Authors: Dallas Coleman
Tags: #Gay Romance
Black Mustard: Justice
“Put ‘em in youse pocket, mon ‘tit fils. Thems etrangers, there, they won’t take you ‘way.”
Gran’me’ handed him a handful of teeny tiny black seeds, some of them trying to fall from his fingers. She wrapped her gnarled hands around his and hissed. “Non! No droppin’ ‘em, ‘tit. Not in the house. No inviting the boogies.”
Lord. Gran and her hoodoo. “Oui. Oui. I ain’t gon’ drop ‘em.”
Eloi shoved the seeds in the pockets of his good jeans, next to his lighter and the gris-gris bag his sister’d brought this morning. His hair was slick with the huile de chance Mamma’d brought over at first light.
You’d think he was dyin’ or something, ‘stead of going to the courthouse.
Still, all the magic might could help, huh? Leastways a little?
It weren’t everyday a La Bauve got called before the judge, and Lord knew his type didn’t fair so well locked away.
“Don’ you worry on it none. Me, I got the hoodoo. Ain’t gon’ be none of mine own in the jailhouse.”
“No. I ain’t done nothing bad.” Nothing much, really. Maybe a little beating up on thems that deserved it, but just ‘cause folks had schooling didn’t make it all right to be wicked with a scared ‘tit monde of a gal. She’d not been even old enough to drank, and still she was there cryin’ with them four big old boys grabbing at her. He’d jus’ cleaned house over to the club, hadn’t he? Grabbed the bat from up under the bar and went to town. Hells, if he wasn’t no swamp baby, he’d not even be in this fix.
He’d be a damn hero.
All the women in his whole life were in the room now, five of ‘em watching and wringing their hands -- from Gram’me’ down to baby Minnie, who was jus’ in the high school, black eyes huge in her sixteen year old face.
“Lawds, y’all. I ain’t gon’ be gone for long.” Hells, he was the workin’ one, him and Lucy, but Lucy had a no-account man of her own and five little boys. Zenobia was the only one of ‘em worth a nickel, but that Baton Rouge nursing school cost all she had and some Eloi had, too. She’d done drove in last night, to pray over him and wash his hair with holy water.
“No, sir. Them lawyers, we ain’t letting them have at you.” Mamma’s eyes was lit from inside, fear and worry burning her. Didn’t Eloi feel bad for it, too. He was the good ‘un. The solid one. The man that brought the money home, wasn’t he?
But that gal he’d saved, she’d been right and truly scairt and he had to help her out, didn’t he? Yes. Yes, sir.
He just wished like anything that he’d figured out them boys was big money and old Creole before he beat ‘em.
Not a mudbug like him, lord no.
“I gotta go, now. I won’ be long.”
Please, Jesus. Make it so.
He reached into his pocket, touched his lucky lighter, them tiny seeds rolling ‘round.
He couldn’t be long.
His womenfolk needed him bad.
“You tell me that little fuck’s going to the pen, going to take it up the ass.”
Loic looked over at Danny Roubichoux, then met Danny’s daddy’s eyes, the senior Mr. Daniel Roubichoux, whose spending money was, as Mr. Plante had explained to him, more than a piss ant baby-faced lawyer like himself might ever have a chance to see in his whole worthless life. They sat in the hallway -- the Roubichoux and Gordon Maille, whose mother’s response to both her son having his arm broken and the accusation of rape was to write a check and tell Gordon to ‘keep us out of it, boy’.
“We’ve got a rock-solid case, Dan.”
Dolly Franks hadn’t pressed rape charges after all, not against Danny or the Maille boy, either one. Loic didn’t suppose he could blame the girl, not really. The check they’d handed her had a lot of zeros on it, enough zeroes that Loic de Hiver sort of felt sick about it.
The La Bauve man, though, he wasn’t going to be offered hush money, no sir. That man was going to be hung out to dry.
Little and dark, with a bright, quick smile and not enough money on him to even pay for a lawyer, Eloi La Bauve was going to, indeed, be sent to the pen and would, most likely, take it up the ass for the extreme crime of making sure Danny Roubichoux, Gordon Maille, and Endo Hollis -- who’d fled to Houston as soon as the shit hit the fan, thank you very much -- didn’t gang rape a pretty little waitress who had more tattoos than juries thought an innocent gal ought.
God, Loic hated his job.
The money was good, though, and bleeding heart liberal lawyers spent their careers eating ramen noodles and wearing $79 suits from the Men’s Warehouse, getting screwed by hard-luck cases and not making the payments on their house or their Lexus, thank you very much.
Not that Loic had a Lexus, not yet. His ink from UT’s law school wasn’t really dry yet; hell, the only reason Plante, Miller, and Achioux had taken him on was the fact that Giles Plante had been his roommate for six years and Loic had single-handedly gotten the lazy, charming fuck through the bar exams. That was all the push he’d needed, though. He’d tried ten cases for the firm now, including one that was a sure loss. “The Silver Tongued Loic” they’d called him. He liked it. He liked making juries see his way in things. He liked winning. He liked knowing that, when the partnership committee met next fall, his chances had moved from dismal to damned good.
Pleasing these clients, though, would move damned good to a sure thing, and there was very little Loic de Hiver loved more than a sure thing.
“You just take care of it.” Mr. Robichoux, Sr. snarled at him a little, his too-big, too-white dentures making him look more and more like a shark with every year. “Son, if it wasn’t a done deal, Jacques Plante would never have sent this kid to do the work. He’d’ve sent a real lawyer.”
“I said, it’s a solid case. We’ll get what we want.”
“What I want is for that junglebunny to fry.”
“Watch your language, Danny. That is not appropriate here.” Or anywhere else, either. But one nasty slip of the tongue like that could turn a jury, a judge, and this was supposed to go quick and easy.
Loic saw Justice Hibbideux head down the hallway, Le Bauve beside him. Hibbideux was one of those left-leaning, bleeding hearts. There wasn’t a bigger sucker in four parishes. Le Bauve was in jeans and a button down shirt, black hair slicked back, looking like he’d just slipped out of the marsh. Justice, on the other hand, was one of them throwbacks -- blond and short and square, stocky.
Like a little bull.
Loic shook his head, hoping against hope that they didn’t stop, didn’t draw the boys into conversation. Justice looked like he was going to walk on by, but Eloi La Bauve stopped, almost vibrating with it. “Y’all gon’ do this? After what y’all do to that ‘tit fille?”
“Fuck you, Mudbug.”
“Danny. Stop it. Hibbideux, control your client, please?”
Justice looked down his stubby little nose, which wrinkled like he smelled bad. “I hope the money’s worth it. It sinks in, you know? Stains your soul.”
He looked down at his hands, at the heavy gold watch that he had bought himself for Christmas, at the crisp, white shirt he wore. It was. It was worth it.
“Sticks in your craw, oui? Like bad honey.” La Bauve reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a cigarillo, then pulled a silver lighter from one pocket, tiny black seeds or dirt or what have you spilling everywhere -- landing on him, on the Roubichouxs, on Gordon.
“Jesus!” He jumped up, brushing himself off, the little things flying. “You can’t smoke in here! What is this mess?”
“I cain’t? You sho’?” La Bauve’s voice got lower, accent as thick as gumbo. “I jes’ need me a puff or two.” That lighter clicked, the dark, hand-rolled cigarillo lit just like that. It occurred to Loic, distantly, that his granny would have called that a shit-dipped cigarette. Shit-dipped. Lord, he hadn’t thought of that phrase in ten years, easy.
Since she’d died, for sure.
Mr. Robichoux, Sr., poked him in the shoulder. “Do something, son!”
All he could do was bark out, “Hibbideux! Control him!”
“Eloi, put it out.” Justice looked more amused than alarmed, honestly. Possibly more tickled than amused, even.
La Bauve blew a long, slow stream of smoke out, the scent odd, spicy, redolent of something Loic remembered from his childhood, maybe.
It wasn’t tobacco, that was for sure.
Gordon sneezed. Twice. Loic, though, he coughed a little, the spice and burn carried deep in his lungs. “Damn it.”
Le Bauve took the cigarette, pinched the cherry off into his fist and closed his hand around it without even a wince. “It’s better now, eh?”
“We’re on the docket, Hibbideux.”
“That we are. Let’s go win our case, Eloi.” Justice’s hand looked huge somehow on the skinny man’s arm. How the man didn’t look scared just stunned him, really.
Eloi La Bauve was going to go to prison for assault. At least for ninety days, and that was if he was lucky.
Ninety days was a long time for a man to miss work. Long enough to lose his family home.
Still, La Bauve shouldn’t have stuck his nose where it didn’t belong, shouldn’t have attacked a trio of wealthy, good men. Right?
“I hope you handle things in the courtroom better than you handled that situation, son.”
Roubichoux was giving him a headache.
“We’ve got a solid case. Let’s go get ready. They’ll be calling us in soon.”
Gordon shook his head. “I’ve been hearing rumors that Le Bauve’s granny’s got the hoodoo. That cigarette deal sure smelled like hoodoo.”
“What, exactly, does hoodoo smell like, you horse’s ass?” Roubichoux, Sr. was getting red-faced. “Honestly, y’all’s momma’s should have listened to us and sent all you boys up East for school.”
Loic wasn’t sure any school would take them, no matter what they had.
“De Hiver, you tell these boys hoodoo is a sham.”
Loic opened his lips to do just that, but all he could do was cough, not a single word came out. He waved his hand in apology, grabbed his bottled water that was sitting there. Damned cigar.
“Stop that coughing, now! You’re supposed to be some silver-tongued damned devil!”
“You’re turning a little purple, man, you okay?”
“De Hiver! You stop this nonsense.”
He looked at the men, fighting for breath, trying his dead-level best to let them know what the hell was going on. It didn’t work, though; the more he tried to talk, the tighter his throat got, until he felt like he was sucking air through a coffee stirrer.
Loic grunted, growled a little under his breath, then grabbed his laptop case, counseling himself to patience, and headed toward the courtroom, those damned tiny seeds falling from the case, from the cuffs in his pants. The tiny damned things had gotten everywhere. Hell, they were probably in his throat.
Daniel Roubichoux, Sr. stood, too, hand reaching to catch Loic’s arm. The tanned hand just missed, Daniel Roubichoux overstepping, sliding on something, just a couple of inches in the fancy, slick shoes. That couple of inches was all it needed, though, and one foot went up, one foot went out, and the old man went down with a bone-rattling crash.
All three of them stood there a second, staring. Then Danny reached down, “Daddy? Daddy, you okay?”
When there wasn’t an answer, Loic grabbed his phone, dialed 911.
He just hoped that he could say something.
Justice sat on the courthouse steps, lit up a Camel, and stared.
Never in ten years of his professional life had he seen a three-ring circus like this. First Eloi lights up God knows what in the foyer. Then one of de Hiver’s clients falls and busts his head wide open like a ripe watermelon. That was bad enough, and he was all about just resetting the court date when Loic de Hiver -- quite possibly the most buttoned-up, close-mouthed, conservative bastard in ten Parishes -- comes up to the judge and starts screaming his name.
Not the judge’s name.
Not de Hiver’s name.
“Justice!” the man had squawked. “Justice. Justice! Justicejusticejustice!”
He’d never seen anything like it. Judge Lawrence had slammed the gavel, the police had come. Then the EMTs had come back, Loic de Hiver foaming and carrying on.
About that time -- which was the time where judge Lawrence was making those ‘let’s recess’ noises, Gordon Maille stepped out into the courtroom and confessed.
Just flat out confessed.
“We were going to rape her and that little junglebunny stopped us. I told them he knew the voodoo!”
“Mercis for yo’ help, Justice.”
“I’m not sure I helped anyone do anything, but I’m glad I was here to witness it.” Justice shook his head. “I’m not sure I’d believe it if I hadn’t.”
Eloi shook his head, grinned a little. “The Lawd works in mysterious ways.”
“So I hear.” He sighed, shook his head. “You heading back to work tonight?”
“I am. You come in; I’ll buy you a drank.”
“Not tonight, my friend. I’m heading to Texas. There’s a man on death row in Huntsville, and I’m helping his team with some appeals.”
Not that it would work. It never worked in Texas, but it was written on his soul to serve, so serve he did. One day, he would make a difference.