Authors: riley blake
Text copyright ©2015 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Jana DeLeon. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original The Miss Fortune Series remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Jana DeLeon, or their affiliates or licensors.
For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds
Hiding in the Bayou
A heartfelt thank you goes out to New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jana Deleon. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to write in your Miss Fortune series. You truly are one of the greatest cozy mystery authors of our time.
“If I wanted you gone, you’d be sixteen feet under with a hundred pounds of cement drying on top of your sorry, cheating, stubborn, deadbeat of a well-proportioned tail!”
I flipped the agent-mode switch and bent an ear, wondering if the last part was meant as a final cheap shot or a compliment to soften the blow.
“You don’t have the guts or the connections!” A big guy jumped off the porch with a beer can in hand. He stumbled sideways but somehow managed to keep his balance. Shooting a wink and a smile, he flexed his muscles before he hollered over his shoulder, “It’s not my job to keep you content, woman!”
Nice. I wondered if this self-appointed legend wanted me to applaud his performance now or later.
“What’d I tell you, Fortune? Just another day in our sleepy little town.” The added spring in Gertie’s step was bothersome. She’d perked right up as soon as the couple’s bickering had begun.
Prior to that ear-piercing moment, Gertie and I had been enjoying our stroll down Main Street. A picturesque town, Sinful could’ve been cut straight from a movie. The street boasted picture-perfect storefronts with cute doodads in the windows. Buildings painted in pastel colors were very similar to those found in storybooks from a bygone era. In a Southern Louisiana town such as this, it was often quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
“Come back here! I’m not through with you!” The petite brunette stomped her foot and jammed her small fists against her hips. “I’m talking to you!”
“For a minute there, I thought she meant me.”
“Did you have a dog in this race?” Gertie asked.
“What do you think?” I rolled my eyes and muttered, “I’ve never been one to chase the beer-drinking, cheating, stubborn,
kind of man.”
“What’s that?” Gertie asked.
“Never mind.” Since moving to Sinful, I’d developed an irritating habit of talking to myself. Most of the time, it was an outburst about weapons, guns mostly, but on occasion I rambled about stilettos. They were deadly in the right hands.
Mine as an example
. “I was commenting on the two heathens across the way there.”
Gertie laughed. “You’re starting to sound like a Louisiana native.”
“Thanks,” I said, glancing at two said natives. Sounding like the locals worked for me. Acting like them was another beast altogether.
“If I find out that you did somethin’ inappropriate, I’ll start a bonfire with your junk!” The woman’s high-pitched voice carried like chimes. “I’ll even toss in your briefs for show!”
“Now that’s harsh,” I said.
Gertie waved her hand in the air. “Don’t pay attention to those two, Fortune. They’ve been making threats for years.”
“Who are they?”
“Peanut and Rich Richards. They’ve been fighting like that since the day they were married. Took separate cars when they went on their honeymoon if you can believe that.”
Peanut picked up a rock and threw it at her beloved. “Leave! Don’t come back!”
“Yes, Gertie. I can see it. So Peanut isn’t a pet name?”
Gertie scoffed. “The only pet name Rich has for Peanut is ‘woman’ and it’s generally said in a slurred voice when he’s demanding a beer.”
“Wait! Don’t go yet! I’m not done here!” Peanut screamed until her voice broke. “Where do you think you’re going?” She screamed again, only this time she sounded like Tarzan. In fact, I was waiting to see a chest-pounding.
Anytime now, Peanut.
“I’m going to a safe place.”
“You won’t find one of those until you get a job!”
Rich kept right on walking.
“Uh-oh,” I muttered. “Looks like the man of the house is leaving.”
“He won’t get very far.” Gertie wagged her finger at their yard. “Watch.”
Rich marched to a burgundy Buick. He swung the door open and squealed like a stuck pig when the darn thing crashed to the ground.
Gertie slapped her leg and bent over with laughter. “Every single time that happens, I get tickled.”
“You took my car apart again!” The man looked just plain crazy when he turned around. “Who do you think you are?”
Gertie patted my arm. “Time to go, Fortune.”
“I’m not leaving,” I said, slurping the last of my fountain drink. Sinful, Louisiana had once been a calm town but since my arrival there, things had apparently changed. There were murders to solve and crimes to stop. One such crime could unfold at any moment given the look on Rich’s face.
Did you do this?”
“Why on earth would you think such a thing, sugar?” Peanut wasn’t backing down from the bear of a man approaching her.
Subject one: Six-foot four beast of a man with trunk-like arms, jagged scar down the left side of his unshaven face, and tightly clenched fists. Shoulder-length hair could benefit from a good shampoo. Higher-than-average threat level. Subject two: Petite woman with short brown hair. Butterfly tattoo on her neck. Ouch. Painful. Iron skillet in her left hand. Unidentifiable object in her right. Given her size, threat is unlikely. Given her temper, anything goes.
Gertie released an exaggerated sigh. “I know that look, Fortune. I’ve seen it before. You can memorize everything about this moment but there won’t be a crime to solve later. Trust me. Those two have a history of raising hell.”
“What’s in her hand?” I asked, squinting.
“Frying pan in one.” Gertie stood on her tiptoes as if that would help. “Unsure about the other.”
“You care more about that damn car than you care about me!” Peanut continued. “I’ve been your wife for over six years now and how do you thank me? You bring my first cousin on my mother’s side into our bedroom and bandage her knee!”
“Could’ve been worse,” Gertie said out of the corner of her mouth. “Could’ve been her second cousin on her father’s side. Now that would’ve started a battle worth watching. Rumor has it when she’s in their
, there’s a bit more than first aid applied.”
“How do you know all this?” I was forever amazed at how information circulated in this small town. Then again, Sinful was a tight knit community. There were only two major divisions—the Catholics and the Baptists on the religious front. God’s Wives and the Sinful Ladies Society on the social front. “Give up your sources. Where do you gain your intelligence?”
“Born with it,” Gertie said, still stretching her neck and watching the unfolding show. “How do
I know all this? Why Ida Belle and I used to come out here with our lawn chairs and popcorn.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Hand to God.” Gertie was dead serious. “We spent most Friday evenings here. Rich used to host a poker game and the locals would come out and place side bets. We’d wager on everything from what time the game would begin and end to which player would win or lose the most. Those were the good old days.”
“You listen to me, you lying….” Peanut was off and running again. We slowly turned our heads together, taking in the argument across the street. “I don’t work all day long so you can have the run of the house to mess around.”
“She doesn’t work
,” Gertie said. “Four hours, three days a week, one town over at the Drive By.”
“Sounds like a scary place.”
“It is,” Gertie assured me. “Gangs frequent that dive, thus the name. On the flipside, they have good burgers.”
“What’d ya expect me to do? Let her bleed all over the place!” Rich finally tossed aside the door he’d carried from the driveway to the porch.
“She had an itsy-bitsy paper cut!”
“She’s anemic, Peanut!”
“And a paper cut caused a gusher, did it?” She wound that right arm up like batter might. “No more than she weighs, you could’ve picked her up and set her on the counter! You didn’t have to take her to our holy place!”
I was taken aback. Since others were now joining us on the sidewalk, I resisted the urge to laugh aloud. Trouble often began when outsiders laughed at what insiders knew better than to acknowledge.
“She recently found religion,” Gertie explained, leaning sideways in a conspiratorial fashion. “Ella Ruth, the writer who always hangs out at Francine’s, said she quotes scripture, carries around her bible, and even attended back-to-back revivals in neighboring towns a month or so ago.”
“Stop putting on a show for all our neighbors!” Rich yelled, spinning around with his arms spread like wings. “Our bedroom hasn’t been holy since you turned down the sheets for Freddy Baylor!”
Before I could ask, Gertie said, “Freddy is a traveling salesman. Several of God’s Wives had high hopes that he’d end up with one of their daughters. Until…” She jabbed her finger at the bickering Sinful couple.
“I did not!” Peanut screamed, lifting up her leg like a major leaguer might. She swung again and a loud thud landed against Rich’s back.
“All these people are standing as witnesses!” Rich yelled, ducking and dodging another swat.
Peering over my shoulder, since I caught the ‘all’ in Rich’s last statement, I couldn’t help but notice Deputy Carter LeBlanc pushing his way through the throng of onlookers. “Let’s go, Gertie.”
Carter made me blush like a schoolgirl. Since it was broad daylight and I couldn’t easily conceal my red cheeks, I opted for the high road. A good CIA agent understood when it was imperative to lay low and hide. I’d look for another opportunity to check out the Peanut and Rich situation.