Alain Bontemps (part 1)

Alain Bontemps Part 2    |    Alain Bontemps Part 3    (parts of this story)

 

Alain Bontemps    |    Alan’s Extra Room    |    The Rorschach Painting    |    Goodtime Voice-O-Matic    |    The Siege of Calais    |    I Owe My Life to Alan Goodtime    |    The Alton Arsenal    |    The Death of Alan Goodtime    (other stories in the arc)

 

 

I work in private security. It’s a pretty sweet gig; big paydays, nice company cars, expensive suits, and the latest tech toys. And, while I’m armed and prepare for the worst, I haven’t seen any major threats. Just drunk, angry guys who have bones to pick with musicians. Easy stuff.

Unlike most of my coworkers, I’m not retired from the military, police, or some branch of the government too secret to mention. I was getting a Master’s degree in English Lit and working as a club bouncer in LA when I got hired. I’m not ridiculously jacked like some of the other bouncers I worked with, but I’m tall, broad shouldered, and muscular enough to deter most idiots. I’m also very personable, so I tend to have fewer problems than the big guys who seem to have fun antagonizing the party crowd.

I was a year into the job when a drunk and probably otherwise intoxicated fan tried to assault an artist – people call him the next Paul Oakenfold, but I’m more of a rock music guy so I wouldn’t know – who had just finished an extended set. The fan passed right in front of me and I could see he had an unsheathe razorblade between his fingers. I shot my arm out and tensed my shoulder for the impact of the guy’s face into my forearm. When he was on the ground, I kneeled on his chest, slammed the back of his palm on the pavement to force his fingers apart, and radioed the front desk to call the police. Chuck, the trance artist, gave me his card and told me he wanted to double my pay before hopping in his Hummer limo.

From that point, I worked as part of Chuck’s two-man bodyguard detail when he was in town. Tyler, Chuck’s other guard, and I became good friends. He eventually told his boss about me and I was hired on to the company. I had to quit my degree program, but I was bringing in solid money and the company had plenty of room for upward advancement. I decided to make money where I could and pursue my loves of writing and music in my free time. To that end, I had gotten into the habit of finding an antique or old book store in the cities my job had me visiting.

About a year ago I was in New Orleans working with Tyler as security for Chuck again. Chuck wanted to buy us breakfast at his favorite biscuits and gravy restaurant at 10 AM. I pulled up to the restaurant in my rented Prius an hour early to browse through the shops. I walked from store to store, not really noticing where one store stopped and another began. Eventually, I walked through a mint green wooden door into the coolest antique shop I’d ever seen. An almost illogically eclectic mass of goods lined the walls and filled bins. The proprietor greeted me and asked if I needed help finding anything, but I was rapt. Near the back of the store, stacked messily, was a collection of tattered journals. This was the mother lode. I might finally find the works of some amazingly talented, but failed author and bring his or her work to light. As I strode to the stack, I imagined presenting the work at a literary conference, the spirit of the author finally sprung from its paginated prison.

I flipped through each journal. Sadly, there were no masterworks of unknown Americana. I finally decided on a half-filled journal that had an audio CD attached to the inside with red cello tape.

I walked to the register. “Hmm…” The owner said, peering at me over his glasses. “What do you think this is worth?”

That caught me off guard; I expected a simple exchange, not a debate about price. “Five dollars?”

The man smiled at me. “How about two?” He held out his hand. Seeing the surprised look on my face, he said, “No one ever goes for those journals in the back. I’m just happy to see one find a home. Maybe you can find a use for it that the previous owner couldn’t.”

I paid the two dollars, thanked him, and walked to the restaurant, feeling content with my day even at the early hour. True to my hunch, it was a nice, relaxing day. Chuck’s set in the French Quarter went swimmingly. We went to an after party near the Canal Street station that was surprisingly chill. Tyler drove Chuck and his date for the night back to their hotel and I went back to my room at a hotel closer to the venue.

I was still awake from the night and I figured Chuck would be awake with his date for at least a couple hours, so I showered and then hopped into bed with the journal I had purchased that morning. I put the CD into the hotel room’s stereo. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I was assuredly not expecting the world’s most depressing mixtape. The first song on the CD was Gary Jules’s version of Mad World. I had heard this and the original version countless times but, for some reason, this time I was held, transfixed. I listened to each chilling word, each haunting piano note. I sat cross-legged in my bed for almost an hour listening to each song. Every track was like a layer of brick, building some unknown edifice in my mind. After Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt, when the stereo finally clicked, signifying the disc had run out, I realized the tracks had been building a dam and, with the end of the compilation, the dam vaporized, letting flow a torrent of raw emotion. I remembered people I had lost, horrible things I had seen on the news, even dead dogs I saw on the side of the road. Everything. I cried myself to sleep for the first time in nearly 30 years.

I awoke feeling morose. The day was fine, just a drive to Atlanta, but I could feel a darkness lurking somewhere behind me. Or, it’s hard to explain, but more like behind my eyes or behind my brain. That night, I cracked open the journal and started reading. The author was a police officer in Baton Rouge, the journal a place for him to chronicle his thoughts about cases he worked on. It was pretty standard stuff. One entry about a murder made me laugh;

Wife: Nice tits, probably the killer. Son: Probably innocent, most annoying little asshole I’ve ever met.

All in all, it was pretty standard stuff. It was the next night, after Chuck’s show in Miami, that I got into the weird stuff.

February 6, 1973.

I woke up today and knew it was going to be shit. Tuesdays are usually calm, but sometimes the young party crowd doesn’t like to give up on the weekend. They take the day off and drink and snort until Monday night. Sometimes Tuesdays just fucking suck. I wasn’t wrong. We had three homicides around the city. I got in early, so I had my pick. Two black kids shot each other on Old Hammond Highway. Uniforms said brains were all over the road. A thirty-five year old had his genitals cut off by two teenage girls in Mid-City North. Finally, a pretty straight-up strangling at an apartment on Lobdell. I chose the last one. I chose wrong.

I walked into the apartment and it smelled wrong. I want to say it smelled like shit, but it wasn’t any sort of biological smell. It was chemical. Mixed with fear sweat. The victim was laying in the dead center of living area. Her purse was in the kitchen. Her name was Maureen Tiffenberg, twenty-three, student at LSU. The way she was laid out was awkward. Her torso was frontside down but her waist twisted almost 180 degrees so that her legs were sprawled toes-up. Her long, dark hair obscured her face. I brushed it away. My first mistake. She looked just like a Penelope Maginot, a girl I knew years ago. I stood up and walked back a few steps. Hell, even her body looked the way Penelope’s had the last time I saw her. I went outside for a cigarette.

Penelope and me were going steady in high school and continued the relationship after. I asked for her hand in marriage. We were just beginning to plan the event. She and her father were driving back from a little farm house he knew of outside of town when they got a flat tire. Penelope tried to flag down someone to help them but the driver didn’t see her in time. He hit her. She died twisted and bleeding on Old Hammond Highway. I kept trudging on, but life wasn’t the same after that. My light was gone. I tossed my Chuck Berry and my Fats Domino and my Jerry Lee Lewis. It was too up. Too happy. Shit I didn’t feel. I smoked another cigarette while I walked to a gas station for some bourbon. Then I went back in.

There were deep bruising marks on Tiffenberg’s neck. Obvious strangulation. I lifted her dress to see her waist. It was a mess of purples, reds, blues, and greens. It looked like a painter’s palette. The extent of the bruising on her torso made it clear that someone with incredible strength had broken Tiffenberg’s midsection before killing her. At that point, her death might have been a mercy killing. Strangulation usually implies the killer was familiar and pissed off. I could only guess at how angry someone had to be to crunch a small girl like that at the waist like she was a used piece of paper.

It was a brutal murder scene, but it seemed like it wouldn’t take that long to solve the case. Tiffenberg lived on the LSU campus, so hopefully all I had to do was find the sick fuck who owned the apartment. I called the precinct and asked them to start on that while I looked over the rest of the scene. About a half hour later, I got a call back on the apartment phone. One of the clerk boys had found the name: Simon Allen. He also had some interesting news for me: Simon Allen was the name of the victim that had had his genitals removed. So much for open and shut.

I rolled back to the precinct around lunchtime. I didn’t find anything else of note in the apartment, so I had hopes talking to Dob Perkins, the detective that investigated the mutilation scene, would give me something to go on. We went to the diner across from the precinct for liver sandwiches. Beth’s liver was the highlight of my otherwise dismal day. Perkins told me that Simon Allen wasn’t killed immediately by the girls who cut off his tallywhacker. In fact, Allen himself was the one who placed the first call to emergency services. Allen identified the girls who cut him as teenage twins he had met at his church. If Allen’s story could be believed, there was no sex involved. The girls knocked on his door and said they were lost. As Allen drove them back, one of them reached from the backseat and restrained him while the other opened his pants and severed his flesh. From debris and damage at the murder scene, Allen’s car rolled to a stop, scraping against a parked car and leaving a dent in a telephone pole. The girls took off in the car immediately, leaving behind neither Allen’s member nor the knife. Dob was waiting for an address on the twins while we ate and he was planning on heading to their parents’ house when we finished up. I decided I would tag along since it seemed my case and his were now one in the same.

When we strolled back in to the precinct, heading for the clerks upstairs, Joe Domi flagged us down. He was a little younger, a little smarter, and a little wilder than me and Dob. He was smiling and laughing, patting us on the back and telling us we’d never guess what happened. The black kids that shot each other had been driving in Simon Allen’s car. It was abandoned at the side of Old Hammond Highway with a bloody knife in the back seat and a huge dent in the front fender, probably from where it hit the telephone pole. Now three of us were going to make the trip to see the twins.

The Gautreau family lived in a small apartment not too far from the murder scene I had investigated that morning. We knocked at the door several times before Michael Gautreau answered. When we asked the whereabouts of his two daughters, he looked a little confused and a lot worried. He told us they went to live with his wife – who he was separated from – at her family’s estate in Point Coupee Parish. With each passing hour the day got that much more strange and dark. Laissez les etrange temps rouler. Point Coupee was where I grew up. Where I met Penelope Maginot.

Mr. Gautreau asked if his girls were hurt. We assured him they weren’t and that we just wanted to ask them questions about a crime they might have seen. He couldn’t think of any reason why they would be in the city, especially because his wife didn’t bring them to visit. As Joe, Dob, and me walked back to the car, something occurred to me. I was getting suspicious that the coincidences of this day were happenstance. I asked Joe if his shooting scene was at mile marker 223. It was. The same stretch of Old Hammond Highway where Penelope died. We all agreed we needed to visit Point Coupee, jurisdiction be damned.

That was where I stopped for the night. I wanted to continue on; it seemed like the old detective’s story was about to come to a head. As I tucked the journal into my duffel bag so I would be ready to catch my plane home to Los Angeles in the morning, I wondered if the entry wasn’t a work of fiction. The pieces fit together almost too perfectly. All the preceding entries were the kind of mundane police work that rang of the typical and hum-drum. Maybe the detective had gotten tired of his boring job and tried his hand at writing. It wasn’t half bad.

It wasn’t fiction, though. And, as supremely odd as the story was, I wasn’t prepared for exactly how fucked up it became.

 

Alain Bontemps Part 2    |    Alain Bontemps Part 3    (parts of this story)

Alain Bontemps    |    Alan’s Extra Room    |    The Rorschach Painting    |    Goodtime Voice-O-Matic    |    The Siege of Calais    |    I Owe My Life to Alan Goodtime    |    The Alton Arsenal    |    The Death of Alan Goodtime    (other stories in the arc)

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