Blood Sisters - Bonus Content

The Beast of Bayou Beauregard

This short story is a bit of a departure from my usual crime thrillers, but it's a lot of fun. Enjoy!

My eyes drooped after thirty minutes of staring at my monitor, trying to rearrange the third paragraph in a dreary article on the Metairie mayoral race. Charles Roussel, the five-term incumbent, was a shoo-in. Nothing I wrote would change that.

While my more senior colleagues at the Southern Louisiana Inquirer were assigned homicides, corruption scandals, and Saints game coverage, I got stuck with this crap—boring stories no one would read, not even if Anne Rice or Charlene Harris had collaborated on them. Such was my aspiring career as a young, female journalist—Midnight in the Garden of Dull and Dreary.

I jerked awake when Marcel LaReux, my editor, cleared his throat in front of my desk. “Sophie, I have another assignment for you.” He held out a pink phone message slip.

My face warming from embarrassment, I wiped the drool from my chin and took it from him.

“What is it?” Finally a chance to write a story worth reading! I scanned the message slip, feeling a glimmer of hope.

I squinted, trying to translate LaReux’s chicken scratch. “Beauregard Beast . . . Charles Moreau, Cypress City.” The phone number bordered on illegible. I let out a sigh of disappointment. “The Beast of Bayou Beauregard? Are you kidding me?”

The Beast of Bayou Beauregard was a legend dating back hundreds of years. Some say it was a demon conjured by the Chitimacha Indians to drive away the French and later the Spanish. Others claim a Voodoo priestess summoned it from the dark waters to punish a particularly sadistic slave owner. When I was a child, my mama would claim the Beast would gobble me up if I didn’t behave. But as with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and a living wage, I’d realized it was just a myth.

“There’s been a sighting. Monsieur Moreau swears the Beast took his best hunting dog.”

“More like a gator took his best hunting dog.”

“Regardless, I want you to go down and work the story.” He leaned over, tapping his sausage-like index finger on the worn wooden desk.

The mixture of Aqua Velva and blackening spices oozing from his pores made my nose crinkle. “Since when did this publication turn into a supermarket tabloid, Marcel?”

“I ain’t gonna argue with ya, chère. I’m the editor. You’re the reporter. So grab your campin’ gear, go down into that bayou, and investigate this lead. An’ you best bring me back a story. With pictures! So take Bernard with you.”

Bernard, our staff photographer, had skills, no doubt about it. He’d won a couple of Peabody Awards for his work on the aftermath of Katrina and the BP oil spill. He could handle the worst the city of New Orleans had to offer—murder victims, drug dealers, and starving people in the Superdome.

However, he was about as outdoorsy as a venti half-caf macchiato from Starbucks. When I told him we were headed into Bayou Beauregard, he was less than keen on the idea.

“Into the bayou? Honey, I don’t think so,” he said in a voice that was equal parts N’awlins jazz and West Hollywood glitter. “I am a city boy through and through. I do not go hiking around malodorous swamps filled with hungry alligators, malaria-ridden mosquitoes, and crazy-ass, shotgun-wielding white folks in order to photograph a creature that does not even exist. No thank you, sister!”

“Sorry, Bernard. Boss’s orders.”

“Good lord! What is this world coming to?” He slapped his forehead in frustration. “When do we leave on this ridiculous safari?”

“I gotta grab some gear from home and should be back by one. We can leave then.”

“One o’clock today? I have a manicure scheduled for three.”

“Gonna have to cancel.” I offered a sympathetic smile. “Not how I planned to spend the next few days either.”

“Days? How long are we supposed to remain in that primordial ooze?”

“Until we get a story with photos of the creature.”

“Saints preserve me! Journalism is officially dead.”

Before we left, I called my wife Theresa to let her know I’d be gone a few days. She wasn’t thrilled with the idea of me tramping around the bayou, but she knew it was an opportunity to move up at the paper.

I then rang up Monsieur Moreau for directions to his house. His instructions were the expected mixture of Creole French and English and included such phrases as “turn left down where Thibadeaux’s produce stand usta been” and “bear right on da dirt road next to da tree with da big hornet’s nest.”  Thank goodness for GPS.

By mid-afternoon, we left the buildings and bustle of metro New Orleans for the moss-draped trees and the eerie quiet of Bayou Beauregard.

Bayous have a unique smell that’s hard to describe. It’s a loamy, musky aroma with a hint of mildew and swamp gas, which always reminded me of the times my dad took me hunting when I was a girl.

Thing is, though, you spend a weekend out there among the cypress trees and black water, and your clothes, hair, and everything will smell like the bayou for weeks on end. Doesn’t matter what you wash it with, it’ll still smell like bayou.

With a minimum of wrong turns, we reached the single-story cottage of Monsieur Charles Moreau. The place could’ve used a coat of paint and the skills of a half-decent carpenter. Floorboards creaked but held as Bernard and I stepped onto the front porch. I knocked on the screen door, while Bernard swatted nervously at mosquitos.

“Who dat out dere?” The voice was the same I’d heard on the phone, aged and heavily accented.

“Monsieur Moreau, it’s Sophie DeChaude from the Inquirer. You called us about the Beast.” I rolled my eyes, swallowing my embarrassment.

A face with large glasses appeared in the shadows on the other side of the screen. The double barrel of a shotgun was pointed ominously in our direction. I took a nervous step back.

“I told you,” murmured Bernard in sing-song fashion. “Crazy white folks with shotguns.”

“You from da paper up dere in town?”

“Yes, sir. Southern Louisiana Inquirer.” I pulled a business card out of my purse and held it up so he could see through the screen.

He laid the shotgun against the wall, unlatched the door, and swung it open. “M’on in.”

My eyes took a few moments to adjust to the shadowy interior. The house reeked of tobacco and week-old fried fish. Edith Piaf’s voice, singing moodily in French, drifted in from a stereo in the nearby parlor. Monsieur Moreau led us to a few mismatched chairs covered in worn tweed.

I took a seat, as the fading wallpaper and antique furniture transported me back to time spent in my grandma’s house, everything old and melancholy. Bernard glanced around the room, a grimace creasing his face.

Moreau looked to be in his seventies with a thin, weathered face. There was strength there and more than a little sadness.

Parlez-vous Français?” he asked.

“Not much, I’m afraid.”

Merde. Good t’ing I speak English, den.”

“So tell me about this Beast, Monsieur Moreau.”

He shivered, despite the warmth of the room. “It was round bout eight in da ev’nin. I was doin’ some work in da shed out back. All a sudden, I hear a potain outside.”

“Potain? You mean a ruckus?”

“Yeah, a ruckus. Gen’ral Jackson, he be hollerin’ at sumthin’. I figure it one of dem dere raccoons or maybe a gator. So I say, ‘Fait pas une esquandal! You hush now, or I’ll pass a slap on you!’”

“What was it?”

“Well, dat ol’ hound dog, he keep a-barkin’ so I go out to da shed to see what da matter. Dat’s when I saw it.” His eyes narrowed, and he shuddered. “La Bête Beauregard.” The Beast of Bayou Beauregard.

“Could you describe the Beast?” I tried not to sound sarcastic.

Moreau winced. “Il était un démon! Stood bout twelve feet tall. Big, shiny, black scales. Two legs like telephone poles.”

“So it was bipedal?” I asked.

“Hell, I don’t know nuthin’ bout its sexual perversions.”

“No, I mean, did it walk on two legs?”

I watched the gears in his head turn. “Yeah, two legs with a long, thick tail. And a big ol’ head like a large-mouth bass with yeller teeth da size of my thumb.”

“Did this Beast make any sounds?”

He shook his head. “Like nothin’ I heard b’fore or ever wanna hear again, Lawd willin’. Started like a wolf howl but turned into somethin’ like a woman screamin’. Bone-chillin’, it was. I guarantee.”

“Bullshit,” Bernard coughed into his hand.

“Bernard, go take some photos.” I shooed him toward the front door.

“Fine. I just hope I’m not attacked by a giant, fish-headed alligator with big, ‘yeller’ teeth.”

I turned back to Monsieur Moreau. “Sorry about that. So then what happened?”

Moreau grunted. “I tell Gen’ral Jackson to go in da house. But he don’t listen. He just keep barkin’ and hollerin at La Bête. So I grab my shotgun from da shed. But when I come out, dat devil, he …” The old man’s face flushed. He wiped tears from his eyes. “Dat devil bit po’ Gen’ral Jackson in half. I gonna mis dat dog, for true.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“After dat devil ett my dog, he disappear down da deer path behind da shed dere.”

I asked a few more follow-up questions but the old man didn’t have much else to say.

“You mind if we look around your property a bit?”

“I don’t pay no mind. Just be careful, you. Hate to see a purty thing like yourself get eaten by dat devil who took poor ol’ Gen’ral Jackson.”

After thanking Monsieur Moreau for the interview, I strolled out to my pickup truck parked in the gravel driveway.

Bernard sat in the passenger seat with the door propped open, swatting mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. “Damn blood-suckers!” He looked up at me “We leaving now, Nelly Bly?”

“Fraid not, Bernard. I still need a story, and you need to take some photos.”

“Ha! You want a story, Miss Sophie? I’ll give you a story. Headline: Dog Eaten by Alligator while Crazy Owner Makes Moonshine in the Shed.”


Bernard pointed to a wooden shed behind the house. A line of smoke rose from a vent in the roof. I sniffed and smiled as I recognized the sweet aroma of cooking corn mash. “Guess that’s what he was doing in the shed.”

“Now can we go?”

“Just a minute. I’d like to take a look at the scene of the crime, so to speak.”

“Fine, but leave me the keys so I can turn on the damn A/C.”

I tossed him the keys and strolled down to the shed. A few feet from the entrance, I found wet, reddish-black stains in the dirt, along with a tableau of footprints. Some human. Some canine. Some none of the above.

“Bernard! Come here a minute.”

He rolled down the window of the truck. “Are you serious?”

“And bring your camera.”

When he arrived, I pointed at the odd reptilian footprints. “See these?”

He looked and shrugged. “Alligator. So?”

“Bernard, I’ve seen twenty-foot alligators with feet half this size.”

“So mega-gator had big feet. Big deal.”

“You realize what this means?”

“That the bitch wears big alligator shoes?”

“It means it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill gator.”

“What’re you saying?”

“I’m saying, let’s grab the camping gear and follow these tracks down this deer path.”

“Listen, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. I don’t do camping. My idea of roughing it is a hotel room without a mini bar.”

“Come on, Bernard. You spent five days in the Superdome with thousands of Katrina refugees with no food or water. I think you can survive a night or two in the great outdoors. Besides, I brought some of my wife’s gumbo.” 

He raised an eyebrow. “Crawfish or shrimp?”

“Crawfish. With okra.”

Bernard sighed. “For a bowl of your wife’s crawfish gumbo, I’d swim Lake Pontchartrain naked.”

I grabbed my backpack and deer rifle out of the back of the truck. Bernard extended the telescoping handle of his suitcase, then strapped his camera bag and a small Louis Vuitton duffel on top with a bungee I loaned him. With our gear in place, I led us down the deer path.

If the Beast had been hanging about, it no doubt would have been chased off by Bernard’s constant complaints about the muddy path, the relentless cloud of biting insects, and the branches that I did my best to not let whip back into his face. Most of the time, anyway.

On the bright side, the damp soil had preserved the prints of whatever creature had killed Moreau’s dog. I racked my brain looking for a rational explanation.

Even if Moreau had been drunk when the attack happened, it didn’t explain the tracks. Had the BP oil spill created some sort of mutant gator? Maybe a long-hidden dinosaur had emerged from the depths. Or perhaps a prank from the LSU maker club. I was leaning to some sort of prank, but there was a part of me that both hoped and feared it was real.

Two miles into the woods, the deer path opened up into a ten-foot wide clearing. The tracks continued into heavy brush toward the water’s edge. I set my pack and rifle against a fallen log. “This will do.”

“Oh, thank God! Finally a break.” Bernard sat, fanning himself with his hand.

“We can set up camp near that tree over there.”

“Camp? Here? We’re not twenty feet from the water. What’s to keep a gator from crawling out of the muck and eating us in our sleep?”

“Relax, Bernard. Gators aren’t aggressive toward people unless you go trampling one of their nests. You leave them alone; they’ll leave you alone. We’ll keep the tent zipped and hang the food from a tree limb to keep bears out of it.”

“Bears? There are bears in this God-forsaken wilderness?”

“Forget I mentioned it. Just help me pitch the tent.”

Despite his lack of camping experience, Bernard was surprisingly industrious at erecting the tent. I fired up the camp stove. After a couple of bowls of Theresa’s gumbo, Bernard calmed down a little.

As darkness fell, I lit a lantern, broke out a bottle of Puerto Rican rum, and the two of us shared stories about life after Katrina. Around nine-thirty, we turned in for the night. The hike and the symphony of tree frogs lulled me to sleep until Bernard shook me urgently. “Sophie, wake up. I heard it.”

“Heard what?” I rolled over in my sleeping bag, turning my back to him.

“The wolf howls.”

“What wolf howls? There aren’t any wolves in the bayou.”

Then I heard it. A long, rising moan like the wolves howling on a National Geographic documentary. But different somehow. The timbre was off. Without warning, the howl turned sharp and desperate, as if someone was being gutted alive. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled. I bolted upright.

“Oh, saints save me. What are we going to do, Sophie?”

Adrenaline sent my heart racing as I tried to concentrate. “Just relax. Probably just a barn owl. They make noises like that sometimes.”

“No, no, no. Don’t you tell me that was an owl. We both know it wasn’t.”

I sighed as I wriggled out of my sleeping bag and pulled on my pants and boots. “Fine, I’ll take a look outside.” I felt around in the dark for my flashlight, flicked it on, and grabbed the rifle. “Big baby!”

“Thank you,” he crooned in a plaintive, trembling voice.

I unzipped the tent and climbed out with the flashlight in my left hand and the rifle nestled against my right shoulder. In the limited light, I could see nothing unusual in the clearing.

“What do you see?”

“There’s nothing out here, Bernard.” The bayou was quiet. No wolf howls. No blood-curdling screeches. Just the relaxing pulse of cicadas and tree frogs telling me to climb back in my sleeping bag. “It’s actually kind of nice. Check out the stars. Wow, you don’t see anything like that in town.”

Bernard popped his head out and looked up. His eyes went wide, and his mouth fell open, like a toddler on Christmas morning. “Saints save me. That’s amazing.”

He climbed out of the tent and wandered around, eyes glued to the sky. He pointed. “What was that?”

“What?” I looked up and saw nothing but the sea of stars with a gibbous moon rising.

“Something zipped across the sky.”

I scanned the heavens. A streak of light traversed the sky. “It’s a meteor. Could be the Perseid shower. Usually happens this time of the year.”

We stood there for twenty minutes, enjoying the meteorological light show, when the wolf howls began again, quickly morphing into heart-stopping shrieks. In the night-shrouded brush, something large moved with a purpose. Tree limbs cracked like rifle shots.

“What the fuck is that?” Bernard shrieked.

“Get behind me and hold the flashlight.” I handed it to him and aimed the rifle in the direction of the sound.

Two fiery orbs ten feet above the ground reflected the flashlight’s beam. With a roar, the creature crashed into the clearing, knocking down the last of the trees in its path. Moreau had described the Beast as accurately as anyone could. It made the Creature from the Black Lagoon look like a gecko.

I raised the rifle, my finger hovering over the trigger. Behind me, I heard the click-click-click of Bernard’s camera, accompanied by the blinding light of the flash. Way to go, Bernard, I thought.

The Beast stalked around us, perhaps looking for a vulnerable angle of attack. I held off firing to allow Bernard the chance to get a Pulitzer-worthy photo. With every flash, we got a glimmer of green fire in the Beast’s eyes.

When the strobe of the camera flash stopped, everything turned black. “Bernard, where’s the flashlight?”

“The batteries quit.” He smacked it a few times, and it flickered on.

The Beast roared like a lion. It’s enormous mouth opened revealing those terrible yellow teeth. I pulled the trigger just as I realized I had forgotten to load it. “Merde!

“Get the fuck out of here!” Bernard threw the flashlight at the Beast and to my horror took off running back up the deer path.

By the time I turned back to the Beast, it was on top of me. I raised the rifle, but it batted it away with a claw-studded forepaw. I stumbled from the blow but regained my balance before it could swing at me again with those hideous claws. In the dim moonlight, I searched for the rifle, but it was nowhere to be found.

“Crap!” Maybe Bernard had the right idea. I had to get out of there.

Only now, the Beast stood between me and the deer path. I was out of options. I turned around and plunged into the forest. Branches and thorns tore at my arms, legs, and face. I didn’t care. The Beast was real, and it wanted me for a midnight snack.

A light appeared in the distance. A home, perhaps? Or another camper? Didn’t matter. I pushed myself with every ounce of adrenaline driving me like nitrous in an engine. I was sure I would make it until my foot caught on something and sent me tumbling.

I tried to get back up, but my ankle wouldn’t hold my weight. I collapse under a bush, my heart pounding in my chest. Maybe I can hide. I tried slowing my breath, despite the futile urge to flee or scream. I pressed my bleeding hand across my mouth. Be quiet. Don’t move. It can’t hurt me if it can’t find me.

The Beast thundered through the forest and stopped when it spotted me lying there. I forced myself to face it. It roared and slowly crept toward me, like a cat stalking a bird.

Step by step, it approached. I kept hoping for a miracle. Like Bernard appearing with the rifle and shooting the Beast. Or me waking up at my desk staring at my computer screen. But Bernard was long gone, and I was already painfully awake.

When the Beast reached me, it leaned over and grazed its claws across my chest. I screamed. My bladder let loose, soaking my leg.

It giggled like a schoolgirl, and in a high-pitched child’s voice said, “Tag, you’re it.”

When I awoke hours later, I wasn’t feeling my usual self, though my ankle was  no longer throbbing. I slogged back to the campsite and followed Bernard’s scent up the deer trail. When I emerged from the woods at Moreau’s place, I realized that Bernard had taken the truck and left. Dammit!

As I considered my options, I heard that voice again, the voice of a young girl coming from inside the house. I crept underneath Moreau’s window.

“It’s true, grand-père, I been living as the Beast the whole time.”

“Oh, chère, why you make up such nonsense?”

Music started playing inside, making it impossible to hear what they were saying. On the horizon, the sky was turning apricot. Time to get back.

As dawn broke, I slithered into the bayou’s dark waters, hunting for some breakfast. I hated being ‘it.’

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