Tuesday 29 March 2011

TORALOO by Sean Patrick Reardon


Toraloo


"KG is a fucking force," I tell Layne, who's more interested in his iPhone than watching Kevin Garnett slam home an alley oop pass from Shaq.

"Best move they ever made getting KG,” he says, fingers still moving around on the touch screen.

The Celtics are crushing the Kings by twenty-six with six to go. The spread is more than covered. Layne’s up a grand and happy about it.

We’re down from Jay, Vermont hanging out in our room at the Crown Plaza in Nashua, New Hampshire. Layne’s waiting for a Facebook status update from Shannon that will let us know if our game is on for tonight.

At ten-thirty it comes and Layne comments on her status to acknowledge receipt.

“It never ceases to amaze me how stupid some people are,” Layne says, walking toward the bathroom. “What the fuck was he thinking? This Little Chucky dude sounds like a real fucking pissah.”

“If his picture is any indication, yeah, I’d have to agree. Stupid and ugly is a tough cross to carry through life. The odds were stacked against him from day one.”

Layne laughs. “Fucker does look like that psycho doll though, deserves the nickname.”

“Don’t even know the dude and I’m feeling bad for him. Not our problem though, we’re just a solution. He dug his own grave man, had choices. Just didn’t make the right ones.”

Little Chucky Arla is the guy we’re here to see. He fucked up by selling a pound of indoor to some college kid who was dealing out of his dorm at Saint Anselms. Schoolboy got busted, gave up Little Chucky, who then rolled on someone who works for the people that contracted us. Word is the weed’s tied to eighty pounds that was stolen from an evidence shed in Londonderry during the policeman’s ball right before Christmas.

He’s been cooperating and carrying on like it’s business as usual, not knowing a connection on the force put out the good word that Chucky has been telling tales out of school.

Just like learning your ABC’s, everyone knows the Italians don’t…fuck…around. Chucky must have been in the bathroom sneaking a cig during that class.

We get our shit together and head out, looking like a couple of clean cut guys going for a drink. We drove down this afternoon in my Durango, but get into the Toyota Tacoma that’s been left in the parking lot for us. I drive and we leave for a strip joint called the Blue Moon Lounge in Tyngsboro about twenty minutes away.

***

I pull the truck into the Blue Moon parking lot, start looking for a black Camaro. We find it in the back lot. The plate number matches and I pull in beside it. Seems Chucky is a creature of habit. Thursday’s are strip joint night.

The bartender’s been paid off and used Facebook from his handheld to let Shannon know when Chucky arrived. He also knows someone’s coming and what the code words are. If he didn’t, he’d most likely make me for an undercover and spread the word.

Layne reaches back into the extra-cab section, pulls out the briefcase, opens it and hands me a pair of gold rimmed glasses. I put them on, slide a wedding band on my finger and I’m just another married jerk-off going to a titty bar. Ten years we’ve been doing this and never had to use our guns. A gun does the job, but it’s so damn impersonal. For me, it’s more like a prop.

He takes a Walther with a suppressor on it out the briefcase case, closes the cover. “Hopefully he doesn’t spend all night in there, already after eleven.”

“Let’s rock and roll. I’ll call you when he’s on the way.”

We bump fists, I get out, and Layne slides over to the driver’s seat.

***

The Blue Moon is no Gold Club, more like a honky-tonk bar with seating around a runway stage that runs down the middle of the floor. Everything about the place is cliché, although I’m impressed that Weezer is doing “Troublemaker” instead of some Motley Crue song. The red headed chick on the stage is decent looking, but wouldn’t make the JV squad of any city team.

As I walk toward the bar, I see Chucky sitting on the right side of the stage, making small talk with a bleach blonde stripper who’s waiting for her turn in the rotation. The twelve inch Plexiglass barrier around the perimeter of the stage makes it look like a mini hockey rink.

I take a seat near the end of the bar, wait to be served. The bartender notices me, takes his time coming over. He’s big and has the MMA fighter look going on with the shaved head and tribal tattoo’s running down each forearm.

“What can I get you?”

I point to the liquor bottles lining the wall behind him. ”You have any Jameson back there?”

His cocky facial expression transitions as he realizes who I am, like he was expecting Jason Statham or Paulie Walnuts, not someone who could have been his high school English teacher. He’s probably thinking he should make a career change, has what it takes, if someone looking like me can do it.

He says what I’m expecting to hear, “No Jameson, only Bushmills.”

I give him a twenty for an eight dollar bottle of Heineken, turn around and pretend to be interested in what’s going on. A couple minutes later, a brunette wearing neon pink pumps and sheer black negligee comes over for the hard sell. Her name is Destiny and I tell her I’m Rick, not Shane. I know the drill, ask if she wants a drink and pay ten dollars for a White Russian.

She’s nice enough and when I glance at Chucky, he’s draining the last of his drink and starting to stand up, getting ready to leave. He starts bullshitting with one of the girls while he grabs his North Face jacket off the seatback. I tell Destiny I need a smoke and head toward the exit, pushing the send call button on the cell in my pocket. Layne is now on standby.

Outside, standing near the entrance, I light a Newport. I don’t smoke, but it lets me hang out front without getting Chucky nervous. Two minutes later he comes out. I pretend to be on my cell, smoking, not acknowledging him as disappears around the side of the building.

One minute later, my cell vibrates. I flick the smoke into the cold February air and head for the truck. When I get there, Chucky’s in the driver’s seat of the Camaro and Layne is riding shotgun. He’s already made sure Chucky’s not wearing a wire, or they wouldn’t be in the car. Layne opens the door, still pointing the Walther at Chucky’s head. He’s got a Glock in his other hand that he’s taken from him. We knew he would most likely have a gun and true to form, he gave it up. I take the Walther from Layne as he gets out, and sit down.

Chucky starts the Camaro as Layne gets into the trunk. I tell him to follow behind when Layne pulls out.

***

“Listen, I’m not going to hurt you. They wanted me to. Shit, they wanted me to kill you. But that’s not how I roll. I’m a huge fan of the powers of persuasion. You know, talking things out, man to man, making a gentleman’s agreement. What do think?”

He nods his head, squeaks out a yes. Despite the death grip both his hands have on the wheel, I can see them trembling. More assurance is needed.

“I know you’re uptight, but you need to relax and clear out your head man. Jesus, Chucky, you already proved you’re a cowardly, rat fuck. Now is the time to start turning things around, be a big boy…and man the fuck up.”

***

It takes us twenty minutes to get to the abandoned quarry in Westford. During the ride Chucky has settled down. I still sense apprehension, but he’s calm and told me everything I need to know. We stop behind the Tacoma. Layne jumps out with a pair of bull cutters, snaps the lock securing the steel gates, pushes the right side one open, and gets back in trunk. He drives through with me following. He gets out, puts the gate back into position.

We drive a couple hundred yards down the dirt road. Layne pulls over to let us pass and Chucky stops the Camaro fifty-feet away.

I tell him to kill the headlights, shut down the engine, and put the interiors on. Layne comes over to my side, holding the briefcase. I lower the window and put a hand on Chucky’s shoulder.

“Here’s how it’s going to play out Chucky. We’re going to secure you to this seat, take the keys and leave you here. I know it’s cold and it’s going to suck being stranded, but sooner or later, someone’s going to see the car, and get you out. Hell, if you can somehow free yourself, go for it. You’ll just have to rely on your survival skills. If you ask me, it’s more of a mental thing than a physical one.”

***

Chucky shows no signs of being afraid, even though his thighs and upper body are chained to the driver’s seat. His hands are tie wrapped behind his back and duct tape covers his mouth. Compared to dying, this must seem like a minor inconvenience. He’s just waiting for us to get the fuck out of there, while every episode of Criss Angel-Mindfreak is probably running through his mind.

We’re standing outside the driver’s side of the Camaro. I bend down so my head is level with Chucky’s and look at him through the open window.

“You should be thankful Chucky. This is how a real man goes out. You’re leaving a legacy man. And not as a squealing, untrustworthy, little sack of shit either. You’re going to be a bona-fide folk hero. I’m going to make it known that when it came time to pay your dues, you took it like a man. How you told us to fuck off, spit in my face, started saying Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s.”

Just like the bartender at the Blue Moon, Chucky’s expression morph’s before our eyes as he processes what I’m saying. I watch his eyes widen, fill with water, and overflow down his cheeks. He starts hyperventilating, snorting air out of his nostrils.

Layne’s nodding, going along with it, says, “Yeah, that Little Chucky, guy had ice water in his veins right to end. Telling us he was going to come back from the dead, hunt us down, and drag us by our cocks to meet Satan himself.”

Now he’s fighting against all the restraints, almost convulsing.

“Come on Chucky,” I say. “What did we talk about on the ride? This is your time, your moment. Quit your sniveling, get it together, and look at me.”

His body goes limp and his head turns slowly toward me. He’s still in a bad emotional state, but at least he’s looking me in the eye.

“Think back to when you were a kid. Did you have a happy childhood?”

He nods a yes.

“Both parents raise you?”

Another nod.

“Think of those nights when you had a bad dream, then ran into you parent’s room and jumped in their bed. Think of how comforting it was to feel the warmth of the blankets and your mother’s body as you snuggled up next her. How safe that made you feel, like nothing in the world could ever harm you. Take yourself to that place Chucky. Visualize it, go there. You…can…do…it!”

Layne hands me a CD. I reach through the window and push it into the disk player. It loads and the first notes of Bing Crosby singing “Irish Lullaby” start to play. Layne and I watch as Chucky loses it. The sobbing and high-pitched moans are coming from the depths of his soul as snot syrup oozes from his nose.

Layne starts squirting charcoal lighter fluid all over Chucky, stopping when the bottle is empty. He steps back, starts walking toward the truck.

I pull a Mexican made ½ stick from my coat pocket, light the end of the fuse, and toss it on Chucky’s lap.


BIO:
Sean Patrick Reardon is the author of the crime thriller novel "Mindjacker". He's blogging at:
http://seanpatrickreardon.blogspot.com/

Saturday 26 March 2011

THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT by Julie Morgan


The Birthday Present

She wasn't what he'd expected at all. When he rang the agency to book an evening with ‘Krystal’, he'd had visions of a living doll turning up on his doorstep, someone beautiful and voluptuous with immaculate hair and make-up. He'd pictured her in skyscraper heels and a stylish trench coat, which she would discard to reveal a basque worn with tiny lace panties, suspenders and seamed stockings. He had fantasised about the things he would do to her, the things he would instruct her to do to him, had seen her on her knees looking up at him, on all fours, peeking coquettishly over her shoulder, then underneath him, long, stockinged legs wrapped around his body, stiletto heels bobbing at the ceiling.

In his fantasies, the woman he ordered from 'East End Girls' had been variously blonde, auburn and brunette, but always beautiful and never in the slightest like this creature.

He looked again at the woman on his doorstep. She was an emaciated mouse with corned beef legs, shivering in an orange fanny pelmet, bubblegum pink fun-fur jacket and scuffed gold shoes. Her hair was in a scrunchy, her make-up made her face look like something a child had crayoned, and she both smoked and chewed gum. The ceaseless chomping made a vein in her temple crawl back and forth like a wayward snake. His breath caught in his throat: he’d saved up for her for weeks.

'Howay, man, let's in,' she demanded, hefting the huge shoulder bag she carried. 'It's fucking brass monkeys out here!'

Once inside, he ran to find a saucer for her to use as an ashtray. When he returned, he found her picking through his CDs, a scowl on her face.

'Have you not got nowt more poppy?' she asked, clearly unimpressed with his jazz collection. 'Birra Kylie?'

It was his birthday: she was his present to himself, the only one he would get. At thirty-five, having reached what his mother called middle-age, he thought it was time he had a woman in his life. Leaving work he had felt buoyant, excited, for once the first one out of the door.

He wiped his palms on his trousers, bought new from Matalan for the occasion, then shook his head.

'What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?' She gave up on the CDs, dropped the cigarette into the saucer and wriggled out of her jacket. It lay on the couch where she dropped it like a sulky, hairy, pink pig.

'Do you like me tits?' she asked, pushing them together and leaning forward. 'I got them for Christmas. Mint, aren't they?' He nodded, then noticed the scabs and bruises, the tracks on her arms. He swallowed, feeling queasy. 'I do hand relief, oral and full straight sex. Give us an extra twenty and you can have anal. I won't be tied up or slapped nor nowt, mind, and I don't perform with pets. Oh – and I don't do nowt without a condom, plus lubrication for penetration. Got that?' He nodded. The agency'll charge your card for whatever you have. Anal gets charged as a straight shag and I get to keep the twenty.'

He wanted her to leave. He wanted his first time to be special, couldn't imagine doing anything with this woman. He looked at her hands, rough little monkey paws, bitten nails coated in chipped purple lacquer, and felt he would rather die than have her touch him. He felt cheap and dirty, his fantasies sitting in the pit of his stomach like an indigestible meal.

'What's up?' She rummaged through the bag she'd dropped on the floor and pulled out a condom. 'First time?'

He swallowed. There had been moments, fumblings, when he was at school. Then magazines while he cared for his mother, films after she went into care. The nursing home ate his money like a gannet ate fish. She had meant first time paying for it. She had no idea.

She grinned. 'Don't worry, I'll soon get you warmed up, then you can tell us what you fancy.' She nodded at the bag. 'I've got all sorts in there if you like toys.'

He hadn’t wanted to pick up any of the girls who hung around the industrial estate after the workers went home. Besides, he didn’t drive, couldn’t afford a car. The care home costs…. He had been grateful when he heard someone at work talking about that particular agency: East End Girls, who came at east end prices. He wanted a girlfriend. He was lonely, had been lonely for as long as he could remember.

But this woman was not what he wanted. Not what he wanted at all.

‘N… no,’ he said.

She rolled her eyes and went to work, taking charge, leaving him no room to protest. Half an hour later, he felt much, much better about the whole situation, and after an hour, he no longer understood why he’d ever had reservations. He negotiated a price for her to stay the night, to hell with the expense, then let her handcuff him to his mother’s brass bedstead. Later still he fell asleep, wrists abraded despite the lining on the handcuffs, a strangely satisfying ache in his balls, and dreamed of trumpeting angels.

He awoke in the early hours, at first puzzled by the animal warmth of the small body at his side: then he remembered, and he smiled. He looked down at her, her features lit by the landing light shining in through the glass above the door. Mascara was smeared around her eyes, streaked on her cheeks, and her arm was thrown up above her head, her stubble-filled oxter a smudge, the track marks on her arm seeming to glow faintly in the artificial twilight. Her mouth hung open and she made little snorting sounds as she slept. He adored her. He decided her pet name would be ‘Piglet’. He could hardly wait to tell her.

Next morning, it being the weekend, he reckoned on a lie-in and a late, leisurely breakfast, but for her it was business as usual.

‘I have to get back,’ she told him, stepping into the orange skirt and pulling on her top. ‘Me mam’s got the bairns.’

He hadn’t reckoned on kids. ‘But it’s different now.’ They’d work it out. Maybe her mam could keep them all the time.

‘How’s that, like?’ she asked, picking up sex toys and throwing them in the huge shoulder bag.

‘Well, now we’ve ... you know.’

‘Shagged?’

He winced at the coarse language. ‘Made love.’

She rolled her eyes and headed downstairs as he scampered along behind. ‘You paid for that, you daftie,’ she said over her shoulder. She shrugged into the pink, fun-fur jacket. ‘That’s me job.’ She hefted the shoulder bag and headed for the door. ‘And now it’s home time. Ta-ra, pet.’

Panic caused him to dance across the room and place himself between her and freedom. ‘Piglet!’ he exclaimed.

‘What?’

He shook his head. ‘Not anymore. You don’t do that anymore, we’re together now.’

‘Look, get it straight, we’re not together. You’re not the first to get mixed up about it, but I’m not your girlfriend. It’s just business. You’re a client.’ She popped a stick of gum and began to chew: the vein in her forehead kicked into life and recommenced its squirming. ‘If you want to see me again, ring the agency. They’ll book it in the diary.’

‘The diary! I need to make an appointment to see my own girlfriend?’

She sighed. ‘I’m not your girlfriend.’ She took a step toward the door. ‘Now let me past.’

She made to move around him and he grabbed at her arm. ‘Marry me!’

‘What?’

‘Marry me.’ He took her hand. ‘It’s not how I’d meant to ask, but I mean it.’ He clumped down onto one knee and gazed up at her. ‘Will you?’

‘Me? Marry you?’

He nodded, a smile beginning to form on his lips, hope for the future blossoming in his heart. He would buy her a ring, they could shop for it that afternoon.

She let out a derisive hoot of laughter. ‘Look at you!’ she exclaimed. ‘Sad, fat, borin’ ... not if you were the last man on earth!’ She shoved him backwards, knocked him off balance, and he toppled over. ‘Now get out of me way, you fuckin’ freak.’

When he thought about it afterwards, the memories came in a series of images, juddering, flickering, like an old film: her startled expression when he hit her; the bag flying off her shoulder and showering the room with sex toys; her eyes, then her tongue, bulging out of her face as his hands found themselves around her throat, squeezing and squeezing until she stopped trying to fight him. The next clear memory he had was of sitting on the floor, his back to the front door, her head cradled in his lap.

As the morning slipped by, her phone chirruped again and again as the people in her life tried to contact her. He ignored it. His girlfriend – fiancée, really – was dead and he felt justified in allowing his grief to take over.

Later in the afternoon, the thought of her starting to decompose stopped his hand as it stroked her hair. He sniffed. Could he detect a tang in the air? He thought so. He eased himself out from beneath her slight frame, trying not to shudder as he did so: she was still the love of his life, after all. He went upstairs to the bathroom and relieved himself, the stream of urine a blessed relief after holding it for so long. Then he washed and dried his hands, put the plug in the bath and turned on the hot tap. Nipping down to the kitchen, he seized the bottle of washing-up liquid from under the sink and jogged back up the stairs, panting as he reached the top. He squirted a generous amount into the streaming water and looked on in satisfaction as it frothed up and bubbles filled the bath. Then he turned off the hot tap and ran the cold: cold water was a much better idea, he decided.

Back downstairs once more, he picked her up. She felt stiff and cold, and, for such a small person, unnaturally heavy: a dead weight, he thought, and a strangled giggle escaped him. In the bathroom again, he turned off the tap and undressed her. He tried to slip her gently into the bath, but she was awkward to manoeuvre and he dropped her. She fell in with a splash and disappeared under the water completely. He hauled her up, then dipped his facecloth in the water, wrung it out and placed it over her face: the bulging eyes and protruding tongue had belied the image of her enjoying a restful bubble bath. He left her to it and went to change into dry clothes and make some sandwiches: after all his grief and trouble, he felt famished.


Later in the day the police knocked on his door. ‘Sorry to bother you, sir, but we’re looking for a missing woman,’ the one on the front step told him. He could see the copper’s female companion a few paces behind him on the path. ‘Ann Chilton. We understand she spent last night with you.’

He looked at the photograph the copper held out. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘she was here. But she left.’

‘When was that, sir?’

‘This morning, around nine o’clock.’

‘Did she say where she was going?’

He shrugged. ‘She said her mother was looking after her children.’

‘Do you mind if we take a look around inside?’

‘Do you have a warrant?’

‘We don’t need one if you give us permission.’

He thought of the sex toys strewn around his living room, the shoulder bag – her shoulder bag – lying on the floor, scuffed gold shoes at the bottom of the stairs. He swallowed, wiped his palms on his trousers. ‘Well, I don’t,’ he said.

‘Any reason why not, sir? After all, if you’ve nothing to hide …. ’ The policeman let that hang in the air.

He made to shut the front door on them, but the copper on the step was quick, got his boot in the way. His companion was already moving, making for the door, talking into her radio. Next thing he knew, the door was open and they were inside the house. They took one look at the state of the sitting room and there was shouting and the thudding of boots, one copper heading through to the back of the house, the other up the stairs. He heard the bathroom door slam open, the handle smacking against the wall.

‘She’s here!’ the woman copper shouted. ‘Oh god! Poor cow.’

He sat down on the step, looked out at the garden with its too-long grass and raggedy hedge. Beyond that, over the road, the curtains were twitching at number eleven. Mrs Todd. She missed nothing, nosy old bat, she was always gossiping with the neighbours. Well, he thought to himself, they’d all have something to talk about now.


BIO:
Julie Morgan has stories in a variety of places, and is trying to corral them all here: http://gonebadonlinestories.blogspot.com/.

Friday 25 March 2011

TKnC regular, Lily Childs, nominated for Spinetingler Award!

The Spinetingler Awards are among the most respected on the net. So, to see some of your friends on the list of nominees is thrilling.

Finding it hard to be impartial, I have to say, I'm particularly thrilled that my loyal friend, Lily Childs, made the coveted list with her short story Carpaccio. We're so proud to have published this creepy and memorable tale here on TknC.

The list of ten nominees just oozes class - Jodi MacArthur, Matthew C Funk, Nigel P Bird, Chad Eagleton, Steve Weddle, plus some others I'll be checking out. Voting starts next week. The full list is here.

Congratulations to you all!

Friday 18 March 2011

NO LOOSE ENDS by Charlie Wade


No Loose Ends


Bill was getting too mad.

We’d been set up. I was annoyed too, but he was flipping his lid. Dangerous thing that is.

“What are we gonna do with her?”

I looked down at the trussed up policewoman. He’d tied her up pretty good. A bit too good. I found myself wondering who else he’d tied up like that before. And what for.

“I’m thinking.” It’s true, I was. Weren’t no ideas coming though.

“Fucking bitch,” said Bill. A trickle of spit rolled down his chin. “How did she find us? She couldn’t have followed us. Weren’t no one following us.”

I shook my head. He was right. We’d checked twenty, maybe thirty times after the robbery, no one was behind us. One hell of a job it was. Bookies in the middle of night, hundred grand in the safe. Good tip off that was. Damn good tip off.

“Maybe she’s telling the truth,” I said. “Maybe she did just see the cars and wonder what was going off?”

Four cars outside a deserted farmhouse at night. It would attract attention. Especially if you knew it was empty. A local cop would. And she was the local cop.

“We gotta do this now.” Bill was sweating hard. I knew he had it in him though. I knew he could shoot her.

“Yeah. Reckon we outta. They’ll be finished divvying up soon.”

Al and his brother Ray were in the kitchen, dividing the money into four piles. Neither of them wanted to shoot her. I knew they wouldn’t. I didn’t want to neither. Didn’t seem right, shooting a defenceless woman. It had to be done though, had to be. She’d seen our faces. She could identify us. We couldn’t have that. There could be no loose ends. She had to die.

Bill walks towards her. Sweats pouring off him now, like he’s in some sauna. He holds his gun out, pointing it at her face. His hands shaking but he’s only eight feet away, he ain’t gonna miss.

“Fucking pig.”

He pulls his trigger.

I pull mine too.

The crack of Bill’s pistol was overpowered by the roar of my shotgun. My ears rang, felt like they’d exploded. As the smoke cleared, I looked past the barrel. The body was full of shot. A pair of eyes stared at me, pleading, questioning. Slowly the colour in the eyes faded as life flushed from them.

I couldn’t stay in that room long. I felt sick, needed some air that didn't taste of cordite. I went in the kitchen. Ray and Al had finished counting. They were smoking the big cigars we’d found in the safe. They offered me one, but I shook my head. I needed fresh air. I stood by the sink and ran some water, cupping my hands under it.

“All done?” asked Ray.

I nodded. “Bill’s still in there. God knows what he’s up to now.”

They laughed. They knew Bill was a sick bastard, none of us would put anything past him.

“We better clear out,” I said. “Someone might have heard the shots.”

Right on cue, it happened.

The policewoman burst into the room and pointed the shotgun at Ray. He reached for his gun but was too late, she opened a barrel on him. She turned straight away and emptied the other barrel into Al. He’d already picked up his gun, aimed it and pulled the trigger. His gun's blast was tiny though, like no bullet had actually come out.

She looks at me. Both of her barrels empty and two dying people sat at the table with a pile of money on it.

She nods her head. “Not bad was it?”

“Very believable,” I said. “Very, very believable.”

You see, just before Bill pulled the trigger I turned round. Pointed the shotgun at him. He looked surprised, even more surprised when I pulled the trigger. He might have shot at her with his gun full of blanks, but mine had the real thing in it. After that I untied her, gave her the shotgun and a few more cartridges. All I had to do then was keep the boys in the kitchen and wait.

She lowers the shotgun. “Do you know how fucking scary that was, him shooting at me?”

“Sorry,” I says. “I told you they’d be blanks.” I’d gone out back, dug up the guns and swapped the bullets this morning. She knew I was going to do it, but had to trust me. Must have been real hard.

“Come on then,” she says, “we’d better hurry. You got the live bullets?”

I nodded and grabbed an old coffee tin from under the sink. I replaced the bullets in the guns, the gloves on my hands making it awkward. Then I fired off a few shots to make it look like they’d missed her and threw the cash into a holdall.

The money wasn’t going to be missed, you see. It should never have been there. The owner of the bookies was not going to report the break in. The bookies’ CCTV only showed three people going in, too. I was the driver, and I made sure I was out of sight of the cameras the whole time Al cracked the safe. No one knew I was involved in any way. It was Ray and Al’s job, see. They picked me and Bill and didn’t tell no one else.

Going out to the cars, I got in the newest.

“See you then, sis. Give us quarter of an hour before you ring in, eh?”

She nodded. Her patrol car stood behind her - Fighting Crime And The Causes of Crime - written along the side.

“Are you coming to Jenny’s birthday party next week?”

I shrugged, but her stare forces me to turn it into a nod.

“Good,” she says. “You are her only uncle, you know. You really ought to make more of an effort.”

“Yes sis,” I replied, starting up the car.


BIO:
Charlie Wade lives in Derbyshire, England and has written two unpublished books, a comedy spy thriller and a post credit crunch dystopia. He's had a few short stories published online places and his story, Pleading and Bleeding, will be in Out Of The Gutter Magazine issue 7. He blogs at
www.spiesliesandpies.blogspot.com

Thursday 3 March 2011

HORRORFEST

Howdy folks,
just a quick head's up. We're currently trying to bring down the backlog of stories here at TKnC. So, for your delectation, I've posted five fresh new tales of horror and the downright weird. Please make sure you scroll down and read 'em all. I wouldn't want you to miss a treat.

In the meantime, submissions remain closed until 31st march. Watch for the traffic light symbol on the right to turn green when we re-open.
cheers
Ye Olde Editor

THE INITIATION By Hal Kempka


The Initiation

Jerry’s headlights cut through the steady downpour, and illuminated the blurry
image of an individual walking alongside the road. As he drove past Jerry
glanced at the drenched and muddied hitchhiker. He appeared fairly young, though
he trudged through the mud with the gait of an old man.
Jerry felt a twinge of guilt, knowing the guy would probably catch pneumonia if
he didn’t get out of the rain. He pulled onto the road shoulder and waited for
the hitchhiker to reach the car. 
Lowering the passenger window, Jerry hollered, “You look like you could use a
ride! How far are you going?”
“The next town,” the man replied.
Jerry could see him shivering beneath his drenched shirt and suit coat.
“Well, hop in, and I’ll give you a lift part of the way. It’ll give you a chance
to dry off a bit.”
The musty aroma of damp earth and wet wool permeated the interior as the young
man slid into the seat. His eyes sank well back into their sockets, and in the
dashboard lights’ dim reflection resembled two black holes drinking in the
night.


“Thank you.” the young man uttered, as Jerry pulled back onto the road.
His voice suddenly sounded raspy, and had taken on a strange rattle.  The young
man suddenly hacked and coughed. He thrust his head against the seat back as
though he was seizing, and Jerry panicked.

“You all right?” he asked, slowing and pulling toward the roadside.
The young man waved his hand, and cleared his throat. “No, I’m fine. Don’t
stop.”

They continued on with the silence broken only by the undulating sheets of rain
intermittently sweeping across the road.  
Jerry leaned forward and wiped away the foggy condensation blurring the
windshield. He suddenly slammed on the brakes, and the tires scraped across the
wet asphalt. The car spun several times, and the tires blew out it as skidded
into a jagged tree limb blocking the road.

The car bounced over the limb and careened off the road.  A cacophony of impact
and twisted metal exploded in Jerry’s ears as the car slammed into a tree, The
bursting airbag slammed him back against the seat and knocked him unconscious.

As Jerry regained consciousness he moaned from the pain wracking his bruised and
battered body. Opening his eyes, he caught a blurry image of the hitchhiker
kneeling over him.
“Help me.” Jerry whispered.
The young man however, said nothing. Jerry screamed in pain as he yanked Jerry
to his feet.
He grabbed Jerry’s arm, and pulled him through the muck.
“They’re coming,” He finally said.
 “Who is coming?” Jerry asked.
His weakened legs wobbled and buckled as he struggled to keep up with the long
stilted strides.
When they finally stopped, the young man glanced behind them. While he saw
nothing, he heard muffled voices in the distance grow louder. He picked up the
pace.

By the time they crossed a dark, open expanse of field, the rain had let up.
After stepping over a broken headstone Jerry realized they were crossing a
cemetery.
The young man pointed to a recently filled grave and said, “Stay off them.”
Jerry trembled with uneasiness as he tried to keep up with the young man. They
carefully wove their way through the darkness. Jerry stumbled, and fell face
down onto a muddy mound of dirt.

A fetid odor stung his nose. Two hands suddenly thrust through the ground, dug
their jagged fingernails into Jerry’s arms. Muck filled Jerry’s nose and mouth
as he was pulled him into the muddy earth.

The young man however, grabbed Jerry’s shirt collar. He yanked him out of the
ground with a strength that defied his size.

“I told you to stay off the dirt,” He growled.
The young man glanced into the darkness as the voices grew louder.  He pulled
Jerry behind him and they hurried in the opposite direction.

Upon reaching another fresh mound of earth the young man stopped. Overturned
chairs lay scattered about beneath a weathered, canvass canopy. He carefully
scooped a handful of loose earth, and inhaled its damp odor of earth and death.

Their pursuers however, stepped through the darkness, and encircled the grave.
The young man immediately grabbed Jerry.

“It’s time.”
“Time for what?”
As the young man bit into jerry’s skull its eggshell crunch, drew a moan from
the crowd. Jerry’s life oozed down his face and neck in a warm gelatinous mass.

The young zombie dropped onto the grave mound, dragging Jerry with him. The
pursuing mob stumbled to a stop, and watched as Jerry’s feet sank beneath the
surface.

The zombies lingered over the grave and flared their nostrils, savoring the
scent of fresh flesh. At the first light of dawn they returned to their own
plots, satisfied their newest resident had proven his capabilities.

 BIO:

Hal's stories have been published in Thrillers, Killers and Chillers, Black Petals,
Dark Valentine, Golden Visions, House of Horror (UK), Midnight in Hell, Night to
Dawn, Sex and Murder, The New Flesh, Twisted Dreams, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia, 
among numerous others.     

He is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, and lives in Highland, California.



DOLL By Julie Jansen

DOLL


The pile teetered on the shelf. Wrapped in plastic and held stiff with slabs of cardboard, they plummeted and crashed on the hardwood with a slap, slap, slap. The chandelier swung too as did his late mother’s prized porcelain doll, the one that gave him so many nightmares as a child and that he would swear took a bite out of his ankle on the 23rd of November 1977.
     He was concerned about the comics most of all because with the pile went a full glass of sticky sweet syrupy soda, the kind that no matter how many protective coatings there were crept into the cracks, the seams, the pages.
     He shot up from his armchair but was unsteady on his feet. The floor buckled and rolled as the tectonic plate shifted beneath him, a hiccup not felt in over seventy years. The glass spilled on his prized issues and in the process knocked over that doll.
     He swore the doll, a brunette with long ringlets and a drop of what could only be described as blood on its chin, turned to him and mouth the words “you taste good” as she fell, freed from her glass case and landed on top of his prized Heliotrope Issue 9, the one that was worth almost what he owed on his car and had been waiting to sell and pay off that junk heap of metal.
     The doll looked at him again then turned to the comic book and with tiny molded white fingers, managed to shimmy the issue out of its protective wrapper.
     “If you let me have one more bite, I won’t,” she said.
     She didn’t have to explain what he knew she was about to do: tear through the pages with her teeth, like tiny splinters of glass.
     He gasped. “Wait. I’ll do it.”
     The smile on her lips was wicked. The corners of her mouth turned up and the teeth shone through. She scooted across the puddle of soda and faced his ankle, reached down, and pulled down his sock.
     The shaking stopped just then and his face relaxed when the pain didn’t come. He opened his eyes and saw her there, on the couch. He tried to move until he saw her smile, reached out a hand, and realized he was under a glass dome dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy with porcelain skin and a splash of red syrupy soda on his little dimpled chin.

Bio:
Julie Jansen lives in Olympia, Washington where she spends the rainy days writing and plotting ways to sneak vegetables into her bonus children's meals. Her stories have appeared in The Harrow, Black Petals Magazine, and Nature: the International Journal of Science.



GIBBERISH By Sam Williams


Gibberish

Paul’s desk was on the second floor of the Brown and Johnson building. It was large, a dated brown color from decades past, and covered in paper. It gave the impression Paul had more work than he could handle. Truth was things had been slow and every day Paul felt he was treading water. He knew he was running out of projects anyone gave a crap about. He also knew if he didn’t come up with some new ideas he was screwed.

He gazed out the window down to the street below. Paul had been excited about getting the window seat until he discovered the tinted glass made the brightest afternoon sky a dismal gray. The view wasn’t too stimulating either; just a parking lot and another office building across the way.

Paul pinched the corner of a cardboard envelope poking out of a stack of papers.  Wiggling it free he held it and contemplated mailing it. Then smacking it against the palm of his hand he thought; now or never. He also thought it was time for the first of the days many cigarette breaks. As he stood he looked to make sure the address was right then tucked the enveloped under his arm. He walked from his desk towards the hall, as he did he didn’t notice the loud crash or sound of car alarms from the parking lot below. 

He liked taking the back stairs over the elevator. With luck he would only have to walk past the receptionist Harriet who took the mail anyhow. He felt like today just might be okay because turning the corner to the lobby it was empty except for Harriet. Walking towards her he could see she seemed to be smiling at something.

Oh Lord, what does she think is so funny? She’s smiling like an idiot Paul thought as he approached the reception desk. Harriet was smiling but as Paul got closer he noticed something was wrong. Her smile was distorted and strained. The smile and empty stare were unyielding even when Paul was directly in front of her.

“Are you eh okay there Harriet?”

She moved her mouth just enough to respond “eh iehhh hooo.” Her voice was not forced; other than being incoherent gibberish it didn’t seem to dictate the duress her face showed.  Paul wondered if she might be having a stroke.

He hurried to find help. He remembered Miranda one of the HR ladies sat around the corner.  Remembering she was the head of the office safety committee, he figured she surely would know what to do.  Hurrying around the corner to the hall he bumped into Randal the national account manager, a man Paul thought of as a slime ball in a Brook Brother’s suit.

“Listen I think something’s wrong with Harriet. We might need to call an ambulance or something.” while Paul spoke he watched Randal slowly lose his balance and slide down the wall to a sitting position on the floor. He looked at Randal’s face it was adorned with that same horrible grin.

“ahieeee jeeee,” Randal repeated sitting on the floor looking disturbing.

The sight of Randal was a bit more than Paul could take. He rushed to find someone else. Heading through the office at every desk was one incoherent coworker after another, every face grinning and babbling. His hurried walk turned into a run, slowing only when he remembered he had left his heart medication in his lower desk drawer.

Paul ducked into the lunch room and found it empty. Short of breath, his face flush, He held the back of a chair. He tried to calm himself by telling himself to: "get a grip” and “take deep breaths”. His efforts were short lived. Because up on the wall was the TV and like always at this time of day, The Sally Jones show was on (which Paul loathed). But instead of talking about the next miracle diet or celebrity break up, she sat in her plush chair with that now all too familiar smile jabbering nonsense.

Paul felt his only salvation might be fresh air and rushed out the back door. Outside he was greeted by the sound of car alarms and the smell of smoke. He avoided the parking lot taking the route he took every day to his bus stop; a quick cut through the courtyard of the adjacent building to the main street. Swiftly he followed the sidewalk towards downtown. He hoped to find someone of sound mind to help. The street was filled with stalled cars and collisions. He passed one car engulfed in flames; the driver sat smiling and still while being burned alive.

He was about to give up with no idea what to do next when he saw two policemen standing by each other at the end of the block. Their backs to Paul they seemed to be conversing. Paul moved towards them cautiously. Relief came over him when he realized he could hear them and understood what they were saying.

“I hate it when a transmitter goes, what a mess.” said the taller officer.

“It’ll all be cleaned up in a day or so. Besides, it weeds out the ones that aren’t taking the signal anymore.” replied the other.
“Please can you guys help me?” Paul said a few feet behind the men.

“Like this guy.” The man said to his friend as he turned, pulled his gun, and shot Paul dead.

“What’s this?” the other officer said. Reaching down he picked up the envelope lying next to Paul.

Looking at it, his friend shrugs “looks like it has postage. Mail it.”

Copyright: Sam Williams writer of horror fiction at http://theswollencorpse.blogspot.com

WALKING THE DOG By Rick McQuiston

Walking The Dog

George felt the top-most layer of skin on his knuckles sheer back beneath the rusty surface of the alternator bracket. The metal was unforgiving on his soft flesh, as if reminding him that its job was securing the alternator to the front of the engine block, not yield to human hands. George straightened up and flung the wrench onto the oil-stained driveway.
The stainless-steel tool pinged off the concrete and spiraled onto the front lawn like a missile, finally settling against the trunk of a small tree. 
With his rage sated George quickly looked up and down the street to make sure nobody saw his outburst. The last thing he wanted was an embarrassing situation with a neighbor.
Just when he was about to get back to his car repair the movement caught George’s eye.
The man was walking his dog along Masonic Boulevard. The animal was large, possibly a retriever, and they seemed to be sauntering along without a care in the world. The dog trotted in front of the man, its four legs in perfect synchronization with each other as it pulled its owner along which each step it took. Its mangy black fur rustled in the breeze.
George found himself staring at the man and his pet. There was nothing unusual about the pair, they were merely out enjoying the tranquility of a beautiful   morning, but he still couldn’t stop himself from watching them.            
            *                
            The mailbox squeaked as George opened it. Three single envelopes were all that were inside, and he was happy to see that none of them were bills.
            As he closed the lid he noticed in his peripheral vision a man walking his dog down the street. He tilted his head back slightly as he turned to get a better view.
            There was no doubt about it, it was the same man as the day before. But there was one major difference…the man was unquestionably shorter.
            George rubbed his eyes. He stepped forward and focused on the man and his pet, and stepped back again. Not only was the man shorter, but also he was smaller as well. And the dog. It had to be at least twice the size it had been the previous day.
              Its head was as big as a basketball, swinging from side to side as it strode along, undoubtedly confident from its increased size.
            George felt his stomach churn. The coffee and toast he’d had for breakfast swirled in his gut like a stone in the tide, pinging into the stomach lining with each passing second. He wanted to run down the street and confront the man (but not the dog) and demand an explanation. And since there was nobody else around he reasoned that a confrontation couldn’t hurt. So he tucked his mail under his arm and started to walk down the sidewalk.
After twenty or so steps however his resolve began to waver. The man and his dog were hardly moving, thus allowing a much clearer view of them.
The dog’s face was like a stone gargoyle. It glared at him with hatred he wouldn’t have thought a dog could possess. The eyes were empty black pools without pupils. They reminded George of a shark’s eyes, cold and driven by a single purpose.
George stopped dead in his tracks. The man did not look at him, didn’t even turn his head. He simply stared straight ahead as if in some type of trance.
And then suddenly the man and his dog started to walk away.
Standing there looking like a fool George finally sulked back into the house.

*             
            The sunshine was peeking through the trees as if announcing the upcoming day. George felt the warm breeze on his face as he made his way to his car. He was tired and wondered if anyone in the office would notice. He’d had next to no sleep the night before, and was certain it would make the workday drag on more than it usually did. With a grunt of bored discontentment on his breath and a cup of luke-warm coffee in his hand he sauntered towards his car.
            The slight movement in the corner of his eye startled George. It was indistinct but warranted his attention nonetheless.
            His cup of coffee shattered on the driveway.
            It was the man and his dog again, walking down Masonic Boulevard. Or perhaps it would have been more appropriate to say the dog and his man. The poor guy couldn’t have been more than two or three feet tall, and the dog was at least four feet at the shoulders, maybe five. It yanked the man along behind it with short,
violent tugs. It would have been comical if it weren’t real.
            George slipped his cell phone out of his pocket. He intended to call the authorities. That man needed help. He needed somebody to intervene before things got ugly.
            He stopped dialing. He couldn’t call the police. They’d think he was crazy. Who’d believe a five- hundred pound dog?
            The dog then swung its threatening gaze over to George. Even from a distance George could see the hatred and evil in the beast’s eyes. He quickly slid into his car, never once taking his eyes off the dog. He wanted to be certain that it wasn’t going to suddenly turn and charge him. A dog that size would turn his car into scrap metal.
            Smashing the accelerator to the floor George sped away from the huge beast and the frail man. He noticed as they grew smaller and smaller in his rear-view mirror that they continued to walk away as if nothing had happened.
                                    *       
            Two days had passed and George was beginning to think he imagined the man and his dog. Even though the episode still held a prominent place in his thoughts he suppressed it as best he could, confining it to the furthest regions of his mind. And so when he strolled onto his driveway to retrieve his newspaper, the morning sun warming his face, the gentle breeze bending the trees slightly, he saw something that turned his world upside down. The impossible became possible. Sanity crossed over into madness. Day turned into midnight.                                                       
           The man and his dog were walking down the sidewalk. With each step the dog grew both in size and ferocity. It dwarfed the man who, accordingly, seemed to shrink with each step he took.
            George stood there, his robe fluttering in the breeze, his jaw practically on the cement. The newspaper fell to the ground and promptly came apart, different sections: Sports, Business, Local, folding into disarray before blowing away.
            The man and the dog were getting closer and closer to George. He could see them more clearly now, and understood, for the most part, what they really were.
            The dog thing was swinging its deformed head from side to side, black spittle spinning from its mouth in coils and splattering on the ground. Thin plumes of scorched earth drifted up from where the stuff landed. It smelled like an open grave in a rainstorm.
            George came to his senses and backed up, his eyes remaining on the dog thing. He felt as if his legs were made of rubber, his head full of air. He was becoming disoriented, weakened by the sheer terror he was feeling.
            “H…help me,” the man croaked. “Please help me.”
            Tearing his gaze away from the beast George looked at the man. He was a pathetic sight. His scrawny body couldn’t have weighed more than 90 pounds. Open wounds revealed raw meat beneath, and his hair was hanging in loose clumps on top of his small head. He seemed to be collapsing in on himself. His arms were nothing more than bones with a thin sheet of pulpy flesh layered over them. His skeletal face was so gaunt it was hardly able to convey the pain he was enduring. One look at it
and George knew what was happening to the poor man.
            The leash. It was the leash. Only it wasn’t a leash at all, but some type of tentacle, an appendage which extended from the bulging back of the dog and fused somehow with the hand of the man. It pulsated as it drained his life away.
            “Please help me,” was the last thing the man said before what was left of his body was sucked into the tentacle in one disgusting slurp. The dog thing’s belly bloated up, trembled for a moment, and then contorted back to its previous size.
            George understood completely now. The man hadn’t been walking his dog, the dog had been pulling the man along, feeding as it did so. And now the man was gone. He’d been the beast’s lunch, nothing more. He’d been captured and eaten by whatever was masquerading as man’s best friend.
            Watching the dog thing shiver and convulse as it digested its meal George suppressed the urge to vomit. He stood frozen, unable to move, although he knew deep down that he wouldn’t get very far even if he was able to run for it. The beast would surely overtake him.
            The dog lumbered forward, its bulbous head growling as it drew closer and closer to its new prey, the tentacle was dragged along behind it. And in one swift movement the feeler swung up into the air, swayed for a brief moment, and arced downward with ferocious efficiency, latching on George’s hands, binding them tightly.
            The pain was immense and all consuming. It coursed through George’s entire body all at once, rendering him helpless. He was trapped where he stood as
the dog thing loped towards him, its dark maw hanging open beneath its greasy snout. Its bulk heaved with each rancid breath it took. It eyes squinted in starved anticipation.
            Being pulled along behind the dog thing George slipped in and out of consciousness. The residual traces of his mind struggled to comprehend what was happening to him, but could barely grasp it. He’d become a dinner entrée for something nobody could ever hope to understand.
                       
*         
            Emily dried her hands on a dishtowel as the morning sun streamed through the trees, warming her small but quaint three-bedroom house. Her husband Frank had already left for work and her youngest, Eddie, busied himself in the backyard playing in his sandbox.
            Emily watched her little boy through the kitchen window. A sad smile crossed her face when she realized just how quickly they grow up. She could clearly remember when he was born.
            Pouring herself a cup of lemon-ginseng tea she steeped it a few times and took a sip. How she loved her hot cup of tea in the morning.
            “Mommy! Mommy! Can I keep him? Can I?”
            Little Eddie came barreling into the house. His face was flush with excitement.
            “What’s that honey?”
“The dog Mommy. Can I keep him?”
            “What dog?”
            Little Eddie sprinted over to the door, jumping up and down, pointing out into the backyard.
            “That one Mommy. He’s really friendly. Can I keep him?”
            Emily pondered the situation for a moment. A companion would be good for her son, as well as protection for the house. She’d have to check with Frank, but that wouldn’t be much of a problem, he loved dogs. And besides, the little fellow was kinda cute.
            She decided to get a closer look at the dog, just to make sure.
            And so, tea cup in hand, Emily opened the door and looked at the animal. Its glossy black snout poked through the chain links of the fence.
            “Oh, I don’t think so honey,” she said quietly.
             Little Eddie’s face immediately turned red as tears welled up in his eyes.
            “Why? Why can’t I keep him Mommy? Why?”
            Emily scooped up her crying son and cuddled him to her chest.
            “Because honey,” she consoled. “I think he already belongs to someone. Look, he still has a leash on.”

Bio:
Rick is a forty-three year old father of two who loves anything horror-related. He's had nearly 250 publications so far, including ones in numerous anthologies, and a few contest placings as well. He's written four anthology books, one book of novellas, and edited an anthology of Michigan authors (“Michigan Madman”). They are all available on Lulu and Amazon. He's also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School, and recently started work on his second novel (“Where Things Might Walk”).