Saturday 31 January 2009

REMEMBER by Col Bury

Letter writing can be very powerful indeed...


Dear Charles,

I remember the way you used to stroke my hair, caress my skin and kiss my neck. Yes, I still recall those times vividly. The anticipation, as I waited for you to return from work, the door slamming and the footsteps on the stairs, then the smell of tobacco on your breath (why did you have to smoke?). My heart is palpitating just thinking about it all.How many years did it last? I can’t be sure really, but it was a good while. I did suspect there were others, you know. Remember the time I caught you with Jess? I could see how awkward you felt. And I’m sure you and Lucy had something going on. I knew you too damned well, didn’t I?After it ended, maybe you thought time would make me forget. How wrong you were! Now I have a family of my own, though you'll never see them. How long have you got left in there now? Three years, is it? I believe you’re very sick now. Well, I remember you as being very sick then. You will die where you belong, in prison. Remember my tears? Well, who’s crying now, Dad?


Monday 19 January 2009

PIE by Vallon Jackson

Another short crime story...


Like the 07:25 West Line train I went off the rails.
I didn’t realise but my life was on a steep slope onto jagged rocks and I wasn’t even trying to climb back up.
Now everything was a mangled wreck, and like the shattered train and the bodies inside, there was no way of putting it back together again.
Roxy and I had been married for almost seven years and I thought that things were great between us. She sure put on a good face whenever I was around her. She said that she loved me more than ever and I believed her. The first I knew of her infidelity was when I came home early from a business trip. I was going to surprise her, but instead it was me that got the surprise. It was only afternoon but the bedroom curtains were closed and my business partner, Robert Armstrong’s car was parked outside.
A brave man would have gone right inside and confronted the two of them. But I didn’t. I hid myself in the lonning across from the house and waited for two hours until Robert came out of the front door. He looked flushed and freshly showered, his ginger hair darker than usual. Roxy stood in the doorway and waved and she looked flushed and freshly showered too. She was wearing the silk negligee I bought her for our sixth wedding anniversary.
I gave it two more hours then went inside. Roxy kissed me and asked how the trip had gone. I told her I was tired and just wanted to go to bed. She came with me and we lay side by side. She tried to tuck in beside me but I moved away: I could smell his stink on her.
I didn’t sleep. I suspect that Roxy didn’t either but we didn’t speak about it.
Next day at work I saw Robert. I wanted to smash him in the face with something heavy. But I didn’t. Robert was a big guy and he’d have eaten me alive. Instead, I told him all about the business trip and how I’d won the contract we’d been after. He congratulated me. I asked him what he’d been busy with while I was away. Just a little project I’ve been looking at for a while, he said. You know me: I like my fingers in a few different pies.
Yeah, well that was my pie he was dipping into.
As the weeks passed, it seemed like Robert was wangling it so I made more and more trips into the capital. He had other things he wanted to get on with. And he trusted me to do the right thing. The bastard.
Each time I came home, I could smell him on the sheets and on my wife. I even checked the plughole in the shower and I know as sure as hell that I’m not red down there. The curly hair wasn’t Roxy’s either, for some reason she’d taken to shaving herself bare. It wasn’t a preference of mine. Robert was a fan, though.
On the eve of my seventh wedding anniversary I hit bottom. I came home and found Robert’s car in my drive this time. He was moving in, trying to take everything that belonged to me – even my frigging parking space.
Again I waited in the lonning across the way. Waited until he’d gone. He didn’t stay late because he had an early start the next morning. I knew because I’d made his travel arrangements. I booked him on the train because he liked a drink after business was concluded and couldn’t drive back.
I didn’t sleep again that night. Roxy slept like a baby, though. We got up early because we were going out to celebrate seven glorious years together. We took Roxy’s car but I drove. Roxy wasn’t capable, considering I’d crushed her face with an iron bar.
We arrived at the crossing at 07.25. The West Line train would be pulling out of the station a few miles away and picking up speed as it hurtled toward its final destination. It gave me just long enough to park Roxy’s car astride the line, and then manoeuvre her across into the driving position. I knocked the car out of gear, then revved the throttle so that the engine became flooded with fuel. I was clever, I made sure that the seat was far enough forward and that the mirror was tilted for Roxy, and that I cleaned my fingerprints from the steering wheel. I made sure that her prints were the last ones on the electric window button and on the door handles. Then I smacked her face hard against the steering wheel to make a good blood spatter on the windscreen.
I stood and watched until the 07.25 rocketed into view. The barriers dropped, but they were useless being either side of Roxy’s car. When the train hit, her car went to pieces and so did Roxy. All my precautions were probably for nothing, but I wasn’t about to take the chance some sharp-eyed CSI investigator would see through the tragedy. The train didn’t fare much better. It caromed off the rails, rolling against an embankment and splitting apart. The carriages concertinaed and some went airborne. The wreckage and the dead were strewn across the fields. No one was moving.
I was just about to turn away when my phone bleeped.
It was a voice mail message from Robert.
Meeting’s cancelled, he said, something more important has come up and I’ve had to stay home. Sorry about the inconvenience. I guess it’s too late to get a refund on the train tickets, huh? You know me: I’ve got my fingers in too many pies at once.

GREEK FIRE by James Hilton

For all the conspiracy theorists out there...


Alex Brubaker awoke suddenly and realised he couldn’t move. He was secured to a sturdy metal chair, which in turn was bolted to the floor.
Plastic zip ties, like the ones he used in his garden, only much thicker, held his wrists, ankles and neck in an unforgiving grasp.
His eyes darted around the bare room, trying to make sense of his predicament.
“Hello?” he yelped, “Is there any body there?”
“Ah, Mr. Brubaker, it’s so nice of you to join us. You slept well I trust?”
Alex tried to swivel around to see the source of the cultured voice behind him.
“Listen buddy, I don’t know who you are but you’re in deep shit. Do you know who I work for? NO? I’m an agent of the NSA.” declared Brubaker in defiance. He spat out the initials of the National Security Agency as if they were bullets. “If you harm me, they will hunt you down to the ends of the earth!”

The voice behind laughed gently as if a child had made an innocent faux pas. “Mr. Brubaker, I don’t much care who you share coffee with 9 to 5, it’s your extra-curricular activities that interest me.”
“I don’t understand…Who the hell are you? What do you want of me?”
“Yeah, want! What do you want of me? Who are you? I demand an answer!” Brubaker growled.
“Oh Alex…always so direct and to the point. Still, that’s why you were promoted so quickly up the ranks I guess. Your file reads like an adventure novel. Marine core…Navy SEAL Training… six confirmed kills…honourable discharge…demolitions expert…NSA specialist at age 34; all admirable qualities, hmmn?”
“Fuck you, if you know so much, you know I’ll be missed very quickly.” Alex smirked in satisfaction “Do you know what the wrath of God feels like? Well that’s nothing to what my guys will serve up to you – I promise you that!”
“Alex,” sighed the voice,”Let’s move passed the threats and bravado and get down to business.”
Alex Brubaker calmed himself, deliberately slowed his breathing and scanned as much of the room as possible. His eyes looking for anything that might be useful later. Possible weapons of opportunity, routes of egress; tools of survival.

The voice continued; “I think it will be easier if I tell you what we already know and then you can fill in the blanks at the end.”
“We?” asked Brubaker “Who is we?”
“Are you going to interrupt every step of the way Alex?” asked the voice.
Brubaker tensed up involuntarily as the man stepped into his line of site without warning.
The voice belonged to a nondescript looking man dressed in a dull pair of olive chino trousers and a linen shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows.
No visible tattoos.
No remarkable features.
Average height.
Average weight.
John Q.
The man stared down at Alex Brubaker with a look of mock indecision.
He tapped a finger to his lips as if considering a puzzle in the morning paper.
“Do you know what this is?” asked Mr. Average, pointing to his left lapel.
Alex chose not to answer.
“This is a lapel pin. You can get them for all kinds of things these days. Flags, Sports clubs, political support…you get the idea. Now this one is a little special.” Mr. Average plucked it from his shirt and turned it deftly in his hand. A two inch needle sprang into view with a soft click.
“Now Alex, I’m going to tell you what I already know, and you’re going to answer my questions when I’m ready to ask you them. Got it?”
“Fu..” but Alex’s curse turned to an agonising intake of breath as Mr. Average slipped forward and stabbed the length of the needle into the tip of his nose.
The pain was unlike anything Alex Brubaker had ever imagined. A nexus of incandescent darts filled his nervous system. Pain, agony, words didn’t begin to describe the sheer brutality and overwhelming effect of the needle point.
Alex tried to scream but his vocal chords were paralysed.
Mr. Average looked on impassively then after what seemed like an eternity to Alex, removed the lapel pin’s needle.
Alex sagged in the chair. The plastic ties held him in place, but he sagged spiritually as much as physically.
“Just a little trick I learned from an old friend in the UK” smiled Mr. Average. “Now shall we proceed?...Good”
“Two years ago you were sanctioned onto ‘Operation Greek Fire’. You and your team were tasked with the security of one of our keystone assets. You and seven others of your team were dispatched for a rather unique mission.”
Alex’s blood turned to ice water as the John Q. talked.
“As you know Greek Fire was a very severe response strategy. The thinkers had moved for a scorched Earth response to a very viable terrorist threat against the US.”
“Wait!” warned Alex.
Mr. Average simply held up the pin and warned “Shh!”
Then he began again. “We know your orders were to rig the top thirteen floors of the building with high grade thermite charges. If in the event of a terrorist breach on the roof, the charges could be detonated and the threat neutralised. A very severe response only to be employed if all else failed.”
Mr. Average swayed slightly as he unfolded his facts, not unlike the way a cobra sways in preparation to strike.
“You were assigned to World Trade Centre Building One. August fifth through ‘til August thirteenth. You carried out your mission under the guise of asbestos inspectors. Quite clever really. You could come and go as you please with total anonymity, after all; who would follow a guy around with the threat of asbestosis in the offing.”
“You and your team strategically rigged thermite charges to destroy the supporting infrastructure of WTC 1 only one month before 9/11!”
“We were just following orders!” declared Brubaker defiantly.
“That’s not in dispute Alex”
“Then why am I here? – where-ever here is!”
Mr. Average shook his head in mock patience.
“Alex, did you watch the horrors of 9/11 on the TV with the rest of the world?”
“Yes.” he answered simply, trying to make sense of both his predicament and the reasons for his interrogation.
“Alex, in fifty words or less, I would like you to sum up what you saw.”
Brubaker squinted at the inquisitor, trying to figure out his motives and began;
“Well, two planes were hijacked by Al Qaeda and flown into the twin towers on the morning of September 11th. The towers burned for about an hour and then collapsed due to the fires and impacts.”
Mr. Average laughed out loud into Brubakers’ face. “Come on Alex, stop fucking around here. We both know that’s total bullshit. Now – what did you SEE?”
“What do you mean?”
The John Q waved his hand in a small circle as he spoke; “When the towers came down, what - as a demolition expert commissioned by the United States of America - did you see?”
Alex Brubaker squirmed in his restraints as he began to answer. “As the first tower began to fall, I could see controlled demolition charges detonating, floor by floor in a descending pattern.”
“Please continue...” offered the interrogating agent.
“Well, as I watched, I realised these explosions were about twenty to thirty floors below the charges that my team had placed. Those were NOT our work. Those charges were set by some-one else! Another team had to have been on location at the WTC before or after we were there!”
Mr. Average nodded in agreement, “See, now we’re getting some-where.”
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when the North Tower dropped right into its’ own footprint. Those charges had to have been set on virtually every other floor and deep into the underground foundation structure. That would have taken…weeks and weeks of work.”
“And what of the South Tower?” asked the John Q.
“I was never in the South Tower, but I know the blast pattern was exactly the same. The central core of the building was decimated within seconds and the tower…well both towers, dropped as neat as pins. This was as neat as a job could hope to be!”
“Neat huh…?”
“You know what I mean. Forget the fact that nearly three thousand people died that morning. The JOB itself was a master craft in demolition.” declared Brubaker.
Mr. Average smirked knowingly “We know…” then left any elaboration hanging in the air.
“I never could figure out why they had so much C-4 placed in the towers, it seemed total overkill, but after the planes crashed into them and they dropped like stones into a pond I knew!” Alex Brubaker frowned ever more deeply. “Why are you asking me all of these questions, when it’s obvious that you know all of this already?”
“It’s called being thorough, Alex. Just dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
“So why exactly am I here?” shouted Brubaker “What do you want from me. I’ve told you everything I know! Now I demand that you let me go!”
But Mr. Average carried on as if he hadn’t heard the outburst.
“You see Alex, since the first evening of 9/11 itself, the internet was filled with conspiracy theories. Everyone from Satan to Elvis was behind the attacks. Most of is complete crap of course, but we monitor the web looking for any info that is too close to the mark. Anything too accurate to be chance theories is looked at and the person responsible is put on our watch list.”
“See, your name has come up a few times lately on various chat rooms, albeit in a coded form. But you see Alex, we are the internet and there is nothing we can’t trace and uncover if we put our mind to it. So I suppose the question I’m getting around to is: Who have you discussed Operation Greek Fire with?”
“Nobody! Do you think I’m some fucking yahoo that shoots his mouth off about the people I’ve slotted over the years? No way that’s not me. D’you think I would have even been on that crew if I was like that?” spat out Brubaker.
“Well Alex, this is the problem, someone is getting very accurate with their guesses of explosives used, number of charges, schematics, trigger mechanisms and so on and so forth. So much so, we now believe that a member from one of the initial set up crews is doing their own research and putting the pieces together a little too well. Some-one like you!” Mr. Average stabbed the pin towards Brubaker to emphasise the point.
“No, I’ve told you I don’t pass any of my shit on. I’m a professional fucking agent. I took the oath of secrecy just as I imagine you did.”
“So you, Mr Alex Brubaker, orphan, single, career military service, no real friends, no family; never go on those chat rooms and mull over the New World Order and such like?”
“Fuck You! I’ve said all I’m going to say.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” replied the John Q.
Brubaker spat a gob of saliva towards the interrogator, which he avoided by way of a neat sidestep.
“Alex, we know you’ve chatted on line voicing your concerns. You probably thought you were safe using an alias and only using internet café’s for access but you underestimate our tenacity. If we want to find you – we will find you. Now I’ll ask you only once more…have you told anyone that you were part of the Greek Fire Ops Team?”
Brubaker clamped his mouth shut. If looks could kill, then Mr Average would have died instantly as if consumed by the most virulent disease known to man, such was Brubaker’s hatred for him at that moment.
“Very well.” said Mr Average, his mouth turning down into a frown of quiet resignation. He withdrew a compact pistol form inside his non-descript shirt.
“Scream if you want to Alex, we’re so far underground only a seismologist would hear you!”

A strange thing happens to a man at the point of certain death and each one reacts differently. Some have their life flash before them, some freak out in hysteria; some just lie down and accept it with a cold trembling fear.
Alex Brubaker did none of these; he started to sing a song quietly to himself. He knew that he was about to die and a scene from long ago came to mind.
A fellow Marine called Hayes had caught a sniper round in the right arm just by the shoulder joint and had been bleeding out in record time. Instead of crying out for help, the Marine had begun to sing a slow version of the theme from ‘Happy Days’ that old TV show with the Fonz and Ritchie Cunningham…bizarre but that’s the way he spent his last minutes on Earth, pumping out his blood onto the Iraqi sand and singing to himself.
Brubaker had been amazed at Hayes’ bravery and had hoped at that moment to one day die with the same level of dignity. Now it was his time…and his chance.
“Sunday, Monday, Happy Days, Tuesday, Wed”
The single shot removed the top of Agent Alex Brubaker’s skull in a microsecond.
Alex died without any pomp or ceremony.
Just died.

Mr. Average turned and walked over to a table that sat behind Brubaker’s steaming corpse. He picked up a telephone handset.
A voice that had been listening to proceedings from the start spoke: “How many are left Agent Keithly?”
“Sixteen members of Operation Greek Fire are still under interrogation at this very moment, Sir”
“Has anyone talked?”
“No Sir, no one has talked. They were all solid, Sir.”
“So, we are still secure on Operation Greek Fire? None of the thirteen squads know about the others in the towers?” asked the voice on the line.
“No Sir. And if any of them have put it together for themselves I’m sure they will remain silent. These guys are patriots Sir!”
“Of course they are; that’s why they were chosen in the first place. Continue with the clean up, Agent Keithly!”
“Yes Sir”
“Make very sure they haven’t talked then execute your orders with extreme prejudice!”
“Kill them all, just to be sure. We can’t risk any official trace of our hands in this debacle!”

“Yes, Mr President. Sir”
“Keithly, just call me George, I think we’ve been through enough shit to drop the titles by now…”
“Yes Sir, Mr President.”
The voice on the phone chuckled in his simple fashion.
“Carry on agent Keithly”
“Yes Sir”

A thousand miles away, in an oval shaped office, the man named George turned to the uniformed man beside him.
“Give Keithly two days to finish, then send down Agent Wilson to terminate him.”

The five star General looked back at the President and queried; “You sure you want to send Wilson, the man’s a psychotic – a patriot, but completely insane.”
George chuckled; “That’s why they’re chosen in the first place.”
“Very good Mr President, Sir!”
A wide grin spread across George’s face as he drummed his fingers on his desk.

Jim Hilton writes crime, thriller, fantasy and horror stories, to see more of his work visit

This Is England by Amit Dhand

This is the first page of a short story by Amit. Enjoy...

This is England

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, it was never this way. I’ve been dragged down to their level; their way of life. The streets have been degraded, mirroring the sewer system running beneath my feet. The vermin that once survived below the surface of the earth have transgressed into humans. Humans who have no tolerance. No discipline. No hope.
Sitting on the park bench, the rain is unrelenting. It drips down my temple, over my nose and falls to the floor. My tears are fused with the rain, but the quiet, shaking of my body is not the cold; it’s the broken man I’ve become. The sturdy resilience I’ve had all my life has been shattered by the cancer infesting society. I’ve tried to do this the right way; I’ve tried to make them see sense. No one listens. No one cares. Tonight they will. Tomorrow the shock and horror of what I’ve done will reverberate around the whole country, and they’ll ask themselves; how did it get to this?
Sliding my hand over the bag next to me, I feel the twenty metres of steel wire I’ll need. The rain lashes down harder, the moon cowers behind a cloud, and darkness suffocates the night. Looking across the park, I focus my eyes intensely on the shadow: He is here.
The switch doesn’t take long. A nod, handshake, and it’s done. Carl turns away from his dealer and begins the walk towards me. Towards his death.
I keep still and look down at my hands. They’ve held so many awards over my thirty years of service. So many microphones at after dinner speeches, so many handshakes of politicians that promised change. Promised not to let Paul’s memory be forgotten. Promises are so easily forgotten; wiped away like raindrops on a windscreen. Blood isn’t so easily removed, and tonight after the screams that will dominate the howling wind, much blood will be shed.
The Smith and Wesson revolver sits protected in my pocket. It’s Carl’s. Swiping it from the station wasn’t difficult. Just like society, the force is infested with disease. Procedures are ignored, paperwork unchecked and too much emphasis on trust. I learned the hard way; trust is no longer a commodity worth trading in.
What will they say tomorrow? He lost it. He wasn’t well. He didn’t take the anti-depressants. They’ll write about me in a manner they’ve never done before. It’ll hurt them. Thirty years of pats on the back and media respect will be obliterated. I’ll be just another criminal, stealing a headline. But it’ll hurt them. Deep down, they’ll know they failed me. They failed themselves. They failed England.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Killing For Kindness by Vallon Jackson

Here's some flash fiction, which could also be subtitled 'musings on death row':

Killing For Kindness

Killing for kindness. Now there’s a strange little saying whatever way you look at it. Take a broken-backed dog lying in the gutter, mewling in agony and fear. Well, putting the poor thing out of its misery is the right thing to do, ain’t it? No one’s gonna disagree. Are they?
But when it’s a human, why’d everyone get so friggin’ righteous? Anti-abortionists? Pro-life supporters? Human Rights Activists? What’s so unique about the human race that they should be treated any different than any other kinda meat?
They’re hurting, put them down, I say.
That old guy?
He was sitting in his own piss, surrounded by cats that had nothing to eat but the gunk growing mushrooms between his toes. So what if I went into his scummy little house and put the blunt side of a claw hammer between his eyes? It was a kindness, wasn’t it? Put the poor thing out of its misery, didn’t I? Plus, I gave the cat's something tastier to feed on.
So why all the fuss?
Why am I a monster?
I’m not poor. Definitely more than a thing. An’ I sure as hell am anything but miserable.
So why are people now wanting me dead?

Splitting Heirs by Vallon Jackson AKA Matt Hilton

Here's a short crime story...


Three million pounds plus. That was what James Caruthers left behind when he died. James wasn’t known to have that kind of money behind him. He lived in a council bungalow with three cats and his neighbours barely knew him. In fact, most of them steered clear of the old man who spent most days in a great coat and wool cap, whatever the weather. No one knew what he got up to inside his decrepit home because of the newspaper taped over the windows. Daily a care assistant would turn up, make sure that he was still breathing and shove a ready meal in the microwave oven, then they’d be out of there wrinkling their noses at the stench clinging to their clothing. Other than that, James’s only other contact with humanity was when the milkman delivered his single pint of gold top. James would peer out over the chain on his door and give a gruff thank you, before slamming and locking the door again.
One morning the milkman raised his concern to the police when the old man didn’t come to the door. The cops turned up, broke in, and found James lying in the corner of his kitchen. There was half a sandwich on a saucer next to the blazing gas fire in the living room. The other half – missing a single bite - was in the kitchen sink, as well as a wad of masticated bread and corned beef. It was concluded that the old man had choked on the sandwich, made it to the sink where he’d hacked it up, but his overtaxed heart had then given out. No suspicious circumstances. Case closed. No investigation.
When James was buried, no one turned out for his service.
When someone dies without leaving a will, and no one turns up to claim their inheritance, the government can claim the money. Still, they have an obligation to publish the fact that money has been left, to give an heir the opportunity to come forward. When big money is at stake – three million two hundred thousand and thirty three pounds in this case – there are specialist firms out there willing to jump at the chance to find the rightful heir. For a hefty commission, of course.
That’s where I come in.
It’s a race. Other firms will have their best investigators on the case. Public records, birth certificates, marriage certificates, all will be checked to discern the rightful heir, then these companies will fight tooth and nail to get to the lucky recipient first – bearing the good news and the offer to represent their new client.
I was the first to make it to Robert Wilson’s front door, but I knew the others wouldn’t be far behind me. If I wanted my pay day, I had to make sure that Robert Wilson did not deal with anyone from the other firms.
Wilson was a man in his late fifties. He didn’t even know he was the first child born of a union between James Caruthers and his now deceased mother, Ingrid. He looked at me suspiciously as I handed him my card and explained why I had turned up at his door on a cold, winter’s evening. As soon as I mentioned the money though, he invited me in to his living room. It looked like he’d inherited more than money from his late father: his house was a stinking hole that he shared only with cats.
That was good, really. No wife, no kids, no extended family to contest this turn of events.
I accepted the offer of tea – even though I’d never touch his filthy cup to my lips – and followed him into his kitchen. As he’d turned to fill the kettle, I took his head in both my hands and slammed it down on the corner of the work top. I aimed so that his temple struck the pointed corner and was gratified to see the deep indentation in his skull as he collapsed dead at my feet. Careful to remove my card from his pocket, I put it back into my wallet. Then I spilled some of the water from the kettle onto the floor, then manipulated Wilson’s foot so that it made a dirty skid mark in the spillage.
Wilson wouldn’t be inheriting anything any longer.
The entire estate belonging James Caruthers, plus anything that Robert Wilson had tucked away, would now be going to James’ second born son.
Of course, I’d have to pay out a little of my good luck in commission to the investigator who found out who I was.

To read more of Matt Hilton's short fiction go to the Free Stuff page at