Sunday, 31 July 2011

BLOODY BETTY by Christian A. Larsen

Christian brings a touch of class with his TK'n'C horror début.

Bloody Betty

Governor Frank Rohrer always worried about his wife, but not out of love. His marriage to her had been as close to arranged as a modern American marriage could be. His political family and her father, steeped in old money, had shepherded their relationship since they were both in college, and while there might be a touch of familiar affection between them, love would hardly be the right word. He had known there was something troublesome and compulsive about her vanity, a trait of hers that bordered on the religious, but it worked on the campaign trail. She was dependable and photogenic, and he tried not to notice her odd behavior too much.

After Frank Rohrer, three weeks from another election, died in a plane crash along with the pilot and his campaign manager, something snapped inside an already teetering Elizabeth Rohrer, and she started a very private, twisted campaign of her own that not even Frank could have ignored, regardless of what it would have done to his political career.

“I like cougars,” said the Asian woman with the silky hair and high cheekbones. She was certainly very young, but legal to drink, and she looked sophisticated enough to Elizabeth Rohrer to wield a cigarette holder, if she chose to smoke.

“Discretion, please,” said Elizabeth, sipping from the edge of her martini glass, leaving a bloom of deep, red lipstick like a calling card in the low lights. “You can call me Betty.”

“Betty,” repeated the young woman across from her. “That's an old-fashioned name.”

“But I'm a forward-thinking woman. What can I call you?”

“Mei … are you going to invite me home?”

“Now who's forward?” smiled Elizabeth coquettishly. “But I meant what I said before about discretion. I'm going to give you an address and directions. You will not write it down or tell anyone where you're going. If you accept, I'll see you there in an hour. If not, well, then it's been nice meeting you, Mei.”

An hour later, the knocker sounded on the brownstone door in a wealthy neighborhood of no neighbors. People knew each other by face, name and reputation, but only knew each other well enough to look the other way to accommodate a drunken stupor, a cocaine high, or an extramarital relationship with a courtesan of either sex. Still, one had to play the game and actually be discreet about it, or else things could fall apart—Elizabeth knew the game too well.

“Come inside,” she said to Mei, pulling her through the doorway and watching the streetlights reflect off her smooth, bare calves.

Mei reached for Elizabeth, caressing the older woman's breast through the black fabric her dress while leaning in for a kiss. Their lips brushed lightly at first, and then Elizabeth received her with an open mouth.

“Mmmm,” purred Mei. “You are delicious.” She stepped over her newfound lover's long leg, and stroked her bare crotch lightly on her thigh.

Elizabeth pushed Mei against the door so hard that her head bounced. She reached down and touched her thigh where Mei had visited her and then rubbed her thumb and fingers together in a circle, near enough to her face to smell it. “You are ready.”

“Yes, I am, Betty,” said Mei, running her hands over Elizabeth's hips. “You are so elegant, so beautiful.”

“You don't think I look old?”

“Of course not. You could never be called old.”

Elizabeth linked her fingers with Mei's and led her into the bedroom. “You don't know how right you are,” she whispered.

The women undressed each other an article at a time, dropping bras and panties and slingback heels in a breadcrumb trail from the hallway to the bed. The lights were off, but the pale moon glow frosted the edges of the darkness enough for Elizabeth to catch her reflection in the mirrored closet doors. She could still pass for beautiful without others qualifying it with for her age for at least a few more years, but she could see the crow's feet at her eyes, the flat hang of her heavy breasts, and the low bulge of her uterine bump telling the tale of years.

Mei's body told a different story.

Elizabeth pushed Mei down on the satin duvet and, with a handful of silk scarves drawn from the nightstand she climbed on top of her, forcing her cheek down and hands together. She knotted Mei's wrists with a silk scarf and stepped back to admire her handiwork—the beginning of her handiwork, anyway. A shadow crossed over her face and she froze, gaping at the figure by the window. Her husband had come back. He said he would.

“That's it, Liz, honey,” said Frank, dripping flakes of char and ash on the white pile carpeting. “Once the cable ties are on, the hard part's over.”

Elizabeth pulled a can of multicolored cable ties from under the bed, climbed back onto Mei's smooth, bare thighs and strapped her hands together. Mei protested politely, telling Elizabeth that she wasn't that into bondage, and if they were going to do this, she needed a safe word. Elizabeth didn't hear her—didn't even see her, in fact. She just kept staring at her husband, whose burned flesh crackled as he smiled at her performance thus far.

Exactly as he had instructed.

“You look like a seared steak, Frank,” Elizabeth laughed, tears wetting her long lashes.

“What?” asked Mei, her throat tightening. “Who's Frank?”

“Now the box-cutter, Liz,” Frank said, pointing a ruined, skeletal finger at Mei's smooth, white face.

“I'm getting the box-cutter,” said Elizabeth robotically.

Mei sighed happily. “Good. I need my hands.”

“Not anymore.” Elizabeth leaned down as if to kiss Mei on the cheek, but came away with a wet, red chunk of face between her teeth. She sucked on it and chewed it as the girl under her screamed under twin blades of agony and terror, blood droplets flecking onto the sheets and headboard as she thrashed helplessly under her torturer. “Your screams are so soft, Mei. Your mouth is too small. Let me help you with that.”

The box-cutter felt warm in Elizabeth's hands as she pulled it from the edge of Mei's mouth to her ear, drawing a line of blood through the perforation. The flesh held weakly until she cut the other side. Mei's scream unzipped the last connecting tissue and her face seemed to split open like a bear trap, the bleached enamel of her molars showing through the blood and gore like the stripes of a candy cane. Elizabeth lapped at the wound, digging her tongue into the ragged flesh, intoxicated and aroused by the oily warmth of Mei's coursing blood.

“That's enough, Liz,” said Frank. He had a blackened erection jutting from his fly. The skin had split and curled, showing raw, pink flesh underneath. Between his squeezing fingers, it looked like a bratwurst that had been left on the grill too long.

“Why do you always remind me of food, Frank?” asked Liz, slicing a mouth-sized slit into Mei's throat.

The young woman's jugular erupted in a fresh geyser of bright red blood. She gurgled through the opening and went rigid, no longer attempting escape, her body pulsing in quick and regular beats. Elizabeth fastened her mouth to the wound, rocking back and forth over the opening and sucking it dry over the course of several long minutes. When Mei was empty and cooling, Elizabeth stood up, covered in sticky blood.

“Do I look younger now, Frank?”

“I told you that you'd never grow old if you listened to me. You listened to me. What do you think happens next?”

“I clean this mess up, shower off, and dig that little black dress out of the back of the closet—that one you always liked.”

“Not … exactly. Besides, Liz, how can I take you out for a night on the town … looking like this?” The least corrupted of his flesh looked like charcoal briquettes. One eye had melted shut and the cracks in his dried out skin wept blood and lymph. “We have to be together.”

There was a pounding at the door.

Elizabeth turned around, stunned as much by the sound as at what phantom Frank was telling her. She had completely misunderstood.

“Mei! Mei! Open up for your father! You leave that kusamanko and come home with me right now. Mei! Mei!”

Elizabeth crept into the foyer and peeked outside the sidelight by the front door, her feet tacking to the hardwood with drying blood. A dark haired Asian man stood on the stoop under light holding an aluminum baseball bat in both hands like an automatic rifle. The tension in his shoulders matched the anger in his face, and Elizabeth knew he wouldn't be leaving without at least seeing his daughter. But she had to try, anyway, despite what Frank intended.

“Go away before I call the police,” she called through the glass. “There's nobody named Mei here, and you're waking up my neighbors.” She was glad she didn't have to lie. Mei wasn't here—anymore. Just a bunch of blood and guts she used to live in.

“I know she's in there,” said Mei's father, squeezing the bat like Frank had his penis. “I triangulated her cell, followed her, and watched her go in not a half hour ago. You tell my daughter to come out, or I'm coming in!”

Elizabeth ran back to the bedroom. She didn't know what to do, and while Frank had orchestrated this disaster, she had nowhere else to turn, but when she actually got there, Frank was gone.

Glass shattered in the front hall. Elizabeth didn't have to look out of the doorway to know that Mei's father had smashed the sidelight with his bat. The door swept inward, and the glass crunched under leather shoes.

“Get out of my house!” screamed Elizabeth in one last bid. She had no chance of killing him if he came into the bedroom. She had always thought guns were too dangerous to keep in the house.

Mei's father stormed through the door. “Where's my daughter?” He knew the answer before he finished asking the question, but finished it out of form. His only daughter lay there on the bed, raped, ripped and drained. She was obviously beyond help, but not vengeance. He brought the shining, aluminum bat up to his ear, pausing just a moment to read the expression in Elizabeth's eyes.

I guess I won't be getting any older, thought Elizabeth just before the barrel of the bat exploded her skull.



BIO: Christian grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has worked as a high school English teacher, a radio personality, a newspaper reporter, a musician and songwriter, and a printer's devil. His short story “Bast” appears in the anthology What Fears Become: An Anthology from The Horror Zine, available this fall from Imajin Books. He lives with his wife and two sons in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Visit him online at exlibrislarsen.com.

ALONE I WAIT by Angela Sargenti

Angela's back with another short, sharp shocker.

Alone I Wait

He’s still out there.

I know he is.

I don’t care how long it takes him to get back, I’ll be here waiting.

They tell me to give it up.

They say he’s gone for good and he’s never coming back, but I’ll bet he’s swimming toward me even as we speak.

Give up, they insist, but here’s the thing.

They found the rest of their bodies, the other fishermen, but they never found his.

Ever.

I should start the soup now.

He’ll be cold when he gets here.




Bio: Ms. Sargenti is the author of the zombie blog After Old Joe at www.afteroldjoe.wordpress.com and writeserotica under her own and her pen name, AR Shannon. Her most recent story, entitled "Chris Takes The Mound" was recently published on OystersandChocolate.com.

Friday, 22 July 2011

THIRTY MILES NORTH OF CHEYENNE by Court Merrigan

Court debuts... with true grit...


Thirty Miles North of Cheyenne




The coachman slumped in the upper bucket seat with his rifle across his lap, two holes in his chest. The horses neighed and stamped in the traces. The blackbeard leaned against the doorjamb of the stagecoach and deliberately reinserted two shells.


“Hope the rest of you plan on being better behaved,” he said. “Now get on out.”


The gang, five sweat-and horse-reeking bearded men, lined the passengers up beside the stagecoach: the guard blubbering in a foreign accent no one could understand; the Omaha cotton merchant in fancy tailored clothes, bowler hat dusty at his feet; the cotton merchant’s wife; the cotton merchant’s twin daughters, sixteen years old; the cotton merchant’s son, twelve. The gang kept their pistols and rifles leveled steady on the passengers.


The blackbeard spit out his rolly, smoked to the nub. The mulatto from Missouri relieved the cotton merchant of his ivory-handled pistol.


“We been out in the hills a long time,” said the blackbeard to the cotton merchant. “So we’re going to take your girls here down to the creek. And the boy, too, come to think of it.”


The drifter from Arizona wiped his nose and sniggered.


“Now you, mister,” said the blackbeard, “You can be peaceable about it, and you all walk out of here. Even if some of you will walk a little cockeyed.” The rest of the gang sniggered. “Or you can get heroic and get shot. Up to you. Either way we take your girls, and your boy, down to the creek.”


The cotton merchant’s wife in her tailored Omaha petticoats clothes moaned, and the children, clothed likewise and not understanding, cried into her skirts. The cotton merchant put arms round them all. The ruffles in his cuffs flapped in the dusty breeze.


“For the love of God, please … ” cotton merchant said.


“Shit,” said the new kid. He stepped forward, put a cold muzzle against the man’s ear, and fired.


The cotton merchant’s son tried to make a run for it. The drifter from Arizona got him in the gut with a boot tip and the boy, who’d got as far west as he was going to, went down retching.


“I don’t see why we got to haul them all the way down to the creek,” said the mulatto from Missouri.


The blackbeard inserted a new rolly in his mouth. A sudden gust put out the match he struck against his holster. “Guess I don’t see why neither,” he said, pulling out another.


The gang started in. Amidst the screaming and ripping and cussing the guard started to back away.


“For chrissakes,” said the mulatto from Missouri, tearing the bodice from one of the shrieking squirming twins, her cherry nipples taut in the midday sun. He shot the guard through the jaw.


The Apache thrust the cotton merchant’s scalp in his belt and leapt to the guard. The guard was on his belly crawling over dirt and bits of bone. Using the guard’s eye sockets for a hold, the Indian took the scalp.


Thrusting down his pants over the pistol-whipped naked wife, the new kid said, “You sure are a savage, chief.”


The Apache whooped.


“Christ Almighty,” said the blackbeard, taking a slug from the flask he found in the coachman’s pockets as he rummaged for the strongbox key, “Gag them up, will you. I can’t stand that screaming.”


BIO:
Court's work is forthcoming in PANK and Shotgun Honey and has appeared in Night Train, Midwestern Gothic, Kyoto Review, Blackbird, Evergreen Review, Numero Cinq, Identity Theory, Pulp Metal, M-Brane Science Fiction, and others. You can find links at http://courtmerrigan.wordpress.com/short-stories/. After a decade of the nomadic life in East Asia I'm at home in Wyoming, having an American adventure with my wife and two kids.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A SHORT BREAK by Keith Gingell

Welcome back to TK'n'C regular, Keith Gingell with the masterful...

A Short Break


Another day by the pool. Gets a bit boring sometimes, but I got to admit this Tenerife winter sun’s pretty fucking handsome. I mean, 24 degrees in February: can’t be bad. I been here a week now, I go back the day after tomorrow. Quite liked it really. Might inquire about getting a drum down here, but then again, that’d be pushing it a bit.

I did me homework before coming here; sussed things out, like. I thought Tenerife was a good idea, take a cheap week self-catering: be a tourist on a budget – blend in. Flying out of Manchester was a nice touch, I thought.

It’s worked out pretty well. Better than I expected. I hooked up with a bit of tit called Karen, from Salford. She must be about twenty years younger than me, but that didn’t seem to bother her. Not really my type, but it gave us both something to do. All she wanted was cock for a week, and I needed to pass the time. I’m no fucking chef, and what she likes to eat ain’t on sale in Tescos, so we’ve been dining out every night.

She’s a bit curious, when we were in bed she kept asking me how I got me scars. I told her I was in a car accident, but then she saw this little star shaped one just under my right nipple. ‘What’s that, chuck?’ she said.

‘Got shot by some bloke called Dirty Barry from Bermondsey,’ I told her.

She just laughed. ‘Nah you didn’t. You’re not as tough as you look.’ Then she licked it. ‘All better,’ she says. I tell yer, there's nothing like the truth when you don’t want someone to believe yer.

We had some nice evenings, the food’s pretty good round here. So are the bars. One night was bit shitty though. Some fucking monkey-face from Liverpool, pissed-up on euro-a-pint San Miguel tried to wind me up. Kept coming up asking Karen why she was with some old Cockney. She can handle herself, I have to say that. I thought she was going to bottle him. I managed to settle things down though. I bought him a couple of beers, we were best mates after that. He even came and sat at our table. While he was there, I clocked his wrist band. He was staying at a hotel just around the corner from ours.

‘I dunno how you stayed so calm,’ Karen said after we left the bar.

‘He’s just had a few too many. Nothing to get worried about gal. Getting angry don’t solve nothing,’ I told her. Funny thing is, a couple of days later, when Karen was out shopping with her mates, she saw the scouser hobbling around on crutches. She said his face looked like he’d run into a wall.

‘Prob’ly fell down stairs,’ I said.

Karen’s with a different tour company to me, so she went home this morning. I give her a good farewelling last night. She wants to meet up when I get back. No fucking chance. Her leaving early was very handy. Tomorrow, I got things to do: no need for excuses.

******

I’m on this little green and white island-hopper bouncing around in the air over Lanzarote before it comes into land. It’s the early morning flight out of Tenerife. I booked a return trip the day after I arrived: paid cash. Mostly, it’s full of Spanish locals doing business, but there’s this English couple in front of me going on about how beautiful the volcanoes are. Fuck the volcanoes, I’m thinking.

I don’t have any luggage and there’s no passport controls, so once we’re on the ground, it don’t take long before I’m outside getting into a maroon and white Merc. I ask the taxi-driver to take me Costa Teguise. Twenty minutes later, I’m standing outside a hotel opposite the Las Cucharas shopping centre. It’s still early, but the sun’s bright and I need my shades. Most of the shops are shut. I lean against a wall and check the map I Googled last week. I know where I need to go.

A ten minute stroll up Calle de las Acacias takes me to where I want to be, a little place called Bar Escondrijo. It’s closed, but the doors are open and the tables and chairs are outside. I can hear the bloke I’ve come to see inside mopping the floor. I sit at a table near the doors, in the shade of some sort of palm tree, and wait.

It takes a few minutes before the geezer inside sees me. ‘We’re closed mate,’ he shouts.

I look at him, but he don’t recognise me. ‘What? Even for Jesse James?’ The mopping stops.

Bob-the-knob-Swales comes over to the table, still with his mop in his mitt. He’s got on this black T-shirt with “DILLIGAF” written in white across his tits. The look on his boat says he does. He’s put on a lot of weight. He stands there for nearly a minute, scratching his shaved skull. ‘Long time no see, Jess,’ He says.

‘You don’t look very happy to see me, Bob.’

‘Yeah, well, it’s bit of a shock, innit?’

‘Don’t worry, I’m just having a bit of a break. Thought I’d come and see yer while I’m here. See how business is.’

‘It’s alright. Yeah. Bit quiet, but I’m getting along alright.’

‘That’s good, Bob.’

‘You staying on the island?’

‘Yeah, the hotel down the road. Flew in last night.’

‘You’re out early.’

‘You know me, Bob. Always was an early riser. Yer gonna get me a drink?’

‘Yeah, right. You’d better come inside. If the punters see you sitting there they’ll think I’m open.’

I sit by the bar and look around. ‘Nice place you bought with Jack Petit’s cash.’

Bob nearly drops the bottle of Dorada he’s pouring out for me. ‘You still working for him?’

‘Nah, nah.’ I shake me head. I smile to make it look more kosher. ‘I got out. I started on me own, I'm legit now. He didn’t like it, but he couldn't do much about it. I know too much.’

Bob blows out his breath, like a ton weight's been lifted off him. ‘So, you’re just here on holiday then?’

‘Yeah, that’s what I said, didn’t I? Thought I’d have a look round. Take a leaf out of your book. You know, set something up here. Also, I wanted to give you a word of warning.’

‘Warning?’

‘Word’s out, Jack’s getting impatient for his money. You know he set up five other blokes here and on Tenerife. Apparently, three of ‘em are behind. I hope one’s not you. I wouldn’t want to see an old mate get hurt.’

‘Things have been a bit slack, Jess, but I’m gonna send him something as soon as I can. If you see him when you get back, tell him that won’t yer.’

‘Yeah, I understand. I’ll see what I can do. Anything for a mate.’

‘Thanks Jess, that’s real good of you.’

‘Can I use your Bog? I need a tom-tit.’

‘Yes mate. Door’s on the right.’

I go inside and hang about for a while, then flush the toilet. I yell through the closed door. ‘Bob, come here, the fucking bog’s blocked, there’s water every-fucking-where.’

I hear him outside. ‘Fucking tourists. They never read the signs. They’re always flushing paper down the bowl.’

Bob pushes the door open; I’m standing behind it. As he comes in I grab him by his fat neck and slam his face against the tiles, a couple break and bits of ‘em stick in his skin and into one of his eyes. He goes down. I push his head over the toilet bowl and before he comes round and starts to struggle, I have the ceramic knife I brought especially for this occasion sticking in his jugular. I hold him while he bleeds out down the toilet. Sounds like somebody’s having a long piss. Not a drop goes on the floor. Even though I say it myself, it’s very neat job.

Just to convince the other fuckers on the islands that Jack Petit really does want his money, I get a bottle of Bacardi 151 from behind the bar and pour it all over Bob-the-knob's head. Using his lighter, I set fire to him. I watch to make sure the fire don’t get out of control. Takes ten minutes for Bob to burn out. When he’s done, he looks like a suckling pig – all he needs is an apple in his fucking face.

I close the bog door and stroll out the bar. It’s quarter to nine in the morning, there’s no one about. By three, I'll be just another tourist by the pool in Tenerife and tomorrow afternoon I’ll be on a train to Euston.



BIO:I have been writing fiction for about five years, firstly as a hobby, but now I am getting serious about it. I have stories published in Volumes 3 and 4 of Radgepacket and one in the, newly released, Volume 5. I also have a couple of stories on the Radgepacket website.



Friday, 15 July 2011

SONIA GETS HERS by Copper Smith

TKnC welcomes back Copper Smith with another hard-hitting crime twister...

Sonia Gets Hers

Maybe Ramon is the one. She always did go for that swarthy type. That lean, tightly packed frame and the narrowed eyes of a man who just killed his parents. And he's a drug dealer with the complicated life and plump salary to prove it. Drama, status, cash. Three ingredients that can snag Sonia into damn near anything the snagger desires.

So that settles it. Ramon is the one she's been meeting in her office on late nights and weekends when she's 'getting her nails done' at the salon that swears they've never seen her.

Ramon is the one who will die in her arms tomorrow night.

But then again it could be Streak. Fast-talking black dude with a shifty glance designed for survival in the shadows.

Or Bruckner, that cricket-thin hillbilly, all tattoo ink and overalls.

Or Rolondo the gun runner. Or Mickey the mafia capo's son and failed car thief.

Somebody's going down with her. Somebody's going to pay for those aches in my insides that keep my eyes stretched open while the rest of the world tumbles into slumber.

Somebody's going die with Sonia's taste in his mouth. And all I need right now is a name.

***

At breakfast we don't talk. We grunt. We mumble. We sigh. And today there's this:

"Got a fun day planned at work, Sonia?"

"Fun day? I'm a parole officer. I work with criminals. Guys who rob gas stations and beat the mothers of their children."

"Sorry. Just asking…"

"Fun day!"

Which urges me into this:

"I called the salon last Saturday…"

Her eyes widen into something that would be comical at any other breakfast table.

"Jesus, is it eight-thirty already!"

She races to the door, breakfast unfinished and hair swept into a messy mask, hiding her suddenly crimson face. And she forgot her cell phone.

But she didn't. While she slept I switched phones on her. Because I want to hear the voice of the man she's betraying me with. I want to hear his soft serenade into her voice mail, his bone-deep baritone lulling her into his arms and out of my life, wiping away any trace of guilt I might harbor for planning to put a bullet into both of their skulls.

Or maybe I just want to discover that I'm crazy, imagining everything. Maybe I want to discover that Sonia – damning evidence aside – is still my beloved, my heart. Eleven years older and too much mileage lost to a draining workplace, but beneath it all, still the feisty nineteen-year-old who made fun of my mustache and boring job at the bank.

I'm yanked out of my flashback and into the undertow of a parole officer's daily drama by the first message: Streak has been arrested for possession of cocaine, making it strike three. He flips on the waterworks like a toddler with a dirt-coated pacifier: swears he's innocent, nowhere else to turn, found Jesus.

Next message: city prosecutor needs some file for some convicted felon. No big urgency, just need it before lunch.

Next message: "How's the day treating you?"

Then in the hushed rumble of a predator closing in too quickly: "It's Ramon,"

Three more messages each more pressing than the last. But the words may as well be muttered out in Mandarin Chinese. I'm too distracted by an impossible image: a feisty nineteen-year-old racing away from me, scrambling into somebody's else's waiting embrace.

Another Message. Ramon again:

"I'll be there at seven, sweetcakes."

It's a date, Ramon.
***

The building Sonia works in is uncomfortably tucked in a neighborhood that looks and smells like a random homicide waiting to happen. Flooded dumpsters and capsized mailboxes decorate the street. Hustlers, muggers and soon-to-be victims strut past chalk outlines like they were faceless cartoon characters. A preschooler screeches into the night before his voice is swallowed up by the roar of a passing siren. And this horror show slowly fades into the backdrop. Because all I can see is the door I have to get through to carry out this grim mission.

My heart thumps in something like 7/8 time. Awkward, off-kilter, wrong. But I slip to the door anyway. With the blanket of darkness now descending nobody notices me striding up to the building with a bag. If the passersby had to take a stab at the contents it's unlikely they'd guess it contained a gun, a spade and a tarp large enough to wrap up two bodies. I guess I'm full of surprises tonight.

With my duplicated key, I dip inside, climb the stairs and prepare to dash past the security guard Rita, usually parked behind a People magazine. The plan is I'll blur past her too fast to be tagged with an ID. I'll be the 'the white guy dressed in black with the gym bag who came in sometime around seven or maybe it was eight but that's all I remember, officer.' Perfect.

Or maybe not. Rita's not in her usual place. A problem?

"How we doin' this evening, Mr. Chadwick?"

A problem.

"I'm fine, Rita. Just dropping off Sonia's gym bag…"

This is a massive problem. As she walks me to the door and feeds me info about her troublesome twelve-year-old, the ugly thought swimming in my head is I really don't want to shoot her…

"… then come home, talkin' about 'Mama, that teacher crazy!"

But I'll do it. I swear.

A phone rings and she scrambles to her desk, leaving me alone with my shattered plans.

I can hear rustling in the room, a panic. I reach into my bag, wrestling with my ad-libbed plan B, ready to spring into motion.

But no gun. My snubbed-nose revolver is not in the bag.

From the room, a familiar sharp slap – my gun? – then the scattered clacks of high heels finding a way out too quickly to be discovered. I bolt inside, more a reflex than a phase in this busted scheme.

Slumped over Sonia's desk: Ramon, arms arched over his head like they could shield him from a bullet, empty wallet at his ankles, eyes still locked in disbelief. 


Motionless, luckless, finished. Idiot actually thought he stood a chance against Sonia's blueprint, but he was as wrong as I was. My snub-nosed revolver is placed on his back like a danger-laced after-dinner mint. Just laying there, waiting to be a dilemma.

I pick up the gun – probably not a good idea, but truth be told, I ran out of good ideas seconds after stepping into the building. I suppose I should flee, but good luck with the building about to erupt into madness and Rita's testimony shackled to my alibi like a tree stump. No sirens yet, but they're coming soon enough. Nothing to do but raise the gun to my temple and finish this nightmare began by my beloved. Not so much a surrender as a salute to Sonia's gamesmanship, her  virtuosity. Ramon and I were played by the master, the uncontested champion of this soul-shredding chess game.

As for the feeling racing through my spine right now, I wonder: is that a taste of defeat or a tinge of envy?



Bio: Copper Smith is a writer of tawdry crime fiction and the shadowy figure behind UppercutAvenue.com. He invites you to dial up something the kids call 'The Twitter,' so you can follow him home, or something like that. @UppercutAvenue.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT... Please give a warm TKnC welcome to our new 'GUEST EDITOR'...

... LILY CHILDS!

Matt, Lee 'n' I (Col) have been particularly busy recently, with writing and life.  So, to improve the site's efficiency, who better to assist than the inimitable writer of dark fiction, Lily Childs?  We're truly thrilled she accepted our offer. 

In case you've been locked in a cupboard under the stairs (hey, there's a good plotline!), allow me to tell you a little about 'Our Lil'...

I first 'met' Lily on a writers' forum - where I also met Lee - a few years ago, and have found her to be a genuine and loyal friend, as well as a damn fine writer. Lily's been very supportive of TKnC, and we had the pleasure of publishing her first short story here. Now, if you missed it, be warned... take a very deep breath and pour a stiff drink... it's an absolute cracker... FASHION VICTIM

Lily brings excellent credentials, having written broadly and judged many writing comps', including her popular Lily's Friday Prediction.  Her short story Carpaccio (also published here) was nominated for a Spinetingler Award this year!

For more info, check out Lily Childs Feardom, or Lily's editor page (coming soon on the tabs above).

So, a warm welcome on board, Lil, from your fellow editors. 

I'm sure our readers and friends will do the same.

Regards,
Crime Dude, Col 

Ps. Oh, 'n' we'll need a nickname for you... was thinking along the lines of 'Dark Dudette'... or 'Dark Dudess'...? Suggestions welcome...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

THUMBS by Ron Dionne

Welcome Ron on his debut...

Thumbs


It was exactly the same when he got back. No change. He paused, his hand on the doorknob. Had she found more?

 "What's so funny?"

The question, not his entrance, interrupted her open-mouthed giggle, but she flashed him only the merest of glances before her thumbs resumed the dance of the touch screen.

"Who ya texting?"

She sighed. Her rump in the white running shorts with the red trim shifted on the sofa cushion. She did not look away from the screen.

"You on Facebook?"

When she didn't answer, he opened the apartment door and poked his head into the hallway. He saw with satisfaction that it was empty, and closed the door again. He locked all three locks. The trip home had been shockingly easy: a seat on an earlier connecting flight available, the cabdriver expert, the traffic light. It was as if the moment were being urged upon them by a Fate anxious not to miss some other, more important appointment.

He put down his carry-on bag and un-knotted his tie. He leaned over the back of the sofa to peek at the screen, but she pressed it to her breast so he couldn't see.

He took his bag into the other room and changed. She was still at it when he emerged with the gift and the phone bill. He put the phone bill on the pile of mail atop the kitchen island. Her cheeks were flushed now and her tank top showed nipple. The glass of their wedding portrait on the wall behind the sofa reflected an image of bodies on the phone's screen. She folded her legs under and he basked in another brief glance, a moment of near eye contact, which coincided with the image in the reflection changing to text. The thumbs danced.

"Got ya something," he said. He put the box on the glass coffee table.

She bit her lower lip, giggling again, shaking her head.

"Open it," he said.

She fixed him with a full-on look. The pretty face, the nice figure in tank top and those legs in their shorts tucked under. All still working. He nudged the smallish rectangle of bronze cardboard toward her. "For you," he said.

Her expression was that of a child being encouraged to eat an exotic food. The box received a glance, and again she tap-tap-tapped her screen.

In the kitchen he filled a Pilsner glass with water and according to plan gathered the accumulated mail with the phone bill on top. He returned to the living room, put the glass on a Niagara Falls coaster, and was about to sit in the arm chair facing her when he heard the sound of a door opening and closing in the hallway. He found in the closet the draft stopper they used winters, and placed it at the foot of the door, flush. He took his seat in the arm chair. She tapped.

He put the phone bill aside and ripped open mail. For drama, he announced each piece and rendered verdicts. Pay now, pay later, junk mail, trash. A postcard from her sister in Tarzana. A few pieces in, a flurry of furtive glances like a Geiger counter sniffing ore hurtled his way, the telltale peaks in the tank top sharpening. There were some catalogs and other pieces yet to go, but he put them aside and took up the phone bill.

She stretched her legs. Her painted toenails gripped the edge of the table, near the unopened box. She tapped.
 He watched her for a moment thinking it was too bad, but not really. He took a swallow of water. He smoothed the phone bill in his lap. It had come in a nine by twelve envelope, too many pages to fold in the usual number ten. He turned to the first page listing text messages.

"Phone bill," he said. "A whopper."

Tappety-tap tap.

He recited the numbers of her outgoing and incoming texts. He let rip the Chicago in his accent, which once upon a time she had found charming. Listen sammiches, that time he clinched it with her. Only when she was done enjoying it did he reveal the meat was pig's ear. It's often better to experience something without anticipation, and know truth later.

The numbers that repeated he announced loudest. He recited calmly and steadily and the alternation of loud and soft was like a speaker with a faulty wire that cut out. There were three numbers in particular that an online reverse directory, for a reasonable fee, had helped him isolate. These he gave special prominence. He did not need the bill for those, not really. He knew them by heart.

The sixth time he said the second number, she put the phone down. Her face was red, but not as red as he had expected. She sucked on the inside of one cheek. He stopped reciting.

"Am I boring you?"

 She reached under her top and scratched.

"May I?" he said. He held out his hand. She looked at the precious window to her world, and at his face, and at the window again, and tap-tapped it off. She handed it over.

"Thanks," he said. He plopped it in the Pilsner glass.
 She closed her eyes briefly and shook her head as little as it was possible to shake it.

"Open your gift," he said.
 She stared for a moment at the dead phone magnified in the water and reached for the box.

He moved to the sofa and sat next to her. He put his arm around the back of the sofa behind her, not quite touching her pretty shoulders. Her hair smelled good. She smelled good. He could, right now, if she wanted to. But he knew that that wasn't going to happen. What he liked most about travel was that even though it was expensive and often fraught with inconvenience a trip, once taken, could never be taken away from you. It lived on in your heart and your memory, forever and always.

She lifted the lid of the box, unfolded the tissue and lifted the cotton cushion.

There were three opposable pairs, bound together with rubber bands. He'd written phone numbers on the left of each, those numbers he knew by heart.

She made a noise and fled into the bedroom. He followed, stopping first to get the kitchen shears.


Bio: Ron Dionne has a novel, SAD JINGO, forthcoming as an ebook original from Delabarre Publishing later this year. He has published genre fiction of various sorts in Blue Murder Magazine, Hardboiled, After Hours, and Palace Corbie, but admits it's been a while. For more info: http://writingdark.com/

Monday, 4 July 2011

BLOW THE CANDLES OUT by Stephen D. Rogers



Blow the Candles Out



I didn't die today. That's something to celebrate.

I passed at least four buys that didn't go bad. I walked a road that bordered disputed territory. I rode a subway shared by a crackhead raging about microwaves and a guy so uptight I wasn't sure who made me more nervous.

Tomorrow I turn twenty-six. I never thought I'd ever say that. Never thought I'd see that day while still drawing breath.

And probably I will. Unless someone comes through the front door looking for something to sell. I still have to make it through the night.

Twenty-six.

Maybe.
 
BIO:
Stephen D. Rogers is the author of SHOT TO DEATH (Mainly Murder Press) and more than 600 shorter pieces. His website, http://www.stephendrogers.com/, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

A FELICITOUS END BY Margaret D. Whittle

Welcome to new contributor Margaret D. Whittle with...


A Felicitous End


So I'm semi-floating at the bottom of the pool looking up through the green tinged water thinking to my self, "I would really rather be anywhere but here" yet realizing that it was my own doing that put me in this predicament. I should have cleaned the house better and made his favorite dinner more often or even done that whole, greet 'um at the door wrapped in Saran Wrap thing he kept bugging me about, but noooooo...it just wasn't my nature.

He warned me often enough there could be consequences, but of course, my nature wasn't to listen to a damn word that he said. The knack of smiling and nodding like I was paying attention, well that little trick I had perfected back in my teen years when my Mother would be on one of her rampages, but that is a whole 'nother story.


Anyway, here I am at the bottom of the pool waiting for the end to finally arrive. They say that your life passes right before your eyes at the moment of death, and I kept looking around, but all I could see was sand on the tiled bottom (I guess I should have really cleaned the pool more often too) and floating pool toys and inner tubes on the surface above my head. This was really getting old and I wondered how much longer it was going to take.

I mentally  started and completed a list of things that I could possibly miss about being married to him once the end came, and seeing that there were none, this unseemly conclusion to the last five years of my life, became all the more apparent as being a felicitous decision.

With one final salutatory smile, I double checked the ever tightening knots on the concrete block weight, pushed off from the top of his head, and made my way to the surface and my new life alone.

Bio:

Learn more about Margaret's writing here:
http://mcwhittle.wordpress.com/

BLESS HER HEART by Thomas Pluck

TKnC welcomes Thomas...

 

Bless Her Heart 




"You see what those Yankees did to Mrs. Dufresne's live oak?"


"Oedipus and Helen Keller were staring at it all week," I said.


"Tore that lovely old tree down. Isn't that a shame? If Mrs. Dufresne were alive to see it, she'd be spinning in her grave," Miss Patty said, giggling and jiggling in her housecoat, like one of her own prize pigs.


She can hold a conversation all by her lonesome, bless her heart. We were in my kitchen with sweet tea and biscuits, like every afternoon now that our husbands are in the ground.


"Mrs. Dee's lucky she cut herself while chopping up trinity. Way she was driving, she was likely to plow down somebody's children, wasn't she?" Patty chuckled. "Poor old thing bled to death before she could dial 911. Isn't that just awful?"


The Yankees' dog burst through through the hedge like a little bug-eyed demon, spied us, and took a leak on my magnolia in front of God and everybody.


"Well look at that, Myra."


"As long as he stays out of the roses," I said, and bit into a biscuit.


The little rat dog must've heard me, because he took off for them like a shot.


"Oh, my."


I can move fast when I have to. I was a school teacher in Baton Rouge, and before I retired the kids were carrying straight razors. I tore one right out of a young man's saggy pants pocket and dragged him by the ear to the Principal's office. The paper called me a hero, but the Principal didn't see it that way.


By the time I got to my roses, the Yankee's critter was burying his business right in the middle of my Ruby Red Dreams. I gave him a stare that would freeze the devil's privates, and he took off like I was a mailman with a shotgun.


I put his present in a baggie, and marched up the block to give the Meltzers a visit.


I rang the bell, but the music thumping inside told me it was a waste of time. Through the blinds I saw Mrs. Meltzer twisted up like a pretzel in front of the big screen.


I'd spoken to her about that little rat dog before.


"Darcy is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel," she'd said.


"That's well and nice, but I still prefer he not drop his royal nuggets in my rose garden."


She sported a pony tail, skinny square glasses, and a jogging outfit suitable for pole dancing on Bourbon Street. "Oh, I've heard about your roses, Myra."


Sure she had. County fair champion, six years and counting. Ever since my Henry's accident. When a woman's got time to herself, without a randy old fool and his little blue pills keeping her on her back, she can accomplish a lot.


"Best in the state. And it isn't easy growing them in Louisiana."


"Oh? With the hot weather I thought they'd be easy."


"The humidity is bad for disease."


"So what's your trick? I might try my hand at it."


"You need the proper fertilizer."


"Darcy's doing his part then, isn't he?"


She picked her rat dog up and kissed it like a baby.


"Just keep a leash on him, if you please."


"You don't like the leash, do you Mr. Darcy? It makes you nervous, doesn't it?'


I listened until I was fixing to retch. Memaw always said to kill 'em with kindness.


Today, I rang the bell three times. I should've just put the bag of dog mess in her mail slot, but that my memaw wouldn't approve of that now, would she?


Now Miss Patty's got me doing it.


I tuck the bag of royal refuse into my trash can, and head back inside.


"Did you give her a piece of your mind?"


"She's doing her yoga with the music loud."


"You know what I think?"


"That we should have her over for tea and biscuits tomorrow?"


"I think we should have her over for tea and biscuits tomorrow."


* * *


"So you haven't seen Darcy all morning?"


"Not since I let him out this morning. He always comes back for his nap."


"There's such meanness in this world," Patty said. "He'll turn up, won't he?"


"His nibs will turn up," I said. "Have another biscuit."


"Oh, they're so fattening. At least they don't have meat in them.


Even the vegetables have meat down here!"


Miss Patty gives me a look. She's never ate a green thing that hadn't cozied up to a ham hock first.


"Myra's trick is to use lard instead of shortening, isn't it now?"


"Is lard vegetarian?"


"It's just like butter, only richer, isn't it?"


"They are delicious."


"You haven't had but a bite," I said.


"Is that how you stay so skinny?"


"Jogging. In fact, I'm gonna go for a run by the lake to burn this off, and look for Darcy."


She got up without even a goodbye, imagine that. She had her hand on the door knob.


"Is that your little dog in Myra's garden?" Miss Patty's quick on her feet, too.


When her pony tail whipped around, I grabbed it and yanked her down to the floor. She didn't even have half her biscuit, so she fought like a cornered possum while my trusty razor cut her scrawny neck to the bone. Patty had to waddle like a fat old raccoon getting chased by hounds to get the mixing bowl under her neck in time.


Her kingly dog was in my rose bed, and she would join him. Champion seven years in a row, I reckon.


Bless her heart.

BIO:
Thomas Pluck is a writer from New Jersey whose work has appeared in Blue Murder and The Morning News. He has stories upcoming in Beat to a Pulp, Flash Fiction Offensive, Crimefactory, Shotgun Honey, Utne Reader, and Pure Slush.
Thomas blogs here.