The Boys in the Bayou
By Maz McCoy
“No!” Kid Curry stated, adamantly.
“Don’t but Kid me, Heyes. I’m not doin’ it.” The blond haired outlaw sank down on his side of the hotel bed, his mind clearly made up.
“Big Mac said…”
“No!” Kid was on his feet again, pointing at Heyes. “I don’t care what Big Mac said, we ain’t doin’ it!” Two ice blue eyes fixed on his partner.
Heyes sighed. “We don’t have a choice! He knows who we are and he says he won’t help us out next time we…”
“Next time we what? Get the urge to steal a bust of Caesar? ‘Cos I never had that urge. When we’re not near him, we’re not in trouble.”
“Kid, I sorta said we would.”
“Well, you can sorta unsay it.”
“I can’t he’s…” His friend waited for an explanation he’d be willing to accept. He didn’t expect there’d be one. “I told him we’d do it. Besides, you like New Orleans!”
“I am not going!”
“Not much changed since we were here last,” Kid observed as they walked through the evening crowds. Drunken men hung their arms around scantily-clad women, more for support than romance, as they staggered from one bar to the next. Rowdy songs boomed from the buildings as more drinkers spilled onto the street a glass in hand. Working girls leaned over ornate cast-iron balconies and beckoned to the crowd below. Carriages tied to posts shaped like horse’s heads awaited fares and smooth-talking bar owners enticed customers inside with the offer of free drinks and a bawdy show.
Heyes eyed one of the working girls as she sashayed by. She tilted her head, coyly, and gave him a brief glimpse of her attributes. He smiled, declined her invitation and touched the brim of his hat. “Is it me or are those girls getting younger?”
Kid laughed. “It’s you gettin’ older, Heyes.” He stopped in front of an inconspicuous black painted door and raised the brass knocker.
“Think she’ll remember us?” Heyes asked, still eyeing the passersby.
“Me? Yes. You, I doubt it.” Kid smiled and knocked on the door. A moment later it was opened by a dark haired young woman wearing…Well, sheesh not much at all, except some lacey things that only just about covered her…Well, no, it didn’t really do that either.
She leaned her hip on the door as she looked at the blond man standing before her, clearly enjoying the view. “What can I do for you, honey?” She smiled and unashamedly ran her eyes over his body; her gaze stopping about halfway down.
Kid removed his hat. “I’m looking for Loyola Calhoun.”
“Oh, sweetie, a handsome fella like you wants a younger woman. Someone who still has the energy to satisfy a man.”
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a bita maturity, Hannah, and don’t you forget it,” a voice boomed from behind her. “Get back inside, I’ll handle this.” Hannah gave a heavy sigh and stood back allowing her boss access to the door. “Now, who do we have here? Gentlemen, I’m sorry if my…” Her mouth dropped open at the sight of the two men standing on her doorstep. “Thaddeus? Joshua? Well, ain’t you two a sight for sore eyes!” Loyola Calhoun grabbed Kid, pulling him into her ample bosom.
“Hello, Loyola,” he mumbled as he was crushed within her voluptuous folds.
“You wanna let him up for air?” Heyes suggested holding his arms open. Loyola let Kid go and grabbed Heyes in a bear hug that expelled the breath from his lungs.
“It is so good to see you boys.” She turned to the girl still lurking behind her. “Hannah, go tell Sally to rustle us up somethin’ to eat.” She looked from Kid to Heyes. “You boys are stayin’ right? We got fresh gator cookin’ as we speak and you ain’t tasted heaven ‘til you sampled Sally’s jambalaya.”
“Well…” Kid didn’t get to finish. Loyola grabbed his arm and pulled him into the house.
“Of course you’re stayin’ I ain’t lettin’ you go till I heard whatch’all been up to since I saw y’all last. And look at you…” She whacked Kid in the stomach. “There ain’t nothin’ of ya. We gonna hafta fatten you up.” Heyes sniggered and she turned her attention to him. “Don’t know why you’re laughin’. You’s as skinny as a ribbon snake.”
The door shut behind them and they followed Madam Calhoun along the dark hallway. The walls were still lined with red velvet, provocative paintings and black-lace curtains hung across the doorways. Heyes and Kid followed Loyola up the stairs and along the short corridor to a corner room. Her room. She opened the door and ushered them inside. There was a sitting area and off to one side, behind a sheer black curtain, was a very large bed. The bed clothes were rumpled. Kid exchanged a look with his partner.
At a table near the window Loyola poured three glasses of bourbon. She handed one to Heyes who passed it to Kid before accepting one for himself.
Loyola draped herself on her red-velvet chaise-long. She deliberately moved the hem of her dress to reveal the full length of her stocking-clad legs. Her décolletage didn’t need any adjusting to reveal more of what she had to offer. Both men had a good view of Loyola’s assets and she knew it. “Sit down boys.” She waved a hand at two red velvet chairs.
Loyola took a sip of bourbon. “So what y’all been up to?”
“This and that,” Kid informed her taking a drink and trying to stay focused on her eyes and not her…
She looked at Heyes. “You’re the one with the silver tongue. You wanna enlighten me? Or you enjoyin’ the view as much as he is?”
Kid blushed and focused on his drink. Heyes smiled as he answered. “Oh you know, a little of this, a little of that.” He leaned forward. “And the view is very appealing.”
Loyola laughed. “I get it. It’s none of my business. Don’t worry, I got only one more question for ya. You boys sleepin’ in my bed tonight?”
Lying on his back, head resting on a pillow, Hannibal Heyes crossed his legs at the ankle and stared at the ceiling. He let out a contented sigh “Sure was nice to see Loyola again.”
“Yeah, it was.” Kid looked up from the table where he sat cleaning his gun and smiled. “She’s quite a woman.”
“A lot of woman.” Heyes eyed his partner. “Too much for ya?”
“Nope, but I didn’t see you takin’ her up on her offer.”
“I thought she was more your type.”
“Any nice woman’s my type.”
“I know. She did ask you to stay for breakfast. Never known you turn down an offer of food, especially from a willing woman.”
“Loyola’s a little too willin’.”
“Ain’t heard you complain in the past.”
“Just read your book, Heyes.”
Smiling, Heyes reached across to the night table and picked up said book. Finding his page marker his eyes scanned the pages before he read aloud. “Listen to this. Jean Lafitte was a French pirate who ran a smuggling operation with his brother out of Baratania Island. Ships could easily come and go without being noticed by customs officials.”
“Sort of like a pirate Devil’s Hole?”
“Exactly. It says Lafitte attacked merchant ships all around Central America. His death is a mystery. Did he die in battle as claimed or…” Heyes paused for dramatic effect. “Did he change his name and leave the Island?”
“He had an alias?”
“Some think so.”
“Not the same governor was it?”
“No. Aww, Kid, it gets better. It is rumored that he buried treasure in several locations on and near the Island.”
Heyes smiled. “Yep.”
“Pieces of eight and a few doubloons I shouldn’t wonder. Ah ha!”
“What was that?”
“My pirate impression.”
“I thought you’d strained yourself.”
“Funny.” Heyes put down the book, swung his legs off the hotel bed and pushed himself up. He stretched and walked over to the window. “We could go look for it.”
“Yep.” He pulled back the curtain. “It’s out there somewhere. Just lying there waiting to be found. A fortune in gold.”
“Who’s gonna do the diggin’?”
Heyes smiled and looked back at his partner. “We’d share it.”
“Sure we would.” Kid didn’t sound convinced. “Anyway, thanks to you, we have a job to do.”
“I know.” Heyes studied the activity on Bourbon Street. “It’s an amazing city isn’t it, Kid? Aren’t you glad we’re back here?”
“Hmm,” came the disgruntled reply.
“You’re not still sore at me, are you?”
“You won the coin toss, what’s to be sore about? Aside from the fact it was your coin.”
“We tossed your coin first, to see whose coin we tossed.”
“I know what we did, Heyes, I was there. I also know that somehow you fixed it.”
Heyes feigned wounded pride. “Kid, I’m disappointed in your lack of trust in me. It hurts, it really does.”
“No, Heyes, it don’t.” He twirled his now pristine Colt. “But I got something here that would.”
Hannibal decided to ignore that and, Lafitte’s treasure momentarily forgotten, he pulled out a chair and sat opposite his friend. “D’you want to go over what we hafta do again?”
“Nope.” Polish, polish.
“I thought it was a good idea too.”
Blue eyes looked up from the gun. Kid shook his head and continued to polish as Heyes continued to do what Heyes did best, he talked.
“Mac said Colonel Buchannan has the icon he’s purchased for Carlotta from Italy. Now we both know what it means when he says it is not in this country entirely legally.”
“He means it’s illegal. And we both know that means trouble and as much as it grieves me to hafta keep remindin’ you, Heyes, trouble is what we’re supposed to stay out of!”
“I know, but Mac said…”
“I know what Mac said.”
“Well, if the Colonel has the icon he’s gonna want to be sure we are who we say we are.”
“Why don’t we just show him a copy of our wanted posters?”
“Very amusing. Mac gave me a phrase we are to repeat to the Colonel.”
“We, or just you?”
“Then how come I’m only hearin’ about this now?”
“I wanted to save it as a surprise.”
Blue eyes narrowed. “So surprise me.”
“We hafta say ‘siamo stati inviati da un amico’.”
“Sure, Heyes, I can say that. If I knew what the heck you just said.”
“I said siamo stati inviati da un amico.”
“Sure ya did.” He didn’t look convinced although he was impressed by Heyes’ accent, whatever it was.
“It means, ‘we have been sent by a friend’.”
“Least ways you hope it does.”
“It’s what Mac says we have to say. We have been sent by a friend.”
“So why can’t we just say that?”
“Because the Colonel wants us to use the code.”
“So this amigo thing is the code?”
“That’s what I said.”
“No, you said…”
“I know what I said. Just teach me the darn code.”
“All right. Repeat what I say. Si.”
“Okay, that’s the first word.”
“Sheesh. What language is this anyway?”
“It’s Italian, the language of love.”
“Language of love? I don’t need no foreign language to sweet talk a woman. I mean if a man doesn’t know what to say to a woman when he’s about to…”
“Can we get back to the code?”
“All right. I got the siamo bit, what’s next?”
“That’s very good.”
“If you mock me, Heyes, I swear I’ll shoot ya.”
“I’m not mocking you; I’m just congratulating you on the correct pronunciation.”
“How the heck do you know it’s correct? You never spoke Italian before.”
“I asked that sweet saloon gal in Coral Junction how to say it.”
“You told the code to a saloon gal?”
“She didn’t know it was code.”
“Let’s hope so or that icon thing, and you still haven’t told me exactly what it is either, may not be there when we finally meet the Colonel.”
“So are you going to learn the code or not?”
“All right, I’ll learn it!”
Heyes was the personification of patience as he slowly, and believe me it was very slow going, taught his friend the correct way to speak the Italian words. Finally Kid sounded as Italian as…Heyes did.
It was time for the second part of the plan. “Mac said the man we’re meeting is called…”
“Philippe Tribodeau at your service.” The man gave a slight bow. He was slight of build, dressed in a rawhide tunic, the fringes dirty from wear. On his head he wore a green bandana tied at the back. His dark beard was trimmed but still harbored the remains of his last meal. He gestured to a table at the back of the room. “Shall we?”
Kid and Heyes followed him thorough the crowded saloon bar, then took a seat at the table.
“We were told you could take us to Colonel Buchannan.” Heyes stated as he studied the man before him.
“Oui. I do that.” He beckoned to a passing waitress and spoke to her in French, ordering drinks for them all. “Twenty dollars.”
“Twenty dollars?” Kid exclaimed.
“Oui. Each. And twenty aussi for I bring back.”
“You want eighty dollars to take us to there and back?” Heyes shook his head in disbelief.
“You hafta be kiddin’. I think we’ll find ourselves another guide.” Kid pushed his chair back and stood up. Heyes pushed back his own chair but remained seated.
“You find one Buchannan will not shoot, oui?”
“What do you mean?” Heyes asked.
“The Colonel he is, ‘ow you say…’ostile?”
“Hostile?” Heyes looked at Kid. “What do you mean he’s hostile?”
“He lets no one on his land. His maison is well protected. He gardes his privacy, oui?”
“That doesn’t stop us finding another guide,” Kid pointed out.
“C’est vrai, mais it is moi, me he expects to see with you. He knows ‘ow I will bring you there.”
“And just how would you take us there?” Heyes asked.
Tribodeau smiled. “Forty dollars.”
A look passed between the partners. It was Mac’s money.
“All right.” Heyes nodded his agreement. “Twenty when we set off and twenty more when you bring us back.”
“Each,” Heyes agreed.
Kid returned to his seat. “When do we leave?”
“We go tomorrow matin, morning. Meet me at the west dock at nine.”
“The dock?” Heyes frowned.
“Oui. The road it is, ‘ow you say, flooded? So we go by bateau. Boat.”
“Boat?” Heyes queried.
“Oui. Bateau. Now it would take deux maybe trois jour to arrive le plantation by road, but by bateau we arrive the same jour.”
“Jour?” Kid’s brow furrowed.
“Oui, jour. Day.”
“We’ll get there the same day? If we go by boat?” Kid confirmed.
The waitress returned to the table and placed a glass of beer in front of each man. Tribodeau handed her several coins and gave her bottom a slap as she turned away. He received a glare in return. The Frenchman laughed and looked from Kid to Heyes. “She is lovely, no?” He picked up his beer before waiting for an answer and downed the contents on one long swallow.
“You’re sure you know how to get to Colonel Buchannan’s mansion by boat?” Heyes asked.
“Oui. I go through the bayou many times, many times. Tomorrow we meet at neuf heure.”
“We meet at nine?” Heyes verified.
“Yes, oui that is what I say, oui, we.”
“We we?” Kid queried.
“Oui! Nine. The dock. Tomorrow.” Tribodeau pushed back his chair. He stood up and gave them a little bow before departing through the crowd.
“A boat. Through the bayou.” Kid looked at Heyes.
“That’s what the man said.”
The boat turned out to be a canoe. Kid gave a heavy sigh as they stood on the dock staring down at the unstable looking craft.
Heyes smiled at his partner’s unease and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Kid, you won’t be in it for long.”
“That’s what worries me.”
“Come along monsieurs, alle vite!”
“What the heck’s he saying now?” Kid whispered.
“I think he want us to get on board.”
More heavy sighing from the blond gunslinger followed. There was some cussing as the canoe rocked as Kid stepped into it. He grabbed hold of the sides as Heyes lowered himself in the middle.
“Stop rockin’ it!”
“I’m just settling in.”
“Well settle faster!”
Tribodeau threw their saddle bags into the canoe and lowered himself into the back. “We go!” He used a paddle to push away from the dock, steered the craft into the faster water of the river and before long they were heading out into the bayou.
In the Bayou
“Alouette, gentille alouette, alouette, je te plumerai.” Tribodeau sang as he lowered the paddle into the water and pushed back.
The craft was propelled forward and Kid Curry grasped both sides tightly. Between them, a relaxed Hannibal Heyes took the opportunity to study the scenery. Trees grew out of the still water, mats of water lilies floated nearby. Sunlight glistened on the surface as dragonflies hovered. Small forests of a flat leaved plant emerged on long stalks that seemed to grow almost before his eyes. Climbers, the thickness of his wrist, wrapped themselves around the buttress roots of trees and vines dangled from on high.
“Je te plumerai la tête. Je te plumerai la tête. Alouette! Alouette! A-a-a-ah.”
“What’s that?” Heyes asked, pointing to something moving in the water up ahead. All eyes fell on the creature slithering its way between the plants.
“WHAT?” Kid spun his head around.
“He means snake,” Heyes informed him.
“Regardez.” Their guide pointed to the far bank where an alligator basked in the morning sunlight.
Kid’s hand dropped instinctively to his hip and rested comfortingly on the handle of his gun. The creature had to be at least six feet long and about three feet wide if the way it has flattened its body was anything to go by. If that thing moved into the water…Kid didn’t rate their chances up against it in the flimsy, unstable canoe.
“Un petit alligator,” Tribodeau stated. When two confused faces turned to him he explained. “A small one. Baby.”
“I’d hate to meet his mother,” Kid muttered.
“Thought you liked all women?” Heyes reminded him with a smile.
“Human women, Joshua, human women.” Kid kept his eyes on the reptile as he heard the sound of the paddle dipping into the water and then the familiar refrain.
“Alouette, gentille alouette, alouette, je te plumerai.”
They had been out on the water for some time now. Heyes’ left leg had fallen asleep and he was suffering from a severe case of pins and needles in his foot. He shifted as best he could in the confined space in the canoe.
“Keep still!” snapped his partner.
“I have cramp.”
“’Ere we stop.” Tribodeau announced, suddenly.
“What?” Kid called from the bow of the canoe and it bumped against the muddy bank.
“We stop. Arrête. Out. Alle vite. You walk from ‘ere.”
“Why?” Heyes turned in the canoe to face their guide.
Tribodeau pointed into the trees. “Through there is maison Colonel Buchannan. Grande maison. Marche through les arbres.”
“Through the what?” Kid queried.
“Why do we have to get out?” Heyes asked. “I thought you said Buchannan knew you? Allowed you on his land.”
“This is his land, mais river, not go there. ‘Ere you can walk. Marche. Through les arbres.”
“How far?” Kid looked into the uninviting darkness.
“Peut-etre one ‘undred maybe deux ‘undred yards.”
“I reckon the mansion’s through the trees a couple of hundred yards away.” Heyes studied the trees but saw nothing to suggest that was true.
“I don’t see it,” Kid informed his friend.
“Mais, it is there,” Tribodeau assured him.
Frowning, Heyes turned back to the Frenchman. “How do we get back to town?”
“I come back ‘ere tomorrow. Same temps. ‘Ere you be.” He pointed to the very spot on the muddy bank where he expected to find them.
“Tomorrow?” Kid shot Heyes a look.
“What if Buchannon doesn’t offer us the hospitality of his home for the night?” Heyes enquired. “You said he was hostile.”
“How do you know we can stay at the mansion?” Heyes asked.
“You can. It is arranged. You stay ‘ere ce soir. I come demain. Tomorrow.” Tribodeau made shooing motions with his hands. “Alle. Go now.”
The partners exchanged a look then reluctantly Kid climbed out of the canoe. His boots sank into the mud. He looked down watching his feet sink further and sighed. With considerable effort he freed first one and then the other boot until he stood on solid ground. He turned to watch Heyes repeat the process.
Then, against their better judgment, the two ex-outlaws stood side-by-side and watched as Philippe Tribodeau paddled away. Their guide gave a cheery wave as he disappeared around a bend in the river and then they heard the familiar refrain. “Alouette, gentille alouette, alouette, je te plumerai.”
“Well, come on,” Heyes said and led the way into the trees.
“Dammit!” Kid cussed as yet another vine caught around his neck. “What are all these damn plants anyway?” He batted away the offending foliage.
“It’s a swamp, Kid, so I imagine they’re swamp plants.”
Kid didn’t dignify that with an answer, instead he grumbled, “I thought we’d be there by now.”
“You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” Kid asked as he ducked under a branch.
“Not being clairvoyant I don’t know the answer to that.” Heyes looked down at the swamp mud on his boot.
“I don’t think the mansion is as close as Tribodeau said.”
“And I always thought I was the genius.” Heyes walked into a spider’s web and grabbed at the strands hanging from his hat. “Will you get this stuff off me?”
Kid brushed the web away, stepped back and the branch he trod on rose up and hissed at him. “Jeez…!” Kid drew and fired.
“What the…?” Heyes got his breath back as Kid kicked the reptile into the bushes. “Did you hafta do that?”
“No, I coulda just let it bite me.” They stared at each other for a moment then Kid re-holstered his Colt. “So d’you think I’m right?”
“About the mansion? I don’t reckon we’re gonna reach it anytime soon. In fact I don’t think this trail leads to the mansion at all.”
Heyes let out a long breath. “I think we’ve been deceived.”
“Not like you to let that happen.”
“I must be getting old.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Heyes; it was bound to happen sometime.” Kid looked around. There was nothing to see but trees, swamp water and more trees. “So what are we gonna do?”
“I guess we keep walking.”
“We could go back.”
“To the place he dropped us off at. Get another boat back.”
“Did you see any other boats on the way out here?”
“So what makes you think they’ll be any if we go back there?”
“Well, I reckon there’s a darn sight more chance of findin’ one if we go back than blunderin’ on through these trees and vines and who knows what else!”
Heyes considered this. “I guess you’re right.” He looked around. “Which way was back?”
“You sayin’ you’re lost?”
“No, just asking.”
“The champeen tracker of all southern Utah doesn’t know which way to go?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“In that case.” Kid held out a hand. “After you.”
“*!#@!” Kid swore.
“Now what?” Ahead of Kid on the trail, although you could hardly call it that, Heyes turned around and took a patient breath.
Kid, his left boot buried to just above the calf in swamp mud gave his partner a look. “Guess.”
Heyes looked at the boot. “Why don’t you look before you take a step?”
“Because I was trying to avoid these.” He batted at the vines and branches hanging around his head and in doing so unwittingly dislodged a spider which fell into the crown of his hat.
Heyes recoiled in horror. “Don’t move!”
“There’s a spider on your hat.”
“Of course there’s a spider on my hat.” Kid reached up to remove his hat, clearly not believing his friend. “Why wouldn’t there be a spider on my hat? Every other swamp creature has had a go at…” The spider scrambled onto Kid’s shirt and the man found himself face to face with said spider. Kid froze. It was a big spider. A big, hairy spider.
“Don’t move,” his friend advised, helpfully.
“I won’t.” Kid’s eyes opened wider as Heyes edged closer. “Shoot it.”
“I can’t shoot it, I’ll hit you, although the way you’ve been moaning it might be…”
The spider raised a hairy leg. “Heyzzzz.”
“It’s all right.”
“No. It’s. Not.” An arachnid leg rose. A mandible waved. A cowboy tensed. His breath was held. “Heyzzzzz.”
WHACK! Kid staggered backwards as the spider fell to the ground and…STOMP! Heyes crushed the spider…and Kid’s hat. Kid drew in a breath and then looked down at the squashed remains of the spider, on top of his hat. His expression darkened.
“Did you have to stamp on my hat?”
“No, I coulda let the spider make a nest in it,” Heyes stated as he used a fallen log to wipe the remains of the spider off his boot.
Kid reached down and picked up his hat. It was flat, covered in swamp mud and…oh yuck.
Heyes looked at the crushed muddy head gear and smiled. “I reckon I improved it.”
Two unimpressed blue eyes stared back. “Want me to improve yours?”
“Not unless a snake lands on it.”
Kid looked around. “We’re lost aren’t we?”
“All right. You’re lost.”
“No, I’m not.”
“So where are we?”
“We’re in the Bayou.”
“I know that. Where exactly are we? Or more importantly, which way’s New Orleans?”
Heyes looked at the trees and then up through the canopy at the blue sky above. “We hafta reach the water soon.”
Kid chuckled. “You have no idea.” He pushed aside a hanging vine and walked on.
A distant howl drifted through the trees. Or was it a moan?
“What the heck was that?” Kid stopped in his tracks, his hand rested on his gun butt once more. Heyes didn’t answer. “That wasn’t a coyote.” Kid looked at his friend. “Was that a coyote?”
“I don’t know.”
“They don’t have coyotes out here? Do they?”
“I don’t think so.”
The howl/moan came again.
“What kinda creatures do they have out here?” Kid drew his gun.
“Alligators. Snakes. Swamp things.”
“Swamp things? What sort of swamp things?”
“That sort of swamp thing. I suggest we keep walking.”
Kid didn’t argue but cast the occasional glance over his shoulder as they moved on.
Sweat dripped down Kid Curry’s face. His shirt was stuck to his back, his boots were full of swamp water and he had an urge to shoot someone. That someone was walking several paces in front of him keeping up an incessant chatter as he sloshed, stumbled and strode through the bayou.
“You know, Kid, while we’re out here we should look for the treasure.” Kid Curry stopped in his tracks and glared at his partner’s back. Heyes turned around. “What?”
“I am wet through, hungry, my feet are startin’ to rot and I have spider innards on my hat and you want to look for treasure?”
“It’ll take your mind off things.”
“I don’t want my mind taken off things, I just want to get back to civilization.”
“I was thinking of the pirate treasure.”
“I know what you were thinkin’ of.”
“Jean Lafitte; the French pirate.”
“Well, it could be out here. I’m betting not many people have passed this way.”
“Oh ya think? I reckon the last man through here carried a spear and…”
“Oh, not again.” Heyes grumbled. “I thought we lost that thing.”
“You don’t even know what that thing is,” Kid reminded him. “You hear things about places like this. People disappear and no one ever finds a trace of them. Then folks start to wonder what they were doin’ out there in the first place. People can’t explain it. Like why the heck two intelligent men would let a Frenchman they’ve never met before leave them in the middle of a swamp. And why they were stupid enough to pay him forty dollars to do it!”
“Especially when one of those men insists he’s a genius!”
But Heyes’ words fell on deaf ears as Kid elbowed him aside and sloshed on ahead.
“I don’t think you’re gonna believe this.”
Kid Curry stood several feet ahead of Heyes staring at something behind an enormous tree trunk.
“What is it?”
“Come and see.”
“It’s not the thing, is it?”
With little enthusiasm, Heyes slogged closer to his partner. “What is it?”
Kid stood to one side allowing his friend a view of…Boxes and crates piled one on top of the other. A wooden boat, half-covered in a tarpaulin, full of buckets and shoes and…Were those swords? And was that a conquistador’s helmet? It sure looked like a conquistador’s headgear.
Smiling, Heyes looked at Kid who smiled back. “I think this is it. I think we found it. Lafitte’s treasure. We found pirate treasure.” Heyes edged closer.
“Least we don’t hafta dig it up.” Kid picked up the helmet and rubbed mud from the top with the sleeve of his shirt. “How old d’you think this is?”
“I think they were here around the time of Columbus, so…” Heyes thought. “Old.” He picked up a sword. “The last person to hold this could have been a Spanish nobleman.” He swished it through the air and a severed vine fell to the ground.
“Watch what you’re doin’ with that thing,” Kid warned.
Heyes smiled again. “If we can get this stuff outta here we could be rich.”
“And just how are we gonna do that? We don’t even know where here is. We can’t get ourselves outta here let alone carry this stuff…”
“You always hafta look on the dark side don’t you?”
“I like to think of it as being practical.”
“Well then think of a practical way we can carry some of this.”
Kid sat with his back against a pile of crates and pulled the collar of his shirt up hoping to protect himself against the chill of the damp Louisiana night. He was miserable. Miserable and hungry. Hungry and miserable. Fed up. Angry. Cold and…dammit he was hungry! As if to confirm the fact his stomach groaned loudly.
“What?” Heyes asked from his own equally chilly corner of Hell.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Oh.” Heyes sighed. Whose stupid idea was it to accept Big Mac’s offer of a job? Well, maybe offer wasn’t the right word. Blackmail was more accurate. Whose fault? His? Or maybe it was Kid’s? Yeah. Maybe he should have tried harder to talk him out of it? Why did he have to be the one that came up with all the plans; all the answers? Why couldn’t Kid do it for once? If he’d tried harder to talk him out of listening to Big Mac they wouldn’t be sitting here now. This was definitely Kid’s fault. Heyes glared at his partner. Definitely his.
Unaware of the animosity being aimed in his direction, Kid pulled his hat down over his eyes, folded his arms across his chest and tried to sleep. His eyes were closed. His brain informed the rest of his body about the plan to sleep. His ears refused to listen. Was that the snap of a twig? A rustle of leaves? The squelch of a footstep? Was something creeping over the boxes towards him? Was that croaking sound a frog or some other swamp creature intent on dispatching him with one swipe of a clawed hand? Was the thing still out there? They hadn’t heard that howling for a while but that didn’t mean it wasn’t nearby. Watching? With one finger Kid pushed his hat back up. He scanned the darkness. Nothing. Nothing except for a pair of brown eyes staring back.
“What?” Kid snapped.
“I just realized this is all your fault,” his partner informed him.
“My fault? How d’you work that out?”
“You shoulda stopped me.”
“From doin’ what?”
“Taking this job!”
“I did try to stop ya.”
“Not hard enough!” Grumpily, Heyes folded his arms and turned away.
“Are you serious?”
Kid shook his head. There was no point arguing with Heyes when he got like this. No point trying to make him see reason. He’d have to wait until morning. Then he could shoot him.
“What the…?” Kid was on his feet, Colt in hand, scanning every direction at once.
Beside him, his own gun drawn, Heyes scanned the bits of the bayou Kid had probably missed. “See anything?”
A twig snapped. Blue eyes opened wider. Mud squelched. Brown eyes moved from side to side. A giant creature bounded into the opening, leapt at Kid Curry and flattened him to the ground.
Heyes aimed his gun at the creature’s back as his partner vanished beneath its enormous body.
“Hold ya fire! Don’t shoot!” An old man appeared from the undergrowth.
Heyes’ gun waivered in his hand.
Kid pushed the giant dog off him and wiped the slobber from his face. The dog had other ideas and continued to lick Kid’s face. “Will someone get this thing away from me?”
“Oh, don’t mind Bluebelle, she’s still a puppy.
“I’ll take your word for it.” Kid shoved the dog away.
“What you fellas doin’ out here?” The old man looked them up and down. “You been swamp swimmin’? Wrong time o’year for that. Hee hee. Mighty dangerous too what with the gators and such.” The old man held out a mud-covered hand. “Name’s Dougie Creed.”
Heyes shook it. “Joshua Smith and the dog lover’s Thaddeus Jones.”
Dougie nodded a greeting and stepped toward the boat. “I see you found ma treasure.”
“Your treasure? You mean this isn’t…?”
“I bet you thought this was ol’ Lafitte’s treasure. Sorry to hafta disappoint you boys but this here’s all mine.”
“Where d’you get all this stuff?” Kid asked as Bluebelle continued to jump up at him.
“I’ve been findin’ things in the bayou for years.” He picked up the conquistador’s helmet. “Yep, for years.” Sitting the helmet back on a box he looked from Heyes to Kid. “Don’t get many folk passin’ through out here.”
“I can imagine.” Kid shoved Bluebelle away.
“So, you fellas lost?”
“A little off course,” Heyes informed him and received a look from Kid.
“Whatcha doin’ in the bayou?”
“Trying to get to Colonel Buchannan’s house,” Heyes stated.
“Well, then you really are lost. His mansions’ about three miles away in thataway.” He pointed in the opposite direction to the way they had been walking.
Kid gave Heyes an I-told-you-so look.
“Who brought you out here?”
“A Frenchman named Philippe Tribodeau.”
“Well, that’d be a real neat trick if he did.”
“What d’you mean?” Kid’s brow furrowed.
“He’s been dead two weeks.” Creed thought for a moment. “No wait he’s probably been gone three weeks, cos we only found what was left of him two weeks ago.”
“What was left of him?”
“An arm and half a leg. Gators got the rest. Only knew it was him from the tatoo on his hand. A rose and some fancy French words.” The partner’s exchanged a look. “So it couldn’t be him who brung you out here. Course it coulda been his partner, Marcel Robineau. He’s a real sneaky piece o’work.”
“Skinny fella?” Kid queried. “Dark beard?”
“That’d be him. Some folks reckon he’s responsible for Tribodeau’s disappearance in the first place. He was too damn experienced to just fall outta his canoe. Course anyone who’s met Robineau can tell ya he’s not to be trusted. You can always tell.”
Kid looked at Heyes. “Not always.”
A sudden thought struck Dougie Creed. “Why didn’t ya go by road?”
“Huh?” Heyes looked up at him.
“To the mansion. Why didn’t ya go by road?”
“Because it’s flooded.”
“Since when? We ain’t had a lick of water out here for over a month. Not one drop of rain. Folks’re even runnin’ outta spit.”
Kid shot a look at Heyes but before his partner could vent his anger he turned to Creed. “Could you point us in the direction of town?”
He rubbed his stubbled chin. “Let me see. That’d be N’Orleans.” He looked up through the canopy. Pondered for a moment and then pointed into the dense foliage. “That way.”
“Can you show us how to get there?” Heyes asked, hopefully.
“I can do better than that. Gotta go into N’Orleans myself. If you fellas help me with a little somethin’ I can take you there.”
“What do we hafta do?” Kid asked as Bluebelle sat beside him and rested her head on his knee.
“There she is,” Creed announced pointing towards the water’s edge.
Kid moved closer, pulled back the branches of a bush and…“Woah!”
Heyes peered over his partner’s shoulder and whistled in admiration. “That’s big!” He turned to Creed. “You killed that?”
“Yup.” Dougie beamed with pride. “Snuck up on it real quiet like. Strangled her with ma bare hands.”
Kid and Heyes exchanged a disbelieving glance.
Kid jerked a thumb at the enormous dead alligator lying on the bank. “So what do you want us to do with it?”
“We gotta gut her boys. I sure as heck won’t do it near ma cabin. Don’t want to attract any more predators. So we gotta do it right here.”
“We?” Heyes queried.
Creed smiled. “Well, mostly, you.” He drew a large skinning knife from his belt. “Who wants to do the honors?”
Heyes looked at his friend.
Kid smiled. “After you.”
Kid looked at his blood covered hands then searched for something to wipe them on then. Realizing his pants were already covered in guts, he wiped his hands on his legs. “This hasta be the most disgusting thing we’ve ever done.”
Hannibal Heyes, equally attired in reptilian body fluids, wrapped a bloody alligator leg in canvas. “If he doesn’t show us the way out after this, I swear I’ll gut him myself.”
“An’ I thought you were such a peaceable man.” Kid muttered as he struggled with the alligator skin they had just…Well, he didn’t want to relive that messy experience in a hurry. “I’m never eatin’ alligator again.”
“Not even Loyola’s?”
“Not even hers.”
“What about those boots you had your eye on. They were made of ‘gator skin.”
“Nothin’ wrong with cow hide.”
“You fellas finished?” Dougie asked as he emerged from the undergrowth.
“Almost.” Heyes waved a hand at the two full bags. “What do you want done with those?”
“Load ‘em in my canoe. Might as well take ‘em into town along with you fellas.” He turned and headed along the river.
“I might have guessed there’d be another darn canoe,” Kid mumbled as he picked up a bag.
“Monsieur Smith!” The hotel receptionist exclaimed with he spotted Heyes entering the lobby. He reached down below his desk to retrieve something. “I have a message for you from…” He stopped mid-sentence and stared at the two men before him. His shock turned swiftly to disgust when he realized the stains on their clothing was blood. “Mon Dieu.”
“It’s not ours,” Kid informed him as he stepped forward but his words did nothing to allay the desk clerk’s fears.
“It’s alligator blood,” Heyes explained, quickly. “We helped carry one.”
The man looked a little less perturbed.
“A dead one,” Kid clarified.
Wisely, the clerk decided against pursuing the matter. He held out an envelope. “This came just after you left.”
Heyes took it and tore it open. Inside was a folded piece of paper that revealed itself to be a telegram. His face clouded over as he read. His fist tightened around the paper.
“What?” Kid prompted.
Eyes slapped the message on Kid’s chest and the blond man took it from him and looked. “It’s from Big Mac,” he stated redundantly. He read the telegram aloud. “No need to see Buchannan. Meeting him myself. Be in touch when I have another job. Mac.” Kid’s mouth dropped open. He closed it. It opened again. He looked at Heyes, who threw his hands up in disbelief.
“He’s meeting him himself!” Heyes paced. Kid recognized it as I-have-to-pace-or-I-will-flatten-someone pacing. “He doesn’t need us!” Heyes continued. “No need to get dumped in a swamp. No need to get covered in alligator blood!” Heyes shot a glare at Kid. Sensibly, Kid kept quiet. “No need! All of it! No need!”
A thought struck the blond man. “I guess it means he’s not gonna pay us either.”
Heyes’ head snapped round. “Oh, he’ll pay us all right. He’ll pay.”
“Before or after we find Marcel what’s-his-name?”
“I don’t know. Right now I want a bath. A long hot bath.”
“Then can I shoot him?”