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When they reached the other side, he turned left to Ponchatoula and checked the directions Arnaud had given Cobb. Through the little town and past a tattered billboard that said “Are You Saved?” with the d and the question mark almost illegible. At his side, Emilie made a sound and nestled deeper into sleep. The road they turned down reminded him of Cobb’s place, remote, untended. A recent rain had made the dirt road slippery and he slowed to engage the Land Cruiser’s four wheel drive. At least it wasn’t a long road. The shack came into view. Brick pattern tarpaper sides. No Maisson De Vries.
He pulled up in front and stopped. Emilie awoke, said “Hmm?” She wiped her eyes with balled fists, yawned, stretched. Planted a kiss on Travis’s cheek, smiled. She woke up well. He usually watched her wake up. It was a pleasure. This time, the foreboding dimmed it. He almost ducked as a large shadow floated over them. It was a turkey buzzard, circling low over the grounds and trees behind them. It didn’t mean anything, shouldn’t anyway, just something dead in the bayou. The swamp was full of dead things. He’d put some of them there.
But the shape was wrong. The still air was too mute. There should be something more filtering into his consciousness. Tire tracks, fresh footprints in the mud—might mean nothing.
“Charming,” she said. “Did you pick it out?”
“Your kin did. Maybe they don’t like you.”
“God, do you suppose there’s running water?”
“If we hate it, we’ll get a motel. No big deal.”
“I hate it.”
“Come on. I’ll carry you over the threshold.”
“Not here you won’t.” She got out the passenger side door, leaving her purse and bags.
In the yard, she slumped her shoulders exaggeratedly, stood limp.
“We’ll find a place, don’t worry,” Travis said. “Arnaud was thinking any port in a storm. And I was thinking maybe I’d send you to Kansas City, anyway.”
She spun around, fists on her hips. “Oh, ho, ho, no, you won’t. I’m all in. You said so yourself. I’m not going anywhere. Even if we stay in this hovel.”
“We’re not staying here.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I don’t know. Something. Let’s see what else is available on the highway.”
His cell rang. Nobody knew the number but Cobb and Elsie. He answered. “Yeah?”
“Oh man, where are you?” Cobb said.
“At this picturesque shack in the swamp.”
“Don’t go in there. Do not go in the cabin.”
“It’s wired. Semtex. One of Arnaud’s boys got bent. Money, we think. They were gonna take care of it in one blast.”
“No shit? We were ten feet from going in. How much do they know?”
“We’re finding out now. They questioning the dude back in the shop. We think they don’t know much, just that the guy they looking for was gonna hole up in the cabin. They don’t know about anything other than that. They think Arnaud is out of the loop, that his guys were doing some freelance for money. This need to know stuff works pretty good.”
“So what happens to the shithead who talked?”
“Need to know?”