by GARY CLIFTON
Margot LePlatt was an outstanding cop. In less than a year as a Dallas Police Officer, she was promoted over many senior officers to Detective, and assigned to the most coveted position in the cop world, the Homicide Unit. The promotion had generated the most controversy inside DPD since the JFK assassination. But in a few weeks, her murder clearance rate stifled even the most vocal detractors.
Detective LePlatt was an excellent investigator with interrogation skills that astounded her superiors and other cops alike. Many perps languishing in jail were equally mystified at their own confessions. How the hell did she do that? She became widely known and was often consulted by other police officers. They had no way to know or understand that Margot came fully armed with a slight touch of telepathy and a healthy dose of interrogation tools from beyond this world.
She was not surprised when the Homicide Captain called her into his office. Another police department probably wanted her help in interviewing a suspect. But even Margot, the collected, poised professional, wasn’t totally immune from being caught off guard.
“Yes, sir?” Margot, dark, beautiful, with bottomless deep black eyes, was also widely sought as a bed partner by half the cops in North Texas. One or two had actually made the varsity. A single mom, Margot lived alone with her daughter, but she had needs and desires. Management of her social life or any visitors revolved around concern for little Shelby, age ‘ten’.
Fleshy, with an ample beer belly, and hair receding several inches above brushy eyebrows, the captain peered over gold, half glasses and motioned her to a plastic chair across from his cluttered desk. She avoided his attempt at eye contact. No harm in letting him appraise her figure as she walked across the office. She had more curves than the road to Pikes Peak.
“The Feds have requested us to loan you to the Joint Agency Drug Task force…for a few days only.”
She nodded and looked into his eyes, literally. Totally ignorant of her ability to peer behind and snare a piece his brain, he droned on and she locked in. One hundred percent of men she met instantly harbored ideas, or at least the fantasy of slipping her into bed. But the good captain was all business today – no bedroom thoughts for him. At least, not yet. Men tended to feel a surge in their sex drive when Margot pried into their minds. A slight twinge of disappointment made her wonder if she was getting old; another private thought. But then she felt a twinge of lust within him, and heard something else as well. Surprised at the comment she realized he was about to make, she nearly blurted: “Louisiana?”
Well onto her hook, he said: “They want you to fly down to Baton Rouge and attempt a dope buy from some redneck who lives in a swamp at the end of a road at the end of another road.”
She averted her eyes to allow him to collect his thoughts. “Why me, Captain?”
He hadn’t lost the original dose of libido he’d borrowed from her first mental intrusion. “You’re dark skinned with very black hair...and they say you speak French. They think you’d pass as a Cajon in that swamp country east of Baton Rouge.”
He started to ask why she spoke French, but she tweaked his thoughts and he forgot the question. She wondered how surprised he’d be to hear she also spoke fourteen other languages and at one time had been a cop in that low, wet country north of Lake Pontchartrain
“Sir, I have a ten year old daughter. You’re asking me to leave her behind…alone?”
“It’s summer,” the Captain interjected. “They figured Shelby could go down there with you. Of course we couldn’t put her in harm’s way. They’ve arranged for a female police officer to stay behind at your motel while you attempt a buy. Perhaps the two of you could grab a day or two down in the French Quarter…see the sights. New Orleans is in full swing this time of year.”
“So, somewhere between one and three days on this assignment?”
“Two days, tops…in and out…plus any time you use to relax with your daughter.”
“I’m just supposed to drive up and ask to buy smack, sir?”
“They have an undercover agent who’s managed to penetrate the dealer’s circle…partially anyway. He’s set up as a neighbor. Lives in the next cabin, maybe a mile away. He’s made contact with the head guy, but he’s confident if he attempts to make a buy, we’ll blow his cover and still be nowhere. He made the UC approach as non-involved in the drug business. Damned if I know why.”
Margot wondered whether the UC was concerned for the success of a dope buy or if he was afraid to approach the dealer. She knew from experience that folks in those south Louisiana swamps were terrified of mythical monsters, like the Rougaru, but never of the law. She weighed the options. Not going opened the door for too many questions which might really penetrate her background. Her world had always been vulnerable to those who’d seen too many stupid movies about her kind. Though it probably wouldn’t do any harm, she didn’t really feel like taking a stake to the heart.
“When do I…Shelby and I leave?”
The 727 hummed along at altitude. Shelby, dark and as strikingly beautiful as her mother, dozed in the aisle seat; the large, horn-rimmed glasses she insisted best suited her personality set solidly in place. As the pilot announced final approach, Shelby woke, stretched, and yawned.
“Mama, I dreamed you were in this ugly old house next to a swamp…talking to a dirty man.”
Margot had recently realized that Shelby was finally developing the telepathy skills which had served her own needs so well for many years.
“Mama’s got some police business down here, baby. I talk to unclean people all the time.”
“There was another man there mama…wearing a disguise. I could see he wasn’t who…or what he said he was. And there was a monster in the yard.”
“There are no monsters, Shelby. Sometimes evil people can seem like it though.”
Shelby looked up her mother. “Mama, I felt like he was someone I should have already known.”
Margot knew the total acquisition of telepathy skills tended to initially be sporadic, like a sputtering television. Shelby was still in the early stage and Margot concluded that Shelby didn’t fully comprehend what she’d seen in her dream. It has always mystified her that Shelby hadn’t developed the skill earlier. But she’d also never understood why she and Shelby were different in several ways. They were not bothered by daylight and could sleep at night, for instance. And they could survive quite nicely on fluids from food prepared in a kitchen, particularly red meat cooked rare. Why her own telepathy was limited, she never could comprehend. She could feel the energy of some people’s minds, but not fully understand the thought. However, some minds were easily readable, and controllable. It wasn’t something she could research on the internet.
The two Feds who met them at the airport, Wilson and Chucwitz, were bookends. Both were about thirty, dressed as hobos, and looked as if they’d spent a month in a trash dumpster. Margot was familiar with dope cops and their mania for shabby old clothes. She knew dammed well she could buy smack from any dim-witted dealer while wearing a New York City Police uniform – or while wearing nothing at all, if she could look into their faces. Criminals were the forte of her persuasive power.
The thought of working undercover naked delivered a lingering, erotic shiver down her spine. She glanced over at Shelby, mindful the child might penetrate her immediate, naughty thoughts. Shelby appeared not to notice. She wondered if the monster Shelby had seen in her dream was the Rougaru. She had always believed, sensed actually, such a creature existed, but had never seen it.
With Shelby in tow, she squeezed into the backseat of a shiny new Camaro. Wilson, driving, stopped outside the airport beside a battered old panel truck with the words, “Friendly Plumbing” painted on the sides.
You’re to take this Camaro and meet the undercover at I-12 and Louisiana Highway 27 at two o’clock,” Wilson said. His accent suggested southern Alabama. “He’ll be driving a red F 150. Me ‘n Chucwitz’ll be your cover. From this truck, we can monitor the wire you’ll wear. We can’t chance another vehicle…even this plumbing van, down in that area. They’d make us immediately.”
Hard luck intervened when the female officer was late getting to the motel to babysit Shelby. Time to make her appointment with the UC officer was short. Margot made a decision.
“Shelby, baby, you’ve gotta take a ride with mama. You can stay in the car when I talk to the bad men.” Margot knew from long experience, Shelby was durable and resourceful. No harm would come to her from a dope dealer.
In five minutes they were whizzing along I-12 in the Camaro just north of sprawling Lake Pontchartrain. The entire area, she knew, was marshy and populated by millions of insects and varmints. By 2:05 P.M., she spotted the red Ford pickup. The cover agents, following in the van, discreetly pulled into the thick weeds growing along the highway, and hung back. She didn’t dare tell them they were totally unnecessary. She could handle whatever came up.
The undercover stepped out of his truck. “Special Agent Dave Harlow,” he grinned. “DEA.” He was thirty, extremely fit, and drop dead handsome in standard dope cop seedy garb, blending with shoulder length black hair. She’d actually clasped his outstretched hand before she noticed him staring oddly at her.
No problem, she’d be in his head in seconds. Then she recognized him! Shaking her head like a dog handling a snake, she pointed to her chest where the wire was taped. The cover bums hiding in weeds couldn’t be allowed to overhear any intimate history.
He leaned down to see Shelby, looking very small in the passenger seat. “Hello, darling.”
“Mama…my dream.” The response was more gasp than English.
“Save it for later, baby.” Margot double glanced at Shelby then back to Harlow, who nodded in silent approval.
Harlow threaded the red pickup down winding roads with pot holes big enough to swallow a Volkswagen. Massively tall trees formed solid walls behind wide ditches of water topped with bright green slime. Margot wondered if a car skidded into one of those ditches, would the green simply close above it, concealing it forever. How many sunken relics were they passing?
“My resort,” Harlow pointed to a shack, only slightly down a narrow lane from a stone filled break in the relentless ditch which provided a narrow entryway. They drove past, three abreast in the seat. As they’d done several times in the last thirty minutes, they exchanged lingering glances, but said nothing.
“This dealer’s name is Martine DeNeau…and he knows me as Snake.” A mile, and a half dozen curves ahead Harlow fitted the pickup over another tiny section of rock-filled ditch. Hidden a quarter mile down the narrow lane, where the sun was completely occluded by heavy trees and swamp foliage, a shack drifted into view. Perched precariously atop a makeshift foundation of rocks and logs, the little structure hadn’t seen paint for many years. The entire property looked to be the result of a determined bulldozer operator pushing up watery black mud and rocks about a foot above the vast swamp bordering the little shack. Mosquitoes filled the air like morning fog. “Bloodsuckers.” Margot smiled. She knew the swamp and its denizens would eventually win the battle of territory.
Harlow shot Shelby a glance and squeezed the pickup behind a patch of weeds, out of sight of the house. Her safety seemed to be his concern. Margot and Harlow stepped out on soggy ground and approached the shanty. Margot pointed for Shelby to stay put. When Martine DeNeau materialized from the gloom, she was impressed; he was twice as shabby by as any of the dope guys accompanying her. Forty, skinny, arms obliterated with tattoos, and with ten years whiskers, he smelled several days dead.
“Hey, Snake.” He gave Margot the once over. “Damn, Snake, this yo’ woman. She one fine lookin’ bitch.” His Cajon tongue was thick, but he spoke in English. The need to speak French had been unnecessary.
“Yeah, Martine. She my woman.” Harlow spoke in Cajon dialect. “An’ she gotta problem.”
“I’m Margo,” she smiled and snapped on dark eyed capture mode. “I know I’m not a regular customer, but I gotta get a kilo for a dealer up in Dallas today or it’s my ass.”
“A fine ass it is, Margot.” Martine leered at her hungrily.
He’d held her captivating eyes a second too long. Martine was hers. He’d sell his soul for a quarter as long as she held him in her mental grasp. Stepping across the wobbly porch through a warped screen door, he returned instantly with a plastic wrapped, half-loaf of bread sized package.
“Snake.” She looked at Snake but meant the words for Martine. “This swamp rat screws me, he’s gonna have company from Dallas he won’t like. They’ll leave with his ‘nads in their pocket.” She was impressed; she sounded mean as hell. She started to tell him he was under arrest for sale and delivery of a controlled substance, but Martine’s eyes froze in horror. She realized he was focused over her shoulder. She turned. Little Shelby, all fifty-seven pounds of her, was dragging a huge beast by one leg toward them. From distance, Margot could see it was breathing in labored gasps.
“Mama, this crawled in the truck window and tore my dress.” She pointed to a rip in the cloth at her shoulder. “I had to spank it.” Weighing 300 pounds, eight feet tall, face invisible behind fur, the beast was bleeding from his mouth.
Martine cringed backward. “Rougaru!!” He screamed and bolted toward the swamp. In less than twenty feet, he collided with a broken limb extending from a Cypress tree. His death cry drifted across the desolate swamp.
Margot, Harlow, and Shelby stood, equally transfixed at the sight of the sharp point of the limb protruding through his skinny frame and out his back. Quivering in death, he remained upright, head drooping, the tree holding onto its catch. Margot reached inside her shirt and switched off the wire.
“I don’t believe I would have recognized you,” she smiled at Harwood. “Where did you come up with that hillbilly name?”
“From a man who no longer needs it.” His smile was handsome, his eyes suddenly dangerous. “Countess, you and the girl are still mine. I’ll see the two of you in your motel this evening.”
“You’d be carnal with a little girl?” She hadn’t heard the title, Countess, in many, many years. She turned to him, her face sharp, eyes narrow slits of death. “I’ve grown very strong since you left us. You can’t have her…or me, Doctor. You abandoned us.”
“The peasants. I managed to escape and I thought they’d taken you both. Shelby will be mine, no matter.” His eyes reddened into burning coals, his voice coming in a horrible rasp.
In a millisecond he was upon her, slashing with fingernail claws which appeared to come from nowhere. But Margot had been right. Ten times as strong, she tossed him across the mud like air. Down on his back in seconds, Margot’s teeth tore out his throat in a bloody froth. Shelby stood, transfixed. Margot hurried over to the swamp and splashed water to rinse most of the gore away, just as the two backup agents rolled into the driveway.
Both bailed out, pistols in hand. Wilson studied Martine’s body, hung up on a tree limb, then at the beast, still unconscious on the ground. “Rougaru? Christ, It really exists?”
Chucwitz examined both bodies. “Man, we gotta agent killed. This thing here is still alive.” He nodded to the monster.
Shelby had picked up the heroin. She stood holding it at mid yard.
“God, Detective, we appreciate your help. You wuz’ damn lucky…this creature rushed out of the swamp and killed the dope dealer and Agent Harlow. If you or the child had been injured, I don’t know what we would have done.” Clueless that Margot’s power had informed his assertion of the situation, he knelt by the Rougaru, motioned Chucwitz to give him handcuffs and then combined the two sets of manacle to fix the monster’s hands behind.
“Think that’ll hold him?” Chucwitz asked.
“It doesn’t then it gets a .40 caliber behind the ear.” Wilson climbed to the roof of Martine’s house for better cellular service and called the cavalry.
In two hours, Margot and Shelby had hitched a ride back to the Camaro and were flying down I-12.
Shelby fidgeted and squirmed. Then: “Mama, who was that man…the one you called doctor?”
“Man we used to know, baby.”
“I was so glad when you tore off his head, mama.”
“Well, honey, he was evil. Mama’s delighted that ol’ beast didn’t hurt you. As you know, we only kill bad guys.”
“Sorta like being super heroes?”
“Something like that. But don’t worry with that. We’re going to buzz down to New Orleans and see the sights.” Neither she nor Shelby had seen New Orleans in eighty years. Margot was not surprised that she could fit in, posing as a Cajun. If her captain knew she been born in Romania three hundred years ago, he’d partly understand why she spoke so many languages. Comfortable that she had another twenty-five years left before the lack of aging thing forced them to move again, she slipped on the Camaro’s cruise control.
“Mama…Mr. Bowen, the principal at my school took me in his office and said he wanted to play carnal.”
“That what he said?”
“No, but I could see in his mind he was thinking that when he touched me…down there.” Shelby looked down to her lap. “Is it okay to kill Mr. Bowen?”
Margot smiled lovingly at her daughter. “Baby, you shouldn’t just kill him. When school starts this fall, we’ll invite him over for a parent/teacher conference and have him for dinner…with a batch of dandelion stems mama will rot in the window sill. “
“Oh goodie, my favorite.” Shelby clapped her hands with glee. “Fat man and veggies. Um…Mama, what does carnal mean, exactly? Mr. Bowen only thought it…he never said it.”
Margot smiled. “Hush child. You know what it means.” And Shelby giggled in reply.
Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over sixty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites including Bewildering Stories, Flashes in the Dark, Spinetingler, and Black Heart Mag. He's been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued and is currently retired to a dusty north Texas ranch. Clifton has an MS from Abilene Christian University. Gary’s stories have previously appeared three times in HelloHorror. Blood Passion appears in the January 2013 issue, Measure Twice, Cut Once appears in the April 2013 issue, and Mother’s Nature appears in the August, 2013.
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