Tuesday 27 July 2010


Get ready to swash those bucklers and...

Know Thine Enemy

Arundel 12th May 1741

Thirty men sat on the beach around a makeshift fire, passing round flasks of rum. Smoke from clay pipes curled into the air as they laughed and joked with each other. One of the men pulled out a fiddle, and began to play a tune, another sang while a couple more danced to the tune in the cool moonlit night.

Sitting on his own, Arthur Grey watched this sight briefly, and then turned his head back to watch the sea; watching for the five lantern flashes that indicated the cutter they were expecting was closing in. Taking a pull on his drink as he glanced over at the ponies standing on the beach, obediently waiting to be loaded up with the cargo from the ship, he smiled to himself. He knew he was working with men who knew their jobs well, and could be relied upon when the call to action came, and he forgave them their casual attitude while they were doing the waiting.

From the distance, the flashes came, Grey counted them, and, satisfied that this was the boat he was waiting for, he held up his own lantern, removing the cloth covering it so it shone like a solitary beacon in the night, guiding the ship to the shore, ready to be unloaded. He called out, and the men stopped their merriment, and stood ready to work, this was what they did, this was how they earned their money.

As the boat came to a halt close to the beach – it’s shallow hull making it easy to navigate the shallow waters and get as close to the beach as possible, most of the thirty men went forward, forming a human chain to unload the tubs of tea and rum and secure them on the ponies, ready to be distributed later on, most ending up in the fashionable tea houses of London. Five of the men stood watch on the top of the beach, in case they were disturbed by the men from the revenue.

Tom Kingsmill was one of these men. One of the younger of gang, he nevertheless was beginning to command the trust and respect of his comrades in a way that belied his age. He never shirked his duties, be they loading, or, in this case, on lookout duties. His sharp eyes scanned the approach to the beach, looking for any sign that they had been discovered. His hands rested on the sword buckled by his side, and the pistol that he always kept with him, which he had loaded and primed ready. The pistol was his prized possession; the tale of how he had obtained it five years earlier, taking the life of its previous owner, cemented his reputation at the age of thirteen as a man unafraid to use violence, and a man not to cross without good reason.

Meanwhile, Josiah Bentley; the collector of customs for the Chichester area; led his party of men riding on the road between Arundel and the beach. He looked back at the fifteen men that accompanied him, confident that the nine dragoons would hold sway in what was to come. He had dismissed objections from some of the riding officers that rode with him that their numbers were not large enough to be effective with a wave of his hand. “Trained Dragoons, Mr Johnson, Trained dragoons against a rabble of drunkards and ne’er do wells, there will be no need to worry,” he proudly stated. Johnson, the older man by more than a decade, was less than convinced, he had been a riding officer long enough to know that what they were up against was far from a rabble, but a well organised force, fully capable of holding their own in a fight, but, he allowed himself to be silenced, knowing that Bentley would not listen to any contrary viewpoint, but fearing what they would encounter.

“Let’s show these rogues that the law rules around here, eh Mr Johnson?” Bentley said, his confidence never wavering.

“Just be careful, the informant never said how many men were on the beach, they will have enough to make a fight over it.” Johnson warned, hoping that he could persuade his superior into a cautious approach.

“Piffle,” Bentley replied, dashing Johnson’s hopes in one word. “I have trained soldiers, that man Grey has a drunken rabble of cowards, we will have them nicely in Gaol by the end of the night and hung before the week’s out.” He turned to face the beach, now seeing the men at work by the light of well placed lanterns. Even seeing the number of men on the beach, his confidence never wavered. “That’s the trouble, you lot have no backbone. With me in charge, that will change.” He spurred his horse on, calling the men to arms.

“Soldiers!” came the cry from one of the lookouts, and Grey swore under his breath. He had expected discovery, but the soldiers meant a fight rather than bribery would be the way this would end.

“How many?” he called back.

“Perhaps twelve, perhaps fifteen, I reckon mo more,” the lookout called.

“Men, to arms!” Grey called out, the cry taken up around the beach, the men immediately put the tubs they were carrying down, and drawing their weapons, swords and cudgels mostly, but some of the men ran to one of the ponies, loading expertly the long guns they carried with them, ready for the prospect of having to fight their way off the beach. It wasn’t just the revenue they feared, other gangs weren’t averse to trying to snatch the goods once they were unloaded; the Hawkhurst men were far from their usual haunts, and were extra cautious.

Bentley looked at the men on the beach, and smiled to himself. He ordered his force to spread out, and be ready, while he rode his horse a small way in front. Raising his voice, he addressed the smugglers directly. “You men are all under arrest in the name of King George, by the grace of God second of that name. I order you to put down your weapons and surrender immediately. Those goods belong to the Crown.”

Grey walked towards the mounted Officer, stopping a few feet short. He hawked and spat in the ground in front of the man, as if directly challenging him. “The Crown’s goods?” he asked. “Did Good King George pay for them? Is he here, unloading the boat? No, we paid for them, we are unloading them and we will sell them. Best you turn around and find an inn somewhere. Toast the Good Kings health, and be thankful for your own,” he said, receiving a cheer from his men behind him.

Bentley looked apoplectic with rage at this show of defiance. “This is your last warning,” he shouted back. “My trained soldiers have orders to shoot if you refuse to surrender; you will be brought to justice dead or alive” The laughter that greeted this remark merely served to anger him further.

Kingsmill spoke up “How are you proposing to arrest us? There seem to be more of us than there are of you, Do as Mr Grey says, and find an Inn.” This was met with more cries of laughter from the men on the beach.

Bentley just turned to the Dragoon officer, and, with a nod of his head, signalled the start of the attack. “Men at..” The Captain started to say, but a well aimed shot caught him between the eyes, before he was able to finish. Bentley looked across, swearing under his breath, and completed the order for the dragoons to attack. The death of their officer spurred them into the fray, battle hardened men who were unafraid to take on the enemy. They were met with more resistance than they thought. Far from being an “unorganised rabble” they soon found their opponents able to hold their own, meeting the dragoons charge with a volley of fire from their long guns and pistols, felling three of their number before they had got close. This effectiveness caused some of them to falter, their pause creating gaps in the line which the smugglers were keen to exploit.

Kingsmill, smiling to himself at his accuracy in shooting the officer, drew his heavy sword and charged into the nearest man, a riding officer. Pulling the man off of his horse, he rained in a series of blows with his sword and boots, ignoring his victim’s screams for mercy. “Take your mercy to God, see if he will listen, because I will not,” he spat as he struck the man with his sword, the blow nearly taking his head from his shoulders. He looked up, to see that the battle had progressed down the beach, the dragoons and customs men surrounded by the rest of the gang, who had cut off their chance of escape. Smiling to himself, he made his way to the two men on horseback who hadn’t charged in, signalling for others to follow him.

Bentley watched the events unfold with horror; knowing he had miscalculated the enemy. To his left, Johnson looked at his superior, his contempt showing in his eyes. “See!” he hissed. “You have got these men killed with your stupidity. I suggest we leave quickly, before we share their fate.”

Numbly, Bentley nodded, and turned his horse around, ready to follow the local officer, but found his way blocked by four men, pistols and swords raised.

“Now, where do you think you are going?” Kingsmill said.

“Just let us go, you have beaten us, we have wives and families...” Johnson pleaded.

“That may be, but you set out to thieve from us, and thieves must be punished,” Kingsmill replied, as the other three men took hold of the two horses’ reins, preventing escape. The men were soon unceremoniously dragged from their horses, Kingsmill holding one man at pistol point while one of the others pointed his pistol at Bentley.

“I will see you hang for this!” snarled Bentley. Kingsmill’s response was to turn his pistol round, and smash the butt into the man’s face, his nose exploding into a mass of snot and blood. The stricken man’s screams filled the air, and Kingsmill turned to the other men and laughed.

As he turned back to look at his prisoner, Bentley saw the murderous look in his eyes. “Yeah, you and who’s army?" Kingsmill sneered. “I mean, this one did you not bloody good.” This was met by more laughter from his companions, Johnson, meanwhile just lay there, snivelling in fear.

The other gang members soon came up the beach, towards Kingsmill, letting the surviving dragoons flee, the two prisoners were tied up, and dragged protesting towards the shore line, where they were dumped unceremoniously on the ground, as the smugglers went back to the job of unloading the cargo.

After an hour, the job was finished, and the horses were led off up the beach towards the town, where the goods would be weighed out and sold on; by morning, each man would be richer, and the goods distributed far and wide, much of it ending up in the very tea houses favoured by Members of Parliament and the aristocracy.

“What about us?” spluttered Bentley; fear overcoming the pain from his smashed nose; as Grey and Kingsmill began to walk up the beach to rejoin their comrades. “You can’t just leave us here; the tides damn you, the tides.”

Grey turned round to the two men, chained up and helpless, unable to move; let alone save themselves from the incoming tide. Indeed, Johnson was already feeling the waves lapping at his feet, paralyzed in fear.

“Actually, we can.” Grey said, observing the look of horror on the Collector of Custom’s face. “See, that’s what you don’t realize, this is our land here, we make the law, not you, nor Parliament, nor the King. Us. Our word is law, and you have broken that law."

Kingsmill looked at the two men, spitting at them in contempt. “Best you start praying to ‘im upstairs” he said. “And make ‘em good ones, I reckon you have a hour to save your souls,“ he paused, staring at the sea, and the boat disappearing off into the horizon, before hurriedly rejoining the others, leaving the two men to their fate, the bodies of their comrades littering the beach, the cries of the gulls mocking them as the waves drew in.


Living in Hawkhurst for many years, the local history of its inhabitants has always interested Andrew, and as most of the fiction around this subject romanticises the smugglers, Andrew is keen that his writing does just the opposite.

Recently divorced, he is due to attend university in October as a mature student. He has written other short stories and ideas purely for his own amusement. His recent split from his wife has prompted him to take what he writes seriously. As well as the short stories he has written a full length novel, Staymaker, based around the downfall of the Hawkhurst gang in the late 1740's. He is currently developing more ideas around the same period and theme, research for Staymaker has given him ideas for other books which are being sketched out at the moment. He is very keen to stay within this topic for future work.


LUCK BE A LADY By James C Clar

The latest in the Higa and Kanahele series...

Luck Be A Lady

The usually crowded streets were all but deserted. It was nearly 3:30 A.M. after all. The only people out wandering were hookers after a few last tricks and late-night revelers on their way to Zippys, Jack in the Box or the Wailana Coffee House in the hopes that something solid might stave off their inevitable hangovers.

It was also hot, unusually so. The palm trees were still, the trade winds had died, and the Kona winds were blowing. Instead of a cooling breeze from the northeast, kama’aina and visitors alike were forced to endure a southeasterly flow of sticky air that rendered conditions more like summer in South Florida than the paradise that was Hawaii.

Not even the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles or the presence of uniformed officers crawling around the Coral Seas Apartment building on Nahua Street near Ala Wai Boulevard like ants on a picnic basket had attracted much attention. In fact, HPD detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele pulled up in front virtually unnoticed. They flashed their badges and were, wordlessly, admitted through the cordon and into the lobby.

It was an older building from the first boom back in the late 60’s and early 70’s and probably once possessed real charm. Now “faded,” “quaint” or even “retro” might be among the most flattering adjectives that could be used to describe it. If the place had air conditioning, it certainly wasn’t having any effect. In fact, if possible, it seemed warmer and more humid inside than out.

Kanahele mopped his massive brow with a sun-faded bandana. Higa, seemingly unaffected by the weather, looked down at the floor. The body lay in the proverbial pool of blood that looked like nothing so much as spilled motor oil. The pitted and scarred tiles underneath, once green and black, had turned the more expected color of rust only where the blood had dried in and between the cracks.

Higa wished it were possible to decipher the meaning of those stains the way archeologists did the ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs at Puako. Maybe then he could fathom the psychological calculus of the tragedy that had apparently taken place here. In the absence of the arcane, however, what remained was old-fashioned police work.

Ninety minutes or so later, with dawn just barely raising its sleepy face from the craggy pillow of Diamond Head, the two detectives sat opposite a man who appeared to be in his early sixties. He had short-cropped, steel gray hair, innumerable military tattoos, and a physique that bespoke, even at his age, hours in the gym.

Arrayed on surprisingly comfortable rattan chairs around a coffee table covered with out-of-date magazines and faded tourist brochures, all three men studiously avoided the spot ten or fifteen feet away near the door where, until recently, the victim had lain. Gone now too were the City & County of Honolulu Medical Examiner and the scene-of-crime techs who had snapped photos, collected physical evidence, measured distances and shot video with clinical detachment.

“So, ah, Mr. Ryder,” the wiry Higa began. “You knew the victim. Is that correct?”

Ryder shifted his weight in his chair. He tapped out a cigarette and lit it with an ancient Zippo. Higa and Kanahele exchanged glances. There were “The Coral Seas is a Smoke-Free Facility” placards in plain view.

“Yeah. His name is, I mean was, Williams. But you know that. We served together.”

“You were in the military, Mr. Ryder?” Kanahele asked. The tattoos made it seem obvious but, in Hawaii, that could be as much about art, a cultural thing, as it was about anything else.

“Sure, the Marines. I served three tours in ‘Nam, ’66, ’67 and ’68. I was a lieutenant. I had R & R on Oahu and really dug the place. I moved over here in, like, 1985. Worked at Matson Shipping.”

Higa looked down at his notebook. “From what we’ve been able to learn, Williams lived in Syracuse, New York. Any idea what he was doing here in Hawaii?”

“Fucked if I know! Guess he was looking for a change of scenery. It’s cold as hell in upstate New York this time of year. Anyhow, he called me, what, maybe a week ago. Must have gotten my number out of the book. Wanted to get together and have a beer. Shoot the shit, talk about ‘the day’. You know the drill.”

“So,” Higa commented offhandedly as he watched a perfectly formed smoke ring rise toward the ceiling where it caught in the draft from a paddle fan and dissipated, “did you … get together with him I mean?”

“Tonight. Had a few drinks over at a little joint called Spinners around the corner off Liliuokalani Avenue. I left him there, I don’t know, around midnight. Maybe 2:15 or so, he shows up here. I buzzed him up. What else was I supposed to do?”

Kanahele pulled his sweaty shirt from his back, looked over at his partner and leaned forward in his chair.

“OK, Mr. Ryder. We’ll come back to all of that in just a minute,” the Hawaiian detective promised. “All the evidence we’ve seen so far points to the fact that the late Mr. Williams shot himself. The thing is, the ‘moke offed himself with your gun. What we’re wondering is how he got a hold of your weapon. Can you help us out with that?”

“He took it from my apartment. Like I said, he came up around 2:15. Dude left about a half hour later, say 2:45. Few minutes or so after that, I noticed that my gun was gone. I keep it on a table near the door. By the time I got down here to the lobby, he was lying over there where you found him. Never even heard the shot.”

“I have to say, Lieutenant Ryder,” Higa observed with a carefully calculated edge, “you seem pretty blasé about this. I mean, an old buddy from the Corps looks you up. You go out for a few drinks. Later that same night he steals your gun and commits suicide in the lobby of your building. And I’m not even talking about the fact that you kept an apparently loaded gun out in the open. You can understand that we’re a little confused here.”

Ryder lit another cigarette from the one that still smoldered in his hand. He blew a few more smoke rings before responding. Higa and Kanahele knew the time had come to wait him out.

“Listen, as far as the gun is concerned, old habits die hard, know what I mean? Hey, of all people, you guys ought to know what’s happening to the neighborhood around here. Any asshole tries to break into my place is gonna’ pay for it. I have all the necessary paperwork.”

“We’re checking into that right now” Kanahele offered.

“Sure. I bet you are. Here’s the deal. Williams was hardly a buddy of mine. We served together. That’s it.”

“But he looked you up, wanted to meet. Enlighten us, Mr. Ryder.” Higa urged. “What did he want, what did you two talk about?”

“What did he want? Absolution. Forgiveness, maybe. I don’t know. I’m no priest.”

“What did Williams need to be forgiven for?”

“Our squad had this dude. He was a little ‘dago named DeFalco. He was like our lucky charm, you know? Every squad has one. He’s the guy who steps on a mine that turns out to be a dud. He takes a round to the helmet and lives to show off the damage with thyroid eyes and an ‘ah shucks’. DeFalco was ours.”

“I was Army. An MP,” Higa commented. “I never saw combat but I know what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah. You have ‘the look’. So, anyhow. DeFalco always took the point. It was un-fucking believable. Guy had a sixth sense or something. Always seemed to know what was around the corner, in the bushes or behind the rocks up ahead. Our losses were way down with him up front. Way down.”

“What’s this got to do with Williams?” Kanahele asked, a trace of exasperation leaking into his voice. Outside, the sounds of early morning delivery trucks mingled with the bird-like chirping of Tagalog as Filipino housekeepers and maintenance staff reported to work at the hotels, condos and apartments that thronged the closely packed network of streets that ran between Kalakaua Avenue and Ala Wai Boulevard.

“Williams was a ‘newbie’. Just posted to the 7th Squad, Delta Company. That was us. So, OK. We were on patrol in the Highlands about eight ‘klicks from the borders with Laos and Cambodia. You guys know anything about that part of the ‘Nam? Well, let me tell you, spooky and surreal don’t even begin to describe it. The heat and humidity during the daytime was unbearable. Makes this stretch we’re going through here now feel like a cold snap.”

Kanahele looked up. As far as he was concerned, a ‘cold snap’ sounded great.

“Then there were the areas of mist that would appear just above the floor of the jungle, anytime, anyplace. All the trails in the area were mined or booby-trapped plus the whole motherfucking area was crawling with VC snipers and ambush parties. Everybody was on edge.”

“Like I said, DeFalco was our lucky charm. But he was quirky, man. Quirky. We were all used to it, but not Williams. See every time we stopped, DeFalco would take this plastic bag out of his pack and sniff what was inside.”

“What’d he have in there,” Kanahele asked, “coke, powdered amphetamine, killer weed?”

“Shit, no. It was a cookie. I kid you not. It was a friggin’ cookie. See, DeFalco’s mom had sent him a box. Chocolate chip loaded with walnuts. They were righteous. He shared ‘em with us. He saved one and carried it with him whenever he was on patrol. It was like his own good luck charm.”

“OK,” Kanahele interrupted. “This DeFalco rested up and recharged by sniffing an old chocolate chip cookie? That’s, maybe, the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Let me tell you detective. I saw a whole lot that was crazier. And, listen, the fear out there was paralyzing. You’d latch onto anything … anything … that got you through another patrol. No lie, though, it was when DeFalco started carrying that cookie around that our luck changed for the better. But Williams, he agreed with you. He was all over DeFalco. Wouldn’t let it go. I talked to him two, maybe three times about it. Still wouldn’t quit. It was starting to get to everyone.”

“So Williams and DeFalco didn’t hit it off,” Jake Higa spoke quietly. “I’m still not clear on how all of that bears on what happened here tonight.”

Ryder shrugged his shoulders and smiled wryly. “I’m just telling a story here, that’s all.” A pile of cigarette butts grew exponentially on the table in front of him like a bouquet of blighted flowers.

“Two days into our patrol, we were humping across a small clearing of elephant grass. Defalco walked point. All of a sudden, automatic fire came from the tree line off to our right. Defalco was hit and went down. The rest of us kissed dirt and returned fire. Next thing you know, the sons-of-bitches started shelling the clearing. It was chaos. We couldn’t get a fix on their artillery to radio for air cover. I figured our only chance was to flush ‘em out and take cover in the trees ourselves.”

For the first time, Higa and Kanahele noticed sweat breaking out on Ryder’s brow. His eyes had a far away look. Both men knew instinctively not to interrupt him.

“We made it into the trees. Cost me three men plus two wounded. Eventually, the VC lost interest and the shelling stopped. Ask me what we were supposed to be doing there in the first place? It was just one little ‘who the fuck knows’ in a much bigger ‘who the fuck knows’. We retrieved DeFalco’s body, went through his belongs, pulled his tags out of his boot. The bag with his cookie was still there, but it was filled with something that looked and smelled like dried monkey shit. We all knew. Had to be Williams.”

“Later, during dust-off, Williams was the last one on the ‘Huey. I had him stay back and cover us while we got everyone aboard. We were just starting to take off when he grabbed hold and hoisted himself up. I was tempted to kick the bastard in the teeth and watch his sorry ass fall back into the elephant grass. They were shelling again by then.”

“But you didn’t,” Higa said.

“No. He was a son-of-a-bitch, but he was one of mine.”

“I guess we know now what you two talked about tonight don’t we?” Kanahele added. “Maybe you even offered to give your old war buddy a way out, huh? A chance to make amends after all these years.”

“You’re giving me way too much credit detective. We were just two vets, hanging out, having a couple of beers. Besides, in this heat, people do all kinds of crazy shit. Listen, I’ll tell you one thing, though. Luck might be a lady, but Karma’s a bitch with a long memory and a bad attitude.”

Higa stood and Kanahele followed suit.

“I probably don’t have to tell you this Lieutenant Ryder,” Higa said as he moved toward the door. “But don’t take any vacations for awhile. We’ll be in touch.”

“Were would I go, detective? This is the Land of Aloha, right?”


Sitting behind the wheel of their car, the sun cascading now down over the Manoa Valley to the northeast and turning the inky waters of the Ala Wai dull silver, Higa turned toward his husky partner.

“The heat may make people do crazy things, Ray, but Ryder is morally responsible for what happened here tonight. We both know he talked Williams into it. He egged him on, drove him to it somehow. The best we’ll be able to do legally, though, is a weapons charge. He’ll get fined, maybe loose his permit. That’s it. A guy like that, he’ll have another piece in a couple of days.”

“You’re right,” the stocky Hawaiian replied as he rolled down his window. “But I’m sure as shit not gonna’ loose any sleep over it. They both seem like scumbags to me, apart from their service to our country you understand. Hear that?”

The big man inclined his head toward the open window of the car.

“The palms are singing again. The trades are back. Maybe the weather’s finally broken and things will get back to normal … or what passes for ‘normal’ … around here. Anyhow, you know what they say, right?”

“Please, Ray, it’s been a long night,” Higa pleaded. “Don’t … “

With a twinkle in his eye, Ray Kanahele couldn’t stop himself. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

The End


James C. Clar has published short fiction in print as well as on the Internet. He has worked in a wide a variety of genres, crime/noir, fantasy, SF, horror and mainstream. Of late, however, HPD detectives Higa and Kanahele have been taking up a good deal of his time. The exotic and multicultral setting of Waikiki -- where natural beauty and the more sordid and tawdry often exist side-by-side -- continues to be a source of fascination and inspiration.

Saturday 24 July 2010

TO DUST by Rebecca L. Brown

TKnC welcomes Rebecca...

To Dust

His fingernails were dirty. He dragged his knife under the tip of each one, scraping them clean. The reddish-brown curls of the scrapings fell onto the threadbare carpet; he brushed them away with a weather-worn hand. Coming here, especially coming here with her; the biggest mistake of his life. He sighed, the warm staleness of his breath turning to a plume in the unheated room, and brushed one hand through his dusty hair. His neck itched, the hairs prickling against his filthy shirt. The dirt mixed with his sweat, forming little streaks of mud on his skin.

They had arrived the previous night, hand in hand. He remembered her laughing at some joke or another, her teeth sharp but off-white, a little crooked. They had sat up late, rekindling their flame even as the candles died away to nothing.

There was a rusty tang in his mouth, a gritty bitterness on his tongue. He spat the brown gobbet onto the carpet- not his problem. Even if it was, he wouldn’t care.

She had poured him a glass of deep red wine, swirling it around the glass as she walked towards him. Never the connoisseur she wanted him to be, he had gulped it down. A trickle of wine had fallen from the side of his mouth, leaving a sticky trail on his chin. She had unbuttoned his shirt, rubbing his tired shoulders. His head swimming, he rested his chin on his chest, then his chest on his knees. He remembered hearing her snort inelegantly, thinking that was so unlike her, the pristine persona she so desperately tried to create; something he was never a part of.

He was cold now. The hairs on his arms bristled. He rubbed his hands up and down them, feeling the grit rolling on his skin.

She had never been too clever for all her pretences. The grave had been shallow, just enough to cover the rug she had wrapped him in. When he had come round, it had taken him moments to dig his way out. Of course, he supposed, she hadn’t expected him to be digging his way out…

Now he was waiting. The dirt didn’t bother him any more, he’d been dirty before. He couldn’t wait to see her face when she came to collect her things. With two fingers and a thumb, he wiped the knife clean.

Rebecca L. Brown is a British writer. She specialises in horror, SF, humour, surreal and experimental fiction, although her writing often wanders off into other genres and gets horribly lost. For updates and examples of Rebecca’s work, visit her Twitter page @rlbrownwriter or her blog Bewildering Circumstances http://bewilderingcircumstances.blogspot.com/

Thursday 22 July 2010


TKnC Welcomes Emmanuel with...

Revenge is a Dish Best Served With a Cold Beer

Red brought a chainsaw to work and decided to cut the boss's head off after lunch. Maybe he’d hack the fucking secretary into pieces too. Why stop there? He would just work his way through the building and carve them up at random along the way. They were all a bunch of shits anyway and they would get what they deserved. He put the chainsaw in a guitar case to keep it disguised. It was going to be a grand time at the office today, he thought with a grin.

When he got to work that morning, curious co-workers asked what the guitar was for. He told everyone that he was going to play some music later. Someone asked if they could see it, and he had to think quickly, couldn’t let anyone blow it for him. He said, “Nope. I never let anyone see my axe before a performance.”

At his desk, Red logged onto the network and browsed the Internet. He made a post on his blog about how pissed he was at the system and everybody in it. He fucking hated the world. He was a self-professed cynical misanthrope and fuck anyone that tried to argue. Screw all the assholes and let them fucking rot, that was Red’s final thought on the whole thing. At the end of the blog post he said he was going to get even by making hamburger out of everyone, grill them up and serve them with a side of pickles, tomato, onion, lettuce and mayo, and eat them with some Bush’s baked beans and a cold beer. It was a joke, of course, but after a while it began to sound like a good idea. He was getting hungry anyway. Maybe they could have an early al fresco lunch out back at the company picnic table.

Carl, the company computer guy, came over to Red’s cubicle and stood with his arms crossed, foot tapping a tattoo on the floor, as he looked at the computer screen.

“What ya up to?” Carl inquired.

“What’s it look like?” Red replied.

“It looks like you’re wasting company time on the Internet,” Carl said, examining his cuticles. “You know that’s against company policy.”

“Yeah, I know that,” Carl said, grinding his teeth. “So what’s it to you? Why do you care?”

“It’s my job to monitor the computers and the users,” Carl said, leaning on the cubicle. “And you are a user on a company computer . . . so that means you’re in my domain. I’m going to have to file a report.”

“You know what?” Red said. “It just so happens that I’ve got a surprise for everyone today. I was going to save it until after lunch . . . but you’ve convinced me that there is no better time than the present.”

“A surprise?” Carl said.

Red picked up the guitar case and set it on the desk. “I’m going to play everyone a song.”

“How nice,” Carl said sarcastically.

Red opened the guitar case and pulled out the chainsaw. Carl’s eyes bulged in horror as Red yanked the starter chord and the chainsaw rumbled and sputtered to life. Red revved the throttle and the chainsaw screamed and growled, hissing and puffing out clouds of oily blue smoke.

“What the hell—” Carl began, but was quickly silenced when Red hacked into his neck and chopped off his head. Blood and shredded meat splattered Red’s face and the walls of his cubicle.

It was complete chaos and pandemonium as Red chopped through the cubicles and lopped off heads and limbs as he went. Screams and shouts of terror harmonized with the chainsaw roar echoing through the office building in a diabolical cacophony. Red was oblivious to any pleas for mercy. Blood ran in streams and pooled on the floor. The boss came out to see what was causing the commotion and his eyes widened in terror as Red descended upon him, swinging the chainsaw like a samurai warrior, slashing, chopping, grinding, and whittling the corpse limb from limb.

The massacre lasted only for a few minutes and no one could escape. Red was too quick and too pissed off to let anyone go free and he had blocked all the doors in advance. Each of the co-workers became meat and offal as Red carved them up like a master butcher.

After everyone was dead, Red went out the back exit into the lounge area and fired up the gas barbecue grill. He slapped four generous ground meat patties onto the grill and cooked them to medium rare. He took a pilsner beer from the boss’s stash in the refrigerator and sat down at the picnic table and dined contentedly on the hamburgers. It was a fine day after all. The sun was shining on his face and his stomach was full. The beer was exquisite. He would sit and savor the moment as he waited for the authorities to arrive. Things couldn’t have worked out better, he thought with a satisfied grin as he popped the cap off another cold beer.

I was born on February 18th 1970 in Aberdeen, Washington. I lived in Alaska for about 10 years and I now reside in Martinsville, Indiana. I have been writing fiction and poetry since I was 15 years old, which is more than half of my life, and have always loved the magic of a well told story, especially those that go bump in the night. Visit my website at

Wednesday 21 July 2010


TKnC welcomes Phil from across the pond...

The Devil Knows My Love

“Shot of whiskey,” I said, “with a beer back.”

Leroy didn’t move. “You think that’s a good idea, Sheriff?”

I was damn tired. But you go on.

“What about…”

“Pour the drinks, Leroy.”

As Leroy’s hands went to work in the well, the bar mirror reflected back my bloodshot eyes, the thinning white hair. Christ, I wasn’t even fifty. Setting the drinks by my hands, Leroy leaned back, folding his arms, his eyes darting behind me. The shot burned going down and I cooled the flames with the chilled brew.

“Like I told you over the phone,” Leroy said, “she got off the last bus.”

The station stood across from the bar. The ten o’clock usually rolled on through—no one stopped here anymore.


“I watched her stroll on over,” Leroy said. “She’s a fucking number.”

I finished my beer in a couple of messy swallows. “Stay here,” I said then headed to the back room where the raucous was coming from.There were a couple of pool tables set up and a young gal was standing on one. Leroy’s mathematics was right on—the dress was indecent and her assets were bopping around as she swung a pool stick through the air, fending off the three Cleburne brothers.

“Evening, boys,” I said.

Their heads turned in unison and Jake, the youngest, took the stick off the temple. He staggered back into the other pool table, his hands pressed to his head.

“Oh, damn,” the gal said.

“What’s got me out of bed at this hour?” I said.
Harry took a swig from his beer. He was the oldest and tallest of the three still alive. Sam Cleburne had disappeared hunting in the woods a year ago and we never found no trace of him.

“Well, Sheriff,” he said, “this whore here hustled us.”

“And we was just tryin’ to get our money back,” Abe, the middle brother, said.

“You playing these boys, miss?” I said to the gal.

She gave me a glimpse of a smile, pearly as the handle of my gun. “I won the money fairly,” she said.

“I don’t doubt it,” I said. “Boys ain’t much for playing pool when they’ve been drinking.”

“We can’t shoot sober, neither,” Harry said.

Abe bent over snickering and his older brother clapped him on the back.

“Screw this,” Jake said. “I’m bleeding.” He showed me the red on his hands and dove for the gal’s legs.

Almost got them, too, but he was drunk and I was far from it. I grabbed him by the shirt and tossed him to the floor. He hated me then, but it didn’t mean nothing.

“Remember our talk, Jacob?” I said.

Jake had been accused of rape a few months back, so I went and visited the girl and her parents. I got the charges dropped. And Jake promised me he wouldn’t punch no gal in the face if she didn’t put out.

I reached my hand up. “Miss, come on down from there.” Her hand was soft, too soft.

“Thank you, sheriff.”

“How much you take them for?” I said.

She let her chest heave with a sigh. “Not nearly enough.”

“Took us for a couple bills,” Abe said. “We work all week for that.”

“Give it on back,” I said.

She removed her grip from mine. “But, Sheriff, I…”

“Come on, now, girl,” I said. “It’s too late for this nonsense.”

Her hand went into a slit on the side of her dress and she tossed a wad of cash into the air.


I let her ride in front of my cruiser.

“You gonna arrest me?” she said.

“We do got a law on vagrancy.”

“You got a motel in town?”

“Not anymore.”

“Then throw me in the clink, Sheriff.”

“The plumbing ain’t right in the jail,” I said, “and I don’t feel like sitting there all night anyways.”

“Then what are you going to do with me?”

Up ahead, the railroad gate swung down and the bells started clanging. I braked to a stop as the first of dozens of coal cars lumbered through.

I threw the shifter in park. “We got ourselves a wait.” I turned towards her, the red warning lights flashing across her face. “Why don’t you tell me your story?”

“What makes you think…?”

“Cut the bull.”

“Why should I tell you anything?”

“Cuz I’m planning on bringing you back to the bus station tomorrow morning. I’ll put you on the next coach outta here and we’ll wave goodbye to each other.”

“You’d do that for me?”

“It’s the easiest solution.”

“Where am I going to spend the night?”

“I got a spare room in my house.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do.”

“It’s not like that.”

“I’ll bet.”

“I’m married. With a sixteen-year old boy.”

Everybody’s hiding somethin’ and after a few more cars crept by, she started telling me her dirty tale. She was a stripteaser at a club…

“That’s where I learned how to shoot pool.”

…but the manager…

“An angry Russian ape.”

…wanted her to do more on her private lap dances…

“But nobody is touching me like that.”

…and so she had to run…

“And the bus ticket got me this far,” she said, as the railroad gates lifted up and we passed on through.

I lived in the boonies, far from the people I was sworn to protect. My house was a century older than me; termites festered in the joists and studs, water dripped through holes in the roof, and the porch had seceded from the foundation, setting off fissures throughout the walls.

My high beams caught a shadow by the front door, though my rider didn’t see it, too busy taking in the condition of my home.

“Not exactly what I expected,” she said.

“Didn’t promise you a four-star hotel,” I said.

“No, can’t say that you did.”

There was movement in the dark beyond the driveway. My head snapped that way. As the car door was thrust open, dirt stained hands reached in and grabbed my passenger by the waist and shoulder. She shrieked while being yanked out of the car. A fist collided with her cheek, quieting her, leaving behind grit and a bloody smear.

My boy was lean and quick—Sam Cleburne was one of his catches, too—and he dragged the gal along the gravel driveway. The blow had only stunned her and she was screaming again, squirming at the hips, trying to gouge her attacker. He dropped his load and his steel toed boot caught her in the face. When she didn’t move no more, he grabbed a handful of blonde hair and pulled her towards the side of the house, her feet leaving a trail in the stones. I got out the car, shutting both doors, eyeing my son pull her into the hatchway and down into the cellar.

I walked onto the porch, my wife stepping from her hiding spot. She had been waiting since I had told her about Leroy’s call. Her eyes gleamed in the dark. I unclipped my holster and her hand grabbed my gun. She walked over to the cellar, shutting the hatch.

This madness—no, it’s a disease—started within her and then our desire sired it again. The devil knows my love for this woman. I went inside and collapsed on the sofa and as the screams rose up, my hands shook and sweat broke out all over my body. This was the worst part, before they put the gag in.

And then it was quiet. You couldn’t hear what they were doing. Tomorrow I would tell Leroy and the Cleburne boys that I had driven the lady to the next town. My son would go to high school and act normal. My wife’s desires would be sated—if only for a little while.

Before dawn, from beneath me, a single gunshot.

Phil Beloin Jr. lives in Connecticut. His first novel, "The Big Bad", is published by Hilliard and Harris and can be found on Amazon.com.

Saturday 17 July 2010


TKnC welcomes newcomer Max with...


Sheila chose to take the high road that circled up behind the Twin Falls area for her daily run. This maintenance road through the jungle; a graded road running next to the Lowery ditch was used by the East Maui Irrigation company to repair the canal and keep debris from clogging up its steady flow. It was also used by many long-distance runners and sports addicts to keep in shape year-around. Sheila considered it to be a safe run and normally ran it three or four times a week.

Occasionally, she ran into runners she knew, but today the jungle was uncommonly still and silent. No trade winds rustled in the thick overhead canopy. The maze of nearby foliage was strangely devoid of the usual and constant twittering of small Hawaiian forest birds and their constant darting about from tree to tree.

Fritz followed Sheila at a distance, careful not to step on rotting tree limbs, dry leaves or branches to alert her to his stalking. He was dressed in a white, woman's jogging outfit, a cap that read, I love American Idol (written in glittery sequins above the visors) and a pair of black size twelve high top men's Converse tennis shoes. His long red hair was pulled underneath his cap creating a bulbous, almost comical light bulb shape. In his fanny pack he carried two Diet Pepsi's, a Shott hairbrush, a tube of Revlon maroon lipstick, four condoms, a ball-peen hammer and a large serrated switch-blade knife.

Fritz knew most of the paths in the Twin Falls recreation area and realized he could intersect with Sheila half way up to the falls by taking the lower trail and then doubling back on an old firebreak road to arrive ahead of her at the water siphon. He ran at a jog as soon as he reached the lower road. He occasionally caught glimpses of Sheila's long and luminous blond hair on the high road above through the multiple shades of the jungle's concealing verdure and frondescence. He scurried off the road when a group of camera- toting, overweight and pasty Canadian tourists ambled down the road towards the parking area, complaining all the while about the oppressive heat, the awful humidity and the annoying mosquitoes.

Sheila was happy today, smiling as she jogged, thinking about her upcoming wedding to Oz, thinking about whom to invite to the ceremony, whom to invite to the reception and who not to invite when she saw a lone woman sitting on a large rotting log next to the trail. The red haired woman was moaning, holding her ankle and obviously in great pain. Sheila assumed she was a professional athlete of some sort from the sinewy tone of her long legs and her broad muscular shoulders.

"Are you okay?"

"Can you please help me up? I think I can hobble back to my rental car, if you can give me a hand up. Tripped over a tree root... I got lost," The woman said in an deep, oddly intoned, but friendly voice. Sheila thought she recognized the voice, but she couldn't place it.

"Lean on me. I'll help you back to your car."

"Okay, sweetie. Thank you so much for helping me. It must be a mile or more back to the parking area. I don't want to keep you from your exercise. I need to rest here for a moment, my head is spinning a bit... so sorry to put you out."

"No problem. I'd want somebody to help me if I hurt my ankle up here. My name is Sheila Unger."

"I'm... from Vancouver. Silly me, running alone. I usually run with my boyfriend... Walter."

"I run with my fiancé, but he's off island... funny, everyone calls him Oz, but his given name is Walter too." Sheila said, wishing Oz was with her now, thinking the woman might be a lesbian from the odd inflections of her voice and the way she stared into her eyes with a look of expectation and superiority. Something she just couldn't put her finger on aroused her suspicions, but she disregarded it.

Many years ago Fritz and three friends were playing in the Lowery canal's swift current using automobile inner tubes for flotation when a boy died. It was reported in the Maui News that the young boy hit his head on the rocks jutting down from the man-made tunnel's ceiling while on his inner tube. That he had been knocked unconscious and had passed through a defective rusted iron grate. The boy had then drifted down to where Fritz now stood with Sheila in front of the grate leading into a long irrigation tunnel. The metal rusted barrier fronting the tunnel was made of four-inch-wide iron I-beams; a criss-crossed grate to keep large limbs and dead cattle out of the Maui water system. The grate had rusted out back then, as it was now and this was something Fritz never forgot. He had thrown the single rock that had rendered the boy unconscious. The young boy had gone through the rusted gate to his death through the siphon and was eventually found miles away in the canal system near Haiku town.

Fritz recalled the vivid description in that long-ago news story... once inside this long tunnel, the circumference narrows to less than a two-foot diameter. Over a distance of several hundred yards the water pressure and momentum build tremendously to create a siphon effect. The water in the tunnel then drops abruptly for nearly a half of a mile through a series of even narrower pipes. Upon reaching the valley floor the water pressure creates an even more powerful siphon, thereby forcing the water up the other side of the deep valley with incredible force. Eventually, the water flows out to the sugar cane fields in the isthmus between the beautiful East and West volcanoes of Maui. Death from being trapped in this siphon doesn't come instantaneously, but arrives slowly and painfully from a combination of asphyxia; sever bodily trauma, and possibly heart failure brought on by sheer claustrophobic terror within the mind.

"I need to brush my hair back to keep it out of my face, don't want to trip again," Fritz said, holding his cap in one hand, shaking his long hair out over his shoulders and unzipping his fanny back. He produced a brush that he had stolen from Sheila - just one of numerous items that he appropriated the day she arrived at Oz's estate.

Sheila stared at the brush in the woman's big hands. She found it very odd and somewhat confusing that the woman would have a Shott hairbrush with the her initials, SKU, engraved on the handle exactly like the one she had misplaced only days before.

Fritz smiled to Sheila as he brushed back his long red hair and repeatedly stretched a frilly pink hair band in his big nimble fingers. He looked directly into Sheila's eyes with an overly friendly smile and then gave the brush to Sheila to hold. He tied back his mass of wavy long red hair, secured it with the frilly band, flattened down the sides and then pushed stray strands of wispy hair behind his big ears. He quickly grabbed the brush out of her hands, returned it to the fanny pack and wrapped his hand tightly around the wooden handle of the ball-peen hammer.

"Gees, I lost a brush exactly like that recently," Sheila said, dumbfounded, wondering how her ninety-dollar hair brush, the one that she was almost certain was hers, had gotten into this woman's hands. She also noticed strands of blond hair, very much like her own in the boar bristles just as the woman snatched the brush back from her. Curiously, the woman appeared to be free of pain from her fall now. She was rocking back and forth with an odd nervous energy and seemed to be supported on her sprained foot with no problems.

"Have we met?" Sheila asked, trying to connect the woman's face with a name.

"I would think so," Fritz declared, a tinge of sarcasm in his voice. He no longer spoke in a woman's higher register.

"Really? Funny, I recognize your voice, but..." Sheila stopped cold, was abruptly taken aback and just stood staring at Fritz's face with her mouth agape.

"Yes, it is I, Fritz Mann. Real shame you'll never get to know me as the beautiful Marilyn Mann. I'm sure we could have become great friends under different circumstances, honey."

"Fritz?" Sheila asked, flabbergasted and bewildered. "Why do you have my hairbrush... not that you can't borrow it... just ... well, please ask me the next time, okay?" Sheila said, not really knowing how to respond. It was creeping her out seeing Fritz in female clothing and jewelry, make up and endowed with breasts much larger and fuller than hers.

"Surprised?" Fritz asked with a contemptuous smile.

"You might say that. Gees, I'm not really sure what to say."

"There's nothing for you to say. Since you are the other woman in my life... and well, gees, I need you to be out of it, out of it for good. I'm in love with Oz and I can't have you spoiling all my plans, for heavens sake." Fritz said, in a mimicking and mocking tone as he extracted the bal-peen hammer fully from his fanny back. He held it behind his back still, twirling it between his strong fingers like a cheerleader with her favorite baton.

"Your plans? Oz and I are going to marry, Fritz. I know you are his best friend, business partner and all that, but... well... what is this? Is this some kind of joke? Come on Fritz, what are you up to? Is this a prank, come on... Mick? Mick! Are you out there in the jungle somewhere with your movie camera?" Sheila asked, displaying her big toothy gleaming smile, subconsciously transmitting a scream for help in the form of an exaggerated and very loud nervous laugh. It was all too weird for her, but she realized it could only be a prank.

"Mick, are you filming me... are you making another one of your YouTube videos or somethin'?"

She looked around nervously, expecting Mick and her friends to suddenly jump out of the dense jungle and have a long roaring laugh at her expense.

"It's no joke, Sheila." Fritz said, as he swung the hammer up solidly into her jaw. She reached up with her hands and caught the tip of her tongue in her hands that she had bitten off and then spat out a broken tooth. She stared at her tongue tip for a moment, her eyes widening in panic and confusion. Fritz moved behind her, brought the hammer down fast and hard on different spots on top of her head and on one side of her once beautiful face.

Sheila stumbled forward, but Fritz held her up with one hand by her pony tail and swung four more times with an audible cracking to her skull. He was certain the round steel head of the ball peen hammer would look like smooth rock impacts to the skull caused by the tunnel ceiling and the larger immovable boulders on the tunnel floor to a medical examiner.

Blood flowed copiously from Sheila's ears and mouth onto her running clothes. She was on her knees making gurgling sounds in her throat, looking over her shoulder at Fritz with pleading eyes, paralyzed with fear, trying unsuccessfully to scream for help. She still held her tongue tip tightly between her thumb and index fingers, as if it were a re-attachable fashion accessory.

"Can't have you falling down in the dirt, sweetheart, we don't want this to look like a struggle - a cat fight between us girls. Into the canal you go, surfer girl." Fritz said, giving Sheila one more whack to her skull and then a solid heave into the fast flowing canal.

He watched her sink. She went forward with the swift current as he stared in amusement at her repeatedly gasping for air. Convulsions shook her body like a traumatized fish wiggling frantically after being mercifully released back into its element. Her body turned over and she floated face down in the stream for a few yards, then suddenly her head shot up gasping again for air. She then fainted back into the water on her back, her head craned up at an odd angle, her neck distended to its limits, arms flailing against the current, her lungs struggling to inhale precious air before they filled completely with blood and the murky dirty brow water of the canal.

At the mouth of the tunnel she became hung up on one of the rusted and jagged I- beams that made up the criss-cross bars of the grate. Fritz looked around for a long limb to pry her off. Just as he broke off a dead limb from a Kukui tree with a loud splitting of wood, she opened her eyes to look directly at Fritz and began to struggle with a renewed and fierce determination. By doing this she was inadvertently freed from the rusted grate and was forcefully pulled by the relentless current deeper and deeper into the tunnel. Fritz waved goodbye with a satisfied feeling as she disappeared into the dark hillside tunnel, absolute horror now etched in her flawless complexion and blue eyes.

Fritz figured her body shouldn't get stuck in the siphon pipes since the past week was heavy with rain and a strong flow. Her body, if found, would be found miles away after the siphon pipe resurfaced into an open canal near Kahikoa Road.

He didn't think her body would float all the way down through the miles and miles of canals, bloated and battered in the canals adjacent to the island's main airport or in the surrounding sugar cane field's labyrinth-like irrigation system.

On the way back Fritz stopped at the lower falls and pond to wash Sheila's blood from his hands, to relax, enjoy the beauty of the day and to take a refreshing swim in the buff. Murder was tiring and very hot work in this oppressive heat and humidity. He drank down one of the lukewarm Diet Pepsi's in one long gulp and belched long and loud.

DIRTY BOMB By James C. Clar

Dirty Bomb

“Are you kidding me, Jake,” HPD detective Ray Kanahele said to his partner as the two strode down the hallway of the Infectious Disease Unit at Tripler Army Medical Center. “This is all they’re giving us, surgical masks? Damn. Like these pupule things are gonna’ protect us!”

True to form, Jake Higa didn’t respond. He placed the elastic bands from his own mask over his head and behind his ears. He looked up at his taller, stockier friend and shrugged his shoulders in stoic resignation.

Kanahele’s cell phone chirped as the two men approached the guard standing in front of the double doors to the Intensive Care area at the extreme end of the hallway. The stocky Hawaiian policeman spoke briefly, voice muffled by the mask which he adamantly refused to remove. He clicked off and placed his phone back in his pocket.

“They’ve ID’s this moke, Jake. You can’t make this shit up. You believe in karma, right? Well what did we do in our previous lives that we catch all the really weird ones?”

The two policemen conferred for a few moments then flashed their badges at the soldier standing sentry. The young man keyed a code into the lock, stood aside, and admitted Higa and Kanahele to the unit …


Appropriately enough, Ahmad boarded the plane in New York. It was an Embraer commuter jet and thus eminently suited for the first leg of his journey.

“The timing has been calculated almost to the minute,” he was told by his handlers. “Do what you have been instructed to do when you have been instructed to do it and all will be well. Allah willing, of course.”

Once on the ground in Chicago, Ahmad was surprised to note that they were twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Remarkable for O’Hare he reflected, and surely an auspicious omen.

As he exited the aircraft, he was careful to respond warmly to the smiling flight attendant. “Have a wonderful day, sir, and thanks for flying with us.”

The older woman looked at him somewhat strangely when he clasped her hand firmly in both of his. Ahmad was proud of how he had been able to hide just how distasteful he found such contact. Sacrifices of the sort were necessary and would, of course, bring great credit to Ahmad and his family.

As he made his way from Concourse F to Concourse B, he noticed that he was beginning to perspire slightly. Just as anticipated. He was careful to keep his hand on the railings of the moving walkways and to stay as close to large groups of people as possible. Allah smiled on him further as he was able to insinuate himself amid two or three families – mothers, fathers and assorted, ill-mannered and precocious teenage children on cell phones – who were also heading in his general direction.

At one point he stopped at a Starbuck’s kiosk and drank some mediocre American coffee. Of course he had to wait in a long line and, as he had hoped, the seating was limited and thus exceptionally crowded. To this point at least, everything had gone exactly as planned, exactly as predicted.

At B-17, his departure gate, Ahmad found a seat in the most crowded area. He was surrounded by the members of a high school basketball team on their way to a tournament somewhere in Hawaii. Under other circumstances, and with a ninety minute wait until boarding, he most certainly would have chosen somewhere else to pass the time. The utter inanity of their nonstop conversation … prattle, really … was almost more than he could take. Yet, here as well, it was another amazing stroke of good fortune that he would be on the same flight as such a group. Adolescent hygiene (or lack thereof) was not generally something that occupied his attention. In this case, however, he found himself smiling inwardly as he considered the possibilities.

The flight from Chicago to Honolulu lasted nearly nine hours but was, mercifully, uneventful. Ahmad’s seat, No. 33E, was strategically located in the middle of the Boeing 777. The flight was filled to capacity. For the older couple on his left, their Hawaii vacation was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. The two young men seated to his right wore US Army fatigues and appeared to be returning to the islands after leave on the Mainland. Again, Ahmad found himself smiling at the irony.

Ahmad made numerous trips to the aft lavatories. He was careful to use a different one each time. He also made four or five circuits around the interior of the aircraft, as much to stretch his legs as for any other reason. He was grateful that the flight was virtually turbulence free and that the seatbelt sign was seldom, if ever, illuminated. The only constraining factors were his innate politeness in not wanting to disturb those around him and the necessity of dodging the beverage and food carts.

The coughing began about two hours before landing. People nearby scowled and shot him dirty looks as his hacking increased in frequency and productivity. He covered his mouth assiduously but, at the same time, touched as many different surfaces in his vicinity as possible.

The plane landed at 3:10 HST. Instead of taking the Wiki-Wiki Shuttle, Ahmad walked from Gate 8 near the end of the Diamond Head Concourse to the baggage claim area in the main terminal building.

After breathing re-circulated air for so long, the outside walkway was a delight. He was thankful that he was still able to appreciate such simple pleasures. He reveled in the heady scents of plumeria, ginger and hibiscus that mixed so incongruously with the sharper, more acrid tang of jet fuel. Off in the distance the iconic profile of Diamond Head shimmering in the afternoon sunlight provided a backdrop to the downtown Honolulu skyline. He noted with interest the gaudy pink of Tripler Army Medical Center hanging like a coral pendant on the gentle green slope of the mountains to the northeast.

After collecting his suitcase, Ahmad was hustled into a shuttle van with at least twelve other visitors for the ride into Waikiki. He would have preferred to splurge on a taxi but, of course, being jammed into such close proximity to even more people was all part of the plan. Still, he was quite warm, his cough had worsened and his growing weakness was becoming a real concern.

The shuttle stopped at four other hotels before depositing Ahmad under the brilliant white Victorian porte cochére of the Moana Surfrider. He ascended the steps and found the front desk to check in. He barely noticed the huge floral arrangements, the polished Koa wood staircase leading to the second floor or the breathtaking views of the ocean that could be glimpsed through the sliding doors of the main lobby.

Ahmad’s instructions were to make a circuit of the more popular Waikiki tourist haunts, Duke’s, the Hula Grill and perhaps even the more upscale House Without A Key. If possible, lounging on the beach – arguably one of the more decadent of Western pastimes – was also recommended to increase his chances for contact. Once settled in his room, however, all he could think about was showering and going to sleep. He also needed some water, desperately. He had a splitting headache now and he was ashamed of himself that, despite all his training, he had apparently allowed himself to become dehydrated.

Ahmad awoke to the sound of the surf relentlessly washing the sands of Waikiki Beach eleven stories below him. He had fallen asleep with his lanai door open. The muted sounds of families frolicking in the ocean reached him like a distant echo. He had just enough energy to make it to the bathroom, splash some clear, cold water on his overheated brow and then stumble back into bed.

During one of his more lucid moments, he noticed with almost clinical detachment that the sheets that covered him were sticky with clotting and clotted blood. So he hadn’t been hallucinating after all, someone had attempted to apprehend him and prevent him from completing his mission. He had a blurred memory of reaching for the knife that lay beneath his pillow.

Sometime later – and that really was the best that Ahmad could do as time ceased to have any real meaning for him – there appeared to be some commotion in his room. He didn’t care. He had fallen into what seemed to be a deep, hot, dark hole. While it was true, he had not completed all of the tasks that had been set for him, Ahmad was reasonably certain that what he had done would be more than sufficient.

When he looked up from the bottom of the chasm where he lay, he saw vectors in all the colors of the rainbow branching out in an infinite number of directions like wisps or tendrils of smoke or, more appropriately, like molten lava flowing over a landscape the size and shape of a globe until the orb was covered, consumed, obliterated. All that remained was an ember and that too, eventually, burned itself out and was black. For Ahmad, Paradise awaited …


The cubicle where the patient lay unconscious and restrained was a stark white. Higa seemed unfazed by the surroundings but Kanahele shuffled his feet nervously as he adjusted and re-adjusted his surgical mask. He found it difficult to take his eyes off the various machines that beeped and chirped all around him. He watched the translucent tubes that snaked their way under the sheet that covered the suspect with a mixture of morbid fascination and utter abhorrence.

“Can you tell me anything more about our patient, detectives?” A young doctor, whose name tag read “Hsu,” spoke to the two men as they entered the cubicle.

“Well, for what it’s worth, Dr. Hsu,” Jake Higa said quietly, “the good news is that he’s not on the terror watch list. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have a record of any kind. So far as we can tell, he’s clean.”

“Yeah, clean as a whistle,” Kanahele added. “Buggah’s name is Ahmad Qalat. He emigrated from Pakistan back in 2006. He worked as a baggage handler at Chicago O’Hare for two years and came here, lucky us, in ’08. He’s been driving a taxi ever since.”

“Obviously we won’t know for sure until we can interrogate him, doctor” Higa continued. “But my guess would be that Mr. Qalat here got tired of ferrying wealthy tourists back and forth between the airport and Waikiki. He managed to snatch a few credit cards and set himself up at the Moana for a little ‘R & R’. He got sick, though, and that more or less put an end to the festivities.”

“Yes, well. That makes sense. I guess you could say, then, that I have some good news too. We’ve run every test, toxicology screen and culture that we can think of … as well as a few that we’ve, um, made up for the occasion.” Doctor Hsu looked down at the chart in his hands before elaborating further.

“Despite the patient’s ravings about the death of the West and carrying some bioengineered strain of hemorrhagic fever, Mr. Qalat here is suffering from nothing more exotic than an acute case of pneumonia. He must have been coming down with it when he began his little escapade. He allowed himself to become overtired and dehydrated. He’s still pretty sick. We have him sedated and we’re running a pretty potent IV antibiotic. He seems to be responding, though.”

Higa’s first thought was that, from a bureaucratic standpoint at least, they had avoided what would have become a multi-jurisdictional nightmare. Immigration and Naturalization as well as Customs Enforcement would still have to be informed but they could probably get away without involving Homeland Security directly. That was something, at least.

“Hey, doc.” Ray Kanahele interjected. Higa looked down at his shoes. He knew his partner well enough to sense what was coming. “Now that really is some good news. See, that means we’ll be able to charge this half-assed Ferris Bueller with the death of the Filipino housekeeper he basically decapitated when she went into his room to make the bed, do aggressive and hostile shit like that. I hate to think about what he did to people who stiffed him on their fares. Keep him safe. Keep him comfortable. Show him some real Aloha. We’ll be back.”


“When you get right down to it, Ray,” Higa commented as he drove down Jarrett White Road toward Route 78 and the H-1. Pearl Harbor and Honolulu International spread out in front of and beneath them as they passed Fort Shafter. “That would make a good terrorist plot, you know. Place individuals carrying some highly contagious disease on planes, trains and in other crowded places, places from which folks in turn would be travelling to destinations even further afield. The timing would be tricky, but I bet it could be done.”

“Maybe,” Kanahele said noncommittally as he reached for his handkerchief. “You’re talking about the ultimate ‘dirty bomb’! Either way, you got nothing to worry about. You never get sick … must be all that meditation and green tea, I guess. Listen, can we stop at the Long’s in Ala Moana Center? I wanna’ pick up some Vitamin C. I think I’m coming down with something.”

The End


James C. Clar has published over (100) stories in print as well as on the Internet. "Dirty Bomb" is the ninth story featuring the sometimes rather offbeat investigations of Detectives Higa and Kanahele as they trod the mean, sun-drenched streets of Waikiki and southeastern Oahu.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

NEVER SEE IT COMING by Matthew C. Funk

Never See It Coming

You never see her coming.
I was just sitting at the bench across from the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church when she came for me. I was sipping a fountain lemon-lime—my third of the day since the Depo-Provera was making my mouth dry, and the Louisa Mini Mart pours them mostly soda water. I was sitting and trying not to think Popsicle thoughts about kids.
I did one good thing in this old life—raising my son. I thought on that.
I could have been thinking about watching my back. It wouldn’t have mattered. Everybody here in Desire knows Jari gets at you anyway.
I wasn’t watching the church to see the Youth Group potluck—they just came bounding up, all the boys, innocent as tears. The smooth, soft arms cradling the tinfoil trays of food; their clothes and smiles so bright; their love unlimbered from the seriousness of the world.
I wasn’t thinking drippy Popsicle thoughts. Gentle, candy lick thoughts. And the harder thoughts—you know the kind—hot as playgrounds in summer.
Sometimes she’s waiting in your car for you. Sometimes, she’s there in the closet waiting for your eyes to close on your pillow. Sometimes she comes from behind with a brick. That’s what everybody in Desire whispers.
That day, she put a hand on my shoulder.
“Kind of close to those kids, aren’t you, Dennis?” Jari said. She has a bad voice.
“I’m not doing nothing but sitting.” And I was scared right then—she is scary like a jail shower—so I didn’t turn.
“Is that what you’d tell your parole officer?”
“I’m just enjoying the summer sun.”
“That’s what’s creasing your fucking trousers, Dennis?” Jari has a voice like hard candy that’s been burnt, burnt right through to the center. “The summer sun?”
“I’m not thinking what you think I was thinking.” I wasn’t thinking Popsicle thoughts about those boys. I was thinking about how my son won the science fair, and how my pride made that first year in prison glide by.
“The fuck you were.”
Jari uses bad words. She’s one to talk about bad thoughts. What could I even say to that?
“Look at me.” Jari said.
I looked. And I saw her brick first of all.
I kept looking up and up—though she’s not tall, it takes a long time. She wears different clothes, but always the same mean, full moon face. Jari has a face like a bad moon and gold stars trickle in tattoo down her right cheek, framed by the night of her hair.
You look at the gold stars so you don’t have to look into her eyes. Everybody here in Desire knows that.
“You look like a liar to me.” Jari said.
You always end up looking at her brick, though. She’s wrapped duct tape on it for a grip. It’s pitted and chipped in places where it’s hit bone too many times. You can’t stop counting them.
“Fucking liars make me angry.”
Sometimes it’s the last thing you see. She works on your eyes with it sometimes. Sometimes your brain. Never enough to kill you. Everybody knows that the kind of pain Jari brings doesn’t end as easy as that.
“I wouldn’t lie to you.” I wasn’t thinking of the boys slim, soft arms cradling the trays of lasagna and pot roast. I wasn’t thinking of them cradling my hips. Not anymore.
“You pled guilty on all seven counts, I hear.” Jari said as she stepped to the side of me. She knew it because she’s a cop. She’s more of a cop than most of the cops in New Orleans. On her off time, she actually stops crime. “You’ve admitted to what you’ve done to kids in the past.”
“I don’t do that thing no more.”
And just like that she had a thumb hovering above the raised hairs on my neck.
“What kind of thing?” Jari said and she said it real quiet like the worst secret.
“The bad things.”
“A boy showed up in Bywater last night. Bleeding. You mean that kind of thing?”
“I don’t know.” I did, though—I knew what she meant. The Popsicles in me were already begin to melt.
“You need me to tell you what hole he was bleeding from?”
I got the arthritis and looking into her eyes felt just like the worst of that.
“I bet you’d like me to, though.”
I still felt the Popsicles, rising red and melting, though.
And she looked so angry, then.
“I can’t even tell you how disgusted I would feel to touch you, Dennis.” Jari hissed. “But I will shake an honest answer out of you if I have to.”
And in her eyes she was already doing that and more.
“Do I have to touch you, Dennis?”
“No, ma’am.”
“The boy said five other boys had been played with—he actually said ‘played with’—too. You know what the hospital staff will do about that?”
“No, ma’am.”
“Nothing. But you know who will do something about it?”
“You are fucking right about that.”
And I got the arthritis, but it was never as bad as then, and I started shaking.
“I don’t know nothing about all that.”
“Yes.” Jari said. “You do.”
What do you even say to that?
“And you’re going to tell me.”
“I will.”
“They gave a name. Your name.”
I froze right up inside. I shook like it was winter in prison. I wanted to watch the brick but I could just see her eyes.
“They couldn’t have…”
“They did. Now you remember what I said about honest answers, right, Dennis?”
I must have nodded but I just felt like a bag of ice.
“Tell me what you named your son.” Jari said.
“Dennis Junior.”
“That’s right.” She said. The hairs on my neck bent under her thumb. “Now you tell me what you never told the courts. Probably never told your group up in Parish Prison. Tell me—did you play with your son?”
I was just a bag of ice. I didn’t feel nothing. The answer just slipped out somehow.
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Taught him your little games.” Jari’s eyes narrowed. Even though she stepped away, those eyes kept all the air to themselves. “Fucking thought so.”
“But I didn’t do nothing to no boys nowadays.”
“May as well have.”
I thought of my boy—little Dennis. He was just such an angel. How can you not share your love with someone so pure of spirit and free of worry? How, when the rest of the world is so burnt and dirty?
Jari was squinting so hard, she couldn’t see that. Nobody admits they do.
I didn’t feel sorry for what I did with Dennis. I felt sorry for what I knew I was going to do.
“Where is he now?”
“Down on Tonti Stret,” I shook out. I felt sicker by the word. I never wanted to bring something so hard and burnt on my boy. I wanted to share love—not pain like Jari brings. “Pink house.”
“It would be pink.” Jari took another step away. She looked so sick too.
I felt we might have a bond there. But then the brick shoved in my face.
“I’m going for him.” The candy of her voice crackled. “I know I’ll be back for you, though.”
She left, then. I’m still shaking. I keep feeling like I did when the headlines about what was left of Dennis Junior slapped me in the face. I keep feeling that thumb about to happen on my neck.
I keep looking over my shoulder these days and I keep my thoughts on ice.
It won’t matter, I know.
I won’t see her coming.

Matthew C. Funk is a professional marketing copywriter and social media consultant, a writing mentor and the author of several manuscripts that illuminate the beauty of human extremes. A graduate of the Professional Writing MFA at USC, his online work is featured at sites such as Thrillers, Killers and Chillers; Flash Fiction Offensive; ThugLit; Powder Burn Flash; Twist of Noir; Pulp Metal Magazine; Spinetingler Magazine; Six Sentences and his Web domain.

Monday 12 July 2010


Dog Day Delivery

Did you see him watching? Do you have any idea what he did as he waited for me to come home everyday?

He planned. He recorded all my movements; the time I went out in the morning, the hour I returned at night. He knew when I caught the bus, its number and the route it took; where I got on and where I got off.

Mike Walters wrote down everything about my life in his sordid little book. His spidery scribble filled every inch of paper, peppered with diagrams of what he wanted to do to me. Meticulously organised, Walters described the equipment he planned to use, with a full explanation of how each pluck and stab would break me, destroy me.

I got home from work early that afternoon in the blistering heat. All I wanted was to get away from the stuffy office and swelter in my little garden instead. I put a bottle of wine in the fridge to chill for half-an-hour - I was expecting a parcel around four.

Mike Walters knew all about the package, because Mike Walters was the delivery man. I opened the front door to the persistent ringing of the bell, my smile ready to greet the usual guy whose scrawny outline I could see refracted through the glass. Walters delivered the parcel into my waiting hands. I roared in agony. The underside of the wrapping was studded with spikes. Pins? Nails? I didn’t know or care - they tore at my palms, shredding my flesh. Walters was through the door before I could work out what he’d done. He grabbed my hair and slammed my head against the hall wall, punching me in the gut. I fell to the carpet. The delivery man screamed at me, his voice soared in pitch as he ranted faster and harder. My choice in furnishings were a disgrace, the clothes I ordered showed me up as the slut he’d always known me to be, my house was full of tasteless plastic fad fucking fashion that exposed me as the obscene, you pissing little bitch, capitalist that I was.

I caught my breath between kicks to my gut.

‘But I’m not those things’ I shouted. Blood spilled from my lips. I spat it onto the cream floor. ‘I’m like everyone else. I get it all from your store ’cos you sell everything I need. It’s easy.’ God knows why I felt the need to defend my purchasing habits.

‘You fucking disgust me.’

He rammed his foot into my ear. Christ that hurt. I howled, the pain a clanging metal throb.

‘Shut your filthy fat mouth.’

He stamped on my chest. It did the trick, as requested. Instead of speaking I rolled over and vomited over his boots. He walked away and picked the discarded parcel off the floor.

‘What’s in it today?’

I choked on stinging bile.

‘I thought you knew it all. You tell me.’

Mike Walters ripped at the grey plastic bag. I couldn’t even remember what it was. I ordered stuff all the time. Walters dug at my ribs with puke-splattered toecaps. I gagged at the bitter reek so close to my face as a lacquered photo frame, some silky pyjamas and a six-pack of panties fell to the ground.

‘Look at it. It’s crap.’

He bent and snatched at my hair, shoving my nose into the items scattered on the carpet. He raged on.

‘You bitches. You sit there in your flashy houses, in your high heels. You’ve all got your special jobs with your important careers. You make me sick.’

He pulled my hair even harder. I felt it tear at the roots.

‘Why aren’t you at home making babies? That’s your job. Why haven’t you got husbands to look after? That’s what you here for, for us. You stupid, selfish…’

I grabbed his ankle. He tried to kick me but I yanked and knocked him off balance. His spindly carcass slammed against the wall. As he tried to recover himself I spidered my other hand across the carpet until I reached the photo frame. It slipped into my crippled fingers. Walters twisted around and threw himself at me. Before he landed I whacked the sharp corner of the frame hard between his legs, plunging it again and again into his fleshy groin until the wood splintered and Walters lay squealing like a pig.

I shifted back just an inch and he was at me again. The knife he drew from one of a million delivery-man uniform pockets completely threw me. Stupidly I scuttled backwards down the hallway, away from my front door. I hit the kitchen door instead. It was shut. Mike Walters cornered me. His whisper was worse than the screams.

‘Every week, every pissing month you order this shit. It supplements your fake, useless life. It makes me so… mad. You make me so angry.’

Something broke. Mike Walters knew about me. I mean, he knew everything about me, about my lifestyle. I realised that somehow he’d been inside my house; had gotten in further than the front step where I always signed for that week’s delivery. I looked hard at his face for the first time since the attack began.

I remembered - something. Then it was gone.

‘Do I know you?’

He leant in, panting in my face, his breath vile. The knife turned over and over in his fingers.

‘Michael Walters - at your fucking service.’ His hand slipped up to my breast. He rested his brow against mine. ‘At your constant beck and bloody call. Morning, afternoons… whenever you want me.’

‘Want you?' I was livid. 'I pay for you. What do you want - a fucking tip?

He laughed softly. I couldn’t believe it - I could feel him hard against my leg. How could that be after what I’d done to him not moments before?

‘Nah, you don‘t get it. I’ve always been there for you. Always.’ He moved back, only very slightly. The spark of a memory hit me again. I still couldn’t grasp it. I looked him up and down… surely not?

‘I do know you, not from the store - somewhere else. Did we ever…?’


He lunged at me. I dropped to the ground just missing the blade. Crawling away, it hit me. A funny little boy - Mickey Walters, always late to school. Hair crawling with lice, shiny trousers too short and scuffed at the knees. He would trap me in the girls’ toilets, used to whisper at me - unintelligible, guttural little words that sounded like a growling dog - the kids called him Hound, Flea Bag, Mutt. He’d spit at me under the door and I’d cry until the teacher came to find me crouched up on the bowl, by which time he was long gone. Mickey ‘Dog’ Walters. Shit. Mickey bloody Walters.

On hands and knees I turned to look up. He grinned, knowing I recognised him. He raised the knife over his head.

The doorbell rang.

‘Sorry - it was open. Just doing some window-cleaning in your street and wondered if… Jesus!‘

The interruption was enough to stop Walters in his tracks. The window-cleaner stormed into my hallway and threw his not-inconsiderable bulk at my attacker, knocking the blade from Walters’ hand. I dragged myself out from beneath them and with hands that stung like hell I called the cops.

Mickey Walters got nine years. As if what he’d done to me wasn’t enough evidence, the police found his grubby notebook slung casually on the passenger seat of his delivery van.

Under the Victim Reconciliation Scheme I get to visit my attacker once a month for the rest of his sentence. He can’t turn me away. I can’t wait. The first visit’s tomorrow.

I want to make him my friend.

When he comes out I’ll offer him a room.

When he come out I’ll have a knife.

When he comes out I’ll slit pieces off him bit by bit until he bleeds to death.

I’ve got the jars all ready. I put a label on the first one today. It reads ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’.


Lily Childs is a writer of dark fiction, horror and chilling mysteries. Some of her little nasties have crept their way into TKnC and print anthologies. She is the author of forthcoming urban fantasy series ‘Magenta Shaman’ and has a novel or three on the way. Lily lives in the south of England, a stone’s throw from the sea. She blogs at

http://lilychildsfeardom.blogspot.com/ where you can read some of her work, reviews and interviews.



I turned up the lights in the briefing room, and glanced at Carter, Pierce, and Toliver, the latest crop of Group-5 assassin interns. They were mean looking bastards. I pitied the poor sonovabitches who might have to face them in close combat.

“Okay, we just watched the movie, "La Femme Nikita,” I said. “To recap, I showed it to you in response to your questions about the quality of women assassins. The one depicted in this movie was quite good, until she had a nervous breakdown.

Meanwhile, no matter how vicious some women are, none of our clients wants us to use them to fulfill contracts. So we don’t. It’s that simple. Now, before we break for lunch, I want to remind you that your term papers on best places to kill are due the day after tomorrow. Though none of you have actually assassinated anyone before, I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of this academic exercise. There’s one more thing: tomorrow night is your first wet exercise.”

The interns yelped, shook hands, patted each other on the back.

After a lunch break, Carter, Pierce, and Toliver returned to the underground classroom. As they came through the door, they were arguing about the merits of Winchester sniper rifles.

I tapped my desk with a silenced pistol to get their attention.

“Tomorrow’s exercise is structured similar to those you just saw in "La Femme Nikita,” I said. “You’ll be assigned separate hotel rooms in the seediest parts of the city. The envelope I’m handing each of you gives all the fine details. Don’t break the seal until midnight, tonight.”

“Can we choose our weapons?” asked Pierce.

“No, we’ve already selected them and placed them in hotel rooms. However, unlike what you saw in the movie, we won’t choose your targets. This is a free option exercise. You get to pick your target. The only rules that apply are: One, no children. Two, no young teens. Three, no pregnant women. Otherwise, you’ll enjoy complete freedom of choice. And here in Rio during Carnival, the pickings are unlimited.”

“Sounds great!” Carter said. “I’m going to keep my eye out for somebody really soused. I figure I’ll be giving the guy a break by sending him to eternity while he’s happy.”

“I’ll keep my eyes open for dregs,” Toliver said. “The kind that society would kiss my feet for eliminating.”

“I go along with Toliver,” Pierce said. “Brazil is teeming with human garbage. Too bad nobody will know we did it. The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro would probably give us the key to the city for weeding out some chaff.”

“By the way, before you get over-enthusiastic about cleaning up Rio, you’re authorized to kill only one person each during this exercise.”

They looked disappointed.

“Let’s discuss our observation system,” I said. “Your rifle scopes will contain nano gun cameras. The moment you turn on the scope’s power, it will be automatically connected via satellite to a central control center. I’ll be at the center monitoring you real-time. Everything you see through the scope, I’ll also see.”

Pierce asked about scoring.

“That’s detailed in your packets. One hundred is the ultimate, but only one person has ever achieved it. Me. Right here in Rio during Carnival. Group-5 would be delighted if you equal my score. In fact, they’ll make it worth your while.”

Toliver asked about achievement bonuses.

“For a minimum score of ninety, $20,000 will be deposited your Zurich accounts. Add $1,000 for each tick up to one hundred percent.”

“How long will it take before we know our scores?”

“Your individual scores will appear in your scopes the instant you fire.”

“Nice touch,” Pierce said.

“OK. We’ll have a post mortem meeting here, at 10:00 sharp, the morning after your adventure. We’ll review the gun camera tapes and examine all the positives and negatives. Good hunting!”

I knew they’d have a ball. I certainly did my first trip out. Deep inside, I wished I could join them. Nothing warms my heart better than a clean kill, even when I hire somebody else to do it.

Two days later at 10:00 AM, Carter and Pierce were in their seats babbling excitedly about their adventure. Carter had scored 92. Pierce, 93.

We waited for Toliver, but he never showed.

Then word came. Toliver had been sent back to the US, because his father had died. At least that’s what Group-5 told Carter and Pierce. I assured them he’d return to Rio after the funeral, and he’d pick up where he left off.

I lied.

Toliver did everything wrong from the moment he powered on his scope. His pulse rate was unacceptable, his blink rate was off the charts. He kept muttering something unintelligible in a shaky voice. Nearing panic, he acted much like the hapless female assassin he’d seen in the movie.

I pressed the CANCEL button on my console. He never knew what hit him when a nano rocket, launched from within the scope, pierced his eye and burst his brain.

When a recruit joins Group-5, he signs the contract in his own blood. His acceptance is conditional, pending intensive vetting. Toliver passed all tests, except the last.

He knew the risks. He accepted them.

He’s better off dead.



Michael A. Kechula’s stories have been published by 128 magazines and 35 anthologies in 6 countries. He’s won first place in 10 contests and placed in 8 others. He’s authored three books of flash fiction, micro-fiction, and short stories: A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales, The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales, and I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance. eBook versions available at http://www.booksforabuck.com/ and http://www.fictionwise.com/
 Paperbacks available at http://www.amazon.com/