Warning Shot


Three o’clock the rain started, and by 3:15, I was watching Bienville Street flood, water backing up the storm drains, sloshing over the curbs. My uncle Max’s white trash girlfriend Loretta, who’d once been my daddy’s girlfriend, was singing along to Rihanna in the bathroom, “Kiss It Better.”

Uncle Max had just gotten home, and he came in wearing his NOPD uniform, black boots shining with rain, Glock strapped to his hip.

“Still moping about your daddy?” Max chuckled when he saw me reading a Spiderman comic in the corner. “Six weeks isn’t long enough for you to cry? Just like a girl.” He took off his belt and dropped it on the marble-top coffee table, sipping from my daddy’s old silver hip flask and wiping his lips with the back of his hand.

“You’re not my daddy,” I said.

“How can you be sure?” Max sat in his leather chair. Like everything else in that Midcity shotgun, it had once belonged to my daddy. “I might’ve fucked your mama, for all you know. You home, baby?” he shouted at Loretta. He winked at me. “Daddy wants some love. The attention-meter is running low.”

“Just a minute, sugar,” Loretta said in the other room.

Take it back all night, Rihanna sang.


How she could’ve opened her legs for Max, I’d never know. The two of them went at it like dogs, boning at all hours.

With the rain coming down and the street flooding, we were trapped in that house. I’d never get a better chance. I picked up the gun from the belt on the table and pointed it at Max.

“My mama’s been gone these sixteen years from the cancer,” I said, “which is the natural consequence of living downstream of all those refineries in Baton Rouge when she was a kid. She gave everything for Daddy and me, and now you’re spitting on her grave.”

Max laughed.

“What’re you gonna do, you dyke bitch?” he asked. “Waste me?”

I tried to hold the gun steady. I’d never shot anybody in my life, but there was a first time for everything. “Yeah,” I said, hoping it sounded like I meant it.

“Gonna put me down like I did your old man?” Max whispered.

I’d been there that night, and I’d seen him do it, seen him put this same pistol to Daddy’s head and pull the trigger, so that wasn’t news to me—but it might’ve been news to Loretta, who’d just walked out the bathroom in her red robe, the one with the dragons my daddy had bought for her 28th birthday. He’d also given her a.22 to fend off rapists and burglars and suchlike. I was betting she still had that someplace.

Her eyebrows lifted when she saw the gun. She put her hand on Max’s shoulder.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“Kid thinks she’s gonna pop a cap in me,” Max said.

“Why would she do that?” Loretta’s voice was flat, like she knew the answer—after all, she’d heard everything, even if Max was too stupid to know it.

“Don’t know,” Max said. “But she better not fire a warning shot.” He leaned toward me. “Better get me the first time because you won’t get to squeeze off another round.”

Loretta took the .22 from the pocket of her robe and put the gun to Max’s head, red nails curling around his neck. Max’s eyes popped, like he was surprised, but he shouldn’t have been. If you looked at it a certain way, he was just what Daddy had given her the gun to protect herself from.

“Been waiting for the chance,” she said, “letting you climb on me every night, you disgusting, sweaty, hairy son of a bitch. But I had to hear you say it before I believed you’d killed him.”

“I only did it for love.” Max might’ve cried, or it was the rain, or he was sweating.

Loretta didn’t fire a warning shot, and neither did I.

I’d never been able to forgive her for bedding down with Max.

Just like that, I was done with both of them, and I had Daddy’s house to myself.

~ fin ~

Tom Andes 2020

Tom Andes’ writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2012, TOUGH: Crime Stories, Mystery Tribune, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and many other places. He won the 2019 Gold Medal for Best Novel-in-Progress from the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society. He lives in New Orleans, where he works as a freelance writer and editor and moonlights as a country singer. His website is here: www.tomandes.com.