Start Reading The Marauders

From Chapter One

THE TOUP BROTHERS

They came like specters from the dark maw of the bayou, first ghostly light in the fog, then the rasp of a motor: an aluminum powerboat scudding across lacquer-black water. From a distance the figures looked conjoined, Siamese twins. As the boat drew closer the bodies split in two under the moth-flocked floodlights. One stood fore, the other aft: the twin brothers Reginald and Victor Toup. When they were kids even their mother had trouble telling them apart. That was long ago, half their lives, and now their mother was dead. Shot through the temple in New Orleans’s Roosevelt Hotel before their father turned the gun on himself.

Tonight they motored under a three-quarter moon, thirty pounds of marijuana hidden under a tarp in the bait well. Reginald trolled the boat and Victor crouched on the prow, surveying the bayou through night-vision binoculars. They’d made this run so many times they could tell you things about the swamp that no map could. You rarely came across anyone out here. Not after dark, not this far, not outside shrimping season.

This of course was the point.

A flicker of motion ahead drew Victor’s eye. On an islet a half mile distant a small light bobbed and shimmied like fox fire before sputtering out.

Victor held up his hand and Reginald cut the engine and lights. They were plunged into dark, moonlight banded across the water, the only sounds the insects and frogs singing in full chorus, the soft slap of waves against the hull.

“What?” Reginald asked.

Victor said nothing. He peered through the glass and waited. Reginald stepped behind him, black rubber hip boots creaking. Side by side, the brothers’ resemblance was uncanny. The same side-parted black hair and hard-bitten faces, the same mineral-gray eyes full of cunning. The same way of leaning slightly into the night, torsos angled stiff, like bloodhounds scenting a rumor of prey. But there were differences, slight. Reginald had the beginnings of a gumbo paunch but Victor did not. Reginald had no tattoos, but Victor had them on his arms and on the side of his neck: the head of a gape-mouthed Great White shark, a mermaid and trident, a spiderweb in the crook of his right arm, a black widow spider in the middle.

Any other differences between the twins a man would have to delve deeper than the surface to discern.

For a time nothing moved. Stars were strewn horizon to horizon, bands so tangled and thick they looked like white paint flung on a black canvas. Ursa Minor and Cassiopeia and Orion like puzzles you had to make out.

Victor shifted on his boots and adjusted the focus of the binoculars. The light winked on again, skeltering among the trees.

“Thinks we left,” Victor said.

“Who?” Reginald asked.

Victor didn’t answer, only watched. Anchored a hundred yards from the islet was a ramshackle shrimp boat, on the islet shore a beached pirogue and a Coleman lantern dimly glowing. A man in hip boots waded in the bracken, sweeping a metal detector coil over the ground. In his other hand was something that looked half scoop, half shovel.

The man heard something in his headphones and halted. He passed the metal detector coil a few times over the same spot and then dug for a minute with the shovel-scoop. He stepped to the shore edge and shimmied the shovel in the water and hunkered down, sifting through the dirt like a gold panner.

Victor lowered the binoculars and shook his head.

“Tell me,” Reginald said.

“A guy,” Victor said. “Digging holes.”

“Why?”

“Fuck should I know? Burying his wife.”

Reginald took the binoculars from Victor and squinted through the glass. “Got a metal detector,” he said.

“Know him?” Victor asked.

“I’ve seen him. I think.”

“Metal detector,” Victor said. He shot a scoffing breath through his nose. “I’ve seen it all.”

“What’s he, with the oil company?”

Victor didn’t answer. He unshouldered his semiautomatic Bushmaster and got the man’s face in the crosshairs of the reticle scope. He looked in his late forties, early fifties. Deeply pocketed eyes, shaggy hair winged out from beneath a yacht cap. And look, he was missing an arm, in its place a prosthesis.

“Missing an arm,” Victor said.

“I know who that is,” Reginald said.

Victor asked who.

“The redhead? Crazy big tits. Got stoned at our place a couple times. Renee?”

“Reagan,” Victor said. “Oh, yeah.”

“Reagan. That’s her daddy.”

Victor lifted the rifle again and squinted through the scope, his finger resting in the curve of the trigger.

“The hell you doing?” Reginald said. He’d always been the more diplomatic of the two, Victor the more hotheaded. Maybe it was because Victor was the firstborn, the alpha, a full hour longer in the world than Reginald. This was one of Reginald’s theories, anyway.

“Too close for his own good,” Victor told Reginald.

“We’ll talk to him.”

Victor could squeeze the trigger right now and the man’s life would be over in an instant. He’d done it before. Out here. But he lowered the rifle and said, “Luckiest day in his life, son-bitch doesn’t even know it.”

Excerpted from The Marauders by Tom Cooper. Copyright © 2015 by Tom Cooper. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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