Leopard's Prey

1

THE bayou was no place for the faint of heart—especially at night. Alligators, snakes, even the occasional large cat preyed upon the unwary. Strange lights and mysterious sightings of everything from ghosts to vengeful creatures haunted the bayou at night. It was easy to get turned around, to get lost in the endless sea of grasses and the mist-covered cypress trees. One misstep and a man could sink below the ground and never find his way to the surface.

Remy Boudreaux loved the bayou. Night. Day. It didn’t matter. It was home, and it always would be. He loved the superstitions, the healers and the magic. The food. The swamps. Even the damn alligators. He loved the sultry heat and the golden sunset pouring into the water.

There was New Orleans. A city he was proud of. No matter how many times nature—or man—slammed it, the city rose over and over, each time better and stronger. It was his city. His bayou. His swamp. And his people.

The people in the bayous and swamps went about their business every day without asking for a handout. They fished and hunted, shrimped and pulled in crabs for their families. If there was trouble, they preferred to handle it on their own. They carved out lives for themselves and their families in mosquito-infested swamps and waterways. They didn’t ask permission or give apologies. They lived life as it came and they lived it large. Most had big noisy families, and celebrated every chance they got. They were your best friend or your worst nightmare, quick to anger and just as quick to give you the shirt off their backs.

Remy had traveled all over the world and he’d come back time and again to the bayou—and to his people. He loved each of them as fiercely and as passionately as only a Cajun could—or a leopard protecting its lair. What he didn’t love was murder. These were his people and no one was going to come into his world, take lives and get away with it.

Remy was a big man, tall, broad-shouldered with the signature heavy roped muscles of his kind. His hair was a bit shaggy, and midnight black. His eyes were either a striking cobalt blue or, if the situation called for it, glacier blue. Unless his cat was close, and then his gaze went watchful, serious, focused and very green. His face was tough, strong jawed, the lines carved deep. He had a serious shadow going nearly all the time, and the scar running down the side of his neck could have been from a knife—or a claw.

Remy Boudreaux was not a man anyone crossed. He was as Cajun as they came, born and raised in the bayou. He was more animal than man, the instincts of his leopard aiding him as a homicide detective. He had a reputation, well deserved, as a man not to trifle with. He took murder in his city or his bayou or swamp personally.

There was little moon and the water appeared black and shiny as the airboat skimmed over it. Tall grassy reeds rose in columns on either side of them, forming a narrow canal. The grasses were thick and impenetrable, making it impossible to see over, around or through them. Gage, Remy’s brother, handled the airboat easily, guiding it through the treacherous waters without hesitation.

“You sure about this, Gage? The same killer? When we are absolutely certain, we are going to have to inform the FBI,” Remy said. His gut already gave him the answer. Gage didn’t make mistakes, not when it came to murder.

Gage Boudreaux was sheriff