Read an Excerpt
The Big Easy
New Orleans, Louisiana
Monday, 2:39 p.m.
January 20, 2003
Special Agent Jack Niemczyk looked at his designated liaison for the City of New Orleans Police Department as the other man strode through the tourists and vendors crowding the narrow street. The sun shone too brightly, making it difficult to look at the wares on display. The dazzle from cheap beads and the relentless drone of hucksters deadened his senses and brought a nagging pain to the back of his eyes.
"You want to explain where we're going again? I don't think I really understood you the first time."
"It's the accent," Captain Remy Lambert said jokingly. "Nobody who's not from South Louisiana can understand a word I say."
"Well, I must have been from here in another life because I understand most of it." While Lambert had a slight Cajun French accent, his English was completely intelligible. It slurred his speech in a pleasant way, but the Chicago native had no trouble understanding his Louisiana counterpart.
Over three months of working off and on with Remy had given Jack a good idea of when the other lawman was jerking him around. And Remy was trying his damnedest to jerk the FBI agent around.
"Damn it, Lambert, slow down." Jack caught Remy's arm. "You're not getting rid of me."
Remy sighed. "Why don't you go get some coffee?" He gestured across the street to the Café du Monde. "Have a beignet. I just need to do a couple of things and then I'll be right back."
Jack shook his head in disbelief. Subtlety was as foreign to Remy as gyro sandwiches and bagels with lox. "Yeah. You'll be back, some timetomorrow or the next day. You're not sneaking off and you're not dumping me."
Jack wanted an explanation for this frenzied trip through the Vieux Carré. Shading his eyes against the glitter of the afternoon sun, he tried again. "So tell me… why are we in the French Quarter when we should be back at the office? The task force has a meeting in thirty minutes."
"Which we ain't gonna be at, fils," Remy said.
Jack was sure Remy had purposefully called Jack "son" in French and deepened his accent just to be annoying.
"Your task force has been on this for three months now and we aren't getting anywhere, Agent Niemczyk. It's time we got some real help on this." Remy paused to shout across the plaza at a vendor. "Hey, Jonna! How's your mama and them?" The woman waved back and shouted something unintelligible to Jack. Remy laughed. "Yeah, that boy can't stay out of trouble no matter what he does."
He dodged a cart loaded with t-shirts and souvenirs, clusters of many-colored beads and trinkets hanging from its metal framework, swaying and glinting in the bright sun. He whistled and waved at another vendor before turning his attention back to Jack.
"Look, we've got too many dead bodies already. I want the killing to stop and this may be our only chance to do that." He turned onto Royal Street and headed away from the early Mardi Gras noise surrounding Jackson Square. With the Carnival season preparing to enter its busiest time, the Quarter was already becoming crowded.
Remy shook his head. "I don't really want to think of what this place is going to be like in a few weeks when the parades start."
Mardi Gras Day was growing ever closer. At Jack's quizzical look he explained. "I love Carnival, but I'm not too happy with the hassles that go along with it." He scanned the narrow street. "With a murderer to catch, the last thing you and I need is a few hundred thousand extra people in town."
Remy pushed a lock of dark brown hair off his forehead and squinted up at the late winter sun. Jack knew what he was thinking; Jack was thinking the same thing. Remy was wondering what would happen when the sun set. The moon would be full tonight and both men knew what that meant. It had been over three weeks since the body of the latest murder victim had been found and Jack knew they were due for another death any time now. Their killer always struck around a full moon. So each day Jack wondered if the coming night would bring the discovery of another body. He had come to hate sundown.
Remy glanced at the FBI agent before offering words that were more a warning than an explanation about why they were in the Vieux Carré. "Now, I don't expect we'll get to see the Man. You don't just show up on his doorstep and get invited in. But maybe, if we're lucky, we can get to see one of his lieutenants."
He walked in relative silence for a couple of blocks, refusing to answer any of Jack's questions, but occasionally exchanging greetings with people on the street. Jack couldn't decide if he'd prefer strangling Remy or just shaking the other man until his teeth rattled.
Lambert had an amazing ability to annoy Jack. The federal agent was quite certain that not a day passed without him experiencing at least one wish to kill the Cajun. He didn't think he'd ever gotten a straight answer on any of Remy's wild ideas. He wondered yet again what evil entity had seen fit to team him up with the biggest loose canon in New Orleans.
Copyright © 2004 T. D. McKinney