Page 13 of Bayou Hero

Obviously Jeremiah Jackson had tormented his son.

And that made Landry a viable suspect in Jeremiah’s death.

She asked the question she should have asked first thing back at Mary Ellen Davison’s house. “Where were you between three and six this morning?”

He looked at her then, dark eyes locking on her face. There was no guilt in them, no emotion whatsoever, but that didn’t mean anything. She’d met some skilled liars in her life—had even married one. Popular myths aside, there was no way to look at a person and know beyond a doubt that he was lying.

“I was at the bar. Got roped into filling in for one of my boss’s poker buddies. I didn’t get home until a quarter to six.”

“So you didn’t kill your father.”

Again, he took a long time to answer, and again, his features were unreadable. “No,” he said at last, breaking gazes with her, gesturing toward the passenger door, a clear sign he wanted her to get out.

She did so and was about to close the door when he looked at her again. “But I wish I had.”

“Watch who you say that to.” Closing the door, she circled behind the car to cross the street. The cop on guard was young, probably very new, hot and in need of a break. She smiled at him as she passed, climbed to the top of the incline, then grabbed a lawn chair and toted it back down. “No protocol says you have to pass out from the heat while you’re on watch.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Anybody been here who doesn’t belong?”

“Reporters. Some of ’em are still taking pictures across the street.”

She leaned past him to see the small pods of camera-wielding people on the far side of the street.

“Some people claiming to be relatives stopped by, too. Wanted to go in and get some precious little something-or-other the admiral or his wife promised ’em the last time they were here.”

“Ah, families. Gotta love them.”

She climbed the driveway again, studying the windows, the outdoor spaces, the lawn, the flowers, the detached garage. How well had the killer known this place? Had he been a regular guest? Had he lived for a time in one of those curtained rooms upstairs? Had he been a she, come back from her own disappearance to take revenge on the husband who’d cost her a son?

Once she was inside the house, she wandered through the common areas downstairs before going upstairs. This time she ignored the admiral and Camilla’s suite, turning the opposite direction. The first room she came to was a guest room—lovely, richly decorated. Across the hall was another, and next to it, a girl’s room. This room was impressive and, judging from the pristine state and the faint scent of paint, recently decorated.

The admiral had two young granddaughters, just the right age to appreciate the whimsical colors and design of the room. Every girlie princess fantasy had been incorporated into the space, with enough toys and dress-up clothes to make any girl happy to move in.

The whole prissy/happiness/light room made Alia shudder.

Back into the hall and down to the last remaining door. The knob creaked when she turned it. It was one of those curtained rooms she’d noticed outside. It smelled stuffy, and a flick of the light switch illuminated a layer of dust everywhere. Pale blue walls, a single bed, a desk and wooden chair, a bookcase. No pictures on the walls, no linens on the bed, no television or computer or books on the shelves. No keepsakes. No clothes in the closet. No sign that anyone had lived in the room in the past twenty years.

Or, at least, seventeen.

They hadn’t kept anything that showed a fifteen-year-old boy had lived here, hated here, plotted to escape from here.

Landry would probably be happy that they’d sanitized his memory from the room. After all, he sure appeared to work hard at sanitizing their memories from his life.

Chapter 3

As Landry lost sight of the Jackson home in the rearview mirror, he took a few deep breaths of relief. Now he could go home. Push his family back into the dark little corner they belonged, at least until morning. Go back to being just Landry instead of Jeremiah Jackson III.

Blue Orleans, the bar where he worked, was located in the French Quarter, an old brick building that stood, faintly crooked, between a restaurant and a vacant storefront. The job came with an apartment upstairs and his own off-street parking. He pulled into the space that ended at an elaborate iron gate set into a matching fence and kept anyone without a key away from the courtyard and the apartments beyond. Beyond the fence, there was a fountain, flower beds and brick walkways that led to two doors downstairs and two sets of stairs, one for each place upstairs.