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The Shooting Gallery

by Clifford Royal Johns

About the Author: Clifford Royal Johns is the author of Walking Shadow, a SF/mystery novel published by Grand Mal Press in 2012. He writes mystery, SF, and literary fiction. His short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. He is currently working on his MFA in creative writing at Stonecoast.


My troubles began when Abbot realized he’d lent me money.

I first discovered I had a problem after a tall blonde woman came into Fatback’s Bar and sat on the stool beside mine. This was unusual in itself, since women of any description seldom arrive at Fatback’s alone and what’s more, she was attractive, unconcerned, and well dressed. She had class, which Fatback’s clearly did not.

After ordering a Coke, she turned to me. “Aren’t you Terminus McManery?”

I stalled, trying to decide if I should admit to this or not. It is my name, but most people don’t know my name is Terminus. Most people call me Mac, or Minus. I looked her in the eye and said, “No.”

“I thought so.” She smiled. She hadn’t needed to ask. She was just being polite. “I have a message for you from Mr. Abbot. He said you really need to pay it back double by tomorrow.”

“Huh?” I did my best impression of having no idea.

“I knew you’d understand,” she said. She smiled what I thought was an amused smile, mostly on one side of the mouth with a little twitch of the upper lip and a sparkle in her blue eyes.

The bartender arrived with a Coke. The blonde took a sip and said, “He’s buying.” She thumbed in my direction.

I pulled out a couple bucks and paid. “Call me Minus,” I said. “The other name is a bit embarrassing.”

Story Comments

Sep 5 - Susan Rickard

This is a finely woven caper and well written.

Sep 12 - Charley Varrick

Walter Matthau asked me to tell you that he's delighted that you enjoyed the movie version of The Looters.

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