Yellow Mama Archives II

James Blakey

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Zumpe, Lee Clark

THE FINAL CHAPTER

 

by James Blakey

 

 

Junior pointed to the sign with black letters on a yellow background. “What about Waffle House?”

“Have you ever been in Waffle House?” Reggie asked.

“All the time. They have the best hash browns.”

“Ever notice who’s eating?”

Junior shook his head.

“First, you got your permit-carrying rednecks, waiting to play Rambo and blow you away,” Reggie said. “Then you got your brothers who don’t bother with no permits and will still blow you away. In the unlikely event that no one eating is packing, there’s the staff. The cook will brain you with a frying pan. Seen videos of it on YouTube.”

The light changed, Reggie depressed the gas, and the car lurched forward.

“If not Waffle House, then where?” Junior asked.

“Starbucks.”

“Starbucks?” Junior scrunched up his nose. “Their coffee tastes burnt.”

“We’re not ordering any coffee. It’s the clientele I’m interested in. Moms gathered for their book club, sporting the latest iPhones. Folks on laptops doing remote work from home, but not from home. Writers, sitting on fat wallets, grinding out their million-dollar screenplays.

“And none of them, especially the skinny baristas behind the counter, will fight back. They’ll smile and hand it over. Very civilized.”

“Clever, Reggie.”

“And stop calling me Reggie. I don’t want that slipping out during the job. From now on, it’s Vic.”

“You got it Re—I mean Vic.”

Reggie pulled into the crowded Starbucks parking lot. A little too crowded. Only opening was the handicapped space. Reggie didn’t want to park on the street, making a long run to the car. He backed into the empty spot.

 

Junior objected. “What if some disabled person needs to park?”

Reggie shook his head. “No one’s coming. If they do, we’re doing them a favor. They won’t get robbed.”

“Smart, Reggie.”

“Victor. Remember, I’m Victor. Better yet, don’t say any name. Yell ‘Hey, you!’”

The two slipped balaclavas over their faces and entered the coffee shop.

Reggie waved his gun in the air. “Nobody moves and nobody gets hurt.”

Junior slipped behind the counter and emptied the register.

Reggie proceeded along the near row of tables, filling a canvas tote bag with wallets, watches, tablets, and phones.

At the end of the row, a man sat clutching a laptop to his chest. “You can’t take this.”

“I assure you, I can,” Reggie said.

The man shook his head. “You don’t understand. My novel is on here. Three years of work. A hundred and thirty thousand words. I’m editing the final chapter.”

“You must have a backup file,” Reggie said.

The writer shook his head.

“What was your plan if the hard drive crashed?”

“I know, I know.” The writer shrugged.

Reggie looked around. Junior was finishing his row.

Reggie said, “I’m feeling charitable. You have one minute to email the file to yourself.”

“The laptop’s Wi-Fi is busted,” the writer said. “Do you really want to steal this thing? Won’t get much for it.”

“Don’t care.” Reggie motioned with the gun. “Give it.”

“Reggie?” Junior asked. “We ready to go?”

“I told you not to call me that.”

“His name’s not Reggie,” Junior shouted to the patrons. “It’s really Vic.”

Reggie muttered, “Fantastic.” To the writer: “Hand over the laptop.”

“Let me buy it back from you,” the writer said.

“With what? I’m taking your wallet.”

“Buy it later. I’ll give you my number. Text me.”

“I’m taking your phone.”

Junior said, “Reggie, I thi—”

“I told you”—Reggie turned to face his partner—“not to call me tha—”

The laptop struck Reggie’s skull like a hammer against an anvil. He crashed to the floor, the pistol slipping from his hand.

The writer picked up the gun, holding it with a shaky hand. “You’re not taking my novel.”

Junior dashed out the door.

Reggie climbed to his feet, hands up, backing away. “Take it easy.”

“That novel is my life.”

“Keep it.” Reggie raced out the door.

The crooks gone, the writer put down the gun, and inspected his laptop. He prayed he hadn’t damaged it when he clobbered the crook.

No parking, loud customers, now a robbery. Always a problem when he came to Starbucks.

He should have gone to Waffle House.

 

 

 

THE CRISP-R CONNECTION

by James Blakey

 

“Destination reached,” the GPS announces.

Vito maneuvers the Lincoln into the unpaved lot next to a softball field. Late model Accord in the far corner, near the concessions stand, parked under the sole streetlight. Too dim to make out the color.

The Lincoln bounces toward the car. Need to get new shocks. Vito parks fifty feet away, high beams on the Honda. He rolls down the window. Dry wind blowing down the desert. He twists his head left, then right. No one else around.

Vito slips on a pair of surgical gloves, struggles to get an N95 respirator into place. He gets out, taps the Glock in his shoulder holster, strides toward the Honda.

A kid—twenty-five, Dodgers long-sleeved T-shirt, needs a haircut—leans against the driver’s door, lost in his phone.

Vito stops ten feet away, clears his throat.

The kid giggles at his phone, doesn’t look up.

“Hey!” Vito’s voice, full of malevolence, cuts through the mask and the wind.

“Huh?” The kid’s startled, drops his phone, goes to grab it.

“Freeze!” Vito pulls out the Glock.

The kid stops, bent over, like an upside-down capital L.

Vito says, “Stand up, slowly. Then back away from the car.”

“It’s kind of hard to hear you through that mask.”

Vito shouts, “You won’t have trouble hearing anything ever again if you don’t back up!”

The kid straightens, takes one shaky step backward. “Sure, but wh—”

“No talking.” Vito waves the gun. “Keep moving.

When the kid’s twenty-five feet away, Vito motions him to stop. Vito peers in, around, and under the car. No one. No weapons. He grabs the phone, new Samsung, from the ground and slips it in his pocket.

The kid says, “What are you doing? I still have four paymen—”

“After our business is concluded, you can have it back,” Vito says. “You the one with CRISP-R?”

“Yeah, I’m Bra—”

“No names, Christ! Where’s the stuff?”

“Got it in the trunk.”

Vito’s eyes flick to the car. Sweat breaks out on his forehead. He licks his lips and takes a step back. “That safe?”

The kid shrugs. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

Vito, with the Glock pointed center mass, says, “Slowly take out your keys and toss them over.”

Vito catches the keys, double-clicks the fob. The trunk pops.

“What do you think?” The kid beams like a first grader with a perfect report card.

Vito squints. Bunch of plastic trays. Some clear. Others white. “What the hell is this?”

“Crisper drawers. Keeps your fruits and veggies farm fresh. I got all the major brands: Frigidaire, Whirlpool, Kenmore.”

“This a joke? I want the thing that slices and dices DNA. You do work for ChromosomoCorp, don’t you?”

A look of pride crosses the kid’s face. He stands straighter, puffs out his chest. “Sure, I run their Twitter account.”

“Twitter?” Vito feels the acid eating away at his stomach lining. The Serb won’t be happy. “Get over here and into the trunk!”

The kid shuffles to the back of the car and shakes his head. “I don’t think I can fit with all the merchandise.”

Vito jabs the gun into the kid’s gut. “Figure it out!”

Trays clatter on the ground, and the kid climbs into the empty trunk. “This, okay?”

“Lie down.”

“Look, I don’t really run the account. I’m only an intern. Sometimes they let me post on weekends. If you have a complaint, you can contact my manag—”

Vito fires three rounds into the kid’s chest. Red stains turning Dodger Blue to a sickly purple. He slams the trunk closed.

Before leaving, Vito kneels at the pile of drawers, sorting through them.

“Huh, GE eighteen-by-twelve replacement tray? This will finally get Angela off my back.”

Vito shoves the mask in his pocket, slips the tray under his arm, walks to his car.

 

THE END

 

James Blakey lives in the Shenandoah Valley where he writes mostly full-time. His story “The Bicycle Thief” won a 2019 Derringer Award. When James isn’t writing, he can be found on the hiking trail—he’s climbed forty of the fifty U.S. state high points—or bike-camping his way up and down the East Coast. Find him at www.JamesBlakeyWrites.com. 



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