Monday, June 29, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 113 - Jimmy Callaway


They’re hanging around my car in the Denny’s parking lot, each practicing his hairy eyeball. Five of them.

And here I was worried I’d have nothing to do tonight.

I walk right up, grinning. “Last time I saw this many Mexicans around my car was at the car wash.”

Nary a chuckle. Tough crowd.

The big boy in the middle has an S.D. tattooed under his eye, the Padres logo. Must be a big fan. He says, “Mr. Bob Romano wants his money. Tonight.”

I nod. “Right, right. And how much was that again?”


I give a low whistle. Then I shrug. My hands are in my pockets, my shoulders slumped.

They all slightly relax, shift their weight. No action here: a big mouth, but hardly worth the effort, really.

“Let me ask you something, though,” I say.

S.D. raises his chin. “What?”

I point at my car. “How much do you figure to replace that rear passenger’s side window?”

He just looks at me. The other four are murmuring in Spanish to each other, and one giggles.

I say, “I mean, if I called a guy to replace that window, how much do you think—”

“I know what you’re saying, man.” S.D. looks at the window, at me. “I dunno. Sixty bucks?”

“So, let’s that case, that’d be fifteen-hundred and forty. Right?”

“Huh?” S.D. says.

I grab him by the back of the head and put his face through the rear passenger window.

Well, the other four jumped me before the broken glass hit the ground, and let me tell you, they beat the living shit out of me.

Was it worth it?

Fuckin’-A right, it was.

BIO: As usual, Jimmy Callaway lives and works in San Diego, Calif. As usual, more hilarity is available at Attention Children. And as usual, credit for much needed revisions goes to Cameron Ashley and Josh Converse.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Yours truly has a story over at Col Bury's Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers titled Greta.

Go have a look and leave a comment there, here or both, if you like.

A Twist Of Noir 112 - Lee Hughes


Melissa waved to her daddy before driving off. He waved back with a solemn look and yawned. Neither noticed the car that pulled away from the kerb which began to follow her.

Melissa was singing along to her music and looking forward to buying everything in the new summer collection from her favourite designer, Antoine Gars.

She glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw a car practically up her arse. The car indicated. So she slowed to help make the overtaking manoeuvre easier for the busted-up Ford. The Ford sped up. Then slowed when it got to the side of her car. Melissa looked at the driver and her mouth fell open. The driver was wearing a maximum restraint mask. It hid the majority of his face. The Ford's passenger leant forward, so he too could be seen. He was wearing the same gruesome facial apparel. The driver, without preamble, slammed his rust-bucket into the side of her soft-top Mini. Melissa swerved and parked her pride and joy into the thick bole of a roadside tree.

The brakes from the Ford were jammed on to full screech. Masked men rushed the Mini. One dragged open the door whilst the other dragged Melissa out. She kicked. She screamed. She got hit hard enough in the face to make her hush down. The passenger. He jabbed her in the arm with a needle and gave her a healthy dose of night-night. Melissa went as limp as three-day old lettuce.

Melissa came 'round. It took a few seconds for her to focus. She was in a garage. The place smelt like armpit. Her tongue felt heavy and dead. The rag that had been stuffed into her mouth kept soaking up the moisture. She struggled. She could see the two men. Her abductors had changed attire. Gone were the boiler-suits and the Lector masks. Now they wore suits like the men that fixed the cars in Formula One that her Daddy loved so much. Their faces were hiding behind flame retardant balaclavas.

Melissa tried to speak. It all just came out in the air as a clumsy muffled noise. The taller of her captors raised a finger to his covered lips.

"Shush," He lowered the finger. "We know all that we need to know, so there's fuck-all we want to hear from you."

The captor turned to his cohort.

"Bill. Watch her whilst I go make the call."

Melissa freaked. She began to struggle as if she was fitting. Bill, the one that had been silent, he watched her. His eyes enjoyed her terror.

"Won't be long," said Steve, followed by, "And, Bill, don't lay a finger on her."

Steve headed over to a privacy divider, like the ones they have for people who end up in shared wards because they don't know the meaning of the word BUPA. Melissa still struggled to get free. She could see the silhouette of Steve as he changed out of the racing overalls. A door slammed and the silhouette was gone.

Bill walked back and forth in front of Melissa. Every couple of passes, he would pause and feign hitting her. Melissa fell for it each and every time. There was a look in his eyes, Melissa could see it. The man, Bill, really wanted to follow through and land his hand hard. She struggled some more.

Melissa wept. Her mother had passed away a year ago. The loss had crippled her father. Melissa had not been allowed at her mother's deathbed in the moments before her passing. Her mother wanted some private time to share some words with her husband.

After the funeral, her father had then thrown himself into his work. It became everything. Making money was something that took a hold over him stronger than it ever had. It reflected on his generosity towards his only child. Before the death all of her demands had been met without argument. Then after afterwards getting enough cash for a weekend break to somewhere nice became like pulling teeth. Even the soft-top Mini that was now wrapped around a tree was a slap in the face. She'd wanted a Beemer for her twenty-first. And that pokey, little thing was what she'd gotten. Simply, something had to be done.

Tears streamed down her face. Not today. Why did this have to happen today?

Her crying ceased momentarily as Bill came at her with his hand up again. Melissa had more to worry about than this fuckwit's silly games. She didn't bother flinching. Shame, really, because Bill wasn't feigning. Melissa's head snapped back. Bill hooted with delight.


Time went by. Melissa was unsure how much as the smack from Bill had knocked her halfway to the moon. It had appeased the twisted fucker by the looks of it. He was sat down, busily amusing himself with a newspaper. Melissa could see it in her mind. Tomorrow's newspaper, her face plastered all over it.

A fresh breeze brought Melissa's attention back. With the breeze came the silhouette as Steve changed once more into his disguise.

Steve noticed that one of Melissa's cheeks was larger than the other.

"Bill, did you hit her?" He looked from her face to Bill, who was still reading the daily rag in the corner. Bill looked up from the pages.

"Just the once, to keep her in check."

"Once is too many. Keep your hands to yourself." Steve walked over to Melissa and dragged free her gag. "Any reason your dad wouldn't answer the phone? I mean, he's a business man, he should always be available. Wouldn't you think?"

Melissa worked her jaw. She tried to bring spit up into her mouth. None came, she tried words instead.

"He's at home," she whispered.

"Tried ringing there, too."

"He's unconscious," she admitted.

Bill put down his paper. Steve's eyes narrowed. He got a little closer to her. "How do you know this? We saw him waving to you."

"I spiked him," she started to cry.

Steve tried not to show how puzzled he really was, "Why would you do that?"

"Because I want him dead. That's why!" Her eyes were wild. A split-second switch from feeling sorry for herself to being the spoilt bitch that expected the world.

"How?" demanded Steve. With her father dead, there would be no one to collect from.

"I drugged him and a friend is going to make it look like suicide." She was starting to snivel. If it was an attempt to elicit some form of sympathy from him, Steve reckoned there was fuck-all chance of it working.

Melissa cleared her throat, "If he dies, I'll inherit the money. I can pay you then!"

"What, in six months to a year? Screw that." Steve tried the number again. He no longer cared about the triangulation of his position. He let it ring, still nothing.

"Oh sweet..." Steve didn't finish. He was already at a run towards the door.

Bill didn't know where to look. He resembled something from a slapstick comedy. One where an unseen hand slaps the buffoon's cheek. The buffoon looks in that direction and gets another slap from the other side.


Steve got out of the disguise as he ran towards his Astra. Every swear word that he knew got an airing as he broke the speed limit in a bid to get to Melissa's house as fast as he could.

Steve gunned it all the way. He left the engine running as he banged on the door. He tried it.


Steve opened the door.

"Mr. Jackson?" he called.

No answer came. He ventured inside.

The interior was just how he had imagined it would be. Years of there being no issue with cost when it came to the décor had made the place a sight to behold.

The ground floor was empty. He worked his way up the stairs. He kept shouting Jackson's name out. And for each call, he garnered silence. The landing was empty. The bedrooms were the same. It was in the bathroom that he found Mr. Jackson.

Mr. Jackson was no more. The water in the tub was crimson. Melissa's accomplice had opened his wrists for him. Steve lowered the seat on the toilet and sat down. This had turned to shit.
There was no money. The only heir was tied up back at the lock-up. It would be months until she inherited. And besides, he thought, what's to say she'll even cough up then? He supposed they did have the death of her father to hang over her head in exchange for the money. Steve figured that was basically their only option of salvaging something.

He got up and walked from the bathroom. He wasn't expecting the bat to the head.


Benny stood over the intruder, his anger burned. He wondered why she hadn't trusted him. Why she'd sent the goon? Melissa had talked him into helping off her old man in exchange for some pussy. And, boy, had he wanted that pussy since the beginning of high school. Then last week, as he'd been working the drive-thru at Maccies, she'd actually talked to him. Something she had refused to do during their high school career. What with her being one of the popular kids and him being the bipolar spotty kid that had tried to burn the school down twice. After his shift had finished, they'd gone for a drink. She'd driven him home. Stopping somewhere quiet on the way, they'd fooled around. She'd given him half a wank and then told him if he really wanted her then he had to do something for her. Something secret.

And now what? Now she'd gone and gotten a second boyfriend? As that was how he saw himself, they were practically a couple. It had been less than a week and she'd been cheating on him. He dragged the bastard outside. The Astra had to be his. Benny had a hard time with the dead weight of his rival. Benny opened the boot and struggled to put Steve in it. But what he lacked in upper body strength he made up for by being a mental case and accomplished it in the end. Benny pulled out a knife and without ceremony removed his love-rival from the equation, permanently.

Benny drove the Astra away.


Bill kept looking at her. Melissa had tried not to make eye-contact with the lunatic in case it made him want to strike her again. She began to cry once more. Each tear that fell was one of self-pity. It would have been so perfect if these pair of pricks hadn't ruined it. She stopped there. They hadn't ruined it as yet. The one called Steve had dashed off to be a hero. But he'd be too late. That freak Benny would have done the deed by now. And, by now, he'd be sat at home waiting to do some other deed. It had been bad enough tugging him off a little. But the thought of his scrawny mass between her legs made her shudder. But she would have done it. She changed the way she thought. It might still work out all right. She looked to Bill and smiled. Tried to make it look open and friendly.

Through the oval of the balaclava, his eyes went wide. "What you smiling at?"

"You." Her legs were bound at her ankles but she was able to open up her thighs a little. That was not missed on Bill. He was no longer looking at her face. His eyes were set lower. Bill was a beast and couldn't help himself. It wasn't enough to just look. He walked over. Melissa's smile letting him know it was alright to do so. So he did.


Melissa stamped a half dozen times. She didn't stop until Bill's thoughts were spread on the floor. Her hands were still tied but Bill had needed to undo the rope at her ankles to get her jeans and knickers off. His hands were just about to reach the honey-pot when she'd lashed out and kneed him in the balls. Bill went down. Both eyes crossed as he mouthed the word bitch. That was when she started to stamp. When there was nothing left of his knackers, she had stamped on his head until the skull opened. Melissa used a saw that was hanging on the wall to cut through the bindings on her wrist. She got dressed before going through the dead man's clothes for a phone.


Benny wasn't looking forward to the long walk back to town after dumping the car up at the quarry. His phone rang. He looked at the name and number and smiled. It was Bunny. Melissa didn't know it yet but he'd already made up a pet name for her.

"Hey, babe." He tried to sound cool; he came across as a twat.

"Where are you?" asked Melissa.

"Out having a stroll after killing lover-boy."

"Who?" Her voice sounded puzzled.

"The prick you sent to make sure the job was done."

"You killed him?"

"I'm not into all that manage a tois stuff, unless it's two chicks."


"It's the way I play." he said, smiling.

"No. Good that you killed him."

"I'm a man of many talents, baby. As you'll soon find out." He was strutting along but it looked more like he was walking with a stone in his shoe.

"Sounds wonderful. Now I need you to come get me. You know the industrial estate? The one with the B & Q?"


"Meet me there."

"We're gonna be rich!" he shouted into the phone.

"Something like that." And she hung up the phone.


It barely made the news. A convicted armed robber and sex-offender found beaten to death in a lock-up. Another convicted armed robber found dead in the boot of his own car. The police wrote them up as underworld killings.

A twenty-one year old was found dead on waste ground at the rear of an industrial estate with his pants down. No one really cared about that one when they saw the name in the article. Benny Jenkins, known arsonist and local freak.

Melissa wept. The tears were real and so was the grief.

The lawyer didn't really know what to say. Mr. Jackson had changed his will after his wife had passed away and it was all to go to the charities that he had listed.

It felt as though someone had reached into her chest and wrenched free her heart. The contents of the will disclosed what had been said on her mother's death-bed. Her mother had confessed that Melissa was not Frank's child. That Melissa was the result of an affair that had lasted a couple of years. Frank had then gone and had tests done that proved two things. He was a jaffa and, Melissa, she wasn't his daughter. That explained so much, yet left her with so little. She was entitled to nothing.

The information that wasn't available in the will was the anonymous hiring of thugs to kidnap Melissa by Frank Jackson. And that Frank had no intention of paying to get the bitch back. Each day, seeing her in his home was like a kick in the balls and it had lasted for an entire year. Her spoilt, greedy bitch face. So much like her mother's.

BIO: Lee Hughes lives and works on the Isle of Man with his wife and two fish. He is currently putting the finishing touches to his first novel. His short fiction is to appear in the upcoming Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9 by Megazanthus Press, regular spots on Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers and, of course, here at A Twist Of Noir.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 111 - Eric Beetner


Career criminals are, for the most part, vengeful sons of bitches. I learned that early on. Here’s one thing I learned just recently: from my last job I drove fast enough, clean enough but I didn’t drive far enough.

My name is Marc. Down here it is anyway. I’d been down just outside of Miami for about three months before I started really looking hard for work. It always starts off slow. They don’t know me, I don’t know them and we’re both looking to do something illegal so you can’t really take out an ad in the classifieds. Or can you?

I shouldn’t be telling you this but people have been putting together robbery crews for years through the classifieds. There’s a language to it. I knew one guy who would place fake obituaries. If the last name Knalb ever came up, the obit would be stacked with clues. (Knalb is blank backwards. Don’t feel bad, the obit guys never noticed, either.)

I’m sure a lot of young guns have moved to Craigslist by now but guys in the know will still scan the newspapers looking for a lead. When all the papers go under (from the looks of it in about a month or so), I’ll be back to slumming it in bars and asking leading questions to the bartender with a Ben Franklin “accidentally” falling on the bar but for now I only needed to pay a buck fifty for a Miami Herald.

I drove for one smash-and-grab which paid me a whopping six hundred bucks, my ten percent on a pillow case full of shopping mall diamonds that any real jeweler wouldn’t cross the street to pick up off the ground. Other than that, it was pretty dry. I think I was too far down into an area that was so controlled by the Cubans that the idea of hiring a gringo like me didn’t appeal so they kept the work to themselves. The real money is further up the coast anyhow. I branched out and started looking one county north to try another big city where there was more action.

I worked a dock job in Lauderdale that didn’t pan out at all. Two guys who worked on a yacht and had a plan to rip off the millionaire who owned it but didn’t have any idea how to sell the weird shit they took. Sure, that equipment is expensive if you know what to look for but the black market is not really the place to shop a doppler radar or shit like that. I never saw a dime from it. They were idiots not to do the driving themselves anyway. I kept saying to just take the whole damn boat. Sail it down to Brazil and sell a million dollar boat for fifty-thousand and you’re still fifty K richer.

I tried the gulf coast in Naples. Old retired money. Even the cops had to be over fifty.

I spotted an ad that seemed to me like a good score. ‘Driver needed to haul expensive merchandise. Very fragile. Must have own wheels. Non-union. Truckers need not apply.’

So, okay, expensive merchandise, we all get that. Very fragile meant it was a public place with lots of innocents and lots of witnesses. Non-union meant it wasn’t mob-affiliated, just a solo job. Truckers need not apply just means no lazy fat bastards not willing to work for it.

I called the number. I sat down for an interview and told tales of some other jobs. I left off the five times now that I drove away with the stash and left town. This last one was the biggest and I still had plenty left but my ass cheeks were getting sore sitting around all day. I don’t much care for the sun, either. Why I came to Florida is a mystery to me. I figured to make this stay a short one, even if the girls were across-the-board sluts. It’s never been so easy to get laid in my life. Still not worth the skin cancer.

The planner called himself E-Z and he liberally quoted lines from Scarface every chance he got so I knew he was a punk and that I shouldn’t trust him. Thing is, I don’t trust anyone I ever work for so it made no difference really.

Without me telling you, you assumed that E-Z was black. Don’t feel bad, you’re right. It was just E-Z, another black guy named L’il Wonder and me. For the meet, I had ripped off an M-Class BMW with expensive rims. That impressed. For the job, I had my eye on a Crown Vic I had seen in the neighborhood where I was renting. These two amateurs would most likely be pissed when I pulled up in what looked like an off-duty cop car but what did I care?

It was a bank job. Sit and wait with the engine running and then get out of town. Honestly, my talents were being wasted.

I knew the scene inside. They go in with guns drawn and shouting like mad, wearing ski masks or Halloween masks but something that still shows enough skin so people can tell they’re black. Hey, if people are going to bring their own fear to the party, why not let them? (Old, retired widows from Ohio still clutch their purse when one of “the negroes” walk past.) They would talk a lot of gangster talk to frighten the old folks. Sure as shit, E-Z would give it a, “Say hello to my little friend,” at some point. Lots of hard talk and bluster for a staff that wasn’t going to resist at all. Money’s insured. Inside a bank, it’s just paper with no real value. The trick is to get it out of the bank.

These days even the trick doesn’t take a magician. Since the advent of the ATM, crowds inside banks are so small and full of old people who can’t figure out the buttons that it makes taking a bank as easy as holding up a toddler’s birthday party.

So I sit in the car, go over my escape route in my head and wait for them to finish the floor show. They estimated four hundred grand. I figure sixty, tops. My share - six thousand. Whatever. At least it gets me out of the house.

The day of the job, sure enough, I get a big “What the fuck?” when I pull up in the Crown Vic. Navy blue, too, the kind these guys see in their nightmares.

E-Z sits next to me and is talking a mile a minute while L’il Wonder waits in silence in the back. They never use my name. I guess it’s not cool enough.

Traffic is light so we land right on time in front. I find a spot in clear view of the door so I’m feeling good about my six grand.

“Let do this!” shouts E-Z as he pulls a red bandana over his mouth Jesse James style. L’il Wonder has slid on leather gloves and he slaps them together twice and lets out a single “Whooo!”, like he’s about to go join the huddle for the opening kickoff.

They get out, slam doors, tuck guns into their belts. E-Z calls back to me, “Five minutes, Rick, man. Then we get money get paid, get money get paid.”

Shit. Rick was my name on the last job.

They both hustled off and my foot almost stomped down the pedal to get gone but my brain hitched a second to replay what I thought I heard. It was enough time for the Camaro to slam into my rear end.

I didn’t hurt my neck in the crash but almost gave myself whiplash scanning the rearview and sideview mirrors to see who the hell was behind me, as if I didn’t know.

Johnny, the planner from the last job. The one I ripped off to the tune of almost $375,000. The one we called Rotten Johnny, like the guy from the Sex Pistols only...well, you get the idea. He had two friends with him. Friends of his, not mine.

E-Z and L’il Wonder had walked right on past the bank. They would collect their finder’s fee later but at least they weren’t going to stick around for the revenge. I guess Johnny wasn’t paying enough.

The door handle rattled but it was locked. I was boxed in by the Camaro behind me and the impact had pushed me up against a Lincoln with curb feelers in front of me. I was a little dazed so my reflexes weren’t at 100 percent, so when Johnny yelled at me to open up, I didn’t respond. I’m not sure if he thought that would actually work or what. Oh, open the door so you can shoot me easier? Why, okay, kind sir. Dickhead.

Johnny used the butt of his gun to smash the window.

He reached in and popped the lock and grabbed my shirt to haul me out but I was belted in so I moved about a foot and then was sucked back into the seat. He aimed the 9mm right at my nostrils.

“Get out.”

Idiot. He should have shot me. Just do it and leave. Revenge clouds the brain but, like I said before, they are a vengeful type of guy. Plus, he probably wanted his money back. There was that.

I undid the belt and slowly slid out and stood up moving the deliberate way you do when you have a gun on you. Once out in the open, he tucked away the 9mm to a more conspicuous position now aimed more or less at my balls. A few people slowed to gawk at the accident but these days people don’t want to get involved so no cars stopped, no one called the cops on their cell. Traffic zipped by us like we were just two poor jerks exchanging insurance info on the way to a higher deductible.

“Thought you could outrun me, didn’t you, Rick?” No point in answering him. “Well, I guess you were wrong.”

“Yep,” I obliged. I certainly couldn’t argue with the man.

“Where’s the money?”

“Back at my place.”

“Well then, let’s go.”

“You kind of got me boxed in here.”

Johnny looked forward to the Lincoln and back at the Camaro to confirm. He nodded to the two buddies and one of them got behind the wheel of the Camaro to back it up. Had it not even occurred to him to just take me with them in his car? This was going to be too easy.

The Camaro detached itself from the Crown Vic’s back bumper with a screech and maybe that metal on metal noise jogged his better sense.

“Wait, you’re coming with us,” Johnny said, like the thought just came to him.

Maybe he wasn’t as stupid as I thought.

“My keys are inside. My apartment key is on the key ring.” A lie.

“I’ll get it.”

I held my hands up around my shoulders, showing respect for the gun but not drawing attention to us. With one buddy in the car, the one behind me had moved in between the Camaro and Crown Vic to avoid the traffic rushing past. Douchebag was still in his motorcycle leathers. Why would you wear that shit when you’re not on a bike? Probably thought it made him look badass. He was wrong.

Johnny transferred the gun to his left hand and reached inside with his right to pull the keys from the still-running ignition. He kept an eye on me the whole time.

The engine in the Crown Vic died as he rotated the key. He began to straighten up as he brought his body back out of the car. When his arm was almost out, I made my move. I lifted my leg and kicked forward like a place kicker. The door rocketed shut and caught his hand between the post and the window frame. Inside the body of the door, the latch caught and he was trapped.

The pain was definitely enough of a distraction that grabbing his gun hand, not his dominant hand anyway, was easy. Using his arm, I swung it around and aimed back at the Camaro. I didn’t have to do any work. Johnny squeezed off four quick rounds that smashed through the front windshield. The driver ducked and avoided the shots.

I started plucking at his fingers trying to release his grip on the gun the same way I did with my brother when he stole one of my Matchbox cars and curled it into his fist. Johnny’s screams and the gunshots were finally attracting attention. The second buddy had hit the deck in between the cars but now that the shots had stopped, he was up and moving towards me.

I had to abandon the gun and deal with him. Those old seventh grade Judo classes came in handy for once. I let go of Johnny’s arm and braced myself for impact with the buddy rushing at me. I reached out and got ahold of one of his hands and used it to pull his arm forward as I pivoted my body and took his own momentum, added to mine, and launched him into the street.

A huge F-250 was going past at least 35 miles an hour. It was a 35 zone anyhow. The way the buddy’s torso bounced off the grille of that truck, maybe he was doing closer to 45.

The pickup squealed tires, twisted the wheel and all attention went away from us and onto the body still arcing in the air and the truck driver rapidly losing control of his ride. A voice from the sidewalk blurted an involuntary “Holy shit!”

In the confusion, I vaulted myself, Starsky and Hutch style, over the trunk of the Crown Vic. Johnny fired off two more shots. I knew his aim would be shit in his left hand.

I let him see me as I crouch-walked to the passenger door. He squeezed out three more rounds and the windows popped and rained glass over me. They also let me reach in and unlock the passenger side door.

I ducked two more shots and then heard clicks. He was out. I was in.

His hand that was trapped in the door had dropped the keys and I swiped them up off the seat and revved the engine to life. Like a cop about to chase after a perp I dropped the gear lever into D and took off.

Johnny’s body was quickly taken away faster than his feet could keep up. I made a wide arcing left hand U-turn laying down rubber as I went, dragging Johnny along for the ride. The tips of his fingers were already turning purple just inches from my face where they wriggled, pinched into the door.

About three quarters of the way through my circle, his fingers gave way and detached, letting his body fall. When he came loose, he slid along the side of the car where he dropped to the pavement and was immediately sucked under the rear tire. I couldn’t see it but I sure did feel the back end of the car buck upwards like an angry bull. The purple tips stayed with me jammed in the door but the wriggling stopped.

I came around and completed a full circle so I was head-on with the Camaro.

I saw the driver start to duck again but I slammed on my brakes, stopping short of plowing into his door. The Crown Vic rumbled an angry 8-cylinder sound only inches from scratching his paint. He peeked up, unsure of what my next move was going to be. I knew he got the point and that this was Rotten Johnny’s beef with me, not his.

I raised a finger and wagged it at him like a strict school marm. I even gave him a “tsk tsk tsk” but he couldn’t hear it.

The street was chaos. A crowd had gathered but was clinging to doorways and behind a bus shelter, wanting to see what was going on but understanding that it wasn’t over yet. I heard the first siren in the distance.

I floored it in reverse, did a perfect J turn and was off. I passed by where the driver of the pickup had gotten out and was weeping over the splayed corpse of the man he hit. Built Ford tough, I guess. I’ll say. It nearly split him in half.

I traced my well-practiced escape route. No one ever followed. I dumped the car and got away clean. How? I’m damn good at what I do. That’s how.

So now I head north. New town, new name. Still have over $350,000. I’ll miss the women but not the sun.

Time to get gone.

BIO: More about Eric's writing can be found at His crime novel 'One Too Many Blows To The Head', co-written with JB Kohl, is scheduled to come out later in 2009 unless something goes horribly wrong. Something always goes horribly wrong. In the meantime, check out Worth It over at Powder Burn Flash.

A Twist Of Noir 110 - Walter Conley


The foothills south of Moreno Valley, CA, are known locally as the Badlands. A divided highway carves through them from the Valley into Beaumont; beyond that lies Thousand Palms, Indio, the U.S/Mexican border. Although the hills appear low and rumpled from a distance, the clefts between them run deep. It’s early but the sun is blazing. Traffic is light.

Edward hitchhikes along the southbound shoulder. He’s in his late twenties, but his age is hard to pinpoint through the dust and weathered skin. His clothes are as ragged as he is. He slouches and limps, dragging one foot, eyes on the ground before him. He looks to be in such bad shape that holding his thumb out for a ride is difficult.

There is a crunch of gravel behind him. He turns as a station wagon rolls by, comes to a stop near the guardrail ahead.

He shuffles up to the wagon. It’s decades old and colorless. There are no smudges or dents, no bumper stickers. The back is empty and clean. He braces himself against the passenger’s door and looks inside.

Kyle grins out from the driver’s seat. He’s somewhere in middle-age, wearing an off-the-rack suit with the jacket folded beside him, as nondescript as his car.

“Where you headed?” Kyle asks.

“Thousand Palms,” Edward says. “Anywhere on the other side of these hills will do.”

“Hop in.”

Edward bows. “Thank you, sir.”

He makes a tortured ballet of climbing in. The wagon sinks a few inches. He shuts the door and sighs, falling into the hard, hot vinyl like it’s a featherbed.

Kyle pulls back onto the highway, glancing in the rearview mirror. “No bags?” he asks.

“Nothing to pack,” Edward says.

“So you’re just kind of drifting around?”

“Pretty much.” Edward shrugs, thinking. “I guess I’m what you’d call unhireable.” He laughs and Kyle laughs with him. “I spend more time looking for work than actually working.”

“No family to help out?”


“Sorry to hear that,” Kyle says. “Family’s important.”

Kyle slows as they crest the top of a hill. A semi carrying livestock passes in the opposite direction.

Edward watches him, one eye squinted shut. “No work out here, anyway,” he says. “Might be something for me in Thousand.”

They drop below the hilltops. Edward checks the sideview mirror. He hooks his left arm over the seat, looks behind him. There is no traffic in either direction. With his right hand, he draws an old .22 revolver from the waistband of his jeans. He trains it on Kyle. In an instant, he goes from kindhearted bum to coldblooded killer.

“Hey,” Edward says.

Kyle drives on, oblivious, seeming lost in thought.

“Hey,” Edward says again. Kyle turns with almost no visible reaction to the gun.

“I’m going to give you a choice.”

“What is this?” Kyle says.

“You’re a nice enough guy, so I’ll give you a chance. You either hand me your wallet, right fucking now, or I’ll blow your head off.”

“Are you serious?”

“You have about two seconds. One...”

Kyle turns his attention back to the road. He sucks his lips between his teeth, then lets out a heavy breath.

“I’m pulling the trigger,” Edward tells him. “See?”

He moves the gun towards Kyle’s face until it’s almost touching his cheek. Kyle, still looking ahead, starts to laugh.


“Oh, boy,” Kyle says.

“I don’t think you understand.”

Kyle looks over at him and says, “It’s the other way around.”

“Come again?”

“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you.”

Now Edward laughs, but it’s not pretty: it’s a man with a handgun losing his temper.

“I’m afraid...” Kyle begins. “Well, there’s no easy way to say this. You picked the wrong car to hijack, son. I came out here to kill myself.”

Edward is stunned. “What?” he says.

“You want to get out? You can, if you want. Here,” Kyle says. “I’ll pull over.”

He slows the wagon as they take a sharp curve, eases onto a turnout, midway through the hills. Edward is speechless for a moment. He keeps the pistol trained on Kyle as they come to a stop. Kyle puts the car in park. They look at each other.

“What difference does it make if I rob you, then?” Edward asks.

“I don’t have anything to give you,” Kyle says, shaking his head. “Honest. I wish I did. I mean...I have one thing in this life. I have a daughter. Her name is Claire and she’s very sick. She was born sick, nobody’s fault, and now it’s getting worse. I can’t afford insurance. Don’t have enough cash to do anything. My credit’s shot. And I don’t have any family to help me, either. Not when it counts.”

“Jesus,” Edward says.

Kyle starts to cry unexpectedly. He covers his face with his hands.

Edward tucks the pistol back into his waistband. He stares out the windshield, feeling awful. After a minute, not believing what he’s about to do, he takes an old wallet from his back pocket.

“Here,” he says.

Kyle wipes his eyes, looks over. “What are you doing?”

“Take it.”


“Take it,” Edward says. “It’s not mine, anyway. Use it for your little girl. Just do me a favor and forget you ever saw me, okay?”

He pushes the wallet into Kyle’s hands, then gets out, shaking his head. He eases the door shut.

“Thanks,” Kyle says.

He sounds like he’s starting to cry again. Edward leans back in the window. But Kyle isn’t crying, he’s laughing. He has a gun of his own—a big stainless .38 that makes Edward’s look like a toy—pointed at the younger man’s chest.

“Thank you,” Kyle says, “you stupid son-of-a-bitch.”

Edward takes his hands off the door and stands upright.

Kyle says, “I didn’t come out here to kill myself. I came out here to rob somebody, same as you. I know all about you guys. You’re easy. Lazy, good for nothing punks. You’re all full of shit. You can work, you just don’t want to. You’d rather rip people off instead. Or beg and beg until we can’t stand it anymore. And every time, every single motherfucking one of you has more cash on him than I do.” Kyle eases back the hammer. “I was going to rob you, understand? You just saved me the trouble.”

Edward turns, but there is nowhere to run. The shoulder drops away after only a few steps. He’s moving, though, too scared to stop. The .38 fires out the passenger's window. As a round digs into his back, Edward is tumbling over the canyon. The wagon glides into the right lane and then slowly heads off, out of sight.

BIO: Walter Conley has written for comics, children’s entertainment and film. His fiction has appeared at such online venues as Opi8: New Dark Culture and Blue Murder Magazine. Walter has an ongoing Gutter-level Soap at Bridey's All-Night. You can reach him at

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 109 - Stephen D. Rogers


Brian placed Kevin in his crib. "Good night, buddy."



"Scary monsters."

A typical fear for this age. "What about them?"

"Scary monsters."

"Do you see one now?"

Kevin shook his head.

"When do you see them?"

Kevin continued to shake his head.

"What color are they?"

"Red. Blue. Yellow."

"What do they say?"

"Scary monsters."

Brian wondered if he should pick his son up out of bed and hold him for a few minutes or whether that would only reinforce a new delaying tactic. "When you see a scary monster, say, 'Hi. My name is Kevin. What's your name?'"

"Play ball?"

"Right. Ask if the scary monster wants to play ball. Then you'll be friends and the monster won't be scary any more."

Kevin nodded. "No more scary monster."

"That's right. Good night, Kevin. Mommy loves you and Daddy loves you. We'll see you in the morning."

Brian waited outside the bedroom door for several minutes but didn't hear a peep. Apparently the scary monsters had been defeated once again, driven from this world to the twilight realm of the subconscious where they belonged.

Back in the living room, Brian rolled down Peggy's sleeve and placed a crazy quilt over her sleeping figure. The spoon went into the dishwasher; the matches went into the drawer; the disposable syringe went into the trash.

He wiped up her mess and then retreated to the family room where he plopped onto their original good couch. There he surfed through the channels without seeing the images that flashed before him. Peggy was backsliding again.

When he'd returned from work today, she was just drifting off into la-la land. She had timed it perfectly and Kevin was barely unsupervised at all. Brian gave her credit for that.

He couldn't give her credit for much else.

Peggy refused to go into rehab, refused even to see a doctor. She didn't have a problem. She knew what she was doing. It was under control.

His parents lived too far away to be any help.

He couldn't exactly go to Peggy's mother, pour coffee into her until she sobered up, and then explain that she needed to care for Kevin until her daughter straightened herself out.

How many seconds did it take for a two and a half year-old to hurt himself with a syringe or box of matches? What if the toddler licked the spoon clean?

What if he had and that's why Kevin had fallen asleep so effortlessly?

Brian raced upstairs to check on his son.

Kevin was breathing normally, one hand stretched out through the bars of the crib.

Brian tiptoed from the room.

They didn't have any friends. Peggy had long ago lost hers and Brian had been too busy to maintain any sort of personal relationships. He was a single, working parent of two.

No matter what happened, Brian would not turn Kevin over to the state.

He'd have Peggy committed first.

Brian paused.

Could he do that without involving the police?

Peggy was still splayed on the living room couch. She'd be there for hours yet, if not until morning.

Brian went to the kitchen and poured himself an orange juice. It didn't taste half bad for not being their usual brand but it had been on sale. He drank most of the glass in a single gulp and then sat at the table.

What if he did commit her, sent her away somewhere? He'd have to hire a nanny to take care of Kevin. Perhaps he could bring in a cleaning service and someone to cook. Take off some of the pressure.

He could tell Kevin that his mother was very sick and she'd gone to the hospital to get better. Daddy wasn't sure when she was coming home.

Of if she was coming home. Maybe it would actually be in everybody's best interest if Peggy simply stayed there forever.

Mommy went away. It's not your fault, Kevin. You didn't do anything wrong. Mommy just won't be living with us anymore. She loved you very much but she had something wrong with her.

She was selfish.

She was weak.

She died.

The glass exploded in Brian's fist.

He yanked sheets of paper towel off the roll to clean up the juice and bits of glass. It wasn't until he saw the sodden mess stained red that he realized he'd been cut.

A small gash in his palm oozed blood.

Peggy with her self-destructive vein was destroying them all. He had to do what he could to save Kevin.

Brian returned the kitchen to normal and then wrapped paper towel around his hand. He still hadn't replaced the bandages after his probably misguided efforts to protect the needle tracks from possible infection.

He heard Peggy stir in the living room.

Did he tell her now? Did he tell her at all? Perhaps it would be best if she was taken completely by surprise. There was no need for Kevin to experience her melodramatic reaction to the news.

Right now, however, Brian had to go out there and make sure she didn't try to climb the stairs herself. He didn't want her waking Kevin.

Brian entered the living room to find the couch empty.

Sensing movement behind him, Brian slowly turned.

Peggy shuffled towards him, the crazy quilt hanging over her head, almost reaching the floor.

"Very funny, Peggy. I'm sorry if I woke you up. I broke a glass." He raised his arm. "Cut my hand."

She mumbled something he couldn't hear.

"Do you want something to eat? I can heat you up some soup. Maybe just broth if that's all you want."

She continued to advance, hidden under the quilt, a wild hodgepodge of fabrics in red, blue, and yellow.


"Scary monster."

"What?" Brian took a step back.

"Scary monster."

"Peggy, stop playing games."

And then the rushing darkness was on him.

Kevin slept through the screams.

BIO: Over five hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have been published in more than two hundred publications. His website, Stephen D. Rogers Homepage, includes a list of new and upcoming titles, as well as other timely information.

A Twist Of Noir 108 - Gerald So


Originally published in November 2007 on DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash

"I'd like to report a murder," Tom Gregory said from a pay phone.

"Excuse me, sir, did you say--?"

"Murder. Yes." He gave the address. "Get someone over there right away."

"Can you tell me your name, sir?"

"Her name is Savannah Frye. My girlfriend. We were on speakerphone when someone broke in and attacked her. Please hurry."

"Sir, can you tell me your name?"

"Jack MacLeish," he said and gave an address . "Is that all?"

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you," he said gruffly and hung up.

The truth was Tom had called Savannah. Twice. When she didn't answer, he went over and found her door ajar. Moving swiftly, silently through her house, he noted an intruder's muddy bootprints. He found Savannah in the bedroom. Stripped naked. Sexually abused. Eyes empty in death.

It was like the life was drained from him, too. Thanks to training, he managed not to vomit until he was some distance away. Then he cried. Then he called 911.

He didn't know how soon the police would have a suspect. No time would be soon enough. You had to act while the enemy was still high on victory. Luckily, Tom knew who the enemy was. He'd seen him not three hours earlier, flirting with Savannah.

She only encouraged the guy because she was mad at Tom.

The truth was Savannah wasn't Tom's girlfriend. They met at Hooters his second night in Georgia. He hadn't planned on staying a third, but he liked her company. He liked her mannish laugh. He liked her big hair. blue eyes, and big breasts.

Even as three nights became three weeks, became three months, he told himself he couldn't lead her on, let her expect more than good laughs and good sex.

He remembered Savannah saying her parents had passed. You're the closest I have to family.

She'd said it after sex so it might have been a joke. It made Tom think of his sister Lisa.

He'd served six years in the Corps, getting out six months after the U. S. invasion of Iraq, turning his sniper training toward photography.

Working up the nerve to see Lisa after eight years, he found her being abused and blackmailed by her boyfriend. Tom remembered what he'd done to stop it. Lisa was alive and well, but he couldn't imagine ever seeing her again. With Savannah's death, it was almost as if Lisa hadn't survived.

Focus on the objective.

The man's name was Buck Turley. He'd been into the Hooters three nights a week the past three weeks, flirting with Savannah every time. Tom had tailed him home one night just out of curiosity. Turley didn't get into a car but, sloppy drunk, he was easy to shadow.

He lived in a trailer park four blocks over from the Hooters. Outside his trailer door were a pair of workboots. Tom knocked. Knocked again. Turley pushed the door open, filling the doorway.

He could have been miles away, but he was here. Freshly showered. Mustache and beard trimmed. Hot wings on his breath.

His eyes took a while to focus on Tom, showed no recognition. "What you want?"

"Have you seen Savannah Frye?"

Turley's eyes flashed at that--all the proof Tom needed. He hit Turley in the balls, then the Adam's apple. Before the big man could get his bearings, Tom drew his fighting knife and slashed Turley's throat.

Then he got out of there. By the time he heard his breath again, he was on I-75 South headed for the Keys.

BIO: Gerald So is fiction editor for the Thrilling Detective Web Site and co-editor of The Lineup: Poems on Crime. Visit his blog at If You Want To Know About My Life....

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 107 - Walter Conley


It starts with the collision. Everything prior to that is gone. The collision itself, he re-lives in dreams—swirling, drug-sodden nightmares—that he awakens from mystified. Since the accident, he cannot see continuous motion or color. In the hospital room, pretending to be out, he listened to specialists mutter things like achromatic vision, no history of retinitis pigmentosa and hallmarks of conversion disorder. His life is a series of black-and-white stills. In dreams, as well, he can only see greys, but things progress at a normal clip.

As he was driving through the woods on a summer evening, a pick-up truck emerged from a side road and plowed into his door. There was no move to evade him. The truck didn’t even slow down. They, whoever they were, had done what they’d set out to do, which was to drive Paul off the road and into the woods, as hard as possible. Their intent was to kill him; of this, he has no doubt. Their motive, however, baffles him. Again and again, while he’s under, drugged into a stupor on the couch, he is there, winding through the trees, catching a sudden glare to his left and then pulling back and raising his hands and screaming.

He has the dream tonight.

When he comes to, it takes a moment for him to recover—not only from the trauma of the crash, but the fluid pace of the dream, as well. He sees the white of the cast on his leg, the gunmetal grey of his crutches, the duller grey of the floor and walls and the hard black panes of the windows, bare, as they suck in the country dark.


The cabin belongs to Roger, the elder of his wife’s two brothers. Roger bought the place as a refuge from everyday life. The problem was, the isolation and quiet unnerved him. Roger lacked the patience for a hobby. He never read. He needed to be constantly entertained, to have his attention pricked like a child. He tried having parties there, but his guests, of like temperament, developed cabin fever the moment they stepped inside, no matter how many revelers or types of debauchery he made available.

He decided to keep it as an investment or a possible contingency shelter. You never know, he liked to say. The last time he was there, on his way out, he nailed a hand-painted sign above the porch, which read:


The night Paul was released from the hospital, his wife Nancy was there with her mother, Roger and her younger brother, Dennis. He took Roger’s word for the status of their relationship. To him, they were merely kind strangers. Roger had arranged for Paul to stay at the cabin. He explained DULLSVILLE on the way over. Take all the time you need, he said. You can move in, for all I care. He talked incessantly as he drove. Paul cringed in the passenger’s seat. Nancy and Dennis and their stone-faced mother sat in the back. He could hear them talking, but had trouble making out what they said.

Nancy, it so happened, was a beautiful woman. If he had a type, that would be it. When he first saw her at the hospital, he’d been surprised at his luck and was hoping for a kiss. She gave him a cold, rigid hug, instead, leaving him sad and even more bewildered.

Roger carried Paul’s bags inside, then gave him a quick tour. There was a living room up front, which “elled” into a kitchen back-right. Leading off the living room, in the opposite corner, were a bedroom, bathroom and storeroom, packed mostly with unused party supplies. Nancy and her mother cleaned the place, while Paul took meds, swayed and looked out the kitchen window. Roger left some numbers on the fridge. Nancy waved and averted her eyes.

And just like that, he was alone.


The days are short. They hop by, rather than spool. The doctor, a friend of Paul’s from college, gave him so many pills that he could have paved the driveway with them. Roger also donated some leftovers, mixed in a plastic food container. He sits on the couch and watches TV, his plastered leg on the ottoman, flipping between the “classic” movie channels, where most everything is already black-and-white, people stand still and the camera just sits there and watches, like him. The bottles are on the end table, with a glass. There is a carafe filled with ice-cold well-water on the floor. He takes pills when he feels like it, in one’s or two’s or three’s, not even bothering, after a while, to see what they are.

The dreams get more intense. While the accident is occurring, he hears voices: I saw you with him. Always me. You don’t know. Business. What the fuck do you care? My life. Glad. You never trust me, anyway...

The female voice is Nancy’s. The male’s, he supposes, is his own. They play through the crash, overlapping, fading in and out, a word here and there between the thumps and squeals and shattering glass. He and Nancy change parts. Or is it all her? It’s difficult to separate. Is he only listening to the dream and commenting, out loud, in the present?

“I think I’m losing my mind,” he says.

No one, real or remembered, answers him.


He has no idea how long he’s been there. No one comes to visit. Although Roger left numbers, there are no phones. The guide on the TV has a date, a time, but when did he come? What does it matter? Once, when he gets up from the chair to use the bathroom, Paul finds himself trapped in the kitchen and discovers that the refrigerator and cabinets are stocked. Most of it is snacks and he paws through it with no appetite.

In the storeroom, he finds party favors, hats, paper cups and plates, streamers, fireworks, cases of untouched alcohol, a cheap boxy strobe light, a pair of snowshoes, a pack of chopsticks, the skeleton of a rodent, long wooden matches, an empty wallet, a portable stereo, an album of CDs that look like they’re from a VH1 nostalgia collection, and, thumb-tacked to the wall, a tiny plastic robot doll, no bigger than his pinky. He removes three-quarters of the bottles from the case of gin, then fills the rest of it back up with assorted junk.

There is so much in that little room for his eyes to ratchet on that he gets confused as he’s attempting to find his way out.

What do you care? Nancy says.

He walks into a corner.

You don’t make the decisions and you’re not doing this to me.

Groaning, he walks and turns, tacking around, until he has found the doorway.


He turns off the light as he leaves. Her voice seems to come from the darkness behind him: Fine.

“Shut up!” he screams. “Shut the fuck up!”

We’ll certainly see about that, she says.


He can’t tell if it’s one of the unmarked pills or the fact that he’s washing them all down now with G&T’s, but Paul is feeling so thick he can hardly move. He unpacks the box and forgets about it. He puts on a party hat, puts a second on top of it, then takes the second one off. He wonders when Chuck Norris movies became American classics. They announce a David Lynch marathon. Paul, eyes closing, marvels at ERASERHEAD.

The dreams don’t improve and Nancy’s voice is everywhere.

How about this, she says.

His crutches, resting against the E-Z chair that matches his couch, look like giant sci-fi hypodermic needles.

You have no proof.

A moth lands on the window to his right. It must be day because the moth is black. Will it leave black powder on the glass?

I won’t let you.

There is a fluffy white dog that resembles the one he had as a child, but it vanishes as he calls it.


Time ticks by and, in a waking dream, he sees the crash, all out of order, then hears noises from the crash, but sees other things, like Nancy with her arms around a co-worker’s neck, he and Nancy fighting, him pointing at the door for Nancy to leave and her laughing, saying: I’m not going to lose everything I have because you’re feelings are hurt. We’ll get through this. And if we don’t, so what? You do your thing, I’ll do mine, but I’m not leaving and neither are you. I will not get a divorce!

“Nancy,” Paul says.

If you keep this up, I’ll tell Roger you’ve been hitting me and he’ll fucking kill you, Paul!

“You wouldn’t.”

Ha! You’re scared.

“Roger is a lunatic.”

I won’t take no for an answer.

“So are you.”

And I refuse to let some uptight judge tell me what I can and cannot have. If you don’t let this go, I’ll tell him. I mean it, Paul. I swear. Oh, God, I swear on my own sorry life. And then we’ll see what’s what.

There is a head in the window. It’s starting to get dark, but the head is there in silhouette. Paul recognizes it as one of the shadowed heads from the truck that nearly took his life. A moment later, he recognizes it as belonging to Roger, his brother-in-law.

There are two heads in the window. Roger and Dennis.

The window is empty.

One head, Roger’s, is in the window by the door.

“Don’t,” Paul says quietly. “Please, Roger. Don’t.”

He reaches for the glass, but changes his mind.

Night falls.

He stops taking pills.

The lights go out and the dark turns black. He watches the image on the old TV shrink to a pin-prick, then disappear.

There is a small tap, a grating sound as Roger turns the key in the front door. Paul can’t remember locking it, but is glad he did, even though Roger has a key.

The door swings open for a moment, then closes and the room is black again. Paul feels his heart actually slowing down, thudding in his chest. He rolls up off the couch and uses it as a guide to find the other end table. His fingers touch the battery-powered strobe. He flicks the toggle on the side of the box.

The living room starts to pulsate. In between the black spaces, Roger is there, by the door, looking perplexed, then grinning his stupid grin.

“What the hell?” he says.

He inches closer when the light is flashing, but freezes in the dark. In his hands are rope, a sack, a long wooden bat.

Paul moves his eyes with each on/off click and things begin to stream around him, almost like normal. He glimpses his reflection in a window, sees himself, mouth and eyes comically wide, groping around in a party hat.

“Welcome to my brain,” he says.

He takes the drinking glass off the first end table and throws it at Roger. It misses, smashing against the doorjamb. While Roger is reacting to that, Paul circles around and finds his crutches. He picks one up. Roger drops the rope and sack and, guessing where Paul is, swings the bat in the dark. Paul already has the crutch in the air. The bat catches it near the tip and breaks the last six inches off, causing Paul to lose his balance. He puts his weight on the cast and goes down hard. Roger is trying to get his bearings, grunting, swinging wildly now. Paul gets up, ignoring the sudden pain in his foot. He ducks under the bat and brings up the splintered metal crutch, driving it forward with all his might. It goes into something soft and is wrenched away from him. Paul topples forward. Warm, wet liquid sprays his face. Roger is tipping away, reclining, out of sight. There is a thump.

Paul steps back.

In the flashing light, he sees Roger on the floor with the crutch sticking out of his neck, blood spurting around it. Roger is motionless. The drops of blood suspended in the glare look like a crowd of angry insects.

The second head from the window is back again and then gone.

Paul hears Dennis running away.

Far off in the distance, through the woods, a pick-up truck starts.

He staggers to the couch, laughing because he just can’t help it. He drops onto the cushion. The remote is still beside him. He aims it at the TV, thumbs it, but nothing happens.

He laughs until he’s crying, then laughs some more.

The batteries in the strobe wear out.

Somewhere in the middle of that long, dark night, Nancy says: It’s not over, Paul.

“I thought I told you to shut up,” he says.

And this time, for once, she does.

BIO: Walter Conley has worked in comics, children's entertainment and film, but his first love is the short story. His crime fiction has appeared at such online venues as Blue Murder Magazine, Judas E-zine and Opi8. He can be reached at

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 106 - Felix Cruz


It was June, but Russ was a little chilly now. The air conditioner was blowing right into the bloody hole in his head and was giving him goose bumps.

Not more than an hour ago, he was fine. He left work and was driving home, listening to the news on 1060 AM. He lost reception once he turned onto Frankford and was driving under the El. He was looking forward to getting home, eating dinner, and relaxing for a bit. Watch some television with the wife. Maybe even get a quickie in before going to sleep. He may have been pushing sixty, but that didn’t slow his sex drive one bit.

Those plans were obliterated when he stopped for the red at Foulkrod Street and saw the tall guy on the corner. The tall guy standing in front of his Chevy Nova, looking under the hood, his hands smeared with black grease. They made eye contact. He approached the passenger side of Russ’s SUV, and tapped on the window with the back of his hand.

To Russ, the tall guy appeared harmless. Didn’t look like a criminal or a drug addict, like most of the creatures you see under the El around this time in the evening. He was wearing khakis with a light brown button-down shirt.

He hit the button on his door and let the window roll down about three inches, raised his eyebrows like saying, Can I help you? Tall Guy smiled and asked if he could get a jump, his battery kept losing juice. Told Russ he had the cables and would even pay him. He didn’t want to be stuck in this shithole for hours waiting for a tow truck; he was the manager at a clothing store near the end of the block, and knew the neighborhood to be dangerous during the day and downright fierce at night. And night would arrive in about an hour and a half.

Russ agreed and made a U-turn in the middle of Frankford Avenue, pulled hood-to-hood with the Nova, popped his hood, stepped out of the SUV, told the tall guy he had his own cables and would grab them out of the compartment in the cargo space.

Tall Guy stayed at the front of his stalled car while, at the rear of the SUV, Russ was pulling the rolled-up cables from the foot wide compartment. He stole a quick glance through the windshield to see the stalled Nova, but no Tall Guy. He was gone.

Russ knew something was wrong, but had no time to react. He spun around to see a flash of white light and then nothing. Lights out for Russ.

The next few moments, he heard faint voices, one calm and the other sounding a bit frantic as he felt his limp body being stuffed into the cargo space.

After they shut the hatchback, he heard them arguing. The calm one ended the disagreement after saying, “This is what we planned. You didn’t have any complaints the whole time we discussed it, right? Just try and remember all the bullshit he put us through. Okay? Now, what’s done is done. It’s over.”

Russ tried to move, but couldn’t. He could hear what was going on, but his brain couldn’t get the rest of his body to cooperate, couldn’t open his eyes, move his arms, legs, couldn’t even bend his fingers. Was he dead? Was this what it was like to be dead, your soul trapped in a rotting shell of what you once were? No. Russ didn’t want to die. Get home. That’s all he wanted to do. Get home to Simone.

As the thoughts whirled in his head, he heard the hood of the Nova shut, a door shut, the engine start, and the car drive away. That was followed by the door to his SUV shutting. And that’s where he was now, riding in the back, to God knows where, with a hole in his head. Blood probably ruining the rug on the floor as he tried with every bit of energy to move, even crack his eyelids open. But still nothing.

By the age of sixteen, Doug Nixon was already six two. He was twenty-two now, and had been six five for about three years. When he first slid behind the wheel of Mr. Stanley’s SUV, or that asshole Stanley as Doug referred to him (he deserved no respect from Doug), he had to adjust the seat back in order to get the leg space needed to drive comfortably. He’d planned this moment for a long time now with his younger brother and was following him in the Nova; the Nova heading down Hunting Park going toward Fifth Street.

As he drove in silence, following Kurt’s taillights, Doug thought of his father, and how he would react to seeing his old boss after so many years. The man who ruined his life just to make sure he came under budget for his department. He pictured Daddy smiling at the sight of his former boss’s bloodied face, and then thrilled to use the crowbar, the same one his son used to bash Russ's head in, to finish him. Then, when Daddy was all done, they’d put asshole Stanley’s body in the trunk of one of the cars scheduled to be demolished tomorrow. Kurt already had the car picked out, a ’99 Protégé that had most of its parts removed weeks ago to be used as spares. What was left was pretty much useless, except to the bloody old man in the back. For him, the Protégé would serve as his final resting place. Everyone else gets a cushioned casket made of wood; asshole Stanley gets a Mazda Protégé with a CD player, tape deck, AC and power windows. Lucky him. That’s right, just dump the fucker right in. No one would ever miss him.

Russ tried moving again. For the past few minutes, he had conserved his energy and was feeling a little stronger. He felt the fingers on his right hand move. The hand slid down, away from his fetal-positioned body and touched the rug. Soaked. Probably with his own blood. His eyelids parted, the vision in his right eye was blurry. Maybe the blood seeping into his eye had something to do with it? He closed the right eye, and gazed at the rug beneath him. Confirmed. It was blood. Was he shot? Wasn’t sure, but he had to get help. Couldn’t imagine lasting much longer after losing so much blood. Try calling for help. Fuck. He called Simone after leaving work, and left the cell in the cup holder. What about the hatchback? If it was unlocked, he could open it and jump out. Yeah, but there’s no handle on the inside, no way for him to open it. He would have to wait, whoever put him back here had to come back to get him. When they did, surprise them. Make a move. Attack the son of a bitch. But he needed a weapon. Yeah, that’s right, there’s a tire iron back here. Not a big one, one of those piece of shit jobs that come with the vehicle when you buy it. Use that. He felt around the bloody rug until his fingers touched it. Then put a tight grip around the tire iron. Now...time to wait.

Kurt was only ten when Daddy was fired by Russell Stanley, almost nine years now. Back then, Kurt figured it was no big deal, Daddy’d find another job and move on. Didn’t work out like that. Months passed with no sign of a new job and soon, they were faced with losing their house after falling behind on bills. Things only got worse. With no job, Daddy fell hard into drinking, spending most of his unemployment check at the bar around the corner. He and Mom fought more. Didn’t take too long for her to leave. She had no choice, they lost the house, and she was forced to take the boys and move in with her sister. Daddy was left alone, moving into a room in a shitty neighborhood. Mom was heartbroken. She loved Daddy and never wanted to leave him, but did it to give the boys a good home. She died from a heart attack only a few years later.

Doug and Kurt lived with their aunt until Daddy got back on his feet. He found a job at a junkyard, where he still worked, and was able to control his drinking. Hadn’t stopped, he’d still get drunk, usually on his days off, and that’s when they would hear him say how he wanted to get Russ Stanley. Make him pay for ruining his life, tearing his family apart, killing his wife. The boys could see the pain Daddy carried. They could see it in his face, in his eyes, and they could hear it in his voice.

They had an idea of the pain, because they had dealt with it over the years; the pain of having their family destroyed, the pain of losing Mom and watching Daddy become less than a man. They wanted the pain to go away for Daddy and for themselves. They figured this was the way to do it.

Kurt pulled the Nova through the open fence that led into Bobby’s Junkyard, the SUV with Doug only yards behind. They parked in a garage that had a small office connected to it. It was dark inside, but with the lights glaring through the windows of the office, they could see Daddy sitting at a desk.

The men stepped out of the vehicles and met at the front of the SUV. “I’ll get Daddy. Bring him over. Let me know if you need help,” said Doug. They knew Daddy closed up the junkyard on Wednesdays and would be alone by this time, so they weren’t worried about anyone popping up on them.

Elias Nixon was looking through the window now; he saw the two vehicles and was wondering who it could be. Closing time was a half hour ago and the boss left at three. He squinted as he tried to make out one of the vehicles. Yeah, it was the Nova. What was Doug doing here? He was off today.

The father and son met at the office door. “Dad,” Doug said, a faint smile across his face, “we got a surprise for you.”

“Who’s we?”

“Me and Kurt. You’re gonna love it.”

“Yeah?” said Elias, peeking behind Doug, getting a look at the SUV. “Where’d the SUV come from? Don’t tell me that’s the gift.”

“No, Dad. That ain’t the gift.”

“Okay. Good. I was gonna say, ‘I know you two can’t afford that.’ Afraid you stole it for a second.” Elias patted his son’s shoulder, smiling. Then there was a scream. They hustled over to the rear of the SUV where Kurt lay with the flat end of a tire iron driven about three inches into his stomach. Blood was seeping through his gray sweatshirt. Elias was too shocked to say anything. His gaze held on Kurt, while his older son was staring at the older man leaning against the opened hatchback. He was breathing heavy. Blood was drenched in his hair. A goddamn mess.

Russ made eye contact with the tall guy. He said in a tired voice, “Did you get that Nova started?”

Doug’s eyes widened.

Kurt reached out for his daddy as he whimpered.

Elias got on his knees beside his injured son and put his hands over the bloody sweatshirt, his fingers brushing around the tire iron. “What the fuck is going on here? Call a goddamn ambulance!”

With his eyes fixed on Russ, the tall guy began to step away, toward the office door. Russ said, “Call the police while you’re at it. Tell them what you did to me.”

Doug stopped. Beads of sweat began forming on his face.

“What are you doing, Doug? Call nine-one-one. Your brother needs help. Now!”

Doug looked at his father, “I can’t do that, Dad.” His Daddy looked at him, confused. “This is your surprise.” With his head, he motioned to the asshole.

Elias looked at the older man who appeared worse off than his son. He had no clue who he was. His eyes went back to Doug. “Who is he supposed to be, huh? What is this bullshit?”

Doug said, “That’s the man who ruined everything. You always said you wanted to get your hands on him. Well, now’s your chance. Go ahead. Pay the son of a bitch back for all the shit he put you through. And me and Kurt. And Mom. What about her? She’s dead because of him.”

“I never killed anyone in my life,” said Russ, interrupting the tall guy named Doug. “I don’t even know who you are.”

It was clear to Elias now. After hearing his son’s rant, and seeing the tears in his eyes, he knew it. “I worked for you, Russ.”

The voice sounded familiar.

“For twelve years. Then, out of the blue, you fired me. Remember?”

Jesus. “Elias? Elias Nixon?” The upset father nodded. “You’re behind this? You sent your sons to come after me?”

“Hell, no. I would never do anything like that.”

“We did it for you,” said Doug. “You always said how you wanted to get your hands on him. The asshole who ruined your life, our family. Russ Stanley. Well, here he is. Take care of him.”

“Doug, I was drunk whenever I’d talk like that,” said Elias, glaring at his son. “I would never do anything to hurt my family and I’d never expect my family to do something for me that would put them in danger.” Doug stared. “Now call for help. Doug! Do it.”

Russ watched as Doug stood still. The battered executive was beginning to feel lightheaded from the head wound suffered earlier and was desperate for medical attention. “I have a cell phone, I’ll call for help.”

Elias nodded his approval to his former boss as he held his injured son in his arms.

“No,” said Doug, as Russ stumbled to the driver’s side door. “Stay here. Stay the fuck here.”

Russ didn’t listen. He kept walking. There was no time to waste. If he didn’t call for help now, he knew someone could end up dead. He could hear the footsteps rushing up behind, then the sudden force of being tackled against the body of the SUV. He tried his best to pull away from the enraged son, but he was too weak.

Then he saw Doug’s balled-up fist shooting toward his face. He felt the pain as it crashed against his cheekbone. He could hear Elias shouting for his son, telling him to stop, he was only hurting his brother at this point. But Doug didn’t stop. He continued bashing his knuckles against Russ’s face. Russ's eye began to swell, then his cheek. The next blow hit him square in his nose, causing it to explode in an eruption of blood.

His world was getting blurry around him. With each blow that landed, he saw a flash of white. His eyes began to roll. No choice. He gathered his last bit of energy, and slammed the palm of his hand into Doug’s crotch. Doug hunched over, letting out a deep moan.

Still leaning against the SUV, Russ pushed himself up and stumbled over to Doug. With one hand, he grabbed the back of Doug's shirt; with the other, Russ punched Doug in the crotch again and again and again. Doug screamed and fell to his knees, coughed a few times as he vomited on the dirt-covered ground.

Russ dragged his feet as he walked over to the door, wiping blood from his eye. He reached for the cell phone. He called 911, said he was helping his buddy at the junkyard, and a freak accident injured him and his buddy’s son. They needed help right away. He hoped they wouldn’t ask too many questions. He began feeling disoriented, like he was dreaming. He decided to call his wife. She answered. He told her he’d be late for dinner.

“Doug? What happened to you?” said Elias. He didn’t want to leave his baby boy alone; his baby boy who was crying and continuing to tell his father that he was sorry for what they did, they only wanted to make him happy. Elias carried the guilt with him for so many years, the guilt of seeing his family collapse after he lost his job and fell into alcoholism, and he swore he would never abandon his family again. When Kurt began to cry, Elias remembered Kurt as a small boy crying as he forced him into the car with his wife and Doug, the day they moved out. Now he was caressing Kurt's head, telling him everything was going to be okay.

When Russ came back around, he looked at the father and son on the ground. He didn’t have any children, but he and Simone had always wanted a few. He could understand what Elias and his injured son were both feeling. His father had died years ago but Russ thought about him all the time. They weren’t close, but they loved each other beyond whatever they could express in words.

He dropped down beside his former employee and took a deep breath. His face covered in blood and bruises. Elias turned to him and said, “I’m sorry for what they did to you. But...It’s hard, but...Don’t blame them...Blame...”

“Leave it, Elias. It’s taken care of.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, wanting to get a little rest now. “You must be a heck of a father.”

BIO: Felix Cruz is a writer from Philadelphia. His crime novel Rushing The Row is available on

Interlude: Eric Beetner On CrimeWav

Remember our March contest and our second place winner?

Well, now you can hear Eric himself read Past Due.

It's all at CrimeWav.

Go check it out now!

Congratulations, Eric!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 105 - Roger Hobbs


I had a dream about her last night.

She was lying next to me in bed, her back turned, and I reached out to touch her. I did, and I listened to her snoring. I tapped her harder, wanting to wake her, needing to tell her something. I’ve forgotten what I needed to tell her. I’m not even sure if I had something to say; I just needed to speak. When she turned around, she wasn’t my girlfriend. She was a pig, with a vicious, snarling snout. When I woke up, I remembered she was already gone.

A pig can eat up to two hundred pounds of human flesh in a single day. You have to remove any jewelry first and the teeth, because the pig has a hard time with those things. Then you soak the body in alcohol, because pigs love the taste of whiskey. If the pig is hungry enough, its teeth will go right through the bones. After three hours, there will be nothing left. It’s like the body never even existed. I saw that in a Guy Richie movie once. I guess it’s true.

When I met her, she wasn’t even on my radar. She was just another face in the crowd. We met at a party for one of my friends. She wore too much makeup, like she caked it on before party. She was uglier than I expected her to be. She took me out under the bridge and we fucked. I grabbed her as she writhed under me and, when I kissed her, it was like looking into a well.
That was three years ago.

Last night, she was out drinking in the lobby of a hotel downtown. She drank tequila, and when she drank tequila the liquor would go right down to her cooch and set her on fire. She didn’t know I was there, watching her as she stumbled around the room. She sat at the bar in that blue dress I bought her and drank frozen margaritas through a straw. She did this once a week, now. Soon, one of her boyfriends would come in fresh from his wife or girlfriend and take her upstairs. I don’t drink anymore.

From the day we met, I have not slept with another woman. She made sure of that. She started with everyone she knew, and told them every secret I ever told her. She told them every confession I ever made and broadcast every weakness I ever had, to make sure that if I left her, I would have nowhere else to go. Then she slowly started working her way into my friends. She started with the people I lived with, my housemates. She told them stories about how I had broken her heart and shattered her trust. In her world, she was the victim. She moved on from my friends to my co-workers. She made sure that without her I couldn’t be anyone, and then, when she had taken as much as she could, she met Jeremy.

He was the first, as far as I know. He lived in her building. He was tall, with long brown hair and a girlfriend back in California where he had dropped out of college a few years before because of drugs. She met him when she wasn’t talking to me. They first had sex at my graduation party, while I was waiting in the white room under the soda machines watching my only friends do cocaine off of a cosmetics mirror. For those few hours, I drank Evan Williams from the bottle until I passed out. For those few hours, I felt like I didn’t exist.

She called me that night and showed me where he had bitten her. She held out to me all the bruises on her neck and her breasts, and the little white marks where his teeth had sunk into her skin. She invited me back to my room so I could smell him on my bed and in her hair, over my desk and in my shower. Then she put her arms around me. The whole time I thought of nothing more than what I wanted to do to her.

Last night, I watched from across the room as Jeremy walked up to the bar in his cheap jacket and tie. When he took her in his arms, he bit her gently on the neck and I could imagine the blood gushing into his mouth like a pig tearing into human flesh. I watched as he took her to the elevator without saying a word. In the morning, I would get the bill for the room and I would pay for every drop she took from the minibar.

Blood alcohol is a finicky thing, because it does different things to different people. Some people get loud, some people get quiet. Some people get happy, others get sad. But everyone is subject to certain effects after a few drinks, and that doesn’t matter who you are.

You have to hit a .03 to feel anything at all. The blood rushes to your face. You can’t concentrate on complicated tasks anymore, and your coordination starts to fade away. When you hit a .08, you can’t drive a car or play the piano right. By the time you hit .11, you’re staggering and slurring. At .21, you can barely walk. At .31, most people black out. At .35, you’re unconscious. And finally, at .41, most people go into a coma and then slowly die. For a two-hundred pound man, it takes more than fifteen drinks in less than 40 minutes to reach that level of intoxication. For a hundred pound woman, it takes less than 5 ounces of ethyl alcohol.

I watched from my table as their elevator slowly rose to the twentieth floor. I ordered a glass of water and waited for Jeremy to come back down the elevator. She always stayed after she fucked one of her boys. She liked to drink and masturbate after sex, and smell him all over her covers before she changed them. He came back down with wet hair tied in a ponytail. When I was sure he was gone, I took the elevator up to the room and got ready.

I went on a business trip a week ago and purchased a syringe from an anonymous needle exchange in a distant city. They’re free because they give them out to heroin addicts to stop the spread of HIV. Five days ago, I put the syringe in my coat pocket and tried to forget it. Two days ago, I bought a bottle of pure ethyl alcohol from a city shopkeeper who would never remember my face. At the bar, I watched her drink five margaritas before Jeremy arrived. Five minutes before, I checked my medical chart and confirmed that her blood alcohol content was at least .25, just enough to make her flushed and sleepy after an hour of rough and violent sex.

When I entered the hotel room, she was already asleep on the bed. She was completely naked, her neck and chest bruised and the mattress soaked with sweat. She was sprawled out over the covers, her vibrator still in her hand and a few empty mini-bottles of Grey Goose on the nightstand. The untouched condoms were on the dresser where I knew he had ignored them. I knelt beside her and listened to her snore like the loud grunting of a pig.

“Hello,” I whispered, without expecting her to respond. “I guess you expected this. If you didn’t, you should have.”

A female pig weighing a hundred pounds has 3.3 liters of blood. Blood has a density of 1.06 grams per milliliter. Alcohol has a density of .79 grams per milliliter.

“I just want you to know what it feels like to be trapped so you can never escape.”

I filled the syringe carefully with the alcohol. No one has ever had blood alcohol content above one percent, so I had to be very careful. One percent blood alcohol is 9.46 milligrams per gram.
“I bet you think you’re the victim, but you’re not.”

I gripped the syringe. I did the calculations in my head. Convert liters of blood into milligrams. Multiply. Divide. Subtract. Fifteen milliliters would bring her to .51.

As I located a vein on her leg, her eyelids started the flutter as if she wanted to wake up. As I pressed the plunger down, I said:

“I just want you to know what it feels like to not exist.”

BIO: Roger Hobbs is a writer in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Hit-and-Run Magazine, and The People’s Weekly World. Reach him on the web at

A Twist Of Noir 104 - Michael J. Solender


A devout and fervent misanthrope, Woodrow held a special brand of odium for the perpetrator of the most recent attempt to encroach on his solitude by building (the unmitigated gall of it) on the adjacent lot to his, obliterating his view of the beloved mountains, his sole companions in life. He had once again retained the realtor Wilson, a petulant and child-like man, as a necessary means to negotiating a more than generous offer to buy out the impinging trespass that was on the horizon.

Finding his first and second offers rebuffed, he pulled out his trump card and exerted considerable pressure on the current builder, who then mysteriously quit the job midstream. Not deterred, his as yet unmet "neighbor" informed Woodrow, through his attorney, that he would not be stopped in moving forward.

The fire chief could clearly see the telltale signs of accelerant; they permeated the house under development and left Woodrow's precious mountain view smoky, but intact. Woodrow would not be enjoying it, however, as his charred body was strewn akimbo in the charred bits of construction debris, his right hand still clutching the cheap Bic lighter that did not allow for a hasty enough escape from the exploding fumes of kerosene that knocked him out cold only to be consumed by the heat of the fire that ensued.

BIO: Michael J. Solender is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, NC. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for the Charlotte Observer and NEVER runs with scissors. His fiction has appeared online at Full Of Crow, Dogzsplot, A Twist of Noir, Thrillers Killers 'N' Chillers, 6S, Powder Burn Flash, Gloom Cupboard and Flashshot. You can follow his blog at your own peril here: not from here, are you?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 103 - Alec Cizak


I didn't normally go for blondes. I liked the dark-haired girls. Didn't matter what ethnicity. Asian, White, Latina, whatever. But this broad, she walked in, sat down right next to me. I could tell by the way she was dressed she was hookin' for a living. That didn't bother me.

"My name is Patience," she said. She shifted her legs in her sparkly little skirt. She did it slowly, making sure I noticed.

I did.

She stuck out her hand in a dainty manner.

I offered a sloppy shake, attempting to feign disinterest. "Stan Dillon," I said.

"Stan," she said, scooting as close to me as possible, making sure her legs brushed against mine, "what's a stud like you doing all alone on a Friday night?"

I laughed. "Nothing better to do, I guess."

"You a cop?"

I nodded.

"You on duty?"

I shook my head.

"You guys make a lot of money, don't you?"

I howled. "Hey Travis," I said to the bartender, "Patience here thinks I'm rolling in the green."

Travis offered up a hearty laugh and went back to counting change in the register.

"I'll bet you make enough to satisfy me," Patience said.

"Is that right?"

She nodded and leaned in close, breathed fire into my ear and whispered, "How'd you like to get down with two girls tonight?"

Wouldn't have been nothing new for me. In fact, my wife left me precisely because I had been caught up in a scandal with some online call girls. A jackass investigative reporter busted in and snapped pictures of me and two Korean hookers from the west side. At least, that was the reason the court didn't give a damn about my side of the story.

"Sure," I said.

"My friend Finesse will meet us at the Ramada on Wilshire."

I finished my drink and pretended to think about it seriously before agreeing to go with her.


We were on the road for five minutes without any conversation. Finally, I said, "So when'd you get to L.A.?"

"Why do you ask?"

A light rain made me concentrate more on the road than the conversation. I shrugged. Then I said, "I've never seen you at the 4200 before."

"Oh, yeah," she said, "Finesse just told me about that joint. Said there were Johnnies there who were cool with girls like us." She pulled a make-up kit out of her fake leopard skin purse and touched her face up quickly. My cop instincts started ringing.

I looked at her. She seemed familiar. "Have I busted you before?"

She shook her head, emphatically.

"It's just that sometimes I arrest a girl and she tries to get revenge by setting me up. I gotta' be safe, you know?"

"Relax, honey," she said, "I just want to have some fun." She put her hand on my leg.

I didn't protest.

She ran her fingers up and down my thigh. My cop instincts quieted down.

I decided I didn't have much to worry about. She was tiny. If she tried to pull something, I could overpower her easy enough, drop her if I had to and dump the body in an alley. Nobody would notice. Nobody would care.

Whenever I got to thinking like that, I thought about how much I wanted to just kill myself. I had seen enough human garbage and enough humans being treated like garbage that I had lost faith in the idea that anything in this world was good.

I focused on Patience's legs. She couldn't have been more than twenty-seven or twenty-eight. The only threatening signs of age were the lines on her hands, just barely announcing their presence. In two years she would be, in the eyes of shallow, materialist Los Angeles, way over the hill.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

I shook off all the negative ideas in my head. I looked at her and smiled. "I'm wondering how much I'm going to enjoy tonight." As soon as I said it, I believed it.

She rested her head on my shoulder, just like she was a regular gal or something.


Patience made sure I brought my handcuffs with me when we got to the hotel. That didn't bother me one bit. As soon as we were in the room, she was all over me. Clawing at me like a monster.

"Get this out of here," she said in a panting, overly-desperate voice. She nearly ripped the buttons off of my shirt.

"Alright, alright," I said, pushing her away so she didn't ruin my clothes. I took my undershirt off and threw it on the bed. I tried to remove her skirt but she slapped my hands away.

"You first," she said, tugging at my pants.

"Where's, ah, your friend?"

"Finesse will be here when it's time."

Had she not been running her hands in and out of my boxers, I might have investigated that last statement.

"Let's go!" she said as she dragged my shorts to my ankles and then shoved me backwards onto the bed.

At that point, I was laughing. The whole thing was absurd. This little woman, pushing around big bad Johnny Law. She yanked my socks off and then jumped on top of me.

Gently squeezing my waist between her thighs, surrounding me with her warmth, she snaked down and almost kissed me. I reached for her with my lips but she raised back up and, without my taking much notice, grabbed my wrists and guided them behind the steel bars at the head of the bed.

And then the cuffs, my cuffs, were around my wrists.

"Hey, baby," I said, "I'm, you know, at quite a loss here."

She put her finger over my mouth, gently. "Give me a second, lover."

I didn't protest as she used my socks to tie each of my legs to the posts at the foot of the bed. Then she walked in a slinky, sexy corkscrew to the bathroom. I could hear her talking to someone behind the door. She spoke in a soothing, tender voice.

When she came back out, she had a jar of peanut butter and a spatula in her hands.

"Whoa," I said, "I'm thinking this is gonna get pretty kinky."

"You're thinking right, mister," she said, as she sat on the bed next to me. She opened the jar and scooped out a heap of peanut butter.

"What's the plan?"

She smiled. Then she smeared the peanut butter all over my chest. It was sticky and warm and, to be honest, didn't turn me on all that much.

"Really, Patience, what do you have in mind here?"

Then I heard it, in the bathroom. Something moving around. "That your friend?" I asked, nodding towards the door.

"I told you, Finesse will be here when the time is right." She continued spreading peanut butter all over my body.

"I sure hope you got a clever way to remove this," I said, using my chin to point at the sea of brown covering me.

She stuck out her tongue and winked at me. "I told you this would be a night you would remember."

When she was finally out of peanut butter, she put the jar on the floor with the spatula inside it. Then she stood up and pulled the blonde hair off of her head. Underneath, wouldn't you know it, she was a brunette.

"You remember me?" she asked.

I closed my eyes and asked a God I didn't really believe in how I could have been so stupid. "No," I said, still not looking at her, "when did I arrest you?"

"You didn't."

I opened my eyes.

"When I was thirteen, you offered me a ride home from school. Virgil Junior High, on Vermont."

One of many sealed capsules of guilt opened up in the pit of my stomach. "Jesus," I said, "that was, like, fifteen years ago."

She nodded.

"I forgot all about it."

"I didn't," she said, "hard to forget losing your virginity to a flashlight."

At first, I failed to recognize that I had started to cry. Maybe I knew things were about to get much, much worse. "Sweetheart," I said, "you can't hold me responsible for the way I acted back then..."

She hissed, loud enough to shut me up. Before I could regroup and protest once more, she slid her panties down her legs from under her skirt and stuffed them, firmly, into my mouth.

"It's time for you to meet Finesse."

When she returned from the bathroom, she had a cage with an animal jumping around it in frantic, maniacal twitches. As she got closer, I saw that it was a rat. A big Los Angeles rat. The size of a goddamn rabbit.

"Finesse hasn't eaten in two days," Patience said. She set the cage right on my chest. The rat pecked at the peanut butter oozing up between the thin bars.

It tickled at first. Then I felt its tiny teeth scraping at my skin. I tried to scream but the panties stifled my voice.

Patience put her hand on the latch to the front of the cage. "You two will have the place to yourselves for the next three days," she said. "Good luck." Then she opened it and quickly rushed out of the room, making sure to hang the 'Do Not Disturb' sign outside as she shut the door.

I struggled for a while, whipping my body from left to right, throwing the rat, sometimes getting enough momentum to send it clear off the bed. It always found its way back.

Eventually I lost my will and passed out.


When I woke up, I saw that the rat had chewed a hole into my belly while I was unconscious. It was picking and choosing which elements of my intestines tasted best with the peanut butter.
Oddly, what I thought about at that moment was that once upon a time I had the opportunity to stick my gun in my mouth and pull the trigger. I always figured choosing to live was noble. The 'right decision,' as those chumps on daytime talk shows would no doubt have stated it.

BIO: Alec Cizak is a writer from Indianapolis.