Monday, 30 November 2009

Quickfire posts...

Hi Folks,
In case you missed 'em: three of the last four posts are from newbies, so if you've gotta spare half hour then have a scroll down 'n' give 'em some welcome feedback.
Regards,
Col

AHEAD OF THE GAME by Colin Graham


TKnC welcomes Colin with this macabre tale...

Ahead of the Game

Timothy Skiller gave out the merest of tuts when the head rolled out of the fridge into his palm as he was reaching for a beer. It was always doing that, no matter how steadfastly he thought he had wedged it into the corner on his previous visit. He’d removed the eyes some time ago, so using two fingers to push back the head via the sockets into its designated home had become an intuitive act for Timothy, who kept swearing to himself that he would dispose of the thing properly any day soon.

He’d kick himself for holding onto things – invariably body parts – for too long. He just grew attached to them, somehow, and liked having them around the flat, which was why the air in his home wasn’t the most fragrant. Not that that mattered too much. Hardly anyone every came to visit, not of their own volition anyway, and those that did cross Timothy’s threshold went back the other way in bloodied installments.

Such had been the case with the person who belonged to the head, or vice-versa, depending on how you prefer to look at it. For a day or two Timothy had had the corpse sitting beside him on the settee watching TV with him, as he ate his favourite snacks and supped his beer. But then even he, Timothy, realized that things couldn’t continue that way, so he hacked the body up in the bath with a saw, diligently placed the various parts in several black plastic bags along with the requisite number of bricks and had hurled the cargo into the river at around 3am after a 10 minute drive to the embankment.

He had his routine down to a tee. There was a building site on the way from the river and he would stop by there to stock up on bricks so he would be ready for next time.

Because there would always be a next time and another one after that. That’s just the way things had to be for Timothy. He often pondered with a chuckle to himself that if that new office building not far from the river ever got built, it would be a minor miracle.

Back home he reached into the fridge again and the same thing happened with the despairing skull, looking like a decapitated version of Munch’s ‘The Scream’, just worse. It once more fell into his hand as if Timothy was auditioning for a part in Hamlet.

He again swore to himself that it would be his next gift to the river, tomorrow perhaps. Other craniums he’d had sundered from shoulders had known their place rammed into the top right hand corner of his fridge and hadn’t budged when he opened the door.

It would have to go, but there would be a replacement. Timothy had to keep a head. You always had to keep ahead in his game.


BIO:
Colin Graham is a Birmingham-born freelance journalist currently based in Belgrade, Serbia. Struggling along with hack work (in the main) he invariably finds himself uplifted by an unforeseen boost when all seems lost. He has previously lived in Russia and Poland, meaning he has been in Eastern Europe for over a decade, a fact that always amazes even himself.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

THE MISFORTUNE TELLER by Gavin Bell


The Misfortune Teller


It’s funny, the way black and white makes everything look like art.
Miller flipped through the prints for the hundredth time. It was always the same, the more you looked, the less they meant. At first they were shocking, but it never took that long to get used to them. After a while, it would even get boring. He reached the end of another cycle. The glass coffee table was already coated with numerous other pieces of meaningless paper. He dropped the sheaf of photographs on it, holding on to the last one, the one of the brunette.
This one really did have an aesthetic quality beyond the curious artistic effect imparted by black and white photography. The brunette had her head tilted to her right, showing the camera her profile. Her skin was flawless, an almost incandescent white. Her lips were partially open, as though breathing a sigh, or whispering gentle instruction to a lover. Her visible eye was half-closed; giving the impression that she was drowsy, or concentrating intently on a single sensation. She was wearing some kind of translucent fabric, a nightdress, most likely. Across the rise of her left breast, visible through the fabric, was a small black tattoo of an Egyptian symbol. She was quite beautiful.
Had it not been a snapshot of a corpse, it would have been quite at home in the fashion section of a glossy magazine.
Miller dropped this last one on the table with the rest. These black and whites weren’t the originals, of course. Photography at crime scenes was done in colour these days, particularly for the murders. Prosecutors liked it that way; wanted the jury to be able to see how red the blood was. Colour had certain measurable advantages, conveying as it did a more literal impression of the scene, but there were drawbacks. A lot of the time, all the garish wallpaper patterns and the reds and the flesh tones deafen the senses, to the point where it’s easy to miss the important details. That was why Miller always had the shots converted to monochrome.
Miller rubbed his eyes and contemplated the way things never really change. He wasn’t even on the force any more. As with many professions these days, if you can do your job reasonably well, it pays better and generates less hassle to go private. He was looking over these particular snapshots as one more favour in his long-term repayment plan to Bendis. Miller had always been good with the photos; his gift functioned so much more smoothly with a visual aid to get the ball rolling. He always began like this: getting the shots in black and white, then staring at them until the sparks danced and the images were projected onto the backs of his eyelids when he closed them.
Lately it was proving harder than usual. It seemed like everything had been so much easier back in the days when he’d been able to rely on his more commonplace investigative abilities as well as the gift. Back then he really had been the best. But then Eleanor had left him and the booze had taken everything else that was worth a damn, and now he was just a has-been with a party trick. And now it looked like the party trick was on its way out too. All he was getting tonight was the image of a man riffing through a deck of cards more and more urgently. The face was in shadow. No names were coming. The only hint of a place was a glimpse of a high wall shrouded in dead ivy. Miller leaned back on the couch and rubbed his temples with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, listening to the light rain as it fell outside on Argyle Street. Maybe he needed a break. Perhaps he needed a…
“Drink?”
Miller looked up and across his unkempt living room to the breakfast bar that demarcated the boundary of the small kitchen.
She was standing behind the bar, wearing a deep red blouse the colour of a fire engine. Strawberry blonde hair swept past her hazel eyes and framed her precise cheekbones before coming to a halt an inch and a half below her jaw. She was removing a bottle of Laphroag from a yellow Oddbins bag, two whisky glasses already on the bar. Miller shook his head amiably. “I’m on the wagon.”
She poured an Irish measure into each glass. “Wagon my arse,” she said, the oath at odds with her clipped west-end consonants. She took a sip of the nearest whisky and carried the other one over to him, putting it down on the coffee table, right on top of the brunette. Miller let it sit there and looked expectantly at her. She didn’t say anything. Finally, he relented. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here because I like it here. And because you like me being here.”
Miller laughed. “And what gives you that idea, Bethany?”
“You haven’t changed your locks yet, have you?”
True enough. Miller lifted the whisky off the dead brunette, put it down on one of the few clear spaces on the table, and sat back on the couch, folding his arms. “You know, your case was closed. We aren’t supposed to meet.”
“Yes,” Bethany said, leaning over the coffee table and craning her neck to see the photos. “I see you’ve moved on to new things. Pretty.”
“Pretty and dead.”
“Can’t have everything. What’s the story?”
“Robbery with murder on the side. Somebody probably met her and her boyfriend on a night out, came back for a drink, stabbed them both. Probably didn’t get anything more worthwhile than a low-spec DVD player, either.”
Bethany clucked her tongue. “No way to treat one’s host, is it?” She picked up one of the other photos: a shot of another glass coffee table, the victim’s. Rorschach patterns of shiny black blood sprayed over crumpled cigarette packs and strewn CD cases. “Left a hell of a mess, too.”
“Yes he did.” Miller glanced at that shot again, and this time something caught his eye. He took the photo out of Bethany’s hand.
“See something you like?” She looked at him over the rim of her glass with eyes that were the colour of varnished rosewood. He held them for a second and looked away. Still a sucker. It was time to break up the party.
“Not likely. As it happens, I was just about to chase up a lead.”
“Good for you.”
“Yeah,” he said, getting up. “So if you’ll excuse me, I have to be going.”
“You’re excused.” Bethany sat down on the couch and picked up Miller’s drink. “I’ll be here when you get back.”
Miller knew she would.

A little while later, Miller ascended the stairs from the subway at West Street. The earlier light rain had gained weight, and the few pedestrians bold or guilty enough to be out for an evening stroll this side of the river hugged the buildings, taking meagre shelter where they could. The warehouse at the bottom end of the street had been torn down recently, revealing an unobstructed view across the Clyde to the new casino, casting its flickering neon shadows into the black water.
A century ago, the Clyde had been the main artery of the city. Ships from all over the globe traversed it, carrying tea from India and spices from the Orient, boosting Glasgow’s status to second city of the British Empire. Here, today, the river was more of a dividing line, separating two eras. The bustling commerce of the early 21st century represented by casinos and plush IT offices on the north bank contrasted with the dilapidated warehouses and piers on the south, decaying memorials to the city’s shipbuilding and manufacturing past.
Sometimes, Miller had an idea that if he could just find the right spot at the right time, he could read the Clyde like a lifeline and divine the city’s fate. But this was neither the right spot nor the right time, and in any case, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
It was a two minute walk to Singer’s, but Miller was soaked by the time he arrived. Running a hand through his hair to shake out the excess water, he descended the cracked stone steps and opened the door, onto which was taped a sign saying ‘No Football Colours’ in no-nonsense black marker.
Singer’s was a shithole. The kind of dive no one in his right mind would enter. A guy had to have developed an almost religious devotion to alcoholism to put up with the bargain basement spirits, the smell of vomit, and the selection of eighties cheese on the jukebox. The place was almost deserted. Business as usual for a Monday night, or any night for that matter. It was a mystery to Miller how the place managed to stay open, although he suspected it probably wouldn’t remain a mystery long if he was to investigate the owner’s sidelines. The barman looked up from the back page of the Record as Miller walked in.
“All right, Jack! Long time no see… where you been?”
“I lost my faith, Freddy.”
“Huh?”
“I need to ask you about something.”
“Anything for a former customer,” Freddy broke into a grin. “Pint of heavy?”
Miller shook his head “No thanks. You remember the fella with the red leather jacket used to drink in here? The one with those porno playing cards?”
“Flip? Aye, he still comes in a couple times a week… why? You looking to complete a four for bridge or something?” Freddy chuckled.
Miller rolled his eyes inwardly and forced a smile on the outside “Got it in one. Where can I find him?”
Freddy shrugged noncommittally and turned to the only other customer sitting at the bar, a small, hollow-eyed man wearing a navy blue t shirt that exposed forearms like skin and bone pincushions. The man looked like he’d ducked in here for one last drink on his journey from the drug shelter to the grave.
“You see this guy?” Freddy said to the man, putting a hand on Miller’s shoulder and drawing him closer, like they were posing for a photo. “He’s got a talent. He can tell you about people if you give him a picture or something that belongs to them.”
“Yeah?” said the man, before launching into a fit of coughing at the exertion of having to speak. When he recovered, he grinned at Miller, revealing a mouth like a graveyard in disrepair. “Can you tell me next Saturday’s lottery numbers?”
“Never heard that one before,” said Miller, as he picked Freddy’s hand off his shoulder. “But I’m afraid I cannot. I can only see bad things.” Miller looked the junkie in the eye until he shivered and turned back to his drink.
Freddie cleared his throat. “That’s right. What was it they called you again?”
“Lots of things. Most of them unrepeatable.” Miller hated that nickname, the one Freddy was referring to.
Freddy smiled thinly and reached under the bar. He brought out a woman’s purse; black leather with a gold clasp. He gave the surface of the bar a wipe before placing it carefully in front of Miller. Miller sighed and picked the purse up, weighing it in his hand. It was much easier dealing with people who didn’t know him or didn’t believe in him, but at least this would be cheaper than a cash incentive. Miller closed his eyes and blocked out the sensory distractions of the bar. A full minute later, he opened them again. Freddy was staring at him intently, the corner of his bottom lip clenched between his teeth.
“Carole,” Miller said, waiting for the name to prompt the always-verbose barman. It didn’t. “Who is she to you?”
Freddy looked down at the bar. “Just someone…”
Miller popped the clasp and had a look at the contents: a couple of credit cards and a driving licence, all bearing the name Carole Waters; some loose change; a photo of two smiling children, a boy and a girl. He closed his eyes again. When he opened them, he saw the junkie had moved to a table at the far end of the bar, but Freddy was still there.
“Did you see anything?” Freddy asked.
Miller shook his head. “Nothing.”
“Does that mean…”
“It means I don’t know where she is, but I know nothing’s happened to her.”
Freddy released a sigh that sounded like it had been confined in his chest for a month. He took the purse back and placed it back under the bar. When his hands reappeared, they were holding a notepad and pen. He scribbled down an address. “Flip’s place. Of course, you didn’t get this from me.”

The flat was located in a minor street off Govan Road, around twenty minutes walk from the pub. The rain showed no signs of abating. Miller stopped at the door to the close and ran his finger down the nametags next to the buzzers. Phillip Rodden: 3C was the tag he was looking for. He let his index finger hover over the buzzer for a moment before changing his mind. He walked around to the alley at the side of the tenement block. A rusted steel fire escape snaked up the sandstone wall like dirty brown ivy.
Miller scaled the dripping, creaking stairway until he reached the third floor. The C flats were all at this side of the building; their windows accessed the fire escape. The window for 3C was open a couple of inches for air. Despite the deluge, the city was unseasonably warm tonight.
Miller pulled the window up the rest of the way and stepped into the living room. It was even more deserted than Singer’s had been, but the TV was on. A graveyard-slot sitcom spewed its canned laughter out at an unoccupied threadbare couch. On the couch lay several items: a woman’s handbag, a leather wallet, a decent-looking watch, a comb in need of dental treatment. Miller was betting that only one of these items rightfully belonged to the flat’s occupant. He scanned the rest of the room, eyes alighting on a novelty telephone moulded to look like a bowling ball. He put in a call to Bendis, giving him the address and telling him to be here in ten minutes.
Miller heard a toilet flush behind a door and moved silently to the blind side. The door opened and a skinny, balding man wearing a tattered black t shirt and boxer shorts stepped out.
“Flip, how’s your girlfriend?”
Flip spun around, his mouth open to say something. Miller broke his nose and put him on the ground. Miller pulled out his ID and dangled it over him. Flip eyeballed it, then shifted his gaze to take in the purse, wallet and watch on the couch. His next furtive glance was in the direction of a charity shop chest of drawers in the corner. He looked from there to Miller’s bulky frame. His shoulders tensed, then relaxed in submission. Miller smiled and replaced the licence in the pocket of his coat. “You want to know what it was?”
Flip looked around, resignation breaking out on his face like a skin condition. He shrugged.
“That deck of cards you used to flash around in Singer’s. You know, the one you had custom made with your ex-girlfriend on them. Snapshots of her in all kinds of athletic poses. Know where those are by any chance?”
Flip leaned back against the wall. Drained and ready for the cuffs. “Naw, man.”
“Well, I can’t account for the other fifty one. But the queen of hearts is currently lying on a coffee table on the other side of town, covered with blood. Combine that with the fact you’re in possession of stolen goods from the crime scene…” Miller pointedly looked at the chest of drawers in the corner “…and I’m assuming you are in fact thick enough to be keeping the murder weapon here…” Miller shook his head sadly “Doesn’t look good, does it Flip?”
Flip looked up from the floor and shook his head. Miller walked over to the couch, picked up the comb and tossed it in his direction. “They’ll be here in a minute. Better pretty-up for the mug shot.”

Back in his flat above Argyle Street, Miller was towelling off his wet hair.
“Playing cards, huh?” Bethany said.
“Playing cards.”
“Good to see you still have the gift, Jack.” She smiled.
Miller sat down on the couch beside her. “Actually, I ought to thank you for that. I didn’t need the party trick this time. I just needed someone to make me see what was right in front of my nose.” He turned his head to face her, gazing into the hazel eyes, and returned the smile. A real one this time. Bethany leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. The kiss felt good. As good as it felt to be a real detective again for a night. As good as it felt to use his more prosaic gifts again.
“I have to go now,” she said.
He sighed “I know.”
Miller lay back and closed his eyes. When he opened them, she was gone. He got up and collected the crime scene photographs into a bundle, tapping it square on the glass coffee table. He walked over to his desk and pulled a folder out of the file drawer. He put the most recent black and whites in at the top, and then flicked back through the folder, pulling out the section dated 1997.
He ran a delicate finger over the first photograph. This one was monochrome too, of course, but he knew the girl in the picture was wearing a deep red blouse the colour of a fire engine.
Bethany looked good in black and white. Better than most.

Bio:
Gavin was born in Glasgow in 1979. He has worked as a petrol station attendant, taxman, salesman, research manager and pizza boy. His story ‘A Living’ was shortlisted for the 2007 Get Britain Reading prize, and published in the Sun Book of Short Stories, and his other stories have been published in Scribble magazine and First Edition.He currently lives in Hamilton with a wife, a daughter and a growing pack of bunnies, and is at work on his first novel, a thriller entitled Halfway to Hell.

DRESSMAKING by Rebecca Swan


Here's a creepy one for the dark nights...

DRESSMAKING

“What an unusual house!” we exclaimed in unison.
I’d always been the mistress of understatement, when inwardly I was bristling with excitement. We abandoned our suitcases and fell onto the sofa, our legs entwined. This trip was supposed to repair our floundering marriage. It was Richard’s idea.
He jumped up and lit candles, as outside the sky was darkening. I looked around inquisitively. Despite my earlier proclamations, the house was unspectacular and had an air of gloom about it. Yet I could forego cheerful furnishings just for a chance to be away from my usual routine.
“What did we bring to eat?” I said, as I languished on the sofa without a care in the world.
We gorged ourselves on Black Forest gateau in front of the fire.

Richard went into the kitchen , and I spirited myself upstairs to explore, armed with a candle. There were dark wood floors throughout the house, and pictures of unknown faces leered from the walls. They all had the same strange, malevolent looking smiles. An impressive gilt mirror had been placed on a wall at the top of the stairs. The air was heavy.
I reached the last room and was about to open the door when I heard the sound of something heavy falling to the floor within.
“I asked you to wait for me. I wanted to look around with you,” said Richard.
I gasped, and nearly dropped the candlestick.
“Don’t creep up on me like that,” I snapped.
“Lydia…I am trying, you know,” he said sheepishly.
“I heard a noise in this room,” I said and grasped the handle, but the door was locked.
“Let me try,” said Richard.
Richard twisted the handle, and needless to say, the door opened. I barged past him into the room. An antique sewing machine sat on a dressing table by the window, glinting in the moonlight. I inspected an armoire where I discovered a rail of beautiful evening gowns, none of which looked less than fifty years old.
“Oh Richard, look at these!” I said, softening.
I plunged my hand between the dresses, and fingered the sequins, beads and feathers.
“Why have these been left here? They’re vintage, anyone could make off with them,” he said grouchily. “They’ve not even been covered up.”
“Do you know what, I’m glad they haven’t, because it means I get to touch them,” I said dreamily.
I wanted to plunge my head into the wardrobe and imagine I could smell the perfumes of the women who wore these magnificent items. I fantasised that the sewing machine before me had created these wondrous dresses.

When I woke up the following morning, Richard had already gone, and for that I was glad. The first thing I did was go to the room where the dresses were, because I felt so drawn to it. It had given an otherwise mediocre holiday home something of an edge.
I was surprised to find a dress laid out on the bed. I had not noticed it in the armoire the previous evening, and I doubted Richard had bought it because he was useless at choosing clothes for me. It was a cream, beaded affair, covered with tassels. I was no fashion expert but guessed it was from the 1920s. I slipped out of my nightclothes, and stepped into the dress . It was a perfect fit. Small tassels on the hem tickled my knees. I looked at myself in the mirror.
“Lydia, really. I don’t think the dresses are there to be tried on.”
“Richard, will you stop sneaking up on me like that!” I said incredulously. “Anyone would think you float around, I never hear your footsteps. Anyway, you left this on the bed, so it serves you right.”
“Er, actually I didn’t.”
“Well it wasn’t here last night. Don’t joke, Richard.”
“I’m not, I genuinely did not put that on the bed. Why on earth would I do that?”
For a few moments, there was a pregnant pause. Richard, to his credit, never lied. A mystery was unravelling and I wanted to be the one to solve it.

We went to the kitchen. There were fresh flowers on the table which Richard had obviously picked especially. As he proudly placed breakfast in front of me, I calmly left the room, and went and made myself a whisky in the lounge.
“Please don’t start your histrionics again,” said Richard with an air of desperation. “I can’t believe you’re pouring a drink, it’s nine ‘o’ clock in the morning.”
“Histrionics, histrionics! How dare you!”
I ran upstairs and straight to the room with the sewing machine. My heart beat heavily in my chest, suffused with anger and frustration. I turned my glassy eyes towards the open door of the armoire, and, in the very centre of the rack, hung an ivory coloured wedding dress. It was a bitterly ironic reminder that my marriage was limping to a close. But who had put it there? Who was following my thoughts and giving me these small signals? I eased out the dress. It was so unutterably beautiful, the way it was gathered in here and there. The sewing machine, as if echoing my appreciation, burst into life and began whirring away right before my very eyes. I was overcome with a feeling of drunkenness.
Later that day, as I ruminated over what I’d seen and topped myself up with wine, I put the experience down as a figment of my imagination. Yet when I stumbled drunkenly upstairs, the wedding dress had disappeared. Richard had been gone for hours, to my relief. I started to go through my clothes, when I came across one of my favourite dresses, and noticed a tear down the side. I had the idea of leaving the dress beside the sewing machine and locking the room overnight.

Sure enough, the following morning, upon entering the room I found my dress lying on the bed as good as new. I tried to stay out for most of the day, and when I returned Richard was making his own supper. We didn’t have a conversation - we both knew this time it was the end. I went upstairs and checked my case - although part of me wanted to stay and enjoy events at the house for as long as possible. I took out a silk nightdress and deliberately cut it to shreds, and again placed the pieces beside the sewing machine.

The next day, my nightdress had been repaired. I laughed. I went to bed early that evening, while Richard was still downstairs bitching about me to his family members on the phone. I lay there imagining the sewing machine whirring away, while a competent pair of hands steered the fabric this way and that beneath its needle.
I woke suddenly a few hours later to find the sewing machine suspended in the air above my head. Richard slept soundly beside me. It loomed above me for a few moments then seemed to pop like a bubble and disappear. I jumped out of bed and hared it to the other bedroom. The sewing machine sat in its usual place, looking far from menacing. It had all been a bad dream, but I still felt unnerved by it.

The following morning I was woken by the incessant click-click of the needle. I wanted to be privy to a sight that I had formerly been denied - the sight of the machine at work, and who or what was operating it. There, sitting on the dressing table, was an elderly woman, hunched over the machine. Her woolly hair was fastened into a tight bun, and she wore a black dress with a high collar. She froze when I gasped and started to swivel on the stool, but I ran from the room in terror and begged Richard to drive us home, but he told me to wait until the following day.
I was woken again that night, this time by the sound of the sewing machine working at some ridiculous speed. Yet again, Richard slept through it all, so I would never be able to prove it was more than imagined. I ran down the hallway and found the sewing machine sitting silent and menacing in the darkness. I touched it, and it whirred into life for a brief moment, causing the needle to pierce my finger. I looked around the room and was sure I could see the face of an elderly woman grinning satanically in a shadowy corner.
I curled up close to Richard. When I eventually began to fall asleep, I was disturbed by a loud thud, as if the sewing machine had been pushed to the floor. I lay quivering until it started getting light outside. I dared not open my eyes. I was aware of Richard getting out of bed.
“Lydia! How do you explain this?” he cried.
I opened my eyes, and saw him gesticulating to the floor at the end of the bed. When I sat up I saw the entire contents of my case had been shredded and tossed to the floor.
“Oh Richard!” I said desperately. “I told you there was something amiss in this house. We have to leave - today!”
“We’ll leave today but I refuse to believe there’s anything abnormal about this house. The only thing amiss is you. We need to have serious talks when we get home.”
I felt stung by Richard’s diatribe.
“I’m telling you the truth!” I cried.
“The sad thing is, I don’t know when I can believe you any more,” he said sadly, as he left the room.
“Richard, don’t go out there! We need to leave, as a matter of urgency.”
I dived out of bed and grabbed my handbag - after all, I had no clothes left. As I did this, I heard the sewing machine firing up. I cornered Richard in the hallway.
“Can’t you hear that?”
Richard stopped in his tracks and for a few fearful seconds I thought he couldn’t hear anything.
“What the hell?” he said, marching towards the room with the armoire.
“No, Richard no, you mustn’t.”
“Someone’s broken in, go and call the Police,” he said, trying to shake me off his arm.
“No Richard, - it’s not an intruder. I’ve been aware of it for a few days. You mustn’t mess with it, we have to go.”
We heard the door of the armoire creak open, and suddenly, all the dresses I’d admired earlier were hurled into the hallway by unseen hands. They were suspended for a moment like dark angels before cluttering to the floor still on their hangers. And then all went black.

I found myself in bed and Richard was entering the room with our breakfast on a tray. He slid into bed beside me.
“I thought I’d never be able to wake you,” he said, beaming as he passed me a drink.
“Why are we still here?” I asked, shaking my head in confusion.
“Well, the last thing you said before you went to sleep was that you wanted to stay here for the full week and sort things out between us.”
I eyed him suspiciously.
“I never said that - I don’t recall saying that. Why aren’t you petrified? Don’t you remember what happened last night?”
“Yes - we had a meal together then we went to bed.”
“No Richard - the armoire….”
“What about the armoire? What armoire?”
“You saw it!”
“What are you talking about? I think you’ve been having strange dreams again. You did drink rather too much last night.”
I hurried to the other bedroom, but the sewing machine had disappeared, and the armoire contained nothing but mothballs.

Richard followed me, looking concerned.
“Lydia, are you okay?”
“Did you get rid of them?”
“Get rid of what?” he said.
“The sewing machine. The dresses. You know what I mean - you came in here with me numerous times, you saw them.”
“Lydia, this is the first time I’ve set foot in this room since we’ve been here.”
I could have continued to argue with him, but I knew Richard never lied.
We left the house that day, and have never been back.

BIO:
To Follow...

THE LOST CHILD by Aimee Tracey

Here at TKnC we pride ourselves in helping new talent and Aimee is a fledgling writer - our second youngest contributor - so please offer constructive feedback...

The Lost Child.

My father, he was a family man, a true husband in many respects. I looked up to him, my idol he was. I always knew that what he had was exactly what I wanted for myself.

A family.

I wanted to be that son, who one day he could turn around to and look deep into the eyes of, with a meaningful glare and say, ‘Son, I’m real proud of you.’ One day I could show him that I had followed in his footsteps and declared the family name with pride.

From an early age, me and my father had a special bond, we always spoke of how I was going to be ‘Just like you dad’.

****

I had achieved a lot: a beautiful wife, a beautiful home. I couldn’t really ask for anything more, although I always dreamt of us one day having children.

A family.

When she fell pregnant my world felt fulfilled, how I had always imagined it to be. It felt as though God had carefully painted my dreams. We spent the next nine months like one big path of excitement each day gradually bringing my journey of ambitions closer.

My wife, she meant everything to me. I would never do anything to harm her, so how she could do this? She knew how much a child of ours meant to me. Looking back now, I know it wasn’t her fault.

‘Lost,’ the nurse had said, as though it was a set of house keys, gone, never to be seen or heard.

I couldn’t look my wife, the person I loved so deeply, in the eye. It felt like she had placed my world in my hands and, with an evil intention, snatched it straight back from me.

Another day, another sunset commencing, ending another day filled with anguish and despair.

There she was sat, looking so desperate and needy, tears streaming down her face which displayed an intense red hand print spread across her cheek. Her top was resting on her shoulders revealing a deeply bruised body.

At that moment I accepted the dream of living up to my father had been destroyed.

***

My wife had left me and I was alone. The only thing I was left with was the question of why it happened to me, why having a family and a child I could be proud of was so much to ask for.

Living with the thought of this haunted me. Each child that passed me glowed with innocence, so happy and care free. It amazed me how something so small could make a family so complete.

I began to believe it was selfish, life itself was selfish. It has its way of picking what will happen and who to, who deserves certain things and who will have their perfectly painted picture.

I carefully started to capture what was happening around me. The breeze was gently lifting the small hairs on my arms, I was listening to the sound of the sea which sounded so perfectly composed, my eyes forced to remain shut due to the beam of sunlight coming from my right. Although at peace, I couldn’t help but notice the horrifying sound of children’s laughter in the distance. The sound of happiness pierced through me.

There was a girl who was running carelessly across the perfectly raked sand, her feet gliding across the tide. She immediately drew me; grabbed my attention.
The warm glow from around her suddenly disappeared. I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of guilt.

I wanted to prove how much I would appreciate the chance of caring for her, prove that I deserved a family, but I knew she belonged to somebody else. I could picture my wife and that same feeling I felt when the nurse told me my child had been lost, the feeling of being numb.

As I stepped back and looked down into deep brown eyes I saw the girl was laying on the floor. I panicked and ran. My chest started to pound. My mind felt corrupted, feelings and thoughts constantly flickering. How did I turn into this?

***

As I walked up the stairs to the house the sound of my own pulse drummed through my head. My knees started trembling and I was struggling to focus, every step I took closer made it harder to turn back.

I watched my arm grow towards the door of her room. There was a moment where I realised what I was doing. But I did not stop. It continued growing. My wife’s face again appeared in front of me and the feeling of despair quickly returned.

I saw fright, but with a strong force I felt innocence. Who was the child? I don’t know who was more scared, me, or the girl. I didn’t want her to be scared; I didn’t want to harm her.

If it wasn’t for Dick, I don’t know what I would have done. His voice brought me away from the darkness. And the blindfold covering my emotions was removed. The thought of the girl I met on the beach returned and her cry was the only sound I could hear.

I am an evil man, pride and pain had combined and left me worthy of guilty actions. Rapist.

BIO:
To follow...

Monday, 23 November 2009

SIGNS OF THE TIMES by James C. Clar


Early bird, James, grabs the gauntlet thrown out by Matt...

Signs of the Times

“Listen, sir,” the tired and disheveled looking police detective said to the elderly man sitting across from him at the cluttered desk, “you're some kind of lucky that the boy’s parents have decided not to press charges. They apparently believe you when you say you didn't mean any harm.”

The suspect stoked his beard then rubbed his temples with the thumb and index finger of his left hand. “You're right, officer, of course. But just between the two of us, it’s all this ‘political correctness’ claptrap; that and government regulation. I mean, you need a permit for this, a license for that or some kind of obscure variance. And all of those things cost money. The overhead for a small businessman like me is outrageous these days. First the workers in my factory unionized. Then the eight mopes in shipping and distribution got on my case about their health benefits. Do you have any idea what I pay each year for heat alone? Of course you don't. Oh, well, I had no choice but to shut things down and file for bankruptcy. It’s a sign of the times. I applied for a ‘bailout’ and for some stimulus money but, so far, they tell me I don't qualify.”

The squad room was a veritable beehive of activity. Two tired prostitutes were arguing in the next cubicle with a man who was clearly their pimp. A sergeant from Vice was acting as referee. Somewhere in the background a radio was playing Christmas carols. Brenda Lee was “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” and Nat Cole was crooning about “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”

The detective was beginning to get exasperated with the old man who, already, had taken up far too much of his time. After all, it was one of the most hectic seasons of the year for law enforcement. With the crowds and holiday shopping invariably came an increase in shoplifting, car break-ins, purse-snatching, check forgeries and all manner of street crime and bunko scams. Damn, the frazzled policeman thought, I need to get back to work. Down the hallway, the odd couple of Bing Crosby and David Bowie argued their way through a scratchy rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

“OK, ok, Pops. Things are tough all over. But, hey, even a guy with your background can't hang around the malls bouncing strange little kids on his knees. That’s a recipe for disaster, know what I mean?”

“Detective,” the old geezer replied, “It’s not like I seek those children out. They're naturally attracted to me … and I can't help myself, I want to make them happy. You'd think somebody out there would be willing to put me to work. After all, I’m the one who started this whole thing, remember? I have years and years of experience. These days, though, the big chain stores and upscale malls are after young fellows who understand the latest technology … cell phones, I-Pods, DVD players, those digital cameras and all that computer nonsense. I can't even compete on a free-lance basis anymore.”

I've got to get rid of this guy, the detective thought; he'll hang out here all day telling me his life story if I don't. He slid the suspect’s driver’s license back to him across the desk. Taking the not-so-subtle hint, the elderly man stood and returned his license to his wallet.

“Alright, then,” the cop said in his most official, peremptory tone. “Just remember, if we get any more calls about you, well, we'll have to take some fairly serious action. Most parents these days, the way they coddle their children, aren't likely to be as understanding as these folks have been. You caught a huge break here. Lemme tell you.”

“Rest assured, officer, we're on the same page. I'm sorry to have caused such a fuss … and to have taken up so much of your time. Thanks for letting me ‘vent’ a little.” Chastened, the old man began to make his way out of the crowded squad room.

“Hey,” the police detective called out to him as the man was about to disappear from view, “you might think about putting in an application over at K-Mart. I hear they're hiring ‘greeters’ this time of year. With your ‘people skills’ it just might be a perfect fit.”

“What a grand idea,” the old duffer responded as he turned and ran his gnarled fingers through his white beard with one hand and patted his once rotund belly with the other. “Ho-Ho-Ho, it surely is. Maybe they'll even be able to find a job for the missus too.” And with a hearty “Merry Christmas” reminiscent of better times, the old man shuffled his way placidly out of the chaotic room.


BIO:
James C. Clar's work has been published in print as well as on the Internet. To date he has written over 200 stories in a variety of genres ... fantasy, science fiction, mainstream and noir. A few of those stories are even worth reading. Fewer still might even be worth remembering!

Friday, 20 November 2009

ROADKILL by David Barber

Vincent Mitchell returns in this follow-up to Retribution...

Roadkill

Chorlton, Manchester.

I’d gotten a brief text message telling me that the episode in The Grey Mare in Bowden, involving Ralph Perkins, had been cleaned up without a hitch. The landlord, George, had assured the ‘team’ that both he and his regulars had seen nothing. Perkins’s girlfriend, whore, prossie, whatever you want to call her, had been picked up soon after she’d left the pub and advised, with a decent cash incentive, to keep her mouth shut and disappear. It turned out that she wasn’t from the area either, taking the advice, and the money, willingly. If only everything in life was so easy and simple. Maybe we should all be paedophiles, rapists, murderers, prostitutes or just general scrounging low life’s and our lives would be just as simple... but, I’m drifting again.

* * *

I was sat in the vault of The Royal Oak Hotel, a pint of Stella in front of me, reading through the details of Gerald Butterworth, now known as Donald Whitefoot. The information I had received included an in-depth and graphic report on him plus a small collection of photos, one of which was only a couple of days old. There was also a syringe containing anaesthetic. I’d requested this for what I had planned, and just in case of a struggle.

I’d just drained the last of my pint when the front door opened and in he walked. Gerald, Donald, whatever, it didn’t really matter to me anymore what their names were. They were my quarry and I had a job to do. I waited for him to order a drink and made my way to the bar.

“Pint of Stella, please. Oh, sorry mate, have you been served?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, don’t worry mate. I’m already on,”

“Ok, cheers pal.” I handed over a fiver to the barman and got less change than I’d wished for.

I made my way back over to my seat, sat and watched his every move. He didn’t sit with anyone, although he let on to a couple of older men, probably his kind. I left it for around ten minutes before I got up with my pint and made my way over to where he was sat. In the report I’d received, there was a section about his background, his interests and activities. He’d been a keen runner and was regularly seen jogging round Chorlton Park. As the park wasn’t too far from the local school you can probably work out the times he went jogging.

“Hi, erm sorry to bother you mate but I can’t help but think that I know you from somewhere.” What was that look on his face, concern, guilt?

“No, don’t think so. You’ve just seen me at the bar, maybe that was it.”

“No, no. It was before then. Where do I know you……oh, yeah that’s it. You’re a regular down the park aren’t you?” Alarm, now?

“Yes, I’ve seen you jogging down there. I run there as well. Vinny Mitchell.” I offered my hand. It didn’t matter that I’d given him my name as he wasn’t going to be around to tell anyone.

His face relaxed as he shook my hand. “Donald Whitefoot.”

“Join you?” I pointed at the empty stool at his table. “It’s always better to have a beer with someone, isn’t it?”

He nodded yes and took a drink from his pint.

We chatted for a while: how long he’d lived in the area, age, jobs - that kind of stuff and, oh, what a lying fucker he was!

“Any kids Donald?”

“Erm…yeah. I’ve got two daughters but they live with their mother down south. Don’t really see them that much. It was a messy split, you know?”

Yes I do know, I thought to myself. The man had both sexually and physically abused his daughters from an early age. It was all in his report.

“What about you?”

“Yes, well he died fourteen months and eight days ago, so….not really. But I still have him here.” I pointed to my chest.

“Sorry about that, it must have been hard,”

“You’ll never know. Erm, do you want a beer? I’ve had two so I’m just having a juice or something,”

“Please, yes, a…err a pint of lager thanks. That’d be great,”

We had another five or six drinks together and he was now on the wrong side of sober. All through the conversation I’d been subconsciously touching the syringe in my jacket pocket. I had enough anaesthetic to knock this guy out for fifteen minutes or so, so I had to get him into my car and away pretty quick.

Drunkenly, Donald excused himself. “You’ll have to excuse me. I need the toilet.”

I watched him walk, stagger, back from the toilet and smiled at him.

“Come on Donald, I’ll give you a lift home. Can’t let you walk home like that, there are some bad people out there who’d love to take advantage of you in that state.”

“Hey Vinny, you’re a good mate. Thanks. We’ll have to meet up again…..”

I wasn’t really listening but didn’t stop him going on with himself. Let him enjoy his last minutes, I thought.

We got to the car and I thumbed the key fob to open the central locking. Donald got in and put on his seat belt, unaware that I had taken the syringe out of my pocket. I lowered myself in, turned to him, pushed the needle into his neck and administered the drug. He turned to me, his eyes wide, and was about to say something when the anaesthetic kicked in. His eyelids were getting too heavy for him to keep open and his head fell back onto the headrest.

“Pleasant dreams Donald: they’ll be your last.”

* * *

It was dark and chilly and the country lane was deserted. The rope was tied to the tow-bar on the back of my car and securely round the ankles of Donald: a rope also secured his wrists to his ankles so he couldn’t protect his face. He’d been out for about twenty minutes: the booze probably making the anaesthetic last longer. I kicked him in the ribs and he began to stir.

“Wh…wh…what’s...g...g...goin…on? W…w...where am I? ”

“Hell.”

I got back in the car, started the engine and absolutely floored it. I was on a straight stretch for about a mile and tried to keep an eye on him, through the rear view mirror. The darkness was almost absolute but I could just make him out in the slight red hue offered by my back lights. He seemed to be going in a pretty straight line until I started gently swerving the car, making him roll over and over.

I stopped the car about three hundred yards short of a right hand bend and got out, the engine still running. The rope was thirty feet in length so took me roughly fifteen strides to get to him. What greeted me was hideous. Where his nose should have been was just a dark hole, a flap of skin, which must have been the remainder of his nose, stuck to his forehead. The teeth that he had left were plainly visible as his lips had been ripped away by the road as well.

“Ready for some more, you sick fuck?”

A murmur of something, probably a plea of “please don’t” came from him.

“It’s way too late for that, Donald, or should I call you Gerald. You know, it doesn’t really matter what I call you, ‘cos you’re fucked pal. You’re straight on your way to hell.”

I walked back to the car, put it in gear and gunned it. There were three sharp bends ahead of me and I got the car travelling as fast as I could. In the rear view I could see his body being violently thrown from one side of the road to the other. On the last bend there was a chevron sign, warning of a particularly sharp right bend. I’d driven this stretch of road before and knew I could take it at around fifty, but on this occasion I went for it at sixty plus.

I almost lost it as I took the bend but, as I checked the rear view mirror, I could just make out that Gerald had indeed lost it: well half of it. There was still something attached to the rope but I couldn’t tell what it was. I brought the car to a halt, got out and slowly made my way along the rope. As I got to the end I realised that the top half of Gerald must have been somewhere back down the road. All that was left of him were his legs and hips and a mangled mess. Things were beginning to shock me less these days. I walked back to the car, unhooked the rope from the tow-bar, and got back behind the wheel. I took my mobile from my pocket and sent my message.

‘Roadkill. Job done’

I turned the car around and drove past the bottom half of Gerald Butterworth, his legs illuminated by the moon that had now broken through the clouds. It’s not often you see that in the road, I thought to myself. I drove on further, my headlights finding the rest of his body mangled around the chevron sign on the bad bend.

“Only what you deserved.”

At that point, my phone buzzed.

‘We’re on our way.’

* * *

So, what can I say? I’m getting better at this, almost getting to a point where I’m enjoying it. Yes, I’m probably a serial killer, if that’s what you want to call me. I know that, but I’m doing the public a service, a service that the police and the government can’t provide. I’ll be in touch in the near fut…oh, hang on.”

The screen on my mobile lit up, ‘Altrincham, Cheshire.’

“Oh well, work is work and Altrincham’s not too far away. Well, I’ll be in touch as soon as I can. Don’t forget though, I’ve got victims two and three to tell you about and I’m sure you’d love to hear about them, if you can stomach it. But, for the time being, take care: you don’t know who’s out there.”


BIO:
Born in Manchester, England, but now living in Crieff, Scotland with his wife and two daughters. Wrote some years ago but has recently been inspired to write again by an old friend (Col Bury) and the beauty that surrounds him in Scotland. Always reading - when not entertaining his girls and working - crime and horror…and now writing. Has had numerous pieces of fiction listed on Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, A Twist Of Noir and he blogs at
davidbarberfiction.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Interlude - Thrillers, Killers 'n' Stocking Fillers

Well, as the old song goes 'Christmas is coming and goose is getting fat'...so how's about a few Christmas or holiday themed stories from our writers? Christmas is traditionally a time for peace on Earth and 'Good Will' to all men (and women), but that just won't do here. Give us your scariest and most thrilling festive season themed stories to keep us enthralled while we down the egg nog.
cheers
Matt

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

VICTORIA'S UNCLE by Christopher Grant

This completes a November hat-trick of crackers from Chris...

Victoria's Uncle

Victoria's Uncle Rob is on the floor of his living room, bleeding from a thousand different cuts on his naked upper torso. He continues to refuse to give up the combination to his safe and the password to his bank account.

I can end this anytime I like, though, I said the same thing about my alcoholism and look where that's got me.

Victoria's uncle is loaded, according to Victoria. She told me that herself, back when we were still together. I miss her.

I perch on the edge of the desk and watch as Lloyd and Dean continue their handiwork.

Dean is a genius with a knife. I've known this since our tour in Afghanistan four years ago, before the drinking, before Victoria left me. Dean can make a man bleed out with a well-placed stab wound or make him think his life over with a couple hundred small cuts, letting time take its toll instead of going for the home run in one go.

Lloyd's good with his hands. We've known each other since we were kids in Golden Gloves. When he was thirteen, he knocked the shit out of a sixteen year-old on his way to the title. Lloyd can loosen your teeth with one punch and, if he's not satisfied, he'll reach with his bare hands and start yanking.

Victoria used to talk about how Uncle Rob lorded his wealth over her father, Al. Al was a real good man, before the cancer got him and took him away from us. Rob, Victoria said, would swoop in whenever Al's wallet started to get light and offer to help out. He said it in such a way that Al never took a dime from his brother.

Rob had this air about him, she said, like he smelled like roses and everyone else smelled like shit.

That air was gone now; it fled when Lloyd hit him like a Mack truck after Rob opened the door to me.

"I'm going to give you one more chance," I say. "Combination to the safe and password to the account or I let my friend there start cutting, go searching for your heart and pull it out of your fucking chest."

The son of a bitch decides to be a hero and keeps his mouth shut, as if his life depends on it. Time to end it, I think, and nod to Dean. He smiles and takes his knife, puts it against Rob's chest and starts to slice through the cellulite there.

It's a small incision, nothing even close to the shit I've seen Dean do, when Rob starts screaming his head off, giving the combination and the password.

"9 Left, 33 Right, 10 Left, 23 Right! Cuckoo Bird! Cuckoo Bird! Please, don't kill me!"

I tell Dean to stop, nod to Lloyd and he goes to check the safe. When the door opens, I slide off the desk and into a chair in front of the computer. I bring up the account, type in the password and wait a couple of seconds. I drool when I see all the zeroes and ask myself why I didn't rob Rob back when Victoria was mine, back when everything mattered.

BIO:
Christopher Grant is editor and publisher of A Twist Of Noir. His crime fiction appears at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Not From Here Are You?, Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive and The 6S Social Network.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

THE HUDSON COUNTY SPOILS By Kieran Shea


OK, so this one stretches the word count parameters a little...

but it's well-worth it...


THE HUDSON COUNTY SPOILS


When insurance adjuster Donnie Faber strut past Room 17 at the J&P Motorcourt, Polly Reeder was officially shucking the last of her marital vows and giving Ira Tuleshikn the most incredible sexual experience of his life.
Donnie was on his way to the ice machine and it was the couple’s overly loud groaning that stopped him cold. Shared enthusiasms sounded a bit like a Native American war chant in stereo, if there could be such a thing in North Bergen, New Jersey on a Thursday afternoon.
Nuh, nuh, nuh, yuh, yuh….
Donnie grinned. Afternoon delights happen and afternoon delights particularly happen at motels like the J&P. Why Donnie himself had just finished throwing the pipe to on-call dancer from Jersey City over in Room 11. Yeah, the girl took a modest “tip” and maybe she felt a little greasy to the touch, but that piece of poon? Totally worth it. Had that natural red head thing going on and rode like a jockey with a grudge.
A long popcorn fart of a downshifting Kenworth diesel from the highway nearby covered the sound of two bearded men approaching Donnie quickly from behind. As one of the men tapped Donnie on the shoulder, Donnie’s head turn coincided with the second man’s fist making contact. Donnie slammed back into the door with a heavy crunch and slowly slid down onto his ass.
Next a high-pitched shriek came from inside Room 17. There was some frantic pounding above Donnie as one of the men who jumped him repeatedly kicked at the door until the lock splintered. Unable to move, Donnie’s dead weight flopped back into the room landing on top of a discarded black bra, the last bra he’d ever see.
For Donnie the violence played out upside down like an inversion workings of an old film camera. Two bearded men in black cargo pants, black hooded sweatshirts, wearing purple Nitrile gloves stepped over his prone body. The taller of the two raised a pistol and shot Ira Tuleshikn in the head, the loud popping report rolling out over Donnie’s body and into the motel’s parking lot. Multiple small divots of Tuleshikn’s skull sputtered across the motel room like wet, ground chuck and Tuleshikn weaved on his feet for a moment as if drunk before collapsed.
Across the room Polly Reeder voided herself. The sheets were bunched up around her throat and her mouth was a gaping wide tunnel of disbelief as the second gunshot slung the better part of her throat away. A big boned lady, Polly tumbled off the bed with a naked, bloody crash. The third round mowed the top half of her face off just above her eyebrows. Donnie’s eyes flexed and itched with tears.
Another gun appeared from the second man’s waistband. Both men then turned and leveled their barrels down at Donnie. Donnie barely had time to scrunch his eyes shut.
Man, I should have just stayed in my room.
Triggers were pulled.
*
Later that same evening in Secaucus, Ezra Krull sat at his office desk and tossed a paper cup of green tea into a black wire trash bin. His younger brother David sat across from him on a leather sofa. Ezra stared.
“Hezbollah?”
David nodded curtly. “Yes.”
Ezra planted his index finger perpendicular on his desk blotter like the center wedge of a sundial.
“Hezbollah? You’re sure? Here? In New Jersey?”
David Krull shifted uncomfortably on the edge of the couch, “Ten minutes ago I spoke
with our friend at the embassy in New York. He confirmed it and advised extreme caution, if not erasure measures.”
A worried sigh emptied from Ezra’s keg-like chest. He swiveled around in his chair and
stared out the window. David continued.
“I mean, who knew? Tuleshikn? Of all people? I didn’t. You didn’t. He would be the last person anyone would think would be a Mossad agent. The man was studying to be a rabbi for Pete’s sake. His wife…pshht…no prize there, but to be in a motel with a woman like that? Some shiksh? Could he be so flagrantly stupid? I still don’t know why they killed the other man. Wrong place, wrong time I suppose.”
Ezra ignored his younger brother’s assessment of the crisis. His brother meant well but he always was a bit of a fool. A smattering of IDF experience strolling around Gaza checking out the discos and sipping wine and David thought he scrunched the world by the balls. He knew nothing about the real, inner workings of Mossad.
Ezra rubbed his temples. He tried to picture Tuleshkin. The man had been deep like himself, but much deeper. He knew of him but never actually worked with Tuleshkin. There were rumors. Butchered interrogations, unnecessary collateral damage, children mistakenly erased. And with a clear conscience the man decided to pursue rabbinical studies? Now that was what you call compartmentalization.
“Ezra?”
Ezra craned his neck back to his little brother, “Mmm?”
“What do you want to do?”
Ezra checked his watch and cleared his throat. “We must be cautious.”
“Cautious? Yes, of course, but what else?”
“If these men are efficient it makes sense they will come for me too.”
“Then we must be ready. We must protect you.”
“No, David,” Ezra said standing to face his brother, “I will be ready. You—I want you to clean everything up back home—take the steps we discussed. Burn the files, take the cash. You remember what I told you? The plan?”
“Yes, but—what about our inventory here? The wire?”
“I will call Sidenstein.”
“Sidenstein?”
“Yes, he will come and take it.”
David frowned. “I don’t trust that man. He’ll screw us.”
Ezra flopped a hand, “No, he won’t. It’s been arranged and Sidenstein knows that if he even thinks of fucking with me I will gut him and feed his intestines to the dogs. One call from me and he’ll be here at dawn with his men. They will take all of the inventory off our hands. We don’t need to worry about him, Sidenstein will give us a fair price.”
David still looked doubtful.
“Go home,” Ezra said, “Do not go anywhere else. Do not call your girlfriend, do not vary from the agreed upon plans. Pack your bags and leave tonight. I don’t care what flight you are on or what it costs. I will contact you in Tel Aviv two days from now.”
David stood too, his face expectant and hard. “Surely we could take them.”
Ezra barked, “You will do as you are told!”
Later when Ezra observed David driving away from the warehouse, Ezra pulled back the rug to expose the floor safe. He paid extra to have it installed. Ezra’s back hurt as got to his knees and worked the recessed tumbler.
Once the safe was open, he reached down into the cool darkness and lifted out a chamois wrapped Barak SP 21 nine millimeter and four fully loaded clips. Then he reached down again and pulled up an Uzi and four more boxes of ammunition.
These will be fine, Ezra thought. If they come for me they will move quickly and within close range.
Still on his aching knees Ezra slapped a magazine into the Barak and then loaded and checked the Uzi twice. All the familiar motions came back to him. Next Ezra Krull did something he hadn’t done in a very long time.
He prayed.
*
Meanwhile beneath the Hudson River, Stevie and Timmy O’Keefe rode the 11:40 PM New Jersey Transit train out of New York’s Penn Station back to Weehawken. There was a sack of White Castle hamburgers on the seat between the brothers and each held a paper-bagged tallboy of canned beer. Timmy cheeked an onion ring and chewed.
“Fuckin’ Knicks…”
Stevie O’Keefe commiserated, blowing out a curt, wet noise of disgust, “All that money and King and Parrish get worked over by a bunch of third rate hacks? Losers.” Stevie drank deep from his beer again and fished out a burger from the sack. Both men wore heavyweight Carharrt canvas jackets and jeans. Timmy slapped his brother’s arm.
“So, you think about what I mentioned earlier?”
Stevie took a bite of his burger. “Uh-huh.”
Timmy shifted, “I need an answer, man. Soon as we get back, I’m taking the truck and doing this job with or without you, I mean, I can get fifteen guys just like that who’d want in on something this easy. But hey—what’s right is right. I wanted to offer it to my older brother just back to the world first.”
“How’d you hear about this shit anyway?”
Timmy grinned. “So, you are interested.”
Stevie rocked his head from side to side. “Maybe. But I just want to know for who I’m working for, all right? Christ on a bike, Timmy. I’ve been back, what? Three months? Have not heard dick from you and next thing I know you're fuckin’ calling me and saying you got tickets for the Garden. Next thing I know aftre that you’re offering me risk.”
“It’s not risk.”
“Boosting a bunch of copper wire from some Jews up in Secaucus? That's not risk?”
Timmy whispered, “Hey! Keep it down, man, will you? And Christ, man, I only heard about this shit today myself.”
“Still, I got to know who I’m getting in bed with, Timmy.”
“OK, fine. I got the job kicked to me from Tadino. There. You fuckin’ happy now, G.I. Joe?”
Stevie looked at his brother. “Tadino?”
“Yeah. Tadino.”
“Dante Donofrio’s guy? John Tadino?”
“The same.”
Stevie leaned back. “Wow. I thought he was dead.”
“That’s Joey. Joey was the one who got the cancer. This is John. John’s a good guy. Made some good money with him while you were over in Iraq playing soldier. Lately John’s crew has been taking down Koreans and Indians because as they don’t complain as much. Plus the cops could give a rat’s ass about them motherfuckers. And this gig? These Jews? This shit is a whole lot sweeter. Zip security. Bust the gate, crowbar the locks, and we’re in and out in fifteen flat. A blind squirrel could take down these morons. Easily a twenty bill split when it all shakes out.”
Stevie gave it some thought. “Lot of money….”
“Damn right it’s a lot of money. Plus Tadino’s got, like, a whole bunch of other work lined up. Told me about a cigarette thing he’s running from Carolina. Not so many words but, hey, I’m thinking that’s an overture.”
Stevie drank some more of his warming beer to wash down the burger. He read the slogan on the side of the blue and white cardboard burger container: What You Crave. Fuckin’-a right it’s what you crave. No White Castle burgers over in the shit, that was for damn sure.
Timmy probed. “So whatcha think?”
Stevie took another short sip of beer. “And you swear there’s no guards, no dogs, no cameras?”
“Swear on mom’s grave.”
“Bang-bang-bang, just like you said, fifteen flat?”
“Bang-bang-bang. As much wire as we can haul out of there. Straight boost. Unloads like butter, bro.”
Sounded solid. Stevie could use the extra cabbage since his oil change job went kaput after his second tour. What the hell. How bad could it be? Tadino worked for Dante Donofrio and that could lead to bigger and better things. Stevie held out a fist.
Timmy beamed. He pounded his brother’s outstretched fist with his own.
“Coolness,” Timmy said. “Hey. You gonna eat those onion rings or what?”
*
Meanwhile while this partnership was sealed —in a 24-hour Lebanese carryout in Kearny, New Jersey—the Hezbollah motel killers tucked into some garlicky fattoush.
The killers had changed clothes from the bloodbath at the motel. Both men now wore cargo pants and faded Army surplus jackets they bought at a Goodwill store. As they wiped their plates clean they watched a small television on the counter.
The television replayed DVD transfers of Lebanese national football matches, a team who, throughout their close to sixty-odd year history, had sucked balls. After a while one of the killers asked the carryout’s proprietor if he had cable or something else to watch on DVD. This prompted a hot glare from the proprietor who promptly slammed a scuffed disk of Spongebob Squarepants into the player. The character of Squidward in the cartoon sounded pretty angry in Arabic.
Then again so did everything these days.
*
At Newark International Airport, David Krull was doing the cow-shuffle on the boarding ramp—the 1:56 red-eye to Tel Aviv on British Airways. He spoke into a cell phone pressed to his ear.
“Have you left the warehouse?”
“Soon,” Ezra answered on the other end, “I’m finishing up here. I’m running a magnet over the hard drives. I will be leaving shortly. Fifteen minutes.”
David’s voice went high in a fierce whisper, “You haven’t left? Ezra! You should leave now! They could be coming any minute!”
Ezra was calm. He looked down at the Uzi and the Barak SP on his desk. “Tel Aviv, little brother. I will see you there. Two days from now.”
“Ezra…”
“David, have some wine on the plane. Take a pill. Relax, there is nothing to worry about.”
Ezra cradled the telephone on his desk and sighed. His little brother always was such a worrywart. Just like their mother.
Then Ezra heard a noise. His stomach went cold.
Ezra raised his guns.
*
Across the access road from the Krull Wire & Cable the O’Keefe brothers had just finished backing their graffiti covered box truck between a pair of thirty-yard Dumpsters. When Timmy shut off the engine the windows of Krull Wire & Cable lit up with stuttering gunfire. . Timmy’s jaw dropped as he backhanded his brother’s arm.
“Holy shit! Is that?”
Stevie gave his younger brother a disdainful look. Stevie knew the sound from his time over in Iraq. Semi auto
“Straight boost, huh?”
“Stevie, man, I swear to God.”
Seventy yards away a door on the side of the warehouse slammed open and a shadowy figure stumbled out. As the weaving shadow closed the distance between them, it became clear to the O’Keefe brothers that the man’s left arm had been blown off at the elbow like ragged pom-pom.
Timmy whispered, “Jesus….”
The staggering figure spilled to the pavement and a gun clattered at the man’s side. Timmy fired up the truck’s engine again. “Fuck this.”
Stevie put his hand on the steering wheel.
“Wait.”
Timmy’s eyes bugged at his brother.
“Wait—wait?!”
“Yeah. Wait. Listen.”
“Listen to what? What?!”
Stevie’s eyes shifted left, then right, then held center. “No more shots. And you know what else? No alarms, like you said.”
“So?!”
“Look, the gate’s open too. We can drive right in.”
“Let me be crystal with you— so?!”
“So nobody else is coming out of the building, Timmy.”
“Nobody else is coming out of the building?! D’fuck does that mean?”
“It means we should hang tight, see what happens.”
“Hang tight?! See what happens?! Place lights up like Fourth of July Christmas with gunfire and you want to just hang tight, like we’re waiting on some drive-thu?! Are you touched in the head or something?! Cops could be here any minute!”
Stevie reached over and shut off the truck’s ignition.
“Hey!” protested Timmy.
“Timmy, listen! We’re so far off the main highway, trust me, nobody could’ve heard those shots. We’re in fuckin’ Secaucus, man. If by some chance some cops show up, so what? We’ve done nothing wrong. Not yet anyway. We’re just sitting here, minding our own business catching a nap. If the job is screwed, the job is screwed and we’ll both know shortly if that’s the case. My vote is we just hang tight and see who else comes out of the building. See what happens. This needs investigating.”
“Are you crazy? I’m having a heart attack over here, Stevie.”
“Will you just calm the fuck down. Look at that guy. Look at him for a second. Does that asshole look like a thief to you? Big ol’ Ali Baba beard and that red checkered scarf ‘round his neck?”
Timmy gaped through the windshield and squinted.
“Timmy, that scarf is called a Keffiyeh. The fuckin’ hajis wear ‘em over in the shit. And I’m telling you, even from here that gun he dropped? That’s some serious firepower.”
“So what? We should just wait and see who waltzes out of there with a bazooka? All the more reason why we should bug the fuck out of here, man.”
Stevie punched his brother in the arm. Hard.
“OW!”
“You said these guys were Jews, right?”
“Yeah? Ow. So?”
“So that guy over there bleeding out? Clearly looks to me he has an axe to grind.” Timmy’s face pinched. Jesus, Stevie thought, Timmy always was slow on the uptake. He wondered if he was half retarded from all the weed he smoked.
“Fuuuuuuuuuck me.”
Stevie looked back at the warehouse. “Let’s just see what happens, OK? You never know. This gets weird we could be heroes.”
“But I don’t want to be a hero.”
“Stop being such a pussy.”
So the brothers waited. Almost an hour passed. There wasn’t a peep from the building, no movement inside or out, zilch. And no cops showed up. It approached three a.m.
Stevie pulled on a ski mask from the dash and Timmy followed suit firing up the truck. Stevie picked up a red crowbar from the floor of the cab. He climbed out and dragged the dead body behind some oil drums near a chain-linked fence. Then Stevie picked up the man’s gun, checked the magazine, and looped the webbed strap over his shoulder. He indicated to Timmy that he was going in the front.
Timmy clenched his teeth. He eased the truck out from their hiding spot between the Dumpsters and then drove around the side building to the loading bay while Stevie jacked open the front door with a few leveraged crowbar yanks. Once inside Stevie saw what at first appeared to be a reddish black carpet about halfway down the dark tiled hall. He moved closer. Then he noticed the carpet’s warped shape and got a whiff of the hot penny smell. The blood came from under a slightly open door with a brass nameplate on high on its center that read:
EZRA J. KRULL, ESQ.
Stevie toed open the door with his boot. The base edge of the door swung in and crunched against something wet. Peering around the door Stevie saw that the edge of the door had bumped up against the exposed neck bone of a decapitated body of a large male. The sight of the headless body made Stevie jump back slightly. He dropped the crowbar with a chattering clang on the floor.
Stevie had seen his share of wholesale demolition and killing over in theater but this was different. This place was supposed to be normal. It was fucking Secaucus, New Jersey for the love of fuck, a small business warehouse with potted fake jungle plants in the office and less than a mile from your choice of fast food. It wasn’t some open sewer full of screaming maniacs six thousand miles away. Blood and ragged bullet holes were sprayed all over the paneled walls. Stevie figured double head shot must’ve scooped the headless man’s skull clean off—
Stevie shouldered his weapon and wheeled. A second body, dressed identically to the dead Keffiyeh guy outside curled on his side in the corner of the office near a sofa. After a moment or two when Stevie got his breath back, he inched over to where the man lay. The second man didn’t seem to be breathing. When he was close enough Stevie kicked an open wound on the man’s leg just to be sure. No response. Stevie then bent down and picked up the man’s gun from the floor. He looped the weapon’s strap over his other shoulder. Like the first gun he picked up outside, Stevie noticed this gun was well-oiled and clean. By and large hajis may be assholes, Stevie thought, but they sure as shit took care of their weapons.
Vibrations from the warehouse door rising made the office paneling hum. A minute or so later Stevie heard his brother Timmy’s sneakers squeaking in the hall.
“Watch the blood,” Stevie called out.
Timmy braked and peeked around the corner into the office. When Timmy caught sight of the decapitated body he swallowed hard against the surge in his stomach.
“Jesus, Mary Mother of God!”
“Yeah,” Stevie snickered, “Something ain’t it? What? Never seen a headless guy before?”
Timmy looked at his brother, eyes wide beneath the ski mask. “Oh sure. All the time,. yeah. Just last week at the fuckin’ Best Buy they had them lined up, two for one. Jesus, Stevie! No! Fuck no! Never! Jesus! No!”
Stevie palmed a hand in the air. “Be cool, Timmy, all right? It’s almost over. Just pick up that crowbar over there and go back to the loading dock. Start rolling those cable spools into the truck as quick as you can and I’ll be right out to help you. Then we’ll jet and leave all this fucked-up craziness behind.”
Timmy acknowledges this with a vigorous nod. He plucked up the crowbar off the floor and took off scrambling down the hall.
Stevie moved about the office taking in the scene. Man, what the hell happened here, Ezra J. Krull? Must’ve been some bad juju getting settled with these guys coming halfway around the world just to get up in your grill.
Stevie never could get his hands around the whole Middle East thing. You’d think after a few thousand years you’d move the fuck on, share a glass of beer or a joke or something. He tried to read a book on it when he was over there, but it was frustrating and made his head hurt. A briefcase was on the desk full of cash in bundles, foreign and U.S. This was just getting better and better. Then a wet cough rasped in the corner.
Stevie shouldered his weapon and swung around. The second man near the sofa was not dead after all. He came to twitching with eager shivers. Bright blood bubbled out of the wounded man’s mouth and his dark beseeching eyes widened as Stevie leveled his weapon on his heart.
Time slowed. Stevie felt a familiar rush—the gritty electricity of adrenaline jacking in his veins, just like when he was over in Baghdad on patrol. He had a strong sense something was about to happen, that the wounded man across the room and his own destinies were reaching a zenith of sorts. Like a crab, the wounded man’s hand twitched for a black grenade clipped to his breast jacket pocket. A small squeeze from Stevie’s finger pretty much ended it.
Stevie lowered his weapon.
Welcome to Jersey, asshole.

BIO: Kieran Shea can’t stand the hard rain Dylan said was going to fall, yet oddly enough he walks in it for inspiration. He blogs at Black Irish Blarney.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

WANDERING FINGERS By Vallon Jackson


Wandering Fingers

“Take your hand off my ass before you lose your fingers.”

“There’s no need to be like that, I’m only stroking it.”

“I’m warning you...”

“Aaw, stop being a spoil sport, will you?”

“You guys just never learn, do you?”

“OOOWWWW!”

“Problem?”

“Yes, your fuckin’ donkey just bit my hand!”

BIO:

Vallon Jackson is the pseudonym of a published thriller author – probably the worst kept secret on the blogosphere. Occasionally his mind wanders from his latest book...sometimes in odd directions.

HATE POTION By Mark Robinson

Always read the small print...

Hate Potion

‘What’s in this!?’ Holding up the nondescript medicine bottle in his hand.

The therapist shook her head; back against the smashed glass cabinet, a chill in the air from a space where the shops front door used to hang.

‘What did you give me!?’ Dried blood caked to his torn clothing, a harried look in his eyes.

Finding syllables instead of words, the therapist pointed toward her injured husband, slumped and bleeding next to her on the glass-strewn floor.

‘You need to take it back; the antidote, change her back before she does it again!’

Then she recognised the man; that thin band of white skin where his wedding ring used to fit, those swollen red eyes denied of sleep. ‘Your wife.’ She managed, looking once again to her husband for support. ‘She was having an affair.’

‘Ex-wife.’ Nodding his head curtly. ‘You told me this would help get her back.’

The hate potion; ‘How much did she drink?’ The man on the ground, teeth clenched, right arm broken lying awkwardly at his side.

He flung down the empty bottle; ‘All of it!’

In the middle distance a siren warbled ever closer to the scene.

Bringing her shaking hands up to her mouth, the therapist looked from one man to the other; ‘She killed him?’

Grasping onto the counter that stood between them as if his legs were about to fail, his face a conflicting mess of emotion. Shaking his head, unclear to the couple whether he was answering her question or trying to shake the lucid facts from his mind.

‘You were only supposed to administer a few drops.’ Hooking himself to the counter in an attempt to get traction then onto his feet, the therapist’s husband levelled the man’s eye line. ‘That amount of hatred is enough to kill.’

‘Well it worked!’ Body arched against the counter, blazing eyes at the man who, two days ago, had smiled and told him everything would be alright; all he needed to do to get his ex-wife back was to slip a little of this potion into her drink.

‘A drink before bedtime,’ the therapist instructed, her exotic voice slithering across the small shop to him. ‘And, when she awakes again the following morning, the first person she sees will be the target of her pent up hatred.’

Handing over the small nondescript medicine bottle, as her husband checked the keys and rung up the sale on the till.

‘And how will this help me sleep?’ That’s what he wanted, that’s all he had come in for, a little something to help him sleep at night; conventional drugs only seemed to make him drowsy or kept him awake so, when he noticed the little alternative therapy shop at the end of the High Street he thought he would give it a try. What else did he have to lose?

The therapists husband smiled a huge beaming smile of wisdom; ‘Tiredness can only be cured by diagnosing the underlying root cause of the problem.’

Worn down to the state that he could only stand with the additional support of his hands against solid objects; ‘and you think it’s my ex wife? That her leaving me is the underlying cause?’

The therapist couple smiled knowingly.

‘Then why not just give me a love potion so she falls in love with me again?’ He hated Mike, the man who had swept his wife from off her feet, but their daughter Molly thought he was the coolest person alive; as much as he hated her liking him, what his daughter thought mattered to him and so did the people she cared for.

The slim therapist lazily shook her head, braids of dark hair tumbling from her shoulders. ‘Love is forever: if she loved you enough once to marry you, she will always love you. To break the spell cast by her new admirer, you must implant hatred in her mind whenever she looks at him.’

It made sense, only because he was so tired that everything seemed to make sense.

Those sirens getting louder in his ears; his ex-wife unconscious and shackled to a chair for her own safety; the coolest person in the world, unknown to him, still away on that business trip; and these people in front of him, begging him to spare them any more pain. ‘Please, there has to be an antidote.’

Their silence was the reply he feared. He hated himself. So much more than the sudden fatal hatred his ex-wife felt for their little daughter, her blood on his hands as much as on hers.

If it had been the weekend, then he would have had custody of Molly and everything would be okay; their little daughter waking from a nightmare in the early hours and seeking the comfort of her mother’s arms. The knowledge would never let him sleep again for the rest of his life.

© Mark Robinson November 2009.

BIO:
Mark's previous writing has appeared on Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, Sunk Island Review, Microhorror.com, Hackwriters.com, Manchester’s Transmission Magazine, Birmingham’s Raw Edge Magazine, Short Story Library (US), Txtlit.co.uk, Post Card Shorts, Enigma and the Lulu Anthology, Never Hit by Lightning, Edited by Tucker Lieberman & Andrew Tivey.
Forthcoming publications include Powder Burn Flash, A Thousand-faces & Delivered.
Let me know what you think.
Mark.

COINS FOR CHARON By LEE HUGHES

Lee takes a short break from the Osseus Box, with this equally horrific tale...


Coins for Charon


She looked over the counter at the boy and opened her mouth to speak. The boy raised the shotgun and mouthed the word "Sorry." He pulled the trigger giving the woman's co-workers an interactive tour of the inside of her head. The boy, no more than ten set the gun down, lowered himself to the floor and began to rock. His shoulder burned from the kick of the gun.

***

Detective Carter stared across the table. Detective Morris watched from the corner. There wouldn't be a need for good cop, bad cop with a ten-year old. The kid had a goon from social services presiding over the interview, looking out for the boy's best interests. The lawyer was tooling about with his phone. There was no other kin.

Carter sniffed. This was the new world. Its morals had been beaten up with a bat and were now just a contused mess. Carter could no longer accept that old staple excuse of, It's a kid, there must be an underlying problem. There were no underlying problems, some kids were just nut-jobs and no different from adults who went about decapitating heads to fuck neck-holes.

"So, Bobby, you wanna tell me why you murdered your mother?" Carter asked, sipping his coffee.

"I had to."

"You had to?"

Bobby nodded.

"Why'd you have to? Your mum stop you from playing on your Playstation? Something unforgivable like that?"

"No. Nothing like that, she had to die, it was the only way."

Carter leaned forward, meeting the boy's eyes. He couldn't see much in the manner of remorse. "I think you need to explain yourself, don't you?"

Bobby nodded. "He wasn't my dad."

"Who wasn't?"

"The man that she said was."

"That's grounds for a little rebellion, maybe even running away for a few nights. That's not an excuse for turning up at your mother's place of employment and turning her head inside out."

The man from social services cut in with, "Hey, hey, hey, now!" The lawyer still tooled with his phone.

Carter shrugged. He'd only said it to see what reaction he could muster. He didn't get much; the boy's thoughts were elsewhere. "So who did she tell you your father was?"

Bobby drew invisible designs on the table with a finger. "Simon Sinclair."

"And how did you find out he wasn't your dad?"

"When I dug him up."

The room went silent, no one even bothered to breath. Carter raised an eyebrow. "You dug him up?"

Bobby nodded as though it wasn't the worst thing he'd ever done. "I had to see, after I saw those other people visiting his grave."

"Other people?"

"I asked them what they wanted."

"And what did they want, Bobby?"

"Same thing I did, spend a little time with their dad."

"So, your father had some other kids by another woman, still no reason to do what you did." Carter was careful with his phrasing to keep the do-gooder from complaining.

Bobby drew some more designs with his fingertip and muttered something.

Carter leaned in closer. "What did you say, Bobby?"

"They were black."

Carter blew out some air and settled back in his chair, it wasn't something incomprehensible. A woman not sure who the father of her child is decides to take the easy option and blame a headstone in a cemetery on the day the god-awful, but anticipated question came from the kid. How was she to know the colour and creed of the deceased? "So you decided to do a bit of digging?"

"I wanted to know."

Carter picked up the phone. "Do me a favour, send someone out to..." He cupped the phone. "Bobby, is it Fairfield's Cemetery?"

Bobby nodded.

Carter uncovered the handset. "Send someone over to Fairfield Cemetery and check on the grave of a Simon Sinclair." He paused while something was said on the other end. "Yeah, it's important, get someone on it now." He hung up and stared at Bobby. "It's understandable why you did it Bobby," Carter said. "Want to talk about it?" He just wanted to keep him talking.

"Nothing much to say," Bobby said. "I had to know. So, I went and dug him up. He'd been dead eight years but you could tell there was no way he was my dad."

"Then what?" Carter kept pushing.

"He spoke to me."

"The corpse?"

"Yeah. Told me I had to do some things."

"What things?" Carter decided to humour him; it might help in getting to the meat of the whole mess.

"I had to kill my mum."

"Why?"

"So I'd be brought here."

"You didn't have to listen to the corpse."

Bobby looked up, his eyes wide. "I did. I told him things over the years, secret things. He said he was going to tell everyone my secrets if I didn't do as he said."

Carter was beginning to wonder how screwed up the kid was. "So, why'd you have to come here, Bobby? You could have just pitched up at the door and spoken to us without doing what you did to your mum."

"That's not what he wanted. He said shooting mum would strengthen the message. That it would show the fat fuck that things don't stay forgotten for long."

"Who's the fat-fuck, Bobby?" Carter asked.

"A man called Morris."

Carter looked to the corner. Morris had gone pale and was licking his lips. Carter looked back to Bobby. "What was the message?"

"He said to give you this. I had to do it this way as you'd check my pockets." Bobby opened his mouth and pushed his forefinger and middle finger into it. He pushed past the point where he gagged. He threw up on the table, mainly bits of the Mars Bar he'd been given as a snack. He picked out a coin. Through the gunk, it looked golden. Bobby stood up. Everyone was caught in a moment of shock and didn't stop him as he went over to Detective Morris. Morris didn't know what to do other than accept the coin. He was sweating and his hand shook at he took it. Bobby wiped his sticky fingers on his jeans. "Simon says you fucked him over and that now he's back and it's your turn to be fucked."

Morris looked at the coin in his hand, then at Carter before heading for the door. Carter leaned near to the recorder. "Interview suspended at..." He looked at the clock. "Two-Thirty." Carter stood and said to Bobby, "Sit back down."

***

Carter collared Morris storming down the corridor. Morris looked like he wanted to throw up. Carter made sure there was no one in earshot. "Wanna tell me what the fuck just happened?"

"Nothing… Look… I don't fucking know." Morris made to move off again. Carter put a hand to his shoulder. "Something stinks, it might just be the kids sick, but I'm thinking its more. Where's the coin?"

Morris looked in two minds. He dug into his pocket and pulled out the coin. Carter got his handkerchief out and nodded for Morris to drop it in. "That's evidence."

"Look, Jack, you don't think there's anything in this do you?"

"Nope, of course not, a corpse talking to a kid who's just killed his own mother, but we still have to do things by the book." He motioned back in the direction of the interview room. "I'll go get a bag for this. You go sit in there and listen to whatever they're talking about."

Morris looked relieved that he had Carter still on side, he said, "Right." He headed back towards the door.

Carter watched him until he disappeared back inside. He looked at the coin in the handkerchief, he couldn't be sure when but there had been a robbery involving gold coins. Morris had been a part of the investigation, it was years ago. Carter looked at his watch, he had time enough to get an evidence bag and spend a few minutes on one of the computers before returning to the interview.

***

It was hard when you found out that one amongst the ranks was rotten. Carter pushed himself away from the screen and rubbed at his chin. Eight years ago there'd been a burglary of one of the rich houses up on the hill. A gold coin collection swiped. Morris had been the one investigating it. They'd never caught the culprit, and never retrieved the coins. He'd done a quick check on Simon Sinclair. He'd died a week after the robbery. A small time weed-dealing wanna be Rastafarian. Stabbed and left to bleed out in the gutter. Carter's phone rang. "What?"

-Tried ringing the interview room but no one answered. We're at the cemetery now, how can people do this?

"What do you mean, there's no answer in the interview room?"

-No answer, as in no one picked up the phone.

Carter started to run. "So the grave was disturbed?"

-Disturbed? It's bloody empty.

"Shit." He hung up the phone and sprinted through the corridors.

***

Carter flung open the door to the interview room. He was perspiring, the sweat turned icy. The kid was sat in front of his sick. The lawyer was in the corner like a kicked dog, the goon from social services was sat where he had been but now had a puddle of piss about his feet, and Morris was sprawled in the corner with a wide-eyed stare. Blood had made a half-Rorschach design on his white shirt from the wound.

Carter could only stand there and breath heavily for a long time. He started to get himself back together. "Bobby?" he asked.

Bobby swivelled in his seat. "Yeah?"

"What happened?"

"Simon said the fat fuck got just what was coming to his double-dealing ass."

Carter spoke to the goon. "What happened?"

The goon filled the room with a little more pitter-patter of piss as he remembered it, but didn't speak.

Carter looked to the lawyer and decided to not even bother. He went to make sure Morris was dead. He opened Morris's mouth and two sinful gold coins spilled out, shiny with spit.

Carter had never had something like that to explain. Before, there had always been answers. There was no way to explain the debacle, no rational way. As a WPC led the boy away a question came to Carter that he couldn't help but ask, "What secrets were so bad Bobby that you did what you did to keep them so?"

Bobby smiled. "Simon says we're quits, so I'm not telling."

***
BIO:
Lee Hughes's short fiction has appeared on or in, Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9, Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Microhorror, A Twist of Noir, Every Day Fiction, New Flesh Magazine, The Daily Tourniquet, Powder Burn Flash, Blink-Ink and FlashShots. Find out more at www.LeeHughes.net

Friday, 13 November 2009

THE BALLAD OF THE KID by Paul D. Brazill

Paul returns with a belter...

The Ballad Of The Kid

The sun was melting the tar coloured night into morning as we reached the top of the hill. The Kid sat down against the windmill cradling the dying Dog in his arms. I looked out across the fields towards the beach where smoke rose from the burning car. Sirens screamed in the distance, melding with the sound of the seagulls.

The Kid was sobbing and whispering to Dog. I’d spent the last thirty minutes trying to convince him to leave Dog and come with me but it had been futile, like wading through molasses.

‘The police will be looking for us soon,’ I said. ‘You know what will happen if they catch us.’

The Kid nodded, sniffing. I’d never seen him cry before. Not when we killed The Statistics and not even when his parents were burned alive.

I flashed back to two years ago. The emergency services were attending a blaze at a tower block. I’d parked my car and gone to take a look, along with the other rubber neckers. The air was thick with smoke, panic and excitement. I took out my camera and snapped away.

Near me, beside a vandalised post box, looking like a chimney sweep and holding a can of petrol, was a lanky doe-eyed boy of about ten. Beside him was a black mongrel.

I took a bag of peanuts from my pocket and crouched down. The dog yelped and came up to me and started eating them.

‘Dog likes you,’ said The Kid. He stunk of smoke and petrol.

I knelt down and stroked the dog.

‘He doesn’t like everyone,’ The Kid said, his eyes drawn toward the burning building.

‘He doesn’t like me ma and da. They wanted to chuck him out in the rain.’

‘Where are your parents?’ I said, guessing the answer. The Kid nodded in the direction of the fire. Suddenly, a swarm of police arrived and I started to feel edgy.

‘I’ve got to go,’ I said. As I walked away Dog started barking.

‘Dog likes you,’ said The Kid.

And then I had a thought. This could be a great development opportunity for The Project.

‘Do you want to come with me?’ I asked.

‘And Dog?’ answered The Kid.

‘Of course,’ I said and I saw the traces of a smile.

***

I’d started The Project about a year after I was laid off and a couple of months after Bev did a runner. Those times are a bit murky but I think it all started one wan November morning when I was driving back from taking photos of a motorway pile up on the A142.

A tall red haired man was hitchhiking near a little chef.

I remember pulling over - the radio was playing that Pogues Christmas song- and I remember him getting in the car but I don’t remember killing him or chopping him up and putting him in bin bags. As I say, my memory is a swamp these days.

After that, it became a semi-regular thing and I even started recording the details of The Statistics, as I came to know them: hair, sex, age, race, etc.

With The Kid and Dog in tow it made collecting The Statistics even easier. People see a man with a kid and a cute dog and they automatically feel safe. Yes, The Project had been going swimmingly until today when a hippy woman took a screwdriver to me and Dog and scrambled out of the car.

***

The sun was like a gold doubloon, the sky was blue and I felt something I hadn’t felt for a long, long time-sadness. I had to get a move but The Kid just wanted to spend Dog’s last moments on earth with him.

‘Drink this,’ I said to The Kid and gave him the juice laced with sleeping pills that I kept for The Statistics.

I stroked Dog and headed down the other side of the hill to look for a car. I was draped in a dark cloak of gloom. I’d miss that dog.


Bio:
Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England and lives in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
He has had stories in A Twist Of Noir, Thrillers Killers n Chillers, Beat To A Pulp, Out of Ruins and other such classy joints. He can be found stalking Paul D. Brazill at
http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/