Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
     
 

Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer

Chapter 13 from DIRTY LITTLE ANGELS, a Novel by Chris Tusa

    
   
 The next day I woke to find a copy of the Times Picayune on the kitchen table. The picture of the boy with the glass bones was on the front page. A thick black headline above his picture read: LAFAYETTE BOY DIES AFTER BEATING. The article said the boy walked around for two days with a blood clot in his brain before collapsing in gym class. It also mentioned his name . . . CORY RABALAIS. Until then, I hadn't known his last name. All that time, he had been Cory. Just CORY. Nothing else.
     Being involved with the Sons of God had made me feel so powerful. But when I realized that we killed that boy, the power I'd felt suddenly turned into a deep black sorrow mixed with bits and pieces of fear. The article said the boy's funeral was gonna be held the following day at Bellevue Baptist in Lafayette. I imagined him laying in a coffin, his skin shiny, his eyes painted shut, dressed in a black suit, a yellow carnation blooming on his lapel. I thought about praying for him, but I knew if there was a God, he probably wouldn't listen to someone like me.
     Moses had told me about sacrifices in the Bible. He said that some people weren't worth saving. That sometimes, God sacrificed people to teach the world a lesson. Maybe Cory was a sacrifice, I thought. Maybe he needed to be sacrificed so the world would know that gay people went to Hell. I wasn't sure. The only thing I did know was that I felt terrible for what had happened to that boy, and I was scared to death the police would find out what we'd done.
     
                             

     When I got to school that morning, I saw Lenny Langlois, one of the members of the Sons of God, in math class. He said that after school that day, he and Ray Livaudais planned to go and hide out at his cousin's house in Slaughter until things blew over. 
     Lenny looked like a cow right before someone hits it with a sledgehammer. "Ray thinks we should rat Moses out. He thinks we might be able to get off." Lenny jammed his hands into pockets. "He can do what he wants, but I ain't crossing Moses. Did you know he killed some guy up in Angola? I heard he's even got connections with the Jupiter Police Department."
     "Yeah. That's what I heard too."
     Lenny pulled a hand from his pocket and jerked his black Raiders cap down on his head. "Nobody told me any of that." He looked over his shoulder then turned toward me again, his voice growing soft. "Hell, if I'd known that, I'd never gotten tangled up with him." Lenny started biting his nails. "What are you and Silas gonna do?"
     "I dunno. I'm gonna talk to him when I get home today."
     Lenny rubbed his forehead with a pale hand. "I still can't believe that kid's dead."
     "I know. It all seems like a dream."
     "A nightmare, you mean."
     "Have you talked to any of the other guys?"
     "Yeah," Lenny said, combing his fingernails through the black hairs of his goatee. "Dax is thinking of going to New Orleans and staying with his sister. I haven't talked to Spider. Called his house a bunch of times, but no one ever answered." 
     "What about Dax? What does he think?"
     "He thinks we should lay low and not do anything. Problem is, that article in the paper said the police already have leads."
     "I know. I read that too."
     "I sure as Hell hope they don't have any witnesses."
     "How could they have witnesses?"
     "That dirt road where we pulled off, there's people live around there. Maybe somebody was out walking around their property. Or maybe someone drove by and saw us. All they need is a license plate to link us to the scene."
     "Yeah, but if everybody sticks to the same story, we'll be fine."
     "How you gonna manage that? The police ain't gonna interrogate us together. They gonna put us in separate rooms to see if we got our stories straight. And it's only gonna take one person to spill their guts. Just one person to mess things up. Fore the whole thing blows up in our face."
     "Maybe we should just go to the police? After all, none of us intended for that kid to die."
     "Have you lost your mind?" Lenny pulled out a can of Skoal, pinched a piece from the can, and stuck it in his cheek. "It don't matter what we intended, Hailey. That boy's dead. And his parents are gonna want somebody to pay for it. All of us are accessories to murder. We could all go to prison."
     "Yeah, but it was all Moses' idea."
     "It don't matter who's idea it was." He spit a wad of brown juice in the dirt. "Hell, Moses never laid a hand on that kid. And if he is connected with the police department, then there ain't nothing stopping him from pinning the whole thing on us. It's his word against ours. Nobody's gonna believe us. For Christ's sake, we're just a bunch of stupid kids."
     "You really think Moses would do that, hang us out to dry like that, I mean?"
     "I think he'll do whatever he's gotta do. Moses ain't gonna go to prison for us. I can guarantee you that." Lenny bit his lip. "I was wondering why he was so eager for us to join the Sons of God. Now I know. Bastard wanted us to do his dirty work for him."
     "Whatcha mean? Moses asked you to join the Sons of God?"
     "Yeah. He approached all of us. Even Silas."
     "I thought all of you joined on your own?"
     "Hell no. I hadn't even heard of the Sons of God before I met Moses. He approached all of us. Hell, he hand-picked us. And that's not all. Remember how Moses acted like he chose Seth because he'd been wearing some shirt with a pentagram on it. Well I talked to Marshall Gates, you know, that kid that works over at the supermarket with Seth. He said Moses came in there a few weeks back and when he got to the register he didn't have enough money for the forty ounce he wanted. He said when Moses was leaving Seth called him a dirty old nigger."
     "Really?"
     "Yeah. He wasn't going after Seth for wearing some pentagram shirt. Moses had a beef with Seth. That's why he chose him."
     "That reminds me. When I first met Moses, he told me this story about how he killed this guy in prison because the guy called him a faggot."
     "I know. He told me that story too."
     "I wonder if that's why he had us jump that Cory kid in Lafayette?"
     "Makes sense. He probably had us vandalize that mosque in Baton Rouge just so we wouldn't catch on to what he was up to."
     "I dunno. You don't think it all seems a little far-fetched?"
     "Nope. I think he planned it all. And I think he'll do whatever he's got to do to make sure he doesn't go to prison." Lenny reached into his knapsack and pulled out a yellow piece of paper. "Found this on my car this morning." He handed me the piece of paper. "Dax had one just like it on his car."
     The yellow piece of paper had a piece of pink bubblegum on the back and a handwritten note in pencil on the front. It said: KEEP THAT MOUTH OF YOURS CLOSED. LESS YOU WANNA END UP LIKE THAT FAGGOT BOY. Lenny spit a wad of tobacco juice onto the ground, wiped his mouth with the blue sleeve of his shirt. "Now you tell me, how the Hell did Moses know about this before we did? The article didn't come out till this morning."
     "It's possible," I told Lenny. "Possible he coulda got the paper early. And made it to both your cars in time. It's possible."
     "Come on, Hailey. If he's got connections with the Jupiter Police Department, he probably knew about this the minute the police did." 
     "I guess you're right. Maybe we should talk to a lawyer?"
     "No. Don't talk to anybody. The fewer people know about this the better. We just need a plan. That's all. Something to keep us all on the same page. Problem is, half the guys are so scared, you can't talk any sense into 'em."
    The more I talked to Lenny, the more scared I got. The roaches started to crawl around in my head, and I started to feel like my thoughts were crawling out of my skull. Lenny gave me the number where he and Ray would be, and I told him that when I got home, I'd tell Silas to call him.
    
                            

     When I got home, Silas was in the yard, working on his truck. I could see him bent under the hood as I walked around to the front of the truck. He looked up when he saw me, a black smear of oil on his forehead. "Hey Little Sis." He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. "Can you hand me that monkey wrench over in my toolbox?"
     I walked
over to his red toolbox and fished out the monkey wrench.
     He grabbed the wrench and bent down under the hood again. "You saw the paper I guess, huh?"
     "Yep."
     He reached his hand down through a nest of black wires, staring up at the sky as he felt for a bolt, his teeth clenched, his fingers reading the bolts like braille. "Well, don't go getting worried on me." He bunched up his face, his arm still stuck in the nest of wires. "Where the Hell's that damn bolt?" He pulled his hand out, yanked a black handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his hands. "Moses wants to meet up with us tonight. Over at the Paradise Motel." He bent toward the ground, rooting through the red toolbox for a socket wrench and pulled out a rusty spark plug. "What the Hell?" He held the spark plug toward the sky, squinting as he examined it. "Daddy. Always putting dead spark plugs back in my toolbox." He threw the spark plug into a patch of dead brown ferns near the fence. "Man baffles me."
     "I talked to Lenny."
     Silas grabbed the socket wrench, rooted through the toolbox for a socket, popped the socket onto the end of the wrench and stood up with the wrench in his hand, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. "Oh yeah? What did he have to say?"
     "Says him and Dax both found notes on their cars this morning. Warning them to keep their mouths shut." I handed him the piece of paper that Lenny had written the phone number on. "Here's the number where they're staying. I told them you'd give them a call later."
     Silas looked at the piece of paper for a moment, then folded it and put it his pocket.
     "I'm scared, Silas. What if the cops find out about what we did?"
     "Nobody's gonna find out, Hailey." Silas grabbed a socket from his tool box and walked over to his truck. "Besides, ya think the cops are gonna care about some faggot boy from Lafayette?"
     "You don't think what we did was wrong? Killing that boy. Just cause he was gay?"
     "I thought you believed in the bible, Hailey. Don't the bible say that gay people go to Hell?"
     "Yeah, but that's for God to decide, Silas. Not us. We can't go around killing everybody who we thinks a sinner. Beating up people is one thing, but we killed this kid, Silas."
     Silas turned to me, wiping the dust from his jeans. "You think I'm glad he's dead, Hailey?"
     The air grew still, and Silas didn't say anything for a moment. He bent toward the ground, picking through the sockets in his tool box. "I'd do anything to erase what we did." He found another dead spark plug and hurled it across the yard. "Problem is, he's dead. And there ain't nothing we can do about it now." He glanced down at his feet, at a purple worm wriggling in an ant pile. "Spose all we can do at this point is figure out a way to keep ourselves outta jail."
     I stared down at Silas, but I didn't say a word.
     He glanced over at me, the sun creeping across his face. "Why don't you go in, get a shower and eat, while I fix this. We got to leave here around eight or so."                          

     After I took my shower and ate, I watched TV until it was time to leave. Around eight o'clock, me and Silas headed over to the Paradise Motel. On the way there, Silas looked the same as he had the night we'd picked up the boy with the glass bones. As if a thought was ticking like a bomb his head. As he turned onto Mercy Street, he glanced over at me as he grabbed a brown paper bag between the seat. "What's that mark on ya neck?" he asked, pulling an orange from the brown paper bag. "You hurt yourself or something?"
     I pulled down the sun visor and noticed what looked like a dark red bruise just above my collarbone.
     Silas glanced over at me again. "Is that a hickie?" 
     "I don't think so." I could feel the blood filling my cheeks.
     "That's a goddamn hickie, Hailey." He crumbled the brown paper box in his fist and threw it out the window. "What the Hell are you doing with a hickie on your neck?"
     "I dunno."
     "Who gave it to ya? I wanna know his name. Right now."
    I paused for a moment, trying to think of a name Silas wouldn't know, but before I knew what had happened, I opened my mouth and the word "Chase" flew out.
     "Chase? Not Chase Haydel?" 
     "Yeah."
     "For Christ's sake, Hailey. He's nineteen years old."
     "I know how old he is."
     Silas balled up his fist and socked the steering wheel. "I'm gonna beat that boy's ever living ass."
     "Just leave him alone, Silas. It's none of your business."
     "None of my business? My little sister getting some hickie from a nineteen year-old boy ain't none of my business?"
     "No. I can get a hickie from whoever I wanna get a hickie from. Anyway, you can't go around socking everybody in the world you don't like. You don't see Daddy slugging every person that pisses him off."
     "Yeah, Daddy." Silas laughed under his breath. "Some role model he turned out to be. Don't even get me started on him."
     "Why do you hate him so much, anyway?"
     "I don't hate him."  He peeled the orange, throwing pieces of orange skin out the window as he peeled each sliver off. He threw the last piece of orange peel out the window, and took another bite. "Just had it with him dragging our name though the dirt. That's all." Silas sucked on the orange, staring across a field haunted with cows.
     "You know, Mama ain't exactly a saint either?"
     "What's that supposed to mean?" Silas took another bite of orange, spit the seed out the window.
     "Ferma said Mama cheated on Daddy. When they first got married."
     Silas spit another seed out the window. "Cheated on Daddy? Mama? I don't believe that for a second."
     "No. It's true. Ferma said it happened a long time ago. And that Daddy had forgiven her for it." 
     "Well that kinda changes things." Silas was picking at a dirty band aid on his arm. He peeled the band aid back and started picking at a bloody scab. "All this time I been blaming Daddy for everything." 
     "I know. Me too. Until I found out that Mama had cheated on him too."
     "Cheated on him too?" Silas pulled the band aid off and threw it out the window. "Whatcha mean too?"
     "I'm just saying. I didn't realize that Mama was . . . ".
     "You said too, Hailey? Whatcha mean, too?"
     "Well, you know, cause Daddy's cheating on Mama too."
     Silas turned to me. "Who told you that?"
     "No one told me."
     "I mean it, Hailey. Who told ya?"
     "No one told me, Silas. I found out for myself. I ain't stupid, ya know."
     Silas smacked the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. "That burns my ass."
     "Why?"
     Silas glanced over at me. "Cause that ain't something you should know, Hailey," he said, rubbing his forehead with a pale hand. His voice grew soft. "You're just a kid. You supposed to be having fun. Doing what kids do. Not worrying about whether your stupid parents are screwing around on one another."
     "I know but . . . "
     "It's this family, Hailey. It's like we're all drowning in quicksand of something. All of us. We're up to our eyes in it. And we don't even know it. You got a chance, Hailey. A chance to be somebody. Somebody important. I just don't want you to miss out on that chance. That's all."
     "I know, Silas. But you can't protect me from everything." 
     "This family's poisonous, Hailey. The only way you gonna make anything of your life is to get as far away from us as you can. Just promise me you gonna go away to college when you graduate. Please, Hailey. Just promise me that." 
     "I promise, Silas. I promise."
     Silas didn't say anything after that, only stared out the truck window at a full moon glowing in the bruised light of the bayou.  
   
                           

     When we got to the motel, the parking lot was empty, except for a green dumpster swarming with flies. The hotel sign was strung with Christmas lights. In the swimming pool beneath the sign, a white crescent moon bobbed against the ripple of beer cans.  
     Moses' green Omni rolled into the parking lot around five after ten.  He pulled up next to Silas' truck and got out, his lips shiny with chicken grease. He didn't have a shirt on. It was the first time I'd seem him without a shirt. As he drifted into the light, I could see a tattoo on his chest. It was the torso of Jesus, the chest and two arms outstretched against a plank of wood, like a cross. Each of Moses' nipples was a nail hole in Jesus' wrist.
     "I take it both of you seen the write up in the Picayune this morning," Moses asked us, sucking on a chicken wing, his spicy breath floating in the black air. 
     "Yeah." Silas scratched an itch on his leg. "You think we need to be worried?"
     Moses swatted a gnat from his neck, grabbed a can of Pop Rouge from the hood of his green Omni and took a swig. "The cops ain't stupid. Pretty soon, they gonna be on us like ticks."  He threw the chicken wing into a clump of dead weeds.
     Moses licked his shiny lips, wiped his mouth with a dirty hand and took another swig of Pop Rouge. "You might wanna meet with the other boys in the next day or so. So's you all can get ya stories straight."
     "Yeah. I was thinking of doing that."
     "The cops, they trained to look for inconsistencies, you see. Anything that don't fit. Stories that don't match up. Time lines that are all outta whack. That sorta thing. They ain't got no evidence to link us to the scene. So, all you gotta do is keep your story straight. You keep your story straight, and you're home free. You ain't told nobody else about what happened, have ya?"
     "Nope." Silas rubbed his forehead with a sweaty hand. "Ain't breathed a word."
     "Good." Moses stared at him through the black worm holes of his eyes. "Just keep that trap of yours shut and everything'll work out fine." He rubbed his pot belly, wiping a handprint of chicken grease of his pants, then picked a piece of chicken from his teeth with a dirty fingernail. "And stay away from the old bank," he said, biting his lip. "Place'll be swarming with pigs fore too long."
     "What are you gonna do?"
     "Nothing I can do now but wait. See what the cops turn up." Moses grinned. "I never figured we'd kill that kid. Not in a million years."
     "I know." Silas told him. "I still can't believe it."
     Moses squeezed the can until it crackled in his fist and threw it in a nearby ditch. "Hell, if I'd known how bad off he was, I'd grabbed them brass knuckles from ya and finished the job myself."
     "You want me to call you?" Silas asked. "After I talk to the other boys?"
     "Naw. Stay off the phone. Them pigs get suspicious enough, they'll start tapping the phone lines too."
     When Moses and Silas were finished talking, me and Silas got back in the truck. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I watched Moses disappear in the rearview mirror. Piece by piece, the hotel faded into the swirling dust, until there was nothing left, except the pink neon word VACANCY blinking against the black sky.

 

 
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writerChris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer