Tu et Ego by Stephen J Golds

Close To The Bone, Poetry, Stephen J. Golds

Tu et Ego 

I, I am 

the garbage bag 

split in the bottom, 

you carry on Tuesday mornings. 

The dead potted plant,

you glance at occasionally 

when it’s raining outside. 

The radio with no batteries 

on the shelf above the kitchen sink, you’ll one day place in a cardboard box 

for Good Will. 

And you, you are 

the twisting echo 

in a smudged plate glass window. 

As all murmured reflections 

a beautiful deceit in reverse. 

A sparrow in yellowed grass 

for the tom cat with ripped ear and 

all encroaching darkness. 

Sunlight ricocheting through curtains the color of torn bridal wear.  

And we, we are 

neither 

here nor there and 

what dreams may come. 

The Deadlands by Tom Leins

All Due Respect, Brit Grit, Close To The Bone, Flash Fiction, Indie, Short Stories, Tom Leins

THE DEADLANDS

By Tom Leins

The burn is horrendous and I struggle to look him in his good eye.

His only eye.

His face hasn’t healed, and he smells charred – like he has crawled out of the belly of hell itself.

Virgil is a tall man in a rust-brown suit. The severed nub of his thumb protrudes from the soiled looking plaster-cast on his right arm. He scratches his ruined face. 

“Will you be able to get her back?”

I nod, and he wheezes with relief. He removes a creased photograph from his wallet.

The girl has hair the colour of melted caramel. She flashes the camera a tight smile, which never quite reaches her eyes. Her collarbone seems to be tattooed. I pick up the photo and squint. It looks like a flatlining heartbeat, with the words ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ tattooed underneath.

“Can I keep it?”

He grunts.

“I don’t need the photo back, Mr Rey. Just my daughter.”

***

I survey the hellscape in front of me. The horizon is a jagged blur of burned-out, skeletal-looking houses and abandoned office blocks.

The Underworld looms large in the middle: a labyrinthine subterranean nightclub presided over by an elderly tycoon named Harry Hades. It’s only a year old – built on the site a notorious crime scene. Ten boys were found in the vacant lot – their bodies entirely drained of blood. People said that the Bone Daddy did it, but I don’t believe in ghosts.

‘The Underworld’ is spelled out in lurid, neon lights. Underneath, in smaller lights, are the words ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’.

I step past the expressionless, gargoyle-esque doormen and into the vestibule – my boots crunching on a bloody mixture of maggots, lice and dried pus. The grinding bass is so low it makes my guts churn.

There are nine doors, evenly spaced out. A word has been carved onto each door: Limbo. Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Wrath. Heresy. Violence. Fraud. Treachery. The Nine Circles of Hell.

I pause next to Lust. The door opens a crack and sultry laughter oozes through the gap.

I turn abruptly as Gluttony swings open. The room disgorges a tide of putrid slush into the lobby.

I choose Violence. One way or another, I always choose Violence.

***

The door opens with an infernal creak. A wave of evil, reeking heat takes my breath away. It’s as hot as hell and twice as ugly. The men drinking themselves into damnation are the worst of the worst. Child murderers. Spree killers. Degenerates. The violently unhinged. Sickness comes off them in waves. They rub shoulders, careful not to look one another in the eye – or spill each other’s pints. Their names are tattooed on their foreheads, their crimes inked on their knuckles.

My armpits feel rancid with sweat. Perspiration stings my bloodshot eyeballs. As I pass through the crowd, hushed voices rasp like flame. Yellow eyes glare at me from the gloom.  Pale, naked girls drift around the room, drinks trays in hand. I grab a drink to try and alleviate the blast-furnace heat, but it tastes hellish, so I spit the fiery liquid back in the glass and place it on the next tray that passes my way.

At the back of the room, Harry Hades slouches in an obscene gold-plated wheelchair. A girl – Beatrice – performs a private dance for him. There’s a choke-chain wrapped around her throat – fastened to his wheelchair. Her movements are weary, her feet are calloused. She has been condemned to perform a relentless slow grind by a bored sadist.

***

Harry Hades is old. Not frail, but old enough to have lost his fear of death. He jerks the chain and the girl falls at his feet. He removes his tinted sunglasses. His eyes look dead.

“How can I help you, young man?”

His dentures are so big that he can’t close his mouth when he grins at me.

I hold the photograph up for his inspection.

He shrugs.

“If you think she was here, she probably was.”

“I’m going to need her back.”

Another shrug.

“I care little about what happens outside The Underworld, young man. I have everything I need down here. But no one steals a soul from my realm.”

I don’t have the energy to talk to this rotten old motherfucker – especially in this heat – so I throw a brutal right hook at his elderly face – crumpling his bone-structure like a scrapyard hatchback.

Streaky blood leaks from his broken mouth. He spits a mouthful at my feet and speaks in a nasal whine.

“How about I let my hell-hound off his leash?”

It’s an idle threat, and I let it hang in the air – like the stale smoke from his high-tar cigarettes.

“Do your worst, Hades.”

“Cerberus.”

Crouched behind the wheelchair, attached to a second choke-chain, is a lean, tattooed guy with a flick-knife sneer and a mangled ear. Hades yanks his leash. He scampers across the floor on his hands and knees, before springing to his feet.

I forget his real name, but he’s a Scottish ex-bareknuckle fighter who was banned for life after killing two men in the cage. His torso is layered in clumsy prison ink: skulls, daggers, obscenities. In the middle of his chest is a brand-new tattoo of a three-headed dog with a serpent for a tail. It’s so new, the tattoo is still wrapped in clingfilm.

Hades unclips the chain, and I see the man’s muscles bunch and harden.

I don’t give him the time to make a move – I grab his leash and wrench his pale face towards my fist. Once. Twice. Three times. On the floor, he whimpers like a kicked hell-hound.

Hades attempts to scramble away from me, but his slip-on shoes look skittish – like hooves on a blood-slick abattoir floor – and his withered legs give way immediately. His forehead hits the concrete and blood as thick as mould oozes from his ruptured skull.

I place Beatrice on the vacant wheelchair and move towards the exit.

Cretinous faces leer at me, but no one makes a move to stop me.

I retrieve a complementary matchbook from the table next to the exit, strike a match and drop it in the pocket of one of the nylon bomber jackets hanging on the coat-rack.

Kick up the fire, and let the flames break loose.

I doubt these rotten bastards will even notice.

The End

Bio: Tom Leins is a crime writer from Paignton, UK. His books include Boneyard DogsTen Pints of BloodMeat Bubbles & Other Stories (all published by Close to the Bone) and Repetition Kills You and The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men (both available from All Due Respect). For more details, please visit:

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

Insomnia by BF Jones

B F Jones, Close To The Bone, Poetry, Torch Songs

B F Jones is French and lives in the UK. She has flash fiction and poetry in various UK and US online magazines.  Her poetry chapbook, Last Orders, and collection, Panic Attack, will both be published by Close To The Bone late 2021.

Insomnia

Uninvited

Night time companion

An overweight cat

Sitting on my chest

And settling

Next to my actual cat;

Both licking wounds

From existing

And imaginary fights

Falls from

Surprisingly high roofs, trees

And pedestals.

The rhythmical noise

Of their sharp, pink tongues

And the endless hum

Of their unfathomable purring

Keeping me from sleeping

As I run my fingers

Over and over

Through their abundant coats.

Portrait Of The Artist As A Consumer: Max Thrax

Close To The Bone, Max Thrax, Portait Of The Artist As A Consumer

BIO: Max Thrax lives in Boston. His stories and poetry have appeared in Bristol Noir, Shotgun Honey, and Versification. God is a Killer (Close to the Bone) will be published on May 27th, 2022. Find him online at www.maxthrax.com and on Twitter @ThraxMaximilian.

TV: Play for Today, Boys from the Blackstuff, Match of the 70s & 80s, Twin Peaks, Cracker, Oz, The Shield, Breaking Bad, Serie A


MOVIES: Andrei Rublev, Scarface, White Heat, Gomorrah, Menace II Society, Ratcatcher, Pusher trilogy, Under the Silver Globe, Fresh, Taxi Driver, Friends of Eddie Coyle, Out of the Past, Blue Velvet, Sweet Smell of Success, The Third Man, I’m Bout It, Akira, Lady from Shanghai, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Get Carter, Jackie Brown, Point Break, Night of the Hunter, Long Good Friday, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Red Road, The Public Enemy


BOOKS: Dashiell Hammett, Paul Cain, Jim Thompson, Ted Lewis, George V. Higgins, Shane Stevens, Donald Goines, Derek Raymond, Patricia Highsmith, Simenon, Dostoevsky, Stendhal, John Webster, Thomas Middleton, Christopher Marlowe, Tacitus, Sallust, Julius Caesar, Cato the Elder, Strindberg, Witkiewicz, Ghelderode, Jean Follain, Georg Trakl, Ted Hughes, Zbigniew Herbert


MUSIC: Bach, Berlioz, Wagner, Bartok, Pink Floyd, Japan, OMD, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Broadcast, Deftones, Guns N’ Roses, Rammstein, Shortparis, synthwave


ART: Hellenistic art, Novgorod School, Bruegel, Paolo Uccello, El Greco, Velazquez, Bernini, Caravaggio, Poussin, Goya, Hokusai, Caspar David Friedrich, Hiroshige, Gustave Moreau, Ilya Repin, Kuniyoshi, Mikhail Vrubel, Neue Sachlichkeit


BOXERS: Jack Dempsey, Charley Burley, Ezzard Charles, George Benton, Ken Buchanan, Bob Foster, Alexis Arguello, Thomas Hearns, Roger Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker, Mike Tyson, James Toney, Bernard Hopkins, Kostya Tszyu, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Dmitry Pirog, Guillermo Rigondeaux

FOOD: yogurt, grapes, blackberries, lamb, calamari, full Irish
DRINK: tea, coffee, Red Bull, pomegranate seltzer
PLACES: Boston, Los Angeles, London
QUOTE: ‘Happiness is not being afraid’ – Roy Keane

3am drunk texts by B F Jones

B F Jones, Close To The Bone, Poetry

B F Jones is French and lives in the UK. She has flash fiction and poetry in various UK and US online magazines.  Her poetry chapbook, Last Orders, and collection, Panic Attack, will both be published by Close To The Bone late 2021

3am drunk texts 

I want 

To lick your

Wounds

Clean 

Start 

Something Impossible  

Memories of 

A broken 

Love story

To take 

To my grave 

I want to shout

Your name 

I dry out 

Lusty sweat 

And wet fingers 

And wonder if 

You 

And I

Will one day

Come 

Together

I want 

To kiss 

Goodbye 

The mouth 

That never says 

The words 

I reserve for 

Another 

And leave 

This insanity 

Prison

Man Bites Trap by John Bowie

Brit Grit, Close To The Bone, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Flash Fiction, John Bowie

Man Bites Trap

Jude Greyson sat at his desk in a cold room. Outside, birds sang as if Spring brought a bountiful feast, and for the time being, the cats in the neighbourhood didn’t exist.

He didn’t hear them. The song. Beauty. Not in the notes or the spaces between them.

Downstairs his friends partied on from the night before. That’s what they called him, a friend. He didn’t hear them either.

The light flickered overhead. Nothing.

A dog barked next door. Silence.

All Jude heard was the zip on a small leather case as he tentatively started to open it. All he felt was numbness. He was a cannonball somehow floating on the waves of life and he knew he was due to fall, sink and rest. Someday soon, maybe it would be today.

His mother hadn’t said a word as she’d helped him pack his bags for college. She’d ironed sheer hell out of everything as she compensated for the weight she knew he carried inside. She saw it in him, the anxiousness. Like he had a crack-filled balloon in his belly about to pop. She’d ironed his clothes so heavily. Trying to purge his worry. Without the emotional tools to do it the way a mother should — she knew nothing else. So pressed, hard. She’d made creases down the front of his jeans as sharp as razor blades. Fuck he hated that. Almost as much as the assumption that his demeanour was nothing more than an adopted artist’s aloof masquerade. Stolen and borrowed from something he’d seen in a book, or the latest band he was into. And that somehow, he was going to come true at college, out of his shell — all crap.

Jude spent a lot of time with his door locked in his shared house at college. When he occasionally ventured out, the others were drawn to his blackheart. It oozed shadows and left invisible bloody footprints as he skulked around the tired old house. What was ridiculed at school, had become a honey-trap at college. An image of something they normally saw onscreen or in music mags. He was the real deal. A walking talking fucked up idol to be built up, and knocked down. They could see it wouldn’t take much. Unlike those they’d read and seen on screen, in bands and in those mags. He was…for real.

He didn’t feel any of that either, their abstract admirations — piss to the wind.

There was no way to see the full extent of his turmoil from the outside. His internal tormentors wore virtual masks, came in many colours and rarely showed an obvious face.

The zip went back on the little black case. As he opened it up, he imagined flying insects buzzing at his head. Carriers of distraction back into life. So, he swatted them away. From the case, rusty shiny blades looked up. He pulled back a shirt sleeve and admired each one of the fresh scars. Pushing. Made them seep.

He turned up the radio, he wasn’t listening to. All white noise drowning out a world; not his. This moment was between him and the blades. His real friends. And Family.

He cut himself, to test if he was still there. To see if he could feel past the numbness. A reality. He cut himself to have control. To be done to, by himself, and only himself. His feelings, born and made fragile by an unsympathetic upbringing, could erupt at any moment with outside influence. Here, he had complete orchestration over his pleasure, pain and when it started and stopped…

He sat back. Tears came. Of pleasure, pain, in the caress of the blade.

‘Jude, we’re having a brew… you want one?’

He wiped the blood away. Put on a plaster and rolled his sleeve down. He was ready to engage again. Although he didn’t know for how long.

‘Jude?’

Silence. Then a zip. Radio turned down.

‘You knocking one out in there, Jude?’

‘I’ll just be a sec…’

‘Filthy bastard.’

‘Be down in 5.’

* * *

Byron Walters was a public schoolboy prick. The rest of the household thought so as soon as he turned up on their doorstep. He stood there, way too fucking proud in his fake-tan skin. Posed catalogue-regal style, like the shitty neighbourhood didn’t matter, and the student house was his new castle. And, his new housemates peering hesitantly around the door were his new servants. His black designer holdall bag that hung from his hand was worth more than the rent they would all pay each quarter.

They let him in.

In the kitchen, the peeling walls bellowed and the others were glad Jude was locked in his room. They could tell Byron’s brash over-confident and constant banter-shit could send Jude spinning off, either in his head or literally. They’d have to ease them both in together, maybe over a brew. At least Byron wouldn’t be mouthing off as he took a sip of something, surely.

One of them went up to grasp the nettle. To get Jude.

            Byron kept laying it on. Really trying to sell himself, all the while misjudging his audience. It was about to go even more off-track, as Jude started to come down the stairs.

The others heard the steps and looked at each other. Byron didn’t notice. He was too busy sucking himself off with stories of girls in each port… How he couldn’t beat them off with a dirty stick — how he was the fucking man. And how all these girls…barely pubescent, were his trophies.

            The rest of the housemates felt the fabric of the house and kitchen change. With each of Jude’s steps overhead on the stairs carrying more weight than Byron’s hard-sell macho shit.

Jude slipped easily into the room behind Byron. And leant in the corner out of sight. One of the others nodded, leant over behind Byron and grabbed the kettle, filled it and returned to the base and switched it on.      

Click.

            Jude rolled and lit up.

            Byron sniffed the air, looked around and jumped at the new member in the room.

Jude was all in black, as usual, a translucent shadow. Aloof. An invisible reluctant observer, wishing to keep it that way.

            ‘What the fuck? You a fucking goth or something?’ Byron barked and laughed. Slapping his leg as if riding a horse, ‘thought this was Manchester…all indie kids, baggy trousers and Reni hats n’ shit,’ Byron’s words bounced around the kitchen. The others waited for their reception to take shape. Insult, a dig or friendly intentions were irrelevant. Jude was like thin ice with a bed of nails underneath at the best of times.

Jude breathed in.

Then out.

He gripped his forearm, enough to feel he could leave the room, at any moment without moving. His recent release was fresh enough that these stranger’s words bounced straight off him. The irony of the pain making his armour thick.

‘I’m going for a piss,’ Jude said to the floor, rolly hanging from his lip. He left, his smoke hanging in the vacuum he left behind.

‘That’s quite an act. Fucking dark arts reaper or something. Watch steam doesn’t come out,’ Byron said as Jude walked up the corridor and back up the stairs.

‘Ain’t no act,’ a voice said by the sink.

‘Bollocks,’ Jude barked. ‘Kid’s been listening to too much Smiths already, that’s all. We’ll get some Boddingtons in him, pills, poppers… Get him out into the big city for fuck sake. That’s just some small-town country repressed fuck up waiting to drink through it, get laid and come out the other side. Hell, he can have one of my birds. Two turning up tomorrow. At different times. It’s a nightmare of a juggling act anyhow…’ Byron’s coffee had kicked in and the others had wished they gave him tea instead. He was off on one, again. The gobshite was churning it out double time. Hyper. Like a dog busting for a piss, hopping on the spot between two lamp posts.

Jude’s footsteps started again on the stairs overhead. Coming back down.

‘Wait… I’ve an idea. It’s a belter — check this out!’ Byron announced to the room. ‘Everyone, hide. NOW! I’ll get behind the door, I’ve got just the thing for the fucking Crow,’ he giggled. No one joined in.

The others looked around, beyond worry. Not confident enough to rein in the ego dominating the room. And a little curious to see what was in store, despite knowing it wouldn’t end well. They knew it was a car crash coming and they were fixed to the back seat anyway.

Byron turned up the radio in the kitchen. Radiohead was playing Creep. ‘Perfect,’ he grinned and knelt down, unzipped the black holdall he’d just arrived with and quickly took something out, and put something under his tracky top before they could see it. Then he stepped behind the door and pulled it in front of himself so he was hidden.

The others all found a spot. Ducking, some in the cellar, others around a corner by the bins. All retreating best they could, out of sight.

From the top of the stairs, Jude heard Radiohead coming from the kitchen but already had Paul Weller in his head, and bits of Oasis, then Joy Division. He might have looked a Goth but his all-black uniform was a mere egoless wardrobe he didn’t have to think about. He was a broken priest of his own religion. His mind whirred on ideas, concepts, existential quandaries of abstract expressionism and broken mirrors. He was a deconstruction of himself. There was no time for public image preening.

By the last step of the stairs, New Order’s Crystal, was playing both in the kitchen and his mind. He floated to the bottom step.

His feet padded down the dark hallway. A thrown beer can had blown the bulb two nights ago and they hadn’t replaced it. The kitchen door was open but he couldn’t hear voices. This was normal over those that whispered in his head and whatever soundtrack he played there too. He heard the Chemical Brothers start and didn’t question whether it was internal or external. This soundtrack meant that rather than about to get worn down by the day, he was in a good place and mood. Ready to crack his own notions over what lay ahead.

He stood in the doorway to the kitchen.

Where had they gone?

The cellar was full of shit, nothing to see down there. And there was nothing much outside…

Longsight wasn’t a place to go sightseeing. Unless you liked boarded up windows, smashed out bus shelters and a community that could chew you up and leave you dead if you stopped still long enough.

They must be hiding.

Maybe they’d been burgled? And the rest were in the cellar tied up.

This area was rough. This city could eat you alive and you wouldn’t even make the second page of the local rag. Only last night a taxi driver had been mugged and killed. Some lads had jumped in, put a gun to his head and noose around his neck. Told him to drive or be shot. Said they’d let him know if he could stop before the rope tied back to a lamppost snapped his neck and his head came off. That was after he’d given them everything and showed them pictures of his wife and kids. His head was found by school kids the next morning and the car crashed into a fence a hundred yards ahead, motor still running as a piss and shit-soaked leg pressed an accelerator to the floor.

Jude grinned. Touched his forearm again — so be it. Muggers or not, he was going in.

Oasis’s Force of Nature played all around as Jude took a step forward. The world slowed.  At moments like this, his nervousness went past boiling point. Like when he had to talk to more than one person at a time, interact with an attractive girl…any girl. Or, just a stranger. Jude always swallowed it down and got on with it — and let a well-practiced zen-like power overwhelm him. When he stopped trying and let it win, he knew that would be the end. It was like the calm ebbs and flows moments before going over a waterfall in a small boat. Knowing…

The boat always goes over. 

He looked out of the kitchen window to the sun, felt nothing.

The door behind him snapped open crashing against the counter. Nothing, he didn’t jump.

He didn’t feel the gun barrel pressed hard against his temple or the arm gripped tight around his neck, pulling the gun and skull together tight. Nothing. But, he knew they were there.

He smiled.

‘Haha,’ a voice said, spitting over Jude’s face, ‘you’re gonna get it now… Say your last fucking words, CUNT!’

Jude breathed out, his eyes looked down. He didn’t resist the grip on his head and neck, instead embracing the moment, slowly closing his eyes as if going in for a kiss. ‘If you’re gonna do it, do it,’ Jude whispered, intimately.

Bryon started to shake.

He saw the Devil.

The others stepped out. The joke was on Bryon. They’d all been there long enough, the city was in their veins. Now it was in his.

‘Like we said,’ a voice went, ‘he’s for real.’

‘Fuck,’ Byron muttered… Gasping as realised he was out of breath. He felt small, naked.

‘Just pull the trigger, will you, so I don’t have to,’ this time Jude’s words sounding like a lover’s whisper.

Byron jumped away, scolded, as his feigned aggression faded fully away to reveal his extreme fear. He could see Jude welcomed the bullet. Any bullet. All the while seeming somehow bulletproof.

Byron’s arms dropped. The one holding the gun raised slowly back up and he put the piece on the worktop, delicately, like a priest holding out a communion wafer as a tear welled in his once superficial eyes. He’d been christened and embraced by loss of control. Now, he felt true darkness. Living and breathing in this place, and in Jude. This wasn’t an act. Byron’s image-persona was destroyed, ‘Pint?’ his lips quivered, conceding his comfortable life was now over.

‘Yes,’ Jude said, ‘and you’re fucking buying.’

As they put on their coats to leave, Byron put a hand on Jude’s shoulder and told him he’d wished he hadn’t pulled the joke. That he was an idiot. He was sorry. It was just a toy; fired blanks.

As they walked up the road, towards the nearest pub, a rope dangled from a lamppost and trailed to the centre of the road. Up ahead a burnt-out Vauxhall still smoked.

Sitting in a beer garden, by the fifth pint, Jude told Byron not to worry. That yes, he was an idiot. He didn’t need to tell him the rest… He didn’t need to say that he was sorry too, that it hadn’t been a real gun. That he welcomed a live round.

They sat in that beer garden in the pouring rain, getting soaked through, drinking down quicker than the heavens could re-fill the pint glasses. Small victories.

Jude closed his eyes and opened them again. There was no one there. Reopened, and they were back, smoking, drinking. The clouds took a rest and the sun strained for a chance as much it could in Manchester.

Jude looked into his glass. He saw just how much Byron had been shaken. He saw what was in him. He saw blackness. Flushing, embarrassed, he smiled again, bashful. Like receiving an unworthy felt compliment — a lover’s gift. Then, it drained away, and the calm washed over.

He rolled a cigarette and eyed a broken bottle with shards of razor-sharp glass by his feet.

It welcomed him. It spoke to him.

The bottle’s neck formed the perfect handle. The glass shon. In it he saw a crossroads — choices. Each, with a welcome release. All of them red as night, dark as sinkholes, and humming like the finest everlong embrace.

He saw the Devil.

This time, he’d be in control…and it wouldn’t be a joke.

John Bowie 2020 ©

John Bowie: Biography


John’s writing has appeared online and in print for the likes of Red Dog Press, Bristol Noir, Storgy Magazine, Close to the Bone, Litro Magazine, Punk Noir Magazine, Necro Productions and Deadman’s Tome.

He writes poetry, short stories and novels. His fiction is a semi-autobiographical mix of dirty realism, crime fiction and noir. Ghostly references to a heritage that includes the Vikings, Scotland, Ireland and the North, U.K. flavour the words throughout. Often with a dark humoured edge.

He’s the founder and editor of the Bristol Noir e-zine which specialises in dirty realism, noir and dark fiction.

John lives in Bristol with his wife and daughters, where he has been since the late nineties. He is a professional designer, artist and writer as well as a proud husband, father, brother and son.

John’s first novel, Untethered, the first in the Black Viking Thriller series is out now with Red Dog Press. Transference, the second Black Viking Thriller is due February 2021.

His pulp noir Weston-super-Nightmare is out in March 2021 with Close to the Bone.

His poetry collection, Dead Birds & Sinking Ships (Little Tales of Melancholy Madness) is due August 2021 with Close to the Bone Publishing.

A collection of Bristol Noir stories (Tainted Hearts & Dirty Hellhounds) curated by and including John’s work, is slated for Q1 2021.

Longcroft on Lockdown by Darren Sant

Brit Grit, Close To The Bone, Darren Sant, Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Tiny Tales

TFTL

Longcroft on Lockdown

 

The Longcroft Housing Estate, Yorkshire,  England.

These were scary times. A global pandemic has changed the world as we know it albeit temporarily. As the world held its collective breath unprecedented events were unfolding on the Longcroft estate.

  1. Briefing.

North Longcroft Estate – Police Control Room

An assortment of coppers of varying ages, ranks and sexes shuffled restlessly on their seats waiting for the Sarge to get his papers in order and begin the late shift briefing. All were sat the government dictated two metres apart. This, of course, led to the usual childish behaviour you’d expect from any group under stress. Giggling and the throwing of notes to one another. The Sarge conscious of the restlessness of his captive audience launched into his briefing.

“Thanks for your attention ladies and gentlemen.” he coughed, then laughed.

“It’s alright I haven’t got this fucking virus. Damn tree pollen is playing havoc with my tubes.”

There was a half-hearted laugh. The Sarge was to comedy what Piers Morgan was to diplomacy.

Sensing he hadn’t engaged his troops he ploughed on regardless.

“Okay, there’s something big going down on the estate. It’s been quiet generally until now. All of the usual scrotes are playing nice on lock down or breaking into garages, cars and sheds. But they’re scared of the virus same as the rest of us so the low level scum bags are not currently a worry. Oh, and if any of them say they’ve got the virus and threaten to spit on you then you have my personal permission to ram your baton up their arse.”

This time there were genuine laughs. Nothing united a force more than twatting the enemy.

“An informant has let us know that all the top level scum bags in the area are meeting up. They’re planning something and it’s BIG. We have no idea where the meeting is or what the hell they are discussing but keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t take any unnecessary risks but find out what you can.”

He was losing them, they were muttering and speculating amongst themselves. Time to conclude.

“Okay, stay safe out there and go get ’em. Dismissed.”

  1. The Shed

“Oi! Soft lad, get your fucking arse over here!” yelled Davey in a loud whisper.

Rich looked up from the patio door handle he was yanking on.

“This shed is unlocked” stage whispered Davey.

Rich gave up, low crouched then ran over to Davey at the shed. He cursed as he caught his leg on a terracotta potted plant. Hopping for a moment on one foot.

“Ouch, fuck!”

“Quiet you twat. You’ll wake people up.”

Rich winced in pain, “Sorry! It’s so dark” he whispered.

“People tend to see if you try robbing them in the daytime you muppet.”

They were in the garden of a house on the very edge of the estate, where the houses were bigger, and it was just that little bit more affluent. Richer pickings in other words.

“This door is unlocked, let’s see what’s in here.” said Davey.

They crept carefully over the threshold, neither of them could see a thing. Davey reached into his pocket and took out his LED torch.

“Pull the door closed, just in case the light carries.” Said Davey

Rich did as he was asked and with a creak the little remaining light from outside was slowly extinguished. It was pitch black.

Davey clicked on his torch and swept it across the shed. He quickly clicked it off again.

“What the…” he said.

“Did I just…” said Rich.

Davey clicked on his torch again to see if what he’d seen was still there. This time he did a slow sweep. Rows and rows of shelves of creepy china dolls stared at them. They were exquisitely painted with rosy cheeks but their eyes were dark pools of evilness and they stared down at them with malevolence unknown to man.

However, the back wall of the shed is what made them both gasp in fear. A long row of brutal looking dildos. In order of size. Some with spikes. Some wrapped in barbed wire. Some as large as golf clubs.

“Oh-my-fucking-God” was Rich’s eloquent response.

“Dude, I don’t think god has anything to do with the contents of this shed, look.” replied Davey.

He swept the torch over a corner and saw several secure hooks containing sturdy looking studded bondage gear and several leather gimp masks.

There was a loud bang from the nearby house. They looked at each other and ran for their

lives.

  1. The Meeting

Somewhere on the east side of the Longcroft Estate in a small closed down community centre and tonight there was a flurry of nervous activity.  The estate is roughly split up into several powerful gangs, centres of power. All of whom would be present at this most unusual meeting.

The first to enter was the dreadlocked figure of Drexel. Originally from West Indian but his parents had moved to the estate when he was just two years old. Drexel was six foot three of pure muscle and aggression. His dreadlocks cultivated over years hung three quarters of the way down his back. His well muscled arms bulged free in his bodybuilders vest top. Drexel was your man for drugs on the estate. If you needed a high you came to one of his network of dealers. Going anywhere else for your high on the estate was worse for health than the drugs themselves. Drexel took his seat at the table on a tiny plastic chair designed only for an old ladies bottom.

Next to enter was Chuck “Knuckles” Van Cleef. He was the Longcroft’s gangster. Protection rackets, girls, clubs they were his thing. No one knew how he’d gotten his peculiarly American name but every one was sure they didn’t want to be on the other end of his knuckles.  He stood at just under five foot six but was almost as wide as he was tall. His hands were like hams, huge and menacing and his knuckles stood out even amongst the meaty flesh of his hands. Hence his nickname.

There was only one Biker gang on the estate that for reasons known only to themselves were called The Found.  Their fifteen members all wore a uniform of denim jackets and green bandanas with The Found in fancy scroll on the back. Since they were almost all male they cultivated ZZ Top style beards, with varying degrees of success.  Except Rosy their only female member, but you’d have to look twice to establish that. They were not a criminal gang per se but if you crossed one of them vengence was sure to be swift and merciless. Their leader Ted O’Malley was a skinny guy but if you crossed him you’d see just what a skinny elbow could do to your face.

All of these leaders were sat glaring at each other, trash talking and nervously waiting for the real power in the estate to arrive. Outside their various hard men were all in separate groups waiting for it to kick off so they could have a good scrap.

Finally, ten minutes later than the agreed meeting time the door creaked open and the ominous shuffle and tap tap of several canes and zimmer frames were heard.  The most powerful group on the estate had arrived. The Longcroft East Bingo Club. There was a scrape of chairs as all of the estates hardest men rushed to stand and show their respect. These ladies controlled the estate by fear and information. If you crossed them they didn’t forgive and they didn’t forget.  They had access to a source of information and gossip more powerful than any internet server. The weekly bingo meetings.

If you dared to cross them the information was shared among the network. Your card (like a bingo card) was marked for good. The first time you slipped up they’d have you. Any one of dozens of pairs of curtain twitching eyes was watching your every move. A phone call would be made. It could be the taxman. It could the DWP. It could be a rival drug dealer. Underestimate them at your peril.

Vera, their natural leader and most vicious with an elbow, quickest with a dabber and most merciless with a cutting remark was the first to speak.

“Good evening gentleman.”

She made no apology for being late and settled heavily down on the seat at the head of the table. She was flanked by her two closest cronies, mad Margo and dotty Dotty.

“Before we begin,” said Margo, “I’d just like to inform Mr O’Malley that one of his bikers nearly ran over my nephew last week.  Sort it out quickly or we’ll be forced to give Mr Van Cleef the photographs of one of your lads and his wife.”

Chuck leapt to his feet in anger and glared at O’Malley who looked bewildered and terrified all at the same time. Before things could get out of hand. Vera shook her grey haired head.

“Not now gentlemen. We have business to deal with.”

And with her true demonstration of power over they began their meeting.

So it was decided with some raising of voices, threats, anger and some chess grandmaster moves by Vera that the meanest, toughest, nastiest tribes on the Longcroft Estate would use their networks to ensure that no one went too hungry, everyone had toilet rolls and that everyone would get their medication. They would look after the vulnerable and the needy until lock down was over. They would help each other in a way they never had before for the mutual good and no knee caps needed to be broken for a while.

The moment it was lifted…the gloves would be off and it’d be back to settling old scores and making money. For now peace and co-operation would be the order of the day, signed and sealed by Vera.

Epilogue

The Sarge kicked off his boots and went into the living room to kiss his wife.

“Hi love. How was your day?” She enquired.

“Not too bad. There is something big going down but the streets are quiet for now. It’s eerie really.”

“How are your officers coping?”

“They’re as clueless as ever.” He chuckled.

“Oh well, at least they have you to guide them.”

He smiled at her lovingly and patted the little pug that was sat on her lap.

“They do indeed. Listen it’s been a long day. I need to unwind. I’m going to spend some time in the shed.”

She smiled and nodded, “You do that I’ll catch up with the soaps. You’ll have to show me what you do in that shed one of these days you’re so secretive.”

He smiled, “Oh I will. Don’t worry about that.”

 

Darren Sant was born in 1970 and raised in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire which is in the United Kingdom. He moved to Hull in East Yorkshire in 2001.

Darren’s stories have appeared in various online publications such as The Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Metal, Thrillers Killers N Chillers, The Killing Pandemic, Flash Jab Fiction and Shotgun Honey. 

Darren’s creation The Longcroft Estate is the setting for a number of his stories. A collection of the first three of these tales is was published by Close To The Bone in February 2012.

 

 

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER: STEPHEN J. GOLDS

Close To The Bone, Portait Of The Artist As A Consumer, Punk Noir Magazine, Stephen J. Golds, Writing

Mr Golds

TELEVISION: The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Narcos, Fargo, True Detective Season 1, Ozark, Breaking Bad, Deadwood…

BOOKS: Everything by Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Arthur Nersesian, Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, Thom Jones, Fredric Brown, Graham Greene, Tim O’Brien, Richard Matheson, Richard Brautighan, Billy Childish, The CTTB Authors…

FILMS: Goodfellas, Casino, Donnie Brasco, Reservoir Dogs, Godfather Trilogy, The Departed, The Shining, Edward Scissorhands, Groundhog Day, Beetlejuice, Raging Bull, Legends of The Fall, The Drop, Leon, The English Patient…

MUSIC: Sam Cooke, The Ink Spots, Sam and Dave, The Chi-Lites, Roberta Flack, Billie Holiday, Al Green, The Smashing Pumpkins, Cypress Hill, Notorious BIG, Van Morrison, Nirvana, All 1950s/1960’s Soul…

PLACES: Okinawa, London, Hanoi, Kefalonia, Saipan, Hong Kong, Myanmar, New York City, Los Angeles…

FOOD: All Okinawan food, Pancakes, Full English Breakfast, Pie…

DRINK: Coffee. Beer. Whisky. Pepsi…

ART: Everything by Billy Childish and Edward Hopper. 

QUOTES

“Find what you love and let it kill you.” Charles Bukowski. 

BIO: Stephen J. Golds was born in London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. Glamour Girl Gone his debut novel will be released by Close to The Bone Press January 29th, 2021. 

John Wisniewski interviews Paul Heatley

All Due Respect, Close To The Bone, Down and Out Books., Interviews, John Wisniewski, Paul Heatley, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

paul heatley

When did you begin writing, Paul?

I’ve been writing stories since I was very young – any scrap of paper I could find I’d scribble a story on, usually about existing characters In was aware of, like the X-Men or whatever other cartoon I’d been watching. In high school I wrote a lot of horror, then after that I tried to write what I guess you would describe as ‘literature’. Nothing really seemed to click until I tried my hand at crime fiction, about eight or nine years ago, and I’ve been getting steadily published since then, starting with my short story ‘Red Eyed Richard’ in issue three of Thuglit.

Any favourite crime authors?

My top three are Jim Thompson, Chester Himes, and James Ellroy, probably on the basis that these are the three crime writers I read first. I’ve imitated the style of Jim Thompson most of all, I think, and Chester Himes‘ influence is most apparent in my Eye For An Eye books. I haven’t tried to ape Ellroy yet, but I’ve got plans… Others include Richard Stark, James M Cain, Alan Parks, Matt Wesolowski, Attica Locke, Joe Lansdale, Marietta Miles, Nikki Dolson, Tom Leins, Shawn Cosby, Hector Acosta, Will Viharo, Daniel Vlasaty, Rob Pierce, Beau Johnson, and Gabino Iglesias, among many others.

What is the scene like in the U.K. with crime/noir writing?

I think it’s healthy. There are people like Tom Leins, Aidan Thorn, Paul D Brazill, and Tess Makovesky, to name a few, who are all flying the flag and making a name for themselves. I’m not sure whereabouts I fit in it, personally. Sure I’m British and I’ve set some stuff here in the north east where I live, but I made the decision to set a lot of my stuff in America. When I come to write a story I always think about first which setting will suit it best, and the US tends to win out, and that’s based on my interests and influences. I read and watch (television and movies) mostly American, and so I think that’s the voice that flows strongest through my writing. The two I have coming out this June, however, are both England-set. Cutthroat takes place in Newcastle, in the 70s, with a little bit of Northumberland and Scotland in it too, and Just Like Jesus is set in Northumberland, predominantly in Amble, the town I grew up in. One thing I always enjoy writing, and switching up between the two settings, is dialogue. It’s fun to write the snappy, one-liner style of Americans, and it’s just as fun to write the colloquialisms of Geordies in the north east of England.

What makes a good crime/suspense story?

For me, I like them to be dark. I’m not averse to some humour – Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen spring to mind – but I like my crime to be of the noir variety and to be exactly as described: pitch black. That’s one of the reasons most of the authors I listed above work primarily in the indies, as that’s where the darkest, most brutal stuff is. Of course, I also want them to have some great characters and some real stakes that they’re working towards. This is what I try to inject into my own writing, and what I’m looking for in other people’s.

Are there any crime/noir film’s that you like?

Drive instantly springs to mind. Blue Velvet, Scorsese gangster movies, Killing Them Softly, Touch Of Evil, Niagara, In A Lonely Place, The Big Sleep, Kiss Me Deadly, Chinatown, Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Nightcrawler, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Hell Or High Water, Stoker, Stormy Monday, Payroll, A Prophet, Killer Joe, City Of God, A Bittersweet Life, Sin Nombre, Heat, Wild At Heart, Fresh, Brick, Dead Presidents, Reservoir Dogs, Blood Simple – there’s a lot, I could probably go on. Also, like a lot of people, I really enjoyed Uncut Gems recently.

Paul, could you tell us about writing “Guillotine”? It is full of twist and turns, and often surprises the reader. How do you handle dialogue and pacing?

Guillotine started life as a short story a few years before I actually decided to take the characters I had and insert them into a novella. I felt like I had too much content for a short story, it needed to be something longer, so I basically fleshed out and added background to the scenes I’d already written, then extended the ending. All the stuff with Lou-Lou, especially the second half of the story, was brand new. The pacing for it came as I wrote it, as if usually the case. I’ll start writing something and get a feel for how fast it’s going to move – whether it’s going to be a little more paced and thoughtful, or if it’s going to be breakneck, like Guillotine is.

Dialogue is one of my favourite parts of writing – it not THE favourite. It keeps the story moving, it reveals the characters, their drives, how they act and react. I’m a big fan of George V Higgins and how he tells the bulk of his stories in dialogue. I started using this approach (though maybe not to the same extreme) when I came to write Fatboy, or rather the second draft of Fatboy. When I read through the first draft I found the dialogue was good, but I disliked the exposition. So I focussed more on my strengths.

Could you tell us about the trilogy “The Motel whore”, “The vampire” and “The Boy”? They feature recurring characters and a dark, gloomy atmosphere is created. How do you create this dark world for the reader?

The Motel Whore series was something I wrote very early on. I think it was an effort to get a lot of dark ideas out of my system, and it grew to include The Vampire and The Boy when I started getting the ideas on how to incorporate them into the world of the original story and utilise pre-existing characters. The three tales are quite possibly some of my darkest stuff, not necessarily in terms of violence, but certainly in the way that these characters suffer and the kind of lives they lead. They all in some way rotate around the town’s motel, and the eponymous prostitute that lives there. The printed collection of these tales also includes two new short stories, The Painter and The Shoot.

Could you tell us about writing your latest “Bad Bastards”? What inspired you to write this one?

I’m always looking to write a concise piece of noir, stuff like what Jim Thompson and James M Cain did, with distraught lovers and jealous men and a hitman, so sometimes I’ll write an opening and create some characters without any real idea of where things are going. I did that with the first few chapters of Bad Bastards. It starts almost as a kind of exercise, just to see what I can come up with and where I can go with it. So I had this opening, and I thought it was pretty strong, but then I had to take a seat back and decide what came next – which is when I created the Bad Bastards Motorcycle Club. The original working title of it was Trailer Park Hitman, obviously based round the character of Harvey and his young girlfriend Cherry, but that was literally just a working title. Once I had the motorcycle club’s name I knew that had to become the title. The motorcycle club themselves are kind of background, save for a few characters, but I have plans to make them more central going forward, so let’s hope that comes to fruition.

What will your next book be about?

I’ve got two books coming out this year, both in June. First is Cutthroat, which will be released by All Due Respect. It’s set in Newcastle in 1978 and the best way I can describe it is Get Carter as written by a Geordie Richard Stark. Rob Pierce has edited it and he seemed to like it.

A week after that comes Just Like Jesus, coming out with Close To The Bone (who released my Eye For An Eye books) and this tells the story of two young drug dealers on the Northumbrian coast. They spend their summer days driving round, selling drugs, and hooking up with girls, but petty jealousies and a dangerous boss threaten to destroy everything in their idyllic existence. The front cover is done and I’ve posted it on all my social media if people want to check it out, and the pre-order will probably be available soon (maybe by the time this interview is published) so keep an eye out for that.

PAUL HEATLEY IS UNDER HOUSE-ARREST HERE.