The cop assigned to Big George Lesslie was relieved of duty outside Big George’s house just after six, and he was still nagged by a suspicion that the fellow he’d seen earlier with Big George wasn’t on the up and up. He took that hunch back to the station.
“I think,” he said, “I may have a picture of our man.” With his cell phone he had snapped a picture of George Lesslie’s friend without him even knowing it. “There,” he pointed. “He came looking for Lesslie, then met him later for a drink.”
“Get this blown up, fast as you can,” the duty commander said. “We just got a call from Mojo John. Sounds like he’s found Hazelton’s head.”
“Maybe the Big Katt can ID that,” he said, pointing to the photo. “Party’s over, baby. Scoot.”
In his darkened quarters, as he awaited the arrival of the police, the mojo man was still admiring, if such might be the proper word, the head the stranger had brought him. Then the sound of car doors slamming could be heard.
“What’s this all about?” The officers were shining flashlights everywhere.
The mojo man dangled Horace Hazelton’s head, which had a perverse aspect to it in the light. Almost a sardonic grin. In life, a bit of a nerd. In death, well, you know what they say, whoever laughs last.
The cops confiscated the head, put it back in its bag. “Who brought it?”
“I don’t have a name. He’s been here three times.”
“Medium size, some flesh on him. Brown hair. Ruddy in the face. He wanted to know about the Katt.”
“We guessed that.”
“I told him the golden-haired goddess was returning to town, but that she could only bring him trouble.”
“You were prescient.”
“He asked me to plant a curse on the husband. I said I needed an article of his clothing. He brought it, and then he left that.”
“He leave a contact number?”
The mojo man shook his head. “He wanted that shrunk down. Said he’d be back tomorrow.”
“You mentioned an item of clothing.”
The old man waved the jockey shorts.
“Can you come with us to answer a few more questions?”
“There’s just me to look after the place.”
“We’ll leave a man here.”
And so they drove the mojo man back to the station. At almost the very moment they arrived, several blown-up copies of the photo of the stranger were being circulated among the staff.
“He’s seen our man.” The arriving officers gestured to the mojo man. The watch captain handed the old man the photo.
“That’s him.” “You sure?” “Mahn, I’m sure.”
“Look at this, Eddie. The guy brought the mojo man a little souvenir.” Horace Hazelton’s head was produced, still gro-tesquely stained with blood.
“APB time. Get this photo into circulation fast. But no news-papers. And check every motel in Baton Rouge. Chop-chop.”
He nodded to the desk sergeant. “You and I have a date with the Big Katt.”
“I better warn you, Eddie,” the sergeant told him, “easy on the cologne. The Big Katt gets hungry when she picks up a man’s scent.”
“Someone else got hungry,” Eddie said, pointing to the photo of the suspect, “and someone else lost his head.”
While the captain and the sergeant were on their way to Katt’s plantation, two other officers drove the mojo man home. Then they stopped at a roadside eatery for a late snack.
“How do you like that, we nailed the son of a bitch.”
They were seated at a booth. Unbeknown to them, they were being eavesdropped on by a stranger at an adjacent table. The stranger was careful to avert his gaze, to keep from being seen.
“The old root man up in the swamp -- how about that, the guy brings us Hazelton’s head. Then we catch a break with a photograph of the perp. We’ve got the son of a bitch, we’ve got him nailed to the cross. This is the part I love about being a cop.”
While the policemen were eating their late meal, the stranger paid his tab and slipped out into the night. Summer sounds, crickets and such, could be heard. He climbed into his truck. So the old mojo man had betrayed him, eh? The stranger didn’t like being betrayed, he didn’t like it one bit.
He turned off the main road and drove deeper into the woods, deep enough to see a faint light coming from a crude hut. The faint sound of the mojo man murmuring to himself could be heard -- “Lawd, lawd, bring me your blessings and luck. Lawd, lawd, I got mah magic root, I got the strength.” There was a brief silence, and then the stranger could make out the peaceful humming as the mojo man closed his eyes and kicked back in his old rocker. Yes, this was the sound of contentment in the bayous on a quiet summer night. The old man had done the right thing by alerting the police and now he felt at peace with himself.
In less than twenty minutes, however, he would realize that being a Good Samaritan did not always pay honest dividends. He would look on in horror as the stranger, having lashed the poor soul’s hands together and lifted him by a rope until he dangled kicking from the rafters, sneered at him as he struggled to get free. No one would hear the mojo man’s cries for help this deep in the bayou. Finally, the stranger lifted the gun he kept tucked under his shirt and put a slug in the magic man’s head. Indeed, this was anything but a friendly house call by the Good Humor man. This was a psychopath growing more dangerous by the minute. And while it might be convenient to say that Katt Hall could drive any red-blooded man to acts that were incalculable, surely nothing could justify something horrific like this.
The stranger sat in the darkened hut and admired his handi-work. The candles glowed eerily as the old, lifeless body hung there in front of him, with blood dripping down, staining the matted floor.
Now the police knew who he was and he would have to work fast. Collect his things from the motel and get far enough out of town, perhaps twenty or thirty miles, where he could feel safe. A roominghouse rather than a motel. There were so many courteous and sweet-natured landladies in the South, surely he could find an old dowager to rent him a room.
He hadn’t forgotten, however, that he still had George Lesslie to deal with, then Spud, and then, at last, he would collect his glorious prize.
He would take her away -- far, far away -- and this time, unlike the last, she would appreciate his love and all the sacri-fices he had made. When you cut down a slew of men for the love of a woman, surely this must be adjudged a gesture of undying love and devotion. The authorities, on the other hand, might see it in a slightly different light.
He laughed to himself, blew out the candles, and stomped out of that bizarre hut. Stomped out into the tranquil beauty of a warm summer night.