Excerpt from Payday Blues

It is a connected world

By Bill Joyce

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8 min.
37
Chapter 3 - Mission Parameters

Stuffed chairs, full bellies, and deep rich coffee made for easy conversation. Alan was a close friend and I allowed his southern charm to guide the evening’s agenda. I knew that I would get a head full of NOLA history, providing details of what everyone we knew was up to. In time, he would get to the mission.

Alan’s team had a tight grip on everything drug related in southern Louisiana. Inviting me into a case usually centered on linking up resources not generally a part of the normal DEA environment. We had grown accustomed to helping each other and while he did not know the extent of my clandestine activities, he relied on my resources.

Tonight’s case was different. Alan had been asked to look into a surge of drugs in the northern states. There was a new pipeline and no one had a lead. They did know that tons of the South American poison was showing up in northern cities across the country.

“I have had my men pull in all the normal suspects and the locals have done the same.” Alan was ready to get down to business. “We are not seeing any of the drugs that the rest of the country is crying about.”

I waited for him to continue. I could see he had more to say.

“I have a gut feeling that something big is happening right under my nose and I don’t like it, Pete.” Putting down his mug of coffee he leaned in to get my attention. “This is something we have not seen before and somewhere a new cancer is growing in my neighborhood. I need you to help me find this pipeline and close it down. I need your interesting friends to shine a light on this new epidemic.”

“Well, now this sounds like a lot of fun Alan. I’m in.” I could see his shoulders relax as he moved back into his chair, retrieving his mug and another plantain beignet to savor.

“Get me all of the background documents and let me review the casebook to date. I will also want to do some snooping on my own. Can I have one of your guys for transportation?”

Alan nodded and I continued. “You do understand that if it is hidden from the locals and your DEA guys, there is a real chance my guys won’t dig up any leads. Do you have a deadline?”

“No deadline to worry about. I would like to see if we could have something cracked open in about two weeks.” We were back to the quiet meandering conversation that was Alan’s southern style. I knew to put my Yankee pushiness aside and let the evening slip by.

“I will get Rene to stop by in the morning and she can be your guide.” He smiled that quirky, I know something smile that always created havoc when I visited. At least the havoc would be centered on Rene who is a very lovely Louisiana storm to be caught in.

Rene Byrne is a red headed, Irish girl who found her way to Louisiana State University and joined the DEA right out of college. Infectious laughter coupled with athletic physique made for many wonderful adventures throughout the city of New Orleans. She knew the city and she knew the people. I was going to be in very good hands.

“Keep this up Alan and I will have to be paying you for this visit.” He laughed and I reached for one last beignet. “Time for me to get some downtime—will I see you in the morning?”

“We’ll meet up tomorrow evening. I have some political boot shining to do. Rene will get you what you want and take you where you need to go. How about meeting for dinner right here at 8:00 PM?”

There is something very special about the late evening hours in New Orleans. A gentle rain had come and gone during our conversation and the open French doors to the balcony filled the room with the hint of a fresh dawn. One lonely street performer picked at their guitar quietly, adding to the night’s peace.

Morning Adventures

The balcony, coffee and pastries, a beautiful tavern owner in a shimmering lacy house robe and slippers—again I wondered why not New Orleans.

Then I heard the rumbling below—the deep mechanical throb of a bike, ready to take on the highways and byways of NOLA. The sound immediately harmonized with another throaty machine. My ride was pulling up outside and the day was about to get exciting.

Katie jumped up, kissed me on the cheek and ran down the barroom stairs. I rearranged my blushing face and found the appropriate vantage point on the balcony. In moments, the tavern door swung open and Katie flew into the arms of the biker with long red hair flowing behind her black helmet.

Their excited exchanges and laughter accompanied the clatter of their entrance as I found my way down to the tavern. A third bike rumbled through the streets and picked up the second biker. Walking past the bar I was pulled into the embrace of an Irish whirlwind.

“Hey Texas, how come it takes you so long to visit? I haven’t seen you since Mardi Gras.” Her voice filled the bar with joyful abandon as I let myself find a place in her embrace.

“I can’t be playing with mud bugs and banjos all the time, girl. Some of us have got to make a living!”

She poked at my belly turning to Katie, “looks like we need to fatten him up again. The boy would lose his head if God hadn’t attached it. Let’s make him take us to Coulis for Eggs Benicio. I’m starving and we both get to eat on his expense account!”

My bike had a sidecar filled with case notes that were transported to the office on the second floor. Work needed to be delayed. Right now two beautiful women needed to whisk me off and spend my money. I have always been good with priorities.

Eggs Benicio is moist jalapeno cheddar corn cakes topped with perfectly seasoned pulled pork debris, two poached eggs and house-made hollandaise. Besides being a signature dish at Coulis, it is a favorite of the redhead who now guided my steps.

Grabbing my arm she pulled me to the table the girls had chosen and fell into a conversation of NOLA happenings and the newest gossip heard. It did not matter if I knew who or what. I embraced the joyful banter as a very special gift. Time would come for business, now I was a guest of the real beauty of life.

Trouble in Cajun country

Breakfast and gossip complete, Rene led me through the streets to the west parishes of New Orleans and down by the docks where the shrimp boats start their gulf adventure. There we met with an old fisherman sitting on the doc with two poles bobbing for dinner and a charred rimmed pipe clenched in his teeth.

“Pap, tell my friend about the trouble in the Bayou.” Rene's voice was soft, cajoling the elder fisherman to let go of his gossip. “He is a friend and maybe he can find some help.”

This was a man from the deepest part of Cajun country and while his gruff voice carried, I was going to need a translation after the fact. The sign-song cadence continued as he spoke about families no longer sharing with their neighbors and being secretive. Something had him upset and Rene wanted to find out what it was.

We had a few more stops, checking in with local police and some of the city’s movers and shakers. They provided background and insight into the drug world of southern Louisiana and provided their take on the newest epidemic. Most had little or no time for problems that seemed to be located north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

By mid afternoon, we were back at the Blues Balcony pouring through the case files and other documentation pertinent to my assignment.

“OK Rene, I am ready to understand what our fisherman was talking about and how it relates to the drug case.” She had been nervous since our meeting at the docks and I wanted to get into it.

“I’ve known him since I first arrived in New Orleans. Pap was pointed out to me by my mentor and I cultivated the relationship ever since. He is not used for investigating crime but to get a sense of the community—how everyone is doing and if there is trouble brewing.” Rene paused fidgeting in her seat.

“My first partner told me that you need to know the community’s soul if you are going to help them. Our job is not to go after bad guys; it is to make sure the good guys have a life. He died loving the Bayou and its people. He was a tall skinny Norwegian who could never get a handle on the accent but they loved him all the same.” She looked up at me and smiled.

“They have taken me in and I need to find out what is wrong in the backcountry. I am not sure if it is related but I need to help Pap.” She leaned back in her chair and awaited my response.”

So I had two cases and they may or may not be related. I had two beautiful women who enjoyed tormenting me and I had two places I loved to call home. Add all that up with the fact the Alan and the DEA were paying for my holiday. Welcome to the land of spices and blues. I am a very lucky man.

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About Bill Joyce

Bill is a writer of prose, a poet in his own mind, and self-proclaimed master of words. Long-windedness is due the personal enjoyment of his inside jokes, most of which fall on deaf ears. He calls himself an Author.

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