Short-Listed – By Jessica B. Bell

Jessica B. Bell’s serial horror novel Bayou Bonhomme returns!

Previously in Bayou Bonhomme:

It’s been a long night for Oscar Blanchette, Chief of Police of Bayou Bonhomme, a small bayou in Louisiana, home to an ancient being that calls itself C’thuN’chuk, but the locals — that is, those who don’t know the truth — refer to as Remy LeVert, or sometimes, the Green Man. Leroy Angell runs a BBQ shack in town, cooking up strange meat that he receives from the monster he simply calls Chuck — the thing’s slug-like offspring.

Both Oscar and Leroy have just had a strange encounter – being called out into the swamp by the powerful C’thuN’chuk — Oscar nearly drowning, and Leroy suffering a worse fate — being forced to consume some of Chuck’s flesh directly, the monster showed him a vision of his extra-terrestrial origin and his history in the swamp of what is now Louisiana — a bloody history that involved Chuck being worshipped as a god, and receiving bloody sacrifices.

Leroy conveys most of this to Oscar, who rescued him from the swamp and puts him to bed. Leroy promises to tell the whole tale to Oscar after he’s had some rest, and then passes out. Oscar, meanwhile, has been warned that Amie LeBeau is in danger. Amie runs the local newspaper and has history with Oscar dating back 15 years to the summer of ’98, when a bunch of kids were brutally murdered and cannibalized.

Later, when Leroy awakes, he finds a note from Oscar saying that he’s left on a call. He writes down everything he remembers about his vision, leaving out some things that the creature showed him concerning Oscar’s deputy, the young Marla Bergeron.

Oscar has gone to check on Amie’s well-being.

You can start the beginning of the story HERE

—————

Oscar’s hands shook as he approached Amie LeBeau’s door — it was wide open. He had gone home and changed into dry clothes, after having gone sleepwalking into the swamp the night before, and then fishing Leroy out of the drink, too. But more importantly, he’d gone home to move a certain box that he’d gotten from Mel Cayce — a box that had once been in the possession of the now late Jean-Baptiste Levesque — an old man who never did anyone any harm, as far as Oscar knew.

Then he came straight to Amie’s. He’d given her a friendly warning before, but the reporter was a stubborn one. He’d promised Mel that he’d make sure that the woman was all right — and the Chief had it in his mind to do whatever it took to make sure of that. On the way over, he’d even thought of arresting her on some bogus charge, just so he could take her into custody, maybe buy her some time while he figured out what to do in the long haul.

Then the Chief opened the door to her little home, and all such plans went right out the window, along with about a half a bottle of Tennessee mash, which is about all he’d put in his stomach the night before.

Oscar needed someone he could trust, and so he called Marla. He didn’t want too many people seeing what lay behind that door. He turned on his phone and saw that he’d had several missed calls during the night, all of them from Marla. Seems she’d been trying to get a hold of him, too. He called her back and got her on the first ring.

“Marla, it’s Oscar.”

“Chief, where’ve you been? I’ve been trying to get hold of you all night!”

“Not over the phone, Marla,” the Chief replied, looking over his shoulder. Was someone watching him? He suddenly felt very paranoid.

“Where are you?” She asked.

“I need you to come to the writer’s house, Marla,” he said, feeling weak in the knees. “And be discreet, cher. Come alone — and no sirens, y’hear?”

“Sure, Chief. I’ll be right over. What’s…”

“Not on the phone,” Oscar cut her off, and then hung up on her.

Marla showed up twenty minutes later with a paper bag full of Mel’s biscuits and two cups of chicory coffee.

“Ah, bless you, cher,” the Chief said, stuffing a hot, buttery biscuit into his mouth and fighting to swallow and keep it down.

“You look like shit, Chief,” Marla remarked.

“Feel like it,” he replied, and looked at his feet. He couldn’t meet the young woman’s eyes.

He’d known her since she was a little kid — she was only a few years older than his own daughter — and he felt a fierce sort of protectiveness for her. When she’d come to him a few years before and applied for a job, he’d tried to dissuade her. But she had insisted, and Oscar had given her the job. In retrospect, it had been the right decision. Marla was good police, and Oscar was proud of her — and sadly, he really couldn’t say the same about his own daughter. He loved her, of course he did, but he heard all the stories. And as much as he wanted to protect his daughter from the ugliness that was going on in Bayou Bonhomme, he wished he could protect Marla, too. He really wished he didn’t have to enter that house with her in tow. Marla would have only been about ten years old back in ’98 — the last time that something this ugly happened in the Bayou — and Oscar would give anything to have not seen the things he’d seen. He’d give anything to not have to open Amie’s door again. He wished he could just send Marla home and forget the whole thing.

“I was trying to get a hold of you last night,” Marla said, blowing on her coffee. “Where were you?”

“I was with Leroy,” the big man replied absently.

“All night?”

“Purty much.”

Marla looked at him and smirked, arching an inquisitive eyebrow.

“Somethin’ goin’ on between you and that bag of bones that I should know about?”

“Oh, you just be quiet, you,” Oscar laughed sickly. “The fool got hisself so drunk he fell in the drink and nearly drowned. I just happened to be walking by and heard him splashing around, like.”

“So you just happened to be walking by?”

The Chief grunted.

“You in the habit of going for long romantic walks in the moonlight, Chief?”

Oscar shot her an unimpressed look.

“I was thinking,” he said. “You got something you wanna say, cher, you best just go on and say it.”

Marla shook her head.

“Nah, Chief,” she said. “Just lucky for Leroy that you happened along, that’s all.”

“Uh huh.”

“So what are we doing here?” Marla asked. “What’s Ms. LeBeau gone and done now to piss you off? Are we here for questioning or are we bringing her in?”

“Door’s open, Marla,” he said grimly. “I didn’t call you out here in an official capacity — well, not really, anyway. I need you to help me clean her up.”

Marla’s face dropped.

“No,” she moaned. “She’s…”

Oscar nodded and motioned toward the door.

“You gonna be alright, cher?”

Marla swallowed and said nothing. She clenched her teeth and walked toward the dead woman’s house.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” She swore under her breath as she opened the door on the carnage. Oscar was right behind her. “It’s the same as…”

“The same as Jean-Baptiste, yeah,” he agreed.

Amie’s house had been torn apart much the way the old man’s was, and the only satisfaction Oscar could hold on to was the certain knowledge that they didn’t find what they were looking for.

“Help me,” the Chief pleaded. “Help me cut her down.”

Like Jean-Baptiste, Amie had been crucified on her living room wall, her eyes gouged out and her tongue missing. Unlike Jean-Baptiste, the killer or killers hadn’t removed Amie’s internal organs — instead, they had taken her breasts. Marla stared, repulsed, at the bloody mess they’d made of the woman’s chest.

“They enjoyed it,” she observed, thinking out loud.

“Huh?” Oscar asked.

“Whoever did this — this isn’t just a murder — this is someone who gets off on this.”

“Oh god,” the Chief moaned. “You think he raped her?”

Marla shook her head.

“Maybe. But I don’t think so. I mean, they didn’t rape the old man, right?”

Oscar looked at her in disgust.

“I just mean, it’s not overtly sexual. It’s sadistic and cruel, but I don’t think our killer gets off on sex.”

“You been watchin’ them police shows again, cher?”

Marla said nothing, but helped her boss take Amie’s body down off the wall and laid her down on her sofa. She looked around the room and stifled a sick sob.

“What’s going on in, Chief?”

“This is my fault,” he said. “I tried to warn her. I should have done more.”

“What do you mean?” Marla asked, startled. “Warn her of what? Did you know she was in danger?”

“Never mind,” Oscar replied and gave her a stern look. “Don’t ask too many questions. There’s someone in this town don’t like people askin’ too many questions. Amie there just knew too much about the wrong folks, I s’pose.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Marla, can you leave?”

“You want me to go? You called me out here, and now you want me to go?”

“No,” he said. ” I mean, can you leave Bayou Bonhomme? Today, tonight, as soon as possible? There’s something going on in this town, and you’re right in the thick of it.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Chief.” Marla said angrily. “I loved that old man. No, I’m with you — I’m not going to let this monster get away with this.”

Oscar looked at her with a mixture of pride and fear.

“So what were they looking for?” Marla asked him, shuffling through mountains of papers that were strewn across Amie’s desk.

“I don’t know exactly,” Oscar lied, not ready to trust Marla with the whole truth just yet. “But something tells me they didn’t find it. If Amie had told them what they wanted to know, then why’s her house turned upside down?”

“Huh,” Marla said, holding up a letter on a very official looking letterhead. “Did you know that Ms. LeBeau was short-listed for the Pulitzer prize? Holy shit! What was she doing in Bayou Bonhomme?”

Oscar seemed not to hear her at first.

“Oscar?” Marla asked, concerned. “You all right? Maybe you oughta sit down.”

Oscar’s eyes went wide in panic. If they didn’t find what they were after here, they’d still be looking. First Jean-Baptiste, the source, and then Amie, the reporter. They had to wonder who Amie might have talked to, and then that would lead them…

“Marla, I need to go,” he said, trying not to stutter, he was trembling so bad.

Marla had said that whoever was doing this was enjoying themselves, and the Chief thought she was right. They were having fun, and he thought that they’d look for any excuse to do it some more.

“What?” Marla demanded. “Where can you possibly need to…”

“I need to go take care of something,” he insisted, “and so do you!”

“Me?” She asked, confused. “Where am I going?”

“You need to to go see Mel Cayce.”

“Mel?” She asked. “What’s Mel got to do with this?”

Oscar looked around the room in horror, trying not to imagine his own home in such a state and failing miserably. He couldn’t shake the vision of his own wife and daughter hung up on his own living room wall, violated and eviscerated. It only make sense that whoever did this would have to be looking closely at him and his family as well. Oscar thought about what had happened to Mel’s father back in that gruesome summer of ’98 and wondered if perhaps she’d be on their suspect list as well. He thought it a good possibility. If he was being watched, surely they’d know that he met with Mel the night before.

“I think she’s been short-listed,” he told his young deputy, and the look on her face told him that she understood exactly what he was suggesting.

“Oh god,” she said, and put a hand over her mouth, then removed it quickly in revulsion. It was covered in Amie’s blood. Both hers and Oscar’s hands were covered in it from when they took her body down. She’d left a bloody smear on her face, and she felt her gorge rise.

“Oh, merde,” Oscar sighed. “Clean your face, cher.”

The young woman wiped her face with her sleeve and fought back tears of rage.

“What do you want to do about this?” She asked, gesturing around the mess of the reporter’s house.

“Clean it up,” he said, heading for the door. “Be quiet about it — I’ll figure out how to spin it later. But do it quickly, and then go check on Mel. Call me on my cell if anything’s wrong — stay off the radio about this.”

Marla nodded. She could do that. Cleaning things up quietly was something of a specialty of hers. But it wasn’t something she took any pleasure in, unlike the man who’d done this. She thought she knew who it must be, and she was terrified at what she was considering. This wasn’t a matter of taking on a murderer. If she had really lost her faith, it was quite possible that her own life might be in danger. She wondered how long she could play this game of hiding in the shadows, pretending to be something she wasn’t. Sooner or later, she was bound to be discovered. Either by the Chief — which would be bad — or by her mother or one of the other Faithful — which would be infinitely worse.

Maybe the Chief was right. Maybe she should just run.

Marla wrapped a sheet around Amie’s naked, mutilated corpse and began to cry. She’d managed to hold it in while the Chief was around, but now that she was alone, she wept. She didn’t want to be a part of this anymore.

Her phone rang, startling her. She looked at the call display and saw that it was her mother. She wanted to ignore it, but feared that would look suspicious.

“Hello?

“Yes, I”m here now.

“He doesn’t know anything. He’s frightened. He’s talking about leaving town.

“Couldn’t you just let him leave? I mean, wouldn’t that just be the best for everybody? He doesn’t know anything, and whatever he thinks he knows, nobody’s ever going to believe, even if he were to talk.

“No, I just think that more bodies is just going to raise suspicion.

“No, of course. You know best, Mother.

“Yes, I’ll take care of everything. Did they… Did they find what they were looking for?

“Who do you think she gave it to?

“I see.

“No, I’m going to be busy for a while here, and then, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go home and take a shower and call in sick to work. I liked Ms. LeBeau.

“Of course I understand, Mama. I’m just tired’s all.

“Okay. I love you too, Mama. Good-bye.”

Marla hung up her phone and moaned a sigh of relief.

Her mother hadn’t mentioned Mel at all.

——-

AND THEEEEEEEN?

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6 responses to “Short-Listed – By Jessica B. Bell

  1. Pingback: What Leroy Saw – Part II – By Jessica B. Bell | Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante.·

    • Thank you, darling! I almost sent you my notes for the rest of the story to brainstorm over it with you, but I’ve decided to selfishly keep it to myself so that I still have surprises for you!

  2. Pingback: Swamp Saturday | Vers Les Etoiles·

  3. Pingback: Docile | The D/A Dialogues·

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