A Little Big Easy "Vieux" Doo: Excerpt from M.T. Falgoust's Upcoming Release "The Devil She Knows"
Updated: Feb 27
You don't have to believe in the Devil, 'cause the Devil believes in you.
It's not all Bourbon Street and beads in the Big Easy. New Orleans has a darker side...one 8th District Homicide Detective Hunter Despre knows all too well. But just how well does she know herself?
In this psychological suspense thriller from international award-winning author M.T. Falgoust, we invite you to walk the streets of the Crescent City as Hunter walks the fine line between sanity and terror. For now, grab a Pat O'Brien's Hurricane, sit back, and enjoy this excerpt from The Devil She Knows.
The Devil She Knows
by M.T. Falgoust
Publication Date: March 4, 2023
Genre: Psychological Suspense; Thriller; Paranormal Suspense
With all the evil there is in this world, Hunter knows you can find the Devil ‘round every corner. But sometimes, the worst demons of all are right in your own backyard.
When a bodiless head washes up on the banks of the Mississippi, a familiar voodoo veve carved into the pale flesh, New Orleans Detective Hunter Despré’s blood runs cold. She’s already seen this murder—seventeen years ago.
Hunter has inherited more than the Creole beauty of her houngan mother. She has also inherited the Voodoo priestess’ gift as a seer. Hunter’s plagued by nightmares of murders, including her sister’s—but she’s left all that behind.
It hasn’t quite left her, though.
When a second marked body is discovered, this one missing its organs, all signs point to a ritual murder spree. Hunter races to catch a killer, but will she be fast enough to outrun her own past? The clock is ticking as Hunter is forced to confront what she truly believes and realizes the horrible truth. You don’t have to believe in the Devil, ‘cause the Devil believes in you.
The Devil She Knows
Rain was coming. He could smell it. The prevailing wind brushed a whiff of charged ozone under his nose. It mingled with the loamy scent of freshly over-turned earth and something more dank and musty. He grinned like a mad skeleton. He was nearly there. He caught a snatch of newscast drifting from one of the neighborhood bars.
"The National Hurricane Center is keeping an eye on an unnamed storm system approximately 350 miles south of the southern coast of Florida.". The first fat, wet drop splatted the uneven street in front of him. He pedaled harder.
I am Rabbit. I'm faster than you. He challenged the falling water. Rabbit liked the rain. It washed away the grime and grit of the city. Bourbon Street with its sticky red puddles of spilled Pat O’Brien Hurricanes. Conti with sticky, red puddles of something darker and much more mortal.
He darted into the intersection at North Rampart. A banshee wail screamed past the front fender of his rusted-out Mongoose. He scudded out the path of the rocketing police car and jumped the curb near the corner where St. Louis Cemetery Number One met the Iberville Housing Project.
I am Rabbit. I'm faster than you. He chanted silently. The cruiser’s revolving lights splashed the scene in a kaleidoscopic wash of red and blue. Rabbit skidded to a stop, sending loose pebbles skittering across the cracked sidewalk. Sweat soaked the armpits of his Grateful Dead t-shirt. He dragged a pale forearm across his dripping hairline. He probably shouldn’t be here. But Eugene had been crazy insistent. He’d kept swearing he had something Rabbit had to see. Rabbit straightened his shoulders and concentrated on the wandering fissures under his feet as he waited for his racing pulse to slow. They look like veins.
Rabbit’s heart thumped wildly in his chest. Not a bad analogy. New Orleans breathed. A living entity. Alive and pulsing with activity at any hour. Even 3:AM. As if to prove his point, a random snatch of trumpet floated on the breeze from the direction of the French Quarter.Laissez bon temps roulez.
They certainly did here. Once upon a time, anyway. He stared at the dark cluster of buildings that formed the outer edge of the Iberville complex. Like a collection of eerie, gingerbread houses. The whole thing had been revitalized in recent years - part of the nationwide gentrification initiative. This area, like so many New Orleans neighborhoods, had a rich, if colorful, history. It once boasted a booming red-light district called Storyville. Famous musicians like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton plied their trade in the jazz halls that thrived in its streets and back alleys. More recently, Iberville was one of the first public housing units to reopen in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, having suffered minimal structural damage. Two pops echoed off the pastel siding.
Well, Rabbit thought, not all damage was cosmetic.
He brushed his long, unnaturally black bangs from his eyes with fingers tipped in chipped, black nail polish. An angry, red gash interrupted the arch of his brow over his left eye. Rabbit winced a little as he prodded the fresh wound. He hadn't been quite fast enough this time.
The gritted teeth turned into a wry grin. Pop was a southpaw. Played in the minors. Too bad he couldn’t stand straight long enough to piss, let alone pitch a baseball anymore. He might have made something of himself. If it hadn’t been for Eugene, it could have gone a lot worse. Cracked Pop with an empty beer bottle. Set him on his ass is what he did.
Not that Rabbit wasn’t grateful to his buddy for intervening, but Rabbit knew he was the one who would pay for it later. And he didn’t like going to the clinic time after time to have Doc Steele, fix him up. Always having to come up with some damned excuse or other to explain away his injures. But Ms. Sabine always insisted. Wouldn’t let him work unless he got checked out every time. Quit whining.
Rabbit admonished himself. Besides, Eugene was waiting. An angry caw trumpeted over the stone wall behind him. Something had disturbed a large, black crow. It took flight over the pale walls of the graveyard, a black, swooping shadow, then dissolved in the night.
An old decrepit cemetery probably wasn’t the best meeting place, especially one where many of the graves had crumbled into anonymous piles of red brick and dusty mortar, but that was Eugene for you. Every time he came here, Rabbit half expected one of the dead to stretch a decaying, bony hand from one of the dark holes and clutch for him, awakened by the tantalizing aroma of his fresh brain. Stupid, of course. A by-product of one too many late nights with TV host Morgus the Magnificent and his classic, cheesy B-horror flicks. He started to push his bike toward the shadows, but the old bike limped feebly forward.
“What the hell?” Rabbit looked down. The front tire frame resembled a half-baked pretzel. The damage must have occurred when he hopped the curb. Awesome.
He wasn’t looking forward to the long walk home. He gave the damaged bike a well-placed kick. It collapsed in a useless, rusted metal heap. Rabbit’s ears suddenly pricked at an irregular, shuffling sound. He grabbed his wheeled pile of sourdough scrap and pressed against the whitewashed cemetery wall. He held his breath. A lazy spider peeked out from the recess where he had spun his web. He decided that Rabbit was too large to make a suitable snack. The shuffling got closer, only now it was joined by a guttural groan. They're coming to get you, Rabbit.
Images of Romero zombies flickered in Rabbit’s brain. Tattered clothes. Dead-eye stares. Stiff arms reaching out for—
“Hey, kid. Got a light?” The vagrant that had been shuffling along the sidewalk startled the wide-eyed teen. Rabbit stared blankly at the toothless, grizzled face.
“Whatsamatter?” the drunk continued. “Marie Laveau put a zombie curse on ya?”
The old man jabbed a crooked thumb to the walls behind Rabbit, toward St. Louis Number One. Reference to the famed voodoo queen jarred an awkward motor response from Rabbit. He patted himself down and offered the lighter that always resided in the pocket of his torn jeans.
“Yeah. No. Sorry. Take it."
The man reached out his palsied hand and wrapped his long fingers around the lighter. “Mighty nice of ya. How’s about a smoke?”
Aggravation stripped the last vestiges of uneasiness from Rabbit’s nerves. He was running out of time. It wouldn’t be long before his father slept off his Jack Daniel’s nap. If Rabbit didn’t make it home before he woke up—well, there were worse fates than having your brain eaten by a zombie. He dug into his back pocket and shoved the entire pack of Lucky Strikes into the man’s outstretched hand. He’d snaked them from Pop’s bedside stand.
“Unfiltered? C’mon! Gimme a break!” the vagrant groused as Rabbit melted into the darkness overshadowing Liberty Street. Rabbit left the old man grumbling and made a beeline for his secret entrance as the random splats of rain grew more insistent.
Good thing ramen didn't put a lot of meat on your bones, Rabbit thought as he pushed his skinny frame through the crumbled hole in the brick wall. It puzzled him how his plump friend always managed to squeeze through the small opening. The cemetery didn't have twenty-four-hour security, but the iron gates were locked tight at 3:PM most days. Fortunately for Rabbit and Eugene, someone had tried to establish a drive-thru service, the front end of their vehicle creating an opening just large enough for two thrill-seeking sixteen-year olds with nothing better to do on a Saturday night.
Rabbit thumped to a tumbled heap on an expanse of grassy plot. The unofficial entryway opened just over the Protestant section of the cemetery. This part of the graveyard was largely anonymous, with few markers identifying the sleeping interred. Rabbit picked himself up and dusted the graying dust from his legs. His looked up and caught sight of that which continued to amaze and bewilder countless visitors to the Crescent City—a city of the dead.
The unusually high water table in south Louisiana prevented standard interment in the ground. A good flood could raise long-gone ancestors to visit once more among the living. While Mom and Pop were sorely missed, it was a little disconcerting to have them bobble up to join a crawfish boil years after they had been buried. So, like Père Lachaise in Paris, the dearly departed were entombed in mausoleum cities, clusters of miniature marble and stuccoed buildings along small, brick and grass streets. Rabbit began to navigate his way through the decaying city of death. Right. Then left. Five tombs down. No Eugene. Rabbit checked the time on his cell. 3:15. Eugene should have been here. That's when he heard it.
Chink. Chink. Chink. The sound of metal biting into stone.
Rabbit ducked down behind a shabby, crumbling crypt. He tried not to imagine what lay decaying inside the gaping, dark maw yawing beside him. He fingered the St. Christopher medal at his neck. Did St. Christopher protect against zombies? Whatever the hell Eugene had to show him had better be good. Where in the piss was he, anyway? This was all his stupid idea.
Chink. Chink. Chink.
Rabbit heard a heavy thud. The long scrape of something being dragged over stone stripped
his nerves like nails on a chalkboard. His head turned in the direction of the strange sound. He noticed a wavering orange-yellow glow hovering over the tombs just a few narrow alleys over.
Eugene. Did that dumb ass go and build a fire in the middle of the damn cemetery? Wait till I get a hold of that shithead. Rabbit straightened his bony shoulders and stood tall, prepared to knock some sense into his practical-joking friend. The cemetery was a protected historical landmark. If they got caught dicking it up—Rabbit didn't bother to finish the thought. He just knew he preferred dodging his dad's fists to the stifling confines of juvie.
Rabbit's worn Converse dislodged a loose brick. It clattered to the stony pathway, the sound ricocheting between the mausoleum walls. A sudden pall of silence draped the cemetery. He braced himself. Here it comes, Rabbit thought. Any moment, Eugene, all buck-toothed two hundred and twenty-five ebony pounds of him, would jump from around the corner to make Rabbit wet his pants. Wasn't going to happen, Rabbit thought. Ha! I am Rabbit. I'm faster and smarter than you.
A full sixty seconds passed. Nothing. A sobering thought occurred to Rabbit. What if it wasn't Eugene? He sucked in a breath and held it.
Just before his skin began to tinge purple, the solid thud of a drum echoed through the night. A second, deep boom followed the first. Then another. Soon the rhythm matched the wild pounding of Rabbit's heart.
A deep, baritone chanting joined the throb of drums. Rabbit dared a glance around the corner. A flush of warmth rolled over him, his breath catching in his throat, as a wave of heat from a roaring bonfire rippled through the air. It swirled in a crackling cone near an opened tomb. A large, darkened figure stood forward of the yawning black entrance. Rabbit was too far away to discern any more detail of the mysterious shadow. The open coffin he saw with vivid clarity.
There, lying still in the open casket was his friend. Only Eugene wasn't Eugene.
Eugene laughed like a braying donkey. Eugene told ridiculously dirty jokes. Eugene could put away a full-size muffuletta from Central Grocery and still have room for a dozen beignets. Eugene wasn't a lifeless, ashy brown. Eugene didn't have blood trickling from a bizarre symbol raked into his wide forehead. And Eugene wouldn't lie there, docile, while a tall, top-hatted figure towered over him, skull face grinning, poised to plunge a blade directly into his chest. Rabbit opened his mouth to scream.
Melinda Falgoust is also an international award-winning author, illustrator, puppeteer, and working actor on both stage and screen. Her writing has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Writers' Journal, and with Harlequin Books. Other titles have garnered awards and accolades from the NY Book Festival, the Oshima Picture Book Museum International Picture Book Competition, the Green Book Festival, and the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition. Melinda loves to connect with readers and fans! Reach out via social media or sign up for her monthly newsletter HERE which is full of exclusive content, fun giveaways, and more!
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