Just past the Philadelphia city limits there are a cluster of neighborhoods no one on the outside pays much attention to. It’s a nice place to live, with ballfields and takeout joints around every corner. The people who’ve raised their families for generations in the rowhomes and brick houses teach their kids to work hard and keep out of trouble.
But some people aren’t interested in staying out of trouble. There are fortunes to be made in the backstreets and shady barrooms, if you can stay alive long enough to get your hands on it. Here are four stories about the restless souls who have struck out from the safe path and traveled down a long, dark road.
The Devil’s Run
Gaetan was one of the kids that neighborhood parents warned their children to stay away from. He and his friends hung out in the woods by the little creek that cut through town, the one they called the Devil’s Run. Away from prying eyes, they had the fun that only bad boys can know.
But Gaetan isn’t a kid anymore. He’s a veteran of a hundred shady deals, a gangster with skills you only learn from years on the streets. He should be off somewhere enjoying his easy money, but instead he’s back in the old neighborhood. Of all the dark secrets in Gaetan’s past, the one that may destroy him is the one that began when four friends went into the woods for some fun.
The Dead Pond
Sunshine Sam’s was the hottest joint on the Jersey Shore. The rich and powerful partied side by side with bus drivers and soda jerks, all of them moving to the outlaw music called “rock and roll.” To Marty, a poor kid from a farm town, Sunshine Sam’s was more than just a playground. It was the only school he would ever need.
Then one day, Sunshine Sam’s closed it’s doors. Nobody knew why.
Fifty years later, Marty has returned to the Jersey Shore. Now an old man, he is the only one left who knows the secrets of Sunshine Sam’s. The spilled blood and broken dreams follow him around like ghosts. Gorgeous women. Jealous boyfriends. Mafia bosses. The skinny kid survived them all, and today is the day Marty tells the story. (This story was originally published as a standalone.)
Tina and the Big Bad Wolf
Tina is a good stripper, but she has plans. Taking sports bets off her regulars seemed like the perfect way to make some real money. Of course, a petite young woman in a g-string just isn’t intimidating enough to make the troublesome customers cough up the cash, so Tina gets her ex-boyfriend, Joshua, to help her out. In one night, the two of them will try to collect on Tina’s debts without driving one another crazy. (This story was originally published as a standalone.)
The Tarleton Way
Alexander has noticed strange things occurring in the park near his house. Odd people are going in and out of the woods at all hours, driving big trucks and acting in ways Alexander doesn’t understand. That park is the scene of his favorite memories, when his young family had their happiest days. It is also, Alexander hopes, a gift to the future of Tarleton, his struggling hometown.
Things get stranger when Alexander gets a knock on the door from Bobby, a kid from the neighborhood who has returned from an absence of almost thirty years. Now a grown man, Bobby assures Alexander that everything is fine. It’s all being done “the Tarleton way,” under the code of conduct which Alexander and the old folks taught the kids when they were young.
But Alexander is right to worry. In fact, the old man is about to learn that the park, and the past, contain more than he could ever guess. (This story was originally published on the author’s website.)