Sunday 31 January 2010

QUOTAS by Joleen Kuyper

A hearty welcome to Irish writer, Joleen...


“What do you drink then?” Marty asked.

“Vodka, I suppose, why?” Carl asked.

Marty gave him a grin, lifted Carl’s coat and stuffed a bottle of vodka in the inside pocket.

Carl shook his head. “What are you at?” he exclaimed.

“It’s grand, mate. There’s quotas and all that, they expect a certain amount of them to go missing,” Marty explained. “As long as no one gets too greedy, we’re all grand. Call it a Christmas bonus, since they don’t pay one.”

“But...well, it’s still stealing,” Carl said, holding his coat awkwardly.

Marty shrugged. “So? The wages are criminal. And like I said sure, there’s quotas. They expect a few bottles to disappear.”

Carl looked around. “Well, me Da would like a bottle for the Christmas,” he admitted, slowly putting the coat on.

Marty nodded and clapped him on the back. “Good man. I’ll see you down the pub at some stage then,” he said. Carl nodded, but couldn’t help feeling conspicuous as he left through the staff door.

Marty laughed a little to himself, then reached for his own coat. A cold, bony hand fell on his shoulder. He turned around abruptly.

The store manager stood behind him. “How’s it going?” Marty asked, acting casual.

“Out the door in people’s pockets,” the manager replied dryly.

“Ah, well, how do you mean?” Marty asked, trying to maintain a cool facade.

“You know full bloody well what I mean,” the manager challenged. “Carl, tonight, vodka. Jenny, yesterday, whisky. Johnny, yesterday, brandy.”

Marty put his hand up to ruffle his hair. “Ah, well, now, you see...”

The manager nodded. “Quotas. I know,” he interrupted.

Marty nodded enthusiastically. “Aye, see, quotas...I mean, no offence but when there’s no bonus, you have to do something, there’s such a high turnover of staff, we have to do something to keep them!” he tried to justify.

The manager scratched his cheek. “Quotas,” he repeated.

“Quotas,” Marty echoed.

“There’s quotas, for staff turnover too,” the manager said. “Especially junior managers. No one expects them to last that long.”

Marty ran his hand through his hair again, nervously. “So, you want rid of me?” he asked. “You want me to resign?”

“I already have the letter. All you have to do is sign it,” the manager replied, taking a folded sheet of paper from his pocket and producing a pen. “No mention of anything...untoward. Just that the pressure was too much for you.”

Marty’s hand was sweaty as he took the pen and signed the letter.

“Good,” the manager said. He scratched his cheek again, appearing thoughtful.

“Right then,” Marty said after a pause. “I...I should go.”

“It isn’t that simple,” the manager said, shaking his head.

“ need to dock my pay?” Marty asked, his stomach a pit of nerves.

The manager shook his head. “As I said, quotas. No one asks too many questions, when a junior manager disappears,” he said philosophically.

Marty gave him a puzzled look, swallowing hard as he wondered what the hell was going on. “Disappears?” he croaked.

The manager nodded. “Disappears. The didn’t read all of it?” he asked, unfolding it again. “You mention needing to get away. Feeling under more pressure than you can handle. Stress. Not being up to the job. Apologising for your inadequacies, ” he listed off the sheet.

Marty didn’t reply, waiting to see where he was going with this, checking his route to the exit out of the corner of his eye.

“It could be viewed, perhaps, as a suicide note,” the manager commented.

“S-suicide?” Marty repeated, now glancing around for a weapon. “Look, come on now. I’ve resigned; I’ll pay you back for the bottles!”

The manager shook his head. “That won’t be good enough, I’m afraid,” he told Marty. “Quotas. Statistics. It’s all the same really.” He rolled up his sleeves and grabbed Marty by the throat.

Marty struggled. The manager was shorter than he was, at least a decade older. Marty was fit, he played football and rugby. He couldn’t understand where the pathetic little man was getting all his strength, though there was a maniacal look in his eyes.

“Quotas,” the manager said with gritted teeth. “It’s so easy to play on them. A tragic death, suicide by hanging. They expect a certain amount of men your age to do it.” His laughter was the last thing Marty heard.

Bio: Joleen Kuyper likes to do horrible things to her characters but she is much nicer to real people, most of the time. Some of her dark stories and poems appear in the anthology Casting Shadows at and her musings can be found on

Wednesday 27 January 2010


TKnC holds out the hand of greeting to Sons of Spade webmaster and the creator of Noah Milano with this story...

Burying the Hatchet

A Philip Banks Short Story

Phil Banks downed his second shot of Jack. He was seated at the bar of a joint near Hollywood. He was waiting for a customer. The price his customer was willing to pay for the crime scene shots in his jacket pocket would pay his rent for a month.

When he had to leave the LAPD a couple of years ago he quickly found another way to pay his bills. In fact, it was the same thing that had gotten him kicked off the force in the first place. He’d been selling murder and crime scene memorabilia to interested collectors. He got into the business when he had to pay off his gambling debts to some nasty bookies. Instead of taking money from the mob to look the other way he decided selling off some crap nobody else found any use for was a hell of a lot better than being on the take. His superiors didn’t think so however, and when they caught him selling the glove of a convicted hitman to a collector from Santa Barbara he was out of a job faster than you can say Richard Kuklinski.

A silver haired man with a crooked nose and an expensive suit entered. He was as out of place as Banks would be at a ballet recital. Banks knew this had to be his buyer.

He raised his hand at the silver haired man. “Come over here. Have a drink.”

Silverhair took the barstool next to Banks’. “Mister Banks?”

Banks nodded. “What’s your poison?”

Silverhair choose a scotch and soda. Lou, the bearded and tattooed bartender set it down in front of him. Silverhair made a move to pay but Banks told him he would take care of it.

“Thank you. But can we safely do business here?” Silverhair glanced over his shoulder. Banks guessed the guy had a reason to be a bit paranoid.

“Don’t worry, mister Cray. Lou isn’t interested in our business as long as I pick up the tab.”

“Okay. Can I see the goods?”

Banks smiled. Cray was obviously used to doing business transactions, although of course not exactly the kind he was doing here. Before setting up the meeting Banks had done a thorough background check on his customer. He wouldn’t want to get caught by an undercover cop. After all, the way he’d gotten his hands on the merchandise was not exactly legal, and he didn’t want to jeopardize or lose his source at the LAPD evidence room. Cray was the owner of a real estate company with a profit of a cool million a year. He’d been in the news just a few months ago when his house burned down. Why a rich old bastard got off on crime scene shots he had no idea, but that wasn’t what he was interested in anyway. Everybody had his vices, right?

Banks took an envelope out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Cray, who greedily accepted it. He opened the envelope and scanned the two black and white pictures that were in it. Banks knew exactly what was shown on those pictures. He had to hand it to Cray, he was one cold son of a bitch. Most people would get pretty nauseous looking at them. The pictures had been taken forty years ago, at the crime scene of the Hatchet Man’s first murder. Hatchet Man had been the nickname of a serial killer that had been prowling California for a few years before suddenly dropping from the face of the earth. He’d never been caught, but had managed to kill off six prostitutes during his activity, using, quite predictably, a hatchet. The only clue the cops had to his identity was the eyewitness report describing a young man with a crooked nose leaving the alley where one of the victims was found around the time the murder had to have taken place.

Crooked nose? Banks got a funny feeling in his stomach. That same feeling he got when he picked out the correct horse to bet on or when he was interrogating a suspect back in his days as a homicide cop and suddenly knew, just knew the man he was interrogating was the killer. He tried to shake off his thoughts, calling them too farfetched, but just couldn’t. He decided to confirm his suspicions. First, he had to close the deal, however.

“Are they what you were looking for?” Banks asked Cray.

“Yes. Yes, they are. Thank you.”

Banks showed Cray an open palm. “Then you owe me six thousand bucks.”

“Of course,” Cray said and handed Banks a white envelope.

Banks opened it and quickly counted the cash it contained. It was all there.

“Nice doing business with you,” he said.

“Likewise,” Cray said and shook Banks’ hand. Then he left the barstool and walked out of the bar. A minute later Banks was gone as well.

Following another car without being seen isn’t quite as easy as most TV-shows make it out to be, but Banks was trying it anyway. When he was still a cop he used to work with other colleagues and cars, so the target wouldn’t notice.

He followed Cray’s Audi into the desert. He had to leave a big distance between his and Cray’s car, not much other traffic in sight. He used his binoculars, which he normally used to scope out the territory when he was meeting up with a client, to make sure he didn’t lose him. Eventually he saw Cray park his car near an old shack. He found a pair of rocks to park his own car behind, as camouflaged a car could be in the desert.

Why would a well off man like Cray own a dump like that? Banks felt compelled to take a look inside the building. He waited for two hours. After that time Cray left the shack and got in his Audi. Banks waited until he’d driven off and was far out of sight. He drove his car closer to the shack. He got out of his car and walked over to it. He had a tire iron in his right hand.

The shack was locked with an old fashioned padlock. He used the iron to pry open the door, hearing the lock pop with a satisfying crack. He entered the shack.

There was an old couch inside, a desk and a lot of file cabinets. On the wall were dozens of pictures. Banks took a closer look. He winced at what he saw, and he’d seen a lot in his career, so it took a lot to shock him. The pictures all showed half-naked women with hacked off limbs, drenched in blood. The Hatchet Man’s victims… He noticed the lack of evidence markers in the pictures. These had been taken before the forensics had arrived at the scene. He understood he’d been right. Cray wasn’t just someone interested in serial killers, but a serial killer himself.

Behind him he heard the door creak. He turned around, holding the tire iron like a weapon. Cray was standing in the door opening. In his hand he held a big hatchet.

“Did you really think I didn’t notice you following me? If I’d been that stupid, I would’ve been caught long ago,” Cray said.

Banks cursed himself. He’d been gone from the job too long, out of practice and too cocky. What the hell had he been thinking anyway? He wasn’t a cop anymore, what was he doing there in the first place?

“Nice shrine you’ve got here, Cray,” Banks said. “I know bastards like you enjoy reliving your greatest moments. Is that what you do here? Get off on your old, sick work?”

Cray lifted the hatchet. “Shut the hell up.”

“What happened? Some of your old mementoes got lost in the fire? So you needed me to get some new ones?”

Cray charged. Banks managed to block the hatchet with his tire iron. Although Cray was ten years older than Banks his mania seemed to give him great strength. He tried to push the iron out of Banks’ hands.

“Will you just fuck off,” Banks said and kicked Cray between his legs with full force. Hatchet Man went down on his knees and Banks managed to wrestle the hatchet away from him. Without thinking twice he buried it in Cray’s skull.

It took him a few minutes to catch his breath, but then Banks’ business sense set in. He started to collect the pictures that were on the wall, stuffing them in his pockets. That stuff was going to bring in a lot of money.

He walked over to his car, got a can of gasoline from it and doused the shack with its contents. He lit a match and dropped it, running off to his car.

Without looking back he left the shack to burn down, along with Hatchet Man’s dead body. He had some new merchandise to sell.


Jochem Vandersteen is the webmaster of the Sons of Spade weblog as well as the writer of the Noah Milano short stories and the novel White Knight Syndrome.

Monday 25 January 2010


At the Normal CafĂ© part 3 – Abnormal Psychology

Bev looked again at the man sitting alone at the counter, and was intrigued. In a diner full of regulars, any stranger stood out, but this guy was something else entirely. With his long dirty coat, scruffy beard and unwashed aroma, everything about him said, “Stay away.” And the thing he was currently doing with the mosquito under the water glass was just odd. He caught her looking and stared back, all challenge and malice. Instead, Bev gestured with the coffee pot. When he waved her off, she started around the diner again. It was her second circuit in ten minutes, but what the hell?

There were just five other patrons in the place, all lost in their own particular worlds. In her experience, people who sat alone in a diner after midnight either had problems or they worked nights. The night-shifters only stayed long enough to eat. They were the morning crowd by moonlight. These folks in here tonight were squarely in the former category.

Bev loved it.

Just last week, the large white envelope had arrived, approving her thesis proposal. Bev had read it over with her feet up and Wheel of Fortune playing in the background. In turn for her upcoming six month real life study of “The Service Effect”, she would be granted her Masters Correspondence Diploma in Psychology.

Since beginning her studies, her entire world view changed; and the diner became more than just the reason behind her fallen arches and aching back. Now she had her very own psychological “sample group” and by the time she received her first diploma, she’d had her stroke of genius. She would use the diner as the basis for her Master’s Thesis.

Bev put down on paper what she’d known for years – people will take anything if it’s offered for free. Every time the good patrons accepted another cup of deliberately burnt coffee, they proved her right.

Brewing lousy java was as devious as she got, however. Most of the people who came into the diner were friends. She walked over to Big Dwayne and topped up his cup.

“Thanks Bev,” said Dwayne. He’d been drinking; the smell was all over him. Something in his eyes though, said there was a very good reason behind it, and she decided not to press. There were times, she knew, that you had to tie one on to get a little peace. At the rate he was apparently going though, he’d end up on the little cot in the back of the diner before long. For Big Dwayne, who was like a little brother, she didn’t mind, but felt entitled to comment a little, “Just take it slow, okay hon? And don’t think you’re going to drive tonight.” She smiled at him then. It was a smile that said, “I understand, but don’t push it.”

She moved on and topped up Dawnie Campbell, who was staring off into space, shoulders slumped forward and picking at her plate of fries. She’d always been a sad girl, but the last time she’d been in, Bev had picked out at least three telltale signs of serious depression. Tonight was no better, and Bev resolved to sit down with the girl and try to help once a few more people left. She even looked forward to it: her first patient!

Even good-time Lenny, usually dependable for a dirty joke or two, was having an “off” night. He was the most “regular” of her regulars, and the only person she knew who wanted waffles at midnight (who wasn’t drunk.) He kept looking nervously out the window, and had barely touched his food in the hour he’d been here.

She wondered if the stranger had anything to do with it. He’d been quiet enough so far, speaking only long enough to order his meal. Now though, he was just sitting there, staring at the dumb old mosquito in its dirty glass cage. Before she could puzzle it out further, Lenny knocked his plate off the table. It smashed so loudly in the relative silence of the place that Bev had to stifle a small scream. She picked up the broom and dustpan by the door to the kitchen and headed over. He was on the ground, hastily sweeping up shards and throwing the bigger pieces on the table.

“You alright Lenny?”

“Shit. Sorry Bev. I don’t know what I was doing. I went for my cup and I guess …” He stood up, and started gathering up the pieces again, intending to drop them into her dustpan.

“Don’t worry about it Len. It happens. Here, let me do it. At least now I got something to do, right?” She favoured him with her warmest smile. He returned it, but just barely. A second later, that worried look returned to his eyes, and he flicked his gaze back to the window.

“You’re sure you’re alright Lenny?” said Bev, “You seem a little, I dunno, spooked?”

“I’m alright Bev. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. Okay?” He was still polite as ever, but now there was a thread of annoyance in his tone. She took the china-laden dustpan back behind the counter, threw the whole mess away then leaned back against the counter and glanced at the TV.

An infomercial was playing, advertising workout equipment that seemed to promise instant weight loss to everyone who had their credit card ready and ordered now. At this time of night, it was infomercials or Monster Trucks, and Bev hated Monster Trucks. That they had been a particular favourite of Arnold “May-he-rot- in-hell” Shemply did not escape her enlightened mind. So, infomercials ruled the airwaves here.

At the next, “Operators are standing by”, she became aware of someone snapping their fingers. Of course it was one of the kids in the back booth. They steadfastly refused to be bothered all the while they’d been groping each other between bites of toast, but now that they wanted to pay up … chop chop Waitress. She looked over and saw the boy obnoxiously waving cash in a “come hither” motion. Dwayne was making his way unsteadily to the can, and gave the kid a disapproving glare.

With a sigh, Bev picked up the coffee and started out from behind the counter. Might as well kill two birds with one stone, she thought.

As if waiting for her back to be turned, the stranger bolted upright from his stool and pulled a gun. Before she could even register the movement in her peripheral vision, a thundering crash filled the air, and Big Dwayne fell down with a thud.

Bev dropped the coffee. The pot shattered with a sound almost as loud as the gunshot that had preceded it. Steaming coffee peppered with glass shards splashed across her pants. She screamed, and then, before the stranger could turn around, she dropped to the ground. She barely registered the cuts to her hands as she tried to keep out of sight. The smell of the burnt, muddy coffee filled her nose, and she had to exhale hard, and then draw her breath in tiny little sips to keep from puking. This made her lightheaded, so she crawled along the bottom of the counter, away from the spill. Needle pricks of glass poked through her jeans, stinging her knees.

The guy was nuts. She’d seen it in his eyes and done nothing. Now Big Dwayne was shot, probably dead. As her hearing started to return, she could make out screaming. The young man was yelling at everyone to shut up. No one had said anything at all, as far as Bev could tell. Her panicked brain came right to the diagnosis – schizophrenia.

He should be on medication. Probably stopped taking it when he felt better, Bev thought, and now he’s going to kill us all. The gun crashed again. The picture window exploded and jagged shards flew everywhere. She could just make out Lenny trying to crawl under his table. He was unharmed, so far. From her position on the floor, she could make out a shape moving beyond the middle row of booths. Dwayne. He was still alive. Thank heavens for that.

Bev took a deep breath. If she kept her calm, maybe she could talk the stranger down. It was an exceedingly dangerous thing to do, and she was the furthest thing from being a licensed therapist, but she was also the best chance of survival for the people in here tonight. If she didn’t do something, there wouldn’t be anyone for the police to save, if and when they showed up. The gun went off again. No screams came. No more hits since Dwayne. That was good. She steeled herself and began to rise.

Slowly. Everything must be slow. No matter how much she felt like bolting. This person in front of her needed help. Right now though, he was more like an animal than a human and sudden movement would make him bite. How to begin though? She remembered some, but nowhere near enough of her texts. There was something about using a calming tone, and talking about something unrelated, to draw their attention. Something to break the focus of the mania.

Bev had an idea, “Sir?” she said calmly, “I forgot to give you your change. I’m terribly sorry. “

He turned then, and was staring at her without seeing. His eyes were wild and flicking back and forth. “What?!” He directed this at the cash register.

“Your change, sir. I’m sorry. I just forgot all about it.” Bev kept going, using placating words, sorry, I forgot. Me. My fault. Not you.

“My … change?” She had his interest. Now, she had to keep going, keep calming, keep playing the part.

She reached slowly towards the cash register.

“Oh. I see. Money. Money for me. Money to leave. Not good that I’m here. Not good for the loser to be here.” He was trembling, growing more agitated. She started to panic.

“No! No! You’re good, don’t worry. We all like you. We want you here. Let’s talk. Won’t you talk to me? Please?” Bev’s voice was rising in tone despite her best efforts. She could see the smoking barrel of the gun; the hole to nowhere pointed straight at her.

Beyond the stranger, she could see Dawnie of all people getting to her feet. Oh lord. She was going to try something stupid. She had her french-fry plate in hand, and looked to be making a move to brain the guy.

In her need to save Dawnie, Bev condemned herself.

“Dawnie – NO!” Bev screamed. The shock broke the stranger’s calm, and his arm jerked twice. The first bullet tore through Bev’s ear, shattering the mirror behind the counter, and deafening her. She didn’t hear the report as the second bullet hit her high in the chest. Bev sank to her tattered knees, trying and failing to hold onto the Formica counter as she fell. Her sight grew dim.

Bev departed the world staring at the grey rubber wastebasket under the cash register wishing she’d mopped the floor; the grit on the tiles was irritating her cheek. Then she was gone.

A scrabbling sound of glass against tile by the window made the stranger turn. The nervous guy was making a break for freedom.

That wouldn’t do at all.

Copyright 2010 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:

Sunday 24 January 2010


Here's something a little 'out of the norm' from Alexander...

Bob: The Maggot-Eating Horse-Whispering Man

Bob whispered in Goldilocks’ ear while pointing down at his dead neighbor Franklin. Goldilocks neighed heartily. Bob eviscerated Franklin. They waited. Maggots formed.

Bending over, Bob scooped a handful of the pasty grub and swallowed them live. The horse laughed, then dove snout first and snagged Franklin’s life-less heart. She chewed. Bob giggled and ate more maggots… Goldilocks ate the stomach… Bob ate more maggots… Goldilocks ate the liver… Bob ate more…

Both man and horse enjoyed their meal. Flies buzzed their heads. They paid no attention. Eating the moving larva, Bob smiled with every bite. Goldilocks consumed the innards like a bear at dinner time.

“Oh my God. What have you done to my Franklin?” Betsy cried.

Goldilocks and Bob looked up at Franklin’s wife. The horse flicked out its tongue and licked blood from its lips. Betsy ran.

Bob whispered in Goldilocks’ ear.

Goldilocks raced after Betsy overtaking her with ease. Betsy stopped. Goldilocks kicked her in the temple dropping Betsy like a boneless body. Bob strolled over with his scalpel.

You can read Alexander's blog here:

Saturday 23 January 2010

ZOMBIE HILL by Andy Henion

TKnC welcomes Andy...

Zombie Hill

I climb up on the deck railing and stand, spreading my arms for balance like a man on a tightrope. It’s thirty feet to the rocks below, a few thousand more to the base of the mountain. The sun is rising above the Ozark canyon, orange streaked with purple, and the crisp morning air sends chills down my bare torso and legs. I enjoy these hushed moments of vacation immensely as my wife and daughters sleep in the rented cabin behind me. Then I jump.

Ankles explode upon impact. I cartwheel down in my underpants, grunts and screams lost to the scraggly forest. Limestone tears an earlobe; a forearm is snapped in two. The pain is legendary until it is no more. The remainder of the trip down is graceless and redundant and I think about my bulldog Brick back home in Michigan and who will treat his ear mites and buy him pigskin treats.

I come to a stop on a dirt road partway down the mountain. There are several gashes and exposed bone but no running blood. My underpants are filthy and torn along the thigh but still serving their purpose. A rusted pickup truck pulls up next to me and a woman pokes her golden curls out the window.

“Lookin’ rough, cowboy.” Her syllables are long and sweet. I finger the hole in my shorts and shake my head, stunned.

“Long trip down, I know. Hop in.”

The door squeals as I pull it open. There are baby pacifiers on the floor, a Razorbacks sticker on the dash. I look over at the woman: short and healthy with cutoff jean shorts and an easy smile.

“Shouldn’t you be worried?” My voice, when it comes, has an echo quality.

She makes a dismissive face. “You won’t get hungry for a while yet. And besides”—she brakes for a waddling possum—“it ain’t like you see on TV, cowboy.”

I sit back and think of my actions. I put my face in my good hand and ask what have I done.

“Jumped off a mountain, Einstein.” The woman’s countenance has turned sour. As she proceeds down the mountain, resort lodges give way to mobile homes and plywood shacks. Engine parts and diapers litter mud-clogged yards.

“Nasty shit,” I say.

The woman pulls into a rutted driveway and brings the truck to an abrupt stop. She turns to face me. A sharpened cylinder of wood has materialized in her left hand, fat as a jumbo pickle.

“You’re pathetic,” she snarls. “Another East Coast yuppie coming down here with a silver spoon up his ass.” I hold up a finger and prepare to correct the fine points of her epithet when a man bangs out of the trailer, stops to peers at the truck and then heads our way.

“And you leave, what, a wife and three kids behind? I can’t imagine a more selfish—”

“Two kids, actually,” I say, as the man approaches my window shaking his head and smiling. He’s naked from the waist up and covered in ink.

“She’s lettin’ you have it, hey pardner? Carla, give this old boy a break.”

The golden-haired woman makes a disgusted sound and exits the truck. The man opens the door and waves me out with a bow. I shield my eyes from the sun and look across the road. There, amid the rocks, are a handful of wooden crosses and a metal pole with a chain attached to the top. The pole is a good six feet tall: too high for a dog tie. The ground below it is worn smooth in a semi-circle and stained several shades darker than the surrounding earth.

“You like to have fun?” says the man. I bite at my lips. Two teenage boys pile out of the trailer at this point, each of them shirtless and carrying a fat stake like that of the woman. They offer me barely a glance as they pass and join her at the pole. Unlike the woman—their sister? mother?—they seem bored at the prospect of what is to come.

The man places a gentle hand on my back and leads me along. He’s tall and solid and I want to devour the soft meat under his eyes, a sudden, dizzying urge that buckles my knees.

“Whoa, there,” he says, catching my fall. “I’ve got you now.” He’s cat-quick and almost unnaturally strong. I, on the other hand, am weak and trembling in his tattooed arms. I snap my head around trying to get at him, teeth gnashing, desperate to feed, but end up tasting nothing but air. The man begins to laugh as he hauls me by the back of the collar toward his waiting clan.

Andy Henion was born the day before man landed on the moon and has felt a bit flighty since. He lives somewhere cold and flat with some people and an animal. His fiction has appeared in Plots with Guns, Twist of Noir, Word Riot, Thieves Jargon, Diddledog and elsewhere.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Adult Content Warning

Hope you all understand why I've chosen to ad an 'Adult Content Warning' to TKnC -- Just in case, like.

It means an extra click of the mouse, but I'm sure everyone will be OK with that, huh?

Let me know if it causes anyone any problems via the comments.


Lily's back with a real chiller...

Pretty Pinholes

The factory floor was cold beneath her naked back. Hard on the shoulder blades, crusty against her splayed buttocks.

Naomi Allen, her arms and legs strung out to her sides, strapped down to stubby poles she could not see, lay shuddering. The only light - a breath of radiance shooting through a distant keyhole - spangled across the thousand pin heads that pierced her trembling flesh. A bed of nails, she was. Only more so.

He watched her. Studied her. Inclining his head in the vast dark room he caught the outline of the starshine he had made of her. His snort of amusement had her jumping in her shackles, which made him laugh some more. He wondered who she really was, what she did for a living – whether she was married, had kids. He didn’t think so. He didn’t care. Despite the time he had spent on her, she wasn’t a project. Naomi Allen was just a whim.

He let her murmur and mumble a while longer. She was hungry – no matter. She was thirsty – he had splattered drops of water over her face these last couple of days, making her beg for it, licking as far as her tongue could reach around her lips, her chin, below her cheeks.

Outside the winter traffic thronged. Lorries air-braking, buses carrying mindless workers and wasters, cars distributing selfish lone drivers about the capital. Naomi heard none of it. Plugs of cotton wool, poked roughly into her ears, creaked painfully with every move she attempted to make.

She peed. Then she cried, the thick fabric binding her eyes darkened with the tears that fell more profusely than the pathetic spray of urine warming her thighs.

Crouching, near-naked himself except for the daggers, he took to his feet. Nothing could threaten the verve that prickled his skin, full as it was, with exaltation.

‘I love you.’ It was a lie.

Naomi screamed at the muffled voice. So close. In her face.

‘You’re twisted, you sick bastard. Let me go.’

‘You twist, Naomi.’ His voice came from behind her head, then his hands joined his words and began to stroke her hair. He pulled at it, gently at first, then with harder, sharper tugs until clumps came away from her scalp. Naomi shook her head frantically as he tore at her, her sobbing drowned out as he sang, a high-pitched wailing, echoing her cries.

‘Twist. Twist. Twist.’

He smiled affectionately at the girl in his hands. She shuddered as he slowed his caress, released his touch, and sat back, totally still. One minute. Five minutes, completely enjoying the fear mounting in her body.

‘Where are you, you piece of shit?’

Without warning, he fell forward across her face and drove his tongue into her open, complaining mouth, forcing it deeper into her throat, sucking at her own tongue until she choked, and gagged, and it was time for more pins.

Eleven hundred and twenty two. Glinting. Glistening. All stuck in to the same depth. All protruding half-an-inch. They covered her torso. They were a masterpiece of precision, a work of art.

He lay on top of her. She spasmed as the pins pressed in further with his weight, but it wasn’t enough. He ran his fingers up the sides of her rib cage and pushed his chest against hers.

‘Pretty holes’ he said. ‘They make me want to… kiss you.’

He moved, roiled around on top of her, not fucking, not even hard, just pressing the pins deeper and deeper into her body with every pulse until she was no longer moving.

He took off her blind. Unplugged her ears.

When she opened her eyes, he was gone.

Tiny pricks of agony spilled like rabid mosquito stings where the pressure from his bulk had been released. Naomi took one… two, deep, unsatisfying breaths.

‘Help. Meeeee………….’

Sergeant Miles rolled his eyes as the young Property Manager, Estate Agent, Development Company bum-boy, or whatever you want to call the parasites puked on the factory floor. Evidently it wasn’t the first time. Spatters of it ran across the concrete, some of it had been skidded in.

‘You alright? Ready to answer some questions?’

The young man nodded, grimacing at the vomit and dribble that rubbished his slimline silk suit.

‘When was the last time this building was opened, the last time you were here?’

‘Last month. About three weeks ago.’

‘And why were you…’

‘Monthly check. No-one’s buying these places at the moment, but we still have to keep an eye on ‘em.’

Sergeant Miles studied the annoying little runt. He was arrogant - he was an estate agent after all. But he wasn’t a murderer.

‘Go and see that officer over there’ He pointed to a wide-hipped blond woman writing notes. ‘Give her your statement, and your contact details. And then you can go.’

Police and forensic teams fell on the place. They already knew the identity of the victim – someone had scrawled her name on a huge placard, which they had left beside the decaying body. Scabbed wounds peppered Naomi Allen’s corpse; little drops of blackened blood darkened where the pins had penetrated, before being removed and scattered on the ground around her. Below her eyes, more red had been smudged downwards and around her cheeks in a burlesque blush. Naomi might even have witnessed this, had her eyeballs not been savagely, yet clinically removed.

He enjoyed the spectacle of activity as everyone examined his handiwork. He’d called the cops himself, wanting to showcase his skills after the frustration of his recent work going unnoticed. So he was angry, hurt even, that the police already knew. Someone had got to them first, and he knew who it was.


‘Mmmn? PC Walker. What can I do for you?’

‘That bloke you sent over, the property guy…’

‘Twat. What about him? You think he did it?’

‘No. No I don’t. He was quiet, gentle.’ She looked away, distracted. ‘But there was something about him. Maybe he’s just in the wrong job.’

She turned her back and walked over towards the cordoned-off murder scene. Miles frowned as she stepped into the bloody bullring, and promptly fell onto her side. What was the woman thinking? He hurried towards her, hand outstretched. She crawled to her feet, red-faced, furiously embarrassed.

‘Are you OK?’

Walker nodded stupidly, slapping sticky blood away from her trousers.

‘Go home’ her sergeant said. ‘It’s been a long day. Where do you live?’

‘Bishop’s Mill, Islington.’

Miles stared at her. Not a good place for anyone to live, especially a woman, even a police woman.

‘I’ll take you home’ he said.

Calvin Miles followed Kate Walker up the stairs to her flat, appreciating the view. He wondered if he’d have to go home himself that night.

He did, but not without a promise.

Across the street, a young man watched from his car window. Miles was in and out of the building within ten minutes, juggling tongues with PC Walker at the front door before setting off along the street, a stupid grin on his old man’s face.

The car returned the next night. And the next, its driver just waiting. The visits from the older policeman became less frequent over the weeks; he had obviously taken what he needed and his interest had waned.

The mobile vibrated on the passenger seat with a two-word text. ‘All set.’ It was the signal.

Excited by two weeks away in the sun, Kate Walker had packed her last pair of knickers and was squeezing the suitcase shut when the doorbell rang. She frowned. The only other flat in the house was empty at the moment. Someone had got into the house without being buzzed in. She stood up, her stance defensive.

‘Who’s there?’

‘Who is that? Are you alright?’

What? Kate was confused. The voice carried on.

‘Your front door was wide open. I walked past and thought it was a bit strange, thought I’d better come in and check. Doesn’t seem to be anyone in downstairs.’

Worried, Kate pulled her door open wide. As the chloroform rushed into her lungs she just managed to recognise her assailant before collapsing to the floor.

He shut the door, kicking the woman’s feet out of the way first, leaving her sprawled across the carpet while he took a good look around. The apartment was beautiful. High Edwardian ceilings and open fireplaces, warm blue and golden-yellows glowed from original stained glass in the doors and windows. He evaluated its sale price in a moment. Then he wandered about, picking up her possessions in gloved hands, replacing some, deliberately smashing others. He helped himself to a large brandy then sat on her sofa to contemplate for a while before dragging PC Walker’s body into the centre of her living-room. Despite the cold weather the flat was warm - she was indulgent with her heating. It meant she wasn’t wearing much, so it only took a moment to cut off her clothes before tying the straps around her ankles and wrists. Attaching the other ends of the bindings to the castors of the heavy sofas either side of the room was fiddly, but he managed it without too much exertion. He allowed himself a smile and another sip of cognac – he was pleased with the preparations so far.

When she came to, her head was pounding. She couldn’t remember what she’d been doing or where she’d been, but it felt as though she’d been out on a bender. Flat on her back, she tried to roll over onto her side. But couldn’t. Through burning eyes her focus began to clear. Bile rose in her gut as the vision of herself lying naked, prostrate and bound slammed fear into every one of her senses. All she could move was her head. She stared about, frantic. And then she found her voice.

‘Who are you? What are you doing?’ She already knew the answer to both questions. The face of the young Property Manager at her door flooded into her memory. The bindings too, were the same as in the Allen case.

‘You shit’ she cried. ‘We’ll get you for this.’

Behind her, his laughing breath fell warm across her forehead. She looked up as far as she could but he was out of range.

‘Get me?’ he said. ‘But I haven’t done anything’.

Before she could speak again he slapped a wide strip of silver insulating tape across her mouth.

‘Shut up and watch.’

He stepped over her. At her feet he sat down in a lotus position and Kate noticed he had a box in his hands. He flicked a switch. Wooden legs dropped from the side of the box, allowing him to place it, raised, onto the floor.

‘Want to see what’s inside?’

Kate turned her head away, but she knew, knew without any doubt that the box would be full of shiny, inch-long pins.

Angry, terrified tears fell down the sides of her face as he started to count. One, two, three…

Eleven hundred and nineteen counts later, she was nearly insane with fear. And cold. He had turned off the heating and opened a window. Thick flakes of snow flirted with the open curtains, threatening to enter the room. The man stood up.

Carefully stepping around the lines of precisely placed pins, he walked over her shivering body. He stopped, bending down to grin in her face.

‘All done.’

Kate muffled a scream behind her gag. What was going on? Drawing a mobile from his pocket the man punched in a text.

‘Don’t worry.’ He said to Kate without looking at her. ‘The police will be here soon.’

Kate sighed in relief. He was playing with her. This was a threat, not a murder. She’d been right when she’d interviewed him back at the factory; this man wasn’t a killer. And now he was just playing copycat.

Within ten minutes Sergeant Miles hammered on Kate’s front door. The Property Manager tilted his head. Kate’s eyes flared.

‘Shall I let him in?’

She nodded, desperate.

She heard the buzzer go, followed by Miles’ heavy footsteps bounding up the stairs. Thank God, she thought. Thank God.

Fresh terror sparked in her soul as the young man beside her suddenly produced two long, thin stiletto daggers and moved off down the hallway. She was wrong. It was a set up. She grunted as loudly, as hard as she could. She had to warn Calvin.

Before her sergeant could kick the door in, the other man gently released the lock.

‘Where is she?’

The door clicked shut behind him. Miles stormed into the room. He stood there, taking in the scene, panting. Just as he reached down to rip the tape from her mouth, Kate saw the reflection of the knives flashing behind Calvin’s head.

Free to speak, she screamed. Cold air rushed into her throat.

‘He’s there – Calvin. I was wrong. It was him all the time.’

Calvin Miles said nothing. He stroked her hair affectionately, then saw the pins laid out at her feet. He turned to the other man who stood waiting, as if in rapture, by the door.

‘Thanks.’ Miles said to him. ‘You’ve done well. You can go now.’ He replaced the tape over PC Walker’s mouth, then plugged her ears with ragged scraps of cotton wool. The last thing she saw was Sergeant Miles removing his clothes before he bound her eyes with cloth.

He sat at her feet, the design all ready in his mind, enjoying the thrill of choosing where to place the first pin of his artwork. It took three hours – his technique was improving. When the work was complete he lay on top of her, feeling the spread of her wide hips beneath his groin, loving the tremble of her shuddering body. Slowly, and gently, he pulled the tape and cloth away from her mouth and eyes. She didn’t speak.

Finally he removed the plugs from her ears, wanting her to hear his voice. He whispered, just moments before driving the daggers into her skull…

‘Pretty pinholes.’

The pins quivered in the light.

‘My beautiful voodoo doll.’

© Lily Childs 10 January 2010


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 6-year old daughter. Lily blogs at:

Monday 18 January 2010


Unbelievable as it might seem THRILLERS, KILLERS ‘N’ CHILLERS is one year old today.

What started off as a simple plan has turned into something far more successful than ever I intended or expected. When I set up the site, my intention was to allow like-minded writers to share their short stories and flash fiction in the different genres of crime, horror, noir and thrillers, and to solicit feedback and support from their peers. This was achieved very early on, and from there the site grew to be a regular haunt for readers and writers from all corners of the globe. What became apparent to me was the wealth of talent out there, writers who should have their own publishing deals, and in some ways I want to think that I’ve helped them build their ‘platforms’ and to attract new readers they otherwise wouldn’t have connected with.

In truth, I thought the site would be the domain of only a handful of writers, as it was in its first month or two, and it has surprised me how many – and how talented – authors have flocked to support the site. In the past year we’ve featured more than two hundred and fifty original stories that have given many hours of entertainment to not only me but the readers at the site. It quickly became apparent to me that I couldn’t handle the site alone. I’m a full time writer with deadlines to hit and a book every six months to produce. I’m not saying that to sound like I’m whingeing, only to show my appreciation to Col Bury, who came on-board early on as co-editor. Without Col, this site wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful as it has turned out. Thank you Col.

But Col and I can’t take all the accolades. The success of the site is down to our contributors, our readers, our supporters. The high consistency of quality is down to the strength of the writing – OK, there has been the occasional story that maybe hasn’t been as good as it should be for publication, but they’ve been very few and far between – and that’s down to the contributors; Col and I just post them. So, to everyone who has had their work featured here, thank you.

We've been pretty open about submissions, and have had to only turn down a few contributions that didn't quite make the grade. We'd like to maintain this quality. You the readers and authors have a hard act to maintain, I'll tell ya! So we're going to be a little tougher in the future. But that can only be a good thing, surely? You wan't your work to be the best it can be, so show us what you've got.

Talking about quality...TKnC has been nominated for awards, some of our contributors have also had their work mentioned at other blogs and webzines, an agent has been scouring the site and offering to read work by certain individuals, a teacher out in Australia advocated the site’s merits to his creative writing students and most recently TKnC has been nominated for an award in a readers poll (more on this at a later date). We’ve had a couple blips – no less one where one of our contributors was accused of plagiarism – and there have been times when I’ve wondered about the kind of beast I’d unleashed on the world. The ups have far outweighed the downs, though, and I foresee many more ups in the future. Some of the ups may just be in the form of our contributors hitting the big time. Who Knows? It could be you.

There are many great sites out there and you know who you are. But there’s something that’s pretty unique about TKnC. It mixes genres. It has horror writers rubbing shoulders with crime authors. Thriller writers stand alongside noir writers. The walls that were once set between genres have crumbled, and we’ve all seen that, really, all the work fits into quite a neat little bundle. It’s not the story but the voice that defines the genre. Maybe publishers will begin to recognise this in future, and the doors will be open to all genres without any of the associated hang-ups.

Let’s hope so.

Thrills, kills, and chills, that’s what we want to get from our writing, regardless of what school of writing any of us come from. This site has shown the way. Not bad for a one year old, I reckon.

Thanks everyone, and here's to at least another successful year to come

Sunday 17 January 2010

LIGHT-YEARS By James C. Clar


“Dammit, Cassie,” Robert swore, “I told you this check had to go in on today’s date.” He stared at the deposit slip in his hand as though he could change the information on it by sheer force of will. I backed away expecting he'd take a swing at me but he sat back down at his desk, fuming. “Can't you get anything right? Now I'll have to wait to write a check for the taxes and they're already overdue.”

“I'm sorry,” I said. “I tried to get out before noon today but I couldn't leave work.” It would have been better just to let it go, but sometimes I just had to defend myself … come what might. “Two people called in and the store was jammed. I never even got a chance to eat lunch.”

“And that’s a bad thing, how? Shit, from the weight you've gained the last few months it doesn't seem that you've missed too many meals.” I turned away as tears welled in my eyes. Things had been going so well the last few weeks. I thought, maybe, we'd turned a corner.

Earlier in the evening we had walked up Kalakaua Avenue to Monsarrat. Diamond Head shone red, yellow and gold in the light from the setting sun. The Zoo was running one of its “stargazing” programs sponsored by the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy. We'd spent two hours wandering around looking at the nocturnal animals and learning about the night sky above Hawaii through telescopes. It was something I had always wanted to do and Robert had surprised me with tickets. We laughed and held hands. For a little while, at least, I was able to pretend that everything was normal. Now the mood was shot and, as usual, it was my fault.

I walked over to the sliding glass door that led to the lanai. I cracked it open and breathed in the scent of night-blooming cereus. Off in the distance I could hear the sound of music coming from the bandstand at Kuhio Beach Park.

“Jesus,” Robert barked. “Close that thing would you. The air-conditioning is on. You think we've got money to throw around like that?”

My friends wondered why I stayed with him. What could I say? I loved him once and maybe still did. I kept hoping that things would change. He was always worried about money. I'm the one who worked while he went to medical school, had given up on my own education in the process. Back then he'd never given a thought to the bills. Now it was all he talked about. That and how stupid I was.

The police had been over to the apartment a couple of times. The neighbors must have called because of the noise. Robert pleaded with me not to press charges. “How would it look?” He'd say. “You've got to think of what it might do to my career.”

After the last time, I went to work with a black eye and red marks on my neck. I tried to hide it with makeup but people nodded knowingly when I told them some story about walking into a door. A few days later, Maile gave me a paper bag. It was surprisingly light. “Just take this with you, honey,” she said. “Don't look inside now but you'll have it if you ever need it.”

I closed the door to the lanai and turned as Robert stood up from his desk. “Son-of-a-bitch, Cassie. What’s this all about?” He waved the Visa statement in my face.

“Robert, I'm sorry. I forgot to tell you. It was my nephew’s birthday … you know, Teresa’s son, Eddy? I had to send him something. I was low on cash and so I used the credit card.”

I knew I was in trouble when Robert didn't respond. He was always the most explosive when he got quiet. Before I had a chance to react, he shoved me with both hands. I lost my balance and fell over the footstool and landed next to where I had left my purse when we had come in earlier.

The shock on his face wasn't feigned.

“I'm sorry, honey. Are you alright? I just lost my temper. I've been trying, you know I have. Here, let me help you up.”

Sitting on my butt, now, I humped away from him as his hands reached down for me. I felt like someone had dropped me in a pool of clear, cold water.

“Robert,” I said as I continued to move away, “is it true what that docent said about the light from the stars we were looking at earlier tonight? You know, that it takes so long for their light to reach us that the stars themselves might not even exist any more?”

Robert stopped and straightened up. His puzzled expression was like that of a puppy who knows you're talking to him but who has no idea what you're saying.

“What the hell, Cassie. I'm trying to apologize and you're talking bullshit about starlight.”

“No. It’s really important. I have to know. Is it true what he said?”

I remained motionless, silent, devoid of expression.

“Shit, maybe you bumped your head or something. Yeah, it’s true. It’s what they mean when they talk about ‘light years’ and that sort of thing. Now get up off the damn floor. This is silly.”

I smiled. I think it was the smile that really got him.

“I said get up, dammit.” He couldn’t disguise the anger that, once again, was threatening to overpower him.

“So even between where I am and where you're standing there’s, like, a delay; a lag between what I'm doing and what you see me doing? That’s how it works?

“Yes.” He shouted, losing control. “But we're so close that the delay is negligible.”

Negligible was enough … more than enough. The bullet caught him square in the chest as he reached down to grab me by my blouse.


James C. Clar has published short fiction in print as well as on the Internet. In the next few months, he has work scheduled to appear on Flashshot, Residential Aliens, Bewildering Stories and Antipodean SF. There's very little he enjoys more than studying the night sky over Oahu.

ACT OF MERCY By Sue Harding

Act of Mercy

She left the house right on cue. He’d planned this for weeks. He knew her routine and there she was, right on time. David Palmer watched as she crossed the road and carried on walking. He didn’t want to risk her catching sight of him. He made himself wait and let her get a good way ahead, before he got out of the car to follow her. She looked gorgeous, as usual, her long blond hair catching in the breeze, bouncing along in time to the gentle momentum of her gait.

That’s what made it such a shame. It shouldn’t happen to people like that. Young and vibrant, with everything to live for, the world at their feet. He picked up his speed, keeping her in sight, even though he knew exactly where she was headed. He’d rehearsed this several times but now it was for real. He wanted to be there, to be sure it all played out as he’d anticipated. Exactly as he’d planned.

He rounded the corner a hundred yards or so behind her, dodging between other commuters as he turned onto the busy high street. He singled her out and continued on behind. It was harder to keep her in view, but he wasn’t too worried. He glanced at his watch. There was plenty of time yet. He would already be there. Waiting.

She turned and disappeared along with the early morning throng of commuters, office workers, students, and teenagers on their way to school, heading down into the subterranean vaults of the Underground.

Palmer pushed his way through the oncoming traffic of lemmings heading in the opposite direction, recently disgorged from below, and turned left and down the first flight of steps. He avoided the Subway wrappers and discarded McDonalds packaging, and the remnants of someone’s takeaway meal from the previous night. He didn’t want to make the silly mistake of slipping and hurting himself and then missing out. He needed to be there when it happened. To see. To know that it was done properly. He didn’t want her to suffer unnecessarily.

He pushed his way through the barrier and across the concourse onto the first escalator. There was time to pause and look ahead. She was moving down on the left-hand side, passing by those who were content to stand and enjoy the ride. He stepped out, too, and walked steadily downwards, focusing on her hair, less bright in the artificial light. He watched as she paused and then stepped smartly off and picked up her speed, walking around the corner out of sight.

He ran the last half-dozen steps, skipping over the leveling treads, then followed the signs and turned left into the waiting masses. His eyes darted around, momentarily anxious, yet he knew she could only be a few paces ahead of him. He saw blond hair cascading down over a grey wool coat. It wasn’t her. She’d been wearing black. He searched again through the brunettes, the redheads, the mousey-haired peroxide failures and then he relaxed. She was already stepping onto the downward escalator, dipping out of sight almost as soon as he’d identified her. He waited his turn, shuffling forward, step by step until he felt the slight jolt of the treads carry him forward and then begin to descend.

He locked his eyes on her, pausing to think through what was about to happen. A simple accident. Fatal. Tragic. He knew there would be some who would claim it wasn’t an accident, of course. The family would know. He’d made sure of that. He’d told them and then sworn them to secrecy. Some of them had accepted it fairly straight away, after the initial shock. Others needed more convincing. In the end, love had learned to overcome any distasteful feelings, ready to accept the outcome, ready to almost welcome this act of mercy.

She was so pretty. How could they let that happen to her? How could they watch her change and wither before their eyes, as the cancer ate away at her. Better a swift, ‘accidental death’. They went along with the plan, grieved with him, offering their own strength to carry him through the dark days ahead.

The escalator had reached the bottom, it’s passengers stepping off, turning right, or left, some carrying straight on, each towards their preferred destinations.

Palmer swung off and headed for the southbound platform. He moved along, close to the wall and then he saw the man, up ahead. They exchanged small, knowing nods, acknowledging each others presence, then he looked at the indicator board. The next train was due in two minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds and it would be over. He wondered if he would have one last look at her face, one last smile, one last silent goodbye.

He looked across the sea of bobbing heads in front of him, and saw her fair hair glistening in the fluorescent lights. He took a last glance towards her, hoped it would be quick. She was his wife after all. Another quick glance as the man sidled nearer, until he stood behind her. Palmer felt the slight chill of the air forced out of the tunnel, watched as it flicked up wisps of blond hair. So pretty. Such a shame.

He heard the shrieks and gasps around him, and the scream. He didn’t think it was her voice. At least, he hoped it wasn’t. Moving back as the rest of the crowd surged forwards in morbid fascination, he turned away, retreating back towards the exit, fighting against the latecomers who poured down onto the platform, drawn by the commotion.

He heard the muffled announcement over the P.A.system, but he carried on, walking up the ascending escalator. It was over and he felt a strange sense of loss. She had been so beautiful, but he tried not to think about how she looked now. They had shared just a few brief months of happiness together. A whirlwind romance. A fairytale wedding. And now this.

He remembered the tears in her father’s eyes as he’d told the family about her illness, saying how she’d begged him not to tell them anything, but how he felt they had a right to know. How she’d confided in him her plan to take her own life rather than suffer the ravages of the treatment as well as the cancer itself. How he’d decided to take that burden mercifully from her and had made arrangements for it to happen when she wasn’t expecting it. And then, finally, he’d begged them to carry on as normal and not let on they knew, respecting her decision, pretending everything was OK.

He trudged up the steps and out into the morning light, feeling the fresh air on his skin. There was a new energy about his step as he walked forward and hailed a cab. After all the strain of the last few weeks he was glad it was finally over. There was plenty of time to get to the airport and he relaxed back into the seat.

A couple of months, he thought. He’d let the family know he’d decided he couldn’t face returning to live without her. They would understand, clear the house and sort out the estate for him.

Shame. She was a pretty little thing. Then again, so were some of the others he’d already said goodbye to. Funny how the autopsies never revealed any signs of cancer. But then, he always planned it that way. It never ceased to amaze him how gullible people could be.

He checked the ticket in his wallet and smiled, then lowered the window and tossed the gold band from his finger.


Sue Harding works in a library in Warks. Having spent years 'shelving' books, she's starting to 'write' them instead! Sue blogs here:

Saturday 16 January 2010

STAKEOUT by Matt Tuckey

Matt enters the fold in style...


I saw his reflection in the back-bar mirror. He didn't see mine. I turned when he snapped the pool cue over his knee. His mate hung over his shoulder.

They must know.

I knew what these idiots were like after a few scoops. Normally pubs were a safe haven for me. I'd worked in a few. They're really called 'public houses.' There's something welcoming about that. And none of my real enemies would come to a noisy place like this. Not their style. It's the quiet ones I've got to watch out for, normally.

This time, however, I was in the shit. Not even the mainstream middle-of-the-road jeans and t-shirt combo kept me disguised among the masses. You've gotta give these morons credit: all they do is look for trouble, but they know how to find it.

I got off the stool, trying to look as passive as possible. Cue-man stared at me, holding the snapped-off stick not like a bat but more a baton. His stripy-jumper mate glared at me, hanging off his shoulder.

'Chill the fuck out, lads,' I said. 'I'll finish my cranberry juice, and I'll go.'

'Fuck off. I know what that is,' said Cue-man. 'I know what you are.' He looked about eighteen. Bulky. Acne-scarred. 'Roid abuser. I could smell it on him, his odour blending with the stale beer and cleaning agent and the aging tobacco embedded in the pub's worn carpet.

The bar maid emerged from the glass room, nervous. She eyed the drink. She knew she hadn't served it.

I stepped to the door but Cue-man put his hand on my chest, staring intently, eye-level at my sternum. Because my stance was wide the swing was perfect and my fist slammed into his jaw, cowboy-style, with such force that he was lifted through the air of the room. His head landed on the edge of the bar-top with a crack and he slumped to the floor, already out.

I turned back to Stripy. He'd vanished.

There was a scraping sound across the floor behind a table. I leaped on top of it from across the room, hearing the barmaid gasp in shock - not in the anticipation of further violence but at the sheer distance I'd managed to clear. On one knee, hooking my back foot on the lip of the table for balance, I reached down with both hands and yanked Stripy up by the neck. I bit into him and sucked, tasting the alcohol that dulled the metallic tang of blood.

Matt is a writer from Manchester, England. He has been published previously in Flash Fire 500, BadHap, Gemini, Writer's Bloc, Aphelion, The Manchester Evening News and The Oldham Evening Chronicle. He trains in Mixed Martial Arts and works in Communications at his local council.

Friday 15 January 2010


Something a little bit different from Glenn...


Now this is friggin good butta.

The hell kind is it?

Fuck do I know? Just got these bagels with butta.

Wow. It is pretty good. All creamy and shit.

This here’s real godamn grade A butta.

Good shit. You ever go to that bagel place over on Larkfield?


They got good butta.

Butta there’s okay. But this - this is good, no great, butta.

Nothing like good butta.

Like a dream.

On a good bagel.

Or just friggin nice rye toast. Ya know? Burned up like charcoal.

If the butta sucks, ruins the whole fachima thing.

Could eat good butta right outta the containa.

With a spoon.

Big fat gobs.

With a damn ladle.

Got that right.


So what you got?

Did that job.

Took care a that cocksucka?

Yeah. Just like you asked.


Last night.

He say anything?

Yeah. Said, what the fuck?

What the fuck?

Yeah. I tell em, the Big Guy sent me, and I swear there’s some piss stain forming on his drawers, and he stands there looking like a dope. Just says: What the fuck.

Stupid bastid.

Like he just learned to talk. Lip twitching and all. Hate that shit.

And pissed his pants.

Like a baby.

Standing there like a moron.

All wet in front.

Say anything else?

Just, what the fuck.

That it?


Never said he fucked up?

Nah. Just, what the fuck.

You give him time to think?


What about the money.

Was right in the bathroom.

Real genius.

Behind the shower curtain.


Same suitcase.

And the other shit?

Right there next to it.

Never had any brains.

It’s all done, nice.

Easy job, then. Good boy.


Like good butta.

Betta than butta.

Gimme some more a that shit, will ya?

Glenn Gray’s got a story in OOTG 6. He’s got other crap in TKnC, Twist of Noir, Dogzplot, BTAP, Powder Burn, Underground Voices, Long Story Short and many others.

GONE by Pixie J. King

Pixie's back...


The water was black, deep. White foamy ripples tickled the rusty iron girders below. Roaring blurs of red and orange shot past by me, not knowing or caring I existed.

The pressure had become too much. This was my only choice, only way out.

I stared down at the cold, calm water. It juxtaposed what was going on in my mind; so many decisions, so many outcomes.

My palms clung onto the piercing sting of the metal, slipping, sliding. The wind billowed, franticly pounded me, and I gasped as it prized one of my hands away from the bridge.

I desperately scrambled to cling to the palms too sweaty to keep hold.

I screamed, looked down foolishly, the sudden panic and realisation sending my mind spiralling. I didn’t want to die now, even though I had already said goodbye and stuck two fingers up at the world.

Tears felt more like knives as the wind pierced my skin, numbing my hands.

The waves seemed to spiral up, ready to consume, hungry for such a young life.

Ribbons of black and navy exploded out, the creamy foam washed over in cool, calm ripples.


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

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Readers Poll for Best Fiction Ezine 2009...

(See update below).

As many of you will know TKnC was nominated over at Preditors & Editors for the best fiction ezine 2009. Incredibly, with just today left to vote, we currently stand in first place!

If you've not yet had chance to vote, and TKnC is your favourite, then it would be greatly appreciated if you do so here.

It does ask for your email address, but there's no spam involved.
It would be amazing to win this a few days before our first Anniversary!
Thanks to all those who have voted.

Col & Matt.

UPDATE: We're still front runners (EEK!), but there's more time to get your vote in up to JANUARY 14th GMT.


A warm TKnC welcome to Tanya with this eerie tale...

The Journal of Millicent Miles

31st December 1974

It is fifteen minutes to midnight and, as I sit here alone with the wind howling outside and fresh drifts of snow building up against the back door, I can almost hear the grains of sand falling as the remaining minutes of my life ebb away.

For seventy five years I have been waiting for this night, and now that it is finally here I am surprised to discover that I am no longer afraid. Of course we all meet our own end at some point in time; it’s all part and parcel of being alive. However very few of us are aware of the exact cause of our demise. It has taken me a lifetime to accept that my existence will be erased on the first stroke of midnight as the new year of 1975 begins, but only recently have I accepted that there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. No amount of begging, pleading or bargaining can alter the course of the event that will soon take place.

I expect you are wondering how I know that I will die at midnight, or maybe you are thinking that I’m just another daft old bat who has had too much after-dinner sherry. I can’t say that I blame you, as the same thoughts would no doubt cross my mind if our roles were reversed. The simple truth is that I was told the exact date and time of my death by my killer, on a night much like this. It was on New Year’s Eve 1899, and I was ten years old.

My parents had been in India for five months, but due to illness I had been forced to remain in England with my mother’s elder sister and her family. My aunt had two children, a daughter named Elspeth who was a year younger than me, and a son named Charles who was four. Until that winter I had enjoyed an idyllic middle-class upbringing, being raised in a large country house with acres of grounds in which to play and servants to attend to my needs. My aunt’s house was slightly larger than that occupied by my family, as she had married into ‘old money.’ My uncle spent much of his time in London, but every Friday night he would return home for the weekend with boxes filled with surprises for my aunt and the children, myself included.

About three weeks before the Christmas of 1899 it was decided that my uncle would remain in London for the weekend, and the rest of the family would join him on the Saturday morning so that we could visit Father Christmas in his grotto at the Army and Navy stores in Regent Street.

Elspeth and I decided that it would probably be best not to inform my aunt and uncle that we no longer believed that Father Christmas was real, as neither of us could understand how it was possible for him to be in so many of the large stores at the same time. So, before leaving to catch the train to London Bridge, we made a pact to behave like normal children - which was more for the benefit of Charles than for his parents. When he was older he would begin to reach the same conclusion as Elspeth and I, as at that time it would have been cruel to shatter the illusions of a child who was too young to know that he was being fooled by the adults around him.

We were met at London Bridge by my uncle’s driver shortly before ten thirty, and after calling at the town house in Eaton Square to drop off the luggage we made our way to Regent Street. It had been snowing intermittently since Friday afternoon, so the streets were white and gave the city an almost magical feel as we passed the stores with their brightly decorated windows. Although Elspeth and I no longer believed in Father Christmas, or Santa Claus as he was by then becoming known, we could still appreciate a nicely decorated Christmas tree and soon found ourselves caught up in the excitement of the occasion.

After lunch we made our way to the Army and Navy, where we took our places in the queue to meet the man who would be dressed as Santa. Charles fidgeted with impatience whereas Elspeth and I were fighting the urge to giggle at the absurdity of it all, and some of the smaller children behind us were sobbing with desperation as the queue slowly began to move closer to the grotto. After almost an hour it was finally our turn to enter. In a large white chair surrounded by spruce and red baubles sat the man dressed as Santa, and seated on the floor next to him was a dwarf who was supposed to be one of his many helpers.

“Welcome children!” Santa roared cheerfully as we walked towards him. “Tell me your name and the gift that your heart desires this year.”

“A train set!” Charles cried after telling Santa his name, throwing his arms around the man’s neck and almost dislodging the carefully arranged spruce.

The man laughed heartily before beckoning Elspeth and I to step forward. We looked at one another nervously before telling him our names, and a strange expression passed across his face momentarily when we told him that we desired knowledge and truth.

“Hmmm, strange gifts for two young ladies,” he mused, looking down at the dwarf who was shaking his head. “However I think it will be possible to grant your wishes.”

We thanked him and wished him a Merry Christmas, but as we walked away I felt sure that he was whispering something rather unkind to the dwarf.

When Christmas Day arrived the countryside was hidden under a fresh covering of snow, and a blazing fire greeted us in the drawing room where we opened our presents after breakfast. Charles was thrilled when he began to open box after box of railway carriages, whereas Elspeth was surprised to find a heavy encyclopedia among her presents. To her surprise was added a dash of bewilderment, as one of my presents was a book containing all manner of facts and figures from around the world. It seemed that the man had been telling the truth when he told us that our wishes could be granted, as we had indeed received some form of knowledge and truth.

Elspeth decided that the man must have told my aunt what we had asked for, or maybe the dwarf had been instructed to pass the message on. Perhaps that was the reason for the whispering I had heard, rather than something less savoury? Neither of us gave the matter another thought, but on New Year’s Eve we regretted our actions.

A party was held that night to celebrate a new year, a new century and a new millennium, but my cousins and I were sent to bed at nine thirty. Of course we did as all children do in large houses, and sneaked out of our bedrooms to gaze at the men and women who were still dancing as midnight approached. By ten thirty we were beginning to feel sleepy and returned to our beds.

At around eleven forty five I was woken by the sound of Elspeth climbing out of bed and creeping towards the door, and when she didn’t respond to my calls I decided to follow her down the back stairs and out of the house into the stable yard. It was snowing heavily and extremely cold, but Elspeth did not appear to notice; it was as if she was in a trance. In the breeze I could hear a man’s voice calling her name, and as I continued to follow her it became obvious that the sound was becoming louder.

We crossed the lawn and made our way into a small area of woodland, and at its heart I was amazed to see Santa and his helper waiting for Elspeth. Although it was dark there was enough snow to reflect a little natural light, and I could see what appeared to be soot and small pieces of coal lying on the ground.

“Well, what have we here?” Santa laughed as we stood before him. “I called for one of you but find myself with two! Most amusing I must say. Unfortunately I can only take Elspeth tonight, but your time will come Millicent.”

“What do you mean Santa? Where are you taking Elspeth?” I asked, shivering from a combination of the cold and a feeling of dread that was inching slowly up my spine. Elspeth remained silent and strangely unaware of my presence.

“You asked for knowledge and truth, did you not?” he replied, a grin spreading across his face. “Surely you didn’t think that you would find them in the books you received on Christmas Day?”

All that I was able to manage was a nod of my head, the blood in my veins turning to ice as Santa stepped forward and placed a hand on Elspeth’s shoulder. There was something slightly different about him, and although he looked very similar to the man we had seen in London his eyes were dark and his complexion appeared to be tanned. It was also impossible not to notice the smell of soot that surrounded him, and something else that I did not recognise at first.

However I knew without a shadow of doubt that this was not the same man. I felt as if I had been frozen in place, and as the man placed a hand on either side of Elspeth’s head I could neither scream nor lash out at him. He moved Elspeth’s head upwards so that she was looking directly into his eyes, her mouth opening is if to scream although there was no sound.

There was a sudden flash of orange light, and as my eyes adjusted I was horrified by what I saw in front of me. Beams of light were being emitted from the man’s eyes, fingers and mouth, and a bright blue mist was streaming from Elspeth’s mouth and into his.

A moment later there was another flash of light, then the man released his hold on my cousin. Her body fell to the ground, pale and lifeless. I knew in an instant that she was dead, and at the same time I was able to name the other smell. It was sulphur.

“What have you done?” I cried, falling to the ground and sobbing next to Elspeth’s body. “You’re Santa. You’re supposed to bring gifts, not take people’s lives!”

“Oh you silly girl!” he laughed, the air now thick with sulphur. “I’m not Santa, I’m merely doing his bidding. Santa does bring gifts to those who believe that he exists, and he relies on me to punish those who don’t believe. Children like you and your cousin. You may think that you can fool him, but he always knows the truth. He can weed you out in seconds, and then your souls belong to me. That’s the way it has always been; the way it will always be. You know who I am, even though you have many names for me. Think of Santa but rearrange the last three letters; that’s who I am.”

It took me a moment, but once I had thought about it the man’s identity was obvious. He was Satan; the Devil. Elspeth’s soul had been sent to Hell and mine would join it.

“Clever girl, I knew you would work it out,” he chuckled, prodding Elspeth’s body with one of his cloven hooves. I hadn’t even noticed that he wasn’t wearing boots. “Unfortunately I will have to take you another time, but I will come back for you. A promise is a promise, and Santa always lets me work to my own schedule. This year, next year, fifty years. He’s very flexible. I’ll call for you in seventy five years, at the first stroke of midnight. And don’t try to get out of it by attempting to kill yourself or anything silly like that; your life remains intact until I come for your soul.”

I suddenly felt very tired, and when I looked up again he had gone.

Ever since that night I have been unable to speak, but even if I could have told my family what had happened they wouldn’t have believed me. There was an inquest into Elspeth’s death, but an open verdict was recorded. To the doctors who examined her body she appeared to have died of natural causes, and there was nothing at all to suggest foul play.

It is now two minutes to midnight and my story, like my life, must come to an end. I can hear my name being carried on the wind. It’s very faint, but it will soon grow louder. There’s a hint of sulphur in the air so he’s very close now. It is time for me to go.


Tanya blogs here:

Sunday 10 January 2010

Intermission: slight backlog & readers poll update...

As a consequence of the site's welcome growth we have a slight backlog, so if you've recently submitted then fear not. Be reassured that we read n appreciate every word submitted.

Over at Predators & Editors, blogosphere 'moocher' extraordinaire, Lee Hughes, informs me that despite our late entry we've still reached the dizzy heights of 4th position! Voting ends on Jan' 14th so here's to one final push if you've not voted.

My vote went to A Twist Of Noir, so if Chris Grant's great noir site tickles your fancy, too, then you can offer your support to either of us here.

Many thanks,


TKnC welcomes Scott with this noir tale... 

Soldier of Fortune


I’m awake now.

He’s standing before me and I can taste chrome in my mouth. I can’t move. I think my arms are tied. Fuck.

I’m in a chair and I’m missing my shoes and socks. My toes are cold.

Am I bleeding? Jesus, I think I’m fucking bleeding.

His face is in mine.

He has one blue and one gray eye.

I watch his lips move. I can’t understand what the fuck he’s saying.

It sounds like he’s talking under water.

I feel sick.

I try closing my eyes and can’t. They’ve been pinned back.

All I can see are bright lights and shadows.

And his face moving in between the two.

she was a blonde and beautiful. and she had the body of a movie star and knew as much. she smoked these little brown cigarettes that smelled like vanilla. her dress was tight in all the right places. a dress made for the summer not the winter. i never saw her shoes. but damn they were loud when she walked. i don’t remember what she was drinking, i didn’t care. mine was scotch and i had plenty. i told her not to run away, that i had to take a piss. she just smiled that damn smile. i knew i’d regret that smile later. and there i was taking a leak when i heard those shoes and knew it was her. before i could turn she already had her hands wrapped around me and grabbed a hold of my cock. all i could do was just close my eyes as her cold hands tugged on my soul. she said words that every man longs to hear. i turned around and pressed her against the wall and raised her dress. and that’s how it happened with panties pushed to the side and ass pressed against the cool tile. that’s how it all started. that’s how it all began.


With the pliers in my mouth I can’t tell what’s puke and what’s blood.

I do know that I shit my pants after the first tooth.

My entire body is wet with sweat.

I'm an electric wire.

The darkness is starting to form around the edges again. I know soon I will black out.

There’s so much pressure in my head I think it’s starting to concave.

I vomit once more before the darkness fully seizes me.

I pray to God that I will choke to death on it. But sadly, I cough it free and the breathing continues.

He sticks his hand back into my mouth.

Everything goes black.

she’s lying on the motel bed with her legs spread wide. there’s a bag of Doritos open next to her. she reaches down and pulls out an orange triangle chip and places it just above her snatch. she asks me if i’m hungry? i move towards her and place my head just in front of the chip. i pick it up with my teeth and begin to slowly chew, making large movements with my chin so that it rubs her in all the right places. she sighs and her legs close around my head. she wants to know how many people i killed over there. i tell her not enough. she handed a lot of different colored pills my way. i downed them like a sick horse. i don’t exactly remember when the tv was hurled from the motel door way and into the snow, but things got a lot more interesting afterwards. it was when we were tossing grapefruit naked in the hallway when she tells me she wants me to kill somebody for her. sure, i say. okay.


I have no idea what day it is. I’ve blacked out too many times.

I just know I’m fucked.

And despite how hard this shitbag tries he will never break me.


I got Uncle Sam to thank for that.

Wherever I am it’s wet and cold. The floors above me creak when someone walks across them.

It’s silent now.

My face is swollen and hurts like a motherfucker. My tongue runs and seeks out my wounds. There are clumps of meat and clots dangling where there were once teeth.

I try swallowing but I have nothing but the dry and broke movement of an attempt.

I’m dehydrated.

I have to take a piss. I can’t get up so I just let it flow.

I’m gonna kill this fucker.

we spent three days there at that motel. i think. i’m not sure. things got a little blurry after that first night. three fucking nights full of debauchery that would have sent the Devil back home limping. but what did i care. i had nothing to loose at that point. things couldn’t get any worse or so i thought. as she told me about this bastard who stole her kid and how the system just let him have her. he does things with the kid. makes movies. takes pictures. let’s people have their time with her. you get what she was saying. i knew some of it was bullshit. but still there was just something about her. had she asked me to set myself on fire. i would have instantly. she said she need this fucker taken out. she needed her little angel back safe and sound. i’m in i told her. i’ll bring her home. and i’ll end this asshole. i swear.


I hear jingling behind me. Like bells or a chain.

There’s the soft padding of feet.

Something thumps against the back of my chair.

Fur brushes past my tied hands.

A tail. It turns and sashays back and forth beneath my fingertips.

I give it a tickle.

The purring is almost deafening.

“Here Kitty-kitty.” I call. My voice hoarse and broken.

There’s a jingle as it leaps up into my lap. Tiny paws gingerly step from my thighs to my belly and back.

More purring.

Then the claws come out as it rubs its face against my chest.

There’s a loud rumble like wheels on rock. A door slam and then footsteps.

The cat jingles back to wherever.

Another door.

I move my hands. Handcuffs.

Footsteps. Heavy and slow.

I clasp the palm of my right hands together and fold my thumb under.

The floor creaks above me.

I pop my hand in position and give it a pull.

A door opens. A massive ray of light blast across the room.

I give it another tug. Almost there.

I hear him clear his throat as he makes each step.

Over in the corner a red light is blinking.

He inches closer.

Got it.

we drove forever. she said it was up north. we needed to go there. i could do it there. i told her i need to stop off and get a few things first. there was no time. we needed to get there as soon as possible. she was afraid he might do something very bad this time. she had tried to get her back and he caught her. now he took her up there. he has a place. and then she hands me the gun. i could use this one. it belonged to her old man. a dead cop. i knew i shouldn’t have touched it, but i did. she just smiled that smile. i know. but what if there was a little girl and she was talking the truth? people did these things. i took the gun and threw it in the glove box. later. she handed me a few more pills. i downed them with the lukewarm coffee. i couldn’t feel anything but my heart beating as she drove. darkness and the soft glow of the dashboard. i laid my head back and let it all faded away.


I pretend I’m blacked out. I wait for him to move closer.

He’s in the corner. There’s thumping and clanking. Things being opened and shut.

I play possum.

He’s cursing to himself. I can’t make out what exactly he’s saying.

There’s the sound of metal hitting concrete.

I hear him grunt as he bends over to pick it up.

He moves.

I steady myself.

“Hey! Sunshine!” He yells, inching closer. “Time to wake up pretty boy.”


“You sure do stink, boy.”

Almost there.

And then the front door opens and shuts.

“What in the Fuck!” He says, moving towards the stairs.

I hear footsteps.

I recognize that walk.

“Don’t go no where’s.” He says, inching up the stairs.

when i awoke i found her smoking a cigarette and signing “Mrs. Brown” along with the radio. we were stopped. i glanced out my window only to find darkness and trees. lots of fucking trees. i lit a smoke and watched her finish her song. i clapped when it was over. she smiled and gave me the finger. she said the place was up there. just straight down the road. i couldn’t miss it. there’d be a red pick-up truck out front. i opened the glove box and pulled out the gun. i turned on the dome light and inspected it. she wanted to know what I was doing. i told her i was making sure it wouldn’t blow up in my hand. she inhaled and made a chuckle. i could tell she was nervous. it wasn’t a service revolver like she said but it would do the job. she gave me a long kiss goodbye. why me? i asked why of all the guys that night she chose me? she said cause i had death in my eyes. i was the most fucked up in there. she kissed me again. i told her to stay put and i’d be back shortly. i had three bullets in the chamber. i didn’t like the odds. but i’d seen worse.


As soon he hits the top of the stairs and closes the door behind him I stand.

The pain is too much and I fall back in the chair.

I look down and see that he has cut off some of my toes.


I rip the duct-tape off my eyes.

I try standing again. I brace myself on the chair and free my left hand.

I limp over to the corner where he was. I find the duct-tape and wrap it around my foot.

Then my hands and across my knuckles.

I reach down and check and see if I still have balls.

Thank God.

They were probably next.

What the fuck.

There are tons of antifreeze jugs and what looks like Coleman Fuel tanks.

That fucker.

Suddenly there is a loud scream followed by heavy foot steps up above.

I grab a crowbar and head that way.

the place was typical. run down and weather beaten. i made my way through the brush like i was trained to do. i looked for signs of dogs. nothing. that made me feel better. it takes a lot more effort with dogs around. i could see the blue flicker of a tv in the main room shining through some bed sheets hung up in the window. i moved towards the other end of the house. there was another light. i got beneath the window and listened. a soft voice signing hymns. she was real. she wasn’t bullshitting. now it was time. i maneuvered back around the house. i was heading towards the front door. three bullets. i could take him easily. then i heard it. the loudest growl in the fucking world. i turned expecting to see a dog. but instead there stood a bear at least ten foot high. it roared so loud that every beast in hell shivered. then it lunged at me. i had no choice but to empty the revolver. i aimed at the forehead and it dropped like a tree. the ground shook as it hit. i was so taken with the bear that i never noticed the fucker creeping up behind me or least not until he hit me in the back of the head.


I make my way up the stairs.

I can hear the struggle in the other room. All that chaos that comes with a man and a woman fighting.

The door opened up into a kitchen. Well, it was at one point a kitchen but now it was full of Hot Plates, tubes, Drano jugs and Epsom Salt boxes.

That fucker.

The fighting has become more aggressive. I catch a glimpse of him tossing her by the hair across the room.

He kicks her in the face.

She’s on her hands and knees.

He stands before her and smacks her with the butt of his shotgun.

She’s sprawled across the floor.

He raises the gun.

I limp across the room.

Suddenly he swings around and fires at me.

I hit the floor and roll.

He missed.

I’m fucked. My body is too fucked for this.

Before he can fire again I’m up on him. I swing the crowbar across his knee cap.

He falls back and the gun fires.

Another miss.

I crack him in the skull until he stops moving.

It looks like a busted watermelon.

I look over at her and she’s leaned against the chair.

She looks up at me and smiles.

And then slowly unfolds her arms and holds up her hand.


I guess he didn’t miss.

It’s a gut shot and there’s nothing I can do.

“What about the girl?” I ask.

“She’s in the other room.” She says, pointing a bloody finger. “Take her home.”

“Home?” I say. “Whose home?”

But she doesn’t answer. She’s gone.

I get up.

I limp across the room.

There’s a door closed at the end of the hall. I slowly open it.

She’s sitting on the floor having tea with a bear and blonde doll.

She looks up at me and smiles.

“Would you like some tea, sir?” she asks.

“I would love some.”

I take a seat next to the bear.

She hands me a cup and I gulp it.

“Careful! It’s hot!” she says.

“Oh, Right!” I act like I’ve burnt my tongue.

She giggles and gives me a refill.

“Are they done?” she asks.


“Is she taking me home now?”

“Not exactly.”

“But she said once the Angel comes.” she says, fighting back the tears. “You are an Angel right?”

“No. I’m a soldier.”

“Angels are God’s soldiers.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“That Lady said I could go back home when you came from Heaven and saved us from that man.”

“Lady?” I ask. “You mean the yellow haired one? She’s not you’re Mom?”

“No.” she answers. “My Mom has brown hair and lives in California.”

“Did the yellow haired lady take you away from your Mom?”

“No. The mean man did.”

“I see.”

“Why do you smell?” she asks. “And you look gross.”

“Thanks.” I say, taking a sip of tea. “Now is that anyway to talk to an Angel?”

“I guess not.”

“You wanna go home?”


“Then you better finish your tea and stop making fun of me.”


“Okay then.”


Scott C. Rogers is an American poet, writer and co-publisher at Black Coffee Press ( He is the author of the novel Celluloid Cowboy (2008) and Love Like a Molotov Cocktail to the Chest (2010).