New Story 'The Drifter' in Crime Factory Issue 17

I have a story in the new issue of Australian crime journal Crime Factory. I've long been a fan of CF (especially their recent One Shot novella series) so I'm super chuffed my story 'The Drifter' made the cut. (And damn, Luci Everett's cover art is beautiful. She did the last cover too.)

Buy the issue here in digital form.

Buy the physical edition here.

Here's an excerpt from my story:

The stealing, the lying, the cheating, none of it mattered. It just happened. What picked at him was Cale and his wife. It was a long time ago now. She was dead. But the memory lingered. It was how he ended up back in L.A.

They all lived together in the same place out in the east. Cale still lived there, still had the same number. He didn’t even sound surprised on the phone. “I always wondered when you’d turn up again,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t ever gonna be never.”

He went round. Cale showed him the house like he’d never seen it before. They’d renovated and painted and extended but it was still the same. All the stories were still in there. They had a shed out in the yard now. It had been hers, something for her work, Cale said. He opened it up and the perfume drifted out, like a fever. Her things were still there. It was a museum. Cale said he didn’t have much need for it, but every now and then, he sat there and listened to her radio.

They had beers from the kitchen fridge. Cale put the game on.

He said, “You married?”

“No. Nearly, one time.”

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world. Thing is, I get bored now. Never used to get bored. You get bored?”

“Sometimes.”

They drank the beers.

Cale seemed comfortable enough. He let the drifter smoke, didn’t seem to mind the fresh ash in his dead wife’s ashtray. The drifter looked at Cale and said, “I’m real sorry I never came back for the funeral.”

Cale smiled a little but didn’t take his eyes off the TV. “Just how things are sometimes. She wasn’t here to miss you.” He always used to joke around like that.

“It worries me,” said the drifter.

“What, dying?”

“No. Not coming back. Sometimes I think you and her were...”

Cale waited.

When the drifter remained silent, he said, “Well kid, you can’t pick who you do your bit with.”

***

That night the drifter slept on Cale’s couch in his underwear. It was September and a shower came through. He went to the kitchen and took a glass of water. Out past the yard, on the neighbour’s house, a bright light shone through like a spotlight and in it he could see the rain coming down.

She told him she loved him. That first time, she said it real quick, under her breath, like she didn’t want anyone to hear it. It happened in the room beside him now, just through the wall there, right where Cale slept in his bed. It might have been the same bed. Maybe they never bought a new one.

Read the rest here.