PULP of the WEEK 

Up and down she goes. Crimson lips and too much tongue. LaRue lets his head fall back as he stares at the yellowed woodwork of the ceiling. He coughs, dredging the mire of his throat and spits toward the chamber pot in the corner, misses, sneers. The day had been a fucking mess.

LaRue and his associates had agreed to meet at sunset, by the dead oak on the edge of the gorge. Jimmy was right on time. He limped his way up to LaRue, finger pointing and lazy eye twitching, his mutt at his heels.

"Where's my portion of the gold?" he asked, steady voiced.

LaRue looked up and smiled, baring stained teeth, chewing tobacco stuck between his incisors. Then Jimmy noticed LaRue tying a knot at the end of a long, coarse length of yellow rope and he stopped in his tracks, sending up a cloud of dust, red against the setting sun. The dog growled.

"Word's out you've been braggin', Jimmy. Telling any folks who'll hear it that you were involved—nah, that you were the brains behind the operation." LaRue's eyes were like two pieces of coal. "I don't suffer slack-jawed fools," he added as he went for his gun.

LaRue didn't use his gun much; he kept if for serious business, for final transactions when his sharp, bony knuckles or the metal plate in the heels of his boots would do him no good. Earlier that day, at the senator's wedding, he hadn't even bothered to bring it. It was an unarmed event, a lady's dream party where the men's silver barrels would have clashed with their foppish attire. The grande dame herself, sashaying around in overbearing silk, had coquettishly cocked her head at LaRue, just another guest amongst many.

When the time came for action, LaRue, Jimmy, and the Madsen brothers brandished their eight-inch Bowie knives, and the champagne-addled attendees dropped to their knees like felled trees. The potbellied men, sweating in their morning jackets, whimpered like piglets as they emptied their pockets. The women sniffled and trembled, clinging to their skirts as Jimmy's loose eye roamed. But not Lady Senator —she was cross. Her day had been ruined, and she gave LaRue her fiercest glare, chin high. LaRue approached her and slipped the tip of his blade under her pale throat, lifting the pearl necklace that would fetch a handsome sum. LaRue rarely lingered long. He had his pleasures, but kept his operations as clean as he could. Never shit where you eat.

But now LaRue was pissed, and Jimmy best run; he was gone before LaRue's gun was out of its holster. For a cripple, he sure was fast, and that's what the Madsens had assured LaRue about their cousin. Still, he didn't get far. After a few yards and some unfortunate pebbles, Jimmy's bad leg buckled, and LaRue was above him, hovering like a carrion bird.

"It didn't have to go this way, Jim. All you had to do was lay low," said LaRue as he tied Jimmy's hands with twine. Jimmy and LaRue were to split up, while the Madsens met with a crooked jeweler of their acquaintance, who would give them gold and good currency in exchange for the precious jewels harvested from the wedding. But LaRue thought it wise to accompany the brothers and oversee the proceedings.

"The Madsens won't let this pass, you wait and see," howled Jimmy, his darting eyes searching for his kin. LaRue dragged him to his feet and hauled him toward the old oak.

"In truth, I think the Madsens won't give a damn. You say hello to them for me."

LaRue winked. Behind the jeweler's store, after the transaction had been completed, the two brothers had attempted to double-cross LaRue. But the heavyset men, clumsy arms like bratwurst, were overly confident from the afternoon's easy heist and weren't fast enough. They grabbed LaRue, but his knife was out in a flash. He slit open their throats and calmly walked away as the warmth of their own blood surprised them. He strolled down Main Street, his Stetson low on his brow, with the ease of a guiltless man. When he arrived on the outskirts of town, he heard a familiar voice and raucous laughter coming from a decrepit tavern—nothing more than a rotting heap of wood held up by rusty nails, really. And there was big-mouthed Jimmy, gulping cheap whiskey and telling the local ruffians about his brilliant coup, oblivious to who was outside listening.

LaRue occasionally favored dimwits like Jimmy as they made for pliable affiliates, and if that could help him avoid unnecessary cockfights, so much the better. But indiscretion he couldn't abide, and so when the sunlight was but a thin red line, LaRue hanged Jimmy from the thickest branch reaching over the ravine. His good eye bulged as he gurgled and swayed, feet dangling above his doom. LaRue stood back to admire his handiwork.

"You look good with gold 'round yer neck, Jimmy."

The mongrel yipped and barked, running in circles around the tree. The ruckus covered the sound of the twine snapping; the next moment Jimmy's arms were free and he had swung his way over to LaRue. Jimmy grabbed him, a desperate embrace that brought them both over the void as the pendulum force of the rope overtook them, and the dog too, as it bit down on his master's leg. Jimmy hissed and sputtered, sending spittle into LaRue's face, stony as ever. The latter simply chuckled, a chilling sound that immobilized the choking Jimmy. Their eyes met as LaRue leaned in, letting his full weight bear on the rope. The rotting branch protested. Gaining momentum, LaRue moved his wiry body up and down against poor Jimmy who could do nothing but turn blue as the branch started breaking and the space below waited to swallow him.

Back in his lodging, LaRue grunts his satisfaction; he always gets his way. As he reclines further, reflecting on the outcome of the day, he can't help but think that sometimes, a little tongue wagging is a fine, fine thing. LaRue hands the woman her fee and waves her away. He glances at the four heavy sacks in the corner of the room and grins. His left hand taps to the rhythm of the banjo playing downstairs by the bar while his right twirls a handmade cigar, his last, the others having fallen into the ravine along with Jimmy and his bastard hound.

Copyright © 2014 Natasha Leullier.

A trained archaeologist, Natasha Leullier recently gave in to her long-standing desire to write fiction. Bridging the gap between art and science turned out to be not so difficult, since her field experiences often provide a unique source of inspiration. Unseen places, forgotten histories, and the dark recesses of Americana populate many of her stories. French-Canadian born, she now lives in the Boston area and edits professionally. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/NatashaLeullier.

About the Author

Natasha Leullier

Tongue Wagging