Bobby B – Half A Plan

“Paris” used the same bow-legged squat and lift she’d used to get Monterrey Mick through the topless bar parking lot to lift “Daddy” Teagarden out of his wheelchair. She leaned him against the battered Dodge 300, shoved, hard, and folded him into the passenger seat.

“Goddam, girl. You’re gonna sure as hell fuck me all up you don’t start paying attention. I’ve a mind to kick your ass.”

“You ain’t kickin nobody’s ass, TG.” Paris opened the back door and shoved the folded wheelchair where the back seat should have been. “Least of all mine.”

“You could show some respect for my condition. Like not waiting till three in the morning to tell me what you already told my brother about two million dollars in a redneck’s briefcase.”

“So what? You find a girl who ain’t workin’ to drag your redneck ass to Louisiana where that two million dollars is at? Fuck that with Madonna’s gold-plated dildo.” She unwrapped a huge, square chunk of gum, popped it in her mouth. “‘Sides, we’ll sail right by them two maggots Cletus an Orrin, them waitin’ in that trailer for the Beach Boy to sober up an tell them what I already know. ‘Sides again, they ain’t got no TV, and I seen that Bobby B an his whore like a thousand times on the TV in Tyler. You know, every time that whore come on the bar manager maggot would say, ‘She’s got such a sweet ass’. Me, standin’ right there. Like he never seen mine, and still sayin’ that shit about hers? I’m glad the Cartel –”

“Cartel my sweet ass, Paris. Shut the fuck up about the Cartel and Tyler. Get us to Lafayette.” TG pulled a Smith & Wesson .500 with a scope out from under his seat. “You pick em out, I’ll pick ‘em off.”

***

“Shirley?” The pregnant girl put a hand on her right hip, stretched her back over it while she surveyed the scene inside the Loves Travel Shop shit and shower stall. “SHIRL!” She ramped her voice up a notch. “You better get in here!”

The shift manager rolled her eyes at the cashier, scooted off the ripped Budweiser stool behind the candy bars and cigarettes. “Connie?” Shirley sidestepped the yellow mop bucket on her way into the Loves men’s room. “Sweetie, I done told you, there ain’t no kinda science project leftovers in a men’s room I ain’t already seen. So –”

Connie arched her back to the other side, pushed the last shit and shower stall door open again.

Shirley looked over the two men on the floor of the stall. One black, one white, both naked. Cable tied together back to back, forehead to ankles, with hard rubber Kong dog toys taped in their mouths. Phones, clothes, empty holsters and shoes were neatly lined up on the flip-down shower bench.

“The kink some fellas have to get up to keep their danglers happy…” Shirley checked the timer outside the stall. “They owe us for two hours and fifteen minutes.” She left the Kongs taped in the men’s mouths, checked the cable ties. “Yep, these’re the big ol’ jobs like the phone company uses. I kept the bumper on that old van I sold with a coupla them things.” She turned in her investigative squat to the girl who’d screamed. “Run fetch us a pair of dikes, Connie.” She caught the girl’s confusion. “Not them two lezbos workin’ the Subway. Side cutters. Big ones.” She squeezed her hand like she was cutting the cable ties with invisible cutters. “Dikes? From the tool box under the cash register? Before that baby drops?”

***

Bernie eyed the two antsy, shuffly, rumpled men standing in her doorway at the Best Western. “You’re who, again?”

“FBI.” The one in hooded sweats and ratty Red Converses with frayed laces flashed a badge for a spilt second.

“Yeah. FBI,” the other, shorter one said. He had borderline mutton chop sideburns and was wearing what looked like plaid double knit golf pants from the Seventies, complete with two-tone patent leather shoes.

“Yeah?” Bernie shifted her gaze back and forth between them, her finger twitched on the Ruger behind her back. “Our regulars are where?”

“Hadda go. Home. Back. Home. To the office,” plaid pants jammed.

“That’s right.” Red Converse’s backed him up. “The home office. Re, uh, re, uh –”

“Reassigned.” Plaid pants elbowed his partner. “You got the money, babe? We’re ready to move. Out.”

“Not yet. Give me a minute?” Bernie deadbolted and chained her door, flipped the small brass horseshoe over the peg. She grabbed her oversized purse full of Beretta and ammunition, slipped out the sliding glass door onto the patio and stopped in her tracks. She bent over, looked under the gull wing door of a short, squatty, rumbly custom painted dwarf pickup with a Swamp Vue logo on the short, glossy wooden bed panel.

“Boudreaux?”

“Get in.” The car was moving before she pulled the door down. “Agent Hyland didn’t get the password text back from the escorts. He called, said to meet him out back, they’re out of it, here’s the money, good luck.”

“Weasle-y asshole. And whatever this is we’re riding in that’s not our rented Camry came from where?”

“Down bayou a ways. It’s half a plan.”

Bernie stuffed a clip in the Beretta, dropped the pink Ruger in Bobby’s lap. “I hope the other half is comfortable and makes a lot less noise.”

***

Orrin and Cletus, with Mick propped up in the back seat of the Cutlass, waited out the early Tuesday morning in the Best Western Parkin parking lot. “Ay-un-gee…” drifted out of the car’s speakers for, by Orrin’s count, the forty-third time.

“God dammit.” Orrin lifted a .45 off the seat between his legs and shot the Cutlass’s CD player. Twice.

Cletus threw himself into the back of his seat and turned toward Orrin, squealed. “Da fuck, you?” His eyes were the size of golf balls.

“‘Da fuck’ is you brought one fucking road trip mix tape and it’s the fucking Stones. You don’t ask nobody, you just go on with three days of ‘Ay-un-gee’ and the rest of that skinny, ugly, wrinkly assed fag Stones bullshit. ‘Da fuck’ is enough fucking Stones.”

They sat in silence, wrapped in the smell of close quarters cordite for a few minutes until Cletus pulled a joint out of his shirt pocket. He lit it, fingers shaking, hit it hard to calm down. “I told you about can’t be too much Stones.” He passed the joint low across the seat.

“And I’m tellin’ you can’t be enough of this shitty weed to never, ever get all that boo-shit out my head.” Orrin hit the joint deep, handed it over the seat to Mick.

Mick gave the joint a cursory look. “What is it you guys smoke in Texas that you have to roll Cohiba size spleefs?”

***

Bobby idled around to the front of the motel, pointed across Bernie to a faded maroon Monte Carlo. “Now would be a good time to shoot up that car before those two break your door down and…Shit. Here they come.” Bobby threw up a blue smoke screen of burning rubber.

***

Mick glanced up in time to see Bobby light up the miniature truck. “There! That fucked up baby pickup thing. That’s –”

Cletus floored the Cutlass, The Monte Carlo with two fake FBI agents jumped the curb, skidded around the Best Western driveway, took out a row of 3 brass luggage carts in the process. Paris, parked facing the wrong way, slammed the 300 into reverse, knocked a Prius out of the way when she cranked the wheel and never took her foot off the gas when she dropped into drive.

***

Bobby shot out of the parking lot, through cross traffic and hit the I-10 East on-ramp at 85, almost flat spotted the tires when he had to slow down and look for an insert point in a fleet of semi’s flying formation. Bernie looked over her shoulder, checked the makeshift robbery posse jockeying for position coming up the ramp behind them.

“I don’t know what this thing is, but I hope it’s half as fast as it is loud.” The first bullet chipped the Lexan rear window, the second came through the band of aluminum above it. Bobby yanked the wheel and burned down the interstate shoulder, caught up with a truck hauling a concrete bridge support, cut in underneath it and onto I-10.

Bobby yelled over the exhaust roar. “Remind me to take the Lexan all the way up on the back of this thing.”

Bernie opened her eyes, saw the front bridge support trolley and the semi hitch-plate five feet in front of her at 75 miles an hour and screamed. “You plan on getting shot at again?”

“Didn’t plan on it this time,” Bobby yelled. He checked the driver’s side rearview, burned rubber in third gear when he blasted out from under the bridge support into the left lane.

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God Bless the Child

Harper dropped into a stool at the late-night-empty bar in JG’s Pub. The white shirt with tails out under his unbuttoned vest bartender was lost in space listening to Pandora Jacuzzi jazz while he pretended to clean a spotless back bar. Harper almost hated to bring him back. Almost.

“Hey, man.” He waited for the easy greeting to land. “You still have those badass onion rings?”

“Yeah. Same old black woman comes in early every morning when no one’s here.” He hadn’t turned away from the back bar. “Makes her own batter like it’s some kind of NASA secret. With my beer. Cuts the onions too fat. They’re usually gone after lunch.” He glanced up at the clock and over to Harper. “We still got some time to kill on a dead Wednesday night. I’ll go look for you.” He stopped about two thirds of the way down the bar. “Beer?”

“Negra Modelo. Ice cold, no glass.”

The beer slid down the bar and stopped in front of Harper just before the bartender banged through the flapping, spring loaded kitchen doors. A minute later he banged back, wiped the water and ice bits trail from the Modelo off the bar on his way.

“Found some. Dropped them in the fryer for you. Kinda late in the day for rings, bro.”

“Yeah, well…Women. Never a good time, you know?”

“Hell yeah, I know. Everything with a dick and a heartbeat knows.” Open vest and tails out measured Harper for possible pity-me or breakdown potential conversation, couldn’t find any of either. “Not sure what onion rings have to do with that.”

“She’d eat them. Most of them. Like I wasn’t paying attention. All loaded with peppered up ketchup…”

“I get it. Habits. Things you did together. I can’t do carousels. Same reason, mostly.”

“That might be a good thing. Grown men could get arrested riding too many carousels.”

The bartender snorted. “Man, the carousel thing? Goes back a looooong ways. High school long ways.”

“Yeah? Same with the rings. Not that I haven’t eaten my share since then. Ghosts shouldn’t keep you from eating onion rings.” Harper took a long pull on the beer that was so cold it made his teeth scream and scrunched up his face. “I guess we all keep those memory casualties in a jar somewhere, in here.” He tapped the side of his head with his index finger. “Like whatever those things are they bury memories in.”

The bartender knitted his brows, put his hands on the bar.

“Coffins?”

“No, no. Not those. The cans they can dig up with old newspapers and records and –”

“Time capsules?”

“There it is. You dig them up and you think, well, that maybe you have all the answers about what you’ve kept in that capsule thing. The people. The times. But since you buried it you find out you’ve invented all kinds of shit about everything in there. Built yourself castles out of pieces of dreams.” Harper looked up, found the bartender’s face. “In truth? There they are, real people. With a million stories of their own. But they’re locked up. All that life shit, locked up inside them, just as bad as the time capsule. And here you are, you know, looking for a key to unlock either one and let them out.”

“You talkin’ the pucker-butt people? Because I see enough of that shit every day. Sold off their kid selves and the grownup dreams fucked them?”

“Nope. Talkin’ about the ones who forgot the fairy tale goes on and on, even after the dragons and the pirates and being shipwrecked and heartbroken all left them for dead on a desert island. It’s on and on, man. Till it’s done.”

“They had a choice, bro. Sounds like ‘Little Pink Houses’ advice.” He leaned against the back bar, folded his arms. “You’re on the wrong damn side of the bar for that. Besides, what you’re sayin’? Could be almost everybody.”

“It doesn’t have to be.” A high school kid in a dirty apron set the plate of rings and a ketchup bottle in front of Harper like he was the biggest piece of shit in his universe for getting a dish and the fryer dirty this close to closing, huffed off and banged back through the kitchen doors.

The bartender frowned in the direction of the kitchen, shoved his towel in a glass, set it on the back bar. “So you’re saying ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ has an extra verse nobody’s heard?”

“Like that, yeah. The dragons go on, good and bad. Sometimes you have to put on Sinatra even if you know it’ll make you cry.” Harper deferred on the steaming rings, lazily turned his beer bottle on the bar. “You got Sinatra on Pandora or whatever you’re piping through here?”

“Sinatra’s on the jukebox. That’s my gimmick for this place, jazz standards on the box. If nobody plays it then the overhead shifts back to random shit jazz on Pandora.”

Harper walked over to the fake digital Seeburg, pulled a dollar from the front pocket of his jeans, fed it and punched some buttons.

The bartender waited for him to get comfortable on the stool again. “Choice. Except You’re flyin’ solo, bro. Nobody here for you to dance with.”

“I brought a few with me.” Harper dunked a fat onion ring in a mound of ketchup, took a bite. “You have any pepper?”

The bartender rolled the lights down to where the table candles that hadn’t died yet, under bar lights and the neon jukebox were all that lit the room. A pepper shaker appeared in his hand from somewhere, landed on the bar with a knowing nod. “God bless the child that’s got his own,” he said.

“Pepper?”

“Ghosts.”

Bobby B – One Thing Only

Mick was sitting at a weathered Formica kitchen table in a single wide somewhere he could smell the ocean, with his hands cable-tied behind his back. He tried to shake off the hard, backhanded slap, touched the blood on the corner of his lip with his tongue. “Goddammit I told you. I don’t know anybody named Bumble Bee. Why is that so fucking hard for you understand? There. Is. No. Bumble Bee.”

Cletus started to backhand Mick again, Orrin caught his arm mid-flight. “Maybe it’s code.” He shifted his attention to Mick. “Who do you know has two million in a briefcase?”

“See?” Mick tried to focus his hangover and slapped silly glare on Cletus. “That’s a decent question. You should pay attention to the half of you with a brain. A Bumble Bee. With two million. That’s ridicu…Bobby! Bobby B, not Bumble Bee you fucking idiot. He’s got two mill in a briefcase, or he will have.”

Orrin raised his eyebrows at Cletus who was poised to smack Mick again. “You or that ho runs with your brother workin’ on goin’ deaf. Too many Stones’ concerts be my guess.”

“Can’t never be too many Stones’ concerts. Beach boy here be all fucked up an mumbly an shit, and the club’s loud. All that stripper disco, can’t hear shit in there. I told you to watch it about the Stones, man.”

“Mmmm. You hit the man like three, four times for nothin’. Mighta been co-operative early on had you known to ask him the right shit. Now you gonna have to go get him and us some breakfast.”

***

Mick was untied and rubbing his wrists when Cletus creaked the screen door open, stepped up into the trailer and dropped a white paper bag in the middle of the kitchen table. He set a tall to-go RaceTrac coffee in front of Mick. “Breakfast, your highnesses.”

Mick reached for the coffee, got his hand swatted.

“Nuh-uh.” Cletus checked Orrin on the far side of the table, got a nod. “Briefcase story first. Then you eat.”

Mick looked like he was slow roasting bare-assed over hot coals. He wiped the hangover and humidity sweat off his forehead with his shirttail, tried to think of a way not to sell out the FBI agents he’d overheard bitching about their assignment. He needed serious deniability when these two gomers and whatever their plan was went face first in the shitter.

“All I know is two security guards were going red ass on their boss for making them head out to Lafayette on New Year’s Eve to meet a charter on the first. A charter with the two hillbillies from my show on it. The first is today, if you’re keeping up.”

Orrin checked his phone. “The first it is. Chapter two?”

“All I know is Bobby B gets the two mill in a couple of days in Lafayette and takes it someplace.” He’d found a glare for Cletus. “Bumble Bee,” he muttered. “Christ on a fucking crutch. You two Einsteins need to go to Lafayette and figure the rest of it yourselves.” He dug a giant breakfast taquito and a napkin out of the bag, burned his split lip with the coffee.

***

Orrin threw a grease and oil smudged green duffel bag in the back seat of the Cutlass while Cletus checked the oil. “Phone says three and a half to Lafayette from Bolivar. Be there by noon. Even if they red-eyed outta L.A. no way they make it before three or four.” He opened the trunk, motioned for Mick, hands tied behind his back again, to get in.

“I’m not getting in there. If you’re going to kill me, do it.”

“You climb in like a good boy, hang your feet out and let me hook you up,” Orrin brandished a couple of large cable ties in Mick’s face. “Or Cletus can load your ass same as last night.”

“I said if you’re going to kill me –”

“Ain’t killin’ you no time soon, Mick. We don’t know what this Bobby the Bumble Bee or his bitch look like. You do us right an we get the money, we dump you somewhere. Alive. With some travelin’ cash maybe. You fuck us up, ‘coons be eaten parts of you out of a dumpster off I-10 somewhere ‘round Lake Charles.”

“Bobby and Bernie. They’re on my show.” Mick’s voice had gone up an octave, and his face was getting red. “You’ve seen them. You don’t need me.”

“Me an Cletus, we work on cars, we don’t watch Beach Boy motherfuckers work on cars on the TV. Be like Arnold Palmer watchin’ golf or some shit. Shut up, get in.”

***

Bernie knocked on Bobby’s door at the Lafayette Best Western, slipped past him the second he opened it, dumped half a pizza wrapped in a hand towel out of her purse and onto the bed. He started to say something, she put a finger on his lips.

“Shhh. I ordered us a deep-dish pizza.”

“That’s not deep –”

“Shhh. I stopped the delivery kid, tipped him five and said ‘thanks’. I left the box in front of the room it was going to, knocked, and ran away.”

“You stole somebody’s –”

“Shhh!” She made finger quotes. “‘Pizza’ is coming. All the way from Port Barre. The FBI asks, I was hungry for a slice of home.” She grabbed a piece of pizza off his bed, took a huge bite, wiggled her fingers at the towel. “Eat,” she mumbled through the pizza. “So we have crusts to prove it.”

***

“Thank you.” Bernie smiled at the swamp rough, long-haired, long-bearded pizza delivery guy in overalls.

“No ma’am,” he smiled back bigger than he should have, tipped his distressed Dale Ernhardt Valvoline cap.  “Thank you.” He dropped his chin in a slight nod, closed the door without making a sound.

“You didn’t pay him. Or tip him.” Bobby checked the Port Barre gas station pizza box. “They’ll give him a raft of shit, coming all –”

“Not a problem.” Bernie flipped the deep-dish pizza box open, pulled out what looked like an oversized pistol, shoved one of at least a half-dozen clips into it.

“Holy shit, Bern. What the hell?”

“Beretta. PMX. Nine hundred rounds a minute of pure badass.” She flipped the stock open from the side, pointed the PMX at the ceiling, pumped her arm. “Ohhh, baby.”

“Look, if you want the money, wait till I have it and it’s yours. You don’t have to –”

“If I’d wanted the money I would have put one in that pineapple pizza thieving FBI man’s ear when he gave me my Ruger back, taken thirty cents on the dollar for money I could run with. What’s that, six hundred grand? For killing an FBI agent?” She gave Bobby a “no way” head shake. “This baby,” she hefted the Berreta again. “She’s insurance. I trust our two pissy FBI escorts about as much as I trust the government they work for. Micro filament wired or not, two million dollars turned loose for a run across the bayou with our disposable little ol’ coonasses says one thing and one thing only to me.”

“And that one thing only means you need a pocket machine gun?”

“Yep.” She popped the clip from the Beretta, tossed it in the pizza box, looked him in the eye. “You and me and that two million dollars?” She waved the Beretta back and forth between them. “We’re headed for a rendezvous with a world of shit.”

Bobby B – Pledge Drive

Bernie pulled the door open and her loose fitting, wide-legged cotton lounge suit swirled around her. “Hey.” She waved Bobby inside. “You can sleep on the couch over there. I bought it comfy on purpose for Hotel California moments like this.” Bernie caught Bobby’s hangdog expression, screwed up her lips, shook her head. “It’s one night, Boudreaux, not like we’re living together. Lighten up.”

“Right.” Bobby had never been in Bernie’s condo before. He checked out the sleek, brushed chrome, wire and bleached-wood décor of Bernie’s living room, the angular red leather couch that that looked anything but “comfy”, and lamps that all reminded him of modern art sculpture. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but Bernie’s was cleaner and more streamlined than any place he’d ever been except an art gallery.

Bernie’s voice was lightweight actor gravelly when it floated out of the kitchen. “I made some vegetarian pasta with Black-eyed peas in a light, fresh peppered up Tony Chachere’s gravy, and coleslaw you’ll never forget. It’s a day early but we’ll be on a plane tomorrow. Did you pick up the French bread?”

“Yeah.” Vegetarian spaghetti? Bobby didn’t have much choice. He was out of his rented apartment in Huntington Beach, Mick had gone off the radar in Texas and Creighton was in North Carolina looking for Mid Atlantic burger joint investors. What Bobby wanted was to go home. He really wanted it not to be New Year’s Eve without Carrie Louise. New Year’s was something they’d celebrated together since he could remember. In the good times when they were little kids, through the rough times, even last year in the middle of Swamp Vue. Now she wouldn’t answer her phone. And football on the first without Mama Roche’s coleslaw had to be against the law. He set his gym bag on the floor, pushed it down the side of the couch so it looked less like Aqualung in a convent.

“Did you put onions in the black-eyed peas?” He toed the bag back a little further.

“For a fact. Red pearls. I know what I’m doing in a kitchen. It might not be on the table at five for some sweet-lovin’, hard-workin’ man, but when I get to it, I’m all that. You said yourself my trinity shrimp should be on the menu at Mick’s.” She dried her hands on a dish towel, stepped out of the open kitchen. She grabbed his hand and pulled him onto the couch, took the French loaf out of his lap, set it in her own.

“Look, Mr. B.” She smiled like the sister he sometimes wished he had. “Tomorrow we fly commercial to Houston, get on a looks-like-a-charter FBI King Air to Lafayette. We pick up the money and an unmarked escort Tuesday morning, drive over to the Big Red Stick. We hand off the money, drag your sweetie out of her crooked aunt’s office, kicking and screaming if we have to, tell how the hog ate the cabbage. Done deal. Stop worrying. Okay?”

“Yeah…Are you sure she’ll be there?”

“Louisiana girls always know where the competition’s at, Boudreaux.” She smiled again. “What did I tell you?”

“Lighten up?”

“It was an order, not a question.” She popped his thigh with her palm, stood up. “Take your shoes off. I’ll heat the bread, you pick a bowl game. Somebody kickin’ anybody from Florida’s ass, or anywhere north of the Georgia-Tennessee line is good.”

***

“Paris” checked her lipstick, smacked her lips in the mirror of the dancer’s dressing room in a topless bar two blocks south of the Houston Galleria. She hooked a thumb in front and back of the bottom of her holes-hooked-together-with-thread body suit, squatted slightly, tugged and cleared her wedgie. “What’s with the sad dude, Brandi? He looks like somebody I seen before.”

“He’s in one of those car tv shows. He says anyway, right? He’s getting too drunk and I’m not in the mood. It’s a front and back, bend and shake my ass night before my period starts like better be soon, and every time he grabs my shit I wanna scream and slap the whiny bitch. Maybe if he was getting me drunk, but he’s like a major tight ass. Dance, dance, dance. While he drinks and whines and gropes. Happy New Year me. Not.” She tried her own lipstick re-do in the mirror.

“He does look like the car dude, though, you know.” Paris swapped lipstick for a hairbrush. “I seen that show like a thousand times. I was dancing in this place on the two lane, thirty whatever? There outside Tyler? And the bar manager maggot, he like recorded all them car shows on his computer somehow, played them all day. That was before the Cartel dudes kidnapped him. And then this bitch from Charlotte, she like said all them crazy Cartel dudes was coming back to get us girls. So I gassed up at the Exxon where the Wendy’s is at and beat it here. I think the whore was jealous, you know, ‘cause she was like the ugliest bitch in the place. The DJ like paid her not to solo main stage, you know. I think the Cartel coming back was like too deep. A lie, right, to get us gone so she could make some Skittles coin for when her ugly skank ass got home she hit the trailer flying.” She paused, tried not to look too eager, caught Brandi’s eye in the mirror.

“So like, um, if you’re not down for the car dude’s ‘tude and all, I’ll take him, you know, ‘cause after all that shit in Tyler went down I need to bring daddy some money.” She did a both hands, both boobs adjustment, tilted her head side to side, checked them out. “And like my titties aren’t sore yet or nothing, and he ain’t getting to nothing else ‘cause, no offense, who knows where his hands have been.”

“Take him.” Brandi frowned into the mirror, shifted her own lips, side-armed her lipstick across the room and into her locker. “Him and his two million dollars some hillbilly Bumble Bee is carrying around in a briefcase bullshit.”

“Say wha? A bumble bee with two million? Girl, you high?”

“No. All he can talk about.” She shifted into a schoolgirl nyah-nyah voice. “‘Bumble Bee has two million dollars, Bumblee Bee has two million dollars.’ God. You listen to that if you want and get groped out. I’m gonna go get fuck-my-cramps shitfaced at the upstairs bar, lean over the rail and make fun of the rest of you whores till I can tip out of my shift.”

***

Mick stumbled out under the buzzing neon lights and into the humid Houston night, shuffled flatfooted over the crumbling asphalt past the valet parking stand, his left arm around Paris’s shoulder. She had both arms around his middle, her knees bent in a lift-then-drag move. At the far end of the parking lot, out of sight of the security cameras and away from the screaming neon lights, she passed him off to one of two guys standing at the back of a butterscotch and primer gray Eighties scoop-nose Cutlass with the trunk lid up.

She straightened the satin shorty robe over her lace body suit, all she had on except platform flip flops with big turquoise flowers on the toe straps, copped some attitude and got in the handoff guy’s face.

“Da fuck, Cletus. One of you could help a girl out.”

“Da fuck yourself, girl. Oughta be able to carry a man, you want easy money for his drunk ass bad enough.” Cletus eyed the semi-limp and sloppy drunk version of Monterrey Mick. “You sure this the car dude? Looks like one of the Beach Boys, only all fucked up an shit.”

The other guy grabbed one side of Mick, helped Cletus prop him up on the bumper. “What do you know ‘bout the Beach boys?”

“Enough to know this could be one of them.”

“Hell, them dudes is older than dirt. Old as the Stones, even. No way this dude’s that old.”

“Shut up and pay the girl, Orrin. And get off the Stones like now.”

Orrin handed Paris two Benjamins, she took them, spun around, flicked him on the nose with them.

Orrin smacked her butt. “You got two more hours, girl. Better turn that ass into a cash register ‘tween now an then or your daddy’s gonna be pissed he finds out you wastin’ time with us. Go on, we got this.” Orrin held Mick in place with his leg, cupped his hands around a match for the cigarette he’d left hanging unlit during the Mick hand off, watched Paris weave the walk back through the parked cars towards neon wonderland.

“You think this asshole knows a bumble bee with two million dollars?”

“We find out in the A.M.” Cletus clipped Mick on the back of the head with the barrel of his generic 9mm, shoved him backward into the trunk.

“Damn, Clete. Why’d you hit the man? He ain’t done nothin’ to you yet.”

“He’s fuckin’ drunk, an gonna puke up the trunk of my ride. I’d hit him for that later anyway. Now it’s done, I don’t have to do it when it’s later.”

“You been watching that time management woman looks like a Q-tip on PBS again.” Orrin slammed the trunk, walked around and opened the passenger side door. “Must be pledge drive time. One of these days you’ll be watchin’ a pledge drive an all them old folk singers be dead an the Stones gonna be on there in walkers, more wrinkly an fucked up than they are now, all asking for money an shit for a DVD from back when they weren’t droolin’, or a coffee cup with that stupid tongue on it.”

“Only time they play anything worth watchin’ is pledge drives.” Cletus dropped into the driver’s side, waved the 9 at his partner. “Fuck a DVD, I’ve seen ‘em like thirty times. But I’d drop fifty for one of those cups if they had one. Lighten up on the fuckin’ Stones, man. Seriously.”

Looney Lunes #128

WINERY SAYS IT WAS A MOUSE, NOT A RAT, THAT WAS FOUND IN SANDWICH

Headline – Napa Valley Register

I feel a LOT better. Wait. I don’t eat many sandwiches in Napa. But I knew there was a reason I liked wine from Sonoma and Russian River Valley a little better than a nice glass of too sweet, not very dry Napa Valley Queue de la Souris.

Bobby B – Numb Nuts

“Bernadette, correct?” Agent Hyland flipped the pink Ruger over in his hand, briefly looked the attractive, non-TNA, not-in-cutoffs version of Bernie in the eye. “Your license checks.” He offered her the Ruger and the clip. “I’d appreciate it if you would stop shooting bad art to make your point.” He picked up the long, shiny revolver by the barrel. “You, on the other hand…” He stood over where Mick sat hunched down in one of Bobby’s rented-furnished kitchen table chairs. “What the hell is this? A handheld buffalo gun?”

“My father…” Mick dropped his head further, mumbled into his chest. “He bought it. His first shop was in a shit part of L.A. Where jagged Beaners would cut you for paint thinner. It’s been around since I was a kid.”

“We’re going to have to run it. If it’s clean you can have it back. If,” Hyland tapped Mick on the shoulder with the gun, made him look up. “If you sign up for a Concealed Carry class. You may have trouble proving to the L.A. County Sheriff you’re of upright moral character, but they give Concealed Carry licenses away in Texas when you buy a lottery ticket. Reason enough for you to take a little Lone Star vacation, get a grip on yourself.” He handed the cowboy special off to the black agent, who dropped it in a big, zip lock baggie.

“Now that the great standoff in Huntington Beach is out of the way…” Agent Hyland leaned on the briefcase with both hands, gave Bobby more of a fatherly look than an FBI glare. “Do you know what’s going on with your money?”

“Well, what I see varies some months. I figure it’s Junior or Carrie Louise needing something, or a bill for –”

“Your real money, Bobby. The fifteen million.”

“No. I…CL’s Aunt Liz handles that. Why?”

“You aren’t pulling money out and dumping it back in, raising and lowering the ceiling?” Hyland waited, caught Bobby’s blank, open eyed look. “I thought not.” He clicked the briefcase open, spun it around, lifted the lid.

Bobby whistled, just like he had at the butter soft leather in Creighton’s old Porsche.

Creighton checked the contents of the case, then Hyland. “Couple million, close to?”

“Good eye, DeHavilland. Two million on the –”

Mick started up his loud sob. Again. He reached out, turned the briefcase around, sobbed even harder and louder. “Godammit…” Bubbles formed and popped on his lips, tears streamed down his cheeks. “God…Dammit.” He looked around the table at all of them. “God…DAMMIT. That’s mine!”

“Mick,” Agent Hyland put a hand on Mick’s shoulder, “Bernadette and the boys have a plan for you that will put some money back in your pocket, make you whole again. If you’ll find a way to get your shit straight long enough to listen to them. But right now, old buddy, I need you to stop blubbering and go with agents Wilhead and Fryke. If you need to eat, let them know. Doubtful we’ll be able to save you any pizza.” The four of them watched the windbreaker and jeans agents escort a still sobbing, nose blowing Mick outside and off to parts unknown.

***

“So here’s the deal, team. Ms. Evrard, you can read over their shoulders.” Hyland handed Bobby and Creighton a sheet of paper across the pizza boxes, poured himself another chipped coffee cup of champagne. “We’ve already taken two million from Bobby under the guise of Mr. Dehavilland. The documents sent to Vernier stated it was investment money for Monterrey Mick’s burger joint.”

Creighton drew a line from one paragraph on the sheet to another. “You put that money in one of your trust accounts, because you don’t trust us?” He tapped the money with his pen. “Bobby takes this two-mill green back to Baton Rouge?”

“Uncle Sam trusts no one, Creighton. You get Bobby’s money back when this briefcase gets where it’s supposed to go.” Hyland talked through the end of his bite of pizza. “Bobby, you’ll take the cash to Vernier, tell her you changed your mind. You’re a principal in this burger joint deal and two million is a drop in the bucket, why waste it when you’ll get paid anyway.”

Bobby was lost. “Why me?”

“She’d expect you to pull some numb nuts stunt like hand her a briefcase full of money.  And Liz Vernier is already using you several times a week to make money disappear. Mostly her own. She and some partners set up an investment like your burger joint, only it’s not real and never will be. They throw money at it for all kinds of research and feasibility studies that never get done. They shovel money back and forth, pay bills for nothing, send it back in cash and she dumps it in your accounts. After she’s made room for it taking money out and shelving it in a holding account. It’s a big circle jerk that makes money vanish. The write offs as business investment losses reduce her tax burden, the money is gone, but she still has it. Somewhere.”

Hyland wiped his hands on a paper napkin, dumped a packet of ground parmesan on another piece of pizza, checked them all to see if he was registering. “The government doesn’t want to arrest anyone or make a big stink, people. They just want their share of the money. The money in this briefcase is wired to tell a room full of tech geek accountants what Liz Vernier does with it.”

“What happens when they get it all back?”

“Who the fuck knows, Bobby.” Hyland took another bite of pizza, talked around it some more. “They put it in a blind account, turn it into cash and subsidize anarchists for all I know. Our job is to give Liz Vernier this briefcase full of cash so ‘they’ can follow it to the magic money rabbit hole. After that it’s no longer our game.”

Bernie had one hand each on the back of Bobby’s and Creighton’s chairs, leaned in between their heads. “And me?”

“Ms. Evrard, you were allowed to stay because you have a reputation for being smart and overly curious when it comes to money. And you can act a little, if need be. You also have a temper and tactical firearms certification. I don’t want you getting the wrong idea when you see us running money in and out of your burger joint project to catch money launderers, and end up killing these two boys right out from under me.”

Bernie stepped around to the table, looked at Bobby and Creighton out of the corner of her eye, collected all the paper and handed it to Hyland.

“I would shoot them for that.” She leaned over the table, checked the pizza boxes, pulled one her way and frowned. “And now look here, Mr. FBI, I don’t care who your uncle is. If you don’t leave me some of that pineapple pizza, you’ll be going on the short list of shot right along with them.”