Read an Excerpt
A Montana Mystery Featuring Gabriel Du Pré
By Peter Bowen
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1997 Peter Bowen
All rights reserved.
"This terrible, Du Pré," said Madelaine. She was looking at the newspaper. "Person, do this, pretty far from God, yes?"
Du Pré nodded. He sipped his coffee. They were sitting in Madelaine's kitchen. The breakfast dishes were piled on the sideboard next to the sink.
Du Pré watched the cluster flies fumble clumsily against the window glass. It was spring and the fat-bodied black insects were crawling out toward the warmth. They wintered in the walls of the house.
Madelaine handed the front section of the paper to Du Pré. He looked at the headline.
FIFTH VICTIM FOUND
Du Pré sighed.
"It is a long way from here," he said. "Pretty ugly, this."
"Not so far," said Madelaine. "It is what, a hundred miles, maybe. Just up above the Wolf Mountains, here, on that Hi-Line." Highway 2, which runs fifty miles south of Canada all across Montana. North Dakota. Ends at Sault-Ste.-Marie in Michigan.
"The parents, these girls," said Madelaine. "Oh, they must weep."
Oh, yes, Du Pré thought, your little girl she quarrel with you and she run away. Someone take her and rape her and torture her and kill her and dump her body out in the sagebrush, let the coyotes and ravens eat what is left, well ... he thought of his two daughters. His grandchildren. Anybody's children.
"People kill people, here," said Madelaine. "They got a reason. Not a good reason, there is never no good reason, kill someone."
Yes there is, Du Pré thought, but me, I will not argue this time.
"That Lucky," said Madelaine. "He kill all those Indian women, Canada, that Washington, D.C. What was he like, there?"
Before I kill him? thought Du Pré. Damn, him I almost forgot. No, I did not. Hit him with a stone from a slingshot, he fall and break his fucking neck so I don't got to cut his throat. Only good thing he did, me.
Du Pré sipped his coffee.
"Hey, Du Pré," said Madelaine. "I lose my voice? You gone deaf? I ask you this question, you hear me? What this Lucky was like?"
"Him, he was a bastard," said Du Pré. "He don't look crazy, though. Good thing he break his neck, he go to trial, they say him crazy, he be out by now. Give him Social Security or something."
My Madelaine, she does not think there are bad people in this world. Just people who are far from God. I wish she was right.
Madelaine was fiddling with the thick braid of black hair she wore, shot with silver now. Her face was smooth and unlined. She was still a little asleep. Du Pré lifted his coffee, and he smelled her on his hand. He remembered her in the night.
Du Pré looked at her, smiling a little.
"Eh, Du Pré," said Madelaine. "You want to go back to bed, now, you look at me like that. It is on your forehead. No. I got to go to the church. See Father Van Den Heuvel. No, Du Pré, you are a big boy, you wait till tonight."
Du Pré grinned.
"OK," said Madelaine. "This afternoon maybe, but not now, no."
Du Pré stood up and he went around the table.
"I bite you," said Madelaine. "I am not fooling you. Men. You are supposed, not want that so much, you get to be a grandfather."
Du Pré rubbed her shoulders through the thick silk bathrobe she wore.
"I am not explaining, Father Van Den Heuvel, I am late, our meeting, I am fucking that Du Pré. We are not even married."
We would be, Du Pré thought, you were not waiting on that fool Church say, OK, your husband, he is dead, you can marry Du Pré now. Eight years I wait for her to get word from those priests, something is stuck in the works.
Du Pré looked out the kitchen window toward the fields that lay right at the edge of the little town. Stout rows of winter wheat rose green above the brown earth. Tough plants, that winter wheat, stayed green right under the snow. Got a jump on growing in the spring.
Du Pré made a grab for Madelaine's ass when she got up. She slapped his hand and smiled at him, wagged her finger.
"I take care of you, later," said Madelaine, heading off to the bath.
Du Pré heard the water start. He got another cup of coffee and he brought it back to the table.
The newspaper. He hadn't read the article.
He didn't want to read the article.
Something itched in the back of his mind.
Me, I am going to get tangled up in this, he thought.
A warm wet scent of flowers and herbs bloomed in the kitchen. The potpourri that Madelaine made and put into the soap that she made from fat and ashes and berries. Métis' soap. Kind of soap Madelaine's old aunties, grandmothers made.
She always smelled wonderful.
Du Pré lifted his coffee cup again and sniffed his hand, smelled his woman.
This afternoon, he thought, it is a long time till this afternoon.
Du Pré looked at the photograph. Some people carrying a black body bag out of the sagebrush.
The body had been found by a rancher. The man had been driving along and a hubcap had fallen off and sailed out into the sagebrush. On the open range. The rancher backed the car up and he walked out into the sagebrush and he found the body. It was badly decomposed, the paper said. Evidence indicated that the murderer was the same person who had killed four other young women and left their bodies in places where they might lie for a long time, or forever.
Damn, thought Du Pré, there maybe are a lot more dead girls out there. Maybe, hah. There are plenty dead girls out there. This guy, he has been doing this for a long time. Like that guy Bundy, he killed ... sixty women? Maybe more.
Serial killers, always men.
Hunters. But they don't eat what they kill.
Damn, this guy, he is driving in places which don't got so much traffic and someone has seen this guy, seen what he drives.
They see this guy, what he drives, don't think nothing of it.
Cut it out, Du Pré thought, you are not a part of this. No part. Ah, shit, I better go and see Benetsee. See what he dreams.
The shower stopped. Du Pré went to the hallway and he stood there. Madelaine came out, naked, wringing the water out of her hair with a heavy towel. Du Pré looked at her.
I cancel, all them appointments.
The telephone rang. Madelaine picked it up in the bedroom.
"Hey, Du Pré," she called. "It is that Benny Klein."
Benny Klein, the Sheriff. One of Du Pré's friends. His wife owned the bar in Toussaint.
Du Pré didn't want to pick up the telephone.
He went to the living room.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"Du Pré?" said Benny. His voice was distorted. So he was calling the dispatch office and they patched him onto the telephone line.
"Yah, it is me," said Du Pré.
"You see this morning's paper?" he said.
"Yah," said Du Pré. I don't want this, I want to fuck my Madelaine this afternoon, maybe take her to the bar, buy her a pink wine, a cheeseburger. Maybe we dance.
"Well," said Benny, "I got another one and this one is ours."
How do I know this? Du Pré thought.
"Shit," said Du Pré.
"If I sound funny," said Benny Klein, "it's because I just threw up."
"Where are you?" said Du Pré.
"The old highway," said Benny, "about a mile past the Grange Hall on Palmer Creek. You know the one?"
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"This is bad," said Benny.
"Look," said Du Pré. "You stay there and I will come. You call anyone else?"
"Not yet," said Benny. "Who would I call?"
"He quit," said Benny. "So I'm the coroner."
Benny is a brave man who does not like dead bodies or bad people at all and he is afraid of much but he still does what he said he would do. Be a sheriff. He is a brave man. He hates it.
He still does it.
"Ah," said Du Pré. "You call your dispatcher, have her call the State."
"I shoulda done that already," said Benny, "I'm just upset."
"I be there, right away," said Du Pré.
Benny rang off.
Du Pré walked back down the hallway. Madelaine was sitting at her little vanity, putting lipstick on. She was still naked.
"Hey," said Du Pré from the doorway. "I got to go. Benny wants me."
"He find a girl's body," said Madelaine. "I knew he would. Poor girl."
"I am sorry," said Du Pré.
"No," said Madelaine, "You are not sorry, Du Pré, you are my good Métis man. I know you."
Du Pré shrugged.
"You make my babies safe," said Madelaine. "You make everybody's safe again, Du Pré."
"I don't know," said Du Pré.
"I do," said Madelaine.CHAPTER 2
Du Pré shot down the old highway, driving ninety. His old police cruiser was still plenty fast, and he had very good tires on it. The lights and siren were gone. He tried to remember if this was the fourth or the third one that he had owned.
That Bart, Du Pré thought, my rich friend, he try to give me a Land Rover. I find out they are sixty thousand dollars, I tell him no good Métis drive a car cost more than three houses cost here. So he find me this. It is faster than all the others.
Du Pré saw the old Grange Hall ahead. White clapboard, a little building, smaller even than a schoolhouse. Some schoolhouses.
Du Pré glanced left and right. He saw Benny's four-wheel drive pickup off on some benchland a half mile or so away from the road. Du Pré slowed down. He saw a pair of ruts that went down into the barrow pit and up the other side and into the scrub. The ruts had been driven in recently.
Du Pré turned and the heavy police cruiser wallowed down and up and then he floored it. He kept an eye on the center of the tracks, looking for boulders, but this wasn't that kind of country. The rocks were up higher.
Then he hit one and he felt the transmission heave.
"Shit!" he snarled. He slowed down. The transmission whined. He smelled hot coolant.
Fuck me, Du Pré thought. Fuck me to death. Damn.
Benny Klein was sitting on the tailgate of his pickup. Du Pré parked the cruiser and he got out and walked to the sheriff. Benny was white and he was sweating even though the day was not warm.
"OK," said Du Pré.
"Over there," said Benny. He pointed toward some silvered boards piled haphazardly and clotted with the yellow skeletons of weeds from the last year.
An old lambing shed, maybe, who knew?
Du Pré walked slowly toward the pile of wood. A magpie floated past, headed for the creek a mile away.
Du Pré smelled the rotten flesh. Dead people, they smell deader than anything else. You smell a real dead person, you are smelling yourself someday, you never forget it.
She was lying facedown on a patch of yellow earth. The coyotes had eaten parts of her. Her legs were chewed. She was naked. She was swollen and greenish brown.
Du Pré squatted down on his haunches. He rolled a cigarette. He lit it with the rope shepherd's lighter his daughter Jacqueline had sent him from Spain, when she and her Raymond had gone there for a vacation.
Left me with all them babies, Du Pré thought, Madelaine not help me, Madelaine's daughters, I die.
Fourteen kids they got now. I don't think she is through yet.
Du Pré watched some maggots writhing under the dead girl's skin.
A gold chain glittered on her left ankle.
She had been blond.
Du Pré stood up and he walked around the body, a circle about six feet away. He brought the ground to his eyes, like he was tracking. He saw bombardier beetles struggling through the grass. Some tiny shards of green glass shone against the ocher earth.
Couple paper towels, slumped against a sagebrush. Been here a while. Yellow stains on them.
Du Pré circled out another two feet. The sagebrush was sparse here and clumps of grama grass spotted the harsh earth.
Rusty piece of barbwire, sticking out of the earth.
Du Pré ground his cigarette out under his bootheel.
He stopped the fourth time he'd walked slowly around, counterclockwise.
He looked back at the road. He rolled another cigarette and he walked back to Benny, still sitting on the tailgate of the truck.
"Who finds her?" said Du Pré.
"One of the Salyer kids," said Benny. "Hunting gophers."
That kid not going to sleep so good, next month of nights.
"Your dispatcher, she call the State?"
Du Pré detested the dispatcher, who was a stupid bitch.
"Yeah," said Benny. "They're on their way. Probably be here, an hour. Said not to disturb anything."
Du Pré snorted. Same old shit.
"This not good," he said.
"No," said Benny. "It ain't. This animal is doing this, dumping the bodies. I just thought, shit, I bet there's a lot more. A lot more."
Du Pré sighed.
He glanced over toward a movement just out of his line of vision. A magpie had flown up from the sagebrush a couple hundred yards away.
"We never had anything like this before," said Benny.
Du Pré nodded.
A white pickup roared past on the road. The driver waved. Du Pré and Benny waved back.
In the night, Du Pré thought, a man could drive here, cut his lights, carry the bodies here in maybe ten, fifteen minutes, drive away, not turn his lights on till he was back on the highway. Have to have a lot of gas, couldn't afford to be seen buying any.
Benny's radio began to squawk.
Benny stood up and walked around to his cab and reached in and got the microphone. He listened for a while.
"Of course I'll stay here," he said, angrily. "What the hell do you think I am gonna do? Go play cards?"
"Well," the dispatcher's whiny voice said, "they asked me to call you."
"We actually wipe our butts and everything here, Iris," said Benny. "Those bastards are not going to be pleasant to have around."
"I was just trying to do my job ..." whined Iris.
"OK, OK," said Benny. He clicked the microphone off.
"Poor Iris," said Benny. "Husband up and left, she's got six kids and two of them got in trouble and sent to Pine Hills."
Du Pré looked at Benny.
"Me," he said, "I don't be surprised her husband left, her kids are in jail. She is ..."
"I know," said Benny.
Du Pré shrugged.
Benny walked morosely back to the tailgate and he sat down.
"Could I have a smoke?" said Benny.
Du Pré rolled him one.
"I don't need this shit," said Benny.
Du Pré nodded. It is your shit, though, Benny, you are the sheriff.
"That poor girl."
Du Pré stretched. He glanced off to his left:
Another magpie, same place.
"OK," said Du Pré. "I think there is another one over there, so, Benny, why don't you just sit here, smoke."
"OK," said Du Pré. "I think there is another one over there, so, Benny, why don't you just sit here, smoke."
"Oh, God," said Benny.
Du Pré got up and he started off toward the dark smear of sage that ran across his vision, there must be a slab of rock under it that caught water and held it.
Du Pré kept glancing down at the ground at his feet.
He was moving fast now, dancing through the sagebrush.
Du Pré heard drums in his head.
He smelled the smell of dead people, dead long enough to rot.
Du Pré looked hard.
He saw them then.
Two of them.
Du Pré looked hard and he drifted to his right, circling.
Two bodies, naked, laid out one atop the other, crossed.
Du Pré closed in. He rolled a smoke and lit it, to cut the smell.
He wished he'd brought a bottle with him from his car.
A sudden whiff of skunk. Du Pré saw the black-and-white creature waddling away.
These were awfully small women. Girls, really.
They had both been blond. The magpies and the scavengers had been at their faces. Flies buzzed around the eyepits. Their bellies were hugely swollen and the skin glazed with dirt.
These were fresher than the other, Du Pré thought, few days old.
Du Pré stopped.
He spat on the ground.
He moved away and he began to circle.
Him, Du Pré thought, he maybe leave more here.
Him, he like this place.
"Right here," said Susan Klein. She was pale and angry. She shook her head. She rubbed the bartop with a towel. The Toussaint Saloon was packed with people who were all talking at once in little groups. They were drinking but not much. They ordered drinks and then forgot them. The telephone was tied up with people who were checking on their families and friends. They did this over and over.
"It's something that happens somewhere else," said Susan Klein. "In the cities. It doesn't happen here."
Madelaine reached across the bar and she put her hand on top of Susan's. Madelaine looked down at the scarred wood.
Bart Fascelli was sucking down his second soda. His left arm was in a sling. Once again, he had hurt himself working on his gigantic diesel shovel. It did not come naturally to him.
"Bad man like that don't leave those girls nothin'," said Madelaine. "Kill them, dump them like old guts in the brush for the coyotes to eat."
Du Pré was standing on the other side of Bart, sipping a whiskey. He kept looking off somewhere else. Far away. A far country.
Excerpted from Notches by Peter Bowen. Copyright © 1997 Peter Bowen. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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