Monday, 30 March 2020

One Last Shot by Stephen Anthony Brotherton + free #ShortStory

One Last Shot by Stephen Anthony Brotherton
Published by Book Guild Publishing on the 28th February 2020.


One Last Shot concludes the trilogy of Freddie and Jo-Jo, which has moved through time in a series of flashbacks, showing how the couple fell in love as teenagers, why they drifted apart, what happened in their lives away from each other, and what happens when they meet up again over three decades later. At the end of the second book, An Extra Shot, Jo-Jo tells Freddie about her dark secret. Confused, vulnerable and in a state of shock, he says he needs time to think about what to do next. Jo-Jo’s right to be worried. Freddie doesn’t react well... 

First Mate

An original, unpublished short story by Stephen Anthony Brotherton, Author of the Shots trilogy.

‘Over there,’ I said. ‘The one with the black gypsy curls and the dark, sleepy eyes.’
 ‘He’s young,’ said Emma. ‘And he looks exactly like Jake.’
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Cute.’
We walked over to the waltzers and sat down in the nearest car. Cute boy jumped on the back and grinned down at the pair of us. He had a gold sovereign ring on the middle finger of his right hand and a red-faced pirate tattoo on his forearm. ‘You two okay?’ he said.
‘I am now,’ I said, looking up at him. ‘Are you going to stay there?’
‘If you want.’
‘I’d like that. These things make me nervous.’
‘You’ll be fine,’ he said. ‘I’ll look after you.’ 
‘See you later, Captain,’ shouted Emma. 
‘Captain?’ he said, still standing on the back of the now stationary waltzer.
‘It’s a private joke. Not funny really.’  
‘I’m Steve,’ he said.
‘Nicki,’ I said. 
‘So, Nicki, if you can wait ten minutes, I’ll show you the fair.’
‘Do I get a candyfloss?’
‘You can have a bucket load.’
‘In that case, I’ll wait.’ 
Steve lifted his head off the rifle butt, looked up at me and winked. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘That bear’s as good as yours.’
‘You have to get all six for the bear,’ said the Shoot a Duck man.
‘I know, Harry. I’ve worked here long enough. And I want the big bear, not the puny thing you give to punters.’
‘The sign says win a bear,’ said Harry. ‘It don’t specify a size.’
‘Yeah,’ said Steve, closing his one eye and squeezing the trigger. ‘You can explain that to me later if you want.’
I cuddled the snow white bear into my chest as we walked away from the stall. ‘Didn’t you promise me a candyfloss?’ I said.
‘I think I might have.’
‘Are you always so bossy?’ 
‘You’ll get used to me. What about my candyfloss?’
‘Okay. I’ll get you a candyfloss.’ 
I dropped the bear on the grass and put my arms around Steve’s neck. ‘You want your reward here?’ I said.
‘My reward?’
‘For winning me the bear.’
He looked around the fairground.
‘Or we could go somewhere more private,’ I said.
I skidded my red Ford Capri off the gravel carpark.
‘So, how long have you worked at the fair, Steve?’ 
‘Just this summer,’ he said. 
‘It must be exciting, meeting different people every night.’
‘Yeah. A new town every couple of weeks. It suits me.’
‘And a new girl?’ 
‘Not really. What about you?’  
‘Oh, boring, boring. Shop assistant, live alone.’
‘Your mate seems like fun.’
‘Emma. We’ve been best friends since junior school.’
‘What’s the Captain thing about?’
‘It’s silly. When we were kids we used to belong to a Bug Club, collecting insects in jam-jars. I was the Captain. It sort of stuck.’
 ‘Didn’t the bugs just die?’
‘Not straight away. We put air holes in the lids.’
We’d been driving through country lanes for about twenty minutes. Neither of us had said a word for the last five. 
‘Where are we going?’ he said.
‘I wondered when you were going to ask.’   
‘I trust you,’ he said, putting his hand on my knee. 
‘You’ve only just met me.’
‘Ah, but I’m a good judge of character. I have a knack for it.’
‘Yeah. Okay. Tell me what you think you know.’
‘About what?’
‘About me. If you’re that good, it should be easy.’
‘Well, you’ve got kind eyes…’ 
‘…Everyone says that. When you ask them what they think of you. They always say something nice about your eyes. It doesn’t mean anything.’
‘Okay. You like candyfloss and big cuddly bears. How can that be wrong?’
‘Yeah, well, even Hitler liked watercolours.’
‘You still haven’t said where we going.’ 
‘My place,’
‘You must live out in the sticks?’ 
 ‘My Dad was a farmer.’
‘He’s dead.’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘It’s okay. Mum’s dead as well. Like I said, I live on my own.’
I turned right off the main road and drove down a conifer hedged country lane. We reached the end of the lane and turned into a driveway sweep in front of a four bedroomed detached house. I pulled hard on the handbrake and switched off the engine. ‘Here we are,’ I said. ‘Back at the ranch.’ 
‘Wow,’ he said. ‘This is huge. Is it all yours?’
‘Yeah. Every single tin-roofed outbuilding. Dad was very generous.’
‘It must be worth a fortune.’
‘Not really.’   
‘Are you sure about this, Nicki? We’ve only just met.’
‘I’m sure. What about you?’
‘Yeah. I’ve got a good feeling about this, about us.’
I patted his thigh. ‘Okay. Let’s get inside.’
We walked hand in hand towards the front door, leaving the bear on the back seat of the car. I put my key in the lock and faced him. ‘Close your eyes,’ I said.
‘Close your eyes. I want to guide you in.’
‘You’re kidding.’
‘It’ll be fun. I thought you trusted me.’
‘I do, but…oh, okay.’
I pushed the door open and led him into the house. ‘No peeking,’ I said.
‘I feel ridiculous,’ he said. 
I kissed him lightly on the lips. ‘Nearly there,’ I whispered. ‘Only two more steps. One, two.’ I let go of his hands and stepped back. ‘Open your eyes,’ I shouted.  
‘What the…’
Emma fired a bullet into his head.
‘My god,’ said Emma, jumping up from the chair and high fiving me. ‘Did you see how far he flew back?’
I knelt down and looked at Steve’s face, his mouth was wide open. There was a gaping hole in the centre of his forehead. ‘Nice shot,’ I said. ‘You’re getting better.’
‘I’ve been practicing on your Dad’s cows. Only four of them left by the way.’
I looked at her. ‘Did you get the stuff?’
‘Sure did. The maggot bath’s ready. We’ve already got the acid dip set up.’
‘How long does that take again?’
‘A month for the maggots to eat most of the flesh, as long as we strip him and cut him up a bit, and then another six weeks for the acid to burn the rest away. I’ve told you this loads of times.’
‘Maybe I chose not to remember. Get the wheelbarrow. Let’s get him round there.’
She clicked her heels together and saluted. ‘Aye, aye, Captain,’ she said.  
We were in the barn. I looked down at the horse trough. Some of the maggots had already wriggled over the edge and were making good their escape across the wooden floor. Steve’s body had been smothered. I walked over to a metal cupboard and opened the doors. ‘Be good to get some company for these,’ I said. ‘There’s still lots of space to fill.’
‘We’ve come a long way since the Bug Club,’ said Emma, nodding at the cupboard. ‘Your Dad doesn’t look too happy. Nor Jake. How many skeletons does a girl need in her life?’
‘As many as it takes,’ I said. 

Meet the author   

I was born in Walsall, grew up in the West Midlands and now live in Telford with my two cats, Boris and Tai.

After working in the health and social care sector for over thirty years, I have now written the trilogy that has been rooted in my head for most of my life.

The Shots trilogy is based on a first love relationship I had as a teenager. It tells the story of Freddie and Jo-Jo, who are reunited in a coffee shop three decades after the end of their teenage romance. How they originally met, why they parted, what happens in their lives apart, and what happens when they reunite is all told through a series of first person vignettes.

Getting these stories down on paper has been a cathartic process. I hope you enjoy them.

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