Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Update on the $20 Book Card Contest

Due to the swiftness of the winner, Michael J. Solender, who I swear could read your mind without looking, AJ Hayes has decided to offer a consolation prize of a second $20 Book Gift Card. This go-round, however, you will be taking your chances, with a drawing of a name out of a hat. Get the correct answer, get in the hat.

And good luck.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Art

As you have no doubt noticed, and with good reason, we have new art from Walter Conley.

Multi-talented, this guy, he pulled this one out of his hat on Christmas, after the family had gone back to bed.

Art by Walter Conley, 2010.

A Twist Of Noir 652 - Jane Hammons


Mama is good at finding things, but hardly ever what she’s looking for. When we had to move out of town, she found us this little trailer so far off the highway we can’t even hear the semis at night. We can barely see their lights.

Apaches used to live here. We dig their stuff up. Pottery shards, flint, arrowheads, and bones. Sometimes a whole bowl or grinding stone. When we find something good Mama sells it to her friend Clyde who has a little museum in his gas station at the edge of town. He says the dried-up girl locked in the glass case is a mummy. He took her from a basket at a burial ground.

When she’s down in the dirt, what Mama really wants to find is a scrap of boot or a sparkly spur that belonged to Billy the Kid. I tell her that cowboys didn’t leave things behind the way Indians did and how would she know if it was his anyway? He’s buried over in Ft. Sumner, not that far from here. In the picture postcard she has taped to the fridge, he’s slumped over looking dumb. Mama says back in history people didn’t turn out the way they really were because of how cameras used to be.

I have a camera, but I have to use all my film taking pictures of nothing in the sky. Late at night when it’s almost morning, Mama comes into my room smelling like her favorite perfume. It comes from a bottle that wears a little straw hat. Her breath is always fresh with a mint.

Bright lights in the sky. Get your camera, she says.

If I don’t she’ll crawl into my bed and tell me about how when she was a little girl a flying saucer crashed over by Corona. She lies and says she was there. We sit on the cold metal steps of our tiny trailer and snap pictures of the morning star all night long. By the time we’re done, I have to get ready for school and ride my bike a mile to catch the bus at the gate of H-Bar-Y Ranch. Kids live there, but they go to boarding school. The bus comes just for me.

One day after school I’m riding my bike home, and I see Mama running toward me down the dirt road. She’s wrapped up in something shiny and almost clear. She says she found it out by the windmill. I can see Mama’s bosoms and her dark hair down there. For the first time I’m glad we live way out here.

It’s the unknown substance, she says.

When we get home, she gets out her book on UFOs and reads to me about when the flying saucer crashed and the aliens left their unknown substance behind. It looked like tin foil and snapped back into shape like it was alive. She takes a corner of her substance that looks just like a silky weather balloon I saw in science class and crumples it. She sees what she wants to see. I’d call Clyde, but the phone’s turned off, so I eat crackers and go to bed.

For days Mama wears nothing but the unknown substance. She stinks like Clyde’s bathroom when she slips into my bed and snuggles with me.

They’ll be here soon, she says, her rotten breath warm in my ear.

They’re here now, I tell her. You better get ready.

She is smiling at the window like she can see what’s coming. I pull the filthy substance up over her head and wrap it tight until she looks like the kind of mummy you see in the movies. She doesn’t fight me; she doesn’t even care that she can’t breathe. When she’s done, I wait another day just to make sure she isn’t going anywhere. Then I get on my bike and ride.

BIO: Jane Hammons teaches writing at Berkeley and is working on novel. Some of her writing can be found at Fictionaut.

A Twist Of Noir 651 - Matthew McBride


Revenge is a great fucking reason to kill a guy. The best reason I can think of. Even better than money, and money’s good, but revenge means it’s personal.

Well, I’ve always thought killing a guy should mean something. If you’re gonna do it, you should at least take the time to do it right.

Here’s Karl and me, doing it right.

We watched him, just the two of us, Karl and me. We watched the man that hit my dog walk into the liquor store with a handful of cash. I asked Karl if he was ready. Karl was always ready.

“Drop me off around the corner,” I instructed him. Karl hit the key.

I held the .22 in one hand, the other had a bottle of Palm Olive. Except it wasn’t Palm Olive.

Karl asked me, “You sure that shit’s gonna work?”

I nod my head and tell him, no doubt, this shit’s gonna work.

It’s like napalm. I’d gotten the directions off the Internet, made it myself. It was dark brown liquid and it made the plastic warm against my skin. It was a little thick so I kept shaking it.

Karl made a circle around the building then he pulled up behind the guys car. A dark blue Lincoln with a dent in the front bumper. The bumper that hit my dog.

I pushed the door open and climbed out. The cold wind felt like an icepick as it dropped under the tree line and stabbed me in the face.

I pretended to enjoy a leisurely stroll to the back door of the Town Car and I climbed inside. Slid down onto the floorboard and waited.

Bruno was a stranger who showed up at my door with an open mouth and an empty belly. He brought nothing with him, not even a collar. All he required was love and he thanked me with the lick of his tongue or the wag of his tail. I’d never been a dog lover, but I welcomed this mutt with open arms. I even took him with me on a job.

The man that killed Bruno climbed into the Lincoln and pulled the door shut. I sat up from my crouched position and stuck the pistol in his ear. Through clenched teeth I said, “You killed my dog motherfucker.”

The man behind the wheel jumped and our eyes met in the rear view mirror. He was much older than I expected. He was somebody’s grandpa. He was holding a gallon of milk.

I asked him about my dog.

He said he didn’t know anything. But nobody ever knows anything.

I leaned up against the front seat, pistol in my left hand, napalm in my right. I just kept shaking the bottle, my eyes not leaving his.

He began to speak as I raised the bottle and squirted the back of his neck with the fire water. He was rambling on about his grandkids, or maybe his son had borrowed the car. I couldn’t really hear him.

I pushed open the back door and stuck my lighter against his jacket as Karl pulled up.

He threw open the passenger side as the car came to a stop directly across from the Town Car.

Grandpa’s white hair was on fire and burning brightly. He was jumping around.

Then he raised a handgun and I dove onto the ground as the window of the Lincoln exploded and I saw Karl take a bullet that was meant for me.

I crawled backwards on the pavement with the bottle in my hand. I’d managed to spill the napalm all over myself and the burn trail started about the same time the headliner caught fire.

I jumped to my feet, but you can’t outrun the flames. The last thing I saw was the old man’s face melting in the rear view mirror as the napalm consumed me.

BIO: Matthew McBride lives on a farm along the river and one day he will own his own machine gun. He’s been published at A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn FlashThe Flash Fiction Offensive and the most recent issue of Plots With Guns. He is currently reworking a novel that this editor has seen and thinks is pretty genius. His blog is Got Pulp?

A Twist Of Noir 650 - Ian Ayris


I can hear him outside my door. Grumbling. Moving around. Waiting. Even though it is so early it is still dark outside. I always get up early on Sundays. I don’t want to waste a second.

I pull my bed out enough to squeeze round the end, and I wee in the corner. Then I open the window to let out some of the smell, and push the bed back.

He kicks the door to let me know he knows. But he won’t do anything today. Not on a Sunday. Sunday is Mum’s day. He knows if he tries anything he won’t get no dinner.

Roast chicken. Yorkshire Pudding. Peas and carrots. Stuffing and gravy. And trifle. Mum’s special trifle, with loads of fruit and jelly and custard and Dream Topping and Hundreds and Thousands on top. And cherries.

I change into the new jeans and t-shirt Mum got from the charity shop yesterday. She said I had to look smart because Auntie Cheryl and Uncle Pete are coming over for dinner. The jeans are a bit tight and the t-shirt’s a bit big, but it's nice wearing something different.

I open the door.

‘Hello, son. Lovely day, ain’t it?’

I look up at him, and nod. I try to walk on, but he grabs me by the shoulder. Grips it so hard it hurts. He leans down to me and I hear his knees crack.

‘Uncle Pete and Auntie Cheryl’s over today. You’ll be a good boy, won’t you?’

His breath stinks of booze. I try not to cough or wriggle my nose.

I nod again. This time, when I try to walk on, he lets me go.

‘There’s a good lad,’ he says after me.

I go downstairs. He does not follow.

There’s a smell coming out the kitchen. A brilliant smell. Cakes. Mum does brilliant cakes. Rock cakes. Sponge cakes. Fairy cakes. All sorts of cakes.

Mum is at the sink. Washing up.

‘Hello, dear,’ she says.

I come up behind her and give her a cuddle.

The chicken’s on the side, all cooked and brown and lovely.

‘Smells nice, Mum. The cakes.’

She stops what she’s doing. She doesn’t turn round. Just stops. Like she’s stuck. It’s still dark outside and in her face in the window I can see she is crying.

Dad comes in.

‘That’s what I like to see,’ he says, all cheerful, taking a big deep breath. ‘A busy kitchen.’

Mum carries on washing up.

He comes over, and puts his arm round my shoulder.

‘You're mum’s doin a proper good job here, son. No-one can cook like your mother. Remember that.’

He ruffles my hair like he loves me. And puts his arms round Mum. She goes all stiff and stops what she’s doing.

‘Not now, Jim,’ she says. Quiet.

I see her close here eyes in the window.

And he leaves.


Mum’s dinner is lovely, as usual, and everyone is enjoying themselves. Mum, me, Auntie Cheryl, Uncle Pete. Even Dad. When he’s like this, he’s funny and he makes me laugh and I forget all the other things that make me hate him.

Mum’s dishing up the trifle. I go to take my bowl from her, and knock over my juice. I look at Mum. Tears coming to my eyes, and hers.

‘Look at him,’ says my dad, all kind and joking, ‘getting all upset over a bit of juice.’

He goes out to the kitchen and comes back with a cloth. Mops up the juice.

‘There we go,’ Dad says, louder than he needs to. ‘All sorted.’

He ruffles my hair like he loves me, and when no-one’s looking squeezes his hand into a fist so it pulls my hair tight in the middle. Then he lets go of me and sits back in his seat.

‘Right,’ he says, rubbing his hands together. ‘Let’s have some of that trifle.’

BIO: Ian has a dozen published short stories to his name, both online and in print. He lives in London, England with his wife and three children and has just completed his first novel.

A Twist Of Noir 649 - Chris Benton


I lost everything and was in jail for nearly two years. When I got out, I felt like a man who was dead and forgotten, I felt free, floating in a world that was a little too fast and a little too loud. The halfway house they sent me to bore the name of Saint Barry Transitional Residence...Saint Barry...some suicidal pastor maybe, or a drunk who grew wings.

The inhabitants of that crumbling three story Victorian were for the most part calm, continuously mesmerized by the long laughing cracks in the floors. My room was on the second level, four metal bunks; occupied by men whose eyes I needed a shovel to find and a woman with a burning flag of hair and a gaze as cold as a February moon.

My bed was the top bunk, already baptized with the piss of sadder monsters. I climbed up top, my bag filled with underwear, some paperback thriller and chips. I unbuckled my belt and re-buckled myself around the bunk’s arm that nearly kissed the wall.

On the third night of my stay at Saint Barry my bunk buddy, Tarnell, started screaming at his dreams from under me, “GIT OFF ME BITCH, GIT OFF ME!” He fell off his bed, strangling himself on the floor. I watched from my perch and nodded sympathetically at his demon. I usually slept about twelve hours a week and when I swam too deep, my dreams were just as merciless. I would tumble for centuries and when I was finally still, there was a tiny red leg resting on my chest.

My room began to groan and tell Tarnell to shut the fuck up. Some guy named Gary sprang off his bottom bunk and began beating the ever-living nightmare out of him.

It didn’t take long for our friendly night watchmen Andy and Tommy to arrive to drag Gary and Tarnell out of our room. I could hear both of them screaming curses from two warring planets. The rest of my roommates watched the entire episode on their elbows before collapsing back into the debris of their dreams in unison...except for Miss Cold Clear Eyes.

Half an hour later she climbed like a cat onto my bed and drowned my head with her hair. It smelled like I imagined it would smell, it smelled like smoke.

“Gary was on the right track you know, but there’s an obvious crack in his cure.” Her whispers were hot and pure; I needed more for the rest of my life.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about your belt; I’m talking about the end of bad dreams.”

She slid off my bed like a ghost and left me with my belt and another night without sleep.

The next day I found her smoking under the dying dogwood beside the entrance of our sanctuary. I could still see the echoes of her beauty despite her destroyed nose, and the scar on her forehead that kept smiling at me. I sat beside her and asked if she had a spare smoke. She gave me the one in her mouth, a half-dead menthol, but I felt privileged. I tried to taste a sliver of her soul and tasted cold shit instead.

“What did you mean last night?” I asked her.

“It takes love to end bad dreams.”

“Sounds like bullshit.”

“Trust me, my ex beat them out of me and I slept for two months in the darkest heaven. When I woke up, I felt like a girl again.”

She turned to me and smiled and her mouth was the door to hell. I didn’t ask her for her name. I didn’t need it.

That night, she climbed back onto my bed and unbuckled my belt from the bed’s arm. I was afraid at first, but a few minutes later I sank into a vast dreamless sleep.

BIO: Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina where he still resides. He can be found on Facebook.

A Twist Of Noir 648 - Cindy Rosmus


“No!” Lonnie yells. “Not that case. It’s bad luck.”

Case #23, he means. Sunday morning, you’re both in bed, watching Deal Or No Deal. His favorite show, with that bald, germaphobe host.

Who, you asked yourself, tapes game shows? In spite of it, you married Lonnie, years back.

“Dumb fuck,” he says, when Case 23 reveals a sky-high amount. He sounds glad the dumb fuck is losing. He grips your hand, affectionately.

“More coffee?” you ask.

Lonnie gulps from his #1 Husband mug. For that alone, you should rot in hell. “Nah,” he says.

At the screen, he yells, “Six! Number Six!” His arms and legs flail, like a spoiled brat. “No! No!”

You smile. He’s so cute, sometimes.

Still, by noon he’ll be dead.

It’s all arranged. That punk from the east side has a cousin who’ll do it. Cheap.

Any way you want, the guy said. Real quick. So he don’t feel a thing.

No, you said. In the gut. So he suffers. So he dies screaming.

How strange, that you’re with him now, on wrinkled sheets, his sweaty paw in yours. Fried eggs from breakfast crusted on your lips.

“Told him Case Six,” Lonnie says, like the show was live from your bedroom. “But he picked 13. Now he’s fucked.”

So are you.

“Ahh, he might still have a chance.” He strokes your palm, then each finger. Horny, you realize.

You used to have the best sex. Anytime, anywhere. Now no more sex with him, ever. No more sucking him off in his desk chair. Getting it doggie-style on his office floor.

“There’s time,” he says, grinning.

He means before opening the store. Not before getting plugged in the gut, and dying on the floor.

“You wanna?” he says.

You recall meeting him, ten years ago, at Happy Hour...

“My wife,” he told you, all drunk and weepy. “Died. In a car crash. Christmas Eve.” How bad you felt for him! His sandy, silky hair and nice lips made up for the too-big nose and beady eyes. “I’m trying,” he said, “so have a good time.”

Behind him, a guy with clown-like red hair was shaking his head, mouthing something at you. On your way to the bathroom, Clown Hair gripped your arm. “He’s full of shit,” he said, about Lonnie. “He never had a wife. Just wants to get laid.”

And he did. How sad. That you fucked him after that.

Even sadder, once you were married, he used that line to fuck other chicks! Now you’re the “dead” wife he’s bawling over.

Not for much longer.

“Maybe,” you tell him.

Why, you wonder, did you marry a lying whoremaster who tapes game shows?

He’s broke as shit. The insurance money will barely cover the bills, including the no-frills funeral. The fee for the hit you saved from your “allowance.” Good thing you hate shopping: both jewelry and shoes. That feel of ice-cold metal against your skin. You would rather be barefoot, any day.

As the killer gets in his car, you release Lonnie’s hand.

As the killer synchronizes his watch—he assumes with yours (the one you won’t wear)—you pull down the sheet.

Lonnie is rock-hard.

One last time, you think, and climb on top.

As you ride him, nice and slow, you feel sad. Already you miss him, and he’s still alive: thrusting and groaning beneath you. After he cums, you’ll leak for hours. When they find his body, part of him will still be inside you.

“He...won!” he says, right before he shoots his load. “The mill—ahhhh!”

Like he had won the million, himself. Instead of the dumb fuck contestant.

As he washes up, singing some off-key tune, you shut off the TV. Get nice and snug in the sheet, and turn over.

Next Friday, at Happy Hour: My husband...was killed. By some psycho.

Just last week...

BIO: Cindy is a New York textbook editor by day, a hardboiled Jersey female by night. Her fiction has appeared in Black Petals, The Beat, The Cynic, Red Fez, Zygote in My Coffee, Hardboiled, NVF, MediaVirus, The Monsters Next Door, Out of the Gutter, Devil Blossoms, 13th Warrior Review, Mysterical-E, and Beat to a Pulp. She has four collections of stories out: Angel of Manslaughter, Gutter Balls, Calpurnia’s Window, and No Place Like Home. She is the editor of the e-zine, Yellow Mama. She is also a thrill seeker, a Gemini, and a Christian.

A Twist Of Noir 647 - Sandra Seamans


My psychiatrist believes that a man is molded by his memories. He contends that the past will nurture a child into a responsible adult or create a monster. I asked him why a man can’t be responsible and still hide the monster in his heart. After all, the world itself doesn’t lean toward a black and white view, there’s plenty of grey lingering around the edges of life. Doc tossed me one of his superior smiles, shaking his head at my ignorance.

So we began. Sadly, my memories were nothing more than a wisp of smoke caught in an updraft. Totaled, along with my automobile. Doc believes I was on my way to church so I must have been a good man. I asked him how he knew I was going to church.

“Because there was a Bible on the seat beside you,” he said.

Funny thing is, with all the churches in town, not one minister of God came forward to claim me as a member of their congregation. I’m seeing raggedy shades grey, but not Doc.

After a few sessions with the Doc, I snagged onto a torn bit of memory. A glimpse of pink toenails swishing through cool lake water.

“Good,” says Doc. “Now concentrate on that memory, try to bring it to life.”

That night, after the session, I stretched out on the bed forcing myself to remember. I could see those blushing pink toenails gracing slender shapely toes. From those toes I imagined high arched feet sliding up into a pair of strong young legs that glided into a heavenly sweet spot residing between her perfectly tanned thighs. I could feel my imagination drowning in the girl’s sweet perfume as our bodies came together in the heat of a fine summer afternoon. My heart beat faster as the passion built, until finally, I lay exhausted and spent, the image gone.

As the months traveled by I tried to find her, slashing my way through the dark recesses of my brain, fighting to bring the girl with the delicious toenails back into my life. But the more I sliced through the darkness, the more I realized it was an impotent search for what never was.

But the Doc, he just wouldn’t give up. He pushed and prodded at my mind until I slid farther into the black chasm of my memories. My heart exploded with pleasure when I found her there, cowering deep in the darkness. I grabbed her hand, struggling to pull her out of the hell I’d cast her into. But I couldn’t. No. Not so much I couldn’t, as I felt a sudden desire not to tarnish the imagined memory with the reality I’d discovered. When the session ended I told Doc I was through. I told him it was better not to chase old memories.

Of course, Doc, being Doc, kept insisting that it wasn’t natural for a man to live without knowing who he was. But after seeing that twisted slice of what I might have been, I told Doc that there were just some things that were best left buried.

That was the last time I saw Doc. He calls now and again, wondering if my memory’s come back. I tell him no. There’s no point in telling him about the Pandora’s box he opened, because the day is fast approaching when he’ll realize the flaw in his theory.

I keep to myself these days. I go to work and pay my bills, a responsible man, living an ordinary life. But comes the night, I enter the dark confines of my imagination, savoring that fine twisted memory of blushing toenails painted with a splash of blood. I live everyday as a respectable human being waiting for that monster in me to be fully resurrected.

I do wonder though, if Doc realizes how beautiful his daughter’s toes are.

BIO: You can find Sandras stories scattered around the internet in places like Spinetingler, PulpPusher, and The Thrilling Detective. Her scattered thoughts about writing can be found at My Little Corner.

A Twist Of Noir 646 - Richard Godwin


Jonathan Maric stood in the hallway of his polished mansion.

He was a short unobtrusive man who enjoyed the quiet privileges of the wealthy, kept himself to himself and was known for his love of roses.

He’d settled in Switzerland in a quiet town near Montreux when he floated his chemical company on the stock market. He made millions and married Rachel.

He set up another company and made a second fortune from pharmaceuticals.

Outside his chauffeur opened the door to his limousine and sped away as Jonathan made some calls.

‘Hello, Henry? You might want to buy aluminium. Put as much money as you want into the canisters. The stock value’s going up.’

Rachel was a quiet attractive woman who lived in Nice.

The reason Jonathan gave for this was the fact that she needed the sunshine and the sea.

He would visit her every weekend, leaving on Thursday.

That morning he got to work, sat at his desk and went through some invoices.

He picked up the phone.

‘Mark, I’m selling shares in the canisters. You can make a few million.’

As he put down the phone he noticed a smear of black ink on his thumb.

He stood up and straightened his tie in the mirror and said to himself, ‘Loser.’

Later that day in an IRS office in the USA a small white faced clerk by the name of Jeremy Palm sat looking at the ink that had smeared on one of the same invoices.

He was an officious, small minded individual who hated his low rank as clerk and wanted to move on.

And he was about to.

He picked up the phone to the US military.

‘Can I speak to the department of chemical processing? What do you mean there’s no such department? Are you saying it doesn’t exist?’

He put down the phone and smiled for the first time in years. It almost cracked his face.

That afternoon he began a process of inquiry that ended in the biggest expose of fraudulent trading Switzerland has ever seen.

And Jonathan saw it coming.

He was a man who saw to everything.

Rachel had become addicted to prescribed medication and she spent her days lying in bed or on the beach.

The curious thing was that Jonathan had never provided for her funeral.

That day he left his office he went straight to the printing company he owned.

He walked to the print room and checked the ink and saw that the documents he was forging were running.

He went home, changed into some casual clothes, watered his roses, and got into his Jaguar.

When the police turned up the next morning the engine was so hot one of the officers burned his hand on it.

‘He’s been on a long drive,’ he said.

Jonathan had been forging US military documents for the sale of non-existent lethal chemicals in empty canisters. He’d convinced the US government to wire millions of dollars to his account. The money had apparently gone into property acquisition in Israel.

Jonathan hadn’t seen his wife in years.

Why did he leave every Thursday and fly to Nice?

Because El Al doesn’t fly after sunset on Fridays and Nice is a good place to change planes.

Israel denied knowing anything about him or his acquisitions. Jonathan had converted to Catholicism many years ago, despite being Jewish.

In the weeks before his death the Israeli nuclear programme had received heavy foreign investment.

$280 million had left his account.

In Nice the French police found Rachel dead from an overdose of pills. She had a bruise on her arm with the imprints of someone’s fingers.

It’s a beautiful drive from Switzerland to Nice, even at speed.

The Swiss police found Jonathan dead upstairs from an overdose.

He was a proud man.

He took care of his property, including his wife.

BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London. His first crime novel ‘Apostle Rising’ is about to be published and will be released for sale onto the market on March 10th, 2011. You can watch a video ad for it at his website. His dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the London stage.

His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled; Gloom Cupboard; Thrillers, Killers ’N Chillers; The New Flesh, Media Virus Magazine and Pulp Metal Magazine, among many other magazines and anthologies. His story 'Pike N Flytrap' is in the Fall 2010 issue of Needle Magazine, his story 'Face Off' is in the latest Crime Factory, issue #5. You can follow him at Twitter here.

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

Contest: A $20 Book Gift Card Hangs In The Balance

And AJ has been so kind as to extend a $20 book gift card, good at your favorite bookstore, if you can identify just how the numbers 6, 4, and 5 are used in SHARED PAIN.

Send your guess to AJ himself here. With my track record regarding contests, I think it is probably best to let the guy whose money is involved decide the winner.

Good luck.

A Twist Of Noir 645 - AJ Hayes



The way it happened was a woman in East L.A. answered her doorbell one warm summer night and took a full load of double ought buck from a sawed off Remington twelve gauge square in the face. It was a good thing that she went first because she didn’t see her kids get it. Twelve year-old twins though you couldn't tell that after the buckshot did its job. The dog was just a pile of scraps with no head. The first cops that got there spent a couple of minutes puking. Then they called me. I identified them all. My wife, kids and the dog. I wasn’t good for much of anything after that.


Another night, another fucking court mandated twelve step. All that, Hello I’m Gina, jive. Followed by my sad story. Followed by a parade of losers telling theirs. Here’s a tip. Never share. Because the next asshole in line will have a much more tragic tale to tell. I say: “My Mom and baby sisters were murdered and I was away at night school and Dad killed himself a shot at a time. Boo fucking hoo.” Then you wait for the next guy. Usually goes, “Hi, I’m fuckface and I drunk-drove my semi through a convent. Killed sixteen nuns and a blind newspaper boy.” Shit like that.

Then a big guy stood up. Started telling the group how he thought he was the one who’d taken my life away from me. How he had been crazy drunk and jacked up on PCP. I didn’t believe his story. Just another jerk trying for my panties. I mean there’s a lot of fucking going on after meetings. So I just figured. Then he mentioned the dog.

That got my attention.


“Baby,” Gina’s voice, as always, makes me want to pull the blankets over us and stay all day. “Angel, open your eyes, baby.”

I reach for her and there’s a clank. I wake up fast. I’m handcuffed to a rusty pipe that runs along an old brick wall. I try to jerk away.

“Baby, stop.”

Something in the way she says it makes me freeze. She’s sitting, knees against her chest, across the room. It’s almost dark in here and it smells like wet dirt.

“Got to tell you some things, babe,” she says.

I wait.

“Remember this place?” Her green-gold eyes make my heart thump.

I take a look.

“Sure. That crappy twelve step. You saved me. Here.”

Her soft laugh hits me hard.

“You love me?”

“’til the wheels fall off, baby.”

“Did I take away your pain?”

“Yes.” My mind fills up with her and our twin girls growing inside her.

“I’m glad,” she says. “That’s why I drugged you and brought you here.”

She shakes her head no when I start to speak.

“We have to talk about pain now, baby,” she says. “I worked hard at yours. Held you in the dark with my body, my mind, my heart until all your nightmares finally stopped and that was so damn good.”

Her eyes are far away.

“But there’s another kind of pain, baby. My kind.” Her face caught in shadow. “As much as I love you. I can’t share this pain. I can only give it away.”

She lets her knees drop so I can see the bloody wreckage where our babies used to be.

“They didn’t feel anything,” she says. “Their heads were close together. One shot. No pain. Me though ... that’s different.”

She coughs a bright spray of blood. Slides something across the tiles.

“You got a choice, baby. Live with my pain ... or not.” The coughing stops and so does she. I look down and see a gun and a cell phone.

We sit for a while: my dead wife, our babies and me.

I make my choice.

“I love you,” I say.

BIO: AJ Hayes is from San Diego and -- god help him -- good friends with Jimmy (Mad Dog) Callaway, who provides great advice and the occasional smack in the mouth with the butt of a .45. Check out his poetry in the latest issue of Yellow Mama.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Interlude: The 600 To 700 Challenge

After some issues (nothing too drastic), which have been ironed out, the 600 To 700 Challenge will get back underway on Monday.

Slated to appear...


Richard Godwin’s THURSDAY MAN

Sandra Seamans’s BEST LEFT BURIED

Cindy Rosmus’s THE WIDOW GAME

Chris Benton’s NOCTURNE

Ian Ayris’s SUNDAYS





New Art From Walter Conley

All new, all Monday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 644 - Keith Rawson


So are you gonna close her or not?

I don’t know. I think I am. She seems like she could go either way.

It seemed like a good call, at least from what I heard.

Yeah? I dunno. I thought I could have sharpened up the close a little bit.

Why? That was flawless as far as I could tell.

You don’t think saying I was going to fuck her skull was a little harsh?

Absolutely not, it created a sense of urgency. Most reps are so lax about what they want the student to do. With you, though, that student knows you want to fuck her skull. She knows you want to play in her blood. You stated your intentions and what you wanted her next move to be and I’d call that real progression.

I guess.’re right, of course, you’re right.

What’d you like about the call?

Oh, I have to think about that one...I guess I like the easiness of the call. The rapport I’ve developed with the student really shows through with the call. I mean, most students wouldn’t pick up the phone at 2 o’clock in the morning, right? Most students would just let the call go straight through to voicemail, but she picked up.

I liked that, too.


Of course. Rapport and trust are the two biggest areas they cover in training, right? We want the student to feel the need to pick up the phone no matter what time of day or night it is. Whether it’s 5 pm or 2 am, the student has to feel compelled to pick up the phone, because your call’s that important. That the information you have to convey cannot wait. So, tell me what you didn’t like about the call.

Uuuummm......I guess I didn’t like the part when I mentioned how important her enrollment was to my job.

That’s right. You’ve been doing this job long enough to know to never mention that your job is dependent on whether she enrolls or not. Why don’t we want to mention that to the student?

Um, ugh... it makes the student feel like they’re just a number?

That’s right. We want the student to feel important, like they’re an individual.


If they feel like they’re nothing but a number, chances are they’re not going to want to enroll and they’ll decide to go to one of our competitors instead. Plus, there’s the possibility that a student might get upset and decide to go to the Department of Education with their concerns, and the last thing we need is the DOE poking their nose around here questioning our curriculum, questioning our accreditation. I mean, we lose our accreditation, you lose your job, I lose my job, everybody loses their jobs. So make sure you keep that aspect out of your conversations from here on out.

I will. It won’t ever happen again.

Good. Now, what do you think your next step should be?

I don’t know...I was thinking an at home visit might be my next best course of action.

Have you ever done an at home visit before?

I tried, but she was getting ready to move and the police were there.

So she just blew off the appointment?


So maybe she didn’t take you as seriously last time?


Do you think this time will be different?

I don’t know.

I think it will be. I think she’ll be more receptive because of the urgency you created. I just think you need to bring the right materials. What’d you bring with you last time?

A couple of course catalogs.

Good, but I’d bring a few other things. A couple knives, maybe a razor, let her know your intentions are real. So let’s go ahead and make that your action item for the week.

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, Needle Magazine and many others. Keith is a frequent contributor to BSCreview, a staff writer with Spinetingler Magazine and, along with Cameron Ashley and Liam Jose, he edits and publishes Crimefactory Magazine. You can also find him stroking his overinflated ego at his blog, Bloody Knuckles, Callused Fingertips.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 643 - Phil Beloin Jr.


I waited for my sis outside the Niantic Woman’s Correctional Institution. When an inmate’s granted parole, the State of Connecticut requires that the released prisoner have a stable place to stay. The parole board chose our Mom, a bi-polar schizo who thinks Obama’s a Muslim and the folks at Fox News are dupes for Beelzebub.

I live with Mom and I’m a two tour decorated war vet. I picked up a purple heart picking up a Fallujah whore. Bet you didn’t know three percent of Iraqis are Catholic. And man, are they easy to spot. I was getting blown in some sandy alley when a car bomb went off about six blocks away. I caught some metal, some decent head, and later, they pinned old GW on me. Medic wanted to know why I was grinning while he gauzed my scraped hip. Dude, I had to hold my sidearm in the whore’s ear to get her to finish me off.

Sis was looking skanky in a dull gray dress, hair straggly and nope on the makeup thing.

“Hey, ex-con,” I said, reaching over, squeezing her hard.

“Brat,” she said. “You look good.”

I pulled away from her and drove.

“You mean I ain’t dead is all,” I said.

“Don’t take me home,” Sis said. “I want to avoid Mom for awhile.”

“We ain’t going there yet.”

“Can I see your scar?”

Which ones?

“Can’t,” I said. “Not with the new distracted driver laws.”

“So where we headed?”

“The cemetery.”


Last I’d seen Sis outside of jail was eighteen months ago during one of our unit’s rare rotations home. I’d wanted to surprise her so I came down from Fort Drum unannounced. She was seeing this guy, Mark, a first date, everything planned...Mark tried to back out, another time he said, but Sis insisted the three of us could hang together. Mark could hold his bourbon and when he produced some pain pills and other capsulated ditties, we go so fucking high; we all woke up in the same bedroom, me on the floor in the can, Mark and Sis half-naked in bed.

Mark slipped from the room while I was in and out of it, couldn’t really say nothing, and I never saw him again.

Sis said she’d blacked out, couldn’t remember a stitch. Me, too, I said.

Then it was back to Fort Drum, more training, and another jaunt to Satan’s hemorrhaging asshole. Five or six months later, I got this frantic call from Mom. Sis had miscarried, in the tub, blood everywhere—the cops said it looked self-induced.

I hadn’t even known she was pregnant. I asked if Mark was the father.

“Maybe, but he didn’t see her but that one night you were home,” Mom said. “Honey, there’s more.”

When Sis had felt a little better, she tracked Mark down, stabbing him twice. Mark got stitches. Sis got two to four for attempted manslaughter.

Mom got the fetus the headstone where Sis and I were standing now.

“Why are we here?” Sis said, trying to hold it together.

“I talked on the phone to Mark...”

“That guy got me pregnant, the fuck.”

“He doesn’t recall anything from that night.”

“Yeah...still...but it’s like date rape or something.”

“He had a DNA test done to see if the baby was his.”

“He what?”

“You in jail, they don’t have to tell you nothing. Test came back negative.”

“Holy shit... You lying? I stab the wrong fucker? I didn’t sleep with no one else.”

“Truth is,” I said. “I remember that night. I was wasted, hallucinating, totally out of it and you lying there in bed. I had to move Mark—he was over the toilet—put him in bed with you later.”

“What the fuck you talking about?”

“You should’ve stuck the knife in me, Sis.”

BIO: Visit Phil’s blog. You’ll find the first chapter to his novel, The Big Bad, plus a few local Connecticut stores that carry the book.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


First up, Richard Godwin.

Richard is the author of the novel “Apostle Rising”, which sees release in March.

He was recently interviewed on The Authors Show and the interview will air this coming Monday.

I encourage everyone to check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Next up, Al Tucher.

About a week or so ago, Al got in touch with me about his latest story and I have been derelict in mentioning it here so that everyone could have a look.

Some of you may have already done so.

Titled SHOOT ME, it stars one of the hardboiledest (yes, there’s no such word as that but I don’t care) women in noir today, Diana Andrews.

Yes, it’s housed at an erotic fiction site but I think it’s really cool that the site is basically wide open, as far as genre goes, as long as your story has erotic content.

And, finally, I’m getting the next batch of stories together in the 600 To 700 Challenge and I can safely say that they will appear no later than Monday.

In the meantime, enjoy what we’ve got on display.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 642 - Tom Leins


Outside my window a mixture of rain and snow turns to slush in the gutter. It makes me think of sex.

The closer I edge to death, the more I think about sex. I’m 62. I don’t have too many good years left in me. I’d been seeing Barbette on-and-off for four months now. We met through a mutual friend and she flat-backed her way into my affections. I’m not a wealthy man, but I’ve got my own apartment, and that makes me a hell of a catch for a woman of Barbette’s limited means. She’s pushing forty, but she still possesses a certain spiny kind of beauty. Like all couples, we have our ups and downs.

She performs in a transparent skirt over at The Slow Club. Her dance routine is about as sexy as a jailhouse wedding, but at my age I take what I can get. The problem is, she can’t hold her sugar, and it’s starting to show. I kicked the cack back in ’97, just in time for my fiftieth birthday. The way Barbette’s going, she won’t make 50. The dragon will eat her bones long before that.

Lately her estranged husband has been sniffing around the club, on the prowl for a little meat to go with his wine. He’s a pro-wrestler - wrestles under the name of the Jazz Butcher. His real name is Alvin Lupus, and he’s one scary motherfucker. I’m old enough to remember him when he was a kid, just starting out. Back then, he was scrawny, like a bag of bones. Used to leak blood like a pussy every time he got hit. Now he’s one of the big dogs, weighs at least 280lbs.

The intercom screeches, and I buzz him in wordlessly. I slump into my easy chair, chest wheezing, knees sore. Fucking Florida can’t come soon enough. Alvin’s wearing a navy blue duffel coat over his spandex leotard. His face is creased with old scars, but he covers them up with thick, white circus make-up when he fights. It makes his black eyes look like bottomless pits. He can’t wrestle at the moment – busted his knees up pretty good in a Scaffolding Match – but he’s been filming TV spots for a new federation over in Testament. His face is freshly scrubbed, but his scars are still full of greasepaint.

“You want a drink, Alvin?”

He dips into the pocket of his duffel coat and plucks out a clear, unlabeled bottle.

“Didn’t know if you’d have any, so I brought my own.”

He unscrews the cap and gulps thirstily.

“Mescal. Picked up a crate of stuff when I was fighting down South last month. Burst some guy’s spleen with a steel chair. Put him in a steel fucking chair of his own. Those goddamn bastards used to be tough.”

“Do you have the paperwork.”

“Fuck, no. I’m here to pick Barbette up. Take her home and fuck her ragged.”

I sigh.

“I like you, Alvin. Don’t give me a reason to hurt you.”

He cackles his familiar machine-gun laugh.

“Hurt me, old man? You’re more likely to hurt yourself.”

He cackles again, shifting his huge buttocks irritably on the small wooden dining chair.

Barbette drifts out of the shadows, still wearing her transparent skirt. She flashes me a drugged smile.

“Hey, Alvin, how’s tricks?”

“Hey, babe. I was just telling Sugar Daddy here that playtime’s over.”

She caresses the back of Alvin’s neck, running her fingers through his greasy black hair.

“Sure was fun though, wasn’t it?”

She wedges the gun in his ear. It’s time to kill off the inexplicable ghosts.

Barbette fiddles with the hem of her plastic skirt as she empties the piece into Alvin’s skull. The problem with Barbette is, she never had any self-control. I’ll be picking spent bullets out of his mouldy carcass all evening.

BIO: Tom Leins is from Paignton, UK. His short stories have appeared online at Beat The Dust, Hit & Run Magazine, Disenthralled, Flash Fiction Offensive, Powder Burn Flash and A Twist Of Noir. He also writes a weekly DVD column, entitled Sex, Leins & Videotape.

A Twist Of Noir 641 - Ron Earl Phillips


It made a satisfying ‘pop’ when Donnie’s nose crushed with my knuckle-scared right. I threw another to his jaw, and then a left into his gut. It had forced the air out and Donnie crumpled to the floor gasping, half sitting, gurgling through his nose.

Wasn’t Donnie Braggio a sight for sore eyes?

I lifted him up by the collar and set him up against the bar. I steadied him, and laid one into the breadbasket. Reflexively he started to double; I pushed him back with a hard palm. Pinned upright, I hammered away at Donnie’s face with my right. Had he lived, I’m sure he’d be sucking through straw the rest of his life.

He never was much of a fighter. Not one on one. Donnie fought with back-up, with the odds in his favor. Bad odds tonight.

I let him drop.

A second time I asked, “Remember Fish?” No laugh this time.

A swift kick to his side, I imagined my steel-toed boot shattering Donnie’s ribs and fragments tearing into his lungs and spleen.

Donnie gasped and wheezed, dying for some blood-free air. Fish hung on for ten hours. I wasn’t going to let this play out. My boot slammed down on his already beaten face, again and again.

What a bloody mess.

Drained, I looked at the body. At what was left Donnie Braggio, the little boss of Hagers Juvenile Center.

I never forgot Fish.

It was still early morning and I found myself on an upscale block lined with renovated brownstones. I climbed up a set of cobbled steps. Standing in the doorway, I wasn’t sure that I was ready for this. It had to be done.

I buzzed. No answer. So I pounded on the door. After what seemed like minutes, a light flickered on. I heard the bolt and stood back.

He stood in front of me in a loose robe over his short wiry frame. Hair matted flat, bed head, and his glasses hung crooked on his long bent nose. He regarded me.

“William? It’s very late.”

“Early,” I corrected him.

I pushed my way in. I didn’t bother to look around; I’d been here before, though never invited.

“I need to tell you something.”

I walked down the narrow hall towards his office, the one he kept for private patients.

He followed me in. “What is this about?”

I took a seat in front of his uncluttered desk, a computer monitor sat to one side and a family photo of his wife and son to the other. Warily, he sat, facing me. His tired eyes were eager get on with it.

“I killed Donnie Braggio.”

His eyes widened. Not out of shock, but recognition. During our sessions downtown, I never mentioned Donnie, but it was a name he knew. I could see his confusion.

“Remember Fish?”

He nodded. We had talked about Fish, a friend who died when I was a kid. It was an accident I had said. He suggested my anxiety was misdirected guilt. But I was guilty.

“I haven’t been honest. I was responsible. I let Donnie beat Fish until there wasn’t anything left. He asked for my help and all I did was listen to his screams. Fish didn’t belong at Hagers. He was a good kid who made a mistake.”

His eyes began to well.

“I promised Fish that I’d make things right. Get some redemption.”

He wasn’t paying attention; instead he mooned over the family photo.

“I was there when Fish died, after Donnie had beaten him, in the infirmary watching him grab his last breaths. You know who he blamed?”

He didn’t respond, but there was look of understanding. I tipped over the name plate on his desk: Dr. Richard Salmon.

I pulled a snubnose from my jacket pocket. He didn’t flinch. I shot him once.

Good-bye, Fish.

BIO: Ron Earl Phillips writes fiction. Someday he’d like to get paid for it.

Currently he resides in West Virginia with his wife, daughter and three cats. He spends his days as web developer for a newspaper media group.

He also hosts a weekly flash fiction writing challenge at Flash Fiction Friday.

Fish Stew is his first published short story, hopefully the first of several. Other stories can be found posted on his website,

A Twist Of Noir 640 - Naomi Johnson


The night enveloped me as I ran. Ran hard. Harder still after I glanced back and caught the beam of headlights flashing in the distance behind me. Ran as though in a dream, one of the scary ones where you try desperately to scream, because if you scream maybe help will come, but in the dream you cannot scream, cannot cry out. My throat is blocked, it’s all I can do just to breathe. Must run. Must not stop. I’m so tired. I can’t think. Feet torn and bruised. But fear won’t let me stop running.

I saw the dim outline of a distant house as a light burned then winked out, gone like the flutter of bat wings, and I was abandoned to the night. The darkness was safety from the headlights behind me. But the darkness had eyes of its own, too, that I could not see, but could feel like hot demon breath on my neck. Somewhere on the wind I heard over my own panting an owl call out, questioning my identity. Bad omen. Owls are bad omens.

I staggered on against the night while thick, scudding clouds eclipsed the lightsof heaven. The road was cold, infinite space. The road was a bottomless cave with its monstrous maw agape, salivating, ready to swallow me. The sound of an engine closing behind me spurred my fear. With no warning, a shard of light sliced across the blackness before me, a surgeon’s scalpel cutting into the flesh of night. Probably a car, and that meant the highway was up ahead. If I made it to the highway, I might get away.

Just as quickly the light was gone and the darkness knit itself back together. Behind me, the engine purred like a cat on the prowl, growing louder as it neared its prey. Still I ran, fell over unseen snares, rose again, ran. Sobbed for breath, dared to look back once more. The headlights were closing in. I fell again, scrambled once more to my feet. My knees rebelled and at last I cried out, sobbing. Knew that if I stopped they would catch me. If I stopped I would feel the bruises and flowing blood from the cuts gathered on my wild flight. If I stopped my life was over. If I stopped –

I stopped, pressed backward by the shock of lights before me, blinding me. I shielded my eyes and felt myself falling, felt the road press its cold grit into my skin. And then the lights were all around me, flashing red and white victory. I wanted to be strong, to have courage, but I felt tears course my cheeks, salting the scratches there. The vehicle behind me stopped and ejected my tormentors. They were yelling, “Get down get down hands on your head get down hands on your head.”

I did and felt steel bite into my wrists. Hands grabbed me and stood me up and I staggered back against my enemies, pushed myself into them, made them wrestle me down again. I grabbed at their clothing, searching, searching, as the air filled with hot curses.

“Son of a bitching maniac killed sixteen that we know of. We ought to shoot him now.”

“Keep your head, Davis,” said a stern baritone. “He’s too famous. We’d never get away with it.”

“Should fucking shoot the monster right now.” There was muttered agreement from more than one voice.

They should have done that, but they didn’t. They hurt me some and made sure I bumped my head getting into the back of a cruiser, but they didn’t shoot me. In my right hand was a key to the cuffs and I used it. Leaned forward, raising my hands slowly, and spoke softly to the two men in the front seat.

“You two will make eighteen.”

BIO: Naomi Johnson is still in shock over being able to write to such a limited word count, and thanks Christopher Grant for the opportunity. Her longer stories have appeared here at A Twist of Noir, as well as at CrimeFactory and Southern Cross Review. She recently made her first sale of a story to Encounters magazine.

A Twist Of Noir 639 - A.S.


He’s not an old man but he’s getting there. He has few memories and some might blame that on the sincere amount of alcohol he consumes, but he wouldn’t agree. His skills, determination and uncanny instincts have taken him far, as far as this; he’s Chief of Investigation and this is his crime scene. He’s not entirely sure he wants it, though.

A woman. Pulled out of the water down at the docks. He can’t see her face but her long hair, slick with water, is so black it’s blue and it’s strangely familiar.


He once met a woman named Delilah, and yes; she made him cut his hair, but what he lost in strength he gained in love so he figured he got a good deal.

Back then he used to steal cars, fix them and sell them. He moved to Chicago and met an Italian guy with sad eyes and a deliberate accent. They called him Bluey and he said only the best could work for him, said it like it meant something.

So he worked for Bluey, felt important, did what he was told, got into dealing with drugs. Became a player and thought himself smooth.

Not as smooth as Delilah, though. In the middle of the night her skin was a story about Japanese silk and vanilla cream. He couldn’t stop touching it and she never turned him down. She molded herself around him like it wasn’t the greatest gift of all, but it was and so he knew he owed her everything.

“Please, stop doing this,” Delilah said when he was called out and brought his gun. He looked into her beautiful eyes, so quaintly blue together with that raven hair, and felt like crap when he said “Soon,” and went.

He got in deep, even killed a man once.

They had to move. “It’s a bit shaky at the moment,” Bluey said, “you understand. No worries though, kid, I’ll look after you.”

And they left to stay at a number of look-alike hotel rooms. He soon lost count. “What’s the name of this town?” Delilah asked. Her girlish voice started annoying him.

Still there were good times. The best actually.

One time they ended up in this town that had a whole set of blocks from the nineteenth century. In the evening they walked between the old, amazingly well-kept houses hand in hand. Delilah leaned into him and said: “We’re in Paris. Can you feel it? We’re in Paris!” He did feel it and for a shimmering, dizzying moment life was perfect.

He tried to make a decent living for them but knew everything was falling apart before it did.

“I feel like a rat running like this,” she said. “You look like one,” he answered and the mixed feeling of power and self-loathing he experienced when faced with her hurt was enough to make him forget reality for awhile.

That last night in yet another hotel room he found her standing absolutely still in front of the bathroom mirror. He was unable to interpret her expression.

The next day she was gone, leaving only a small note behind, “Remember Paris,” it said and it was almost like she never existed.


He disappeared and started all over and no one ever came for him. He wondered why he hadn’t done it sooner – with her. He started drinking and working and ended up here, on the right side of the law, fighting crime. He kind of liked it, up until now.

The drowned woman is easy to identify, her handbag is tied to her body and nothing has been removed from it. Her name is Paris and she’s barely twenty. When they turn her over and her features are Delilah’s from a lifetime ago he knows his past has finally caught up with him.

BIO: A.S. lives in a place far, far away where shes about to enter what has already been named the coldest winter in a thousand years. She lives with Hello Kitty and Super Mario, she misses Manny Calavera. When she writes, she prefers her characters somewhat broken. A.S. is new to Noir and intrigued. Find her at Here To Read And Write.

A Twist Of Noir 638 - R.S. Bohn


She squats over the toilet seat. Panting. Pressing down. Every time she pushes all her muscles down, she feels like she’s gonna rip in two. But there’s nothing yet, just a thin string of blood.

She glances over at the dirty cup. She didn’t drink it all. It tasted nasty, like some old rotted hamburger, or those squirrel guts that his mama was cooking up that one time. She wouldn’t eat that. She wonders if Mama T put some squirrel in the tea along with the herbs, just to get her back. That old woman always did think Carlita was a snob – she could see it in her gunky old red eyes, full of hate for the girl. Hadn’t Carlita been told this? Mama’s boys, you don’t want one of them. They think their sons is nothing but gold, princes all of them, but the girls they choose, they’re all sluts and whores.

Maybe she should’ve drank everything in the cup. Maybe it would go faster. She reaches a shaking hand over to the sink, almost knocking the cup over. Bringing it to her mouth, she nearly vomits again, as she had when she’d first smelled the concoction. She pinches her nose and gulps the rest. Her mouth contorts, tongue trying to scrape off the putrid slime.

In seconds, it’s worse. She bends over, caterwauling and gripping her knees. She begs, Please, let this be it. Let it be gone.

Mama T told her it would be fine once it was over. Sure, she’d said, it hurts, because one way or another, it coming out hurts. But had she mentioned this? Pain like a hundred knives in her stomach – and Carlita’d know, she’s been knifed before. The prom. Stupid jealous bitch, what’d she think—

Carlita screams, clamping her thighs together. A string of Jesus Christ, God, God, oh God, please over and over. The pain, inconceivably, grows. She shuts her eyes tight, imagining it’s the little bastard himself, or herself, clawing and tearing at her, refusing to leave.

“Samuel!” she shouts, dragging out the last part of his name. “Samuel! Help, oh God, help me!”

The door opens, and she wipes away a screen of tears. She’s in too much pain to be anything but grateful, even though it’s not Samuel, but his mama. His horrible, smells-like-pee-and-cabbage mama.

“Oh, thank you. Thank you. Help me. Please.”

The old woman comes in, shuts the door.

“Help me. What is this? I can’t do this,” she sobs into her hands, and it’s Mama’s firm rubbing on her shoulders that, for the moment, calms her.

“Yes, you can. You can do this.”

“But it hurts, oh God, it hurts.”

“I told you. It’ll be fine when it’s over. Now you just push.”

And she does, and Carlita feels something give way. It pours out of her. She screams as it splashes back up on her. It keeps coming. She begs for help, for Samuel. She begs Mama T to get Samuel.

“Samuel is with his sister, helping out. He ain’t gonna come.” Mama T stands up.

“Ain’t nobody gonna come. Who’d help you, you stinking whore?”

Carlita freezes. She turns a trembling, gray face to her mother-in-law. The old woman stands tall now, arms crossed, looking down at Carlita with disgust. Like you’d look down on a sick dog lying in its own shit.

“What’d you put in that tea?” she manages to get out before another wave of excruciating cramps hits her.

“Just what you wanted. Something to get rid of another man’s baby.” She spits on Carlita. “Samuel don’t need no Jezebel. And you a Jezebel if I ever saw one. Stinking. Whore.”

The door shuts. Carlita is barely aware of the sounds of Mama T in the kitchen, making herself at home. She’s too busy emptying herself out.

BIO: R.S. lives in a suburb outside of Detroit, where she writes flash fic that isn't usually flashy, and sometimes isn't even fiction. You can find her riding solo at R.S. Bohn.

A Twist Of Noir 637 - Christopher Grant


The most wonderful time of the year?

Fuck that.

Greta hated this time of the year.

False promises and people lying to each other’s faces.

Merry Christmas? There was no such thing.

When Greta was ten and Trish, her sister, was four, Trish’s father got lucky and Christmas fell on a weekend. A court-appointed weekend, meaning there was nothing Carol, Greta and Trish’s mother, could do about it. Nothing except pack up her little princess and hand her over to Bill. As soon as the golden child was out the door, Carol turned on Greta, slapped her across the face and grabbed herself a bottle of some rotgut or another. She called up one of her usual lays.

A half hour later, he showed up at the door.

“Get that, Greta,” Carol called from the bedroom. Greta knew what would happen if she didn’t and let him in.

His name was Cal and he was one of the nicer ones.

Occasionally, the nicer ones would leave extra cash and a Christmas present or two would show up the next morning on top of the kitchen table, in lieu of a tree. Carol didn’t believe in having a tree, real or otherwise. Takes up too much space, was her excuse.

The entire weekend would be filled with the sounds and smells of sex, drinking, weed and vomiting, all coming from behind the bedroom door. Greta was left to fend for herself during that forty-eight hour period.


The door is white. There's a tree in the picture window, decorated and all lit up. The guy’s name is Eric Washington.

Eric Washington has a wife, has two kids, a boy and a girl.

Eric Washington was on the verge of losing it all. His business and his house and probably his wife and kids.

Until Charlie stepped in. Ever-helpful Charlie. All of Eric Washington’s problems were solved. As long as he paid the right amount at the right time.

Eric Washington is into Charlie for a cool hundred thousand.

Eric Washington is ten weeks late on his payment.


When she was twelve and Trish was six, Trish got to see her father for Christmas again. Even though it wasn’t a court-appointed weekend. Trish talked about how it was going to be so great and that Greta wouldn't have any presents. It was typical Trish. All she needed to do was stick her tongue out.

That’s what did it.

Greta grabbed her sister’s wrist and bent it backward. She figured the little princess wouldn’t be able to enjoy Christmas with a broken wrist.

The beating she took from Carol, sick as it sounds, was worth it. Greta finally had her mother’s full and undivided attention.


“Break his fingers,” Charlie said. “Both hands.”

Greta watches Eric Washington and his kids and his wife through her car window.

It’s Christmas Eve and they’re exchanging presents. They are smiling and kissing and hugging and the kids are playing with the toys they’ve unwrapped.

“Fuck it,” Greta says and gets out of the car.


Ten years ago, when Carol was diagnosed with cirrhosis, Trish called and sobbed about how Mom didn’t have a whole lot of time left. She told Greta that they needed a donor and Trish had been tested and wasn’t compatible. She wanted Greta to come in and get tested. So they could hack a piece of her liver off and give it to Carol? Greta told Trish that she wouldn’t piss on Carol if she were on fire and hung up.

When she read Carol’s obit a few months later, Greta allowed herself to finally take that deep breath of true freedom.


Greta returns to the car and pulls out her cell phone.

“It’s done,” she tells Charlie. “And so am I.”

She hangs up, takes a deep breath and drives away.

BIO: Check out all of my fiction in the CRIMES COMMITTED BY YOURS TRULY section of this very website.

Day Eight Of The 600 To 700 Challenge

Coming This Evening.

Friday, December 10, 2010

State Of The 600 To 700 Challenge

After a little bit of a break, the 600 To 700 Challenge will get back underway starting Monday.

So take the weekend to catch up on anything you might have missed, sit back and enjoy and come back Monday for...

Christopher Grant’s GRETA FOR THE HOLIDAYS

R.S. Bohn’s EXIT


Naomi Johnson’s PURSUIT

Ron Earl Phillips’s FISH STEW



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Note On The Artwork

Walter Conley came to me a couple of days ago and asked me if I would be interested in putting his artwork up at ATON.

Always interested in art that evokes feeling or setting for stories, I said, yeah, show me what you’ve got.

And Walter came through in spades.

The artwork above is Walter Conley’s, Copyright 2010.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 636 - Chris Deal


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Twist Of Noir 635 - Steve Weddle


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

This wasn’t easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Twist Of Noir 634 - Dana King


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

Time to leave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Twist Of Noir 633 - Matthew C. Funk


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

Even asleep. Always.

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

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

“Detective Jurgis?” Kensie says to me.

“Kensie. How are you keeping these days?”

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

“I wanted a moment, private.”

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

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

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

“Don’t have to thank me.”

“Ain’t that.”

“Need help?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Over what?”

“What you done to Deo.”

“What about what he did to you?”

She locks me in the circle of the tire swing.

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

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

Kensie taps a carving on the wooden playset.

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

“Lovers who killed each other. About right.”

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

“He stayed because you were his willing victim.”

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

“He was always broken.”

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

“Is that what love is to you? Pain?”

Kensie spits.

“More than pain.”

Kensie walks around me, laughing.

“Love is what makes the pain not matter.”

Kensie puts the pliers on my ring finger.

The pliers bite.

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

Kensie goes down; twitches.

I don’t turn to see who did it.

I don’t hear who’s behind me.

I don’t even hear the playground gravel.

His huge hands pull off the tire.

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

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

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


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

Hakk’s smiling. I’m not.

Hakk looks at me. I look at Kensie.

I grab my cuffs. Hakk steps to pin her.

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

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

A Twist Of Noir 632 - Jack Getze


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

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

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

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

“Lorraine. You in there?”

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

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

“Is that right?”

“Yes, Hank, that’s exactly right.”

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

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

“No,” Hank said.

“Or do you hear the sink splashing?”


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

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

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

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

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

Lorraine flushed the toilet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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