Monday, November 29, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 636 - Chris Deal

FUGUE - CHRIS DEAL

Blinking away the remnants of sleep, the little girl felt her bed shaking from the impact of her father slamming the front door shut. His voice carried through the house, slurred from drink, his words heavy with a threat she couldn't understand but sent her moving. Her mother took the same tone with him that she’d use when her young was hurt and scared, soft and conciliatory but her syllables warbled and blended into a sob, then a scream like a wounded animal. The dull sound of an impact stung the little girl as if she had been the one her father struck, and then there were heavy boots rising up the stairs and the girl’s thoughts were a mix of the images and pain of previous violations, but one thought was clear in the chaotic moments between heartbeats: leave.

She went to the window and saw thick summer thunderheads coming from the south. When her father’s steps got to the landing, just outside her door, she pushed open the glass and sat her bare feet on the still warm tin roof of the back porch. The sun had gone into hiding hours earlier, and the air was pregnant with the scent of coming rain. There was a crash as her father kicked open the door to her room and she ran to the lowest point and jumped, curling into a ball as she fell onto the ground. Fireflies of pain danced behind her eyes as she felt something crack in her chest. Her father howled like a beast at the window, gutteral sounds that could have been words or the growls of a predator circling its prey. Her mother was nowhere to be seen.

When the silhouette of her father left the window, when she could hear his boots echoing deeper into the house, the little girl got to her feet and ran over the dew-soaked grass to the thick wood that bordered the property. The soft underbellies of her feet were stabbed again and again by sharp rocks and brier bushes ripped at her nightdress like her father’s callused, greasy hands.

Her chest ached and it was hard for the little girl to breathe, the air like razors in her lungs, but she kept her momentum constant, running deeper into the alien wood than she had ever gone before, not thinking of anything but flight until there came a great roar like that of an angry god and the trees shook, the forest illuminated by the lightning. The rain started to pour from where she had been told heaven was by her grandmother, but she thought nothing of the savior they said was up there, only the cold rain and the woods where she was lost, the monster that was her father.

She found a great tree gnarled with age, the roots dug out and hollowed out by animals. The little girl crawled inside, curling as the pain in her chest and exhaustion took her to sleep, the last thought running across her mind was that she hoped her mother would come find her. The forest beasts kept a silent vigil around her.

The rain stopped and the world was calm as the little girl slept dreamless in the belly of the oak. She didn’t hear the footsteps or the voice calling for her. She didn’t feel the hands picking her up or holding her close. She didn’t see the lights flashing on and off turning the world into still frames, the men with guns or the body on the gurney. She cracked her eyes when the hands passed her to another and the scene filtered to her slowly.

Her mother smiled like she was at a funeral and kissed the child’s forehead, leaving a cold imprint of blood where her lips had been.

BIO: Chris Deal writes from Huntersville, North Carolina. He doesn’t remember how many poems and stories he’s published, but that’s not really important now, is it? His debut collection of short fiction, Cienfuegos, was published by Brown Paper Publishing. Check him out at Chris Deal.

A Twist Of Noir 635 - Steve Weddle

HOLD YOU - STEVE WEDDLE

In the story I’m writing, you want me to hold you down. Tie you up. You say you like a man who knows what he wants. You say you’re glad I found you. What took me so long?

This wasn’t easy.

At first, I didn’t even know you. I’d seen your picture online when I clicked a friend’s vacation album. Your eyes. The diamond-like twinkle. Like it was before they made me take those tablets. The lip-smacking good ones. Haha. That’s a joke.

No, this wasn’t easy. You were so very careful. I can see why. So pretty. So very, very pretty. Like a porcelain angel. So fragile.

When I saw your picture, it was like you were the one. Like I had found the answer to a math problem I’d been working on for twenty-five years. “Show your work.” Haha. Oh, I will. So pretty.

I was worried you wouldn’t accept my friend request. I do not take rejection well. So I had to set up an entirely new person just to be safe. You have to be safe. People are crazy.

That’s why I made her go to the same college as you. And I found so many people with so many friends. Did you know that a person who has more than 500 friends will just automatically add you? I made a chart. People with a couple hundred friends, maybe they know all of those people. You can’t just request to be their friends. You do not have very many friends, but your friends do. So I added some of them. The friendly ones. So funny. Like we all went to the same college.

Also, finding a nice looking girl online is difficult. One who is not a whore. More of them are whores. I tried some search terms and finally decided “homely pretty girl midwest” would work best. I didn’t want to be too pretty, you know? Or a whore. No one likes a whore. Not for more than a few minutes, anyway. Haha.

I updated my status, liked some of the things you liked. Mad Men. Nickelback. This was a fun game. Not easy, like I said. But fun. When you needed a machine gun for mob wars, I was your guy. Or girl.

It was only by accident that I friended your husband. I don’t like him. I think he is too flirty with the women he knew from high school. Why would he do that to you? And that goatee? Puh-lease. I have been watching his status for months, too. Boy, does he bitch about work all the time. Can you imagine if his boss reads his page? You can’t be too careful. People are crazy. Haha.

If I were him, I would not go away for a “boys’ weekend” like he did. I would not have left you alone tonight in that house. They could go. I would be waiting at home for you when you got here at six-thirty. I would have made you the chicken alfredo from the recipe you linked to last week. Mmmhm. That was good. I had to try it. Like we were having dinner together.

Maybe we can have breakfast in that room you just remodeled. The pine floors look so much better. Don’t listen to people and their silly comments. You’re so sensitive. So fragile. So beautiful.

When you invited your friends over last week and showed the mapquest directions, I knew what was going on. Fate. Like the math problem was coming to a close.

Like I said, in the story I’m writing, you want me to hold you down. Which is why I packed this bag. Which is why I am waiting by the gazebo, waiting for you to turn out the light in the den and go upstairs.

BIO: A former English professor, Steve Weddle has an MFA in poetry and hates guns. Every Monday, he takes a break from being a complete sissy to blog about crime fiction at DoSomeDamage. He is the editor of Needle, a magazine of crime fiction, featuring work by Christopher Grant and others. Weddle's work has appeared at Beat To A Pulp and CrimeFactory.

A Twist Of Noir 634 - Dana King

634 - DANA KING

Six hundred thirty-four days isn’t long. Less than two years. Not even two-and-a-half percent of a decent lifetime. For Frank Roberts it was 634 days of staring at the same dirty walls and pissing into the same seatless metal toilet, 634 nights listening to the pervert in the upper bunk jacking it. Less than two years gone. At least thirteen still to come, maybe twenty-eight.

Time to leave.

The sharpened toothbrush in his pocket would do as a shank. Frank killed a rat with it in the yard a week ago, skewered it like a roasting spit. It would work just as well on that redneck hack, Berry, if it came to it. He was the only one Frank thought twice about, and he’d probably fold, too, faced with someone who didn’t have to kiss his ass anymore.

He cut his arm in the shop, deep enough for stitches. Laid back when he left the infirmary, fell in with the garbage detail. Threw bags into the truck with the other cons, no Dumpster for the inside trash. Too easy to hide in. Frank worked his way to the passenger side of the truck, ready to hop in with the driver. The body provided cover from the most likely places he could be seen. He’d only be in the truck two miles-five minutes, tops-meet Rodney the other side of a hill where the road twisted. They’d be gone before the count came up wrong, or the driver could call.

Frank climbed onto the step when the driver opened his door, pressed the door button. Pulled the door open as the driver shut his and crawled quick as a monkey onto the floor.

“Start the truck and drive away.” Frank laid his forearm across the man’s thigh, tickled his crotch with the shank. “Or I’ll shove this out through your asshole.”

The driver kept his eyes forward and started the truck. Didn’t have it in gear before someone pounded on the passenger door. “Hey, Sammie! Wait up! I got something for you!”

Sammie put the truck into first. The passenger door opened. Berry was on the running board, sweating. “Where the fuck you going? I brung you some a them apple dumplings my wife makes.”

It happened too fast for Frank to turn all the way around. Sammie kept the truck rolling. Berry flipped the cover off his holster. Frank turned, shank up. Sammie shifted into second and Berry grabbed the window frame to keep his balance. Frank punched out, felt the shank sink into Berry’s flabby midsection. Berry yelled, didn’t lose his grip. The truck picked up speed. Frank pulled back and the shank came out sticky and slippery so he had to adjust his grip and Berry had time to draw. Frank stabbed again, the gun went off. Frank screamed and Berry fell away.

Commotion behind them. The driver hollered, “What do you want me to do?” and Frank yelled, “Keep driving, goddammit!” and they rumbled through the yard.

That fat bastard Berry would have to shoot him in the leg with running to do. He’d have to run, too, sirens already going off behind them as the truck slammed through the fence before it closed.

“Turn right out the gate,” he said. It surprised him how much effort it took. He wasn’t hurt that bad. Shot through the leg. Nothing vital. He shifted on the seat and his hand slipped off the wound. Blood sprayed out of his leg to splash on the window. He was wondering how a leg could bleed that much when the driver kicked him out the half-open door to bounce along the side of the road and tear open the rest of his femoral artery.

Six-thirty-four was his last day in prison. Just like he planned.

BIO: Dana King’s short story, “Green Gables,” was published in the anthology Thuglit Presents Blood, Guts, and Whiskey, edited by Todd Robinson. Online, his stories have appeared in Powder Burn Flash, Mysterical-e, and New Mystery Reader, where he has also written over one hundred reviews and interviews. Dana is also a regular contributor to flash fiction challenges on blogs, including Pattinase, Going Ballistic, and Do Some Damage.

A Twist Of Noir 633 - Matthew C. Funk

COME AROUND - MATTHEW C. FUNK

I’m always looking over my shoulder. Even alone. Even in a shithole poboy joint like Clouet Market here.

Even asleep. Always.

The rule to what I do is what goes around, comes around.

I’m picking through the rack of Fritos that expired two years before The Storm, looking for the jalapeno kind my partner Hakk insists on, when the sob story shows up: Kensie.

“Detective Jurgis?” Kensie says to me.

“Kensie. How are you keeping these days?”

One look gets the answer: A rag, stained too much to clean and washed until fading - that’s Kensie Washington.

“I wanted a moment, private.”

“Is this about Deo?” Kensie’s one in a long line of beaten spouses whose husbands I put in permanent traction. It’s more than my off-time from the force. It’s my calling.

I got broken by men once. Never again. What goes around, comes around.

“Yeah.” Kensie wads up the paper bag she’s got in both hands.

“Don’t have to thank me.”

“Ain’t that.”

“Need help?”

Kensie lifts the bag at me. The revolver in it clicks.

“Something like that. You won’t be needing those sandwiches, bitch.”

Sometimes, what comes around, doesn’t come from over your shoulder. It comes right at your face.

Kensie takes me to a playground in the demolished Desire Projects. Swing set is barnacled with rust. Its chains are off.

“You going to get yours now, meddling bitch,” Kensie says as she chains me.

“Over what?”

“What you done to Deo.”

“What about what he did to you?”

She locks me in the circle of the tire swing.

“Deo done nothing but love me from his soul.” Kensie is all tears and creases. I give her a look of disbelief that could slap a bulldog smooth, but she keeps angry.

“A broken arm is nothing? Those knife cuts on your thighs, nothing?”

Kensie taps a carving on the wooden playset.

“This was what mattered - this here.” Kensie traces an initialed heart carving: KW and DO. Kensie and Deo. “We were lovers forever. We were Romeo and Juliet of Desire Projects, bitch.”

“Lovers who killed each other. About right.”

“What his rage done, don’t matter.” Kensie opens my kit bag. My tools. “Rage didn’t stay. He did.”

“He stayed because you were his willing victim.”

“I was his. I am his.” Kensie pulls out my pliers. They still have pieces of Deo’s sinew. “Now he’s nothing but a cripple.”

“He was always broken.”

“You don’t know what true love is-what true sacrifice is.” Kensie pulls out my wirecutters. My wire. My hammer. “You going to know pain, though.”

“Is that what love is to you? Pain?”

Kensie spits.

“More than pain.”

Kensie walks around me, laughing.

“Love is what makes the pain not matter.”

Kensie puts the pliers on my ring finger.

The pliers bite.

They keep biting even when I hear the wet sound of Kensie’s skull sucking a rifle butt.

Kensie goes down; twitches.

I don’t turn to see who did it.

I don’t hear who’s behind me.

I don’t even hear the playground gravel.

His huge hands pull off the tire.

“You need to read your Bible,” Hakk says, unchaining me.

“I need to find out how you keep tracing me.”

“Sermon on the Mount.” Hakk lifts me up. “Don’t put pearls before swine.”

“Or?”

“Or they turn and tear you to pieces.” Hakk steps on Kensie. I step on her to reach his mouth with mine. He gets a full 33 seconds - the degree of a curve, an endless circle.

Hakk’s smiling. I’m not.

Hakk looks at me. I look at Kensie.

I grab my cuffs. Hakk steps to pin her.

“Here’s hoping we break the cycle,” I say, planting the tools I broke Deo with, now covered with Kensie’s prints, on her cuffed body.

BIO: Matthew  C. Funk is a professional marketing copywriter and social media  consultant, a writing mentor and the author of several manuscripts that  illuminate the beauty of human extremes. A graduate of the Professional  Writing MFA at USC, his online work is featured at sites such as A Twist of Noir; Thrillers, Killers and Chillers; Flash Fiction Offensive; ThugLit; Powder Burn Flash; Pulp Metal Magazine and his Web domain.

A Twist Of Noir 632 - Jack Getze

BOY SCOUT OF THE YEAR - JACK GETZE

“Come on, baby,” Lorraine whispered. “We don’t have much time.”

I had to admire Lorraine’s focus. Maybe she thought I wasn’t trying, or she figured kicking me with verbal spurs was somehow going to push the stallion into a gallop. Damn thing wouldn’t even trot.

“Jeez, Lorraine, it ain’t like I’m eighteen no more. You might be squeezing it too hard.”

Lorraine wiggled underneath me, then nudged me off with an elbow. My bare bottom slapped against the cold tile. Through a tiny square window over the toilet, moonlight washed the musty, closet-sized bathroom with dirty grays. I couldn’t take my eyes off Lorraine’s silhouette as she wriggled back into her blue jeans. Yanking them off hadn’t been half as exciting.

“Lorraine. You in there?”

Shit. Hank’s loud voice froze both of us like crickets under a flashlight. My heart jumped. I heard Lorraine suck big air. Well, it finally happened. Hank must have woken up from his drunken stupor and had to pee.

“Give me a minute, will you, sweetie?” Lorraine said. “I’m on the potty.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, Hank, that’s exactly right.”

“I don’t think so.” His voice sounded all sing-songy, like a little kid’s. Asshole.

“Do you hear the shower running?” Lorraine said.

“No,” Hank said.

“Or do you hear the sink splashing?”

“No.”

“Then what else you think I might be doing in here but using the toilet?”

I heard him chuckling in the hallway. Hank’s voice is normally low and gruff -- a lot like Hank, actually. The sound always grates on my nerves, only this time it was worse, probably because I’d been buck naked with his wife on his bathroom floor but couldn’t get the job done.

“The thing is, Lorraine,” Hank said, “honey, sweetie, wife of mine. I saw our good friend Eugene go into that bathroom five minutes before you did. He never came out.”

Lorraine stared at me in the silver gray moonlight. Her pretty teeth and the whites of her eyes glowed at me like candles.

“Don’t be silly, baby,” she said. “Eugene went to the Seven-11 two minutes ago to get me a pack of Marlboros. You’ll see. I’ll be right out.”

Lorraine flushed the toilet.

I rolled over and reached up underneath the stained, ceramic toilet. My fingers wrapped around the loaded Beretta 9 I had taped up there three weeks earlier. I had to hide the hot weapon away from my place, and since Lorraine couldn’t keep her hands off me, especially when her husband Hank was asleep in the same house, I figured why not stash that Beretta where it might come in handy. Think I win Boy Scout of the Year for this one.

The hollow bathroom door began to shake from Hank’s fists. “I know you two are in there. How long you been fucking my wife, Eugene?”

Lorraine stared at me. If she’d really thought about opening that door, trying to talk to him, I think Hank’s voice and those fists were changing her mind. I hadn’t shown her yet what I had taken from behind the toilet, but I used my head and a half-assed grin to wave Lorraine away from the door.

I stood up, gripped the Beretta with two hands and fired four rounds where I figured Hank ought to be standing. I heard a gasp, then a cry, and finally a sack of potatoes hitting the floor. I figured it was probably safe after that, as Hank couldn’t be that good an actor. But there was something else had to be done first.

Lorraine’s white teeth flashed me her happiest grin. Tickled pink at what I’d just done for her. Done for the two of us.

I brought the Beretta up level with her chest. Sorry, Lorraine. Can’t have witnesses.

BIO: Jack Getze earned his first byline for The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in 1965. You do the math.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day Seven Of The 600 To 700 Challenge Coming...

...tomorrow.

I was aiming for tonight but something has come up and I need to take care of it. Nothing major so don’t worry too much about it.

Coming tomorrow...

Jack Getze’s BOY SCOUT OF THE YEAR

Matthew C. Funk’s COME AROUND

Dana King’s 634

Steve Weddle’s HOLD YOU

and

Chris Deal’s FUGUE

I’m hoping to get back on track after being sick for the last little while and get at least two batches out this week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interlude

Until now, I’ve never played the awards game but I wanted to get in this year and decided to send four to Pushcart.

The stories are as follows:

Matthew C. Funk’s SHOOTER

Chris Benton’s PRECIPICE and RELAPSE

and

Michael J. Solender’s SEVENTY-TWO HOURS OR LESS

Considering you only get six nominations, and because I believe every story that makes it onto A Twist Of Noir a masterpiece, it was extremely difficult in making these choices. I know it’s cliché but it's almost like having to choose between your kids. And when there's only six choices you can make at Pushcart...

Congratulations to Matt, Chris and Michael and, next year, I’ll delve a little deeper into the awards thing and spread the wealth around a little more, get more people seen by more people.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 631 - Chad Rohrbacher

WHO DOESN’T LOVE SOME SUGAR? - CHAD ROHRBACHER

“Don’t do it,” Sweet said sliding up to me at the bar.

I did it anyway.

All night we had been drinking, listening to her abusive boyfriend play his guitar while crooning about true love. All night I listened to Sweet bitch about him while she rubbed her wrists and touched her arms. “Cheatin’ bastard” this and “dick sucker” that.

Sweet had lips you literally wanted to bite off her face. They looked that good.

The bartender filled up my glass, three fingers of scotch, and took the last of my money. He also got some pocket lint and a gum wrapper.

“Just like we planned.”

“Oh, Drake.”

Sweet was my neighbor since middle school. When she moved in, we hit it off right away. Our parents did too. Playing poker Saturday nights were followed by hangover cookouts Sunday afternoons.

Her dad sold limbs to doctors: arms, legs, the newest prosthetics with synthetic fingers. For the patients who just couldn’t afford anything for their stumps, he’d pull out a plunger and some bungee cords from his bag and laugh like hell. Sweet would roll her eyes and call her dad an asshole. That’s why I fell in love with her.

My pop was a lawyer for all the guys in town no other lawyers wanted to represent. He’d get paid cash. My pop would take us hunting in Alaska while staying at a client’s place. We’d spend a week on another client’s houseboat off North Carolina’s coast. He had a lot of clients.

“It’s not worth it,” Sweet intoned.

It was supposed to be simple. I verbally abuse him. He assaults me, and the three times you’re out law takes him to the dugout forever. I should have known nothing was ever simple with Sweet.

On stage he finished up a song with an off key vibrato and then stared at us.

I looked up at him under the lights, raised my glass, and smiled.

Sweet put her head in her hands.

“Come on, Sweet. I don’t mind. I can take his beating. I can do that. Maybe we can catch dinner later. Ice-cream? That is if I can talk.”

I had been trying to get Sweet to date me since 8th grade. She developed early.

Sweet didn’t remove her head from her hand, but she kind of turned toward me, a sly little grin curling on those beautiful lips.

I slammed down my scotch, pointed for another, and stepped away from the bar. Music man was coming off the stage.

I took out my cell.

“911, what is your emergency?”

“There’s a guy getting the crap beat out of him at Sully’s bar. You better hurry. I think he’s going to get killed.”

Picking a fight is harder than it seems, especially with a guy who could go to prison. He was damn patient.

Once he did swing, I made a feeble attempt to fight back while he pummeled me. I ended up with a broken tooth, fractured cheek, and cauliflower ear from the hardwood floors. The cops still hadn’t shown up and I was tired of getting pounded, so I squared off and hit him straight in the chest.

When he fell back unable to catch his breath, I thought something was wrong. When he turned purple, I knew it.

Sweet ran to his side, held his hand, and screamed, “I think you killed him.” Then she cried, “You killed him, you son of a bitch!”

I grabbed a straw and started sucking scotch.

Later I found out he was on a cocaine and Red-Bull cocktail that made his heart burst with adrenaline. Later I learned that Sweet was going to take the stand against me.

She never did.

“Freak car accident,” Pop said.

I didn’t question him.

BIO: Chad Rohrbacher can be reached at C. Rohrbacher

A Twist Of Noir 630 - Alan Griffiths

ASHES TO ASHES - ALAN GRIFFITHS

Lately, Priest had likened himself to his fictional hero: Detective Chief Inspector Gene S. Hunt.

Albeit being on the other side of the law.

Priest sparked up a Silk Cut, sucked hard, saying, “Fire up the Quattro.”

The TT-Coupe was hired with a Gold Card that was moodier than an acne-peppered teenager. Ostentatious, but like the Gene Genie, Priest did things with style; illegal things.

A ferocious South London criminal, he was as popular as root canal treatment.

Gene Hunt: How long before that becomes rhyming-slang? Cracking a grizzled smile, Priest put pedal to metal and burnt rubber.

*

Tina never scammed couples and two guys together was a no-no. Then the big grizzled one headed out the bar.

Watching him drive away, Tina thinking, I’ll give it ten minutes.

*

Priest’s destination: a Heathrow hotel.

The heavens were full of tiny volcanic particles. Hundreds of air passengers stranded; waiting for the Icelandic dust to literally settle.

The hourly radio news bulletin kicked in.

“...Bond Street raid. Half a million pounds worth of diamonds...”

Chuckling, Priest said, “I’ve got fingers in more pies than a leper on a cookery course.”

*

It’d taken an hour of dirty talk to get Pavel to his room. Are all Ruskies this backwards at coming forwards?

Pulling the Smirnoff from her bag, Tina said, “Fancy a nightcap?” That’s not all he fancies.

In the bathroom, she rinsed two glasses; palming the sodium amatol capsule. “Some music would be nice.”

*

Priest locked the Audi, hesitating as two boys stopped kicking a football and wandered over.

“Anything happens to this motor, I’ll come round your houses and stamp on your toys!” said Priest. “Got it?”

He got stunned silence.

“Good kids.”

*

Tina, feeling Pavel go limp, pulled her hand out of his fly, saying, “Sweet dreams, sucker.”

Opening the wardrobe she spotted a holdall. What have we here? A multitude of gemstones sparkled like stars. Kerr-Fucking-Ching-

A hand tugged her pony-tail. A forearm went across her throat.

“Bitch!” Pavel threw her onto the bed. “You think I fall for that trick?”

“Hope I’m not interrupting anything!” said Priest, framed in the doorway.

“You’re late,” said Pavel. “Ivanov is looking for you.”

“Just in time I’d say,” said Priest. “Pull your trousers up, Casanova, and let the girl go.”

Pavel shook his head. “She’s a loose end.”

Priest winked at Tina. “Don’t worry, baby, I’m a lover not a fighter.”

Pavel eyeballed Priest; a beat passed as he weighed things up. Decision made, Pavel lunged.

Second guessing, Priest swung a steel toe-cap into Pavel’s crotch; lifting a knee, breaking teeth and putting Pavel’s lights out.

Tina yelped and Priest said, “Blimey, if that skirt was hitched any higher I’d see your breakfast.”

Lost for words, Tina pointed a shaky finger.

Letting the chiv drop beneath his sleeve, Priest turned slowly.

“Ah, Ivanov,” said Priest. “The other half of the Dynamic Duo.”

Ivanov, raising a silenced .45, said, “You were never to be trusted, Priest.”

“Oi! Hold on, toe-rag. This bit of skirt is nothing to do with me,” said Priest. “Our deal’s still on.”

“Sorry, you’re... expendable.” Ivanov shrugged. “There’ll be others to fence the jewels.”

“You noncey-arsed double-crossing Russian fairy boy!” roared Priest, throwing underarm.

The blade plunged into Ivanov's belly and Priest was all over him like a cheap splash-on lotion. The automatic coughed once; an abstract pattern of claret splattering the wall and Ivanov fell to the carpet.

“Chop, chop, darling!” said Priest hefting the holdall. “Let’s not look a gift-horse in the mouth.”

Tina thinking, I suppose he has got a sort of brutish charm...

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Priest, stretching out a hand. “I’m like something from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

“Wh-Whi-Which one?” stuttered Tina.

“All friggin’ three, baby!”

EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER:

Gene Hunt is the lead character from the Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes television series. Some of Gene's dialogue has been quoted within this story. No harm was intended.

BIO: Alan Griffiths is a writer from London, England. He has a keen interest in reading and writing Crime Fiction, particularly Noir and Pulp. His short fiction can been found on A Twist of Noir, Pulp Pusher, Powder Burn Flash and Six Sentences.

A Twist Of Noir 629 - David Barber

CRIME DOESN’T PAY...ANYMORE - DAVID BARBER

It was supposed to be an in and out job. Empty the cash register. No casualties, just a standard armed robbery. The only problem with it was the bloke I was working with. Thomas Titts was an arsehole and his name matched his personality.

“Were your parents taking the piss when they named you?” I asked when I first met him eight months ago.

“No, why?” was his reply.

And that’s the thing. He actually didn’t see the funny side of it.

“Tom Titts. It’s slang innit? Another word for the shits. You know, I’ve got a bad case of the Tom Titts.”

Laughter erupted round our table. Thomas just stared at me, his mouth unmoving until he spoke.

“My name’s Thomas, not Tom,” was all he said.

Our boss, Johnny Miles had settled us down that night. He was a bruiser of a man but a good one all the same. And, yes you noticed, even though his name rhymed with another word for haemorrhoids, you never said anything about it unless you liked wearing concrete shoes.

“Okay, lads. Let’s calm down now. Thomas, this is Michael and Kev.”

Thomas shook hands with the two men sat to my right.

“And this is Paul. You’ll be working with him so take in what he tells you. You’ll learn a lot from him,” Johnny finished.

We’d shook hands that night, albeit reluctantly, and had worked together since. Don’t get me wrong, the lad was okay but I wouldn’t trust him with anything, in particular a small robbery for some fast cash.

“So much for plan B then.”

“The fuck d’ya mean?”

I stared at Thomas, sucking on my cigarette. “I mean plan A wasn’t much cop and plan B was even worse.”

“Well, you never came up with anythin’, dickhead.”

“Watch your mouth, boy. I’ve been doin’ this longer than you’ve been jerkin’ off. For some reason Johnny put you in charge of this one and you’ve fucked up royal.”

Thomas looked at me through the holes in his hood. “Well, what do you suggest?”

I sucked hard on my cigarette again and blew out a long stream of smoke. My eyes darted from side to side, taking in everything in front of me. I picked up a can of beer from the counter, opened it and took a large mouthful.

“From what I see, Tommy, plan A was to come in here, hold up the place and empty the cash register. The only thing is, you decided to empty your gun into that bloke lyin’ in front of the fridge.”

“He came run...”

I held up my hand, stopping Tommy from wasting any more of his breath, and said, “So then plan B was to still empty the cash register but no more shootin’, only the owner decides to pull out his shotgun cos you killed his son, causin’ me to empty my gun into the owner. This is so fucked up.”

“So, what do we do now?” Thomas asked.

“Well, Tom Titts, if you were good at your job, which you are obviously not, you’d have counted the number of bullets I put into the owner. I saved this one for you. I ain’t goin’ down for an arsehole who ain’t got a fuckin’ clue.”

I pulled the trigger and disposed of most of Tommy’s brain via the exit wound at the back of his head. As he fell backwards, a small trail of smoke snaked out of the hole in the front of the hood he was wearing.

“I hate working with amateurs.”

I leaned over and emptied the till of notes, making a quick calculation as I did.

“Fuck me, a hundred and twenty a body. This crime game doesn’t pay like it used to.”

BIO: Manchester born and bred, but now living in Crieff, Scotland with his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters. He wrote some years ago but has recently been inspired to write again by an old friend and the beauty that surrounds him. He has been published on numerous e-zines, including Thrillers, Killers N Chillers and A Twist Of Noir and has a couple of pieces appearing in two forth coming anthologies. He is currently working on a few projects including a novel.

A Twist Of Noir 628 - Richard Godwin

I’M A LASAGNA HOG - RICHARD GODWIN

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two parts. The second half will appear later in the Challenge at 682.

A truck whizzed by outside the peeling apartment as Vic Rogers said, ‘I’m a lasagna hog. There ain’t nothing better than dipping my finger in the meat and licking it after I’ve killed someone. But you know what, I want to give up butchery.’

Sandra yawned, got out of bed, put on her slippers and sat peeing on the toilet as he scraped the bottom of the pan and, looking through the door at her, said, ‘Save me some, darling.’

Outside, the wind was kicking up some leaves as he headed down to Brooklyn.

He stood at over six feet and had a boxer’s build and gait. And he burned like fire.

Two men sat in a cafe and, as he walked past them, got out and followed him to a car lot.

Vic saw them in the glass of one of the Mercs and, as the bigger of the two took a swipe at him, Vic ducked, swung round and shot him in the side of the head.

The other guy began to move away and Vic caught him with a vicious right hook, knocking him to the ground.

‘You tell Jack I’ll come for him.’

‘He says you owe him.’

‘I owe him shit, you cocksucker.’

*

Jack Gnocchi sat in his office smoking a cigar when he heard.

He put it down slowly and said, ‘I’ll take care of him.’

He was a wiry man with deep scars on his face. He had a flattened expression as if years of coldness had killed all emotion there.

Later that day he met Salami Harry over at his club. He was a giant with such a deep voice he made paintings shake on the wall when he laughed and was so named because he always carried some sausage meat on him. It was rumoured he put parts of his victims in them and served them at barbecues.

They drove round to Vic’s apartment, kicked the door in and found Sandra asleep on the bed.

When Vic returned a few hours later, he found her dead. The place had been ransacked.

He fell to his knees, took his wife’s hand and began sobbing. Then he got out his Beretta and left.

He went straight to the Hall Of Mirrors at Jack’s club.

The Hall was a dance room for exclusive members, mainly small time gangsters and their mistresses or hookers.

The distorting mirrors served to disguise them. There were rooms off the back. It was dark and hard to see in there and Vic couldn’t identify Jack.

He did find Salami Harry in the john.

He was washing his hands when Vic walked in.

‘Well, well, turned up, have you? I screwed your bitch before I blew her head off, now you give me the money.’

‘I owe him nothing, I did a job for him.’

Harry was shaking his head and advancing towards Vic when he shot him. He hit him in the leg and Harry dropped to the floor.

‘Tell him I’m coming for him,’ Vic said. ‘This is a warning.’

He left through the Hall of Mirrors, seeing himself move in every direction, fat, thin, tall, foreshortened, and felt his life had turned into someone else’s dream now Sandra was gone.

All the way home, he repeated ‘I should have killed him’ like a mantra.

He sat with her and took her to the end of the garden and buried her that black night when his soul howled like some wounded beast and he drank all the whisky he had and packed up before dawn.

He found a room in a cheap hotel and rang Pedro in Mexico to arrange for the purchase of a villa there.

Then he called Jack.

‘This ain’t over,’ he said.

BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London. His first crime novel ‘Apostle Rising’ is about to be published and will be released for sale onto the market on March 10th, 2011. You can watch a video ad for it at his website. His dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the London stage. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled; Gloom Cupboard; Thrillers, Killers ’N Chillers; The New Flesh, Media Virus Magazine and Pulp Metal Magazine, among many other magazines and anthologies. His story 'Pike N Flytrap' is in this Fall's issue of Needle Magazine, his story 'Face Off' is in the latest Crime Factory, issue #5.  You can follow him at Twitter here.

His website is now all-new, complete with information on his upcoming novel APOSTLE RISING and a special page devoted to the critically-acclaimed CHIN WAG AT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE interviews.

A Twist Of Noir 627 - Mark Joseph Kiewlak

THE TOWN THAT ATE SOULS - MARK JOSEPH KIEWLAK

Don’t try to flush the toilets in this town. They don’t work. I learned that early on in my rookie season on the force. The whores all laughed at me. That’s what whores are for. The city bus-faces rode by, indifferently blank. I started to scratch in places my mother didn’t know about. Thompson thinks there’s hope breathing like new skin under these scabrous streets. He hauls in every drunk and counts up the car crashes that didn’t happen. All I want is flowers in the restroom, maybe in a vase. There is no penalty for loving whores. So I partake. I trained my mind to be a detective. The rest of me does as it pleases. Halloween isn’t far off. It never is. The town puts on true-faces and the semen count rises. It’s easy to stare into the sidewalk cracks and wish they would widen. I’m not here for ice cream. Thompson has three teen-aged daughters then takes one back. A divine miscount. She turns up in an alley facedown, this plucky school reporter of his. Some girls aren’t allowed to age. Thompson eats bullets for breakfast. I count up one whore that didn’t happen.

It isn’t so bad, the way they make love in this town. They just want their dessert first. Hey, I only report the news. Yesterday I was twelve. Today, sixteen. Greedy eyes swallow parts of me I barely know. My father tells me not to get drunk, to avoid an accident. He’s like a traffic cop for my bedroom. I experiment with kindness, fail. The city-hall-faces ask me to be a whore. I’ll think about it. The rookie wears his costume year-round. Halloween is never far off for him. He asks what my father has taught me. I don’t report this news to anyone. The front page is reserved for bake sales and pep rally announcements. No one wants the desperate truth polluting their eyes.

One night we explore what’s under the covers in her bedroom. Facedown likes it facedown. Her heat warms my deepest hollows. Her inward smile penetrates where no one ever has. After the wet release I smell something like flowers in a restroom. She won’t report this news to anyone.

He ran the stop signs, Daddy. My mattress tells you I had a bad accident. One of us will be left on the curb for trash pickup. I wonder which one. I slip into fishnets and leave my undergarments showing, just in case. He whispers the I-love-you code just like you did, Daddy. He unlocks confessional secrets and gives me something worthwhile to repent on Sunday. The gun is a fatal lover, Daddy, without milk to wash the bullets down.

I have a scoop for my ice cream girl. We meet in a darkened alley just like the movies tell us to. There are patterns in the bricks that only the winos can decipher. Delicate hieroglyphics elusive to the everyday mind. I swing my sledgehammer intellect and her beauty gets in the way. So sorry, elegant Facedown.

He paints a bloody crack like a crooked grin on the back of my skull. I watch him with my heaven-eyes afterwards trying to solve his crime. He looks everywhere but in the mirror. The city helps him at last, its window glass and puddle reflections showing him the bad guy. He tears loose the pages of my reporter’s diary, tries to flush the evidence. But the toilets don’t work in this town.

I just wanted something more than vanilla. I just wanted my dessert first. Her chalk outline gets up to follow me home. Halloween midnight strikes and masks fall from their owners. A drunken car swerves in my direction. The sidewalk cracks widen and swallow me whole.

BIO: Mark Joseph Kiewlak has been a published author for eighteen years. In recent times his work has appeared in more than thirty magazines, including Hardboiled, Plots With Guns, Pulp Pusher, Thuglit, The Bitter Oleander, Disenthralled, Clean Sheets, and many others. His story, “The Present,” was nominated for the 2010 Spinetingler Award: Best Short Story on the Web. He has also written for DC Comics (FLASH 80-PAGE GIANT #2).

A Twist Of Noir 626 - Jim Harrington

WHY I SHOULD AVOID MARRIED WOMEN - JIM HARRINGTON

I awoke and saw a guy squeezed into the recliner across the room, his feet up. His right eyeball was fake, like an agate. The gun looked real.

“You know my wife, Betty,” he said.

Betty was blonde and petite. This guy wasn’t either of those. His voice came out higher pitched than I expected, given his build.

“How did you get in my apartment?” I asked.

He held up the gun.

I nodded. “Super let you in?”

“Yep,” he said. He waived the gun in anticipation of my next question. “Said he didn’t think the cops needed to know anything.”

“Well, I’m afraid you have the wrong--”

Before I could finish, he tossed four glossy pictures across the room. One of them made it to the bed. I turned it over and saw Betty and me kissing outside a Red Lobster. My hand rested on her ass. My groin twitched at the thought of Betty naked on her hands and knees. I pulled the sheet up and looked at the guy, Rick, I think she said his name was, and smiled. His expression didn't change. I reached for the pack of cigarettes on the nightstand and lit one. I inhaled and blew the smoke out my nose. He wasn’t impressed.

“Want one?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Hey, you a Raider fan?” I got up on one elbow. “I got a couple tickets you can have.” I didn’t lack for ideas on how to get out of this, but Rick’s disinterest in my offer made me realize he wasn't the kind of guy who could be bribed. Or maybe he wasn't a Raiders fan.

We stared at each other for a while until he put his hand on the chair arm and pushed himself to a standing position. I opened my mouth, but decided to keep quiet. Not only did he have the gun, he outweighed me by at least one hundred and fifty pounds.

He took a step toward the bed.

“Okay, I’ll stop seeing your wife. It was only six times.”

He stopped. I could tell by the look on his face I’d told him more than he knew. He started toward the bed, again. I slid to the other side next to the wall. The only window in the room was at the bottom of the bed. I would've considered making a run for it, but my place was on the fourth floor of an old building with no fire escape.

He pointed the gun in my direction, stepped to the edge of the bed, and laid a hand on my shoulder.

I had to pee.

“Calm down. I ain’t going to shoot you.” His face tightened. “Unless you stop seeing Betty.”

My mouth fell open.

“Hell, that woman’s a pain in the ass.” He stepped back. “You’ll find out. The others did.” He smiled for the first time. “Sneaking out with you has been the best thing happened this year.”

“But what about the gun?”

“This thing?” He raised the gun in front of his face. “Last couple of guys I spoke to got scared and dumped my Betty. I figure if I tell you I’ll shoot you if you stop seeing her, you won’t.” He lowered the gun. “Least when she’s with you I can watch the ballgame in peace.”

He walked to the door, turned back to me, and held the gun up once more. “If I have to come back, next time it’ll be loaded.” He tapped the barrel to his forehead in salute and left.
I slouched against the wall wondering what the hell I was going to do now. If I wanted to be with a nagging woman, I would have stayed married to Clarice.

BIO: Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His Six Questions For... blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” In his spare time, he serves as the flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Update on 600 To 700 Challenge

Still feeling under the weather. Headaches and backaches and ribaches and just feeling like shit.

But I’m going to try my damnedest this week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday to get a grand total of fifteen stories to you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 625 - Lee Hughes

STAGE LEFT - LEE HUGHES

Regis scratched his neck. Someone had done a number on the broad. Looked liked they’d tried combing her hair with a hammer. The tool lay caked in blood and blond beside her.

The police hadn’t been informed.

Regis’s boss had put the theatre on lock-down. The woman sprawled on the carpet was the boss’s niece. The boss had been watching the show from the boxes, he’d gone back to congratulate his niece only to find her mushed.

Regis had an eye for details. If one of the boys was found perforated in a dumpster then the boss sent Regis to handle the situation, figure out who the fuck had the brass-balls to fuck about with his business, that was where Regis came in, he’d hand them on a plate.

Regis took in every detail. He knew the theatre life.

His mother had looked like the dead woman. She’d trod the boards before winding up battered to death out the back of a gin-joint.

He walked the room.

A smile creasing his lips as memories of watching his mother ready herself for a show returned. He fingered a rabbit-foot charm in the untidy make-up box. He looked at his finger, there was rouge on it. His mother had applied rouge in the same manner. The dressing room was just as he remembered it. No shoes on the chairs, nor shoes on the tables.

Theatre folk were superstitious.

He stared at a bouquet. The flowers weren’t fresh, no tag, no wrapping. Just a bunch of flowers with a rubber-band about the stems. Its angle, as though cast aside, unwanted. He wondered if that had been the catalyst.

An infatuated lunatic? Definitely not a mob hit to wind the boss up. This had been done by someone who hadn’t an idea about her connections.

The flowers were his hint.

Pinning it on the handyman was like hanging the theft of a single shoe on the nearest one-legged man. There was no reason for the hammer to have been in the dressing-room. Superstition forbade pictures to be hung upon the wall.

He backtracked his mind to the corridor. A square of pristine wallpaper surrounded by nicotine stains. He remembered the two signs on the floor. One was crisp and new, the other just as filthy as the walls. The handyman had probably been caught short and hadn’t been able to finish putting up the new sign and left the hammer there to continue after the show.

Whomever had used the hammer on her head had picked it up on the way to see her.

Regis wondered.

If you were going to go promise undying love for a woman would you take a hammer?

It was someone she’d not tried to run away from. She’d cast aside the gift of grave flowers, for that was what they were. A bouquet stolen from a grave. Tradition, flowers from a grave to be given at the end of the run. Symbolizing that the show could be laid to rest.

Regis pulled out his wallet and removed a photograph and tore it in half.

He looked at the flowers. He’d seen them the day before. He walked to the door and came face to face with his boss.

The corridor was littered with nervous looking workers.

“Well?” His boss asked.

“Here’s your guy.”

The boss took the picture and looked at the man in it. “Who is he?”

“The man that killed your niece. One favour, though.”

“What?”

“Make it quick.”

“Why?”

“The man’s got problems.”

The boss nodded. “I’d say he’s got a big fuckin’ problem, me.” He handed the photograph to one of his hoods who took it and went looking for the ‘live’ version.

Regis pocketed his hands and walked.

BIO: Lee Hughes's short fiction has appeared on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Powder Burn Flash, Blink-Ink, MicroHorror, The Daily Tourniquet, FlashShot, Everyday Fiction, The New Flesh Magazine and, of course, A Twist of Noir. And in print in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Find out more at http://www.leehughes.net/.

A Twist Of Noir 624 - Des Nnochiri

24-6 - DES NNOCHIRI

He worked for a select clientèle. But what he did for them was very, very good. So he worked, a lot.

And when he wasn’t working, he thought about his - “job” didn’t quite describe it. Vocation. Religion.

Ways of perfecting his - he guessed, “art”.

Theory. Practice. Hardware. Software.

If he’d published an e-book, or five? He would have done pretty well. Of course, he’d also be in jail. Or dead.

And his employers would let it happen. He was replaceable; good, but not indispensable.

What he did was a necessary evil.

But, this was the day he didn’t. Work. Make his art. Ply his trade. Practice his religion.

Wasn’t the same, each week. Couldn’t be, with a “schedule” as flexible as his.

His clients understood. Most went out of their way to indulge him. To ask him which day. Before.

One 24-hour period out of every seven. His own. Exclusively. To relax. Unwind. Watch the world go by.

But stay aloof.

He loved crowds, though.

Bustling humanity. All shapes, sizes, social levels.

Private lives. Public lives. Secret lives. They fueled his imagination.

Public spaces were a problem. Not big, but still.

You had to pick your spot.

And, in the CCTV era, it was--

There, now. That wasn’t right.

Shades, greasy pony-tail. Sweat slipping down the jail-house tattoo beneath the right ear.

In a blind spot, between the CCTV cameras.

Working his way through the masses spilling in and out of the mini-mall.

Variations of the same stunt, as they approached the doors.

And here he was, about to do a number on the pretty blonde with the pink barrette in her hair. Standing in front of the kid - little boy, eight, nine years old - in the Coke bottle spectacles.

He sensed - knew - what Pony-Tail was going to do, even before he did it.

A shove, and the kid went flying into the blonde. Who stumbled to the ground, flail of arms and legs. Seven or so shoppers in front of her collapsing, like a stack of dominoes. Cries, curses, and dropped cellphones, as they all went. Pratfalling to earth.

In the confusion, Pony-Tail zipped forward, expertly lifting a purse here, an iPod there. Quick hands. Even made a show of helping one or two of the suckers back onto their feet.

That just wasn’t right.

That crowd? Someone could have been hurt.

And, in the days before plastic lenses, that kid would have been out one pair of no doubt very expensive eye-glasses. The boy was only bruised and bawling, but still.

It wasn’t right.

On a proper working day, he’d--

He glanced down at the cigarette packet in his hand, and grinned ruefully.

Seemed his working instincts had kicked in, of their own accord. Must have thumbed the switch on reflex, the moment Pony-Tail made his move.

Well. Sayonara, my light-fingered friend.

He flipped the switch again, and the spycam in his own extremely expensive mirrored shades powered down.

On the viewscreen at the back of the pack, now. Reviewing the footage.

He’d been thorough. Even zoomed in on that tattoo. Guy would be very easy to identify.

Crisp, clear video, too.

His customers demanded top-notch surveillance, and that’s what he gave them.

He’d have to dirty up the video a little, before posting it on the Web.

Cover his tracks.

He’d use one of his aliases. Orb624? No. News24-6. He’d something of a reputation as a crusader, that one.

Worse case scenario, Pony-Tail becomes an unwilling media star. Best case, he’d bring down some serious heat. Possibly, more jail time.

So, he’d post the vid. Might even sneak a copy to law enforcement. Let them do what they were paid to do. For once.

After all, this wasn’t a working day.

BIO: Desmond (Des) Nnochiri spent his early years traveling with his parents, and was educated in England, the USA, and the Republic of Ireland (Eire). He writes freelance now, and has taken his first steps into the world of screenwriting. He has contributed stories to A Twist of Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Powder Burn Flash. He blogs at Des Nnochiri’s Write to Speak.

A Twist Of Noir 623 - Chris Rhatigan

KLEPTOMANIAC - CHRIS RHATIGAN

My shoulder twitches as I open the freezer and curl my fingers around the half-gallon of Neapolitan ice cream.

I imagine bringing the ice cream back. Jo would stop by my place and her spring green eyes would brighten—she loves everyday surprises. We’d eat the strawberry and chocolate from the box and mock the first round of American Idol rejects.

I turn to find the clerk staring at me. He kneels next to a box, pops open a box cutter, rips through packaging tape. Judging from his scaly skin and the slump in his spine, he’s been working the night shift at the Pump N Munch for many years. He knows better than to chase me. Protocol is to hit the button, wait for the cops.

Yet he’s challenging me. I’m sure of it. He props his elbows on the glass counter, steeples his fingers.

I try to control my twitching shoulder. No dice.

My heart bumps against my rib cage. Deep down, I hope he’s like the Loss Prevention guy from Sears. That dude chased me through an entire mall for swiping a parka. He didn’t catch me, but I give him points for playing the game.

Back then, I thought I was clever, scraping off security tags with a pocket-knife or sliding a baseball card up my sleeve.

Not anymore. Now my methods are direct.

My first move is quick. Outside in two steps. Bells on the door clanging.

I run past the empty gas pumps, cradling the ice cream in my arm. The bells ring again.

I accelerate down the sidewalk, bounding in and out of the beams of streetlights. Suck down gulps of humid air.

Sirens wail in the distance. Too soon for the cops. Unless there was another clerk or a manager I didn’t see who made the call.

A reflection of a shadow trailing me bounces off the abandoned storefront windows across the street.

Sweat trickles into my eyes. A cramp stabs under my ribs like an ice pick.

The sirens fade, the sound replaced by another set of feet striking the sidewalk, persistently echoing my steps.

What kind of clerk chases a guy who stole ice cream? What would he do when he caught me? That box cutter. He could’ve taken that.

Maybe he’s not just a convenience store clerk. Maybe he’s a serial killer.

Maybe I crossed the wrong guy. Why couldn’t I’ve paid for the ice cream like anyone else would have?

Turning around will slow me down. But I want to see him gaining on me.

I look behind.

And see the Sears LP guy.

What the fuck?

I’m still looking in the rearview when my toe snags a lip between two sidewalk panels. The carton catapults. I fall hard, face-first to the concrete.

My head throbs when I come to. Bruises everywhere. A gash on my elbow. Blood trickling from my temple to my jaw.

The LP guy stands above me, sucking down a cigarette. He resembles a smaller, more wiry version of Mr. Clean down to the white tee shirt tucked into jeans.

I sit up, joints screaming, lean against a slimy brick wall. Realize that he must have dragged me into an alleyway.

“As soon as I saw you on the closed circuit, I remembered you,” he says. “Punk that stole that jacket.”

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“Own that store now.”

“You call the cops?”

“Hell, no. Worse they’ll do is throw you in jail for a night. That won’t teach fuckers like you. You don’t respect a man’s property.”

He slides on a pair of brass knuckles. I scramble, but he grabs me by the scalp with his left.

And pummels me with his right.

BIO: Chris Rhatigan is a student and freelance journalist living in Iowa City, Iowa. He has worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. He always appreciates feedback, and you can reach him at chris.rhatigan@gmail.com.

A Twist Of Noir 622 - Sean Patrick Reardon

CRANK SHOT - SEAN PATRICK REARDON

No blood. And the little Puerto Rican cocksucker needs to be alive, when the concrete vault is dropped on top of him.

I love simple instructions.

The no blood tenet meant my initial idea, a cricket ball, was out. The raised seam would easily lacerate flesh. This bummed me out, because I have really improved the pace on my inswinger. Plan B, a lacrosse ball, works perfectly. Delivered at ninety miles per hour, it will hurt like hell, bruise internal organs, break ribs...crush testicles.

I’m sure Armando, street name Striker, follows a code of stereotypical ethics on the streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts. The usual bullshit: no ratting, never go against, or leave the gang. Striker will now learn ours.

Never fuck with the elderly, children...or the Irish.

My well practiced brogue is sweeter than Tim Finnegan’s when I ask him, “Where is she, you piece of shite?”

“Fuck you,” Esse says.

Distance: fifty-feet. Coordinates: left rib cage. Clear for crank shot.

David Lee Roth pops into my head...‘One break...comin’ up.’

Fire!

Whammo!

Striker gives up a cough scream. I realize I must have nicked a lung. Coach would be proud.

Striker screams, but sees nothing. He’s got a severe case of Super Glue conjunctivitis at the moment. He’s naked and facing me, but his uncircumcised welfare check missile is a huge distraction.

I’m weird about shit like that.

He’s probably never seen a lacrosse net. Doesn’t know his hands and feet are duct taped to each of the four corners, spread eagle style.

This is the tenderizing of Striker stage of the game. I’m hoping the fear of the money shot is weighing heavily on his mind.

It’s not a fear of heights. It’s the fear of falling.

The Clancy Brothers are doing ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ on the boom box I set up and it sounds great reverberating off the cement walls of warehouse. Senor Shitforbrains thinks he’s being tortured by some crazy fucking Mick, not the long haired, hippy freak I used to be.

*

I drop his body, which I duct taped in a coffin chic pose, into the trunk of the Charger. He’s breathing, but in bad shape, covered in welts and bruises that look like red bulls-eyes, with black centers. If he was going to live another day, they would each expand to the size of purple softballs.

I call Tommy, tell him where his daughter is and that I’m on my way. He tells me everything is cool, proceed as planned.

As I drive through the pre-dawn darkness, I’m thinking of the tattoo that runs the length of Striker’s right forearm. It’s an upside down cross, DAD, near the wrist, REST IN PIECES just below the elbow joint. Everyone has their anchor to drag. I have a small dick, at least he had the option of a seeing a shrink.

When I pull up to the cemetery gates, Tommy’s connection is waiting in the backhoe. He climbs down, opens the gates, and walks over to me. I hand him an envelope with five large in it, and pop the trunk with the key fob. We carry Striker’s half dead carcass over to the backhoe and roll him into the front loader. We shake hands and he climbs up into the cockpit.

As I walk away, the engine fires up and I see the front loader start to roll up and then raise into the air. On the drive back to my place, I’m thinking of the mourners, who won’t know they are getting a two-for-one special later this morning as their beloved’s casket is lowered into the vault. If there is an afterlife, I’m hoping Striker gets to sort things out with his old man.

BIO: Sean Patrick Reardon lives in Massachusetts and is the author of the crime thriller Mindjacker. His stories have appeared in Thrillers, Killers -n- Chillers. He’s blogging at Mindjacker.

A Twist Of Noir 621 - Thomas Larsen

ALMOST - TOM LARSEN

The plane drops and Ripper loses it. Like going over on a roller coaster and running out of track. They strain for any sign of control. The nose loops and the shock and the vertigo trigger a scream. Jack, the record rep, grabs his arm but Ripper keeps screaming. Details register, the whine of engines, crap flying, Willie T white as a sheet. The spiral tightens. It takes forever.

Cold. Firelight. The ground smells like backyard. His eyes open and it comes back in a flash. He turns his head and watches the flames.

Cuts and bruises, pant leg shredded but nothing broken. Walk away from a plane crash, Christ. Keeps seeing their faces, Willie and Dag. Calls out to them but he will not go looking. Waits as the fire burns to scattered patches. No one comes.

Ripper picks a direction, starts walking. Two days into a three record deal.

Make that one record.

Another ploughed field and the thought it might be endless. Walk away and die anyway. Just hours ago, the crowd gone wild to Dag’s slide, Skeets and Ricky trading licks.

Something crashes in the windbreak, a white dog tracking him through the brush. Ripper looks around for a rock but there is only dirt. The dog stands in the moonlight watching.

“No stopping,” Ripper tells himself. “If he’s gonna come he’s gonna come.”

Another field, another dog, bigger, then a third. Ripper wraps his belt around his wrist. The dogs trail him but keep their distance. He thinks of Jimmy Wales and his Dobermans, ripped him up one night for no good reason.

“First they knock you down, then they go for the throat,” Jimmy traced the scar.

The next field slopes to a wide stretch of woods. Ripper stands there staring at it. His nose keeps running, he can’t stop shivering, the moon clouds over and it is hard to see. How it plays out this way, his big night ends in a shithole cornfield, friends dead, hellhounds closing in.

From behind, one peeling off to box him in. Ripper picks up the pace, get to the woods, climb a tree, almost there. Dogs locked in and he knows it’s crazy but he starts to run. Feels them gaining. Reaches the woods but it’s too dark to see then the lights go out.

He comes to with a groan. More scrapes and bruises, blood down the front of his shirt. Ripper listens but there’s only silence. Crazy to run, just dogs wondering what he’s doing. Should not have wandered off. Should have looked for flares or a cell phone at the crash site.

He climbs the embankment, sees the field through the trees, halfway to it when the rain comes down. Ripper heaves a sob and drops to his knees. Lets it go, shoulders chugging, battered, beaten and so cold. Feels the fear turn to rage, throws his head back and screams to the heavens.

“KILL ME, YOU FUCK! COME ON, GET IT OVER WITH!”

The dog pounces then tumbles off with a chunk of his ear. They spring at each other and Ripper goes off. The dog yelps once then sags in a whimper.

The shack looks deserted but he knows he saw a light. Ripper stumbles toward it, tries to call but his throat cuts off in a croak. He follows the flagstones, weaving and lurching, almost rock star on his last legs. His boots clomp like concrete, up the stairs, across the porch. Rain blows in sheets behind him, sky mottled in grays to the east. He pounds twice then bends to listen. Thinks of that song, Dag doing Hank Williams. The door swings open. A shotgun blast takes out his chest.

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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day Five Of The 600 To 700 Challenge Coming Tomorrow

It’s back!

Tomorrow.

Stories include...

Thomas Larsen’s ALMOST

Sean Patrick Reardon’s CRANK SHOT

Chris Rhatigan’s KLEPTOMANIAC

Des Nnochiri’s 24-6

and

Lee Hughes’s STAGE LEFT

If possible, the installment after this will be coming on Friday and perhaps there will be a third on Saturday.

Sorry for the delay but I’ve been under the weather.

See you tomorrow.