Where The Devil Won't Go: A Lucas Peyroux Novel

BOOK: Where The Devil Won't Go: A Lucas Peyroux Novel
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WHERE THE DEVIL WON’T GO

 
 

by

E.J. Findorff

Copyright © 2016 by E.J. Findorff.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may
not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written
permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book
review.

Printed in the United States of America

First Printing, 2015

www.ejfindorff.com

 

To my good friends Walter, Danny, and
Brian

 

Chapter 1

The murder suspect had yet to arrive at
his home in New Orleans East, which could be considered one huge crime
statistic. I reclined in my Accord, which was parked a safe distance away,
under the shadow of a streetlight’s absence. My windshield revealed a bleak
painting of neglected houses and residential apathy as a rogue tabby shot from
curb to curb.

My wife and daughter were waiting with
dinner for me at home, but I wanted to give this at least an hour. I’d had a
run of bad luck and I could smell the collar. The gangbanger had to feel safe
to come back at some point.

A beat up, non-descript van with one
headlight pulled under the carport of a house across the street from the
gangbanger’s address,
well-hidden
from the glow of the
moon. The red shine from the brakes resembled the devil’s eyes before they shut
off. I secured my mini-binoculars for a better view, merely due to boredom as
my gangbanger had yet to show. The driver stepped from the van and slid the
side door open. From his size and the way he moved, I could tell it was a man.
He leaned forward, throwing a hard punch at something inside.

His frame bent at the waist, coming out
of the van with a small body, like a teenager. The long hair could mean it was
a female and she appeared young. While waiting for a murderer, I stumbled onto
a kidnapping and certainly something more sinister.

I called into dispatch. “This is
Detective Lucas Peyroux with Homicide. I got a sixty-seven with a possible seventy-seven
at
eight-two-nine
Marquette Street in the East.
Suspect is a possible white male, stocky build.”

The scratchy voice came back. “Roger that,
Detective Peyroux. Dispatching units to your location.”

“I don’t have time to wait for them. Make
sure they know that.”

“Roger that, Detective.”

The moment the man entered the house with
the girl on his shoulder; I jumped from my car with my Glock tight at my side. No
lights came on as I crossed the street onto his cracked driveway. A scan of the
neighboring houses told me that people minded their business on this block. That
cat brushed against my leg as I stopped and considered my entry, so I crouched
to scratch its ears for good luck. The Tabby purred in appreciation.

I extended my arm to push open the side door,
which he hadn’t closed in his efforts to get his prey inside. The aroma of
stale air from a lack of ventilation brushed my face. A single bulb illuminated
the next room where tense noises emanated. It seemed the place had been cleared
of its furniture, but plywood covered all the windows. I inched out of the cramped
kitchen, trying to get a visual. On the floor, their long shadows struggled and
his fist rose for a sure blow.

I charged into the room and shouted,
“Police. Don’t do it.”

“What the shit?” He straightened with the
girl in a chokehold. With the lamp directly behind them, his face remained
black under his hood. His gun swung up to her head. “Stay where you are, or
she’s dead.”

Braced
together, the man’s sweaty arm had merged with her throat. Long hair escaped
from his hood. His thick frame stood just
under
six
feet. The teenaged girl’s back pressed against him, both facing me. The barrel
of his gun disappeared in the tangles of her hair while my Glock pointed at his
forehead. However, his hidden face revealed the whites of his eyes. The three
of us locked in a deadly game of chicken.

“Let her go before this goes too far. You
haven’t done anything bad yet.”

He dragged the girl to the dark solidity
of a long wall, gauging my actions. We both realized the only exit was behind
me, unless he tried the bay window, which wasn’t boarded.

His
voice shook. “I’ll kill her. Stay right there. I swear I’ll kill her.”

“You’re not leaving. I’m not moving.
Let’s talk this out.”

“No, you’re going to let me leave, and
then I’ll let her go. I promise.”

I prayed the reinforcements would appear
silently, because this guy seemed spooked. I had to trust my instincts for the
girl to leave this house alive. If I let him escape with her, it would just be
a matter of time before we found her body.

Despite his agitated rocking, my aim
remained steady. He shuffled to his left, thinking I would mirror his movement
and give him a clear line to the door. My feet remained planted, my aim never
in doubt.

The girl panicked, getting her senses
back. She was no longer just dead weight in his arms. She erupted in a wave of
crying; her hair was knotted and pasted onto her face. He tightened his grip,
cutting off her air. Small coughs emanated from her mouth, forcing me to quicken
my decision.

If I let them leave, she’d be dead and I
wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a lineup. But taking the shot could mean
her death, too. Even if my bullet found its destiny, his weapon could still
discharge while pressed against her head. His muscles would soon tire, which
might quicken his own decision.

Bits of saliva popped off his lips as he
spoke in desperation, “Throw me your gun and cuff yourself to the refrigerator
and I’ll let the girl go. A head start, that’s all I want.”

“No.” With both hands on my gun, my
shoulders sagged with their own weight.

“You want her to die, man?” he hissed.
“I’ll let her go if you let me go.”

He rocked back and forth several more
times before taking a full step to his right, jerking the girl along. He swayed
again and then stepped left. He didn’t realize it was a repetitive motion, a
pattern,
his
own specific dance. My aim changed angles
along with his head, praying he wouldn’t turn his gun on me. If he did, I was
screwed.

“All you’ve done is a kidnapping.
Slap on the wrist.
C’mon man, let her go.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid. I let
her go and you shoot me.”

“Not if you put your hands in the air and
you lie face down for me. I already called in for back up.”

The
girl’s struggling ceased for the moment, hanging like a rag doll.

“Her only hope rests on you.” He pressed
his nose against her head. “I’m walking out of here and you’re going to let me.
Throw down your gun right now.”

“Can’t do that.”
I have the shot
.

“Throw it down and cuff yourself to the
fridge.”

“Not going to happen.”
I have the shot
.

“Do it.” The gun left her temple and
tilted towards me.

It sounded like a firecracker when the
gun lit up in my hand. A retaliatory crack exploded from the other side of the
room and it felt as if a wasp had stung my chest. My legs gave out and gravity
took over. He had kicked over the lamp and I could barely make out the figure
pointing the gun. I let several rounds fly from where I lay, but the guy ducked
out of sight. Sirens wailed; the window smashed. Bright red and blue lights
splashed through the room as squad cars pulled up to the front of the house.

The
girl. What happened to the girl
?

That cat I had befriended, investigating,
licked my face. I couldn’t do a damn thing.

 

Chapter 2

Two months later

A floater in the Mississippi River rarely
presents a neat corpse.
Humans
bloat, and skin becomes
delicate like tissue paper. I progressed from the Moon Walk parking lot to the
riverbank with my badge clipped to my belt and my holster heavy on my shoulder.
The Crescent City Connection loomed in the skyline over the Mississippi River,
looking like a tether keeping New Orleans from floating away. This
eighty-degree day turned out to be hottest yet in an otherwise cool start to
spring.

At the end of the brick walkway, police
tape had been strung around several lamp posts and some uniformed cops kept
citizens at bay, but it didn’t stop curious tourists from recording a true-life
New Orleans crime scene. The body lay draped under a white sheet, atop the large
rocks, which sloped to the river’s currents.

Part of a policeman’s job entailed
informing tourists of the sketchy areas to avoid, which when heeded, would
equate to less crime and less paperwork. If this lady had wandered into the
wrong neighborhood, then traveling all the way back here and dumping her in the
river wouldn’t make sense.

The Crime Scene Unit had yet to arrive,
but my Captain told me they were on the way. Ever since I returned to the job,
everyone continued to ask how I was doing, not understanding the
salt-wound
relationship. Maybe I can
just send out a blanket email to the entire NOPD in hopes of avoiding the
questions about Cozy Robicheaux, the girl I’d shot two months ago, and letting
a kidnapping rapist escape.

I shook Cozy’s bullet wound from my mind
and zeroed in on the lumpy shape under the sheet. The medical examiner had
better rule this a suicide because I wanted my first case back to be quick, and
the Quarter didn’t need more bad press.

My nostrils flared while taking in the
smell of decomposition, in stark contrast to the usual smells of fried seafood
and Creole cuisine one enjoyed in the French Quarter. CSU had to know this body
needed refrigeration soon, but clocks in New Orleans ran slower than most
places. I ducked under the tape, hoping the breeze stayed constant off the
river.

A muscular patrolman stepped up, his chest
reaching me before the rest of his body. “I’m Officer Tatum, first on the
scene.”

“Detective Peyroux. Any identification?”

“None.”

“Where was the body found?”

The young policeman pointed a few feet
away from the body at the water’s edge. “The body was face-down. Me and three
other guys pulled her out to where she is now.”

“Hopefully, you didn’t do any damage.”

“You wanted us to leave her in the
water?”

“No. I just hate that CSU isn’t here
yet.” I looked around. “So, nothing else out of the ordinary?”

“Sorry, Detective.” He gave me that
familiar, lingering stare. I sensed what he was thinking. He’d heard my name
before.

I stepped forward almost bumping into his
chest. “You got something to say to me, officer?”

“No, Detective. Not a thing.”

“Then go mind the on-lookers.”

My ankles swiveled on the rocky terrain as
I made my way to lift the sheet to inspect her face. This woman could have been
my mother and I wouldn’t have known it: she looked like bratwurst ready to
explode on the grill, but there wasn’t a tattoo in sight that might help with
identification. She could have been thrown in on the banks right where we stood,
or the river’s current could have brought her from the north, anywhere from a
hundred yards on up.

I pulled out my sunglasses and returned
to the amber bricks that paved the Moon Walk, hoping Dr. Jerry with CSU had
pulled up behind the succession of squad cars. No such luck. I sat on a bench
and jotted notes that I’d easily remember anyway, letting my Ray Bans hide my
worry. Forensics needed to do their thing before I could do mine. Once they
collected her properly, all I could do was check missing persons and wait for
lab and autopsy results. My colleagues back at the station would probably start
a pool on whether it was a tourist, local, or prostitute. And behind my back
they might place bets on whether I’d finish the case.

Detective Tara Gray stepped onto my crime
scene wearing big reflective shades and a thin, white jogging suit. Her hair
was cropped short, but styled like an advertisement for a beauty salon. Her
lean frame seemed to glide forward while a badge swung around her neck like
Mardi
Gras
beads. The cluster of freckles on her nose
reminded me that her family tree had a white branch. She stopped by my feet,
but never faced me.

“Dobson didn’t send . . .” I fingered the
corners of my eyes under my sunglasses.

“Yep. I told her I don’t like you, but
she insisted.” She put her hands on her hips.

“Is that your badge around your neck, or
did you join a rap group?” I crinkled my eyes at her.

She lifted her glasses. “You drunk again,
mother fucker?”

I broke into a laugh and she finally
smiled. If we had been meeting for lunch, a warm embrace would have been in
order. Tara and I had gone through the academy together, each making detective
the same year and assigned to work Homicide out of Headquarters on Broad
Street. We worked well together and the Captain knew it.

Her smile faded. “How are you, really?
Chest still hurt?”

“Nope. Healed up nicely. Good as new.
Pass it on.”

She nestled in by my side. “I’m going to
tell you again, because it can’t be repeated enough: you had to take the shot.
He would have killed her otherwise.”

“I shot an innocent young girl in the
throat in an abandoned house, Tara.”

“The shot
deflected
into her throat,” she countered.

“A half-inch from killing her.”

“And she’s alive because of you.”

“She’s alive only because the bullet slowed
as it passed through the killer’s forearm first. And he got away. The van was
stolen, the house wasn’t his.”

“Yeah, but now his DNA is on file. You
faced an impossible choice; and yet you made the right choice.” Tara slapped
her hand onto my thigh. “You let him escape, but if he’d held onto her, it was
a hundred percent he’d kill her. The odds just didn’t fall in your favor,
honey. Every cop out here knows you made the right call.”

“It’s been hell: the hospital stay, the
investigation, the administrative leave, my therapy sessions. I had Heather in
my ear telling me it was okay to quit.”

“No favors from your buddy, the Mayor?”

“You know me better than that. I’ve never
used my friendship with Chance.”

“I know. Bad joke.”

“I’m used to them.” I pushed her shoulder
with a smile.

“Since you’ve been on a leave of absence,
Dobson wants me to take lead on this one. Let you get your groove back.” She waited
with a furrowed brow.

“That’s why she sent you. I’d tell anyone
else to shove it.”

She rested her face on my shoulder with a
short hug, and then stood, ready for business. “Identification?”

“None.” I showed her the sparse notes on
my notebook to prove it.

“Sucks.”

“Been waiting on CSU forever. Thinking
about getting a beignet.”

She walked forward. “I’m going to check
out the
vic
.”

“Under the sheet.” I pointed and kept my
grin for a moment. “See? Joking . . . I’m fine.”

Tara was a stellar detective, and I could
have been paired with much worse. She almost mimicked my exact movements when I
had first arrived, lifting the sheet and checking the surrounding area. The
river’s currents framed her body while her head tilted toward me as if hearing
my thoughts. I waved at her with my fingers.

The boats and barges floated effortlessly
under the bridge. The Riverboat Natchez spun its giant rear wheel a hundred
yards out, slowly making a getaway. It wasn’t hard to be reminded of Mark
Twain, or even Louis and Clark when they first floated past this crescent of
land full of Native Americans.

For the thousandth time, I imagined the
bullet finding the kidnapper’s forehead.

If
only
.

BOOK: Where The Devil Won't Go: A Lucas Peyroux Novel
5.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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