Things I Ain't Even Tried
Chapter Two: Evening at Tiana's Place
Note: I do not own The Princess and the Frog nor any related copyrights such as Princess Tianna, Prince Naveen, Dr. Facilier, Mama Odie, and other such related characters.
July 12, 1919
One night before the Full Moon
Right on the shores of New Orleans stood an old forgotten sugar mill; at least, that's what it was a year ago. Now, the building had been decorated much like one of the steam boats that plodded the Mississippi. Lights glimmered from everywhere they could be hung. And adorning the space over the grand entryway was a sign bearing the name of the establishment: TIANA'S PLACE.
In the line outside of the restaurant, David stood in a fine tuxedo, the box in his pocket. Looking down the line, he whistled. For being open only a month, David thought as he scooted forward, this place sure has a following.
It took him nearly half an hour before he made it to the front of the line. Looking up from the large book of reservations was a man in an impeccable white suit. "Good evening sir, do you have a reservation?"
David smiled and said, 'Why yes, it should be under Clemens."
The man flipped a few pages and ran his finger down a list of names, "Clemens… Samuel Clemens. Welcome to Tiana's Place."
David smiled and followed the maître d towards the back of the room. Samuel Clemens was the name he chose when meeting clients; giving away his real name was a risk he simply wasn't willing to take despite his inordinate good luck.
Inside was just as spectacularly decorated as the exterior. A great chandelier hung from the center of the room. Lights glistened off of every surface. In the back of the room was an elegant stage on which…
"Sir?" The Maître d asked as David stopped in the center of the room.
"There is an alligator playing the trumpet." David stated, looking squarely at, indeed, an alligator playing the trumpet.
"Yes sir, his name is Lou."
"Uh-huh." David replied in the same tone, almost as if he too thought this was nothing to be confused over. "And… he plays here every night?"
"No sir, only on the weekends and sometimes Friday; he needs to get back to the bayou."
"The bayou, of course; because… he's an alligator."
"Yes sir, this way." The maître d said, ending the conversation and ushering David to the table in the corner of the room. It was easy to get a reservation for this table seeing as rarely someone went here to stay in the corner. Still, that's exactly what David requested, and money talks or, at least, the money he pretended he had does.
Well, I'll only be pretending till the end of dinner, David thought as he sat down. Using his typical contacts, he had found someone in the city that was willing to buy the, "unique jewelry box." From what he heard, the man was a collector with an eye to rare an exotic pieces. He was a recluse, and anytime he went out it was only with two very close friends.
"Welcome to Tiana's Place, what can I help you with?" David looked up at the waiter, a handsome man with a pronounced French accent. But the dialect is something on the East side, David thought, maybe Burgundy, or Maldonian. "No thanks," David replied, giving his winning smile, "I'm just here to meet someone."
"Suit yourself, it makes my job easier." The waiter said, putting away his pad and pulling out a ukulele as if out of nowhere. Before David could say anything else, the waiter had jumped onto the stage and had begun to play with the alligator.
David, shocked, sat back and wished he had asked for something to drink before the dancing waiter waltzed off.
Tiana walked amongst the people dancing on the floor, sliding around the waiters moving to and fro through the crowd. As she passed, people turned and called out to her; some even applauded. Tiana just smiled.
She looked around the great restaurant, the highest point of her and her father's dream. The lights, the decorations, the food, everything is as she had pictured it. She had found everything she ever wanted. As her roaming eyes settled on Naveen, dancing like a fool onstage and playing his ukulele like a madman, she remembered, she also had what she needed.
"Naveen, get down from there!" She playfully called out to he husband. "You look like a fool."
Naveen laughed and leapt down, replying, "Ah Princess, you know I must. My love for you has driven me completely mad."
Tiana laughed and kissed him on the lips. "I hope not mad enough to forget your job," Tiana said, lifting the waiter's pad from his back pocket. "It was your idea to help me out with Jake's absence."
Sighing, Naveen took back the pad and said, "Well, I suppose I must. For you, my princess." He kissed her again and stepped back to say, "But there is not much to do. The people are dancing, not eating. Things are, as you say, under control."
Tiana turned away and said over her shoulder, "Just be sure not to do anything too stupid."
"What makes you think I would do something like that?!" Naveen called out to her, not waiting for her response. The music was moving him. He danced through the crowd, sidestepping waiters, limbo-ing under trays. And yet he found himself always watching the man in the corner. The man looked anxious, unhappy. This certainly wasn't a man that would willingly come to Tiana's Place.
But his thoughts were interrupted by the commotion at the front door.
David looked up to see the man pushing his way past the maître d towards him.
The maître d insisted, "But sir, you have to wait your turn. I must ask you…"
The man and his two friends who flanked him forced their way past. The man smiled and said, "Don't worry, I've got a friend waiting for me."
David stood up and shook hands with the newcomer. "Don't worry," he reassured the maître d, "This man is with me." The maître d huffed and walked back to his podium.
David turned back to examine the man. He wore a pinstripe suit of black and a red rose tucked in his front pocket. The suit was brand new, the face not. Wrinkles and folds of fat covered the face of the man, giving him the appearance of a pumpkin. He was mostly balc, but what hair he did have was extremely greasy. Old man, lots of money, easygoing, David thought, jackpot.
The friends were a different matter. The two loomed over both David and the man. Their floor length trench coats and fedoras gave them a shadowy appearance. David thought he saw that one man had a beard, but he couldn't be sure.
"Mr. Clemens." The man said in an Italian accent. Probably Sicilian, David thought.
"Please, call me Sam." David said, beginning his planned sales pitch.
"Can I call you Mark, Mr. Twain?" David's smile dropped upon hearing the man's apparent deciphering of his identity. "Come now, surely could have picked a better name than that? But, I am not a man that is willing to give up a find over something trivial as a fake identity. Please, may I sit?"
"Ahh…" David said, trying to compose his manner again. "Certainly; sit, sit."
The three newcomer sat around the table, the two friends more uncomfortably straight than the man in the middle.
The man gave a wheezing laugh that made it sound as though he was coughing. "If you insist on using a fake name, you can call me Mr. G. How does that sound?" David nodded. "Good, now where's the box."
David reached into his jacket. "I have heard that you are a man that prides value. And, upon seeing your suit, I can see that for a fact. What I have here, is something that may suit a person of your interests." Finishing his opening pitch, David set the box on the table.
"Remarkable," Mr. G said. "This is simply remarkable. I haven't seen something like this in a while." Mr. G looked at David. "You know, I've been looking for something just like this for my collection. I am a collector of artifacts, as you know, and this box would look great between my Silver Samurai sword and my jade amulet."
David only nodded, his mind working in high gear. Ever since he saw the way Mr. G had looked at the box, he had completely ditched the idea of selling it to him. When he pulled out the box, David saw that Mr. G had a hungry look on his face, like a general receiving his enemy's battle plans. Furious anticipation had flickered behind the man's eyes, giving away his true intentions.
He knows what this is and doesn't care.
David had made it a point of not selling his "findings" where they can be used to cause deliberate harm to others. One time he had sold an emerald ring to a Baron who had passed into town only to discover that he was planning on using it to frame a cousin of his and take over his share of the inheritance. David immediately "reacquired" it.
Now, he would have to move quickly to make sure this doesn't get into Mr. G's hands.
"So as you can see," Mr. G concluded, summing up the monologue he concocted around his fabricated collection, "I am willing to pay any price for it. Name it, and it's yours."
Despite the promise of wealth rousing something in the shallower parts of his mind, David pushed the thought out of his head. "Wow, I never expected you to be generous as well. But, we cannot discuss business over an empty stomach. Oh, waiter!" He called over the man's shoulder.
The three guests instinctively turned to see who was behind them. Only after seeing the absence of a waiter did they turn back to see the absence of the thief and his box. It only took two seconds for Mr. G to see David pushing his way through the dancers.
"Boys," Mr. G simply said, "time for Plan B." The two friends nodded and stood up along with Mr. G. Underneath their trench coats, they gripped the sawed-off shotguns and proceeded after David.