Sorry there hasn’t been a new Bayou story for a couple of weeks, darlings — Jessica’s been tied up. And shackled. And manacled. And we had to get her one of those Hannibal Lecter style masks after she nearly bit poor Penny’s finger off.
Leroy awoke to the sound of the phone ringing. Not his cell phone, but his mama’s old rotary phone — which was impossible, because the damn thing hadn’t worked in years, and sure as hell wasn’t plugged in. But it was ringing all the same.
“Ah-right, ah-right, I’m awake, you! You can shut up now, you bonne a rien!”
The phone kept ringing, ignoring his protests.
He picked up the receiver and held it to his ear.
“Hello?” He asked cautiously.
On the other end of the line, a wet, gurgling sound Leroy recognized. He was suddenly very thirsty and had to pee something fierce.
“L’roy…” a rasping voice whispered through the phone.
Leroy tossed the receiver away from him as if it were a snake, and could hear the faint liquid chuckle of the thing fade. From the receiver, dark black ichor oozed out onto his floor, foul smelling and offensive merely by its impossible presence. Leroy recoiled against the wall and looked at the clock on the opposite wall.
It was nearly five-thirty, so he put some coffee on, his heart hammering in his ears.
There was no way he was going back to sleep.
Marla got the first call at around 7:30.
Since her intense conversation with Olivia and her subsequent run in with Leroy, she had been staying over at Mel’s. She wasn’t sure that she could do anything to protect Mel if they came for her — she knew who Olivia would send, and the man who ran the butcher shop down on Ammon Avenue terrified Marla, and had since she was a little girl. But at least with the two of them together, it might be harder for them to be caught by surprise.
Had Marla known that it wasn’t Mel they’d been keeping an eye on, but rather herself, she might have stayed away and kept Mel out of harm’s way. As it was, Marla’s sudden renewed interest in Melissa Cayce was a matter of concern in Olivia Hereford’s mind.
She answered her town-issued squawk box, and had an irritated dispatcher tell her to get down to the Piggly Wiggly to break up a fight.
“It’s 7:30 in the goddamn morning!”
“And don’t I know it,” the dispatcher drawled. “But someone’s got the last bottle of Jack’s Hot Sauce or some nonsense, and a fight broke out. My cousin Ricky works as a cashier there told me it’s bad — some crazy bastard’s swinging a broken glass bottle around, already cut up some poor woman’s arm pretty bad. I already sent the ambulance, but you better get down there and calm that down.”
“Oscar?” She asked, knowing the answer already.
“Ain’t nobody heard from the Chief,” the man on the other end of the line grumbled and signed off.
Marla needed to find her boss, and quickly.
Leroy read over what he’d written for the Chief (though the fat bastard hadn’t read any of it, yet, Leroy realized) and kept getting stuck at the part where he’d hesitated. He’d seen visions of Marla in the swamp — Marla naked, Marla surrounded by folks in white hoods. He’d seen Marla with two other people the night they found that Singleton boy. He couldn’t make out the faces of the other two in his mind, but Marla’s was clear and true. Leroy hadn’t wanted to write that down — something just didn’t seem right. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he felt like he was being manipulated by the thing he called Chuck. Why else show him Marla but nobody else?
He didn’t know. But after her little performance at Oscar’s house, he knew that he didn’t trust her. That girl was poison, and if she turned on whoever it was that was pulling the strings, why, anyone associating with her might just get dragged down with her. Leroy had enough problems of his own, he didn’t need to be putting himself in the line of fire for anyone else.
“Where is it?” He asked the walls of his house. “It’s gotta be ‘ere somewhere among all dis shit.”
He rummaged through a pile of papers in an open dresser drawer. No one would ever accuse Leroy of being well organized, but he also never threw anything out, so he knew that if he looked long enough he would find what he was looking for.
“Aha! There you are ma petite chere!” Leroy picked up a blue folder, and kissed the insurance company’s logo once, and then kissed it again for good measure.
He took it and put it in a plastic bag and then threw it in the freezer for safe keeping. It was a precaution he’d taken after the summer of ’98, in case he’d ever had to leave town all sudden-like.
He stared at the bag sitting in the freezer and wondered if that time had come.
“Well,” he said, closing the freezer door, “mebbe not just yet. But just in case, yeah?”
Marla pulled twelve year old Casey Ducharme off of the motionless body of the bus driver, whose name she didn’t know. Casey was screaming and beating the woman’s face with bloodied hands. Casey was the last of them. Marla picked him up off of the woman and tossed him back with the others, who were shaking and crying in shock.
She had just left the Piggly Wiggly when she got a call that some nine year old little girl had called 9-1-1 to say that the kids on her school bus had gone crazy and were attacking their bus driver.
When Marla arrived on the scene, at least a half dozen children, both boys and girls, scrambled in a dogpile on the pavement beside the bus. The doors were open, and it appeared that the fight must have started on the bus and then spilled out the doors on to the street. The bus itself was still running, and a little boy with a Phineas and Ferb T-shirt was sitting behind the wheel smiling and pretending to drive, honking the horn repeatedly.
Marla felt a tug at her sleeve and she turned a bit too quickly, startling the little girl who looked up at her with confused eyes.
“Miss, I’m so hungry,” she said. The other children sat on the grass by the side road looking dazed, like they had no idea where they were. At the sound of the little girl’s voice, they suddenly looked up almost as one. When their eyes found Marla, they, too, stood up and began wandering toward her.
“I’m hungry,” they said.
“I’m hungry, Miss.”
Marla felt another tug, more insistent, on her arm.
“I’m hungry,” a voice said, and Marla felt teeth clamp down on her arm. Pulling away, she glanced at the body lying on the ground by the bus and noticed for the first time the bite marks on the woman’s throat and cheeks. Her nose was completely missing.
“I’m hungry!” A girl who was no more than ten screamed with bloodied lips, and Marla pushed her away from her with more force than she’d intended. The girl went sprawling across the pavement and began to cry a high pitched scream, tears streaming down her little face.
Marla’s hand went to her pistol, and she pulled it out, pointed it at the sky and fired one deafening shot.
“Stay back!” She yelled, keeping an eye on the children, staring at her with both shock and hunger, as she reached for her radio to call for back up.
Just as her hand touched the radio, it squawked at her.
“Hello?” She said. “This is Deputy Bergeron, I need –”
“Marrrrlaaaa,” a voice croaked over the radio. She could practically feel C’thuN’chuk’s breath in her ear. “Marrrrlaaaa. I’m hungry, Marrrlaaaa.”
Marla’s skin tingled and she felt herself swoon involuntarily. She bit her lip and dropped the radio in revulsion and shame. She watched it hit the ground and saw the black swampy sludge ooze out of it, smelled the rot and putrefaction coming off of it.
The children advanced on her.