by Katy Copley
(Aliso Viejo, CA, USA)
The evening was so blissful; we never expected that this would be the most frightening and harrowing night of our lives. It was the spring of 2004, a soft cool breeze was blowing as my friend and I (the typical tourists) wandered through the streets of the historic New Orleans French Quarter. Scents of chicory scented coffee wafted through the old weathered windows of the quaint cafes. In the distance, the sound of jazz was becoming fainter as we walked; we could barely hear it now.
Suddenly we happened upon a graveyard just outside the French Quarter. We were intrigued by the large upright tombstones and above ground vaults. Some tombstones were chiseled with dates back to the 1800’s. One vault in particular had ornate designs of blue, red and yellow flowers splayed across it. To the left of that vault stood a majestic structure with seemingly hundreds of blue birds which had been carved many years ago but still retained its brilliant color. Three life size statues of angels appeared to be hovering over the vaults as if they were sent to protect these special vaults.
Perhaps the antiquity of the cemetery was what also captivated us; it was over 100 years old. So intent was our focus, we had failed to keep track of time when we suddenly noticed that it was getting dark.
I bravely said “Don’t worry, we can easily find our way back to the hotel”. When it became apparent that we were lost, we began to feel uneasy. My friend said “These street names, Goliad, Blues, and Antone are not ringing any bells of recognition”. As we searched one street after the other, hoping to find one that was familiar, we realized that we were getting farther and farther from our hotel and no longer knew which direction to go.
The news report we had heard the night before flashed into our minds. The brutal murder of an unidentified woman had taken place within a few blocks of this very cemetery. The crime scene pictures shown on the TV told the tragic story. The body was lying on the dirty wet pavement in a lonely alley. Dirt and blood covering the body almost obscured the bright red dress she had been wearing. However, that was not the most macabre part; her head was resting several feet from her body. I remember shuddering and telling my friend “You and I would never let ourselves be caught up in something like that; we’re too smart and too cautious”.
As we walked, we noticed that the street we were on was empty except for the three men walking several yards ahead of us. They were walking slowly and although we could hear their chatter we couldn’t understand what they were saying. I turned to my friend and pleaded “What should we do”! My friend answered “Should we run to them and ask directions or should we run from them?” We decided to take a detour to avoid them. Horrifyingly at that exact moment the three men stopped suddenly, turned around and walked ever increasingly faster behind us as if they were trying to catch us. Now we were really scared! My heart was beating so fast I thought it would burst through my skin. Unwisely we ducked into an alley and we could hear their footsteps getting ever closer to us. Near panic we started to run; they also ran, closing the distance between us. Then our worst fear was realized, we were at a dead end, a very dark dead end. Instantly, all three men were standing within a few feet of us.
“We finally caught you. We just happened to glance behind us when we heard a noise which was probably backfire from a car on the next street. That's when we recognized that you were the two women sitting next to us at the restaurant. We noticed that you had forgotten to take your credit card when you left. We took the card and followed you out of the restaurant but then suddenly you had vanished. We've been looking for you ever since.” The man smiled as he croaked “Here's your credit card.”