Shadowridge Press titles in detail...

Mike Lester
AN OCCASIONAL DREAM
Trade paperback / 5.5 x 8.25 / 168 pages / Publication date / July 2022
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The city holds many dark secrets. Lives begin and end on its streets and in its alleys. It’s no place for a man to find peace. No place for a man to find love.

Boyd’s just a small-town hood trying like hell to survive. But his tantalizing obsession with money keeps him held down, bound within the depths of the city’s mysteries. Still, he’s able to maintain balance, at least until Russ, the local crime boss, gives Boyd a simple snatch-and-dash job. The job is no problem for Boyd, but when he catches a glimpse of the mysterious dark-haired Missy, his world begins to unravel.

As visions of Missy haunt his dreams, Boyd, along with his fun-loving pal Vaughn, rides the fast-track up the organizational ladder. He reluctantly follows Russ’s enforcer, the sadistic Clark, on errands of violence and brutality. The cash is good, but Boyd has changed; money is no longer his only obsession.

As the nature of his crimes grows more severe, Boyd’s inner turmoil grows too, threatening to smother him and destroy all that he’s managed to hold on to. He’ll find peace—one way or the other. Even if he has to kill for it...

We are proud to present Mike Lester's masterpiece of neo-Noir, AN OCCASIONAL DREAM.

HERE'S A PREVIEW FROM AN OCCASIONAL DREAM

From the East Bay Register (Sep. 4, pg. 2):

 

Falmouth Heights – Police discovered the body of a man believed to have been shot at point-blank range as he rested in his car early Thursday.

A transient found Joseph Steadman, 37, this morning with a gunshot wound to his head. Steadman appeared to have been reclining in the driver’s seat of his car, which was pulled to the side of the road.

“He probably pulled over to rest,” said Detective Jim Butterfield of the Falmouth Heights Police Department.

.

Chapter One

“I want you to go to a party tonight.”

Russ leaned back in his chair, disappearing in darkness.

“I just came from one.”

“Don’t want you drinking. I want you working. A guy owes me something.”

I moved into the circle of light and lit up, the tip of my cigarette a firefly.

“What’s he got? Money? Drugs?”

Russ shook his head, doing an admirable job for someone whose head rested squarely on his shoulders. Tufts of hair slithered from his shirt collar like snakes after a heavy rain.

“He’s got something that I want. An address book. He’s seen things.”

I nodded the affirmative, dragging deeply, feeling the hot sting of smoke in my throat. It felt good. Tasted good.

“Little red book. Motherfucker carries it around everywhere with him.” Russ was getting agitated, gesturing as he spoke. Smoldering. Brooding.

“What’s he into?” I sat down.

“Coke. Girls. Son of a bitch owns half the snatch in town.” Russ ran a hand along the top of his head, its baldness reflecting a tiny point of light. “He’s got things in that book we need.”

Clark sat behind me, near the door.

“What’s he got in there? You want to look up all his ladies?”

Russ Leaned forward, his face emerging from the black. “That’s none of your fucking business! I don’t want him to even know it’s missing.” His face softened, as much as he could manage.

“Listen, kid, I know that sometimes I can be an asshole.” Russ’s gaze drifted over my shoulder for a moment, then his eyes found me, fixed on me. “But right now I got more important things on my mind. I’ve got a lot of things going on right now. You’re part of the action. There’s nothing on you.” He poked a stubby index finger against his desk, emphasizing the words. “You’re a fucking phantom.”

I exhaled a pale plume through my nostrils.

Russ grunted, his mass shifting slightly. “Leo. Young bastard. About your age. Lives on a boat. He’s got a little office somewhere on the damned thing.” His brow creased, eyes squinting. “Clark, what’s that damn boat called? Testosterone…Toaster-oven…”

“Testament.”

“Testament. What a little prick.” Russ leveled on me. “You’ll get your usual take when you bring me the book. I might even throw in something extra.” He rubbed his forehead. “All this excitement’s getting to me. Clark, get me a Scotch. What about you? How ’bout some soda? What about a Tab? Mr. Pibb?”

I just leaned back, smoking, being dragged in.

Chapter Two

We headed to the marina, Clark and I. Went through downtown, the neon of delis and strip bars shining down, pink and blue cotton candy blur. I chewed an aspirin and closed my eyes. We didn’t speak.

 

 

Clark parked on a hill overlooking the water. Concrete steps led to the docks below. A long way down. He reached back over his shoulder, pulled out a small briefcase, popped the latches.

“Check that.” He pushed the Beretta into my hands. Full mag. I popped it in. Clark raised a pair of binoculars and scanned the docks. I watched his jaw clench.

“Why isn’t Vaughn here for this?”

“Did anybody say he would be? You need to get with it, get with the fucking program. Don’t you dare fuck this up!”

He looked through the binoculars again, back through the windshield to the floating cityscape of boats below. Colors played across his face, moved like the shadows of clouds. They faded, changed yellow, orange, then red. Deep scarlet.

“Are you some kind of pussy? Can’t do it alone?” He never took his eyes off the boats.

He was trying to make me angry. To confuse me. Make me do something stupid.

Tense bastard.

‘There it is.”

“There it was. 60-foot. A burst of colored paper lanterns. She was beautiful. Docked ten slips away from the steps.

“Nobody out front, nobody guarding it. This’ll be easier than we thought.” Clark’s lips stretched thin. Devil face. Only later did I realize he was grinning. “You could just walk right in.”

I stashed the gun in my coat pocket. “We’ll see about that.”

Clark lowered the binoculars, turned to me. “You know, I don’t give a rat’s ass about you. I think you’re an unreliable jerk-off. I just want you to know I’ve been watching you, and I’m gonna keep on watching you. You’re up to something. I can’t prove it yet, but I can smell it. I’ll be watching you all the time, boy-o.”

I popped another aspirin, chewed. “Always a pleasure.” Opened the door and got out.

The night was cold. The city on the other side of the bay shined on.

 

 

I walked down the steps, watching my breath fog up and drift away into the darkness, wondering why I was doing this.

Money.

Lack of it. Money held me down. Russ had cut me a break. I was silent, untraceable. If it wasn’t for this, I’d be dead.

Leo Richards. When he was seven he’d stabbed a burglar to death. Killed him with a knife that looked almost as big as his own little self. They found him standing in his kitchen over this dead guy. He’d been praised for killing. Little hero saved his family.

It just got easier.

I walked along the pier, looking at all the yachts, and thought about Richards. I tried to think of the best way to get on the boat. A lot of cash to get yourself a yacht like this. A lot of cash. I walked along as calm and cool as I pleased, even started to whistle. I knew Clark was sweating like crazy, watching through the binoculars and clenching his damn jaw.

There was as guy standing on the pier now, hadn’t seen him come down, didn’t know where he came from. He staggered, glass in hand, then pulled his pants down and started peeing in the bay.

“Hey buddy.” I walked up to the guy as he fumbled with his zipper.

He turned to me, smiling in drunken uncertainty. “Oh hiii…”

“Quit your pissing and let’s get back in there. We could both use another drink.”

The guy put his arm around my shoulder, resting his weight against me. Both of us smiling now. We stumbled back on the boat.

“There are just not enough…hours left in the day to do…anything…”

“I know, I know.”

Clark must have been wetting his pants.

I set this guy in a folding chair on the deck. Nobody was out, a few empty tables and that was it. Paper lanterns lit us up. I straightened the guy’s tie.

“You wait here, pal. I’m gonna get you a drink. Don’t move now.”

He gave me a little salute.

I pointed at him, as if he were a disobedient child. He grinned and nodded.

I stepped into a room larger than my apartment. Mirrors everywhere. White shag carpet. Full bar to the right. Big TV. Glass table with lines on it, cut and waiting. Ready to go.

Nobody around.

I looked back out at my buddy. Still grinning and nodding.

 

 

Went down below, down narrow stairs, toward the thumping beat of the party. Down where the action was. I walked through the hall, four doors on each side, all shut. The door at the end of the hall was open, yawning colored lights and the smell of flesh and booze. The party.

I stood by the door, out of sight. Took a peek in. Orgy. Limbs, backs, and butts all slammed together in a throbbing mass. I stood fully within the frame of the door now, staring at the sweaty mound below me, bathed in blue light, now red. Blue again. Couldn’t tell where one body ended and the other began. Somewhere in there, I saw a woman’s face. She was smiling, eyes closed.

Nobody to bother me; everybody going at it. I decided to check the doors back in the hall.

The first was a bathroom. Nothing. Quietly opened another. Bedroom. Empty. I went through all the drawers just in case. Nothing. Another bedroom. I had to duck out fast. A kid came out of the adjoining bathroom. Fifteen, no more than sixteen. He was crying and wadding toilet paper into small, marble-sized balls. He shoved one up his ass to stop the bleeding.

Tried the last door. An office. The desk was locked. Picked myself in. Only took a minute. More coke, porn, and a gun. Thumbed through the porn. Didn’t take any. No sign of Leo’s address book here. Not a damned thing.

Then I remembered what Russ had told me.

Leo had the book on him.