As you may or may not know, I have a new book coming out very, very soon. Guillotine will be released via All Due Respect and Down & Out Books on the 22nd February and will be my eighth book in total, and my second with All Due Respect. American-set, it tells the tale of Lou-Lou, a young lady trying to escape from her tyrannical father with the man she loves. Of course, her father doesn’t plan on making that easy for her…
The paperback pre-order is available from Amazon right now, and with a striking fucking cover from J T Lindroos, why WOULDN’T you wanna own a physical copy of this beauty? I mean, the story might be pretty good too… 😉
Okay, so without further ado, here is Chapter One of Guillotine! And if it successfully whets your appetite, UK and US links at the bottom.
A topless girl dances on a stage in the corner. The music is a bass-heavy drone that loops round on itself, unending.
The bar is mostly empty. A few sad, crumpled drunks sit alone at their tables and booths, a couple more prop up the bar. Occasionally they glance at the girl, but mostly they stare into their drinks.
Mikey sits in a booth at the back, near the toilets. The stink of piss wafts out the swinging doors every time someone goes to relieve themselves. He has a whisky, and he sips it from time to time while he watches the door. He waits. Tommy said he would reach the bar at ten. It’s after half past.
He glances back at the half-naked girl, her pale skin lit red then purple by the strobe lights that hang above her. She is skinny and Mikey can see her ribcage as plain as the keys on a piano. Her small breasts are bare, her nipples point with the cold. She wears black underwear and heels, stockings that go up past her knees. Her eyes are closed. Her dark hair is cut short, bangs that reach almost to her eyelids, her face turned to the side, her shoulders pressed back against the wall. Her hips do the dancing. They sway, roll slowly left to right, then right to left. Her hands rest lightly upon them, fingers spread, curled. Watching her face, she looks like she could be anywhere in the world, not stripping in the corner of some scuzzy bar, garishly lit, occasionally ogled by some depressed drunk.
Mikey takes another sip, holds it in his mouth, lets the liquid slosh between his cheeks, over his teeth, feels it numb his gums.
The door opens and Tommy stumbles in. He goes straight to the bar, orders a beer
and a shot. He watches the girl while he waits. In turn, Mikey watches him.
Tommy grabs the shot as soon as the glass is filled, throws his head back and downs it, then wraps a hand around the beer and sips it slowly. He talks briefly to the bartender. Mikey finishes his drink while he does. Tommy turns, leans against the bar, scans the room. He drinks. His eyes settle on Mikey over the top of his glass. They exchange nods and Tommy approaches.
He is tall and thin, but he still wears the clothes from back when he’d had some meat on his bones, before his drug use took precedence over working out and eating. His jeans are loose, his beaten leather jacket is baggy. Looks like it could wrap him twice. He resembles a little brother borrowing his older sibling’s clothes, and appears just as ridiculous. He takes a seat, sniffs. “How’s it goin?”
Tommy sniffs again, harder this time, then smooths down the straggling hairs in his thick beard. He dresses like a biker, wears big boots and has a chain that hangs from his belt to his pocket thick enough to choke out an elephant. There are tattoos across his knuckles, but if they spell anything out it’s impossible to decipher. Faded green squiggles that are as likely to be Celtic symbols or Kanji as they are to be letters.
The rumour is that Tommy used to prospect for a local MC, but he didn’t make the grade. Mikey knows Tommy well enough to know it’s the kind of rumour he’d start himself, and he’d believe this to be the case were it not for the part about Tommy’s failure to break into the MC ranks. Were it truly a tall Tommy tale, he’d have gotten his patch in record time, have ascended to the presidency of the club, then had to have given it all up and go into hiding because of some cartel hit placed upon him in a deal gone wrong.
Tommy does a lot of coke and his stories have a tendency to lean toward the
Regardless of whether the story is fact or fiction, Tommy tries his best to live a biker lifestyle and to represent himself as such. But there is no patch on the back of his jacket, and Mikey has never seen him near a motorcycle.
“Been busy?” Tommy says.
“Busy enough,” Mikey says.
Tommy sucks his teeth, nods, then flicks his head to get strands of greasy long hair out of his face. He sniffs. Looks over at the girl again, is distracted by her. She slips her hands down the front of her underwear, sinks her teeth into her bottom lip, her hips continuing to roll with the unending bass line. Tommy stares, transfixed.
Mikey wipes chip crumbs from the sticky tabletop before he rests his forearms upon it and leans forward. “Let’s talk about why we’re here.”
Tommy turns back, wipes his raw, red nostrils with the back of his hand. “You don’t waste time.”
“I didn’t come to this dive to shoot the shit. Spill.”
“Sure. Well.” He takes a drink. “I understand you’ve done some work for Big Bobby Joe.”
“Big Bobby Joe is an asshole.”
“Figure his money’s as green as the next guy’s. Way I heard it, once upon a time you did a lot of work for Big Bobby Joe. Straight outta high school, right?”
“That’s how I know he’s an asshole.”
“I ain’t here to debate that issue.”
“You work for him?”
“You know what I do?”
“Big Bobby Joe signs my paychecks. Least he would, if things were on the up and
up. But you catch my meaning. He owns the garage.”
“That a recent venture of his?”
“Coupla years now. He’s got his fingers in a lot of pies round here. Where’ve you been?”
“Keepin outta his business.”
“Your line of work, that must be hard to do.”
“I can afford to be selective. And I take on most of my jobs elsewhere. I ain’t afraid to travel. It’s never wise to shit where you eat.”
“Said just like the man himself.” Tommy laughs. “Some things you just can’t shake, huh? He’s always saying that, over and over, gets it engrained in your head so you won’t forget: Don’t shit where you eat, boys.”
Mikey grunts. “He says it often enough, but he shits plenty in his own backyard.”
“Ha! Well, it ain’t so bad if you know the guys shovelling the shit. Big Bobby Joe is a big man with big ideas. He’s always looking to expand, any way he can. A lot of those bozos you’ll do jobs for in the cities, wherever else you might go, probably he’s got a line on them.”
“I don’t doubt it. He likes makin money as much as he likes shovin food in his fat fuckin face.”
Tommy laughs again. “Absolutely. Maybe even more so. You heard about his recent troubles?”
“Should I care?”
Tommy shrugs. “Maybe. Depends how interested I can make you.”
“Give it your best shot.”
“His little girl’s run away.”
Mikey runs his tongue over his teeth, responds before his hesitation can be noticed. “She ain’t so little anymore. And it was bound to happen, sooner or later.”
“True. But I ain’t got to the best part yet. You got kids?”
Mikey looks at him. “No.”
“Neither do I, but I reckon for those that do they have a blind spot when it comes to their kid’s digressions. Big Bobby Joe’s always gonna see his little girl when he looks at her.”
“Sees her as his property.”
Tommy grins. “Yeah, I’ve heard that too. Could be the reason he’s so heavy handed with her is cos he always remembers that magical moment he held her the first time. I heard he got worse after the mom died.”
Mikey wants another drink, but he doesn’t stand. “I think ‘worse’ would be a matter of opinion.”
“Some men, they love the only they way know how. The way they think best. He looks at her, he sees her three-foot tall, gap-toothed, pig-tails, dressed in her Sunday best for early mornin Mass, and that’s how he wants to keep her. That’s the little girl he never wanted her to stop being. But the rest of us, we look at her, we see the truth. We see a bitch in heat. That come-hither look in her eyes while she chews on her lip. And now she’s gone. But what truly eats at Big Bobby Joe is the way she departed.”
Mikey stares at Tommy, waits for him to continue, no patience for his dramatic pauses.
Tommy gets the hint, sniffs hard. “Lusty Lou-Lou fell for big bad Leon.”
“That a name I should know?”
“Don’t see why you should, but you never know, huh? Leon’s just another nobody. Usedta work with me, but then he caught the eye of Davey Sparks. You know Davey Sparks, right?”
“Of course you do. See, Leon’s a big guy. Broad shoulders, just how Davey likes
em. And he’s done some time inside – so now he’s double the kind of guy Davey Sparks likes. Recruits him from the chop shop, assigns him to Lou-Lou. Babysitter, basically. Didn’t you have that job once?”
Mikey doesn’t answer. “Tell your story.”
“So he’s drivin her round town, takes her shopping, keeps an eye on her. Reports back daily. Bodyguard-babysitter type shit. You know.” Tommy grins. “Bobby Joe’s a paranoid man, he likes to know his little girl’s safe as much as he likes to know she ain’t goin anywhere or doin anythin he don’t want her doin. Leon was good at his job, far as anyone could see. But somewhere down the line, he and Lou-Lou got a little more friendly than was professionally acceptable. Maybe it was just a recent thing, or maybe it’s been going on since day one and Leon’s regular reports to Davey Sparks have been a regular pile of bullshit. Whenever it started doesn’t matter. It’s all comin out now.”
“And Bobby Joe’s pissed.”
“Naturally. He’d be pissed at any of the boys stickin it to his little girl, but in this instance, with Leon, he’s doubly pissed.”
“What’s so special about Leon?”
“He’s a nigger.”
“Then I’m surprised he took him on in the first place.”
“Took him on in the chop shop. Wasn’t ever supposed to go anywhere else. This one’s on Davey Sparks, and you gotta believe he’s eatin a lot of shit right now. Cos there’s more. Cos Bobby Joe’s triply pissed. The goodbye note sent him truly over the edge. You ready for this? A pregnancy test, freshly doused.” Tommy grins, bites into his dry bottom lip with discoloured teeth. “Guess the outcome?”
“She’s cookin a fresh one.”
“You betcha. Congratulations, it’s a boy – or girl, whatever. So now Bobby Joe
wants his little girl back, sans bun, and he wants big bad Leon dead. There’s a hit out.”
Tommy’s grin gets wider, exposes more of his cracked and rotten teeth. “Sixty grand.”
Mikey keeps a straight face, but the sum catches him by surprise. “That’s steep.”
“You know Big Bobby Joe, he’s got a big fuckin temper. And right now he has a fuckin ragin hard-on for this kid.”
Mikey scratches the side of his nose, hung up on the bounty. “Why you bringin this to me?”
“Why do you think? You’re the guy to make him flaccid.”
“Bobby Joe asked for me?”
“He’s put a call out to anyone who’ll listen. He’s got the word on the street. I called you myself.”
Mikey’s eyes narrow. “That so.”
“When’d they split? Today?”
Tommy shakes his head. “Three days ago.”
“You tryin to waste my time?”
Tommy sniggers, gives Mikey a blast of his fetid breath, the stink worse than anything coming from the swinging doors of the nearby toilet. “I know where they are.”
Mikey raises an eyebrow.
“They ain’t even left town.”
“Get to the fuckin point.”
“Lookit, hear me out. You go do this thing, take care of Leon, we split the cash.”
“You know where he is, why don’t you do it?”
“Cos I ain’t you, Guillotine. I ain’t a pro.”
Mikey locks his eyes with Tommy’s bloodshot peepers. “Don’t call me that.”
Tommy holds up his hands. “Sure, sure.”
“Where are they?”
“Some fleabag downtown. Just waiting for me to give them the call.”
“Telling them I’ve got a car. Telling them it’s safe to leave.”
“And why’re they relying on you for this?”
“Cos the dumb motherfucker thinks we’re friends.”
“We’re as close as we need to be.” He wears his repulsive grin again. “You remember how I said we worked together at the chop shop? We talked, we hung out. We’ve kept in touch since he’s moved up in the world. It’s important to keep in contact with your friends, especially the ones that could be worth somethin to you.”
“You sound like a swell pal.”
“Trustworthy and loyal, like a dog.” Tommy shows his teeth again, like their rot is supposed to be some kind of exclamation whenever he thinks he’s said something funny. “So…” He looks expectant. “You in?”
Mikey looks at the girl. Her bony hips are pushed forward, her shoulders are against the wall and her arms are raised over her head. “No,” he says.
Tommy blinks. “No?”
“I ain’t deaf, I’m just in disbelief. Here I am, offering you this sweet fuckin deal on a platter, and you say no?”
“You heard me. We don’t need to discuss it any further.”
“I think that we do. I could’ve taken this to anyone, and I’ve brought it to you. Where’s your fuckin gratitude, man?”
“I didn’t ask for it.”
“Y’know, I was willin to go a sixty-forty split on this, in your favour.”
“There’s plenty others will take you up on it.”
“You could stick your fuckin signature on it, man. Bobby Joe woulda lapped that shit up. Hell, I reckon he’d have given you another five if you turned up at his house with that motherfucker’s head gift-wrapped. You’re gonna walk away from this?”
“Is it Lou-Lou?”
Mikey says nothing.
“You took your turn on her, but that was a long fuckin time ago now. You ain’t over it yet?”
“Sure, go, whatever. Bobby Joe ever find out about the two of you? You up and joined the army real abrupt, as I recall. Maybe I oughtta tell him about your past dalliances with his daughter. It’s kinda my duty as an employee, right?”
Mikey reaches across the table faster than Tommy can react, grabs him by the back of the head and slams his face down into the table. Blood sprays from Tommy’s nose and Mikey holds him there, pushes down, grinds his face into the tabletop. A couple of people at the bar look over, alerted to the sudden commotion, but quickly turn away.
Tommy struggles, but he can’t get free. Mikey lowers his face so Tommy can see him out the corner of his eye. “You need to learn when to keep your mouth shut,” he says. He lets go and Tommy straightens, wipes the blood from his nostrils, though it has caked in his moustache, too. “You ever think about threatening me again, I’ll put
the signature on you. And I’ll make sure you’re still breathing when the saw’s teeth touch your throat.”
Tommy swallows. He nods, holds up his hands again. “Hey, it was just a joke is all, just a joke. I didn’t mean nothin by it.”
“Then you need to work on your material. It wasn’t funny, Tommy.”
“Okay, okay. I’m sorry.”
Mikey grunts, then stands. “Uh-huh.” He leaves Tommy at the table, heads for the exit. When he reaches it, he glances back. Tommy hasn’t moved. A hand is at his nose, probing at it, picking at the blood drying in his beard. His face is turned to the girl. He watches her dance.
Like the sounds of that? Well it’s out on February 22nd, but the paperback is available for pre-order right now! Here’s the UK and US links: