The last we checked in with Bobby, he and Bernie had escaped into the swamp with the two million dollars, Bobby’s friend Junior had launched a stick of dynamite to bait the bad guys into following him, the body count was going up and all sorts of hell was being raised on the normally quiet dirt road running parallel to the East Bank of Whiskey Bay Channel.
Orrin saw the unmistakable smoke and sparkler signature of a waterproof fuse attached to an orange stick float out in a high, slow motion arc from the enclosed swamp runner on steroids, yanked Paris up out of the muck where the landing met the water. He tossed her behind the Cutlass like a rag doll and dove in on top of her. He heard the dynamite thump on top of one of the cars sloshing in the channel and covered his ears.
A car door slammed about the same time the rain of car debris stopped falling and he rolled off Paris onto his side. The bearded man in nothing but boxers and untied work boots walking toward them with a semi-automatic pistol in his hand didn’t look happy.
“What the hell y’all doin’ down here?” The pistol flew up, popped twice. Plaid Pants grabbed his left upper arm, howled and threw his gun twenty feet in the air. Boxers and Boots raised his voice to command level and directed with the pistol. “You ain’t hurt. Get on over there with other three. All of you, hands on your heads.”
Red Converses, Plaid Pants, Paris and Orrin lined up, hands on their heads, across the back of the Cutlass that had started thumping from inside.
“I asked y’all a Goddam question.”
The thumping in the Cutlass’s trunk got louder and it started to rock.
“Whoever has the keys, raise one hand.” Boxers and Boots motioned with the pistol toward Orrin, who’d raised the fingers of his left hand. “Open it.”
Orrin unlocked the trunk, grabbed a handful of dirty Hawaiian shirt, lifted Mick up and pulled the duct tape off his mouth and from around his wrists and ankles. Boxers and Boots had a split-second star struck moment.
“Monterrey Mick? Sweet baby Jesus. I never…”
Mick ran his tongue over his lips and around inside them half a dozen times, spit, held his index finger up at Boxers and Boots, turned his attention to Orrin. “Anybody dead?”
Orrin kept nervous eyes on Boxers and Boots’ pistol. “Cletus. And his brother.”
“His brother the no good lyin’ pimp assed motherfuc –”
“Shut up, Paris.” Orrin still had his eyes on Boxers and Boots.
Mick rubbed his jaw where Cletus had smacked him a couple of days ago. “Cletus is no loss. Probably runs in the family. Bobby and Bern?”
“Fabulous. Who shot who?”
“Whom, TV star. And never you mind. Nobody here gonna cry at their funerals.”
Mick started toward Boxers and Boots, got the pistol pointed at his chest. “Come on, I’m the fucking victim here. If you watch my show you know Bobby B and Bernie.” Mick made a quarter turn, waved his arm at the mud splattered posse leaning on the Cutlass. “Bobby and Bern are in deep shit. They have two million dollars in a briefcase headed for some woman named Liz Vern-yay, and this clueless crew of gap-ass dumb fucks wants to take it away from them. Last time I saw either of them they were in whatever the fuck that mutant baby pickup is.”
“I wanna believe you, Mick. But Bernie and Bobby B and two million dollars showin’ up on the WB channel in a retarded little Swamp Vue pickup and disappearin’? That’s a load of grade A prime shit right there.”
“I’m telling you, it’s –”
“We don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no money,” Plaid Pants elbowed Red Converses. “Ain’t that right? We was hired to make the swamp rat not wanna come home no more. See?” Plaid Pants sneered, gingerly pulled a four-inch knife out of his pocket with two fingers. “I’m an artist.” He slowly waved the knife around like a New Orleans street magician until the two fingers turned into a hand hold. “There’s parts I like to peel like a grape ‘fore I cut ‘em off.” He laughed, underhanded the knife hard and fast at Boxers and Boots who stepped to his left and put a bullet in Plaid Pant’s chest as the knife whizzed past. They all watched Plaid Pants bend backward onto the trunk like a hard hit punching clown, slowly come back up.
“Right handers who don’t know any better.”
“Well…” Plaid Pants’ face contorted into resolute acceptance. “I’ll be fucked…” He did a slow, forward fold onto his knees that ended in child’s pose.
Red Converses put a toe in Plaid Pants’ ribs, pushed him over. “Suh, suh, suh so you will.” He looked in turn at everyone left standing, shrugged. “Nuh, nuh, nuh now what?”
Boxers and Boots returned their unloaded guns, tossed Orrin’s bag of grenades, ammunition and dynamite from the back of the Cutlass into the bed of his about to be ex-truck. “Y’all barged into my trailer, overpowered me, stole my truck. You get a cold ride to Baton Rouge to do whatever, I get a new truck.”
“How you goin’ to explain us overpowerin’ you with a bullet from your gun in a dead man?”
“Ain’t too worried about that. Heard Mick say somethin’ about Bobby B and Bernie goin’ to see Liz Vernier with that two mill. This shit’ll get whitewashed six ways from Sunday to keep her and hers out of it.” He stepped away from the pickup, gave them a lazy salute, and a wink. “There’s a woman in that trailer back down the road be happy to hit me up side the head with somethin’ before I call y’all in.” He kicked the side of the truck bed, waved them off. “Git. Troopers stop you, you’re on your own.”
“Let me get my head around this. I hit you with something, you get a new a truck?” Boxers and Boots’ wife scanned the kitchen. “Because you handed your old truck over to some whack-o’s so they could go shoot up a crooked lawyer’s office in Baton Rouge? That’s a helluva deal.”
“Yeah it is. Not too hard, babe. Just enough to make it believable.”
“You always told me cops can tell if it’s faked.”
“Yeah, well, blood and a likely injury, not like some dumb ass stabbing himself in the –”
She side-armed the closest thing on the counter, an electric can opener, accelerated her sidearm until the can opener collided with the left side of his head. The plastic shell around the can opener shattered. Boxers and Boots crumpled. She giggled, covered her mouth. “Oh my God…Honey? You need to trade for a new truck more often.” She looked at what was left of the can opener in her hand, giggled again. “And when you come to? You owe me a new can opener.”
“Fo-show?” The State Trooper leaned an elbow on the glass topped dinette table in Boxers and Boots’ kitchen, scratched his temple with the end of his pen. “What kinda coonass shit is that?”
“F-A-U-C-H-E-U-X.” Boots and Boxers had put on a t-shirt and cargo shorts, and held a blood-stained dish towel full of ice cubes on the left side of his head. His wife stood behind him with her hands on his shoulders and tried to look worried.
The freshly shaved blue suit and aviator shades interrupted. “Faucheux? Pre-Katrina Nola narcotics Faucheux? Muthafucka, you see Faucheux yo ass goin’ down fo sho?”
Boxers and Boots nodded.
Blue Suit tilted his head toward the front door. “Talk a walk, Trooper. This is Louisiana Bureau business now. Faucheux, let’s go sightseeing.”
Blue Suit and Faucheux leaned against a very bland, very black government issue Dodge Charger and watched the hazmat-suited forensics take hundreds of pictures of the scene while a pair of wet-suited divers swapped profanity with a wrecker driver trying to get the sloshing cars chained up and out of the channel. The Swamp Vue pickup was already gone.
Blue Suit nodded slightly toward the channel.
“The two floaters?”
The pause said Blue Suit wasn’t sure he liked that. “Our deal was you tell me everything, I sanitize it. If certain parties can use any of this to their political advantage that’s a bonus. This whole thing is so transparent that for me to fix it you need tell me exactly what happened here. And I’ll tell my people and State Farm what they need to hear. How you’re a decorated, retired first responder who’s lost a step and how much good press and state-house grease they’ll all buy for themselves when they accept my report and deliver a shiny new pickup to your trailer.”
“Don’t know names.” Faucheux whipped the ice cubes out of the bloody towel, wiped his ear and stuffed the towel in his front pocket. “They told me the one on the right was a crippled pimp till he almost drowned. His sudden rehabilitation didn’t sit well with a stripper he’d been runnin’ who shot him with his own hand cannon. The one without a head must have tried to avenge his brother and was too slow. The greaser’s on me. He tried ‘I can throw a knife faster than you can shoot me’ when my weapon was out. He was good, though. Coulda killed a Boy Scout or a probie.”
Suit snorted. “The state have your weapon’s ballistic fingerprints?”
“Yeah,” Faucheux pulled the towel and wiped the trickle of blood running down his cheek from his ear.
“Take a propane torch to that piece, go deep on the swamp and lose it. Bad guys thumped you before all this happened, stole your weapon and your truck. What about the Swamp Vue toy?”
“Don’t know. Heard it, that’s what woke me up. Fuckin’ thing was NASCAR loud.”
“You see the kid or the girl with him?”
“No. Or the two million dollars they’re supposed have.”
Blue Suit’s pause was back.
“Straight up, Bureau. I’d know ‘em if I saw ‘em, and I wouldn’t forget an up close and personal view of Hot Pants Bernie’s backside. Mick said –”
“Mick is the kidnapped TV hot rodder coke head who’s gone Patty Hearst and is now armed and dangerous with the rest of them?”
“He’s still kidnapped. He asked them to dump him somewhere there was hot food and a clean place to shit before they got crazy again. I doubt if he knows a bullet from his ass.”
“Any good guys get killed believing that I’ll be back.”
“I’m telling you he’s out of it. He’s the one who pointed them at Liz Vernier’s office so they’d cut him loose.”
“Shit. That’s where this is going? Vernier’s?”
“Sooner or later the kid and the money have to be there. Part of some deal. I thought you knew –”
“Shit. You forget anything you heard about Vernier and the Swamp Vue kid.” Blue Suit ramped up some angst, opened his car door. “The story here is two brothers got sideways, killed each other over a stripper and an unlucky road raged greaser got caught in the crossfire. Happens every day.” He dropped into the driver’s seat of the Dodge. “Questions?”
Faucheux wiped his ear again. “Amazon has electric can openers, don’t they?”
“They probably have electric ass wipers. Jesus. Fucking can openers?” Blue Suit shook his head like he was clearing it. “I gotta blow, you’re walking. We understand each other, ‘fo sho’?”
“Yeah, yeah…‘fo sho’.” He wiped his ear again, watched the Dodge kick up gravel and dust. “Stupid little prick.” He checked the towel for fresh blood. “You’re Goddam right ‘Jesus fucking can openers’.”