Flipping through action figures, Kallie failed to find the Ewok her son wanted and came a split-second away from pulling the rack to the floor, her side-eye catching another woman approaching from the left. A rich bitch in a hot pink linen dress. Her purse and heels matched her outfit, and her long brunette hair carried the fresh scent of hairspray.
Leaving the store, Kallie pretended to have something stuck in her sandal when the automatic glass doors slid open.
Return of the Jedi had been showing at the Southland Cinema for months, and the Ewok that Kallie’s poor little C.J. had set his broken heart on was nowhere to be found in Terrebonne Parish. In a population well over a hundred thousand, someone had to have that damn Ewok.
Digging beneath her big toe, Kallie watched the rich bitch flip through the figures.
“Which are you looking for?” she asked, getting to her feet. “Sorry. I’m Kallie.”
“Sheila,” the bitch said, but her smile was genuine, her dark brown eyes ignoring Kallie’s Daisy Dukes and Saints tank top. “I’m trying to find Boba Fett for my son.”
“How old is he?” Kallie asked.
“Bobby?” Sheila said, resuming her search. “He’s six.”
“That’s adorable. An only child?”
“For the moment.”
“I have a seven-year-old,” Kallie said. “He’s looking for the Logray Ewok.”
“Well, the Ewok’s right here,” Sheila said, offering the figure.
“No,” Kallie said. “That’s Chief Chirpa. My son’s looking for Logray.”
“Oh,” Sheila said, studying the toy in her hand.
“Does Bobby have Logray?”
“I know he has an Ewok,” Sheila said. “I’m just not sure which one.”
“Well, good luck,” Kallie said. “Nice meeting you.”
The A/C cranked, Kallie smoked a joint to “Billie Jean” on Bayou 97 FM in the Sears parking lot and watched Sheila unlock the door to a shiny new Lincoln with the night-blue exterior reflecting the mid-July sun.
Soon as Sheila reversed, Kallie shifted her ’78 Grand Am into drive.
Her husband had insisted on a red—a bad move as the color made Kallie stick out like a sore bobo while tailing Sheila to McAllen Drive in the new subdivision of Summerfield near Bayou Black.
“Her son has an Ewok,” Kallie said at home, “but she didn’t recognize the one in her hand. I say we go tonight.”
“Need a drink first, babe. Where’s the little guy?”
“In his room playing,” Kallie said.
Ed liked his Wild Turkey after paving streets with a shovel for twelve hours—a couple of glasses at least before he switched to Miller Lite. His paychecks covered the bills and they had enough in savings to where Kallie didn’t have to work for now, but they spent their nights in the West Gardens Mobile Home Park. Ed was a trooper about it, but Kallie resented the increasing number of blacks and Sabines becoming new neighbors.
“Long day, babe, and for the millionth time, I’m not a racist like you.”
Ed had been a big deal up in Foxborough where he grew up, making it as far as backup center for the New England Patriots. Having enjoyed his local fame in excess, he’d gotten himself cut after his rookie season, and his pity party had brought him down to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop where he met Kallie and paid her tab.
Feeling fucked up the next morning, Kallie had dumped her boyfriend on a payphone and promised Ed a brighter future in Terrebonne.
“There’s seriously something south of New Orleans?” he’d asked.
“An entire oil industry,” she’d said.
She’d given birth to C.J. within the first year of Ed moving down. Her new hubby had fit right in on the offshore rigs as promised but kept losing jobs because of partying. Ending up with a contractor, the alcohol seeping through Ed’s pores didn’t make a difference if he could use a shovel.
“So how are we doing it this time?” he asked, popping open his first beer. “‘Cause sorry, babe, but the Mardi Gras masks are leaving a pattern.”
“Fine,” Kallie said. “I’m thinking those stupid Aints bags that rich fucks wear to the games.”
They waited until midnight. Ed stayed in his work jeans and threw his arms into his Iron Maiden long sleeve while Kallie suited up in the camo she wore for duck hunting.
“Still think my outfit’s cute?” she asked.
“Let’s just go,” Ed said, buzzed and exhausted.
He owned a second-generation Bronco, and the grinding brakes drove Kallie nuts. Ed was good with cars, could change the pads and rotors himself but kept putting off the work using “quality time” with C.J. as an excuse.
“Just teach him, already,” Kallie would say. “There’s your quality time.”
With Summerfield still in development, Ed and Kallie found a wealth of vacant lots between the one and two-story brick houses to choose from, all uncut aside from the few framed up. They parked in front of one on Wellington Drive, pulled the brown paper bags over their faces, and dug their fingers into dirty gardening gloves.
Armed, Ed and Kallie crossed over to McAllen and rang Sheila’s doorbell before fleeing like two kids playing ding-dong ditch.
Making it back to the weeds across, they dropped on their bellies and watched the porch light come on.
A thirty-something bald guy in tighty whiteys and an undershirt limped outside never once glancing at his yard. He went straight for the curb, looking up and down McAllen before his brief glance in Ed and Kallie’s direction.
He waited at least a minute after limping inside to turn off the porch light.
“Geaux Tigers?” Kallie asked.
Ed helped her up. “Geaux Tigers.”
They rang the bell a second time and hid behind the front bushes against the Old Chicago bricks.
The porch light came on, and Ed rushed in for the tackle when the door opened.
Casually, Kallie came in and locked the door behind her.
Ed got to his feet and stuck his Beretta 92 in the thirty-something’s face. “Do as I say, or my partner kills your wife and child. Nod if you understand.”
To Kallie’s surprise, the man brought down in his foyer wore a decent poker face, nodding once beneath his five o’clock shadow.
“Your name,” Ed said.
“So, Bobby’s a junior?” Ed asked.
“Wait,” Robert said, looking at Kallie. “How do you—how you know us?”
“We know everything about your family,” Ed said. “Look at me.”
He brought Robert to his bare feet with a beckoning sign and brought him to the living room with the Beretta jammed into his spine.
“Call Sheila,” he said. “Calmly.”
Robert cleared his throat. “Sheila, honey? Can you come out here?”
Kallie aimed her Winchester 12 at the hallway near the Zenith, and Sheila appeared wide-eyed in a purple bathrobe.
“Don’t do it,” Kallie said, inching closer. “One sound and Robert’s dead. Understand?”
Sheila covered her mouth, her swelling tears falling against her fingers.
“Just stay calm,” Robert said.
“Trash bags,” Ed said. “Grab one.”
“We don’t keep cash in the house,” Robert said.
“We’re not here for your fucking money,” Kallie said. “We want Sheila to go into Bobby’s room and gather his Star Wars toys.”
“His—toys?” Sheila asked.
“Bring a flashlight,” Kallie said. “Put his action figures in the bag.”
Sheila took more than ten minutes to get the job done, and Kallie had imagined most of that time wasted by a frantic mother doing everything in her power to not break down in her son’s room.
“Call the cops or tell anyone,” Kallie said, “and we will kill you, but Bobby and Robert first while you watch. Understand?”
In a split-second of anger, Sheila squinted at Kallie, and Kallie slapped her.
“No,” she said. “We need you to say you understand. We have cops and Feds in our pockets and there’s no one you can go to without us finding out.”
Nodding along to Kallie’s lie, Sheila sobbed into her hand until Kallie slapped her again.
“Get a grip,” she said.
“We have to show ‘em,” Ed said. He pistol-whipped Robert and watched him fall to an oriental rug before pulling a pink washcloth from his back pocket. “You’re gonna need to bite down on this.”
Using his steel toe boot, Ed applied pressure to Robert’s weak leg.
“No,” Sheila said. She fell on top of Robert. “Please. We understand.”
Ed turned to Kallie. “Geaux Tigers?”
“Geaux Tigers,” she said.
Ed kept his headlights off until Southdown Mandalay Road leaving Summerfield.
“Stop at the filling station,” Kallie said. “I want to search the bag.”
“Wait ‘till we get home, babe. Don’t know why I have to keep saying it, but we’re fucking dumb for leaving C.J. behind. I mean—it’s a miracle he hasn’t woken up yet.”
“Look, I get it,” Kallie said, “but I’m not taking our seven-year-old to rob houses.”
She wasted no time at home, dumping toys on the kitchen counter. Sheila had thrown in some Hot Wheels and Legos, and Kallie stepped on the lid to chuck the extras.
Sorting through the Star Wars figures, she found the same Ewok that Sheila didn’t recognize in Sears.
That ignorant rich bitch.
“Sorry,” Ed said, massaging Kallie’s shoulders.
She poured two glasses of Wild Turkey.
“It’s back to work at all,” Ed said, taking his drink.
“Easy for you to say, Ed.”
“Okay, so you get up in a few hours and shovel all day,” he said. “I’m more than happy to hang out in toy stores.”
Kallie took her first sip. “Let’s not do this. I don’t want a repeat of last night.”
“I mean—I’m at peace with that now,” Ed said. “I swear. I just—had to get it out, you know? Whatever. The Pats were as bad as the Aints in those days.”
“At least the Pats have gone to the playoffs since then,” Kallie said.
Ed yawned. “Go ahead and finish mine.”
“Cheers first,” she said, raising her glass.
“To what, babe?”
“No more waiting,” Kallie said. “Weren’t you saying earlier you had to fill up the Bronco?”
Lines at gas pumps under the Carter administration had been a nightmare but allowed the local bayou economy to boom. Things had changed as promised once Reagan took office, but offshore drilling had slowed down, and people in Terrebonne were losing their jobs, their homes, their businesses.
“Yeah, I got out just in time,” Ed said.
“That’s one way to put it,” Kallie said, taking his glass.
“Don’t stay up too late,” he said.
C.J. woke up for his Golden Grahams in his Archie Manning jersey and Kallie surprised him with storm troopers.
“No Logray?” he asked.
She shoved his cereal box into the pantry. “Don’t be ungrateful, C.J. I told you. Santa might bring Logray if you’re good. Now, eat your breakfast before it gets soggy. I have errands to run so might be late picking you up from day camp.”
Ed and Kallie hit four more houses in August, but with no progress made, they pulled the trigger on an older target that they’d originally decided against.
Val Verdan was rumored to be at the top of Terrebonne’s crime chain according to Kallie’s pot connect and owned the mansion on Savanne Road that she’d followed his wife to from Sears.
“I don’t know the names of the Ewoks,” his wife had said. “I’m just browsing, but my husband makes sure our son has everything he wants. Does yours?”
It had taken everything in Kallie’s bones to not break the nasty bitch’s nose right there in the store.
“We’re bringing the little guy this time,” Ed said.
“Not happening,” Kallie said.
“He can handle it, babe. Come on. Meet me halfway on this one and I’ll teach him how to change those brakes. First thing on Saturday morning after his cartoons.”
Kallie waited until midnight to wake C.J. up and gave him a second to rub the sleep from his eyes.
“We’re taking you to one of Santa’s secret mansions,” she said.
“Right now?” he asked, his beautiful brown eyes coming to life.
“Right now, sweetie. Wear your hunting outfit. We’ll match.”
Ed, Kallie and C.J. sang “yeah-yeah” to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” on the ride along Bayou Terrebonne.
The bridge coming up, Ed put his left blinker on and shook his head when reaching the three-mile stretch of shells that made Savanne Road.
“Really great for the tires,” he said. “Yeah, the boss man needs to get his ass out here.”
Closing in on the Highway 311, Ed pulled over about twenty yards shy of the intersection and turned to C.J.
“We’re on foot from here, little guy.”
He and Kallie held C.J.’s hands when crossing to the residential side of Savanne.
“See the Big Dipper?” Kallie asked, pointing at the Southern night.
“Why are we bringing guns?” C.J. asked.
“Santa has stalkers and we need to stay safe,” Kallie said. She let go of his grip to stroke his thick black hair. “Think it’s time for you to see the barber.”
Parked at the end of the long driveway to the Verdan Mansion was an Oldsmobile Cutlass.
“Would you look at that?” Ed said. “Red’s not such a bad color, after all.”
“That’s not theirs,” Kallie said. “I mean—it could be, but the bitch’s Mercedes and the BMW are missing.”
Ed walked C.J. behind the brick framed mailbox.
“Stay here, little guy. We’ll be right back.”
Halfway up to the empty carport, Ed and Kallie hid their faces. Gloves on, they found a large stack of firewood next to the shed.
“Geaux Tigers?” Kallie asked.
“Geaux Tigers,” Ed said.
He knocked on the kitchen door and hurried to Kallie’s side behind the logs.
A maid of French Créole descent came to the door, confused. She stepped out and approached the driveway, unaware of the danger closing in from behind.
Ed tapped her shoulder and pointed her back inside with the Baretta.
She broke down in the kitchen swearing to Lord Jesus that she was only the help while Kallie locked the door.
“That’s your car out there?” she asked.
“You can have it,” the maid said. “Mr. Verdan gave it to me, and it makes mon mari uncomfortable.”
Kallie dug the Winchester into her side. “And where is Mr. Verdan?”
“On vacation. I swear.”
“The whole family?” Kallie asked
“What’s your name?” Ed asked.
“So, you clean this place,” Kallie said. “Then why does it smell like cat piss?”
“I do my best,” Crystal said. She pointed to the living room—a space that could swallow Ed and Kallie’s double wide. “There’s a safe behind the Drexler painting.”
“Where’s the kid’s room?” Ed asked.
“Upstairs,” Crystal said.
“Trash bags,” he said. “Grab some. Go up there and gather his action figures.”
Crystal obeyed, taking a big yellow box from beneath the sink to the spiral carpeted staircase that brought her to the mezzanine.
“Phone’s going off the hook,” Ed said. “So, do anything stupid or take too long, and we will hurt you.”
She was back downstairs within five minutes holding three bags.
“Dump ‘em,” Kallie said.
Crystal set two down before spilling action figures onto the white tiled floor like multi-colored candy—Star Wars mixed with Adventure People and G.I. Joe.
“Stop,” Kallie said. She set the Winchester on the counter.
On her knees, she removed a glove to hold Logray the Ewok in her hand.
After all this time.
The thunder of a Harley startled her.
Kallie rushed to the window above the sink and Ed kept his Baretta on Crystal.
“Who is that?” he asked.
“Mr. Verdan has a mistress,” Crystal said, shaking. “He lets her stay sometimes. Please. I never know when she’s coming.”
Kallie watched some dirtbag stick his tongue down the mistress’s throat for damn near three minutes before she finally hopped off and stumbled up the driveway.
The dirtbag tore it up on Savanne Road, sending more thunder into the Southern night.
“Shit,” Kallie said, backing away from the window. “Think she saw me.”
“Are you sure, babe?”
“She’s wasted,” Kallie said. “Should be okay.”
But the mistress didn’t come to the door.
“The shed,” Kallie said. “What’s in the shed?”
“I’m not allowed in there,” Crystal said.
Ed pointed at Kallie. “Stay here.”
He unlocked and opened the door and dropped from a gunshot to the head, his Aints bag soaked in red that made a mess of the white tiles.
“No,” Kallie said. She picked up the Baretta and ran out firing.
The mistress took cover behind the logs, and Kallie didn’t let up, shooting the wood to shit until empty.
Afraid for her son, she ran to the mailbox and found C.J. crying.
“No, sweetie. Look,” Kallie said. “Look what I have.”
She took a fatal shot in the back, leaving the bloody Ewok in the palm of C.J.’s hand.
— Nathan Pettigrew was born and raised an hour south of New Orleans, and lives in the Tampa area with his loving wife. His story “Yemma” was recently awarded 2nd Place in the 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition and appeared in the winnow. His genre stories have appeared in Thuglit, the bestselling Gone anthology from Red Dog Press, Savage Minds & Raging Bulls from Bristol Noir, and the Nasty: Fetish Fights Back anthology from Anna Yeatts of Flash Fiction Online, which was spotlighted in a 2017 Rolling Stone article. Visit Nathan on Twitter @NathanBorn2010.