by Max Thrax
Shane jogged past
Star Market. In the alley, he saw a dead man.
first, he wasn’t sure if the man was dead.
It was a poor part of town and he’d seen guys sleeping rough on benches or
huddled below the overpass.
It was three in the
morning, the main road cold and quiet. He took out his phone and switched on
the flashlight, stepped closer to the body.
The man had a ball-peen
hammer buried in his forehead.
Shane slipped the
phone in his shorts. When he turned to leave, a man wearing a windbreaker and
tan pants appeared on the sidewalk.
“Evening,” he said. “Live
“Hillside condos? I
bet. Seen you running. What’d you run for?”
Shane inched back.
“Few runners around
here. Receive me?”
“I was just—”
“Coming out of an
Shane wanted to go
home, told the man.
“Show me who’s got a
hammer in his fucking head.”
The man introduced
himself as Bob. “This is Brian Cafferty,” he said. “Lives on Cypress with his
mother. Or lived. Receive me? Tossed from every pub in town center.”
“You knew him?”
“Well as anyone,”
Bob said. “Call the police?”
“But you would’ve
called the police? I mean, if you’d brought your phone. Here, I’ll call
. . . My emergency? Not much. Dead guy on
85 Chestnut, next to Star Market. That’s S-T-A-R—”
Shane heard the
creak of a shopping cart. A woman wheeled a basket of empty cans and bottles through
the playground across the street. He was no longer sweating and felt the chill
in his legs.
“Should be here soon.”
“I need to leave.”
“No problem,” Bob
said. “Tell the cops I saw a guy named Shane flee a crime scene. In running
shorts. Direct to them condos.”
never told you my name.”
from the neighborhood.” Bob held up
Shane’s wallet and phone. “Here’s it back. Didn’t take anything, nah.”
“Cafferty had his
chances. I’m saying they warned him. Death don’t seem real until the boys drop
a hammer on your skull . . . Never crossed them. The boys. Known them years. Know
I’m no threat.”
From blocks away,
sirens sounded. The whine grew louder, and Shane saw a cruiser speed up the
street toward the bridge.
around,” Bob said. A white van parked in front of the alley and blocked them
The door slid open.
Out walked two men in ski masks. The short man tripped Shane and the tall man
pulled a thick cotton bag over his head. He struggled as he was lifted from the
pavement, dragged to the curb, slung in the van.
The door closed and
he tumbled to the floor. Someone threw a weighted blanket over him.
“Too many drunks,”
Bob yelled, and Brian Cafferty’s body landed on top of Shane. The hammer fell
out of the man’s head, clattered against one of the seatbelts.
“Getting sloppy,” said
the short man.
“Some jogger,” Bob
said. “Stood in the alley. I lose Cafferty for one fucking second, he’s in the
The van started.
“Long way home,” the short man said, and they pulled away from the curb, into
the cold morning.
Max Thrax lives in Boston. His stories and poetry have
in Shotgun Honey, Bristol Noir, and Punk Noir. His
novella God is a Killer (Close to the Bone) will be published
in May 2022. Find him online at www.maxthrax.com or on Twitter @ThraxMaximilian.
Hillary Lyon is an illustrator
for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and
senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA
Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal
Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey,
and Red River Review, as well as numerous
anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night
to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales
from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies
such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, Thuggish
Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She
appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus
Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France,
Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern