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Dog Will Hunt Part 1 - Murder in Montegut

Posted by Max_Writer , in Call of Cthulhu, Campaign Log 30 September 2017 · 251 views

CoC 1-6e Jazz Age

Monday, September 25, 2017

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario “Dog Will Hunt” by Richard A. Becker from The Unspeakable Oath #18 on Sunday, Sept 10, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. with James Brown, Ben Abbott, and Yorie Latimer.)

 

After their interviews by police on April 25, 1929, Agent Sanderson telegraphed and then telephoned Washington about what happened on the non-stop express train from Boston to New Orleans. He spent a good amount of time on the telephone before he told the other three men he had to return to the Capitol to give a full report. He apologized to Joell for not being able to help him with his problems in Montegut though he didn’t seem terribly sincere.

 

“Don’t get yourself killed,” he said. “Or do. I don’t care.”

 

* * *

 

On Friday, April 26, 1929, Griffin McCree, Joell Johnson, and Spencer DeLuve took a train from New Orleans to Houma. There they were able to rent a Model A Ford soft top tourer. Griffin McCree put down a deposit on the motorcar and paid for its use for a week. They made the drive down to Montegut in the early afternoon that gloomy and overcast day. They noticed the road followed a canal. It threatened rain, though it continued very warm.

 

The town proved to be tiny, probably with a population of about 150, though it was spread out over a large area. The canal went by the town on the west side and the dirt streets were only a few inches above the water level. The east side of the town was bordered by swampland: the bayou. There were many drainage ditches in the area.

 

A brand-new motel stood on the main road with a diner not far from it. They drove through the town first and saw an office marked “Sheriff,” though Houma was the parish seat. The town also boasted the Sacred Heart Church, a post office, a small bank, a pharmacy and five-and-dime, a hardware store, a restaurant, a volunteer fire department, a small school, an Esso station, and a few other shops as well. Some of the houses and other buildings were built on short stilts. The entire town consisted of a few wide blocks and two main roads.

 

They eventually went to the motel, which had about a dozen rooms facing a dirt parking lot, all on the ground floor, with an overhang on the front and numerous rocking chairs. It also had a small office. They met the hotelier, a man of about 40 who spoke slowly and almost sinisterly with a southern drawl and had a narrow, weasel-like face.

 

“How y’all doing?” he said, almost too friendly. “You need some rooms, eh? That’s great. Let me just get you set up. We get tourists here sometimes, yeah. Yeah we do.”

 

He got them signed in, McCree getting both a room for himself and a room for DeLuve. Johnson paid for his own room and the man handed them off room keys. As he checked them in, DeLuve noticed, in addition to a wedding ring on his left ring finger, the man wore a ring on his right ring finger that had three owls upon it, apparently, and three zeros or three of the letter “O” above them. It didn’t look very valuable but it was distinctive.

 

“If you folks need anything, you just ask, okay?” the man said. “Ask me, and I’ll help you out with anything you need.”

 

He helped McCree with his suitcases and bags. The room was very nice with an indoor bathroom, running water, and even a fan. It had two single beds and a bureau as well.

 

“Why thank you …” McCree said.

 

“Burke,” the hotelier said. “Ryan Burke. “If you need anything, anything at all, you just let me know.”

 

“Thank you for your hospitality.”

 

“Oh … we aim to please. We aim to please. What … what are you folks doing here? Why you visiting us?”

 

“Well, I …”

 

“I notice you got a lot of gun bags, there.”

 

“Well, my house seemed to … catch fire recently … and I lost one of my favorite sets of gator boots.”

 

“Oh, you’re going out looking for alligators. You better be careful.”

 

“Oh yeah.”

 

“Careful of them alligators.”

 

“They are fierce.”

 

“They’re dangerous. They’d be out there.”

 

Burke pointed towards the bayou to the east of the town.

 

“Well, you be careful out there,” Burke said. “We don’t want anybody getting hurt. That’d be a bad thing.”

 

“I have heard that some people have been going missing, so I’ll make sure that I─” McCree said.

 

“Oh, that’s right, them Cajuns. Them Cajuns gone missing. That’s very strange. But, you know, they came here after the flood. And they’re dirty folks. They’re out there at that Mangrove Trading Post. Well, sometimes they get some good stuff, though. They do. You just let me know if you need anything. You just let me know.”

 

“I sure will, Mr. Ryan Burke.”

 

“All right. If you need anything, just ding-ding the bell.”

 

* * *

 

Johnson went to the front desk after getting settled in.

 

“Yes sir,” Burke said. “Can I help you? How’s the room? Is it okay?”

 

“Oh, it’s wonderful,” Johnson said.

 

“That’s good. That’s so good.”

 

“I was─”

 

“Glad to hear it.”

 

“─wondering if you could give me direction to the Mangrove Trading Post you talked about earlier.”

 

“Oh. Why do you want to go out there, sir? There’s some dirty, dirty Cajuns out there.”

 

“Well, I’m having a look around the whole area, sir. It’s for my work.”

 

“Oh, fair enough, fair enough. Well, if you just head back down the main road, towards Houma, and then once you go past Sacred Heart, you take the first right. That’s Dolphin Street. You just take you a right there; it’ll take you straight on down to Point Farm Road. But right where it meets Point Farm Road, you’ll see it. You can’t miss Mangrove Trading Post. It’s … there are signs all over it.”

 

“All right. Thank you very much.”

 

“I’ll give you a hint, though, sir. But don’t be telling anybody ‘cause you’ll get ‘em in trouble. You might could get you some alcohol if you’re of that inclination out there. Beer, mainly. Just beer. They’re harmless. They could use the money. Them damned Cajuns come in here, they got nothing since the flood. Set up that place: I think there’s maybe 40 of ‘em living in one building. It’s … anyway … so there you go. Anything else I can get for you, sir?”

 

“No. Thank you very much.”

 

“Thanks so much for stopping by.”

 

Johnson left the motel, walking down the main road.

 

* * *

 

About 1 p.m., McCree left the motel to go check in with the sheriff about hunting alligators. He saw Johnson walking up the main road back towards Houma and spotted DeLuve following him. He shrugged and headed the opposite direction towards the sheriff’s office.

 

The sheriff’s office proved to be simply a small, storefront office. It was tiny and there was no jail cell. He guessed it was a secondary office for the sheriff in the county. McCree thought the man might have lived in Montegut and set up a small secondary office as the town was not the parish sheet and he had noticed a larger sheriff’s office in Houma.

 

The small office had a modest desk overflowing with paperwork crowned with framed pictures of himself with a woman and a little boy and little girl. A telephone and a coffee cup sat there as well and the room smelled of coffee, chicory, and cigarette smoke. A map of Terrebonne Parish was on the wall.

 

The man at the desk wore a star on his vest. He was in his mid-40s, tall, with a little bit of a gut, thinning light brown hair, gray eyes, and a friendly, open face.

 

“Howdy,” he said. “Sheriff Dundee.”

 

“Howdy,” McCree said. “Griffin McCree.”

 

“How can I help you, sir? You staying in town?”

 

“Yes. My fellow compatriots and I are stopping through ‘cause we’re hunting some alligators. I just wanted you to know before I go out anywhere and ask your permission, of course, if I could hunt in your bayou.”

 

“Well, I don’t have any problem with you hunting in the bayou. But you gotta know there’s some people out there. There’s a few scattered people that live in the bayou. Don’t be trespassing on their lands. You see a hut or a house or something, just steer clear. Don’t cause any trouble. We’ve had some problems with gangsters and bootleggers around here. You’re not doing anything like, are you?”

 

“By no means, Mr. Dundee.”

 

“All right. Sheriff Dundee.”

 

“Sheriff.”

 

“Well, as long as you’re obeying the law, I have no problem with you. This is just a secondary office for me here in Montegut. If you have any need of police … you be careful of the bayou. We’ve had some people go missing in the last month.”

 

“So I’ve heard.”

 

“How’d you hear that?”

 

“Newspaper clipping.”

 

“Oh. Well, that’s interesting because you don’t sound like you’re from anywhere around here.”

 

“I’m actually from, originally, Georgia.”

 

“I could tell the accent’s a little different. Yep. Yep.”

 

“But I reside over in Providence. But I haven’t been to this area to … hunt for shoes. I lost mine in a house fire just a few months ago.”

 

“That’s fine sir. Just don’t bother people out there. There ain’t many. But I’d steer clear and some of ‘em can be a little standoffish … with their rifles. If you know what I mean. Don’t like trespassers, that kind of thing. Sometimes they’ll start shooting before they start talking.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“So, if you see a hut or something just steer clear and you should be fine.”

 

“I sure will.”

 

“And be careful out there. Especially in the deep bayou.”

 

Sheriff Dundee gestured in the direction of the swamp.

 

“Man get lost out there in a heartbeat,” he said. “There’s water moccasins. There’s alligators. Not to mention about as many mosquitoes as you’re going to want.”

 

“Oh,” McCree said. “Sounds delightful!”

 

“It ain’t.”

 

“Should I get a guide to make sure I don’t get lost?”

 

“That’s not a bad idea. I tell you what, the Cajuns, they know that place better than anyone in town, probably. You gonna go for the deep bayou. They put up a reward for some of these missing folk. There’s two men and a woman gone missing over the last month. So, you spot a body or something out there, you note the location, come back and let us know. They might’ve just got lost out there but … some stuff was found that was dropped that we assume is from some of them.”

 

“So, yeah. I’ll make sure to stay careful and stay away from any huts.”

 

“That’s right. Just don’t bother any people out there. You probably won’t even run into anybody. But … be careful of them people out there too. All right?

 

“Will do, Sheriff.”

 

“Nice to talk to you Mr. … McCree?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Very good.”

 

“And it was nice meeting you, Sheriff Dundee.”

 

“Stop in any time.”

 

“Will do.”

 

* * *

 

Johnson reached Dolphin Street, just another dirt road. As he turned down it, he saw DeLuve walking up the main road behind him. He waited for the other man.

 

“You following me?” he asked.

 

“Yeah,” DeLuve said. “Why not?”

 

“I’m going to the Mangrove Trading Post, so …”

 

“Yeah, me too.”

 

“What a coincidence.”

 

“Is it?”

 

“I didn’t think it was! I thought you were just following me.”

 

“I figured we rode into town for the same reasons.”

 

Johnson stared at the man.

 

“Mr. DeLuve, I don’t know if I’ve spoken to you very much, personally,” Johnson said to the man.

 

They continued along towards the Mangrove Trading Post.

 

“Why did you follow me all the way out here?” Johnson said.

 

“I’m here for the pictures,” DeLuve said. “The big game hunting, of course.”

 

“But you’re following me to the trading post.”

 

“Oh yeah, I gotta get supplies.”

 

“Okay.”

 

They continued on down the street. DeLuve thought he heard gunshots from back towards town.

 

* * *

 

As McCree left the Sheriff’s Office, he saw the locals sipping “co-colas” in the shade of porches and talking a little. Suddenly, a horrific sound came from the east: a howling cry that sounded like a wolf dragged by a burning hook in its belly. It faded into stridulating noise like a gigantic cicada’s call.

 

A paunchy, red-faced man in torn clothing stained with sweat and swamp-water ran down Montegut Street, staggering and looking behind him. He was wild-eyed with terror.

 

“Oh Lord!” he yelled. “Somebody help me! Help me!”

 

Suddenly, two terrifying creatures came around the building at the end of the street with amazing speed. They were bony, four-legged things glistening with the froth from their fanged jaws, their eyes glazed with a sickly, whitish film. Across the street, two farmers swore and a young woman shrieked.

 

The creatures ran the stranger down in the steamy noonday sun and ripped at his throat with their deformed maws. The man gave a long, whimpering scream as his arterial blood turned the whitish foam on the animals’ muzzles a bright pink. Sheriff Dundee burst out of his office, pushing McCree out of the way, and opened fire on the creatures, emptying his revolver into them. They growled as bullets dug into their hides, then raced back into the tree line beyond town, leaping the canal there with ease and heading towards the bayou.

 

They had all seen the sheriff had hit both monsters but neither of them seemed harmed.

 

McCree followed Sheriff Dundee over to the man on the ground, who struggled to breathe through his ruined windpipe for several long seconds before he died. Sheriff Dundee searched his pockets and found a wallet and a pistol. He looked through the wallet as McCree looked over his shoulder. The dead man had identification that named him as Lawrence Brody with the United States Treasury Department. Sheriff Dundee more carefully examined the man’s revolver and found all six bullets had been recently fired.

 

Sheriff Dundee called over a couple of the farmers to take the body to a porch. When he turned to go back to his office, McCree spoke.

 

“Sheriff Dundee, I’d also like to try to hunt some … exotic … findings,” he said. “You wouldn’t mind if I tried to bag whatever those were?”

 

“Damn dogs?” Sheriff Dundee said, obviously shaken. “Yeah, you kill those damned things if you see ‘em. Good luck with that.”

 

“Yeah, d’you see that?” one of the farmers who had a brought a tarp for the body said. “Them bullets, they just didn’t even slow them things down. God damn. That was terrifying.”

 

“Thank you for your permission, sheriff,” McCree said with a wry smile.

 

Sheriff Dundee told the man not to carry any guns openly in town as the two farmers moved the body to a porch. Then the sheriff went back to his office.

 

McCree walked with purpose back to the motel. He passed a postman on the way back and noticed the man was wearing a ring on his right ring finger that seemed to have three owls on it.

 

* * *

 

Mangrove Trading Post looked like it was an old farm. A number of run-down shacks had been built around it and an electric line ran only to the main farmhouse. Strings of colorful Christmas lights and plenty of advertising signs of Coca-Cola, Camel Cigarettes, and other brand names hung on the outside of the building. There were buckets of live night crawlers, frogs, and prawns, for bait or cooking, and a wind-up phonograph and newish radio set on the front porch. Hand painted signs also abounded: MANGROVE TRADING POST, HOT GUMBO, COFFEE, REPAIR DE VOITURE, and the like. Some signs were obviously in French.

 

Several dirty, disheveled bearded men were inside the trading post, playing checkers or talking. Most of them spoke French and all of them went silent as they came in. One man stood up.

 

“Can I help you?” he said, his voice heavily accented. “We got gumbo. We got cigarettes. We got other things … if you know what I mean.”

 

“Yes, I’m just looking around the area,” Johnson said. “You wouldn’t happen to know about any … people digging for oil in these parts?”

 

“Digging for oil?” the man said. “I do not know … digging for oil?”

 

He spoke French to some of the other men. They shook their heads but one man spoke back to him in French. They talked for a few moments.

 

“Pierre here, he says he heard rumors of people out of the bayou,” the first man said. “They were digging. But we don’t go out in the bayou. Oh no. Bad juju in the bayou.”

 

“You said your friend Pierre saw people digging?” Johnson asked.

 

The man questioned Pierre in French again.

 

“There were a group of men in tents,” he finally said to Johnson. “But he’s not sure exactly where. He was hunting …”

 

He questioned Pierre again.

 

“Frogs,” he finally translated. “We have good frogs. They are delicious. You don’t go in the bayou.”

 

“You’ve never seen these men around here before?” Johnson asked. “Not men from Montegut over there?”

 

The man asked and Johnson heard the word Montegut. The French speakers were not pleased.

 

“The people of Montegut do not like us here,” the first man said. “We came from … when the Mississippi flooded, we had no place to go. We came here.”

 

“The meek shall inherit the Earth, sir,” Johnson said.

 

“That is what the Bible says … yes,” the man said. “That is what the Bible says … but in the meantime, three of us have gone missing!”

 

He spoke to the men in French again and the conversation went back and forth.

 

“What happened to the missing people?” Johnson asked. “Do you know?”

 

He pointed to another gentleman, one of two who had walked up and were listening to the conversation without saying anything. Both of the men were young. One had a light beard and the other had a darker, shorter beard.

 

“I’m Jacques,” the lighter-bearded man said.

 

“Andre-Paul,” the other said.

 

Both of them seemed very sad.

 

“Even experienced swamp hands like us do not know what happened to certain people who have gone missing,” Jacques said. “Like Sylvaine LeParque, Phillippe Monteliere, and Jeanne-Marie DeSalle. They went missing. The sheriff has files on them. But he is done looking, I think. He doesn’t want to look anymore.”

 

“The police never help,” Johnson said. “They only protect the rich.”

 

The first man he talked to translated and the other Cajuns seemed to agree with Johnson.

 

“Did these people go missing out in the bayou?” Johnson asked.

 

“Sylvaine LeParque was the first,” Jacques said. “A month ago. He used to live here with the Forniers.”

 

He gestured in the direction of the shacks around the back of the building.

 

“And then Jeanne-Marie DeSalle,” he went on. “Two weeks ago. Disappeared. Like that.”

 

“Out of this camp?” Johnson asked.

 

“In the bayou,” Jacques said.

 

“And then there was Phillippe Monteliere,” Andre-Paul said. “He was … he was well-regarded. He would work at the railroads to make money. As you can see, we do not have much. We make do as best we can. Are you searching for them? A reward has been offered.”

 

Johnson looked at the people in the place. He guessed the $200 reward was more money than they had all together. They wore ragged clothing and were obviously very, very poor.

 

They told him what else they knew.

 

The facts were these:

 

Sylvaine LeParque had brown hair and brown eyes. He was unemployed and was reported missing a month before. He had been in Montegut and no one knew exactly why. He might have taken a shut cut through the bayou. Phillippe Monteliere had black hair and brown eyes with a neatly trimmed mustache. A laborer, he used to walk up to Houma every day to work. He had an excellent work ethic. Reported missing three weeks before, he had last been seen in Montegut. He had gone to town to buy a bag of 10-penny nails and the bag and his left shoe were all that were found. Someone from town had reported him missing. Jeanne-Marie DeSalle was 17 with brown hair and green eyes. She was wearing a simple green dress and was described by Jacques as having cherubic features. She was reported missing two weeks before having last been seen in the company of 16-year-old Delbert Crosby, a resident of Montegut. Crosby had been sent away by his parents to relatives in Lafayette.

 

Somebody brought Johnson a bowl of gumbo and blackened fish while they talked. It was quite good. Someone was playing the zydeco quietly in the back of the store. Sometimes the people who only spoke French talked to Johnson in their language as if he’d understand. When Johnson obviously didn’t understand, one man talked louder and slower, eventually giving up.

 

They all seemed very friendly and excited for the man to look for their missing people.

 

Johnson asked if there was a place in the bayou to find either the men in the tents or the missing people. There was a lot of talk in French when his question was translated.

 

“There … there … we don’t know,” the first man finally said to him. “The bayou is vast. You watch out for the witch-man. There’s a witch-man out there.”

 

When he translated to the other Cajuns what he’d just said to Johnson, they looked very afraid. One of the men put his hands over his ears, closed his eyes, and put his head down. The others looked around nervously, casting glances towards the door. An argument broke out in French and Johnson heard them saying “Non! Non!” It got quite heated before it calmed down.

 

“Eben Murrow,” the first man finally said, much to the chagrin of the others. “He’s a master of dead spirits and evil things from over the moon. We don’t know where he lives out there but if he finds you, he’ll kill you.”

 

“What does the witch-man look like?” Johnson asked.

 

“Nobody’s seen him,” the man said.

 

He turned and questioned some of the other Cajuns in French.

 

“He’s not been seen for years,” he said. “But we know he’s out there. We know he is out there. And he will kill you. He probably took all of them. He took them all for his terrible, nefarious deeds.”

 

“He should probably just go home,” another man said.

 

“Non!” the first said.

 

Another argument in French broke out.

 

Though they might have been able to give Johnson a guide, all of the Cajuns seemed terrified of the deep bayou. None of them seemed to know anything about any wildcatters. He asked about what else was in the area and was told there were farms down Point Farm Road. Someone there might know something. They told him the sheriff had been looking but hadn’t gone into the deep bayou either. No one went to the deep bayou.

 

Andre-Paul took him aside at one point and told Johnson the other man was Jacque DeSalle, Jeanne-Marie’s husband. He also told him that Phillippe Monteliere was his father.

 

DeLuve had been looking around the shop. The items for sale were mostly handcrafted knick-knacks and that kind of thing. There were no brand name things on the shelves, but merely off-brand items. There was also some food. He asked about boots or waders and learned they didn’t have anything like that but the Cajun who spoke to him suggested the hardware store in town. He learned they did sell beer under the counter. He wasn’t interested but bought a carved frog. One of the Cajuns jabbered at the man in French when he purchased it. He had no idea what he was saying.

 

Johnson thanked them for help and looked around the store. He bought a couple of knock-off Coca-Colas from the Cajuns.

 

The two men walked back to town.

 

* * *

 

When McCree reached the motel, he found Burke in the room, cleaning the bathroom floor.

 

“Howdy sir,” he said when McCree entered. “You find everything all right? Is everything okay?”

 

“Did you not hear the gunfire in the street?” McCree said.

 

“Oh, I did. What happened there? That didn’t involve you, did it?”

 

“Well …”

 

“You’re not one of them gangsters are you?”

 

“Of course not.”

 

“Oh that’s good.”

 

“There was some … creatures … that looked doggish that came after a man running from the bayou.”

 

“Oh my. That’s terrible.”

 

Burke spoke slowly and quietly, his voice strange. McCree noticed a ring with owls like the one on the mailman on his right ring finger. Three owls and three of the letter “O.”

 

“I never heard the like,” Burke said. “That poor, poor man. Is there anything else I can get for you, sir.”

 

“Not at the moment,” McCree said.

 

“Oh, that’s good.”

 

“I actually need to change and get after those as fast as I can.”

 

“I’ll get out of your way then. You need anything, I’m right up here in the office. You just let me know. If I’m not there, my wife will be.”

 

“Thank you Mr. Burke.”

 

“Oh you’re welcome Mr. … I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your name.”

 

“Mr. McCree.”

 

“Mr. McCree, that’s right. That’s right. You and those other folks. Mr. Johnson and … somebody else. Sounds like he’s Cajun.

 

“Mr. DeLuve.”

 

“That’s a Cajun name, sounds like. Or French. Could be French. He didn’t sound French but you never know. Well, good day. I’m sorry.”

 

The man finally let himself out.

 

McCree changed into his khaki hunting clothes and his pith helmet. He pulled on waders too.

 

He went back to the street where the man had been murdered and examined the road. He found the tracks of the man and the two dogs. The man’s tracks came from down the street and the dogs came in from that way and headed out that way.

 

DeLuve walked up to the man.

 

“DeLuve, get your equipment!” McCree called to the man.

 

DeLuve photographed the tracks at McCree’s direction.

 

“Do you have any waders, boy?” McCree asked him.

 

“Those are just dog tracks,” DeLuve said.

 

“Oh, these aren’t any dogs that I’ve seen before.”

 

“Looks like dog tracks.”

 

“Get yourself some waders. We’re going out to the bayou.”

 

DeLuve walked away mumbling “Big game hunter?”

 

McCree headed up to Cross Street, which ran by the canal that followed the edge of the bayou on that side of town. The trail led north along the bayou and he noticed that, by the way the tracks were laid, it looked like the hounds let Brody stay just ahead of them as they chased him into town. They were enjoying the hunt.

 

The trail came to a hard-top Model A Ford motorcar in the ditch, not far out of town. The driver’s side door was open and numerous hideous claw marks were on its roof, the driver’s side window rolled up but spider-webbed with long cracks from numerous impacts.

 

The man’s tracks came from the motorcar. The dog tracks continued up the road as if the dogs had been chasing his machine.

 

McCree headed back into town.

 

* * *

 

DeLuve went to the hardware store. A man with a ready smile greeted him, leaving two men who seemed to be visiting at the main counter

 

“Howdy sir,” he said. “Can I help you?”

 

“Howdy,” DeLuve said. “I’m looking for some waders.”

 

“Waders. Yes sir. We got some waders right over here. You doing some fishing?”

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

 

“All right. Well, we got waders. Waders are over here.”

 

“Do you have a machete as well?”

 

“Uh … we don’t have any machetes but we got some big knives.”

 

The man showed him where the items were and he noticed he was wearing one of those owl rings on his right ring finger. The man got him the waders and the knife and he also purchased some butterscotch at the counter. He got a receipt to bill McCree.

 

* * *

 

McCree walked back into town and followed the other tracks that left the attack scene. They went to the canal and then into the bayou. He headed back to the motel and found Johnson sitting on one of the rocking chairs under the overhang reading Das Kapital.

 

“How’s your day going, McCree?” Johnson said. “Eventful?”

 

“We found demon dogs!” McCree said.

 

“Demon dogs?”

 

“Well, that’s the best way to describe it. Some sort of swamp mutant dog? What term would you like to use?”

 

“I didn’t see ‘em.”

 

“True. You might see ‘em. We’re about to go hunting.”

 

“Have you asked anyone about the missing people? You think these dogs could be responsible?”

 

“Probably; but honestly, I forgot about that for the moment.”

 

“I talked with the Cajuns. These are people’s family members that have gone missing.”

 

“But, hey, possibly whomever owned these dogs might have done it.”

 

“I did hear something about a witch-man who lives out in the bayou. They said his name was Eben Murrow and that they thought he was responsible. They haven’t seen him for years though.”

 

“Witch-man? Who knows? Possibly.”

 

“You have any experience with cults, McCree?”

 

McCree just grinned.

 

“I have a little experience,” McCree said. “Cultists and I don’t get along very well.”

 

“Well, you said you’re going out into the thick of it?” Johnson said. “Into the swamp?”

 

“I got to bag me some mutant dogs.”

 

“Well, give me a second to get ready. I’ll come with you.”

 

Johnson went into his room and retrieved his baseball bat.

 

* * *

 

A man entered the hardware store as DeLuve was leaving, smiling politely at him as they passed. He wore glasses and had a white jacket like a doctor or a dentist. DeLuve looked at his right ring finger and saw another of the owl rings. The man walked over to the man who worked at the hardware store and the two went over to a nearby isle. DeLuve went to the next isle over and listened.

 

“So, tomorrow night?” the man in the white coat said.

 

“Yeah,” the man from the hardware store said.

 

“In the back? The regular place?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

He heard movement and peeked through a hole in the rack. The two men did a strange handshake.

 

“Ayabo?” the man in white said.

 

“Aoai,” the hardware store man said.

 

They parted, the man from the hardware store saying he had to get back to work. The man in the white coat headed out of the hardware store. DeLuve followed him.

 

The man walked down couple of blocks to a pharmacy, which he entered, turning the sign from “Closed” to “Open.” DeLuve went in and found a couple of people were shopping there. The man in the white jacket went to the back and DeLuve guessed it he was the pharmacist.

 

DeLuve bought some aspirin and some tonic for wounds. He also found out the pharmacist’s name was Adam Guillory. Then he headed back for the motel.

 

* * *

 

McCree and Johnson were ready to go, McCree handing off one of the rifle bags to the other man.

 

“DeLuve, are you ready for the hunt?” McCree said.

 

“Not quite,” DeLuve said. “I just got back.”

 

“Get ready for the hunt!”

 

“We’re hunting dogs?”

 

“You’ll see.”

 

DeLuve went to his room for some extra flashbulbs. He also tucked the sawed-off shotgun into his camera bag. He also tucked in the things he’s purchased in town.

 

McCree led them back into town and to the canal where a tree had fallen and they could get easily across. He stopped there. He pulled his elephant gun out of the bag and loaded it.

 

“Joell, if you don’t mind taking out the gun I gave you and having it on your shoulder in case you need it,” he said.

 

They discussed how he was to carry the rifle and the baseball bat. When McCree noted how terrible the things were, he pointed out that even if he was armed, he still wouldn’t know how to use the rifle.

 

“Those are some big guns, Mister,” a child’s voice said.

 

They saw a little blonde boy in overalls who had blonde hair and blue eyes. He smiled at them. DeLuve looked at his hands but he wasn’t wearing a ring.

 

“Those guns are bigger than I am!” the little boy said.

 

“Well, we’re huntin’ some gators,” McCree said. “Along with whatever those dogs were that─”

 

“You huntin’ them dogs? Them dogs done took away my cousin.”

 

“Your cousin?”

 

“Well, they took her to the witch-man.”

 

“Witch-man!?!” Johnson said.

 

“That man that came after me!” the little boy said. “He came after me. My cousin didn’t let him! She fought him off. And then he came and snatched her up. Took her right into the bayou. You here to get them dogs, you should get my cousin: Eudora Cabe. My name’s Taylor Margeau. I’m six and a half years old. I will be seven … in September. September 16. So if y’all want to get me something.

 

“That was four days ago. They took her four days ago and she saved me and ma and pa, they don’t know what to do about it. They’re scared.”

 

“What was her name?” McCree said.

 

“Eudora. Eudora Cabe.”

 

“Eudora. What does Eudora look like?”

 

“Well, she got brown hair and she’s real pretty. She was wearing overalls. She got a good smile. She smiles all the time. I love Eudora and now she’s gone and so I came into town to look for somebody to rescue her. I want to talk to the sheriff, but ma says ‘The sheriff can’t do nothing.’ And pa says ‘We should just move away.’ And I don’t think that’s right so … but if you’re gonna go hunting them dogs …”

 

He looked around and found a stick, picking it up.

 

“… then let’s go hunt them dogs,” he said.

 

“Did you say you saw the witch-man?” Johnson asked.

 

“That’s right. All right. So, here’s how it happened. So, I was playing. We got a little farm. It’s down offa … Point Farm Road. Past the Mangrove Trading Post. I love that place. They’re so nice there. Them people live there all have a beard. I want a beard someday. They speak in that funny language. I don’t understand none o’ that yet, but I’m gonna learn it. And I’m growing a beard. Next week.

 

“So, they tried to grab me, them dogs did. I was screaming. Screaming my head off and here comes Eudora and she ran in there and got in between me and the dogs and the dogs started harassing her. They were just coming at her and then they chased her towards the bayou and this old man is waiting there and he snatches her up … and drags her screaming into the bayou.

 

“Now, ma and pa, they don’t know what to do. They’re scared. Do you know, he’s a witch-man. He’s got magic powers. They see the lights out there in the bayou. You can see ‘em sometimes at night. It’s bad, bad feeling when you see them lights. I ain’t seen ‘em. They don’t let me stay up that late. But I will someday when I grow my beard. I’m gonna grow my beard and speak that other language and I’m gonna stay up as late as I want.

 

“And so, and then she was gone and that was four days ago. And pa wants to leave. He says ‘She’s dead. He’s killed her. She’s dead.’ And ma says ‘We should talk to the sheriff. We gotta tell the sheriff. Maybe he can help.’ And pa says ‘No. Sheriff can’t do nothing against that man out there. Against …’ I don’t remember what they said his name was. They said it was something. And so … but … I’m going. I wanna … you got … can you save her?”

 

“Did you see what this man looked like?” Johnson asked. “The witch-man.”

 

“He had a beard,” Taylor said. “But it was ugly. It was an ugly beard. It was all messy. He looked old. But he was pretty far away. I was scared to go out there. I was hiding in the barn. ‘Cause … but I was watching through a crack. And I was looking for … I tried to pick up the pitchfork but it was too big for me. It’s really big. So I didn’t get nothing …

 

“But now I miss her. I miss Eudora. I’m gonna find her. So let’s go.”

 

“Well, don’t worry,” McCree said. “We’ll be able to rescue her from these dogs and the witch-man.”

 

“Let’s go!”

 

Johnson knelt down by the boy.

 

“Well, thank you for your story,” he said. “We’ll be looking for your daughter but … or for your … not your daughter … for your … sister?”

 

“My cousin,” Taylor said. “She’s my cousin.”

 

“Your cousin. But let me tell you, she’s going to be real mad if you go out there and you get taken by those dogs too. You should try to be safe.”

 

“Well, I won’t. ‘Cause I got my stick. And you got a baseball bat. And that’s the biggest gun I ever saw. And that gentleman’s got a bag. So he’s going to hit him with his bag, right?”

 

“Sounds about right,” McCree said.

 

“I got my stick,” Taylor said again. “Let’s go.”

 

“For your protection, just for the time being, if you don’t mind waiting in town …” McCree said to the child. “Where do you live?”

 

“I live on Point Farm Road. It’s about a mile past the Mangrove Trading Post.”

 

“All righty.”

 

“I walk up there every day when I’m not at school. I’m supposed to be at school right now. Well, I’m supposed to be walking home right now. But then I found you folks. Yeah. We’re going.”

 

“Listen son, you see the clothes I’m wearing?” Joel said.

 

“Yeah, they’re okay,” Taylor said. “They’re nice clothes. I like that jacket. That’s a nice jacket.”

 

“Well, son, when you grow up, you want to get real nice clothes one day, right?”

 

“And I want to work at Mangrove Trading Post and I want to grow a beard and speak that language.”

 

“But here’s the thing, if you come out with us and you don’t come home ‘til late, your parents are going to be worried sick.”

 

“They’ll be fine. They’ll figure … they’ll know I went looking for Eudora to save her.”

 

“Oh, but─”

 

“They said I could go out! They said I could go! They said it’s okay for me to save Eudora.”

 

“But what if Eudora comes home and you’re out there?” DeLuve said.

 

“Then my folks’ll be there,” Taylor said. “So, let’s go. They’ll say ‘hello’ to Eudora and then I’ll come home and we’ll have cake or something.”

 

“Well, I’m sorry Taylor,” McCree said. “But, if we don’t have any luck today, we could always come by and get your help tomorrow.”

 

“You don’t even know where I live,” Taylor said.

 

“You just told me, Taylor.”

 

“But you don’t know where it is. There’s a lot of farms out there. You won’t know which one to go to and then I’ll be in big trouble and then I won’t get to save Eudora.”

 

The little boy pouted and kicked the ground.

 

“Tell you what?” McCree said.

 

“And I got a stick!” Taylor said. “I looked all over for this stick. And so, I need to have a stick and go and save Eudora.”

 

“Just save that stick for tomorrow, Taylor.”

 

“I wanna go today. I wanna save Eudora.”

 

Johnson told Taylor to give him directions to his house and they would come back later and get him. The boy thought on it a moment.

 

“That might be better,” he agreed.

 

He told them how to find his house.

 

“Now, you come back after dark,” he said. “Now my window is on the ground floor on the back.”

 

He described how they could find his window.

 

“Now you throw a pebble at my window,” he went on. “That’s the signal. Then I will open the window and come out with you. My ma and pa won’t even know I’m gone, so they can’t worry about me. That’s a great idea. That’s genius.”

 

“That sounds like a great plan,” Johnson said.

 

“That’s a great plan!” Taylor said. “All right. I’ll see you tonight. At midnight. Don’t forget.”

 

“I won’t.”

 

“‘Cause I’ll be sad if you forget and then I don’t get to go on a grand adventure. I read Tom Sawyer, you know.”

 

“Don’t forget, if we get in trouble and don’t come back, that’s how you’ll know.”

 

“No! You’ll be fine! Remember, just throw a pebble. Just tap tap tap. I’ll be awake. I never fall asleep if I don’t’ want to fall asleep. Never! Okay.”

 

“It was nice meeting you, Taylor,” McCree said.

 

Taylor hefted his stick.

 

“I need a bigger stick,” he said to himself.

 

He turned to them.

 

“I’m sorry!” he said. “What’s your name?”

 

“My name’s Joell,” Johnson said. “Nice to meet you, Taylor.”

 

Taylor shook Johnson’s hand very formally, straight-armed.

 

“Mr. McCree,” McCree said, shaking his hand.

 

“Mr. Sir,” Taylor said to DeLuve. “What’s your name?”

 

“DeLuve,” the other man said.

 

“De … DeLuve? Is that your first name or … are you Mr. DeLuve or are ya DeLuve something?”

 

DeLuve just stared at the boy, who stared back.

 

“He’s Mr. DeLuve,” Johnson finally said.

 

“Okay,” Taylor said. “Hello Mr. DeLuve.”







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