Wednesday, 2 November 2011

PICK YOUR OWN PUMPKIN by Chris Allinotte

Whenever I start reading a story by Chris Allinotte I'm on the edge of my seat, not knowing if I'm going to jump up in terror or fall off laughing. Often - it's both. Chris has a great talent for combining gritty crime with poignant emotion; graphic horror with murderous humour.

When we received Pick Your Own Pumpkin for the Hellicious Halloween showcase I clapped like a girl. This story introduces two characters to TKnC that visitors and contributors to my blog's weekly flash fiction challenge The Prediction will be very familiar with.

Ladies and Gentlemen - meet Milton and Blackwood...

PICK YOUR OWN PUMPKIN by Chris Allinotte

"Can we get some more light out here?"

Milton tried again to get the attention of the uniform who was sitting in the passenger seat of his car. The man's face was ash pale.


The man looked up, seeming to finally hear.

"P-Power's out. We radioed for them to bring the big Kliegs and Gennies out, but they're twenty minutes away."

He put his head down, hands gripping the dash. "Jesus, detective. You ever seen..."

"Yeah." Milton nodded, grim. "This one's up there though." He ran a hand through his hair. "But it's all the same crime. Dead is dead."

The officer didn't answer, so Milton crossed the barnyard to revisit the grotesque wall of jack-o-lanterns. Window dressing or not, the killer had gone to a lot of trouble. There were three rows of ten
pumpkins, stacked one on the other, each carved into a goofy grin, sinister smirk, or - most chilling to Al - shock and surprise. Through the little "o" mouths of these last, he got a clear view of the pieces of Mrs. Edna Chalmers inside. The foot stool sized pumpkin that held her head was of the "surprised" variety. A big, wooden handled meat fork was jammed savagely into the side.

Inside each gourd was a chintzy, flickering LED light. Blue, purple and red light glittered off the pools of blood that were overflowing the hollow mouths of the pumpkins. It was the only light in the place.

"Quite the spectacle, huh?" asked Blackwood, coming around the sign that gave the entire scene a hint of black comedy: 'Don't miss our Famous 'Punkin' Chunkin!'

"Yeah," agreed Al. "Anything in the house?"

Blackwood nodded. "Yeah. There's signs of a struggle in the kitchen. Lots of blood in the living room. That's probably where it happened." He looked over at the patrol car. "Where's the kid that called it in?"

"They took him home. He was scared shitless."

"That we'd charge him with trespassing?"

Al stared at John for a moment. "No, John. By the thirty-one pieces of farmer's wife that are oozing onto the ground."

"Oh," said Blackwood. "Right."

John Blackwood was a brilliant investigator, and could deduce huge amounts of detail from the tiniest clue - but his social skills were strongly lacking. Milton thought that it was precisely this low degree of empathy that made John so effective when investigating the sociopathic crimes they'd built their reputation on. Mostly, though, it drove Al crazy.

Running down the line of pumpkins with his flashlight, Blackwood asked, "All the pieces here?"

"Yeah," said Al, "From what I can see. You ready for the old man?"

"He's still here?" Blackwood turned to face his partner.

"Yeah. Out in the barn." replied Milton. "The meds did their best, but he got away on them.

"Alright," said Blackwood. "Let's see what we can get from the body before they take him away."

"Fair enough," said Milton. "Damned flickering is giving me a headache anyway."

They walked toward the barn, following Blackwood's flashlight beam.

"You're quiet tonight." said John.

"Just thinking," replied Milton. "I told the uniform not to get freaked by the details. It's murder. Murder happens every day."

Blackwood stopped. "It doesn't though, Al. Not like this." He looked back at the pumpkins. "For a man to go to such lengths - this was building up for a long while. This wasn't a momentary loss of control."

Inside the barn, which had been turned into a makeshift apartment, there was a ratty looking yellow sofa, a small television, and three large garbage bags. The smell of pumpkin was overpowering. Three battery powered lanterns created a harsh circle of white light near the sofa. Mike Thurgis, an EMT who had been on scene with John and Al more than once, waved them over.

"It was thirty-seconds too long," said Mike. "Me and Rashid had him back for a second, but the damage was done. We're waiting on the ME to come and call the time."

Al looked past Mike to the body on the floor. "He say anything before he went?"

Mike went pale.

"Yeah," he said. "Matter of fact, he did."

Blackwood had his pad out. "Okay - what did you get?"

 "He said Peter Peter. Twice - just like that- Peter Peter." Turning around, the EMT looked in the stall too. "Then he started laughing. That was the end of it. He choked on his own blood, and we couldn't get him back."

Al moved around the others and crouched by the body. The man was wire-thin, but his limbs were ropy with sun-hardened muscle. Blood was drying in dark splotches across his swollen, blue-tinged face.

"What are these blood spots here?" he asked Mike.

"I'm not a dick," said Mike. "You tell me."

The medic lifted the farmer's shirt. Milton exhaled sharply. The man's chest was covered in hundreds of tiny circular scars. Blood was congealing over two of these.

"The meat fork," said Blackwood.

"Yeah." Al agreed. "Seems like Edna'd been poking at her hubby for quite awhile, too. Old Peter here probably just had enough."

Blackwood burst out laughing.

"What? What is it John?" Al stood up.

"You may be a sick bastard, but you've got a sense of humour," said Blackwood, bending down to address the corpse. He looked over at Milton.

"Think about it, Al. All of it."

Al did. After a moment, he shook his head, unable to suppress his own uncomfortable grin. "Sick fuck," he muttered.

"What the hell are you guys talking about?" asked Mike.

Blackwood nudged the body with his toe. "All we have to do is write this one up. Think Hollis would appreciate the short version?"

Milton shook his head. "No."

Mike started to object again, Al held up a hand. "It's like this, Mike:

Peter Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn't keep her,
He put her in a pumpkin shell..."

Blackwood finished, "And there he kept her, very well."


Bio: Chris Allinotte lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife and children.

His work has been featured in many places online, and recently in the anthologies "Novus Creatura" and "Creepy Things".  You can check out more about Chris' stories at his blog


  1. Nice! Natural dialogue and a great ending wrapped up in a creepy childhood rhyme, that not only visually captured the gruesome slaying, but was the perfect finish too. Well done, Chris.

  2. Oh yes. Horror and children's rhymes. Does it for me

  3. Awesome job of setting the scene. I love dark twists in those (already dark) kids tales. This is a keeper.

  4. Always thought that nursery rhyme had a sinister feel to it. Very nicely done.

  5. That scene you created with the pumpkins was just awesome. Could picture it so vividly. The dialogue was very realistic throughout, and way to wrap it all up with the clever ending.

  6. Erin - thanks! I've had rhymes on the brain recently, and some of these early ones are great fodder

    jbramwellslater - thank you, too - the ending "was" the story, at least to start with

    Laurita - this scene was vivid in my mind when I started painting, and a load of fun to build

    Paul - always happy to see a note from you, sir!

    pattinase abbott - I actually never understood that rhyme for the longest time ... now I do from a certain angle

    Sean Patrick - the dialogue between these two is one of the reasons I enjoy writing them so much!

  7. Ha! Blackwell is a distinctive character, I'd love to read more of him. I love how all the expressions of the jackpatterns were different some goofy, others surprised. The introduction to this piece nabbed you well, you are able to flux humor and horror so naturally, this is a beautiful display of horror.

    ps. The second you wrote, Peter, Peter my mind filled in the blanks with the rhyme, but I didn't know if that was the direction you were heading. I was kinda hoping it was, but not because how gruesome is that! I was delighted with the ending. Bravo

  8. Chris -- I just love these guys, could see 'em on their own weekly television show, modern day 'Car 54 Where are you?' Particularly got a kick out of ~

    "No, John. By the thirty-one pieces of farmer's wife that are oozing onto the ground."

    "Oh," said Blackwood. "Right."

    So Allinotte noted, realistic dialog flow and character development with details blinkin' down to the cheesy LED lights. I started reciting when Jodi did and clapped alongside Lily. Ode to Halloween be you. ~ Absolutely*Kate

  9. Chris,

    Enjoyed this immensely, bud. I've read a lot of your stuff, but I have to say, this is my fave to date. Maybe it was the top notch visual scene setting, or perhaps the dynamics between the two detectives, or the cross genre crime/horror mix, or the piss-me-sides ending... Think it was all that and the way it flowed, smoother than silk on skin.

    Give me a nudge when these two guys are back on another case. In fact, please send them here! And, defo get them in a novel, bud.


  10. Delicious.. I was right there.. x