Bone Train by Tom Leins

BONE TRAIN

By Tom Leins

It has been a cold, rotten afternoon so far – and it’s shaping up to be an even uglier evening…

I’m leaning against a badly rusted rollercoaster called the ‘Titty Twister’, staring at a guy who looks like a fucking autopsy sketch. His complexion is tombstone grey and he’s wearing a fluorescent 1980s ski jacket with one of the ragged sleeves gaffer-taped back on. He looks like he’d be more at home selling crack to addicts in a graveyard than working at a funfair.

His name is Garry Granville and he’s manning the ‘Spook Loop’ ghost train. It’s his second year working the fair, after he served six years in Channings Wood for assisting with the disposal of a corpse. He fires up the diesel generator and the garish night-time lighting makes queasy promises that the daylight can’t cash.

Raucous psychobilly crackles out of the ancient Tannoy system and Granville does an awkward, spasmodic little jig. I’ve been watching him all week.He likes to smoke a little skunk and drink a can of scrumpy on the test ride before the Spook Loop opens to the general public. I edge closer. There are small clumps of people scattered across Paignton Green. Boys. Girls. Undecided. Young. Smiling. Blissfully unaware about the horrors that lurk in plain sight.

Granville removes a can from the Slazenger kit-bag next to the ticket-taker booth and retrieves the pre-rolled joint from behind his right ear. I take a deep breath and slip on my rubber Halloween mask, then I ease myself into the final carriage – lowering myself as far as I can go. I’m not exactly sure what creature the mask is supposed to depict – I found it at the bottom of the bargain bin in the fancy dress shop on Hyde Road – and it looks warped and faded.

Granville cracks open his can, hollers to himself and cranks the start lever. The ragged black curtains jerk apart and the ghost train jolts into the gloom.

***

One week earlier.

When I arrive at the Embassy Tavern, Harris has the worst seat in the house – first table, back to the front door. Not a fucking care in the world. Any feeble-minded local undesirable could jab a needle in his neck, or slip a blade in his armpit while he reached for his tumbler.

I tap his elbow to get his attention and step aside.

“Same again, mate?”

“Mr Rey! Glad you could make it. Stay where you are, son – it’s my round.”

I help him up and he shuffles across the threadbare carpet towards the bar. Downstairs, a pub singer called Alan Spunk: King of Funk growls his way through a disco song that is older than I am.

Despite the Autumn chill, Spunk is drenched in sweat and breathes like a wank-blistered crank-caller between songs.

Moments later, Harris hands me a glass.

“What the fuck’s that?”

“Spiced rum and ginger beer. It was my late wife’s favourite.”

I take a sip.

Not fucking bad.

Drinks in hand, we retire to the outdoor conservatory. The rainfall is louder than gunfire on the thick, plastic corrugated roof, but it will drown out our conversation.

Harris removes a newspaper cutting from his briefcase. It takes him a minute or so to find, so the case must be crammed with filth.

I glance warily at the photo.

“He’s an ex-con. So am I. So are you, mate! So fucking what?”

Harris bristles at the remark. Years ago, he briefly served time after a £300,000 worth of cocaine was found stashed in twelve rusted caravans on a patch of waste-ground under a motorway flyover outside Taunton. His name was on the deeds for the waste-ground, but his brief managed to get him out of HMP Dartmoor on time served.

“The rotten bastard exposed himself to my daughter last year, and the police didn’t do a fucking thing about it.”

“How old is your daughter?”

“It’s not important,” he grunts. “She’s 41. 42 next week.”

I take another sip of my drink. It’s already growing on me.

“What exactly do you want me to do about it?”

He removes a lump hammer from his briefcase, followed by an envelope full of cash.

“I want you to give the little shit a fright.”

He grins, displaying receding gums and yellowed, overlapping teeth.

I drop the hammer in my left pocket, the money in my right.

Murky alliances are my stock-in-trade – and Paignton always extracts its price.

***

The ancient tracks creak and I feel my neck snap as the battered carriage jolts around the third bend.

“Motherfucker.”

Granville sits up, suddenly alert and cranks the kill-switch. The ghost train grinds to a halt and the psychobilly tape cuts out.

He clambers out of the front carriage, stubs the joint out on the back of his hand and places it back behind his ear.

He wheezes, and his rotten breath hangs in the air.

“It got cold early this year, huh, boy?”

This bastard has the small-talk skills of a fucking crack-addict.

He drifts towards me. A look of surprise flickers across his ugly face as he clocks my rubber mask. By the look of his glazed eyes he’s been sniffing shoe repairer’s glue as well as hitting the skunk.

“What the fuck did you come as?!”

I lunge forward and slam a head-butt into the bridge of his nose. The lumpen bone gives way with a satisfying crack.

He rights himself and pushes me backwards with a grunt. I clatter into a half-rotted Mummy and lose my footing. The soiled coverings it’s swathed in remind me of the old surgical support bandages I’m constantly finding in the corridor at the Black Regent.

It rained last night and the floor is waterlogged – the stagnant water threaded with green scum-trails. Nearby, exposed wiring fizzes and crackles.

Granville comes after me and I retreat into the midst of the mannequins. Monsters from a bygone era – they stink of rotting nostalgia.

Dracula’s flaking head has been screwed onto a female torso, and has improbable breasts like an ‘80s Page 3 girl.

The Wolfman is missing big clumps of fur and appears to be suffering from alopecia. The rotten figure reminds me of a dead dog I once saw in Paignton Harbour – its mangy body all swollen up with sea water.

“Is that a knife in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me, Granville?”

All carnies are blade artists and he removes the inevitable Stanley from his stonewashed jeans.

When he smiles, it looks positively obscene.

I heard he once sliced up a minor hoodlum called Titch Mitchum in a fun-pub. Put a broken match-stick between two taped-together razor-blades. Apparently, it makes it far more difficult for the surgeon to sew the face back together afterwards. I enjoy a knife fight as much as the next man, but I’ve never been a fan of that kind of delicate savagery. 

I pull out the lump hammer and he flinches.

Sometimes my life feels like a hellish version of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Knife. Hammer. Firearm.

“You need to get that leaky arsehole fixed, mate.”

He jabs at me, and tries to tug off my rubber mask at the same time. I sidestep him and bring the hammer down on his right arm – shattering his elbow.

“Trick or treat, motherfucker.”

He stoops down to retrieve the knife and I crunch the hammer into his spine. I’m already nauseated with myself, and taste hot sick in my throat, but Harris promised me a bonus if I break all four of Granville’s limbs.

I glance over my shoulder, at my ghoulish friends. Under the dead gaze of the assembled monsters, I go to work.

***

Five minutes later, I dump Granville in the front carriage, like a bag of bones, and yank the lever.

I’ve already slipped between the disfigured relics and exited the Spook Loop through a slashed hole in the tarpaulin when the fucking screaming starts.

The End

Bio:

Tom Leins is a crime writer from Paignton, UK. His books include Boneyard Dogs, Ten Pints of Blood, Meat Bubbles & Other Stories (all Close to the Bone) and Repetition Kills You and The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men (both All Due Respect).

For more information, please visit:

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

A Bad Stephen King Book by Ian Lewis Copestick

A Bad Stephen King Book


Life has turned into
a Bad Stephen King
book. It may sound
crazy, but it’s true.
All of the elements
are in place;

The plague that
threatens humanity.

The scarily, crazed
crypto – fascist leader.

All we need now is
a plucky band of
outsiders. Preferably
one with a special
forces background.
A feisty female, to be
the love interest, and
at least one innocent
child, with strange, but
strangely relevant
powers.

If they are still casting,
I’d like to audition for
the part of the guy who
has a history of addiction.
Who seems like a coward,
until he becomes the
unlikely, but obvious
hero in the last quarter
of the book.

Let’s hope that in
real life, it’s the same
as in fiction.

Let’s all hope that
the bad guys don’t
win.

The Election Games by Kristin Garth

The Election Games 

For Halloween, let us all be Catniss 

Everdeen.  Trump can be Snow — doesn’t need 

to know.  Do it in our own respective districts 

in booths and mail-in ballots, masked like the 

avengers that we are.  Take aim with pens.

Remove misogynistic men, ourselves from 

a dystopian reality show lens,

to which, without consent, we did succumb.  

Be mockingjays, accidental species 

who found its way when displaced, off the grid 

castoffs of society mated with the free,

fringed of a society our voice reclaims. 

It is time to play the election games. 

Hunter’s Moon by Sebnem E Sanders

Hunter’s Moon

A freelance journalist and photographer, Ali had been on the road for six hours. Although he had intended to reach his destination in Izmir that night, he almost dozed off as the head and taillights from the motorway traffic danced before his eyes. Sipping coffee from the thermos no longer kept him alert. He decided to stop for rest and took the next exit marked, Altınkum 50 Km, a seaside resort on the Aegean, famous for its golden sand beach.

The idea of driving another fifty kilometres sounded challenging. In hope of finding some kind of accommodation on the way, Ali followed the country lane that snaked between vast olive groves on either side. His thoughts drifted to the past, long before the motorway to Izmir had been built. The old road meandered through quaint villages and lively small towns, then. Coffee houses full of men sipping hot drinks and chain-smoking, children playing football in the narrow cobbled streets.

Ali opened the windows and inhaled the clean air, carrying the aroma of fresh herbs and wild flowers. The soothing sound of cicadas evoked memories. More than thirty years ago he’d been here for the first time with her, on the way to Çeşme for a seaside escape. Soon after, they had parted, never to meet again.

 Immersed in thoughts, Ali spotted the flickering lights of a hamlet ahead. He hated motorways, uniform, devoid of character, polluted with engine fumes and noise. Disappointment swept over his face as he cruised through the deserted streets of the village without seeing a single soul or an open coffee house. It was almost midnight, and everyone had gone to sleep. Hopes for a warm drink abandoned, he drove back onto the road and parked in a lay-by beside the fields. Lukewarm coffee in the thermos tasted appalling. He munched on biscuits to relieve the bitter tang in his mouth, and stepped out of the car to stretch his legs. The leaves of the olive trees shimmered under the silver rays of the Hunter’s Moon on a warm October night. 

Ali returned to the car and locked the doors. A window lowered for ventilation, he curled up on the back seat for a nap. Fatigue took him into deep sleep. He awoke to the sound of someone knocking on the glass.

Half asleep, his gaze met the stare of a young boy, his expression one of panic. A bob of curly blond hair shone like a halo over his head under the moonlight. Pale blue eyes beckoned him as his cupid’s lips mouthed, Help me.

Ali unlocked the door and stepped out. “What are you doing here at this time of the night, child?”

He looked to be five, maybe six years-old in his outfit of navy-blue shorts, a Batman t-shirt, and sports shoes over white socks. “I’m lost,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “Please help me find my Mum.”

“Where is she? Did you have an accident?”

He nodded and said, “I’ll show you.”

 Ali grabbed a torch and followed the boy into the olive grove, wondering how a car could have had an accident so far from the road. About 100 metres in the depths of the orchard, they came to a clearing bordered with a copse of tall oak trees. The child stopped next to one and pointed to the ground. “It’s here. Please tell Mummy.”

“Where is she? What’s your name?”

“Emre,” he said, and disappeared. 

Ali searched the woods, calling his name in vain. It was still dark when he found his way back to the car as though in a trance. He climbed back on the driver’s seat, switched on the engine and the headlights, before turning the vehicle towards the orchard. He scanned the area. Nothing. The boy had vanished. He waited, staring at the grove. After a while, he turned off the engine and fell asleep, his head resting on the steering wheel. 

Ali opened his eyes to the first rays of dawn. Discomfort from a stiff neck and a parched mouth made him question his freelance occupation. Then, he remembered the boy and wondered what happened to him. He returned to the village to find food and make enquiries. After devouring a full breakfast with eggs and pastries, he asked the owner if there had been any car accidents in the area recently.

“Not that I know of. The traffic here is slow, mainly families going to the seaside. They drive carefully, not like the lunatics on the motorway.”

“Any kidnappings?” 

“No, but you can ask the village chief. He’d know more.”

The Chief invited Ali to his table and answered his questions. Regarding kidnappings, he said, “They’re all over the country, not only here. They kidnap children for ransom, for the organ mafia or take them to the mountains to turn them into terrorists. Why do you ask?”

“I saw a child last night. He asked for help, then disappeared.”

“Maybe you had a dream?”

Ali wasn’t sure it was a dream. The internet newsfeed search didn’t provide him with any relevant information. He called his lawyer friend, Ahmet, in İzmir and told him the story. After noting down the details, Ahmet said, “I’ll ask my investigator to consult the police records. When will you be here?”

“By lunchtime.”

For the next couple of days, Ali worked on an in-depth interview with one of Ahmet’s clients, a rich heiress whose son was murdered by his lover. On the third day, the investigator came to him with information gleaned from police records.

“In 1999, two children of a prominent businessman were kidnapped for ransom. Before making contact, the abductor took them into his car and drove far away from the crime site in Ayvalık. He collected the ransom in İzmir, and dropped the daughter in the area. Later, he was arrested while trying to rent a car. The seven-year-old girl identified the kidnapper. She also said he took her younger brother, Emre, into a forest at night and returned without him. The abductor never confessed to murdering the boy, but insisted he ran away. The man’s still in jail.”

Tears blurred Ali’s vision, the boy’s innocent face vivid in his memory. “I-I must see his mother. I promised him.”

(1045 words)

This story first appeared in Ripples on the Pond.

Short Bio

Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently she lives on the eastern shores of the Southern Aegean where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have appeared in the Harper Collins Authonomy Blog, The Drabble, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Spelk Fiction, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Three Drops from the Cauldron, The Rye Whiskey Review, CarpeArte Journal, Yellow Mama Webzine, Punk Noir Magazine, Flash Fiction Offensive,  and The Cabinet of Heed, as well as two anthologies: Paws and Claws and One Million Project, Thriller Anthology. She has a completed manuscript, The Child of Heaven and two works in progress, The Child of Passion and The Lost Child.  Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in December 2017. More information can be found at her website where she publishes some of her work:

https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/

Ripples on the Pond

Number 13: A Noir Ghost Story K. A. Laity

‘Why me?’ Kriste asked, knowing it didn’t matter.

 

‘Because you’re the littlest. And because I said so.’ Bishop smiled at her, but it wasn’t a nice smile and not just because of the teeth knocked out. Mum said his dad did it, but Bishop said he was fighting with a copper and got the better of him.

 

None of them would argue.

 

‘I bet she’s too scared,’ Nielsen said, his voice rising to a mimicking sharpness.

 

‘It’s haunted you know,’ Anderson added. The eyes behind his dirty glasses looked bored and cruel. ‘That’s why the money is still there.’

 

‘What if it’s too much for me to carry?’ Kriste had to try something. The sun was setting and she was going to be late for her tea.

 

‘Throw it out the door to us,’ Bishop said waving a hand around the checkerboard tiles of the lobby. A wind stirred through the derelict building and it creaked all around them, as if it were warning the interlopers.

 

‘Or else we’ll throw you out the window from the top floor,’ Nielsen said, sniffing and laughing.

 

‘If you go to the top floor anyway—’ she said, but Bishop’s flat palm stopped her reasonable objection. It didn’t matter. Everybody said he had killed the Nicholas’ dog. They had all seen it down in the ravine by the rail line. Poor Boris, dead in a ditch. He was a dumb dog, always chasing his tail but Millie Nicholas was sad.

 

Kriste climbed the rickety stairs. Her mum had said this place was build when she was a little girl. It had gone to rack and ruin. She didn’t know what rack meant, but the ruin was obvious. On the fifth floor she had to skirt around huge holes in the steps. Everything was so dirty and made funny sounds as she climbed.

 

Most of the floors had an A and B flat, but the top floor just had number 13. Everything looked grey outside the door: the floor, the walls, the door. Even the ceiling. The sun was going down. It was getting dark. She leaned over the railing. ‘I’m here.’

 

‘Well, go inside, you eejit. Find the gold.’

 

‘What if it’s locked?’ Kriste looked around. She didn’t think anyone had been there in years. There weren’t even any footprints in the dust. Not even bird droppings. They had covered the other floors and most of the steps. Pigeons were filthy and persistent, her mum said.

 

But they didn’t come up here.

 

She turned the knob and the door opened inward. Kriste wasn’t sure if she was hearing her own breath or the room exhaling. It took a few moments to let her eyes adjust to the dim light. Where would the money be?

 

The sitting room had some broken furniture. The cushions of the sofa lay like dead bodies, their stuffing vomited out on the floor. Had people done it or animals? It was impossible to say. Kriste walked through the kitchen and dining room. A single window gaped, its glass in shards. Yet no light seemed to reach where she stood.

 

She sneezed.

 

Kriste looked down at the footprints behind. She was the only one to have stepped in here in years. If it were brighter it might be fun to explore, to play in the kitchen or stack up the furniture for a fort. But her steps echoed in the silence and she did her best to make no sound.

 

The flat breathed on around her.

 

The first room had a bed overturned. Just the frame. There was no mattress. The wall was full of tiny holes. The air in here smelled different—sharper like some kind of metal. Maybe it was the bathroom, next to that. It almost looked usable, if not for the thick fur of dust covering everything. Her mum would never let her use a toilet like that one.

 

The last room was darker, smaller. Kriste pushed the door open. A small shaft of light fell from the single window and hit a spot in the middle of the floor. This room had all its furniture. There was a tiny bed, a chest for toys, a little wardrobe and even a tiny table with a lamp.

 

‘Hello.’

 

Kriste jumped. ‘Sorry, I didn’t think anyone was here.’

 

‘Just me.’ A little boy maybe four years old stood there with a Tonka truck in his hands. ‘Wanna play?’

 

‘I can’t just now. My…friends are waiting for me to bring them something.’ Kriste wondered if the little boy’s family would be away long.

 

‘Is it money? They always want money.’ The little boy seemed disappointed.

 

‘I don’t care about it, but the lads downstairs. They’re expecting some.’ Kriste felt bad. The little boy looked as grey and dusty as the room. And sad. He needed some cheering up.

 

‘I’ll tell you a secret. I usually just hide. But there is some money but it’s, I dunno. Wrong. It’s bad for you.’ He looked confused and opened and shut the door of the little dumptruck.

 

Kriste thought. ‘You mean like poison?’

 

The little boy smiled. ‘Yes, skull and bones. Poison.’

 

‘Maybe I can take it to the boys down there and they can sort it out.’ Kriste thought at least they would not beat her up or throw her from the top of the stairs.

 

The boy looked at her for a moment and kept playing with the car door. Finally he said, ‘It’s in the wardrobe. In the box. But I wouldn’t open it up.’

 

Kriste walked over and opened the tiny wardrobe. The door was red, though it was furred with dust, untouched until her fingers smudged it. Among the rotting clothes, there was a small box. When she picked it up, she could feel its weight. ‘This?’

 

The boy nodded.

 

‘Do you want to come downstairs?’ Kriste asked, feeling awkward. What if his parents came back? ‘You don’t have to see the mean boys. But you can watch them open the box.’

 

He nodded and the two of them walked down the steps silently. When they were within sight of the gang, Kriste held her finger to her lips and the boy melted into the shadows. She walked the rest of the steps to the catcalls of the boys and held the box out before her. ‘Is this it?’

 

Bishop ripped the box from her hands and tore it open. The gold gleamed. He yelled with delight and plunged his hands in. Anderson and Nielsen grabbed the other sides of the box and the yellow coins rained down on the black and white tiles of the lobby. Then there was only the panting of their excited breath as they fought for their share of the loot.

 

Kriste stepped back to watch their frenzied motions. None of them could decide between stuffing their pockets and hitting each other to try to grab more of the gold. Their breath laboured with the struggle.

 

Slowly she realised their breaths were getting shorter and shorter. Their faces were turning blue. The lads’ movements became more frenzied and then they began to slow. Finally they stopped. Kriste looked down at Bishop’s purple cheeks.

 

‘You should take their money,’ the little boy whispered at her shoulder. He started to gather up the gold into the box once more, holding its edges together.

 

‘I think I will,’ Kriste said. There was quite a roll of bills in Bishop’s pocket. Maybe she and her mum could go out to the movies this weekend.

Bio: K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of White RabbitA Cut-Throat BusinessLush SituationOwl Stretching, Unquiet DreamsÀ la Mort SubiteThe Claddagh IconChastity FlamePelzmantel and Other Medieval Tales of Magic and Unikirja, as well as editor of Weird NoirNoir Carnival and the forthcoming Drag Noir. With cartoonist Elena Steier she created the occult detective comic Jane Quiet. Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular. She spent the 2011-2012 academic year in Galway, Ireland where she was a Fulbright Fellow in digital humanities at NUIG. Dr. Laity has written on popular culture and social media for Ms., The Spectator and BitchBuzz, and teaches medieval literature, film, gender studies, New Media and popular culture at the College of Saint Rose. She divides her time between upstate New York and Dundee.

white rabbit

The Muse by Sebnem E. Sanders

Sharma’s passion was writing, but she had to toil at a boring job. She devoted any free time to her work in progress, trying to adhere to her daily word count target of 1000. Always scribbling in her notebook, at lunch break and after dinner at home, she immersed herself in stories instead of going out with friends or watching TV. At weekends, she transcribed her work onto the computer and spent her time editing.

On a sunny weekday, she could be found on a bench in a remote area of the park, next to the woods. It was a niche, a pocket, surrounded by trees, with a small opening in the front. Sharma considered this to be her private patch, since visitors preferred to mingle on the wide lawns with the lunchtime crowds. Sharma felt comfortable, undisturbed by the commotion beyond. Sometimes she would close her eyes and listen to birdsong or gaze through the trees, lost in thought.

There came a day when she saw a lady, wearing an elegant wide-brimmed hat. Crunching the dry autumn leaves underneath her feet, she strolled in the woods. Sharma immediately felt a closeness to her that she could not explain. Another lover of nature on a solitary walk.

After seeing her a couple more times, Sharma noticed the mysterious lady always wore the same outfit. A charcoal hat over blonde hair pulled into a chignon, and a long, black coat. The next time Sharma escaped to her den, the woman was sitting on her bench. Her bench. Pale blue eyes looked up at her and the lady smiled. “Good afternoon. It’s a gorgeous day, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Sharma said, unsure whether to find another seat.

“Come,” the woman said, patting the bench. “Sit by me and let’s talk.”

Sharma obeyed.

“You’re a writer,” the lady said.

“I try to be.”

“But you have little time, right?” The woman raised her eyebrows.

“Yes,” Sharma nodded.

“I’m Marsha Vavenza. Nice to meet you-”

“Sharma, Sharma Wells.”

“An Indian name?”

“I was born there. My father worked with an IT company in Mumbai.”

“Charming. The story you’re working on, do you need help?”

“How?” Sharma asked, pushing back a wayward dark curl from her forehead.

“I’m a retired editor. I only take on works by reference.”

“Really?” Sharma clung to her bag, holding her notebook.

“I can edit your work, but only if you wish me to.”

Sharma budged in her seat, looking into the pale blue eyes of the handsome woman.

“It, it’s only in shorthand, unedited, raw. For my eyes only. I couldn’t.”

“Dear, girl. I’m used to deciphering writing more obscure than hieroglyphics, more illegible than those on medical prescriptions. Most people didn’t use computers until the late 80’s, and impoverished writers couldn’t afford one.”

“I see, “ Sharma said, still resisting, yet her gut feeling said to trust her. Though showing her scribbles to a stranger seemed odd, something made her pull out her notebook and hand it to Marsha.

“Thank you for trusting me.” Marsha smiled, as she fished a pen from her handbag. She skimmed through the pages, writing notes in red. By the time Sharma had to leave, she had finished reading the entire contents. Marsha handed the notebook to Sharma and winked. “See you at the next chapter.”

At the weekend Sharma read over Marsha’s notes and edited her work. Marsha’s handwriting was clear, her comments and suggestions worth taking into consideration.

 

Winter had already arrived when Sharma finished writing her story and handed the last chapter to Marsha. After reading and jotting notes, Marsha said, “If you need me, this is where I live,” and wrote her address on the notebook. “I shan’t be resuming my walks in the cold. See you again in springtime, perhaps.”

Marsha walked into the woods and disappeared into their depths.

Sharma had Googled Marsha’s name, but hadn’t been able to find anything during the past two months. Marsha Vavenza did not seem to exist.

After editing and submitting her work, Sharma went to the address Marsha had written on her notebook. The residents at the block had never heard of her. Sharma was intrigued and asked around the neighbourhood, going in and out of the shops.

A pub called Angel’s Bliss looked old, perhaps Edwardian. The man behind the till, most likely the landlord, from the way he managed the staff, appeared to fit the old worldly scene. Sharma ordered a drink and a packet of crisps, and tried to attract the man’s attention. When their eyes met, she asked, “Excuse me, sir, do you know anyone called, Marsha Vavenza who lives in this area?”

“Why do you ask?” The man stared at her.

“I have an address, but no one seems to know her. Here,” she said, pulling out her notebook, and showed him.

The man’s eyes darted between the writing and Sharma’s face. “Who wrote this?” he whispered.

“Marsha,” Sharma replied.

“It’s not possible. She died in 1988 and is buried in the cemetery by the woods.”

Sharma’s heart pounded. She shivered and goose bumps covered her arms.

“I-,“ she said, but something made her stop. “Did-did you know her?” she asked, voice quivering.

“She was my lover. A great woman and writer I lost to cancer.”

“I’m sorry.” Sharma, said tapping her fingers on the bar.

“You saw her?” he muttered.

“Yes,” she whispered, holding his wet-eyed gaze.

 

Sharma placed a bouquet of flowers underneath the tombstone and read the engraving. “M.V. Clarkson, writer, lies here. 1938-1988”

A warm breeze touched her face. She closed her eyes and whispered, “Thank you, Marsha.”

 

Short Bio:

Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently she lives on the eastern shores of the Southern Aegean where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have appeared in the Harper Collins Authonomy Blog, The Drabble, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Spelk Fiction, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Three Drops from the Cauldron, The Rye Whiskey Review, CarpeArte Journal, Yellow Mama Webzine, and Punk Noir Magazine, as well as two anthologies: Paws and Claws and One Million Project, Thriller Anthology. She has a completed manuscript, The Child of Heaven and two works in progress, The Child of Passion and The Lost Child. Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in December 2017. More information can be found at her website where she publishes some of her work:

https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Ripples on the Pond

 

 

 

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17427985.Sebnem_E_Sanders

https://Facebook.com/sebnem.sanders

https://Twitter.com/sebnemsanders

https://Instagram.com/sebnemsanders

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sebnem-sanders-b3593263/

Pork Pie Hat by Frank Westworth

pork pie hat 2

Something suitably sinister for All Hallow’s Eve…

The door slipped silently closed behind the last happy customer. She left singing, her departing tune humming on the condensing air, her own take on the last verse of the last song she’d heard. The last song she’d hear; the last song she’d sing.

The Chimp left his post behind the bar, took a turn towards the stage and leaned with dramatic effect against an invisible wall while the members of the band stretched, flicked amplifiers from power-on to standby, grinned at each other, wondering whether there’d be an after-hours sit-in that night. Faces drifted from the shadows, from the more intimate seats, and approached the stage. Quiet compliments filled the air, more hum, more buzz. Clicks and ticks from the amps, at least from the few which still lit heated valves to get their own tones. A cymbal or several fizzed softly. A saxophone sighed, a lady in waiting. Eyes turned to Chimp, the barkeep, the man of that moment.

He looked down at his feet. The floor looked almost clean. No layer of ash, no pools of drink or worse. A man could take pride in the state of his bar floor. He smiled slowly.

‘One for the road; one from the house, then.’

The air sang relaxation. A piano – a real natural piano with metal not electronic strings and a real natural player playing it – staggered out the opening bars to something honky-tonk. Everyone was smiling.

‘Played good, you did.’ The piano player called across the stage. A bassist smiled in reply, threw back her curls and dropped a few discordant bass notes into his honky-tonk jangle. Lights stayed low. A deep quiet voice strolled out from the darkest of the dark corners and silenced the crowd.

‘Nice. Nice evening. Nice to hear the blues played by you young white folk. Well done, y’all.’

Deep burned black American tones – noteworthy in a small English city – clear diction, quiet and calm. Bass register, whiskey and gravel. Everyone turned. Everyone stared at the shape in the gloom. A man arose. A very black man viewed against a very dark background.

‘Drinks for y’all, huh? My call.’

He towered across the room to the bar, spreading a little dark and a little quiet in his wake. Placed a nigh denomination bill on the counter. Then another. Then another.

‘No need for change.’

And across the room, through the tables. All eyes followed him as he left the bar and his banknotes, and returned, shedding a peace-filled darkness in his wake, and approached the stage.

Puis-je? May I?’

The room agreed that he may. He did, nodding and walking up the few steps to the stage with the gait of a heavy man, which he appeared to be in the dim heated light, and approached the piano.

Puis-je, ami noir?’

This time to Stretch, whose honky-tonk had fallen silent and who stepped aside, allowing the dark man to sit. He rested dark, long hands on the keyboard. Sighed.

‘So it begins…’ the open microphone caught the quiet words as long black fingers picked out the opening triplet to Goodbye Porkpie Hat. G, followed by C, followed by E-flat. The big black man, evident wearer of an old shiny pork pie hat, muted the strings; the notes cut off before they could fade, echo away. Everyone stared, glances were shared, feet shuffled. Those fingers played those notes again, somehow louder, and this time the piano did its best to sustain them. The next phrase followed, hard suddenly, and emotional. He let them drop into the hush.

As the notes faded to black there came a loud report, an impact against the main door. A hammering of hands. Followed by a scream. A loud cry. A shot. More hammering, fading in time with the piano’s notes.

Chimp flew from his bar, unlatched locks, pulled handles and flung the doors open with such violence that they broke against the walls, dislodging dust and flaking paint. That last happy customer to leave fell back through the doorway, missed Chimp’s embrace, landed face first at his feet, sighing, crying and, while he stared, bleeding around a buried blade across the floorboards. His floorboards.

‘At least it’s not the carpet. Christ!’

JJ Stoner, the night’s guitar player, sprinted into the semi-dark outside the doors to the Blue Cube, ran for the shadows along the enclosing walls and moved fast and silent to the street. Turned and returned, pausing to pick up a gun, a small gun, from the porch. Held it by the muzzle, which smoked, but only a little.

Chimp stood and stared at the woman at his feet. Motionless now, crumpling and fading before him. Stoner reached down, fingers against her neck. Stood. Looked down at her. No expression on his face. None at all.

‘Get an ambulance!’ Loud advice from within the club.

‘No rush.’ Stoner appeared at a loss.

‘Bring her here.’ An instruction more than a request. From the stage, from the black man with the suddenly huge hands and the misshapen pork pie hat. The man with the piano. Those huge hands replayed the last line from that old tune. C. E-flat. F, E-flat.

‘Do not take out the knife. Save the blade for me.’

Worried hands carried the white woman, the faded white woman, and laid her on her back at the edge of the stage. The black man did not even glance her way, but played more of the ancient tune. Slowly, developing it as a bluesman can and as a jazzman will into something greater. The stunned quiet in the club was at first diminished, then destroyed by the one-man music show at the piano.

The saxophonist raised her instrument to her lips and looked to the black man. He shook his head, eyes closed but aware of her. She silently replaced the sax on its stand. Stood still and listened, watched, like all the others.

The song reached its climax and moved to its close. The piano flowed notes under the pressure of those big hands, the broad fingers which no longer pressed the keys, floating somehow above them.

‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,’ intoned the big black man in the tall black hat. The white woman coughed. She shook. She raised a forearm and its pale hand grasped at nothing. The killing blade, the long knife was resting on the keys of the piano. The player had not moved. The white woman pulled the trigger of the pistol she no longer held. Again and again.

Chimp reached her first. Her eyes were open, staring. Her dry pale lips moved, he leaned in to her.

‘My gun. Where’s my gun?’

Her voice creaked and strained, her breathing was arrhythmic and harsh. And she held Chimp’s hand with ferocity. She pulled herself towards him, dragging the rest of her, pulled by the single hand and powered by her stare.

‘Here.’

Stoner dangled the weapon from its trigger guard. Well away, well out of reach. She groaned.

‘I ache.’

A statement. And abruptly she sat up. Stared around her. Soaked both hands into the blood on her blouse, on her jeans, ripped apart the blouse and rubbed the blood from her side, revealing an angry red line below her left breast. A line filled with pain, but a shining dry line all the same.

‘What the fuck just happened?’ she shouted with sudden force. ‘And who the fuck are you?’ to the black man, as he left the stage, moving smoothly, silently and implacably to the door, suddenly diminished, attenuated, luminous, drifting, translucent.

Stoner stood aside, cleared his path and stared at him in sharp recognition. The pork pie had was gone, replaced by something taller, something shiny and worn – a top hat, frayed a little. The face below it was gaunt, wide-eyed, smiling through too many teeth – too many, yellow, and too long.

Rend-moi Samedi. Count your Saturdays, monsieur. Et puis, Dimanche.’

He’d paused by Stoner for a moment, leaned to him, spoke softly, and was gone into the strangeness of the night.

‘Who was that? What did he say?’

Stoner stood in silence for several long slow heartbeats.

‘He said he’d see me again. On a Saturday. Always on a Saturday. He is Samedi.’ His voice was lost, cold. Fading. And he followed the shade of the black man into the night. There was no one there. Only a soft darkness. Rain fell, silently.

 

<<oOo>>

 

The Blue Cube nightclub and its shady inhabitants form the backdrop for Frank Westworth’s Killing Sisters trilogy and the JJ Stoner quick thrillers.

All are available at Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/Frank-Westworth/e/B001K89ITA/

You can follow Frank’s exploits on Facebook: www.facebook.com/killingsisters

Or at the MMM site: www.murdermayhemandmore.net

Frank Westworth

 

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In 1950’s America, Sandra’s parents send her off to a small town university in order to keep her out of trouble. While there she encounters Trixie Faust and the rest of the Sigma Tau Nu sorority. Blood, sex and satanism quickly ensure.In spades!

Satan’s Sorority by Graham Wynd is a smart, witty and marvelously well written slice of pulp fiction. Full of great lines and clever asides, Satan’s Sorority is another winner from Fahrenheit 13 and Fahrenheit Press.

satan s