Monday, February 14, 2011

A Twist Of Noir 661 - Kathleen A. Ryan


As a rookie cop and a newlywed, Doug swore he’d never face the “bimbo-basement” dilemma.

Fifteen years later, however, while driving home on a sweltering night after a weekend tryst, he recalled the warning uttered by his salty field training officer: “Every married cop who chases tail or fools around with a relief point bimbo eventually faces the same fate. The old lady finds out, gets the house, the kids, and eventually collects half his pension. The cop ends up living in a dingy basement apartment — it’s all he can afford!”

To illustrate his point, the old-timer had held out his palms to imitate a balancing scale. “You must weigh your options,” he advised, raising his hands like a seesaw and repeating, “Bimbo. Basement. Bimbo. Basement.”

Doug listened to Porter Wagoner sing, “The Cold Hard Facts of Life,” and chuckled — as he, too, was heading home a day earlier than his wife expected — although he wasn’t stopping for any champagne first.

The ominous-looking clouds darkened the moonlit sky. The humidity reminded Doug why he vacations every August (besides, of course, spending time with his kids): when the mercury rises, so does crime. People get heat aggravation, and tempers flare.

Doug spotted an unfamiliar pickup in his driveway and assumed it belonged to one of his wife’s friends. He parked on the street near the honeysuckle bushes, which filled the stagnant air with its sweet scent. The steady churning of window air conditioners in the distance couldn’t muffle the repetitive chirping of crickets.

Approaching the shiny red Ford, he realized the engine was running. The passenger door flew open. His wife, half-naked, tumbled out and screamed, “Rape!”

The driver pulled into reverse.

Emotions raw, the veteran cop fired his Glock towards the fleeing felon, who crashed into the split-rail fence. Doug jumped into the truck, reached over the slumped body, and threw the vehicle into park.

He glanced at the perp’s face — and gasped.

“Jesse? What the — ?” Doug frantically searched for a pulse on the lifeless body of his former partner.

Sobbing, Tammy scrambled into her clothes. Her flushed complexion quickly paled.

Doug struggled to find the words to confront the pair, although only one could reply. “This wasn’t rape — how could you?”

“I panicked!” she cried. “I didn’t think you’d shoot him...”

“You didn’t think, period! You know I always carry — it’s as if you pulled the trigger yourself!”

Tammy admitted her grave mistake to the responding officers, claiming rape to cover up the illicit affair. Her lie cost a cop — a family friend for more than a decade — his life.

Her soft brown curls clung to her tear-streaked face, when the cops placed the cuffs on her. “Your reckless actions caused Jesse’s death,” snapped the arresting officer.


Homicide Detective Tom Walker, an Academy classmate of Doug’s, arrived at the scene. “I’m sorry about what transpired here tonight, buddy.”

“My head is spinning,” Doug said. We’ve lost one of our own — and it’s my fault.”

“The grand jury may not see it that way; however, Tammy is probably looking at time for involuntary manslaughter. I need to get a statement from you. Who’s with the kids?”

“My neighbor’s inside, but my sister’s on the way.”

“Crime Scene will take photos and bag your clothes. When I’m done here, I’ll notify Jesse’s wife. Have a uniform drive you to Headquarters — I’ll meet you there.”

“Thanks, Tom.”

Drenched in sweat and blood, Doug went into the house to gather clothes.


“They’re still asleep,” his elderly neighbor said.

“Thanks for coming over to watch the kids, I appreciate it.”

“Your kids are like grandkids to me. Call anytime,” she said before leaving.

Doug called his girlfriend, using the prepaid cell phones he had bought for them.

“I have good news and great news,” Doug whispered.

“What’s the good news?” she asked.

“My wife won’t be contesting the divorce.”

“Terrific! Now, what could possibly trump that?” she asked.

“You can call off the hit man.”

BIO: Kathleen A. Ryan is a retired 21 year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department on Long Island. She blogs at Women Of Mystery and is working on a true crime memoir. Her story, ‘Playing with Matches’ was published in W.W. Norton’s Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories 25 Words or Fewer, Edited by Robert Swartwood, November 2010.


Jane Hammons said...

Love this from "Bimbo. Basement. Bimbo. Basement" to the great ending. Wonderful details, Porter Wagoner, the pickup, and the elderly neighbor.

Paul D Brazill said...

Fantasic! Great double twist.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Nice down and dirty story and the twist at the end was a great touch. The whole Bimbo Basement thing was awesome too.

Charles Gramlich said...

That one is worth four evil chuckles!

Chris said...

Loved it.

Kevin Michaels said...

Excellent story from beginning to end!

Nigel Bird said...

I've done the basement thing. It was good advice.
Thanks Kathleen.
Good to be back in the 600 word swing.

Al Tucher said...

I was just starting to get that nasty prickling on the back of my neck when you sprang the surprise. Good job.

AJ Hayes said...

Okay, Mz. Ryan you owe me a neck brace. When the twist came, I thought OW! and then settled down to enjoy the fade out in peace and then you slipped the second one in and OW!OW!OW! I should have suspected it though. You Ryans have always been a troublesome bunch. Ryan's Hope, Saving Private Ryan, Ryan Seacrest, Nolan Ryan . . . there's more (Ryan More to be exact) and I'm keeping an eye on your all. Especially the redheaded female ones. Great story!

M.M. Gornell said...

Wicked! And wonderful. Madeline

pattinase (abbott) said...

Kathy-you just keep getting better and better.

Hilary Davidson said...

Excellent story, Kathy! Really enjoyed this.

Gary Stevens said...

Crickets and air conditioners, that's summertime.

Charlie Wade said...

Excellent, really liked the final twist.

Kieran Shea said...


Steve Weddle said...

ha. great.

Michael Solender said...

grand. filmy and just the right touch of grime - well done.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

So glad you enjoyed it! The "bimbo-basement" thing is very real, many cops have fallen prey to it! The Porter Wagoner song is like country "noir," isn't it?

Thanks! Yep, a double :-) Thanks for reading!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and leave a comment ~ I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it!

Four evil chuckles ~ I'm so honored :-)

Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks so much! I'm honored to have a story on ATON, and to be in such company with you, Christopher, Kieran, Charlie, and U.V. in this most recent posting. "No Tears For Crying" is a tragic tale, deftly told. (BTW, I'm a huge Springsteen fan, since 1974, when I was in Jr HS, and luckily, my friend had older siblings who had discovered Bruce. The 1st time I saw him was Dec. 1980 @ Nassau Coliseum during The River tour...he played 2 1/2 hrs, took a 1/2 hr break, and did 2 more hrs. ~ awesome!)

So, the basement thing is familiar? So sorry :-( I'm loving the stories in the 600-700 challenge! Thanks for stopping by, Nigel :-)

Thanks for your kind comment ~ I'm thrilled you liked it!

I love your comment, AJ ~ I'm LOL. I'll start researching neck braces for you:-) That's cute about the Ryan bunch...I was a Ryan's Hope fan back in the day. Did you ever watch it? I'll never forget how good Will Patton was. The cast was great. Thanks for reading & commenting!

Double W's...wicked & wonderful! I'm so touched, dear friend! Thanks :-)

I'm in awe of your talent, and your kind words mean the world to me. I'm thrilled to be in DISCOUNT NOIR, and it's thanks to you and your fantastic flash fiction challenge :-) Thanks!

I'm a huge Hilary Davidson fan, and I can only dream of writing short crime fiction like you. Thanks for your kind words, girlfriend!

Funny you bring up the crickets: I slipped them in for another reason besides a summertime staple: 1) as the temp rises, their chirping increases. 2) the males calling song is to attract females and repel other males; an aggressive song is triggered when they sense the presence of another male...and a copulatory song is produced after a successful mating; there's even a "look out" song to warn others when danger is near...isn't that neat? End of cricket lesson! Thanks for reading & commenting!

Thanks for taking the time to read "Heat of Passion." I'm so happy you liked it!

I'm tickled that you got a chuckle!
"Sick Call" is terrific...I'm thrilled to have a story in the same set as you :-)

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Hi Steve,
Glad to get a "ha" from you, too! It means a lot :-)

Hi Michael,
Thanks for your kind words!


For those who may be interested in reading it, my story was inspired by a true event in which a Texas man came home early & his wife jumped out of the truck and yelled rape; the grand jury REFUSED to indict the shooter, and INSISTED on indicting the woman; the DA's office had to put a case together against her. Here's a link:

Also, if you are not familiar with Porter Wagoner's classic that fit so nicely in my story, it is SO worth the viewing, and the ending's a shocker:

I especially love, "I drank a fifth of courage..."

Thanks again to our host, Christopher Grant, for the wonderful opportunity to participate in the "600-700 challenge."

Chris Rhatigan said...

Smooth with an inventive twist. I enjoyed this one.

Unknown said...

Chubby Checker couldn't have done a "Double Twist" any better. "Heat of Passion" is beautifully written, artful, and like its compact author, demonstrates how great things can be found in short stories.

Joyce said...

I wasn't sure who to feel sorry for, then I realized there shouldn't be any sympathy for any of them. Then, your ending? Well, that knocked me right out of the park. What a terrific twist! Great story.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Thanks, Chris!
Excellent job you did with "No Worries" on your Thrillers, Killers, 'n' Chillers debut :-)

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Hi Bill!
I'm so touched, and honored that you liked my story. Thanks for your fun, incredibly kind comments :-)

Hi Joyce,
I agree ~ there wasn't anyone to feel sorry for (except the innocent kids, of course). And Doug? Well, he swore he'd never face the bimbo-basement dilemma...and in the end, he didn't. Thanks for reading my story and commenting ~ I appreciate it.

Matthew McBride said...

Excellent job, you nailed it.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Thanks, Matthew ~ it means a lot :-) So kind of you to stop by, read & comment. Glad you liked it!

Dorte H said...

Great twist - and so well-written!

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Thanks, Dorte! So glad you enjoyed it.

I blogged about the 600-700 challenge at Women of Mystery, on my "Tuesday Twosome" post (thanks for participating, Dorte!):

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

I am thrilled that Jane Hammons has listed HEAT OF PASSION among her "Five You Can't Miss" from 2011; her list appears on Chris Rhatigan's "Death by Killing" blog. Here's a link to her list:
Thanks again to Christopher Grant for giving my story a home at A TWIST OF NOIR.

Toby Speed said...

Whoa, this is great, Kathy. I was completely surprised by the ending. Good job!

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

I'm deeply honored that "Heat of Passion" is among the finalists for the 2012 Derringer Award's "Best Flash Fiction Story," which was announced today by the Short Mystery Fiction Society:
Thanks to everyone for sharing in the excitement of this fantastic news! I'm so grateful to Christopher Grant for posing the "600 to 700" challenge, accepting "Heat of Passion," and to all the volunteer SMFS judges who gave so generously of their time to read all of the eligible stories and decide the five finalist stories. Thanks also to Gwen Mayo, Derringer Coordinator 2012.

Dorte H said...

Woo hoo! Congratulations :)

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Thanks, Dorte ~ for your kind words ~ and for stopping by last year to take the time to read "Heat of Passion."

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

This story is like The Little Engine That Could! I learned today that the Mystery Readers International and the subscribers to the Mystery Journal have nominated "Heat of Passion" for a 2012 Macavity Award for Best Mystery Short Story! The winner will be announced at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland during Bouchercon this fall. Thanks again to Christopher for the 600-700 Challenge, which led to the writing of this story ~ and for his acceptance on the fabulous site, "A Twist of Noir."
Here's the announcement:

(BTW, The Best Flash Fiction Story for the 2012 Derringer Award went to Allan Leverone for "Lessons Learned" which appeared on SHOTGUN HONEY).

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

To follow up, the 2012 Macavity Award for Best Mystery Short Story was awarded to Dana Cameron for "Disarming." It was an honor to be in the running with Dana, as well as fellow nominees Barb Goffman, Trina Corey, Daryl Wood Gerber, and Peter Turnbull, and to attend the Bouchercon 2012 Opening Night ceremonies at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on October 4, where the Macavity Awards were presented.
It was awesome recognition for A TWIST OF NOIR, too! Congrats, Christopher :-)