David’s Haunted Library: Baker: Demons and other Night Things (The Magic Now Series Book 3)

DavidsHaunted

30832333Baker Johnson has a gift and a curse. He has the ability to read people by just looking at them, but he is haunted by a dark past and doesn’t like to be close to people. At least not living ones. Baker is a demonologist, exorcist, and keeper of cursed objects living in the 1930’s. Baker: Demons and other Night Things by Terry West includes 4 stories about Baker Johnson as he gets introduced into the Night Things universe.

The first story is The Giving Of Things Cold and Cursed and is about Baker inheriting his uncle’s Black Room where he kept cursed objects. To Baker’s surprise many of the objects have been given away and now he needs to clean up the mess. In this story we find out about Baker’s personality and why he does the things he does. Baker is a complex character, he uses his gift because he has to, but he isn’t happy, he just accepts it as his station in life.

The second story is The Servant Of The Red Quill. Here Baker is called to a home of a wealthy collector of Cursed objects, where he has to perform an exorcist on the man’s daughter who is being possessed by a spirit tied to a book written by Marquis de Sade. I loved the concept of this story, I loved that we learned more about The family Baker had and I liked how Baker acts when the demon uses Baker’s family against him. The Baker character grows in this story and I found myself starting to like him despite his flaws.

The next one is called The Dark Alp, this one once again has Baker grow as a character as we see him being haunted by a nightmare demon. Not everything is as it appears in this story, I loved the ending and I loved how once again Baker is confronted with the ghosts of his past but he shows that he is more powerful than his past. In all these stories I loved that there seemed to be a theme of not letting your past define you.

The last story called A Weird Tale ties Baker to the Night Things universe. The story opens with H.P. Lovecraft telling Baker that the old gods are coming and nothing can stop them from destroying the world. These words haunt Baker and that leads to a meeting with Johnny Stucke who pays Baker to hand over a cursed object that might change everything. We see a very different Baker in this story, he now has a team backing him up but he still has to contend with the darkness within. Once again I loved the ending and how it sets up future Night Things stories.

This book also includes a sample of Terry West’s next Night Thing book. If you are not familiar with Terry West’s work this is a good book to start with. West knows how to make memorable characters that are flawed and that you can relate to at the same time. What is interesting about Baker is that he has this dark history but despite that, he still tries to do the right thing and we see the character grow into a different person through each of these stories. Terry West knows what horror fans like to read and this book is a great example of how horror should be written.

 

 

Press Release: I Bathory, Queen Of Blood

NEW RELEASE

 From Creativia Publishing

 I, BATHORY, QUEEN OF BLOOD

FROM AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR, CAROLE GILL

Now available from renowned horror author Carole Gill. I, Bathory, Queen of Blood is her long-awaited blood-soaked chiller based on the life of the infamous Hungarian Countess Erzsebet Bathory.

In present day New York, a woman is writing her memoirs…

I%2c Bathory%2c Queen of Blood CompleteBorn in 16th century Hungary, Damita wasn’t always known by her current name. A human monster with absolute power, she murdered and tortured for pleasure.

Obsessed with her looks, when her trusted servant Darvulia told her how to  reverse any signs of aging, she began bathing in blood. Her servant girls were the source and the bodies piled up.

Never tried because of her name and position, she was walled up in her castle. She lived another four years before succumbing to death. But love would not permit this. She was raised up by the vampire, Anton who had fallen deeply in love with her.

Spanning centuries and concluding in modern day, this is the story of Damita, previously known as Erzsebet Bathory – The Blood Countess.

Carole Gill is well known to fans of the horror genre for her award-winning and bestselling Blackstone Vampires series which won her the coveted,
eBook Festival of Words 2014
Best Horror: The House on Blackstone Moor and
Best Villain: Eco

I, Bathory, Queen of Blood is available from myBook.to/QueenofBlood 

Available in kindle and paperback .

http://carolegillauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Press Release: Crystal Lake Publishing Presents: Tales From The Lake Volume 3

Crystal Lake Publishing has just released Tales From The Lake Volume 3 and includes a story from Sumiko Saulson. Sumiko was the featured author on episode 109 of the horroraddicts.net podcast, she has also written various articles for the horror addicts blog and has an article in The Horror Addicts Guide To Life. Sumiko Saulson’s story is called Enclosures and you can find out more about her here:

https://sumikosaulson.com/

The TALES FROM THE LAKE legend continues with volume 3 in this popular series.

Dive into the deep end of the lake with 19 tales of terror, selected by Monique Snyman.

31437640Tales from the Lake Vol. 3 features ghosts, monsters, assassins, alternate dimensions, creatures from the deepest depths and the darkest parts of the universe.

Join “Maybelle” by Mere Joyce in a world where books become real enough to cause both pleasure and pain. Avoid the sounds of “The Cruel” by Harper Hull, lest you want to come to a terrifying end. Travel across the world to see what terrors lurk in an abandoned hospital with “Hush” by Sergio Pereira.

This non-themed horror anthology is filled with suspenseful stories, terrifying thrillers, tragic tales, mystifying mysteries, and memorable adventures that will leave you wanting more. Let these modern urban legends prickle your imagination, share it around a campfire, and revel in the magic of Crystal Lake’s exceptional authors.

The Owl Builder by D. Morgan Ballmer
Tragedy Park by Chris Pearce
Enclosures by Sumiko Saulson                            Woe Violent Water by Lily Childs
The Cruel by Harper Hull
Red Scream with Little Smile by Paul Edmonds
Maybelle by Meredith Cleversey writing as Mere Joyce
Rodent in the Red Room by Matt Hayward
The Deeper I Go The Deeper I Fear by Natalie Carroll
The Pigmalion Pigs by Mark Allan Gunnells
Chemical Oasis by Tommy B. Smith
Hush by Sergio Pereira
The Reaper’s Fire by Kenneth W. Cain
Effigy by Kate Jonez
Scents of Fear by Steve Jenner
The Bet by Amy Grech
A Hand from the Depths by Dave-Brendon de Burgh
The Monster of Biscayne Bay by Roxanne Dent
The Song at the Edge of the Unfinished Road by Patrick Bates

Foreword by the editor, Monique Snyman.

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing.

“A solid anthology representing the best in horror fiction, with tales that will stay with you for some time.” — Ben Eads, author of, Cracked Sky

download


Links:
Amazon:
http://getbook.at/Lake3
Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31437640-tales-from-the-lake-vol-3

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

An Interview With A. Craig Newman

Our featured author for Epispde 128 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast is A. Craig Newman. He grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was raised on the works of Stephen King. Recently A. Craig Newman answered a few questions about his writing:

What is your story for episode 128 about?

3ab6fea455b8b4fedce5461374d4672ab6bd6b19“Randall’s Visit” is about a man who is talking to his therapist while being plagued by the spirit of a little girl.

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since 1984 when I was 10. I was telling my dad a story one day and he told me to write it down so he could get some sleep. Been writing ever since.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

Insanity is a frequent feature in many of my stories. I also like to explore sex, religion, power, and the abuse of all three. I like twist endings that makes the reader want to go back and see what clues they missed. Hence, I say my stories are written to be read twice.

Who or what inspires you?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my life. I’ve been the guy on their therapist’s couch working out his demons. I hope to help the reader escape from their reality for brief moments and enjoy a trip down the rabbit hole.

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?e7586778cd932d0101b886dfa1b6cbbe8f758800

Horror seems to be a warped take on many concepts found in faith and religion. As a man who grew up in the church and even wanted to be a minister at one point, I find it fascinating to explore the flip side of belief.

What are some of the books you have available?

Burn” is about a man in pain who takes drugs to relieve his suffering. But he isn’t careful and with this relief comes new consequences for his actions.
“Dierste Hamelin and the Pied Piper” is my update to the old fairy tale. Dierste hires Piper to take care of a pest. All goes well until she has to pay.
“Wages of Sin” is about a future were the punishments for certain crimes are more creative than today. The reader sees two women punished for the crime of loving each other

Soon to be available ( hopefully by the time this airs) is my first published full length novel, “The Apocalypse Plan”. Michael and Liz are FBI agents on the task force investigating the destruction of the United Nations building. As they follow the trail, they come face to face with their own demons and secrets and End Times Prophecy .

Where can we find you online?

Here, my books can be purchased and more information about me can be found. https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ACraigNewman

http://www.acraignewman.com/

Grant Me Serenity: The End Part 2

gms

“Well now,” Len said pleasantly, not moving. “I see we have quite a quandary.”
“Yeah?” Harding sneered. “I don’t see a quandary. You don’t get moving, there’ll be a bullet in your head before you can think about saying goodbye.”
“How are you going to do that without having to explain a lot of things to them?” Len nodded at the door leading to the hallway which opened to the parking lot. Decent group tonight, judging by the amount of door-slamming and the volume of residual chatter as the AA members who smoked lit up around the ashtray. “I don’t see a silencer on that gun of yours. Your arm must be getting tired, by the way.”
Harding’s face was frozen in the sneer but his eyes had filled with an uncertainty Len recognized. His arm, whether genuinely tired, or inspired to be so by the power of suggestion, began to tremble.
Len began to move forward, hands held out to his sides, a placid smile on his face. Harding raised the gun anew. “Get moving out that back door motherfucker, I swear to Christ I’ll blow your fucking head off. Don’t push me.”
“Oh I’m sure you would,” Len replied, still coming forward, still with hands out. “I’m not as heavily armed as that man but my pockets are full of shadows. Who knows, one of them could be an automatic.”
“Shut up!” Harding’s gun pointed at Len’s head, then his stomach, then his chest. “Just shut the fuck up and get out the door!” His voice had risen noticeably.
The smile dropped off Len’s face. Only some had seen the look which replaced it, most of whom were dead. “Last chance, EX-detective. Put your gun away and leave. You can continue being whatever you are now instead of what you will become.”
“Fuck you!” Harding raised the gun again and aimed it between Len’s eyes. “This is your last fucking chance!”
Len sighed, and plunged his hand into his pocket. Harding, his nerves strung tighter than a guitar string, fired.

“The jury finds the defendant guilty of the charge of murder in the first degree.”
The words hung in the courtroom, leaden. Guilty. Murder. Harding could scarcely believe it. Hearing the jury recommend the death penalty was even more surreal. Death penalty? For him? What the fuck had happened? How had he gotten here?
His mind whirred through the past like a flipbook. Yesterday’s meeting with his lawyer. Good record, recovery, acquittal is a sure thing, blah blah blah. The weeks leading up to that meeting, the trial, the hell of being torn apart in front of crowd, a judge, a newspaper, with the press, always the press out for his blood, and some days those four smirking faces from the church in the crowd, right there but unattainable. The months of incarceration prior to that whole media frenzy, pacing his cell, desperate for time with his lawyer, because then, only then, did he feel like he was making progress, moving forward. The weeks immediately afterward, when he had been in the purgatory of jail, not knowing what was coming, only knowing it was taking its sweet time and that it was going to be bad, then being proved correct in his worst assumptions. That horrible night he had been taken into the police station in the humiliating perp-walk, handcuffed past his peers, some of them gawking, some shaking their heads, some smirking like the pieces of shit they were. His mug shot, the most painful moment of all, somehow, was when they had fingerprinted him. Finally the ghastly night in the basement of the church when he had somehow, like a fucking idiot…

A small round dot appeared between Len’s eyes, visible for a split second before his head jerked back and threw him to the floor, arms flying out, hands open, nothing but emptiness inside. Unarmed.
“No,” Ed groaned, dropping to his feet beside Len and dropping his gun. “No, oh God oh God NO!” he screamed, pawing desperately at Len’s hand, as though by magic he could make a weapon appear in it. He slapped Len’s legs, hoping to manifest a gun in a holster, a knife in a pocket, something, anything, oh holy fuck not again…
“Oh my God!”
This new hellishly unwelcome voice cut in. Ed jerked his head around, eyes bulging, staring at the first alcoholic to enter the room, a matronly woman in a pink pants suit, whose face was hidden behind her ringed hands, horror in her eyes.
Ed held out his hands to her, numbly glad he had dropped the gun, his mouth working on excuses, somehow blurting out, “I can explain…”

His last meal was a big decision, and Ed thought about it long and hard. Finally, he settled on Shepherd’s Pie, sauerkraut, and pistachio ice cream, washing it down with two cans of Mountain Dew. He immediately regretted it upon finishing, wishing instead he had ordered beef stew, or ravioli, but that was just who Ed Harding was. Had he ordered all three, he would have wished for something different. As he sat there, tasting the sauerkraut and fishing errant strings of it from his back teeth, a guard appeared at his door. It was time.
As he was being strapped in to the chair, trying to keep from hyperventilating, the door in the back of the death chamber opened. Dr Pudge entered. Missy followed. She looked straight at him, with not a hint of recognition. His jaw dropped.
“Hey…”
The guard, moving so swiftly he seemed not to move at all, fixed a gag across Ed’s mouth. The room returned to its normal silence as the necessary plumbing was hooked up to Ed’s body. His eyes grew huger as he saw Jerry, Jessica and Paul sitting in the gallery. No one else was there. Paul smiled and waved. Jessica glared. Jerry’s face was a mask.
The guard, seeing the prisoner was ready for execution, made his speech. “Edward Harding, you have been sentenced to die by a jury of your peers. Do you have anything to say before sentence is carried out?” The guard removed the gag, and Ed filled his lungs.
“Listen to me. This is the truth. That crazy bitch there,” he nodded in Missy’s direction. Her face didn’t move. “and those three assholes–” nodding toward the gallery, “are psychopaths! Murderers! I killed one of their little group after they sat around telling stories about how they’d done it as kids! Ask them! Go on!”
The guard nodded as though he believed every word. This was not the first time someone in the chair had screamed accusations with their last breath. It would not be the last. He looked at Missy. She nodded in return, and began opening valves in her deadly dance. Ed was still ranting as he noticed his eyes growing heavy. He began to yell, but by then, it was over.

Until his eyes opened.

“Oh, there he is, I told you he’d wake up, didn’t I?” A woman’s voice, nearly crowing with delight. Horrible to hear. Horribly familiar.

“Well done, Missy,” a male voice said.

Ed was shivering, but could not move. Was he still in that god damn death room? Was his execution still going on? Then why did the ceiling look so much darker?

A stinging smack on the side of his face brought the ceiling in to focus. He shook his head and looked around him just in time for the rolled up towel someone was snapping to take him in the eye and nearly gouge it out by the feeling, holy shit he had never felt that much pain in an eyeball and what the FUCK was going on..?

“Did that rouse you a bit honey?” Another female voice was crooning next to his ear. “Wouldn’t want you to sleep through Len’s memorial now would we?” She had just finished the last word when a fist smashed into Ed’s nose, bending it to the left with a crack. Ed howled.

“Cool it,” the first woman said. “There’s no rush, and we want him to stay conscious at least for a little while.” Harsh laughter.

The abuse ceased and Ed shook his head, trying to clear his vision. His right eye was a stinging slit of agony misted with red, but the left was taking things in all too well. His mind began to process them.

He was in a chair, arms behind him, stripped to the shorts and soaked. Apparently he’d been doused with water to wake him up. He tried to bring his hands around front and found, to no real surprise, that they had been restricted behind him. He pulled, expecting to hear the clank of chains and heard… nothing. No movement either. They had glued his hands together behind his back, as though he were rubbing them together. He could not move so much as a finger.

They stood around him, over him, surveying him. Missy still wore her business suit but her hair had come out of its bun.

“Curious? I bet you are.” A hand dropped into her pocket and procured a little glass vial. “I just switched out the deadly stuff for some sugar water and switched you for some other corpse on the way out of the morgue, once I declared you legally dead.” She grinned, and Ed felt his blood run cold.

“Brilliant, doctor,” Jerry said, and applauded her. Paul and Jessica joined in, giving Missy a well deserved ovation.

“Thank you,” she said, giving them a curtsy and turning to give one to Ed as well. “Len has been cremated long since, but we waited to have the memorial until you could join us for the fun. It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

Ed could only look on in dumbstruck horror as she picked up the briefcase sitting beside her and turned to place it on a counter nearby. She opened it.

Fluorescent light ricocheted off the angles of the cutting tools filling the briefcase. Razor blades, scalpels, assorted knives and something which looked horribly like a cheese grater grinned at Ed with shining teeth.

Ed began to blubber.

Jerry reached forward and took a scalpel. Jessica grabbed a razor blade. Paul took a large butcher knife. Missy took her favorite, the cheese grater, and the small salt shaker that came with it.

Ed began to plead, to threaten, to bargain, forgetting that for all intents and purposes, to the world, Ed Harding was already dead.

The four of them lined up, Missy at their lead. They would continue taking turns, until the sport had worn off. But it would take a while. They were in no rush.

Ed began to scream.

Missy walked forward, her eyes searching for the perfect patch of skin to begin her ministrations. Behind her, she heard them praying.

Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.

THE END

**********

Jesse Orr was born and raised in Alaska and has no idea, nor do his parents, when or how he began reading and writing; as is the case with so many things, they just are. Moving to Seattle in 2007, he settled down to a life of recording and performing music as well as writing whatever caught his fancy. He has a dog named Mr Dog and lives in West Seattle.

https://www.facebook.com/murd3rweapon5

Free Fiction Friday: Mould and Blood

 

Mould & Blood

By DJ Tyrer

 

Black & RedThe estate echoed to the sounds of anger. Locals had gathered to protest against the closure of the Sure Start Centre and, in no time at all, they’d been joined by black-hooded anarchists who’d taken the opportunity to stage a generalised riot. With an ironic twist, the shattering of the Centre’s windows would mean it would be closed a while regardless.

Malcolm turned away from the sight of a masked and hooded figure waving a black-and-red bicolour flag in the midst of the glass fragments, and headed away as quickly as possible, back to his flat.

He wondered what the country was coming to: overwhelming immigration, war, cutbacks, riots – it was worse than the ‘80s. The whole country was collapsing into anarchy! What it needed was an old-fashioned dictatorship to sort things out. He spat in disgust when he saw the large graffito that covered the wall beside the door to his block, a sinuous design in red and black: obviously the work of those anarchist yobs, marking their territory in their battle with the police. Bring back the birch, he said. Bring back hanging! Even hanging was too good for them!

Inside, the block was no better than the rest of the estate. The stairwell stank of stale urine and was scattered with rubbish. It was crumbling and vandalised. It was just typical of the system that he was stuck here, in this waking nightmare of poverty and broken dreams, whilst some foreigner was milking it and living in some mansion, pumping out dozens of kids! He kicked a half-empty can of bitter down the stairs in frustration.

Malcolm’s own single-bedroom flat was just as bad. Tiny and cramped with walls caked with mould. He’d been onto his landlord repeatedly about the blight, but nothing had been done. It was like smacking his head against a brick wall trying to get something done about it and he’d more or less given up on it, accepting the smell and constant chestiness that went with it. On the news, the Housing Association had even attempted to blame the tenants for the mould in their own homes, as if they were all to blame for leaks and condensation. That was typical!

A loud bang made him jump. Some idiot had detonated a firework in the undercroft of the building. Loud noises and bright flashes seemed to satisfy simple minds.

He’d just settled down to watch the telly – not that there was really anything worth watching despite all the extra digital channels – when there was a knock on his door. He ignored it, but the knock was repeated. Probably idiot kids. The knock was repeated for a third time.

With a sigh, Malcolm hauled himself up and out of the tired old beige sofa and made the short walk to the door.

Looking through the peephole, he could see a youth in a black hoodie. It looked like one of the yobs he’d seen earlier. He wondered what he wanted. He couldn’t see his face and that made him nervous. There seemed to be a badge, maybe a gang emblem, like the head of a court jester, on the chest of his hoodie.

Fitting the door chain, he opened the door a crack and asked what he wanted. The figure raised his head to look at him and Malcolm saw that it was Steve, a kid from down the passage. A bit of a berk, like all the kids these days, but not too bad, and, being from his floor, owed a certain measure of neighbourly respect.

“I need to come in, Malc,” Steve said.

“What?”

Steve looked kind of agitated and sounded sort of strange, like he was high on something; hardly an uncommon occurrence around here, although he’d never known Steve to go on a drug-fuelled rampage like some of his peers.

“I need to come in, Malc. I gotta come in, right now; gotta show you summit.”

“Show me what?”

With an inarticulate cry of frustration, Steve slammed into the door, the security chain ripping easily away from the damp-rotted wood of the doorframe. The door slammed into Malcolm, staggering him backwards into the flat.

Steve burst in, shouting something about laughing that made no sense to Malcolm but sounded exactly like the crazed ramblings of a druggie. Malcolm recoiled in fear; he could see a knife in Steve’s hand. He’d read about youths flipping out on drugs and going on a killing spree. Or, maybe this was a gang initiation. Maybe it was both.

Malcolm looked wildly around for a weapon with which to defend himself, but there was nothing. It was in that moment that Steve’s knife found him, plunging into his side, once, twice, then a slash across his throat. The last thing he saw before darkness engulfed his vision was a swirl of red upon black as blood sprayed across the mould-caked wall. The last words he heard were “The joke’s on you!” None of it made any sense.

Ends

 

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines in the UK, USA and elsewhere, including State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), Tales of the Dark Arts (Hazardous Press), Cosmic Horror (Dark Hall Press), and Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor). This story previously appeared in the collection Black & Red, available from Atlantean Publishing.

 

DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

 

The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Grant Me Serenity – Ed

gms

Surprise, Motherfucker!

My name is Ed and I’m an alcoholic. That’s how I came to be in this room, waiting to attend an AA meeting, after being one my whole life. Learned from my dad, and he was one of the best. Tasted my first beer at five I think. Didn’t do me much good at the time but what did I know. Fortunately I learned from dad how to pretend not to be an alcoholic at the same time, and I’ve been pretty good at it since. It got pretty bad when I got about high school age, went away when I joined the military. Just too damn tired to drink. It was after I got out and police work started to get dull that I started to drink, just a few beers during lunch, then rolling around with a nice buzz, chewing mints, smoking cigarettes and listening to the radio. Eventually, the lunches got longer, the buzzes afterward became outright drunks, and since I was plainclothes, eventually a uniform saw me weaving a bit too much and flipped his lights on. I’d smoked my last in the bar and I was out of mints so when I opened the window and he smelled my breath, he didn’t care about the badge I showed him.

I happen to be acquainted well with the daughter of a local judge, and through his grace my little indiscretion never saw the light of press, nor police report. But everybody knew. I could see it when I walked through the station, when I passed someone in the hall, when my path coincided with another guy on the uncomfortable shared walk to the restroom. I could see it, and what’s more, I could feel it.

But I didn’t stop. Not even then. I just stopped not hiding it. The beers at lunch became bourbon sipped throughout the day from a flask which was often refilled, and I lived in fear of straying too far from a white or yellow line when I drove. But I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. You all understand that, don’t you? I’m pretty sure that given what I’ve just listened to, you all know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re just lucky you don’t puke afterward.

Then, after months that seemed like years of ridicule, an old buddy was short a man and asked if I could get my shit together and jump on his team for serving search and hopefully arrest warrants on some goon somewhere. I didn’t care. Second-string or not, someone was looking at me as more than just a fuckup. Naturally I made sure I was properly drunk at the time so I didn’t lose my nerve or anything, and naturally,  I overdid it. Subconsciousness, maybe? Who the fuck knows. All I know is when we were walking up the path to this house, I was weaving worse than when I was pulled over on the road, the guy behind me is hissing under his breath “Get it together for fuck’s sake you fucking drunk” and the guy in front is following the leader, and hisses back “shut the fuck up, it’s too late now” because the boss was mounting the step and the show was about to kick off.

So to make a long story short, the door opens, the guy runs, we chase him through the house. He goes upstairs, like a genius, and gets cornered in the bathroom. Like in The Shining or some shit. He’s locked in there, hollering he’ll die first, fucking pigs, blah blah, and the sarge is doing his usual COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP routine. I’m still seeing double at this point and my stomach is doing a weird queasy thing that never means good news. So naturally, the sarge tells me “Harding, cover that goddamn door and if anything comes out without its hands up AND empty you fill it full of lead. Any questions?” I shook my head, afraid to open my mouth and vomit on the sarge under the best of circumstances. He turns back to the door and I pull my gun on it, trying like hell to draw a bead on something, anything, that looks like more than a doubling mirage. “The door is coming down” bawls the sarge, “so get your goddamn hands out of the way, then put them up and walk out!”

Two guys bring up a ram. Just as they’re about to start their charge, the door flies open and the guy comes out. I don’t even know his name. All I know is he’s got a gun and I start shooting. I pull the trigger over and over, aiming at first one of the blurred visions I’m seeing, then the other. Left, then right, then between them, back and forth, until I realize the gun is empty. I wonder how long it’s been empty and I shake my head. That motion and the concussions of the gunshot with the gunsmoke in my nose is what did it in the end.

That was my lowest point. Vomiting my liquid breakfast onto my feet in front of a squad of SWAT guys after emptying my gun into an unarmed man with, it turned out, nothing but a shadow in his hand.

My friend’s dad the judge had a bit harder time covering this one up, not because of the man I’d killed, but because a number of the squad were of the opinion that there should be nothing covered up. In the end, they settled for my resignation. But as I said, people talk.

“So now,” Harding said, holding his gun on each of them in turn as he spoke, his hand trembling but not drunk. Not for two years. “Now, when I bring you all in and it comes out that I arrested you in the course of attending my AA meetings after years of sobriety–” The gun came to rest on Missy. Harding exhaled, and grinned.