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Shadowridge Press titles in detail...

Peter Atkins
Trade paperback / 6 x 9 / 208 pages / Publication date / March 2017

RUMORS OF THE MARVELOUS is a brilliant collection of 14 short "ghost stories" by a contemporary master of the fantastic. Previously released as a limited edition hardcover in Great Britain and a finalist for The British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Collection, RUMORS OF THE MARVELOUS finally sees it's first release in the United States. With stories ranging from horror, hints of sci-fi, and fantasy to epic poetry, Peter Atkins delivers all in a style uniquely his own.


The Stories- King of Outer Space / Stacy and Her Idiot / Between the Cold Moon and the Earth / Doctor Arcadia (a poem) / Intricate Green Figurines / The Cubist's Attorney / Prisoners of the Inferno / The Girl in the Blue Volcano / The Show Must Go On / The Mystery / Aviatrix / The Last of the Invisible Kings / Frumpy Little Beat Girl / Dancing Like We're Dumb




You know, soon as the fat guy mentioned his contact in the 18th Street gang, I should've just walked away.
Wasn’t that I gave a shit who he knew or didn’t. It was the naked and stupid pride in his voice – you know, pulling that outlaw-by-association crap that only people who've spent their whole lives without association with outlaws can be bothered to pull. So he was bullshitting. BFD. Except that bullshitting is just a polite term for short-order lying, which meant that this fat sack of shit – who I'd known for all of three minutes – was already fucking lying to me.
Like I cared where he scored his drugs. Like it's my business. Here's how it should go. Money. Drugs. Thanks. Seeya. Have a nice life and try showing some mercy to the Cheeze-Whiz, you fat fuck. But no, he's got to start in with the anecdotes about his gangsta compadre. Which means I'm bored and annoyed so I do something stupid. I don't take a line. Don't even open the bag. I just want out of there as fast as possible. Real dumb.  Felony level dumb. But I got two things in mitigation: I'd been clean and sober for ninety days so I didn't want to risk even a sample buzz; and I'd gotten this lardass's number from Paulie Benson and Paulie and me had never had a problem. So I cut Shamu off mid-story while he's gearing up to tell me just how many guys his guy has killed in the course of his illustrious career down there on 18th Street, throw him the money, take the packet and fuck off.
Takes me forty minutes to get back to Silverlake because some moron tries to make a left on Cahuenga at Franklin and gets side-swiped by the '92 Camaro that had the light. Jimmy Fitz and Stacy are spitting at each other in come-down by the time I let myself in and throw the packet at them. Stacy's right there with the mirror, the blade, and the straw – because, you know, nothing else really matters – but Jimmy looks at me hopefully.
"Change?" he says, like it's actually a possibility.
What fucking planet did Stacy find this guy on? I do him the kindness of not laughing out loud and head for my bedroom. Neither of them were going to be needing me for the next couple of hours.
Stacy was the sister of my best friend back in Jersey, so I was kind of obliged to like her, or at least to let her crash in my living room on this little California excursion of hers. But this Jimmy Fitz character was just some douchebag she’d let pick her up somewhere along the way and I didn’t owe him jackshit. So you can imagine how happy I was when it was his voice that woke me less than half an hour later.
“ ’the fuck?!” he was saying. “ ’the fuck?!” And he kept saying it, little louder each time, until I finally got the message that it was for my benefit. It was the retard version of a gentle knock on the door and a polite ‘terribly sorry to wake you, Ms. Donnelly, but there’s something we need to talk about’.
I got up without bothering to throw any extra clothes on so I didn’t realize I was treating J-Fitz to the classic halter-top and panties peep-show until he gave me that look. You know, that look. Seen it all my life from dipshits like him. Too bad you’re a dyke, it says, because, man, is that an ass I’d like to tap. Prick. Stacy noticed it too and didn’t seem to be much happier about it than I was, but she was much more concerned with the other little problem, the one that had gotten her boyfriend all worked up in the first place.
I’d already guessed the coke was fake – junkies rarely wake you up for any reason other than the absence of a fix – but it was a little odder than that. The package I’d brought was split open on the coffee table and the powder was scattered everywhere, which I’d normally have put down to the little tykes’ adorable eagerness to get at the goodies. This time, though, it also allowed me an unobstructed view of the packet’s surprise crackerjack gift. 
It was a severed finger.
Guy’s finger from the look of it – hair above the knuckle and shit – and it appeared to have been removed by a knife that could have been sharper and cleaner. It was still wearing a gold ring, which meant that whoever put the finger in the package meant for the ring to be part of the message. It was a signet ring, pearl inlay on black onyx, with a simple design – a central upright, like a capital ‘I’, with a curlicue at the top shooting off to the right and another at the bottom, shooting off to the left.
“I’ve seen that before,” I said.
“The finger?” said Stacy.
“Don’t be stupid,” Jimmy Fitz said. “She means the ring.”
“Oh,” said Stacy, all offended. “Like the ring isn’t on the fucking finger?”
“Yeah, but if the finger was on a fucking hand, and the hand was on a fucking person, then it’s not quite the same as . . .”
“Shut up, both of you,” I said. “I don’t mean the finger or the ring. I mean what’s on the ring.”
“That sign thing?”
“The symbol, yeah.”
“Where’d you see it?”
“It was on a wall.”
“Like, painted?”
“Something like that,” I said.
I’d figured it was gang graffiti. Not a tag I’d seen before but it’s not like LA was, you know, running out of gangs any time soon. It was the same symbol as on the ring, though a little less well rendered. But then blood isn’t as easy to paint with as you might think.
It was scrawled on the bare wall just above the head of the corpse, which was lying on the stripped bed in the second bedroom of some rented house in the Valley that one of Dominic Kinsella’s crews was using for a porno shoot. Proponents of the good old American work-ethic will be glad to know that the shoot was continuing uninterrupted on the other side of the wall while the body turned blue. And the icing on the are-you-fuckin-kiddin-me cake was that the door to the room with the body wasn’t even locked. I’d been delivering some high-end candy for cast and crew and had wandered in there by accident because I’d thought it was the door to the bathroom.
I had about five seconds to stare at the corpse – practically bisected by a close-range shotgun blast – before the Second Assistant Director followed me in there and closed the door carefully. He gave me an apologetic grimace, the semi-embarassed kind, the kind that’s more suited to a Maitre D’ telling you there’s going to be a ten minute wait for your table, and raised his finger to his lips.
“The fuck is this?” I said, quietly enough.
“It was here when we came to set up,” he said. “We’re keeping the door closed so as not to upset the girls. Mister Kinsella’s been informed.”
Oh, well that was alright then. Long as Mister Kinsella had been informed. “What’s wrong with you?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically.
“Look,” he said. “It’s nothing to do with us. It’s going to be taken care of. Would you just leave, please? People are trying to work here.”
So I left. 
The hell else was I going to do? No rats in the Donnelly house. 
But no fucking idiots either. I’d had a fine old time in the underworld but I was done. Done using. Done dealing. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to get, you know, a job or anything – it’s not like there weren’t plenty of other interesting ways for a girl to make an undeclared living, but from that point on I was staying in the shallow end. And I’d been there safe and happy, three months clean, until Stacy and her idiot showed up needing a favor and having no numbers of their own to call. And now this. Nice.
“What does it mean?” Stacy said.
“It’s a rune,” said James Fitzgerald, PhD.
“Whoa. Gold star, Frodo,” I said. “Been getting down with your dad’s copy of Led Zeppelin IV or something?”
“Fuck you,” he said. Guess he was over his little crush on me.
“But what does it mean?” Stacy asked again. Jimmy shrugged, shook his head. They both looked at me.
I had no idea what the stupid symbol meant, but I could unfortunately make an educated guess as to what was going on. That fat motherfucker had been so busy jerking himself off with his second-hand thug-life stories that he’d given me a packet intended for someone else, someone for whom the fake drugs and the signet ring would be a very clear message.
“Reprisal killing,” I said. “Gang war.” 


Now, how stupid would Jimmy Fitz and Stacy have to be to turn around the next morning and go back for their money?
Yeah. That stupid. Which is exactly how fucking stupid they were.
   Crack of dawn they were gunning their car, full of caffeine and attitude, pumped and primed to head over to Hollywood and teach my new friend Orca that they’re the sort of people around with whom one does not fuck.
   I was still sleeping and knew nothing about it, of course, or I would’ve strapped them in the kiddie chairs and distracted them with cartoons and Vicodin. Figured they’d probably gone sight-seeing when I got up.  The beach, maybe, or Grauman’s Chinese. They wouldn’t be the only strung-out white trash trying their Skechers out for size in John Wayne’s footprints. The packet, the powder, and the unlucky bastard’s finger were still on the coffee table. It wasn’t until later that I remembered what wasn’t still on the table – the post-it note with Roscoe Arbuckle’s address on it – and that was long after I’d driven over to see Paulie Benson to try to get a handle on just what kind of trouble we might be in the middle of.
   Paulie’d moved into a movie star’s house for the summer. Least that’s how he described it to people. I mean, nice house and all, but ‘movie star’ was probably stretching it. Longtime customer of Paulie’s who was up in Toronto shooting a couple of straight-to-video action flicks back-to-back. It’d keep him busy eight or nine weeks and so Paulie got to play Lord of the Manor for a couple months in return for leaving a few Red Cross packages in strategic locations around the house for when not-even-Vin-Diesel got back.
   It was still mid-morning, but Paulie’s party never stops. Pretty boys and girls in and around the pool. Customers and colleagues drinking and snorting. I managed to get Paulie alone though and run things by him and the good news was he saw it my way. Figured me and the morons were just crossfire pedestrians who wouldn’t be anybody’s problem provided we played nice, gave the man his ball back, and kept our mouths shut. He calmed me down enough that I hung out a while, had a shot or two, and thought about flirting with any of the girls who looked like they might be interested in playing for my team. Some Spanish chick was telling me about her last incarnation when I suddenly remembered the missing post-it note and sobered up real fast.
I made it back from the Hills in a pretty impressive eighteen minutes and grabbed my phone. Jumbo picked up on the first ring.
“Harold,” he said.
“That your first name?” I said. Because, you know, really.
“It is,” he said. “Who wants to know?”
“Harold,” I said, “we met yesterday. Helped each other out on that retail question?”
“Uh-huh,” he said. Real non-committal real quick.
   “There was an item, unsolicited and surplus to requirements, in the recent order. I’m an honest person, Harold, so I want you, and anybody else it may concern, to know that I’m going to return it. And that I’m very cognizant of what is, and what isn’t, my business. Do we understand each other?”
   “Uh-huh,” he said again. Little friendlier this time.
   “Would now be convenient, Harold?”
   “Uh-huh,” he said, and hung up.
   He hadn’t mentioned any other visitors he might have had that morning, and I’d figured that was best, too. For all I knew, they’d got lost or distracted and I could get it all dealt with before they fucked it up for everybody. Or they might be dead. Dominic Kinsella, or whoever it was that was pulling Harold’s strings, might have already had people over at the fat bastard’s place once he’d been apprised of yesterday’s little mix-up.
I thought for a brief moment about getting hold of a gun. But here’s what I know about guns: First; an exit wound is bigger than an entrance wound. Second; if you're checking out put it in your mouth not at your temple. Third; don't point it at someone unless you're damn sure you've got the balls to pull the trigger because, if you don't and they do, they'll take it off you and send you straight to that corner of Hell reserved for dumb fucks who shouldn't play with guns.
   That's it. Double it and add tax and it’s still sweet fuck-all. None of it bad information, but none of it front-end practical like, you know, loading, cocking, aiming, firing. So I was going to go on good faith, on the principle that if everybody kept their heads, we’d be fine. I blew the excess talc off the finger, put it in a baggie, shoved the baggie in my pocket, and headed over. 
Harold disappointed me. I’d been polite and upfront with him and was walking into his place alone and unarmed to do the right thing. But Harold wasn’t alone. There was another guy in there with him. Young, muscular, tousled hair all Brad Pitt blonde with dark roots. I could give a shit. His muscles looked like they’d been sculpted in a high-end gym rather than earned on the street, and he’d dressed himself in a camo jacket and steel-toed boots to look tough. Yeah. Real tough.  Abercrombie & Fitch go Baghdad. 
“Thought we were going to have a private chat,” I said to Harold.
“Shut up, you dyke bitch,” the kid said, which spoke well for his gaydar if not for his manners. I jabbed two stiff fingers into his Adam’s apple without taking my eyes off Harold. Call me touchy. Girl’s got feelings.
Harold was kind of cool. Didn’t even look down as his Seacrest-on-steroids hit the floor gagging. Maybe this wasn’t going to go as badly as I thought.
“Stay down, Matthew,” Harold said, and treated me to the ghost of an admiring smile. “The lady apparently knows her business.”
I reached for my pocket. Harold backed off a couple of feet. “I’m just here to return this,” I said, my fingers closing around the baggie.
“Why don’t you just hang onto it?” said Harold. He moved fast for a fat guy. The taser was in his hand before I even registered the odd and eager glint in his eye, and the stinger hit my chest before I could move. The voltage slammed through me, driving my body into a spastic dance, and I blacked out.


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