LAGNIAPPE NIGHTS is the first of a series-in-progress featuring New Orleans attorney Josette Badon. Josie begins the series as a prosecutor, a misfit flying by the seat of her pants on a good day. When Hurricane Katrina strikes days after she discovers her husband cheating, she ends up down a path she never contemplated. In the wake of the devastation left by the storm, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery that could be deadly, not only for her, but for those she loves. Lighter than my Crescent City Mystery series, an excerpt follows:
It all started with a black leather thong. Not mine, mind you, and not even a fresh one, if you want to know the God’s honest truth. So not only was my husband cheating on me, he was cheating on me with a skank.
Tuesday afternoon, I was at my desk, reading through a homicide file. Not a particularly interesting homicide, but a homicide nonetheless. Trial was set next week, and I was reading the police reports for the first time.
The case was pretty standard in the way of New Orleans murders. Wanna-Be-Drug- Dealer-A shoots Wanna-Be-Drug-Dealer-B six times. One witness, a rock head on Dealer B's team by the name of Tyrone “Skinny Man” Smith, who made Biggie Smalls and 50 Cent look like altar boys, had changed his story every time I spoke to him.
That was part of the reason I didn’t bother reading the police reports until right before trial. One fact you can bank on is that police reports rarely help the prosecution in murder cases. Whatever the witnesses told the police will change before trial, and the best an assistant district attorney can hope for is that the witness might get killed and his original statements might come in as hearsay exceptions. Dead witnesses don’t change their testimony quite as much as live ones do. Of course, there’s always the chance the judge won’t let the dead guy’s testimony in at all, and then you’re pretty much screwed. I never let that bother me too much. I am a firm believer in the theory that if you ignore a problem long enough, eventually it will go away.
I guess that’s why I had the thong problem to begin with. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I had just started to dig in to the initial report– the police report made by the patrol officer who responded to the call, which basically contains little or no useful information– when my desk phone rang. It rang a double ring, letting me know it wasn’t a direct call, but one routed through the switchboard.
I hated switchboard calls. A single ring meant the person calling had my direct line, which also meant it was somebody I had given the number to and actually wanted to speak to–-cops, witnesses, victims. A switchboard call, on the other hand, was never good news. But being as the D.A. frowns upon ignoring phone calls that may be from witnesses or victims, I answered it.
I immediately knew it was not a victim or a witness.
“Is this the bitch?” the caller asked. If it had been a man’s voice, I would have thought defendant. Defendants take great joy in harassing prosecutors. But it was a woman who sounded like she had sex for breakfast.
“Pardon me?” It was stupid, but I wanted to make sure I heard her right before I cursed her out.
“I think you have my thong.”
I waited to respond. This call was probably meant for Leah Guilliot. Leah was another assistant district attorney and slut extraordinaire. She was the type to fight with Sex-Throat over a thong. I finally responded.
“I believe you’re trying to reach Leah. Hold on and I’ll transfer you.” It was an honest mistake. Leah’s extension was one number off from mine. This type of thing has happened before.
“Barry has my fucking thong, Josette. I need it back. My boyfriend didn’t appreciate me coming home last night sans underwear.”
The only Barry I knew was my husband. And it occurred to me that this woman knowing my name was not a good sign. She definitely didn’t know me well. My friends call me Josie. Only judges and my mother call me Josette.
“I don’t know who you are, or how you got my number, but my husband was home last night, and neither one of us has your thong.” I slammed the phone down.
Barry had been home that night. At least, he had been home at eleven p.m., when I got there. It was a little late, even for me. Usually, I got home at nine, ten at the latest. To be a good prosecutor, you had to put in the hours. The pay sucked and the hours were long and the public hated us, but it was a job. I would say it was an honorable job, but sometimes I wondered.
To be honest, I wasn’t even that good of a prosecutor. I was halfway decent, somewhat adequate, not completely incompetent. And to qualify just for that dubious honor I had to put in fourteen-hour days. I arrived at work at 7:00 every morning, and didn’t get home until 9 p.m.. Of course, I did take a 2 or 3 hour lunch every day, but I really had to, just to fit in with the Boy’s Club.
The phone rang a double ring again. I debated not answering it, but it would roll back to the operator and she would notate it for the D.A.. His secretary would check the unanswered calls against the sign-in sheet, and I would have to explain why I was in the office and missed the phone. Usually, I said I was in the bathroom, and occasionally I would say I had gotten my period. That would put the D.A. off from asking for a few weeks if my name made the list, but that would only buy me a temporary pass and eventually I would be back in his office. It was a crappy job and my boss was a control freak, but it had great benefits and I got my picture in the paper occasionally. What more could I ask?