At 2:30 a.m. on a drizzly December Saturday, a smart person might not have walked past Jackson Square on Chartres across Dumaine and St. Philip and the rest to make a right turn onto Barracks Street. Check that. A smart person might not have gone past Jackson Square.
It’s not that Alton was stupid, it was just that he was in New Orleans for the first time in his life, his train from Los Angeles having arrived only five hours earlier and he wanted to take it all in. Or at least as much as he could of the Quarter in the few hours that he had left until his next train departed for Birmingham.
So when he proceeded up Barracks it was with the thought of getting back to the buzz of Bourbon Street, and not with much consideration that he perhaps wasn’t in the safest section of the quarter, or at least the most hospitable… or well lighted.
Even when he saw the hunched silhouettes of the four men rolling dice low in the shadows against the front steps of a building on the left he didn’t think much of it. But when they all stopped their game and their heads simultaneously turned in his direction and locked on him, suddenly he’d not only wished he’d chosen another street to go down, but he silently cursed for not taking the trouble to remove the camera from around his neck.
But rather than turn tail and flee, which was what every fiber of his being was suddenly screaming for him to do, Alton forced himself to continue moving forward, eyes straight ahead. As he did he tripped a bit over the uneven road, but quickly corrected his stride to keep from making a further fool of himself.
The four men didn’t move anything other than their heads, following him as he drew up to them and then beyond. As he did the street seemed to close in claustrophobically. With the men at his back Alton could feel the four pairs of eyes burning a hole through him but still he resisted the urge to break into a run. A few more steps and he almost jumped when he first heard the clatter of the dice on the pavement but quickly he realized it was about the best sound he could’ve hoped for.
He got to Royal Street and made another left, without looking back.