Fireworks, Forensics, and Felonies
Seventh in the Series
The New Orleans Go Cup Chronicles
Included in Summer Snoops Unleashed
The smell of gunpowder is an aphrodisiac to me. That’s why I’ve always loved fireworks. I love setting them off, not just watching. I love the smell that lingers in the air. My dad taught me how to light a cherry bomb when I was three years old. He struck a match, handed it to me and while he held the cherry bomb, he said, “C’mon, you light it and I’ll throw it. It’s gonna be loud.”
What I remember most was the smell that hung in the air after the boom. From that first blast that went off fifteen feet from the porch we were standing on, I’ve been crazy for fireworks ever since. Every year after that I helped my dad set up and light the fireworks. Sometimes, Dante from next door helped us light them. I never missed a firework display on the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, especially if I could be involved lighting them.
My name is Brandy Alexander and I grew up next door to five boys. I learned early on not to let them know I was afraid of something or those boys would have tortured me to death with it. Fireworks were different. I wasn’t afraid of them, I loved them.
When I told Jiff this fact he arranged to take his sailboat out on Lake Pontchartrain for the Fourth of July fireworks display and be downwind so we’d catch the aromatic aftermath. The thought of smelling an entire barge of explosives was something I was not going to say no to.
I’ve been dating Jiff Heinkel for the last year. We met at a Mardi Gras parade where he kissed me in exchange for a paper flower. Then he asked me to meet him at the end of the parade and it was all over except the shouting. Shouting, in the form of tears, lots of tears…loud, sobbing tears, really from Dante’s mom. Dante is one of the five boys who lived next door. Both sets of parents expected us to marry one day. Miss Ruth wanted us to marry because she loved me to death and wanted to see her son happy. My mother because she wanted me out of the house, the sooner, the better. Problem: Dante was not on the same page as our parents.
Now, Dante is with the New Orleans Police Department, Captain of the Homicide Division. It might have been the gunpowder from his weapons we used at the shooting range that kept me interested in him since he never did anything to indicate he wanted to move our future forward…together…until I met Jiff. Since then, he’s been proclaiming his undying love. Dante’s even gone so far as to welcome my help in his “ongoing investigations”, something he was all too quick to run me off from in the past.
“Can I get you another glass of champagne?” Jiff asked. We were anchored out in Lake Pontchartrain on Jiff’s sailboat listening to the waves gently kissing the side of the boat. It was the perfect night with a good breeze that made the sail here very enjoyable. Jiff’s sailboat had a generator, air conditioning, and a queen size bunk in the stateroom. It was a very comfortable yacht. Tonight, we could leave the hatches open and fall asleep to the sound of waves slapping at the hull, gently rocking us into a peaceful slumber.
“Yes, please,” I said handing him my glass. “I hope we’re in a good spot to get a whiff once the fireworks start.” I stuck my nose up pretending I was sniffing the air to pick up the gunpowder smell like my Meaux does when I’m cooking in the kitchen. Meaux liked fireworks too. He was the only dog I ever had that didn’t run and hide when they were exploding. Of course, Meaux just wanted to be wherever I was, regardless if he was afraid of loud noise or not.
“You’ll smell it once it starts. I made sure we’re downwind from the barge.” He looked around over the water accessing our position. “The wind is starting to pick up. If it blows much stronger, I don’t know if Ian can still fire them,” he said kissing my forehead. “I would never lure you out here under the pretense of seeing fireworks or smelling gunpowder and then not deliver. You would never speak to me again. I hoping the giant show you are going to smell will put you in a very grateful mood.”
“I’m already in a very grateful mood,” I said putting my arms around him. “How do you know the guy who’s putting on this extravaganza?”
“Ian and I went to Jesuit together. We worked on a science project in our senior year that involved blowing stuff up. He’s a smart dude,” Jiff answered. “Now, he works for the EPA. He’s made a name for himself in the industry. Before you ask, fireworks have always been his thing. The City of New Orleans contracted him to set up this display in conjunction with the fireworks going off in Kenner, Slidell and downtown on the Mississippi River.”
“Ian works for the EPA, then explodes stuff into the air,” I said. “Sounds like a dichotomy.”
“Well, life is full of contradictions, isn’t it?” Jiff said. “He also said he had something he wanted to run by me. He alluded to a discovery and wants my opinion on how to proceed. I thought we’d sail back to the harbor and go over to Ian’s house in the morning and give them a hand getting ready for their barbeque. Their home is close to the marina. His wife’s name is Sophie. You’ll love her.”
“Do you know what he wants to talk to you about?” I asked.
“No, but he sounded bothered by something and our schedules didn’t allow us to meet until after the fourth. He invited us to his house tomorrow for his Fourth of July barbeque because he wants to meet you. They have a three-story, white stucco house—Miami Vice style—on Lakeshore Drive, just the other side of the levee, over there,” he said and pointed to a large home we could only see the top floor and roof of sitting behind the grassy flood protection.
We planned for us to spend the night on the boat. I had asked Suzanne, my roommate to dog sit Meaux and Isabella, Jiff’s schnauzer. He prepared a dinner of steaks and vegetables which he cooked on the grill attached to a stern guard railing. After dinner, we sat in the cockpit while we waited for the fireworks to start.
“The wind is picking up,” Jiff said. “This is a great night for sailing, but I hope this breeze doesn’t give Ian problems with lighting his display.”
We had dropped the anchor just off the seawall near the New Orleans Lakefront airport. This way, we’d have a short sail back to the harbor, dock, and make the short drive to Ian and Sophie’s home in the morning. Jiff advised he had planned a late breakfast for us to allow Ian and Sophie time to recover from tonight and get ready for their barbeque. I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend with my guy and meeting his friends.
The night was clear, not a cloud in the sky. There was a good chance we would see the other display set to go off across town on the Mississippi River next to the French Quarter and maybe the one in Kenner. They were all scheduled to start at 9:00 pm. The fireworks near the French Quarter started. We could see them and heard the soft pops and cracks in the distance. We moved to sit on the bow of the boat looking up in awe of the cracking, fiery display over our heads. Multiple bursts popped and lit up the sky. Ian’s barge was scheduled to go off at the same time, but he was late. Once both displays were going, we’d be under a twinkling, dancing blanket of light.
“Wow! Ian outdid himself on the fireworks,” Jiff said looking up after a particularly thunderous explosion in the direction across town.
“Yes, that last one was really loud,” I said. “I felt the vibration all the way over here.”
“Ian’s company is Up in Smoke Fireworks. Wait until the end. He likes a grand finale,” Jiff said and kissed my hand he was holding.
“I don’t think that’s part of the big ending,” I said nodding toward a blaze on the other side of the levee, along Lakeshore Drive. “That last boom sounded like it came from there.”
As we watched the smoke billowing under the lights cast by the fireworks display, Jiff stood up never taking his eyes off the burning house and said, “That’s Ian’s house.”
I jumped up with him. We stood watching the flames lick higher into the night sky. The smoke just got thicker and thicker. It started to drift over the sea wall across the water making it hard to see Ian’s barge in the distance. We watched as the wind started to pick up and feed the fire. It gained strength sending flames soaring into the night sky. Billowing black smoke shrouded the house creating intermittent views of the blaze. We stood staring at the fire.
Then, a giant second boom came. It was Ian’s barge exploding.
Copyright © 2019, Colleen Mooney
ISBN 978 1-7337387-2-9
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the publisher. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is a liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained here.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.