Thursday, October 09, 2014

Deadly Bayou

By A. C. Mason
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Mystery/Crime, 357 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald

Cypress Lake Chief of Police Jim Foret is found critically wounded near the place his father committed suicide and dies later at the hospital. Evidence at the scene suggests his gunshot wound is also self-inflicted. His widow, Susan believes he has been murdered. Will she end up a victim herself before the killer is brought to justice?

Excerpt: Cypress Lake, Louisiana, Monday, July 22

I took one look at Sheriff Danny Marchand standing in the doorway and knew immediately something was terribly wrong. My usually easy-going neighbor had the most somber expression I’d ever seen on his face.

“You look so serious. What’s wrong?”

He took a step inside, ducking his head slightly to accommodate his over six foot height as he came through the doorway. “Jim’s been shot.” His voice sounded official.

My heart thumped loud and fast. I could hardly breathe. “How…?”

“He’s at West Lake Memorial in surgery. Come on. I’ll drive you there.”

“The kids are across the street…”

“Don’t worry. Rachel will take care of them.”

I moved in a daze out the door. Before I realized, the city had whizzed by the car windows in a blur.

The siren sounded muted in my ears. Danny refrained from speaking; I was thankful for his consideration. Even though I wanted to know how this had happened, I wouldn’t have been able to carry on an intelligent conversation. All my thoughts centered on this nightmarish scenario. My husband Jim, the Cypress Lake police chief, had been shot and was lying on an operating table. Maybe those were also Danny’s thoughts.

Hospitals with their stark and sterile environment always depressed me. Today West Lake Memorial Hospital seemed even more austere. I wanted to see Jim, to know he was still alive. Touching him wasn’t possible at the moment. All I could do was say prayers.

Several of Jim’s officers, along with a couple of sheriff deputies, milled around in the hall outside the waiting room. Their facial expressions conveyed sympathy for me. I didn’t want sympathy—I wanted my husband.

I took a seat in one of the padded chairs in the waiting room. Danny sat next to me and clasped my hand in his much larger one.

Finally summoning the courage, I asked, “Tell me the truth. How bad are his injuries?”

“Pretty bad,” he said. “Critical, in fact—a shot to the abdomen.”

Chills ran up my spine. The worst nightmare a policeman’s wife could imagine was her husband getting wounded in the line of duty.

“Where did this happen?”

Danny averted his gaze for an instant. “Out by Bayou Jean Baptiste.”

My heart raced. The location his father had chosen to commit suicide. “What happened?”

“We don’t know anything right now.” He looked uncomfortable.

“What do you mean? Was he alone?”

“As near as we can tell. The scene’s still being investigated. A couple of fishermen discovered him and called nine-one-one.”

“How’d he get out there?”

“We found his boat tied up nearby.”

“His boat?”

“You didn’t notice it was gone?”

I shook my head. “He kept the boat in that little shed in the back yard. I had no reason to look over there.”

He nodded. “So he left the house before you woke up.”

“Yes. In fact I didn’t even hear him leave.” Something about Danny’s demeanor told me he wasn’t telling the whole story. “Danny, I want to know everything.”

“There’s nothing more I can tell you right now,” he said in a gentle, but still official voice.

I persisted, “I know you’re not telling me everything.”

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