The Walking Stick

📅 Published on April 23, 2022

“The Walking Stick”

Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Shorty Small, a man neither short nor small, entered the coffee shop, surveyed the patrons and found who he sought. Homer LaCroix sat in a corner table munching on a beignet with a mug of coffee in his right hand.

When he approached the table, he growled. “What’s so damn important you dragged me down here at seven in the morning?”

Raising the sweet pastry, Homer said, “Have you tried one of their beignets?”

“I just moved here. I didn’t know the place existed. And what the hell is a beignet?”

“You haven’t experienced New Orleans until you try one of these. Sit. I’ll order you one.” LaCroix searched the room and caught the eye of one of the café’s waitresses. He pointed to his coffee and held up his pastry. He then nodded at Small. “Shouldn’t be too long, I told her you would be joining me.”


“You’re in New Orleans now, Shorty. You’ve got to learn to relax. How was the move?”

“Wonderful, if you enjoy realizing all your worldly possessions fit into the back of an SUV.”

“Where you staying?”

“At the moment, Claires.”

LaCroix tilted his head. “At the moment?”

“That’s what I said.”

The waitress set a mug of coffee and the beignet in front of Small and walked away without saying a word. Small took a bite and raised his eyebrows.

LaCroix smiled. “Good, aren’t they?”

“First thing you’ve been right about this morning. So, why the early meeting?”

Fishing a folded piece of paper out of his jacket pocket, LaCroix laid it in front of the big man. “Ever see anything like this?”

Taking the page, Small studied it as he wiped powdered sugar off his lips with a napkin. “It’s a walking stick. So?”

“What else do you see?”

“It’s an ornately carved cane with a handle resembling a cobra about to strike. Get to the point, Homer.”

The tall lanky man withdrew another picture from his jacket pocket. “Recognize this guy?”

Small nodded. “Who wouldn’t. He’s an action movie star. I’ve seen most of his films, although nothing lately.”

“Well, he won’t be making any more.”

Raising his head from studying the photo, Small appraised LaCroix. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“He’s dead.”

“He’s probably old, too.”

“Mid-sixties. Healthy and negotiating a new movie. He died of a snake bite. King Cobra venom according to the autopsy.”

Small rolled his eyes. “Homer there aren’t any wild King Cobras in Louisiana, or the United States for that matter. They’re native to India.”

“I’m aware of that.”

Studying the picture of the walking stick again and then the picture of the actor, Small shook his head slowly. “Please don’t tell me the cane did it.”

LaCroix shrugged. “It’s New Orleans.”

“That’s not an answer. What do the police say?”

“They’re washing their hands of it. The detective I spoke to said it probably got loose from its owner, whoever that might be.”

“The cops aren’t concerned?”


“Where’d the actor get the walking stick?”

“That’s what the tourism board wants you to find out.”

“Thought they were going to pay for my move here.”

A slightly over one-inch-thick envelope appeared on the table. LaCroix scooted it across the surface toward Small. “Thirty thousand. Ten for your move and twenty as a retaining fee.”

The envelope disappeared under the table. “Where’s the cane?”

“Never found.”

Small’s mouth twitched. “Then how did they know he owned one?”

“Receipt found in his apartment.”

“Did someone let a snake loose in his place in order to steal the walking stick?”

LaCroix shrugged. “That’s what you’re supposed to determine.”

With a slight shake of his head, Small stood. “For twenty K I’ll look into it.” He turned to walk out of the cafe, but stopped. “The pastry was good, thanks.”

* * * * * *

Claire Honoré stood behind the cash wrap and smiled as Shorty Small walked through the front door of her newly remodeled jewelry, gemstones and minerals shop located in the French Quarter. “Hi. What’d Homer want?”

After kissing her, he showed her the picture of the cane. “Ever see one of these before?”

Her eyes widened as she took in the photo.

“What’s wrong, Claire?”

“Tell me you didn’t buy one.”

“I didn’t. What’s the matter?”

“They’re from India and are believed to be cursed.”

“They? How many of these are there?”

“Too many.”

“That didn’t answer my question. What do you know about these things?”

Claire grew quiet for a few moments. She pursed her lips. “Let’s close the shop and get some coffee next door. It’s complicated.”

With a mug of coffee cradled in her hand and sitting in a far corner of the small café, Claire looked at Small and sighed. “It all started with a man named David Allen. He was born in 1925 and learned to whittle as a young boy. After a heart attack in the 1960s, he got serious about changing his hobby into something more lucrative. He gave away his early canes to local people who couldn’t afford to buy one, then he started selling them. He was a kind-hearted, good man. Then in 1981, he and his wife went to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Festival of American Folklife sponsored by the Smithsonian. During his visit to the festival, a man named Edgar Lort, became fascinated at the walking sticks produced by David. Lort returned to New Orleans and set up a shop specializing in hand-carved walking sticks. He bought many from David Allen. But most of the ones occupying his shop came from all over the world.”

After taking a sip of coffee, Small said, “Let me guess, he imported a bunch of canes from India.”

Claire nodded.

“I was joking.”

She gave him a grim smile. “I’m not. In fact, he brought in eight canes, all of similar design. One of those walking sticks was the one in the picture you showed me.”

“From where?”

“Somewhere in India. He never would tell me the exact location.”

“I need to talk to this Lort character.”

“That will be difficult.”

Small smiled. “Why?”

“He died by snake bite just before New Year’s Day in 2015. The cobra canes were discovered locked in a gun safe.”

“How do you know so much about them?”

A shrug became his answer.


“I met Edgar at a Chamber of Commerce function when I first took over the shop. He told me all about his searches for the oddest and more unique walking sticks. He was a strange fellow and just as odd-looking. Your friend Homer LaCroix reminds me a lot of him.”

“Yeah, Homer is a strange-looking dude. What happened to Lort’s store?”

“To my knowledge, he was heavy in debt. His bank took possession of the shop after he died and liquidated the inventory.”

“To who?”

“No one knows. It was done in secret. One day all of his inventory was in the shop. The next day, the building was empty with a for lease sign on it.”


“Shorty, please don’t get mixed up with this. There is some serious evil surrounding those cobra walking sticks.”

“Claire, you know I don’t believe in all that crap.”

“What about my grandmother the witch?”

Small shrugged. “Can’t explain it, but I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.”

“Yes, there is. She was a witch.”

After giving her, a half-grin, he continued. “Who would know more about the inventory?”

“I suspect the bank.”

“Which one?”

“Bank of Louisiana.”

“The one on St. Charles?”

She nodded.

“I’ll check with them today.”

Claire continued to stare at the coffee in her mug.

“Don’t worry, Claire. Nothing’s going to happen.”

She snapped her head up and glared at Small. “You don’t know that. You’re getting involved with something that should be left alone and for what? You’re curiosity?”

“No, for twenty thousand dollars.”

The glare softened. “Just be careful.”


* * * * * *

Bank of Louisiana Vice President Justin Woodward gestured to the seat in front of his desk. “Please have a seat, Mr. Small. What can I do for you today?”

“I’m looking into a matter for the tourism board.”

“Ahh. Then, how can I help you?”

Small pulled the picture of the cobra walking stick out of his jacket pocket and laid it in front of the banker. “Supposedly, there might have been as many as eight canes like this one, in Lort’s inventory the night the bank seized his store after his death. The tourism board would like to know where they went?”

Placing half-readers on his nose, Woodward picked up the picture and studied the cane. “I remember them. I was just starting with the bank back then and one of my first assignments was taking inventory of his shop.”

“Do you remember what happened to them?”

“Let me think.” He kept the picture in his hand as he grew silent. After a minute, he laid it down on the desktop and started typing on his computer keyboard. He then studied the screen. “It seems we consigned the entire lot of inventory to an auction house in Dallas.” He stared at the screen for a few more moments, frowned and started typing again. Removing his glasses, he returned his attention to Small. “There is no record of the cobra walking sticks being transferred to the auction house.”

“Which means?”

“It means if I hadn’t remembered them, this would never have been discovered. They may have been stolen.”

“Does the bank have records of them being inventoried the night of the seizure?”

Woodward started typing on his keyboard again. He then ran his finger down the screen as if checking a list. His finger stopped halfway down and he frowned. “Oh, dear.”

“Did you find them?”

“Yes, they were checked in, but did not make it to the auction house. What happened in between is the question.”

“That was over a decade ago, isn’t it Mr. Woodward?”

“Yes, we may never know what happened.”

Small raised an eyebrow. “Was the inventory appraised prior to being sent to the auction house?”

“If it was, I wasn’t told.”

“Is this the first time a discrepancy has been discovered?”

“As far as I know it is. I was transferred out of that department before the auction house took possession of the inventory.”

“Can you recall who might have had access back then?”

“No, sorry.”

Standing, Small offered his hand. “Thank you for your time.” Woodward mindlessly shook it, but kept his attention on his computer screen.

* * * * * *

Parked behind the bank where Small figured the bank employees kept their cars, he waited. At precisely 4:35 p.m. Justin Woodward exited the back door of the bank. With a hurried pace and eyes glued to a new BMW X5. The man unlocked the door and slipped into the driver’s seat. A minute later, Small observed the back lights flare, the luxury SUV backed out of its parking space and screeched out of the lot.

Following the bank executive through the heavy afternoon traffic in New Orleans did not impose a problem for Small. Having followed numerous marks over the years allowed him to perfect his technique. The bank vice president did not hurry, but seemed to hesitate at one corner. Just as the light turned to yellow, he sped through the intersection.

Small did not panic. As soon as the light changed in his favor again, he increased his speed until he saw the BMW five cars ahead, stopped at another light. With a slight smile, he settled in and continued to follow Woodward.

After forty minutes of negotiating the streets of the Big Easy, the BMW emerged onto west Interstate 10. Small kept back as the two vehicles traveled west out of the city. An hour and a half later, the BMW pulled into the parking lot of a warehouse on the outskirts of Baton Rouge.

Driving past, he noted the name and pulled over a half mile further on. Using his cell phone, he entered a Google search of the place. The results came back as a private warehouse owned by an LLC. An additional search of the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office told Shorty Small the warehouse served as the headquarters for an organization dedicated to the preservation of Louisiana culture.

With a smile growing the more he read, he put his Ford Escape in gear and headed back to New Orleans.

* * * * * *

The Next Day

After spending the morning chasing business names, aliases, and doing-business-as statements, Shorty Small knew more about the financial holdings of Bank of Louisiana Vice President Justin Woodward. While all of the entities he identified appeared legitimate, the former hitman smelled blood in the water, so to speak. Something was off. His next step would be to find out more about the walking sticks.

At 4 p.m., a graduate student at Tulane University, escorted Small to the office of Carmen Fowler, Ph.D. After introductions, the graduate student left and Dr. Fowler smiled. “What can I help you with, Mr. Small?”

“For starters, call me, Shorty.”

“Very well, do you have a question about anthropology?”

Removing the picture of the cobra walking stick, he laid it on top of the conference table where they sat. She raised an eyebrow as she picked up the photo. “Are you in possession of this artifact, Shorty?”

“No. I’ve been asked to look into its importance.”

“I see.” She studied the picture for a few moments, stood and went to a bookshelf next to her desk. She bent over and removed a book from the shelf. Flipping through it, she then returned to the table. Placing the book so Small could see the page, she tapped on a picture. “If I’m not mistaken, it’s the same object.”

With a nod, Small looked at the professor and then lifted the cover of the book. The author was Carmen Fowler. “Apparently, I am speaking to someone who knows what they’re talking about.”

She leaned back and folded her arms. “Who’s asking you to look into its importance?”

“I’m an investigator for the tourism board.”

“Ahhh.” With a smile, she reached for the book and flipped to another page. “In the beginning, there were ten of them. Not identical, but similar in design. They were all hand made in northeastern India during World War II in a secluded village called Mayong. According to legend, when the Japanese tried to invade India, they sent an expeditionary force as far as the Brahmaputra River where the village is located. Not long afterwards, Japan withdrew and concentrated more on their Burma campaign. Eight canes are said to have survived the encounter with the Japanese.”

“Is there a connection with the Japanese withdrawing and the canes?”

“Legend tells us two of the walking sticks were given as gifts to the Japanese generals. Both died under mysterious circumstances.”

“Let me guess, snake bites.”

The professor’s smile disappeared. “Yes, and those two walking sticks were never found.”

“Do you believe these objects are cursed, Professor Fowler?”

Her gaze went from her visitor’s face to the picture in her book and then back at the retired hitman. “There are a lot of mysterious events over the course of human history. Many of which are hard to explain, Shorty. The city of Mayong is nicknamed The Land of Black Magic. Whether that is true is hard to determine. But once the Japanese encountered the people of the city, they quickly withdrew from India and concentrated their efforts elsewhere. Those facts alone could lead one to speculate.”

“Speculate what, Professor?”

“While the Japanese had difficulties with supply line stretching into India during World War II, the cobra walking sticks may have been one of the reasons for the Japanese finally abandoning their goals in India.”

* * * * * *

The Next Morning

Shorty Small fell into step with Justin Woodward as he walked through the banks parking lot. Glancing at his walking companion, the banker said, “I’m extremely busy today, Mr. Small.”

“That’s okay, I just thought you would appreciate an update on what the tourism board discussed last night at their meeting.”

“Why would I care?”

“Your name came up several times.”

Woodward stopped and turned toward Small. “Why would my name come up?”

“They might be under the impression you are the owner of a warehouse in Baton Rouge that supplied a particularly rare walking stick to a high-end men’s wear boutique. The shop then sold it to a well-known actor. The actor died under mysterious circumstances.”

The banker’s eyes widened suddenly and then he frowned. “Even if I knew what you were talking about, I don’t see how it would involve me.”

“It normally wouldn’t. But you see, the walking stick was one of seven canes seized by your bank that disappeared before they could be sent to an auction house in Dallas.”

“Are you accusing me of stealing them, Mr. Small?”

“No. I’m just an investigator. I report to the tourism board.”

Woodward stared at Small for several moments. “I’m late. If you have something else to say, make an appointment, I’ll be reporting to work now.”

As the banker turned and hurried toward the building’s rear entrance, Small said, “Don’t be surprised if the tourism board spoke to the bank’s president early this morning.”

This statement only made the man walk faster.

The time approached 10 a.m. After getting a cup of coffee and waiting in his vehicle in the back of the parking lot, Small watched as Justin Woodward exited the bank, a white box in his arms and a scowl on his face. A bank security guard followed five paces behind. Once they were several yards past the entrance, the guard stopped following and watched the ex-vice president unlock his BMW. He immediately returned to the bank’s interior.

Starting the engine of his Ford, Small waited for the luxury SUV to pull out of the parking lot before he followed.

Keeping track of Woodward did not create too many challenges for Small. The ex-banker stopped at a liquor store several blocks from his apartment. He spent less than two minutes in the store before coming out with a brown paper bag containing his purchase. The shape reminded Small of some of his own purchases in liquor stores over the years.

When Woodward parked his BMW in the apartment’s parking lot, he hurried to his door on the first floor. Small glanced at his wristwatch, smiled and settled back to wait.

At 12:23 p.m., a Domino’s pizza delivery car parked in an empty slot next to the BMW. The driver pulled an insulated bag out of the back seat and hurried toward the apartment. Small exited his vehicle and rushed toward the now open apartment door. He approached the space from the side and just before Woodward could shut it, Small pushed the entry open, shoving the banker backward. He stumbled and the pizza flew from his hands. It skidded across the living room floor, leaving cheese, pepperoni and sauce smeared on the carpet.

Woodward slurred his words. “What the hell, are you doing here? Get out!”

Small withdrew his Glock 19 from his waistband, pointed it at Woodward and growled. “Shut up.”

The prone man stared up at the larger man, his eyes bulging. “Wh—wh—what do you want?”

“Where are the walking sticks you stole?”

Raising to a knee, Woodward shook his head. “I don’t know what you are talking about.” He tried to stand. But Small swept his legs out from under him and he fell back hitting his head hard on the floor.

“Stay down.” He paused and walked toward the kitchen. A breakfast bar separated the two spaces. There he found a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red scotch with a third of its content missing. A crystal highball glass next to it held ice cubes and half a glass of the amber liquid.

Small picked up the glass and sniffed. There appeared to be little or no water mixed with the liquor. “A little early to be drinking this shit straight isn’t it, Justin?”

Raising to an elbow, the younger man directed his gaze toward the ex-hitman. “Mind your own fucking business. You caused me to lose my job.”

“Wrong assessment, Justin. I didn’t steal the walking sticks and then wait almost ten years before selling one to a retail store. That one’s on you. Not the brightest strategy, I might add.”

Woodward did not respond to the comment.

“Where are the rest of them?”


Small shook his head and walked back to the man now leaning on one elbow. With a swift kick, Woodward’s head once again struck the carpet. Not as hard this time, but he stayed down.

“Now, Mr. Ex-Banker, I will ask this one more time. Where are the remaining walking sticks?”

Staring at the ceiling, the man folded his arms. “I really don’t know.”

“Geez, you don’t have all your oars in the water, do you, dumbass?”

Small now stood above Woodward’s head and screwed a suppressor into the barrel of the Glock. He then pointed it at the man’s forehead. “My patience is waning, Justin. Want to answer my question?”

“But you’re a cop?’

“Never said I was.”

The man squeezed his eyes shut. “Ahh—shit.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much what you’re in right now. Don’t make it deeper. Tell me where the walking sticks are.”

“We sold all of them.”

“How much?”


“Don’t lie.”

“Fifteen thousand each.”

Small gave a soft whistle. “Damn, Woodward, no wonder you bought a BMW. Who’d you sell them to?”

“I…I…don’t remember.”

Small pulled the slide back on the gun.



“A collector who owns a plantation in Natchitoches, about 250 miles from here.”

“Natchitoches, where’s that?”

“Northwest of Lafayette.”

Rolling his eyes, Small gritted his teeth and snarled “Where the fuck is Lafayette?”

Woodward, his eyes still closed moaned, “West of Baton Rouge, follow I-49 out of Lafayette.”

“What’s the guy’s name?”

The ex-banker told him.

Small knew apartments, like the one he stood in, were built on concrete slabs in swampy states like southern Louisiana. So, he aimed the gun to the left of Woodward’s head and pulled the trigger. The sound, no louder than dropping a book on a table, scared the man laying on the carpet. He screamed as pieces of the shattered bullet burned into his cheek. At the same time, the ex-hitman noticed a dark stain spreading at the ex-banker’s crotch.

“It’s hard to miss at this distance, Justin. Next time, I won’t.”

* * * * * *

The drive northwest took over four hours. When he arrived at the plantation, he drove by the entrance at a reduced speed. Numerous signs warned about trespassing with a reference to a local ordinance and the penalties associated with such a transgression.

With the sun setting in the west, Small found a local hotel two miles from the palatial southern mansion. There he used his laptop to do as much research as possible about the owner.

The plantation, known locally as the Barton House, possessed an interesting history dating back to its construction in 1832. Over the course of the next twenty years, the owner continued to buy more land and extend his cotton empire to over 6,000 acres. By the time the Civil War broke out in the eastern states, The Barton House cultivated one of the largest cotton harvests in the state of Louisiana. Over two hundred enslaved persons toiled in the fields of this massive undertaking.

The period after the war saw the plantation shrink in land mass, but not in importance to the local economy. Small discovered the current occupant could trace his ancestry back to the original owners of the land. He was not only rich, but it was old wealth. And he possessed a passion for old antiques and items associated with the mystical history of Louisiana.

He also learned, the man preferred to seclude himself within the plantation property and seldom ventured out. Plus, he rarely received guests or visitors.

Shorty Small planned to intrude on the recluse’s privacy a few minutes after midnight.

* * * * * *

During his years as a hitman, Small learned numerous techniques on how to detect alarms and intruder prevention measures. He found none on his nocturnal trek to the Barton House. A full moon provided sufficient light so as not to need his night vision goggles. From what he could see, the structure needed extensive maintenance and a heavy dose of TLC.

He entered the house after finding a rear door unlocked. This gave him pause, as he extracted his Glock from his shoulder holster and proceeded with additional care.

The interior resembled the exterior with a serious need for a remodel. In each room, he found scattered clutter, cabinet doors hanging by one hinge, the sour odor of human urine and the sound of scurrying critters. To help him avoid stumbling over debris or animals, he extracted a small high-powered LED flashlight. Halfway to the front of the house, he detected the distinct smell of death. He emerged into an atrium near the front entrance. A male body sat on the floor. Its back propped against a wall near the main door. The face appeared as if contorted in pain. The eyes were open and stared sightlessly at a point near the ceiling two floors above it.

Small examined the body closer. As he swept the narrow beam of the flashlight over the man, he noticed two puncture wounds on his right hand near the joint between his thumb and index finger. The wounds were swollen, with purplish skin surrounding the puncture marks. He took a picture of the wound with his cell phone and exited the house through the front door.

By noon the same day, he was back in New Orleans and showing the picture of the puncture wounds to Claire.

“What do those look like to you?”

She looked at the picture, frowned and then led Small to the rear of her small jewelry and gem store. Looking at a bookshelf in her office, she extracted a book, leafed through it, stopped on a page and handed the open volume to Small. “It looks like this made the wound.”

The picture she handed him was of an ornately decorated walking stick with an intricately carved snake head.

With a tight smile, Small rubbed the back of his neck. “Come on, Claire. We’ve discussed this before. You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, but I am, Shorty.” She took the book back and flipped through more pages. “There are multiple examples of similar incidents having occurred before, only the object in question was a spear, not a walking stick.” She stopped on a page and handed the book back to Small.

Once again, he turned his attention to the open page before him. “Damn.”

She only nodded.

“Okay, let’s say I’m leaning toward believing you. How do I fight these things?”

“That would be beyond my knowledge. You would need to consult someone who practices Hoodoo.”


“Yes, Voodoo is a religion. Hoodoo on the other hand is more concerned with folklore and mysticism. A Hoodoo practitioner often sees Hoodoo as a sort of personal power using their knowledge of herbs, minerals, and animals. With this knowledge and power, a practitioner can assist someone in a variety of situations, including luck, love, evil, or in particular retaliation against an enemy.”

“Ahhh, geez, Claire. Where am I going to find someone like that?”

She handed him a business card. “This is the address of someone who might know more than I do.”

After studying the card, he looked up at her. “Madame Toosaint?”

“You pronounce her last name as Too-san,”


“It is important you remember that, she gets upset if you pronounce it differently.”

“Then she needs to spell it like it sounds.”

“It’s French, Shorty.”


* * * * * *

An elderly woman opened the door of a small house on the edge of the French Quarter.

Small said, “Madame Toussaint?”


“I’m Shorty Small, I called earlier for an appointment.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Small, come in.”

Walking into the small cramped living room, Small felt a momentary sensory overload. Every possible empty spot along three walls were covered by tapestries swirling with deep purples, golds and reds. Intricate hemp-colored Macramé wall hangings hung from various hooks on the ceiling. Along the remaining wall there stood a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf which held so many volumes the wood in the middle seemed to sag. In the middle of the cluttered room sat an intricately carved wood floor table surrounded by colorful pillows and rugs.

Madame Toussaint said, “Please sit and I will try to answer your questions.”

Small felt like a giant in a land of gnomes as he struggled to get comfortable on the floor. When his host settled across from him, he opened the book Claire gave him to the page with the picture of the walking stick. “What can you tell me about these, Madame Toussaint?”

She took the book and placed half readers, which hung by a lanyard around her neck, on her nose. After she studied the picture, she closed the book, looked up at Small and handed it back to him. “Do you seek answers of what this is or do you seek knowledge about their purpose?”

“Purpose, Madame Toussaint.”

“These are not Hoodoo, Mr. Small. They are far more sinister.”

“What are they used for?”

“They are called Assassin’s Canes. Have you ever heard of those, Mr. Small?”

“Yes. Some have a hidden sword within the shaft. I’ve seen some that were hollow and used as a blow-gun to fire poisoned darts. A few possessed a heavy grip made of lead and used as a bludgeon.”

“Very good. The one in the picture you showed me, has the same purpose. To eliminate one’s enemies.”

“How do the ones in the picture work?”

Her eyes narrowed. “The ones you speak of are rare. I know of only a handful imported from India. They disappeared years ago.”

“I know of two men who recently purchased similar ones and both died of a snake bite.”

One of her hands shot up to cover her mouth. “Oh, dear. Where?”

“One here in New Orleans and another in Natchitoches.”

“There were rumors of seven. Do you know where the remaining five might be?”

Small shook his head.

“You are trying to find them for the Tourism Board aren’t you, Mr. Small?”

Trying not to show his surprise at how Madame Toussaint knew of his mission, he only nodded.

“These walking sticks are a danger to anyone who holds them by the grip.”


A small smile came to her lips. “They are petrified King Cobras, Mr. Small. Once someone claims them, they will revert to their original form and attack anyone holding the cane. Normally, the wound is fatal, as you have mentioned.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, Mr. Small, I am not.”

“So, you’re saying, don’t touch them by the grip.”

“Not if you want to live.”

* * * * * *

Justin Woodward unlocked his apartment door and opened it. Before he could step in, a strong hand in the middle of his back pushed him. He stumbled and fell forward his nose making direct contact with the living room floor. Blood gushed as he screamed, “What the hell?”

Shorty Small closed and locked the front door, making sure the deadbolt was fully engaged. He waited. His Glock now pointed at the prone bleeding man.

When the ex-banker looked up, he screamed. “You. I’m gonna sue you for assault. You’re a dangerous man.”

Small gave the man a slight smile. “You have no idea. Now where are the remaining cobra walking sticks?”

“I told you, we sold them to a collector in Natchitoches.”

“He’s dead. Death by snake bite.”

Woodward’s eyes widened. “How?”

“You obviously didn’t know what you had, did you, Justin.”

“What do you mean?”

“Those walking sticks were originally from a village in India. From what I’ve been able to discover, they are petrified King Cobras and designed to be Assassin’s Canes. Lethal to anyone who possesses them. Now, want to tell me where they are or do you want to be charged with the murder of two men. One of which was a famous actor.”

Woodward stood and went to the kitchen and found a towel to press against his still bleeding nose. “You fucking broke my nose. I’ll sue you.”

“Justin, here’s a little advice for you. Shut up.”

“I will not shut up, this is the second time you’ve assaulted me, I’ll have you locked up and the key thrown away.”

Small sighed and started screwing the suppressor into the barrel of his Glock. “I’m going to tell you a little bit of my history and maybe, just maybe, you’ll shut up.” He pulled the slide back, charging the weapon. “I’m not from New Orleans, asshole. I’m from Chicago. I made my living, for a long time, solving personnel problems for rich and powerful men. My solutions were permanent. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”

The ex-bankers’ eyes grew wide as he finally understood who Shorty Small was. “You’re a hitman?”

“I hate that word, but so your feeble mind can actually grasp your situation, yes.”


“There you go again. Are you finally figuring out how deep you are in it?”

A slow nod came from the man with the bleeding nose.

“Now, Justin, want to tell me where the remaining five walking sticks are?”

“I wish I knew.”

“What does that mean?”

Woodward removed the towel from his face. Blood still dripped, he rinsed the towel and then pressed it once again on his now crooked nose. “It means, we sold them on eBay.”

“You have records of where you shipped them to, don’t you?”

The man shrugged.

Small pointed the suppressed Glock in Woodward’s direction and pulled the trigger. The bullet missed the banker’s ear by several inches and slammed into the refrigerator. “You probably won’t get your deposit back now.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Maybe, but I’m the person with a gun pointed at you.”

Raising the palm of his unused hand toward Small, Woodward took a deep breath through his mouth. “Don’t. I’ll tell you.”

“Good, I’m getting tired of your constant lying.”

“They were shipped out of state to a collector in Texas.”

“Why do I not believe you?”

“I’m not lying.”

“Where in Texas?”

Woodward hesitated for a second before saying, “Houston.”

The Glock spat again, this time nicking the ex-banker’s left ear. Now blood dripped from both his nose and ear, running down his face. The gasp he emitted sounded more animal than human. “Okay—okay—just don’t shoot again.”

Small growled, “Last chance, Justin. Where are they?”

“Storage unit near Lake Pontchartrain on the east side of the airport.”


The banker gave him the address and unit number.

Just before Small opened the apartment front door, he turned. “If you’re lying or remove the canes before I get there. It will be the last thing you ever do, Justin. Capeesh?”

The banker slowly nodded his head.

* * * * * *

Homer LaCroix met Small in the same coffee shop they always used for meetings. The big man arrived first and watched the lanky man enter the shop. When he sat down, he gave the ex-hitman a smile. “So, you found the walking sticks?”

“Yeah. They’re in a storage unit near the airport. I cut the old lock off with a bolt cutter and put a new one on.” He handed LaCroix a key. “This opens the lock.”

The tall man did not reach for the offered item. “Did you make sure they were there?”

Small nodded.

“Why didn’t you just take them?”

With a half-smile, the larger man said, “You asked me to find them, I found them. You didn’t say anything about taking them somewhere.”

“Well, the tourism board wants them delivered to this address.” He slid a business card across the table. Small looked at it, but did not pick it up.

“Apparently, you and the tourism board don’t understand what these canes are for, do you?”

LaCroix frowned. “They’re old canes, worth a lot of money. The board wants to sell them and recuperate for expenses incurred.”

“In other words, the board hasn’t a clue what they are.”

“Okay, Shorty, they know they are old and valuable. Other than that, what’s so special about them?”

“Homer, I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. The board is spending way too much money on getting these things back just because they are old and supposedly valuable. Which they aren’t. Want to try again?”

After drumming his fingers on the table where they sat, LaCroix gave Small a half-smile. “I told them you were a smart guy. They know exactly what they are and how they work. There are, let’s say, individuals who oppose the current members of the board. Our employer wants to offer each of these individuals one of the canes as a peace offering.”

Small threw his head back and laughed out loud. He then grew serious and looked LaCroix in the eyes. “So, they want me to deliver them, is that what I’m hearing?”

A nod was his answer.

“No, fucking way.” Small stood and tossed the key to the storage unit at LaCroix. “Guess you guys need to find another patsy.”

As the big man made a step toward the coffee shop door, LaCroix said, “Fifty K, in cash, if you deliver the canes to the address on the card.”

The ex-hitman froze and turned back to the tall lanky man. “Fifty K?”

Another nod.


“As soon as possible.”

“Not that when. When do I get paid?”

A thick white envelope appeared out of LaCroix’s jacket and he placed it on the surface in front of him.

Small returned to his chair and the envelope disappeared under the table. “When do they want the canes delivered.”

“No later than midnight tonight.”

Remembering something Madame Toussaint mentioned, he said. “I’ll figure out a way.”

* * * * * *

When he arrived at the storage unit, the lock he placed there earlier no longer remained. He raised the door and found the entire unit empty. Returning to his SUV, he drove straight to Woodward’s apartment. The BMW owned by the ex-banker was nowhere to be seen. Parking his vehicle, Small walked to the front door of the man’s apartment and used a small tool from his wallet to pick the flimsy lock. Inside, he withdrew his Glock and searched all of the rooms. No one at home.

A laptop occupied a desk in one of the spare bedrooms. Small touched the space bar and the screen brightened. As he looked closer, an email program revealed the last message opened. The ex-hitman read it, smiled and returned to his car. Leaving the door to the apartment unlocked and slightly ajar.

The drive to Baton Rouge took an hour and a half. The sun, low in the sky, would set soon and dusk would aid him in his next task. Once he pulled into the parking lot of the warehouse owned by Woodward, he saw the BMW X5 parked next to a door. No other vehicles occupied the parking area.

Before exiting his Ford Escape, he screwed the suppressor into the Glock. Checking to make sure the gun was charged. He exited, walked quickly to the door where the BMW was parked and tried the knob. When it turned in his hand, he shook his head slowly and entered.

Woodward stood hunched over a wooden crate on a workbench fifteen yards from the entrance. He looked up as Small entered the room. His eyes locked on the Glock pointed at him.

“Not you again.”

“I thought I told you to leave those things where they were.”

“You have no idea how valuable they are, Small. And, they aren’t yours. Get out.”

Moving toward the middle of the space, Small kept the Glock pointed at Woodward. “Stand aside, Justin. You might actually get out of here alive.”

With a swift move not expected by the big man, the ex-banker reached into the wood crate and tossed an object toward Small. Stepping aside, the walking stick passed him on the right and fell to the concrete floor with a clatter. As Woodward threw another cane toward him, Small pulled the trigger on the Glock. His aim being true, snapped the shaft in two and the pieces fell to the floor.

Woodward screamed as one of the last canes in the wooden box came alive. The snake raised its head above the crate and hissed at Woodward. Frozen by surprise, the ex-banker stood mesmerized by the serpent’s swaying head. It then hissed and struck out toward the man’s hand, which still hovered unmoved above the container.

Small watched as the snake clamped it fangs into the joint of the man’s hand between the index finger and the thumb. Woodward looked on with horror as the snake released his hand and seemed to leap toward the man’s head. As the cobra sunk its teeth into the soft tissue of his neck, Woodward’s eyes rolled upward out of view and he fell to the concrete floor.

The snake stiffened and dissolved into a white and gray powder as Shorty Small looked on.  He walked over to the crate and looked in. One last walking stick remained. He then gathered the one he shot in two and placed the pieces in the crate, being careful to avoid the grip of the cane. He then retrieved the one thrown at him. Holding it by the tip of the shaft, he also placed it in the crate.

Using a hammer and nails already on the workbench, he placed the lid on the container and secured it. He then carried the closed box to his SUV. Before he left the parking lot, he locked the door of the warehouse and made sure it was closed.

At five minutes to midnight, he delivered the crate with the remaining walking sticks to the address given to him by LaCroix.

* * * * * *

Two Days Later

LaCroix waited at their usual table at the coffee shop, sipping his beverage as Small walked through the door. As the big man sat, LaCroix said, “What happened?”

“I delivered the walking sticks before midnight.”

“Yes, I was told. There were only three and one was broken.”

Small’s mouth twitched. “I used one to protect myself.”

The lanky man nodded. “Once again, the tourism board is pleased with your work. The banker who stole them can’t be located. They want to have him placed under arrest.”

“No need. Where do you think the missing walking stick went? He won’t be stealing anything again.”

LaCroix sipped his coffee and smiled.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: J.C. Fields

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Author's Notes: N/A

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