The Long-Legged Fly

The Long-Legged Fly by James Sallis Read Free Book Online

Book: The Long-Legged Fly by James Sallis Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Sallis
too easy to disappear into it—just like those bayous and swamps not too far away. And it doesn’t much care about any of us individually, let alone a sixteen-year-old girl from Clarksdale. Where are you folks staying in town?”
    “With my brother’s family on Jackson Avenue,” Clayson said. He gave me an address and I wrote it down. Over near the levee and New Orleans General, from the number. “There ain’t no—isn’t any—phone,” he said.
    “Okay then, I’ll be in touch. There are a few things I can check out for you. Maybe something’ll come of it. I’ll let you know.”
    They turned and started for the door. They looked even more tired now, and I wondered for a minute if they’d make it through to the other end of all this, and how.
    I looked at the snapshot again and said a prayer myself—for Mr. and Mrs. Clayson.

Chapter Two
    T HE CLOCK ON THE BANK AT C ARROLLTON AND F RERET said it was 102 degrees. I looked over at the palm trees lining the trolley tracks on the neutral ground opposite. The palms looked right at home.
    I drove out to Milt’s to have some copies of the snapshot made, then took Claiborne back down-town.
    Don wasn’t at his desk. A clerk went off to find him, and ten minutes later he came gliding in, shirtsleeves rolled up and sweat stains the size of mud flaps under his arms. His clip-on tie was lying on the desk like a museum relic.
    “Hear about Eddie Gonzalez?” he said, sitting. “Went down for the count. Pushing coke at The Green Door.”
    He leaned back in his chair and let out a long breath.
    “You’ve got three minutes,” he said.
    “I’ll take two of them and keep the other for later. I’ve got a picture. I want it circulated to your men.”
    I caught the glint of suspicion in his eye. “Anything I should know about?”
    “Just some kid whose parents want to find her is all.”
    “Missing persons is down the hall to the left, Lew.”
    “A favor, Don.”
    “Been a lot of those lately.”
    “I hear you.”
    “Okay, okay, you’ve got it. That all?”
    I handed the copies over. “That’s all. Thanks, Don.”
    “Right.” And he was out the door.
    I knew how it was. I’d tried it myself for a while, putting in time as an MP. Then the army and I came to an understanding: they would keep me out of a court martial and psychiatric hospital if I would quit busting heads and go on home. At the time it sounded like the best deal anybody ever made me.
    I slid out of downtown headquarters and hit the streets. First the crash pads in the Quarter that pulled them in from all over the world it seemed, then those uptown. Actress, I kept thinking. All I knew about New Orleans theater was Nobody Likes a Smartass, which from every indication had been running continuously (and ubiquitously) from about the time Bienville founded the city.
    Finally, at three or so in the afternoon, I walked into Jackson Square armed with a Central Grocery sandwich.
    I hadn’t been there for a long time, but nothing much had changed. A group of bluegrass musicians played by the fountain. Stretched out on the grass nearby were a number of hippies or freaks or whatever they were calling themselves those days—anyhow, they had long hair and their own aggressive dress code. I watched some of the girls in cutoffs and halters and suddenly felt old. Old and tired. Christ, I thought, just turned thirty and they look like kids to me.
    I made rounds with my picture, then dropped onto a bench by one particularly fetching specimen of late childhood and ate my sandwich.
    I waited.
    After an hour or so I gave it up—lots of distractions and a nagging notion that the world might not be so bad after all, but no Cordelia—and wandered over toward the cathedral. I don’t know why. Anyhow, halfway inside the door, about where they start selling trinkets to tourists, I turned around and walked back out.
    Until 1850 or so, Jackson Square had been Place d’Armes, and it was there, during the years of Spanish

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