Surveillance Pelicana Chapter 10: ‘Busted Flat at Baton Rouge’




The entire book appears at this link with chapters added after appearing online:

Chapters 11-20:

Chapters 21-30:


Observations about New Orleans precede Tyger’s

meeting at the Hyatt Hotel with Joe Fine.

They go over upcoming cases. Joe gives Tyger

Mildred Baker’s deposition to read in what will

become a celebrated encounter. Later, Dorothy calls

Tyger, tells him to meet Joe in Baton Rouge under

surprising circumstances, Tyger, Joe and the mysterious

Lana work some Baton Rouge area cases.



“Busted Flat at Baton Rouge”







No reefer this morning for Tyger Williams about to breakfast

with the boss man. Just as well as he clears his mind

of all that before has passed.

The Tyger front moves right along to Claiborne Avenue on the

way to meeting Joe Fine at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

African-American kids play football along the neutral ground

in-between Claiborne Avenue.

Future Saints are looking good. Too bad Tyger is past

his prime or he might consider running a few pass routes.

Unfortunately too, the innocent looking youths are

surrounded in all directions by poverty’s residue. Public housing

projects stand testament to man’s inhumanity to man to the right

of them. Decrepit shacks passing for family homes nod to the left.

Strange unknown to white folk black music establishments,

sort of hotels, various exotic eating and commercial

establishments specializing in such items as chicken gizzards and

African-American hair products loom also along the mysterious

Claiborne Avenue traffic pattern.

A sea of black faces floats all around. This day Tyger

Williams is merely a small vessel passing by the blackbird



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projects on his personal quest for substance and meaning as well

as an acceptable paycheck.

Tyger flies by the exotic black heartland abutting

Downtown, sidestepping the well populated space underneath the

Claiborne overpass. A mini-community of black elders sits on lawn

chairs passing time by playing dice and cards, judiciously

settling pertinent disputes as well.

Loop de-loop Earhart Expressway around and to the ocean of

monoliths forming a silly skyline. Lee Circle stands at

attention stage right. The losing general on horseback reviews his

troops circling in modern monster mash machines

awash with modern horsepower.

Past the main post office and Poydras Street, Tyger looking

looking looking for a parking place, no small assignment.

The fearsome race of cosmically awful meter maids

lurk about like jackals ready to pounce. Those amazing Amazon

Philistines have as their sole purpose in life the bedevilment of

motorists with tickets, some valid, most not,

given as rudely as imaginable.

Three strikes and yeeeer out, a victim of the dreaded orange

boot that is affixed to those with as many tickets as strikes.

Native and tourist alike fear these evil ticket writing maniacs

who know no civilized bounds.

Ahh, a parking ,place suddenly materializes saving Tyger the

expense of a parking garage. He tries to plug a quarter in the



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slot, but alas, as is often the case, the meter is broken.

Oh well, another ticket to contest, no doubt. Nothing ever

works around here except corruption.

Such a splendid hotel among all the rising edifices battling

the sky for space. Monuments to what has become New Orleans·

leading industry besides corruption, tourista trappings.

The Big Easy has built upon its natural and historical charm

with the development of a Disneyland for adults mentality.

Civic leaders scramble to take credit for the natural order

of job creation and development.

Goodbye high paying jobs related to the oil and gas industry.

Other real industries that used to dot the riverfront

have died one by one due to a lack of imagination on the

part of city mismanagement.

Hello nowhere minimum wage jobs sucking up to tourists in

partial replacement. Thanks for the grand vision,

civic movers and shakers. Shake and move this middle finger.

Yet, a certain wonderful feeling strikes an investigator

out among the ruins to come. Filling the sky to the east the giant

— and yes, rather beautiful — Superdome, home of the Saints and

coming National Republican Convention.

Big muddy Mississippi River flows to the west.

Northward ho, looms the historic Vieux Carre, otherwise



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known as the French Quarter, where New Orleans was settled

originally. It houses historic structures, restaurants, t-shirt

shops, strip shows; and a few residents besides the actual derelicts.

Southward stands the familiar sights and sounds of

residential Uptown, and the great beyond.

That is the location of Tygertown as well.

Dostoyevsky might have lived in 80 residences around

St. Petersburg. But he has nothing on wandering Tygerlust who already

has squatted in seven or eight different locations during a 10

year stuck in the below sea level mud experience of New Orleans.

Enough of this descriptive prosaic morning musing. Tyger

must enter the Hyatt lobby, take an escalator up two stories

to the glitzy hotel restaurant area. Joe Fine, briefcase by his

side, flirts with a random hotel maid.

“Nice lady,” he says to Tyger arriving. “Let’s get some

breakfast. What you say. On the house.

Business deduction tax write-off.”

They sit down in an open air restaurant by the side of the

Hyatt trademark see-through elevators climbing and descending

like a race of super- spiders flying along a web of wires.

Joe is his usual gregarious self. He slips off the shades,

ordering a modest breakfast of orange juice.

Tyger follows suit. Eggs and toast, coffee and



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A variety of topics are covered including meter maid

scams previously cited. “This city is ridiculous,” concludes

Joe Fine. “And they wonder why no one wants to do business here.”

Down to business, Joe pulls a large document like a rabbit

from his leather briefcase. He thumbs through

it, leading the paper chase to Tyger.

“Know what this is?” Joe Fine asks. “No.”

“Deposition. Take a look at your leisure. We are

probably going out on that case in a couple of weeks.

It’s a doozy. This Mildred Baker broad will blow your mind.

She’s a former carnival trapeze artist who is absolutely loony

tunes. That is one elevator that doesn’t reach the top floor.

Claims she slipped and fell while working as a cook on a

Gulf rig. Supposedly completely paralyzed from the hips down .”

Joe pauses. “Not. She is about as legitimate as a Bourbon Street

barker. Big bucks in this case. She wants 10 million dollars.

This broad is full of shit. We’re going to work her good.

This could mean big bucks for us. Look over her deposition,

gather what information you can from it.

Depositions are funny. You can tell a lot about someone

by the way they answer the questions. Know what I mean?

If someone is an asshole they’ll answer questions like an asshole.

If they are honest, you can take that to the bank.”



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“Read through Baker and see what you think. Crazy, yeah,

but a tough act to follow. Where fools fail, they go to the super

sleuth source. That’s why they want experts like us

to get the job done. hing probably ends up in federal court.”

They discuss other cases. Satherly is fried, might go back

on him in a few months. Mazel Tov on the wedding party.

Bet that made the social pages. Insurance company well satisfied.

Joe Fine mentions that he is giving a presentation for

the All-State adjusters over in Harvey the next day. Hopes to

grab a few new cases off that master class performance.

And Joe still wants to make that promotional tape sometime.

“See what you can come up with on that,” he says.

On the lighter side, Joe’s little “snot faces,” as he

“affectionately” refers to his kids, are going great guns down at

the beach. He will have to leave New Orleans after the All-State

show, drive home to Florida, make sure they don’t set fire to

the house or something worse, his third wife.

You know how kids are and wink wink.

A couple of probable cases, therefore, for Tyger burns.

Joe might have something good coming up in Baton Rouge, too.



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Dorothy will be in touch. Joe pays the check,

engaging in some final flirting with the very attractive blonde

waitress shamelessly flirting back. Kismet.

Tyger flips through Mildred Baker’s deposition at home.

He begins to catch Joe’s drift. She is a total fruity gone tutti,

using baby-like language to describe her accident and subsequent

extreme pain and anguish. She also has the odd habit of

describing herself in the third person,

like Bo Jackson used to and Donald Trump.

So, it’s “Mildred can’t move her little bitty feet. Mildred

was a very active girl and now she can’t do anything for herself.

God will see to justice  for Mildred.” And so forth. Weird shit this.

The basic outline of this case can be gleaned from the thick

court document. Pretty much like Joe said, she claims to have

been working as a cook on a Gulf rig, slip-slud on a wet deck and

became discombobulated, not to mention torn asunder. She has been living at



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New Orleans East on Morrison Road since then. She claims her

teen-age son must assist her constantly in every activity. The

she-subject is apparently divorced, about 40 years old, and

according to the deposition, conflated perhaps with her dating profile,

loves cats and potted plants. Nice work if you can get it.

Bat-crazy up, she is the Babe Ruth of insurance

claimants going for the rip-off grand slam world series.

Mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, rumbling, stumbling, and

basically this woman doesn’t have a clue. Or does she? Maybe God

is on her side, after all, because she is causing lots of grief

for many heavy hitting insurance company upper echelon executives.

“Just the facts ma am, the defense attorney exclaims in

exasperation on Page 122 of the three-inch thick document.

“We have been here for four hours.”

(A prudent insurance investigator must perforce deduce that

there is some method to Mildred Baker’s madness.)

Dorothy telephones Tyger later that day.

“Joe wants toget with you on a case in Baton Rouge,” she notes.

“It’s a white male, 28 years old, married, no children, located at Magic

Mountain Subdivision. All they have out there are subdivisions.”

Funny thing about that Magic Mountain name. There are about

as many magic mountains in Southeastern Louisiana as there are

ice castles or maple syrup trees. That is to say between zero and no way.



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“Anyhow,” Tyger asks, “where we going to meet?”

Dorothy pauses. “You know, Joe wouldn’t tell me,” she replies.

“Asked him. He just said he would find you. You know

how Joe is. Said be there for 9 a.m.”

Fine. That Joe Fine. Tyger is going all the way to Baton

Rouge and Joe Fine will find him somehow. Yeah, right.

No use thinking about it too much lest you blow out too

many brain cells. Tyger plans on taking the easiest path

by following Dorothy’s instructions.

Let the chips fall where they may.

Up and atoms the next morning, on l-10 west across

the Bonnet Carre Spillway, the long death stretch with no

turnarounds spanning the distance between Kenner and Reserve.

The traffic fatality toll soars and astronomically crashes

whenever fog shrouds the 4-lane interstate. This

meteorological phenomenon occurs with alarming frequency.

No state official seems prepared to take action to prevent the tragedies.

Whizzing by St. John the Baptist and Ascension Parishes,

that damn cancer belt again Tyger skirts signs pointing

to Sorrento and Donaldsonville, finally reaching the outer fringes

of Baton Rouge where Interstates 10 and 12 coalesce.

Tyger can see a few miles away in the distance the largest



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structure in the Red Stick City, the State Capitol Downtown that

was ordained by Huey Long to be the tallest building in town and

as such has remained. The former Governor turned U.S. Senator who

was killed by his own bodyguards in a wild shoot-out with a

disgruntled physician lies in state in a garden down a long park

from that tower. Tyger turns off at the LSU exit, heading for the

aforementioned magic subdivision. No sign of Joe Fine.

“1 knew it,” Tyger tells the car radio switched on to KLSU,

a decent college radio station engaging in some kind of New Wave

prattle. “What am I going to do now?”

Tyger decides to buy the traditional diet Mountain Dew before calling Dorothy

for additional information that might come in handy, small

details like where the subject is located, what is his name, and

claim to shame. He stops at a nearby 7-come-Eleven.

A man in a hat reads a People magazine in the corner. Tyger

pays the clerk. “Uhh, ya got the time,” a tiny voice says.

Tyger looks over and, voila, off flies disguising

haberdashery. What do you know, a fine Joe Fine in the flesh.

“Hey, how did you know to find me here?” Tyger asks beside

himself in disbelief. “I’m a professional. There are some thing

we just know,” Joe Fine notes, laughing off his ass.

You can look it up, friends.

Joe buys a cold drink. Then, on with the big shoe.



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Working as a team, Joe has Tyger knock on the door. A person

fitting the subject’s description answers. Tyger gives him the

old “I was lost around here can you give me some directions.”

Feigning complete ignorance — easy to do for such a fool —

he lures the subject outside.

Poor sot of a subject walks around the yard pointing out

various intersections and landmarks on the way to the Magic

Mountain Subdivision. Magic Mountain, Shmagic Shmountain; they

all look the same, comrades.

Meanwhile, Joe sits off in his 1987 grey Toyota Cressida

merrily shooting video and still photographs. This takes about 30

minutes from convenience store to inevitable conclusion.

Tyger walks down to the end of the clean street.

Joe Fine picks him up by the 7-Eleven, saying, “There is somebody

we must meet,” before driving towards Downtown Baton Rouge.

Tyger’s mother the car is parked in semi-retirement at the

inconvenience store after Joe asks the clerk if it is alright.

The Super Sleuth travels under the cover of politeness while on assignment.

Joe drives his nice new — if one can call 50,000 miles in

one year new — 1987 Cressida over to an innocuous looking minishopping

center parking  lot, pulling up in front of a dry cleaners.



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Beautiful young girl with long black hair and

devilishly delicious green eyes stands by waiting for a ride.

“Hey dummy, over here,” Joe shouts. An electric bulb lights

the blank space over her pretty little head. This, of course, is

no accidental pick-up.

“Lana, this is Tyger. Tyger, Lana,” Joe introduces with

“Hello. Pleased to meet you,” all around. “Let’s get over to the

courthouse,” Joe continues, all business.

Joe continues with a few vaguely sexist remarks, saying them

in a funny way that offends no one back then.

Simply the Joe Fine style. Serves him well.

It becomes apparent that Tyger and Lana are both extras in

the continuing Joe Fine saga. They pass the time talking about

this and that; the weather and whether the Soviet Union really

will break up like the Berlin Wall.

Joe Fine says as he leaves,”Make yourselves comfortable,”

The two junior associates wait in the car while he wanders through the

courthouse for about 15 minutes looking up whatever. Doesn’t say.

Joe takes Tyger back to his car at the 7-Eleven. “I wanted you

two to meet,” he says. “We will be using Lana on some of our-

cases. She is an eager beaver, if you know what I mean.

“And a quick study. It’s always good to have an attractive female on hand

for some of our sleazier subjects who think with their dicks.”



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Then, off again, this time to nearby Denham Springs. Here is

the scenario: Early afternoon. Joe wants Tyger to hang

around a guy’s house while he and Lana go off,

waiting down the block at a gas station.

Joe goes into the trunk of his car, pulling out a pair of CB

radios. Tuning them to the same frequency, the plan is for Tyger

to signal him if sub dives into his vehicle. Joe and Lana

will follow, hopefully also telling Tyger where to go,

so he can come in as backup.

“Ready to play the game?” Joe asks. “Sure, boss.” “And

remember,” — Joe does a nice “Hill Street Blues” imitation for-

someone who claims never to watch television —

“be careful out there.” “Right boss.”

They both have units and should be able to get some good

pictures if the guy moves.

“By the way, what’s my handle?” Tyger jokes.

“Do you know any code?” Joe asks. “Code?” Tyger replies confused.

“Yeah, Morse Code,” Joe says. “You know–the dots and dashes.”

“No sir .”

“Too bad,” Joe says. “Don’t worry about a handle for now.

We need to teach you some code so no one intercepts commos.”

Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. Tyger sits sits sits.

Nothing in particular happens.



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Of course, the usual unrelated activity that distracts

attention for a few moments at a spell breaks the boredom

somewhat. Dogs running, children running, adults running after

dogs and children; birds, other vehicles.

That guy chopping wood in his yard.

Was that a pit bull? Big Brother.

Wait, what? Subject chopping wood in his yard!

Tyger tries to call Joe, instead encountering miserable

static. Can’t get through. Damn the torpedoes.

Tyger gets what pictures he can, but the distance is quite

great. Try as he might, he can’t get in better position. When

the guy goes inside, Tyger finally gets through. Joe calls him

into temporary base camp, in this case the nearby Chevron Station.

Alas, it turns out to be the wrong house. Joe has been on

the horn with the client and his answering service.

No foul, no harm, Joe determines they need to break off the case.

There is some confusion as to where the actual subject is

hiding, so Joe needs to meet eyeball-to-eyeball with the client

to iron out the details of investigation.

“We’ll get that sucker another day,” Joe vows. “Every dog

has its day and his day will come. Follow me back to the 7-Eleven.”

They return to the store, swapping out various equipment

while the lovely Lana purchases cigarettes. Neither Joe nor Tyger smoke


“You keep this. I’ll take that. Here take this too. How has



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the system been working?” Additional detective small talk is

swapped, too.

“How do you like the detective biz so far?” Joe asks Lana

when she emerges radiant from the cancerous convenience purchase.

“It’s been fun,” she replies.

“Don’t worry kid. You’ll learn, ” Joe adds,

winking a knowing eye in Tyger’s directional headlight.

Turning to Tyger, Joe continues, “She says she wants to be

an investigator. This is a good way to break her in.”

And turning back to Lana: “You’ll do great, kid. All it

takes is intelligence and persistence. And it can be fun, too.”

Day is growing a bit long in the tooth, so last hurrahs

are parted after a few final equipment exchanges. Joe and Lana

take off for an undisclosed location. Tyger tiptoes out of town,

retracing his steps as he departs with his back to a fading sun.

A typical case of another day, another claim to follow.

Tyger wonders what game Joe and Lana are up to by now.

No matter. Have another hit … of sweet air.

Check to see if anyone is following. Out of now habit.

Traffic like Tyger’s head is surprisingly light all the way

to N’awlins. This new job sure beats working.

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