Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 126 - Matthew Quinn Martin


As I opened the grated glass door to Phil’s Pawn & Loan, the smell hit me like a fist square in the nose. Stale beer and sour cigarettes. The cig drooping from the owner’s grizzled gray mug sent a steady stream of smoke to the ceiling where the wisps joined a brown patch spreading across the decaying acoustic tile. Looked like decades worth of identical hand-rolled nic sticks had slathered a thick yellow sheen on the man’s teeth, his nails and his smudged horn-rimmed glasses.

The bell hanging above the door rang, but Phil didn’t so much as lift his eyes from the spank-rag open before him as I wandered the cluttered aisles. I toed a moldering cardboard box, the sticky cassette tapes inside shifted in a solid lump. I moved on, picking through scratched CDs, dusty camera parts, and prehistoric electronics as I figured out the best way to approach Phil.

Shrugs had given me the 411 on this joint, and on Phil. Said he was the man to see if I wanted to sort out my problem. As I wound my way to the counter, I caught sight of something low on a shelf. I bent down, and there behind a mismatched socket set that seemed to grin at me with a broken oily smile, sat a dusty snow globe.

I picked it up by its plaster pine needle base, and gave it a quick buff with my sleeve, letting it glint in the fluorescents for a second before shaking it. I gazed into the glistening soap bubble glass, looking through the swirling bits of plastic at the quaint woodland scene held inside–a tiny tilting cabin among a stand of trees whispered promises of a wide wilderness just beyond. Dead center stood a silver kidney-shaped pond. A little plastic boy played hockey on its dusky mirror surface.

I wondered what it might be like to run off to a place like that, to freedom. Forget about Shrugs and the money. About the short cons and long odds. About Molly and her Plan-B-didn’t-stick surprise that was due in less than a month–about all of it. Just hit the reboot button and start over where the cold snows would white out my old life, submerge it deep in its icy baptism.

These woods are lovely, dark and deep, fuck the broken promises and sleep.

No dice. Just the old weakness poking through. Inside, I carried my own kind of cold, and in my heart, it was always going to be winter. I gave the globe another violent shake.

“You break it, you bought it,” Phil said, still not glancing up from his jack-mag.

I stalked my way to the counter, setting the snow globe down in front of him with a heavy thud. Reverberations went up Phil’s arm, knocking loose the two-inch ashy column that used to be a cigarette. It landed on his mag, right on top of a grainy shot of some trailer-tramp cupping her silicon-puckered, jizz-covered hooters.

“Five bucks,” Phil said as he blew away the ashes, still not looking up.

Then I set something else on the counter. It rattled with the unmistakable click of heavy metal on tempered glass. That got his attention. Phil flicked his eyes towards the gun, and towards my hand that hadn’t quite left it.

“Got a permit for that?” Phil grumbled.

“What do you think?”

“Don’t pay me to think,” he said, adding, “Hope you ain’t planning on robbing me, son.”

“I’m not really one for plans.”

“Yup. Reckon that’s probably the case.” He leaned forward. I watched his practiced hand slip beneath the counter, probably to caress the walnut grip of a sawed-off twelve-gauge bolted under the display case. Shrugs had told me about that, too. From where I was standing, I figured that both barrels were aimed right at my goolies.

“I need bullets for this thing,” I said, spinning the .38 revolver on the counter. It stopped, facing him.

“Yup,” Phil said, sticking a fresh cig in his maw and lighting it one-handed with his Zippo. “To go along with that permit uh yours.”

“Here’s my permit.” I pulled a crisp c-note from my shirt pocket and slapped it down in front of him. “Like I said, I need bullets for this thing. Heard you were the guy.”

“Heard that, did ya?” Phil lifted the note, checking its bloated watermark against the fluorescent lights. “Sure thing, Mr. Franklin. Mind gettin' the door for me,” he said with a wave. “Flip that sign to closed while you’s at it.”

I did as I was asked. I’m good like that. “I want the ones that do the most damage. Those cop killer ones,” I said, as I clacked the steel grated door shut.

“Plannin’ on killin’ some cops, is it?” Phil asked, his rheumy eyes finally making contact with mine.

“What’s it to you?”

“Isn’t,” he said. The hand he held under the counter had yet to emerge.

“A friend of mine’s got a problem with rabbits,” I told him. “They keep nibbling at everything green and shitting all over the place. There’s one rabbit in particular that just won’t learn his lesson. So...”

“So...time for rabbit stew,” Phil said, sliding a white cardboard box over the counter.

“You got it,” I said. I flipped open the box and tugged out a few of the bullets for closer examination. Small, inert, didn’t look like much, as is the case with so many lethal things.

“Hollow points those. Normal bullet will just poke through ya. Them there mushroom out, get all razor sharp, spinning around and around ricocheting off bone and keep cuttin' all the way. Even get through Kevlar, them rabbits happen to be wearing body armor.”

“Thought you didn’t care,” I said.

“Don’t. Thought you might though,” he said, closing the lid on the box. “Imported goods, them. Not what you’d call legal in these parts. So twenty for the box, my cost. And another eighty for the amnesia that goes with it, Mr.–what was it again–Franklin?”

I slid a second crisp ‘permit’ across the counter to Phil. “This, too,” I said pointing to the globe.

“Can take that piece of shit on the house.” Phil wheeled his chair back, reaching for a big gray cash box with both hands. I’d heard about the box, too. “Who was it sent ya anyway?”

“A friend,” I answered, as I slipped the bullets I’d palmed from one hand to the other.

“Friend?” he asked, his back turned. “Got to be one uh yours. I don’t keep friends.”

“I reckon not.” I quickly loaded thee bullets into the revolver. Then unloaded two of them into Phil’s chest when he turned to face me. “Shrugs says, thanks for solving his rabbit problem.”

I tried to ignore the gurgling sound bubbling from Phil’s open chest as I reached over the counter, as well as his slumped body, to pull as much blood-splattered money from the open box as I could shove into my pockets. Then I grabbed my snow globe on the way out, knowing that gazing into that glass was as close to freedom as I was ever going to get.

BIO: Matthew Quinn Martin is a very accomplished writer of a great many stories, many of which are plays, some of which are short stories, three of them films of varying length.

The plays include Poison, produced as part of NYCollective’s 10x2 Play Festival; A Very Good Year, staged reading presented as part of FilmFest New Haven’s Special Events series and Orpheus, a play with music produced with the New Haven Theatre Co. as part of 2001 International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

The short stories are Command Performance, to be published in Issue 103 of Transition Magazine; the second is a collaboration with Libby Cudmore titled Convention of Ekphrasis and can be found in the Crossing Chaos anthology “Quantum Genre on the Planet of Arts”; the third is a flash piece titled Spinning and can be at the online literary journal MFA/MFYou.

Matthew's film credits include A Walk in the Park, which premiered at NYC’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater and was voted Best of Festival Selection at NYC Downtown Film Festival, as well as receiving a Best Short Film nomination at Hoboken Film Festival; Brothers, a screenplay co-written under contract with Sully Erna, lead singer/ songwriter for band Godsmack, currently in development; and last but not least, the feature-length crime drama Slingshot, produced by Bold Films and starring Julianna Margulies, David Arquette, Thora Birch, Balthazar Getty and Joely Fisher. Available on DVD from the Weinstein Co.

If that wasn't enough, Matthew is an MFA candidate in Popular Fiction writing atthe Stonecoast Program, University of Southern Maine. Busy, busy guy.

And if you want more information about Matt, head on over to www.matthewquinnmartin.com.

Interlude: Two-Fer With Libby Cudmore

First, go check out By Special Request over at Pulp Pusher.

Talk about your femme fatales.

When you're done there, come back here and read Props, just down below.

A Twist Of Noir 125 - Libby Cudmore


I can’t drink enough. A fifth of bourbon, a snoutful of coke, a pack of cigarettes, nothing helps. Nothing on the evening news. Nothing puts me to sleep.

A routine call. They stuck me with the new kid, Christian. I’m the detective, he’s the rookie, fresh off the test and relieved of guard duty. He could learn a thing or two from a hero like me. He’d be better off with Archer Finn, someone who could take his sissy ass and make him a man. I hate patrolmen. I’m sure he’s a rat and the captain just put him on to make sure I’m not buying drugs on company time.

Shoplifter. Some girl caught snagging lace panties from some overpriced uptown department store, probably a Mimi gang kid doing her initiation stunt. Owner wants us to teach her a lesson, Captain wants me to baby-sit. I’ve got better things to do than spank some brat, but I take her to the car anyways. She pulls a gun. I’m not used to little girls pulling pieces on me; I can finally say I’ve seen everything. She fires and I catch the bullet in the shoulder. Now she’s in trouble. I fumble for my flask and drain it. Christian can’t rat me for this, not when I’m bleeding all over the sidewalk. Adrenaline and bourbon is my favorite cocktail and I’m lit hot like a brothel on Friday night. I pick up the chase and follow her down the street.

She scrambles through the boarded-up door of a theater that hasn’t seen showgirls since my granddad knocked up their kick-line leader. I punt down the door and follow, firing random shots up the stairs. She stumbles. Blood. She keeps climbing and Christian screams my name. I don’t respond, I can’t stop.

She crawls through another door and I bust through. It’s an old dressing room, filled floor to ceiling with costumes and props and dust and junk. She’s crouched behind an ottoman that looks like it belongs in an Arabian harem. She stares at me with terror in her eyes. My rod feels heavy in my hand. “I’ve got you now,” I growl, relishing the capture.

She looks away and puts her own gun to her head. Christian arrives just in time for the finale. “No!” he shrieks. He runs to the body and I sink into a leather chair. The room spins now.

Blackness. Somewhere in the oblivion, Christian bawls. “She’s just a kid, Frankie!” he sobs. “She’s just a kid!”

I wake up in the hospital, arm bandaged, on my own. Cab takes me home. Painkillers, coke, bourbon, smokes. No sleep. I watch the news and wait for the call from the captain putting me out of job. The phone never rings. No one comes to visit and when I go back to work, I’m on desk duty until my arm heals. Christian’s reassigned to Archer and won’t look at me. It’s days before I sleep again.

BIO: Libby Cudmore is a MFA candidate at the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast Pop Fiction program and a regular contributor to Hardboiled and Pop Matters. Additionally, her work has appeared in Pulp Pusher, Crime and Suspense, Inertia, the Southern Women's Review, Shaking Like a Mountain, and upcoming issues of Thrilling Detective, Battered Suitcase and the anthology Quantum Genre on the Planet of the Arts (with Matthew Quinn Martin).


Stephen D. Rogers has a new story up at Powder Burn Flash.

It's called Finish Work. It's short, sweet and gets filed to a point. You'll just have to read it to get that in-joke.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 124 - Patricia Abbott


When Milowitz suggested placing red carnations in their lapels, Pappas vetoed it.

“I always tell our clients to wear a carnation.” Milowitz was using the same persuasive tone he'd used twenty-odd years earlier when urging Pappas to help put the pommel horse away after gym class. “The coach’ll cut you a little slack.” By June, the gesture was forgotten and Pappas, unable to climb the rope or make foul shots, got the predictable C.

“With those huge hands and feet, you ought to have some talent,” the teacher had said. “Try out for wrestling or football.” But he never did.

“Changed that much?” Pappas asked his friend, coming back to the present.

“You’ll never recognize me,” Milowitz insisted. “The zits dried up and I shot up in college. And you? Still wear your sideburns cropped like a Nazi? I have very little memory of you, Edward.”

Even over telephone lines, a palpable shadiness clung damply to Milowitz like late winter wool and Pappas found himself alternately repelled and drawn to him. “I was the kid standing in your shadow,” he said, but only after the call was finished.

Pappas had heard through the grapevine that Milowitz lived in Amsterdam. When he bumped into Milowitz’ sister, Meryl, at Trader Joe’s a few weeks back, she confirmed it, pushing the front wheels of her cart over his toes and nailing him to the spot. She’d heard through the same grapevine about him. A number of candlelit dinners and intense conversations followed, leading to his decision to visit Milowitz in Amsterdam.

On the plane, next to an elderly Indian woman gently burping turmeric, Pappas wondered if he’d actually be able to ingratiate himself with Milowitz again. They’d never been that close, he decided over Limerick, gently easing his dozing neighbor off the armrest.

At Schiphol Airport, Pappas spotted his friend at once. Neither flowers nor a sign were necessary.

“And how long were you and Hilary married?” Milowitz asked an hour later, his silk-socked foot shoving a platter of cheese across the coffee table.

“Heather. Her name was Healther. About four years.” The seventeenth century building where Milowitz lived overlooked the Amstel River, where an old tweed couch, commandeered by half a dozen seagulls wearing bits of white batting, made its unhurried way toward the North Sea. “Is Heather,” he corrected himself.

“So how did Meryl and you hook up? Bet she’s still playing the role of caretaker with my father.” Milowitz murmured something else, something sounding unsettlingly like cunt. Then he looked at his watch and jumped up, nearly knocking his beer over. “Doesn’t do to eat too late if we want the best choice in after-dinner fare.”

Pappas had, of course, heard about the Red Light District. As he hurried to keep up, he began to see intimations of local “business” although the boundaries were vague. Pimply youths with tattooed body parts rubbed up against families of tourists and panhandlers. The occasional police officer did little to alter the mood.

The canal reflected the lights above like gooey oils while Milowitz delivered a practiced patter, ending with, “So what’s it going to be old friend? How about the lady we just passed?” He put a proprietary arm across Pappas’ shoulder. “She’s gifted, you know. Has this trick she does with her index toe...”

An Asian woman writhed against the tinted glass, wearing only a red-braided leather thong and matching tasseled pasties. A spray of water drew a silent gasp from her mauve lips. Shivering, she bobbled precariously in six-inch heels.

Pappas was beginning to wonder if Milowitz had gone so far as to set something up when a man in a pinstriped suit arrived and made a quick arrangement with her pimp—a fellow so replete with tattoos that he seemed to be composed of ink. His cackling laugh brought a black woman outside. Leaning heavily on a carved cane and speaking a melodic language, she held the door open, her withered leg exposed by the streetlight. The window went dark. When Pappas showed no inclination toward such an arrangement, his friend said, “Purchasing the services of a professional in Amsterdam isn’t like paying for a Broad Street hooker, Ed.” Grabbing Pappas’ arm, he steered him down a narrow alley.

The next night they drove to Yab Yum.

Milowitz eased his Saab up to the canal side mansion, saying, “Thought you might prefer something a little tonier. Street whores, even ones who’ve been snaked with penicillin, aren’t for every taste.”

Pappas looked warily at the building. It boasted an elegant stone façade with marble trim. Delicate, almost lacy, iron railings bordered the black granite steps. The carved door was wide enough to allow six men entry at once. A well-dressed man with an attractive woman rounded the corner and mounted the steps, both flashing him lewd glances.

“Coming?” The woman had turned, her eyes glittering in the dusk. Pappas bounded up the steps in response, waiting with trepidation until a tuxedoed man opened the door.

Stalactite chandeliers lit red velvet walls in a room brimming with gold embellishments, plush carpets, heavily framed oil paintings, and glass nudes. A horned man suddenly stepped out from behind the splashing Venus Fountain. The women here didn’t look the type to beckon from storefronts; in fact, Pappas couldn’t separate the prostitutes from the guests. But could guests here be classified as normal women? He wasn’t sure.

The last heart-shaped seat at the bar and the requisite martini cost Pappas thirty dollars. Milowitz was at his elbow now, a drink already in hand, whispering, “Surely, you can find something to please you here.” Both men eyed a blonde making her way across the room. Her ice-blue gown swung open as she sank onto a stool, revealing a perfect thigh. Obviously, there’d be no thongs and pasties on display tonight, no sprays of water to spot the velvet or mar the mahogany. Yet the objective was much the same, wasn’t it?

“Am I expected to hand over a month’s salary to get out alive?”

“Depends on what you make in a month,” Milowitz said, casually fingering a red Chinese vase. “You’ll let me take care of tonight, won’t you? Or Nederlanders, that is?”

“Just what sort of job do you have?” Pappas fingered his half-empty glass nervously. He was once again the pimply schoolboy, learning the ropes.

“I bring people here—or to places like it. Didn’t know that?”

“Meryl told me you were in marketing. I imagined you hawking lager at backdoors.” He was momentarily impressed with his ability to come up with that word.

“I market Amsterdam,” Milowitz said, draining his glass. “Shall I summon a girl? It’s worth the price if only to see the suites upstairs. A room for every taste.” He looked at Pappas closely. “Or should I send for a boy? I know you mentioned a Heather but...”

Pappas shook his head. “No thanks. I guess I’m pretty traditional...”

“Paying for sex is a highly traditional activity, Ed. And this place—Yab Yum—has been here forever. I’m worried you’re going blame me later for not showing you a good time.” Sighing, he patted Pappas on the shoulder. “Who put you on to me anyway?”

There was a slightly scabrous tone to his voice. “I’d heard you were here through the usual grapevine.”

“And you just couldn’t stay away?”

“I needed a break. And who doesn’t want to see Amsterdam?”

“And yet you refuse to see its most famous sites. A break, huh?” Milowitz shook his head as they stepped outside, the warmer air slapping them moistly. “I’m starting to remember some things about you, Edward. Didn’t you bike out to the camp my parents sent me to in eighth grade? Turned up in the canteen and scared the shit out of me? My God, it was more than forty miles. You must have pedaled your heart out on that little Schwinn.”

“Raleigh. I did it on a dare,” Pappas flushed. His parents were called to come get him. The boys’ laughing faces popped up at the bunkhouse windows as he waited on the macadam drive.

“So you said at the time.”

Milowitz rented a bicycle for Pappas the next morning. Midway, Milowitz exchanged his ratty old bike for an expensive model at a roadside kiosk.

“Why don’t you just buy a new one?” Pappas asked, watching the elderly woman wheel the old one away.

“It’d be pinched before I broke it in. I keep this one out here for weekends.”

“Why so much theft in a welfare state?”

“The Dutch like to indulge in small acts of crime. Muggings, bike theft, pot, prostitution, graffiti.” He allowed Pappas to catch up. “They save the bigger stuff for the Eastern Europeans and Americans.”

They rode for nearly an hour, finally stopping in a remote part of a woods. The sounds of traffic or even civilization had been long left behind. Milowitz set his bike down and sank onto the ground. “Hotter than I thought.” He wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.

Pappas nodded. “But not as hot as New Jersey.”

“Well, what is? Hey, Ed, mob still running the state?”

Pappas laughed mirthlessly. “I wouldn’t know much about that.”

Milowitz grabbed a bottle of water from the saddlebag and took a long sip. He held it out to Pappas, who shook his head.

“Right. Hey, I gotta ask you something, Ed. Is this where I get whacked?” Milowitz folded the cloth and put it back inside his pocket. “That’s what you’re here for right. The old whack job.”

“Are you joking?”

“At first, I thought maybe you came here like the rest of them. Those good old boys from New Jersey. Here to sample Dutch wares,” Milowitz said, massaging his calves. “But last night put an end to that idea. Didn’t even flinch when I showed you Amsterdam’s finest.”

“I’m allergic to penicillin for one thing.”

“Pshaw, boy.” Milowitz stretched his arms. “I assume my father’s near death.”

“Meryl didn’t take me into her confidence.”

Milowitz started in on his thighs, massaging muscle after muscle. “But she did hire you to murder me? That much confidence was shared. Right?” When Pappas didn’t answer, he continued. “When I saw you at the airport you looked much like you did at camp. You came crashing into the canteen then looking like you’d won a race. We all just stood there in our tee shirts with Camp Walla Whatsit emblazoned across our chests waiting for an explanation. I’m still waiting.”

“Maybe we should start back.” Pappas prepared to rise. The bottle of water tipped over and ran uselessly into the damp earth.

They both watched it for a minute and then Milowitz pushed him down. “One of the difficult things about entering a foreign country is you can’t bring in a gun. So I’m assuming you plan to strangle me because I heard strangling is your specialty. I remembered the size of your hands before I remembered your face. Your most impressive characteristic. They even call you Sphinx, right? Sphinx means strangler in Greek, doesn’t it, Pappas?”

“Just because we’re from New Jersey...”

“Hear me out, Edward,” Milowitz interrupted. “Because I think you’ll be interested. If you live in Amsterdam, as I do, you have more resources for this sort of game. I, in fact, do have a gun—not registered—despite the tough laws.” He went over to his saddlebag and pulled out a sizeable piece.

Pappas had never liked guns. Especially when he had such a nice pair of mitts on him.

“Now if I pull this trigger, and the guy I dispatched last night to take care of things in New Jersey is successful, well, then I have myself a way out of this fucking pimping business, along with a huge house in New Jersey. I figure I’ll be sitting on $20 million or better.”

“Are you out of your mind? The only place you’ll be sitting is in jail.”

“I think not, old friend. I’m betting no one except Meryl knows you’re here. I’d never have thought of getting rid of my sister if you hadn’t turned up.” His fingers flexed. “But I have a deal for you.”

“A deal?”

“It’s probably a sucker’s deal, but if you tell me why you came up to that camp in 1980, I’ll let you go.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I don’t particularly relish killing you. I could take off right now and you’d never find me. Was it some sort of teenage crush that brought you up there?”

Pappas shook his head. “You won’t like it.”

“Try me. What’ve you got to lose?”

He shrugged after a minute. “Some kid paid me twenty-five dollars to bike up there. I was supposed to catch up with you, and when the other kids were distracted, beat you up.” Pappas paused. “He had some grievance about you cheating him out of a Willie Mays baseball card. Or maybe it was Joe DiMaggio. It was a lamebrain scheme but I’d always been curious to see that camp you went to. That camp you bragged about every fall.”

Milowitz laughed hoarsely. “Then why didn’t you do just that? Beat me up.”

“I took too damn long getting there. It was hell riding those wet roads.”

“And you were a wee bit tubby if I remember. So you finally arrived and...”

“You were at the canteen eating candy with all the other rich kids. No way to do it then. Before I knew it, they had called my parents.” He could remember well the long drive home, the unanswered questions his parents had fired at him.

“A touching if pathetic story, Ed.” After a second or two, Milowitz pulled the trigger.

“Hey, you promised,” Pappas said, sinking to the ground, looking surprised, even though he really wasn’t.

“Sorry, Ed, but I don’t much like my odds in waiting for the next time you decide to come after me. No one could be that lucky a third time. I will always wonder how much Meryl offered you. I hope it was more than that chump in middle school.”

Milowitz pulled the trigger again and Ed was dead.

BIO: Patricia Abbott has published more than fifty stories in literary and crime fiction outlets. She won a Derringer last year for her story, "My Hero." She has stories in the Thuglit anthology "Sex, Thugs and Rock and Roll" (Todd Robinson, ed.) and "Between the Dark and the Daylight" (Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg, editors). Check out more from Patti at Pattinase.


Lee Hughes has The Shaman People up at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

Lee says it works in tandem with The Jesus People.

I didn't read The Jesus People so all I know is that it's a damn good story and has a really great concept. See if you can spot it.

And, while it ain't strictly crime, it's Lee.

Go read it already.


I have another story up at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

Titled Idle Hands, it's a short-short.

For some reason, it took me eight drafts to get it the way you see it, the first time that's ever happened to me and hopefully the last.

Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Keith Rawson's back with another tale.

Titled Marmalade, this one's at Beat To A Pulp and, well, if you haven't read it yet, strap yourself in.

Jason Duke and Chad Eagleton call it Keith's "best to date".

Patti Abbott was "kept on the edge of her seat".

And Cormac Brown screams at you not to eat the marmalade.

I agree; don't eat it, read it.


Friday, July 24, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 123 - Lee Hughes


Alex smoked his cigarette, no longer caring if the stink was on his breath. Maggie wasn't around to bitch and moan. Same went for his whiskey breath. He felt as free as when he'd gotten out of prison that day she'd packed her bags, declaring that she'd had enough of his dirtbag ways. Alex had waved, said a 'cheerio' and listened to the windows rattle as she slammed the door hard enough to move the house an inch to the left.

All the things she'd griped about he was now free to do again. Her crone voice still echoed through the corridors of his head, and would continue to do so for a little while yet. Smoking makes your breath stink, booze makes you a bastard, and robbing banks gets you put back inside.

He took another drag of the smoke, sipped the whiskey from his hipflask and eyeballed the bank that he was planning on robbing; single life was good.

Alex stormed across the road towards the bank. He made it halfway before getting smacked by a car. He went up and onto the bonnet, all the way to the windscreen with enough force to shatter it. The car slammed on the brakes, Alex rolled off, and the concrete cushioned his fall.

The whole world was spinning and his right kneecap felt as though it were on backwards. He heard the sound of the driver's door opening and slamming, it seemed so far away.

“You okay?” the driver asked. The front of his car was crumpled, the windscreen busted and he wondered whether the bloke smeared over the road was okay after doing that much damage.

Alex struggled to suck in breath. Getting run over had winded him. He managed to hold up a hand, hoping that it would signal that he was alive.

“I'm phoning an ambulance!” the driver said.

“No!” Alex wheezed, forcing himself to at least try and get up.

“Stay there and don't move you could have internal bleeding.” The driver fretted.

Alex sucked in as much air as he could. The idiot had watched too many hospital shows.

“I'm fine,” Alex managed.

“It's okay. I've called the police, they've probably called for an ambulance as well,” reassured the driver.

Alex looked up. There was a resigned look in his face. “Why the fuck did you have to go and do that for?” He'd managed to get to his knees.

He looked around. There were enough gore-seekers gawking. Some were even getting footage on their mobile phones.

The pistol in his pocket felt like lead. It was heavy enough to sink him into finishing the eight-year stretch that he'd been freed from early. He drew the pistol.

“Get back in the car,” Alex said to the driver.

The driver just looked at the gun as if it were an oddity. England still wasn't accustomed to seeing guns up close and in real life. The spectators didn't scream, run, or duck for cover. They carried on watching as if the whole scene had just gotten better.

“I said, get in the fucking car. Now!”

The driver snapped out of it and retreated to his wrecked car. He seemed happy once he was back inside the safety of his vehicle. That didn't last long. Alex got in the passenger's side.



“Just drive.” Alex's breathing was a little more regular. The driver fired up the engine and leant up close to the shattered windscreen.

“I can barely see.”

“Then barely will have to do for now.”

The car moved forward. Alex got his cigarettes out. The driver looked about to reprimand him on smoking inside his vehicle, but very wisely decided to keep it shut.

“Where to?” he managed.

“Just head to any underground car park.”



“The Marks and Spencer one's the closest.”

“Then get there, quick.” Alex wound down the window. His knee felt on fire and his elbows burned where he'd lost the skin to the tarmac.


Alex limped away from the car.

The driver shouted: “Wait a minute!”

Alex looked back over his shoulder. “What?”

“Let me help you.”

“Why the fuck would you want to help me?”

“Because I want your help in return.”


The police stood around the side of the car. The driver, a local businessman by the name of Arthur Harrington, sat looking shaken, with a nasty graze to his forehead.

“I know you've been through a lot, Mr. Harrington, but I need you to tell me again exactly what happened,” the detective said.

They listened as he retold how the man had forced him at gunpoint to drive him to the underground car park. And then had changed his mind and had demanded to be driven to this piece of wasteland. The man had demanded his wallet, which he had handed over without question. But then he had tried to take his briefcase. That's when he'd decided enough was enough. The briefcase had his employees' weekly wages in it. That was where he had been heading, out to the building site. He still paid cash, his employees preferred it that way. He'd put up a struggle and the man had gun-walloped him.

An officer corrected Mr. Harrington. “It's pistol-whipped.”

It didn't matter what it was called, the man hit him and then made off with the wages. Mr. Harrington had a little sob whilst a paramedic had a look at the wound on his head.

“When he brought me out here, I thought it was to kill me, you know, so no one could hear the gun?”

"How much cash was in the briefcase?" the detective asked.

"About a hundred grand."

There were whistles from the gathered.

"That's a hell of a lot of cash."

"We're in the last month of the build, as much overtime as they want, it soon builds up." Mr. Harrington moaned.

The paramedic had been checking out Mr. Harrington's head, he looked to the detective. “It'll not need stitches, but it'll need checking out back at the hospital. You bringing him in?”

“Yeah,” said the detective. The detective scanned the damage to the car. “Any preference where you want this towing to?”

“Just back to my house, please. My brother has a garage, it'll be cheaper there,” Mr. Harrington said, as he got out of the car, sighing.

The detective patted him on the shoulder. “Look, I wouldn't worry about it so much. The insurance will cover the theft. And it won't be long until the bastard is found. What with all the footage from passersby, we already have a name to a face. It'll be a matter of hours.”

“That's reassuring,” Mr. Harrington said, as he made his way over to the detective's unmarked car for his trip to the hospital.


They drove along.

The detective took a little nip and passed it on back. Mr. Harrington took a long pull on it before putting the hipflask back inside his pocket.

“I wouldn't have any more of that whiskey, just in case they need to med you up at the hospital,” the detective suggested.

Mr. Harrington nodded, hoping the booze would ease the adrenaline that was still pumping.

BIO: Lee Hughes's fiction has or is due to appear on, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Powder Burn Flash, FlashShot, Microhorror, The Daily Tourniquet, Blink-Ink and not forgetting, A Twist of Noir. In print in the anthology, Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Check out Lee Hughes Writes for even more information.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Jason Duke tells everyone to Fuck The World over at Pulp Pusher.

I'm guessing the story is relatively new (it still has that tag on it).

Jason weaves a hell of a tale that has the narrator growing right before our eyes. He's definitely not the same guy at the end of the story that he is at the beginning.

This is a great story and you owe it to yourself to read it if you haven't. And if you have, read it again.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 122 - Franky Newhart


Stacy was his ex-girlfriend that always seemed to be talking to herself. Their relationship was one of issues. Stacy wanted someone that was faithful and committed, while Jeffrey wanted someone that believed in him. Everything seemed to be going so well. Fun and games. Long conversations on the phone.

Then they just moved on to fucking each other.

Suddenly, Stacy was needy. She didn't trust Jeffrey with anyone or anything.

“I'm going to hang out with my friend Veronica.”

“Well, then give her a good fuck for me.”

“Wait, baby.”

“You know what, whatever.”

He eventually had to make up excuses to not hang out with his female acquaintances/friends. He did nothing for her not to trust him.

They would have fights that were always petty. Stacy would always start it with a remark like: “Who do you think your talking to? You're like a child; what you say is not even clever.”

Then Jeffrey would reply, “Guess that makes you a pedophile.”

Awkward pause.

“Because we have sex,” Jeffrey said, laughing at his own joke.

Jeffrey lived for Stacy. He never even thought of being with another girl. When he brought this up to Stacy, she replied with, “I don't think you have the balls to cheat on me.”

Exactly what did he do to deserve this?

“It was almost as if the act of sex between us broke your trust,” Jeffrey later responded to Stacy, in an open letter for a poetry reading that she did not attend.

In an ironic plot twist, she broke up with him. After, Jeffrey found out that Stacy was cheating on him with some guy that she met on the internet. They would still make time for each other and be off and on but no matter how many times Jeffrey hit CTRL + ALT + DELETE on the relationship, Stacy was still just a dirty whore that broke his heart.

“Too bad whores aren't bulletproof!” screamed Jeffrey to his gun.

BIO: Franky Newhart realizes that this story might not even qualify genre-wise but figures it's worth a try.

A Twist Of Noir 121 - Franky Newhart


“Don’t you think I look pretty in my dress?”

Roy looks at his wife. She’s right.

She looks beautiful. Dressed to kill, with matching red lipstick and heels. Any red-blooded American would storm her shores and hug her with nuclear arms of passion. She’s a diva, a princess, a trophy wife, a knockout. She’s a mysterious game show doll that opens the door you choose.

“You’ve won a brand new car!”

But all you can think about is, “Does she come with the car?”

Roy wants to tell her that she looks like an angel. That the dress fits her like a glove and she looks absolutely positively gorgeous.

Something gets lost in the translation.

“How much did you spend on that thing?”

Jen’s mood crashes and burns as if Roy took a blowtorch to her plastic smile. “I have spent almost an hour trying to look good for you! You promised we go out! We haven’t gone out for a month! Why do you have to be so...”

Roy reaches for his coat and goes to leave before she can finish.

“Don’t you dare go out to that bar! I don’t want your drunken ass in this house and the kids shouldn’t have to see you like that either! If you go, don’t come...”

The last word is censored by a slamming door.

Roy is gone and, in many ways, so is Jen.

She goes to wash the dishes and tries to forget. She thinks about another night failing to live up to her expectations. She slams one of the dishes against the sink cracking it. Misdirected hostility is her only relief.

She looks at the cracked dish and thinks about slitting her wrists.

She glances at the oven and thinks about turning on the gas and sticking her head in.

Jen wonders exactly what keeps her in the relationship.

The thumps and laughter coming from the attic remind her that even “accidents” need to be loved and taken care of.

At the bar, Roy takes a shot after shot of liquor in order to chase away the memories of today. He doesn’t remember the call. He just remembers arriving at the scene with his partner. An unfaithful girlfriend with a leaky face spilled all over the sidewalk. Her boyfriend told her how much he loved her with a butterfly knife.

By the time Roy and his partner got to the scene, it was already too late. She had lost far too much blood.

“Girl wanted to paint the town red,” quipped a CSI before his nose was broken by Roy's fist.

Drinks were ordered and nursed until closing time. Eventually, Roy snapped out of the past and stumbled out of the bar into the cold, hard present.

BIO: Franky Newhart lives in New Jersey and is proud of it. He hasn't been published in anything since college and is unemployed and overrated like New York City. You can reach him at uxpsi@yahoo.com for whatever reason.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Interlude: More Stories To Check Out

Sandra Seamans has another excellent tale up at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

Entitled Once Upon A Blue Moon, this thing is creepy and will make you wish you wrote it. Trust me.

And one that fell through the cracks for a moment, David Price's The Lot.

And you won't see the ending coming if you try, even if you try to think about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Check out Keith Rawson's latest story on The Flash Fiction Offensive.

Entitled The Blood, The Shattered Glass and All The Rest, this is Keith Rawson at his best. In other words, fucking great.

Wait until you get to that last paragraph, where the story derives its title.

And wouldn't you want a drink after what the narrator has to go through in a day?

And considering his mother-in-law is drinking front of him while his wife, who you know told her mom all about what she was making him do, sits idly by...

As he asks, "What else did you expect?"


Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 120 - Tom Leins


Originally appeared on DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash

Queenan knows that Velasquez is dead before he even hits the bathroom tiles. He doesn’t miss from there. He sighs. This town is turning into a graveyard for lunatics. All collateral damage in Queenan’s demented war. The skeleton boy is touch and go, but this guy is deader than hell. Queenan stops running and lurches into a gaping shop doorway. The ceiling fan wafts recycled air lazily in his direction. He gulps down the stale morning air hungrily and reaches into his pocket for a cocktail napkin. He wipes it across his sweaty brow, but it comes back soaked in blood. He fingers his hairline tentatively. Fuck.

A low, rasping voice breaks his concentration. “Some wound you got there, boss.” His eyes are the colour of used bullets, his open sores a colour that Queenan has never seen before. He hears the knuckle-crack prelude before he second-guesses the filthy hombre in front of him. The brown fist connects with Queenan’s square jaw to negligible effect. He feels thin cigarette fingers grope for his revolver and cranks down on the hombre’s knee with his stomp bone. The mooch shrieks and Queenan stomps the same knee into the linoleum twice as hard.

Another damaged soul in this godforsaken town. This motherfucker will squeal if it takes his last sick breath to do it. Queenan jams his revolver into the hombre’s eye socket and waits for the teeth-spitting prose to leak out of the half-dead mouth. Jorge Ramirez. Gary Santos. Daddy Badwater. Enough is enough. Pause. Click. Bang. Queenan takes no pleasure in seeing blank flesh ripped from the bone and sprayed across the linoleum. He slumps against the wall and bleeds through the cocktail napkin some more.

BIO: Tom Leins is from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published online at 3am Magazine, Dogmatika, A Twist Of Noir, Beat The Dust, Straight From The Fridge, Savage Manners and Muzzle Flash Fiction. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at www.myspace.com/tomleins.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 119 - Tom Leins


Originally appeared on DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash

He looked, glassy-eyed, at my throat knife. Fuckin’ mooch. It sucked the joy right out of him with one fuckin’ swipe. The muted howl almost brought a tear to my lazy eye. Rosa said nothing, but in this sleazy, fearful town sometimes you don’t have to.

She has a complexion like burned-out brick. A rusty heart and a voice like quiet rain. She didn’t ask me to slice Eduardo’s neck - I decided to do that all by myself. Eduardo displayed a shabby indifference towards life. He was a two-bit knuckle-merchant with grot for brains. No more, no less.

That, I can tolerate. It’s when someone shows a shabby indifference towards my life that I get angry. I drop my blade and wipe my bloody hands on the TV Guide that’s lying open on Eduardo’s stinkin’ bed. It’s funny, you know, the only books I’ve ever read are TV Guides and Bibles. I don’t know about TV Guides, but Bibles say that a sin is a sin, whichever way you cut it. In my mind, that makes adultery and killin’ pretty even.

The glint of Eduardo’s blood on my knife brings back the things that I’ve spent the last two years trying to forget. Thin-lipped back-chat and the filthy stink of killin’.

Jorge drags Eduardo’s fat corpse out of the room without a word. Blood turns to brown on the carpet and I walk outside, leaving the bile-green motel door ajar. In the parking lot, Rosa is sitting in my car, smoking an unfamiliar brand of cigarette. Behind the motel, the bare limbs of mid-morning sex-workers gleam in the sun. I stand still to light a cigarette for myself and notice the misshapen whore bystanders passing a glue-bag between one another. I saved Rosa, but who will save them?

BIO: Tom Leins is from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published online at 3am Magazine, Dogmatika, A Twist Of Noir, Beat The Dust, Straight From The Fridge, Savage Manners and Muzzle Flash Fiction. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at www.myspace.com/tomleins.


Three more at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

If you haven't already partaken...

Col Bury's Fly Boy

Lee Hughes's The Jesus People

And Yours Truly's For The Record

At Powder Burn Flash, Paul Brazill's excellent The Postman Cometh is still on the main page until (I would assume) later today.

And over at The Flash Fiction Offensive...

Jake Hinkson's Keep It Stupid, Simple

Jason Duke's Bloody Sunday

Paul Brazill's Cold Blooded Moon


Walter Conley's My Mother Is Not My Mom

Check them all out, give us all a comment (if you'd be so kind) and I think I can speak for everyone mentioned here when I say...enjoy.

UPDATE: As some of you may have noticed, I transposed the words Burn and Flash up above. I think you all know what I meant but I like to get it right, as much as possible. My thanks to Col Bury for catching the error, which allowed me not to look like too much of a fool for too much longer and change it. I'm sure it won't be the last time. Something for you to look for out there.

Also, while you're off checking out all of these stories, go have a look at the new one up at Powder Burn Flash (didn't blow it that time...phew!), Cormac Brown's The Trees.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 118 - Michael J. Solender


That image haunted me more than any other. The one I have of my mother, crying inconsolably with the disconnected phone still bleating in her right hand like a lost sheep.

Paralyzed by the shock and grief at the loss of her husband, her body heaved and convulsed. The phone continued to bleat until I took it from her hand and put it back into its cradle.

My stepfather. The bastard. Once again, I was the man of the family. Four years older than when I assumed that responsibility the last time under equally dire circumstance, I was still only fifteen years old and tired of my mother's husbands dying in distant places.

Harvey, the current, or I should say most recently deceased, was found dead in his room at Caesar's Palace. A high roller, he was comped and had nothing but the finest suites in Vegas and Atlantic City. Security had called my mother after they found him, naked, except for the nylons and bra he was wearing, in his bed in his free suite after an all-night bender of craps and Pisco Sours. The working girl who reported his "heart failure" had split the scene long before the cops came.

The Las Vegas coroner, overworked and understaffed that evening, did the most cursory autopsy and noting the nitroglycerin pills the cops found with his belongings, had quickly and neatly declared a natural death for the L.A salesman who would be shipped west to the no-doubt grieving widow.

I learned all this after hearing my mother give Aunt Phyllis, her sister and the only relative alive or dead of mine that I really liked, the blow-by-blow on the phone that afternoon. She learned it all from the "Private Dick" she had following him.

She knew, and I knew, he wasn't in Petaluma at a manufacture's rep convention. The $300 a day plus expenses gumshoe was only confirming it all so she could file for divorce and gain the upper hand in the settlement.

Harvey, you see, was loaded.

Mamma didn't know how much exactly, but I did.

Four weeks ago, I found Harvey's Charley Schwab statement under the takeout boxes in the kitchen garbage. My watch band broke as I was pushing down the trash and the watch fell to the bottom, forcing me to dig around. Out comes his statement with a PO Box that I'd never seen and, lo and behold, there were seven very round digits in the account summary.

Harvey and Mamma had only been married for two years, but they fought over money like a couple who had been at it for decades. Harvey had wanted a pre-nup, which Mamma was having nothing to do with.

She knew he had some dough from his previous marriage to that society chick that died from that rare cancer. She left Harvey oodles of cash. He convinced Mamma it wasn't that much and managed to squirrel several mil out of her, and consequently my, reach.

Oh, we lived comfortably all right, but Mamma was tired of his running off constantly. She knew he was gambling and carrying on. She didn't have the strength to do anything other than divorce him and get whatever she could.

Occasionally, she felt sorry for the bastard. Forty-seven years old and a bad ticker. Popping nitros like a third-grader eating Pez on Halloween.

I knew from day one he was a snake and kept my distance. He was good for fifty bucks a week and an occasional Lakers game when he couldn't find a client to take.

That Charley Schwab statement was eating at me, though. $3.5 mil. And here was Harvey, pissing it away in Vegas.

I may have only been fifteen, but dammit, I was the man of the family and I had watched enough Columbo reruns to take Harvey out without even being in the same city.

It was really pretty easy. The meth tabs looked pretty much the same as the nitros and they were cheap. Harvey left his pills out and I had no trouble replacing them that morning while he was in the shower.

I knew he'd get worked up gambling. Either he'd win big and get excited or lose big, with the same reaction. He'd be reaching for his nitros before the night was over.

The rest was just damn fine luck, I guess.

Natural cause of death ruling by the coroner.

Me producing the account statement after Mamma had stopped crying and was bracing herself with a gimlet.

The guy on TV got busted when Columbo suggested to the insurance guy that they should have a second autopsy and look for poison.

Good thing Mamma had the sense to insist on having Harvey cremated before they shipped him home to LA.

I might have suggested that. I really don't remember.

BIO: Michael J. Solender lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife Harriet where they obsess over their garden. He hails originally from the sometimes frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN. There, he ignored (only once) his mother's advice to pursue a career in medicine and became a Corporate Klingon. A recent Corporate Refugee, Solender is a freelance writer whose opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and is a contributor to Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at Dogzplot, Gloom Cupboard, Full of Crow, A Twist of Noir, Thrillers Killers 'N' Chillers, 6 Sentences, Powder Burn Flash, and Flashshot. He blogs here: http://notfromhereareyou.blogspot.com/

A Twist Of Noir 117 - Tom Leins


A hot, languid stink settles over the afternoon. The man in the bone-coloured suit smoothes down the bald streak of scalp where his hair used to be. Most Feds are bland men with empty smiles. Mr Clean is a very dangerous man. Seventeen years ago, when Queenan joined the agency, he heard a story about Mr Clean burning down a Sin Clinic in the Deep South, run by an ex-cop known as Father Julio. When the charred corpses were dragged out of the ash, the limbs had all been hacked off and it took the pathologist eleven days to match up the body parts.

He offers Queenan a pure-looking Marlboro, but Queenan declines. Mr Clean shrugs. “American cigarettes are overrated.” The distant sun throbs in the hot afternoon sky. With his ulcer pills and ironic drawl, Mr Clean could be a middle manager in any Midwestern town. He’s not, though. He’s a man with a briefcase containing $72,000 handcuffed to his wrist, and he wants to cut a deal with Queenan. Queenan knows men like Mr Clean all too well – tight assholes all bent out of shape. He lets the ice melt in his drink, before slipping a handful of currency under the ashtray.

Queenan leads Mr Clean down a side-street littered with crumbling concrete and rusty spools of razor wire. A backwater hoodlum steps out of the shadows with a tyre-iron. The elderly Fed gropes for his concealed weapon, but before he can palm the piece, Queenan lunges forward and plunges a cheap switchblade into one of his blackened lungs. Blood-streaked drool oozes out of Mr Clean’s mouth and ruins his bone-coloured suit. Queenan slips off his sports jacket as Velasquez passes him a hacksaw.

BIO: Tom Leins is from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published online at 3am Magazine, Dogmatika, Beat The Dust, Straight From The Fridge, Savage Manners and Muzzle Flash Fiction. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at www.myspace.com/tomleins.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 116 - Lee Hughes

Writer's Note:

RRP To RIP can be found here.

The Man Who Watches The Watchers can be found here.

These are pretty much stand alone stories. But The Man Who Watches the Watchers explains the bricks.



Ed and Tony watched as the police and the two numpties from Customs and Excise slumped out of Joey Rowland's office. They were empty-handed and with their tails firmly between their legs.

"Don't I even get an apology?" Joey Rowland called after them, then chuckled.

If apologies came in the manner of a slammed door, then he got one. Joey Rowland turned in his seat and watched them on the screens to make sure that they were actually leaving his club.

He gave Ed and Tony his attention. "Thanks for that, boys."

"No worries, Mr. Rowland," Ed said. All Ed wanted to do was get the hell out of there.

Ed stood, Tony followed suit. Tony was under strict orders to keep his mouth shut. They both shook Mr. Rowland's hand before heading for the door.

Mr. Rowland called out after them. "Come by sometime in the week. Like I said earlier, need to talk with you pair about some guns."

"Sure, Mr. Rowland," Ed replied, as he moved to open the door.

"Oh. And lads?" Mr. Rowland added.

Ed looked over his shoulder. "Yeah?"

"Don't forget your bricks," Mr. Rowland said, as he went back to doing his crossword.

Ed kept his cool, nodded to Tony and they went and picked up the hold-alls filled with bricks that Mr. Rowland had made them bring in the first place.

They tipped the bricks out of the bags around the corner of the club, leaving a nice pile of rubble.

Ed sparked up a smoke, sucked on it, blew it out. "Well, that's pretty much fucked everything up." He watched the club as the last of the punters left it.

"Nah. It's still on," Tony said, with a beaming face. "He's gonna suspect us even less now. After what we've just done for him and everything."

"Let's go have a pint. Should make last orders at the Lion," Ed said. "I need to have a little think."


They stood at the bar and ordered a couple of pints. Karen passed Ed his change. He nodded and they headed over to one of the tables.

Ed had to keep warning Tony to talk with his voice down. Tony took a few calming breaths. "Seriously, Ed. I mean, it's why we got those guns in the first place."

"And look where that got us. We've ended up with a van full of the fuckers and enough bullets to restock Bin Laden."

"Think of it as a long term investment," Tony said, then paused as something occurred to him. "Do bullets go off?"

"I should fucking hope so," Ed said, with a grin, as he took a swig.

"Prick. You know what I mean. A use-by date?"

"Ain't got a clue, probably not."

"Then we're sweet. We can sell everything off slowly whenever we can. But I reckon we should definitely do this. I mean, it's a hundred grand's worth of gold. With only Joey Rowland between us and it. We've got it all planned, Ed."

"You're right, it's..." Ed trailed off there as a bloke that just entered the bar caught his attention.

"What is it?" Tony asked, as he turned on his stool. It took a couple of moments for it to click, but click it did. "Fucking hell."

"Yup," Ed replied.

They both swivelled back around. It was one of the Customs and Excise pair. A familiar face passed the table.

Ed reached and caught the fat man's arm. "Moobs, sit down a minute."

The large bloke lowered himself carefully. He looked to them both at the same time. He could accomplish this feat because he was badly cross-eyed. It was like one eye had gone to the shops and the other was already back with the change.

"Alright, Ed?" Moobs said. And without moving his head. "Alright, Tony?" They both nodded.

Ed said, "Not bad, Moobs. As usual, things could be going better."

"Always the way, innit? Got a load of dodgy cigs if your looking," Moobs offered.

Tony asked, "How many you got?"

Moobs looked over at the fag-machine and began to mentally calculate how many packets of fags the machine was likely to be holding.

Ed broke his concentration as there were more important things at hand. "Moobs. You do know that there's filth in the house?"

That caused Moobs's eyes to widen. He looked around as though being cross-eyed gave him a panoramic view. "Where?" he asked.

"At the bar. The bald bloke. In the pale jacket," Ed described.

Moobs clocked him. "You mean Tom?"

"You know him?" Ed asked, showing more than a little surprise.

"Yeah. Usually comes in on a Wednesday. Plays on the darts team. Only night you usually see him."

"You know he's filth, though, right?"

"Customs and Excise," Moobs corrected.

"Same thing," Tony chipped in.

"He's alright. Sometimes sells me old man stuff that the lads back at the compound have kept for themselves." Moobs shrugged.

Any other time, Ed would have chuckled and found it funny as fuck. But not when a couple of hours ago he'd seen him trying to bust Joey Rowland.

"I'm sure Joey Rowland is going to be okay with the fact that you and your old man are letting one of the boys that just tried to have him arrested beer it up in your boozer."


"Couple of hours ago, the circus came into town and the clowns decided to set up shop at the Swing Room," Ed said.

"Fuck," Moobs replied. He gave a clumsy glance back towards the bar. "I'd best go tell dad about it." Moobs struggled to lift his weight from the stool and waddled over to the bar and managed to quickly get his old man's attention.

"If we're doing this job tonight, then I want to make sure there are no fuck-ups, okay?"

"As long as we're doing it I don't care how we go about it," Tony grinned.

He was just chuffed that they were actually gonna do the job. They sat and watched as Finny, the pub lunatic, went and purposely bumped into Tom, the bloke from Customs and Excise. An argument ensued over the spilled pint, though the argument was a little one-sided. The bloke from Customs just kept on saying he'd had a wank day at work and all he wanted was a pint. The Customs bloke got decked by a head-butt.

Finny grabbed him by the throat and dragged him towards the door with Moobs's father shouting that, "I'll have no anti-social behaviour in my establishment. You're both barred...for life!"

Five minutes later, Finny was back inside the pub. Moobs's father had already pulled him a pint in way of thanks.

Ed drained his pint. "Come on."


They stood in the garage they'd been letting for the fortnight since the incident with Gruffyd the Welsh arms dealer. They'd gotten the motor home and the guns. Gruffyd had gotten dead.

Tony was manhandling the big guns. Ed picked a Beretta nine-millimetre for himself and knew he'd not get away with anything so tame for Tony. But there was no way that he could let Tony arm himself up with an assault rifle. A little bit of bartering later and they had met in the middle and Tony would be allowed to carry an Uzi, but the stock had to be folded.

They were using a second-hand motor. They parked it around the side of the Swing Room. It wasn't too close to the door that they planned to burst through, yet not too far away should they need to reach it at a run.

Ed looked to Tony. "You sure you're ready for this? No going back once we start."

There wasn't a shadow of a doubt to be seen on Tony's face. Ed didn't know whether to be apprehensive or a little bit jealous.

Ed took himself on board a deep breath. "Let's do it."


Tony did the business on the door with a police-issue battering ram he'd won last Christmas in the charity raffle at the Lion. They burst through to find Joey Rowland standing there in the loading bay watching on as his boys made a nice little mound of bullion bars. The flower pot furnace was still smoking.

Ed ran over and pistol-whipped Mr. Rowland. It was a sign that if he was willing to put the big boy down then he wouldn't hesitate with the ones on the payroll. Ed had been practicing a fake Irish accent all week, so he was going to do all the talking. Tony hadn't been able to get the hang of any accent other than a Welsh-sounding Pakistani so he was under orders to keep his trap shut.

"No fucker move!" Ed shouted, sounding like something from My Left Foot.


Mr. Rowland seemed as though he had a lot to say about the proceedings but the rag that had been thrust halfway down his gullet muffled the most of it. Ed tied up the two lackeys whilst Tony kept them under control with the Uzi levelled at them. Once everyone was secure they began to fill their hold-alls with the gold bullion. They grabbed a bag apiece and made for the door.

They yanked off their balaclavas so that they didn't look suspicious. They moved around the bricks on the footpath and turned the corner. They bumped straight into the bloke from Customs and Excise. Finny had smeared his nose right across his face.

The Customs bloke clocked them straight away, recognising them from the club earlier in the night.

"You pair of pricks!" he said.

His words sounded bunged up and the coherency was retarded through him being as pissed as a fart to boot. Ed decided to try and ignore the buffoon and opened up the boot of their car. Tony slung his hold-all in.

The Customs bloke growled. "What the fuck is it with you pair and these bags of bricks anyway?" He grabbed for the bag that Ed had put down. Both went to stop him until he said, "If they mean so fucking much to you, here, let me help some." He lifted the bag, swayed a little and then managed to deposit it into the back of the car. He gifted them with the 'V' sign, told them that they were "A pair of cunts, both!", turned and staggered off around the corner.

Ed and Tony laughed as they heard him fall over the pile of bricks. They got into the car and drove away feeling pretty good about themselves for pulling it off so cleanly.


Tom struggled to get up from the pile of bricks that he'd fallen over. He swore at the pile and then spat at it. It took a good few moments for his booze-addled mind to put two and two together. Noise from a door down the side of the club stopped him from wanting to weep at the reality of it. It was Joey Rowland making all the noise.

Tom gave a drunken snort. "Lost something, have you?"

Joey Rowland ran and grabbed him by the neck. Everyone was grabbing him by the neck tonight it seemed, mused Tom as he struggled for breath.

"Who was it?" Joey demanded.

Tom half-laughed, half-choked. "Those two fucking builders of yours!"

"What?" Joey couldn't make out what the idiot was on about. He spied the abandoned bricks. He let out his anger on Tom and straightened his nose for him. Joey regained his composure. There were two very dead men somewhere in what would soon become a very, very small town.

BIO: Lee Hughes' short fiction has appeared or is due to appear on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, MicroHorror and The Daily Tourniquet. He is in print in the anthology Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Visit Lee Hughes Writes to find out more.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 115 - Albert Tucher


“Approach the bench, Your Honor?”

Diana tried to suppress her grin, but it won and spread over her face. Here she was playing Law and Order in a real courtroom. She had no choice, so she might as well enjoy it.

She glanced over at the defendant, who whispered urgently into his lawyer’s ear. If Diana didn’t move now, the lawyer might blurt her secret to everyone.

The judge gave her an irritated look. When she didn’t flinch, he motioned her to leave the jury box and come to him. She felt all eyes on her as she crossed in front of the prosecutor’s table. The two lawyers flanked her in front of the bench. The court reporter brought her machine and stood to the prosecutor’s right. The judge looked like the kind of man who still had a problem with seeing four women in front of him.

“So you know the defendant,” he said. “It happens. What’s the big deal?”

“Your Honor, it’s going to come out how I know him. I think it’s prejudicial.”

She stopped. It didn’t amuse him when she played lawyer.

“Go on.”

She took a breath. There was no way to avoid saying it, but she still hated the idea.

“Mr. Hedlund is a client.”

The judge glanced down at his notes. “You’re a personal trainer.”

“He’s a different kind of client. He buys, uh, dates from me.”

The judged looked at her differently now. She had become the only women in the room. It made her hooker’s radar ping.

“Why haven’t I seen you before?”

“No arrests.”

“Okay,” he said, “but I’m afraid you have to say it for the record.”

“I’m a personal trainer, but I’m also a ... prostitute. Mr. Hedlund didn’t come to me for workouts.”

He continued his scrutiny, and she returned it. He had reddish hair going gracelessly white and a face that had probably been handsome a few hundred prime ribs ago.

“In that case, you’re excused.”

Diana nodded and turned to go. The lawyers started arguing about something. She didn’t care. Bickering was their job. Soon she had left their heated whispering behind.

Directly across from the courtroom doors was the elevator that took her down to the jurors’ waiting room. She sat for half an hour, until she and the others were dismissed for the day. She drove home to Driscoll and waited. The story wasn’t over.

When she heard an engine out front, she went to the door and looked. A beefy man in his fifties climbed out of a five-year-old Impala parked at the curb. She didn’t know him, but he plodded like a cop. He rang the bell, and she opened.

“My name is Nemeth.”

He started to show her some kind of ID, but she waved it away.

“You’re an investigator for the defense.”

“Tillotson said you’re sharp.”

She turned and led him to her living room. She took her single armchair and let him have the aging sofa. He needed half of it.

“Where did you do your time?” she asked.

“Morristown. Twenty years and out. We cooperated with Lakeview a lot, so I got to know Tillotson pretty well.”

Diana waited for more.

“How long have you known Hedlund?”

“Years,“ she said. “Five, maybe.”

“When did you see him last?”

“More than a year ago. I figured he was going to somebody else.”

“What’s your impression of him?”

“I don’t think he killed her.”

“Why not?”

“It’s just not like him. I mean, how many people has the Pillsbury Doughboy killed?”

“Too bad your instincts aren’t evidence.”

“Speaking of evidence, what do they have? The gun?”

“No, they decided to go to trial without the murder weapon. It’s about the only break we got.”

“Well, you know what I think. They didn’t find the gun because somebody else has it.”

“Did you know the victim?”

“We crossed paths once a few years ago. I just knew her as Tiana, though.”

“She didn’t tell you her real name?”

“We weren’t exactly having a conversation. I got in her face about snaking clients. The whole thing took about five minutes. I recognized her picture in the paper, though.”

“Well, lately she could have walked right past you, and you might not have known her. Here.”

Nemeth reached into his breast pocket and came out with a photograph. She took it and looked.

The caption read, “Christina Sejeski,‘ but the face belonged to Tiana. Death had smoothed and flattened the features, but Diana still recognized the woman she had lectured about her business ethics.

The dramatic black hair was gone. Tiana had let it go mousy brown and, she wore it in a pixie cut. Diana handed the photo back.

“That settles it. Who was managing her?”

“You mean pimping? Nobody that we know of.”

“I think somebody was, and he makes a better suspect.”

She explained.

“I like it,” said Nemeth. “Thanks for your time.”

After he had gone, she went to the kitchen and rummaged half-heartedly in her refrigerator. It was hard to concentrate on eating when she didn’t feel finished with this situation. The cops might be satisfied with Hedlund, but there was someone else to worry about.

For now she could only wait.

It took a whole week. On the following Monday she read in the Star Ledger that the prosecutor had dismissed charges against Joseph J. Hedlund, while another man had become a person of interest. The new suspect’s name meant nothing to her. He was a self-employed consultant whose business sounded vague and whose clients were lying low.

He sounded like a middle-class pimp to her.

Diana dressed in her spandex personal training outfit and drove to Fanelli’s Gym. The new day manager, a young man whose name she still couldn’t remember, told her that the next walk-in client would be hers. She didn’t have to wait long. She recognized the man right away, even without his robes. His sweat suit was baggy, but not enough to hide his excess bulk.

“Good morning, Judge.”

“Ms. Andrews, you inspired me the other day.”

I’ll bet, she thought.

“I need to get into shape. Are you free to give me some discipline?”

Long practice helped keep her smile bright.

“Of course.”

She waited while he handled business at the desk and then led him toward the circle of stationary bicycles.

“Let’s warm up first.”

She would have to resist the temptation to give him a heart attack. He was so unfit that it would be easy to overtax him. Instead she decided to pedal along next to him. She had an idea of what he wanted to discuss, and she wanted to get it over with.

In less than a minute he started puffing.

“I heard about your input into the Sejeski case,” he said with difficulty.

“Yes, Judge.”

“How did you know?”

“The new hairdo. Clients like long hair. They don’t want anything short and practical, because that’s too much like a wife.”

The judge made a face. “I take your point.”

“I’ve seen it before. A girl leaves the business, and she cuts her hair short. It’s her way of telling herself she’s really done with the old life.”


“So, who would kill over short hair? Somebody who stood to lose money when she quit. In other words, a pimp. I couldn’t be sure, but it made more sense than Hedlund killing her.”

“You’d make quite an investigator,” he said.

Here it comes, she thought.

“The problem is, you also cost me a very satisfying arrangement. The gentleman who is now indisposed was providing me with some valuable services.”

Diana pedaled harder, and he tried to match her pace. Men were so predictable. At least it shut his mouth for a while.

But it wasn’t going to solve her problem.

“That’s enough of a warm up. Let’s start you on a weight routine.”

She climbed off the bike and waited for him. His face had turned an even brighter red, and he breathed loudly though his mouth.

They started walking toward the exercise floor. He looked hopefully at the machines, but she went past them to the free weight area.

“Back to our discussion,“ he said. “I think you could replace his services very nicely.”

“I assume you’re not talking about paying my usual rates.”

“My position has certain perks.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Should you ever have legal problems, you’ll be glad to have me as a friend.”

“So far I’ve done okay without you.”

“The police could make a project of you.”

The manager walked by and gave her a meaningful look. He had seen too much talk and not enough workout. Fanelli’s prided itself on being a serious place.

She gave the judge her professional smile and pointed at the bench press. He sat on the lower end of it, but he was so paunchy and stiff that she had to let him hang onto her wrists as he eased himself down on his back. She removed plates from the barbell until it held a hundred pounds. It was more weight than she would normally have given a man of his age and fitness level.

She knew the male of the species. He would struggle rather than admit that he couldn’t handle the weight.

“I’ll spot.”

She took her position at the head of the bench. His face looked even more unpleasant upside down.This wasn’t the way he had expected the discussion to go, but that was his problem. He was the one who had chosen such a public place. He did two reps, and then an effortful third. As he started his fourth, she laid two fingers on the bar between his fists. It was enough to kill his momentum. His arms started to tremble.

She let him think about dropping the bar on his exposed throat. Then she became the helpful spotter again. After he had racked the bar, she bent over him and spoke into his ear.

“Here’s the thing about hookers. We can wait for the vulnerable moment, because it always comes. Always. Tiana probably rushed things with her pimp, but I never make that kind of mistake. You understand what I’m saying?”

His hectic color refused to fade. She started to wonder whether she had pushed him too far.

“Maybe we should just forget the whole thing,” he said.

“Works for me.”

BIO: Albert Tucher is the author of over twenty published stories and four unpublished novels about prostitute Diana Andrews. Like most authors of hardboiled crime fiction, he is a librarian in his day job.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 114 - Jim Winter


If Brian Selkirk had his way, he'd have slept in this morning. He would not be sitting in his car with the busted air conditioner outside a strip mall in Salinas. He looked at his watch. Noon. If Todd ever got his ass out of the bank, Brian could have him in LA by tonight and be back to the Bay Area by daybreak. Why he agreed to drive Todd to LA, he'd never know.

Nor could he figure out why Todd flew to Oakland instead of going straight to Los Angeles. It wasn't like Brian missed him since the Dayton Correctional Facility.

Todd burst out of the bank, hunched over and sprinting across the street like a running back. He jumped up, slid across the hood, and climbed in through the passenger window.

“Drive,” he said through clenched teeth.

“What?” said Brian.

Todd, wide-eyed with his black hair dancing madly around his skull, hissed at him again. “Just drive.”

Brian turned the ignition and pulled out into traffic. In his rear view, he saw two or three people spill out of the bank looking around. He turned the corner and headed back toward 101. “What did you...?”

He stopped. Todd pulled the bank bag away from himself and tossed it in the backseat. Blood soaked his white T-shirt.

He grinned at Brian. “We're back in business, brother. How fast can we get to Mexico?”


“You're an accomplice. You think you're going to get off driving away a fugitive?”

A sheriff's cruiser and two CHP motorcycles flew past, sirens going. Brian started to slow down.

“You're not doing what I think you're doing?” said Todd. He held a scarred Glock in his lap, the barrel pointed at Brian. “I can't let you end this ride too soon. Not until we get to the border.”


Todd Barker showed up on Brian's doorstep three days before, claiming to be out of prison and looking to start over in California.

“Just like you,” he said.

“You want to tend bar and live in a crappy studio apartment on Treasure Island?” said Brian.

“Actually, I got something lined up in LA,” said Todd. “Think you could hook me up with a ride?”

“I can loan you a few bucks for Cal Train.”

“What the fuck's Cal Train?”

“You can go almost anywhere in California by train.”

Todd laughed, making himself at home in the studio apartment without bothering to ask Brian. “Shit, they keep talking about starting that up in Ohio.”

“Ohio's a dying state,” said Brian. “That's why I came here. But what brings you here? Why not fly straight to Los Angeles?”

“Simple. I got nothing. I barely had enough to fly into Oakland. Thought you could help. Do you know how hard it is to track someone down who's not on parole?”

Brian had deliberately stayed off the radar. It kept the local cops out of his hair and didn't attract unwanted attention from Ohio. The only flaw in that theory was...

“You want to see Marlon.”

Todd grinned. “I miss that old guy. I was hoping he'd be able to hook me up where you work. Where is the old faggot?”

Brian felt ill. The last time he'd seen Marlon, he wondered if he'd ever see the old biker again. “San Quentin.”

“San Quentin. What's he doing there?”



“Pull over on the next exit,” said Todd as they sped down Highway 101. “I need to change.”

Brian looked over at his former cell mate. “Trusting, aren't you?”

Todd smirked. “You won't go anywhere. You're an accomplice.”

“I can cry coercion.”

“An ex-con crying coercion? They'll run your record and decide you're trying to roll on me. Then where would you go to start over?”


Todd shook his head. “Don't think so. You're going in with me.”

Brian pulled off the 101 somewhere north of Gonzales at a gas station so old it still had a Pure Oil sign over the lot. Todd neatly hid the blood and his gun and marched Brian into a dirty bathroom. The john stank, and rust coated the sink. Sure, the cells at the Dayton Correctional Institute were disgusting, but this made them look like a room at the Sheraton. He kept his back turned to Todd as he changed into a fresh T-shirt.

“Next stop, Los Angeles,” said Todd. “Then you tell me where Marlon kept his stash.”

“Can't do that, Todd. I promised Marlon.”

“And Marlon's dying in yet another prison cell. How'd that old faggot get busted again, anyway?”

Brian whirled on Todd and planted his foot in the other man's groin. “Because someone like you framed him for a job, just like you're doing me.” He kicked Todd in the knee for good measure. “There's always some loser like you who won't let anyone leave the life.”

Todd started to bring up the gun when Brian lunged and snatched it from him. He shoved the barrel into Todd's nose.

“We're going to LA alright,” said Brian. “But since I'm your accomplice, you're going to do it my way. Understand?”

Todd nodded, his eyes wide. “You leave me, I'll just kill you later.”

“So you don't understand.” Brian pulled the gun away from Todd's face, and checked the chamber. He then popped the clip and got to his feet. “One still in the chamber. Rest stay with me.” He pocketed the clip and waved the gun at Todd. “Let's go. I want to be in LA by tonight.”

Todd shuffled back out to the car, head down. Once in, Brian tossed him the gun.

“Remember, I'm driving,” he said. “You get one shot. You miss, you, the gun, and the money go out the door at seventy miles an hour. If you're lucky, I won't back up over you.”

Todd simply stared at Brian. “Selkirk, you are one crazy motherfucker.”

“I'm a pissed off motherfucker. So don't think that bullet will save you.”


Brian's post-prison life actually began on Marlon's last day at the Dayton Correctional Institute. The old biker, with a week to go, found Brian working alone in the prison laundry. He sat down on a bench and watched Brian work, saying nothing for almost ten minutes.

“You gonna help fold?” asked Brian. “'Cuz I don't work with an audience.”

Marlon heaved himself up and limped over to Brian. “You know that big heist in Sacramento ten years ago?”

Brian nodded. He'd heard the story a hundred times before. Three bikers rolled into a small town in northern California, about twenty miles east of Sacramento. The robbers wore jackets with Hell's Angels emblems on the back. A patrol officer was shot. According to Marlon, it wasn't that particular cop's death that outraged local law enforcement; it was the death of a fellow officer. Some, said Marlon, suspected the town's police force set up the cop.

It didn't surprise Marlon. The dead cop had helped arrange the heist.

“What about it?” said Brian.

“That dead cop's share is somewhere in Death Valley,” said Marlon. “And by now, the FBI knows Hell's Angels had nothing to do with that job.”

“So who did it?”

Marlon clamped Brian on the shoulder. “You wanna see my share? Come on out to San Francisco when you get out.”

“What's there?”

Marlon laughed. “My share. My brother and I bought a bar in the Mission District.”

“So why's the dead cop's share in Death Valley?”

Marlon headed out the door. “You gotta put your retirement someplace safe. And these days, that ain't the banks.”

Six months later, Brian showed up at Marlon's, the old biker's Mission District tavern. That night, he started work as a bartender. Six months after that, the Vista City Police showed up with a warrant for Marlon's arrest. They had an anonymous tip Marlon had killed the officer in that bank heist before fleeing to Ohio.

Marlon didn't fight it. With the hacking cough he'd developed, he no longer had the strength.

“You get into trouble, kid,” he said. “Come up to San Quentin and see me. We'll talk about Death Valley and dead cops.”


“You aren't the only he told,” said Todd.

To the west, the sun was plunging toward the Pacific Ocean beyond the hills to the west. Brian kept his eyes on Highway 101, the outskirts of San Luis Obispo looming ahead.

“He used to brag about it. What's the name of that town? Vista City?” Todd took a drag on his cigarette. “Punked the feds and Hell's Angels? But they caught him, man. And you know why?”

“I suppose you're going to tell me,” said Brian.

“Because that old faggot couldn't keep his mouth shut,” said Todd. “Had to brag about killing that cop. He was a dirty cop, but once he's dead, that don't matter.” He looked around. “Hey, why aren't we on I-5, anyway?”

“We're hiding from the Chips.”


“CHP. Highway Patrol. If they're looking for us, they're looking for us to take the fastest route to Mexico.”

“Then why aren't they looking for us here?”

“If you just robbed a bank, would you be taking the scenic route to Mexico?”

“Hell, no. But I wouldn't be taking the most famous highway in California.”

“Neither would I if I'd actually planned this.”

Todd threw his butt out the window, lit another one. “So how would you go to Mexico?”

Brian laughed. “I'd have taken the back roads through Fresno, then jumped the freeway in Bakersfield. But we're not going to Mexico.”

Todd brought up the gun and jerked it at Brian. “So where are we going, smart guy?”

Brian grinned. “If I'm not the only one Marlon told, then you know.”


Highway 101 climbed into the mountains as it approached the ocean north of Santa Barbara. By now, the sun sat fat on the Pacific, turning the coastline below a fiery red.

“Looks like one of those wild fires that are always on the news,” said Todd.

“Wrong season,” said Brian. “So Marlon didn't tell you everything.”

“You know he didn't tell me where the stash was.”

Brian sped up as the road became steeper. “Of course not. First thing out of your mouth was 'Where's Marlon?' Now you're holding a gun on me. If you knew where the stash was, you'd have flown straight to Orange or LAX.”

“So you know?”

“I know lots of things.” Brian pushed the car to the crest of the hill.


On Marlon's last day in Dayton, he sat Brian down for a talk. “I need to explain about Officer Carver.”

“The one you shot?” said Brian.

Marlon nodded. “He was our inside man, our partner. He covered for us, let us work, sometimes framed a rival to take him out.”

Brian nodded. “I always worked alone.”

Marlon took out a cigar one of the guards had smuggled him, cut it, and lit it. “That's why you're here. Going straight?”

"Hope so.”

Marlon pulled on the stogie and blew a smoke ring. “Thought I was, too. Hopefully, my brother invested wisely so I can.” He blew another smoke ring. “That Vista City score was supposed to be my last hurrah. But Carver got greedy and tried to set us up.”

“So you...?”

“Did what I had to do to put that life behind me.” He waved the cigar around, gesturing. “See how well that worked out?”

“Why'd you kill him, then?”

Marlon laughed. “I'm here because I came here and got stupid. I'd have killed him no matter what.”

“Did you hate him?”

“Brian, my boy, I loved that man like a brother. Those are the ones you have to look out for.”

Todd barged into the lounge and plunked himself down next to Brian. “So, old man, you finally outta here. Got any good weed hidden?”

Marlon hoisted himself up and shuffled off to his cell. “I gotta get ready. They're kicking me out later.” He looked at Todd, then met Brian's gaze. “Remember what I said.”


Brian gunned the car toward the sharp turn. Grabbing the canvas bag, he opened the door and flung himself to the pavement, never hearing Todd's reaction. A single gunshot fired, but the only pain Brian felt was from hitting the asphalt. He rolled along behind the car as it smashed through the guardrail. The canvas helped slow him to a stop, but he found himself staring over the ledge as the car crashed into the rocks along the coast. Crawling to his feet, he watched as the car's gas tank exploded.

Two hours later, Brian wandered into Santa Barbara and got a hotel room, paying cash. He'd need to get fresh clothes. Several, actually. If the shoulder still hurt too much to move in the morning, he'd find the local county hospital and give a fake name, no ID. After that, he'd have to start hitchhiking.

It was a long way from Santa Barbara to Barstow, and a longer way back to San Francisco. Assuming he went back to his crappy apartment on Treasure Island. They probably already found his car and assumed the body inside was his. It would probably be hard to explain to the police why he was not dead. On the other hand, a dead man who had not actually died could do a lot of things off the grid.

Just like Marlon, he'd been drawn back into the life. It was more than worth Todd's life.

BIO: Jim Winter is a computer technician by day and a writer and 40+ year old college freshman by night. He is a regular reviewer for January Magazine and Mystery Scene. Jim lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Nita, and stepson, AJ.


Lee Hughes' Girl About Town.

Eric Beetner's Bleeding Out.

Yours Truly's Greta At The Track.

All new stories at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

Head on over, check them out and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Another of my stories is now up at Flash Fiction Offensive titled JUST BUSINESS.

That's two this week. I must have eaten my Wheaties.

As a bit of an aside, there may be some of you out there wondering why I don't just post something I've written here on ATON.

When I started ATON, I made an unspoken promise not to post my own fiction for two reasons.

Reason one was because I was opening this site for submissions from others. I wanted to help out after a number of other sites for crime and noir closed. I enjoyed reading everyone else's stories on sites like Muzzle Flash and Demolition Mag and when they closed, I missed that. So this site was for everyone else except for me to post at.

I have read every last word that has made its way to my mailbox and enjoyed the hell out of that unique experience. Yes, even when I have gotten some duds or something in need of revision (and those have been very, very few).

Reason two is because it would be unfair to everyone. To say no to someone else while putting my own story up is just slashing my throat to spite my ego.

I also enjoy that roller coaster feeling that you get when you send something out there, to live or die on its own merits, to see it make it and stand out there for comment and scrutiny. It never gets old and I love that feeling.

So, if you ever see anything that I've written on ATON (with the exception of these interludes or a comment about someone else's story or something off-site that I'm helping to promote), worry because it will mean the site is in trouble.

With all of the great fiction that comes into my mailbox on a near-daily basis, I don't think that day will ever come.

So I hope you check out my stuff elsewhere, and while you're at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers or Flash Fiction Offensive or Powder Burn Flash, check out what everyone else has to offer, too.