A/N: I am well aware that there are folks clamoring for the next chaper of this fic or that fic and that I have a handful of chapters, etc. that would take little work to get in order and posted. However, this is a much belated birthday present and very much due. I have never read nor written much in the way of noir. This is my first and likely only attempt upon the genre. I hope you enjoy.
So this was supposed to be a one-shot, but I'm thinking on some short chapters and a few more of them. I've got to get something up here and the opening's been set for months. Here you go, girl.
Dedicated to LithiumAddict or LithiumLaughter (depends on where ya met her). Happy Birthday!
"There is no solitude in the world like that of the big city."
~ Kathleen Norris ~
Night is falling in the Big Easy. She's rented a car.
Anna Marie Darkholme, Private Investigator, may have been riding point on a motorcycle from the time she was old enough to put on leathers and earn that nickname "Rogue," but even she knows when a gal gets called out by black bag kind of money from one of the oldest families in the city, that same gal better show up well-dressed in a vehicle on four wheels.
This sprawling Garden District mansion before her, lit in the hazy glow of a New Orleans night, is reportedly only one of several residences belonging to the LeBeau family. It is an old house, extremely well-kept, giving off the scent of blooming gardenias that have wound up its trellis and porch, but it does not welcome her as she steps out of the black sedan and up the front walk. The façade gives off a forbidden air.
A shadow flits across her peripheral vision and she looks up sharply to see a lone bird winging across the dark sky. Sighting along its path brings her to the house on an upper balcony and she is startled to see a shadowy figure leaning against the railing, blowing out smoke to trail into the dusk.
It's just a man, she tells herself. A member of the family.
She turns away and rings the bell.
A maid answers the door.
"Anna Darkholme for Mistah LeBeau, please." Out of place she may be, but Rogue knows how to handle herself in fine company. A couple of years under the professional tutelage of her mother—Raven Darkholme, meanest, toughest, smoothest, most charming, and most dangerous officer in the Mississippi police force—to say nothing of living with the woman, prepares a gal for anything.
The maid leads her into a sitting room, then vanishes to fetch the master of the house.
Remy LeBeau watches her from the shadows, mere shadow himself.
She isn't what he expected. Of course, to say that implies he even had an expectation. Perhaps one of those fellows out of a crime novel: cool, cocky, flippant male detective.
She's a woman: all soft curves, bright eyes dancing like emerald gemstones, auburn hair twisted into a French chignon, soft white lovelocks caressing her face. Her feminine scent, something floral and faint, hinting and coy, swirls in the air about her. But her face is hard and eyes keen as she glances upward, gaze skittering over his silhouette.
Too bright for New Orleans, too clean for this city.
He stubs out his cigarette in the ash tray on his balcony and turns into the house.
Rogue takes in her surroundings keenly. The place breathes wealth.
While lavish—chandeliers, Persian rugs, original Renaissance art, hand-carved mahogany furniture, and intricately woven tapestries—the room maintains a simplicity in its arrangement and design that suggests good taste and breeding. And a decidedly masculine eye. The lines are too straight, the colors too robust to be a woman's.
Rogue turns to face the open fireplace with its broad mantel and hearth. One glance upward at the overlarge family portrait on the wall, three tall, angular men, including the one in front of her. Red iris on black eyes proudly displayed. It's surprising, flabbergasting even, that a family of such standing would flaunt the shameful trait of mutation. The grandmother clock on the mantle ticks away the seconds while she waits.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, and she glances into the mirror over a plush couch. She sees nothing. It bothers her, and she rolls her shoulders, wishing the master of the house would arrive. Her discomfort only worsens—she's certain someone's watching her—and she doesn't notice when he does arrive.
"I assume y' trip was uneventful?"
Rogue whirls, startled. The eldest man pictured over the fireplace is now standing in front of her, smiling as if amused by her reaction.
"Darkholme, Private Investigatah," she replies, then catches his question. "The roads weren't bad."
He waves at her to sit and, uncertainly, she does.
He glances at the portrait over the mantle. "My name is Jean-Luc LeBeau," he says. "Did y' want somet'ing t' drink?"
An old-school gentleman, he is. She finds herself relaxing fractionally at his manner. Even so, she lightly shakes her head. That tingling at the back of her neck is still there.
"Y' ever worked homicides, Miss Darkholme?"
"In the department," Rogue admits. She's yet to tie herself up in one as a private investigator, but the uneasy suspicion that this case will be her first has been with her since she first received the call.
Jean-Luc clasps long, bony fingers behind his back and paces before the open fire. "Perhaps y' read de obituaries on y'r way in. Many o' New Orleans mourn de loss of Julian Boudreaux."
"Ah suppose they do," she says carefully.
"My youngest son, Remy,"—Jean-Luc gestures toward the mutant's face—"is engaged t' marry Boudreaux's sister. Dere are...others dat don't want dis marriage to happen."
"Ah see." She does too. Jean-Luc knows more than he's telling.
"I have reason t' believe, Miss Darkholme, dat someone killed Julian. I want y' t' prove dat person wasn't my son."
Rogue tightens her lips together and nods in understanding, repressing the urge to suck in her breath sharply. But now she understands the stakes a little better. A mutant son of a wealthy man, potentially a murderer... The press and the department would eat it up. LeBeau would need someone outside of regular channels to help.
She leans back slightly. "Ah'm listening."
When Remy heard the news, his gut clenched tight and his heart went cold.
"Julien," he said simply, as if he was not screaming questions with that very word.
Henri eyed his younger brother shrewdly. "Y' hadn't heard?" he said, also simply, as if he was not accusing with his.
Everyone knew that Remy stood most to gain in the event of Julien Boudreaux's death, freedom to pursue his choice of wife without threat of death by dismemberment hanging over his head. Everyone knew that the price to pay for an Assassin to kill the son of their Guildmaster was death by even fouler means. No Assassin would dare, especially not and leave the heir still alive.
But that didn't make the accusation hurt less.
"An' who should 'ave told me?" Remy asked coldly.
"Frère..." Henri trailed off, then shook his head and threw it out there. "If y' know what happened, just tell me. I'll do anyt'in' t' protect y'. Y' family."
Remy shook off his brother's pleading hand. "If I were family, y' wouldn' ask."
Jean-Luc LeBeau takes it all farther. Always has, always will. This girl is proof of that. A private investigator, name of the Rogue.
Remy tucks away details the way a growing boy wolfs down his dinner, ravenously. He takes in her mannerisms, her accent—Mississippi, the case as his father outlines it, the size of her shoe, the posture of law enforcement, the restlessness at the formality of dealing with things. She'll play dirty, like as not, and no doubt she'll need that too. Jean-Luc has yet to tell her who she's really facing.
He's itching for a smoke, but long habit has given him enough patience to ignore it. He needs all the details he can get if he's going to deal with this. It's a job, he tells himself, just like any other. Detach. Don't let the emotions get in the way. Case it, wait for it.
He waits until he is absolutely certain of what he's dealing with before melting away into shadow.