seventy-four           

            Despite Jake having taken great pains to delineate his plan, the man who walks ahead refuses to cooperate.

            Why should I? Why should a Master barter with a Negress (much less a harlot) for property clearly mine by legal writ and right? New Orleans might be unconventional, but it is nonetheless Southern, and in the South a black never dictates to a White. White makes right, in the South, exceptions overruled.

            The boardwalk echoes with Zachary's stalwart step, his militaristic stride outpacing Ebersole—who looks ahead as if irked by the zeal of his companion and tries to hold him up.

            "Where's the fire? Haste makes waste. I'm sure that maxim is familiar, Mister Squire. As I forewarned you, this endeavour wants tact not aggression." He finally catches up. "Storm the gate and likely, more than likely, you will bear the brunt yourself. Houses of ill-repute, in these parts, guard and repel intrusions with ball-in-chamber."

            Zachary halts.

            "This woman is armed? The authorities allow it! Incredible, Mister Ebersole!"

            "Far-fetched but true."

            Zachary's stubborn march resumes irrespective. Once more Jake attempts to inject a note caution.

            "Mister Squire!... Mister Squire, I must insist... that is, I must say I am chagrined. I thought we were agreed that you would stay behind; I'd make the arrangements."

            "I will stay behind, sir; directly behind. I demand to see this... personage... as well as her establishment."

            "I understand your resolve, Mister Squire. I am honoured by your company. But Mother Moss..."

            "To hell with Mother Moss; it is Jewel I demand to see!"

            Jake shakes his head. Though he had counted on impatience he had misjudged Zachary's stubbornness. Gullible? Yes. A fool? Perhaps. Yet used to wielding power; Mister Squire might well be duped but scarcely countermanded.

            "As you wish." Jake extracts a card from his vest's left-breast pocket on which is printed an address. "Two streets ahead. Turn right. First block. Third house on the left. Mister Squire, adieu."

            Curtly, Jake pivots and walks the few steps needed to reinforce his bluff. Zachary, as expected, hastens to apprehend him.

            "Mister Ebersole!" Jake halts... but makes no immediate answer... "Surely you're not leaving." ...turns but does not defer.

            "That I am, sir. You betray a lack of confidence in my abilities and intentions, a lack of trust, in fact, Mister Squire, which I cannot brook."

            Zachary, closing the distance, steps beside a man whose motives he indeed suspects are less than honourable and encompass more than lucre (if Mojo Rags is right; "Beware de fancy-man what come to make a offer..."). Power? Rank? Prestige? A waste of time, such thoughts, when Jewel's recovery beckons like flame before a moth.

            Coach wheels clatter. There are passers-by. Twilight darkens colours of the dusty, tree-lined street. The district's odours—pungent, heady, thick with liquor and perfume, with wafts of raw and cooking seafood, strong tobacco, and acrid human waste—exhale and intensify, muddle and engulf. Zachary, overwhelmed, snorts, clears his nostrils, scowls, then heads off on his own—Jake's ploy disregarded.