June 20, 2008


Detective Ronald Maglione pulled his unmarked Crown Victoria into Lucas Budd’s wide paved driveway. At the end of his headlights sat Officer Lawler and Officer Guidry, looking at a laptop that still had the factory stickers on the lid. Probably watching another movie for time and a half pay. The two men looked up at him as he pulled in, then went back to what they were watching.

It was 11:30 Sunday night. Maglione had stayed late at the station because Sunday night was one of the few times he could be left alone to finish his reports. Because he was a hefty guy with bright round face and a loud voice, everyone always assumed he was more gregarious than he really was. If he sat down behind his desk, within seconds someone was sure to be sitting on the edge of it, telling him some bullshit story.

Maglione ran a hand down his face and, suddenly remembering an appointment, pulled out the cheap electronic organizer he’d gotten at K-Mart a decade back. He picked at the tiny calculator keys and angled the dull green screen towards his overhead light: no, thank God, he had to be in court next Monday. He might actually get a full five hours of sleep tonight.

He finally opened the car door, leaving the car running. Maglione hoped to only be at Budd’s for a few minutes. He pushed himself up out of the car, tapped his pocket for the spare key he always carried, then locked the door behind him. Only when the car door shut did Lawler and Guidry even look up again.

“Hey, boys. You keeping yourselves cool out here?” Even at midnight New Orleans still ached with the day’s diminished heat. Maglione glanced over at the Budd house. The place looked dark, though he thought maybe he saw a faint glow up on the third floor. It sounded like the auxiliary air conditioner might be running up there, too.

“Yeah, we’re doin’ alright,” Lawler said, with a grin that was meant to seem upbeat but instead broke like a threat across his large solid face.

Ken Lawler was quick, friendly, and would be a genuinely good cop if he ever actually put his mind to it. Unfortunately, he was born in the body of a backcountry bruiser: he was six-foot-three and solid, with thin golden blonde hair that he parted in the middle, giving himself a perpetual look of menacing naïveté. Justin Guidry, on the other hand…

“Naw, boss, you got us sweating for good! We meltin’ out here, boy.” Guidry closed his eyes and wheezed out a snicker or two.

Guidry looked like a perfect policeman, every captain’s wet dream. With his upright posture, wiry frame, and tight crew cut, he seemed like an efficient and hardworking officer. He even had the facial expression down; with his tight lips and half-closed eyelids, he gave off a military air of practiced control.

And then he would open his mouth and ruin the illusion. Guidry was from some one-store swamp town, where every issue between men was solved with a quick scrap in the dirt. What was at first taken for a look of silent competence was in fact a sizing up, Guidry’s nervous system determining if he could whup you, or if you could whup him, and in either case how bad the whuppin’ was likely to be.

Because of the way he looked, Guidry was frequently awarded with special details, at least until the captain in charge quickly discovered that instead of the super-cop they thought they’d picked up they’d gotten an abrasive raspy-voiced fuck-up, an alpha Cajun who tried to settle everything with chest bumps and sucker punches.

Maglione had never really thought about it, but seeing the two of them side-by-side in the dark, it occurred to him that maybe Lawler and Guidry had been born in each other’s bodies by mistake. With Guidry’s body, Lawler could have become the respected cop he should have been, and not shuffled off to guard duty assignments like this. And with Lawler’s thick frame, Guidry could have conquered his bayou town and acquired a harem of baby mommas. But instead, he became a big city cop who drove his superiors so crazy they begged Maglione to give him this secluded overnight shift where he couldn’t cause too much trouble.

Maglione shook his head. “Well, you two only gotta sweat a couple more hours. Martin and…Umbro, I think, will be here at two. It was quiet tonight?”

“More or less,” Lawler said. “That backdoor was unlocked what I got here at six, so I called Greco and she said it had been locked when she checked it last night at two. So who knows what’s going on there.” Lawler hoisted his large shoulders up and then slowly lowered them, in a fascinating attempt at a shrug. “Oh, and the kids came by.”

Maglione was making a note about the door on one of the blank index cards he always kept in his pocket. “Kids?” he asked, distracted. “What kids?”

“The Budd kids. The twins.”

“Yeah,” Guidry smirked, “that real cocky asshole and his sister. Wish he’d come back, too, I tell you what…”

Maglione waved a hand at him sharply. “Wait. You meant to say that Budd’s…Lucas Budd—his kids were here tonight? Did you let them in?”

“Yeah, of course. You said family only, right? They just walked right in, so it seemed dumb to-”

“Okay, okay, let’s hold on a minute.” Maglione pinched the bridge of his nose. So much for getting sleep tonight. “Back it up. Describe the kids for me.”

Lawler furrowed his considerable brow. “White male, approximately 17 or 18, dark hair and a dark complexion. White female…”

“Reddish brown hair,” Guidry cut in, “freckles…about yay tall. A nice rack.”

“She’s jailbait, you pervert.”

“Oh, like you didn’t notice…”

“Both of you shut up. Stay right here.” Maglione walked back to his car, a different curse accompanying every step. In his backseat was a cabinet’s worth of folders, envelopes, and file boxes.

Three minutes of digging, with his pen light in his mouth, and he found what he’d been looking for: a small beige pamphlet, maybe twenty pages long, with a large crest on the cover. It was last year’s Beaumonde Academy facebook, with grainy black and white photos of all five hundred students. He quickly flipped through it—there were a lot more neckties than he was expecting—and eventually found the Budd children. They were both blondes. Damn it.

“Here,” he said, walking back over to the bright light over the garage. “Find the kids you saw tonight. See if they’re in there.”

The two cops bent over the little book and looked at the photos, squabbling about when to turn the pages. It was laid out youngest to oldest, and the two slowly went past every freshman, then every sophomore, without a word.

“Look closely,” Maglione urged them. “These pictures are a year old, and teenagers change their hair every few minutes.”

He was starting to think they might not be Beaumonde students when, only a few pictures into the juniors, Lawler and Guidry pointed at a photo and said “That’s her” at the same time.

Maglione wrote the girl’s name down on a new index card and frowned at it. Her name looked familiar…something in the news about a custody battle, maybe? No, not that, but close.

The two found the boy’s picture one page over. Maglione wrote the name down, but this one didn’t mean anything to him. He cursed again anyway. He had a long night ahead of him, and it started with a phone call he really dreaded making.

Ronald Maglione stared at the index card in his hand and sighed. He didn’t know who they were or what they were doing here tonight, but life was about to get very interesting for Emily Bellecastle and Michael Karlinoff.

End Of Part One

Part Two >>>