Grant Thibodaux is a police detective in New Orleans. Due to be married in just a little over a week, his world is shattered when his fiancee is kidnapped, and turns up dead. To his horror, Grant is suspected of her murder. Not knowing where to turn, he goes on the run and ends up in a derelict cabin in the woods.
“We ain’t ever gonna make that bridge tonight, across the Pontchartrain. And it feels like rain….”* the haunting, sultry strains of the song wafted out of the battery operated radio, filling the room with sound. He sat at the battered table on an equally tattered chair, tipping bourbon into his chipped glass. Tossing it back, he wiped his hand across his lips and sighed. Leaning back in his chair, he looked around, slowly. He’d already counted the holes in the wall—twenty-seven. The splinters in the table top—thirty-two. He thought he might start on the chips in the linoleum tile next. There looked to be a nearly endless number of those. The bottom of his glass beckoned, daring him to cover it again. Deciding that was more interesting than how many nails held the door together, he poured another measure, tossing it back, too.
It was a bad day, at the end of a bad week, and a worse month. Nothing had gone right for at least seventy-two hours. Past that, he wasn’t sure. Everything else was a blur. In fact, he wasn’t too sure of the last week, either. Had he been of a mind to care, he might have expended the effort, but he couldn’t be bothered. More bourbon trickled down his throat, warming his stomach. Another song wound around him, Kaelo’s version of Bang Bang—a personal favorite. The singer’s voice growled out the lyrics as Grant Thibodaux drowned himself in drink.
His phone rang. Somewhat surprised, Grant ignored it, sending it to voice mail. It rang again, and again. Finally fed up, he turned it off. His impulse was to hurl it across the room, but common sense won that battle. He was out here, in the middle of nowhere, in an abandoned cabin, with a bottle of bourbon and his self-loathing to keep him company.
“Wasn’t supposed to go down this way,” he muttered, dribbling the last of the bourbon into the glass.
He couldn’t have explained to anyone, including himself, how it was supposed to go. He knew in his heart, it couldn’t have gone down anything but hard. How hard, he hadn’t anticipated. Now, his partner was dead. His lover was dead. And he felt dead inside. He wanted to blame himself, but it hadn’t been entirely his fault, not even mostly. Turkle—he’d blame him for a little while. Then he’d blame Elise. And if he stayed conscious long enough, he’d get around to hating himself a little more.
Oblivion beckoned and he gave in. There was no bed, too much litter on the floor, so his head drooped to his arms and he slept. The sounds of the night cuddled him; the lake lapping on the shore, crickets chirping, the occasional hoot of an owl or the bark of a fox. It created a peaceful background to the noise of his dreams. Disjointed scenes raced across his mind’s eye, making him shiver and shake. He jerked awake, the crash in his dream echoed in real life.
The pale blueish rays of his Coleman, set on low, barely reached the far wall of the cabin. Groggy from drink and lack of sleep, he listened. The thudding repeated. That wasn’t a normal sound and it came from fairly nearby. It wasn’t an animal sound, either. It sounded like the thump of an ax against a large, thick tree. Who the hell would be cutting a tree in the middle of the night here in BFE?
Grant had one other thing to keep him company—his handgun. The HK 45 felt good in his palm as his thumb flicked the safety. Moving slowly, he wandered over to the window. The glass was shattered and a few sharp pieces were left in the frame. These, he avoided, glancing out into the night. His eyes, used to the meager light of the lantern, couldn’t pick out details. He thought about turning it off, but that might alert his company. His sharp ears didn’t pick up a repeat of the sound. He wondered if the ax wielding mystery man was going to suddenly surprise him by bursting through, what was left of, the door.
A furtive scurrying alerted him to movement on the dilapidated front porch. Still unable to see anything, he ducked and made himself as small as possible. Considering his height, it was a nearly impossible task, but he tried. Elise would giggle if she could see him—would have—he reminded himself. She couldn’t see anything anymore. Her sightless eyes had held accusation, or maybe that was simply his take on it. He knew he felt guilty for her death. Turkle—he’d blame him. Easier to blame a dead man than take that himself. He’d carry the guilt the rest of his life, however long that might be.
Nothing moved outside. Nearly convinced he’d imagined it, he tried to relax, until a board creaked in the bedroom behind him. He knew that board was in the middle of the room. He’d stepped on it so often himself, he recognized its pitch and cadence—going from a low groan to a high pitched shriek.
“Come out,” he growled, placing himself where he had a good vantage point. “I know you’re in there.”
The floor squeaked again and he trained his weapon on the door, his back to the corner. A dilapidated hutch provided a modicum of protection. The door drifted slowly open, Grant’s weapon didn’t falter, his hands steady.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
*Lyrics from It Feels Like Rain, written by John Hiatt