Monday 31 August 2009

A THRILLER, A KILLER 'N' A CHILLER..... A Trio of Tales from Co-Editor, Col Bury

The Thriller


Breathless, Jake skulked behind the wheelie-bin in the alleyway. He consciously tried to suppress his gasps for air, but the more he tried the louder they became. The stench of the bin’s contents invaded his nose, but this mattered not. Glancing at the dazzling moon, he realised its fullness spotlighted him, casting bizarre shadows around him. He shuffled his stooped form further into the darkness, seeking a sanctuary that didn’t exist.

A howling pierced the silence of night. But was it a dog? The howl seemed deeper. Jake felt a prickle run down the back of his neck.

He could hear feint footfalls at the top of the alleyway. He froze, held his breath. The steps grew louder. Two sets now, maybe three.

‘Fuck,’ he whispered.

The cool night breeze wafted an old newspaper nearby and Jake cringed. He slowly peered round the side of the bin. Like when you stand on something perilously high, but still feel compelled to look down. Human instinct, call it what you want, but he was sorry he looked.

Four distorted figures were glimpsed. The snapshot lingered, increasing the dread. When he quickly withdrew behind the bin he leaned on a discarded box, its dull crunch betraying him.


His eyes shot about manically, searching for something, anything, as the footsteps thudded closer.

Fuck, shit.

Hope glimmered as his eyes fixed on a broken brush pole. In haste he reached across and grabbed it. His fingertips caressed the sharp end. The footsteps became quieter, more measured.

Jake’s grip on the pole tightened. He could hear his own heart beat, his mouth parched. This was it.

One last chance. He tossed the pole into the dark depths of the alley, the clatter echoing.

Whispered voices, on the other side of the bin, Jake’s face now a grimace. He felt pressure shift the bin a touch. A hand appeared above his head, probing the air.

Fuck it!

Jake stood up.

Four shadowy figures glared at him, their faces pallid in the moonlight, their eyes brimming with excitement.

‘Caught you!’ they yelled in unison.

Jake shrugged. ‘Yeah, but it was a great hiding place, right?’


The Killer...


Melvin launched the empty packet of Marlboros across the room, knowing fully the perils of leaving his flat. But addiction was a powerful thing - his punters could vouch for that - and the cigs, booze and weed were all he had of late so he donned his baseball cap, pulled on his jacket and grabbed the key to the VW Golf.

After all, what harm could possibly come to me in a ten minute trip to the shops?

He moved swiftly, pivoting like a double-jointed owl on exiting the flat. Zammer’s boys were not to be messed with and the signs were pretty conclusive they knew where he lived. The smashed first floor window and the graffiti daubed front communal door, saying, ‘MELVIN KANE – R.I.P.’ were testament to that. Although a bit presumptuous if you asked Melvin. He patted the trusty Browning 9mm in the inside pocket of his jacket, his only friend, its bulk reassuring.

Well, there was one other friend, Jacko, but he’d done one to the Costa Del Crime a month ago after an armed blag gone wrong. Melvin pulled the Golf onto the A57 that split the suburbs leading into Manchester, his eyes as much on the mirrors as the road.

So far so good and only a couple of minutes to the off licence. After a desperate telephone call from Melvin, Jacko had posted him the keys to his flat five days earlier as a last gesture of friendship. The cops had grown tired of calling there in search of Jacko so the fact that Melvin himself was also a wanted man wasn’t too much of a problem, address-wise. They’d be looking elsewhere for him.

His mind drifted to the moment his life changed forever and the reason he was wanted by the both the cops and Zammer’s crew. How the fuck was he supposed to know the guy selling coke on his patch was one of Zammer’s new recruits? Anyway, if a man intrudes on your livelihood and, when confronted, has the balls to pull out a piece then what option have you got but to give him a slug, and in Mojo’s case another one for his cheek, ironically in his cheek, or buttock to be precise.

Melvin’s thoughts were interrupted by an old black BMW in his rear view mirror. He was two streets from the shop, but took a right instead of a left then went round a mini-roundabout twice. The BMW sped up the road and he backtracked toward the shop.

He considered solutions to his problems. Either take out Zammer and gain his patch, or get a fake passport off Asian Don and blag his way to Spain.

After parking outside the off licence for two minutes and scanning the area, he was happy to proceed, and besides he was dying for a ciggie.

While queuing he spotted a face he didn’t like. Vaguely familiar, but he was unsure where from. Pot-hole complexion, beanie hat and heavyweight build. An uneasy feeling swamped him as the guy’s shifty eyes glanced over one too many times from the aisles.

The Pakistani shopkeeper decided now was a good time to start chatting in depth about fuck all to the girl in front. Her ample tits clearly the reason for his small talk as his eyes nearly burnt holes in her bra.

Shifty was still skulking.

Fuck this. ‘Ee-ar, matey. Gimme forty Marlboros,’ he said taking out his wallet.

The shopkeeper gave him a glare as if Melvin had just walked in on him actually shagging the girl.

‘Quit the fuckin staring, dickhead an gimme the cigs.’

‘Now there’s no need for that, my friend.’

‘And there’s no need to ogle this girl’s tits is there, you fuckin perv?’

The girl half-turned, but decided against it, while shifty still hovered in the background.

‘That’s out of order, my friend.’

‘Yes it is, and am not your fuckin friend.’ Melvin considered withdrawing the Browning and slugging the fucker then taking a month’s supply of cigs. ‘Just gimme the cigs now or I’ll…’

Melvin heard the bleep signalling the shop’s door opening and couldn’t believe his eyes, or his luck.

The shopkeeper grew a foot as the copper walked in. ‘What were you saying, my friend?’ said the shopkeeper with a smirk.

The copper looked his way and Melvin dipped his head. He slapped his wallet on the counter and slid out a twenty. He warned the shopkeeper with mad eyes. ‘Look…I’m in a rush.’

The shopkeeper smiled at the girl. ‘Excuse me one moment, love.’ He passed over the fags and Melvin snatched them off him then left like shit off the proverbial shovel.

Melvin purposely didn’t wheel-spin the Golf. But when he’d eased away from the shop he doubled the speed limit of thirty. Once on the A57, and after checking his rear-view mirror a good dozen times, he relaxed a fraction, blending with the traffic and frantically lit a fag, sucking it so much a glowing carrot appeared within seconds, the nicotine rush dizzying him somewhat.

He began to wonder whether Shifty was just innocently buying a loaf or something. Or had Melvin just become so paranoid because of his predicament that anyone who looked slightly dodgy was one of Zammer’s crew? To be honest, this whole ducking and diving lark was beginning to get right on his tits and he knew there and then the answer wasn’t to take out Zammer, but to just do one and find Jacko in Spain.

It was then he glimpsed the cop car in his rear-view, his heart-rate jumping.

It was decision time. Fight or flight? The Golf was still in the name of the previous owner so there were no immediate worries there. On the flip side there was more chance of being best man at Zammer’s wedding than getting bail, so Melvin cranked up the revs.

The cop responded with a flash of his blues 'n' twos with a brief burst of the klaxon.

Melvin took a sharp right and felt the tail-end go and battled to straighten up. After a shuddering zigzag he just managed it. He took an even sharper left accompanied by a screech of tyres. But the cop was still up his arse like an unwanted sex pest.

Melvin purposely avoided the vicinity of his flat and headed for the single-carriageway parallel to the A57, but a group of kids on bikes took up half the road and he had no choice, but to slow down. The cop took advantage, pulling alongside Melvin who could see the cop frantically gesturing for him to pull over.

From experience he knew within minutes traffic officers would be flooding the area in their high-powered Volvo T6’s, and this was just one youngish-looking patrol bobby, so he nodded and took the next left. He selected a specific spot to park in the quiet cul-de-sac and waited for the cop to appear at his side.

Privets on one side and a six foot fence on the other, plus nobody was on the street. If this was to go pear-shaped he’d burn the Golf out and head for Spain. He gave the Browning a pat for reassurance.

Be cool, he told himself, but could still feel the adrenaline bubbling out of control, like it did when he smoked Mojo. He lit another cig and drew hard.

Melvin saw the cop’s fluorescent green jacket appear in his peripheral vision. The officer leaned toward his closed window with a befuddled expression, his breath partially steaming up the outer window as he signalled for Melvin to wind it down.

‘Good afternoon, constable.’

‘Is it really? What the bloody hell were you playing at back there?’

‘Sorry, at first I thought you just wanted to get past. Then I just panicked as I’ve not registered the car in my name yet.’

The officer sighed and looked heavenwards. ‘Step out of the vehicle, fella, and join me on the pavement.’

Melvin’s hand reached into his jacket. ‘Why?’

‘Just do it, will you?’ The cop turned and walked to the pavement.

Melvin wondered whether the cop had already PNC’d him. He knew he’d have already checked the car out. Regardless, he wasn’t getting locked up today.

Feeling increasingly edgy, he took out the Browning and popped it into his side pocket for easier access before following.

Okay...Let’s do it, pig.

‘I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll just give you a producer, okay?’

What? Melvin felt himself relax a little. He’d just gone from cop killer to having three points on his licence! Play along. ‘Aw, man. Do you have to?’

The officer was already reaching into his pocket. ‘Count yourself lucky. If I was a Traffic cop, you’d be done for speeding, driving without due care and failing to stop for police, and probably even that bald tyre, too. But I haven’t got the time for all that and I only pursued you to give you back your wallet. You left it in the shop.’

Shaking his head, Melvin took the wallet off the cop. ‘Thanks, officer. And sorry for wasting your time.’

The officer’s radio boomed into life about some domestic nearby. ‘Be good,’ said the cop as he headed for his Astra.

Fuck me, this was getting better and better – not even a producer! Melvin waved him off with a grin as broad as his luck. What a fuckin knob. He didn’t even check me out, he thought, still waving as the Astra reversed with a whine out of sight.

Back inside the Golf he gripped the steering wheel and pulled himself forward and back laughing his cock off at the rookie cop’s incompetence then pictured his new life in Spain; a snapshot of him and Jacko drinking San Miguels on the beach amongst bikini-clad beauties…

The loud crack to his left hardly registered. Neither did the shattering passenger door window. Nor did the .38 calibre bullet that entered one temple and blasted out the other, topped with a blood, bone and brain combo.

And he certainly didn’t register Shifty’s tobacco-stained grin.


The Chiller...


‘Daddy, can I go down to the cellar?’

‘NO!’ Bobby snapped. Instantly regretting it, he back-tracked. ‘You know it’s Daddy’s private place, Little Bob. All my work stuff’s down there and that’s why I keep it locked, son.’

‘Aw, but Daddy. I want to play pool.’

‘The pool table’s broken. I’m waiting for the man to come and re-cover it.’

His daughter piped, ‘You’ve been waiting for months, Daddy. Where’s he coming from…Austraaalia?’

‘Hey! Don’t be cheeky, Little Lou. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.’

Little Bob grinned. ‘Unless it’s a money tree.’

Little Lou chuckled.

Bobby wore a false smile, but internally sighed in exasperation. I’ll be glad when you guys are back at school so I can get some work done, he thought. Working from home definitely had its good points, but certainly not in the school hols. ‘Go and watch some telly, will you? And give me some time to think.’

He could hear the spooky tones of Scooby Doo emanating from the living room as he passed the cellar door in the hallway. It was locked, as always. Not long now till his wife, Louise, returned home from the office. She could see the kids had been doing his head in and had promised to take them over to her sister’s in Liverpool overnight, having booked tomorrow off. This should give him ample time to really get stuck in downstairs and not only finish his current project, but crack on with the next.

There was a sudden scream and Little Lou rushed out from the living room, closely followed by her brother.

‘Daaar-phne’s just been kidnapped by the Ghost of Ghaaar-stly Hall!’

Bobby shook his head and hugged his daughter. ‘It’s not real, darling. Don’t worry.’ He winked at his son and wiggled his index finger before widening his eyes.

‘No, Daddeeee!’ yelled Little Bob as he sped back into the living room. ‘Not the Tickle Monster!’

Bobby felt Little Lou release her grip and she excitedly pushed her Daddy away and ran off giggling.

After ten minutes of hysterical laughter whereby The Tickle Monster’s index finger had found all the appropriate tickle spots, and all involved with sheens of sweat across their foreheads, the front door double bleeped on opening to signal Louise’s return home.

Thank God for that.

Louise smiled as the kids simultaneously told her all about their day without a comma in sight. She then held her palms up. ‘Okay, okay. Let me get a quick brew and I’ll get you ready for our sleepover at Auntie Sheila’s.’

Just under an hour later and Bobby kissed them all goodbye at the door.

‘You gonna give it one last shot, honey, and make those calls from your contact list?’

‘Sure, love. I’ve always wanted to work from home, you know that. And I’m determined to make this thing work.’

‘Good luck,’ said Louise, giving her husband a peck on the cheek.

Bobby waved into the darkness as the Zafira’s rear lights faded down the street, then he turned with a purpose.

He rattled the bunch of keys from his pocket and unlocked the box on the top shelf of the kitchen wall unit, then headed for the cellar door. Unfastening the bolt, he was all fingers and thumbs in his eagerness and dropped the lock onto the floor. He chided himself and took a composing breath.

The musty basement air hit him and with each downward step the low tingle of excitement within grew stronger.

At the bottom he glanced across the old pool table, at his desk, computer and phone in the corner. The contact list was pinned on the wall above and all the male names were crossed out in blue as ‘no shows.’ There were four female names high-lighted in red and the name Jessie Bolton was currently in yellow as she was still ongoing.

Bobby reached for a tin on the dusty shelf high above his desk and again took out the bunch of keys from his pocket. He opened the tin and removed a further single key before replacing the tin onto the shelf.

He pivoted and headed for the door in the opposite corner. Clicking the door-lock he flicked open his lock-knife and entered.

‘Evening, Jessie,’ he said donning a manic sneer. His eyes widening, he wiggled an index finger in the air. ‘Now where were we?’

God, I just love working from home.

Col Bury is currently writing a crime novel and his ever-growing selection of short stories can be found here on TKnC, A Twist Of Noir, Six Sentences and Blink Ink. His Mum once told him his writing was good. He blogs and interviews crime authors here:

TKnC update...

A week ago, as some of you may know, my last post detailed six top stories that you may have missed in the frenzy. Well the said frenzy has since intensified and Matt n I have uploaded fifteen more belters for your pleasure incorporating all genres appropriate to our site: crime, horror, supernatural, mystery, suspense and, obviously, thrillers, killers n chillers!

So why not pull up a chair, put a cushion under your butt, pour yourself a drink and enjoy. There are more crackers in the pipeline, too, including something a bit different from yours truly.

Happy scrolling!


The curtain--- the curtain--- too late the curtain!

At the epicenter of his career, full of wealth and promise, Marty Brinkman tapped on his wife Susan’s arm resting comfortably on the seat next to his. He smiled when she turned to him and said he was sorry, although he failed to mention his on-going loss of reality, he was still sorry it had brought him to this.

Oh, it had been mentioned in sessions with Dr. Rudy, a terminal bore of a man, Marty thought, but astute all the same. He envisioned this day, even fore told my destiny; he knew I was nuts.

Excess! That was the key to my downfall, my insanity. Yet am I insane? I recognize my thoughts, am cognizant of my actions and believe I am correct in judgment; I am a stable guy; I sense no wrong in my actions - the hell with all of it because I am not to be swayed from my decision. The time has come and excess cannot sway my logic, sane or not. I blame excess, yes, too much of a good thing, a horn of plenty with a bottomless supply of currency, yet not enough… enough what; time to spend it on people to impress, material goodies, real estate, Treasury certificates to horde... what? Ah, yes, Marty frowned remembering the root of his dilemma, Time and money, a dangerous concoction; a mixture of certain lunacy that brews corruption and unhappiness through a cesspool of crime and drugs.

A tear fell from Marty’s eye and dribbled across his cheek as denial refused to step into his deranged mind. He knew the cause of his pending indictment, the dishonor and upcoming embarrassment to family, friends and colleagues alike. Crime and drugs, murder and death, a waste of wealth, waste of life… If only he had seen the signs and sought help sooner, before losing it all to his demons. It was time, time to pay the piper.

Susan appeared confused as he stood; his form visible to the entire five hundred seat auditorium. Several of the onstage cast also spied Marty’s strange presence during their musical yet continued within the script. His wife gently took hold of his arm, wondering aloud of his actions. Whereas Marty, now smiling widely at the unmoving throng seated in anxious concern behind him, jerked away from his wife’s grasp, and, from his blue blazer inside jacket pocket, produced a chrome Smith and Wesson snub nose .38-caliber revolver with six hollow point cartridges snuggly seated within the cylinder.

Once again Marty smiled proudly at his wife of twelve years, the mother of his two children, the love of his life; aimed the gun at her forehead and fired. Before the resonance of the shot finished echoing throughout the hall, along with the collective gasps from a startled five hundred horrified witnesses, Marty placed the muzzle against his temple, waved to no one in particular, and fired again. The suicide/murder was complete. The lights dimmed, the curtain brought down.

Henry P. Gravelle


TKnC rolls out the red carpet for Rick and this cracking crime horror tale...


Each man watched the fire dance upward into the star-filled sky. Occasionally they glanced at one another, but dared not hold a stare for more than a few seconds, for each man knew very well the capacity for dealing death the others were capable of.

They had gathered around a small campfire in the dense forest, far away from prying eyes, and more importantly, the authorities. Each was the recipient of an unusual invitation from a neutral party who claimed to know each one of them, and also to have “leverage”, as the invite stated, over them as well. The invite also promised significant monetary compensation.

All five men erred on the side of caution, and although skeptical of the origins of the invitation, accepted the request to meet at an impartial location.

Gerry, a young blond-haired man who was no more than twenty years old, spoke up first.

“I killed my first man when I was eighteen,” he boasted with a sly smile. “The idiot was teasing me. I opened up his throat before he could blink. Never knew what hit him.” He glanced around at the others for their reactions.

But his companions didn’t seem to be impressed. He knew he would have to embellish his exploits further.

“Took care of my dad too. He was always on my back, so one day when he wasn’t expecting it…” Still, not much of a reaction.

The old man squinted his foggy eyes and leaned forward. Having eight kills to his name, he prided himself on being able to judge the true nature of fellow evil.

“What’s your name kid?” he asked with raised eyebrows.

“Soferth. Gerry Soferth.”

“Soferth! You’re the punk who killed Randell Soferth, the millionaire developer.”

“That’s me,” Gerry quickly retorted.

“What the heck you do that for? Your freakin’ loaded. You had everything.” His eyes burned brighter than the fire. He’d seen a lot in his long, violent life and he thought he could understand almost everyone, but to see a young kid so rich and still do such terrible things, well, that he just couldn’t get a handle on. His crimes were at least instigated by hard times and bad luck.

Gerry’s smile turned into a sneer.

“That old jerk was always on my back. Every time he had to post bail he complained. So I figured I could do my thing easier without him around.”

The heavily built man straightened up. His chiseled features reflected a person who had to fight his whole life, a man who never had anything handed to him, or expected it to be. Someone who had grown accustomed to life’s harsh lessons and learned to deal with them regardless of the morality of the methods.

“And just what is your…thing?” he asked while sizing up the much smaller man.

Gerry laughed. “I’m here ain’t I? My thing is murder. I’ll kill anyone for any reason. That’s my thing.”

The other men grunted in approval, except for the bearded man.

“My name’s Charles Mathewer,” he stated deeply. “I got my first one just a couple of years ago. Strangled my landlady. Stupid broad asked for it though. She tried to raise my rent! After that, they came real easy. Figure I got about 8 or 9 by now.”

The relaxed manner in which he spoke sent chills through Gerry.

“Strangers on the street, homeless people, heck, I even got a delivery man once,”he continued. “He was a tough one though. Real messy.” His words would have disturbed any normal human being, but solicited only light reactions from the other killers.

The old man stroked his stubbled chin as a look of doubt flashed across his face. “8 or 9 huh?” he asked suspiciously. “Why didn’t they catch ya?”

Mathewer returned a stern look. “Cause I’m good at what I do.” His words echoed with sincerity.

An uneasy silence then settled over the scene with each man glaring at the other. They all knew they must be patient if they were to receive what the invitation had promised; although each was wholly prepared to “move things along” if need be.

A thin, smartly- dressed man suddenly spoke up. He spoke with an English accent that sounded cultured and well educated.

“I disposed of a gentleman during my journey to reach this rather, shall we say unique gathering,” he stated in a proud tone. Straightening his crimson tie, he continued. “A small fellow who was unfortunate enough to cross my path. I must say, though that I am indebted to him for two reasons: one, he managed to direct me here, and two, he allowed me to achieve a milestone if you will…number one hundred. I dare say I was going to be forced to remove one of you gentlemen, but now I feel that will not be necessary.”

Even the other killers were stunned at his casual tone. He spoke of death as if discussing a sports game.

“The name’s Edward Florin of Berkshire. Just arrived in this jolly good country six months ago. Been busy you know, getting myself acquainted with your customs, learning the slang of your language, watching the life run out of people.”

His strong accent added to the chilling effect of his words.

“Scotland Yard has been trailing me for well over two years now. Foolish chaps, they never even knew who I was. I’ve grown quite well into my unique occupation I’ll have you know.”

Gerry looked over at the old man, who in turn glanced at Charles Mathewer. The heavily built man stretched his thick arms out above his head and asked lazily, “What now?”

“Is anyone else coming?” Gerry asked. “Cause if not, I’ve got things to do, people to kill.”

“Oh shut up,” the old man snapped. “I don’t need any rich kid punk telling me…”

Gerry dropped the stick he was using to stir the fire and looked on in stupid amazement as the old man was suddenly hoisted twenty feet straight up and viciously torn in half. Both halves of the body landed with a wet thud near the other shocked men who sat motionless, too frightened to even move. The sheer insanity of what they had just witnessed left each one speechless.

The heavily built man slowly stood up. He fully realized that his strong physique and murderous mind was no match for whatever had killed the old man.

But before he even took a step he was propelled backwards with such force that his body literally disintegrated against a huge oak tree.

Charles Mathewer and Edward Florin exchanged nervous glances and simultaneously withdrew their pistols. The guns shook in their hands as they scanned the woods for movement.

But what was there to shoot at?

Both men looked at each other before sending bullets flying into the night.

Gerry was frozen where he stood, almost as if he were accepting his fate. He could not defend himself; he had no weapon, and fear prevented his legs from working at all. He snatched a smoldering stick from the fire. It provided little defense, but would have to do.

Charles and Edward had emptied their guns and both were frantically fumbling in their pockets for more ammunition.

“What in God’s name was that?” Gerry asked through clenched teeth.

Edward looked over at him, the face of a killer facing his own mortality. “Not quite sure old chap,” he said in an accent that seemed to lose some of its effect. “Not quite…sure.”

No sooner had the words left Edward’s mouth than his head was lopped clean off his body and bounced on the ground behind his still standing body. A thick jet of darkened blood squirted straight into the air from the stump of his neck before the corpse collapsed.

Charles Mathewer had seen enough. He dropped his empty pistol and started to sprint away from the campfire. Gerry watched in amazement, as Charles was sliced cleanly in half at the waist after taking only a few steps. He caught a glimpse of the look of astonishment on Charles’ face before both halves of the body crumpled to the ground in a bloody heap.

Fear rooted Gerry where he stood, preventing him from moving or defending himself.

“Who are you?” he shouted to the trees. “What do you want?” Seconds felt like hours as he waited for either a response or death, in a way, he didn’t really care which one.

He found himself thinking of his father, whom he had killed in an accident. He didn’t know the gun was loaded, and the memory of his father’s blood on the floor, stung like a hot needle.

Gerry had loved his dad despite their distant relationship, and his stupid idea of playing around with a gun cost him his father’s life. Then he had panicked and stumbled out of the house, never looking back, and never thinking about his poor mother. He could only imagine what she went through when she found her husband dead. He definitely learned the hard way that you can run from the law but never from yourself.

Gerry turned when he heard a certain unmistakable noise …the sound of tree branches being snapped high above, maybe fifteen or twenty feet up. Something was making its way towards him…something big, and apparently it didn’t care if it was heard or not.

And not only was it big but also, incredibly enough, invisible.

Gerry stared in disbelief as huge two- digit footprints appeared on the ground ten feet in front of him. Each was more than two feet long and eighteen inches wide. They were depressed into the soil nearly a foot deep.

Gerry wondered if this was the end for him. Was he to be wiped out like the other men? Clamping his eyes shut, he waited for the inevitable, comforted by the fact that the others’ deaths, although violent, were at least quick.

After a few minutes passed he forced himself to open his eyes. There, standing nearly twelve feet tall was an enormous being, which squatted across the fire from him. It vaguely resembled a distorted toad, with several gyrating arms and a belly that bulged out far past its bulbous legs. And even though it was partly transparent its eyes shone in a brilliant blue, and all six of them were coldly fixed on Gerry.

“Hello?” Gerry stuttered like a child. “M…my name’s Gerry.”

The thing leaned forward and shifted its bulk to one side, further crushing the log on which it sat.

“Your companions,” it boomed in a deep drawl which shook the trees. “They were evil. They are eradicated now. Theirs will cause no more death.”

It talked! It, whatever it was, actually knew English! Gerry knew he had to communicate with it, find out what it was, where it came from, what it wanted. But before he could ask, the thing abruptly stood up. It towered over him like a man over a kitten.

“Think of me as one of your police officers,” it said, nearly putting out the fire with its rancid breath. “Merely an officer doing his duty.” And then it was gone, leaving huge footprints, the remains of the other men, and a very shaken young man in its wake.

Gerry flopped to the ground in an exhausted heap. He wished he had a drink to calm his nerves. He looked around at the carnage that surrounded him and promptly emptied his stomach. The stench of death made him light-headed, and his back ached, but he was alive. And he thanked God that killing his father had only been an accident.

I'm an avid reader and writer who has had nearly 200 publications so far and recently finished my fourth anthology book, AS MEAN AS THE NIGHT, available on Lulu and Amazon. I'm working on my first novel and am editor of Many Midnights (my own horror fiction ezine).

Sunday 30 August 2009

UNPLANNED by Libby Cudmore

TKnC extends the hand of greeting to Libby with this tale...


It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

You had everything planned so carefully. You were prepared, you were ready, and yet somehow you ended up with a bullet in your gut, bleeding out onto the gritty carpet of a cheap motel.

You weren’t looking for an affair. You were a good man, you had a wife and a daughter, you were a college professor. You ate organic yogurt and recycled your magazines. You did the crossword puzzle every Sunday. You were not looking to hook up with a 20-something diner waitress named Bunny. And when the affair started, you weren’t looking to fall in love with Bunny. You shouldn’t have wanted what she was—adventurous, exciting, good in bed. You should have been content with what you had, but you had to have more.

So when one day you showed up at Mary’s Diner and someone else was pouring your coffee, you were heartbroken. You hadn’t intended for your wife to notice and ask, you didn’t mean to tell her the truth. You never wanted her to take your daughter and move to New Cairo. These sorts of things didn’t happen to you. You were a good man.


Now you’re not so sure. You heard Bunny was back in town and you bought a gun. She was all you had left to lose. She caused all of this, and maybe when she was gone, really gone, you could finally get over her.

You find Bunny cleaning motel rooms at the Tropical. The years have been good to her, same great figure, same great smile. You take her out, for old times’ sake. You drink a couple glasses of wine, just to get your courage up. You drive back to her motel room and get her on her knees with your gun at the base of her skull. But wine makes you talkative, and you spill this whole long monologue about how much she meant to you. She elbows you in the junk. You drop the pistol. She grabs her own and puts lead in your stomach. You can’t blame her.

You try to beg her to finish the job, but no sound comes out. It’s not like the movies, where a dying man gets a full speech. You roll your head back against the mattress and she bends over to kiss you just like she used to. You smile. You try to say that you love her, but there’s no air in your lungs. She puts the gun to your temple. She can’t pull the trigger fast enough.



Libby Cudmore is a regular contributor to Hardboiled magazine and Pop Matters. Her work has appeared in A Twist of Noir, Eastern Standard Crime, the Flash Fiction Offensive, Crime and Suspense, Inertia, the Southern WomenÂ’s Review and Shaking Like a Mountain. She also has stories slated for upcoming issues of Thrilling Detective, PowderBurnFlash, Battered Suitcase and the anthology Quantum Genre on the Planet of the Arts (with Matthew Quinn Martin).

MIMULUS - by P.J. Ray

Welcome to PJ on her TKnC debut...


Yellow flowers floated in a bowl of water by the bed. Starla’s mother dipped a ladle into the bowl and held it out. “Drink,” she said.

With big brown eyes, little Starla looked up at her mother, pursed her lips and shook her head, “No.”

Lightning flashed as thunder gobbled the mountain. Starla strangled her doll. Her mother pinched Starla’s nostrils shut. When she gasped for breath, her mother shoved the ladle into her mouth.

She gulped. The salty liquid with bitter aftertaste coated her tongue.

Hail bombed the tin shed out back and shattered her bedroom window. Starla dug her nails into her thighs and bit a scream in half, swallowing its tail, all that came out was a whimper.

“See, better already,” her mother cooed.

This was the game they played. Whenever Starla was scared, she was forced to drink the flower extract. Her mother was what people called a “hippy-chick”, a firm believer in herbal medicine. She died after ingesting a poisonous mushroom. Nine year old Starla discovered the body, clutching her throat with one hand and a bouquet of monkey flower, mimulus, in the other.

Starla, having no other family, grew up in an orphanage. She never experienced being part of a foster family. The social service worker always blamed her age. Starla knew that was a lie; she was simply too weird to be placed in foster care. She rarely spoke, habitually wet her bed until she was sixteen, and a habit of biting her tongue ‘til it bled. If she came near a yellow flower, she broke out in a cold sweat and curled into a ball, fetal position, until someone either removed her or the flower.

In spite of emotional disorders that limited her socialization, Starla graduated with honors, valedictorian. After extensive therapy, her peculiar ways became more subtle. Able to control her fears with the aid of medication, she entered the workforce at Brandle’s, a never been kissed twenty-two year old beauty. During her first three months of employment, she hid in her cubicle and got more work done in four hours than her co-workers accomplished in three days. Promotion was inevitable, but with it came attention, glass walls, and claws of envy.


Colleagues helped Starla move into the corner office with large windows overlooking the courtyard and a glass wall so she could keep an eye on the office help. As the new supervisor, she was in charge of billing and receiving. This rapid climb up the corporate ladder did not go unnoticed by Gina, a woman who had boasted the supervisor position was bound to be hers when George retired. Starla’s mathematical skills and high production rate dazzled Mr. Brandle. Gina stormed out of the conference room when he announced Starla’s promotion.

On Starla’s first day in her new office, she received a bouquet of congratulatory peach roses from the company. A petite blonde delivered them with a smile and a note that read, “Congratulations. You’re an asset to our family. Sincerely, Henry Brandle.”

Family? I’m part of a family? Starla stared at the card, repeating the words. She smiled and buried her nose into the bouquet.

“Thank you.” Starla whispered to the delivery girl.

An hour later the same girl arrived with a larger bouquet. Starla backed away as the girl approached with this bright arrangement of sunflowers, daisies, mums, every color of the rainbow, including yellow. The girl sat the bouquet on Starla’s desk next to the roses and gave Starla a strange look as she exited.

Starla paced around her desk, staring at the flowers, reaching toward the card, then pulling her hand away before she got close enough to pluck it from the plastic prong. She opened her desk drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors and proceeded to cut the heads off all the yellow flowers and catch them in her waste bucket, then scurried to the break room and dumped them in a large trashcan. Gina was sitting at a table by the drink machine, eating, as usual.

“What are you doing?” Gina stood up and looked down in the trashcan, smacking, mouth full of fried rice at ten in the morning.

“I’m allergic to the pollen of yellow flowers. It’s no big deal.” Starla noticed the container of rice was labeled, George Latimer. George had retired three days prior.

“Just the yellow ones? That’s weird. Not a certain flower, just all yellow ones?” Gina shoveled another spoonful into her mouth and stared down at the decapitated blooms covering a mound of shredded paper like a casket spray.

“Yes. I know it sounds strange, but yeah, just the yellow ones. I need to get back to work. You taking an early lunch today?”

“Nah, just on break.” Gina glared at her and scraped the bottom of the container with her spoon.

“Okay. Well, I emailed you a list of companies t hat need to be contacted today before you leave. They are all over three months past due. I suggest you call them directly, instead of just emailing like you did last month. I mean, the emails weren’t effective, so let’s try this route.”

“Yeah, I’ll do my best.”

“There’s no reason you can’t finish the list today. It should only take three hours; it’s not a long list. Anyway, I need to get back to work.”

Starla exited and went to the restroom. She felt her chest tightening and nausea setting in. She doused her face with water and tried to catch her breath. Gina walked in and scowled.

“It’s okay if I pee, right? Not gonna take time off my lunch break for that are you?”

Starla frowned and stormed out of the bathroom. She went into her office and dug around in her purse for her medication, took two pills and did some deep breathing exercises. She saw Gina return to the work area and duck behind her cubicle wall.

Over the following two weeks, Starla received eight bouquets of yellow flowers from a secret admirer. People began gossiping about how she threw all the flowers away, how odd she acted when they arrived. She couldn’t hide her reaction, the cold sweats, the gasping for breath. She told Mr. Brandle about her “allergy” and he put a stop to the flower deliveries, making the receptionist screen all floral arrangements sent to Starla.

Someone had a habit of eating other people’s food from the break room refrigerator. There was a memo about it and a sign posted on the refrigerator door. Starla knew Gina was the culprit, the secret admirer and the snack thief, but she didn’t want to stir up drama, so she opted to keep her mouth shut.

The next week, Starla began receiving bouquets of yellow flowers at her apartment, always from a secret admirer. She decided to do something about it. She had been pushed to the limit, given no choice. She prepared a batch of stir fried rice with sautéed mushrooms and left an unmarked container of it in the break room refrigerator. She saw Gina sneak away at her usual ten o’clock break time. Starla watched the clock. She went into the break area twenty minutes later and found Gina gasping for breath on the floor, just like her mother had done after eating the salad Starla packed in their lunch basket the day her mother died. Starla picked up the container and hid it away in her purse, dumping the evidence in a street-side garbage can as she ran errands for Mr. Brandle. When she returned, Gina’s body had been discovered and the police were swarming the building.

Starla didn’t attend the funeral, but she pitched in for a flower arrangement purchased by the Brandle Family. Yellow flowers, Gina’s favorite color.

P.J. Ray is a musician, saxophonist, with poetry and fiction recently published in Elimae, Everyday Weirdness, and Wigleaf, among other small press zines.

Saturday 29 August 2009

SILVERY WINGS - by Michael J. Solender


“Why do you torture him so?”

Susan wasn’t so much annoyed with Dirk as being protective of her younger brother. Jackson certainly could be a regal pain-in-the-ass, but she didn’t think he merited the constant crap he was fending off from Dirk.

Dirk wiped the days grime and sweat from his eyes and forehead. The stifling sun had long since set hours ago, but even at 10:00 PM in the Ecuadorian Jungle in September the temperature was 90 degrees with a near matching percentage of humidity.

He had just used a makeshift tweezers from his Swiss Army knife to extricate a tick the size of a dime from deep inside his naval. From the struggle and gorged rounded shape he noted upon removal, he guessed it had been lodged in there since breakfast, though he had just noticed it. Harassing Susan’s brother was the only amusement he could avail himself of 4 days into their 10 day sojourn.

The three of them, accompanied only by an indigenous guide and trail cook, were advance scouts/researchers for the Pharmaceutical giant, Navartan. They’d been sent to collect samples from a specific tree that grew only in the mangroves they just today began to encounter. The distilled bark had shown considerable promise in cancer treatments and its compounds as yet were not replicated in lab work. They needed to bring back a variety of samples.

Dirk and Susan were colleagues and Dirk was intent on some extra close research with Susan on this trip. He’d been extremely pissed when he learned she’d contracted with her brother, a freelance field researcher, to accompany and support them for the trip. Jackson was a third wheel Dirk did not have the patience for.

“He couldn’t possibly have believed me could he? I said the itch in his ear was probably an earwig, not for sure and that they only ate through your brain half-way, not all the way. He had to know I was joking.” Dirk knew Jackson was gullible and also particularly concerned about the insects they were encountering on their expedition. “I mean earwigs are not as lethal as legend has them made out to be, are they?”

“You are a royal prick, ya know?” Susan knew that while this region did in fact have an earwig population, they were not at all lethal and that the native lore was just that, lore. “You scared the crap out of him and now he’s off at the river trying to get what is probably just a dead mosquito out of his ear by soaking in that leech infested water. Go make sure he’s OK.”

“He’s OK, I’m sure, and Juan and Benito are with him. In the meantime why don’t you and I check out the tent for our own biology experiment?” Dirk was forever on the make.

“Forget it. No reproductive biology until we get back to Quito and a real bed with real sheets.” Susan was half laughing and while she wouldn’t have minded a quick trip to the sack, she didn’t fancy being interrupted by her brother or the local help. “I’m turning in. You can repair to your own tent and explore manual expulsion techniques of the human seed.”

“Touché, my dear. I can’t wait for my roommates’ return, between his snoring and farting, I’m certain to have a most restful slumber – not.” Dirk already had a plan in mind to unleash on Jackson that would keep him up, and most importantly not snoring, for the rest of the evening.

He didn’t wait long as a ringing wet Jackson sloshed into the tent only minutes behind Dirk who had been waiting for him.

“Did you get rid of it?” Dirk asked, not really caring about the answer.

“Yes Benito used a hollow reed to flush water into my ear canal and whatever it was had not yet established me as its host. According to him, the earwigs can lodge themselves into your ear in as little as an hour and then, curtains. The most agonizing pain and death known, the locals are very serious about doing anything to prevent them or dislodging them if they attack you.”

Jackson was creeping himself out and scanning the inside of the tent for Dermaptera, the indigenous silver winged earwig species that grew over two inches long in the jungle. They are characterized by their membranous wings which fold like cellophane as legend has it into their unsuspecting victim’s moist mucus membrane of the ear canal.

Dirk was having none of it but he egged Jackson on hoping to scare him into staying up all night, while he got some needed rest. “I saw several in here earlier; I think I got them all.”

“Whaaaaat?” Jackson was clearly in a panic, still sopping, the humidity in the tent was now eve worse than in the outside breeze. The sweet smell of Jasmine lent an almost tranquil note to supplement the drone of crickets and cicada.

“I think the best thing is for us to sleep in shifts and keep our eyes peeled for those bastards, lets each take 90 minute naps – what do you think?”

Jackson quickly agreed, “Ok, I’ll keep the lantern low, you go ahead and sleep. I’ll just lay here.”

No sooner than ten minutes had passed and Jacksons snoring was practically shaking the tent.

“So much for that plan.” Dirk tried in vain to wake Jackson but exhaustion had set in and he was beyond arousal.

Soon Dirk was so tired that he managed to fall off, in spite of the noise.


The scream that awoke Susan, Juan and Benito was spine shattering. Dirks initial cry was followed by two additional agonizing and deafening pleads for help.

Upon reaching his tent Juan shined a light inside and saw Jackson hunched over Dirk with a Bowie knife in one hand and a bloody hunk of flesh in the other. Dirk was moaning and had both hands, covered in blood, clutching his right temple. It appeared his ear had been severed.

Susan was next on the scene and screamed at Jackson. “What’s going on? What have you done to Dirk?”

Jackson looked up, Dirks right ear in his hand. “I had to do it. I fell asleep, I was supposed to be watching, but I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was halfway in his ear, that damn bug was gonna eat into his brain. It was the only way I could save him.”

Dirk lay in his sleeping bag trembling.

Michael J. Solender sometimes likes to eat big bugs. He blogs here:

WAS SHE WORTH IT? - by Ron Adams (PART 1)


“Was she worth it?”

The words hung on the Blackberry screen as Bill Franklin groped in the dark for the bedside lamp. He clicked on the light, still annoyed at being awakened by the vibrating phone on the nightstand. He stared unblinking at the miniature screen, the accusing question burning a hole through his eyes. He flipped through the call log to see who sent the text, and on his directory it read unknown name, unknown number. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going to be. The night was supposed to be all his. Now this.

Franklin swallowed hard, wondering who left the message. He lay on his side, his face and bare shoulders bathed in the harsh blue light from his screen. He stared at the message until startled by his lover’s touch.

“Who called, baby?” she asked, nuzzling the back of his neck softly.


He meant it. Whoever it was, they were trying to hide their identity. After a while he shrugged it off, probably not even meant for him. It was just a weird coincidence. There was no way anybody could know about his affair. His wife was convinced he was working on the Okijima Industries account, the time difference between New York and Tokyo accounting for his odd hours as of late. This gave him ample opportunity to make new friends, like the one in his hotel bed now.

It started innocently enough, with Nancy actually picking him up at the hotel bar. She was a simple flirtation, a middle aged dalliance at the most. He was flattered by her attention, and made him feel like more than a cubicle slave to a nameless corporation. With her, he was a hero, not a suburban commuter in a dead end job. Like him, she said she was locked in a loveless marriage with a careless spouse. And like him, she enjoyed the attention they paid each other. They met for lunch when he was downtown, and soon he was finding any excuse to tell his wife he would be working late.

He checked the time on his phone. It was one thirty, and he had to get home. He stood, went into the bathroom to clean up, and then dressed in a hurry. Nancy watched him, like many times before, knowing full well this was the extent of their relationship. She was resigned to being the other woman, and knew he would be back.

“When will I see you again, Bill?” she asked.

“I’ll call you this afternoon,” was his reply.

The drive home passed in a blur, his mind still wondering about the freaky coincidence of the call. It wasn’t meant for me, it couldn’t have been. Maybe it was a sign from somewhere. I shouldn’t be doing this to Liz and the kids. It can only end badly, so maybe I should just talk to Nancy and end it now, before it’s too late. That’s it. He dialed Nancy’s number, but there was no reply. He left her a voice mail, telling her they needed to talk about something very important.

He slipped into the house as quietly as he could, undressing in the dark. He left his suit in a pile at the foot of the bed, his shoes underneath, and slid under the covers. His wife stirred a bit, her eyes opened to slits.

“Another late one? How much longer will you have to work this project?”

“This was the last night, I think.”

She smiled. “Good. You work too hard sometimes.”

“Sorry I woke you honey. Get back to sleep.”

He kissed her forehead, rolled over and closed his eyes. He slept fitfully, for the few hours he did sleep.


The next morning at breakfast, he resolved to call Nancy from the office. He swallowed his coffee without tasting it, anxious to get on the road and be done with the whole thing. It may have been a wrong number, but it put the fear of God in him. Nancy was fun, and a sweet kid, but she wasn’t going to be his undoing. She was not someone he would risk his family for.

The commute proceeded in an unconscious blur, until he realized he was in the underground parking lot of his building. He grabbed his briefcase from the front seat, checked his cell for voicemail messages, and walked briskly to the elevators. The footfalls from his shoes echoed off the concrete structure. He reached without thinking for the up button, and was thrust back into reality by the ringtone on his phone.

The display screen read ‘Unknown Name, Unknown Number’, and Franklin decided to let it go to voice mail. Whoever it was, it would keep. He rushed into his office, skipping the usual friendly greetings from his co-workers. He was a man on a mission, and focused on breaking things off with Nancy. He brushed off an offer from Fred, the guy in the next cubicle, for coffee and a donut from the office cart before they started. He couldn’t call from the company phone, security kept too close a tab on its use. He used his own phone instead, her number still on the recently dialed list.

The number rang four times before going to voicemail again. Franklin again left a pleading message, all but begging her to call him. When he finished, he opened the message from the previous caller. This time the screen displayed a photo of him and Nancy taken from somewhere outside the hotel, the two of them locked in passion in the room. There was a caption under the photo, and reading it caused Franklin to shake.


A wave of nausea washed over him, followed by rage. He rushed from his office, the Blackberry still clenched in his right hand. Vaughn’s door exploded as Franklin burst into the room...

WAS SHE WORTH IT? - by Ron Adams (PART 2)

“Why are you doing this? You son of a bitch!” Franklin screamed at the man. He grabbed him by the lapels lifted him out of his chair and up against the back wall. “What did she ever do to you?”

“What are you talking about, you psycho?” Vaughn shouted, grabbing Franklin’s wrist to free himself. He shook off the smaller man, and shoved him hard enough to send him sprawling over a chair to the side of his desk.

Scrambling to his feet, Franklin screamed, “You! You’ve been sending me these text messages all day screwing with me! Why?”

The Blackberry lay at Vaughn’s feet, and bent to pick it up. The screen still showed the dead girl, her bloody corpse in sharp relief against the white sheets.

“Jesus Christ, Bill! Is this…?”

“You know who it is!” he sobbed.

“Bill, you have to call the cops.”


“This is a dead body, you idiot. You have to call the cops if you know anything about it.”

“What do you know about it?”

“Are you out of your mind?” Vaughn shouted again. “She’s your mistress! What do you mean what do I know about it?”

“You asked me if she was worth it. The same question the text messages kept asking.”

Vaughn scrolled through the repeated messages. He shook his head and handed it back. He took out his own phone and dialed Franklin’s number. The phone rang, with Vaughn’s name and number clearly displayed. Franklin blinked, and stared at his boss.

“If it were me, you’d know.”

Franklin slumped against the side wall of the office. He was drained in body and spirit.

“Go home, Bill,” Vaughn told him. “Call your lawyer, call the cops, do something about this. You’re no good here today. Just go home.”

Franklin hung his head and nodded. He mumbled an apology, but didn’t wait for the reply. Whatever else, he needed to go home.


As he pulled into the driveway, Franklin noticed the black Ford Crown Victoria pulled up on the street in front of his house. He saw the small dome light in the front window, and the side mounted spotlight, and knew the police were there. His wife met him at the door.

“Bill, the police are here, they want to know about some woman? Is it someone you work with?” she asked, anxiety mixed with fear in her voice.

One of the plainclothes officers stepped between them, facing Franklin. “Mr. William Franklin?”

“Yes,” he replied.

Flashing his badge, the officer continued. “We’d like to ask you some questions regarding Nancy Prescott.”

The other officer chimed in from across the foyer, “Mr. Franklin, were you with Mrs. Prescott between the hours of 10:00pm and 2:00am last night?”

“No, he wasn’t,” his wife interrupted. “He was at work on an overseas account.” She wanted to believe it, her eyes pleading with her husband for this to be the truth.

“Before you answer, Mr. Franklin, please be aware your fingerprints were all over the hotel room, as well as her body,” the closer of the two policeman offered.

Franklin swallowed hard, his wife’s expression freezing him into silence. She crossed the room and slapped him hard across the face, the pain biting into his cheek and ear as she struck. She covered her mouth and quickly walked to the back of the house. The two officers shook their heads.

His eyes welling, the red mark rising on his left cheek, Franklin said, “Yes, I was there, but I didn’t do anything.”

“The crime lab people have hair and semen samples under analysis right now. Is there anything you want to tell us?”

“We were having an affair; it was just sex, just two adults enjoying each other. There was no commitment or anything. I was trying to end it. I’ve been trying to get in touch with Nancy, um, Mrs. Prescott all day.”

The other officer again spoke. “When did you last speak to Mrs. Prescott?”

Franklin turned to answer him. “About 1:30 I think, just before I left to go home.”

The closer officer studied Franklin. “Mr. Franklin, did you kill Nancy Prescott?”

His spine stiffened. “No! I could never kill anyone. It couldn’t be me; she was alive when I left.”

The second officer produced a bloody, mud splattered carving knife from inside his jacket. “Have you seen this knife before?”

Franklin shook his head.

“We found it behind your garage, along with a piece of steel pipe with hair and blood all over it. Anything to say about that?”

“I didn’t do anything! She was alive when I left her!” He looked around; his wife was nowhere to be seen.

The first cop approached, handcuffs out and ready. He shoved Franklin in a circle up against the foyer wall, bringing his hands back and behind him in a well-practiced rush. “Mr. Franklin, you are under arrest in connection with the murder of one Nancy Prescott. You have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”

“I didn’t kill her!” he screamed, wrenching against the officer and the handcuffs. “This can’t be happening! I need to talk to my lawyer…”

“What you need to do, sir, is calm down, and go out the car. We will be taking you down to central booking, and you can call your lawyer when we’re there. I would suggest you exercise your right to remain silent, and go with the officer out to the car.”

Franklin nodded in silence as the second officer led him out. They were at the sidewalk just feet from the car when Franklin felt a sharp blow between his shoulder blades and fell forward face first towards the concrete. A quick twist and he took the majority of the impact on his left shoulder instead of his nose and forehead. He looked back in shock at the policeman already reaching down to help him up.

“If you wouldn’t resist arrest, you might not have fallen, Mr. Franklin,” he offered, smiling as he jerked the fallen man to his feet. Franklin was at a loss for words, so he offered none. The cop opened the passenger rear door to guide his prisoner into the back, but instead of helping to guide his head safely into the car, he again shoved him from the side. A white hot flash of pain burst Franklin’s head as it slammed into the top of the doorframe. He slumped into the back seat his eyes losing focus. The cop opened the passenger side front door and slid in, turning to face the barely conscious Franklin in the back.

“Hey! Don’t you pass out on me you piece of shit!” he called out. Franklin opened his eyes. “You never answered my question.”

Franklin’s head was pounding. “Question? You mean about the knife and the pipe?”

“Think again.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Was she worth it?”

Franklin’s eyes went wide, staring in disbelief.

The officer shook his head. “It took a while, you know. I didn’t want to believe it at first. I mean, you put your faith and trust in someone, then they rip your heart out and grind it under their high heel. So when she left, I did whatever she asked. I left her alone, you know, let her have her space. But then she started screwing this other guy, a married guy. Can you imagine? She’d rather have a guy who’d never leave his wife, who’d probably just use her for sex, than me. It wasn’t right. So I followed her, right, just to see what the competition was like.”

Franklin furrowed his brow. The pain was slowly being replaced by something more primal.

“So you found out the competition was …?”

“It doesn’t matter. She found out I was following her. The little slut still smelled like the guy’s cheap-assed cologne. You know the kind of shit they sell in the men’s room, beside the aspirin and condoms? Anyway, she threatened to call the cops on me.” He laughed out loud. “Can you believe that shit?”

Franklin could only stare. “You…?”

The officer nodded. “The thing is, she used to be my wife, but she was my partner’s sister. She wasn’t coming back to me, I knew that. And your wife? She’s not gonna be waiting for you, if you ever get out of prison. See, he thinks you killed his sister, so he’s gonna take care of your wife. Returning the favor, you know what I mean? But here’s the beauty part. He’s doing the same thing I did. He’s making it look like you killed your wife, too.”

Fear spread through him. There was nothing he could do, but go along with the madman in the front seat. Who would believe him over a couple of cops? He was going to prison, most likely to die, for two murders he didn’t commit. If he tried to run, he was a dead man anyway.

The partner returned, jumping in the driver’s side and turning the key. “Too bad we didn’t get here before this guy killed his wife.”

“I know, but he’ll have lots of time to think about the error of his ways.”

The car lurched forward, jerking Franklin back into the real world. He began to sob. The two officers in the front looked back at him, one turned and the other in the mirror. Nancy’s husband looked back at him with a maniacal grin, his eyes cold and piercing.

“So, was she worth it?”

Ronald W. Adams is the author of two novels in the Joe Banks Private Detective series. To find out more about Ron check out his website here: or his blog here:

Friday 28 August 2009

TURNING A CORNER - by Christopher Grant


That dumbfuck Duane is on the corner, thinking he owns it. You can just see that he's stoned to the gills on his own shit but he thinks he's okay to be slinging. If only everyone on the crew was as stupid as he is, I'd have this entire block, Terrence thinks, sitting in his Escalade and watching from the mouth of an alley.

This block is a major component of Andre's territory and, with it, Terrence could start making huge inroads on wiping Andre and his soldiers completely off the map.

His phone rings, he digs it out of his pocket and flips it open. It's on speaker. Anything anyone has to say to him is fine for his companion's consumption. Terrence doesn't say a word and all they hear is, "Watch." The caller hangs up. Terrence wears a confused look, glances over at his driver and right-hand man, Aaron, who just shrugs.

They've got a front row seat as, across the street, what the caller was apparently talking about materializes. A pair of black-clad triggermen, carrying Tech-9s, pistols in their waistbands, are sneaking up on dumbfuck Duane.

"Who the fuck is this?" Terrence asks Aaron.

"New players in town," Aaron says, his piece out, up and drilling a hole through Terrence's skull.

Dumbfuck Duane is so stoned he either doesn't hear or doesn't fear the gunshot. His crew takes off running for their pieces, hidden atop the tires of nearby cars.

The triggermen come around the corner and put Duane down immediately, his body twitching with the hits as he goes to the sidewalk, dying before he hits the concrete. Duane's crew, having watched their boss just take a hail of bullets, and despite being strapped themselves, scatter to the four winds.

Christopher Grant is the editor and publisher of A Twist Of Noir and a writer of crime fiction. His stories can be found at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Powder Burn Flash and The Flash Fiction Offensive.

Thursday 27 August 2009

THE CHALLENGE by James Hilton

This one takes us back to the height of the Kung Fu boom of the 1970s, and brings it all back in its vivid glory...

The Challenge

“Why are you here?” asked Leo in clipped English. The slight Asian looked the larger American up and down.
“I’ve come to fight the master; to prove that my Karate is stronger than his Kung Fu.”
Leo, dressed in informal Chinese slacks and toggle jacket, pressed a hand against Chuck Palmer’s chest. “You should leave; now, before the master awakens.”
Palmer pushed against Leo’s arm with the full weight of his body. The smaller man’s fingers met with rock hard pectoral muscles.
“Move! I came to fight the master but I’ll squash you first if I have to!” Chuck leaned in a little more and growled long and low to emphasise his point.
“Will the master know who you are?” asked Leo as he stepped aside.
“He should do; I’m the 1974 Pan-American Karate Champion.”
“But the master doesn’t read the sporting magazines, he may not care.”
“I’ll make him care. I’m not leaving without my fight. I’ve flown from Texas all the way here to Hong Kong to test this supposed master of masters out for myself.” Palmer rolled his bull neck and vertebrae cracked like a card players knuckles. “Now, go get the master.”
Chuck Palmer had attained notoriety in the Martial Arts world by several publicity fights. In one bout he fought the Japanese Wrestling champion and knocked him out in seven seconds. In another he fought a wild bull in an arena, the bout ended with the bovine having its neck broken. More recently Palmer was featured on ESPN choking out a grizzly bear with a Judo strangle hold. All bullshit and ballyhoo aside; Chuck Palmer could beat anything he came across. Then he’d heard rumours about an elusive Chinese teacher in Hong Kong. Master Yim could, if the stories were true, kill a man just by thrusting his hand towards his opponent; no contact necessary. Palmer had beaten every shyster, wannabe and Chi-secreting Kung Fu expert he’d ever fought and was sure to add the Illustrious Master Yim to his record of wins.
Leo took a step to the side and allowed Palmer to enter the sheltered courtyard. At the far end of the courtyard sat an elderly Chinese man. He didn’t look up as Palmer made his entrance. He looked to be staring intently at some unseen item on a low table.
“Go on in then if you must,” said Leo, he tapped Palmer’s back and motioned to the centre of the yard. As Chuck stepped in, Leo bolted the door behind him.
“Last chance; are you serious about your challenge?”
“Deadly serious!” Palmer rumbled in his southern drawl.
“You may wish to limber yourself for the challenge…”
“Huh,” grunted Chuck but he moved into a Karate Kata anyway. Palmer’s punches, kicks and blocks snapped into the air like pistol shots. His speed was blinding and his skill in the combat arts was far above the rank and file of the black belt world. A bestial roar ended the Kata as he performed a full Kiai, the terrifying warrior’s spirit shout made famous by the Samurai of Japan.
Palmer stooped and snatched up a large rock from the ground. The first knife hand strike cracked the rock; the second one sent two equal halves toppling to the floor.
Sweat beaded on his forehead, posed in a full squatting horse stance, he declared, “I’m ready!”
“To Die?” asked Leo.
Palmer laughed, “I’m kind of hard to kill,”
“Fool, you’re dead already!”
Then it happened, a ripple of hitherto unfelt energy coursed a complex path through his nervous system and more intrinsically through his internal Chi meridians. Those unseen conduits of the very essence of being; the Chi, the life force.
Master Leo Yim, much younger than most opponents expected now sat on a wooden bench and watched the muscular fighter struggle against the paralysis.
“Good, good,” purred Leo Yim. They all fell for it. The poisoned hand was the greatest and most subtle of all the skills of the vagabond. And people like the boorish Chuck Palmer walked right into it and didn’t even know. Two taps, one on the chest, one low on the spine. The effect was catastrophic.
Palmer opened his mouth to call for help, but instead of words, he coughed up half a pint of dark and putrid bile.
Master Yim counted silently, “One…”
Palmer’s hands locked into approximations of claws as the next stage of the death smite took effect. His eyes bulged and protruded as if forced outward from the recess of his skull; then exploded in one dreadful moment as the deadly energy collected in his cerebral cortex. His internal organs liquefied; his eyes no more than crimson stains dribbling down his chest, yet Palmer was still alive.
Master Yim counted off another digit, “Two...”
In a final effect, the entirety of Palmer’s ribcage splintered in on itself like a bear trap from hell sending countless shards of razor sharp bone through his lungs. Famed torturers such as Torquemada or the Marquis de Sade could never have envisaged the physical and mental agony endured by Palmer in his last moments. But Master Yim of the Vagabonds could. For countless hundreds of years the fore runners of the better known Ninja clans had perfected death in a myriad of ways. Chuck Palmer, martial arts champion and showman just received his. He dropped to the floor, a sack of dead flesh and ruined organs.
“And three…” smiled Master Leo Yim. He went back to the old man and his jigsaw depicting the Eifel Tower at night. He liked jigsaws…and spending time with his housekeeper…and killing troublesome Westerners.

Jim Hilton is a writer of dark fiction, crime, horror and thrillers. At present he his working on his first novel. To see more of Jim's short fiction visit his website at

COUNT THE EYES - by Erin Cole

Erin's debut ticks all the boxes...


“Something is spookin’ the horses, Glenn!” I hollered from the kitchen, wiping the juice of pickled beets from my hands.

“Well, get off yer’ ass and go see what’s wrong,” he replied with his usual dumb glare, mouth agape beneath relentless, olive eyes. He took another swig of his Pabst and kicked his feet up in the recliner.

I was off my ass and decided that investigating night shadows was better than listening to his shit. We’d only been married six years, but God damn, it felt like an eternity already. I flipped on the porch light and saw my buckskin Penny up by the barn.

“Hell, it’s probably just Bear, Ted’s husky on the loose again,” Glenn sputtered from the mouth of his beer can. “Sonna bitch better not dig up my irrigation line.”

I rolled my eyes, grabbed my jacket and a flashlight, and went out into the cold. It was crisper than a cracker outside and my breath clouded past me as I jogged across the driveway, shadowed by a large pine. I grabbed a carrot from the bucket next to the water barrel to give to Penny. She had scrunched herself into the corner where the gate connected to the side of the barn — there was no mistaking that she wanted out of there.

“Easy girl,” I said, petting the side of her head and handing her the carrot. She jerked her head away and I felt myself stiffen with nervous eyes. I scanned the grounds with the light, slowly searching the shadows. Something was in the pasture…Penny wouldn’t turn down a carrot if the sky was raining mice.

“Glenn!” I shouted.

He kicked the screen door open. “What the hell!” he stammered.

“I can’t calm Penny down; she’s upset. I think there’s a coyote in the pasture.”

“Shit, and you need me for that?” In his socks, he swaggered towards me. “I’ll tie her up in the barn. Go count the eyes,” he said, motioning to the flashlight in my hand. It was an expression we used to make sure all the horses were still fenced in, since last year we’d had a problem with the electrical wires and a loose pole allowed two of our pintos to trot down to Mike’s pasture. He didn’t appreciate their droppings and I don’t think they enjoyed his fire crackers either.

“Glenn, it’s dark out. I don’t want to go down there.” And I really didn’t, having no problem resorting to the stereotypical vulnerabilities of my female nature.

“Well, I ain’t got no boots on,” Glenn replied.

A planned arrangement, I knew. “Whatever,” I said, and then headed out to the field along the fence line. I regretted not taking the rifle with me because it was real dark and I could hear the horses’ hooves thundering, running, from something.

We had seven horses total: two pintos, one draft horse, and three stock horses. I shone the flashlight towards the commotion in the field and immediately saw three of the horses. Count the eyes. One for Penny, so two, three, four. I searched the field with the beam of light, passing over the glowing, round eyes of the three I’d just counted. In the distance, I spotted two more, our draft horse, Guinness, and Cheyenne, my Appaloosa. Five, six. There was one more set of eyes I couldn’t see — Bud, the chocolate brown Mustang. His dark coat and stealthy character provided him excellent camouflage on a night like this.

“Jodi, Bandit…” I said to the two pintos, “…where’s Bud?” Guinness came up and nuzzled my hand. I flashed the light to my right, towards the back of the property and saw eyes, galloping towards me. Bud. That made seven. I moved the flashlight to the side of Bud waiting for him to come, when another set of eyes reflected back at me.

What the hell? I thought, whipping the beam of light back to where I’d seen Bud running. He was still there, charging towards me, fast.

“Glenn, you’d better get out here quick!”

With my view obstructed by a lively mass of hooves and fur, I darted down the fence to try and get a glimpse of Bud, shinning the light behind him. I could see something following him in the distance. Its eyes weren’t much shorter than his. The animal was large. It couldn’t be a dog, I thought. My heart kicked in my chest and I felt panic stealing my breath. I turned back towards the barn. I saw Glenn running towards me with the shotgun.

“There’s something in the field chasin’ Bud!”

“Where is it?” He growled as he got closer, the heavy smell of beer stinking from his mouth. “I’m gonna shoot that sonna bitch!” He cocked the barrel of the gun and aimed into the darkness.

“I don’t think it’s dog or a coyote. It’s big.”

He gave me a double look. “Whaddaya mean big? Like a wolf?”

I shook my head. I couldn’t say what I was thinking.

“I gotta double barrel shot gun that’ll blow yer head off!” He turned to me. “Gimme that flashlight.”

The horses had quieted but I had a funny feeling in my intestines that whatever was following Bud still lurked in the field. It came to me to let Glenn discover it for himself. That son of a bitch deserved a good fright.

“Can you see anything?” I said to him, as I started backing up towards the house.

“I don’t see anythin’ but horse shit, Brenda.” He turned to me, shinning the light in my eyes. “Where are you goin’? What… you afraid of the dark?” Drunk laughter escaped his soft belly.

“Dammit, Glenn, cut it out!” I didn’t want to admit it to him because he was the sort of person who liked to know about others’ weaknesses.

“Hey, check this out.” He switched off the flashlight and howled obnoxiously. “Watch out, Brenda… the boogie man’s comin’ to get ya.”

I couldn’t contain my scream, even though I knew it would only fuel his cruelty. But something shut the both of us up real quick. A grunt sounded nearby…only it was more like a screech. A sound so dreadful, even Glenn kept silent. Then the smell of rotten flesh hit me and I felt a subtle change in air pressure like I was standing near a wall. I cried out and spun around, tripping over my own feet. Glenn’s flashlight came back on and the deafening blast of his shot gun pierced my ears. He must have shot towards the field because I felt the shell hit my leg as it popped from the side of his gun.


The beam of the flashlight crisscrossed wildly and then stopped.

“Jesus Christ!” He shrieked. The flashlight fell to the ground and then I heard his throaty scream. Stumbling to my feet, I dove for the flashlight and swiped the beam through the darkness. That’s when I saw Glenn’s feet, in mid air. I turned and ran like hell.

That’s exactly what I said to the officers too. But from their mocking glances at one another, I knew that they had been the ones who had started the rumors that Glenn skipped town with another broad, because they never did find his body — just the partial carcass of a coyote. Still, from time to time, animals and people go missing. I lock my horses up in the barn every evening now — and I never go outside at night any more.

Erin Cole resides in Portland, Oregon and writes for the love of mystery and murder. She has been published on Six Sentences, has sold work at Helium, received Honorable Mention for the Kay Snow Writing Contest, and will appear on Full of Crow in fall 2009. Currently, she is in the processing of working to publish her novel Unearthing Jev and has begun writing the sequel. She blogs regularly at:

Wednesday 26 August 2009

BUS STOP - by Christopher Grant


Five in the morning. The bus stop is three minutes from my house. I come out the front door.

"Fuck!" It's muggy as shit. Yesterday, I could have worn a winter coat, blowing smoke like I was. Today, I should be going to work naked. Gonna need a shower when I get there.

It's getting near to fall and the sun doesn't come up for another hour and a half, so it's pitch black out here. Only the clouds and the heat and the dark and I inhabit this world.

My luck, the bus is probably running late. I get to the stop, look at my watch, illuminated with a press of a button on its side. Seven minutes, ten minutes, who the fuck knows when it's coming.

There's very little traffic at this time of the morning and it's rare that anyone else is out here with me. But today is a little different. While there's no traffic, I can make out a shadow approaching where I'm standing.

Blond frosted hair. That's about the only thing that identifies the shadow. It stops just off my right shoulder. I've never had anyone else stand at this stop with me and, at five in the morning, in pitch dark, I'm getting paranoid.

The shadow gives me justification.

"Don't do anything stupid," it says. The voice sounds like it might belong to a woman, a little higher pitched than you'd attribute to a man. "All I want is the cash."

I've got a little over a hundred dollars on me. Lunch money, magazine and book cash. I was planning on getting flowers for Jeannie on the way home.

"Turn towards me real slow," the shadow says.

When I get in the position the shadow wants me, I look directly at the gun, not the face of my mugger. The piece of metal is so dark it looks like an extension of the shadow's arm.

The shadow leans into me and that's when I decide to make my move. I grab for the gun, try to pry it from the shadow's fingers, try to at least twist it away from being pointed in my direction. The mugginess of the morning is making that difficult, my fingers slipping over sweaty skin. With my other hand, I try to shove the jaw and head of the shadow upward, trying to hyper-extend its entire body.

I manage to use my leg to trip the shadow backwards and down to the concrete. Fortunately, I land on top of the shadow, forcing the air out of its lungs as we hit. The gun is easier to get at now and, soon, it's in my hand.

I put the gun to the shadow's head.

"Don't," it begs me.

With my face so close to its face, I can see that it's a young woman. Even in the dark, I can see the fear in her eyes.

"Why me?" I ask her, still holding the gun to her skull.

"Nothing personal," she says. "If not you, someone else."

The bus decides to show up just then, the orange flasher coming on as it pulls into the stop.

BIO: Christopher Grant is the editor and publisher of A Twist Of Noir. For the record, he has never been mugged at a bus stop. His fiction can be found at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Powder Burn Flash and The Flash Fiction Offensive.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

BONE BROTHER by Lee Hughes

Part Five of Lee's epic horror, The Osseous Box

Bone Brother

The boughs reached out to touch one another creating a canvas of foliage. Tubes of light worked through the gaps in the vegetation to land and dapple the gloom.

Alder knelt and removed the snare from the rabbit's neck before giving it a twist. Bray watched on whilst his belly made impatient noises at the simple thought of food.

The din of bracken being trampled by something large startled the pair. A fiend exploded from the brush to show itself. Both men's faces instantly paled beneath the grime. Alder felt warmth as he pissed himself.

The monster didn't stop when it saw them, if anything it gained speed. The men couldn't move, rooted to the spot through terror as the two-headed monstrosity charged them.

One head looked as though it belonged to that of a disfigured man and was trained on the direction in which it was moving, whilst the other more animalistic head swept from left to right searching for side-line danger.

With a swift back-swipe from a clawed fist Bray went tumbling through the air to vanish into the scrub.

Alder faired worse as he was directly in the beast's path. The thing reached and grabbed him. It broke him into two pieces like he was nothing more than a sprig. His blood didn't so much spray as plunge heavily to the ground in a single splatter.

Bray lay stunned, breathing in both blood and teeth. He could hear the monster continuing on its godforsaken way. He didn't need to move any closer to know that Alder was dead. He gathered himself up and used the front of his grubby smock to staunch the flow of blood from his busted lip. Bray had to warn someone about the beast and Wulf's hut was closest.


The flames within the hearth danced amongst themselves. Wulf sat before it and stared into its depths.

He cast a glance over at the preacher who was napping on his sleeping pallet. The preacher was well into his grey years and tired easily. Wulf didn't mind giving up his bed in exchange for the man's teachings. To Wulf, his faith in the man Christ made more sense than what the druids and pagans babbled on about.

Wulf's own eyes grew weighty. One moment he was watching the restless cavorting of the flames and the next he was asleep. The flames, they followed him into his slumber.


The dream was strange. It was unlike anything he'd seen before. Wulf saw huts that were a hundred times taller than his own and constructed with stones that showed no gaps. The huts were so high as to pierce the sky.

There were whole roads made of smoothed black rock with broken white lines running down the centre. Wulf had no idea how such a thing could be made.

Wulf turned around slowly, wondering what the Romans had been up to this time. The buildings were riddled with flames that crawled like red-ivy. Smoke spewed out of holes in the buildings and reached for the heavens like the hands of a beggar.

His ears were filled with shrieks. Metal poles poked from the hard ground. At the summit of some dangled pots filled with plants and flowers, all wilted and dead. On others dangled bodies, strung up by the neck and eviscerated.

As Wulf walked he realised that he could not feel the heat from the flames.

He watched as a woman was dragged to the ground by men that were warped with ugliness. They had horns, like those of Pan. They were busy dropping britches and waiting to take a turn. Wulf made fists out of his hands and bore down upon them. He threw punch after punch. Each should have loosened teeth and broken eye-sockets. Each punch however whistled through the air, connecting with, nothing. He tried to yank the beasts from the screaming woman but found his hands moved through them and he very nearly lost his balance.

His whole body was tense with frustration at not being able to do anything. Wulf walked on, the walk soon turned into a run as he tried to outpace the nightmare. His fury rose with each atrocity that visited him.

Wulf had known war aplenty. He had seen the aftermath that marred many battlefields. But nothing had been on the scale of this.

Ill-shaped metal wagons housed carnal sins. Legs dangled out of the bucket-shaped holes, toes curled, and moans of all varieties seeped out.

Anything solid and upright had something tied to it that had either been flogged or flayed. Wulf stopped to watch the monsters parade through the carnage. They were the personification of the preacher's words. Wulf saw pure evil for the first time, he also felt fear, but fear he had felt many a time, fear was natural. The demons were not.

Wulf heard a hammering noise.


Wulf opened his eyes. He dragged in a breath to calm himself. The images were still vivid as though they'd been tattooed into the front of his mind.

The hammering continued even though Wulf was awake. It took a moment before he realised it was someone hammering upon his door. He stood and cast a suspicious eye over at the hearth. The flames seemed to move as if taunting him.

Wulf passed the preacher who was still snoring, oblivious of the determined knocking. Wulf raised the wooden latch and opened the door just as Bray was about to deliver another round of urgent raps.

The first thing Wulf noticed was the state of Bray's face. It was all blood, muck, and horror.

"What has happened Bray?"

Bray tried to tell Wulf but it sounded as though he was talking around a mouthful of pebbles. Wulf led him inside. The preacher finally roused.

Little by little, Wulf managed to get the general idea from Bray's mumblings and gesturing. His eyes narrowed and he looked to the preacher whose face mirrored Wulf's alarm. For what Bray had just so woefully described resembled some of the disgraces that he had seen in his vision. For now there was no doubt that it was a vision, and not merely a dream.

The preacher looked to Wulf. "This abomination must be slain."

Wulf nodded and went to where his sword hung upon the wall. He hadn't had occasion to swing it for a handful of years. But something inside him had always made him keep it in more than serviceable order. Without a word he reached for it.


The horse was old and had grown idle. Wulf struck it hard in the side. It ceased protesting as he saddled it. He helped the preacher up into the saddle and then jumped up himself. He grabbed the reins.

"Bray, keep up as best you can." Wulf dug his heels into the horse’s flank and headed off at a begrudged gallop.


With the weight of the two men upon her back the horse found it a struggle to get up to a decent speed and then maintain it.

They soon reached the spot where Alder had been slain. The horse whinnied at the scent of the blood and became ever more belligerent. Another hard blow from Wulf got her shifting again.

They covered another few miles before they could hear the beast ahead causing havoc as it tore its way through the forest. Wulf looked over his shoulder.

"Get down, and follow on foot." Wulf's frosty eyes told the preacher that this was something that was most certainly not up for debate.

The preacher nodded and climbed down. Wulf drew his sword and drove the horse forward.


The demon-beast was shouldering whole trees out of its path. Wulf was sure that if it wasn't for the trees slowing the demon down that he would never had caught up with it.

Wulf whispered a little prayer, raised his blade high, and spurred his mount onwards.

"In the name of God!" Hollered Wulf as his sword cleaved into the muscled and distorted back of the demon.

The Hell-Creature emitted a howl so unearthly that the horse faltered. Wulf swung down from his mount and slashed again as the demon wheeled around to confront its aggressor.

That second strike did more damage than the first and he managed to cleave a decent hunk of searing red flesh from the beast. Smoke and the stench of brimstone rushed out into the surrounding air.

Wulf backed away as the beast confronted him. Eyes the colour of blood burned and raged within the pits of both heads. Its clawed hands moved through the air, eager to destroy the man who dared to engage it in battle.

Wulf moved in a wide circle. He knew it was now a waiting game to see who made the first mistake.

The demon didn't want to play a waiting game. It wanted to destroy Wulf. The beast came straight at him. Wulf rolled and dipped behind the thick bole of an oak just as the beast lashed out.

Wulf dashed out as the tree toppled. Wulf kept low and ran the blade of his sword down the centre of the beast's belly. The gash was deep, yet not so deep as to spill its damnable guts.

It was deep enough to cause the demon to howl in a mixture of both agony and frustration.

The human-featured head began to speak. Wulf couldn't understand any of the guttural drawling.

The preacher came out from the brush. His breathing was noisy and ragged.

The demon heard the loud inhales and exhales. The talking head turned to check out the source. Its leathered lips curled into a baleful snarl and then began again with its uttering.

The second head kept a careful watch on Wulf as he worked his way back and forth looking for another opening.

“What is it saying?” Wulf shouted.

“You must slay it Wulf!”

“That much I know preacher! But what is it saying?”

“That it will destroy us and then return to Hell and gather the hoards of the fallen. Destroy it!”

Wulf dodged a strike by the demon but couldn't find a gap to return the gesture.

He understood the demon must be slaughtered but the urgency in the preacher was unsettling.

Wulf saw an opening and dashed in. The edge of his blade opened up a gash on the demon's thigh. Wulf wasn't quick enough in his retreat and the demon struck him hard.

Wulf was tossed through the air and the landing winded him. Though a lack of air in his lungs were the least of his problems. The demon's claws had managed to open him up from sternum to groin.

Wulf felt his life-blood escaping him. He could smell its coppery scent in the air and taste it in his mouth.

The demon roared in triumph and turned its attention to the old preacher.

The preacher held a pathetically small knife.

The demon actually laughed and then began to close in on the preacher.

The preacher stood his ground. He knew this would be his death, but he had to at least try.

He knew what was at stake should the demon make it back to Hell and it showed the others the way out. It was bad enough that this one had found a way out from the fires of Hell to the earthly plane, without it returning to guide the other beasts to freedom.

The preacher began the Lord's Prayer. Shouting it as the beast towered above him, basking in the knowledge that it was about to slay one of God's praying soldiers.

It raised its claws.

The maws in both its heads opened up wide. Its four eyes opened even wider.

The preacher watched as the beast's insides became its outsides. Fire and meat plummeted to the ground. Its legs buckled and it began to sway. Gasps of rusty breath seeped from its jaws as it landed in a heap.

The preacher watched as Wulf collapsed. His entrails had fallen free and were dangling. The last of his strength had been used to open up the gut wound that he had started when the fight had been fresh.

Wulf's eyes rolled back in his head. As he collapsed he spoke two final words.

“For God.”

The preacher crossed himself and skirted the fallen demon and said a prayer over Wulf.

“What the?” said a voice.

The preacher looked up. It was Bray. He had finally caught them up. Bray couldn't take his eyes from the demon.

The preacher closed Wulf's eyes. There would be time for mourning later. Now there was work to do. Evil had a way of resurrecting itself.

“Take this sword. There is work to do.” He handed Wulf's sword to a puzzled looking Bray.


Chunks of demon were being burned to ashes on a makeshift pyre while the preacher undertook some grisly work involving the corpse of Wulf.

Bray had watched as the preacher began to skin Wulf and strip the flesh from his body. Working the corpse until it was only the bones remaining. From those bones the preacher fashioned them into a chest, a box of sorts. Wulf's ribcage was worked into the walls of the box. His other bones worked to strengthen it.


Bray helped shovel the ashes of the demon into the coarse sack that the preacher had made out of Wulf's ruined smock. They put the sack of remains into the box. The preacher closed the bone lid and began to pray over it.


“Wait until those back at the village hear about this!” Bray said once the praying was all done with.

The preacher looked at him long and hard. The preacher drew the now blunt knife and buried it deep into the neck of Bray, and then prayed.


The preacher found Wulf's horse. He wrapped the bone chest in a cloak and fastened it to the back of the horse.

He led the horse through the forest. The Osseous Box needed to be buried somewhere secret. And as long as it remained secret and the demon was confined within the bones of the martyr, then Hell would remain a prison to its own evil.


Jon blew out air. Hell of a story. But he had a question.

“If it's such a secret how come so many know about it”

“The preacher wrote about the Osseous Box and its origin, but never about its location. When my visions started this river always appeared in some way or other so I worked from there.”

“How'd you know about the blood thing?”

“Holy blood has been used before to find holy relics in times of need.”

“You seem to know a shit-load about this.”

“I have to.”

Beth decided to chip in. She'd remained quiet, listening. “But in Revelations it says Jesus has the key to Hell and death.”

Jon shrugged. “Sounds like someone left a window open.”


Bio:Lee Hughes's short fiction has appeared in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9 and on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, FlashShots, Powder Burn Flash, The Daily Tourniquet, MicroHorror and Blink-Ink. Find out more at