NOLA Nights

Half a block up Saint Philip Street from Decatur, a single dim street light left the Seven Seas’ façade shadowed and vaguely threatening. It was March of ‘68, and Kerouac, Dylan, and Jagger had long since abandoned this gloomy haunt, when a detective, a priest, and a duck walked into the bar. Actually, it was just the detective and the priest.

They side-stepped the bouncer as he broke up a knife fight, tried to ignore the guy throwing up in the corner, and finally emerged into the club’s back patio. The priest indicated a table near the rear, and they sat down. The duck showed up a few minutes later when Jenny, the waitress, was taking their order. He back-winged to a neat landing between the guttering citronella candle and the half-full ash tray.

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The priest took out a pipe and began to fill it. “We need to find somewhere else to eat, Harry.”

“We’ve been over this, Tom.” I grumbled. “No place else will serve Don. We’ve tried.”

The duck sat down, pecked at a bug, and said nothing.

A few minutes later, Jenny brought a burger and Coke for me; Spam Italiano and a glass of port for Tom; and red beans and rice for Don, who eyed Tom’s glass—whether in envy or reproach, I couldn’t tell.

I picked up my burger, then put it down to wipe a glob of mustard off my hand. “I still don’t understand how you let those kids give you an Easter duck. Everybody knows they’re a bad idea.”

“I didn’t.” His face reddened. “I told you before. A boy came to my class at Saint Peter’s with a box-full of ‘em for show and tell. One got out and I didn’t find it until that evening. I put it in a shoebox and took it home over Easter break. I gave it back to the kid and thought nothing more about it until fall. That’s when Don just showed up at my front door one Saturday morning, looking ruffled and irritated. I knew it was the same duck because of that mark on his bill that looks kinda like a mustache. He pecked at my ankles all that weekend. Eventually, he settled into the old dog house in my backyard. Now he always flies after my car on my way to and from school.”

I grinned. “I know. I just like to watch you turn red. Isn’t that what brothers are for? Anyway, what was it you needed help with? You sounded worried on the phone.”

“Um, there’s this girl—”

“Tom!” I stared at him in surprise. The duck looked up briefly, then returned to his entrée.

Tom waved his hands and got redder. “Jeepers, Harry. No. It’s nothing like that.” He sipped his wine. “A girl in my parish asked me for help. Her ex-boyfriend’s been giving her trouble. You’re a detective, so I told her I’d speak to you about it.”

I hate ex-boyfriend cases. They almost never turn out well.

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