the smuggler’s bible

consisting of short fiction by hontzlake


Barnes chalks his cue and sights up on the nine ball. He banishes all thought from his mind, drops steel shutters between himself and distraction—the cigarette smoke, clinking glasses, bar chatter, all of it.

“All right, hot stuff, no pressure.” Satan is leaning on the table, elbows to either side of the corner pocket. “This shit is simple. It’s orbital mechanics, basic principles. I’m talking universal. The ball wants this to happen as much as you do.”

“If it’s that easy, why the hell did you take the bet?”

“Jesus, kid,” Satan says, sipping his drink. “That’s my job.”


The done thing is to have a book jutting slightly off the shelf. Eliane wastes ten minutes picking among the upper volumes (deciding, perhaps presumptuously, that nobody would want to stoop to open their secret passage) before giving up and yanking the lot by the armful. Nothing.

Next is the candelabra. She tilts it vigorously, dripping wax but accomplishing little else. Finally, in danger of missing the dark ritual altogether, she twists the head on the bust of Diogenes in the corner.

“What the fuck,” Eliane says as the false panel slides away, “is this bat cave-ass amateur night bullshit?”


His effects are neatly bundled in a plastic locker. The room is pale green and smells like disinfectant. He pulls on the clothes, the jacket, canvas with broad pouches across the chest and back. His, but not his. Alcide has a sudden thought, maybe a memory, of the sleeve burning. His arm, too.

He throws up in a trash can.

“Those reactions will even out,” the tech says from the door. “We can give you something in the meantime.”

“I’m all right.”


Last is his gun, big and heavy. And this, Alcide thinks, might even be the real thing.


Pleasance is very proud of herself when (after only three honest-to-god attempts and one vibe check run-up) she fits the car into the parking space, flanked by juggernaut SUVs, the drivers of which obviously sneer contemptuously at both painted lines and social contracts.

The geometry of the situation is related more closely to hermetic philosophy than it is to any true Euclidean expression of points, lines and planes. But when it’s Friday night, the movie starts in ten minutes and you haven’t even made street level yet, much less the cinema—well, the world begins to take a different shape.