Thursday 31 December 2009

Here's to a prosperous 2010 for all our readers n writers...

All the best to you all for 2010 and thanks for making TKnC such a growing success in 2009. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Matt n Col have done personal 'New Year' posts on our respective blogs.
Col & Matt.

Sunday 27 December 2009


Hawaiian Mixed Plate

HPD Detective Jake Higa could see that, notwithstanding the tears and makeup running down her face, the young woman standing in front of him was a blond-haired, blue-eyed knockout.

“We'll find your little boy, Mrs. Frazier. But you've got to calm down. Something probably caught his attention and he’s just wandered off. Tell me again what happened.”

All around them the early afternoon crowd swarmed. People were shopping, out walking, heading for the beach or looking for a place to have lunch. Even in the bustling heart of Waikiki where anything and everything could and often did happen, people sensed that something unusual was afoot and more than a few paused to rubberneck or to eavesdrop.

“It’s like I told you before,” Mary Frazier said with barely restrained impatience, “we were just taking a walk through the shopping center. We spent the morning at the beach but Billy was getting hungry and, in any case, I was worried about him getting too much sun.” Unbidden, Higa had visions of Mrs. Frazier in a bikini. “We went back to our hotel, cleaned up and came over here to find somewhere to eat.”

“OK.” Higa, a small man, shifted his weight. They were standing in the so-called “Royal Grove” area of the newly renovated Royal Hawaiian Center. The open-air complex spanned three blocks fronting Kalakaua Avenue and consisted of four levels of upscale retail establishments and restaurants. Originally built as merely a shopping mall in 1980, the Center had been reborn and restored now as something of a cultural showcase. How successful its designers had been in that latter regard was still a matter of debate among the locals. “You're staying right over here at the Outrigger Waikiki, is that correct?”

“Yes. We stopped to watch the hula dancers that were performing on the stage there. I grabbed my camera out of my purse and took a couple of shots. It couldn't have taken more than a minute. Billy was right next to me. When I looked down, he was gone.”

Higa turned slightly when a heavy-set Hawaiian man appeared quietly at his side.

“And your husband is where?”

“I told you, detective, he’s playing golf out at Hawaii Kai. I haven't called him yet. I probably should have but I thought, well, you know.” Mary Frazier began to sob. “I thought that we'd find Billy by now. This was our dream vacation. It’s turned into a nightmare.”

“I'd call him right now, Mrs. Frazier,” Higa said softly. He placed his hand lightly on the distraught woman’s shoulder. “I need to talk to Detective Kanahele for a moment. Excuse us.”

The two men moved off a few feet toward an ornamental lily pond featuring a bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

“Any luck, Ray?” Higa asked his partner.

“No. But I’m not surprised. It’s the middle of July. This place is a friggin’ madhouse. Nobody I talked to saw anything unusual. Besides, there are young mothers and towheaded Haole kids everywhere.”

“Listen,” Higa said as he pulled out his cell phone, “I really think we need to get some uniforms over here and maybe some tech people.” Twenty years on the force and he knew instinctively that the decisions he made in the next moments could well determine whether or not they found little Billy Frazier … not to mention whether or not one aging Japanese-American cop kept his job!

“You can't seriously be considering trying to secure this place somehow, Jake,” Kanahele exclaimed. “What’s the point? If somebody snatched that kid, they're long gone. They could've had a car waiting out on Kalakaua somewhere. Or maybe they walked through the Royal or the Sheraton Waikiki to the beach. If they hoofed it over here through Building B or Building A,” Kanahele pointed over his shoulder, “they'd have come out on Lewers Street and lots of luck with that.”

“I know, I know,” Higa sighed with frustration. “We can't lock the place down but it looks like we'll need to do a thorough canvass. And we've got to do it quickly. Most of the staff in these stores probably started when the place opened at 10:00. It’s nearly 3:00 now. They'll be going home and the next shift will be coming on. By then, anybody that might have seen something will be gone.”

Higa talked on his cell for a few moments and then turned back to his partner.

“The cavalry is on its way. Pray we find the kid and don't have to involve the goddamn ‘Feds. In the meantime, I'll go back and see if I can get anything more from Mrs. Frazier. She must have some pictures of Billy on her camera or her phone. Find the Head of Security. Get him and his guys over here ASAP. We can use all the help we can get. They must have surveillance tapes we can access.”

“I'm on it,” Kanahele said as he strode purposefully away.

The stocky detective headed east toward Building C. It was an especially humid day. The trade winds had died and he wiped his brow with a handkerchief. From speakers hidden somewhere, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole crooned about the beauty of a “White Sandy Beach.”

As Kanahele passed the Tourneau Store with the large analog clocks on the façade showing the time in different cities, he noticed a man dressed as a Fijian warrior sitting next to a big black cooking pot. Arrayed around the man were all manner of mallets, hammers and clubs made of wood adorned with rows of razor-sharp shark’s teeth. The guy was clearly putting on some type of exhibition advertising the island’s world-famous Polynesian Cultural Center.

“Howzit bruddah,” Kanahele inquired as he stepped closer to the man. The Fijian looked up.

Kanahele flashed his shield. “We're looking for a little kid, maybe got lost around here a while ago. You notice a five-year-old boy with straw colored hair wandering around looking for his momma?”

“Nothing like that, officer, just the usual tourists. Mostly Japanese groups and Aussie couples today.”

“Hey,” Kanahele remarked, noticing a beautifully carved ceremonial meat fork with four prongs called an iculanibokola. “That thing looks real.”

“Sure is,” the Fijian responded with pride. “It’s been in my family for generations. You know anything about cannibalism, detective?”

“No.” Kanahele was already sorry that he'd stopped to question the guy. He didn't have time for this.

“Well. At least in Fiji, the practice of eating one’s enemies was all about power and humiliation … not food. I've read, though, that some of the ancient kings and warriors really acquired a taste for it. Know what I mean? In fact, I met a famous travel writer here a few years ago … he stood right where you're standing. Anyhow, he had a theory that the reason why so many Polynesians like Spam is because it tastes like human flesh.”

Kanahele thought with some revulsion about the Loco Moco with Spam he had enjoyed earlier for lunch.

The Fijian stood and began stirring the contents of his pot. “They want us to make these demonstrations as realistic as possible. But, obviously, it’s all just for show now, right? The practice of cannibalism on my home island, for instance, stopped back at the end of the 19th century, No cannibals left in the world today, officer. Technology, progress and tourism have seen to that.”

With that, Kanahele thanked the man – obviously somebody who took what he was doing seriously – and continued on in search of the Center’s security office.

As the policeman walked away, a knowing smile played across the Fijian’s heavily tattooed face. He licked his lips and his white, filed teeth flashed in the bright Hawaiian sun.


James C. Clar has published over 100 stories in print as well as on the Internet. Most recently, he has placed short fiction in The New Flesh Magazine, The Taj Mahal Review, Apollo's Lyre, Antipodean Sci-Fi, Flashshot, Shine: A Journal of Flash, The Magazine of Crime & Suspense, Golden Visions Magazine and Static Movement. It's been a very long time since he's eaten Spam ... and likely now to be even longer.


TKnC welcomes another newcomer with...

Disaster Criminals

The merciless winter sunlight fired into his skull through curtains swiped not quite together in lumbering haste and made Cal stir and then almost at once shudder. During sleep, his left eye had remained slightly opened for hours without the required fluids to ensure an adequately moistened lens for full natural closure, and now with the kick start of the day the emerging optical saline burned like acid. In a semi-conscious state, instinct told him that this was a dreadful awakening – no reassurances and no escape from the scalding shock of something terminal, dreadful. The tangible presence of a deadly incident was pacing anxiously about the room.

With the pain of terror gnawing at his soul, Cal became aware of his body. The first sensation was that of the dense toxic blood in his veins heavy with spent adrenalin, whisky and crack cocaine - remains of the analgesia consumed before and much after those moments not yet clear in his mind. And then the smell of stale sweat and sweatier socks assaulted his nostrils – intoxicated in the early hours, he had still with some urgency changed into the only clothes he could physically manage, those from the dirty washing pile in the bathroom, “Phew!! Why the f....?” Then, unexpectedly he half visualized an experience reminiscent of when he would play fight with his sister’s bear of German Shepherd, wrestling, tussling, gnawing until exhaustion halted the hairy, saliva sodden mayhem. But that was fun, so why now with this half managed recall was there pain...fear..? Then like a kick in the teeth...

...SLAM...CRASH...BLOOD...DEATH...PANIC! Like a thousand volts through his mind the memory of yesterday arrived phosphorescent, arresting his full attention. His hand holding a shank almost spotless apart from the small collection of fresh blood on the taped up handle. In dreadful contrast, the husband home early from work due to flu-like symptoms now motionless on the floor of his own bedroom flooding his attire with crimson lifeblood. Throughout the struggle the victim’s spectacles had remained in place and in stillness they enforced the man’s innocence as spectacles on a schoolchild would surely do.

“Why the f**k didn’t you jump in Wes, you f***in c**t!!??” He scream-whispered at his accomplice through emerging tears of heavy self-hatred and panic. But by that point, Wes was well into his victory shimmy because he’d hit the crackhead’s Christmas bonus: a box of cash stuffed in the partition between wardrobe and wall.

Then,“Move man, move!!” Wes communicated, as much with his eyes as with his half closed mouth. Cal obeyed on instinct and scarpered from the scene of his future nightmares like an obedient dog.

Outside, Cal floated on adrenaline which had begun to command his physical and mental state - a condition allowing him a moment of calm reflection on what had just happened. Wes was a dirty crackhead junky but he had presented Cal with a much needed window of opportunity. Wes’ cousin worked for a locksmith’s and following the occasional installation of a front door lock passed him keys for a percentage of any haul. The bloke dying on his bedroom floor was a hoarder of readies, but his otherwise prudent disrespect of banks had gotten him into terminal trouble.

Unfortunately for Cal, now being slapped about by the cold light of day, he could not revisit that state of cool contemplation. Instead, he felt he did not want to live in a world where people like him spread mayhem and misery. He didn’t want to live in a world where the casual phrase “I don’t trust banks” can get you killed. He puked and felt purged enough to sleep a while.

“Help me!!” He groaned, kissing his sour stinking wet sheets. “NO WAY!” Said the world.


Kevin Reilly is a writer from Manchester, England.


Here we have a new series called AT THE NORMAL CAFE...

Part 1 - Mosquito

Its little wings make a tiny pinging sound as they repeatedly collide with the tumbler. I trapped the mosquito when it landed on a sticky patch on the counter, yolk from my eggs I think.

My cell phone is beside the glass, but only the glass is ringing. The case is battered from sharing a pocket with my keys. I sip my coffee, and watch the phone. It’ll vibrate when it rings. I never use the ringer. All those overly joyful beeping melodies give me a headache.

“Anything else I can get ya?”

“Bev” is hovering with her half-full pot of disgusting coffee. I get the feeling she’ll be closing this place as soon as the last of us leave, probably can’t wait for it either. I check the neon-ringed clock above the mirror – 2:30 am. With a tiny shake of my head, she’s dismissed; like she gives a shit. The waitress moves to take the glass that is slowly suffocating the mosquito, and I give her a look. She leaves it alone and goes to force her sludge on the blonde in the booth behind me.

They hate you Tom. Look at them.

I sip some of the tar in my cup, and will myself to loosen my grip. If Judith calls I won’t do it. If she calls, it will be okay. If she calls, we can make the voices go away for a little while.

I’m giving it five more minutes.

With Bev’s chunky waitress frame out of the way, I catch a glimpse of myself in the dirty, mirrored wall under the clock. It’s been three days since I’ve slept, and I look it. Behind me on my right, there’s a nerdy, scared looking guy sitting alone at a table on the wall, nursing a cup of coffee just like mine, and eating a squashed looking waffle. He’s maybe a hundred and fifty pounds, maybe. Looks like a number cruncher.

He thinks he’s better than you Tom. Sure. Got a nice white collar job. Watch him laugh at the pathetic unemployed loser at the counter.

I can see the blonde girl over my right shoulder. She’s pretty, but she’d look better with long hair. All girls do. Doesn’t matter though, I positive she’d be scared of me.

Little bitch. Look at her. Frosted, or highlighted, or whatever shit she’s done. Making herself a piece of meat. Not that she’d give the loser the time of day. Not that you deserve it Tom. You’re a LOSER.

Bev’s not scared, but she’s not a girl, she’s a waitress. That apron goes on, and gender seems to disappear, despite the massive breasts that pull the checkered shirt tight, and the lanky red hair, forced back into a tourniquet bun at the back of her neck. I hear a crash, and the waitress lopes off to deal with it. It’s the skinny guy. He knocked his crummy looking waffle off the table. I don’t blame him. The food here is worse than the coffee.

Maybe he saw you looking at him loser. Maybe you made him so sick to his stomach …

Shut up. Shut up. SHUT UP. It’s as bad right now as it’s ever been. There’s a tiny crunch, and I’ve finally managed to snap the handle off my cup.

They’re hiding their true faces, but they all hate you, Hate You, HATE YOU.

The mantra is in perfect rhythm with my pulse, because it is my pulse.

The mosquito is buzzing a little slower now. There’s only so much air in that little glass after all. I know how he feels. There’s so little good air my coffin I find it hard to breath too. The air goes in but it feels like there’s no oxygen coming with it. There is one thing though, that helps me breathe …

They’re going to laugh at you as soon as you leave. They hate you Tom. HATE YOU.

Ring, damn you. I turn the little phone’s outside window to face me. I’m willing the words “Blocked caller” to come through. She never would give me her number. It’s a shame really. All I need is that voice. Judith’s voice, like sandpaper and chocolate. I left a message at the only number she would share. It’s a TTY service, a “deaf phone”. All I sent was “Tom needs you. Call him.” Those words, transferred to the satin curves of her ears, at least as I imagine them, sounding like something from outer space, telling her my troubles in dull grey letters on a muddy yellow LED screen. Judith. My sponsor, my saviour, my nemesis. I want the silence now. I want the release. I want it. I do. Judith, where the fuck are you now?

Sudden movement in the mirror makes me look up. A heavy guy in a stained trucker cap is getting up.

That your kinda people Tom? A big sloppy drunk redneck? Sure, you’d be right at home with a big fella like that. You and him would be good ‘ol boys together. Right loser? Right useless? They hate you Hate You HATE YOU.

I brush my hand back to where my jacket hangs off the back of the counter stool and feel the too-heavy right pocket swing, and hear the slight clink as it comes back to rest against the metal legs of my seat. Fatboy is first. Unless the phone … rings … right … now.

I lift the edge of the glass. The mosquito flies directly onto the back of my hand. I let it bite. I deserve it. It fills up quickly, my heart is racing. I flex the muscle between forefinger and thumb. Now it’s stuck, but it won’t stop, can’t stop drinking, and it’s too late. It ruptures and blood from the inside of my hand is now on the outside of it in neat little spatters.

I brush aside the tiny body and put away my cell phone. Time’s up.

Copyright 2009- Chris Allinotte

Chris Allinotte is a Toronto based writer. His work has been published on the web at such great sites as MicroHorror, Flashes in the Dark, the Oddville Press, and more. For more details about Chris' writing, check out his blog at

Thursday 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Editors...

May we take this opportunity to whole-heartedly thank all our readers and talented contributors for the growing success of TKnC.

Both Matt and Col wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Ps. Check out two new Chrimbo stories below, from Pixie and Col...

WITNESS 'A' by Col Bury

Witness 'A'

The five gang members stood cocksure in the dock, their smirks testament to the disrespect within today’s society, as the prosecutor called again for ‘Witness A.’

The black-gowned court clerk scurried in shaking her head.

The judge peered over reading glasses, his red gown, white wig and wispy grey beard providing the only - albeit unintentional - hint of the festive season in the courtroom. However, Santa he was not. The only pressies he’d be giving were prison sentences, although probably not today, such was the state of current proceedings. ‘So where is “Witness A”, Mr Oliver?’

The CPS lawyer, Tim Oliver, wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. With all eyes upon him, he looked at the dozen intense faces of jury. Then he turned to the empty witness box, a burgundy, curtained screen across it to protect Witness A’s identity, and he tightened with panic. He glanced at sneering gang leader, Jerome Kingston, in the dock. Kingston winked then grinned at Tim. ‘Please, your honour, give me two minutes.’

The judge’s gruff tones oozed both authority and derision. ‘Hurry, Mr Oliver. I don’t want to miss my Christmas dinner!’

Tim Oliver dashed from courtroom one, scanned the foyer. He’d not lost a case for two years and with this unwelcome blemish on his impeccable record his bloody Christmas would be spoilt. He had discussed the probability of defeat with his key witness and David Gacy had been unimpressed by Tim’s 30-70 against odds. Had David given up on him or just got cold feet? Understandable really as David had somehow survived a brutal attack by Kingston and his cohorts. His best mate, Brian Ranger hadn’t been so lucky, his head kicked about like a football. The life support turned off only last week.

The snow bucketing outside the foyer’s expansive second floor windows briefly caught Tim's attention, until he saw a hooded youth shuffle from the Gents past a poorly decorated fake tree. Could be anyone, but something in Tim’s gut suggested otherwise. He headed for the Gents.

The door squeaked open and he gasped.

David Gacy wasn’t there. A sprawled youth with a slashed throat was.

Tim raced to courtroom one, his mind racing, his heart doing somersaults. He swung open the doors, hearing mayhem inside, people jostling past, screaming. The judge scarpered swifter than Santa on his sleigh.

Four security guards and a copper grappled with David Gacy, his eyes manic, a kitchen knife shimmering in the struggle. But it was too late. Kingston’s blood-pumping grin was now ear to ear.

Tim gazed in shock…

…but, hey…at least he’d still not lost a case.

TKnC co-editor, 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, Blink Ink and Flash Fiction Offensive. Col's story MOPPING UP won a comp' to feature in the anthology EVEN MORE TONTO STORIES (to be published May2010). He blogs and interviews crime authors at Col Bury's New Crime Fiction.

BLACK ICE by Pixie J. King

Black Ice

The motorway was gridlocked from the Christmas Eve rush hour. Red lights and icy steam filled the roads. Angry drivers were desperate to get home from stressful office jobs.

Dexter Simmonds tapped impatiently against the steering wheel of his Nissan Terrano as he waited for his wife to answer the phone. ‘Hey honey, I may not be able to get home, the traffic isn’t moving at all. I shan’t be getting home fast anyway. Send my love to the children, take care, Dex.’

He growled; he hated talking to the answer phone.

Hours later, Dexter managed to leave the motorway, and he drove through the long country lanes home, the faint glow of the town in the distance. He couldn’t wait to see the faces of his children; they were going to love the presents he’d bought them.

Conditions on the road were treacherous, with the car’s headlights unable to penetrate through the thick fog, the darkness eating at the car’s feeble light. It had snowed the night before, the gritters unable to access the small and winding road. Beneath the glittering frost, black ice lay hidden. Heavy fog descended over the hills, hanging over the trees like a shroud.

Dexter drove carefully around the chicanes in second gear, before finally reaching a straight, but icy road. Snow drifted through the beams of his headlights. He shivered in the cold, despite having his heaters on full blast, felt the car slide along the ice. He swallowed; all he wanted to do was go home to his children. He hadn’t seen them in weeks because of his job.

He heard his mobile ring, but ignored it. He couldn’t answer it, didn’t want to take his hand off the wheel in these conditions. The ringing eventually stopped.

He wound his way around the last chicane before he reached his home town, and the phone interrupted his concentration again. This time he answered it, looked away from the road for a second.

The car jolted, skidded. He dropped the phone, fought to bring the car under control, narrowly missing the trees that surrounded him. The car rolled onto two wheels, slewed towards the edge of the cliff. Dexter laughed nervously as the car hung precariously over the edge, the darkness looming below.

He opened the door to get out, felt the car wobble slightly. He froze, frantically trying to think. He was only a few minutes away from home, he couldn’t go now. He heard his phone ring again, knew it was his wife Marie. He leaned down carefully, plucked the phone from the floor and answered it. He placed it to his ear, heard the scraping of metal against the rock.

Dexter shrieked as the car sank forward and down. The vehicle plummeted, glass smashing out of their frames, the grinding of the metal against the rock, rubble falling with him. Sparks flew out like deadly fireworks, lighting the darkness beneath him.

Dexter stiffened as he went down; felt his body being battered against the car, shards of glass slicing his skin. He heard his wife screaming on the phone. He wanted to say goodbye, but he felt his grip loosen around the phone as it smashed, images of his family flashing in his mind before the blackness took over.

The car combusted into orange and red flames, the explosion echoing through the darkness; black, deadly smoke billowing out. Tyres and debris snapped off, the deafening noise sparking an avalanche.

He was only metres away from his home.

Now he was metres away from heaven.

Pixie is a student who is new to the writing world, and writes when she can, where she can. Her work is mainly flash fiction and poems with the occasional short story.
Pixie’s work can be found at
Alternatively, for a more warped version of Pixie’s thoughts, try

Monday 21 December 2009

JINGLE BELLS By Adrian Magson

Here at TKnC we are thrilled to welcome Adrian to the ranks with...


I found him slumped in a doorway, a shapeless sack in a once-smart grey suit, silk shirt and handmade shoes. He was breathing heavily, head thrown back at an angle, as if trying to peer under the shop’s door. The air stank of urine and other stuff I didn’t want to think about.

I took out my mini-light and checked his face. It was him, all right… the man I’d come to bring in. Flushed, puffy skin, slack mouth and the beginnings of next day’s whiskers. He had the dirty impression of a shoe print on one cheek and a stray piece of Christmas tinsel stuck to his forehead.

Season’s greetings, goodwill to all men.

I patted him down and checked his pockets. No wallet, no car keys, no cash. Just a used handkerchief.

Someone laughed, a raucous cackle without humour. I looked across the street to the darkened doorway of a nightclub. The place buzzed with vibrations from the music inside, some manic Yuletide tune from the seventies. The bouncers had retreated from the cold, leaving the pavement outside to the night prowlers.

It was one of these who’d laughed.

Indistinct, their hoodies were what marked them out, pulled down to hide their faces from the street cameras. Like their four-legged counterparts, the hyenas, they were loathed and feared, preying on the vulnerable, hunting in packs. I counted five in a huddle, looking my way. They’d already been here, done what they did, probably pausing to give him the kick for good measure.

Soon, they’d get brave and come over to see what they could get, only this time from me.

I decided I’d come back to see them later, bring them my own version of Christmas cheer, see how they liked it.

For now, I ignored them and slapped the man’s face. It was a light cuff, but hard enough to get his attention. He stirred and swore, then turned away.

I swore back at him. I had to get him out of here. Apart from the danger, the smell was making me feel nauseous.

A flicker of movement in my peripheral vision. One of the prowlers had moved, slinking away down the pavement to one side. Another peeled off and went the other way. The remaining three stayed where they were, watching.


I knew the tactics. The sweepers would disappear, swallowed by the shadows. The other three would dicker for a bit, then one of them would venture out of their doorway and cross the street. He’d do it at an angle, probably stopping to light a cigarette, making sure he didn’t look directly at me.

He was the decoy, drawing all the attention.

After a bit, he’d make a sign, and the sweepers would come in at a rush. The decoy would stay where he was, watching to see if they needed help, as would his two other mates.

They rarely did.

I reckon I had thirty seconds, maybe a minute at most, to get moving. Once I was on my feet, with the man vertical, too, I’d be all right. After that, I’d be easy meat. These particular hyenas didn’t like taking on anyone still standing; it was too messy and the camera operators could see what they were doing and call up the night squad. Anyone lying down, they could always claim they were trying to help.

I checked inside my jacket. I had an asp – a telescopic baton – tucked inside a special pocket. I wasn’t supposed to have it, but when you move in the circles I do, it pays to have an edge.

Footsteps scuffed down the street, and I looked up to see one of the sweepers crossing over to my side and angling back towards me. He looked big and handy – a rough-houser. I didn’t need to look for the other one; he’d be doing the same.

I gave the man another slap, and this time he batted a large hand in my direction and said something obscene. I ignored it, tried to pull him up. Christ, he was heavy.

‘Come on, you dick,’ I muttered. ‘You’ll get us both killed.’

He swore again, a litany of filth inspired by drink and garnered from years in trouble spots around the world. I knew his history all too well. There was a time he’d never have been caught out like this.

He turned and looked my way, eyes beginning to focus. I slapped him again.

‘Bastard!’ He coughed, then turned and spat against the shop window.

‘Nice,’ I said. ‘Sophisticated.’

The sweepers were getting closer, and the decoy was making frantic signs, a cigarette in one hand, a lighter in the other, glinting metal. He could see what I was trying to do. Once I stood us both up, they’d lose the initiative.

Beyond them, the face of a bouncer appeared in the nightclub doorway, watching the play. He’d stay where he was unless it looked like a mugging. Even then, he might not bother.

The man sat up and tried to punch me in the head, instinct kicking in. Lucky for me, he had the coordination of limp spaghetti and missed by a mile.

‘Bastard!’ he gobbed again, then added, ‘I know you.’

‘You should do,’ I said. ‘Get up.’ I grabbed both wrists to stop him hitting me. A smack in the head still hurts, even from a wobbly drunk.

‘Yeah, I know you… I’ve slept with your mother!’ He laughed like a maniac and hawked noisily, then tried to head-butt me. ‘I’ve done your mother, you wee skanky little shite!’

The decoy had stopped, cigarette unlit. Made a hold-it signal to his mates.

‘Yeah… I’ve done your ma, you hear me?’

I had seconds left before the sweepers got the signal to go for it. I yanked the man towards me and slid round behind him, got both hands under his armpits and hauled him to his feet. He stank of booze and fags and whatever the hell was already in the doorway when he’d landed here.

‘Done her, you hear?’ he yelled wildly.

I took out the asp, flicking it open with an audible click, just so the hyenas would get the message, then dragged him stumbling out of the doorway into the open. Inside the club, they started up with ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.

‘She’s beautiful, your mother.’ This time his voice was softer, regretful.

‘Christ, you’re an embarrassment, dad,’ I told him, and held him close. ‘Let’s get you home, shall we?’


Adrian Magson is a published author and regular collumnist in WRITING MAGAZINE

'NO KISS FOR THE DEVIL' - "Magson is a gem of a writer. (He) has a unique and wonderful voice and his characters are unforgettable." CRIMESPREE MAGAZINE (US)
'NO HELP FOR THE DYING' - "Gritty and fast-paced detecting of the traditional kind, with a welcome injection of realism." Maxim Jakubowski - THE GUARDIAN
'NO TEARS FOR THE LOST' - "This intelligent crime novel... should garner the British author a larger following in the U.S. The crisp writing and fresh characters make this stand out from the mystery genre pack." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY


TKnC welcomes Stephen with....

Even The Dead Need A Spotter

Todd’s dumbbells hit the floor after 10. That’s 10 full reps on the incline. Ninety pounds of iron in each hand, and he’d pumped them out like they were cake. Thanks to the rubber mat wedged under the bench though, they may as well have been a pair of fives for all the noise they made. Kind of lame, but it’s not as if anybody else was in the gym to hear them.

Unless you count the zombie.

This was just before midnight on the night before the last day of midterms--I think Todd and I were both writing Anthropology. Besides us, the only students left in residence were a handful of pencil-necks, all drowning themselves in caffeine for an extra few minutes of study time. Whatever. Within four months, Todd and I had slapped an inch of beef on our arms, doubled that on our legs, and carved our guts into six-packs. Truly kick-ass. Even if the zombie were still a biter, he’d have been running from us. Of course when it came to biters, they were now as extinct as VCRs.

A year before it was different. When the virus first hit, people-turned-zombies would claw through cement if they thought you were behind it, and--once they had you--you had a better chance of squatting a Buick than prying their jaws off.

But then came Z-Tap. Scientists promised it would lay waste to the zombie-making effects of the H1N1 vaccine cluster-fuck. Dumped into the water, through the air, and concentrated into a shot, everyone got a taste. The good news was the zombies stopped biting. The bad news was, nothing else changed. Thousands of bodies returned to their jobs, schools and homes, but that’s all they were--all bodies, no brains. They slumped over desks, sprawled on couches, or staggered around their front yards in strange, stupid circles. They were still contagious through their blood and their spit, but since you were now more likely to spot Bigfoot in a tutu than get chomped, the remaining rotters were tolerated. After all, now the only thing threatened if you did turn zombie was your IQ. I remember a buddy once saying that watching cured zombies was like watching bugs, but that wasn’t quite right. Bugs always look busy. Every last bug is getting a job done. Zombies?

They can’t pick their noses without a spotter.

As for Gym Zombie, Todd and I both recognized him. He was the only one of the undead who ever visited the weight room regularly--a pile of grey flesh that looked as out of place as a toddler in a nursing home. Who knows where his family was, or even if he had a home. Some zombies never found their way back. Others weren’t welcome. We guessed Gym Zombie was once a student just like us: a dude who lived in Lambton Rez, worked out nights, and maybe even squeezed some book-time in now and then. That night he wore the usual: a pair of tattered blue Nike sweat shorts, and a faded green t-shirt with the slogan “Irish Pimp” busting out in a four-leaf clover. No sign of his socks or shoes. Slack-jawed and teetering, he stood for a few moments between the treadmills, staring out at the room with those spooky, curdled yolk-yellow eyes they all have.

Inspecting his wings in the mirror, Todd didn’t even notice him at first.

“Irish Pimp’s here,” I said, loud and clear. I could have gunned my dad’s Hummer from a few feet away, and Irish wouldn’t have so much as cocked his head. Definitely not pimp.

“Fucking z-tard,” Todd said. “I thought we’d have the gym to ourselves.”

“It’s just one zombie, Toddilus,” I said. “We can deal.” If I wasn’t spending time in the library, I wasn’t about to waste it hassling a rotter, either.

The zombie shuffled towards the barbell bench a few feet over. As he sat on its cracked leather, the stink of maggot-fattened meat gave my gag reflex a yank. I pictured scabs of mold nestled in the thing’s skin.

“Wait a minute,” said Todd. “Weren’t we going to kick ass on the barbell bench next?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

Todd’s eyes narrowed. “Barbell bench,” he repeated, and aimed his finger at the zombie like a weapon. “We know the z-tard’s not going to use it.”

Todd heaved himself up, and we both headed over. Hunched like an old woman, the zombie stared down at the filthy fingers snarled up in his lap. Cogs of yellow bone jutted through torn knuckles, and his mop of greasy black hair was clotted with burrs, grass, and clumps of dirt. Under the smells of soil and rot clung the stink of dog shit.

“You about done here, chief?” Todd barked.

The zombie just sat there. Staring. A fly buzzed past my ear, and I swatted it away.

“Partner!” Todd said, louder now, and clapped his hands an inch away from the thing’s wasted face. “You moving or what?”

I watched the fly light on the zombie’s shoulder, and dart into the hair on the back of his neck.

“All right, what are you lifting then, Irish?” sighed Todd. “Two more plates?”

The racked bar already had a 45 on each side. Todd slid on another one, and iron clanged as the plates slammed together. I checked the clock as Todd slid on a fourth plate.

“Dude. He can’t hear you. He’s not going to do any-“

Todd wasn’t listening. “Hey Irish, 225 is waiting!” he yelled. “It’s what we lift. So unless you’re going to do something with it, get the hell off!”

He slapped the bar, and the plates shivered. This was going nowhere. I glanced back at the dumbbells, thinking about vamoosing to do some curls. “Todd I-” But that was all I got out, because the zombie was slowly laying back.

“Well look at this,” Todd whispered.

I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, the rotter was listening. And it understood.

Flat on the bench and staring up at the racked bar, Irish opened his mouth. His tongue was nothing but a frayed nub of meat, and his breath stunk like a puddle of bad milk.

“Terd-ing” the zombie said. His voice sounded clogged with wet gravel.

“What?” Todd asked. His eyes were huge. Schwarzenegger-in-his-prime huge. “Are you saying-“

“Terd-ing,” repeated the zombie, and his lips pulled into a smile of pitted and broken teeth.

“Thirty?” Todd asked. “Are you saying thirty?”

The zombie nodded, and folded his ruined fingers around the bar’s cold metal grooves. Then, with a coughing grunt, he heaved the weight into the air.

“Holy shit,” said Todd. “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit…”

Slow but steady, the bar lowered, grazed his filthy chest, and rose right back up. Again and again, the zombie muscled reps out, as if the weights were made of marshmallows. Soon his snaggleteeth were gnashing at the air.

“I think his appetite’s back,” Todd said.

He was right.

By 12 reps, the zombie was chomping his own lips to pieces. By 20, a hunk of his mouth had splattered onto the floor, and Todd’s complexion was as grey as the z-tards.

“You know what we have to do, right?” Todd said, eyes glued on the zombie.

“Yeah.” I knew all right.

The rotter racked the bar, and lurched to his feet. A ferocious, drooling snarl stretched the skin on his face so thin, it could barely contain the bone.

“You ready for this?” said Todd.

I nodded. No time like the present.

“To our new training partner!” yelled Todd, and held up a hand.

“Kick-ass,” I said, and high-fived him. Irish had just pumped out 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench. With this kind of motivation, I knew I could bench 300 by Easter.

The zombie let out a gurgling moan, and held up his own palm. For the first time, I noticed his ring finger dangling off his hand like a split branch, bent backwards and twisted.

“Oh my God,” Todd cried. “He wants a fiver!”

“Hells yeah,” I said, and tagged it.

“Kick-ass,” laughed Todd, and gave it a smack.

The only problem was, when Todd tagged it, the zombie’s hand snapped clean off.

The rotter grunted, swinging his arm around. Blood hosed out of his wrist, and a ropey stream lashed across my chest, as sticky as syrup. I stumbled back screaming, wiping at it in a panic. When I looked up from the mess, only thin trickles of blood were left dribbling down the zombie’s wasted arm. His mouth was hanging open, and his dim, piss-yellow stare was fixed on the space where his hand used to be.

Todd looked even worse. His face had been splashed so badly, it was as if it had been painted.

“You all right?” I asked, and he spat out a mouthful of zombie blood. That answered that question.

He had five minutes. Max. I noticed his eyes starting to spoil, rusting across the corneas.

“So, what do we do now?” I said, already knowing the answer.

Todd nodded at the bench. In the middle of all that red, his grin was ghost-white. “Guess I’m maxing out.”

“Kick-ass,” I said, and began adding more weight.

Sunday 20 December 2009

CHASING THE DEAD by Colin Graham

Chasing the Dead

You’re only of any use to me dead. Okay, maybe decapitation might be a runner too as long as it is suitably severe. But if you find yourself all twisted and turned on the asphalt with a scarlet halo forming around your shattered and bewildered skull at some point, then you have pretty much made my day.

Traffic tragedies are right up my street, you could say. Fires, murders and other calamities too but less so. I get to the scene quickly, interview a few witnesses and police officers, dash back to my desk and knock out the story in under an hour, but for it to run it needs a death. Stack up the corpses and I might even get to make you and the other deceased front page news.

If I sound casual and light-hearted (you might even suggest ‘heart-less) while describing my work, then please forgive me. I haven’t always been like this, it’s just grown on me. I didn’t even want the job in the first place. It all happened, well, by accident.

I was still a trainee at the paper when I was taken on. My predecessor had just retired to go and live in the country and the editor, Clive, came up to me shortly afterwards and asked: “Is that your motorbike out there?” When I nodded he said: “My office in ten minutes, okay?” Twenty minutes later and I was full time on the staff. Yes, I did have my misgivings about the role but I was also delighted. Who wouldn’t be after getting their first real break in their chosen career?

The gloss was removed a bit when a month later my erstwhile fellow trainee, Stan, landed the job of restaurant critic. That irked. Especially when it dawned on me why. The fucker didn’t drive, did he? Commuted into work by bus every day. Obviously, it wasn’t going to be him who was offered the grubby little post I ended up in. On appointment, he got to be driven around from office to eatery and then back home every day by the paper’s very own chauffeur. While he’d be placing forkfuls of haute cuisine onto his tongue, I’d be stifling the urge to belt out my lunch time Cornish pastie all over the lacerated body tangled up down there on the ground. It’s not that I am squeamish, or anything, it’s just that there is always some new, elaborate wound that you have to get used to. Once you’ve learnt to cope with the sight of a severed limb slung round a lamppost, then along comes gut spillage to queasily alter your perceptions.

I could have been a fucking restaurant critic. I know perfectly well how to make cooked flesh sound pithily good in a sentence. I have even got a better name for the job than bloody Stan. Nigel it is. Nigel Mason, which you can even pronounce impressively with a French accent, if you so wish.

The name-game was actually a bit of a headache for Clive when he was filling the position. Couldn’t have ‘Stan Birtles’ printed ahead of a piece on Blanquette de veau, washed down by a crisp Minervois, could you? So, soon he became known to restaurateurs and readers as Stanley Beamish. And beam he did from the page via his by-line pic. He would do, wouldn’t he? He even went and grew himself a moustache, the wanker.

Stan, as I still insist on calling him, got to sit next to Stacey, the writer of the paper’s extravagantly prudish version of the ‘Sex and the City’ column. Her revamped mantle became Stacey Monroe, having been Stacey Manners in a past life. You couldn’t make it up. Still, I always remembered Stacey as a good fuck, something Stan wouldn’t have liked to hear from me. Tough.

Just as Stan was becoming the star of page 10, Clive was beginning to get rattled by what had become a mere trickle of harrowing write-ups making their way from my keyboard to print in recent weeks. I vainly tried to explain that for some reason people were emerging from car wreckages these days very much bloodied and bashed about, but staying one step ahead of the grim reaper, more was the pity. They just weren’t popping their clogs enough anymore, I told him pleadingly in front of the rest of the office, most of whom silently took his side. To the average reader alive car crash victims aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. To be frank, they might as well be dead.

Clive was still suspicious, though, and convinced neither me nor Dave, the photographer, were pulling our weight sufficiently. So, despite the fact that old Stan was allowed to go lounging around in a company Mercedes to this or that restaurant, Clive started banging on about how costly it was for the paper to have to cover two motorcyclists’ petrol bills every month. And then he came right out with it: “Can’t the two of you just ride together on the one bike. You’re both going to the same place anyway. What would be the difference?”

Well, one was that we sped to many a scene from home and we didn’t live that close to one another. Then, there was the fact that I didn’t really like the scabrous git of a snapper that I had to work with. Dave was a typical fucking photographer: monosyllabic, dull and clearly infused with a desperate blood-lust. When we arrived at the aftermath of some catastrophe or other he’d begin by taking the shots he knew would end up in the paper: the buckled crash barrier, the mangled vehicle, maybe even a weeping relative. That would all take a minute or two. But then he’d hover around the ambulance crew as they tended to the injured or declared death on the deceased and his shutter would really start to work: a picture every nano-second it seemed. None of them would make it into print and Dave knew this perfectly well. It was sheer, macabre, psychotic indulgence. Dave loved his job, particularly the parts of it that were completely irrelevant to the task in hand.

Anyway, I said to Clive: “Do you really think that the two of us riding together on the same bike is a good idea? You know how fast we have to go to get to scenes. What if one of us fell off? You know the golden rule of journalism: don’t become the fucking story.”

That made him back off for the time being and even some of the other journos found it amusing; Stacey actually winked at me, which Stan didn’t like at all.

But then a funny thing happened which changed my life. The ambulances started to get slower, which was completely ridiculous when you think of it. It’s supposed to be ambulance chasing not ambulance racing that we’re in the business of. By definition, we weren’t supposed to arrive at scenes before the rescue crew but that seemed to be on the cards on several occasions. And as a result of this sudden lack of urgency on the part of the drivers, low and behold the body count went up and me and Dave found ourselves on the front page more often. Everyone was a winner, apart from the crash victims, naturally. But their fate was sealed before I ever had anything to do with them.

I liked the ambulance crews. We’d often talk back at the hospital after I had tried to get comments from the doctors and share a coffee and a fag or two. They seemed similar to me: jaded, cynical and wanting a way out, however that might be achieved. I was both amused and shocked by their dark humour too: the trashy remarks they made about their patients gave me a rare old jolt, which surprised me.

You’d have thought I’d be the type to be utterly unfazed by gloomy quips aimed at the innocent, but when bantering with the ambulance people I found myself laughing nervously. I began to wonder why. Part of me felt sure that when hacks made unsavoury jokes it was acceptable because we were the observers and recorders of human activity. We were entitled to wax away wittily on the carnage unfolding beyond the office simply because, in essence, it was almost part of our jobs. But ambulance workers were helpers, savers of lives. When they began to disparage the human race at its most vulnerable, it also meant that you, me, personally might one day suffer as a result of their moral indifference. A last vestige of life’s security net was thrust away by their jokes, to leave you with even less hope than before.

And I had become bleak enough as it was. If you have seen a young body making bizarre shapes on terra firma after being brought to a cataclysmic end at such brutal short notice, optimism does not reign in your soul. The next step is to embrace the sheer pessimism of it all: whole heartedly.

Then the ambulance workers began to look healthier, more clean-shaven, less ruffled than I’d seen them before. Dare I say it, more solvent even. They were also bringing in the bodies ten-a-penny, so Dave and me were busy and Clive thought the paper would win an award, or something, at this rate.

They then became more cheerful and their wisecracks greyer, less black - boring you might say. Whilst remaining friendly, I distanced myself from them at the same time and began to study their behavior.

When they got a call they would saunter into their vehicle after nonchalantly stubbing out cigarettes and flinging away polystyrene cups. They’d share a last minute joke before the ambulance left the hospital compound, with Dave and me in not-so-hot pursuit.

There were invariably dead on the road because the ambulance had got there late and the police officers would look perplexed without for one second suspecting the crews, who as usual went about their work with the utmost diligence when on the scene. They were perhaps a bit too meticulous for comfort. I was beginning to have some serious doubts.

I needed to check out the hospital morgue. Using my press pass, I talked my way in and asked the crumpled little orderly to tell me which stiffs had met their maker via an unscheduled liaison with an erstwhile showroom gem. He tiredly pulled them out and showed them to me, tags already on toes.

Timing is everything. Just as I was leaving I saw a van pull up next to the morgue. There was a flurry of activity. I shot back downstairs and peered around a door. The crash victims were being hauled out of their temporary resting places and hoisted upstairs.

Dave and me van-chased, for a change. It made one stop, then another and yet again one more, then several. In total, ten undertakers welcomed deliveries.

The scam had involved ambulance staff, doctors and undertakers. Let the dying die had been their unwritten – yet widely whispered – motto as they laughed their way to the bank. And me and Dave – who eventually proved sterling – broke the story all on our own.

So we wrote the book, we made money and Stacey is expecting our first born. My ambulance crew mates are all locked up, largely thanks to me. Stan was even sacked for taking freebie meals in return for polite reviews, to make life just that little bit better. Apparently, he’s bulimic to boot.

But here’s a thing. I still chase ambulances even though I don’t have to any more. You might put it down to the thrill of it, but I’m not sure about that. I suggest that it is because of the fact that I like to bear witness to failure abruptly achieved largely through no fault of the victim. Then there’s the inverse, success attained through no major effort on the part of the victor, me. Because it didn’t cause me that much trouble, shopping the ambulance workers and the deceased as sources present absolutely no challenge to me whatsoever. Naturally.

It’s the dead, God help me. And God help Stacey and the kid. It’s the dead and their peace that I crave. While Dave was rushing around taking pics it was me probing the eyes of the no-more, at one with them. Which is why I keep coming back for yet another fix and another. I have a second, perhaps a third book in me as a result, I think. I have money, the world is my oyster, but if I am being honest, all of you out there, you’re only of any use to me dead.

Colin Graham is a Birmingham-born freelance journalist currently based in Belgrade, Serbia. Struggling along with hack work (in the main) he invariably finds himself uplifted by an unforeseen boost when all seems lost. He has previously lived in Russia and Poland, meaning he has been in Eastern Europe for over a decade, a fact that always amazes even himself.

Friday 18 December 2009


The momentum builds with Part 12 of The Osseous Box...

A Path of Flames

The scream was real, though it sounded well practiced, to the point of being pitch-perfect. Masakra tipped back the bulk of his head and joined in. The noise the large man emitted sounded like the something a deaf-'n'-dumb might make at the point of orgasm.

Masakra released the mush that was now the remains of the man's genitals. The screaming morphed into desperate groaning. Masakra gripped the man by his jaw and yanked down on it, opening it as wide as it would go. He started to push a meaty fist into the open maw. He had to yank on the jaw some more until it dislocated and then he could fit in the rest of his hand. The tortured man resembled a Boa Constrictor that was attempting to swallow a calf whole.

"Masakra." A voice interrupted.

The seven-foot tall brute aired a puzzled grunt and looked around. A slight man stood in the arched doorway. His face was thin, calm, and scarred. The newcomer didn't move any deeper into the room. He looked to the badly abused man that was choking on Masakra's ham-sized fist.

"The Master has new work for you."

Masakra looked back into the face of the man he was about to empty the insides of. His ugly face disappointed. He looked to the newcomer with a forlorn, pleading look.

"Now, Masakra."

Masakra vented his frustration by opening up the fist that was lodged inside the man's mouth. That act tore open the corners of the mouth. The tear worked all the way back to just before his ears. Masakra took back his fist that now had a bracelet of teeth around it and lumbered towards the doorway.


Rupert Lodwicke grinned. "Did you know that if you slice just there, just below the spleen then it will relieve earache?"

The man looked at him as though he were mad. Lodwicke just kept on grinning and nodding. "Go on, try it!"

"I decide on how to torture you." The man said as he went about picking his own spot to start with the cutting.

Lodwicke sighed and muttered, "Amateurs."

The torturer made a cut. Lodwicke grinned and giggled. "Deeper, cut deeper!"

The torturer took a step back, annoyance spread over his face. "Would you just shut the fuck up? I'm trying to work."

Lodwicke looked down at the fresh cut the man had made in his abdomen and shook his head. "You call that work? I wouldn't even give you a job gutting fish."

"Gentlemen." Came a voice over by the doorway.

The torturer looked over and nodded respectfully.

Lodwicke flashed the man a smile and said, "Charles, good to see you again."

The man, Charles shook his head not knowing whether to laugh or be angry at the blatant familiarity. "Lodwicke, enjoying yourself?"

"I would be if you had some half competent cutters about."

"The Master has a job for you."

"Lodwicke's eyes lit up. "Do I get to do some cutty-cutty?"

"As much as you like." Charles said, nodding to the torturer to let Lodwicke down from where he was hanging, shackled by his wrists.


Billy crawled out of the embers to the noise of jubilation. He was dizzied still from the transition of being alive to being dead, then rising like a broken phoenix from the flames. The noise that greeted him was a louder, more prominent version of the chorus that had filled his head all those nights ago when he had bashed in the skull of the man in the townhouse and given himself over to the Devil.

He stood and looked around. The galleries were filled with obscene looking well-wishers and those that just wanted to rubber-neck at the man that had managed to break open The Osseous Box and bring them all closer to a freedom they'd been eagerly awaiting.

Billy began to feel self conscious as he realised he was standing there naked with everything a-dangling.

The throng ahead of Billy parted to permit a slight man with a latticework of scars upon his face an unhindered passage. The man reached out with his palms open and facing upwards. He gestured all about himself. “Welcome Billy!”

More shouting erupted.

The man tipped his head in the direction he'd come, turned and retraced his steps. Billy hoped he'd interpreted the nod correctly and followed after the man.

Billy followed him down a hallway and into an ante-chamber.

“There's a selection of clothes hanging upon the wall, you should fine something that both fits, and is suitable.”

Billy went to work freeing this and that from pegs that had been driven into the wall.

The man stood quietly, waiting until Billy was fully dressed and said, “Billy, the Master wishes to meet you.”

Billy felt butterflies in his gut, they weren't fluttering they were having epileptic fits. He could remember how the Master had showed his displeasure. The echoes of his own legs snapping had a rebirth and rampaged through his head.

“You ready?” The man asked.

Billy took a deep breath and gave a nod. He had no clue what to expect. A few moments ago he had seen some of the inhabitants of damnation and they had been a mixture of the monstrous and the loathsome, whilst others had looked pretty much human, apart from the visible wages of their sins.

The man moved over to a set of large doors and pushed them open with the theatrics of a well versed showman. “The Master will receive you now.”

Billy felt a fear like he had never known before. He noticed the man grinning at him with a malign mirth. He didn't relish being the source of the man's amusement so forced himself forward with what he hoped looked like sure and confident strides.

The slick grin never let the man's mug. Billy did his best to ignore it.

Once he was through the doors they swung closed removing any option of retreat.

The hall was cavernous. Fire pits were dotted about the floor and spewed forth fountain like flames. The heat instantly brought a layer of sweat to the back of his neck.

At the far end of the hall was a high-backed wooden chair. A shadow spilled from is across the floor at an impossible angle.

A voice came from everywhere in the hall. Bombarding Billy's senses from every which way.

"Congratulations are in order. As you know I punish without mercy, but also reward when it is due. And it is most certainly due in your case." An arm reached out from the chair. Its surface lumpy, ending in a gnarled fist. Billy looked in the direction that the Master was motioning.

Billy saw someone in the far corner. He was sure they hadn't been there when he'd entered. He knew in this place, this world of the diabolical that he shouldn't take anything for granted, so he kept his questions unvoiced.

The figure left the trappings of shadows that hung in the corner.

Billy recognised her immediately. It had only been days since he had seen her but with everything that had happened it felt like a lifetime.


She smiled, and carried on with her practiced and sultry walk.

Billy was glad she didn't look the same as when he'd last saw her. Laying in death upon the floor, her cunt ruined by a half-born demon's paltry excuse for escape. She was wearing a gossamer robe that hugged her in all the good places.

Billy remembered the twisted things they'd done together in such a short space of time. He grinned remembering how much of a dirty bitch she was.

Her smile worked its voodoo just like the last time. Billy grinned and she said softly, "I knew you'd do it Billy, that's why I vouched for you. Now I'm yours again." She finished her sentence by pulling open her robe.

Billy remembered each and every puckered scar. He did however forget where he was, and what company he was keeping. He was unabashed by his erection. He reached out to touch her scar patterned breasts.

Her grin widened. "You've still to add some markings, remember?"

"I remember, yes, I remember."

The voice interfered from all directions. "That reunion will have to wait. There is work to be done."


The slight man with his face smitten with scars grinned some more as the large doors closed behind Billy and Carol.

"Have fun?" The man asked.

Billy didn't smile back. "Yeah," he said as he started to bend his body into that of a back-water, inbred, attic secret.

The man was more intrigued than shocked as he watched Billy contort into the shape of an ugly hound.

Carol seemed unperturbed as she reached down and patted the flank of the cursed hound. She purred and cooed, "Good boy!"

Billy howled as she stroked him and became eager to get away. Carol followed after Billy. The galleries were emptying as the monsters and the sinners headed out into the labyrinthine hallways from which the Beast had once escaped.


Lee Hughes's short fiction has appeared on or in, Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9, Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Microhorror, A Twist of Noir, Every Day Fiction, New Flesh Magazine, The Daily Tourniquet, Powder Burn Flash, Blink-Ink and FlashShots. Find out more at:

Wednesday 16 December 2009

SOFTLY by Lily Childs

A not so Christmassy lesson in dialogue from 'our Lil'...


‘This is Dr Gina Morcroft, solving your problems, live, on air. Go ahead caller.’

‘Oh. Hello.’

‘What’s your name caller?’

‘Marlena. My name’s Marlena.’

‘And how can I help you tonight, Marlena?’

‘Well, it’s… you know… a bit embarrassing.’

‘You don’t have to be shy or embarrassed with me. As a therapist and mental health professional for twenty years, ladies and gentlemen, I have learned to treat each individual’s personal challenges without judging them. Please go ahead, Marlena. Tell me what’s wrong.’

‘It’s my husband. He keeps being sick after making love to me.’

‘Being sick. Do you mean he becomes ill for a sustained period of time or…’

‘No, I mean throwing up.’

‘Ah. OK. Well, is he a healthy man normally? Does he have any issues with his weight, or with high blood pressure?’

‘No, no, he’s absolutely fine. Normal height. Normal weight. Normal build. Doesn’t smoke. Doesn’t drink. Why, Doctor? Do you think it could be a medical problem?

‘It’s possible, yes. It could be something to do with his exertion during intercourse that is causing this vomitous reflux. Tell me, how long has this been going on?’

‘About a week now.’

‘Did anything happen around the same time it started? Did your husband have an accident of any kind? Did he bang his head, or injure himself?’

‘No. Not him, he didn't hurt himself.’

‘Are you saying that you had an injury?’

‘Kind of. We had a huge row. It turned into… you know, a fight.’

‘Your husband is a violent man?’

‘No. Yes. Sometimes, I guess.’

‘And was he violent with you during this argument?’

‘Not exactly. He pushed me at one stage though, and I fell backwards and smacked my head against the wall; knocked me out.’

‘And then what happened Marlena?’

‘When I woke up he was lying on top of me, inside me. That’s how we always make-up after fights. We make love.’

‘But… you say he was already having intercourse with you before you regained consciousness?’


‘And afterwards?’

‘He just, sort of crawled off me. I tried to talk to him but the words wouldn’t come. He didn’t even look at me, he just ran down the hall to the bathroom where I could hear him chucking his guts up over and over again.’

‘So after this time, when did you have sex again?’

‘Do you know, Doctor, I’m struggling to remember. It kept happening; he kept coming back for more. Not today though. In fact, I don’t even know where he is. It’s been quiet for hours.’

‘Where are you at the moment, Marlena?’

‘I’m at home.’

‘Yes. I realise that. But where exactly are you?’

‘In bed.’

‘And when did you last get up?’

‘You see, now that’s where I’m getting confused. I seem to be slipping in and out of sleep. I don’t actually recall getting up very much at all lately.’

‘Marlena, are you able to describe your surroundings?’

‘I’ll try. It’s very dark in here. I… I can’t quite reach the light. OK, well I’m lying on my back and my pillow is, oh. It seems to be stained. It should be white with blue flowers but it’s gone all dark, a kind of rusty brown colour. That’s about as much as I can see, I’m afraid. I can’t make out the room. I can’t see any more of myself because I’m under the quilt.’

‘How about your arms; the hand that’s holding the telephone?’

‘Yes. Actually, no. I’m not holding the phone. I’m kind of… speaking to you out loud. Or in my head. I don’t know, I’m getting confused.’

‘It’s alright Marlena, try to stay calm. Now, I want you to listen to me very carefully. Focus. I need you to concentrate on trying to move that quilt off you. You’re going to have to pull it away from your body.'

‘I… I can’t. I don’t seem to be able to move.’

‘Then do it with your mind Marlena. The same way as you’re talking to me now. Come on, you can do it. Tell the covers to move…’

‘Marlena? Are you there? Tell me what you see.’

‘I think I understand now.’

‘Can you be a bit clearer for me?’

‘I appear to be rotting.’


‘My skin is all swollen and black and I can see my bones where some of the flesh has fallen away. There’s pus leaking out. God, I can’t smell a thing but there’s so much liquid around me I must absolutely reek.’

‘Is that all?’

‘No. Uurgh. There are maggots crawling all over me, all over the mattress.’

‘Would you say they appear to be digesting you?’

‘I would, yes, that’s right. I’m… Doctor?’

‘Yes Marlena.’

‘He’s not coming back, my Colin, is he?’

‘No, I think we can safely say that he’s had his fill.’

‘I, I don’t think I can talk for much longer Doctor. I don’t seem to have… to have the strength.’

‘No, I’m sure. But tell me one last thing.’


‘Do you understand what’s happened here?’

‘I think so. I think I’m dead.’

‘And that you’ve been dead for about a week.’

‘I suppose.’

‘And your husband, Colin, killed you but continued to have sexual intercourse with you until…’

‘Well, until the maggots arrived, I guess.’

‘No doubt you’re right. Well, I’m going to do something I wouldn’t normally do on this show, or with any information given to me in confidence by my clients. I’m going to call the police, Marlena.’

‘Yes, yes that’s probably the best thing to do. You can tell them Colin’s probably at his mum’s. 32 Westbrook…’

‘Don’t you worry about that. I’m sure they’ll find him. We’ve got your own number here and… yes, I’m getting confirmation from the studio that we also have your address.’

‘Does that mean I can go now? I’m so tired.’

‘Yes. You let go. See if you can spot that light you couldn’t reach earlier, then follow it.’

‘I can – it’s there. I see it. Thank you so much Doctor. Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye Marlena.

'And goodnight listeners.

'This is Dr Gina Morcroft on Midnight Soul Radio. Solving your problems, live, on air.’

Lily Childs is a budding writer in the mystery, chiller and horror genre, and is thrilled to have her short stories published on Thrillers Killers 'N' Chillers.
She is currently writing her first novel and lives on the Sussex Coast with her artist husband and beautiful 5-year old daughter. Lily blogs at:
'Lily Childs' Feardom'. and here.

Sunday 13 December 2009


When The Snowman Brings The Snow

‘Ta, Keith,’ I say. I push the card into my jacket pocket, stuff the doner kebab under my arm and leave the sweaty, smelly shop. The high street’s heaving with a load of punters queuing up to get into Keith & Babs Key-Babs but I just push past them, nodding at the odd bird and ignoring the blokes. By tomorrow the pavement will be covered with red cabbage from the kebabs, puke and broken glass.

Now, some people might think it’s a bit weird getting a Xmas card from a high street kebab shop but me, I see it as a sign of respect. A symbol that I’ve made my mark. A bit like that bit in Goodfellas were Ray Liotta gets the best table in the nightclub because of who he is, like.

Not that I’m a gangster, mind you. What I am is what’s known as a factotum. Now, I know what you’re thinking: What’s a friggin’ factotum when it’s at home? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s someone who sorts stuff out. Bit of this. Bit of that. Not much of the other, eh?

Mind you, the bloke I sort stuff out for, now, he is a gangster. And a right head the ball, with it. His name’s Captain Cutlass. Well, that’s not his real name. His real name’s Jordan but no one calls him THAT these days.

Cutlass is a sea coal baron which means he’s got a bunch of lads who drive jeeps down to the beach at low tide and dig up coal. He’s made a packet, he has. Not that he needed it. Before he got into the sea coal game Cutlass made a mint smuggling booze and tabs and that into the docks. He used to stand at the front of one of the boats waving this massive friggin sword about. Hence the nickname although I think the sword was actually a rapier.

Anyroads, as soon as I get out of the kebab shop it starts snowing. Nippy it is, too. Them cold north winds doth arf blow, I can tell you. Jack Frost’s nosing at me nips and it’s only November, although the Xmas lights are already up on the high street.

Well, I spies one of them new yellow cabs that are supposed to be like the ones in New York and try to get in but the driver won’t open up.

‘Ow, ey,’ I say. ‘I’m freezing me nads off out here.’ But the driver just shakes his head and winds down his window.

‘Money first,’ he says.

I can tell he’s a foreigner – we’ve got a lot of them round here now, from Poland, Bosnia, Euthanasia and that – and he doesn’t know who I am.

Bollocks, I think.

Well, pride comes before a fall, they say, although I’m not really sure what that means, like. I dig into my pocket but all I pull out is hand full of shrapnel. The driver shakes his head but I point over to a cash machine near the kebab shop.

‘I. Go. Money. Machine. You. No. Scarper.’ I say.


The thing is, I don’t usually use the hole in the wall. I usually get paid in cash and I’m not partial to technology and that. And this one is one of them fancy ones with the glass screen over the keyboard.

So, I scratch my head for a bit and just put my bank card into the slot and ... open sez me!

But then I pause, like. What the bollocks is my pin number? Now, I’ll admit that I’m half cut but I really can’t remember the last time I used the machine. My kebab’s getting a bit wet so I push it in the corner of the cash machine to keep it dry and try to think.

First up, I type in my date of birth. INVALID PIN it says on the screen.
Then I do that number backward but I get the same answer.

Well, I am flummoxed. And then, I have a moment of inspiration. The number of the beast. Plus one extra. I’m sure of it. I love Maiden, I do.

Six. Six. Six. Six.

First there’s nothing and I get a bit of a sweat on. Then there’s a sound. Like a clanging or whirring. Like in those old science fiction films when the robot comes to life. I know something’s happening. I start to grin but then the screen says: INVALID PIN. CARD RETAINED and that glass screen comes down. Trapping my kebab with it, too.

I turn round and see the taxi driver shake his head before he drives off.


I’m outside the old Odeon, wet, cold,starving, knackered and sobering up when I have to stop for a gypsy’s kiss. I lean against the peeling Cannonball Run Two poster and pull out my old man. I’m letting the piss splash on my hands a bit to warm myself up when, from the corner of my eye, I see a big black car pulling up. Could be a BMW but I’m not sure. I’m crap with cars. After, that I can’t go so I zip up and walk off, looking over my shoulder.

The car starts up again and drives past stopping about fifty years in front of me. I slow down my walk and dig my hand in my pocket for the snowstorm paperweight that I always carry in case of problems. It’s got a picture of Blackpool Tower in it and I like to think it’s my lucky charm.

When I get close to the car I can hear music playing and start to relax a bit.

‘Get in,’ shouts Captain Cutlass and I do. I guessed it was him because no fucker else in this day and age listens to Showaddywaddy. He’s a bit of a relic is the Captain. Big black, spidery quiff. Teddy Boy suits. The full whack.

‘Just the man I’ve been looking for,’ says Cutlass, turning down ‘Under The Moon Of Love.’

‘Aye?’ I say.

‘Oh, aye,’ he says, sniffing a bit and looking me up and down.

‘I’ve got a little job for you, ‘ he says spraying the car with peach deodorant. He’s right poncy twat sometimes. Loves the made to measure suits, he does and the signet rings and that. I’ve heard he inspects the napkins on the table before he’ll eat in a restaurant.

‘Oh, aye,’ I say, playing it cool. I could do with a few readies but I fancied a bit of P&Q over Crimbo. On the lash, and that.

Cutlass turns the car onto Murry Street, past all the boarded up terraced houses. Used to be well posh round here when I was a kid but now it’s like holiday camp for smack heads. Once it gets dark, it’s that Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video all over again..

‘What does the name The Nuthouse mean to you,’ says Cutlass.

I shrug my shoulders. ‘Dunno, there was that hairdressers on Church Street. Changed it’s name to Curl Up & Dye?’

‘Friggin hell, you’re going back a bit, aren’t you?’ says Cutlass. He shakes his head. ‘You’re living in the past, man.’

I look at Cutlass in his powder blue drapes and decide to say nowt.

‘Well, here in the twenty-first century The Nuthouse is a pub.’ He lights up an Embassy Regal, doesn’t offer me one. ‘ A family pub. Over on the Coast Road.’

‘Never heard of it,’ I say.

‘Aye,’ groans Cutlass. ‘And that’s just the problem.’

‘The towns full of them fun pubs and family pubs anyway. Wack Jackys. Tricky Mickys. Who’d be daft enough to open a ...’

Now, sometimes I think I must be a bit psychic or summit. Cos there and then I get a sense, like, that Captain Cutlass is the owner of The Nuthouse. His face turning as red as a lobster might have helped, mind you.

‘Good location, the, Coast Road. Good location,’ I say, playing my cards right.
Cutlass says nowt and I start getting edgy. I try to hum along to ‘Three Steps To Heaven’ but feel a bit daft so I just shut up.

‘It is,’ says Cutlass slowly, like he’s talking to a dafty ‘a very competitive market. Yes.’

He pulls up outside my flat. Well, outside Toffers Offy, to be precise, like. My flat’s above the offy so he couldn’t really park outside there, could he?

‘Tomorrow at twelve,’ says Captain Cutlass. Then he glares at me. ‘And that’s mid day twelve, daft arse.’

‘Aye,' I say.


The beard’s itching like fuck and the suit stinks of fish. I reckon that Cutlass got it off his Uncle Glenn who used to work on the fish quay and did the kids Xmas parties at the Boilermaker’s Club till he got pissed one year and started telling the kids which of their mam’s he’d shagged.

I could do with a gargle myself. I’m RAF - last nights whisky’s cut right through me and I’ve got an arse like the Japanese flag this morning - but Cutlass won’t let me have a drop until after I give the kids their presents so I soldier on, don’t I?
‘Yo. Ho ho,’ I say. ‘Who has been a good boy or girl? Who wants to see Santa?’ I’ve got to shout because Wombling Merry Christmas is being played at full volume.

A little lass with a snotty nose comes up and jumps on me knee and nearly winds me. She’s only about five but she must weigh about ten stone.

‘And what’s your name?’ I wheeze.

‘Courtney Lee,’ she says, picking her nose.

I’m struggling to hold in the spew that’s creeping up the back of my throat.

‘And what do you want for Christmas,’ I say.

‘A Litre Bottle of Diamond Star. Me mam won’t share her’s with me anymore,’ she says, wiping snot all over my Santa suit.


It’s just after three when all of the kids bugger off to play in the Nutty Nursey leaving the mams and dad to have a good drink. Perfect places, these fun pubs, I suppose, if you’ve got bairns. Didn’t have them in my day, though. Didn’t let kids into pubs then. Didn’t let women in most of the pubs, in my day.

I’m sat at the bar with a pint of wifebeater - and bottle of WKD to help the beer go down - and nibbling on a bit of garlic bread when I see them. Duncan and Dan Donkin. Cutlass’ nephews. Twins, they are, and right dodgy fuckers they are too. Ratboys. Acne scarred smackheads in Batman baseball caps and Burberry. The sort of little twats that give Chavs a bad name.

I turn away and put my head down but one of them must have seen me ‘cos I feel a hand on my shoulder.

‘Just the man we’ve been looking for,’ says Duncan. Or Dan. Whichever of the fuckers it is I know there’s not much chance of me getting peace on earth this Christmas.

‘Aye,’ I say.

Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England and lives in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He has had stories in A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, Thrillers Killers n Chillers, Beat To A Pulp, and other such classy joints. He can be found stalking ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you?’ at He also writes a regular column, ‘I didn’t say that, did I?’ for Pulp Metal Magazine

Friday 11 December 2009

IN THE WOODS By Pixie J. King

In The Woods

I wandered deep into the forest; wearing only jogging bottoms and a polo shirt, and the icy wind chilled my skin. I’d strayed too far from the P.E lesson and the group full of girls, and the mixture of dead and orangey golden leaves drew me deeper into the foggy bleakness of the woods.

Dark bare branches clashed against the slate-grey sky. Thick-fissured bark, cold to the touch, creaked. The blend of the snow and lack of birds made the forest eerily silent. I realised as I trampled against the sodden, frozen ground how far I had walked – too far. A wave of awareness struck me. I felt alone, just the soft crunch of my trainers against the snow to accompany me.

I gazed up at the trees as I quivered in the cold. Their vastness towered over me. Somehow they seemed claustrophobic, yet inviting, teasing me into the mysterious fog. Curiosity got the better of me, told me to investigate the half snowed in footprints before me. The musty smells from the ground urged me as I felt the snow fall from the trees onto me, blinding me momentarily.

My breath became heavier, the further I walked; the trees seemed to frown upon me. I wasn’t meant to walk out this far, no way would I hear the whistle.

A snap of a twig made me turn, and I quickly moved to the spot where the noise came from, my heart in my throat. There was a small shadow, a girl’s shadow, leaning against a tree.

I darted to a large tree, caught my foot in a large root and twisted my ankle. I covered my mouth to muffle the yelp, calmed. I propped myself against the bark, but I felt no pain. The adrenaline and the cold soaked up my pain, numbed my body.

I shuddered in the chilly temperature; breath coiled around me like ribbons of smoke as I waited. Waited for a sign, a sound.

Then I heard her gasp his name, heard fear in her voice. I know that name. I hear it every day.

I glanced around, my eyes dilated when I saw him with her. He wasn’t meant to be out here.

I heard him talk. It made my ears feel dirty, poisoned by what he told her. I saw him kiss her, push her hard against the tree. His laughter made me nauseous. The sound of tearing fabric tore my heart and I covered my mouth, not letting my breath show. Her tearless whimpers rang in my skull.

I never heard Miss Cass’ whistle; I was out too far in the forest, too far away from the lesson.

Too far out to escape this nightmare.

Now it was more than a harmless game of Hide and Seek for a P.E lesson.

I could hear his breath. It was short, quick and sickening. I heard the thud of the bat, saw him strike her. Three times. Each time my heart cried out in horror, bashing against my ribcage as he tossed the bat. It landed metres from my feet.

Her penetrating scream ripped my soul.

She was sixteen. I knew her. So did he.

His deep, low groans filtered all over the wood, reverberating down my tree, and my spine juddered within my frail body. I wanted to scream, flee, but I couldn’t move, I was stuck rigid against the tree, watching the horror unfold.

I watched his every action.

Tears flooded down my face. They felt more like daggers, slicing into my skin, the frost burning my eyes.

I wasn’t meant to be here. I’d disobeyed the rules, ventured further than I had meant to, been allowed to. They would come looking for me.

But they would be too late. She was dead. They would find her pale naked body, her face frozen in fear. He would have vanished, and no one would suspect him.

But I saw him.

He glanced up, his eyes dilating when he saw me trembling against the tree. He straightened. His expression playful yet menacing, his dark eyes smouldering with desire.

I turned to run, forgot my sprained ankle and fell hard against the frozen ground. I turned and looked up to see him leering over me, his hand ready to grab me. I opened my mouth to scream, but my throat was too tight, no sound came out.

It was just a P.E. lesson.

He was my teacher.

Pixie is a student who is new to the writing world, and writes when she can, where she can. Her work is mainly flash fiction and poems with the occasional short story.
Pixie’s work can be found at

Alternatively, for a more warped version of Pixie’s thoughts, try:

Thursday 10 December 2009

LIPSTICK KISS By Libby Cudmore

Lipstick Kiss

A Crimson City Tale

She wore red. Not just a flicker of carmine on her lips or nails, but moneymaker crimson like a suit of armor every guy in the pool hall wanted to shove his lance though. We’re used to girls in this place; floozies looking for cab fare and rent money, but this girl didn’t need us. There was too much in her stride, those long legs and a venomous figure worth thanking Eve for.

She gets gin from the bar and a rack from the counter, sets up her shot and breaks the balls with a crack everyone heard over the smoke and hustle and jukebox. Everybody stopped to watch her. Dames who shot a fair game of pool were harder to find than beat girls without Daddy issues.

I killed the rest of my pint and did what everyone else wanted to do—I walked over to her. She smiled and sank the six in the left corner. “Play for drinks?” she offered, smiling like a nun with a collection plate.

“I’ve drunk enough tonight,” I answer.

“Play for cash?” she tries again, this time with Devil’s eyes.

“Twenty to a kiss,” I bargain.

“You pay or I pay?” she purrs.

“I’ll pay cash.”

She smiles over the rim of her drink and I fish a quarter out of my pocket. “Call for break.”

She claims heads and wins. She’s solids. Four in the corner pocket. Seven in the side. I scratch on the ten and she sinks the three. Our audience follows her every move, watching her garters through the slit in her dress that rises whenever she shoots. The cue slides through her fingers like a john in a back alley.

Only the thirteen and the eight remain. She pops off my ball and takes the eight for herself, posing with a smirk. I’m twenty dollars poorer and my mouth goes dry. She hustled a hustler.

Some kid calls out, “Joey lost to a broad!” and the hall goes silent except for the crack of my cue against his jaw. I don’t even take my eyes off her to hit him. She’s no doll, she’s a shark, she’s a machine, she’s one of us.

She holds out her hand and I slap the crumpled bill into her palm. She gives me that hellfire smile and refolds it, slipping it into the top of her stocking.

One game is all she shoots. She waltzes out the same way she waltzed in. We all watch her leave and no one’s in the mood to play anymore. Most of the guys go to the bar to wash down their disbelief. I grab my coat and go out for a breath of air.

The night is perfect for a cigarette except that I quit smoking two weeks ago. I pop my collar against the rain. Summer in most places means sunshine and beaches, but in Crimson City, if it’s not sweltering, it’s pouring and either way, you’re soaked.

She pulls up in one hell of a car; cherry red as her dress and huge as her moxie. “Need a lift?” she offers.

I can come back for my car tomorrow. I’ve got the feeling I won’t see her again after tonight and this looks like a chance to break even. “I won’t say no,” I reply.

Twenty minutes later I’m pulling off silk panties as black as a pair of aces. The first time we don’t make it out of my foyer, hard and fast up against the wall. The second time we hit the sheets, thunder cracking outside the bedroom window like the dull splinter of the night’s last break.

When I wake up the next morning my wallet is empty and she’s gone. There’s a crumpled twenty with a lipstick kiss on the nightstand. There’s nothing left to do but grin and light a cigarette.


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 and here at TKnC. 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).