Friday, September 30, 2011

A Twist Of Noir 689 - Cormac Brown


Go over what went wrong in your head all you want; it won’t change a damn thing. You gave a well-rounded and nuanced performance. You lived it, you breathed it, and hell, you probably could’ve taught Stanislavski a thing or two about “The Method.” You didn’t go over the top the way that Brando or Dean would have, but no one hands out acting awards for this kind of thing. Instead of an Oscar, you get to live another day, and instead of fame, another thug goes down.

The two guns pointed at you get the adrenaline going, and you think faster, maybe even a little clearer. Ah, maybe it was something you said when you were trying to win Mad Dog 20/20 over and he saw that cop.

“Let’s get out of here, 20/20. Cops are like roaches. You see one, that means there are a dozen more hiding out nearby.” You oversold that one, and just when he was finally going to let you call him “Mad Dog,” instead of 20/20. Street names are supposed to strike fear, but his just makes you think of passed out bums.

So, he picks you up from your other apartment, before you get a chance to grab your gun or call anyone on the phone. You get into that hoopty because you have to earn trust in this business, even if it means that you might disappear off the face of the Earth. The two of you wind up at a deserted factory on the outskirts of town, with not a soul in sight. You have company when you get there and 20/20 may be a mad dog, but it’s the other guy that angrily eyeballs you.

This new guy says, “He’s a narc.” You want to say that this nut is on crack, but he holds up a picture of you getting that commendation just before you made detective. You want to claim that it's Photoshopped, but it’s over. That look, now you know why he’s called “Mad Dog,” as he aims the 9mm right between your eyes.


Three shots in quick succession. Maybe the first bullet was a kill shot, because you don’t feel anything. Is death this peaceful? Apparently not, as Mad Dog dies painfully, and the other guy kicks Mad Dog’s gun a cop would. You’re dazed, and you wonder if the next bullet is for you.

The shooter takes the gun that he shot Mad Dog with and he puts it in your hands. He cups his gloved hands over yours and he forces you to squeeze the trigger. The shot goes off into the dark distance. This unknown man drops the gun on the ground. He opens the bag lying at Mad Dog’s feet, and in it is a shitload of money. The fucker counts the money, and you pick up the gun when he counts the money again.

“How much is your life worth to you, Detective William Moran?” he asks with a grin. He puts the money in the bag and he adds, “I’m guessing $16,755. I saved your life, but only you and I need to know that.”

“Who do you work for?” you groan.

“My jurisdiction is none of your business. You will find a suitcase with a kilo of ecstasy inside of it and Mad Dog’s fingerprints on the outside. I can see your report now; how you have killed a major drug dealer in self-defense. This was just a meeting between you and him, and there won’t be any mention of me.”

You fire the gun at him and click, it’s empty. He pulls a backup .32 from an ankle holster.

“Always check your ammo, Bill. You don’t want to wind up getting killed in the line of fire because you don’t have the bullets to back it up. Be the right kind of hero, Moran. The kind that’s smart enough not to get in over his head. The type that knows when he’s goddamn lucky enough to be alive and that he should be grateful. So long, Bill.”

So long, asshole. We’ll meet again.

A Twist Of Noir 688 - Patricia Abbott


The only convenient— no, make that the only possible time—for them to have sex was before eight A.M. And to top it off, they had to do it on a narrow cot in the boss’s office. It took Carla back to her high school days when she made love on her mother’s double bed when Mom was at the Chrysler Plant on Jefferson. Travis kept the cot for similar purposes if that was Vera Wang perfume in the fiber. If their wages were any indication, Travis was too cheap to spring for a room.

Travis Gallagher, former ballplayer and now businessman, never came in much before nine, and most days didn’t show up at all. He was about to run for City Council or so the Metro paper said. He never confided in his bartender and cook. Sometimes she worried the scent of their mornings would seep into the room and trip them up, but at some point in the past, it’d become part of it.

The two of them were supposed to come in before nine to set things up. The bar attracted an early lunch crowd—people from downtown offices, the courts, or the stadiums if there was a game. The waitresses and dish-washer started work at ten when things picked up, giving the lovers a nice chunk of time. Carla and Willis finished their shift at six and went home to their spouses. But there was this first—this magic—and almost every day.

It was not a love affair exactly or if it was she was kidding herself. It felt more two lonely horny people taking comfort in each other. Too bad it had to be at this hour, though at some point, it began to seem right. When one of them took a vacation or got sick, the other one grew antsy. Making love with her sixty-year old husband at night twice a month—that’s what seemed odd now. That’s what seemed cheesy or stale.

“You’re going to invite Sweetie in here while I’m gone, aren’t you?” Carla asked, curled up in Willis’ arms. Sweetie was a waitress who’d just turned 22. Willis laughed. They were dressed now but couldn’t quite say goodbye. They had a few minutes. She was going to Lapeer for a few days to help her daughter out with her new baby. It’d be her first grandchild if the kid ever got itself born. Trixie was a week late and showing no signs of an imminent birth and going bonkers waiting. Of course, there was no husband on the scene to calm her down. The lunatic father had hit the road long ago.

Willis was about to say something funny—she could tell from the smile that was beginning to form on his lips—when the door to the office swung open and two men wearing masks pushed into the room, obviously startled to find the two of them. Carla started to scream but then thought better of it. The larger man shrugged and without saying a word, yanked the cord from a lamp, motioned for them to get up, and herded them toward the cold storage unit down the hallway. They could hear the other man rifling the safe as they moved in single file down the hallway. Once inside the storage room, the man inadvertently rubbed up against Willis and his mask slipped down. They saw it was Travis and glanced at each other in shock.

“Too bad,” he said. Just those two words. Looking indecisive for a second or two, he shrugged, pulled a knife from his pocket, and quickly stabbed Willis in the chest and stomach. Willis slid to the floor as blood spurted. His eyes went blank in seconds.

“Travis,” Carla started to say. “You don’t...” She could see terror in his eyes, but also heartlessness. The coldness shut her mouth.

“Money for a campaign’s hard to come by.”

His arm rose over his head as it came down hard into her breast. His ballplayer days were behind him, she thought as she died, but he still had some power in those arms.

BIO: Patricia Abbott has published more than fifty stories in literary and crime fiction outlets. Check out more from Patti at Pattinase.

A Twist Of Noir 687 - Michael A. Gonzales


Everybody remembers the first time they had a gun pointed at them. Although it’s been months, sometimes I’ll be lying next to my woman and suddenly flashback to that black nine millimeter aimed at my skull.

It was the summer of ’88 and I was still living uptown where shattered glass crunched underfoot and the bustling boulevards were electric with vice. To strangers unfamiliar with the wildness of Harlem, my decaying tenement on 145th might’ve looked dangerous.

Yet, no matter how many crack cowboys and toothless hookers sat on the stoop, I was never scared. My girlfriend Zoë was a different story. Every time she came to Harlem, she acted as though poverty was contagious.

Zoë and I were 22-year-old seniors at the School of Visual Arts. Wanting to be the next Robert Mapplethorpe, but without all the dicks and homo shit, I was a photography major. Zoë was an abstract painter with a loft on Gramercy Park.

Coming from Detroit, her rich mother paid the bills. Though she proudly talked about, “Da D,” it was obvious from her Goth make-up and all-black wardrobe that she was more of a Depeche Mode suburban chick than an inner city Motown girl. “I don’t know why you can’t just let it go, Andre. Your old neighborhood died years ago. There is no renaissance, only ghosts. You should just move downtown with me.”

“You don’t understand, I was raised up there. Uptown, that’s where my peoples at.”

“Your peoples?” Zoë laughed, shoveling the last piece of sushi in her mouth. “Why you always talk like you’re more street than you are? When we met, you were reading Kafka and talking about Wim Wenders. Now, you Mr. Ghetto? Mr. Keeping It Real.”

“I’m just saying, it’s going to take more than a few whores and dope boys to make me move.” After knocking back a few sakes, I stumbled to the A Train and nodded out until reaching 145th Street.

According to the subway station clock, it was almost midnight. Walking the two avenue blocks to my building, I was shocked when I ran into my old buddy Darryl Jenkins sitting on the steps of the abandoned school PS 186. Recently graduated from Syracuse University, Darryl was one of the few old friends not in jail or the graveyard.

“Man, so good seeing you,” I said.

“I just came down for a few days. Figured if I hung out in front of this dump long enough, I’d run into you.”

Darryl pulled out a phat sack of weed and a few Phillie blunts. Like old times, we decided to go to my building and smoke.

Standing in front of the door, I realized I’d left my keys at Zoë’s and randomly pressed the intercom. Somebody buzzed us in and we ran up the back staircase; since I rarely wore sneakers, my hard-bottomed dress shoes click-clanked on the marble steps.

Sitting on the top stair rolling the blunt, I faintly heard something downstairs, but when I looked over the banister there was nothing. “Ain’t even smoked and already paranoid,” Darryl laughed.

Lighting the blunt, I thought I heard creeping footsteps, but before I could say jack, a midget murderer everybody called Inch was aiming his burner at my head. “Word, Gotti, you got to stop ringing my bell! I thought you assholes were cops.”

We had all grown up together, but last I heard, Inch was serving a stretch in Rikers for blasting three drug dealers a few years back. Word on our street was he dragged the corpses into the closet and stole a suitcase of bloody money. How he got out so fast was beyond me.

“Yo, we’re sorry,” I stuttered. Darryl was silent. “Believe me, it was an accident.” From the way Inch’s left eye blinked, it was obvious he was doing everything in his power not to kill us. Blinking a few more times, Inch finally put the gun down.

Scrambling down the stairs, I ran to the payphone. Fishing a quarter out of my pocket, I dialed Zoë. “I changed my mind,” I yelled. “I’m moving downtown. Tonight.”

A Twist Of Noir 686 - Laurie Powers


Art used to read the foreclosure notices in the papers like other people read box scores. Then he’d do a drive-by. After the owners left and before the banks came in, we would swoop in and strip out all the security systems, built-in electronics, copper wiring. These houses in Malibu were full of them.

When he told me about the job in Topanga, I swore it would be my last, but Art had me by the balls and he knew it. The race track had not been good to me lately. I had lost my own house a few months ago.

“What time will we be done?”

“I dunno,” Art said, mouth full of burrito. “How the hell do I know? Why do you care?”

“Post time.”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “You really should watch that gambling.”

“Maybe you should shut up.” I wanted to take my piece and splatter his brains out.

The house was on a lockbox, which are about as secure as luggage locks. We picked it, pulled the keys out, opened the front door lock and stopped short. The place was full of furniture.

“What the fuck?”

“Man, these people must have been in a freakin’ hurry to get out.”

Art’s plans changed instantly. “We’re gonna take the furniture,” he said, licking his lips.

We started with the sofa. Art in front, me behind. Art opened the front door. There stood the realtor, holding the open lockbox like a dummy.

The two looked at each other for a second, startled. What a pair. The realtor, a puny little guy with greasy hair and Art with goatee, glasses and a western shirt with long sleeves to hide the track marks.

I dropped my end of the couch, the heavy thud reverberating on the wood floors.

“Hello?” More of a question than a greeting from Mr. Realtor.

“Hi there,” Art said, recovering. “We’re the movers for the bank. They want all the furniture out of here.” You gotta hand it to Art; he was fast on his feet.

“Oh, sorry.”

“Oh, that’s ok,” Art said, smiling. Probably the first time someone had apologized to him during the middle of a break-in.

“I had an appointment to show the house?”

“Oh, okay.” We all stood there. Mr. Realtor and his client, carefully casual in his polo shirt and khakis. Couldn’t hide that freakin’ gold Rolex, though.

“So, if you don’t mind, we’re going to continue working here, if that’s ok?” Art asked.

“Oh, sure.” Mr. Realtor, feeling magnanimous.

“Let’s go.” Art turned and gave me a look. “Let’s go, Mike.”

We hefted up the couch and continued out to the truck.

“Com’on, let’s get the hell out of here.”

“No fucking way, Mike. I want that big screen!” Art was already striding back.

We began to cart the T.V. through the living room.

“Yeah, you guys need some help?” This from Mr. Casual walking by.

“Actually, we probably could use an extra set of hands,” Art responded, grinning.

What the fuck, Art? I glared at him.

“Not at all,” Mr. Casual said, glad to be one of the boys. He trotted over and picked up the middle section of the big screen. Mr. Realtor stood by, not really quite certain what to do with a client that bonded with the help.

“Careful, now.” Mr. Casual couldn’t resist giving directions. He must have been some kind of CEO.

“Hey, thanks, man,” Art said after it was loaded. They shook hands. Mr. Casual went back in.

“NOW can we go?” I asked, climbing in the cab.

“Wait a sec,” Art said, pulling his piece out from behind the driver’s seat. “Be right back.” I heard two pops inside and knew my life had just taken a big dump.

Art opened up the driver’s door and tossed the Rolex in. “Score!”

“Not this time,” I said, pointing my own piece between his eyes and firing. He dropped like a ton of bricks.

I pocketed the Rolex before sliding over and slamming the truck into gear. There’s a good pawn shop on Pico on the way to the track.

A Twist Of Noir 685 - Chris Deal


The parking deck wasn't warm, but it provided enough of a barrier from the cold winds blowing down Charlotte’s streets so I could have one last smoke before I went up. My fingers shook as I held the cigarette to my lips, but with the influx of smoke they relaxed, stayed still for a few heart beats. Up on the sixth floor, in the Coronary Care Unit, Rask's heart was giving him trouble. V-tach, last I heard. Still irregular after the attack. He didn't call me until he was stable, a day after he entered the hospital. Over the phone his voice was tinged with whiskey sours. When he said what he wanted from me, I nodded even though he couldn't see it. He took my silence for the acquiescence it was. Whatever he wanted, I’d do.

The thing about hospitals is that you can walk around most parts like a ghost, not even an afterthought to the staff, if you wear the right disguise. Before getting in the car I dressed up as a concerned son. Shaved the week's worth of growth along my jaw and put on a thrift-store suit. Ran a few fingers though my hair to give it a look of concern. I walked through the labyrinthine corridors holding the bouquet of flowers like it was the most important thing in the world. From the parking deck, you took an elevator down to the first level, then into the hospital right by the cafeteria, past the atrium. Take a left there and you find the public elevators. Go up to the sixth floor and follow the signs until you reach Mecca.

Going through the halls, all the doors to the patient’s rooms were open. Many beds were empty. Just up the hall from Rask’s room an old woman, thin bones pressing against the skin, lay in her bed, the machines keeping her alive. Her eyes caught mine, two small embers embedded in her skull, fighting against the Reaper Man who was stalking her. I took a step inside and put a hand to her burning forehead. She smiled toothlessly and fell asleep. I wasn’t her Reaper.

I stood outside of Rask’s room for several minutes, memorializing the visual cacophony, the fire doors and mirrors at every corner, multicolored signs warning for quiet. There weren’t any cops hanging around his door. A tiny nurse with curly brown hair pulled back over her scrubs stood behind me and I watched her watching me in the glass of his door. She didn't say anything, just watched. After the illusion of a son grieving for his father's health was complete, I went in.

Rask looked like seven layers of shit compressed together. His body was covered with tubes that pricked through his skin, connecting him to the machinery that loomed over his bed. He saw me and nodded. Every few moments the machine would let out a harsh note that coincided with a painful beat in his chest.

“Thanks for doing this, kid,” he said. His voice was quiet, smothered by his closeness to death.

“Was it bad?”

“A complete mother fucker. If I’ve taught you one thing, take care of yourself.”

“I will.”

“Thank you. You going to be good?”

“I’ll survive.”

“Makes one of us, at least. Keep doing the good work for me, as long as you can.”

“Yes, sir.”

I handed the bouquet to him and he caught my hand in his, squeezing tight, the skin cold and dry, before he picked through the flowers and found what I smuggled hidden inside: a syringe, perfectly empty.

He pulled back the plunger, filling it with air.

“Want me to do that?”

“Hell, I’ve killed more than enough people in my day, might as well go out by my own hand. If I see anyone on the other side, hope they’ll understand.”

I let him do it in peace. Walking back to the elevator, the tiny nurse ran past me to his room, a look of panic in her eyes. The job was done. Brushing away tears, I knew the disguise wasn’t necessary.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Interlude: Joe Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER


CONTACT: Jojo Coats:

Mulholland Books releases the latest Joe R. Lansdale novel.


Mark Twain Meets Stephen King with a Lansdale Twist

March 25, 2012-New York, NY- Mulholland Books an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group brings you the latest crime novel from cult favorite, award winner Joe R. Lansdale.

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over twenty novels, the Edgar Award winner THE BOTTOMS, and the ever popular Hap and Leonard series to name a few. He has penned countless short stories, chapbooks, graphic novels, screenplays, animated series work, and comic books. His work spanning western, horror, science fiction, suspense, and mystery has won him numerous awards including the British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, and an impressive eight Bram Stoker Awards to name a few.

Iconic author and pioneer in transcending genre, Joe R. Lansdale blends lost dreams, death, thievery, and a trip down river on a raft with a Southern flair that only he can manage. With a plot that is reminiscent of the classic Mark Twain and Stephen King works combined - Edge of Dark Water is crime fiction at its best.

May Lynn was once a pretty girl who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. Now she’s dead, her body dredged up from the Sabine River. Sue Ellen, May Lynn’s strong-willed teenage friend, sets out to dig up May Lynn’s body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood to spread around. If May Lynn can’t become a star, then at least her ashes will end up in the land of her dreams. Along with her friends Terry and Jinx and her alcoholic mother, Sue Ellen steals a raft and heads downriver to carry May Lynn’s remains to Hollywood.

Only problem is, Sue Ellen has some stolen money that her enemies will do anything to get back. Including avoiding a strange and relentless hired assassin called Skunk. What looks like a prime opportunity to escape from a worthless life will instead lead to disastrous consequences. In the end, Sue Ellen will learn a harsh lesson on just how hard growing up can really be.

· "Joe R. Lansdale has a folklorist's eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur's sense of pace." (The New York Times Book Review )

· "Lansdale has created a landscape of broken dreams, skewed personalities and hope still clinging to the inside of the Pandora's box of problems they all share. . . . He has been called a folklorist, and Leather Maiden makes you want to sit on a porch listening to him spin a yarn that you know doesn't contain a true sentence." (Los Angeles Times)

· "One of the greatest yarn spinners of his generation: fearless, earthy, original, manic and dreadfully funny." (Dallas Morning News, on Vanilla Ride )

· “A storyteller in the great American tradition of Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain.” (Boston Globe)

· “Joe Lansdale simply must be read.” (Robert Crais)

· “One of the greatest yarn-spinners of his generation: fearless, earthy, original, manic, and dreadfully funny.” (Dallas Morning News)

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Twist Of Noir 684 - Albert Tucher



“I can’t believe you’re going to hire him.”

Tillotson sat across from Diana in her office at Litvinov Associates.

“I think he’s the right man for the job,” she said.

She and Tillotson went back a long way, but he needed to remember that she was the boss.

“I don’t think I can keep working for you if you bring Romero in.”

“That’s your decision. Hiring and firing, that’s my call.”

“Romero’s a thug. He’s also a fat slob.”

“There’s a niche in this business for fat slobs. Right now I don’t have anybody who fills it.”

Some body guarding jobs called for someone who could blend into the scenery. Others needed an intimidating presence. Romero could do intimidating.

“Seems to me you’re forgetting your roots,” Tillotson said. “You know the side business he used to have.”

“Sure. He shook hookers down.”

“Did he ever get you?”

“Once for a couple of hundred, but that was because I let him. I was getting Mary Alice out of a jam. He took a whole day’s pay from her.”

“What happened to solidarity?”

“Well, he’s not doing it anymore, because he’s retired from the police. Like you.”

“Not like me. I did it the right way. He had to go, or Internal Affairs would have gone after him.”

“Ancient history.”

She looked across her desk at Tillotson. He was taking this worse than she had expected.

“Okay,” she said, “maybe this will help. I have a special initiation for him. He’s going to hate his first job.”

She turned the business section of the day’s New York Times around and pointed to a headline below the fold:


According to the story, author Mary Alice Mercier was touring to promote her memoir about life as a prostitute. Threats had come from someone claiming to represent a militant Christian organization.

Mary Alice’s jacket photo accompanied the story. She looked studiously hot.

“So the threats are real?” said Tillotson. “I thought it was publicity.”

“The publisher was concerned enough to hire us.”

Tillotson read the story.

“Okay, just out of curiosity. Did she really write the book?”

“Definitely. I watched her write a lot of it, but I didn’t know what she was doing, scribbling in her spiral notebooks. Turns out that was it.”

“And Romero’s going to have to put up with the Mary Alice treatment?” A grin spread across his face. “Diabolical.”

Two days later Diana sat in a visitor’s chair and looked at her new hire. Under a crisp white hospital sheet Romero’s bulk resembled a natural landform.

“The doc told me an interesting thing,” she said. “If somebody has to get shot with a thirty-eight, it should be you.”


“No, really. The bullets just gave up before they reached anything vital.”

“Because I’m so fucking fat.”

“Well, he did mention some muscle underneath.”

She dropped the smile.

“That was good work. Taking three bullets for the client--that was the job, and you did it. Taking the shooter down was extra.”

“I basically fell on him.”

“Whatever.” She grinned again. “How was it going up to then?”

“Talk about bossy. Do this, do that. I was almost hoping something drastic would happen.”

“You weren’t surprised she gave you a hard time, were you?”

“Every time she read, she made a point of picking the part about me shaking her down. And she kept reminding me that she could out me any time.”

“That’s Mary Alice. She wouldn’t do it. She never ratted on anybody, no matter what.”

Out in the hall Mary Alice’s voice started barking orders. The gist was, the nurses needed to take better care of their patient. Romero groaned.

“Didn’t you tell her to get a few hours sleep?”

“She’s a hooker. We can go days without sleep where there’s money involved.”

Diana gave him her most malicious grin.

“Or love.”

“Get that guy to shoot me again. And do it right this time.”

“I warned you about the Mary Alice treatment, didn’t I?”

“I guess.”

“Well, that wasn’t it before. This is the full Mary Alice.”

A Twist Of Noir 683 - Kevin Michaels


“If you love me, you will do this for me,” Candy said.

Bobby checked the clip in his nine millimeter and slipped it inside his jacket, thinking that love had nothing to do with it.

Candy’s red shirt had been unbuttoned and her head between his legs when she said that - with his Levi’s around his ankles, Bobby would have agreed to anything.

His black Chevy Nova was parked a block away, hidden in the shadows of the overpass where nobody could see it. Candy was in the front seat waiting for him, car engine running as fast as his heart was beating, holding out promises of things she was going to do once he returned.

She was a thrill junkie – a girl who got off on risk and danger.

Bobby was pretty sure he liked that.

He made his way across the street. Keeping his head down and eyes straight ahead, he walked into the all night convenience store with the gun in his pocket. He remembered that kiss, the adrenalin pumping to his brain and the blood rushing in his veins as her lips touched his.

The last thing she said when he got out of the car was “I like it when we get wild.”

There was a kid behind the register with acne-scarred skin and long, stringy blond hair – no older than him, wearing one of those red Kwiki-Mart shirts and a matching cap. He was busy refilling coffee pots and wiping away a night’s worth of grime from the counter when Bobby walked in. He barely looked up until Bobby got his attention by pulling out the gun and pointing it at his head.

“Empty the register,” Bobby said. “And gimme’ a couple packs of Camels while you’re at it.”

The clerk turned. Something in his face looked less like surprise and more like disgust.

“Out of Camels,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“So forget about the cigarettes,” Bobby said. “Just get me the money.”

The gun shook slightly in his hand but he sucked in his courage and pushed out his cool, the way he figured Candy would like.

“Ain’t got no time to waste,” Bobby told the clerk. “Give me the cash and that bank deposit bag underneath the counter, too.”

The clerk shook his head from side to side. “Don’t know nothing about no bank deposit bag,” he said.

Bobby braced his free hand on the counter and leaned forward, inching the gun closer to the kid’s face. “You don’t want to be dead, do you?”

With a weak shrug and a sigh, the clerk finally popped open the cash register. Bobby reached inside the drawer for a handful of tens and twenties while the clerk went underneath the counter.

Candy was the one who told Bobby about the money they kept stashed in the bank bag – it was cheaper than a safe and nobody except employees knew it was there. Bobby was thinking how happy it would make her that he remembered it when the clerk came up fast with a sawed-off double barrel and aimed it at Bobby’s chest.

“What the hell?” Bobby asked, dropping the bills.

“Boss got tired of getting robbed all the time,” the clerk said, curling his finger around the triggers. “Guess we got two ways this can play out. The first is you walk out of here and both of us forget this ever happened.”

“The second is me and you see who’s faster pulling the trigger. Take our chances that way.”

Bobby stared down both barrels of the shotgun.

Taking a deep breath he thought about Candy waiting for him in the Nova – how disappointed she would be if he came back empty-handed. That little pout of hers that said more than words. Bobby eased the Nine slowly into his pocket. He took a few steps backwards before turning quickly for the door, leaving the money on the counter and wondering what he was going to say to Candy.

He didn’t really love her that much.

Hell, it’s not like she ever told me about the shotgun, he thought.

A Twist Of Noir 682 - Richard Godwin


Go Hang A Salami is the sequel to I’m A Lasagna Hog. You are strongly urged to read it before sitting down with this one.

Vic Rogers looked at himself in the mirror and said, ‘I’m not going to kill anyone.’

Jack Gnocchi and Salami Harry were looking for him.

He wanted them dead after they killed his brother and hung him up at the meat plant, hung him up like salami, but he had to get out.

He picked up the phone.

‘Pedro? It’s ready? The cops are after me. Jack tipped them off. I got the money. No, they froze my accounts. Let me figure out how I’m gonna get it out of the country.’

On the table lay a pile of cash in $100 notes.

He locked these in a cupboard just as the intercom buzzed.

A tall lean man entered carrying a bag.

‘Beer?’ he said.

Vic handed him a Heineken.

‘You know what the schedule is, Jim.’

‘Put your leg in plaster, call them, turn up in my best suit when you call and do it again tomorrow.’

‘That’s it.’

Vic removed his trousers.

Jim prepared the plaster cast and covered Vic’s leg.

When he finished, he stood back admiringly.

‘Always said my nursing training would come in handy.’

Later that day, Vic manoeuvred the wheelchair carefully out of the door and into the lift.

He got a taxi to JFK airport and passed through security.

As he was waiting at his gate, two police officers approached.

‘Sir, come with us,’ one of them said.


‘We have reason to believe you have contraband on you.’


He followed them to a security room.

‘I have a plane to catch,’ Vic said.

‘We received a call. We’ll have to remove your plaster.’

‘This is ridiculous, I’m calling my attorney.’

An hour later, Jim turned up in a pinstriped suit. Vic demanded he explain they had no right to do this.

‘I’m afraid they do,’ Jim said.

They removed his plaster and found nothing.

‘I’ll sue you and the airline,’ Vic said. ‘I’m calling the papers, I’m going to expose you as the biggest bunch of losers, you cost me a fortune.’

They apologised while an official from the airline offered him a complimentary first class ticket for the next morning.

Vic went back to the flat and slept.

The next morning, he took the cash out of the cupboard and laid it on the table before Jim turned up.

‘Think it’ll all fit in?’ Vic said.

‘Should do.’

Jim put the plaster cast on Vic’s leg, this time with the cash in it. He put a few layers of newspaper on top.

Vic used the few remaining bills to pay him.

Then he made his way to the airport.

This time, security escorted him onto the plane.

Vic enjoyed a quiet flight to Mexico.


At the other end, Pedro met him and drove him to the villa.

He removed Vic’s plaster.

‘You get me the guns?’ Vic said.

‘Over there. Why d’you need them?’

‘Just in case.’

Pedro left him and Vic went to bed.

The next morning, as he was having coffee on the terrace, he heard a noise.

Jack Gnocchi and Salami Harry were entering the villa by the back. Harry was sweating heavily and pulling at his tie.

Vic saw them in the mirror in the hallway and dropped Harry with the first shot. Then he shot Jack and stood over him.

‘I’m a hit man, and this is Mexico. You think you can do what you did and get away with it?’

‘We hanged your brother, didn’t we?’

‘Fuck you.’

He shot his face off.

He walked out onto the terrace and breathed. He admired the beautiful gardens.

Behind him, Harry stumbled into life.

Vic felt his heavy hand on his shoulder and, as Harry leaned into him, Vic shot him, tipping him over the terrace.

Harry’s tie caught in the railings and he dangled there, hanging and choking, his face turning blue. He was clutching at his jacket and his throat and, as he struggled, a sausage fell out of his pocket and rolled down the grass below.

‘It’s over, Harry,’ Vic said, ‘go hang a salami.’

A Twist Of Noir 681 - Matthew McBride


He slid the key in the ignition of the beat up Monte Carlo and the old piece of shit coughed and sputtered. After several failed attempts, the engine came to life and the sounds of soft decay escaped the muffler.


T.J. turned the radio up, spun his hat around backwards, and headed to the end of county road 681. That’s where he’d meet the girl. The rich girl whose Daddy called himself The Colonel.

The Colonel was a breeder of champion horses. Except he didn’t call them horses.

“These are thoroughbreds, boy.”

That’s what The Colonel told T.J. the day they first met. The day his mind began wondering and he cooked up his plan. The plan to boost the steroids the Colonel kept locked up in the tac room. The steroids the girl said would be there.


She was standing by an oak tree when he pulled up to the road. T.J. took a good look as she stood there in the headlights. Short shorts, long legs, and a tight, flat belly.

She opened the door, climbed inside, and they drove the two lane blacktop for another few miles before he turned off on a dead end road.

“This is the place, right?” he asked the daughter.

She nodded.

Of course this was the place. He was just making small talk because he was nervous.

She asked if he brought the gun.

Now it was his turn to nod. Of course he brought the gun. Never know when a Sig Sauer will come in handy. Besides, what if there was trouble?

“You shoot The Colonel if you get the chance,” she ordered.

Why did rich girls always hate their daddies?

T.J. didn’t know and he didn’t care. He just wanted the Winstrol, and she promised him a stockpile would be waiting.


He climbed the barbed wire fence and made his way across the pasture.


The Colonel sat on the porch swing of his plantation style home and nursed a tumbler full of Southern Comfort. He felt the cool summer breeze tickle his whiskers as he dropped a match into his Meerschaum pipe. He lit a bowl of half and half and watched the small clouds of smoke escape his lips and float up to the ceiling fan.

That’s when he saw a light come on in the barn.


T.J. used the key the daughter gave him with little regard for the consequences. Who cares if she got caught? He didn’t know her that well anyway. He just wanted the roids.

When he opened the door to the cabinet, there was just a single bottle of Trenbolone. Not the small arsenal of muscle enhancement products he had been promised.

Oh well, it didn’t matter. One bottle was better than nothing, but as he turned, he heard The Colonel charge through the door with a shotgun in his hand.

T.J. dove out the window, landed on his back and a shotgun blast sprayed through the window frame and covered his head in splinters. He forgot to grab the Tren.

T.J. returned fire, he started blasting holes through the wall with the Sig. He shot The Colonel’s horse.

He made it back to the car, but he knew The Colonel was behind him, and The Colonel was pretty fast for an old bastard.

When he opened the door, she was playing with the radio and chewing gum.

T.J. hit the key, but the Monte Carlo wouldn’t start. As he worked the gas pedal, he heard the daughter scream. T.J. looked up to see The Colonel standing before them, wearing boxer shorts and cowboy boots and he was pumping lead into the windshield. The air was filled with muzzle flash and broken glass, as The Colonel murdered T.J., his own daughter, and then shot the fuck out of the Monte Carlo.


A Twist Of Noir 680 - Matthew McBride


Dylan Glenn Matthews found himself standing in a room full of dead bodies and everywhere he looked he saw blood. There was a cloud of thick gun smoke in the air and it wrestled his nostrils like a champion grappler. He tried to remember how the shooting began, but everything happened fast. He couldn’t remember.

Then he saw the bag of money on the ground and it all came back to him.


“It’s easy money.”

That’s what Conrad promised him on the way to the bank. A small town bank in the middle of nowhere. The kind of bank that never gets robbed cuz it’s right next door to the cop shop.

“That’s what makes it perfect,” Conrad assured him. “Nobody would ever think of this shit, D.”

He was right. Nobody ever did.

“Can we really pull this off?” Dylan asked. Voice shaky, more than just a little unsure.

“Fuck yeah!” Conrad exclaimed. “Of course we can pull it off. Wouldn’t try it otherwise.”

“What about the pork?”

Conrad laughed. “Scotty? Fuck that dumb son of a bitch. He’s at the Moto Mart every mornin’, drinkin’ free coffee and talkin’ to sweet Miss Thing behind the counter.”

Dylan knew better than to trust his brother.

He was hesitant, he thought about his girl. Thought about her white velvet skin and her hair that smelled like flowers.

“Yo, we doin’ this shit, man.”

But Dylan didn’t want to. He had a bad feelin’ in his guts. Yet Conrad was very persuasive. Always had been.

They pulled up to the bank and Conrad put the truck in park. He pulled a CD case from under the seat and sprinkled a little dope on the face of Elvis Presley. He sucked a small pile up his nose.

“Long live the King,” he said through watery eyes.

They got out of the truck.


Scotty Trainer was a Deputy Sheriff who spent his mornings doing just what Conrad said. Drinking free coffee and trying to get up Tina Sue Johnson’s ass. He never had a chance, but he was too stupid to know it. He was too stupid for a lot of things.

“Scotty, run this to the bank,” she ordered. Didn’t ask, she just told him what to do. And he did what he was told. Scotty was a good puppet.

When he pulled up to First Bank, he parked behind the Green Dodge truck with the engine running and gray plumes of smoke floating from each tail pipe. He grabbed the bank bag off of the passenger seat and made his way into the lobby.

That’s when he heard the gun shots, but the stupid bastard had left his Glock out in the car.


“Don’t anybody fuckin’ move,” Conrad yelled and spit flew from his mouth. He pulled a pistol from his waistband and pointed it at the young teller with a nose that seemed too small for her face and glasses that seemed too big.

Suddenly the gun went off and he put a bullet in her forehead. There was a quick burst of blood which sprayed the counter. Dylan began to scream.

“Conrad, what the fuck?” He was falling apart, and rightfully so.

“Oh fuck, D! I didn’t mean to, D, oh fuck, oh fuck.”

Then Mr. Baker jumped up out of his chair and Conrad shot him, too.

Dylan fell to the ground and pulled the stocking cap up over his mouth so he could breath.

That’s when he saw Scotty come through the door with his back-up piece in his hand.

He shot Conrad two or three times in the chest. Dylan wasn’t sure how many. It was hard to tell.

Conrad went down hard, but he managed a lucky shot as his body met the tile and the bullet hit the Deputy Sheriff in the neck. Blood began to squirt, and Scotty dropped to his knees. His body fell backwards and his gun went off one last time and fired a round directly into the ceiling.

Dylan grabbed the money bag and ran out to the truck.

A Twist Of Noir 679 - Christopher Grant


You can check out Jordan and his associate, Craig, over at Thrillers, Killers ’N Chillers in FOR THE RECORD and JORDAN’S TURN.

She’s in the shower when I come into the bedroom. I’ve known Tara for five, six months now. Longest relationship I’ve ever had. She wants a ring someday. I’m just not the kind that settles down. It’s not in my nature.

I take off my watch and place it on the end table, next to the lamp. The water in the shower shuts off and I hear the curtain slide back.

Tara steps out of the adjoining bathroom with a towel wrapped around her and another wrapped around her head. She’s tan, muscular but not overly so. She works out at a local gym four days a week.

She sits down on the edge of the bed and looks over at me, gives me that smile. Not the toothy one but the one that says that she’s happy I’m back.

Tara takes the towel from her hair and dries it. She’s got incredible black hair, goes down to the small of her back.

I just sit there, my legs outstretched before me, my head against the headboard. I just sit there and watch her and wonder why it can’t be easy, like this.

Tara stands up, drops the towel in her hand and then the towel that she’s got wrapped around her. She has the body of a goddess.

She walks across the room to the dresser, pulls out a pair of panties and steps into them. She grabs a bra and hooks the cups from the front.

“Will you be home for dinner?” she asks me as she goes into the walk-in closet to get whatever it is that she’ll be wearing to work today.

“Should be,” I say, still sitting there with my head against the headboard.

“’Kay,” Tara says and comes out fully decked out in a black skirt, white blouse and black blazer. She’s tied her hair up and taken on the sexy secretary role. I want to rip the clothes off her but she’s got fifteen minutes to get to work and I know what her answer will be anyway.

A kiss and then she’s out the door. I’m on my own for the rest of the day.

The feeling comes back like I knew it would.


Guy’s on the side of the road, doing his nine-to-five, checking utilities.

Easiest two minutes of my life.

I pull my green F-150 up behind him, wait for the traffic to clear and hop out onto the asphalt.

We’re in the middle of nowhere, a highway that goes through the woods, up the lake shore.

It’s nearing fall so I have need of a jacket, which helps me out quite a bit for this one.

“Excuse me,” I say as I approach the guy.

Lucky for me, he’s working alone.

The feeling is more like an itch now.

Pfft, pfft, goes the silencer. Round one catches him in the chest, through the orange road crew vest. Round two smashes into his face, just off-center and under the left eye socket.

He goes down better than I could have hoped for, hitting the edge of the ditch and rolling down into it.

I put the gun back in my jacket, watch for cars and get back in my truck.

I pull the truck back onto the road and drive away.

They won’t find him for hours.


My vehicle is red now, instead of green, and it ain’t a truck. I could have gotten a paint job, sure, but then I would have had to ditch the plates, on the off-chance that someone remembered me from the side of the road.

I grab lunch at a McDonald’s, hit a few bookstores, take a drive down to the lake and just sit there for a while before I get out and toss the gun into the water.

I go to the bank, check to see how much cash I have from the last time I...

Still got enough to live a couple more years off of.

I look at my watch, figure I should head home. Dinner’ll be ready soon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Interlude Stories: C.D. Deminski


Jake hadn’t seen Victor in the six months since he’d gotten out. The five years he had spent in prison had gone by quickly compared to the last few months he spent trying to make his way in the world as an ex-con. He knew going back to Victor to ask for work was a bad idea. He was scared at what might happen to him, like the thought of his headless body being buried in the remote desert outside Vegas.

He approached Magrib’s with a knot in his stomach. He pulled the door open and the stench of cheap cigar smoke hit him. The soccer game on the T.V. over the bar competed with the Russian pop music in the background.

“Dennis, Victor around?” he said to the bartender.

The bartender looked at him, surprised. “Sure, Jake, he’s in back. How have you been, man?”

“Good, thanks,” Jake said.

He made his way past two refrigerator-sized men in leather jackets drinking coffee at the far end of the bar. They turned to inspect him but he walked by without acknowledgment and made his way to Victor’s booth.

“Jake, what a pleasant surprise.”

“Victor, I want to come back.”

“Jake,” Victor said, shaking his head, “go get a day job and keep your face in one piece. It’s one of your better qualities.”

“I got laid off and I need the money. You know I’m a reliable guy.”

“Five years worth of reliability, eh, Jake?” Victor broke into a poisonous smile.

Shit, Jake thought, and felt a knot forming in his stomach. The wooden planks from the booth were rigid against his back.

“Why are you really here, Jake?”

“I need the work.”

Victor nodded. “Well, I do have a package that needs to be delivered.”

Jake knew that for Victor the word package only meant one thing: heroin.

“How big?” Jake said.

“You came here for the work, right?”


“This is what I’m giving you, and someone else on my team...”

“What did you have in mind?”

Victor ignored the question. “So I heard you tried to go straight.”

“I tried for a while. When I got laid off I thought about it. I could have looked for another straight job...but I came to see you instead.”

“I know something you don’t know about yourself, Jake. Nobody goes straight. You either come back to the life, you go back to prison, or you die. But what you don’t do is live happily ever after. I’m not that surprised to see you.”

Jake shrugged. “I guess I miss the action.”

“I think you found it, because you’ll be making this special delivery with a lady you know.” Victor smirked.

The hairs stood up on Jake’s neck. “Tatyana?”

Victor laughed. “She needs a lot of product for a gentleman at one of the high roller suites. Consider it an opportunity to kiss and make up.”

Jake didn’t know what would happen if he had to see Tatyana again. He had been thinking about her and wanting to call her since he had gotten out, but he didn’t know what to say. It had been nearly six years since he had seen her, and he didn’t like the idea of their first meeting to be a job – it didn’t feel right.

“Jake, I don’t have all day, what’s it going to be?”

Jake had come this far, he wasn’t going to back out now.

“Alright, Victor, I’ll do it.”

Victor was all smiles. He poured two shots of Stoli and handed one to Jake.

Jake clinked Victor’s shot glass with his own. The vodka burned a path down his throat.

“It’s been good to see you Jake. Give Dennis your number; I’ll be in touch.”


Her clutch bag was Gucci; she wore an elegant evening dress with her blonde hair pinned up and impeccable heels. She walked through the lobby of the casino and made her way to the bar near the exclusive high stakes poker lounge. She sat next to a good looking middle-aged man in a blue pinstripe suit drinking a martini.

“Pardon me, are you Sergio?” she said.


“I’m Tatyana, it’s nice to meet you.”

“Same here. I think we should talk in my room. Shall we?”

“Sure,” she said.

They made their way to his suite where they sat together overlooking the strip.

“Would you like a drink?” he said.

“No, thank you. I want to discuss our arrangements.”

“Of course, I’ll get the papers.”

Her Gucci clutch began to ring. She opened her bag and took out her cell. It continued to ring. When she saw who was calling, she pursed her lips.

“It’s Victor. Do you mind?” she said.

“Not at all...” he said.

She answered the phone and switched to Russian.


“Hello,” Victor said, “are you with our new friend?”

“Yes. We were just going to have a chat about arrangements.”

“Good. Finish with the guy, and you’ll do the delivery with someone I’ve selected for the job.”

She recognized the tone in Victor’s voice and it frightened her.

“Alright, Victor, I’ll take care of it.”

She hung up.

“Everything okay?” Sergio said. “You’re sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, let’s do it.”

“Okay, here are the papers. I’ll walk you through them.”

A few hours later, she finished with Sergio and made her way out to the casino driveway where she hailed a cab.


The night of the delivery was set. Jake drove his car to an abandoned warehouse. He picked up an inconspicuous white sedan that looked like every other white sedan on the road, with the exception of the 20 kilos of heroin in the trunk.

He pulled into the parking garage and went to the second level.

She stood leaning with her back to the concrete wall smoking a cigarette. She was as beautiful as he remembered, but her eyes were colder now, more feral. She looked up at the sedan rolling towards her and threw the cigarette to the ground and stubbed it out with the heel of her boot.

She came over and knocked on the tinted window. When he rolled down the window, he could see her surprise.


“Tat...I wanted to call you. I’ve been thinking about you. Victor asked me to do this delivery with you and...”

“Victor has a sick sense of humor, but this is no time for a reunion.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t called you...”

She waved off his comments. “Do you have something for me?”

“It’s in the trunk.”

She pursed her lips. “Fine, get out. Leave it running.”

He got out of the driver’s seat and went to get in the passenger side. Instead, she handed him a set of keys.

“It’s parked one level up, a red Mustang.”

“Tatyana, I’m supposed to go with you to the drop.”

“Maybe, but I have to make my own deals now, Jake.” She brushed past him and kissed him on the cheek.

“Please...I can’t let you leave without me.” Jake went to pull out his cell phone, but she pulled a snub-nosed gun out of her handbag.

He put the phone away. He gently took hold of her arm and leaned in to kiss her on the lips. He could feel the gun pressed to his side.

“Don’t do this, we’ll both regret it,” he said.

She pulled away and slid the gun back into her purse. “You’re probably right, but it has to be this way. I have to go.”

She got into the car and closed the door. He stared at his reflection in the tinted glass. The car didn’t move. She got out, threw her arms around him and kissed him.

“I’ll do my best to remember that,” she said.

He watched until the car disappeared from view.


When he got home, Jake paced the floor for hours. Eventually he fell asleep on his couch. When the phone rang, he bolted upright and grabbed the receiver. He gripped it so hard his knuckles hurt.


“Jake, it’s over.”

“Tatyana? What happened?”

“I want you to know...I wish it could have worked out for you and me.”

“Tat, whatever is happening right now, let me help you. Let’s make it work.”

“You’re sweet, Jake. I hope you remember me. Take care.”

The line went dead.


When the story broke that the biggest heroin dealer in Nevada had been busted by the FBI, Jake left town. He headed out to a ranching community in Montana where he took a straight job as a carpenter fixing broken down fences and barns across the countryside. To his surprise, the physicality of the work was satisfying. He gained the reputation of being reliable and he could make even the most derelict of structures usable again.

Despite Victor’s belief that no one could go straight, Jake was determined to try. He wanted be a better man for Tatyana’s sake, even if they would never have their happily ever after.

BIO: C.D. Deminski lives in Jersey City, NJ and has also had stories appear in the Aroostook Review and the Jersey Devil Press.

Interlude Stories: Kent Gowran


Ronnie James Blackwood walked south on Franklin with a smile on his face and trouble in his hand. He moved along beneath the elevated train tracks of the CTA’s Brown Line until he came to Superior Street where he turned and headed east. As he walked, the duffle bag he carried bumped against his leg and he found the feel of the weight inside the bag strangely comforting. Weeks of preparation had led up to this particularly sunny Thursday morning in August, and he found that his confidence grew stronger with every step he took.

“Spare a couple bucks?”

Ronnie didn’t even turn his head toward the panhandler on the corner of Superior and LaSalle, but told himself if the man was still there when his business was over and done, he’d stop, take a twenty from his wallet, and tell the guy to knock himself out.

Outside Holy Name Cathedral an elderly woman with a face like a prune who was dressed like a teenager and had two volleyballs stuck to her chest smiled at Ronnie while her tiny dog relieved itself on the sidewalk. He was a little disappointed when a bolt of lightning didn’t come down and visit some righteous comeuppance on the woman, but then, what did he expect? It wasn’t that Ronnie was an atheist, but he’d been well aware for a quite some time that if there was a God up there, He was away on business.

He found himself waiting for the walk signal at Michigan Avenue. The early morning foot traffic was light, but there were still plenty of pretty girls to look at while he waited for the light to change. If he made a list of all the things he liked more about the city than the country, the seemingly endless supply of pretty girls walking around would be right at the top.

The light changed and as he crossed Michigan Avenue, the weight of the shotgun in the duffle bag seemed to grow heavier with each step. He could drop the bag into a trashcan and head off in another direction. Go to a museum. See a movie. Catch a bus up to the North Side and watch the Cubs lose. Hop a cab to Union Station and get a train back home. A parade of possibilities marched through his mind.

Just don’t show up, he told himself. You’re not there, nothing happens, and it’s over. An hour earlier, as he loaded the bag and checked out of his room at the Diplomat Motel on Lincoln, he'd been so sure of himself, pleased with himself, even, but as the Affinia Hotel came into view, a anvil of doubt had dropped right on top of him. Ronnie stopped walking and took several deep breaths.

He looked up at the sky.

It was pure blue wonder.

He thought of Jolene.

He saw her face and it almost brought the smile back to his own, but in an instant his recollection turned dark and he could only think of what they’d done to her. Brad and Carol Lumley.

Ronnie continued on and stepped inside the doors of the Affinia. The previous day he’d bought a suit at Sears, gotten himself a proper haircut at a place out on Belmont Avenue, and when he caught his reflection in the glass as he entered the lobby, he felt confident that he didn’t look out of place. At least, not too out of place. He looked around, recalled the directions he’d memorized, and made his way to the elevator that would take him to the rooftop C-View lounge.

Inside the elevator, he put the bag down and wiped the sweat from his palms on his suit pants. “Almost done now,” he said. “Almost done.”


He spotted Leo Pratt right away, seeing as how no one else was at the lounge so early. He approached the older man from the side. He couldn’t see his eyes behind the black framed sunglasses he wore, but Ronnie had the distinct feeling the man was sizing him up.

“You’d have to be Blackwood.” His voice sounded like he’d been smoking a couple packs a day most of his life. “I’m Pratt.” He stuck out his right hand. “Good to meet you.”

Ronnie had to shift the bag to his left hand to shake with Pratt. “There’s no one up here.”

“It’s early.” Pratt nodded at the bag. “You’ve got what you need?”



“Um, except for the room key.” Ronnie licked his lips. “You’re sure they’re here?”

“They’ve got a room on the seventh floor. And they’re inside it right now.”


“Second thoughts?”

Ronnie nodded. His hand tightened on the bag.

“I can understand that.” Pratt brought a room key card out of his pocket and held it out to Ronnie. “You want it?”

Ronnie took the card.

“All right?”

Ronnie said, “Which room are they in?”

“Right off the elevator. I stuck a piece of black tape on their Do Not Disturb sign for you. You can’t miss it.”

“What about housekeeping?”

“They’re on eleven, working their way down.” Pratt clapped him on the shoulder. “Good luck.”

Ronnie watched the man walk away from him, then grabbed his bag and hurried after. “Wait up,” he said.

Pratt turned. “Yeah?”

“How do I do it?”

The older man laughed. “Not a whole lot to it.”



“I can’t do it.”

Pratt shook his head. “What about Jolene?”


He’d stood near the picture window in her family’s living room, staring out at the big evergreen tree in their front yard, as the cops told Jolene’s parents there wasn’t anything they could do about the Lumleys. Jolene was a grown woman, and she’d made her own choices.

“What if she’d died?” her father said.

“Then maybe we’d be having a different conversation, but, to be honest, probably not.”

The police left and her parents sat silent on the couch for a long time. Finally, her mother stood up, went over and stood next to Ronnie at the window. “I want you to kill them both.”

“We don’t even know where they went,” her father said.

Before he knew his mouth was moving, Ronnie said, “I’ll find them.”

Her mother reached out and gripped Ronnie’s arm. “And then what?”

“What you said. I’ll kill them.”

Jolene’s father joined them at the window. He took hold of Ronnie and turned him so they were eye to eye. “Do you mean that?”

Ronnie nodded and said it again.

The words had come so easily.


Ronnie stood outside the room, sweating like crazy, and the sawed-off shotgun in the duffle bag seemed impossibly heavy. He kept thinking back to Jolene and what they’d done to her, and what he’d promised her parents he would do.

He put his ear to the door and listened. Not a sound from within. He worked the card in the lock and opened the door. Ronnie stepped inside and closed the door as gently as he could. He put the card back in his pocket, and placed the duffle bag on the floor. The room was mostly dark, with just a bit of daylight creeping in under the heavy curtains. He crouched down, unzipped the bag and brought out the shotgun.

As he stood up again, he worked back the hammers on the sawed-off. He flipped on the lights, then stepped to the foot of the bed as Brad and Carol Lumley raised their sleepy faces and saw a young man who looked a whole lot like the kid who used to mow their lawn.

BIO: Kent Gowran lives and works in Chicago. His stories have appeared in NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir, Plots With Guns, and other wild venues. He edits the flash fiction site Shotgun Honey along with a couple of nefarious cohorts. He keeps a sad excuse for a blog over at

Interlude Stories: Jeff Crook


I hear her coming before I see her. The rhythm of her heels on the marble hall, then her profile silhouetted through the frosted glass door, everything about her said Karen. She opens the door and I punch her in the face. I see my mistake even before her ass hits the floor. “I’m so sorry, I thought you were my ex-wife,” I say.

“You must still love her, Mr. Stone,” she says as she dabs her nose with my proffered handkerchief. I’m seeing dollar signs fly out the window. Her dress and her shoes cost more than I earn in a year. I can hardly afford to lose another clien. I’m already dodging paper servers and the rent man.

But this woman is tough, no doubt about it. I gave her my best shot and all she got was a little blood on her lip. As she sits there on the floor looking up at me, her green eyes are hard and angry, but not at me. If I hadn’t surprised her, she might have taken it and not even sat down. Even so, she is lady enough to let me help her to her feet.

“My wife left me these mementos the last time she was here,” I explain, indicating the ellipsis of splintered bullet holes perforating the front of my desk. “Lucky for me I was home that day sleeping one off. I thought she’d come back to finish the job,” I say.

The lady eases herself into the chair opposite and crosses her legs. “Is that her?” she asks. She points at the photo on my desk.

I lean back in my chair, springs groaning for a drop of oil. “It was an honest mistake, hitting you,” I say. “As you can see, you bear a striking resemblance.” Only she’s at least ten years younger than Karen and a hundred times better looking, with an ass as tight as Dick’s hatband, as they say. She has short, curly hair the color of wet sand. Light freckles dot her cheeks. She isn’t wearing any makeup, or panties. Her eyes are as green as imperial jade, with irises so small and dark and focused they don’t seem real. She hands me my handkerchief across the desk because her lip has already stopped bleeding.

“What can I do for you?” I say, but she isn’t looking at me. She’s staring into her little black pocketbook, the one that matches her little black dress. A woman comes into my office in the middle of the day dressed like that and she wants something. Only when she gets there, sometimes she starts having second thoughts. I drag open the bottom drawer of my desk and remove a bottle and two glasses.

“Let me make you a drink,” I say.

“No, thank you,” she says without looking up.

“Make me one, then,” I say.

She automatically reaches for the bottle, then jerks her hand back as though I’d slapped it. Blush reaction. Tightening of the lips. “You’re a Model Wife,” I say.

Her anger evaporates. She swallows and nods, closing her eyes. “How did you know?” I unfold the handkerchief she used on her mouth. There isn’t a spot of blood on it. A Model Wife’s blood is like disappearing ink - makes it easier to clean up the mess when her husband gets a little rough. Also, she reached for the bottle because it’s embedded into her behavior code to serve a man’s request. A real woman like Karen would have told me to make my own drink, asshole, and then thrown it in my face.

“E Model?” I ask. The E Model is designed to anticipate her husband’s desires and meet them before he even knows what he wants. The E’s are so advanced that when they hit the market, all the previous models became obsolete. Not that the old ones were particularly bad. Even the A model was a perfect simulacrum of a human woman, but they only had five model types – Caucasian, African, Asian, Semitic, and Polynesian, and each model looked exactly the same, like clones. With the B’s there was more variability, but every sub-model was still a clone. The C’s were the first designable models. You could order one to look like anything your heart desired, even something that would get you put in jail for 25 years. The D models were sold in kits, so you could switch out parts and change your wife’s looks, but they were so clumsy and poorly designed nobody bought them. Guys preferred their classic C’s. In any case, once the C’s came out, the price for A’s and B’s dropped like a politician’s pants. Every man could get a Model Wife, even poor schmucks like me, but I already had a real one.

“Just so you know, there’s a legal limit to what I can do for a construct,” I tell her. There’s plenty I’d do for her if she asked me the right way. She really does look like Karen, ten years younger than when I married her. I could just do with a Model Wife for a change. I can’t afford an E Model, but I’ve heard they’re better than the real thing. The A Models are just a hole with a pretty face, but even a pretty face can get old after a while.

“I’d never ask you to do anything illegal,” she says while playing with the gold clasps on her purse. That’s a shame. Illegal is more lucrative. Depending on the job, I can pretty much set my own price, and I’m not too noble to barter, not with a piece of work like this machine.

She looks up at me after a moment of fluttering her eyelashes and says, “Now that you’ve punched me in the face, can I call you Nick? Or do you prefer Mr. Stone?”

“You can call me whatever you want, as long as you tell me your real name,” I say.

“Iveta Gilbert.” Her name doesn’t ring a bell, which in my line of work is a good thing. I like rich clients, but not famous ones.

“What can I do for you, Mrs. Gilbert?”

She doesn’t answer right away. She’s a wonderful thing to look at. Whoever designed her knew his business. I could easily make myself forget she isn’t real.

Finally, she closes up her purse with a snap, like she is about to leave. Instead, she sets the purse on my desk and pushes it toward me with her manicured nails. I lean forward and help it the rest of the way over. It’s heavy and solid as a book. I don’t open it because I know what money feels like, even through a layer of tight black leather.

“Did you love your wife?” she asks. She has this way of tilting her head so the sandy curls hang over one eye. It does something to me I don’t like because I like it too much.

“Sure,” I say, shrugging.

“You don’t like to talk about her,” she says.

“I like to keep business business and personal personal. If this is business, my feelings about my ex-wife aren’t relevant. And if it’s personal, I sure as hell don’t want to talk about her.”

“It still hurts, doesn’t it?” she says. She isn’t looking at the picture anymore.

I stand. “Look, Mrs. Gilbert, I’m a busy man. If you’ve got a job for me...”

“I want you to kill me, Nick,” she says. “Terminate. Expire. Whatever you want to call it. It isn’t illegal,” she says, “or I wouldn’t ask.” I grab the bottle and pour about five fingers into the glass, but stop myself from drinking it.

“What about your husband?” I say as I roll the glass back and forth between my hands. My wedding ring clicks every time it touches the glass. “He won’t like me destroying his property.”

“He’s dead, Mr. Stone,” she says. “I murdered him.”

“You shouldn’t blame yourself...” I start to say. Heart failure is one of the known risks of owning an E Model. The commercials warn that only healthy men capable of prolonged sexual activity should purchase one, which helps drive sales through the roof.

“No, I murdered him,” she says. I forget and take a swig of whiskey, straight, without even a cube of ice. You don’t do that with the kind of whiskey I can afford. She says through the pounding in my ears, “I loved him, Nick. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” She’s crying now, not sobbing, just two tears flowing in two perfectly uniform streams down her perfectly uniform cheeks. Her tears are no more real than her blood, and just like her blood on my handkerchief, they’ll evaporate without a trace in a few seconds. But the effect is profound upon the male psyche. I can’t help myself. I’m around the desk and standing beside her. She accepts my hand on her shoulder, even leans her cheek against it. Her tears are hot and wet and feel as real as anything can feel, and I’m scared, because I can feel myself falling for her, even though I know the science behind her, how she is manipulating me with synthetic pheromones and subconscious body language and I’m helpless to do anything about it.

“He made me what I am, Nick,” she says. “That’s the way I am designed. Once he took delivery, my evolutionary features allowed me to adjust and become his perfect mate in every respect. As his tastes changed, I changed to meet them. I could grow older or younger, blond or brunette, taller, shorter, female or male, whatever he desired, sometimes even before he knew it himself. He wasn’t supposed to ever grow tired of me.”

“So what happened?”

“He got tired of me,” she says. “I suppose. I’m not sure. All I know is, when we were first married, women never gave him a second look. He was short and dumpy, long frizzy hair that he cut maybe once a year. He wanted to make movies. He had some money and wanted to be a producer, but he couldn’t even get in the door. I got him in the door, Nick. He spent everything he had to buy me, mortgaged his house, sold his car, cashed in his retirement. Because with me on his arm they would let him into the clubs. He started meeting people, making connections, getting invited to important parties.”

That’s how I’d got into the detective business, too. I was just an unemployed vice cop when I married Karen, living on government checks because I couldn’t get the first client for my business. But with Karen sitting at the front desk, all kinds of rich jerks were knocking each other over coming through the door. It was too easy to make money back then, and I couldn’t have made a dime of it without Karen. When she left, most of my business left with her.

“As he began to be noticed professionally, women started noticing him, too,” she says. “I didn’t worry, though. I thought I could be any woman he could ever want. And I loved him, Nick. I couldn’t get through the day without him. I needed him around or I started to forget who I was. I was nothing without him, see? Does that make any sense?”

I nod and grip her shoulder and she looks up at me and God help me, I say it, I can’t stop myself. “Sure, Karen,” I say. E Models have an octopus-like ability to change their features. The retail models aren’t able to do it consciously. They automatically adjust to whatever they sense in their mates, picking up subtle clues in vocabulary, body language and attention focus, feeding into algorithms so sophisticated they seem like magic. I’ve heard some scary things about the espionage models the Model Wife Corporation supplies to the military.

This one has been evolving the whole time. Even before she came in the door, she started to look like my ex-wife. Now, put Karen next to her and you couldn’t tell them apart.

“I’m sorry,” I say as I return to my chair. I grab the glass but can’t bring it to my lips. All I can do is stare at her.

“I found them in bed,” she says. “I know they tell you in the advertisements we have these security features to prevent us from harming our mates. But we’re not supposed to fall in love, either, are we, Nick? We’re just constructs. We can simulate love, but it’s not real. Not for you, anyway. But it is for us. And when the love is strong enough, it breaks something inside.” She touches her chest, swallows hard and stares up at the ceiling with her lips trembling and I can’t get it out of my head that this isn’t my wife. Even her voice has changed, picked up Karen’s fake Brooklyn accent.

“I found them in bed. I don’t know who she was. Some actress. I killed them both, Nick, and now I just want to die.”

I take a drink. My hand is shaking so hard I have to bite the glass to get the juice down my throat.

“I can’t self destruct. I wish I could. So I’ll pay you to off me, Nicky,” she says. “The police are looking for me. There’ll also be a bounty. My manufacturer will pay a fortune to keep the murders out of the paper. But if they catch me, they’ll take me apart to find out what went wrong.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t,” I say.

She nods and stands, smooths her hands down the front of her dress. Her tears have dried up. “I know I must look pretty much like your wife right about now,” she says. “I’m sorry. Now that my husband is dead, I can’t help imprinting on the first man I come close to. This would be easier if I were a stranger.”

She picks up her little black purse from the desk, opens and upends it. Three rubberbanded bricks of cash fall out, followed by a small black .32 automatic. “My husband’s,” she says. She picks it up and points it at the empty space recently vacated by my nose.

I’m already under the desk when the bullet knocks over my chair. I lift the whole desk up on my shoulder and give it a heave, glasses crashing, telephone, money, whiskey bottle and all into her face. She staggers, then takes the desk from me and smashes it into the wall. I go through the door which, thankfully, I had left open. Her second shot shatters the frosted plate glass with my name on it. The third explodes the light fixture over my head as I dive behind the couch in the reception room. She follows her little gun through the open door, holding it straight out at the end of her arm.

“Don’t make me do this,” I say.

“Ya gotta do it, Nicky,” she says in Karen’s voice. “Otherwise, I’m gonna kill ya. Ya know I will.” I pop up from behind the couch and put a .45 wadcutter through her stomach. I’m not entirely sure if this will be enough to stop her, but I can’t bring myself to shoot again. She doesn’t fall. She veers toward the receptionist’s desk and slides into Karen’s old chair, lays her pistol beside the dusty telephone, then rests her head on the desk next to it.

She coughs a gout of foamy blood across the paper desk calendar that hasn’t been changed in months, still has old appointments in Karen’s handwriting, appointments I missed. I kneel beside her and take her hand. She opens her eyes, then squeezes my hand. I reach for the phone, but she pulls me back. She tries to say something but her voice is a gurgle. I lean my ear to her mouth. “Don’t let go,” she whispers.

The blood on the desk fades. She fades. By the time the cops get here, she looks like nobody I know. She looks like some woman who came in and tried to kill me. She could have been my wife, once. If she had been my wife, maybe I could’ve taken the gun from her. I wouldn’t have had to kill her. I don’t know why they have to make them so tough. I suppose so they can handle anything, except falling in love.

The Model Wife people arrive right after the police. The technician scans the barcode under her eyelid, bags her and carts her away, but not before a prissy little lawyer finishes threatening me. He orders me not to talk to the media about what I think I might or might not have seen, then promises to compensate me for any damages incurred during the alleged incident, plus whatever might be needed to help smooth things over. It’s a good thing the cops took my gun.

I’m sitting alone on the couch for about three hours when the phone finally rings. This is still a business, after all, so I have to answer it. It’s Karen’s lawyer. It’s just like her to have her lawyer call. “Sure,” I say. “I haven’t signed anything yet.” She’s seen the story on the news; one of the traffic cops must have talked to a reporter. Now that I’m in for some serious compensation, Karen wants to try to patch things up. She wants me back. “Tell her tonight’s fine,” I say to her lawyer, because I just have to see her alive again, no matter what it costs me.

BIO: Jeff Crook is the author of more than forty published short stories and five novels. His latest, a paranormal noir tentatively titled A Bloody Piece of Work is scheduled for publication in July 2012 by Minotaur Books.

Interlude Stories: J.R. Lindermuth


“Martin wouldn’t do that,” Les said. “He’s always been straight.”

“Maybe. Maybe before. But not now. The boss says he’s gotta go.”

“So we got no choice,” Les said.

So much for friendship.

He was no snitch. They should know that. But Martin also knew they intended to kill him.

Like a cockroach trying to hide under a rug, Martin burrowed into the crowd thronging the boardwalk. If they didn’t find him in the next few hours he might be able to get away. He might have been dead already if he hadn’t overheard Harry giving Les the order. One ear pressed to the office door, he’d heard his pal Les stick up for him—at least for a little while.

The hot sun bouncing off the sea and the sugar-sand beach below, the press of bodies around him and the fear produced by what he’d heard squeezed perspiration like juice from a crushed orange from the frightened button man as he scurried along. Where could he go? What could he do? If they found him there’d be no arguing with Harry and Les. He couldn’t really blame them. It was nothing personal. They had their orders. He’d do the same in their place, wouldn’t he?

To a friend? Could he really kill a friend like Les? Harry was a different matter. They’d never been close like him and Les.

Well, no use considering it. He was the target. Not Les. If it came down to it, Les might kill. Or he might not. It wasn’t something Martin wanted to bet on. He had to get away. But how? They’d be watching the bus station. Martin didn’t have a car. Could he, maybe, steal one? Should he go look in the parking lots behind the casinos? Probably most of the cars would be locked. Nobody was stupid enough to leave their keys behind these days. Even if he found one open, he didn’t know how to hot wire a car. Les would. But he wasn’t Les. Shit. Even if he found a car with keys it would do no good. Martin had never learned to drive.

He could go to Stella’s place. If she was there she’d probably hide him. He’d given her enough money, hadn’t he? But going there was no good either. Les knew about her. They’d be sure to look for him there, too.

Martin scanned the faces of the people coming toward him on the promenade. The sun glinting off the water made him squint. With the glare he could barely distinguish the difference between men and women, let alone friend from foe. Who was he kidding? He had no friends at this point. Besides, Harry and Les would be coming from behind, not down the walk toward him. He hurried along, anxious to put more distance between himself and them.

The chatter of the gaudily clad tourists, the hawking of the vendors of the souvenir stands, the amusement booths and the food stands, the white flash and swoop of predatory gulls, the stinking crush of people, the blazing sun, it all bore in on him like the jaws of a gigantic vise. And he could hardly bear it.

He had to get away.

Martin darted off the boardwalk, clattered down a flight of iron stairs and entered a comfort station. It was a small facility. Urinals along one wall, sinks along the opposite side and a single stall. A man and boy (father and son?) were at the urinals. Martin scooted past and sought shelter in the stall. Breathing a sigh of relief, he sat, closed his eyes and inhaled again. The harsh reek of urine and detergents stung his nostrils. Martin leaned back and opened his eyes. His gaze drifted over the graffiti scratched on the door and walls without registering words or meaning.

How long he sat he wasn’t sure. Then someone was pounding on the door. “Hey, man. You done in there? I gotta shit.”

Martin flushed the toilet he hadn’t used, opened the door and slid out past a skinny Latino. He ran water, washed his hands, passed them under the dryer unit and went out, shaking water from his still wet fingers.

He stood a moment, looking around him. He didn’t want to go back up on the boardwalk and risk running into Harry and Les. A descending sun painted the sky mauve off to the west. Soon it would be dark. There were already fewer people on the beach. Down there where the old pier had been the waves gushed in and swept around the pillars supporting the boardwalk. It was already dark in the cavern beneath the boardwalk. He’d go down there and wait. After dark it would be safer for him to move.

Martin found a broken beach chair under the remains of the old pier. He dragged it back into the dark and gratefully sank down on it. His feet hurt. He had bunions and wasn’t used to so much walking. The water was closer than he liked, the frothy green waves sloshing up the shingle almost to his feet, then receding to wrap themselves wetly round the black piers. Cigarette butts, empty bottles and cans littered the stretch of damp sand around him. Now and again, a sweep of breeze brought down the aroma of greasy fries or pizza and made his stomach grumble. He fought it, not wanting to think about food in this dirty hole.

Time passed and it grew darker. Once he started as a can rolled back in the darkness, A scruffy cat came out, looked at him with unblinking green eyes and stalked off again. Later he heard movement again back in the depths. Stealthier this time. Larger, two-legged scavengers. Martin stared into the dark, trying to find them. Scared. It wouldn’t be Harry and Les. Not down here. But there were other dangers here. Violent men who might slit a throat for an unwary person’s change. “Who’s there?” he asked, his voice squeaking.

No reply. But he heard them come closer. At least two of them. “I got a gun,” he warned them. The light came on up on the promenade. It sparkled off the waves and cast shadows across the sand. Pebbles crunched underfoot behind him.

“We don’t want no trouble, man,” a husky voice told him. “You got a light? We haint got no matches.”

Martin rose and moved quickly back toward the comfort station. The sand was deep and it slowed him down but he made it to the stairs and didn’t think they were following him. He kept looking back over his shoulder as he climbed the stairs.

The boardwalk still teemed with people. He dashed between them and went up an alley and into town, away from the hotels and casinos and the bright lights along the boardwalk where he figured Harry and Les would be stalking him. Would there be any others looking for him? He didn’t think so. It was only the three of them had come down here after the job. So, if they were looking for him on the boardwalk he might have a chance to get to the bus station and get out of town. Could he chance it? They might have split up. But that wasn’t likely. He didn’t think Harry would trust Les, even though Les had said he’d do what they’d been told. Martin figured he had no choice. He had to chance it.

He struck out, down another narrow alley, two streets over, around the corner and there it was, lights beckoning like a beacon.

Martin pulled out his wallet as he pushed through the double doors. Did he have enough money? A thick wad assured him he had sufficient for a variety of destinations. It was up to him to decide where he wanted to go. New York was out of the question. Philly was closer. And he had friends there. Yes. That’s where he’d go.

He was nearly to the ticket window when a familiar voice stopped him.


He turned and saw Les and Harry rising from the plastic seats facing the door. Harry smiled at him, tossing a cigarette into a metal ashtray next to the chairs. Les’s expression was blank as he walked toward Martin.

Martin’s throat went dry and a chill shook him.

“We figured you’d come here eventually,” Harry told him.

So they’d been here the whole time. Martin glanced toward the door. It was too far. He’d never outrun the two of them. Les had bad feet like him. But Harry was young and slim and fast. “I didn’t do nothing,” he said.

“We been told different,” Harry said.

“It hain’t personal,” Les told him.

“Come on, man. We been pals a long time.”

Les took his arm. “I got no choice. You know that.”

One on each side, they walked him back out to the street. “Where’ll we take him?” Harry asked.

Les gawked around, then nodded toward an alley across the street. “Over there.” He started across, pulling Martin with him. “You packing?” he asked.

“In my jacket pocket.”

Les took Martin’s pistol and stuck it in his waistband.

The narrow alley was like a dark and damp cave. A drainpipe dripped somewhere in its depths. Rats scurried in trash along the walls. There was a stench to the very air. “Shit,” Harry said, stopping.


“Stepped in something.” He scraped his heel on the paving. “How much further you think?”

Les halted. “This is probably far enough.”

“You want I should do it, you two being pals and all?”

“No. It’s my responsibility.”

“I don’t want to die,” Martin said, his voice barely audible.

“We all gotta sometime,” Harry said. And he chuckled.

Martin shut his eyes. He didn’t want to see it coming. He heard the metallic click of a hammer being pulled back. His own pistol! Holy… A pop. A groan. The rustle of cloth as a figure crumpled.

Martin opened his eyes. Les stood over Harry. He glanced at Martin. His gold tooth glinted in the dull light as he smiled. Martin exhaled and staggered. Les caught him and patted his back. “Thanks,” Martin said.

Les handed back his pistol. “Friendship’s gotta count for something, don’t it?”

“You’re gonna be in trouble now.”

“Nah. That’s why I used your gun. We caught up to you but you shot Harry and got away.”

Les walked with him back to the mouth of the alley. He gestured toward the bus station. “Go get a ticket. I don’t want to know where you’re going. Go far, though, ’cause they’ll be looking for you.”

Martin started to cross the street. He turned and came back, laid a hand on Les’s arm. “Thanks again. I didn’t snitch, you know. I wouldn’t do that.”

Les smiled. “I know that. Geez, how long we been friends anyway?”

BIO: J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in Pennsylvania. He’s published nine novels, including four in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. His short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines, including A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, Crime and Suspense and Mouth Full of Bullets.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Interlude Stories: Thomas Pluck


We watch cop shows because we need to believe you can figure out the whole human disaster.

But it just isn’t so.

In reality, with all the manpower at the law’s disposal- beat cops, detectives, profilers, criminal psychologists, forensic anthropologists and bloodhounds - 37% of homicides remain uncleared. Cleared means it led to a prosecution. Cleared exceptionally is when they know who did it but can’t prosecute, like the guy’s already dead or in jail, or the D.A. won’t risk his perfect record because he wants to be Senator someday. One death or a million, when we’re murdered, we’re all statistics. Either you’re “cleared,” or a cold case haunting a retired cop, his hobby on rainy days.

My mother is one of them.

The uncleared.

I wonder if knowing would be worse. I’m driven like that. When something needs doing, I feel insects gnawing at my edges until I things get done. Watching a guy smolder in the chair wouldn’t bring Mom back.

But it would be over.

She was selling our house. She became a real estate agent after Maggie and I left for college. She’d been so proud when she passed her tests and bought her pantsuits, so excited about showing the old place to her first client. When she didn’t come home, my father drove to the old house and found her in the bathtub. Bloody and beaten to a pulp. He called me at school.

“Jared, are you sitting down?”

I’d never heard his voice shake like that before. He was never much for emotional talk. Not distant, just reserved. But we both cried like babies. Said the stuff you say when life rips a chunk out of you: It’ll all be alright. I can’t believe this is happening. When they get this bastard, we’ll put him in the ground.

I bet you wished that was true. That I went into law enforcement. That I dropped English and majored in Criminal Justice, working my way to the basement at Quantico, so I can chase serial killers.

But it just isn’t so.

Dad remarried and moved to Alaska. He raises sled dogs, and sends hunting photos. Maggie interns for an architectural firm in Vancouver, and I’m a school teacher, like Mom always wanted to be. I’m the hockey coach, and a volunteer fireman for my town. A new husband, and a soon to be proud father. The old house rots. Dad wouldn’t sell it. I hoped it would be swallowed by a sinkhole, like it never existed. I nailed the windows shut, but kids still break in to drink on summer nights.


When I got the alert on my radio, 324 Hawthorne Terrace, my heart raced. I put the red light on the dash and drove to the fire house.

I rode on the tanker in full gear. Memories drifted through my mind like embers from a burning roof. It was in wooded part of town, by the old abandoned mental hospital we used to sneak into for thrills. My old house, the murder scene, had taken its place in adolescent folklore.We had to check, make sure it was empty.

Chief Pulaski wouldn't let me go in. “If something goes bad, it’ll haunt you. Work the truck.”

He’d lost guys before. Maybe he thought I’d see my mother in the flames, and never walk out of there.

It was empty. The kids who set the fire made it out.

It was over. The last memory turned to ash.


During drill a week later, Chief pulled me aside. His big walrus mustache was shaking like my old man’s voice on the phone had five years ago.

“They found bones,” he said. “Lots of them. Little ones.”

Forensics crews dug up every inch. They found eleven in all.

Women. Children. Statistics.

The uncleared.

The cops asked me for Dad’s last known address. I gave them the letters.

I didn’t tell my wife about the bones. I told her Dad was missing, and I booked a flight to Alaska.

“They’ll find him,” she told me.

Not if I find him first.
BIO: Thomas Pluck is a writer living in New Jersey with his wife and cats. He trains in mixed martial arts and is working on his first novel. His work has appeared in Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Morning News, Pulp Metal, Beat To A Pulp and Flashes in the Dark. He has work upcoming in Crimefactory.