This is the final episode of a short story. The first two, in order, were “A Bit Sketchy on the Details” and “The Wrong Girl.”
Barney Parmenter was mildly surprised when the Sheriff was still at his office, and a little disappointed, but he’d said he’d drop by, and it wasn’t wise not to live up to commitments with the law.
“I’s wondering if you’d come back,” Wade Beaufort said from behind his cluttered desk.
“Well, I heard it through the grape vine there wasn’t much need, but a deal’s a deal, Sheriff.”
“I’m like you. I knowed Ladson wasn’t no murderer. Ain’t no saint. He ‘bout got hisself in a bad spot, but, it wasn’t too smart for the police (po-leese) in Fort Worth to go off half-cocked trying to catch somebody who wudn’t even in the same place. I reckon they got a little ahead of theirselves.”
“Why you think that is?”
“You don’t know who the deceased was, do you?” the Sheriff asked.
“Girlfriend of the Roughnecks’ star receiver.”
“Yep. Mama of his child. Beauty queen from Meridian. Shot through a pillow. I heard the autopsy showed she’d been strangled ‘fore she’s shot.”
“Well, I’m glad Ladson didn’t have nothing to do with it.”
“Me, too,” Parmenter said.
Riding down I-35W, Ladson McKoy heard the news reports on the radio.
Fort Worth police are back to square one regarding the murderer of a former contestant in the Miss Texas pageant. Celia Leigh Garlin, age twenty-three, was found murdered at an apartment in the Fort Worth Stockyards, the victim of an apparent gunshot wound. Miss Garlin was the girlfriend of Roughnecks wide receiver Stirling LeMar, who learned of the homicide while working out on his own at the team’s training camp near Fredericksburg. LeMar was described by his agent, Albert Franciosa, as “despondent.”
Franciosa said he would issue a statement from LeMar, but the NFL’s third leading receiver, a two-time Pro Bowler, has not appeared publicly since being whisked away from the team’s camp last night. A person of interest was questioned earlier today in Gainesville, but Cooke County sheriff Wade Beaufort said the suspect has been cleared of any involvement in the case and released.
We’ll have a live report from the Tarrant County Law Enforcement Center at the bottom of the hour. When news breaks, Eyewitness News is there for you and with you. Now this …
Cleared of any involvement. Ladson sure did like the way that sounded. He liked it even better that his name wasn’t on the radio. He’d stopped by the house to pick up his old Gainesville Leopards basketball travel bag. He needed something a little better than a paper grocery sack.
The trick to crime was being outside the range of investigation. It’s what Megan Lefebvre had learned during transition from cop to crook. Ladson McKoy wasn’t a perpetrator. The young, rambunctious cowboy was a decoy. The perp was someone outside the bounds of probability. No one would suspect the perp. McKoy was a free man because, after the cops had been tipped off, surveillance cameras showed him leaving another address. Megan knew where the cameras were. The murderer of Celia Garlin had known how to avoid them.
The next item on Lefebvre’s agenda was determining what to do with McKoy. She decided a margarita was in order, just a little buzz for fortitude.
She thought about texting McKoy and giving him the address of her apartment. No. He’d remember where they’d spent the night. Right in the middle of the Stockyards, music blaring through the floor. There’d be no tender conversation. It was suitably tawdry, a place where illicit liaisons would plausibly occur. She picked up her overnight bag, made sure her kit of goodies was in it, freshened up, swung the bag over her shoulder, and headed for the Stockyards.
Outside Gainesville, Barney Parmenter was back on the porch. Melba was home from work. Now, with Ellie off at college and Sam trying to make it “rodeoing,” the house was a little lonely, and Parmenter was troubled and brooding. Something wasn’t right. He wanted to be wrong. Ladson McKoy hadn’t killed anyone, and that was established. He had been screwing another girl who looked like the one killed. He’d left a gun in Barney’s truck that wasn’t the one used to kill someone. The Sheriff was satisfied. The Fort Worth police were satisfied.
Parmenter wasn’t satisfied. He was drinking. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, his business.
Megan answered the door. The boy had flowers.
“What a surprise,” she lied.
Ladson tossed them on the stove, which, thankfully, wasn’t on, and they predictably lunged in mad embrace. For him, it was a purging of tension. He hadn’t ever been in that kind of trouble before. He’d talked his way out of a couple DWIs, had to outrun some cops busting a party here and yonder, but being investigated for murder, well, that was a new experience. Listening to the radio about that girl had given him the shakes. He could’ve been framed. What if Megan had just disappeared? Now he reckoned he could trust her, but why had he trusted her before?
The fingertips of the answer were dancing around the front of Ladson’s jeans, not yanking his fly, nothing jolting as that, but just lightly fondling, the work of a pro who knew how to bring a man slowly to boil.
It wasn’t time for that yet, though. It was just a signal of things to come. Megan’s mouth loosed itself from his, her tongue escaping to leave one last swath of moisture across his cheek. Ladson, who’d been holding back emotion, and tension, and fright, didn’t have the control he’d have liked, and it was all he could do to keep from letting fly. If he’d breathed the way he wanted, which was like he was running the forty-yard dash, he might have lost more than carbon dioxide, so he’d take a deep breath and hold it in, and then he’d make sure he was holding his syrup while he was losing his wind.
It was much like hyperventilating, and Megan, breathing more freely, had to help him to the table, where, thankfully, Troy found the thrill was gone. They both caught their breaths and smiled at each other.
“It’s time to celebrate,” she said. Two glasses of red wine were sitting on the table. “Drink up. A toast to us.”
Ladson stared at the goblet, and it didn’t seem quite right, and he didn’t know squat about wine, and what he knew, he didn’t much like, so, instead, he pulled a pint of Wild Turkey out of his jeans, twisted off the cap, clinked the bottle against Megan’s glass, and said, “To us!”
She took a sip. He took a good-sized swig.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and then “ahhhhh” at the shock of the bourbon on his tongue. “Nothing against nobody else, from my point of view, wine just sucks.”
Who could resist that goofy grin?
Megan, shifting gears, frowned for a moment. “Whatever, I guess.”
McKoy fished a Marlboro out of a pack. “Want one, Megan?”
“How about we smoke a joint first? There’s a bar down below. Nobody cares.”
“Ah, shit, I don’t do that, neither. I reckon I’m a regular goody two shoes.”
She laughed. “I can’t remember the last time I heard somebody get called a goody two shoes.”
Ladson pursed his lips and tilted his head. “Things get to Gainesville right slow.”
God knows he’s cute, Lefebvre thought.
She had her bag right there, on the floor under the table, and pulled another bag out of it. She shoveled three stacks of bill, each with rubber bands around them.
“That’s fifteen thousand dollars, Mr. McKoy,” Megan said. “Your share is more than mine.”
She showed him her two bundles, then put them back in the bag, which she then placed back in the travel bag, and, a bit surprisingly, took the time to zip it back up.
“How come that is?” he asked.
“The risk was yours,” she said. “All I had to do was set you up. I didn’t have to go to jail, just get you out of it.”
Maybe it was the cigarette, but Ladson was starting to get a buzz. He stood up.
“I got a bag, too,” he said, “and I gotta piss. Be right back.”
He took the bag with him, put the money in it in the bedroom, and dropped the bag next to the bed on the way to the john. It was a better place for it than anywhere next to the door. A man could never tell what might happen. Maybe he was just a little suspicious. Maybe he was seeing suspicious little somethings that really weren’t.
Meanwhile, Megan took advantage of the time he was relieving himself by taking his wine goblet and pouring it down the kitchen sink. Then, when he returned, she held up the glass and said, “I took the liberty of helping myself to yours.”
He just nodded, thinking she sure drank it awfully fast.
“Hey, why don’t we go downstairs a while, sit at the bar, listen to a little music, get drunk?”
“I’m game,” Ladson said.
In the hall were two stairwells, one leading to the street and the other to the bar. Ladson wished he’d hidden that bag in the bedroom or something, but Megan had no bogus burglary in mind. She just wanted Ladson good and drunk.
McKoy wanted to know who killed Celia Garlin, but he knew it would probably be best he didn’t. Megan had never told him more than he needed to know, and it was for his own protection, she’d told him. Protection from what? He wondered. From whom?
Megan plied him with booze, but he resisted. Even though he’d already been drinking liquor, he tried to reel himself back in with beer. A good band was playing, a little rock and roll, but mainly Texas country. It covered Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road Goes On Forever and the Party Never Ends,” which wasn’t a bad little song for him and Megan, being the crafty criminals they were. He was content to let her run things, but what he wanted was to get her back upstairs, nail her good, and long, and several times, and then say “goodnight, darling,” “sure was nice to know you,” and “I’ll be cutting my cattle a little further ways down the line.”
She wasn’t satisfied with his level of inebriation just yet.
It’s a sad, sad thing, Officer. When he came down to see me, Troy was despondent. Getting treated like a murderer really got to him. He was, you know, rowdy and good-natured, but if you knew him, he was still just a sweet kid. He came to me, and thanked me for coming forward to set him free, and, last night, after we came back upstairs, he just cried on my shoulders, drunk, and I told him I had to get out of there, but he could stay the night. Yes, sir, Officer, we had, uh, relations, but I left, I don’t know, maybe, it was, like, two in the morning, and went back to my apartment because, well, I wanted to be there in the morning when my boyfriend got back from Tulsa because I had to pick him up at DFW.
It wasn’t personal. Ladson was sweet. It wasn’t all money, either. It was just tying up a loose end. A girl might let sentiment get in the way in these matters. A woman wouldn’t.
Her plan was to drink Ladson McKoy half to death and screw him the rest of the way. It was a hard plan for a young buck to resist.
Stirling LeMar wasn’t much of a mourner. He’d gone to visit Celia’s parents and pay his respects. Cameras overwhelmed him outside their Meridian estate. He wore sunglasses. They didn’t like him, the Garlins, didn’t much care for him being black. Old folks were still like that, blacks as much as white. Kids didn’t care. LeMar gave Mrs. Garlin a hug, Big Fred a handshake, and mumbled a lot. He didn’t want to be there and wasn’t for long. The Roughnecks had told him, through his agent, it was fine for him to take whatever time he needed, and he needn’t worry about getting to camp late. LeMar felt as if he needed to get away. He didn’t want to go home to Alabama. He wanted to be where no one would find him. Security regulations meant he had to use his full name when he bought a ticket and use a credit card with that name on it. Lawrence S. LeMar bought a ticket to Belize because the flight schedule fit, and the agent told him they spoke English there. He cut off his phone and decided to leave it that way.
LeMar’s old friend from Birmingham was far away, too, playing shortstop in Little Rock for the Frisco Double-A club. LeMar wished he could be that cool. Rap two extra-base hits in an afternoon game, meet up with Celia, screw her brains out, kill her, and be back in Frisco to drive in the winning run last night of the homestand. LeMar had introduced them, noticed the way she watched him, knew damn well she was going to seduce him and knew damn well Benjy was going to let her. They had a plan. Ninety percent of the music in LeMar’s iPhone was rap, but one was by Johnny Cash, “Cocaine Blues.” He shot her down because she made him slow. He thought he was her daddy but she had five mo’.
LeMar hadn’t had to pull the trigger. That would’ve never worked. This worked. Benjy needed the money. Now he had a lot of it. LeMar thought worth every dime. He drove to New Orleans, just because he figured it was less likely to be recognized there, catching the first of three planes that would get him to Central America.
Bitch had it coming.
Ladson McKoy had it coming, too. Megan Lefebvre rode him hard, several times, and several ways. She tried to pump the essence of life out of him and came reasonably close. He rolled over and nodded off to sleep. She acted like she was, but she’d had a little cocaine tucked away for just such an emergency. As soon as she was satisfied McKoy was dead to the world, Megan slipped out, put on her rubber gloves, and got out her goodies from a shaving kit some lover had left at her place months earlier. She fetched her little bottle from the refrigerator and returned to the bedroom with it and a syringe. She drained it full, easily a lethal dose, and squirted a little, just like in the movies.
The Gainesville High bag was still next to the bed, and McKoy wasn’t asleep.
Megan gently placed her hand under McKoy’s arm, moving it a little where could jab him with the needle at the crook of the elbow. She figured she didn’t have to find a vein. If it got in there, it’d kill him. He might just suffer a little. She took a deep breath, getting up the nerve, wary a little of how he might react, if he’d jump, if he’d even feel what was hitting him. She felt something jabbing her in the neck. Something cold. She heard a click. The click of a gun being cocked.
“You might could stick me, Megan,” Ladson said. “It’d be a race, whether you killed me before half your face hit that wall. Be awful messy. Some of them police (po-leese) come in her, figuring whether or not they got the balls to split up some of that money laying around. Not me or you getting none of it. We be dead.”
She didn’t have a reply. She hadn’t anticipated such a turn of events. She’d thought she was outside the range of investigation.
“What’s lucky for you,” he said, getting up and keeping the gun trained on her, out of range of a sudden jab, “is what you done taught me. The trick is not to be even considered as a suspect. I can’t rightly figure out a way to kill you, although you obviously had that in mind for me.
“But it ain’t right, all things considered, that you ought to make no money. That wouldn’t be right, letting you get away with ten thousand dollars once you tried to kill me for my fifteen. I don’t think there’s no way I could weasel out of that one.”
McKoy concentrated on her wrist, careful, careful, and whisked the syringe out of her hand. He squirted every bit of it on the floor, walked over, gun still trained, opened the window, glanced at the street, and threw it out the window.
“They’ll figure the dope addicts was sure out this morning,” he said.
Megan still hadn’t said a word.
“Our business is done, ma’am,” McKoy said. “I appreciate the hell out of the sex. I can’t forgive the attempted murder. You have anything to do with me, Miss Lefbvre, and I’ll be the one conjuring up a way to kill your ass.”
He put on his cowboy hat and tipped it as he walked out the door.
Ladson strode the sidewalk, kind of tucked up against the bar’s front, half expecting a potshot from the window above. He wouldn’t put it past her, but he figured she knew to stop while she was behind. He had twenty-five thousand dollars of ill-gotten gains, but damned if he didn’t think he’d earned it, and he wished he could figure out a way to give at least a thousand of it to Barney Parmenter, but he couldn’t figure out a way to do it without seeming guilty as he was.
This one, like “The Wayward Son,” could easily be expanded. Enough loose ends are there to create a novel one day. In the meantime, please consider my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, as well as my other books, which can be considered and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1