The Bayou Katt Murders

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Chapter 23

Part of the deal the stranger had made with the lush at the bar was that she must write a letter for him -- he wanted it to appear to have been written by a woman. And he met her in the bar after it opened the following afternoon and they found a corner booth and he handed her his draft of the letter, and she copied it onto plain stationery.

“I don’t like this,” she said.

But when he showed her some extra cash, she liked it a lot more. She finished copying the letter, doing her best to add sweet womanly flourishes to the script. She was hardly sweet and womanly, if you looked closely, and perhaps if you looked not so closely. Tough and hardbitten around the edges, to put it mildly. She wondered if the guy for whom this was being written could possibly fall for a letter like this. And what he would think when she showed up in place of the gorgeous woman described there. Could he be stupid enough to fall for this?

“Yeah,” the stranger said, “he’ll fall for it. What about the perfume?”

She reached in her purse. A daub or two of perfume, and she folded the letter and licked the envelope shut. She wrote Big George’s name on the outside.

“Tomorrow, six o’clock, behind the bowling alley. And wear something provocative.”

“You want me to hook for him. I knew it all along.”

“Look hot.”

Speaking of which, the barbecue pit was roaring hot, the one in the backyard of the Prescotts, who were now presiding over a gathering of family and invited friends.

“What a glorious day,” Mrs. Prescott said. “I’m counting on the Big Katt showing up, darling. It’s wonderful to share our anniversary moments, but everyone who’s anyone in Baton Rouge will be here, and they are all clamoring to see the Big Katt. There are rumors she’s already gotten her hands on George Owens.”

“No.”

“You don’t hear him complaining.”

The steaks hissed over the grill, and the sound of the big Eldorado could be heard roaring into the drive. Doors slammed, then the Big Katt, surrounded by Daddy and mother and Spud, made her entrance. Naturally, there was a police escort. The Katt looked radiant in a tight summer wrap, her blonde hair swept back, eyes fresh with eyeliner and lips sweet and soft and pink.

“Oh my God, she’s here.” And Mrs. Prescott hugged the Big Katt, and the Big Katt hugged back. “Look at you, darling, you are grown up and ferociously beautiful.”

“Ferociously is an apt description.”

“And this would be -- ?”

“Spud, my husband. Spud, Alma Prescott. An old family friend, as is her beloved husband Edward, who would seem to be laboring over the grill.”

Mrs. Prescott whispered in the Big Katt’s ear, “Honey, what is all this nonsense about people being killed and your ex-husband coming after you?”

Katt batted her eyes, showing off her Southern charm. “Now is not the time, dahhhhling,” she intoned. “Let’s eat and drink and dance under these gorgeous trees you’ve got. Let’s have some fun.”

Yes, we were back to that again -- fun, fun, fun, till your Daddy takes the T-bird away. With all due respect to the Beach Boys, perhaps all fun and no work could also make for a dull world.

Spud had split off from the pack and found a bar on the patio, and quickly fixed himself a drink and began to mingle with quite a prestigious group of businessmen.

“Burt Chalmers, Greater Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce. President. Winter home, summer home, yachts, boat basins, country clubs. My name is platinum, ask anyone in this group.”

“Ed Rogers -- shipping. Last year we did six hundred million. We’re expecting twice that this time around.”

“Sam Zippit. Information technology. I speaker phone with Bill Gates every day. I can’t discuss my income or perks. They’d make you vomit.”

And there were other success stories -- this place was heavy with heavies, and Spud felt like a featherweight. Another hand extended, another slap on the back. “Fred Wolf. Investment banking. For fun, I own two exclusive country clubs and a string of restaurants. What is it you do?”

“Drink.”

“What?”

“When I’m not managing some of the most distinguished restaurants in the world.” Yes, Spud had been a chef here and there, and well remembered his recent stint in a steak joint in the high deserts of the Southwest. And his penchant for concocting rattlesnake delicacies, to the chagrin of his boss.

“Such as?”

“Happy Dan’s Family BBQ. Move over, Burger King.” “My daughter-in-law got ptomaine there last week.” “Our growth has been exponential.”

Spud was trying, you had to give him that.

“Hey, that wife of yours -- Jesus H. Christ. She’s a pants-splitter.”

“She is very beautiful.”

“What’s she doing with a loser like you?”

“Uh, I beg your pardon.”

“Beautiful, shit -- she’s gorgeous. A real boner bender. I’d ditch my old lady in a heartbeat for something like that.”

Spud had to admit, his beloved Katt was a knockout. Sure, these sluggers had their big bucks and businesses, but he had the Big Katt. Sort of like choosing between General Motors and Rita Hayworth. Which would YOU choose?

The ladies were mingling among themselves talking gossip, and the big item on the agenda was Katt Hall. She always seemed to be the big item on the agenda, but she just couldn’t help it.

“George Owens -- you put your tongue in his mouth?”

“Would ah do a thing like that?”

“Last night you almost tore the town to the ground.”

The Big Katt batted her eyes. “You should have seen them salivating, all my admirers. You could hardly breathe in that gym it was so packed with bodies. Of course, when I ventured out on the stage, sheer pandemonium broke loose.”

As steaks were grilled and gossip continued to fill the air, a pickup truck carrying a certain stranger was working the back roads of Baton Rouge, and it would shortly pull up across from the bowling alley where Big George Lesslie spent his working hours.

Inside the bowling alley, Big George was working the pin spotters and doing general cleaning up. The stranger moved to the front desk, where a clerk was stashing away returned shoes and bowling balls.

“For George Lesslie. It’s personal.” So personal that a hundred dollar bill accompanied it into the clerk’s hand. “For George’s eyes only, got it? No cops.”

“Got it.”

And the stranger turned and walked out. Into golden sunshine, and now the wheels were in motion again, and he smiled an evil smile. This time Big George, stupid galoot that he was, was a goner, and the police couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.

The ladies were laughing again, in the backyard of the Prescotts. Laughing because Katt Hall had them laughing, about how foolish and vulnerable men were, about how she could manipulate them. Of course, the ladies wouldn’t be laughing if it was their husbands caught in the woods tongue-kissing with the Big Katt, but little matter.

“You should have seen the look in George Owens’ eyes. I do declare, he was flabbergasted. His wife won’t speak to him for a week.”

The ladies wanted more.

“Ah drilled my tongue so deep into his mouth I thought I’d hit the Mariana Trench.” And this brought on gales of laughter.

A waiter approached the group with a little tray, and there were canapés.

“Oh, how delightful,” the Big Katt chirped, and yet she got the funniest chill when she looked the waiter in the eye. She took Alma Prescott aside. “That waiter?”

“What waiter?”

“I mean, the one holding the canapés. He gives me a funny feeling. Like I know him.”

“Honey, our servants come with impeccable credentials.”

“Maybe I can point him out.” But when she turned, he was gone. “That’s funny, he was right here.”

And in the bowling alley downtown, Big George was opening the letter that had been left for him, his eyes bulging, not to mention other portions of his anatomy. “I am completely naked as I write this,” the letter said, “a fully mature and sensuous woman with long, gorgeous, golden brown hair that spills gently over ripe breasts, which are soft and full and yearning for you. If you want to take me in your arms and make love wildly to me -- trust me, I’m drop dead beautiful and you won’t be sorry -- then meet me behind the Bayou Bar & Grill on Thursday at six o’clock.” Indeed, Big George’s eyes were bulging.

Of course, the bar fly who was assigned to meet George hardly met the description in the letter -- she was anything but sensuous and gorgeous. When you smoke three packs of cigarettes a day for thirty years and your voice is as raspy as sandpaper, or you drink hard liquor with terrifying regularity, no matter how beautiful you may once have been, you’re not exactly going to be material for a picture spread in Vogue. But Big George’s curiosity was aroused. He’d find some excuse to be late for dinner the following night, some excuse to get his hands on this old flame and pound the bedsprings with her. He was a loyal husband, but loyalty only stretches so far. If this woman was as beautiful as she described herself to be, then Sally would have to take a back seat. Sally, who had been loving and faithful and devoted. Who, in fact, Big George didn’t really deserve. But then Big George, like most men, had hoped for a catch even greater than your typical small-town Sally -- he had hoped for the biggest catch of all, one Katt Hall, the Big Katt herself. After seeing her again, that passion had been instantly renewed. The Sallys of this world, wonderful and decent and devoted though they may be, would always find themselves playing second fiddle to women like the Big Katt. Only, there weren’t any women like the Big Katt -- there was only the Big Katt herself. And right now, she was laughing, having herself a hell of a time, even as strange eyes watched her from the perimeter of the party, eyes that had given her a chill, and eyes that had begun to fear being recognized by the police, who were infiltrating themselves into the festivities. Yes, they watched her, these sinister eyes, and soon they would have her again all to themselves. The stranger caught a final glimpse of his radiant ex-wife, and then slipped out of sight.

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