Sunday 31 October 2010

Charles in Charge by Sean Patrick Reardon

Happy Halloween from the editors... and Sean with this 'treat'...

Charles in Charge

You both wave goodbye from the porch as the wife drives away for a girl's weekend. Images of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon flash through your mind.

Father and daughter time, no rules just right.

Almost twenty years, since it was "suggested" that America might be a better place for you. Aer Lingus to Boston, no need for a return flight mate…ever. Rachel, your eighteen year old girlfriend at the time, decided to go with you, your sins, and secrets.

Three years since you had a pint, or a shot, but you've bent the rules a wee bit. The daily weed habit disqualifies you from collecting the poker chips. Now, the drought has you climbing the walls, but hey, it ain't like you're coming off the smack, physically at least. Two days since you've had a proper nights sleep and tonight offers no respite.

But you've made big plans for tomorrow. The amusement park, from open to close with your daughter Julie and her best friend Jenna. Sounded good last week, but you're already doing the zombie shuffle.

The bowl, bong, and even the seeds, already scraped and cleaned better than a Marine's M-16. My Country for a Goddamn joint, you think. It ain't happening. Raise the white flag brother.


"Good night Dadda," Julie says, still calling you that, even at fourteen.

"I love you sweetie," you tell her.

It's been slowly festering, the urge. Now you're alone, it's seducing you.

You've lost your privileges, but not Rachel. She likes a casual, deserves it, can handle it. It's in the house. No need to be under lock and key, because you've beat it, at least Rachel thinks so.

Before the grace of I go God.

Rock-n-Rolla's on the tube, but you're so fucking tense; you decide it's a good idea to add just a wee drop to the orange juice. Enjoy the show, take the edge off, get some sleep, and be on top of your game tomorrow.


You come to, still on the couch, Julie telling you it's time to get up, start the big day. The agony in your head's just the opening act for the guilt, the star of this morning show.

Time to play hurt lad. Suck it the fuck up. You know the cure. Old habits die hard.

You're bloody dying inside as you tell her, "call Jenna, let her know we'll pick her up in an hour."
Three years down the shitter, but no one will be the wiser. Can't bullshit yourself though mate, what's done is done. The wheels are turning and you need to make a plan.

"I'm going to shoot down to the store, get some goodies and things. Be right back," you say, lying to the one truly perfect person you know.


A quick stop at the store for ice, supplies…a pint of 100 proof Rumplemintz. Nurse it all day, maintain altitude, and get you through it. A pack of gum, ice frost flavor, will be a perfect match for the booze and throw the hounds off the trail.

Six hours has gone by fast. The three of you having a blast and you're doing what needs to be done to survive. A wee taste every trip to the loo, a discreet swallow behind a tree while they enjoy the roller coaster, has you feeling good.

Shit, supply is low, time to ration.


The Turkish Twist fucks you up and you're puking. It's ninety degrees outside, but you're cold and drenched in sweat.

Sitting on the bench, you're white as a ghost, shaking, and you can see the disappointment in their eyes. Worse, it's the concern you sense coming from Julie. Her hero, down for the count and it's her fault for begging you to go on the ride, despite telling her you didn't like the spinning ones.

What the hell do you do mate, balls in your court. You can't let them down and pack it in. Sure, under normal circumstances you could, but not this time. The guilt will eat you for the rest of your days, so the wheels start turning.

You think, they're both fourteen, big girls now. When you were their age you were.... There might be a way out. Give you time to sort things out.

"That's okay," you tell them. "How about this? I'm going to go lie down in the car for a while, get my sea legs back. Here's forty bucks, any problems call the cell, I'll be right there. Still four hours left, plenty of time for me to join back in the fun. Just need an hour or so."

It's a win-win. You straighten out, they get to stay, have fun, get some independence. Julie gets a kiss and you're choking back puke and shame as you walk away, the World still spinning under your feet.


A rapping noise on the Jeep window rouses you, the cops telling you to open up. Jenna's standing behind them, sobbing, hysterical. The clock on the dashboard informs you it's eight at night.

You've been out cold for two hours.

The cops telling you Julie's missing, the park is in lock down. Jenna saying she went on the Turkish Twist again, Julie sitting it out, didn’t want to get sick like dad. Jenna's bawling harder and screaming that Julie was gone when she got off the ride. She's begging for forgiveness. One officer is trying to calm her down, while the other asks you, "have…you…been…drinking?"


Four months later, Halloween night, and you're playing the role of divorced, degenerate junky. Julie's still gone and she took your soul with her. You hear a ring tone going off under the cushion of the fleabag couch you're doing the nod on. You answer. The voice, some bloke telling you he's got Julie, wants to play let's make a deal, and to get your ass outside now.

Still in your skivvies, you stumble down the stairs, burst through the door, and out to the parking lot. It's dark, but you see the black jogging suit and balaclava, just before the balloon hits you in the chest. A Halloween prank, water balloon, what the fuck? The smell of petrol registers with your nostrils, just as you see the muzzle flash. Gut shot and you are down on the ground.

You look up and the phosphorescence of the road flair illuminates the darkness before it lands on you, igniting the petrol.

The black figure standing over you, watching you burn, bleed profusely, and scream, points the pistol at your head.

"May you rot in Hell, you fucking drunk."

The balaclava comes off and the barrel of the gun follows your head as your body writhes. You see your ex-wife's face as she pulls the trigger and the image fades to black after the bullet enters your skull.

Sean Patrick Reardon is the author of the crime thriller novel "Mindjacker". He's blogging at:

Monday 25 October 2010

AT THE NORMAL CAFE - part 7 - CLOSING TIME By Chris Allinotte

Here's the one you've all been waiting for, the concluding chapter of Chris' mulit-viewpoint story

At the Normal Café – Part 7 – Closing Time

Tom needs you.

Judith checked the text message one more time, then threw her smartphone onto the seat beside her. She smacked the steering wheel with the flat of her palm. Damn it Tom, she thought, what the hell have you done? The light changed, and Judith hit the gas.

She pushed in the cigarette lighter, and dipped a hand into her coat pocket for a smoke. After ten years clean, it was her last vice, and she defended it jealously to anyone who challenged her.

A sudden, loud squawk from the dashboard made her jump. The police scanner mounted there reported shots fired at the corner of Lake Street and Dean Avenue. Judith grabbed her phone back and, flicking her attention back and forth between the road and the touch screen, thumbed for the app that would show all her "friends" locations. Since it had become available, she'd insisted all her “clients” allow the program to track and display their location. It had come in handy more than once. Right now, a small, white letter "T" appeared on the GPS map – at the corner of Lake Street and Dean Avenue.

It was what she’d expected, but seeing the proof still made her uneasy. The lighter popped out, and Judith lit her smoke; taking a long first drag. It calmed her down, and she began to consider the situation more rationally.

Of all the criminals the halfway house had sent to her, Tom was the most challenging. He'd passed all the examinations needed to for his release, but Judith could feel that something was still off with him. Despite her recommendations to the board, he'd been “properly” medicated and released.

And now, tonight, Judith felt like her own unorthodox methods were finally biting her in the ass. Until now, she'd never met with a client in person. It was her feeling that, by making the sponsorship too personal, it created dependence, and that would make the rehabilitation process take much longer. Because of that belief, Judith communicated with her clients by phone, instant messager, e-mail – hell, even by Facebook in a couple of cases – anything but an actual in-person meeting, and her success rate had been phenomenal. Within a few weeks of being released, each of Judith’s last twelve assignments had found meaningful work. Tom was the exception. Tom ... who still heard voices.

The "T" was just two blocks away. From the scanner came an official sounding voice, confirming that unit 328 was on route to Lake and Dean. Judith sped up. Hopefully she had time to get there before the cops. She cursed herself again for having forgotten her phone in the car earlier this evening. As soon as she'd seen Tom's text message, she’d started driving; trying, unsuccessfully, to call him on the way.

Tom had never "needed" her before – he hated her.

Multiple attempts to confront him about his "other voice" had been met with resistance and even outright hostility. Conversations with Tom were long and exhausting affairs: after everything Judith said, there would be a pause, during which Tom seemed to argue with himself about how to respond. How the doctors had seen fit to release him was totally beyond comprehension. Ironically, she had recently decided to arrange a meeting with Tom in person, as they had made no progress the usual way.

The diner appeared up ahead. To her relief, the police hadn't showed up yet, but there were, at most, two minutes before they arrived. Judith cut her headlights; Tom would be agitated. She didn't want to drive up close with two huge, shining targets for him to shoot at. Turning into the parking lot, she saw the "Open" sign swinging back and forth, right where the window should be. Oh God, she thought. How much blood is on his hands? How much on mine, for not stopping him?

As Judith walked toward the broken picture window, her boots crunched on large chunks of glass. She could smell blood coming from inside - blood, and the cordite smell of a fired gun. Crushing her cigarette on the ground, she inched forward, until she could see in. How much time did she have before the police arrived?

Judith looked in, and was surprised to see a scrawny looking guy kneeling beside Tom, stabbing him in the leg with what looked to be a fork. It had to be Tom; she recognized him from the case file.

Despite any problems the man might have, he was still her responsibility, and seeing him attacked while defenseless spurred her into action.

The first instinct was to just rush in. However, the little guy was probably wound up pretty tight, and would be just as likely to take a swing at her - or worse, grab the revolver that still lay next to Tom on the floor. Judith proceeded calmly, aware that the minutes were aggressively against her.

She went in the front door. The little guy didn't look up. From here she could see a woman's body, dressed in a polyester uniform, lying sprawled in front of the counter in a pool of blood. Up the aisle from Tom lay another woman, with short blonde hair, and blood on her right cheek. There was no one else here that she could see.

Judith stepped in and addressed the little guy.

"Stop that," she said, "He's unconscious."

The man with the fork looked up and replied, "Who are you? Are you with the police?"

"No," replied Judith, "I'm a friend." She motioned to Tom with her foot, and added, "of his."

At that moment, Tom started to come around. The first thing he did was to touch a large bruise on his forehead. Wincing, he turned his attention to the leg the little man had recently been stabbing; and finally, he looked up at Judith.

"What... who?" he seemed to be having trouble getting the thoughts out. Judith gave him the answer.

"It's me, Tom. Judith." she said.

"Judith?" he repeated, then paused, as if willing his brain to make the connection. "Judith??"

"That's right, Tom," she replied, then held up a hand, before he could reply, "There's not a lot of time. The police will be here soon. We need to talk."

Tom nodded, "Yeah. Yeah, talk."

Judith heard something in his tone she didn't like. He wasn't all the way back.

"Listen," she said. "I'm going to help you when the police get here, but you've got to listen to me. Okay?"

"Okay," Tom replied, but the corners of his mouth turned down. Judith saw it, and wondered what his "other" voice was telling him. Meanwhile, the little guy was still looking up at her, eyes wide, not saying anything.

"Tom. Please focus," said Judith. Turning to the short guy, she said, "hey, what's your name?"

"Lenny," he replied, but his voice was flat, as if still trying to believe that all of this was a dream.

"Hand me the gun, Lenny," said Judith.

That got through to him. "What? Hey - no way, Miss... my fingerprints ..."

"Grab it with a napkin then," she snapped. "It's not going to matter one way or the other, Tom is going to give himself up."

Tom sat bolt upright. "What? Judith ... I ..."

"Shh. Tom. It's the only way you're getting out of this alive. Lenny, give me the gun, now."

Lenny reached over to where he'd been sitting, and grabbed a napkin that was spotty with syrup. He gingerly picked up the gun by the butt as if it were a dead rat. The revolver swayed slightly in his grip.

A change was coming over Tom. He was blinking hard, and rocking a little, side to side, saying "No ... no ... no ... I can't" to himself. Time, short to begin with, had run out.

There was a short, piercing squelch outside. Blue and red light began to strobe on the walls. Lenny stopped short, transfixed, and still out of Judith's reach. Suddenly, from the back booths of the cafe, there was a flurry of movement. A young woman burst out from under the table and made a run for the door.

At that moment Tom, who had continued rocking back and forth, came back to life. He snatched the gun away from Lenny, who squealed in terror and backed away. In his rush, he slipped in the waitress' blood and fell hard on his rear. Skidding like a dog on a hardwood floor, he scrabbled to his feet and ran behind the counter. This all happened in the space of seconds. Tom's attention never wavered. He was totally focused on the escaping girl, and, before she could reach the door, he fired. Judith, seeing only the gun coming around, dove to the ground. Red mist exploded from the girl's hip just as she reached the door. She screamed and fell heavily forward. Her momentum carried her into the door, and through it, dumping her onto the concrete outside.

The cops came running.

"Drop your fucking gun!" shouted the young, muscular looking cop in the lead.

Two other officers had reached the girl and half-carried-half-dragged her out of sight of the door.

Judith's eyes flicked back to Tom. The gun was pointed at her, its barrel trembling. His eyes were bulging. He was going to shoot her. The cops weren't going to get through to him. If anyone was going to be able to talk over whatever it was that was telling him to do this - it was her ... and she'd still likely end up dead. It wasn’t fair. In that instant, all the pity Judith felt for Tom turned into anger. Judith still had her own weakness. Faced with her own death, Tom had shown it to her, and she hated him for it.

Looking back later, it was at this moment that she made the decision that would come back to haunt her for the rest of her life. At the time though, there was no thinking about anything. She used her intimate knowledge of Tom against him.

"Tom," she said, as calmly as she could. "Tom. I know you can hear me. Can you hear me?"

For a long second he did nothing; then - slowly - the slightest of nods. The gun didn't move.

The cop at the door didn't say anything else. Judith could hear him moving around, probably looking for a clear shot at Tom.

"Tom," said Judith, "Tom, I apologize; I was wrong. I don't want you to give yourself up. Nod your head if you understand."

The nod came.

"Good. That's good. I'm going to get you out of this. That hasn't changed. Okay?"

A nod.

"Okay, Tom. Good. That's good." Judith's mind was racing. "Keep the gun pointed this way, Tom. There's a policeman behind me."

As if to confirm the fact, the cop said, "What are you telling him, miss? We've got a negotiator coming. Don't make this worse." His voice was tense. Judith could practically sense the cop trying to aim his gun around her.

"It's alright," she said, "I'm his counsellor."

"Shut up," said Tom. He wasn't speaking to her.

"Tom," she said, speaking slightly louder. "Listen to my voice. Don't listen to any other voice, tune it out. I'm here. We're here. Together."

His eyes were still unfocused, but he stopped muttering. Judith took that as a good sign, and continued.

"The other voice won't save you now Tom. All it knows how to do is hurt. Do you understand?"

Tom didn't say anything. He started blinking hard again. Judith pressed on.

"Tom, the police are here. They're going to shoot you if you give them a reason – any reason. So let's not give them the reason, okay?"

He gave her the briefest of nods in reply. It wasn't enough.

"Will you give me the gun?" she asked.

He shook his head.

Judith sighed. Any doubts she'd had about what she was going to do were gone. Steeling herself, she went on, "Tom. Do you want my help?"

A nod. Outside more police cars and an ambulance pulled up. EMT workers were shouting orders and, probably, dealing with the young woman that had escaped.

"The voice makes you angry, doesn't it?" she asked. "The voice makes you hurt people."

He didn't respond.

Behind Judith someone new spoke, "Miss? I'd like to speak to him, please. Can I speak to you, sir?" It was a deep voice, but sounded warm, full of patience.

Tom’s reaction was immediate. He leaned to his left and fired at the newcomer. The bullet went wide, but, as Judith turned, she saw a tall, heavy-set man withdrawing quickly to the cover of the police cars. She looked back at her client.

"That's just what I'm talking about," she said sternly. "We need to stop the voice, Tom. We've tried talking it away, but it hasn't worked. The only way other people are going to be safe is if we can stop the voice from telling you things."

Still sighting down the gun, Tom's arm began to shake. He took a trembling breath. He blinked his eyes hard, and stared at her; his eyes which, in these too brief moments of clarity, were quite beautiful.

"I...I want to stop," he said. "It's too strong."

"There's one way to make it stop," said Judith, and let her eyes flick to the gun.

"But ..." Tom started to say, "but then I'd be ..."

"," Judith finished for him. "Free from the awful things it makes you do. You don't have to be afraid anymore." She heard the words coming out of her mouth, and felt sick, but looked at the dead waitress, and went on. "It's what's right, Tom."

He nodded one last time, and put the barrel of the gun in his mouth. Judith took his hand, and squeezed it. "It's going to be okay," she said.

One last time, Tom pulled the trigger.


"You're a monster," said Lenny, coming out from behind the counter.

"You're alive," replied Judith. She realized she was still holding Tom's hand, and let go. Her own hand wouldn't stop shaking.

Lenny turned his attention instead to the blonde, who was snoring lightly. He directed the EMT's to two others at the back of the diner who were either unconscious, or dead - Judith couldn't tell. Right now, she didn't care either.

The cops lead her away from the body of the man who had once been under her care. They arrested her for her interference. That was alright too because, at the back of her mind, a small voice had begun to speak, calling her a murderer. Judith listened.

It had a point.

Copyright 2010 Chris Allinotte

Sunday 24 October 2010

THE RIGHT MOMENT by Michael J. Solender

The Right Moment

At the precise moment Wayne would be there to unleash the rage that had built up inside him. Tightening like the coiled spring of a wind-up doll, the fury within became increasingly taut with every memory of her humiliating rejection.

It wouldn’t be long now. The right moment. Just the right moment when she would realize with certainty what her transgression had been. She’d acknowledge him then. She would have to!

She’d undoubtedly recoil at the sight and then the crushing grip of his powerful forearms. They resembled thick clubs having been worked daily in preparation for the encounter he would soon embark upon.

Wayne would know the moment. It would present him with opportunity. He knew there was no luck in the world, only the oft missed intersection of preparation and opportunity. He was at the ready. He would not miss his only chance. The rush of retribution fuels the vanquished like the rushing tide overwhelming the shore. With conviction it would replace his lost dignity with something far more tangible, much more pleasurable and immanently more satisfying her complete and abject suffering at his hand.


“Bye Hon! See you at dinner.” Minerva grabbed her keys and briefcase from their resting spot on the bench by the backdoor. Neither had moved since Friday from when she threw them down upon her return from work.

Weekends were for lazing around, not for more work and running all over God’s green acre. She and Trey had been married for two year but they still had plenty of spark between them, and neither had as much as changed out of their PJ’s or left the bedroom for more than a bowl of cereal all weekend. Minerva was sore, but a good sore.

”Ok Hon,” Trey hollered, “Will you pick up some Chinese on the way home? I got a late meeting and we have absolutely no food in the house.”

“Ok sweetie, I will. Moo Goo Gai Pan, Twice Cooked Pork and Steamed Dumplings. All your favorites See you later.” With that Minerva was off. She slipped into her sleek Mercedes SL and shot out of the garage.


Wayne didn’t need to follow her. He knew her routine. Ever since he found her six months ago, a fluke sighting at the gym, he’d followed her.

He had to confirm it was the same girl. Ten years out from high-school people change. Not Minerva, she still was a stunner, and from all he could see, she was still indifferent to him. He’d deliberately crossed her path no less than a dozen times in the last six months just to see if she’d remember. She didn’t as much as give him a second look. Women like Minerva didn’t have time for guys like Wayne. He should have never asked her to the prom. He should have never mistaken her small kindness in Biology class for anything other than it was. She lent him a pencil for Christ sakes, why the hell did he think she liked him? Why the hell did he think a girl like that would date him, a zit faced, overweight loser.

She didn’t have to laugh, she didn’t have to make that face when he asked her, she could have just politely declined but she had to make him feel like he was so far beneath her, that she was so very cool, that he didn’t even have a right to ask her. She may have forgotten that episode, but he never would.

For ten years he pumped iron and worked out. That humiliation is what motivated him every day. Wayne became obsessed with Minerva and swore to himself that one day she would pay. That day was nearing, that day became reality when he found her six months ago. It was her time for humiliation now. Humiliation, Wayne thought, and so much more. She’d beg him to stop before he was through.

Wayne sat parked opposite Minerva and Trey’s house. No one notice the nondescript minivan on the street. He watched her leave that Monday morning and began to gather the rope, knives, duct tape and razor from his van that would serve as his tools for his late afternoon task.

He knew just where she was headed in her Mercedes. Uptown via the interstate in thirty-five minutes. The express elevator to the Fifty-second floor at Fraser, Chew and Poe. Nine or ten hours and home by 6:30. Trey was usually at least a half hour behind her and most nights more.

He’d be waiting for her. Tonight would be her night to pay.

Trey followed Minerva out within twenty minutes and Wayne slipped in through the back door. The half inch deadbolt easily yielded to his Discover card pressed between the bolt and the jamb.

He had the entire day to plan it out and to see what type of life had eluded him all these years. He found Minerva’s panties, all powder blue and lacy balled up next to the wash, they were still moist and he couldn’t help but inhale their aroma of sex. He wouldn’t be denied tonight, he’d get some of that before Trey got home, He’d also make sure Trey would never want a taste of her ever again, the razor blades would see to that.

He found her annual and the resentment turned to rage in an instant. A cheerleader and immensely popular in high school, Minerva’s annual had dozens of signings and best wishes, all from the most popular kids. Wayne didn’t even bother with an annual, he couldn't wait to be out of high school and away from those that tormented him for three straight years.

He’d show them. They’d see. Wayne’s name would be on their lips with respect by tomorrow. They’d see.


Minerva pulled into the garage at precisely 6:15. She was proud of herself that she remembered to stop at Peking Palace and was happy to pop a beer and watch the news unwinding until Trey came home. He had phoned and said it would be close to eight, a big merger deal he said.

When she came into the kitchen through the garage she caught sight of something or somebody out of the corner of her eye. She initially started to return to her car, but then, reaching into her purse she stepped into the house.

When Wayne saw her and saw instantly that she remembered him, he knew he had picked the exact right moment.


Trey was held back by the police as he tried to enter his drive. No less than six black and whites had surrounded his house along the end of their quiet cul-de-sac and yellow crime scene tape criss-crossed his driveway, front door and garage. He was panicked and when the duty officer realized who he was he led Trey personally inside, warning him gently that there was a lot of blood and he should brace himself.

The victim laid face up, eyes open with a bullet between the eyes. Blood had seeped into the floor boards, making the glossy hardwood slick and magenta hued. Deep cuts across the victim’s hands were evidence of the sharp razor blades intended for even more nefarious use.

Minerva was on the sofa, softly answering questions for the detective when she looked up and saw Trey.

“Oh Honey!” She sobbed. “And to think I fought you about getting a gun!”

Minerva wept and shuddered as Trey held her in his arms, Wayne’s open and cold dead eyes staring at both of them.

Michael J. Solender is a recent corporate refugee whose opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and is a contributor to Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at A Twist of Noir, Bull Men’s Fiction, Calliope Nerve, Danse Macabre, Dogzplot, Gloom Cupboard, Full of Crow, Pangur Ban Party Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers and others. He blogs here:

Friday 22 October 2010


Here's the latest in Jim's superb Higa and Kanahele series. Enjoy, along with...

Today’s Specials

Higa and Kanahele sat in a Chinese restaurant in the basement of an aging hotel on Kuhio Avenue. The two HPD detectives sipped tea from porcelain cups decorated with a delicate, swirling dragon motif. The obvious authenticity and age of the Asian artwork that made up the décor clashed with the overall faded and fading look of the establishment. The red, faux leather of their booth was cracked and, off to their right, the long mirror that ran behind the bar was in need of cleaning. Light from a saltwater aquarium as well as the more garish glow from an illuminated sign advertising Tsingtao beer gave the entire place an eerie, almost outré atmosphere. It reminded Higa of something out of an old Fu Manchu novel.

“This place has been here since the ‘70’s, Jake,” Kanahele said quietly to his wiry Japanese-American partner. “I can’t believe I’ve never been in here before. There aren’t many restaurants on the island I haven’t tried.”

Higa smiled and, with the self-discipline that so much defined him, bit back an obvious response that might have wounded the pride of his stocky yet powerfully built friend.

“I can’t believe it’s still here at all, Ray. They’ve been talking about re-developing this area of Waikiki for years. A lot of the old-time businesses on this block in particular have lost their leases. You know the way it goes in the islands, though, it’ll take the developers years to file the right paperwork and get it all together. In the meantime, there are empty buildings and storefronts all along this stretch of Kuhio.”

“Shit,” Kanahele exclaimed, “I just hope they don’t do here what they did over on Lewer’s Street. All the old places with local ties were forced out and replaced by high-end chains. It’s all chrome, steel, glitz and glass now. There’s no character anymore and nothing distinctly Hawaiian either. Never mind the bullshit claims made by the Visitor’s Bureau.”

“Well, I agree with you about the lack of ‘character’ but, you have to admit, it’s a lot easier to police these days. They’ve gotten rid of all the pedicab drivers and pamphlet hawkers. Most of that was just a front for drugs and prostitution. That end of Lewers used to be a real hassle.”

Kanahele thought for a moment before responding. He swirled his tea and pondered the arcane pattern made by the leaves that clung to the sides of his cup. Sounds leaked in from the street above, a bell signaling the approach of the Hilo Hattie Shopping Shuttle or, maybe, the Waikiki Trolley. The pop of hydraulic brakes was followed by the muffled strains of a recorded greeting from TheBus – “Aloha. Welcome aboard Route #8, Ala Moana Center.”

“I guess,” the big man acquiesced. “But, it’s not nearly as much fun. Anyhow, explain to me again what tipped you off to this whole scene.” Kanahele inclined his head to indicate the room in which they sat.

Higa looked around. The only other patrons were a young man and woman sitting on the other side of the room digging into a steaming tureen with dumplings and light broth of some sort. They may well have been newlyweds judging by their lack of sunburn and the starry-eyed, “wonder of you” absorption with which they still regarded one another.

“My doctor. He’s Chinese … hapa actually. Anyhow, he’s been telling me about this place for months. Says it’s one of the best kept secrets on the island. I gather a lot of his patients eat and, maybe, work here. Strange, though, he was downright cryptic when I asked him what I should order. He just said to be sure to ask about their ‘special’ menu, that I’d definitely find something interesting.”

“Well,” Kanahele responded as he poured himself some more tea and munched on a fried noodle, “If the food’s any good I’ll have to bring Maile sometime. You know how much she loves Chinese. Maybe on a weekend when she’s off. We can check out a “Sunset on the Beach” movie or maybe that star-gazing thing they do over at the Zoo. I don’t get back into Waikiki much once my shift’s over but she’d be here all the time if she had her way.”

Once again, Jake Higa stifled his reply. His partner’s imposing physical presence notwithstanding, there was little doubt about who generally “got their way” in the Kanahele household. Even so, Ray and his long-suffering wife were the most devoted couple Higa had ever known. To hear his partner tell it, however, Maile was forever on the lookout for a way to cash in on her husband’s life insurance or social security. Having worked with Ray now for just over a decade, he had to admit that there might well be a grain of truth in the big man’s suspicions.

As the two men were talking, an older Asian man in the worn black livery of a waiter appeared at the side of their table. Higa caught a whiff of cigarette smoke and the even stronger scent of grill or fried oil from the man’s clothing. His face was slightly pockmarked and he was sorely in need of dental work. Kanahele had to stop himself from staring at the patch that covered the server’s left eye.

The detectives were perhaps even more startled by the man’s cultured, nearly flawless English. A British school in Hong Kong, Higa speculated to himself.

“Can I interest you gentlemen in an appetizer? A spring roll perhaps? I should also mention that brown rice or Thai sticky rice are available with your entrées for an additional charge.”

Higa closed the compendious folio that had been lying near his place-setting when he sat down.

“No. I don’t think we want an appetizer, but could we have a look at your special menu before we decide what we’d like for our meal?”

An expression of concern, suspicion even, clouded the waiter’s distinctive features momentarily before he regained his professional demeanor.

“Our special menu? Of course. I’ll be right back.”

Higa and Kanahele looked at one another as the waiter turned and headed toward the back of the restaurant.

“Son-of-a-bitch, Jake,” Kanahele said quietly as he leaned closer to his partner. “What the hell was that look? Not only are we being waited on by Quasimodo but the dude gets all ‘weirded’ out when you ask to see the specials. What, did he make us for cops or something?”

“I don’t think so, Ray. He definitely had a reaction but it wasn’t that. Something’s up but I’m not sure what. We’ll just have to play this one out, see where it takes us. I’m beginning to think that Dr. Li set me up here somehow.”

“No kidding,” Kanahele quipped has he grabbed another noodle, “I’m not so sure about your doctor’s taste in food. Look around you. For a place that’s supposed to be ‘ono, there’s hardly anyone in the joint. Shit. For your sake I’m also hoping Dr. Li’s not the one who fixed our waiter’s eye or treated him for his skin problem.”

Higa and Kanahele sat in silence for a few moments before their waiter returned.

“If you two gentlemen would follow me please.”

Kanahele was about to object but Higa stopped him with a glance.

The policemen slid out of their booth and followed the waiter through the dining area and out into the bar. The bartender was cleaning glassware as they passed. He glanced at them quickly then returned to his work with studied nonchalance.

They turned left at the far end of the bar and entered a short hallway that ended at a door marked ‘Office’. The waiter knocked then turned the knob and stood aside so that Higa and Kanahele could enter. The door shut behind them.

The room in which they stood was remarkable. Chinese pottery of great antiquity was displayed tastefully on shelves and in wooden cases. The walls were adorned with exquisite calligraphy. Even more remarkable, however, was the large Chinese man in an impeccably tailored linen suit who sat behind an enormous teak desk inlaid with ivory.

Higa changed his mind. This, whatever it was, was now more Charlie Chan than Fu Manchu.

“Have a seat, my friends.” Their host indicated two high-backed chairs that fronted his desk. The muted strains of a bamboo flute wafted gently from speakers hidden somewhere in the room.

“Well now,” the man continued in the same cultured tones as their erstwhile waiter. “Since you’ve made it this far I can safely assume that you’ve been vetted properly by my assistant. So, then, I can further assume that either one or both of you are in need of money.”

“That would be me,” Kanahele offered with a glance at Higa.

“And might I ask what has brought you to your current straits?”

“Gambling,” the big Hawaiian responded. Higa was momentarily taken aback by his friend’s sudden ability to improvise, to make it up as they went along.

“I see. And how much are you, um, in the hole for? I believe that’s the proper expression.”

“Ten large.”

“Very well. Here’s the ‘menu’ you requested.” With surprisingly small hands, the Chinese man pushed a printed page across the desk toward Kanahele. “If I might be so bold, I’d suggest that item #5 might serve your current level of need and adequately cover our fees as well.”

Kanahele glanced at the paper and then passed it to Higa.

“Yeah,” Kanahele agreed as he accepted the sheet back from his partner. “Item #5 it is, then. Why’s there such a range in the money?”

“You must understand. In our business there’s obviously no outside regulation. It’s purely market driven and it all depends on where we can locate a buyer. At the present time, for example, the price for what you are offering ranges from, say, $30,000 in China to maybe $80,000 in India. That’s US dollars of course. There’s no paperwork and no ‘contract’ to speak of. We must therefore rely on mutual trust. Can you agree to such terms?”

“Shit. I don’t have a choice. I need the money and I need it fast.”

“Precisely my point.” The seated man smiled as he steepled his hands on the desk in front of him. “I’ll make the necessary arrangements with due haste. If you’d provide me with contact information, I’ll be in touch as soon as everything’s ready. There’s nothing whatsoever to worry about. The removal of a kidney is simple matter these days and, after all, you have two to start with.”

Kanahele went to the back pocket of his chinos as if reaching for his wallet and a business card. He emerged with a gold detective’s shield instead. As soon as the well-dressed man behind the desk processed what he was seeing, his right hand shot toward a drawer. In the blink of an eye, Higa was behind the desk. He slammed the drawer shut on the man’s hand and, presumably, a gun.

“Hey,” Kanahele began with a twinkle in his eye. The Hawaiian policeman’s own service revolver was now pointed at the grimacing Chinaman’s chest. “Game’s over ‘brah. Lose with dignity. By the way, what’s the going rate these days for hands? Look’s like you might need one. Good thing you have two, huh!”


Hours later, Higa and Kanahele emerged on the street. As was generally the case in the late afternoon, the setting sun was wrapping the sere southwestern flank of Diamond Head in a warm embrace of goodbye. In addition to the normal throng of buses, taxis and pedestrians, Kuhio Avenue was now also awash in a sea of HPD patrol cars and unmarked vehicles from a bewildering variety of government and law enforcement agencies. The normally imperturbable Higa looked worried as the two tired men cut down a side street to where they had parked their own car about a block from the Ala Wai Canal.

“What a multijurisdictional nightmare this whole thing has turned into, Ray. It’s going to take days to do all the paperwork and interface with all the relevant agencies.”

“Yeah. It’s the ‘Feds that bother me. They’re such pricks. Anyhow, what really pisses me off is the fact that I never got to have my General Tso’s Chicken. I was really looking forward to that. Make sure you thank your Dr, Li for me, OK?”

Higa stopped and turned toward his partner.

“The way I figure it is this. Dr. Li must have known what was going on in that place. I mean, it’s common knowledge that there’s a robust trade in human organs in Asia. I just didn’t realize there was a ‘branch office’ right here in Hawaii. Li must have been treating people for mysterious post-operative infections. Eventually he put it all together. Anyhow, he found a way to tip me off without involving himself directly.”

The two detectives continued walking. As they approached their vehicle, it was Kanahele’s turn to look worried.

“Damn. I just thought of something else.” Higa paused again, expectant. Kanahele delivered the inevitable punch line. “When Maile hears about all of this, she’ll want to auction me off on EBay … piece-by-piece.”

The End


James C. Clar's short fiction has been published in places like Flashshot, The Taj Mahal Review, Golden Visions Magazine, Apollo's Lyre, Word Catalyst Magazine, Everyday Fiction, Long Story, Short, Antipodean SF and the Magazine of Crime & Suspense. Stories featuring HPD Detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele have appeared previously here on Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers as well as on A Twist of Noir and Powder Burn Flash.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

NIGHT GAMES by Dorothy Davies

Night Games

"The streets are too dangerous, too dangerous for thee, sweet Tera, stay here, bolted and barred, let no one in. No one, do you understand?"

"All I understand, damn thine eyes to eternal Shadow, is that thou art going without me!"

"And why shouldn’t I? Am I not a free person, able to do as I wish?"

"Going out to play thy night games, thinkest thou I don’t know that? Thinkest thou I don’t know what thou would do for the price of a Dream?"

"Dream? Tera, Gallillya, what art thou talking about? I must go. Bolt the door after me."

He’s gone. Gerick’s gone. All his talk of doing what he wants, of course he’s gone Dream hunting, there’s no other reason for him to go out on the streets at night.

I want a pleasure stick. If he has gone hunting I’m going to indulge myself. Where are the eternally shadowed things?

No pleasure sticks. Damn Gerick, he’s used them all! Perhaps there’s some in his compartment over there -

No. No pleasure sticks.

Then I’ll go and get some.


Why not out?

Because Gerick said it's dangerous.

And what does Gerick know about it? He’s out there right now, walking the streets, playing night games, and he comes home safe in the mornings, doesn’t he, when the first light touches - The dead and the dying.

But that’s only now and then, when the Light goes.

What goes on out there at night? He’s never said, is it too unspeakable? Or too delightful? 

The epitome of sensuality and joy? Or the epitome of evil?

Why not find out?

Why not go play my own night games?

What about the Condains?

What about the Condains?

Well, they’re -

Everyone says they are, but do they know for sure?

No. So let’s go, what are you waiting for?

A little bit of courage.

I wonder what Gerick pays for his Dreams? And does he pay in golds or rapames? And what 

if he has no currency Does he then sell his -

Stop thinking. Come on. Let’s go join in the games. Is the door locked? Yes good and tight. 

Then let us go. Softly now, softly as I go.

It’s dark.

Of course it’s dark, it's night.

But I didn’t expect it to be this dark. How can anyone see?

Now can I see a little better. What was that? Oh Eternal Light, that dog faced Thene has just clawed that poor Wontan - and now it’s robbing it!

Out, out on the street, from doorway to corner they come, look everywhere, the clawing Thenes!


See how they run! As long as the Light stays with me, I think I’ll make it.

Who would have the pleasure sticks? Lightforsaken Wontans, Kerbers, Condains? If it’s the Condains I’m renouncing pleasure sticks right now! I always meant to find out if the story of the Condain massacre of the helpless Dreamers was true. Now I don’t think I want to know.
I heard the Wontans orally mate with the Kerbers. The idea is - almost - unthinkable. Wonder if I’ll see any tonight?

Walk tall, Tera, walk tall, and they will think you are one of the night children and will leave you alone.

How do I know these things?

Question not. Accept.

Rays of the Light, I’m scared!

But it’s not too late to turn back. And I’m not sure that I want to anyway. Fear is almost as exciting as pleasure, and almost as stimulating.

"Who - who are you?"

And where did you come from? One moment there was nothing but darkness and now there is the silvery shine of your moss and mask, Zandorian.

"What seekest thou, child of the night?"

"Pleasure sticks."

Bold I am to reply without salutations to a Zandorian, but being a night child makes you bold, makes you do things that you would never have done had you been in the compartment, safe, barred against the world.

"Pleasure sticks."


"Not a Dreamer, then?"

"No, I don’t Dream."

"A night child with some sense, thou art unusual, child."

"Am I so unusual?"

"Thou knowest of course what people do for Dreams."

"No, but since I came out tonight and saw some of the things on the streets, I’m beginning to find out."

"Death and destruction. Life is cheap when Dreams are at stake. And whether that death comes from a Condain boot or a Kerber sacar is immaterial, for the ultimate darkness awaits those who dare Dream."

Gerick, art thou listening?

"Why should it matter to thee, Zandorian?"

"Bold, art thou not?"

"The streets make me bold."

"I suppose that could be true. It matters because I care deeply for the children of the night who waste their lives in frivolous Dreams. Thou only seekest pleasure of the body and I will supply that for thee."

"There is nothing I can give thee in return, Zandorian."

"There is nothing I want in return, child of the night."

"It is dark."

"I will give thee light. Come."

Is there no end to this journey? Is there no end to the passages we have walked? We must be deep in the Zandor sector by now and it is forbidden for me to be here. He must know that surely!

"Art thou afraid?"

"Only of the Condains."

"In some ways thou art more a child than a night child."

"Why sayest thou this?"

"There are more things in life to fear than the Condains."

"What knowest thou, Zandorian?"

"There is nothing I do not know about the night games, but I will not tell thee, child, for fear of alarming thee further."

"These are the pleasure sticks."

"They are indeed. My light will take thee safely back."

"I don’t remember the way."

"Thou will remember. Go in the Light thou believest in."

"I give thee thanks."

He’s gone. One moment there was a soft moss shining the coldness of the night, the gleaming mask, and then - Nothing. My saviour is gone. Time to get back. I have my pleasure sticks, I have a light, I must go.

"What goest thou, night child?"

"I-I seek my compartment, nothing more."

Kerbers! Light protect me, I see Kerbers, with sacars!

"What holdest thou, night child?"

"Pl- pleasure sticks."

"What, no Dreams?"

"I’m not a Dreamer."

The sacars are honed and pointed, they shine in the cold night as his silver mask did.

"Leave me I have nothing for you."

"No games, night child?"

"Thou seekest pleasure sticks on the streets, thou must play the night games."

"I seek not the night games, only solitary pleasure."

"Thou knowest thou art in the Zandor Sector."

"Thou knowest, Kerber, that thou too are in the Zandor Sector."

Is that supposed to be laughter?

"The Zandor Sector is more interesting than the Kerber Sector, night child."

"Leave me, I must go."

"The Kerbers seek games, night child, and the Kerbers have found thee."


It burns, it pours, it hurts I hurt and I cannot see what they have done. They have stolen my light. The pain fills my head, in my body, in my heart, they have cut me, they have stolen my pleasure sticks. Again and again I feel pain, deep cutting pouring pain. If I cry out, no one will heed me. I am alone and I should not be here.

Someone is screaming.

Let me go home, Eternal Light, I give you all my light I will never stray on the streets at night again. I cannot move, to move means pain and I cannot stand the pain. Light of Light, help me, bring me the day, someone must find me and help me! Gerick, the light of the day has come and it is raining. Blood red rain pours from the skies, Gerick, and mingles with my blood soaking into Zandorian soil.

I have just discovered who it is screaming.

It is I. And the Condains are coming. 

Dorothy Davies, author of: Death Be Pardoner To Me

Amor Vincit Omnia

Saturday 9 October 2010

FRIENEMIES By Jim Harrington


Crouched, two hands on my weapon, I scurried across the gravel path to where Cory waited. I rushed past him to a spot on the opposite end of the brick wall and stumbled into position. "Ouch."

"Hey, new kid. Quiet. They'll find us." Cory retrieved a small boring tool from his pouch and quickly rotated the handle, drilling a spy hole in the mortar. "Idiot," he mumbled.

"Sorry," I said, speaking in a loud whisper. "Some asshole left pieces of a broken beer bottle." I didn't normally use words like asshole, but Cory wasn't normal, or so I was told--after I agreed to be his partner. I pulled the shard from my palm and used my tongue for a pressure bandage.

We sat in silence. Listening. An awning of thick branches dammed most of the sun's rays from reaching us. The humid air thick with the scents of pine and decay assaulted my nose. I looked at Cory. His face was cloaked in anger. I didn't know much about him. Only what my friend, Frankie, had learned from Cory's brother. And a few rumors.

"Didn't you and Zach used to be friends?"

"Yeah." Cory's body was hard, stiff. His breathing shallow. He swallowed, and his Adam's Apple bounced in response.

"Frankie told me you two used to do everything together," I said to break the silence. "That he taught you how to do this."


"I also heard he asked Becky out." I look at the ground. "Is that why you're pissed at him?"

"Hey. Either shut your mouth the fuck up, or I'll shut it the fuck up for you." He turned, and his eyes nailed me to the wall. "Clear?"

I began to understand why no one else would be his partner.

Snapping twigs and furtive voices sounded the alert. Cory waved. I took his position at the hole.

He lay prone, legs spread, and readied his gun. "Let me know when he's in range."

I watched Zach approach. He motioned to his left and right. His partners spread out. I thought we were supposed to work in pairs. Zach crept forward, bent over, moving his head from side to side. I couldn't see the others. I gripped my gun harder to stop my hands from shaking. It didn't help.

Three more paces, and he would be in range. I waited. Waited.

As Zach crossed the imaginary line, I tapped Cory on the leg. He sidled sideways until his gun and head emerged from behind the wall. He raised the barrel and sighted his target.

I jumped when the gun went off. Cory sneered and rose to his knees, unconcerned about the others. I peered through the hole and saw the blob of paint over Zach's heart. Yellow tentacles slithered down his shirt.

Cory raised his weapon over his head and laughed as paint exploded on his chest. Losing the game didn't matter to him. He'd accomplished his goal.

I pulled the gold cross from its hiding place under my shirt, rubbed it between my thumb and finger, and stared at Cory. What I saw frightened me. His clenched fist. The menacing black streaks across his cheeks. His smile, rigid, unforgiving. His eyes displayed a message--a message that said next time the gun would be real.


Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His recent stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Weirdyear, MicroHorror, Flashshot and others. Jim's Six Questions For blog (
provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.”