Monday, August 31, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 147 - J.R. Lindermuth


He knocked again. The murmur of their voices drifted out to him along with the clatter of china and the soft thud of footfalls as they moved about the rooms. They know I'm out here. Why don't they answer?

His stomach growled. It was getting late. His impatience mounted. But he mustn't leave. They had to answer. He waited.

The dingy hall of the tenement was thick with the odor of a thousand badly cooked meals, overflowing trash cans, dust, dirt. The smell cloyed at his sensitive nostrils. He was tired. It had been a long day and he wanted to sit down and relax. His legs ached from all the unaccustomed walking, the briefcase under his arm an annoying weight.

Why don't they answer?

A woman inside laughed in response to a muffled comment by the man. Are they laughing at me? Is it some sort of joke to keep me waiting? Muttering to himself, he pounded on the door again. He waited. He crossed the hall and knocked on the door of the other apartment, though he'd already been told it was vacant.

Then, just as he'd turned to go back downstairs, he heard the sound of footsteps approaching their door. He swung around, hand raised to knock once more, and the door popped open.

A pudgy, unshaven face gawked at him from the doorway. "Was you knockin'?"

"Yes. I did. I'm from the Census Bureau."


"I need to talk to you. I'm the enumerator."

The man squinted at him. "What's that mean?"

He sighed. Poor was bad enough. Did they have to be stupid as well? "I need to ask you some questions. It's for the government."

The man grunted. "Come on then."

He followed the man into the apartment. It was worse than he'd expected. One large cluttered room with a small kitchen and bath opening from it. A television blared in one corner opposite a battered sofa. The woman had her back to him, wallowing in dishes at the sink in the kitchen. She turned and glanced at him, then went back to her work. The man stood beside him, waiting. A rancid odor emanated from his thick body.

"I'm from the Census Bureau."

"You said."

"Did they send you a form?"

"It's on the table, honey," the woman said.

The man walked over to the table and searched through a clutter of newspapers, mail and several shoe boxes. He came back with a sheaf of papers in his hand.

The enumerator took them and glanced over the form. "You haven't filled everything out."

"What else you need to know? Government's always wantin' to know too much about people's business."

"It's just the two of you?"


"Do you have a job?"

The man scowled and shuffled his feet.

"He has back troubles," the woman said. She came toward them, drying her hands on a dingy dish towel. "He can't get no job."

"What about you, missus? Do you have a job?"

"She has enough to do taking care of this place."

The woman shrugged. "Joey don't think women should work outside the house."

The census-taker nodded. The bureau was right about them. "So you're dependent on the government?"

It was the man who shrugged this time. "Supposed to take care of its citizens, ain't it? I mean, what else is it for? Don't give you much and won't let you in peace, neither. You about done?" the man asked. "I'm missing my show."

A raucous game show on the TV. Its din enough to give the enumerator a headache. He made a notation on the form. Deceased. The pen scratched harshly on the paper. "What? Yes. I'm about done." He stuck his pen into his shirt pocket, knelt and opened the briefcase on his knee. He shoved in the papers and extracted his pistol. A neat Colt Woodsman .22 fitted with a silencer. He rose and faced the couple.

The man saw it first. His eyes popped wide and he took a step back, bumping into his wife. "What's that for?" the woman squawked.

He shot the man between the eyes. The gun made a pop, barely audible over the TV. The woman opened her mouth but no sound came out. He shot her and she collapsed across her husband's body.

He glanced down at her prostrate form. "I'm sorry," he said, putting the gun back in the briefcase. "I'll be going now. Thank you for your time."

He turned and left the apartment. The television blared in the hall from the open doorway. He went down the stairs. It was time to see about some supper and a rest.

BIO: J.R. Lindermuth is the author of seven novels, including three in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. He has published short stories and articles in a variety of magazines, both print and online. Check out Jack's Place for reviews and sample chapters.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 146 - Libby Cudmore


I’m told on the payphone that it’s too late to go to the orphanage tonight. The social worker in charge of these things tells me to get a room and wait it out until morning. I’m down to fifty-five bucks after paying for a room in what I know is a hot-sheet, but the Tropical motel is the cleanest place I can find on my limited budget. And with no idea when my first paycheck will arrive, I can’t be choosy about my lodging. I thought Derris Falls was a pit, but Crimson City is even worse. This place needs me. This place needs God.

I’m just out of the shower when I hear a knock at my door. I dress quickly and answer to a pink pants girl with too much eye makeup trying to hide an amphetamine stare. “Just you in here?” she asks, trying to peek past me.

“I intend for it to stay that way,” I say. “Goodnight.”

She sticks her plastic shoe in the door and grins at the Bible in my hands. “A preacher, huh? I’m pretty good on my knees.”

My hands want to shove her, but my heart tells me to do otherwise. I take the chain off the lock and invite her inside. She sidles in, hangs her purse on the door and sits on the bed with her legs spread. The crotch seams of her fishnet stockings are torn, revealing muted bloodstains on blue cotton panties. “Five bucks for a kiss, twenty for a full party hour. If you can go longer than that, it’s ten bucks extra every half hour. You gotta pay the twenty up front, though, the rest you can leave on the dresser.” She looks me over and smirks. “What can I call you?”

“Gregory is fine.”

“All right, Gregory, I’m Amy. You seem like you’ve done this before.”

“Close ’em,” I say. “I’ll pay you for your time, but we’re going to talk.”

She rolls her eyes. “Christ, if I wanted to sit around yapping, I would have become a hairdresser. If you don’t want to party, fine, but I’m not one of those girls who wants to hear about your wife leaving you.”

She stands to leave, but I pull a ten out of my wallet and hold it up. “Half an hour, that’s all, I promise. That’s two back-alley jobs with no scraped knees.” I’m not in the habit of paying people to listen to me, but if I can save her soul in the next thirty minutes, it’ll be worth a hundred times what came out of my pocket. Then maybe she’ll tell her friends and I can start my congregation. It worked in Derris Falls, there’s no reason it won’t work here.

She can’t resist my offer, not when it’s getting late and her high is crashing fast. She pulls a pack of cigarettes out of her jacket pocket and puts one between her purple lips. “Mind if I smoke?”

She’s stalling. She holds the pack out to me and I shake my head. “I’d prefer if you didn’t.” I just quit and, as tempting as her offer is, I wouldn’t be a very good model for resisting sin if I gave in to my own.

She puts the cigarette back in the pack and crosses her ankles. “Tell me all about her,” she says, stifling a yawn.

I pull a wobbly wooden chair around to face her. “Do you believe in God?” I ask.

“Ha!” She leans back on her hands. “The only reason I know God exists is because he’s doing me hard up the ass.”

Now I’m getting somewhere. At least she has some belief, skewed as it is. “What makes you say that?”

“Oh hell,” she sneers. “Is that what’s gonna get you off? Are you one of those fire-and-brimstone bastards who want me to recite my sins while you pound into me so you can gloat about the eternal damnation I’m facing? Save it, Reverend, my rent’s due tomorrow and I don’t have time for the sermon.”

“I bought half an hour,” I say. “And if you want that ten-spot, and I know you do, you’ll sit and listen. I don’t care what you’ve done, all I care about it what you’re going to do. Are you going to walk out that door and buy more drugs to abuse the body that God blessed you with? Are you going to continue to ignore His love and refuse His forgiveness? God’s not the one doing you up the ass, honey. He’s the one offering his hand to help you up off all fours.”

“So you’re saying that it’s my fault, you’re saying that I choose to live like this?” Her eyes fill with tears. “Screw you, pal, you don’t know what I’m about.”

“I’m not blaming you,” I say, putting my hand on hers. She snatches them away and folds her arms under her breasts, pushing them up as though a little cleavage will make me change my mind about her services and shut up about the whole salvation thing. I wish I could put all the fault on her—no one forced her to use drugs, and if she’s like any of the other hundreds of beat girls I’ve met, she only started standing under lampposts to support her wretched habit. I’m not in this to judge. That job belongs to someone a lot higher on the cosmic pay scale. “Every day you have the choice to use or not to use drugs, to stay home or go out. You need to accept your responsibility for your addiction, and the easiest way to do that is to accept that God will help your break your wicked habits with His divine love.”

I’ve given some version of this sermon time and time again, sometimes girls come up to me and hug me and ask, Do you know of anyplace I can get clean? and other times they grab a few extra donuts when they sneak out during the Lord’s Prayer.

She stares at her reflection in the blank TV screen behind me.

“What do you say?” I ask. “Will you accept God’s love?”

“I say you just used up all your time.” She stands and holds out her hand. “Ten bucks.”

My own watch tells me otherwise. “I’ll be preaching over at the Church on Byrne street starting this Sunday. I’d like it if you’d come; there’ll be lunch afterwards.”

“I’ll be singing hymns in the front row,” she snarls. “Pay up.”

I hand her the ten wrapped around Psalm 142.7: Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name. She takes the ten, grabs her purse and slams the door behind her. Probably off to laugh with her fellow street sisters about the weirdo she serviced tonight. Of all the guys in Crimson City, the pimps, the junkies, the wife-beaters and other scum, I’m the crazy johnnie trying to save her soul.

I sigh and sit on the bed. I can still smell her drugstore perfume, artificially fruity alcohol trying to mask the scent of lubricant and unwashed bodies. I exhale and stand. I need a drink. I need a cigarette. I quit both. A cup of coffee will have to do.

Putting on my coat, I briefly consider taking my Bible and preaching at some of the bars I saw on the cab ride over here. I change my mind when I find my crumpled prayer card by the stairs. Converting Crimson City is going to be a lot harder than I thought.

BIO: Libby Cudmore is a regular contributor to Hardboiled magazine and Pop Matters. Her work has appeared in A Twist of Noir, Eastern Standard Crime, the Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Pusher, Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Crime and Suspense, Inertia, the Southern Women’s Review and Shaking Like a Mountain. She also has stories slated for upcoming issues of Thrilling Detective, PowderBurnFlash, Battered Suitcase and the anthology Quantum Genre on the Planet of the Arts (with Matthew Quinn Martin).

A Twist Of Noir 145 - Paul Brazill


Originally appeared at Powder Burn Flash in January 2009

Bonny is volcanic. She’s so angry that she can hardly speak but, unfortunately for me, hardly is the operative word. As she tries to scrub the blood stains from my best white shirt, she goes on and on about the meal she’d cooked the night before and how long it had taken her to cook it. She keeps asking me over and over again if I want to live on burgers all my life and why, if I’m going to spend all of my time hanging around a dirty warehouse with a bunch of psychos that look like Blues Brothers rejects, I can't at least pick up the phone and call to say I’ll be home late.

My head is hurting, my stomach is rumbling and I’m tired. Bonny is starting to sound like a duck quack quack quacking, so I turn on the radio hoping it isn’t more ‘Sounds of the Seventies’, as I’ve really had my fill of that shit the last few days. The DJ’s monotone drone introduces some LA band destroying a Neil Diamond classic so I switch it off again.

Noticing that the heat from Bonny’s eruption has started to cool down, I present her with a bag containing the proceeds of my recent job. When she sees the rare coins in the bag, Bonny’s jaw drops so much you could scrape carpet fluff from it and she lets rip with a string of expletives, so strong that they would even make the young Eddie Murphy blush. Almost tearing off her nurse’s uniform, she runs toward me screaming like a banshee.

Afterwards, when I know that it’s safe, I suggest that maybe we could go out for something to eat. We could even try that Hawaiian burger joint that’s just opened up nearby. Hands on hips, Bonny laughs and says, okay, as long as I promise not to wear that dumb Speed Racer t-shirt that makes me look like a nerd.

Anything you say, I reply and start to walk into the bathroom before stopping and saying that, shit, if the service in that restaurant is any good today, I might even leave a tip.

BIO: Paul D. Brazill has been lucky enought to have had stories in A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, The Legendary, Beat To A Pulp, Thriller Killers n Chillers, Blink Ink, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Shoots & Vines, Six Sentences and Flashshots. His print published work is in the book Six Sentences Volume Two and the Finnish magazine Ässä.(ACE) and coming soon...

He can be found stalking ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you?


Libby Cudmore shows you what happens when things go Unplanned over at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

Libby made this whole word-stringing thing look easy.

A word of advice, though. Never fall in love with a waitress named Bunny.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Michael J. Solender gives us all Silvery Wings in a story that absolutely flies at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

Set in the Ecuadoran rain forest, it's a crime story at its heart and one that makes you empathize with the perpetrator. Michael pulls of a rare two-fer in this one.

Friday, August 28, 2009


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

Titled Turning A Corner, it's a universal story that, as Col Bury says, could take place in any city in the world. It might be happening just down the street from where you live or thousands of miles away.

I'm as proud of this story as I am of all my stories.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Keith Rawson's in The Shed Out Back at Powder Burn Flash.

If this story looks familiar, it should be. It's at Eastern Standard Crime, as well.

The reason for the (almost) simultaneous submission is due to a mix-up, something Keith told me he has never done before.

We've all been there, Keith. We all make mistakes.

It'd be a HUGE mistake if any of you missed out on The Shed Out Back. Make sure you don't. And, even if you've read it, read it again.

While you're at PBF, be sure to thank Aldo for everything that he does.

After that, head on over to Pulp Pusher and read Stephen D. Rogers' Tenant-At-Will.

I always love it when characters think they're going to get away with something and then they have to go even further over the line than they've already gone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 144 - Stephen D. Rogers


The heist went bad so quickly, I didn't even know what happened. Everything was under control, and then it wasn't, and I was staggering out the front doors of the bank with my younger brother's left arm wrapped around my neck, his blood soaking into my shirt.

Over the sound of his ragged breathing, I could hear the alarm, and the sirens, and the pounding as I limped across the parking lot.

I tried to console myself with that old song about my brother not being heavy, rather than think of him in terms of dead weight.

But I never did like that song.

Nor the song the alarm was singing. The song the sirens were singing. The song my brother's lung was singing.

Whistling, rather.

In and out. The bank, not the bullet that hit my brother. We were going to be in and out, spending less time inside the bank that it was taking me to reach the car.

In fact, the car wasn't getting any closer.

I wasn't moving.

I couldn't move. My legs frozen and numb and fuzzy. And then they collapsed.

The song my blood sang in my ears.

My little brother, lying on the ground next to me, had been shot.

But I, the older one, the responsible one, I had been killed.

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


I've got a new story up over at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers titled Bus Stop.

With the exception of one mistake on my part (a wrongly worded sentence), I'm pretty satisfied with it.

Go have a look.

Meanwhile, go have a longer look at The Drowing Machine and the contest that Corey Wilde is holding. The more, the merrier is how we're looking at it. Get in when the getting gets going and good luck to everyone that enters.

And check out Eastern Standard Crime, specifically the latest offering there by Kieran Shea.

The story is titled The Come On and Kieran, as always, delivers. I won't ruin it for you but I love the last sequence of events in the story the best, when business has concluded and there's a back and forth and, of course, that last line. Couldn't agree more, Kieran.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Tom Leins has another excellent tale up at The Flash Fiction Offensive, where he introduces us to the Triggerman. A big surprise comes for him and us at the end. And, yes, those are green eyes I'm sporting.

Bo Fexler gets Beat To A Pulp in Hit Women. But don't worry. She comes back twice as hard. Clair Dickson just keeps getting better and better, doesn't she?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 143 - Kent Gowran


There were no other cars around when Coleman parked the pick-up truck and retrieved the pistol from under the seat. He closed the door but didn’t lock it, and then walked toward Montrose Harbor.

“Lousy motherfuckers. Send an old man out to ditch a gun in the middle of the night. Shit.” He kept his shoulders hunched against the winter chill, his eyes scanned all around, looking for any sign of life. He didn’t want anyone to see him, not even some drunk whose vision worked in triplicate.

Ice covered much of the lake along the shore, and Coleman walked along theretaining wall a ways before he found a spot where he figured he could tossthe revolver and have it land out in the water.

“Let’s get this done,” he said to himself through chattering teeth. He rubbed his hands together to get them warm, then grabbed the gun with his right and gave it the best throw he could muster. The piece went up into the air but didn’t get much of an arc, and it clattered across the ice, and stopped its slide just about a yard short of going into the water.

Coleman looked all around again.

Still alone.

He looked at the gun out on the ice.


Maybe the morning sun would shine down and melt away more of the ice and send the pistol into the water. He looked up at the empty night sky, and then Coleman climbed down onto the ice.

“Just hold steady now,” he said to himself as he took timid steps in the direction of the stranded gun. He thought he heard the ice crack beneath his weight. He held his breath, but let it out after a moment. What was there to be afraid of? “If you fall in, you fall in.”

He made it to the revolver and bent to pick it up. His back roared with pain as he tried to straighten up. One hand went to his back and, with the other, he tossed the gun into the water.

Coleman turned to head back to shore, slipped on the ice, and his feet went out from under him. He hit the ice hard on his back and his breath went out of him.

Coleman didn’t believe in God. Or much of anything, for that matter. But, for just a moment, he heard a sound, out there on the ice, that, if he had to, he could only describe as angels singing.
His head cleared and he realized the singing must’ve been someone driving by with their car stereo turned up too loud.


Coleman stayed motionless as the pain spread through his body. Maybe, he thought, maybe this is the way it ends. Fuck the cancer eating his bones, he’d go out frozen to death on the ice at Montrose Harbor.

Probably even make the news, he thought, pull a stunt like that.


Coleman’s eyes snapped open.

“Hey! Sir? Can you hear me?”

Coleman lifted his head from the ice. Two Chicago cops stood along the retaining wall, one shining a flashlight down on him. He raised his arm and waved to them.

“I’m coming to get you,” called one of the cops.

Coleman grunted and tried to roll onto his side. He couldn’t do it. He didn’t think he’d broken anything; he was just frozen to the bone.

The cop came into view and knelt down on the ice next to him.

“You all right?”

“I think so,” Coleman said.

“What were you doing out here?”

“On the ice?”


“Had to get rid of a piece.”

“What’s that?”

“A gun.”

The cop took a step back. “Excuse me?”

Coleman laughed. “Bad joke. I was just...”


“Night fishing.”

“Where’s your pole?”

“It fell in the lake, I guess. I was trying to find a spot to cast in...I lost my balance. At my age, that happens more often than I care to admit.”

The cop’s face relaxed. “You gotta be more careful,” he said as he helped Coleman get to his feet.

“That’s what my doctor is always telling me. Be more careful. But I’m sick. Dying, you want to know the truth. Cancer. Just had to get out here one more time. You follow me, officer?”

The cop nodded and said, “I hear you. But you do know it’s illegal to be out here at night, don’t you?”

Coleman let out a laugh. “Are you going to arrest me?”

“I don’t suppose so.”

“I appreciate it.”

“Let’s go back, all right?”

“Sure,” Coleman said. “I guess I’ve had enough time on the ice for tonight.”

As they walked, the cop said, “You know what you said? About the gun?”


“That happens a lot. All along the lake shore.”

“Pretty good way to get rid of a gun, I guess.”

“The lake and the sewers,” the cop said. “Chicago’s own weapons disposal system.”

“Better than leaving a gun where some kid might find it, right?”

“I suppose. But sometimes kids do find them. Playing in the lake during the summer. A kid caught one fishing right here at Montrose Harbor a few years back. Big stainless steel automatic.”

“A .45?”

“Yeah,” the cop said. “Good guess.”


They made it back to the wall and the cop and his partner helped Coleman back up. He shook the hand of the cop who’d come out after him, and then shook the partner’s hand, as well.

“Thank you, officers. I might’ve died out there.”

“What were you doing, anyway?” said the partner.

“Night fishing,” Coleman and the first cop said in unison.

“You should be more careful, sir.”

“He knows that.”

“I do.”

“Yeah? Well, last year we pulled a guy out of the water not far from here. Fell right through the ice. Not sure if he froze to death or drowned first. Still had a fishing pole clutched in one hand, too.”

“It’s a dangerous world,” Coleman said.

BIO: Kent Gowran grew up in rural Illinois and currently lives and works in Chicago. His stories have appeared in PLOTS WITH GUNS, DZ Allen's MUZZLE FLASH, HORROR GARAGE, and other wild venues. He keeps a poor excuse for a blog at Blood, Sweat & Murder.


Libby Cudmore continues to tear it up, this time over at The Flash Fiction Offensive, where she offers us all Absolution.

Unlike her previous story, Last Night, over at Eastern Standard Crime, you probably can figure out it's going to end with a bang.

However, can you guess who's squeezing the trigger?

Hint: The Devil is in the details.

Go read it and say your prayers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 142 - David Price


He bought her when he was just out of basic in 1968. He knew the Army M-6 bayonet was a decent knife and he damn well knew he needed a bayonet in Vietnam. But he wanted a little more. He found it in the Randall 14. He wore her upside down in her custom leather sheath strapped to his web gear and just over his heart. She saw him through two tours. Why the hell he volunteered for the second one, he still doesn’t know. Even to this day. It somehow seemed right at the time but half way through that second tour, he began to question his sanity.

The Randall was his best friend. She became something more than a knife to him. He sharpened her every night when he could. He believed her steel tang would protect him from an AK-47 heart shot. He never had to find out. Oh, he was wounded a couple of times, shrapnel and a thru and thru in the meat of his right thigh. It missed the bone. He came home with two purple hearts and two bronze stars. He didn’t talk about it, any of it.


Spider and Mimo had grown up together in the Detroit public school system. They both came from the projects and shared a common bond. They were both losers.

Spider got his name from his tall gangly appearance even as far back as elementary school. He was always tall for his age but it was the long spindly arms and legs coupled with a weird way of moving his arms in cadence with a long stride that cemented his nickname. In those days he wasn’t brave enough to be a bully, at least not to humans. He had no fear of insects and small animals. During the summer following fifth grade, he discovered the power of a magnifying glass. Most every day that summer, he could be found cooking ants, spiders and any other insect that crossed the sidewalk running next to the projects.

In junior high, he progressed to small cats, kittens and birds. The cats and kittens he plain tortured and killed in a variety of disturbing ways. The birds were a much more difficult catch. He borrowed a friend’s B-B gun. He would sit all day, still like a military sniper just to get a chance to kill a robin or a sparrow.

The cat killings bought him a year in a juvenile camp where he then learned to ignore the suffering of humans.


After his first tour, he was on R&R in the Philippines. Most guys tried to see how much they could drink and how much ganja they could smoke while trying to get laid every day. Instead, he became introspective and decided he needed to honor his knife by learning how to best use her. He spent most of his leave, training with a Filipino martial arts weapons expert. He learned about stance, weapon retention, stick, parry and slash. He practiced hour after hour until the flow and rhythm of his sweeps and passes were fast, smooth and as natural as throwing a baseball. The blade work was combined with the martial arts techniques of leg sweeps, foot traps and distracting feints. He could arc a carotid strike with jackhammer speed that delivered three or four jabs in less than a second. The result would be a carotid artery shredded beyond repair and a bleed out in less than a minute.

During his second tour, all that training saved his life in a hand to hand fight with a jungle sentry. He let his practiced techniques take over. It ended so fast it scared him.


Mimo was a kid others looked up to. He was naturally bright and did well in elementary school where homework was minimal. His smile and quick wit served him well. All of his teachers liked him.

He was a good athlete and a leader. He adopted Spider and allowed him to be his friend. Spider felt accepted and important when he was with Mimo, something he never felt in his dysfunctional home.

By the time they hit high school their lives changed for the worse.

Spider became more bizarre in his thinking and his fantasies. Never a student, he virtually stopped attending school. He spent his days browsing comic books in a variety of stores until he was inevitably kicked out of each one. He had no money so his comic collection was acquired by means of the five finger discount.

Mimo’s smile and charm didn’t follow him to high school where he never studied. Even his natural intelligence failed in classes where specific knowledge was required.

By the time they were both sixteen, they were totally out of school. Their life degenerated to drinking cheap wine, beer and huffing any substance they could get their hands on from glue to gasoline. What brain cells Mimo possessed were slowly killed off.

Now Spider’s dark side was given an outlet in Mimo’s increasingly antisocial disposition.

They began funding their cash needs by strong arming younger kids for their lunch money as they walked to school. Most of the victims knew them and feared them so their criminal efforts went unreported. They believed they had a good thing going. They were able to get high in some manner every day.

It came to an end when they leaned on a precocious little girl who immediately told her parents. Once they were arrested, word spread and several other victims came forward. The end result was they both served eighteen months at the county youth correctional facility.


He was discharged as a staff sergeant. When he returned home to the States, he had a hard time adjusting. He was damn glad it was over and that he was safe but, at night, he dreamed of the war and all the things he wanted to forget. When he was awake, he drank way too much in an attempt to quiet the demon inside him who missed the jungle and wanted to return.

The one thing he always kept near him was the Randall. Somehow she could keep him safe even now. He found a custom leather worker who specialized in gun holsters. He told him he wanted a shoulder holster rig that would hold her secure under his left upper arm. No elastic or wimpy straps, he wanted a solid leather shoulder brace that fit like a glove and went over both shoulders and fastened to his belt on the right side. He paid extra for fancy tooling with the little rosettes you see on expensive saddles. It cost him most of what he had in the bank but it was worth it. She was a work of art.

The rig fit like it was part of him. No shoulder ache or fatigue no matter how long he wore her. Many a night, he passed out in an alcoholic-induced fog while wearing her.

He eventually found work as a process server, security guard or bail bond agent. His Randall was always with him. The butter brown leather was quickly stained dark brown from his sweat.

He never married. He had a few girlfriends over the years but the relationships never lasted.


Spider and Mimo had learned a lot in the youth correctional center. Things like how to fight as a team, how to spot vulnerable inmates and how to take advantage of them. Spider was no real physical threat but his fascination with making weapons from the most innocuous implements always left him well armed. He demonstrated early on that he was willing to kill or maim with the slightest provocation.

Using a pack of stolen staff matches, he melted down several plastic toothbrush handles into a dirk which he sharpened to a point on the cement sidewalks in the exercise yard during free time.

Later, when challenged by an older inmate who was testing him, he struck out in a rage and stabbed his tormentor in the face and neck. Four or five quick, deep strikes and he dropped his weapon and walked calmly away. The tormentor remained in the hospital for several weeks and lost an eye. Upon his release he was transferred to a different facility. His attacker was never identified. Spider’s reputation was made.

Mimo on the other hand was the cool calculating one. He stayed in the background and was a watcher and a schemer. He discovered the weight pile in the exercise yard and put it to good use. His natural athleticism was enhanced by his workouts. In a matter of months, he was sporting arms that everyone noticed. He was good with his fists and proved it on more than one occasion.

Together they were a formidable pair. Mimo was the brains and apparent muscle while, in truth, the brooding Spider was the feared hit man. Everyone knew he was an assassin waiting for a target.

Shortly after their release, Mimo and Spider both turned eighteen. Now it was a new game. Arrest meant jail and potential prison time.


At night, alone in his room, he sharpened his Randall. He worked his way through countless sharpening stones over the years. Always he practiced his slashes and stabs, over and over. It really was a thing of grace and beauty to see his arms flow through so many perfectly executed moves, like a Tai Chi practitioner in high speed.

Now he was in his sixties, living on Social Security and a small VA disability check. The boarding house he called home provided him with a bed, a chair and a half sized refrigerator. He added a little TV and a hot plate. It was all he needed and it was all he could afford. He lived in a rundown section of downtown Detroit.

His days were simple. He brewed a couple cups of coffee in his room upon arising. Then he did a little PT routine he composed of three sets of pushups and three sets of doorway chin-ups. He was in very good shape for a man his age.

He’d go down to the library to read the paper and occasionally check out a book. Maybe he’d see a couple of vet buddies for coffee at a little café a few blocks over. He tried to eat right on his limited budget. He was very fortunate, his health was good.

Once a week, he treated himself to a couple of beers at Formosa, a very low-end Asian bar in his part of town. It was frequented mainly by ex-military, especially ex-navy. It was run by a couple of middle aged Asian women who still spoke English so heavily accented that you could barely understand them even though they had both been in the States for over twenty years.

His age showed on his face with deep lines and crags. To look at him, you might guess him to be in his early seventies, rather than his real age of sixty-six. Then you might notice his erect posture, athletic stride and quiet confidence. But, all in all, you’d probably just see an old man.


Back in the community and now adults, Mimo and Spider drifted from pick-up job to pick-up job. So it went for a couple of years. They cleaned up warehouses after hours, worked in a lumber yard stacking wood and cement bags and sometimes found work as part of the cleanup crew after Lions and Tigers games. It all amounted to pocket change. They always had a buck or two but they needed a way to get a better payday.

About the time they were turning twenty, they rolled their first drunk. It was easy, a couple of smacks upside his head and a search through his pockets and they were $80 to the good. The drunk hardly knew what had happened and he sure as hell couldn’t identify anybody.

Then Mimo learned to roll queers. He would hang around outside a gay bar until some guy picked him up. A simple agreement to step into the alley for a quickie and Spider would be waiting with an eighteen inch length of heavy duty chain. On one end was a padlock, on the other was a dozen wraps of duct tape to make a six inch handle. The victim would get on his knees and Spider would step out and swing the modern day version of the medieval ball and chain. These deals usually scored a hundred or two and the victims weren’t about to file a report.

This was their life, day work when they could get it and night work every week or so.

Recently, they learned that Social Security checks came in on the first of each month. Old guys waiting for that check couldn’t resist taking out half the amount the day it hit their bank. They spent way too much early in the month and lived on Top Ramen and peanut butter sandwiches the last two weeks. But that first two weeks they would drink up a storm.

These guys were made to order. If they picked the right victim, they usually scored several hundred. Just scout the herd and find the loners and stragglers, like the big cats of Africa.


He was looking forward to tonight. Friday, he pulled several hundred out of his bank. His rent got paid first. Then he bought staples and food for the rest of the month. The balance was spending money till the fifteenth when he would pull out another hundred and a half for the rest of the months entertainment. He never overextended himself. He budgeted down to the penny in a ledger.

Tonight, he was going to Formosa for his weekly visit. He was too old and too poor to have a girlfriend but he definitely favored one of the female bartenders. It was his chance to have a little conversation and do a little people watching. Actually, the bartender was the one he watched the most. For the cost of a couple beers, he could check her out for a couple of hours.


Mimo and Spider smoked a little weed and talked over their next caper. That’s what they called their robberies. It made them seem like little adventures.

“We’ve got to get something going Saturday night. The checks came in Thursday. The old boys will be out this weekend.”

Spider looked up and just nodded. He was there for any deal Mimo put together. They were both low on cash and needed a good score.

Mimo said, “Let’s check out a couple of the bars on the south side. There are a lot of those single room boarding houses down there. Almost all of them have stag guys on some kind of disability or Social Security.”

Spider nodded. He liked these little “stings” that Mimo put together. He always got to lump some old fucker and got paid for doing it. They were a perfect stand-in for his abusive old man. It satisfied all his needs in one evening.


He got dressed for his big night out. Several years ago, he bought a single rigid soccer shin guard at the Goodwill. It was in a box of miscellaneous sports equipment labeled, “Your pick - $1”.

He adjusted it to fit over his left forearm. Ancient warriors never went into battle without some type of shield. It allowed protection of the opposite hand bearing the sword, dagger or axe. This was his contemporary version. He never went anywhere without the Randall and usually wore his little shield under his jacket.

He pulled out his best pair of faded Levi 501s. He put on a clean tee and a nice flannel shirt. He put on the Randall rig and secured it to his belt. Then he pulled on his arm protector. He ran a comb through his wavy white hair and put on his waist-length plaid jacket. It was perfect. The jacket fit tight at the waist but bloused in the chest for easy flexibility. Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront”. He was ready for a little relaxation.


Mimo and Spider hit a little hole in the wall sports bar around 8:00 P.M. It was a typical dive bar with two pool tables and a couple of overhead TVs tuned to a boxing match. The action was light and most of the patrons were guys in their late twenties and thirties, drinking beer, shooting pool and swearing.

They nursed a couple of beers at the end of the bar. Mimo observed, “No action here. These guys all know each other and look to be scrimping on every beer. Probably don’t have $100 total between them.”

Spider nodded. “So what do you want to do?”

“Let’s cut over a couple of blocks and find some old timers' bars.”


He walked the eight blocks to Formosa. Winter was fast approaching and the chill was in the night air. He had a routine and he never varied from it. He’d arrive at 9:00 P.M., hope his favorite stool was empty and proceed to nurse two beers, one per hour, till he left at 11:00 P.M.

He opened the door and stepped in. He looked down the bar and saw the empty spot at the end. Great, this was going to be a good night.

He made his way down and swung his leg over the stool, cowboy style. It was only a few minutes before the routine began. He’d been coming here for several years. It always started the same way.

She said, “Hey, Mr. Jack. What’re you having tonight?”

He always had the exact same thing. But the routine had to be played out.

“Good evening, Suji. I think I’ll try a bottle of your best Bud.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Jack, coming right up.”

The very few people who knew him just called him Jack. They knew no other name. His real name was Jackson Stone. In a little word twist, his father named him after his favorite Civil War general, Stonewall Jackson.

He made himself comfortable, put his boots on the bar railing and took his first sip.

During the next two hours, he would make casual conversation with Suji who always worked this end of the bar.

She was Korean and in her late forties. She married a GI and came to the States about twenty years ago. The marriage didn’t last but they had a son and she had custody. He was a junior in high school. The dad actually paid child support but Suji needed to work all the hours she could get to stay afloat.

She was really the draw for him. He enjoyed talking to a woman who responded as though she was actually interested in him.

He knew the boundaries and didn’t cross them. They each played their part in the little performance.


Mimo turned the corner and saw the neon lights of two bars just a block from each other. One was The Lion’s Den, obviously another sports bar. The other was Formosa. Isn’t that some city in Asia, he thought.

“Let’s try Formosa. Sports bars ain’t gonna cut it for what we’re after.”

Spider nodded.

As soon as they entered, Mimo smiled. The place was busy and there was a sea of bald heads and white hair.

They made their way down the bar to the end and took a little table in the corner. It offered a good view of all the action and anyone using the head had to walk past them.

They ordered a couple glasses of Vodka rocks, with two cans of Red Bull on the side.

They sipped and talked. Instead of checking out girls, they looked for potential victims. They were looking for a sign that would identify their next mark.


It was a little after 10:00 P.M. when he saw them arrive. They looked out of place. There was no real girl action outside of the female staff and no contemporary music. There were only two TVs and they were small screen and only visible if you were sitting at the bar.

He watched them make their way to a table. They both looked to be early to mid-twenties. The tall gangly one was wearing an oversized black hoody with his head and face partially obscured. He walked funny. It made him think of Icabod Crane. The other one was solid, athletic and carried himself with confidence. Together, they were an unlikely pair. What was their connection, he wondered.

They walked past him and sat down a few feet away.

He had a bad feeling about them but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Soon, he forgot about them as he focused on watching Suji work and their occasional verbal exchanges.

At 11:00 P.M. sharp, he signaled her that he was ready to settle up. The tab always came to $10 for the two beers. He gave her the usual $20 bill and told her to keep the change.

She responded as always: “Thank you, Mr. Jack. See you in a week.”

He got up and walked out.


After an hour, they had identified several potential targets. Then, at 11:00 P.M., they watched the old guy at the bar pull a roll out of his pocket and peel off a twenty for the bartender. There was a twenty below that one. The roll was fat enough to hold several hundred dollars.

They shared the same thought. Mimo dropped enough cash on the table to cover their drinks and they discreetly followed the old man out the door. They slowed their steps to give him a half block lead.


He had walked two blocks when he became aware of the sound of footsteps behind him. These streets were very deserted at this time of night. His internal radar went off loud and clear.

He walked another block and the footsteps followed. He could tell there were two of them.

As he began to pass the next alley, he turned a sharp left into it and quickened his pace. One side of the alley was lit by the moonlight. The other side was in total darkness. Twenty feet down the dark side, he felt a recessed doorway. He pressed his back to the door and totally disappeared. At that moment, SSgt. Jackson Stone returned to the jungle.


The old guy turned left into the alley. What was he doing? Mimo and Spider started to jog. When they reached the alley entrance, they couldn't see anything. No movement. No footsteps. Nothing. Where the hell did he go?

They heard a noise at the end of the alley near several dumpsters pressed against the building wall and illuminated by the moonlight.

Mimo whispered to Spider. “He’s taking a piss behind the dumpsters.”

Spider nodded.

They proceeded toward the sound. Just as they approached, a cat jumped out of the far dumpster and scurried off down the alley.

They turned to look at each other.

He stepped from the darkness into the middle of the alley. He was half-exposed by the moonlight and half-hidden in the shadows.

“Hey, jerk-offs. You looking for someone?”

They turned quickly to see him standing behind them. His hands were in his jacket pockets, his legs apart in a firm stance.

“Say, old man, do you have the time?”

They advanced on him and started to separate with every step. They were going to come at him from opposite sides.

“I’ve got all the time you’ll ever need.”

As they advanced, he didn’t move.

Is this guy stupid, Mimo wondered. Why doesn’t he try and run?

As they closed in on the man, Mimo could see the man had his left hand in his jacket pocket but the right hand was actually inside the lowered zipper of his jacket. Who did he think he was, Napoleon?

Spider was now half-obscured by darkness, while Mimo was in full moon light.

With one step, the man disappeared into the shadows. Spider pulled his hand out of the hoody’s pocket and let the chain fall to its full length with the lock now swinging from side to side. Spider heard a sound and stepped into the darkness and snapped the chain up and then down where he figured the man to be standing.

The man raised his left arm protected by the soccer guard. It absorbed the force of the descending chain which wrapped around the rigid brace as the lock looped it.

He pulled his left arm in and Spider, still holding the chain, came with it. The Randall swung in an upward arc making penetration just below the left rib cage and plunging deeply into Spider’s heart. There was an audible gasp.

Mimo yelled, “Spider!”

Spider’s face appeared out of the shadows as he fell face first into the light.

Mimo removed a razor sharp knife from his pocket. With a flick of his thumb the blade locked into place. There was no sound, except the pounding of Mimo’s own heartbeat. For the first time in his life, he was scared.

“Show yourself, motherfucker.”

And then, a few feet in front of him, the man appeared. He was bent low, in a fighting stance, with both hands forward.

Mimo could see the seven-inch blade in the man’s right hand.

Mimo jabbed quick and straight towards the man’s belly. The man moved as if he anticipated the strike. His body turned slightly and his left hand caught Mimo’s thrusting elbow and pushed it wide of its intended mark. It looked like they were executing a synchronized dance move.

The man thrust low between Mimo’s knees and then pulled left and up. The blade cut through fabric like it was butter until it found its mark: the femoral artery.

Mimo felt a searing pain inside his right thigh. He fell to the ground and pressed both hands to his thigh to stop the flow.

The man pivoted on his right foot and administered a textbook side kick with the edge of his boot to Mimo’s throat. The force knocked Mimo flat on his back. He felt the man step hard on his face, pinning him to the asphalt.

The man leaned down and delivered a jackhammer strike to Mimo’s carotid artery.

Mimo felt very cold and then nothing.

The man stepped over to Spider’s body and used the hood of his sweatshirt to wipe the Randall clean. He would give her a proper cleaning once he was back at base camp. For now, he didn’t want any of the sticky blood to soil his custom rig.

He turned and walked in a purposeful, controlled manner to the end of the alley. A right turn and he had five blocks to go.

The moonlight reflected in the two pools of blood as they ran together from opposite sides of the alley toward the steel grate of the nearby drain hole.

As he walked, he realized he couldn’t go back to Formosa for a long time, if ever.

Then he thought of what had transpired that night. He was surprised to feel a tinge of sadness and sorrow pass through him.

Damn, he thought, I’m really going to miss Suji.

BIO: David Price is an ex college jock and retired probation officer living in California. His work can be found on Thuglit, Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Flash Fiction Offensive, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, Darkest Before the Dawn and Crooked.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 141 - Jason Hunt


If there’s one thing the Marine Corps teaches you, it’s how to take pain. From your first night of hell on Parris Island through the final psychotic hours of Recon training, you learn to push your body and mind to the breaking point – and then beyond that. And it changes you. For better or worse, it changes you.

I was thinking about this to keep my mind off the huge, bloody fist that was making hamburger of my face. I was sitting on a rusty, old folding chair with my wrists handcuffed behind my back and my ankles tied to the two front legs with metal wire. Both the handcuffs and wire were cutting into flesh while a gorilla of a man was pounding me like a heavy bag. He stunk and with each crushing blow his rank sweat splattered me.

I swore I’d live long enough to kill the son of a bitch.

“Let up a minute, Red,” the other man said.

They were complete opposites. Red was big, hairy and disgusting. Six foot three or four, rolls of hairy, sweaty fat everywhere. On his arms, his neck, hanging over the belt of his sweaty blue work pants. Somewhere under all that fat, though, was a whole lot of muscle, because each punch felt like I’d stepped in front of a train.

The other guy was short, clean-cut and muscular. A little big man. He had on Italian shoes, pleated gray pants, a black polo shirt, and black sunglasses.

Red was wearing a wife-beater. It was drenched and splattered with blood.

“Now maybe you’ve got the picture,” the clean-cut one said. “You will tell me what I want to know. Or you’ll die tied to a folding chair.”

“I don’t know,” I said, spitting out a mouthful of blood and a couple of shards of teeth. “Doesn’t sound so bad. I’ve seen worse things.”

The little guy smiled. His teeth were white and perfect.

“So have I,” he said. “So let’s get this over with. I’m only asking you for two pieces of information. Who hired you to follow me and what is it they want you to find out?”

I closed one eye and then opened it and closed the other. The left eye was one big blur. Swamp Thing had fucked something up. Maybe a detached retina.

“I keep telling you,” I said. “I was just practicing my paparazzi impersonation.”

He frowned and nodded to Red, who threw a left hook that sent me and the chair crashing to the concrete floor. Before I could catch my breath, a huge steel-toed boot caught me in the ribs. I felt a couple crack.

“Your career as a stand-up comedian is in danger of being cut tragically short,” the little guy said, pacing from one side of the basement to the other.

“You were carrying a driver’s license, a private investigator’s license and thirty-two dollars in cash,” he said. “Says your name is Nick Xenagos. But you don’t look Greek.”

“I’m not,” I said, resting my throbbing face on cold, damp floor. “That’s just my stage name.”

Red kicked me in the shin and I muffled a scream. He laughed and did it again.

“You won’t be laughing when I cut your balls goddamn off,” I said through clenched teeth.

Little Big Man found that humorous.

“At this rate, Mr. Xenagos, the only thing you’re going to do is die.”

“Then I’ll come back from the dead,” I said, working my right leg to loosen the wire.
“Otherwise, I’ll be waiting for both of you at the gates of Hell.”

“I give up,” the little guy said. “Maybe the next guy they send won’t be so stubborn – or so stupid. I’m leaving. Red, finish him off. And take your time.”

Red watched him leave, like a big dumb dog watching his master go to work. I wiggled my right leg out, tearing off a long strip of skin in the process. I pulled and pulled my hands, but the cuffs wouldn’t give.

Red turned around just in time to see the ball of my loose foot hit him square in the right knee. I felt it pop out of the socket. I kicked it again and again, and he fell right in front of me. As he rolled onto his back, I swung my left leg up, hauling the chair with it, and brought my heel down on his windpipe. I came down again and again.

I used my right foot to pull the chair leg loose from the wire around my left leg. Red was grabbing his throat, gasping for air, gurgling. His eyes were bugged out. I stumbled to my feet, my hands still behind my back.

“Hey, fat shit, I’ve got something for you.”

Then I did what every good Marine does when his enemy is on the ground.

I stomped on his head.

Mission accomplished.

It took a long time to find the key to the cuffs, since I had to reach into each of his pockets with both hands joined behind my back. When I finally found it, I fumbled with it, dropping it over and over, until I finally got it in the key hole and popped open the cuffs.

Red was dead, but I kicked him a half dozen times in the face for good measure.

There was a small toilet, sink and mirror in what looked like a mop closet. I went in, pulled the string on the light bulb, and surveyed the damage. Both ankles and wrists were torn up and bleeding, my ribs hurt every time I inhaled, and my face – well, it wasn’t much to begin with, but now it looked like the left side had been injected with beet juice until it was swollen to twice its normal size. My left eye was completely red and it seemed like I was looking through the bottom of an old, glass Coke bottle.

I turned the cheap plastic knob and brown water puked out into the sink. I waited for it to go from brown to tan, and then I cupped my hands and splashed the water on my face. It stung like hell and turned the sink red, but I kept it up until my head cleared.

I rinsed my wrists and then lifted one leg at a time and rinsed both ankles. Another Marine Corps rule. Tend to your wounds as soon as you get a chance.

When everything was as clean as I could get it, I found my boots and pulled them on over my tender, oozing ankles. Then I moved slowly up the stairs that the little big man had taken. The stairs took me to a filthy, bug-infested kitchen. I felt cockroaches crunching under my feet as I went from cabinet to cabinet. Sure enough, I found a half-full fifth of Early Times whiskey. I poured a little into the top of each boot. My ankles burned like a hundred fire ants were gnawing at my bones, but I knew it would help prevent infection. I did the same with my wrists and then my face. That left a quarter of a bottle, which I gulped down, grateful.

I went out into the backyard. I looked around and could tell I was somewhere in Dorchester. Boston’s armpit. I couldn’t remember how I got there. Last thing I remembered I was in Chinatown.

There was still an hour or two till sundown, so I crawled up under some bushes to wait for night. Sleep came and went until it was finally dark. I slunk out onto the street and block by block made my way north across the city to my apartment building in Southie. I climbed the stairs, went inside, and collapsed into bed.

I didn’t wake up until the following evening, and I felt worse than I’d ever felt – and believe me, there’ve been a lot of times I’ve felt pretty fucking bad. I took a long hot shower until the water that ran off me was no longer pink. I got out, dried off, and spent a half hour cleaning up with peroxide and applying antibiotic ointment, gauze and tape. There wasn’t much I could do about the face, but I used a couple of butterfly bandages to close up the messier cuts.

Next priority was food, but first I got my .357 from my dresser drawer. I checked that it was loaded, filled my right pocket with extra rounds, and then went out and walked to the all-you-can-eat Indian buffet on the corner.

I had thrown my cell phone into the Charles when I knew I’d been spotted so that they couldn’t see who’d called me. That meant I was now stuck using pay phones. I got two dollars worth of quarters and called my client on her cell phone.

“Nick, thank God,” she said. “I was scared to death. Are you alright?”

I could picture her in the chair by the window. Long blonde hair falling over bare shoulders. A little white blouse with spaghetti straps. Probably nothing else but panties. She told me she never gets dressed until she absolutely has to.

“I’ve been better,” I said. “Now that I’ve had the shit kicked out of me and pissed off someone who’s not used to being pissed off, I think it’s time you quit the games and came clean. Who the fuck is this guy?”

I thought back to the day she first came into my office. She wore dark glasses, but when she took them off, it was like all the air was sucked out of the room. They say a cobra can paralyze a man with just its eyes. Well, she must be part cobra, because the minute I looked into those icy blues, I was gone, gone, gone.

She’d given me a picture of the little guy and told me where to find him, but she’d said she couldn’t tell me his name. She just wanted me to tail him and tell her where he went and when. I’d showed the picture to a couple of people in the area to see if they knew him. They all said no. At least one of them must have been lying because someone put the little guy onto me.

There was no sound on the other end of the line.

“Okay, Claire,” I said at last, “it’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”

“Wait,” she said. Her voice tickled something way down in the pit of my stomach.

“Who is he?” I asked.

“His name is Jack McDonough.”

I waited. And waited.


“And before I got my big break, he and I had relationship.”

“Your pimp?”

Again, silence.

“So why did you hire me to follow him? What were you hoping I’d have to report? He goes back and forth from his apartment on the Mission Hill to the office building in Chinatown. Has meetings, eats lunch, goes home.”

“He’s blackmailing me,” she said.

“With what?”

“Some movies I made for him.”

I didn’t have to ask what kind of movies.

“How much does he want?”

“It changes all the time.”

“How long has it been going on?”

I could hear her breathing and I could picture her breasts rising and falling against the thin white blouse.

“Years,” she said.

A recording asked for more quarters, so I shoved them in. I guess you can’t make a local call to a damned cell phone.

“So what good is following him? It won’t do any good to buy the movies because I guarantee he’s made copies.”

Silence. Then it all came to together and I understood.

“Okay,” I said. “You thought if I followed him long enough, he’d figure out I was tailing him. He’d come after me, and then I’d have to kill him.”

Quiet, then, “I’m so sorry, Nick.”

“It wasn’t a bad plan, but why didn’t you just say you wanted him killed?”

“Would you have done it?”

“No, probably not. Not then, anyway.”

“And now...are you...would you...”

“Will I do it now? You bet your luscious, little ass I will.”

“Oh, Nick. I never meant for you to get hurt. I hope you know that.”

“I know.”

I didn’t know, really. I didn’t care either. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, much less been with. That kind of pleasure was worth a hell of a lot of pain.

“How are you going to do it?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you,” I said.

When I was out of quarters I took the T out to her place. It was a huge condo in the ritzy part of Beacon Hill. As soon as I knocked on the door, she threw it open and pulled me in. She kissed me and I tore off her two little pieces of lingerie, and we made love on the soft, milk-colored couch. Every muscle of my body hurt and hollered in ecstasy at the same time. Hours later we passed out and slept until the next morning.

We made love again when we woke up. After a long hot shower together, we got dressed and went out to breakfast. Then I told her my plan.

She said she liked it.

That night, I drove back to the little guy’s neighborhood. He lived good for a small-time hustler. Pimped some girls, sold some drugs, ran any scam he thought he could pull off. He thought he could pull off blackmailing Claire, and he had for years, but that was about to come crashing down.

That night, I went back to the blackmailer’s neighborhood. It was a lot nicer than mine. I walked down the sidewalk, making sure to linger under each streetlight so his informants would know I was coming. I had my .357 tucked into my pants at the small of my back. I also had one butterfly knife in my back pocket and another in my sock.

I stopped outside the condo and stood in the bright lights at the front of the building.

Mosquitoes stung the hell out me while I waited. This was the weakest part of the plan, because I wasn’t sure if he’d come out or just try to put a bullet in me from one of the windows. I’d killed his big buddy, but something told me he hadn’t lost any sleep over it. And I was sure he had filled the position quickly.

Normally, I would have seen it coming, but the new assistant was smaller and more graceful than the last. More importantly, he came up from my left side, and thanks to the fat dead guy I had lost most of my peripheral vision in that eye. When this was over, I’d have to remember to make an appointment with an eye doctor.

I heard him rake the slide, and I slowly raised my hands.

“Move and I fucking blow you away,” he said in a thick Hispanic accent.

He patted me down with his free hand and found the .357 and the knife in my pocket.

“I’ve got a deal for your boss,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “and he has a deal for you.”

He led me at gunpoint into the building and to McDonough’s condo. He had a key and opened the door. Inside was impeccably decorated, as I would have expected. A little gaudy, but not bad. We walked down a long, plush hallway and stopped at the last door. He knocked.

“Come in.”

I walked in. Jack was in his bed, sitting up under the covers.

Beside him was Claire.

“I couldn’t go through with it, Nick,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I bet you are.”

Jack rolled back the covers and got out of bed. Two things kind of disturbed me. First, he was naked. Second, he had a nine millimeter.

“Claire told me about your plan, Nick,” McDonough said.

“It wasn’t going to work,” Claire said. “He would have killed me, too.”

“So,” I said to McDonough, “What happens now?”

“Unfortunately for you, you die.”

“Who pulls the trigger? You or Pedro? ”

“Neither,” McDonough said. “She does.”

“What?” Claire looked shocked.

“If you’re coming back to me,” he said, “I’d like you to prove I can count on you.”

She hesitated, then slipped out from under the covers, and I remembered why I had fallen for her. She was as close to perfect as you can get this side of death. Her long legs, firm abs, full bosom. And those piercing eyes.

McDonough nodded to the spic, who aimed his gun at Claire.

“But I thought...” she stammered.

“Just insurance,” McDonough said. “Not that I don’t trust you. But if I give you this gun, I want to make sure you shoot the right guy.”

“Don’t worry,” Claire said, taking a deep, determined breath. “I’m with you now.”

McDonough handed her the gun and stepped to the side. I dropped to my knees. McDonough laughed.

“It’s a little late for prayers,” he said.

It was now or never. I grabbed the knife from my boot, slung it open, buried it right in Miguelito’s belly, and yanked as far to the left as I could. He screamed and swung the gun toward me. A shot rang out.

It was followed by another. And another.

Miguelito crumpled onto the floor. I looked over at McDonough, and his face was a horrifying mask – half disbelief, half agonizing pain. He was bleeding from a red hole right below his Adam’s apple and another just to the inside of his right eye. He tried to say something, but blood ran out and splashed down his chin and torso. He rocked slowly, then fell backward, crashing through the glass window. His upper body hung outside, but his legs still hung in the room. I walked over and grabbed him by the foot, then lifted till he tumbled out and down to the ground.

“Nice shooting,” I said.

“I had a Marine for a teacher.”

“You know what to do next?”

She came over, the gun still in her hand, and wrapped her arms around me. Her mouth was hot and wet when she kissed me.

“No,” I said, breaking away. “Not now. Later. Call the police and tell them McDonough took you back here for a drink. The other guy was already here, and he held a gun on you while McDonough raped you.”

She hesitated.

“They’ll find his DNA,” she said, looking for my reaction. I kept it to myself.

“Even better,” I said. “Tell them it went down like this: When the first guy finished and the second one was getting ready to take his turn, you grabbed the gun from the bedside stand and killed them both.”

She was so goddam beautiful, it hurt my eyes to look at her. I wanted to carry her to the bed right then and there. I knew I couldn’t. Not yet.

“You did good,” I said, giving her a short, goodbye kiss.

“I’ll do even better when you and I can be together again,” she said, running the tip of her tongue slowly across her upper lip.

I looked around and found a laptop, which I slammed closed and tucked under my arm.

“I’ll grab whatever computers he has at his office,” I said, “but realize your movie could be anywhere – on a thumb drive, on another computer...he might already have uploaded it to some Web server anywhere in the world. This is no guarantee the movie won’t get out...or that somebody else won’t find it and come looking for money.”

“What should I do?”

“Wait. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe it will. Either way, you’ve got a good private investigator just a phone call away.”

I looked for a smile. When it came, it was little and uncertain, but it was enough. “I’ll wait till I hear from you,” I said.

She nodded, and I noticed she was still smiling. I left her to wait for the cops.

That was all either of us would be able to do for a while—wait. There was going to be a lot of waiting. Claire would have to wait for the police. The police would have to wait for the medical examiner. The medical examiner would have to wait for the autopsy and test results.

And I’d have to wait for Claire and that gorgeous body of hers. That would be the hardest part. Waiting. I closed my eyes and remembered the taste of her kiss, the feel of her skin, the scent of her body. I wanted her so bad it hurt.

But that I could handle.

If there’s one thing the Marine Corps teaches you, it’s how to handle pain.

BIO: Jason writes noir and hardboiled fiction. He's recently published stories in Hardboiled, Pulp Pusher, Plots with Guns, and Beat to a Pulp and his story "Redhead and Dead" appeared in the anthology, Lunacy. He's written two novels -- "Cold, Cold Heart" and "So Lonesome I Could Die" -- and is finishing his third, "Didn't Hear Nobody Die." When he isn't writing dark, demented tales, he teaches writing, coaches writers, and begrudgingly writes all sorts of other non-creative crap to put food on the table.


David Price has Another Bad Day over at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers. Though, the way this story is pulled off, I don't think it's such a bad day for David.

Meanwhile, Libby Cudmore tells you all about Last Night at Eastern Standard Crime. You might think you see the ending coming but think again.

Keith Rawson exposes Pornstar Moses over at Plots With Guns (new issue, kids). There are a couple familiar faces from Keith's previous stories and, as usual, Keith packs a lot of bang for your buck. In the case of Pornstar Moses, the bang is literal. Twice, in fact.

And Frank Bill, in the exact same issue of PWG, sets us all straight on the Flesh Rule. Bloody, brutal and full of crazy people that you know are out there (you might even be one). Frank never disappoints.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 140 - Tom Leins


The long, hot afternoon yawns in front of me. The barrio crackles with gutter trust and wracked trauma. It’s warm out here, but not warm enough for the fuckin’ trash to smell. Not yet. The sawn-off baseball bat itches in my hand. I taxed it off Elmo Slocum two years ago and caused a thousand dollars worth of malicious damage to his property whilst the life oozed out of him. All I wanted was my fuckin’ sweetheart back. Elmo was eating hospital food after a week, but everyone knows I broke his guts good and proper. Susie moved away shortly afterwards. I guess small town savagery only gets you so far. I wasted time stealin’ cars and beatin’ hookers, but there’s only so much dustbowl psychosis that one man can take.


Now all I want is my fuckin’ sweetheart back. Not Susie, she croaked from liver failure last Christmas. She used to drink so much for breakfast that even her sex smelled of cheap gin. Now, I only have sins for Rosa. The first time I went down on her in the backroom of her Daddy’s pawnshop I knew that Rosa was worth leaking blood for. She was different from the other girls. Cleaner. Smarter. I like lickin’ the taste of skunk pussy off my lips as much as the next man, but only Rosa offers me glimpses of something a bit like love. Gary offers me a dirty picture of Rosa from his grubby stack. I gaze into her black eyes, and feel something rotten stirring in my gut.

“You know, Daddy, all this happiness could kill you.”

“Sure as shit gonna kill someone, boy.”

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

A Twist Of Noir 139 - P.M.


The John told me the problem I had to fix was a lawyer named Howe. I called the people that hired me to fix problems Johns. If you paid me, somebody got fucked.

Unlike others in my business, I liked to know a little bit about the circumstances that lead to my employment.

The John developed the gated community in which Howe lived. Apparently, he got into a pissing match with Howe’s wife about whether the bushes she wanted to plant in the front yard complied with the gated community’s landscape guidelines. Howe held a position on the City Council and was using his influence to hold up approval of a strip mall the John wanted to build. The strip mall would replace a crumbling apartment block and would mean piles of tax revenue to the City. Despite that, the rubes on the City Council deferred to Howe’s judgment because he was a big shot lawyer. Howe just couldn’t get past the great bush controversy and his poor wife’s bruised ego. He knew failure of the strip mall project would cost the John millions and he was gonna teach the John a lesson.

I laughed every time I though about it. If you don’t find your job entertaining, you should look for another line of work.

I stepped out of my Mercedes and onto the boiling asphalt outside of the lawyer’s office. Nothing like a hot August day. I had my best suit on along with a top of the line Rolex Yacht-Master. My 10mm auto was tucked nicely on my right hip. It was a custom long-slide 1911, black from front to back with a skull and crossbones etched into the slide. I called it the Captain. Loaded up with some of my custom rolled ammo, the Captain could put out 8 rounds of heavy hollow-points at 1,450 feet per second. A helluva punch.

Howe’s office was in a remodeled old house. He had only one employee, a redheaded secretary.

“Good afternoon.”

I looked into the secretary’s green eyes. She was a nice-looking girl in her early 20s. I could see why the lawyer didn’t want any other employees around. “I’m here to see Mr. Howe.”

“Do you have an appointment?” she inquired.

“Oh, yes. He is expecting me. Name’s Maxwell.”

She gave me an appraising look, stopping to glance at my Rolex, then stood up. “One moment, please.”

Green Eyes sauntered around the corner to Howe’s office, red hair swaying, long legs and short skirt. After a moment, I rounded the corner myself and leaned up against the wall in the hallway leading to Howe’s office. I pulled the Captain out and tucked my hand behind my back. A moment later, Green Eyes came back into the hallway. She showed mild surprise seeing that I hadn’t remained in the lobby like a good little boy.

“Go ahead and go on in,” she smiled.

I let her glide past me on those beautiful legs of hers, then I brought up the Captain and cracked her at the base of her neck. She went down without a sound. “Hurt me more than it hurt you, sweetheart,” I whispered as I stowed the Captain and entered the office.

“Hello, Mr. Howe.” I put on a pained face.

“Have a seat,” Howe replied. “I was very sorry to hear about your wife’s accident.” I could hear the false sympathy in his voice.

I paused and let my eyes well up with tears. “Yeah, she...isn’t doing well.”

Howe took a deep breath and then continued with his fake sympathy. “I’m hear to help. Unfortunately, you can never be fully compensated when a loved one is injured by somebody’s negligence. What you can do is send a message, let the bastard that hit your wife and his insurance company know that there is a price to be paid for irresponsible behavior.”

He paused and I actually got a tear to run down my cheek. My voice cracked. “The doctors say she may never walk again.”

Though he was playing it cooI, but I could see his eyes actually light up at this news.

“The first thing I need to do is get some basic information from you,” Howe said, as he turned toward his computer. I took the opportunity to pull the earplugs out of my jacket pocket and quickly slip them in. You didn’t want to fire the Captain in a room like this without proper ear protection.

Howe started to ask me to spell my wife’s name. I was up and the Captain was out and pointed at Howe’s head before he finished his question.

“Stand up, you false son of a bitch.”

“What the hell is this?” I saw his mouth tremor.

Howe stood up and turned toward me, his hands up as if he were trying to fend off a punch. The Captain roared twice. Once between the eyes and once center chest.

The Captain made a real mess.

I picked up my empties, slipped my ear plugs back into my jacket and pulled out a cigar.

Stepping into the hallway, I saw Green Eyes. She hadn’t moved, but her legs were twitching strangely and she was making a faint gurgling sound. I bent over her and saw blood oozing out of her side. I turned and looked at the wall. Sure enough, there was a hole in the drywall. A piece of one of the rounds that went through Howe also traveled through the wall and deflected right into poor little Green Eyes. She was done for.

I stroked her hair and then stood up. I lighted my cigar and smiled ruefully between puffs. I guess it had been stupid of me to use the Captain on a job like this. Brains and drywall didn’t do much to slow down those hot little rounds.

I guess Howe would have said I was negligent.

BIO: P. M. is a lawyer dealing with the absurd on a daily basis. In his spare time he enjoys pulp fiction and film noir, blogging about his favorites at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 138 - Cameron Ashley



Cleaner was thankful that Ai had chosen someplace at least visually low-key to fuck up in once again. Hotel Spring Kingdom wasn’t much to look at from the outside, just a several storey brown brick building with a bright pink neon sign glowing down its side. However, on the inside, it was a fuck-feast of differing kinks, fetishes and themes. Rooms with built-to-scale crucifixes, rooms made out like aquariums, jungles. Bondage rooms, princess rooms, classrooms, all with cosplay outfits a phone call away.

Love Hotels, for all their garishness, are built upon a façade of discretion. You don’t sign in. You don’t sign out. Human interaction is kept to minimum. Sometimes you speak to a slot in a wall; other times you choose a room from a screen display, push a corresponding button and feed a slot some yen. Still, despite the seeming anonymity, there is always staff. Before he went any further, Cleaner had to make sure that the staff at Hotel Spring Kingdom were either paid to forget or made to forget. He bullied his way into the manager’s office where a fat young man read a hentai comic called Monster Breast So Succulent and watched the Hanshin Tigers game. Fat Boy said he hadn’t seen Ai and Cleaner believed him. However, a quick check revealed that the security cameras in the lobby had sure seen her. Cleaner got serious and, after a slapping, a payoff and an editing, Cleaner was ready to really get cleaning.


Cleaner’s eyes went straight to the television. On-screen, an old man performed furious cunnilingus on a teenage girl. She made noises like a deer in distress. The old man moved to finger fucking, and Cleaner looked away as the girl came, shooting fluids across the camera. Cleaner pulled his gloves tight, wheeled his huge suitcase against the wall, closed the door behind him, slipped off his shoes and slipped on some powder- blue room slippers and a hairnet.

Ai Shibata stood in front of him. She ate panda-shaped cookies from the box. She was dressed in a schoolgirl uniform stained shades of pink and red, color spattered across her like a bad tie-dye job. Cleaner gave her the once over.

-Please tell me you didn’t call reception and have that delivered?

-Of course not. I brought it with me. Last time I rented an outfit at a dump like this I got a rash on the inside of my thigh.

She hiked her tiny skirt and stroked her thigh to emphasize. Cleaner looked away, his eyes straying back to the TV screen. Ai watched with him.

-Not my finest work, I know. Early days. That old guy? His breath stunk like a dirty fish tank. I actually threw up in my mouth a couple of times. That diaper thing he’s wearing had shit stains in it by the time we were done.

Cleaner grunted. He looked around the room. Black walls, wooden floor painted a glossy black and red. A circular bed enclosed in a cage of thick red irons bars, food and sex toys scattered across the satin sheets.

-You watch your own movies when you fuck?

She came up to him, ran a hand down the lapels of his overcoat.

-I can never get enough of me, you know that.

Cleaner breathed her in -- even sweaty and fucked filthy she smelled like an angel. He pulled away and turned to her fuck buddy.

A huge metal chair was propped up on a pedestal in a far corner of the room, a pool of blood around the base. Fuck Buddy, naked, sat slumped in it, strapped in at the wrists and ankles with thick leather cuffs. He was a mess of burns and cuts and other assorted ugly wounds. A pair of lacy panties was stuffed in his mouth. His hair was perfect. Cleaner felt a weird urge to touch it, so he did. He found its gelled, spiked peaks stiff as rigor mortis, a tactile cue to get on with the job.

Ai lit a smoke. She gave Fuck Buddy a once-over like an unsatisfied artist contemplating another dab of paint here and there even though her canvas had already been mounted and hung.

-Do you think he looks like Sexyama?

-I wouldn’t know about that.

She sat on the carpet and pouted.

-I think he looks like Sexyama.

-I don’t think he looks much like anybody right now.

She got to her feet. She jumped on her tippytoes and clapped and giggled.

-What do you think?

-What do I think?

-Mm. Of my work.

-You want me to...?

-Tell me how you think I did.

He shook his head and walked over to the TV where Ai and the old man rutted on-screen, moaning in fucked up, off-key harmony. The old man looked like a skin origami slowly unfolding. Ai, writhing underneath his loose folds, wore the typical unwilling look of the pink film idol. Cleaner, slightly nauseated, turned it off. He took a big can of Sapporo from the bar fridge, popped it and drank.

-Take a peek out of the curtain and tell me what you see.

She rolled her eyes, but she did as she was told.

-I see the Dotonbori River. I see lights reflecting prettily off it. I see signs and bridges and I see buildings. Lots of buildings, tall and dark and stretching out forever. Tako Tako is down there somewhere, isn’t it? Do you think, maybe, once we are done here, we can get some takoyaki from there?

-What else do you see, Ai?

-Convenience stores?


-Well, there are people.

-Yes. There are people. There are a whole lot of people. You’re something of a celebrity and you walked around this area. With a handsome man. You probably had dinner somewhere expensive and made a scene and made sure you were noticed because you’re Ai Shibata, pink film idol, and then you brought your handsome man here and you fucked him and tortured him to death.

She went all little girl on him. All doe-eyed and pouty. Hard to pull off while gore-spattered, but she did it.

-You know how I am, Cleaner. Sometimes, I…need to release things. I miss Dad.

-He would not be happy right now, Ai. Your father did all he could to circumvent trouble. He never courted it like you do. Saori is in control because she is like him. Junko is in control because she is like her mother. You are not in control because you are like your mother. You are dangerous.

Ai leaned against the cage surrounding the bed and hit the back of her head softly against the bars.

-He loved my mother, though. He never loved Junko’s mother or Saori’s mother. Is this why they look down on me? Why they hate me so much?

-They hate you because you do things like torture and kill handsome men in inappropriate places and ways. Because I have to spend more time fixing your messes than handling business problems. And because your father did love your mother most of all. But I am Cleaner, Ai, not Counselor. Perhaps you need to speak with her about this. I only know of death and how to give it and how to hide its presence and how to imply it to gain advantage. I know nothing of the strange things of your mind.

-You always clean up my messes. I’ve never thanked you for that.

-No, you haven’t.

-Thank you.

-I get paid. Very well. So don’t bother to thank me again.

-What you do for me, you don’t get paid for.

Ai rubbed her nose. Some dried blood flaked off. Cleaner watched her, rosy-cheeked and beautiful in her shame.

-I need you to shower now, Ai.

They went into the bathroom. Huge and open and concrete. Steel manacles hung from chains bolted to the wall. Cleaner shook his head. He sucked his teeth and pulled a garbage bag from his coat pocket. He held it open and Ai stripped. He didn’t need to be there. He could have waited outside and begun to deal with Fuck Buddy but he didn’t move. His hands shook as she peeled off her bloody top, shimmied out of her tiny skirt. Naked, she stood before him and smiled. She made no attempt to hide herself, no effort to be coy. There was no shyness or embarrassment. She knew he didn’t like feigned modesty. She dropped the top into the bag then slowly bent over to pick the skirt up from the floor. Naked, she was hyper-confident and sharp. She dropped the skirt into the bag, stepping unnecessarily close as she did so.


His gaze lingered on her. He couldn’t help it. He stood there holding the open garbage bag even after she had started to shower. He finally got it together and left the bathroom. He unzipped his suitcase and flipped open the top. He took out a roll of plastic sheeting, a thick roll of tape and a large set of knives rolled up in black cloth. He stripped naked save for his hairnet and gloves. He crouched down on his haunches and looked at Fuck Buddy. He peeled off a glove and with his naked hand he ran his fingers over the cigarette burns, the cuts, the welts, feeling where she had been, re-tracing her movements across the map of the body. Each time she’d killed, he’d done this. It was now a part of the pre-clean ritual of her fuck-ups.

His heart started beating strange and uneven. He felt himself getting...something. As he wasn’t really used to feeling much of anything, he couldn’t pin the feeling down. He stood up and lit a smoke, looked around for the blade Ai had used. The cuts all over Fuck Buddy were small and clean but deep and numerous. Cleaner suspected a razor. Sure enough, on the floor near the body was a tiny razor blade. He picked it up with his gloved hand. It was a blade from the device with which she shaved her eyebrows down. It was bloody. He dropped it in the bag with her clothes and then added Fuck Buddy’s clothes and belongings to it. Before he dropped Fuck Buddy’s phone in, he flipped it open and checked the messages.

What he found was not good.

He turned the phone off and tossed it into the bag. He stood outside the bathroom and smoked and watched Ai shower. He thought about Fat Boy downstairs. He thought about the cleaning staff somewhere in the building. He thought about the other guests. Had anyone else possibly seen Ai? There could be no room for witnesses anymore. He would have to kill everyone in the hotel, burn the place to the ground. He saw himself going from room to room, butchering whoever occupied them, leaving the playful sexual settings tainted spaces of bloody, crude irony through the violence and death he would bring to them. He wished he hadn’t looked at Fuck Buddy’s phone. He wished he was still ignorant of what he now knew: this was a mess beyond cleaning. He fought down paranoia, breathed deep and thought.

Do what you came to do, how you came to do it. The future is beyond your control. You cannot raze a hotel to the ground. You cannot slaughter all the guests and get away with it and even if you could, then what? Kill everyone at the restaurant they went to? Kill everyone that might have seen them in the street? Annihilate Osaka itself? Sometimes you clean by making a bigger mess. This is not one of those times. This time, a bigger mess is nothing more than a bigger fucking mess. This is a time for prayer and luck.

He crouched down and slapped Fuck Buddy in the face. He grabbed Fuck Buddy’s face between his fingers and stared into the still-open eyes.

-You should have been stronger. She is a goddess, but she is insane. You should have been so much stronger, because I cannot be.

Fuck Buddy slumped into his arms when his restraints were unbuckled. Cleaner hoisted him over a shoulder and with his knife set under his other arm, he carried him into the bathroom. Ai, naked and freshly toweled off, stood there watching Cleaner as he dumped Fuck Buddy onto the smooth concrete floor. It was a fine place for a spot of dismemberment, hard and flat and complete with a nearby drain for easy cleaning. Cleaner rolled out his knives. Ai got down on her knees and gazed down at the blades. She touched the delicate engravings, the swirling patterns, the hammered finish of the cobalt steel.

-They’re beautiful. They’re sashimi knives? I’ve never seen such beautiful blades.

-They are modified sashimi and kitchen knives, yes. They were built to cut and bone and fillet. They don’t care what they cut and bone and fillet as long as they do the jobs for which they were made. Stand back, we just got you clean.

-Can I help?

-I need you to clean the bedroom. Go to my suitcase; get out the bag of cleaning paraphernalia and the vacuum, put on gloves, a plastic jumpsuit and a hairnet.

-I want to help.

He looked at her. She held up a kawamuki – a knife made for skin-peeling.

-We don’t need to use that one.

He took it from her hands.

-We just need to…chop. There is no need for anything fancy or skilful. We just need to chop and wrap.

She watched him work. She watched the blades do the jobs for which they were made. When she started to help, he didn’t resist.


Cleaner smoked and through the gap in the curtains watched as the sun came up. Ai wore a tight pair of jeans, some runners and a t-shirt. Cleaner forbade her to wear make-up and she looked nothing like herself as a result. She looked like something innocent. She rested a hand on his shoulder and with him watched the natural light slowly supersede the neon.

At night, the cityscape emitted an artificial yet warm orange glow with dabs of blue and red. Apartment and office lights dotted dark concrete buildings with uniform pinpricks of white. The colors blended in impressionistic ripples off the Dotonbori, hiding the river’s true murk. Alive and playful at night, maze-like Osaka beckoned Cleaner, invited him into its corners, its alleys, its dead ends and its throughways, making it a part of him and him of it. In the day, Osaka, hazy and hung-over, grey and brown, repulsed Cleaner. Its filthy river, its faceless business men, its hordes of brand-obsessed consumers all alienated him. It was like stepping into a parallel world.
Ai saw only the sun and the light blue sky of the morning.

-It’s going to be a beautiful day.

Cleaner stubbed out his smoke in a nearby ashtray and turned to the suitcase. Upright and full, it sat in the centre of the room. The white elephant, butchered and quartered, stuffed within in individually wrapped pieces.

-What you’ve will come back to you. To us.

Ai took his hand and held it tight.

-It doesn’t have to.


Saori Shibata woke from a night of horrible dreams like old Koji Wakamatsu movies. She rolled over and picked up her phone from her nightstand. Shinji hadn’t returned her messages. Saddened, she went to the bathroom, fixed her hair and put on her face. She gave her eyebrows an extra sharpness with black pencil, colored her lips a dark blood red and dressed all in black. By the time she was done, she not only looked like the kind of porcelain doll a sadist would create but had also unconsciously fashioned herself from the stuff of her dreams. She knew Shinji had someone else and his current silence only confirmed it. She didn’t know who the someone was, but it wouldn’t be hard to find out. Saori looked at herself in the mirror and wondered aloud:

-Who do I find and kill first?

BIO: Cameron Ashley lived in Japan for three years, teaching English like everybody does. He managed to stay fairly level-headed (even though he bears a striking resemblance to mega-popular anime character Lupin III and caused several small outbreaks of Lupin-mania) but his Japanese is crap. He would like to point out that Cleaner is a fool and Osaka during the day is good times. This is the second Shibata story and he has a lot more yet to write. If they don’t suck, hopefully you will find them here in the near-ish future. You can find his other stuff at Plots with Guns, Powder Burn Flash & The Flash Fiction Offensive. He would like to thank C&C Quality Control for their assistance.