“Listen to that,” the cop said. He was sitting in the downstairs parlor of the Great House with Spud, playing poker. “Do you believe that noise?” In the distance, the chanting for Katt Hall was getting louder. “All for your sweet little girl.”
“Queens over sixes,” Spud said.
“They’re like to tear the place down,” the cop said, eyeing his hand. “What is it about that girl?”
“First time I laid eyes on her,” Spud said, “she had me hooked. It’s the drawl, I think, the drawl really gets you. Innocent little Dutch boy from Pennsylvania. And when she smiles and flashes those baby blues. So?”
“So, you got me beat.”
“Not against a full boat -- at least, not this time.”
The cop smiled. Spud raked in the small change they were using for stakes.
Meantime, at the Lesslie residence, hearts were still racing. Just as Big George had turned away from the refrigerator and noticed he had an uninvited guest, the kitchen door had swung open and in came Sally.
This had panicked the stranger, thrown him off his game. “What the -- ?” Sally muttered. The fiend didn’t like it, especially not with a cop somewhere else in the house, and he bolted and disappeared back the way he had come.
“I’ll be damned,” George said, and just stood there, hands on his hips. “I mean, I’ll be damned.”
“It was him,” Sally said, trembling. The cop came in. “It was him,” she said. “He came in through the door.”
“Tried to come in,” George said. “You scared him off, baby. You’re George’s little savior.”
She blushed. Big George came over and took his sweet blonde wife in his arms. “You always save George.” But she was still scared, shall we say, witless. Not to mention, hubby George’s armpits were throwing off an undesirable odor.
The cop whipped out his cell phone. “Jimmy? Yeah, well he was here again, at the Lesslie place. I’m still here. Georgia Road. See if you can fence him in.”
Easier, however, to fence in a herd of stampeding cattle. The stranger was quick and elusive, and would be out of harm’s way too quickly for the police.
Now he watched from the bleachers, watched as his beloved ex-wife made her entrance in a most impressive white gown, and waved and threw kisses from the stage. The roar was deafening and the place was going crazy, and this went on and on for at least ten minutes, the Big Katt drinking it all in, before she waved and brought the crowd to silence. Then she slinked up to the microphone.
“We love you, Katt!” There were always a few hecklers, but who could blame them -- they idolized this gal.
“And I love you, baby.” And the crowd broke up and went crazy again.
“Katt, Katt, Katt, Katt!” They were simply mad with desire for this creature.
“Now, now,” she said, cautioning them with a flirtatious little wave. Just as quickly, she moved her hips and threw them a kiss, and they went crazy again.
In the midst of this din, the stranger had wiggled his way down the bleacher and dropped to the floor, and now he was slipping out the door, the better to find his way to the back of the makeshift stage.
“First,” the Katt said, “it’s sooooo good to be home.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”
“The Katt is back, babies, never for an instant doubt it. And she has no intention of straying from her ancestral home.”
“Katt, Katt, Katt! We love the Katt!”
“Ah’ve come all the way around the world to be with you again, because this is where my roots are, and with all due respect to my husband, there is no man quite like a Southern man.”
“Katt, Katt, we want the Katt!”
“Smooth as all creation, you Southern men, and if I might add, you do know how to treat a lady.”
“Katt, Katt, Katt, Katt!”
There were cops staked out on the periphery of this scene, and they were getting a little nervous. Yes, they were there to keep order, and they were also there to protect Katt from the maniac who had murdered his way to her doorstep. Right now they sensed the place was on the verge of a riot, and they hoped in their heart of hearts that Katt would tone the rhetoric down.
“Let me put it another way,” Katt intoned through that big bad mike. “Honey, I’m the one who did the telling to Rhett Butler, and I hissed in his face and I did the telling.” And she bared her teeth, and let out with it: “Frankly, mah dear, ah don’t give a damn.” And with this, the place went chaotic. Folding chairs that had been set up on the gym floor were starting to fly, and the bleachers were shaking as the wild crowd abandoned them and made for the open floor. Not so open, I should add, being jammed in a churning maelstrom of mostly men -- many of them young, but some middle-aged, and they had gotten drunk and wound up before entering the building, and now they were going crazy. “She’s mine!” Fists were flying, blood was splashing, and the cops were really, really scared.
The Big Katt attempted to calm the crowd. “Babies, babies -- please, get control of yourself. The Big Katt has only just begun.” But it was too late for that, and the chairs and fists were flying, and a full-blown riot had broken out.
Two cops came flying out of the wings and grabbed the Big Katt. “I beg your pardon,” she said. And they whisked her away. As they slipped down the back hall to the gymnasium, they brushed past a stranger who had come for more than the Big Katt’s autograph. He had thought he could make direct contact with her, but his intentions were thwarted.
As Katt was ushered into the open air, another cop car pulled up to the curb, and George Lesslie got out.
“George!” Katt cried. “Oh George, dahhhhhling, how long has it been?” And she threw her arms around him. She was oblivious to the fact that George’s wife had accompanied him on this little junket, and she now stepped forward.
“Oh.” George managed to pull the Katt off him. “Katt, this is my wife -- Sally.”
“Well oh my gosh golly goodness,” Katt sighed. “You are the lucky girl.” Christ, Katt could charm the pants off even the ladies. And what could Sally say under the circumstances. “Gotta go, baby,” Katt said, and she gave him a peck on the cheek and was shoved into a squad car and off it sped.
Somewhere in the crowd a stranger pushed his way toward Big George, who was bracketed by a pair of cops.
Inside the gym, the melee continued to rage on. All of the good intentions of this little fundraiser were fast going out the window, and lord knows how much this would cost to repair.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please.” The mayor was pleading from the podium. “Order, please.” But it was too late for that -- sometimes a Southerner just likes to raise hell, like anyone else, and people were being bonked by folding chairs and pummeling each other with their fists and having a grand old time.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are behaving badly, very badly.” Not quite as badly as the stranger would have liked to behave, now within ten feet of Big George Lesslie, though keeping his face hidden from view.
“In,” the cop said to George Lesslie, and pushed him back into the car. And Sally slid in beside him. She gave him a brief, dark look. The big goon smiled back, albeit weakly.
The car sped off, leaving the stranger on the sidewalk, without benefit of either his beloved or the pleasure of bringing to a hasty end the rather rough and tumble life of George Lesslie.
There was fury building within this maniac, and he felt as though he had been slapped twice in the face. But at least he had caught a glimpse of his beloved, and he would not be deterred. No, in no way would he be discouraged. Lesslie would get his, and the Big Katt would yield up to the stranger’s desires, as once she had under the stars in a far off place as his lawfully wedded wife.
The stranger looked up and down the street, and now people were pouring out of the gymnasium, filling the warm Baton Rouge night with the sounds of pandemonium. And police sirens were beginning to wail, which was somewhat disturbing if you were a murder suspect, and the stranger found his way back to his pickup truck and pulled away just as fast as he could into that strange and confounding night.