Born on the Bayou
The Wyoming was a riverboat in New Orleans, and it had only been on the river for two hours when a young man and his pregnant wife began cleaning up. The man was playing the craps, and had been pushing his luck for the past hour. He kept piling the money up, and kept going. His wife, who looked to be nine months pregnant, was jumping up and down with each victory of the dice. It had become a game, and they had garnished quite a crowd of spectators. The young man, Mike Whitaker, would roll those dice and scream out what he would be spending the money on. People would cheer, and when the dice ruled in his favor, the crowd went wild. It was the best night of Whitaker’s life. He had never been so lucky.
“Blow on it, baby!” He held the dice in his hands, and his wife gave a hard blow on them. He tossed them across the table. “For Kim’s college fund!”
The crowd went wild, the dice fell down... snake eyes.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” He screamed, throwing his hands up. The crowd cheered, and the chips piled higher.
Sitting at the bar was a dark-haired man with a mullet. He was a blast from the past that somehow had escaped Whitaker’s attention. He sat with his back to the display of stupidity behind him, that would surely end in some bruised ribs and an ego to match. The owner of The Wyoming had been beckoned down to survey the scene, and sat quietly on a bar stool near the dark-haired man. After a moment, the owner sighed, and turned to speak to the bartender. “Hey, Jimmy, get me the phone.”
The dark-haired man turned to the owner. “Don’t sweat it, man. That guy has five warrants out on him.” He pulled out his paperwork that confirmed his accusation. “I’m here to take him in.” He showed him some more paperwork that confirmed his status as a bounty hunter.
“That’s all nice and dandy, bub,” the owner said. “But what about my money?”
“It stays with the boat. As far as I’m concerned, he shoulda been behind bars three months ago.”
The owner handed the paperwork back to the dark-haired man. “You’re a site for sore eyes. Make it quick, and clean.”
“That’s his call, not mine. But I’ll try.”
Mike Whitaker finally decided to call it a night, and cashed in his chips. He and his wife headed out, waving goodbye to a standing ovation. They swerved through the hallways, both a little tipsy, making their way to their room on the boat.
He threw an arm around his wife, and pulled her in tight. “Hey, baby, didn’t I tell you I’d take care of everything?”
“You were on fire tonight, baby.”
“I’m still burning baby.” He winked at her, and swatted her butt. She giggled and they scurried down the hallway. They entered their room and closed the door. He had the money in a small bag with The Wyoming logo on it. He tossed it on the bed, and started dumping it out. He started to spread the cash across the bed. “I always wanted to do this.” He turned around and saw his wife with an expression of horror in her eyes. She stood still, her hands on her stomach, and below her was a puddle of blood.
“I think my water broke, baby.”
The dark-haired man stood to the side of their door, leaning against the wall. He pulled out a silver 9mm and knocked on the door. There was no answer. He knocked a second time. He could hear a frantic discussion, but he couldn’t make it out.
“Whitaker! I know you’re in there. I’ve got five warrants, I’m here to take--” A hole burst in the middle of the door near his head. Splinters cut into the side of his face, but he was lucky none had hit his eye. He took a quick glance at the hole and judged it as Magnum. He decided to back off. He headed off backwards down the hallway, keeping his 9mm aimed at the door. “Bad move, man! Come out, hands up!”
The door swung open, and Whitaker came out fast with his Magnum aimed and ready. He shot a hole in the wall next to him, and he dodged left, and ran backwards. He squeezed and the the bullet grazed Whitaker’s left arm, but Whitaker was right-handed. He took aim and shot a second bullet down the hallway behind him. He was getting lucky that Whitaker had drank too much. He quit panicking and took aim at his left kneecap. The bullet made quick work of it, and Whitaker collapsed on his right knee. He screamed, and took aim again. But he had reached the end of the hallway, and ducked around the corner.
The dark-haired man decided to try and reason with him again, and shouted off at him. “Look, Whitaker, I’ve busted your kneecap. You’re not going to be able to get quality health care on that wound until this riverboat docks. You need to come in, and then the house doctor can patch you up.”
“They ain’t never gave me quality health care any how.” Whitaker was sweating hard, and he rubbed his forehead. He knew he didn’t stand much of a chance with the state he was in. Even if he’d been fully sober, he never was a good shot. He should have had him with that first shot he took in the hallway, he was so close. But there was no way he was giving up. They’d been on the run for months now, and they’d alluded cops at every turn. There was no way he was not going to be there for his girl. He wasn’t father, he couldn’t be his father. He had to get out of this or die trying. He screamed his reply back to the dark-haired man. “I’ll kill ya! I’ve killed before! You ain’t nothing! They’ll hang me back in Texas just as well for one as for two!”
“If it’s all the same, Whitaker, I’d rather hang you than shoot you!”
“I’m not going in!” He raised his gun and shot off a bullet into the wall where he figured the dark-haired man’s head was on the other side. But was surprised when the man spun out fast and shot off two bullets before landing against the adjacent wall. One bullet landed in his left shoulder and the second one cut off a major artery in his heart. He fell onto his back, and felt paralyzed.
The dark-haired man came over, gun aimed. He stood above him, and kicked his Magnum away from his hand. “Can you hear me, Whitaker?”
Whitaker nodded and then died.
The dark-haired man sighed. This was not at all the way he had wanted it to go down. He slowly peeked into their room to check in on his wife, and was hoping she’d not be wielding a doublebarreled shotgun or some nonsense. But what he found was much stranger. She was laying on the bed, on her back, legs spread open. She had sprung out across the bed on the cash they had won, and was bleeding all over it. She was in some serious pain, judging by the look on her face. She saw him and begged for help.
He hadn’t birthed a baby since his days as a medic in Vietnam, but all the things he needed to know started rushing back into his mind. He walked in, pocketed his 9mm and took a closer look.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” She asked him.
“The teenage hookers in Vietnam use to give birth to little white babies all the time.” He told her, and then noticed she looked concerned. “I’ve seen worse conditions, you’ll be fine.”
He got her to calm down and start breathing good and long. And then he started her in on the pushing. It was on the third push that a riverboat security officer stepped into the room. He was overweight and had a thick mustache that was the envy of his horseshoe hair. He stood in the doorway with his jaw dropped open and surveyed the situation. The dark-haired man called him over, and he gave Whitaker’s wife an arm to squeeze. He looked at the dark-haired man and pleaded, “I should get the doc, right?”
“No time.” The dark-haired man replied.
The baby was coming out backwards, and he had to improvise with his hands. He wished he had some clamps and forceps, but he was just going to make do. It was Vietnam all over again, except it wasn’t some fifteen year old Vietnamese girl and they weren’t in a small hut. The loss of blood was immense, and in time he knew Whitaker’s wife wasn’t going to make it. But he didn’t make any indications of that conclusion to her. He just kept her pushing.
Finally, after twenty excruciating minutes and seven pushes, the baby was out and in his hands. He called for the officer’s pocket knife, and he threw it to him. He made quick work of the umbilical cord and grabbed a shirt from an open briefcase on the floor. It was a black AC/DC shirt with holes in it and cutoff sleeves. He wiped the baby down with it and reached for another shirt, this time swooping up a Rolling Stones shirt with the big red lips on it. He quickly wrapped the it around the baby as a diaper and handed it to Whitaker’s wife. For the first time since the officer had come over to the bed, she released her death grip from his arm. He stepped back, and gently rubbed his forearm that showed the marks of her fingers. There was sweat pouring down his face, and his mustache was drenched. He looked pale as a ghost.
She spoke to the dark-haired man as she looked into her baby’s blue eyes. “Is it a girl?”
“Mike was right. He was good about knowing things like that. Things that couldn’t be known.” She looked at the him. “You know what I mean?”
He didn’t respond, but he knew all-too-well what she meant.
She sniffled, kissed the baby on the forehead. She handed the baby back to him, and told him, “This is Kimberly. That’s the name Mike wanted. Take care of her.”
The officer and the dark-haired man watched her. She closed her eyes, and smiled. Slowly her life drained and the muscles in her face relaxed. It took death to wipe the smile off her face. The dark-haired man leaned in and removed the dog tags from her neck. It was Mike Whitaker's dog tags from his days he served in the Gulf War. He rummaged as many hundred dollar bills as he could that had not been soiled. He rolled them up neatly, and bound them with the dog tags. He shoved the roll of cash into the diaper. The officer just nodded in agreement.
He apologized to the officer for the mess and stepped out of the room. He was met in the hallway by the owner who began to make use of all the ugly four letter words he knew. “You call this clean?!”
“It was his choice.”
The owner noticed the baby and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. “What is that?”
“This is Kimberly. Your cash is in the bedroom.”
The owner pointed to the body on the floor. “What about this? What am I suppose to do with this mess?”
“That’s your problem. I don’t clean up.” The dark-haired man was done talking, so he took off down the long hallway. The man kept screaming at him, but he didn’t even turn to look. He just walked right on.