Page 82 of Bayou Hero

He watched her go inside before turning to the steps. He’d just reached the bottom when she called his name once more. Turning back, he found her standing in the doorway, hands clasped, gaze sliding to, then away from his. “I hate to ask...especially now...but...”

Take a breath and spit it out, Jeremiah used to say when he’d had enough of what he’d called her dithering—which was usually about three words into it. But Landry didn’t chastise her. He just waited.

She did take a breath, forcing it to fill her lungs, blowing it out again. “There are a few pieces of jewelry I wanted to put with Mama. I told Mr. DeVille I would bring them over first thing in the morning, but Scott won’t be home until late, and I don’t think I can face the house alone, not this soon. I—I—”

He could go with her. Hell, he’d arranged and attended Jeremiah’s funeral solely for Mary Ellen’s sake. He could damn well go into the house for the few minutes it would take to get the jewelry. “Do you want to go now?”

The ginger press of her fingertips to her forehead again accompanied the shake of her head. “I can’t just yet. Can I call you? Will you be able to take a little time off?”

“Sure. Just let me know.”

The smile that wreathed her face was sweet and grateful. “Thank you.”

* * *

As Alia pulled into her driveway, the sun finally broke through the clouds that had covered the city all day and glistened off the windows of her house, the wet paint and grass, the puddles that had gathered in low spots. On its downward slide over the horizon, it would probably heat the air enough to make things steam, filling the air so full of moisture that it would be like rain that just floated rather than falling. If she’d had anything planned for the evening besides being lazy, it might be miserable, but she didn’t.

Unless Landry had some suggestions.

She let herself into the house, sighing at the tremendous difference between the chilled dry air inside and the hot heavy humidity out. She’d entertained herself on the way home with the fantasy of finding Landry there, having forgotten to tell her that Tuesday was his day off, grilling dinner, planning to spend an entire evening and a lovely night with her.

There was no sign of him, though, and the fragrance she inhaled in the air was either left from that morning or wishful thinking.

Kicking off her shoes at the end of the couch, she pattered into the kitchen to get a couple pieces of candy to see her through changing her clothing and found the note from him on the counter. A grin split her face ear to ear, melting away the fatigue of the extra hour and a half she’d put in at work. She popped one of the Hershey’s Kisses in her mouth, took the cell from her jacket pocket and dialed his number as she went up the stairs.

Damn, it went to voice mail. “Leaving notes with my candy stash,” she teased. “Oh, you know me well. I called, as commanded. Feel free to do the same when you get a minute.”

She’d changed into running clothes, though she had no intention of running this evening, and fixed herself a glass of Kool-Aid when the cell rang. She answered without looking and swallowed a sigh of disappointment when she heard Jimmy’s voice on the other line.

“Heard the news?”

“Hi. I’m fine. How are you?” she asked sarcastically.

“Someone attacked Marco Gaudette about ten this morning.”

Forgetting common phone etiquette, she grabbed a handful of candy from the kitchen, then sank onto the sofa, bare feet propped on the coffee table. “Attacked how?”

“Caught him in the office parking garage. Apparently ambushed him from behind a big concrete pillar, stabbed him a couple times, but got scared off by a car parking nearby.”

“Is he dead?”

“Sadly, no. Get this, the guy’s first blow went right through Gaudette’s left eye. Bastard didn’t see a thing ’cause he was too busy screaming and covering his eyes. Damn.” Jimmy made a disgusted sound. “The driver of the other car didn’t see anything, either, until he found Gaudette crying like a girl on the ground between the pillar and his car. Of course, stick a knife through my eyeball, and I’m gonna cry like a girl, too.”

Alia unwrapped a Kiss, brushing away the bits of foil that fell onto her lap, wadding the paper flume tightly into the remaining foil, and put the chocolate in her mouth. “So the Jacksons, Miss Viola and Wallace are killed in the middle of the night, and the killer goes after Gaudette in the middle of the morning?”

“Are you eating? Jeez, Alia, can you not hold off while we’re on the phone? We’re talking about a skewered eyeball, for God’s sake.”