Wednesday, October 25, 2023

FICTION: "POST-MORTEM (KILLBOX, REDUX)" by #1 Bestselling Author, Beau Johnson

There's one name you've all heard across the internet this week. You've heard it here, and you've heard it on Twitter (I'll never call it X, you nerds, stop it). You've heard it on Facebook and you've heard it on almost every crime fiction or horror fiction blog between here and wherever servers go when they finally lay down and die. If you have an especially cool family, you may have heard this name around your dinner table. And, then, there's another place you've seen this name. You've seen it, if you've been paying attention, on the Amazon Best Seller lists. Specifically, sitting at number god damn one. 

That's right. THE ABRUM FILES, the new novel in stories by our friend and collaborator Beau Johnson, was the number one bestselling hot new release on Amazon's noir charts this weekend. 

That's a big deal. A huge deal, actually. And to celebrate this accomplishment, Beau is giving us a first peak at what comes next. A brand new story. 

But first, you need to do your part. THE ABRUM FILES is out now, and you'd better be buying a copy. Two, maybe, one for your nightstand and one for your phone. If you need any final convincing, my blurb for the book was this: 
“Dark, bloody, and full of hell, The Abrum Files is line after line of pure, uncut, chainsaw noir.”

So make sure you buy a copy. And when you're done? Enjoy this scorcher of a story from Beau. It's only available here (for now). 

Congratulations, Beau. Speaking as a friend, and speaking for a lot of your friends, we're all extraordinarily happy for you, and so proud of what you've achieved here. 

Now let's get to the killing.


I look back in time to see Rider turn from me. Cane in hand, he moves forward, and I watch as he exits through a warehouse door he’d never use again. 

Did I know then? No, not then, but in the weeks that followed the conclusion became as inescapable as the poison that ate at him from within,the cancer as aggressive and inflicting as the man himself. Perhaps more. His hair, like his scruff, gone ashen, all but stubble in the places scar tissue didn’t exist. But his weight is what stood out most, slipping from his frame faster than seemed possible. His rage remained, however, alive and untouched and sustaining him as it had since he realized what he needed to do.

I turn back to the task at hand. 

“Joe Scipione, you ever hear of a man named Bishop Rider?” 

I see movement, but the man displayed upon the screens before me is unable to summon the strength to properly engage. Fair enough, really, as the place he found himself in, it didn’t play at half measures. 

The Killbox was Rider’s last gift to the world, and here, at this point in time, was my introduction to its existence. Shorter than your average shipping container but just as wide, it stood stark white, all corrugated steel, and in time a place that would come to house bodies like a tomb. 

One way in, Rider had said. Zero ways out.

True. But only for those who found themselves on the other side of the three monitors sitting in front of me---three camera angles that were currently capturing the blood puddle Scipione wallowed in, the water spout jutting from the wall on his left the only thing prolonging the remainder of his life. Stirring, his body is thinner than Rider’s, but despite trying, he can’t remove the clumps of tangled hair from his eyes with what remained of his fingers.

“He’s the reason you’re in the there, Joe. He’s not the only reason, though. No, that part falls to you. But rest assured, the voice you’re listening to now, it’s going to be the one who takes you apart.”

Forty-eight hours later I make good on my promise, but only after Scipione, more so the man’s left thumb, gives me the unlikeliest of assists---digit number six unable to negotiate the same pathway his other five fingers had taken before. 

“It’s ready then?” 

I tell Rider it is, the Killbox cleaned out, set up, and awaiting of the festivities we hoped his death would bring. “Better get to it then.”

He never changed, not even at the end. He did what he needed to do; he remained what he’d been forced to become. 

Me, however, I knew I’d need help.


“Jeramiah Abrum. As I live and breathe.” Marcus’s smile has never changed, not in all the years I’ve known him. Bulky, he’s Batista-size, especially through the shoulders and chest. Pulling me to him using arms I’d never have, he accepts my outstretched hand the only way he ever has. Releasing me, he says: “Lemme guess? Someone needs doing?” 

Now it’s my turn to smile. “Something like that.”

“Yeah, I bet it’s something like that.” The years fall away then, and the time between what we’d accomplished together and now, it’s like it never occurred at all. And by accomplished, I’m referring to the period of time before Rider was able to accept me as someone beyond my father,opposite to everything Marcel Abrum stood for. Before Rider could accept me like himself, a man who’d gone and choose to make a life at righting particular wrongs.

“If you need me to say it, m’man, I’ll say it, but Jeramiah, I think you already know my answer.” The parking garage is empty, and his voice carries, but in the end I realize what I already should have known—-that Marcus and I were past such things. Killing dirtbags created a bond bathed not only in the blood of others, but one made stronger by the blood of monsters who pretended at being human. A bond, it seemed, that could and would now transverse years.

“I won’t lie. It’s going to be messy.”

“You talking regular messy or turning jungle life upon a couple dozen pedophiles in the middle of a nature preserve messy?” 

He had me there, so I pivot.“Maybe difficult is the better description.”

“Now we’re talking. Ain’t nothing worth doing if it doesn’t involve the heart. You have a time frame?”

I go with yesterday but tell him as long as it happens, we’d be good.

“He’s that bad?”

“Wants to take a few more with him on the way out is all. But yeah, it’s that bad.”

“And if no one shows?”

“You know these pieces of shit as well as I do. Some of them will show. Guaranteed. Even if we only get one, it’ll be worth it.”

“I can’t say you’re wrong.”

No, he couldn’t.

Marcus does most of heavy lifting, though I do put out lines myself. Online for the most part, and for obvious reasons. Marcus understands, and we both hoped Bishop would get to see his last creation house more than a single man, but no, I bury him on a Tuesday.

Was it easy? No. The blade of loss is sharper than murder, especially when you truly understand what someone stood for. But we finish, regardless of Rider being in the ground. 

We do what he would have wanted. We do what he deserved. 

We finish the work.


I watch them wake.  All of them within minutes of one another. All of them dropped through the top of the Killbox by Marcus. 

When the last one stands, I flick on the mic and deliver the news. “My name is Jeramiah Abrum. Outside of this box, my voice will be the last one you hear.”

Their faces are the same, each one struggling to understand. Good. Bishop wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

“It means I buried Bishop Rider six weeks ago today. It means each of you will become a message from beyond the grave.”

I smile in spite of myself.

I smile because of myself. 

My explanations continue, as does their exploration of their newfound confines. I go on about the small table of refreshments in the corner, suggesting it may or may not be in their best interest to ingest.

Of the eight on the screens before me, most of them are as out of shape as they are of breath. Neither of these things stop them from searching for a way out, however. My voice continues through all of this, coming in from the speakers above. 

“I haven’t done this alone. I want you to know this. The help I’ve had or given over the years becoming instrumental in taking down as many of you monsters as we could.”I go on. And on. The words spilling from me as I knew they would. I tell them of my father, of what he and my uncle did to Rider’s sister and mother. I mention Batista. I talk about Ray. And how, in the end, Bishop became a boogeyman. How he was the reason they’d woken up where they had.

Did I expect what happened next? Of course I did. These men, they are bottom feeders, feasting on children in the basements of houses and the backs of cars. They care about themselves alone. No one else. But here, now, when one of them becomes okay with ending it, this is what they stand up for?

It’s enough to make a grown man scream.

As fast as it escalates, it’s over just as quick, and then they are dumbfounded, each of them looking down at the motionless body before them.

They will fight each other first. You watch. They will try and prove themselves human by attempting to stop the ones who already see there is no escape.

Bishop had been right about so many things. Too many. But the decomposition that had just gone and entered the equation, this was the cherry I never thought we’d receive—each of them in the very near future having to deal with the vilest of smells for the remainder of their days.

Priceless. Every bit.

“Each of you are here because each of you had to know. The stories, they are what ensued you’d end up in there. Is he dead? Alive? Your fear, as he thought, would spur you on to find out.” I look my right, to the far end of the warehouse and the machines which sat there. We have used many of them over the years, but these were the big toys, some of them now under tarps, and some that tarps couldn’t quite cover. Cement mixer. Steamroller. Forklift. Burnishers and polishers. All have done their jobs. All have had their place. What I didn’t know was if things could ever be the same.

“The cancer ate him to nothing,” I say, the bottom of the mic unimpressed by my sudden pressure change in grip. “It did this while each of you chose to push yourselves into boys.”

Truth. Every bit.

Maybe they try to eat each other. Maybe they don’t.

In the end, they don’t try to eat each other, not how we thought they might, anyway.

Our numbers were off too, the last one expiring nineteen days beyond the rough estimate we’d set. But more than anything, the Killbox gave me closure. That’s not quite right though, even if I believed as much at the time. I’d been allowed to be part of something bigger than myself is all. The good. The bad. The Mapones and the Kincaids. Because what we attempted, it proved larger than any one thing. I’d like to say it was an honour as well. But it wasn’t. In the end, it became something more. 

Bishop, Batista, Ray. Or any of the lives we happened to change---it became something more.


“For what it’s worth, not many men would give up their life to do what he did.” I hear Marcus re-enter the warehouse about the time I’m ending my little speech. In a black T, boots and jeans, I look back at him leaning against the van.

“Not many men would get up from what he was put through,” I counter. Marcus nods. “And now?”

I stop directly in front of him. “And now we continue.”

“Jeramiah,” he says, one big black hand to my shoulder. “If only to say it out loud: There’s nothing wrong with bowing out. Your dues, you’ve paid them.” 

Was he right? Perhaps. But it wasn’t about being right. Not really. It was about leaving a mark. Where we could and when we could. 

Correction: It was about giving them pause.

Did Marcus know this? Of course he did. But I reiterate it all the same. And for a time, sure, I admit the thought of hanging it up crossed my mind. The notion was fleeting, however, colored by heavy loss. It created something in the process, though, a re-centering of sorts, and an approach I’d put away long ago, it found new life. Or old life, depending upon the way you looked at things. Either way, it meant progress was back on table in a way it’d never really been before, and certain things, they tend to work best when in conjunction with those willing to get their hands dirty.

It was a new day.  A new dawn.

Time to burn them all.

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