Ghost of the Karankawa

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

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A snippet from Ghost of the Karankawa:

We made it into Anahuac in the pitch blackness of night. It was getting late and we needed a hotel. I stopped us at a random stop sign on the edge of town and sat idling. I didn’t see headlights coming from any direction. On a lark I rolled down my window and let the night into the car.

The first sound that came to me was the drone of the cicadas and the crickets in the night, and not too far off, the basso profundo call of a bullfrog.

“Hear that?” I asked.

Julie nodded. She rolled her window down and soaked it in for a minute. She turned to me. “You like this, don’t you?”

“I love it. Say, are you ready to turn in? We could look for a hotel, if this town has one.”

“Yes, but don’t you want to stop by the Sheriff’s Office and talk to someone? Maybe we can drive by Purcell Lee’s trailer.”

“Ready to get started, aren’t you? That’s rather aggressive. We’re just here to talk to Cathy Baha.”

“Yes, it is agressive,” she smiled. “Cathy who?”

“Baha,” I said.

“Sounds like a laugh.”

“Sounds like half of a laugh,” I corrected her.

“Is that what you do when you’re on these things?” she asked. “Just hopscotch into town and do the one thing only that you were asked to do, then hopscotch back out again?”

“Never. Besides, I never hopscotch.”

“Checking into a hotel, then visiting Madame Half-A-Laugh and convincing her not to move back to Austin, then hitting the road back home—that’s hopscotching if I ever heard it.”

“Who made you the Red Queen?”

“We’re sitting at an intersection in the dark with strange sounds, honey. Let’s…do something.”

“Suit yourself, then. The Sheriff’s Office it is.”

I took a right hand turn and started looking for the town square.

I found it in three city blocks. I toured us around the square twice, and then saw a pair of headlights enter one of the main intersections, go a block, then turn off. It was a law enforcement vehicle of some kind.

“We’re on ‘em,” I said.

“Good.”

I caught up with the car as the driver was getting out and pulled into an empty slot close by, but not too close by. The car was either a Sheriff’s Deputy’s or the Sheriff’s himself. As we got out beneath a dim streetlight, I could see he was waiting for us.

“Help you folks?” the fellow asked.

“Looking for the Sheriff’s Office.”

“You found it. But it’s not what you’d call normal business hours, especially if you’re here to see an inmate.”

“Got any?” I asked. “Inmates, that is?” Julie came up beside me and we approached the man.

“Exactly four,” he said. “What’s this about?”

I held out my hand and the officer took it.

“Bill Travis,” I said. “This is my wife, Julie.”

“Meetcha. Ma’am,” he said, shook hands with Julie and ducked his head a tick, a tip-of-the-hat gesture without tipping anything.

“The Ghost Killer,” Julie said.

The officer stared at her, raised an eyebrow.

I took her hand, squeezed it hard.

“Uh, honey. That’s a little dramatic.”

The lawman whistled. “Where did you two escape from?”

“Okay, that didn’t work so well,” Julie said to me. “You’re turn.”

“It’s late, officer. First, can you suggest a good hotel for a couple of tourists who are missing a clue? Second, I noticed that GPS reception isn’t so great down here, so do you know where we can find Clem Street? Or a map?”

The officer leaned back against his cruiser and crossed his arms and regarded the two of us. He brought a hand up and rubbed his jaw.

We waited. The appraisal took thirty long seconds of silence. I listened for the cicadas, the crickets, the bullfrogs, the hum of the lamp over our heads—anything, for that matter—but I could hear nothing. Then the moment was cut short by a shriek. Julie moved hard against me and clutched for me. The shriek died out into nothing and the silence came back at us in waves. The shriek had either been a few hundred yards away on the edge of town, or a mile, there was no way of knowing. I did know, however, that sounds have a way of carrying for long distances in the night.

“That,” the lawman said, “is the Ghost Killer.”

“Uh huh,” I said. “What did you say your name was, deputy?”

“I’m not the deputy. I’m the Sheriff. Sheriff Hamp Renard.”

“Sheriff Renard, what happened to Purcell Lee?”

“He went and got himself dead. The body is at Jones & Crum Mortuary. I don’t think you and Missus would care to see it, though.”

“Is it…a mummy?” Julie asked. I suppose my brow wrinkled in disbelief. I turned to look at her and saw her eyes were wide, waiting for Sheriff Renard’s response. She was like any given Girl Scout at a campfire during the telling of the scary stories.

“Purcell Lee’s body is…not right,” Sheriff Renard said.

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