August 18, 1981,
Another Bergeron disappeared last summer — well, technically an In-law. Richard Hendricks had become a more or less permanent fixture down at Mel’s Bar and Grill, and spent the last three years trying to drown that part of his brain that remembered what happened that afternoon in July of 1977. Leastways, that’s what I figure, and he seemed to be doing a good job of it. He’d become something of an embarrassment to hisself, and his family, too, I reckon, and people ’round town either looked at him with pity or disgust. Me, I had my own opinion on the matter, and maybe it weren’t too Christian of me, but I had it in my head that anything bad happened to the man, well, it probably weren’t nearly as bad as he deserved.
His wife left him a few months before, moved in with her brother Robert and his young wife Colette. My Josie’s daughter had married into the Bergeron family, and I ain’t spoken a word to her since the wedding. I weren’t invited, of course, but I dropped by just to take mental inventory. I’m still doing my best to keep track of ’em all, but my mind ain’t what it used to be.
One of these days I’m gonna sit down with this journal and draw out a family tree to try and keep sense of it all, before I lose what marbles I got left.
Speakin’ of losing my marbles, Richard, he lost ’em but good, it seems. He was down at Mel’s, as usual, killin’ hisself slowly, when the first of ’em arrived. The monster hunters. They been trickling in, now and again, but best as I can say, that night at Mel’s was the first.
Oscar knew all about the monster hunters. Before he’d actually come face-to-creepy-face with Chuk, the biggest pain in his ass as a cop had been the outsiders who came into town, snapping their cameras and swapping their stories down at Mel’s. Mostly they were harmless, and brought a few dollars into the local economy, but every once in a while, one of them would stir up shit, or ask the wrong people the wrong questions, and more than once, Oscar was asked to escort some poor shitheel out of town. He hadn’t realized that it was a relatively recent thing. He’d lived with the legend of Remy LeVert, and the folks that came to town looking for him all his life. He had just assumed it had always been that way.
Jean-Baptiste had taped some newspaper clippings into the journal, from some tabloid rag, declaring that there was a SWAMP MAN ON THE LOOSE IN BAYOU BONHOMME, and a grainy photograph of something vaguely humanoid. Oscar recognized the picture and laughed. That photo had become quite famous around town, and he’d seen it a thousand times. It was Bayou Bonhomme’s version of those blurry Bigfoot photos or the Lock Ness Monster. Knowing what he did now, it made Oscar laugh all the more. Jean-Baptiste had scribbled a note about the article, which Oscar didn’t bother to read — he’d read them all before. I wonder if Richard Hendricks was the local source these asswipes mention in their story. I wonder if that’s what got him killed. Oscar thought it might have been, and turned the page to read on.
I was down at Mel’s that night myself, so this is straight from the horse’s mouth, understand. He was just makin’ fun of those out-of-towners, that’s all. They came in with their city slicker clothes and their fancy portable phones that didn’t get hardly no reception ’round here, and started askin’ folks about Remy LeVert. One fella said he was from the university, and was writing a thesis about local legends or some such hooey. I seen their like before, and even dressed up all fancy, they still smelled like trash to me. Richard was sitting at the bar, sopping up some gravy with a biscuit and tipping back longneck after longneck, and I never would have thought that he was sober enough to even be paying attention to what the two men were saying, but I guess I was wrong.
Those fellas had cornered poor Elmer Cayce, who had better things to do, like serving his customers for one, making sure he put food on the table for his wife and wee baby Melissa — cutest damn thing you ever did see. But Mel did like the attention — man fancies himself a yarnspinner hisself, and got to bendin’ those boys’ ears about our local swamp creature.
“Oh, ol’ Remy’s been here for damn near a hunnerd years,” Mel told them. “My daddy told me he saw him once. Yessir, big as life, walking down Hereford Lane in the moonlight. He was nine — no, ten feet tall, and looked like that damn Creature from the Black Lagoon — all fish-faced and such.”
One of them boys who said they was from the university asked about people disappearing, and Mel shook his head and started to walk away.
“I don’t know nothin’ about that,” he said, mumbling.
The fella with the longish hair said that his grandpa’s brother had been stationed at Camp Evangeline during the Maneuvers right before WWII, and had gone missing after a trip down to Bayou Bonhomme. And then he said that he reckoned that our swamp monster — our Remy LeVert — had killed all them boys, and that everyone in Bayou Bonhomme knew it, and was covering it up. That’s when Richard started laughing.
“Shit,” he said. “You chuckleheads have got it all wrong.”
Every eye in the bar turned and stared at the man who normally kept quiet.
“Hell, Remy LeVert ain’t even its real name.”
Well, didn’t that just pique the interest of these two fellas, who immediately took the bar stools on either side of Richard.
“Really, friend?” the one who said his grandad’s brother died in the Bayou asked. “And what would you know about it? What does it call itself?”
“I can’t say it,” Richard slurred, putting a finger to his lips.
“What, is it some kind of secret?”
“Nah, you stupid sonofabitch, I just can’t pronounce the fuckin’ thing!”
He laughed a wet, throaty, drunken laugh and clapped one of them boys on the back.
“No, but seriously, fellas, if you want to meet ol’ Remy LeVert, all you got to do is be here during the full moon. See, ol’ Remy, he don’t live out in the Bayou. He’s one of us, you see?”
The boys tried to pull away from Richard, but he just kept talkin’ his nonsense.
“Oh yeah, it’s true! Everybody knows it, but who it is, exactly, is a secret to all but a select few. Herefords know it for sure, and I’d say the Bergerons, too — they been in this town forever, you know.”
Mel Cayce put a hand on Richard’s arm and told him he might want to shut up, now, but Richard shook him off and favoured him with an angry look.
“Every full moon, someone in this town transforms into Remy LeVert, and goes hunting out in the bayou for his dinner. And most of the time, a gator will do. But every once in a while…” Richard dropped his voice conspiratorially and motioned for them to lean in closer. “Every once in a while, ol’ Remy needs human flesh. I reckon that’s what happened to them boys back in the ’40s.”
“Okay, Dick,” Mel said, placating him like he would a kid. “There’s tall tales and there’s tall tales and then there’s bullshit. Don’t go fillin’ these fellas’ heads with bullshit, now.”
“It ain’t bullshit,” he protested, and gave those two fellas a look of honest conviction so earnest that if I didn’t know what I did, even I would have considered what he was sayin’. “It’s the honest truth. If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’. Like I said — I’d bet my life that Olivia Hereford knows who the monster is. Why don’t you go ask her?”
The bar went real quiet, and I felt a shiver run down my spine.
I looked at Richard with a mixture a pity and disgust. You’re a dead man, I thought to myself. Then I remembered that he’d probably killed my friend Martin, and maybe Olivia’s husband as well, and I can’t say I was too broken up about it.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I finally heard someone mention it, but Richard Hendricks just up and disappeared that very night. No one wanted to talk about it, and I never heard anything more about it after that. Truth is, things have been quiet this last year. Is it too much to hope that it will last?