Blood Will Tell

Somebody took out the king’s son Kore with a blade. A bad blade, one that left many deep wounds. Kore had been in hiding and detoxing, sedated, watched over.

When the king heard his enormous head trembled like jellied beef. Rage. And some other thing. A strange light flickered on behind his eyes.

The king’s people were Kore’s watchers. No outsider knew of the confinement. There were six. Gabor, Bela, Tibo, Jal, Zoltan, and Joska. Conclusion: trust no one.

Kore’s funeral was set for the family plot in the Union graveyard. “No. Not yet,” the king said. He called for an open casket in Ho-Ho-Kus. In the subbasement of the Goulash Pot. Six invitations. He himself made the seventh.

He was all the time now visiting the seer Celesta.

The six watchers, in dress black, filed down the basement stairs. No chairs. The corpse was naked on a low surface covered with a black shroud, the shroud scattered with glittering stars. Kore’s thorax was covered with red wounds like so many extra mouths. Everyone stood at a respectful distance.

The king stood where he could see the men and his son’s body. “Each one walk up alone,” he said. “Count five then you go off to the left. No touching. Touch and o Beng himself won’t save you.”

Gabor moved forward, paused before the bier, then moved off. Jal followed. Zoltan followed.

Then Bela approached. A trickle of blood ran from a wound in Kore’s side.

The king spoke. “Bastard.”

Bela’s face was frozen in alarm. “Nano, not me, this was not me.”

“We see my child’s blood. Does it lie?”

“A coincidence, Nano!”

“The dead know no coincidences.” The king spat the last word with contempt. “What did you think? You would be in my place?”

“Let me die if  . . .”

“You’re smarter than me. Smarter than fate.”

“Nano!”

“You are discarded. Like the mess of a diseased cat.”

Everyone in the basement stared at Bela. His eyes swept them uncertainly. Then he ran up the cement stairs.

Tibo and Joska never came forward.

The king spoke. “My grandparents grew up caravanning near this place. I have a 20-room house. But no one close. No one.”

The others stood with their heads inclined, looking everywhere but at the shrouded bier.

“I would have nothing done in my son’s presence,” the king said. “Let the death angel fly from this room to . . . Bela’s false heart. Any of you here can claim the honor.”

There was no more to be said. The men filed silently back up the steps. Leaving the king alone, to take his final leave.

Out on the street, Zoltan and Joska stopped for a smoke by Joska’s car. Joska said, “Very superstitious.”

Zoltan said, “No one thought Kore would be able to hold control.”

“He’ll have to choose another.”

“We all have choices to make. Are you in the chase?”

“Sure I am. Are you?”

Zoltan didn’t reply. He carefully crushed his cigarette on the ground. Trees lining the road were bursting with white blossoms. Then he said, “This is the best place to live in the state. There’s no crime.”

Zoltan was tasting blood from the nicks in his tongue. At the count of five, spitball a chip of glass into the body. Hit a scabbed spot and the bleeding would seep out – just as Bela walked up. That’s theater. He knew what Celesta had said to the old man. Blood will tell. Blood will tell. For the millionth time he thought it through. He’d removed the top two. The king had gone mad. Zoltan would be ruling in the East, not many years from now. Just wait.


Welcome to the Lucky Clover


“Some of us, by simple grace, sit on the merry-go-round enjoying the ride while others struggle just to stay on. The damned thing’s going too fast, their legs keep getting away from them, everything they have slides over the edge and is gone. These are the folks Nick Heeb writes about. Don’t try to make writing like this safe by saying it’s gritty or transgressive or classic noir. Those are words, and this is real.”

—James Sallis, author of Drive and the Lew Griffin cycle


This week Shotgun Honey is pleased to release the debut novel The Lucky Clover by Nick Heeb. The story is about a man who is drawn to misfortune, poor choices, and the remote roadside biker bar The Lucky Clover. As James Sallis suggests, Heeb has produced a book that doesn’t easily fit into one bucket, though elements may want you to quickly do so. Regardless of what you clasp onto, The Lucky Clover will drag you and its protagonist willingly or not to the end.

Available for direct order from Down & Out Books, Amazon and many online retailers in paperback and eBook.


Home Invasion

They sat in the car some distance from the house and watched the lights in the windows go off one at a time. Leon, hunched over in the driver’s seat with his elbows on the wheel, knew that meant the old man was making his final rounds for the night. He knew it meant the woman was in bed, and the security system was on.

When they had waited long enough, he turned to the other two men in the car and told them it was time. Leon, who had helped with the construction on the house earlier that summer, knew the layout better than they did. But only they knew how to break into a safe.

“You ready?”

Mickey, in the passenger seat, said: “We need 45 minutes to get into the safe.”

Nodding, Leon handed over the copy of the key and reminded them about the alarm.

“Don’t worry, we got it,” said Joe, climbing out the backseat.

“And the dog. Don’t forget about the dog neither.”

Joe gave the OK sign, and the two of them started toward the house.

As he waited, Leon could feel himself trembling. He wondered if it was from nerves, or the need for a fix, or both. He wondered if he should’ve gone in first. He wondered about the woman — what was her name? Connie? Karen? — and what she was thinking about, lying in bed beside the old man every night. What’d she see in him, he thought, remembering how she looked at him while he worked.

A half-hour went by. As Leon lit his second cigarette, he heard the old man shouting. It was followed almost immediately by the sound of gunfire.

The hell?

Silence. Then another gunshot. And another. Leon’s heart raced. I told them no guns!                   

He bolted toward the house. The front door was open. The woman was upstairs, somewhere, screaming. He ignored her and crept into the parlor.

A body lay prone in front of the open safe. Inside it, the case of jewelry was just sitting there for the taking. Fucking amateurs, Leon thought.

With both hands he shoved the body over so he could get to the safe. When he saw it was Mickey, and not the old man, he stood up.

What the—

Footsteps from somewhere down the hall, someone making a run for the front door.  Another gunshot, a garbled scream.

Joe’s scream.

Panicking, Leon grabbed some of the jewelry out of the box and stuffed it into his pocket.

Of course we didn’t think about the old man having a damn gun.

He crept toward the back door that led to the patio. He knew from having cased the house earlier that day that he could make a beeline for the woods.

But as he was sliding open the glass panel door, the dog — the fucking dog! — charged at him from outside.

Leon jumped back, slamming the door shut before it could claw its way inside. He thought instantly about climbing through one of the windows. But just as he started toward the one above the sink, he heard the sound of a gun being cocked.

“Don’t move,” the old man said. “Turn around.”

Leon raised his hands above his head and pivoted, slowly, until he was facing him. The old man’s eyes grew wide.

“You.”

Leon said nothing. His hands were trembling, out of fear now.

Pointing the gun at Leon, the old man moved closer. “You came here to rob me. Why?”

“We…We needed the money.”

The old man shook his head. “I knew it was a mistake letting you work here again. I should’ve known not to trust a criminal.”

He stepped closer. There was a tenderness in his eyes Leon hadn’t expected. The two men regarded each other for a moment, the gun wavering in the old man’s hands. When he lowered it, Leon felt a rush of relief.

Sensing this was his chance, he mustered the words he had never been able to say.

“I’m sorry.”

The old man sighed.

“You and me both,” he said, finally. Then he aimed the gun at his son’s chest and pulled the trigger.


The Burn Down

Simple he said.

Go in after the place closes and set the bottles, five, filled with a combination of kerosene and liquid soap, nobodies gonna care that some greaseball bar goes up in the middle of the night.  Only Gallo didn’t account for the guys sleeping in the back room.  Soon as the first fuse goes and the bottle pops and sends a sticky wave of flame arching into the wall behind it, Billy starts hearing something.  Next one goes and I’m thinking of getting out of there and Billy is screaming about people in the back.  I’m thinking it ain’t my problem, cold I know, but I’m not skinning my own hide to save a bunch of people we’re supposed to be warring with.  Billy is trying to stomp out the wicks but we daisy-chained them so that as one explodes and burns, the flame is already working towards the next one automatic like.  Behind me, I hear the peel out and turn to watch through the front window as our driver hightails down the road leaving us two in a burning building and I make a mental note to plug that yellow son-of-a-bitch when I see him next.

Now the flame is creeping across the ceiling and I start coughing from the smell.  Billy is working like a lunatic to stop the fire, but he don’t see the flames building up behind him.  I yell and he gives me a glance, half-panic, half-manic.

I can still hear screaming, but there ain’t no way to save them now as the whole back wall is a tapestry of flames.  I watch the paint blister and peel and the flames seep through the crack of the door.

The smoke is getting thick and I have to kneel down to see Billy.  I move to the door ready to retreat.  The pop and hiss of another bottle sends my hand to the knob and I yell at Billy to quit fucking around, but through the growing sheet of smoke, all I can see is his shadow.  Now the place looks like a hellscape, the wood bar is lit up like the river Phlegethon, with the bootleg bottles stashed behind the bar only serving to fuel the flames.  Finally, I call quits and run through the door to the street and fresh air.  Billy almost pushes me into the street when he runs out a few seconds later.  We both double over, coughing and spitting in the gutter, not worried about cops or fire-eaters cause they’d been paid off.

“I’m going to kill that fat fuck Gallo next I see him!” Billy yells.

“You’re not plugging our boss, maybe our driver, but not our boss.”

He hacks and spits something black into the street then stands full to his six-foot frame.  We both turn and watch as the inside of the bar continues to eat itself.  Billy leans in and I know he was listening for those poor bastards in the back but looking at the destruction, I figured they were long gone now.

“Wasn’t supposed to be anyone here, he told us no one would be here.” Billy whispers.  He turns to me and I see the regret on his soot covered face.

“I know.”

“Was it worth it?” he asks.

“It never is.” I say and push him into a jog down the street.  Only so long that payoff money will last, then those uniforms will have to come investigate.


Reunion

He looked at the gun sitting in the open dashboard. A .45. Or was it a 9… a 9-something? What had the guy called it? He’d never fired one before and didn’t really know why he’d bought it. It just seemed like something you’re supposed to have. Besides, he figured she might have one. At this point, there was no predicting what she might do.

Her figure shifted in the car across the lot from him. He tried to get a good look at her but she had lowered the visor, cast herself in shadow. He wondered what she looked like these days.

He stuffed the unloaded gun into his waistband like he’d seen in the movies and grabbed the leather satchel from the passenger seat. He sighed. He climbed from the car, leaving behind nothing but the new car smell.

As he got closer to her, he could hear the faint sounds coming from her trunk. Muffled kicks and curses.

She slid easily from the driver’s seat, graceful even in this. She wore sunglasses and a big black hat and a blouse and sweatpants spattered with flecks of blood. Long, lustrous black hair fell from beneath the hat. Even under the dirty yellow light of the garage, her olive skin was luminous. He didn’t want to look at her.

He leaned against the car and tried to let his blazer fall open to casually reveal the gun. It didn’t and he had to yank it the rest of way.

She looked at the gun, then at him.

“You look like an asshole,” she said. “You know that, right?”

He did. “I got your package. The uh, the… part.”

At the sound of his voice, a loud wail came from the trunk. He wondered how much blood was being lost from the severed finger.

“If you put it on ice, he’ll be fine.”

“I don’t understand.” He looked over the cement barriers of the parking garage and out to the city, hoping that looking farther off would take him away from the sounds of the trunk. “He worked so hard.”

“That was family money. You know that.”

He wanted to scream at her. He wanted to cry. He wanted to sleep. He just wanted it to be over. He handed her the satchel.

She jerked it from his hand and unzipped. Flipped delicately through the contents. Slim green bricks of one hundred dollar bills.

“It’s all there.”

“Oh gee, thanks mister. I won’t even count it.” She sneered.

“There were other options. Legal options.”

“None like this. None as quick. As satisfying.”

“He didn’t deserve all this.”

She stared at him from behind her sunglasses. He imagined the fire hidden behind them.

She wiped a hand roughly down her face like a bear’s paw with some dead thing. When her hand dropped, it revealed the flesh beneath her makeup. A bruise, deep and dark and fresh. She rolled up her sleeve to show her forearm. Bruises in the shape of five fingers, encircling her. Holding her.

“I…” He stared. He couldn’t help it. She let him. “I didn’t know.”

“I’m moving. Getting new papers. You won’t be able to find me.”

“I won’t try.”

He held out the keys to the car. She stepped forward. Inches away. She took his hand in both of hers. He was shaking now and he didn’t know why. She took the keys and pressed something hard and metallic into his fleshy palm. She folded his hand together into a small fist. He stood, frozen.

“You know, I mean, just so you know, I hadn’t seen him in five years. Not even spoken.”

“Whatever you need,” she said.

She walked to the car, gunned the engine.

He looked down at his sweaty, open hand. The thin gold band stared back at him. It had no shine to it.

He watched her drive from the lot and away to wherever she wanted. He fiddled with the ring in his fingers, rolling it over and over in the sick light and listening to his brother kick and kick, wondering just what he’d gotten for his money.


Dodging Bullets: Looking Ahead to 2019

Only a few days left of 2018, and I imagine many of you are ready to be done with it. I know there are a lot of aspects I’d like to leave behind. But in the publishing world, there’s always something to look forward to, and that’s more books.

  • 01-18 | The Lucky Clover by Nick Heeb
  • 02-08 | Main Bad Guy by Nick Kolakowski
  • 03-08 | It’s Not My Cult! by A.X. Kalinchuk
  • 04-12 | Load by Preston Lang
  • 05-10 | The Furious Way by Aaron Philip Clark
  • 06-07 | How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks by Jennifer Lee Thomson
  • 07-12 | Honorary Jersey Girl by Albert Tucher
  • 08-09 | 40 Nickels by R. Daniel Lester
  • 09-06 | Chasing China White by Allan Leverone
  • 10-25 | Shotgun Honey Presents: Call Me Danger
  • 12-13 | Coal Black: Stories by Chris McGinley

2019 will be full of comedy and tragedy with many returning characters and authors. Enough variety that you’ll want to add at least one to your nightstand reading.

Many titles have been mentioned previously, and in the coming weeks and months we’ll be delving into each one individually. Two noteworthy additions come in the final quarter of 2019.

Chris McGinley

In 2018, unless you’ve been in hiding, you’ve probably run into Chris McGinley’s stories on various websites, including ours with “The Haint”. So we’re very happy to publish his first collection Coal Black: Stories in just under twelve months. As the title suggest, it’ll be packed with stories about rural Kentucky and Appalachia. I’m a fan and I hope you’ll be too.

In October is one of two special projects we’re working on for release in 2019. Shotgun Honey Presents: Call Me Danger is the return of our anthology series which kicked off our publishing endeavors with Both Barrels (2012), Reloaded (2013), and Locked and Loaded (2015). Keep your eyes out for information on submitting in next couple weeks.

If you’re a reviewer and you see a cover, title or author that piques your interest, feel free to reach out by emailing press@shotgunhoney.com. We’ll be sure get you an eARC when it’s available.

Thank you for your support and have a prosperous new year.


The Best Gift of All

Diana sat naked on the bed and contemplated her choices in life.

A certain amount of weirdness came with spending Christmas Day in a succession of motel rooms. Between the men who had nobody and the men who wanted to get away from everybody, Christmas paid better than any other day of the year. From morning until midnight she had five dates lined up with men who would be in a tipping mood.

So the Christmas tree and the wrapped gifts in the corner of this hot-pillow room didn’t faze her. But the man who had brought the holiday cheer was now standing between her and the door and holding a gun to his head.

“Say you’ll marry me,” said Gordon. “Say it, or I’ll pull the trigger.”

He had proposed without his clothes before, but the firepower was an escalation.

“Gordon, you don’t want to kill yourself. Not over me.”

“I’ll take care of you. You won’t have to do this anymore.”

“We can’t get married.”

“I’m not good enough for you?”

“It’s not you. It’s me.”

A wild urge to giggle welled up almost like vomit in Diana’s throat. Hadn’t the women’s magazines warned her against using that line, even when the stakes weren’t life and death? She searched for something better to say before the gun turned toward her.

“I never told you this, Gordon. But I’m married.”

He gaped. She had never told him, because it wasn’t true. But now she owned the story.

“I haven’t seen my husband in years.”

“So you can dump him.”

“I can’t divorce him, because then he’ll know where I am.”

Gordon’s eyes begged her for more. Sometimes it struck her how often her job came down to telling stories. Men paid her to lift them out of their daily routine, and sex alone didn’t always do it. They especially loved origin stories, and she told them anything except the truth about how she had started hooking. They had their own bills that kept coming month after month. They didn’t need to hear about hers.

“I’ve been hiding from him for years. He never stops looking.”

“How did it happen?”

“I was a … medical student.”

Yeah, she thought. That works.

“I was studying to be a surgeon. But I let a rich man man sweet talk me, and now I have to live using only cash.”

“Just tell me who he is,” said Gordon. “I’ll kill him. For us.”

For a moment Diana considered naming a few men whose departure would improve the planet, but she dismissed the thought. She didn’t operate that way. Not to mention that Gordon would fold when the cops leaned on him.

“He’s much older than I am,” she said. “And I heard he’s sick. He’s desperate to find me before he dies. If I can only hold out, I’ll be free.”

“Then what’s wrong with helping him along?”

“He’s a billionaire. You’d never get close.”

Gordon’s gun hand dropped to his side. He started pacing back and forth in front of the bed. Diana thought about snatching the gun, but she might miss the moving target. She settled for watching his hand. When he started to raise it, she came within a millimeter of launching herself at him.

But he used the hammer of the revolver to scratch his head. She closed her eyes and waited for him to put a bullet into the ceiling. Nothing happened. When she looked again, he had extinguished the craziness in his eyes and become Gordon again.

“I guess I can wait,” he said. “You want to open your presents now or after?”

“Oh, after.”

She smiled and patted the bed beside her.

“We don’t need the gun, do we?”

• • •

They were both dressed, almost like real people. Diana thanked Gordon for the lovely cashmere sweater and the diamond pendant. She didn’t mention the best gift of all—time to come up with the next installment in her story. She would be ready.

She paused at the door.

“Next week?”

“Sure.”


A Holly Jolly Christmas

My sixteenth Christmas looked pretty scant. Daddy’d been gone since before Thanksgiving, I was stuck in an unincorporated North Dakota border town, and legalized marijuana had ushered in a tax boon for the Canadian government and dealt illegal grow-ops a deathblow.

Daddy had always said if you were willing to work hard and had a bit of luck you’d succeed, but Trudeau’d sucked my cousins’ luck dry and left them north of the 49th with starving wallets and no idea about how to help me or help themselves.

I wore a twenty-year-old elf costume with a bell on the cap, sat snot-nosed kids on Santa’s knee and sold Christmas plants at the Holly Jollies sales booth to get by.

Then Mr. Swenson’s nursery burned to the ground the night of the firehall’s annual fundraiser. Half the folks in town were at the local churches praying for the other half, who were supporting the firefighters by getting drunk. Holly Jollies’ order of poinsettias and mistletoe went up in smoke.

A few days later Officer Brandt dropped by my booth. “Surprised you’re working, Brynn,” he said.

I looked up from my book. “We’re restocking tonight. I’m picking up some extras from nearby towns.”

“Good. It’d be a shame for folks to miss out because of some lowlife criminal.”

“Criminal?”

“That fire? It was arson.”

“Really.”

He prattled about generic gasoline anyone for miles kept for farm trucks, ATVs and such, and chalked it up to damn kids looking for kicks.

I shook my head appropriately. When he wandered off and I checked my watch.

It was time.

Daddy’s old pickup worked great on that generic gasoline and I used it to make a loop through some of the local towns.

My real destination was a clearing halfway between my home and nowhere, a break in the trees that ran along the Canadian border across from my cousin’s property.

Frankie arrived first and got out of his truck “You sure about the price?” he asked. A year older than me and allergic to haircuts, Frankie only looked like he had a mullet because our other cousins, Dylan and Travis, had pinned him down and shaved the front of his head. That was going back eight months, so it was starting to grow back in.

“Exchange rate makes it a steal for me,” I said.

He shrugged and dropped the tailgate on his truck. Ten minutes later I had enough plants to get me through the weekend.

I paid him. “Same time, same place next week,” I said.

“Same price?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Works for me.” He got in his old Ford, waved and drove off into the snowy silence.

I took my time adjusting the plants and covered them with a tarp. Light broke through the darkness about ten minutes later.

Dylan rolled window down and cut his engine. “Heya Brynn.”

I turned and looked him. “You getting’ out of that truck or do I have to do this myself?” I asked.

He was the handsome cousin with wavy brown hair and the body of a football player. When he grinned at me he showed his dimples.

“Travis usually does the heavy lifting.” He winked, got out and handed me the product. His goods didn’t take anywhere near as much space or as long to pack.

When I got home I fed Razzle, my oversized mutt, and divvied the weed out between some of the baskets that I marked.

I went to school and quietly collected money from classmates throughout the day.

That afternoon I stocked the shelves at Holly Jollies. Half my customers came looking for Christmas plants. The others had paid for the product at school and bought poinsettias or mistletoe to get it. Business was booming at the sales booth and my boss soon hired someone else to deal with the little kids.

Daddy always said all you needed to succeed was willingness to work hard and a little luck. Trudeau’d shut a door for my cousins and opened one up for me just when I needed it. It was a holly jolly Christmas for me and Razzle after all.


Bookend

The snow-covered deck was already spotted with red when Bobby Coldiron stumbled outside to pass out in the fluff. He woke up minutes later, covered with a dusting of white. Ten feet away, Sid Carmody’s body was also collecting snowfall.

Years ago, some no-necks grabbed Sid and held one side of his face against a belt sander. He killed them both, but his cheek was permanently flat on one side and he picked up the nickname, Bookend.

 Stiffened by the cold, Bobby crawled to the railing and pulled himself up onto wobbly legs. He rubbed his hands together and stomped his feet on his way inside to the kitchen. Bobby willed his fingers to rotate the black plastic knob to “ON,” and opened the large oven door, waiting to feel the sting of heat returning to his extremities. 

Stupid, Bookend Sid. Who knew he would be there, chumming it up with the Philbys? Everything would have been fine if the old guy had simply stayed home in Dorchester and let Bobby kill the Philby brothers.

 When he’d shot them, Bookend had come at him like a hungry tiger, and Bobby had shot him in the chest, right above the pump. Sid had spun away to sit on the floor, yelling about being shot while Bobby busied himself killing the other few patrons. 

 He’d finished shooting the last person when Bookend cracked a pool cue across Bobby’s skull. When he dropped his gun, Bookend kicked it away.

 “Damn,” Bobby thought. He killed Bookend, but the old fool hadn’t figured out he was dead. Had to be at almost fifty and he was still a handful. He hit Bobby with a right cross, breaking Bobby’s nose before walking outside to collapse.

As syndicate haunts go, Michaella’s Grille was old-school. Wall to wall shag carpeting. Bobby’s blood was by the bar, in the dining room and in the kitchen. Everywhere. He wasn’t about to leave that evidence for the Feds to find.

  His client would be disappointed. He was supposed to leave the dead Philby brothers on display, but Bookend had changed all that. Bobby crawled around until he found his gun underneath one of the pool tables.

There was plenty of liquor to ignite, which provided a logical, foolproof accelerant. The cops knew Bookend. He’d look good for all of it. They would find a clean gun in Bookend’s hand, complete with a sound suppressor. They would believe Bookend killed everybody inside, managed to get shot himself, and left the burning building to die outside. Who wouldn’t believe Bookend Sid Carmody was crazy enough to do all that?

 Out on the deck, he placed his gun in Bookend’s hand, hopped over the wooden railing and dropped the six feet down to the street. He turned back to look at Michaella’s as he walked away. The glow from the fire inside was quickly growing in the windows. He looked to the stars and thanked them for giving him such a great life.  They were the last thing he saw before a bullet pierced his brain.

 At the edge of the deck, Bookend Sid Carmody wiped the snow from the flat side of his face and dragged himself over the railing. His shoulder hurt like hell.

Smoke poured from every corner of the old restaurant as Bookend walked past Bobby Coldiron and dropped the gun next to his body, “You should have made sure I was dead, kid.”

Too bad about Michaella’s, Bookend thought. It was a great place.

He didn’t look back.


Dodging Bullets: Rival Sons

This week Shotgun Honey is pleased to announce the release of our final book of 2018, Rival Sons by Aidan Thorn. It is always a pleasure to publish longer works from our flash fiction contributors. Aidan’s first story was “Waste Disposal ” back in 2014.

About Rival Sons

When Kyle Gordon hears that his mother is terminally ill he makes the journey back to his hometown for the first time in nearly two decades, only – home isn’t what it used to be. Kyle is shocked by the dilapidation that has befallen his town.

For nineteen years Kyle vowed to protect the people of his country, serving in the armed forces. On returning home he realises that there were those needing protection right on his own doorstep and it was from no foreign enemy but that of his own flesh and blood. For decades his own father, Frank Gordon, ran the small farming town through fear and crime. Now, the throne has been passed to Kyle’s younger brother, Graham, a man with no moral code.

Kyle had enlisted in the army to distance himself from his father’s chosen profession, and he’d not returned until now to keep his own young family from harms way. Through returning to support his ailing mother Kyle’s fears become reality—the lifelong feud between brothers is reignited and a dangerous bond is formed between his teenage daughter and her grandfather, Frank.

Praise for Rival Sons

Rival Sons is a story about evil overtaking good, how one brother can corrupt the other, and how the lineage passed to us can be more corrupt than any jailhouse snitch. In this blast of a novella, Aidan Thorn delivers—these characters know rivalry and vengeance, guts and glory, failure and worse-than-failure. They also know love and courage (well, some of them do). And like every great noir story, Rival Sons is about a few bad men eating the bullets they so deserve.”

—Matt Phillips, author of Know Me from SmokeThe Bad Kind of LuckyAccidental Outlaws, and Three Kinds of Fool

“A really strong story with great characters. Brilliant stuff. Aidan Thorn is at the forefront of the new wave of British noir.”

—Chris Black, Senior Editor at Fahrenheit 13

“This nuanced, multi-layered homecoming tale packs a real kick-in-the-teeth. Powerful stuff.”

—Tess Makovesky, author of Gravy Train and Raise the Blade.

About Aidan Thorn

Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England. His short fiction has appeared in Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthologies: Gloves Off and Rogue, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, The Big Adios Western DigestShadows & LightHardboiled Dames and Sin as well as online in numerous places.

His first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts was released in 2013 and his second, Tales from the Underbelly in 2017. In September 2015 Number 13 Press published Aidan’s first novella, When the Music’s Over In 2016 Aidan collated and edited the charity anthology, Paladins, for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, working with 16 authors from the UK and USA to deliver this project.


5 Questions with
Travis Richardson

Travis Richardson

Travis Richardson is a regular contributor to Shotgun Honey starting with his first story “The Day We Shot Jesus on Main Street” originally published in 2012. Since then he’s contributed his short fiction to a number of fiction sites and anthologies, becoming an award nominated and well respected writer of short fiction. His work recently appeared in the award winning The Obama Inheritance edited by Gary Phillips.

Today editor and contributor Nick Kolakowski talks with Travis Richardson about his latest release Bloodshot and Bruised: Crime Stories from the South and West, which kicks off with the very story we published six years ago.

Bloodshot and Bruised: Crime Stories from the South and West

Q. Bloodshot and Bruised offers a whole range of crime stories. You touch on everything from the 1992 LA riots to neo-Nazism to good old-fashioned revenge. Is there a common theme that connects most (if not all) of these tales?

While my stories vary in location, structure, and voice, a theme that I often have is the choices that characters make often pivot the stories.  Whether in the present or the past, those choices have consequences. My personal definition of noir is people making bad decisions.

Q. What draws you to writing short stories?

The short answer is completeness and brevity. I can’t say that I’ve ever written a perfect story, but I feel I get closer to perfection the shorter a work is. While editing, I like reading an entire story in one sitting and make changes to the flow and the rhythm that I wouldn’t be able to do with a novel.  A wonderful thing about tight word counts, like flash fiction, is that every unnecessary word gets the hatchet.  

Q. I know this is sort of like asking to choose between favorite children or pets… but what’s your favorite story from this collection?

It’s a little tough, but “The Day We Shot Jesus on Main Street” has to be the one. It was one of my first published short stories, and Shotgun Honey put it out into the world. I received a lot of positive feedback about the story and knew I was on the right path.    

Visit TSRichardson.com

Q. Do you find it easier to write long, or short? What advice do you have for writers who want to craft a perfect short story, but wrestle with keeping the narrative under a certain word-count?

I like the short story because I can complete it. I have several unfinished (and finished) longer works that never feel ready. Typically, my first draft for Shotgun Honey or other flash fiction sites is around 1500 words to get the idea and flow, and then I chip away until only the essentials are left.

I’m not big on descriptions. If there is something unique, I mention it, but outside a of a line or two about a person or place, dialogue and the way a person carries themselves and the way others react to a person or a place is often enough for a reader to visualize all of the elements in a story. 

On longer stories that need to be 5,000 or 10,000 words and I’m over by a few thousand, I’ll try to cut out nonessential scenes by either skipping them or paraphrasing the action. I’ll also go through the MS and focus on paragraphs over 4 lines long and see if I can compress enough words to eliminate a line and move on to the next.

I haven’t been able to do this on a bigger scale for novels. But sometimes bulk is important to the market. I’ve had an agent tell me that while they liked a work, in order to sell a book, I’d need to increase word count to 70k.

Q. What’s next for you?   

Not sure. I finished a short story for an anthology over the weekend. I’ve been writing a quartet of crime novellas set in a West Texas town called Tarwater over the years. The first three are done and edited, I just need to finish writing the finale. I also started a western at the beginning of the year, but left it after 80 pages. I hope to get back to that.

Thank you for the interview, Nick!   


Prey

Allen Fuller saw the girl up ahead, just as he was shifting up but by the time he passed her he was already slowing the truck down.He eased the big rig to the shoulder of the entrance ramp to I-35 and came to a complete stop. 

He watched her in the mirror.

Even from fifty yards back and the fading light of day, he could tell she was a looker. She tucked her long brown hair behind a near and put a hand on her hip. She didn’t move though, just stared.

Then finally, she adjusted the shoulder strap of her duffel bag and started towards the truck.

Watching her come, he’d always thought that there’s nothing better than a girl in a cowboy hat.

Her boots were worn and not for show, the faded jeans had a little rip in one knee. Her denim shirt was rolled up to the elbows and she had the walk of a ranch girl. Hard to describe that walk but it has its own slow,easy gait. Along with a touch of swagger. A little toughie, he grinned.

And she was short. Probably only went about a hundred and ten pounds or so. Damn cute and damn young. Maybe twenty. Maybe.  

Then she stopped, about ten feet from the back end of the trailer and Fuller was afraid she was going to change her mind.

He rolled down the window and stuck his head out. “You comin’ or not? I gotta get goin’ here. On a tight schedule darlin’.”

Sitting back in the seat, his eyes slid back to the big mirror on the door. She disappeared behind the trailer and a moment later the passenger door opened. She stepped up on the running board, giving him a solemn look.

“Yes ma’am?” he offered his best smile.

“Where you headed sir?”

He looked at that fresh, tanned face. Those pale blue eyes. His heart skipped then did a slow roll. “Small load in Austin, then up to Cowtown to drop the rest.”

She looked down.

He waited, staring at the top of her hat and hoping. It had been so long since the last one.

Looking up again she said, “Okay. Fort Worth is where I’m headed.”

“Then let’s go girl.”

They pulled off and merged onto the interstate. Miles went by without much conversation at all. The sky had gone totally dark now and Fuller had too. The urge was too strong.

He smiled at the green dash lights. Green means go.

“What’s your name darlin’?”

“I’m Kat, short for Kathleen.”

“Born in Fort Worth?” he asked. His eyes wandered to her denim shirt first, down to her jeans and then back up again.

She gave him a tight, nervous smile. “Yessir. Born and raised.”

“Shouldn’t be hitchhiking.”

“I know.”

“You’re lucky girl.”

“How’s that?” She asked, watching his eyes continue to float over her.

“Lucky I ain’t some crazy ass serial killer”, he lied with a soft laugh. “Yup…lucky all I’m gonna do is roll you around back there.” Fuller thumbed back at the sleeper compartment behind him.

Their eyes locked. Then he looked back to the road.

She didn’t say anything. Didn’t know what to say.   

“Just think of it as cab fare darlin’.” He reached over and stroked her arm.

“Mister…”

“Shhh now. You’ll like it.” His voice was low and thick.

“Mister…please don’t do this”, she whispered pushing herself against the passenger door. 

He put his blinker on and she saw a rest stop coming up.

The door locks clacked. He had a cold, blank expression now. “I got an override on the locks sweetheart, don’t even bother.”

There was only three cars and one parked semi. He parked in the last place before cars got back onto the interstate. Fuller shut the truck down, killed the lights and then grabbed at her, snatching one wrist with an iron grip.

If it wasn’t for the heavy traffic noise, somebody might have heard her scream.

They also might have heard the muffled gunshot and if someone would have been looking, they might have seen the gun flash inside the cab. Then two more quick flashes.

Ten minutes later, a girl with a duffel bag on her shoulder walked down to the end of the ramp. A slow, easy walk. With a little swagger to it.