SPECIAL AGENT TREY FONTAINE
Rural Neighborhood Crime Scene
Raven Bayou, LA
Friday Early Morning, 3 June 2005
Intermittent flashes of the camera gave Trey ugly glimpses of the scene—cobwebs—a
broken shovel—a roll of rusty wire—
Quick flickers of light enhanced the details as the camera clicked—the petite body
in a semi-fetal position on the bare dirt, back to the door. Click—naked and bruised,
hair matted with blood.
Click—camouflage-mottled skin, swollen and distorted with gases.
“Shit,” he mumbled, forcing a smile, trying not to gag.
His reaction to the dead woman gnawed at him. He’d been on the job with the bureau
nine years, long enough to become immune to grisly images of death, so what was it
about this scene that affected him so deeply? He’d learned to distance himself from
the carnage that came with his profession, or so he thought. He closed his eyes and
drew a deep breath as a disturbing thought crossed his mind. Maybe he was losing
it. Maybe being shot had done something to his mind. No. That’s not it, he thought.
It was just seeing such a scene in his own hometown.
Back when he was a boy, the population was about nine thousand. Now it was closer
to fifteen thousand, with two casinos. He hadn’t spent more than a weekend here since
going off to Quantico. He took another deep breath, lifted the camera hanging from
his neck, and limped a few feet away to get an overview shot of the shed.
Turning away, he wiped rain from his clean-shaven face, swallowed hard, and focused
on the small forest across the road, trees fighting for life against the choking
kudzu and poison ivy thick as the set of a jungle movie. Rain ran down his forehead
from his short-cropped hair.
His Hummer, called “Streak,” for the silver grey paint the color of a lightning bolt,
sat at the edge of the dirt road not far from the deputies and crime scene techs
who combed the weeds inside the splintered rail fence. They swarmed over the Louisiana
mud, fire ants searching for a lost colony. A couple of officers tied off the ends
of the overhead tarp and started stringing lights.
Right hand stuffed in the front pocket of his black jeans, Trey stood between a dilapidated
tool shed and a shanty some poor Louisiana family had once called home. Paint peeling.
Windows broken. The small porch sagging on one end.
He took a breath and turned back to the crime scene. His eyes adjusted from dark
clouds and pouring rain to the even darker shadows beneath the canvas canopy. He
stared into the maw of darkness, the open door to the outbuilding in question. The
canopy gave the detective some relief from the rain and would allow the coroner to
remove the body without washing away evidence.
Trey’s cell rang.
“Got answers for you.” It was the smooth Southern drawl of Tamlyn Washington, intelligence
analyst down in the New Orleans field office.
“May tenth, Ilene Grant reported her sister Kelli Stevens missing. This is the last
girl working at Bayou Lights Casino who went missing. And you’ll love this. Four
days ago, Michael Grant reported his wife Ilene missing as well.”
Sisters, he thought. “Is Ilene linked to Bayou Lights?”
A service officer set a box of supplies near the detective. Trey hadn’t seen him
before, but there was no mistaking the family resemblance. Straight, dark hair. Gray
eyes. Large dimples. Patrician nose. He was a damned Boudreaux.
“Nothing suggests that,” Tamlyn said.
He refocused, pulled out a notepad and pen. “I’m ready.”
Tamlyn described Ilene Grant and as much of the particulars as she’d found.
“Is it fun to work a case in a casino? I’ve heard things about Bayou Lights. Hopkins
said it was probably a pain in the butt.” Tamlyn giggled.
“Cute. Tell Hopkins...Never mind. I’ll tell him myself.” Bobby Hopkins had been his
partner for a little while and there was nothing he loved more than to razz Trey
about getting shot in the butt.
“Hey, Trey...How’s Ace doing?” Tamlyn asked.
He bit the inside of his lip. “Just as expected. She’s the rising star. Thanks for
asking how I’m doing.”
He pressed the END button. Tamlyn had only been with the Bureau for a year, but she
was a good analyst. One day when he was feeling more generous, he’d have to take
the time out to warn her about his partner. Bobby Hopkins was a bad influence on
The service officer walked away before homicide detective Russ Coleman could introduce
them. “A Boudreaux on the force?”
“Yeah.” Russ worked the camera. “Near about a deputy. Hope I’m out to pasture by
then. The youngest boy. Has a year to go but he’s on it. How’s Georgia?”
Trey stepped back. “Mom left town for a conference before I got here. She’ll be in
Baton Rouge until Monday. Then she’s going on a cruise with a friend.” A sigh of
relief managed to escape his lips and Russ chuckled. He offered a faint smile. Russ
knew him too well. “Brother-in-law of one of the missing girls filed a missing persons
report on his wife.” He gave Russ the rest of the details. Unless an I.D. proved
the body to be of one of the missing women linked to Bayou Lights, he had no business
here. Hell, he had no business here anyway.
Trey wouldn’t have gotten the call if any other detective were in charge of the scene.
It pays to be an agent in your home state. It’s even better if your godfather is
a senior detective for the Sheriff’s Department.
The camera clicked away in Russ’s mocha-colored hands as he took interior shots of
the outbuilding. Below the camera, Trey noticed the gray in Russ’s goatee. He’s getting
old, Trey thought.
When the flashes stopped, the body became barely visible through the dimness within.
The portable light had just been hung and strung. The generator kicked on. Trey flipped
the switch. The sight made his heart thump against his ribs. Bile burned the back
of his throat and he swallowed hard. He’d seen hundreds of bodies and had smelled
worse things than this. Maybe he should have taken a little more time off after the
shooting. Maybe being wounded had affected his mind. No. That’s not it. My mind is
fine. He took a breath, lifted the camera hanging from his neck, and limped back
a few steps to get an overview shot.
He had intended to keep his hand in his pocket like a good observer. It wasn’t his
damned case, but he was antsy, ready to do something, not just stand around being
useless. Besides, doing something would give him an excuse to stay at the scene.
Since the shooting, he’d been given nothing but scut work. And now he was Ace’s babysitter.
While she went undercover on a potentially huge case, he played boyfriend, a perfect
position for collecting info from her and updating her on any new evidence. It wasn’t
a perfect position for Trey.
The last nine years with the Bureau had taken him across the country, though he worked
out of the New Orleans field office. The bad guys had taken to traveling, forcing
agents to pursue. But he’d never had to pursue one to Raven Bayou. He only remembered
one murder in this town in all of his childhood. This town was an oasis, so different
from the big cities. And now his safe oasis was the scene of an ugly murder, a place
where young women were disappearing.
Squatting near the door of the shed, he winced as the half-healed wound in his butt
sent a shot of pain up his hip. He returned to his standing position, eyes glued
to the child-like body of a woman.
Could be either of the sisters. Or not. With her back to him and her skin stippled,
he couldn’t tell much about her, other than her hair was dark brown and relatively
straight, though neither of those things could be relied upon in determining ethnicity
anymore. People colored, straightened, or permed their hair on a whim these days.
He slid the button on the digital camera hanging from his neck and snapped a few
shots. It would be easier to see the truth when the pictures were printed in black
and white. His mind filtered through the thousands of photos and textbook descriptions
of decomposition and its many manifestations, calculating how long this body might
have lain here.
After a breath, he stepped back and returned his right hand to its proper hiding
place. The size of the body was a match for Ilene Grant. That wasn’t much. When all
the evidence was in, he’d load it into his computer and make some calculations. Then
he’d have something concrete to work with. If Russ needed his help, Trey would be
Russ took a few more shots before putting his camera down and beginning a sketch.
“Any crime spree against females I don’t know about?” Trey shifted his weight.
“Any similar crimes?”
His godfather gave him a quick look, jaw flexing. “Nothing leading to death. Had
a rape and beating of a young woman, Endri Cheramie, a month or so ago. In the hospital
two weeks.” He looked down at the body. “Guess we’ll know more after this autopsy.
I suspect this one wasn’t raped, and the cases aren’t related.”
“I know, your famous gut.” Trey noted the name Cheramie on his pad.
“And nearly forty years doing this.”
Trey averted his gaze and kept his mouth shut. He scanned the site again and saw
that Russ was the only detective there. “Where’s your partner?”
“On her way. Some people sleep in till five, sometimes even six.” Russ didn’t bother
to look up.
“Taylor who?” Trey said.
“No, Gemini Taylor.”
“Gemini? Like in twenty years ago, Gemini.”
“That would be the one.” Russ raised his gaze. “You know her?”
“Everyone in Raven Bayou at least knows of her. I met her right before she left town.”
He rubbed two fingers up the ridges between his eyebrows. “I can’t believe she came
“I think a coyote just run over your grave.”
Was it just a coincidence Taylor and Trey were in town at the same time? It had to
be. There was no such thing as fate. Not that he meant anything to her. She probably
didn’t even remember him. But he sure remembered her. The bad girl of Raven High.
“I’ll check with them.” He motioned toward the techs, heads down like hens after
Russ nodded and went back to work.
Trey limped, carefully avoiding possible evidence beside which sat bright yellow
markers. Most of this shit’s probably just trash someone threw out a car window.
Mud seeped above the soles of his black boots, staining the sides an ugly brown.
He pulled a small mint tin from his pocket, opened it, removed two Lortab, and tossed
them past his tongue, dry-swallowing without so much as a flinch. A tingle ran up
his spine and tickled his neck, and he took a quick peek behind him only to find
his godfather’s eyes boring into him. Having an almost familial relationship with
a detective was a dagger. And both edges were razor sharp.