Creole Belle

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke

Book: Creole Belle by James Lee Burke Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Lee Burke
Tags: Dave Robicheaux
from a public phone.”
    “Why do you think it was a contract job?”
    “Aside from the fact that the shooter recovered his brass, he probably used a twenty-two or a twenty-five with a suppressor. The pros like small-caliber guns because the round bounces around inside the skull. Who told you about the shooting, Dave?”
    “I got a tip.”
    “From who?”
    “Maybe from the same guy who called in the shots-fired. He said the shooter was wearing a red windbreaker and a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap and jeans stuffed in suede boots. He said Golightly called the shooter Caruso.”
    “We’ve already been to Golightly’s condo. A neighbor says a guy who sounds a whole lot like Clete Purcel was hanging around the condo last night. What are you guys up to?”
    “Nothing of consequence. Life is pretty boring on the Teche.”
    “I think you’re lying.”
    “You’re a good man, but don’t ever talk to me like that again,” I said.
    “You’re holding back information in a homicide investigation,” he said.
    “You ever hear of a hitter named Caruso?”
    “No. And if I haven’t, nobody else around here has, either.”
    “Maybe there’s a new player in town.”
    “Sometimes when people have a near-death experience, they think they don’t have to obey the same rules as the rest of us. You tell Purcel what I said.”
    “He’s the best cop NOPD ever had.”
    “Yeah, until he killed a federal informant and fled the country rather than face the music.”
    I hung up the phone. At noon my half-day shift was over. I walked home under the canopy of live oaks that arched over East Main, the sunlight golden through the leaves, the Spanish moss liftingin the wind, the autumnal Louisiana sky so hard and perfectly blue that it looked like an inverted ceramic bowl. Molly was at her office down the bayou, where she worked for a relief agency that helped fisher-people and small farmers build their own homes and businesses. Alafair was proofreading the galleys of her first novel at our redwood picnic table in the backyard, Tripod and Snuggs sitting like bookends on either side of the table. I fixed ham-and-onion sandwiches and a pitcher of iced tea and carried them outside and sat down next to her.
    “Did Pierre Dupree find you?” she said.
    “He called?”
    “No, he was here about an hour ago.”
    “What did he want?” I asked.
    “He didn’t say. He seemed in a hurry.”
    “Dupree owns a building in New Orleans that used to be the headquarters of Didoni Giacano. There was a safe in the building that contained an old IOU from a card game Clete was in. Clete had paid the debt, but a couple of wiseacres got their hands on the marker and tried to take his office and apartment away from him. What do you know about Dupree?”
    “I’ve met him at a couple of parties. He seems nice enough,” she said. She took a bite of her sandwich and avoided my eyes.
    “Go on,” I said.
    “He’s had a lot of commercial success as an artist. I think he’s a marketing man more than a painter. There’s nothing wrong in that.”
    “There isn’t?”
    “He owns an ad agency, Dave. That’s what the man does for a living. Not everybody is Vincent van Gogh.”
    “When was the first time you wrote a dishonest line in your fiction?”
    She drank from her iced tea, her expression neutral, her galley pages fluttering when the wind gusted.
    “The answer is you never wrote a dishonest line,” I said.
    Her skin was unblemished and dark in the shade, her hair as black as an Indian’s, her features and the luster in her eyes absolutely beautiful. Men had trouble not looking at her, even when they werewith their wives. It was hard to believe she was the same little El Salvadoran girl I pulled from a submerged airplane that crashed off Southwest Pass. “There’s Pierre Dupree,” she said.
    A canary-yellow Humvee with a big chrome grille had just pulled into the driveway. Through the tinted windshield, I could see the driver talking on a cell

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