Sunday, 9 March 2014

A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE, GREAT AJ HAYES (BILL), WHOSE PROFOUND STORIES GRACED THESE PAGES AND MANY MORE...


With a very heavy heart, and with AJ's wife's blessing, we hand you over to his close friend, Richard Godwin...


"AJ Hayes, exceptional crime writer, poet, and endless supporter of other writers, sadly passed away at 3 AM West Coast time on Saturday 8th March. He was battling lung cancer with the kind of courage that is an example to us all. He was an omnivorous reader, a man who deeply understood literature in its many forms, and who always had time for other writers. His kind words, and wise encouragements were widely appreciated. He will be sadly missed."


Tributes from the Editors...


From Col Bury:
"I'm so proud to call AJ (Bill) a friend. He was a selfless gent with boundless wisdom and great wit, and was one helluva writer to boot. His classic short, DARK GENESIS gleaned the most comments (and most 'wows') on this site in 2012. He was always on hand with unwavering encouragement and pertinent advice. I'll always cherish meeting him and his lovely wife, Thury, down in London (sincere condolences to you and your family, Thury). The writing community will ensure that AJ Hayes lives forever. R.I.P. mate."


From Matt Hilton:
"Sadly I never had the pleasure of meeting AJ Hayes in life, but I did have the opportunity of discovering his incredibly atmospheric, poetic skill as a writer through the pages of Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, where I recall his "Dark Genesis" tale evoked a buzz for its incredible and sheer poetic inventiveness. Not only was AJ a real talent when it came to writing, but he was incredibly open and supportive of his fellow authors, regularly offering feedback at the site that was thoughtful and meaningful, and I'm certain his advice went a long way in making better writers of us all. His sage words and advice are a legacy many of his friends and peers will remember AJ for."

From Lily Childs:

"An outstanding writer in the Noir and crime genres, it was my absolute pleasure to publish AJ Hayes, ‘Bill’ on Thrillers Killers ‘n’ Chillers. Not only was Bill a unique voice in the genre, he also spent his valuable time supporting and promoting the writers he believed in. To say he will be missed is an understatement. I wish his family and friends peace and send them my sincere condolences."

From David Barber:

"AJ was a gent in the truest meaning of the word, always there to give advice and inspiration. He was a true professional when it came to the writing game and was also a fine editor in his own right, having taken the time to edit and enhance a couple of stories and a poem of mine recently. The man in the fedora will be greatly missed, not only by his family and friends but also by the online community who he helped and inspired over the years. R.I.P. Bill Hayes."

From Absolutely Kate:
"The 'Fedora Fella' was, IS and ever shall be the razz-a-ma-tazz and every bit of the smoothest, smokiest jazz to how I write and think and love and laugh, and even wear my own fedora. We share authors saluting all the good stuff in authors, the grittiest crime tales crunching delight outta our keyboards and the most gloriest music heard between all the right lines. AJ ~ Bill ~ and 'Clyde' in good 1940's lingo to me is an extra part of why my heart grows. Here's my Tribute reveal: In ANGEL TOUGH, from Matt Hilton's 'ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales', I created the ongoing character Doc Aloysious Jeremiah Nelson to honour our friend and authorly colleague. Angel said she'd just call him Doc because all those other AJ names were too much a mouthful to say quickly, but she'd know his essence for all of time itself. As I type this - "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" is playing now. I know the Guardian Angel under the fedora... just made it so. Love you, man, with all that swing."

Read AJ Hayes' classic short story, DARK GENESIS here.


And please feel free to leave your own tributes in the comments.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

TKnC is Dead...Long live TKnC!

** AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM Ye OLDE EDITOR MATT HILTON **


"It ain't over 'til it's over."

When the idea for Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers first came to me back in late 2008, it sounded like a great one to me. My brainchild was to offer a platform where authors could share their work with like-minded individuals, to have their work showcased, to read the work of others and to offer constructive feedback and support. In short it was a way for authors to form a network of friends and colleagues, build their platform and make industry contacts, all while enjoying reading some terrific short fiction in the various genres of crime, thriller and horror.

Well, I was wrong. It wasn't a good idea.

It was a f****ing AMAZING idea.

Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers gained huge accolades and kudos over the next few years, won awards, and helped springboard some of its authors' careers. It put some authors in touch with agents. It helped establish credibility for authors when setting out on their own careers. Not only did it attract aspiring or fledgling authors, but some established names also submitted and showcased their work in TKnCs hallowed halls.

But with its amazing success it brought with it an unwieldiness I was unable to control. Luckily I was able to call on the help of some incredibly talented and enthusiastic individuals who not only helped but grew TKnC to even greater heights. Col Bury, our resident crime editor, came onboard very early on, and I must share credit for TKnCs early success with Col - without his input TKnC would have floundered a long time ago. Under our dual efforts TKnC only got bigger and better. To a point that we had to call on horror-supremo Lee Hughes to join our editorial team. TKnC grew again. The call for assistance was this time heard loud and clear by Mistress of the Macabre, Lily Childs, who added new dimensions to TKnC, and latterly by David Barber, whose enthusiasm for the site knows no bounds. I want to take this opportunity to personally thank Col, Lee, Lily and David, for their friendship, support and enthusiasm - I couldn't have done it on my own and am indebted to you all.

TKnC had become a byword for quality, edgy fiction, and was attracting readers in its multiple-thousands. It was attracting numerous submissions weekly.

But therein lay the rub.

It had grown too big to be contained.

We'd created a monster and it was consuming us.

That's the literal way of explaining that TKnC had grown so large that it was beginning to impact on our personal commitments, our day jobs and our own writing careers. We couldn't devote the attention to the site as we'd have wished or that it deserved, and that wasn't ideal. It was a sad decision, but after much hand wringing and regret we all understood it was time to call it a day.

Yes, you just read that right.

Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers is closing its doors.

But there's always a light at the end of the tunnel.

In the capable hands of editor David Barber, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers' little brother has just been born and is about to come of age. It will be the new home of quality, edgy fiction.

So please say hello to 'THRILLS, KILLS 'N' CHAOS' by following this link: http://tknc.wordpress.com 

Submission details are up now, and the site will go live within a very short time. 

In the meantime, the stories that appear here at the original site will remain in situ, so maybe now would be a good time to take a trip back through the archives to read some terrific fiction you might have missed, or to reacquaint yourself with some old favourites. 

To all those of you who have supported us all these years, I thank you heartily and wish you great things and continued success. Now nip on over and support the new TKnC why don't ya? I'll see you there.

TKnC is Dead...Long Live TKnC!

Matt Hilton
Editor
9th April 2013




Monday, 4 March 2013

WHEN THE SAINTS by Lee Hughes

TK'n'C stalwart and our former in-house Horror Editor Lee Hughes is in the mood for a party. What could possibly go wrong...?


WHEN THE SAINTS
by
Lee Hughes

They knew there would've been a big 'Welcome Home Heroes!' party for them, though one pint had turned to two, which turned to six so they'd missed it. They stood on the platform of the village station. The village street lay ahead, shouldered by the heights of the valley. The houses, some, but not all showed lights in the windows; their kin having lost hope and returned home.

Charlie noticed it first. He'd expected bunting hanging from the eaves of the train station. Yet none drifted in the night breeze in lapsed revelry. He broke the strained silence. “Surely if we weren't on the six-thirty they’d have returned for this one to greet us?”

Jack shrugged. “Maybe they got tired of waiting, it wouldn't have taken them long to realise we'd gone drinking.” He couldn't remember the name of where they'd been drinking and it annoyed him somewhat, like he needed a place to blame. Without word they started on that singular vein of road which coursed through the arrested pulmonary that was the village.

Charlie frowned; there was a new butchers. He hadn't been expecting changes. Though, admittedly he hadn't really put any thought into it, the only thoughts of home he'd had were just of getting back there in one piece.

“Me mam never mentioned nowt about old feller Dickinson selling up.”

The butcher had always crowed on about how he was looking forward to his shop becoming 'Dickinson and son.' When Arthur came back home. They shared a look. Neither had heard anything about Arthur Dickinson getting dead in the trenches; that didn't mean it hadn't happened. The folks who were sat writing letters at home didn't want to send out bad news.

At the threshold of the street they saw a small boy wandering down the cobbled centre. Charlie recognised him. It was John Derby's lad, William. Charlie had gone away at the start of the war and little William had been about five years old then, that was seven long years ago and the lad still looked the same age.

He shouted: “William.”

The boy continued walking towards them. The feeble light from the lamps did little other than give him more shadow than his small stature deserved or warranted. He looked at them with puzzlement.

Jack noticed the marks on the boy's neck before Charlie. “What happened to your neck, William?”

The boy, wearing muddy shorts and a slackened woollen jumper didn't smile, didn't frown, just answered with. “Mr. Jones, he did it.”

They knew who Mr. Jones was. He was the head-teacher at the village school. They both knew him to be a hard task master, and a bit of a brute to boot, both of them having been thrashed by him for little to no reason when they'd been under his tutelage. But the marks about the lad's throat were savage. Jack knelt down before the lad and asked. “What the bleeding hell did you do to get him to go so hard on you?”

William shrugged. “He found me.”

“Where?”

“Alone.”

Both Charlie and Jack exchanged a puzzled glance. Charlie spoke up. “Come on, William, let's get you home.”

The boy's eyes hardened. “No.”

“Why not?” asked Charlie.

“I don't want to go there.”

Jack took a go and asked. “Why's that?”

“I just don't.” The boy turned on his heels and ran back the way he'd come until the shadows took him in their snuggle.

Charlie watched the darkened end of the street. “The war's done damage to all of us.”

Jack nodded. “I'm in enough trouble with the missus, I'm gonna head on home. Catch up with you in the morning, Charlie-boy.”

“Aye, I'll get an ear-full of it from me mam too, you know how she gets.”



Charlie walked through the hallway, smiling, seeing the pictures still hanging on the walls. His late father in his uniform, a picture of himself looking proud within the threads of his own. Inside he felt awkward, even though he’d failed to get on the earlier train it wasn't like his mother not to have come to meet him no matter how chagrined she was with him, under her stern words and charcoal stare burned love. He wandered past the door to the parlour, which was only used for Christmases and funerals. At the door to the back-sit he could hear the crackle of the fire through the timber of the door. He took a deep breath and entered. There she was, looking older than the last time he'd seen her, she'd been on the turn to grey then, now her hair was tarnished silver. She didn't move as he entered, sitting holding a photograph in her lap.

“Mam,” he ventured.

She ignored him.

He groaned inwardly, perhaps this time her wrath was for real. He took a step deeper into the room, feeling like a trespasser whose feet were too clumsy and whose shoes were too noisy. “I'm sorry I missed the train, there...” He left it hanging, knowing she could tell a lie long before it was even dry from leaving his lips. The fire had been banked high as she was wont to do when she planned to snooze away the night in front of it. Charlie lowered himself so he was on his haunches. He was about to reach out to take her hands and show her that he was sorry when he saw his cigarette case on her lap, peeking out from beneath the photograph. That was his cigarette case, had been his father's before him and it was in his pocket. He checked to re-assure himself, dipping his hand into his pocket and finding only emptiness.

“Where's that from?” he asked.

She remained muted in the company of her tears, rubbing a thumb over a black and white portrait of him as a boy.

“Mam, I really am sorry.” He looked to her face, it was not so much lined as creased like a bed-sheet left to dry in a heap. She got up and moved past him to the mantelpiece, replaced the picture in exactly the same spot - Charlie could tell by the dust around the shape. “Mam?” Something was knotting in his mind as well as his stomach. His mam had never permitted dust to settle, let alone make itself at home. She'd always been on the move cleaning every surface and beating every rug to within an inch of its weave unravelling. Charlie took in the rest of the room, noticing everything was in disarray or dirty. Everything bar the pictures of him. He watched as his mam sat herself back down and closed her eyes.

Her lips moved, lips so dry Charlie thought they would rip. He heard her words, though he didn't need to.

His mother said, “Good Lord, look after my boy.” And the knot that had begun to tighten within his being constricted whip-quick and started to throttle him. He screamed, reached for her, to shake her, but she couldn't feel his hands, as a gale doesn't feel a breeze. Charlie reached again, this time he was sure he felt the slight hairs on the skin of her arms, positive he'd brushed them. She stirred, still not too deep into sleep. Charlie went for the grab again. Skin, this time, he was sure of it, it felt like paper, but it felt, that was what was important. He watched in hope as his mother's eyes opened. The lids rose slowly as though reluctant to open up for business. Her lips joined her eyes in rising. Then both crashed down, the eyes opened for a second glance. “Charlie!” There was no tone of ecstasy, it had the trappings of terror.

“Mam, it's me.”

“No, no, no, it's the Devil is what it is!” She pushed back, trying to reverse her whole body into her chair, sickened by the monster before her. She raised a bony hand and pointed. She was pointing towards his face. He gathered himself upright and turned towards the mirror. That wasn't his reflection, that wasn't a portrait of him done in silver-backed glass. His lower jaw was errant and he bore witness to his vocal-chords. He let free a holler and watched as the chords went taut, vibrated and spat everything out in a tone of bedlam. He swept an arm across the mantelpiece, his hand passed through the first two photographs before becoming more present and sending the remaining ones to all corners of the room.

*** 

Jack could hear movement from the bedroom. That was good - he wanted her bad. It'd been months since he'd been with a woman, he grimaced at that memory, he'd had to dip his todger in vinegar after that whore. He entered, his wife was there, standing before the bed in her night-dress. She let one strap slip free from her left shoulder then the other. And none of it was for his benefit.

“What the fuck.” He moved around her to see who was shagging his wife. He didn't recognise the bloke but it didn't matter. “Oi!” Still they seemed impervious. His wife's nighty went all the way south for the summer. Jack had never, ever raised a hand to his wife, hadn't had a chance to seeing as they'd only been married for five months before he'd gone to war, and this is what he got to come home to?

He moved through her like a wave of goodbye. He spun, confused. He saw the man on the bed, already erect and his wife straddling and guiding it in. The man grabbed her hips and rolled over, taking her with him until he was on top and began to thrust. Jack punched at the man's head, his fists flailed through. He had to see Maureen's face. He climbed forward, passing through the rutting beast. He looked down at her face, could see her eyes closed as she enjoyed herself. Jack felt dizzy, sick and a hundred and one other emotions, all mixing together to keep him off guard. He had memories of seeing her face like this. Him atop of her, hilt deep, bringing her the pleasure she was garnering now. Jack didn't realise he was moving to the tidal motion of his wife, playing let's pretend at making love. He soon forgot all about the real deliverer of cock as his brain made him believe it was himself. He watched as she bit down on her lower lip enough to make the flesh spread with whiteness. It went on for, he wasn't quite sure until he heard a grunt that came from neither of them. From the corner of his eye a sweaty naked man rolled away to lie flat on his back. Jack turned back to Maureen, her eyes opened, the pupils wide and a smile raised as though on wings. She stared straight through Jack. Her voice came with laboured breathing. “Tommy, it feels like you're still inside me.”

“Knew you'd enjoy it.” Tommy's voice sounded half asleep.

She blinked, the pupils constricting. She blinked again, eyes and mouth widening in unison before she screamed. Tommy rolled over to see what the fuck was the matter, he was trying to sleep, had work in the morning. Jack lashed out at the man with his good hand. The man fell backwards, blood and teeth dripping from his mouth, the jaw askew. Maureen fought beneath him. He backhanded her, crushing an eye-socket, climbed off and went to finish the cowering man.



Charlie ran into the street. Lights were coming on in all of the houses now. Charlie had heard screams, a man and a woman's that had pierced the calm of the night. People peered out of their windows and joined in the chorus of screams at the sight that played out before them. Jack staggered out of the door from his house, drenched in blood. To Charlie that wasn't the shocking part. He saw that Jack's left arm ended in a ragged mess just below the shoulder joint, his guts draped down, the longer lengths dragging on the ground behind. Charlie turned as he heard a low moan from behind him. He saw Arthur Dickinson crawling along the ground, devoid of legs. Others were coming from behind the train station, from the direction of the graveyard; some nearly transparent but slowly coming to ruined flesh. A song joined the cacophony. Charlie looked back over his shoulder and saw young William dragging the severed head of Mr. Jones along on a length of string.


__________________________________

BIO: You can read more of Lee's stuff at www.LeeHughesWrites.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

SIMMONS' CHOICE by Aidan Thorn.

Here's another new writer making his debut at Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers.  Aidan Thorne is a Southampton based scribe hoping to make something out of this crazy writing world.  Let's show him some support as he gives us.....


SIMMONS' CHOICE
by 
Aidan Thorn

I had to do what was best for my boy, any father would right? Not that my son could see that, oh no, he disagreed with my plan from the start – But what choice did I have?  No son of mine could go to prison, especially Larkford Prison - he’d be lucky to get through the first week alive. 

When the call had come in that Ian had been arrested for the murder of a known dealer my first thought wasn’t of disbelief, it was that I had to keep him from going to Larkford.  I could just imagine what would happen if the other inmates found out that he was my boy, the son of Detective Alan Simmons.  It would be all of their Christmases rolled into one.  I was responsible for putting a lot of people behind those bars. It wouldn’t take long for them to make the connection between Ian’s last name and the family resemblance.  No, he wouldn’t last a week.

My sons struggle with drugs has been with us since he hit his mid-teens. When I realised he had a problem and confronted him about it of course it was my entire fault.  Apparently because of who I am he was bullied, he went to a tough school, coppers kids were just below the fat kids and the gingers in the social structure.  He started to rebel against anything that had a whiff of authority about it all with the aim of making his peers laugh and fitting in.  Sadly his plan worked and Ian fell in with a crowd that could only be described as wrong. 

Before long Ian was a barely walking, barely talking cliché.  He moved through drug classes with far greater ease than he had ever coped with school classes.  And I found myself doing everything I could to try and get him off that shite, of course my interference only pushed him further in. He picked up a few arrests over the years and every time I managed to get him off with a slapped arse, but this time it was different – They don’t dish out slapped arses for murder do they.

The only way I could see to keep him safe this time was to have him declared insane, have the little shite sectioned.  Better he sees out his sentence on a mental ward than getting sent to Larkford to become one of my collar’s play things or end up with a shank in his neck and that’s what I told him, when I went in to see him after his arrest.  

‘No fuck that, I’m not rotting in some room with a bunch of spaced out nutters for the rest of my days.’ Ian had protested as I’d outlined my plan.  He seemed oblivious to the irony that it was because he’d spent nearly half of his life as a ‘spaced out nutter’ that he was now facing a future behind secure walls.

‘If you don’t go for an insanity plea I can’t protect you. It’s not going to take long for the inmates at Larkford to connect your name to mine.’ I said. ‘I don’t care how gaunt and broken you look and how chubby I’ve become there’s no denying that we look alike. Some of the people I’ve put away are never coming out, there’s nothing stopping them taking out a little revenge on me through you.’

‘So get me sent to another prison then. I’m not being locked up with the loons.’

‘Prisoners do re-offend when they’re released. There’s nothing to say that you won’t come across someone I put away in the past that’s now doing time somewhere else. You won’t be safe in prison.’

I looked sideways to Ian’s brief for support.  I’d hired David Shipton, one of the best in the business.  I’d seen some of my best collars slip through the system to freedom when Shipton had defended them.  I’d paid through the nose to get him and agreed that I’d owe him a favour in future if a key piece of evidence needed to go missing for one of his clients – despite everything, I’d sell my soul for my boy.  There was no way Shipton was ever going to get Ian off but getting him sent down as insane was going to be a tough job and so I needed the best.

‘Your old man’s right Ian, the best we can do for you is plead insanity, have a couple of doctors testify that you’re not all there and get you sectioned whilst I try to find ways of appealing this thing,’ Shipton said. ‘I’ll to be honest with you though, it’s going to be tough. There are three witnesses that saw you stabbing the victim in broad daylight and you were arrested covered in his blood. Now I can use this to our advantage, as only a mad man would viciously murder a person in public in the middle of the day…’

‘He’d stolen my money and not given me my fix,’ Ian interrupted, anger flashing across the back of his eyes.  Sweat beads had formed lines across my son’s grey and furrowed brow.  He shook with uncontrollable rage as he screamed out his words.  In Ian’s drug addled mind the dealers crimes were worthy of a death sentence, perhaps convincing a judge and jury that he was insane was not going to be as tough as first thought.  I looked at Shipton and the slight grin on his face suggested he’d just had a similar eureka moment.

***

I’d pulled a few strings and managed to have Ian placed in solitary whilst he was awaiting trial.  Shipton had asked that my boy be bailed to my custody but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. 

As the trial approached we had a number of concerns.  Shipton was concerned that regardless of any doctor’s testimony,  it was going to be tough to convince a jury that Ian was insane.  He didn’t have to remind me, but did, that drug addicts aren’t society’s favourite people and addict muderers are at least a step or two further down that list.  I had to remind Shipton that I’d employed the best lawyer for my boy because I was more than aware that the situation was a fucking mess. 

What was more worrying was that we were having problems with both the doctors Shipton had roped in to testify that Ian was a nutjob.  One of the doctors got cold feet when he found out I was a copper.  I think he thought it was some sort of elaborate sting.  I managed to convince him that this was a genuine case by showing him a full audit trail of my bank account from which his five grand sweetener had come, proving that the funds were mine and had been in my saving account for the past decade. 

The second doctor got greedy the week before the trial and decided that five grand wasn’t enough, he wanted ten times that.   Shipton pointed out there was no way of replacing him at this stage.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that little prick had put the doctor up to asking for the extra cash and was getting a commission from him.  I got a loan that would basically wipe out the lump sum I was going to be getting on my pension in a few months’ time and paid the bribe.

And of course the judge had to be given a little convincer too, but that was nothing new.  I’d done it a few times in the past from the other side of the fence when we’d gotten the wrong person, or more accurately couldn’t find the right person and the bad PR involved in that getting out would be too damaging to the force.  We’d stitch up a fall guy, I’m not talking about a family man with a steady job and bills to pay, no someone that had slipped through the net in the past - someone who deserved it. 

It was a great relief when the trial came to an end and Ian was ordered by the judge to be detained at the Moorfield Centre under the Mental Health Act.  My boy would be safe from the violent scum that walked the prison corridors.

***

Visiting time at Moorfield was hard for me.  Ian refused to see me but still I turned up diligently every week hoping to see the son who, in spite of his thoughts on the matter, I had saved from a certain death, bankrupting myself in the process.  As I walked away at the end of visiting time each week, having sat for two hours alone, I noticed the looks of sympathy on the faces of the staff.  I was undeterred and still turned up every week.

As I signed in at Moorfield this morning, almost six months after Ian had been sent here, again a sympathetic face looked back at me and spoke.  ‘Hello, Detective Simmons. Can you go into the waiting room behind me? Doctor Lamb would like to speak with you.’

I was expecting this day to come.  Patients are not kept within the care of mental health institutions indefinitely and Ian’s time was coming to an end. He would have to be reassessed and, if it was decided that he was no longer playing ball, he could find himself out of the hospital and in prison within the month.

Doctor Lamb entered the waiting room and I stood to shake his hand.  He motioned me back to my seat and spoke. ‘I’m afraid there has been an incident. One of the patients went on a frenzied rampage during breakfast this morning. He was sat next to Ian when the incident began. He attacked your son and before anyone could stop him he had slashed his throat with a piece of glass. We're not sure where the glass came from. I'm sorry, Detective Simmons, but Ian bled to death as hospital staff tried to help him.’

I felt my shoulders shake; tears filled my eyes and ran down my face.  I saw Doctor Lamb’s lips continue to move but I heard nothing of what he was saying.


Bio - Aidan Thorn is a 33 year old writer from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titantic left from before sinking.  It's Aidan's ambition to put Southampton on the map for something other than bad R N' B music and sinking ships.  Since having his first short story published in Radgepacket Vol. 6 in 2012 he has written a couple more but spent the first half of 2012 completing his first novel 'When the Music's Over.'  More information on Aidan's writing can be found on his website http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com/


Monday, 21 January 2013

GROTESQUE by K.A.Laity


Let's get things rolling again with TK'n'C debutant, the inimitable Kate Laity and her witty take on crime, that is simply... 

Grotesque


In boisterous tones Tony regaled me with the letter he wrote to complain about the boost in water rates. "Uncalled for, uncalled for, outrageous, outlandish," he recited as he waved his Carlie about, splashing the foam on the brown tile floor.

The walk to the pub tonight had been through ghost streets, as if the city had been abandoned by all and sundry, given up as a bad job and everyone had fucked off to Holland or Munich or Rome. But it was only the cup finals.

We weren't troubled by such doings at Tony's. The telly that still hung over the dartboard hadn't worked since the days of Eric Bristow. It now featured a hobgoblin's wig of cobwebs, which complimented the rest of the place nicely from the warped bar itself to the stinking bog at the back. Had any ladies needed to powder their noses, they would have been alarmed to find no door marked mná or with a fetching picture of a doxie with crossed legs.

No woman had ever crossed the threshold of the pub, however.

Perhaps that could be blamed on the décor, which ranged from brown to more brown. Or the ambience that derived from unwashed and mostly middle aged men just off shift. The young lads all went to the shiny new sports pubs with their cacophonous screens and drinks with asinine names that they swilled back like candy.

We had two kinds of lager here and one of ale, with Guinness on the side for the old men from the isle. In the summer you could also get cans of Budweiser to take out into the 'beer garden': a picnic table on a concrete square between the rubbish tip and the grey wall of the car park. The chief appeal seemed to be you were allowed to spit out there.

Tony had just got to the nub of his tirade - "working class traitors! Sixty hour weeks!" - when Huckleberry Bob came in and the room fell quiet all at once. Maybe it was his history as a real hard number: at fifteen he had beat up the next door neighbour for insisting he kerb his dog, Bastard, as the rangy Doberman laid a few steaming brown gifts on his azaleas. Poor old Gary still limped. When Bob got out people gave him a wide berth and not just because he had a habit of muttering menacing words under his breath, aimed at the neighbours or his dentist or the skies.

Most likely the pub fell silent that night because Huckleberry Bob appeared to be covered in blood. The 2 by 4 bouncing in his left hand probably didn't help either. No one looked directly at him. The room got bigger, or so it seemed as our breath ran away.

After an interminable interval, his brother Jack made an attempt to hail him. "How're you keeping, Bob?" Nobody called him Huckleberry to his face.

Bob didn't answer but he did turn his head toward his brother. Without a word, he drew out some kind of pistol and shot him once right through the wide shiny forehead. Jack staggered back against the smudged mirror that had withstood countless years of neglect and withstood the publican's weight, as he expired and fell on the sticky floor below.

The silence broke then like shattered glass, as pints dropped to the floor and shouts rang out as everyone tried to find egress. The pity was Bob stood in the entry way yet and the only other exit led to the garden. Most chose that way to escape, but they quickly became lodged in the doorway like the Marx Brothers on a big night out. A couple of fellas ducked into the loo, but that seemed a worse idea than the garden.

Like an eejit, I just stood there by the pillar. Not really what you'd call cover.

Huckleberry Bob went for the knot of desperate men clawing over one another to get to the beer garden, whacking at the hindmost with his 2 by 4, but not immediately shooting anyone. The men in the bog seemed to be rolling whatever wasn't nailed down to block the door, but they got real quiet when the shooting started at last.

Some made it out, some now lay on the floor bleeding. I saw Tony was one. I don't know why I froze. When Bob turned away from the garden and every nerve in my body said, run, still I stood there.

Bob ambled over. He hadn't rushed or broke a sweat. Truth to tell, he seemed dazed, his eyes rimmed red and his face slack.

May Brigid's sacred fire protect me! I repeated my mam's prayer that I'd heard her mutter a thousand times or more back in our village before I came to the land of the enemy. Like sparks from that eternal flame, words sprang to my tongue.

"How's that fine dog of yours, Bob?" Bastard had died some years back, but he had been replaced by one of his pups, a hideous replica called Junior.

It was Bob's turn to freeze. His fingers twitched as he dropped the board and to my surprise, he began to sob. 

"He's dead!"

"The devil you say! What happened?"

He swayed and I began to think he might just keel over. Sobs wracked his enormous frame and he wiped an arm across his face as he took a ragged breath. "Car. Some fucking Tory in a swank car hit him, killed him." He wailed.

I laid a hand on his shoulder gingerly, ready to jump. "That's a damn shame, Bob, a damn shame. Can I get you a pint?"

He nodded and I stepped around the bar and over Jack's body to pull a pint for him. "So I expect that's how you got the blood all over you," I said, just to make conversation.

Bob looked down as if noticing the blackening stains upon his clothes. I slid the pint of lager across the bar and he drained it, wiping his bloody face again. I set to work refilling it right away, ignoring the way my hands were shaking.

Bob belched, but at least he'd stopped sobbing. He picked at his sticky shirt. "Nah, this is from the Tory scum. On his way back from the cash-n-carry with a load of lumber in his Rover, I reckon."

"Handy that," I offered, as I set up the refilled glass on the bar.

"Too right," Bob agreed, sipping this pint more slowly. "Too right you are there."

"It's a funny old world. Bob," I said, pulling a pint for myself. I could hear the sirens in the distance getting louder.

BIO:
To find out more about Kate Laity's writing visit her website: http://kalaity.com/ 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

ALL THE BEST FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON...

If you don't fancy a scary one, then have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & a Prosperous New Year... to all our contributors and readers.

All the best,
The Editors.

Ps. Subs back open on January 1st 2013. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

THE SCHEME OF THINGS by Gary Clifton


TK'n'C is pleased to welcome Gary with this hardboiled piece...

THE SCHEME OF THINGS

Harry The Rat gave the job to that dick, Primo. Yeah, I was still on the payroll for the piss-peanuts The Rat paid, but an assigned hit paid big bucks - what the crap-head straight world called an incentive bonus.

The Rat kept Primo around because he was big, stupid and knew how to act like a real bodyguard - like my ass. Primo was one of those jack-offs who was mean, not tough for shit. The kind who actually enjoyed offing a mark for the sadistic high from the last seconds of terror and gore.

The deal had a helluva hitch. The Rat had a chick on the payroll, Mary, if you can swallow that alias shit. Red hair, beautiful blue eyes, with legs all the way to the floor. She was The Rat's pussy deal. She'd also done a couple of hits. Blew the suckers away like quail hunting in Nebraska . You look that good, no problem walking up on the mark.

Rufus Freeman, dude who ran a pawnshop on Troost, had been hosing Mary - at least The Rat thought so. Funny about some guys. In The Rat's mind, Freeman had to go, but good pussy is hard to find - especially the kind with legs that good. So Mary earned a pass. But Freeman was a dead man and that mope Primo got the contract.

Big problem: I'd had a little of ol' Mary - twice actually in the front seat of her 'Vette. I figured the combinations. I was in deep shit. In this damned business, a man does what he has to do. So I figured I better watch and play the whole symphony by ear.

Freeman's Pawn stayed open until 10 P.M. - damned cold and dark in January. Freeman had a habit of sending home the hired help around nine, opening a nice window of time. Primo liked to use a blade, but he was way too chickenshit to take on an old boy like Freeman with a knife.

The Rat was impatient. He'd insist Primo do the job ASAP. So I only hadda sit on Freeman's two nights before, sure as hell, I spotted Primo in his Lexus parked a block down. At just past ten, Freeman flicked out the lights, fumbled with the front door and stepped between snowplow drifts to cross Troost to his Cadillac in the bitter, north wind.

Primo, like a true dumb bastard he was, whipped the Lexus beside Freeman at mid-street and gave him four in the midsection with that .45 he loved so much. Freeman went down like a wet towel.

Then, She appeared. Even the long trench-coat couldn't hide those legs. Primo had stepped out of the Lexus to put a finale in Freeman's head. From behind a snow-heap, Mary swayed off the curb and put five in Primo with that little S&W she carried. He hit the pavement, dead as last Easter's ham.
Well, what the hell. I cranked my ride and was beside her in seconds. 

She started to run, but when she recognized my mug, she stopped and whipped up one of those million dollar, toothy smiles. "We mustn't leave loose ends, she said softly." 

She was right. Primo must have also visited the front seat of her 'Vette, I figured. Freeman probably hadn't, but I by God had. 

I capped her between those lovely eyes. Her head exploded like a bursting watermelon, the force knocking her ten feet, the S&W skidding across the deserted street. I started back to The Rat's. One more in his brain, if he had one, would take care of business.

Survival, that's all it is in the end. Mary lay sprawled on the pavement. "Sorry baby," I looked back. "But even good pussy ain't really that hard to find."


BIO:
Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over sixty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites. He's been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued and is currently retired. Clifton has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.

Monday, 26 November 2012

THE STAIN By Harris Tobias


The Stain
    
    
I never would have noticed the stain if Lynn hadn’t walked out on me. When she left, I went into a deep funk and, drinking even more than usual, lay around the house staring at the ceiling from one horizontal position or another. I wasn’t used to being alone. The house seemed so empty without her presence, singing or weeping depending on her mood. And our daughter, my little Sharon, where is my little girl?

I don’t blame her for leaving. I’m not the easiest person to live with. I slipped into a kind of gray zone laying on the bed staring at nothing. That’s how I first noticed the stain. A rusty brown blob with no color and no apparent shape. I watched it for hours. After a couple of days, the stain took on a shape I recognized. Sort of like a baseball diamond. I could, if I tried hard enough, make out the pitcher’s mound and the evenly spaced bases. It reminded me of that time I threatened Lynn with a bat. I was drunk, of course. I never would have actually hit her with it but I could see she was terrified. I did manage to bust up the furniture some and those two lamps her mother gave us. I was awful sorry the next day. Lynn took me back. Good old Lynn.

A couple of days later, the stain took on the aspect of a face, a man’s face, but I couldn’t place it until I noticed the cap. A policeman’s cap complete with badge and everything. I could even make out the badge number—387. It was the face of that young cop who came to the door that time I was so high on booze and pills I could barely stand. I must have taken a swing at him because I woke up in a cell in restraints. That was a bad time and I’m sorry I scared you, honey. You bailed me out yet again. I hardly deserved such loyalty.

The stain grows larger. There must be a leak somewheres though it hasn’t rained in weeks. Today the stain looks like a woman, a very unhappy woman. I can see her sad face. The tears streaming down her cheeks, her hair a tousled mess eyes pleading for me to stop. But I don’t stop, do I? I hit you to make you stop crying. I slap your tears away. I strike our daughter, my precious little girl. And what was it you did to make me so angry? I can’t remember. I am always angry.

I fall asleep staring at the stain. It is definitely bigger now and the color is turning from a rusty brown to a kind of greenish brown. My mind struggles to make a picture of the new shape. It is sinuous and complex. At first I think it’s you standing in the doorway our daughter behind your back. You are shielding her from my fury but that is not it. Then it snaps into focus. It is a dragon, its coils wrapped around its victim, a man, his head inside the dragon’s mouth. Whoever it is is being devoured. Somehow I know it is me. I am being devoured.

As I stare transfixed, the stain detaches itself from the ceiling. Is this a hallucination? When is the last time I had something to eat or drink? I’m sure I’m hallucinating. It’s so real, it’s almost funny. I try to laugh. But my mouth is too dry. I try to scream but whatever sound I manage to make is muffled by the dragon’s moist and toothy maw.
         
BIO:

Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of several novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other obscure publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/


Thursday, 15 November 2012

MELTDOWN by Les Morris


TKnC welcomes Les with this tale about one man pushed too far…

MELTDOWN

The silver BMW crept slowly up and down the seemingly endless lines of cars.  The driver’s head swivelled like it was mounted on a screw thread as he searched for that elusive parking space.
Martin Nicholson had pulled into the car park fifteen minutes earlier and, so far, there was no sign of anyone driving off.  It was ten thirty, his meeting was at eleven.  He’d give it five more minutes and then look somewhere else.  The morning was bright and crisp and the sun was beginning to burn off the early morning spring mist.  He felt good and was looking forward to meeting the sales director for the first time, if only he could find a space.
A middle-aged woman appeared in the car park, this was his chance.  He drove round to where the woman was opening the door of a red hatchback and waited.  She certainly took her time but, eventually, she drove away and Martin claimed his prize.  He’d managed to find a parking space in only twenty minutes. He decided that today was going to be a good day, donned his jacket, picked up his briefcase and locked the car.
He was tall and thin with dark brown hair that was beginning to grey around the temples. His expensive looking suit, briefcase and mobile phone made him look every inch the successful businessman as he strode across the car park towards the office.  Reaching the pedestrian crossing in front of the office block’s main entrance he stopped and waited for the lights to change.  Looking up at the imposing structure, seemingly built entirely of glass, he thought back over the last two months.
He had been unemployed for eighteen months.  Both of his credit cards were up to their limit, he couldn’t even afford the minimum repayment each month.  The building society was about to repossess his house and his wife had been threatening to leave him if he didn't do something to sort the situation out soon.  That was when he saw the advert in the local newspaper.  A pensions and life assurance company were looking for salesmen to join their team.  The wage wasn't great but it was a lot more than his benefits.  He sent off his CV, attended two assessment days and, to his surprise, was taken on to start immediately.  Things were starting to look up.  His first few weeks were filled with paperwork, various courses and learning the ropes.  Now he was ready to meet the big boss.The green man lit up and he crossed to the other side of the busy road.  Entering the air-conditioned office building he looked around for reception.  A girl in her early twenties sat behind a chrome and plastic desk.  The clear perspex sign above her head said "Enquiries" in white etched letters.  He approached and waited for her to finish the phone call she’d taken as he entered the building.  As she replaced the handset he gave his most charming smile.  "My name's Martin Nicholson, I'm here to see Mr Peterson."
She returned his smile. "The lift behind you will take you to the tenth floor; Mr Peterson's office is straight in front of you."
"Thanks." 
He turned and headed for the lift she had pointed to.   
Entering the lift he pressed button ten and listened to the monotonous piped music for a short while until the doors opened and a disembodied voice announced, "Tenth floor."
The office Martin emerged into was light and airy.  There was lots of chrome and plastic with natural light flooding in from every angle.  Just in front of the lift was a desk similar to reception.  With a row of five seats along one side, it reminded him of a doctor’s waiting room.  Beyond the desk was a double, natural wooden door.  Mr Peterson's office he presumed.  He approached the woman sitting behind the desk and, once again, gave his most charming smile.  "Martin Nicholson, I'm here to see Mr Peterson."
"Take a seat Mr Nicholson and I'll let him know you're here."
He sat on one of the five seats and tried not to look too nervous.    As he was examining his fingernails for what seemed like the hundredth time, the wooden doors beyond the desk burst open and a man stormed out of the office and headed towards the lift.  After pressing the call button three or four times he impatiently turned towards the stairs. 
"Mr Peterson will see you now."
Nicholson jumped out of his seat.  He was nervous to start with and that certainly hadn't helped.  He wiped his clammy palms on his jacket, picked up his briefcase and headed for the doors.
"Come in."
The voice was loud, authorative.  He didn't knock.  He walked in.  The inside of the room was a complete contrast to the decor outside.  Lots of leather and dark wood panelling made it look like the library of a grand country house.  This was the office of a man who considered himself better than everyone else.
On one side of the room was a large aquarium stocked with all manner of brightly coloured tropical fish; the other was taken up by a bookshelf and drinks cabinet.  Opposite the door was a huge mahogany desk.  Sitting behind the desk, in a green leather swivel chair, was the company’s sales director.  Peterson had grey hair and a red face.  He was overweight with a red face and, by the looks of him, not too many years away from a heart attack.
"Have a seat, Martin."
"Thank you, Mr Peterson."  He put down his briefcase and sat on the edge of the smaller, red leather seat.  “I just want to say how much I’m enjoying my job.  I’ve been looking forward to meeting you since...”
Peterson cut in, "Look Martin, I won't insult you by beating about the bush.  I'm sure you'll appreciate it if I just come straight to the point."
Nicholson could feel his stomach churning.  He didn't like the sound of this.
"The company hasn’t had a very good year.  Profits are down, and in the current financial climate, our shareholders want to see costs cut."
He started to panic.  He could feel the sweat on his back and he wiped away a bead that was running down his face.    
"We've been told that we have to streamline our department and, as you've only been with us two months...."
He was starting to breathe heavily and his heart was pounding.
"...I'm afraid I'll have to let you go."
The words felt like steel talons ripping into his chest.  The air rushed from his lungs and he started to feel faint as his heart was squeezed by an invisible hand.  "I need this job."  His voice was quiet, faltering.
"We all need our jobs Martin.  I'm sure you'll find something else and, of course, if you need a reference..."
"No!"  The word exploded from him, punctuated by his fists slamming onto the desk.  His eyes were wide and his breath rasping, spittle beginning to froth at the corners of his mouth.  “I’ve seen the financial reports.  You got a bonus that was twice my salary, cut that back.”
"My bonus this year was a lot lower than last year.  We’ve all got to tighten our belts.”
Nicholson looked at him with utter contempt. “You have no idea.”
“I think you should leave now, Martin.  Try and get a grip of yourself.  Things aren't as bad as they seem."
Nicholson stood up, slowly turned and headed for the door.
"Martin, you've forgotten your briefcase."
"Keep it.”  He threw open the doors, walked through the outer office and pressed the call button for the lift.  It seemed an age before it arrived but he was determined not to look back.  The doors opened and he stepped in.  As the doors closed behind him he sank to his knees as tears of frustration and rage ran down his face.
With his job gone and the economy wrecked, his house would be repossessed, the credit card companies would be chasing him for payments and, worse of all, his wife would follow through on her threat to leave him and take their son with her.  His marriage was in trouble already but, he feared, this would be the last straw.
The lift doors opened on the ground floor and he slowly got to his feet.  A woman, about to enter the lift, backed off and stood aside as he headed for the exit.
Back out on the street he needed a drink.  Stopping only to buy a half bottle of vodka, he headed straight to the nearest pub.
"Double vodka."  Nicholson’s head was spinning as he sat on the barstool.
"You look like you've had some bed news."  The barman poured the drink and placed it on the bar.  "You want a mixer in that?"
Nicholson threw twenty pounds onto the bar before emptying his glass.  The clear liquid burned as it ran down his throat.  He removed his tie and unbuttoned his collar. "Same again, only this time top it up with tonic."
         "You’re in a bad way, mate, you should take it easy."  The barman placed the glass of vodka and tonic on the bar and took the twenty pound note.
Nicholson walked over to a table in the corner by the front window and sat down.  He placed his head in his hands and tried to think.
"You forgot your change, mate."
The barman put the change onto the table but Nicholson was in a world of his own.  What was he going to do?  Where was he going to find another job quickly enough to dig himself out of the hole he had fallen into? 
The car, he still had the keys to his company car.  He drained his glass and left the bar.
He arrived back at the car and opened the door.  Throwing the bottle he had bought onto the passenger seat, he climbed in and turned the engine over.  If he went home and acted as though nothing had happened then he could at least fool his wife for a couple of days.  Maybe sell the car and get some money to tide them over until he found another job. 
Peterson appeared at the door to the office and walked over to the car park.  He had a reserved slot, of course.  His brand new range rover glinted in the sun.  He threw his briefcase onto the back seat and climbed in.  As Peterson drove away, Nicholson decided to follow him.
Exiting the car park, he pulled in behind the Range Rover.  He followed as close as he dare as they drove through the city and out into the suburbs.  The houses became larger and more expensive the further they went.  The four-wheel drive slowed and pulled into the driveway of a particularly large and expensive looking detached house.  Nicholson stopped at the kerb and watched his former boss park next to an identical car, his and hers Range Rovers, very nice.
An attractive woman, in her late forties, and two teenage girls came out of the house to welcome Peterson home.  He had everything that Nicholson didn’t.  He had a large house, two nice cars, a loving family and, most of all, a job.  People like him didn’t understand what it was like living on next to no money.  What it felt like to be unable to pay bills or provide for your family.
He was staring, intently, at the family reunion when the woman looked over and pointed at him.  Peterson, recognising him, started walking down the driveway.
“Nicholson...What is it?  Nicholson!”
He was aware that he was revving the engine loudly as the man approached the car.  Peterson stopped suddenly, sensing a threat.  Nicholson released the clutch, the wheels spun and smoked as he sped away.
Driving towards the motorway, his head was full of bad thoughts of how wrong everything had gone.  He didn't see the lights change to red.  Driving straight across the junction, he clipped another car and almost ran down a young girl on a crossing.  He tried to brake but the damage had already been done.  Over the limit and in no state to be driving, he kept going.  He couldn't afford to be breathalysed now on top of everything else.
Hearing a siren in the distance he panicked, weaving through the traffic and accelerating.  Joining the motorway he couldn't see any flashing lights.  It wasn't far to his house, perhaps if his luck held out...
Then he spotted it, a police Volvo about two hundred yards behind him.  Keep calm, stick to the speed limit and they will just go past.  The car’s blue lights came on, maybe it wasn't him they wanted, keep calm, keep calm.  The Volvo pulled in behind him, there was no doubt now.  He floored the accelerator.  If he could put some traffic between them he could come off at the next exit and lay low for a few hours, report the car stolen or deny moving it from the car park.
He was getting desperate now; he knew he didn't stand a chance of losing the police.  No job and now he was going to lose his licence at least, probably end up in prison.  His world was collapsing around him.
Reaching over to the passenger seat he picked up the bottle of vodka, opened it and took a long drink.  There was only one thing he could do.
He pushed the car to 110mph but the police were still gaining on him, he didn't have long.  The junction was just ahead.  He veered sharply left and onto the slip road.  He wasn’t worried about the other traffic and sped straight across the roundabout, through a red light without stopping and caused a pile up as three cars slammed on their brakes to avoid him.
With the sound of horns blaring behind him Nicholson zigzagged his way through the busy traffic.  Blue lights flashing, the police car’s siren wailed but Nicholson wasn’t stopping now.  He went straight through another red light, then another, across a mini roundabout and turned left into an industrial estate.  He sideswiped a parked car as he took the sharp bend at forty.  Two more turns and, with the police car still behind him, he turned into the dead end at the far side of the estate, the side that bordered the dual carriageway.  His only option now was to ditch the car and run.
The police car screeched to a halt as Nicholson slammed into the chain link fence at the end of the road.  Shaken and bleeding from a gash on his forehead he kicked open the door of the BMW.  The first policeman from the patrol car grabbed him but Nicholson was too fast.  Driving the point of his elbow backwards into the man’s face he dropped him to the floor with blood streaming from his broken nose.
Climbing onto the bonnet of the car, he vaulted the fence as the second policeman tried to grab his legs.  He landed heavily and scrambled up the grass bank.  On the other side of the dual carriageway was a housing estate, a rabbit warren of back yards, gardens and alleyways for him to hide in.  He could rest for a while and think. 
He jumped over the crash barrier and stumbled onto the road.  The driver of the truck would later tell police that he did his best to brake and swerve but it was too late.  Any luck that Nicholson had left had run out.  He had nowhere to go.
At Martin Nicholson’s funeral he was described as a hard working and loving family man.  The police report said that he had suffered some kind of breakdown and acted totally out of character.  His death was a tragic accident. 
His former employers sent a wreath but there was nothing from Peterson.  He didn’t attend or even send a card.  After all, he wasn’t to blame; everyone was suffering because of the financial crisis. Weren’t they?

BIO:
It was while Les Morris was at school in Cumbria that, inspired and encouraged by his English teacher, he developed a lifelong love of books and made his first attempts to create his own stories. At 16 he left school and spent most of the 80s and 90s in the Royal Navy where reading and writing helped pass the long, often boring, days and nights at sea. Since then, he has worked in many industries but always continued to write when time allowed. More recently he started to concentrate on writing thrillers and had a short story, "Blood on Their Hands", published in Matt Hilton's anthology "ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1". He is currently working on completing a trilogy of stories involving the same character. He lives in Cumbria with his wife and children. http://lesmorris.blogspot.co.uk/