Saturday 31 December 2011

P&E Readers Poll - Lily, Col 'n' TKnC nominated!

It's that time of year again. It's great to see so many of our writer and editor friends nominated for awards this year. 

We're honoured that Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers are again in the race for 'Best Fiction Magazine', and in some great company. 

Here's the link to vote for your favourite:

Some selfless, hard-working ezine editors have been nominated... notably and unsurprisingly, our very own horror editor, Lily Childs, who has invigorated TKnC with her class. Plus, my long time mate, David Barber for resurrecting The Flash Fiction Offensive so adeptly. Top notch U.S. editor, David Cranmer is also one of my faves, for the sterling work he does over at Beat To A Pulp.

If you have a minute, vote here...

Personally, I'm ecstatic that my adult zombie short, Supper Time, has been nominated in the 'Best Short Horror Story' category (I'm supposed to be a crime writer!). It's in good company along with the likes of... Paul D Brazill... Richard Godwin... Erin Cole... the list goes on...

You can vote for your favourite horror short here...

Finally, TKnC is ably represented in the 'All Other Short Stories' section by David Barber's Best Mates and Lovers (it has the most comments of any story ever on this site), along with some crackers from Darren Sant, Graham Smith and Luca Veste, to name a few.

Vote here: 

Current standings are here.

The poll runs through to January 10th 2012.

Ps. Sorry if I missed anyone out  - nominations increase hourly.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Editor's Christmas Special...THE HOLLY AND THE I.V. by Matt Hilton

Rounding up this trio of editor's treats for Christmas, I bring back a good ol' chestnut (being seasonal and all), a morality tale featuring my regular thriller character, Joe Hunter. Enjoy, and all the best of the season to one and all.

The Holly and the I.V.

(A Christmas morality tale featuring Joe Hunter)

I’m a bad ass mutha, and don’t let anyone tell ya otherwise.

You doubt me an’ I’ll kick your ass all the way to New Year’s Eve.

So don’t be doubtin’ me, man, an’ we’ll get along just fine. You start thinkin’ you can take a liberty with my good nature an’ I’ll do yer. Got it? Good.

See, the way it is, it’s Christmas, and even a bad ass mutha like me ain’t all bad at this time of year. The season’s good will can even affect a bastard like me. I can laugh with the best of ‘em. Last Christmas I nearly laughed my dick off when that punk, Jakey Cenato, got his balls crushed in a vice when her old man caught him with Sherry Bischoff. Jakey was givin’ Sherry a good ol’ seein’ to in back of the garage where they worked. Office romance, my ass! Jakey was just hot for the little whore and Sherry had just gone way over the top on the eggnog. Johnny Bischoff got two of his boys to hold Jakey down while he twisted the screw tight. Jakey won’t be filling any stockings on Christmas Eve ever again, I’ll tell ya. What a freakin’ wheeze.

Anyways, I’m whatchacall digressin’.

I’m tryin’ to point out that, see, when it’s Christmas, I’m not as bad as I normally am. So, I was just not on top of my game. Doesn’t make me any less a man than normal, just, like, not as up for it as usual.

I was in Blake’s Bar. My usual hang out. Most of the usual guys were there. We were drinkin’ for ol’ times sake and stuff. Thinkin’ about goin’ home and trimming the tree and all that crap. Some asshole had even put a Bing Crosby track on the juke box. Christmas in fuckin’ Kilarney or some other freakin’ Mick shit. I supposed it was a good match for the Irish whiskey I was putting in my guts, so I didn’t complain. I was havin’ a good time. I was as happy as a bad ass mutha could be on Christmas Eve.

Jakey’s nuts roastin’ on an open fire, Bischoff nipping at his balls...yeah, we even struck up a Yuletide carol. I was feelin’ warm an’ fuzzy when I finally stumbled outa Blake’s an’ hit the road. It was blowin’ a blizzard. Didn’t dent my good mood, though, just made me want to get home quicker. The bitch I’d hooked up with, Brenda, was waitin’ for me, an’ there was a certain part of me that was in need of hottin’ up.

Most of my pay check was in the cash register behind Blake’s bar. There wasn’t enough in my pocket to get me all the way back home. Them goddamn cabbies are on a good thing, way they bump up the price of a fare at Christmas they need their heads bustin’. Uncharitable pricks!

But that’s what got me thinkin’. Good will to all men an’ all that crap. All I hadda do was ask somebody an’ they’d hand me over their change. An’ if they weren’t feelin’ up for the season, I’d just hafta remind them. Problem was, there weren’t too many people out in the weather, ‘ceptin’ one guy who’d been sittin’ in a corner of Blake’s half the night. Once over I almost went over to him and asked him what the hell he was lookin’ at, but Billy and Clem had told me to leave it. Some sorta bad ass this guy was supposed t’be. Joe fuckin’ Hunter, Bill said in a whisper, the mutha who did the dirty work for that Jap dick over at Rington Investigations. Well, I owed Jared Rington big time. That slant-eyed gook stuck a shotgun in my neck an’ led me back to my bail bondsmen an’ got me a six-month stretch in the big house. It even got as far as me gettin’ up, but my buddy Clem grabbed holda me. He knows karate, Clem warned. Like I gave a fuck! He starts all that Bruce Lee jumpin’ about bullshit, I says, an’ I’ll show him what a kick in the balls feels like. Plus, in my coat I've got me ten inches of lead pipe. One slap upside the noggin with that should do the trick.

Maybe this Hunter asshole knew to get the hell outa my face. He got up an’ walked outa there before I could show him who he was messin’ with. Bastard doesn’t know how lucky he was. I downed another coupla drinks before I heard Brenda’s hot little ass callin’ me home.

Shoulda wondered what Hunter was doin’ standin’ there in the snow. But like I said, I was in a good mood, a bottle of JD down, an’ lookin’ forward to givin’ Brenda her Christmas treat.

Gimme fifty bucks an’ I’ll let my beef with Rington go, I told him. To show him I wasn’t beggin’ for charity I pulled out my lead sap.

Musta been the booze an’ my good mood.

Hunter kinda swarmed all over me.


He took a freakin’ liberty with my Christmas spirit.

If I’d been my normal bad ass self he wouldn’ta stood a chance.

But, hey, I’m still in a good mood.

Apparently when Bill and Clem found me I’d been makin’ some of them angels in the snow. Very seasonal, huh?

Two broken legs, two broken arms, a busted jaw…sheesh, is it any wonder?

First time I’ve spent Christmas in hospital, but it ain’t all bad.

I’m warm and I’ve got these pretty nurses fussin’ all over me. Not that the bitches’ll give me the sponge bath I asked for. An’ it ain’t the same eatin’ Christmas puddin’ through a goddamn straw or pullin’ a cracker when you’ve got a I.V. drip in your wrist. But at least I did better outa this deal than Jakey did last year.

At least when I’m healed I can get back to bein’ my normal bad ass self.

Matt Hilton is the author of the Joe Hunter thriller series, the latest of which is 'Dead Men's Harvest'. Matt has also recently published two standalone horror thrillers, 'Dominion' and 'Darkest Hour', available as ebooks via all Amazon platforms. Matt is the founder, and current thriller editor of Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers.

Monday 26 December 2011

Editor's Christmas Special... LICKING IT UP by Lily Childs

I'd like to echo Col's message and wish everyone a great holiday and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012. I'm looking forward to reading/posting more delicious horror from you in the New Year so don't be afraid to make me afraid.

Here's my Editor's Christmas Special Licking It Up. If you think you've been tricked into a light-hearted piece of gastro chick-lit, please do read on...

Licking It Up

We’d all been looking forward to the annual glam-fest with its usual tinsel and trolloping about, and had agreed to make an early start. Big mistake - I get bored too easily, then the craving starts; it’s inevitable.

Casa Molana in Broad Street served fusion food and confusing drinks. I decided to play it safe. A green Margarita, heavy on the tequila with plenty of crushed ice - no salt. As soon as Jodie’s old-fashioned Martini arrived I so wished I’d ordered one instead. Classic, classy – everything Jodie wasn’t. The cocktail should have been mine. Sucking through a squat black straw I grumped and grouched and examined the way-too-long menu.

We had a gossip and a bitch and I forgot about my annoyance - until the starters arrived. The waiter minced up to us and placed three plates in all the wrong places. Jodie tutted and swapped them around. I looked at my potted shrimp and knew, before I even tasted it that it would be disgusting. Wrapped in thick, transparent gelatine the prawns were huge. I picked all the jelly off and prodded one of the pink monsters before forking the thing. I gagged as it hit my tongue. Cold, tasteless – it hung in my mouth like a watery fibroid. I swallowed it quickly to stop the rising bile. That wasn’t potted shrimp. Potted shrimp has a delicious pâté quality to it; a buttery melt in your mouth-ness, all studded with gorgeous chunks of prawn. I shoved the foul offering away.

Beside me Adie – Adrianna – had ordered a poncey-sounding chicken liver parfait in a warm marsala coulis. I’d laughed as she read it out from the menu but when the dish actually appeared my heart fell. It looked bloody gorgeous. We all drooled at the sight and moved in closer. Adie let each of us have a dip with a smidgen of bread – it tasted like heaven.

I prayed my main course would make everything right, make me feel better - guinea fowl in a Normandy cream, cider and caramelised apple sauce. It arrived. The meat was brown and gamey, not white and peppery as it should be and the apples were burnt. I dug at the sautéed potatoes, only to find the golden crisp exterior hid a par-boiled lump of lead, and when I bit into the squeaky French green beans they spat butter all over my brand new midnight-blue top. Perfect.

Lisa, with her sweet lips pursed to an unnecessary level of cuteness actually squeaked when her main course arrived. I was quite surprised; I hadn’t heard her order blue steak and lobster tails. She giggled - a rapacious child - cutlery in her hands ready and waiting to attack. I watched her face, studying the pale, steely grey eyes that darkened to reflect the carnage as she ripped into the meat. Taking the first bite she looked up at all of us, her smile savage. The flesh on Lisa’s plate had been flash-griddled – a minute at most on either side. She poured a Roquefort sauce onto a dark-leafed salad and watched the blood streak curling patterns into the pale yellow cream. Spittle glistened at the corner of her lips as she anticipated the next mouthful. I don’t eat red meat, but by God I wanted it at that moment.

I left my own plate scattered with bones and slivers of fowl; a disappointment – as was the Chardonnay I’d ordered to go with it. Crisp, pale – and decidedly unoaked - the bloody thing was Italian. Cheap Italian at New World prices. I knew at the first unscented sip that it would give me heartburn like so many Pinot Grigios.

“Would you bring me the wine list please?” I asked a passing waiter who vaguely nodded in my direction. I handed the offending Chardonnay across the table to Sarah; she usually stuck to water, being so skint.

“Oh, really? Thanks babe.”

She grabbed the glass and downed half the wine in one gulp. At least someone appreciated it.

The indifferent waiter arrived with the wine list for me and dessert menus for all of us. I mumbled a request for a large Merlot and looked around to see what the others were up to. Despite complaints of full bellies and the inability to dance later I counted three Banoffi Pie orders, two Eton Messes and five Tiramisus. How could they? Jeez. I don’t have a sweet tooth – I just don’t get it. I declined to order, feeling suitably smug until I heard Ellie ask for the Spanish Cheese Platter with sliced pear and a walnut chutney. I nearly succumbed but with Ellie sitting opposite me I thought I’d just wait for hers to arrive and try a nibble, if she’d let me. 

She did. I leant over the table towards the slice she held out on the end of small wooden paddle and took the smallest suck of the ewe’s milk cheese. Oh heaven and bliss on a stick – even the tiniest morsel was exquisite. We looked up as the restaurant owner, smiling graciously, came over to demonstrate how to best eat the Manchega. He cut a thin wedge of pear, sandwiching it between the cheese and a chunk of chutney, then picked up a tiny pot I hadn’t noticed and dribbled what he explained was his family’s own Valencian thyme honey over the combination. Fantastic. It looked... fantastic. And Ellie had it. Not me.

It wasn’t my night. All my girl friends had everything I wanted; everything I needed. I had nothing. I slumped down in my chair and drank several glasses of Cointreau together with a thick double espresso and let the others argue over the bill and tip. Before we even got in the cab I was shaking with the caffeine and more drunk than I wanted to be.

They all pulled. Of course they did; they’re stunners, each and every one of them. Fed up, and writing another Christmas off as lonely and shagless I grabbed my coat to leave – alone - when I saw him. Drop dead gorgeous; angry but vulnerable and so damned pretty. He watched my friends and every other dancer on the floor with a moody glare. Before I could make my move Liz already had her claws out, ready to nail him. I decided to stay.

Somehow we all ended up going back to Liz’s flat – Club Boy too. And that’s when everything changed. I couldn’t let Liz have him – it was one tease too many, besides I’d recognised something familiar about her treat that night. I noticed how his skin shone translucent in a certain light, how he licked his teeth when he smiled. It had been so long since I’d had one of my own I just couldn’t resist it. I only had myself to blame for the bad choices I’d made earlier in the evening but this was just right. Although Liz had pissed me off with her usual man-eater act I did love her – as I love them all – so thought I’d better warn her.

“Sorry Sweets,” I said in the kitchen as Liz hung her head, a solitary tear ripping through the thick foundation trowelled onto her face. I wiped it away with a thumb and kissed her on the cheek. My lips lingered as I breathed in the throbbing pulse at her neck. Liz pushed me off, reaching for a bottle and a glass with an unsteady hand.

For a moment I felt bad, but I knew she’d thank me in the end. I put my arms around her waist and whispered in her ear.

“I know him. He’s mine. I’m afraid he’s always been mine.”

“You’re bastards, you gay blokes,” she spat, deliberately misunderstanding. Her nose ran and she wiped it on her wrist like a child. “Why are you always the most gorgeous ones?”

She walked away and I heard her mutter the old classic under her breath. “What a bloody waste, and poor bloody me.”


His name was Christos. It suited him. He would be my Yuletide present to myself and I was ready to unwrap. Christos stood with his back against the front door barely able to disguise his irritation.

“She was my feed,” he said finally, blaming me for his hunger.

“Not tonight, I replied. “Not any night.”

I left my girls to bitch about me and walked Christos a fumbling and sticky mile home with the promise of sex and a fridge full of blood afterwards. He got the sex, but I just didn’t feel like sharing any more after that.

His head came away from his body quite easily. I’d garrotted him – he thought it part of the game until his eyes shone livid with shock, his lips swelled – blue and pert.

I don’t suck the blood off the deceased any more; I don’t need to. But I extracted it with trusty, well-used equipment and in the morning drove down to the hospital with it and the remains to visit an old mate. One of us, he looks after the bodies - and any excess blood - gratefully received.

I hadn’t risked feeding on Christof’s blood myself; I didn’t know where he’d been or who he belonged to. The hospital supplies me with more than my fair share so I feel it is only right to make the occasional donation, get it cleansed before it’s sold on to the local tribes.

I picked up a box of fresh vials, stored at the right temperature. I like it chilled these days – more Mohito than cocoa. When I got back to the house I found Liz sitting on the doorstep. She smiled, sad.

“Was he worth it?” she asked, reaching for my hand. I pulled her to her feet.

“Not really. You wouldn’t have liked it.”

She nodded.

“I didn’t tell the others. Bit of a double-humiliation-whammy really.”

Interesting; unlike Liz my reputation remained intact.

“Yeah,” I said. “I understand. Sorry hun, but...”

She cut me off with a wave of a perfectly-manicured hand and we walked down the hallway to the kitchen where she watched me stash my chinking glass ampoules in the refrigerator.

“Where’d you do it?”

I laughed and nodded at the staircase. She reached my bedroom in seconds. I ran up behind her in time to catch her expression. My bed was made, everything gleamed clean, white... almost clinical. Liz’s disappointment was palpable.

“Dammit. I just wanted to see the scene, smell him.”

She threw herself onto my crisp sheets and kicked off her shoes. I knew what was coming – and it wasn’t me.

“Don’t you ever, you know... want one of us?”

I laughed.

“What, girls – or the living?”

Liz lay back on the bed, stretching out her legs.

“Both,” she said.

I didn’t reply.


We held the funeral in the New Year. Not that there was much left to cremate. The police were still looking for ‘Christos’, a strange, intense drifter. All of us had given the same account; how the guy stared at us all night, how only Liz hadn’t seemed to notice the haunted expression, the blank eyes. Seemed Christos was already an urban myth, moving between towns blatantly stalking his prey in full view of the night crowd before ripping their hearts out with his teeth in dark alleys or bedrooms. Cops up and down the country had been gathering descriptions of him and his methods for years, too many years – and were convinced they were chasing copy cat attackers.

My tears were genuine as the white coffin disappeared behind thick blue curtains. I felt shame. I had lost a friend to guilty lust for the first time in hundreds of years; it was why I stopped playing with girls in the first place. My answer to Liz’s final question – had I taken the time to reply instead of fucking and biting her to death – would have been “Yes. Girls – the living, I want you both.”

For the first time I shivered in the sunlight as we traipsed back to our cars, and I recognised the beginning of the end. The memory of Liz’s flesh in my hands was still fresh in my mind. I’d dribbled it with some of Christos’ blood I’d kept for posterity before half-burying lumps of Liz in a trail across the countryside – London-bound – where it could easily be discovered.

We kissed at the car-park – all of us.

“Jeez, babe – you’re so cold,” Sarah wrapped me against her bosom. I pulled away – the smell of her, the heat of her – the desire rising too fast in my mouth, in my groin.

“Gotta go,” I slurred and clambered into my Peugeot.


I’ll send them postcards next week, once I’ve put the house up for sale. They all know I’m a sucker for the Algarve in the winter – and I’ve got just enough time to get a flight before it’s no longer an option. I don’t think any of them will be surprised that I’ve given up on soulless England and taken my bones somewhere warm. They’ll forget me over time – they’ll have to. They know what I am, but they don’t know what I’ve done. And that’s how it must stay.

I take a final look in the mirror; I’m already half the man I used to be – transparent, gaunt.

Still beautiful.

Like Liz.

This time next Christmas I’ll be living in a box, living off tramps and counting my days.

It won’t take long.

I have to go now.

Forgive me.

I forgot.

____________ * _____________

Bio: TKnC Horror Editor Lily Childs likes her demons best when they're dancing. 

She has a pile of stories published online and in print anthologies including THEIR DARK MASTERS; TALES OF EXTREME VAMPIRE HORROR, DAILY BITES OF FLESH 2011 and CAUGHT BY DARKNESS. Lily is the author of the MAGENTA SHAMAN dark urban fantasy e-book series and is a Spinetingler Award nominee. 

Visit The Feardom where she blogs and runs a weekly microflash fiction challenge, 'Lily's Friday Prediction'. You can follow her on Twitter @LilyChilds and Facebook 

Friday 23 December 2011

Editor's Christmas Special... WITNESS 'A' by Col Bury

Merry Christmas 'n' Happy Holidays to all our readers, writers, subscribers 'n' friends. This week the three editors will post a story apiece in our Editor's Christmas Special...

Witness 'A'

The five gang members stood cocksure in the dock, their smirks testament to the disrespect within today’s society, as the prosecutor called again for ‘Witness A.’

The black-gowned court clerk scurried in shaking her head.

The judge peered over his glasses, his red gown, white wig and wispy grey beard providing an unintended hint of the festive season. However, Santa he was not. The only pressies he’d be giving were prison sentences, although probably not today, such was the state of current proceedings. 

‘So where is “Witness A”, Mr Oliver?’ he grunted.

The CPS lawyer, Tim Oliver, wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. With all eyes on him, he looked at the dozen intense faces of jury. Turning to the empty witness box, a burgundy curtained screen across it to protect Witness A’s identity, he tightened with panic. Oliver glanced at sneering gang leader, Jerome Kingston, in the dock. Kingston winked then grinned at Oliver, the defendant's gold incisor twinkling under the courtroom's lighting.  

‘Please, your honour, give me two minutes.’

The judge’s gruff tones oozed both authority and derision. ‘Hurry, Mr Oliver. I don’t want to miss my Christmas dinner!’

Passing two armed officers, guarding the court from Kingston's crew, Oliver dashed from courtroom one, scanned the foyer. Left to the court's cafe, or right to the gents? He’d not lost a case for two years and with this unwelcome blemish on his impeccable record his bloody Christmas would be spoilt. As was Oliver's custom, there would be no boasting while toasting at the CPS Chrimbo do.

He had discussed the probability of defeat with his key witness, but David Gacy had been unimpressed by Oliver’s 30-70 against odds. Had Gacy given up on him or just bottled it? Understandable really, as Gacy had somehow survived a brutal attack by Kingston and his cohorts. His best mate, Brian Ranger hadn’t been so lucky, his head kicked about like a football. The life support turned off only last week.

The snow bucketing outside the foyer’s expansive second floor windows briefly caught Oliver's attention, until he saw a hooded youth shuffle from the gents past a poorly decorated fake tree. Could be anyone, but something in Oliver’s gut suggested otherwise. He headed for the gents.

The door squeaked open and he gasped.

David Gacy wasn’t there. A sprawled youth with a slashed throat was.

Feeling sick, Oliver raced to courtroom one, his mind spinning, his heart doing somersaults. He swung open the doors, hearing mayhem inside, people jostling past him, screaming. The judge scarpered swifter than Santa on his sleigh.

Four security guards and the two coppers grappled with Gacy, his eyes manic. A kitchen knife with the court cafe's logo on, shimmered in the struggle. The cops couldn't open fire in such a melee.  But, anyway, it was too late. Kingston’s blood-pumping grin was now ear to ear.

Oliver gazed in shock…

…but, hey…at least he’d still not lost a case.

TKnC Crime Editor, Col Bury is currently writing a crime novel series with a difference. His ever-growing selection of short stories can be found scattered across the net, and in various anthologies, notably:  THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST BRITISH CRIME 9, RADGEPACKET 6 and children's charity anthologies, OFF THE RECORD and BRIT GRIT TOO. Col has an eBook of short fiction out, MANCHESTER 6. He blogs, reviews interviews crime authors at Col Bury's New Crime Fiction.

Monday 12 December 2011


'Mele Kalikimaka' to all with this Christmas themed Higa and Kanahele tale...

What Partners Are For

HPD detective Ray Kanahele sat on a bench in front of Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu Avenue. He popped the last of a warm, cinnamon malasada into his mouth and sighed contentedly. He wiped sugar and oil from his fingers with a napkin and picked up the slim stack of papers that lay clipped together on the seat next to him. He squinted up in the late morning Hawaiian sun and looked at his wiry partner, Jake Higa, who stood on the walkway a few feet to his right. The health-conscious Higa was unobtrusively running through what he referred to as a “micro-stretch-break.” The Japanese-American detective was rolling his shoulders, bending at the knees and waist and turning his head slowly from left to right.
“You ever try this shit, Jake?” Kanahele asked as he shuffled a paper to the top of his pile. He pointed a beefy finger at the image of a beer coaster featuring the black-ink figure of a tiger against an orange background. The animal stood beneath a stylized date-palm.
“I’ve had it a few times,” Kanahele continued before Higa could answer. “Tastes like tiger-piss.”
Higa straightened up and smiled. It hadn’t taken the detectives long to determine that the logo in question was that of a cheap beer made in Singapore called Tiger Gold Medal. Still, it was Tuesday and four full days had passed since the aforementioned coaster was discovered in the back pocket of the jeans worn by a ‘Jane Doe’ whose body had been discovered on the bank of the Manoa-Palolo drainage canal out where it ran beneath the bridge on Date Street behind the Ala Wai Golf Course. So far, there wasn’t a shred of helpful forensic evidence. Blunt force trauma was about all the M.E. had to offer. As Kanahele had said, “like we needed her to tell us that!”
Additional lab reports also determined that the woman, who looked to be in her mid-thirties, hadn’t been sexually assaulted. Other than the Tiger Gold Medal coaster, which had been soaked from the brackish water of the canal, there was no identification on her body. Neither were her fingerprints in any of the standard databases. A young woman with her head bashed in a mere ten or fifteen minute walk from the tourist-choked streets of Waikiki was never something about which the Mayor’s Office or the Visitor’s Bureau was exactly ecstatic. Now, though, with Christmas just a few weeks away – and with it hoards of visitors celebrating the holidays in Hawai’i Nei – the pressure was really on to solve the case.
“I’m not a beer drinker, Ray” Higa finally replied with a twinkle in his eye. “You know that. As far as ‘tiger piss’ is concerned, well, I’ll have to take your word for it. The Japanese have some weird, traditional herbal remedies – maybe not as many as the Chinese – but I can’t recall my parents or grandparents ever recommending tiger urine for anything.”
Kanahele clambered to his feet. He spent a few seconds looking through his papers and shuffled another one to the top.
“I suppose we better get back to our friggin’ list. Thank God most of the places that serve or sell this crap are in the Waikiki and Kaimuki areas. Otherwise we’d be chasing all over the island. As it is, I promised Maile we’d go downtown and check out the Honolulu City Lights. We already missed the ‘Electric Light Parade’. Shit, between this case and her schedule at the nursing home, it’s been days since we’ve even had a meal together.”
Higa was too polite to say so aloud, but knowing his longtime partner as well as he did, he was pretty sure that the thought of missing another meal rather than an inability to visit the City and County of Honolulu’s month-long festival of holiday lights and decorations with his long-suffering spouse was what really upset Kanahele. With a sigh, Higa recalled that he had told his girlfriend and the woman’s ten-year-old son that they, too, would make the trip downtown together to take in the sights “one of these nights.”  The way things were going, though, he wasn’t holding out much hope of ‘making good’ on his promise either.
Short of clues, Higa had called around to the beer and liquor distributors on Oahu in order to compile a list of bars and restaurants that sold Tiger Gold Medal. Armed with a picture of their Jane Doe the two detectives had spent the last few days trolling the watering holes and hotel lounges that offered the Singaporean beer. So far, Higa and Kanahele had come up empty; and they had only two places left to visit.
As the two detectives got into their car, Higa’s phone began playing the theme from Hawaii Five-O. He looked down at the display. Kanahele turned to the right and glanced at his friend on the passenger side.
“Aren’t you going to get that?”
“No,” Higa answered. “It’s Charlie Apana. You remember him, right?”
“He’s the guy who trained you, isn’t he? I heard he was having some issues since he retired.”
Higa fiddled with his phone and clipped it back to his belt. The two men stopped at a light on Kapahula directly across from the Rainbow Drive-In. Kanahele looked wistfully out his window at his favorite plate-lunch spot as the light changed and they continued toward Ala Wai Bulevard. The trade winds had picked up and the palms that lined the road swayed gracefully. Their soft susurration could just be heard above the traffic noise.
It had, in fact, been Apana’s retirement that had cleared the way for Higa’s promotion to detective. The two men weren’t especially close, but the veteran detective had stayed on for a few months in order to show Higa the ropes and to help him tie up some loose ends on a couple of old cases before he left for good. It had been years since Higa had heard from Apana. Curiously, this was the third time the older man had phoned in the last two or three days.
“‘Trained’ might be too strong. But I did learn a lot from Charlie in the short time we worked together. He was, maybe, the best investigator I’ve ever known.” Higa declared. “As far as ‘issues’ are concerned, yeah, rumor has it he married a younger woman who has a real wild streak. Charlie always had a temper and I hear that, lately, he’s also seen the bottom of a bottle a few times too many. Not a good combination.”
“What’s he want with you,” Kanahele asked as he piloted the car onto Ala Wai Boulevard. Off to their right, the bright, tropical sun made even the dingy waters of the canal sparkle. The usually burnt out fairways of the Ala Wai Golf Course were lush and green from all the recent rain; so, too, were the slopes of the Koolau Mountains further off in the distance to the north.
“He’s bored, I guess. Who knows? Maybe the holidays have made him nostalgic. He wants me to stop over, talk shop, that kind of thing. Normally I would. Charlie was always an interesting guy. But who’s got that kind of time now?”
A few minutes later, the detectives were on Nohonani Street just up from Kuhio Avenue. Unbelievably, they found a parking spot right in front of their destination, a little dive called the Red Chamber Bar nestled between the Aqua Wave Waikiki and the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomberhotels. The entire complex looked like it had been built in the late ‘50’s or early ‘60’s. It hadn’t gone completely to seed yet but it had certainly started to wither.
The bar occupied a fairly spacious area that allowed access from the lobby of both hotels and which looked out on the tiny pool that served the guests at the ‘Wave. A gaily decorated Christmas tree stood incongruously in the corner just behind the diving board.
As their eyes adjusted to the dimly lit interior, Higa and Kanahele noticed a small stage to the left of the door and a lengthy bar off to the right. In addition to the ubiquitous Christmas decorations, red leather upholstery and traditional Chinese artwork clashed with Mexican sombreros and potted cacti. Clearly the establishment had seen a number of different owners over the years, each with a different idea as to décor and theme. The only occupants were the Hawaiian bartender and a couple of middle-aged ‘hard-throwers’ about three-quarters of a way through a liquid lunch.
“Jesus,” Kanahele muttered as he and his partner seated themselves at the bar, “you’d have to drink to hang out in a place that looked like this for very long!” The sounds of Jimmy Buffett warbling his way through Mele Kalikimaka emerged from speakers tucked somewhere overhead and added to the surreal atmosphere of the surroundings.
The detectives ordered iced tea. When their drinks arrived, Higa opened his wallet to reveal his badge. Once he had the bartender’s attention, he placed the picture of their ‘Jane Doe’ face-up on top of his shield.
“Do you recognize the woman in that picture?” he asked.
“Sure,” the startled bartender answered immediately, “that’s Renee. But, man, she’s actually pretty good looking for a woman her age, know what I mean? She looks like shit in that picture.”
Congenitally unable to restrain himself, Kanahele leaned forward. “Yeah, well, she’s dead in that picture, ‘bruddah. How good you expect her to look? You know what I mean!”
The bartender’s face registered genuine surprise.
“Listen, detectives,” he stammered. “I didn’t know. We have HPD in here once in awhile … someone gets drunk and acts up, or maybe there’s, like, a fight. But, hey, this is the first time I’ve had cops in here showing me pictures of dead customers for Christ’s sake. It’s actually a pretty quiet place.”
“Yeah,” Kanahele interjected with a smile, “it reminds me of House without A Key over at the Halekulani.”
Unfazed, Higa continued. “Does this ‘Renee’ have a last name?”
“Not that I’ve ever heard anyone use. She comes in once, maybe, twice a week. Never any trouble. A good tipper; most of the time she just sits and reads … lady always has a book. It’s never too long before guys start hitting on her. Come to think of it, she hasn’t been in for a few days. Guess now I know why!”
“Do you remember the last time you saw her?
The bartender absent-mindedly wiped down the bar with a damp towel.
“Toward the end of last week … maybe Thursday. Yeah, it had to be Thursday. I was off this past Friday. I remember now because she seemed kind of down-in-the-dumps about something. I was busy, though, a holiday crowd. I never had a chance to talk to her.”
“Listen,” Higa said as he and Kanahele got to their feet. “If you think of anything else, give us a call. Here’s my card. By the way, did Renee leave with anyone that night?”
“It’s like I said, detective, at one point or another, and as quiet as she was, Renee basically left with everyone. But, no, I don’t remember that she was with anyone in particular that night. At least not that I saw, anyhow.”
With that Higa and Kanahele paid for their drinks, turned and walked out. The two habitués at the end of the bar seemed completely oblivious to what had just transpired. Kanahele was vaguely aware of Bing’s version of White Chrismas as he left the darkened interior of the bar and hit the brilliant light of the street.
“At least we have a name, that’s more than we had two hours ago,” Kanahele offered as the two men got into their car. “We should probably come back to this dive tonight when it’s more crowded. Meanwhile, we got one more place to check off our list.”
Higa, busy writing in his black, Moleskine notebook, was lost in thought.
“Listen, Ray, this is going to sound crazy, but let’s take a break. Maybe pay old Charlie Apana a visit. As I said, he was a top-notch detective. Can’t hurt, right? It’s the Christmas season after all. Think of it as an act of charity. I feel like I owe him, I guess. Besides, we can use all the karma we can get. Last I heard he was living over there on Campbell, just off Monsarrat. I have the address somewhere here in my notebook.”
Kanahele looked quizzically at his friend. All of his instincts cried out for him to object. Still, over the years he had learned to trust his often enigmatic partner’s hunches and intuitions. Wordlessly, he turned the car around and headed down the street toward Kuhio Avenue.
A few moments later, the two men turned at the corner of Kapahulu and Kalakaua and headed up Monsarrat past the zoo and the Waikiki Shell. They came to Campbell and turned right. As they did, Kanahele looked longingly at another of his favorite establishments, The Diamond Head Grill.
They parked in front of a little house near the corner of Hayden Street and got out. Somewhere in the otherwise quiet, well-tended neighborhood a dog barked. To their right, they could see the slope of Diamond Head off in the distance. The landmark shimmered in the sunlight as they walked up to the door of the house. A small banana tree growing in the yard gave off a rich, cloying scent. There didn’t seem to be a bell, so Higa knocked.
Before long, they heard footsteps. The door opened to reveal a balding, powerfully built man in his early sixties.
“Jake, son of a bitch, what a surprise,” Charlie Apana blurted. “I figured I’d never hear back from you. C’mon in. It’s great to see you.”
“Good to see you, too, Charlie. This is my partner, Ray Kanahele.” The three men shook hands. Apana held the door and the two detectives entered the house. Instead of the pizza boxes, beer cans and overflowing ashtrays they had perhaps unconsciously expected, the place was neat and tidy.
“Can I get you guys something to drink?” Apana asked as he ushered Higa and Kanahele into the living room.
“Some guava juice for me, if you have it, Charlie. We’ve been pounding the pavement most of the afternoon.”
“The same,” Kanahele echoed.
Apana headed for the kitchen.  While they waited, the two men looked around the room in which they sat. What struck Higa the most – apart form the lack of photographs – were the books that lined the shelves on the far wall. He’d never have taken Charlie for a reader. Kanahele, for his part, was relieved by the absolute lack of Christmas decorations. After the Red Chamber Bar, he was glad to be in a place that was singularly devoid of theme-oriented décor
Apana returned to the living room. On a tray, he had what was clearly a Scotch for himself along with two tall, chilled glasses of guava juice. He set the tray down first. Before giving his two guests their glasses, he opened the drawer of an end table and extracted two cardboard coasters and placed them on the coffee table in front of where Higa and Kanahele were seated. The cardboard circles became immediately damp as soon as the older man set the condensation covered glasses down on top of each. Even so, the two detectives recognized the by-now-familiar image of a black ink tiger under the silhouette of a date palm tree.
Kanaele’s eyes traveled up to meet those of his partner. Simultaneously, both men turned toward their host.
“Tell me, Charlie,” Higa inquired quietly, “what’s your wife’s name?”
Apana hesitated perhaps a moment too long. He must have sensed something in his former partner’s tone.
“It’s Renee,” he responded as he averted his eyes. “Why do you ask?”
My partner’s a goddamn savant, Kanahele thought two hours later as the detectives walked back to their car. The area around Charlie Apana’s Campbell Avenue home had been cordoned off and the street was choked with all manner of official vehicles. Residents watched the early evening drama from their yards as well as from behind half-closed curtains and blinds. Christmas lights winked on in the neighborhood as the sun began to set behind the Waianae Mountains to the west.
“Looks like you and Maile might be able to make it down town to the Hale tonight after all, Ray,” Higa suggested. “I’ll take care of the paperwork on this one. He was my partner, after all.”
“Really,” Kanahele responded incredulously. “Shit, we might even have time to stop at that Italian place on Beretania. I owe you one, Jake. Really, I do.”
“Merry Christmas, my friend,” Higa spoke with more than a trace of irony, “that’s what partner’s are for.”

Short fiction by James C. Clar has been published in venues as diverse as 365 Tomorrows, Apollo’s Lyre, Static Movement, the Taj Mahal Review, Powder Burn Flash, Resident Aliens, The Magazine of Crime & Suspense. Everyday Fiction and A Twist of Noir. Stories featuring Honolulu detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele may also be found from time to time right here on Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers.


TKnC welcomes Paul back into the fray with a chilling moral tale.

Things They Don't Teach You In Medical School 

Gloria hadn’t changed into the hospital gown yet.  She sat on the edge of the gurney in a short denim skirt.  It was faded and slashed and looked like powder blue road kill without the tire marks. She wore it with a red camisole top that should have been sexy but there was nothing there to show off except the stark geometry of collarbone and sternum. She talked into her cell phone.  Her voice was thin and raspy like there wasn’t enough air behind it or maybe it was just worn dry from friction.

“Yeah, I'm still waiting.  Stop yelling at me, It’s not my fault!”

“I dunno.  The nurse just came in and took my blood pressure and stuff.  It’s crazy in here today.  It may take a while.”

There was a long pause.  Her face went red as she listened.  

“You ought to try doing this some time if you want to get so fucking picky!  It’s not like they hand me a menu!”

The privacy curtain slid back with a metallic scrape.  She flipped the cell phone closed without another word and looked up at the doctor as he walked in.

He looked like a doctor, moved like one, walked like one; confident and controlled with an overriding sense of purpose, like he expected tables and chairs to move out of his way.  He wore a white lab coat over green scrubs and a Stethoscope draped over his neck. His hair was thick and curly, still sandy brown but now with a hint of grey. His pale blue eyes squinted at her from behind rimless glasses. He started with a smile.  It was clean and disinfected like everything else in the room; detached, clinical.

“So, Gloria, is it?  What brings you in today?”

“It’s my head, doc.  It’s killin' me.  I think it’s one of those migraines, I feel like I’m gonna puke.  I need something for the pain, maybe some vicodin or something.”

Ummm Hmmmm.”  He nodded his head and flipped a few pages on her chart.  “It says here that a few weeks ago we saw you for a twisted ankle.  X-rays were negative.  How’s it doing?”

“Oh fine, fine.  It’s better now.  I was sore for a few more days
but it got better just like you guys said it would.”  She talked too
fast and bit every word hard to show she meant it.

“Hmmmm, good, good.”  His head was still bowed over her chart. “And before that, it was your back.  We gave you a shot of Fentanyl and sent you home with a scrip for Percocet.”  He paused.  “Now, here you are again.  Looks like it’s been a rough few months for you hasn’t it?”

Gloria didn’t say anything, she couldn’t, she didn’t dare; but she answered anyway.  Her shoulders sagged and her chest hitched where she tried to catch a sob.  She turned it into a cough to hide it and just nodded at him.

He stopped pretending to look at the chart.  His eyes turned on her and dissected her like any other specimen; they pried her open and analyzed the secrets underneath.

Her legs were long.  Too long, too thin.  Not enough meat.  They were just bones balanced lengthwise on top of each other and held in place by the thin layer of skin wrapped around it all like duct tape.  Her hands jerked and twitched and were afraid to stay in the same spot for too long.  Her right hand reached out and clutched at her left elbow and pulled her arm in tight against her side like she wanted to give herself a hug but just couldn’t get it right.  Her eyes looked old and hollow.  Her pupils were swollen and heavy but they wouldn’t slow down.  They kept darting back and forth; watching, waiting for something heavy to finally land on her.  To fall out of nowhere and crush her.  She wasn’t strong enough for the weight of being alive.

His eyes softened, he’d seen enough.  Too much.  He set the chart aside.  “So, why don’t you tell me why you’re really here?”

He waited.

The quiet between them grew until it filled the exam room and he still waited.

It was finally too much.  She opened her mouth and the words tumbled out but made no sense, they piled up at her feet.  This time Gloria couldn’t hide the sobs; sloppy tears fought past her eyelids and fell to the clean white linoleum.  It felt like she cried forever but finally the tears were done.  They left her empty but calm.

Clean.  She could see clearly and it terrified her.  She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and then she jumped.

“It’s the fucking pills.  I think...I think I need some help.”

If she fell, she knew she’d fall forever.  She hoped to god he would catch her.

The doctor leaned back on his stool.  He looked around the room for help but there was no one else there.  He took a deep breath then reached out and laid his hand on top of hers.  Her skin felt wrong to him without a clean layer of latex between them.  He was terrified.

He needed to quantify, to diagnose, to biopsy and sanitize.  He needed to do anything else but this but he could feel Gloria’s pulse quivering through her warm skin and it caught him and held him and brought him back to her.  The spark in her touched him and found something familiar, common to them both.  Universal.  Human. Something he had forgotten about a long time ago.
Gloria felt his hand on hers, then looked up at him.  He squeezed her hand once, gently.  He wasn’t sure how to do it but it seemed to turn out alright; she smiled.  For the first time in a long time he saw a person filling in the white space where a patient used to be.

Maybe they both were going to be alright.

Bio: Paul Newman's most recent published stories appeared in: Ethereal Tales May/10, Midnight In Hell March/10, and Beat To A Pulp Feb./10. If you're interested, you can find a few more stories on his website