The Bayou Katt Murders

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FOUR

FOUR

The bayous of Baton Rouge were rich in flora and fauna, and also rich in folklore. It was said that mysterious voodoo mojo men inhabited some of these parts, and that they worked spells and miracles. They were a strange blend of Cajun and Creole and God knows

what, their very heritage and bloodlines having been muddied and tortured over time. But their secrets were handed from generation to generation.

Shrunken heads? Not quite. But all manner of strange roots and herbs, of incense and candles, and dried animal parts. They lived on the very fringes of the swamp, and they kept to themselves.

Katt Hall would have loved at that moment to take Spud to visit one of these men, for she had befriended just such a man on a wild night of partying during her high school years. Only, she wasn’t sure he was still alive. But he had a son and daughter, that much she remembered, and surely the tradition would be carried on. She would take

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Spud to visit the mojo man, and they’d tear up the back roads and have a hell of a good time, only her dear husband was still dead out asleep. And she was thumbing through that yearbook, completing her list of possible boyfriend candidates.

But another presence in those bayous, the same presence that had lately peered through Horace Hazelton’s window, who now found himself seated behind the wheel of a pickup truck, was making his way along those back roads, overhung by cypress trees. This presence had consulted the mojo man a week earlier, and the mojo man had prophesied the return of Katt Hall. Oh, perhaps not in exactly those terms, but when a bayou medicine man tells you a slender, beautiful, cat-like blonde is returning after many years, coming from the west, and that she has a husband in tow, you pretty much get an idea of who it is. And when you go to the local library and are lucky enough to find among their archives a certain old high school yearbook, and you read the fine print under each name, you get an idea of who the competition is. Or, in the case of unfortunate Curtis Stephens, was.

Now, the pickup truck pulled off the road and made its way through the overhanging trees to the edge of the bayou. Inside what amounted to a shanty, with all manner of shriveled creatures hanging from ropes and hooks from the ceiling and walls, and candles and incense burning, the mojo man was attending to his morning chores of brewing tea.

“You were right, old man,” the stranger said.

A wide grin from a mouth of rotted teeth flashed back at him.

“I know you are able to plant curses. Voodoo, that sort of thing. The blonde you talked about -- her husband? He’s the one who has to be eliminated.”

The mojo man spat, and sipped the vile looking tea from a tin cup. “Do you read the papers?”

The old man shook his head.

“Anyway, I’m willing to pay. You put a curse on the head of the husband, just enough to keep him bedridden. I’ll take care of the rest.”

The old man didn’t like what he was hearing. He was used to parceling out lucky numbers and creating healing sachets for poor folk who were suffering hardship, usually an illness or tragedy in the family. He didn’t go in for working negative magic.

“I’m not asking you to kill anyone, just lay the bastard low. The blonde -- she’s mine, all mine. I’m going to take her, and nobody else will ever touch her again.”

“Uh -- ”

“Her old man will be under police surveillance. I won’t bore you with the details. But if he were to suddenly succumb to an illness and be confined to his bed, that would be very helpful. How does two thousand cash sound?”

The mojo man didn’t like the idea of planting curses and doing evil things, for his was a benevolent soul. But for that kind of gelt, he’d have sold his own mother to the Pigmies in no time. “I don’t think you should interfere with this blonde woman. She is wild, deep down -- very wild. You will bring destruction upon yourself. Never doubt the mojo man.”

“I get it, freako. But you don’t realize -- the Big Katt is worth any sacrifice. I’m not letting any pipsqueaks horn in on what is rightfully mine. Two grand, what do you say?”

“I don’t like curses.”

“Five hundred up front.” He laid the cash in the old man’s hand. “Bad juju.”

And another five hundred went along with it.

“On the other hand -- ” He thumbed through the thick wad of bills. “Tomorrow night. But you must bring me some personal item from the husband.”

“A jockstrap? Dirty socks? Just a little joke, don’t get worked up.”

“Any scrap of clothing -- something he has touched.”

The stranger looked around and beheld once again the general eeriness of what looked like the insides of a thatched hut out of a Tarzan movie. “Say, I’ve gotta tell you, this place is a little creepy. And just between you and me, a little Glade air freshener wouldn’t hurt.”

“Tomorrow night,” the old man said.

The stranger turned to leave, then reconsidered. “Oh yeah, if I brought you a head, do you think you could you shrink it for me, and we’re not talking psychoanalysis. A shrunken head, something I could keep and treasure and maybe clip to my belt?”

The old, sage eyes themselves seemed to be peering back at him from a shrunken head, with the skin dark and shriveled.

“For that,” the mojo man said, “we charge extra.”

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