Monday, June 28, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 491 - David Harry Moss


Originally published at DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash

In bright sunlight, Carrie Caraway dug slim fingers into shapely hips and glared at the homicide detective. A fitness model, Carrie was blond and twenty-two. She stood 5’10” and weighed a sleek 139.

Raking Carrie with lusting eyes, the detective said, “You are one hot bitch.”

Carrie frowned and dug deeper with her fingers. “What do you want?” Wearing black tie-string fleece shorts, a yellow zipper sports bra, running shoes, and a black bandana holding her hair in place, she had just returned from a three mile jog and needed a shower.

“I want you to identify a body.”

Carrie flinched. “Why me?”

“The stiff I want you to I.D. phoned you just before she,” he paused, studied Carrie’s impassive expression, and then said, “died.”

After a quick shower, Carrie slipped into flip-flop sandals and a sexy short halter romper the color of her smooth tanned skin. In her cream-colored Mustang convertible, she followed the detective from her condo in Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles. A morgue attendant opened a metal drawer and removed the sheet from the dead girl’s face. Carrie noticed red jagged rope burns on the dead girl’s neck.

Carrie winced. “I know her. Judy Klinger.”

“Why didn’t you return her call last night?”

“No good reason. I was tired. I did a fifteen-hour photo shoot yesterday.” The A.C. in the room made Carrie shiver.


Carrie twisted her lips into a thin scowl. “You don’t think I murdered Judy, do you?”

“Right now, everyone is a suspect, especially here closest friends.”

Carrie nodded. “All over Catalina Island.” Her lips softened. “Any idea who strangled her?”

The detective shook his head. The hum of the AC got louder. Carrie rubbed her bare cold arms. Maybe her breasts jiggled. The detective stared at Carrie and smirked.

Carrie’s lips tensed. “Are you going to try to get the killer or are you just going through the motions?”

The detective lifted his sloped shoulders and shuffled his feet. “We’ll do our best.”

Carrie grinned. She figured the cops had Judy pegged as a slut so they didn’t care. Going out the door, Carrie said, “I’ll do my best, too.”


Rod Martin was a porn movie stud, and Judy’s boyfriend. Carrie gave him a quick once over. He was shirtless, had a nice body, a good-looking face, and wore only white boxer briefs. Carrie backed him up striding through the door into his Hollywood apartment and said, “Who killed Judy?”

“Who are you?” Martin was two inches taller than Carrie and at least thirty pounds heavier but Carrie knew how to fight; she was into kickboxing and didn’t think Martin would be much of a problem.

A snarl curled her lips. She stood taller and spread her slim sun-bronzed legs. “Maybe you murdered Judy,” Carrie pressed.

“You’re crazy. I’d never hurt Judy.”

“Then send me somewhere else or I’ll tear this place apart looking for clues.” Carrie grinned and ran the palms of her hands down and over her hips. “Unless you think you can stop me.” Carrie squared her shoulders and made her hands into fists.

Martin pulled his lips back into a leer. His sex-craved gaze strayed over Carrie’s lush curves. The long, menacing love-muscle between his legs bulged. “There are a few things I’d like to do with you but fighting isn’t one of them.” A wanton look commanded his expression. He lunged at Carrie, hands out with the intention of pinning her shoulders against the back wall. After that, when she quit struggling, he’d tear her dress away to expose her luscious tits and succulent pussy and then he’d use that nine inch pole he made a living with.

Carrie slugged him hard in the gut and the fight ended. Rod Martin doubled over gasping for air. Carrie pushed him backwards into a chair. “Still think you’re a bad boy?”

He lowered his eyes and whimpered, “No.”

“Then talk about Judy.”

He lifted his face and looked up into Carrie’s harsh green eyes. He sighed. “Judy liked girls as much as guys.”

“That’s old news. Come up with something better.”

Carrie’s stern look made Rod Martin cower. “Lately, she was seeing a dyke named Debbie Hansen.”


Debbie lived in West Hollywood off Melrose. She had fake boobs and a pretty face. When Carrie told her Judy was dead, Debbie started to cry.

“I told Judy to be careful,” Debbie sobbed.

“Careful about what?”

“Running her credit cards over max and bouncing checks. She took a job as an assistant to a scumbag photographer on a shoot in Mexico and found out he was smuggling some shit back into the country.” Debbie sniffled and rubbed her eyes.

“What kind of shit?”

“I don’t know.” Her tone was bleak.

Carrie guessed that Debbie knew but was too afraid to tell. It didn’t matter.

“Judy said she had a friend who would know what to do. Are you that friend?”

Carrie shrugged. “I guess I am, or was. Judy phoned me last night. Who’s this photographer?”

“Skip something. Pratt, I think. He’s on La Cienega. But it’s too late to help Judy now.”

Carrie said, “Yeah. But not too late to make this sleaze-ball pay for what he did to her.”

Debbie raised her hands as a sign of warning. “He’s nobody to mess with.”

“Neither am I.”


Carrie found the studio but Skip Pratt wasn’t there so Carrie broke in and ransacked the rooms. She found a stash of cocaine in a plastic bag and a gun, a wicked little thirty-two automatic. Carrie stretched out in an easy chair and waited.

Later, with early evening shadows spreading like crooked black claws across the floor, Skip came home. He was burly and had long ratty hair tied in a ponytail. When he saw Carrie, he licked his lips and leered.

“Well, well, dinner is served.”

A sense of danger caused Carrie’s perfect breasts to firm and the nubs of nipples to harden and poke out. Carrie uncrossed here legs. The short romper ran up on her firm thighs. She wasn’t wearing panties. Skip’s eyes got big and bold.

Carrie sat up and the romper ran higher. She tossed the bag of coke at Skip’s feet. She showed him the gun. “Call the cops and tell them you murdered Judy. A confession will make it a done deal that you go down on this.”

“What if I don’t?”

“You see where the gun is aimed.” Carrie had it pointed between Skip’s legs. “A squeeze of this trigger and you’re a eunuch.”

He grinned brazenly. “I don’t think you have the guts to shoot me.”

“You have five seconds to make that phone call or find out. I’ll count like they do in the movies.” On five, Carrie pulled the trigger.

BIO: David Harry Moss is a writer and an actor. His mystery fiction can be found in print in Gary Lovisi’s Hardboiled and online. As an actor, he has appeared in dozens of films most notably Silence of the Lambs as an F.B.I. agent. Currently, he lives in Pittsburgh but has also lived in Phoenix and Minneapolis. Other favorite habitats include New York City, Los Angeles, the Florida Gulf Coast, and Paris.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 490 - Tom Larsen


There's been a rash of bike thefts in town and the Mexicans are feeling the heat. Got a house full next door and the cops are always over there shouting at them in English. They’re a motley bunch but quiet, all I require of a next-door neighbor. What they do is their business as long as they don’t wake me up. Wake me up and I’ll be over, no matter where you come from.

I keep my bike on the porch. Used to chain it to the lamppost but the rain got at it so I park it under the roof, right outside my front window. It’s not chained up, but it’s hard to get to. You’d have to come up on the porch and so far no one’s been that crazy. I’ve got a reputation on the block from back when I had neighbors who would wake me up.

I figure the Mexicans are getting a bad deal, but they seem resigned to it. The thing about the melting pot, first we kick your ass. And maybe they are stealing bikes, but the cops come up empty no matter how loud they yell. My take is someone knows the Mexicans will get the blame. I’ve also been a thief.

So I’m up late one night, got the lights off and the music on low. The fire’s down to coals and I’m thinking I should go to bed when I hear something. Right away I know what it is. I slide out of the rocker and crawl to the window. Someone’s crouched by my bike hoping no one heard.

I turn the knob slowly and the front door drifts open. Through the screen, I see him roll the bike from behind the deck chair and twist the handlebars to miss the table. It’s a four-foot jump to the pavement if he’s willing, if not this fucker’s mine.

“Bad move, pal,” I step out.

His eyes flash then the knife. I pick a log off the stack and nail him in the head with it. That’s when the girl across the street starts screaming, what’s her name, goes with the kid in the Mohawk. The guy slumped in the corner has a Mohawk and a crushed nose. I take one step and he clears the rail, but instead of running he sprawls on the sidewalk, moaning. And what’s her name rushes to him still screaming and lights start snapping on and I get a real bad feeling.

BIO: Tom Larsen has been a fiction writer for fifteen years, his work has appearing in Newsday, New Millennium Writing, Puerto del Sol and Antietam Review. His short story “Lids” was included in Best American Mystery Stories – 2004. His novel FLAWED was released in October. He’s been published here before.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 489 - Robert Crisman


Guys hustle because they don’t want to work. But Danny found out the hard way that not working’s a job.

Hard fucking job. And they don’t even have to give you a check.

He was selling stuff out of the trunk of his car that month. All sorts of stuff that people had let him take out of their basements. What he got was catch as catch can.

I guess that the good thing about this whole business was, he didn’t lose money.

He’d been working a nine-to-five job for awhile, but got sick to death of that shit, so he quit. He got his last check and, boom boom boom boom, rent, groceries, and smokes, and a bit of bud on the side and after that, he was broke as a dog. A week after payday.

Before the job he’d slung the dime bags. But he liked the shit too much himself and, so much for profits, you know. Plus, it was boring—who wants to dick around with tweakers all day?—and, all-in-all, just a fucking wretched-ass racket.

Anyway, so what now? He had to eat the last time he checked. So, rob a bank? Go visiting places where people aren’t home? Sell dime bags to dipshits again? Why not just stand on a corner, waving his dick at the cops? As far as he was concerned, that other shit was pretty much the same fucking thing.

Of course, in jail you got three hots, of a sort, and a cot...

Still, fuck jail. But, go back to work? After that last nine-to-five, he’d have rather waved his dick at the cop.


Now it happens that he had some stuff—stereo, TV, a couple of bikes, and some other things this guy and his girlfriend left at this place he’d been staying. They’d had to book quick for some unknown reason, Danny didn’t ask why, and they weren’t coming back, so the people who owned the place told him hey, take it.

He was down to the lint in his pockets when this happened, so he shoved the stuff in his car and took it around to these meetings he’d go to whenever he’d try and stay off the dope. Mainly out at the Java Corral on Aurora. There were always people hanging around and some of them even had money.

He’d set up shop in the parking lot there and get busy.

I should explain that the meetings were 12-Step affairs, Narcotics Anonymous in this case. They’ve got 12-Steps for everybody these days, from dopers to gamblers to nosepickers, truly.

Everyone in the world it seems is strung out some kind of way...

“I’d come in crashlanding off chiva and hang for awhile,” Danny told me, “until the bones knit. I got to know people and stuff and some of them were cool but, you know, the program? I didn’t pay much attention.”

Which is why, every few weeks he’d go out and toot and wind up crashlanding again.

That’s not directly germane to the story, however. Danny wouldn’t have known a Step from a Sasquatch perhaps, but he knew about selling stuff out of the trunk of his car.

“I did good, too, at first. Had that nice stuff those guys left and it’s going alright, I’m keeping myself in groceries and smokes with a little left over, and I’m thinking, not bad. Beats the fuck out a nine-to-five gig, that’s for sure, and it ain’t gonna put me in jail.

“I sold that original stuff pretty quick, and then it was, how do I keep this thing going?

“I needed more stuff. How would I get it without pulling moves that’d land me in County?”

Danny knew a lot of the people who come to those meetings by this time, and some of those people had money and houses and stuff just like normies. He figured they might be willing to help him.

He made up a list, “sort of like Santa Claus in reverse.” People he’d call and give them his spiel, i.e., that he’d lost his job and was selling his stuff to keep eating and—here’s what he needed: “Any shit you might have that’s taking up space, you can’t use, I’ll come and clear the shit out.”

“I told my friend what I’m doing and he said, ‘You’re asking them, give it to you?’ I told him, Yeah, why the fuck not, and you know something, man? People were cool! I’d tell ’em straight up, Yeah, give me, you know? And they did. They dug it! See, here I am, a guy lost his job but still trying to make something happen. I’m not just some guy you see hanging around at those meetings, rolling over and licking his nuts because life’s hard and shit, like a lot of those guys you see coming through. You know, dudes, you see ’em around, they’re just lumps. Ain’t doing nothing but taking up space. Waiting to get loaded again, really.”

There was only one guy who gave him a hassle. “Guy’s name was Henry. He’s okay, man, but, I asked him, alright? Like what’s up with you, man? Turns out he’s bent because here I am, and I’m free, white, and thirty plus five, and here I am asking, gimme stuff free, and, like, what the fuck am I, some kind of wino or something? Dude’s really upset! I couldn’t believe it!”

What flipped his switch? “Well, see, the guy’s been working his whole fucking life, since he was six or some fucking thing, for the phone company, right? Been there since water got wet. Worked his way up from paper clips, man, never asked nobody for one fucking nickel, and here I am, begging for shit like a panhandling grandma, and—Jesus...

“I’m like, c’mon! This motherfucker. Him and his hard-working ass. Slaving away at Ma Bell for like 25 years and—bullshit. He’s been sucking away on her tit’s more the story.”

Run that one by me. “Okay, twenty-five years—and for 23 of those years he was flat ass-up loaded. All day and all night. He told me one time, he has no clue why they didn’t just fire his ass. Showed up about half of the time, on the nod, and he’s drooling away at his desk, or stuck in the can and digging away at that one last vein in his armpit or something, and then it’s lunchtime, he’s off to meet the connect. See you next week. And then, he comes back and he’s selling twenties to mutts on the switchboard. Twenty-three years of this shit! And, did they ever fire his ass? Fuck no, they sent him to rehab! Five million times! And each time he’s back, he’s good for two minutes, and then it’s the same fucking shit. Drool on the desk and squatter’s rights in the seventh floor shitter. You wonder how we ever got any phone service, man! And he’s busting my chops?

“I worked harder in two goddamn months than that fucker did in his whole fucking time with Ma Bell, just lugging that stuff around in my car to those meetings! And now here he is talking shit. I just looked at him, man, said, Okay, fuck you, and walked on away. Who needs all that silly-ass shit?

“Plus, like I said, most people were cool, so, fuck Henry, dig it?”

I asked Danny what kind of stuff did the people give up. “You wouldn’t believe it,” he said. “I got some good shit. VCRs, cameras, CDs, CD players, clothes up the ass, kitchen equipment, all kinds of shit. I got a couple of mountain bikes, and they went for $150 a pop just like that. People just, hey, I couldn’t believe it. You know, and that list, the one I made up? I did it so they’d know what stuff I could use and not just wind up with a whole lot of crap and—I did anyway, you know, but, hey, I still got a ton of good stuff.

“This one guy, he gave me like 70 porno flicks, right? All this hardcore shit, brother. I take ’em out to this wingnut AA place out on Aurora. And this dude, he bought like 20, I swear to God. And one of ’em, man, the picture they got on the box, this dude, had a dick like three fucking feet long! Randy Rides ’Em And Ropes ’Em or something, his dick’s like the noose.”

“So, stuff like that. And then, there was this broad, man, she gave me this whole bag of jewelry, alright? Costume shit, right, but good costume shit. Lotta bracelets, earrings, and pins and that stuff. She also tossed in this jewelry bag, too, and I broke that bag out at the Java Corral, and the broads just came flockin’, like pigeons on bread, practically fighting over this piece or that piece... Made something like $1500 just off of that.

“Blew me away! Broad gave me the stuff, she’s actually a pretty nice lady. She also gave me a bunch of dresses and gowns, two leather coats, and some velvets and silks and some other stuff, it’s all like designer stuff, right? And—see, she had money, or came from money, you know? And she’s piling this stuff on the bed there, and I’m like, Wow, man! and she’s telling me, what she’s actually doing is housecleaning her life. That’s how she put it. This shit that she’s giving me here, see, she had it when she was married, and meanwhile, her old man was a dickhead and she broomed his ass, and this stuff, it’s all like a bunch of bad memories now since she got off the dope and so, it’s like I’m doing her right by removing this stuff from her life. Nice guy that I am.

“So I got all these clothes and the jewelry, and the jewelry, turns out—she gave me some earrings, and I showed the things to this dude, and he says I should get ’em checked out because, the stones on those things look like emeralds! So I tell him, Dude, take a piss test. Emeralds. On costume? C’mon.

“Dude tells me, some of that costume’s expensive. Also, some emeralds, they’re actually cheap. They got flaws and, see, what they do is, they range in price. Some’re more expensive than diamonds. And then some, you could pick them up at a WalMart or something. Not really, but you’d be surprised at how cheap they can actually get.

“So I get them checked out. I take them to Theo, this jeweler out by the Java. He looks them over and, sure enough, the fuckers are emeralds alright. Cheap ones, but still worth maybe $500. And the earrings, there’s also these diamonds, small diamonds, one-pointers, and they’re worth like $300. And then finally, the earrings, they’re gold, 18-carat, Theo tells me they’re worth about $2000!

“He don’t have the money to buy them, so he sends me on up to Goldman’s up on 103rd. I go in and old Goldman gives ’em a look. First thing out of his mouth, of course, they ain’t worth two grand. Not even close. Theo’s senile or something.

“I knew coming in that dude was going to lowball my ass, so I’m, Alright, how much? I’m hoping he’ll give me a grand but, main thing, I’ve got to off this shit quick. Baby needs shoes and so, what can we do? Old Goldman, he’s checking them out with this jeweler’s glass, right, and taking a long goddamn time, and he’s hemming and hawing, and frowning, you know, like I’m fucking him over just bringing the things in his shop. Well, I know this movie; dude’s trying to steal it. He goes through this whole fucking act, I’m supposed to just give it up free. Or maybe even pay him.

“So I’m waiting and waiting and at last he looks up from the eyeglass. The look on his face, it’s like he just had something to eat that I gave him that tastes bad and gave him the shits. He tells me, 600 bucks. Must mean they’re worth millions. I tell him I’ve gotta have eight. Takes him two seconds, he says okay. He’da gone nine, but I didn’t have time. And still, he just raped me, and he’s acting like he’s getting fucked but, seeing I used grease or some fucking thing, he’ll duke me the favor.

“You should’ve heard this cocksucker. He’s, yabbety yabbety, market for emeralds is down, there’s a war going on or peace just broke out or, some fucking thing, and I tell him, Homes, you just bent me over and buried it, right? Gimme my money. He does and I split.

“So, $800, and the rest of her stuff, I got like two grand, and, not bad. I can go for awhile and not sweat too hard.

“This one dude, though, he asks me once, did I tell the lady who gave me the stuff what I had the earrings appraised for? Like I should’ve or something. Well, no, I didn’t, you know? And what the fuck business is it of his? The dude thought it was raw. Like I’d fucked her. I just looked at him, man. Dude used to snatch purses and rob this blind newsie on Broadway. Now he gets clean and he’s Saint Motherfucker or something. I told him, man, kiss my ass. You wanna judge? Man, judge on. I’m gonna go get me a nice, juicy steak. All of a sudden, dude’s trying to angle in on a meal. I gave him a buck, told him, here, man, for bean dip or something. Or bus fare. Kick rocks.

“I told my buddy Eddie about it, he laughs. He tells me, ‘You got $800 for nothing, my man. You’re doing better than bandits. Keep up with this, you open a store, you’ll get rich.’

“Danny’s Lowball Emporium, how does that sound? No, uh-uh. See, after awhile, the thing, I don’t know. I ran through that list, and pretty soon after, the good shit is gone, and I did okay, but shit would come up, the rent, my car got fucked up and that shit, and pretty soon, bam, it’s, where’d it all go? And then, I’m sitting around in my room one day and I’m looking around, and it’s tons of crap piled all over and shit, and no way in hell am I ever gonna get rid of this stuff.

“I got all this crap with the good stuff, alright? Women’s clothes. Tons of that shit for some fucking reason, and I’d take them around, and you never saw so many broads didn’t wanna buy clothes in your life after the good shit got snatched. So now, all the crap’s stacked in my room, and plus, I’ve two storage lockers down in the basement and they’re crammed with shit.

“I couldn’t even walk in that room! Had to dig tunnels to get to the can. Crap’s up to the ceiling. You should’ve seen it. I had these four sets of skis all stacked up in the kitchen. A bag of golf clubs, hole in the bag and a bunch of clubs missing, and who the fuck I know plays golf? So they’re there forever and, then, man, these pictures! Cute little stupid-ass pictures! Dogs cheatin’ at cards, fucking bulldogs and shit. Unicorns batting their eyelashes. Dumb shit like that. You look at them long, you get diabetes.

“And that wasn’t even the worst. Not by a longshot. Dig this: I had six whole boxes of records. LPs and singles. All the tops hits like from 1950 or some fucking thing. Mario Lanza Sings High Mass In Lapland. The Chipmunks Get Laid. Wayne Newton Don’t. Absolute shit that nobody ever bought new and now, looks like I’ve cornered the market. I’m thinking of getting a gun and telling folks, ‘Buy them or die,’ but they’d still fucking tell me to go fuck myself.

“All this shit, man! Like a yard sale for winos. I can’t even sleep in my bed!

“And those records aren’t even the worst! Worse than that, man, I swear to God, I had these damn knick-knacks, household items in boxes this one fucker gave me, from 1960 or something and I’m going to burn down his house. Yogurt makers and horseshit like that that nobody’d buy new in ten million years. A ton of that crap and there goes the rest of the floorspace.

“So I’ve got all this shit that’s going to wind up in some landfill along with the house I’m staying in, man, and I can’t get ahead. Something always came up. This bill and that bill. Car breaking down, rent coming up. I got popped driving on suspended—another tale of woe and grief, let me tell you—and that one cost millions and—it wasn’t too long, I look up, I’m tap city. All I’ve got left is ten tons of dogshit. Dogshit, Wayne Newton, and Mario Lanza.

“So that was it. It was a nice little thing for a minute but, fuck it. One of those things, it just didn’t work out.

“At least I didn’t lose money. And I did eat that steak, a ribeye, my friend, which was just as good as the waitress had said that it would be.

“And then I went out and got me a job.”

BIO: Robert Crisman writes crime and noir fiction. He spent 15 years on streets in downtown Seattle and has some idea of what really goes on in these realms. He’s had stories posted on A Twist of Noir, and on Yellow Mama and Darkest Before Dawn. A movie he scripted, Chasing the Dopeman, is currently in post-prod down in L.A. and, with luck, it’ll be ready to go sometime this fall. He maintains a blog, chock full of stories, at 6S.

A Twist Of Noir 488 - Robert Meade


When I started seeing the old lady’s face in the window, I figured it was the booze. I finished all twelve steps of the program, but I still saw a thing or two that wasn’t there.

The old lady died last year and the house was empty. Supposedly. But the married daughter kept calling the precinct to say that someone was stripping the place at night.

A burglary stakeout isn’t very sexy. But you take what you get. I checked it out. It smelled like cat urine and mildew. Apparently in her golden years the old lady wasn’t much of a housekeeper. Why anybody would steal anything from this dump was beyond me.

But sure enough the radiators had been disconnected and lined up by the windows. Someone had ripped copper wire out of the walls and coiled it on the floor next to the radiators. So I sat in my unmarked for a few nights. Nothing.

On the third night a face appeared in the window. Wire-rimmed spectacles. Pinched mouth. Silver hair tied back in a bun. She looked a hell of a lot like Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies. I figured it was a reflection from someone else’s TV, so I didn’t pay it much mind. Besides, like I said, sometimes my brain made things up.

But later in the week the face moved around and appeared in different windows. Then it started waving to me. The front door had this little half-moon window. Sure enough, Granny was there, waving me in.

No way in hell was I going in there. I called for some backup and locked the doors to my Crown Victoria. It was midnight, the witching hour.

But then I saw a light moving around the house. I didn’t know any ghost that could pick up a flashlight. So I slipped around the side of the house and peered in. My perp was this college-looking kid with red hair and a hare-lip. He was getting ready to head out the back with a coil of wire. This rusted pick-up was parked on the back street. I figured that’s where he was headed.

I pushed open the window and pulled myself up and in. I stepped around the corner and shined my Maglite in his face.

“Police!” I identified myself. He gave me a funny look, like a first grader who just pooped his pants. He dropped the wire and threw his hands up. Apparently he already knew the drill.

I cuffed him and sat him by the cellar door.

“It’s not nice to rip off old ladies,” I told him. “Even dead ones.” He wouldn’t engage, just stared straight ahead. He was pissing me off with that smug little smirk. He’d probably get out the next morning, just in time to start planning his next caper.

I flipped open my phone to find out where the hell my backup was. The reception was terrible, so I moved over to the window.

This god-awful scream came from the vicinity of Mr. Hare-lip. I whipped around, reaching for my gun, and I saw his feet disappearing through the now open cellar door. I ran over to the top of the stairs. What I saw stopped me dead in the doorway.

This sounds impossible. I’m not sure if even I believe it. It can’t be true, but I swear it has to be. I saw it.

Granny was dragging my perp down the stairs. Only Granny didn’t resemble any cookie-baking, gingerbread lady I could remember. Granny had unhinged her jaw and put my perp’s entire head in her mouth. She was chewing him up, sucking the life out of him, as he kicked and flailed all the way down to the cellar floor. His muffled screams stopped only when Granny released him, blue and cold.

She looked up at me and smiled. Her eyes were ruby red. She started up the stairs. I pulled my gun and started firing.

The door slammed and I must have been knocked out. The next thing I knew, my backup was there, slapping me in the face, loading me into the ambulance along with a body bag that had to be my perp. After I told them my story, I had to go see the police shrink, who put me on leave. They took away my gun.

You ask me why I like this place? Why I stay? I’m not crazy. I didn’t shoot that kid like they said I did. It was Granny who took him. And Granny’s still out there somewhere, waiting for me. Sure, I could stay away from that house. Never go back.

But that don’t much matter. Granny can go anywhere she wants. I saw her in my cell window last night. The only thing that kept her outside was the bars. And my crucifix. So this little room is the one place Granny can’t get me. Why would I want to leave?

Now give me my meds. It’s going to be midnight soon. I don’t want to be awake when Granny comes gently rapping at my prison door.

BIO: Robert Meade is a transplanted Bostonian now firmly rooted in Mohegan Lake, in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three children. He teaches at Loyola School in Manhattan. A published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, his work has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, The New Flesh, Microhorror, Angels on Earth, Guideposts and Apollo’s Lyre.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 487 - Dorothy Francis


The state park beach is a dangerous place for my kind of activity. Security guards patrol every inch of it on foot, on bicycle, and in cars, but eluding them adds to the adrenaline rush I feel at Mission Accomplished time. Piss on security guards. Forget them. I love sun and sand, waves and swimmers, and a tradewind to keep things cool.

Paradise. That’s what the locals call the Florida Keys. Down here, unpleasant incidents may be withheld from the front page of the local newspapers. Such news items might damage the all-important tourist trade. Look for crime articles, if you must, back on pages 9 or 10. I do hope you’ll look for them. A big part of my fun stems from seeing my name in print – Vampire Killer Strikes Again.

I saw this old bitch headed toward me before she saw me. See ’em first. That’s my motto. Being the first observer always gives me a big advantage. That way, I’m fully primed and on top of the scene while my victim still basks in a state of relaxation. My victims never realize they’re my intended prey until it’s too late. This old broad is in her late sixties, I’d guess, and fairly well preserved. Her blue tank style swimming suit reveals tits and ass that still could turn heads. High-top wading shoes hide her ankles, but not her shapely legs, and her wrinkles don’t show until you get up closer.

A warning buzz in the back of my mind told me I needed to take special care with this one. I could tell she wasn’t some wimpy old grandma in tennis shoes carrying treats for the grand kiddies in a bag slung over her arm. Not this one. She was going to be fun to do.

My anger would give me extra strength if I needed it to overpower her because somewhere on this stretch of beach I’d lost my gold chain and medallion. I hated that, made me boiling mad. I’d bought it just before I’d been kicked out of the army. It had an enameled red, white, and blue diamond-shaped border with the words land, sea, and air engraved in gold. It also had a cross in the center, but I didn’t care about that part of it. The part I valued was my personal logo engraved on the back, my initials inside a noose. Maybe this old broad had found my medallion. I’d seen her kind on the beach lots of times – an amateur treasure hunter. Maybe I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

A black cable connected the old biddy’s headphones to the green and white metal detecrtor she carried. Around her waist, she wore a wide belt that held the usual treasure hunter’s paraphernalia – steel probes, plastic container for trash, 2 digging trowels, small leather bag to hold the day’s finds. This victim promised to be trickier than the usual read-a-book-and-play-bridge types that find their way to the Keys. She offered me a challenge and some fun. Lots of fun.


I saw this guy shaded by a palm tree and sitting in a rusty pickup truck as he smoked a cigarette. He sat with one door open, feet resting on the narrow running board. Muscular. Dark-haired. Handsome. Did I imagine that he smiled at me? Well, I certainly knew better than to smile back or talk to any strange man on the beach.

Suddenly, hairs prickled on the back of my neck and alarms clanged in my head. I’d pulled a dumb stunt in staying here so long, but I had been getting ‘search’ signals and I’d just found an old class ring buried deep in the sand. I could make out a date on it and the name of a school. I was thinking that maybe I could return the ring to its owner when I noticed that there were no more swimmers on the beach. Then I’d looked at the parking lot and seen the man. My ancient red caddy was the only vehicle in the graveled lot except for his truck. Deep in my gut, I knew that man was waiting for me.

State parks in the Keys close at sundown and the sun was about to disappear over the horizon. Down here, people enjoy little twilight; darkness shrouds the land soon after the sun sets. I stopped for a moment, pretending to adjust my headphones, pretending not to see the guy in the truck. Run? No. No safe place to run to.

A bathhouse stood to my right, but if I ran in there, I’d be trapped and out of sight. The guy could break down the stall door and get at me. No. I saw no safe place to run to. Besides, I didn’t want to appear scared. I wanted to look strong and totally in control of this situation. And I thought of a plan.

I walked on, sidestepping the larger rocks scattered around the parking lot, then I paused again and hung my earphones around my neck. I unplugged the headset cable from the detector, slipping the end of it into my left pocket so I wouldn't trip over it. Carrying my detector in my left hand, I reached into my other pocket and felt the steel coolness of my car keys. I fingered them until I felt the one that fit the trunk lock.

I decided to approach the Caddy rapidly, casually unlock the trunk and unload my gear before I unlocked the car, slid onto the driver’s seat, and closed and locked the door. Then I’d burn rubber getting out of there. I’d run the guy down if he tried to stop me.

My plan failed from the get-go.


“Miss,” the man said. “My watch has stopped. Could you tell me the time?”

An old ploy, I thought, but no point in antagonizing him unless I had to. All the time I was trying to turn my arm and look at my watch, I was also unlocking the car trunk.

“Six-ten.” I placed my detector in the trunk, jerked off the headphones and tossed them in, too. Forget the tool belt. Not time to fumble with buckles now.

“Find anything good today?” The guy casually stepped from his running board to the ground, his face in such deep shadows I couldn’t read his expression.

“Not much.” I kept my cool although the guy had stepped closer and was now almost blocking my car door on the driver’s side. “I never find much of value.” Was he planning to rob me, I wondered. Maybe I could make a deal with him, give him my treasure pouch if he’d just go away.

“I lost a medallion on a gold chain,” he said. “Any chance that you might have found it? I’d be willing to give you a reward, ma’am.” He stepped even closer to me and I stepped back, keeping my gaze riveted on his face.

Damn! I knew his medallion was in my treasure bag. It had been my best find until the class ring. Now what? Open my bag, fling the medallion at him and take off? Now he stood blocking my car door and I sensed that he wanted something more than his chain and medallion. To open the treasure bag, I’d have to lower my gaze. What if he read that as a sign of weakness and chose that moment to lunge at me?

A leather thong attached the treasure bag to my utility belt, but the leather was soft. A strong jerk would pull it free. Then what? Not only would he know I had his medallion, he’d also think I was trying to steal it from him. If I could get into my car, it would offer momentary safety until I could fling his medallion to him through the window.

“Please stand aside so I get into my car,” I said coldly. “I didn’t find your medallion and chain.”

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

He stepped so close that I smelled the stench of beer of his breath, the stench of cigarette on his clothes. I always wore a referee’s whistle around my neck hidden under my shirt in case I need to call for help. The sound of the whistle might startle him for a moment, but there was nobody around to help me. I made another plan.

I jerked the treasure bag from my belt and flung it as far as I could, thinking the guy would chase it and I could enter my car. Wrong. He didn’t budge. Now I knew for sure that he wanted more than his medallion and my found coins. He gloated at me.

“Do you know that the police have a list of twenty-nine people – all last seen in the Florida Keys?” he asked.

I refused to answer. “Let me in my car, please.”

“You can forget about your car, you bitch. You’re going to be number thirty on that police list. Way back on page ten in the paper, a few people may read about a broad last seen at the beach. You and me are going to have some fun. You’ve probably read about me – The Vampire.”

“You'll never get by with this.” I vowed to keep him talking. Of course I’d read that name. Hadn’t everyone? How many women had he murdered? And why hadn’t the cops been able to catch him? “How did you get that name?” Talk. Talk. Talk.

He chuckled. “The cops nicknamed me.” I heard braggadocio in his tone. “At one murder scene, I killed woman while she was alone having a drink on her patio. Some of her blood dripped onto the ice cubes in her drink glass. Blood on the rocks, the cops called it.” His voice rang with pride. “They called me The Vampire Killer.”

“My husband is expecting me home. He knows exactly where I intended to hunt this afternoon. He’ll have the police out here in no time at all.”

“We’ll both be long gone from here by then. Oh, your car will still be here. They’ll fool around with it looking for clues for a long time. Was it rape? Robbery? Or did she leave with someone willingly? I like to imagine all the questions.

“My truck will be gone from this beach. We’ll be elsewhere and we’ll be very busy. I have a camping permit at the campground. Fellow campers will think nothing of seeing me and my truck arriving home later tonight.”

He stepped closer and grabbed my wrist. I jerked free and ran. But soon he overtook me, twisting my left arm behind my back until I thought it might break. I screamed in pain, but I knew nobody was around to hear me.

“Not so fast, you old turd. We haven't gotten to the fun part yet.”

“Look, mister.” I begged. “You kill me and you’ll be in big trouble. There’ll be a body to hide. There’ll be...”

“Don’t worry, doll. I know a special place to hide bodies. There are so many bones in that special spot that the police will never get them all sorted out.”

Now I could smell a sour odor wafting form him, a stench I’d never smelled before. I sensed that he was about to act. Did he have a gun? A knife? In a quick maneuver, he slipped a noose over my head and around my neck. Slowly, he began to tighten it. I felt it tug against my windpipe and heat surged through my body.

“And where is this boneyard?” I gasped, struggled. Talk. Talk. There was still time to keep him talking if I could gasp air into my lungs and force words out. Maybe.

He laughed. “The boneyard’s no secret. It’s on Big Pine Key. You know, the island where the miniature Key deer live on a national refuge. Dozens of those critters get killed on Highway One every year. The refuge people dump deer bodies in a special secret place I’ve discovered. A very unpleasant place. Stinks to high heaven. But the buzzards led me to it, and one more body there won’t be noticed.”

He pulled the noose tighter around my neck. As I stumbled over a rock and fell back against him, he lost his balance for a moment. In that split second, I yanked my steel probe from my utility belt. Wrenching free, I plunged the probe deep into his neck.

For a moment, he looked totally surprised before he fell, spilling his blood on the rocks of the parking lot. I left his body where it lay and drove away quickly.

Steel Probe Sally. That’s my handle. I chuckled, glad that the police didn’t seem to realize that women can be serial murderers, too.

BIO: Dorothy Francis has been writing mystery short stories and novels since the earth’s crust cooled. Born and raised in the Midwest and still live there.

A Twist Of Noir 486 - Michael Fontana


West took a call from his boss to pick up a package. He dressed in anonymous drag. A bulky brown winter coat covered up his lean frame. A black stocking cap hid his receding hairline. Nothing could hide the lines around his eyes.

He made a series of turns in his VW. The pick up was a brown box left outside a Chinese restaurant door in a part of town where hobos made their homes in dumpsters. The box was sealed in luminous tape to stand out. No one would touch it because it had stickers pasted all over it indicating that it was radioactive waste.

West figured himself a waste. He was errand boy to Jimmy Claxton, a fat man with a glass eye that followed you around the room. Jimmy was partial to sweaters and silk slacks. His gray hair grew long and was tied back with rubber bands. He had the complexion of raw steak. But he was also calculating, licking his fingers as he made calls that resulted in the extermination of his enemies.

West had edged into the job by dumb luck. One day he was getting a shoeshine at the airport, one of the last outposts in America where shoe shines were available and a public sight. The kid whacking the rag against West’s alligator shoes had fingers permanently black with polish.

Claxton had crossed the concourse with a big black bag on wheels. One of the wheels broke off and the bag hit the floor. It opened up and out spilled countless dolls.

West had failed to recognize these as expensive Japanese dolls: samurai Gosho dolls and Mitsuore dolls from the Meiji period; Ichimatsu ningyo dolls from the Taisho period; and dozens of others. Later, he would learn about them from catalogues that Claxton had kept on his coffee table. They were worth thousands of dollars on the legit market, much more on the black market.

While he had failed to recognize the value of the dolls in the airport, West had recognized the fluster on Claxton’s face. To see this fat man, on the floor, trying to scoop up little girls’ dolls, his already-red face beeting further, seemed too much denigration to West for anyone to endure. So he left his seat at the shoe shine stand and helped the man out. Since West was more compact, it was easier for him to slide to the floor, gather up some dolls, and put the wheel back into place. This kind gesture had impressed Claxton, since no one in his line of work put much stock in kindness. He offered West a job.

West at that point had been working at the gas company, filing customer complaints that he wished he could burn to a crisp. He had no trouble taking the offer, figuring nothing could be worse. Errand boy was not worse. It simply involved him leaving the comfort of his home at a call from Claxton, no matter what hour or day or whatever else he might be doing.

The faux radioactive box was destined for a house in the suburbs, one that seemed empty except that the garage door rose as soon as he approached. He walked inside the garage. There sat a green recycling bin with a cardboard sign taped to it:  BOX HERE!

West took the message to be directed toward him, so he made the drop and headed back out to the car. He situated himself back behind the wheel, turned the ignition, and prepared to drive away. That’s when he felt the cold nose of a pistol just behind his left earlobe.

“Off with that,” the gunman said.

West reached over with jittery fingers and turned the key the other way.

“Now you walk with me?”

Even though the gunman’s voice added a question mark at the end, there clearly wasn’t any doubt as to the answer. Following commands, West left the car, put his hands together on top of his head, and stepped slowly forward toward the garage. He felt the pressure of the gun on his back even through the coat.

Once inside the garage, the gunman closed the door. Immediately the space turned pitch dark. West breathed slowly, trying to keep calm. The gunman kicked him in the back, sending him to the concrete floor. The garage smelled of ancient car exhaust, motor oil, and rainwater. The gunman put a foot on West’s head, pinning it on one side to the slab. “So now you’re going to call your boss, right? Tell him there’s been a little mix-up in the delivery. Get him out here in person, or else you’ll be Swiss cheese.”

The gunman eased off the foot and picked West up by the hood of his coat. The pressure of the gun returned to West’s back. They marched together inside the house. It was a ratty affair, with rusted and open cans of split pea soup on the perimeter of a rickety table. The sink was full of marijuana plants and an insect-killing light hung over them as if to make them grow. The place smelled of bourbon, Camels unfiltered, and a bit of homegrown Hawaiian bud.

“Dial,” the gunman said. He forced West into a circa 1970s plastic chair at the rickety table. At the center of the table sat an equally 1970s era black Bakelite phone, complete with a rotary dial. West dialed the numbers read off to him, letting his finger stay in the slot as the dial moved back and forth.

Claxton answered after seven rings. He seemed to recognize West’s voice immediately, and didn’t seem to like it. “You lost the package?”

“I didn’t quite lose it. I...I’m sure some hobo has it in his custody.”

“So why are you out in the suburbs?”

“I went to the delivery site.”

“Get back into town and find the pick up, pronto.”

“I need your help. I didn’t see it, remember? Some hobo has it.” West cringed at lying like that but he cringed even more at the cold tickle of the gun’s nose at the now exposed back of his neck.

“We’d best find that parcel or you’re stretched out on the rack, dig?”

West knew at the sound of the click on the other end that Claxton was on his way.

The gunman finally sat down, his weapon remaining poised on West. The man’s skin was jet black and he had chiseled figures, with light gray eyes and a salt and pepper afro. He wore a blue worker’s jumpsuit with a red scarf around his neck.
West looked the man square on. “So you’ll kill me now?”

The gunman laughed. “Why should I? You’ve been cooperative so far. I suspect that’s why you have the job you do. You’re so compliant.”

After a silence that hung briefly between them like a cobweb, the gunman spoke up again. “Why you in this line of work anyway?”

“Same as you, I guess.”

“Yeah, but I was born into it. Grew up in the projects and all. Bet you weren’t. So why you want so much hate in your life? You ought to check out the Buddha instead, man.” The gunman used his free hand to pull out a yin-yang symbol on a string from around his neck. “I meditate every day. Yoga, too. Kicks the stress, you know?”

They fell silent again after that until Claxton’s car approached. The gunman placed the nose of the pistol against the back of West’s head and marched him back out into the garage. The gunman took position in the shadows. West stood out in the daylight. He might have broken and run, but a bullet would have caught him. The same if he had yelled. He didn’t want to die but he didn’t want Claxton to die, either.

Claxton seemed to smell a ruse. “Why don’t you come out here to the car, since I already got it up and running?”

“Maybe we should go inside for a minute,” West said, his mouth going dry.

“There’s nobody here, lame brain. That’s the set-up. You were going to drop the package and scoot. No faces, no names, no complications. You never messed up this bad before. Why are you doing it today, I wonder?”

West tried rolling his eyes to one side, in hopes that Claxton would catch the meaning. He didn’t. “What, you’re having a seizure now?”

At this juncture, Claxton removed a pistol from inside his jacket pocket. He aimed it at West’s head. “I don’t trust you or this set-up. You’re history.”

West did what no self-respecting criminal would ever do: He fell to his knees. This startled both Claxton and the gunman. Claxton caught the figure in the shadows. The gunman knew his cover was blown. They trained their weapons on each other.

“Menafee,” Claxton said. “Long time no see.”

“Zip it, Claxton. Your time’s up. I’m running your industry from today on.”

“You were a lousy errand boy, Menafee, and you’re not much better at rip-offs.”

“I was a better errand boy than this goof.”

Menafee made the mistake of pointing at West with his pistol instead of a finger of his free hand. As soon as the nose of the gun went down, Claxton opened fire. Menafee fell with a thud. His gun clattered on the concrete.

Claxton aimed his weapon at West. “You have anything to do with this arrangement?”

“He had a gun to my head. I had to make the call.”

Claxton’s face turned obscenely red and his voice turned harsh. “You didn’t have to do a thing. You could have been loyal and taken a shot for me. You’re no better an errand boy than this stiff here.”

“Sorry, boss.”

“Sorry doesn’t cut the mustard.” Suddenly Claxton turned earnest, which West would have thought alien to the man. “Self-acceptance is key. You think I give a toot what other people think? I don’t. You shouldn’t, either. Nothing wrong with you the way you are. Now take some time off and reflect.”

“What about the package?”

“Bring it back to me when you come back to work. The recipient’s post mortem.”

Claxton tucked the pistol back inside his jacket pocket, started his car up and drove off.

West remained on the ground as if he were just another corpse.

BIO: Michael Fontana does have a bio this time. His writing has appeared in a variety of and electronic journals. His first novel, Sleeping with Gods, has recently been published. He lives in beautiful Bella Vista, Arkansas.

A Twist Of Noir 485 - Kate Thornton


I think I must have interviewed at least a dozen people for Old Dave’s job before I found young Josh.

Old Dave had been with the department almost as long as me, and there wasn’t a major holiday or a major crime when I didn’t thank the powers that be for Old Dave and his little bag of tricks.

See, in this part of the country, we don’t have a regular crime lab or a real coroner, it’s just an appointed position up in the township and you don’t even have to be a real doctor to get it. But Old Dave had a medical degree and a few friends who would run a DNA test or say what fibers we’d found on a body.

Of course, being a small backwoods place, we didn’t have much call for Old Dave’s services, except for holidays when the drunk drivers and their victims ended up in our little cooler.

Dave himself had been a godsend, if you know what I mean. He came along at just the right time, a poor country doctor with no money and needing every extra cent. And he was a likeable guy, popular with the other folks on our small police force. I remember the day he showed up, I was the newly-minted Chief of Police, a big title for a young guy. Heck, I hadn't even been a cop in our little burg for more'n a few years. I guess I grew into this job the way Dave grew into his. Back then, everybody did everything in a small department.

I shut my eyes and tried not to think about replacing him. Oh, I knew it was coming – he said for years he would work until he was 60, then he was going to start fishing. And I knew he was serious about it. He bought himself a boat and some fancy fishing clothes from a mail order catalog. He politely gave his notice two weeks before his 60th birthday and we threw him a big surprise party over at Wanda’s Café. He put on his gold watch, waved to everyone, and left.

Next day, I put an ad in the Picayune and posted the opening through the municipal system. I didn’t think many people would be interested, but I was wrong. They crawled out of the woodwork, morgue weirdos, thrill seekers, sickos, those pale guys who spend too much time alone with themselves. I got the creeps interviewing them. Dave had spoiled us, that's for sure.

But Josh was different. The minute I saw him, I knew we had us a winner. He reminded me of Dave and me, back when we were young. Josh'd had a couple of years of medical school before the money ran out, but like I said, you didn't have to be a real doctor for the job. He was a tall, serious kid who knew his way around a lab and didn’t faint at the sight of blood, so I sent his application forward with my approval and it was a done deal. He showed up that Monday and went right to work.

He fit right in, toting Old Dave’s bag around like it had always been his. I held my breath when he got his first really bad fatality up at the Interstate, but I needn’t have bothered. He did everything that needed doing and then some.

We never had any complaints about Josh. He was very careful, bagging everything up and labeling it. If your John Doe had ten cents or ten thousand on him, it was in the bag for you with his name and case number on it. Josh did everything, just like Old Dave. Bagged 'em and tagged 'em and ran 'em through the process. Practically did the embalming. Jake Foster over at the funeral home was grateful for the help, especially with the bad ones, the traffic fatalities. Closed caskets, those were, just pieces, you know.

It was a big surprise when Josh up and quit. He’d only been with us going on three years. He said he had saved up enough money to go back to medical school, so we threw him a little going away lunch over at Wanda's, everybody signed the card and that was that.

I dreaded the interviewing process. I was wondering even if we couldn't contract for coroner services, the way some of the other small municipalities did, and I made up my mind to suggest this at the next town council meeting. But I didn't have the time.

I was surprised when Josh quit, but even more surprised when I got a call from the State Police. They had young Josh in custody. Seems he’d been moonlighting for the past few years, killing young co-eds out on the Interstate. Some smart detective figured it out when they got the new computers up at the Capitol and cross-checked the dates and locations of disappearances with those of major accidents. Sure enough, in the past three years, each time there was a fatality out on the Interstate, some poor girl went missing.

It took a while, but after a couple of exhumation orders, they found some extra pieces in with our car crash victims and matched up the DNA. Some pieces were pretty small, and some they never did find, but those guys who get on to those serial murders, they never let go. That detective will probably find out sooner or later where everything is.

I get a chill just thinking about it. You see, before Old Dave, I had that job for a little while. And I had seen the value of at least one of those Interstate crashes in a way Old Dave never did.

I keep waiting for that detective to go back further, to connect my young wife’s disappearance with one of those fatal crashes. But so far he hasn’t.

BIO: Kate Thornton writes mysteries and science fiction in Southern Califiornia and has over 100 stories in print. An actively nosy busybody, she finds ideas through everyday eavesdropping.

A Twist Of Noir 484 - Paul D. Brazill


EVERYDAY PEOPLE first appeared at Thrillers, Killers N Chillers in October 2009

Brendan Burke was a creature of narrow habit and come rain or come shine, come hell or high water, he always ate meat on Fridays, even though, around the time of his seventieth birthday, it had begun to play havoc with his digestion.

‘Rebellion,’ said Brendan to Tony Amerigo. ‘Rebellion against the shackles of my Catholic upbringing.’

‘Power to the people,’ said Tony, raising a clenched fist.

Tony had been a butcher since leaving school, as were his father and grandfather, but business hadn’t been so good since the influx of supermarkets selling cut price cuts of meat. Curmudgeons like Brendan were a godsend for Tony.

Brendan put the meat in his checked shopping bag and headed off.

‘Post office, next?’ said Tony.

‘As per usual,’ said Brendan. The social kept trying to convince him to have his pension paid into the bank but Brendan dug his heels in, stuck to his guns. He hated banks and enjoyed his trips to the post office, the centre of the local tittle tattle. ‘And then I’m off to the naval club, though I still don’t know if I’m an inny or an outty.’

He chuckled to himself and was still chuckling when a lime-coloured scooter jumped a light and knocked him arse over tit.


‘Jeezus, don’t send for her!’ said Brendan.

Skye, the featherlight social worker that hovered over him – looking like a delicate flower next to the oak of a man – had suggested phoning his daughter, Sue, in London and getting her to come and take care of him for a while. He’d barely been in the hospital a week, discharging himself after complaining about missing two drinking sessions at the club.

‘She’s worse than her bloody mother was for fussin’ and fannying around,’ said Brendan.

‘Well, you do need a carer, Mr B.,’ said Skye.

Brendan shook his head as he looked at her. She was sparkling and fresh, from somewhere down south – home counties, maybe. How could she possibly have a clue about anything?

‘Do you know anyone?’ she asked.

Brendan just stared at her nose stud with disgust.


Oliver Sweet had ducked into his flat as soon as he saw the social worker enter the building. He’d seen her before in the record shop where he hung around. She’d bought a Janis Ian CD and had tried to made conversation about it but it wasn’t exactly his cup of cocoa. Neither was small talk.

Oliver was a bit off a mouse, who kept himself to himself, although it would have surprised most people to know that he loved to listen Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins and Funkadelic. These were what blew his skirt up. Along with taxidermy – his flat was cluttered with pigeons, rats, even a leathery black bat – collecting funk on vinyl was the centre of his life.

When Brendan moved into the flat opposite, Oliver was a bit worried that the old man would complain about the noise but after talking to him a couple of times, he relaxed. Brendan was as deaf as a post.

He was listing to Sly Stone and changing into his ASDA uniform when he heard the scream and the bang. He stuck his head out of the door and saw that Brendan’s door was was open. And then he heard coughing, choking.

‘Are you alright, Mr Burke?’ he said. No reply.

He went to Burke’s door and knocked.

‘Mr Burke?’ said Oliver, louder this time. He went into the flat and saw Brendan doubled over and red-faced. Oliver ran towards him.

‘Are you alright?’

Brendan looked up with tears in his eyes. Tears of laughter.

‘Sorry...Sorry, Sweety,’ said Brendan. Oliver blushed. He hated that nickname.

‘Couldn’t resist.’ He wheezed. ‘I just wanted her to piss off, so...’ he coughed. ‘So, I grabbed her knockers. The stuck up little cow soon scarpered then.’

‘So, you’re okay,’ said a blushing Oliver.

‘Aye,’ said Brendan. ‘Do us a favour and pass us that bottle of vodka from the mantelpiece and get two glasses from the kitchenette.’

Oliver wasn’t much of a drinker but he thought he needed to calm down before heading off to work.

He poured the drinks.

‘A toast,’ said Brendan.

‘Na zdrowia, as Polish Andy used to say. To your health.’

Brendan downed the vodka in one and Oliver did the same but it burned like molten lava.


After a week or two it was decided that Oliver would be Brendan’s carer. He’d do the shopping, cash his pension and pop in now and again to keep an eye on him.

Oliver started to like drinking with Brendan and the carer’s allowance that he received meant that he could give up his job at ASDA. In fact all was tickety boo until November.


Tony Amerigo’s voice was like a dripping tap to Oliver and the woman at the Post office was even worse. Still, he endured and managed to pop into the record shop before lunchtime to buy Parliament’s ‘Up For The Down Stroke.’

‘Pricey stuff, this,’ said John, the owner of the shop. ‘Been saving up your pennies, Sweety?’

Oliver ignored him and headed back home.


‘The Post Office was packed again,’ said Oliver to Brendan, as he put the shopping bags on the orange, plastic, formica table.

Brendan said nothing, of course. He’d said nothing since he’d broken his neck falling out of the bath on Bonfire Night. Oliver still liked these evenings, though. Steak, vodka and a bit of Bootsy playing in the background. He glanced over at Brendan’s massive frame as he unpacked the rest of the shopping and thought that he really should have bought some more formaldehyde.

BIO: Paul D. Brazill was born in England and lives Poland. His stories have appeared online and in print at A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Blink Ink, Dark Valentine Magazine, disenthralled, The Legendary, MiCrow, Needle Magazine, Powder Burn Flash, Pulp Metal Magazine, Radgepacket Online, Shoots & Vines, Six Sentences, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers and in the anthologies Howl: Dark Tales of the Feral and Infernal and RADGEPACKET Volume Four.

The Stamp Of A Vamp appeared as a podcast on CAST Macabre. His story The Tut was nominated for a 2010 Spinetingler award. His serial WARSAW MOON appears online at DISENTHRALLED.

His column "I didn't say that, did I?" is at Pulp Metal Magazine. And his blog is YOU WOULD SAY THAT WOULN’T YOU?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 483 - AJ Hayes


Once – when the world was just a little younger and more dewy-eyed – there was a boy. He was twelve years-old and lived in a white house, with blue railings and roof, in a sun-flooded neighborhood of pastel-painted houses and cinnamon-colored sunsets. His summer blonde hair hung down, in shaggy bangs, over blue eyes that seemed to hold every dream of every boy who ever lived. The scatter-smatter dusting of freckles across the bridge of his snubbed nose added random exclamation points to the blue of his eyes. All in all, he was the perfect boy.

Perfect – except, that he knew something that other people did not know and saw things that other people could not see.

He had not always known these things. He had not known them when he was younger. He had not known when he used to chase butterflies with his sister (herself a bright, poly-hued, soaring butterfly of a girl) across their oh-so-green front yard. Nor had he known when he went to bed at night, to dream of elves and knights and magic circles in the wild wood. Until, one night, he dreamed a very strange thing.

He dreamed he woke with a startle to something that felt like a bite from a crystal bee with a diamond stinger on his shoulder. He suddenly felt another sharp pain, a much larger pain – in a different place. He looked wildly around his room. His father was there, but his father looked different. His father’s eyes were not their usual blue. They were green, an emerald, glittering green with yellow starbursts in their depths. The pain made it difficult for him to see things exactly, but he thought that his father’s ears had grown longer, more pointed. His father’s hair had become glossy black and seemed to cover much more of him than the boy remembered. Then, the pain grew so large that it pulled him down into darkness.

As he had left the house to meet the school bus the next morning, something caught his eye – a gleaming, shiny spot on the porch railing. He crossed the porch to inspect it. It was a white shadow under the surface of the glossy blue paint – a vague, thin shape, slightly curved. It looks like a bone, he thought.

He had never noticed it before.

That night or the next night, he did not dream. But, on the third night, he felt the bite of the crystal bee again. This time he saw more clearly the green eyes and pointed ears and shaggy hair – the white, sharp teeth. A picture he had seen somewhere sprang into his mind. A wolf, green-eyed and glossy black. His father was a wolf. Pain blossomed through him again; too sharp to be a dream.

In the morning, he rushed from the house and straight to Mr. Malley, the crossing guard.

Mr. Malley, glowing in his yellow raincoat with red stripes, listened to the boy’s frantic babble, patiently. “Well now, lad. So your father is a wolf, is he? In your dreams? I think it’s too much candy after dinner we’re talkin’ about here.” He chuckled and offered the boy a mint. “And your daddy a doctor and all; he should be knowin’ better than anyone about that. There’s your bus,” he said, pointing across the street.

The bus was too crowded with children laughing and shrieking for the boy to ask the driver for help. His teacher listened to him after school, but offered much the same opinion as Mr. Malley had. He knew that his mother would not understand, either. She loved the wolf, whom she thought a man. No help from the grown-up world, he realized. He was on his own.

That afternoon, he noticed shadows under the bright white paint of the house – long, slender shadows, knobby at the ends. He knew what they were. Bones – carefully concealed by the wolf, unseeable – unless you knew they were there.

The boy’s world shrank. He no longer flew kites, played marbles or any of the other things he had done before. He spent every afternoon in the library, reading about wolves. He read about real wolves, mythical wolves and fairytale wolves. He read every book he could find on them.

He learned wolves are clever and good at concealing themselves; and that the ones with green eyes and black fur and white, sharp teeth are the cleverest of all. He read of the many methods adults and children had used to outwit or kill other wolves. But there were no stories of defeated emerald-eyed wolves. Emerald-eyed wolves always won and usually those stories ended, “So, the wolf ate them all up!”

The afternoons passed in wolf study. At night, the dreams – and the pain – continued. The boy, though despairing, remained resolute – somehow, he would find a way to stop the green-eyed beast in the house of bones.

In his desolation, there was only one bright place. After the library, he would return home and his butterfly sister would greet him. Her laughter and squeals of delight, as they chased birds, made faces out of the clouds and played hide and seek, made him almost forget – almost not see the shadows of the bones under the paint of the house.

Then, one night, the dreams stopped. A week passed, then a month and then a year with no dreams (though he still felt the bite of the crystal bee almost every night). The boy wondered why and began to look for the reason. He pretended to sleep deeply. Sometimes when he did that, the crystal bee did not bite him. When the bee did not sink its diamond stinger into his flesh, he saw clearly. He prowled the house, listening, watching – and sensing the bones beneath the surface of the walls. Late one night, he heard it – the reason the dreams had stopped.

From the butterfly’s room came a murmured cry – like twigs breaking from dead trees in a winter chill – and the low growl of the wolf.

It doesn’t want me anymore, he thought, it wants her.

He raced to the door of his mother’s room, pounding on it, hurting his hand. She appeared in her doorway, swaying. Her eyes were funny looking. On her shoulder he saw a mark he recognized, the mark of a fresh bee bite. He shook her frantically, yelling into her ear. He saw understanding creep into her dulled eyes.

His mother ran from him, to the door of the butterfly’s room. Throwing it open, she stood in the entrance. Saved, the boy thought, saved.

“You!” she screamed. “You promised! Never again, you said. No more girls. I’M the only one. You promised me. I’M the one. You need ME! Because you love ME! Is that why you made me have this little whore? So she could be your next? You bastard!

There was a snarl and a sound like a softball makes when it slams into a catcher’s mitt, a loud, hard, smacking of leather into leather. His mother fell to the floor, crying in a voice like the dusty rustle of leaves blowing in a bleak wind on an icy sidewalk. “You...promised.”

The wolf stood in the doorway, growling. Its eyes, shining with deep-sea phosphorescence, found the boy. It turned to a corner of the hall and opened a black satchel standing there. It came towards the boy with something glittering in its hand. It growled a warning and the boy stood still, feeling the bee bite his thigh. The familiar darkness took him. But, before it swept him down, he felt a fierce joy. In its red rage, the beast had made a mistake.

The boy knew where the creature kept the crystal bees.

A single word sprang into his mind. A word that all wolves fear – even the emerald-eyed ones. His grin as the darkness took him down was a feral one.

He had a plan.

The next morning, he opened his bedroom door to find that the wolf had dropped all pretenses. The house glowed white, bare of illusion. The floor was made of overlapping bones as were the hallways and the railings. The stairs glowed with the soft ivory and white of bones. Wrist bones, small and delicate, supported tabletops made of rib bones, curving with a polished grace. The walls were thighbones, hard and strong, reaching for the ceiling, which was made of shoulder blades. The stairs were footbones and knucklebones, inlayed with backbones rising for banisters. Everywhere the hard gleaming white of skeletal purity reflected the morning light. His breath steamed in the chill.

Downstairs, at the table, the wolf sat – its eyes following the boy as he descended the bleached gleam of the stairway. When, stepping slowly and cautiously, he had reached the table, the Wolf growled softly. Its luminous eyes swept over the leaf - tumble figure of his mother in the corner of the room. Turning its muzzle, the wolf moved its emerald stare lingeringly over the gray moth that the butterfly had become. The beast growled again, low. The boy knew the meaning of that growl: “Tell and I will kill.”

The boy missed his school bus on purpose. He watched from where he hid in the thick branches of the hedge as it disappeared around the corner. His hand made a small waving motion that might have meant goodbye.

His father, leaving for work, in a light gray suit and tie, never saw him. His mother, when she rustled by on her way to the store with his sister – held hard by the hand – did not see him either. As their station wagon passed his hiding place he looked through the car window at the gray moth. Soon, he thought, you’ll be a butterfly again.

When the automobile vanished, he hurried into the house. Straight up the stairs – the knucklebones making a cracking sound under his rushing feet – to the satchel in the corner. He fumbled open the clasp and reached inside. There! He felt the brittle crystal hardness of the bees. Carefully, he removed four of them from their nest in the worn leather satchel.

He raced back down the stairs, the chill of the house seeping into his body, and opened the refrigerator. There! Slabs of meat glistened in their wrapper. The wolf’s was, naturally, the biggest. (Blood rare, the wolf always said, blood rare.) Quickly and carefully, he opened the wrapper and inserted the shining stingers of the bees into the redness of the meat. His thumb thrust the plungers down one by one and the fluid within the body of the bees flowed into the supper of the wolf. Another trip upstairs and the empty bees were replaced in the satchel. Nodding with satisfaction, he left the house and used the side door to enter the garage.

In the cool darkness, he found what he sought – a rounded dome, bright red and pungent. When he picked it up, it made a soft sloshing sound. He carried it to the yard and hid its oily metal symmetry behind one of the rosebushes near the front door. The large red and pink flowers, heavily sweet, masked the sharp odor of the can nicely. Now, he thought, waiting is all I have to do.

At dinner that evening, the wolf tore at the dripping meat, snarling softly, mopping the juices with a thick slice of bread. The boy watched closely. Only when the last of the glistening red moisture had crossed the wolf’s lips did he relax.

Later, he lay in his bed, ears reaching out in the silence for sound. Wolfsteps approached his door and the knob turned. He held his breath, terror stricken – the plan had not worked. The door opened and phosphorus eyes met his. Fear frozen, he watched as the wolf approached him, its teeth gleaming whitely. It growled, bloodlust in its eyes, then fell with a great thump to the floor, its mouth open and teeth shining, green eyes closed.

The boy ran down the footbone stairway and into the yard, returning with the sharp-smelling can. He splashed the liquid within it over the floor and the walls and the thighbones and the wristbones and the ribcages and the knucklebones. Down the hallways of glowing ivory, he splashed, and over the backbone doorways, until the can dropped empty from his hands.

He ran to the butterfly’s room, sweeping her from her bed. He raced to his mother’s room and roused her from her bee-bite sleep. Down the knobbiness of the stairway and out the cold curving doorway to the lawn, they ran. He turned and tossed a kitchen match inside the house.

Even green-eyed wolves fear fire, he thought.

Red and orange waves of salvation crashed up the wall and over the ceilings and doorways as the bones flamed, painting a different kind of color on the neighborhood.

He heard the wolf howl. His mother, startled out of her diamond stung haze, screamed, “John!”

She screamed again, raced toward the house and disappeared into the brightness within the doorway. He heard, or he thought he heard, her scream again as the flames took her. He thought she cried, “Only ME!” The house erupted into an ocean of orange as the bones took fire and exploded.

In his arms, the gray moth wakened. Her blank, bee-bitten eyes turned to the house and reflected the flames in a whirl of color – like the wings of a butterfly.

BIO: AJ Hayes is from San Diego and – god help him – good friends with Jimmy (Mad Dog) Callaway and Josh (Gut Ripper) Converse, who provide great advice and the occasional smack in the mouth with the butt of a .45.

A Twist Of Noir 482 - Kieran Shea


It was a Saturday evening in July and I slowed my white Ford Econoline van down to a prowl. In the shotgun seat, my best friend, Stevie Maguire, let his mirrored aviators slide over the massive Mantoloking, New Jersey beach house like a sweaty, leering perv.

“Whoa, is that?”


“Is that a Lamborghini in the driveway, Charlie?”

I steered the van and kept my own eyes on the ancient, slow-moving VW Bug puttering twenty yards in front of us. “As a matter of fact,” I answered, “yeah, I believe it is.”

Unlike me, Stevie wasn’t a licensed and bonded investigator. Actually, if you took a sharp cake knife you could carve up Stevie’s spotty income pretty much three ways— house painter, coffee shop barista, and small time dope dealer. It was totally my idea to piggyback a process serving gig on our trip up to see George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic that evening. Both of us were huge fans, and the masters of funk were playing the famous north Jersey venue The Starland Ballroom. The Starland was up in Sayreville. Gas was ringing in at nearly four dollars a gallon and combining the two trips from Cape May County seemed like a good idea.

Stevie craned his skinny neck out the passenger side window. “Wow.” He turned back and ran a hand through his sandy mop of hair. “Didn’t Bruce Wayne have one of those suckers in The Dark Knight?”

“Mmm, I think so.”

“What’s a car like that go for anyway?”

I made a left at the next corner and double-parked. I poked the Econoline’s hazards and listened to the flashers tick, tick, tick. For strategic reasons, I’d recently traded in my seen-better-days Toyota Camry for the big van. My Camry had a smash-about earlier in the year and, despite the bodywork and the mechanic’s snuff-stained assurances, it didn’t seem to run right. With tinted rear windows and blasé flanks, the secondhand Ford van was utterly forgettable. Perfect for surveillance and plenty of cargo space in back to sleep one off.

I unsnapped my seat belt and busied myself by throwing a short-sleeved khaki work shirt on over my damp tee. The plastic buttons on the khaki work shirt were tough to secure because my fingertips were moist with the afternoon’s humidity. I grabbed a clipboard from behind the seat and lifted a giant arrangement of roses into my lap. Then I adjusted my plain, dark blue ball cap in the driver side mirror.

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear...

“You know that house you painted last Spring? Not the cottage in Margate but the small place down in Stone Harbor?”

Stevie waved at a fat mosquito that drifted in through his open window. “The one with the topless sunbathers?”

“Yeah. That car costs about half of that.”

Stevie’s jaw snapped wide. It’s possible he may have stopped breathing because his voice leapt a few octaves.

“Get out of here! Half a million bucks?”

“More like four hundred and change.”

Stevie let out a long whistle. “Wow. I knew I should’ve never stopped playing baseball.”

I shook my head and slid a pen into the breast pocket of the work shirt. “Oh yeah, right, like you’re Joe Athlete.”

Stevie protested. “Hey, I’m athletic.”

“You can barely play beer-pong.”

“I can surf.”

“Who can’t these days?”

“I’ll have you know, Charlie, that when I was a pup I played a mean third base and shortstop in Little League. Yeah, me. Go ahead and laugh, Mister Private Eye Man.” Stevie held his hands in front of him like he was holding a giant, vibrating ball. “I had, like, these mad skills. Real jungle instincts. I bet if I’d just stuck with it, with the right luck and scouts, I could have turned pro.”

“Of course you could have. We all could have. We’d all be millionaires and live happily ever after on some tropical island, taking baths in champagne and ordering up concubines and caviar on speed dial.”

Stevie scoffed. “Lamborghini. Man...and this Garcia loser skips on a teeny weeny rehab bill? What’s up with that?”

“It wasn’t teeny weeny,” I said. “The place is a boutique substance abuse clinic up in the Hamptons and runs three large a day. Two months of getting back rubs and adjusting his addiction chakras and Mister Ninety-Miles-Per-Hour Fastball’s bill came in at almost two-hundred grand. It’s a recovery lawsuit, plain and simple. Naturally, the rehab didn’t stick. Garcia was back in the high life as soon as he hit the streets.”

“So that’s his house back there?”

“No. He’s been off the grid for a while. It’s some banker dude who used to manage some of Garcia’s assets. He loaned it to him. I guess banker dude is trying to drum up business. Ocean front, pool, seven bedrooms and—get this—the place has its own movie theater.”

“How’d you find out Garcia was here?”

“The usual.”


I turned in my seat. “Yeah. Everybody thought he split for his native Venezuela because he’s a freaking god down there and the U.S. authorities can’t do shit. But I’d seen him in Atlantic City a bunch of times since the Phillies cut him loose. Guy loves to party hard at the Borgata and the Taj.” I checked my watch. It was almost seven. “Look, this should be a cakewalk, okay? Just stay in the van and hang out. I’ll knock on the door, serve the guy, and then—bang—we’ll split. With traffic going north on Route 35, I think we’ll be able to make the Starland Ballroom by nine, tops.”


I turned off the hazards, dropped the engine into drive, and swung the van around. At the corner, I turned and headed back toward the beach house. “Should be a great show,” I added.

Stevie sang and did a little dancing shoulder roll.

“Oww, we need the funk, gotta have that funk...”


I did my best to appear unaffected by the stunning, bikini-clad woman who answered the front door. A long blonde, the woman wobbled on cork-bottomed, strapped pumps and her glassy blue eyes met mine. Strong whiffs of coconut oil, smashed lime, and rum.

She squealed, “Roses! For me?”

I smiled. “Two dozen. Special delivery for...” I fumbled with my clipboard. “Is there a Jeff Garcia home?”

She grinned and wagged a finger. “Are you sure you don’t mean José Garcia?”

I checked my clipboard. “Oops. Right. My bad. Is there a José Garcia here?”

She extended her arms in an effort to take the rose arrangement from me, but I pivoted slightly. A frown.

“I can take them,” she said.

I held up my clipboard. “I’m sorry, miss. There’s an envelope included with these here flowers and it’s marked personal. I’ve been instructed to hand deliver both to Mr. Garcia. I’m sure it sounds trivial to you and all, but I could get fired if I screw this up.”

She placed a hand on her hip and I got another finger wag. “Who’re are these flowers from? They better not be from another girl...”

In my time as an investigator, I’d served papers to at least a couple hundred people. Most of the time, it’s pretty cold and cordial, but sometimes it gets nasty. Projectiles, evasive maneuvers, screaming. Once down in the Pine Barrens, I had to out shimmy a tipped-over terrarium of cottonmouths when I served a child support delinquent. Anyway, like the Boy Scouts, the key to process serving is to be prepared, to know your assignment. I could feel the waning heat of the setting sun blasting on my shoulders as I set the roses down on the steps in front of me. I checked my clipboard again.

“Says here...from...M. J. Entertainment?”

“Marvin Jaff Entertainment?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess so.”

“Oh, that Marv. How thoughtful of him! Marv is José’s agent.”

“Mr. Garcia isn’t ill, is he?”

A suggestive pump of the eyebrows, “Hardly. Come in, come in. José is around back by the pool. I’ll take you to him.” She draped out a hand, “I’m Jenny, by the by.”

“Hi, Jenny.”

“Follow me.”

As we made our way inside, I thought about metronomes and ice cream as I admired the tight rhythmic float of Jenny’s ass. She must’ve been a dancer. Given Garcia’s track record down in Atlantic City, I had little doubt the woman knew how to work a pole.

The house itself was incredible. Built like a massive zig-zagged stack of Legos, it had a modern interior with lots of black leather, glass, and polished white marble. As I followed Jenny through a maze of hallways, I clocked the casual accents of turbo-powered opulence. Real Persian rugs. Original pop art. An impressive bar gleaming with top shelf offerings. Suspended above a sunken living room lazed an enormous hammered red metal mobile in the shape of a cricket. A blue felt billiard table with stitched leather pockets hulked beneath the giant Jiminy and on the billiard table’s surface two cues were crossed like swords.

The air conditioning blasted full, even though the accordion doors leading to the rear deck and pool were tracked open. For a moment, I was grateful Stevie was waiting for me back in my van. Sport celebrity or not, Stevie was a tad banzai on the environmental thing. He would’ve taken Garcia’s carbon footprint and planted it straight up his ass.

“José, baby? Special delivery for you...”

Stoned, brown, and corpulent, José Garcia sat on the rough edge of a shallow amoeba-shaped pool, his hairy shins and feet dangling in the water. Picture the athlete past prime and puffy. Garcia wore a garish pair of flowered yellow surf trunks and his black, wavy hair was pulled tight into a wet ponytail. A shitload of gold jewelry adorned his neck and fingers. In one fist, he clutched a bottle of Heineken with a smoldering joint between two fingers; in the other, he held the choke chain tethered to the biggest Rottweiler I’d ever seen.

As soon as I stepped out onto the deck, the dog went bananas. Eyes wild, the beast lunged at me and barked rapid-fire as I shrunk backward. The weight of the animal nearly yanked Garcia into the pool.

Garcia pulled hard on the chain.

“Fausta! Fausta! Calmar niña! Cállate la jeta! Cállate! Cállate!”

Jenny cooed as she adjusted her bikini top. “Marv sent roses, sugar. Isn’t that just the sweetest thing?”

Garcia set his beer bottle down by his hip and flicked the smoldering joint into the pool with disgust. With two hands, he struggled to control the dog on the choke chain.

“What’s that mamagüebo sending me flowers for, huh? needs to be getting me a new pitching contract that’s what he needs to be doin’, not sending me no roses.”

I flattened myself against a section of the outside wall and Garcia grinned at my unease.

“S’okay, man. Fausta? Bitch’s bark worse than her bite, yo.”

I swallowed. “Fausta?”

Garcia laughed. “Means “lucky” in Spanish. Bitch be my lucky charm, no? Strongest of her mama’s litter. Look at her muscles! Look at that jaw! Paws like steel! You can tell, no? Bitch’ll take down a horse.”


“Relax. I got her now. You thirsty, amigo? Want a beer? Jenny, get this hard working man a cold beer.”

I shuffled against the wall not taking my eyes off Fausta but not looking straight at her, either. Like lawyers, dogs perceived direct eye-contact as a threat.

“Uhh...thanks, but no. Can’t drink on the job. I’ve got a few more deliveries to do, plus it’s kind of policy, I’m afraid.”

Fausta riffed out a series of quick barks and Garcia yanked hard on the chain again. The dog steadied but she sounded as if she swallowed an engine on idle.

“Can’t have no beer? Forget company policy, amigo. It’s Saturday, know what I’m sayin’? You work hard. Bosses won’t know nothin’. S’all good here. Baby, where you want these fuckin’ flowers?”

Jenny teetered. “How about inside on the dining room table? That’d be nice.”

José picked up his Heineken and took a pull. I pointed inside and he gave me the nod. I stepped back over the threshold.

The dining area at the back of the house had a ten foot glass-topped table braced on a huge gnarled stump of lacquered mahogany. I placed the arrangement in the center of the table and set the clipboard down next to it. I unclipped the envelope with the suit papers from the clipboard and clenched it between my teeth. Then, as casually as I could, I lifted a leather arm cushion off of a nearby couch. Taking a moment to unzip the backing on the cushion, I slipped my left arm inside against the foam. I plucked up a pool cue from the billiard table and stalked back outside. Tonight’s Feature Presentation: Charlie Byrne in Miguel de Cervantes’ classic, Don Quixote.

Garcia’s voice was void of humor. “D’hell you doing, pendejo? That sofa cushion don’t belong to you, man.”

Behind the envelope clenched in my teeth, my voice buzzed.

“José Garcia?”


I spat out the envelope and it flipped over and over like a paddlewheel until it smacked the deck. The next three words were my starting sequence.

“You’ve been served.”

I’m sure there was a huge eureka moment when the truth of my being there pierced the curtain of Garcia’s intoxication, but I wasn’t around to see it because I was already in motion. I heard Fausta’s choke chain splash on the deck.

The mad scrabble of paws seeking purchase made my blood run cold. With three super strides, I leapt across the sunken living room like a bounding kangaroo; however, even as I motored marsupial, I knew I was screwed. Fausta covered the distance between us in four seconds flat.

Garcia was right, the dog really could knock down a horse. Like a rocket, one hundred pounds of flying black and brown canine slammed me backwards and snatched my wind. Fausta seized the cushion sleeved over my arm and her fangs punctured the leather with ridiculous, thrashing ease. Fused together, we stumbled around and around in a widening circle until both of us crashed into the oversized bar. Jenny shrieked and Garcia told Jenny to shut the fuck up and get his gun. As Garcia padded inside after us, Jenny asked Garcia which gun. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Garcia’s face was an ugly sneer of Latin pride. He snapped his fingers and grabbed his crotch.

“Night stand! The Desert Eagle!”

A Desert Eagle? What the—?

Jenny made for the stairs and, I assumed, the master bedroom.

“You’re dead meat, weenie,” she snipped, starting up.

I focused on my current problem. Fausta clamped fast to my makeshift shield and ruthlessly compressed the muscles in my arm. The grinding pressure of her jaw made it feel like my bones were going to break. I managed to stabilize my footing and, like a linebacker, I sprang as hard as I could into the bar hoping to get away from Fausta and regroup. On impact, the dog let out a sharp, huffing squelch and fell away. Immediately, she spun, crouched, and attacked me again. I got lucky. Mid-flight, I jabbed the pool cue in her mouth. Wet, guttural noises and hot, frothy whips of saliva. Fausta wrested the pool cue from my hand.

Jenny shouted from upstairs. “José, honey?! Are you sure the Desert Eagle is in the nightstand?! I can’t find it!”

“Check under the bed!”

“Hang on—wait! Nope! Not under the bed!”

“The closet! Check the closet! Maybe it’s next to my shotgun!”

Great. A Desert Eagle and a shotgun? Things were looking better and better.

Then the pool cue snapped.

Looking back, I think there was a relished flash of satisfaction in Fausta’s eyes as she cleared the last of the splintered cue from her jaw. The dog had me and she knew it. She even seemed to smirk a little. What Fausta didn’t realize was I’d already reached back and grabbed a half-gallon handle of Tanqueray. As Fausta power-lunged for my throat, I swung for the fences. The bottle detonated against the front of the dog’s skull in a gruesome blast of green glass, blood, and wasted gin.

Fausta sprawled sideways and yelped. Slipping in the liquor and blood, I made for the front door like my lily-white Irish ass depended on it, which it did. Once again, I heard the clicking rush of paws behind me. Garcia roared.

“Yo mataria tu!”

Yeah, yeah. Kill me later, asshole, I got a ride to catch.

Punching out the front door, I saw Stevie sitting in the van at the foot of the driveway. He casually looked over at the sudden commotion and went bug-eyed when he saw me windmilling my arms.


Stevie popped the passenger door just as Fausta cannonballed out of the beach house, clearing the front porch steps like some kind of wonder dog. I clambered inside the van and Stevie fired the engine. It took me three frantic tries to shut the passenger door. Stevie mashed the gas.

As we barreled off down the street, Stevie asked me over and over if I was okay. I was, but I was also all the way freaked out and sweating like crazy.

I checked myself for wounds and bites but most of the blood on me seemed to be Fausta’s. My ball cap whipped off when I looked back out the passenger window. Garcia stood at the foot of the driveway, shaking his fist at us with rage. Fausta gave chase, but the poor dog seemed confused, weaving from side to side like a drunk and couldn’t keep up. I felt a twinge of remorse that I clobbered Fausta in the head with the big bottle of booze. Sorry, pooch...such is the war.

I flopped back and listened to my heart wham in my chest.

“Jesus! Thanks, man! Wow, that was intense!”

Stevie shook his head and slid his shades into place. He made a screeching left and then a right. We picked up Route 35 and headed north.



“You need to get a better job, dude.”

BIO: Jersey born writer Kieran Shea scratches at the eight ball of crime fiction and his character Charlie Byrne has graced ATON plenty of times before. He blogs the struggle and other musings at BLACK IRISH BLARNEY.