KEITH THOMAS WALKER
At 11pm, Club Tron was moderately populated, which was typical for a weeknight. On the weekends, the club manager drew large crowds with popular artists like DaBaby and Meek Mill. But on Wednesdays, the DJ spun old school classics, while a line dance instructor taught couples synchronized dance moves that seemed complicated from Mike’s perspective. But he observed a few newbies who seemed to be catching on fairly quickly, so maybe the dances weren’t as hard as they appeared.
Mike sat alone at a table near the bar, nursing a Cognac and Coke that he couldn’t manage to get to the bottom of. Every time his busty waitress noticed he was a few sips shy of having only ice in his glass, she approached the table and replaced it with a fresh drink. Mike wondered why she assumed he’d want more to drink, rather than ask. She wasn’t wrong, but he didn’t appreciate her being so presumptuous.
Mike’s lifestyle generally allowed and oftentimes required him to turn up, but tonight he preferred the relatively quiet atmosphere. He watched the line dancers, the bartender and the waitresses go about their routine. There were more women in the club than men, some of whom were taking turns dancing with a well-dressed old head who knew all the moves. But Mike didn’t approach any of the single ladies and ask if they wanted to show him how to line dance.
He wasn’t looking for companionship, but he also wasn’t blind. He couldn’t help but notice a light-skinned cutie who entered the club alone. She walked through the dimly lit establishment with an air of familiarity, first checking out the buffet and then the dance floor before finding an empty table a few spots away from his. She took a seat and scanned the club again. She noticed Mike and saw that he noticed her too. He offered a smile. She returned it before digging her phone from her purse and giving the device her attention.
The newcomer wasn’t glamourous or scantily clad, but she held Mike’s attention for the next five minutes. Her hair was braided up top before falling into lose curls around her shoulders. Her makeup was moderate. She was more skinny than fine, but Mike thought she had a nice figure. She wore a black tube dress that hugged her frame, accentuating her breasts, hips and slim waistline. Her skin was so fair, she might have been mixed, but Mike couldn’t detect any culture in her features other than black. He watched as a waitress came and took her drink order. When she delivered the beverage, Mike left his table and stepped to the beauty.
“You here alone?”
She looked up at him. Mike wore a long-sleeved, white button down with blue khakis. His hair was shaved low, his face clean shaven. His skin was dark, his physique slim. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she liked what she saw.
She nodded. “Yeah. I’m here by myself.”
“Mind if I join you?”
He waited for her to shrug before he pulled out the chair across from her and sat down. She continued perusing her phone for a few moments before placing it on the table and looking him in the eyes.
“You been here before?” he asked. “You like this place?”
“I been here a couple of times,” she replied, watching him intently. “I don’t like the buffet, but I usually like the music.”
“You line dance?” he asked, looking back at the dance floor.
She shook her head. “I didn’t know that’s what they had going on tonight. You dance?”
“No, not like that.”
“You didn’t know tonight was line dancing either?”
“Yeah, I knew,” Mike replied.
“So you like watching people dance, even though you’re not into it?” She smiled at him.
He smiled back. “They look like they’re having fun, but I’m not good at memorizing dance moves. I can’t even do the Cupid Shuffle. What you drinking?”
“You drinking it straight?” He checked her glass. “On the rocks?”
“You got good taste. Most people – most women – get it with Coke, messing up the flavor.”
“Most women can’t handle a straight drink,” she replied. “After two or three, they liable to leave the club with whoever.”
He chuckled and then asked, “Want me to get you another?”
She looked down at her full glass and chuckled. “After what I just said, you trying to get me liquored up?”
“No. I’m trying to be a gentleman. You made it sound like you can handle it.”
“I can,” she said and quickly downed her drink as he watched. “I guess I’ll take another.”
Mike waved the waitress over without taking his eyes off her. One of his eyebrows was raised, as was the corner of his mouth. He ordered both of them another round.
When the waitress walked away, his new friend asked, “What’s your name?”
She grinned. “That’s your real name?”
He shook his head. “Naw, that’s what people call me.”
“Why they call you that? Wait, let me guess, you a baller, right?”
He smiled. His teeth were nice and straight. “I guess I’m something like that.”
“What kind of baller?” she wondered. “You don’t dress like a dealer, and you’re not big enough to play sports.”
“I guess you could play basketball,” she conceded, “but you not tall enough for that.”
“And the insults keep coming…”
She laughed. Mike thought she had pretty lips. She struck him as a little hood, but he thought she had a sophistication about her.
“What about you,” he asked. “What’s your name?”
He frowned. “I never would’ve guessed that. It don’t fit you at all.”
“Why you say that?”
“B.B. sounds like somebody’s country-ass auntie.”
She laughed again. “It’s better than running around bragging about how much money you got – or fronting about money you don’t got.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I wouldn’t let nobody call me Banks if it wasn’t true.”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t matter to me. I ain’t trying to get in your pockets.”
They quieted while the waitress delivered their drinks.
When she was gone, Mike asked, “What does B.B. stand for?”
She told him, “The first B’s for Brionna.”
“Brionna? Damn. That’s a nice name. Why you let people call you B.B., when they could call you by your real name?”
She shrugged. “The streets gave me that name. Usually when the streets give you a name, you gotta go by it, even if you don’t like it.”
“The streets? What a pretty, young thang like you know about the streets?”
“Prolly a lot more than you.”
“Oh, is that right?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
“I doubt that very seriously.”
After a pause, she said, “You didn’t ask me what the other B is for…”
“That’s ‘cause I like Brionna. I can’t see myself calling you B.B.”
“But the other B is important,” she said. “They go together. Can’t have Brionna without the other B.”
He frowned curiously. “I can tell you’re itching to tell me, so go ahead. What does the other B stand for?”
With a straight face, she told him, “Boom.”
The color drained from his face. “Wh, what was that?”
She repeated the name. “Boom.”
His mouth went dry, but he managed to ask, “Brionna Boom?”
She nodded. She saw his fingers tremble around his glass.
“You’re Brionna Boom?”
She nodded again, her features expressionless.
His chest heaved. “Wh, what…” He looked around anxiously. “You Boom’s girl?”
She didn’t respond.
He looked around more frantically. “What are you…” He swallowed roughly. “You come here for me?”
“Yes, I’m here for you, Mike.”
He brought a hand to his mouth. His eyes were as big as doorknobs. His mouth stretched into a wretched frown. “This, this got something to do with Tank? I’m – I’m gon’ pay that man”
“You got all the answers,” Asha said. “Only thing left to figure out is where’s the money?”
“I got it,” he cried. “I told him I was gon’ pay him. He didn’t have to send you after me. I told him I had his money.”
“Where it’s at tho?”
“Please,” he said, rising from his seat. “Please don’t do this. I’ma, I’ma pay that man. I swear,” he nearly shrieked. He hastily dug a stack of money from his pocket. He tossed a hundred-dollar bill on the table for their drinks.
Asha didn’t rise from her seat, but she asked him, “Where you going, Mike?”
“I’ma, I’ma go get the money. I can – I can bring it to you or give it to him. How he, how he want this to go? I got it. I swear.”
Asha was still casual as she asked, “Want me to go with you to get it?”
“Please don’t do this,” he said, nearly in tears. “Tell Tank I’ma pay him. You ain’t gotta do me like this.”
Asha shook her head in disappointment.
Mike looked like he pissed his pants.
“God, please don’t do me like this,” he whimpered as he backed away from the table. When she didn’t get up to follow him, he turned and headed for the exit. He looked back at Asha a few times before disappearing out of sight. She was still watching him, but she didn’t make any moves in his direction.
* * * * * * * * * *
Asha exited the club a minute later and headed for the SUV she arrived in. When she got there, she saw her man loading a lifeless man into the backseat. Boom wore all black, his beard in full flair, his ball cap further obscuring his identity.
He told her, “Get the zip ties.”
Asha retrieved them and helped bind Mike’s hands behind his back, once Boom got him in the truck. They exited the parking lot thirty seconds later. Boom did not speed once they got on the main thoroughfare.
Asha looked over at him, studying his dark features in the scant lighting.
She asked, “Did he get any licks in on you?”
Boom frowned at that. “Ain’t like it was a fight. That nigga damn near ran right up on me. I popped him in the jaw, and he went night night.”
Asha chuckled. “I hope you didn’t kill him.”
Given his size compared to his opponent, Boom couldn’t rule that out. They quieted and listened for signs of life from the back seat. Finally they heard the man snoring lightly.
“He’ll live, for now,” Boom said matter-of-factly.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mike awakened in a brightly lit room with a sharp pain between his ears that was like no headache he’d ever known. As his eyes fluttered open, gaining focus felt like mission impossible, but gradually he became aware of his surroundings. The room appeared to be a small warehouse with sparse furnishings. The smell of dust and mildew was prominent. Mike found he was sitting upright in a chair and he couldn’t move his arms. After a brief struggle that sent a biting pain through his wrists, he realized they were bound behind him.
He was not alone in the room. Initially the two figures standing before him were nothing more than a dark blur. Gradually he could make out their features. What he saw stunned the rest of the fog from his mind. Brionna Boom wore the same outfit he’d seen her in earlier. She was just as striking, but now that he knew who she was, he would describe her as deadly, rather than beautiful. The man who had given her the last name stood beside her.
Compared to his woman’s slim frame, Boom was a hulking beast. His barrel chest protruded though his tee shirt. The muscles in his biceps were intimidating, as he stood with his arms folded under his chest. But nothing was more ominous than the look in his eyes. Mike was acutely aware that few people who had ever seen these killers, individually or as a couple, lived to tell the tale. Droplets of sweat blossomed on his forehead and began to roll down his face. He couldn’t stop his eyes from tearing up.
“What happened?” His speech was slurred as his brain struggled to catch up to his thought process. “What happened to my head?”
His jaw was swollen so badly, half of his face looked like a chipmunk storing nuts. Neither Asha nor Boom replied to him.
“Please don’t do this,” Mike begged. “I can’t believe Tank sent y’all after me. It was Tank, right? He the one who did this?”
Boom watched him squirm before responding. “You did this to yourself, Mike.” His voice was like a woofer, booming around the empty space. “We never would’ve snatched you, if you didn’t try to get over on that man.”
“I got the money!” Mike cried. “I told him I had it. He didn’t have to do this. All he had to do was call me.”
“I ain’t got nothing to do with all that,” Boom said. “Whatever breakdown in communication you and Tank had, it’s too late to go back and fix that.”
“So, you, y’all gon’ kill me?” Mike grimaced, as if the fatal shot was coming at any moment.
Boom shook his head. He told him, “A dead man can’t pay his debts. Tank want his money.”
“I got it! I swear I got it!”
“Where it’s at?”
“I can take you,” Mike promised. “We can go right now.”
Boom nodded. “Bet. That’s what I wanted to hear. And don’t try nothing slick,” he said as he stepped to the man and hoisted him to a standing position. “You know collecting debts ain’t what I usually do. I got no problem with bodying you and telling Tank you wouldn’t pay.”
“I’ma pay, Boom! I swear!”
“Man, I ain’t trying to hear that shit,” Boom replied as he led him to the exit with a firm grip on his arm. “All I need is an address.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Mike directed them to a home on the north side of town. During the ride, he sat up in the backseat and had regained most of his composure. Possibly sensing his imminent demise, he tried to bargain with the devil.
“Mr. Boom, can’t we work out some kind of deal?”
Boom was fairly sure he wouldn’t be interested in anything the man had to offer, but he asked him, “What the hell you talking about?”
“I owe Tank two mil’,” Mike said, leaning forward in the seat. “How about I give you half a mil’, and we can forget this night ever happened? I’ll leave the state – or maybe even the country – and you can tell Tank you couldn’t find me.”
Boom watched his hopeful eyes in the rearview mirror but did not respond. He could smell the desperation wafting from their captive.
“A whole mil’,” Mike spat. “I’ll give you a million dollars. I don’t know what Tank is paying you for this, but I know it ain’t a million dollars. You and your woman can take off, go enjoy life. Tank won’t never know about any of this…”
Asha tried not to get too caught up in the particulars of why she and Boom did any job, but at that moment she knew Tank had ample reason to hire them. Even at this late stage of the game, Mike was still conniving; trying to screw his partner yet again.
Asha also wondered if Boom was interested in the offer. From her perspective, it didn’t sound like a bad deal. But she couldn’t confer with her man at the moment, and Boom’s response to Mike was noncommittal.
He simply told him, “Let’s see the money first,” and continued towards their destination.
* * * * * * * * * *
Twenty minutes later, they pulled up to a three bedroom flat in a neighborhood that didn’t look like it had ever seen a hundred thousand, let alone two million dollars at one time. All of the houses on the block, on both sides of the street, weren’t worth that much combined.
But Mike told them, “This is it. Pull up in the driveway.”
When Boom parked, he turned and asked him, “Is anybody in this house?”
Mike shook his head. “No. This ain’t where I live. I come here to hide sometimes, and I keep my money here.”
“You got cameras to protect your money when you ain’t around?” Boom wanted to know.
“No, but I got a security system, ADT. I would get a notification if somebody ever broke in.”
“Not if they know how to disarm it.”
“Thing about that is,” Mike said, “nobody knows the money’s here. Even Tank don’t know. If he did, he never would’ve hired you. Plus, it’s not like I got it sitting on the coffee table. Nobody who broke in would ever find it.”
“Alright,” Boom said. “But if we go in there, and this is some kind of trap, if I see one camera, or even if a goddamn chihuahua run up and bite me on the ankle, you a dead man for sure. And it ain’t gon’ be quick and easy. I’ma make sure you suffer like you ain’t never suffered before.”
“It ain’t no trap, Boom. It’s two million in there, and you about to walk out with half of it.”
Boom looked Asha’s way but didn’t let on what he was thinking. He opened his door and casually exited the vehicle.
“Alright, let’s go.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Inside the house, everything Mike had said about the location turned out to be true. There were no cameras, no people and no dogs. He gave Boom the code to disable the alarm and apparently didn’t try to trick him with a panic code that would send the police racing to the location.
In the master bedroom, Mike instructed Boom to push the bed all the way to the corner of the room. When Boom did so, neither he nor Asha saw anything amiss with the hardwood floor. Mike directed them to a screwdriver in the nightstand. He told Boom where to insert it and pry up a portion of the floor, revealing a hidden compartment. Asha’s eyes widened when she saw two 50-inch duffle bags inside the hole. She couldn’t stop her mouth from watering.
Boom told her to check them. Asha unzipped the first bag and saw a pile of neatly stacked greenbacks. Most of the visible currency had Benjamin Franklin’s mug on it, with rubber bands around an untold number of smaller stacks. The second duffle bag had identical contents. Asha’s heart thundered. This seemed like the score of a lifetime.
“I told you,” Mike said, looking down at his loot. “I told you I wasn’t playing no–”
Asha didn’t see her man produce, point or shoot his weapon, but she heard the muffled SHUMP of the silencer. Mike fell face first next to the hole in the floor. Asha was no stranger to murder, but she was caught off guard with this one and couldn’t help but flinch as the body impacted the floor with a loud SMACK!
Boom took a step forward and put another hole in his head. His expression was as relaxed as it was during the drive to the house. He returned the smoking pistol to the small of his back and pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket. He put them on and then bent and rolled the dead man over. Asha cringed at the destruction the exit wounds had done to his face. She and Boom rarely saw their victims this up close and personal. Even a hardened soldier would react to the sight of exposed brain matter and fresh blood leaking from the wounds.
“Gimme one of them stacks,” Boom said.
Asha dutifully reached into one of the bags and grabbed what felt like ten thousand dollars. She handed it to him. Boom pried the dead man’s mouth open and stuffed the bills between his teeth. He then pulled his burner phone from his pocket and took a picture of the corpse. One of Mike’s eyes was still in good condition. It seemed to be staring right at Asha. She couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Three minutes later, they had the money loaded in the SUV. Boom returned to the residence to wipe down all of the surfaces he had touched and of course to set fire to the place. Before meeting him, Asha had only seen one structure fully ablaze. Nowadays, it seemed like a monthly occurrence.
Boom did not speed away from the house. Asha knew this was because the squealing tires might alert a neighbor who may otherwise not notice the fire. Considering the time of night, it was possible the whole house would be destroyed before the first fire truck arrived.
When they got on the freeway, she finally asked him, “Is there any chance we can keep all this money and tell Tank we couldn’t find him?”
Boom shook his head.
Their relationship had progressed to the point where she felt comfortable asking, “Why not?”
“Because our reputation means more than this money,” he replied. “It’s the same reason I didn’t take the mil’ he was offering and let him go. If he ever told anyone about it, our word would never mean nothing. And the way we left that house, Tank would know no one else could pull that off except for us.”
Asha wasn’t satisfied. “Yeah, but with two million, we could retire. It wouldn’t matter what people think.”
Boom did not take offense to her questions. “Maybe we can retire with five million, but not two. At the rate we’re going, we’ll have that in five years. I know it ain’t nothing legit about what we do, but I’d rather get paid this way than fuck over our customers.”
Asha accepted that, but it also meant she was accepting at least five more years of murder. Even if they did use a sniper rifle most of the time, the deceased all looked like Mike after a run in with Boom and Brionna.
She sighed and settled back in her seat. “How much did this job pay anyway?”
“A lot more than usual,” Boom said with a grin. “Retrieving money ain’t usually what we do, but the way it pays, I wouldn’t turn down another job like this.”
A vision of Mike’s demolished face suddenly flashed in Asha’s mind. The image was so vivid, she felt like she could reach out and touch the blood. She shuddered inwardly and pushed the thought from her consciousness, as she’d learned to do many times in the past.
She looked over at her man and nodded. “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind doing another job like this either. It’s light work.”
Boom smiled. “Oh, I forgot to ask, what you say to Mike to get him to run up out that club like that?”
Asha smiled too. “I told him I was Brionna Boom.”
Boom’s smile grew wider. “I thought you didn’t like that name.”
She shrugged. “It’s starting to grow on me.”
© Keith Thomas Walker