Dusk in Douala – Rev 3

Dusk in an abandoned-by-Eminent-Domain Ghetto – Douala, Cameroon – August 1998

A pair of mud caked motorcycle taxis pulled up in front of the overgrown, abandoned, grimy white cinder block house in the sweltering Douala ghetto. Two Anglos in wilted white tuxedos backed off the seats, the younger of the two, athletic, thirtyish with longer hair said something quietly in French to the drivers, paid them, watched them disappear around a corner. He looked up, scanned the 12 x 12 two-story structure encased in tropical greenery. Hung above the missing door a once colorful sign featured a smiling African woman, her head surrounded by vegetables. The abandoned structure, minus the sign, repeated all around them. An eminent domain ghost town.

“This is what economic development looks like in Cameroon, eh?” The older Anglo, slender, maybe 40, clean-cut and early gray nodded toward the gleaming forest green Ford Expedition pulling up. “Nun in a knocking shop.”

“Part of his act.”

“Shit, Cas. It’s the only thing big enough to drag his fat ass across Douala.”

They both watched a fat man in overdone military garb, complete with double gold rope wrapping his armpits from both epaulets, exit from the Expedition’s back seat. A smallish, bald, black as midnight man in a bright yellow shirt covered in printed orange pineapples, an aluminum briefcase handcuffed to his wrist stepped from the front passenger side. The fat man’s “military escort,” a tall, thin blond man in a black uniform somewhere between Roaring Twenties chauffeur and Nazi goose-stepper swung from the driver’s seat, a Chinese Glock nine knock-off in his right hand that he used to direct the Anglos to the door. Inside, with its boarded windows, missing second floor and roof, the place was an oven.

Monsieur Caswell?” Saying it Kays-Weel, the fat man’s voice wet, full of spit and bullshit. “And Kar-kleen.” He held his eyes on the older Anglo, enthusiasm diminished, before turning to Caswell. “You know, how I have said of heem, and yet…” he shrugged.

“What you say, Colonel, has no bearing on how or with whom I conduct business.” He shrugged in return, mocking the self-imposed rank of the Coalition of some bogus Liberation Front’s frontman. “You have my money?”

“I have your money, Kays-weel, but these man of yours, Kar-kleen? To me? He reeks of betrayal. Shoot heem, for the cause, for all of us.” His smile beamed in the dusk’s semi-darkness. “Do so, the money is yours.”

“I’m a businessman, Colonel, not a gangster. I’m not armed.”

“No? A businessman you say? Or a spy? Perhaps a clever American?”

“I could be a Martian for all it matters. You’ve seen the weapons, have guards posted on the container. I want my money.”

“You exude the aroma of an anarchist, but retain the soul of a capitalist. I’m afraid we –”

“If I’d wanted a sermon from a hypocrite, Mon Colonel, I’d have found a church. We do the money, now, or this gets uglier than your Momma’s dog.”

The fat man’s laugh went off in the stifling heat like a small bomb full of ego, gold teeth, curry, cigars and spit spray. “You – You keel me. These is why I liked you, Kays-weel. In the face of a most unprofitable death you make jokes. As you are,” he gestured to his Glock clone wielding driver with a minor wave of his hand, “how should you propose to make it, as you say, uglier –”

Caswell grabbed chauffer Nazi’s sweaty wrist with both hands, jammed the Glock clone up under its owner’s chin with enough force the chauffeur pulled his own trigger. The sound of the muffled shot went straight up with the bullet and brain mist into the palm branches overhead. The chauffeur gurgled, fell away, relinquishing the gun to Caswell who waited in the sticky thickness of cordite and blood while the Colonel fumbled with the flap of a shiny, black military holster. From it, in slow motion, he pulled an equally shiny black pistol. It cleared the holster, Caswell’s nine popped, the Colonel screamed, dropped his pistol, blood staining the sleeve of his uniform.

Kirklin knelt, collected the gun from years of packed down squat debris and rat shit, racked the slide, jammed it above the bridge of the Colonel’s nose. “Not so bloody funny now, eh, your Momma’s ugly dog.”

“You…Never.” He grimaced, blew air out of his nose. “You weel never leave Douala alive. You two, not so clever of you to bring your own whores, leave them alone. Not know who you are dealing with!” He looked at the blood oozing between his fingers, half laughed, half screamed. “You have to let me go. I need…I’ll be…missed. And I have your women. They –” The shiny gun went off, a cannon in the close confines of the concrete room. The Colonel backed up, the cross-eyed surprise on his face a cartoon trying to look at the hole in his forehead. He sat down, hard, fell over on his dead military escort.

Caswell collared the sweat-soaked pineapple print shirt, pulled the small black man up from wretching, stuck the nine in his ear. “Open the briefcase.” The little man bent again, vomited air and noise. “Jesus.” Cas stuck his free hand in the man’s pockets, fished, pulled out a pearl-handled .25 Saturday Night Special and a key ring.

“Just cut his fucking hand off, Cas.” Kirklin said, fanning the powder smoke.

“Newwww…Puh-leeze.” The black man snatched the key ring away, freed himself from the briefcase and handcuffs. “I am, I, le courrier, pour le financier.” He thumped his chest. “Seulement! There is, family, I –”

“Shut up,” Cas jammed the nine back in Black Baldy’s ear, kicked the briefcase Kirklin’s way. “Open it. See if the little man was running his own game.” Kirklin squatted, went through the keys, flipped the lid on the case.

“Money.”

Cas dragged pineapple shirt to the empty doorway, put his foot in the small of the man’s back and pushed. “Kiss your family for us.” They listened to him dry heave down the empty street. Kirklin lit a black cigarette, blew a smoke ring.

“Shoulda killed him, too.”

“I have locals following whoever walked out of here alive. We need to know where he goes.”

“Mmm. You worried?”

“About?”

“Elise. Oriana?”

“No. You?”

“No.” Kirklin blew another smoke ring. “I’m sure they neutralized whatever these refugees from acting school sent before they became an issue. No doubt with a good deal more finesse than we put up here.”

“Not much of a trick.” Cas jiggled the little finger he had in his ear. “What the hell is that?”

“Beretta.” Kirklin held up the Colonel’s pistol. “M9. Forty-five. A right argument stopper. I might keep it.”

“It’s too fucking loud.”

Kirklin moved his lips, mouthed soundless nothing. Caswell slapped him in the chest with the back of his hand. “I was just asking what about these two?” Kirklin pointed the Beretta at the two dead men.

“We’re gone five minutes,” Cas nudged the Colonel’s glossy boots with his foot, “they’re picked clean, teeth pulled and carcasses set on fire. You ready?” Kirklin nodded, Caswell stepped through the door, saw the kid on the corner vanish, heard the put-put of the motorcycle taxis fire up a street over.

“You cheap out, Cas,” Kirklin flicked his cigarette into the dusk, focused on the corner, “not tip them enough?”

“Too much, and they didn’t thank me. Showtime.” The motorcycle taxis rounded the corner, drivers with guns drawn. A pop from the Glock clone, a BOOM from the Beretta and the motorcycles were put-putting on their sides in the street.

“Goddammit that thing’s loud.”

“A bit too heavy as well. The Ford?”

“No one, even after dark in Douala, jacks a pair of thirty-year-old Honda Sixty-fives.”

“Right.” He patted the hood of the Ford. “Lottery night in the squats, then.” Kirklin squeezed the handlebar clutch on the closest bike, lifted it. Caswell pulled up the other, let it skitter around him till he knocked it out of gear with his foot.

“What were the locals you enlisted supposed to do if we hadn’t walked out of here?”

“A note at the hotel, a cold phone coded to the Oxford drop for Dunning.”

“One of these days,” Kirklin straddled the duct-taped seat, briefcase between his legs, “someone will need to kill Richard Dunning.”

“Don’t try it from a motorcycle,” Caswell shot Kirklin a clipped smile, dropped on his own duct-taped seat. “Be a shame if the bastard heard you coming.”

Gambits #4

Didn’t Your Mom Tell You About Girls “Like That?”

In 2016, a seventeen-year-old Mexico City boy suffered a fatal stroke after receiving a hickey from his girlfriend. A pathologist determined the love bite caused a blood clot that traveled to the young dude’s brain

I can’t believe this hasn’t been riffed by every screenwriter and fluffy mystery novelist out there. This is a teen secret agent or a treehouse detective agency YA waiting to happen.

“What happened to Tommy,” Rodrigo asked. It stayed quiet, the wind and the fall leaves brushing against the garage door the only sounds.

Finally Jimmy volunteered, solemnly, “Dead, man. Tommy’s dead.”

“No way!” Rodrigo protested loudly.

“Way,” Becca said, gloomily. “And it was like totally gross how.”

Rod waited, waited a little longer. “Cough, Bec.”

She looked around the circle of friends, sighed heavily. “He and Cindy, uh, Castaneda…” she blushed, hard.

“Yeah?” Rod queried with some push in his voice.

“Yeah…” Becca looked around again, then at the floor. “He, uh…Well, she…” Becca took a deep breath, raised her head and tried to cop some street before saying  “they were deep skiddilypoo in front of her house and she lip branded him, and, and…”

“He got a blood clot from it and it went to his brain,” Jimmy snapped his fingers.  “D.O.A. The dirt nap is scheduled for Thursday after school.”

“Ridicurageous!” Rodrigo was almost in shock. “I saw him at Franco’s like Friday, he was jackin’ on some date he had. It was Cindy Castaneda, she did a fangless vampirella and he’s dead?”

Jimmy looked up from the floor, fiddled with his USB programmable fake Apple watch that told him the time and when to eat lunch, take his allergy meds. “That’s what the cop doc said.”

“There’s gotta be more to it,” Becca said pensively. Becca was always looking for conspiracies, even where there weren’t any. Her dad sold lingerie to department stores and managed all the outlet mall hose and girdle stores, but they all knew he was a secret agent of some kind, and what went on in the back room of the biggest outlet mall store had nothing to do with bras and panties and six packs of B stock pantyhose. She’d pull a Dad, I wanna come next time he was going to Crockett Falls, get on the computer. Cindy Castaneda had been trouble since she’d shown up last summer. Well, trouble, and kind of a, well slut was a bad word. Maybe a prick tease ’cause everybody talked about how hot she was and how she could kiss the shell off a walnut, but nobody was talking about had they done it with her or anything…

Y’all like me all adverbly and commercial with proper tags? I coulda gone on about how cool the garage was, maybe an old B&O stereo with big wooden speakers and no bluetooth, kids like that. But hell, the watch was a stretch for me.

Dusk in Douala

Douala, Cameroon / Summer 1998

The overgrown, abandoned dirty white two-story cinder block house sat on a deserted street of more houses just like it in the southern Douala ghetto. It’s footprint no more than twelve by twelve. Inside it was hot as hell. Sticky. Close. The floor for the second floor and roof were both missing. Chain-link fence wire and plywood covered the windows, the faded blue plank door off its hinges leaned to the right side of the doorway. A weathered sign featuring a smiling African woman with a gap in her front teeth, her head surrounded by vegetables said someone once ran a market here. Now two Englishmen in wilted white evening clothes, one thirtyish, longish hair, the other maybe forty, clean cut with laser eyes, both running on vanishing patience stood in the sweltering Douala dusk with a large fat man in brown and green military dress, a small, bald, black as midnight accountant type in a bright yellow shirt covered in orange pineapples and a tall, thin vacant eyed blonde man in a black uniform straight out of a Nazi war poster.

“We came unarmed. Colonel,” the younger Anglo said, the fat man’s rank escaping with uncloaked derision. Colonel. General. Why did all the supercilious pissant liberation leadership adopt a military veneer? “You’ve inspected your merchandise. We need our money.”

“As I said, I do not trust him. Nor particularly do I care for your lack of respect, Monsieur Caswell. I ask again. Shoot him for me. To make me happy, and for your insolence. Do so and the money is yours.” The grin full of gold teeth and ego.

“And I say, again, we are not armed. We’re businessmen, Mon Colonel, not gangsters.”

From the older Anglo, “Give him a gun, somebody. Get this farce over with.”

“What then?” Caswell tilted his head to the contingent of three. “I kill you, the one in the monkey suit kills me, they walk with the money and the merchandise?”

“The fat one is a stooge. The other two are decoration. I say Colonel fatass leaves with the money,” he motioned with his hand to Short Baldy and Vacant Eyes. “Has someone waiting to kill these two. Maybe somebody he doesn’t see coming kills him. What they’re sweating now is fatass’s Bogart routine that’s failed. We were supposed to show up cowboy, they talk us into killing each other over the money. Cheap. This has been a cheap sideshow operation since day one.”

Caswell turned to the three. Vacant Eyes now held a Chinese Glock knock-off in his left hand, his forearm rigid at a right angle to his shoulder. Sweat beaded on his upper lip, his forehead, dripped from the tip of his nose. Colonel Clown remained crisp, impervious to the heat, hat fat-arm-clamped to his side. Below the hat he had a revolver in a big, shiny black military holster with a flap secured by a snap. Little Baldy was sweating profusely, staining the leather briefcase he clutched to his chest with both hands.

“He’s right. Somebody give me a gun.” He glanced at his friend. No one moved. He judged his distance to Vacant Eye’s. Half an arm’s length, if that. “Gestapo boy. Gun. NOW, if your boss wants this done. Or you do it. Somebody do something, do it now.

Vacant eyes responded by lifting his gun hand. Caswell grabbed Vacant’s wrist with both hands, jammed the Glock clone up and under Vacant’s chin, pulled the trigger. Vacant Eyes gurgled, sputtered, Cas pushed him away, turned the gun on Colonel Clown fumbling to unflap his holster. He allowed the pistol as shiny and black as the holster to clear before he shot the Colonel in the elbow. He screamed, the pistol hit the ground. The older wilted Anglo snatched it up, leveled it between the Colonel’s eyes.

“I have your women. If, if we’re not at the container in —” The shiny black revolver boomed once, the Colonel backed up, a look of complete, cross-eyed surprise on his face as if trying to focus on the .45 caliber hole above the bridge of his nose. He sat down hard, fell over on top of Vacant Eyes.

“What, Cas? Eh? I was bloody sick of his Casablanca bullshit. ‘Prove to us your loyalty. Shoot heem. I do not trust heem.’ Somebody in this circus act wants us dead. More than they want the merchandise or their money back. Or these clowns were a front and there’re parties involved we haven’t seen.”

“Maybe,” Caswell wiped his forehead with the left sleeve of his white tux. “First though,” he stuck the Glock clone in the short bald man’s ear when he came up from vomiting. “The women?” Baldy nodded rapidly in the affirmative. “Where?” Baldy turned his head, bent, vomited nothing. The Glock followed him, locked to his ear, Caswell upped the pressure, kept the man bent over.

“Please…I have family. The hotel. Your hotel. He sent two men there. Like him.” Baldy pushed dead Vacant Eyes with his foot. Cas backed off.

“Open the briefcase.”

Caswell waited while Baldy fumbled in his pants pocket for a key, got impatient, ripped Baldy’s hand out, stuck his own hand in, came out with a tiny pearl handled .25 automatic and a key ring. The older one lit a black cigarette, exhaled sideways.

“You could just cut his hand off, Cas. He might’ve shot you with the flea gun.”

“Shut up, you’ll scare him. Goddammit what’s that smell…See? You made the little fucker shit himself.”

“That’s fatass or the Aryan wonder boy or both lightening up before they cross the great divide. Baldy’s still alive and unloading topside, if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Comedy relief for Africa?”

“I was thinking a signature tune for Visit Cameroon. Forget your cares, leave your brains and empty your bowels in Douala.”

“An instant classic. Teach the world to sing while you’re at it.” Caswell uncuffed the briefcase, tossed it to his partner, mashed the gun back in Baldy’s ear. “Money, or was this little man running his own game?”

“Money.”

“Kiss your family for us.” Caswell spun Baldy, put his foot in the small of his back and shoved him through the opening where the door should have been. They could hear him dry heave his way down the dusty street.

“One of us should have killed him on principle, Cas.”

“We need to know where he goes. I put a couple of locals on whoever left this dump alive.”

“Ah. Altruism with return postage.” He pointed with the Colonel’s shiny revolver. “These two?”

“Fuck them.” Cas peered through the deepening dusk at the bodies, kicked the sole of the Colonel’s gleaming boots. “The locals will pick them clean, pull their teeth, burn the bodies. Elise and Ori?”

“Customary for them I say there’s two more dead liberation fighters. Most likely in a commercial laundry hamper in the hotel basement.” He crushed his cigarette out on a wall. “Discharged, I’m sure, with a good deal more finesse than we put up. Who were the locals supposed to report to if we didn’t walk out of here?”

“A note at the hotel, a scrambled cold phone to the Oxford drop for Dunning.”

“One of these days somebody’s going to have to kill Richard Dunning.”

“Don’t tell anyone you’re on the way or he’ll hear about it somehow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gambits #3

The Deep Bubbly Goodbye

Approximately two dozen people are killed every year by champagne corks. Most at weddings.

There’s everything from legacy money to life insurance mixed up in there with greed, jealousy, revenge and conspiracy.

I’d hate to see Korbel’s liability premiums.

Gambits #2

Gambit – an opening move, a  suggestion.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Before you jump off the deep end and write some drunkenly adverb laden formulaic glossy crap or fan fic a riveting sequel to A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two by (published!!) Author Peter Gosson, try this on –

Christmas Eve, 1945, Virginia. George and Jennie Sodder’s home caught fire, forcing the family to evacuate. Five of the couple’s nine children were thought to be trapped in the home. A search following the fire revealed no human remains in the charcoal and ash. To this day no one knows what happened to those five kids.

That one is so loaded…UFOs to a reduction in Christmas stocking overhead. Get on it.

Gambits #1

Gambit – an opening move, a  suggestion.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Everywhere I look lately I see authors bemoaning lack of inspiration, lack of “difference,” the muse has fled, there is nothing new under the sun. Look, there’s only so many formulas, (36 seems to be an agreeable  number) but there are a gazillion stories. Lots of self-editing books and writerly how-tos have scene starters, but the response is “It’s the same old thing.” What is stranger than fiction again?

Here you go. Mystery? Caper? Conspiracy? Black Ops? The inherent evil in auto-draft payments? Corruption in finance? Real estate? Talk about letting granny pay the rent while property values escalate…until she runs out of money.

The Truth – In 2006 London housing officials entered a flat when the rent started going unpaid. The occupant, Joyce Carol Vincent, was a skeleton. She’d been dead three years. Nobody knew.

Really?

 

The Heels of Winter

Death come knockin’
Cold
On the heels of winter’s hangin’ on
Too long a comin’ she cried
He agreed at last
Goodbye’s long final act
Save soul’s last gasp
A faintest wisp of what was life
Entwined with Reaper’s chilly fog

Death come knockin’
Slow
On the heels of winter’s hangin’ on
Too long a comin’ she collapsed
Ugly questions come hard answered
How to cry for what was or wasn’t
Or for a tomorrow
In need of comfort –

Death come knockin’
Done
On the heels of winter’s hangin’ on
Too long a comin’ she cried
Tears, confusion, backed up dreams
Flooded screams her
Next cold winter’s morn
What they were or hadn’t been
Wouldn’t be, nor matter

Death come knockin’
Cold
Slow
Done
On the heels of winter’s hangin’on
Too long a comin’ she sighed
We never can imagine
What the dream
Should look like
Now

Bobby B – Gator Bait

Carrie Louise screamed a split second before the shotgun blast. Birds exploded from the cypress canopy, the surface of the water boiled with leaping frogs, crickets, surprised fish and a lone gator. The sound and accompanying activity rolled away across the bayou in an expanding halo. Bobby couldn’t look down where he hoped his feet still were, saw the look of sheer panic in Carrie Louise’s eyes, steeled himself and waited for the blast from the second barrel. CL was shaking so hard she couldn’t pull the hammer back. Bobby took a second, glanced down to see the snake that had dropped into the boat from the tree branches overhead slither through the new hole in his dad’s old, flat bottom swamp skiff. CL screamed bloody murder again when she couldn’t make the sawed-off shotgun work, started to launch it into the swamp after the snake when Bobby snatched it away.

The silence in the aftermath bordered on church-like except for the soft gurgle of the swamp slowly filling the boat.

“Dayum, girl.”

“Dayum yourself, Bobby B.” CL, white as a ghost, held her legs out straight in front of her above the encroaching water, narrowed her eyes. “It was a, a…A snake. You saw it. I…And…You know how much I hate fuh, fuh, snakes.”

“Do for a fact.” He wiggled his feet to prove they were still there, whistled softly. “Dayyy-um.”

Bobby had no idea how deep the water was, but he dumped what had drifted into his dad’s waders, pulled them on and tied a knot in the shoulder straps while the boat slowly settled toward the water line. Carrie Louise cussed a blue streak of randomly constructed profanity under her breath, her heels now resting on the rusty oarlocks, the water closing in on her cutoffs.

He stepped out into water waist-deep on his average to a little tall, twelve-year-old frame, let the breath he’d been holding go. His dad’s waders were up to his chin, so unless a snake slopped over the top they were good. He sloshed the few steps to Carrie Louise.

“When I turn around, climb on my shoulders. Baby style, not piggyback.” He handed back the shotgun. “You see a gator, CL? Or another snake? Holler and let me shoot. Got it?”

“Okay. But you can’t drop me in, in there. In this…You can’t.” She looked over her shoulder in the direction the snake had taken off, climbed on his shoulders. She wrapped her arms around his forehead, her legs tucked under his arms, heels almost touching the base of his neck. “How far is it?”

“As far as it is.”

“Big help. Do NOT drop me.” She shivered involuntarily. “Please.”

“No need to get all polite, CL. You have the shotgun.”

Bobby took a minute to get his bearings, knowing how his dad was gonna raise all sorts of hell about the trolling motor. Once dad knew he could find it and the water wasn’t very deep they’d be back to get the motor, take it home, dry it out and rebuild it on the garage floor. He’d rebuild it, dad would drink beer and give bad advice, mom would put some vodka in her iced coffee or tea and read the latest and greatest from the library where she worked. And pretend to watch them like she cared while whatever was in the oven turned black.

***

Carrie Louise climbed off his shoulders on to dry ground and started screaming again when Bobby waded out. Another snake had hitched a ride, its fangs embedded in the thick rubber heel of the waders. Bobby saw CL point the shotgun at his foot and screamed with her. She shoved the shotgun into his chest, took off down the finger of two-lane ruts that cut through the swamp. Bobby picked up the shotgun, put the barrel against the snake’s head and pushed until the snake lost its grip and recoiled away. He had one shell in the sawed-off swamp boat gun, and he might need it for more than a snake dumb enough to hit waders.

***

Sheriff Sheridan Wylie, a little overweight in a uniform and life vest that fit a couple of years ago, swung Terrebonne Parish Swamp Patrol Boat number 2 alongside the finger of dry land and waited for the two stragglers in the shimmering heat haze headed his way, a .40 caliber pistol, safety off, behind his back.

“Well, I do declare. Carrie Louise Roche and Bobby Buisson. You might crack that shotgun open and hand it to me, young Mister Bobby. Go a looooong ways toward keepin’ my blood pressure under control.”

“Yes sir.” Bobby broke the sawed-off open, offered it butt first. “Sorry.”

“Think nothin’ of it.” Wylie took the sawed-off, holstered his pistol. “What’s a coupla lethal weapons between friends? Now, y’know, when I got the call about two kids with a shotgun wandering the Mauvais Bois, I thought maybe I had me some lost poachers or the next Bonnie and Clyde. Hell no, ain’t nothin’ to it but Houma’s own double trouble.”

The Sheriff unloaded both shells from the shotgun, dropped them in his life vest pocket, set the shotgun on top of the instrument and radio cluster. “You can give that sawed off I don’t know is the wrong side of legal back to your daddy after I’ve carried you two home. And you done told me about the spent shell.”

He helped them step off into the boat, handed them both life vests. Bobby told him about CL and snakes and the new hole in his dad’s old skiff while they cinched themselves into the vests. The sheriff and Bobby laughed, Carrie Louise moped. Satisfied with their vests Sheriff Wylie idled the boat around and out into the swamp in no kind of hurry.

“Either a you two been gone long enough anybody’d be worried? No? Best news I’ve had all day.” He squeezed the trigger on the mic. “Wylie. Armed poachers turned into a shallow water equipment failure rescue. No casualties, no prisoners, no medical required. Swamp rats name of Buisson and Roche need deliverin’. May take me a while.”

He hung up the radio mic, turned and leaned against the instrument panel where he could keep one eye on the swamp and one on CL and Bobby, held the boat on course with his forearm on the wheel. “I’m in no big hurry ‘cause I need y’all to spin me one hell of a good stow-ree about that spent shell. Tellin’ you now it better have a 15, maybe 20 foot gator and a witch and a toothless coon-ass pervert or two in it, ‘cause bein’ as we’re out here and it’s hotter’n hell an all? I’m stoppin’ at the marina for a ring-of-fire hot link, some of Louella’s fried shrimp bites and an Abita Amber just this side of ice. On the Parish dime. And I’ll need to write me up a nice report when I get back to justify burning a couple of hours and a bunch of Parish gas rescuing two born on the bayou kids who should know better than to blow a damn hole in the bottom of a boat.” He turned back, idled the boat up a little. “There’s water in the ice chest if you need some. Go easy, Carrie Louise. Ain’t nowhere for a girl to pee for a good forty minutes.”

***

An hour and a half later Sheriff Wylie dropped them at a makeshift dock on Bayou Black across the street from Bobby’s house. Bobby went home carrying the unloaded sawed off and his dad’s waders, Carrie Louise huffed off to her house next door carrying a greasy paper bag of leftover spicy shrimp bites.

Fifteen minutes passed before she banged on the screen door to Bobby’s kitchen. She’d been having an angry cry, most likely from a Momma Roche ass chewing. He toed the door open and she shoved a plate with a huge slice of peach pie and rapidly losing form in the heat whipped cream at him.

“Momma says she guesses thanks for saving me from bein’ gator bait. I told her it was snakes, but she said thanks anyway, even though a Houma girl dumb enough to blow a hole in a boat mighta been justifiably left behind. And to say I’m sorry about your dad’s boat and scaring you shitless with the shotgun and almost blowing your foot off.” She heaved a big sigh. “She’ll see that we make it right, when we can.”

Bobby could feel the sadness coming off her, along with leftover steam from how mad she’d gotten when he and the Sheriff laughed about her blowing a hole in the boat and not killing the snake, then Momma R piling on.

“I’m figurin’ I’ll tell Daddy I did it, CL. You tell Momma R not to worry.” He shrugged one shoulder, took the pie plate. “Dad’ll drop a couple M-80s to run the snakes off so I can fish the motor out pretty easy. And it won’t be near as bad a ‘Bobby you dumb ass’ sermon as telling him I let a girl beat me to the snake-and-gator gun.” He grinned, held the door open for her. “Come on. Pie this size needs two forks.”

“You sure? About the boat and all?”

“Yep.”

Sure sure?”

“Yep.”

“Like certain sure?”

“C’mon CL, do I look like I’m standin’ here air conditionin’ the back yard changin’ my mind?”

“No…” She stepped past him into the kitchen, opened his fridge. “So I guess that means you have a couple of new shots of Cool Whip or maybe some ice cream in here to go with that extra fork and this big ol’ piece of my momma’s blue-ribbon peach pie?”