From Slow Coming Dark
She was dressed in tackies now, but from her huge wardrobe closet in Little Rock she could produce, and wear convincingly as the occasion demanded, a $25,000 Dior evening gown; a stylish executive business suit for glass ceiling-smashing, feminist boardroom wear complete with matching briefcase containing recording gear and weaponry; a black leather dominatrix’s outfit including whips and chains; a maxi-dress with hippie love beads and head scarf with matching accessories such as granny glasses and New Age crystal pendant; a nun’s habit; policewomen’s uniforms from New Orleans, Houston, Miami, Little Rock and Atlanta, complete with regulation-issue belts, sidearm, and equipment; and a complete ski outfit including skis which she could handle at competition level on the hardest slopes at Aspen and Vail. Karen Martin was the first of the legendary Clinton family hit team called the Three Musketeers.
Across the living room of the expensive Palm Beach hotel suite, the second Musketeer was talking on the telephone. Bob Blanchette was blond, balding, thin, as nondescript as a grocery store manager, and as lethal as a cobra. A Cajun from Thibodeaux, he was the deadliest professional killer the Dixie Mafia had ever produced. South of the Mason-Dixon line his grisly reputation rivaled John Visconti’s in the north and on the West Coast.
Blanchette once organized a riot in the Louisiana state prison at Angola as a cover for his escape, killing two guards in the process. When black criminals in Biloxi, Mississippi had demanded from the cracker mob what amounted to an affirmative action program in the gambling and prostitution businesses along the Gulfport Avenue strip, Bob Blanchette settled their demands with a .45 Browning pistol and a chain saw. The resulting dumping of mangled black flesh offshore had produced an influx of sharks so noticeable that marine biologists wrote learned papers on the baffling subject to this day, being ignorant of the true cause.
A federally protected witness was within days of testifying against the Bandidos motorcycle gang’s methamphetamine chemists and putting them all away. Blanchette penetrated a government safe house, killed the informer under the noses of the Witness Protection Service Marshals, decapitated the corpse and Fed-exed the head to the United States Attorney in Houston.
When the Italians tried to move in on the three billion-dollar annual South Carolina video poker business, some well-dressed and well-coiffed Baptist businessmen in Atlanta and Greenville retained the services of Bob Blanchette. To the present day, police in South Carolina still found the charred and gutted remains of Cadillacs with New York and Pennsylvania license plates parked on lonely fire roads and sunk into cypress swamps, their skeletal occupants burned black with lead pellets rattling in shattered skulls.
Interestingly, the paths of Bob Blanchette and John Visconti had almost crossed during this period. Representations were about to be made to Dominic LaBrasca to bring in Johnny Vee for a true celebrity death match, but a combination of federal indictments and other unrelated factors had caused the New York and Philadelphia Cosa Nostra families to put South Carolina on the back burner for the time being. Then in 1992, Bob Blanchette found a new and more powerful employer.
Karen Martin respected Bob Blanchette not only for his skills, his organizing ability, his ruthlessness and his business acumen, but because he was the only man she had ever met whom she had been unable to seduce. Bob had married a small dark Creole girl from the bayous many years before, when he was seventeen and she thirteen, although for the purposes of the license Anne-Marie gave her age as the minimum legal fourteen. They now had six children in a colonial mansion outside Baton Rouge; Anne-Marie was as slim and dark and enigmatically beautiful as she had been on their wedding day twenty-seven years before. So far as anyone in the underworld knew, Bob Blanchette had never touched another woman since his wedding night. When Karen routinely tried to put the moves on him the first time, Blanchette had told her, “No, I don’t play that.” When she tried the second time he’d said, “I said no. Try it again and I’ll kill you.” She had believed him, and he had thereby become the only person on earth she respected as a human being rather than as a skilled criminal. A man who was faithful to his wife was a romantic anachronism who fascinated her.
The third man in the room sat on the couch, reading a comic book, and spitting occasional wads of tobacco juice into a Waterford crystal fruit bowl he had appropriated for a spittoon. Luther Lambert stood six feet nine inches and weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, all of it muscle. His beard was golden and cascaded down his chest almost to his waist, where he tied it into two forks. His yellow hair hung down his back in a ponytail. Elaborate blue and red and yellow and green tattoos curled up his arms and covered his shoulders, snakes and skulls and dragons and naked warrior maidens in horned helmets. Beneath the matted hair on his chest was a beautiful reproduction of Botticelli’s Venus. On his back was a magnificently wrought tattoo of Jesus Christ, arms outstretched in benediction, marred by a huge penile erection protruding through the Savior’s white robes. Tattooed tears ran down his cheeks from his eyes into his beard. His brain was roughly the size of a walnut.
The third Musketeer was an Ozark hillbilly who had dropped out of school in Eureka Springs, Arkansas as soon as he turned sixteen years of age, thus terminating his third run at graduating from the sixth grade. He built his body by doing weight-lifting exercises with a Volkswagen. Luther had once done a couple of seasons as a strong man in a circus, where he performed tugs of war with camels and buffalo and the smaller elephants, and won. A bison once became enraged and charged him, and Luther killed it with a single punch.
He had one talent that seemed to be some kind of natural compensation for his stupidity. Unable to read or write beyond the most rudimentary level, unable to understand the most basic principles of science or engineering, Luther Lambert was a genius with automotive engines. He gained entrée into crime through this skill; he could rebuild a Honda Civic with an engine that could outrun the most powerful Highway Patrol pursuit vehicle, which had put his services in high demand with the backwoods moonshine and drug runners.
But Luther’s first love was mayhem. He was utterly fearless, because he was too stupid to be afraid of anything. Since teaming up with Bob Blanchette, Luther had been shot and stabbed more than twenty times, the result of Blanchette’s habit of using him as a human battering ram and shield in dangerous situations, but Luther never complained. He assumed that’s what his large carcass was there for, to provide cover for Bob and Karen. Lambert’s body was a mass of scars, but he was for all practical purposes invincible. Two barrels of double-ought buckshot, a full clip from an AK-47, and a whaling harpoon fired from a cannon had all failed to kill Luther Lambert, while the wielders of these weapons had died. Luther tore them to pieces with his bare hands. He could use a gun if he had to, but considered them crass and unsporting. When the time came to get physical, he preferred an axe. Better yet two, one in each hand.
Luther was uniquely qualified for his work by virtue of being a psychopathic sadist. He enjoyed torturing people in order to hear them scream, especially women, all of whom he hated unto death. The one exception to his misogyny was Karen Martin, who was Luther’s queen and goddess because she never laughed at him and bought him regular gifts of comic books, Jolly Rancher candies, Red Man chewing tobacco, Whoppers and Big Macs, which latter burgers he devoured ten at a time. He chewed the tobacco and sucked on a dozen of the fruit-flavored Jolly Ranchers at the same time; he liked the taste, and as a result of this practice his expectorations were a bizarre technicolor. Bob Blanchette’s role in Luther’s primitive weltanschaung was simpler still. Bob Blanchette was God.
Now Blanchette was speaking. “She got away, Doofus. Hey, it happen sometime. We ain’t none of us poifect. Don’t worry, we take cay of it. We took cay of that Eye-tie greaseball and we’ll take cay of dis Hollywood bitch for you. She’s a gawd damned star, Doofus, she cain’t just drop out of sight!” Blanchette’s accent sometimes caused his employer to confuse him with one of his Cajun advisers. Doofus mumbled something on the phone. “Yeah, yeah, hey, Doofus, you know it ain’t that, I respect de hell out of you, you de man, you mon brave, you know?” said Blanchette tiredly. “Hey, you know this phone might be tapped. You want us to call you by you real name, huh? Doofus is kind of you code name, so nobody will know what a truly great and powahful man our boss be. Kinda like you de top secret agent. Okay?”
“Tell Doofus that’s my code name for his goddamned crooked dick!” yelled Karen. “Worst piece of meat I ever sucked! You ever tried to give a blow job at a right angle?”
“Can’t say as I have,” replied Blanchette dryly. “What’s that?” he said into the phone. “Oh, Slideen say hello. I sholy calculate you made a big impression on her. Yeah, she keep talking about you, she say you a real man. Hey, you man enough to take care of Slideen you man enough in my book. Sho, de whole country know you got the manpowah, Doofus. Ever woman in America want to give it to you, you oughta know that by now. Look, it’ll be taken cay of, Doof. Have we ever let you down? We took cay of Parks and Foster and all them others, hey? Now you just quit worrying youself. There ain’t gonna be no problem.” He hung up the telephone. “Damn fool. He fucked up. His ass be in total eclipse,” said Blanchette in disgust. “He musta stuck Colombia up his nose.”
“This shit’s getting pretty deep, Bob,” said Karen quietly. “Every time we pull his flabby ass out of one hole, he digs himself a deeper one. I don’t like it. You saw him on TV that time last year, supposed be apologizing to the whole damned nation for getting a few blow jobs from that JAP in his office. He was coked up to his eyeballs right there on the air. We’re working for a fucking junkie, and that’s stupid business, Bob. You know damned well if he was anybody else we wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. That bitch wife of his hates our guts, and she is gonna send bull dyke Reno and her feds after us if she gets half a chance. I bet you dollars fer donuts she’s working on him now, trying to convince him we know too much and we’re a loose end.”
“I know it,” agreed Blanchette grimly, “But we got to clean this last one up. Then we disappear. We got enough money now, but that Hollywood bitch has to go. We don’t know how much that dago DeMarco done told her, and we don’t know why the hell he tipped her the wink. He ain’t a problem no more, but she still is. We can’t leave her running loose, Slideen. Maybe she even knows our names. It ain’t just Doofus we’re protecting, it’s us. We got to finish this thang.”
“Ah seen her in the movies,” said Luther, sending a cascade of green and purple juice into the Waterford crystal. “She’s purty. When we catch her, kin ah make her sing and wiggle some?”
“You can make her do the hootchie-kootchie with your little blowtorch, Luther,” promised Karen. “You can toast her up nice and crisp and we’ll give the sharks a nice hot meal for a change.”
“I like feeding the sharks,” said Luther with a sigh, before returning to his comic.