Monday 27 July 2009


Following on from Lee's The Jesus People, now we have...

The Shaman People

It was the quietness that struck a chord. There were so many people watching, yet there was no noise. It unsettled some. But for Nathan and Cynthia as they dropped down out of the cabin of the ambulance they ignored it, they were used to all the different versions of silence that there was, and there were many.

Nathan put the brace around the neck of the young female passenger. There was blood seeping down from her nose and a little trickle coming out of her left ear. There was nothing else he could do other than talk calmly and try and keep her conscious whilst the firemen went about cutting the car apart.

What made it worse for the young woman was that the driver, a man of a similar age was dead. It was the set of his neck, hanging on his shoulders like a branch that had known something stronger than a breeze and had been half-snapped from the trunk proper.


Cynthia was at the wheel, running reds and not sparing the horses. Nathan was in the back doing what he could for the woman. He smiled at her, she tried to return it, and her brain seemed to forbid it. Nathan looked to Cynthia. The whole sum of her concentration was on the road ahead. Nathan opened his kit-bag. He gave another look at Cynthia. There was no way that she could see what he was getting from his bag.

He held the bone-thing almost reverently. It looked like a femur with the marrow removed and the outside etched with designs and symbols. The ends were plugged with coloured corks which he removed.

The young woman watched him, consciousness was fleeting. She saw him remove the stops. The paramedic pulled down her oxygen mask and set the bone to her lips. He met the other end with his own and began to gently suck.

Carefully, Nathan returned the stops to the etched bone and placed it back into his kit-bag. He looked at the young woman. He had taken the chore of life's balance out of God's hands and placed it within his own. Her life or her death was now at his discretion, just the way that he liked it.

The back doors of the ambulance were yanked open and the porters helped get the stretcher down from the back. Nathan began filling the doctor in about her vitals etc. He watched as they rushed her into the building.

They didn't know the way that life really worked, the pecking order of who gets to make the big decisions. The doctors were not buffer zones between life and death. They were merely caretakers of the flesh whilst more important people like himself catered to the essence of life.

Nathan checked the time. He looked up to Cynthia. “Another five minutes and the shift is over.”

“Thank, God, I'm knackered,” Cynthia said as she moved back to the cabin of the meat-wagon.


Nathan Louis finished scribbling down the woman's name on a strip of masking-tape and set it on the shelf with the others. He moved over to another shelf. The bones on that shelf were the ones that contained the spirits that he would return, cleansed and purified and ready to go back to their rightful vessels.

That was where he saw his main power. Not in his ability to imprison the spirit, but in finding out if the vessel was worthy of its return. He would check the spirit of the young woman and then decide whether or not to return her to health, or to keep her where she was.

Nathan picked one up; the roughly placed tape announced the name of the person as William Sanders. Nathan had deemed this man worthy of being returned to health. The man had come under his scrutiny after they'd attended a call to a block of flats that had been the target for an arson attack. Mr. Saunders was found with third degree burns. Deeper investigations by Nathan had revealed that it was Willy himself that had started the fire, along with another dozen or so blazes. Only Nathan knew this.


He moved through the corridors without anyone questioning him. The folks thought him a man who just loved his job and following up on the broken people that he ferried through its doors. Some couldn't understand it, but they were the ones that didn't care.

He smiled down at Willy, ignoring his char-grilled face. Willy's eyes were vacant, staring dead-ahead through shiny and blistered lids. Nathan looked over his shoulder, there were no curious eyes monitoring him. He withdrew the bone. He uncorked it, set it to the man's crusted lips and blew the man's soul back in deep. Nathan moved his lips from the bone to the man's ears.

“More fires, I want to see more fires.” Nathan pocketed the bone and left.

As he came out of the room he bumped into Father Charlatan. As Nathan preferred to call him, false religions were the bane of Nathan's earthly chore.

“Maybe you should think about becoming a doctor rather than being a paramedic. You seem to spend more time inside the hospital than out of it.” The Father's words were good natured, though Nathan didn't care much for them.

Nathan smiled. “Well, sometimes it's good to not just wash your hands of something, see things through to the end.”

“Then there'll be a place for you in Heaven,” the Father said with a smile.

“That's reassuring,” Nathan replied and gently pushed past the man of the cloth.

Father Charleston watched the paramedic's exodus. There was something he didn't quite like about the man. He was pleasant enough; it was something that he couldn't quite put a finger on.

Father Charleston entered the patient's room. The man had been catatonic ever since he had been brought in. Father Charleston thanked Heaven for small mercies for the fact that he was lost in a seemingly endless coma, as the man was burned as though he'd been gallivanting in Hell with a coat made from petrol.

He paused as he entered; William Sanders was staring at him, a slick grin on his grilled lips.


Father Charleston sat in the hospital chapel. He was one hundred percent sure that he had a good idea concerning the problem in the hospital. There were so many people with deathly wounds and sicknesses that just would not die. People spoke of the strength of their spirits. True, inner strength of the spirit can be miraculous, but not to the extent that they were seeing.

The times were dangerous enough without people dabbling in mischief. The search for the Osseous Box had begun. The signs had become apparent and the Beast sought the box's whereabouts.

They'd no idea how to begin their own search for it. Until now, Father Charleston knew how they could commence the hunt. He went to the nurses' station to use their phone.


Danny waited in the bathroom. He'd seen enough in the spare room to realise that Father Charleston was on to something. And it was about time. They'd had no leads on which to go on. And with the enemy's hunter already at work time would soon grow too short to steal back the advantage that the Enemy had taken. Danny rested a hand on the Alsatian's head to keep it quiet.


Nathan slammed the door shut on his car; he was feeling pretty good about himself. Every day it became less of a vocation and more of a destiny. The false Gods of so called Good and Evil were welcome to their petty squabble. It mattered not a jot to him. He worshiped only the power that he wielded. None of the people of the earth were destined for Heaven or Hell. They were merely beings awaiting Nathan's judgment.

He worked his way up the path. Tonight he would examine the spirit of the young woman from the car accident and decide whether to heal her waning spirit or archive it. Nathan envisioned anarchy, and good people hindered the advance of the bedlam. His separating of those that sought peace from pandemonium would make for a purer populace.

“Mr. Louis?” called a voice.

Nathan paused and grimaced. He recognized the voice, it belonged to Father Charleston. Nathan turned and wore a smile like it was an infection. “Something tells me this isn't coincidence.”

Father Charleston held his hands up. “Banged to rights. I just wanted to say that what you're doing at the hospital is tremendous. Your visits to the sick are having a wondrous effect. William Sanders returned to the land of the living today just after you left.”

“Thanks, I do what I can.”

“Well, whatever magic you're weaving don't stop!” Father Charleston chuckled as he said the last.

Nathan however did not smile back. He could see it in the priest's eyes, he knew something, maybe not everything, but he knew enough to be curious and land on his doorstep.

“Fancy a cuppa?” Nathan asked.

“That would be great!” and Father Charleston began up the path.

Nathan moved to put his key in the door, and as if by magic the door opened by itself. Father Charleston pushed from behind and whoever had opened the door dragged Nathan inside.


Father Charleston stood with the Alsatian at his side. He stared at the townhouse where the Enemy had begun its hunt. The whole building was still cordoned off. The police had found the savaged remains of eight people, all of which had been identified as members of a cult. Bystanders had talked of a misshaped dog-thing bursting through the windows and taking off into the night.

Father Charleston looked down at the dog. “Good luck, Danny, and God's speed.”

The dog appeared to nod and then took off at a dash, the scent of the obscene still fresh after the passing of two days; it began its urgent hunt.

Father Charleston turned and walked in the direction of the hospital. He carried with him a bag. Within it were the bone-cages of the imprisoned souls. It was time to return them to their rightful bodies. Nathan Louis would never dabble in the affairs of God's and Devils again; his shamanistic and pestilent work was now removed, along with the poisonous beat of his dark-heart. The time of the final reckoning was nearing, there was no place for the insolence of magick and the mischief of trickery, there would be enough of that with what the Enemy had to offer.
Lee Hughes' short fiction has appeared in or is due to appear in the anthology Cern Zoo Nemonymous 9, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir,, The Daily Tourniquet and Powder Flash Burn. To find out more visit:

IDLE HANDS By Christopher Grant


Have you ever been out of work? Laid off, CEOs and politicians call it. Fucking fired is what they really mean. They ain't never bringing you back.

Back in the '30s, Grandpa felt the slice of that knife, coupled with the aftermath of the Stock Market Crash and, as a result, the Depression. The stories he told me were like something from another planet, unimaginable.

He let me in on a secret, too. When it got tough, he robbed a bank. He mugged old ladies and rich men and anyone else he could. He broke into and robbed corner stores and houses that had anything of worth inside.

The criminal activity lost its cachet after a time and, gradually, the economy got back on its feet and Grandpa was back earning an honest living, instead of a necessary one.

He told me that, with luck and planning, it wouldn't be necessary for me to repeat history.

I've had idle hands for a year now, unable to find work, unable to impress these suits and ties with my résumé. I'd saved up for this kind of thing, the proverbial rainy day. I'm down to my last couple thousand dollars and it's rapidly deserting my account. I'm going to have to do something soon.

I need to have a chat with Grandpa.

BIO: Christopher Grant is the editor and owner of A Twist Of Noir. He's had crime fiction published on the now-defunct DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash and currently has fiction at Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive and here at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.


TKnC bids welcome to Gavin Bell with this short crime story...

Faith’s Reconstruction

Faith finished applying her lipstick, ran her fingers through her horizontal blonde locks and then lingered in front of the full-length mirror for a moment, staring into the chestnut-brown eyes of a dead woman.
“Constable Badder, are you ready yet?” DCI Sinclair’s voice, coupled with his businesslike knock on the door, snapped her out of the trance.
“Two minutes.” Her voice betrayed just a trace of annoyance.
Sinclair paused for a second. “Okay. Ready when you are.”
Faith waited for the sound of Sinclair’s footsteps falling away from the door before turning back to examine the stranger in the looking glass. Clothes may not make the woman, but they sure as hell change her, she thought.
Faith forced her eyes to move slowly up the length of her slight frame, from the cheap knee-high boots, past the impossibly short blue skirt, over the revealing scarlet vest top and to the beat-up leather jacket.
She looked so different. So wrong.
The boots weren’t her, the clothes weren’t her, the arterial-hued lipstick definitely wasn’t her. The only thing recognisable as belonging to Faith was that strawberry blonde hair. Even the hair seemed slightly alien when left unfettered and trailing, rather than bound in a tight ponytail. A strange kind of resurrection, indeed. Unbidden, the voice of Dr Collingsworth, Faith’s criminology professor at the Academy returned to her.
A murderer always returns to the scene of a crime, but why? Because he wants to establish meaning, to get to the truth of his actions. And that is why we must also return to the scene of the crime.
The lecture was cut short by another knock at the door, Sinclair’s voice more insistent this time.
Faith sighed and said, “I’m coming.”


Kirkhill Public Park first opened its ornate wrought-iron gates in the late Victorian era. At the time, its meandering brooks, open grass areas and tennis courts attracted people from throughout the social strata. Over the ensuing century, the park’s target demographic had narrowed somewhat; its overgrown flora and derelict buildings now best met the needs of amorous teenagers and junkies.
The park was busier than one would normally expect for a bitterly cold Tuesday morning in January. Three different television news teams, a dozen or so police officers, and more than a handful of gawkers were gathered around the bandstand. Kirkhill was an average-sized town for the West of Scotland, but it was still small enough for a vicious homicide to be something of an event.
Faith sat alone on a graffiti-daubed wooden bench and rubbed her hands together while Sinclair talked to a reporter. He was explaining that given the viciousness of the attack the killer would have been covered in blood, and as the murder occurred in daylight, somebody would most likely have seen something.
Sinclair had handed Faith her final accessory in the car: a faux-emerald pendant shaped like a loveheart. It didn’t even go with the vest. She toyed with the dead girl’s pendant as she took in the scene, rubbing her thumb across its smooth surface absently. As a veteran of dozens of crime scenes, Faith was used to the media crews attracting all the attention from bystanders. That wasn’t the case this time; she could sense that any stray glances from the assembled throng were directed exclusively at her. Most were subtle about it, but a group of three teenage boys standing just outside the police tape were staring at her quite openly, with no coyness in their gaze.
And why should there be? For this morning, she was public property. Idly, Faith wondered if they were staring at her because of the revealing clothes, or because of a morbid fascination with what she represented. She decided that it was probably both in equal measure. An older man, thirtyish, wearing a red lumberjack shirt and a concerned expression, nodded at her. Faith managed to assemble what she hoped was a brave smile.
The TV reporter was winding up her interview with Sinclair. Faith stood up and moved into position at the top of the short flight of steps at the side of the band-stand as the reporter, a stick-thin redhead in her early twenties, closed with a flirtatious smile at Sinclair and turned back to the camera for her summation. Then all cameras pointed towards Faith.
From out of nowhere, Sinclair was beside her. “Holding up?”
“I’ll survive. The end result is what’s important, Mike. What you or I have to do to get there isn’t the issue, those are just details. If this… pantomime will help, I’ll gladly do it.”
Sinclair patted her on the back as he said: “Time to walk.”
Faith walked.
The route she would take from the bandstand to Lover’s Walk was clear as a DVD playback in her mind. She’d made a couple of dry-runs the previous day so that she could devote her full concentration to the show. Faith had done some acting in high school - a few supporting roles, even Snow White, once - and as performances went, this one wasn’t too demanding. There were no lines to learn, no complex dance steps to memorise, no Prince Charming to kiss. All she had to do was walk. Walk from the bandstand, across the football fields, past the duck pond, across the bridge, and down Lover’s Walk, exactly as her character had done last Tuesday morning sometime between seven thirty and eight o’clock.
Her character. Who was she?
Faith knew her name, of course. Elizabeth McBride. Lizzie. Physically, they weren’t so different. This was no coincidence of course, as the role had been cast to type. Both women were in their early thirties (Faith, at thirty-three, was actually two years older than her character, although the lined and care-worn face of McBride’s corpse had suggested a woman on the wrong side of forty). Both were five-seven, eight stone, both had strawberry blonde hair.
Earlier, Sinclair had told Faith she didn’t have to do this. He’d been wrong. No one else at the station would have been able to fit into the cheap Jimmy Choo knockoffs.
The reconstruction might actually help, too. In the absence of any concrete leads, recreating the victim’s last movements to jog the memories of potential witnesses is a proven method of shaking loose vital new information. Like Sinclair said, somebody had to have seen something. Perhaps, in Collingsworth’s words, they could reach the truth through this return to the scene.
Onlookers lined the path as Faith reached the duck pond. She couldn’t help but resent their fascinated stares, reminding herself with grim repetition that the high turnout was a good thing. She turned her attention away from them to look at the pond. Faith remembered there being ducks when she used to play here as a kid.
Had a young Lizzie McBride played here, in the park? It was likely, she was a Kirkhill girl. Faith had been present when they interviewed her mother. A nice lady. A lot like Faith’s own mum, in fact. Faith wondered what could have happened in her character’s life to set her down such a different career path.
The audience looked on as Faith began to cross the bridge. A little boy in a red shirt pointed a chubby finger at her. His mother quickly pushed his arm down and scolded him in hushed tones. The bridge was coated in flaking green paint and spanned a drop of around twenty feet to the burn below. Part of the railing was missing on one side; the park had gone to seed in the quarter century since Faith had played hide and seek here. In some ways the whole town had. Sure, murder was still rare enough to draw a crowd, but there was a multitude of lesser social evils, from graffiti all the way up to heroin dealing, that no longer raised an eyebrow.
Faith was nearing the end of the walk. In another couple of minutes, she’d reach the primary crime scene, pause for effect, then duck under the yellow police tape and accept a warm coat and, with any luck, a hot cup of coffee from one of the other officers. Her thoughts gravitated inexorably back towards Lizzie McBride, and she felt a pang of something that a psychologist might have described as survivor’s guilt. Lizzie didn’t get to go home with a hot drink.
Was it normal for an actor to identify so closely with a character? Faith supposed it was the inescapable similarities that did it. Two girls, roughly the same age, brought up in the same town. So similar in beginnings, so different in endings. Details. Sometimes the details do make a difference. Faith was a successful police officer, with an eye on promotion and a boyfriend who might soon become a husband. Lizzie had been a prostitute and a junkie, and had died in a pool of her own blood on an overgrown stretch of Lover’s Walk, butchered by an ice-veined psychopath with a serrated seven-inch hunting knife.
Of course, there were those who would say that Lizzie’s lifestyle made her demise her own fault, and going by some of the tight-lipped expressions among the crowd, a few of them were in attendance today. But Faith was not one of them. She knew murders like this weren’t about judgement, they were about sex and blood and insanity and blonde hair. Lizzie’s killer had to be found, and not just to serve justice. Justice was becoming an increasingly abstract notion to Faith as her career in law enforcement progressed. No, he had to be caught for the coldly practical reason that if he remained free, he would do it again. He would do the same terrible things to some other poor girl like Lizzie, and in exactly the same bloody way. These maniacs always kept a consistent M.O., to the point of banality. That was one reason they were always caught. Over 95% of murders in Scotland were solved last year. Faith allowed herself a smile, finding some satisfaction in this statistical comfort-blanket.
Almost there now. The narrow point in the path was straight ahead; flanked by the overgrown bushes where the bastard had concealed himself (they knew this from the whittled twigs he’d toyed with while he waited). Faith could see dark, caked blood registering as black on the bright evergreen leaves. The crowd had thickened, but the chatter had dropped in inverse proportion, dying away to a reverent hush, as the victim reached her goal.
Almost done, Faith thought, then I can get out of these clothes, take a shower, and get to work on nailing this guy.
A glint of light from some trees up on the hill a quarter of a mile away sparkled on the edge of her peripheral vision. Another onlooker? she wondered. Someone with binoculars, maybe? Why so shy?
That was Faith’s last thought before the .270 calibre bullet shattered the fake emerald loveheart on its way into her chest. She collapsed between the overgrown bushes on Lover’s Walk, dying among leaves slick with her own blood and still tacky with the blood of Lizzie McBride.


A quarter of a mile away, the killer carefully retrieved the spent shell casing and placed it in the breast pocket of his red lumberjack shirt, then slipped the Browning Hunter rifle back into the green canvas bag and hefted it over his shoulder. He walked away briskly, but not rushing. As he walked, he smiled with the satisfaction of a job well done, and thought about the kill, how it had been neater, but somehow less satisfying than the last one, where he had used the knife.
Variety is the spice of life, he mused, as he wondered how he would take care of the next one. After all, it wasn’t the method that was important, it was the end result. Whatever you did to get there was just details.


Gavin was born in Glasgow in 1979. He has worked as a petrol station attendant, taxman, salesman, research manager and pizza boy. His story ‘A Living’ was shortlisted for the 2007 Get Britain Reading prize, and published in the Sun Book of Short Stories, and his other stories have been published in Scribble magazine and First Edition.
He currently lives in Hamilton with a wife, a daughter and a growing pack of bunnies, and is at work on his first novel, a thriller entitled Halfway to Hell.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

F.U.B.A.R. by Paul Grzegorezek Part 1

Uncommonly for TKnC, I've decided to post a 2 parter (to keep within the 2,000 word limit), so I hope everyone works with me on this one...

Paul Grzegorezek is an author whose debut novel is doing the rounds with the publishers. F.U.B.A.R is his work in progress and would love comments on what people think of his work. This is an exerpt from the book. Please give Paul the feedback in the usual way.


I sat in the middle of a cafe on the Carfax in Horsham, overlooking the bandstand in the middle of the paved area. I checked my watch for the third time in as many minutes and forced myself to be calm. I’d spoken to Susan earlier and arranged a meeting on the steps of the bandstand itself at 1000 hours, cautioning her to come alone. I’d then hidden Eva and the car in an unobtrusive side road almost a mile away and trekked into town more than an hour early to keep an eye on the area.
I had no doubt that she would bring friends, but that was par for the course. What concerned me was whether or not she would give me a chance to talk before she ordered me either shot or captured.
I’d arranged a public meeting in the hope that so many people around would stop her from doing anything too obvious. There’s very little you can do against a sniper in an elevated position, but the same can’t be said for a snatch squad, which was the most likely tactic in a public place.
The bandstand was set back about fifty yards from the road, which was the only vehicle access to the area, and as my watch told me I only had another fifteen minutes to wait a white van pulled in with two men sitting in the front, looking unnaturally alert for the builders that the van signage proclaimed they were.
They were so obvious, in fact, that I immediately knew that they were there to be spotted, and began to look more closely to see the real cover team.
It took me a few minutes, but eventually I found them. A woman walking a small dog was going around the square for the second time, window shopping in the same stores that she had looked at last time. It might just have been paranoia, but I was fairly sure she was in play.
A couple sat on a bench on the far side of the bandstand outside the small post office, but when they hugged each other I saw how careful their hands were not to press clothing against the body, which I presumed would give away the shape of the holstered weapons beneath their jackets.
I began to scan windows and rooftops, looking for their over watch, but a good sniper will never stick their barrel out or use binoculars the way they do in films. Instead, they will be standing well inside whatever room they are in, the angle from their weapon enough to cover the square but not close enough to be spotted from outside.
I marked the two buildings I would have used, then began a window by window search. The third floor of a pub on the far side of the road looked favourite, an open window there giving a perfect view of the bandstand.
On the way here I’d bought myself a pay as you go mobile in case I needed to call Susan again, and also bought one which now waited with Eva. If she didn’t hear from me by 1015 hours she would take the car and leave with most of my money, to do whatever she thought appropriate.
As I scanned the area, trying to pick out the rest of the team, Susan came into view from the far side of the Carfax and walked slowly towards the bandstand.
One of the reasons that I had chosen this particular cafe to watch from was that it had a rear exit, which I now used, jogging down a side alley to get myself to the far side of the square without being seen.
Once there, I walked along the pavement until I was positioned underneath the pub that I thought the sniper was in and dialled Susan’s number.
“Morgan’s”, she answered, and I saw her looking around as she did so.
“I thought you weren’t going to bring friends?”
Her head twisted this way and that for a moment, then became very still as she tried to regain control of the situation.
“You have to allow me a little insurance John, as far as I know you may be here to kill me”.
“Well I’m not, but I guess you don’t want to take my word for it. I’m currently standing outside your sniper position, behind your stooge team”, I said, referring to the men in the van.
Before she could stop herself, Susan looked directly towards my position, which confirmed my suspicions about the sniper.
“Okay John, are you coming to me or am I coming to you?”
“You come to me, and we’ll have a chat. There are a few things I think you need to know.”
She hung up without answering and began to walk towards me slowly, clearly giving time for the team to work out where she was going. I used the white van to block the rest of the team from seeing me, and waved cheerily at the mirror when I saw one of the men peering out at me. He glanced away disinterestedly as Susan approached and stopped a few feet away from me.
“So talk John”.
“Would you not prefer to grab a drink and have a chat?” I asked, motioning towards yet another cafe.
“No thanks, I don’t socialise with killers”.
“Well that’s bullshit and you know it. We’re all killers Susan, that’s why you employ us. Now can we have a civil conversation before you decide that I’m the murderer you’re making me out to be, or are you past the caring stage?”
She stared at me, her face unreadable. She must have been a demon at poker.
“Go on”.
So I told her what Eva had told me, all of it, and included exactly what had happened at the house, then at Arundel. As I spoke, I saw her expression change from nothing to hostility then finally to a grudging acceptance.
“So there you have it. The girl is alive and well, but if I go to anyone about it, we’ll end up being held at Paddington Green, then one of the other inmates will find a way to kill us. You can probably see now why I was so wary of coming out in the open with this”.
She nodded.
“I can indeed. I’ve heard of Atlantic Freight and Shipping, although few people have, which makes me more inclined to believe you. When I was in the Navy there was a standing order to leave their ships alone, no matter what. When I got into the intelligence side of things I got to know them a little better, but I just thought they sold arms direct, I had no idea they were using criminal gangs to do it. No wonder the FBI were so cagey about this case”.
“So you believe me then?”
She nodded reluctantly.
“I do, but that means I’ve been lied to by someone else”. She reached into her pocket then spoke into her lapel.
“Alpha team, stand down, stand down, Blake is no longer a target, re...”
I heard the shot at the same time as I felt an excruciating pain in my shoulder, the force of the round knocking me backwards despite having spent most of its energy tearing through Susan’s head. As I fell, I saw her face, half torn away, a look of surprise in her one remaining eye as she slumped to the ground.

F.U.B.A.R. by Paul Grzegorezek Part 2

(please scroll up for Part 1)

Screams filled the air as people saw what had happened, and suddenly the shopping area seethed like an ant hill that’d been kicked apart. People ran to and fro, desperately seeking cover, while a few stood still and looked around, trying to work out what had happened or where the sound had come from.
Gritting my teeth against the pain, I forced myself upright as Susan’s team converged on my location, weapons out and grim looks on their faces. Turning, I began a staggering run, knowing that I could never outrun my pursuers in this state, but refusing to give up that easily.
A bullet ricocheted off a wall next to me and I turned into the nearest side road and quite literally ran for my life, every step pumping fresh blood out of the wound in my shoulder.
I’d made it about two hundred yards when I ran straight into a police officer, colliding with him and leaving a smear of bright blood on his yellow jacket.
“Easy mate, you alright?” He asked, holding me upright as I sagged with the pain.
“No”, I managed to gasp, “run, for Christ’s sake run!”
I couldn’t shake his grip, so I slid my right arm up and over his left, then under his right and levered him off me. He began to fumble for his pepper spray, but two rounds hit him in the chest and he flew backwards with a scream.
Ducking, I forced my aching body into action again and tucked my head down as I ran, desperate to get out of range of my pursuers. Most pistols are wildly inaccurate after about thirty yards, and I had no doubt whatsoever that the rounds the officer had taken were meant for me.
I found myself on a main road, heading back towards the area I’d left Eva. Pulling out the phone, I managed to hit the speed dial for her number and held it to my ear as I gasped for breath.
“John?” She answered, sounding relieved.
“Eva, go, leave. They’ve killed Susan and they’re after me. I’m shot, you’ve got to get out of here now”, I somehow managed, taking a right turn at random and finding myself in a small street that petered out into a tiny park.
“Where are you? I’ll come and get you”.
“No you won’t, you need to leave. I’ve got to go”.
I threw the phone into a garden as I ran past, then made the trees at the end of the lane and cut left towards what appeared to be fields and a railway track. I was running out of breath fast, and if the colour of the blood coming out of my wound was any indication, I wasn’t doing so well there either.
I could hear sirens somewhere behind me now, the noise bouncing off the walls nearby and then blending with the other sounds of panic as I got further away.
Risking a glance behind, I saw the two men from the van, both in paint stained blue overalls, sprinting towards me with silenced pistols in their hands.
Despite being armed myself, I knew that I was in no state to be taking on two armed opponents, so I half crawled, half threw myself over a fence and found myself on a railway track with fields and woods the other side.
Unsure what else to do, I began to run alongside the tracks, feeling weaker every second as the two men chasing me closed the gap.

My breath came in huge gasps as I forced myself to stumble on, tripping and sliding on grass and stones as I somehow managed to keep going. I knew that with a bullet lodged in my shoulder I was doing myself more damage by moving, but I really didn’t have any choice.
Staring resolutely forward, I kept placing one foot in front of the other, telling myself that I had been through worse and made it out alive. There is something uniquely human in the utter refusal to lie down and die, even in the very jaws of death. I’ve seen men with their legs blown away, with no hope of survival, dragging themselves towards perceived safety while their lifeblood drains away into the sand. I felt that way now; a grim knowledge that I had no way out, but a determination to get away nonetheless.
Shaking my head to dispel the maudlin thoughts, I forced myself into a semblance of alertness and looked around. The men were still a good fifty yards behind me, although the gap was closing faster than I’d like. About twice that distance in front of me, I could see that the railway line crossed a road, the level crossing gates just beginning to close as the red lights warned of an approaching train. Spurring myself on, I redoubled my pace and managed to stay upright long enough to reach it and duck under the barrier. Several cars were sat patiently in the queue, waiting for the barrier to raise, and to my horror the third car along was a Ford Focus with Eva behind the wheel, looking as surprised to see me as I was her.
She opened the door and began to get out, but I waved at her frantically to get back in and turn around, just as the first of my followers reached the barrier.
I saw him out of the corner of my eye and turned, pulling my pistol in the same movement. He fired first, but his aim was hampered as he was buffeted by the wind caused by the train that began to streak past and the shot went wild.
I let off a round before I brought the pistol to bear, and although it missed, he ducked back, momentarily off balance. I took advantage of his uncertainty and lunged forwards, rolling back over the barrier and kicking him into the side of the moving train.
He was ripped away as one of his flailing arms caught in the wheels, his scream lost in the noise from the train. His partner was only a few feet behind, and as he ducked to avoid his friend’s body I fired four times, each round catching him in the chest and knocking him backwards to disappear over the embankment.
The driver’s in the queue began to panic, some reversing madly to get away, others leaving their cars and running as a blood covered madman killed two people in front of them. I eased myself back over the barrier, adding yet more blood to the coating I’d already given it, and made it to the car where Eva still sat waiting for me.
“I thought I told you to leave?” I managed as I sank into the passenger seat.
“And where would I go?” She asked, reversing and pulling out past the abandoned cars at the level crossing gates rose, ignorant of their involvement in the carnage below.
I ignored her question and opened the glove compartment to find something to staunch my wound with. After a few moments of rooting around, I checked under the passenger seat and found a large first aid kit, blessing Trevor as I pulled it out and opened it up on my lap.
Inside the bag there were enough bandages and meds to keep me alive for a week, as well as a small holdout pistol and a money bag with about £300 in £20 notes.
Grabbing a first field dressing, I tore the wrapping off with my teeth and pressed it to the wound, pinching the straps between my back and the seat to stop it from slipping. Within moments blood began to seep through, so I placed another one on top of the first and held them firmly in place.
Eva looked over at me, concern showing openly.
“We need to get you to a doctor”.
I shook my head and concentrated on staying conscious as darkness hovered at the edge of my vision.
“No, no doctors. They would report it to the police straight away”.
“I don’t know how to fix that, and if you don’t get it seen to you’ll die!”
I pawed through the bag until I found some Oramorph, a form of morphine that you take orally, and tore the end off, squeezing the liquid into my mouth.
“I’ll be fine. Just drive towards London, I know a few people I can call, one of them will help, I’m sure”.
The morphine began to kick in and everything started to take on a surreal, floating quality. I turned my head to speak to Eva, but the movement made my head spin and I had to close my eyes and breathe deeply to stop myself from throwing up.
“John, John? Shit!” Her voice sounded as if it were coming out of a long, deep tunnel, and I tried to focus on her.
“What?” The word seemed to stretch forever as it came out of my mouth and drifted away.
“Stay focused John, I need you alive. I need you!”
Summoning up reserves of strength I’d forgotten I possessed, I pulled myself back from the brink of unconsciousness and forced myself to concentrate.
“Follow the signs to London. When we get to London, head towards Hackney. I’ve got a lockup on Digby Road, there’s a few things there we can use”.
She put her foot down, and the growl of the engine was strangely comforting.
“What happened back there?” She asked.
“Susan got shot. I told her everything and I think she believed me. She called her team off and told them I wasn’t a target, and then she got shot”.
My drug addled brain strove to make sense of it all. Something was screaming at me, but it couldn’t make it through the fog that wound itself through my thoughts.
“Who shot her, her own team?”
I shrugged, or tried to, but the pain in my shoulder flared up even through the morphine.
“I don’t know. It would make sense, I suppose, she said she was lied to. That’s it! She said that someone had lied to her, and then she got shot. Whoever shot her must be the member of the team who survived what happened at the house. Maybe they were behind it all along. That would certainly explain why Daniel and Mark got shot, er, got shot....” My concentration began to slip again, and I tried to unwind the window to get some fresh air to wake me up. I scrabbled at the button for a few seconds before Eva leaned over and pressed the one in the central console. Instead of making me feel better, the blast of air that buffeted me made my head spin and I remember throwing up just before I finally sank into the beckoning darkness.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

ONCE UPON A BLUE MOON - by Sandra Seamans

A chiller from owner of popular blog: 'My Little Corner'...


“Bluuuue Mooooon…I heard you whisper her name…dah, dah, di, dah, di, dum…you’re driving me insane.” Rupert giggled. “I never can remember the words.”

He gimped his body closer to the girl cowering in the corner, felt her flinch when he tipped his face in closer for a better look, watched her eyes grow wide with fear. “What’s a matter? Cat got yer tongue, pretty girl?”

“Leave the poor thing alone, Rupert. Can’t you see she’s near scared to death? And looking at your ugly scrap of a face ain’t gonna make her feel any less scared.”

“I didn’t mean to scare her, Ma. But she’s such a purtty pretty, I couldn’t help but be looking at her.”

“Just come away and leave her alone, boy. I brought her here for your brother.”

“That ain’t fair, Ma. Rory had the last two. Please, Ma, I want me a pretty girl all for my own. I’m a big boy now, ain’t I? Can’t I have her, please?”

“I said, no.”

“Awww, c’mon. Purtty, pretty please?”

The old woman turned from the stove where she’d been cooking and set a plate full of fried potatoes, eggs, and sausage on the table. “Forget about the girl. Get on over here and eat your breakfast.”

Using his crutches, Rupert maneuvered his crooked body over to the table and sat down. He poured ketchup over his food stirring everything together until the contents of the plate looked like road kill. Smacking his lips, he picked up his spoon and started shoveling the congealed mess into his lopsided mouth. Drool dripped off his chin onto the plate, but he didn’t care, just kept shoveling the food into the gaping hole that was his mouth.

His mother turned her face away from the deformed flesh that she’d born and raised. He’d come to her in the time before sonograms and Roe v Wade, in a time when women took on the burden of the children they birthed because it was expected of them. For more than forty years now she’d cared for Rupert and, Lord help her, she was falling-down tired of carrying the load. She brushed the unmotherly thought away. That was the cancer talking. He was her son and she loved him unconditionally, no matter how much trouble he was.

It was the tumor gnawing away at her brain that forced her into taking the deal offered by her eldest son. In exchange for finding Rory a woman to tend to his needs when she was gone, he’d put a merciful end to Rupert’s life. She’d made the pact, only because she couldn’t bear the thought of her son in a state run institution. And she knew, beyond all doubt, that’s exactly what Rory would do with his brother when she died. All his life, Rupert had been free to roam the woods and fields around their farm, she didn’t want him trapped in one of those awful places with no one left to care whether he lived or died. But Rory, instead of keeping his end of the bargain, was appeasing his own malignant needs.

She sent a reassuring smile towards the frightened girl, passing along a quick prayer to God on her behalf. The girl was only trying to be a Good Samaritan when she’d offered a tired old woman a ride home. How could that innocent girl have known what they’d planned for her? How could the poor thing know that her soul might join the other two that she’d already brought home for her son’s approval? Rory’s price was becoming too steep for her peace of mind. At this point, she was hard pressed to decide which of them was the bigger monster.

Over the years, she’d given up hope that God spared any thought to her troubles, idly wondering when her prayers had started drifting into the dark regions of the nether world. With faint hope, she prayed that this pretty little thing would catch Rory’s fancy and he’d finally take Rupert for that long over-due walk in the woods, instead of the girl.

She heard the stomp of Rory’s work boots on the front porch. Trembling, she returned to the stove, dropped some butter in the frying pan, waited for it to bubble, then dropped in a couple of eggs. In a futile effort to hide her fears she picked up the made-up lyrics of Rupert’s song, and started singing. “Blue Moon…I heard you whisper my name…please don’t drive me insane. I’ve only me to blame.”

Sandra Seamans, wife, mother, grandmother and short story writer. But not always in that order.

Saturday 18 July 2009

KING SIMMS - by Mike Wilkerson

Mike takes his rightful place on TKnC...


In years past, I would hit the streets every night with a simple agenda of making a dollar and resolving some issues. I’ve been away for two years and this city is still the same, nothing’s changed; nothing, except the man who’s returned to it. I’ve changed. I’ve seen too much to be wide-eyed and optimistic. Hope has been replaced by hate and when we allow our hate to grow, we become dangerous. While some might say that this causes you to lose control, I shrug that line of thinking off: I’ve never felt so calm in my entire life.

Confidant’s become rivals when money is involved. I got stung by people posing as friends. I did a stretch and they tacked on probation. They ripped out my woman’s soul and now, I’m taking people down. Pain inflicted, they say, is pain released and tonight I will test that theory. They forgot about me - I’m here to remind them:

I make the rules.

I am the King of this town.


It’s Thursday evening and I’m starting my rounds. I’ve got to build up funds and re-establish a reputation. I’ve got this one night, to set shit straight. One night, to let them know what they’ve taken from me.

Stop #1: A white bread suburb. Tim’s an accountant who promised a safe haven for my hundred grand. I did my time and the hundred turned into fifty. Tim claimed it was due to market fluctuation, based on investor speculation. I say, I don’t think so.
I check the driveway - his wife’s not home yet. A knock on the door and there stands Tim. He holds up his hands in declarative surprise; he doesn’t want any trouble.

“Me neither,” I tell him. I hold up a photo- Tim’s doing the five knuckle shuffle on some guys’ piss pump. “I’m fifty short Tim and I won’t even ask for interest.”

Tim’s eyes go wide, a tremor floats across his face and tears stream. “I’ve got your money, please, don’t tell my wife!”

I reassure him. “You can have the pictures. I just want my money.”

We can make life as easy as we want. Proof positive: thirty seconds later, Tim is writing a check out of his money market account and I hand over the pictures. He was never meant to be a thief; he just got caught up in a dangerous game.

“If my wife ever found out…” Tim is still sobbing, “I’m sorry Simms, it was a misunderstanding, I got greedy. How did I let it go this far?”

He wants to extend apologies; he wants to know that I’m not going to kill him. But I’m already walking away. What he doesn’t know: I’ve got more pictures of him. I’ve also got several of his wife getting gassed by another guy. I’ll juice her next week for another thirty and she’ll pay it. I’m driving and contemplating two people like Tim and his wife, living separate lives, but sticking together because they think it’s the right thing to do. I ponder them for a few minutes and then, I re-focus: I’ve got a job to do.

Stop #2: a big, ramshackle bungalow in midtown. Three knocks and a fifty get you inside. Three knocks and a hundred, gets you inside with a free companion and ringside seats. The crowd is an equal mix of gutter and penthouse that blend together perfectly. In the ring: two big women with strap-on’s and an old fart in stockings and garters. I’m waiting for Little Joe. While I wait, I watch the action- I’ve got carte blanche. The old fart’s starting to shake as the women approach him and I get a tap on my shoulder. Turning, I see Little Joe.

Little Joe is short- 5’4” and was a champion bantamweight. Big men tend to telegraph. I’d take my chances with a big guy over a little guy, any day of the week. My point is, I’ve seen Joe in action and I know what I’m getting myself into. Long story short: Little Joe is a fucking terror.

But, I’m going to take him down.

Joe and a few others sold me out, but Joe was the ring leader. I spent two years fighting off sociopath’s in the pen all because Joe gushed on me to the authorities and in trade, he’s guaranteed that his place goes raid-free. I lost money, time and a woman in those two years. I’ll settle for a third of that action tonight.

I extend a hand. “Long time no see, amigo.”

Little Joe smiles; he doesn’t know, that I’ve been filled in. “Too long my friend,” he replies, “too long.”

I put my hands in my pockets, feeling the differing weights of the objects in each. I look him straight in the eye. “I lost a lot of money, Joe. I’ll settle for sixty large. I need it back and I need it tonight.”

Joe starts off in Spanish. I shake my head and he goes to English while shifting his feet. His look changes, because he knows where this is going.

I pull a spoon out of my pocket, with my left hand. My fingers are pointed up, the thumb out at an “L”. I balance the neck of the spoon, on my thumb. I hold it up for Joe to see. He looks at the spoon and then looks to me, curious. I throw the spoon in the air and Joe’s eyes go up. He’s still waiting for the trick as I drop to my knees. The brass knuckles in my right hand slam down on Joe’s foot and I feel his instep collapse. I don’t hear his screams that are being drowned by the applause of the ringside crowd. I bring the brass knuck’s up to his nuts for the money shot and 5’4” hits the ground in a big hurry.

I grab a hand full of Joe’s hair and drag him back to his office.

“Simms, please!” Joe grunts. I hear him heaving, but he can only puke up bile- booze replaced food a long time ago and Joe’s stomach, has nothing left to give.

I’m rummaging through desk drawers in Joe’s smelly bedroom office. I’m throwing aside rhinestone studded dildo’s and Vanessa Del Rio videos, finally finding the lock box. I crack it open for fifty large. Joe’s pockets bring me five more. He still owes me five, but, I’ll settle for the difference at a later date.

I pocket the money and leave him there, alive, so he’ll talk and let others know that I’m around, let them know that Simms doesn’t forget. Before leaving, I pause to watch the show: the women are chasing the old guy who’s now laughing hysterically and the crowd is on its feet. I feel nothing as I check my watch and see that it’s time to go.

Stop #3: Big Willy, the most prolific pimp in town. He’s got women that start at five dollars an hour and go up to a grand. Consider what five will get you. Now imagine a grand. Yeah, it’s just like that.

My girl was a grand who floated to a five.

She visited me at state. Millie was sporting a broken nose, five missing teeth, a broken jaw, two broken arms and a busted hip, that would never heal right. Willy’s brother did the damage. Millie said that she was a birthday present for Willy’s brother, Maurice, who tends to run anywhere from a little hot to flat out crazy.

Maurice fancies himself a crime aficionado. He read about the Leopold, Loeb murder, back in the jazz age, which gave him the idea. He wanted to fuck up a woman, just to know what it would feel like. To him, it was nothing more than a sick, sociological experiment. Word is, when he was finished with Millie, he casually shrugged: “It was okay, I guess.”

Millie didn’t show up for her visit the following week and word got back to me: Millie slit her own throat. Suicide notes tell only the truth: “The pain, along with my face in the mirror, is too much to bear. You were the only thing good I ever had and I can’t live life, thinking you don’t want me anymore.”

When I got out, I was going to make Millie and honest woman, no matter what she looked like. She was a good person who deserved more than life ever gave her and both Big Willy and Maurice, took that away from the both of us. I’ve been harboring the pain for the last year and a half, coming to the conclusion that something’s got to give and here’s the score: I’m going to fuck Big Willy up and then, I’m going to kill Maurice.

Normally, Willy would eradicate a guy who did that to one of his girl’s, even his brother. The problem is that Maurice is the jefe in the family business and Willy just manages things. Willy could have done the right thing, even with Maurice, but he chose not to. Choices come back to remind us all. I’m coming back, to remind Willy.

I got an inside tip: Willy’s at Dunkin Doughnuts as part of his regular evening routine. It’s late when I walk in, passing a mother and daughter on their way out. A quick scan tells me that the place is empty and the security mirror has Willy alone, in the back, reading a paper and slopping down doughnuts. I slip a hundred to the bored counter worker. “Lock the door, go out back and have a smoke.”

He looks at me and I see his eyes flutter as he takes the money and nods.

It’s just me and Willy, who’s just now hearing my footsteps as I approach. He’s bringing the paper down. Willy’s face is a blur, as the first punch goes to his nose and blood spurts like a geyser. Left and rights to the jaw take him all the way down and through the chaos, I make a mental note: dual brass knuckles pay off in spades.

Willy’s on the ground with both hands to what’s left of his nose. I grab one of his arms, pull it straight, twist it, lay it flat on the ground and stomp the elbow. I grab the other arm and repeat. Picking up a table, I bring it down hard on Willy’s hip and I hear the bone crack. He yells and I hear his pain. I close my eyes and see Millie’s face.

“How’s my Millie doing?” I lay out the question and my voice is dead calm.

Willy knows the answer and his words are muffled through a broken jaw. “It wasn’t me Simms. Goddamnit, Maurice is fucking crazy!”

I reach for a response and come up simple: “It doesn’t matter Willy.”

I leave Willy on the floor and walk out the back way. Looking around, I see the counter worker, pacing by the dumpster. I pass him an extra five hundred. “A couple of big ass black guys did that to him. Make sure, that they don’t pay a visit to you,” I look at his name tag, “you get me, Chuck?”

Chuck is chain smoking nervous and stutters out a “yeeaah.”

Final stop: Maurice. I don’t even know the guy’s real last name; it’s always been Maurice, just like it’s always been Big Willy. Sometimes, the less you know, the better off you are. But, I know where he lives. And by now, he knows I’m looking for him and he’s scared. He’s scared, because I don’t care about this life anymore. When you stop caring, all bets are off the table. You are free.

I am free.

As my car idles outside his house, I’ve made the decision of what will happen to Maurice. He’ll die, but not until I’ve extracted Millie’s due. I know you want blood. I know you want to see him begging, or the back-spatter as a bullet rips through his skull. But blood’s for me and most of all, for Millie. You can always read about it in the paper. If you’re upset that I’m selling you short, I’d say that’s more your problem than mine and we can take up the issue later. But, if you really want to go that far, you need to recall what you’ve just read and remember what I told you from the beginning:

I make the rules.

And I am still the King of this town.

Mike Wilkerson is currently hard at work on a crime novel, based where he resides in St. Petersburg, FL. His short fiction appears on A Twist Of Noir and Thrillers, Killers N Chillers.

Friday 17 July 2009

Short intermission

I just wanted to share a few words with our readers, so please forgive this short intermission between all the great stories.

I'm very fortunate to be a published author and to have my debut book, Dead Men's Dust out there in the world for all to read and enjoy. However, that hasn't always been the case. When I was still an aspiring author I submitted to magazines and to publishing houses and collected enough rejections to wallpaper quite a large room, so I know how difficult it is for an aspiring writer to get their work out there.

When I started there was no such thing as the internet, so I didn't think about publishing electronically, and actually came late to the game (I only started blogging after I got the publishing deal). It was then that I realised that there are some great blogs and webzines who do offer an opportunity to writers to have their work read and commented upon, and it was for this reason I decided to start my own. Ta-da! Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers came out of that idea.

My intention for this site was to give authors an opportunity to post their work and to have their peers give comments and helpful feedback. I never expected it to be the great success it has become, and I must thank all those who have submitted work to TK'n'C. It never fails to amaze me the wealth of talent out there who are 'previously' undiscovered gems.

I didn't set up the site out of any altruistic reasons - and genuinely it was for the benefit of others - but I must say that I am happy to report that I have just received a comment that has made me feel extremely happy and has vindicated everything I set out to do.

One of our Australian contributors emailed Co-editor, Col Bury, and told him that he was attending school and that his classes were about writing 'crime fiction' stories. Doesn't sound so different than many others out there. But then he states: "...for english, at school, we're doing crime fiction. And my teacher strongly suggested your website as a point of call, to help familiarize ourselves with the world of crime, to see the different styles, views, perspectives of crime."

This to me is an ultimate accolade.

We - and I include everyone who has submitted, commented or had anything to do with the site -can be very proud in that we are helping writers to achieve their dreams.

A big, big thank you to you all.

And to the teacher out there in Oz. Thank you, you've made my day!

Matt Hilton

Thursday 16 July 2009

THE LOT - by David Price

More new blood and an action-packed short from David...


They surrounded me. There were six of them. There was no way out. I would have to fight for my life and hope to survive.

The big one called himself Ringo after the old west gunfighter. He was the war lord of the East Side Kings. The other five were all members in good standing. They were intent on teaching me a lesson with fists and feet. At least I had a chance. I wouldn’t get stabbed or shot in the back. I knew I wasn’t going to come out on top of this deal but I figured to leave my mark on a few of them.

Off across the vacant lot. I could see Junior, the president of the ESK with three of the original members. They stood with their arms crossed, cigarettes hanging from their lips and a sneer on every face. They were going to enjoy this.

As the circle closed around me, I thought of my mom and the breakfast conversation we had that morning.

“What are you going to do today?”

“I don’t know. Maybe go over to the lot and play some stickball.”

She got quiet. She set my eggs and toast down in front of me and frowned. “You know I don’t like you going over there. That kid Junior and his worthless gangsters buddies hang out there. You’re asking for trouble when you go into their neighborhood. Why don’t you go down to the “Y” and play basketball or something?”

“Ma, I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself. Besides, Junior and his buddies don’t scare me.”

“Ricky, just because you’re on the wrestling team doesn’t mean you can take care of yourself. It’s never a fair fight with those punks.”

“I’ll mind my own business. I’ll be alright.”

“I’d forbid you to go but I know you’ll do as you please. Just be careful and stay out of their way.”

“I’ll be fine, ma. See you at suppertime.”

The first attack came from my right side. I saw the right cross coming and ducked the punch. As soon as I did, I caught a knee in the mouth. My lip split open good. I reached from a crouch and caught an ankle and drove forward until the guy fell on his back.

I threw an elbow in his face and could tell that I had broken his nose. I rolled off of him as I received kicks from both sides. I did a fast forward roll and came to my feet. I turned quickly toward them. The first guy coming in caught an uppercut from my crouched position. I caught him good and he bit his tongue hard. His mouth gushed blood.

I felt a punch to the back of my head. I staggered but didn’t fall. Then I was kicked on both legs. I knew I was going down so I reached out and grabbed the closest guy in a headlock and twisted my body throwing him over my hip in a classic head and arm takedown. I slammed him hard and on his back. I could hear the air whoosh out of him.

Immediately punches began raining down on me. I used my arms to cover my face and head as I was hit repeatedly.

With the last burst of energy I had, I thrust upward and threw a barrage of rights and lefts in a jackhammer assault. I hit bone and flesh and punched till I felt exhaustion begin to overtake me. Then I was hit in the head from behind and saw stars as I fell face first.

I felt the kicks for only a few seconds before I passed out.
When I began to come to, I felt the pain in every part of my body. I could taste the iron of my own blood in my mouth. My head throbbed.

I looked up. The sun was obscured by a circle of faces looking down on me. It was like a football huddle and all the players were looking at me.

Then I saw Ringo and his swollen nose and two black eyes. Next to him were Junior and the senior gang members.

Junior spoke first, “Good job Ricky. You fought like a warrior. You’re one of us.

Damn, I did it .I’ve been trying to get in the East Side Kings for two years. Now I’ve proved myself. I’ve been “jumped in”.

David Price is an ex-college jock and retired probation officer residing in California. His writing efforts can be seen at Thuglit, A Twist of Noir, Flash Fiction Offensive, Darkest Before The Dawn, Powder Burn Flash and Crooked.

FORGOTTEN - by Dom Trimboli

A big welcome to new writer, Dom, from down under...


The room was bright.

No darkness, only light. Uncharacteristic of an interrogation room, one might dispute. But Roswell had grown weary of the darkness. In his line of work, change was good. Besides, the darkness was hardly the place for such a woman.

Roswell watched from the back corner of the room as she sat there. She was still, frozen, insipid. Understandable, of course. For the events that had transpired warranted such a reaction. But still, as she sat there in such a passive and inert state, her beauty was overwhelming. Draped in an elegant white ballroom gown, she was effortlessly captivating. She glowed radiantly, with an aura that was as enigmatic as it was natural. Her face, pristine, defined and pure. Her hair, long and dark, forever flowed down the back of her slender frame. And her eyes. Deep and brown, and whilst now solemn and empty, were absorbing.

And yet, this was a woman suspected of mass murder.

Still, Roswell stood there unfazed. After 25 years in the business, it was suffice to say he was a veteran of some sorts. Once a fresh-faced apprentice in the world of private investigation, Roswell had grown to become a man accustomed to the depths of crime. His once youthful exuberance had thinned, and the grey haired figure that now leaned against the wall of the interrogation room was one of calmness and ease.

There was a knock at the door. Roswell, eyes still transfixed on the woman, left the room slowly. Outside, Simons was waiting.

“How are we, boss?” smiled Simons, in the chirpy tone that Roswell had come to hate. “Looking sharp, as always.”

“Listen”, Roswell sighed, “for the last time, I’m not your boss.”

Simons had been recently assigned as Roswell’s partner. Young, cocky and eager, he reminded Roswell of his younger self; part of the reason why he irritated Roswell so much. Although somewhat of a raw talent, Simons had a lot to learn.

“Whoa. Who’s the dame?” Simons asked, turning his attention towards the window. “Just a bit overdressed for the occasion, don’t you think? Someone steal her handbag?’

“No”, Roswell said dryly. “That’s Mrs. Bale. She’s suspected of a bombing.”

Simons looked on, shaken.

“Nothing proven yet, its all pretty complicated”, Roswell continued. “She’s been held overnight. Police brought the case straight to us, didn’t bother probing further.”

“Lazy bastards. What’s the story exactly?”

“See, Mrs. Bale was aboard a harbor cruise with her husband some three days ago. One of those ritzy high-class balls, chic suits, fancy dresses. Wasn’t a huge event, 40 or so high class associates on a grand-yacht. Mrs. Bale says she was approached by a young waiter with a message saying that she was needed back ashore. For what she was needed for, the waiter apparently did not say. Mrs. Bale was then brought back ashore, and a short while after, as the yacht was returning towards the harbor, it exploded. Planted bomb. Plastic explosives. No survivors. Mrs. Bale was there on the shore, and was taken in by police.”

“And that’s all we have on it?” asked Simons.

“She gave a brief statement to the police, and as she was the closest thing to a suspect, they held her here. They’ve compiled a file on her, and they’ve got a witness report”, said Roswell, with the file in hand. “Makes for some interesting reading.” He handed the file to Simons.

Simons took the file, and sat down at the nearby table to read it.

Roswell spoke as Simons read at the table. “Mrs. Bale was arranged to marry Mr. Bale after an agreement between their tycoon parents, who together, owned a controversial pharmaceutical company, called Altzatec. After the passing of their parents, Mr. Bale was given sole control of the company. If you recall, the company was caught up in a litigation issue some years ago, whereby a particular batch of its products resulted in the deaths of 20 people. Nonetheless, the company overcame the scandal, and to this day, holds a multi-million dollar status.”

“Apparently, the marriage between Mrs. Bale and her husband was an unhappy one. Mrs. Bale was allegedly forced against her will into the marriage. She wasn’t fond of the high-class lifestyle and social circles. And she wasn’t exactly fond of her husband either. Reports suggest that he was violent, drunk and abusive towards her, yet she never came forward with anything.”

Simons interrupted, eyes running over the file. “And yet they had a son together. William. But he died, aged 18. Domestic death? Says here that he fell from the balcony of their home.”

Roswell nodded. “And only Mr. Bale was home at the time.” Simons looked up at Roswell. They both questioned it, but said nothing. Roswell continued. “After William’s death, Mr. and Mrs. Bale relocated and resettled.”

“And who’s this Marlon Kitson?” asked Simons, who was now turning through the pages in the file.

“Some dockworker. He said he saw Mrs. Bale coming off the yacht. Says she was looking frazzled, lost, but in a rush.”

Simons closed the file, stood up, and joined Roswell, who was watching Mrs. Bale at the window of the interrogation room. “Couldn’t they have at least given her a change of clothes?” he laughed. “Looks like she’s wrapped herself in bed sheets.”

Roswell rolled his eyes. “So what do you make of it all?” asked Simons.

“It’s not the time for assumptions. First, we talk to Mrs. Bale”, said Roswell, moving towards the door. “Listen. Just follow my lead.”

“You got it bo—.” Simons stopped. “I mean, sure thing… partner.” He smiled.

Roswell shook his head with a sigh and walked back into the interrogation room. Simons could see him trying to hide a tiny smirk of laughter on his face.


Roswell and Simons sat down across from Mrs. Bale. She didn’t move, but her eyes shifted. She looked at Roswell, with a stare that was both empty and piercing. Roswell said nothing. He could see how distraught she was. She was weary, empty. He noticed her hands resting on the table. Her forearms were bruised purple.

“Mrs. Bale, I’m Detective Roswell and this is Detective Simons. I understand you’re probably not in the best frame of mind right now, but I’d like to ask you a few questions.” Mrs. Bale nodded, but then interrupted.

“Please, Detective, I would never…”

Roswell ignored this plea and carried on. “Now, Mrs. Bale, you say that you were approached by a young waiter, but he wasn’t able to tell you why you were needed onshore, or by whom. Is this correct?” She nodded. “And you have no idea as to why you may have been needed, or by whom?” She shook her head. “Can you describe what the waiter looked like?”

Mrs. Bale, composing herself, nodded again. “He was young. Was fairly short, with short dark hair that was sleeked across, and fair skin. He was quite handsome.” She spoke in a tone that was wholesome and unspoiled. She was eloquent, firm and certain.

Roswell took note. “And before the yacht returned you back ashore, did you tell your husband where you were going?”

Mrs. Bale shuffled in her chair. “No. He was busy to talking to some associates. I’d thought I’d let him be.” She looked down at the table, and then stared back at Roswell, who was now looking down, sifting through the file. She paused, and then continued. “He would come home, late. Drunk, swearing. And he’d push, and shove. And hit.”

Roswell quickly looked up to Mrs. Bale. Although he knew, having read the file and seeing her forearm bruises, he didn’t expect her to be so abrupt.

“The bruises?” asked Simons.

She nodded. “He was relentless. I lived in fear, felt safe nowhere. I guess it doesn’t matter anymore…” She trailed off. Roswell and Simons watched her as she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke again. “But please, you have to understand. Yes, I hated my husband. He wasn’t a good man. But I’d never do something so drastic. Please…”

Roswell again, ignored her pleas. But somehow, he sensed a genuine innocence. She spoke with passion, emotion. He sensed truth. “Thank-you Mrs. Bale.” Roswell signaled to Simons, and together, they walked out of the room.


“I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s all against the woman”, Simons said to Roswell as they stood once more outside at the interrogation room window. But Roswell didn’t reply. He knew everything was against Mrs. Bale. The motive was there. And it was strong. But Roswell wasn’t too sure. She could have easily planted the bomb, made an excuse to leave. The dockworker had seen her leaving in a hurry. It was all against her. Yet, somehow Roswell saw truth in Mrs. Bale.

“Humor me, and run a profile on the dockworker. Marlon Kitson.”, Roswell said. With that, Simons nodded, and took off. Roswell, again, stood there, watching Mrs. Bale. But she was no longer the lifeless figure that had sat there earlier. She was slouched over the table. Her face, buried in her hands. Now, she seemed overwhelmed.

A short while later, Simons returned. “Got some good news and some bad news. The bad news, is that I’ve lost my car keys. The good news, is that I’ve think we’ve made a break.” Roswell’s eyebrows rose. “Marlon Kitson, was once married, and had a young daughter. But remember the Altzatec scandal? His wife and daughter were two of the 20 that died. Since then, he’s been busy. Armed robbery, aggravated assault. A string of offences… Mr. Bale and his buisness associates from the company were all on board, right? I think we’ve got our man.”

“Send a police unit over to Kitson’s. Have him arrested, and brought here”, said Roswell.

“I’m on it boss.” Simons just couldn’t help himself.


With the police unit on its way to Kitson’s, Roswell and Simons re-entered the interrogation room where Mrs. Bale sat, face still buried in her hands. The two detectives said nothing, as they sat down.

Mrs. Bale looked up. “I would never, please detectives. I’m not that kind of person. Just ask my son.”

Roswell and Simons looked at each other sharply.

“Your son?” asked Simons hesitantly.

“Yes. William.”

“Please excuse us for just a moment, Mrs. Bale”, said Roswell.

Roswell stood up slowly. He walked out, Simons by his side, silently, and slowly, thoughts racing. His mind clicked. He paced calmly through the corridors of the station, and headed outside, towards the car.

“Her son? Is she serious, or what?” blurted Simons, breaking the silence. “He’s dead. Isn’t he?”

“Of course he is” replied Roswell.


“I don’t think Mrs. Bale’s all there”, said Roswell, as he started the car, and began to drive off. “I think we’ve overlooked everything, forget about Kitson. Sometimes, the mind believes what it wants to believe.”


Roswell and Simons arrived at the house. It was large, old, and sand stoned. Rather castle-like, it was remote, with no other houses nearby. A forest towered at the rear of the home. Parallel rows of immaculate hedges ran down the driveway, and were met by a soaring marble fountain at the centerpiece of the front garden. Roswell and Simons walked along a cobble-stoned path towards the front door. A balcony ran along the top storey of the house.

“This is Mrs. Bale’s old place, isn’t it?” asked Simons. Roswell nodded, as he knocked on the large wooden door. A grayed old woman answered the door.

“Hello M’am. I’m Detective Roswell and this is Detective Simons”, said Roswell.

“Why hello”, the old woman gestured politely. “You must be here about the Bale’s. Read about it all in the papers. Tragic really.

The two detectives nodded in agreement, before Roswell spoke. “Does Mrs. Bale ever come by here?”

“Well until a few weeks ago, she didn’t. Lately, she’s dropped by quite often. But never to the house. There’s a little old barn around the back, just as the forest begins. We never paid much attention to it when we bought the house, but lately she’s been visiting there. It must hold some significance to her, because she’s been adamant that we’re not to meddle with it. I think it must remind her of William in some way. So we’ve respected her wishes. Terrible, it is, losing a son so young.”

“Thank you M’am”, said Roswell.

Roswell and Simons paced around the back of the house, and approached the forest. There, they saw the barn. Wooden, old and small, it was tucked away beneath a row of trees. Roswell approached the door.

“It’s locked” he said, as he pained against the frame of the door.

“I’ve got it.” And with that, Simons walked back a few paces, raised his leg, and kicked the door in. “After you, M’am” said Simons, waving in Roswell.

Roswell walked in first, but stumbled on a cardboard box. He gathered himself, and picked up the box, taking it to a nearby bench. Aside from a few little household ornaments, only a photo frame was inside. It was a picture of Mrs. Bale, and William. They stood there, smiling together, a beaming Mrs. Bale in a flowing red dress, complete with a gold heart-shaped locket, and William, in a dark, black suit.

“Simons, look at this photo. Describe William for me.”

“Ah, lets see. Fairly young. Not the tallest of blokes. Dark hair smoothed hair, fair skin. Good looking lad. Wait… the waiter on the yacht. But….”

Roswell laid down the photo frame, and walked to the far corner of the barn. There was a large green blanket, over the floor. It was covering something. Roswell grabbed the blanket, and pulled it away.

“Plastic explosives…” Simons gasped.

Roswell crouched down. Among the explosives, he spotted a glittering spark of gold. “Recognize this?”

“The locket… from the photo. Mrs. Bale’s”, Simons answered.

Roswell gently picked the locket up. He opened it. Inside, there was another picture of William.

“I’m not following here” said Simons, bemused.

“Sometimes, the mind believes what it wants to believe. Yes, Mrs. Bale did plant the bomb, but she had no knowledge of doing so. You see, she’s suffered. Immensely. And I think she’s failed to deal with it, to the point where she no longer recognizes her actions, or reality in itself. William’s death pained her deeply. And I’m sure she, to a degree, blames her husband for his death. Accident or no accident. And then the abuse, the fear at the hands of her husband. She was driven into a state of panic, psychosis. She subconsciously planted the bomb. Her husband was too much. The pain cloaked her recognition of reality. And so she imagined her son, William, warning her to flee ashore, so that’d she be able to escape the blast.”

“So”, Simons began, “she genuinely believes that she wasn’t responsible for any of this?”

“I’m sure, deep inside, subconsciously, she knows what she has done. But on impulse, she’s unable to recognize anything. She needs to be confronted with the truth. The real truth.”


The officer, flanked by Roswell, led the handcuffed Mrs. Bale to her cell. Earlier, Roswell had spoken to her. Confronted her with reality. And somehow, she accepted it. He thought back to the vibrant woman in the picture frame. That woman was no more. What now sat behind the prison bars was a woman who had lost everything. Again, Roswell noticed her stillness, her inertness; a complete frozen state.

Roswell walked out of the holding cell. The officer, walking behind him, turned off the light, and walked off. Roswell turned around. He switched the light back on. Light was good.

Besides, the darkness was hardly the place for such a woman.

Dom Trimboli is a student from Sydney, Australia, who no longer wants to be a student. He spends a lot of time thinking, rather than doing, and sometimes wishes he was a fictional character.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

FOR THE RECORD by Christopher Grant


We've been at this for the last three years, knocking off men and women and a couple of brats that were just this side of eighteen. We ain't no fucking kiddie killers, though the temptation has been great a handful of times.

Jordan had the lead for most people at one time (five) for half a year until I moved in with a family of four a month ago.

The sons, Nate and Joey, were twins, just about ready to ship off to college and Mom and Dad were looking to rent out their room. I'd be expected to keep the room the same once I moved into it, as the boys would probably be returning home during semester breaks. I had no problem with that as I didn't expect to stick around for that long.

Mom was a bit leery about me, somehow sensing something wasn't quite right with my motivation. I have to hand it to Mom. She was one fucking smart cookie.

Dad, on the other hand, was way too trusting. Dumbass Dad, as I came to know him, had set the price for the room and board at $175 a month. I could make more than that with one mugging victim, a means to supplement my income.

Nate and Joey were like all guys their age. Girlfriends occupied a majority of their time, cars and jet skis and pot and beer (which Mom probably knew about but Dad was totally oblivious to) filled out the rest of the hours that they were awake. I met a couple of their friends and have to say that they had pretty good taste in girls.

At the time, I was thinking that Jordan's record of five at once would never be broken and so I had aimed a bit lower, thinking I'd take these four out and then see what I could find elsewhere.

That's when Tiana and Sarah decided to come home from back east as a surprise.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven. And not just because Tiana and Sarah were hot. Nate and Joey and Mom and Dumbass Dad plus these two now equaled six. I could break Jordan's record, after all.

Mom introduced me to her girls and gave me a look that said, "Don't even think about it." I was most definitely thinking about it. Like I said, Mom was very wise.

Where Mom was smart about me and her boys, she was blind about her girls as both talked nonstop sex whenever and only when I was nearby.

A few hours after they arrived, Tiana, blonde and tall, approached me and asked me if I wanted a blow job. I had to decline, saying not that I didn't want one but with their mom keeping me under surveillance, it probably wasn't a good idea.

A couple hours after that, Sarah approached me with the same offer, even placing her hand on my crotch. It was hard to say no, especially when she nipped at my earlobe and told me that both she and Tiana would fuck me simultaneously.

I couldn't risk getting caught and getting tossed out on my ass. I had to play the sweet angel before I could take these people out. And I planned on taking them all out. Including the girls, even if it was a damn shame.

The night I decided to make my move, I slipped from the couch downstairs and into the boys' room. I had a silencer on the gun in my hand and I popped both of them without either of them putting up a fight.

I crossed the hallway and worked into Mom and Dad's room and found Dad but no Mom. I took Mom's pillow, put it over Dad's face, even though I had the silencer, and shot him through the pillow.

Mom was in the adjoining bathroom, the door slightly ajar. I could have easily gone in, shot her while she sat there taking her piss. But I just stood and listened until she finished, wiped and flushed. Everyone deserves to have a final piss. I shot her while she washed her hands.

The girls were the hardest to execute. In the past, I've killed any number of women, some of them prettier than others. I could have easily spared them and probably fucked them (if we'd met under different circumstances) but I had decided to keep playing the game Jordan and I were playing.

Tiana and Sarah were no different.

I knocked on their door, not caring how loud I rapped because, I mean, hey, everyone else was dead now.

Tiana came to the door and opened it up, standing there in a football jersey and socks.

"What time is it?" she asked.

I had the gun out of sight and I told her that it was one in the morning.

"What do you want?"

I thought it was obvious what I wanted. I fully intended to go ahead and fuck the two sisters and then kill them afterwards.

But I didn't like her tone. So I shot her in the forehead. She fell backwards, made a hell of a racket as she hit the floor.

Sarah woke up, saw me and screamed a loud, keening scream. I shot her in the face, then made sure she was dead.

I went down the stairs, rummaged through my bag and dialed Jordan on my cell phone.

"Your turn. Yep. Six. Call when you break it."

BIO: Christopher Grant is the owner and editor of A Twist Of Noir. His crime fiction has appeared at the now-defunct DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash and currently can be found at Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive and here at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

Sunday 12 July 2009

THE JESUS PEOPLE - by Lee Hughes

The prolific Lee's latest...


Billy had needed clean clothes so he'd made the victim strip. He'd left the fool doubled over, naked, winded in the road. He stood before the building. He made sure he looked presentable.

Carol answered. She looked happy to see him. "Billy, we’re just having some refreshments, come in."

Billy smiled and stepped inside. He was surprised to see that the interior wasn’t all decked out with God-stuff. Billy followed her to the lounge. There were eleven other people in the room. A handsome man leant again the fireplace. A few women in the room ogled him. Billy figured it all out. The handsome man was the one that used his looks to suck in the girls. Carol was the one that led the men in by their cocks. He sighed. Her job was to hook the fish and reel them in.

Billy sat down ignoring the rest of the catch. He looked for things to steal. Silence fell when a man walked in. There was an air of confidence about him. Carol and the handsome man looked at him with lust. Behind, was his entourage, three of them.

The man's smile grew wider. "Welcome, I’m Quinn. . . and Jesus loves you."

His tone rode through the air. Somehow managing to pick everyone up and put them in the saddle of his words. This was preposterous. He might just be a low-life criminal, but he was smart enough to understand that the man was running a cult.

Billy stood up adjusting his pants as though he was a stranger to them. "Where's the bathroom?"

Quinn smiled. "Up the stairs, second door upon the left."

He didn’t need to piss. He just wanted to take something away from this farce, other than nonsense spilt from the bible. Billy went to the bathroom. He opened it and closed it to give the impression that he'd entered.

Down the hallway he moved, praying that the floorboards didn’t tell tales on him. Billy listened at the wood of the door. He opened it and slipped inside. Once the door was shut he flicked the switch. His eyes widened. The room was a myriad of sexual toys. From whips and chains to items that would kill during sex, or afterwards.

There was a loud crash from the hallway and screaming from downstairs. Billy knew the loud crash was someone kicking in the bathroom door. He looked for a weapon. He settled for a baseball-bat that had been wrapped diligently with barbed wire. The barbs were decorated with dried blood. He was already lifting it up. He could hear the footfalls of people outside.

His heart thumping drowned out the screams. Billy started towards the door. It door swung open, two men rushed in. Each gripped a soiled machete.

"Seems this one has some balls on him," said one.

"The question is whether he gets to use them before I chop the fuckers off," said the other.

Billy knew his chances of surviving this were slim. These lunatics were dripping with blood. Billy swung the bat.

The barbs whistled through the air. "You better believe I’m willing to use em."

He had a flashback of half-killing the night-watchman. Billy took a step forward. Another step, they'd be in swinging distance. Billy was about to swing when a voice from the doorway swept in, "Wait!"

It was Quinn, the false Messiah. The thugs stopped. Carol was talking in his ear. Her hands and face smeared with blood.

"It appears daughter Carol believes that you might be different. Are you a wolf, or a lamb?" Quinn said.

Billy didn’t put much thought into it. "I’m no one's sacrifice." He kept his bat aloft.

"Will you prove it?"

"Yeah," said Billy.

He knew enthusiasm would be what kept his blood in his veins. Quinn left with Carol still at his shoulder. Carol smiled at Billy. It differed from earlier. This new smile was sly, like the cat that had caught the mouse, but was keeping it for later.

They paraded down the stairs and into the lounge. It was a mess. There were bodies strewn upon the floor. Another was bound and blindfolded. Ghouls worked blood art upon the walls. A hand fell upon his shoulder.

A mouth teased his ear, whispering, "Which are you Billy?"

The blood started to fire up the cylinders in his body and the engine came alive. Just as it had when he had bashed in the watchman's skull. The hand on his shoulder began to stroke where neck became shoulder. Instead of calming the burgeoning fire of anger it was stoking it, getting him excited, it broke him.

He ran at the blindfolded man, his barbed-bat high. The man was silenced as his head caved in. Billy didn’t blink as the bat knocked the jaw away. The barbs stripped flesh as they rioted across the skin. Billy kept swinging. He felt like a winner. Everyone that had slammed him for being useless were silenced. Billy was more than the sum of his past life. He was greater, something that only gods could possibly fathom.

He swung that bat longer than needed. His arms burned and his face was flushed. He couldn’t remember when he had started to get the stitch in his side. All he could think about was this new echelon of being that he had ascended. Shoulder to shoulder with the gods.

Billy let the bat fall from sprained fingers. The stench of excrement mixed with the stink of the blood conjured up a perfume that swamped the room.

Whispers rode the tiny distance between lip and lobe, "Do you feel fantastic?"

"Yes," he panted.

Her hand slipped from his neck. Downwards until her fingers met his. She lowered him. She manipulated his arm like an amateur puppeteer. Dipping his hand into the blood. She ran his hand upon the wall in far from delicate designs. The art was childish, stray strokes and lopsided crosses. Truly childlike, but the innocence had been aborted. Once Carol had deemed the art done she licked at his fingers.
"You know why we just did that?" Carol asked.

Billy wasn't sure of anything. "No." His mouth was too dry for anything more than monosyllabic answers.

Quinn stepped forward, "We can now move forward."

The gathered smiled at Billy.

Billy watched from the floor. He was dizzy with the exertion and could hear a continuous pealing of dull and rusty bells. The bells rang out in moody exultation. Billy closed his eyes to hear the cacophony of tolls, he fell asleep to its lullaby.

Billy awoke. He could still hear the noise of another realm letting out joy at his arrival. He knew the noises came from a faltering mental health.

Carol’s voice broke through his musings, "Do you like the new you?"

He could hear her voice but he couldn’t see her. He rolled onto his back. She was standing naked and scarred. He spied the maps of injuries old and new that lapped at her skin. The stains marred only those parts that could be wrapped in secrecy beneath the folds of dresses and sleeves of blouses.

She smiled as though the white-puffed marks were awards and merits for all things deviant. "Each one reminds me of a pleasure." She ran a finger down a six inch track of damaged skin. "This was a gift from a man on my eighteenth birthday." Her finger strayed and circled a nipple that quickly grew erect, "Do you want me?"

He wanted to read her scars like Braille and to decide what art of his own to add to her atlas of horrors.

His soul had been awakened by murder and his sexual awakening had arrived through the medium of pain and bondage. They spent the whole of the next day in bed fornicating. In the evening, she led him downstairs.

They dined and the conversation was candid. Quinn asked, "What do you know of the great battle?"

"Not much."

Quinn seemed surprised, "And yet he still granted you a place in his ranks. We're going to pave the path for his arrival."

"How?" Billy asked.

"The hordes cannot move like us. We will lend them our bodies and we shall set the world afire."

Billy didn't believe in Heaven and Hell. Yes, he had felt like he had been instilled with greatness through his act, but the act was his own doing.

Breakfast was a simple affair. Billy noticed the door to where he'd committed murder was closed.

"Where are the bodies?" Billy asked.

Quinn looked up from his newspaper. "Disposed of. We'll be performing the ritual tonight and we'll be gone by the morning."

Quinn asked that Billy did neither of two things. The first was to leave the house. The second was that he didn't enter the front room.

Billy found himself bored in the kitchen. He winced as he put pressure on an unhealed wound. It had been ecstasy when the lash had swiped through his skin. Now it annoyed and pained him every-time he leant against something. Carol was preparing candles the colour of midnight. She brushed him off as she was busy.

Billy was about to say bollocks to it all when a warmth rode over his skin. It felt like a multitude of hands switching between massaging and gripping. His head became heavy once more with the chorus of the damned. Billy found himself paralysed. A whisper started in his skull, Chosen as my finder. Billy’s legs gave out. The obscene whispers continued. The whispering began to stroke pain into his legs. It stroked until it broke them. In that single solitary second between consciousness and the void he realised that the Devil was real and had made him his creature to be.

Billy awoke in the front room. The walls were still daubed with the scribbling. They had long ago ceased to be crimson and had drifted through the rainbow to shit-brown. He tried to sit up, pain creased his legs.

"I did tell you not to try and leave," Quinn said.

Billy looked about. Everyone was there. All wearing robes of red. He glanced down at himself. He too was wearing a red gown. He legs were straightened with homemade splints.

The light in the room came from the slippy lids of black candles. Billy didn’t want the Devil to redecorate his soul.

Quinn began muttering beneath his breath. Billy strained his ears to try and unlock the secret to it but couldn't. The others took up the black prayer. It reached a volume that was angry and filled with fervour. He knew he was in too deep.

The candles suddenly raged to life. Tall and robust flames of deepest red danced upon the candles. A breeze came alive in the room. Frolicking about the robes, lifting them in dark merriment. Billy could feel the touch of the other-world. They worked themselves into a frenzy. Billy looked away from the lunatic faces to the walls. Those symbols that had been developed with blood were coming alive. Seeming to slide all over the walls.

Billy pushed himself across the carpet to the corner. He huddled and watched as the Devil’s champions began to convulse as if electricity was being poured into their mouths. One of the nameless ones broke first. He was snapping his head as if fitting. His arms outstretched, his fingers drawn into tight claws. Tumours broke out like leprosy over his features. Billy gawped as he watched rips evolve in the man’s cheeks.

The nameless sinner turned his head, he was staring right into Billy’s eyes. There was no look of pain, it was pleasure. Billy saw something in the man’s eyes, fire. Bright tongues of flame wiped away the blue of the iris. The rips in the cheek grew. Widening until teeth could be seen. Needle-point teeth. Pushing and pecking like a hatchling prodding at its shell. The sinner pulled at his robe. Dragging it from his skin until he was naked. Busy in the throes of bestial labour, birthing something diabolical.

Others were beginning to show signs of their short devilled pregnancies coming. Quinn was shaking with holes being punched through his flesh. His head arced back, he screamed once as the demonic thing tore through his abdomen, the waste of Quinn toppling backwards. The demon collapsed to the floor. The demon that had been chewing its way to freedom through the man’s cheek did the same. The others were finding their demises in the same manner. Carol's devil-child was still born, leaving her ruined.

Billy felt something. It started like a hunger in his stomach. Billy didn’t need to eat. Satan fed him his own fiery meat. His children, His misfits, His thieves, His pride, and His fall. Billy howled as the demon took control of him. The demon put him to sleep as it stretched its limbs. His broken bones mended. It carved Billy, working him until it was something resembling a dog, more a cur. Something ragged that you’d have on a rope or didn’t mind kicking. The hound knew it was the favoured one in its master’s eyes. It moved, sniffing at its brethren, lapping now and again at the loose blood. Its front legs were too long to be a true quadruped. Its Master had designed it for a new role, hunter. The work to be conducted by the swell of the moon.

It scratched at the wood of the door, howling in frustration. Again and again it struck its head against the door. It turned, spied the windows. With badly proportioned muscles bunched, it struck glass. Its weight and momentum kept it going right through the pane. It landed with a sprawl upon the pavement. It panted and wheezed. It stretched its legs and took off at a lumbering speed. To the spectators the dog looked a mutt, a misused animal that belonged more to the gutter than the hearth of a family fire.

The Beast was free.

Lee Hughes' short fiction has appeared in or is due to appear in the anthology Cern Zoo Nemonymous 9, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir,, The Daily Tourniquet and Powder Flash Burn. To find out more visit: