Shotgun Honey Presents: Locked and Loaded

Today we launch the third volume of the Both Barrels series with Shotgun Honey Presents: Locked and Loaded.

Featuring 25 stories by:

  • “A Boy Like Billy” by Patricia Abbott
  • “Border Crossing” by Michael McGlade
  • “Looking for the Death Trick” by Bracken MacLeod
  • “Maybelle’s Last Stand” by Travis Richardson
  • “Predators” by Marie S. Crosswell
  • “Twenty to Life” by Frank Byrns
  • “So Much Love” by Keith Rawson
  • “Running Late” by Tess Makovesky
  • “Last Supper” by Katanie Duarte
  • “Danny” by Michael Bracken
  • “The Plot” by Jedidiah Ayres
  • “What Alva Wants” by Timothy Friend
  • “Time Enough to Kill” by Kent Gowran
  • “Copas” by Hector Acosta
  • “Yellow Car Punch” by Nigel Bird
  • “Love at First Fight” by Angel Luis Colón
  • “Traps” by Owen Laukkanen
  • “Down the Rickety Stairs” by Alan Orloff
  • “Blackmailer’s Pep Talk” by Chris Rhatigan
  • “With a Little bit of Luck” by Bill Baber
  • “As Cute as a Speckled Pup Under a Red Wagon” by Tony Conaway
  • “Chipping off the Old Block” by Nick Kolakowski
  • “Young Turks and Old Wives” by Shane Simmons
  • “The Hangover Cure” by Seth Lynch
  • “Highway Six” by John L. Thompson

Available in paperback and Kindle editions. Buy your copy today!

Interview with an Asshole by Chris Rhatigan

The room I wait in is a climate-controlled sixty degrees, but I sweat beads of desperation.

One more check then my unemployment runs out. I’m interviewing for a job I need. Simple as that.

The door to Senior Director Barry Clydesdale’s office opens. He’s shaking hands with a guy half my age—twenty-five at most—and laughing, and I just know I’m fucked, that this guy’s already got the job. I swallow hard; Adam’s apple presses against a too-tight collar.

Golden Boy floats through, all pearly whites and freshly pressed suit. I’d like to see him flattened by a bus.

Clydesdale puts on glasses and flicks his iPad.

“Okay then, what do we have here. Bob Nowski?” he announces, even though I’m the only one left in the fucking room.

“That’s me.”

“Alrighty. Let’s get this done.”

He retreats into his office without extending his hand. I sit across from him. His office is sterile—one framed photo facing him, advertising awards lining the walls, one big window overlooking the muddy river. No paper on the desk, just a computer screen thin as a credit card.

His focus is on the electronic tablet. Probably studying my resume for the first time.

He puts down the iPad and steeples his fingers, like he’s trying to figure me out. I smile in a way that I’m sure makes me look like a gargoyle.

“So, Mr. Nowski. You were a, uh, newspaper cartoonist? With the Gazette?”

That’s what it says on my fucking resume that you have right-in-fucking front of you. “Yes. I worked there for the last eight years.”

“Why’d you leave?”

“The paper’s parent company has pursued a belt-tightening strategy for the last year, and—”

“They considered your position expendable?”

It appears I have a wound. Could you rub some salt in it? “You know how the newspaper industry is these days. Very few can afford a full-time cartoonist.”

“Mmm hm. I see you once worked in marketing. If you left the industry before, why should I hire you now?”

Because I’ll do whatever you want. Because I have no ambition so I’ll never take your job. Because it’s this or robbing liquor stores. “Because I’m a team player. I’m very dedicated to my work, as all my references will attest to.”

He nods and goes through the standard questions. What’s your experience with In Design, what are your strengths and weaknesses, etc. I have my hands in my pockets, feeling for the pocket knife on my key chain.

Pretty soon he’s back to the iPad and wrapping things up.

I’m about to get up and accept defeat when his ice-blue eyes meet mine. My collar feels like it’s getting tighter and tighter, about to pop my head off. “Tell me, Mr. Nowski, why is MediaPlus Communications the right place for you?”

I sink back into the chair, chuckle. “Why do I want to work here?”

“Yes.”

“Why’s this the right place for me?”

“That was the question.”

“I’ll tell you, Clydesdale. Come here, come a little bit closer.”

He raises an eyebrow but leans in anyway.

“Because it’s a fucking job that pays in fucking dollars! Why does anyone want any job? THEY NEED MONEY, you dumb shit. You think—”

“Okay, Mr. Nowski, that’s quite enough. Please leave immediately or I’ll call security.”

I hesitate for a second, but think better of it, walk out fast as I can.

It’s drizzling, but I sit on the curb anyway, rip off my tie and pop open the two buttons on my collar. Does nothing to release the pressure.

I don’t smoke anymore, so I stare at the clumps of well-manicured trees and office drone cars.

Across the lot, I see Clydesdale’s champagne-colored S-Class with the terribly creative license plate BOSS-123.

I don’t think about it. One moment the pocket knife’s in my hand. The next I’m puncturing holes in all four tires, each hiss making me laugh a little.

Then I run the blade across the driver’s side. Cherry on top of the sundae.

On the ride home, I’m scared shitless. What the hell was I thinking? How is that going to help me get a job?

Fuck it. I stop at a gas station for a pack of smokes. First one’s the best thing I’ve tasted in a long time.

Somnambulist by Chris Rhatigan

Terry awoke on his neighbor’s porch swing. He was cold and confused and the first thing he saw was Brad Monarch’s shit-eating grin.

Aw, fuck.

“Jesus, Brad, I am so sorry.”

Brad folded his massive, tattooed arms. “You were snoring so loud you woke the whole house up.”

“Like I said, I’m so sorry.”

“You know, you’re getting quite the reputation. You’re the Village Freak.” Brad cackled at him. “Wandering the streets late at night, spooking people.”

“I made an appointment with the doctor—”

“And what’s with those SpongeBob SquarePants boxers? Aren’t you supposed to be a grown-ass man?”

Terry rubbed his eyes. Out of all the porch swings he could have wandered to, of course it had to be Brad’s. “It’s not SpongeBob. They’re—”

“Whatever, Freak. Now let’s get you back to where you came from.”

Brad grabbed his arm, lifted him to his feet like he was a child.

As they crossed the street, Terry wriggled from his grasp. He couldn’t see shit without his glasses, but he wasn’t about to take “help” from that asshole.

His wife, Jean, was waiting on their front doorstep in that hideous peach nightgown, shaking her head.

She spoke to Brad. “Guess he wandered out of the house again, eh?” She snorted. “Unfuckingbelievable.”

***

Terry woke up exhausted. He went downstairs and poured himself a bowl of raisin bran. His teenage son, Peter, sat at the table. Jean was making an omelet.

He couldn’t help but notice they were looking at each other, giggling. A ball of ice formed in his stomach.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Peter said between giggles. “It’s just that I found you in the hall last night. You said you needed to go to the bathroom. And,” Peter was laughing so much he had trouble finishing the story, “you dropped trou right there. Just untied your pajama bottoms and pulled them down all the way to your ankles.”

“He had to redirect you to the bathroom.” Jean was cracking up, too. “Otherwise you would have peed all over the new carpets!”

Tears streamed down Peter’s cheeks. “I don’t think you were conscious for any of it!”

“It’s incredible.” Jean gestured at her husband with a spatula. “He did it twice in one night—that must be some kind of record!”

“Now this isn’t funny at all,” Terry said. “It’s an extremely serious…”

He stopped talking. He couldn’t even hear himself over their laughter.

***

One night, Jean told him she was going to buy a set of restraints.

“Tying you down to the bed—that’s the only way to make sure you don’t embarrass this family anymore.”

Terry curled into a ball and flicked off the lamp beside him. Exhaustion defeated anger and instead of arguing, he went to sleep.

He awoke several hours later outside, cool breeze at his back, bloody shovel in his hands, and Brad Monarch lying at his feet.

The beefy man raised a big, trembling hand. “Please, please stop, Terry. You—you can take my shovel. I didn’t mean to get in your way.”

Terry tightened his grip on the shovel’s handle. He wanted, very badly, to bash Brad’s skull to a pulp.

But if he did that, he realized, he would sacrifice his newfound power.

“I’ll let you go,” he said. “This time.”

Brad scuttled away like a hermit crab, made it to his feet, and ran.

And Terry laughed.

***

His reputation transformed overnight.

Jean made him breakfast, fetched his newspaper, gave him massages.

He started borrowing tools from Brad just to watch him cower.

He canceled the appointment he’d made with his doctor. Sleepwalking was no longer a problem.

Skinny Latte by Chris Rhatigan

Lucy teased Andrew for weeks. When he followed her through the halls, she would drop her Trapper Keeper, let him race over to pick up her papers. One night when he was lurking outside her house, she took off her tank top and – oops! – forgot to pull down the blinds.

A phone call on a Saturday morning – she was all by her lonesome and sooo bored – and he was on his bike, racing over.

When she was fat, Andrew and all the other boys stayed away from her. That was before her mom found her stashes of Mallomars and Cheetos.

She’d made Lucy eat them all until she vomited. Then put her on a strict diet of flavorless salads and whole body cleanses. That was Mom – controlling every moment of her life.

A knock at the door. Lucy put her wet hair up, slipped on a bathrobe and went downstairs.

“Took you long enough,” she said.

“Got here as fast as I could.”

She went inside and he followed. Like a good puppy. “I made espresso.”

“Oh, I don’t drink that stuff.”

She smiled, displaying her adorable dimples. “You do now.”

She poured the espresso into two mugs, added the skim milk that was simmering in a saucepan. She thought about the way Mom would look if she found out Lucy had a boy over. How her facial muscles would want to move but couldn’t – thanks botox! – how that vein in her neck would get taut like a piano string. Delicious.

Andrew’s eyes followed a single drop of water rolling toward her cleavage.

She said, “You know how I got like this?”

“What do you mean?”

She caressed his forearm with electric blue fingernails. He trembled. “Don’t be so polite. You know what I mean. How I lost weight. How I got hot. You remember those nicknames they called me, right? Lard Ass and Rosie O and The Beached Whale –”

“They shouldn’t have –”

“Done that. I know, but I don’t care. It’s all in the past cause of Mom. The workout regimen she put me on – well, let’s just say none of the boys on the football team could have survived. Of course, I could never be as fit as her.”

“You’re way hotter than her. You’re a goddess.”

“That’s sweet of you,” she said. “You know, I think she’s jealous.”

“What do you mean?”

She leaned in, whispered, “Last week, when you walked me home from school, she said I had to stay away from you, from all boys, until I was eighteen.”

“That’s insane. What are you, Mormon?”

She laughed without feeling, then kissed him once, for a long time. No tongue. Not yet. She took his hands, gave them a squeeze.

They hadn’t touched the mugs. “Fuck this,” she said. “Let’s go down to the basement.”

He stammered and she pressed a finger against his lips. “But I have one condition.”

“Anything. Name it.”

“Come with me.”

She led him down to the basement and flipped the light switch.

“I told you a teensie weensie lie. I don’t really have the house to myself. Dad and Nick are at the basketball tournament.” She pointed at the body splayed out on the blood-stained berber. “But Mom’s still here.”

His eyes bugged. “What did you do?”

“Don’t be scared, Andrew.” She ran a hand through his curly hair, rubbed the back of his neck. “I could take never having cake on my birthday and the thousands of sit-ups. But when she wouldn’t let me use what I worked so hard for – that was too much.”

He slipped from her grasp. “I gotta go.”

She pulled the tie on her bathrobe and it fell to the floor. Damn, she loved being naked. “Really? Cause I think you’re going to stay.” She stepped over her mother, lay down on a worn leather sofa. “You know this is your only chance, right?”

He stammered and an erection pressed against his shorts.

“On one condition, of course.”

“Fine. What is it?”

“I’ve been good for a long time.” She pulled out a package from under the sofa. “So you’re going to feed me Mallomars.