The Vanishing

By: Jana DeLeon

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Colette Guidry—The head nurse at a New Orleans hospital knew her assistant, Anna, was in trouble when she didn’t show up for work. But given the girl’s checkered past, the police believed Anna had simply run off with yet another unsuitable man and would eventually find her way back home. The last thing Colette needed was a private investigator who didn’t believe her, either, especially one as attractive as Max.

Max Duhon—Max looked forward to leaving police work behind in favor of more in-depth investigating without all the red tape, but the detective had as much trouble believing Colette’s story as the New Orleans police. Even more troubling was how attractive he found the sexy nurse.

Anna Huval—The troubled young woman ran off from her hometown deep in the Louisiana swamp at age fifteen. Since then, she’d established a long rap sheet with the New Orleans police. The cops didn’t believe for a moment Anna had turned her life around, despite Colette’s assurances that was the case.

Marshall Lambert—The wealthy collector bought a gold coin that Anna had pawned to start her life in New Orleans. He wanted more information about the seller, but the pawn-shop owner didn’t provide it. Did he spend some of his considerable fortune to track down the coin’s origin?

Danny Pitre—The gas station attendant lent out his boat and gave Colette and Max directions to the missing village, but warned them that the villagers wouldn’t appreciate a visit from strangers.





To my recently married friend, Leigh Zaykoski.

May you and Phil have your own happily ever after….






Prologue

November 1833

The young Creole man pushed open the door on the shack and sat on a chair next to the bed. The fifty-seven-year-old Frenchman lying there wasn’t much longer for this world. The only thing keeping him alive was the news the Creole would bring.

“Have you found my son?” the Frenchman asked, then began coughing.

The young Creole winced as the dying man doubled over, his body wracked with pain. “Wi.”

The dying man straightened up, struggling to catch his breath. “Where is he?”

The Creole looked down at the dirt floor. He’d hoped the man would be dead before he returned to the village. Hoped he’d never have to speak the words he was about to say. Finally, he looked back up at the man and said, “He’s dead.”

“Nonsense! They’ve said I’m dead now for over a decade. Bring me my son!”

“Somethin’ bad went through New Orleans last year that the doctors couldn’t fix. A lot of people died.”

The anguish on the dying man’s face was almost more than the Creole could bear to see. “You couldna done nuttin’,” he said, trying to make the dying man’s last moments easier.

“I shouldn’t have left him there, but there was nothing here for him—hiding in the swamp for the rest of his life.”

“You did what you shoulda. You couldna known.”

The dying man struggled to sit upright. “I need for you to do something else. Something even more important.”

The Creole frowned. “What?”

“Under this bed is a chest. Pull it out, but be careful. It’s heavy.”

The Creole knelt down next to the bed and peered underneath. He spotted the chest in a corner and pulled the handle on the side, but it barely budged. Doubling his efforts, he pulled as hard as he could and, inch by inch, worked the chest out from under the bed.

“Open it,” the dying man said.

The Creole lifted the lid on the chest, and the last rays from the evening sun caught on the glittering pile of gold inside. He gasped and stared at the gold, marveling at its beauty. All this time, the Frenchman had been sleeping over a fortune. The Creole stared up at the man, confused.

“It’s cursed,” the dying man said. “I stole it, and now it’s taken my son and my life from me.” The dying man leaned down, looking the Creole directly in the eyes. “Promise me you’ll never let the gold leave that chest. It will bring sorrow to anyone who spends it. You must keep it hidden forever. I’m entrusting you and your family with this task. Do you understand?”

The Creole felt a chill run through him at the word curse. He didn’t want to be entrusted with guarding cursed objects, nor did he want that burden transferred down his family line.

“Promise me!” the dying man demanded.

But the Creole knew he was the only one in the village who could be trusted to keep the gold hidden. The only one who could be trusted to train those who came after him to respect the old ways. To respect vows made.

“I promise.”





Chapter One

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