Friday, March 28, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 73 - Clair Dickson

A Bo Fexler Short Story

She put her head in her hands and sobbed. "You lied to me!" she wailed to the table.

"Yeah. Sure." I wanted a cigarette, but the little cafeteria nestled into the front corner of the retail giant prohibited most vices. "Explain that to me, if you would?"

"You said you'd find my real father!"

"I said I would investigate your claim that your father is not your biological father."

She shook her head and lifted it to give me an angry, childish glare. She was barely eighteen, with a body that would be great for nubile porn, but a tendency to act like prepubescent. She was, in spite of her appearance, still a child. I don't remember being that young or juvenile. "He's NOT!" she growled at me through a clenched jaw.

"You wanna keep paying me, I'll keep talking to people. I already talked to your aunts, your mother's friends from high school, other folks who went to school with her, a long-lost boyfriend, a former best friend, college roommates. No one has any reason to even think that your mother slept with anyone but your father after senior prom. I also talked to a lab that, for a nice, hefty fee, will do a paternity test. I also have a current address for your father."

"I know where he lives!"

"Ah. Wasn't sure about that. I read those letters your mother wrote, and talked to your father about them--"

"He's NOT my father!"

A few people were staring. I was tempted to write up a sign indicating that I was a private investigator. For all this drama, maybe I could drum up some business. But I kept my fingers woven together, my expression impassive. "Your father told me what the secret was that your mother was referring to. It was that she had cheated on her Algebra final. Remember she had all As. Because of the pregnancy, she'd been kind of freaked out and cheated on the final. She got away with it, but it weighed on her conscience."

"No. That's a lie."

"Do you want to do a paternity test?"

She glared at me, tears running down her face like they were fleeing the intensity of her emotion. "Why don't you believe me!"

"I believe that you think you're father's not really your father."

"I don't look anything like him!"

"Great. I'm a genetic freak myself! I don't look anything like either of my parents, who are dark haired. My father has hazel eyes. I am a collection of all the recessive traits in my family."

"Maybe you're not really their kid, you ever think of that?"

"Is this because your father left your mother? You don't want to be related to this man?"

"I'm not related to him!"

"Then let's do a paternity test. Shit, I'll pay."

Her lower lip was trembling. She lowered her head and her dark hair swung forward, hiding her face from me.

"What's the problem?"

"I-- I don't like needles."

"Cotton swab in the mouth. No needle."

"My mother told me when she was dying that family is more than shared blood. She meant something by that!"

"That's the trigger, isn't it? That's the catalyst that sent you hunting for your 'real' father. Did it ever occur to you that you made the wrong hasty conclusion?"

"What are you talking about?" She snuffled and ran the back of her hand across her nose. And I would probably shake that hand when I left.

"Your mother and her friend Abby both got pregnant on prom night. Not entirely uncommon, in my experience. I found Abby and she doesn't have a child. She told me that she lost the baby at birth. But I looked it up. There's no record of her birthing a still born. In fact, there's no record of her having a baby at all."

"So what?" She'd lost interest like a cat asked to fetch.

"So. I went back to talk to her. She admitted that she gave the baby up for adoption. It's not uncommon for a new birth certificate to be drawn up, thus hiding the evidence. Then she explained that your father talked her and your mother into a three some on prom night. Abby got pregnant. She knew who the father was. Your father. She didn't want the baby, and a scheme was hatched. Your mother and Abby carried out this ruse, making your father think that your mother was the one carrying his child, from their prom night romp. They kept your father out of the delivery room. Your mother adopted the baby-- you. And Abby told everyone that she lost her baby in childbirth. Not entirely a lie."

"Why-- why wouldn't my mother tell me this?"

"Well, according to Abby, your mother rather liked the threesome."

"Oh. She was pretty… straight-laced," she said with a small smile.

"No. You misunderstand. She liked having sex with another woman. That is why your father left. Because your mother told him she was a lesbian and therefore their marriage was a sham. He only admitted it in a fit of anger after I badgered the shit out of him. He's not real fond of homosexuality."

"My mother-- a dyke?" Her face contorted.

"Well, see-- you are your father's daughter!"

I didn't shake her hand as I stood up and strode out, long black sweater duster fluttering after me.


BIO: Clair writes Bo Fexler short stories when she's not teaching alternative high school. More than thirty other Bo Fexler stories have darkened doorways with their presence. Short stories certainly have more of that instant gratification Clair needs some days after teaching her darling students. Or trying to teach them. Keep up with Bo at

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 72 - James C. Clar


Ed Dodd sat on a bench behind the Waikiki Aquarium and watched the waves crash against the break wall in front of him. The coconut palms rustled dryly overhead in the trade winds. The power at his condo down where Kalakaua and Coconut Avenues intersected had been out since earlier that morning. Grabbing his mail on the way down the stairs, he had walked to the Starbucks on Kapahulu to get coffee. He stopped on the way back home to watch the surfers just off shore. A power outage; of all days for something freaky like that to happen! After all, it was forty-five years ago to the day that Ed Dodd had murdered his older brother.

Sitting in the bright sunshine absentmindedly sorting through his mail, Ed remembered it like it was yesterday. He and Mike had been jumping off a railroad bridge into the canal back home in upstate New York . Ed had been fifteen. Two years older, Mike had been taunting his younger sibling and showing off. While Mike was standing on the railing ready to dive, Ed ran up behind his brother and pushed. The older boy’s wet feet slipped and he tumbled. His head slammed against the trestle on the way down. Ed could still hear the hollow, ringing sound. They never recovered his body. Of course Ed lied to the police and fire-rescue crew. He said simply that Mike had been clowning around and fell awkwardly. The story had been all-too plausible and no one had any reason to doubt his word. Ed had been living with and running from that lie ever since.

The stress of their son’s death had been too much for Ed’s parents. They divorced shortly after that tragic day. His father went AWOL and the teenager lived with his mother amid constant recrimination and a succession of men she called her “boyfriend.” When he turned eighteen in 1966, Ed joined the Marines. He served three tours with the 1st Military Division in Vietnam . He almost hoped that he’d “buy the farm” in-country, but he survived. He was still waiting for his “luck” to run out. Karma might be one slow-moving bitch, but she was inexorable.

Ed sipped his coffee and worked his way through the pile of mail on his lap. One item caught his attention. It was a small envelope bearing only his name and address in red. The postmark was from somewhere in California . Ed read the message inside: “Eddie, my brother, remember what happened all those years ago? Pretty soon, everybody else is going to know too.”

Ed’s heart skipped a beat and he started to perspire. It couldn't be! True, they never found Mike’s body. He often wondered what it might be like if his brother had survived only to reappear some day, but there had to be another explanation. Shit, he had to relax. His doctor had warned him that he was a stroke or a heart attack waiting to happen. Ed put the mysterious note in his shirt pocket and continued opening the rest of his mail. At the bottom of the stack was a postcard emblazoned with the 1st Military Division insignia. It was an invitation to a reunion next month at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Suddenly, it all made sense. The enigmatic note had to be from his old friend Pat O’Sullivan. He and ‘Sully had spent three memorable days of R & R here on Oahu in 1969. Ed hadn't seen him in forty years. ‘Sully must have tracked him to Hawaii and figured that they'd meet up at the reunion. He recalled that his buddy was forever quoting some bullshit speech from Shakespeare about how the men in their division were a “band of brothers.” 'Sully hadn't known how ironic that was!

O’Sullivan must be talking about that wild night they picked up those two girls vacationing from Texas . That visit had been the reason why, after leaving the Corps, Ed decided to settle on Oahu . That plus the fact that Hawaii was as far away from New York as you could get and still speak English.

Breathing easier, Ed finished his coffee and stood up. He made his way to the sidewalk that ran along Kalakaua Avenue . The midday sun was blindingly bright but the iron wood tress that grew on this stretch of the broad roadway offered at least some shade. Five minutes later, he began climbing the steps to the second floor of his building. As he reached the landing, something niggled uncomfortably at his memory. Ed seemed to recall seeing Pat O’Sullivan’s name a few years ago in the necrology section of a 1st MDIV newsletter. Son-of-a-bitch, if he was right, ‘Sully had died back in ’05 or ’06.

Ed’s heart was pounding again. He began walking down the open-air hallway to the door of his apartment. Suddenly he heard footsteps behind him. He spun round but, as his eyes hadn't adjusted to the dimness of the corridor, he couldn't really see who it was.

“Hey, brother,” the figure seemed to be saying in a gruff voice. Ed never heard the rest. His heart exploded in his chest as he collapsed to the floor.

“Listen,” the guy from the Hawaiian Electric Company said thirty minutes later to the policeman taking his statement, “I just got to the second floor and saw this dude walkin’ in front of me. I figured he was a tenant. I wanted to tell him that the power would be back on in fifteen minutes. I said ‘hey, bruddah’ and he dropped dead. How ya figure dat?”

“Don't sweat it, man. It wasn't your fault. When your number’s up, your number’s up.”

“I guess you're right,” the shaken utility man said as he turned to leave. He mouthed the words “Hang loose” as he descended the stairs to the street.

The cop made a fist and, extending his pinky and thumb, gave it a shake in return. ”You too, bruddah. You too.”

The End

BIO: James C. Clar is a teacher and writer who lives in upstate NY. His book reviews, articles and author interviews appear regularly in the pages of MYSTERY NEWS. His work, including short fiction, has also appeared in the CRIME & SUSPENSE EZINE, MYSTERYAUTHORS.COM, WORD CATALYST, HACKWRITERS, A LONG STORY, SHORT, CRIMESCENE:SCOTLAND, MYSTERY REVIEW and CRIME TIME MAGAZINE (UK).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 71 - Mike Knowles

Mouth Full

“You can imagine my surprise. I stop in to Little Saigon for a little of that spicy soup I like, and what do I see? I see you walking out of a store with a bunch a rice pickers. Then they pass you a bag and you bow to those little motherfuckers. It all fell into place after that. The Twelve Buddha’s have been making grabs at our territory for months. The little bastards are goddamned good at it too. They knock off our guys and set up so fucking perfectly that life carries on just as it was. Junkies keep getting their fixes and dealers keep getting paid – only we don’t get our money anymore. The fucking slants get it. No one knew how it was going down, but everybody knew that there was an inside man. Julian put out the word that the boss will turn over twenty-five large to whoever brings inthe piece of shit that’s selling us out. So I guess I got a prize with my soup – a rat worth twenty five g’s.”


“What you got nothing to say Greene?”

“Mmm nnnn hmm mmm.”

“What’s that? I didn’t catch it. Hard to talk with a gun in your mouth?”

Vincent was pleased with himself. He had been “connected” since he was twelve, but he never broke through. He never made it big. Now he had a real shot at the big time. He was going to waltz the traitor in and wait for his reward and his pat on the back. He never figured a man like Greene to be a two-timer, but it didn’t matter – he caught him in the wrong part of town, with a bag from the wrong people. He didn’t know what was in the bag. It was probably cash - payment for selling out to the Twelve Buddha’s. After he called Julian, the boss’ right hand, and turned over the bag, Vincent knew he would soon be on a first name basis with Paolo Donati. “Vincent,” he would say. “I need someone to handle a job for me. Someone I can trust to handle my affairs. I know you are that man.”Vincent knew that everything was about to change. No one would be calling him Vinny anymore, or worse Bobarino. People would respect him because they would know that he was the kind of guy who knew how to take care of business. The kind of guy who deserved a bonus.

“What’s in the bag Greene?”

“Mmm nnnn hmm mmm.”

“What’s that? I should have it. You’re probably right – cause you won’t be needing it.”

“Mmm nnnn hmm mmm.” Greene’s eyes were glued to the bag as he mouthed incoherently around the gun barrel.

Vincent laughed at the desperation. “Don’t be stupid. You lost Greene. You were big time, but you got greedy. Now it’s my turn to be big time, and that bag is gonna start me off right. I’ll get some new clothes, abetter phone, and a cool hat. People are gonna recognize me from now one. They’ll see that I’m a real player.”

“Mmm nnnn hmm mmm,” Greene mumbled louder. The barrel of the gun rattled off his teeth as he grunted his message.

Vincent grabbed the back of the kneeling man’s head and shoved the gun deeper into his mouth.

“You don’t talk to me like that. No one does. Not anymore.”

Greene gagged and threw up. Vomit streamed out around the gun onto the grey pavement of the alley. Greene tried to breathe, but he choked on the vomit leaking back down the gun barrel into his mouth.

“Shit that’s gross. Heh, I thought you’d be better with things in your mouth.”

Exhausted, Greene leaned into the gun and pushed out another grunt between heaving gasps. “Mmm nnnn hmm mmm.” His left hand reached for the bag while his right went another way.

Vincent’s eyes followed Greene’s hand to the bag. He laughed at the pathetic reach and let Greene get a finger on the bag before kicking it out of reach. As his toe connected with the bag, he realized he couldn’t feel the gun anymore. His eyes whipped towards Greene, but his gaze didn’t make it past his hand. His hand was still on the gun, but his fingers weren’t gripping the butt anymore. The gun was suspended between Greene’s mouth and his index finger, which was still hooked in the trigger guard. Vincent saw his mangled wrist in the dim alley light. The white of bone gleamed between the spurts of dark blood rhythmically jetting out on to the pavement.

Greene pulled the gun free from his mouth and Vincent’s finger came loose. He yanked his hand back to his chest trying to plug the leak with his left hand. The blood flow slowed, but it still managed to find a way onto the concrete from in between his fingers. He didn’t notice that Greene was off his knees until his chest collided with the other man’s. The knife in Greene’s right hand went in under Vincent’s rib cage, twisted, and came out.

It was Vincent’s turn to be on his knees. The pavement bit through his pants as he hit the ground – leaking.

Greene wiped his mouth and spat. “I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen.”

Vincent tried to say, “What?”

“I kept telling you, just take the bag. But your greedy ass had to brag about what a smart fucker you are. You’re so smart you decided to steal from the bag before you finished with the bag man. There’s only ten in there. Nothing compared to the twenty-five I’ll pull in for handing your body over to Julian.”

Vincent sank all the way to the ground. He landed in a warm red puddle he didn’t see there before. Nothing worked; he could only listen to the soundof Greene on his phone.

“Julian, it’s Greene. I found the fucking rat you were looking for. It was that piece of shit Bobarino. Yeah that’s right, Vinny. I know, that little moron was always destined to be a fuck up. Sorry, you’re too late. I had to put him down. I caught the little shit red handed with a bag of cash in the middle of Little Saigon. Can you believe he was selling us out for five g’s? I’ll leave the body here for the Twelve Buddha’s as a message. Yeah, I got the bag right here. I’ll see you in ten.”

Greene hung up the phone.

“Thanks Vinny. This will put me in with the boss for sure, and that twenty-five g’s means I won’t have to freelance anymore either. So long Bobarino.”

Vincent didn’t hear Greene leave. He couldn’t hear anything anymore.

BIO: Mike Knowles is a Canadian writer. His first book, Darwin's Nightmare, is out this year under ECW press.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 70 - James C. Clar


Eddie Doyle sat by the window at the Wailana Coffee Shop on Ala Moana Boulevard in Honolulu eating cherry pie and chocolate ice cream. As he watched the sunburned tourists scurrying across the street toward the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village he mentally ticked off the names of the twenty-seven people he had killed since his career began three decades ago. At one time Eddie had been the best in the business, hands down. Even at sixty-seven he was still a force with which to be reckoned. Oh, he was slowing down a little and, truth was, he could be more conversant with the latest technology and methods, but his reputation still preceded him; he had never turned down a contract. Nor had he ever botched a job. Give it to Eddie, they said, and it was a “done-deal.”

Nevertheless, the crazy-ass kids in charge of things these days didn't trust him. He had been around too long and, besides, he knew where all the bodies were buried… literally. There were few people left who appreciated a real craftsman, what they used to call a “mechanic.” Still, everybody knew that Eddie was “Mr. Automatic,” no questions asked. No one in the business today had his work ethic or his integrity. He was still a good soldier.

Eddie finished his pie and used a spoon to scoop up the last dollop of ice cream. He signaled the waitress for another cup of coffee. “This is it,” he said to himself, “my last hit. I'm finished after this one.” He fingered a folded piece of paper in his right hand. His anonymous contact had passed it to him on the street less than an hour ago. He hadn't looked at it yet. “This might not be such a bad place to retire,” Eddie mused as he watched he palm trees outside sway gently in the light trade winds, “the climate is great and the people are friendly. The cost of living is outrageous but, hell, I can afford it. One more job and then it’s guava juice every morning on the lanai and long walks on the beach at sunset.”

“Can I get you anything else, Sugar,” Eddie’s waitress asked as she poured his coffee.

“No, darlin’. Just the check, thanks.”

Dropping the check on Eddie’s table the waitress turned and walked back to the long counter that ran parallel to the far wall. Eddie was sure that her extra little shimmy was intended especially for him.

Getting ready to leave, Eddie took out his wallet and put some money down on the table. At the same time, he unfolded the small square of paper that he had been holding in his hand. He opened it and, gazing down at the name printed neatly in red on its ivory surface, his face registered only mild surprise. “Son-of-a-bitch,” he said aloud smiling wryly, “this one needs to be really good; something they'll all remember.”

After the ruggedly handsome man in the booth near the window left the restaurant, his waitress went over to collect the check and, hopefully, her tip. Gathering the money she noticed a piece of crumpled paper next to the man’s coffee cup. Her curiosity got the better of her. Using her palm to smooth out the creases she was able to read what was written there. The name “Eddie Doyle” meant nothing to her. She finished clearing the table and headed out for a cigarette.


BIO: James C. Clar is a teacher and writer who lives in upstate NY. His book reviews, articles and author interviews appear regularly in the pages of MYSTERY NEWS. His work, including short fiction, has also appeared in the CRIME & SUSPENSE EZINE, MYSTERYAUTHORS.COM, WORD CATALYST, HACKWRITERS, A LONG STORY, SHORT, CRIMESCENE:SCOTLAND, MYSTERY REVIEW and CRIME TIME MAGAZINE (UK).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 69 - Ron Richardson


A figure draped in night shadow, waited patiently outside the home of Otto and Mary Owen for their lights to dim.

Inside, Otto crawled into bed and turned out the light.

The mystery man smiled. He crossed the lawn and laid a small package on the stoop and then melted into the night.

The next morning, Otto went to fetch the paper and found the package on the step.

“Mornin’, hon, look what was on the porch.”

“What is it?” Mary asked.

“Beats me.” He opened it. “Looks like a fancy gadget of some kind and a note,” he said.

He began to read:
Dear Otto,
As an old soldier of eighty-two, you should be aware that 1500 of your fellow comrades are passing away daily. It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected number 761 to join them after midnight tonight.

An electronic counter is included.

The Count Keeper

Otto shrugged and tossed the note in the trash. He kept the counter.

“Must be a joke,” Mary said.

“Not very funny.”

The letter’s message spooked him. All day and into the night thoughts swirled through his mind. Fear nested behind his eyes.

“Hon, you awake? I can’t sleep. I’m going to sit up for awhile.”

“You okay?” She asked.

“Just restless.”

He rose from bed, stumbled barefoot through the house to his easy chair. He switched on a lamp, picked up the counter and laid it in his lap.

At one second after midnight the black box came to life, shivering in his hands. The face glowed yellow. A chime sounded. The countdown had begun.


Otto flinched.

Morning passed.

“Come eat your lunch,” Mary called.

“Not hungry.”


By late afternoon, Otto’s face had turned ashen. He wiped his brow.

“You don’t believe that silly letter do you?” Mary called.

“Maybe . . .”

“That’s silly you know.”

“Can’t help it. . . damn.”


760 . . .

Otto twitched. He felt his chest tighten.


761 . . .

“Oh!” he moaned, and pitched forward out of his chair, dead.


The phone rang.

No answer.

“Please leave a message,” the machine droned.

“Hi Otto, it’s me Orville. Pick up. Did you get my little surprise?


BIO: Ron Richardson is a native Texan, raised in Dallas . He spent time in the Navy in the early 50’s, married, graduated college, retired from DOT as an air traffic controller and began to write. Ron and his wife Lois have three children, five grand children and six great-grand children. he has completed several creative writing courses and is active in two fiction writers critique groups. He is a member of the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and was recently published on line by LITBITS.CA and ESC! magazine. His work has received an honorable mention for flash fiction from Byline magazine.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 68 - Mike Knowles


The car was so perfectly placed I almost missed it. Between bouts of itching imaginary spiders and sniffing the car almost stayed hidden. The black Audi was such a commonplace model in this upscale area that it blended in like army camouflage. The car was double parked in front of the TD bank on Hurontario Street.

It was 12:30 p.m. – a time when everyone was running errands on their lunch break. I figured the Audi to be waiting for someone inside the bank.There was a driver behind the wheel in a nice grey suit, and he was checking his watch often as though it were a nervous tick. The engine was running to keep the cold February air from getting inside.

I scanned the street for any Missasagua cops before starting across the street towards the car. I had to force myself to stop scratching as I picked up my pace. I put my hand into my pocket and gripped the taped butt of the revolver. The army surplus jacket concealed the gun while keeping me warm.

I jogged up to the Audi as though I were the person it was double parked for. I said a silent prayer to the twelve step God and pulled at the rear driver side door. The door opened and I was out of the cold and into the warm artificial climate.

The driver looked behind him for a second until I convinced him to keep his eyes forward.


“Not for another two minutes.”

“This is a real fucking gun with real fucking bullets. Drive.”

“Not for another minute and fifty five seconds.”

The driver only had one hand on the wheel. The other, his right, was held up between the seats. He had his suit jacket sleeve pushed up and he was looking again at his watch. It was a large silver time piece with several dials and hands.

“Drive!” It came out whinier than I wanted, so I shoved the gun harder into the back of the drivers head to make up for it.

“Listen, we got one minute and forty two seconds left. Then we’re out of here. I’ll drive away from here to somewhere a bit more private and I’ll give you the keys. I promise, but not for another minute and thirty eight seconds.”

“What the hell are you waiting for?”

“My boss. If I move the car before I’m supposed to, he’ll take it out on my ass. Come on you know how it is.”

I looked around the car; it was immaculate. There were no personal items, no wrappers, and no bags. The inside of the Audi looked like it could be a company car. I thumbed back the hammer. “Move the car now, or you’re dead.”

“Listen, this job is important. I promise in a minute and fifteen seconds, max, you will be out of here and on your way to ownership of this fine European automobile, but you gotta wait.”

I was stuck. I wasn’t going to off some chauffeur for a car. I had been sent up for little shit before there was no way I was going down for killing somebody. I couldn’t just walk away either. The driver would call the cops as soon as I got out. I was stuck for another minute and fifteen seconds.

I scratched an imaginary spider with my left hand and gripped the gun harder. “What’s your name?”

“They call me Glen. How bout you? You gotta name?”

“Don’t worry about me. This job worth dying over Glen?”

“Job’s important because I said I’d do it. I gave my word I would wait in the car for another fifty eight seconds. If I break my word and fuck up here, I won’t be able to find work again. Plus there’s my boss to consider. He’d kill me.”

“That’s why I’m self employed,” I said laughing at my own joke. “How much time is left on the clock?”

“Forty eight, but I think we’re done waiting,” Glen said. He extended his arm and pointed towards the bank.

Three men were rushing at the Audi. They were all in matching grey suits with white shirts and no ties. Each man was also wearing matching plastic Batman masks. The three men broke from their huddle and each ran to a different car door. The rear passenger side door opened and a man with a Batman mask and a huge revolver shoved me into the middle of the backseat. My gun scraped away from the back of the drivers head as I was sandwiched in between two Batmen with bigger guns than mine.

“Drive Glen!”

The car rapidly accelerated through its gears. Glen spoke to me over his shoulder as he sped away from the bank. “See, I told you that you wouldn’t have to wait long.”

The Batman up front turned to me with his shotgun. “Who the fuck is this Glen?”

“I don’t know his name yet, but he’s into taking over the lease on the car – immediately. I said he could have it when we’re done with it.”

My gun was sweaty in my hand, and it was now pointed at no one. The barrel shook as the ants under my skin tried to crawl out through an old hole. I didn’t dare scratch the spot they were trying to escape through. The front seat Batman, on the other hand, had his gun pointed right at my face. His barrel didn’t shake. Even when the car went over bumps the shotgun never left my right eye.

“Get his gun.”

The Batman on my right put his revolver to my head and took my gun. I didn’t fight it. I put my hands in my lap and began to scratch like a dog after a tick.

“Look at this thing. You ever clean it?”

“I… I… never used it yet. Look, you guys can just let me out. I don’t even know what you look like. I made a big mistake and I promise if you let me out I won’t tell anyone I swear.”

“Promise is a promise pal,” Glen said. “Just like I promised to wait outside the bank, I promised to give you the car. Just sit tight. Okay…Well I don’t even know your name. Why don’t you just tell me? You know mine.”

“Davey. Everybody calls me Davey.”

“Good money in car jacking Davey?”

“I know a guy. He gives me a couple hundred for the cars I get. If they’re high end enough.”

“Couple hundred for this. Shit Davey that is a rip off.”

“Yeah well it gets me by. I got habits you know?”

“Don’t we all Davey. Don’t we all.”

I bounced into the Batman on my right as the Audi cornered off Hurontarioon to another street. We did three more turns like that before we stopped. The windows all rolled down and I felt the cold air chase all the heat in the car away. I stopped scratching and held myself tighter to keep warm. Glen and the Batmen got out leaving me in the back seat. I didn’t move a muscle, not even when the clothes began to come through the windows. Suitjackets, shirts, pants, and masks were tossed onto the seats beside me one by one. I stared at the floor forcing myself not to look up. Despite the cold, my ass was wet with sweat. I was sure I was a dead man.

Seconds went by and then I heard car doors opening and closing. I snuck a peak to my right. All four men got into a tan Ford Taurus. The car started and it drove up close to the passenger side of the Audi. Glen yelled out to me but I kept my head down. He yelled again, “Davey! Davey, look at me man.”

I raised my head not at all ready for the shot. I screamed when the car keys hit me.

“Promise is a promise. Car’s yours Davey. Take it easy.”

I sighed and slid my ass off the car seat. The damp material made an embarrassing noise, but I didn’t care - I was alive, I had the car, and I was breathing. By nightfall I would have my fix and I could sleep easy. I could even call Crime Stoppers and earn a little cash with the getaway car description. I laughed as I started my climb over the seats. Things were looking up. It was then that I heard my name again.

I turned my head and saw one of the unmasked Batmen throw a flaming bottle through the open back window of the Audi. It only took a few seconds for my damp pants to catch up with my shirt.

BIO: Mike Knowles is a Canadian writer. His first book, Darwin's Nightmare, is out this year under ECW press.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 67 - James C. Clar


The Freighter Yang Ming cleared the Golden Gate Bridge and headed into the bay. Chin-Ning Chu watched from the Hyde Street Pier as the giant container ship passed in front of Alcatraz Island . Gulls wheeled overhead, daubs of black and white paint against a powder blue canvass sky. It had rained earlier in the day but now, just after 2:00 P.M. PST, the sun was out and there wasn't a cloud to be seen anywhere. It was a good omen, certainly.

Chin turned his back to the ocean and made his way along the dock to the sidewalk. As he walked toward Jefferson Avenue , he punched a series of numbers into this cell phone. In theory he had just armed a nuclear device which lay concealed in the hold of the Yang Ming. If he had calculated correctly he now had two hours, a mere 120 minutes, to hit “send” and trigger an explosion that would lay waste to the Bay Area – symbol of the decadence and corruption of American and, indeed, of Western society.

Despite all his training and all his preparation, Chin still had doubts. He had lived in San Francisco now for years, assimilating, fitting in … all the while waiting for just this assignment. He had grown to have some measure of admiration, even affection, for the American people. They possessed a lust for life, an animal vitality, which 10,000 years of civilization had all but bred out of his people. Ideology and political expediency aside, he was still not sure that he could go through with what he had been charged to do. In truth, he was not even sure whose bidding his bosses were doing. It may have been the North Koreans, his fanatical cousins; or perhaps the Iranians, strange bedfellows indeed. Certainly his government might have its own agenda vis-à-vis massive American casualties and widespread disruption of the Western economy. Whatever the case, and whatever decision he ultimately made, his life was over. The question was how to preserve his honor. The two-hour time frame had been designed to give him an opportunity to flee the immediate area. He had already rejected that as an option. He would either succumb to the firestorm that ensued from detonation of the bomb or he would take his own life if he failed – or opted not – to complete his mission as instructed.

At the corner of Beach and Hyde Streets, Chin waited for a trolley car to rattle and clang up the hill. Once the coast was clear, he crossed the road and turned left. He reached Columbus Avenue and headed diagonally into North Beach . As he approached Washington Square , he heard a voice from a doorway off to his left.

“Hey, Benihana, I could use some money. How about helping me out?”

Chin turned slightly only to be confronted by a disheveled looking young Caucasian man with wild eyes. Used to the ways of the streets in the area Chin disregarded the plea and, keeping his head down, walked on. A few seconds later, however, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He stopped and, calmly, deliberately, turned around.

“Talkin’ to you, man,” the kid barked with venom. This time, Chin noticed a knife in the miscreant’s hand. “You think I’m chopped sushi? Not really making a request. Now give me your fuckin’ money!

Chin could have disarmed his assailant in seconds. It would have been a simple matter to break his arm in two or three places. The hyped-up punk wouldn't even know what was happening until it was too late. That or one quick blow to the neck and the boy would be writhing in agony, choking to death on the ground at Chin’s feet. But, no, here was an answer to his dilemma.

“I’m Chinese,” Chin remarked quietly, “not Japanese as you mistakenly assume. It’s a common enough error. But, no matter, here’s my money.”

Slowly and carefully Chin reached into his hip pocket and pulled out a money clip. It was in the shape of a silver dragon inlaid with emeralds. The mugger’s eyes dilated even further when he saw the denomination of the outside bill. He reached out and snatched the clip from Chin’s hands.

“Shit, I don't care what kind of gook you are, man. All I care about is that you’re loaded. Is that a wallet in your other pocket?”

“No,” Chin answered, “I don't carry a wallet. “It’s just my cell phone.”

“Quick, let me have it. I'm losing patience with you, dude.”

Chin pulled the cell phone out of his pocket and handed it over. The young tough whistled, “High-tech. I can sell it. How many minutes you have left on this?”

“Let’s say there’s an eternity on that phone.”

With that the kid smirked and made a playful lunge toward Chin. Once again the Chinese man restrained himself. He backed up and sidestepped with élan. Laughing, the thief turned on his heels and ran. Before disappearing around the corner, he shouted “Remember Pearl Harbor” over his shoulder.

Unfazed by the encounter, Chin continued walking up Columbus Avenue . He gazed overhead at the twin spires of Sts. Peter and Paul Church. The fate of the city was now in the hands of its own citizens, how utterly appropriate. Would they fall prey to avarice and complete moral dissolution or, by some miracle, save themselves from themselves? Either way, Chin’s obligation to his superiors had been fulfilled to his satisfaction. He was soon lost in the labyrinth of streets bordering Chinatown . There were 101 minutes left … and counting.


BIO: James C. Clar is a teacher and writer who lives in upstate NY. His book reviews, articles and author interviews appear regularly in the pages of MYSTERY NEWS. His work, including short fiction, has also appeared in the CRIME & SUSPENSE EZINE, MYSTERYAUTHORS.COM, WORD CATALYST, HACKWRITERS, A LONG STORY, SHORT, CRIMESCENE:SCOTLAND, MYSTERY REVIEW and CRIME TIME MAGAZINE (UK).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 66 - John Kenyon


Either Frank didn’t know the gutshot was a death sentence or he simply didn’t care. All I knew was he was the only one who could tell me where Marla was, so I was going to humor him until he gave it up.

“When you and me get this sorted out, me ’n Marla are gonna go to Florida,” he said weakly. “Maybe we’ll open a restaurant.”

I wanted to ask him if he was really that clueless, if he thought my sister would really have anything to do with the scum who had broken into her apartment and taken her by force. He’d already given me the tired line about how he’d always really been in love with Marla, not my mom, how he couldn’t hide his passion any more. Instead, I tried to draw him out.

“I’m sure the cops will be here soon, and we’ll just explain that it was a big misunderstanding,” I said, hoping he didn’t fixate too much on the gun I had leveled at his head to match the one he had pointed at mine. “We’ll clear things up and move on. You can go get Marla…” I let the sentence drag, hoping he’d finish with “at Duke’s pad” or “at the Super 8 on Rockland.”

Nope. He just nodded, as if responding to another conversation. Then, his eyes seemed to focus on me.

“Why’d you shoot me, Ricky?”

I had always hated that. I hadn’t been Ricky since I was 12 and he knew it, but he also knew he could use it like salt in a wound when he needed it. Good old Uncle Frank, who, thank God, was no blood relation He had been my father’s best friend, the guy who moved in on my mom when the old man kicked it four years ago.

“I told you, I didn’t realize it was you, Frank,” I lied again. “I thought maybe you were in trouble. I was looking for Marla and thought she might be here. When I came in all I saw was the gun and I panicked.” Really, rage pulled the trigger, overpowering my desire to learn where Marla was. I was glad rage had bad aim.

He was lying in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen of his little flop house. He’d kept it all these years even though he had pretty much lived at our place as a sort of fix-it guy/guardian until a couple of days ago when he revealed to everyone that he was in love with Marla. I had rushed around the dinner table to grab him by the collar and drag him out of the apartment. I gave him a kick in the ass as I shoved him out the door, hearing Marla and mom begin to scream at each other as I did. Marla ran off that night. I know she made it home because her neighbors said she had been there.

I was just inside Frank’s front door, sitting with my back against the wall. I’d kicked in the door, hoping to get the drop on him. He’d come out of the kitchen with the gun drawn and I’d fired, catching him in the stomach. He’d dropped to the floor, but tough bastard that he was, he never lowered his piece. We’d been at a stalemate for about 10 minutes, a pool of his blood seeping slowly across the floor.

“She loves me, you know,” Frank said. “Your sister, Ricky, she always did.”

I couldn’t contain myself. “What do you mean, ‘always’? She was 15 when you moved in! And what about now? Her place was a mess when I stopped by today. It looked like a crime scene. Her neighbors said they heard a bunch of banging around and then the two of you running to your car. How do you explain that?”

“Everything isn’t what it seems, Ricky,” he said, his gaze glazing over as he seemed to stare off into the distance again, distracted by the pain or something else. I saw it as my only opening and lunged across the room. He reacted too late, his shot sailing wide of me to hit the living room wall. I kicked at his hand, sending the gun clattering across the floor, and pushed him onto his back. I dropped one knee onto the wound in his stomach, causing him to cry out in pain, and pointed my gun at his forehead.

“Where is she you son of a bitch? Where is my sister?”

From behind me I heard the front door shut and a metallic scrape as Frank’s gun was picked up from off the hardwood.

“I’m right here, Ricky. Get off my man or I’ll blow your head off.”

BIO: John Kenyon is a newspaper editor in Iowa who keeps the blog Things I'd Rather Be Doing ( where he writes about music, books and movies, with a particular focus on crime fiction. He has published stories with Thuglit and Muzzle Flash, with a story forthcoming in Demolition.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 65 - David Coyote


She pressed his police special to the side of his right temple and pulled the trigger. The noise, louder than expected, and the explosion of parts painting a gory path across the pillow shocked her. She dropped the pistol.

Her ears rang. Swollen eyes and cheeks numb from beatings snapped her back. You son-of-a-bitch. She knelt and picked up the revolver. Blood covered the muzzle and her right hand. I wish you’d been awake instead of in a drunken stupor. I shoulda waited. You woulda shit your pants when you saw what I was gonna do.

At the bathroom sink she washed her hands and wiped the handle of his pistol. Using a small towel, she took the gun back to the bed and put it in his hand, his fingers around the grip. Using the towel to cover her hand and arm, she lifted his and pointed the gun toward the opposite side of the room. It was easy to make his finger pull the trigger.

Now you got powder burns. Let’s see you talk yourself out of this, asshole. No one can tell which shot was fired first. You’re never beating me again!

She returned to the sink and cleaned it thoroughly with soap and bleach. She rolled up the small throw-rug next to the bed, took it downstairs to the boiler room and shoved it into the firebox. When she was sure nothing was left but ashes, she went back to the room and sat in the old chair closest to the window and waited.

A minute later a black and white pulled to the curb. She glanced back at the bed. A terrible realization crushed the satisfaction she’d begun to feel. The pistol lay cradled in left-handed Danny’s right hand.

BIO: David Coyote, is a scribbler. Seven biographies and numerous poems were published in a national non-profit organization's quarterly. Two of my short stories are in anthologies published by LBF Books. His first novella, Roomful of Rainbows was published in 2004. Visit his website.