Page 39 of Bayou Hero

If the opportunity to be bad—with her—presented itself, he just might have to take it. She was a pretty damn good fantasy, too.

With a one-track mind.

“Your mother’s death was awful,” she began again. “Your father’s was vicious. There was no effort to make them look like anything but what they were—the acts of a very angry person. Miss Viola’s, though, was meant to look like an accident. It could have so easily slipped past us.”

“So what does that mean?” Landry was aware there were various successful television series, to say nothing of countless books and websites, dealing with crimes and investigations, but he’d had enough ugliness in his life. He wasn’t particularly interested in the medical, legal, technical or psychological aspects of law and order.

“The obvious, of course—that the killer was more pissed off with Jeremiah and Camilla than with Miss Viola. He felt more...well, not kindly but less angry with her.” Her lips pursed, pretty and pink though any lipstick she’d put on had long since worn off. “It just doesn’t seem her and Jeremiah’s paths crossed very often, not recently and certainly not in a way that would lead to their deaths.”

For a time she focused on the band, keeping time with the music with her entire body. He wondered if she’d ever studied ballet or gymnastics, if she liked to dance, not just to hook up with some guy in a club but because the music touched her, drew the movement from her.

There was room between the tables. What if he helped her to her feet, pushed their chairs aside and took her in his arms? Would she remember too quickly that she was investigating three crimes and that he was an unwilling subject caught in the aftermath? Or would she shut off the questions and the theories and striving to solve the puzzle and just dance with him?

There was only one way to find out, but he didn’t do it—didn’t pull her from the chair, wrap his arms around her, draw her near and wait for her response. Maybe sometime he would, if he saw her again on a night like tonight. Maybe when the murders weren’t between them.

When he’d finally brought his own secrets out of the dark.

Chapter 7

Saturday was the kind of day that, no matter where she lived, would always make Alia think of New Orleans: the sun burning hot in a sky of thin, pale blue, the air so muggy that it shimmered and danced, blinding the eye when it happened upon a shiny surface. It was the sort of day for sitting on a broad shaded porch, paddle fan turning overhead, a pitcher of iced tea sweating on the table, wicker creaking, cushions shifting, bees buzzing in the flowers nearby. Laziness would float on the air, along with Eric Clapton, B. B. King or Louis Armstrong himself, while kids played in sprinklers and dogs hunkered in the cool damp earth beneath an azalea bush.

It was a day only a true Southerner could enjoy, a day for making outsiders think about returning to wherever they came from.

A day for laying to rest a woman who had thrived through thousands of such days.

Alia stood in the shade of a tree she didn’t recognize—much to her mother’s dismay when it came weeding time in the garden, she’d never been interested in flora and fauna—and watched as mourners filed from the church. Some stood and talked, some left and others went to their cars, starting the engines, rolling down windows and turning the air-conditioning to high while they waited for the procession to the cemetery to begin. She’d seen a lot of the same faces yesterday, genuine regret replacing yesterday’s curiosity and obligation. No doubt, Miss Viola was a much easier person to mourn than Jeremiah.

Landry’s gaze sought hers as he came out of the church and started down the wide brick steps. She’d seen him arrive, alone, looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. Miss Viola’s daughter had greeted him at the door with a hug and an affectionate squeeze on the arm before walking inside with him. Lucky for Landry, she seemed well aware of her mother’s fondness for him and his for her.

He came to stand beside her, hands in his pockets. He was dressed more casually than yesterday, in dark gray trousers and a dress shirt of a paler shade. Gray was such an inoffensive color, somber, suitable for everyone, but with the shirt collar undone and the sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms, he still pulled off an effortless sense of elegance and grace.

“Are you allowed to speak to the suspects while you’re surveilling them?” he asked, gazing at the mourners instead of her.

Following his lead, she kept her own gaze directed elsewhere. “Only when I interrogate them.”