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.”

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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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby B – Way Too Much Fun

Long read- two episodes. Apologies, but they need to go back-to-back. Should have been out on Christmas Eve, but…

“It’s not right, Junior. Nothing is right.” Carrie Louise turned, looked over her shoulder from her seat on Bobby’s porch steps at the empty-but-lit-up-for-Christmas house.

“You’re right.” Eldridge Junior turned to look with her. “About all this, anyway. Never thought we’d get to here. Bobby not being in this house, us scattered all over. Like one of those movies where everybody grows up, gets different, moves away. Maybe they have a reunion twenty years down the road, people cry or get drunk and show their asses. If that happens I’m stayin’ wherever I am, lettin’ it all alone.”

“I saw one on TV like that. Bobby ‘n me were eatin’ his momma’s Christmas pecan cookies buried in ice cream, the year before she left…And all these people were at a reunion or a wedding or something and they got snowed in and it messed up everything. All the snow, and…Shit.” The tears came, Eldridge waited. “It was so cold on TV, and the ice cream…I thought I was cold and stuck my feet up under Bobby’s leg…What was I? Twelve maybe? He was it, you know? My whole world.”

Eldridge put his arm around her, let her cry in silence.

“Junior…Do you ever hear from him? At all?”

“Couple of times a week. Texts, mostly. Some email, not much. You know him. Short and sweet. With the phone he can say ‘here’s my apartment’ or ‘burned the shit out my hand’ and send a picture along. He uses the computer for keeping up with business, doing research, taking online business classes. He says the Internet is the biggest university in the world when you filter the garbage.”

“Why did he just dump me, Junior. What’d I do?”

Junior pulled his arm back and his phone out. “Nothin’, CL. He wonders the same thing.” He scrolled his texts, showed her ‘tell cl hey if she’s not dead’. Here. Nothin’ to it, take a look.”

Carrie thumbed through Bobby’s texts, paused on some, huffed about others, stopped on a few about her and the tears took over.

“See, he couldn’t get you to say anything back to him all summer long when he texted you. When he called, your phone rang into forever, no voice mail. He tried email. Even called that dorm place and some girl said ‘I don’t know you, fuck off’, called him a perv and hung up. The next time he tried to call, the number was out of service.”

“Land lines are extra money, for nothing. So we did shut it off. The other stuff is impossible. He just didn’t try. Aunt Liz says he hates me for being smart and —”

“Last I looked he was paying for both of us to get college educations, get even smarter. And leaving it with us in his no bullshit, I gave my word way. Sure as I’m sittin’ here I watched him, CL, right where you’re at, try to text and call. He figured you just decided he was a dumb redneck and the hell with him and Houma. Just like his momma. You know that’s never set right with him, his momma leavin’. Figure that’s why the lights are up, for you and her. The angel there in the window? That was hers. Bought it when Bobby was a baby. It’s just like the one in your momma’s window. Bobby can act like nothin’ bothers him, but he wouldn’t let a Christmas go by without those two angels.”

“You know that to be certain sure true, for a fact?”

“I do. Bobby called the house, asked Senior to hang the lights for him the day after Thanksgiving. Senior said Bobby told him he didn’t care a damn about the rest of it, but Senior had to find the angel, and it had to go in the window. Senior found a picture in one of the boxes of lights and Christmas goings on that Bobby must’ve used to remember how it all went up, Christmas to Christmas. Senior figured it out like he would do, havin’ told Bobby he’d light the place up. Here we sit.”

“It still ain’t right.” She snuffled, wiped her nose on the sleeve of her hoodie. “Empty and all.”

“Nope.” Junior handed her a Jack in the Box napkin from his windbreaker pocket. “It ain’t. Can future lawyers say that? Ain’t?”

“At home in Houma with friends, and friends who should be here, they can.” She turned to look at the empty house dressed in empty holiday cheer, the angel in the window. “It’s starting to look like everywhere else they can’t. That’s where Aunt Liz and them are trying to keep me, though.”

Carrie Louise pushed herself up, walked across the veranda to the angel glowing in Bobby’s front window.

“What am I gonna do?” She slowly ran her index finger down the glass where the angel had warmed it. “He’s off out there in California and all, driving fancy cars, being around way too many of those pretty girls and having way, way too much fun…”

***

Bernie was laughing when she answered the knock on Bobby’s apartment door. Monterrey Mick pushed her and the door into the wall, lurched into the small living room.

“Mick, what the —”

“Shut up.” He reached across himself with his left hand, dragged her around and shoved her at the round kitchen table littered with wadded up Taco Mejor wrappers, her purse and several open file folders. Bobby and Creighton sat on the far side of the table with three opaque plastic glasses and an open bottle of champagne.

Bernie recovered, shoved Mick’s shoulder. “Look, asshole, I get enough of your shit on the clock.” She started to shove him again, and he pushed her back.

“No, you look.” Mick pulled a ridiculously long barreled, nickel plated wild west revolver out of his jacket. He wavered for a few seconds, like the weight of the gun had altered his balance. “All of you look.” He leveled the TV gunslinger special on each of his targets, moved it back and forth between them. “Two million. That’s all I want. All I ever wanted. Two mill and I’m out of here, nobody gets hurt.”

“That line is beyond stale, even in Hollywood.” Creighton took a sip from one of the plastic glasses. “Christmas Eve, Mick. Money like that is three days away, best case. Besides, you’ll just blow it on hookers and coke and be done inside a year. If it doesn’t kill you, you’ll be homeless somewhere they have zero pity for broke Americans.”

“Fuck that, and you. I stay here and I’m a restaurant? I’m a fucking artist. I turn rusty iron into dreams and you fuckers want to put empty, painted shells of muscle cars in an over-sized gas station with my name on it? Where mom and dad and their greasy-fingered little screamers can watch junior college mechanics slap Bondo on some yokel’s Ranchero? That’s somehow better than killing myself with hookers and blow?”

Bernie shoved her hand into her purse, lifted it off the table and pointed it at Mick. “No you don’t. No, no no. Not this time, buddy. I’ve waited five years for my chance out of cutoffs and off the TNA wagon. No way do you fuck this up for me.”

Mick laughed. “What the hell, Bern? You got a loaded tampon in there?”

Bernie shifted the purse a few degrees to the right and it barked like a Chihuahua being muffled in a fat lady’s arms. Just behind Mick and little to his left a framed starving artist print of rain slicked streets in Paris dropped to the floor and shattered. Mick jumped and the cowboy gun boomed a shot into the floor. When Mick looked up the purse was gone and Bernie had both hands on the grip of a pink Ruger 380 that was pointed straight at him.

Mick checked Bobby and Creighton, couldn’t decide where to point the king size cowboy pistol.

Creighton held up his hands. “We’re unarmed, there’s no money, so you two shoot each other or work it out before Santa and the pizza get here.”

“You don’t get it. None of you.” Mick looked like he was about to cry. “I just want the money. No restaurant, no custom cars, no TV show. No fucking grief. I want out the pile of shit my life’s turned into, and two mill isn’t too much to ask. I made people happy. I fucking deserve it. If it’s a year long funeral procession, I don’t care. Hear that? I. Don’t. Care. Two million doll—”

BAM, BAM, BAM, loud and sharp rattled Bobby’s front door.

“BOBBY B? FBI. WE NEED YOU TO OPEN THE DOOR.”

“Way too much fun now.” Bobby shook his head, raised his voice. “It’s open.”

The door banged into the wall again. Two men stepped inside, one black, one white, both in jeans, t-shirts and blue windbreakers, their badges on lanyards around their necks. They spotted the pink Ruger and Mick’s long, shiny cowboy special, pulled their handguns and modern danced a slow, bowlegged cross step around the room. A tall man in dark slacks walked through the middle of all the guns like they weren’t there, set a briefcase on the table in front of Bobby and offered him a small, relaxed smile.

“Agent Hyland, Bobby.” He scooted the taco wrappers out of the way with the briefcase, dropped it to flat. “You have pizza on the way?”

“Yes sir.”

“Perfect. I’m originally from outside Omaha. Bum Fuck USA. Out where they say boredom breeds excess? And I thought we knew how to cut loose come Christmas time.”

Briefcase man hooked his sunglasses on the lanyard that held his badge, looked around the room. He took in all the players, the guns, the taco wrappers, the champagne bottle. “But I have to hand it to you, Bobby. You throw one helluva Christmas party.”

Bobby B – Shangri La

Bernie slammed the door on Monterrey Mick’s non-TV office, glanced between Mick and the director and lit up the room.

“The hell you two think you’re doing? I turn on the television Thursday afternoon, what do I see?  Boudreaux and the welcome cake and no sooner does he have on a logo work shirt than you two creative giants are doing cut and paste bullshit in post production that makes me look like an easy piece of fuck-me queenie for a drooling hick! Nowhere was any of that in any shot sheet I saw.”

She slammed both palms down on Mick’s desk. “Punch ins of my ass? I get it, even if the other two are the resident skanks. The kid wearing the season dunce cap scaring me shitless with the fuck ups? Okay. All the candid shit you pulled up? That can’t be contractual, shooting me eating roach coach breakfast with your mark like we’re standing on top of each other. In this shit hole I’m a parts delivery girl with a sweet ass, not half of Mad Mods love sick Hillbillies.”

Mick pulled out the worn manila envelope the director had dropped a few weeks earlier. “Five grand make you feel any better?”

“Hell, no. You offer me five then you got ten times that.”

Mick tossed the envelope back in his desk. “Technically he’s your mark, too, Bern. Unless you do have feelings for him.” Mick leered, cocked one eyebrow. “And then, well…Let the wedding bells ring, pay off your Uncle Mick for keeping it shut and bye bye love.”

He let Bernie steam over that for a few. “You haven’t had any luck, Bern. Some of the barely legal porn business you’ve thrown at him that should have blown the top of his head off hasn’t stuck. Is there a reason?”

“He’s used to an attractive, normal tomgirl type who can carry on a conversation and spar with him. You can’t hire those girls.”

“We hired you. You’re an opinionated, over educated ball of tomgirlish eye candy.”

“I’m fully dressed, unfuckable tomgirlish eye candy. Eye candy I can hire. Eye candy that can talk and turn his head? What do you want me to do, post an ad at USC, ‘Needed, hot pre-law female to con rube out of two mill with your blowjob and convo skills. Keep the wardrobe’?”

“That would be a good start.”

“Get over that, to-day. He’s too young for what we had planned. Weddings, phony DNA. He’s a gee-whiz teenage shoe-gazer in a big-time hot rod shop. Your idiot phony suspension man isn’t doing any better than I am. He’s blown an easy five, six grand on topless bars and a weekend in Vegas with nothing to show for it. Even the PCP loaded joint backfired. Read my lips, you two assholes. I’m done with your bullshit. Bobby and me as a con and mark game or an ‘item’ on this series are both over. As of now.” She slammed the door again on her way out.

Mick pulled up his logo golf shirt up, shot his pits with a can of aerosol deodorant from a desk drawer, glanced at the director. “Can she do anything about how you apply the cut shots?”

“She gets paid and whatever we shoot of her on-site and in uniform without going into the ladies room is fair game. We post it however you and me and the Louisiana directorial contingent want.”

“I needed some good news. That lawyer bitch from Baton Rouge calls me once, twice a week to make sure we’re with her program, and the season just opened.” Mick leaned back, exhaled, pulled his man girdle around his waist, ran his thumb down the Velcro strip. “Fucking women with standards and dumb fucks who’ll never be anything but guest stars. Losers, all. I knew separating the kid from his money was going to be up to me.”

“Looks like.” The director stood, reached for the doorknob and it fell off in his hand. He checked the top of the door, judged it for clearance. “The other two women find out you offered Bernie five grand to play the kid’s girlfriend and it’s still on the table? You’ll have to give it up twice or go out in the shop and find a real mechanic, have them put a hydraulic dampener on this door.”

“Maybe I should turn them and everyone they can bring loose on the damn kid, all at once. He’d cave.”

“Could be. Or they’d all end up like Bernie. Boiling shrimp and working for him instead of you.”

“Perfect. Me gone with his money and no worries, him here with my estrogen and overhead headaches? Sounds like Shangri fucking la to me.” Mick adjusted his girdle, pulled down his shirt, popped a Xanax and a thumb-sized vitamin. “I have to pull this gig off, man. Eating rabbit food and listening to women talk because I can’t afford to rent quiet ones is killing me.”

Bobby B – Like Brisket Tacos

Bobby’s mornings in California all seemed to run together. The faux suede couch in his furnished apartment sagged no matter where he sat, and he didn’t want to know about the stains. He’d been making his own coffee since he was twelve, and to save his life he couldn’t figure out the load for the motel size coffee pot that had made asphalt or dirty water every morning he’d been in L.A.

Through the open window he could hear the guys his age with no families or plans laughing when they raised the garage door on the transmission shop behind him. They’d take a technical day off like Thanksgiving to burn a few, open a few and wrench on their personal rides. Bobby knew he’d waste more time today himself at the gas station 7-11 combo on the corner, deciding between a green chili chicken burrito or the two-pack of wasabi egg rolls. Since he didn’t have anywhere to be he might even entertain one of the gut-bomb super size ‘supreme’ burritos.

He watched his Happy Thanksgiving text to Carrie Louise animate itself off the screen of his phone, absently tapped the phone on his thigh and wished he knew why she wouldn’t answer him. That was something he’d work on when the Mad Mods season wrapped. Right now he was living a rental life in a rental world with his suit of armor and radar on 24/7, and it was wearing him down.

Bobby grabbed a light jacket off the hook on his front door, took a casual stroll down the steps of his second floor apartment in the Nineteen-Forties shotgun style eight-plex, daydreamed the way to his car. He almost tripped over the guy in sunglasses and a silk Hawaiian shirt leaning against the car parked behind Bobby’s.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. B. Heard you were looking for an honest lawyer.”

Bobby checked the guy. Prematurely bald, or older than he looked, and the car he was leaning on was a cream-colored classic 1956 Porsche 356 convertible.

“Mick did a car like that a couple years ago.”

“This is it, bro. I went back to stock on the wheels. Those TV car guys, they all fuck up a classic with ghetto rims, even when they don’t flare the fenders. Lunacy. Classic design is classic because it was right the first time.” He watched Bobby like he had him under a microscope. “The car would make you think twice about me being honest. Mitch Gellert, your background man? He sent me. I don’t lawyer like most lawyers, I’m more of a financing matchmaker. I put deals together for lost causes without getting the wrong people involved, do the paperwork, watch the investors’ money.” He waited for Bobby to rub his eyes, wake up some more.

“Mick is hopelessly upside down, Bobby. He bankruptcies, takes a walk, cashes out the last deal and runs, cons you into buying his debt. Who knows? Regardless of his exit strategy, he’s done after next year’s season. Maybe this one. Unless our conversation goes the way I hope it does.” Silk Hawaiian shirt lifted the sunglasses, held out his hand. “Creighton DeHavilland. No relation to the movie star.”

Bobby shook the offered hand, leaned on the trunk of his rental. The man wasn’t too slick, or too calm or too pretty or too soft, didn’t smell too good. Wasn’t any of the things Bobby had come to expect from Los Angeles or the boat show posers, business thieves, con artists or any of the damn lawyers he’d met.

“That sucks, about Mick. I had a plan for Mad Mods. A partial plan, anyway.”

“That’s why I’m here. And why you’re done with Elizabeth Vernier rubber stamping your business ventures and cutting you loose to run them out of your pocket. She’s a bitch with a long term agenda. One that doesn’t involve you.”

“How do you know —”

“We’ll get to that. Are you tangled up emotionally, real or imagined, with the lovely not-a-real-parts-girl Bernadette Evrard?”

“No. I mean, I don’t know if we’re friends or if she’s a misdirect or even authentic. I’m trying to play it flat, like Mitch told me. See it all, and wait.”

“She is who she says she is. And she’d like to like you, as a friend. Something about you cutting her some slack, being a sweetheart instead of a dick. Could you work with her?”

“If it was straight, hell yeah.”

“Good. She’s smart and has half a plan herself. If she’d fuck her way into the entertainment business she could start in prime time. She doesn’t want screen time, though, short or long term. She wants management.” He pointed finger pistols at Bobby with both hands. “For that desire to benefit us all, I need to redirect both of you to an entertainment vision beyond the ends of your noses. Let’s go eat breakfast.” He dropped his sunglasses back down, stepped around the side of the Porsche. “Been to Malibu yet?”

“Nope.”

“You can eat sting ring chili and fire starter fart tacos for Thanksgiving breakfast?”

“Sheee-it,” Bobby snort laughed. “No reason for today to be all that different.” He ran his hand across the vanilla colored leather with red piping that covered the seats of the Porsche, whistled softly and opened the door.

“I had high hopes that you were a man with an open mind. Serious about the food, bro.” Creighton checked over his shoulder for traffic. “Top is down because it makes me fart just thinking about it.”

“You fart in these?” Bobby poked the side of his seat for emphasis.

“Good as anywhere. Like brisket tacos, you know? I figure if the cow is past worrying, so am I.”

Bobby B – I’m Not Pouting

“Carrie Louise, you need to listen to me.” Liz Vernier parked the red Caddy SRX on a side street behind a high-end shopping center, turned toward her front seat passenger.  “It’s Thanksgiving. I need you to put on a happy face and stop pouting. You’re on the way to your future, I need you out of your past. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am.” Carrie Louise watched her Aunt Liz walk into the bakery that was so swank it didn’t have a sign, turned to the back seat. “I’m not pouting, Momma. It doesn’t feel right, that’s all.”

“It’s not right. Your Aunt Liz’s book isn’t the cover. Never has been. There’re things bubbling around inside her would make one of those vampire cannibals in an old swamp house movie a trip to Disneyland. The fact that Bobby is nowhere to be seen at Thanksgiving for the first time since either of you could sit up by yourselves is testament to that.”

“If Bobby gave a damn he’d call or text or email. His Face Book isn’t him, it’s all set up and run by some company for SwampVue, and he never sees it. He’s jealous about college and me on my way to being somebody and he can’t get past it. That’s what Aunt Liz says.”

“Bullshit, little girl. You and that boy have each other’s blood running through the both of you. What Liz wants is you. Why is between her and God. And I think if she doesn’t drop either of those $70 pies before she gets back to the car we’re going to see the plan unfold eating Thanksgiving dinner with the circus act that’s Francis Guillon and family. If he can keep his zipper up and un-medicate his wife out of her Stepford daze long enough for either of them to lift a fork.”

“Momma, you shouldn’t say things like that. He’s a state senator and Aunt Liz says he’ll be governor and that there’s room for me at her law firm when I get out and maybe on his staff and —”

“Little girl, you’re just like she was. All big talk and big ideas. The problem with where you think you belong is that you get there over the graves of other people’s dreams. You believe anything she says about you, or Bobby or do-gooder slime-ball politicians or me or anybody else you need to add ‘blind and stupid’ to your resume.”

“Damn, Momma, I’m your daughter. She’s your sister.”

“Don’t I know it. Get out, be ready to open the door for her. She makes all that money and can’t remember to take her remote to open the hatch.” She caught her daughter’s shoulder from the back seat. “Carrie Louise, you’re near full grown and out of my house and plenty old enough to hear me say this. Watch your back. Mark my words, Bobby being gone and wherever this road we’re on today is headed is all about Elizabeth Roche Vernier. One of these days, when you step in something that looks like gold and smells like shit, don’t say your momma didn’t warn you.”

***

Liz Vernier stood in the Guillon guest house kitchen, her arms folded. “I’ll take care of the televison, Frank, forget it. Get to the issue.”

Frank Guillon stepped gingerly around the guest house living room where what had been a 40 inch flat screen TV was just a frame over the fireplace and black glass covered the couch, coffee table and floor.

“Well, it won’t hurt you. They’re cheaper than lobbyists these days.” He crunched his way to the kitchen island, set his beer down, leaned on the island towards his son. “What I want is the story. How did you fuck up with the girl right out of the gate?”

“Dad, I didn’t fuck…” He threw his hands up, started to walk off. “Shit. My fault. I fucked up whatever it was, like always.”

Liz caught his arm, turned him back. “I want the story. Then we’ll decide if you get to do self pity.”

Sean knew he could walk his dad. He checked Liz Vernier and survival instinct kicked in.

“Look, I just said, ‘Let’s take a walk, let the oldies beat it by themselves’. We came out here, got a couple of beers, I turned on football and she went bitch about not watching football with me because there was only one way to watch football and I wasn’t in that universe. I said fuck it, hit the guide looking for Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods Thanksgiving Marathon and maybe catch the new season kickoff. So I click on it and she’s calling the chicks stupid bimbos and shit and she screams ‘BOBBY’, like she saw somebody she knew. She said, ‘I know him! That’s Bobby!’ And I laughed and said ‘You don’t know shit about anybody on Monterrey Mick’s’ and then the smokin’ babe that delivers parts, right? She’s like doing the walk and this guy makes hot chick eyes and she drops the box on his tool cart with a fuck me wink and KABOOM. Carrie threw her beer at the TV and was screaming about how this Bobby dude was a fucking slut. I told her that was way wrong, dudes can’t be sluts. She ran out the door, and surprise, surprise, surprise. Here you are.”

Liz waited a few beats, looked Sean over, let a small sigh escape.

“Get over yourself, Sean.” She leaned way into his space, lowered and leveled her voice. “Your father is a rich, demanding asshole politician. They go hand in hand, rich and demanding asshole politician. Know that and live your life around it until it’s your turn. Go tell Carrie Louise you’re sorry about whoever Bobby the slut is. Make her a bowl of ice cream and keep your mouth shut. Be invisible, but be there.” Liz watched him slump back to the house, picked up Frank’s beer, decided against it.

“This is why he needs her, Frank. She brings the passion he doesn’t have, but he intuitively knew which completely stupid redirect call to make after she’d pissed him off, and has the Teflon skin of a lifelong victim. Those two traits make him genetically perfect for politics. If she could stick her hand far enough up his ass to move his mouth we’d have ourselves the youngest Southern president in history.”

“If you say so.” Frank finished his beer and clanked it in the kitchen trash. “Are you still going to buy me a television?”

She glanced over her shoulder at the narrow guest house living room covered in glass.

“We have forty grand in the old one. I hope new ones are as cheap as you say they are.”

Bobby B – Gator Bait

I said something about way back story. Got asked about it. Here’s a Double Trouble Bobby B and Carrie Louise freebie, out of timeline original draft of the first chapter. 

Carrie Louise screamed for all she was worth. That, along with the first round from the shotgun, cleared the birds from the surrounding trees. Bobby saw the look in Carrie Louise’s eyes, couldn’t look down at where he hoped his feet still were, and waited for the explosion from the second barrel. CL was shaking so hard she couldn’t pull the hammer back. Bobby took a second, glanced down in time to see the snake that had dropped from the Spanish Moss canopy into their space slither through the new hole in the bottom of his dad’s old flat bottom swamp skiff. He heard CL scream bloody murder again when she couldn’t make the sawed-off shotgun work. He grabbed it away from her just before she launched it into the swamp after the snake.

Bobby had no idea how deep the water was, but he pulled on his dad’s waders, tied a knot in the shoulder straps while the boat slowly settled toward the water line. Carrie cussed non-stop between screams. He stepped out into water waist deep on his average, almost twelve-year old frame. His dad’s waders were up to his chin, so unless a snake slopped over the top they were good. He sloshed a few steps toward Carrie Louise.

“When I turn around, climb on my shoulders, baby style.” He gave her the most serious look he could find, handed the shotgun back. “You see a gator, holler. Let me shoot. Got it?”

“Okay. But you can’t drop me. You can’t.” She shook her head, looked over her shoulder in the direction the snake had taken off. “How far is it?”

“As far as it is.”

He knew his dad would raise hell about the trolling motor, took his bearings so he’d remember where they were. Once dad knew the water wasn’t very deep they’d be back to get the motor, take it home, dry it out and rebuild it in the garage. His dad would drink beer and direct, Bobby would wrench, Momma would put some vodka in her coffee and read the latest and greatest from the library where she worked and pretend to watch them like she cared. While whatever was in the oven turned black.

***

Carrie Louise climbed off his shoulders onto dry ground and started screaming again when Bobby waded out. Another snake, its fangs embedded in the thick rubber heel of the waders, had taken a ride with them. Bobby saw CL point the shotgun at his foot, and screamed with her. She dropped the shotgun and took off down the finger of two lane ruts that cut through the swamp. Bobby picked up the shotgun, put the barrel against the snake’s head and pushed until the snake lost its grip and recoiled away. He had one shell in the sawed-off swamp boat gun, and he might need it for more than a snake dumb enough to hit waders.

***

Sheridan Wylie peered over the side of the Terrebone Parish swamp patrol boat at the two stragglers walking up one of the bayou’s land fingers.

“I do declare. Carrie Louise Roche and Bobby Buisson.” Sheriff Wylie was a little overweight in a uniform and life vest that fit a couple of years ago, giant aviator shades and a smile that took a dip on the right side from a long-ago knife fight scar. If he was smiling. If he wasn’t, he was scary as all hell.

“When I got the call about two kids with a shotgun wandering the Mauvais Bois, I thought maybe I had me some lost poachers or the next Bonnie and Clyde. What do I find out here but Houma’s own double trouble.” He lifted his cap, wiped his forehead. “Howsome-ever, you might crack that shotgun open and hand it to me, young Mister Bobby. Go a looooong ways toward keepin’ my blood pressure under control. Case one of you is Bonnie or Clyde.”

“Yes sir.” Bobby broke the sawed-off open, offered it butt first to the Sheriff. “Sorry.”

“Think nothin’ of it.” The Sheriff unloaded the unused shell, dropped it in his pocket, set the shotgun on the dash. “You can give that gun I don’t know is the wrong side of legal back to your daddy after I’ve carried you two home.”

He helped Carrie, and then Bobby, step off into the boat. Handed them both a life vest and idled the boat around.

“I’m gonna troll slow now, ‘cause I need y’all to tell me one a hell of a stow-ree. Better have a gator and a witch and a toothless coon-ass pervert or two in it, ‘cause bein’ as we’re out here and all, I’m stoppin’ at the marina for a ring-of-fire hot link and some of Louella’s fried shrimp bites. On the Parish dime. And I’ll need to write me up a nice report when I get back to justify rescuing two kids who should know better than to blow a damn hole in the bottom of a boat.”

***

Sheriff Wylie dropped them at a makeshift dock on Bayou Black across the street from Bobby’s house, Bobby went home, Carrie Louise huffed off to her house next door. She came back fifteen minutes later and banged on the screen door to Bobby’s kitchen. She’d been crying, most likely from a Momma Roche ass chewing. He toed the door open and she shoved a plate at him. He eyed the huge slice of peach pie and rapidly losing form in the heat whipped cream.

“Momma says she guesses thanks for saving me from being gator bait. I told her it was snakes, but she said thanks anyway, even though a Houma girl dumb enough to blow a hole in a boat mighta been justifiably left behind. And to say I’m sorry about your dad’s boat and scaring you shitless with the shotgun and almost blowing your foot off.” She heaved a big sigh. “She’ll see that we make it right, when we can.”

Bobby could feel the sadness coming off her, along with some leftover steam from how mad she’d gotten when he and the Sheriff laughed about her blowing a hole in the boat and not killing the snake.

“I’ll tell Daddy I did it, you tell Momma R not to worry.” He shrugged, took the pie plate. “Dad’ll drop a couple M-80s to run the snakes off so I can fish the motor out pretty easy. And it won’t be as bad a dumb-ass sermon as telling him I let a girl beat me to the snake-and-gator gun.” He grinned, held the door open for her. “Come on, CL. Pie this size needs two forks.” He saw her frown start back in the right direction.

“You sure? About the boat and all?”

“Yep.”

Sure sure?”

“Yep.”

“Like certain sure?”

“CL, do I look like I’m standin’ here changin’ my mind?”

“No…” She stepped past him into the kitchen, opened his fridge. “So I guess that means you have a couple of new shots of Cool Whip or maybe some ice cream in here to go with that extra fork and this big ol’ piece of my momma’s pie?”