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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

James Blakey: The Final Chapter

ym_94_finalchapter_cfawcett.jpg
Art by Cynthia Fawcett 2022

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.

 

 

 

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. 



Cynthia Fawcett has been writing for fun or money since she was able to hold a pen. A Jersey Girl at heart, she got her journalism degree at Marquette University in Milwaukee and now writes mostly technical articles about hydraulics and an occasional short story or poem on any other subject.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022