Share Your Short Story – Winner for March — Who Me? Hell Yeah! From Stevie Turner’s Indie Author Site –

No. Really? Me? Yes. And thanks to Stevie Turner’s site, her competition, and just for reading my story. Liking it enough to win is icing. Thanks to all the other writers as well. Don’t want to bounce around the ‘net? The winner is HERE.

Wow, I’m getting quite a lot of interest in my monthly competition now, with the result that I’ve had a few more entries – 16 this month! Do take some time to read all the wonderful stories I’ve been sent. As usual it’s been hard to pick out a winner and runner up. This month […]

via Share Your Short Story – Winner for March — Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

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Mini – When a Little is a Lot

I swore I wouldn’t do the music thing on this blog. Too late now. The device in the picture above saved, and changed my life in 1973. Mine was Mini Moog Model D #1273. I can remember that, but the rest of the mid 70s? Regardless, it’s now $4.99 on the app store. From Moog Music.

Enormous debate rages among purists over whether old is better than new, if software emulations are really any good. Dr. Bob took Arturia to task when they brought him their software version, showed them what a real one looked like on a scope, told them when they had that to come back and he’d sign off on it. They did. I have their app as well. And Moog’s Model 15 Modular. But, as anyone who ever owned one will tell you, ain’t nothin’ a Mini but a Mini.

Here’s the deal on that debate. I spent an afternoon a thousand years ago with Dr. Tom Rhea, the man who wrote the original Mini Moog manual. The book I was unable to understand when I bought my Mini. Oscillators? Modifiers? Huh?Who cares, when I do this it sounds like seagulls, and, dig this, now they’re tympani! Add an echo? Gone, baby gone.

What I learned from Dr. Tom was that no two instruments are ever the same, whether they’re made out of dead wood and wire or transistors and wire. He proved that to me by the two of us playing a dozen different Moogs in three product categories. Wetter, warmer, grittier, brighter, buzzier, tighter, sloppier. No two instruments were the same, no two pitch wheels or ribbons behaved the same way. All musical instruments are like snowflakes and fingerprints that way. But without all the side by side they were very similar, and with a little tweak one could be the other. Almost. An Earth Wind and Fire funk bass or an ELP lead could be had, though, without differentiating between is it “real or is it Memorex.” Old or new. Mini is Mini.

And the other noises this thing makes? Some may be similar and/or predictable, but never the same. Unless you save the program, something we couldn’t do in ’73. I often wonder about that. A couple of days down the road even now, you reload a patch and think, “Hmmm, that’s not quite what I thought it was…” Probably because your head is in a different place, or the humidity is up, or…

After 45 years of hearing them, I find the arguments pointless. An instrument is an instrument. I plugged a USB controller into my iPhone, loaded up this $4.99 app and went down Alice’s magic rabbit hole until the battery died. Does “my” new Mini sound any different than everybody else who will download one? I don’t know. How tight are Apple’s tolerance specs? Do I care? No. Because this app behaves like the real deal, isn’t $3,500 like a “new” one, or $7,000 like a “vintage” one, or even the $1,491 in 1973 dollars I paid for my original. Or the roughly $400 for a “boutique” clone or the damn single oscillator Moog Mother 32 I own that drifts worse than a circa 1970’s model.

Why do I mention this? Because as soon as my phone is charged I’m gone down the rabbit hole. Again. If I don’t come back I’m the guy under the bridge with headphones, a solar phone charging hat and a “Wil Mak Space Noyzs 4 Fud” sign. It may not be real, but it’s all that for me. I’d say maybe if I stay under the ‘phones long enough the mid 70’s will come back to me. Nah. And I wouldn’t want them to. “I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.”

 

Land Run – Say Hey, Neighbor – Final Installment

Kevin’s throbbing head, the low whine from the chartered Gulfstream’s fans and the dust the wind kicked up off the tarmac had turned his pitch to Cheryl into a whiny duet with the idling jet. The briefcase with over five million dollars inside did a little dance between them every time Cheryl tugged on it with both hands and Kevin pulled it back.

“There’s no good reason why we can’t take the same plane, Kevin.” Cheryl almost got the briefcase away from him. He yanked it back hard enough to get it away from her and clutched it to his chest.

“Yeah, Kevin.” Maddie checked her lipstick in the bottom of the tube. “The three of us again. Mile high club? Do you just not like women, Kev, is that it? Or is it that little patch of gauze on your head that’s the problem? Not today, darling, I have a headache?”

“I like women fine and I do have a fucking size twelve headache, thank you very much. What I don’t like is women who crack me with a gun, stuff a soapy washcloth in my mouth, cable tie me into a pretzel and rob me.” He was genuinely indignant in the way only a ‘life is a fabric softener commercial’ lifetime California bud head could be. He looked at Cheryl, pointed at Maddie. “And I think that bitch standing next to you was one of them. I know she was.”

“You know nothing of the kind. She had her way with you earlier, without cable ties or hitting you on the head. You stashed the one-sixty somewhere and now you want to take the rest of Randy’s money you’re responsible for and disappear. Get on the plane. Now. Or give me the briefcase and go wherever horny, dickless stoner fucks like you go. Your weak bullshit about getting whacked on the head and losing Randy’s car money was past it’s sell-by date before you finished spewing it the first time. And that shit, like this jet, won’t fly without the briefcase.”

“You are mad about the hot tub. Your boobs are between you and me, Cheryl. I didn’t mean it like that. I mean the massage never happened, Randy doesn’t need to know about me and your boobs and a little stiff and sticky in the hot tub. He’s going to be pissed enough about the car money…” He couldn’t think of a better plan than the lie that stepped on his dick about two flights, which admittedly had been stupid. All he could do now was show up in Acapulco with the money, propose his undying love to Randy’s about to be ex Lora Lee, bribe a pilot and split on a midnight charter to L.A.

“I thought if the plane went down, Randy is stuck down there with nothing. He’s hooked me up on this deal, so I hadn’t planned on screwing him, I was thinking of his, uh, welfare.”

“My ass. You first.” She grabbed his arm, turned him toward the Gulfstream’s boarding steps. “Maddie?”

“Right behind you. You don’t know how much I appreciate you two letting me tag along. I’ve always wanted to see Acapulco. Bumpers. What kind of place is it again?”

“You’ll be right at home, Maddie. Trust me.”

Maddie hugged them both from behind, pinched their butts while the attendant raised the steps. “Going home sounds like so much fun. God I love to meet new family. Don’t you?”

 

***

Harli stuck the phone in her bra, stuffed her carry-on in the overhead bin, slid into her seat and stared out the window. There was no reason to feel like she did. She and Flash had split the money and the pizza, Maddie had left them alone and they’d talked. A lot. That’s all. Until Kevin called from the ER for Flash to pick him up. He’d smiled his car thief smile, said, “Bye, neighbor to the South,” squeezed her shoulder like she was a girl bud. She pulled off the Niner’s cap she’d “forgotten” to give back and got a little wistful. Jesus, she’d spent yesterday riding around her home town in stolen cars with a stranger, whacked a guy she didn’t know on the head with a gun and committed armed robbery with her Dad’s top erotic retreat hostess. On the way to Summa cum Laude international finance grad students didn’t do things like that. Well, not until yesterday.

“Miss Davidson?” The flight attendant who had been starched into his clothes and shaved with a new blade twice checked the small slip of paper in his left hand, wrestled her bag out of the overhead and backed down the aisle to let her out. “I need you to come with me, please.”

Her heart sank. They’d been busted. For all of it. The stolen cars, the money, the head whack. All of it. That asshole her dad knew hadn’t liked her attitude about the surcharge and had called her out. Shit. She could feel her glass ceiling getting lower in real time. Nobody wanted a convict accountant except politicians and other convicts. She shouldn’t have worn the Niner’s cap. That was it. Security had spotted her. She thought about trying to cry her way out of it.

“Where are you taking me?”

“First Class, Miss Davidson. Your ticket was upgraded at the counter. Don’t you remember?” He smiled like he owned three dentists and wanted his money’s worth.

“Right. Forgot.” She hadn’t done anything at any counter, but whatever. First Class wasn’t jail. She sat where the flight attendant pointed before he took her bag and stacked it neatly in a closet close to the front. It was harder to see the baggage guys practicing their long-distance loading techniques from her new window, but she could see the pilot talking to the light stick and headphone people. She felt someone land on the other side of her first-class console, caught a faint whiff of a nice, light cologne. Probably some money-guy suit on the way to Acapulco to see her dad and his “hostesses.” She hoped he wasn’t a talker. And dammit, who would be texting her?

He poked her arm. “Saw you go to the restroom twice, think about a huge cookie five times before you got on the plane.”

“Shit! What are you —”

“I can’t miss this one.” He handed her a cellophane wrapped chocolate chip cookie the size of a cow pie.

“Yeah? I thought you were out of clean underwear, art poser.”

“I was. I’m functionally artsy. I can do laundry and shop a little.”

She broke off a piece of the cookie, handed it to him. “A cookie bribery car thief stalker with domestic skills following me to Acapulco? Is this part of a master plan?”

“Not yet. The essence of man is to be, not to plan.”

“God, Berkeley has rotted your brain.”

She switched her phone off. Dad could sit on that one for a while, she had a takeoff hand to hold. And it had to belong to a freaking car thief working on a liberal arts masters. Her dad was going to kill her. Her mom might commit suicide.

She decided a single seat in first class was big enough for both of them, if they stretched out. She needed to tell him when she climbed over the console that she drooled in her sleep sometimes. So he should get a towel in case she passed out on his shoulder.

Bobby B – Helluva Deal

The last we checked in with Bobby, he and Bernie had escaped into the swamp with the two million dollars, Bobby’s friend Junior had launched a stick of dynamite to bait the bad guys into following him, the body count was going up and all sorts of hell was being raised on the normally quiet dirt road running parallel to the East Bank of Whiskey Bay Channel.

Orrin saw the unmistakable smoke and sparkler signature of a waterproof fuse attached to an orange stick float out in a high, slow motion arc from the enclosed swamp runner on steroids, yanked Paris up out of the muck where the landing met the water. He tossed her behind the Cutlass like a rag doll and dove in on top of her. He heard the dynamite thump on top of one of the cars sloshing in the channel and covered his ears.

A car door slammed about the same time the rain of car debris stopped falling and he rolled off Paris onto his side. The bearded man in nothing but boxers and untied work boots walking toward them with a semi-automatic pistol in his hand didn’t look happy.

“What the hell y’all doin’ down here?” The pistol flew up, popped twice. Plaid Pants grabbed his left upper arm, howled and threw his gun twenty feet in the air. Boxers and Boots raised his voice to command level and directed with the pistol. “You ain’t hurt. Get on over there with other three. All of you, hands on your heads.”

Red Converses, Plaid Pants, Paris and Orrin lined up, hands on their heads, across the back of the Cutlass that had started thumping from inside.

“I asked y’all a Goddam question.”

The thumping in the Cutlass’s trunk got louder and it started to rock.

“Whoever has the keys, raise one hand.” Boxers and Boots motioned to Orrin with the pistol. “Open it.”

Orrin unlocked the trunk, grabbed a handful of dirty Hawaiian shirt, lifted Mick up and pulled the duct tape off his mouth and from around his wrists and ankles. Boxers and Boots had a split-second star struck moment.

“Monterrey Mick? Sweet baby Jesus. I never…”

Mick ran his tongue over his lips and around inside them half a dozen times, spit, held his index finger up at Boxers and Boots, turned his attention to Orrin. “Anybody dead?”

Orrin kept nervous eyes on Boxers and Boots’ pistol. “Cletus. And his brother.”

“His brother the no good lyin’ pimp assed motherfuc –”

“Shut up, Paris.” Orrin still had his eyes on Boxers and Boots.

Mick rubbed his jaw where Cletus had smacked him a couple of days ago. “Cletus is no loss. Probably runs in the family. Bobby and Bern?”

“Gone.”

“Fabulous. Who shot who?”

“Whom, TV star. And never you mind. Nobody here gonna cry at their funerals.”

Mick started toward Boxers and Boots, got the pistol pointed at his chest. “Come on, I’m the fucking victim here. If you watch my show you know Bobby B and Bernie.” Mick made a quarter turn, waved his arm at the mud splattered posse leaning on the Cutlass. “Bobby and Bern are in deep shit. They have two million dollars in a briefcase, and this clueless crew of gap-ass dumb fucks wants to take it away from them. Last time I saw either of them they were in whatever the fuck that mutant baby pickup is.”

“I wanna believe you, Mick. But Bernie and Bobby B and two million dollars showin’ up on the WB channel in a retarded little Swamp Vue pickup and disappearin’? That’s a load of grade A prime shit right there.”

“I’m telling you, it’s –”

“We don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no money,” Plaid Pants elbowed Red Converses. “Ain’t that right? We was hired to make the swamp rat not wanna come home no more. See?” Plaid Pants sneered, gingerly pulled a four-inch knife out of his pocket with two fingers. “I’m an artist.” He slowly waved the knife around like a New Orleans street magician until the two fingers turned into a hand hold. “There’s parts I like to peel like a grape ‘fore I cut ‘em off.” He laughed, underhanded the knife hard and fast at Boxers and Boots who stepped to his left and put a bullet in Plaid Pant’s chest as the knife whizzed past. They all watched Plaid Pants bend backward onto the trunk like a hard hit punching clown, slowly come back up.

“Right handers…step…right…”

“Right handers who don’t know any better.”

“Well…” Plaid Pants’ face contorted into resolute acceptance. “I’ll be fucked…” He did a slow, forward fold onto his knees that ended in child’s pose.

Red Converses put a toe in Plaid Pants’ ribs, pushed him over. “Suh, suh, suh so you will.” He looked in turn at everyone left standing, shrugged. “Nuh, nuh, nuh now what?”

***

Boxers and Boots returned their unloaded guns, tossed Orrin’s bag of grenades, ammunition and dynamite from the back of the Cutlass into the bed of his about to be ex-truck. “Y’all barged into my trailer, overpowered me, stole my truck. You get a cold ride to Baton Rouge to do whatever, I get a new truck.”

“How you goin’ to explain us overpowerin’ you with a bullet from your gun in a dead man?”

“Ain’t too worried about that. Heard Mick say somethin’ about Bobby B and Bernie goin’ to see Liz Vernier with that two mill. This shit’ll get whitewashed six ways from Sunday to keep her and hers out of it.” He stepped away from the pickup, gave them a lazy salute, and a wink. “There’s a woman in that trailer back down the road be happy to hit me up side the head with somethin’ before I call y’all in.” He kicked the side of the truck bed, waved them off. “Git. Troopers stop you, you’re on your own.”

***

“Let me get my head around this. I hit you with something, you get a new a truck?” Boxers and Boots’ wife scanned the kitchen. “Because you handed your old truck over to some whack-o’s so they could go shoot up a crooked lawyer’s office in Baton Rouge? That’s a helluva deal.”

“Yeah it is. Not too hard, babe. Just enough to make it believable.”

“You always told me cops can tell if it’s faked.”

“Yeah, well, blood and a likely injury, not like some dumb ass stabbing himself in the –”

She side-armed the closest thing on the counter, an electric can opener, accelerated her sidearm until the can opener collided with the left side of his head. The plastic shell around the can opener shattered. Boxers and Boots crumpled. She giggled, covered her mouth. “Oh my God…Honey? You need to trade for a new truck more often.” She looked at what was left of the can opener in her hand, giggled again. “And when you come to? You owe me a new can opener.”

***

“Fo-show?” The State Trooper leaned an elbow on the glass topped dinette table in Boxers and Boots’ kitchen, scratched his temple with the end of his pen. “What kinda coonass shit is that?”

“F-A-U-C-H-E-U-X.” Boots and Boxers had put on a t-shirt and cargo shorts, and held a blood-stained dish towel full of ice cubes on the left side of his head. His wife stood behind him with her hands on his shoulders and tried to look worried.

The freshly shaved blue suit and aviator shades interrupted. “Faucheux? Pre-Katrina Nola narcotics Faucheux? Muthafucka, you see Faucheux yo ass goin’ down fo sho?”

Boxers and Boots nodded.

Blue Suit tilted his head toward the front door. “Talk a walk, Trooper. This is Louisiana Bureau business now. Faucheux, let’s go sightseeing.”

***

Blue Suit and Faucheux leaned against a very bland, very black government issue Dodge Charger and watched the hazmat-suited forensics take hundreds of pictures of the scene while a pair of wet-suited divers swapped profanity with a wrecker driver trying to get the sloshing cars chained up and out of the channel. The Swamp Vue pickup was already gone.

Blue Suit nodded slightly toward the channel.

“The two floaters?”

“Don’t know.”

The pause said Blue Suit wasn’t sure he liked that. “Our deal was you tell me everything, I sanitize it. If certain parties can use any of this to their political advantage that’s a bonus. This whole thing is so transparent that for me to fix it you need tell me exactly what happened here. And I’ll tell my people and State Farm what they need to hear. How you’re a decorated, retired first responder who’s lost a step and how much good press and state-house grease they’ll all buy for themselves when they accept my report and deliver a shiny new pickup to your trailer.”

“Don’t know names.” Faucheux whipped the ice cubes out of the bloody towel, wiped his ear and stuffed the towel in his front pocket. “They told me the one on the right was a crippled pimp till he almost drowned. His sudden rehabilitation didn’t sit well with a stripper he’d been runnin’ who shot him with his own hand cannon. The one without a head must have tried to avenge his brother and was too slow. The greaser’s on me. He tried ‘I can throw a knife faster than you can shoot me’ when my weapon was out. He was good, though. Coulda killed a Boy Scout or a probie.”

Suit snorted. “The state have your weapon’s ballistic fingerprints?”

“Yeah,” Faucheux pulled the towel and wiped the trickle of blood running down his cheek from his ear.

“Take a propane torch to that piece, go deep on the swamp and lose it. Bad guys thumped you before all this happened, stole your weapon and your truck. What about the Swamp Vue toy?”

“Don’t know. Heard it, that’s what woke me up. Fuckin’ thing was NASCAR loud.”

“You see the kid or the girl with him?”

“No. Or the two million dollars they’re supposed have.”

Blue Suit’s pause was back.

“Straight up, Bureau. I’d know ‘em if I saw ‘em, and I wouldn’t forget an up close and personal view of Hot Pants Bernie’s backside. Mick said –”

“Mick is the kidnapped TV hot rodder coke head who’s gone Patty Hearst and is now armed and dangerous with the rest of them?”

“He’s still kidnapped. He asked them to dump him somewhere there was hot food and a clean place to shit before they got crazy again. I doubt if he knows a bullet from his ass.”

“Any good guys get killed believing that I’ll be back.”

“I’m telling you he’s out of it. He’s the one who pointed them at Liz Vernier’s office so they’d cut him loose.”

“Shit. That’s where this is going? Vernier’s?”

“Sooner or later the kid and the money have to be there. Part of some deal. I thought you knew –”

Shit. You forget anything you heard about Vernier and the Swamp Vue kid.” Blue Suit ramped up some angst, opened his car door. “The story here is two brothers got sideways, killed each other over a stripper and an unlucky road raged greaser got caught in the crossfire. Happens every day.” He dropped into the driver’s seat of the Dodge. “Questions?”

Faucheux wiped his ear again. “Amazon has electric can openers, don’t they?”

“They probably have electric ass wipers. Jesus. Fucking can openers?” Blue Suit shook his head like he was clearing it. “I gotta blow, you’re walking. We understand each other, ‘fo sho’?”

“Yeah, yeah…‘fo sho’.” He wiped his ear again, watched the Dodge kick up gravel and dust. “Stupid little prick.” He checked the towel for fresh blood. “You’re Goddam right ‘Jesus fucking can openers’.”

Looney Lunes #134

Who Says?

I read a great article from an editor about how to feel about editing. It was good. She used “literally,” which isn’t a crime, and she used it correctly but it usually falls into my expendable word pile. And she “essentially” says to ignore what you don’t want to hear. I agree, to an extent. That article is from Literary Architect

I also watched a Lifetime movie. Talk about fondue…I digress.

What I want to know is, with all the rules and formulas out there, what is “right”? Said only? The other day I read “said is dead”. Unlike the heart of Rock n Roll I believe it. Check this out – randomly Googled scene builders and breakers dialogue tags –

articulated ejaculated narrated phonated recounted related sounded told uttered verbalized vocalized voiced accounted alleged assumed conjectured considered deemed estimated gossiped held reckoned regarded reported rumored supposed thought aloud announced communicated expressed mentioned equivocated sung sang spoke pronounced broadcast / ed disclosed divulged noted prevaricate / ed asseverate / ed (Thank you, Elmore Leonard) acknowledged argued claimed came back defended disputed mewled explained parried pleaded rebutted refuted rejoined remarked retorted refused returned sassed barked squealed screamed shouted retaliated enunciated pronounced mouthed off professed swore exclaimed sighed whispered chimed in stated spat drooled murmured

If you suffer from stilted dialogue, or fear dialogue you can write the most trite shit ever uttered, add one of those evocative tags and find an adverb to support it. Or –

 

 

 

 

 

Rodney whipped a nickel plated nine out of his shoulder holster, and with no mercy in his eyes he leveled it at Martin’s nose. “You say ‘show don’t tell’ one more time, Imma kill you, motherfucker.”

He professed, sternly.

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Looney Lunes #133

A Thousand Word Picture (Really)

In Revising Prose rhetorician Richard Lanham called for “translating the Official Style into plain English.” Simplified it comes down to finding the epidemic of “catalog like monotony” of multiple prepositional phrases strung together without a direct verb. Glued together with the weakest verb we have, “is.” He asserts that it has become criminal to state a situation for what it is without a lot of flowery gobbledygook that goes nowhere. He repeatedly, from students to published peers, finds ways to insert an active verb into a string of “of” and turn 35 words into 11. “Noun centeredness…generates most of our present day prose sludge.” He wrote this in the 70s.

Why do I post this? I have been bombarded of late with mystics and gnomes and fairies and wise travelers from the stars and desert islands who all speak like a combination of the Old Testament and any B grade 1940’s pirate flick. Attacked by dialogue stiffer than an Oxford cloth shirt fresh from the cleaners. By stories full of travelogue scene setting while a character takes a walk and internalizes the last scene just to be sure we, as readers, got it. Tell and ‘splain with the rusty light pole at the corner of 47th and Crishaven and Tony’s deli where they don’t know my name. Full of “is” and “of” and a prayer stringing it all together like a redneck’s Christmas lights.

Rant over. The book, should any of you who write care, is Revising Prose by Richard Lanham. The man can “Break it dowwwwwn.” Word by useless word. Thus it’s essentially like just an awesomeness casserole of basically cool word whatevers for ye.

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 while 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.”