Thursday, May 31, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 27 - Barry Baldwin


"Dad, what's a degenerate?"

"Shut up. kid, and keep sucking."

Some laughed, to show they were cool. Others wanted to, but didn't. Others didn't want to, but did. No comedy geek to shout at the stand-up guy, "Asshole, you stole that from Lenny Bruce." Lenny Bruce? Who the fuck's he?

A shoulder tap. The precinct's token woman officer. Didn't the bitch know better than to invade a stag?

"My cue, that, sir. They want you over in the Village. There's a body at that toney private guest house. The old brownstone behind Christopher Street."

Fuck it . Or rather, don't.. "Christ, that's faggotville with a capital F."

"A gays only residence, sir." Closet muff-diver, no expression.

He rose slowly. A double plus. Showing his back to the guy on stage, a Don't Hurry Me front to her.

"Anything else I should know?"

"Well, it's kind of weird..."

"What fucking wouldn't be, place like that?"

"The victim, sir. Dressed in a man's three-piece suit. Collar and tie. Butch hair-cut. Even an old-style fedora. But the call-out doctor says he's a she."

"Got to be a Brit. Who the fuck else wears vests in New York?

"No fashionista, he.

The detective and the doctor had long ago agreed to hate each other. But on duty both were total professionals, so lacking skills in sign language communicated in minimalist politeness over a corpse more elegant than its back-alley location.

"Single stab through the heart. Death instantaneous."


"Something pointed. The wound says very small. Murderwise, size doesn't matter."

Dickwise, the detective would have disagreed.

"Too small to have penetrated these thick clothes. Her breast was exposed when it went in."

"Who'd want a titorama here?"

"There's more..."

The detective was quickly inside the building, mentally masturbating over an immediate lucky break. A Haitian cleaning woman had noticed "the gentleman from suite 69" entering the service elevator. She figured he'd been seeing a visitor out the back way. Nothing unusual there. It was the residents' way. Their guests were strictly rear-entrance class.

Suite 69 was old-fashionedly clubby in decor and fug. Likewise, its footballer-sized occupant, unfazed byTorquemada-style verbals..

"Yes, I had a visitor. This isn't a monastery."

"What's a girl doing in a place like this?" Turner Classic Movie dialogue.

"You left out the adjective. That explains her manly chic. Here, I interpose a confession. I am not actually that way bent."

Schooled by experience to conceal double-takes: "So, why are you here?"

"A pretence imposed by my son. He pays the bills and grants me an allowance on the understanding that I remain here and never leave the premises. His wife's idea, in point of fact. Otherwise, he informs the authorities of some erotic peccadillos of mine."

Swallowed a fucking Webster's. Not used to grilling guys who weren't grammatically challenged. "So you import lambs dressed in wolves' clothing." Pleased with himself for this classy come-back.

"For obvious reasons. Management and other guests would not approve my tastes."

"And no brownie points for smuggling in hookers."

"What leads you to affix that label on her?"

The fact that I've used that particular cunt myself."

"A small world, as they say." He lifted an ornate pipe from the cut-glass ashtray. "You don't mind." It wasn't a question.

"Be my guest." The detective dragged out a battered meerschaum. Sherlock Holmes lives, "Isn't this something else management and other guests wouldn't like?"

"In most matters they are liberal enough. It goes with the territory. Shall we cut to the chase? Might not the young lady have had the misfortune to encounter a mugger or pervert in the alley?"

"The average guy would have called a cab or seen her safely to the main street."

"Cabs at back doors produce attention. And I was anxious to regain my suite before anyone spotted me. Which, it seems, I failed to do."

Cool as a fucking cucumber. "The crime-scene medic says her cunt was a sperm rest center. You had her here, had her undressed, had her, killed her, re-dressed her, hauled her downstairs like the trash she was, and dumped her."

"A tale worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. You mention no weapon. As you see, my suite has no kitchen, hence no utensils. And I retired my boy-scout Swiss knife many years ago."

"But you look pretty good with that pipe reamer you've been exercising these last five minutes. Got the same kind myself. Good odds tobacco won't be the only thing the lab'll find on it.

"The reamer looked down ruefully. "I hate to admit it, but I should have given up smoking, as is now the fashion. What can I say?"

"You could try saying why you iced her."

"No need to bring the police psychiatrist galloping in. She was my daughter. We had had no contact since my son informed her about my activities and current whereabouts. Bad luck of the draw from the escort service."

Christ Almighty. The detective came dangerously close to showing emotion towards a perp. "You fucked your own daughter...?"

"She was going to tell the management about me. I'd have been out of here, with nowhere else to go. My son would have cut off my allowance. I have no other resources. She'd have done for me, so I did for her. She'd pulled her coat and vest open and showed a breast, taunting me for being in two meat markets at once. Everything after happened as you surmised. But underline one fact. I didn't have her until after I'd killed her. That way, it doesn't really count, does it?"

In a detective's life, there's never a point where you can say you've heard everything. He'd hardly finished the paperwork on this one before he was called up to a non-brownstone tenement where a crackhead single mother had microwaved her baby.


Fictional Credentials: I have published around 30 short stories, in (e.g.):Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (twice); Argosy; Carve Magazine (twice); Conundrum; Crime & Suspense; Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (three times); Flash Fantastic (twice); HandheldCrime (twice); Hardluck Stories (twice - both contest winners); Hellas; Jewish Affairs; Monarch Mysteries; Mouthful of Bullets (twice); Murderous Intent; Mysterical-E; Shattercolors Literary Review (twice); Shots; Silver Moon (twice); Sleuths in Cahoots; Sliptongue (twice); Storyteller; The Third Degree; Without A Clue.

I have also published a 10.000 word story as a chapbook (Rembrandt & Company, St Petersburg, Florida, 2005). Plus, stories in the following print anthologies: Adventure (MonkeybrainPress, Austin, Texas, 2005 - a 16.000 worder); Doses of Death (Red Lotus Press, Mexico, New York); Modern Magicians, Wizards & Witches (Kerlak Publishing, Memphis, 2005); Short Attention Span Mysteries -2 yarns herein (Kerlak Publishing, Memphis, 2005). IN 1999 and 2000, I was a Finalist in the short story category for, respectively, the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards and the Bouchercon USA) Anthony Awards, for stories published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. In 2004, I was a Preliminary Finalist in the Fish Publishing International short story contest (Ireland), and am again in 2007. In 2005, I was a Preliminary Finalist in the 2005 Raymond Carver short story contest - my entry is published in the July 2005 issue of Carve Magazine - and also in the 2006 Raymond Carver contest. Also nominated for 2006 Derringer Awards (first stage).

Biographical Note: Born (1937) and educated in England; college-university lecturer in England/Australia/Canada. Now Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Calgary, and Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada. Published 12 books and c. 600 articles on Greece, Rome, Byzantium, 18th-Century History & Literature, and Albanian History/Language/Literature. As freelance writer, have contributed many magazine and newspaper articles on many subjects in various countries. Did a 2-year stint as regular columnist for the British daily newspaper Morning Star. Currently write regular columns for (e.g.) Catholic Insight (Canada); Fortean Times (UK/USA); Presbyterian Record (Canada); Stitches (Canada); Verbatim (USA/UK).

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