Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interlude And A List

This Friday, the Friday Story Drop is going to be extra large, perhaps as many as twelve stories will be coming out on Friday.

I have one from AJ Hayes, another from Paul Brazill, two from Richard Godwin, one from Matthew C. Funk and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition, the 600 To 700 Challenge is shaping up nicely and that’s where that list thingy I mentioned in the title comes from.

Here goes:

600 - Jimmy Callaway

601 - Richard Godwin

602 - Keith Rawson

603-605 - Open

606 - Phil Beloin Jr.

607-609 - Open

610 - Eric Beetner

611 - Chad Eagleton

612-619 - Open

620 - Cindy Rosmus

621 and 622 - Open

623 - Chris Rhatigan

624 - Des Nnochiri

625 - Lee Hughes

626 - Jim Harrington

627-635 - Open

636 - Chris Deal

637 - Michael Moreci

638 and 639 - Open

640 - Naomi Johnson

641-644 - Open

645 - AJ Hayes

646 - Richard Godwin

647 and 648 - Open

649 - Chris Benton

650 - Ian Ayris

651-653 - Open

654 - Kelly Whitley

655 - R.S. Bohn

656-665 - Open

666 - Paul D. Brazill (and Paul promises a spooky noir for this one)

667 - Nigel Bird

668 and 669 - Open

670 - Lee Hughes

671-674 - Open

675 - Michael J. Solender

676-679 - Open

680 and 681 - Matthew McBride

682-684 - Open

685 - Chris Deal

686-689 - Open

690 - B.R. Stateham

691 - Open

692 - Des Nnochiri

693 - Jarrett Rush

694 - Chad Eagleton

695 - Phil Beloin Jr.

696 - Cameron Ashley

697 - Ian Ayris

698 - Eric Beetner

699 - Keith Rawson

700 - Jimmy Callaway

If your name doesn’t appear here, it may very soon. I’ve got a list a mile long of people that I want contact in the next couple of weeks.

A Twist Of Noir 564 - Jim Harrington


Originally published in February 2010 at The Legendary

Goldilocks. That maggot. Where is he? Probably bare-assed screwing Cinnamon. She’s a damned gluttonous piranha. Shouldn’t have brought her this time. Doesn’t realize friendship is stronger than pussy. Don’t know what to do now. Cops are outside, guns drawn. Goldilocks is the lookout. Bull-horned voice roars. Don’t shoot. Screwed.

BIO: Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His Six Questions For... blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” In his spare time, he serves as the flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 563 - Nigel Bird


Originally published in the recently released anthology Caught By Darkness (Static Movement, 2010)

“Girl like you’s the kind I roll the red carpet out for.” Her tongue fell from her mouth and rippled from side to side. “If you know what I mean.”

It was a red carpet all right. Furry and stained with wine. Wouldn’t have done a thing for me if it hadn’t been for the silver stud. Way it rattled against her teeth made me tighten my thighs.

“How long you been propping up the bar?” I asked. She certainly carried the weight to support the thing if it ever came loose.

“Who in hell’s counting?”

Been a long time since I went into a place like this. Roger doesn’t like me going out without him.

Fuck Roger. He’s out on the piss every night expecting me to sit the kids.

Enough is enough, I decided. Phoned Arlene. Got her to send Scarlett over to watch them. Twenty bucks to play movies and eat chocolate, I sure wasn’t going to be feeling bad about it.

Scarlett turned up all sweet sixteen and wearing a mini. I might have got it out of my head if it hadn’t been for the perfume and the way her breasts came out and spoke to me. “Just a little stroke,” they said. “Nothing wrong in that.”

That’s when I changed my mind about where I was going. Ended up in ‘Sheena’s Place’ ready for some kind of action.

“Wanna drink?” the lady asked.

“You sure you need one?”

The stool slipped a little as she bent towards me. I put my hands on her arm to steady her. She may have looked tough as walnuts but she felt soft as apple-blossom.

“Hell you getting at?” Her eyes widened for a moment, then closed back up.

“Just that maybe you need hydration.”

The lady called over to the bartender. “Two Tequila Sunrises, heavy on the orange.” Then she turned to me. “Happy?”

“Yeah, I’m happy,” I told her, then called over to the bartender myself.

“With two double T’s on the side.”

I don’t know if it was the salt that got her or the lime. Whatever it was, soon as she got the T down, her neck her cheeks tuned grey and her head fell onto the chrome.

She stood up, steadied herself and gave me a little peck on the cheek. “’Scuse me, darling. I may be requiring the ladies’ room.” She wandered off with a stagger that was all foxtrot. “Keep that seat warm, honey,” she told me.

And I did. For the first hour. After that, I moved on. Check what was happening at ‘Al’s’.

Couldn’t say what time I got back. It was late is all I know.

Scarlett was still there, and I mean all there.

By the looks of things, it hadn’t just been the chocolate she helped herself to.

She was dancing barefoot in the middle of the room, her stockings curled up tight on the sofa alongside a couple of empty beer cans.

“These records are amazing.” She smiled at me like I was her fairy godmother.

“I’m surprised you knew how to put the things on, girl your age.”

She stretched out her arms to beckon me over. The way her hair was swinging I wasn’t about to say no. A dance was just what I needed.

“Dad has a heap of them in the garage. Lets me take ‘em out sometimes.”

“My dad was the same. These are his. Pure fucking originals.”

The girl had taste. “Gene Vincent. ‘Race With The Devil’. 1956, Capitol Records. Flipside, ‘Gonna’ Back Up Baby’.”

“Colour of the label, Marroon.” She already had my body. When she said that, that’s when she took my breath.

I hit that floor like I was seventeen again, which wasn’t so long ago if I think about it.

How I loved to hear the old music.

Roger’s all for selling the stuff. Says he’ll rent us a bigger apartment with a garden.

Stuff the garden. Can’t let loose with a lawn-mower.

Next record she chose was a slowy. Little Anthony and the Cleopatras. You could here the static all the way through as the needle scraped its way around. I didn’t care how shit the sound was, just how good it made me feel.

She came in real close, rubbed her body into mine. I rubbed back. ‘Tears on My Pillow’ we sang.

Last I remember we was kissing and my hands were inside that beautiful summer dress of hers.

When I woke up, it took me a while to remember where I was. Who I was, even.

Didn’t take long to figure out.

Roger was shouting something over me.

I didn’t hear a word. All my ears were picking up was the loop from the record player.

The needle had caught. “Spo-dee-oh-dee,” was all it said, over and over again.

Always loved Sticks McGhee.

Roger was getting redder and redder. Picked up a glass and smashed it into the wall.

I noticed that all I was wearing was my watch. Maybe that’s what got him so riled.

Never minded him breaking things before, but it was different when he went for my nose. It crunched under his fist like he was using a pestle and mortar.

Took a while for the pain to go. I could feel my eyes watering and my cartilage move back to place.

Didn’t look to me like he was finished.

I reached for the neck of the wine bottle and took hold. When he came back for more, I slugged him right across the head.

Fell down like he’d been practising all his life.

I went upstairs, picked up Tim and Anne-Marie and juggled with them as I opened the front door.

The cold air sobered me up a little. Made me think about what I was doing.

I went back into the den, stuffed my bag with as many singles as would fit and headed into the night.

BIO: Nigel Bird is a Support For Learning teacher in a primary school near Edinburgh. Co-Producer of the Rue Bella magazine between 1998 and 2003, he has recently had work published by ‘The Reader’ and ‘Crimespree’ and was interviewed by Spinetingler for their ‘Conversations With The Bookless’ series earlier this year. He recently won the ‘Watery Grave Invitational’ contest over at ‘The Drowning Machine’ and will have work published in Needle and in Dark Valentine Magazine this summer. He hopes to complete a draft of his first novel by the end of 2010.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 562 - Hilary Davidson


Originally published in the March/April 2009 issue (Issue #29) of CrimeSpree Magazine

“Open your eyes now,” Gary said, staring at his girlfriend’s face beside his in the hallway mirror. Mila’s plump pink mouth twitched before she opened her eyes. Gary watched as her gaze trailed down to her breastbone, where a pendant of white gold hung from a delicate chain.

“Look, it twinkles in the light,” he said. His broad hands were on her shoulders and he moved her forward and back, gently, grinning at her all the while. “Diamonds.”

“Diamonds,” Mila repeated, staring at the necklace.

“Don’t you think it’s beautiful? Not beautiful like you are, but hell. Nothing’s that beautiful.” He leaned in and kissed the fine blonde hair at her temple. “C’mon, Mila, say you like it, okay?”

“I like it okay.” She avoided his eyes.

“Look at this, you can make the chain longer.” He unhooked the lobster clasp with his squared-off fingertips and moved it along a few links. Mila was wearing a plain black T-shirt, but Gary pictured the pendant swinging into her cleavage. “You look so hot, baby,” he said, putting his arms around her and nuzzling her neck.

“Not... not in the mood. Not tonight, Gary,” she said, pulling away. Her English wasn’t so good, but that was one phrase she’d learned. It seemed to Gary that she was going to repeat it every time she saw him now.

“That’s okay, Mila baby,” he said, keeping up his smile. He let go of her and watched her walk back into the kitchen. She’d been unloading the dishwasher when he’d walked into the apartment, and she went back to it. Ten o’clock on a Friday night, and there she was, playing with her favorite appliance. It had to be some weird Soviet thing, Gary figured. Mila had told him, not long after they’d met, when she was growing up in Kubinka she’d dreamed about one day living in the West and having a dishwasher.

One dream come true, he figured. If only he could figure out what the hell else she wanted.

“You have dinner?” Mila asked.

“I grabbed some food with the guys,” Gary said, leaning against the doorframe and folding his arms. “We went to Bolduc.”

“Poutine place,” said Mila, making a disgusted noise.

“In Montreal, everywhere’s a poutine place,” Gary pointed out. He thought about adding that French fries covered in cheese and gravy was a hell of an improvement over the starchy Russian crap Mila cooked up, but he stifled the impulse.

She shrugged, picked up a glass and held it up in front of the light over the kitchen table. She put it down, and picked up another one, studying it.

“Works like magic, you know. Presto, magico!” said Gary.

Mila looked over at him.


“The dishwasher. Presto, like… one, two, three, presto.” He shook his head. His hair was getting too long and he could feel it falling into his eyes. He brushed it back with one hand. “Never mind.”

She gave him a withering look with cold blue eyes that would have chilled Vladimir Putin’s heart and went back to her glassware.

“How’s Tatiana?” Gary asked.

“Okay.” There was a long pause. “You want to see baby?”

“You bet I do,” he said.

“Baby asleep,” said Mila, pulling another glass close for inspection. “Go see.”

Gary walked down the hallway to the pink door, easing it open. By the glow of the night-light, he could make out Tatiana in her crib, curled up in her fuzzy sleepers. When he’d found out that he and Mila were having a baby, he’d gone a little crazy. Maybe a whole lot crazy but hell, he’d been turning 39 and his mother had died of cancer the year before and he’d started to think of himself as an orphan. He couldn’t tell anyone, but he’d been kind of depressed. Then Mila had gotten pregnant and Gary had pulled himself together. He’d bought toys and Dr. Seuss books and a bunch of those DVDs that were supposed to make babies into geniuses. Then, when the ultrasound showed the baby was a girl, Gary had painted the walls, ceiling and doors of the baby’s room pink. He’d installed an ivory carpet covered in pink and red hearts, and he’d refinished the furniture himself. He’d do anything for his baby girl.

“Ta-ti-ahh-na,” he whispered, tiptoeing into the room. He loved his daughter’s name, the way his tongue bounced over the syllables. “Daddy’s here.” She was four months now and smiling all the time, his precious girl, even in her sleep.

“Got a present for you, baby girl.” He unlocked the side of the crib and rolled it down, leaning forward to kiss her fluffy blonde head. He pulled a shiny bangle out of the pocket of his leather jacket and set it beside her.

“What you do?” hissed Mila. She’d snuck up behind him, her steps silent on the carpet. “What that?” She snatched the bracelet and held it up accusingly.

“It’s for Tatiana. You know she loves shiny stuff.” Gary smiled at Mila, but her mouth pulled into a grim line.

“This? This not for baby!” said Mila, her voice edging from a harsh whisper to a shout. “Baby choke on this!”

“For crying out loud, Mila. It’s too big for her to get into her mouth. She’s not gonna choke on it.”

Mila glared at him, her blue eyes narrowed to slits. As if on cue, Tatiana woke up crying. Gary picked her up and cradled her against his chest. “Sorry, sweetheart, Daddy didn’t mean to wake you up.” He jiggled her up and down a little – Tatiana usually loved that – but tonight she kept on crying. Mila glared at him and put her arms out. Gary handed his daughter over reluctantly.

“Hungry baby,” said Mila, sitting in an overstuffed armchair next to the small window. She pulled up her t-shirt and unlatched her nursing bra in one practiced motion. Gary caught sight of her nipple for a split second before the baby latched on. It was the most action he’d had in months. Mila gazed down at Tatiana, cooing at her in Russian. It would have been a nice scene, Gary thought, if he hadn’t been so completely excluded from it. He’d found the chair on a sidewalk while he was driving through Westmount one night, and he’d fixed it up so nice anyone would’ve thought it came from one of those snooty antique dealers up on Notre Dame Street. Mila had given him as much thanks for that as she had for everything else. Exactly none.

“You want me to go?” he asked, trying to keep his voice quiet.

Mila nodded. Gary went over to her, kneeling on the floor to kiss Tatiana’s soft hair. He breathed in the scent of her, so sweet and clean. He’d never pictured himself as a father, but now that he had this precious little girl to take care of, he couldn’t imagine his life without her.

He leaned forward to kiss Mila, too, but she turned her mouth away, so that his lips grazed her cheek. “Good night,” she said, as coldly and formally as if she were the Czarina and he were a peasant crawling around a Ptotemkin village. You’d never know that they’d been together for almost two years, Gary thought bitterly. You’d never know they had a child together.

“Guess I’ll let myself out,” he said. “I’ll be away a couple days. You need any cash?”

Mila nodded, not looking at him. Gary counted out a small bundle of bills, added a couple more for good measure. He could see Mila counting along with him out of the corner of her eye. Had some talents, that woman did.

“Enough?” Gary asked, setting the money on the broad arm of the armchair. Mila nodded, glanced at him and back down at the baby, who was the picture of peace now. It calmed him down, at least a little, seeing his sweet girl like that. He backed out of the room, his eyes on her.

“Take this,” said Mila, grabbing the pendant and pulling the chain over her head. She held it out to him.

“That was a gift,” Gary said, his mouth dry.

“Take back,” said Mila.

“C’mon, Mila. I got it for you.”

“Where you get from?”

“What... what the hell does that matter?” He was losing it now, and he jammed his fists into the pockets of his jacket. The fingers of his right hand struck the cold metal of the switchblade handle, and he stifled his impulse to swear. Tatiana, like a barometer of pressure within the room, unlatched from her mother’s breast and started to wail. Mila dropped the necklace on the carpet and started cooing at the baby again.

“Stop gibbering at her in Russian,” Gary snapped. Mila ignored him. The baby cried louder. Gary retreated from the room, his pace increasing as he headed to the front door. It took all his willpower not to slam it behind him. Instead he shut it carefully, making sure it latched and then locking it with his key. He didn’t want someone breaking into the apartment, and that dumb bitch Mila probably wouldn’t bother to check it. He wasn’t going to let anyone hurt his little girl.

He stormed down the stairs, his eyes on the plaster walls that had been pockmarked by the occasional fist. Gary was ready to add to the damage, but he heard a door creak open. “It’s okay, Mrs. Revuelta, it’s just me,” he called out.

“Gary, you’re not leaving already.” He could make out the outline of her, resting on her cane. The apartments in the old building were ringed around a staircase, four to a floor, making privacy a scarce commodity.

“Got a job driving a busload of tourists up to Quebec City tomorrow. Early start, you know.”

“Oh, Gary. You drive a cab all week and then a bus on the weekend.” She shook her grey head. “You work so hard, you really do. I hope Mila appreciates you.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Revuelta. How’ve you been?”

He zoned out while she answered. She could go on at length about her arthritis and her diverticulitis and all kinds of other crap he didn’t want to hear. He was fond of the old lady, though. How many times had he come over and found her watching Tatiana while Mila was jabbering on the phone to her sister in Minsk?

“Gary, I said did you want any cake? I was baking for my Amy, but that lazy bag of bones that’s supposed to be my son didn’t bring her by. No call, nothing.” Her voice quavered.

“That’s terrible. I’m real sorry to hear that, Mrs. Revuelta. Can’t believe he’d do that to you, and to your granddaughter.”

“I know. Do you want some coffee?”

“Wish I could. Got that early start tomorrow, though,” Gary said.

“Well, let me wrap up some cake for you. It’s chocolate fudge, your favorite.”

Gary followed her into her apartment. A television with wire bunny ears played silently. The sofa was covered with heavy plastic that looked like nothing so much as a giant condom stretched over the delicate wooden frame. A carved wooden crucifix hung on one wall between photographs of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul the Second. It was all depressingly familiar to Gary, not unlike his mother’s apartment before she moved into the hospice to die. Gary felt sorry for the old lady, widowed by her husband and ignored by her only son. He’d never done anything like that to his mother. It wasn’t fair that she wasn’t around, that she never got to meet her granddaughter.

“It’s such a shame, you having to work so hard,” called Mrs. Revuelta from the kitchen. “Just like my Peter when we got married. Tatiana must miss you. You and Mila should get married. That’d be good for the baby, good for everybody.”

“Yeah,” said Gary. He never told Mrs. Revuelta about the time he’d tried to propose to Mila, and how badly that had ended. Love conquers everything but the heart of a villain, he thought. The inscription on the ring he’d tried to give Mila hadn’t made much sense at the time, but in hindsight it seemed like some sort of sign.

“Mila’s a nice girl,” said Mrs. Revuelta, coming out of the kitchen with a big plastic bag.

“I guess.” Gary looked at the carpet. “She’s always giving me such a hard time. Maybe she’d be happier with someone else.”

“Gary! Don’t think that for a second. If she were even thinking about anyone else, I’d know. There’s nothing that goes on in this building that I don’t know about.” She handed him the bag and smiled. “She’s just depressed. Hormones. Happens to plenty of girls after the baby comes. Oprah’s done shows about it.” She nodded to herself as if that were the last word on the matter. “Any girl would consider herself lucky to have you, Gary. Look at you, always taking care of people. You bought me flowers on Mother’s Day, and those gold earrings you gave me… my own son has never done the like of that.” She patted his arm with her gnarled fingers.

“C’mon, you’re gonna make me blush, you keep that up,” said Gary, feeling awkwardly pleased. “You need me to do anything before I go?”

There were little jobs he sometimes did for her, like changing lightbulbs or fixing the tap in the kitchen. Tonight she shook her head. “You just go on home, Gary. You get some rest.”

He left her apartment with a lighter heart. Fighting with Mila made every nerve ending in his body crackle, stirred him up so that he was popping with chaotic energy. He’d gotten into bar fights after some of their bouts, and he was just lucky that he hadn’t been arrested. Talking with Mrs. Revuelta calmed him down, made him see sense. He went to the parking lot behind the building and got into his taxi, setting the cake on the seat next to him. It was a rainy night and he thought about heading back to his apartment, getting a solid night’s sleep before the tour bus job. But then he thought about Tatiana and Mila and he drove downtown instead.

Mrs. Revuelta was right, he thought. It was wrong that he and Mila weren’t married. Hell, they weren’t even living together. How could that be good for Tatiana? He’d been toying with the idea of moving away from Montreal, just getting out of Quebec altogether. He’d grown up in the city and barely spoke a word of French, how funny was that? But that had been easy to do back when he was a kid. Now, with French fascists calling the shots, you couldn’t even put up a sign in English anymore. A high school dropout like him had nothing in the way of job prospects. He’d hurt his back doing construction and had burned out of a dead-end telemarketing job. Driving a cab was about all he was good for these days. He could barely read the damn French street signs, but he knew the winding city streets like the curves of a longtime lover, and that got him by.

He cruised along the dark, narrow pathways of Old Montreal, near the port, picking up a couple of tourist fares in the rain. He eyed a couple of girls who tumbled into his cab, but noticed one of them was wearing a cross. Bad karma, he thought, at the same time imagining how great a cross would look around Mila’s pale, slender neck. He dropped the girls off at their hotel, really just a small bed-and-breakfast on Stanley Street, near McGill, and kept his cab light off as he headed in the direction of Mont Royal. Gary could make out the cross at the top of the mountain, the lights on it shimmering like so many diamonds in the rain. He drove around the mountain – people kept insisting it was a hill these days, but when Gary was growing up everyone called it a mountain – and headed north, to Outremont. There were some nice restaurants and cafés here along Laurier and Bernard streets, but Gary only turned his taxi light on after he reached the residential district. He drove slowly, scanning the hulking houses for signs of life. He stopped in front of one and watched the gate expectantly. It was after one in the morning now and, sure enough, a couple appeared as if on cue. The woman pointed to the car and the man strode towards it, opening the door to the backseat and letting the woman slide in. The man got in and said something in rapid French.

“Repetez-vous?” Gary said slowly.

“You only speak English?” said the man, following up with something to the woman in French that made her laugh. Speaking very slowly, as if to a stupid child or perhaps a baboon, the man gave him an address. “You think you can find that?” he added.

“Bien sur,” said Gary. “House or apartment?”

“House,” sniffed the man, rolling his eyes and settling back into his seat. His companion giggled and whispered in his ear.

Gary kept an eye on them in the rearview mirror as he drove. Another cabbie had alerted him to the existence of private swingers clubs a while back, telling Gary that they were a goldmine. Captive audience, he’d said, adding that they usually tipped real well. The other cabbie seemed to think that it was a big deal to have half-undressed women occasionally flash their tits at him from the backseat. Lots of them are on Ecstacy or something, the cabbie had told Gary. I bet they’d bang me, too, if they’re in the mood. Gary figured the guy was probably working on a letter to Penthouse by now. Whatever this particular couple was on, it made them ignore Gary. They whispered to each other, the man’s hand disappearing up her skirt.

“You have kids?” asked Gary.

“What?” said the man.

“Kids. Les enfants.”

“No,” said the man, sounding disgusted. He said something to the woman that must have been very funny, because her red mouth opened in a long peal of laughter. Teeth like pearls, thought Gary, wondering if she was wearing any jewelry under her trenchcoat.

When he got to the address, he pulled into the driveway of the house. It was a two-story Tudor-style, big but nothing like the mansion they’d come from. “There you go,” said Gary. “Close as I can get you in this rain.”

“Bien sur,” said the man. For some reason Gary couldn’t figure, the woman laughed again. The man passed a couple of bills to Gary and opened the door. The woman followed him out, took his arm, and went to the front door.

All that and he’s a lousy tipper, Gary thought, unlatching his seatbelt and turning the engine off. He opened the glove compartment, tossing the cash in and pulling out a pair of latex gloves that he immediately put on. He got out of the cab as soon as the front door of the house was open. The woman was already inside, but the man turned back in the doorway.

“Would you mind if I use your phone?” asked Gary. “Mine is…” He pulled his right hand out of his pocket, snapping the switchblade open and slicing the man’s neck in one smooth motion. The man dropped to the floor, his legs sticking out the doorway. “Thanks,” said Gary. “That’s really great.” He reached down and pulled the man’s wallet out of his pocket, stuffing it into his jacket. He kicked the body into the foyer and locked the door behind him.

There was a keypad for a security system on the wall next to the door. So much for that, thought Gary. He heard the woman’s voice call out from upstairs. Gary listened for anyone to answer her, but when no one did, he headed up the stairs. The woman called out again. Gary followed her voice into the master bedroom. She was sitting on the bed, stripped down to red bra and panties, and when she saw Gary, she screamed “Violeur!” and made a run for the bathroom. Gary grabbed her by her long black hair and brought the knife up again, cutting her throat.

“C’mon, no one’s raping you,” he said as her eyes rolled back and stared up at him. He let her drop onto the white carpet, her head hitting with a soft thud. Gary stood back so that the spurting blood wouldn’t hit him. He’d done a better job on the man, he knew. Now he noticed that the woman was wearing a beautiful pearl necklace. He thought about taking it, even with all of the blood on it, but he wondered if it was the kind of thing you could really clean. When he’d proposed to Mila, he’d given her a beautiful diamond ring that had been too big for her hand. Words, what mean? she’d said, and it had taken Gary a while to realize the ring had an inscription. Amour vaint tout fors ceur de villain. It didn’t even look like real French to Gary. Mila had run her finger over the words and then had stared at her finger and screamed. She’d gotten so upset that he’d been terrified for the baby in her womb, just six months along then. Afterwards, Gary realized that a tiny trickle of – well, it looked like rust, really – but that there was a stain on the ring. That had made him feel like hell, it really did. Afterwards he’d bought some liquid jewelry cleanser, because that wasn’t going to happen again. He was just glad that his mother’s eyesight had never been too good, especially towards the end.

Gary wiped the knife blade with tissues from the bedside table, then turned his attention to the dresser, where a red leather jewelry box lay open. The stuff this woman had, she could have opened her own store. There was too much for his pockets. He noticed a handle on the side and shut the case. He grabbed the woman’s wallet from her purse and put it into his jacket, and stepped over her body. He headed downstairs and found a newish laptop computer in the kitchen and scooped it up. He unlocked the front door, kicked the man’s body as he stepped over it, and shut the door behind him.

It was only later, when he got back to his apartment and was snacking on Mrs. Revuelta’s cake, that he got a good look inside the jewelry case. He was sorting out which pieces to bring to Quebec City, where a buddy of his would take them off his hands.

Guy knew more about jewelry than anybody he’d ever met. He’d even been able to puzzle out that weird inscription on the diamond ring. Medieval French, he’d told Gary. Love conquers everything but the heart of a villain. True words, Gary thought, checking the jewelry for inscriptions and finding none. Inside the bottom drawer of the case he found a tarnished silver pendant. It was a cross, but with two additional short crossbeams, one near the top and one near the bottom. He held it in the palm of his hand, thinking of how he’d seen Mila’s friend Svetlana wearing exactly the same kind of pendant. An Orthodox cross, she’d called it. It was perfect for Mila, he realized, seized suddenly by hope. He couldn’t wait to get over to her place on Sunday night, to give it to her and watch her eyes light up. It was a sign, he thought. Now he just needed to get one for Tatiana, too.

BIO: Hilary’s debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, has been called a “razor sharp mystery debut” by Publishers Weekly and “Hitchcock writing for the hip Manhattan set” by Ken Bruen. The book will be published by Forge on September 28, 2010. Hilary will be at Bouchercon and Noircon this fall, and her book tour will take her to cities including Houston, Scottsdale, Los Angeles, Toronto, Boston and Pittsburgh; for dates, please visit Hilary Davidson.

A Twist Of Noir 561 - Chris Deal


The old man swung on the wind not twenty feet into the forest, the rope creaking with his weight as the woods prepared for the night. He had been there for a while, long enough for clumps of hair to have fallen from the dome of the skull, leaving odd patches on the molting, blotted skin. His flesh had started to slip, especially around the noose. The flies and ants had gotten to his eyes and were starting on his tongue, a thick muscle hanging limp from his lips. His shirt had been tucked in but with the pressure from the rope, his waist was exposed, displaying some red and green streaks along the veins where his blood was breaking down. If he didn’t have any shoes on, the discoloration would be worse on his feet, as would the swelling. His left foot was hanging back on the log he had used for leverage. The fall hadn’t been enough to snap his neck. He’d had to wait for suffocation, and had tried to take things back in his last minutes.

He wasn’t even ten days out from the deed, I’d say. Within a week, his chest would rupture from the gases. If his body held out for another two weeks, he’d start to mummify there in the quiet darkness of the trees.

I took the log from below his foot, adjusted it, and stepped up. That close to him, his face swaying near to mine, the smell of him was sickening, heavy with decay and waste. With the weight of his body pulling tight, my blade split the rope quickly, all but cutting the very atoms apart. He fell into a heap on the ground, his head cracking against the base of the tree he had been hanging from.

It felt wrong to go through his pockets. Even if he was still above ground, it was still grave robbing, but as I took his wallet from his back pocket, I knew he didn’t need it anymore. I did. A couple twenties and credit cards with the name Benjamin. They would still be good. His watch was worthless, a cheap plastic imitation of wealth, and I left it on his wrist. He had a set of keys but his car had probably been towed, so that was worthless.

They came from all over to this forest, like it was something romantic to die here. They called it the Sea of Trees, a great forest that stretched along the belly of the mountain, hugging close to the small lake. Every year they found dozens of bodies, some fresh, the rest forgotten in the dark. There were caverns hidden throughout, some known, explored, and others void of the touch of man. The old folk said that ghouls stayed in the deep, coming out only at night for their feasts of the dead. As a boy, my grandmother told me they left the old and infirm to die in the silence of the wood, that some nights specters could be seen wandering in the hell of their deeds, the growth so thick that not even angels or demons could claim them.

Pocketing the money, I put the wallet back and set about pulling him back from the base of the tree, leaving him to be found with some respect before I went deeper into the forest.

Except for the corpses, the woods were untouched by man. Old growth towered, blocking out the sun and wind. Despite the Spring, there was no sign of bird or animal, save the insects attracted by the bodies.

I found the next one fifty feet in. It was a woman, but she was so far gone I couldn’t tell her age or what she would have looked like in life. Her sundress was stained with dirt and putrefaction. She was sitting with her back to a tree, a pill bottle still grasped in the bones and muscles that had been her hand. She’d been there for a month at least. She had no pockets or purse, simply a note stuck to her breast. I reached for the slip of paper but stopped before my fingers touched it. It was none of my business why she did what she did.

When I found the third body, it was too late. He was my age, if that. The face still recognizable but he was deep in rigor. As I dug into his pockets, I glanced through the branches to the sky and saw the sun was gone and that night was upon me. Something blind and irrational came over me until I made myself remember I was still close to the edge of the forest. Two hundred steps at the most and I would be back to my car, on my way to buy the evening’s meal with Benjamin’s money. The young man’s wallet was still there, with nothing but his ID inside. Martin.

The last time I’d made the trek, I found an old man with a chest pocked with knife wounds, the blade secure in his hand. He had over a thousand dollars on him and a watch I hocked for twice that. This time, the hunt was barely worth it.

I tossed his wallet onto the ground beside Martin and went back the way I came. The dark had become something tangible, a flood of blackness. Two steps and I tripped over a root. Walking faster, I kept falling. Three hundred paces and the forest gave no sign of letting me go. I turned and ran, stumbling over rocks and bodies, each fall getting me more mixed up. Drowning in the irrational, with every foot I gained, I was more lost. I made a sound like an animal and it was absorbed by the thick nothing of the forest. Not even an echo came back to me. My muscles ached but I kept running, not even in a straight line, zigzagging until my foot found no ground, and the forest swallowed me whole.

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 560 - Steven Gulvezan


Late that night, Leon Tufts, the muted cornet player, slowly lifted his old bones off the hard bunk and quietly traversed the short distance between himself and his cellmate. Leon’s cellmate was fast asleep, the moonlight from the high-barred window, street level, painting white stripes across his face. Leon’s face, tears rolling into the crevices between his eyes and his chin, was hidden in blackness.

Earlier that evening, when Leon was sitting on his bunk holding his pounding head in his hands, the deputy had noisily brought a new inmate down the stairs and into the basement lockup.

“John-Ray,” the deputy said to the new arrival, “if you don’t leave off using that little girl for a punching bag – and the child, too – you’re going to end up doing serious jail time. This is the third time she’s called us, and your Uncle Bobby cannot protect you forever.”

The deputy had his hand on John-Ray’s arm and John-Ray pulled it fiercely away.

“Listen, don’t you tell me what to do. I assure you this will be the last time she calls you. I told that little bitch if she ever dared do that again, I would...”

“Get in the cell,” the deputy said. When John-Ray just stood and looked at him, the deputy said, “Get in there!”

John-Ray smiled at the deputy. “I told Faye that the next time she called the police, I would learn my lesson and become a reformed man. And I would give her and that screaming bastard she insists is my child a gift, a token of my esteem, to show how highly I regard them.”

John-Ray sauntered into the cell. The deputy slammed the cell door behind him.

“Maybe there’s a reason you’re so worried about Faye. Maybe that baby is yours, Byron. He looks just like you.”

“Sober up,” the deputy said, and turned to go upstairs.

“Don’t you forget to answer the telephone when Uncle Bobby calls,” John-Ray said. When he noticed Leon sitting there on his bunk in the far corner of the cell, he shouted after the deputy, “Byron, what the fuck are you doing putting me in with one of these for? Trying to teach me a lesson, are you? Well, fuck you.” John-Ray snapped around and glared at Leon and said, “What are you looking at, old man?” Leon, his elbows on his knees, coldly returned John-Ray’s glare, but did not speak.

“Put me in with a fucking wino,” John-Ray kicked at the wall and scuffed his boot. “Damn,” he said, putting his foot up on his bunk and looking at the scuffed leather. “See these, old man, genuine alligator, and that’s real hand-carved lettering on the toes—my family insignia. If you’re lucky, I may let you apply your trade and give them a spit-shine before the night is over.”

The only movement Leon made was to shift his big hands to his knees and move his weight slightly forward, as if he was ready to spring off the bunk at any given moment. His eyes shone hard white in the gloom at the back of the cell.

“Fuck you,” John-Ray said, and making a fist, tapped the bars in a small rhythm.

And so it was until, both men settled uneasily onto their bunks for the night, John-Ray said, “Quit farting, you old bastard,” and closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Leon, sobering up fast, lay there and thought about his hands. They were still limber enough to work the keys of his cornet, but the arthritis was settling in and the day – not that far off – would arrive when he could no longer perform to his own standards. That would be one goddamned day – when he could no longer do the one thing on this Earth that he was good at. That was one reason he’d taken to the liquor. With his personal life having taken the turn it had, he didn’t see anything for himself in this world without the cornet playing. He wished he could think of a way for a man such as him – a man who had tried to live by certain principles and who had a certain standing in the world of music – to make a graceful exit.

As Leon lay there, flexing the stiff joints of his fingers, he pondered whether working the keys with his right hand instead of his left hand would make any difference. So far, he’d decided against the notion. Though he was naturally right-handed, he had always used his left hand on the keys because he was slower with the left hand and he felt it gave him more time to blow emotion rather than speed through the horn. Now, emotion was all he had left. And he didn’t lean towards changing his technique at this late stage in his career.

Leon looked up at the barred window. There was a tiny hint of breeze, free air, wafting into the cell, and also the moonlight. Somewhere out there, far away, were also his sweet wife, Marie, and his son, Leon Junior.

Leon saw a picture in his mind...from when? Thirty years ago? It was a picture of a night very much like this night, only under very different circumstances. He tried to push it out of his mind, because it hurt too much, but could not. On a hot summer night, in a bungalow that Leon had purchased with money earned touring with the great Mercer Ellington, Leon saw a youthful Marie sitting in the rocking chair by the window in the moonlight, cuddling Leon Junior upon her bosom and singing softly to the infant child. Oh, it was a beautiful sight! Leon was lying on the soft bed, pretending to be asleep, trying not to breathe because he did not want to unsettle to the slightest degree the absolute perfection of the beautiful mother and child tableau.

Leon remembered the softness he felt in his heart when he had observed this scene and had realized, perhaps for the first time in his life, that the world of human beings outside of making music – at least for moments, precious moments – could be transformed into a place as tender as a sad blue melody blown gently by Coleman Hawkins in a club at 4 A.M. after everybody but the musicians has gone home.

Now, Marie and Leon Junior were forever departed. Leon tried not to think about their departure, tried not to dwell on the cruel ways he had sometimes treated them both, but found it difficult not to think about these things and also not to hate himself for doing some of the things in his life which he had done.

Leon heard John-Ray softly snoring across the cell. He turned his head in John-Ray’s direction, and recalled the conversation between John-Ray and the deputy upon the occasion of John-Ray’s admittance to the cell. When John-Ray was released, Leon considered, it would be a dark day for the unfortunate young woman he would return to, and also for her innocent child.

Leon looked across the cell, and hated John-Ray, and decided that, as soon as the little jail had settled in nice and quiet for the long night, he would initiate a gesture that might possibly bring him a sort of redemption.

Now, in the shadow of the moonlight, Leon looked at John-Ray’s sleeping face—John-Ray, sleeping peacefully as a child.

Leon placed the strong cornet-player’s fingers of his left-hand above John-Ray’s throat and, with a sudden downward clench, caught the man in a sound-stifling grip.

John-Ray’s startled eyes opened and he tried to speak but, finding himself unable to do so, he choked on his fear and stared wildly at the grizzled face of Leon Tufts.

Leon ground his strong fingers into John-Ray’s throat. He peered into John-Ray’s eyes. “You are a fool,” Leon whispered to John-Ray, “an absolute, total fool. You are the destroyer of innocence, the crusher of hopes and dreams. I had a wife and child, once, but they are gone and I will never feel the warmth of their lives again.”

John-Ray tried to kick free, tried to get his hands up into Leon’s face, but Leon, now using both hands, had his hard thumbs pressed deeply into John-Ray’s windpipe.

“I will kill you with my hands, but that is too easy for a pissant woman and child beater like you,” Leon said to John-Ray. “I wish they hadn’t confiscated my instrument. I would prefer to take you out in the musical fashion and shove my muted cornet down your throat.”

BIO: Born in Detroit, Steven Gulvezan has worked as a journalist and a librarian. His writing has or will appear in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Scythe, Red Fez, Heavy Bear, Gutter Eloquence, The Absent Willow Review, and many other literary publications.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 559 - Ian Ayris


‘Drinngg, drinngg. Drinngg, drinngg.’

That’s me phone. Always let it ring three times before I pick it up. It’s like not steppin on the cracks in the pavement or walkin under ladders. Black cats and all that shit.

‘Drinngg, drinngg.’

There we go. And then I count to three. Don’t say nothing. Gives me the upper hand, see, if it’s a punter. Gets ’em right on edge from the start. If it’s me mum, just pisses her off and she gives me a right ear-bashin, but more often than not, it’s a punter.

‘Er... Mr. Splinters? Charlie Splinters?’

One. Two. Three. It’s a geezer’s voice. And he sounds just like when you’re up in front of the school gettin caned by the headmaster or when you’re doin a tonne down the motorway. Or when you’ve just beat a man to death with your bare hands. Fear and panic all runnin round inside but all you wanna do is laugh your fuckin head off.

‘Yes,’ I says.

Geezer breathes hard, like he’s blowin all the fear back out.

‘Mr. Splinters. I need a favour.’

Cos that’s the business I'm in. 'Favours’. I do anyone a good turn, me. For the right price. And me rates is pretty reasonable. Ain’t got much in the way of letters and education, but I got a head for business, you might say. Undercut every other fucker on the manor, do the job clean and quick, take the money, and see you later. Everyone’s a winner. Other than the poor sod in question, of course, but that’s sort of the point of it, really.

‘Come round to the office,’ I says.

‘You've got an office?’ he says, sort of surprised, which I’ve got a bit of the arse about straight off to tell you the truth, him thinkin I wouldn’t have a place of business, and all that.

‘Yes, I’ve got an office,’ I says to him, a bit fuckin narked. I can tell by how his breathing’s gone he knows he’s done a wrong’un. Won’t be no more of that I can fuckin tell you.

‘The Three Rabbits, half eight, in the snug,’ I says.

All right, it ain’t strictly an office as such, but like I says, it’s me place of business and it does very nicely thank you.

Geezer says he’ll be there, and puts the phone down.

One. Two. Three.

Time for business.


The Rabbits is a shit-hole. I’ll give you that. But that’s part of the beauty of the place. Always quiet. Never no disturbances, or nothing. And in the snug, there’s normally just me and No-Arms Maurice, if his old girl’s let him out. Lost both his arms in a run-in with Harry the Hatchet. Harry’s sister done a bit of waitin tables in a Greasy Spoon on the Old Kent Road, and Maurice took a bit of a fancy to her. Used to slap her arse as she went by his table. No harm meant. Just Harry never see it like that. Called Maurice over to his butchers one night. It was a Friday. I think. Took both his arms off at the shoulder with a fire axe.

Seemed a bit harsh at the time.

But Maurice ain’t here tonight. It’s just me. And this weedy lookin geezer at the bar what’s looked round soon as I’ve come in.

‘Mr. Splinters?’ he says, desperate look on his face.

I mean, I pretty much look the part, but I suppose he’s gotta be sure.

I stare him down. One. Two. Three.

‘Yes,’ I says. And I say, ‘Take a seat, Mr...’

‘Briscoe. Tommy Briscoe.’ And he holds out his sweaty palm for me to shake. Which I do. Business is business, as they say.

We sit in the corner, opposite the door. Standard procedure. And I go through the particulars with him.

Turns out it’s his boss needs doin. Some row about money, or something. Same old shit. I get one of me contracts out me pocket, flatten it out a bit, and hand it over to him. He’s a bit confused, at first. Asks me what it is. I says it’s a contract, you know, between me and him. So things is done proper. He nods, and feels in his pocket for a pen. Pulls out a pencil. See, that’s no good, a pencil. Gotta be black ink, for legal purposes and all that. My mate Terry told me. He went to college and everything. Woodwork, I think, but he knows his stuff with fillin forms and stuff.

I go up to the bar and call round for Eddie.

‘Eddie?’ I says. 'You gotta pen?’

I can see through the other bar Eddie’s servin a punter.

‘Be a minute, Charlie,’ he shouts back.

‘All right, Eddie,’ I says. ‘No problem, mate.’

When Eddie’s sorted me out with a pen, I goes back and gets down to the matter at hand. His name’s Mr Hammond. Not the geezer in front of me, he’s Briscoe, like I said. The geezer what needs sortin, that’s Hammond. Won’t say his first name, just says him as Mr Hammond.

Computers or something, something to do with the buildin trade, that’s what he says he works in, this Bricoe geezer. Says this Hammond’s been stitchin him up with overtime money and stuff. There’s other things, but I start losin the will to fuckin live when punters start goin into their personal shit and that, their reasons, you know. Long and short of it, they want a job done. That’s all it comes down to at the end of the day.

‘So what do you want me to do?’ I says to the geezer.

‘What do you mean?’ he says.

‘Well, you know, it’s all about degrees, ain’t it, mate.’

He nods, like he understands what I’m getting at.

‘I got a price list here, if you wanna gander.’

I get me ‘menu’, as I like to call it, out me other pocket. It’s a bit screwed up and the writing’s a bit smudged where I’ve had me hand in me pocket, but it’ll do.

I hand it over to him. It’s me basic list, but I can get as creative as they want, for the right money, if you know what I mean.

He puts down the contract what he’s been holdin and has a close look at me list. Up and down. Got a face on him like a kid in a sweet shop.

‘What’s this?’ he says, showin me the list, his face all screwed up. ‘Andycappin?’

‘Andycappin. You know, break their legs, feet, toes, whatever you want. Andycappin.’

‘Oh,’ he says. ‘Handycapping.’

‘That’s right,’ I says. ‘Andycappin’. I take me list off him and start reading it out. ‘Andycappin, neecappin, kidnappin.’

I tell him the kidnappin thing ain’t their kids and that. I don’t do none of that shit. I got me morals. I’m dead serious when I say that to him. I ain’t no perv or nothing.

‘They’re me Level Ones,’ I says. ‘Then it’s up a level to your basic shootin and your stabbin.’

I look dead in his eyes. Hold him there.

‘So, what’ll it be?’ I says.

He’s gone all quiet. He’s thinkin hard on whether he really wants what he thinks he wants. They all go like this when I show em the list. I ain’t got no truck with timewasters, see, so I lay it on pretty thick at this stage.

But, to his credit, he comes up smilin.

‘I want him gone, Mr. Splinters. Taken out. I’m prepared to pay whatever it takes.’

That’s what I like to hear.

I nudge the contract across the table towards him.

‘Have a read of that, and sign at the bottom, please, mate.’

He gives it a quick once-over and asks me for the pen.

‘Don’t you wanna read the small print, you know, acquaint yourself with all the particulars?’ I says.

And he don’t. He takes the pen and he signs and he shakes me hand and he’s off.

Never even read the small print.


Briscoe tipped me off this Hammond geezer worked late at the office on a Thursday. In the industrial park on the outside of town. So here I am. Behind a stack of pallets. Waitin. All blacked up, I am. Not like Al Jolson or nothing, I mean, just me clothes. The only light’s from the office, so when that goes out it’ll be dark as fuck out here.

I got me shooter down the front of me trousers. Don’t even know what it is, you know, the make or nothing. Never been interested. Got it second-hand off Twinkles MacKenzie from the bookies. I never give him nothing for it, but I slice him off a wedge whenever it comes into play, like. Got a silencer and everything. Never let me down yet, it hasn’t.

The light in the office goes out. Pitch black. Door opens. Door shuts. Locks up. Here he comes. I wait till he’s just passed before I make me move. Then I jump him. Before he knows it, he’s got his face in the dust and me knee in his back. I pull the shooter out the front of me trousers. Touch it to where the back of his head meets his neck, pointin up a bit.

Phht. Phht. Job done.

I’m just gettin up when I see something move from behind another load of pallets to me left. A shadow in the dark. Comes straight for me, holdin out his hand. That Briscoe bloke. The fuckin idiot. Wanted to see his boss go down in a right load of bullets like off the Westerns. Right made up, he is.

‘Mr. Splinters, this is the happiest day of my life. You’ve no idea how - ’

He’s stopped. Cos I'm pointin the gun in his face. He’s proper shittin it. To be expected, I suppose. Given his situation.

One. Two. Three.

‘Did you not read the small print, Mr Briscoe?’ I says, knowin he knows I know he never.

He shakes his head. Slow and scared. I move the shooter to the middle of his forehead.

I know this one off by heart. Thought it up meself when I was talkin the whole deal over with Ronnie one night in The Rabbits.

‘In the event of the punter - that’s you - turnin up to have a gander at the contracted party - that’s me - doin the business, the contracted party - that’s me again - is beholden unto himself to do the punter in by any means necessary. That’s you again, I’m afraid, Mr Briscoe.’

I stuck this one in the small print as a safeguard, if you like. Happens more often than you think. Matrimonial cases, normally. Want to see their cheatin other half get what’s comin to em. But I can’t have no witnesses, see. Gotta look after meself. No other cunt’s goin to.

That’s the thing with the small print. The thing this Briscoe bloke ain’t counted on. All them words at the bottom that are too little to see, if you don’t keep your eyes peeled, it’s them little words what's gonna fuck you up. Cos they’re too easy to overlook. That’s what it is. We don’t pay enough attention. We just wanna go on our merry little way, thinkin everything’s gonna be all right. But it ain’t.

It’s like when you’re born. You come bouncin out, eyes full of wonder. You’ve chose your mum and you’ve chose your dad. You’ve read the contract: go to school - get a job - get married - two kids, one boy, one girl. And you live happily ever after.

Piece of piss.

But you never bothered to read the small print. The dad that beat the crap out of you if you ever dared open your fuckin mouth. Small print. Gettin beat to shit every day at school for bein a fuckin moron and watchin your old man beatin the shit out of your mum and you not bein able to do a fuckin thing about it. Small print. The sound of her cryin and screamin through your bedroom wall breakin your heart as you lay awake at night. Small print.

Your nan, your dear old nan, the only person you loved in the whole world, peggin it on your thirteenth birthday. Small print. The tears you shed that day. Small print. The gettin laid off at the factory and never gettin a proper job ever again. Small print. The wife that left you for the plumber downstairs. Small print. The kids. The kids you never had. Fuckin small print.

One. Two. Three. Deep breath.


Phht. Phht.

Briscoe crumbles to the ground, blood spillin out a hole between his eyes.

Small print.

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 558 - Ron Koppelberger


The shrewd haul, the weatherproof asylum, the carefully exalted argument for universal gold. He saw evergreen nuance in the hundred dollar bill, it was perfection, a generous dollop of amazing art. He had spent a year perfecting the silver plates, a year of diligent dreaming in vagabond tatters. The counterfeit bill was perfect and the paper was in whitewashed unity with the fresh ink. From one dollar to a hundred. He had bleached five hundred one dollar bills and reprinted them with the silver plates.

He felt prosperous as he surveyed the clothesline full of money. “Ahhhhhhhaaaa!!!” The smell of drying ink, he sighed in quiet admiration. He inhaled the scent with profound measures of intoxicating glee. Benny Worthy was his partner in crime, he had supplied the ink and enough inspiration for both of them.

The oaken varnished veneer of the door rattled on its hinges. “Open up, it’s Benny!” He went to the door and unlocked it, cautiously leaving the chained portion secure. Peeking into the hall, he saw Benny’s unmistakable figure impatiently shifting from one foot to the other. “Come on, open up!” he groaned. He opened the door to Benny’s betrayal and the end of their relationship. Benny pointed the .38 revolver in his direction. “Here...” He tossed a knapsack to the ink stained floor and said, “...put the plates and the money in the bag Hank!”

Hank filled the bag with the hundred dollar bills tossing in the silver plates last. “Thanks, Hank...” he chuckled. “Thanks, Hank...for the memories,” he sang. Benny turned his back to Hank and walked toward the door. Hank had a semi-auto .22 rifle in his hands a moment later. He aimed at the center of Benny’s back and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened, the gun had jammed. “Live and let live,” Benny chanted as he left the room. Hank sighed realizing he had no choice.

A single hundred dollar bill lay crumpled, unnoticed against the floorboard. Smiling, he realized that would buy him an unsurpassable drunk.

BIO: Ron Koppelberger is aspiring to become established as a poet and a short story writer. He has written 95 books of poetry over the past several years and 16 novels. He has been published in The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette), Freshly Baked Fiction and Necrology Shorts. He recently won the People’s Choice Award for poetry In The Storyteller for a poem titled Secret Sash. Ron is a member of The American Poet’s Society, as well as The Isles Poetry Association.

A Twist Of Noir 557 - B.R. Stateham


Dark eyes surveyed the room, a deadly little smile spilling out of his lips in the process. H found himself standing in the inner sanctum. The most secure place in the entire casino. The boss himself. To his right and sitting behind his desk was a fat little man with a shiny bald spot on the top of his head and three chins bobbling around like a turkey’s giblet. He was leaning over his desk counting out a wad of money–in hundred dollar bills–his lips moving as he counted. Behind the fat man was a troglodyte with heavy, thick arms, and the wired bristles of bushy eyebrows covering what little of a forehead he had above his dull eyes.

Smitty, a hand lifting up to unbutton the one button to his sport coat, turned his obsidian black eyes back toward the fat man and the money.

“Jesus, I’m glad you got that little bastard, Smitty. Can you believe it? They hired him...him of all people...to take me out. That little fucker! Tell you the truth, it’s freaking brilliant. I didn’t know the little guy was a killer. I thought he was a damn good bookie. Made me a ton of dough. A ton of dough. How did you know it was him?”

“You’re a cautions man, Gibbons. You don’t go out much. And when you do, you go out well protected. So if someone put a contract out on you and felt confident the hit was going to come down, it’d had to be someone who could get close to you.”

“The kid,” Elroy Gibbons growled, shaking his head angrily, then reaching for the fat stub of a cigar smoldering in a glass ash tray beside the money box setting on the desk. “But like I said, I wouldn’t have thought he’d be the guy in a thousand years. What tipped you off about the kid? He certainly doesn’t look like a killer to me. What was it? What was it that he did which told you he was the hired gun?”

“Like I said, fella, you’re a cautious man. You don’t take any unnecessary chances. If a gunman was going to kill you, he had to get up close to you. Really close to you. Like...say...as close as I am to you right now.”

There was something in the tall man’s soft whisper. Like a sudden gust of unexpected frigid cold. Just enough to make the fat man, cigar between thick lips, suddenly look up and at the man standing in front of the desk dressed in the gray slacks and gray sport coat and black buttoned collared shirt. There was a gun in Smitty’s hand. A nine millimeter Glock. The gun belched out fire and smoke. The sound of the gun going off deafening. Behind the fat guy the dull witted thug caught the bullet one button up and a half inch to the left of his sternum. The bullet slammed him back into the office wall and he slid down, lifeless, a look of shock on his face, leaving a smear of dark blood on the yellow painted wall.

“You!” shouted Gibbons, pushing himself back in his chair and leaping to his feet, fear as palatable as Chinese curry clearly written all over his face. “You’re the hit man! But...but...I hired you to protect me! Why did you kill the kid?”

“He was my ticket here. You needed to see someone dead. I said I’d take cash only in such transactions. Besides, the kid was hired to bump you off. The only thing was, the kid wasn’t up to it. Said he wasn’t going to do it and was gonna go to the cops. He became a liability. So he had to be dealt with.”

“Who? Who put the contract out on me? And...and...and come on, Smitty. We can make a deal here. I can give you money. Lots of money if you’ll forget your little deal and come to work for me.”

A deadly smear of malevolent amusement played across the dark eyed man’s lips. Behind him, on the other side of the office door, he heard men shouting and then the footsteps of several running down the hall toward the office door. But they would be too late. Gibbons had a door made to take the battering of a tank before it gave in.

“You want to know who want’s you dead? In about fifty years, when she joins you in Hell, talk to your wife.”


The second gunshot was equally deafening. The bullet yanked the fat guy off his feet and hurled him through the office window behind him. Smitty, holstering the Glock underneath his left arm, stepped around the desk, swiped a thick pile of one hundred dollar bills off the desk and smoothly leapt out of the window and disappeared into the night of the dark alley.

Yeah. About fifty years. It’d take about that long for a good looking...and suddenly very rich Ellen Gibbons...to finally shrivel up into an old bitter hag and eventually die of natural causes. That’s the way it usually worked with women like that.

BIO: B.R. Stateham is physically sixty-one years old. Mentally, who know how old he is. He writes noir, hard-boiled police-procedurals, and a little fantasy. And like most writers of his ilk, stone-cold broke from his efforts.

A Twist Of Noir 556 - Eric M. Bosarge


Dunn staggered and fell into the wall, oblivious to my presence behind him. He kept walking, his shirt scratching at the brick wall of the alley. Somewhere in the distance, a siren wailed. From open windows above the voices of a man and woman arguing floated down.

I dumped the last of my coffee down the drain grate and followed Dunn. Little flecks of gravel stuck to the soles of my shoes crunched on the pavement with each step. I wasn’t being quiet. I wasn’t trying to be invisible. I didn’t have to. I could smell the whiskey on him, and I even knew the brand: Old Turkey. He’d mentioned it in our interviews. The ones I’d spent the last five years trying to forget.

We sat in a cell of an interrogation room. Whorls of smoke coiled in the air.

Dunn tilted his head every time he inhaled his cigarette, then sniffled. Every time. He’d sniff and pull some of smoke back in before he’d fully exhaled.

“I’m allergic to the smoke, you know. But these fucking cigarette companies. They won’t let you quit. You can buy Nicorette or the patch, some Welbutrin, but they won’t let you quit.

I picked up the pack of cigarettes, shook one free and lit it. I exhaled slowly, measuring how close I could get to blowing the smoke into Dunn’s face before it pissed him off. The stream of smoke reached his elbow and I ran out of breath.

“You see? You’re a smoker. My whole, fucking life is like this.” Dunn tapped the side of his head and little specks of cigarette ash floated down. “You think I don’t know what I do makes me sick? You think I don’t get it? No. No, I get it...I’m addicted.

“I know I’m sick. I’m fucking,” he sniffled. “I’m fucking addicted. It’s my whole life.” He took a drag and sniffled. “Some of them will be fine. Don’t think they won’t. Some of them will be just fine. They’ll grow up and be little, bankers and cocksuckers and lawyers. Maybe even garbage men, but they’ll be fine.” He took a slow drag. “Some of them won’t.” His head wobbled as if his train of thought was fighting to stay on track. “Some of them I’ve fucking ruined.”

The piece of shit started crying, exhaling smoke, sniffling and crying.

“I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to.” Sniffle. “This is a cry for help. I can’t help myself. I need, someone, to help me.”

It didn’t matter how he begged me to see. What he didn’t understand was that I had predicated my entire existence on justice. On retribution. Every law enforcement officer knows what the goal of enforcement is, even if they won’t say it. It’s punishment. When all the facts are in, when you know they are guilty, the only thing left is punishment. That’s our job. We catch you so the world can throw stones.

Dunn pushed off the wall and kept walking, stumbling. I dropped the Styrofoam coffee cup. It bounced and rolled down the little incline, making a hollow sound, until it settled at the edge of the curb. Those were comforting sounds, sounds I hoped to remember. I looked up at the streetlight Dunn was approaching, then down at the cone of light it cast on the pavement.

Over the last five years, the memories of Dunn had taken everything from me. He was all I could think of. The only thing that took the edge off was alcohol.

At first, my wife would gingerly step down the basement steps, ask me what I was doing down there, a glass of bourbon sweating beside me. Sometimes I’d only shrug. Sometimes I wouldn’t even respond. It got to the point she’d holler down, tell me what I was missing; the boys were playing soccer in a tournament, they were going to grandma’s, it was parent teacher conference time.

“Don’t you care? Don’t you see that you’re missing everything? A life that most men would die for?”

I looked at her through the bourbon fog and shrugged, dragged off my cigarette.

She came to me, kneeled beside the recliner. “Baby, is it the job?”

She touched my hair, ran her finger along the auricle of my ear. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself. You can’t keep drinking all the time. You get out of work, come home and crawl straight into a bottle. It’s not healthy—”

“Don’t you think I fucking know that!?” I threw the glass at the wall. It shattered. “Don’t you think I know being drunk all the time isn’t normal?”

Tears welled up in her eyes and she got to her feet, smoothed her dress and walked to the stairs.

“I’m going to Andrew’s eighth grade graduation,” she said. “It starts at six.”

She left me two years ago. Since then, I’ve been dreaming of this moment. I figure if I’m going to be haunted, I might as well choose the images.

They said Dunn would be in counseling when he got out, that he’d be on parole with strict oversight. I knew it wouldn’t be enough.

I quickened my stride as Dunn approached the edge of the cone of light at the street corner and his words came back to me:

“You know, I’ve never felt so alive as in that moment, when you realize that someone else is feeling so intensely, because of what you’re doing—sniffle—I’ve never felt so alive behind that mask when I was with the boys out in the woods. Because of the mask, I didn’t need to kill them. They couldn’t identify my face. But as I was, doing, you know,” he smiled at me, wrapped his lips around the cigarette and took a drag, exhaled and sniffled, “I got to wondering what it would be like to take off the mask. How they would respond when they looked over their shoulder and saw my face, my eyes, all squinty, moments away from orgasm. Reveling in their pain. It got so that each time, each time I was with them, I wasn’t sure if I’d keep the mask on. If I would have to kill them.” Dunn took a deep breath and sighed exaggeratedly, “Oh, God did that idea excite me.”

He tapped out his cigarette in the ashtray. A long cone of ash had grown on mine.

Dunn wiped at his eyes, as if he’d been crying, then laughed. “Someday I’m going to have to find out what that feels like.”

The chair squeaked as I stood and pushed it back with my legs. I grabbed the cigarettes off the table, put them in my pocket. Then I went a few rooms down and told the eight year old boy who was crying in his father’s arms that it was going to be okay. That Dunn could never hurt anyone again. I swore that he wouldn’t.

I glanced at the backward curving tip of my Bowie knife as I took a few quick steps to catch Dunn. I could see my dark reflection on the blade.

I wrapped my forearm over Dunn’s throat and stabbed him in the kidney. I pulled him back from the edge of the cone of light. His feet scuffled and a grunt escaped. His whole body went rigid in my arms. His feet shot straight. The weight of his torso fell back on me. I twisted my hips and threw him back into the alley. He became a shadow. He fell to the ground and didn’t move.

The blade was black. My heart pounded, and I stepped forward into the darkness.

Now, if I close my eyes, try to smoke a cigarette or silently chew my food, I can still hear the sound of my shoes, laced with sand, scratching at the pavement. I can see Dunn’s body sliding against the brick wall, hear the micro-ripping of his T-shirt as he grinds along it. And if I look, I can see my shadow on the blade of the Bowie knife.

A Twist Of Noir 555 - U.V. Ray

1980 - U.V. RAY

Jackie had now saved the populace of 32 planets from nuclear attack.

“There was another girl in that film, a sister. Tits like melons.” Jackie shouted over from the other side of the room, not shifting his eyes from the screen.

“Man, sometimes you can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Dixie Wilson said, pouring himself a stiff whiskey from his crystal decanter. He banged it back, and sat down in the chair grimacing. “Or sometimes you can get yourself into something you just can’t get out of. Christ knows what she’d gotten herself into.” He folded the newspaper and tossed it on the sofa beside him.

She’d been discovered by a farmer. Shot in the back, straight through the heart. No exit wound. The bullet bounced around the inside of her ribcage, ripping her innards up. She left a pretty corpse. Killed somewhere else and then driven and dumped in a ditch edging the farmer’s field. They’d arrested some fucker, some skag-dealing fucking loser. But that was all irrelevant really. It didn’t change anything.

Carmen Eske was an actress. Well, nothing more than a hopeful, in all honesty. She had done a B-movie horror flick directed by Dixie called Blood House a couple of years ago, about a necrophiliac who worked in the morgue. Of course, for most of the movie Carmen Eske played a corpse. But she had her moment to shine when the corpses came back to life to exact their revenge.

Carmen was a nice girl, only twenty years old at the time of filming. Above all, Dixie hired her because she was rather wasted-looking, translucent and cadaverous but pretty at the same time. In reality, she seemed a little bit lost, vulnerable. Dixie remembered feeling quite fatherly towards her.

“Life imitates art.” Wilson shook his head as he took another hit of whiskey. “But there’ll be no coming back this time.”

“What a waste of a great little pair of tits,” shouted Jackie. “For a Pink, that is.” Jackie, known as Black Jack to his friends, called white girls pinks. He puckered up his lips and made a sucking sound. “Little titty ra-ra’s - ripe as cherries, nipples like chapel hat pegs, know what ‘am sayin’?”

“Jack,” Dixie didn’t even grant him the courtesy of looking in his direction, “shut the fuck up.”

Black Jack shrugged and went back to playing Missile Command on the Atari console.

BIO: U.V. Ray: writer, drinker, womaniser extra-ordinaire, swindler par-excellence, liar, cheat and all round filthy rotten miscreant. Find out more at U.V. Ray’s official website.


Powder Burn Flash is once again open for business.

As Aldo says, there will be a backlog of stories that will get published first but submissions are once again open.

So go drop by, check out Anonymous-9’s EATING THE DEFICIT and get ready for the assault.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 554 - Kelly Whitley


“The divorce is off.”

Portia narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean, ‘the divorce is off?’”

Linus paced around the penthouse. “My attorney called. Marty said she escalated the terms of the will. I have to be married for over a year and still be married on her eightieth birthday, or I can’t inherit. You can’t tell her we’re considering filing for divorce.”

“We have filed for divorce.” Portia bounced her foot up and down.

“A reversible mistake.”

“The marriage was reversible. Divorce is permanent. Per-ma-nent, Linus. You’re going to have to improvise.”

“Improvise? How am I supposed to improvise being married?”

Portia studied her fingernails. “Then improvise being divorced, because that’s the reality.”

“You have to help me, Portia.”

Portia strolled to the window and looked out at the city lights. “Why should I lie for you?”

Linus whirled around and pointed his finger at her. “Money. I’ll pay you. A million dollars.”

Portia snorted. “Yeah, right. You don’t have that kind of money.”

“I will. If I fulfill the terms of the will, I’ll inherit ten million on her eightieth birthday.”

Portia smiled at her reflection in the window. “And you’d pay me to go with you to this birthday party and pretend to be married?”

Linus came up behind her and kissed the side of her neck. “Yes.”

“Mmm. Two million dollars.”

Linus’s lips missed a beat, then resumed nuzzling. “Two million. Agreed.”

Portia gathered up her purse and headed for the front of the penthouse they’d once shared. “It seems our divorce was reversible after all.”

Linus blew out a breath and held open the door for her. “It appears so. I’ll pick you up for the party on Saturday.”

“Don’t forget my check. Tootle loo!” Portia smiled sweetly and got in the elevator. On the way down, she flipped open her cell phone. “Marty? He went for it. I’m on my way down. Go ahead.”

In the underground parking lot, she exited the elevator and waited for Linus’s attorney in her car. Five minutes later, Marty slid behind the wheel. He tucked the gun and the silencer under the seat. Portia raised an eyebrow, and he nodded.

“You’ll inherit. Too bad Linus didn’t know about the untimely death clause in the will.” Marty kissed her and started the car.

As they drove away, the elevator opened behind them. Linus staggered out, bleeding from the gunshot wound in his belly. He raised the remote and pointed it at the retreating car. As the explosion knocked him back against the concrete, he grinned. “Too bad you didn’t know about the murder of spouse clause, bitch.”

BIO: Kelly has been writing for years, but is new to the art form of flash -- the shorter, the better.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 553 - AJ Hayes


Across the alley, in the back of the junkyard, a man was beating a dog. The man’s arm rose and fell slowly. The dog—a pit bull mix—stood still, staring at nothing in particular. The drizzling rain had soaked them through. Neither seemed to notice. Both looked bored. They said that, once, the dog attacked a guy. Almost killed him. They said the man had helped.

I got a plate of leftovers and a gun.

“Hey,” I called.

They both looked up.

“One of you can change,” I said.

I shot the man and fed the dog.

BIO: AJ Hayes is from San Diego and – god help him – good friends with Jimmy (Mad Dog) Callaway and Josh (Gut Ripper) Converse, who provide great advice and the occasional smack in the mouth with the butt of a .45.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 552 - R.S. Bohn


Peaches danced in the street one last time, body jumping to the beat of a semi-automatic. Calvin peeled off, safe behind a murdered-out hulk of Detroit metal. He forgot Peaches had a kid; ten years later, she’s on stage, high above on silver stilettos. “You Calvin, right?” she purrs when she’s on his lap in the Champagne Room. He nods, grabs her hips and grinds. “Yeah. How you doin’, baby?”

“Just peachy,” she whispers.

She leaves behind the wig, takes the knife. But dancing’s in her blood now...

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.

Interlude: The Big Announcement

So the other day I said I was going to have a big announcement sometime during the week.

Here it is.

After Story Number 599, I’m going to be shutting down A Twist Of Noir, such as it is.

Before you panic, please take a deep breath and read that last sentence again, especially the last four words.

Such as it is.

Currently, all of you know that the word count is 5,000 words or less.

After Story Number 599, that may change, depending on how everyone feels about the following.

When we get to Story Number 600, Jimmy Callaway, unless he refuses, will write that century mark story just as he’s written the previous five century mark stories.

After Story Number 600, I would like to issue a challenge to writers, chosen by yours truly, to write a story using as many words as the story number. So Story 601 would be 601 words long, Story 602 would be 602 words long and so on.

I’d ideally like to do this until Story Number 700 (which, again, would be written by Jimmy) and then the second shoe would drop.

In the last little while, I’ve been wanting to scale back on the word count on the site.

This would allow for a couple of thing to happen that I believe would be for the betterment of the site.

First, I would be able to read more stories in a timely manner and, second, because of this, I would be able to publish even more stories.

I’m thinking a pullback to 3,500 words per story.

For those of you that think that this might stop you from submitting to the site, don’t. There are other options, including splitting longer stories into parts, like the recent and excellent four-part Skin Saga by Richard Godwin.

And, from time to time, there will be exceptions to this rule. Special stories that might even exceed the 5,000 word mark that we currently sit at.

Finally, and after the challenge, there are varying features that I’d like to incorporate into the site. One of these features will be interviews with writers, allowing them to spill their guts about crime fiction and other subjects, if they so choose.

So there you have it.

As I said, the site’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Just changing and hopefully evolving.

What do you think of the challenge and would you like to take part in it?

What do you think of scaling back the word count?

What kind of features would you like to see?

I want to hear what everyone thinks. This means writers and readers.

A Twist Of Noir 551 - Paul D. Brazill


Originally published at Powder Burn Flash in May 2010

I used to get angry all the time. Especially when I was a teenager. The ‘difficult years’, doctors used to call it. As if there were ever any other with a father like mine.

I’d see crimson, burn up like a volcano, rant, rave, spit, scream - the whole deal.

And sometimes I’d even black out. A switch would be pulled and I’d fall through a trapdoor straight down into the deepest well. Darkness all around.

It was after one of those ‘episodes’ that I came to with gigantic hands gripped around my throat, dangling me over the thirteenth floor balcony of some grimy tower block somewhere in East London. No recollection of getting there.

So, that was when I decided to channel my aggression. That’s when I joined The Squad.

First it was just the football; following the team to some hick northern town and screaming abuse at the bumpkins. But that was never enough. I knew there was more. I could smell it; taste it.

And then I met Tubeway, Slammer and Col. The Squad. They were a breakaway group from the mainstream hooligans. They called it ‘rucking and rolling’. Football hooliganism mixed with mugging. It made sense. This was the nineties and Cool Britannia had no place for the likes of us.

We we were the dispossessed, according to Tubeway. He liked to use words like that; flaunt his vocabulary and GCSE in Philosophy. The same Tubeway who used to listen to Hitler’s speeches without understanding a word of German.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that they were tossers - just looking for excuses for being violent. I didn’t need an excuse, though. I knew that I liked to inflict pain; I needed to hurt. It was just a matter of when and who.

Then they introduced me to Mr Bettis - or Sweaty Betty, as he was known behind his back. He was like a giant pink slug. Col said he looked like Jabba the Hutt. I just nodded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t watch films. I didn’t read books - I could barely read - and I didn’t like music. What I liked was violence.

Sweaty paid well. He told us to keep out noses clean. Become respectable. Invisible to the law. He’d contact us once a month with a name and a place. Maybe a picture. And we did what he asked. Sometimes we used Stanley knives. Or blowtorches. Or even guns.

I loved it. I was good. The best. I started to develop a sense of professional pride. I distanced myself from the others. They were a liability. Disasters waiting to happen, I thought. And I was right.

Tubeway had his neck broken by a transvestite in Clapaham. Col died of a smack overdose in a piss stained Wansworth squat. And Slammer got locked up for life, which I found ironic once I’d learned that word at my adult literacy class.

Oh yes, I studied. Learned to read and write. Learned history - enough to put Tubeway in his place without batting an eyelid. I learned aikido and kung-fu. I practiced yoga and I got married. And had kids.

I still worked for Sweaty but the jobs were few and far between; he only used me for the ‘prime cuts’, as he called them.

Everything seemed so right.

And then it all went pear-shaped as quick as spit disappears on hot pavement.

It’s been fifteen years since I joined The Squad and I suppose it’s taken its toll. I expect that I’m a tad jaded.

Which is why, I suppose, that the sounds and the yells of the man strapped to the tree in front of me have no impact on me. Don’t even ruffle a feather.

The golf course is empty, it’s dusk and like in the film Alien - yes, I started watching films, too - no one can hear him scream.

Time to continue the interview.


It always rains in the dreams. Always. Pours down in sheets. But in reality it was a burning, brandy-brimmed, summer morning. In the dreams, there were no kids, either. Just a sinister, grinning man, who looked like my father, wearing a long black coat and carrying a carving knife.

And when I wake up, I feel released. Free. But then the cold light of day hits me in between the eyes. Because there was no man in black. No pounding rain. Just two kids who got in the way of a hail of bullets. My own kids.

It all went black for a long time after that. Until I woke up drowning in sweat, booze, piss and tears. Stinking of shame, guilt and self-loathing.

And then it never went black again. It was an endless cold white.

I’ve heard it said that eighteen months of sleep deprivation can drive you crazy. Well I was mad after that anyway.

So now there’s a dead man in front of me, dangling from a tree, in an exclusive golf course, in the fresh morning dew. A slug of a man who looks like Jabba The Hutt. And he’s given me the name of the man who ordered the hit. The hit that resulted in the death of my kids.

Oh, I know. It’s just an excuse. A way of avoiding culpability. Just a reason to inflict pain. A reason to hurt. And to kill. And to keep on killing.

BIO: Paul D. Brazill was born in England and lives Poland.

His stories have appeared in a number of online and print magazines including Beat To A Pulp, Dark Valentine Magazine, Needle Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine and Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers, as well as in the anthologies Dusted, Flash!, Caught By Darkness, Don't Tread On Me, Howl: Dark Tales of the Feral and Infernal and RADGEPACKET Volume Four.

His Crimefactory story, Guns Of Brixton, will appear in The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Fiction 2011.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Introduction To The Gary Lovisi Two-Fer

A couple of weeks back, Gary Lovisi approached me and asked me if I would be interested in reprinting a couple of his stories.

I have to be completely honest here and say that I very nearly passed out.

I mean, this is Gary Lovisi we’re talking about.

There are some names that you just read and you revere.

It doesn’t matter that they’re writers just like you are. It doesn’t matter that they’re editors just like you are.

There are people that you admire. There are people that you just fucking dig.

I both admire and dig Gary Lovisi and his work and I’m extremely honored to present two of his stories, both collected in his latest book ULTRA-BOILED, from Ramble House.

If you like these stories, slap down some cash for the book and enjoy the dark.

A Twist Of Noir 550 - Gary Lovisi


One of twenty-three stories in ULTRA-BOILED by Gary Lovisi (Ramble House, 2010)

Jimmy Dongen was a Staten Island wise-guy with his dirty hands into more dirty crap than even he could keep track of. Anything and everything to make a buck and not just gambling and other soft vices, but nasty stuff like teen-age hookers, drug dealing in schools, selling guns to kiddie gangs. The guys under Jimmy saw him as a greedy fuck, the guys over him saw him as a greedy fuck who brought in the cash. He was a good earner so they all put up with Jimmy Dongen while he tried his best to smart-ass double-cross them all when they weren’t looking. He figured he’d end up with everything he ever wanted. I don’t think he even knew all of what he wanted---he just wanted.

My name is Vic Powers. I came into it originally back in the old days when I’d been on the job. Before they threw me off the force for being ‘unstable.’ Hell, I wasn’t unstable, I was just damn angry that a lowlife creep had killed my partner, Larry, and I wanted to do something about it. Larry was the best damn friend I ever had. The best damn cop I ever knew. Damn right I was angry. I was fit to be tied! But I wasn’t unstable, least ways any more unstable than I’d ever been. But then again, I guess I could see their point, and it probably all worked out for the best. I wasn’t cut out to be a cop. Not the kind of cops they want. Yes-men, ass-kissers, sell-outs and politically correct rats---a lot of them no better than the criminals they are supposed to arrest.

Well, all that was a lot of water under the bridge now, but over the years Jimmy Dongen had moved up, turning into one of the biggest of the bad guys. But he’d made a lot of enemies along the way.

He told me once long ago, after I’d saved his ass, that he wanted to go straight.

I told him he was full of shit.

He had acted all serious about it back then.

I just looked at him and said, “Rats must chew, that’s just the way it is, Jimmy.”

He got all upset, thought I was calling him a rat.

I smiled, said, “No, Jimmy, you’re not a rat. Least far as I know, you’re not. You’re a scumbag, but you ain’t no rat.”

There is a difference.

Then I told him that to live a rat must chew. Rats -- the four-legged kind, that is – have huge incisors that keep growing in their mouths and if the rat doesn’t constantly gnaw at things, constantly chew, cut and grind with those teeth to wear them down, the damn teeth will grow right into the rat’s brain and kill it.

“Nice way for a rat to die,” Jimmy had said.

“It’s like that with a scumbag like you, Jimmy. You’ll never stop. You’ll never go straight. It’s in the blood. Rats must chew and scumbags like you will never stop what they do.”

Then Larry and I cuffed him and brought him in.


Well, that had been a long time ago. Like they say, a lot of water under the bridge, a lot of blood too. Now Larry was gone and I was on my own.

Now I was a two-bit no-one in a world that had dreamed me out of its dreams a long time ago. So I did the next best thing, I hung in and survived. I did my best to make it day to day. Trying to beat the odds but coming up craps with every throw. In the meantime I never dared to hope.

It was after Larry had been killed, but before my wife, Gayle, had been murdered. That’s how I usually remember events in my life, I date them from who it was who was close to me -- and when they were taken away from me. Killings, murders, my partner, Larry, my friends, my women, my enemies, my wife...

Anyway, Gayle was still alive back then and we were trying to have a real life. I was playing the hubby and loving it. Thinking of opening an office again, maybe a husband and wife P.I. team? A dream I shouldn’t have let enter my mind.

Then Jimmy Dongen entered my world again.

He was on the run.

The cops -- crooked and otherwise, the mob, a Jersey biker gang that dealt drugs, an upstate Aryan Separatist group that paid Jimmy a lot of good money for some very bad guns. They were all after Jimmy and I was in Jimmy’s car parked under the West Side Highway while he was telling me all this crap.

I said, “Why, man? You had it good; you could have stopped the crap, taken it easy. You play so many games, so many sides against each other you were bound one day to get caught in the middle.”

“I know, Vic,” he said. “I guess it had to happen sooner or later. You know how it is. I got to do what I do. I can’t stop. I could never stop. Once I started a life of crime, Vic, once I started playing The Game, I just couldn’t stop it. I love it too much. Now I know there’s only one end for us all, eventually.”

“You know all this shit and you still fuck around.”

“Yeah, I know all this shit, and it doesn’t help me by knowing it.”

“Not if you don’t do anything to stop it, Jimmy.”

He smiled, “A rat must chew, Vic.”

I nodded.

The gun slipped into my hand.

I pressed it up against Jimmy’s temple.

Jimmy’s eyes blew up into big circles of surprise, and then understanding.

It was quick.

I pressed the trigger.



He fell away from me.

I whipped the gun and placed it in his right hand, melding the fingers to the grip. Opened the door. Locked the passenger side as I got out of the car and walked away.

A rat must chew.

This was one rat that would never chew again.

BIO: Gary Lovisi is the editor of HARDBOILED magazine which he publishes under his Gryphon Books imprint. He is the author of numerous hardboiled and crime short stories and novels, as well as non-fiction books such as Dames, Dolls and Delinquents. His latest book is Ultra-Boiled (Ramble House, 2010) which collects 23 of my best and nastiest hard crime tales. You can learn more about Gary and his books at Gryphon Books.