Today I’m excited to have an exclusive short story Easy Pickins by Pat Young to celebrate the launch of her last book, One Perfect Witness but first a little about the book:
Title: One Perfect Witness by Pat Young
Publisher: Bloodhound books
Date Published: 1st October 2018
On a remote Scottish hillside, three paths meet. On each path, a boy, one carrying a gun.
When their paths cross, a shot is fired and a boy dies.
That leaves two – one killer and one perfect witness.
This killer will stop at nothing to make sure the witness says nothing. Difficult for most people, even for someone who’s been guarding a secret of his own for five years.
Short Story: Easy Pickins
‘Hottie alert. End of the bar.’
Eva scanned the array of bottles on the gantry as if trying to decide what to drink. A tall, dark-haired man was leaning against the wall, apparently engrossed in the music.
‘Just what I need to complete this trip. A George Clooney look-alike.’
‘Hey, Mum, I saw him first.’
‘He’s too old for you.’ Eva turned to have another look, openly this time, and found the stranger staring right at her, a smile lifting the corner of his mouth. She looked away but not before her blush betrayed her, the price she always paid for her English Rose complexion.
‘Do you think it’s him?’ whispered her daughter.
Although she’d been wondering the same thing, Eva replied, ‘Now, what would George Clooney be doing in Biloxi, Mississippi?’
‘Same as us?’
‘I doubt Gorgeous George comes to Biloxi when he wants to see the beach or play roulette. Monte Carlo, maybe.’
‘Well, here’s your chance to find out. He’s coming over. Act cool.’
‘Hi ladies, where y’all from?’
Here we go again, thought Eva, as she and Lauren answered in unison, ‘Scotland.’
‘Scotland? Ya don’t say? I love Scotland.’
‘Have you been?’
‘No, but I heard tell it’s real beautiful.’
Eva gave Lauren a look that said, your turn.
‘Well, it is when the rain stays off.’ That’s ma girl.
‘What brings you ladies all the way to Biloxi, Mississippi?’
‘We’re on a road trip.’
‘Oh yeah? What y’all driving?’
‘A Mustang convertible. And we know it’s cheesy, so please don’t laugh,’ said Eva.
‘Now, why would I laugh? There’s nothing cheesy about two beautiful sisters driving an open top car.’
Eva grimaced. She’d heard the sisters line before. Any minute now, he’d offer them a drink and make a move on Lauren.
‘Can I get you ladies a cocktail?’
A tiny movement of her eyes was enough to check that Lauren was up for some fun. ‘That’s very kind of you. I’ll have a whisky sours, thank you.’
While the barman fixed their drinks, their companion introduced himself then proceeded to tell them about being invited to a ‘haggis supper’ at the home of a Scottish friend. Eva bit down on her lip. She didn’t mean to be unkind, but when he went on to tell them about the awesome toast to Robert Brown, it was just too much. She snorted with laughter and Lauren joined in.
‘Did I say something funny?’
Eva was speechless with mirth.
‘Sorry about my mother. She gets a bit giggly by the second drink.’
‘Your mother? Get outta here.’ Reaching inside his jacket, he took out a pair of horn- rimmed glasses and peered through them. ‘Shoot, you look wonderful, ma’am, if you don’t mind me saying so.’
‘Is this the southern charm we’ve heard so much about?’
‘No ma’am. Just an honest guy giving you his opinion,’ he said with a smile so disarming it made her heart flip.
As if he had suddenly remembered his manners, ‘George’ removed the glasses with his left hand and held out his right in greeting. ‘I’m Kyle. Pleased to meet you both. Welcome to the United States. Thank y’all for visiting.’
As they got ready for bed, Lauren was teasing, ‘He really fancies you, Mum. I actually feel a wee bit jealous.’
‘Aye, right,’ said Eva, although she was secretly delighted that Kyle had paid her so much attention. ‘He was pleasant company, I suppose, and he did buy all the drinks.’
‘Yes, he was very generous, and charming. And can you believe he lives near New Orleans? Maybe we’ll bump into him again.’
‘New Orleans is a big place, Lauren. And don’t forget St Patrick’s Day this weekend. Bourbon Street will be mobbed. Right, who’s doing the blog tonight, you or me?’
‘You do it, Mum. It was your idea, after all. I’m tired, and too drunk to write anything that makes sense.’
‘Didn’t you see the warning look I gave you when you accepted that third cocktail?’
‘I did, but I was having too much fun to pay any attention. Night-night.’
Eva took her iPad out of the safe and opened their blog. She had been writing it for the last few months, keeping her friends up to date. They all knew how important this trip was; a way for Lauren and her to put the horrors of the last two years behind them. Knowing she was making everyone green with envy, Eva had posted links to each hotel, and had been astonished to find that a growing number of people around the world seemed to be interested in their road trip adventures. She imagined the envious look on her friends’ faces when they read tonight’s update.
No luck at the roulette tables but we did meet a George Clooney lookalike. Lauren says he fancies me. I should be so lucky, eh, girls? Off to Louisiana in the morning. Next stop, New Orleans. Got a full schedule planned. We’ll take the streetcar into town, pick up a Po’ Boy sandwich for lunch, then hitch a ride along the Mississippi on a Steamboat. Hoping to make the eight o’ clock show at Preservation Hall so Lauren can hear some traditional jazz. Then these gals will hit Bourbon Street. Look out, Nawlins, here we come!
As they filed out past sepia photos of musicians and tattered posters that read like a Who’s Who of jazz music, Lauren said, ‘I can’t believe we’re really here, Mum. Imagine, Preservation Hall. Did you hate it?’
‘Had more fun with toothache, if I’m honest, but it’s not about me. Now, let’s see if we can find a bar with a Cajun band and grab ourselves a Hurricane. Listening to jazz is thirsty work.’
Eva had taken only a sip of her cocktail when she felt strong fingers grasp her wrist and pull her on to the dance floor. She was about to protest when she recognised the smile.
‘How’s this for a coincidence?’ shouted Kyle above the music. When the song finished, he gestured towards Lauren, who was surrounded by men at the bar. ‘Let’s go rescue your daughter.’
Over drinks they told Kyle of their plans for a swamp tour the next day and how they planned to head back to Texas so Lauren could go horse riding and buy some cowboy boots. These were the last items to be ticked off their wish list.
‘Do y’all have a reservation for that horseback riding, or someplace special y’all want to go?’
‘Not really,’ said Lauren, ‘we found a place on the Internet that looks good and it’s handy for the airport. But it does mean we’ll have to leave New Orleans a day early, which is a pity.’
‘Well, ladies, I do believe I can be of some assistance. Why don’t y’all come and ride at my place? I have a little ranch just outside of town. Y’all can take your pick of my horses and ride out for miles.’
‘Not me,’ said Eva.
‘Mum’s terrified of horses, but I would love to come, if that’s okay? What do you think, Mum?’
‘I think that’s very kind of Kyle. But Lauren, let’s talk about it before we go changing our plans.’
‘Why don’t I give you my card?’ said Kyle. ‘I have nothing planned for the day after tomorrow. If y’all want to come by and visit, I’ll be delighted. What size boots do you wear, young lady?’
Lauren told him and added that it would be great if she could borrow some, and maybe try a western saddle.’
‘Hang on, Lauren,’ Eva cautioned. ‘We haven’t decided yet. But Kyle, it’s been a real pleasure meeting you.’
By the time she got round to writing her blog, Lauren had convinced her.
Slight change of plan. Heading out to ‘George Clooney’s’ ranch on Friday so Lauren can go horse-riding. She’s very excited about riding western style, whatever that means! Bourbon Street was fun but very crowded and very tiring. Maybe I’m getting too old for this travelling lark.
‘How was the swamp tour, ladies? Y’all see any gators?’
‘Yes, we did,’ said Eva, ‘Far too many for my liking, not to mention snakes, but Lauren loved it.’
Lauren did not react. All her attention was focused on Phantom, a huge, black Arab who was staring back at her with eyes like brown velvet.
‘He likes you,’ said Kyle, ‘and he doesn’t take to everyone. He’s a mean ole boy. You sure you can handle him?’
‘I’ve been riding since I was seven, on some pretty feisty horses. We’ll be okay, won’t we, Phantom?’
‘Well, stay in the paddock till you get acquainted and then you can head out as far as you like. It’s all my land.’
When Lauren had gone, Kyle invited Eva to join him on a swing chair in the shade. He poured her a glass of cool punch which she had finished before she thought to ask what was in it.
‘A little splash of rum. Enjoy.’
‘This is heavenly. I could stay here for ever. Lauren would sell her soul to be able to ride out on a horse like that every day. She won’t want to go home after this, you know.’
‘That’s what I’m countin on.’ He leaned in and kissed her. It had been such a long time since anyone had shown her such tenderness, she thought she would melt. ‘Do you think fate brought us together?’ she murmured, trying not to worry about what he’d just said.
‘No. Your blog did that. I’ve been trackin you on this little road trip of yours. Y’all were easy pickins.’
‘You knew we’d be in Biloxi?’
‘I wanted to see if you’d turn up, and be as cute as your profiles.’ As he spoke, Kyle’s hand snaked its way up her leg. ‘And you are, both of you.’
Eva pushed him away, but he was too strong and too determined. He covered her mouth with his own, a rough parody of a kiss. Eva turned her face away and cursed her own stupidity.
‘What are you playing at, Kyle?’ she asked, trying to keep her voice steady.
‘You and Lauren have to stay here with me,’ he said. ‘We’ll have a great life together.’
‘We already have a great life,’ Eva protested, convinced he was mad. As he moved in for another kiss, she warned, ‘Do that again and I’ll scream.’
‘Go ahead, little lady. There’s no one to hear. Phantom will have taken Lauren miles away by now.’ He grabbed her shoulders, trying to pin her arms by her sides.
Eva was not the type to give in without a fight. Gathering all her strength, she shut her eyes tight and shoved him hard. When he rolled off her she opened her eyes, expecting to see his face, angry or apologetic.
Instead she saw Lauren.
‘Mum, you okay?’
‘Let’s get out of here, before he comes to.’
‘What did you do?’
Lauren brandished a syringe. ‘A smidgen of horse tranquilliser. Not enough to do him any harm.’ She grimaced. ‘Still, I wouldn’t want to be here when he wakes up.’
‘What made you come back?’
‘I’d a bad feeling about leaving you alone with him. Don’t you think it was suspicious he’d given all his staff the day off?’
‘I had to make sure you were okay. When I saw you fighting him off, I ran back to the stable. I’d spotted the drugs earlier, when I was nosying around.’
‘So all those years at Vet school weren’t a waste of money after all?’
‘Oh Mum, I’m glad you can laugh.’
‘Hey, it won’t be funny when Kyle comes round. Look, he’s stirring. Let’s get going.’
They ran to their car and took off in a spray of gravel. As they raced down the highway Lauren said, ‘Oops, I’m still wearing his brand new boots.’
Eva smiled. ‘Keep them. Payback.’
Pat Young grew up in the south west of Scotland where she still lives, sometimes. She often goes to the other extreme, the south west of France, in search of sunlight.
Pat never expected to be a writer. Then she found a discarded book with a wad of cash tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the person who lost this book?’ she thought, and she was off.
Pat knew nothing of writing, but she knew a thing or two about books, having studied English, French and German at Glasgow University. A passion for languages led to a career she loved and then a successful part-time business that allowed her some free-time, at last.
Pat had plans, none of which included sitting at her desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days she has to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, she can go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.
Pat writes psychological thrillers. Her debut novel Till the Dust Settles, has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Stag trophy. Following publication in July
2017 Pat was delighted to be chosen as an ‘emerging talent’ for Crime in the Spotlight and read from Till the Dust Settles to an audience at Bloody Scotland – another dream come true.
Published by Bloodhound Books, I Know Where You Live is the much-anticipated sequel to Pat’s gripping and unmissable debut thriller, Till the Dust Settles. It too is a psychological thriller with a skilfully told story that makes for an enjoyable stand alone read. It will hook you from the start.
One Perfect Witness, Pat’s third novel to be published, tells a completely new story. If, like Pat, you’re fascinated by what happens when someone disappears, you’ll enjoy this book of secrets, lies and deception.
Twitter – @py321_young