Page 53 of Bayou Hero

Landry laid his hand in hers and pushed himself up, bearing most of the effort himself. “You can leave your car where it is as long as you want.”

She didn’t release his hand. “You’re coming with me. It’s just a few blocks from here. Then we can find something to eat.”

His gaze slid down her body, all soft skin and muscle, then back up to her face. “We just ate enough food for four.”

“We didn’t have dessert.” She pointed to the right of the cathedral. “Jack’s house is over that way.”

He followed her, mostly because she still held his hand, partly because damned if he didn’t like the feel of her slender, strong fingers wrapped around his. The sensation was split somewhere between reassuring and sensual, and he could use massive doses of both right now.

Murphy’s house wasn’t quite what Landry expected for an honest New Orleans cop: large, historic in age, well maintained, multiple stories, a lush green courtyard out back just visible through a wrought iron gate. Another unexpected surprise: a sign hanging above a small door opposite the main entrance that welcomed customers to Evangelina’s to have their palms read and their futures foretold.

New Orleans had its legitimate psychics, and way more than its share of frauds. This seer married to a police detective—which did she claim to be, and which was she really?

“I hear she’s legit,” Alia remarked after ringing the bell at the main entry. “I don’t know. I’ve never had much interest in that sort of thing.”

If Evangelina Murphy was the real thing, maybe she could answer all of Alia’s and her husband’s questions and leave Landry with a little dignity intact.

He would have made Murphy for a cop if the guy had come into the bar. It wasn’t the gun on his hip or the badge on his belt. He just looked like a cop: law-and-order, tough, had seen a lot. Alia introduced Landry to him, then Murphy introduced his wife, Evie, on her way out the French doors into the courtyard.

“Would you like to join us outside, Landry?” she invited. “We’ve got cookies and lemonade.”

Landry was pretty sure he saw Alia’s ears perk up and her nose wrinkle in an appreciative sniff. “You talk shop,” he said with a wink. “We’re gonna go have cookies.”

Chapter 9

“You miss lunch today?” Murphy asked.

Alia brushed her chin to make certain she hadn’t begun to drool. She loved cookies and lemonade. And cupcakes and limeade. And pies and tea, cakes and coffee, ice cream and root beer, chocolate and anything.

“No, I ate,” she admitted. “I just tend to eat all day. How’d you get home so quick after catching a homicide?”

“I’m just killing time. I’m meeting with the oldest daughter and her husband in an hour at their place on Chartres, then with the younger daughter two hours after that.”

“What about the son?”

Murphy’s dark eyes widened. “I didn’t know there was one. The wife only mentioned the two girls.”

“Jeffrey. Landry said he has a substance abuse problem.” Had Jeffrey died since Landry had last seen him? Or had he disappointed his parents so deeply, they pretended he no longer existed? Or maybe disappointed his father so much, he pretended he didn’t exist?

Murphy toyed with a bandage on his index finger. It was lime green with purple dinosaurs on it. “Why would a woman who just found her husband stabbed and mutilated forget to mention she had a third child?”

It was a rhetorical question: because she thought he might have committed the murder. Mrs. Wallace might have blamed her husband for Jeffrey’s problems, for his failed rehabs, for not allowing him to come home.

If Jeffrey was guilty, that likely meant no connection between this murder and the others. Jeffrey might hate his father, but why would he hate Landry’s father?

“How many stab wounds did your guy have?” Alia asked.

“Fourteen.”

“Mine had more than thirty.”

“Mine had his tongue cut out.”

“Okay, you win on that. Why? A message to keep quiet about something?”

“That’s the usual idea.”

“You think there’s something unusual here?”

Murphy gave her a sideways look. “You navy people must get way more interesting cases than we do if you don’t. By the way, Landry Jackson...isn’t that Admiral Jackson’s kid?”

“Yeah.”

“He a suspect?”

She shook her head. “His boss alibied him. We just had lunch,” she went on. “He knows a place that makes great Vietnamese food, and I needed great Vietnamese food.”

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