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A Deadly Deception

A Deadly Deception

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A Deadly Deception

237 Seiten
3 Stunden
Jul 18, 2015


Sheriff JT Wainscot of St. Julian Parish assumed that he was investigating a simple homicide on a Louisiana backroad until DEA agent Dennis Palmer showed up and nothing was simple or as it appeared ever again.

Jul 18, 2015

Über den Autor


A Deadly Deception - Robert Coburn


Everybody off the bus, please.

Nobody budged. Some turned their faces to the window, others faked being asleep.

C’mon, folks, help me out here, the driver implored. It’s company rules. You can’t stay on the bus while it’s being worked on. Nice warm restaurant just a few minute’s walk up the road. Don’t want to be standing outside when this rain comes.

A couple of passengers sighed and began making their way forward. More followed. Then everybody piled off. They spilled out single file, grunting and grumbling, and loosely formed up like arriving recruits at an Army camp. No one had the slightest notion about where they were. It felt strange, too. Disquieting even. Being turned out, after the lulling motion and sound of the bus reeling in the miles. The familiarity of place cut short. Thoughts interrupted. Solitude broken. It was surreal. Made your skin feel kind of crawly.

Mechanic’s on the way, the driver told the group. Be here in no time. And that place up ahead’s expecting you. I just spoke with them on my cell. I’ll come and get you when we’re done here and ready to roll.

The place he was talking about was a roadhouse less than a half-mile from the bus. A neon sign out front said it was Ocie’s and cast a sooty red glow, as if a fire smoldered somewhere not too far away in the winter savannah.

Why didn’t we just pull in up there? someone demanded to know. At the restaurant.

Oil light came on, engine heating up, the driver explained, gesturing toward the open engine compartment at the rear of the bus. Had to shut down right then. Didn’t want to chance tearing up the motor.

What about our stuff? another hollered.

Your things will be fine, the driver assured. I’ll be here with the mechanic. You all just go enjoy yourself. Get something to eat. Shouldn’t be too long before we’re done here.

Lightning bolted across the sky with a loud crack. People took off in a run, thunder clapping at their heels. Rain began to spit down.

The driver chuckled, and as he turned to walk back to the baggage compartment door along the side, he noticed the girl taking refuge in a vacant vegetable stand on the other side of the road. He motioned with a wave of his hand to come over.

You all from the bus? the waitress asked, as the passengers clamored though the door, noisy and brushing off raindrops. Her name was Faye Ann.

I thought you must be, she continued. Driver called just a while ago. That rain’s been promising all day and now it’s about come on, ain’t it? Just sit anywhere. You want menus?

Ocie’s was a juke joint where drinking was its first priority. A few tables were strewn across the floor and a bar stretched along the back wall of the building from end to end. A chalkboard announced live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Wednesday was karaoke night. Three men and a woman huddled at the bar in quiet conversation.

Tables were quickly grabbed up. Others from the bus headed straight for the bar. Everyone was laughing now and making a big fuss over the rain and arguing good-naturedly about which of them had gotten the wettest. Faye Ann scribbled down food orders as fast as her pencil would go and the kitchen soon got down to business.

The bartender emerged from the back and began taking drink orders. His name was Monk.

Somebody wanted to know if the jukebox worked and one of the three men with the woman at the bar went over and switched on the power. Suspicious Minds came up and it didn’t take long before things were jumping and jiving. Beer bottles rattled out of the icebox with alacrity and cocktails were mixed two and three at a clip. Monk knew a windfall when he saw one and he was taking full advantage of the moment. He stopped only long enough to go get a fresh box of Penrose Slim Jims and a new jar of pickled eggs and another of pigs’ feet from the storeroom, which he then placed on the bar while replenishing the stack of napkins piled next to the pigs’ feet for those more daintily inclined. Everyone was chatting it up and the woman with the three men made several calls on her cellphone. Pretty soon other people drifted in. Locals, judging from the way they seemed to know each other. But it was all friendly and, with A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On, time stopped counting.

The rain quit without notice and one of the passengers volunteered to go check on the bus. He’d hardly been gone ten minutes before he was back, bursting through the door, pale and shaken.

Somebody call 911, he gasped. Something horrible’s happened!


Do you know you’re vibrating?

Yeah, I’d better go take it. Should’ve turned the damn thing off.

And I thought you were getting all worked up because of me, Nancy Lingo giggled. She placed her hand on JT’s crotch and gently squeezed. JT was what the Sheriff of St. Julian Parish went by. His full name was James Thaddeus Wainscot.

Control yourself, girl, somebody’s gonna see you, JT whispered with an embarrassed laugh, looking to either side of where they sat in the darkened theater. They were the only two people in the balcony. He eased out of his seat and crabbed over to the aisle. The movie they’d been wanting to see for two weeks now was forty-five minutes into the running. It was up for several Oscars and the betting was that it’d probably win Best Picture. JT had promised Nancy he’d take her before it left town. Tonight had looked good. Middle of the week, things ought to be quiet, he’d figured. Especially with the rain keeping people inside. Not much action other than maybe a few fender benders, if that. Deputies could handle them.

Sandy, what the hell’s going on? JT said into his cell phone, once he’d gotten to the brightly lit lobby. The popcorn machine had just made a fresh batch and it smelled so tempting that JT was thinking he might pick up another bag to take back in the theater with him. I’m right in the middle of the goddamn movie.

Sandy Bettle had been with the department for nine years. He was thirty-eight years old and had recently moved into detectives. His wife, Sue Ellen, worked at the local bank as a teller. They had one child starting high school and a surprise baby on the way. They worried that Sue Ellen might get laid off before she could take the maternity leave. The economy was in another tailspin and would get worse according to the talking heads on TV.

Got a dead body in a bus over by Ocie’s, Bettle reported. Looks like he might’ve been stabbed.

JT sighed. What was it, a goddamn fight?

Don’t know, Deputy Bettle answered. Seems the bus broke down by Deal’s Landing and the driver sent the passengers to Ocie’s while he waited at the bus for a mechanic. One of them goes back to check on how things were going and finds the man sitting up front with his pants down and dead as shit. He ran back to the bar and Monk called it in.

Okay, be sure you’ve taped off everywhere around that bus. Don’t let anybody near the damn thing. I’ll be right there. Where are all the passengers now?

Still at Ocie’s.

Make sure nobody leaves, JT ordered the deputy. Who else is on the scene?

I got Deputy MacMillan here and called the dispatcher to roust out Spencer and Allen. I know it’s their day off but I figured we could use the help.

Yeah, you’re probably right, JT agreed. Be careful where you step when you string that tape. One more thing, Sandy, shut down that goddamn bar. And don’t let Monk give you any shit, hear? What kind of bus was it--charter, private, something like that?

I think it was a regular bus, the deputy told him. The sign on the front said it was going up to the state capitol.

What the hell was it doing on that road then? JT wondered aloud. Not its usual route. Should’ve been on the damn interstate. I’ll be there as soon as I can.

Say hello to Nancy for me, the deputy said.

Nancy Lingo and JT had been neighbors while growing up and had even gone to the same high school though he was five years ahead of her. No matter, she’d always had a crush on him. JT went away to college and, after graduating, returned to join the Sheriffs Department. He also married a girl he’d met at school. Nancy was an art major and had just begun her junior year in college herself when JT’s wife died in a skydiving accident. The couple had had no children.

You’d think there’d be more blood, wouldn’t you? Sandy Bettle noted. Right in the chest like that. Not much of a stab wound, though. More like a scratch, if you ask me.

Guess his heart must’ve been penetrated, JT surmised. If that’s the case, then it would’ve stopped pumping pretty quick-like. The autopsy will probably show the chest cavity full of blood. Tell us about the weapon, too. It is a piddly-ass cut, though. Maybe an ice pick?

The dead man wore a white shirt with a uniform blue jacket and trousers--pants down around his ankles, shirt ripped open at the chest where a splotch of blood had formed. JT took pictures of the scene with his digital camera, which also featured a movie function that came in handy sometimes.

Sandy Bettle played a flashlight on the dead man’s exposed genitals.

Guess that explains why his dick’s so tiny, he commented dryly, cutting his eyes toward the sheriff. All that leaky business in his chest. I heard Elvis had a whopper boner when he passed. That’s where he starting getting stiff first. Must mean rigor begins in the brain.

JT sucked in a breath, having about had his fill of gallows humor and goofy notions. He stepped off the bus and walked toward the rear where another deputy waited.

This is kind of interesting, the deputy said, gesturing at the open baggage compartment. His name was Ray Wilson. Those six bags there. All alike but tagged for different cities.

Anybody see these tire tracks here, Ray? JT asked the deputy, ignoring the bags. I want a cast made of them. Get Richards out here.

The tracks were sunk into the soft ground next to the baggage compartment.

Make sure nobody puts their size 12 on ‘em, he added.

The department sorely lacked for funding. Deputy Mark Richards worked as the crime scene investigator. They could call on the state for bigger guns. Same story with the coroner. A local physician helped out, mainly to confirm deaths. State medical examiner did the autopsy. JT hoped to eventually change some of that, or at least bring in a little more investigative firepower, but for the present time the county budget was stretched to breaking. The state bureaucracy sucked up most of the tax revenue and no politician who planned to run for office again was about to suggest raising taxes. The parishes would just make do with what they had. And St. Julian being the smallest of over sixty parishes did with the least. Maybe the television experts had something there about the economy being in a dive and the ground coming up fast.

And Ray, before you go poking around in there again, put on some gloves, okay?

Ray Wilson had three years on the force. He’d worked as a commercial fisherman until the hurricane wiped out the docking and left his old man’s boat on the bottom of the bay. But Ray considered the storm to be a blessing. The industry was going bust from high fuel costs, over-regulation and fished-out waters. You just couldn’t earn a living on the water anymore. The storm solved that problem for both Ray and his dad. When the insurance check arrived, Lincoln Wilson decided he’d had enough of sun and sea. He bought himself a motorhome and a road atlas. And his son joined the Sheriffs. JT considered Ray Wilson to be a good officer, although a little peculiar in his ways. Probably got that from Lincoln.

Doc Blanchard’s here, Deputy Wilson announced. Looks like the TV people are right behind him, too.

Sure enough, the white mobile van pulled in just as the coroner was getting out of his Buick Regal. Another car eased in behind the Buick. It belonged to John Gilbert from the local newspaper, who filled in as a crime photographer for the Sheriffs.

Go tell those reporters to stay where they are, Ray, JT growled. I mean it. Don’t let them near this bus. Keep ‘em away from the passengers, too.

JT walked back to Ocie’s where a logistical mess awaited. There was a busload of people to be questioned. He’d probably need a place to put them up for the night and maybe tomorrow night, too. Fortunately, it was off-season so the motels would be empty. People would be none too happy about interrupting their trip. There were also the local yahoos who’d dropped by for the party. Well, that meant gathering names and addresses for right now. Anyone looked interesting he could call back later. Funny, you’d think they would’ve split when they had the chance rather than stick around waiting for the cops to get there. Human nature, he supposed, rubbernecking a murder. But the folks from the bus he’d have to hop on right away. His gut told him that this thing was going to get bigger before it was done. He might have to ask for outside help and that always came with a price tag. He wasn’t about to play second-string on some hotshot team from State.

Goddammit, Sheriff, this is a business, not some damn disaster center. What the hell do you mean closing down my bar? And what are you going to do with all these people? First words out of Monk’s mouth soon as JT came through the door.

Thank you for your cooperation, Monk, JT smiled.

Years back, JT earned a permanent spot on Monk’s shitlist. Right beneath Alvin Midgett, the former sheriff. The reason JT made the list was that he’d been one of Midgett’s deputies when Ocie Ledbetter was murdered. Ocie was Monk’s brother and had owned the joint he’d named after himself. The brothers ran the place together. Ocie was shot and killed during a robbery. They shot Monk, too, but he survived. Sheriff Midgett brought in the suspects, kept them locked up longer than he legally should’ve, and screwed things up so badly that the DA had to let them go. Monk vowed to never forgive Alvin Midgett or his entire damn shit-for-brains department.

Folks, may I have your attention, please? JT announced to the room.

Things quieted down. Conversations trailed off. Small tittering. Silence. Right on cue, the jukebox fired up with Great Balls of Fire.


Elgin Whitmarsh considered it to be a miracle. No other explanation for this remarkable turn of fortune. Yes! Elgin managed the Belle Helen Inn over in Raquelle Harbor, which, until a moment ago, had not one single, solitary guest registered. Other than for himself, he being the resident manager, the place was bereft of a living soul. The season was a big bust, same as last year’s, but worse this time. He’d laid off the maids to cut back. He’d do their work himself until business picked up. Elgin worried constantly that the owners might sell the motel. There’d go his job for sure. And his home. But now the miracle’s come and saved his butt. JT called with a busload of people needing a place to stay. Elgin promised the sheriff a good group rate. Hallelujah, he’d shouted out loud after hanging up the phone. He popped his hands together three or four times and did a little dance for good measure, too.

Earlier JT had decided that the smartest thing to do was to get everybody settled somewhere for the night, and preferably in one location. He’d start interviewing the next morning. By the middle of the day, he had talked with all the passengers and had gotten no real answers, only more questions. He’d begun with the man who’d discovered the body, William Selmer, an electrical contractor.

Mr. Selmer had been returning to his job, a construction project up near the capitol. Normally, he stayed on site, he‘d explained. But his teenage daughter was having problems and his wife had called saying she needed him home for a day or so. They lived over by the state line. He would’ve driven the distance but his truck was laid up in the shop. It had been a terrible thing finding the bus driver like that, he’d declared. The bus was dark inside when he went back to see how things were going with the repairs. They’d all been at that damn roadhouse for so long without any news. Hell, they could’ve changed out the motor in the amount of time they were taking. Anyway, he continued, the bus door stood open and he could make out somebody sitting in a seat. Thought it was the driver grabbing a few winks. He’d called out and when the man didn’t answer, he’d flicked his lighter

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