I am joining the blog tour for One Last Shot today, the final book in the Shots trilogy by Stephen Anthony Brotherton, and I have the honour of welcoming Stephen to share with us an original, unpublished short story. Thank you so much Stephen for this! My thanks also go to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.
Keep reading after the short story for all the details about One Last Shot.
I walked along the carriages of the ten past six train from Birmingham New Street to Walsall. The only vacant seat was taken up by his sprawled out legs and red Doc Martens. I threw my bag into the overhead storage and tapped one of the boots. ‘Excuse me, mate.’
He lifted the brim of a black bowler hat, which had been covering his eyes, and looked me up and down. He was wearing a Crombie coat pulled tight around his body and had tufts of a blonde goatee beard sprouting from his chin.
‘I’d like to sit down,’ I said.
He started pulling lightly at the stud pierced through his top lip.
‘Look, mate, the train’s full and I’m having …’
‘Terribly sorry,’ he said, dropping his feet to the floor and sitting up. ‘I must have dozed off.’
I sat down next to him and he held out his hand. ‘Henry,’ he said, ‘but some people call me Duke. Take your pick.’
‘Freddie,’ I said, shaking his hand.
‘You’re a copper.’
‘How did you…’
‘The boots, the clip on tie, the civvy jacket. You might as well have left the tit hat on. Could be worse. One of my mates is a mortuary attendant. We’ve all got to be something.’
Two days later we met up for a beer. He’d suggested a pub in the centre of town, but I’d asked if we could go somewhere quieter, one of the old man pubs by the market. I was a bit early and waited for him in a shop doorway. I smoked a Park Drive to pass the time.
At 7.30 he swaggered through the empty square, his closed umbrella held aloft in salute. I threw my cigarette away and looked around the empty stalls. Two workmen, who had been sweeping up the fish and chip wrappings, the pizza boxes and the crunched up Coca-Cola tins, were leaning on their brooms and staring; a middle aged couple out walking their Jack Russell shook their heads and whispered something to each other.
‘Freddie,’ he said, patting me on the back. ‘Why didn’t you wait inside?’
‘No reason. Shall we go in?’
‘Lead the way. First round’s on me.’
The pub was empty. Adam and the Ants’ ‘Stand and Deliver’ was playing on the jukebox. We walked over to the bar and sat down on the worn leather stools. A smiling barmaid walked out from the back room. ‘Gentlemen,’ she said. ‘What can I get you?’
I ordered a pint of Murphy’s.
‘Ah, a fine beverage,’ he said. ‘I’ll have the same.’ He waved two, one pound notes in her direction. ‘Keep the change,’ he said, winking at her.
She pulled the pints, took the money and disappeared into the sanctuary of the snug.
‘She thinks you’re mad,’ I said.
‘I do hope so,’ he said.
I took a sip from my pint and we walked over to a small table by the window. I could see the workmen still sweeping the streets. We sat down, the table rocked. I tore a beer mat in half and placed it under one of the legs. Henry was watching me.
‘Tell me about the police,’ he said.
Twenty minutes later, I took two gulps of beer to stop myself from talking. He’d sat in silence all the way through.
‘Fancy another,’ he said.
‘I wouldn’t mind a JD and coke.’
He came back with the drinks, sat down and shook his head. ‘And these skinheads are there every night?’
‘Every night,’ I said, taking a slug of whiskey. ‘There’s four of them. They sit on top of the underpass and gob on me as I walk through.’
‘Why not go another way?’
‘There is no other way out of the bus station. Anyway, they run to the exit and meet me on the other side. I don’t know what to do.’
‘And then you found me?’
‘I know exactly how to sort these guys.’
‘You can’t get involved. I’m a police officer for god’s sake. I’ll report it.’
‘If you were going to do that you’d have done it already.’
I took another slug of the short. ‘So what do I do then?’
He stood up and picked up the empty glasses. ‘I’ll get us some more drinks and talk you through the modus operandi.’
Jonesy, the skinhead with the Union Jack tattoo across his forehead, sniffed me up and down, and looked at me with big wide eyes, crusts of dried glue stuck to his unshaven chin. ‘I can smell pig,’ he said. ‘Are you a piggy man, copper?’
‘He’s a pig alright,’ said one of the others. ‘I can smell him from here.’
All four of them started walking round me, snorting and oinking. ‘Pig, pig; pig,’ they chanted. ‘Oink, oink, oink; snort, snort, snort.’ They started shoving me backwards and forwards; snorting, oinking, chanting – ‘Pig, pig; pig…’
‘Gentlemen, gentlemen. This no way to behave.’
They all stopped and faced the exit to the underpass. Henry strode into view, wearing a pin-striped suit and patent leather shoes. He was carrying a blue leather attaché case with a crown and sceptre insignia embossed on the lid. An ear piece was fixed into his left ear with a connecting wire running inside his jacket. He put his mouth next to the lapel. ‘Can you confirm everyone is in position, sir?’
‘Who the fuck are you?’ said Jonesy.
‘I must caution you, young man, to choose your words very carefully. Everything here is being recorded.’
‘Record that,’ said the skinhead, putting up two fingers.
‘Very droll,’ said Henry. ‘Now, shall we get down to business? I understand you have a grievance with this officer.’ He knelt down and flicked open the attaché case. There were two duelling pistols inside, sitting on a red velvet base. ‘You can take your pick. They’re both loaded with a single shot.’
The skinheads all stepped back.
‘Wait a minute, mate,’ said Jonesy. ‘No one said anything about guns. We’re just having a bit of fun.’
‘Constable Shaw,’ said Henry, handing me a pair of black leather gloves. ‘I need you to make the challenge in the traditional way.’ He turned back to Jonesy. ‘Did you choose your gun, sir?’
‘I’m not using any gun, mate.’
‘Well, it’s up to you, but at least this way you have a chance.’
‘Screw you. We’re off.’
They all turned and started to walk away. Henry leaned again into his lapel. ‘Can you put the snipers on stand-by, sir? I think we might have an escape attempt.’
The skinheads stopped walking.
‘Just a precaution. Now, if you choose your gun, we can get started.’
Jonesy walked back to Henry. ‘Look, we’re sorry, okay.’
‘It was just a joke.’
‘You want to apologise?’
‘Yeah, there’s no need for any guns.’
‘Well, I suppose the challenge hasn’t been issued yet. What do you think, Constable?’
‘Come on, mate,’ Jonesy said, turning towards me. ‘No one wants a gun fight.’
‘He will require a formal apology of course,’ said Henry.
‘Yeah, of course. Sorry,’ he muttered.
‘No. I’m afraid it will have to be said, using the prescribed form of words.’
‘We need it for the records. As I said, this is being recorded.’
‘Okay. Whatever. Tell me what to say and I’ll say it.’
‘Excellent,’ said Henry, reaching into the attaché case and pulling out a gold coloured card. ‘It’s always better when these things are resolved amicably’ He handed the card to Jonesy. ‘You need to read this to Constable Shaw and then it’s up to him whether he forgives you or not.’
Henry put his finger on the ear piece. ‘Yes, sir. We’re just negotiating. If you could bear with me for a moment.’ He nodded to the skinhead. ‘Ready when you are.’
Jonesy looked up at the walkway and then down at the card. The rest of the skinheads stood at his side with their arms folded. He started to read. ‘I unreservedly apologise to Constable Shaw…’
‘A bit louder please.’
Henry pointed upwards. ‘For the tape. They’re telling me you need to speak up a bit.’
Jonesy coughed and started reading again. ‘I unreservedly apologise to Constable Shaw for my unacceptable and ungentlemanly behaviour. This behaviour will never be repeated and I humbly request Constable Shaw’s forgiveness.’
‘Well, that sounded pretty sincere to me, Constable.’
‘I’m not sure he meant it,’ I said.
‘Do you want me to beg, mate?’
Henry looked at me. ‘It is an option I suppose. What do you think, Constable?’
If that has tempted you to read more of Stephen’s writing, read on for everything you need to know about One Last Shot.
CAN FIRST LOVE EVER BE REIGNITED?
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…
ABOUT 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.
Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in this tour to find out more about the book.