Pulp Ink Promotion - Padre by A.J. Hayes.

A couple of weeks ago my buddy, Chris Rhatigan, asked if I'd do a promotional post for his and Nigel Bird's e-book, Pulp Ink.  I said of course, so long as you tell me how the book came about.

Chris said, "Yeah, that's fine. Last winter, Nigel Bird and I came up with an idea: Get a bunch of crime's finest writers together for an anthology using soundtrack titles and snippets of dialog from a film that defined the 90s (at least here in the States!). We were delighted when established pros and Internet upstarts alike signed on for the project and away we went.

The result is 24 bruising stories that each stand on their own but are loosely linked together. "Padre" by AJ Hayes is one of my personal favorites. Jimmy, a strangely gifted 12-year-old who debuted in "Savant" at A Twist of Noir, is back in this tight and vivid tale. It's a good example of what to expect from Pulp Ink -- a bunch of weird, action-packed short stories from a group of very talented writers."

There you go, then.  You can purchase the e-book for $1.40 by clicking the Pulp Ink photo above.  That means you're getting 24 great stories for around 86pence.  You'd be foolish not to buy it.

You want a taster from the book?  Here it is then...

Padre by AJ Hayes.

It's midnight when the cell phone rings. I scramble awake to answer. Only one person got that number. Hello Padre I say. How you doing. He talks a while. I say okay and hang up. Jimmy looks at me.

Padre needs us I say. Jimmy's already out the door.

***

We get to the docks and I almost miss him standing back in the shadows. Jimmy don't. He makes a bee line and grabs the old priest in a bear hug. Padre hugs him back tight and waits for me to catch up.

Hello Bobby he says. His creased leather face wrinkles up in a smile and he pats Jimmy on the top of the head. Good boy James he says. It's time to work now.

The kid moves away a little bit and gives him full attention. Like nobody else in the world exists right now. For an autistic twelve-year-old like Jimmy I guess that's true.

Only thing that tells you Padre's a priest is the collar. Otherwise he looks like an old club fighter. Crew cut. Flat nose. Cobweb of scars around the eyes. Black turtleneck and washed-out jeans with scuffed knees. The eyes though. They tell you. That kind of blue like old Mexican tiles. Sometimes they look right inside and see everything there is. Everything that's ever been. People don't forget those eyes. Some see them in their dreams. Some see them in their nightmares.

He tells us what he wants.

***

We round the corner of a warehouse and Demitri's standing under a work light by a sea container at the end of the dock. Big fucker. Russian. Got those Gulag tatts tell what kind of a bad motherfucker he is. Looks by himself but I know better. Son of a bitch'es never alone. There's a kind of swoosh by my side. Jimmy's gone. We keep walkin' Padre and me.

What you want priest Demitri says. I'm watchin' close. Ready to hit the ground.

Padre says I want to buy your merchandise.

The Russian laughs big like it's the best joke he ever heard. Buy? he says. What you going to buy with Priest? Little Sisters Of The Poor money? You steal from the nuns? Another big laugh.

Show me the merchandise Padre says. If it's not damaged then we'll talk payment.

Demitri scowls. You not trust me Priest? You think I'm cheat? But he turns and motions us to follow him to the container.

He removes the padlock on a rusty door and pulls it open. He reaches inside and flips a switch. Harsh flourescents light up and we see six young women all so pregnant they look like beach balls. They're crammed together tight as far back into the container as they can get. The place reeks so high with the smell of piss and shit it burns my eyes. The youngest of them looks about fourteen. The Russian closes the door and steps away.

There he says you see? All alive. Healthy. No problems. Everything good. You buy now?

Padre nods. Yes he says I'll buy them. What's your price?

Hm he says let me see. He looks up. Like he's making calculations in his head. Smiles.

Okay he says. They all Afghani. Good Muslim girls. Clean. But. He holds up his index finger. They all got G.I babies inside. Soldiers you know. All same when Glorious Soviet Invasion happening only then Russian babies.

His grin shows off gold teeth in front. Good Muslim parents gonna kill these not so good Muslim daughters. But I buy. I save good Muslim girls for five hundred US dollars each. Family happy. Girls happy. I'm great man. Humanitarian you know?

He shrugs. But I'm businessman too. So I sell girls for whores. But whores cheap. Whores everywhere in US. He winks at Padre and me. Whore only bring two three thousand each. Maybe more if young and pretty. So for six whores I get maybe thirty-five hundred each. Makes total of twenty-one thousand. He looks at Padre.

But it get better he says. Babies come before we sell the whores. I get babies right after they are born and take away. Take to doctor I know. He chop up babies and sell parts to a place. You know parts. Blood cells. Skin. Organs. Stem cells. Stem cells very popular. Save lots of American babies. Nobody care where come from. Newborn. Pure. No defects. Docs think this is feast of healing. Think this is some serious gourmet shit.

His grin gets wider. I'm great humanitarian again he says. See? Get easy fifty thousand for parts times six make three hundred thousand. He looks at Padre with dead black eyes. So. Priest. You got three hundred twenty one thousand US to buy merchandise?

Padre smiles his gentle smile. No my son he says. Something far more valuable.

The Russian's laughter doesn't reach his shark-dead eyes. Make your offer Priest he says.

I can save your soul from the eternal fire that waits for you. Padre's voice is soft and sad.

The gun's in Demitri's hand faster than a blink. Looks like a forty-five but fucking end of the world bigger.

Soul he yells. My soul? You come down here and waste my time? Blabber religion? My time worth more than that. Much more. Maybe my time worth your lives you fucks.

The gun swings my way. The hole in the end black and dark as a tunnel to hell.

What you think altar boy? Think priest parts and altar boy parts bring good price huh?

Not so much I think. But who knows.

He clicks the hammer back.

Padre don't move. Just shakes his head. I'm sorry he says.

From behind him something arches up and over. Looks like a small flock of birds fluttering down on the asphalt. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. We all look down. Six severed hands. Three matched pairs leaking small pools of blood. So much for the hired help I think.

The Russian swings the gun and lets off a round into the darkness behind him then goes down hard with a scream of pain. The gun skitters away across the dock and I hear it splash into the dark water.

Jimmy rises from the shadows behind him and walks toward us wiping his straight razor on his red hoodie. Bad man fall down he says.

Yeah I think. Bad men tend to do that when their achilles tendons have been cut clear through.

Padre walks quickly to Demitri. He kneels beside the big man and bends his head to hear what the Russian's trying to say. The dead black eyes are showing something now. Maybe fear I think. Maybe something he sees coming.

Priest he says so low I can hardly hear him. You keep promise. You got girls now. You save me. His eyes look past Padre staring at that something in the dark. You keep promise. You are priest. He clutches Padres forearm. Breathing hard. The black light is fading fast from his eyes.

You keep promise he says. Padre gently lifts the big man's head and stares deep into his eyes. He smiles his gentle smile.

I lied he says and watches the light fade to nothing.

***

Back at Padre's church I settle down and listen to the river outside. It's warm and the old building whispers to itself. Small creaks and groans and every now and then a little sound like baby birds chirruping softly. Candles throw patterns of light and shadow across the walls. It's a good place that church. A peaceful place. I'm dozing as dawn begins and Jimmy and Padre come out of the confessional. Jimmy's smiling and Padre he looks like Padre always does. He walks us to the door and Jimmy darts off down the sidewalk.

The girls will be all right I ask. Padre nods. My friends have a lot of experience at this kind of thing he says. Good I say and turn to go. A thought hits me and I turn back to the old priest as he's shutting the door.

Padre I say what does Jimmy confess to? He laughs quietly. You have it wrong my son he says. I don't hear Jimmy's confession. He hears mine.

The door closes behind me and I walk to the corner where my friend is waiting.

AJ Hayes lives in Southern California and admires the citizens of that particular patch of crazy a lot. They are a never ending source of WTF! Fiction is an art form that puzzles him but – against the advice of friends and family – he keeps tryin'. AJ's stories and poems have appeared in A Twist Of Noir, Yellow Mama, Muck and Muse, Title Fights, Acorn Review, Flashshot, The Hard Nosed Sleuth, Shotgun Honey, Apollo's Lyre and Black Heart Magazine's Noir Issue.

13 comments:

Mike Miner said...

Fantastic story from start to finish. Strong voice. Jimmy is a fascinating character. And that ending! Genius.

David Barber said...

A great story, AJ. Love the style of writing and, as Mike says, Jimmy is one helluva creation. Top work, AJ.

ajhayes2 said...

Thanks Mike and David. It's cool when people you respect like your stuff.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Both Mike and Dave said it all. Very realistic dialogue and I liked the style you used for this piece. I think I read another story of yours with Jimmy in it, and really liked that as well. could be wrong, but the character was stuck in my mind.

Kaye George said...

Wow. Vivid, haunting stuff.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Brilliant story. One of my favorites from PULP INK. Great to see it here.

chad rohrbacher said...

Rock on -- really enjoyed this one -- I had Ink on my short list, looks like I'll move it to top

Lily Childs said...

Oh man, this was fabulous. I was totally caught up in the dialogue and delivery.

Gonna have to get me some Pulp Ink as soon as.

Bill Baber said...

Damn near perfect...

ajhayes2 said...

Thanks all. Pumped that you like it.

Charlie Wade said...

Good one, AJ.

Glenn Gray said...

Great story, AJ. Loved the voice, style. Beautifully done.

ajhayes2 said...

Thanks Charlie and Glenn. Much appreciation to you.