That very morning, she’d watched his funeral procession from the street. She wished she’d killed him privately, but she couldn’t risk being caught for murder if she stayed in New Orleans. Instead, she spooked the flesh horses that pulled the driverless coach waiting to pick up Mr. Shelby at the Gentleman’s Club. She needed to wait three days for them to bury the body. Three days before she could take possession of the key she needed in order to live.
What is that key for? That's the mystery running through the story. Creeden litters the narrative with hints but I didn't quite believe my instincts until the final paragraphs. Like many steampunk stories, this tale thrives on atmosphere and the ingenuity of the mechanical devices that populate this version of New Orleans.
The steel horse, smelling of grease and oil instead of sweat and hay, passed the wrought iron fence, walking with grace that mimicked its flesh and blood counterparts. A brass automaton with unnecessary leather reins in its hands played coachman. She held her breath as the black lacquered coach shone in the gaslight. The curtain was drawn in its window, and she sighed in relief.
Creeden adds new meaning to the oft-used phrase "key to my heart" and succeeds in creating a creepy atmosphere and suspense as Helen races to save her life as time ticks away. The only fault I see in the story is the underground grave. I think most bodies in southern Louisiana are interred above ground due to the high watertable. Give "Heartless in New Orleans" a read. It's well worth your time.
To learn more about Pauline Creeden and her writing, check out her blog at fatfreefaith.blogspot.com.
Photo Credit: By ricetek. Posted at morgueFile.