Saturday 27 June 2009

GRETA - by Christopher Grant

A warm TKnC welcome to Chris Grant, the editor of top ezine, A Twist Of Noir...


Her name was Greta, six feet, two inches tall, a blonde viking that looked more like a movie star than a marauding barbarian, with soft, pillowy breasts and an ass that looked great in either jeans or a miniskirt.

The thing about Greta was, she was a loanshark's muscle. And why wouldn't she be? Tits and ass and the possibility that you could charm the pants off her and get a little something in exchange for not paying up this time. It was something that her employer, Charlie, thought absolutely genius. He often patted himself on the back for thinking to hire her.

Greta wasn't like that, of course. She was complete and total business and Charlie's best earner. But there was no reason she had to discourage the myth.

Her latest job was a weasel of a man called Abe. All of five feet tall, he would have humped her leg if she'd given him the chance. Often, he tried to see up her skirt. Once, just once, he'd felt her breath on his skin. Of course, she'd had his arm wrenched up behind his back, but it had been almost orgasmic for Abe.

She'd let him slide that time, told him the vig was increasing before she'd left.

When she came back, a week later, Abe had tried to stall. Greta kicked him in the nuts. She waited, letting Abe catch his breath.

"Fifty-five, Abe," she said calmly. "It's up to fifty-five hundred now."

"Uh-uh," Abe said, still cradling his balls. "Three thousand."

"Nope," Greta said, perching herself on top of his desk, crossing her legs, flashing him a bit of what he'd never get. "Remember, I warned you about the vig. Fifty-five now."

Abe nodded, remembering their talk, and tried to get up, his gonads on fire. Finally succeeding, hand on his crotch, he shuffled to the floor safe and opened it after entering three numbers. He pulled a gun and trained it on her. He had a smile on his face.

"Strip, bitch," he said.

The speed with which the tables had been turned surprised Greta. But she wasn't afraid. Not of this stupid fucking midget that was threatening a number of things now.

"Okay," she said, deciding to play things Abe's way. She slid off the desk and removed her shirt, letting him get a good view of her chest in the black lace bra that she wore underneath. She watched Abe lick his lips and she knew how this was going to end.

Height was the deciding factor. Greta bent toward him, enticing Abe further, making him think that he was going to see her naked. Bringing her knee up as she straightened up, she broke his nose. The blow caused him to drop the gun. She picked the gun up off the floor.

Limping to the safe, a necessary result of smashing his nose, Greta trained the gun on Abe and took the fifty-five hundred dollars he owed Charlie then grabbed an extra thousand for herself.

Christopher Grant is the owner and editor of A Twist Of Noir. His fiction appeared on the late, lamented DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash. The rest can be found at Powder Burn Flash.

A GOOD MAN by Lee Hughes

Here's another chiller from the productive pen of Lee...
A Good Man

Tess smiled as Gavin pulled out her chair. She'd never done anything spontaneous like this before. She wondered if it was a sign that she was getting desperate. Bumping into this man in the supermarket that afternoon and then accepting his offer of drinks. It had begun with an offer of meal. But drinks sounded safer.

"So, what will you have?" asked Gavin as he took off his jacket.

Tess looked past him to the bar. She didn't want anything that would get her pissed, "I'll have half a lager please."

"On its way," said Gavin.

He walked to the bar. She watched him move. He was trim. He gained points there. His face was tanned, naturally, not through cosmetics or tanning booths. Most of all he had just shown some class in her books by not asking her if she wanted a bag of crisps. That sort of thing stank like a night at the Dog & Duck. The usual crowd drinking their livers away. The women with pints, the men with rolled cigarettes and a bag of Big Eat on the table, torn down the side so that everyone could help themselves. She'd managed to separate herself from it over the last year. If ever she needed reminding as to why she had escaped from that life she pictured one of the sad, leathered old bints, complete with moustache and yellowed fingers. The only life they had was another gin and tonic and maybe a 'dare-shag' when a bunch of lads were on a pub crawl.

No, this was nice. She watched him stand politely at the bar. Not barging his way to the front. He even let a woman be served before him. This one had manners. She still had to find out what he did for a living. He'd been wearing a suit at the supermarket when they'd bumped trolleys in the produce aisle. Perhaps a manager, in a bank? Tess watched him return to the table. He walked with confidence, yet it was nowhere near being a strut. And instead of a pint, Gavin had opted for a more civilized bottle of beer.

"Thanks," said Tess.

Gavin sat and raised his drink and said, "Here's to taking the odd chance, now and again."

"I'll drink to that." Tess lifted her own glass.

They soon found themselves at the 'Why I'm single' topic of conversation. Gavin had worn a wry smile. Tess was glad that he had been honest with her. She put a lot of stock in honesty.

"My wife, she left me for another man. Things hadn't been great for a while. I was probably just as much to blame for it all falling apart the way that it did," Gavin finished it with another wry smile, "Your turn."

Tess liked the honesty in Gavin and wished that she could be brave enough to be as honest as he had. But, she was too frightened of blurting it all out and then having to bear witness to Gavin finishing his drink, making his excuses and leaving, never to be seen again.

"I think I'm just too picky," said Tess.

Gavin nodded. "Libra?" he asked.

"Yes! How did you guess that?" Tess was stunned, in a good way. She always read her horoscope.

"My sister is picky too. And, she's a Libra," he took another drink from his bottle.

Tess changed the subject, wanting to keep it upbeat, like it was now. She was just worried that if they lingered on the subject some of her personal problems might bubble to the surface and then the night would crash. "Are you planning on going on holiday this year?" she asked.

"I was thinking about Crete. A bit of time to sit back, relax, catch some rays," he put the bottle to his lips but stopped before actually taking a sip. He had noticed her eyes wide open, "What?" he asked.

"Oh, my God. I've been thinking about going there!" Tess couldn't believe it. She had brochures and everything. She tried to become casual. Just in case Gavin didn't believe it wasn't all coincidence and that she was just agreeing with him on everything. That would appear needy, and she was no longer that woman. She was glad that he wasn't looking at her like some sort of freak. He smiled and it relaxed her somewhat.

Gavin said, "Well, you never know. I might get the chance to buy you a cocktail on the beach. But for now it'll have to be from this bar. Same again?"

"That would be great thanks." She watched his every move as he went back to the bar. She even took a sneaky photograph of him with her phone. It was only a side view. But it would be enough to show Carol at the office in the morning.

He stood at the bar patiently. Reaching for his wallet. Pulling out a twenty. She could see other notes in there. Was this the one? Were the deadbeats and low-life's all in her past. Tess was sure of one thing. She was going to be who she wanted to be, her old persona was behind her. The new Tess was worthy of being with Gavin. She chastised herself. She'd only been in his company for half an hour and she was already getting notions.

They had another couple of drinks. Gavin had gone onto Coke as he was driving. Tess lost complete track of the time. They'd been chatting non-stop. And they'd found out that they both had a lot in common. Then, alas, Gavin had looked at his watch. "Best get you home."

"Kinda don't want the evening to end," sighed Tess as she drained her glass.

Gavin stood up. "Well, accept my offer of taking you out to dinner on Friday and then there'll only be two nights until I get to bore you again."

"That's a date," she blushed and said fast, "and you don't bore me."

"Then that's all sorted. Let's get you home."

Tess half expected a kiss as they stood outside her home. Gavin didn't let her down. Although he was most gentlemanly about it and leaned in for a short but nice kiss on the cheek. Tess wanted to invite him in badly. It took all her strength not to. She wasn't that woman any more. She wanted to play this right, there was a chance of happiness with Gavin. She could feel it. She waved as he drove away.

She felt as though there was electricity running through her veins as she plopped herself down on the couch with half-a-glass of wine. She didn't want much more. She had work in the morning. A year ago, she wouldn't have bothered but she had fought long and hard to get her current job and there was no way she'd risk losing it. The lounge door opened. She nearly dropped her wine.

Her mouth though, that did drop. It was Gavin standing in the doorway. No longer in his suit. He was stood wearing a boiler-suit. He smiled, "I decided I didn't want tonight to end either."

"How did you get in here?" She didn't know how to react to this invasion.

Gavin shrugged. "The spare key in the little hidey-gnome in the garden."

Tess got up and backed towards the wall. "How?"

"How what? How did I know about that little secret? Nobody pays any attention to a postman walking around the back of people's houses, so long as they have a parcel."

Gavin came deeper into the room. Tess couldn't say anything. It was as though her head was filled with cotton wool and all her thoughts were being absorbed and hidden. Gavin pulled out a chisel and set it on the table by the phone. He yanked the wire from the wall-socket. From his pocket he pulled a length of twine, "You seem stuck for words Tess. Do you not want to be friends any more?"

"But!" The words were tumbling from her brain into her mouth in a jumbled, incoherent manner.

Gavin took a step closer. "But we got on so well? You being a Libra? It was your birthday three months ago. Six cards delivered. Not very popular are you? Crete, four different brochures delivered two weeks ago. I even know that the cheap blouse you're wearing came from the pages Moffit's catalogue. Are you paying it off at fifty-six pence a week? And what's with all that perfume and talc, eh? Got hooked on that now have you?" he took another step closer.

There was no more space for her to retreat. Practically no air between the wallpaper and the cold sweat on her back.

"Get out!" She started dragging in breath as if readying herself to scream.

Gavin growled, "How's the smack habit? Keeping on top of it? I opened the letters from the hospital because I wanted to make sure that you weren't ill. Found out instead that you are weak and diseased. I detest weakness. It's a disgusting trait. My wife had a weakness. It was for other men. She didn't leave me, I left her, where? I'm not telling. I've been watching you. I even fell in love with you. Until I found out that you're a crack-whore. All those months wasted. Silently courting you, getting to know you so that I could make you happy. You stole from me," he stopped to pull the twine tight in his hands so that it made a snapping sound, "now you're gonna give me back what you owe. You ever fuck for money? bet you did, a lot. I don't know yet what I'm going to do with you. Do I chop you into little pieces and post you off to a hundred different made up addresses so you just bounce about, forever. Or maybe, this caring postman, me. He comes by tomorrow with your letters and sees you all sprawled out on the floor through the window. He breaks in. Touches you as he tries to revive you. Where's the D.N.A gone then? All mixed up, Huh? They wouldn't suspect little old me. Never have before. And besides, who'd care about a dead crack-whore?" He snarled and moved closer.

That was it. The breaking point for Tess. There was only so much she could take. She had made a promise to herself never again to go down that dark and damp road that led to oblivion. It had been the same when Jack had turned up, wanting to get her hooked again. Had wanted to dump her back into that grim life once more. To work the streets, to be foul. She'd fixed him. Just like she would have to fix this, this Gavin. If that was even his real name. She kept a knife down the back of the couch, just in case someone else turned up from her past like Jack had. Someone wanting to drag her back down to the gutter.

Tess dove for the couch. Gavin thought she was making a break for it. He hooted in glee and dove after her. Landing atop of her. He struggled to roll her over. He got her onto her back and pulled funny faces at her. He could feel it, cold and sharp inside his ribs, moving back and forth inside him like a nodding dog. He gasped, opened his mouth and dribbled crimson all over her stern face. Tess kept hold of the handle. The blade was in right to the hilt. She gave it another wiggle just to be sure. More blood spilled from his mouth. She didn't push him away, she'd rather get the blood on her face rather than on the carpet. Besides, you can't catch Aids twice.

It was hard work dragging him up the stairs. She was sweating as she opened up the walk-in wardrobe in the spare room. The sweat softened the dried blood on her face and carried some of it away to leave pink streaks. Tess pushed Gavin into the wardrobe. At least Jack would have some company. Jack was blanketed in perfumed talc. She doused them both with some more and closed the door so they could be alone with their bastard selves.


Lee Hughes' short fiction has appeared, or is due to appear on Thriller's, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, MicroHorror.Com and in the anthology Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Find out more at www.LeeHughesWrites.Blogspot.Com.

Friday 26 June 2009

ORANGE DOT - by Michael J. Solender


Ours is a typical suburban housing development with mailboxes affixed to sturdy posts, standing solitary sentry at the end of our drive. As I retrieved the mail the other day, I noticed a reflective green dot, about the size of a quarter, had been placed on the post just below the mailbox. Puzzled, I wondered for just a moment what its purpose might be and then promptly thought nothing more of it.

The following morning at an hour that is only experienced awakened once daily by less industrious types than my wife and me, I noted on our walk around the neighborhood that the paper delivery guy was stopping at each box with a green dot and slipping the morning journal inside the protective sleeve below.

“Ha the green dot tells the paper guy where to deliver – ingenious.” I exclaimed to my wife who kept her rhythm and focus on outpacing me as we came to a nasty hill.

“What’s the orange dot for then?” she quizzed.

Sure enough, I saw that about every 5th post had an orange reflective dot. I wondered if it was for some national journal or weekend delivery only.

“We don’t have an orange dot, I’m not exactly sure.” No sooner were the words out of my mouth than we were passed by a circular object resembling a large inner tube, racing past us only inches from the ground.

It was glowing bright orange and had a tiny periscope type proboscis extending from its front surface. A pulsing light fixed on the first post encountered with an orange dot on the mail post. The craft stopped for a moment and then within seconds, was hovering in front of the door of the house with the offending dot.

My wife and I were panicked beyond speechless and watched in abject terror as small, orange glowing snakes emerged from the craft by the dozen. They began silently burrowing into the door and under the window frames. The craft whisked on to the next home with an orange dot.

I had seen enough, I grabbed my wife’s elbow and we quickly walked in the other direction towards our house. For 5 minutes neither of us spoke.

“What should we do?” My wife was crying.

“What can we do, the police won’t believe it, and I saw it and I don’t believe it.”

“But what was it, what did we see?”

“Sweetie, I can’t explain it and don’t want to even try. Freaky things happen in this world. I say we forget it, don’t discuss with anyone and just go on about our business.” I was trying to be pragmatic.

I had enough drama in my life and didn’t need any more.

“Ok, that’s done then.” I said, “I’ll make some coffee.”

It was now 5:00 a.m. and we both needed a jolt of something.

“I’ll get the paper.” My wife volunteered.

I began grinding the beans and the aroma of my $30.00 per pound Geisha beans began to work their magic before I could even brew them. What the hell was taking her I thought, she’s been out there for five minutes.

I walked out onto the porch and saw my wife halfway down the drive. She was sobbing and her entire body was heaving convulsively. I raced up to her.

“What is it hon?”

She pointed at our mailbox and just below the green reflective dot I had noticed yesterday was another similarly shaped, but distinctly orange dot.

“Orange dot,” was all she could say.

Michael J. Solender lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife Harriet where they obsess over their garden. He hails originally from the sometimes frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN. There he ignored (only once) his mother’s advice to pursue a career in medicine and became a Corporate Klingon. A recent Corporate Refugee, Solender is a freelance writer whose opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and is a contributor to Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at Dogzplot, Full of Crow, Gloom Cupboard, A Twist of Noir, Thrillers Killers ‘N’ Chillers, 6 Sentences, Powder Burn Flash, and Flashshot.

Thursday 25 June 2009

COLD AS THE GRAVE by Vallon Jackson

Cold as the Grave

Big, red-faced Jimmy stepped through the open door, stamping his feet and blowing into his cupped palms. His coat was done up to his chin and he had a woollen hat pulled low, but he still looked frozen. “I guarantee you, boys, there’ll be more snotty noses than standing cocks tonight.”

He came into the kitchen, still blowing warmth at his blue hands. “I’m telling you, boys. You know it’s fuckin’ cold when your dick shrivels up like a prawn vol-au-vent!”

No one answered him. No one laughed. They’d already heard Jimmy’s lurid take on the cold snap on three separate occasions.

“Close the door, will ya?” Bobby was hunkered down in front of the oven. The door was open and the meagre blue flame inside was the only source of heat in the old house.

“Thought all the power and stuff was off?” Jimmy moved towards the oven holding out his palms.

“It is, but the oven’s Calor gas. There was a li’le bit left in the bottle.” Bobby shoved him away. “Fuckin’ hell, Jimmy, I can feel the cold coming off ya! You a fuckin’ ghost or summat?”

“Gotta admit, I feel like I’m about three days dead.”

Jimmy and Bobby both looked around at the latest speaker.

Johnny Boy stood up and walked over to Bobby and shoved him side-ways. “Stop hoggin’ all the fuckin’ heat.”

“Yeah, move it,” Jimmy added.

“Tosser!” Bobby called Jimmy, but he reluctantly gave way to the older man, his face twisting as he was shunted away from the small flame.

Johnny Boy was a man in his late-forties – heavily built, his jowls drooping and his hair turning grey at the sides – a bit of a misnomer at any stretch. But he was also the hardest of the three and neither Jimmy nor – especially – Bobby would argue too stringently. Johnny Boy put his arse to the oven, lifting the tail of his coat to warm his lower back. He stood there smiling at the other two but there wasn’t the slightest mote of humour in his eyes.

“Is he there yet, Jimmy?”

Jimmy shoved his hands in his pockets and fiddled round like he was adjusting his underpants. “I froze me fuckin’ bollocks off, but it was worth it. The grass was right. He does use the dump across the way as a squat. He’s there, Johnny Boy. Alone.”

“Good.” Johnny Boy allowed his coat to drop as he transferred his hands to his own pockets. He pulled out an illegal semi-automatic pistol: an imported SIGMA, but neither of the other two would know that. From his other pocket he pulled out a magazine and slapped it in place. He racked the slide. “You two packin’ like I told ya?”

Bobby pulled out a sawn-off shotgun with a chopped and taped stock. Double barrelled. A farmer’s gun adapted to fit under his armpit. He clicked it open and fed in a couple 12 bore cartridges.

Jimmy said, “I’ve a pick handle. Don’t trust meself to pull a trigger, my hands are so cold.”

“Keep rubbing your balls like that and the friction’ll set em on fire,” Bobby said.

“I’m not rubbin’ me balls,” Jimmy said. “I’m still trying to find ‘em!”

Bobby laughed this time. “Heard you often have that problem with your dick.”

“You wouldn’t like it as a wart on the end of your nose,” Jimmy said right back. Another of his sadly over-used rejoinders.

“Shut up,” Johnny Boy grunted. “Fuckin’ idiots that I have to work with...”

He led them out of the house and into the biting cold. It was dark outside, no moon, no stars, just a heavy mist that covered everything. The mist dampened down the sound so much it felt like they were walking through some sort of void between worlds.

Johnny Boy felt the mist clinging to his face, turning to ice crystals on his eyelashes. He rubbed a palm across his jowls and they felt like they were as tight as a virgin’s arse. He exhaled, and a cloud of frozen breath streamed around him.

Three days dead, he thought. It was as cold as the fuckin’ grave, right enough.

But soon things were gonna hot up.

A faint glow poked through the mist. Yellowish – like piss spreading in a swimming pool. They had to move closer before they could make out that it was the light from the living room in the derelict house opposite.

“Can you see him?” Johnny Boy whispered.

Jimmy pointed, using the pick handle he’d picked up from outside their hiding place. “Saw him in there about five minutes ago. Dunno where he’s at now.”

Johnny Boy nudged Bobby. “You’re the smallest. Sneak over there and see if you can see him.”

“What if he sees me?”

“You’ve got a fuckin’ shotgun, what’re you afraid of?”

Bobby sniffed a dew drop from the end of his nose. “It’s fuckin’ Jack Dunn we’re talkin’ about. Bad bastard. Even with the gun I don’t want to go up against him on me own!”

“He’s not fuckin’ bullet proof,” Johnny Boy snarled, but even he wasn’t so sure that he’d be here without Bobby and Jimmy backing him up. “Fuckin’ big man killer for hire! Maybe the cops couldn’t prove he was the one who capped my cousin, Ronnie, but I know it. An’ he’s gonna pay. Now git over there and see where he’s at. Soon as you give us the nod we’ll be on him like stink on shit. Right, Jimmy?”

Jimmy didn’t answer and Johnny Boy turned, searching for him in the mist. All that remained of his passing was a faint swirl in the mist.

“Where the fuck has he sneaked off to?” Johnny Boy did a slow pirouette where he stood. There was no sign of the big man. Just his pick handle lying on the ground. “I don’t believe this; the fucker’s bottled it!” He turned back towards Bobby. “Well, it’s just me an’ you, Bobby, but don’t worry we can still do this...”

Bobby was nowhere to be seen.

“Bobby? Bobby! Where the...”

Johnny Boy gripped the butt of his SIGMA, but now the gun didn’t seem the equaliser that he’d originally thought. In fact it felt woefully inadequate. A bit like he felt, really.

He took a slow step back, turned, and was about to leg it.

A form reared out of the mist in front of him.

Johnny Boy couldn’t make out the face of the man. It had nothing to do with the cloying mist, but everything to do with the sawn-off shotgun barrels jammed against the bridge of his nose.

“Going somewhere, Johnny Boy?” Jack Dunn asked.

Johnny Boy didn’t even think about lifting his gun. If anyone cared to listen he’d have told them that his fingers were too cold to pull the trigger anyway. The truth was, he was decidedly warm. At least he was in his trousers when he pissed himself.

It was shameful, pissing himself like that, but he didn’t have long to worry about it.

The shot-gun was reversed very quickly and the stock slammed against the side of his head.


It was three days until they were found. The slaughterhouse had closed on Friday evening, so it wasn’t until Monday morning before the staff arrived and found Johnny Boy, Jimmy and Bobby trussed together in the meat locker.
Three days dead.

The constable had to step aside for the Detective Sergeant who arrived at the scene.

“What have we got?” the DS asked.

“Three of them this time.”

“Same gang?”

“Yeah,” the constable said. “You think that Jack Dunn did them?”

“We’ve no proof that there’s even a person called Jack Dunn, constable. You ask me, it’s just a story these scrotes put out to cover for the murders in their little turf wars. And if I were you I’d just keep on thinking that way.”

The DS stepped inside the meat locker and immediately shivered.

“Bloody Baltic in here,” he muttered, rubbing his hands together.

“Minus thirty,” the SOCO investigator said from the centre of the room. “They were still alive when they were tied up in here, poor sods. It looks like they froze to death, Sarge.”

Yeah, the DS thought, thinking about Jimmy’s words that he’d overheard as they planned to kill him, I know there were more snotty noses than standing cocks that night.
Vallon Jackson is the pseudonym of a published author. Not all of his work features vigilante action.

Monday 22 June 2009

RESPECT - by Col Bury

A second intro into characters from Col’s ongoing novel.
Check out ‘Blind Alley’ from the TKnC archives for the first…


Respect has to be earned, but that’s a difficult concept to achieve when you are dead. Showing respect may prevent death, but that depends on the persons involved.

You know, what seems like the most trivial thing at the time. The booming voices of a drunken mob of yobs shattering the relaxed hum as they enter a pub demanding ‘respect’, eyeing everyone and something inside tells you to leave. Call it a gut feeling, or that thing that isn’t very common, especially when intoxicated – common sense.

Then the next day you hear about a young man, you stood beside at the bar, being ‘disfigured for life’ during a ‘drunken argument,’ when his girlfriend was soaked in crimson after a pint pot was shoved into his unsuspecting chops. His hand severed in a reflexive and somewhat ironic attempt to prevent injury.

You look in the mirror and glide a hand across the contours of your face thinking, shit, that could’ve been me. And sometimes you wish it was you. Only, you trusted your instincts and it was some other poor bugger who, through no fault of their own, wanted to continue their jolly night out, and simply wasn’t as aware as you of the truth about this degenerating society we all live in.

A society that desperately needed change; a society that desperately needed someone to instigate that change.

No Superhero was about to clean up the crime-ridden cities and rescue the innocents. For that is just mumbo jumbo, the consequence of fairy tales. Realism was required.

The guilt you felt demanded it.

The old dear - someone’s Gran, Mum, Sister - nipping out for a loaf to the corner shop only to be pushed to the pavement, her brittle bones snapping, her skin bruising, horrifically, her purse containing £2.37 taken, her groceries strewn, her will to live lessened immeasurably. This was the reality.

Okay, so respect isn’t an issue here in the aforementioned sense, but a reflection of our eroding society it surely is. And a lack of respect is undoubtedly prevalent therein.

This is my problem, you see. Respect has to be earned as they say. Well I respect the old dear who’s worked all her life, supported local charities, out-lived her husband, survived wars, heartbreaks and all, and paid her dues to society. To a society that returns the favour with a distinct lack of fuckin respect.

Okay, so I sound angry. You’ve sussed me - are you a rocket scientist? Too fuckin right I am angry. My kid brother had respect: had being the operative word. A glittering future ahead of him. He was a top, top cueist and was gonna turn pro’. He didn’t of course. It’s hard to turn pro’ when you’re dead.

So now you see that I have motive. If the truth be known I had it all along anyway. Since I returned from Kabul I’d witnessed a distinct lack of respect. Now it was time for those life-destroying bastards to learn exactly what the real definition of respect was, and not their bullshit, macho, empty version based on fear.

Now I could teach them about both respect and fear in one swift lesson.

Got the gist? I’m sure you have. So how do you solve a problem that forty three police forces, including one hundred and thirty thousand cops, couldn’t solve?

Answer: clichéd, but true: you fight fire with fire.

A society dying like an ailing animal needs an injection pronto to make that animal strong again.

I am that injection.

The first was always going to be pure rage. Instinctive: a reaction to circumstances.

This could have been you, but fortunately for Joe Public, it was me.

Chip shop, 10.30pm. A bit peckish, I am. Polite Chinese bloke wrapping my chips, curry n rice. Five lads enter, drugs n booze running through their bloodstreams. Eyeballing me. I refuse eye contact out of respect…and common sense.

One nudges me from behind, accidentally on purpose. A tad disrespectful if you ask me.

He grunts and his mates stifle laughter, egging him on because I’m weak, right? Ignoring them is weak right? But I know Mr Sou’s CCTV hasn’t worked for two weeks now. And, even more importantly, I know what respect is. And when a man is pushed to the limit he either crumbles or retaliates. Do I sound like the type of guy who crumbles?

‘Do you mind not doing that, fella?’

‘Soz, mate. I didn’t see you there.’

‘No worries then.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘I meant that you don’t have to worry as you've apologised and I accepted.’ Sodding the chips, I eyed him unflinchingly.

He scanned his mates and rolled his shoulders before squaring up from five feet away. ‘You dissin me? Fancy your chances, you pussy?'

I moved to within an inch of him. ‘Respect me or you’ll regret it.’ I saw a flicker of fear in Fuckwit's eyes then clocked his mates edging closer.

Surprised, he retreated a few feet back into his comfort zone. ‘Hey, Big Man, I’m just joshing you. Chill out.’

A typical response from a fuckwit, but I knew this wasn’t over. Far from it.

Mr Sou smiled sympathetically as I turned my back on the gang. Piss-taking Chinese accents made Mr Sou dip his head.

As I took my supper from the businessman who was respected by the local community, I was pushed in the back again and span round like an owl on speed. A different face was in my face. An ugly, scarred individual with a look as pale as a zombie with the flu.

Unfazed, I knew words were worthless and head-butted the fucker.

They say spark out the big one and the rest’ll run off, but they didn’t.

Fuckwit lunged for me and bizarrely tried to bite my face. So I elbowed him in the nose and it burst, splattered-tomato style. Another flicked a knife open and jabbed it towards me. Granted I jumped back. So would you.

But I was just widening my fighting arc. I adeptly withdrew the baton from my left sleeve and blocked the next jab of the knife with a clink. Another lad tried to punch me from the side, but I impacted his skull with a thud and swiftly withdrew the baton to sword-fight the advancing knife again. One lad did nothing and looked shit scared in the corner. Sensible.

Knifeman looked determined.

‘If you want to live, go now,’ I said casually.

‘Fuck you, man. You’re nothing.’

I shook my head and threw Mr Sou an apologetic glance. As the other two rose to the their feet, all five stood before me, moving closer.

‘Leave now. Last chance, boys.’

A tirade of abuse.

I’d earned my respect long before this, so I took out my Glock 17 and executed the fuckers with five sharp cracks. They fell like dominoes.

Funny how little blood spurts from a bullet to the forehead, isn’t it? Nice n neat and so very concise. And respectful for Mr Sou - less mopping.

Mr Sou stared in amazement. Then nodded. A mutual respect. I knew he’d seen nothing because he knew what I knew. They’d killed my beloved Josh and I’d tracked their movement for months since the farcical court case.

And this was just the start…

…I would outdo the inept politicians by going National…

…until respect was restored.

Col Bury is currently writing a crime novel and his ever-growing selection of short stories can be found on TKnC and A Twist Of Noir. He blogs and interviews crime authors here:

Thursday 18 June 2009



Snowflakes descended onto a silent, white landscape.

Beams of light filtered through the broken church windows, highlighting whirling particles dancing across the wooden pews, intermittently spliced by shadows. The church looked so different now, all that was left of the small town of Vledovka. The Germans had destroyed every building and killed all but a handful of people.

Xavier looked down at his teenage son squatting next to him. The boy tightly clutched a rifle to his chest. Silver-blue eyes peered out from a grimy, expressionless face; unwilling to share the horrors he had witnessed in the last few weeks.

Misted breath fogged the air around them, reluctant to fade.

One lone German soldier stood between them and a muted sense of freedom; an entity lurking in the ruins of the town, picking off the survivors with a gleeful snipe of a bullet. Broken bodies littered the landscape, frozen between lumps of concrete and twisted metal - mothers and fathers and children.

Xavier knew he had to kill the German. Whatever happened, he had to try.

He swept a hand over his dark beard, looked to the boy. ‘Stay here; keep your back against this wall. You watch these windows. If you see that soldier, you kill him, but don’t waste your shots.’

Dmitry lifted a Nagant revolver from his jacket pocket, although the 7 bullets in the cylinder would not last much longer. They were both running out of ammo.

‘Father, let me come with you. I can do it. You know I’m a better shot.’ Not only was Dmitry a better shot, but he was quicker on his feet, too. He wanted to show his father he was no longer a child. He could kill the enemy. ‘Please?’

Xavier placed a heavy hand on Dmitry’s shoulder. Two weeks earlier, the German had shot and killed his eldest son, Anatoly, whose body was still out there, resting beneath several feet of snow. He couldn’t risk the same happening to Dmitry.

‘Who do you think will protect your mother if we’re both dead, huh?’ He pulled his cap down tight across his brow and got to his feet. ‘Time to finish this.’ He hunched down and hurried to the gaping hole in the church wall where the first reign of bombs had blown most of the transept away.

He stepped out into the brightness of snowfall, looked up at a grey sky full and swollen with flakes. He shivered against the chill and ducked between the gravestones; heading east towards what would have been the main square of his decimated town. Fresh snow covered the dirty tracks left by the panzers, which had swept through three weeks ago, but it also covered the remains of those who were trying to flee Vledovka. Whole families lay together where they’d been rounded up and shot.

Xavier knew the sniper could be anywhere among the ruins, constantly moving around, hunting. He gazed across the lifeless ruins, searching the broken windows, watching colourless curtains billowing in the cold breeze. He eyed the open doorways, and the angular pinnacles of brick and concrete hewn from violent explosions. Finally, his attention stopped at the skeletal remains of his home.

Everything was gone.

Something glinted through the flurry in the distance, distracted him. Just a momentary flash, then it was gone. He crawled forward on his elbows towards a line of branch-less, scorched trees.

* * *

Dmitry rose to his feet and wandered over to the wrecked window on the left. He hoisted himself up and clambered through it. Snow flocked around his face, stung his skin, and he pulled his thick green scarf – knitted by his mother - up over his nose and mouth. He plodded forward through the knee-deep snowdrift. He knew his father was heading through the main square; but Dmitry knew that if the German was in the ruins, then perhaps they could corner him. Two guns were better than one.

The sound of the wind through empty buildings made him shudder; the primeval hum resonated through every cell in his body, flooding every pore, and it made him hurry to the corner of what used to be a bakery. He stood in the doorway, away from the icy torrent.

He looked down.

A woman’s face stared back at him from the floor where she had fallen; eyes clouded like a dead fish. Her mouth was slightly open, skin tight around a miserable scream of terror. The sniper had taken the left side of her head, and the floor was stained red where her blood had frozen in a wide spatter. He looked further down her body, saw exposed strings of darkened meat on her legs and forearms. The rats had been eating her.

He ignored the sight and moved from the doorway. He paused, cocked his ear. Footsteps over rubble; purposeful and fast. The squeak of a door drifted through the slate coloured mist. The unseen footsteps moved across a tiled floor, then stopped.

The German was close by.

A heartbeat echoed loudly in Dmitry’s head as he stepped out and slunk towards the next building. Muscles tensed and gnawed inwardly against the cold as he peered around a broken doorframe. His eyes shuttered against the chill as he focused on a figure hunched over something on the floor.

The German sniper was rifling through the pockets of the dead.

The breath in Dmitry’s throat froze; he almost dropped the rifle and it clunked against the doorframe.

The German snapped his head up; saw Dmitry in the doorway, silhouetted by the haze, and he reached for his Luger.

Dmitry lifted the rifle.

* * *

The gunshot startled Xavier, quickly followed by another two shots. He let out a short breath. Spliced nerves twitched as the hush slowly returned. He looked back at the church, but saw no movement. He wanted to call out to Dmitry, knew that he couldn’t; it would give Dmitry’s position away to the German. He had to follow the gunshots.

Breathing hard against the icy tendrils licking against his exposed skin, Xavier clambered to his feet and ran the short distance to the side of a nearby building, slipping into a short passageway for respite.

The gunshots had come from the other side of the main square so Xavier moved cautiously through the passageway and momentarily peered out. A desolate silence greeted him. The street was full with rubble, strewn with shoes and torn clothes. And scattered bodies.

He concentrated on the building opposite, thought he saw a passing shadow. He blinked against the brightness; couldn’t be sure it was movement. But then he heard a short burst of laughter, and he knew it was the German.

Xavier stepped out of the passageway. Fresh layers of snow crunched softly underfoot as he slowly made his way across the street, but then he stopped suddenly, his mind wrested by something that made his stomach plunge to his feet.

The chill gripped Xavier’s throat as he gazed down at the tiny, grey body of a newborn baby boy still attached to the umbilical, slowly disappearing beneath the snowfall.

He choked back his anger, gripped his rifle and entered the building. He searched the dark corners, expecting the German to jump out at him, but there was no enemy lurking, just his frightened imagination.

A noise to the right made him flinch. He lifted his rifle, aimed it at the shadows. Nothing. He moved further inside. An odd smell leavened the air, despite the chill. The stench of rotting corpses – though frozen with the onset of winter – still clung to the building, unwilling to fade. He closed his eyes, concentrated hard to stop the swill in his stomach moving up his throat.

Another sound brought him to; his muscles tightened in response. He stepped forward slowly, his eyes never leaving the doorway ahead of him. Indistinguishable sounds drifted through the blizzard; guarded, muffled.

He thought then about Dmitry, alone in the church, what would happen to him. The idea of certain death didn’t frighten Xavier, but the fear of leaving Dmitry to look after the family, to be the one to try to stop the sniper, did frighten him. If he didn’t kill the German, now, they were all doomed.

The sound of someone coughing almost made the liquid in Xavier’s bladder spill out into his trousers, and he ducked instinctively, unsure which direction the sound came from. His heart fluttered, drowning in adrenaline. He crawled sideways, crab-like, and leaned against the door.

He composed himself before edging around the doorframe.

A dark grey trench coat was visible through the rash of thick snowflakes. The German stood with his back towards Xavier. Cerulean ribbons of smoke from a cigarette coiled into the air. A satchel lay at the soldier’s feet.

Xavier sat against the doorway, carefully set his foot against the frame to keep his body from shaking. He tucked the rifle butt tightly beneath his right arm, peered through the gun sight and lined it up with the German’s head.

He licked his badly chapped lips, took in a breath and placed his forefinger against the trigger.

* * *

The nicotine from the cigarette flooded his lungs, calmed the torrent racing through his veins. The long trench coat kept out the chill, felt good. The French brandy in the hip flask helped to melt his frosted body, and despite it stinging his lips, he gulped it down. Christ, he couldn’t remember anything tasting this good. He’d found chocolate in the satchel, too.

He stared at the body lying in the doorway, peppered with bullet holes. Large crimson patches soiled the clothes. Blood slowly spilled out onto the virgin snow. His skin still tingled; the thrill of the kill.

He smiled; but it was almost a reflexive jerk, and at first he couldn’t understand why the body lying nearby became so vividly red, nor could he understand the sound of the implosion whistling through his head. He remembered glancing down, seeing the cigarette fall from his fingers; he remembered watching it fall as though in slow motion before it finally came to rest against the snow.

And then everything he knew, every moment, every memory, was catapulted out through the front of his skull in a kaleidoscopic burst, far out into the brightness, until everything quickly faded to darkness.

* * *

Xavier whooped as he watched the German’s head explode with startling force, easily ripped apart by the close range shot. The man dropped to the ground.

Xavier got to his feet and ran over to the body.

Small fragments skull and brain, and lumps of dark hair, littered the snow around the dead German.

He wiped snowflakes from his eyes, stared. His brows dropped. Two German soldiers?

He gazed at the other body sprawled in the doorway, three bullet holes in the chest. The corpse was wearing a German uniform and clutching a Luger pistol.

Xavier cupped a foot underneath the shoulder of the body at his feet and flipped it over.

He recognised the green scarf around the sinewy remains of the boy’s neck. A slivery-blue eye peered from the remains of the eye socket.

The rifle slipped from Xavier’s cold fingers.

A deep scarlet halo surrounded Dmitry’s shattered skull.

A silver hip flask glinted from the boy’s tightened fingers, and slowly it leaked golden liquid into the bloodied snow of Vledovka.

AJ works full time for a local authority, but in her spare time she write articles for local business magazines, short stories and poetry, and has just completed her first novel.



Heaven, it is a strange place. A land hidden from the living and kept aside for the good folk when they ventured into the valley of death. Benny knew it to be a place built on the foundations of rumour and fear. For some it was a place for forgiveness. Whilst for the unlucky it closed up its doors and pretended no one was home. Benny didn't put any stock in heaven and hated what its honcho had done to his own family.

Hell, he hated that too for welcoming his mother and putting her through things that he didn't want to think about. Hell, Benny knew, was the place where the bad folk went that didn't ask for forgiveness. Father Sullivan had given him all the education he needed. The murderers, gamblers, whores, rapists and the gays that didn't say sorry forever burnt in Hell.

His mother was in Hell but shouldn't be. Father Sullivan had told him enough times though that Hell was where she was. And she was being punished for the evil that she had done. Benny cried that night as he lay in pain and wondered when Father Sullivan was going to get his punishment. But it wasn't for his sore insides that he wept, it was for his mother.

Now a man, in his own eyes. At seventeen and a bit years old. Benny nailed shut the doors of community centre. He'd been around earlier in the day and done the same with the fire-exit.

Twelve years ago...

Benjamin lay upon his belly. The sun shone in through the bay-window and doused him in its light. In each hand he gripped a small soldier. Both warriors were in the midst of killing each other, all in the name of glory. Wet gunshot noises fired from the barrel of Benjamin’s mouth.

A fatal shot was delivered by the right-hand soldier. The left-hand soldier was dead and hastily removed from the heat of the battle. Benjamin cast the fallen to the carpet where it lay with the rest of the dead. The soldier's final resting place was a patterned killing field.

Ben grabbed up a fresh soldier and ordered him into battle. But before there could be another casualty of war, a shadow, one long and familiar cast itself before him creating a ceasefire.

Benjamin looked up and smiled at his mother who stood in the doorway clutching a tumbler of golden liquid. A drink which he himself was never permitted to drink, but one which his mother always seemed to have close to hand. She smiled, her lips curved into a dreamy smile and her eyes were distant and glazed. Her gaze was trained upon her five year old boy, but yet she seemed to stare straight through him.

"Do you want to play a game Benjamin?"

His little eyes lit up. For Mummy never wanted to play games with him anymore. He was speechless and found that all he could do was to nod enthusiastically.

She turned and walked away. Benjamin tossed aside his toys and scrambled after her. She headed up the stairs. Her flowery summer dress billowed about her ankles with each step taken. Benjamin was mesmerised by her long tawny hair as it flowed around her shoulders.

In silence he followed. Not wanting to say anything which might make his mother angry and stop her from wanting to be his playmate. For this was indeed a rare treat. She led him to the master bedroom. She directed Benjamin over to a chair by the window.

"Sit down over there," she said.

And without question Benjamin did as she bid. In silence he watched as she picked up a length of rope from the floor. He remained silent when she began to bind him to the chair. He was puzzled. But even when the rope became so tight it hurt he didn’t say a single thing. There had to be a reason. It had to be part of the game that his mother wanted them both to play.

Once he was secured she gracefully went to the dresser. She picked up her glass and took a long drink from it. She had long since become immune to its burn. She looked euphoric as she swallowed the bourbon. He watched as his mother picked up the chair from the dresser and carried it over to the door. With a movement that was ladylike she raised one leg, but just enough so that she could free the sandal from it. She did the same with the other foot. Absently Benjamin’s mother cast one sandal aside and kept the other as she climbed up onto the chair.

Benjamin’s face was one of confusion. That slowly changed to unease that turned to fear as he watched his mother take her sandal and smash the arched window above the door frame.

The immediate smash was loud. The noises that followed were quieter. Little tinkles as the shards rained down upon the wooden flooring. His mother stepped down from the chair and didn’t seem to care as she stepped upon the broken glass. Shards pierced the soles of her feet. She walked across the room. Benjamin could only watch the tracks that her bare and ruined feet made. Bloody footprints dogged her as she came towards him. Benjamin wanted to cry but had forgotten how. She lowered herself down until her face was at his eye level.

"You look like him you know. Every day you look a little more like him...and I can’t bear it, I don’t want to see you turn into him, would you be the same as him Benjamin? would you leave me too?...would you?"

She didn’t wait for an answer she was on the move again. She went back over to the dresser. She tinkered with the small record player. Settling the needle into place and then closing her eyes as the music started. Hearing it now and also hearing it at another time. A time in the past, a time where once she had danced to it with a man that she dearly loved.

She opened her eyes, focused them as best as she could through the new tears and old drink. She didn’t see Benjamin, she saw Jonathon.

"Why did you go Jonathon? Why did you desert me?"

The tears grew thicker until they spilled the banks of her lids. She moved closer to Benjamin, creating more crimson tracks behind her.

"Was it because of Benjamin? Did you leave because of him?" Her focus changed. It sharpened a little, her tone did the same as she saw Benjamin once more.

"He left me because of you Benjamin. He left because of you, because you came into our lives, he left mine."

She struck him. It was open-handed but it was hard enough to draw blood from his quivering bottom lip. He still couldn’t find a voice, shock was setting in. Her eyes hardened.

"You must be punished, you must be."

Her words made Benjamin’s eyes widen. She straightened up and made another row of bloody tattoos upon the floor. She picked up more rope. This piece had a simple looking noose at one end. She climbed the chair then looped the plain end of the rope through where the glass had once been housed and tied it off in a simple knot. Absently she checked the length of the rope before dipping her head through. She tightened the noose.

All the while she stared at Benjamin who couldn’t take his own eyes away from the madness in hers. He watched as she kicked the chair away. He watched her drop. She didn’t drop far before the rope caught her and caused her to dangle. The fall was nowhere near long enough to break her neck. She was choking. Her eyes bulged and her tongue stuck out as far as it could.

Benjamin stared as his mother thrashed about as though fitting. He watched as she pissed herself. He watched until she finally stilled. It was only then that he managed to snap his eyes shut. The torment did not end with the darkness he created. His hearing became sharper and he could hear the pitter-patter of blood and urine as it dripped from her toes to land upon the floor.

For four long hours he was forced to endure that before he was found.

Benny wiped away the tears of remembrance as he began to pour the petrol through the letterbox. A full tenner's worth flowed through. Benny lit the match and only had to throw it near the door for the petrol to light.

The community centre on a Wednesday night was where the dirty gamblers went to talk to one another about not being bad again. But saying that you would not gamble was different to saying sorry to God. Hell would still welcome them. Tonight Hell would get fourteen new sinners and it would lose one prisoner of circumstance.

Benny thumped his temples to steady his fury. It only took small thoughts of his mother in Hell, the Catholic priest that raped him and all the times he was told that suicides went to Hell. A normal murderer could get forgiveness for killing another. It was impossible to ask for forgiveness for self murder, you were too dead to relent.

The flames began to chew on the insides of the building. He could hear the calls for help. The thumping on the emergency exit. He could imagine the alarms being smashed inside and the silence that would ensue. The sky above the building began to wear a hat of thick smoke. The sinners inside had begun to try and break the windows in silly bids to escape. The windows wouldn't break, the council had seen to that to stop the vandals.

Benny could feel Hell coming to claim its new inmates. He could feel the swelling evil erupt with brazen disregard for anything and everything. Benny had opened up a little pocket of Hell and now was the time to make things right.

The door was weakened from the heat and the flames. Benny ran at it and shouldered it. He bounced off it. The shoulder of his coat smoldered through the heat. He ran at the door again. This time it gave and the building admitted him into its furnace.

Without thought he ran deeper into the flames, all the while calling for his mother. He passed by bodies of sinners, some unconscious and some dead. The fire was everywhere, lapping at the walls, crawling on orange-red bellies across the carpets. A swarm of frenzied death looking for more to eat. His lungs shrivelled as the heat sucked the air from them.

This was Hell, he had waited years for this rescue. The flames danced around him. He could see his mother. Summer dress and long hair all. Hands of flames pushed him towards her, tendrils of smoke sang at his melting ears. Murderer, Murderer, Murderer was their chorus. The welcoming song of Pandemonium carried him to his eternity.

Lee Hughes has had his short fiction published on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, MicroHorror and in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. He currently lives on the Isle of Man with his wife.

Monday 15 June 2009



'You're way under your target, young Nicky,' the Project Manager said, shaking his head at her half-yearly figures. 'This'll have to improve or, no matter whose daughter you are...’
'I know,' Nicky replied with a grin. 'In for a roasting from Dad.'
'It's not funny.' The Project Manager frowned at her lightheartedness.
'There's lots of activity in the Middle East,’ Nicky pointed out. 'I've got loads of irons in the fire over there, bound to come up any day now, my interpreter says. How about taking a gamble - letting these figures pass on the promise of a huge return in a few months' time?' Her dark eyes closed and reopened slowly as she tried to win over the Project Manager by looking soulful. But he scoffed, knowingly. Soulful indeed! He closed the accounts book with a snap. ‘Last chance, then.’

Nicky worked overtime during the next few months persuading all manner of people to sign on the dotted line of her standard contract and slowly she gained ground, as more and more people became prepared to sell a certain item that she collected on behalf of the family firm. But by April and with the End-of-Year accounts looming, she was still one down and going frantic.
The Project Manager took pity on her. 'I've had this communication from a villain in London,' he said, holding out a transcript from one of the company’s spies for Nicky to read. 'He's begging for revenge. He’ll do anything. You could be the answer to his prayers, and he to yours.'
Nicky took the paper. The convicted drugs Dealer was obviously in deadly earnest when he swore he'd even do a deal with the devil to have the chance to murder the man who had double-crossed him and was knocking off his girlfriend and stealing his customers while he was a guest of Her Majesty. But he was banged up for twenty years and there was no earthly chance of him getting out to take revenge.
'Thanks, Boss.' She sighed with relief.

'Who the hell are you?' The drugs Dealer was alone in his cell when Nicky appeared to him in what the Good Book would describe as ‘a dream’. He was short, wiry, unshaven and, to Nicky's olfactory distress, extremely smelly. She’d gone Biblical for effect, dressed as the Avenging Angel.
'Oh, come on, you've been praying for me,' She waggled her huge wings so that he’d get the message, and waved the flaming sword around, leaving vapour and flame trails in fancy loops in the air. 'We were told you want out of here, to take revenge on someone. I can help. Let’s talk business.’ She plunged the sword into the stainless steel lavatory pan for lack of a better place to put it while she drove her bargain.
'Christ, that curry must have been off.' The Dealer belched and tried to go back to sleep, but Nicky wasn’t giving up.
'Come on, my friend,' she purred. 'You need me. I can get you out of here.'
The Dealer spat. He looked her up and down. Finally he said: 'What’s with the melodrama? Lousy costume, love, what is it - Avenging Angel?’
‘Oh, very good, well spotted.’ Nicky was quite relieved. She had started to feel a bit of a fool, overdressed and apparently unrecognised.
‘How much?'
'Money’s not what I’m after. You just sign on the dotted line and I’ll get you out. As a bonus, I could even help with the revenge.’ She tried not to sound too desperate. It would never do for this slime-ball to know how much she needed to help him and gain that signature.
The Dealer told her about his dreamed-of vengeance on his treacherous colleague and the faithless girlfriend. As he spoke, he repeatedly thumped his hammy hands into the mattress, demonstrating almost lunatic fury. Nicky thought he was a pretty scary individual and in exactly the place he ought to be – high security prison. She had slight qualms about letting him loose on the world, but reckoned she could probably arrange to get him locked up again once he’d done what he so desperately wanted to do. Once she had that contract signed …
'I still think you're just heartburn,' the Dealer muttered. 'But if you are real, get me out of here and then come and help me finish them off. I have no other contacts now, since he’s taken over my entire empire. But your firepower had better be good. Pete-the-Hood will be armed.'
'I'll bring the biggest firepower you ever saw,' she promised, spreading her contract out for him to check and sign. He snorted when he read the wording and then wrote his name at the bottom.
‘Excellent.’ Nicky smiled, tucking the contract into her bumbag and leaning over to grab the now sizzling sword from the lavatory pan. It immediately burst into flame again. The Dealer belched. ‘I’ll be seeing you, little lady,’ he said as he watched her wiggle her wings level on her shoulders. And in the blink of an eye she disappeared from his sight, leaving only the sound of boiling water behind her.

Within the week, Nicky had wangled the Dealer’s freedom, and they met up for the revenge part a few hours later, at the Dealer’s flat.
‘No sword today?’ he remarked.
‘In for repairs,’
The building was a soulless grey high-rise in the East End, due for demolition, half boarded up and stinking of urine and yesterday's cabbage (or maybe it was cabbage and yesterday’s urine). The Dealer’s own place was strong on tomcat and long-unwashed socks and weak on Dettol and fresh air.
'Disgusting,' he agreed, noting Nicky's twitching nostrils. 'And I know whose socks they are. Here, let me show you a photo.' He snatched a cheap frame from the bedside table. ' In my own bedroom! What disrespect!'
The man in the photo was hefty and dark and wore gold medallions that did battle with a forest of chest hair for possession of a very tanned torso. His arm was around the shoulders of a peroxide blonde.
'She called Tracey?' suggested Nicky. ‘From Essex?’ But the Dealer missed the joke, shook his head and corrected tersely, 'Sharon from Muswell Hill.'
He'd been drinking and he alternately wept over and cursed Sharon, but his feelings for his one-time friend Pete were unwaveringly full of hatred. In the course of the drunken monologue, he revealed just how many widows the pair of them had created by 'blowing away' rival drug barons and even Nicky’s hardened senses were troubled. This maniac and Pete-the-Hood really should not be let loose in the world. As it was, she was wondering if she had actually already fulfilled her side of the deal already by just getting him out. She couldn’t quite recall the exact terms of the contract. And then she remembered who she was and smiled: it didn’t really matter a damn either way …
Pete-the-Hood would be no loss to the world however, so she produced an impressive Russian-style bazooka for the Dealer to blow half the tenement block to hell if he felt like it. His eyes lit up at the sight of it. 'Now that's what I call firepower, my angel.' He took it from her with the air of a professional and crooned to it, stroking the black matt metal as though it were the coat of a favourite greyhound. 'I can't wait.' And then he looked sharply up at Nicky. 'You can get rid of this? No tracing it back to me?'
'The police will never know,' promised Nicky.
'Good. So now we wait.' He weaved his way to the back room out of sight of anyone coming in.
At last the key turned in the lock of the front door and a man and a woman, arguing amiably, came into the flat. The Dealer, fully alert now, stealthily reached for the bazooka. He nodded to Nicky and they rose together and sneaked through the flat to the bedroom where the couple had gone.
The Dealer kicked open the door and set the bazooka off. But instead of a flash, there was an enormous all-round explosion, like a gas main blasting and the entire flat and half the building disappeared into dust and smoke. And it was only then, floating in mid-air four storeys above London, that the Dealer took a good look at his victims.
'Damn!' He spat in disgust. Not pity, or remorse to redeem him, just overwhelming disgust. For the two people were not Sharon and Pete, in fact nothing like the people in the photograph at all. These were complete strangers. Nicky reached out and retrieved the bazooka. 'I'll have this checked,' she said. 'It's not meant to do that.'
Around the couple on the bed, a golden blaze of light appeared and suddenly glorious church organ music flooded the air. A sweeping white stairway led up to a beautiful clear blue sky. The couple, looking at one another in surprise, rose and, hand in hand with their new white garments rippling around them, smiled in heavenly peace and love and started to ascend the stairway to heaven.
'What the hell...?' said the Dealer, staring in confusion at the scene.
'They're going the other way; must've been goodies after all,’ Nicky explained.
'What's going on?' The Dealer had gone very white.
'One moment, please. Just want to report to my Project Manager.'
Nicky lifted a shattered mobile phone from the remains of the table. Somewhere far below, the sirens of police cars and fire tenders could be heard as they approached the exploded building.
'Hello, it's me.’ Nicky heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Just sending in my six hundred and sixty-sixth soul now.' She chucked the handset into the gaping sky, then leaned behind her and pulled at her trouser waistband: a long scaly tail appeared from her posterior. She snaked it about happily, enjoying the Dealer’s horrified expression.
'What the hell...?'
'My Boss will love you,' she said, tearing off the human hair wig to reveal a couple of small horns on either side of her bald scalp. She kicked off her shoes and bent down to remove some fluff from between the two slots of her cloven right hoof.
'You said you’d help me kill Pete-the-Hood!' The Dealer looked shocked, and also a bit green now, for he had realised there was nothing holding him in mid air. Far below, his body lay quite still in the wreck of the no-longer-high-rise block.
'I lied.’ Nicky shrugged. ‘It’s my job.’ Her eyes narrowed, as she added by way of explanation. 'I needed your damned soul, stupid. I got it. And my Dad isn't the Father of Lies for nothing, you know - the Deceiver, Old Nick, whatever you like to call him.'
'I never signed in blood! Isn't that part of the deal?' He was squealing like a pig now, all thoughts of revenge driven from his mind in the panic of discovering the reality of what he had done.
'Upgraded,' scorned Nicky. 'You can lose your soul over the internet these days.'
'So I'm dead, am I?'
'What does it look like?' Nicky spread her arms wide to indicate their impossible position above the destroyed building. The Dealer looked around, sickly, and had to accept the inevitable.
'So what happens now? What happens to my … my soul?' His voice was very unsteady as the terms of the contract filtered back into his brain.
'You sold it. To hell with you,' grinned Nicky. 'You'll probably be offered a job like mine, and I have no doubt that you'll be very good at it.'



C K Andrew lives on Exmoor and has published many short stories in various womens' magazines.

Sunday 14 June 2009


The Man Who Watches the Watchers

People queued up to get in. The Swing Room wasn't a place where the youth went to pop party-smarties and make shapes. The more mature went to the Swing Room to dance and to drink.

Tom and Martin watched from their car. The real police were around the corner in an unmarked transit van keeping an eye on the back. Tom and Martin were Customs and Excise. A loose lipped mule that had been caught at Gatwick with forty-grand's worth of Charlie up his hoop had decided that he wanted to make a deal.

The club was owned and operated by Joey Rowland. He was a face about town with his fingers in everything borderline dodgy and his hands in everything damn-right criminal.

Tom was tapping the wheel, "Looks like it's gonna be heaving in there Martin. You reckon it's gonna go down tonight?"

"It has to. The grass said the gold came into the country this morning and the Rabbi's buying it tomorrow morning." The whole team had been staking out and following every known hand of Joey Rowland. Rowland hadn't been out of the club all day. And no one suspicious had pitched up at either the front or the back with bags of anything.

Tom blew out air, "Think we should have a look inside? It's not as if anyone in there will know us."

"Might as well."


They crossed the street and joined the arse-end of the queue. Twenty minutes dragged by before they were let inside. They both nodded in appreciation of the décor. Joey Rowland had done it up a treat. It looked like he'd sneaked a bit of the forties out of history and transplanted it smack, bang into two-thousand and nine.

The band were setting up. The posters plastered about the place were bragging about the band. Big names with big tunes. London's own Authentic Auburns, on tour. Jimmy 'Hot-Notes' Nolan on the trumpet. Tommy 'Furnace-Fingers' Francis on the sax. Long-Arm Geoff on the trombone. Barry Sticks on percussion and Suzie Swing on strings. The poster painted more than just an image in the mind, it created an entire mural. No wonder, thought Tom, that the place was so popular. It certainly would make a change from having a pint of mild and a game of arrows down the Red Lion.

While the band was setting up, the music came courtesy of a sound system. People were going like the clappers on the dance floor and having themselves a whale of a time. Tom and Martin headed for the bar and ordered themselves a couple of cokes. The barman in his monkey suit poured the cokes over ice. Tom and Martin began looking at the patrons. The Barman picked up the phone by the cash-register, he plugged his ear with a forefinger.


"What's up John?" Mr. Rowland was sat at his desk doing the Times crossword. The head barman was on the blower.

-Two blokes just came in, ordered cokes.


-Don't think so Mr. Rowland.

"Where?" Mr. Rowland looked to the bank of screens that covered every inch of his establishment.

Mr. Rowland watched the two and smiled. He knew plod when he saw it, and he saw plod sat there trying their best to blend in. They were always trying to get one over on him. Mr. Rowland chuckled and made a phone call.


Martin and Tom sat drinking their cokes as though it cost a tenner a sip.

"Recognise anyone?" asked Tom.


"Seen dodgier looking people at church."

"Give it time."


They had another coke to allay any suspicion that they were anything but regular fun-goers. Tom nudged Martin with his elbow,

"Heads up," he nodded over towards the front of the club. Two blokes were edging around the dance-floor. Each one was carrying a holdall that looked heavy, gold heavy. The two blokes went through a service door by the end of the bar. Martin had his phone out in a flash.


Mr. Rowland watched on the screens as Plod and Co. came bursting into his club. He looked to the two lads sat on his sofa with the holdalls at their feet,

"Cheers for doing this, Tony, Ed."

"No worries Mr. Rowland." Said Tony.

"Need to have a little chat with you pair soon anyway regarding a certain taffy arms dealer that seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. I'm in the market you might say."

"Give us a tinkle whenever you've got a spare moment Mr. Rowland." Ed grinned at Tony as he said it, though Tony didn't look ecstatic at the prospect.

"Brace yourself lads, we're about to get flipped." Mr. Rowland looked to the door.


The regular rozzers were looking at Tom and Martin like they were a pair of the biggest fuck-ups that they'd ever had the misfortune to work with. Tom and Martin were still looking inside the holdalls. No wonder the bags had looked heavy. There were a dozen house bricks in each one. The duet of scrotes that had lugged the bags in had said they were simply a couple of brickies that were looking for some building work and wanted to show Mr. Rowland the quality of the bricks that they used.

"Let's get the fuck out of here," said the lead detective who felt at the moment like a lead defective. Martin and Tom looked around the room as though searching for anywhere that Mr. Rowland might have secreted the gold.

"Do, I not get an apology?" asked Mr. Rowland. The coppers just left.


Mr. Rowland watched as the last customers left his club. He bid them a good night. The band, as always had been tremendous. John the barman said from behind the bar as he poured the boss a drink,

"They were bloody good,"

"Golden, you might say." Mr. Rowland sipped at his drink and watched the band head to the door. He nodded to the bandstand, "Get Billy to give you a hand getting those out the back,"

John the barman shouted over to Billy who was busy wiping down the tables to come give him a hand. The pair went to the bandstand and started picking up the shiny instruments that the band hadn't bothered taking with them.

Mr. Rowland shouted over to Hot-Notes Nolan who was holding the door open for his band-mates, "good luck with the rest of the tour, bring me back something nice." He chuckled and raised his glass.


Tom and Martin watched as the club closed up. Watched as the band left with their instrument cases and piled into the back of the tour-bus.

"Wonder if they were any good." He mused as he started the engine.


BIO: Lee Hughes lives and works on the Isle of Man with his wife and two fish. He is currently putting the finishing touches to his first novel. His short fiction is to appear or has appeared in the upcoming Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9 by Megazanthus Press, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers and A Twist of Noir.

Friday 12 June 2009


This is a revised version of one of my first efforts on TKnC...


Derek Oddman had forgotten about his ‘strange gift’ - if you could call it that - until the day he shook hands with his old snooker buddy, Jack Rickworth.

Many years ago, as a schoolboy, Derek had felt a bizarre ZAP when he’d shaken the paw of next door’s puppy. Later that day the puppy had died. This hadn’t set any alarm bells ringing at the time, until he’d met Jack again.

He’d not seen Jack and the snooker lot since moving in with his girlfriend, Jenny, two years ago. Why-O-why had he devoted so much of his time and energy on her? She repaid him by kicking him in the balls when he’d returned home from work early last Tuesday.

He thought he’d surprise Jenny on her birthday, twelve roses behind his back, only for him to hear the creaking bedstead and moans of pleasure. He found Jenny in their bed with his so-called, ‘snooker buddy,’ Gerry McEwan!

Any man in his right mind would’ve given it to McEwan good-style, but no, not Derek. Such was the shock, his legs became blancmange and he tossed the roses downstairs at the fleeing, and half-naked, McEwan. That’ll teach him: yeah, right.

His hopes and dreams of having kids with the girl he loved and living happily ever after had been annihilated as sure as an ant under a size ten boot. Derek didn’t do disloyalty – end of! So there was no going back, no forgiveness and no interest in any explanation.

The same old repetitive mistake of becoming obsessed with a woman and neglecting all your friends when it’s those very same friends - McEwan apart - who are there for you in the end to help you pick up the pieces of a shattered life. So with the proverbial tail between his legs he’d returned to his old haunt, cue in hand.

Feeling more than a tad guilty about seeing his mates again having completely ditched them for a woman, Derek entered the spacious snooker hall. He heard the remembered clink of balls being potted echoing around the place and instantly realised by the looks on the lads’ faces that they already knew that one of their own was responsible for breaking his heart.

Fortunately, that smoothie, McEwan, wasn’t there tonight.

A few of the lads came over and passed pleasantries, telling him to get his name up on the chalk-board for a game and that he was welcome to rejoin the team, Derek clocking their lack of eye contact.

It was then that snooker veteran, Jack Rickworth, came over.

‘I heard what happened, mate, and I’m so sorry. McEwan’s a right sod,’ said Jack, proffering a hand.

Derek didn’t even have time to answer before he automatically reached out his own hand. At least old Jack had the guts to speak his mind. Derek felt the warmth of Jack’s palm as their hands clasped in a friendly, but firm, handshake.

Jack leaned in and gave a partial hug, saying, ‘It’s good to see you back, Dek.’

Still shaking hands, Derek felt a surge shoot up his right arm into the base of his stomach. Nausea engulfed him and he was completely drained of energy. However, he managed to force a smile and quickly release his grip, saying, ‘Cheers, Jack…I’m just gonna…nip to the loo.’

A few violent heaves later and the toilet was full of puke: a bog brimming with what seemed like evil badness from within. Derek flushed the toilet and scrubbed his hands like a man with OCD. He stared at his reflection in the mirror wondering, what the hell was all that about?

Derek persevered with the evening and after a few beers began to feel a little more at home, managing to have a laugh while temporarily suppressing his troubles and even arranging to meet them all for the next match.

The following morning, in his old box-room at his parents’ house, he was awoken by his mobile ringing, his head feeling like he received a couple of whacks from Mike Tyson.

‘Yeah…hello,’ he said, half asleep.

‘Derek, it’s Tim, from the club. Bad news, mate. Jack had a heart attack last night.’

Derek’s senses suddenly kicked in. ‘What? How is he?’

‘He’s dead, mate.’


Derek couldn’t deny he’d thought about the handshake, but soon dismissed it as him feeling sick, a reaction to his current circumstances. The lads had all agreed to play the next match – ‘Because it’s what Jack would’ve wanted’ – and the score was 2-2 with Derek on the decider.

He thought of Jack throughout, summoning all his reserves of concentration and experience to win the match on the black and got a good old buzz from his team-mates’ cheers.

He strode proudly over to shake his opponent’s hand and…


This was like an electrical surge throughout his body. Yet the other lad didn’t seem to feel it one iota. Derek quickly released his grip and avoided the handshakes from his friends, settling for pats on the back and clinks of pints glasses.

Later back at his parent’s house he began to dwell on this handshake business. He remembered that poor puppy. The signs were pointing to what he’d subconsciously feared for years as being true: was his handshake really a death warrant?

Latent thoughts, he’d tried to suppress, began to resurface. He was a schoolboy at the time, but now those horrific memories which preceded the shaking of the puppy’s paw came gushing back. The day before he’d had a somewhat more shocking handshake experience.

One of the most malicious kids in the school, Bobby Maguire, had tagged along with a gang of them as they headed, out of sheer morbidity and laddishness, up to Asker Hill, or ‘Death Rock,’ as it was commonly known: the local suicide spot. Five lost souls had already jumped back then, and to this day the death toll was well into double figures.

Maguire, in his wisdom - and bang in character for the school bully that he was - had thought it funny to pretend to push Derek over the edge. Derek recalled instinctively shuffling aside only for Maguire to slip over.

He’d frantically grabbed Maguire’s sweaty hand and managed to clasp it while the others were screaming hysterically and clutching onto Derek’s legs. He could see the utter terror on Maguire’s face; the silent pleading in his desperate eyes.

Derek felt a tingling in his hand which intensified into a violent ZAP. A feeling of sheer evil engulfed Derek and he couldn’t hold on any longer. He watched Maguire disappear down into the distance, his shrieks diminishing with him the further he fell. There was a sickening splat and crimson spray as his body buckled on the rocks below.

Over the years Derek had consciously shunned handshakes and slowly forced all this into the gloomy recesses of his mind, but recent events had brought it all back. And he began to wonder if the upheaval of finding Jenny in bed with McEwan had somehow triggered something that had lay dormant for years.


It was standing room only at Jack’s funeral. His favourite song, ‘My Way,’ intensified the emotions as the burgundy curtains closed on Jack’s coffin; a plethora of forlorn faces, the sniffles of his family on the front row.

Derek, however, felt emotionless. Of course he was sorry, and somewhat guilty, to see Jack go as he was one of life’s true characters, but Derek had been doing a lot of soul-searching, a lot of deliberating.

Especially since he’d heard about the lad he’d played in the deciding snooker game last week. Only twenty-five and, while out jogging, he’d dropped dead from a mystery illness even second and third opinions couldn’t diagnose.

As the congregation edged out of the crematorium the vicar was shaking the hand of each passing person. Derek avoided the cleric, just giving him a polite nod. Instead he headed for the group of snooker friends and saw McEwan amongst them.

The lads looked up at Derek, their faces tense, one even placing a cautionary arm across him.

‘It’s okay, lads,’ said Derek smirking.

McEwan moved toward him. ‘Look, Dek, I’m really sorry. Can you possibly forgive me?’

All stared agog at Derek.

‘Sure, man,’ he said coolly, proffering his hand, ‘Let’s shake on it…’

Col Bury is currently writing a crime novel and his ever-growing selection of short stories can be found on TKnC and A Twist Of Noir. He blogs and interviews crime authors here:

Tuesday 9 June 2009

WATCHED - by Lily Childs

Ok, Lily's latest exceeds our usual limit but, as it's so good, it deserves a slot...


They’re always there now, watching. I don’t know what they want. I don’t know what they’re waiting for.

I have no-one to talk to about it. My husband Harry is long gone – he won’t be coming back any time soon. My neighbours are never around; very busy people they are, both sides. Busy, busy, busy. Number 22 are a pair of bankers, fast-talking money boys in sharp suits. I don’t know their names. Number 18 is home to single Cindy, an ageing air-hostess. Cindy never talks to me, never asks me to water her plants while she’s away, or take in any parcels.

I wish I’d had children. By the time Harry disappeared it was too late. A daughter would have been nice – I could have dressed her in pretty pinks, plaited her hair, cried at her wedding. Still, I’m not sure if I could have told her about this. About them. What would I say? ‘They’re watching me Emily’, or maybe Harriett – after her father.

‘They’re watching me Emily.’

‘Don’t be daft mum’ she’d reply. ‘You’re imagining things’. She’d go back to her life – she was probably a lawyer or a ballet dancer – and she wouldn’t worry about me. That’s how it works. That’s what our relationship is like, me and Emily.

Aspen Avenue runs just off my street at a T-junction. It’s a long road and I can see right to the end of it from my bedroom. I’d suspected the man at number 6 for a while, him with his short dark hair and pointed chin. He always seems to be coming out of his house as I walk past. Random times – I have no routine.

These days he doesn’t even bother pretending not to be interested. He stands at his window, watching me through the curtains. Upstairs or downstairs – he’s not particular. When I’m dressing he sits in his van, smoking, his eyes on my room.

Number 6 was the first, but there are more of them now. The middle-aged couple from the other side of the road at number 13 can’t see my house from theirs so they go out and sit in their car, their headlights on full beam. Just watching.


I went to the park last Friday to feed the ducks. I thought I could see people swimming under the water in the boating lake – were they mermaids I wondered? I remembered seeing them when I was a little girl. They’d follow me as I walked around the edge, as close as I could get without falling in, their faces pale and unsmiling, skin faintly green beneath the lapping waves. What’s the collective name for mermaids? I had my own word – bliss. A bliss of mermaids.

They followed me round the edge, as was our little tradition, their bodies undulating as they swam, their long, long hair never getting caught in their sinewy limbs.

When we reached the little bridge that crosses the lake, they didn’t come out the other side.

I went and sat on a bench, watching the bowlers in their pristine whites, all very serious. I didn’t stay long – they didn’t like me being there, especially the women. I could see them giving me ‘the look’, whispering comments about me into each other’s hearing aids. I got up slowly and wandered over to a gaggle of them.

‘Pssst, pssst, pssst’ I said loudly. I walked away.

Coming home via The Spar I bought a couple of bottles of overpriced Merlot. I’d get drunk tonight. It wasn’t as though I was taking the tablets anymore so it wouldn’t do me any harm.

I stood in the middle of the living-room, wondering what to do with myself, a bottle in one hand and a large glass in the other. I must have stood like that for quite some time because when I looked outside it had got dark without me realising. The couple from number 13 were in their car again, their headlights shining straight at my house. Right at me.

My jaw tightened. I put the glass down on the floor, unscrewed the bottle and poured myself a goblet of liquid cherry – the colour matched my carpet, my sofa, my walls. Needing some courage I took a big gulp of wine. Then another, then another before putting the half-empty glass down. Reaching behind my back I unclipped my bra and walked across to the window. I lifted my T-shirt and pushed my body, my bare breasts against the glass. I shouted.

‘Is this what you want?’

I squirmed about, rubbing myself up and down the double-glazing. Mr and Mrs Hinson from the corner house walked past with their poodle. They didn’t even notice me. Although I expect Mr Hinson did, secretly. His poor wife, she’d be devastated if she knew how he feels about me, fantasising he is in bed with me instead of her.

The headlights went off and I couldn’t actually see the car anymore. I snorted back a laugh and looked down at myself. My nipples felt bruised and sore. My stomach was pink and blotchy, flabby, with little brown smudges. Jesus. When had I last cleaned the windows?

I adjusted my top and clipped my bra back together. I was exhausted. Flinging myself down on the sofa I grabbed the wine glass and drank the remaining Merlot in one go. I paused for a moment before topping myself up. And then I heard a car door slam.

Smoking a fat cigar and leaning against his vehicle, a taxi driver stared straight at me through my grubby windows. I recognised him. Every Wednesday morning he arrives at twenty past eight to pick up Mrs Roberts from number 12, four doors down. He usually arrives five minutes early, so he can ogle me for a bit before setting off with his fare. He never helps Mrs Roberts. He always parks on the opposite side of the street, outside my house, and he lets her hobble over while he gets his eyeful of me. I began to feel angry. What was this taxi man doing here at this time of night? Mrs Roberts would be in bed by now. I prowled up and down the living room, watching him watching me, out of the corner of my eye. Enough.

I marched to the front door, out onto the garden path. I was off the pavement and halfway across the road when he got back in the driver’s seat and I heard my neighbour Cindy’s front door slam. She sped past me, tottering on ridiculous heels. She ignored me completely and hopped into the back of the car. The taxi roared away leaving me in the middle of the road, the half-smoked cigar at my feet, where he’d thrown it.

I stood there for a while, seething, not moving until the loud beep, beep beeping of a car horn made me jump. Four lads in a metallic blue Fiesta screeched to a halt behind me.

‘Get out the bloody way!’

Looking over my shoulder at them I put on my best smile and fluttered my eyelashes before sauntering back to the house.

‘Sorry boys.’

‘Fucking weirdo.’

Silly boys, I knew they didn’t mean that.

What I didn’t like though was the sound of their laughter as they disappeared at a frightening speed. I don’t like being laughed at. I’ve never liked being laughed at. Why do they do it, these people? Harry used to laugh at me. That’s why I killed him.

Harry called me paranoid. He called me nuts, jealous, stupid. He told me to shut the fuck up, and eventually told me to leave him the fuck alone. He didn’t have a nice mouth on him, Harry. So to hear those boys laughing at me and using the F word...

I felt deflated as I walked into the hallway and shut the door behind me, so I went and sat and drank more Merlot from the second bottle in a welcome silence. It lasted just five seconds.

Dance music. Club music. Heavy throb, throb, throb mincing music from next door. My head pounded with the relentless beat. 11 o’clock at night and it was a party, just beginning. Thump, thump, thump through the walls. And voices, disembodied. Loud, so loud yet muffled at the same time, lacking clarity. Just like the bad times, when I heard the voices all the time, telling me what to do and how to do it, before I ended up in ‘hospital’.


I finally came off the pills in April this year - on my birthday, five years after being released ‘back into the community’. It was the last time I’d seen my after-care counsellor. She told me I was making such good progress she predicted I’d be medication-free in twelve months time, and had made me an appointment for next March.

Well, I was feeling just fine so after I left her office I made the decision to stop the meds there and then.

And here I am. Looking good. Feeling good. I just didn’t like all those people WATCHING me, like they knew. Like they were waiting for me to make some kind of exhibition of myself. And what I hate, what I really hate, is when everyone laughs at me. Because it takes me back to when I lived in a different part of town, with a cheating husband and no daughter named Emily. When I thought I was happy, but instead I was insane. When one afternoon I came home early from work, and everything changed.

I knew he was there. His jacket was lying on the hallway floor, a pair of red stiletto shoes beside it, which clearly weren’t mine. That was when I heard the moans and the familiar, ugly, uh, uh, uh Neanderthal grunts. I closed the front door quietly, picked up a shoe in each hand and made my way slowly up the stairs towards our bedroom, knowing where to tread so the floorboards wouldn’t squeak. I knew this because if I ever woke him up when he’d been out on a bender, he’d beat me within an inch of my life. I crept sideways along the wall, taking in their horrid sounds. I waited outside the bedroom for two, three minutes, then walked in and looked at them.

I didn’t know her. She looked half my age, but ragged, complete boredom on her badly painted face. Turned out she was a prostitute. One of many. Her wrists were handcuffed to our lovely Victorian bedstead; her skinny legs wrapped around Harry’s fat arse as he pumped away at her. And they were doing it in our bed, his and mine, not hers. She saw me first - he was blinded, his head down between her tits, slavering like a rabid dog – her chest covered with his spittle. She stiffened when she realised I was there. He felt it and stopped his thrusting to look down at her.

You see, what did it, wasn’t him. It was her. It was like slow motion – as he turned his face to see what she was staring at, she smirked, then started to cackle – an old sound from such a young throat. For a moment Harry’s eyes rested on me, and I could see him struggling to understand what I was doing there. I nearly walked away, but then, finding the one thing he could do to me that was worse than screwing a hooker in our marital bed, Harry started to laugh too. At me.

And so my responsibility became diminished. Instead of leaving the room like the useless bitch he’d always told me I was, I stepped straight over to them, still locked together on the mattress and slammed a stiletto heel into each of their heads. They both screamed. A lot. So I did it again. And then I did it again, and again, until they were just a mash of brain, skull, blood and snot on my perfectly white, crisp pillowcases.

Before I had any idea they were dead, the bastards, I climbed on top of them, onto Harry’s back and I rode them and rode them, tears pouring down my face, their heads smacking together, spilling everywhere. I didn’t even know I was screaming until the sirens outside the house penetrated my eardrums and were louder than my own voice.

They broke into our house, the police, and that’s how they found me – atop my dead husband, straddling some street-slapper, also deceased. According to the court reports I was shrieking ‘Stupid. Stupid. Stupid’. It was the word he’d used against me our entire married life.

And now, in the house I had made my home, where I had got better, the voices were back. In my head. In the walls. And the laughter, oh God the laughter. I sank to my knees, the carpet blood-red like my soaked marriage bed of so many years ago. The noise from next door grew louder and louder, and with every beat I rocked back and forth, back and forth.

I’m told what happened next was that I hammered on their door – naked. When someone opened up I entered the house calmly, and walked through the stunned throng of people. As the party guests hung back, pointed and turned away in embarrassment a friend of the bankers ran upstairs and grabbed a quilt – purple and beaded, it was. He came back down and wrapped me up in it.

‘Tell them not to laugh at me’ I whispered as he held me. ‘Or I might have to kill them.’

His name was Alan. He was a nurse. He asked someone to call an ambulance and he took me in his arms, letting me rock and rock and rock, and rock and roll, and roll and roll…

Apparently Tony – number 6 Aspen Avenue man – was having an affair with the woman at number 13. It was her he’d been watching, not me. She and Matthew, her husband of fifteen years had been trying to work it out; the only place to get away from the kids was to go out to their car. Matthew still loved his wife, despite what was going on. She was afraid of the dark, so he’d put the headlights on for her, full beam, to help her feel safe.

The meds are working again now. But I doubt I’ll be allowed back to the house. I’m OK here though – Alan comes to visit every Thursday and he obviously has a thing for me, he’s not gay like his friends. It won’t be long now until he declares his love. Or maybe I should tell him first how I feel.

I hope he will understand.

I hope he doesn’t laugh at me.

Lily Childs is a budding writer in the mystery and chiller genre, and is thrilled to have her short stories published on Thrillers Killers 'N' Chillers.
Lily lives on the Sussex Coast with her artist husband and beautiful 5-year old daughter.