Sunday morning Jake Parrow came downstairs to the bar about ten. He was supposed to meet Biggy at Peggy’s at 10:30 to discuss the week’s deliveries. He started coffee in the kitchen before opening the back door to get his Times-Picayune.
Back inside, while his coffee was dripping, he opened the paper. There across the front page was the description of a brutal murder and attempted murder that had occurred on Friday night not more than a few blocks away. The names of the victims were Paul Bonificio and Polly Duplessis. The man was dead and the woman was in critical condition at Charity Hospital. The names meant nothing to Jake but the description of the man who was seen running away from the scene did mean something to him. He was described as being a ‘behomoth’. He sped away in an old, dark-blue pickup truck. Those two facts together could only point to one person. Biggy Bigeaux. Jake thought about Biggy asking him if he knew the name of the young woman who had been in Jake’s with a bunch of downtown servers not two weeks before. He remembered her name was Polly. Biggy had seemed especially interested in her but Jake refused to let himself believe Biggy could have done such a thing as the paper described. He was sure there was more to the story.
He immediately locked up and rushed over to Peggy’s, taking the paper with him. When he arrived she had already seen the paper and had only had to look out the window to see that Biggy’s truck was not there.
“Where do you think he went, Jake?” Peggy asked.
“Lafourche Parish. The old houseboat. The only place he has to go. I’m leaving for there immediately. Can you open the bar for me this afternoon? I promise I’ll be back by five.”
“Sure. Just go find out what’s going on.”
Two hours later Jake pulled up at Biggy’s houseboat. He almost didn’t stop because Biggy’s truck wasn’t there but his only hope of finding Biggy was if Biggy was on the boat.
He stepped down onto the gangplank leading to the back deck. As he did so, the boat rocked slightly, causing ripples to emanate out from it.
Jake heard from behind the curtain that shielded him from the deck, “Take another step and I’ll shoot. Whoever you are turn around and go back where you came from.”
“Biggy, it’s me, Jake. Why you gonna’ shoot me?”
– Page 73 –
“Sorry Jake.” Biggy chuckled. “Come on down. What the fuck you doin’ way down here and what made you think I was here, anyway.”
Jake stepped through the curtain. Biggy stood but Jake saw no gun.
Jake looked at him. “What were you going to shoot me with, Biggy. I don’t see any gun.”
“It was just a bluff. I don’t have a gun. Follow me. Let’s get off this deck.”
They walked through the bedroom into the small kitchen and sat down opposite each other at the table.
“Obviously you haven’t seen the papers.” Jake opened the Times-Picayune he had in his hand and pointed out the part about the ‘behemoth’ running away from the scene and then driving off in a dark-blue Chevrolet pick-up. “Couldn’t be anyone but you. I’ll bet every one of your customers can identify you from that description, especially if they’ve ever seen you in your truck. How many of them would that be, do you think?”
“Not more than one or two. I almost never drive it and if I do I usually park it a block or two from the client’s place except at Miss Sophronia’s. Willa Mae and Miss Sophronia might be the only ones. I don’t know.”
“We don’t have to worry about them and it’s not likely any of the other customers would turn you in either.”
As Jake was saying this, Biggy was scanning the rest of the article. The first thing that caught his eye was the fact that Polly was alive. Biggy muttered, “Thank God. I don’t think I could stand it if she was dead. That son-of-a-bitch who was hurting her can rot in hell for all I care.”
“Biggy, tell me what happened. I can’t believe you would just kill a man.”
“Of course I didn’t Jake. He was hurting her. He was upset because she refused to have a beer with him, accusing her of taking pity on him. He was pushing her toward the back of the house where it was dark. I had to protect her. That’s the only thing I could think about.” Biggy hung his head and hesitated. “I couldn’t let that happen.”
“Why were you there in the first place.”
Biggy slumped even further forward. His forehead was almost touching the table.
“I had been following her.” he muttered under his breath.
“What did you say?”
Biggy slumped even more. “I was following her.” he said, barely loud enough now for Jake to understand.
– Page 74 –
“You what? For how long?”
“Since that night I saw her in the bar. Like I tole ya, I had seen her before on the streetcar. That night, the night she and those others were at the bar, I followed them outside. She was telling the group that she lived only a few blocks from the bar and would walk home after they boarded the streetcar at Riverbend. But the whole gang insisted on walking with her. I followed them. It was real easy. Anyway, that made it easy to find out where she lived. At least I knew what street it was on. I just took me a few nights to find out the exact house and time she got back at night.”
“Is that all you did?”
“Yeah. I followed her home a couple of times and watched her through her window. That’s all. I swear. I could never hurt her.” Biggy said.
“So you were stalking her.”
“What? No, nothing like that.”
“Well, what would you call it.”
“I don’t know. Just following her and watching her. Don’t stalkers always hurt the person they’re stalking?”
“Not necessarily.” Jake said. “So tell me what happened on Friday night when you followed her.”
Biggy told Jake about how he had seen Paul following her down the driveway. “I was watching when Paul grabbed her and slapped her. When he told her he was going to show her how much of a man he was and started to drag her to the backyard I couldn’t stand it any longer and I rushed them. She must have seen me because her eyes got really big and she screamed.”
Jake thought for awhile. His first thought was to take Biggy back to New Orleans and make him tell everything to the police. There was a possibility they would believe him when he told them he was only trying to save Polly. But then he realized that that was not as likely as them locking Biggy up, especially as long as the girl remained unconscious or if, God forbid, she should die. No, Biggy was better off staying where he was for the time being.
“Where’s your truck, Biggy?”
Biggy pointed to the opposite bank of the bayou some distance down. “I parked it over yonder in a cane break next to Old Man Boudreau’s.”
“Does the old man know it’s there? Do you even know him?”
– Page 75 –
“Sure. He was a garbage driver for years. Retired about a year ago. Now he’s just a bayou rat. A narrow canal goes straight from his old shack out to the bayou. About a quarter mile through the marshes. He’s constantly rowing up and down the bayou. Don’t even have a truck. Nobody notices him or what he does. Told me he’d been watchin’ this old boat ever since I left. I never knew it. More than likely he’s been taking whatever he wanted off her. There are some things missing, I think. Anyway, he paddles by once or twice a day. I can flag him down any time I want. I can hole up here as long as I want and won’t nobody but him ever know I’m here. Everybody around here knows I quit my job after Mama died and took off. This boat’s my property, even the piece of the bank belongs to me free and clear so they can’t legally even come onto the property and if they do, I’ll have the right to blast ‘em. Well, I could blast ‘em if I had a gun.”
“What about boats on the bayou?”
“When I’m settin’ out there on the back deck I can see a boat comin’ up the bayou at least a mile down. All I have to do is disappear inside before it gets here. I stay inside in the morning and evening when the traffic is heavy. Do you think they’ll come here looking for me?”
Jake thought a minute. “I’d say it’ll take them quite some time to find out who the ‘behemoth’ is unless they can find your fingerprints anywhere. Did you touch anything? In a way that would leave a fingerprint? Obviously you had to touch the guy in order to beat him to a pulp.”
“I don’t’ think so although I did stand next to that truck in the driveway for a few minutes. I don’t remember touching it with my fingers though.”
“We’ll just have to hope you didn’t.” Jake was pensive once again for another few minutes before he said, “Okay. Here’s our plan. I’ll go back and keep up with what’s going on. How often can the old man make deliveries to you?”
“Any time I want, I guess. He passes by three or four times a day. Like I said, all I have to do is flag him down.”
“Okay. Can he bring you a Times-Pic every day without causing suspicion? If not every day, at least three times a week? Do you think he can do that?”
“That way you can keep up with what’s happening in the case. I just pray that Polly doesn’t die. But I can also use it to let you know if it’s safe to come back to New Orleans. Look at the Personals secton of the Classifieds every day. Look for an entry that says ‘Horace, I miss you dearly. I sure wish you would call me. Mabel.’ I’ll run it for three days so make sure you don’t go more than three days without a paper. Now repeat it to me.”
Biggy tried but couldn’t get it exactly right.
Jake said it again and made Biggy keep repeating it until he had it memorized.
– Page 76 –
“Okay. Don’t forget it. When I run it, it’ll be worded exactly the same way if it’s safe for you to come back to New Orleans. If the names are reversed and Horace is telling Mabel how much he misses her and for her to please call him, you should see about getting a different truck or other vehicle and heading for parts unknown. I suggest heading west at least as far as the other side of Texas or
even down to Mexico.”
“So, Horace missing Mabel is good.” Biggy said. “Mabel missing Horace means I’m to get the hell out of Dodge?”
“That’s it. If Horace is missing Mabel, you can come back into town whenever you’re ready. Else.” Jake just stopped.
“I’ll have Old Boudreaux work swapping my old truck for a different one. He knows lottsa people. Some of um’d kill they Mama for a few bucks and sombody’ll have an old truck they’re willin’ to swap for mine without there even being any paperwork exchanged. Especially if I sweeten the pot a little.” Biggy said.
Tuesday night when Old Boudreaux came by Biggy’s he told Biggy he had arranged to drive Biggy’s truck up to Lockport and swap it for another that was the same model but was red. He was swapping with a man who was a shade tree mechanic and traded cars on the side. He was willing to swap for two hundred dollars from Biggy and, if Biggy didn’t have that kind of money right now, he was willing to go ahead and make the swap, keeping the title to Biggy’s truck and the one he let Biggy have until Biggy could get the money to him.
– Page 77 –