Wednesday 28 September 2011


Warning: Nick debuts 'n' pulls no punches...

Just To Stop Them Leaving

My lover called me 'an evil sadistic bastard' today.  It was just in the heat of the moment.  We were arguing and he just spat the insult at me.  I thought it was uncalled for.  It was only a stupid disagreement about motorcycle safety.  I was pointing out the follies of his lax attitude and the injuries that could result when he just let forth with a barrel of abuse.

            I needed him to get on the back of my bike, but he refused to wear the helmet and we started to bicker.  I think he was just being awkward as he knew we needed to leave as a matter of urgency.  I tried to remind him of the last time he was on my bike and had an accident, he wasn't holding tight enough and just flew right off.  If he hadn't already been dead, it would've really done him an injury.  

For now, he's securely locked in my bike box, well his head is, I dismembered the rest of him hours ago.  I've managed to get the helmet on him, but I can still hear him moaning.  He can be such a baby at times.  For a man with no way of feeling pain he certainly whines like he can. 

            When I first met him, he was called Steve but I hated that name, so he's now called Donald.  I think he prefers it.  I didn't go out that night with the intention of hooking up with anyone, but he just appeared at the bar like a bargain basement angel.  I instantly knew that I'd have a long and bloody night ahead of me.

            We chatted for a bit and when I suggested we go back to mine, he agreed.  Of course if I'd known at the time he was just another sleazy rent boy I would've walked away.  I don't want to debase myself with those filthy, diseases ridden, whores, but by the time he was back at my flat it was too late.  I was too horny and I'd already stuck a couple of Rohypnols in his drink and gotten my tool kit out.  

            I always start with a drill to the forehead.  It kills them quick and keeps the screaming to a minimum.  I've never been into torture.  I just want to kill them so they never leave.  Once they’re dead, the head comes off first.  A sharp saw makes easy work of that.  Never use a dull blade, it gets stuck on the spinal column and makes the job ten times harder, taking away the erotic element of the task.  After that it's just a matter of chopping off the limbs with an axe, putting a thigh aside for later, and all you’re left with is the torso.  

            I may as well admit at this point, I tend to abuse the torso, just to satisfy those lustful needs.  I always hide the head in a cupboard or the fridge cause I don't want them to see what I'm doing.  That way they can't moan about it.  I mean, at the end of the day, he isn't really going to mind is he – he's dead for fuck's sake. 

            Unfortunately for me, Donald was different.  I decided to strangle him instead, just to see if I could.  It was easier than I imagined.  I put my hands around his throat, tightened my grip and in a few minutes he stopped breathing.  Feeling his heart stop and watching his eyes go soulless was one of the biggest thrills I've ever experienced.  
Emboldened by this new intimate pleasure of death, I wanted to try something else.  So instead of chopping him up, I decided to dress him in my spare pair of bike leathers and go for a ride.  I thought it would be liberating to drive around with him on the back, holding me tightly, but that was where the problem started.

            Once we set off, I mistakenly thought he was secured to the bike but on only the second corner he went flying off.  Worse still, a nosy woman saw us and stopped her car to 'offer her assistance'.  Before I could stop her she'd called for an ambulance.  I managed to get Donald on the back of the bike again and make a quick exit.  The stupid bitch must've got my registration plate as only 4 hours later the police were at my door.  There was no way I was going to answer it and after a short time they left but I wasn't sure for how long.

            This has led me to my current situation.  Donald and I are roaring down the motorway towards Dover, having fled Scotland hours ago.  The cops are not that stupid and eventually they'll search my flat, then I'll be headline news.  Another sick and twisted serial killer to read about over your morning coffee.  The shock and revulsion shown only in the record TV ratings.  Your fascination with me comes down to the fact that I'm everything you've always wanted to be.  I take what I need and do as I please; I am what a man should be.  No laws, no rules just the strong surviving and the weak making a tasty meal.....

Nick Mott (33) was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and currently works in the Oil industry.  He has studied Psychology, Sociology and to his regret Politics.  He is currently studying creative writing at the OU.  He has been previously published in Prole and Pulp Metal Magazine.
He gets most of his inspiration from his metal hip which was implanted when he was 29.  He fully believes this to be the first step towards his immortality.

Friday 23 September 2011

Pulp Ink Promo - SURF RIDER by Ian Ayris

When the TKnC editors were asked to lend a hand in promoting PULP INK, the ass-whipping new crime fiction collection edited by Chris Rhatigan and Nigel Bird, our answer was simple. Hell yes!

PULP INK features 24 manic and blisteringly bizarre tales from some of the best crime writers around, many of whom have featured on Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers over the years. 

The content of this pulp fiction e-book is being compared to "the gleeful insanity of a Tarantino flick" and the collection has already stacked up a pile of 5* reviews. Everyone should own a copy - and you can! Download it from Amazon UK or US. If you don't have a Kindle or e-reader then download the free Apps for PC, iPad, iPhone and Android from Amazon. 

In the meantime, here's Ian Ayris with a taster of what to expect from this outstanding gathering of talent:

Surf Rider

by Ian Ayris

The Surf Rider’s mind blew in April ’73. The Surf Rider, he didn’t feel a thing – five Strawberry Fields and a staple diet of Mandrax and Lebanese Gold does that to a man.

The doctors called it a “drug-induced psychosis.”

Nearly forty years on, the Surf Rider stands at a bar in Huntington Beach, what remains of his dignity covered by an Afghan coat and knee-length Bermuda shorts. His voluminous gut pushes out a faded Grateful Dead t-shirt, his sun-brown hands clutch a bright yellow Lightning Bolt surfboard closer to him than the dreams of a shattered childhood. His silver-grey hair hangs past his shoulders, and his eyes stare wide, wide to a world beyond words. 

Two men stagger into the bar. Strangers in this town. Foreigners. London boys on the holiday of a lifetime.

“Look at that cunt,” one of them says, pointing at the man in the Afghan coat and the Bermuda shorts. “Thinks he’s on Hawaii fuckin’ Five-O.”

The other man, the man with him, laughs. Laughs too loud. And the vibrations cut through the smoke and the chatter and land at the edge of the Surf Rider’s perception. Two shadows, that’s all they are. Two shadows. Melting.

“What you havin’, Steve? Some of that Yankee piss lager?”

“Look at his eyes,” Steve says, “it’s like they’re gonna fuckin’ explode. Geezer’s gotta be fuckin’ on a fuckin’ world of shit.”

The other one nods, one shattered soul to another.

“But look at that fuckin’ surfboard,” Steve says. “That’s a fuckin’ original Lightnin’ Bolt, that is.”

“What the fuck’s a Lightnin’ Bolt?”

“It’s an old surfboard. Collector’s item, you know. Me dad had one when we used to live down the coast. Probably worth a fuckin’ fortune nowadays.”

“Best we take a closer look then.”

And the two Londoners move along the bar, punters at a Victorian Freak Show. Businessmen of the New Millenium.

The colors change, the beat slows. The edges become sharp and the shadows become fiery demons, eyes aflame.

The bartender steps in, slows time. He asks the boys if he can get them something to drink.

“What? Yeah. Couple of lagers, mate.”

“Are you boys from England?” the bartender says.

“That’s right, fella. London.”

Two bottles of Yankee piss lager land on the bar.

The bartender says his wife is from England, and says the beers are on the house.

“That geezer with the surfboard, what’s his story?”

The bartender’s jaw tightens. The friendly smile sets in concrete, eyes fixed on the two strangers. He leans on the bar. Lowers his voice. Confidential. And tells them he’s always been here, the Surf Rider. Stands in the corner, holding his board, he says. That’s all he does. Just stares off into nowhere with them big round eyes. He never buys more than a couple of drinks. The Boss says he’s good for business. A local attraction. 

Steve fumbles in the front of his jeans for his camera, wanting to get a closer look at the surfboard. He scythes through the crowd till he’s within a couple of feet of the Surf Rider.

Blood and brains and walls too thin. The flowers are shouting and the blue devil eats the elephant’s ears.

“Gi’s a smile, mate.”  


The Surf Rider, he don’t even blink.

Steve returns to the bar and his Yankee piss lager. The bartender glares at him, grave and disapproving, and casts a wary eye along the bar to where the Surf Rider stands.

“What’s up with this cunt?” Steve says. “I only took a fuckin’ picture.”

The two lads take their bottles of Yankee piss lager and find a place to hide in the crowd.

“So, what do you reckon? The real deal?”

“Yeah, mate. It’s the real fuckin’ deal all right. A one hundred fuckin’ percent original Lightnin’ Bolt. Gonna be like takin’ candy off a fuckin’ baby.”

Edges sharp as razors now. Sharp as razors.


Closing time. The bartender is waiting for the Surf Rider to exit the building so he can lock up for the night. The Surf Rider. One heavy step after the other. Like he’s walking on the moon. He nears the exit as the doorway gets smaller and smaller, narrowing, shrinking. He squeezes through the rabbit hole and into the Wonderland night, and he paints the darkness with gold and silver and blue broken diamonds.

Just because he can. 

And waiting in the darkness, hiding in shadows, the two strangers watch with dollar-sign eyes, just like in the cartoons.

The Surf Rider rounds the corner. The two strangers emerge from the dark, and waste no time. One jumps the Surf Rider from behind whilst the other tries to wrest the board from his grip. But the board, it is a part of him. Don’t they know that? Can’t they see?

With a twist of might, one assailant is hurled against the wall, and slides down like vomit. The other, the other is having his face caved in with the top edge of the surfboard. 

And deep in the darkness to a Beach Boy rhythm, the Surf Rider rides… the waves of oblivion… pounding… pounding… pounding…


Ian Ayris has had nearly forty stories published online and in print over the last couple of years. His debut novel, Abide With Me, is due to be published by Caffeine Nights Publishing in late 2011, and one of his short stories, “Small Print,” has been accepted for next year's edition of Maxim Jakubowski's Mammoth Book of Best British Crime. Ian lives in London, England, with his wife and three children.


For more PULP INK teasers nip over to The Flash Fiction Offensive where Editor David Barber showcases Padre by AJ Hayes. You can also download a sample of the book from Amazon which provides a full table of contents and a couple of stories.

Monday 19 September 2011

OPAL by Marietta Miles

TKnC welcomes Marietta with her chilling début...


It was an early summer's night in 1938 along the coast of a barrier island. This was a sparsley populated county, only recently settled. A high moon lit a lonely walk home. Twenty year old Nettie held herself against the damp breeze. Her old clothes were soggy. She watched the needle covered ground below her feet and paid no mind to the dancing Carolina pines above or sporadic lights glowing through crooked limbs between gusts. She came home to a creaking screen and a thin, poorly hung door that would swell when rains threatened. It was stuck slightly ajar therefore she was able to cross in without waking her younger sister Opal.

The night had been long and she still felt rough fingers digging into her body. Gin mired breath stayed behind after mindless gropes and kisses. She made her means like her mother and grandmother before, albeit within different venues. Having tried her hand in tents along side sticky carnivals and roaming revivals she grew worried about the rowdies she met and instead made this moonshine and logging town her place. Women and children were scarce due to the extreme marshy nature of the country and she found acquaintances easy to come by. At times she thought herself blessed for there was little in this world for a girl of her background.

The town had a rough hotel with grub for the working men, a postal office and a hooch room. Nettie worked behind the pub. Tonight was quiet as the loggers had traveled to their homes up river for a long holiday and the shine runners had already begun their stupor. She was sticky from their sweaty hands. The last johnny was old. He had mean hands and pushed her to a dirty corner. But he was lame and could not stand after her desperate shove. She ran after finding her faded flower dress.

On to her place alone only now did she inspect the tender bruises he left. She changed and fell to her chair in exhaustion.Warm russett curls lay damp and heavy on her plump cheek. Her skin was flush and awake under the light brushing of her gown.  The cheap, pink pegnoir yawned open.  She had drifted to sleep listening to Opal's breathing. The tired red velvet of her flea market chair felt soft against the back of her neck. Just beyond her sleep stirred the sound of the broken front door closing and of boots and wood, a thud and then a drag.

"Since you got God's curse you've been running wild on his earth. Drowning and burning, stoning, hanging ...the witches are free and begging to die..," he spoke from the darkness. He stood slumped like a tree stump near her chair. Then he spit at her.

"Jesus...I got nothing." coughed Nettie thinking he was there to rob. Her head felt light from the sight of a man looming close. He smacked her hard.

"Never speak my brother’s name. You would have my head on a plate like Brother John. Dirty little bitch harlot you are here to tempt me, tempt his son." His mouth was now a breath away.

He reached out with bony fingers, the man from the bar and grabbed Nettie's face. She saw him gaunt, his skin yellow and dry. His hairless, poorly formed head sat too close to his shoulders and his arms hung low. Big black eyes searched the room and rested on the sleeping girl. He moved his tongue over his top lip slowly.

"You ain't no good girl.  Like Sarah to Abraham though you have brought me a good girl, the mother of my children. God loves me." He whispered and then sang, while baring his black teeth in a smile. His neck arched and he spoke upward.  "Brother John is singing a song for me. Beyond here, in the blue. Who is singing for you girl?"

As she had done on many nights before Nettie buried her face into the chair cushion and sobbed. She knew nothing else to do. The old man pulled at her soft skin. At last he was terribly quiet and then she was done for.  As the moon drifted behind a cloud the man picked up her sister with his bloody hands and walked the ten miles to his house on the dismal swamp, rotten legs moving with grave purpose.
Years later Opal held reverie over her favored time as the purple night crawled towards her. The tin roof that sat atop her small white house hung low with the wet heat of August. One slice of the peeling white paint melted off the porch and drifted to the floorboards.  Opal stared at the bit for a moment and then stepped on it with her bare foot. Through murky brown hair she could make out the fireflies as they darted inside and out of the broken gate and enormous iron fence it once served which surrounded her home.

Beyond her trees air felt large and expansive. Faint sounds of the old man's dying RCA tickled her lobes; she recognized the quivering song and remembered him humming it often, "Do Lord, Oh Do Lord, Oh Do Remember Me". The people singing seemed unsure though hoping for heaven. She was sure of God and knew he would remember the old man while Opal prayed to be forgotten.

She lifted her hearing to encompass the old, howling mutt tied up to the main house.  The speckled dog was lost, not liking to be tied up, afraid because she was forgotten and hungry. Her cries carried across the yard. The breeze sauntered from the east and Opal could smell the honeysuckle which fed on the few remaining crepe myrtles. Vibrating creatures of the dim swamp beyond her yard screamed at the approaching night.

Opal moved closer to the aging post holding her porch upright. She rested her head on the cracked wood and felt comfort. Upon her first scarlet sickness he had moved her to these quarters. She was unclean and she was shunned and whoever would touch her during this flow was cursed as well. For five days she was left alone. During her days without the man she thought it not so sad to catch God's eye. In the evenings the man would grab her underthings, searching for any sign of the curse. When the dark smudge did mark her she was trembling with the freedom it implied. He would strike her fiercely across the face, pinch until the blood rose to the top of her light, fine skin and leave.

She and the old dog would lie on the back porch to watch life in the water. Thin cranes gingerly picked their way through soaking reeds, turtles would dig warm holes in black mud to leave their eggs and Opal wondered at the gentility. One silvery spring morning the dog lay sleeping in the sun and Opal fussed about near a drooping honeysuckle bush alive with bees. Wash drying in a perfect sky she lazily lurched to lay next to the dog. Her sleep deep, Rose the dog snapped forward and clenched hard on the soft tissue under Opal's eye and the sensitive round of her nose. The pinching pain brought a white light to Opals eyes along with hot tears. Her hands held to the bridge of her face shaking in shock and shame. Opal knew better than to surprise the old mutt. No matter how the sun shines, dogs will bite and bees will sting. Opal comforted Rosie, scratching her gently under the chin. The dogs sweet, round eyes grew big with fear and then softly shut with the forgiving hand. Opal prayed for the small beasts in her swamp.

"In the name and in the blood of your son I pray. Amen."

Now, on this eve her underclothes were pristine and she had faith for something sweet. She prayed she would sleep the night through in her old house that sat in the pocket of a cypress bog. Opal waited for the night. She slumped and blew on four crescent shaped wounds marking each palm then rubbed matching bloody fingernails. Her faint heart stilled any urge to walk outside the gates that night. She would gather her frayed bible, a doll she had found and the dog and start to walk. They would leave while night was still in the air but before morning’s full break. She would walk away from memories of the man pressing angrily inside her and against her. She would forget how he would pull the the dingy covers against the windows, against the world and hold her down. He would speak of God's will and make her pray for forgiveness.

For now her thin, pale figure floated inside the house alone. Without a thought she left the stubby, red door unlocked, as he had always told her to do. Opal walked to her bedroom in the back. She pulled the filthy gray window coverings down. The hushed movement allowed the yellow moon to send quiet rays of light through her broken windows.  One cloud hung in the air, outlined in black and creeping. She did not want this night to end but her mind was tired and her figure almost dead with sleep. She imagined herself waking and lying in a stream of sunshine waiting for nothing after a dreamy night of nothing.  

For this hot day had started early. She had watched as men with a big red truck retrieved the old man's body. A nearby hunting group had complaints about the dog's cries spooking their game. When they came to confront they found him. It would seem the old man had passed away just inside the doorway of the big, crumbling house. He had a rope clutched in one hand and a Lucky Strike snuffed out between the fingers of the other. They took the man and left the dog.

Opal's gate had been broken. The strangers had picked up her things without truly seeing. One man held her old doll and then dropped it to the floor. The coming weekend of drinking and hunting drove them fast and they left. She hid under the out-house inside the fence. It sat near the sunless green side of the swamp. He had always told her to do so if men ever came. She sat perfectly still, something she was accustomed to, for many hours and tonight would be sweet with sleep.

Now Opal slipped under her fresh, clean sheets. The fragrant juniper grew low and Spanish moss dripped protectively from the knobby pines. She sighed gently to welcome the silence into her room. Her thighs pressed tightly together in a hopeful habit. A breeze, pregnant with a familiar smell, choked her desire to slink from the bed and sneak to the old gravel road in front of the main house. The single dark cloud shook and covered the moon stealing her glow, blanketing her room with dark. She wished to sleep in the vast open with a high and vaulting sky but she remained flat and hiding like a dying cat. Her mind scrubbed away images of the dark creatures that leered from the mucky swamp for here she was, with no shameful curse yet joyfully alone. Happiness frightened her.

A barred owl sang softly and then worn leather on gravel. The dog barked once and was silent after a clear and perfect whine. The radio now dead, she could clearly hear dragging steps and the front door dragging open. The old man returned from his trip beyond the blue. God said no. Heaven did not want him. A thin, bony finger curled around her pale white doorframe. She stared at her window and dreamed of flying. Knowing nothing else, as if remembering the cursed women in her bruised memory, she pushed her legs together tightly and turned her head into the pillow humming a pleading hymn.

Marietta Miles lives in Virginia with her husband and children. As a child she read Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft. Now grown she counts Kate Chopin, Flannery O'connor, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates as her dearest authors. A new attachment to Edgar Allan Poe has recently reared it's head. Now living in the south she takes joy in her surroundings, the sweet pace, sweet tea and great ghost stories.

Sunday 11 September 2011

COMMITMENT By William Blick

TKnC welcomes back William with his...


Jimmy Jensen was looking forward to meeting Cathy Calloway’s family like he was looking forward to a bad case of the gout. The two had been dating for a year and Jimmy knew this would eventually happen when they got “serious.”
            Cathy was seven years his junior and Jensen was 35. He was looking to settle down, raise a family. He had enough of his late night partying and usual games of phone tag with women he encountered throughout the evenings. Oh, what a wretched existence singleness is.
            Cathy was a relatively emotionally stable girl from an upstanding family as far he knew. He hadn’t met the family yet and then Sunday came around. Time for meatballs and Sunday gravy and football. And talks with Big Daddy Calloway and Cathy’s two brothers and selected spouses.
            When Jensen entered the house he smelt the aroma of tomato sauce. The men were on the couch cheering their team. The women were hovered around the sauce pot talking.
            “Oh, here they are,” said Mrs. Calloway, a robust and full-bodied woman. She embraced Jensen. Mr. Calloway got up from the couch and reached over to shake Jensen’s hand.
            “Jimmy,” said Jensen, “it’s nice to meet you Mr. Calloway.”
            “Likewise. Cathy has told us so much about you.”
            “Thanks,” said Jensen.
            Methodically and systematically Jensen made his way down the line. He noticed something collectively about all the people he had met. They were so nice and ordinary.
Not like the demonized ogres he fantasized about them being. A brother who is a mammoth baboon and worked in a chop shop. A father overbearing and judgmental. A neurotic mother. These people were way too nice and well adjusted to be those characters he conjured up.
            They had spaghetti and meatballs. Garlic bread. Red Wine. Caesar salad with dressing made from scratch. The conversation was light and fluffy. They talked of sports. Of Jimmy’s teaching the 9th grade at St. Thomas’s. They talked of Cathy being transferred to the eighth grade and how she much preferred the younger grades.
            They talked about how Cathy had a crush on Jimmy when he first started at the school. They talked movies. Black Swan. The King’s Speech. They talked of Oscar winners.  Jimmy noticed something when the peach melba was served for the dessert. He noticed how welcoming and wholesome Cathy’s family were. How much they made him feel at home.
            Needless to say, Jimmy’s mind was at ease.
            “Hal,” said Mrs. Calloway to her husband, “I think it is time.”
            “Time. Already?” said Mr. Calloway.
            “Oh, Dad can’t we forget that silly tradition just once?” said Cathy.
            Mr. Calloway said, “Now Cathy, you know we can’t do that.” Cathy’s mom left and came back from the kitchen. Jensen saw a glint of metal from the corner of his eye. To his horror and confirming his split-second suspicions, Cathy’s mom placed a small butcher’s meat-clever and a small cutting board in front of Mr. Calloway.
            “Time to gather round,” said Cathy’s dad. The brothers and sister-in-laws excitedly stood around Jensen. Jensen’s heart beat fast.
            “The first one doesn’t even hurt,” said Ellen, the youngest son, Joey’s wife.
            “Just wrap a towel round it and go sit somewhere until the pain leaves,” said Marion the first son, Tommy’s wife.
            “It’s the only way to be sure,” said Mr. Calloway, “a blood oath and offering to this family.”
            Jensen sat with his mouth agape and his expression aghast. His heart beat a mile a minute. He thought of blood, the pain, the agony. Then he thought of the commitment, the love he had for Cathy. His eyes scanned the crowded, smiling faces of the Calloways. They stood there nodding in slow motion.
            “Now c’mon, Jimmy,” said Mr. Calloway, “Don’t let us down,” as he pushed the cutting block toward him.
            In an instant, it was over. The hot blood and bone hacked off and a bit of minor spurting. He grabbed the towel and retched in pain. He clenched his eyes shut in agony.
He nearly passed out.
            When the pain subsided a bit and the clapping and comments came to a halt, Jimmy took a moment to survey his surroundings. His blurred vision returned.
            Ellen held her hand up, “Welcome to the Calloways, Jimmy. We are looking to more future commitments as you and Cathy have children and buy a house.  Ellen and Marion had two fingers left on their right hand.
            Mrs. Calloway put the jar on the table. Like little Gherkin pickles, the fingers floated around in the liquid.


The Paranoia Conspiracy

           I shake out the blue percale sheet, sending a balloon of cotton into the air.  I hum as I repeat this motion a few times until the sheet is properly in place.  Clean sheet day. Something about the smell of the fabric softener paired with the feel of the clean, crisp cotton makes everything in the world seem in order.  It isn’t until I steal a glance out the window that I see the world is in fact not in order and that things are about to go awry – horribly awry.  Across the street sits a large, black pick up truck with dark, tinted windows.  I take a step back from the window to assess the situation. 
            Three days in a row.  Not good.
            In the last two days, the truck has been parked on the next street over and further down my street – both locations in full view of my house. And now, the truck is parked across the street in front of my house. My heart races as I begin connecting the dots.
            They’re watching me.  They’ve found me.
            I back away from the window casually, so as not to draw attention to the fact that I see them.  If they know I’m alerted to their presence, it will just make them come for me sooner.  I swipe my hand across my forehead and am shocked that I am already dripping with sweat.  My body knows what my mind can’t seem to process – I’m in trouble.  I amble down the stairs, just in case someone is monitoring me with a camera.  Fast and jerky movements might cause them to jump the gun, so to speak.  I step into the windowless bathroom and close the door.  It’s now or never.
            I throw open the cupboard doors and remove my pre-packed gym bag.  I knew the day would come eventually and it is always better to be prepared.  As I open the gym bag, the metallic scraping of the zipper suddenly echoes around the bathroom.  Maybe it’s the stress that makes this simple motion seem so ridiculously loud. I check its contents and find everything in order– cash, fake ID, clothes, burner phone.  I place the bag on the floor and dig deeper into the cupboard for me ready-made disguise kit.
            I pull out the wig and fit it over my hair, making sure that the long, red locks completely hide my dark, black strands.  I struggle with the new contacts as I have not inserted a pair in years.  Anyone looking for a green-eyed, raven haired, bespectacled woman will look straight past this blue-eyed redhead.  I pick up the bag, give myself a quick onceover in the mirror and head down the stairs to the garage.
            I grab my ball cap and shove my hair up underneath it.  No sense letting them see my disguise on the way out the drive.  I pick up my sunglasses and head into the garage.  I climb into the car, fasten my seatbelt and place my hands on the steering wheel.  After a few calming breath, I turn the key in the ignition and open the garage door.  Showtime.
            I back out of the driveway slowly, just like any other day.  I make no eye contact as I drive past the black truck, and continue on at a normal speed until I reach the stop sign at the end of the block.  I turn onto the next street and continue following the speed limit until I can no longer see my house – then I gun it.  I run stop signs and traffic lights until I hit the main drag.  Once on the busy road, I weave in and out of traffic.  Out of reflex I look in the rearview mirror, but of course I see no one I recognize.  But just because I don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.  The one outside my house is just a spotter.  Once I leave, he signals to the rest of the group and the invisible chase begins. Each car I pass could be one of them and I am woefully aware of it.  I’m almost to the highway and home free when the unthinkable happens.  Right in front of me, one of them slams on the brakes and I am going too fast to react.  With no time to swerve or stop, I plow into the back of the sedan, ashamed of myself for getting caught.  Damn it is the last thought in my head before I black out.
            “Abby, it’s time for your medication,” a voice calls from off to my right. 
            “You can keep your mind control pills,” I say, readying myself for a fight.  This is how they get you. 
            “Oh, come on now, Abby, you know that these will make you feel better.  Please don’t fight me on this.”  Nurse Smith cocks her head to the side in a playful manner and places her hands on her hips. Her voice seems sweet and kind, but her intentions are anything but.
            “You know as well as I do that this has nothing to do with making me feel better.  It’s all about me coming around to your way of thinking and I won’t.  You’ll have to kill me first.”
            Nurse Smith stifles a chuckle at my expense.  She doesn’t think I know what they have planned for me, but I do.  “Abby, are you having one of your bad days?”
            Everyday that I’m in here is a bad day, but I won’t give her the satisfaction.  I just stare at her, expressionless.  They twist and turn your words around here.  No point in giving them fodder.
            “Abigail Wheaton, have you been palming your meds?”
            Once again, no response from me.  I’ll neither confirm nor deny.  “Abby, you are one step away from being considered combattative.  If you don’t take these willingly, the doctor will order us to restrain you and I really don’t want to do that,” she says, faux concern on her face.
             “You’ll do what you have to do.” I cross my arms and tighten my lips in protest.
            Nurse Smith drops her head and wags it from side to side.  She picks up my chart, flips to the back and begins to write.  As she scribbles furiously, I can see what’s written in the first page of the chart.  Two words jump out at me – paranoid and delusional.
            Yeah, that’s just what they want you to think.

J.M. Vogel lives in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two small children.  With a Bachelor of Arts from The Ohio State University, she is setting out to show the world that an English degree does not predestine you to life in the unemployment line.  Other works of fiction by J. M. Vogel can be found in The Creative Minds Collection Volumes II and The Creative Minds Collection Volume III.



            "If this is the Greg who is married to Marianne," said Susan Black, "you should know your wife calls her ex-fiancée daily and tells him she still loves him."  She hung up.
            "You really need to let it go."
            Susan spun in her chair and found Nancy Malone, the office manager standing behind her.   "I told him and told him he needs to move on and stop talking to that woman."
            Malone reached out and tapped the phone on Susan's desk with a pen.  "And you need to avoid making calls like that from the office.  If they trace that, we can get sued."
            Susan laughed.  "Him?  He won't sue us.  Hell, that limp-dicked idiot is letting his wife talk to John even though they're married now."
            Malone nodded.  "And you care because…"
            "Because he's back in Louisiana and living with me.  Isn't that enough?"
            "Just have those numbers for me by the end of the day.  I've got a meeting tomorrow morning, and I don't have time for you to screw around."
            Oh, Susan was done screwing around.  Put the bug in that wimp's ear, she told herself.  Start a little trouble in their marriage.  Teach that bitch to interfere with John coming back to Susan.
            True, Marianne never said, texted, or IM'd that she still loved John, but why even stay in contact with him?  She had a husband in Chicago now.  John had come back to New Orleans.  All she needed was time to bring him around.


            The phone rang around 4:30 that afternoon.
            "Brent, Scott, and Gervais," she said.  "Susan Black.  How may I help you?"
            "Did you know that, even with star-six-seven," said a male voice, "and a different area code to filter out the call, a talented IT team can trace screened calls made to voice-over-IP phones?"
            The voice sounded familiar, but Susan couldn't place it.  "I’m sorry.  This is Brent, Scott, and Gervais.  Can I help you with your account?"
            "Just a friendly reminder," said the man, "that tracing such a phone call is admissible in court.  Since we're talking about calls between states, federal court's a safe bet."
            "Who is this?"
            "Make another call like you did earlier," said the man, "and you'll find out.  Have a lovely evening, Susan."


            John wasn't in when Susan came home from work.  Her hands shook as she found the old cigarette case.  She almost didn't get the lighter to the tip then realized she stuck the wrong end in her mouth.
            Once the cigarette burned, she made her way to the bathroom and found John's stash of vicodin.  She swallowed two, then three pills dry.  It took two shots of vodka before any chemically induced calm took hold.  By then, she began to see things more clearly.
            So Greg Springer had traced her call.  She should have anticipated that.  He did work in IT.  But to threaten her?  From Chicago?  He must have thought he was being cute.  Federal court?  Let him prove it.  All she said was that his slutty wife had been sniffing up John.  That was the truth, wasn't it?
            She knocked back another vodka.  Forget Greg Springer.  Forget Marianne and her clingy need to hold onto John.  John lived here, under Susan's roof.  Soon enough, she'd have his wedding ring back on her finger.


            The next morning, she found a two-page fax on her seat waiting for her.  The coversheet revealed little, an 866 number, no subject, and only "Concerned Friend" for name.  She went through the faxed pages.  The actual fax itself revealed little else, only a printout from Southwest Airlines web site showing a $69 fair from Chicago to New Orleans.
            Susan gasped and rushed to the copier room to shred the fax.  When she returned, the message light on her phone flashed.
            "You work at Brent, Scott, and Gervais," said the male voice from yesterday, "a paper company based in Baton Rouge.  You drive a 2004 Hyundai Accent, gray, according to the Louisiana DMV.  You live near the edge of the French Quarter and Treme and your daughter attends St. Catherine's Elementary.  How am I doing?  See, I can look things up about you, too."
            Oh, that sonofabitch!  She would put a stop to this.  Maybe she'd fly to Chicago and show this Greg Springer person two could play at this game.  Would he like that?  Maybe she could get into John's phone and email again and print out all that incriminating…
            That was it.
            She went back to her desk, logged into her computer, and pulled up John's Gmail account.  Pulling up the web site of the company where Springer worked, she pieced together the naming convention for their email addresses and started forwarding Springer's wife's emails to him.


            As she shut her computer down at the end of the day, Susan found herself humming.  Nancy Malone happened by her desk.
            "Well, you're certainly in a good mood today," she said.  "I haven't heard a word out of you since the morning."
            "Oh, Nancy," said Susan, "I think everything is finally going my way."
            Malone smiled.  "Good.  Join the rest of us at the bar tonight?"
            "Why not?  I could go for a cosmopolitan."  Susan grabbed her purse and followed her boss out the door.  Three of their coworkers waited in the lobby, and the group walked over to Simon's, a bar in the strip mall across the street.  Once parked at a table with the drinks flowing, Sandra, the Asian girl who worked in Accounting, asked, "So, Susan, what's got you absolutely glowing?"
            Susan couldn't help grinning.  "I think I finally got rid of that bitch John was engaged to in Chicago."
            "Oh, really?  What did you do?"
            "I sent all her emails to John back to her husband."  She sipped her cosmopolitan.  "Bet he dumps her just like John did."
            Sandra raised her glass.  "To getting your man back."
            Everyone clinked glasses.


            That night, she came home wobbling from too many cosmopolitans, thanking God there were no cops between Simon's and her house.  John sat in the recliner, bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon in his hand.  He was watching the Cubs on WGN.
             "Where have you been?" he asked, not taking his eyes off the ballgame.
            Susan crossed the room and hugged him, planting a sloppy wet kiss on his lips.  "Just celebrating getting my baby back."
            John clicked the remote, silencing the TV.  He pushed her away and rose.  "I already packed my stuff.  You're psycho.  I should never have come back."
            It felt as though her heart stopped.  Her chest became tight. "You're leaving?"
            "I can't believe you've been calling and threatening people behind my back.  We're through."
            The pain in her chest faded quickly, replaced by rage.  "You walk out that door, I'll make sure you never see the kids again."
            John smiled.  "See you in court.  Next time, don't leave a paper trail."  He walked out the door.  Outside, his pickup rumbled to life.


            She spent the night drinking.  Some time around midnight, she lost it and threw John's bottle of Jack Daniels against the wall.  Snatching up her cell, she speed dialed his number.
            "Welcome to Sprint," a pleasant voice told her.  "The number you have reached is no longer in service…"
            Susan screamed.
            Then she did the only thing she knew she could do.  She found Greg Springer's work number, dialed it, and waited for his voicemail to pick up.
            "Hi," Greg Springer's recorded voice said, "you've reached Greg Springer at Marshal Property and Casualty IT Services.  Please leave…"
            Susan punched "1" and said, "I swear to God, Springer, I am going to kill you wife."


            Susan's head pounded as she came into work late the next morning.  Nancy Malone spotted her and rushed her into her office.  "What's wrong?  You were in such a good mood with the girls last night."
            Susan collapsed into Malone's visitors chair.  "Oh, God, Nancy.  I fucked up.  John found out what I'd been doing and left me."
            "You look horrible."
            "Yeah, well, a night of excessive drinking will do that to you."  She looked up and saw the look on her boss's face.  "I know.  I look like a plague victim.  Let me slog through the morning.  I'll get some eggs at the deli later and drink lots of coffee."
            Malone gave her a thin smile.  "You're a trouper, Suze, but don't let this happen too often."
            Susan waved her off and shuffled to her cubicle.  Her message light flashed.  Her first thought was a rather tough client who was threatening to bolt for Office Depot.  In her current condition, there was nothing she could do about it now.  Oh, well.  Better to face the music and get it over with.  She'd need to do it soon enough when John took her back to court.
            She brought up her voicemail.  It wasn't the client.
            "It's on, bitch," said an angry Greg Springer.  "If you want to play, we'll play."
            Susan's heart skipped a beat.  For the rest of the day, she tried to remind herself that the Springers were in Chicago, too far away for them to be a direct threat to her.
            By noon, her hands shook.  For lunch, she had four shots of vodka and little else.  She came back to work shaky but calm.  Malone stopped by her desk around three.
            "Go home," she said.  "You're drunk, and I'm not going to have you staggering around the office."
            "I'm not unsympathetic, but you're a mess.  And you're not going to get anything useful done today.  Go home.  Get it out of your system.  Get your head together, and don't come back until you do."
            Susan got up and left, ignoring Malone's offer of a cab.
            Outside, she found her fenders, headlights, and tail lights smashed.


            Susan didn't dare call the police.  She took the car to a friend of John's who did body work.  Suspecting the guy thought he had a chance now that John had walked out again, she did her best to charm him into waiving her insurance deductible.  She also charmed him into a loaner, both of them knowing full well she would never really follow through on her implied offer of something more than some intense flirting.
            The auto body man gave her a late model Jetta to drive.  She didn't mind.  When John was away, she'd looked at a Jetta, then opted something more sporty when she lured him back to New Orleans.
            She stopped at Simon's on the way home.   This time, she opted for a pinot grigio to calm her nerves.  The drinking would have to stop.  She knew that now.  If John was well and truly gone, for whatever reason, she had to accept the fact that he no longer loved her and hadn't since he left for Chicago.  If she were honest with herself, she realized she had driven him away originally.  He was clingy, suffocating, needy.  She couldn't handle that and kicked him out.  In the wake of Katrina, leaving for Chicago was a no-brainer.  Susan still wondered why she didn't follow suit.  Brent, Scott, and Gervais had a larger office in Dallas.
            The wine gone, Susan climbed into the Jetta.  When she got home, she'd call a counselor.  Maybe in a couple of days, she'd go back to work and tell Nancy Malone she wanted a transfer.  Time to move on, start over.  She hoped Marianne Springer was happy.
            The door to her house stood wide open.  Inside, a spider-web pattern of cracks stretched across the television set.   Someone had slashed open the cushions on the couch, the recliner, and the overstuffed chairs.  Susan found her wedding china smashed on the floor and huge gouges carved into the dining room table.  In the kitchen…
            "Hello, Susan," said Greg Springer, holding a tire iron.  Susan noticed he was wearing surgical gloves.  "Time to learn some manners."


Jim Winter is an evil code monkey in the booming healthcare industry. Your sickness is his good fortune. The maladies and mishaps of the general populus help support Jim's writing habit and his wife and stepson, whom he lives with in Cincinnati. His stories have appeared in Crime Factory, Darkest Before the Dawn, and Spinetingler. He is the author of the 2008 novel Road Rules, which you will soon have to pay for.  Because it's worth it. You can stalk him on Twitter at @eviljwinter or at the following haunts:

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