The fine hairs on the back of my neck, which had been standing up since I’d started down this road to the bayou nowhere, threatened to rip out of my skin and run back the way I had come. I clamped a hand to my neck and squeezed hard.
Lady-looks-like-a-dude paused by the hood. She put a ham-sized hand on it and I started growling. I plastered a big old fake smile on my face, careful as always to hide my sharp teeth, and tucked the Glock into my jacket pocket. I cut the engine and got out of the car.
She said something in a questioning sort of tone, and years spent listening to Cajuns and their peculiar speech patterns allowed me to translate it into semi-normal English: Lookin for da interstate?
I shook my head. “I’m looking for this man.” I produced Perkins’s photo.
She glanced at it. Her gray eyes, which were set very close together, narrowed. “Ain’t seen him, me. Uncles, mebbe.”
“Your uncles may have seen him?”
She nodded. Her neck was thick and creased with dirt. She smelled of zero contact with deodorant, limited contact with what was probably homemade soap, and bayou water. “Dey run da store, see. Sell him gas?”
“Great. Can I speak with them?”
She nodded again. “Go on inside, get some-tin to drink. I go on and get ’em.”
She pointed to the convenience store and then started walking toward it. I followed, despite the apprehension sloshing around in my guts. She hadn’t asked who he was. She hadn’t asked who I was, or why I was looking for him. She hadn’t asked when he’d gone missing. She was wearing a silver Seiko watch on her right wrist. Tire shoes, but a Seiko watch. I glanced at my car’s Pirellis. They’d better still be there when I got out of that store.
We passed the gas pump. I detected no tang of gasoline. Just rust.
Closer to the store, I was able to see a barn-like structure over on the northeast side of the clearing, close to the bayou. It was constructed of squares of colored metal, and as she paused to heave open the store’s glass door, it struck me that the metal squares, which were crudely welded to each other, looked like they’d been cut off automobiles. The roof was made of odd pieces of boards.
That was okay. Weird, but okay. This man-chick and her uncles had made a barn out of Dodges and Chevys. No problem. I was all for recycling. But that wasn’t what made the werewolf inside me start clawing to get out and rip this bitch’s spine out.
In front of the barn, there was a large wooden stump. And buried in the top of that stump, an axe.
By itself, okay enough. But the wind had started blowing toward me, carrying on it a very distinctive odor from that stump: human blood.