Monday, October 31, 2011

Interlude Stories: Mark Joseph Kiewlak


Previously published in The Bitter Oleander in Autumn 2006

It’s those filtered cigarettes he smokes. I hate them. They’re so feminine. A real cop, a real detective, would smoke unfiltered.

He would chain-smoke, and never empty the ashtrays.

It’s the way he dresses, too. The sharp three-piece suits. The properly knotted ties. Where’s his trench coat? Where are the stains of the city? The blood, the vomit, the urine of dreams and hours pissed away?

College-educated, he wasn’t qualified for this. This girl needed heart. Someone with passion for the work.

I watched him kneel over her in the alley. She was facedown amidst the torn garbage bags. Egg shells and doughnut crumbs and steak trimmings were her final pillow.

She needed a hero. She got him instead.

There were dark alleys like this, hundreds of them in the city, with newspapers blowing trapped into brick corners, and the breath of a thousand winos waiting for the spark to set us all aflame.

Her blood ran between the cobblestones, but did he put his cheek down there to feel it? Could his nose smell and sort what it needed to? Did the currents make sense to him?

She was beautiful, blood-streaked hair and brain matter showing. He had no art, nothing to add to her image. Whereas I...I wanted to paint a smile on the back of her head, to reverse all the directions of her life. She seemed a prostitute, but who can tell these days? Would he, like a loving mother, look beneath her fingernails for evidence of her day?

He wasn’t soft enough for this job. He wasn’t tough enough, either. He had no extremes, no humanity with which to meet her halfway.

The downpour came eventually, and I cried to see him thrust his umbrella overhead. Blocked from the sky, from himself, unbaptized, sensationless.

There were witnesses. Elderly dead twig bones wrapped in skin no thicker than the glaze of the raindrops. Two sets of ancient orbs. Wisdom and knowledge his for the taking. He didn’t question them enough.

Her hair was cornsilk, matted. I see a single drop of blood tickle my palm, caress my wrist, plummet through long empty air to impact on her cheek. What does he know about me? What could he know?

She was a reporter, now I remember. A reporter/prostitute playing dress-up. She drank a little coffee with her caffeine. I loved the lipstick she left along the rim of her cup. I loved her.

Her every discarded piece of Styrofoam was another chalice for me to recover. I meant to tell her my feelings. But words were lazy, cumbersome, annoying to enlightened souls. The knife was a quicker message.

The moon was smiling with a bloody smear as its mouth. He was back in his immaculate office. He needed a flask of gin. He needed a three-day growth of beard.

There was a carpet, for God’s sake. Where was the hardwood floor, the peeling chips of paint, the soot-stained window nailed shut?

His desk blotter is lime-green, with not a coffee stain in sight. He uses paper clips, never a stapler. He’s got no soul.

He needs to put in a long night. To witness the ugly dawn through thin slats and weary eyes. He’s the best cop on the force. Such an unbearable burden.

Where is his release?

We sit and think about that, he and I. He in his place, me in mine. We share the absence of personal belongings. Companionship. I suppose we have each other.

I see the notepad pinned beneath her torso. The unwritten pages are turning back on themselves like the skin around a papercut. Her wrist is bent back on itself, still gripping the pen -- a junkie’s final needle. She was too perfect to ever let age.

He should start there, with her perfection. He should go to her house, study its wallpaper. He should hear what the baseboard heaters are whispering, read the reply in the windblown drapes. He should know something about that perfect moment of possession when she’s writhing in dream-fed ecstasy with the Egyptian cotton pulled tight between her legs. Has he ever seen the sights that are for him alone? Does he know the rising need that claws its own arm and chews the dead skin inside its own mouth?

There’s terror every time she turns away. What if she never turns back? Now she is facedown forever.

I know the brick pattern of the alley. I know how many, which ones are chipped. He walks that maze with a sledgehammer intellect.

She’s my Halloween girl. And I have to help him find who killed her. I have to teach him like a piss-his-pants rookie not to let reality impede his inner knowing.

She had spunk even when she brushed her teeth. She could threaten me with lifelong love. We couldn’t have that.

Now he’s filing his reports, for chrissakes. He’s mentally disturbed. Sick in the head, poor bastard. I’m not letting in any more structure to his perfectly diagrammed day. That won’t get the cuffs on anyone’s wrists.

He’s just sitting there straightening his pencil cup when he breaks. The whole squad is watching him bawl and sob and blubber about the girl, how could this happen, what world is this we live in. He’s sliding out of his straightback chair, knees to praying position. He’s soaking his underarms and his crotch. He’s alone now in a big bad dream and he's got to learn how to bite the throats out of his enemies.

Now we can get some detecting done.

Her eyes were looking everywhere and seeing colors fade, motions blur, speech made nonsense. Life lit up the exit sign and she was pushed through.

He goes back to the witnesses, their skeletons near-ready to burst through the yellowed plastic bags they called skin. They’re standing in a place, these two, where they can see the other side intersecting their every arthritic motion. What they’ve known is ending. Justice and the law. Man must govern himself.

He stands amid the passing crowd at the mouth of the alley-ending, my new hero-savior-killer-cop. He studies all day, all night. He looks for animals with masks as the city bus-faces pass indifferently by. He’s got the scent now, knows the type.

Her memories are written in blood on the inside of her skull. I can't see them smile. That’s why I needed to get inside. We’re all smiling in there.

He’s watching them now -- the players in his acted-out drama. He sees them knocking down walls, window-washing, studying make-up in compacts. He sees the leashes tighten in fists. He sees the glances a lifetime ignored. Ignorant people just walking past. Everything is in motion. It needs a rest.

He’s given up the poisoning blandness of his bottled water. He’s got a flask in his desk drawer. Every crime is unsolved. We can see only vaguely our own hearts. All else is mystery. He’s got a crime-stopper now that no one knows about. He sees a single drop of blood oozing from the barrel. But there’s an impatient ocean dammed up behind it.

He’s got the crime-stopper tucked in his pants just where it feels good. He’s taking it out now to show me, to tell me that Facedown would be the last.

He’s wiping tears of snot on the sleeve of his black and white world. Gray is in his eyes. His desk blotter is teardrops and vomit and coffee rings. He can’t pick up the phone without trembling. The bloody smears have voices. Chalk outlines are standing up and following him around. The walls sweat. And I notice that he's about to light an unfiltered cigarette.

He puts three bullets into my midsection and feels his chest grow heavy. His body cannot defy gravity. Clocks are striking midnight and husbands are striking wives.

Matches are striking thumbnails.

BIO: Mark Joseph Kiewlak has been a published author for more than two decades. In recent years his work has appeared in The Back Alley, Hardboiled, Plots With Guns, All Due Respect, Pulp Pusher, Thuglit, and many others. His story, “The Present,” was nominated for the 2010 Spinetingler Award: Best Short Story on the Web. He has also written for DC Comics.

Interlude Stories: Robert Caporale


The T-Bird Lounge is a social networking relic from another era.

If you can’t find a ten dollar story in a joint like The T-Bird, you better give it up.

You step in and sit at the sticky mahogany bar and order a Sam Adams. The bartender just stands there drumming his fingers on the bar and staring down at you. You order a draft and snag a couple pickled-eggs out of the jar on the bar. The caged Motorola above your head is silent, grainy and the picture flips. While the bartender draws your beer, you glance into the streaky mirror behind the bar sneaking peeks at the tortured faces of the denizens of midday beverage.

Before long, this tawdry bloated battle-ax of a woman with a blue ribbon in her hair spills her scary ass onto the stool next to yours and says, buy a girl a drink?

You could easily buy the pitiful old scullery maid a beer but instead you hear yourself say, Beat it,’re bothering me. Just then the door swings open and an intense blast of sunlight rolls into the dark murky cafe. Everyone squints and moans until the heavy wooden door slams shut and the last of the brazen sunlight recoils back outside leaving only a single laser beam of light shooting through the keyhole. Direct sunlight is the mortal enemy of all cold blooded lounge-lizards.

Give a girl a break, the scullery maid pleads.

You give her the once over.

I wasn’t always this pitiful, she says. There was a time you would have fell to your knees and begged to get into Betty’s pants.

Not my type, you say.

Betty was everybody’s type back then...even Father Flannigan.

You smirk, nod.

When my Rocco was alive, I had it all, Betty says. He got it for me: Colt .45, creamsicles, beer nuts, Skybars, chocolate éclairs...Rocco was the best....he worshiped me...I was the Queen of Atlantic Avenue...I miss Rocco.

What happen to your Rocco?

His monkey killed him.


Rocco was the organ grinder down on the steel pier. He worked under the pink Ferris wheel for years. He was famous. The tourists loved Rocco and Gus.


Gus was Rocco’s monkey; a mean little piss-ass of a dysfunctional monkey. Gus and Rocco had a drunken quarrel one night over the percentage of their take. Gus thought because he did all the work; dressing up like Captain America, dancing around and doing slapstick comedy that he should get a bigger cut than Rocco. According to Gus, all Rocco did was crank the damn handle. Gus thought that you didn’t need a special talent to crank a handle; any dimwit with an arm could crank a handle.

Rocco reminded Gus that monkeys can’t take out a vender’s license. That’s when Gus flipped-out and threw a bottle of Chianti right at Rocco’s head, killing him dead.

Maybe Rocco is not dead, you tell Betty, maybe he’s just hiding.

I watched Rocco thrash around on the kitchen floor in a puddle of wine choking on his own blood. A piece of broken bottle lodged in his neck and severed know...his larry...something X...his windpipe. The police accused me of breaking the bottle on the Formica table and sticking it into Rocco’s neck during a violent domestic dispute. I told them that Rocco was my golden goose; why would I kill my golden goose? I told them Gus the monkey did it. They did not believe me. They asked me where was Gus? I told them he jumped out the window. The cops chuckled and told me they’ll put out an all-points-bulletin to pick-up the armed and dangerous steel pier monkey. You guys are a real funny, I told them. A damn riot. The cops talked to my neighbors; they heard screaming and arguing coming out of the apartment. I tried to explain to the cops that was Gus’s high pitch squeal. The cops believed me even less.

You’re sure it was Gus who murdered Rocco?

It had to be Gus. Rocco didn’t cut his own throat. Plus that little devil monkey turned and smiled this creepy green-toothed smile at me just before he jumped out the window onto the fire escape. That monkey set me up. That monkey ruined my life. I was innocent of all charges and still got 15 to 20; I did eighteen years in Rahway Prison for women and believe me it’s not like in the movies. It’s no lesbian picnic. It was a nightmare. I was in my prime when I got locked look at me.

What happen to Gus? you ask.

Parts unknown...but if I ever get my hands on that little bastard of a monkey...

You finish your beer, wipe your mouth on your sleeve. Good story, Betty, you say. I’ll give you five bucks for it.

Ten...along with a shot and a beer.

I own all rights?

Deal, Betty says.

You motion to the bartender, a shot and a beer, you say, for the reigning Queen of Atlantic Avenue.

Interlude Stories: James C. Clar


“So, Mr. Li,” HPD Detective Jake Higa asked the immaculately dressed restaurant owner. “You don’t deny that the missing men worked here for you?”

Cars turned off Kaimuki onto Kapahulu Avenue. Houses and high-rises competed for space on the lush, towering hillside in the distance to the north toward St. Louis Heights and the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Across the street, a small group of locals played basketball at Crane Park. Their efforts were seen rather than heard through the thick glass of the restaurant’s tinted windows. The game seemed like some sort of liquid pantomime in the mid-morning sun.

“Deny it, Detective? Why would I deny it? In fact, I’m quite proud.” Li spoke perfect English, acquired first at a British school in Hong Kong and, later, honed by years of dealing with a fickle public in San Francisco and, finally, Honolulu. “I’ve come up with a remarkably efficient solution to one of the island’s most vexing problems.”

“Yeah,” Higa’s partner, Ray Kanahele observed sardonically, “it’s obvious you’re a real philanthropist.”

Higa raised his eyebrows in a cautionary way and glanced meaningfully at the lumbering Hawaiian. Kanahele was nobody’s fool, and he was a good man in a tight spot. At times, however, he had trouble restraining his tongue. With Halloween only a few days away, the big man was particularly on edge. Holidays always had that effect on him.

As far as Kanahele was concerned, the Waikiki area was madhouse enough what with the tourists, the eccentric residents who had washed ashore from God knew where and for God knew what reason and the commercial juggernaut that roared basically twenty-four hours a day. Mix in a holiday like Halloween and reality soon became even more twisted. Waikiki could overload anyone’s circuits under normal circumstances. Now there were whack-jobs running around in costumes and all the stores in the area were tricked out with ghosts, ghouls, goblins, witches and jack-o’-lanterns in every goddamn window. All in all, Kanahele would argue if given the opportunity, it made a tough job even tougher.

“You could say that,” Li continued unperturbed. “In any case, once word gets out – and I’m certain it will – others will adopt my strategy, here as well as on the Mainland. The idea’s guaranteed to take off in less developed countries as well; in places where scruples often take a back seat to economic necessity.”

Higa spoke before Kanahele could interrupt.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Right,” Kanahele chimed in undeterred, “enlighten us about your ‘ancient Chinese secret’.”

Li turned and barked out instructions in what Higa assumed was Taiwanese to a harried employee shucking pea-pods at a table in the far corner of the dining room.

“The homeless have proliferated here in Oahu in alarming numbers over the last decade. Of all people, you and Detective Kanahele must realize that vagrancy has become a life-style choice of late. There was one man whose, um, acquaintance I made who divided his time between Hawaii and Southern California! Nothing the City or County has tried to do has worked.”

Despite himself, Ray Kanahele almost found himself agreeing with Li’s assessment. The number of “Hoovervilles” that had sprung up on the island was a genuine embarrassment, not to mention the subject of much consternation on the part of officials concerned with the Aloha State’s image as a tropical paradise and primetime vacation destination. The sixteen mile stretch on the leeward coast between Manakuli and Keauu, for example, had become little more than a sprawling shantytown. And, of course, there were ongoing issues with vagrants camped out in Kapiolani Park and Kuhio Beach in the heart of Waikiki. But now three homeless men had gone missing under somewhat mysterious circumstances; circumstances that seemed to be connected with their “employment” by Li in his fashionable new restaurant.

Higa, for his part, looked into Li’s eyes. As a Japanese-American proud of his Asian background, he had hoped to see something in the businessman with which he might be able to connect. What he saw, however, disappointed and disturbed him. Li’s eyes were lifeless, calculating. If Higa saw anything there, it was avarice and an utter lack of humanity.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Li, I’m still a bit confused,” the wiry policeman stated. “You admit that you offered the three missing men jobs. We have a statement from another of your employees to the effect that he transported them, on separate occasions, here to the restaurant in one of your vehicles. Now, though, you’re referring to some ‘solution’ you’ve come up with for the island’s homeless problem. I’m not sure I see the connection.”

From where he stood just off to the side of the owner, Ray Kanahele looked around at the ornate furnishings in the dining room. Right in the middle was a full-sized koi pond complete with a colored lights and a waterfall. Each of the tables in the establishment was topped with a “harvest” centerpiece featuring a mini-pumpkin. He leaned in close and lightly squeezed the well-dressed man’s shoulder.

“See,” Kanahele spoke quietly, “what my partner means is, we’d like to know what ‘jobs’ these guys were supposed to be doing for you and, you know, where we might be able to locate them. All three of ‘em were pretty well known in the area; no one’s spotted them in the last two weeks or so.”

“Detective Kanahele, please,” Li grimaced under the pressure of the beefy detective’s grip. Kanahele released the man’s shoulder and backed up. “Times are hard, detectives. The pressures of running a successful business – let alone a restaurant – in this economy are enormous. We did quite well when we first opened. You might recall that I was profiled in Honolulu Magazine. But, of late, the pace has slowed somewhat. Prices, however, continue to rise, especially for meat and fish. Raising my own prices is out of the question. That’s the worst thing you can do when trade starts to fall off. Plus, the holidays are upon us. It should be our busiest season. I studied the problem and devised an elegant and cost-effective answer.”

Higa looked up from his battered, black Moleskine notebook. Almost at once, he understood. Looking at his partner, it was clear that the big man was still in the dark.

Li’s eyes met Higa’s. The owner then turned toward Kanahele. He spoke to the Hawaiian detective as though to an uncomprehending employee.

“Surely, detective, I don’t have to remind you of the practices of your ancestors!”

Higa closed his notebook and stood up.

“I think we have everything we need here, for now, Mr. Li. I’m going to have one of our patrolmen escort you out to his car. Be aware, please, that anything more you say may be used against you. If I were you, I’d get in touch with an attorney.”


“You know, Jake,” Kanahele spoke two hours later as he looked quizzically at his untouched teriyaki steak plate lunch. The two men sat at an outside table on the Kanaina Avenue side of the Rainbow Drive-In a few blocks down Kapahulu from Li’s restaurant. The venerable take-out place once frequented by a young Barack Obama was jammed with the usual assortment of tourists, construction workers, delivery drivers and surfers.

“Bastard’s got balls mentioning the ancient Polynesians like that. They did what they did in special ceremonies and as a way to capture the strength of their enemies. They weren’t trying to save a buck by luring in unsuspecting victims and serving them up in their friggin’ Kung Pau Chicken or Mu Shu Pork!”

“Aren’t you going to eat that?” Higa asked pointing to the quickly congealing mass of meat and rice on Kanahele’s plate.

The big detective stood up from the table and tossed his meal into a nearby trash can.

“I’ve lost my appetite. Besides, we might as well go and get started on all the paperwork. I need to get home at a decent hour tonight. Maile accepted an invitation to a Halloween party from one of her coworkers. We’re supposed to dress up in costumes, for Christ’s sake.”

“What are you going as?” Higa asked, still seated.

“Yeah, well,” Kanahele hesitated. “I was going as a Fijian warrior. Now I think I’m gonna’ come up with a different idea.”

Higa stood. A wry smile played across his usually impassive face despite the fact that he still had to acquire a few items to complete the costume requested by Toshio, his girlfriend’s gifted but troubled son. The eleven-year-old was planning on trick-or-treating this year in an authentic Yomiuri Giants’ uniform.

“Ray, didn’t you and Maile eat at Li’s place just last week?”

“Shit,” Kanahele replied looking a little pale, “I think I’m gonna’ become a goddamn vegan, too!”
BIO: James C. Clar has published numerous stories in print as well as on the Internet. His work has appeared in venues as diverse as 365 Tomorrows, Apollo’s Lyre, Flashshot, The Taj Mahal Review, The New Flesh Magazine, Weirdyear, Shine: A Journal of Flash, Long Story Short and Everyday Fiction. Earlier stories featuring Honolulu detectives Higa and Kanahele may be found right here on A Twist Of Noir, as well as on Thrillers, Killers ’N’ Chillers and Powder Burn Flash.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interlude Stories: Paul Beckman


Jack showed up at Tina’s door Thursday evening. His regular day was Tuesday, which he missed and Thursdays belonged to Big Gino, who was sitting on the screened porch in his shorts smoking a Cuban and drinking a Mohito. Tina always had a batch of Mohitos ready on Thursdays.

She told Jack that he couldn’t come into the house and to please go away. Jack pushed Tina aside and walked in trailing behind his whiskey breath. He looked around and found Big Gino calmly sipping his drink through a curvy straw.

“Haul ass,” Jack said in his don’t-mess-with-me voice.

Big Gino puffed on the stogy and ignored him. Jack walked over to Big Gino, bent over and got into his space, glaring with an eight-point scowl and graveled, “Move it!”

Big Gino stood and grabbed his shirt and put it on.

“Hurry up,” Jack ranted as Big Gino reached under his jeans and pulled a .38 and shot Jack in the gut. He added another shot to his forehead, picked up his glass and sipped the rest of his Mohito.

He spoke for the first time. “Sorry you had to see that, baby,” he said to Tina.

“It’s alright,” she said breathing hard and turned on like all get out.

“No. It’s not,” said Big Gino and did her the same way.

BIO: Paul Beckman is a real estate salesman & writer of short fiction. Sometimes his fiction inadvertently shows up in his real estate ads.


Collections: Come! Meet My Family & other stories, Web del Sol Chap book, Maybe I Ought To Sit Quietly In A Dark Room For A While (flash & micro fiction chap book), Silken Worm Chapbook.

Novella: Lovers and Other Mean People (Sugar Mule)


Interlude Stories: Mark Joseph Kiewlak


“Is your name really Lancelot?” she said. “’Cause, like, nobody’s name is Lancelot.”

She was nineteen. Maybe. We were in the stairwell, moving down. There were ten guys with guns waiting in the basement.

“Did your mother give you that name?” she said. “Was she, like, into the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur and stuff?”

“Shut up,” I said.

I thought about reversing direction. There were ten guys with guns waiting in the penthouse.

“You shouldn’t have come here,” she said. “I would’ve done fine on my own.”

We were nearing the basement. “I know why you’re here,” I said. “I know a lot of it. I know about Maurice.”

Maurice had a lot of girls. And a lot of bodyguards. But there was only one Angela. And only one of me, for that matter.

“That social worker’s got a big mouth,” Angela said.

Her hair was auburn and hung down to her ass in a long braid. She was wearing jeans big enough for me and black leather shoes with chunky four inch heels.

“Tell me what he did to you,” I said. “And we can make him pay.”

“Who?” she said. “Maurice -- or my father?”

Jesus Christ.

“Is that some sort of surprise?” she said. “Isn’t that what you expect?”

“The day I start expecting it,” I said, “I’ll put the gun to my own head.”

We had reached the basement door. I peeked out through the wire glass. Two men stood guard on the other side. A half dozen more were by the elevator. I heard voices on the stairs. They were coming down.

“Let them have me,” she said. “There’s no other way out.”

I ducked under the stairwell just as the men rounded the last corner. Angela put her finger to her lips to indicate that she wouldn’t tell on me. The men took her by the arms through the door into the parking garage. As the door began to close behind them I heard one of them on a cell phone. “We’re bringing her up,” he said. He gestured toward the door to the stairwell and the two men who had been guarding the door stepped inside and I shot them both in the head at point blank range. I reloaded and ran out into the garage. Everyone including Angela was grouped by the elevators. I began firing as I ran toward them. I hit one in the midsection, another in the thigh. I hit one in the neck and another in the chest. By that time they were returning fire. I ducked behind a concrete pillar. Four of them were down. That left four plus Angela. I stuck my gun out and blasted another one in the head. I was about thirty feet away. Angela was screaming and kicking and only one guy was holding her. I reloaded. As a second guy turned to get a hold of her I shot him in the back. A bullet whacked a chunk of concrete out of the pillar where my head had been a second before. There were only two men left.

Angela broke free of one man’s grip and charged at the second. The man she had broken free of pointed his gun at her and I shot him in the upper chest. While Angela was wrestling with the last bodyguard I ran up and pressed my gun to his head. Angela took his gun and stuffed it in her pants pocket. The elevator was waiting with the doors open. I hauled the last bodyguard to his feet and shoved him inside. I grabbed Angela by the arm and did the same. I glanced around to make sure no one was making a recovery. Some of the men were still moving but not very much.

The doors closed and I pressed my gun up under the bodyguard’s nose. He wore a black T-shirt with black chinos. His arm was bleeding where Angela had bitten him.

“Fucking Lancelot,” she said. “You fucked us good now.”

I jammed the barrel into his nostril. “Take us to Maurice,” I said. He took out a key and inserted it into the control panel and pressed a red button at the top.

“When we get there,” I said, “you go first. Understand?”

He nodded. There was sweat on his lip and atop his shaved head.

“Maurice will kill us both now,” Angela said.

“What are you to him?” I said. “What was worth all this trouble?”

She took a step back into the corner and turned away from me. “Our daughter,” she said. “Maurice wants me to tell him where our daughter is.”

“Where is she?” I said.

The doors opened and I shoved the bodyguard out. We were in the foyer of the penthouse. More bodyguards were waiting. Some of them had Uzis. I took Angela by the throat. “This is the only way,” I said. “Otherwise I’m dead and I can’t help you.”

“Okay,” she said.

I got behind her and stuck my gun in her ribs. The bodyguards let us pass. The living room was triple-tiered and enormous. Off to one side was a hallway and a set of bodyguards on either side of a door. I marched Angela up to the door. “Let us inside,” I said.

From inside a gravelly voice said, “Let them in.”

We went in and found Maurice seated in the shadows behind an enormous desk. The wall behind him was all glass. The rain was slanting against it and pounding pretty hard.

“Where’s my daughter?” Maurice said. He acted as if I wasn't even there. His salt and pepper hair was receding in a widow's peak and grew long in the back. He had tiny round glasses with colored shades. His clothes were all black.

“You used to mean something to me,” Maurice said. “Now I will shoot you in the cunt unless you tell me where my daughter is.”

His gravelly voice had an edge to it that made my muscles tense up. He still hadn’t made eye contact with me.

“Like, fuck you, Maurice,” Angela said. “Why should I tell you anything? You’re just another macho prick who thought he owned me.”

Her use of the past tense was encouraging.

Maurice lifted his hand above the desk. There was a gun in it. He pressed a button on the arm of his chair and it moved backward. I realized it was a wheelchair. Maurice was a paraplegic.

“I have a right to my daughter,” he said. “She’s all I have left.”

“Then you don’t have anything,” Angela said.

Maurice shot her in the calf. Her body went slack and I took my hand from her throat and let her sink to the floor. I turned my gun on Maurice.

“I would piss in your face,” he said to Angela, “if I could.”

I was down on one knee with her head cradled in my lap and my gun arm out straight. Maurice pressed a button and his chair moved closer. “One night,” he said. “Twenty fucking years ago. One night.”

Something didn’t make sense. Then it did.

“You’re not Angela,” I said.

Maurice looked at me for the first time. He glanced at the girl he had shot. She said nothing.

“She’s a teenager, Maurice,” I said. “Look at her. She’s a fucking teenager.”

Maurice turned the gun on me. “And you’re a fucking dead man,” he said.

“She was my mother,” the girl said. “After she died I took her name. I took her memories. I took her everything. And you took mine.”

Maurice was in shock. He forgot all about the gun in his hand. “You ... you’re --”

“I’m your fucking daughter,” Angela said.

If he could’ve gotten out of the chair he would have. He motored to within a few feet of us. He reached out his hand to her. “My daughter,” he said. Tears were in his eyes.

Angela’s face was a snarl of contempt. If she felt the bullet in her leg she gave no sign. “You didn’t even know her,” she said. “You just wanted her and you took her. You gave her the virus. You never even knew she died. All you knew was that she was pregnant. You came to collect and I wasn't there. She hid me away from you. But I’m not hiding anymore.”

Maurice ignored the contempt in her voice. “My baby girl,” he said. “I found you at last.”

I stood up and took the gun from his hand. Through the window I saw the parking lot filling with police cars. Shooting ten people had gotten someone’s attention. As I turned back around I saw that Angela had taken the gun from her pants and was pointing it at Maurice. She fired it into his chest until it was empty. Then she fell backwards unconscious on the floor. Maurice’s body was slumped in the chair. His eyes were wide. There was a smile on his face.

BIO: Mark Joseph Kiewlak has been a published author for more than two decades. In recent years his work has appeared in The Back Alley, Hardboiled, Plots With Guns, All Due Respect, Pulp Pusher, Thuglit, and many others. His story, “The Present,” was nominated for the 2010 Spinetingler Award: Best Short Story on the Web. He has also written for DC Comics.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Interlude: Curse Of The Phantom Shadow

Mark Ross is an independent filmmaker and is currently in production of a short film titled CURSE OF THE PHANTOM SHADOW.

The film is an homage to radio dramas, The Phantom, B Movies, Dick Tracy, Batman, Spy Smasher, The Shadow, Republic Movie Serials, Comic Books and Pulp Novels/Magazines of the 1930s/1940s.

The film takes place in 1948 and stars a number of actors that have been in Hollywood productions.

Until recently, the film was 100% financed, via Mark’s personal savings but has since had to ask for donations to keep the production afloat.

All Mark is asking for you to do is check out his site and have a look at the video there. If you wish to make a donation, there is a portion of the site where you can do so.

Interlude Stories: Jamie Grefe


No more flings. It’s over. I loosen my tie and suck a Lucky through dust-filled lungs; lean in and breathe smoke over her body like a sacramental offering. Mutter a few words and watch her eyes study the ceiling in a limp stare, blood seeping from sliced-up skin. I curse the torn walls of this place, the hideaway, and scream a bit. I pocket the blood-stained scissors.

Sitting by the body, I crumple and swallow the note, let the ink drip down my throat, chasing it with spit. Kathleen, my lovely bird, look at you. My hands shake from this hot summer night. I pry the suitcase from her right hand. Ella will be proud of me.

The cigarette sticks to my lips. Visions of Ella and Kathleen send me shivering to the floor in a guilty lust. I hug the case and watch their two perfect faces blur, congeal, and melt into each other. The images morph from Kathleen’s sultry gaze to Ella's sweet smile. The scissors weigh my pocket down like a rock in a dead man’s mouth. But something is amiss and I know it is amiss, can feel it in the acidic ink. Kathleen’s left palm lies open. I read the message inscribed in blood, “She’s evil.”

Headlights from the driveway hit the wall behind me. Duck and stumble through the living room, fumble to the kitchen. My vision blots in bits of red. I hear the voices of men, men that are looking for me, looking for her. Car doors slam. They can probably smell me in the musky air. They sniff. I crouch and glimpse their large bodies, black suits and ties, firepower. Guns click and crack. Of course, I think, Kathleen’s hired hands. I have seen them in her office. She must have told them. I know this will not end pretty. Staring, I think of Ella waiting alone in the cabin. We are a mile apart from the first day of our new life.

When the front door is blown apart, I hear them holler and I disappear into the woods through the back door. I clutch the suitcase tight. A death-visit. Bullet serenades drill tiny holes into the house churning the wooden innards into a pierced lung. She had sent them to do me in. I did her in instead. It all works out in the end, I think. I run in strangled breath through the thick night. From a small hill hidden by tall trees I watch the fireworks, imagine her body engulfed by all those men, spoiled skin, holes, scissor slices. Kathleen, you set me up, I think. Waves of ‘she never really trusted me’ shoot me in the face. I’ll get over it. There’s too much money in the suitcase.

A muffled cellphone rings. There is a phone tucked in the inside pocket of my suitcoat. It is her phone. Lies. That would explain the lack of tears. Private Number. Connect and listen. Close breathing, empty shells skitter and clink through the speaker. A low drawl whispers in a foreign tongue. I hang up. The woods are still with the smell of death. I stomp the phone to bits even though I know it’ll do no good. They know where I am. They know I’m alive. I empty my pockets and review: map, keys and case.

I unfold and spread the map over the dirt and grass, use a match for fire to trace a way to where Ella waits. Her red-lipped kiss print marks the spot, one tiny star in the center of the lip-mark: our cabin. Yes, Ella will be there. I can still taste Kathleen’s dew on my fingers, in my nostrils. A soft moan like music echoes through the trees. A figure steps from behind a gaunt tree and leans her slender frame up against it. It is Kathleen and I freeze. Her red dress drips blood from the gash in her chest. There is a haze of smoke around her. I rub my eyes, but she is still standing there. A faint light emanates from her chest. The wound pulsates. I clench my teeth, stand and step slowly to her.

She wipes the blood from my face, while her green eyes chew kisses on my cheek. I can’t feel anything. I extend my arms to her. She is gone. I slap my own face. Nothing but the wind, I think. A bubbling pulse shoots through my skin in simmering ripples of pain. It feels like something is pushing out from my insides, something other than me, a part of Kathleen or a lingering trace of desire.

A wind picks up and I hold the map down with two stones. Light another match. Light another Lucky. I find the cabin on the map. It is a crude square amidst squiggles and trace my finger from the house to the wooden fence just over the hill that will lead me to the cabin with the kiss-marked lips. The phone rings again, a slur of voices are carried in by the tides of night and I think of the smell of her dress. Footsteps rustle in the distance. Too many ghosts out tonight, I think.

I fold the map and cram it into the suitcase, latch the case and run. There must be thousands in there all staring at me. Branches flick my face. For every wound, I think of Ella, I think of Kathleen. I hallucinate their bodies piercing the black woods around me. Kathleen runs through the field. She spreads herself in the grass. Solitary, Ella points to the fence, vanishes in the dark. Wild dogs with female voices sing from the horizon and I feel I blur into the blackened hallucinations of the night until I find the wooden fence that leads to the cabin. Thank you, ladies.

When I enter the cabin, fingers clutch my throat, maul my eyes and nose. The hands reek of gasoline. Someone is prodding my mouth with the muzzle of a cold gun, damp disinfected cloth, duct tape. Tied to the chair and through the puffed eyes of bruises, I think I see her in front of me - Ella, my glamorous angel and wife. Rough men surround me. Their faces are blurred phantoms in the low-light of the lamps and in the glaze of these fresh wounds. The head of a dead deer hangs above the fireplace. I shot, stuffed and mounted it two years ago. Now, it stares in revenge. The chair I am tied to is made of wood, bolted to the floor with nails. Ella, my angel wife, grins and pulls a Lucky from my shirt pocket.

The case is now handcuffed to a rough man’s thick wrist. Ella is talking with him, but I can’t understand what they are talking about. Other men pour gasoline over my head and body, douse the floor around the chair. The ceremony, I mumble through broken teeth, will begin shortly. The words just kinda pour out. Headlights flash white against the wall behind me for a second time this evening. Doors shut and I flinch, seal my eyes, blank out the world. Everything sounds too close.

Ella moves close and sits on my lap, wrapping her long scented legs around me. A touch of death from the poisoned ink wells up from within and I choke it back down. Innards constrict. She pecks my dirty skin with soft lips and I cough up wads of black saliva and blood. She whispers a litany of gorgeous sentiments and final words like revelations or bullets. The gears of my brain are growing rusty.

She says I never should have cheated in the first place and that this is where cheaters end up. She says that cheaters and liars don't gel, don’t mix. She says that Kathleen should have seen it coming, but the only thing Kathleen could say was how lovely it was that I could be a shared man. And then, the money. Ella and I had it all worked out, I think. She had placed the scissors in the hideaway’s kitchen cupboard. That part was a cinch. It was this part that throws me for a loop. There is another man, she says. A man with a scar the size of Texas steps from the shadows. He looks broken, but I think it is me who is broken. We have made plans, she says. Plans, I say. Plans, the Texan scar says.

Spatters of red, orange and green swirl around the periphery while spiraling images of what could have been sizzle in my mouth and I sigh out word after meaningless word. Ella’s face sits in the center of those spatters; the facade of my angel melts into a tangled, messy clump of deception.

She stands and Texas passes her a pair of blood-stained scissors, the pair they must have pulled from my pocket. I grunt and listen to the scissors snipping. I hear a car engine start up outside and the men are moving from the inside of the cabin to the outside. I see them through the picture window with its curtains of red. A trunk closes. A horn honks. I taste blue jazz and smoky blood, suck the dripping blood back up into my nose and deep into gasoline-soaked lungs.

Ella kneels before me. It happens slower than I would have liked, but then again, I don’t like any of this. A kind of dull pain compliments the whole process. My screams dissolve into the mist wafting from the river of blood that gushes from the sliced skin and bone of my gnarled legs.

I faint and awake to the silence and emptiness of the silent cabin and the mocking deer head fading in and out of clarity. I shot that thing, I think. By this time, the forgotten words of the poisoned note, that final and absolute adieu, have eaten through my insides and left me just another bloated and bloody veil on the face of the only woman that I ever truly loved. The blood surrounds me, a river of red like love. Ella, from the door, walks atop the red water like I always knew she could. She lights a lovely match. The flame is radiant.

BIO: Jamie Grefe lives and works in Beijing, China where he writes and teaches. His work is up at Mud Luscious, Pure Francis, Wonderfort, Danse Macabre and elsewhere.

Interlude Stories: Andrew Stancek


Mister Johnson has me against the kitchen wall, one hand inside my brassiere, the other lifting my skirt. “C’mon, Janet, c’mon,” he grunts. His customers are waiting for the dinners getting cold on the plates. The ones I’m supposed to be carrying out. But he can’t stop himself. Another Thursday in Ellwood City. I finally slither from under him, grab the plates and sashay out. The Sheriff winks when I put down his chili.

The man in the back booth stares a hole through me. Looks like a tomcat done licking his bowl of cream.

“Anythin’ you serve in this here joint ain’t gonna make me puke?”

“Chili’s good,” I say. “Some meatloaf left.”

He looks me up and down. “You the purtiest thing I ever did see.”

“Yeah,” I say, “ever since last night? Meatloaf or chili?”

“’Taint apple pie I’d like for dessert.”

I’ve been listening to that kinda jazz since I turned eleven but at least he wasn’t Bubba or Duane or the other boys on the football team. Besides Mister Johnson I don’t have much else on the horizon. I bring the stranger his dinner, watch the regulars file out, wipe the counter while he eats. He’s a talker, been everywhere, he says. Picked in California, froze his arse shoveling coal in Michigan. By the time his dollar is on the counter, I know I’m not going to let him go. Banks, he says, is where his future is at. He robbed one already, and if I go along, we’ll be bigger than Bonnie and Clyde.

“You had a better offer?” he says and I almost leave my hat behind rushing out the door.

Turns out he’s no Clyde Barrow. And if I was more like Bonnie Parker I’d be dead. Maybe better off.

Fun, we had that, just no luck. Seems like every car we stole ran out of gas, every gun jammed, every store had no more than fifteen dollars in the till. Our ten days were the best damn ten days I’ve ever had. The end was out of gas in a stolen car, in Oklahoma, us running into sun glare in the fresh snow.

I cry before the judge, tell him I was just along for the ride, had nothing to do with the robberies. Mr. Johnson testifies I’m a good worker, must have lost my head. The Sheriff says he’ll keep an eye on me. The judge lets me off, and now Sheriff and Mr. Johnson both make me prove I’m grateful.

Seven months and thirteen days since they took Clarence away. I hope someone with better luck walks through that door soon. Ain’t holding my breath, though.

BIO: Some of Andrew Stancek's recent writing has appeared in THIS Literary Magazine, The Linnet's Wings, Pure Slush, Negative Suck, Istanbul Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine and Left Hand Waving.

Interlude Stories: Stephen D. Rogers


So here’s the scoop. You, you’re going to wait outside. You park illegally and you keep the engine running. You want to be noticed.

That’s the key to this whole thing working. You’re the bait that’s going to lead the cops away from the money.

Maybe they cite you for speeding or driving to endanger or failing to stop, but they can’t tag you for the robbery since there’s nothing linking you to the job except for their assumptions.

If they do charge you, afterwards, you sue them for false arrest. You don’t even have to split whatever the court awards you since you’re the one who had to go through the booking process.

So you wait outside the bank. We come out the door and jump in your car. You take off and go around the corner where we jump out and get into the van. You take off again leading law enforcement on a merry chase.

When they stop you, you know nothing.

When they say witnesses saw the robbers get into your car, you break down and confess you were carjacked but that we threatened to come back and kill you if you ever talked.

You ask for police protection. Of course they’re not going to provide it, but throwing that curve will confuse them.

The reason you were parked outside the bank? You wanted to pull over to make a call. They can’t complain about that.

Once you’re free and clear, I’ll be in contact to give you your share.

And again, if you decide to sue the cops, you keep one hundred percent of whatever you get.

Sounds good, right?

BIO: Stephen D. Rogers is the co-author of A MISCELLANY OF MURDER and the author of SHOT TO DEATH, THREE-MINUTE MYSTERIES, and more than 700 shorter pieces. His website,, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Interlude Stories - Malcolm Holt


Slinger stood by the edge of the murky waters of the River Tyne holding a pair of blood-soaked Zildjian drumsticks. As he stood there in total isolation, the evening light was starting to fade. It had been hard for him to stomach the events of the last few hours and he shuddered at the memories of a life gone by, one that he hoped he had escaped from forever. He had been wrong.


The previous evening, Slinger had enjoyed yet another good music session at the Cluny, one of the premier live music venues in Newcastle upon Tyne. It was always hot and sweaty in there but he loved it that way. His real name was Frankie Wilson, but as soon as he picked up his first set of drumsticks he became Slinger. This was no doubt due to him learning to play the drums in the manic style of the late Keith Moon, fast and furious.

As a frustrated teenager, he took all his frustrations out on his drum kit. Of course he looked nothing like Keith Moon. He was now over six feet tall, with a shaved head and a goatee. For Slinger, playing the drums in various local bands had ultimately been his salvation from a life of crime and drugs on a rough council estate in Newcastle’s East End.

After the gig, Slinger had returned to his flat in the Sandyford area of Newcastle, not too far from the Cluny, and he immediately opened a chilled bottle of beer. He had noticed his telephone flashing, telling him that he had at least one message. He picked it up and listened to the message. There was just the one. It was from an old friend, Pete.

‘Hi, Frankie, Pete here.’ As soon as he heard this, Slinger sensed that something was wrong. Pete never called him Frankie. The message continued. ‘I’ve emailed you a link to something I think you might want to see. Sorry, pal.’ The message ended.

Slinger was curious. Pete, or Pervy Pete as he was more commonly known, only ever sent links to outrageous porn films. He half expected the usual badly dubbed East European rubbish. He switched on his laptop and waited for it to load. After a few minutes, Slinger was opening his inbox and he soon found Pete’s email. He opened the link.

The film was up to Pete’s usual standards. Poor sound quality and grainy pictures. It was called ‘Tyne Teen Sluts 4.’ Slinger watched as a young teenage girl stripped completely with her back to the camera. An overweight man in his late fifties appeared, naked and clearly in some state of arousal. The man turned the girl towards him and Slinger instantly hit the pause button. As he watched a few more frames, Slinger threw his beer bottle at the wall.

Brought up on a drug-infested East End council estate in Newcastle, where feral children roamed and fists were a way of life, Slinger was only five years old when the riots were destroying many estates in England. After draggging himself through his teenage years, Slinger couldn’t wait to escape from his alcoholic father and his prostitute mother. He had always worried about his younger sister Suzy, though, but he always hoped that she would cope with the rigours of East End life better than him.

Slinger had recognised the man in the film. It was Thomas Whiteman, known as Uncle Tommy to all the local children. He was actually related for real to the Axeman, Ronnie Spencer, the most feared criminal in the area. Ronnie’s nickname was never about his choice of favourite weapon, it was rumoured to be about him having a humongous penis. With Ronnie, nobody ever challenged his right to the nickname.

Slinger stared at the frozen image on his laptop. He ran to the bathroom and threw up in the toilet. A few moments later, he returned to his living room, switched off his laptop and sat back in his armchair. He could feel the pulse in his neck throbbing. It was destined to be a long night without sleep.


The following morning, Slinger had found himself back in the East End standing outside the Ramraid, regarded by many as the worst pub in Newcastle. Its real name was the Rampart, but nobody called it that. You only ever entered the Ramraid if you could be certain that there was at least one friendly person you knew inside. Even the local police kept well away from the Ramraid.

Slinger knew the Axeman would be holding court inside, bragging about his latest drug business and his various second-hand goods ventures. He inhaled deeply, opened the door and walked inside. Only one table was occupied inside the Ramraid. Slinger saw that the Axeman was sitting there with two younger men. He had more tattoos than he recalled, but still looked evil. The Axeman looked up and glared at Slinger.

‘Well, well, the prodigal son returns. Had enough of posh living, eh, Slinger?’

Slinger tried hard not to show any fear. ‘I need your help,’ he said. ‘I need to see Uncle Tommy.’

The Axeman burst out laughing. ‘What’s the matter? Have you fallen on hard times and you need a film job?’

Slinger almost smiled as he shook his head. ‘Not quite, and if I had, I wouldn’t run to Uncle Tommy.’

‘Then what do you want him for?’ The Axeman was suddenly curious.

‘I need to see him about one of his films. There was someone I know in it.’

‘Oh aye, and who might that be?’

Slinger took a deep breath. ‘My sister.’

The Axeman was now really paying attention. ‘Oh I see. That is interesting. Your kid sister is under age, right?’ Slinger nodded. ‘So, why exactly do you want to see Uncle Tommy?’

‘I want him to leave my sister alone.’

‘So, I guess you’ve come to me because you don’t know where Uncle Tommy lives nowadays and you can’t really ask your sister, under the circumstances. But why do you think I would give you his address?’

Slinger hesitated for a second. ‘Because you owe me and if you had a sister, you would want to see him as well.’

When they were in their early teens, Slinger and the Axeman had been on the roof of a warehouse. The roof had been quite brittle and it gave way under the Axeman’s weight. Slinger had caught hold of his arm before he fell to what would have been an almost certain death.

The Axeman studied Slinger. ‘It must have taken a lot of guts to come back here and walk through that door. I suppose it was bound to happen one day that someone would want to have a word with the dirty old bastard.’ He picked up a beer mat and took a biro out of his pocket. The Axeman wrote down an address and handed the beer mat to Slinger.

Slinger took the beer mat and nodded. ‘Thanks.’

The Axeman put the biro back in his pocket. ‘Yeah, well, don’t make a habit of it.’

Slinger walked towards the door and was about to leave when the Axeman called out his name.

‘Slinger, there’s just one more thing. Uncle Tommy is usually sleeping off his lunchtime drinking session during the afternoon and he may be more receptive to your little chat. I also reckon we’re even now.’

As he opened the door, Slinger turned, nodded his appreciation and agreement, and then walked outside into the fresh air. He decided to return to his flat for a while, thankful that he had survived the encounter with no cuts, bruises or broken limbs.

It was some three hours later that Slinger located the rundown block of flats where Uncle Tommy lived. As he entered the communal door, Slinger was hit by the stench of stale urine. The lift was predictably out of order and the staircase was partially blocked by a battered Tesco shopping trolley.

He walked up to the second floor and knocked on the door to flat 23. No-one answered. He knocked again and still no-one answered. He tried the door and it opened. He walked into the hallway.

Slinger heard Uncle Tommy before he actually saw him. His snoring sounded strangely like a chainsaw. He was sprawled out on a stained old settee. Slinger walked over and kicked the left foot that was dangling over the edge of the settee. Uncle Tommy snorted loudly. Slinger kicked the foot again. This time, he got a response.

‘What the...who the fuck are you?’

‘I’m the ghost of your past.’

Uncle Tommy focused his eyes. ‘Do I know you?’

‘You’ve probably forgotten me by now, but I certainly know you.’

‘So, what the fuck do you want?’

‘I’ve been watching your latest film and I think it’s time for Uncle Tommy to retire.’

Uncle Tommy looked puzzled by what was happening. He studied the stranger more intently and he slowly began to recognise the man. The last time he had seen Slinger would’ve been a few years earlier.

‘You’re Frankie Wilson, aren’t you? I thought you’d moved on ages ago.’

‘I came back, just to see Uncle Tommy one last time.’

Uncle Tommy tried to sit up but soon gave up. ‘So, what do you really want?’

Slinger smiled. ‘Tyne Teen Sluts 4.’

Uncle Tommy shifted his position slightly, sensing that his visitor was not necessarily paying him a social call. ‘What about it? It’s not my best film, by any stretch of the imagination.’

‘Oh, it left nothing to the imagination,’ replied Slinger. ‘In fact, it was very clear what was happening. That young girl that you were shagging, in particular, she was well into it.’

‘Yes, she was. A genuine slut in the making, that one.’

‘She’s my sister,’ Slinger snarled.

The silence that followed seemed to last an eternity. Slinger stood over Uncle Tommy, who didn’t know what to do or say. He eventually tried to pull himself up into an upright position. Slinger was busy removing something from the back pocket of his jeans. When Uncle Harry saw a pair of drumsticks, he began to laugh nervously.

‘What are you going to do, play me a fucking tune?’

‘If you want me to. How about ‘I Can See For Miles’ by The Who?’


As Uncle Harry looked directly up at Slinger, the last thing he actually saw was the pair of drumsticks heading towards his eyes. He tried to scream but no sound would come out.


Slinger was still standing by the edge of the River Tyne. He knew that Uncle Tommy would never be watching any more cheap porn films. He doubted that what he had done would save his sister from ultimate self-destruction, but it was a start. He was satisfied that Uncle Tommy would never identify his attacker and he sensed that the Axeman would leave him alone. After all, they were now even.

As the light faded some more, Slinger looked at his drum sticks. Still covered with Uncle Tommy’s blood and god knows what else from his eyeballs, they had done their job well. Slinger had felt some distorted pleasure from having gouged out Uncle Tommy’s eyes.

Slinger knew that his old way of life was still lurking in the dark recesses of his mind, but he was determined to rise above the horror of it all once again. He almost ceremoniously threw the two drumsticks into the slowly flowing river below. He had plenty of spare sets at home in his flat. He doubted that they would ever be used for anything more sinister than beating out a good tune in future. As he turned to walk away, Slinger began to whistle ‘I Can See For Miles.’
BIO: Malcolm Holt is a 58 year old, early retired mental health worker, living in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He has previously had two sport-related books published in England and has just drafted a television script for a proposed comedy drama series. He is also starting to write a travel book. 'Drum and Waste' is his first short story effort in the crime fiction genre, a genre he enjoys very much.

Interlude Stories - John Weagly


She wore long black gloves, satin accessories that came up past her elbows, smooth and glossy to the touch. Refined. Exotic. Distinct.

I met her in the L & L Tavern on Clark Street, a dark, smoky place with Formica tables, wooden chairs, cheap drinks and a quiet but clear sense of despair. She was sitting at the bar.

I sat down on the stool next to her. She gave me a dry smile. “Buy me a drink?” she asked.

She seemed like she was already halfway there. “Of course,” I said.

We drank, Jameson for her and Johnnie Walker Black for me. Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” played on the jukebox. After a couple of rounds, she asked, “Do you like my gloves?”

“Sure,” I said. “I love your gloves.”

“Fancy, aren’t they?”

“Elegant,” I said. “What’s the occasion? Are you going to the opera? Or a high society ball? Or a party at an embassy?”

“I just like wearing long, black gloves.”

“That’s fair,” I said.

“You like the way they rest on my skin? If we go somewhere, you can take them off. You can slide them down my arms, past my wrists, over my hands. Do it slow, like a ritual – methodical, leisurely, deliberate.”

“How much would something like that cost?” I asked.

“I’m not a hooker. I just feel like being with somebody.”


“Who isn’t?” she said.

I took her home. We fumbled around on each other. Her satin hands added an interesting element to our activities. After we finished, she told me a story about a boy and a waterfront and a mugging gone bad. The boy in the story liked long, black gloves. Then, in the night as I slept, she showed herself out.

The next evening I went back to L & L. My paramour was in the same spot at the bar, gloves and all. I sat next to her. “Did you spend it all?” I asked.

“Hi,” she said.

“Did you spend my twelve dollars?”

“I did,” she said. Her satin-tipped finger made small circles on the bar. “I did spend your twelve dollars. Cab fare.”

“My fortune.”

“Sorry. It’s all gone.”

“Thanks for leaving the wallet. And the credit cards.”

“What would I do with your credit cards?” She took her smooth, silky hand and placed it on top of mine on the bar. It felt like a cool breeze from far away. “Thanks,” she said.

“Buy you a drink?” I asked.

“Of course.”

Our drinks came. We sat in silence for a moment while we appreciated them.

“Did it help?” I asked. “Last night. Did it help any?”

“Not really,” she said. “Maybe a little, but not enough.” She sipped her whiskey. “Still think I’m fancy?” she asked.

“Elegant,” I told her.

At a table near the back, a woman laughed. “You didn’t make me an omelette,” she cackled. “You never made me an omelette.” Her laughter sounded like glass breaking.

BIO: John Weagly’s new short story collection, A BUCKET OF BOOBS, is now available on Kindle and other devices. Check out for more information.

Interlude Stories - R. Thomas Brown


“It’s fucking ridiculous is what it is.” Douglas sped down the freeway, the cruise control set at sixty-seven. “Look, I don’t even speed.”

“Calm down, honey.” Marie, his wife, flipped through a book on her phone.

“I will not fucking calm down. This is not fair.”

Marie set her phone in her lap. “Look, you got a ticket for talking on your phone. It’s against the law.”

“I know what the fucking law says.” He moved into the left lane to pass a white truck. His daughter in the car behind them did the same. “The point is I was not being unsafe. It’s a stupid law.”

“You’re setting a bad example for your daughter. You know, she texts all the time when she drives. They say it’s more dangerous than drinking.”

“Fuck that shit. Show me someone who can drop being drunk in their lap when they need to pay attention.” He pulled up even with the truck and looked over. “Look at this son of a bitch.” He pointed. “He’s fucking eating while he drives! From a bowl. A fucking bowl.”


“So, there’s no law against that shit.”

Marie picked her phone up again and rolled her eyes. “They’d give him a ticket if he was driving dangerously.”

“Right, and that’s how it should be with my texting, too. I’m driving safe? Leave me the fuck alone.” He flipped his middle finger to the truck driver who balanced his bowl and returned the gesture.

“Doug, don’t do that. Driving angry doesn’t do anyone any good. Just relax.”

“I’ll relax when I fucking feel like it.” He passed the truck and took a deep breath. “Fucking nanny state assholes telling me what to do all the damned time.”

He glanced in his rear view mirror. “What the fuck? Now look at that douchebag.”

“What?” asked Marie.

“He’s swerving around like he’s fighting off bees or some shit. What a prick.”

“Is Stacy alright?” Marie turned around. “Doug, I’m worried.”

“See, see what I mean about real dangerous driving?”

“Not now, Doug. Stacy.”

“If he hurts her, I swear I’ll fucking kill him.”

“Just pull the fuck over, Doug.”


“Pull over and let him get past us.”

“Fine.” Doug pulled to the shoulder and Stacy followed.

The white truck slowed next to them. The driver leaned out his window and spit on Doug’s Mercedes before driving away and laughing.

“That fucking asshat.” Doug sped off. “I just got this fucking car washed.”

Marie held onto the oh-shit handle. “Doug, what are you doing?”

“I’m gonna teach that little shit a lesson. The fucking police may be too busy giving out tickets for goddamned phone use, but this little fuckwad needs to learn.”

He was on his tail.

“Doug, back off.”

“Shut the fuck up. I’m trying to concentrate.”

The truck accelerated, but Doug had little trouble keeping up. “That’s right, run, fucker. Who’s the badass now?”


He ignored Marie. “I’d bump you off the fucking road, if it wouldn’t hurt my paint job.”

“Doug, you’re scaring me.”

“Then go the fuck to sleep!”


The truck made a sudden exit. Doug followed.

“What about Stacy?”


“We’re taking our fucking daughter to college.”

“She knows how to get there.”

“Douglas Bryant, you get back on that highway!”

The truck turned right. Doug followed.

“Doug, you’re going to get someone hurt.”

“Yeah, that fucker in the truck is gonna hurt.”

Marie crossed her arms and shook her head. She placed a call. “Hi, Stacy, your father has decided to be a fucking idiot again, so we’ll be late.”

“Love you, honey,” Doug yelled.

“Yeah, bye, sweetheart.” She ended the call. “Happy?”

“I will be. As soon as this assclown learns his lesson.”

“And what lesson is that, dear?”

“To fucking drive.”

Marie sat with her mouth agape. “Unbelievable.”

Doug started to respond, when the truck hit its brakes. Doug slammed on his, and skidded around the truck. “Fuck.”

“Shit, Doug.”

Doug got his bearings back, but the truck was gone. “Son of a bitch!”

“Can we go now?”

“I guess so. Fuck!” Doug shifted the car into drive and headed back along the two land road.

“Do you know where we are?”

“Somewhere between where we exited and the college.”

“Not funny, Doug. Do you know how to get back to the highway from here?”

“Oh, I’m sure it’ll be easy enough. We’ll just drive along until we get to a major road again. I think we passed a couple.”

“You think?”

“Yeah. I wasn’t really paying attention.”


Doug drove slowly, trying to pick out signs. “Get your phone out and find out where we are.”


“See, phones make driving better.”

“Not now, Doug.”

He leaned forward across the wheel when the car lurched forward. “The fuck?”

The white truck sped by, the driver’s middle finger extended toward the sky.

“Oh, that is it. You are fucking dead.” Doug sped toward the truck, forty, then fifty on the speedometer.

“Doug, slow down.”

“Fuck that, he hit my car. He’s a fucking menace.”

“So are you.”

Doug ignored her as he merged back onto the highway. “See, back on the highway. No problem.” He kept pace with the truck. Seventy. Eighty. Ninety.

“Doug, slow down.”

“I’m fine.” He wove in and out of traffic.

“Shit, Doug, not again.”


“Look behind you.”

Doug grimaced at the police cruiser lights. “Well, at least that asshole will get a ticket, too.”

Ahead, the truck slowed alongside a whiter Mercedes.

“Shit, that’s Stacy,” Marie shouted.

The truck bumped her into the guard rail.

“Fuck you.” Doug pulled up behind the truck and clipped it from behind. “You are fucking dead.”

Marie turned around. “Stacy’s still driving. She’s seems okay.” She turned back. “Let him go.”

“No fucking chance. He’s a goddamned menace, and I’m going to stop him.”

“Doug, let the police handle it.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? I stop, he’ll stop with me. Call ahead to some other shithead to stop the truck, but who knows if they’ll find him.” He rammed the truck again. “Probably too damned busy writing tickets for texting.”

“Doug, enough.”

“I’ll decide when it’s fucking enough.” He pulled up to the back corner of the truck and turned, sending it into a spin. It hit the cement wall and came to a stop. “Give me my gun.”

“Doug, I don’t...”

“Give me my fucking gun!”

Marie didn’t move.

Doug reached over her and took it. He stepped out of the car. “Come on, fucker. Get out.”

The police cruiser stopped.

The driver of the truck got out. Bowl in hand.

Doug marched closer, gun extended. “You almost killed my daughter, you jackass.”

The driver tossed his bowl at Doug. “Why don’t you cry about it, old man?”

Doug tasted the wet, sweet, gummy contents. “Oatmeal? You fucking threw oatmeal at me?” He leveled his pistol at the driver’s head.

“What, are you gonna shoot me, old man?”

Doug fired a shot over him.

“Shit!” The truck driver fell to the ground.

“Put down the weapon,” the officer ordered.

Doug looked back. “This asshat almost ran my daughter off the road. Twice.” He kicked the bowl. “Because of his fucking oatmeal.”

“Put down the weapon.”

Doug shook his head. “No, I’m not the bad guy. This little shit is who you need to fucking arrest.”

“I won’t warn you again. Put the weapon down.”

Doug stared at the pistol.

He heard tires squeeling.

He saw Stacy crash into his car.

He saw Marie tossed from the car over the side of the highway to the underpass below.

He saw the semi drive out with Marie on the hood.

He heard the tires screech and the engine rumble.

He dropped the gun and ran toward the crash.

The officer yelled something he didn’t hear.

He ran to Stacy.

Blood was everywhere. Her limbs broken and at odd angles. Her eyes lifeless.

He glanced down and saw the half written text message.

He didn’t fight when the officer shoved him to the ground.

BIO: R Thomas Brown reviews crime fiction at his blog and crime novels at Crime Fiction Lover. His writing appears around the web and he has a novel coming in 2012 from Snubnose Press.

Interlude Stories - Dana C. Kabel


Pete woke up kissing cold concrete and his head felt like it was splitting in half and the bottle of whatever he drank the night before was trying to crawl out.

“What the fuck?” he said in a broken glass voice.

Someone laughed. Springs creaked.

He peeled his sore eyes open and focused on the vagrant that was sitting on a metal cot trying to light a used cigarette. Next to the cot was a steel toilet with no lid, and the only door in the room was made of steel bars.

“Oh shit...shit...shit...”

“Good morning, sunshine...” the vagrant sang, laughing.

“Shut up,” Pete said.

“Hello, how do you do-ooh...”


The vagrant laughed harder. The smoke from his lit cigarette butt smelled like burning shit.

Pete rolled onto his back and tried to conjure up his last memory. He was sweating and shaking and bile burned in the back of his throat. A jail cell was the last place in the world he wanted to detox.

The last semi-sober memory he had was the visit from his agent, Derrick, in his favorite bar in the Village.

“You must be done with the book if you’re in here celebrating at ten in the morning.”

Pete threw back his sixth shot of Jim Beam and tossed the glass over his shoulder.

“Classy,” Derrick said. “What have you got for me?”

“Sit down. Have a drink. Party just started.”

“Godamnit, Pete! Do you know what a deadline is anymore? There’s money invested in you. A book tour lined up. You were given an advance on the next Jake Bracer novel. Give me something...anything!”

Pete signaled for the bartender to bring another drink.

“I got nothing, Derrick. The well is dry. Jake Bracer is as fucked as my liver.”

It went real fuzzy from there. Pete knew that his agent threw a fit and grabbed him by the shirt. He reached down to feel where it had ripped, but he was wearing an orange jumpsuit now.

“Fuck Jake Bracer,” Pete said to the cold concrete floor.

“Holy shit,” the vagrant said. “That’s who you are! I knew I recognized you.”

He jumped up from the cot as if it were on fire and grabbed onto the bars.

“Guard! I want out! You can’t lock me up with this maniac!”

“Shut up, old man. You’re the only maniac in here,” Pete said.

The vagrant started laughing again. He slapped his hand on his knee and bounced back onto the cot.

“I read one of your books. Mostly I seen them Jake Bracer movies. Every time they make another one your picture is all over the local news. What’d you do to get in here?”

“I don’t know.” Pete rubbed his head and tried to remember more.

“All right,” Derrick had said as he followed the stumbling writer out of the bar. Pete looked past him at the building they had just exited. Could have sworn they were in the Village, but now it looked more like Queens.

“We can work around this. I’ll make some calls, get you in rehab and use the publicity to promote the next book. The public eats that shit up.”

“I told you I’m done with Jake Bracer. more...fucking...wordaboutim.”

“Yeah,’ll feel different when you get out of rehab. And we’ll keep making money off of Bracer. We’ll hire an up-and-comer to write the next Bracer under, ‘Pete Bishop’s Jake Bracer.’ You know, like Patterson does.”

“Like Patterson...” Pete snorted sarcastically. “Guess I really am at the end of my career. Listen to this, Derrick. I brought Bracer into this world and I will be the only one who takes him out. The day I go pimping my characters out to so-called up-and-comers is the day I go back to digging ditches.”

“Then you need to get your drunken ass behind the keyboard and write it out yourself. Because we have a contract and Milton House owns the rights to Jake Bracer, in case you’ve forgotten. If we want to, we can have someone write a Jake Bracer versus the vampires from Twilight and there’s not a goddamned thing you can do about it.”

Derrick fell out of step because he was at his car by the curb. Pete stopped, swaying side to side in his tracks. There was someone in the passenger seat of the car.

“Who the fuck is that?”

The agent’s mouth curled into a malicious grin.

Then Pete noticed that they were standing in front of his apartment complex in Tribeca, which was fucking impossible because he had barely taken a dozen steps out of the bar in Queens.

“His name’s Tommy Tuller. I introduced you to him at the Manhattan Project Suspense Writer’s conference a couple of months ago. He’s been doing a lot of ghost writing for Milton House for the past couple of years. Great writer...he just needs a name,” Derrick said.

“The fuck is he doing here?”

“He’s going to be writing the next Jake Bracer book while you’re getting yourself cleaned up.”

“Like fuck he is...”

Pete swung at his agent. He could have sworn that he saw the Tuller asshole laughing his ass off in the car. The punch caught air and he stumbled. Before he knew what was happening, Derrick was steadying him on his feet and clapping him on the back.

“There, can do this,” Derrick said.

But they were standing inside Pete’s apartment, both Derrick and him. Tommy Tuller was there too...duct taped to a chair in Pete’s dinette, his eyes wide with terror.

Pete looked down at the baseball bat in his hands. It was a wooden Louisville Slugger, just like the one he had as a kid.

“You can do this,” Derrick said again. “Come’re not seriously going to let this little fucker write the next Bracer book, are you? You brought Jake Bracer into this’re the only one who should be able to take him out.”

Pete’s hands were sweating. He was starting to shake. Oh God, when was the last time he had anything to drink. He didn’t want to get the DT’s.

“Now take him out! Take him out!” Derrick shouted.

The Tuller kid shook his head furiously side to side. Little shit was going to steal his character...his creation...his!

“DO IT!” The agent said. “DO IT NOW!”

Then the bat was in both of their hands, like they were fighting over it. Not for possession of the club, but to push it into the other’s grasp.

The Louisville Slugger whistled through the air and Tommy Tuller shrieked through the duct tape as it cracked his head open like a thick egg. Something warm and wet splattered across Pete’s face. He swung the bat again and again and again...

“Bishop! Visitor!” The hulking guard shouted through the bars.

Pete looked down at his hands. No bat blood...But he suddenly began to remember some of the in-betweens as he scrambled shakily to his feet.

Derrick had been on his ass for months about a new Bracer book. The publishing house had the rights to Jake Bracer and Pete just didn’t have it in him to write another one. He finally agreed to meet with one of the young “up-and-comers” Derrick had been pushing. The agent had suggested meeting right at Pete’s apartment for an informal discussion.

“Sit at the table and talk to your visitor on the telephone. You have fifteen minutes,” the guard said.

Pete sat down and picked up the phone on his side of the booth. His agent picked up the other one.

Derrick was grinning from ear to ear.

“Goddamn, are something. Wait till you see the publicity from this shit. You are all over the can’t buy this kind of advertising. As soon as you get processed and transferred to Riker’s, I’ll have a laptop ready for you so you can start the next Bracer book.”

“Fuck you,” Pete said.

“Come on, Pete...the well can’t be dry anymore. Aside from all the publicity, you got some new experiences to draw on. Murder...prison...institionalization...Your blood alcohol was to the fucking moon. Our lawyer says you’ll do a short involuntary manslaughter ticket with some time in the nut house and in rehab. You’ll dry out and have all the time you need to get back to work.”

Pete looked down at his hands. He didn’t know if he had swung the bat into Tommy Tuller’s skull or if Derrick had.

The agent hung up the phone on the other side of the booth and got up to walk out into the free world. Pete tried desperately to remember who really swung the bat. He wondered if it even mattered.

BIO: Dana C. Kabel’s stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Muzzleflash, Mysterical-E, Out of the Gutter, Powder Flash Burn, and Yellow Mama. Dana blogs at

Interlude Stories - Sue Harding


Kramer climbed the stairs. The treads were old but the plush carpeting muffled any creaking. He leaned back against the wall and craned his head upwards, staring into the gloom. A thin shaft of light cut across the ceiling on the landing, tracing a line diagonally from the closed door. From behind that same door came a noise that Kramer recognised. Indeed, it was a noise he had come to loathe; it echoed around him, invading his dreams and his waking thoughts alike.

“Now I’ll have you,” he thought, a smile puckering deep inside his cheek, his jaw clenched tight in determination. “It ends tonight.”

He stepped higher, his head adjusting to the new angle as he kept his eyes on the line of light that pointed towards his target. Progressing up the stairs, he reached the open landing and inched his way along the wall. He knew the layout well; the floor plan was ingrained in his memory. Three paces brought him level with a bathroom. The door was slightly ajar, but the dimness assured him it was unoccupied. Kramer knew that. The woman was away, and Medway was the sole occupant of the house.

He passed the bathroom and moved on, silent footsteps giving no hint of his presence. Now he stood at the doorway, a thin strip of light that escaped along its opened edge giving a brief description of the shapes and colours that lay beyond. Again, that staccato noise interrupted the silence.

He laid his hand gently on the door, counting the beats of his heart, waiting until he sensed the moment was right, and closed his other hand firmly around the gun. On the third beat he pushed the door smartly open, raising the gun swiftly, locating the back of the man’s head.

Inside, the bright light made his eyes smart slightly, but he quickly adjusted his vision to compensate. He focused on Medway’s collar, his gun tracing a bead two or three inches higher, his hand tightening its grip, caressing the trigger.

“You’d better come in, Kramer.” Medway’s voice was clear and concise, but his head remained turned away from the doorway, as if he was preoccupied with matters more pressing than the gun that was aimed at his own head.

Kramer was slightly bemused, but his experience had taught him that giving over too much brainpower to deal with the unexpected often resulted in making unwise decisions. Snap judgements and gut feelings moved the action along – hesitance inevitably brought too many variables to consider and with them, too many chances for failure. He stepped into the room, continuing to train his gun on the back of Medway’s scalp.

“I’ve been expecting you,” said Medway, the staccato tapping from his fingers pausing slightly in hesitation before briefly continuing. The last sharp rap on the keys hinted at the finality of a sentence or a paragraph and he turned his leather desk chair round to give his attention to the intruder.

Kramer squinted. He’d been planning this for a while and shared the details with no one. Just how Medway could have had an inkling about this latest development was anyone’s guess, but now he thought about it Kramer realised it wasn’t the first time Medway had surprised him.

“Put the gun down, there’s a good chap.” Medway relaxed back into his chair, idly twisting a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles between his fingers as he concentrated on the would-be assassin. He noticed the drab grey raincoat the man wore, the soft brown leather gloves encasing powerful hands. He knew exactly what those hands had been required to do over the last few years. Even the hat sat at its usual rakish and slightly off-centre style.

Kramer focussed on Medway’s portly figure slumped in the chair, noting the yellow stained hands that bore witness to the many years of devotion to nicotine. Even now, a tall column of grey-blue smoke drifted upwards from the cigarette wedged between his chubby, sausage-like fingers. Kramer wondered, again, how such stubby digits could have the dexterity to pound out chapter after chapter at such speed. Yet now, there was an uncomfortable silence.

“I know you won’t be able to fire, so you might as well put the gun away,” said Medway matter-of-factly. “I’ve known since the minute you decided to call here tonight. Like I’ve known all along that this time would come.”

Kramer lifted the gun slightly and tried to squeeze the trigger. To his surprise, nothing happened.

Medway gave the smallest of chuckles. “We’ve had a grand old time, haven’t we? But now we’ve reached the end, you and I,” he said, lifting the bottle of Bushmills and pouring himself a congratulatory drink. “I’d offer you one, but...”

“Oh, yes,” replied Kramer. A self-satisfied smile replaced the unforeseen inability to just pull the trigger and have Medway’s brains spattered across the keys of his beloved antique Remington Deluxe. “We’ve reached the end alright; I’m not going to carry on doing as you want, acting the way you dictate. I’ve been taking this crap for the last thirty years but it ends tonight; a parting of the ways, you might say. It’s the final chapter for you.”

Medway lifted his glass in salute. “Well said – mind if I use that?” he smiled, turning in his chair. “I was just looking for the right words to round things off.” Truth be told, Kramer had hung around far too long. There were new ideas Medway wanted to explore but he’d reached an impasse with Kramer; the guy bored him rigid.

With that thought, Kramer found himself rooted to the spot as Medway resumed his position over the keyboard and the final clacking of the keys sealed his fate.

But Kramer had learned well. Just when the reader thought they’d got to the end of the story, there was always that last, subtle, unexpected twist from Kelvin Medway - the master of suspense.

As Medway typed the closing sentence, the final full stop resonated in echo with the discharge from the gun. For a second he slumped slightly forward, his face slowly turning towards the smoking barrel. He watched in slow-motion surprise as Kramer’s face changed, taking on an elated look as, for once, he experienced independent thought. His finger released its pressure on the trigger and Medway saw his form slowly diffuse into thin air, exiting with an ethereal echoing laugh.

In the final seconds before his heart gave up trying to cope with the loss of blood from the wound inflicted by his own his creation, Medway realised neither of them could have survived. His eyes tracked sideward to the note he’d scribbled down earlier and he smiled.

It was the title for the final book in his ‘Kramer: PI’ series.


BIO: Sue Harding has been scribbling stories all her life. Recently 'retired' from working in a library, she now has more time to concoct her own little mysteries and maybe one day her former colleagues will be putting her books on the shelf! She blogs at, including a weekly 300-word challenge 'Thursday @ 3'. Aside from writing crime/thriller/mystery fiction, her other passions include red wine, Real Ale and knitting - the alcohol fuels the imagination whilst the knitting concentrates the mind for weaving intrigue and suspense!

Interlude Stories - Cody Kelin


Staring out the window, Lester suppressed a yawn, so weary of being where he was that he could have picked up a one-arm bandit in which students uncomfortably sat and heaved it through the glass. Anything to break out of the confinement, the sense of earthbound limitations these students gave him. The winter grey sky stretched over the campus like a flat dirty sheet, the sun not having cut through in days. Books dropped to the floor brought him out of self-induced stupor.

A student sat in the front row, the writing on his black T-shirt loud and clear: MANWHORE. While Giselle at the back of the class read out a passage in her halting English from Melville’s story Bartleby the Scrivener, Lester wondered what the term meant and how it applied to Nils. Did the boy sell his body? Given his Scandinavian good looks and muscularity, a rash of pimples on one cheek notwithstanding, he’d probably have customers lined up. Really, discretion and appropriateness seemed to be obsolete notions with this crowd.

Apparently oblivious to his own beauty, Nils failed to notice when eyes perused his physique. The protuberant crotch, Lester determined, was a physiological phenomenon, not a deliberate policy. Not like Max, also a body-building student, who posed and strutted, letting his hand hover over his genital region as if to draw attention to the wonder therein, stretched his legs and stared back provocatively at whoever caught his interest, including Lester who was not immune to the charms of muscle. Between Max and himself a connection had already been established when Max had sent a message unrelated to course studies via the college’s student-teacher computer communication system. What did he know about Nietzsche? Lester had replied, quite a lot, why do you ask?

And so it began, the private exchange between student and teacher this past semester, Max sending messages several times a week, pushing for more and more insight and clarification, Lester compelled to reveal his own fascination with the ubermensch of whom Max boldly asserted that he was one, or on his way to becoming one, and he had sensed, now knew, that a sympathetic Lester wanted more. More of what? Lester had queried. You will discover for yourself as you fall under my influence. Then Max began coming by the office once or twice weekly, and forcing Lester by his very presence to pay attention and to admire.

Well, Lester’s own inclination provided the force; Max simply flexed, leaned close, spoke about power and enticed the teacher’s willingness to reveal more than wise reflection would have allowed. As Max wrote in one of his emails: the submission must be given and aspired to be given with pleasure and close attention to this idea...for when we meet, they most probably will be the central topic. Laughing over the student’s pedagogical tone, he nonetheless spent a restless night, panting in his dreams which kept waking him.

The superman-in-training did have these transfixing Germanic blue eyes and, Lester being more obvious than discreet, adjusted himself for his teacher’s all too evident astonishment. Bringing whatever Nietzschean book he was trying to read, Max introduced intriguing concepts, urged speculation about what it meant to go beyond concepts of good and evil, what transvaluing all values implied, quoting from Thus Sprach Zarathustra whose style and concepts inspired Max but which Lester thought rhetorically bloated. Just yesterday, he had dropped by in the afternoon, flushed with excitement, having to speak to someone who’d understand.

“My friend knows how to ride motorcycles. I’m on the back, see, holding on and he’s roaring down the highway faster than the speed of light. I could feel life itself shoot by me like I was on the edge of the universe. Unbelievable experience.”

“That’s what you said last week about skydiving. Then there was bungee jumping, wasn’t there? You know, Max, sensation mongering is not a sign of superiority. That’s not what Nietzsche is really talking about.”

He could tell by the wince that he had shot an arrow into the lad’s pretensions and immediately regretted the impulse to bring him down a notch. Despite having only an adolescent grasp of the philosophy, Max possessed that invigorating urge to rise above the norms, to stand alone upon the peak and look down at those who had failed to be more than what they were. He could become a great man one day if he did not muddle Nietzsche and succumb to mere narcissism. Lester, however, had failed the climb, had confined and cribbed his mind on the low-lying plains: One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star, Max had quoted Nietzsche in one of his emails.

With difficulty, Giselle finished the passage. Lester knew that Max had slept with her and she wanted to be his regular girlfriend, but Max regarded love and romance as stupid traps for the unwary and weak. He called Giselle a wieb in his messages, an insulting term in German. Surely, Nils the manwhore (was that not also an insulting term?) also slept with one or two of the prettier girls or boys in the class. Lester had even imagined himself seducing Giselle of the lustrous black hair to which he was partial in a woman, but never acted on fantasies where teacher-student affairs belonged.

“Sex is for amusement,” Max had said in his office. “I get whoever I want, it’s fun for the moment, but it’s not important. You think about it too much.”

His students skittering with hormonal energy, immersed in the entertainment and advertising world of sex, Lester wondered how they could concentrate on physics labs and English essays when cocks crowed. Now almost thirty years older than they, he had once pushed the intellectual boundaries in university, sparkled and demolished in seminars, had even slept with two professors to demonstrate insurgent powers, but in the end his brilliance had dimmed. He had made wrong choices and, having married, raised a family, sank into the bogs of conventional attitudes and morality, keeping his desires to himself. Until Max strode into the classroom at the beginning of the semester and Lester sensed a shifting of electrons in the atmosphere. As if the leaden sky cracked and sunlight roared through.

The eye contact in class with Max was thrilling, that exchange of secret knowledge by glint and nod. Max had the habit of smirking when other students spoke and revealed their primitive limitations. They had not crossed over that famous Nietzschean abyss the way Max thought he had done, for they all remained as beasts on one side of the chasm while he, and presumably Lester, had dared the balancing act on the rope leading to the other side where ubermenschen transcended the limits of ordinary humanity. Max’s physique was certainly proof of one kind of excellence.

“I need a strong body for my martial arts, to stand my ground. I will never be thrown to the floor.”

In a foolish moment, Lester had asked him to roll up his sleeve and flex his arm so he could see the strength close up.

“Yes, you need to see this.”

He refrained from touching. Max would probably allow it, but would not offer. Lester must always be the one who importuned. Max and Nils worked out together. After a fashion, the two were friends, although Max had confessed that Nils, content with external form, lacked the will to power, something Max construed to justify his own arrogance and which became a subject of their conversation that morning, biceps exposed all the time.

The difficulty lay in Max’s academic work, his recent paper being an incoherent mess cobbled together with inappropriate quotations from Nietzsche, virtually ignoring the topic and its relation to the story, and written in a style of inflated and preposterous imagery, a clumsy imitation of Zarathustra. Despite evidence of a vigorous mind, as an essay Lester had no choice but to fail it. Nils had made every effort to understand and be understood. He had followed the rules. Banality notwithstanding, his work received a passing grade.

Lester didn’t quite know what to do. Enjoying a personal connection with Max, he wanted the student to become all that he wished to be. He found himself craving the dangerous conversations with someone more than half his age, to feel the pleasure of resistance weakening. Of his professional objectivity, subject to the influence of that gaze, Lester had no doubt. Max would be angry with the mark, possibly embarrassed or humiliated, even though his teacher had written kindly and instructively about the paper’s weaknesses. Despite his beautiful body and proud crotch notwithstanding, Nils would remain in the realm of the mediocre.

After distributing the papers, Lester waited at the head of the class while students left. Max pierced his teacher’s heart with an unsmiling glance, then disappeared. Nils fumbled with his books, wrinkling the logo on his T-shirt, then politely asked his teacher for a clarification of a comment.

“Thank you, sir. I’m really happy with the mark.”

“You deserve it, Nils, a very good effort.”

At the end of the day, disappointed that Max had not dropped by to discuss his mark, Lester locked his office door and found his way to the college pool where he swam a half hour as was his custom three times a week. He was in no hurry to pack his car into another traffic jam on slushy streets under a dead sky. Mind-numbing essays waited to be marked on his desk in his downtown Montreal apartment. Really, all this talk about overcoming and climbing peaks and strutting about in superior glory didn’t obscure the fact that he was little more than one of those pedagogues to whom Nietzsche scornfully referred as oxen.

The change room was deserted except for Max flexing and admiring himself in the long mirror at the end of one row of green lockers. Stripped to gym shorts, his body still damp from the pool and reflecting light did indeed appear imposing.

“Max! I’m glad to see you.”

“Yes, of course you are. I knew you would be here.”

Lester disliked the comment, however true, for it reminded him how much his student knew about his private thoughts. Max returned to the mirror, running a hand along one raised arm, caressing the bicep.

“About your essay, Max, I want to talk about it. You wrote a lot of interesting things, but just needed some logical order and a firmer grasp of the text.”

“Forget it. The mark doesn’t matter. Marks are for the herd.”

“Yes, well, it matters if you wish to pass the course.”

Speaking to his image in the glass where he also saw his teacher sitting on a bench, Max smiled, his eyes catching the light.

“You will pass me, you will give me a very high mark because you want to. Anyway, you have no choice. I see into your mind. I know you. Once we meet off campus, you will understand and be free to do what I want, but you’re trapped as long as you stay here. We can’t be free in the college. Look how the veins pop up when I do this.”

Taken aback by the insight, Lester attempted a rational rebuttal, shifted uncomfortably on the bench, searched his sack for his bathing trunks, and could not mount an argument. Watching the youth, he became aware of a weakening in his own mind, a compelling will to submit to the student’s power. The impulse was not philosophical, which Max must have suspected all along. Indeed, what did marks matter in the end?

Max now continued posing for his teacher, adroitly changing positions. Oh, yes, those impressive legs would in time stride across mountain peaks, indifferent to the herds below who could only look up and be amazed. Submit with pleasure and passion, Lester recalled the words from the email. The huge ubermensch loomed magnificently above him, glinting in the mirror and penetrating his teacher’s defences with those blue transcendent eyes.

BIO: This is Cody Kelin's first submission to an ezine, although it is not the first story he's written. He is interested in balances of power between people and how philosophy is often distorted to justify just about anything. He lives in Canada.