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!

It Burns, Burns, Burns by Frank Byrns

It always starts the same way:

I’m on the bus, late at night, and I’m headed home after work.

There’s another person in there with me – man, woman, whatever – and damn if they’re not interesting. Some smokin’ hot chick or a guy who looks like an underwear model or a kid with a lazy eye or an old woman with a plastic leg.

Like I said: interesting.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong. There ain’t nothing sexual about it. Between you and me, I hadn’t had sex in ten years.

It ain’t sexual.

They’re just interesting.

It always starts the same way:

I’m on the bus, late at night, and I’m headed home after work.

There’s another person in there with me – man, woman, whatever – and damn if they’re not interesting. Some smokin’ hot chick or a guy who looks like an underwear model or a kid with a lazy eye or an old woman with a plastic leg.

Like I said: interesting.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong. There ain’t nothing sexual about it. Between you and me, I hadn’t had sex in ten years.

It ain’t sexual.

They’re just interesting.

And this, this alarm goes off in my brain, like one of those old-time smoke detectors that won’t stop until you climb up on a chair and pull the battery out? This real shrill burning thing, like a hot iron right against your face. And what it’s saying to me, this thing that won’t just shut the hell up, is that I have to see them again.

Just to see them. I don’t have to talk to them or nothing like that – I imagine you could count the people I talked to in the last ten years on one hand. Maybe two hands, but you could definitely leave your shoes on. I don’t have to get to know them, or be their friend, nothing like that.

I just have to see them.

So I stay on the bus, ride past my stop if I have to, just stay on ’til we come to their stop. I get off when they get off, and then I follow them home.

Not close enough to be creepy, nothing like that. Just close enough to watch.

To see them.

And then they go inside. They don’t stop and wave and say goodbye or nothing – why would they? They don’t even know I’m there.

No one ever knows I’m there.

So now they’re inside, and I’m outside, and still, still, I still have to see them again.

I could hang out there on the sidewalk all night long, wait for them to come back out again. But that would be creepy. I’m not creepy.

So, instead?

I light a fire.

I pull out the Zippo I stole off my old man’s nightstand the night he died and the Gatorade bottle full of gas I keep in my backpack. Then I soak one of the old t-shirts I keep in the bag, light it up, and toss it through the bars on the window.

That’s one of the nice things about living in this neighborhood: not a lot of air conditioning and a lot of open windows. And police that don’t give two shits about another house fire on this side of town? That’s another one.

I got a pretty good arm, so I get the rag in there pretty deep in the house. I soak it pretty good, too, so it don’t take long before there’s a nice one going.

Then? I just take a quick lap around the block, and by the time I get back, there’s enough of a crowd to just melt right in with all the rest of them, all of us watching, seeing the chick or the guy or the kid or the old lady one more time.

Sometimes when it’s late enough they come out in their underwear. That’s interesting, too.

Sometimes, though, they don’t come out at all. Not ’til a couple hours later, or the next morning, when they come out in one of them heavy black bags.

But I’m there when they do.

I have to be.

I have to see them.

One more time.

Henry by Frank Byrns

He was a good kid.

I know there’s going to be other folks that tell you different, but I don’t care. My son was a good kid.

He had his problems, yeah. Every kid does. All my other kids did. All ten of them. Andre was the youngest. My baby. I never told anybody this before, but he was probably my favorite. Don’t tell that to the rest, huh? It won’t help nothing.

He used to go with me to work. In the summers, after school let out. Get up early, take the train downtown. I thought it’d be good for him, you know, seeing the way other folks live. Give him something to strive for. Dell would let him sweep up the shop sometimes, do some dishes in the back every now and again. Run the trash outside, that kind of thing.

Andre, he wanted to be a barber when he grew up. Anybody tell you that? Have his own shop right here in the neighborhood. Said he wouldn’t forget his old man once he got to be big business – save me a job sweeping up, something like that. He could be a sweet kid that way, sometimes.

We used to come down here a lot. Not so much lately – not like we used to, anyway. Every Sunday after church. We never kept anything, not coming out of this water. Just catch and release. All afternoon.

I like it here. It’s real peaceful – you’d hardly know you were still in the city. A good place to come and get your thoughts right. Just fish and think.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Thinking. Trying to make sense of everything. Hadn’t had much luck with that, though – not much sense to be found in a fourteen-year-old boy shot in the back of the head, is there?

It was supposed to be the other way ’round, you know? Sons are supposed to bury their fathers, make room for their own place in the world. That’s the natural order of things. Not the other way ’round.

The Mayor told me that. When he stopped by the house a couple days after. Told me that he was going to be personally responsible to find out what really went down that afternoon. It’s been a couple of months now – I’m still waiting. Is it too much to hold a man to his word? Maybe I’m crazy.

I don’t know. You tell me.