Mystery and Crime Fiction posted May 7, 2017 Chapters:  ...35 36 -37- 38... 


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Brown describes what is in the ledger

A chapter in the book The Last Laugh

The Ghost

by mbroyles2

Book of the Month Contest Winner 
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

Previously

His phone buzzed. He put it on speaker.  “Yeah, Jimmy, what’s up?”

“I did it,” he answered.

“Yeah.”

“I broke the code. We need to meet.”

“Okay.  We’re heading to a place called Crawdaddy’s.”

“I’ll meet you there, and, Matthew?”

“Yes.”

“You won’t believe what it is.”

 
Chapter 37

Nestled on the banks of the Red River, Crawdaddy’s was a popular, rustic establishment known for their Cajun charm, laid-back atmosphere, and of course, the gator gumbo, arguably the best in the state of Louisiana.

Bald Cypress trees surrounded the Alexandria institution, rising tall from the dark, murky waters like sentinels.

A chilly November wind discouraged patrons from using the outside eating area, a huge pinewood porch with low hanging lights and Spanish moss scattered along the beams. Judging from the variety of vehicles in the unpaved parking lot, Crawdaddy’s catered to everyone from the backwoods Cajun, making their living off the land, to the men and women of the business district, making their living off the living.  There were beat up pickup trucks next to bright, shiny Acura’s and BMW’s.

Inside, Granite admired the hard maple wooden floors, crisp and gleaming. They reminded him of the lanes at a bowling alley. The air was filled with constant chatter and threatened to drown out the music coming from a makeshift stage at the back of the restaurant. The cadenced sounds of an upright bass, guitar, snare drum, and accordion created a snappy beat, but not quite something you would dance to. A well-polished oak bar was the centerpiece, with five-tier shelving displaying the variety of spirits, and above the shelves loomed a stuffed twelve-foot alligator that Granite found out later, the locals named Charlie.

Granite and Barbara found their way to one of the few remaining empty tables.  A waitress, wearing a white shirt and black pants introduced herself and took their drink orders, a Coke for Granite and Barbara ordered a bottle of a local beer, a NOLA Lowerline, brewed in New Orleans.

After the drinks arrived, and they placed their orders for the gator gumbo, Brown came in, carrying the green ledger.  When the waitress, Lucy, came to take his order, Granite noticed she had a much wider smile, and her voice displayed a laughable cheeriness that squeaked like sneakers on a gym floor.

Brown watched her bounce off to fetch his whiskey sour.  He rested his head in the palm of his hand. “Oh my.”

Barbara smiled. “You devil.”

“Cut it out,” Granite said. “Both of you.”

Barbara lightly punched Granite’s arm.  “The boy can’t help it.  Relax, will you?”

“There’ll be time for that later.  Okay, Jimmy, tell us about the ledger.  What did you find?”

Brown lowered his hand and straightened his shoulders.  “I won’t bore you with the details on how I broke the code, suffice it to say it was rather easy once you found the right pattern. At first it read like a diary.  From the findings, Huey Long recognized the threat of Adolf Hitler way before the rest of the world. When he became the leader of Germany in 1933, Huey Long formed a task force to develop a plan to deal with this threat when he became President in 1936.”

“He was that confident, huh?” Granite asked.

“Apparently. Anyways, there were hints about sanctions, military strategies, all the usual stuff, but then it takes a bizarre twist.  In early 1935, a scientist invented a poison, that when ingested would lead to brain hemorrhage and death.  An odorless, tasteless, and untraceable liquid.  They called it The Ghost.

“Good God,” Barbara said. “And that formula is in this ledger?”

“Yes. But that’s not the worse part.”

“Do tell,” Granite said.

“If created in a gaseous form and released in the air, it could potentially kill everyone it comes in contact with.  This is some nasty shit.”

“So what happened?” Granite asked. “Obviously, this Ghost was never used.”

“Well, there were some radicals in the Long camp that didn’t want to use the formula just on Adolf Hitler.  They wanted to use it on Franklin Roosevelt.  They figured with the popular President out of the way, the path would be clear for Long to ascend to the Presidency.”

Brown paused long enough to allow Lucy to place the food at the table.  “What else can I get you?” she asked. Her focus was on Brown, who avoided her gaze.

“This is great, Lucy, thank you,” Granite said.

“I’ll check back on you.”  She placed the check on the table and additionally pushed a napkin under Brown’s arm.  When she left, he looked at it.  It was her phone number with an encouragement to call her.  He tucked it into his shirt pocket.

“Jesus, Jimmy,” Granite said.

Brown shrugged. “What can I say?  The girls love me.”

Barbara looked at Granite.  “Does he get that sex appeal from you?  I can see the resemblance.”

“Not hardly, ole Jimmy here is one of a kind.  Now back to business.  What’s next?”

“Okay,” Brown continued. “After hearing these new plans, Huey Long had a change of heart concerning the poison.  He even states, that although he would like to be president, he is first and foremost a patriot, and killing the President of the United States was unthinkable.  He killed the whole plan and ordered the scientist to destroy all evidence of the Ghost.”

“Except Long kept a copy in the ledger, written in code,” Barbara said.

“Exactly.”

“Now we know why the Chamber is hot after this ledger,” Granite said. “If it works like you said, it could wreak havoc.  They could control a lot of things with their terrorist threats and eliminate opponents silently.  It would certainly give them an edge.”

“How can we be certain that this is the only copy of the formula?” Barbara asked.

“We can’t,” Brown answered. “But there’s not been anything like it that I know of. “

“Okay.  We need to get this into police custody and lock it up tight,” Barbara said. “I’m going to call ahead and make the arrangements.  Jimmy and I will go to the station and secure it. I’ll pick up my car and come back here.”

“Hold on a second,” Granite said. “I’m coming with you.”

“There’s no need for that.” Barbara placed a soft hand on Granite’s arm.  She leaned in closer and whispered in his ear. “I got better plans for us later.  Stay here and keep my seat warm.” 

Granite found himself unable to argue.  It had been awhile since a woman broke his resolve. He kind of liked it. “Anything else?”

“Yes,” Barbara answered. “Not that I need it, but be prepared to order me a few more drinks.  See you in a few.”  She kissed him on the forehead.

Brown and Barbara left.  Granite looked down at the empty bowl and motioned for Lucy.  She came to the table and her shoulders slumped when she realized Brown had left.  “I’m sure he’ll be back,” Granite said. “He just had to go and take care of some business.  Meanwhile, how about another Coke and a bowl of gumbo?”  I’ve a feeling I might need the extra energy tonight.  He smiled and let himself think of the pleasure that could await.  It was short-lived as his phone buzzed and he recognized it was from Marko.

“What’s up, big guy?”

“I’ve got a lot to tell you, but before that I need to tell you something disturbing.”

Granite didn’t like the sound of that. “What’s that?”

“Camille did some special, uhh, interrogating of the bartender down here at the Roosevelt.  Come to find out he’s in league with the Chamber.”

“And?”

“And his contact works for the Alexandria police department.”

“Christ.”

“It gets worse.  He didn’t have a name, but Matthew?”

“Yes?”

“It’s a woman.”

“Shit!”

 
Matthew Granite       Investigator seeking the assassin and answers to the Ozlet girls' murders.
The “Operator”         The Assassin looking for a mysterious "box" that the Ozlet family has hidden.
Marko                         aka "The Mountain". A private bodyguard hired by Granite.

Camille                       aka "The Shadow". A former CIA agent hired by Marko
Jimmy Daniels             aka "Brown". A computer genius hired by Granite
R.J. McBride                Granite's former partner while on the police force.

Harold Banisek           Granite's business manager
Woody               
           Manager of "Stingrays" a bar owned by Granite
Mutton Chops              The leader of “The Chamber”
Todd Grilliot                 Mitchell Ozlet’s son by Marie Grilliot
John Hazelton               A Detective working on the Melody Ozlet murder case.
Barbara Paige               A Detective working on the Melody Ozlet murder case
 


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