Monday, 31 October 2011

CONFESSIONS OF A JACK-O-LANTERN by Harris Tobias

Harris has been very patient. We've been holding on to Confessions of a Jack-O-Lantern for ages - but all in a good cause. It's the story that inspired the concept of a TKnC Halloween special and so gave birth to this week's horror showcase - Hellicious Halloween.

This story turns the cards on the traditional pumpkinfest. So when you raise you knife later today to slice and gouge - listen to the voices...

CONFESSIONS OF A JACK-O-LANTERN by Harris Tobias


I started life like any garden variety pumpkin—a seed, a blossom, a bee on a flower. I soaked up the sun and sucked nourishment from the earth. I grew round and fat. One by one my siblings were removed until I had the vine to myself. I was fed a special diet and I grew enormous. I was a competition pumpkin destined for the blue ribbon at the county fair.

I don’t know what the boy who raised me used for plant food. It must have been some special mixture of his own invention. It had a strange result. Instead of making me grow in size, I grew aware. My plant fibers became more like nerves and, before the season was through, I could think and feel almost as well as you. I couldn’t speak or see but I could feel the sun on my skin and the rain washing over me. I could sense the days getting shorter and the nights cooler. Eventually frost nipped my vine and the growing season was over. I had grown large but I wasn’t in the same league as the real heavy weights. I must have weighed around eighty pounds. A good sized squash. The biggest pumpkin at the fair that year weighed in at 370 pounds. No blue ribbon for me.

Instead, I was taken to a place where hundreds of my kind were gathered. Bins filled with pumpkins were picked through by eager hands, admired for their shape and size, then sold for purposes unknown. Being as large as I was, I was kept in a special area. Lined up with the other big pumpkins, waiting for a customer to come along and purchase me. It took a few weeks but eventually I was rolled onto the back of a truck and taken to a suburban house a few miles away. There I was rolled across the front lawn and given a prominent place on the porch. I thought I would end my days watching the children play on the lawn and the traffic beyond. I was mistaken, fate had something else in store for me. Here’s where my story takes an unhappy turn.

I don’t suppose you’ve ever been carved. It’s not an experience I’d recommend. Being stabbed repeatedly is bad enough but carving large holes into one's body is especially cruel. Under the supervision of an adult, four demon children began the ordeal. First they cut a large opening in my head. I couldn’t begin to describe the pain that caused. Sawing deep into my flesh until the roof of my skull was pulled free of my body was pure agony. I was close to fainting but my ordeal had only begun. Despite my torture, happy laughing hands pulled on my stem, removed the top of my skull with a yank. It made a sucking sound. I screamed silent screams and passed out but did not die.

Then those same dirty little hands entered my body, diving up to their filthy elbows into my guts. They dug out handfuls of my insides until I was a hollow shell. It was like being pulled apart by jackals. The pain of that hollowing was beyond description. Think of how you’d feel if your lungs and liver were pulled out by demons and you’d have some idea of what I felt. If I could have screamed, I’d have screamed long and loud, but I couldn’t scream, I had no mouth. At least not yet.

Worse pain was yet to come. My tormentors were not quite through with me. A different knife was stabbed into my side repeatedly. In and out, in and out several times until two large triangular holes were sliced into me.The pieces were removed leaving me with crude approximations of eyes. The burning, searing pain of those cuts stay with me to this day. The cutting out of eye holes was so cruel and almost more than I could bear. 

But the ordeal wasn’t over, more slashing ensued and another large piece of my flesh was brutally removed for a nose. A nose. What did I need with a nose? If I had any blood, I’d have bled rivers of it, gallons of it. But I couldn’t bleed. I couldn’t even move. I couldn’t beg them to stop. I had to stand there and take it. Oh the pain, the terrible pain. Did they have no pity? I could never do that to them.

By the time they finished sawing a huge jagged opening for a mouth, I was almost beyond caring. They sawed a crooked toothy rictus which gave my butchered face an evil grin. I looked almost as angry as I felt. My innocence was lost. Was this the reason I grew fat and round and wholesome? I could have fed dozens but instead I was turned into a caricature of a human face, an effigy of a head? For this I was tortured and killed? If I could bleed, if I could scream, if I could run away I might have saved myself but I could do none of those things. I was a dumb thing, a vegetable. I shouldn’t blame the children, but I do.

When I thought there was nothing further they could do to me, they found one more painful indignity for me to endure. The children placed a lighted candle inside my head. It burned, oh how it burned. It hurt with a steady smoldering pain that never let up. Think of a fire in your brain. Imagine your brain slowly cooking and you have some idea of how I spent my last few days. I’m sure I glowed splendid and frightening, but I cooked from the inside and I died.

My pain and suffering were at an end, but I could still think. As my spirit drifted away from the burnt, rotting thing I had become, it should have achieved peace. It should have returned to the earth like all vegetables to be re-cycled and reused. But that peace too was denied me. For while my body did indeed return to the soil, my spirit did not fade. My consciousness continued and it seethed with bitter resentment. I became an angry spirit seeking revenge. Revenge on those ignorant humans who abused me so. Especially on the children, I hated them all.

And so I wait for spring and another growing season. I hang over the pumpkin patch like a black cloud of anger and pain. Maybe I'll slip into a pumpkin seed and grow and fruit again. Maybe my fruits will again become the grinning face you call a jack-o-lantern. Maybe. Only this time I'll be ready. This time I'll bite back.

_______________________________


BIO: Find Harris Tobias at http://tobiash.podbean.com and http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com


Hellicious Halloween - AN UNQUIET SLUMBER by J. Bramwell Slater

Hellicious Halloween opens - and closes - with the creeping Gothic horror of J. Bramwell Slater

Written by an author that knows how to tease, An Unquiet Slumber will tickle your nerves, play with suggestion - and leave you floundering...


AN UNQUIET SLUMBER by J. Bramwell Slater

The Coach & Horses was a large and pleasant Inn on the edge of the Presili Hills, in Pembrokeshire. With beautiful tracts of land that stretched out for miles in all directions, it was in the perfect location for those in search of solitude and respite whilst on the kind of holiday which required some physical effort to enjoy it to the full. The type of recreational travel which rewarded one with some of the most majestic scenery and bracing weather whilst calming the soul of its day-to-day frustrations and clutter.

It was on a night where the wind had taken the valley by force, that there came a large knocking that attracted Samuel, the Inn-Keeper. He had locked up early as it had been clear — since his last customer had left at eight — that there would be no more custom that night. In any case, he reasoned, his sick wife would appreciate the attention he might afford her with a few extra hours to spare.

Samuel, with lantern in hand, pulled back the bolts to the front door and greeted a tall figure clutching at the collar of his coat. With a Methodist compassion, he instantly saw that the man was cold, wet and most probably lost on a night such as this. As the wind battered their faces, he bid him to come inside. Once before the fire, Samuel spoke with the man and asked him his business but although he appeared shaken and somewhat reticent, eventually enquired if there was a spare room for the night that he might stay.

Samuel was a good host and was well respected amongst the local farmers and his other regulars. However, he was also known for his vivid imagination and fondness for telling strangers about the many ghosts he claimed were resident in his establishment. The locals knew it was nothing more than a rouse to attract custom from the curious and the thrill seekers. But it seemed harmless enough, and they forgave his outlandish claims, indulging him on the many occasions that he would tell stories on dark nights around the crackling fireplace.

Eager to entertain his new guest as he tucked in to a hot meal of soup, he told yarns of headless horsemen and grey-clad women who were often known to roam the corridors and yards of the old building. But, undaunted by these recollections, the mysterious guest explained that he was tired from travel and wanted nothing more than to rest for the night. Samuel obliged graciously and showed him to the master bedroom, above the bar at the front of the Inn.

The room was of suitable appointment, having wood paneling; a large double bed; a dresser and fine views out onto the Hills. Samuel wished him a good night and left the traveler about his privacy. Once alone, the stranger wasted no time in making himself comfortable. He washed, undressed and laid down to sleep. The wind ripped violently outside but it made no difference to him as he settled back into the starched white, Welsh linen sheets and duck-down pillows.

Shortly after half past twelve, the man was disturbed by a sound. Not made by the gales that lashed the window, nor by the creaking of boards that follows the cooling after a fire has gone out. These were deliberate sounds and ones which caught his attention from deep within his slumber, raising him up like a shipwreck from the deep. He opened his eyes in the darkness and called out.

“Who is this that disturbs my sleep? Tell me. Who dares come creeping at such an hour? Landlord? is it you?”

There was no answer, so the man rose from his bed, lit one of the candles that were at his bedside and went in search of the source of the disturbance. The wind hissed down the chimney to be let in and at the window: the devil sucked his teeth in defiance at the warmth within. In the corridor beyond, the man stepped lightly over the threshold and was confronted by a crouching figure dressed as a grotesque who rose up before him.

“What is the meaning of this,” he said and the figure quickly removed its mask and holding it nervously - as he realised the error of his actions - he spoke:

“Are you not Philip Loxley?” enquired the figure.

“No, I am most certainly not. How dare you break my sleep with this childish foolishness?”

“Then, you must be: the true owner of this Inn. May God help me,” he cried, and fled away into the dark and down the stairs as though he had encountered a ghost.

The following morning, the man was perturbed and somewhat angry about the precedings and challenged the landlord: asking him why he had tried to fool him and break his night’s sleep.

As Samuel served up a hearty breakfast of cooked bacon and hen’s eggs, he was puzzled by the traveler’s accusations, explaining that it could not have been himself, as he was attending to his sick wife in their cottage at the other side of the stable yard. But, he went on to explain, that one of the stories of the building recounted the tale of Eli Barnes, a former landlord who had tricked the original owner into selling him the Inn and his mischievous ways had followed him through life, getting him into a number of difficult situations.

“Eli Barnes used to play the most outrageous pranks on his guests until one fateful night when his good friend Philip Loxely was staying here. They were well known for their rivalry of practical jokes between them,” said Samuel.

“The rest of the Inn was empty that night, save for this one room (the one you stayed in) and Eli had crept up the stairs looking to frighten his friend. What he didn’t know was that Philip had risen to take a night walk due to the most terrible gut ache. The story goes, that Eli crept in, hoping to scare Philip but instead met a terrible spectre in the room. So terrible was the encounter and so afraid was Eli that he ran back down the stairs, tripped and broke his neck. He was found by Philip, poor man, who sobbed as he ran for help.”

The stranger was neither unmoved nor impressed by the tale, pushed back his chair; paid what money he owed; thanked Samuel for his hospitality and left. His cold manner had not troubled Samuel up to this point but his sudden departure unsettled him. A gentleman such as he would surely have exchanged more pleasant conversation or lighthearted chatter. He felt, for a moment: vexed, that perhaps he had failed to cater sufficiently and that, most possibly, the traveler would go on to tell of the Inn with less than favourable impressions but his worry was soon to be steered a very different course.

Later, as he went to clear the bedroom and collect the towels, Samuel was astonished to find that the bed had not been slept in. In fact, not a single thing in the room had been touched. The towels were exactly as he had left them the day before and the bed was in immaculate order - its sheets untouched by so much as a finger let alone a man who might have slept there.

_______________________________________

Bio: J. Bramwell Slater

Ever since I could hold a pencil I have been documenting the absurd, beautiful, complicated, divine fiasco that is my life so far and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I am an: ex-advertising agency art director, copywriter and son of a plumber. I have taught music; studied to be a driving instructor; am a member of a civil war reenactment society and can get a tune out of most instruments. I've been a freelance cartoonist; a rider of horses and a builder of crystal radios. I have one tattoo, two cats and three beautiful, talented children (as well as a very understanding partner who lets me indulge myself in the selfish world of writing). A brief spell as a broadcaster and radio presenter only underscored the torrent of words and ideas that I had at my disposal.

From an early age I have written children's stories; sci-fi and poetry and even a biography of jazz legend: Charlie Parker. However, it's only recently that I have begun to listen to the inner voices and hone the craft and to facilitate this desire. I am currently studying creative writing at York University. I regularly submit works to competitions and compendiums and in 2010 I had a play that I wrote, performed to critical acclaim in North Yorkshire. I am currently working on many exciting projects including the novel - which simmers nicely thank you. My work in progress explores the relationship between the tyranny of ageing and midlife subcultures. With influences as diverse as Kierkegaard and Camus, new synergies are created from both explicit and implicit layers. I have always been fascinated by the theoretical limits of the mind and as shifting impressions become transformed through boundaried and diverse scenarios, the reader is left with a statement of the inaccuracies of our era. 
Apparently.

I am also bitterly aware of the idea that: to make a small fortune as a writer, one must first start with a large fortune. Perhaps one day I shall win the lottery and with that dream in mind, my ticket remains firmly gripped.


Hellicious Halloween Line-Up

May we wish TKnC visitors and contributors the most hellacious and hellicious Halloween. We have some despicably dark delights for you over the next week.

Thirteen tales of horror by twelve excellent writers - a blend of terror, fear, emotion and humour. You'll find classic gothic versus contemporary urban life (or death); traditional pumpkinistas versus animist tree-atricals.

For once - we're announcing the line-up in advance - so you'll know what there is to look forward to. The first story of each day will be published at 9am. The second at 6pm - UK (GMT) times.

Enjoy, and please support the writers by giving your feedback. Here we go:

31 October 2011:
AN UNQUIET SLUMBER by J. Bramwell Slater
CONFESSIONS OF A JACK-O-LANTERN by Harris Tobias


01 November 2011:
BLOODY TRUCE by Erin Cole
TOBY’S LAST HALLOWEEN PARTY by Keith Gingell


02 November 2011:
THE MONKEY TREE by Sean Patrick Reardon
PICK YOUR OWN PUMPKIN by Chris Allinotte


03 November 2011:
MNF by Absolutely*Kate
HALLOWEEN LOVERS by Phil Ambler


04 November 2011:
WHAT FATE IMPOSES by Patricia Abbott
SMASHING PUMPKINS by Gill Hoffs


05 November 2011:
BACK WHERE I BELONG by Dorothy Davies
THE FACE OF EVIL by Kevin G. Bufton


06 November 2011:
DINNER FOR ONE (OR, THE MAD MORTICIAN OF BRINDLE STREET) by J. Bramwell Slater


Join us...


Sunday, 30 October 2011

ANNIE'S STORY by Graham Smith


Let's all give a warm welcome to Graham on his hard-hitting début...  

Annie’s Story





NOTICE... 


... After an editorial meeting - including the author - 'Annie's Story' was discussed in detail based on initial reactions.  Despite the graphic detail being arguably justified in setting up the unexpected and quite brilliant denouement, it has been agreed by all concerned that the unprecedented step of removing this particular story should be taken.


The comments section will remain open for the purpose of intelligent adult debate...


Discuss...


Regards,
Crime Editor, Col 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

MANCHESTER 6: Six Gritty Crime Stories by Col Bury

It's been too long since we read any of TKnC crime editor Col Bury's startling fiction. Well - THE WAIT IS OVER! 

Col's new e-book MANCHESTER 6, published by Trestle Press is now gracing Amazon's weighty shelves.


These "six gritty crime stories" remind us of the power in Col's words, and why we're all looking forward to the novels with baited breath.

You want to buy a copy? Don't blame you; I bought mine the second it came out.

Download MANCHESTER 6 from:

No Kindle? No problem. Download the free apps for PC, i-phone/pad and android from MANCHESTER 6's page on Amazon.

I just know you're going to love this book.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

LONELY HEARTS by Jeff Jewson-Fleming

It is with great pleasure that TK'n'C welcomes Jeff to its lair with this chilling crime/horror début.

LONELY HEARTS by Jeff Jewson-Fleming 

Harley leaned into the wet shop doorway and sifted what he knew about the creature he was hunting. It had hit town in spring. 


Nightstalker,’ the news called it. It killed solitary night-time walkers, killed them in ways Harley refused to think about, burying the husks of bloodless empty corpses in the woods. It took losers, singletons, people living alone without family, friends or lovers.

The disappearances went unreported until one morning a fallen tree exposed twelve corpses. Harley had worked every nightshift since, carrying a gun. Tonight however, work had become personal.

Tonight Sergeant Grimes had briefed everyone, spelling out each victim’s profile. There were two prostitutes, one spinster librarian, two depressives, a thief, a boyfriendless hairdresser, two jobless men, a failed catholic priest; two unknowns. Grimes paused so the words sank in. Hopeless people; TV dinners, cheap booze, cheaper bedsits, dead end jobs defined them. Harley reddened, knowing he fitted that profile himself - perfectly.

‘Maybe going out late was a form of suicide...’ Grimes ground on.

‘You make it sound like a public service, Sarge,’ someone called. Everyone laughed including Harley though inwardly he squirmed. When Grimes finished with ‘...ultra-careful tonight, folks!’ Harley asked himself why, and had no answer.

***

That was then.

And this was now.

***

‘Jesus, sweet Jesus! I’ve cornered the bloody thing.’

Rain poured inside Harley’s collar un-noticed, for Harley had chased the thing into a dead end alley. First he’d seen it stalk a girl, had seen her expression change as he raced to save her, from fear to something strangely peaceful as she slid, already lifeless onto the wet pavement.

Harley was almost on it when its features morphed into those of the girl. It stepped forward, long blond hair quiescent in the blustery wind, its face softening even in the streetlight glare. Harley had hesitated, mourning the loss of that pretty face. The creature had taken its chance and fled.

Harley fired once - into its back; then chased. Night squalls battered his face; wet tarmac sliding his feet at every turn. At the shopping centre the creature paused, uncertain, before plunging into the alley. Now Harley in his doorway could gasp, regain control of his lungs and smile, knowing the thing was cornered.

He spoke into his radio. Gave his location. Got nothing back. Stopped smiling. The radio was dead.

Awkwardly, gun in hand, heart pounding he opened the battery compartment. Rain poured out. He dried the battery as best he could and replaced it. When the cover stuck, he hammered it closed. The tell-tale remained blank.

‘Why does nothing work?’

But the mute radio only emphasised Harley’s aloneness, his vulnerability.

‘Sod it.’

Harley approached the entrance, peered into utter darkness, knowing he was outlined by streetlights, shouted,

‘I don’t care if you can see me.’

He had hoped to startle the creature into moving but nothing happened. Harley forced himself to take a long sniff, a good lungful of alley. Stale beer and urine; unwashed tramp? Rotting food? Something else? He half-stepped forward and stopped as a new thought jabbed his mind. Shooting the creature in the back hadn’t even slowed its pace. So why had it run? He played his Maglite round the alley walls while he worked on an answer. The walls were cement, sheer - the roof line high, un-scaleable. Okay, the creature wasn’t superhuman, couldn’t even outrun Harley in sodden police boots. Therefore, it must be trapped. He took another pace forward and stopped again.

‘So, why did you run you bastard?’

No reply. Harley, wiping ever more rain from his eyes stared forward, ignored the impossible problem, shone his torch at the few hiding places available in the alley. An overflowing rubbish skip, a dustbin, two cardboard boxes - home on better nights to some tramp. Finally he shone the torch at ground level. There he found something. He found a corpse. 


It looked like the girl’s white blouse and black jeans and a mass of blond hair, but it was a smaller, slighter figure. The gunshot wound showed stark black against her blouse. Harley drew a breath, half sigh - half sob, realising just how dead she was. Both he and the creature had killed her. Solemnly, he knelt at her side.

Close up she looked curiously empty; the bullet hole in her back - bloodless. Gingerly he pushed a finger through the wound and recoiled. The stuff felt like leather. A closer look showed the blouse to be grown into the jeans and the skull resembled nothing so much as a deflated ball. He gagged, put a hand to his mouth and sat down, his back to the alley wall. Water streamed from a broken drain pipe into his jacket, and a voice beside him said,

‘Looks like it shed its skin.’

Harley panicked, spun onto his knees, half slipped, half screamed. He raised the gun, not knowing where to point it.

‘Easy, easy, easy lad.’

Sergeant Grimes’ face hove into the cone of Harley’s Maglite. When Harley just stared Grimes continued.

‘Heard your transmission - close by. Ran all the way.’

He sat beside Harley and pulled a glowing cigarette from somewhere in his uniform, dragging it into easy life.

‘Nasty business.’ said Grimes. ‘You sure it’s trapped?’

He offered Harley the cigarette, which Harley shrugged away. Grimes looked comfortable sitting in a puddle, as if endless years of bad weather nights had inured him to anything. Maybe they had.

‘It’s here, Sarge. I know it. It killed a girl.’

‘You think it mimics them?’

Grimes indicated the discarded skin. Harley - glad someone understood, glad of company, glad Grimes was here - nodded.

‘Here.’

Grimes stuffed a handful of dry tissues into Harley’s hand. Harley - even more grateful, wiped his face and pocketed the sodden mess.

‘How to find it, Harley?’

Grimes, as always, was short on words and strong on point. He pulled out another cigarette and puffed away leaving Harley mesmerised by the match flame, un-flickering in the wind driven rain. Fear became a dead weight inside him. Instead of playing his torch around the alley he stood and illuminated his boss.

‘How did you find me, Sarge?’

‘Heard your transmission.’

‘So your radio works?’

‘Not anymore,’ though the light flashed steadily on the radio on Grimes’ belt.

‘It looks okay, Sarge.’

‘Battery maybe.’

Harley pondered a second and nodded, opened his own radio.

‘Try my battery in yours…Oh…’

He held the opened radio for Grimes to see. He had replaced the battery upside down. No wonder it hadn’t worked. But Sergeant Grimes just nodded and held out a hand for the proffered battery. The hand, like the rest of him looked bone dry.

‘Why aren’t you wet, Sarge? How do your cigarettes stay alight?’

Grimes didn’t even pause.

‘Ah…that’s a mistake isn’t it. Erm.. My appearance isn’t real. The cells of my

body bend photons. More important, Harley… we aren’t lonely.’

‘What?’

Harley was confused by the change of tack. He backed away as Grimes climbed to his feet.

‘It’s not like the papers say. Killing spree? No. We’re all still alive in here.’ Grimes tapped his head. ‘Let me show you.’

Harley stared as the sergeant’s face and body started to change. Soon Grimes’ craggy features became softer; long blond hair, kindly shy eyes.

‘We…’ She stuttered the word… then more strongly, ‘We’re all happy here together. Like a family.’

‘But it killed you…your body is on the road.’

‘I’m glad!’ The words were defiant. ‘I never had friends… companionship...’

The word troubled her like she’d never used it before.

‘I hated everyone. I envied them, and I hated myself for being too stupid to get a man. Now I like me. I’m happy here.’

The dead girl pointed a finger at herself.

‘Me too,’ said a more mature voice as the creature morphed again. ‘I was a librarian for forty years, helping other peoples’ kids to read. Do you know what a librarian is after she retires? Not even a librarian. I need the life I never had, not the life I did have.’

What had been Grimes morphed again and again, each new personality saying the same sorts of things, while Harley almost began to understand.

When Grimes returned, it was a relief, until he proffered his hand to Harley.

‘Take my hand kid. Join us. You don’t need to be alone. Join us - please. All you have to do is want to.’

Harley gazed at Grimes’ hand, needing to grasp it. But he gripped the gun so tightly and shook so much... and the gun fired, and the creature fell. Far too late, Harley dropped the pistol. Sirens wailed, getting closer. He held his hands to his ears, not to keep the sirens out, but his own voice.

Shedding its skin made it vulnerable. Shedding its skin…’ Over and over again like a mantra.

***

Harley was a hero for six days. Afterwards, TV and press and adulation and new friends drifted away. Harley was free again, free of cameras, free of questions, free of everything. By the seventh day he was that solitary figure once more.

And he knew, when he died - he would die alone.


________________


Bio: Jeff was born in the Moss Side slums of Manchester. A dead father and mentally unstable mother didn’t allow for a childhood. He concentrated on schooling and avoiding authority. Destined to be what prisons are for he escaped to the south, made a new life, new friends, and has never looked back. His philosophy - Life is what you make it, grab every day and run!

He has been known to ride motorbikes too fast, attend rock shows, get drunk, play cricket in the park, and will even dance – if it’s a good heavy metal number. He has been thrown out of some really class places, like the museum of the Acropolis, an Egyptian tomb; Ephesus got a bit awkward too, but won’t tell anyone why! He loves old movies, noir and spooky horror, anything monochrome.


Saturday, 15 October 2011

SNUFF MOVIE by Richard Godwin

TKnC welcomes back crime/horror regular, Richard.

SNUFF MOVIE by Richard Godwin.

Frank was half way through a six pack of Becks one Saturday night surfing porn sites when he came across his wife Linda on one of them. He shouted ‘Hey Mamma give it some’ before his head shot towards the screen. The tattoo on the actress’s neck was all too familiar.

As Linda raised her cum drenched face and stared at the camera, Frank put his beer down with a thud and said ‘Fucking whore’. He watched the Becks sizzle and spurt up over the neck of the bottle and felt reality fade.

That evening he became mesmerised by the image of his wife sucking two cocks at the same time and getting fucked in every position imaginable.

Frank was a smart ass who had renamed himself after he got sick of being ridiculed at school. Clarence Faggot was never going to work and so he donned the name Frank Blackjack and stuck to it. When he got fired from the canning factory he set up a blog which he prided himself on for its honesty, when in fact he made cheap tawdry jokes about others and censored any attempt to challenge him. He decided he was a nihilist when in fact he didn’t even understand the term. He was about to get a lesson in its real meaning at the hands of a rampantly priapic Eros. While he thought he was smart Linda thought he was an asshole and humiliated him by appearing in over a hundred porn films while he bragged about his marriage.

That evening as he sat there staring at her betrayal he got up and looked at himself in the mirror.

He was overweight, greasy, and he knew most women would never look twice at him.

And so he planned his revenge.

Linda was chopping carrots when he came through for supper.

He watched her and thought she must have had more pricks in her than a dart board and sat down heavily to eat, filling his fat face with stew and vegetables.

‘Hey how about a fuck?’, he said to her as he let rip a rancid burp.

‘Frank you know I don’t like that talk’, Linda said, standing up and smoothing out the creases in her dress. ‘Besides I got church tomorrow.’

‘So?’, Frank said, and watched her retreat into the kitchen where the loud clatter of crockery told him the evening was at an end.

He went back to his office and sat watching his wife get fucked by an assortment of guys younger and better looking than him. He felt so angry he couldn’t sleep. She’d even got into bondage and seemed to have no limits to the depravities in which she would engage. Frank watched a masked man fuck her and stick clamps on her nipples and remembered the morning he woke to see blood on her nighty. He thought of the school bullies and his real name and wondered if it held an ineradicable mark that others could see.

The next day he put his plan to effect.



He went into Linda’s emails and found one detailing her rendezvous with Tommy the porn director of her latest starring role as Norma the whore next door. He bought a phone and called her from a bar. Disguising his voice, he said he had a job for her.

‘How did you find me?’, Linda said.

‘Tommy told me about you, said you’re the best.’

He hired a studio and bought a second hand bondage hood from a Neo Nazi. On the appointed day he went out on an errand a few hours before Linda slipped out of the house.

When she arrived at the studio Frank had it all worked out, he would buzz her up and stay in the mixing room and watch her through the one way mirror and get her to strip then he’d fuck her and shoot her with his Glock.

Linda buzzed right on the dot. She heard the intercom and walked into the brightly lit studio.

‘Hello?’, she said.

Frank clicked on the mike.

‘Hi Linda, this is a mild bondage film, I’m paying you double, all cash.’

She stood there chewing gum for a while before saying ‘OK’.

‘Get ready’, he said.

Linda began to strip, removing her top and bra and pulling down her tight red leather skirt, wiggling her hips to ease it over her thighs. She pulled down her panties and lay on the bed, putting her purse near her.

Frank stared at her gaping snatch and donned the bondage hood.

He walked into the room and unzipped his pants. Then he stuck his cock in Linda as he pulled the gun from his trousers.

‘I’m gonna watch you squeal bitch’, he said.

And as he looked at Linda he saw something he couldn’t define, a second ingredient in his recipe of betrayal.

There was laughter in her eyes, the laughter he’s witnessed countless times when she’d won an argument with him.

As he tried to decipher the meaning of her look Linda reached into her purse. Frank thought he heard a bird in the room and he felt his neck go warm. He put a hand to his throat and saw how red it was.

Linda was waving something in the air and as the blade swished he pulled out of her and staggered around his studio with a hard on and a bleeding neck thinking of abattoirs.

Linda got up and said ‘Frank you stupid son of a bitch, you ain’t worked for years, how do you think I been paying the rent?’

He saw the studio fade, thinking of his blog, searching for some dialogue and finding only blackness humming in his ears.

‘Welcome to your snuff movie’, Linda said.

She watched him collapse and went for a pee. Then she got dressed and went to her next job. 
_____

Bio: Richard Godwin is a crime and horror author as well as a produced playwright and poet. His work been widely published in many magazines and anthologies, including recently Pulp Ink and Lyrotica. 

Apostle Rising is his first published novel. Detective Chief Inspector Frank Castle never caught the Woodlands Killer and it almost destroyed him. Now many years later and still suffering from nightmares, he is faced with a copycat killer with detailed inside knowledge of the original case. Someone is crucifying politicians, and Castle and his partner DI Jacki Stone enter a labyrinth. At its centre is the man Castle believes was responsible for the first killings. He’s running a sinister cult and playing mind games with the police. And the ritualistic killer keeps raising the stakes and slipping through their hands. The body count is rising. Castle employs a brilliant psychologist to help him solve the case, and he begins to dig into the killer’s psyche. But some psychopaths are cleverer than others. 

Apostle Rising can be purchased at all major retailers as well as online at Amazon, the Book Depository and direct through the publisher Black Jackal Books http://www.blackjackalbooks.com/order

Visit Richard Godwin's website at http://www.richardgodwin.net where you can view a video trailer for Apostle Rising.
 
He conducts popular and searching interviews with writers at his blog http://www.richardgodwin.net/blog

His next novel is due to be released shortly.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Hellicious Halloween

Everybody's doing it; it's that time of year for god's sake. Halloween always brings out the most delicious dark fiction and pumpkin-slicing horror but it slops out a lot of tripe too.

Well we don't want the banal. From 31st October TKnC will publish seven days of wicked beauty - traditional and bizarre fiction - but it must relate to this most inspiring time of year when the veil is thin; when you have to be so careful who you invite in.

You have between now and 25th October to send only your very best Halloween horror to SubmissionsTKnC@Gmail.com - with 'Horror Halloween' in the subject line.

This is for stories of 1000 words or less. Otherwise follow our usual guidelines. Please send your story in the body of the email, not as an attachment. Our doors are open...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

WILD THINGS by Nick Boldock

Nick Boldock returns to TKnC almost a year to the day with his street-wise horror...

Wild Things

Aaron winked at Rob and then opened his coat and produced two cans of Strongbow from the inside pockets.

“Fuckin’ result,” Rob said, grabbing one of the cans and cracking it open in one swift, seamless movement. Aaron had just shoplifted the cider from the off licence round the corner, something they both did several times a week, not just from the one off licence but from any and all of the shops around the estate – even the Tesco Express up by the roundabout, even though that had a security guard. Usually it was just some fat bastard on minimum wage, whiling away the day dreaming of having a proper job, but even if the guards clocked them thieving, Aaron and Rob would be on their toes and away into the back streets, where they would become nothing but vaguely recalled memories on a police statement. Nobody cared enough about the odd bottle of cheap cider to bother trying to catch them after the fact. It was all too easy for lads like Rob and Aaron.

“Need some fucking cigs, man,” Aaron said, producing one battered and lonely coffin nail, “This is my last one.”

You couldn’t nick cigs. They were always behind the counter and that meant the only way to steal them was with outright, brazen, robbery – and neither Aaron nor Rob were stupid enough to get into that much shit for a packet of fags. CCTV was everywhere these days – you’d be in the cells before you had chance to light a match. Shoplifting was one thing, robbery another thing entirely. Fuck that.

You might not be able to nick cigs but you could nick money to buy them, which was even better.

“Need some cash first mate,” said Rob, “I’m skint. Shall we sort something?”

“Yeah. Let’s share this tab and then we’ll get some money and buy some more. Get some more booze as well.”

Aaron lit the cigarette, screwing it into his downturned mouth as if it was life support. This was all they ever did – stand on street corners, smoking cigarettes and drinking cider and working out where – or whom – the next few quid was going to come from. Cornerstones of society they were never likely to be, but what else was there?

As Aaron passed the cigarette to Rob, an elderly man emerged from a house a few yards back down the street, locking the door behind himself. Rob watched the man walk down the path and onto the pavement, his back slightly bent. He wore a suit and an old-looking navy blue tie with some emblem or other embroidered on it. Rob thought he looked quite smart – smarter than most folk around these parts, anyway. He nudged Aaron. “Oi. Check that out.”

Aaron smiled. “Bring it on.”

The old man was walking down the pavement towards them. He walked with eyes downwards – like most folk did on the estate – as if checking the ground for potentially dangerous chasms. As he approached Rob and Aaron he looked up for a second, and nodded in acknowledgement. Rob needed no further encouragement. He sprung forward and grabbed the old man by the lapels.

“Alright Grandad? Why don’t you give us your fucking wallet and nobody’ll get hurt?”

To Rob’s surprise, the old man didn’t recoil in terror and immediately hand over his money, like they usually did. Instead, moving so fast that Rob hardly saw it, he pulled back his hand and slapped Rob hard across the cheek. Rob cried out but kept a hold of the old man’s jacket.

“You little bastards…” the old man started, but his speech was cut short by Aaron’s fist as it smashed into his nose. The old man fell to the floor, almost pulling Rob over as his grip loosened from the man’s lapels. Aaron started kicking, and Rob followed. The old man covered his head with his hands as the two young men rained kicks into his body. With every blow he cried out in pain. Rob bent down and grabbed at the man’s jacket. “Where’s your fucking wallet you old cunt? Give me the fucking money!”

Over the road a lady was pointing over at them and shouting. Two men came out of the bookmakers and she ran over to them, gesticulating over to where Rob and Aaron were mugging the old man.

Rob found the wallet in the old man’s jacket pocket, pulling away from the pensioner as he tried to hold onto it. Over the road, the two men were running towards them. “Aaron… let’s fucking go.”

Rob and Aaron turned and ran, off down the road and into the rabbit warren of alleyways and narrow streets that formed the estate. They heard shouting behind them and picked up the pace, heading down an alley behind a row of empty houses, their trainers slapping the concrete as they ran.

From nowhere, a gate banged open. An old tramp appeared in front of them, blocking their way. His matted beard hung halfway down his chest and his left cheek bore a jagged four inch scar.

“Move out the fucking way!” Rob shouted, glancing nervously behind him. He could hear their pursuers still shouting. They couldn’t be far behind.

The oldtramp grinned. “In bother are we? Come this way.”

He gestured into the gate he’d just come through, half bowing as he did so, like a court jester. The gate led into the back yard of a house that had been empty for years. This whole street was earmarked for demolition by the council, but like all the other projects round this way, the money had dried up – so the houses stood derelict, providing refuge only for local lowlifes, instead of the young families they had once housed.

Rob and Aaron looked at each other, weighing up their options.

The tramp grinned again. “I’d get a move on if I were you, lads. Sounds like you’re about to get done over.”

They went through the gate. The tramp closed it behind them and kicked a brick against it to keep it shut. “In the house,” he said, leading the way, “You can hide in here ‘til the shit dies down.”

There was something about the old homeless man. His eyes – they were the deepest of deep blue, almost hypnotic in their intensity. His gaze was entrancing. Rob and Aaron stepped in through the back door, and as it swung shut they could hear a commotion in the alley as their pursuers ran past, thwarted for now.

Facing them was another tramp, this one clean shaven but with the same piercing blue eyes. “Lads,” the first tramp said, “This is Lenny. I’m Alf. You boys must be wanting a drink, yes?”

He thrust a can of lager at them. “We share here,” he said. “What’s ours is yours.”

Rob and Aaron weren’t going to turn down free alcohol, especially when they’d just left two cans of Strongbow on the street in their haste to run away from at best, a kicking, or worse, a trip down the cop shop. Aaron smiled. “Nice one mate,” he said, taking the can of super strength beer and popping the ring pull. There were four filthy mattresses laid out on the floor in what, Aaron assumed, used to be the living room of the house. He sat down on one of them, raised the can to his lips and took a deep swig, before holding it out to Rob for his friend to do the same.

They sat there for what seemed like hours, chatting to the two tramps who, it turned out, were alright. Rob and Aaron thought the two other men were a good laugh. They told the two lads a string of filthy jokes. They shared another of their cans with them, and then as the darkness began to draw in, Alf produced a handrolled cigarette. “Check this out, boys,” he said, “Northern Lights. Homegrown skunk.”

Rob giggled. “How the fuck does an old tramp like you get hold of skunk then?”

Alf touched the side of his nose with his finger. “Let’s just say we have some sympathetic friends. Some people like to help the homeless in any way they can. Anyway,” Alf passed the spliff over to the two boys, “Since you’re our guests, you can have first go. Like I said, we share here.”

***

Rob opened his eyes. The early morning sunshine was doing its best to break into the house but all that came through the council-erected steel shutters over the windows were a few thin needles of struggling light. The room was still in half-darkness.

He lifted his head from the mattress. His head was pounding. Rob couldn’t remember much past smoking the spliff the two tramps had given them. It must have been strong stuff – everything after that was blank. He hadn’t intended to stay in the house for that long, let alone fall asleep on the grotty mattress.

He hadn’t slept well – his sleep had been punctuated by a series of vivid nightmares. There had been screaming, and blood. Lots of blood. The two tramps, Alf and Lenny, had been in it, and those freaky blue eyes of theirs had been even more intense than before. He remembered something in one of the dreams where those eyes had changed, morphed into dark slits, like the eyes of wolves. Aaron had been in it too. Horrible. Rob supposed it must have been the skunk – shouldn’t have smoked so much of it, should have passed it on sooner.

Rob tried to sit up, but couldn’t. He could move his head, but nothing else. He grunted and tried again. He couldn’t feel his legs. His pulse started to accelerate – was he sick? As he struggled to get his body to work, he heard Alf’s voice.

“So, you’re awake then are you, you little shit?”

“What? What the fuck? I can’t move. Help me.”

“Like picking on the elderly do you?”

Alf leant over Rob’s face, waving a piece of card with a picture on it. It was a bus pass, from the wallet of the old man he and Aaron had mugged on the street the night before. Alf’s face came into focus. There was something wrong with it. His beard was matted with red gunk and there was blood smeared around his mouth and face.

Rob started to shout for help, his body still broken down. He thrashed his head from side to side, trying to wake himself up. This was another nightmare – it had to be.

Then Alf lifted his other hand and he was holding something in that, too. Not a rectangular card this time but something bigger. Something Rob knew well.

Alf lifted up Aaron’s severed head and held it over Rob’s screaming face. Aaron’s mouth was stretched into a permanent scream that would never stop. Bits of fat and gristle hung from the jagged neck below his head. Veins dripped their last remnants of blood onto Rob’s clothes. His screams grew louder as he looked back at Alf, saw his mouth opening and saw inside a set of sharp, pointed teeth that had not been there the night before. They were red with blood – Aaron’s blood.

Rob never heard him move, hadn’t even known he was in the room, but without warning Lenny appeared on the other side of him, hissing into his ear, “We’re the oldest of all, sunshine. You should watch out for the old ones.”

His teeth were the same, wicked and razor sharp, and his eyes – oh God, his eyes – were like a wolf’s.

Rob closed his eyes and screamed again and again as Lenny and Alf fell upon him, their teeth closing around his throat, ripping and tearing, his hot blood spewing out of his neck and down his chest.

Pain, shattering pain, and then, Rob felt nothing more.

Alf and Lenny shared their young feast, and ate well. Outside, the streets looked much the same as they always did, save for the absence of two young delinquents who would no longer be bothering anybody at all.

Bio: More from Nick Boldock at http://www.nickboldock.co.uk

Friday, 7 October 2011

WAR CRIMES, a Noah Milano short story by J. Vandersteen

Jochem Vendersteen's Noah Milano trails through TKnC's filthy streets


War Crimes, a Noah Milano short story by J. Vandersteen


I was behind the wheel of my Dodge Charger, waiting for my target to leave his office. When he showed up I readied my Nikon camera. Michael Bass was a pretty well dressed, gaunt white haired guy. The suit he was wearing looked like a Hugo Boss or something. His laundry service did okay it seemed. Two days ago I was asked to investigate him by the owner of  a deli I frequent, Zlatko Abdic. He came at me with a pretty weird story. He ran into Bass when he was taking his laundry over there and was sure he recognized him as Mikael ‘The Sadist’ Basic. Zlatko used to live in Croatia during the ethnic cleansings. He was sure he recognized Bass as the officer who tortured hundreds of Muslim Bosnians. Seeing him sure as hell brought back some nightmares for Zlatko. Basic had made him drink blood and gasoline, keeping him locked up without food and water for days. If Bass was indeed the person Zlatko thought he was, he wanted to make sure he got his punishment. I frequently do pro-deo work for friends. After coming into his place for four years now I counted Zlatko as one so I agreed to do some investigating for him.


My plan was to get as much evidence about Bass’ real identity as possible, so I figured I’d start out with some good photographs. I shot as many pictures as I could between the time Bass exited his office and entered his car, a dark Ford Fusion. He drove off and I decided to follow along.


 I followed him across Venice to Abbott Kinney where he parked the Fusion and got out. He went inside a coffee shop. I waited in the car for a moment. After fifteen minutes I left my Dodge. If I could get my hands on the coffee cup he’d been using I might get some useful evidence from it for the DA. Fingerprints, DNA, stuff like that. If Bass really was Basic the DA would be interested in getting this guy incarcerated and extradited.


I walked into the coffee shop. It was a small but cozy little place, pop art on the walls. Lots of young kids have fancy coffee. No Bass however. Nowhere in sight.


I walked over the pierced girl behind the counter. I asked if she knew where the white haired older guy in the suit went. She said she saw him go to the bathroom.


“Did he drink something?” I asked the teen.


“No dude, not yet. Said I could get him something after he came back from the john. Hey, he’s taking a long time over there. Are you a friend of his? Maybe you should check if he’s okay?”


I went over to the bathroom. Nobody in there. I checked under the doors of the stalls. Nothing. There was an open window though. Had Bass made me? Was this his great escape? I kicked a stall in frustration. Fucking amateur moves!


I left the coffee shop and entered my car. I drove off to Zlatko, I had at least the pictures to show him.
Zlatko was cleaning a table in his deli with a wet cloth when I entered. He greeted me and I told him I had something to show him. Since we were the only people in we could have a seat at one of the tables.


I showed him the pictures and told him what happened.


“Taking a good look at those pictures there’s no doubt in my mind this is Basic,” Zlatko said. “But what do you think? Did he catch on that you were following him?”


“It looks that way. That means it’s wise not to wait too long before we tell the DA what we know. If we wait too long Basic might go further into hiding.”


“Will you contact the DA?” Zlatko asked.


“Yeah, I know the guy. He hates my guts but I know how to get in touch with him without going through a lot of red tape.”


“Thank you, Noah. If this demon gets his punishment a lot of his victims will be very thankful.”


“Good to hear, Zlatko.”


Zlatko made me a sandwich to go and I went to my Dodge and drove off.


*
Two hours later I was having a drink at Ernie’s, my favorite watering hole when my cell phone rang. I answered it and heard Zlatko’s voice, “Basic is here. He just parked his car! He’s coming in.”


“Take it easy,” I told him. “I’m coming over.”


There was a loud bang and the line suddenly went dead. Fuck, fuck! I had to get over there, pronto!


*
I was lucky that the cops didn’t stop me, because I was putting the pedal to the proverbial metal. I raced over to Zlatko’s deli and parked the Dodge without any regards for official parking spots. Drawing my Glock I left the car and ran over to the deli’s front door. It was unlocked and I entered. Tables were upturned, bottles were broken. On the floor there was some blood. It was clear that a fight had taken place over here. There was no sign of Zlatko. I had to assume he had fallen into Basic’s hands. I could only pray that he was still alive.
*
I drove to Basic’s laundry service. All blinds were closed but I could make out the sounds of washing machines. The door was locked, but several solid kicks broke it from its hinges. I was inside.


Zlatko was sitting in a chair, one arm bound behind him, another arm extended. Basic was holding the arm with one hand. In his other hand he was holding pliers. He was in the process of ripping out one of Zlatko’s fingernails. The washing machines had obviously been turned on to drown out Zlatko’s screams.


“Stop it, you sick bastard! Drop those pliers!” I said, pointing my Glock at Basic.


“Go away, this is none of your business!” Basic told me.


“Help me, Noah! He’s torturing me because he wants me to tell him who I told about him,” Zlatko said. I noticed there was blood running down his temples.


I put Basic in the line of my sight. “Drop it, you sick fuck or I drop you.”


“You’ve got it all wrong!” Basic said.


“I think you noticed me following you around and managed to follow me to Zlatko. You recognized him as one of the men you tortured and decided to kill him before he told anyone about you. When you realized he already might have told people about you, you decided you had to make sure who he told about you so you could set out to kill them too. That means after Zlatko I would probably be next. That kind of makes it self-defense if I kill you.”


“I am not Basic! He is!” The man I was sure was Basic sounded pretty sure of himself. “This man who calls himself Zlatko is The Sadist, not me. He thought he recognized me as one of the men he tortured and wanted to make sure of it by hiring you. I’ve got him now, though. I will pay him back in kind for all he did to me. I will put him through exactly the same torture he put me through.”


That was a dilemma. How the hell was I to know who spoke the truth. Who was I going to shoot? What if this latest story was right. What if Zlatko was the war criminal? The other guy was the guy doing the torturing now. Didn’t that make him just as bad? I got a few nasty flashbacks about the shit I saw my dad’s fixer, Kane, pull. I stood by idly then. Was I going to stand by idly now? Didn’t The Sadist deserve this punishment?


“He’s crazy, kill him!” Zlatko yelled.


“Let me get my revenge!” Bass screamed.


I shot Bass in the arm. He dropped the pliers. I hit him in the face with my Glock. He went down.


“Thank god! Get me out of these ropes,” Zlatko said.


I shook my head. “I’m going to let the cops sort this shit out. Whoever you both are, you’re both sick shits. And whoever I used to be, I’m done with sick shits.” I grabbed my cell and called 911.


*
It turned out Zlatko was indeed Basic. Bass, whose real name was Bolonic, turned out to be not much better than Basic however. The only difference was his war crimes were made for the other side of the conflict. They both were extradited to the Bosnian authorities. I later learned Zlatko / Basic hung himself. Bolonic got himself killed in prison, fighting over a pack of cigarettes. They all got their punishment in the end.


For a long time after that I found myself wondering when I would have to pay for the times I stood by, sometimes even aided and abetted my father’s thugs. I could only hope the good I tried to do would even up the scales enough for me when I had to face my maker.




BIO:
Jochem Vandersteen has been writing for a couple of years now. His first full-length novel White Knight Syndrome is still on sale. He’s also the webmaster of the site that spotlights the fictional P.I.: www.sonsofspade.tk and can be reached at jvdsteen@hotmail.com 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

SCOUSE GRIT by Luca Veste


Luca's back with...


Scouse Grit

3:30am


Shooter lit his fourth ciggy of the hour. He’d just finished telling me how he got the name Shooter when the phone had started ringing and we had got ready to go to the house. The voice on the other end of the phone had told us to sit tight though. Which meant we were still stuck in the fuckin’ van, arses numb, bored shitless and damn tired. Stared at the house, completely dark. No one awake in there probably. All nice and cosy in warm beds. Fuckers. Hoped it wouldn’t be called off, I was growin’ more pissed off with them by the minute.

I wanted to smoke, but I’d given up the week before, so I unwrapped a piece of some nicorette gum and started chewing. Tasted like someone had ground up tobacco and mixed it with sugar. Fuckin’ horrible man.


“Why don’t ya ‘ave a proper smoke kid, ‘stead of chewin’ on that shit. You givin’ up again ya puff?” Shooter laughs to himself a little.

“I’m thinkin’ of me health aren’t I Shooter. Wanna be around when me kids are older.” I replied, feelin’ good about meself in the process.

Shooter laughed a little harder. Kinda pissed me off a bit, but I didn’t dare let that show. I’ve heard stories about Shooter’s temper. Rumour is, he once bit someones nose clean off, but I wasn’t sure if that actually happened. How do you bite a nose off, isn’t there a bone and stuff in it? Anyway, I wasn’t takin’ any chances. I like my nose where it is.

“Look kid.” Shooter says once he’s stopped laughin’. “They say it takes 10 years off yer life, well, the way I look at it, who the fuck wants to live ‘til der 80 anyway? Sat in some shitty nursin’ ‘ome in yer own piss and shit. Not fer me kid. Rather not worry bout that.”

He had me on that one I suppose. Still, I’m shit scared of dying young. And these days sixty is too young in my eyes. That’d mean I was almost halfway through me life now and that’s just shite. Shooter is a lot closer to sixty than me, must be fifty odd by now. Wasn’t about to ask him how old he was though.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. But still, the missus doesn’t like it, won’t let me smoke round the baby so seemed like the perfect time to do it, ya know?” I says. “Fuckin’ hard though, won’t lie to ya.”

It went silent for a while, checked the time again. It’d be getting light soon. Didn’t look like we’d be doin’ anythin’ tonight. Shooter had finished smokin’ by now and was staring at the house through the windshield.

3:50am

“Can’t we stick the radio on or somethin’ Shooter, fuckin’ bored sat here.”

“Nah kid. Don’t want to bring attention to ourselves do we? Only shite on at this time anyway.”

“Well, I need somethin’ to keep me awake. I’m knackered and all we’re doin’ is sittin’ here”

“Phone’ll be ringin’ any minute kid. Just sit tight and don’t worry about it.”

I snorted to meself and tried not to think about me bed at home. Could be laid out next to our Shell by now, instead of sat ‘ere. Mind you, the new baby keeps me up at night anyways, so not like I’d be gettin’ sleep anyhow probably.

“How many kids did you say you had Shooter?” I says, tryin’ to get a conversation started.

“Four kids. Nine grandkids an’ all.”

“Bet dey keep you feelin’ young eh”

“You think I’m old kid, think I’m too old to being doin’ this or somethin’?”

I gulped. I mean actually gulped. I never realised that was an actual thing people did. But the way Shooter had asked that question, made me more scared than if he’d taken the 10 inch knife I knew he kept in his old black leather jacket and put it to my throat. That’s how quickly Shooter can turn. Damn.

“No Shooter, course not man. Just sayin’ ya know…ya got nine grandkids, good for the health and that.”

“Relax kid, I’m just jokin’ with ya. They keep me young yeah, but this job keeps me younger ya know. Even with young ‘uns like you comin’ on board all the time, I’m still the man Connolly comes to if he needs somethin’ doin’ right. I’m fifty-five this year an’ I feel less than forty. I smoke forty a day an’ can still outrun the bizzies anytime I want. I carry a knife I’ve not ‘ad to use in a long time and a baseball bat that’s just for show. People we deal with, know me face and  Lived ‘round Speke me whole life an’ worked for Connolly for most of it. Make enough money to get by quite nicely, probably even buy a nice ‘ouse out Formby way. But I’ll never leave me roots. Keeps me sane livin’ ‘round ‘ere. Gotta nice 3 bed ‘ouse, a missus who cooks me tea every day and me kids all five minutes walk away. So, fifty-five this year…reckon I can do another five years of this shit and retire with enough dough to enjoy meself fer a few more years. Alls good kid. Alls good.”

The phone rang again then. Finally time to go to work. We got out the van, took the bats out from underneath the seats we were sittin’ on and walked to the house. 



BIO:
Similar to some other book reviewers/bloggers, I'm a frustrated writer at heart. Working on a full length novel featuring the character 'Shooter' amongst others... My blog is here (http://guiltyconscienceblog.blogspot.com) reviews, interviews and other stuff. I'm a mature student studying Criminology and Psychology. From Liverpool and The Wirral, half Italian (hence the name) married and with two children...both girls. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

BLEED OUT by Trey R. Barker


TKnC welcomes Trey... 


Bleed Out



While I drink, the music swirls as fiercely as a blizzard but somehow as soft as the snow once the storm was done.  Dave Catney seducing a piano; drums and bass backing him. ‘I Cover the Waterfront.’


Terry hesitates.  Doesn’t want to interrupt the music.  “You shouldn’t be here.”


“Probably.”  I force a laugh.  “Here keeping a beautiful woman safe.”


She mops.  “Yeah, the hordes breaking down my door for cheap booze are overwhelming me.”  Winks.  Dim light from the rear of the bar throws her into a caressing glow.


“That’s why it’s always good to have the poh-poh here.”  I empty the glass.


She leans on the mop.  “Boyd, what’re you doing?  He got out three weeks ago.  Why would he come back here?”


“His final pay check. You owe him forty-seven bucks.”


“Christ. Let it go, it’s been ten years.”


“No, ma’am. Seven and a half. Good time, don’t forget.”


“Boyd….”


“Stacking his good time. Being a good boy, no trouble.  Going to chapel, even.”


“Classes, too, from what I hear.”


“You defending him?”


Sighs, sets the mop aside, touches my shoulder.  A lingering touch.  Closing my eyes, I attempt to ease backward into eight years ago: jazz and the perfume of her candles. 


“I would never defend him. He should have done the full bit…and the ride should have been longer. But the world is what it is. I just try to keep my little part clean and happy.”


Once up a time, her green eyes shimmered like emeralds.  Washed out now, the color of tired leaves.  Slumped shoulders and a slow, pained walk.  But she will always be beautiful. 


“Me sitting here doesn’t make you happy?”  A damned cheap shot.  More for me to lash out than for her to answer honestly.


She listens as Catney’s voice slides smoothly over his piano.  “Hear him? That’s you… standing by the desolate docks in the chill of the night.”


“No docks around here. Besides, that’s not the line I hear.”


She waits.


“Will my lover come back?”


An old question, discovered in the year after the incident.  Made older and more brittle by my constant asking in the years since.


“No, she won’t. The world is what it is and I can’t live in your part of it. Maybe… before. Not now.”


“This wasn’t my fault.”


“Not in the least.”  A melancholy smile plays her lips.  Matches the music and the late hour.


“He attacked me. Disarmed me.”  Can’t stop the glare I know is creeping my face.  “I wasn’t the reason we fought for 14 minutes.”


“I know. You were the victim, but I can’t live with where you ended up. And that was your fault.”


“No, it wasn’t.”


“Yes, it was. Counselling? Different job maybe? We could have moved somewhere warm… Mexico.”  She toys with her empty ring finger.  “I would’ve loved to fade into the sunshine with you.”


“But I chose to stay here.”


“No, you chose to not get better. You marinated in your own anger.”  


“And lost everything.”


“Yes.”  Kisses the top of my head.  “You have your key?  Lock up when you’re done. You can have that bottle, no more.”


“You’re an enabler.”


“A partial enabler. It’s the cross I bear.”


After she’s gone, I finish the bottle quick.  That’s how I drink now… quick and alone.  It’s after four when I slam the back door and stagger down the alley.


Right into him.


“Officer Boyd… as I live and breathe.”


His features are distorted by the amber street lights, but his face is still thin.  So is he.  He hasn’t built-up, obviously not pounding the weights while he was inside.  “Come for your money?”


“My… what? I’m just walking.”  


His laugh isn’t remotely the same laugh I’d heard that night.  Then full of weed, spiked with PCP, cheap beer, surging adrenaline.  This is straight up empty.  


“Just walking? At four a.m.? Whatever.”  I wink.  “Want my gun again?”


“Shit. Mama was right: you are still carrying it.”


My hands clench.  “You took everything I had.”


“Yeah. And everything you was ever gonna have, cop. Oh, wait, not a cop anymore. Fired. Couldn’t hack it no more.  They probably took your gun, too, didn’t they?”


Step into his breath.  “I got you, too, asshole. You’ll always be a convicted felon.”


He laughs; so contemptuous, like he just can’t be bothered with me anymore.  


“Laugh me off, motherfucker, but you still want that gun. Look at your hands. Squeezing like you’re holding it.”  I back up.  Yank out a cheap .38 I bought from a banger. 


Specifically for him.  


Startle him into catching it when I toss.


“You attacked me for my gun. You wanted to kill me. So do it now.”


“You fucking serious? None of that was my fault. It was that bitch. She hit me first. I was stoned.”  Snorts.  “Dude, this is the weakest shit I ever seen.”


Two days before he got out, I went to a gun show.  No mental health background checks.  I didn’t need anything flashy, just something with a punch.


So now I punch.  Seven and a half years later I punch. 


A skinny knee explodes.  Hits the ground hard.  Howl spirals.  Pretty quick the cops will be on their way.  


“I still dream about that fight. I couldn’t eat for days. That’s on you.”


Punch again.  In the gut this time.  Give him an extended, painful bleed.  My initial bleed had been about 14 minutes.  The long bleed started immediately after.


Maybe is still bleeding.


His won’t take that long.  Cops’ll find their old friend dead, unloaded gun in his hand, only weeks out of prison.  They won’t spend much time sniffing it.


And maybe I’ll stop bleeding.




BIO:
I've spent twenty years publishing short fiction just about everywhere, but lately have been doing nothing but flash. My most recent appearances are two each at The Flash Fiction Offensive and Shotgun Honey.  
Down and Out Books is reprinting (ebooks form) my first novel 2,000 MILES TO OPEN ROAD during the holiday crush and the follow up in the spring. I just inked a deal with them for any number of books in the Barefield series.