Monday, September 25, 2017
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario â€œDog Will Huntâ€ 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 didnâ€™t seem terribly sincere.
â€œDonâ€™t get yourself killed,â€ he said. â€œOr do. I donâ€™t care.â€
* * *
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 â€œSheriff,â€ 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.
â€œHow yâ€™all doing?â€ he said, almost too friendly. â€œYou need some rooms, eh? Thatâ€™s great. Let me just get you set up. We get tourists here sometimes, yeah. Yeah we do.â€
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 â€œOâ€ above them. It didnâ€™t look very valuable but it was distinctive.
â€œIf you folks need anything, you just ask, okay?â€ the man said. â€œAsk me, and Iâ€™ll help you out with anything you need.â€
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.
â€œWhy thank you â€¦â€ McCree said.
â€œBurke,â€ the hotelier said. â€œRyan Burke. â€œIf you need anything, anything at all, you just let me know.â€
â€œThank you for your hospitality.â€
â€œOh â€¦ we aim to please. We aim to please. What â€¦ what are you folks doing here? Why you visiting us?â€
â€œWell, I â€¦â€
â€œI notice you got a lot of gun bags, there.â€
â€œWell, my house seemed to â€¦ catch fire recently â€¦ and I lost one of my favorite sets of gator boots.â€
â€œOh, youâ€™re going out looking for alligators. You better be careful.â€
â€œCareful of them alligators.â€
â€œThey are fierce.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re dangerous. Theyâ€™d be out there.â€
Burke pointed towards the bayou to the east of the town.
â€œWell, you be careful out there,â€ Burke said. â€œWe donâ€™t want anybody getting hurt. Thatâ€™d be a bad thing.â€
â€œI have heard that some people have been going missing, so Iâ€™ll make sure that Iâ”€â€ McCree said.
â€œOh, thatâ€™s right, them Cajuns. Them Cajuns gone missing. Thatâ€™s very strange. But, you know, they came here after the flood. And theyâ€™re dirty folks. Theyâ€™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.â€
â€œI sure will, Mr. Ryan Burke.â€
â€œAll right. If you need anything, just ding-ding the bell.â€
* * *
Johnson went to the front desk after getting settled in.
â€œYes sir,â€ Burke said. â€œCan I help you? Howâ€™s the room? Is it okay?â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s wonderful,â€ Johnson said.
â€œThatâ€™s good. Thatâ€™s so good.â€
â€œGlad to hear it.â€
â€œâ”€wondering if you could give me direction to the Mangrove Trading Post you talked about earlier.â€
â€œOh. Why do you want to go out there, sir? Thereâ€™s some dirty, dirty Cajuns out there.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m having a look around the whole area, sir. Itâ€™s for my work.â€
â€œOh, 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. Thatâ€™s Dolphin Street. You just take you a right there; itâ€™ll take you straight on down to Point Farm Road. But right where it meets Point Farm Road, youâ€™ll see it. You canâ€™t miss Mangrove Trading Post. Itâ€™s â€¦ there are signs all over it.â€
â€œAll right. Thank you very much.â€
â€œIâ€™ll give you a hint, though, sir. But donâ€™t be telling anybody â€˜cause youâ€™ll get â€˜em in trouble. You might could get you some alcohol if youâ€™re of that inclination out there. Beer, mainly. Just beer. Theyâ€™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 thereâ€™s maybe 40 of â€˜em living in one building. Itâ€™s â€¦ anyway â€¦ so there you go. Anything else I can get for you, sir?â€
â€œNo. Thank you very much.â€
â€œThanks so much for stopping by.â€
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 sheriffâ€™s office.
The sheriffâ€™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 sheriffâ€™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.
â€œHowdy,â€ he said. â€œSheriff Dundee.â€
â€œHowdy,â€ McCree said. â€œGriffin McCree.â€
â€œHow can I help you, sir? You staying in town?â€
â€œYes. My fellow compatriots and I are stopping through â€˜cause weâ€™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.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t have any problem with you hunting in the bayou. But you gotta know thereâ€™s some people out there. Thereâ€™s a few scattered people that live in the bayou. Donâ€™t be trespassing on their lands. You see a hut or a house or something, just steer clear. Donâ€™t cause any trouble. Weâ€™ve had some problems with gangsters and bootleggers around here. Youâ€™re not doing anything like, are you?â€
â€œBy no means, Mr. Dundee.â€
â€œAll right. Sheriff Dundee.â€
â€œWell, as long as youâ€™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 â€¦ you be careful of the bayou. Weâ€™ve had some people go missing in the last month.â€
â€œSo Iâ€™ve heard.â€
â€œHowâ€™d you hear that?â€
â€œOh. Well, thatâ€™s interesting because you donâ€™t sound like youâ€™re from anywhere around here.â€
â€œIâ€™m actually from, originally, Georgia.â€
â€œI could tell the accentâ€™s a little different. Yep. Yep.â€
â€œBut I reside over in Providence. But I havenâ€™t been to this area to â€¦ hunt for shoes. I lost mine in a house fire just a few months ago.â€
â€œThatâ€™s fine sir. Just donâ€™t bother people out there. There ainâ€™t many. But Iâ€™d steer clear and some of â€˜em can be a little standoffish â€¦ with their rifles. If you know what I mean. Donâ€™t like trespassers, that kind of thing. Sometimes theyâ€™ll start shooting before they start talking.â€
â€œSo, if you see a hut or something just steer clear and you should be fine.â€
â€œI sure will.â€
â€œAnd be careful out there. Especially in the deep bayou.â€
Sheriff Dundee gestured in the direction of the swamp.
â€œMan get lost out there in a heartbeat,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s water moccasins. Thereâ€™s alligators. Not to mention about as many mosquitoes as youâ€™re going to want.â€
â€œOh,â€ McCree said. â€œSounds delightful!â€
â€œShould I get a guide to make sure I donâ€™t get lost?â€
â€œThatâ€™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. Thereâ€™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 mightâ€™ve just got lost out there but â€¦ some stuff was found that was dropped that we assume is from some of them.â€
â€œSo, yeah. Iâ€™ll make sure to stay careful and stay away from any huts.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right. Just donâ€™t bother any people out there. You probably wonâ€™t even run into anybody. But â€¦ be careful of them people out there too. All right?
â€œWill do, Sheriff.â€
â€œNice to talk to you Mr. â€¦ McCree?â€
â€œAnd it was nice meeting you, Sheriff Dundee.â€
â€œStop in any time.â€
* * *
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.
â€œYou following me?â€ he asked.
â€œYeah,â€ DeLuve said. â€œWhy not?â€
â€œIâ€™m going to the Mangrove Trading Post, so â€¦â€
â€œYeah, me too.â€
â€œWhat a coincidence.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t think it was! I thought you were just following me.â€
â€œI figured we rode into town for the same reasons.â€
Johnson stared at the man.
â€œMr. DeLuve, I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve spoken to you very much, personally,â€ Johnson said to the man.
They continued along towards the Mangrove Trading Post.
â€œWhy did you follow me all the way out here?â€ Johnson said.
â€œIâ€™m here for the pictures,â€ DeLuve said. â€œThe big game hunting, of course.â€
â€œBut youâ€™re following me to the trading post.â€
â€œOh yeah, I gotta get supplies.â€
They continued on down the street. DeLuve thought he heard gunshots from back towards town.
* * *
As McCree left the Sheriffâ€™s Office, he saw the locals sipping â€œco-colasâ€ 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 cicadaâ€™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.
â€œOh Lord!â€ he yelled. â€œSomebody help me! Help me!â€
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 animalsâ€™ 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 manâ€™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.
â€œSheriff Dundee, Iâ€™d also like to try to hunt some â€¦ exotic â€¦ findings,â€ he said. â€œYou wouldnâ€™t mind if I tried to bag whatever those were?â€
â€œDamn dogs?â€ Sheriff Dundee said, obviously shaken. â€œYeah, you kill those damned things if you see â€˜em. Good luck with that.â€
â€œYeah, dâ€™you see that?â€ one of the farmers who had a brought a tarp for the body said. â€œThem bullets, they just didnâ€™t even slow them things down. God damn. That was terrifying.â€
â€œThank you for your permission, sheriff,â€ 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.
â€œCan I help you?â€ he said, his voice heavily accented. â€œWe got gumbo. We got cigarettes. We got other things â€¦ if you know what I mean.â€
â€œYes, Iâ€™m just looking around the area,â€ Johnson said. â€œYou wouldnâ€™t happen to know about any â€¦ people digging for oil in these parts?â€
â€œDigging for oil?â€ the man said. â€œI do not know â€¦ digging for oil?â€
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.
â€œPierre here, he says he heard rumors of people out of the bayou,â€ the first man said. â€œThey were digging. But we donâ€™t go out in the bayou. Oh no. Bad juju in the bayou.â€
â€œYou said your friend Pierre saw people digging?â€ Johnson asked.
The man questioned Pierre in French again.
â€œThere were a group of men in tents,â€ he finally said to Johnson. â€œBut heâ€™s not sure exactly where. He was hunting â€¦â€
He questioned Pierre again.
â€œFrogs,â€ he finally translated. â€œWe have good frogs. They are delicious. You donâ€™t go in the bayou.â€
â€œYouâ€™ve never seen these men around here before?â€ Johnson asked. â€œNot men from Montegut over there?â€
The man asked and Johnson heard the word Montegut. The French speakers were not pleased.
â€œThe people of Montegut do not like us here,â€ the first man said. â€œWe came from â€¦ when the Mississippi flooded, we had no place to go. We came here.â€
â€œThe meek shall inherit the Earth, sir,â€ Johnson said.
â€œThat is what the Bible says â€¦ yes,â€ the man said. â€œThat is what the Bible says â€¦ but in the meantime, three of us have gone missing!â€
He spoke to the men in French again and the conversation went back and forth.
â€œWhat happened to the missing people?â€ Johnson asked. â€œDo you know?â€
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.
â€œIâ€™m Jacques,â€ the lighter-bearded man said.
â€œAndre-Paul,â€ the other said.
Both of them seemed very sad.
â€œEven experienced swamp hands like us do not know what happened to certain people who have gone missing,â€ Jacques said. â€œLike 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 doesnâ€™t want to look anymore.â€
â€œThe police never help,â€ Johnson said. â€œThey only protect the rich.â€
The first man he talked to translated and the other Cajuns seemed to agree with Johnson.
â€œDid these people go missing out in the bayou?â€ Johnson asked.
â€œSylvaine LeParque was the first,â€ Jacques said. â€œA month ago. He used to live here with the Forniers.â€
He gestured in the direction of the shacks around the back of the building.
â€œAnd then Jeanne-Marie DeSalle,â€ he went on. â€œTwo weeks ago. Disappeared. Like that.â€
â€œOut of this camp?â€ Johnson asked.
â€œIn the bayou,â€ Jacques said.
â€œAnd then there was Phillippe Monteliere,â€ Andre-Paul said. â€œHe was â€¦ 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.â€
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 heâ€™d understand. When Johnson obviously didnâ€™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.
â€œThere â€¦ there â€¦ we donâ€™t know,â€ the first man finally said to him. â€œThe bayou is vast. You watch out for the witch-man. Thereâ€™s a witch-man out there.â€
When he translated to the other Cajuns what heâ€™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 â€œNon! Non!â€ It got quite heated before it calmed down.
â€œEben Murrow,â€ the first man finally said, much to the chagrin of the others. â€œHeâ€™s a master of dead spirits and evil things from over the moon. We donâ€™t know where he lives out there but if he finds you, heâ€™ll kill you.â€
â€œWhat does the witch-man look like?â€ Johnson asked.
â€œNobodyâ€™s seen him,â€ the man said.
He turned and questioned some of the other Cajuns in French.
â€œHeâ€™s not been seen for years,â€ he said. â€œBut we know heâ€™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.â€
â€œHe should probably just go home,â€ another man said.
â€œNon!â€ 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 hadnâ€™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-Marieâ€™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 didnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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.
â€œHowdy sir,â€ he said when McCree entered. â€œYou find everything all right? Is everything okay?â€
â€œDid you not hear the gunfire in the street?â€ McCree said.
â€œOh, I did. What happened there? That didnâ€™t involve you, did it?â€
â€œYouâ€™re not one of them gangsters are you?â€
â€œOf course not.â€
â€œOh thatâ€™s good.â€
â€œThere was some â€¦ creatures â€¦ that looked doggish that came after a man running from the bayou.â€
â€œOh my. Thatâ€™s terrible.â€
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 â€œO.â€
â€œI never heard the like,â€ Burke said. â€œThat poor, poor man. Is there anything else I can get for you, sir.â€
â€œNot at the moment,â€ McCree said.
â€œOh, thatâ€™s good.â€
â€œI actually need to change and get after those as fast as I can.â€
â€œIâ€™ll get out of your way then. You need anything, Iâ€™m right up here in the office. You just let me know. If Iâ€™m not there, my wife will be.â€
â€œThank you Mr. Burke.â€
â€œOh youâ€™re welcome Mr. â€¦ Iâ€™m sorry. Iâ€™ve forgotten your name.â€
â€œMr. McCree, thatâ€™s right. Thatâ€™s right. You and those other folks. Mr. Johnson and â€¦ somebody else. Sounds like heâ€™s Cajun.
â€œThatâ€™s a Cajun name, sounds like. Or French. Could be French. He didnâ€™t sound French but you never know. Well, good day. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
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 manâ€™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.
â€œDeLuve, get your equipment!â€ McCree called to the man.
DeLuve photographed the tracks at McCreeâ€™s direction.
â€œDo you have any waders, boy?â€ McCree asked him.
â€œThose are just dog tracks,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh, these arenâ€™t any dogs that Iâ€™ve seen before.â€
â€œLooks like dog tracks.â€
â€œGet yourself some waders. Weâ€™re going out to the bayou.â€
DeLuve walked away mumbling â€œBig game hunter?â€
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 driverâ€™s side door was open and numerous hideous claw marks were on its roof, the driverâ€™s side window rolled up but spider-webbed with long cracks from numerous impacts.
The manâ€™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
â€œHowdy sir,â€ he said. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œHowdy,â€ DeLuve said. â€œIâ€™m looking for some waders.â€
â€œWaders. Yes sir. We got some waders right over here. You doing some fishing?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m doing.â€
â€œAll right. Well, we got waders. Waders are over here.â€
â€œDo you have a machete as well?â€
â€œUh â€¦ we donâ€™t have any machetes but we got some big knives.â€
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.
â€œHowâ€™s your day going, McCree?â€ Johnson said. â€œEventful?â€
â€œWe found demon dogs!â€ McCree said.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s the best way to describe it. Some sort of swamp mutant dog? What term would you like to use?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t see â€˜em.â€
â€œTrue. You might see â€˜em. Weâ€™re about to go hunting.â€
â€œHave you asked anyone about the missing people? You think these dogs could be responsible?â€
â€œProbably; but honestly, I forgot about that for the moment.â€
â€œI talked with the Cajuns. These are peopleâ€™s family members that have gone missing.â€
â€œBut, hey, possibly whomever owned these dogs might have done it.â€
â€œI 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 havenâ€™t seen him for years though.â€
â€œWitch-man? Who knows? Possibly.â€
â€œYou have any experience with cults, McCree?â€
McCree just grinned.
â€œI have a little experience,â€ McCree said. â€œCultists and I donâ€™t get along very well.â€
â€œWell, you said youâ€™re going out into the thick of it?â€ Johnson said. â€œInto the swamp?â€
â€œI got to bag me some mutant dogs.â€
â€œWell, give me a second to get ready. Iâ€™ll come with you.â€
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.
â€œSo, tomorrow night?â€ the man in the white coat said.
â€œYeah,â€ the man from the hardware store said.
â€œIn the back? The regular place?â€
He heard movement and peeked through a hole in the rack. The two men did a strange handshake.
â€œAyabo?â€ the man in white said.
â€œAoai,â€ 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 â€œClosedâ€ to â€œOpen.â€ 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 pharmacistâ€™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.
â€œDeLuve, are you ready for the hunt?â€ McCree said.
â€œNot quite,â€ DeLuve said. â€œI just got back.â€
â€œGet ready for the hunt!â€
â€œWeâ€™re hunting dogs?â€
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 heâ€™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.
â€œJoell, if you donâ€™t mind taking out the gun I gave you and having it on your shoulder in case you need it,â€ 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 wouldnâ€™t know how to use the rifle.
â€œThose are some big guns, Mister,â€ a childâ€™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 wasnâ€™t wearing a ring.
â€œThose guns are bigger than I am!â€ the little boy said.
â€œWell, weâ€™re huntinâ€™ some gators,â€ McCree said. â€œAlong with whatever those dogs were thatâ”€â€
â€œYou huntinâ€™ them dogs? Them dogs done took away my cousin.â€
â€œWell, they took her to the witch-man.â€
â€œWitch-man!?!â€ Johnson said.
â€œThat man that came after me!â€ the little boy said. â€œHe came after me. My cousin didnâ€™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 nameâ€™s Taylor Margeau. Iâ€™m six and a half years old. I will be seven â€¦ in September. September 16. So if yâ€™all want to get me something.
â€œThat was four days ago. They took her four days ago and she saved me and ma and pa, they donâ€™t know what to do about it. Theyâ€™re scared.â€
â€œWhat was her name?â€ McCree said.
â€œEudora. Eudora Cabe.â€
â€œEudora. What does Eudora look like?â€
â€œWell, she got brown hair and sheâ€™s real pretty. She was wearing overalls. She got a good smile. She smiles all the time. I love Eudora and now sheâ€™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 â€˜The sheriff canâ€™t do nothing.â€™ And pa says â€˜We should just move away.â€™ And I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s right so â€¦ but if youâ€™re gonna go hunting them dogs â€¦â€
He looked around and found a stick, picking it up.
â€œâ€¦ then letâ€™s go hunt them dogs,â€ he said.
â€œDid you say you saw the witch-man?â€ Johnson asked.
â€œThatâ€™s right. All right. So, hereâ€™s how it happened. So, I was playing. We got a little farm. Itâ€™s down offa â€¦ Point Farm Road. Past the Mangrove Trading Post. I love that place. Theyâ€™re so nice there. Them people live there all have a beard. I want a beard someday. They speak in that funny language. I donâ€™t understand none oâ€™ that yet, but Iâ€™m gonna learn it. And Iâ€™m growing a beard. Next week.
â€œSo, 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 â€¦ and drags her screaming into the bayou.
â€œNow, ma and pa, they donâ€™t know what to do. Theyâ€™re scared. Do you know, heâ€™s a witch-man. Heâ€™s got magic powers. They see the lights out there in the bayou. You can see â€˜em sometimes at night. Itâ€™s bad, bad feeling when you see them lights. I ainâ€™t seen â€˜em. They donâ€™t let me stay up that late. But I will someday when I grow my beard. Iâ€™m gonna grow my beard and speak that other language and Iâ€™m gonna stay up as late as I want.
â€œAnd so, and then she was gone and that was four days ago. And pa wants to leave. He says â€˜Sheâ€™s dead. Heâ€™s killed her. Sheâ€™s dead.â€™ And ma says â€˜We should talk to the sheriff. We gotta tell the sheriff. Maybe he can help.â€™ And pa says â€˜No. Sheriff canâ€™t do nothing against that man out there. Against â€¦â€™ I donâ€™t remember what they said his name was. They said it was something. And so â€¦ but â€¦ Iâ€™m going. I wanna â€¦ you got â€¦ can you save her?â€
â€œDid you see what this man looked like?â€ Johnson asked. â€œThe witch-man.â€
â€œHe had a beard,â€ Taylor said. â€œBut 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. â€˜Cause â€¦ but I was watching through a crack. And I was looking for â€¦ I tried to pick up the pitchfork but it was too big for me. Itâ€™s really big. So I didnâ€™t get nothing â€¦
â€œBut now I miss her. I miss Eudora. Iâ€™m gonna find her. So letâ€™s go.â€
â€œWell, donâ€™t worry,â€ McCree said. â€œWeâ€™ll be able to rescue her from these dogs and the witch-man.â€
Johnson knelt down by the boy.
â€œWell, thank you for your story,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™ll be looking for your daughter but â€¦ or for your â€¦ not your daughter â€¦ for your â€¦ sister?â€
â€œMy cousin,â€ Taylor said. â€œSheâ€™s my cousin.â€
â€œYour cousin. But let me tell you, sheâ€™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.â€
â€œWell, I wonâ€™t. â€˜Cause I got my stick. And you got a baseball bat. And thatâ€™s the biggest gun I ever saw. And that gentlemanâ€™s got a bag. So heâ€™s going to hit him with his bag, right?â€
â€œSounds about right,â€ McCree said.
â€œI got my stick,â€ Taylor said again. â€œLetâ€™s go.â€
â€œFor your protection, just for the time being, if you donâ€™t mind waiting in town â€¦â€ McCree said to the child. â€œWhere do you live?â€
â€œI live on Point Farm Road. Itâ€™s about a mile past the Mangrove Trading Post.â€
â€œI walk up there every day when Iâ€™m not at school. Iâ€™m supposed to be at school right now. Well, Iâ€™m supposed to be walking home right now. But then I found you folks. Yeah. Weâ€™re going.â€
â€œListen son, you see the clothes Iâ€™m wearing?â€ Joel said.
â€œYeah, theyâ€™re okay,â€ Taylor said. â€œTheyâ€™re nice clothes. I like that jacket. Thatâ€™s a nice jacket.â€
â€œWell, son, when you grow up, you want to get real nice clothes one day, right?â€
â€œAnd I want to work at Mangrove Trading Post and I want to grow a beard and speak that language.â€
â€œBut hereâ€™s the thing, if you come out with us and you donâ€™t come home â€˜til late, your parents are going to be worried sick.â€
â€œTheyâ€™ll be fine. Theyâ€™ll figure â€¦ theyâ€™ll know I went looking for Eudora to save her.â€
â€œThey said I could go out! They said I could go! They said itâ€™s okay for me to save Eudora.â€
â€œBut what if Eudora comes home and youâ€™re out there?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œThen my folksâ€™ll be there,â€ Taylor said. â€œSo, letâ€™s go. Theyâ€™ll say â€˜helloâ€™ to Eudora and then Iâ€™ll come home and weâ€™ll have cake or something.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m sorry Taylor,â€ McCree said. â€œBut, if we donâ€™t have any luck today, we could always come by and get your help tomorrow.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t even know where I live,â€ Taylor said.
â€œYou just told me, Taylor.â€
â€œBut you donâ€™t know where it is. Thereâ€™s a lot of farms out there. You wonâ€™t know which one to go to and then Iâ€™ll be in big trouble and then I wonâ€™t get to save Eudora.â€
The little boy pouted and kicked the ground.
â€œTell you what?â€ McCree said.
â€œAnd I got a stick!â€ Taylor said. â€œI looked all over for this stick. And so, I need to have a stick and go and save Eudora.â€
â€œJust save that stick for tomorrow, Taylor.â€
â€œI wanna go today. I wanna save Eudora.â€
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.
â€œThat might be better,â€ he agreed.
He told them how to find his house.
â€œNow, you come back after dark,â€ he said. â€œNow my window is on the ground floor on the back.â€
He described how they could find his window.
â€œNow you throw a pebble at my window,â€ he went on. â€œThatâ€™s the signal. Then I will open the window and come out with you. My ma and pa wonâ€™t even know Iâ€™m gone, so they canâ€™t worry about me. Thatâ€™s a great idea. Thatâ€™s genius.â€
â€œThat sounds like a great plan,â€ Johnson said.
â€œThatâ€™s a great plan!â€ Taylor said. â€œAll right. Iâ€™ll see you tonight. At midnight. Donâ€™t forget.â€
â€œâ€˜Cause Iâ€™ll be sad if you forget and then I donâ€™t get to go on a grand adventure. I read Tom Sawyer, you know.â€
â€œDonâ€™t forget, if we get in trouble and donâ€™t come back, thatâ€™s how youâ€™ll know.â€
â€œNo! Youâ€™ll be fine! Remember, just throw a pebble. Just tap tap tap. Iâ€™ll be awake. I never fall asleep if I donâ€™tâ€™ want to fall asleep. Never! Okay.â€
â€œIt was nice meeting you, Taylor,â€ McCree said.
Taylor hefted his stick.
â€œI need a bigger stick,â€ he said to himself.
He turned to them.
â€œIâ€™m sorry!â€ he said. â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€
â€œMy nameâ€™s Joell,â€ Johnson said. â€œNice to meet you, Taylor.â€
Taylor shook Johnsonâ€™s hand very formally, straight-armed.
â€œMr. McCree,â€ McCree said, shaking his hand.
â€œMr. Sir,â€ Taylor said to DeLuve. â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€
â€œDeLuve,â€ the other man said.
â€œDe â€¦ DeLuve? Is that your first name or â€¦ are you Mr. DeLuve or are ya DeLuve something?â€
DeLuve just stared at the boy, who stared back.
â€œHeâ€™s Mr. DeLuve,â€ Johnson finally said.
â€œOkay,â€ Taylor said. â€œHello Mr. DeLuve.â€