Varney the Voyeur Revisited

“I think we’re going to need something a little stronger,” Leroy said, after hearing about what Varney saw the night after Amie LeBeau was killed. He started to motion Chastity over, but the pale man stopped him.

“I got a bottle in my room, Leroy. Hard liquor here’s gonna be watered down piss.”

“Your room?” Leroy asked. “You got a room here, Victor? What the hell are you doing here? Of all the damn places to go, you ran here?”

Leroy looked around at the dank, neon-lit room. It wasn’t anything glamorous, and the two girls on the small stage dancing with their titties shaking around weren’t exactly Miss Universe material, but neither were they hard on the eyes.

Victor grinned a gruesome grin, and shrugged.

“You dog,” Leroy grinned back. “You shacked up with one of these ladies?”

“Marla took me here once,” he said. “After she… well, I guess she felt sorry for me, and said she knew a place where what I looked like didn’t matter too much.”

Leroy smiled uncomfortably.

“Yeah, I know, I know. Poor Varney. Everybody thinks I’m just some creep.”

Leroy started to say something in protest, but Victor stopped him.

“It don’t matter. Not anymore. I ain’t going back there. I got a good thing goin’ on here. I feel bad that I bailed on Mel, I surely do. But I couldn’t stay. You understand that, don’t you? If they saw me — and I don’t know that they didn’t — I’m a dead man.”

“I understand, Var– Victor. I ain’t judgin’ you for runnin’. I done the same thing. You think I’m just here for the floor show?”

Victor nodded in understanding. “I saw you. Couple days back, in here. You were acting kinda funny. Looked right at me, but it was like you didn’t see me at all.”

“Yeah, I, uh…” Leroy had no idea what to say.

“So I need to ask you something. I’d have asked you before, but you and I ain’t exactly friends.”

“Ah, Vic,” Leroy said, honestly hurt. “It ain’t personal. I like you. I do. I just don’t have friends, really. Not anymore. Not since… well, not for a long time, anyhow.”

“You paid me well, and I kept my head down and my mouth shut, but that don’t mean I didn’t see and hear stuff that had me scratching my head.”

“I always trusted you, Victor. And it weren’t about the money, neither. I wasn’t payin’ you hush money, I was just payin’ you to do a job.”

“Anyhow, it don’t matter,” Victor waved Leroy’s excuses away. “After I seen — whatever it was — in the bayou that night, my curiosity got the better of me, and I ain’t been able to think about nothin’ else.”

Victor was maybe five years younger than Leroy, and so, growing up, Leroy had always seen the boy around, underfoot. As he got older, his mama pulled him out of school, primarily because the other kids bullied him something terrible, but also, the doctors had told her that the sunlight was what was causing his problems. Leroy remembered seeing the kid all peeled up, and the kids were teasing him, saying he had leprosy. Jean-Baptiste had stepped in and chased them away, yelling at them about how Remy LeVert just loved to eat little boy-flesh. Looking back, Leroy thought that was more than a little creepy, knowing what he knew now. Ol’ Jean-Baptiste had always looked out for the kids in town — the kids like him that had lost their daddy, or who just didn’t fit in for one reason or another. Leroy supposed that him adopting the weird kids of Bayou Bonhomme was one way of replacing the kids he never had himself. Despite their age difference, for a time, Leroy had been friends with Victor. And Oscar, too, no less. But then they grew up some, and then he made the strange acquaintance of that thing out in the swamp, and everything changed.

“Leroy,” Victor swallowed the last of his beer. “What are you doing out in the bayou?”

Leroy sighed, and finished his own drink. “How ’bout we go get that bottle, huh?”

———

Victor had a room in the motel beside Sadie’s, which he did indeed share with one of the dancers, a plain looking girl named Gillian, though, because everyone jokingly called her Gilligan from that old TV show about the castaways, she went by the stage name of Ginger, the movie star. Ginger had run away from Mississippi and an overly friendly step-father and made her way to Slidell hitching rides. At sixteen, there wasn’t much she could do. She tried to pass herself as eighteen at Sadie’s and nearly got the boot, but one of the girls took pity on her and convinced the owner at the time, an unscrupulous fellow by the name of Jordan, to keep her on as kitchen help. When the club changed hands a couple of years later, the new owner took one look at her and told her if she wanted to keep working there, she’d be doing it topless.

Victor had taken a shine to her on one of his visits. He thought she was just the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, and even though he knew he could have, he never asked to buy a dance from her. There were plenty of other girls, besides.

“When I showed up here that night, it was right about closing time,” Victor told Leroy, passing a bottle of Wild Turkey between them. “They didn’t even want to let me in. Ginger was outside having a smoke, and some guy was bothering her — I seen it all the time. Guys get it in their heads that the girls like them, just ’cause they flirt with them or whatever. Then they get all pissed off when she don’t go home with them at closin’ time.”

“Yeah, noone’s a gennelman an’more,” Leroy slurred.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Victor laughed. “This fella was gettin’ all worked up, you know? Started yellin’ at her. Started grabbin’ at her. So I did something stupid.”

“Ah, tabernac, Varney, what’d you do?”

“Well, before I left home, I done grabbed me my daddy’s gun. Before he went and joined the army, he left mama and I a State Farm Insurance policy in case he didn’t come back, and a Smith & Wesson, in case we needed to protect ourselves while he was away.”

Leroy looked at Victor with wide eyes.

“You didn’t… you didn’t kill nobody, didya?”

“Nah, nah,” Victor laughed. “I pulled it out, though, and the sumbitch pissed himself and ran away.”

“She musta been mighty grateful, yeah?” Leroy grinned drunkenly.

Victor blushed.

“We got to talkin’,” he said, “and you know how it is. I told her I was running. Running away from things too big for me to handle. I didn’t tell her what, but I reckon she could tell I was scared, ’cause she wrapped her arms around me, told me she knew what running away was all about. She said she’d seen me here before — I’m kind of hard to miss — and wanted to know why I hadn’t ever asked her to dance. Ha! Ask her to dance. As if we was at some school dance or something.”

“I bet you done blushed like a rosy cheeked girl, din’cha? Yessir, just like you doin’ now, yeah?”

“I didn’t say nothin’.” Victor insisted. “I didn’t ask for nothin’. She told me that she’d love to have me lookin’ after her. She said that some girls, well, they turn tricks in their hotel rooms, and well, that ain’t something she’s ever gonna do. She asked me if I needed a place to stay, and I agreed that I did.”

“Sounds like a good deal,” Leroy threw back another belt of bourbon.

“Well, it ain’t exactly like that, but she’s the nicest room-mate I ever had.”

Leroy held up the bottle for a toast.

“To room-mates!”

Victor took the bottle and took a swig. “I’ll drink to that.”

“So you’re a kept man, then,” Leroy smiled at him.

“I suppose so,” Victor laughed. “She says that just havin’ me around makes her safer. I guess I discourage fellas from gettin’ the idea that she’s fair game. And with the way I look, I get the idea they think I’m some sort of tough guy.”

Leroy roared laughter, thinking of all the beatings Victor had taken as a kid.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Leroy said, barely able to speak. “I know, ce n’est pas drôle, but you are no tough guy, Victor.”

Victor grinned, and Leroy politely looked away. He liked Victor, and he was surely used to the sight of him after all these years, but when he grinned like that…

“Well, they don’t need to know that, do they? Anyhow, it’s been workin’, that’s all I care about. Ginger even talked Manny into givin’ me a job. Mostly I clean up during the day. He don’t really like havin’ me around while the customers are around. You know, ’cause of how I look. But every once in a while, I help out in the kitchen. Now that I’m payin’ half the rent on the motel room, she don’t even charge me for… well… you know… anymore.”

“Sounds like Mother fucking Theresa to me, mon ami.”

“Don’t be like that, Leroy. I reckon you can stay here tonight. You may have to curl up on the floor — and no funny business — but we can figure something else out tomorrow. But first.”

He grabbed the bottle away from the Cajun.

“First, tell me what you’re doing here. You know why I’m here, but you still ain’t answered my question.”

“Goddammit, Varney,” Leroy protested.

“Don’t goddammit Varney,” he said. “What the hell have you been doing out in the swamp?”

Leroy ran his hands through his white hair, and favoured Victor with his own ghoulish grin.

“How much do you remember ’bout dat summer of ’98?”

——-

SUMMER OF ’98>>>>>>

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9 responses to “Varney the Voyeur Revisited

  1. I love all the threads of this story, all these characters that have gotten under my skin. When you brought Varney back, it was like meeting up with an old friend. I love that I can like and dislike each of the characters because Life is like that. People are complicated for the most part, middling around the spectrum of saint to demon. You have your demons in this story, even a couple of saints (ok, Mel and Marla might not be saints, but they’re closer to that end of the spectrum than most others). But so many, in spite of the stupid, bad things they’ve done, still generate sympathy in the reader. It’s what keeps a reader coming back for more 🙂

    • Thank you so very much. I’m just wrapping up a long story arc that you should find very satisfying. Part One starts this week, and it’s going to be told over eight days (two a week) so this whole month will be the summer of ’98

  2. Pingback: From the Journal of Jean-Baptiste Levesque 1980-1987 Part Three | Being the Memoirs of H̶e̶l̶e̶n̶a̶ ̶H̶a̶n̶n̶-̶B̶a̶s̶q̶u̶i̶a̶t̶,̶ ̶D̶i̶l̶e̶t̶t̶a̶n̶t̶e̶ Jessica B. Bell, Creepy Fucker·

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