Cutthroat Sale

Cutthroat is currently on sale as an e-book in the UK for just 77p and in the US for only 99c! It’s not going to get any cheaper than that, so if you’re an avid e-reader user and you’ve been on the fence about checking it out, now’s the best time to do so! Also worth pointing out that the paperback price looks to be slightly reduced too, if you prefer a physical copy. If you decide to check it out it would be great to hear what you think about it, too. Here’s what it’s about:

‘Newcastle, 1978. John is sleeping with Mary. Mary is married to Daniel. Both men work for her father, the Top Man. Daniel is his son-in-law, next in line to take over his little empire. John is muscle. The Top Man orchestrates robberies—banks, pay rolls, anything that will bring in some easy money. When Daniel discovers his wife’s illicit liaison, he wants John dead. The Top Man signs off on it.

But John’s a man you only get one shot at. When Daniel happens to botch that one shot, then everyone involved needs to watch their back. Because John will be coming for them, and he won’t stop until he’s taken revenge on every last one involved in leaving him for dead.

Praise for CUTTHROAT:

“Paul Heatley remains a master of savagery, of bloody men and how they live, how they die, how they kill.” —Rob Pierce, author of Tommy Shakes

Praise for Paul Heatley:

“Heatley is becoming a master of American noir in the vein of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain.” —David Nemeth’

How I basically describe it is as my version of Get Carter as written by a Geordie Richard Stark, set in late 70’s Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Here’s the UK link:

And here’s the link for the US:

 

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Complete Bibliography

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As you can see from the picture above, I’ve got twelve books out in print currently (thirteen in the shot, but two of them are the same book, just different editions). Here’s a rundown of them all so far, in (roughly) chronological order:

WARNING – CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE, SEXUAL CONTENT, AND SCENES OF VIOLENCE. SHOULD NOT BE READ BY ANYONE. A dying town on the edge of nowhere. Misfits, outcasts, losers and loners, making their way through their aimless lives. The Motel Whore. The Vampire. The Boy. They will crawl inside your skull. They will live beneath your skin. They will stay with you forever. Featuring two previously unpublished tales.

‘Darker than spilled blood, more twisted than a pile of mangled bodies, this is a memorable, evocative piece of work.’ – Tom Leins ‘

with great characters, The Motel Whore is sad, brutal and completely enthralling.’ – Paul D. Brazill

An enforcer. A fighter. A hitman. Three tales of outcast men living on the fringes of society. Dark lives shadowed by chaos and violence, betrayal and bloodshed. They may survive, but no one makes it out in one piece. Featuring the novellas The Mess, The Pitbull, and Three.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
When it comes to Neil Doyle’s daughter, Gandhi had no idea.
An accident leaves Jasmine Doyle permanently disfigured, and the patriarch of one of Newcastle’s crime families goes on the warpath to find the perpetrator. He doesn’t care who gets in his way, or what he has to do to them, to get his hands on the man responsible.
Graeme Taylor and ‘Tracksuit’ Tony Gordon find themselves dragged into this brutal quest for vengeance, pushed physically and mentally to the breaking point by all that they see, and all that they are forced to do.
By the end, the streets will run with blood, and no one walks away unscarred.

Davey Hoy’s money has gone missing. Jackson Stobbart thinks he knows where Cathy has run with it and he follows her north-east to their seaside home town. He’s hoping to get it back before anyone notices it’s gone. Unfortunately for him, Cathy has run to her ex-boyfriend to hide-out, and Jackson’s never been much of a fighter. However, if Jackson has to go through the ex-boyfriend to get it, well, he’d rather do that than tell Davey the truth.
Meanwhile, back in Newcastle, Davey has problems of his own. Desperate to prove himself to Michael Doyle, a man he despises, Davey has to try and keep his cool while dealing with people he knows to be lesser than himself. And that’s before he finds out that someone has done a runner with the money he’s been stealing from Doyle.

After a raid on one of Neil Doyle’s drug houses, his new right hand man Jimmy Finlay is determined to keep the news quiet from Neil and to deal with things himself. The person responsible, however, is not someone that can be dealt with quickly. He’s a dangerous man with a bad reputation. Things are primed to get bloody in Newcastle, and that’s the last thing Neil needs as he works on the unveiling of his brand new nightclub.

If Jimmy can’t get things under control, Neil’s going to have to turn to one of his firm’s old hands, Graeme Taylor. Trouble is, no one has seen or heard from Graeme in close to a year, save for his surrogate son Tracksuit Tony Gordon, and he’s not in any rush to give him away.

But there’s only one way things can be with men this violent by design.

After his girlfriend leaves and takes their young son with her, Joey Hidalgo is left alone in the trailer they formerly called home with nothing to do but get drunk and contemplate her reasons. Is he really as angry, as volatile, so close to constant violence, as she claims he is?

No, Joey thinks, of course not, the real problem is money—or lack thereof. Joey’s a bartender, always struggling to make ends meet, unlike his most vile regular customer, the rich and racist fatboy. So Joey hatches a plan to get his family back by taking him for all he’s worth.

But the fatboy isn’t going to make it easy for them. Neither is Joey’s temper. Things are going to get messy, and it’s gonna be one hell of a long night.

Praise for FATBOY:

“Paul Heatley delivers a brutal, unflinching noir masterpiece.”—Greg Barth, author of the Selena series

“This book is what noir is meant to be: dark, gritty, and no shots at redemption.”—Derrick Horodyski, Out Of The Gutter Online

“A perfect example of small town noir worthy of Jim Thompson or Dave Zeltserman.” —Paul D. Brazill, author of Big City Blues

“Boasting great characterisation and pitch-perfect prose, Fatboy is a well-judged excursion into classic noir territory.” —Tom Leins, author of the Paignton Noir series

Fatboy is a fast, frenetic read from a writer at the top of his game.” — Gary Duncan, author of You’re Not Supposed to Cry

Twas the night before Christmas…

And Santa Claus is getting wasted…

Sophia is waiting for her husband to get home…

Beth is glad hers is gone…

It’s the night before Christmas, but there’s plenty stirring. There’s sex and there’s violence amongst these bad boys and girls, and if they’re not careful, they’re all likely to end up on the naughty list.

After suffering a lifetime of tyranny under her father’s oppressive rule, when Lou-Lou sees a chance to make a break with the man she loves, she takes it. Problem is, daddy’s also known as Big Bobby Joe, a dangerous and powerful man in the local area—powerful enough to put out a sixty grand bounty on the head of the man she’s run off with, who also happens to be one of his ex-employees.

With every criminal affiliate out looking for them, making good on their getaway doesn’t seem promising. Even their so-called friends are on the take, willing to pull a double-cross if that’s what’s going to turn them a quick buck. But Big Bobby Joe hasn’t counted on his daughter’s resolve to distance herself from him. No matter what he throws at her, no matter what he does, she’s going to get away—or die trying.

Praise for GUILLOTINE:

“A missing girl, a father who wants her back, a hitman. You think you know where this story is going, but in Paul Heatley’s masterful hands, Guillotine never takes the expected path. Full of crackling dialogue, characters whose actions surprise you at every turn, and an ending you’ll be thinking about for days after.” —Hector Acosta, author of Hardway

Praise for PAUL HEATLEY:

“Paul Heatley is one of the most compelling writers currently working in the UK.” —Tom Leins, author of Repetition Kills You

“Heatley has an adept ear, and he’s got the writer’s chops to translate what he hears.” —Matt Phillips, author of Accidental Outlaws

“Heatley has this genre down pat and few others can top his style. Step into the dark and enjoy the fun.” —Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books

Falling in love might just be the dumbest move Patton has ever made.

Tammy Dawson is beautiful – tall, with most of her length in her legs – and Patton has fallen head over heels. Tammy is also Bobby Hodge’s daughter and that means she’s off-limits to guys like Patton.

Bobby runs the Bad Bastards Motorcycle Club with an iron fist – he runs his family the same way – and when he finds out about Patton and his only daughter it was only ever going to go one way, badly.

Beaten to a pulp and under threat of death, Patton is determined to find a way to be with the girl he loves no matter what the cost, but as the stakes get higher he has to decide just how far he’s willing to go in the name of love.

Praise for Paul Heatley

“Heatley has an adept ear, and he’s got the writer’s chops to translate what he hears.” —Matt Phillips, author of Accidental Outlaws and Know Me From Smoke.

“Heatley has this genre down pat and few others can top his style. Step into the dark and enjoy the fun.” —Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books

“Heatley is becoming a master of American noir in the vein of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain.” – David Nemeth, Unlawful Acts

Life has been tough on Teddy Norton and Bud Corrigan. A pair of lifelong best friends and perennial losers, they’ve never had anyone but each other, and they’ve never had more than they could scrape together. Now it’s Christmas, and they want more than they’ve been given.Teddy’s good at breaking in. Bud’s good at lifting heavy things and doing what he’s told. They’ve got a list of houses they want to hit, of people they want to hurt the same way they’ve been hurt. They’re all at a party. Their homes are all empty…right? Stealing Christmas takes the villains from Home Alone, makes them the heroes, then throws them in a blender with Of Mice And Men and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Newcastle, 1978. John is sleeping with Mary. Mary is married to Daniel. Both men work for her father, the Top Man. Daniel is his son-in-law, next in line to take over his little empire. John is muscle. The Top Man orchestrates robberies—banks, pay rolls, anything that will bring in some easy money. When Daniel discovers his wife’s illicit liaison, he wants John dead. The Top Man signs off on it.

But John’s a man you only get one shot at. When Daniel happens to botch that one shot, then everyone involved needs to watch their back. Because John will be coming for them, and he won’t stop until he’s taken revenge on every last one involved in leaving him for dead.

Praise for CUTTHROAT:

“Paul Heatley remains a master of savagery, of bloody men and how they live, how they die, how they kill.” —Rob Pierce, author of Tommy Shakes

Ed and Dan are old friends. When Ed finds himself jobless and down on his luck, Dan is quick to offer him work. But Dan is a drug dealer, and now Ed is his driver.

Life is good, cruising the summer sun drenched roads of Northumberland, hooking up with girls.

But the good times can’t last forever. Not when there are hidden jealousies threatening to tear them apart. Not when there are dangerous men, like Smithy, who only cares about his money…

 

That’s the lot, for now! See something you like just click one of the many links above. Enjoy!

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Just Like Jesus Chapter One

My twelfth and latest book was released back in June. It came out exactly one week after Cutthroat and I think it got a little lost in the shuffle, flew under a lot of people’s radars, so you’ll forgive me if I try to make up for that now.

I’ve been working on Just Like Jesus in many different iterations for the last fifteen years. It’s gone through many drafts, none of which I could ever seem to make work satisfactorily – until now. What it came down to was a case of ‘kill your darlings’; once I cut out the parts I wanted to keep because they were important to me, based on memories of real events and/or real people, once I streamlined the thing, I found it finally came together.

I consider this to be my summer novel. It takes place in Northumberland, primarily in my hometown of Amble, and follows the exploits of two best friends and drug dealers while they cruise the back roads, hang out with girls, and do their best to avoid trouble. Of course, this is a crime story, so there’s plenty of trouble to be found. It’s a departure for me in that I’ve written it in the first person, the first of my books to have been done so. When I wrote the very first version of it, all those fifteen years ago, I’d recently read all of Bret Easton Ellis’s books and the work was heavily inspired by his style. It perhaps still is. Consider this a kind of Northumbrian Less Than Zero. While I wrote THIS version I was listening to a lot of The Cramps and the B-52’s, and I think a lot of their influence comes through too.

Anyway, please read the Prologue and Chapter One, they contain a murder and sexual content, so it’s right up your street if you’re into that sort of thing. If you like what you read you can find a link at the bottom down below.

Enjoy!

Prologue

The end of this story began with a murder.

Daniel Donaldson was my best friend.

“Grab his arms!”

He was about to kill a man.

“Grab his fucking arms!”

I was helping him.

I did as Dan said. The body on top of me twisted and struggled. I grabbed his arms, pinned them. Dan held a knife. He stuck it into the man, over and over. Blood sprayed. It splashed. It went up the walls, and all over Dan. It spilled down onto me. It got in my mouth. I wanted to throw up.

Dan didn’t stop until the body stopped moving. He was painted red. From where I was he looked coated head to foot.

The body was limp on top of me. It got heavier by the second. Its torso was open to the world. Dan stared down into it, at what he had done. He was breathing hard. He pushed the body off me then offered me his hand. I took it. Both our grips were slippery.

“We better clean this all up,” he said.

 

Chapter One

How it started was I lost my job.

I’d spent most of my adult life working as a mechanic in Cramlington. It was a job I hated, but I’d fallen into it and by that point couldn’t do anything else. Then, at twenty-five years old, work started to dry up. Management started talking about redundancies. A month later, the letters went out. I was one of five. It was a big garage.

I’d built up savings for a while so was able to survive through spring on those. Paid my rent, paid my bills, but it didn’t take long for it to dwindle.

I met up with Dan regularly. Kept him abreast of my situation. We’d go to the pub for a pint, or else I’d go round to his and we’d pass a joint back and forth. On the night in question, we were in the pub. It was a Wednesday, so it was quiet. There were only a few other people there. Borderline alcoholic regulars. They propped up the bar and made miserable small-talk, the response from one to the other consisting mostly of grunts. We were the youngest men in there by a good couple of decades.

“How’s the job hunt going?” Dan said. He took a drink. He’d bought mine, too. Things were getting leaner and leaner.

“Not well.”

“Thought you were qualified. What’s the problem?”

“Problem is no one’s looking.”

“How far are you searching?”

“From here to Newcastle and everything in between. I don’t really wanna go any further than that, but if things keep going how they are…”

Dan grunted. I didn’t expect him to fully understand my plight. He lived in a house his parents had bought for him before they emigrated to Australia. Dan didn’t want to go with them. I’d asked him why not.

I’m not interested in starting over, he’d said, but at the time he’d been in a long-term relationship with a girl called Laura, and I reckoned it had more to do with not leaving her behind than anything else. He probably thought he was in love. As it transpired, they broke up six months after Dan’s parents moved. And, I mean, I’m in my twenties now. What am I gonna do, move to another country with my parents and live with them, rely on them for everything? I’m too old for that. I need to start making my own way.

So he did, as a drug dealer. I don’t know how he got into it and I never asked. I didn’t want to know. Whenever his parents asked how he was making ends meet, he told them he worked in a bank. They were pleased to hear, saw no reason not to believe him.

“So what’s your financial situation?” Dan said, taking another drink.

I shrugged like it was no big deal, even though I was screaming internally. “It’s not great. Couple more months and I’ll probably have to go back to my parents on hand and knee, beg them to let me have my old room back.” I was downplaying it a little – it was more likely to be a couple of weeks. I didn’t want to project my problems onto anyone else.

“Ouch,” Dan said, wincing. “Have you’s made up at all since you moved out, or…?”

“No, things are still as bad as they were.”

“Why’d you all fall out? You never said. Just said it was serious.”

“It was stupid.”

“That’s not answering the question.”

“It was about rent. They wanted to put it up. I said if they put it up any more I might as well get my own place. So they kicked me out and told me to do just that.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“They kicked me out, Dan.”

“Aye, but that was years ago, now. I’m sure they miss their little boy.”

“They haven’t reached out. They’re bloody stubborn, man.”

“Aye, and so are you.”

“Whatever.” I took a drink. My first. I had a lot on my mind. There was always the prospect that I returned to my parents, hat in hand, and they turned me away. I wouldn’t put it past them.

“You’ve still got your car though, aye? Things haven’t got so bad you’ve had to sell that off yet.”

“Aye, I’ve still got it.”

“Whey, listen. Cos I’ve been thinking. Why don’t you come and work for me?”

I blinked. “Work for you? What do you mean?”

“You could be me second.” He leaned in closer, across the table, glanced round the room to make sure no one was listening in. “You could help me deal.”

I frowned. “I dunno, man…”

“You don’t have to decide straight away, give it some thought. Just hear me out, first.”

“All right. I’ll listen, but I can’t guarantee that’s not gonna be all I’ll do.”

“So, I’ve been thinking – with your car, you could drive me round. I could cover more ground. Amble’s only so big, and Gavin’s working it an’all. I could go round the likes of Hadston, Widdrington, through to Alnwick, maybe further. That way we’d be mostly out of town, too. Keep it all away from the front door. And here, here’s another offer for ye, since this is a kind of twenty-four hour operation, you could move in with me. Into the spare room.”

It all sounded good, but I still wasn’t convinced. Dan could likely see it in my face. “What if we get pulled over and we’re carrying a load of…” I glanced round the room the same way Dan had, then leaned in closer. “…a load of drugs?”

“Stick to the limit and they’re not gonna pull you over. Howay, I’ve been doing this for years now and I’ve never had any hassle with the bizzies – y’know why? Cos I behave meself. Keep me nose clean. Head down. I divvint do anything that’s gonna draw any unwanted attention on meself. It’ll be the same when we’re driving.”

I said nothing, stared into my drink.

“Whey, just think on it, okay? We could make a lot of money together. And, fuck me man, where’d all those years of loyal service in that garage ever get ye, eh?”

He had a point there.

His phone buzzed and he checked it. A message. He read it, raised his eyebrows, responded. Put his phone away then looked at me, down at my drink, hardly touched. “You’re still all right to drive, eh?”

“I’ve had one sip.”

“Good. Howay.” He got to his feet, grabbed his jacket.

“What d’you mean – where we going?”

“Just had a message off Holly – howay, let’s gan get her.”

“Who’s Holly?” It was the first time I’d heard of Holly Cunningham.

“You’ll like her. She’s with a friend. Now howay, let’s gan get them.”

I followed him out and we went to the bottom of the main street where I’d parked my car. A silvery-green Ford Fiesta which I’d luckily paid off the loan for before I was made redundant. Otherwise the money would have run out a lot sooner. “So where am I going?”

“That way.” He pointed. “Head up toward the high school, she lives just opposite the Welfare. Right opposite the basketball courts.”

I didn’t need directions. Amble was a small town, and, as well as that, my parents didn’t live far from there. “So who is she? This is the first I’m hearing of any Holly.”

“She’s a student,” he said. “Lives down in Leeds during term time, but she’s home for the summer.”

“How old’s she?”

“Twenty. So’s her mate.”

“And who is her mate?”

“Beth Miller. Recognise the name?”

“No. Should I?”

“No, but I was just checking.”

“The two of you seeing each other?”

He grinned, winked at me. “Something like that.”

As we neared, we didn’t have to pull up outside any house. There were two women waiting just inside the junction that led to Bisley Road. They leaned against the white street sign. I’d guessed it was them before Dan pointed them out, told me so.

It was early summer and still light out, the sky a pale blue. I could see them just fine. They both wore tight jeans and converse trainers. The one with long coppery hair with the streaks of blonde had more curves and wore a white sports jacket, and the other was thinner, athletic looking, with black hair cut at her shoulders. The girl in white must’ve seen Dan as she pushed herself from the wall, smiled, waved.

“That’s Holly,” Dan said, waving back. “Pull over here.”

I wasn’t sure where he thought I was planning on pulling over, but I did as he said. The two girls came to us, got into the backseat. “Hey!” Holly said, looking right at me. She grinned with an almost manic energy. “You must be Ed, right?”

I glanced at Dan, figuring he must’ve mentioned me in the message. “That’s right.”

“Nice to finally meet you,” she said. She turned to Dan. “This is my friend Beth that I told you about.”

We exchanged hellos all round. I started driving. Dan told me to go to his house. In the back, Holly and Beth said something to each other, laughed about it, whatever it was. Holly sat forward then. “What’s your last name, Ed?”

“Morrison.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you around.”

“Ed here keeps to himself,” Dan said.

“Must do, cos I’m sure I’d remember him,” Holly said. “Ed, has anyone ever told you that you look just like Jesus?”

The long hair and the beard. “I’ve heard it a few times.”

“I almost feel like I need to be on my best behaviour.”

“Nah, don’t worry about that,” Dan said. “Ed’s just as naughty as the rest of us. Just means he can absolve us of all our sins after.”

They all laughed.

“Are we planning on sinning tonight?” Holly said.

“When aren’t we?” Dan said.

We got back to Dan’s and he put some music on then got to work rolling up a few joints. Dan lived in the middle of a row of semi-detached houses down the bottom of Amble, next to the harbour. Outside his front yard was a road, across from which was a grassy hill that led down to a small beach known as the Little Shore. The pier boxed this area in. He had a view that stretched all the way to Warkworth, where the castle could be seen.

Inside the house we started passing the joints round and before long the sitting room filled with smoke.

“What’re we listening to?” Holly said.

“The B-52’s,” Dan said.

Holly glanced at Beth. Neither had heard of them.

“I’ve been listening to them a lot lately,” Dan said. “Getting back into them.”

“They sound really old,” Holly said.

“Well, I guess they are.”

“You don’t have anything different?”

“You don’t like it?”

“I just mean, do you not have anything newer.”

“You can check my CD collection, but if you don’t like this I doubt I’m gonna have anything that you will.”

“The fact you have a CD collection kind of tells me everything I need to know.”

“That’s nothing – I’ve got some records upstairs. You want me to go fetch them, set the player up?”

“No. No, thank you.”

I was sitting on the sofa next to Beth. We glanced at each other, raised eyebrows in acknowledgement and greeting, or more like we were reminding ourselves the other was present. It didn’t feel like we were bonding well. Dan and Holly were talking amongst themselves, there was a lot of laughter and smiling between them. They sat very close to each other on the floor, their backs against the other sofa. The joint made its way dutifully around the room. I could feel a small buzz starting, but it wasn’t enough to make me relax.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me. The amount of time I’d spent locked away in my flat, watching my money dwindling, not interacting with anyone other than Dan, had made me develop a social awkwardness. I wasn’t used to being in a group anymore.

I swallowed down any anxieties I felt, bit my lip and turned to Beth, figuring fuck it, I didn’t have anything to lose. “So, are you a student?”

“I am.” She sat with one arm propped against the back of the sofa, holding up her head. Before I spoke to her her eyes were looking droopy, nodding off.

“What do you study?”

“Accounting.”

“Oh really? You like Maths?”

“I like money more.” She grinned. “I’m sorry, that sounds so crass.”

I grinned back to show that if she’d meant it as a joke then that’s how I’d taken it. “Where do you study?”

“Glasgow.”

“Glasgow? Do they have much call for accountants up in Glasgow?”

“They have need of them everywhere.”

“Yeah, yeah I suppose they do. That was a stupid thing to say. I guess what I meant to ask is, why Glasgow?”

“I wanted to get away. Go somewhere far away from where I grew up. It’s in another country, but at the same time if I need to get home quickly for whatever reason, all I have to do is hop on a train.”

“You like it up there?”

“Yeah. I like it fine.”

“You reckon that’s where you’ll stay when you graduate?”

“Dunno. I haven’t decided that yet.” She straightened up. Her eyes weren’t so droopy anymore. “What do you do? Other than healing the sick, of course.”

“Right now healing the sick is all I do. I’m…uh…I’m between jobs.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, it’s been a few months now.” I scratched behind an ear, knowing that if I went on much longer I’d start to sound pathetic. “I was a mechanic.”

“Oh?” She perked up at this. “Any good?”

“I did it so long I got pretty good at it.”

She laughed.

“Do you drive?”

“No, not yet. I suppose I should learn. But hey, at least whatever you do next, you’ll always have that life skill, right? You ever break down at the side of the road you won’t have to wait for some recovery service to swoop in to the rescue. You can rescue yourself. The sick aren’t all you heal. Is that the kind of work you’re looking for now? Or something different?”

“I don’t know.” Truth was at that point I’d take whoever would have me.

Then I glanced at Dan, sitting on the floor, his head close to Holly’s. Thought about the job he’d offered me. Driving round for the summer, dropping him off while he dealt drugs. I supposed I wouldn’t have to go inside the houses he visited. I could just wait in the car.

I shook my head. It was drug dealing. My summer spent driving round could quickly turn into a few years spent behind bars.

I turned back to Beth. “I probably will, though,” I said, picking up where I’d left off. “I can’t do anything else.”

“I dunno – I mean, how old are you, same as Dan? Twenty-five?”

I nodded.

“That’s still young. You could always change direction. Do something new. And if you’re qualified, what’s it matter if you don’t like it? You can always go back to what you were doing before.”

“Suppose so.”

She was still talking, but at some point I stopped listening to what she was saying and became lost in her face. She had a round face, but her features were very angular and sharp. Her cheekbones were high, and there was a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. The joint came back round and I took a long draw on it. Felt myself hit the buzz that I wanted.

She started laughing suddenly, snapped me back to attention. “What?” I said, stammering a little.

“What’re you looking at?” she said.

I raised my eyebrows, tried to think of an excuse, then said, “You. I guess I’m looking at you.”

“Oh, Jesus, you’re such a charmer.” I couldn’t tell if she was cursing, or if that was what she’d chosen to call me.

“I try,” I said.

Behind us, Dan and Holly got to their feet, hand in hand. “Right,” Dan said. “We’re going up. You two are welcome to stay down here. There’s a bed in the spare room if anyone wants to use it.” He wasn’t so crude as to give us a nudge-nudge and a wink-wink, but the inference was clear. He and Holly went upstairs, and before long we could hear what they were doing there. The bedsprings creaked, the headboard banged. Holly herself wasn’t exactly quiet.

Beth looked at me and we burst out laughing. “Well…” she said. She didn’t add anything. We ended up sitting in silence for a few more minutes, just listening to them fucking upstairs. It wasn’t an uncomfortable or awkward silence. It became a case of us waiting to see who would make the first move.

She did.

She put a hand upon my chest as she slid to the floor, keeping me in place. She undid my jeans and took me into her mouth. I sat back, caught by surprise but certainly not complaining. She was good with her mouth and it had been a while since I’d last done anything with anyone other than myself. I felt compelled to return the favour, so I took her by the shoulders, lifted her into my place and changed positions. We both fought to get her out of her jeans then she wrapped her legs around my head. I got to work and she writhed and stroked my hair. My hands were on her narrow waist, holding her tight.

“Upstairs,” she said, gasping. “Let’s go upstairs.”

We grabbed her jeans and underwear and went up. My dick was hanging out my pants and I held up my trousers with one hand so I didn’t fall on the stairs as I led the way, and held her hand with the other. I glanced back. Her legs were long and pale, taut with muscle. Seeing her half-naked sped my ascent, and at the top of the stairs I picked her up and carried her into the spare room, kicking the door shut behind us.

On the bed we tore off the rest of our clothes and I sunk in with ease. We made our own sounds of creaking bed springs and banging headboards, so much so that we couldn’t hear Dan and Holly anymore. Beth wrapped her legs around me, clawed at my back, bit my shoulder. I kissed her hard.

I got up to my knees and threw her legs over my shoulders. Her whole body was tight and firm. Muscle rippled as I thrust into her. I figured she had to be a runner.

“Have you got a condom?” she said.

“Fuck,” I said, shaking my head, “no.” Caught up in the moment, and hard as hell for the first time in a long time, the thought of protection had half slipped my mind, and the other half assumed she’d be on the pill.

“Pull out,” she said, lowering her legs.

I did as she said and she took me in her hand, working fast. It didn’t take long before I finished hard, shooting up her stomach and chest.

“Pass me something to clean up with,” she said, lying back, staying very still so it didn’t spill everywhere.

I looked round the room, saw an old t-shirt discarded in the corner that must’ve belonged to Dan. I grabbed it, hoped it was clean enough for Beth to dirty. She wiped herself down, made sure she got everything, then got under the blankets. I slid in beside her, put my arm around her. She nestled in, then abruptly pushed herself up, looked into my eyes.

“That was fun and everything,” she said, “but I’m only back for the summer, so don’t go falling in love.”

“Okay,” I said. “And hey, you just keep telling yourself that, too, all right?” I winked.

She patted me on the chest. “I won’t,” she said, then lowered her head and fell asleep.

 

*

 

The next morning I disentangled myself from Beth’s arms, dressed and went downstairs to find Dan sitting alone at the kitchen table. The back door was open. Early morning sunlight spilled into the room. He smoked a cigarette and wore only his boxer shorts, his legs stretched out. He drew them up as I appeared. He smiled. “Good night?” He raised his eyebrows as if he knew exactly what kind of night it had been.

I’d heard him come downstairs. I’d been awake a while and I’d been listening out for him. “I’ll take the job,” I said.

 

 

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A Note On Productivity

Friday gone, the 26th June, saw the publication of my twelfth book, Just Like Jesus. The Friday before that saw Cutthroat be released. I’ve always strived to be described as ‘prolific’, and I think I’m succeeding. On that note, I wanted to write something on a personal level about my productivity.

I don’t tend to get into personal stuff too much. I’d rather just write my stories, find somewhere wiling to publish them, and just get on with things in my personal life privately. Maybe it’s because it’s after two in the morning and I’m unable to sleep, I don’t know, or maybe it’s because of stuff I’ve talked about recently which has brought back a lot of memories.

Anyway, so, I was talking with my girlfriend a couple of days ago and it occurred to me that I don’t remember much of what happened in my life for the majority of the years between 2004-2006, from roughly October of the former to June of the latter. My high school girlfriend and I broke up and, rather than handle things head-on in a mature and reasonable way, I decided to drop out and go into work. Months went by in a blur as I moved from job to job – potato factory, mechanic, carpet fitter, and then a three month period on the dole in the summer of 2006 before going back to mechanic, albeit in a different garage. I can’t say I enjoyed any of these jobs, but I had no qualifications and did whatever I could (laughably, at 32, I still don’t have any qualifications and still work on this basis).

I didn’t see much of friends during this time. For the most part I locked myself away, tired and miserable. Plus, they were still at school. On the weekends, they all went to the pub. I went with them a few times, but it was a dank and dingy pub, a waste of a Saturday, and, more than any of those things, it made me miserable. I resolved to stop going. I’d rather be miserable in my own room, where I could at least listen to The Doors, than in that dirty pub inhabited by sad, angry men. I’ve never been a drinker, either, so it wasn’t like I could just get drunk and ignore the surroundings. I’ve been teetotal pretty much all my life (for reasons I won’t go into here), and it was round that time I found out what Straight Edge was.

A lot of people who discover Straight Edge talk about the strength it gave them, how it made them feel like they were part of a community, part of something bigger. I had no community. For the longest time it was just me, and being Straight Edge just further cemented my status as an outsider.

I spent a lot of this time period sleeping. I wrote a bit, when I could, but for the most part I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t necessarily sleep because I was tired. I’d sleep my weekends away because I didn’t have anything better to do. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be and there was no one I needed to see. I didn’t need to do anything until Monday, when I went back to work.

When I told my girlfriend this, she said something I’d never really considered before – ‘It sounds like you were depressed.’

It seems so obvious, but I’d never thought about it. I’d always just assumed I was sleeping because I didn’t have anything better to do and, as such, because I was lazy.

Maybe I was depressed. After saying it out loud, to a person, for the very first time, it certainly sounds like I was. I don’t want to throw that word around lightly. I’ve never seen a doctor about it and it’s never been diagnosed. I know I’m prone to bouts of melancholia, but they tend to pass, eventually. They tend to pass when I work, but I’ll get to that.

I mentioned that things started to look up in 2006. In the summer of that year, while I was on the dole, my friends all finished high school. We spent more time together. I met girls that they knew from school, who would prove to be important later on. In September things changed. People started jobs, or went off to university. I started at a new garage, in Cramlington. I hated it. I dreaded waking up in the morning. I longed for five o’clock every single day. I went back to sleeping away my weekends. I’ve never mentioned this before, and in the interest of the disclaimer at the front of the book that says ‘these characters are not based on anyone living or dead’ I won’t give too many details, but the most loathsome characters in my book Fatboy are based on people I worked for – I mean with – at this time.

I hated it, but like I’ve said, I’m not qualified for much else. Then, in December, I met a girl. She was a friend of the girls I’d met in the summer, while I was on the dole (I said they’d be important). She made things bearable. It strikes me now just how important she was. It strikes me now that, without her, I probably wouldn’t have survived the entirety of my tenure at that garage. It eroded at every fibre of my being. It wasn’t so much the job itself, but the people who ran the business. One of them in particular.

On top of that, I lived in a household that didn’t believe in the sincerity of mental health issues, that believed so long as I had a job, so long as I was working, so long as I could pay my board, that’s all that mattered. So I swallowed down any issues I had and pretended they weren’t there, but do you know what I couldn’t hide? Anger. I was angry all the time. Even when I was with the girl, the girl who made me happy, I was still seething inside. There was always something at the back of my head, some slight, some annoyance. I know I made her sad, sometimes. I know that sometimes I did it on purpose, though I didn’t realise it at the time. I was self destructive. There was a part of me that didn’t want to be happy, that wanted always to suffer, and I took it out on other people. I took it out on her. One of the most easygoing, patient, and generous people I’ve ever known, I would find a way to make her angry, press a button that would make her want to fight. She won’t read this, but I’m sorry.

Eventually, naturally, I drove her away. She got tired of my bullshit, or else she just wanted to see what else was out there for her without me – the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. So I was alone again. Without her, I sank into some kind of hole. I was fine, at first, but then my endless days stretched out before me. I’d awake in the morning and some days, as my alarm rang shrilly in my ears, I’d hear a voice say ‘Kill yourself.’ Other mornings I’d wake up and it wasn’t words, but images. A violent, bloody fantasy, in which I took one of the Stanley blades kept in storage at work, and sliced open the big juicy vein near the inside of my left elbow. In this fantasy I didn’t necessarily want to die. I don’t know what I wanted. It was a statement. An angry fucking statement that I wanted out, and the only way I could see to do it was through blood.

One day, I took one of those blades. I stood at my toolbox early one morning, the day barely begun, and I tested. I tried. I pressed that sharp blade to my left wrist. It wasn’t the single vicious stroke I had envisioned. I barely broke the skin at all, though I cut it in a few places, trying to get deeper, braver, each time. When they healed, they were thin red scabs, and I was embarrassed. I don’t think anyone saw me do this, it was a big garage. If they did, no one said anything. I covered them up as best I could. I taped kitchen roll to my wrist, same way I did when I got a new tattoo and needed to keep it clean while it healed. For what it’s worth, I’ve never cut myself since.

I had friends help me through this time. I never told them about the cutting, or the dark thoughts, but they were present, and that was enough. I’d watch and discuss cowboy movies with Pete (who I’ve barely seen in the last ten years). Calum and I would drive all through the night, just talking shit, no destination in mind. He’s my best friend. He’s my son’s godfather.

A few months after the break-up, I met someone new. Well, not new. I’d known her for a while. We ‘met’ in the Haymarket bus station the morning after I’d been to a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig and I’d spent the night sleeping on Pete’s floor at his student accommodation. Anyway, we were together for a month or two, and one night she told me she wanted me to open up. She said I was a closed book, that I didn’t give anything away. I wasn’t sure what she wanted to know. She knew I liked her, wasn’t that enough? She wanted more, a connection perhaps, so I confided in her. We’d been spending a lot of time together. I’d met her daughter, spent time with her, too, the rest of her family. Maybe this all made me too confident. But I told her what I hadn’t told anyone else (and what I hadn’t told anyone since, until recently), about the depressive spells, and about the cutting.

The next day, while I was at work, she broke up with me via text.

Needless to say, I didn’t feel inclined to open up to anyone again for a very long time.

Fast forward a couple of years. My son is born. I try my hand at writing crime fiction. One of my earliest attempts at the genre, Red Eyed Richard, is published in issue three of Thuglit. I got paid for it. This began an addiction I didn’t at first realise I had acquired.

My writing remained sporadic. Juggling a job (the garage was far behind me now) trying to make ends meet while also struggling with a newborn didn’t exactly leave much time to write. I did what I could when I could. I wasn’t writing every day, and I found there were times I could be snappy or argumentative. About a year later, I made the commitment to, in at least some capacity, write every day. Early on, I was still prone to skipping days here and there. Those days I missed? I was irritable, and I always felt like there was something missing.

I write every day now, and I have done for the last few years. I’m not going to say I’m the picture of zen, because I’m not. I can still snap, I still get agitated, but I’m nowhere near as bad as I once was. I’m not as angry. I certainly don’t want to cut myself. I don’t sleep my days away, and if I do end up sneaking in a nap on an afternoon it’s usually because I got up at five am to write.

At this stage I’ve written twelve books and more than fifty short stories. Writing also afforded me the opportunity to interview Mark Lanegan, my favourite singer, but I’ve told those stories enough times already. Maybe I’ll go fully in depth some other time.

I’m loathe to say I have depression, as I can’t be sure that’s what I feel and I don’t want to minimise anyone who does, but for the point I want to make for all of this I’ll use the word for the sake of simplicity. My productivity is driven primarily by one thing: it keeps the depression at bay. I’m not saying it’s an  approach that will work for everyone, but it’s the one that works for me.

I’m a northerner, a Geordie, maybe that’s why I feel so awkward about being so personal in this post. I don’t talk about my feelings, not in public. If it wasn’t now four in the morning and I hadn’t been able to sleep, I doubt I’d have written this at all. If I manage to get any sleep tonight/this morning, I’ll probably remember what I’ve done, be overcome with embarrassment, and quickly come delete this post.

But, then again, maybe I’ll just leave it. It holds a lot of memories.

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Just Like Jesus

My new book is out today! Available as both Kindle and paperback, here’s the description of my twelfth and newest:

‘Ed and Dan are old friends. When Ed finds himself jobless and down on his luck, Dan is quick to offer him work. But Dan is a drug dealer, and now Ed is his driver.

Life is good, cruising the summer sun drenched roads of Northumberland, hooking up with girls.

But the good times can’t last forever. Not when there are hidden jealousies threatening to tear them apart. Not when there are dangerous men, like Smithy, who only cares about his money…’

Not only that, but also out today from Close To The Bone is Tom Leins’ newest, Ten Pints Of Blood! Tom is one of my favourite authors and I’m very pleased to be release day book buddies with him.

Here are links for Just Like Jesus:

US:
https://www.amazon.com/Just-Like-Jesus-Paul-Heatley-ebook/dp/B086JYWFFZ/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=just+like+jesus+paul+heatley&qid=1593162419&sr=8-1

UK:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08BWBV7D7/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=just+like+jesus+paul+heatley&qid=1593162142&sr=8-1

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A brief break from Cutthroat…

I’ve been pushing my new book Cutthroat a lot lately so I feel I’ve gotta take a break from the shameless self promotion of my new book Cutthroat (oh my gosh, look at that, here’s a link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cutthroat-Paul-Heatley/dp/1643961071/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=cutthroat+paul+heatley&qid=1592828051&sprefix=cutthroat+pa&sr=8-1) to shamelessly self promote one of my earliest books The Motel Whore And Other Stories via Natalie Nider’s review of it in the link down below. Be sure to check it out, it’s a great review! Anyway, if you’re interested in reading it for yourself, here’s a couple of links (paperback links, the individual novellas/novelettes are available standalone for Kindle at 99p/99c a pop):

UK:

US:

https://www.trainwrecktendencies.com/post/the-motel-whore-other-stories-by-paul-heatley-book-review

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Cutthroat

It’s release day! Cutthroat is my eleventh book and is out right now! It’s my version of a Parker novel crossed with Get Carter, set in 1978 Newcastle Upon Tyne and written by a Geordie Richard Stark. Also, I love the cover Zach McCain has done for it, can’t speak for anyone else but it gives me major Black Dahlia vibes.

Check it out and be sure to tell me what you think!

UK:

US:

cover-heatley-cutthroat-5

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FahreNoir At The Bar

A few weeks ago a YouTube channel for Fahrenheit Press authors was started up by Derek Farrel, and a number of Fahrenheit and Fahrenheit 13 authors were invited to give a reading from their works. Down below you can find a link direct to my reading of the Prologue and Chapter One of my book Bad Bastards. Prepare to be soothed by my Geordie/Northumbrian tones, and plenty of swears! At the minute there are eight other videos with an average runtime of five minutes, and there’ll be more added every Friday. Anyway, check it out, and I hope you enjoy!

 

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2019 Reading List

A little bit belated, but here’s my reading list from the year just gone:

  • The Line That Held Us – David Joy
  • Bluebird, Bluebird – Attica Locke
  • Riverside: Newcastle’s Legendary Alternative Music Venue – Hazel Plater and Carl Taylor
  • The Mordbidly Obese Ninja – Carlton Mellick III
  • Uzumaki – Junji Ito
  • My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • My Darkest Prayer – S A Cosby
  • Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash – Eka Kurniawan
  • The Punisher Omnibus Volume 2 – Garth Ennis
  • The Season Ticket – Jonathan Tulloch
  • Pig Iron – Ben Myers
  • The Ice Monster – David Walliams
  • Batman The Dark Knight: Master Race – Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello
  • The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade – Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello
  • The Border – Don Winslow
  • Point Blank – Richard Stark
  • Ellerbisms – Marc Ellerby
  • Smoke – Nigel Bird
  • Bloody January – Alan Parks
  • The Witches – Roald Dahl
  • Slow Horses – Mick Herron
  • Be My Girl – Tony Hutchinson
  • Rival Sons – Aidan Thorn
  • How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks – Jennifer Lee Thomson
  • All Things Violent – Nikki Dolson
  • Comeback – Richard Stark
  • Natchez Burning – Greg Iles
  • Sleevenotes – Mark Lanegan
  • Skin – Peter Milligan
  • Hewligan’s Haircut – Peter Milligan
  • The Chain – Adrian McKinty
  • Foundation – Isaac Asimov
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M Cain
  • I Spit On Your Graves – Boris Vian
  • The Drive-In – Joe Lansdale
  • The Great And Secret Show – Clive Barker
  • Skellig – David Almond
  • The Eye Of The World – Robert Jordan
  • Six Stories – Mat Wesolowski
  • Blood In, Blood Out – John Lee Brook
  • The Criminal – Jim Thompson
  • My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
  • Doctor Sleep – Stephen King
  • Batman: Gotham After Midnight – Steve Niles
  • The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
  • Batman: The Black Mirror – Scott Snyder
  • Batman: Broken City – Brian Azzarello
  • Batman: Zero Year Secret City – Scott Snyder
  • Batman: Zero Year Dark City – Scott Snyder
  • Batman: Gates Of Gotham – Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins
  • Happy – Grant Morrison
  • Face It – Debbie Harry

 

If I had to pick my favourites of the year, I reckon I’d go with Face It – Debbie Harry, My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix, My Sister The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite, The Eye Of The World – Robert Jordan, and My Darkest Prayer – S A Cosby.

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Stealing Christmas Chapter One

As you may know, I released my new Christmas crime novella a couple of weeks ago, Stealing Christmas, and I thought I’d share here the opening chapter. If you find it appeals and you can’t go another moment without reading the rest, or picking it up and putting it to one side for December, you can find a link at the bottom of the post. Kindle and paperback both available. Enjoy!

 

Chapter One
The Christmas lights on the outside of the first house illuminate the whole street.
“Jesus Christ,” Teddy Norton says. It’s not his first viewing, but it still gets him. “Pretty sure she’s added more bulbs to it every damn time I come round. You reckon people on this block go about their homes with sunglasses on?”
Bud Corrigan stares at the house. The flickering of the lights dance across his features. It’s the first time he’s seen it. He shields his eyes as he peers out. “Cindy must really like Christmas, huh?”
“Who knew?” Teddy says. “This looks like the house of someone that actually enjoys the season, and she never looked to me like she enjoyed anything.” Teddy grits his teeth. Cindy was in charge of human resources at the factory where they’d both worked just a few short months ago. She was the one found out about Teddy’s…history. She was the one that got them both fired.
Bud stares at the house like the lights have him hypnotised.
Teddy taps him on the arm. “Come on. We’ll roll round the back, go in that way.”
“You don’t think it’s too well lit? People might see us.”
“See us? It’s the best cover we’ve got. Can you see anything through those windows?”
Bud leans forward, against the passenger side door, right up to the glass, trying to see through the house’s windows. “No, guess not.”
“We could probably hit every light switch in the place and still no one would be able to see us.”
“Okay, sure, good point.”
Teddy starts up the van, rolls down the street and round the corner. He takes his time through the slush on the road. Snow is piled high on the sidewalks and next to the parked cars there. It’s not snowing right now, but the sky above them looks heavy with clouds. There isn’t a single star visible. It’ll likely snow again, and hard, before the night is out.
“How long ago did the party start?” Bud says.
Teddy checks the clock on the dashboard. “An hour.”
“She’ll be there now, right? I mean, there’s fashionably late, but an hour would just be rude, right?”
“She’ll be there. It didn’t look like there was anyone home. We’ll check first, don’t worry.”
Bud is worried, though. He’s never done this before. This is his first time. He chews his bottom lip and his knees bounce. He’s balled his hands up in his lap to stop them from fidgeting. He’s balled them up so tight his knuckles are bone white.
The other houses on the street have made an effort, but none of them compare to Cindy’s in terms of lights per square inch. It makes Teddy think of the Griswold home in Christmas Vacation. He thinks maybe her husband is the joyous one, just like Clark in the movie. The big kid. Probably put all those lights up himself right at the start of the month, spends the rest of the year counting down until he can do it all over again.
It’s eight o’clock, Christmas Eve. Cindy’s house is the first on their list. They’re starting in the centre of town, working their way out. Phil’s will be last. He lives on the outskirts, the biggest house in town for the biggest swinging dick. Phil owns the factory where Teddy and Bud worked. Where Cindy works. Phil was their boss. He didn’t fire them personally – got his brother, the head of security, to do that – but he surely signed off on it.
They intend to be done in three hours, tops. Three hours then they’re gone, out of town, keep driving, and find somewhere new to start over. Kiss this shitty little place goodbye. Merry Christmas. They’re giving themselves the biggest gift of all come Christmas morning, and they’re not gonna wait for no fat man in a red suit to deliver it, they’re gonna go out and get it themselves.
New lives.
There’s a group of carollers going from house to house. They’ve already been to Cindy’s, moved on after receiving no answer. Now, three doors down, a husband, wife, and child stand in their doorway, listening to them tunelessly work their way through We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Still, as bad as it is, they smile. They all smile, singers and listeners alike. It’s Christmas Eve. The happiest time of the year. Everyone’s in a good mood.
The back wheels of the van skid a little as Teddy takes the corner, but he manages to right it. Slows a little more.
“Remember when we used to do that?” Bud says.
“Do what?” Teddy is concentrating on the road, he doesn’t have time for reminiscing.
“When we usedta go carol singing to get a little cash together.”
“I remember about three houses outta five usedta give us cash for singing. The other two times we just had to wind the song up and stand there lookin like a couple of assholes twiddling our thumbs.”
Bud laughs. “Yeah, but they were usually the old people. The elderly. They had the biggest smiles, though.”
“Oh yeah, that’s what I was in it for – the fuckin smiles. I had the voice of an angel, man. I deserved payment for that shit.”
“It’s true, you really hit those high notes. I was a decent, uh…what’s it called…”
“Baritone.”
“Yeah, that’s it. I was good at that.”
“If you say so.”
“I do. And you don’t sound like an angel no more. What went wrong?”
“Cigarettes and booze, man.”
“You’d sound more like Tom Waits if we tried it now.”
Teddy grunts. “Uh-huh. Mark Lanegan.”
“Brian Johnson.”
“Howlin Wolf.”
Bud laughs.
Teddy slows, stops at the back of Cindy’s house. It’s easy to tell which is hers. There are no lights on the back, but it’s hard to miss the glow that emanates from the front.
“Then we’d take all that loose change and we’d go hang round the liquor store until someone came along who’d go in and buy us beer.”
“Keep us warm on those cold nights,” Teddy says, not really paying attention, looking up at the dark windows of the house, making sure it’s as empty as he tried to convince Bud it is. He remembers how no one answered for the carollers. He’s just doubting himself, is all. Listening too much to his nerves.
“Wasn’t so hard to find someone to go in for us when it was December,” Bud says. “People were always a lot nicer at Christmas.”
“Maybe they still are and we just don’t notice as much anymore.” Teddy checks the windows of the other houses. The neighbours. Checks for lights, for movement, anyone watching them. Doesn’t see anyone. It’s not a night for people to lurk at their windows and be suspicious of every car on the road. It’s a night to relax with family and watch Christmas specials on the television, to sip egg nog and sing songs at the piano. To tuck up the children on the one night of the year they’re eager to get to bed. Santa Claus is coming to town. “C’mon, let’s go.”
Teddy kills the engine, pockets the keys. They both slide from the van and make their way to the back gate. They’re lucky – it’s not locked. Bud looks at Teddy. “Get in,” Teddy prompts.
“Figured we’d have to climb the fence.”
“Yeah, well, we don’t, so get movin.”
They both wear black. Jeans, jumpers, woollen hats. They look suspicious as all hell, it’s true, but it’s also necessary. When they’re driving, they take off the hats, wear heavy coats that aren’t black. If a cop passes them on the road, looks inside, they don’t want to arouse his interest. If he pulls them over, they don’t want him questioning the evening’s all-black fashion choices. If he asks, they’re plumbers on an emergency call, trying to save someone’s Christmas from being ruined entirely from a burst pipe.
Snow in the back yard crunches underfoot. It’s thick, untouched. No kids have played in it, no dogs have run in it. Not a single snowman. Near the back door there’s a gas-powered barbecue, wrapped up for the winter, practically buried under white. Teddy recognises the shape of it. They go to the back door. Teddy keeps an eye on all the nearby windows. He carries a toolkit. It’s held close to his side. Bud carries the bags. Holds them close, too. They both stop at the back door, listen. They look at each other.
“I don’t hear anything,” Bud says.
“See, what’d I tell you? She’s gone to the party.”
Bud nods along. “Yeah, good.”
Teddy tries the handle, on the off-chance they’ll get as lucky with the door as they were with the gate, but it’s not to be. He’s not disappointed because he’s not surprised, but it was worth checking. He gets down on his knees, checks the style of lock, then opens up the toolkit. Pulls out a hammer and chisel. Before he sets to work he turns to Bud, looks up at him. They’ve been over this already, but sometimes it’s worth repeating things to Bud. He’s prone to forgetting the important details. “If there’s an alarm, forget the gifts. Straight upstairs, grab the jewellery. Got it?”
“Yeah man, I know, I know.”
“Uh-huh. I’m gonna hit this now – you keep a look out.”
Bud turns his back on Teddy, holds watch. Teddy places the chisel in the centre of the door handle, hits it hard with the hammer. The lock flies out the other side, hits the floor with a thud. The door opens. It’s not his first time.
They listen. There’s no alarm. Teddy pats Bud on the arm, squeezes his bicep. “Let’s move.”
They get inside. Teddy stays in the kitchen, checks drawers and cupboards and cookie jars for wallets, purses, change. Bud goes straight into the front room, checks the gifts. Shakes each box. Anything that sounds like jewellery, feels like it might be expensive, he tears it open, checks. Teddy doesn’t find anything in the kitchen, but as he heads through, on his way to the stairs to go up to the bedroom, he notices that Bud has come up with a Rolex, a pair of earrings, a necklace. He’s working fast. Teddy is impressed. It’s probably the nerves.
The lights on the Christmas tree are on. They twinkle. There are a couple of fake candles flickering on the fireplace. It all looks decidedly dim in contrast with the front of the house.
Teddy reaches the landing, checks the bedroom. Straight to the vanity table. He empties out the contents of the jewellery box, upends the necklace stand. Bud appears behind him in the doorway. “Reckon I got all the gifts worth anything,” he says.
Teddy shakes his bag. “Cindy sure has a lot of jewellery.”
“Anything good?”
“Well, I’ll say this for her, she’s never looked cheap.”
Bud goes to the built-in wardrobes, rummages. Pulls out a couple of suits, stuffs them into the bag. Teddy spots him.
“Fold them, Bud, fold them. They ain’t gonna be worth anythin if they’re all crumpled up and damaged.”
Bud looks confused. “I’ve never folded a suit before.”
Teddy narrows his eyes. The only time he’s ever had to wear a suit he was in court. “Well, just be gentle with em, okay? We’ll fold them after. Try not to crease them.”
“Sure.” Bud folds a suit in half – jacket and pants – and feeds it into the bag.
Teddy looks round the room. He checks under the bed. “We’re done here. Let’s go.”
They leave the house as quietly as they entered, checking the windows again before they crunch through the yard and back to the van. Bud carries both bags. He slides open the side door, puts them in. Doesn’t throw them, doesn’t want to make more noise than necessary. He grabs a new pair of plates. They have a change for after each house they plan to hit.
Teddy starts the van. Bud gets in, straps in, Teddy drives on. Takes his time, goes nice and slow, keeps in control of the steering wheel. Doesn’t want to skid, to sideswipe one of the parked cars and set off its alarm.
“D’you think they’re having a good time?” Bud says.
Teddy narrows his eyes. “What? Who?” Sometimes Bud comes out with non-sequiturs, and no matter how many times Teddy has berated him about this, it doesn’t stop him. Part of the reason being Bud doesn’t understand what a non-sequitur is.
“The people at the party. Do you think they’re enjoying themselves?”
Teddy shakes his head. Other than to acknowledge where they are, Teddy hasn’t given them a thought. “The fuck do I care?”

 

 

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