LaShaun sat calm amid the bustling activity at the small sheriff’s station. Apparently, folks got into a lot of mischief Saturday nights on the bayou. Despite being so busy, the deputies and civilian employees found time to shoot sideways looks in her direction. Likely only a few actually needed to be near the area where she was seated. With the exception of Deputy Myrtle Arceneaux, the only black female deputy on the force. Her copper brown skin blended with the tints in her hair. No doubt she had the duty of making sure LaShaun did not attempt to leave the premises. Deputy Arceneaux sat at a nearby desk rustling paperwork. Deputy Chase Broussard had pulled her over then had her follow him to the station. He was somewhere trying to figure out a way to charge LaShaun with a crime serious enough to make her spend the night in jail.
LaShaun wore an impassive expression, a skill she had learned as a girl at her grandmother’s knee. Lucky for them Monmon Odette was seventy-seven and ailing or she’d have show up to quietly scare the jeebies out of them. Her ability to exact revenge using voodoo was legendary in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana. Monmon Odette loved playing the part of a modern Marie Leveau. Despite her circumstances, LaShaun laughed softly at the memory of how her grandmother relished the notoriety, and used it to great advantage. LaShaun fingered the necklace she wore.
The young secretary seated at the front desk stared. She seemed fascinated by the snake pendant. Made of silver with carnelian stones for eyes, it hung from a red leather cord. LaShaun transferred her placid gaze from a spot on the drab light green wall to the skinny blonde-haired clerk. The woman jumped and blinked rapidly when their gazes met.
“Hello, Darlene,” LaShaun said quietly.
“How do you know my name,” Darlene said, her voice squeaky and eyes wide.
“Name tag.” LaShaun pointed to the brass plate fixed to a wooden bar on her desk.
Darlene blinked rapidly some more, then let out a high-pitched giggle. “Well duh, Darlene. Nobody needs a crystal ball to know that.”
Another woman marched up. She looked ten years older than Darlene. Her too perfect red hair convinced LaShaun that it came from a bottle. Freckles covered her pale face. She gave LaShaun a brief sideways look then frowned at Darlene. “What are you doing?”
“Just being polite,” Darlene replied. “LaShaun, this is Terry Ramirez. She works over in robbery and-”
“Stop chit chatting and get back to work.” Terry jerked a thumb toward a stack of folders.
“Right,” Darlene said obediently, but frowned when Terry turned her back. She stood, gathered folders, and gave LaShaun a wink before she strolled off.
Turning toward the voice, LaShaun found herself face to face with Savannah St. Julien Honoré, her childhood nemesis growing up in Beau Chene. Savannah’s honey brown skin blended well with the golden highlights in her hair. She stood next to a sullen young woman. Terry lingered nearby and thumbed through papers on Darlene’s desk.
“Hello, Savannah.” LaShaun looked at her. Her long hair pulled back into ponytail, Savannah wore navy blue slacks, a crisp light blue shirt and carried a leather case. “You’re representing a client? I thought you retired from the law to run the family business.”
Savannah nodded to the young woman. “Go on, Nyla. Come to my office nine o’clock sharp tomorrow morning.”
“Okay.” Nyla strode off with one last scornful look around to let law enforcement know she didn’t think much of them.
“I practice part-time, mostly pro bono for kids in trouble. You need a lawyer- again?” Savannah’s expression implied she wasn’t shocked.
“Not me. This is just a misunderstanding,” LaShaun said.
“Sure it is,” Savannah replied in a dry tone. “Sorry to hear about your grandmother being so sick.”
LaShaun gazed at Savannah. She really meant it. Of course she did. Savannah had always been the “good girl”, the polar opposite of what the town folk thought of LaShaun. “Thanks. She’s gotten weaker, but she’s strong willed.”
“Yeah, everybody knows. So how long will you be in town?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll have time to do lunch and catch up on old times.” LaShaun smiled.
“Definitely. Wait by the phone for that call.” Savannah gave her a tight smile and walked off.
“See you later.”
LaShaun waved to Savannah when she looked back once more before exiting the station. Terry stared at LaShaun across the room with a stony expression. Moments later Deputy Broussard strode toward her. She suspected he meant to shake her up with that harsh façade. Obviously Deputy Broussard had not done his research on her very well.
The tall husky deputy stood about three feet away. One hand was on the dark brown gun belt around his waist. He gave a curt gesture like a traffic cop directing cars. LaShaun did not miss the way Terry stood straighter and brushed two fingers through her hair when he got close to them. “Ms. Rousselle, this way please.”
LaShaun walked close enough to brush her arm against his. “I most certainly will, Deputy Broussard. I’m going to cooperate fully.”
Terry sucked in air like an angry vacuum cleaner. “Call if you need me to pull any reports or records.”
“Thanks. I have everything I need already,” Deputy Broussard said. He gestured for LaShaun to walk ahead of him.
“Nice meeting you.” LaShaun smiled at Terry. She put a little extra sway to her jean- covered hips as she walked ahead of the deputy. A look back at the woman confirmed her suspicion. Terry would have gladly scratched out LaShaun’s eyes.
“Third desk on the left, ma’am.” Broussard gave a sharp nod.
“All right, Deputy Broussard. My, my. All this attention because my rental SUV has a broken taillight. Must have happened on the road here. Nice to know Vermillion Parish is protected against jagged plastic.” LaShaun knew getting smart might cause her more trouble. Still she liked seeing Broussard’s jaw muscle cramp up when she refused to cower. She had inherited a smart mouth from her late mother, Francine. Something Monmon Odette chastised her for on numerous occasions.
“That bag of weed has more to do with why you’re here, ma’am,” a second deputy clipped back. He fell in behind them as though assigned to LaShaun’s case.
“Herbs,” LaShaun corrected mildly. She followed Broussard to another room. A scattering of three or four deputies sat at desks completing reports or talking on phones.
“We’ll see,” the other deputy replied.
Deputy Broussard didn’t respond to his colleague’s comments. “Have a seat, ma’am.”
LaShaun sat down and looked at the other deputy’s nametag. “I’m being arrested because I’m an old school herbalist, Deputy Gautreau?”
“Them don’t look like no Creole seasonings to me. Now you just came from the airport from Los Angeles. Lot of drugs pass through here from Texas, New Mexico and California.” Deputy Gautreau stood against the wall and crossed his arms. “I’m not saying you’re some heavy duty drug dealer. Look, you like a little recreational use, get amped up on the weekends with some Acapulco gold maybe. I mean you only have a few ounces. First offense gets you a five hundred dollar fine and maybe six months in jail, unless we find you’ve been picked up on previous drug charges.”
“You won’t. I don’t even smoke tobacco. I allow nothing and no one to take control of me, Deputy Broussard,” LaShaun said quietly.
“But you have been arrested before in this parish,” Gautreau said.
“I was questioned,” LaShaun said correcting him without a trace of anger in her tone.
“You were booked,” Deputy Gautreau insisted, the inflection in his voice meant to needle her into reacting.
LaShaun ignored the attempt. “Since you’re familiar with the case you know that the charges were dropped.”
“Suspicion of murder. Pretty serious.”
LaShaun caught Terry watching them from across the room and leaned toward Deputy Broussard. The V-neck of her red t-shirt didn’t give him much of a view, but Terry couldn’t see that from where she stood. “Lack of evidence,” she murmured then pursed her lips.
“Which isn’t the same as saying you were innocent of the charge,” Deputy Gautreau shot back.
“Yes it is,” LaShaun said softly. “As a law officer you must be familiar with the phrase innocent until proven guilty.”
“Sometimes it just takes a little longer to build the case.” Deputy Gautreau smiled at her.
. “I’ve got this one, okay?” Deputy Broussard turned in his chair sharply. He eyed the other man until Gautreau grunted, pushed off from the wall, and strolled off.
LaShaun forgot her game of driving the love struck secretary crazy. Interesting, she mused. The two men despised each other. She studied Deputy Brossard as though he were part of a police line-up, taking note of the tiny scar beneath his left eye. He had Cajun black eyes and curly black hair, his skin a light tan that was most likely from being in the sun. Back in the day she might have flirted with him. Broussard was handsome in a ramrod straight-arrow way. She didn’t remember his face though. Of course eleven years had passed. Still the events that led up to her arrest played out in her dreams for years after, like a video in high definition.
“I didn’t kill Claude Trosclair no matter what you’ve heard,” LaShaun said.
She lowered her eyes then looked at him again. Broussard stared at her in silence for a few seconds, his gaze lingering on her lips. Like a tiny electric shock. LaShaun realized she wanted him to believe her. She’d always instantly disliked any symbol of authority. But they weren’t usually this sexy. Footsteps and paper rustling broke the spell they seemed to be casting on each other.
“Here is the report from last shift on that burglary.” Terry slapped a brown folder onto the desk between LaShaun and the deputy.
“Thanks, but I’m kinda busy right now, Terry. Give it to Myrtle if you don’t mind.” Deputy Broussard frowned then handed it back to the woman.
“Fine.” Terry stomped off.
Deputy Broussard looked at LaShaun again. He tapped the keyboard of the computer on the desk. “You were saying.”
“That I’m innocent.” LaShaun said.
“Okay,” he replied, his tone lawman neutral. “So tell me why you’re back in Vermilion Parish.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish