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.


The Quitter

A kitchen table sat in the center of an empty meadow. Two men approached from opposite sides. It was a long walk for each of them.

The men sat down. One had a cigarette. One didn’t. Neither had a name.

“I’m quitting,” Agent M said.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Agent G said. He was the one with the cigarette.

“I’ve begun to see it as killing,” Agent M said. “I have to quit.”

“What was it before?” Agent G said. “All along?”

“Voluntary termination,” Agent M said. “They wanted to die. I was simply the means.”

“They all just lined up to be shot?” Agent G said.

“In a sense,” Agent M said. “They grew tired of life. Their experience in this world had ended. I helped them move on.”

“Why didn’t they just kill themselves?” Agent G said.

“Because drama plays out,” Agent M said. “We all live within a framework. The system dictates the rules. They needed to be murdered to get out.”

“An interesting justification,” Agent G said. “Why has it failed you now?”

Both men paused to take a breath. Agent G lit another cigarette. Agent M didn’t. The meadow yawned quietly. It was a place where nuclear war had never struck.

“I just played my part,” Agent M said. “Every actor gets used up someday.”

Agent G nodded. “Doesn’t mean there isn’t still killing to be done,” he said.”Quitters make us all look bad.”

“My apologies,” Agent M said. “Morality hinders all human progress, doesn’t it?”

“Only the guilty perish,” Agent G said. “What more can you ask than an infallible system like that?”

“We never even know,” Agent M said, “where our instructions are coming from. Who’s ordering these killings, anyway?”

“I think it’s God,” Agent G said.

“God uses contract killers?” Agent M said.

“All the time,” Agent G said. “Right there in the Bible.”

An ant crossed the table. The two men waited until it was through.

“I’ll kill anyone,” Agent M said, “who tries to stop me from not killing anymore.”

“That’s why they sent me,” Agent G said.

“To kill the killer?” Agent M said.

Agent G nodded. Both men had guns hidden under the table. One was probably faster than the other. Soon they would find out which.


Dodging Bullets: Covers Done in the Nick of Time

2019 is only a month away—boy did this year blow by—and for 2018 there is only one more book on the books, Rival Sons by Aidan Thorn releasing December 14 (I mention this as it was to release on the 7th). It’s been a rewarding year as far as working with talented folks, though it has been at times it’s been a juggling act. Part of that is working with all these talented folks, and being allowed to put their stories out there for the public. It’s also because I work full-time elsewhere and I am a full-time student (at 50 next  January), and then there’s just having shitty health.

Rival Sons by Aidan Thorn – December 2018.

My favorite part of the publishing is the creativity I can give to the covers.  If you look in the front of 99% of the books I produce the credit belongs to Bad Fido—it is me and I am it. I created Bad Fido with the hopes of doing covers (and related publishing necessities like websites) for people outside of Shotgun Honey. But, time hasn’t really be on my side. My style is so varied it would be fair I don’t have a style, but the designs I do come from the stories and not some house style I perceive I should have. I think flexibility is good. So if you have a book coming out in 2019 that doesn’t have a cover yet … I’m just saying.

The Lucky Clover by Nick Heeb – January 2018

This week Bad Fido, um me, is please to share covers for January and February releases by Nick Heeb and Nick Kolakowski (respectively).

In The Lucky Clover by Nick Heeb, we follow the Narrator who returns to his old haunt, The Lucky Clover, looking to forget and recover from his past life’s miseries and humiliations by drinking with good friends. He soon discovers the people closest to him had no interest in his honest intentions, and that violence is the only language spoken in this sparse and hard country he calls home.

The Narrator is a man of vice and his actions are fueled by drink and drug and too much time spent in The Lucky Clover. While the story is stark, much of the environment is left to our own encounters with the seedier side of life. Instead of focusing on the atmosphere of the roadside bar, I felt vice was the way to go with this cover. What do you think?

In 2017 the second Shotgun Honey/Down and Out release was A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps which introduced us to Bill and Fiona, whose true romance takes them to near death. This was followed up a year later with Slaughterhouse Blues. Those crazy lovebirds  Nick Kolakowski is a true provocateur of gonzo violence and mayhem. And this February (2019) Bill and Fiona return in their last book in the Love & Bullets trilogy titled Main Bad Guy.

For this book, I took lead from the author and used a central image that is key to the plot and tone of the book. I won’t reveal it’s intent, but it’s going to be quite the ride to this unique courtship.

Main Bad Guy by Nick Kolakowski – February 2019

And of course, I took this opportunity to revisit the first to books of the series and provide some unison. What do you think? Better than the originals?

It’s sad to see the series end, but it’s not the end of Nick. He and I, and a talented bunch of other writers, have something really excited for the second half of 2019. More on that later…


This week I also caught up with posts that didn’t get posted. A couple weeks ago I went to the hospital to get an MRI and came out with Bronchitis. And having sworn I had pre-published all the stories for November, I didn’t check to see if the stories had published, preferring the comfort of bed. So big apologies to R.D. Sullivan and Joshua Wade Freeman. So their stories published late. So be sure to read “So Easy” by R.D. Sullivan and “Gas” by Joshua Wade Freeman.


So Easy

It was so easy to pick the briefcase up. Easier, in fact, than it would have been to explain why he was behind the bar at midnight. He couldn’t turn it into the cops. If the cops got involved, then his wife would know. And if his wife knew, she’d wonder why he was in town instead of at the conference he’d gone so far as to check in to his flight for.

If she found out he was in town, she’d find out about Ashley, and there’d be little solace in the fact that he was behind the bar only because he’d gotten shitfaced after Ashley dumped him, and the bathroom was locked when the alcohol decided to come back up.

That was when he saw the briefcase-one fist against the sticky brick wall, one hand holding his tie back while he vomited half-digested steak between his black leather wingtips.

He didn’t have to take the briefcase, except it seemed a shame not to. It was a nice briefcase, hidden behind the dumpster. Like as not he’d be sleeping in his car, hiding from his wife, dumped by his girlfriend, and it was a really nice briefcase. Tomorrow morning would be horrible regardless; maybe seeing it when he woke would ease his suffering some.

That moment came, too. He couldn’t have been asleep more than three hours but the sun was being a bit of a dick about letting him drift back off. It was the worst hangover he’d had since claiming he could handle his alcohol in high school and learning from the bush he woke up in that he really couldn’t. Barely getting the car door open in time, he hurled, not even surprised at the pile already outside his door. But when he rolled back into the car and groaned, there was the briefcase.

Mottled brown leather, gold accents so bright they hurt his eyes. Granted, everything hurt his eyes. All of him hurt. The memory of finding the briefcase, of getting it back to the car, was a bit blurry.

But if he was going to be awake, he might as well look inside. It sat heavy in his lap, the action of the latches smooth. Slowly, he lifted the lid.

Again he puked out the door, desperate to avoid the thick, messy piles of hundred dollar bills inside.

It was a lot of money. Maybe not fly-to-another-country-and-buy-a-villa kind of money, but enough to play secretly on for a while.

On a whim, once he felt steady enough to walk, he put the briefcase in his trunk and started back towards the bar. He looked like shit and smelled just as bad, and that was okay. It was early, the streets empty.


As he came around the corner he froze, guts churning worse than ever. Cop cars lined the streets, officers everywhere, and a white van was pulling up. Every instinct screamed to turn around yet with cops watching him, he had to keep walking.

The alley he’d found the briefcase in had been bisected by police tape. After a nod to the officers, he stole a glance. Though a white screen hid most of the body, errant locks of long, red hair stuck out around one edge. Mere feet away was the dumpster, and beside that, a pile of his vomit.

He stared, gap jawed, even as a cop approached him.

A car screeched around the corner, and the officer froze. The tires locked feet from a cruiser. Leaving the door wide open, the driver rushed towards the alley, officers running to intercept him. His suit was disheveled, undershirt pulled free, jacket missing.

“I paid them!” he screamed, straining against the hands holding him back. “I left the money! I paid them! Valerie? Valerie!”

When the sobs started was when he left, officers occupied holding the other man back, and slipped around the corner.

He could tell the cops but if the cops knew, then his wife would know, and it was so easy to just walk away.

Maybe he should rethink this.

Maybe it was enough money to leave the country.


Gas

David stood at an ATM outside of a run down, cash only gas station, admiring the Shepard Fairey sticker stuck over the camera. The station was surrounded by trees, much like everywhere else in West Virginia. He put his card in the machine when a man behind him asked for help.

“Hey, man, spare a few dollars?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have a lot right now and I’m still a few hours from home so—”

“Have a nice night.”

David turned to see who it was that needed help, but the man was already walking back to his car, both hands in his yellow hoodie. David withdrew his cash and the machine spit his card out to him. He made it three steps toward the shop’s door before he was stopped again.

“Put it back in,” said another man.

David turned to find a man in a ski mask with one hand behind his back. “What?”

“Your card, put it back in the machine. Give me what you took out too,” Ski Mask repeated, stepping closer to David.

“I’m not emptying my account because some guy said so.”

“You will if you want to stay alive,” said Ski Mask, pulling a handgun from his pocket.

“There’s no need for that.” David went back to the ATM. As he placed his card into the slot he cursed the OBEY sticker blocking the camera. How was he going to get his money back if he was the guy who withdrew it?

“Hurry up,” said Ski Mask, pushing the barrel of his pistol into David’s back.

David checked his account and found five hundred thirty dollars ready to be withdrawn. “How much do you want?”

“What kind of question is that?”

Despite the gun pressed up against his spine, David could not bring himself to finish his withdrawal. His finger hovered over the button to finish his transaction.

“Hey, stop,” shouted a voice from behind.

David felt the weapon rush away from his back. He turned to find the man in the yellow hoodie chasing after Ski Mask. Yellow Hoodie pursued Ski Mask until he disappeared into the trees.

With out a second thought David withdrew one hundred fifty dollars from the machine, and presented it to his hero by the tree line. “I can’t believe you did that, thank you.”

“No, I can’t take this from you. You said you’re still a few hours from home so—”

“You just saved my life, this is the least I can do.”

“I don’t know.”

“I insist.” David held the three fifty dollar bills out to the Good Samaritan.

The model citizen hesitated for a moment before taking the money from David.

“Thank you again, I wish I could give you more.”

“This is more than enough.”

David went inside, paid for his gas, filled up, and drove back toward the interstate to continue his ride home.

“How much did he give us?” asked Ski Mask, stepping out from behind the pine.

“One fifty.”

“I don’t understand why we do this whole charade instead of just holding people up the traditional way.”

“Nobody calls the cops for almost being robbed.” Yellow Hoodie said.

“True, but it feels like a lot. You want to fit another one tonight?” Ski Mask asked, as he moved to pick up his gun up from the asphalt in front the ATM. “There’s a standalone machine down the road.”

“We have anymore stickers?”

“A whole box in the backseat.”

“Sure.”