New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample chapter from The Forgotten Addiction by Michael Lion

There were one hundred and twenty-one holes.

I had cheated to get that number. After several wasted attempts to count one by one, I finally just went down two sides of the grid and multiplied. Eleven on a side. Dissatisfied, I began counting the tiles themselves. The room wasn’t square, so I had to count individually. One hundred twenty-one holes in your average piece of acoustic ceiling tile; in five minutes I had a tile count of a little over eight hundred, not including fractional pieces in some of the corners. Just shy of a hundred thousand holes in the ceiling of Delores Markham’s apartment. It was the only information I’d felt comfortable with in weeks. I fell asleep clinging to it. The afternoon disappeared.

I woke up neck-stiff and checked to see if Del had been around. She had. Without getting off her bed I could see into the kitchenette of the tiny efficiency apartment,the remnants of a bowl of instant noodles and a bagel on the counter—a minor dinner before heading off to the library at USC. As usual, she’d left me something in the fridge. I ate it quickly without heating it or tasting it.

Del had not said an unnecessary or unkind word in over a month, ever since she’d picked me up from LAX and we drove back to her place in silence. I had stepped in the door, dropped my bag on the floor,and stayed there. There was always food and there was always her physical company, but the most we’d done was nap together in a fetal position that gave warmth and reassurance and nothing else. She was at school during the day and the library at night, and I was wherever I felt like being. Usually that was nowhere.

Tonight was different. I stepped out the front door to get some night air, and the dark wrapped around me like a sudden, forgotten addiction.

It was time.