Richard's house and then followed it up with a ride downtown on the streetcar. The tracks ran along St. Charles Avenue, a short walk away. Neal sat next to the window so he could view the sprawling Victorian mansions lining the broad boulevard. Immense live oaks draped with Spanish moss added a park-like feel to the surroundings. As the streetcar clattered along the tracks, Richard pointed out some of the highlights. The effects of the hurricane were still very much in evidence, but Neal was surprised that there was less damage than he'd expected. Richard explained that the worst-hit areas were for the most part not tourist destinations. The French Quarter had escaped with minimal damage.

Since it was Neal's first trip, Richard insisted he get into the spirit of the Quarter by first walking along Bourbon Street. The experience was an assault to the senses. The neon lights appeared to pulsate to the raucous music of all genres pouring out of the bars and strip clubs. Richard's ultimate destination was a jazz club off Bourbon Street where he used to play when he was in college, but he said they wouldn't appreciate the relative quiet till they'd seen the rowdy side of the Quarter.

Travis squinted at the crowd. "Is that Henry up ahead? I thought you told me he was in Baltimore."

Neal checked out the fellow sporting jeans, work boots, and a leather jacket. "That's Dean Winchester." Since he was coming out of a strip club, the odds were high that Chloe wasn't with him.

Neal darted ahead to catch him before he took off, Richard and Travis at his heels. Not that they needed to hurry. Judging by Dean's saunter, he was feeling no pain. Neal didn't call out. These days, Dean worked undercover more than Neal.

"Enjoying the nightlife?" Neal asked, falling in step with him.

Dean gave a startled smile. "You here for Mardi Gras?"

"Yeah, with Richard and Travis." He nodded to the two who'd moved beside them. "This is Richard's home turf." There was no need for introductions, especially after the events in New Haven a month ago.

"Are you here for business or pleasure?" Travis asked.

Dean glanced back at the strip club. "If I said I'm on a job, you probably wouldn't believe me but sometimes you can get the best tips in dives like this."

Neal agreed with him but didn't comment further. Did he really want to know what kind of job brought Dean to New Orleans? If Neal didn't find out, it would be easier to deflect any questions Peter might ask.

"Is Sam with you?" Richard asked, scanning the crowd.

"He's arriving tomorrow."

"Anything we should know?" Travis asked warily. "Peter's not here and I'm under orders to steer everyone clear of any trouble, demonic or otherwise."

"I don't suppose that's a joke?" Neal asked even though he was fairly confident of the answer. So much for remaining ignorant. If Peter was already stressing, he might as well learn the gory details.

Travis shook his head regretfully. "Sorry, those were his exact words. It was my fault. I made an off-the-cuff remark about how Richard was into voodoo as a kid." He shrugged helplessly. "How was I to know Peter had just watched that James Bond movie set in New Orleans?"

Dean's face lit up. "Live and Let Die? Man, that flick is awesome. The gators, the car chase through the swamp, bring it on!"

"And don't forget the voodoo," Richard added. "That's the best part."

"I remember Travis mentioning you were into voodoo," Dean said. "I was going to call Bobby, but Cajun mojo isn't really his area."

"You got a question about hoodoo, voodoo, whatever, I'm your guy," Richard said confidently. "I must know every horror tale associated with New Orleans."

"Why don't you join us at Guillaume's?" Travis suggested. "We were heading there. It's a jazz club off the beaten path. Not too noisy to talk."

"I hope they got beer," Dean said. "None of this Hawaiian punch stuff you see tourists carrying around."

Neal smiled. "Check. Nothing with a paper umbrella." What would Peter say if he knew Dean was here? He already had plenty to stew about with the two-year-old mini-monster coming to town. Besides, voodoo was nothing like vampires and witches, right?


Notes: Thanks for reading! Voodoo Remoulade has 3 chapters which I'll post weekly on Wednesday. Enochian, also known as the angel language, wasn't invented by the Supernatural writers. The occult language was recorded by the sixteenth-century alchemist and occultist John Dee who claimed it had been revealed to him by angels.

Many thanks to Penna Nomen for beta help during this journey into Cajun Country. Readers of my previous Crossed Lines stories know that a certain demon currently resides in New Orleans. He'll make an appearance next week. Dean will also reveal why he's in town. My blog post, "Destination: Voodoo Remoulade," has an introduction to the story.

Background to the series for new readers: In the pre-canon Caffrey Conversation AU created by Penna Nomen, FBI Special Agent Peter Burke recruited con artist and expert forger Neal Caffrey in 2003 when he was 24. In exchange for a confession, he was given immunity for past crimes and started working for the FBI as a consultant at the White Collar task force in New York City. Sam and Dean Winchester are demon-hunting brothers. Sam is roughly the same age as Neal. Dean is four years older than Sam. Peter is fifteen years older than Neal. For those familiar with the Supernatural timeline, the action is set early in the second season of Supernatural. The Crossed Lines page on our blog has more background information about the stories.

Blog: Penna Nomen & Silbrith Conversation
Chapter Visuals and Music: The Voodoo Remoulade board on the Caffrey Conversation Pinterest website

Twitter: silbrith