The Girl of my Dreams by Patricia Abbott

Ralph Packer drove thirty miles to work every day, most of it on a desolate highway with few diversions to pass the time. Radio reception was poor between the mountains so he spent a lot of time evaluating his life: most of his appraisal focused on Jack Sprague, his long-time employer, and Nancy Willis, Sprague’s secretary.       Jack Sprague operated the town’s sole auto repair shop, where he serviced all the city vehicles. Sprague treated Ralph, his bookkeeper, pretty well, knowing he’d never find another sap with a college degree who’d work for less than $50, 000 a year and make the books balance no matter what. Packard stayed on because Sprague made him a partner of sorts, giving him 30% of the business over time.

Ralph was also in love with Nancy Willis, the secretary, but had been too shy to make a move. Leaving Sprague’s outfit would end both his chances with Nancy and his share in the business, Sprague’d written that stipulation into the contract. Ralph was an indentured servant for all purposes.

Nancy Willis bore the brunt of Sprague’s considerable hostility. She wasn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but she worked hard, was honest, and had been prom queen in high school. Sprague never let a day pass when he didn’t find a mistake Nancy’d made. Sometimes it was a typo; other days it was a missed appointment or a late arrival. Along with the scoldings came a constant stream of innuendo and more than the occasional squeeze on her arm, waist or thigh. Somehow Sprague intuited Ralph’s interest in Nancy and liked to brush up against her breast whenever Ralph was watching, breaking into a grin every time.

Nancy never complained, being the sole support of her younger brother and grandmother. She was smart enough to know she was only kept on because of her physical appearance. Petersboro was a small town with few opportunities; it was Sprague’s Auto Repair, the paper mill, or Walmart.

“What brought you here in the first place?” Ralph finally asked Nancy one day. Sprague was out of earshot in the yard, under the town’s ambulance. He liked to do the important jobs himself, even though he was only a so-so mechanic. “You don’t seem suited to the job.” Ralph had never got his nerve up to say this much before and it was coming out all wrong.

“I was hoping for a job as a grease monkey. My older brothers taught me everything they knew about fixing cars. They work in the Army Motor Pool now.”

Ralph’s eyes grew wide. “Did you tell him that? That you can fix cars?” He looked out the window where only Sprague’s legs were visible.

She nodded. “He just laughed and said he never met a woman who could change a light bulb much less a transmission.”

Ralph shook his head. “He could use a good mechanic. Why don’t you remind him?”

“He says he wants me right where I am.”

Ralph couldn’t think of anything to say after that though he wished he could promise Nancy something more. His 30% share didn’t give him any say in hiring decisions. “Don’t worry,” Sprague had told him when he questioned its worth. “If I die, the new owner will have to buy you out or keep you on at 45%. I wrote that into my will.” Then he flexed his muscle. “Though it don’t look like I’m dying anytime soon.”

One day Ralph came into the office and found Nancy crying. “What is it?” he asked, throwing his jacket off. He’d never seen Nancy cry before and was struck by how it made her eyes brighter and put a pink glow on her cheeks. He’d never imagined crying could improve someone’s looks. Still he didn’t like seeing her like this and wanted to put his hand on her shoulder. But something held him back. Maybe it was the stiffness in her back.

“Mr. Sprague sort of raped me last night.” She looked around fearfully as though their boss might have heard.

“Don’t worry. His car’s not in the lot. What do you mean—sort of?”

“I guess he did rape me.” She said it resolutely now. “He pushed me into his office and onto his desk. And then he did it.”

“Did you go to the police?”

“Sheriff Conway’s car’s out in the yard waiting for a lube job right now,” she said, looking out the window. “They play poker every Friday night.” She opened her appointment book. “And Officer Diehl hosted Mr. Sprague’s sixtieth birthday party last month. At the Kiwanis Hall.” She flipped through the pages. “My doctor gets his car serviced for free three times a year. Judge Mercer at the County Courthouse is married to Mr. Sprague’s sister.”

Ralph cleared his throat. “There’s other towns. Other police officers. Judges.” He couldn’t even persuade himself. “It’s not too late.”

Her eyelids fluttered. “Mr. Sprague has a long reach.”

Ralph paused a few seconds. “So you’re pretty good at fixing cars, huh?”

“Pretty good, yes.”

“How ‘bout fixin’ auto lifts?” Nancy shrugged.

The town of Petersboro’s ancient fire engine fell on Jack Sprague on Thursday afternoon. He’d just slid under the truck to take a look at the problem when a loud, shrieking sound brought everyone running.

One of the volunteer fire fighters, idling while Sprague examined his truck, raced over and covered Nancy Willis’s eyes. “You don’t want see something like that.” She turned away as they began the process of extracting Sprague’s body.

Ralph Packer and Nancy Willis married the next spring and renamed the business Packer-Willis Auto Repair. “Too bad Sprague never realized what a jewel he had hiding in his office,” the police chief told the fire chief as they watched Nancy work on the town’s ambulance.

“Bet he thought she was only good for the one thing,” the fire chief told the police chief.”

A First Time for Everything by Christa Miller

I was the first graduate of FIRST. That’s Fairfield Inmate Reentry Shop Training. Me, Ronnie Pitts, the guy everyone said was too slow and stupid and impulsive. Wonder what they’d say now if they knew I had my own shop, all the contracts with the cities and towns. They don’t know how good they got it. My folks, Mrs. Thierry, Mr. Goodloe… they all depend on me and my contracts and I bet they don’t even know it. If it weren’t for me, one of ’em could have a heart attack or a fight with her husband and no one would respond. I fix those vehicles. Me and no one else.

Okay, not just me. I employ three other guys in my shop. All of ’em are FIRST graduates, too. They do good work.

All except one. Tommy Butler. Him I don’t like. Haven’t liked him since I set eyes on him, which was just before he graduated. I didn’t want to hire him, but he was the only FIRST graduate this year, would be for the next two years at least. My parole officer, George—he’s not my parole officer anymore, but I still talk to him ’cause he’s a good guy—says I don’t have to keep him on. I just have to watch him, and I can let him go for any reason I want ’cause it’s my business. That’s George’s way of telling me I don’t have to be the man I was when I got into prison. But guys like Tommy, I know it’s not so easy to fire them. They make trouble, you’re not careful. Spill your leftover oil in the backyard, make an anonymous call to the EPA and say you’re not disposing of it properly. Yeah, I know punks like him.

I took George’s advice and started watching Tommy like a hawk after he came to work for me. I watched him change the oil and rotate tires and all that stuff. And I didn’t let him work on the cop cars. I never told him he couldn’t, I just made sure I assigned ’em to someone else. Tommy had a look in his eye, see. A look that told me he was here for a reason, and not the same reason as me or anyone else.
I don’t care what the FIRST policy is—no inmates with drug histories or a problem with authority—Tommy looked like the kind of person who ould fake out a parole board, work-release board, whoever the fuck he needed to to get what he wanted. Crafty. So it didn’t surprise me none to come in one day from a parts run and see him workin’ on a cop car.

I should’ve told him to find something else to do. But he was up to his elbows in the job, which I found out he’d taken because Louie got sick and went home. What was I going to say? So I just walked by and reminded him. I said, “Anything happens to that car, you know where you’re going.” I knew he heard me. I saw him smirk.

Nothing happened to that cop car. I don’t know if it ever would’ve. But after that I made it a point never to leave before I made sure the men were at work on their assignments. A few weeks later I was closing up when George swung by. “Got
something to tell you ’bout that kid Butler,” he said.

“What?” All my radar went up.

“Well, look. He was in the joint for carjacking. First offense. No resisting arrest, no red flags for the FIRST program. But when he was 15? Busted for assaulting a cop.”

“Fuck me.”

“I talked to the cop. I asked around, Ronnie, because you said you had a gut sense about this kid and I think your gut sense is as good as mine. Well, almost. Anyway, this cop, Fred Brewster, told me this kid was a real piece of work. Said he stabbed him with a knife, kept muttering, ‘Die, pig,’ even after Brewster’s partner disarmed and huffed him. Then he shut up and didn’t say another word.”

“How the fuck he get into the program?”

“Who knows? Bribes, sweet talking, desperation on the part of staff to do something with him. Anyway, Ronnie, I never told you this. If you heard it, it wasn’t from me. Capisce?”

“Sure, man.” I knew there was a reason I’d kept in touch with George.

Trouble was, getting rid of Tommy wouldn’t be so easy. It’s a garage, accidents happen all the time, but I’d have to make it look like an accident so no one could ask any questions. I thought about it for geeks. Fucking with the exhaust system for the fire trucks, electrocution, acetylene torch accident. None of ’em seemed to fit. It
got so I was spending so much time thinking about this problem, I was coming in late, taking longer breaks than I realized.

George noticed. That was why he took care of Tommy for me. I came in one morning to find him standing over Tommy, his gun smoking. Tommy had two neat taps in his chest, a not-so-neat pool of blood spilling all around him. “Found him rousting your petty cash, Pitts. He wouldn’t keep his hands up. So I shot him.” George nodded. “Righteous. Now call 911 and let’s get on with your life.”

He never told me whether it was really righteous or not. I never asked. Doesn’t matter. I owe him. This business is the only thing I’ve ever done right with my life. Nobody fucks with that. Especially not a punk like Tommy Butler.

P71 by Alan Peden

P71   by  Alan Peden

Officially, it was a Crown Victoria P71 Interceptor, but to Jake McCallum, it was a black beauty. The paintwork shone, the dark glass hiding its inner secrets. He imagined the many faces that had been sitting in the back seat, some looking for a way to escape, others resigned to their fate.

‘Move your fuckin’ ass, grease monkey!’

Jake turned at the sound of his boss shouting across the garage ‘I’m goin’, boss!’ he shouted back. Old fuck. He’d wanted to be a cop, but had failed the exams, so now he worked on cars. And as he wasn’t properly trained, he’d ended up in this crap-hole.

The P71 looked even better up close. Get it cleaned up and runnin’ proper his boss had said. Al Capone’s Used Cars couldn’t function without used cars, so get your fuckin’ ass workin’.

Jake worked on cars all day. Al – my real name’s Kowinski, but don’t tell no fucker – Capone’s used car lot did a fair turnaround, but sometimes an old cop car would come in, and get sold online, where they could mask the paint chips and the smoke shooting out the back.

The P71 looked like a mean fucker. Jake turned round to see if the old bastard Kowinski was looking, then opened the driver’s door. Jesus, it even smelled good. Cop sweat, prisoner fear and maybe a hookers last trick. He sat down behind the wheel. It felt solid. Like it would run a tractor-trailer off the road.

This was one serious car. Of course, he’d worked on other Police cars too, but they were usually ones that were dead on their wheels, with only enough work done on them to make them run for a couple of thousand miles until the sucker who bought it got it home.

This one was different. It wasn’t anything Jake could put his finger on, but the car just spoke to him.

‘What? You sittin’ on your fuckin ass again?’

Jake jumped. ‘I’m just checking the car out, Mr. Capone.’

Kowinski walked away, shaking his head. Fuckin’ boy would have him in the gutter, speed he worked.

 

Five days was all it took. P71 looked a million dollars. Of course, he could have had it finished long before now if the old man hadn’t had him working on other cars. The old fuck was busting his balls. Now Jake had decided that enough was enough, and Kow-fuckin-inski could take his job and stick it right up his rectal passage.

Darkness was his friend. He’d heard that line in a rapist movie, but for tonight, it suited Jake down to the ground. The night was clear, no sign of rain. He opened the chain-link gate round the back of the garage. Despite the warning sign, their was no big, fuck-off Doberman to chew his nuts off.

He closed the gate again. Not that there would be much traffic in this part of town. This wasn’t just a one-horse town, it was a fuckin no-horse town. The only time the police acted was when the local donut place didn’t open on time.

P71 was waiting for him. Just like he’d left her. He had the keys in his pocket and sat in the seat, running his hand round the wheel. She sounded good as he revved her hard. With a car like this, he’d be revving Sara Moore hard. The thought made him smile. She thought he was a loser, with no car and no prospects. A boy who lived with his mother. But he’d told her in the diner, I’m 21, and my mother lives with me. Big difference. But she didn’t believe him. Just walked away and served more coffee.

Tuesday night. Nine o’clock. She went to line-dancing over at the Old Time Tavern. Old Time Shithole, more like, but in a town where the only other source of amusement was a game of bingo in the local firehouse, the Tavern was their Manhattan nightclub.

The P71 roared up to the gate, and Jake smiled as he left her idling, waiting for him to get his ass in gear and get the fuck out of there. He left the gate open as he drove out of Capone’s parking lot.

Cruising in this car felt natural to him.  Especially when he was packing some ice. Or heat. Or whatever the fuck it was. But daddy’s old .38 tucked into his waistband made him feel good. Now he felt like a cop, like the man he should have been.

How in the name of sweet fuckin Mama could Sara not be attracted to him now? She had been seeing a cop from the next town over, a big bruiser with a square head (and probably a small penis), but the last he’d heard, they had broken up. So now he would cruise and see if Sara would care to step out with him.

He laughed in the darkness of the car. Step out with him. Fuck him raw, more like.

The Tavern was emptying out when he got there. He only just spotted Sara’s car leaving the busy lot. He followed her along Route 15K. He knew where she lived.

Jake had made sure all the lights and electrics were working, and switched them on now. The siren blared, the red-and-blues behind the front grill flashed menacingly.

Sara pulled over. Jake got out, and walked up to the driver’s side. She rolled her window down. He flashed her a smile as he bent down. Saw the bruiser in the passenger seat. The real cop. Fuck.

Jake pulled the .38. Shot the cop in the face before he had a chance to open the door. Jake pulled Sara from the car. Put her in the back of the P71. She screamed in fear, calling for the cops.

Tonight he was a cop. And she was going to show him she loved him. And tomorrow?

There would be no tomorrow.

His Bus by Karyn Powers

It was still raining when he got the call. One of their “buses” had flipped on the high side of I-34 heading north. Patowski was gone. The edge of a forward cabinet caved in his big Pollack head. Nobody knew if he hit it or it hit him. The torque of the spin popped its rivets from the side of the rig like the snaps on a fat boy’s pants. The second ambulance crew found Pat under the cabinet and the front half of the vic’s gurney. The vic was a goner, too.        “Fish-eyed and fucked,” Pat would have called him.

The unlucky shit was a regular rider with what the guys called ‘ticker-flicker,’ tachycardia being too much of a tongue twister after a long night.  No need for an AED to shock his heart back into rhythm.  What with his neck broke and all.

Ricky was alive, but he’d probably never forgive them for saving his busted ass. Prelim from the ER docs said he might get some feeling back from his chest up. They’d know more in six months, maybe a year. No more pedal-to-the-metal for Ricky.

FTSB was already on the horn. Hal said somebody at the capitol, 200 miles away was trying to take over the scene through his Blue Tooth. Mike shook his head at that. Those assholes at State would take anything they could get their hands on…except responsibility. They’d dink around measuring skid marks and talk nice to the press, but they wouldn’t have to look Pat’s Jenny in the eyes. They didn’t know his kids, or see his mom at Mass every Sunday.

Mike wiped his face with a clean rag from the box on the counter in the service bay. Once he’d told them about the crash, his crew cleared out in a heartbeat. Some heading to the hospital, others to the fire house. He walked from one work station to the next straightening wrenches, sliding in metal trays.

He wished to God he’d joined the Marines after high school, like he’d told everybody he was going to. They just laughed at the idea of a grease monkey marching in the sand.  

“You got it made, man.” His buddies told him. “You’re walking into your dad’s shop a full partner, and it will be all yours when he finally stays put up north. Why go some place so strangers can shoot at you?” He’d listened to them and stayed, and now it was too late.

More tears and snot fell on the front of his coveralls. What did he care? It wasn’t blood. No. The blood was out there on the highway. He imagined the rain was pushing it into every groove and crease of the shattered truck’s body. Pat’s blood, Ricky’s blood, the poor, dumb fuck who was just happy to see an ambulance in his driveway. His blood. Now it was all mixing together, the rescued with the rescuers’.

Mike looked down at his stained hands. No blood there. Just a day’s worth of shit like always. Same shit…He couldn’t finish the thought. This wasn’t the same shit. It would never again be the same. The flipped ambulance was his rig. He’d worked on every moving part that didn’t have a red cross stamped on it. He knew every inch of that monster motor, the transmission, axels, wheels, and brakes, all of it.

He walked to the steel cage at the side of the bay. Oversized tires lined up behind the chain-link gaped stupidly at him. His brain caught fire and he grabbed the mesh of the cage door shaking it and screaming at those stupid, stupid tires. His own spit showered the closest one. Black on black oily little bubbles caught in deep treads that had not yet graced a steel rim.

His cries crashed into each other and shattered on the concrete block walls.

“Why? Why? Why?”

 Karyn works, reads, writes short-shorts, long-longs, and spends way too much time on crimespace.ning.com

The Blind Side by Sandra Seamans

THE BLIND SIDE

By Sandra Seamans

It was half past closing time when Sheriff Rachael Gates walked into the Pig in a Poke Bar and Grill.

“Hey, Eddie, you’re open late tonight.” she said. “Waiting on Booney?”

“Why would I be expecting Booney to show up here?”

“Because he was making a run for you tonight, before he got sidetracked by the fire,” said Rachael.

“I ain’t catching your drift, Sheriff,” said Eddie as he set a cup of coffee on the bar for Rachael.

Rachael grinned. Playing ignorant was the first step in tap dancing around the law in these parts, especially if the man being questioned considered the law a dumb broad. How fast Eddie danced would depend on how much he figured she knew about his business.

Adding cream and sugar to her coffee she nodded toward the police scanner setting next to the cash register. “You been listening to the calls tonight?”

“Yeah, heard there was a hell of a fire out on Stumble Creek Road tonight. Booney’s Garage, wasn’t it? How come you ain’t out there doing traffic control?”

“I was, but I had some business here in town that needed taking care of. Besides, with the fire almost out, most of the gee-gawkers had toddled on home.”

“What kinda business are you sticking your nose into this time of night? Everybody’s either tucked up in bed or out at the fire.”

“Everyone but you, Eddie. I’ve been wondering what dirty tricks you’ve got hidden up your sleeve to keep your shine business running, now that Booney’s dead.”

“Booney’s dead?”

“Don’t look so surprised on my account. Wasn’t that the plan when you set the fire tonight?”

“You’re talking in riddles, girl.”

“No riddles, I was just stumped for a reason why you weren’t out at the fire. I found that kind of odd, considering you’re the fire chief.”

“I was holding down the toilet with a case of the shits, if you gotta know. Is that a crime now?”

“No, but you and Booney running moonshine into Piedmont County every time there was a police cruiser or ambulance brought into Booney’s garage for maintenance…that’s a crime.”

“If Booney was running shine, that was his business, not mine.”

“You’d just love for me to think that, wouldn’t you?”

“Lady, you’ve got a bee buzzing around in your bonnet and it’s done stung your brain stupid.”

“You know, I let you and Booney have your little side business cause I didn’t figure it was hurting anybody. Folks like a little jolt of white lightning now again and I’ve got no problem with that. What I do have a problem with, is a fire truck full of shine showing up at a fire and a whole lotta folks getting hurt.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The load of shine Booney was hauling tonight.”

“You’re thinking crazy, lady.”

“Funny thing about tonight. I thought you were getting greedy, trying to slip that much shine under my nose, so I followed Booney. He was just over the county line when the fire call came over the radio. Booney made a U-turn and headed for the fire. And if I were Booney, I’d have probably done the same thing seeing as how you kept repeating that it was Booney’s Garage burning a hole in the dark when you put out the call.”

“You’ve just proved the truck couldn’t have been loaded with shine. Nobody, with half a brain, would charge into a fire carrying shine. Even Booney wasn’t that dumb.”

“That’s what I thought, until the spray from the hose hit the flames. I couldn’t do anything but watch when the fire snaked back along the hose. Damn near barbequed half the folks out there when the truck exploded. Booney didn’t have a chance. He was so focused on saving his garage, he forgot what he was hauling. You were counting on that.”

“The fire company’s been filling up their trucks with water from Stumble Creek for years. Booney’s place has the best access to the creek, so I left the truck there for Booney to fill. Ain’t no call to blame me if he filled it with something other than water.”

Rachael tapped her fingers on the bar. Eddie was tap dancing like Fred Astaire on speed. “So how are you planning on staying in the shine business with Booney gone?”

“I told you, I ain’t in the shine business, but I might rebuild the garage and hire on a mechanic. I bought the place from Booney’s wife, Sally, earlier tonight. Paid her cash up front so she couldn’t change her mind before we saw the lawyers.”

“His wife sold you the garage? For cash?”

“Not the business, the property. The land was in her name, she inherited the place from her grandpa.”

“I don’t suppose you signed any papers to that effect?”

“We’re friends. We didn’t need any paperwork to seal the deal. Besides, Sally needed the money, she was planning on leaving Booney. I was just helping her out.”

“Out of the goodness of your heart, or were you looking for a little something more?”

“I’m a married man. I don’t go sniffing around another man’s piece of ass.”

Rachael smiled. “Speaking of your wife, she and Sally are friends, aren’t they?”

“They’ve been best friends since their mama’s pissed them into the world.” Eddie’s face twisted with anger as he added money plus dames and realized he’d been screwed, and not in a pleasant way. “That Bitch.”

“Sally played you perfectly. Booney’s dead and your fingerprints are all over his murder. There’s absolutely nothing but your word to point the law in her direction. And I pretty much doubt your wife will be backing up your sitting-on-the-john alibi,” said Rachael as she cuffed Eddie. “You could have saved yourself a lot of grief if you’d, just once, thought of a woman as more than a resting place for your dick.”

Vehicle Maintenance by Patricia J. Hale

If the guys knew, I’d be a dead man.

 

Sure, I can keep up appearances.  I lift weights, fart, belch like a bad-ass and talk a good story when I need to.  I keep a piece in my drawer, loaded.  Don’t need any friends.

 

They don’t know the truth.

 

I started doing it about a year after I started at the garage.

 

I didn’t do it at the other garage I worked at.  But this place is different.  We fix emergency vehicles.  The opportunity just presented itself. 

 

Mitch, one of the other guys who works here almost caught me the other day.  I can’t take chances anymore.  Got to start doing it in the off hours.  Park my car around the back to avoid appearances.

 

I only wish I could stop.  Don’t think I haven’t tried.  It’s costing me money, for Chrissakes!  Wonder what stupid thing in my upbringing or my DNA causes me to act this way.  I’d consider therapy, but it would just make things worse.

 

Someone’s got to have seen it already, but nobody’s confronted me.  They’re probably talking behind my back, setting me up for some kind of hit.

 

I’m growing more paranoid by the day.  This has got to stop.  Now. 

 

Well, after today.  This is the last time.  Fuck, I mean it!

 

I always do it the same way.  First, we fix the vehicle.  I’m the last one to inspect the fix.  Doesn’t matter what we did to it, I’m the last. 

 

The guys go out for smokes, then off to the nearby dive for drinks anticipating the money they’ll overcharge for the fix.

 

The deal is:  I do my inspection and join them later, that way they pressure me to avoid finding any problems that they have to correct.

 

That’s when it happens.

 

So I do my inspection, playing the game of never finding any issues with their feeble fixes.  That’s a given.  No sweat.  No perversion.  Whatever, I don’t care if we see the vehicle again the next day.

 

But at the end of the inspection, I can’t stop myself.  I go over to my locker where I keep the stash.  I reach in and pick out a couple of them.  They go into the back, where the EMTs can’t miss them.  If they get kids in the vehicle, they’re set.  No they don’t have to have it, there’s no real reason for me to do it.  We’ve covered that.

 

Toys.  For the kids.  Distraction when they’re sick or broken.  

 

Yeah, I know.  I’m the one who’s sick.

I write because I can’t stop myself.  My husband can’t stop me either.  Reach me at patriciajhale@aol.com.  Especially with paying gigs.

Third Note – A Challange

Okay, folks, I’ve got a challange for you.

 Everyday I drive by a car repair shop and they always have several police cars, and ambulances in the lot that they are working on. This got me thinking about what kind of person might work at a place like that and what sort of opportunities he might have working on emergency vehicles like that. I’m too lazy to write a story, so I want all of you to.

 In less than 1,000 words, give me a story related to a car repair shop or mechanic who works on emergency vehicles. They don’t have to be crime stories, but they have to be good. I’ll post the ones I like and award arbitrary kudos accordingly.

Deadline is September 1, 2007

PAN Y LECHE (Bread and Milk) by Rose Contreras

They had retreated to opposite sides of the big house at the worst of
their fighting, and now it appeared they would be at opposite poles
forever. She was afraid to face him, afraid of more angry words, more of
the same hurt. She was even more terrified still of what would happen if
she didn’t do something to breach the distance between them. The
knowledge that their marriage was ending had not been instantaneous, but
instead was a feverish heat that had increased with every passing day of
their standoff. At last it had reached the critical point necessary to
melt away her pride. This feverish heat now settled deep in the pit of
her stomach, causing her to feel like doubling over, not in pain, but
with anxiety.

She didn’t bother with finding her slippers now. She took the short
staircase that led directly to the kitchen, afraid that the worst
deadline of her life had passed her by. The kitchen was so clean. They
never used it anymore. Further dread filled her when she realized that
she couldn’t even remember the last time she had been to the grocery
store. There was no real food in the pantry. She felt trapped by her own
failing, as though she had crossed a finish line in a race that had long
ago ended. She let herself down into the corner booth in the kitchen
that she had argued so valiantly for. She felt no victory as she sank
into the plush upholstery. Her head lowered slowly into the recess of
her arms and she began to cry. She cried for a long time, never lifting
her head from her arms on the table, mourning what was surely lost, and
angry that she had so readily given it up.

The back door opened abruptly and she jerked toward it in alarm. He
walked in carrying a plastic sack, the night sky diminishing as he
closed the door behind him. He walked across the long kitchen and met
her at the table. She stood and faced him, and their eyes locked, even
as he laid down the plastic sack.

“You need to blow your nose.” He reached for the paper towels and
handed her one. She turned her face away momentarily, a little ashamed
of her appearance. She took a deep breath and composed herself as best
she could.  Holding her breath, she turned back to look at him, and he
handed her the plastic sack. She looked into the sack, beginning to cry
again, but beginning to smile and to breathe again too.

She threw her arms around him and kissed him, laughing and crying,
clutching the bag in her hands like a lifeline, feeling his arms
encircling her in return.

“Hey, you’re squashing the bread!” he yelled, laughing and squeezing
her as hard as he could. He pulled away long enough to take the bag of
bread and milk from her hands and lay them on the table.

Rose Contreras lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and two
kids.  Her favorite online hangouts are her Crimespace page
(http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/racontreras) and her MySpace page
(http://www.myspace.com/chachalinda6984).

Stumpy’s Revenge by Stephen Allan

Hookers cost more when you don’t have any arms or legs, so it’s a good thing I took out that insurance policy on my late wife.  It allows me to live by rather extravagant means: a 24-hour nurse, unlimited supply of Johnny Walker Blue, a gorgeous patio and pool, lots of shrimp cocktail, and hookers by the handful…if I had hands. If you’re forced to live the rest of your days as a stump, it’s the way to go.       You wouldn’t think whores would be all that picky about their Johns (plenty have turned me down), but Mandy was different. She did her job like a real professional; always making sure I was satisfied; which made the blackmail all the more disappointing.

      Her pimp, Vinnie, videotaped me with Mandy adnd sent a copy to the house with a note asking for $50,000. It wasn’t the best amateur porn. My humping looks like a fish flopping out of water – not a pretty sight.  A security man I knew said it was a common scheme: Johns will cough up serious dough so their family won’t know they pay for sex. The trouble with Vinnie’s threat was I didn’t have any family.

      However, I contacted my blackmailer and told him to come to the house for the payoff. When Vinnie arrived, my full-time nurse Freddie showed him to the patio where I was positioned under an umbrella next to the pool. My mini-fridge where I keep snacks was beside me. I have it close because I like to feed myself. I use a mechanical arm that I control with my tongue. I told Vinnie to be careful of the mini-fridge’s extension cord, which was frayed toward the end.

      “I’m glad we can come to an understanding here,” Vinnie said as he stepped over the cord and sat down in a chair next to me. He was a pudgy man in black leather; a real mouth-breather. “I think this will be, like, beneficial for everyone.”

      “Please, have a drink,” I said, motioning my head toward a pitcher of Sangria.

      Vinnie grunted something and helped himself. It was gone in two gulps. He poured another glass without my offering more.

      “I don’t want this video out and you don’t want this video out,” Vinnie said. “So, you got the cash or what?”

      “Was Mandy part of this?” I asked.

      “Well, yeah, she’s the one on top of you in the movie.”

      “Is she in on the blackmail?”

      “Nah, she don’t know nothing. I keep my girls outta the loop, so I don’t have to pay them extra.”

      “I’m curious,” I said. “How much of a cut do you get of Mandy’s money?”

      “Half,” Vinnie said and had another glass of Sangria.

      “You brought the tape?” I asked.

      Vinnie smiled and held up a manila folder. There was a bulge the size of a videocassette in the middle.

      “This is it,” Vinnie said. “Now, show me the cash.”

      I moved my mechanical arm with my tongue and grabbed a leather satchel sitting beside me. The arm hooked the bag and I swung it over the pool and dropped it into the water.

      “Oh, I’m terribly sorry about that,” I said. “Just reach into the water there and get it. I’d get up myself, but…”

      Vinnie said something about what a motherfucker I was and kneeled at the edge of the pool. When he stretched out for the bag, I swung the mechanical arm around and pushed him in.

      “What the fuck?” Vinnie said when he came back up.

      “Sorry about that,” I said. “But I think this will be, like, beneficial for everyone.”

      I used the arm to push the mini-fridge with its frayed extension cord into the water. Vinnie stiffened up and I thought I could smell something cooking. The electricity shut off after a minute and Vinnie’s dead body just bobbed in the water. I watched him for a while, and then used the voice-activated phone to call Mandy.

      When she answered I said, “If you come over, I can give you double your normal take home. Vinnie won’t be a problem for you anymore.”

      She agreed. 
 

 Stephen Allan is a sick individual who has been successful (so far) at avoiding the loony bin, mainly due to his ability to act normal around the authorities. His odd sensibilities are on display at www. Noirwriter.blogspot.com. This is Stumpy’s second outing; his first appearance was in FLASHING IN THE GUTTERS

Johnny Jinx by Patricia Abbott

“So your name’s Johnny Jinx?” Sergeant Duffy asked. “Jinx with an x. Right?”

“That’s what people call me. People in baseball, that is.” Johnny Jinx’s chest puffed up. 

He was sitting at Detroit Police Headquarter, wearing an official Detroit Tigers baseball uniform and holding the regulation cap in his hands. He was short, barely 5’5 and probably didn’t weigh more than 135. He looked like the kind of guy who’d heard some pretty bad names in the schoolyard. Worse names than Johnny Jinx.

“We brought in the guy you I.D.” The sergeant nodded toward a beefy, balding guy in the holding cell. “He claims it got his goat that you had that name sewn onto the back of your shirt. Says that black eye you’re sporting was provoked.” 

Sergeant Duffy got up slowly and walked around to the back of Johnny Jinx’s chair. The shirt read Johnny Jinx. He jabbed his finger over the “I” as if to dot it. 

Jinx winced. “I only took the shirt to a seamstress after fans began to call me that.” 

“A witness says it started on the radio,” the Sergeant said. “I have a copy of the show in question from Tiger Talk. August 12, 2006.” 

He picked the document up and began thumbing through it. “Here we go.” He adjusted his glasses. “A caller from Taylor told the host you announced you’d been to twelve games and hadn’t seen the Tigers win once. Everyone in the bleachers heard you say it.” 

“So? It’s the truth.”

Sergeant Duffy looked up. “Not one win during the best season since ’84?” he asked. 

Jinx shook his head. 

“The caller claims you bragged about being a jinx. Were you trying to start trouble, Mr. Jinx?”

“It didn’t seem fair—with the Tigers winning so many games.” 

“Getting famous for being a jinx made life better, huh? So when did the name first come into play?”

“The same night. This joker—that guy from Taylor said— ‘So what does that make you then— Johnny Jinx?’ Everyone in the stands laughed.” 

“The guy from Taylor says you laughed too and said, “That’s me, alright. Johnny Jinx.”

“I may have said that. It was nice having people know my name.” 

“So how many more losses did you sit through, Mr. Jinx? Didn’t it ever occur to you to stay home? We’re into September, 2006 by now, right?”

“Another five,” Johnny said. “In the regular season, that is. People were starting to boo me instead of the team. I tried sitting in the boxes but people knew me there too. Even  the men’s room was out. Seventeen losses by then,” he repeated, “and I’m not counting the playoffs.”

“Well, let’s count them now. Let’s talk about New York.”

“I was visiting my sister in Astoria. She happened to have an extra ticket to the division series.” 

The sergeant narrowed his eyes. Jinx reached into a back pocket for his regulation handkerchief and wiped his upper lip. “Alright, alright, I made her buy it. Cost me five hundred bucks.”

“And the Tigers lost, right?” Duffy’s voice was a mere whisper in the noisy station. 

“Sure, sure, but I stayed away after that. Got threatening calls so I holed up. Detroit lost on their own in the Series. Nothing to do with me.” 

“Did you watch the Series on the tube?”

“Yeah, but…” 

The sergeant shook his head. “Okay, so now it’s 2007 and they won’t let you into the ballpark. Wah! Wah!” He said the words like a crybaby. 

Johnny nodded. “They have my picture at every entrance. I can’t even get out of my car. That guy over there— ” he motioned toward the beefy guy, “sits outside my house in his ’78 Torino. Last night I got home and the set was gone. The radio, too.” He looked around and whispered, “I’m talking slashed tires.”

The Sergeant looked at the guy in the holding cell and nodded. “I’ll put a cop outside your house tonight, Mr. Jinx.”

“The team’s in Cleveland.” 

Sergeant Duffy shrugged. “Might as well start the detail.”

“No more games for me, huh?”

“It’s called ‘taking one for the team?’”

Closing Time by Julie Wright

Half-eleven on a Friday night and I’m at the window watching out for him. Twenty-four hour opening hasn’t hit the pubs round here, they’re old men’s pubs mostly, still stop serving at eleven. He’ll have been tossed out of the Duke at about quarter past. Billy reckons that gives folk long enough to drink up; if they can’t drink a pint between last orders and closing time, they should have got a half, and if they can’t drink a half, they should have stopped at home. Time it takes him to stagger to Kebab Korner and back with his supper, he should be coming up the street any minute now.

 

He’ll be in a right state, he’s been out all day. Leastways, there was no sign of him when I was home at dinner. I ate me pastie what I got from Greggs then picked up after him, put his empties and the crisp packets and that in the bin. After that, I hoovered round then grabbed me PE kit and legged it back to school. He’s a lazy bastard, he never does nowt. That’s why me mam went off with that bloke from Cash Converters.

 

It looks cold out. Coming up to the May bank holiday and lovely through the day with that global warming they keep moaning about. I think it’s a good thing, me, if it lifts the temperature. Trust the folk who can afford to go somewhere sunny to begrudge the rest of us a few rays. Cold at night, though, especially if there’s no cloud, and it’s clear as anything tonight. Big, fat moon like a spotlight in the sky. I’ll clock him no bother under that.

 

I check me watch. Here he comes, the old fucker! I can see him turning into the street, doing that pissed bloke walk. Getting round the corner he looks like a pony doing sums, counting the answer out with his hoof. One, two, three, stagger and turn, then he’s on the home straight, looking like a lardy carthorse attempting dressage. He’s in an even worse state than usual. I finger the bruise on my cheek then clench my fists. I hope he’s not in a fighting mood.

 

I nip down to the kitchen when I hear him fumbling with his key, trying to get it into the keyhole. If Dosser was with him, he’d do his shit joke about how they should put a bit of fur round it, get it in first time every time then, ha bloody ha. The door swings open and he crashes into the house, bounces off the wall, gets his feet in a knot and lands on the floor in a heap, whump, the breath knocked out of him.

 

I run upstairs. He’s still on the deck, kind of gurgling in his throat when I get back. I shut the front door, don’t want the neighbours to see, then come back and stare down at him. He looks pathetic. Lank hair, stubbly chin, trousers peppered with fag burns, shirt collar frayed and gray. He’s rolled onto his back, his parcel of chips, fried rice and curry sauce just out of reach, but it hasn’t burst, thank Christ. I stand next to him, over him, clutching the pillow with both hands, marvelling at the contrast between the clean white linen and the grubby old man. He breathes noisily, sucking air in through his mouth, spit bubble in the corner ballooning every time he exhales. His teeth are brown and pitted and his breath would shame a camel. He’s a fucking health hazard. I stoop, the pillow moving swiftly toward his face, then I take a handful of his hair and raise his head high enough to slip it underneath. I roll him onto his side so he doesn’t choke on his sick, then, as he starts snoring, chuck a blanket over him. He looks so sad and old, worn out and fucked up. Twat packs a canny punch, mind. But not tonight. I kiss him on the cheek then go on up to bed. Whatever else he is, he’s still me dad.

Julie Wright lives by the seaside in the north east of England and hangs out on Crimespace http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/Julielew when she’s supposed to be writing.

Perfection by Sandra Seamans

Pip knelt down in the darkness, watching for the woman who lived on the other side of the white picket fence. The woman’s name was Sylvia and she was the embodiment of perfection.

How Pip envied her. The perfectly colored skin, silky blonde hair that swished around her waist when she moved and not a pound out of place on her perfectly toned body. Pip felt like a fat frump whenever she saw Sylvia, hating the roundness of her own face and body, the kink of her black hair. Sylvia was everything Pip wanted to be and could never be.

Pip watched Sylvia slip out of the house, night after warm, summery, night. She loved how the moonlight played across the naked curves of Sylvia’s body. How that mass of blond hair shimmered around her body, as if to embrace the purity of Sylvia as she took her midnight swim. Pip glanced at her watch, Sylvia was late tonight.

Pip had heard the screaming, the sound of smashing china, the thud. Sylvia’s husband must have come home. The husband who was on more intimate terms with his frequent flier miles than his wife. He spent his working life checking out exotic locations for his travel agency, returning home to Sylvia after weeks in the perfumed sunshine of far away islands. Places he never took Sylvia. But she only cried when he came home.

Pip watched as Sylvia slipped out of the house, gliding silently across the patio toward the edge of the pool. She watched as Sylvia stripped the designer clothes from her body, her naked perfection drenched in moonlight. Pip sighed at the sight of such celestial beauty. Her sigh turned to screams, as Sylvia put a gun to her head and splattered her brains across the moonlit pool.

The Celery Conclusion by Rose Contreras

It really wasn’t about the celery, Roger thought as he packed his bags. The celery merely proved his point. She put it in everything, even in the omelets. No matter how many times he asked her to stop using it, she kept on. Celery was the flavor of their life together, and as he packed his bags he saw a celery haze in the air that pervaded their home.
It really was amazing that they lasted as long as they did. Their life together had never really jelled despite seven years of marriage. It was not that they had stopped getting along. They still held the same views about life, money, politics. They were both straightforward people, no nonsense, and cut to the chase. Their life was vastly organized and quite comfortable to any outsider looking in, but even after their orderly marriage, they continued to build their lives apart from each other. Their individual lives had never intertwined, the edges of their being remaining solid and independent, with no blending or blurring of spirit over time. They remained two hard, straight stalks growing upward and never touching in the middle. When Roger contemplated their future together, he saw more of the same. Year upon year of the same life. Growing straight, upright, and apart. Rigid as the celery he hated so much.

Roger waited for a Friday evening to tell her he was moving out. There were never any messes in their life, and it seemed fitting to wrap things up at the end of a week. When he gave her the news he was surprised that she wanted to know why. She wanted a reason and he had difficulty getting the words out. After a very long pause of misty green silence, he plucked an argument out of the air and used the weight of his irritation to sound convincing.
“You put celery in the omelets last Sunday morning, and I realized then that you just don’t care about me and I wonder if you ever did.”
Her face was serene, and she had a tilt to the corner of her mouth that was more of a smile than not. Her calm demeanor irritated him and he was sure he saw a celery green tint to her face, more vivid in her eyes. He must be imagining it.

“I’ve been saying it for seven years how much I hate celery, and you go right on using it. My likes and dislikes just don’t matter to you. I don’t matter to you.” She never flinched, and her voice was even as she explained her rationale.

“Celery lowers the blood pressure Roger. It’s been proven scientifically. It has a chemical called 3nB. The father of a medical student ate a quarter pound of celery a day and his hypertension disappeared.”

“I have no problem with my blood pressure Tina, and neither do you.”
She nodded her head in agreement, and her look turned thoughtful yet distant. He realized she had always been distant, and he had accustomed himself to her crisp rigidity early in their relationship.

” I’m leaving now.” He held his shoulders back resolutely as he turned to leave. He tossed his key on the little entrance way table as he walked quickly to the door. The green mist seemed to fade as he walked closer to the door. He stopped and turned expectantly to face her.

She sounded amused as she spoke. “It really isn’t about the celery, is it Roger?” He knew it was the truth. They would not miss each other, and they would not feel any regret. He stepped out the front door and was immediately invigorated by the sight of the electric blue sky and the warmth of the sunny wind on his face. The celery was a ridiculous conclusion to their relationship, but it was better than none at all.

I am 42, a writer, and a communication specialist. I have been married for 23 years to my high school sweetheart, and I am mom to two wonderful teenagers. I have always loved to write. I am currently working on two books, one nonfiction, working title: Veiled Hearts, and one fiction book tentatively titled The Murder of Saint Charbel. I also expect to graduate in May 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Technical Communication from the University of Texas at San Antonio. You can keep update with my work and me at www.rosecontreras.com.

Old School by Alan Peden

Detective Inspector Frank Miller looked at the knife in the assailant’s hand and thought his whole day was fucked.

‘Put the knife away, Darren.’ Miller kept his eyes on the man, seeing the still form of the cashier lying in the corner. She hadn’t moved since he came in, and Miller hoped she was just unconscious.

‘Shut the fuck up, Miller!’ Darren shouted, lifting the blade. ‘I only allowed you in here because I was getting fucking bored. And because that bitch won’t get up. So don’t push me.’

Miller wished he’d put his name down for the Lothian and Borders Police negotiators course at Tulliallan, their training school.

‘Take it easy, Darren. I’m only here to talk to you, see if we can get this resolved peacefully. There’s no pressure here.’

‘Sure, sure, it’s all fucking talk. Of course there’s pressure here.’

Miller looked around the stock-room, at the cases of booze all stacked up. Cartons of cigarettes had been knocked over in the struggle, presumably when the cashier had fought with Darren.

Her name was Suzanne and she was 23 years old. Not a match for Darren – if that was his real name – who looked to be in his early forties. He was in need of a shave and a haircut.

Miller was standing in his shirtsleeves, rolled up, showing Darren that he wasn’t armed.

‘Do you need anything, Darren? A drink? A smoke, perhaps?’ Christ, Miller felt like a prick when the words came out.

Offer them something to make them comfortable,

the negotiator outside had told him. Let him think you’re his friend. Gain his confidence, but don’t make him think you’re going to try and get the better of him. We have armed response teams for that. ‘Are you trying to be fucking funny, Miller?’ Darren screamed.

Miller wished he smoked, but he didn’t and couldn’t fake it. He was sweating like a bastard now. He kept his hands in view and reached over to a box of Carlsberg Special. He popped the tab and took a swallow. Fucking hell. He passed it over to Darren.

The air was hot in here. There were no windows. There had been years ago, but they’d been boarded up after one too many break-ins. Now there was only a fire door.

Darren threw the can down and the brown liquid rushed out at Miller’s shoes. ‘You think you can make me let her go by giving me a can of Carly Spesh?’

Then Darren did something that took Miller completely by surprise: he laughed. ‘You don’t remember me, do you, Miller?’

Miller edged slightly sideways, trying to get between the girl and Darren. Just like he’d been taught. Darren moved too. Move and counter-move.

‘No, Darren, I don’t remember you. Should I?’

He smiled at Miller. ‘Darren Holmes. 1993. Hibs versus Hearts. I was a casual back then. Loved the fucking fighting, I did. Then some old bastard copper got me round the back of Rose Street Lane, and kicked the shit out of me. A young copper stood and watched. Now it’s payback. It’s why I’m here, why I asked for you.’

Miller remembered now. That’s why they were here; the back of this stock-room opened up into that same lane.

He remembered the old school copper; Bobby something, long-retired, maybe dead now. Bobby had given a man a hiding after he’d caught him. Miller had stood and looked at him, not believing what he was seeing. After watching for a few moments, he ran up to stop it, but the man was unconscious.

‘He fucking fell, okay?’ the old copper said, staring hard at Miller.

Miller had nodded. And now it was back to haunt him.

He looked at the girl. Saw the blood now. No sign of life.

He moved with the stealth of a street fighter, better than Darren ever was. He grabbed the hand holding the knife and head-butted him.

Darren went down hard, his nose broken. He lay unconscious in a heap, and Miller thought he knew how old Bobby felt all those years ago.

Sometimes the old school ways were better after all.

Across the… by John McAuley

The piper played “Dark Island.”  He stood tall on a small hill in the center of the cemetery.

And my mother wept over the death of a man she’d divorced ten years ago.

When the piper played “Amazing Grace,” it made it all right for everybody else to cry.

I remember the first thing me and my father ever agreed on:  ” Them Beatles know how to do a fucking song,” he’d said.

All the way from Glasgow he brought us.

He built trucks here in Flint. Until some fucker had a gun instead of a knife.

Manslaughter is the charge on the bastard.

I gave my nephew Andy the money to pay the bail.  Then I sent Andy back to Scotland.

Now I have a receipt. And an address. And a knife.

Open House by Patricia Abbott

It began at the Bristol’s Open House. She rounded a corner and found him in the bedroom rummaging through the drawer, his hands lost in a mélange of brightly colored silk. Sensing her presence, he quickly elbowed the drawer shut. It was a slick, practiced move, neatly executed, and she wondered if he often found himself in such a situation. Perhaps he was a burglar, or someone a bit off, the sort of person who liked to fondle a stranger’s under things. He was what she’d been looking for without knowing it.  

“Are you the agent?” He was examining her rather openly through Mrs. Bristol’s ivory hand mirror, a glint of approval in his eyes. He was definitely her type. 

Did she really look like a realtor though: women who wore brightly colored suits and too much makeup, perhaps a faux jeweled broach on the lapel? She shook her head. ”Just window-shopping on a rainy Sunday.” She sat down on the Danish king, wrinkling the Moroccan duvet, and slid her heels off, emitting the slight sigh that always accompanied the removal of heels. She liked how her legs looked but lacked the stamina for wearing them.  

“Anyone downstairs?” he suddenly asked, gesturing with his head. “Besides the realtor, that is.” He sat down on the opposite side of the bed, slipped off his shoes, and quickly stretched out, testing the mattress with a light bounce.  

“No.” They looked at each other from a forearm’s distance. He looked pale, almost indistinct; she had a small mole on the side of her mouth. “The realtor’s attached to her cell.” She looked toward the sky-light. “No one will come out here in all this rain.”  

They looked up together as water flooded over them in sweeping dark waves. He winced. “The Bristol’s need a new mattress. Do they number coils the way they do vertebrae? I detect a definite break in number 8.” 

She smiled. “The room has nice proportions though. I’d give anything for such closet space.” 

“Women always notice things like that.”  

“And men always mention copper pipes and the dimensions of the garage.” 

“Size matters.” 

“Or so you say now.” And then she stopped talking and let the mood overtake her.  

She was up and put together when the realtor poked her head in. “Finding everything okay?” 

“It’s a terrific house,” she said, running a hand through her still-tousled hair. “Lots of closet space.” 

“Women always notice that,” the realtor agreed. “Shall I show you the kitchen?” 

They met often after that. She’d find the local paper stuffed in her mailbox, a Sunday open house circled in red marker. Sometimes there were too many people about, but often there was the empty room. She sought the swoon, the caresses he offered. She had been searching for this feeling forever: her hands opening drawer after drawer and finding nothing. Until now.  

They found her body at the Bristol’s second open house in May. ”Have you ever seen her before?” the detective asked.  

The realtor, in her canary-yellow suit, blinked nervously and nodded, her eyeliner caked from tears. “It was always a little eerie finding her in their bedrooms. All the realtors knew about her—joked about it.” 

“Ever see anyone with her? Anyone following her perhaps?” 

“Not once.” 

“She must have taken pills,” he observed. An empty plastic bottle lay on its side on the bureau.  

“I wonder if that’s what she was always looking for. Pills. Sometimes I’d come in on her going through their drawers. I shouldn’t have allowed it, but she seemed harmless. Never took anything. What could someone that old be up to?” She shook her head.  

“She must be seventy.” He corrected himself. “Have been seventy.” 

“At least.” 

Together, they looked at the pair of heels lying next to the bed: five inch spikes, blood red. It was hard to believe her feet, so swollen from pills, or old age, or death, could fit into such things. She should have been wearing something more suitable, something that didn’t give her ideas.  

Patricia Abbott lives and works in Detroit.

Dollar Lake by John McAuley

The water on Dollar Lake was flat and dark as I stared out at it through our trailer window.We’d planned on living in the trailer until we could build a house on the west side of our beachfront lot.

But it’ll never get built.  And neither of us will see a dime when our assets are split up.

The moon eclipsed by a cloud…Shelley on the floor; missing her front teeth and the back of her head…

The dispatcher called me on my walkie-talkie. Multiple calls about shots fired in the area of Fenton Road and Dollar Lake.

I took a last look at the water.

Pick a Pig Night by Julie Wright

Ethan Dobson woke up with a start, tried to work out where the fuck he was. His head was banging and his mouth tasted of fags and stale lager. He was in bed, alone, in a strange room. When he tried to stand, the room pirouetted and his stomach lurched dangerously. Fuck it. He lay back down. 

Things started coming back to him. The Blue Bell with Mark and Jimmy, down the road to Kebab Korner, then on to Mirabelle, stuffing their faces with pitas packed full of elephant’s leg meat and chili sauce, trying not to get grease on their clothes as they went. Mirabelle: north east
England’s premier night spot. Back in the 1950s. Maybe. Christ, it was a hole! But that was all part of its attraction. The clientele made it the perfect place for the first Friday after pay day: pick a pig night.
 

 He’d copped off with a beauty this time. Even with his beer goggles on, this lass had a snout and trotters. Should be a law against birds that plug. Fucking ugly bitch. Speaking of which, where was she? He took it slow this time, managed to get onto his feet. The landing light was on and he moved slowly toward the door. It stood ajar and, as he got close, he could hear her talking quietly. Sounded like she was on the phone to one of her mates. 

 ‘No, man, he’s still here! He’s upstairs.’ She giggled. ‘Aye, we did it, like.’ 

 Bragging about him! If only she knew. Mind, he was probably the best thing to happen to her in a long while. 

 ‘What about yours? Mark, was it?’ 

 Ethan had Mark beat. The bird he’d pulled looked like a bulldog chewing a wasp, but she was pretty compared to the pig he’d just porked. 

 ‘Couldn’t get it up? Typical!’ 

 Ethan was surprised; the lass wasn’t all that bad, not for pick a pig night. Must have been the beer. 

‘Tracey’s one managed it. Jimmy, they call him.’ She paused. ‘I know, he’s not that ugly. Mebbe she just fancied him, eh?’ 

 Ethan didn’t understand that one. He scratched his balls while he tried to puzzle it out. 

 ‘Well, it was a toss up between my one and your one, but if yours couldn’t manage it…. You know the rules!’ 

 Ethan took pride in the fact that he could always manage it, no matter how pissed he was or ugly a bird was. Christ, he’d boned some hounds, but you didn’t look at the fireplace while you were poking the fire. 

She laughed. ‘That’s one to me, then. About time an’ all. It’s ages since I won a pick a pig night!’ 

How the hell did she know? 

‘Ta-ra, Shaz. See you later.’ 

She came back upstairs. Fuck was her name? Ethan racked his brains but came up empty. 

 ‘Oh, you’re up!’ 

 Christ, she was rough looking! But still, a shag was a shag. 

 ‘Aye,’ Ethan told her. ‘Every time for you, pet.’ He reached out towards her and she ducked away. 

 ‘Cup of tea? I’ll go and put the kettle on.’ 

He ferreted about on the floor for his skiddies and his t-shirt. Must want a cup of tea first. Oh, well, he could wait. Cup of tea wouldn’t hurt. He padded down to the kitchen and heard her mobile ring. 

‘Oh, hiya, Tracey. Aye, I’m just making him a cup of tea.’ She laughed. ‘Oh, he’s keen, like, but once is more than enough with a lad like him.’ 

 Ethan preened. 

 ‘And I won pick a pig! See you later.’ 

Ethan lounged in the doorway. ‘How did you know?’ he asked. 

 ‘Know what?’ 

 ‘Pick a pig….’ 

She shook her head, picked up a mug. ‘Milk and sugar?’ 

 ‘Aye, thanks, pet.’ He sat down at the table and drank his tea. One of his mates must have coughed to one of her mates. How else would she know about pick a pig night?

 

Bio: Julie Wright lives by the seaside in the north east of England and hangs out on Crimespace http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/Julielew when she’s supposed to be working.

Filo County by Karyn Powers

Eliza knew she was skinny. Her mama used to tell her, “Girl, you just a slip cover for your bones. I swear you the only girl in Filo County who could come late to Easter Service and just pick up someone’s bible if you needs a place to sit.”

 

Filo County, Nebraska, was a place so flat that the souvenir post cards at Alston’s Drug Store appeared to be empty frames. On a good day Daddy said you could see tomorrow com’n. Eliza guessed tomorrow wasn’t much to look at.

 

The day she crossed over the county line, Eliza was as angry as the fresh welt rising under her left eye. She readied a good spit but then decided she’d already given the place enough of herself and swallowed it back inside.

 

     “Good bye, Filo County. I hope the winds and the rain take the summer off so’s that you crack and peal til there ain’t noth’n show’n here, but the rafters of hell.”

 

 

Karyn Powers

Writes poetry, for trade mags and all forms of

fiction (from Flash to tax returns,)

Lives in Northern Wisconsin w/

husband , Patrick & two labs.

A Quibbling Matter by Sandra Seamans

“Don’t you think you might be over planning this job, Charlie?” said Stella.

“That’s got to be the stupidest question that’s ever crossed your lips, woman, and I’ve heard a lot of them over the years. How many times do I have to explain this to you? The more you go over a plan, the less likely something’s gonna go wrong. Maybe if I talked slower it might sink into that pea brain of yours easier.”

“But, Charlie, there’s no way you can be prepared for everything. What if you were to plow into the back of a school bus on the way to the bank? And maybe one of the kids climbs into our car and finds the guns in the back seat? That kid could shoot someone and the cops would blame us. Or what if we followed your plan exactly, got the money, and some off duty cop comes walking in the door just as we’re running out. What do think he’s gonna do? Hold the door open for us?”

“You’re the naggingist wife I know. You’re always thinking about what could go wrong. You gotta think positive. We’ve been robbing banks all our married life. We’ve only been caught twice out of three tries. The odds are in our favor for this job.”

“One out of three and the odds are in our favor? Thank God you’re not a gambling man. You’ve got a good plan this time, Charlie, but I still think you need to leave some room for the possibility that something could go wrong. If you don’t look past the plan, you won’t be able to think on your feet.”

“My feet don’t need to do any thinking. That’s what my brains are for. Trust me,” said Charlie. “Nothing can go wrong.”

Charging into the bank wielding their shotguns, they were brought up short by a pair of bank robbers already at work. Charlie and Stella grabbed a piece of the floor when the cops came SWAT teaming into the bank behind them.

“Yep,” said Stella as the cops cuffed her. “That was one hell of a fool-proof plan, good thing the odds were in our favor.”

“Nag, nag, nag. Don’t you ever get tired of being right, woman?”