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Prologue


In early December, Jack Cady went out to the bottoms south of Highway 7 to do some hunting, and discovered that an impressive fence and gate had been strung across the access road. Jack had hunted the place for so long now that he was too old to stop, wire or no wire, but he'd never cut a property fence in his life, and wasn't about to start now. He drove all the way back around to the old Highway 176 entrance, which took him well over an hour.

Jack knew the history of the three thousand acres of swamp and white oak forest called the Trois Bottoms only from rumor and myth, much of it heard years ago from people like his Uncle Am, a drunk who told as little of the truth as he could in his long and miserable life. The bottoms, it seemed, had been occupied by numerous Indian tribes, owned by a member of the French royalty, traveled across by Robert E. Lee, hid out in by Jesse James and Belle Starr, won and lost in card games by several different state governors, and studded by countless whiskey stills and houses of gaming and prostitution, all the locations of which had been forgotten, lost, swallowed up by the swamp. Simple facts like who, exactly, now owned the land his uncle was less clear about. In fact, from the time he was first taken out there to "hunt"—which at his raw-faced, bootless, gunless age meant to trail around after the men and waiting on them—Jack had never found out for sure who the real owner was.

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