Title: Murder on Mars (A New Orleans Mystery)
Author: M.M. Shelley
Young Adult Paranormal Suspense
A paranormal force has lured Ava to New Orleans, where shadows lurk behind every corner and an unknown power has yet to be unleashed. There is a darkness in New Orleans, one that has brought sixteen year old Ava Lopez to the city in search of her best friend, Dyson. A dark crime has been committed, and there are supernatural forces involved. Three sisters who whisper "fate" are awaiting the arrival of the Guardian. Shadow People fiercely haunt the city, unchallenged, but Ava senses that Dyson may be involved with their crimes. She must discover the secret that the Shadows are so determined to keep hidden. Ava will have to risk everything, because where the Fates are concerned there are no second chances.
Ava caught the red eye into New Orleans Louisiana; it was the earliest flight she could make out of New York City. If it had been for anyone other than Dyson there would have been no way she would have dropped everything she was doing to fly out to New Orleans. She had never given the city much thought before; Dyson had mentioned it briefly to her once before saying that his great aunt Caroline lived in the Garden District and from time to time he would visit and stay with her.
Dyson was Ava’s closest friend; in fact at times he was her only friend. She had met Dyson in the first grade. Ava had transferred from a school in Los Angeles, California and it had seemed that before she arrived everyone had heard the stories of her father; they all knew who she was and who her father was. Her fellow students couldn’t wait to tease and ridicule her, everyday they would find a new way to torture her in class or in the halls.
Ava wore her black hair in a pony tail which placed her widow’s peak on prominent display; her classmates would say that she looked like Eddie Munster. They also teased her mercilessly about the cleft in her chin and every time they did she had turned her nose up at them. They had also liked to call her Lupus, because her last name was Lopez. And at the lunch table they would sit next to her and poke at her food so she couldn’t eat.
Through it all she would pretend that everything they did to her didn’t affect her, she never reacted, and she kept her feelings to herself; never letting them see her cry.
They soon began calling her the ‘ice princess’ because of her lack of reaction and because of the glares she would send their way if she found something annoying or not to her liking. Ava had mastered the art of looking down her nose at someone and it made them feel small, so, finally the other students gave up and moved on to easier targets.
Dyson had never been one of the ones who had teased her; in fact he had kept his distance from her. One morning as she sat in a swing at the end of a school day waiting to be picked up from school, Dyson walked over and sat in the swing next to her.
He told her that his car was late; that his parents were in town and whenever they were the car was always late. He took out some licorice and offered her some. Ava was a bit hesitant but helped herself to a piece. Before she took a bite she waited for him to take one; it was to make sure there was nothing wrong with it.
As his car arrived a window in the back seat rolled down and a woman peered out shouting at him to hurry up and get into the car. Dyson took his time as he handed Ava the rest of the licorice before turning his sharp blue eyes onto his mother. He wore his blonde hair in a disheveled mess just to irritate her and he ran his hand through it for good measure before he kicked up loose dirt spraying rocks at the car. The gravel hit both the car and his mother. Dyson ran along the car and got in on the passenger side, choosing to sit next to the driver rather than with his mother.
Ava sat on her swing and watched in bewilderment, a smile slowly found its way onto her face. Her father never picked her up from school, he couldn’t as he lived back home in Los Angeles. He knew how the school and the other parents felt about him, the only reason he sent Ava to school so far away was to give her a better life away from the one he was living, at least that’s what he told her time and again, but she knew better.
Her mother Lucia had died shortly after Ava was born on January twenty third; Lucia was beautiful, she had long thick black hair and green eyes. Ava had inherited her mothers’ dark hair but everything else came from her father, Martin.
Ava and Dyson were now attending school at Clairman’s Academy, only Dyson hadn’t return from his spring break trip from New Orleans. The last few weeks before he had left Dyson had been acting oddly; as he kept to himself and he was on his phone constantly either receiving texts or phone calls. No matter how many times Ava hounded him he wouldn’t say what they were about.
And then she got a call from Felix telling her she needed to get to New Orleans as soon as possible. He wouldn’t say why.
Felix was a friend of Dyson’s; one Ava had met a few times when Felix had been in New York. He was easy to talk to and he had a friendly laugh, that was the first thing
she thought of when she heard his voice over the phone, his laugh. It was catchy and easy on the ears; he had a way of making anyone feel welcomed.
If Dyson was in any kind of trouble she would be there for him as he had been there for her. He had been the one she had turned to after the murder of her father.
Ava closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the head rest of her seat. She didn’t want to think about that day, she forced it back into the darkest part of her mind and swiftly popped in her earphones to listen to the in-flight movie, hopefully it would help her get some sleep. It was a romantic comedy, she hated those, they were all the same just different actors, but she would rather watch that than let her mind wonder to places she would rather it didn’t. She opened her eyes just as the male actor who had dreamy bedroom eyes and a lazy smile ask his lady love for a dance. She agreed and quickly melted into his arms. Ava yanked the earphones out and pushed the button for the flight attendant who came by. She seemed to have a smile permanently pressed onto her face. The flight was full, first class was sold out, which left Ava in coach.
Ava didn’t wait for her to speak as she quickly said, “I need a Pepsi.” The flight attendant nodded her head and left at a brisk pace. Fortunately Ava had the aisle seat, nothing worse than being stuck at the window and having to climb over people if she needed to step out. She pulled out her laptop and lowered the tray. The attendant returned with her drink, and Ava signed into her account after paying the charge for the use of WI-FI.
The flight was a good three hours and she arrived after four a.m. Even though it was early there was a live band playing near baggage claim. The band was exuberant and soulful at the same time; it was their way of welcoming visitors into their city. Ava paused for a moment to listen, she loved music, but unfortunately couldn’t play any type of instrument or sing for that matter, but she did admire those who were able to. She dropped a twenty dollar bill into a black hat as she made her way out of baggage claim and to the taxi stand.
There was a tall slim man leaning against a cab and as she neared he seemed to become excited, probably because he was about to get a fare so early in the morning.
He pushed against the cab and stepped forward offering his help with her luggage. She had three bags with her; a large suit case, a carry on and her laptop bag which she wore strapped across her body.
Even though she was only sixteen years old Ava looked older, maybe it was because she was a fan of make-up and fashion. Fashion was a way for her to escape and pretend she was someone else, she went through many looks during her years at Clairmans Academy, and at times her looks might have been outrageous, but they were fun none the less.
She was dressed in a pair of trim black pants that hugged her curves and a silk blouse that was form fitted, her coat was dark grey a mix of a military cut with ruffles on the back just above the hem.
“Where are we going?” he asked her as he stowed her luggage in the trunk. Before she could open the passenger door he had whisked around her to open her door, and waved her into the cab.
“Le Pavillon Hotel,” she said as she took a seat.
Guest Post From Author:
I was fortunate enough to visit the city of New Orleans, Louisiana and I do plan on returning. This city is the setting for my new YA; Murder on Mars a New Orleans Mystery.
A few highlights of the city:
* The Garden District. Rows and rows of beautiful homes and lovely gardens. There are a few walking tours that are between 90 minutes to two hours. We took a Haunted tour which was about 90 minutes long. Along the walk we were treated with stories of some of the more interesting homes. We passed by a home that Anne Rice had owned at one time and learned that she had to keep a sign posted for deliveries, stating instructions for the drivers to use a side door. Apparently a ghost had the habit of ringing the bell at the front door.
* K-Pauls Louisiana Kitchen. This is the best restaurant in town and located in the French Quarter. The food is lovely and the service is wonderful. It’s the only restaurant I know of that does not have a freezer.
* St. Louis Cemetery #1. No trip is completed without a stop to this cemetery. A tour would probably be recommended, we on the other hand did not make it for the tour, but we did take some great pictures.
* Jackson Square. Located in the French Quarter. There is so much to see and do in this part of the Quarter, we spent hours here could have spent hours more.
The Author: M.M. Shelley is a storyteller, word smith and dreamer. She has traveled the world extensively in search of the magic which is often overlooked in every day life. M.M. Shelley is a native of southern California, and a student of mythology from which she gets much inspiration.