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Authors: Day Keene

Bring Him Back Dead

BOOK: Bring Him Back Dead
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bring him back dead

DAY KEENE

a division of F+W Media, Inc.

Chapter One

L
ATOUR AWAKENED
, reluctantly.

Heat lay sodden on the delta. The only sounds he heard were the twittering of the birds close by and the rhythmic
ca-rump
of the rocker arms of the pumping wells in the distance. There was nothing in the dripping dawn to indicate that before night fell, two attempts would be made on his life.

A big youth in his late twenties, black-haired, massively built, he washed his face and shaved and dressed, then walked down the rear stairs.

The form-fitting white silk housecoat he’d bought Olga in Singapore looked out of place in the antiquated kitchen. Her face was flushed with the heat rising from the old stove. As Latour watched, she brushed a wisp of pale hair out of her sullen gray eyes.

“Your breakfast will be ready in a minute.”

She didn’t offer to kiss him good morning.

Latour laid his Stetson on a chair and sat at the plain deal table. It was incredible that two people who had been as close as he and Olga had been could have lost all means of intimate communication. With the exception of the nightly farce she insisted on enacting, conversation between them had been reduced to the bare minimum.

“Your breakfast will be ready in a minute…. The payment on the TV set is due…. The light bill came this
morning…. We are almost out of flour…. Will you be home for supper?”

He ate his breakfast in silence, then pushed back his chair and picked up his hat.

“Will you be home for supper?” Olga asked.

“I don’t know.”

Latour fitted his hat to his head and walked down the long hall and across the rotting wood of the open gallery.

The yard was fresh with morning. Condensation dripped from the eaves of the house. It was beaded on the metal roof and mud-splattered hood of the two-year-old Cadillac that was all that was left of his dream. Fortunately, he’d paid cash for the car.

He started across the drive, then flung himself flat on the gravel as a rifle shot shattered the stillness. As he lay helpless, unarmed, he heard a thrashing in the bushes and a moment later the motor of a car, which accelerated rapidly.

Latour’s mouth felt dry. There were twin hard knots in his groin. Exchanging shots in a fair fight was one thing. Attempted murder was another.

He got to his feet and picked up his hat from the drive. There was a bullet hole through the crown, just above the band. If the shot had been an inch lower, he’d have been hit.

Olga came out on the gallery and the soft onshore wind parted the skirt of her housecoat. Her eyes were, seemingly, concerned. “I thought I heard a shot.”

Latour studied the shapely white columns of her legs. “You did.”

Olga realized she was exposing herself and drew her housecoat together. “Who fired it? Some early-morning hunter?”

Latour was damned if he’d give her the satisfaction of knowing how close she had come to being a widow. He shrugged. “Probably,” he lied. “Where’s Georgi?”

The Russian girl was puzzled. “Gone for a walk, I think.”

“This time of morning?”

“It may be he did not come home last night. All I know
is he was not in his room when I looked. Why do you ask?”

“I just wondered.”

Latour got into his car and drove down the lane to the parish road leading into French Bayou.

His breakfast was heavy in his stomach. The shot had come close, too close. It wasn’t a nice feeling, this knowing someone wanted you dead.

He considered Georgi. Georgi was a distant possibility. The blond youth had been even more disappointed than his sister to learn that instead of having married a wealthy man, as she had believed, as all of them had believed, she was legally tied for life to a $250-a-month oil boom-town deputy sheriff.

If he were dead, Olga could marry again. She could sell the white and pink and gold perfection of her body to the highest bidder. A lot of men would be willing to bid.

Latour pursued the thought further. On the other hand, Georgi didn’t have a car. He didn’t have anything but arrogance. If all of the former Russian aristocracy had been as obnoxious as this third-generation descendant, it was small wonder that the Bolsheviks had either shot them or run them out of the country. During the month that Olga’s brother had visited them, the only talents he’d displayed were a set of heel-cracking Continental manners, a prodigious ability to consume free food and whisky, and a boundless willingness to sponge indefinitely on his sister.

Latour set Georgi aside for future consideration. Georgi could have attempted to kill him. Then again, the shot could have been fired by the kin of some boy he’d sent to Angola or some disgruntled pimp whom he’d cut off at the pants pocket.

With the town running wide open, deputy sheriffs who tried to enforce the law were not popular in French Bayou.

Latour wondered if he was being foolish in not getting out while the getting was good. Both Sheriff Belluche and First Deputy Tom Mullen were taking with both hands. So were most of his fellow deputies. Still, taking a quick fifty to give a switch artist a pass or buttering his and Olga’s bread with the perfumed sweat of a little hustler
who attempted to roll an oil-field worker who wasn’t quite drunk enough to be rolled was contrary to every standard by which he lived.

All he’d known was college and the Army. In both places he’d gone by the book.

As he reached the city limits he glanced at the sign erected by the newly formed Chamber of Commerce. It read:

French Bayou

Population 3,000

The Biggest Little Town

In Louisiana

That didn’t include transients or the sports fishermen come down to cash in on the added lagniappe of fish attracted by the powerful lights of the offshore rigs pumping oil out of the Gulf.

Latour drove down Lafitte Street toward the jail.

French Bayou had changed. The discovery of oil in the Gulf had seduced her. She was no longer a genteel Creole lady dozing in the sun. With the oil-company-built jetties forming a pair of splayed white legs and bar-lined Lafitte Street her torso, she looked more like a big-eyed back-country girl lying flat on her back in the reeds, willing and eager to take on all comers, delighted by this endless source of revenue she’d discovered in her own body.

And the town was still building like mad.

Latour parked behind the jail and signed the check-in sheet in Sheriff Belluche’s office. Judging from the sounds in the lockup, it had been a busy night. There were even a few girls in the women’s section, the little people who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay off.

Belluche and Mullen were clever. If the stench ever got so bad that an onshore wind carried it north to Baton Rouge and an investigation was made, both men could point with pride to the number of arrests made and court costs and fines levied.

Running á wide-open town? Not them.

Bill Ducros had taken over the duty desk from the night deputy in charge, Jack Pringle. As far as Latour
knew, Ducros, along with himself and perhaps Todd Kelly, was one of the few men in the department who wasn’t trying to get rich overnight.

He considered telling Ducros about the attempt on his life and decided to keep it to himself, for the time being at least, just in case it was a family affair.

He took his gun belt from its hook and felt better with a gun flat against his thigh. From now on he’d wear a gun at all times. The next time he was shot at, he’d shoot back.

There was nothing new on the duty sheet. The morning was run-of-the-mill. With nothing better to do, he spent it policing Lafitte Street, directing tourists to the new boat basin, answering their questions as to the quantity and value of the oil the onshore and offshore wells were pumping into everyone’s bank account but his.

The real French Bayou awakened late. There were few men and fewer girls on the street. It was usually late afternoon or early evening before the bars and cafés and clubs began to boil. Not that there was any need for a man to wait for anything he might have in mind. If he didn’t know where to go, any bartender or stickman or overdressed pea-eye tickling his throat with the hair of the dog that had bit him was pleased to give a stranger explicit directions.

“Cabin Number Three at the South Moon Under Motel. Just knock on the door and ask for Mabel.”

After all, it was money in their pockets.

Latour ate lunch at Portugee Joe’s Café, then checked back in at the jail. Tom Mullen had relieved Ducros. A beefy man pushing fifty, the first deputy looked as if he’d had a tough night.

“You busy?” he asked Latour.

“Doing nothing,” Latour told him.

Mullen searched through the papers on his desk. “You know the Big Bend country, don’t you, Andy?”

“You know I do.”

Mullen found the warrant for which he was searching. “Then I think you’d better drive out and put Lant Turner out of business. According to the information I have, he’s set up somewhere along Booker Creek, about a mile back in the bush. And Big Boy and some of the other juke
owners out that way have been raising hell with the old man. With the federal tax on whisky what it is, they claim Lant’s cutting into their profits. Take an ax with you.”

Latour put the warrant in his pocket.

“You can bring him in or not. That’s up to you.”

Latour checked a hot retort. Nothing would please Mullen more than to have him fall into line. But he had nothing to gain by quarreling with the first deputy. As small as the pay was, the shield on the pocket of his shirt was feeding him and Olga.

His anger stayed with him as he drove between the double row of recently built motels just beyond the corporate limits of French Bayou.

He should have stayed in the Army. Failing that, he should have got a job in the oil fields. Still, outside of the Army and the three years he’d spent in college, all he knew was law enforcement. Even in the Army, outside of a brief tour in Korea, his activities had been limited to the C.I.D.

His winding up as a deputy sheriff was ironic. When he and Olga had been married, in Singapore, he hadn’t figured on working another day if he lived to be a hundred years old. According to the letters Jean Avart had sent him and the oil lease he’d signed, he’d had every reason to believe he was going to be a multimillionaire. Anyway, a very wealthy man.

That was why Olga had married him.

Chapter Two

H
IS ANGER
evaporated as he drove deeper into the back country. Here the air was fresh and clean. The black muck of the drainage ditches lining both sides of the road was unbelievably fertile. Stately white herons flapped lazily from tree to tree. The hammocks were alive with game. Even if things hadn’t turned out as he’d hoped, once a
man got away from French Bayou and the smell of crude oil and perfume and fried fish and stale beer, he could still enjoy living in the beauty of the Mississippi delta.

He noticed with interest that Jacques Lacosta had returned on one of his periodic visits. His house trailer and garishly painted station wagon were parked in the clearing in front of the fire-gutted and storm-battered shell that had once been the Lacosta plantation house.

BOOK: Bring Him Back Dead
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