Land Run – Say Hey, Neighbor – Part 3

Flash rolled into the abandoned lumberyard and up the ramp into a fifty-three-foot trailer that had bags of gluten and corn free organic dog food painted on the sides. He pulled the battery and ratcheted the Mercedes down like a professional calf roper and jumped off the back of the trailer as the driver started to reload pallets of dog food. Flash stood in the swirling gravel dust churned up by the forklift and gave minimal load directions. It took them under six minutes from the time he’d driven through the gates to locking the trailer.

The driver smacked his gloves together, tossed them in the cab. “GPS?”

“History before I started it.”

“Dead, set and locked down?”

“Come on, Colin. I didn’t start yesterday.”

“No, but you took your sweet time.” Colin leaned on the cab with one hand, unlocked the “Fire Extinguisher Inside” box with the other. He pulled the fire extinguisher, slammed the box door. “Trouble?”

“Met a girl.”

Colin turned his head, popped a grin, elbowed him in the shoulder

“Not like that. A girl girl.

“Worst kind of trouble.”

“She’s not a banger…She’s…different.”

“What I said.”

They split up, climbed into their respective sides of the cab. Flash dropped his leather bag on the console, took the fire extinguisher handoff. Colin lurched the rig through the deserted lumberyard’s gates. Flash unscrewed the bottom of the extinguisher, stuck his hand inside and fished out two waxed paper bundles.

“One-sixty.” Colin hit the ignition on a vape, blew the smoke sideways out the window.  “How many non-target free-styles you pull today?”

“Six?”

“Don’t be cute, you’re a freaking one man white car crime wave in this town. Scanner’s lit up with hot cars. The Lexus I know was you belonged to a city councilman’s wife and they have everybody with a badge that can drive out looking for it. You’re finished here.”

“How am I supposed to —”

“Uber. I’ll drop you someplace civilized.” He chuckled, hit the vape again. “Six? Jeez, Flash. You shopping for a keeper?”

“Not really…” He zoned a few extra seconds, could still taste onion rings through the dust. “But I might have found one.”

***

Harli and Maddie, from their vantage point in the rented black Camaro three parking spaces away, watched Cheryl the real estate agent slam Kevin’s motel room door, climb into a metallic red Lincoln SUV and chirp the tires getting out of the Super 8 lot. Harli thought the Lincoln would be a cool car for Flash to steal. She pushed on her temples with the heels of her hands, God. What was she thinking?

“This isn’t going to work, Maddie. You know that, right?”

“Of course it will work. You could have gone horny college girl, done the Flash til he was stupid and walked out of his room with the cash. Would have saved us some trouble.”

“I don’t do that. Weaponized sex is like so Twentieth Century and reality TV and so not me. Besides, I think he’s one of those weird Unicorn kind of guys who can see that kind of thing coming, and I…Well…”

“You don’t want him to think that about you because you’re not one of me. Got it. Ten minutes. Do you need to pee again? Questions?”

“Do you think the police will get the video from Target of us buying all these black clothes?”

“No one will call the police, Harli. The money is payment for an insurance fraud stolen car. Relax.”

“Will Flash hate me forever for this?”

“Flash will get over it. Anyway, you’re robbing Kevin, not Flash.”

“Black lipstick?”

“What do you suggest for a black ski mask, Harli? Pink? Red?”

“The masks cover our mouths. Our eyes will give us away.”

“Not with these. Party City. White-out vampire contacts.” She tilted the rear view, popped the contacts in, flashed Harli a buck toothed smile. “How you rike me now, Grasshoppuh?”

Harli rolled her eyes. “Talk about Twentieth Century…”

***

At straight up 9 pm Flash carried a Red Dragon branded paper bag from his room to Kevin’s, knocked on the door, raised his voice to delivery driver level. “Red Dragon.”

Kevin opened the door, reached out and dragged Flash into the room, stuck his head back out to look around and Harli cracked him on the head with Maddie’s Browning. Hard, but not too hard.

Shit..OW! The fuck?” Kevin clutched the top of his head with both hands, staggered back into the room, fell on the bed.“Whaaa…Who? Awwwww…Dammit. OW! He pulled his hands down, looked at his fingers. “Holy mother of fuck! I’m bleeding!” Harli raised the gun again and Kevin dove under the pillow. “Take it, whatever you want, but don’t hit me again…Don’t fucking shoot me, either, you crazy bitch. God dammit, OW!”  He rolled onto his stomach buried his head further under the pillow. Awww…Bitch! My fucking head.”

Maddie pushed her way past Harli and Flash, lifted the pillow and stuffed a dirty washcloth in Kevin’s mouth. She had trouble at first with her gloves and the cable ties stuffed in the side of her boot but got organized, pulled his hands together and zip tied them. She motioned to Harli to pull his feet up and in a few more awkward moves they had Kevin cable tied and thrashing on the bed like a prize winning fish in the bottom of a bass boat. In white Jockeys.

“Kung Pao chicken’s getting cold, ladies. Gotta run.” Flash bowed, took a back step toward the door and Harli stuck the Browning in his ribs.

“Yo, yo, yo, sisters of spandex darkness. Guns scare me and I’m wearing my last clean pair of underwear.” Maddie pointed to the desk next to the TV, Flash set the Red Dragon bag down. Maddie motioned for him to open it and when he stepped back she counted fifteen ten-thousand dollar bands. She spun Flash around, rubbed him down fore and aft in the pocket range and came up with the missing ten grand.

“Hey, come on. The rub was quality but it wasn’t worth ten grand. Finders fee, okay?”

Maddie dropped the money in the bag, spun him again, pushed him and Harli out the door. She followed them with the dragon bag and continued to push until they were all in the Camaro. She pulled off her ski mask, shook out her hair, Harli did the same.

Flash didn’t seem surprised to see them. “Which one of you is Bonnie and which one is Clyde?”

“Cute, junior. She tells me you’re a Berkley boy. Can you prove it?

“Is there a latent hippie blood test?”

“Cassie’s Place is what?”

“Since 1964 it’s been a continuous ‘meaning of life’ talk-a-thon coffee bar, upstairs behind Grant’s Market. Cute, smart girls who don’t buy razors or hair brushes until they graduate, guys in stupid round Amish looking hats and designer chuka boots, all flying low on over-priced caffeine wishing they weren’t virgins.”

“Ding! The money for the car is between you and Harli. We’re going to drop you at Lowe’s across the street. Walk back over and unhook Kevin. Act scared like we kidnapped you and threw you out.”

“And then?”

“Then hook up with us in 723 at the Marriott. We’ll order pizza, have some fun.”

“Only if Harli stays in that black leotard. I thought I was falling in love with Bonnie or Clyde, whichever one she is. Was?”

“Shut up.” Harli managed an on the edge of disgusted frown. “Liberal Arts guys fall in love every other week.”

“What about Global Economists? When do they fall in love?”

“They don’t,” Maddie interjected. “Not on my watch. Harli, can we take his lofty bullshit horniness to Lowe’s, please? Before the smell of youth in heat overwhelms me?”

***

Harli stopped the Camaro by the pro door cart corral, Maddie leaned forward, pulled the seat back with her. “Adios, junior. If it takes too long to smooth Kev out, save the walk to the Marriott, we girls need our beauty rest. He might be pissed, don’t let him kick your ass.”

“The last ass he kicked was his mother’s, on the way into planet Earth.” He squatted down, hung on to the open door. “Harli with an I, next time you rob someone, put a clip in the gun. It’s more convincing that way.”

Maddie’s eyes got huge. She raised her eyebrows and they got even bigger. “Sweety?”

“I didn’t want it to go off and shoot him on accident.” Her smile sneaked out again, with a blush building behind it.

“That’s comforting. I think.” He stood, stayed bent into the car. “Order pizza, ladies. Easy on the bell peppers.”

Harli had turned her head, trying to kill the blush, and mumbled at her window. “I don’t eat bell peppers. On pizza, anyway.”

“All that and a black leotard. I knew I felt something tug at my heart.”

“That wasn’t your heart, and you were doing the tugging.” Maddie pushed him away from the door. “You. Beat it. By that I mean leave. Harli? Drive.”

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Looney Lunes #132

I Wasn’t Born In Texas, But I Got Here As Fast As I Could!

Senator Ted Cruz – The whole world’s on fire!

Three-year old-girl – The world is on fire?!

Senator Cruz – YES! Your world is on fire. But you know what? Your mommy’s here, and everyone’s here to make sure the world you grow up in is even better.

From a campaign stop in Barrington, New Hampshire  – The Header slogan is from a widespread Texas bumper sticker. Canada can have him back anytime…

Anybody remember 1972? Watergate? Nixon?
Alice was spot on then, and here we go round in circles.
(You have to wait for the Hilary/Trump fight at the end)

La Soirée Dansante

Young Jackson meets Alix, the French Fairy Godmother, for the first time. The last line references a sign posted on the back of the ladies room door at 1700 Oilman’s Bank Tower. “There are only two things in life that should be hard. One of them is Jolly Ranchers. All else troublesome is merely difficult.”

Three songs into the third set Glenn said he was going to do their slow acoustic version of “Wonderful World,” by request, so everybody but Robbie the bass player got a free break song. Jackson should have gone to the men’s room. Alix asked this time, her French accent caressing her words.

“You would dance with me, when again there is music?” He should have known it wasn’t really a question.

“No. Sorry. I’m working.”

“As am I,” she smiled, took his hand and he was walking out into the dance floor with her. “There is the problem, of you and the girls?”

“I like girls just fine, but —”

“I am the girl most as you should like them, I think. So we dance, no?”

When he heard the intro he took Alix’s right hand with his left, put his right hand on her hip, and pulled her left and back.

Don’t know much bi-ol-o-gee-ee…

“The old fashioned way? I am such the ugly goose? The old foggy?”

“Duck. And fogey. Old fogey. No, you’re not. I don’t dance much, slow dance even less, that’s all. I’ll box step, you add what you want. I’ll try not to let you fall.”

“For such there are reasons? Medical? Mental?”

“When I was eleven or twelve, my parents sent me to this place on Friday nights. Something Soirée.”

Soirée. So bad for you, the party?” He moved her around in a big square, not too awkwardly. It didn’t hurt that she seemed to read his mind when he needed to turn her and her waist was made for his hand.

“Our parents sent us, boys and girls. It was a fake party, a party class. They played records, taught us how to ask a girl to dance. How to bow, how to curtsy.”

“Ahh! Such was I taught. By you also a curtsy most professional was obtained, after such instruction?”

“Not really.” He raised her hand, she spun back into place like she’d never left. “They taught us to be ‘polite and considerate,’ not to run like a herd of cows to the couple of girls back then who already had boobs. I had to learn the ‘important social graces.’”

“Most important I think, not to run at girls with breasts. You learned this well, as you say, to snuck up on the breasts?”

“Sneak up. Yeah, but after that I asked my dad if I could stop going. We were about halfway through. He asked me why, I told him it was boring. I didn’t like it, my mother beat all of that into me already, so I got the polite rules. I missed the second half, the dance lessons. He said, ‘Your mother won’t like it, but okay.’”

“So boring for you, oui? To ask most politely of the girls without breasts a dance, more instruction of the curtsy?”

Don’t know much about the French I took…

“No, the real problem was, well, around then if I even got too close to a girl, held her hand, danced with her, just being that close, I got…Excited, couldn’t control it.”

“Excited? You had the freak down and break out?”

“Freak out, break down. No, I got a banana in my pants, okay? Out of nowhere, there it was. I had on loose dress slacks, it was embarrassing. So I always slow dance this way, just in case.”

“Oh, my love…” Alix laughed, almost tripped. Jackson caught her, and they were in a full-on dip. He could smell her perfume, felt her breath on his neck before he pulled her up. “Only in dancing you become excited, or the closeness les femmes?”

“The closeness, I guess. That summer my mom bought me this way off swimsuit. It was tight, some kind of knit stuff, with orange stripes. It looked like it was painted on, you know, ‘look everybody, here’s my biz!’ It was worse because we’d go to the pool, there were girls in bikinis and the same excited thing would happen. I spent the whole summer in the water, turning into a prune. I got a tan from the shoulders up.”

“The most excited prune, no? With the banana of pants for swimming?” She fell out again. “Would you not ask your mother for the pants of swimming more forgiving in such ways?” She was laughing harder, people were staring at the band guy dancing with the “French Morisé” in big baggy I Dream of Jeannie silk pants.

“Alix, how do you tell your mom, ‘When I walk past a girl I get a chub, I need some jams to hide it’?”

Thank God the song was over. Alix was still laughing when she kissed him on the cheek and thanked him for the dance. Break out and freak down ho-lee shit for real. It was a good thing his underwear was tight because Amanda’s partner was made out of female electricity. He’d only grazed her hip when she’d tripped and that was all it took.

***

“The boy…Your petit amour…” Alix had trouble talking through her laughter. “My champagne?”

“Still here.” Amanda handed Alix her glass. “Why did you ask him to dance? I told the girls to leave him alone, with the exception of Beverly in that two-extra-cheeks-to-powder skirt.”

“Ah, my love. The petit amour? He sees the woman, not the skirt. This, I think, is the boy who visits you, on the day of your phone call most disruptive. Work I must do and Amanda, always most severe, becomes giggles and laughs, the schoolgirl most amused? I decide I must see your petit amour, no? To hear myself as he speaks most cleverly to you.”

“Was that it, the dancing giant’s story? He told you that?”

“No, my love, he told to me stories of a young boy awakened. Of the instruction in
la soirée dansante, and the pool for swimming where he was most troubled by that which is hard and unforgiving.”

“Life is hard and unforgiving, Alix.”

“As is that which is not the Jolly Rancher, my love.”

In the Strongest of Terms

The real world has left Bobby B in the swamp between Lafayette and Baton Rouge with $2 million. So, in the meantime – In my Fairy Tale, the Minstrel Prince and Bookworm Feminist Princess share a pair of Lesbian Fairy Godmothers. One of them is a rich, impatient, no nonsense French lawyer named Alixandrie, who was introduced here

***

Jackson held the door of his apartment for Alix, kicked the pizza box out of her way and picked up the green plastic trash bag Dash should have taken outside.

“Should your mother and Amanda discover how you live, my custody of your welfare would be questioned. My love, the word…encombrement most extreme.”

“Clutter?”

Oui! Your French, it improves! You know of the clothes? How which is to who?”

“I’m the one who doesn’t wear nylon underwear. The jeans are pretty easy to tell, and all the socks go in one basket.”

“A commune of chaussettes?”

“Socks. I know that one. Will you knock it off with the French?”

“My love, the shock. Most severe. I may assist you, perhaps Saturday? I require from you only the protective gloves. As well for the odor, something, yes? In return as now my kitchen becomes beautifully new by your skill?”

“Alix, you can’t come help me clean, and you don’t owe me anything for installing your new appliances. This place? Dash is leaving after Christmas. I’ll make some changes after that happens. I’ll clean it up, you can help me pick some furniture.”

“Oh petite amour how you may survive?  Vous vivez de cette façon et l’étude?”

“Come on Alix, more than one?”

“Ah, forgive me petit l’amour. I have said you live as such and study? C’est impossible.”

“It’s college, Alix. American college, not Deanna’s postcard college.”

“Your voice, the tone of it, how do you say, ‘It sells you out?’ The weight of your worry, my love. Release it. She, I believe, is well.” Alix let the weight of compassion in her comment hang for a moment above the piles of laundry, the pizza boxes, beer and Sprite cans, hoped Deanna’s recent fear and relief hadn’t entered her own voice. “As you ask of me I speak with her when she telephones. We are as thieves that whisper in the night. Amanda, should she discover us, may, as you say, ‘take the big shit.’”

“I didn’t mean for Deanna to be a —”

“Shhh. Certain troubles of women must be shared only with another woman. Even a girl as the Little Jewel has such times. As you, she becomes mine. She belongs to all of Morisé, but time is required to soften and heal damaged hearts. Written on time, the tales of our hearts, no?” She picked up and immediately dropped a pair of jeans, went to the sink and ran water over her fingers. “Kennedy, la petite ballerine who speaks with me in French the times we are together? You have spoken? She has danced Tchaikovsky well, cracked the nuts of Baltimore?”

“She stole the shows, got rave reviews, said to tell you ‘Joyeux Noël.’  The night before she left she got past her big metaphysical facade and told me about what really hurt and after she unloaded she said she felt ‘beautiful’ again. Just before she fell asleep on the couch.”

“Your charms, my love, known well are they not to become tiresome? In your favor, a woman who may unfold her dreams and pain without fear becomes beautiful always.  As also unfolds the towel that does not offend the nose?”

“Second drawer down, on your right. No, your right”

She dried her hands, made a face and tossed the towel into the middle of the room with the scattered dirty laundry. “You will see your mother at Christmas? She worries.”

“No, she’ll be dealing with little brother and his ‘might marry this one, might be pregnant’ girlfriend and that’s too much. You’re the only one who knows what’s really going on out here. What do you tell her that she worries?”

“I fear to describe to her the truth. No, I tell her always of your concern for her and your father. Of your success. Not of the vulgar music, the diet of pizza and fizzy sugar drinks, the most unsuitable petite danseuse who with you destructs my furniture, not of this,” she looked around the apartment, “this…house for the dog.”

“Your coffee table was my fault, don’t blame it on Logan. We were practicing for that stupid dance class, I got my feet tangled up with hers and we fell. You got a new coffee table for my birthday.”

“Pfffft! I have heard in words of your own how you become with la femme in the closeness of ‘dance.’ Destined to become the two of you in a dance most horizontal, no? ‘Dance’ as such furniture becomes destructed escapes even me. And I am French.” She waved her hand in a wide arc at the apartment again. “This…No, no more. It becomes…Intolerable, oui? Come. I desire spicy food and the Mexican biere rouge. No lime. Tonight I discover in it a green pepper most divine I think. We go where you know of the angry men who debate with us what we eat.”

She stepped over the pizza box that kept sliding back in the doorway, kicked it backwards with her heel, turned, looked up and put her finger on his nose. “Saturday, my love. I arrive and make uses of myself. Or before it shall be clean. You are advised. In the strongest of terms.”

Looney Lunes #131

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

The Onion, if you are unfamiliar, is a “fake news” outlet that published, until recently, what seemed to be outlandish, profane and ridiculous “news” stories. Now? Their work pales in comparison to reality…

https://www.theonion.com/

Enter with caution.

Land Run – Say Hey, Neighbor – Part 2

More of ‘Land Run’ and my 20 somethings against the crazy world. There’s a lot of peripheral activity cut to see if these two gel inside the bigger story. I suppose it’s good sometimes to watch sub text like picture in picture.

Maddie reached for her phone on the towel by the tiled, built-in hot tub in the fleeing lawyer’s almost ex-wife’s back patio. More like a courtyard. The house was a big U around the xeriscaped back yard and patio, pool, hot tub set up. Nice grill, too. And a stainless steel baby fridge full of decent chardonnay. There were worse ways to be dumped.



***

Harli watched the city she grew up in go by, north to south. Riding in a stolen luxury SUV, with a guy she didn’t know. “How long have you been stealing cars?”

“Thirteen.”

“Thirteen years?”

“Thirteen years old. Thirteen years and I would have been 10 when I started.” He checked her out the corner of his eye. She’d been talking to the window like she was afraid to look at him. “That was in Detroit, before we moved. I tried to quit a squad when I was fifteen, they didn’t like it, mom wanted me alive a little longer. Like Fresh Prince. Only the Oakland side of the Bay, not L.A., mom came along, and no rich relatives. What about you?”

“Dad. And mom…I was eighteen. Just graduated high school.” She let that hang a few beats. “Ka-Bloooey! Mom said she’d never been so happy. Turned out it wasn’t for me, but because she was tired of my dad’s ‘endless quest for stupid things to with his penis’, and with me out of the house she could finally do something about it. The next day mom called some guy with the biggest pickup I’ve ever seen to come get all dad’s stuff and take it to the drilling company’s pipe yard. She was his business partner, on paper, and she forced a sale on his drilling business. Told him how the money was going to go and he could take the deal or she’d make him out to be the biggest weenie waving hole driller in history and he’d lose everything. He took it. I went to college, Mom sold everything and went to Florida to be a snotty, country club divorcé and Dad went to Mexico to run a high end kink carnival and whore house .”

“And you fit into their reincarnated shituations how?”

“I don’t. If it wasn’t for school, I’d be homeless.” He watched her shoulders sigh with that. “Not broke…”

“But nowhere real to be? I get that.” He tipped the blinker, checked the lane camera and moved over for the airport exit.

She turned away from her window of denial, watched him drive in his state of relaxed vigilance for a few before she blurted, “Have you ever felt like someone launched all the pinballs in your game of life at once, and then walked away from the table?”

***

Flash drove around the airport parking lot one time, scanned each row as he went by, parked the Lexus in the middle. “Stuff your hair in the hat and pull it down.” He handed Harli a pair of big, seventies style sunglasses from the bag, watched her stuff her hair and helped her squash the hat. He pulled his cap down, flipped up the collar of his shirt. “When you get out, look at the ground and follow my feet.”

She stuck to him like velcro. He kept his head down, counted the rows as he walked. On the eighth one he turned right and stopped four cars in. He tapped the handle and the doors unlocked. He dropped into the driver’s seat, entered a four number code on the console. A woman’s robot voice said from somewhere behind the dash, “Entry Validated. Anti-theft disarmed.” He sat back into the seat and relaxed.

They left the top up and kept their sunglasses on because he’d joked that neither of them looked like foreign software engineers or plastic surgeons. A comment that cemented him as West Coaster for her, because where they were it was more likely oilies and crooked lawyers. Which they didn’t look like, either.

Flash was full of easy conversation, had let her talk out her parent’s messy divorce and her loss of a sense of place without placating commentary. He was comfortable with himself, and her, and was becoming addictively fun to be around. For a car thief. The drive-through cherry limeade and onion rings at Sonic that ended up in the shade of a struggling tree in the adjoining WalMart parking lot were an unexpected treat.

She set the limeade back in the cup holder on her side. “You’re still shitting me about your name.”

“No more than you. Harli with an I, Davidson. Hookers are more original.”

“Look.” She handed him her thin, front pocket driver’s license and credit card only wallet. “Harli. With an I, Davidson.”

“I know a guy who prints these. Why’d you go for California? It’s easier to not be you in Ohio or West Virginia, somewhere off the reality index.”

“I go to school in California. Leventhal, USC. Almost a Masters in Accounting. Global economies and all that.”

“Say hey, neighbor to the south. Berkley. Almost Modern Literary and Visual Culture Masters. More like film and lit cross contamination. Nobody knows what’s art and what’s not, so we argue and throw money at the university until the day they say we need to write a thesis and graduate.”

“A liberal arts car thief from Berkley with a crazy fake name. My lucky day.”

You look, my Southern Cal global economist friend.” He handed her his identical to hers front pocket wallet. “See. Flash Lieght. It’s even on my debit card.”

“That’s Leet. Or Late, not –”

“The i-e is like ‘pie’. Lieght. When I was little they called me Lite. L I T E. Like Lite Lieght because I was skinny and…Never mind.”

She knew she was laughing too much and couldn’t help it. “You said you knew someone who could print these. My name’s on my American Express, Lite Lieght.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “So there.”

They handed back their respective front pocket card and license wallets, got in a finger tug of war over the onion rings. He laughed, she blushed and flipped the visor down and checked her teeth in the mirror to hide it.

“This place has always made me feel like I have dust on my teeth. Since I was a little girl. All gritty.”

“It’s the dust and wind combo. That airport parking lot was a sandbox.” He reached for the limeade, too late. “Where am I taking you when you finish the rings and the Route 44 by yourself?”

She pushed the nearly empty onion ring bag towards him and held out the Route 44. “My friend has been driving, but it’s the Marriott, on the north loop, I remember that. And it’s not far from the Chili’s where we stole…” She stumbled over the thought speed bump of car boosting. “I don’t remember the exit but there’s a Lowe’s across the street. With a Starbucks and a Wendy’s in the parking lot.”

“That corner repeats every five miles anywhere you go.”

“Well, I —”

“No prob. I’m in the Super 8 off the same exit.”

“Say hey, neighbor to the north.” She smiled, big. He grinned back before he looked over his shoulder and pulled out into traffic.

Shit. Her stupid, big, happy-girl smile had to jump out on its own. Maddie better not want to shoot this Flashlight guy. It would totally suck if she did.

Bobby B – Too Good To Be True

Bobby kept the micro truck between the cabs of two eighteen wheelers on I-10, out of the corner of his eye he saw Bernie fold out the stock on her Beretta, yelled, “Truck blowouts. Nightmare. Behind my seat.”

Bernie reached down, pulled up a sawed-off 12-gauge pump, frowned. “This is good for ten yards. You want me to throw it at them?”

“Slug loaded. Fosters.”

Bernie pushed the narrow Lexan back window open and caught her first glance of the engine screaming under the Lexan truck bed. “What is this thing?”

“Post Katrina GT40. Kit car. I started a boat –”

“Later.” She’d seen the maroon Monte Carlo sniffing out behind the truck in the left lane. “Can you keep it straight for ten seconds?”

“Ten seconds before or after I shit my pants and my heart explodes?” Bobby nosed ahead of the trucks, straddled the center line easing up on 80.

***

Red Converses pulled out from behind the left lane truck and hung out in the middle of the interstate, forced Cletus to slow down and fall in behind. “They’re pu, pu, pulling away. What’s happening?”

“A gun, I think.” Plaid Pants squinted into the binoculars. “The girl has a sawed-off.”

“Shotgun? What’s that du, du, dumb bitch think she’s gonna do with –”  a hole exploded just off center of the Monte Carlo’s windshield, and it felt like they’d run over a speed bump at 75. The windshield disintegrated into 75 mile an hour quarter inch chunks of safety glass shrapnel until most of it was gone.

Plaid Pants stuck two fingers in the new hole in the seat beside him, saw the same hole in the back seat. “Some kinda bitchin’ ass shotgun.”

Red Converses eased back behind their cover truck. “This was supposed to be easy. Ta-ten, Ta-ten, Ta-ten grand and nobody said nothing about a hot pants girl with uh, uh, a elephant gun.”

“Or that some stupid kid could drive like Richard Petty.”

“I liked some of his songs,” Converses rubbed his chin. “That one, ‘Free-ee Fallin’. Didn’t know he could drive.”

“That was Tom Petty, stupid. It’s about not to matter. We hit the basin bridge with nowhere to hide in a few. He’ll have to drive his way out like you and everybody else.”

***

Cletus pulled back up behind their right lane cover truck, checked the Monte Carlo’s lack of windshield. “Da fuck, O. You see what happened?”

“Somebody in that mutant pickup shot out the Monty’s windshield.” Orrin layed a serious stink eye on Cletus. “You know them fellas? Friends of yours?”

“Hell no, ‘Do I know them fellas’. Da fuck, man. You trippin’ on me now.”

“All that Rolling Stones shit, fucked with my mind.” Orrin turned further around, looked out the back window and pointed. “And maybe you also don’t know your lazy pimp ass brother and the Beach Boy’s stripper be stuck to our ass like cheap toilet paper.”

“You gone all paranoid an shit, O. They can’t be –” Cletus checked the mirror, saw his brother hold up the fifty caliber Smith and Wesson hand cannon. “Fuh-uck me.”

***

Bobby heard bullets plink the Lexan behind them, and then he lost the passenger side mirror.

“About time for the second half of that plan, Boudreaux.”

“Whiskey Bay.”

Bernie looked out past another truck, past the bridge, into the Atchafalaya Basin. “Then you’re damn close to home.”

Bobby squeezed up the middle of the interstate again, looked for a way into the right lane “Where are they?”

“Sideburns is hanging out the window…Shooting under the truck. The Cutlass is out now.” She pulled the back window closed, dropped into her seat, gave Bobby the most hopeless look he’d seen since his Momma left. She looked back over her shoulder. “Kick this thing in the ass.”

He was coming up on a truck trailer at 85, pointed.

She laughed. “What the hell are you scared of? We’re gonna die anyway.”

Bobby parted the line of trucks like the Red Sea only because the trucker’s radios were full of him, and when they saw him coming they moved one side each onto the narrow shoulders of the bridge to let him through. He took the Whiskey Bay off-ramp too fast, spun out at the bottom of the horseshoe turn, continued to spin, threw sea shell gravel up behind them until he was headed for the channel, blew through the stop sign, turned left on 975 and drove like he wasn’t in a 500-horsepower go-kart on a washboard.

Bernie checked over her shoulder for the posse, still wearing her doomsday funk. “Runnin’ out of real estate right quick here, Boudreaux.”

He flew over the cattle guard, past the power tower turnout, hit a hard right at the ash barge loading road, hung left at the barges. A hundred yards further south he pulled the wheel over and slammed on the brakes, skidded sideways on a makeshift sea shell gravel boat ramp and stopped ten feet from the bank of the Whiskey Bay channel.

Bobby popped the gull wings open, grabbed the two-million-dollar briefcase with one hand while Bernie grabbed the guns. He scooped up a small backpack off the ground in the middle of the gravel with his free hand, raised it to a figure in a covered swamp runner floating not far off the end of the ramp. He put the backpack in the small of Bernie’s back, pushed. “Go. Go, go, go!” Bernie took off east through the brush with Bobby right behind her. Twenty yards in he reached out, yanked her down behind a bundle of old concrete form 2×6’s.

“Whoa…Whaaa…Goddammit Bobby,” she hissed. “Why’d we stop? Why didn’t we grab one of those boats? Why —”

“The boat off the end of the ramp? That’s Junior. When the posse shows they’ll think it’s us. Probably steal a few of those Bay Runners sittin’ in the mud and try to catch him.”

“You picked this place?”

“Yep. Why God invented satellites and the internet.” He unzipped the back pack, handed her a pair of brown, waterproof women’s hiking boots, pulled out a pair of his own.

“I was wondering how much swamp I could do in these.” She held up her thin, pink slides, tossed them into the bag. “How’d you know what size?”

“I checked one night when I was sniffing your shoes.” He tugged on his laces, grinned.

“Perv. I knew you were too good to be true.”

“Tie those puppies, girl.” He picked up the briefcase and the shotgun that she’d been carrying. “We have a boat to catch.”

***

The windshield-less Monte Carlo slid to a stop centered sideways at the end of the ramp. Plaid Pants and Red Converses jumped out, walked away from their car back to back, waved 9MM pistols with fat clips in every direction until they bent, one at a time, to check out Swamp Vue baby pickup. Their dance turned Plaid Pants around in time to see Paris over-steer in the shell gravel, broadside the Monte Carlo with the 300 and drive both into the water.

A few seconds later Cletus slid the old Cutlass into the spot where the Monte Carlo had been. Orrin opened the door, racked a round into a Mossberg military riot gun and levelled it at Plaid Pants and Converses. “You fellas shouldn’t stand so close together pretendin’ to be bad men. Fish in barrel.”

Red Converses raised his hands, his eyes flew around the scene like marbles in a shot glass. “We uh, We uh, We uh just need to put some hurt. On the kid. You can have the girl.” He checked his car and the 300 sloshing together in the muddy water at the end of the ramp. “Both girls.”

“And the money?”

“What mu, mu, money?”

Orrin left that in the air, lifted the shotgun a few degrees while Paris pulled herself out of the driver’s side of the 300 holding the Smith and Wesson that was almost as big as she was. She started wading the ten feet to dry ground, snuffling and crying. “TG’s gone, Cletus! His door…I couldn’t…” She looked up at the sky full of puffy Gulf clouds, “God, you made him a cripple, you cain’t let him drown ‘cause of me!”

TG shot up out of the water, shook it out of his scraggly gray ponytail like a wet dog.

“Teagarden?” Paris couldn’t believe he was standing upright on his own power, knee deep in the muddy water.

TG caught the look she was throwing him, threw his hands over his head. “Glow-ree, glow-ree, glow-ree. It’s a miracle. Hal-a-fuckin-looyah, praise Jesus. Lord of –”

“You no good, lyin’ mother —” The kick from the Smith and Wesson knocked Paris on her ass in the mud, the slug lifted TG out of the water and dropped him floating spread-eagle on his back.

“All this time he could walk? Runnin’ us girls like a mule train, feelin’ sorry for..for…” Paris bent over, wretched violently, coughed, spit, turned her head and glared at Cletus. “And you? You knew?” She pulled the huge pistol out of the mud, wrestled it up, saw the goo drain from the barrel and started to cry again.

Cletus laughed, pulled a .45 out of his waistband and raised it in her direction. Orrin wheeled the shotgun around and blew his head off.

***

Bobby stepped down into the two-seater Swamp Vu Scat with the tie rope taut in his left hand. He held out his right for Bernie at the same time they heard the boom from the fifty-caliber pistol almost half a mile away. She stepped down when the shotgun went off.

***

Junior throttled up the swamp runner when he saw the Cutlass driver’s head explode, covered everyone left alive on the landing with muddy spray and roared off in a wide circle. On his way back around a stick of dynamite arced forty feet in the air from the boat toward the muddy landing.

***

Bernie had given up her doomsday funk for worry . “Your friend…The shots. What do you reckon?”

The tie rope Bobby tossed toward the brush landed with the explosion. “I reckon he just got their attention.”