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But Jimmie Lee Boggs was the man who caught your eye. His hair was silver, long and thin, and it hung straight back off his head like thread that had been sewn to the scalp. He had jailhouse pallor, and his eyes were elongated and spearmint green. His lips looked unnaturally red, as though they had been rouged. The curve of his neck, the profile of his head, the pink-white scalp that showed through his threadlike hair, reminded me of a mannequin's. He wore a freshly laundered T-shirt, jeans, and ankle-high black tennis shoes without socks. A package of Lucky Strikes stuck up snugly from one of his pockets. Even though his hands were manacled to the waist chain and he had to shuffle because of the short length of chain between his ankles, you could see the lean tubes of muscle move in his stomach, roll in his arms, pulse over his collarbones when he twisted his neck to look at everyone in the room. The peculiar light in his eyes was not one you wanted to get lost in.

The jailer opened a file cabinet drawer and took out two large grocery bags that were folded and stapled neatly across the top. The name "Boggs" was written on one, "Latiolais" on the other.

"Here's their stuff," he said, and handed the bags to me. "If y'all want to stay up there tonight, you can get a per diem."

"Lookit what you send up there, you," Tante Lemon said. "Ain't you shamed? You put that little boy in chains, you pretend he like that other one, 'cause you conscience be bothering y'all at night."

"I had that boy in my jail eight months, Tante Lemon, long before he got in this trouble," the jailer said. "So don't be letting on like Tee Beau never done anything wrong."

"For taking from Mr. Dore junkyard. For giving his gran'maman an old window fan ain't nobody want. That's why y'all had him in y'all at jail."

"He stole Mr. Dore's car," the jailer said.

"That's what he say," Tante Lemon said.

"I hope I don't have to pay rent here tonight," Lester said, and brushed cigarette ashes off his slacks by flipping his nails against the cloth.

Then Tante Lemon started to cry. Her eyes closed, and tears squeezed out of the lids as though she were sightless; her mouth trembled and jerked without shame.

"Good God," said Lester.

"Gran'maman, I be writing," Tee Beau said. "I be sending letters like I right down the street."

"I got to go to the bathroom," said Jimmie Lee Boggs.

"Shut up," the jailer told him.

"That boy innocent, Mr. Dave," she said. "You know what they gonna do. T'connais, you. He goin' to the Red Hat."

"Y'all get out of here. I'll see she's all right," the jailer said.

"Fuck, yes," Lester said.

We went out into the dark, into the rain and the lightning that leapt across the southern sky, and locked Jimmie Lee Boggs and Tee Beau into the back of the car behind the wire-mesh screen. Then I unlocked the trunk and threw the two paper bags containing their belongings inside. At the back of the trunk, fastened to the floor with elastic rope, were a.30-06 scoped rifle in a zippered case and a twelve-gauge pump shotgun with a pistol stock. I got in the passenger's side, and we drove out of town on the back road that led through St. Martinville to Interstate 10, Baton Rouge, and Angola Pen.

The spreading oaks along the two-lane road were black and dripping with water. The rain had slackened, and when I rolled my window partly down I could smell the sugarcane and the wet earth in the fields. The ditches on both sides of the road were high with rainwater.

"I got to use the can," Jimmie Lee Boggs said.

Neither Lester nor I answered.

"I ain't kidding you, I gotta go," he repeated.

"You should have gone back there," I said.

"I asked. He told me to shut up."

"You'll have to hold it," I said.

"What'd you come back to this stuff for?" Lester said.

"I'm into some serious debt," I said.

"How bad?"

"Enough to lose my house and boat business."

"I'm going to get out one of these days. Buy me a place in Key Largo. Then somebody else can haul the freight. Hey, Boggs, didn't the mob have enough work for you in Florida?"

"What?" Boggs said. He was leaning forward on the seat, looking out the side window.

"You didn't like Florida? You had to come all the way over here to kill somebody?" Lester said. When he smiled, the edge of his mouth looked like putty.

"What do you care?" Boggs asked him.

"I was just curious."

Boggs was silent. His face looked strained, and he shifted his buttocks back and forth on the seat.

"How much did they pay you to do that bar owner?" Lester said.

"Nothing," Boggs said.

"Just doing somebody a favor?" Lester continued.

"I said 'nothing' because I didn't kill that guy. Look, I don't want to be rude, we got a long trip together, but I'm feeling a lot of discomfort back here."

"We'll get you some Pepto Bismol or something up on the Interstate," Lester said.

"I'd appreciate that, man," Boggs said.

We went around a curve through open pasture. Tee Beau was sleeping with his head on his chest. I could hear frogs croaking in the ditches.

"What a July Fourth," Lester said.

I stared out the window at the soaked fields. I didn't want to listen to any more of Lester's negative comments, nor tell him what was really on my mind, namely, that he was the most depressing person I had ever worked with.

"I tell you, Dave, I never thought I'd have an assignment with a cop who'd been up on a murder beef himself," he said, yawning and widening his eyes.


"You don't like to talk about it?"

"I don't care one way or the other."

"If it's a sore spot, I'm sorry I brought it up."

"It's not a sore spot."

"You're kind of a touchy guy sometimes."

The rain struck my face, and I rolled the window up again. I could see cows clumped together among the trees, a solitary, dark farmhouse set back in a sugarcane field, and up ahead an old filling station that had been there since the 1930s. The outside bay was lighted, and the rain was blowing off the eaves into the light.

"I got something bad happening inside me," Boggs said. "Like glass turning around."

He was leaned forward on the seat in his chains, biting his lip, breathing rapidly through his nose. Lester looked at him, behind the mesh screen, in the rearview mirror. "We'll get you the Pepto. You'll feel a lot better."

"I can't wait. I'm going to mess my pants."

Lester looked over at me.

"I mean it, I can't hold it, you guys. It ain't my fault," Boggs said.

Lester craned his head around, and his foot went off the gas. Then he looked over at me again. I shook my head negatively.

"I don't want the guy smelling like shit all the way up to Angola," Lester said.

"When you transport a prisoner, you transport the prisoner," I said.

"They told me you were a hard-nose."


"We're stopping," he said. "I'm not cleaning up some guy's diarrhea. That don't sit right with you, I'm sorry."

He pulled into the bay of the filling station. Inside the office a kid was reading a comic book behind an old desk. He put down the comic and walked outside. Lester got out of the car and opened his badge on him.

"We're with the sheriff's office," he said. "A prisoner needs to use your rest room."