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Beverly on the Bayou

Beverly arrives at the township of Timothy.

The small town of Timothy was quite different than Beverly Arceneaux expected. On her way down from Baton Rouge, the Acadian communities were dirty and absent of business or population. In Timothy, by contrast, the main street was active and tidy. The small town hall had a landscaped front lawn and down the road was a nice family park. There was even a new diner that had apparently opened last month.

She parked her eight year old Acura across the street from the town hall. Crossing the street, she saw the two flags flying in front of the courthouse; the US flag and the Louisiana state flag which had the bleeding mother pelican on a blue field with the motto; Union, Justice, Confidence.

She was thinking as she walked to the town hall steps, ‘Seven years in the department and here I am doing grunt work and counting pennies. Those Fucking bureaucrats! I should have said what they wanted me to say, to cover their worthless asses. On top of that I was the office prude, but not ready. I just was not an office slut. If only I could have let them get away with a little touch here and maybe an occasional pinch or squeeze. They would have been happy and my career could still be progressing, but it’s in my record now. Not a team player. She causes office drama because she does not fit in with the group. She has spent many unproductive hours in the HR office without cause. If only she could have done it, she could be on the State’s Department of Environmental Quality by now, maybe working directly for Director Peggy Hill herself as she was appointed to Governor Jindal’s cabinet. She would still be married to Jeffery too, probably.’

As she approached the building, she felt as though she had been teleported back in time to an antebellum Louisiana plantation. It had white pillars supporting the roof over whitewashed steps. They lead up to a porch with several lovely plants and a huge double oak door. This led into the reception area with several comfortable chairs and a long metal bench for sitting.

As Beverly walked in, an elderly white haired receptionist raised her head and smiled, “Mrs. Petersen, we have been expecting you. Mr. Calwell is waiting for you. Up the stairway, first door to the right. Louisiana AUNP is on the door. Please go right in. Can I bring you up something to drink, maybe some iced tea?”

“No thank you kindly ma’am,” she said, before moving up the stairs.

She walked up the refurbished stairway to the door she needed and entered. The marble topped desk in front of her had the Louisiana state logo and the banner ‘Acadian Union of Natural Preserves’ on the front of it. The room itself had about a dozen standard office cubicles with computer work stations. Only two stations were occupied.

Behind the desk was a very pretty long haired brunette with a darker complexion. From Beverly’s experience and knowledge, she guessed she had a bit of Native American or Spanish in her ancestry. She looked maybe twenty-eight with a lean exotic appearance. She could probably do some modeling.

Standing over her was a tall handsome black man, well over six feet tall; with short black hair, and a small beard on his chin halfway between a goatee and a soul patch or imperial, and a strong facial structure. He appeared very fit. Looking up at Beverly he smiled radiantly as his light brown eyes scanned her intensely. He looked about forty, but projected the dynamic impression of a man a decade younger.

He reached out to Beverly and his huge hand engulfed hers, as he said, “You must be Beverly Petersen? I’m Mayor Franklin Calwell, but please call me Frank. Welcome to our fine community. Henry Wilmer, the head of the project, will be here shortly.”

She said, “My name is Arceneaux, not Petersen. That was my ex-husband’s name, not mine.”

His handshake was firm, but not too strong. His eyes watched her the whole time. At the end, his touch seemed to linger a bit long and Beverly didn’t mind, as he said, “That sounds like a good Louisianan name for sure.”

Beverly said, “It is. My family is from north of here, between Alexandria and Natchitoches. I’ve got enough Cajun blood in me that my middle name could be Coonass.”

After a short laugh, Frank continued, “This is my sister-in-law Victoria Lefevre. She is the heart and soul of this project. She handles all the day-to-day business and finances of the project. Henry may be in charge, but Victoria runs things. She will be available to answer any questions or assist you in anyway.”

Victoria stood and shook Beverly’s hand saying, “Anything you need just ask.”

Beverly asked, “Mayor Calwell...”

The mayor interrupted, “Frank, please.”

“Frank, why are you here? This is a state project and doesn’t concern the local government directly.”

The mayor seemed surprised by the question, but quickly recovered. “Even though this isn’t a project controlled by the township of Timothy it's still a big plus to our small economy. Besides, I’m a big supporter of our environment. I’m not a Green Peace nut, but I think it is important to protect what nature we can for future generations.”

He smiled and seemed pleased with his answer. He was obviously an adept politician. Beverly didn’t normally like politicians, but Frank seems very nice.

The door opened and an older balding man, wearing a nice dark blue suit and carrying a leather briefcase, entered the room. He was a little overweight and only a couple of inches taller than Beverly.

Frank said somewhat sternly, “Finally, you’re here.”

“Beverly Arceneaux this is Henry Wilmer. He is the project manager and is the person you should go over your final report with.”

Now Beverly was perplexed. She said, “My report goes to my supervisor in Baton Rouge, not to the project manager. That is the whole purpose of auditing a program from a group with oversight authority.”

Henry stepped forward and gave Beverly a nervous smile and slight handshake. He said, “Oh no Mrs. Arceneaux, don’t misunderstand what the mayor said. It is just that your predecessor and I had an understanding. Before he sent in his final report, we would go over any minor problems that could be fixed immediately. It saved a lot of time and paperwork and still got the job done.”

Beverly said, “It is Miss Arceneaux. I’m here to complete Mr. Royster’s audit of the AUNP program. I don’t know what kind of arrangements you had previously, but I have very specific regulations and guidelines that I follow.”

There was an awkward pause.

Henry said, “I meant nothing inappropriate Miss Arceneaux. We will of course follow any procedures you request.”

Then Victoria spoke up, “Poor Mr. Royster. It was such a terrible thing that happened to him. Did he leave anyone behind?”

Beverly replied, “His wife died a couple of years ago and they didn’t have any children. I heard that the only people at the funeral were his friends and co-workers.”

The death hung in the air like a silent barrier that needed to be broken.

“At least no one depended on him,” said Frank.

Beverly asked, “The funeral was closed casket. What actually happened?”

Henry looked her in her eyes. She saw sorrow in those eyes. He said in a quieter almost haunted voice, “Gators got him.”

Beverly looked at him in disbelief and said, “He was eaten by alligators!? You can’t be serious.”

Henry seemed at a loss for words. That is when Frank started in, “It’s not really that unusual down here. Someone gets too drunk and walks down a street too close to the bayou. Because of the liquor they don’t notice the beast until it is too late. The local preacher loves to use it as an example of the evils of drinking.”

Beverly asked, “So Mr. Royster was drunk and attacked by an alligator?”

Frank continued, “Apparently he had gotten drunk and was walking back to his motel when he got turned around and lost. Eventually he just lay down to sleep it off and a gator found him.”

Henry added, “He couldn’t hold his moonshine worth shit. Guess it was stronger than what you city folk are used to. He didn’t seem like much of a drinker anyway. It looked to me like that young waitress Lizzy, down at Steve’s place, had caught his eye.”

Frank looked at Henry, somewhat annoyed at his insensitivity, and said, “Don’t you have a few things to take care of before tomorrow?”

“No,” Henry replied. “I was going to go over the basic operations of the program with Miss Arceneaux.”

Frank grabbed his upper arm to pull Henry toward the door with him and said, “You have done enough today for Miss Arceneaux. Victoria, could you go over that information with her?”

“Sure thing mayor and I’ll get her checked into the No-Roach. We might even have dinner, if that’s alright with you Bev?” Victoria called out as the two men left.

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