The Click of the Shutting by Graham Wynd

The Click of the Shutting

Graham Wynd

 

She waited for the sound of it, the sound that meant safety, the sound that meant it was over for now. The time it was when his shouts might soften, sometimes even turn to tears and beg forgiveness, beg for comfort, remind her again how it was all her fault.

If only she wasn’t like that. 

If only she didn’t get in the way of things. If only she should read his mind so she would know what he was thinking because he didn’t have time to tell her. He was in a hurry, always. Unless he was taking his time.

‘You know I don’t mean it, Georgie,’ he would say after the click, after he shut the blade safely away. After the cutting, after the tears – hers anyway. Then it was sorry, then it was I didn’t mean it, then it was you made me do it. And she would believe it if only it weren’t for the scars.

He loved the scars.

Gregory traced the white lines on her arms and her legs with the wonder of a child. I made this! That mixture of pride and awe as if it were some kind of accomplishment. A five-year-old’s finger paints or a macaroni collage.

Georgie traced them herself in the few minutes of quiet before he knocked on the door to ask if she were done yet. They were memories – the burnt dinner, the too-loud laugh, the phone call – and they were badges. They were badges that said I am still here.

The click of the shutting blade made her shoulders drop back into place, her breath escape in a sigh, her fingers unclench. It would always be this way. Her mother said as much. 

‘At least he doesn’t beat you.’

Aye, that was something. Her mother never smiled because of the missing teeth. ‘I’m just waiting for him to die,’ she’d told Georgie one afternoon as they both washed up the dishes. ‘Not going to lift a finger after that. Eat takeaway. Use paper plates.’

At least she had goals. Georgie tried to remember what she had once dreamed. When Gregory first wooed her. She felt so proud. He was so much older. Then she had imagined he thought her real mature. But no. She’d learned another word for what she was: gullible.

Georgie wondered how the word had come about. After all, the gulls that haunted the city centre were anything but gullible. They were careful if aggressive. Didn’t trust humans, but followed them closely, looking for a chance. She’d seen people try to kick at them or throw cans at them. They dodged all weapons with loud honks like they were laughing.

Maybe she needed to be more gull than gullible.

Georgie lived on the scraps of Gregory’s life anyway. Sometimes literally: he would let her finish off the chips he didn’t eat when he got takeaway for himself. Other times he would make her beg. Trade cuts for a chicken wing. If she refused he cut her anyway, so might as well get something out of it. It helped to feel like a gull instead of a dog, which he made her feel like at first. 

The big gulls had a little dot of red on their beaks, like a drop of blood. That was like her too, though her blood was usually on her legs and arms, where the scars didn’t show as much. Georgie never wore shorts or short sleeves anymore. They weren’t big scars, except that one and Gregory had apologised for that and bought her a teddy bear, as if she were a child that needed bribing. He blamed the horror film they’d been watching. Gregory loved his horror films.

It might have gone on like that except for the pub. 

It was a rare enough outing. Gregory went to the pub on his own sometimes, though he didn’t trust her to be on her own for long. But he wanted to celebrate some football thing so they didn’t go to the local but to the big sports pub down by the church in the centre. When Gregory got fed up with all the noise and the shouts, they skipped out the back way into the alley, which led around to the bus stop faster.

But there was some big shaved head menace there that made even Gregory pause before he grabbed Georgie’s hand and plunged on, chin in the air, belligerent like. 

‘What’s your damage?’ the big bloke said, stopping Gregory short with a huge hand to his chest. 

‘No damage here, mate.’ Gregory kept the chin high and for a moment Georgie remembered loving him when the sun shone and his curls blew in the wind and he smiled.

‘That right?’ The big man sneered at Gregory and then for good measure leered at Georgie. ‘You got something to say for yourself?’

Georgie shook her head. Gregory took a step forward. The big man grabbed the front of his jumper.

‘What?’ Gregory asked with as much venom as he could manage.

‘I said, what’s your damage?’ the man repeated, then punched Gregory in the face. He went down like puppet with its strings cut. The big man sniffed and headed back toward the pub. Gregory lay still.

Georgie thought, what would a gull do?

She slipped her hand into his trouser pocket and pulled out the blade. With a press of the button, the knife clicked open. The blade shone in the moonlight.

Gregory was groaning and beginning to stir. Without thinking Georgie’s hand shot out and, like she’d seen in a thousand gory films, pulled the blade across his neck where it pulsed. Gregory’s eyes flew open and he made a sound that was half annoyance and half fear. Or maybe it was just all disbelief. His hands clutched at his throat. Blood poured between his fingers.

Georgie wiped the blood from the knife on his sleeve, then savoured the click of the blade shutting for the last time. Gregory kept one hand on his neck and the other reached toward her, then started scrabbling in the dirt and stones of the alley. She watched him for a few minutes, then turned and walked to the bus stop.

It was almost time for the 9:20.

Hook-Up Spot By Curtis Ippolito

Curtis

Hook-Up Spot

By Curtis Ippolito

This is what happened, no matter what I admitted to before.

I only went to the hook-up spot twice. That’s the truth. And neither was the time that got me busted. Let me break it down for you.

My boy Sherman, well, he used to be my boy. He called me up one day, said I had to check out this crazy thing. I asked what was up, but he just kept saying to get down there. You should know, in my younger years all I did was play Xbox and smoke weed. That day was no different. So, I told him I’d be there in ten minutes.

When I pulled up to the mall, he was in his car in the back of the parking lot, where nice cars park so they don’t get dinged up. I got into Sherman’s car and he was leaned way back. Full-on gangsta lean, as we used to call it. One hand flopped on top of the steering wheel, the other picking at his dry lips making a sly smile. And he was staring down a group of parked cars in the middle of the parking lot. After a few seconds, he nodded at them, told me they were hooking up. I didn’t believe it at first. There had to be six or seven cars, maybe more. It’s hard to recall after all these years. I just remember it seemed like too many cars to all be hookups. But Sherman was positive.

A few weeks earlier, he walked out of the mall after swiping a couple Rolex watches from Foley’s for us to flip and found this island of cars in the parking lot. Walked by an Escalade and saw a dude and a brunette chick getting it on inside. Half-naked. Rolling around. Sherman saw her boobs and everything. Same thing in a couple of the other cars. He kept walking though, like he didn’t see any of them. Got to the end of the parking lot, sat on the curb under a tree and watched it play out. It took him going back every day all week to figure out the schedule. Turns out everybody showed up on Mondays and Fridays.

So, we’re sitting there, I’m shaking my head. Still don’t believe it. I admit I was the sucker of our group, but there’s no way I was falling for this one. Sherman hands me a pair of binoculars. I check it out and sure enough, they’re getting it on in one of the cars. Right there, in broad daylight. Sherman took back the binoculars laughing, smacked his lips. I must have looked confused, so he broke it down.

The couples met there. Some of them did it there, but most just met, then drove off together and did it someplace else. Motel row was just down the way, so that made sense. They usually came back after an hour. Lunchtime fucks. Sorry. My bad. Lunchtime hook-ups. Sherman said it was obvious this was a hook-up spot for office workers, put on by word of mouth. Figured they came over from the two glass skyscrapers on the other side of the highway. Was probably safer to meet up at the mall so other co-workers couldn’t rat them out.

While we were sitting there, the motel couples made their way back to the spot. One couple made-out standing in the parking lot for a while before they drove back to work separately. Sherman punched on my arm, giggling. He loved it. Seeing people cheating on their spouses. Anything seedy like that.

The second time I went to the hook-up spot was the Friday of that same week. I didn’t want to, but Sherman talked me into it. The first time was cool, but creepin’s really not my thing like it is Sherman’s.

It was raining hard that day, but those fools still showed up, one car after the other. At first, I wasn’t sure they were the same office workers because they were wearing jeans instead of suits and dresses. Casual Friday, come to find. I worked overnights at a convenience store back then and always wore jean shorts and whatever t-shirt stunk of weed the least.

So anyway, some stayed at the hook-up spot and some drove off after meeting up. Sherman licked his lips watching them. You could tell he was getting off on all of it.

I was just about to bounce when the Beamer rolled up with a dude driving. I didn’t see him on Monday, the first time I was there. He parked and Sherman groaned. Minutes later, a white car parked next to the Beamer. Sherman moaned and was biting his bottom lip. I asked if the chick was hot or something. Yeah, she was, but it wasn’t just that. The dude beat her. Sherman had seen it. Said someone should teach that asshole a lesson. She deserved someone better. Sherman was always a big talker. But when stuff went down, fool was never around. I didn’t think much of it and took off.

The next week, me and Sherman hung out a few times but not at the hook-up spot. We hit up the card shop. Jack in the Box. Hoops. We didn’t talk about the hook-up spot or the dude in the Beamer or his woman. But I know Sherman was still going by there because we didn’t get together on Monday or Friday that week. Definitely not Friday, like I said. On Thursday, Sherman asked if I still had the gun, the one I traded my Jordan rookie card for. I was hitting my fourth-straight shot from the line. Twenty-One. Yeah, I still had the gun. Sherman asked if he could borrow it again for the weekend. Remember I said Sherman was all talk? Yeah, so it never occurred to me he might do anything bad with it. So, we ran by my place after our game and I loaned it to him. That’s the last time I saw my gun. And that’s all I really know firsthand.

You know the rest. It made the newspapers and TV news. On that Friday, the day after I loaned Sherman my gun, someone shot the dude in his Beamer at the hook-up spot. Accidentally killed the woman, too. Was a damn shame.

I know, I know. I know what you’re thinking. Why did I confess before, if I didn’t do it? Why did I take the blame if I’m now saying it was Sherman? All I can say is, put yourself in my shoes. My prints were on the gun found at the scene. I had Sherman placing me there, saying he witnessed the whole thing. But I wasn’t at the hook-up spot that day, like I said at the beginning of this. That’s the truth. There was no way I was going to get put to death for something I didn’t do. That’s the bottom line. Everything was already messed up and my lawyer said the state’s deal was expiring, too. They’ll fry you in this state. So, I did what I had to do.

Man. It feels good to get all of that off my chest. I hope you hear my side of things. The cops didn’t. I’m not blaming them. They were just playing their role, too, I guess. I’ve learned a lot about myself over these years, but I don’t belong in prison. Never did. Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. No matter what, thanks for listening.

 

Ok, bro. What do you think? They gotta parole me this time, right?

 

The End

Curtis Ippolito lives in San Diego, California where he works as a communication writer for a nonprofit biological research facility. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, working out and gardening.

Winter Day by June Lorraine Roberts

june roberts story

 

Winter Day

 

It’s a sharp-winter, sandy day

A day when the wind blows sand in your eyes making them brim over

One piece of grit feels like a hunk of pumice, grinding against my cornea

I press my fingers to my eye, the tears warm against my skin

It’s the kind of day your stupid cousin spends at the beach anyway

Flapping around in the waves like an idiot

I sit farther back along the sand in the sea grass and scrub

Huddled in my hoodie, arms wrapped tight against my body

My head is turned away from the water, but I keep one eye on her

It may be Florida, but today it’s only 61 degrees

She laughs at me shivering in the sand

The same kind of laugh she bellowed when I found her in bed with my boyfriend, 15-years ago

That braying laugh even now like a cheese grater on my shins

It’s a sharp-winter, sandy day and the afternoon grows late

I can’t seem to budge whatever is grinding inside my eye

A couple walking their dog turn their collars up against the strong breeze

They shake their heads at the woman in the water but don’t look my way

The wind catches their voices as they yell caution to my cousin

She flips them the finger and pulls from the bottle

Tequila is her drink of choice in Florida

Fuel for her antics and today, protection from the cold

It used to be vodka, her hand waving the bottle at me while laughing in bed with my boyfriend so long ago

Memories of other times run across my mindscape as the ruckus from the water continues

The lies told my family that they believed

The shoplifting she blamed on me

The joints she said were mine

The pregnancy test-kit found in the bathroom garbage

Cousin was a busy girl back then

It’s a sharp-winter, sandy day as laughter from the water changes from a bray to a bark

I look up and see a pelican’s brown body lifting from the water beside her, flying away with its prey

Moving to SW Florida years ago had been a relief, and not just from the Vermont cold

But she lives here now, all false hugs and shrill compliments like nothing happened

Like she never happened to me

More sand in my hair now and the salt sticky against my face

Cousin calls to me from the water, the gusts whipping her voice away

We are alone on the beach

I wave at her as the swell moves her sideways in concert with the spray

It’s a sharp-winter, sandy day and the sun lowers in the sky

I can’t see cousin for a moment, then she stands up

The waves have moved her farther out and the water is up to her armpits

Even from my blanket I can see the confusion and fear on her face

Her actions are jerky, as she slides on the Gulf’s sandy bottom

I pull up my blanket and head to the facilities around the other end of Lovers Key

Got to get that grit out of my eye before it causes real damage

It’s a sharp-winter, sandy day and the cry of the seagulls are all that can be heard

One of them seems strangely stricken

 

june robers

June Lorraine Roberts is a Flash Fiction writer of crime fiction, whose stories have been featured by Akashic Books and The Flash Fiction Press.

She is the creator of MurderInCommon.com, a website about crime fiction books and authors, that features debut and mid-list writers worldwide. Her website is a FeedSpot Top 100 Crime Fiction Blog.

A graduate of the London School of Journalism and a member of Sisters in Crime, she has served as a Derringer Judge and Bouchercon panelist, and has read her work at Noir at the Bar. As time permits, she beta reads for crime fiction authors.

Links:

http://www.akashicbooks.com/the-hong-kong-deal-by-june-lorraine-roberts/

http://www.theflashfictionpress.org/2016/02/25/picking-blueberries/

Dreams by Mark McConville

Dreams.

It rings true in your head. That day when thunder stole your composure. Your heart jolted for peace and reason on that day too, when she ransacked the apartment of wine and mementos she bought you. From then you’ve run marathon after marathon in your mind, settling in bed under a ceiling covered in her features. Her eyes are a beautiful reminder of what you had, her hourglass body fragile but compelling to look at and to touch. Her voice is still embedded in your head like a catchy rock song which has substance and lyrical qualities.

Dream after dream, nightmare after nightmare, all interlock to create misery. You’ve even carried a necklace in your pocket, a shining piece of jewellery she must have left by mistake, or she could have left it as a token to say come and get me when your head is fixed. Trying to fix your head has been a quest as you wish to dissect it of disturbing thoughts.

Keepsakes command safety. And you’ve kept the necklace in good condition. You’d love it to be a magic bottle so you could rub it and make a wish or two. These wishes could be pivotal. Imagine the possibilities, the grandness of it all. If you were in such a position, what would you wish for? A week in paradise, for your girl to come back with a red rose in her hand as a gesture of undying love. Or could you be tactical and wish for the intrusive thoughts to dissipate and be banished forever?

Unfortunately, the magic bottle doesn’t exist. It’s a myth. You must work for your week in paradise. You must fight tooth and nail for her hand to caress your bristly beard. Outside your imaginative but unstable mind, there is a tap running and the whole apartment stinks of stale alcohol and unwashed clothes. The place looks unhealthy like your reflection, the dust particles form a bond with the sunken couch.

You’re caught up in a miserable chronicle that no one would want to write. You’re festering like a fruit bowl laced in small insects. All the flies circle it like little commanders killing what they see fit. You’re lost and need to dig yourself out, click yourself out of that marathon. This isn’t a long-winded run to the promised-land.

You snap out of it. Your eyes are back in motion. The Television set is stuck on the discovery channel. The dreams are in the back of your mind, waiting to be pushed to the front later again. Time is of the essence, dreams are only fabrications, and this is real life.

You stand and shake your head at the room. The flowery paper is peeling and all of the candles have burnt out. The smell is putrid, rotting to the core, and all you can do is spray the last of the air freshener. You’re clothed, thankfully, but you’ve sat around in them for what seems like weeks. This isn’t a timeless costume, or a clean slate, you’re wearing a dirty checked shirt and sweatpants. She’d be furious, as your hair is bushy and the unkempt beard is brown from all the beer you’ve consumed. And you want to go back into that cocoon called your head, but you’re wide eyed and awake. Those dreams are toxic anyway.

You cut yourself shaving, blood trickles down your aging face. A face with lines, wrinkles and fear ridden eyes. The years have been chaotic. Carrying on has been difficult, but you deserve to see the future. You place a clean shirt over your chest, and a tie around your neck, and take a sigh of relief that you’re still young enough to live and old enough to care.

The door is closed, and the outside is frightening. People are shifting blood cells, hearts and bones, and you don’t know if you’re ready to hear different voices. You also want dignity to wrap you up. You unlock the door and look at yourself in the mirror. You’re the better man.

You’re outside a café on a safe street. One with fast-food chains and Instagram madness. The roads are fierce; the wind picks up the pace, but you’re in a good place. The dreams nip at you, and you’re resisting them. This day has significance. It is critical. You check your vital signs, you’re alive and ready.

The café looks busy. The baristas are like racing rats trying to overcome the tide of people. She’s one of them. She’s changed the colour of her hair. The beauty is astounding, resounding. It’s time to break the habit.

You open the heavy door and seek an empty seat.  She’s serves a customer. The light swirls around her in your eyes. It’s nearly closing time, and she’s cleaning the tables across from you. There’s another man watching her, observing her every move. He’s handsome, more handsome and assured than you. You worry, your hands are sweaty, and the dreams are barging in. No priceless thoughts, but negative ones.

And the hammer blow. The man and the girl of your past kiss. That kiss like the roar of a lion, like rats eating the inside of your organs. You’re empty.

You leave the café and look back at them. They’re in love, there is no doubting the fizz of lust. You wish to crack the glass with your fist, but you abstain.

They get into his expensive car and drive off. You hold the necklace in your hands. Your shoulders fall and your eyes gaze.

The dream has consumed you once more.

Mark McConville

Two Goldfish by Stephen J. Golds

Mr Golds

Two Goldfish

My wife brought me some goldfish. Two goldfish. Apparently they might help me relax. I don’t know. I sit by the window in my chair, drinking, smoking and watching those little gold cunts floating around oblivious in their shitty little tank. I watch them. Bulging eyes. Stupid faces. Little fins flapping around like drowning birds. Tails flicking back and forth. Bubbles popping out from their little mouths. But mostly I stare at their stupid, bulging, gold faces. I think if I saw a man with a stupid looking face like theirs, I would attack him. Maybe even kill him.

 

I don’t feel relaxed at all.

 

I finish my cigarette and stub it out in the ashtray with the others, swallow the rest of my drink and then I stand up, pick up that shitty little tank, go into the bathroom and pour the contents of the tank down the toilet. The goldfish plop into the water like two little golden turds.

PLOP! PLOP!

They swim around frantically for a small part of time. We look at each other; say our good byes and I pull the chain.

BYE. BYE.

It takes me two more flushes to get rid of them. The two golden shits fighting for life. I almost respect them for not just following the flow of water like everything else in my life. Sometimes I feel like I’d like to flush my whole life down the toilet but there isn’t a toilet large enough. Besides, I’m not sure if I already flushed it away years ago.

 

I start to feel a little guilty about the fish so I go downtown. I go downtown everyday to fake looking for a job. Faking it makes me feel a little better for a little while and it stops my wife worrying so much. She worries a lot. Too much, maybe.

 

I sit on the same bench outside a Baptist church that has seen better days and has worse to come; I drink from a couple of cans, smoke my cigarettes and just sit. I try to relax, but I can’t. I feel itchy.

 

I watch an artist painting a seaside scene on a canvas propped up on a plastic easel. He paints blue water with a boat frozen in the middle of a sea stupidly. I don’t know why he is painting that. There’s not an ocean in miles and we’re out in the middle of buttfuck nowhere.

 

A beautiful looking young woman wanders over to watch the artist at work. When he see’s her he starts to get all excited, making squealing noises that sound like a pig being butchered into bacon and slashing the canvas with his brush like a madman. It makes me feel uneasy and uncomfortable. The woman looks over at me embarrassed and laughs a little. I raise my eyebrows and shrug, hey, what do you want me to do about it? She walks off shaking her tight plum ass from side to side. I think about going on after her, but I don’t. I just finish my drink and step on my cigarette and stroll casually over to the artist. He gazes up at me and smiles with teeth that look expensive.

“Your boat looks like shit”, I critique and stroll off. I don’t look back. I know he will have his big, fat, black hole of a mouth gaping open like an ugly flesh wound, eyes squinting like little broken marbles and eyebrows united as one. Fucking inbred hick. Fuck you.

 

I stand waiting for the bus. I am cold and hungry, with only the bus fare in my pocket and a dream inside my head. The dream, my only dream is not to have a nightmare. A van swerves onto the sidewalk to park and

smashes into a bald man on a bike, the cyclist crashes and burns over the bonnet like a scarecrow and lays to rest on the wet, cold concrete, I look away and continue to wait for the bus, thinking that the bald guy probably should have been wearing a helmet. Is this what it all came down to? The choice between wearing a piece of reinforced plastic on your head or not?

 

Every night I have a dream which normally goes along like this, I am a passenger in a car. Maybe it’s a wine red 1940’s Cadillac. I am in the back seat. I do not know the driver because they have no face to know. A face of nothingness. Like new paper. The car smells wet like a winter morning. And I am being driving along an infinite street.

 

Every so often I see someone walking on the horizon. As we get closer, I see them clearly and I recognize them. I know them. I used to know them. As we pass the Caddie slows down and I look out the window at them and they look at me. It’s a mournful kind of recollection. We don’t smile. We don’t wave. We look at

each other like goldfish. The car speeds up again and I lose sight of them over the horizon. This sequence continues and repeats. Everyone I have ever known. It’s a pretty fucking crazy dream. Is life just a long staring contest?

 

When I awake it’s always at the same time. 4:55. I sit up and look down at Karen sleeping. Sometimes her pale face looks like those old Victorian photographs of dead people posed to look like they’re just sleeping. It’s at those times that I think I might love her most. I don’t know why.

 

Karen says she loves me and that we will be together always. All that kind of bullshit. But I know she will leave me soon. She hides all the drink in our home. I hide it, too. It’s another game we play.

 

I finally arrive home. I open the door and enter the warmth, escaping the bitter laughter of an early Winter outside.

“Baby, I’m home!” I shout into the kitchen.

I shake off my boots and jacket, Karen is in the kitchen making my dinner, it smells simple and it smells good. She comes into the hall and smiles at me, wiping her hands on a dish towel. I walk up to her and put my arms around her waist and kiss the side of her soft neck.

“Did you find anything today?” she asks.

“Yeah, I got a great introduction to a small construction company that specializes in refurbishing old warehouses into apartments,” I lie.

“That’s amazing, Darling. I’m so proud of you. By the way, where did the lovely little goldfish go to?”

“Oh, I gave them to the kids across the street…”

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.

What is Tiny Tales? by Darren Sant

tiny tles

What is Tiny Tales? It’s a brand new podcast with a homemade punk rock ethos. Featuring multi-genre fiction and poetry.

Who can get involved? Absolutely anyone! Drop me a message on our Twitter account @Tiny_Tales_Cast or find me, Darren Sant on Facebook or email me on dazzasaint@gmail.com

Is there A word limit? The clue is in our name. We’re looking for complete stories on the shorter side. However, we could spread out longer works across multiple episodes. I’m also trying to include a poetry if that is your thing.

Why a Podcast? I’ve been fascinated by spoken tales since I was a child. Stories can have an extra dimension when spoken aloud! Before we had printed matter tales were told over the campfire, knowledge was passed on, people were entertained.

Who is the Target Audience? I don’t like to impose limitations on style or language so I’ll often include tales with adult themes and violence so these podcasts will tend to be for an adult audience

 

THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

PhotoFunia-1590227713

It was shortly after the pitter-patter of tiny feet had been drowned out by the rat-a-tat-tat of the debt collector’s knocks that Carole Parker considered killing her husband. But it wasn’t until many years later, when her daughter Kate had grown up and flown the nest, that she actually decided to do it.

Carole had barely been out of her teens when Doctor James Parker, as glimmering and sophisticated as a Brandy Alexander, swept through her hum-drum life like a tornado, picked her up like Dorothy and plonked her in an Oz that bore more than a passing resemblance to Chiswick, West London.

As the years trundled on, however, James’s gambling and drinking habits ballooned to the size of the Hindenburg, his mood swings and behaviour grew more and more erratic and Oz turned out to be no place like home.

Carole’s initial, overriding feeling of disappointment eventually melded into a hate that slowly marinaded until it congealed into a cold, hard contempt.
*
Carole, who had been studying Chemistry at Durham University when she met James, found that she couldn’t safely rely on him for an income and she eventually took a part time job at Bogajski’s Veterinary Practice in Holland Park, an upmarket joint that pampered the pets of B and C-list celebrities. Over the years, a bottle of chloral hydrate that nestled on a shelf at work had stood out like the lone, beautiful whore in a rundown brothel, teasing and tempting Carole. The years had stretched out like a long summer shadow until, at last, she spiked a bottle of Mortlach – James’s favourite whisky – and headed home.
*
Carole got off the 94 bus at Turnham Green and glimpsed her reflection in the newsagent’s window. Her heart sank like the Titanic. As she looked at the frump in the window she remembered overhearing a couple of shiny, happy WAGs talking about her as they sat in the vet’s waiting room.

‘Not bad looking but a bit on the drab side’, the northern one had said.

‘Dowdy and past her sell-by date,’ commented the other, in a grating Estuary accent.

‘About time for a make-over,’ they giggled.

It had hurt but Carole could hardly disagree and she’d been depressed for days after. What had happened to the vivacious young woman who used to light up a room like a firework display? She’d been drowned in a flat cocktail of debt and drudgery but there was still a spark, she knew.

Well, she thought, with James out of the way – and his insurance money in the bank – there would be a rebirth. A phoenix from the ashes. A flush of excitement burst free like a champagne cork but by the time she stood at the gate of her semi-detached house that excitement was waning and being replaced with fear. Fear of prison if she was caught. Fear of what Kate would think. And then the guilt, the doubt and the panic hit her like a tsunami.

Then she saw the car. A big grey BMW that was parked outside her house looking like a shark that was waiting to strike.
*
‘There are, of course, myriad negotiation techniques,’ said Detective Sergent Frank Cook, in a voice not dissimilar to that of the tiger in the Jungle Book film. ‘One of the most popular is a two-hander, as it were, known as the good-cop/ bad-cop. But I, however, am here alone today and I am as far from a good cop as you can imagine so I think I’ll just stick to the Corleone method.’

Carole was focused now. She looked at James but he just looked pathetic, like a scolded schoolboy. His face was bleeding and snotty and the fingers of his left hand hung limp. With his shaking right hand, he signed the contract as Frank Cook hovered over him like Godzilla over a flattened Tokyo. James was a big man – he’d played prop forward for Durham University – but Frank was bigger, with a face that looked as if it had recently been scrubbed by a Brillo pad and big, big hands, one of which held a big, shiny bloodstained Glock 29. The moment that Carole signed the paper she could feel her life slipping away like dishwater down a plughole.

‘Congratulations,’ said Frank. ‘You are now the proud owners of ..well … life.’ He grinned like a game show host, pushed the deeds to the house in the pocket of his Armani jacket and then indifferently threw an IOU towards James.

‘I do believe we should have a little snifter to celebrate, don’t you?’ said Frank, putting a CD into the player. ‘I think Doctor James here is certainly in need of a little hair of the dog that fucked him up.’

Carole went over to the drinks cabinet. She took a swig of Glenfidich before passing the bottle over to James, who gulped it down like a drowning man gasping for the last breath of air.
Puccini’s Tosca blasted out as Frank looked at a photograph on the wall: Carole and Jimmy on honeymoon in Las Vegas, looking full of life and future.

‘Those were the days, my friends, eh?’ said Frank, turning and spotting Carole’s Sainsbury’s bag. ‘And is that a bottle of Mortlach, I spy? I hope you’re not keeping the good stuff for yourself.’

For the next few minutes, Carole seemed to step out of herself as if she were watching a film. She poured the Mortlach for Frank and let it all happen. About halfway through Tosca’s third act, as church bells rang, Frank started babbling, puking and convulsing and, by the late evening, he was dead.
*
Outside The City Barge, a bustling pub overlooking the Thames, the speakers were blasting out an old Eddie & The Hot Rods song. A jet ski cut across the water and Carole flashed back to the previous month when she and James had dumped Frank Cook’s body and BMW in the river’s murky water, somewhere near the Isle of Dogs.

A small aeroplane left a trail of white foam across the vivid blue sky. Carole smiled to herself as she showed her friends the shiny red shoes that she’d bought from Harvey Nichols with one of James’s many credit cards.

‘I think I saw your husband looking out of the window again today,’ said Sarah, a mousy woman with mousy hair. ‘Is that all he does these days? He seems to peek through the curtains whenever I park near you. Is he turning into a Peeping Tom?’

Carole laughed. That really was all James did now. Snoop. He was at the window day and night waiting for reprisals from Frank’s cronies. Reprisals that she doubted would come.

If anyone missed Frank Cook or thought that he’d been murdered, she doubted that they would suspect a boring suburban couple like her and James. And if they did, well, she had that big, shiny gun in her handbag, just in case.

‘Oh, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,’ chuckled Carole as she drained her glass of Pimms and lemonade. ‘Same again?

PAUL D. BRAZILL IS QUARANTINED HERE.

KEEPING TABS a Bishop Rider story by Beau Johnson

all of them to burn

We find the shipping container within a sea of shipping containers. Inside is what we hoped were not: three distressed newborns and fifteen illegals under the age of consent. Malnourished, they’re living in the type of squalor one can only imagine. An unflushed toilet is as close as I can get, but even that is far from the wall which hits us.

Also: correction—these girls, they weren’t living. They were surviving.

What led us here is the last thing Reggie Bone told us before I relieved him of his hands.

“The abductions. The snuff films. The piece of shit admits to it being his father behind it all. He also mentioned a shipping container full of something he hoped to trade.” Batista stops in his tracks, his face seeming to recede as he absorbs the news. I feel for him. I do. But I feel more for the people these pieces of shit choose to rip apart.

“This shipping container, he give you a number?”

He did. And now we stood, doors open, the light from above and behind the Detective and me twisting our appearance into something it was not. Cowering, the girls beg, they plead, and we try our best to make them understand. Once Batista calls it in, I vacate the premises.

We weren’t done, though.

No. Not by a mile.

 

 

It was true. All of it. Angelo Bone being the one behind it all. The man hid his tracks well, too, but shell companies, they can only hold secrets for so long. What adds insult to injury is both the sentence handed down and the amount of time he actually serves.

Early release brings the number to just under eight years, and why, I’m thinking, Batista kept tabs. Means we knew his day of release months beforehand. Little more digging and Bobby Meeks pops into view, he being the person registered as Bone’s pick up that day. Outside the gate, I follow both men and the Caprice to the east side of Culver. Beyond boarded-up houses, beyond run-down streets, they slow and slide into the driveway of a house Bone no longer owned on paper but seemed to be his all the same.

Each man exits the Caprice, Angelo Bone thinner than the man who drove him there. The older man had more hair, too, all of it bunched at the back. But what I remembered most about Bone was still there: his swagger. The one that proclaimed his shit didn’t stink, not even after six decades in.

I let the engine idle. I let them get inside. Halfway to the property I decide the front door would prove the path of least resistance. Situations change though, and I could very well be wrong, but when teenagers in shipping containers is all your mind allows you to see you have to go with your gut more often than not.

I’ve found things work best that way.

 

“You do realize we are connected in a way you are unaware of,” Bone’s voice is deeper than I think it should be, and I want to hit him again but don’t believe I’ll be able to stop if I do. Behind me, coating the floor, lay Bobby Meeks, his throat a second, larger mouth. “It’s true, Rider. My youngest boy, before he’s sent upstate, he participates in a mouth train they ran on that sister of yours. This was before they made that little movie of her, of course. It’s also before you figured out it was the Abrums who did you wrong.”

Not a lot stops me cold.

Not a lot causes me to question.

What Bone says next assures me he is attempting to do both.

“But your momma? She was different. My oldest, Malcolm, he being not only the one who put her in that dumpster but the one who broke the bitch’s neck.”

I say nothing. I can’t. I do, he never gets to the car. I do, he never gets to experience life from the inside of a shipping container for himself.

As I told Batista: we couldn’t have that.

 

 

The look in his eyes is what I remember most.

“No!” he says. “Not this. NOT LIKE THIS!” But it was like that, Bone taking a knee to the face just so I could pry him from the trunk. Once inside, I take other things from the man as well. His shoes. His belt. Anything which would allow him to leave life early if he really went and tried.

When it’s over, when the bribes and pleas go away, and after I tell him we already knew about his diagnosis, this is when he finally sees things for what they are. Defeated, he looks up to me, through me, the light from behind and above me illuminating everything I have chosen to be.

It’s here I shut both doors. It’s here I add the chains. I think of those girls. I think of those newborns.

Nine years removed, they still deserve more.

Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.

Find Beau Johnson online …

Website: https://www.beaujohnsonfiction.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007691865781
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beaujohnson44
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beau-Johnson/e/B079MHF7RG/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17692442.Beau_Johnson

Chapter 1 “Imitation of Myself” by Judge Santiago Burdon

Chapter 1

 

“Imitation of Myself”

Judge Santiago Burdon

 

Rayando El Sol

Scratching At The Sun

 

My eyes flash open and it takes a while for things to come into focus. The surroundings aren’t familiar and I wait for my human Bio-Computer to provide me with the necessary information. One revelation that I am certain of and I can lay odds on, is that I am not in jail. Always a good thing.

 

I hear a woman singing , dishes clanking, birds chirp and squawk outside the window, dogs bark and a solitary rooster crows off key. I recognize the voice singing “Rayando el Sol” while doing dishes. It’s my close friend and smuggling partner Becky. Now  the events of  the past evening start gelling together.  I’m at Becky’s house in Nogales Arizona , a mile north of the Mexican border.

 

I take notice of less than half a bottle of Mescal on the brightly multicolored serape

covering the table next to the bed. There’s an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts also a few roaches and a mirror with a pile of Cocaine. Tecate beer cans are strewn across the floor like dead soldiers.  Proof a battle against sobriety had taken place.  Drugs, alcohol and I remember a couple of prostitutes, friends of Becky’s hermosa cousin Bianca. I take comfort in knowing nothing out of the ordinary took  place. Just another night of the usual.

 

Suddenly like a bee sting a frantic search for my wallet and other personal items ensues. I locate my pants under the bed and discover my wallet minus one hundred and eighty five dollars. My passport and other identification along with my credit cards are still there. Gracias a Dios,(thank God) an expression I use often however, I am far from being a religious man. One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh as far as I’m concerned. I expected the money to be gone. The other personal items are far more important.

 

I snail crawl out of bed and wrestle with my pants then my shirt. I don’t see my shoes and they hardly seem to matter at this space in time. I head for the bathroom. Gotta piss like a poisoned race horse.

 

I take a look at myself in the mirror to see if my disheveled state is  noticeable and notice my chest through my unbuttoned shirt. In large red letters that I assume is lipstick is written “Papi  Rico” and “Dame mas” (give me more) I hope there’s video, I don’t  recall any of this taking place. Upon finishing my business I  slap some cold water on my face and make my way toward the kitchen.

 

Becky stands in front of the sink belting out the song, “mi muero porti viviendo sin ti”

( I’m dieing for you living without you) Mana

 

She’s a short, heavy set Mexicana with typically skinny legs. She spent two and a half years in prison for running marijuana across the border. After something like that you’d think she’d give it up but the money is too fucking good. It always keeps you coming back for one more last time.

 

“Well good morning lover boy! You were in rare form last night.” she shouts.

 

“Jesus Christ Becky can ya keep it down. I am nursing an ass kicking

 

hangover.”

 

She laughs and gives me a kiss on the cheek and a warm hug.

 

“I love you, you clown. Sometimes you make  me laugh so hard I pee my pants. “ she giggles

 

“And other times?” I ask.

 

“Do you really want me to answer that?

 

Now what do you want for breakfast? This kitchen isn’t open all day.”

 

“Breakfast! Are you kidding me? I am seriously sick! I poisoned my self on half bottle of Mescal.” I whine

 

She breaks into a low chuckle and then a healthy loud belly laugh.

 

“Half a bottle! You mean two and a half bottles. You and the muchachas were pouring ’em down last night.” She testifies

 

“Ok eggs and refried beans it is. Here’s some coffee, it’ll make ya feel better.”

 

” Hey Beck, what time is it? Have you heard from Rafa?” I ask.

 

“It’s 3:45 in the afternoon October 17th 1989.”

 

“And what….?”

 

“It’s Tuesday” She

 

answers before I can finish slurring my question.

 

“And Rafa?”

 

“Haven’t heard from him hun. Sit tight, he’ll call.” she reassures.

 

Ok, so here’s the skinny, the lowdown, the whole ball of wax.  I know, such trite expressions.

 

I’m waiting on a load, eighty kilos of cocaine to drive to San Francisco.  It crossed the border yesterday morning and sits in a van on the United States side for a day or so to observe if it’s been tracked.

*********”***************************

Chapter 2

“Imitation of Myself”

Judge Santiago Burdon

Breakfast For Two

 

Rafa is a code name  for someone I can’t disclose if I want to see everything I’ve ever loved or do love continue to live.

Let me give you an idea of the kind of mentality you encounter when dealing with these “Jefe Traficantes.”

I was deep inside Mexico visiting Rafa’s ranch in Sinaloa. There was a party for his daughter’s Quinceanera. Everyone’s having a spectacular time. They’re taking photographs, dancing, drinking, eating great food, Mexican band playing  Musica de Campo.

so I ask Rafa ,” Come on, how about a photo of you and I together Jefe?”

“No! That’s not a good idea. It’s proof of our association. ” He says

“What, but you have photos of me?”

 

“Si claro” he flashes a cold smile.

“If I ever want to have you killed always good to have a picture, makes things simple. Now let’s have some mescal and celebrate. “

Do you want to know something?  I never once thought he was joking.

I choke down a wonderful breakfast leaving the coffee and opting for a glass of milk. I stroll out in the backyard, noticing the bougainvilleas in full bloom. The wind scratches at me with a chilly touch . Seems uncharacteristically  cold for October in the desert. Now here comes Becky’s obnoxious hyper  enthusiastic dog Guero. The thing I like most about people are their dogs. In this case that expression doesn’t apply.

I open the back gate and throw a stick  but  the dog sits down and just stares at me with a confused expression. He doesn’t trust me I guess, or he enjoys my miserable company.

I lay down on a handicapped picnic table  missing a leg that has been propped up with some concrete blocks and there are boards missing on one side of the bench seats. I feel it coming on and there’s no way to avoid it. I attempt to force my body to hold back but it doesn’t respond and I start vomiting. It becomes a steaming pile of puke that the dog quickly devours.  The site of that only increases my nausea and I continue providing nourishment to Guero.

Becky screams from the kitchen window “Hey cabron your phone call, come on, he’s waiting. I collect what little of myself is left and make it to the phone. All systems go except one thing, me the driver. I’m to meet my connection at Sacred Heart Catholic Church near Interstate 19 at 8:00 p.m.

I turn on the TV

in an attempt to relax and catch some of the World Series. Next thing I remember is Becky shaking me.

“Wake up ,Santiago. Hey wake up. Look ,watch the TV.”

My intended destination for the run, San Francisco has been hit by an Earthquake.  By the looks of the news footage they’re showing , it was a strong shaker.

I try to call Rafa to ascertain if he’s aware of the Earthquake and if the run is still on. As I expected there’s no answer.

Ten minutes later the phone rings. It’s El Gallo one of Rafa’s employees (soldiers).  We are to meet in fifteen minutes at La Chiquita  Sportsbar.  Fuck I hate that son of a bitch with my entire being and he’s not very fond of me either. The reason I loath the pinche carbon is a whole other chapter.

I jump in the shower, get dressed and begin the search for my fucking shoes.

Becky is in the truck  beeping the horn, ya like that’s going help. Then my memory kicks in. There in the closet they sit, with my watch, ring and turquoise necklace tucked inside one of the shoes. I give myself a verbal good boy.

El Gallo informs me at the meeting that I am to pick up the van take it back to Becky’s place and wait for further instructions. He hands me the keys to a rented new Ford Aerostar.

“afuera” (outside) is all he says. Cheap fucking Naco didn’t even buy me a beer.

I hop into the van with windows all around and loaded with eighty kilos of Cocaine. Don’t like those closed in cargo vans they’re much too suspicious. Becky follows me back to the house. When I turn into the driveway I breath a sigh of relief and I park the mule deep into the back of the carport. Becky parks her truck closely behind it.

We enter the house without saying a word to each other.

©2013

judge