“Redneck Riviera” by Julie Smith
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, New Orleans Noir editor Julie Smith takes us on an unforgettable ride down the Redneck Riviera. Next week, Alice Fantastic author Maggie Estep takes us down to the sweltering heat of a Cancun vacation.
By Julie Smith
Redneck Riviera, Mississippi Gulf Coast
“Shit on a stick,” Roy said. “It’s her.”
“You’re lyin’!” Forest said. “Not The Dutch Treat, please, Jesus. Anything but that!”
“AKA Spawn of Satan.”
They were at the Gulfport Shaggy’s, about to celebrate a decent haul on a pot deal with a late-morning bloody and there stood The Treat, looking less Dutch than usual, a little more redneck, talking to some senior stoner with ass-length white hair in a sectioned-off ponytail.
Call her Heidi. She changed names as often as earrings, and she was about as healthy as a capsule of ricin. Twice now she’d roped him and Roy into some sure-thing scheme and both times she’d walked away with everything. They still didn’t know her real name.
The old dude grabbed her arm, mad about something. Heidi’d cut her blonde hair short and turned the bottom of it into a kind of lavender fluff. She wore shorts and a halter.
Just as Forest was wishing he could hear her laugh, a silvery sound, a sound like rocks over water, rippled toward him. The world’s greatest laugh. And she hollered, “Forest! Omigod, it’s my husband!” He almost couldn’t hear that faint accent she claimed was Dutch.
She ran for him, threw her arms and legs around him, and clung like a barnacle. “Where you been, darlin’?”
“Darlin’.” Dropped g, very un-Dutch. Forest was fast getting the hang of things. She’d turned herself into the old dude’s wet dream, and Forest knew why. He’d been down that street.
Not only that, she as good as admitted it with what she whispered: “Help me, baby. There’s somethin’ in it for you.”
The dude with the hair joined them. He was sinewy but short. Forest and Roy could take him, no problem. “Renée, honey, you never mentioned no husband.”
“Husband, hell,” Roy said.
“Ex,” Forest said. “Darlin’, you got a problem?” He kept his eyes on the old dude while he peeled Heidi/Renée off his body.
“Wade, meet Forest,” she said. “Forest, honey, Wade thinks I got somethin’ of his.”
Roy turned to the guy. “Well, she don’t. Now get on outta here.” He and Forest each grabbed an elbow and frog-marched him to the parking lot.
Roy said, “You gon’ leave the lady alone or we gon’ beat the shit outta you?”
Seething, Wade got in his F-150 and peeled off, but Forest knew he’d be back fast, twice as mad, and armed. “What’d you do him out of?” he asked The Treat. “Gotta be somethin’.”
“Shipment of pot,” she said. “I gotta get there before he does.”
“Okay, let’s go. You owe us, remember? Roy, you follow.”
She had a good car, a late-model Mercedes-Benz, and Forest was so busy noticing it that he almost sat on a plastic bag she’d thrown on the seat. He opened it and pulled out a souvenir mug, tacky old brown thing, the word Biloxi on the handle. He looked at it more closely. “Hey. Why’s this thing have holes in it? How’re you s’posed to drink?”
“That’s the point,” she said. “It’s a puzzle mug for my nephew.”
He tossed it in the back. “Heidi, you think I believe that? You came straight out of hell. No way you got no human family.”
She drove to a storage unit, opened it with a flourish, and hollered, “Damn!” like she was real surprised it was empty.
Standard Treat procedure. Still, they’d had to try. “Let’s take her goddam cash,” Roy snarled. “Least it’s something.”
Forest stuck his hand in her halter. “Bet it’s in here.” Sure enough, he withdrew two sweaty Benjamins.
“Adios, bitch,” Roy said, but Forest didn’t say a word. He couldn’t help it, he had a soft spot for her.
Later on, they were getting ready to go play some blackjack when Wade came on the news, rocking the perp walk. He’d been popped for stealing a load of art he was transporting from a museum to a private show.
Next came a picture of one of the stolen items, with a caption: “Puzzle Mug by George Ohr, the Mad Potter of Biloxi.” The same mug Forest had tossed so casually into Heidi’s back seat.
“George Ohr ceramics,” the reporter noted, “command prices in the five- to six-figure range.”
“We’re talking major talent here,” Forest said.
Roy lifted his beer. “To the Mad Potter.”
“That’s not who I meant.”
“There never was no pot. Right?”
“Hell, no. Not pot. Pots.”
“Forest, you in love again?”
“Still,” he said.
* * *
JULIE SMITH is an Edgar Award–winning author of two detective series set in New Orleans and is the editor of New Orleans Noir. A former reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the San Francisco Chronicle, she lives in the Faubourg Marigny section of New Orleans, which is much funkier than it sounds.
* * *
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 11, 2013
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