Sunday 6 July 2014


Bill in Richmond, London.
Thanks to all the entrants, readers and a big shout to the organizers, Eric Beetner, Holly West, Steve Weddle and the other good folk at Do Some Damage who also published the winning stories - and, of course, a thumbs up from the late, great Bill Hayes...

by Angel Luis Colón

Something Old
Hank and Annie were about as good a pair as lit dynamite and an orphanage. They met at dirty little rub and tug just outside Dallas. He was tired after a long day of drug slinging. She was wearing a Walmart kimono and enough pancake makeup to kill a man twice her size. Only thing they loved more than pawing at each other was that damn methamphetamine—and maybe good old fashioned violence.
Old Nelson Hauer found out about the violence first hand with a rock to the side of the head. He made the mistake of being the Good Samaritan for what looked to be a nice, young couple hitching on the side of Interstate 15, a few miles south of Las Vegas. Last thing he saw was those two kissing the way teenagers would and speeding off in his ’62 Chevy II Nova.
Something New
“There’s Vegas up ahead, baby.” Hank ran his arm under his nose—narrowed his eyes at the red streak running from wrist to elbow. “Excited?”
“We’re getting married,” Annie sing-songed.
“We need some money.” He looked over to his lady love. “That old man have anything in the glove? Revolver or something?”
Annie kicked the compartment open and shook her blonde mop. “Nothing but maps and bullshit pamphlets.” She lifted one of the pamphlets and grimaced at the title, Chlamydia: Do’s and Don’ts.
“Gotta make a pit stop, then. Buckle up.” Hank took his own advice—for a change—kept that pedal down like he was trying to touch the asphalt with his boot.
Two lefts and a right outside of town and he found what he was looking for. Big old sign said ‘Gun Garage’. “Hold tight, lover.” That Nova bull charged into the storefront. Wasn’t a soul in the store, so nobody was hurt—not like Hank would have cared. “Stay in here and give a holler if the law shows up.” He booked it out of the car.
Annie nodded and lit a smoke.
Hank was back lickety-split with twin shotguns—one pink—“For my lady-love.” He offered it like a bouquet.
Annie was all smiles. “That is so god damn cute.”
Back on the road they went.
“So we get money…” Hank paused to light a cigarette. “…then we hit up that fancy chapel you talked about.”
Annie bounced in her seat. “The Little Church of the West Wedding Chapel? Oh, you’re the best.”
“Like I said; we need to hit an ATM.” He pulled the wheel hard and came to a skidding stop in front of a local bank, the lights popping to life inside. “Man the fort. I’ll be out in two minutes.”
Annie loaded her shotgun and winked. “I’ll keep the motor running, baby.”
Something Borrowed
Elena stripped off her wedding dress.  A bright pink shotgun between the eyes was all the provocation she needed.
“Thank you, sweetie.” Annie lowered her aim and clenched the dress in her hand, her press-on nails raking against the delicate polyester mesh of the hem. “Give it right back when I’m finished.”
Hank took hold up duties with his own double barrel while Annie stripped. He took a second to admire that well-rounded derriere of hers and licked his lips. “Hurry on up—need to get out of here and get you into a hotel. Some place higher end like that Days Inn a few miles out.”
“You spoil me.” Annie forced the dress over her waist. She had a full head height over Elena—who stood there mouth agape and shaking like a lapdog.
Her fiancé, Bill, was busy nursing a shoulder full of buckshot—Hank’s way of telling him to stop being a fucking hero. Hank gave him a little kick and smiled. “Fucking flesh wound, champ. Man the fuck up.”
The dress on, Annie lifted her shotgun and aimed it over at the Reverend Joseph Love Parrish IV. “Alrighty—get started, Rev.” She turned to Elena. “You think you and your boyfriend can sign the license as witnesses?”
Something Blue
Two “I do”s, forty miles and thirteen squad cars later—there they were—surrounded on all sides by the boys in blue with a score of gun barrels trained on their sweaty heads.
It was easy enough to find the newly christened Mister and Misses Kapowski. One dead senior citizen, an obliterated store front, five bank tellers and a crying bride in a stretched out dress led the coppers towards I 15 South. No telling the tax payer dollars wasted in all that time.
“Shit.” Hank dumped a sloppy rail on the quivering skin between his thumb and index finger. He brought it to his nose and snorted. Sweat beaded across his brow and made trails down the side of his face. “Shut up,” he muttered.
The police were very insistent the pair came on out with hands up, but truthfully, not a one of them really wanted that to happen. That many itchy trigger fingers needed work to do.
Annie—well—Annie was a little too preoccupied covering up her half naked body and coming down from her high. “Maybe we should listen to them.” She tossed that one into a suggestion box had a hole in the bottom.
“No.” Hank’s eyes were saucer wide. He raised the shotgun. “I’m sorry lady-love, but I ain’t going back.” He turned the barrel, slid that bad boy between his lips and leaned his fingers down against the trigger.
Boys in blue would later argue over whether the sound of that gun popping Hank’s head like a zit was louder than Annie’s screams.
Poor Annie Kapowski—alone, bloodied, and with a ringing in her ears that would take weeks to leave. She raised both hands and a few deputies did her the favor of escorting her out that ruined Nova.
A few steps towards the waiting squad car and she stopped short with a wince. “Damn, wait a sec. Think I got something in my shoe.

Angel Luis Colón has landed ass first into crime fiction and is taking a shine to it. His work has appeared in WeirdYear, Red Fez and Fiction on The Web with forthcoming work due out in Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, All Due Respect and Big Pulp. He hails from the Bronx and works in NYC, but is currently exiled to the wastelands of New Jersey with his family—thankfully; he has access to good beer and single malts. 

You can follow his grumblings on Twitter @HeckChoseMe or be audience to his useless ranting over at

Friday 4 July 2014


For Bill (AJ) Hayes & Thury Hayes...                                    
Bill's lovely wife Thury & good friend, Ray Nessly.

by Ray Nessly 

See a little town in southern California, not far from the border, December, 1964. That bank on the corner? Inside, a bunch of folks are waiting in line. But the only ones that matter are Mr. and Mrs. Bill ("don't ask him his real name") Hayes.
            Good looking couple. Young, ambitious. Newly wed in '62. And smart. They understand the opportunities inherent in a bank managed in absentia by a lard ass bozo who loves three-hour lunches.
            Bill believes in practice runs. The books he loves preach it hard. The movies too. First step, the stakeout.
            "See, hon? Manager's gone," Bill says, a trace of Virginia in his voice, sweet n' smoky. He tilts his head, indicating the security guard. "And the guy catnapping on his stool? Manager's cousin. Big butts run in the family."
            "Keep it down," she whispers. She's not so sure about this. They've knocked off filling stations, mom and pop stores, lemonade stands. But a bank?
            "Okay, T, we've seen enough." He calls her "T"—or better yet, "hon" or "toots"—if he calls her anything at all. If he blurts out her real name during a job, they're goners. The only girl in the world with that name.
            Sometimes she calls him "Billy." Usually, it's just plain "Bill." Lots of those around. The country is lousy with Bills.
            He hates the name on his birth certificate. No wonder.  
            Go ahead, press him. All you'll get are initials.  
            Time to practice the getaway now. (Can't practice the holdup itself, right?) Bill opens the door for her, and they step outside.
            Wasn't raining before. It's capital r Raining now.
            "Good omen!"
            "Okay, I'll bite," she says. "How so?"
            "Two things. One, it hardly ever rains around here, right? So bet you anything it won't be raining come curtain time!"
            "And . . . ?"
            "Two, we gotta practice running down the street to the car, right? Well, nobody's gonna wonder what we're up to. It's raining! Hard!"
            They bolt down the street to the '39 Chevy, green. The corner of a tarp hangs from the trunk, just enough to obscure the rear license plate. They hop in; the rain stops. Another omen, she supposes.
            Bill in the driver seat, T riding shotgun. "Okay, let's take the first right," he yells. "Way I figure it? We'll clear this corner before Big Boy gets his second cheek off his stool. Ha! I like that. You?" He turns on the radio. "Music, hon?"
            It's Johnny Cash, mid-song. The Ballad of Ira Hayes. Big hit that year.
            "Any relation?" she jokes.
            "Could be. I have some injun in me. Who doesn't? . . . Hey, let's practice some alleys!" He yanks the steering wheel, tires squealing like Virginia hogs. "Okay, let's open 'er up"—stomping the throttle—"Whoa, move yer tail, mister kitty cat!"
            Is the cat okay? she wonders.
            More important, that funny feeling . . .
            Eyes. Following their every move. As if a movie camera's in the backseat, poking the back of her head, hard as a shotgun barrel.
            She turns around.  Nothing on the backseat but pulp novels. And on the floor, empty beers and crumpled packs of Winston reds.
            He's up to three beers and one pack a day lately. Not too bad. No call for concern.
            Johnny on the radio: drunken Ira Hayes . . .
            "Billy, did you know Peter La Farge wrote that song?"  
            "Oh sure. Met him, in fact."
             Johnny's done singing. A Winston ad comes on. She turns the radio off.
            "Gotta tell you, Bill, I just had this weird feeling. It was like that movie we saw. Newlyweds rob a bank. They're in their getaway car, and—"
            "Oh sure. Gun Crazy. 1950. John Dall and Peggy, um . . . don't tell me. Cummins."
            She laughs. "Is there anybody on the planet with a better memory than yours?"
            "Oh, probably. Okay, that's enough alley practice for—oh shit, another cat?!" He brakes, the Chevy fishtailing, the right rear fender like the open fist of God, slapping down trash cans. The Chevy slides to a stop. Engine's stalled.    
            Bill rolls the window down. A couple of barking dogs is all. "Nobody's come a-runnin. Good."  
             He turns the key. Sucker won't start.
            "Great," she says.
            "It's another omen, Thur—" He almost blurts it out.
            "It's God—or something—telling us we need a backup car."
            "Car trouble insurance. Case in point right here. Plus, when you hop in your backup car? The heat's still looking for the first one!"
            "Where do we get another car?"
            "Your mom's'll do nicely."
            "You're outta your mind."
            "No. Am. Not."
            "Bill? We're not getting my mom involved!"
            He hasn't said a word for three minutes! He's shooting for the record, she figures.
            "You're not cut out to be a bank robber."
            A dog barks. Barks again.
            Dog's done. Bill's quiet. She's quiet. It's uncommonly quiet inside their Chevy.   
            "This car's been good to us," he says at last. "But I've got my eye on a new El Camino. Wanna know why?"
            "Okay," he says, opening the door. "Guess I'll have to fix this one. Again!"
            Hood goes up. Couple minutes later, he's back inside, about to turn the key.
            "Hold on," she says.  
            "Give up this bank robber shit. Get a job fixing cars. Stick to the theoretical side of robbing stuff."
            "Just write about it. Stories. Like those pulps in the backseat."
            Shrug. "Meh. I dunno."
            "Tell you what. Turn that key. If the car starts up? Get a job fixing cars. If it doesn't? Knock off that bank. Deal?"
            Is he stalling? Or thinking it through?
            "On three, Bill?"
            He nods his head, then,

             "Ready, hon? One, two . . . "  

Ray Nessly hails from Seattle but since '82 has parked his butt in a little town east of San Diego. Whilst butt-parking, he pounds on a computer keyboard as music plays in the background and two cats fight over lap rights.   


Bill's hat at Noir @ the Bar L.A. 

by Jen Conley

On a November afternoon, when Erin Lewis was on maternity leave, a repairman arrived on her doorstep holding a large gray tool bag. She was expecting him because her husband had arranged for the dishwasher to be fixed. His dirty white truck sat in her driveway under a heavy gray sky.
            “I’m a little late,” the repairman explained and although the voice was perfectly normal, something about it nagged at her.
            “It’s fine,” she said and stood back to let him in.
            “Just in there?” he asked, nodding towards the kitchen down the hall. When he passed by, his scent made Erin shudder. She couldn’t place it, but somewhere deep inside a dark bell went off.
In the kitchen, the repairman placed his bag on the floor next to the dishwasher. She asked if her husband had described the trouble.
            “Yep.” He swung around and underneath the roughened skin, the graying beard and balding head, underneath the girth of his large body, she suddenly saw who he really was: Bill Vinson. She was thirty-eight years old, lucky to have gone through therapy and lucky to have pulled her wrecked mind together and lucky to have met Kevin on a train to New York and set up this life: a nice marriage, a decent colonial house to live in, and a healthy two-month-old daughter.  I was worried about you but you did good, her mother said often.
            Now this man, Bill Vinson, stood in her kitchen with his tool bag and his repairman’s clothes, smelling slightly of stale alcohol. He must drink at night before bed, Erin thought.
            “Cooking dinner?” he asked, eyeing the raw chicken next to the cutting board. An onion and two carrots lay next to it. 
            “Yes,” she said.
            “Well don’t let me get in your way. Just tell me to move. I’m easy as a summer breeze.”
            He turned and bent down in front of the dishwasher. She had a sudden urge to kick him. But then, from the sound of the baby monitor, Erin heard her sleeping daughter move.
            “Let’s see…” he said.
            Erin walked to the far counter and withdrew the long knife from the holder. The knives were new and sharp. She returned to the cutting board and began to chop the carrots which had been peeled earlier. She went down hard, making little dents in the wooden board. Her daughter moved again but Erin continued cutting.
            “This is an easy fix,” the man muttered.
            Erin picked up the onion, hacked off the sides, and ripped off the outer layer. Within seconds, she was chopping it to pieces.
            “Now don’t cry,” she heard him say.
   She stopped cutting. He was standing behind her.
   “Onions,” he said.
             Her bones rattled.
             “I gotta get something in the truck.”
             Erin said nothing.
             When he was gone, she looked up and stared through the kitchen window. The backyard trees rocked in a gentle wind. The memory returned: she was fourteen, locked in a room with Bill Vinson, a twenty-year-old, still hanging out at high school parties. She’d told her mother that she had gone to her friend Jamie’s house and Jamie had told her parents they were going to the movies. There was liquor and Bill was cute and he was talking to her about the band Molly Hatchet and soon they were in a room, her shirt undone. Then it went bad. She was too small to fight it off. She cried and asked him to stop but her head was spinning from the booze. To make things even more horrid, when he was done, someone popped out of the closet and snapped pictures of her on the bed. She never did figure out who took the photos for the room was dark and the flash popped three times, brightening the walls for each wretched moment, Bill and the mystery guy snickering. They left her there in tears. She managed to get out and get home, her mother finding out days later when Erin confessed she was worried about pregnancy. It turned out she was lucky.
            Now Bill was whistling. Erin lifted the plate with the raw chicken and slid it onto the wooden board. She began slashing through the meat, piece after piece. Her daughter moved again and let out a brief whimper. Erin looked at Bill, crouched like a gopher, fiddling with the dishwasher. She returned her focus to the chicken and began to hack at the meat. Years of pain. Embarrassment. Kids had found out, had seen the photos, and she’d been teased and labeled a whore. “It’s nothing new,” her mother had said sadly when Erin cried to her. “It has always happened to young women.” Life had been thrown off, as if she were kicked off the paved road, thrown to the side. She suffered.
            Now she could slice his throat. Stand behind him and take her knife and cut straight through. Blood would spurt against the open dishwasher, gush to the tiled floor. His body would droop, slip down, die.
            How she had been shamed and had lived with it. He deserved this death, she thought, standing behind him, the knife in her hand. He deserved it.
            Bill scratched the back of his head. Muttered to himself.
  She stepped closer. How she had wished for this moment. How she had sat with her tears, her fury, all those years ago. I want him dead. Dead.
            She moved closer. The hair thin on his skull.
            Her daughter moved.
            Erin licked her lips, gripped the knife’s handle.
            There was a little murmur from the monitor, a little cry.
            Then Bill Vinson slowly turned his head and saw Erin holding the knife. His big body fell back against the counter and he sat cornered, his hands up. “Whoa, whatever I did…”
            His eyes flickered and she knew he recognized her.
            And that was good enough.
            She put the knife down.

            Her daughter’s wail bellowed through the monitor. 

Jen Conley's stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle, Beat to a Pulp, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Grand Central Noir, Big Pulp, Literary Orphans, All Due Respect, Protectors, Plots With Guns, Yellow Mama, All Due Respect and others. An editor at Shotgun Honey, she’s been nominated for a Best of the Web Spinetingler Award and shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories 2012. She lives with her son in Brick, New Jersey. Follow her on twitter @jenconley45

Sunday 9 March 2014


With a very heavy heart, and with AJ's wife's blessing, we hand you over to his close friend, Richard Godwin...

"AJ Hayes, exceptional crime writer, poet, and endless supporter of other writers, sadly passed away at 3 AM West Coast time on Saturday 8th March. He was battling lung cancer with the kind of courage that is an example to us all. He was an omnivorous reader, a man who deeply understood literature in its many forms, and who always had time for other writers. His kind words, and wise encouragements were widely appreciated. He will be sadly missed."

Tributes from the Editors...

From Col Bury:
"I'm so proud to call AJ (Bill) a friend. He was a selfless gent with boundless wisdom and great wit, and was one helluva writer to boot. His classic short, DARK GENESIS gleaned the most comments (and most 'wows') on this site in 2012. He was always on hand with unwavering encouragement and pertinent advice. I'll always cherish meeting him and his lovely wife, Thury, down in London (sincere condolences to you and your family, Thury). The writing community will ensure that AJ Hayes lives forever. R.I.P. mate."

From Matt Hilton:
"Sadly I never had the pleasure of meeting AJ Hayes in life, but I did have the opportunity of discovering his incredibly atmospheric, poetic skill as a writer through the pages of Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, where I recall his "Dark Genesis" tale evoked a buzz for its incredible and sheer poetic inventiveness. Not only was AJ a real talent when it came to writing, but he was incredibly open and supportive of his fellow authors, regularly offering feedback at the site that was thoughtful and meaningful, and I'm certain his advice went a long way in making better writers of us all. His sage words and advice are a legacy many of his friends and peers will remember AJ for."

From Lily Childs:

"An outstanding writer in the Noir and crime genres, it was my absolute pleasure to publish AJ Hayes, ‘Bill’ on Thrillers Killers ‘n’ Chillers. Not only was Bill a unique voice in the genre, he also spent his valuable time supporting and promoting the writers he believed in. To say he will be missed is an understatement. I wish his family and friends peace and send them my sincere condolences."

From David Barber:

"AJ was a gent in the truest meaning of the word, always there to give advice and inspiration. He was a true professional when it came to the writing game and was also a fine editor in his own right, having taken the time to edit and enhance a couple of stories and a poem of mine recently. The man in the fedora will be greatly missed, not only by his family and friends but also by the online community who he helped and inspired over the years. R.I.P. Bill Hayes."

From Absolutely Kate:
"The 'Fedora Fella' was, IS and ever shall be the razz-a-ma-tazz and every bit of the smoothest, smokiest jazz to how I write and think and love and laugh, and even wear my own fedora. We share authors saluting all the good stuff in authors, the grittiest crime tales crunching delight outta our keyboards and the most gloriest music heard between all the right lines. AJ ~ Bill ~ and 'Clyde' in good 1940's lingo to me is an extra part of why my heart grows. Here's my Tribute reveal: In ANGEL TOUGH, from Matt Hilton's 'ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales', I created the ongoing character Doc Aloysious Jeremiah Nelson to honour our friend and authorly colleague. Angel said she'd just call him Doc because all those other AJ names were too much a mouthful to say quickly, but she'd know his essence for all of time itself. As I type this - "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" is playing now. I know the Guardian Angel under the fedora... just made it so. Love you, man, with all that swing."

Read AJ Hayes' classic short story, DARK GENESIS here.

And please feel free to leave your own tributes in the comments.