Jacques Houston snapped awake.
He could see 7:48 in his mind. He could see it clearly. What did it mean? 7:48. Was it a time? A significant time? Was something pivotal in his life going to occur at 7:48?
The numbers stayed with him through the following days as he went about his routine in New Orleans’ French Quarter. 7:48.
Jacques wasn’t smart. He didn’t have to be smart. He worked for a man who was and who was invested in numerous businesses that operated well outside the law. Jacques didn’t have to think. He only had to do as he was told.
Jacques was also not involved in the 21st century. He had neither mobile phone nor computer. He had a television but received only over the air channels. He watched old movies and sitcoms. He wore a cheap, old-fashioned wrist watch. His most prized possession was a Thompson submachine gun, the last of which was made in 1945. It was still a vicious, effective weapon.
He went to the restaurant his boss used as his office at mid day seven days a week. He stayed there usually until about ten o’clock in the evening. If the boss had something for him to do he received his orders verbally. Otherwise he waited.
On Sunday he was given a package and told to place it in a particular place in a particular manner in the home of homicide detective Jordan Baron. The cop, Jacques was told, would be gone on from 4:30 until 6:30 that evening. It was vital that Jacques get into Baron’s home during that period. He must be gone by 6:30.
Jacques thought he knew what was in the package. He wasn’t especially interested. Baron had been causing problems for the boss recently. Jacques assumed the boss decided to get the cop out of the way.
It was easy to bypass the security system at Baron’s apartment and pick the lock. It took a few minutes longer than Jacques had planned but he thought time remained plentiful.
Once inside, Jacques placed the duffel bag he carried on a table. He first removed his precious Thompson and laid it carefully aside. Then the package.
As he went about placing the package and preparing it as he had been instructed, he didn’t worry about time. He had plenty.
He thought that until he heard the click of a revolver being cocked. Then he heard the voice.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Detective Baron said. “You’re thinking you can reach that antiquated weapon on the table and lace me up with twenty rounds.”
“But I know I can get off one round from this antiquated weapon,” Baron continued, waving the Webley revolver Trent Marshall had given him, “that will rip through your brain at least two seconds before you can touch the Thompson.”
Jacques wasn’t smart. He was smart enough not to test Baron’s theory.
The detective called for the bomb squad. Then he maliciously made Jacques sit on the package on the bathroom floor, his hands cuffed to the piping under the sink. He left Jacques there with the door closed. If the bomb exploded before the squad arrived they would lose Jacques and part of Baron’s bathroom. Neither would be a great loss.
“But you were supposed to be gone until 6:30,” Jacques protested as he was led away by two uniformed officers.
“Yes, and I was forty-five minutes late,” Baron said.
Jacques looked puzzled. Baron suddenly realized why. He laughed.
“Today is Sunday, March 9th, Jacques,” Baron said, “the first day of Daylight Savings Time. We set our clocks an hour forward last night.”
“Nobody told me,” Jacques mumbled.
As he passed the large clock on Baron’s wall, he didn’t notice the hands pointed to 7:48.
With his home returned to normal and no damage done, Baron took the collard greens and corn bread, leftovers from dinner at Trent and Darcey’s that evening, to the kitchen. They knew it was one of his favorite meals. They made it especially for him.
He especially liked the way they made their collards because they use tasso, that delicious, spiced Louisiana ham. If tasso isn’t available, any good quality ham will do or, in a real emergency, even bacon.
Jordan Baron’s Collard Greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces tasso, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 – 4 pounds collard greens (about four bunches) with the thick stems removed and the leaves torn into pieces
salt & pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the onion and tasso. Saute until the onion is softened and beginning to show color, and the tasso has begun to brown. Toss in the garlic and continue cooking for no more than a minute or two. Be careful to avoid burning the garlic.
Add the collards and enough water to comfortably cover them. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the greens are cooked through.
If you’re really smart, you’ll serve the greens with corn bread.
As Jordan Baron would say, “Bon temps!”