You may recognize the name of this week’s Crime Fiction Friday author. Scott Montgomery, as BookPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator and founder of MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s Mystery Bookstore-Within-A-Bookstore, has been Austin’s authority on all-things-mystery for years. Scott also writes, and below, you’ll find a good example of his humorous and gleefully bloodthirsty style.
Come by BookPeople on Tuesday, August 11, at 7 PM, for a celebration of the crime writing anthology Murder On Wheels, with authors Scott Montgomery, Reavis Wortham, and Kathy Waller in attendance. You can find copies of Murder on Wheels on our shelves. Part of the sales proceeds for Murder on Wheels will go to Meals on Wheels.
“You Just Might Get It” by Scott Montgomery
The girl came first.
It had been two hours since Vedder clocked in and counted the drawer. He cracked open his textbooks for American Lit, but there were always some customer interrupting him the first few hours to truly focus. Half of them wanted to tell him about their day, life stories, or, god forbid, how to improve business. All you could do was dip your toe in shallow thoughts and daydreams between transactions and stocking Skittles until around 3AM when foot traffic faded at the Grab N’ Go. There were two things Vedder always thought would break the monotony behind the counter, a hot girl or a robbery.
When the red head walked in, she woke everything up in him. Her shoulder length tresses didn’t fit the face. Somehow, the small mouth with the full lips did, at least when he pictured her giving him a blowjob. Her skin wasn’t that death pale a lot of reds had. No freckles either, which was kind of a disappointment. She wore pink, trendy glasses that didn’t go with the rest of her outfit. A cutoff denim skirt fit her ass tight enough to give him a clear picture of some x-rated scenarios. Two tattooed butterflies flew out of the waistband. A good mix of cute with just the right amount of trashy. Who wants the girl next door, if all she knows is the missionary position?
Her purse was larger than the usual pocket book on a g-string that the club tramps carried. The training video told him to watch for patrons with large bags. What would he do if he caught her lifting? What would she do for him not to call the cops? More scenarios. He had to quit reading the Penthouse Forum off the adult rack.
She bent down for some energy bars. Vedder thanked God he was behind the counter from the waist down. Her eyes caught him. “Do you have Vanilla Coke?”
“I keep telling them to stock it.”
She looked around the cool, sterile store that only the two of them occupied. “Who do you tell?”
“The guy who leaves when I come in, the guy that comes in when I leave; one of them’s got to be in charge.”
The red head leaned in with mock curiosity. “Are you sure?”
“I get a check from someone.” He motioned over to the camera. “And someone’s always watching.” He thought pointing out the camera might curtail any possible theft.
She bent into the camera’s direct view and waved. She sure liked to bend.
Vedder crossed his legs. “Going out or coming from?”
“Guess.” Her smile ordered. There was a small scar under her right cheek. It didn’t make her less attractive.
He thought about saying how it would be a waste if she weren’t going out, and then thought he might sound like some perv.
She was staring at him. It was too late for a snappy comeback. “Out?”
Her red head nodded. “Meeting up with friends on Sixth, maybe get into trouble.”
“You looked dressed for it.” He couldn’t believe he just said that.
She just tightened up her shoulders and rolled them in a small shrug. “Bet you know some cool places to go.”
“Why would you say that?”
“You look cool.”
This had to be a game. Nobody looks cool in a Grab N’ Go smock.
“Emo’s isn’t bad, lot of different sounds.”
“We just like to dance.” Her pert Playboy perfect boobs shimmied. Girls never played fair.
She slinked a few steps over. “My name’s Charlotte, when do you get off?”
Dear Penthouse Letters, I never thought these stories in your magazine were true.
That’s when somebody had to yell. “Back away from the register!”
The guy didn’t dress like a robber; kind of yuppie looking in khakis and polo style shirt, with sandy brown hair. He did have a gun, though, and sliced the camera cable with machete so Vedder wasn’t going to doubt the man’s intent.
Another man marched past the yuppie; his small pistol seemed to lead him. He was large in a loose wife beater, sunglasses, and jean jacket, shaved head and thick mustache like Kurt Russell in Tombstone. He definitely looked like a robber.
“Put down the pistol,” the traditional thug said.
Vedder wondered what was the guy talking about. He wasn’t packing. It was store policy not to have a weapon under the counter.
When Vedder turned, he realized the thug wasn’t talking to him. Charlotte had a big honking gun that could intimidate Dirty Harry pointed right at the yuppie.
“We’re not out to hurt anyone.” Baldy told her.
“That’s right up there with “I’m not going to get you pregnant,” the now lethal girl answered.
The yuppie dropped the machete. “We’re not playing around.”
“I think this gun proves I’m not either.” The lady was stone.
This was a lot more complex than Vedder had pictured a robbery being. What was it about being careful what you wish for?
“If you don’t drop that gun, I drop him.” The yuppie said, nodding to Vedder.
“You think he’s my boyfriend or something.’
Guess this all caused a change in their relationship.
“Just, put it down.” Vedder pleaded.
“Sorry Hon, have to think about my survival first.”
“Don’t worry.” Baldy said. His right eye looked straight down the barrel at Charlotte. “I got her. Get us the money.”
The girl glanced at him. “Do you know how this works?”
Vedder took the twenties out of the register then the tens, putting them in a paper bag.
“Thanks for not being a hero.” Yuppie told him.
“Don’t get paid enough to be one.” He glared over at Charlotte. “And I know how this works.”
Yuppie’s body relaxed a bit. “Then you know about going to the safe next.”
Shit. You got a hundred dollar bonus if that was prevented and he could use some additions to his Blu-ray collection.
“Think they trust me with the combination?”
“Who else is around here to open it?”
“These men are professionals.” Charlotte said. “They know you have the combo.”
“Thanks.” Yuppie said to her.
Charlotte just exhaled a sharp breath. Vedder gave her a huff. She didn’t notice, just kept her stance.
“Sorry.” Vedder told yuppie. “They tell us we’re supposed to do that.”
His clerk ass squatted down to the safe. He dialed the numbers, 16-38-07, feeling thirty-three and a third dollars slip by with each turn. The bitch.
The door opened. Neat stacks of ones, fives, and tens were before him. To a lot of people it would be nothing, but Vedder saw twice his paycheck all in cash..
“Put it in some more bags.” Yuppie said.
Vedder did as he was told, but not double bagging. Screw them.
He put the bags on the counter, eyed the situation. Baldy’s upper lip sweated as he struggled to keep aim on Charlotte. Yuppie held his gun loose on Vedder, eyes darting between him and Charlotte. He kept his lips tight to cover his heavy breathing. Definitely out of his depth.
Charlotte was the only cool one, ready to kill, steady and no sweat. No matter how many psych classes there were, there was no figuring her out.
Vedder put the sack on the counter. “Do you want the change?”
Yuppie cocked his face, a half second in thought. “Sure.”
Charlotte gave a half chuckle. Everyone looked at her. She resteadied her aim. They all went back to business.
Vedder grabbed a box of quarters and hefted them up. They dropped onto the counter with a ringing thud.
Charlotte smirked at the yuppie. “Remember to bend with your knees.”
Vedder tried to hide the curl at the end of his lips when he asked,“Do you want the nickels, dimes, and pennies.”
Charlotte snorted out a chuckle. Vedder cracked up.
For a moment there was no tension. Then the yuppie shoved the gun in his face. “This a joke now?”
“Leave him alone.” Charlotte said, keeping her smile.
“Just worry about getting the cash.” The bald man told yuppie.
Vedder put all the bills in one bag, picked it up to hand his robber.
“Now, I’ll take that.” Charlotte said. She realigned her aim on Yuppie.
It all clicked. The red hair wasn’t real. It was a wig, part of a disguise. The flirting with him was just for distraction. She was here to rob the place as well.
Yuppie looked over at her. “You can’t be serious.”
“This is our score.” Baldy said. “Steve’s been staking this place out for weeks.”
“You didn’t have to use my name.”
Charlotte stood her ground. “I’ve been doing my own stake out.”
“And using me.” Vedder was more than a bit miffed. “At least these guys just put a gun in my face.”
“Just the way I play the game.” She winked at him.
Yuppie’s head darted about. “How about we split the money?”
“You can keep the change.”
“Nobody has to know you were here.” Baldy said.
She looked over at Vedder. “We have one witness.”
Vedder tried to focus on one last thought. All he could come up with was screwing Jenny Barnes in her Toyota. He wished he could have thought of something deeper, but Jenny’s moans seemed to push out everything else.
Steve moved his pistol from Vedder onto her. “You’ve got three seconds to put the gun down.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“Are you suicidal, Bitch?” Vedder screamed.
She didn’t even look at him. She was cool. Didn’t make her less dangerous.
With Steve The Yuppie’s gun off him, Vedder thought about making a move. No move came to mind. “Just give her the money.”
Steve’s gun went back on him. Vedder raised his hands. “I’ll wait in the corner.”
“Are my three seconds up?” The girl looked over Baldy. “Those prison tats say you’ve done a couple of lock-ups. Get caught on this one, it could be quite a stretch.”
The outlaw took a swallow. “Just walk.”
“Not with a witness.”
Baldy swung the gun off Charlotte. Vedder saw it coming his way. The safety clicked off. Damn.
Bang! Vedder first felt shock, then incredible pain burning through his stomach. He thought it was best not to fall. He clutched onto the register.
He watched Charlotte put a bullet into Baldy’s ear. Red gelatin blew out the other side of his skull, like in that Vietnam photo, only a lot grosser.
Steve The Yuppie fired at Charlotte, but the shot struck closer to Vedder than to her. She fired back, missing as well, tearing though the head of blonde, bikini model on the Budweiser standee. Steve look a quick breath, pulling the trigger. His second shot slashed into her neck. She clutched her wound, raised up her gun.
Steve dived to the floor as she obliterated the Frito Lay display. Corn chip confetti exploded all over the place.
Vedder was feeling dizzy as he watched Charlotte collapse onto the floor. Blood poured out of her neck into the Fritos and brain matter, creating the worst clean up ever.
Vedder heard a crunch of corn chips. Steve pulled himself up, his pistol swaying in his direction.
“Don’t worry,” Vedder told him. “I’m in no shape to do anything.”
Steve grabbed the bags, dashed from the counter, left the change. As the automatic doors opened, the bags busted out with money rushing out onto the floor. He pinched his face, looking like he was about to cry.
“Run!” Vedder told him.
Steve just stared at him.
“I’ll say a six foot four Mexican got away. Cops like looking for Mexicans. Even the Mexican cops.”
Steve nodded and then ran out.
The doors closed. Vedder could hear the sirens behind them. He pushed himself off the counter, stumbled toward his backpack. Fuck the hundred-dollar bonus.
He thought through his story, how the one with the mustache sweated, the yuppie, correction-Mexican, kept on barking orders. The girl’s breath had quickened when she pulled out the gun after they threatened to take her with them for some “fun”. Like an idiot he tried to hit mustache with a broom. That’s when he got shot. The girl tried to protect him by firing at mustache guy. Then the Mexican shot her and ran away with the money. Poor girl.
Vedder was careful not to slip in the blood and brains as he picked up those stacks of bills and put them in his backpack. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to get what you wished for after all.