Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Wow! What an introduction!

I'm speaking about my guest spot on Michael J. Solender's blog, Not From Here, Are You?

About a week and a half ago, Michael wrote me and said he'd like me to guest if I was up to it.

Yeah, I'm up to it, I said.

But, the truth is, I wanted to get this just right. I didn't want to just slough something off on Michael. He was asking me to show up, not phone it in.

So I took a couple swings at it. There's a story in my own inbox that I will be trying to flesh out at a later date. There's a second, more fleshed but not quite there yet story that also will be seeing the light of day someday hopefully soon.

The story that eventually made it was actually written in a white hot blur, which is sometimes the only way to do it. It was actually written over the course of the last twenty-four hours and I put the finishing touch on it this afternoon.

Shhhh! Don't tell Michael.

Sent it off and I thought, "Yeah, it's a pretty good story still... Fingers crossed."

And you just start getting paranoid with this stuff, you know? I don't have to tell any of you guys and ladies, we're all doing the same thing every single time we shoot stories off to editors, right?

I thought maybe I had left some stuff out or whatever. I had to look it over a couple dozen times, even after I'd sent it, to make sure I was just imagining things.

A little while ago, Michael wrote to tell me that my story is now on his site and that he enjoyed and he needed to know a little something that I won't discuss here for the sake of not ruining the story for you before you read it.

The introduction, as I said at the beginning of all this, was nothing short of amazing.

Michael, I owe you big for that one, man. You are truly a class act and I can't thank you enough.

So, without further ado, I send you on your way to read HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HONEY at Not From Here, Are You?



Last day to get your stories in to Eric Beetner to qualify for his contest.

Unless Eric says different, that is.

But with the number of entries that seem to have been flying in, I tend to doubt he's going to extend the deadline. Plus, we've got that drop-dead date of October 15 for the winner to be announced and the winner to be presented here at ATON.

Somehow I don't think Eric's going to be changing anything.

Get 'em in before midnight and you won't turn into a pumpkin.

Meanwhile, head over to The Flash Fiction Offensive and check out MONDAY by Rachel Blackbirdsong. I can guarantee you won't want to visit prison and you'll wish the week went waaay fast after this.

While you're there, take a JOYRIDE with Grant Wamack. Just be sure Grandpa's out cold for the night.

I've introduced another new female at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers. This time, it's LILY.

A Twist Of Noir 191 - Barry Jay Kaplan


The incident occurred in November, rainy day, early evening, darkish but not yet completely dark, on a two-lane highway just outside Stellar City, near the Macomber Lake campsites. There were woods, and a lake that steamed at dawn, ringed by stands of tall fir trees, a few cabins near the water, rentals for the most part, though one or two were occupied by the owners on a weekend basis. Of the four people involved in the incident, the two boys were badly shaken, though aside from a few bruises, not hurt. The two men were dead.

According to the one of the boys not shaken as badly as the other--who could barely speak at all but sat still, staring, his lips moving, faintly blue--the two of them were coming home early from a camping trip cut short because of the rain. Their mothers had insisted they pack rain gear and they had, reluctantly and with much eye-rolling, but were glad in the end, because once their tent had sagged and finally collapsed under the weight of the pounding rain, they needed that rain gear and grudgingly praised their mothers, though silently, as boys will do.

They stuffed the tent into their knapsack, shook out their folded rubber ponchos and pulled them over their heads, and started out, first along the shore of the lake until the drop off to the water was too steep, then through the woods and out onto the path that lead to Route 19, not far from Hooly’s store and a telephone to call their parents. A pick-up had been arranged in advance, of course, but the rain had of necessity made for a change in plans. This was years ago, you understand, and no one had yet imagined such a thing as a cell phone.

The boys made their way through the woods where they could hear but not feel the rain, and onto the dirt road, where the rain pounded on their rubber ponchos as they walked Indian-file through the mud that had been hard-packed and dry only the day before, watching their feet slide, careful not to fall and feeling, the boy who told the store admitted, that this was the best thing that could have happened. It was an adventure, he said later. The boys were twelve years old.

It was getting dark though, and one of the boys, though he’d never let on to his more garrulous friend, did not like the way the situation was going. It was one thing to be out in the rain, that was OK; it was another thing to be out in the dark in the mud with only the darkening woods as shelter. This boy had a lot of imagination and it usually took him to places that frightened him. What might come out of those dark woods? A bear nine feet tall, maybe. A strange man with a weird stare and an axe, maybe. Or something else, something unknown, something silent. As long as they got to Route 19, though, as long as they were within a couple of miles of Hooly’s and a telephone, they’d be OK. Except it was getting awfully dark and he wondered if they’d even be able to see Route 19 once the light was really gone. The sky was dark grey verging on green. The storm was getting worse.

Finally, they were off the muddy road and onto Route 19 though things were no better there. There weren’t cars where there were usually a lot of cars. Hooly’s was a few miles away but maybe it wouldn’t even be open and suddenly they weren’t even sure of the direction. They stood still for a long few minutes. Underneath the pounding of the rain there was a strange sense of the universe being quiet, waiting for something to happen.

Then there was the sound.

“What is that?” the more frightened of the two boys asked, turning in every direction, though the sound didn’t seem to come from anywhere in particular. It was just there.

“You’re scared!” his friend said, though he had been startled by the sound too, which now that they had stopped to listen seemed to be getting louder.

The two boys moved closer together and backed slightly away from the road until they were up against a tree. They waited, breathing in short shallow breaths, as the sound got louder and was definitely coming from somewhere particular by now and now there was a faint light too, two sources of the light, hazy and blurred and—It was headlights! It was a car! The boys laughed and pushed themselves away from the tree out into the road. When the car crested the hill, the headlights found them. The boys retreated a few feet back again and stood still at the very edge of the road. As the car came closer it slowed down and finally stopped about ten feet from them.

“Come on,” one of them said and started for the car but the other one balked.

“Let’s keep walking,” he said to his friend.

“Aw, come on. They’ll give us a ride to Hooly’s.”

“How do you know what direction?”

“I don’t.”

“We can find it on foot,” he said, but, by this time, his friend was walking towards the car and, as he approached, the back door of the car opened.

His friend turned to him.

“See?” he said, then turned away: “Hi!” he said. “Thanks!” And got in the car.

The boy who was reluctant moved to the car, though he said later that this was the moment that time began to slow down, as if he was stepping into another world, though that didn’t really explain his feeling very clearly. His friend leaned out of the car and gestured to him to hurry. He ran the last few steps, more to be with his friend than to get into the car. At this point, the sound of the rain pattering on his rubber poncho was comforting to him. He hesitated before he stepped inside. Was the man in the driver’s seat wearing an eye patch? Was the other one holding a hatchet? Was this a nightmare? Was he going to wake up in a second? A chill ran down his back and legs. He wanted to sink back into the mud where he would be safe but his friend said, “Come on, come on,” beckoning with his hand from the backseat, and so he put one foot on the running board and hauled himself inside. He thought, as he sank his weight onto the seat: something very bad is going to happen.

The boys leaned back. It was very quiet, just the sound of the rain on the roof of the car, the swish of the windshield wipers, and the hum of the motor idling. The driver kicked the car into gear and the car started down the road.

The men were drunk, the boys knew that familiar smell from their parents’ parties. The more reluctant of the two boys, the one who felt the possibility that this was his own personal nightmare, wished very hard that he had not gotten into this car, especially as the road got steeper and curvier. He didn’t think this was the way to Hooly’s. There was a distant rumble of thunder, a flash of lightning. The car went into a skid. The boys were thrown against each other. The car came out of the skid. The boys laughed in relief and pushed each other away.

Have you boys been camping,” one of the men said, and as he flicked his cigarette lighter, threw his arm on the back of the front seat and turned to look at them. He was smiling, the boy telling the story remembered, but when the other boy yelled—he couldn’t help himself and blamed himself forever after—“Don’t hurt me!”, the man’s mouth flapped open and his cigarette slid from his lips.

“Oh, no,” he whispered. He brought the flame of the cigarette lighter closer to the boys’ faces. The boys backed away.

“No. No.”

“What’s up?” the driver asked as the man in the passenger seat said no no over and over, no no no no. The driver turned in his seat and, when he saw the boys in the flame from the cigarette lighter, he started to say it too. No, no, no.

Both men were saying it now and the driver’s hands flew off the wheel as he clutched his friend and the car went into another skid and this time didn’t recover because there was no one holding the wheel and careened off the road, down the embankment, bounced against rocks, scraping, crunching metal, then smack into the trunk of a fir.

A few hours later, when another driver who had left his lakeside cabin because of the rain found them, the two boys were sitting on a log next to the car, stunned and bruised, and the two men were still inside the car. Both of them were dead.


The last patient of the day, the man with anxiety disorder who would not go out in the dark, left Martin’s office, the front door of the house closing with a sharp click that signaled it was time for Martin to pour out a half jigger of rum from the bottle in the bookcase hidden inside a hollowed out volume of Dickens’ Hard Times. It was odd, wasn’t it, he thought, that it was rum he drank and not gin or rye or something softer, wine maybe or beer. Rum? When had he chosen rum? Martin didn’t think very hard about this, not towards any resolution, but let his mind wander as he often did after a day’s work, feet propped on his desk, one hand idly loosening his tie, the other swirling the rum in the glass, but as soon as his mind took a certain turn he stood up, swallowed the rum as if it were medicine, which it was, of a sort, cleared his throat because his heart was pounding, and went upstairs find his wife.

The note on the dresser said she was out, simply that, but when dinner time came and she had not come home or called, he phoned her sister and was informed that yes his wife was there and that no she did wish to speak to him and that for his information she was not simply out but out for good, that she would send for her things, that he, her husband, was to vacate the premises while she did so which would be the next morning and that her lawyer would be in touch with his.

Martin stretched out in the middle of the wide bed, spread his arms to the sides and thought that if he was going to be perfectly straight with himself, he would have to agree that she had been well within her rights to leave him. He had not been much of a husband and supposed now that it had been a lot to ask that she not notice: driven, but by shame and fear rather than any hope of success, and in the end, or close to it as this was, not achieving all that much: a home practice ministering to people who did not understand themselves and did not even understand that they didn’t. He was getting nowhere with them and never had. His chaotic interior life required an exterior of quiet and regularity and modesty. He had no interests that set him apart from other men, no hobbies or compulsions, no friends or social life, no appetites or desires to have anything other than what he had. Of course his wife had had enough. Of course she left him. The question now was: am I better or worse off? Sleep overcame him before he could decide and as he slept the nightmare began. He reached out for his wife to pull him back, to tell him not to go but his wife was gone and the nightmare played itself out until he woke up screaming.


Eddie turned up the volume on both speakers in the garage and listened to the balance of sound. Inside the house the kids were yelling at their mother and she was yelling back. He went to the garage door, raised his arms very high, caught the chain, and lowered the door from the inside. He lit a joint and leaned back against a pile of tires to smoke it down. When he was done he ate the ash. Now there’d be some peace.

The garage contained everything he wanted: his jeep, his old jeep, his good old jeep. Running his fingers along the fenders he thought this old car this old jeep, jeez tears came to his eyes she was loyal and sweet as a golden retriever. He’d take her out later, had to or wanted to, he wasn’t sure which but something told him he’d be behind the wheel today. His hands slapped his thighs. He looked around the garage: tools, tires, dartboard, freezer, the same bike he had as a kid still working, stacks of magazines, shelves of motor oil and anti freeze, a workbench, a vise, a set of free weights. Yes yes and yes. He had it all. There was no other path he’d wanted to take, nothing he regretted, nothing he thought he’d missed out on, no trails he’d wanted to blaze, no women, no mountains, nothing he wanted to see he hadn’t seen, no drug, no sensation, nothing new, nothing that he hadn’t thought about as a boy, gone after and gotten.

When did it happen, Eddie wondered, that he lost control of things? Hadn’t he been a go-getter once? Wasn’t he the guy who was going to be something? Or was it that he liked to think of himself that way when in reality he’d always been a loser, loud and bragging but with little to show for all the noise. His chest was still muscular and hard. He touched the tip of a dart through the opening in his shirt until the point touched his flesh and drew just a tiny drop of blood. Don’t be a fool, he thought. That’s all he’d need was for them to find him like this, stoned and bleeding. He flicked his tongue over the point of the dart and sent it sailing across the span of the garage to the dartboard on the far wall: whut! Saw it land in the deep cleavage of Miss November. Bingo! Never lost the touch.

He sat down and closed his eyes, listening to the muted sounds coming from the house. He saw some funny things with his eyes closed like that and opened them with a click. He reached for the rifle and set it on his knees. It’d be so simple, he thought. He stared at the dartboard, at the shadow between the girl’s breasts, at the dart which seemed to be quivering still, until his head drooped onto his chest and his eyes focused again on the rifle on his knees.


So I told ‘em shut up shut up shut up! Jeez the names they call her... And she takes it, don’t ask me why.

“I won’t.”

“Whyn’t you roll down your window?”

“It’s raining.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot. You’re of the melting variety.”

“A hothouse bloom.”

“OK, OK.”

They drove in silence for a while. The driver kept one hand on the wheel, the other reached in the glove compartment and pulled out a fifth of rye.

“Not my drink,” his friend said.

“Yeah, I know your drink. Mister Rum. Look in the back,” he said. “Never mind I got it,” and he pulled out a brand new bottle of rum, the seal still on it. “To friendship.”

“To friendship.”

Neither man spoke for a long while after that, though their eyes met over the rims of their respective bottles as they got progressively drunker and quieter. Then, finished, they stared out the window without thinking of where they were going but glad to be getting further away from what they were leaving behind, though neither of them knew the other well enough, or trusted the other with enough confidence, to tell what that thing was. They were old friends, at least that’s what they called each other. They went way back, that was all they knew, friends since they were boys and the bond was there and that was it, they didn’t question it any more than they questioned each other about their lives, any more than they asked themselves what it was they liked about each other or even if they liked the other one at all any more or ever had.

“Does the heater work in this heap?”

“Watch who you’re calling a heap,” the driver said and flicked on the heat. “Hothouse.”

The two lane highway which was usually well trafficked during this time of the day was emptying out with the storm warnings that had been on the radio all day. It was raining steadily now and the sky was turning the green that said it was going to rain and rain hard and long. It looked like their little trip was going to be ruined.

“We better turn around.”

The driver didn’t answer for a moment, just to show he was considering it when actually he agreed right off.

“Yeah,” he finally said, but there wasn’t a likely place to make a U and so they continued on, lulled by the sense of forward motion, unwilling to turn around and admit to going back. The future was ahead. They already knew what they’d left. A few minutes later the sky really opened up and the mountains they were driving towards were lit stark and vivid in flashes of lightning.

“Wouldn’t want to be out walking tonight.”


He wanted to say better turn around but he’d said it already and he knew anyway that it was futile, knew they’d keep driving until they no longer could.

“Look,” he said, a few minutes later, up ahead. The headlights illuminated two people walking.

“They must be soaked to the skin,” the driver said.

“Don’t stop,” his friend said.

The driver stared into the rain. “Gotta.”


The driver shrugged.


“Gotta,” the driver insisted without knowing why and slowed down so he could pull off the road.

The rain sounded very loud on the stopped car. The two men sat still and watched through the streaming windshield as first one, then other of the two figures ran towards the car and hauled themselves into the back seat. The driver put the car into gear and started back on the road.

“Have you boys been camping?” the other one said, as he took a cigarette from his inside pocket and put it in his mouth, then flicked his lighter into flame. He turned in his seat to look at the two boys in rubber ponchos, who sat shivering in the back seat.

“Don’t hurt me,” one of the boys said.

BIO: Other stories of Barry's have appeared in Descant, Bryant Literary Review, Upstreet, Storyglossia, 971 menu, Storyglossia, Apple Valley Review (Pushcart Prize nominee) and others. “His Wife” is included in Best of the Net Anthology 2008.

A Twist Of Noir 190 - Michael Kechula


Originally published in Powder Burn Flash, July 28, 2008

My thoughts of murdering Holly Spencer were interrupted by rowdy Skinheads, who plowed through Manhattan’s rush-hour crowds. One of them elbowed me in the ribs. He grinned when he saw me doubled up in pain. Enraged, I reached inside my gym bag to grab the silenced pistol. He slipped into the crowd before I could blow his brains out.

Rubbing my aching ribs, I headed up 42nd Street toward the movie theater where Holly worked. I paid a private detective plenty to find her. He said she sold tickets in one of those outdoor ticket booths, and took lunch at 11:30.

I figured I’d shoot her in the face, right through the ticket window. But there were too many people around. So, I decided to follow her at lunchtime and shoot her as she pushed food through her lying, thieving lips. Maybe I’d wound her in the stomach, so she’d suffer every day for the rest of her life. What a great way to get satisfying, never-ending revenge. It’d be like a royalty arrangement—do a piece of work once, and cash in on it for years.

I ducked behind a store window that gave a clear view of the ticket booth. My trigger finger twitched when I glimpsed Holly’s profile. The bitch stole $50,000 from me. Money I skimmed dealing blackjack for an illegal gambling operation. Being my fiancée, she knew where I stashed the money. The day before our wedding, she dug it up and disappeared.

Somebody arrived to relieve Holly for lunch. She left the booth and headed in my direction. Suddenly my plans collapsed. Thieving Holly was sharp enough to bilk me out of fifty grand, but not swift enough to avoid pregnancy. Dammit! I never figured on shooting a pregnant woman.

She waddled by in a puffy, sunflower covered, electric-blue dress that stuck out a mile. My gut urged me to forget her and go back to Dallas. Instead, I decided to confront her.

She entered an eatery, with me not far behind. It was a noisy, greasy dump, filled with down-and-outers. The electric dress was at a small table, way in the back. My stomach was in knots when I reached her table.

“Oh My God! Ed!” Her eyes bulged, her hands shook.

“Take it easy. I just wanna talk.”

She grabbed her stomach and yelled, “Ow! My baby!”

People looked our way. A waitress rushed over. “Are you all right, lady?”

“It hurts so bad. I feel like I’m gonna heave!”

“I’ll help you to the ladies room,” the waitress said.

Holly groaned loudly, as the waitress led her away.

Sonovabitch! How slick to pull that stunt. I wondered what she was telling the waitress. Maybe she’d lie and say I was threatening her. They might call the cops.

I rushed out, headed for the subway, and barely squeezed through the doors of a departing train.

As it sped through dark catacombs, I wondered what to do next. My plan had failed miserably. Holly was alive. She hadn’t even apologized, or asked forgiveness. I imagined her laughing her ass off and calling me a freakin’ loser.

I swore I’d get revenge, one way or another. Maybe I could dream up some dirty tricks to sting her, undermine her sense of security, erode her sanity.

I started to plan something rotten to pull on her. I didn’t get far—my intense, focused thoughts gave way to disconnected fantasies, as the repetitive clacking of the train’s wheels lulled my brain.

“Coney Island—last stop,” somebody said, jolting me awake.

“How do I get back to Manhattan?” I asked.

“Stay on this train.”

New passengers boarded. One was a mangy Skinhead with a swastika tattooed on his forehead. Sonovabitch! My grandpa died during World War Two, ridding the world of Nazis.

Homicidal rage slammed my gut.

The Skinhead tried to panhandle a woman. She shooed him away. So did others. Then he asked me if I could spare a buck. I snickered when I realized fate had sent me a booby prize.

“I don’t give money away. But, if you’re hungry, I’m good for a burger and fries.”

“Yeah, I’m hungry. I ain’t et all day.”

“Where’s the nearest burger place?”

“Next stop.”

As the train sped toward our exit, I scribbled a few words in my little notebook, tore out the page, and stuck it in my pocket.

“This country’s turning into a third world shithouse,” Skinhead said, his mouth full of greasy fries. “Only the Master Race can save it. This is who should be running this country.” He tapped a photo of Adolf Hitler in his wallet. “He’d seal the borders, fire up the ovens, and get rid of all the mongrel vermin.”

I couldn’t stand much more of his looniness. I wanted to get him alone somewhere.

“I got some good desert,” I said. “Columbian Gold.”

“Yeah? Let’s go out back and smoke it.”

As he puffed away behind a dumpster, he asked if I wanted to join the Nazi Vengeance Brotherhood.

I answered him by firing one round into his chest and another into his head. Then I removed the slip of paper from my pocket, and stuffed it in his wallet behind Hitler’s picture.

I combed the morning papers for news about Skinhead, but found nothing. Maybe the cops killed the story. I wondered if they hit the panic button after reading the note I’d planted in Skinhead’s wallet.

A bit of disinformation can go a long way in New York these days, if the right words are used:


“Welcome to the world of dirty tricks, Holly,” I whispered.

BIO: Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in 8 contests and placed in 7 others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards 4 times. His stories have been published by 116 magazines and 32 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored two books of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales” and “The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook versions available at and Paperback available at


I just "love" it when this kind of shit happens.

This kind of thing dumps the entire apple cart over and makes everyone leery of everyone else because you never know if someone's ripping you off.

If you haven't read it by now or don't know what I'm talking about, head on over and read A Rage of Angel: I've Been Plagiarized...and I'm Not Alone.

It's hard enough being a writer, trying to come up with stuff that you think is going to be original (and what's really original anymore?), to have someone blatantly rip you off must be a knife to the brain and heart and a kick in the ass or balls.

It's hard enough being an editor, reading great story after great story, only to realize that there's a reason that it's so great; Stephen Fucking King wrote it ten years ago and someone ripped him off, changing a couple words here or there.

I try to read as much crime and noir-related fiction as I can on the web (it's impossible to read everything) so as to know who deserves a boost and a look from everyone that reads ATON.

And, of course, everything that comes to me is read by me and me alone with as sharp an eye as I can manage.

There is only one editor of A Twist Of Noir and thus only one set of eyes. Therefore, if there's something I haven't read myself getting passed off as someone else's work, how am I to know?

As such, I have to rely on the honor system, that everyone coming here with story-in-hand is on the up-and-up.

I want to be clear about this:


However, because of this schmuck (and there will be others, there always are), there have to be safeguards put into place.

The one I want to inact is the following:

Sharp eyes.

The writers here aren't just writers, they're readers, too. They read everything that gets posted on this site and then some.

I'm depending on all of you to look out for each other.

Goddamn it, I hate when this shit happens.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 189 - Matthew Quinn Martin


Originally published at Eastern Standard Crime in August 2009

I met Dinah about a decade ago; crime wasn’t exactly a lifestyle for us back then, more of a hobby. I had this job driving cars cross-country, and was using it to shuttle big bags of painkillers from one city to the next. If ever I got caught, my excuse was going to be, ‘Hey, it ain’t my car.’ Luckily, I never had to use it, because it would have gotten me about as far as the county jail. I was a little north of nineteen. Romantic, horny, head full of dreams––in short, an idiot.

The plan was to sock away as much folding green as I could, then buy a motorcycle and ride to Alaska. To get as far away from Pennsylvania as possible where people still spoke English. But as they usually do, the plan changed. Changed when I met Dinah. She was hitching on a long stretch of road just outside of Holcomb Kansas. I spotted that crazy mop of rusty curls, upright thumb, and coltish gams––gleaming naked from combat boots to cut-off jeans––and pulled up in a gray Saturn that was bound for Salt Lake City. And never made it.

She barely looked fifteen. Couple of yellowing bruises and old cigarette-end shaped scars on her arms told me all I needed to know. Damaged, didn’t begin to describe her. It was like she’d been ground to sand, stuck into a blast furnace and come out the other side as glass––only to get shattered to a million pieces and ground back down.

As she rode shotgun, the look in her constantly shifting eyes seemed to say that some menfolk had laid a pretty heavy deal on her. I never asked which ones. Uncle? Brothers? Father? Did it matter?

When she leaned forward, I spotted a gravity knife tucked into the back of her belt and made mention of it.

“Just in case some trucker decides to get frisky,” she said.

I asked her why she didn’t just cut her hair short like a boy, she could pass.

“It wouldn’t matter to them,” she said. “Any port in a storm.” And she looked like she knew what she was talking about. I should have dropped her at the next rest-stop, but I was nineteen––I was an idiot.

I reckon Dinah knew the ride wasn’t going to be free. So she paid up front, right at 80 mph. The only rubber involved was that gripping the asphalt, but it felt safer. No way she’d try to stick me and make off with the wheels. Not if we could crash. Maybe not your typically romantic first date, but it worked for us.

Since we had a couple of days before anybody noticed the car was missing, I figured we’d hit Vegas. I knew a guy there’d be able to unload it for me. I’d be netting peanuts, but that was the drill. We stopped for gas and, as I was filling the tank, Dinah fired up a smoke. One of mine. “Isn’t that a little dangerous, darlin’?” I asked.

“Nah. Know how hard it is to get gasoline to light up?” And, to prove her point, she dropped the half-smoked cigarette into a puddle of gasoline. The coal-red ember winked out like she’d plinked it into a mug of suds. It was right there that I knew I was in love.

So we found my guy, Richie. And, like I’d predicted, he gave me the high-hard one for the car. Three G’s for a spankin’ new station wagon. After a little haggling, I got him to toss in a shitbox import pick-up to tool around in. Then I got us set up with a crappy motel just off the strip. The pool’d been condemned by the board of health and, in the morning, we we’re woken up by strips of sunlight streaming through the six bullets holes perforating the back door. Home sweet home.

I knew the money wasn’t going to last, so I talked to Richie and he said he could set me up with a new short con he’d be running. He needed fresh faces; all his usual guys had either been burned or were cooling their heels in the pokey. He’d be working it, too, behind the curtain, but up front it had to be a team. I reckon he meant the girl. Dinah was still working off her share of the rent the way she’d been for the past week, but I could tell she was itching to get in on the game for real. I figured what the heck. I was sick of being a solo act.

Richie had gotten hold of an empty shop, and used his connections to stock it with some hot electronics. I worked the counter; Dinah went to hustle up customers. Turns out she had a gift for finding marks. None of the out-of-town hayseeds could resist that trusting look in her big hazel eyes. She’d separate the rubes from the rest of the herd, and send them right down the kill shoot.

Man, their greedy, beady little eyes would bulge when they saw the prices, all just a little too low not to at least try to limbo. They’d hand over the plastic and I’d swipe it. When it wouldn’t clear, I’d scratch my head and tell ‘em, “You’s not going through. You got another card?” And when that one failed, I’d give ’em that aww shucks smile. “Not gonna go. Tell ya’ cash and I’ll knock off ten percent.

“There’s an ATM over there,” I’d say pointing to one across the street. One with a pinhole video camera pointed at the keypad. Of course, the credit card machine wasn’t broken. It was just sending the information to the back of the shop where Richie sat with an encoder and a stack of blank cards.

Left like that it was a pretty good con. What made it perfect was that as Dinah was boxing things up, I’d ask the mark if they lived in Vegas. Of course they didn’t. If they lived in Vegas they wouldn’t have fallen for this scam like dominoes.

Then I’d tell them that if they were from out of state they could mail the goods to themselves and skip the tax. “You can drop in the mail box,” I’d say. “It’s right across the street, next to the ATM.” Then Dinah’d hand them a nicely packaged brick. They bit. Never underestimate a man’s greed or desire to get laid.

We ran that one for about four days. When the heat hit simmer, Dinah and I headed back to the motel with the cash and waited for Richie to show with the cards. From there, the plan was to split up and hit the area ATMs, the ones in quickie-marts that connected to the grid through dial-up and usually didn’t have cameras. We’d do it shotgun style, random.

Six hours went by.

Then ten.

Then a day.

I checked the store. Emptied out as planned, but still no word from Richie. So we waited. We got some cheap bubbly and played checkers and fucked. Then we got a phone call two days later, collect from Tijuana. It seems Richie had woken up covered in blood. Just not sure whose and bolted across the border till things cooled. The cards were gone. We never saw him again.

We still had most of the cash. 25K––again, peanuts compared to what those cards would have gotten us. But it was something. I stuffed it into my duffel, and shoved it under the bed. I told Dinah about Richie and then hit the shower, letting the hot water wash some of the loser-stink from my body, as I figured out what to do next. 25K would last a lot longer if there was just one of us.

When I got back out, dripping––cheap motel towel barely covering my jewels, I felt a dry desert breeze hit my wet skin. Dinah stood there, her silhouette framed by the open doorway. She had the duffel full of money in one small fist, and her open knife in the other. The truck keys dangled from her pinky.

“I left you some,” she said, nodding towards the nightstand. There, next to the ashtray, sat a stack of bills. Two large maybe.

“Generous,” I said. “More than I’d have left you.”

“You’d have left me dead.”

I shook my head a touch. What was I going to say? Anything would’ve sounded like a lie. Maybe someone from her way back had left her for dead. Left her in a ravine––bruised, scraped, choked, raped. Who knew what was in that big old closet of hers. So she was going to take some green from me that wasn’t even mine to begin with––big deal. What was I going to do? Kill her for it? A lot of folks would look at a girl like Dinah and say I’d be doing to world a favor by taking her out.

Well, I’ve never been into doing the world favors. And it’s been reciprocal. “Take it easy then,” I told her as I dropped the towel and reached for my pants, still crumpled next to the bed.

“Ain’t you mad at me?” she asked.

“A touch. But it’s just money. I’ll get more. It’s you I’m gonna miss.” Like I said, I was nineteen––an idiot.

Dinah huffed, probably thinking I was stalling, looking for some way to get her. When I leaned back and clicked on the tube, she turned, taking a half-step through the door, lingering.

“It’ll run out you know,” I said. “Money. Luck. Time. Gonna have to trust somebody sometime.”

She dropped the duffel. “How do I know I can trust you?”

“You don’t,” I said. “That’s why they call it trust.”

They say most couples split up over money. So maybe that’s the reason Dinah stuck around all these years. We got married that night by a guy in an Elvis suit, wrecked to the gills on rotgut tequila. I can’t say it’s always been smooth sailing, but here we are, back in Vegas for our 10th anniversary. Only in America.

I heard Richie’s in town, too. I’m not sure if he’d even remember us. Which is going to make this a lot easier. This weekend, Dinah and I are getting ours from Richie––one way or another.

Maybe I’m still an idiot, but I’m not nineteen anymore.

BIO: Matthew Quinn Martin is a very accomplished writer of a great many stories, many of which are plays, some of which are short stories, three of them films of varying length. He's had crime stories published at The Flash Fiction Offensive, the soon-to-be defunct Eastern Standard Crime and at A Twist Of Noir.

He wrote the feature-length crime drama Slingshot, produced by Bold Films and starring Julianna Margulies, David Arquette, Thora Birch, Balthazar Getty and Joely Fisher.

Currently, he is hard at work on not one but two novels, one solo, one with Libby Cudmore.

And Matthew is an MFA candidate in Popular Fiction writing at the Stonecoast Program, University of Southern Maine.

For more information about Matthew, his stories, his films, his novels, his life, check out

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 188 - Keith Rawson


Tonight's show is Unsolved Mysteries.

You remember that show, right? The one where Robert Stack spent an hour dressed in Sam Spade gear and stood around on a fog-covered street corner, attempting to freak you out about alien abduction and haunted houses. I loved Robert Stack. In my opinion, he was one of the best voice-over talents in the business; ranked right up there with James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman; the major difference being Stack's voice is just flat out creepy, whereas Jones and Freeman are far more comforting and inspiring. It was Stack's steel-hard, slightly menacing delivery that made him the ideal host for Unsolved Mysteries.

Tonight's showing isn't a Robert Stack episode. Tonight's episode is from the new incarnation of the series. Stack doesn't host or narrate because of the whole dead guy thing. The new version of the show is hosted by that one Italian guy who always plays either a cop or a gangster in the movies. I normally like the guy's acting abilities, even though it seems like he’s spent his entire career playing some variation of himself. I’m not a fan of him hosting Unsolved Mysteries, though. His voice doesn't have the same mysterious verve, the same sense of dread. It’s all right though; what I’m really interested in is a missing person's case being featured.

The segment is about a thirty-five year-old Tucson, AZ woman who disappeared while on a shopping trip to Tijuana, Mexico. She drove down alone on a whim, according to her grief stricken husband. The woman's been missing three years now and her husband of only two years is still grief stricken.

This leads me to believe one of two things:

1) The husband is the one who did the wife and is a very good actor


2) He knows who did her and feels guilty about it, but is afraid to divulge what he knows to the proper authorities.

I can care less either way; all I’m waiting for is the 1-800 number so I can place my tip. The story winds down with a big snotty plea from the husband and the show fades to a voice-over of the Goomba actor and the number. I dial it in as he’s speaking and wait for the operator to pick up.

“Unsolved Mysteries, this is Gwen.”

Female, I hang up.

Females are a no-go; the only problem with these kinds of shows is that some nights all of the operators are women.

I redial.

“Unsolved Mysteries, this is David.”

Here we go.


My phone calls started off as an accident.

I’m a flooring salesman: carpet, linoleum, ceramic, travertine, anything you can walk on, I sell it. I’m very good at my job. A major reason I’m so successful is largely due to referrals. My clients list largely consists of individual home owners who just happen to like me enough to pass my name along to friends and family members. When I first started out, I treated each new referral as if it was a fragile treasure; I handled each with care, calling only when it was most convenient for the client; never calling more than once then every couple of weeks. My referrals loved me for my professionalism and the fact that I didn’t clutter up their answering machines with hang-ups or too many unnecessary messages.

I waited for them to call me back.

But, like any salesman, I’m numbers driven; the more sales I made, the more referrals I converted, the more money that went into my pocket. So, after a few years of cultivating and collecting, of nurturing each new lead, I grew impatient. I wanted more sales, more money. I started including a referrals form as part of the easy credit application that most of my clients took advantage of. I came up with the bullshit line that if the new client didn’t come up with at least three new clients for me to contact, there was absolutely no way for me to process their application. Ninety percent of the clients I worked with bought into my line without question; the other ten percent knew I was full of shit because They’d filled out credit applications in the past or worked in the finance industry.

The only issue I dealt with my new referral system was that a good portion of the ninety percent would panic and list bullshit names, addresses, and telephone numbers on their references page. Pages and pages of nothing but disconnected lines; of robotic voices informing me the number I’d reached was either no longer in use or disconnected. The bullshit leads got so bad that I started getting into the habit of calling them after ten o’clock at night; the way I figured it, no one was on the other line anyway so why bother pretending to be courteous?

Sometimes there were people on the other end. The first one came from this single mom named Crystal something or other; re-carpeted her entire condo with low-end, off-white Berber. Cheap sale, but she filled her credit application with fifteen names and numbers. I figured they were all fake.


I dialed the first number on Saturday, May 18th; it was eleven o’clock at night. The wife and kids were in California for the week, amusement park hopping and escaping the grinding heat of Phoenix in late spring. The TV was tuned to some black and white movie with Charlton Hesston playing a Mexican. I had the volume off and I was thinking about taking a look at some internet porn and half-listening to the phone receiver; waiting for the pre-recorded voice to tell me I was an idiot for even dialing.

One, two, three rings...

“Circle K, this is Chad. How can I help you?”

I’m not the type who’s at a loss for words when faced with an uncomfortable situation; in fact, I thrive on it. Not that being on the phone with a convenience store clerk was awkward, just unexpected.

My throat went tight; I swallowed and produced a noise that sounded something like a cricket rubbing its hind legs together.

“Hello?” asked the voice on the other end.

I cleared my throat, but instead of saying: No, I think I have the wrong number, like a normal person would, I piped up, my voice coming out of my throat high and feminine.

“Is Mike available?” Which was the name on the credit app.

“Mike? Mike who? Mike Stern?” Super polite Chad asked.

I scanned the name and I was surprised to find that was exactly who I was looking for.

“Yes, that’s him.” I didn’t modulate my voice; I kept it at the same pitch and added a slight purr to it. “Is he available?”

“No, Mike works swing shift. In fact, he just left a few minutes ago.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. I really needed to talk to him.”

“Well, I can take a message for you if you want me to.”

“No, no, that’s okay I’ll just call back tomorrow... But you have a great night.”

“Wait! Hold on a second! Seriously, I can take a message. Sometimes he comes in at night to pick up some beers or smokes... are you his girlfriend or something?”

The clerk actually thought I was a woman. Personally, I thought I sound like a twelve year-old who was about to drop his testes, but I guess the voice could've passed as female. I figured the guy was either extremely bored or the loneliest man in Phoenix.

“No, I’m just a friend... I don’t have a boyfriend right now.”

“Really? That’s surprising, ‘cause you sound, I don’t know, really pretty.”

“Oh, I guess.”


I kept him on the line like that for over an hour; flirting back and forth. Chad seemed like a good guy and I was right; he was just lonely. He was recently divorced and working the graveyard shift in order to afford his court-ordered child support. He missed his wife and his little boy, but he understood why she divorced him: He liked to screw around on the side, he liked screwing around a lot, and his ex had just caught him at it way too many times for her to bear. But now he was living in a dumpy studio apartment and all the women he used to love screwing around with so much wouldn’t come near him unless it was to clip him in the teeth with an aluminum baseball bat. But that’s how women who liked married men were; the minute the wedding band came off, they split out in search of men who still wore the ball and chain around their necks and were in need of obligation-free fucking.

I crafted a similar story, divorced a couple of times, working graveyard shift as a night auditor at a hotel; no kids, no current man, no obligations. I really led old Chad on and kept it up for two weeks after our initial conversation. Our little phone dates eventually led to us making a physical date for lunch at some pizza place in Chad’s neighborhood. I showed up, not as my phone self, but as the real me, dressed in business attire and toting around a portfolio of carpet samples, pretending like I was meeting a client.

He was pretty much how I pictured him from our conversations: not bad-looking, but not exactly a heartbreaker; mid-thirties, thinning sandy brown hair, a bit of a paunch, dark bags under his eyes, and the shallow pale skin tone of a night worker. I watched him for an hour. I watched as his demeanor turned from cocky player-to-beaten down, dumped on his ass schlep of a human being. I walked out of the pizza place with my smirk hidden behind the straw of my coke and I tossed my uneaten slice.


“Unsolved Mysteries, this is David.”

I’ve been at it two years now.

At first, I stuck with convenience stores and graveyard shifts. I experimented, changing up tone, regional accents, and race; I thought I sounded best as a southern black woman. Six months in, I bought a digital voice modulator from one of those urban spy places and fooled around with that for a few months; I gave it up, it felt effortless and plastic.

“Yes, I have information regarding the Alison Jansen case.” I use my Mexican single mother voice; I make it cracked and nervous, words warbling mid-syllable. “I have information.” Oh yeah, I really play it up, like I’ve been living with the secret too long and I’m overwhelmed with emotion.

“Yes, ma’am, any new information you can provide would be very helpful to the family.”

I didn’t play them all like Chad. Most of my conversations only lasted ten or fifteen minutes; the clerks were usually busy or distracted by one thing or another; but occasionally I would get another Chad, another lonely man looking for company, a touch of humanity, a friendly voice in the middle of the night.

“It’s so horrible...”

“I know, ma’am, take your time.”

I don’t know why I started calling into the responsible citizen tip shows.


The need for a greater audience?

“I know... I know where...”

“You know where what, Ma’am?”

I tried the AM radio call-in shows at first, but I never made it past the producers screening calls before you made it on air. The shit thing I learned about radio producers is that most of them are women, and women just don’t buy my act; somehow they just know the person on the other end of the line is a man pretending to be a woman.

“The body of Ms. Jansen...”

“What about the body, Ma’am?”

If I had to really think about my reasoning, I guess I would have to say it’s because of the salesman in me.

“I know... I know where the body is.”

I’m just naturally results oriented.

BIO: Keith Rawson is a little known pulp writer who lives in the alkaline desert wastelands of southern Arizona with his wife and very energetic three-year-old daughter. His stories have appeared in such publications as Plots with Guns, Pulp Pusher,, Bad Things, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp and many others. You can find him most nights dicking around on either Twitter or Facebook, or stroking his already over-inflated ego at his blog Bloody Knuckles, Callused Fingertips.

A Twist Of Noir 187 - Robert Crisman


Dopefiends wear blindfolds and think that no one can see them.

Jeffrey got back that afternoon around five with the two grams of dope that the Mexican fronted. He brought some geek with him.

Leann and Heather, turned out, had a double that night and on Mercer Island, to boot. They had to be there by nine.

Jeffrey, the geek, and the girls all fixed. The girls went off to the can to get dressed. Not too long after, Jeffrey went up to the second-floor can, geek in tow, to top off the groove. Jeffrey fixed in his neck for what seemed like years. Then the geek banged—and got sick as dogs. Good dope but too much. He made it out to the yard and puked up his guts. His nausea fled but his triple vision stayed with him.

At 7:15, they drove the girls out to the island. The geek took them out in his car, Jeffrey figuring he’d save some on gas. The girls sat in back.

Leann, 29, wore all black, top, jeans, and shoes. She looked almost fresh. She had black pools for eyes, an impish grin on those rare days she grinned, and skin once richly buttered but now leached by dope. Heather wore tight, tight blue jeans and a skimpy red top. She had she had big baby blues and those sexy long legs, stood 5’9”, every inch a suburban princess gone wrong. Heather was just 22. Her eyes were 40 years old.

Jeffrey was Michaelangelo’s David, but scarred and bruised and chipped at the edges, and well on his way to becoming a stick at age 35 like all the rest of the skag monkeys out there. The geek looked like used chewing gum.

They went out I-90 and over the bridge and onto the island and cut off the highway some three exits down. They took a road that wound up a hill, cut left at a 7-11, then went right, wound some more, and finally came to this house with a high hedge in front and trees all around.

Big old house. Maybe Microsoft money.

Leann told the guys, wait. They said okay. The girls got out and went past the hedge to the house.

The geek said he needed some orange juice to calm down his stomach. They went down to the 7-11 they’d passed.

The geek got his orange juice. Then he and Jeffrey sat in the parking lot, gassing away. They traded war stories. It turned into a game of Can You Top This? It went on and on and—

Oh shit! The girls!

They patched out, started back. They got lost. All these trees and—shit, man, can’t hardly see where I’m going and—then, by sheer luck, they were there at the house. That big fucking hedge. Now they’d wait.

From the hedge came a hiss: “Jeffrey!” Huh? What was that? “Jeffrey!” Louder this time—and the girls came flying out of the hedge to the car. They got to the door on the passenger side. It was locked and it took Jeffrey a beat to unlock it. They ripped the door open and slammed on inside like the whole Russian Army was after their ass.

“C’mon!” Leann said, “Fucking go!” The car lurched out with a screech you could hear for five miles.

Leann was torqued. “Where the fuck were you?”

The geek bounced the car down the road toward the bridge.

“You, fucking Jeffrey, where the fuck were you?” Leann almost screamed it. Heather was hunched. She sobbed and raged through her teeth. Leann whacked Jeffrey over the head with this newspaper she’d found on the seat. “You fucking cocksucker!” Jeffrey raised his arm to ward off the blows. The geek swerved and drove, still seeing triple.

“Where the fuck were you?” Whack whack whack whack! “You motherfucker!” Whack whack!

“Leann—ow!” She got him one, right in the eye! Jeffrey clapped his hand over his eye. “Okay, Leann, stop!”

They got to the bridge. Leann got tired and stopped whacking. The geek saw three bridges, three lakes, three Seattles beyond. He aimed down the middle. Leann sat back and glared holes in Jeffrey. Heather looked up and said, “You fucking bastard.” Quiet as dry ice with all the venom there is in the world. Jeffrey came close to pleading: “What happened? What happened?”

The girls just sat there, drilling his ass. Then they told him. The guy at the house. He wanted Heather to get in a coffin.

Dead fucking silence. Then—Jeffrey busted out laughing. “He what?” The geek started laughing.

Heather went ballistic. “You fucking bastard!” She busted the geek in the back of his head. He almost put the car in the lake. She called him every kind of cocksucker on Earth. She spit on his ass. Leann had to hold her. Heather slumped and cried.

It hit Jeffrey now that he had to chill this shit out. He put this contrition all over his face. He made apology noises. He explained that the geek got sick, they had to go down to the store, they got lost coming back and—God, what a bummer! I’m sorry man, bummer.

No shit.

It didn’t fly. His sorries sounded as if he was reading off cue cards.

Deep freeze took hold then and held all the way to the city. The girls were like two pissed-off stones. All Jeffrey had left was shrugs. He turned and faced front.

He had a new worry too, now that he gave it some thought. They’d counted on this trick. The dope was way low and Jeffrey owed his main man $300. It was due, uh, tomorrow.

He chewed it over. He had to get his hands on some money. He’d come in late once with main man and the guy’d let him slide—but gave Jeffrey to know that one time was it.

Twice, well... Jeffrey got to work on the problem.

Up through Capitol Hill and toward home, Jeffrey chewed holes in his lips. He rifled his A list of contacts, his B list, both short and both no fucking way. So, what could he steal at this time of night? Could he sell the geek’s car? Turn a trick? Sing songs and dance on the corner of Broadway and John while the girls held hats in their hands?

What could he steal? Candy bars out of some grocery? Beef jerky and— Something nudged him, not really a thought, more a flash. This old Chinese grocer in Wallingford, maybe a mile from his pad. He’d been in the store late one night stealing candy and angling in on the video rack and he’d caught the guy out of the corner of his eye counting money. This thick sheaf of bills... He’d thought at the time he could knock the guy over, just bitch-slap his ass and walk out with the money.

He might have, too, if hadn’t been for this Mexican guy he was meeting in 15 short minutes. Old Main Man himself as it happened.

No meetings scheduled tonight.

Jeffrey had a knife, a butterfly knife he’d picked up for a 20 one time. He always had it tucked in his pocket. He’d take it out sometimes and open it up, sitting in some café bored. Or, he’d see some guy on the street passing by and think about sticking the fucker. Just going up in the guy, urk, just like that. No reason, just to see the guy’s mouth flying open, his eyes all screwed shut as the pain grabbed his ass.

He’d never used it, not once. People these days carried guns. He just like the idea, the feel of the thing in his pocket.

And the old Chinese guy, Korean, whatever, he’d have a gun, right under the counter most likely.

Bring a knife to a gunfight—bad fucking move. But the guy... old, feeble. Jeffrey’d be in there just buying candy, the guy’s half-awake, he’s been there all day, and now he’s just waiting for Jeffrey to leave so he can lock up and go home.

The place was slow too. Jeffrey’d been in there a couple of times late at night, no one else, just him and the old Chinese guy...

If someone was there, they’d be quick in and out. Plus, you could see from inside a lot of the store, if anyone else pulled up in the lot.

It would have to be quick. Go in there, up to the counter, call the guy over, these batteries here, or some fucking thing, how much do they cost? Guy shuffles over and you, bang, snatch him up, press the knife to his neck and hustle him back real quick out of sight and just tell him, man, get the money. He does. You’ve got him, right there with that knife at his neck, and who wants to die on a night like tonight?

Be sure and take that gun that you know he’s got there under the counter—he didn’t have time to think about pulling that fucker—then make him lie on the floor and count to ten million. You fly like a bird.

Jeffrey chewed it and chewed it some more. Something could always go wrong. Some clown could come in, maybe he’s got a gun... Or the old Chinese guy knows kung fu...

And armed robbery, man, it really was not Jeffrey’s thing. The odds on fuckups stacked higher, way higher, in that line of work. Things moved too fast or not fast enough. The wire stretched tighter. It wasn’t like burglary, boosting, that shit, not at all. No slaps on the wrist for armed stickups last time he checked.

So much could go wrong! But, man, still... Quick in and out. He needed some money.

Jeffrey worked himself up. He fed on the fact that he’d danced through some wild fucking shit in his time. Those guys who’s chased once in that car, popping caps. Cops more than once trying to flush him from boltholes. That time with the cellfull of bikers in County—man, that was close! But a miss is as good as a mile and Jeffrey’d walked out with his skin and a cool, breezy stride.

Jeffrey had always danced through. Other dopefiends went down, but God gave him a pass. A couple of times it was close but, hey, no cigars.

This was Jeffrey. Teflon dopefiend.

Of course, he knew that, Teflon or not, he could go in that door and die on the floor. He said to himself, if that be the case, so be it.

A shrug of the shoulders. Fuck it. The fatalist credo all dopefiends live by. Helps tamp the fear down.

A visual: Jeffrey, diving, eyes welded shut, to deep water below. The fear and life’s insufferable weight stripped away, all eyes left behind, as he cut through the air. A blinding instant of freedom.

That feeling, along with his need are what nailed it.

He told the geek, hit the freeway at Roanoake, get off at the 50th street exit, go left.

Leann cocked him a look. The way he’d spit those instructions... Jeffrey’d come up with a mission. What now?

The geek got the exit, wheeled left. Up half a mile. On the left there, a lot. Jeffrey said, “Go in there.”

The geek pulled in. Jeffrey said, “Up by the door.”

Leann said, “Jeffrey, what—”

Jeffrey, half out of the car, said, “I’ll—just wait, don’t shut it off, I’ll be right back.” He hopped on into the store.

Leann said, “Oh fuck.” And almost went after his ass. She knew what this was. But fear froze her. She might go in and the thing had already started.

Heather picked up on the fear. “Leann?” Leann put her hand up: not now! The geek looked back clueless, except—something, the vibe... He kept quiet.

Ten seconds passed and they all stretched out years. All they could see from the car were the bright lights inside and the shelves, and the area just off the counter’s far end, and a door there leading on back. They couldn’t see Jeffrey.

Leann had this impulse: go in and yank his ass back to the car. She couldn’t make herself move.

Twenty more seconds. Jeffrey, c’mon!

Leann saw this young guy come through the door by the counter’s far end. Young, big, Korean. She saw him stop, freeze, with this look. He reached in his pants. He pulled out a gun. He aimed, pulled the trigger—

They heard the shot out in the car, fucking loud—then another, another...

The young man jumped forward, out of sight and—bang, one more shot.

Coupe de grace.

The geek shot out of the lot like a rocket.

Leann now, stunned, numb. She couldn’t absorb it. She replayed it. Death’s freeze frame there at the end...

Jeffrey, deader than Dixie. He’d gone in blind and got caught in the lights and that’s all she wrote, forever and ever amen.

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

A Twist Of Noir 186 - Robert Crisman


Some guys present cops with problems.

Ramon had come back to town to wrap up some unfinished business. He’d maestro’d a slaughter out at a dopehouse in northend Seattle three months before. He’d sent two mutts, Dennis and Eddie, to take the place off. Dennis got stupid and shot the place up, killed the dude and the woman inside, and an old lady just walking by on the street right outside.

The town was on fire for these guys. Dennis had fucked it and Eddie was not going to hang with the killings. Ramon figured time for some cleanup.

He caught up with Dennis and bipped him, and went looking for Eddie but Eddie had jumped down a hole. Ramon couldn’t find him. Heat meanwhile was climbing right up his ass. He had to book like right now.

He drove all the way to L.A.

Before he left he told his guys, turn Eddie up and then call him. He could have had Marcos knock Eddie off, but Eddie was personal now, an affront, the no-standup bitch Ramon would spend time with his ass...

Three months later, the call: Eddie, bunked at the Ares Motel on Aurora out by the graveyard.

He hopped the first thing flying north.

The cops, though, they’d had scouts too, and a snitch named Yolanda, Ramon’s little sister and one of his crew. He’d kicked her ass for holding back some of his money one time.

Family knows family business. Sometimes. Yolanda knew when Ramon would show up out at SeaTac. Ramon would never have guessed that she’d hop down to the cops with the info.

They followed Ramon from the airport straight to the Ares, and caught his ass crashing the door to Room 106, gun in hand.

They clustered Ramon and slammed him on into the room. Ramon dropped the gun.

Eddie’s gone out for smokes, and got back in time to stand in a shadow and witness the action. He jetted like Usain Bolt to his car and boogied on off toward the edge of the world.

So now in the room, Ramon, and cops on each side. Ramon: thirty years old, 5’9” and slender, still choir-boy pretty in black cashmere and silk, not a hair out of place despite the gang-tackle. The cops: Ray Martin, Mike Schindler, homicide aces, late 30s in ugly gray suits; the narc, Jerry Parker, tall, thin, sardonic, all duded up in brown flannel and shoes: Johnson-Murphy.

Parker picked up the gun Ramon dropped.

Martin grinned at Ramon, his round, dark-brown face almost benign. Schindler’s malevolent gotcha hawk’s eyes marked him as the bad cop.

Parker checked out the bathroom. Nothing and no one. He switched on the overhead 20-Watt light.

A drab little room, cold, rugless, empty, and stained, with a bed, chair, and table next to a wall. Also a smell like old tricks and hos.

Schindler quick-frisked Ramon, missing nothing. Then he and Martin stepped back. Parker leaned on the wall near the door, which he’d closed, with a lazy look in his eye. He dangled the gun Ramon dropped at his side.

Ramon had had time to blink his way past the freakout that came with the gangbang. He looked from Schindler to Martin to Parker, ice in his eyes. They looked back as if they were bored.

“The fuck’s going on?” Ramon said.

Schindler said, “You tell us.”

“Tell you? Tell you what? I come off a plane and come here, and you pile on me, man. What the fuck. You tell me.”

Martin said, “What do you think?”

“What do I think? I’m thinking, why the fuck are you even here? Why’d you guys roust me like this?”

Martin said, “You keep asking questions. We’re looking for answers. We’re kind of hoping you’ll give us some answers.”

“Answers to what? What’s this, fucking games? Man—”

Schindler said, “Answers, you asshole. That dopehouse last Christmas. All that good shit. Tell us about it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Martin snorted. “You don’t, huh? Must be you got short-term memory loss or something. We found your buddy, you know.”

“My buddy?”

“Yeah. Your good buddy Dennis. One of the guys who did all your scutwork out at the dopehouse.”

Ramon looked at Martin like he was a clown at the circus. “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.”

“You’re telling me you don’t know Dennis? Dennis Mickelson? Married your sister—”

“I know Dennis. He’s my brother-in-law. So what?”

Schindler said, “That’s what you’re here to tell us. You stupid or something?”

Ramon looked at Schindler. This cop had eyes. A hard-on for sure, and not just because of the job.

“Must be something, my man,” Ramon said. “I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” He had this smirk on his face now.

Martin said, “You’re a cocky little fucker, aren’t you?”

Ramon, smirking, said, “Hey, man. You guys are the ones with some kind of beef. Me, I’m still waiting to find out what’s going on.”

“Ray,” Schindler said, “let’s just do this. Fuck 20 questions. All he’s gonna do is blow smoke up our ass.”

“Yeah,” Martin said, “this I know.”

Ramon said, “What’s ‘let’s just do this’? Do what? Set me up? Huh? I fucking love it. Puto cops. I sue your ass.”

Martin pursed his lips and then said, “I want you to see something.”

“I don’t want to see anything, man. Just, go away, how’s that?”

“This’ll just take a minute.” Martin looked over at Parker.

Parker said, “I’ve got to go get it.” He shoved Ramon’s gun in his pocket and loped out the door.

Two minutes later, he came in the door with a navy-blue gym bag, much like the one that Ramon had brought off the plane.

He said, “Here, asshole,” and underhanded the bag at Ramon.

Say this for Ramon, his reflexes worked. He batted the bag away as if it was poison. It thumped to the floor not far from his feet. He looked at the bag, then at Parker. Two and two came to four. His eyes locked on Martin.

Martin went over, bent down, unzipped the bag, and reached in. He came out with this brick, cellophane-wrapped, the size of a football. The brick was shit-brown. You could smell it out in the street.

Martin looked at the brick and then at Ramon, his eyes wide in mock wonder.

“Look at this, fellas,” he said. He smiled now, eyes on Ramon.

Parker was smiling. Schindler was smiling—his smile the coldest thing on Earth, this side of an icepick.

“Unless I miss my guess,” Martin said, “this is one shitload of Mexican dope.”

Ramon stared and stared at the bag. Then he snapped back.

“You fucking—fuck you! You think you’re just going to drop shit on me? Like I come off the plane with a bagful of dope? You think they didn’t check me down in L.A., at the airport?” He barked out a laugh and then shook his head. “I love it, man! I think I’ll call Johnny Cochran on this. Plant dope on me! I’ll own your ass!”

“Johnny Cochran, right on,” Parker said. “I heard his rates dropped way low since he fell over dead. You stupid fuck.”


“And, living or dead, I’d love to hear him explain how we found all this shit in your bag.”

“You put it there, man! The fuck, explain shit—”

“I say that’s your word against ours,” Parker said, “wouldn’t you? We picked a man up on a tip. Turns out, guy’s wanted for questioning, dig it? Four killings up here and so—”

“Fuck you!” Ramon spit a laugh. “That’s—”

“And,” Parker said, “according to Yakima police who’ve been rolling up dipshits all over town this past week, you’re kind of the king of the candymen there, you know what I mean? So—”

“Shit! Man. Why don’t you—Give me my call, man! We’ll see who’s gonna do what to who, huh?”

Schindler said, “Shut the fuck up.” If an icepick could talk... The whole room got quiet.

“You’re quite a guy,” Schindler said. “All of those people you left up here dead. Big bag of dope, got your name on it there. You could be looking at life plus forever, or even a hanging, who knows? You did know they hang motherfuckers in this state, I hope. Uh-huh, I figured. Most guys’d be shitting in their pants, but not you. You laugh, ha ha ha. You got it all figured out. ‘Get me my lawyer and then kiss my dick.’” Schindler looked at Martin and Parker. “Man’s got cojones, you know?”

He paused a moment, then said, “We could just off you, my friend. Bang, just like that, right here and right now. No muss and no fuss. No one around, just you and us, you went for your popgun, who’d know the difference?”

Parker twirled Ramon’s gun like a gunslinger now.

Ramon said, “You fuck—”

“Shut the fuck up,” Schindler said. “As I was saying, another scut down, case fucking closed. Could be the best way to go. I mean, you could be right. Who knows what’s going to happen in court? You got a jury, a shit-eating lawyer, jury likes the rosebud you got for a mouth, and maybe you walk.” He looked at Martin. “What’s those guys in Yakima call him? Teflon Man, right?” He grinned at Ramon. “Yakima cops, that’s what they call you. Teflon Man. You’re kind of a legend down there.”

“Hey, man—”

“Those people you killed—”


“Those people you killed,” Schindler said. “Or had killed or whatever. Mizell, his old lady, the woman in front of the house—”


“And Dennis, your partner in crime. Bang bang bang bang. Cold fucking business, Ramon. You’re a health hazard, you know that? It’s, something’s got to be done, don’t you think? That’s too many bodies.” Schindler nodded, as if confirming some prior judgement. “Yeah, definitely, something has got to be done. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Jack. I’d love to see you up in the joint for the rest of your natural life, plus a few. Pretty as you are.”

Parker laughed. “What do you think he’d go for up on the tier?”

“A carton of butts,” Martin said, “maybe two.”

“Yeah. Maybe three,” Schindler said. “He’s pretty as a bitch. They’d pass him around like a sackful of candy and—”

“You know what, man? Fuck you.” Ramon said this calmly, but eerily so.

And under that calmness, rage, trembling. His eyes held cold murder.

Parker caught it. He said, “Oh my!” A fake sissy’s voice.

Martin laughed. “Goodness!”

“Like I said,” Schindler said, “a trial, well, who knows? And if you were to walk...” He pursed his lips. “So, anyway, guess what. You want to guess?”

Ramon stood there, eyes locked on Schindler. He barely breathed.

“No, huh? Schindler said. “Well, my man, we are going to off you. Right here and right now. We brought you in here and opened your bag and, voila, a boatload of chiva. We bring out the cuffs and read you your rights and, cluck that you are, you pull a gun and I have to shoot you. Bang bang bang bang. Sound like a plan?”

“Man—” Ramon’s eyes growing wide, phlegm climbing up in his throat.

“Here, check this out,” Schindler said. He looked over at Parker. Parker passed him the gun Ramon dropped. Schindler laid the gun on the table and pulled out his own. He pointed his gun at the gun on the table.

“You know what that is?”

Ramon looked at Schindler and blinked. “Man, what the fuck? Do I know what that is? It’s my gun. What the fuck are you doing?”

Schindler laughed. “Yeah, your gun. Sure can’t fool you. And, lessee, it’s also a drop gun. You know what that is, do you not?”

“Hey, man—”

“A drop gun, my man,” Schindler said, “is for when we decide to kill someone, dig it? Who needs killing, like you. It’s the right thing to do, am I right?” He nodded. “Killing assholes like you. But the thing is, it doesn’t look good, you know what I mean? Newspapers, TV, all the liberals and shit, they climb up our ass when we do stuff like that. You know how it goes. So, you know? When we find some ratfuck needs killing, like you, what we do is, we haul out a drop gun. And after we kill him we put the gun down by the body, and then, when the cameras show up, we tell all the folks what a close call we had and, thank God the guy was loaded on drugs and they slowed his ass down.” He smiled that cold smile. “It always works. Another mutt down and the taxpayers love us.”

Parker started to laugh.

Ramon said, “You motherfucker—”

“So that’s what this is,” Schindler said. “A drop gun. Your gun as it happens. And, you know what? We’re going to drop it on you just a little bit early. Before I blow you away.”


“See, we decided, just killing your ass? We do shit like that, you know, it gets old. So, sports that we are, we decided to give you a chance. Not much of a chance. Hardly any at all as a matter of fact, but, you know, a chance. Go out like a man, you know what I mean? What do you think?”

Ramon looked at Schindler, then at the gun on the table, at Martin and Parker, then back at Schindler.

“C’mon, man,” Schindler said, “pick up the gun.”

Ramon stood stock still.

Schindler grinned, again icepick nasty. “Jesus Christ, vato, you are a faggot. Give you your last shot in life and you aren’t gonna take it? I thought you had some cojones. Bad motherfucker like you. I know you like guns. I saw Dennis. You spread him all over the floor, from behind. What chance did he have? Huh, motherfucker? So, c’mon, maricon. Pick up the gun.”

Ramon’s face, mottled outrage and fear. Then, just rage—and he swept that gun off the table. Sent it flying. It bounced end over end to the opposite wall, where it lay like a dead thing.

Ramon rasped a laugh. “Fuck you, cocksucker!”

Schindler brought up his gun, pulled the trigger. KA-BLAM! The room buckled.

A hole in the wall, just past Ramon’s ear. Ramon rigid, eyes wide, breath stopped...

“Bang bang, you’re dead.” Schindler said.

His arm dropped, the gun now dead weight. His eyes held Ramon, real murder in them, frosted with all the contempt in the world.

“Lucky you, motherfucker,” he said. “They make the movie, I get to blow you away.”

Martin came over to Schindler, put a hand on his shoulder, and spoke almost gently. “Let’s get this done, Mike.” He looked at Ramon. “You’re lucky he knows he’s not God.” He pursed his lips. “Your mistake, Jack.”

Slowly the murder left Schindler.

Parker handcuffed Ramon. Martin picked up the dope bag.

He looked at Ramon. “We’ll see what the jury says, huh?”

Later, the three cops sat in a booth in a bar. Ramon was socked up in County. Now, party time.

“Salud,” Martin said.

They tipped back their drinks. Martin started to laugh. “‘Bang bang, you’re dead’ and then blam. You practically busted my eardrums.”

Schindler laughed. “Sorry.”

“Don’t sweat it, my man,” Martin said. “All for the cause.”

“That little prick,” Schindler said. “‘I sue your ass. I get Johnny Cochran.’ Every fucking mutt in the world... Sue this, motherfucker.”

They drank for awhile, letting the liquor course through them.

“Martin said, “You got him, Jerry. ‘What do you think he’d go for up on the tier?’”

“A carton of butts, maybe two.” Parker laughed.

“‘They’d pass him around all day and all night,’” Martin said, “‘like a sackful of candy.’ Rodriguez really didn’t like that.”

“Jaws got way snug,” Schindler said.

“Yeah,” Parker said. “No sissies in this fucking camp.”

“Man’s got some issues.” Schindler laughed.

“Sure looks like,” Martin said. “Still though, Rodriguez? You see him catching for the home team up there?”

“Actually, no.” Schindler said.

Martin said, “Me neither. This guy runs stuff, gives orders. Tells his guys jump, they say how high? He’s up there and half of his dipshits’re stuffed in there with him, they’re bringing in dope, he’s running the joint in six months. Now, ‘Suck my dick.’”

“Yup, I’d say so,” Schindler said. Just like that, his mood darkened. “I really did want to cap his ass, Ray. I really did.”

“Yeah, man, I know,” Martin said. “Still, though, you put that shot by his ear and fucked up that wall and he jumped like you stuck a hotcomb right up his ass. He’s probably still shitting water.”

“And,” Parker said, “that dope is his, man, believe it. We got a tip, and he’s got a jacket—”

“He’s never been busted for one goddamn thing,” Schindler said.

“Yeah, well, the stories that we’re gonna tell, am I right?” Martin said. “And plus, Johnny Davis in Yakima there, I talked with him, right? Before we came here? Give him the good news, he’s happy as shit. And right now, I’d guess, he’s out scooping homies, you know? Next couple of days, they’ll be turning those dipshits like pancakes. Whole new chapter being written right now in Rodriguez’s book.”

“And, plus,” Parker said, “that dope we found up his ass? After we’re done it goes back in the locker, we’re not gonna miss it, alright? And—his lawyer, whoever he gets, Flee Bailey, he brings Cochran back from the dead, who gives a fuck, right? Perry Mason. They’re gonna have to work like a dog to hose this shit off. And plus now, the prick can’t afford ‘em, so... Fuck him, he’s toast.”

“Yeah, well, maybe.”

“I bet you, Mike,” Martin said. “Look, man, we got him, all right? I bet you we do. And he was a gift.”

Schindler grinned. “The Wicked Yolanda.”

“Yes, indeed,” Martin said. “Right up his ass. Surprise, motherfucker! A win for our side, however it goes. His business is toast and we ran his ass ragged. The man thought he’d die in that room.”

“Yeah,” Schindler said. “That was fun.”

The three of them laughed, and went ahead and got shitfaced.

Salud. Problem solved, at least for the next little while.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 185 - Linda K. Sienkiewicz


I’m frozen, unable to utter a note, my fingers wrapped tighter around the cordless mike than if it were Jim Morrison’s dick. Razor yanks the cord on his bass from the amp while shaking his head, but Dougie keeps banging away on his guitar, oblivious to the bad vibes, his head down, long black hair tangling in the strings. It isn’t that I forgot the words to our new song, Use Once and Destroy, it’s the image that materializes in front of me, as if conjured by the hand-waving audience, of Mother climbing into the back of a Mercedes with tinted windows with that idiot gigolo, Sylvester.

When I delivered the cake for the retirement party Mother was catering (in addition to being a vocalist and a con, I happen to be an award-winning cake decorator) earlier today, Sylvester the Snake was fawning over Mother, who was twisting the curls at her nape and innocently batting her cow eyes at him. Not yet fifty, she’s a sharp-looking widow (for the second time), but too naïve to see what’s going on right in front of her face. I’m the first to admit I’d said good riddance to my stepdad when the fat guy croaked a few months ago, but Sylvester wasn’t who I had in mind as a replacement. The idea of that viper-tongued thug jumping Mother’s bones makes my toenails waffle.

Razor stomps offstage. Since I still can’t seem to summon my voice, Dougie finishes the song: “She disappears like smoke from a cherry bomb,” and the Mercedes in my vision speeds off as smooth as a stealth into a starless sky. Disgruntled fans in the front row boo and someone pelts me with a crushed cigarette pack. Dougie gets in my face, his eyes wild. “Hey, Jodie, what the fuck?” he whines, but I shove the cordless mike into his chest and run home, afraid for Mother.

I’m certain Sylvester is only after what (or who) my beer-barrel-gut stepdad cemented under the new patio a month before he was gunned down in a supposed carjacking; I say supposed because the crooks left the car behind. The only good thing about my stepdad being popped is at least he made Mother a very rich widow. In fact, she’s astonished at how rich she is. It was clear to me that he was crotch deep in some shady deals because I'd been watching him for the Palizzi Brothers for years. What Mother doesn’t know won’t hurt her—let her think stepdad was a saint—but I can’t bear to see Sylvester charm his way under her skirt, or under that patio. I have to save her. I know who’s there, and she would be in a mighty tight spot indeed if she knew.

My heart starts jackhammering the moment I realize Sylvester’s Mercedes is parked in her driveway. Hoping to catch him in a compromising position, I go around to the back of the house. As I near the sliding glass door, I hear a loud pop-pop that makes my stomach lurch halfway up my throat. I’m too late, I think, as I force myself to look inside. I can't believe what I see: Mother is shaking her head as she stands over Sylvester, who’s bleeding into the living room Berber. I bang on the glass, and she hurries to let me in.

“Where the hell did you get a gun?” I ask her. It looks like mine. In fact, it is mine. “Hey, why are you pointing it at me?”

“Get in. I don’t know how to tell you this, sweetie, but it’s time to enlarge the patio,” she says.

BIO: Linda's short stories appear in the Cleis Press anthology "Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex," and other print and online magazines, and her poetry has been published in numerous journals including Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Permafrost, Slipstream and others. An excerpt from her unpublished crime novel about a biker club won second place in the Springfed Arts-Metro Detroit Writers competition. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Her website is Linda K Sienkiewicz.

A Twist Of Noir 184 - Michael Kechula


Originally published in Apollo's Lyre Magazine in 2005

My share of the Phoenix bank job came to $262,000. We met in the busy Greyhound terminal at 10:00 PM so nobody’d try anything stupid when we made the split. Willy passed my share in a scruffy gym bag. We shook hands. His clammy palm and psycho stare unnerved me. Something was up.

I mumbled about keeping in touch, then left. My nerves screamed, “Run!” But I fought savagely against panic, and walked. Gallons of adrenalin shot through my brain, and I died a hundred times before reaching the car. I’d be most vulnerable when opening the car door and sliding inside. If somebody is gonna get you, that’s the time to do it. Especially at night.

The crash of a gun butt against my head never came. Yanking my automatic from the glove compartment, I put it on the seat between my legs. Let Willy try something now.

Driving through back streets in a crazy quilt pattern, I hoped to evade potential pursuers. I kept checking the mirror. Didn’t seem as if anybody was following, though it’s harder to tell at night. But, nobody shot at me, or tried to run me off the road. So far, so good.

The Interstate came into view. Pointing the tires East, I set the cruise control to 75.

Willy would never dream of looking for me 2,500 miles away in an old, dilapidated, Pennsylvania coal-mining town. Especially since I’d announced a hundred times how I’d head for Las Vegas soon as I got my split.

Willy knew my fondness for dice, so he probably bought the lie. I wondered how many goons he’d have waiting to intercept me on that lonely hundred-mile stretch of two-lane, desert road between Phoenix and Vegas.

Marla, the beautiful, knew where I was going. She’d join me after I got settled.

Suddenly, I felt uneasy. Willy saw us together only once. Would he remember her and find her? It was worth a call to make sure all was well. At 5:00 AM, I phoned from a truck stop in New Mexico.

She picked up the phone on the fourth ring.


She spoke quickly. “OK. I’m awake. Thank you. You guys do a good job. Would you please wake me fifteen minutes later, tomorrow?”

Before I dropped the phone, I heard her say to somebody,” It’s just my wake up call. Without this wake up service, I’d never get up in time for work.”

I hoped they’d bought the lie. I swore I’d marry Marla, if she survived.

Suddenly, going to Pennsylvania was out. Good thing I never told Marla my backup plan, I thought, heading for Wisconsin.

They busted her up pretty bad. Bastards! When I found out, I went back to Phoenix and killed the four of them. Then I married Marla.

A few more jewelry store heists to pay fancy surgeons, and her face won’t be so hard to look at.

BIO: Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in 8 contests and placed in 7 others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards 4 times. His stories have been published by 116 magazines and 32 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored two books of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales” and “The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook versions available at and
Paperback available at

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 183 - Robert Crisman


Ramon took the whole thing as a bigtime affront. Pussy-ass Eddie, stealing his dope and lamming like that—and he spit on Ramon on his way out the door!. Nobody did that to Ramon in this world. When he caught him, Eddie would scream the whole way to hell.

Ramon got to Eddie’s at 12:05 in the morning. He stopped, cut the lights. Miguel’s car was parked on the street. Dennis was down there at Eddie’s, inside.

Eddie’s was just past the gate that fenced in the lot between him and the street. No light shone from his window.

Two taps, the door cracked a little, and Ramon slipped inside. He said, “Open the blinds, get some light in.” Dennis did it. He had a bandage wrapping the back of his head. He sweat tension. He stank.

Ramon scanned the room. A dump like he figured. About right for the ass end of Capitol Hill.

Dennis stood hunched like a dog.

Well, why not? He and Eddie had fucked up the dope heist, killing three people, including an old lady just walking by on the street. They should have danced it on through with no sweat, but Dennis went apeshit when the dopeman wouldn’t roll over.

Every cop in Seattle and ten million snitches were after their ass.

All that—plus Eddie was not going to hang with the killings. Ramon told Dennis to wax him out at the place where they’d stashed all the ill-gotten gains. Dennis and Eddie went back to the place the next night, to divvy the loot, Dennis said—and Dennis fucked up. He tipped his hand and let Eddie get back behind him and clock him.

Eddie booked with the kilo of dope that they’d heisted.

Now, in the pad, Ramon gave Dennis the eye.

“He ain’t showed,” Dennis said.

“Yeah, well. How’s your head?”

“It hurts.”

“You had it taped up, though.”

“Miguel had some stuff.”

Ramon went into the bedroom and turned on the light. The bed, scattered paperback books, clothes tossed on the floor, a mess on the dresser...

Quick riff through the closet. An old, punched-out jacket, two shirts, jeans heaped, miscellaneous crap. No dope bag.

Into the bathroom. The toilet, the tank, in back of the toilet, the bathtub, and nothing.

In the kitchen he opened the cupboards and fridge. Not even a roach. All Eddie had was Drano down under the sink.

Ramon went and sat in the living room chair by the window. He lit up a butt and stared idly at Dennis.

Dennis, an easy 6’5” and 250, his face beefed like Bluto’s. Scrunched on the couch like a wizened old man.

Ramon, Mexican chorus-boy pretty, eyes hooded, took languid tokes and blew smoke rings.

“He’s probably driving around.”

“Yeah,” Dennis said.

“He has nowhere to go.”


“And he’s out there with a bag of my dope. So, where’s he going? He know anybody?”

“Not really.”

“He uses, right?”

“Yeah, but not for awhile. Maybe eight months.”

“But he used. Who’s his connect, you got any ideas?”

“I dunno. I didn’t see him too much. He was out in the District an’—”

“U District?”

“Yeah. I don’t... Wait a minute. There is this one guy. Coupla months back, me’n him’re out on the Ave an’ there’s this guy. Some skag-suckin’ dude, got dreadlocks, an’ gowed like a dog. An’ they’re kickin’ it, right? An’ then the guy splits an’ Eddie’s sayin’ he used to cop from the guy.”

“He got a name?”

“I thing he said Jeff or somethin’ like that.”

“Street action.”


“Still doing his thing?”

“I dunno now. Then? Yeah. After him’n Eddie get done, he crosses the street, an’ we see him there with these junkies, their cheeks’re sucked in an’ they’re beggin’ an’, you know.”

“A maybe then. Could be he’s who Eddie’d go see.”

“Yeah...maybe... Except this guy can’t swing no weight.”

“Yeah, but Eddie, who else does he know?”

Dennis shrugged. “Nobody.”

“He ever talk about anyone else? Any places he went?”


“Okay, so, he has to try and unload that dope, or a piece anyway. And you think, he goes to the guy on the Ave, guy’s going to say, sorry can’t help you? Fuck no, he’s not. He’s going to try and cut himself in, am I right?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“Fucking A, he is. So with Eddie, he strings him. He knows a guy, some story, blah blah. Trying to figure out some way to take it.

“Or—he does know a guy.” Ramon smiled like he spit on somebody.

Dennis said, “One of your guys.”

Ramon nodded. “It’s a shot. And, let’s see... If it’s anybody, it’s Felix, most likely. He’s got the District and he’s up on Queen Anne.”

“We call him?”

“No. We’ll go out there.”

Dennis rubbed his face with his hand. “You know, he could’ve gone to the cops.”

“Huh. That’s funny. You said he’d never go to the cops.”

“Yeah, but this—”

“Uh-huh. I don’t think he’s going to the cops. I think he’s trying to sell off my dope and get the fuck out of town. I mean, why take the dope, you know what I’m saying?”

“Yeah...” Dennis said.

Ramon got up from the chair.

Dennis told him he had to piss and went back to the can. Ramon grabbed a pillow up off the couch, tipped on back to the side of the door there to wait. His original idea was schmooze up behind as they went to the door and, bang him, but, this would work.

He heard the flush and Dennis came out. Ramon jumped behind him quick as a snake and, in one easy motion, pressed the pillow and gun to Dennis’s head, pulled the trigger. An Olympics caliber move.

It was as if he’d busted Dennis’s head with a bat. Blood and brains splatzed the doorframe and floor as if shot from a high-powered hose. Dennis flew forward and fell on his face. He shook the whole house when he hit. Ramon knelt with the pillow and gave him two more.

He wiped the piece, dropped it, and split. No prints in the pad. He locked up from the inside and cool-walked on out to his car.

One dipshit down.

Now, catch up with Eddie. Hit Felix’s first to pick up a piece.

He got to the U District early next morning. Felix had told him that Eddie’s old dopeman, Jeff or whoever, worked at a flowershop right on the Ave.

Nine-thirty am. Ramon socked in for some coffee across from the place to wait for the asshole to show.

He powered down three cups, trying to make up for lost sleep. The guy was due around 10. Ten came and went, then 10:15, then 10:30. A delivery car stood out in front of the place, gassed up and ready. Dude was still home cooking his wakeup.

Ten forty, the guy finally showed. Strolling as if he had all the time in the world. He was as Felix described: tall, blond, and thin, with dreadlocks that hung off his head like mud ropes. His rock ‘n roll clothes were all crusted up, and it looked like 10 years since he’d had a showered. He probably had fleas.

This guy with flowers? What kind of geeks would take the delivery?

The guy started into the shop through the door by the alley—and junkies came boiling on out of that alley like roaches. It was just like a movie, the junkies swarming, and dude, like he’s trying to shoo flies. Eleven A.M. on a weekday, smack on the Ave, all these squares walking by, professors and students and so forth, they don’t even look. Like this was an everyday floorshow.

It took the guy five fucking minutes to get in the door. Ramon was thinking, the owner, what’s up with him? Hiring this asshole. He loaded or something? Ramon had planned on catching the guy coming out of the shop and pulling him off to the side. After this, uh-uh. Ramon would wait for the guy to come out and then catch him at one of his stops.

Ramon went to his car and brought it around and parked where he could be ready.

Dude came out in 10 minutes, carrying flowers piled in a box. He tossed them in back of the delivery car, a dinged-up red Escort, then hopped in and turned the ignition. The Escort sounded like Panzers in Poland.

Ramon figured the guy nodded off and hit walls.

The guy pulled on out, hit the corner, zipped right. Within half a block, he reached 50 per, fishtailing already. Ramon couldn’t believe it. Then he swung right and sped toward the bridge. Ramon hoped the cops were on strike.

Over the bridge and down Eastlake. A right, two more blocks, then a left, and the guy pulled in at this house. He got out of the car with the flowers and went up to the door. This guy with flowers, like pigs wearing perfume. He comes in your yard and the fucking lawn dies.

Ramon pulled up behind and sat in the car. On the porch, the guy started knocking again and an old woman opened the door. She looked at the guy like he was the whole fucking zoo on her porch. She snatched up the flowers and banged the door shut. The guy hopped off the porch and Ramon got out of his car.

The guy saw him, stopped dead.

Ramon smiled. “How you doing?” The guy looked around for some bushes. This Mexican guy...someone he’d burned? Maybe owed money? Some kind of cop?

But then, like that, the guy’s whole look changed. His body language, the light in his eye—he relaxed. He knew what this was. Ramon walked up to the guy.

Yeah, the guy knew. This Mexican guy, he brings it like Scarface. His eyes, hunter’s eyes.

The guy’s mind was clicking. Ramon smiled; Click on, motherfucker. The guy, looking shrewd and adding things up—it all meant that Eddie’d been by.

So why waste time? “You want to make five hundred bucks?” The guy’s eyes went wide. Then he got this suspicious look on his face. Underneath the suspicion, hunger showed through.

Ramon knew that the guy had had plans of his own, i.e., rope all the dope for himself. Not anymore.

The guy dredged up sort-of-a-smile. Small, scungy teeth. “Five hundred bucks? Well, yeah, man, hell yeah.” The sly light in his eye winked back on. He was totting up odds. They read, help Scarface out, could be bones coming my way…

Ramon said, “Let’s sit in your car.” Ramon didn’t want the guy scunging his seats.

They went to the Escort, got in and—Sweet fucking Jesus! This fucking car! All dinged to shit on the outside, and inside—the seat on the passenger side was a crate and Ramon had to sit on the fucker. Inside smelled like a kennel. Dog hairs all over. The dashboard was gunked where coffee’d been spilled and never cleaned off, and food was all over the floor. Old Chinese takeout, greasy-ass french fries, and pizza. Whole tons of fossilized garbage. Then—damn!—there on the floor by the KFC box! Rigs! A bunch of them, scattered all over!

Ramon decided, lay this out quick and get out of this car and go shower somewhere.

Ramon laid it out. Money for Eddie. The guy told Ramon that Eddie’d been looking to dump this big brick of dope. Five thousand bucks for a kilo!

Five grand for a kilo of Mexican brown! That desperate, dumb motherfucker.

Ramon could see this guy going, wow! Stairway to Heaven! And then, uh-oh... Where’d Eddie get it? Somebody he ripped? That kind of weight? Rip a dude with that weight, a piano lands on your ass.

Eddie’s story: some garbled nonsense. After the taste, the guy didn’t give a rat’s ass. A whole fucking kilo of good, righteous shit! He’d never been next to a kilo in life! And now, here’s Eddie, a mutt made to take, so fuck where it came from!

He’d turn this one quick and then head for the tall fucking grass. Good dopefiend thinking.

Ramon almost laughed. This dude, a rat casing cheese, thinking, how can he snatch it and keep his ass out of the grinder?

The guy had no cash. He had to try and finesse this. He didn’t want to let Eddie out of his sight. Shit goes way south as a rule in this life and, one way or other, this thing wouldn’t last but a minute.

But Eddie didn’t want to be out in the light. The guy told him, give him a day and he’d round up the cash.

Ramon grinned. This guy, strictly nickels. A blind man could see it. But Eddie, out in the wind with no place to go, had showed up on dude’s door.

Get desperate, get way fucking dumb.

Eddie was supposed to call dude today around one and set up a meet at his pad, this place out by Greenlake. The guy celled in the basement.

Ramon showed him a roll and peeled off $200. A good faith down payment.

Dude, bought and paid for...

Eddie called in and said he’d be by around three.

Two fucking hours. Ramon was not going to let this guy out of his sight. So, nothing to do but help the guy drop off his flowers.

Off they went in the Escort.

Five minutes in, Ramon figured maybe, just maybe, he’d lost his mind. Driving with this guy, a bust in the works if ever there was one. It was as if they’d given Charles Manson a car and told him to work out his issues in traffic.

A half hour in, and Ramon was all done with this shit. He told the guy, drop him off back at his car, then go park the Escort and take the day off. Dude gave him directions.

Ramon stopped and got coffee to fight off exhaustion.

He got to the place at 1:45. Skank fucking pad, like the car. A dingy-ass basement crammed full of junk and it stank, and you plowed through the junk to get to his room, you went in—and the first thing you did was heave up your breakfast.

Dopefiend décor: crap caked on the floor, furniture out of some landfill, and rigs and black spoons and dope on the table, spilled pop cans all over, clothes from a yard sale for winos—and, on the bed, was this bitch. Skank fucking bitch! Sprawled out and dopesick, and bitching.

She didn’t notice Ramon. Ramon noticed her and—goddamn! There were dogs in the bed with this ho! Three of the fuckers, mangy as shit, and yapping away just like she was.

She was slinging it, too! Fucking dude this and fucking dude that, the no-good cocksucker, he’d shot all the dope, no wakeup for her, she was spewing, both ends, and she had a date! If it wasn’t for her, he’d be the one sucking dicks to get well!

The guy futzed around with the crap on the dresser. Going yeah yeah yeah yeah. Her jetstream was all-the-time stuff.

Goo-gobs of noise. He finally told her, Get off my back. He broke out some dope and the bitch blasted out of that bed like a rocket. Plowed through those dogs. The guy cooked the dope and she banged, and now she was going to bang him. He was her man and she loved him and dope conquers all. She tried in his neck with this dirty old rig, ripping away, his blood gushing down. She dug away for ten fucking minutes and couldn’t come up with a vein. Finally she quit. Thank fucking God!

She had to get dressed to get to her date. She got naked right there, fuck Ramon—and showed him bruises stamped like tattoos on her whole fucking body. She had this dress with a nice silken sheen. She must have just boosted the fucker last week.

Dudes paid for this bitch? Ramon chalked it up to a sign that the end of the world was near.

She slipped on her shoes. Now she was ready. She strode to the door. The guy she was dating liked to wear diapers.

Meanwhile, dude was still banging away. Nothing upstairs, so he took off his pants and shoveled away, in his ankles, his knees, the top of his feet, in his ass, nothing, nothing.

Finally, the guy found a vein, his last one in life, in his thigh. He sent the plunger home and tossed the rig on the table. Victory at last! The clock said a quarter to three. Now they’d wait.

Ramon sat in a chair. He put newspaper on it so he could sit down and not die of gangrene or something. The guy was using his crusty old shirt to wipe the blood off his body. He got done with that and flopped on the bed. He started french-kissing the dogs.

Three o’clock got there, no Eddie. Five minutes, ten minutes, nothing.

Three-thirty, still nothing. Eddie was not going to show. The guy said, Oh, hey, man, don’t worry, he’ll get here. It’s traffic or something. Ramon gave it 15 more minutes. Same nothing.

Ramon got up from the chair. The dude said, Hey, wait! I’ll help you find him! Like they were old partners now, right? This mangy cocksucker. He’d hung Ramon up in this shithole, him and his nasty-ass bitch and his dogs. The guy snatched a shirt and a coat and searched around for his keys on the dresser.

A baseball bat lay on the floor near the chair. Ramon picked it up. The guy was running around now, couldn’t find his keys, where the fuck were his keys, they gotta be somewhere! Ramon tipped behind him and busted him right in the melon.

The guy fell in the bed, face-down on the dogs. They scrambled and yipped and one of them bit the guy right on the cheek. Ramon bapped him again, this one a home run. Dude’s head was pulp and all over the bedsheets.

Ramon would have shot him by way of no harm, but he didn’t have time to keep running to Felix each time he stopped at a place. If the guy wasn’t dead now, there was no such thing as dead in this life.

Ramon hosed the guy’s pockets and fished out the money he’d duked him. The guy’d shit his pants. Ramon wiped the bat and dropped it there on the bed. Now, adios.

The bitch, though. She’d seen Ramon.

No problem. She’d come back, see the guy there, grab up her shit, and beat it on out of that room so damn quick that the place would get windburn. The bitch was a dopefiend. Fuck fucking dude. Ramon wasn’t worried a lick. She’d never seen him before and, fucked up as she’d been, she wouldn’t know him from Adam’s off ox. Plus, the last thing she’d want was a chat with the cops.

She could get busted, and sure as shit stinks that would happen, sooner more likely than later, but so? She might want to trade out from under but, fuck it, with what? Some dude she’d seen dopesick, then gowed to the tits? Good fucking luck.

Ramon went and found a motel on Aurora. Late afternoon. He figured, best jungle up while he made some quick calls.

He called Yolanda and told her to pick up his money from Felix and Manny and Reyes. That was Dennis’s usual job, but she didn’t ask about Dennis.

Next he called Felix. Felix told him Miguel had been on the horn about Dennis and, where the fuck was his car? Ramon told him, fuck that, Dennis was busy, Yolanda’d be by, but now he wanted a line on a knick-knack named Eddie.

It took him six calls and three hours to get the word out. Then he lay back on the bed, lit a butt, and dreamed about torture. He wanted Eddie.

Where was he? He might have left town, but, that dope? What could he do, this schluck with no friends or connects? Drive from city to city or something, even assuming he had enough gas, and sleep in his car til he found the right guys? With no toothbrush, no change of clothes, and he can’t even eat? Would he look the guys up in a phone book or something? Hang out on all the right corners? Lip-sync old rap tunes hoping the right guys would stop by and listen?

C’mon. Eddie had to beat town, but the dope was a chain that stretched from his neck to a fencepost.

Cut his losses? Just toss the shit in some dumpster and boogie? And then what? Get to Kent and he runs out of gas? Get fucking real.

Man, all that money. Eddie was stuck to that dope like B’rer Rabbit to tar.

This tar was a little bit different, but Eddie was still stuck like glue. Ramon had to laugh.

But, what would Eddie do? Join the Peace Corps? He had to be sicker than shit of just driving around in his car, if that’s what it was he was doing. Was he celled in some no-tell? Could be. Friends who’d let him surf on the couch? Most likely not.

Was he out piecing dope to the mutts for a getaway stake? Ramon doubted that. You can’t be discreet doing that shit, not really, not on the street, and where else was there for Eddie? Word gets around, and most dopers were tied in some way to one or another of his guys. Plus, with cops and the boogeymen after his ass... Well, maybe—desperate gets dumb—but, probably not.

So, with no money, connects, or friends he could trust, well—

Maybe, just maybe, he’d scuttle on back by his crib. Get out of the rain, grab some clothes, try to figure if maybe Belize is his best shot in life.

Ramon headed back up toward Eddie’s. When he got there he scouted around, circling the block a couple three times to see what there might be to see. There was nothing that felt like the heat, but, best be sure.

Could be Dennis is in there and nobody knows...

He parked on the street above Eddie’s, right by the parking lot fronting his door. Still nothing that said the cops had been through. No crime scene shit or like that. On the other hand, though, if they had Eddie’s name, and they sure could by now, there might be somebody keeping an eye.

Except, it didn’t have that feel. Nothing there on the street that he saw, the parking lot empty, no one but no one around.

Ramon checked the street. Miguel’s car, still there. Dennis, sleeping the sleep of the deep.

Ramon settled in to see who showed up.

He’d gotten there at seven. Rain thickened the darkness, shrouding him there in the car, away from the looky-loos checking things out.

Cops cruised by a couple of times, but they were blues making rounds. Nothing looked funny. A couple of cars came into the lot, and people got out and went toward the church down the street.

The rain came down in sheets. Ramon was tired. He hadn’t slept in a day-and-a-half. Still, though, he was wired; if anything funny cropped up he’d see it clear as a bell on a bright, sunny day.

It was climbing on ten. He figured, give it another half-hour, then split, then come back like every half hour. Give the fucker till two to show up. Later than that, likely he wouldn’t be coming. Tomorrow, he’d put a guy here to watch.

Ten, fifteen minutes—then this car swung into the lot and guess who. Eddie, baby, sure the fuck was! He coasted on down toward his pad, and parked and got out, head swiveling this way and that because monsters were out there.

Just for a second, Ramon had him in freeze-frame—a skinny, sharp-featured guy, hunched over, face pale, even in all that dark rain. If Ramon had a rifle, ka-boom...

Eddie beat it on into his pad.

Ramon popped out of his car and snaked his way down there. The chances were good that Eddie’d be busting back out like a bullet, as soon as he tripped over Dennis.

Off to the right of his door, some five-ten feet down, stood a bush and a tree. Ramon melted into their shadows. He’d just eased his gun out when, bam, sure as shit, Eddie came blasting on out of the pad.

Ramon stepped out. Eddie stopped dead—er-er-errrrttttt! like Wile E. Coyote at cliff’s edge, no shit, his eyes wide as plates.

Ramon backed him into the crib, shut the door.

Okay, motherfucker, the dope.

Tell me, cocksucker, I torture your ass. I shoot off your kneecaps to start with!

Ramon watched Eddie go through mass changes and...the guy was a trip. The way he just—man! He was scared, man, no doubt, getting ready to beg, he was shaking and shit—but then, man, his eyes started closing, as if he was going to sleep...almost like, Go ahead shoot me, I’m done.

And then, man, they opened, like all of a sudden—

Lasers now, pinning Ramon.

Eddie was pissed, practically snarling, lips a tight angry line over teeth! Like he wanted to tear Ramon’s throat out.

Ramon couldn’t believe it! Pussy-ass Eddie!

But—fuck this cocksucker! Ramon had the gun. He cocked the hammer.

You want to jump me? C’mon, bitch, get stupid.

Eddie, slowly shaking his head, eyes dead on Ramon, hardly breathing, face red, as if he was going to explode.

Ramon’s face now went gargoyle ugly. He stepped in closer—and bam, Eddie screamed—and then rushed him! Like a bull, swear to God, his head way down low, as if he was going to try and plow through him! He grabbed at Ramon, almost got him, but Ramon jumped aside and clocked his ass good with a shot to the melon. Eddie flew past and stumbled, ran into the wall and bounced off, sort of tripped, and went down. Ramon was on him, whipping his ass with the pistol, bam bam bam bam! Eddie grabbed at his shirt. Ramon hit him again. Eddie bit at him then. Ramon clocked him. That was it; Eddie quit.

Ramon got up off him and told him to get the fuck up. Eddie rose slowly, his face all fucked up, a gallon of blood on his shirt. He shook his head. Ramon slapped him, stepped back.

Okay, motherfucker, you’re all out of time. Where is the dope?

And now—Eddie, blinking, shaking his head, rasping up breath, saying, Wait! His hands up in front of him there—and then this long fucking moment... His eyes, man! Crazy man’s eyes and—

He spit on Ramon! Spit blood in his face, on his shirt!

Ramon gaped. Eddie told him, “Fuck you.”

Just like that. Calm.

Ramon brought the gun up and—bam! bam! bam! bam!Pounding, yelling, the ceiling was shaking! The guy from upstairs: “Hey, motherfuckers! Knock off that noise!” Ramon’s gun jerked an inch—and Eddie was on him, butting, hitting, kicking, and clawing, and screaming this weird, high-pitched scream. Ramon hit the floor, lost his gun—and Eddie was gone out the door! Ramon shook his head and scrambled, slipped, lunged for the gun. He snatched the gun, slipped again. The guy upstairs, stomping! “I’m callin’ the cops, you cocksuckers!”

Ramon got his legs and lurched out of the pad. His eyes swept the lot. No Eddie, nowhere. Ramon looked at his gun, tucked it.

Shkreee-eeek! Above, a window thrown open, the guy had his head out. “Hey, motherfucker!”

Ramon beat it. He got to his car, peeled out, and was gone.

He turned his lights on at the end of the block and slowed down. Jesus Christ, think! All he needed was some cop to stop him. He cut left at Denny, willed himself into cruise mode, nice, quiet, slow, just a dude in a car headed home down the hill.

Inside he was boiling, nine million degrees, with his heart like an African drum in his ears, along with that weird, high-pitched scream out of Eddie.

Where in the fuck did he go? Ramon sucked a breath. Eddie’s car was still in the lot, so he couldn’t have gotten too far. Ramon wheeled onto Bellevue and started in circling, checking the shadows, up Mercer, down Summit, then Belmont to Harvard, then back down once more and around.

A guy hunched his way down the street doubletime—some faggot, not Eddie. Once more around; nothing but scuts in the dark.

Fuck this. Eddie has gone to the moon. Ramon swung by the lot. Eddie’s car, gone.

So much for that. Time to go. Get away from this shit and think about what to do next. Could be the dope’s gone for good.

Ramon had to get his ass gone from Seattle. But one thing he knew. He’d be back to Seattle for Eddie. And fuck the damn cops.

Famous last words. But this thing, believe it, was personal now with Ramon.

Eddie, the faggot-ass bitch, stole his dope and spit blood on him, man, and then jumped him and boogied his ass out the door. And now he thinks he’s free as a bird.

He’d work on Eddie for hours and hours and hours.

BIO: Robert Crisman could have very easily been Eddie. He spent some years living parts of the life depicted in this story. Unlike most of the people who live it, he found his way out. He brought his ghosts with him, however, and his fiction, about lost dogs stuck on the Road With No Exits, is his way of turning his time in the mix to account.