Monday, 28 February 2011

PREY by J. R. Lindermuth


PREY


They came out of the dark, circling him like vultures honing on the scent of a carcass.

Stan waited, not saying a word, knowing there was naught he could say to dissuade them. He was in their territory. He was outnumbered. He was prey.

The leader approached now, coming so close Stan smelled the man’s sour breath. “You got any money?” the man asked.

Stan shook his head. “I got a proposition.”

“We don’t deal in propositions,” one of the others said with a coarse laugh. “We like money better.”

“Money is what I’m talking about,” Stan told them.

“Whyncha say so? Spit it out, bitch.”

Stan took a deep breath and swallowed. “I want you to…” He hesitated. Could he really do this? The leader leaned closer. He took the lapel of Stan’s jacket between thumb and forefinger. “Nice cloth. Must have cost a bundle.”

“Yeah, he even smells rich,” the other said, sidling up. Whyn’t we just take his wallet? Should be plenty of money. Some nice credit cards. And look at that watch. Who knows what else. Whadya say, Jimmy? Shall we…”

“No, wait,” Stan pleaded. “Let me tell you my proposition. I’ll pay you—much more than what I’m carrying tonight.”

“Go on,” the leader said, interested.

Stan pointed. “See that building. The tall one over there?”

“Yeah. We sees it everyday. So what?”

“The owner—he’s my, uh, competition.”

“Ol’ Ray? You want we should pop Ray?”

“Well, not exactly. You see…”

“So come on, chump. What exactly is it you’re proposin’?”

Stan swallowed. He wished he still smoked. Maybe that would take the edge off his fear. He seldom came down here. Usually he got his rents in the mail. He’d only come down once in the past year. “Like I said, Ray is my competition. I own another building. The one back there—behind you.”

Some of the others turned and looked at his building. The leader kept his gaze fixed on Stan. “So you’re a slum lord, just like Ray. You gouge folks for rent and don’t fix nothin’. Why should we help you?”

The comment irked Stan. He didn’t consider himself a slum lord. He was a landlord. They didn’t understand what it cost to operate a building. They didn’t understand how people complained constantly but were often late with their rent. But he held his tongue. He needed their help. “I’ll pay you,” he said.

“Yeah. You said. So you don’t want us to pop Ray what you want us to do?”

“I want the old bastard dead. But it has to look like an accident. If it looks like he was murdered the cops will be coming down on me. Because we’re in competition… you get what I’m talking about?”

The leader grinned. “I ain’t stupid. So what’s the deal? How much are you offerin’ for us doin’ the deed?”

“Uh, maybe three?”

“Three what?”

“Thousand. Three thousand. That’s what I meant.”

“Make it five.”

Stan nibbled his lip. “That’s a lot of money.”

“Take it or leave it. You don’t wanna pay, do ol’ Ray youself.”

Stan didn’t answer right away. The punk called Jimmy turned and slouched off down the street followed by his retinue.

“Wait!” Stan called.

Jimmy came back, grinning. “Thought you’d see it my way.”

***

More than a week passed before he saw the obit in the paper. Stan had almost given up, thinking they’d taken his down payment of half the money and weren’t going to do the job. He smiled, reading how Ray had apparently fallen down a flight of stairs in his building and suffered fatal injuries. Stan rubbed his hands together in delight. Ray had no family. The building would go up for sale soon. Stan doubted anyone else would want to put in an offer. It would be his. He’d have two buildings. A little adjustment in the rents and he’d have back his money in no time.

There was only one flaw in the situation. He’d promised to go down as soon as he had proof the deed was done and pay off the contract. The thought of it made him queasy in the stomach. But it had to be done. No way he was going to take a chance on cheating them out of their money.

***

They met in the parking lot behind his building. Jimmy and his crew were just as scary as before. But Stan had a little insurance this time. He had the money for them. He also had a .25 automatic in his jacket pocket.

Jimmy took his time counting the money, taking it from the carrier bag and counting it out on the hood of Stan’s car.

“We good?” Stan asked as Jimmy tallied the last bills and stuffed the money back in the bag.

Jimmy handed the bag to one of his crew and grinned at Stan. “We good.”

Stan stepped around him, going for his car.

“What’s your hurry?” Jimmy said, laying a hand on his shoulder.

“I-uh-gotta back up town.”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re a busy man. But first we gotta show you somethin’.”

“What?”

“Inside.”

“In the building?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I…” Stan fidgeted.

“Come on, dog,” Jimmy said, throwing an arm across his shoulders. “It won’t take long.” They herded him along with them into the building. Stan’s mouth went dry. What were they up to?

The foyer smelled of decay, mildew and unwashed bodies. Stan sweating all the way, they went up, up in the old elevator until they reached the top floor.

“What are you doing? Why did you bring me up here?” He reached in his pocket for the comfort of the gun. It wasn’t there. When had they taken it?

“This is your building, right? You been in here before.”

“Of course I have.”

“Well, we wanna show you somethin’. Come on.” They maneuvered him to the staircase leading up to the roof.

“I don’t understand. What’s this all about?” Stan asked as they came out on the roof. The night air was cold and clammy on his face.

“Look over there. See that?”

Ray’s building. There was enough light from the moon and surrounding structures for him to make it out clearly. “Yeah. What about it?”

“Before ol’ Ray had his accident we had us a discussion and came to an agreement. He signed his building over to us.”

“What?”

“Figgered we’d give you a chance to do the same.” Jimmy drew a document from his jacket and waved it in front of Stan’s face. “Give ol’ Stan a pen, Tony.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Yeah. You said that before. Just take the pen and sign where the X is. It says you’re givin’ the building to us for a buck.”

“A buck! Are you crazy?”

“Not the last I looked. Just sign, bitch. I got your dollar right here.” He held up the bill.

Stan took a deep breath and accepted the pen. “I sign if you’ll let me go?”

“Sure. You can fly right out of here.”

This was crazy. These chumps didn’t know anything about real estate or the law. He was being coerced. His lawyer would sort it out. Stan signed and handed the paper and pen back to Jimmy.

“That’s a good man,” Jimmy said. “Now we got us two buildings, boys.” He folded the paper and put it in his pocket.

“I can go now?”

“Sure,” Jimmy said with a grin. “Said you could. Help him out boys.”

Two of them seized him by the arms. “W-what are you doing?”

“Said you could fly, man.”

And they flung Stan off the roof.


BIO:
J. R. Lindermuth is the author of eight novels, including four in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. His short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines, both print and on line.


Being Someone Else (July 2010), Whiskey Creek Press
Watch The Hour (April 2009), Whiskey Creek Press
http://jrlindermuth.com

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Submissions suspended...

... due to overload! But the show still goes on...

Hi Folks,

The editors are overjoyed at the site's growing popularity, but this does mean a couple of changes are necessary.

Firstly, the auto-reply email you receive when submitting should now inform you that we could take up to a month before a decision is made regarding your story. So please query only after the month has expired. Obviously, once the backlog's reduced we expect to be quicker.

Also, to the right is a submissions box - simple traffic light system: green means submissions are 'go', and red speaks for itself.

Finally, we've reverted the word count from 2,500 back to 2,000. However, stories already in the pipeline will not be affected.

Postings will continue as normal, and many exciting new stories await.

Regards,
'Crime Dude' Col

FRANKLIN'S PASS by Patrick Whittaker

Make Patrick feel welcome on his debut with the mystery of...

Franklin's Pass

‘So you didn’t see an armoured van?’ asked a perplexed Inspector Venn.

The foreman sighed impatiently. ‘As I’ve repeatedly told everyone who’s questioned me: no. There’s been precious little traffic and I would have noticed.’

Venn looked along the narrow road. Cutting through a wooded valley, it was flanked by drainage ditches that should have made it impossible for the van to have left the highway here. And yet, according to his information, it must have done.

His men combed the woods but his gut told him they were wasting their time.

‘Excuse me,’ said the foreman. ‘But we’ve potholes to fill.’

The foreman’s team – seasoned navvies one and all - stood beside their tar truck, shovels in hand. Their displeasure at being kept from working was all too plain.

‘Sorry to have held you up,’ said Venn. ‘Please carry on.’

***

Back at the police station, Venn locked himself in his office and reviewed the facts. At 7:06, the van had left London carrying gold worth £7 million. It’s tracking device relayed its position as it headed north - until it reached Franklin’s Pass where contact was lost.

Venn put his feet on the desk and checked his note book. At first nobody had been alarmed. Franklin’s Pass was a known radio black spot. They took it for granted they’d pick up the van again in a couple of minutes. But they didn’t.

He watched CCTV footage. Thanks to an out of town supermarket, he had proof that at 9:37 the van was on its prescribed route and approximately 10 minutes from the pass.

On the other side of Franklin’s Pass, a petrol station kept an electronic eye on the road and captured traffic going both ways. Venn watched that morning’s tape. At 9:50 – about when he would have expected the van to appear – a sports car hurried past. A minute later, a family saloon towing a caravan headed in the opposite direction. And then a minibus rolled by. If the van had reached the pass, the occupants of the minibus must have seen it. He made a note to have the vehicle traced.

After the minibus came a tractor, a bulldozer and a camper van.

And that was it.

Venn picked up his phone. ‘Sergeant Norris, I want the personnel records of everyone in the van and everyone monitoring its progress. If this isn’t an inside job, I’m a monkey’s uncle.’

The workmen filled the last pothole in Franklin’s Pass. Taking pride in their work, they paused to tell each other how smooth the road looked and how well the new tar blended with the old.

‘Well done, lads,’ said the foreman. ‘That’s a job well done.’

As the tar truck lumbered on to the next site, the workmen climbed aboard their minibus. The foreman sat next to the driver. ‘Off you go, Harry, and drive carefully. We’ve had quite enough bother from the police for one day.’

Inspector Venn gave up on sleep. Although his flat was the cosiest of bachelor pads, on nights such as this it seemed too large.

I’m like a bonbon rattling around inside an otherwise empty tin, he mused as he cleared the kitchen table.

From the freezer, he took out packets of convenience food – burgers, faggots, lasagne – and stood them on the table in parallel lines. These represented the steep hills of Franklin’s Pass with their impenetrable trees. A tin of corned beef made do as the armoured van.

Now what else was there? Oh yes. The supermarket. Venn placed his tea caddy at one end of the table. At the other, a carton of milk did duty as the petrol station.
Which left just the road gang (six batteries) with their tar truck (a jar of Marmite) and minibus (half a bar of cooking chocolate).

‘Right,’ he muttered, steering the corned beef past the caddy. ‘This is where you were last sighted. But your tracker says you made it to Franklin’s Pass without mishap.’

Or had they? Supposing the van had been hijacked before the pass and its tracker disabled? Then all the thieves had to do was turn on an identical tracker and drive it along the van’s route.

But if that had happened, why did the thieves effectively raise the alarm by turning off the tracker at Franklin’s Pass?

Simple. To direct attention away from the van’s actual location. In which case, the decoy vehicle would be on the petrol station’s CCTV tape. With computer enhancement, it should be possible to make out its registration.

Of course, the van might actually have made it to the pass. If so, why hadn’t the workmen seen it?

Maybe they had. Maybe they’d hijacked it, forced the guards out, blasted open the doors and hid both the loot and the van. All in the space of 20 minutes.

‘Now you’re clutching at straws, you fool.’

Someone else who couldn’t sleep was the foreman. Despite the risks, he felt compelled to revisit the crime scene.

Parking at the mouth of the pass with his headlights on full beam, he experienced a warm glow as he surveyed the road’s flawless surface and recalled the moment the armoured van had rolled over the tar-covered canvas. He’d caught a brief glimpse of the driver’s shocked face as the ground swallowed him up.

With the van occupying most of it, the hole was quickly filled in. Then the boys had gone to work, resurfacing the road, tamping down the tar and covering it with just enough dirt to make it look old. They’d finished minutes before the police arrived.

Now all they had to do was wait until the heat was off. Then they could safely return to Franklin’s Pass with an excavator and some cutting equipment.

As for the guards in the van: he’d see they got a decent burial. It was the least he could do.


BIO:
Patrick Whittaker is an author, screenwriter & playwright. Find out more here...

www.coldfusion.freewebtools.com

Friday, 18 February 2011

BROWN BAG LUNCH By James C. Clar


We're a few days late, but nevertheless, we're sure you'll enjoy the latest Higa and Kanahele tale just right for valentine's day...

Brown Bag Lunch

“Tell us again what happened, Mrs. Maeda,” HPD Detective Jake Higa instructed the agitated young woman who sat across the desk from him. Higa and his partner, Ray Kanahele, had commandeered a manager’s cubicle on the ground floor of the new Bank of Hawaii Center that occupied most of the block along Kalakaua Avenue between Lewers Street and Beachwalk. Like most days for the past month or so it had rained lightly in the morning but the afternoon brought with it bright sunshine, blue skies, puffy white clouds and light trade winds. The temperature hovered in the low 80’s.
Maeda fingered her wedding ring. She seemed to be looking past Higa and through the tinted glass of the large window that swept in an arc around the front of the building. A small crowd had gathered outside on the sidewalk in response to the police cruisers and uniformed officers who had secured the area in the general vicinity of the bank. Palm trees swayed in what looked, from inside the bank, like a tropical pantomime.
“He had a gun detective. It’s just like I told you already.” Maeda’s lilting voice betrayed just a trace of irritation. Kanahele had earlier fetched the young woman a cup of tea. Both policemen had been concerned about her going into shock. At the very least, her nerves were shot and they were doing everything they could to keep her on an even keel while they pieced together her story.
“We realize that,” Kanahele spoke in his most placatory tone. “The thing is you notice stuff when you’re under stress without even being aware of it. It’s an unconscious thing, right? So every time you go back over the story it’s possible you might remember something else, something that might help us here.”
“And, to be honest,” Higa chimed in quietly with a smile, “my partner and I have had a long day already. Maybe we missed something you told us the first time through. We’re trying to cover our bases here as well.”
As Higa intended, Helen Maeda looked over at the two men with an expression of sympathy, solidarity even. And, in fact, it truly had been a rough day.
“Jesus Christ, Jake,” Kanahele had complained an hour or so earlier as the two overworked and decidedly underpaid detectives left their car where they parked it on Kalakaua Avenue and ID’d their way through the police cordon that had been set up around the entrance to the Bank of Hawaii building.
“This is the third call we’ve answered today. Damn! We haven’t even had lunch yet. All I’ve had are coffee and a couple malasadas.”
“You stopped at Leonard’s on your way in?” Higa’s question had carried the note of accusation.
“Yeah. I didn’t bring you any ‘cause I know you don’t eat them.” The stocky, lumbering Kanahele had been temporarily preoccupied with visions of the sugary Portuguese doughnuts to which he was partial and for which the aforementioned bakery over on Kapahulu was noted. His wiry, health-conscious partner nodded his head.
“Anyhow, isn’t anyone else working today?”
“You know how it is, Ray,” Higa replied. “Pretty much anybody that’s available is here. There was a freeze on time off over the holidays and now, of course, everybody’s using their time before they lose it.”
“Shit, the holidays. Don’t remind me. What a ‘freak show’ that was. You know, reality is twisted enough in Waikiki under normal circumstances. Folks from the Mainland just can’t handle Christmas in Hawai’i Nei. I mean, Santa in a canoe, palm trees with ornaments and hula elves? It overloads their circuits. And I’m not even talking about the homegrown shoplifters, pickpockets, dopers, prostitutes and homeless people who flood the area looking for a little holiday cheer.”
Almost on cue, someone dressed as a giant green frog could be seen waving at and handing leaflets or pocket menus to the hordes of sunburned tourists who walked down the street a block or two from where the two policemen stood.
“See what I’m saying?” Kanahele pointed with an air of vindication. “It’s that new chain Mexican place that just opened in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.  Maybe drugs are the answer. It might be the only way to cope. Anyhow, now we got Valentine’s Day to contend with.”
Kanahele had paused for a moment.
“Listen, Jake, speaking of Valentine’s Day, I’ve been meaning to ask …that is, Maile has been wondering … how’s it going with you and that Nakamura woman. You’ve seen her a few times, right?
Higa stopped and looked down before answering as if weighing his words.
“Yes. We’ve gone out a couple of times … for dinner. Actually, though, I’ve been spending more time with Toshio. He’s a great kid … a special kid.”
Kanahele recalled the young boy and his vivid imagination from a previous case.
“I’m taking it one step at a time, Ray. It’s been a long time since I’ve dated anyone.”
Higa’s wife had left him over ten years ago, just before Kanahele had been promoted to detective and assigned as his partner. In all the time they had worked together since then, Kanahele couldn’t recall his Japanese-American friend taking an active interest in a woman. The fact that the normally stoic and serious Higa had actually asked Mary Nakamura out had been a frequent topic of conversation in the Kanahele hale of late.
“To be honest,” Higa went on to confide, “I’m not even sure Mary is genuinely interested in me. There are times when it seems that what she likes most is the fact that Toshi and I get along so well. I don’t blame her. The boy’s never had a ‘father’ or, really, any kind of positive male role model.”
“Yeah, well, that ‘moke she had living with her … you know, that Eddie dude who disappeared … was a total loser. No doubt. But, listen. I saw they way you two were lookin’ at one another when we were interviewing her. She’s interested alright. She’s probably a little gun shy, too, know what I mean? I’ll talk to Maile. We’ll have the two of you … or the three of you, whatever you want … over for a cookout or something. Maile will be able to tell where thing’s stand. I guarantee. You know I’m right.
Higa smiled. “Thanks, Ray. Let me think about it before you make any plans. OK? We’ve got enough on our plates here today as it is.”
And so the detectives were decidedly glad when Helen Maeda acquiesced without further complaint and launched into her story again.
“I was just about to go to lunch … we stagger our breaks, right … when this young Asian kid, he might have been Filipino, I’m not sure, came up to my position.”
“You said he had shoulder length black hair, a blue tank top and a tattoo on his shoulder, correct?” Higa interrupted before his partner mentioned their own lack of a lunch break … again. “What did the tattoo look like again?”
“It was one of those stylized turtle ‘tats you see on t-shirts and stuff all around here, know what I mean? I think they call them tribal tattoos.” The policemen nodded their heads. Around them, a small cadre of plainclothes and uniformed officers conducted interviews with other bank staff and two or three patrons who were unfortunate enough to have been in the building at the time of the incident.
“Anyhow, the kid was probably nineteen or so – maybe early twenties. I could tell right away that something was up.
“How so” Higa asked? His pen was poised over his battered, black Moleskine notebook.
“Well, for one thing, he was looking around like crazy. He was obviously nervous, hyped up, lolo … you know what I mean? And he kept muttering something about his girlfriend; at least I think that’s who he was talking about. I had to ask him three times what I could help him with. Next thing you know, he starts waving a gun at me.”
“Did you trigger a silent alarm?” Kanahele inquired. “I mean, you must have a panic button.”
Helen Maeda looked down. Her pretty face flushed red.
“Listen, officers. We just moved over here into this building.”
Kanahele nodded his head. “Yeah, sure, I know. I had a day off and my wife and I were in Waikiki. We stopped by for your grand opening celebration.”
Higa looked at his longtime friend.
“They had a band, Jake, out front on the sidewalk. Plus free pu-pu’s. Maile had been doing some shopping.”
Higa shook his head and smiled. The slender man turned back to the frazzled bank teller.
“Mrs. Maeda, I’m not sure I follow. What does that have to do with the alarm?”
“Well, in our old location, the alarm was on the floor. You had to activate it with your foot. Kind of like the high-beams on older cars. Here the thing’s on the inside of the counter, under the lip. And it has a cover you have to pop off before you can push it. That’s supposed to prevent anyone hitting the thing by accident.”
Higa and Kanahele waited for Maeda to continue.
“The thing is,” the young woman stammered, “I was so nervous, I mean, the guy was waving a gun in my face, I only thought of the alarm as he started to walk away. Even then, well, I started searching for the thing on the floor with my foot. I kept kicking the bag that had my lunch in it. It took me a few seconds to remember that, here, the alarm’s under the counter. I think he was already out the door before I tripped it. Listen, we have drills, but I was shaking. I could hardly think. Will I get into trouble because …?”
“Hey,” Kanahele, offered the sobbing woman one of his trademark handkerchiefs. “No worries. You did great. We’ll make sure we talk to you manager, if it even comes up, OK?”
An EMT vehicle passed outside on Kalakaua Avenue; probably called to assist someone stung by a box jellyfish or tossed off a surfboard and onto the rocks. Higa used the interruption of the down-Doppler strain of the siren to refocus the conversation. “Let’s go back to the point when he pulled the gun. What happened next?”
“The kid shoved a paper bag at me, you know, one of those small, brown sandwich bags. He said ‘fill it’ and started looked around like crazy again. I was so flustered I didn’t know what to do first. Anyhow, I dropped it. I mean, my hands were shaking. I felt like I was going to pass out.”
“What did the kid do?” Kanahele interjected.
“Nothing,” Helen Maeda almost smiled. “He was nervous too. I don’t even think he noticed.”
“And that’s when, you know …” Higa prompted.
“Yeah. I guess if I had realized what a chance I was taking I never would have done it. It was like I was in a trance. I did it without really thinking about it.”
“Maybe your training kicked in after all.” Kanahele smiled.
“Sure. The thing is, the kid never looked. He just took it from my hands and bolted out the door. Like I said, I think that’s when I finally hit the alarm. I’m so sorry.”
“Mrs. Maeda,” Higa spoke as he closed his notebook, “you have nothing to worry about on that score. In fact, I’m willing to bet there’s probably a commendation for you in all of this.”
“Listen, detectives, at this point I’d be happy if someone bought me my lunch. I mean, I was planning on going to the bank after work myself. I need some cash. That’s why I was brown-bagging it today in the first place.”
***
“Jesus, Jake,” Kanahele remarked later as the two men left the Bank of Hawaii building and emerged on the street and into the bright, late afternoon sunshine, “I’ll bet that kid was pissed when he opened that bag. Shit. Instead of a sack full of money he ends up with a peanut butter and apple-banana sandwich, some yogurt and an Ito En green tea!”
Higa smiled, almost the equivalent of a laugh for him. “Well, at least he got a healthy lunch for his efforts. And no one was hurt, that’s something. That gun worries me, though. Let’s hope we pick the kid up sooner rather than later.”
Higa paused. “Ray, have you gotten Maile anything for Valentine’s day yet? You know what’ll happen if you forget again this year.”
“I was going to get her some flowers or something after we got off today. Thanks for reminding me.”
“Listen,” Higa suggested, there’s that Teddy Bear World place right next door here. You know, it used to be Planet Hollywood before they went bankrupt. You want to go in and look around? You might find something in there. I don’t mind. It won’t take long.”
Kanahele looked at his partner and arched his eyebrows. Almost at once a knowing expression animated his features.
“Sure thing, Jake. Hey. Maybe you might find something in there too, right? Let’s go take a look.”
***
A few blocks away on the curving path that ran between McCully and Kalakaua Avenue, Charlie Ona sat on a bench and watched the sunlight glint off the surface of the Ala Wai Canal. He tossed a few crumbs into the water and, almost instantaneously, a dozen or so minnows emerged from its depths to start a short-lived feeding frenzy.
Charlie finished his sandwich, crumbled up the brown paper bag that held it and tossed it into a green receptacle emblazoned with the state seal and motto. He wiped his hands on his jeans and un-tucked the long-sleeved t-shirt he had changed into a few moments ago.
Shit, shit, shit … he muttered to himself over and over again as he stood up. He had no idea how that bitch back at the bank had tricked him like she had. Some day he’d go back and teach her a lesson. For now, though, he had more immediate problems. Like, if he didn’t score some money or wasn’t able to swipe something to give his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day, she might just kick him out of her place. Then what would he do? After all, that was the only reason he put up with her raggedy ass.
The gun, Charlie thought as he started walking. Maybe I can sell the gun …
The End

BIO:

James C. Clar's short fiction has been published in print as well as on the Internet. His work may be found in places like The Taj Mahal Review, Flashshot, Golden Visions Magazine, Word Catalyst Magazine, Antipodean SF, Bewildering Stories, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, Static Movement, The Magazine of Crime & Suspense, Weirdyear, Apollo's Lyre. and 365 Tomorrows. Stories featuring Honolulu Detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele have appeared previously here on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers.

Monday, 14 February 2011

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT by Paul Newman



Take it or Leave it


“C’mon, now. You know it’s worth more than that! That’s real gold!” The little man’s voice cracked as he said it.

Mick didn’t give a shit.

“Look at that counter. You see that? Watches! Two dozen fucking watches! I need another watch like I need another heart attack. You want money? Go steal a laptop or something! Twenty bucks; take it or leave it.” Mick pretended to clean the glass showcase but he watched the old man and waited.

While he waited the bell over the door rang. A kid walked in. Late teens. Long hair and shredded jeans and a worn out leather jacket. He was long and stringy, not much meat on him. He carried a hard black plastic guitar case. It still had a price tag dangling from it on a piece of string.

Mick walked over to talk to the kid while the old man made up his mind. He heard the old guy talking to himself as he walked away. “I’m sorry Annie. You know I’d never do it if I didn’t have to...” Mick laughed to himself as he walked away. Who the fuck was Annie? Crazy old bastard.

When Mick got close enough he noticed the kid’s eyes. His pupils were drawn in tight like dots and they didn’t want to focus on anything. He got a bad feeling but it was too late.

The punk reached in his jacket and pulled out a revolver. Its barrel was short and stubby and scarred in places where the paint had worn away. Its handle was wrapped in worn duct tape. His hands shook as he pointed the thing at Mick.

“Gimme the money, Asshole!” He shouted. The words got jumbled on their way out but Mick got the point.

He held his hands way up high and talked nice and slow. “Heh, heh. Calm down now, buddy. Nice and easy. Nobodies gotta get hurt here.” Mick moved sideways toward the counter and the cash register. Nothing sudden. Nice and slow. He pushed a button on the dusty register and a bell rang and the cash drawer kicked open.

The kid seemed to relax, his hand shook a little less and he let the barrel of the gun drop toward the floor.

The old man must have recognized the kid. He shuffled over closer, waving his cane at the punk like a billy club. “Peter? Is that you? Peter Matthews from down the street? What are you doing with that gun? Does your mother know what you’re doing?”

Mick could see from the look on the punk’s face that he knew the old man. It was enough to panic the kid; he dropped the guitar case and started shooting.

Mick ducked down low behind the display case. Glass exploded all around him. He pushed the alarm button and grabbed the sawed-off then looked around the counter. The old man was on the floor. He wasn’t moving. There was a big dark stain spreading on the linoleum underneath him.

The kid looked around like he wasn’t sure where he was or how he got there. He said something to himself, just a couple mumbled words; then shoved the barrel of the pistol in his mouth. He pulled the trigger and slumped to the floor.

Mick heard the sirens already. He moved over to the old man on the floor. He smelled like chicken noodle soup and cheap laundry soap. His face was stuck with his mouth half open like he had one last thing he wanted to say.

Mick reached in the old man’s pocket and took out the watch. He replaced it with two ten dollar bills. After a half second, he reached back in the pocket and took one of the bills back. He went back behind the counter to wait for the cops to show up.

BIO:
Paul Newman's most recent published stories appeared in: Ethereal Tales May/10, Midnight In Hell March/10, and Beat To A Pulp Feb./10. If you're interested, you can find a few more stories on his website
http://www.logicalvoodoo.com/

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

LISITSKAIA'S QUARTER by KEITH GINGELL


Lisitskaia’s Quarter
Lieutenant Grigori Tselikova was in no mood for bullshit after an eight hour drive from  Kemerovo airport on bad roads in a worn out Volkswagen hire-car, and a night getting bitten by dog fleas in a run down pension. Before he even opened his mouth Grigori could sense Yakov Lisitskaia, the area uchastkovyi was full of it, and more than ready to dish it up.

‘So, what brings a Militisya detective to my quarter, Comrade?’ Lisitskaia asked as he finished pouring himself a slug of vodka and prepared to fill a glass for his “guest.”

Grigori placed his hand over the empty glass and leant forward. ‘We’re called Police now and the days of being Comrades are long gone . . . . Comrade Lisitskaia.

The man sitting opposite Grigori appeared un-phased by his aggression. He leaned back and burst into spluttering phlegm choked laughter which terminated in a short coughing fit. ‘Not in these parts, Mr. “Medvedev policeman.” Time goes very slow around here.’ He paused to slug down the vodka. ‘We are 4000 kilometres from Mr Putin’s “new” Russia in one of the most isolated quarters in the federation. There’s nothing around here except Wolves, Bears and trappers.’ Lisitskaia became serious and leaned right across his desk until his fat round unshaven face filled Grigori’s view. ‘So, what the fuck are you doing in my quarter ? . . . Comrade.’

Grigori slapped a photograph of a long haired young man on the desk. ‘I’m investigating the disappearance of Andrei Slavina.’

Lisitskaia ignored the picture.’ Like I said. What the fuck are you doing here.’

‘We know he came to this quarter. This is the last thing we know about his whereabouts.’

‘I don’t know any Andrei Slavina.’

‘You’re the uchastkovyi. He must have come to register his presence here.’

‘Not if he had something to hide.’

‘He didn’t.’

‘Sez, you. Everybody has—‘

‘He didn’t. Look at the picture, Lisitskaia!’

Lisitskaia glanced at the photo. ‘So. You want something from me. We all want something.’ He sat back, crossed his arms and waited.

‘I don’t do bribes.’

‘Then you’ll go back to Moscow empty handed, lieutenant.’

Grigori stood and stretched himself to his full 2.03metres. He picked up his chair and carried it around to Lisitskaia’s side of the desk and placed is very close to him. Then he sat down and leaned his massive body into Lisitskaia’s shoulder and looked ahead.

In a collaborative tone, Grigori said, ‘You know, I think it’s time to let you know where I worked before I became a policeman.’ He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a badge decorated with a KGB emblem and laid it on the desk. ‘Did Andrei Slavina register with you?’

Grigori felt Lisitskaia’s shoulders slump. ‘Yeah, he came in here about three months ago.’

Grigori grabbed the label of Lisitskaia’s uniform. ‘I know that you dog’s turd. I want to know where he went after he signed in. You were supposed to ask him.’

‘He went where all the others went. What’s so special about this guy anyway?’

‘What d’you mean? All the others?’

‘People’ve been coming here and disappearing for years. Didn’t you hear the rumours, Mr. Ex-KGB?’

‘I wasn’t based in Russia.’

‘Yeah, well. Some of your colleagues knew what was going on up there, I’m damn sure about that.’

‘Up where?’

Lisitskaia pointed vaguely to his left. ‘Ostrov-in-the-valley. It’s a settlement from medieval days. Nobody knows where the people came from, but there’s been stories about weird things going up there for generations. It seems to attract all sorts of nosey bastards.’

‘What kind of weird things?’

‘I dunno. Black magic or something like that I suppose.’

‘Hey, you’re the uchastkovyi. Why didn’t you look into it?’

‘You of all people should know that. When I started in this job thirty-five years ago I asked questions, but I gave up on that when I reported the disappearance of a young couple and your “people” paid me a visit. After that all I did was try and talk those idiots out of going there. In the end I gave up on that too.’

‘Why didn’t you ever go and investigate?’

Lisitskaia picked up the Grigori’s KGB badge, then threw it down like it was red-hot. He ran his finger down the four inch scar on his cheek. ‘Why d’you think?’

Grigori started to feel some empathy for Lisitskaia: he had cared once.

‘What is in this, Ostrov-in-the-valley?’

‘I told you it’s a settlement. Houses I guess.’

‘Can you show me how to get there.’

Lisitskaia pushed his chair back and turned it to face Grigori. ‘So you want to go up there and look for this.’ He paused and picked up the photo. ‘This fucking whisker-less hippy? What’s so special about this guy that the Moscow Po-lice want to look for him when nobody gave a shit about dozens of others?’

‘Dozens?’

‘Yeah. Dozens. At least twenty in the thirty-five years I’ve been here and sure as Bears fuck in the forest they weren’t the first.’

‘This case was brought to our attention because he’s from Moscow, that’s all.’

‘Bull . . . . Shit! There’s something special about this guy. I can smell it.’

Grigori knew Lisitskaia had him. How could he tell him Andrei Slavina was the wayward, but na├»ve son of a Politburo minister, and a close relation of Putin, who’d got into Occult and had managed to give his secret service shadowers the slip? Russia had changed in the last twenty years: but not that much.

‘I told you, he’s from Moscow. He’s been reported missing. I’m looking for him.’

Lisitskaia poured himself another vodka and slugged it straight down. ‘Okay, Mr. Moscow, it’s your funeral. I’ll show you the road. It’s a two hour drive, but don’t expect me to wait up for you tonight.’



Two hours on a road barely fit for donkeys brought Grigori to a large sloping clearing in a dark Pine forest. About thirty scruffy wooden houses were spread out in front of him. The windows in all of them were shuttered. Around twenty metres up the road, on the right was a larger building which resembled a barn. A battered ex-Soviet army truck and a horse drawn cart (minus horse) sat along side it. There was no sign of humanity or animals. Grigori stopped his car across the road from the barn and stepped out. There was total silence, not even any bird-song despite it being a fine summer morning. He stretched to un-knot his muscles and looked around, wondering what to do.

Finally, he crossed the road and pushed on the door of the barn. It opened silently. Inside there was a counter, it seemed this place was a kind of general store, but the shelves were pretty much empty and there was nobody inside. He was about to turn around and walk out when he heard a rustle and a sort of whimper come from behind a door which led into a room at the rear the counter. Something told Gregori to take care and he drew his Morakov before slowly entering the room.

He heard a gasp from the right-hand corner. He swung around and saw two men holding a naked young woman on the floor. One man appeared to be in the process of throttling her with a rope. The other was spread-eagled across her, trying to hold her still.

Gregori cocked the gun and aimed it at the men. ‘Get off her: NOW.’

‘It’s not what you think,’ the guy laying over her shouted. ‘We have to do this for the village.’

‘I said, get off her or I’ll shoot.’

‘We can’t,’ the man with the rope said. ‘It’s our only chance.’

The men didn’t appear to be armed. Gregori ran over and kicked the guy on the girl hard on the side of his head. He flew off and lay unconscious against the wall. The other man stared at Gregori and frantically tightened his grip on the half-dead girl’s neck.

‘Let go of the rope or I’ll blow your fucking brains out,’ Gregori screamed.

‘No. Never.’ The guy screamed back.

Gregori fired the Morakov, sending a 9mm bullet ripping through the strangler’s right bicep. He jerked backward and passed out. Just to make sure, Gregori kicked him in the face. He removed the rope and checked the girls pulse. She seemed barely alive.

Within a minute Gregori had the men handcuffed together and hog-tied with the rope they’d been using. He turned his attention to the girl. She was breathing slowly and shivering. He covered her naked body with his jacket and went to his car to fetch the bottle of water Lisitskaia had given him for the journey.

When he returned to the room, he was surprised to find the girl standing naked in front of him. The two men had regained consciousness and were shouting at him to run.
The girl walked up to Gregory and whispered, ‘Thank you, thank you,’ and flung her arms around him.

Embarrassed, he tried to push her away, but her grip became tighter. Her arms seemed to extend and coil themselves around his body several times, gripping him so tight he couldn’t breath. Then he felt a thousand needles pierce his body simultaneously.

The last thing Gregori saw before his life drained away was the terrified faces of the two men he had condemned to death.


Short bio:

I have been writing fiction for about five years firstly as a hobby, but now I am getting serious about it. I have stories published in Volumes 3 and 4 of Radgepacket and one in the upcoming Volume 5. I also have a couple of stories on the Radgepacket website.

Monday, 7 February 2011

NO WORRIES by Chris Rhatigan

Let's welcome Chris on his TKnC debut...


No Worries


The car rolled into the mall parking lot, headlights off. Dmitri took a long slurp of coffee and smacked his lips a few times.

The sound burrowed into Lamar’s brain, rattled around, repeated itself over and over. Lamar curled his gloved fingers into fists. The busted vents in Dmitri’s Geo spewed frozen air and dust.

“So that’s your genius plan? That’s what you couldn’t tell me before?”

“What is wrong with it?” Dmitri said. “It is, what do you call it? A smash and grab?”

Trusting Dmitri seemed like a passable idea when they were guzzling Bud Lights a couple of nights ago. Lamar needed money real bad. Asia, the stripper he was shacking up with, had expensive tastes.

Dmitri said he could get him a few thousand, easy. “You show up Wednesday morning,” Dmitri said. “Five o’clock. You will learn more then.”

Lamar figured that whatever Dmitri had up his sleeve was sketchy. But he figured it would be more along the lines of petty crime.

“Your plan is fucking stupid. That’s the problem.”

“It will work, my friend.” He took another nasty slurp of coffee. Lamar clutched his fists tighter. “I know many others who have done this but in the daytime. We do our work under the cloak of night. See? It is better that way.”

“First of all, the sun is rising. And second, I thought you’d done this before?”

“Not me exactly, but people I know. They tell me how this works.” He drummed on the steering wheel, his smile showing teeth the color of margarine. How he could be so relaxed in this situation was beyond Lamar’s understanding. “You worry too much. You trust Dmitri. Everything will be ok.”

They pulled in front of the automatic doors that led to the food court and Barrister’s Jewelry. Dmitri nearly coughed up a lung when they got outside and hocked a loogie onto the ice. Lamar wondered if Dmitri could go five seconds without making a disgusting noise. The man was like a walking wet fart.

Dmitri popped the trunk. He handed Lamar a sledgehammer. Of course, Lamar thought, he makes the big guy do the dirty work.

“That window. Next to the door. You smash that.”

The wind kicked up the powdery snow, stinging Lamar’s face and neck. He trudged over, planted himself by the window. At least the jewelry store was inside a heated building.

Lamar saw the reflection of headlights as he shattered the window.

He whirled around. A police car circling the edge of the parking lot. He dropped the sledgehammer, grabbed Dmitri’s sleeve and pulled him into the bushes. The cruiser pulled into the lot and shined a spotlight on them.

“The cops do rounds here? You didn’t check that out?”

“This is not a problem.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? What could make you worried?”

Dmitri shrugged. Pulled a handgun out of an inside jacket pocket and loaded it. “You see? I handle it.”

“What is this shit? I didn’t agree to this.”

“You would rather spend twenty years in jail then?”

“It wouldn’t be that long. A couple of years for attempted burglary—tops.”

“Maybe for you. But you do not have the priors.”

“So you think you'll get less jail time by killing a cop? Are you fucking insane?”

Dmitri exhaled, aimed. Lamar couldn’t believe it—he was actually going to do it. He always knew Dmitri was full of dumb confidence. But this?

“Don’t do it, man. I’m serious.”

“Shut up. You are killing my concentration.”

Lamar didn’t have to think about it. He reached behind him and grabbed the handle of the sledgehammer, lifted it from the snow.

He swung and the metal head struck Dmitri’s bony chest. The strike rang hollow like Dmitri had no organs. Sent him flying into the brick wall with a thud.

Finally, sounds Lamar liked. Dmitri colored the snow pink with the blood he coughed up.

Lamar leaned in, whispered, “You worried yet?”

BIO:
Chris Rhatigan’s fiction has been published in A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, Yellow Mama and Pulp Metal Magazine. He also has work upcoming at the brand-spanking-new Pulp Carnivale. His blog, Death by Killing, is all about the world of short crime fiction.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Preditors & Editors 'Best of 2010'... Results...!

Well, it was just nice to be nominated, but from the 32 nominees, I'm flabbergasted to announce that I actually won the 'Best Magazine/ezine Editor 2010'.

I humbly accept this award on behalf of Matt and Lee, as a reflection of the joint efforts we all put into running the site. (Final standings here)

Following on from our win in 2009, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, itself, did really well again, bagging 4th spot out of the 53 nominated fiction-zines. (Final standings here)

Other notable successes were...

Best horror short: Paul Brazill's 'Thump' (TKnC) came 13th out of 62 stories. 'What Doesn't Kill You' (Spook City) by Anthony Cowin finished 8th, and Jodi MacArthur managed two in the top 20 with 'Spindled Souls' (Flashes in the Dark) and 'Pillow Talk' (BEAT to a PULP).

In the other shorts category - Mr Brazill was at it again, making the top ten with 'Anger Management' (Powder Burn Flash). And another TKnC story came in at number 14 - 'Rigor Mortis' by Stephen D. Rogers.

I must add that I can think of many outstanding stories, ezines and editors who were not nominated... so next year let's ensure all your faves are in with a shout.

A massive thanks for all who took the trouble to vote and comment.

Regards,
Col

Thursday, 3 February 2011

WORST IN SHOW By Matt Lavin


TKnC welcomes Matt with this humorous crime tale. 
Enjoy!

Worst in Show 
On the way to Milt Woczniak’s No Fuss Carpet Cleaners, Hattie's head
was full of veal parmesan and puppies. Not Taser burns or bloody
clumps of hair or the smell of sex.

Hattie was bringing lunch for her husband. Italian take-out. For two.
She’d drink gasoline before bringing food for Milt’s receptionist
Ronette. 
That was the excuse, anyway. What Hattie really cared about was her
little dog Ferguson.

“Settle down, Little Boy Blue,” she said as she walked. “We’re almost there.” 
Ferguson was a tea cup poodle, bred with powder blue fur. He yipped at
the cuffs of Hattie’s pantsuit as they walked. 
She found the front door unlocked but an unattended store. She did not
concern herself with Milt’s whereabouts.

“Great,” she said. “We have the place to ourselves.” 
In the middle of the room were two circular stands covered in off
white carpet. One was labeled “before” and the other was labeled
“after.” The before stand was covered in stains—red wine, mustard,
something that looked like blue razz Kool Aid—and the after stand was
immaculate. Just like the winner’s platform at the American Kennel
Club. 
She placed the take-out boxes on the reception counter and guided
Ferguson onto the after platform. “Stay, Ferguson. That’s a good boy.”
She went into her purse and took out her eleven megapixel digital
camera and began to snaps shots of her little champion from all the
most flattering angles. 
Hattie imagined Photoshopping a Kennel Club background into the
background. She hit the review button and went through the photos
she’d taken so far.

“Fudge,” she said, noticing that her camera was low on power. “I
forgot my battery charger.”
Hattie tethered Ferguson to the reception desk and wandered in past
the display where Milt’s slogan was displayed proudly on the wall:
“There’s no mess we won’t stick our nose into.” She went toward the
plastic drapery that separated the supply room from the storefront
area. Milt sometimes kept double-A batteries in back office. 
She
slowed when she heard the echo of giggling off concrete walls. 
Hattie rounded the corner to the image of Milt Woczniak, No Fuss
Carpet Cleaner, sticking his nose into Ronette’s mess. 
“Oh my God!” Hattie cried, betraying her presence to the entwined lovers.
“Sweetie!” Milt said. “It’s not what you think!” 
Her arms flailing, Ronette lunged toward her dress and stockings,
which were hanging haphazardly from Milt’s Roll-o-Matic 5000 office
chair. Hattie backed away. 
“You son of a bitch!” Hattie clutched her chest. “I brought you veal parmesan!” 
She stormed back to the reception area. Ferguson had somehow found his
way onto the desk and was sniffing at the take-out boxes.

“No! Bad doggie!” tears were streaming from Hattie face. “Bad, bad dog!”

She pulled Ferguson away from the boxes. 
Milt emerged from the back room, his naked shoulder and chest showing
under a half-on flannel shirt.

“Baby!” Milt tried. “Oh, baby. C’mon, I know I screwed up. I’m an
asshole, I know it.” 
“Shut up. Just shut your fat face. I swear to God—” 
“But I love you!” 
“I will cut off your fucking dick!”

Hattie searched the reception area for a box cutter, a pair of
scissors, anything. No luck. Finally, she reached for the take-out box and
carried it to the after platform. 
“Not tomato sauce!” Milt cried. “That’s gonna take me forever to clean.” 
“God forbid you do your job for ten minutes instead of grabbing
Lucinda von Carpet Slut’s ass all day.” 
Milt stood helpless as she upended the canister. Marinara flowed onto
the carpeted surface.

A now-dressed Ronette emerged from the store room to witness the
pouring motion. 
“You bitch!” Ronette screamed. “I’m gonna rip your face off!” 
Ronette flew at Hattie in a wild fury. Hattie hands went up in
defense, but her late response was no match for Ronette’s full force
tackle. Both women fell to the floor in a chaotic muddle of hair
extensions, press-on nails, and pink pantsuit. 
“Ladies! Ladies!” Milt said. “Settle down. There’s enough of me for
both of you.”
Ronette tried to find Hattie’s neck with her outstretched hands.
Hattie drove an elbow into Ronette’s midsection. They grappled on the
floor until neither could continue. Ferguson yipped wildly. 
“You stupid whore,” Ronette said, breathing heavily. “He’s divorcing
your ass and marrying me.” 
“Look, ladies,” Milt tried again. “Let’s just calm down.” 
“What?” Ronette glared at Milt. 
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves is all I mean.” 
“Milt. Tell your wife you’re leaving her. Tell her.” 
“I mean, hey, let’s just take things one step at a time, right?” 
Ronette’s grip on Hattie’s hair loosened. Hattie pulled away from the
padded shoulder she’d been attempting, unsuccessfully, to bite into.
They both turned toward Milt. 
“You told me you loved me,” Ronette said. “You’re not leaving her, are you?” 
Hattie saw Milt’s bashful shrug, then looked back at Ronette. She’d
climbed to her feet and was cracking her knuckles.

Hattie stood and brushed herself off. She pulled a red press-on nail
out from a crevice in her suit coat and let in drop lightly on the
floor. “Ronette, you want a hand kicking this guy’s face in?” 
“Yeah, why not?” 
Milt began to back way but soon ran out of floor space. Ronette
reached behind the counter and grabbed the thick, heavy Maglite she
kept for nights when she closed up alone. Hattie brought out her
pocket Taser. 
Ferguson looked left, then right, and left again. No one seemed to
notice his presence. He crept toward the after platform, where the
smell of something irresistible was calling him. In the distance, he
could hear the sounds of a Taser firing, a heavyset carpet wizard
falling to ground, and a Maglite landing blow after blow against soft
human flesh. None of it mattered to Hattie’s little champion. He knew
only the overwhelming truth of veal parmesan.


BIO: 
Contributor Bio: Matt Lavin is a doctoral candidate in English at the
University of Iowa. He has a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence
University in Canton, NY and a master’s degree in American Studies
from Utah State University in Logan, UT. His fiction and creative
nonfiction have appeared in “Boston Literary Magazine,” “Broome
Review,” “Elimae,” “Foliate Oak,” “Paradigm,” and “Prick of the
Spindle.”