The sun rose again on another steamy Baton Rouge day, and the stranger stretched and yawned beside his barfly sweetie, in whose rented room they had sought refuge for the night. The Big Katt rose from her covers and stretched and yawned as well, while Spud snored and slept.
At Baton Rouge police central, there wasn’t much stretching and yawning going on. The chief was thumbing through the day roster, and it was thin and he knew why. The Big Katt surveillance was draining the department and costing plenty, and it had to stop, stalker be damned.
“We almost nailed him.”
“Sure you did.”
“Honest to Christ, chief. Damn sheets were still warm.”
The chief picked up the phone and dialed out. “Josephus?” He drummed his fingers on the desk, eyed the shift sergeant. “This stalker situation. We can’t cover it. You’ll have to go private.”
There was angry barking at the other end of the phone.
“Too expensive, and this guy is crafty and insane. Crafty and insane are not covered in the police manual. After today, that ends it.” More bark, bark, barking on the line. Growl, snap, hiss. “Our respects to the Big Katt.” The chief replaced the phone, turned to his colleague. “He can squawk and scream. Put out the word -- tomorrow, it’s business as usual.”
“You need to see this,” the sergeant said, and handed over the phony love letter the stranger had written to Big George Lesslie. Maybe Big George wasn’t so dumb after all. He had thought this love tryst over in the darkness of the bowling alley, sipping on a beer, and then somewhere in the dim recesses of his mind it dawned on him that this might be another trick. It also occurred that if Sally caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, things could get ugly. She was still burned about his encounter with Katt Hall. So he tipped off the police.
“Cover it. From fifty angles. I want men everywhere.”
“Won’t make a difference.”
“It’s good PR. After tomorrow, Big Katt be damned. Now I’m going out to get some breakfast.”
And as he did so, up at the Great House, Josephus and the Big Katt were having their own breakfast, and Josephus wasn’t pleased. “They’re dropping the case, honey.”
“Skunks. We’ll find our own guns, baby.”
“Daddy, that fiend, that ex-husband of mine is making life miserable. I thought about it all night. I should have done this a long time ago.”
“Done what, sugar muffin?”
“Daddy, enough is simply enough. He’s spoiling everyone’s fun, and killing people into the bargain. Poor Horace Hazelton. I loved that boy, Daddy, truly I did. Pimples and bad breath and all. Sure, his people were probably twenty rungs down on the social scale, not much more than pathetic, back bayou white trash. Still, the Big Katt never pulls rank, and his poor hapless mama sitting in front of that flickering idiot box with Horace her only comfort in the whole world, and then the next thing you know poor Horace being heinously beheaded -- he didn’t deserve that, Daddy, truly he didn’t.”
“I know, baby.”
Nor would Big George Lesslie deserve what the stranger was concocting for him, said stranger now sitting on the edge of the barfly’s bed dragging on a cigarette.
“So where do I bring him?”
“Try that again.”
“You meet him as planned. And you keep him there as long as you can using your innate feminine charms.”
“Meaning I have to hump him.”
“Bang, screw, ride the lower forty?”
“Just keep him interested for as long as you can.”
“Never you mind.”
“What about the cops?”
“What about them?”
“Suppose they grab me?”
“Feel free to rat me out. Won’t matter.”
“Won’t, except you’ll come back here and kill me.”
“No way. I just need you to occupy Bozo there for a few minutes. I’m a crafty SOB.”
“So I’ve noticed, and you have an unclean mind.”
“Tisk-tisk. Here -- ” He handed her some cash. “Because I appreciate our friendship.”
He put his arms around her and began to kiss her and together they rolled over onto the bed and things got passionate. The barfly knew she was probably making love to a murderer or criminal, two sweaty bodies groping in a cheap roominghouse, but she was relieved that soon she’d be rid of him forever.
She was relieved, and Daddy was relieved after he got off the phone with a detective friend of his, who promised to shadow the Big Katt starting the following day. In fact, it occurred to Josephus that he should have gone private in the first place. Real detectives would probably have nailed this maniac a long time ago.
After lunch, the stranger and the barfly said their goodbyes. “Exactly who or what are you?” she said.
“What, I didn’t show you a good time?” he laughed, and he kissed her and was gone.
She stood there for a moment, then stepped over to the bureau and beheld herself in the mirror. What she saw was pretty scary -- a ghost, a scarecrow, a woman pushing sixty whose hair was thinning and whose bone structure protruded. A grotesque witch. She had several hours to kill before her rendezvous, but still needed to decide on an outfit. She figured probably casual, with jeans and a tight blouse, plenty of lipstick. Cheap and available, which is sort of what she was. Maybe Big George liked to drink, and they could find a bar somewhere, while fiendo did whatever it was he intended to do. She heard a faint rumble as the stranger’s truck pulled away from the house and sped off down the road. She looked at herself in the mirror again, realizing that except for this sordid rendezvous, the day was empty, empty as her life had become since she had divorced her lowlife husband. And then she began to cry.