Ladson Could Sure Play Ball

Ladson McKoy (Monte Dutton sketch)
Ladson McKoy (Monte Dutton sketch)

Here’s the whole short story. As usual, I’ve gone back and fixed some details. I had some fixation with naming a character Ladson and referring to him several times as Troy, mainly because I knew a Troy once with a similar last name. It’s entirely possible there are other little glitches I’ll discover later. I appreciate those who followed the serial short story through its three parts, but I also hope this will be enjoyable for those who were waiting for the full story at once.

  1. A BIT SKETCHY ON THE DETAILS

Barney Parmenter thought it a pleasant surprise when he saw the kid thumbing at the entrance to Interstate 35W near the Fort Worth Stockyards. As a rule, Barney didn’t pick up hitchhikers. This one he recognized.

Ladson McKoy. Lord, have mercy. He was a rounder, and a rambler, and all that was dependable were the twinkles in his eyes. Barney saw the look of recognition in the kid, who reached down to pick up a tan paper grocery bag that apparently contained some dirty clothes.

“What in hell you doing thumbing up a Fort Worth freeway, Ladson? You trying to get back home?”

“Yep,” he said. “I sure am lucky you come along, Mr. Parmenter. You headed back to Gainesville?

“Quick as I get there. Get in, boy.”

Ladson climbed in the Silverado and sat the bag between his legs.

“Damned if I know how I got here, Mr. Parmenter. I woke up eighty miles south of where I expected.”

Barney laughed. That was Ladson.

“How old are you now, son?”

“I’ll be twenty-four in a month,” he said, “if’n I make it.”

“Well, that’s old enough where you don’t need to call me Mister. Barney.”

“Ladson,” he said.

The author, Monte Dutton
The author, Monte Dutton

Ladson McKoy had always exceeded the sum of his parts. As a high school senior, he hadn’t rushed but for 575 yards but led the Leopards in scoring. They said in Gainesville that he played APB, “All Purpose Back,” and it made double sense because the local police had occasionally issued all-points bulletins for his young ass. The town had a heap of characters, but Ladson had been one since he was sixteen years old. Barney thought him a throwback to the days of Bobby Layne and Dandy Don Meredith. When the games started, rumors flew in the grandstands about the boy being out at a roadhouse, one out in the country where they didn’t pay much attention to the IDs of good ballplayers, and, when they ended, it was that damned fool Ladson McKoy, done led us to victory again. Before the eighth game of the season, the coach had briefly kicked Ladson off the team, but it was reduced to a one-game suspension when it was discovered that the joint the coach had thought to be marijuana was no more than a hand-rolled cigarette. Tobacco was a suspension, not a crime. Barney started laughing out loud thinking about it.

“What you been doing down here in Fort Worth so bright and early?” Ladson asked.

“Ah, just bidness,” Barney said. “Struck out from home ‘bout sunrise ‘cause I wanted to be at the front door of the bank when the door opened. I ain’t much for on-line paying, and I needed to get something paid off before it cost me no more money.”

“Tractor?”

“Nah,” Barney said. “You’re riding in it. Three years old, and it’s mine. Noreen’ll be lobbying for a new car before the week’s out. Where your car located?”

“I’m right satisfied it’s in the parking lot of the Whataburger on 82,” Ladson said. “One of my buddies picked me up there last night about seven ‘cause I was a-needing me a designated driver.”

“The details get a little sketchy from there?”

“Hell, yeah. Last I remember, I was dancing with some of them college gals at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton. I woke up with one of them in a bedroom, up above one of them honky tonks in the Stockyards. I got up, told her I sure enjoyed it, but I had to get on out of there. She said, ‘Well, how you gon’ get home, darling?’ and I don’t think she knowed my name, and I’m damned sure I ain’t got a clue about hers, so I kissed her on the cheek, and found this grocery bag behind the door, and damned if there wudn’t a change of underwear that fit me, and a new pair of socks, and I reckon I never will pay that feller back ‘cause, since I don’t know who it was I slept with, I’m unlikely to ever learn who slept there before me.

“So I hoofed it over to the super highway, and I ain’t been there ten minutes when you picked me up.”

“Clean living,” Barney said.

“Yeah. That’s what it is.”

“How you feeling?”

“Well, I worked up a little sweat walking up out of the Stockyards,” Ladson said. “I reckon I’m all right. I ain’t ready to brand no cattle or nothing.”

“You up for a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, yeah. Need it.”

“Normally I’d stop at a Circle K or something, but that’s because it’s too much trouble to stir some Sweet ‘n’ Low in a cup while you driving. I’d be a cinch to scald myself. Since I got you to take care of that, I reckon we’n go through the drive-through and get us a Egg McMuffin or something.”

“I got it,” Ladson said. “Least I’n do for the ride.”

They got back on the highway and sipped their coffee. Traffic wasn’t bad once they got north of the Alliance Airport. He always got a kick out of staring at that big speedway on the left. He thought it wouldn’t be bad to go to one of those races one day. He’d talked about it. Some friends claimed they could get free tickets, but when the time came, no one ever followed through on it, and he reckoned he could watch on TV.

“You ever been to the races over there, Ladson?”

“Yeah. Several times. I remember them things about as much as I do how I got to Fort Worth last night. That track considers itself Fort Worth, don’t it? Must be something about Cowtown leads me toward not remembering stuff.

“One thing’s kinda stupid. You know, you’d think the worst thing could happen would be waking up with a damned hangover, and just about the time you get to circulating that’s when they crank up all them motors on them stock cars, but, I declare, that race starts, they’s a heap of folks hurting from all what went on the night before.”

“I’m pretty sure I done got too old for that,” Barney said.

“Aw, go on,” Ladson replied.

The boy reached in his grocery bag and fetched a cell phone he turned on.

“I might find a hint or two on how I got where I got to,” he said.

“You on Facebook, Ladson?”

“Nah, Facebook get you in too much trouble. Ever’body into ever’body else’s bidness. I got a page there. Don’t check it once ever’ month no more. I keep up with my Twitter. It’s right good for shooting the shit with the young ladies.”

“Maybe that gal what you slept with’ll look you up on Twitter,” Barney said. “You reckon she remembers your name?”

“My luck she does,” he said.

Barney chuckled and took another sip. It was about cooled down enough to drink.

“I believe that gal that drug me off to Fort Worth was on something,” Ladson said.

“Wudn’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but I wasn’t doing nothing that wudn’t legal. If I’d’ve had it to do over, I reckon I’d’ve drunk beer and not started doing shots, but that tends to happen when you get to raising hell with a bunch of brand-new friends.”

“Who was playing at Dan’s?”

“Joe Ely.”

“I’d’ve liked to see’d that. … So she was smoking weed or something?”

“More like something, I’m guessing,” Ladson said. “A few details is just now coming back to me.”

“But you didn’t do nothing ‘cept drink?”

“Never have,” Ladson said. “I’ll smoke a cigarette now and again, but not no lefthanded’uns.”

Barney exited at Highway 82 and drove a few miles to where the Whataburger sat out front of a strip mall. The fact a couple police cruisers were there didn’t seem too unusual. He reckoned the police probably got coffee on the house. What was unusual was how they all came streaming out the front door on the run when Ladson approached his ten-year-old F-150. They threw him across the hood, pinned his hands behind him, and commenced to reading him his rights.

Sheriff Wade Beaufort walked over to where Barney sat there idling in the parking lot.

“Where you and the boy been?” Beaufort asked.

“Picked him up thumbing on the side of the road.”

“Where ‘bouts?”

“Fort Worth.”

“They’s a gal they found dead in Fort Worth, over in the Stockyards. Apparently, they was somebody put Ladson and that gal together earlier in the night.”

“I’ll be dogged.”

“He act funny when you picked him up?”

“Nope. Same Ladson I’ve always known,” Barney said. “I don’t believe he done it. I don’t believe he’d’ve acted how he did if he was guilty of anything other than picking up a good-looking woman. Ladson ain’t no saint, but he ain’t no murderer, neither.”

“Well, it sure is looking that way, Fred. How ‘bout dropping by the jail sometime this afternoon?”

“I’m Barney, Wade.”

“I’m sorry,” the Sheriff said. “I was a-thinking of your brother.”

“I’ll be by directly,” Barney said.

Barney drove east on Highway 82, headed to the house. He wondered if he still had a pack of cigarettes in the console. He’d about quit, but he still kept a pack for when he was stressed out and needed a smoke to help him think. With his eyes still on the road, he went rummaging around with his right hand and felt something cold and steel. When he looked at it, he realized he might just have in his possession a murder weapon.

2. THE WRONG GIRL

It doesn't add up in Barney Parmenter's mind. (Monte Dutton sketch)
It doesn’t add up in Barney Parmenter’s mind. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Sheriff Wade Beaufort personally handled the interrogation of Ladson McKoy, who told him he’d awakened in Fort Worth expecting to be in Denton, that he’d kissed the gal goodbye, and hoofed it out to the interstate. He said it was in the Stockyards, and it was the second floor above a honky tonk that had a staircase that led down to the street, and, yes, he reckoned he could show them where it was if they took him back down there. He said he couldn’t even remember the gal’s name, but he was positively sure she’d been alive, if sleepy, when he’d walked out the door.

“They ain’t nobody who’d try to frame you, Ladson?”

“Not as I know of,” he replied, “but I reckon they couldn’t’ve done no better job if they hadda.”

“I reckon not.”

Someone knocked on the door.

“Come in,” Beaufort said.

It was a deputy sheriff, carrying a cell phone. He explained that the phone had been on Ladson McKoy’s person.

“I thought you might be interested in the text messages that have been coming in.” He handed Beaufort the phone.

They most recent ones had messages like, Ladson, are you there? and, Honey, are you alrite? Call me, and, the first ones had racier themes: Ladson, I wanna play some more ball. I wanna be receiver, and, The tingling sez I need some more of you, sugar.

“Explain these, Ladson.” Beaufort handed him the phone. McKoy studied them, and the more he studied, the wider his smile.

“Sheriff, uh, I believe that’s the gal I woke up with this morning, and, I believe, she ain’t nowhere near dead,” he said, and the fear of God had been replaced by a face that was hard to keep straight.

“Call her,” Beaufort said. “Right now. Tell her I want to speak to her.”

It took McKoy a while to figure out how to reply to a text with a call, but the cell finally started beeping, and the call went through.

“Ladson, baby, where were you? What took you so long?”

“Well, honey, last few hours, I been in jail. Seems like the police got it in their heads that you been killed and I’m the one what done it.”

“What the …?”

“I’m gonna put the Sheriff of Cooke County on the line – his name’s Wade Beaufort – and I want you to confirm that you’s still alive, and, therefore, I ain’t kilt nobody. You reckon you’n do ‘at fuh me?”

McKoy cupped his hand over the phone. “I still can’t remember her name,” he whispered, and shrugged his shoulders.

In spite of the seriousness of this matter, Sheriff Beaufort had to chuckle a little himself.

“Yes, ma’am, this is Sheriff Beaufort, and you are?”

“Megan Lefebvre, L-E-F-E-B-V-R-E. It’s pronounced luh fever, though.”

“Well, Megan Lefebvre, you can confirm that Ladson McKoy was with you last night?” Beaufort said the name out loud for McKoy’s benefit.

“Yes, sir. He was.”

“And you spent the night in each other’s company?

“That we did, Sheriff.”

Beaufort talked with her about five more minutes, taking down her name, address, and phone number, and telling her to stay where she was, and he was satisfied a detective from the Fort Worth Police Department would be in contact with her in the next few minutes. After he’d ascertained from Miss Lefebvre that she and Mr. McKoy had no knowledge of any homicide taking place nearby, he handed the phone back to McKoy.

“Thanks a heap, Megan,” McKoy said into the phone. “I’ll be to see you after while. Yeah. Love you, darling. Bye.”

McKoy looked at the sheriff. “Well, what’s next?”

“Let me get on the phone, Ladson, talk to them in Fort Worth. You go back, sit a spell, we’ll put you back in a cell for a few minutes, and, soon as I get it approved, I reckon we’ll be letting you go.”

“Thank you, Sheriff. You know I ain’t no murderer.” McKoy walked out. A jailer escorted him back to his cell.

Beaufort watched him go, standing in the door with the deputy sheriff, who’d been standing there without saying a word since he walked in with the phone.

“Ladson McKoy,” the Sheriff said to the deputy. “That boy sure did know how to play ball.”

Barney Parmenter bided his time doing menial tasks so that he could think. He didn’t do much but feed the cows, but that gun in the console might as well been a half pint of acid in his belly. He came back to the house sweating, but he didn’t go inside the house. He sat down on the porch. The sun was starting to descend to the horizon, and Parmenter had to go back up to the jail because he’d told the Sheriff he would. He was trying to decide what he was going to do about the gun.

He was just about to get up and crank up the truck when he heard the sound of someone turning off the road. It was Ladson McKoy’s old Ford, and Parmenter wondered why in the world someone from the Sheriff’s Department was coming to leave it at his place. He didn’t even consider that McKoy might be driving it.

McKoy got out, waved, and walked up on the porch. He sat in the rocking chair just like the one Parmenter was occupying.”

“Well?”

“I just figured it was right obvious what question I had,” Parmenter said, “so’s I’d just wait for you to answer it.”

“They let me go. They didn’t just get the wrong man. They got the wrong girl. The gal I spent the night with, she ain’t dead. Whole time I was behind bars, she was burning up my phone with text messages. They come in, asking about it, so I called her, and it turns out the murder was on the next block down the street.

“I reckon you still got my gun.”

“Yep,” Parmenter said. “All I done was touch it. It’s still setting there in the console of the truck. That’s what I was doing. Setting here thinking about it.”

“I misjudged you, Barney.”

“How’s that?”

“I figured you’d turn that pistol in once you found it.”

“Well, I hadn’t ruled it out. Wade told me to come back, said he needed to talk to me some more. I been putting it off ever since I left the Whataburger.”

“I knew I didn’t kill nobody. I figured once they had, you know, a ballistics report, they’d find out it wasn’t my gun. I don’t reckon it’s been fired in a week or two.”

“Why come you had it?”

“Aw, I just carry one with me. It ain’t unusual.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Parmenter said. “I reckon the Sheriff really don’t need to talk with me no more. I guess I’ll go back up there, anyway, just so’s he can tell me that.

“I just got one question, Ladson.”

“Shoot.”

“How did that pistol get in my console?”

“I seen them police cars,” McKoy said. “When you stopped, there in the parking lot, I seen them deputies inside starting to stir. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knowed a man carrying a gun on him, getting out of a truck, he’s liable to get hisself shot, so when you looked out the window, I slipped her in the that center console, got out.”

Parmenter didn’t remember that as being quite right. He remembered Ladson getting out of the truck, and then the cops closing in. The more he thought about it, it seemed more likely that Ladson would have slipped that gun out of his grocery sack and into the console when they were at the McDonald’s drive-through, and if that’s when it happened, Ladson had to have known he was in trouble. Parmenter saw no need to say anything.

“Well, I appreciate you trusting me, Barney,” McKoy said. “I’ll just pick up my gun and mosey on back down to Fort Worth. I owe Miss Megan Lefebvre a favor, too. I’ll be back to see you in a day or so. Again, I appreciate what you done for me.”

“Well, drive safe, Ladson. Take care of your damn self a little better.”

“I reckon I better. I gotta go.”

“I don’t reckon it’ll be all that hard trying to make it up to that gal.”

“Nah.” McKoy smiled. “I’ll manage.”

 

Megan Lefebvre (Monte Dutton sketch)
Megan Lefebvre (Monte Dutton sketch)
  1. A MATTER OF TRUST

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.

“Huh, uh.”

“Girlfriend of the Roughnecks’ star receiver.”

“Stirling LeMar?”

“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.”

“Damn.”

“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 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 young 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. Noreen 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 apparently 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 Ladson found the thrill was gone, the moment passed. They aught 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?”

“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.”

Ladson was starting to feel a buzz. He stood up.

“I got a bag, too,” he said, “and I gotta piss. Be right back.”

He took the bag, 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?”

“Ah’ight,” 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. 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, Ladson 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 it worth every dime. He drove all the way 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 drew in the liquid, 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 she could jab him with the needle at the crook of the elbow. She figured it unnecessary to find a vein. If it got in there, it’d kill him. He might just enjoy the high a little longer. 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 it 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 again, 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 gain, 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. He couldn’t figure out a way to do it without seeming guilty as he was.

###

              Please consider buying my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope. You can examine them here, along with most of my other books: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

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