Page 84 of Bayou Hero

Jimmy took another quick break from the conversation to talk to someone else, and Alia considered his last words. Shame for Mary Ellen that she’d given in to the weakness? Humiliation? Or did she really not remember her actions?

When he came back, he said, “You know, my gut says there’s not going to be any physical evidence, unless maybe one of these guys liked to take pictures so he could relive it later. We didn’t find anything incriminating in a search of Jackson’s or Wallace’s homes or offices or anywhere else as of now.”

That meant the sexual abuse, if the prosecutor even chose to file charges, would come down to the victims’ word against the suspects’. So far, the only victims who’d come forward were Landry and a woman who needed generous amounts of alcohol to let herself remember.

Alia wanted with everything in her for the men to be publicly vilified, humiliated, convicted and sent to prison. She would prefer death—yes, as Landry had pointed out, she was a tad bloodthirsty—but she would settle for prison.

Then she sighed. She would settle for public acknowledgment of the men’s crimes, thereby making it more difficult for them to find victims. Hell, if it was the best offer, she would settle for signs in the media, on buses and streetlamps and their vehicles with giant photographs.

“Have fun doing nothing while you wait for your boyfriend to get off work,” Jimmy said. “While I wade back into this sick psycho stuff again. If he remembers anything else, call me. I’ll be here late.”

“I will.” She hung up and, even though there’d been no call-waiting beeps, checked the screen to make sure she hadn’t missed Landry’s return call. She hadn’t. He was at work now. Maybe the noise in the bar was too loud for him to hear the ring when she’d called earlier. She called up his number, hit redial and listened to it go to voice mail again.

After flipping through two hundred channels on the television and another round with Landry’s voice mail, she pulled out the thick binder of take-out menus that kept her alive, then after a moment’s hesitation, put it back. Instead she laced on shoes, tossed her entire purse, her pistol and Taser into a backpack and headed out the door.

She was doing what she did about three nights a week—on the nights she didn’t pick up dinner on the way home: going out to pick up something. No big deal. And if she happened to drive past the club on Bourbon and say hello to Landry, no big deal, either. After all, he’d told her to call him, right? And what man wouldn’t appreciate her offer to deliver dinner to him at work?

So she made a beeline to Bourbon Street and found Landry’s parking space empty. Frowning, she pulled in, then went inside the bar. The music was particularly loud this evening, as was the collection of women on vacation scattered through the room. There were probably twenty of them, a miniconvention of some sort, and they were the too-loud, too-self-involved kind of people that Alia and her friends moved away from in public places.

She sidestepped the three trying to start a conga line and went to the bar, stopping directly in front of the same bartender who’d been there the evening before. “Hey, is Landry here?”

The young man, hair pulled into a ponytail, gave her a disinterested look. “Nope. Said he had family business to take care. Was supposed to be back half an hour ago but hasn’t showed.”

Sliding onto a stool, she asked, “Did he ask for time off before his shift started?”

“Nope. Got a call, told the boss he needed an hour and left.” The man frowned. “I know the guy’s got the worst damn luck in the world, but he was off most of last week, tomorrow, the next day for his mom’s funeral...I’d like to see my wife once in a while, you know?”

“Yeah, I can bet.” She tried to sound sympathetic. “He didn’t tell you anything else? Who called, where he was going, what the problem was?”

“He didn’t tell me nothing. Maxine—she’s the boss over there—he talked to her.”

Alia swiveled the stool to look at the solid woman sitting in the corner, a laptop open in front of her, a bottle of icy water beside it. Neither was doing much to ease the scowl she kept directing at the group of rowdy women. As Alia passed them, she gave them her best imitation of her mother’s settle-down look before stopping beside the table. “Maxine?”

Pure pissiness looked up through thick red glass frames. “Who you?”

Alia didn’t bother pulling her badge from her backpack. “My name’s Alia. I’m a friend of Landry’s.”

“He not here.”

“So I see. The guy at the bar said he asked for an hour off for family business. Do you know what that was about?”