Some more Bayou for you. Yes, I know it’s been a lot of Bayou in the last couple of days, but sometimes you just gotta gorge yourself while you can. Just stay away from that nasty BBQ if you know what’s good for you.
BEFORE YOU READ, go HERE and make sure you haven’t missed anything. I’d hate for you to spoil your reading appetite by reading these out of order.
Oscar flipped through newspaper clippings and saw the obituary of Claudia Bergeron for 1925. Survived by loving husband Toulouse and son Georges. There was a note attached to this in Henri’s familiar scrawl: Did Georges kill his own mother as well as my Gene?
Oscar sighed. What was wrong with these people? He thought. He wondered if maybe Mrs. Bergeron had become something of a liability — the way Henri had written about her, the woman didn’t seem very stable after they’d killed her niece.
Another newspaper clipping from a few days later had a big story about a murder-suicide involving Henri’s wife Genevieve and somebody named Jean-Baptiste LaFleur. Oscar did a double-take on the name, and wondered if there was any significance to it.
The bodies of Genevieve Levesque and Jean-Baptiste LaFleur, both in the employ of Toulouse and the late Claudia Bergeron, were found early this morning by Mr. Bergeron as he was out for a walk along the bayou road. Miss Levesque was floating in the bayou, and Mr. LaFleur was laying on the shore, dead of a gunshot wound to the head.
“I knew they was messing around,” Mr. Bergeron told me. “And I told Jean-Baptiste to cut it out or else I’d be forced to tell his wife about it. I just feel so horrible about it now. In a way, I feel responsible.”
Another note was attached to this, and Oscar wondered how the man kept his head through all of this. If anything happened to Luanne or Celine, nothing could stop him from killing the bastards that did it.
Mathieu – don’t you believe these lies. Best as I know, your mama didn’t even know Jean-Baptiste LaFleur. She worked in the house – raising up that son of a bitch Georges when he was just a baby and then taking care of Missus Bergeron. Martin worked in the sawmill, same as me. I hardly knew the man myself, son, but there ain’t no way your mama and him were involved in anything improper.
Rummaging through the pile of clippings and notes, he found more obituaries, births, weddings. Henri was keeping track of these two families, and anything related to them. One wedding in particular got a big story in the newspaper in June of 1926 – Georges Bergeron and Josephine Hereford married, joining the two powerful and wealthy families together. Further down the pile of clippings and notes was another wedding photo — a handsome couple, Oscar thought. This one seemed more important to the old man, and was worn at the edges, as if it had been handled and admired often. He turned it over and read: Mathieu & Melisande, 1931.
There were some clippings of other news stories — the floods of 1927, news about FDR’s New Deal for economic reform, and then one in particular that caught Oscar’s notice about Governor Huey Long’s assassination in September of 1935. Henri had attached at note to this one.
Another of their victims? Could their reach really go that far? Don’t know for sure, but old Mr. Hereford seemed mighty pleased by this news. He’s been sick for sometime — though he don’t want folks to know, of course — but when he heard this news he jumped out of bed and did a little dance, I heard.
Oscar unfolded a paper clipping with a headline from December 6, 1933: PROHIBITION HISTORY AS REPEAL RATIFIED. Again, Henri had attached a note to it.
This might be the worst thing that could happen to the Herefords. Sure, the booze will start flowing again, but the fact is, they were making more money bootlegging than they’re likely to make selling it on the books. Still, the bars and saloons will open again, and maybe honest folks can make some money. Papers is saying this might just be the cure for the economic depression we’re having. I know Ed Cayce’s talking about building himself a big city style restaurant here. Ed and his wife just moved in from New Orleans, and he keeps saying it’s the only thing he misses from living in the city.
There was another picture in the pile marked 1935. It was a baby, and when Oscar turned it over, he wasn’t surprised at the name: Jean-Baptiste Levesque, April 12, 1935.
The last clipping was another obituary – this time, that of Rene Hereford. November 19, 1935. Survived by grieving wife Marie, his children Philip, Anton and Josephine and his grandchildren Claudette, Daniel, Luc and Victoria. There was an entire page about the family’s history in the town, tracing back to Bastien Hereford, who had built the family home in 1853. The story praised his family as the backbone of Bayou Bonhomme, applauding their efforts to re-build after the War Between the States, and particularly recent efforts to weather the economic depression that had hit Louisiana hardest of all after the great flood of 1927 had wiped out a lot of farmers. The story ended by saying that he died peacefully in his sleep after a long illness.
Henri had attached a note to this one, and Oscar sensed that the old man might have been doing a jig himself at this news.
Long illness my ass. Rene had syphilis, and had for years. If it weren’t for that new penicillin stuff, he would have died ages ago, his coveted good looks rotted and deformed. And wouldn’t that have just been about perfect? When the twisted old man died, Doc Ammon had ladies and men both lined up around the block for a shot of the magic drug.
GRAND OPENING read an announcement on another clipping. Cayce’s Cajun Bar & Grill – serving the best BBQ in Lousiana! This was dated May 4th, 1934.
Didn’t take him long, Henri’s note read. People seem to love his BBQ. I’ll have to give it a try.
This alarmed Oscar. He flipped through the stack of papers to see if there was more. There was a front page story caught his eye.
BAYOU BONHOMME’S FAVOURITE RESTAURANT BURNS TO THE GROUND
Fire did what no other business in town seemed capable of doing last night — closed down Cayce’s Cajun Bar & Grill. Since it opened in the spring of ’34, Ed Cayce’s big city style establishment has been drawing in not only the residents of our little town, but folks from neighbouring parishes as well. Word of Ed’s famous BBQ sandwiches travelled as far away as New Orleans, and Saturday nights at Ed’s would often be the site of impromptu jazz performances. Jelly Roll Johnson and Mickey Flatts were regulars, and would sometimes bring along their famous friends for a taste of what people are calling The Best BBQ in Louisiana.
No one’s quite sure what caused the blaze, though Chief DuBois says he’s not ruling out arson. Nobody was hurt during the fire, which started overnight and brought the building down in what seemed like mere minutes.
“We’re just devastated,” a clearly shaken Ed Cayce told me. His wife Jeanette clings to his side, their young son at hers. “But we’ll rebuild. It may take a while, but this is our home, and we aren’t going anywhere.”
We here at the Gazette certainly hope so. Until they do, it may be a while before you can get your hands on their delicious BBQ.
Oscar speculated at what might have happened. Was Ed Cayce — surely Mel’s what? Grandfather? Great-grandfather? Oscar did the math and settled on the latter. Was he put up to cooking the meat? By who? Did Chuck reach out to Ed, or was it maybe someone in the town? Did he perhaps change his mind about it, and got punished for refusing? Or maybe he was reading too much into it. Maybe there wasn’t anything strange about this at all. Still, Henri thought it worth saving. He’d written some more notes about it as well.
I don’t know exactly what was going on with Ed. He came to my place one night after the bar closed down and started talking some nonsense about greed and monsters and poison. He said he’d poisoned the whole town and he had to undo what he’d done. I told him he weren’t making no sense — how’d he poison the town? Ain’t nobody sick, I told him, but he’d been drinking, and he was hysterical. I’d never seen a man so sick with guilt and grief.
He told me he had to end it all — and he wanted to warn me.
“People are gonna go crazy, Henri,” he told me. “You don’t know how bad it can get. The cravings will drive you mad.”
“What are you talking about, Ed?” I tried to make sense of what he was saying, but came up short.
He just shook his head and gripped my arm fiercely. “Just be ready, mon ami. Things are going to get crazy around here, you’ll see. I’m so sorry. So sorry.”
He just kept telling me how sorry he was until he near passed out, and I had to drag him next door to his own bed, apologizing to his wife for keeping him out so late.
Two nights later his bar burned to the ground, and I knew he’d done it hisself. Never told nobody this, never even spoke about it with Ed, but I knew it all the same.
It wasn’t a week later that Ed’s warning came true. People started going crazy.
Oscar turned the page, but it was blank. There wasn’t any more said about that. No newspaper clippings, either. He turned another page and found a faded photograph that looked like it had once been crumpled up, but had now been laid flat in a best effort to preserve it. It was a picture of a man and a woman holding a baby. The man in the photo bore a resemblance to the other picture he’d seen of Mathieu and his bride, but it wasn’t quite the same. Oscar guessed that he was looking at Henri and Genevieve Levesque and their infant son Mathieu. The writing below it confirmed it.
I found this in dad’s hand. I had to pry his fingers away from it to get it out. I almost had it buried with him, but it’s such a good picture of the two of them I just couldn’t bear to part with it. To whoever might be reading this – I know daddy wanted this to be kept as a record. For me, for my boy, and for anyone who stands against the monsters that live in the Bayou. Know that my daddy died of natural causes. Well, as natural as can be, anyway. They never got him, and I know that he’d call that a victory.
Below this was a short obituary: Henri Levesque b. 1889 d. 1937, survived by his son Mathieu and grandson Jean-Baptiste. Preceded by his wife Genevieve, Henri has gone to his reward.