Big Ma's Boys by Alexander J. Richardson

Agents Paul and Lydia respond to a shoot-out with a local gang matriarch; by Alexander J. Richardson.

Paul leaned over his desk, one elbow pressed against it. The knot of his tie was loose, and he scowled as he looked at the surveillance photos. Lydia rolled over in her office chair, grabbing Paul's desk to halt her approach.


"Yeah," Paul said. "Everything, in fact. All the pieces are here, the arms deal's supposed to be happening, but there hasn't been any chatter for weeks." He sighed and stood straight. "I don't know if she finally caught wise or what, but we're sitting on our thumbs until there's movement."

Lydia rotated a pen between her fingers. "You've been on this for nine months now."

"Yeah, Lydia, I'm perfectly aware of how long I've been working this case."

Paul went to the breakroom for a cup of coffee. When he came back, Lydia was at her own desk, reviewing Paul's photos. He walked over.

"Lyd, I'm not meaning to jump down your throat. I'm under a lot of stress."

"I know," she said, setting down one picture and picking up another. "She sure has a lot of sons."

"Yeah," Paul said. "Six that we know of."

Lydia arched an eyebrow. "That we know of?"

Paul nodded. "It's an open secret that Sheriff Callie was in her pocket, and he worked the county for over thirty years. He covered up a lot of things for her. My informant, before he went silent, let me know he thinks she has other sons. There's some evidence of secret adoptions, and we believe she kept in touch with those kids and cultivated relationships."

He rubbed the back of his neck. "They could be anyone."

Lydia opened her mouth, but a voice from behind Paul said, "Agent Billings?"

Paul turned around to find a young man in a dark suit with a mole under his nose. He looked to be in his mid-twenties and already had a receding hairline. A badge was clipped to his belt.

"Yeah, that's me," Paul said.

The man held out his hand, and Paul shook it.

"Clay Andrews, ATF Kansas City. You're working the Abigail "Big Ma" O'Hara case?"

Paul perked up. "I'm working Big Ma." He gestured to Lydia. "This is Agent Lydia Ruiz. How can we help you?"

Clay nodded to Lydia. "I was just pulling in to find you when we got the call. Couple sheriff deputies are outside her property exchanging gunfire with a few of her boys. One of the deputies has been shot."

Lydia stood fast. Paul reached over and grabbed his coat off his chair.

"Listen up," he said, getting the room's attention. "Big Ma's boys are shooting it out with some Hampton County deputies. I need every available field agent with me."

There was a shuffle of men and women standing in a hurry and moving for the door. Lydia caught Paul's eye.

"Guess you won't have to wait for that gun deal."

"Big Ma's only stupid when she's mad," Paul said. "Let's hope my informant's in one piece."

Clay walked ahead of them. "I'll drive."

A squad of SUVs rolled up to Big Ma's property, the pat-pat-pat! of automatic rifles sounding their arrival. A couple Hampton County squad cars were parked next to each other, riddled with bullets. The two shooters were perched on top of a dirty, rusting trailer, the first of many between Paul and the big house. Trees that drowned their surroundings lined the property, with leaves and pine needles decorating the ground. Three deputies had taken cover behind their vehicles with guns drawn, while a fourth was slumped over, cradling his bloody leg and looking dazed.

Paul hopped out of the SUV the moment it stopped. "Secure the entrance! No one make a move through the trees - Big Ma's boys have traps set. Agent Ruiz, find out where the Special Response Team is, pronto! We need to get that deputy out of the line of fire so the paramedics can treat him on arrival. Go!"

"I'm coordinating chopper support already," Lydia said, phone to her ear.

"I'm on it," Clay said, pulling out his cell

Paul opened up the back of the SUV to put on a flak vest and grab a rifle. The other agents followed suit, working methodically.

"Special Response Team's thirty minutes out," Clay said, all geared up and pocketing his cell.

"Great," Paul said. "Agent Ruiz, cover us."

Lydia laid down fire over the hood of the SUV while Paul and Clay hustled to the squad cars. They collapsed in a crouch next to the deputies.

"Agents Billings and Andrews, ATF," Paul said. He nodded to the injured deputy, a freckled redhead who looked like he could still be in high school. "How bad is it?"

The redhead winced and didn't respond. One of the other deputies - darker and huskier, with a thick chin - spoke:

"Didn't hit no artery, but West's in shock. Paramedics is five minutes out."

A bullet pinged the top of the squad car. Clay fired a few shots back that went wide into the trees.

"We need to move him," Paul said. "Grab him under his armpits. The rest of you, cover us."

Chin did as told while Paul grabbed the injured deputy's legs. The other two deputies and Clay fired over the car at Big Ma's boys. When Paul and Chin had the deputy safely behind the cover of the SUVs, they gingerly set him down. More sirens sounded in the distance.

"Where's the sheriff?" Paul said.

Chin wiped his brow. "Should be here soon. Hell, him and the whole county. Big Ma's not getting clear of this one. She and her boys have lost their snuff-chewin' minds."

Paul leaned against the SUV. "What happened? Why were you guys here?"

"Big Ma threatened a judge."

"She what?"

Chin shrugged. "They got one a' her boys on assault charges earlier this week. The judge denied his bail, and Big Ma called the courthouse with promises a' him takin' a short swing under a tall tree. She's really off her rocker these days."

Paul scowled. "Her son was arrested, and no one told me?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess. Who - who're you again?"

Paul didn't answer him. Gun shots continued to sound behind him. Several field agents had moved up to the trees without entering them. More squad cars came into view and pulled up, lights flashing and sirens blaring. A few ambulances followed them in. Paul waved to one until the driver parked next to him and the paramedics loaded up the injured deputy.

A gray-haired man with broad shoulders and wearing a brown uniform stepped out of one of the cars. Paul hurried over.

"Sheriff Williams."

The sheriff nodded at him. "Agent Billings. Fine mess this is."

"Special Response Team's twenty minutes out."

He nodded. "How many of her boys she got cooped up here?"

"Not sure. I only just arrived. We've seen two so far."

Sheriff Williams rolled his eyes. "There'll be more."

"I'd imagine so."

Clay and Lydia rejoined Paul. Paul introduced Clay to the sheriff.

"Game plan?" Clay said.

"Hold the perimeter as best we can," Paul said. "Once the Special Response Team's on site, we take it down."

Clay nodded. "You aren't worried about them trying to make it out a back way?"

"No," Sheriff Williams said. "Not once we put the 'copters on 'em. It's miles of those woods with nowhere to go. Bigger concern's if they've actually got tunnels."

Lydia frowned. "Tunnels?"

"Long-time rumors of secret tunnels leading out of here," Paul said. "My informant confirmed their existence before we lost contact. No idea where they lead."

Sheriff Williams scowled. "You mighta let me know!"

"Been a bit busy, Sheriff. We know they start in the house."

"If they have tunnels, we need to go now," Lydia said.

Paul shook his head. "Safer to wait for the Special Response Team."

Clay gestured around. "We have the numbers. Ma could be getting away as we speak. You want her to slip through your fingers?"

Paul didn't say anything for a moment. Gunfire clouded his thoughts.

"Okay," Paul said. "Let's move in now."

"Agent Billings, I'm not putting my men any deeper in this shit than they already are," Sheriff Williams said.

Paul scowled. "Then maintain the perimeter. If you'd given me a heads up before they came knocking, this whole thing could've been avoided. Hell, letting me know about her son would've gone a long way, too. We could've made a deal with him."

"Unlikely," Lydia said. "Big Ma's boys will die for her."

"You never know," Paul said. Then, to the group: "Agents, Big Ma's tunnels present too much risk of escape. We can't afford to wait on the Special Response Team. We're moving in! Get it ready!"

He turned to Lydia. "Agent Ruiz, you're with me."

She nodded.

"I'm with you, too," Sheriff Williams said.

"Thought you were worried about the risk," Paul said.

"To my men, greatly," Sheriff Williams said. "But it's my county, and Big Ma's my responsibility. She's a black mark of my predecessor's creation, and I'm fixing that today."

"This is ATF's case, Sheriff," Clay said. "You're here as a courtesy."

It was Sheriff Williams' turn to scowl. "I couldn't give a caged cat about who gets the credit, son. I'm interested in bettering the county."

Paul nodded. "Fair enough. Good to have you, Sheriff."

"Hey, do we want to keep talking about it?" Lydia said. "Big Ma could be halfway to Jackson County by now."

Paul nodded again, and turned to the other agents.

"Let's go!"

With the Hampton County deputies holding the perimeter and backup on the way, the field agents converged upon Big Ma's property under Paul Billings' command.

They took the first trailer with overwhelming force. One of Big Ma's boys was killed in a hail of gunfire, and Paul recognized him upon closer inspection: Jimmy. He'd done a nickel in the state prison years earlier for grand theft auto. His brother, Doug-Doug (in and out of prison for the last fifteen years on charges ranging from petty theft to assault with a deadly weapon), fell off the trailer as he tried to reload and was apprehended without further incident.

There were three more trailers set up between the field agents and the house, and men were entrenched around each of them. Paul didn't recognize any of them; one poked around his hiding spot with a grenade in hand, and Clay shot him before he could throw it. The bomb dropped to the ground, landing at the dead man's feet.

"Get down!" Paul yelled, and the agents and Sheriff Williams dropped flat onto their stomachs. The first explosion rocked the closest trailer, followed immediately by a second, larger explosion as the trailer was torn in every direction by a fireball that burnt Paul's eyebrows. Several ATF agents were caught in the blast and knocked away, screaming and rolling in the dead grass.

"Jesus Christ," Paul said. "Looks like we found her explosives storage."

Lydia was on her walkie talkie, shouting for paramedics to meet at their position. Sheriff Williams jumped through the flames and dropped two men in two shots before crouching down and reloading his .38.

Paul gestured to several of the unharmed agents. "Stay with them," he said, pointing to the wounded. To Lydia and Sheriff Williams: "On me. Let's finish this."

"Wait for me," Clay said, rushing up to them, sweat dripping down his forehead.

Paul checked the pulses of the two men Sheriff Williams had shot and looked at their faces.

"Well, well, Sheriff," he said. "You killed Everett and Easton."

Sheriff Williams rolled the cylinder shut on his .38. "County's a better place for it."

Lydia glared at them both. "That's four of Ma's boys down. Three dead, one arrested."

"Two arrested," Paul said. "Who is it you have locked up, Sheriff?"

"Terrible Timmy."

"That just leaves Carter," Lydia said, "and Big Ma herself."

"Yes," Paul said. "Assuming they haven't gotten away and that none of her secret sons or hired hands are inside."

"We can only hope," Lydia said, and the four of them advanced on the house.

They cleared the first floor without incident. Off the kitchen, Paul found a door leading to the basement.

"This is it," he said, his voice a whisper. "On me."

The stairs were rickety, the light minimal, and Paul moved slowly as the others followed, his rifle aimed ahead, his eyes straining for whatever light he could find.

"You're getting her," Lydia said. "They'll give you a commendation for this. All of us, probably."

"It's not about the commendations, Agent Ruiz," Paul said, "and can the chatter."

At the basement landing, they spread out. Several shelves lined the walls. Paul reached into one. Ammunition. Firearms.

"Agent Billings," Sheriff Williams said, and Paul turned.

The sheriff had his gun trained at the floor. Paul moved closer. A grate had been pushed aside, revealing an opening in the floor.

"That's it," Paul said.

The four of them moved around it, standing in a square. Paul reached down and found a ladder.

"I'm going in," he said. "Agent Ruiz, cover me."

Lydia nodded, and Paul made his way down the ladder, his feet landing on hard dirt when he reached the bottom. He turned and aimed his rifle down the tunnel, into the darkness. Lydia followed him down. Sheriff Williams slid down after her.

"This is spooky as all get -" she started, and was cut short by an eruption of gunfire from down the tunnel.

Paul threw himself against the tunnel wall, returning fire, his rifle creating explosions of light in the dark. He laid down ten shots, spread in an even arc, and when he stopped no one was shooting back.

"Jesus Christ," he said, turning to Lydia. "You o-"

He stopped. Sheriff Williams was on his back, grasping at his throat, his hands bloody. Lydia kneeled next to him, applying pressure.

"Oh shit!" Paul dropped next to the sheriff. "Oh shit!"

Clay hustled down the ladder. "We whole?"

"This is Agent Ruiz," Lydia said, working the walkie talkie with her free hand. "Sheriff Williams is down. We need paramedics in the main house. Move to the basement entrance, off the kitchen."

Paul didn't hear a response, but his vision was red. He lightly pressed his palms against Sheriff William's throat.

"Agent Ruiz, Agent Andrews, see what I hit. I'm staying with him."

Lydia nodded, and Clay was already making his way down the tunnel.

Sheriff Williams put his hand on Paul's arm.


Paul shook his head. "Don't try talking. Help's on the way."

"Agent... Billings, I... tell my..."

Blood spilled out of the sheriff's mouth. He gurgled once, his eyes fluttered, and his body went still.

Paul shook his head again. "No." He shook him lightly. "Sheriff Williams."

The sheriff didn't move.

Paul slammed his fist against the dirt floor.


He stayed there for a long moment, not looking at him.

"Agent Billings."

Paul turned. Lydia was standing over him. She put a hand on Paul's shoulder.

"I'm sorry."

Paul stood. "Any luck?"

Lydia nodded. "Come see."

The two agents moved down the tunnel twenty feet. Clay stood next to a dead man and someone else. He held his gun in one hand and a submachine gun in the other. Lydia set her rifle aside and took the Uzi from Clay. Paul turned the dead man over.

"Carter O'Hara."

Lydia nodded. "You caught him between the eyes."

Paul nodded and stepped over Carter's corpse. Clay had his gun aimed at a husky woman with cropped, black hair and moles lining her face.

"That's something, at least," Paul said. "Abigail 'Big Ma' O'Hara."

Big Ma spat on the dirt. "You kilt my boy."

"The last of several sons to die today, Big Ma," Paul said. He gestured at the submachine gun in Lydia's hand. "That the gun Carter was carrying?"

Clay nodded. "Big Ma was going for it when I arrived."

"Good job." Paul turned to Lydia. "Care to cuff her?"

She shook her head. "All you, Agent Billings."

Paul didn't say anything, but he set the rifle aside and took his handcuffs off his belt.

"Abigail O'Hara, you're under arrest for -"

He was interrupted by Lydia shooting Clay in the head with a burst from the submachine gun. The agent fell back without so much as a grunt. Paul stumbled away.

"What... I... you..."

Lydia responded by firing another burst into Paul's legs. The agent grunted and collapsed upon himself, his handcuffs flying out of his hands. Lydia stood over him.

"Wait... why... Lydia...?"

"It's like I told you, Paul," Lydia said. "I'm sorry."

Paul started to speak again, and Lydia fired another burst into his head.

"My boys," Big Ma said. "My precious, sweet boys."

Lydia shook her head. "What were you thinking, threatening a judge? We had it all figured out. You dealt with the informant. Everything was in place for the deal."

"But my Timmy! They have my sweet Timmy! And that terrible judge..."

"How does threatening a judge help Timmy?"

Big Ma rubbed her eyes. "Oh, I don't... you ain't a mother. You can't understand a mother's burden, a mother's heart! Oh, how it weighs over all her days and nights!"

Lydia dropped the submachine gun on Carter's chest and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

"Okay. Okay. We'll figure everything out once we've made it to safety. We'll figure out what to do about Timmy. Okay? Can we get out of here first?"

Big Ma didn't speak at first. She held Carter's hand in hers for a long moment before standing.

"Yes, daughter," she said, and followed Lydia through the darkness.


  1. An action-packed story with a knock-out twist at the end. Well done!

    I'm looking forward to reading more stories about further adventures of Big Ma and her charming brood.;)

  2. Love this story! Definitely did not see this one coming. I enjoyed the plot and dialogue and look forward to seeing more from this author.

  3. Outstanding! This author is one to watch.

  4. Action packed Coen Brothers Blood Simple carnage style screenplay shootout.

  5. Wow! Didn't see that coming. Great story.

  6. Excellent story telling with a surprise ending. You pain a real picture that I could see as the story progressed. Very impressed with your writing skill. Aunt Sandy

  7. Great story with a terrific ending. I couldn't stop reading, anxious to see the outcome. Keep writing.

  8. This story was very well written with a great twist at the end. It really held my attention and had me wanting to know more about Big Ma.

  9. A twist on the "who done it" story...a "who's gonna do it" tale. Subtle hints throughout and lots of action.

  10. Loved the story! Kept me interested throughout the story and loved the twist at the end! Very well written.

  11. Tunnels make every story better, especially when they have a twist like this one!!!

  12. Awesome story! Kept my attention and what a twist at the end! Absolutely captivating!

  13. Quite a change from previous stories by this author. Well done. Nice twist.

  14. The story had me wondering what was happening next and the twist at the end caught me off guard. Excellent!

  15. I LOVED this! The twist at the end truly was the cherry on top, and left me wanting to read more about Big Ma’

  16. Alexander Richardson immerses you in a world of crime, crassness, and the dogged pursuit of justice, and you just know something is coming at the end, and Big Ma doesn't disappoint.

  17. This was a good read! I expected a twist at the end but I didn't expect what the twist was going to be. I cannot wait to read more about Big Ma.

  18. Would love a follow up story about Big Ma and her clan, and how Lydia ended up in law enforcement. What an unexpected twist!

  19. Great story with the perfect twist at the end.

  20. Loved the way you ended this story!