Wednesday 27 June 2012


Shaun Adams returns to TK'n'C, bringing us Billy and a bouquet of chills.

Red Admirals & Rotten Fruit               

Daddy was a bad man, rotten to the core Mom says, and I don’t doubt it. She looked out for me all the while I was growing up and now it’s my turn doing the same for her.I don’t do so well sometimes and I need a little help. It’s not my fault I am a bit backward. It’s what daddy did to me so Mom says.

I sit with her every day, sometimes when she is not tired we talk or she helps me with my reading. That’s on a good day. Other times she will sleep a lot so I just sit with her and listen to the whirring of the syringe driver. I mustn’t touch it, I have to wait for the nurse to come each day and check that it is working properly. I wish I wasn’t stupid.

I try to keep Mom's room smelling fresh with flowers from the garden. I grow them myself because mom loves them so.

“Thank you for the flowers Billy; you’re such a good boy.”

That’s my job, tending the garden. I grow flowers and vegetables. I am good at it. I know a secret.

Daddy drifted in and out of our lives. Mom says he turned up like a bad penny. I don’t really understand what that means but I do know that bad things happened whenever he was around.

I got my brain damaged last time he came home. I was ten years old.

Daddy turned up one day wanting money. Mom told him there wasn’t any but that didn’t stop him searching. When I came home from school, he was shouting.

I crept up the stairs and saw him standing over her in her bedroom. She was crying. There was broken furniture and clothes everywhere, Daddy was holding his belt in front of her face, the same one he used to keep his trousers up. When he hit her, I screamed and jumped on his back. It wasn’t at all like riding the bucking bronco it was pee your pants scary. Then he threw me down the stairs. When I came out of hospital, he was long gone. Mom said it was good riddance to bad rubbish. I asked her if he would come back and she said not this time Billy.

But Daddy did come back.

I said goodbye to the nurse when she left.  Brenda, like always stopped in the doorway and smiled up at me.

“Take care of your mom Billy, and take care of you.”

I nodded and grinned. She said the same thing every evening. I liked that, things always being the same. Mom was asleep, her room full of freshly cut chrysanthemum. It smelt much nicer with the flowers in there. The funky sick person smell from earlier in the day had gone away. It was time for me to put the kettle on for my hot chocolate and make my supper.

The kitchen light was on, that was okay, but there was a cool evening draft coming in from the open back door. That was different. I stepped over to the door and pushed it shut. That is when I knew I was not alone. I had no choice but to turn around.

“Hello Billy, how’s it hangin' son?”

I knew it was my daddy but fifteen years change many things. Somehow, he looked shrivelled like he had gone to seed.  I could see nicotine stains in his eyes, remnants of food in his grey stubble. I could smell alcohol and stale sweat, most of all though, he was much smaller than I remembered.

“Where’s your mother, son? I have unfinished business with her.”

“No, Mom's asleep go away daddy,” I said. I spoke as quietly as I could but inside I felt strange.

“Daddy? You’re a grown man. You retarded or something?”

I wanted to say some things right then but I didn’t find any words that worked, and I knew daddy wouldn’t care anyway. He just shook his head and laughed.

I knew he was laughing at me.

“You just go about your business, Billy. Me and yer Mom got things to discuss.”

I watched as he turned away and Brenda’s words echoed in my mind. Take care of your mom Billy, and take care of you. I leaped on daddy's back only this time he crumpled under me like an empty sack.

A whole load of bad words spilled out of him while I sat on his back. I got so afraid Mom would hear his dirty talk I had to shut him up. I pushed down on the back of his greasy skull with both hands as hard as I could; I forced his face into the kitchen linoleum. The words turned to grunts, something cracked, and the grunts became a gurgling, wailing sound like an ambulance siren. This was not good. I slipped one hand over his face, hooking my fingers into his nose. With my other hand, I grabbed hold of his jaw and began to pull as hard as I could.

I had him pinned, kneeling on him. His back arched as I rammed my fingers deeper into the holes in his nose; snot and blood coated my hand. A stained dental plate popped out of his mouth as his tongue protruded, I felt the sliminess of it touching my fingertips and then his jaw broke.

Everything was quiet once more.

It has been a month since daddy came and went for the last time. The leaves are beginning to fall. There is always so much to do in the garden. Mom sleeps more now but I guess that is to be expected. The last of the windfalls has gone on the compost, I like to sit out here and watch the Red Admirals feeding on the rotten fruit. Nothing’s wasted, not really. Compost is the secret to a garden's success. Every gardener knows that. Now my daddy knows it too.

Bio: Shaun Adams is forty-seven years old and getting a little saggy and loose at the seams. He lives and works on the Isle of Wight. He is making the most of a prolonged second childhood before slipping gently into old age and senility. He has been published online at Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Dark River Press, Separate Worlds e Magazine and as part of an anthology called Nine Days of Madness available at Smashwords. 

Shaun has recently published his first eBook called, Jack Is Writing, a dark anthology. You can find out more at his blog The Greasy Spoon.

Friday 22 June 2012

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS by John L. Thompson

John débuts in fine style with the hardboiled... 

     Día de los Muertos

“It’s a cake job Mitch.”  Jack leans back in his porch chair sipping on a tumbler of Jack Daniels while puffing on a cigarette.  The smoke blows from thick lips as he speaks reminding me of a car with a bad cylinder.
“Sitting in the back of a moving box truck with a suitcase loaded with hard currency just doesn’t sound too appealing.  I’m supposed to sit there with no firearm?  What‘s my function in all of this Jack?”

“You sit in the back and play ‘guard the money‘.  It’s as easy as it gets and yes, the bad guys will be searching you so no gun, not even a back up pistol.”

“Who’s the back up and where’s the drop off point?”

“Dillon’s got a team assembled and will be situated around the drop area just on this side of the border near the Ysleta point of entry, but we’ll be taking the back roads in.  When the doors open you hand over the suitcase over to one of Alfred Gomez’s men and from there we spring the trap. It’s as simple as it gets.”

“And you’re driving?”

“Of course. I‘ve got a few years more with the DEA than you so that gives me seniority and I‘m pulling it here.”

“Who else is in on this?”

“Johnson is leading this operation to bag Gomez. It’s a big deal and it’s all hush hush from the top on down. Only those in the know need to know so don’t go blabbing it to anyone. The entire DEA people are sitting on pins and needles on this one. We been wanting to bag that bastard for years now.”

“Gomez huh?”  I’ve been with the DEA for ten years now, still stuck at the bottom of the totem pole.  Nailing Alfred Gomez, one of Mexico’s most notorious cartel leaders, would sure as hell move me up the ladder of power and out of the Southwest.  It might even land me a soft desk job somewhere in Virginia telling war stories around the water cooler.  I go ahead and give in.  I don‘t need Jack getting all the glory.  I slam back my own glass of Jack Daniels feeling the amber fluid settling in my gut as a warm glow.  “I’m in.”

A few hours into dusk, Jack swings by the pick up point where I’m waiting.  I hop in the back and the door slams down and I’m bouncing around the darkness of the box truck, hoping to God that all the other agents are in place.  I swear Jack is trying to make it as uncomfortable a ride as possible.  The cool metal brief case is my only companion and I take a chance at looking inside.  Within are bundled twenties and fifties and I thumb through and count the bundles.  A cool quarter mill?  Wonder how many strings had to be pulled to gather this much dough?  I feel the truck making a few turns down sections of wash board roads before slowing to a stop.  I pocket a few fifties toward my child support bill which I‘m late on.  Nothing new to me and the loss can be attributed to accounting error.  I’ve got more than three times the amount of the briefcase stashed away for my own retirement.  Slapping the briefcase shut, I’m waiting for the door to roll open.  I’m sweating my ass off waiting for the next moment and prepare to hand over the brief case before flashing my DEA badge.
I got the briefcase and the door rolls opens and quickly realize something’s wrong.  I thought all of this would be happening out in the middle of nowhere, but instead I’m seeing the familiar green glow of the city lights of Juarez and a lot of busted up adobe buildings.  This is not on the American side of the border.  To make matters worse, a Mexican is standing there with a battered Winchester ’97 pump pointed up at me and adrenaline blasts through my body, just as he pulls the trigger.  I doubled over from the hit to the gut.  Rough hands grab hold and throw me to the hard dusty ground.

I’m gasping, trying to suck in life giving air and checking myself over, expecting to find blood running out of me before I realize I’d been shot with a bean bag round.  Several other Mexicans dog pile me, quickly binding up my hands and feet with ropes.  Jack is standing there chomping on a stick of gum with a wide smile.     

“What the hells going on Jack? Some kinda sick joke?” 

Jack smiles.  “You sold out Mitch. Don’t try to lie to me. I got knowledge of every dirty shit thing you been doing. You’ve been working both sides of the fence taking payoffs from the local cartels. Remember that incident a few years back in El Paso?  The incident where you gave heads up to the local gang and our buddies Chico and Roberts got killed doing that bust?”

I’m staggering. The worlds a twisted blur and I retch my guts out. Set up, and no one knows we’re here except for Jack. Or is this a set up to force me into confessing?  For years now I had collected money, made deals, traded information to the cartels allowing some big shipments across the borders for pay.  Were there agents waiting nearby, recording the exchange of conversation?

“Its nothing personal I assure you. It took me time to put this thing together. A few contacts and chats with the local cartels, a little internal networking. The laws in the US are just loaded with loopholes so I couldn’t chance turning you in. I made a promise to Chico‘s wife I‘d personally get the guys responsible. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was you.”  

“I have money. I can pay you big.”  I rasp, my throat’s dry like it’s been swabbed with cotton.

Jack kneels down.  “This is the difference between you and me. I’m the good guy and you’re the bad guy. The bad guy is supposed to get his in the end, and this, my friend, is the end.”  He stands up and starts to leave, but then turns back to me. 

“Oh…one last thing…”

“Fuck you, Jack.”

“Not in a million years, Mitch. That money in the suitcase…”  He wipes his nose with thick fingers.  “I also found your stash of bank accounts. You sure made a shit-load of money, my friend. I took the liberty of taking it and split some of that with the widows, you know for their kid’s college funds when they get old enough. The rest I gave to your new friends here. It’s hush money kinda thing. Thanks for helping out, and I‘ll let you guys get acquainted.”  He turns and strides away, like Humphrey Bogart all slick and smooth.  

Of course, I knew what he was talking about.  The El Paso gig just went sideways and a couple of DEA agents were killed.  I made a ton of money off of the bad deal and just so happens the Latino gang that murdered Chico and Roberts, also worked for Alfred Gomez’s Cartel group.  I don‘t want to die and beg the Mexicans standing around me to speak with Alfred Gomez. 

“He has no wish to speak with you. He only says you are bad for his business.”  A couple of Mexicans take hold of my feet then drag me off into a near by warehouse filled with blinding lights and stacks of bundled marijuana slated for shipping into the US.   In the far corner is a large vat that’s been painted several shades of opaque pink and thick pipes are plumbed in and out of it.

The bigger Mexican kneels down, flashes a gold-toothed smile.  “Senor, I have nothing against you, but your amigo was very clear in what he wanted.”

“I have money.”  I’m sure Jack could not have gotten to all the money.  “Right here in my pocket, I got some.”  I’m nodding my head towards my trouser pocket.   

He eyes me with suspicion, leans over and digs his fingers around in my pocket.  He holds up the few fifties.  “You are joking, yes?”  The others laugh at the small joke.

“No, I got more in an account but it’s in El Paso.”

He eyes the money.  “You have none. Your friend said this. This is good for a funeral amigo. I will bury you in a prominent plot reserved for the town’s politicians and cartels. Let me see…”  He furrows his eyebrows in thought.  “…a name… Zapata… Jose Zapata, for your gravestone. We will celebrate you on Día de los Muertos.”

I spit a chunk of phlegm at him.  “Fuck you!”  I scream repeatedly, while the other two Mexicans hook my feet up to an overhead hoist and slowly I’m raised up.  I’m thinking their going to beat on me like a Piñata, but it’s the large vat I’m swinging over.  It’s filled with a liquid that emits a wave of caustic stench that‘s familiar.


They lower me in head first and I’m screaming out every obscenity known to man, until the fluid begins to burn.  I’m thrashing about trying to get away from the new agony that’s tearing at my skin.  I’m screaming bubbles and muffled curses into an angry hissing void of hot pins stabbing and tearing at every nerve in my head, and the skin blisters.  All I can do is watch the acid turn red and melting flesh floating away to the murky bottom before I’m blinded.  I’m lifted out of the stew pot, left hanging to wither in agony for a few moments before being dipped in again. I realize that the dying is going to take a while.

BIO: John Thompson currently lives in New Mexico.  He works the ungodly grind by day and becomes a chain smoking writer at night.  He has stories and poetry published or forthcoming in such publications as Yellow Mama, Adobe Walls Poetry Anthologies, RuneWrights Best Served Cold: An Eye for an Eye Vol 1, Science Fiction Trails, Static Movement Press Anthologies Undead Space and Noir to name a few.

Wednesday 20 June 2012


Hal Kempka returns to TK'n'C, bringing a winter chill to the heat of summer.

When the Iceman Cometh

The gentle drizzle on Monday intensified into a chilling thunderstorm by Tuesday. A sudden arctic wind that night plummeted temperatures to well below freezing. The continued, unbearably cold weather prompted television news reports that the sudden cold snap had increased the number of deaths and missing persons.

Iced-over power lines and poles snapped, causing massive electricity blackouts. Martha awoke the following morning shivering beneath the covers. Cell towers had also probably toppled beneath the weight of their icy shackles for her cell phone did not work.

The storm’s ominous chill whistled through the un-winterized windows. Martha donned her wool socks and warm-up clothes and then burrowed deeper beneath the blankets. She curled into a fetal position amid its warmth.

She finally forced herself to jump from bed, and set the thermostat. The gas heater kicked in with a groan.
Through the frost-covered glass, the neighborhood’s ice and snow-coated sidewalks, roofs, and buildings resembled a frozen wasteland. Grit-blackened snowdrifts covered over the abandoned cars trapped in the frozen slush clogging the streets.

Martha tried the front door, but a sheet of frozen sleet sealed it shut. Damn, she thought, winter’s Iceman had cometh with a vengeance.

The cold wooden floor creaked beneath her feet while she hurried to the kitchen. She lit the gas stove for a pot of coffee, and opened the cupboard for the coffee can. The nearly empty shelf reminded her she needed to get to the grocery store.

She finished her coffee, and banged on the front door. The ice sheet broke loose, peppering the porch with jagged crystalline shards. Upon stepping outside, the blast of frigid air burned her lungs.

Martha hurried out the door and retrieved several armloads of firewood from the stacked cord alongside the house. After stacking them beside the fireplace, she dug out her winter clothes and headed toward the A & P two blocks away.

She took short, careful steps to avoid slipping on the ice hidden underneath the snow-crusted sidewalk. The neighborhood’s only sign of life seemed to be several large dogs digging through a trash receptacle at Fioli’s Italian restaurant. Martha noticed an unsettling wildness in their eyes when they stopped, glanced at her, and then continued foraging.

A few iced-over shopping carts sat scattered about the deserted A & P parking lot. Martha peered inside the darkened store and then turned toward home. She felt dumb for not remembering that if she had no electricity, they would have none as well.

A block from home, Martha spotted someone in a reddish overcoat, lugging a trash bag around the corner.

“Hey there!” She called out.

The figure stopped in the shadows, and briefly stared at her before disappearing behind the house.

Martha walked past the dogs now snapping at each other over a bag of garbage on the opposite side of the street. They stopped and glanced at her. One bared its fangs, and growled. The others joined in and she quickened her step. Upon reaching her driveway, Martha glanced over her shoulder.

The dogs had followed and now stood in the street watching her. They suddenly scrambled after her barking and snarling. Martha rushed up the sidewalk and hurried inside.

Her heart pounded in her chest as she watched them through the window. Nausea rose in her throat when the rib-thin dogs circled the front yard casting hungry stares toward the window, and howling. After sniffing at the sidewalk and basement windows, the dogs suddenly ran down the street.  

That night, Martha curled up on the couch beneath an afghan. She sipped on a mug of brandy and coffee, staring at the eerie shadows cast across the room by the flickering firelight.

She cast a fearful glance toward the windows, which rattled when several distant explosions shook the house. Seconds later, the furnace shut off and the house turned silent. When a sharp chill soon filled the room, Martha realized the explosions came from ruptured gas mains.

She stoked the fire, and decided to spend the night on the couch. Martha grew drowsy from the fireplace’s radiating warmth, and drifted off to sleep.

A few hours later, Martha awakened to smoldering embers and a teeth-chattering chill. After placing more logs on the fire, she snuggled beneath the afghan. From the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a reddish image in the shadows.

The man in red stepped from the shadows. Martha gasped, and clutched the afghan against her, gripped with fear.

“Who are you and what do you want?” 

His coal black, deep-set eyes bore through her as he stepped around the couch. Coagulated blood soaked the coat covering his large and grotesquely gnarled body. He emitted a whistling moan that resembled a death rattle.

The dogs that had chased her earlier stepped from the shadows. They sat at their master’s side, watching her. Martha began to sob and mumble incoherently as blood-tinged saliva dripped from their jowls.

The Ice Man produced a short-handled sickle and flicked his wrist. The blade sliced through Martha’s neck, and she slumped to the floor. He released his dogs, and they eagerly lapped up the warm crimson puddle forming on the floor.

When they had drunk their fill, he bagged Martha’s corpse, and drug it to a black sleigh hidden behind the house. After harnessing the thick, muscular dogs, he cracked his whip and took to the sky in another paralyzing and frigid storm he created.

The Ice Man drove his dogs toward the next town, where he would collect more souls as Earth’s penance to Mother Nature. America’s time had come to pay, and he had plenty of stops to make. 


Bio: Harold ‘Hal’ Kempka’s short stories have appeared in numerous Horror magazines, including Thrillers Killers and Chillers, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Black Petals, Dark Valentine, Golden Visions, Night to Dawn, Sex and Murder, and Twisted Dreams. His stories have appeared in Anthologies from Pill Hill Press, Blood Bound Books, and Post Mortem Press. He is a FlashXer flash fiction workshop member, and lives in Southern California.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

THE RED DEVIL by Allan Watson

A nod and a wink and a warm TK'n'C welcome to Allan Watson with this wicked and magical bit of fun...


The red devil had perched above the entrance to the pub for more years than anyone could remember. He squatted on a plinth above the door, hands on his knees, taking careful note of every thirsty customer who entered his domain. His wooden body was painted pillar-box red, while his eyes, mouth, beard, hair, hooves, and horns were jet black. Visitors to the town would sometimes take photographs of the red devil which pleased him no end, for he was at heart a vain little fellow.

Being a rather small devil, his evil influence didn’t do much harm. It wasn’t as if he started wars or brought down plagues and pestilence to wipe out whole civilisations. At best, all he could manage was to nudge the customers of the pub in the right direction and hope happenstance would do the rest. Men reeling home after supping a few pints of ale would already be stock-piling old grievances to lay at the feet of their wives, fuel for arguments that had the potential for domestic violence and the occasional murder. Others would find themselves getting behind the wheel of their car despite knowing they were way over the limit, and if they caused a traffic accident or ran down a elderly pedestrian crossing the road, then so much the better.

Other small acts of mischief included pinching the barmaids’ bottoms - making jukebox records scratch across the grooves - toilets to block and overflow - and when feeling especially powerful, the red devil would trip the fuse box and hug himself gleefully as he listened to angry curses and the sound of breaking glass while drinkers stumbled around in the dark. These acts of minor chaos sustained and nourished the red devil, and he dreamed they would accumulate enough misery to eventually grant him promotion within the outer circles of hell.

Then one day a stranger came to the pub. The red devil found him interesting, but waited until the man emerged to smoke a cigarette before studying him properly. What the red devil found flickering inside this man made him stamp his wooden hooves with undistilled happiness. The heart of the stranger was filled with flames. They roared and burned and scorched and crackled and spat. This man carried within him the gas-jet heat of crematoriums. He was a walking scorched-earth policy. His heart a living furnace.

The red devil wondered if High Lord Lucifer himself had come all the way from hell to personally recognise his hard work and bestow upon him greater powers of harm and rancour. As if hearing the red devil’s thoughts, the stranger looked up and winked before taking a last puff of his cigarette and grinding the butt beneath his shoe. Instead of re-entering the pub, the stranger strode away, leaving the red devil to wonder who he was and what changes he might have wrought by touching the stranger’s fiery heart.

Much later that night, the arsonist returned and burned the pub to the ground by pouring petrol through the letterbox, followed by a smouldering cigarette. It took three fire engines to extinguish the fierce blaze which could be seen miles away on account of all that alcohol burning. The next morning as fire investigators sifted through the still-smoking debris looking for evidence of unlawful fire-raising, one of them picked up a charred lump of wood that still retained the rough shape of a squatting devil with crumbling horns.

The devil was no longer pillar-box red. It was now nothing more than a blackened ruin of brittle, cracked wood. The investigator dropped the devil to the ground where it burst apart in a shower of flaking ashes to reveal a small black stone which had once been the beating heart of the red devil. The investigator kicked the stone into the gutter, where it rolled into a drain and was never seen again.

Bio: So what do you need to know about me? I'm a Taurus, going bald and have been told I walk with a slight stoop. Despite these handicaps I've published four novels (crime/horror) and a book of weird short stories on Kindle.

Earlier in my so-called writing career I spent five years freelancing with BBC Radio Scotland churning out comedy sketches for a range of programs including The Fred Macaully Show and Off the Ball, as well as being a frequent contributor to the world famous (but only if you live in Scotland) 'Herald Diary'. Um....... that's about it. Except for my TV sketches for the Karen Dunbar Show. That was rubbish and I don't like to be reminded about it.

Sunday 10 June 2012


TKnC welcomes back Jim Clar with another superbly crafted Higa and Kanahele tale...

If Wishes Were Horses

HPD Detective Ray Kanahele looked out through the glass door of the lanai across the canal toward the Ala Wai Golf Course. In the distance to the left he could see a baseball game in progress on the immaculately manicured diamond at the ‘Iolani School. From the colors of their jerseys he guessed the opponent to be Punahou, or maybe St. Francis. The perfect arc of a rainbow was just visible as it spanned the width of the Manoa Valley above and beyond the line made by the H-1 as it passed through Kaimuki. Damn, he thought, what a view!

The lumbering Kanahele and his wiry partner, Jake Higa, sat in an apartment on the eleventh floor of a building on Ala Wai Boulevard between Walina and Nahua streets in Waikiki. Across from them sat an elderly man who reminded Kanahele of “Mr. Miyagi” from the Karate Kid, one of the policeman’s favorite movies from when he was a teenager.

On the sofa next to the Pat Morita lookalike was one of the most beautiful young women Kanahele had ever seen. With bronzed skin, lustrous black hair and high cheekbones, she was a classic “island beauty” – the perfect product of that ethnic melting pot that made Hawaii one of the most diverse, endearing and, at times, most frustrating places on the planet. Not even the dark circles under her eyes or the large bruise to the left side of her face – which she had attempted not entirely successfully to cover with makeup – could detract from the overall effect. What a view, Kanahele, thought for the second time in as many minutes.

“How long will you be staying with your grandfather, Mrs. Balliot?” Higa inquired of the young lady. If he were aware of her good looks, the impassive Japanese-American detective didn’t show it.

“I’m not sure,” she answered meeting his gaze. “I need to find a new place. I just can’t bring myself to go back to our, I mean, my condo. Not after what happened. And I’m going by ‘Ms. Kaneda’ again now.”

“I understand,” Higa replied to both assertions as he scribbled in his battered black Moleskine notebook. Those unacquainted with his methods might have considered the notebook an affectation. His partner, however, knew the extent to which the veteran investigator used the anecdotal record of their cases as a means of making connections, drawing inferences and keeping track of the ‘big picture’.

“I hate to ask,” Higa looked up and smiled as he bowed his head slightly, “but could you run through it again for us? There are just a few loose ends we need to tie up. This is the last time, I promise.”

“Please, Detective Higa,” the elderly gentleman interrupted quietly but firmly. “Is that necessary? My granddaughter has been answering questions for almost a week now. She’s been under a great deal of stress. I’m sure you understand. Besides, we were led to believe that the investigation had been concluded. The autopsy on Mark confirmed the fact that she was not responsible in any way.”

“That’s true, Dr. Kaneda,” Higa spoke in the same measured tones. Kaneda’s expression registered mild surprise at the detective’s use of the honorific. “I’ve read your book on shamanism and sorcery among the Pacific Islanders, doctor,” Jake Higa replied to the unspoken question.

“A policeman interested in Anthropology, I must say I’m impressed!”

“Yes, well, I’m interested in many things. More to the point, you’re clearly a careful researcher, sir, and you must surely tell your students how important it is to verify their facts and corroborate their findings before they publish them. That’s all we’re doing here…. giving it all the final ‘once-over’ before we file our report.”

“It’s all right, sofu,” Jennifer Kaneda spoke as she looked from one man to the other as though embarrassed that she was the cause of conflict, however minor, between them. “If it helps put an end to this whole nightmare, I’ll answer the detective’s questions.”

“Thank you,” Kanahele spoke for the first time in response to a slight nod from his partner. “So you and your husband were having an argument?”

“Yes. It’s as though we were always arguing. But you already know that.” Jennifer Kaneda looked at Kanahele and smiled. The detective, who was as brave and physically imposing as they came, almost flinched. Not for the first time, he was glad his own wife wasn’t in the room. “The police had been to our place at least twice previously because the neighbors complained.”

“What were you arguing about,” Higa inquired in tag-team fashion. “Can you remember?”

“It’s hard to say. What I mean is, one argument seemed to bleed … oh, God, I’m sorry … one argument seemed to flow into another. This time I think it was about money. Mark wanted to know about a recent credit card purchase. I told him that I had bought some new clothes for work. I explained that everything I had was starting to look so old and worn. He flew into a rage. Accused me of ‘having an affair’ with one of the men in our office.”

Kanahele looked up. “What was this guy’s name?”

“Jeff Fujimoto,” Jennifer Kaneda answered without hesitation.

“Were you … having an affair, I mean?” Higa asked.

“Absolutely not. Jeff and I weren’t … aren’t … even particularly close. It’s just that Mark assumed that I was having an affair with any man who looked at me twice.”

Kanahele, for his part, figured he’d be having issues with the ‘moke’ right about now, too, that’s if the bastard were still alive. Guy must’ve assumed half the male population of the island was fooling around with his wife. The big policeman looked through the window. He noticed that someone for ‘Iolani had doubled in a run.

“Is that when he hit you?” Higa continued.

“No. It’s so hard to remember now just what the sequence was, Detective Higa. But, no. Next thing I knew, Mark was going on about some Aloha shirt that was missing. It was silk shirt that I had given him for his birthday back in February. He really liked it.”

A few tears rolled slowly down Jennifer Kaneda’s cheeks. She dabbed at them with a tissue, smearing her makeup and exposing her bruise in the process. If he lived to be one hundred which, given his diet, wasn’t gonna’ happen, Kanahele would never figure it out. Dude abuses his wife and the wife sheds tears for the asshole. He’d seen it a million times and it never made sense. He’d heard all the psychobabble, gone to workshops as part of his training. Predictable as it was, it still amazed him. Again he thought about Maile, his own beautiful but fiery wife. If he ever raised so much as a hand to her – which of course he wouldn’t – she’d kill him first then call a lawyer and sue his ghost!

Regaining her composure, the young woman resumed.

“Anyhow, the shirt was missing. I know it was with everything else I had picked up at the dry cleaners earlier in the week. Mark accused me of losing it … or of forgetting it, or something. I told him to ‘go to hell’. He was yelling at me about buying a few new skirts and blouses and he was worried about a lousy shirt. Please!”

Ms. Kaneda looked down before speaking again, conscious of her show of emotion.

“Maybe it was my fault. I shouldn’t have reacted like that. I knew how he could get.”

“And that’s when he hit you?” Pen in hand, Higa looked up from his notebook. The early afternoon sunlight threw his shadow across the cream colored carpet.

“Yes. I think they call it a right-cross. And it was a good one, it knocked me down.”

“What happened next?” Kanahele picked up where Higa left off. With an effort of will, he forced himself to relax. His massive hands had involuntarily clenched themselves into fists. He pictured himself delivering more than one right-cross to the left side of the late Mark Balliot’s face.

“Mark reached down and grabbed me by my hair. He pulled me to my feet. I screamed. I’m not sure what or how it happened, but he just collapsed in front of me. I was dazed, maybe from the punch, maybe from the adrenaline, maybe from shock. I don’t know. I slid back down so that I was sitting on the floor next to him. I expected him to get up and start apologizing, tell me how sorry he was. That’s how things always went. When he didn’t move, when I realized he couldn’t move, I took out my cell and called 911. I wasn’t sure whether to ask for the police or report a medical emergency.”

“We know,” Kanahele offered, “we’ve listened to the call.”

“Did you strike your husband at any time during the argument, Ms. Kaneda?” Higa suggested.

“No, absolutely not. You asked me that the first time you interviewed me detective, my answer’s still the same.”

Kanahele stood and walked toward the door to the lanai. It looked like the baseball game was over. The players had gathered in the infield and were shaking hands. They appeared tiny from that distance and from that height. He knew better, though. High School athletes were huge today. They all worked out like maniacs. He figured he needed to spend more time in the gym, or at least take up that exercise routine Jake followed. He wondered if Mark Balliot worked out, other than when he was beating on his wife that is.

Turning back toward the occupants of the room, Kanahele cleared his throat.

“Look, Ms. Kaneda, there’s something I still don’t get. Why didn’t you just leave him?”

Jennifer Kaneda smiled. Bells rang and birds sang in Kanahele’s ears. Smiles like that were as rare as black pearls pulled from the limpid waters of a Tahitian lagoon.

“I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times. There’s no easy answer. Inertia? Maybe I thought that Mark would change. Maybe it was just that I loved him.”

“I don’t doubt you loved him,” Higa interrupted. “But did you ever wish him dead?”

The temperature in the room seemed to drop twenty degrees. Kanahele sat back down. Before Jennifer Kaneda could answer, her grandfather raised his voice.

“We’re through here, detectives; we’ve indulged you long enough. If you have any more questions for my granddaughter I have to insist that you speak with her attorney, especially if they’re preposterous questions. I mean, seriously, even if Jennifer thought such a thing, what difference? You can’t ‘wish someone’ dead!”

“Are you sure, Doctor?” The tone of Jake Higa’s voice expressed more than a hint of conviction. “I’ve read your discussion of fetishism and the power of curses among certain groups in the Solomon’s for example and even here among the ancient Hawaiians.”

“Detective Higa,” Dr. Kaneda addressed the policeman as he might a particularly dim graduate student. “There’s some debate today about what type of ‘science’ Anthropology is, but it is nonetheless still a science insofar as it utilizes the scientific method. The beliefs to which you allude can only be understood within the sociological and cultural matrices in which they arose. If they have any objective power whatsoever, they do so only in that context and not beyond. My mother used to say ‘if wishes were horses, beggars would ride’. There are lots of beggars on Oahu these days, detective, not many of them are riding.”

Higa stood and closed his notebook. Kanahele, following the lead, got to his feet.

“You’re probably right, doctor,” the lithe Japanese-American said. “We appreciate your time. As you said, you’ve indulged us enough. Mark Balliot died because a hitherto undetected aneurysm chose precisely that moment to burst in his brain. It’s a weird coincidence and nothing more.”

Higa turned to Jennifer Kaneda. “We’re sorry to have troubled you any further. I know your relationship with your husband was somewhat problematic, but we’re both sorry for your loss. “

Higa bowed. Kanahele cast one last, long and appreciative look at Jennifer Kaneda as the two men left the apartment.


When the two detectives settled into their car where it was parked on Nahua Street, Ray Kanahele turned toward his partner. As usual, Jake was in the driver’s seat.

“What was that all about, Jake? I mean, shit, the old man’s right. You can’t ‘wish’ someone dead.” Still, Kanahele had too much respect for Higa, and he had worked with him for too long, to dismiss the latter’s strange line of questioning out of hand.

Higa turned the key in the ignition before responding. He had to wait to pull out in any case. A large green and yellow tour bus sporting the bunny logo of Robert’s Hawaii had come to a stop adjacent to the car. He moved slightly in his seat and faced his partner.

“You two are right, of course. Even so, thought is energy, isn’t it? Can’t energy be harnessed and directed? You’re a good Catholic, Ray. What about the power of prayer? Anyhow, I can’t help feeling that Dr. Kaneda knows something he’s not telling. Maybe it’s just that I don’t like coincidences.”

“Hey, Jake, I’m wishing for something as we speak.” Kanahele couldn’t help himself. “You know what it is?”

The usually poker-faced Higa smiled archly.

“That’s easy, Ray. You want me to head over to ‘Rainbows’ for a plate lunch.”

Without another word, Higa put the car in gear and pulled out behind the tour bus that had just moved forward.


Dr. Kaneda closed the door to his bedroom where his granddaughter was resting. He was, without a doubt, too old for all this commotion. He liked having Jennifer around but, still, he wasn’t sure how many more nights he could spend on the couch. It was all he could do to roll off the thing in the morning and get to his feet. Age really was a great thief!

He walked over to his desk, took out a key from his pants pocket and opened the top drawer. With a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure that Jennifer was still in the bedroom, he reached in and pulled out a small figure crudely sewn together from a few pieces of a silk aloha shirt. He had stuffed the tiny fetish with cotton balls that he had picked up from Longs Drugs on his way home from Mark and Jennifer’s. It was the same afternoon that he stole the shirt, though he hated to think of it like that, from the pile of dry cleaning in the front room of their condo.

Kaneda opened the door to his lanai. The trades were blowing so he was pretty sure he could do what he had to do without concern for the building’s smoke detectors. Once outside, he pulled a small finishing nail from the side of the figure’s head. Placing the fetish in an old flower pot that had once held hibiscus, he set it on fire with a disposable lighter that he had also purchased … just in case.

That his bold experiment worked really didn’t surprise Kaneda in the least. There was, as that sharp detective Higa clearly seemed to understand, ample evidence for the power of such things in every corner of Polynesia and the Pacific. No, what really surprised the elderly gentleman was the utter improbability at the heart of the whole thing … that he would pick the precise moment that Mark Balliot was battering his granddaughter to deliver the coup-de-grâce. He tested the point of the nail against the tip of his thumb. Who knows what Jennifer had been thinking at the time? One thing for sure, he’d never ask her. Still, the scientist in Kaneda never liked coincidences.

As the figure in the flowerpot was consumed by the flames, small pieces of ash swirled in the breeze and, ultimately, were borne up into the blue Hawaiian sky like the words of an ancient incantation spoken with great reverence and utter devotion.

Short fiction, book reviews, author interviews and essays by James C. Clar have been published in print as well as online. HPD detectives Higa & Kanahele are frequent visitors to the pages of Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

DANCE MACABRE by Dorothy Davies

Dorothy Davies twirls back onto the TKnC arena - words a-waltzing in this toe-tripping tale...


The silent figure on the gurney twitched, moved, sat up and looked around.  The tag on her toe said JANE DOE which annoyed her very much.  I’m not a Jane Doe, I’m Lydia ... Lydia ... The rest of her name escaped her, much as her memory seemed to have done. 

Why am I on a gurney with a tag on my toe? Why am I cold and my veins look blue and stark and my flesh look like marble? I am NOT dead!

But – one chilled hand at her throat said otherwise.   There was no pulse, no heartbeat, no warm blood rushing around a body that was beginning to sag. That annoyed her too.  My boobs never sagged! Now look...

Look.  She looked around, this dead Lydia, and saw she was in a morgue.  A cold lonely desolate morgue that held no comforts for anyone, least of all those who were delivered there on a gurney and left overnight because the staff had gone home and not bothered with yet another stiff.

She swung her legs over the side and stood up. Well, I can still do that. Now, can I walk?

She could. Dead Lydia staggered across the room, round the dissecting table and got to the cabinets.

I need company!  She pulled and tugged and reluctantly the first drawer slid open.  The man inside, elderly, lined, haggard and half starved, blinked and looked up at her.

Is it time to get up?

If you want.

I do.  It’s boring lying here like that. Nothing to look at. I need the company.

The man sat up and pushed himself off the tray which had been holding him. 

That’s a good idea.  Let’s find some more people.

With two of them tugging at the handles, the drawers came open a good deal easier. The young girl, anorexic and pathetic, clawed at their arms as they lifted her up. Look at me, look at me, aren’t I elegant and slim and beautiful?

The truthful answer was no, but they did not say it.  You are, you are!  She beamed and spun round, her flimsy hospital gown billowing around her.  I can dance!

We all can but right now we want company!

Lydia pulled at another drawer with the help of the old man and the anorexic. A dark handsome youth smiled with shockingly white teeth as he sat up.  Thank you! I thought I would be stuck in there forever! One easy movement and he got up too, swaying to an unheard rhythm.  Is it time to dance?

Let’s get everyone out first.  Lydia was in charge and didn't know how she had become in charge, it had just – happened.  She liked it though, she had never been in charge of anything.  Always the underdog, always the low paid worker following orders.  Now she was issuing orders and these people were obeying her. It was a miracle and she was not about to let go of the good feelings it was generating.

I'm naked! The shock ran through her but no one had said anything, no one had ogled her, no one had touched her.  Maybe, but it isn’t right! She went back to the gurney and took up the sheet lying there, wrapped it around her body and tucked the end in securely under one arm.  That felt better.

Oh, elegant, the old man observed, without a trace of sarcasm.  You wear it well, dear lady. Swan-like, I would say.  What’s your name?


Now if I remember my Greek mythology, there was a swan who went to Leda, which is close enough to your name, dear lady.  I want to change that. You are a swan, wrapped in white as you are, as elegant as you are and as thoughtful as you are.  Let’s call you Leda instead of Lydia.  It sounds so much more romantic.

Leda. Lydia. She turned the names over in her mind. Leda will do fine, she said eventually, with a big smile. Thank you.  No one has ever said anything that nice to me in my whole life.

Well, they should have done. I mean, there you are, you had every chance to walk right out the door and leave, instead you opened drawers and let us out.

Well, it was because I wanted company, she confessed, rather than take credit for something that was not right.

He shook his head.  Maybe, maybe, but you had your chance and you chose to stay. Now, let’s get everyone else out, shall we?

Combined effort, they all worked at it, opening the drawers, releasing a white cheeked old lady with sharply knowing eyes and a loving smile, a middle-aged man still looking for his pens and papers, the reason for his existence, the little girl who had collided with a bus or a bus had collided with her, either way she was not pretty any more but no one said a word, they took her hands and they all danced round the dissecting table and laughed a great hollow laugh that no one else could hear but them.

The dark man told them jokes at which they all roared with laughter, the old lady told them of her children which brought tears to their eyes, the old man spoke of sunny days on a river bank fishing with grandchildren and some of them grew nostalgic. Then they danced again to refresh their senses and their spirits and their energies and told one another this was the best night they had ever had in their entire existence.

Dawn touched the sky with pink fingers.  One by one, without saying a word why they were doing it, they climbed back into their drawers and one by one Leda, still in her white robe which made her look like a swan, closed the drawers with a supreme effort.

When they were all sleeping again, she gracefully danced a solitary dance around the room, remembering the feel of rhythm making the feet move, the thrill of a tune running through the head, the sway of arms and hands.  Then she grew tired, it had been a long night and an exhausting one, but oh what fun she had experienced!

She climbed back onto the gurney, laid the sheet out and stared up at the ceiling, remembering how it felt to dance.
Just before she fell asleep forever, she wondered what the mortuary attendant would think when he found her tag on the floor.



Dorothy Davies
Author and editor.
Amor Vincit Omnia

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