Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 59 - Patricia J. Hale

Fa La La La La

Ah, the holiday party with the family. Drove the car from the city, filled her up with low-cost unleaded from out here in the boonies. There was a light snow falling at dusk, a Christmas CD spinning and being the alcoholic in the family, I was bringing the wine.

When I reached Mom’s house it was late. Incidentally, I’d been a really bad girl this year, but Mom always loves me no matter what. Oh, who am I kidding? Mom doesn't know it, but I’m a bad girl every year.

I come in and it all slams at me with the squeal of pleasure from Mom, then she hugs me for way too long. The guilt begins with her whining “It’s been ages since you’ve come. I miss you so much when you’re away!” After she tears my coat off and I’ve barely bit into a Velveeta on Ritz cracker, I find myself the only one at the dining room buffet listening to the blow by blow of Grandpa Wilber’s constipation. When I escape from that to the kitchen my sister wants me to eat some dip that looks like vomit. I feign a need for the bathroom, but when I finish and open the door, there’s Cousin Sandra taking me aside like we're the dearest of friends. Her son has a kleptomania problem, can I talk to him? I stole half of her silverware in 2000; does she think I’m a role model?

Later, Mom makes us all watch a dumb movie about honoring your elderly parent (what COULD she be trying to tell us) and non-stop talks all the rest of the time about the weather (fascinating), her neighbors (she doesn’t have that many) and how fat my sister-in-law is (my brother refused to come). No transition before the next topic of her surgeries including those of a female and personal nature I REALLY didn’t want to hear about.

My head was spinning, that grog shit I’d drank making me sick and so fuck, I freaked out, OK? I pulled the Glock sucker out of my purse. I swear to God it was worth it just to see Aunt Mabel give me the “shame on you” look for a LEGITIMATELY bad thing. I starting shooting everything that moved until everyone was down. I honestly believe that included almost every person in the God damned party and most of my family. I even had to make the call to police myself. The nearest neighbors were 500 yards away and if they heard anything, probably thought it was those stupid Christmas crackers.

The ride in the police car was an out of body experience. I could hear Perry Como ringing in my ears and the plastic Santa and reindeers out front looked like they were suspended in air as I looked through the foggy window while we rode away. I still couldn’t believe I did it, so I hadn’t told the cops anything yet.

We arrive at a cute little police station and they get me into a dingy interrogation room with the one overhead light and the whole business.

“Yeah, I’m the one who did it.” I felt my hands shaking, the cold sweat starting. No point trying to come up with worthless alibi. They’d figure out soon enough. I was a junkie and already had a record.

The officer shook his head and rolled his eyes like I was the worst offender he’d ever picked up at on a very early Christmas morning. Give me a break.

Of course, maybe out here, I was. Well, Merry Fucking Christmas.

BIO: Patricia J. Hale has had stories here in Powder Burn Flash, Flashshot, Flash Pan Alley, MicroHorror, Fictional Musings and Apollo’s Lyre. She writes because she can’t stop herself. Her husband can’t stop her either. For her latest work see patriciahale.blogspot.com or reach her at patriciajhale@aol.com.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 58 - Clair Dickson

Holiday Beating
A Bo Fexler Short Story

"Amy Wilson?" I asked into my cell phone, putting my feet up on the dining room chair opposite me. I stirred my soup, hoping it wouldn't cool too much while I was talking.

"Yes. Who is this?"

"Bo Fexler, private investigator. I need to ask you some questions."

"I don't have anything to say."

It always astounds me when I get such hostile reactions based, I can only presume, on profession alone. "It's about Grace and Wendy."

"Oh. Why?"

"Wendy's family hired me. They're not satisfied with the story they've gotten so far."

"Oh. What did you want to know?"

"Were there any disagreements between Wendy and Grace?"

"No. Not that I can think of."

"Was there anything that happened during, or perhaps before book group that night?"

"No. Well, actually," she paused.


"There was a disagreement before group started. Grace was really upset about people taking Christ out of Christmas. She went on this rant for a while. Her and, I think, Anne Wilson and maybe Amy. Grace was really angry about people refusing to say 'Merry Christmas.' She said it was very offensive to her. She celebrated Christmas and that's what people should say—'Merry Christmas.'"

"Was Wendy part of this discussion?"

"Um, not that I can think of."

"So, she wasn't aware of this conversation."

"We were all aware that it was going on. I had to force them to stop so we could get our discussion on the book started. We had to wait for it to stop."

"Anything else?"


"Was there any sort of rivalry or grudge between the two women?"

"No. They got along just fine. There could have been something outside of book group, I suppose, but—" She pressed her lips together as she thought it over. "No, I don't think they met outside of book group. Some women don't, you know."

"Any political or religious differences that came up?"

"No. We try to avoid politics. That's always such a hot button. We try to stay focused on the book. As group leader, I try to steer us away from other issues and back to the book. Sometimes that's an issue because someone will insist that what they're saying really does tie into the book. But really, we want to make sure it's an enjoyable experience."

"And was the meeting that night?"


"I can't think of anything that wasn't pleasant that evening."


I set the phone aside and bent over my soup. After only two slurps that would have made my mother cringe—and chastise me-- my phone chirped.

"This is Bo," I said as a greeting.

"Oh—um, are you the one who's looking for information about the thing that happened at the book group?" The voice was soft, timid, and shaking.

"Yes. And you are?" I asked gently, trying to put her at ease.

"Betty Chalmers. Anne Wilson called me, told me that you were asking questions about it."

"Go on."

"Well, she said I should call you since I was right there when it happened. So was Fran Pallini. I don't know if Fran's going to call you. And I don't know if we can really tell you what happened. It doesn't make any sense to me." She drew in a ragged breath.

I stirred my soup and tried not to breath in the phone lest she presume I was anywhere near as impatient as I was for her to get to the point.

"It still bothers me. Did you hear that Grace is medicated now? At least they let her out of jail. I mean, it's just not right to lock up a fifty-two year old woman just before Christmas."

"Do you remember what happened that night?"

"It happened when we were leaving. We were getting our coats on and heading outside. Grace and Wendy and myself had already walked outside. We were exchanging a few comments about the book we had been reading in our group. And they talked about holiday plans. Parties, recipes. I mean, all normal things that we talk about in our book group."

"What was the last thing that was said?"

"Before—before Grace went crazy?" She sounded close to tears. Perhaps there were even tears on her cheeks. This woman probably lived a life of knitted sweaters and grandchildren's photos and happy books discussed over coffee.


"The last thing I heard was that Wendy said 'Happy holidays.'"

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I put my hand to my forehead.

"I—what? I'm pretty sure—wha?" she stammered. She started to cry.

"Sorry—it's not you. I think that well-intentioned greeting was what put Grace over the edge."

"You—you don't think she beat Wendy because Wendy said 'Happy Holidays'?"

"Well, yeah. Grace has gotten pretty militant about the whole Merry Christmas/ Happy Holidays thing. According to a friend of hers, she'd been boycotting any establishment that used Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. She was running out of places to shop and dine. Anyway, I also found a police report where she vandalized a two of her neighbor's displays, attacking Santa and his reindeer. They let her off when she agreed to pay for the destruction. And because she's a fifty-two year old woman."

"Oh dear. I don't think that's very Christmasy at all."

"'Tis the season." My soup was cold, too.

BIO: Clair Dickson writes Bo Fexler short stories when she's not teaching alternative high school. Or sometimes when she is. She has over thirty short stories published. Visit www.bofexler.blogspot.com for links and more!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Powder Flash Burn # 57 - Sandra Seamans


My partner, Irma, and I were mistletoeing all cozy-like on the office couch when the phone did a jingle-jangle.

"Buck Tuff, PI."

"Hey, Buck, I need a favor," said my buddy, Smiley.

Irma's unwrapping some damn fine holly jolly Christmas presents in my lap and answering is a bit of a struggle, but, "Sure, Smiley. What's up?"

"I got Santa Claus holding down a bar stool here at the club, and the old guy’s creating a bit of a problem. He’s just one of those Mall Santas, but Chickie's got it in her head that he's the real deal, so I can't just bounce him outta the joint. Can you come on down and maybe ease him out the door?"

"You want me to evict Santa from your club? You been hittin' the inventory, Smiley?"

"No, I ain't been drinkin', and its a wonder. When Chickie manages to get a thought in that blond head of hers, all it does is boogie around in her skull and cause me trouble. She's got all the girls refusin' to strip in front of Santa. Says it's naughty. Jeez, Buck, this is Smiley's House of Strippers. The customers got expectations."

"Gimme half an hour,” I managed to choke into the phone. Tossing Santa out of Smiley’s is gonna have to wait. Me and Irma have a little lap dancin' of our own to finish up first.

"I gotta head over to Smiley's," I told Irma a few sweaty minutes later.


"Because Santa Claus is checking his list down at Smiley’s and Chickie and the girls are on strike until he sleigh rides outta there."

"Smiley's definitely in trouble. I guess you'd better get over there and help Santa find his reindeer," laughed Irma. You gotta love what a good chuckle does for Irma's chest area.

Smiley's was packed fuller than a Christmas stocking. But the crowd wasn’t their usual jolly selves, what with the girls refusing to deck the poles with bodacious bodies.

"Hello, Buck," said Santa as I slid my backside onto the barstool next to his. "I see Irma gave you an early Christmas present."

I eyeballed the guy warily. "And you would know that, how?"

"Trade secret...not to mention that hickey wreath decorating your neck."

"And your trade would be?" I said, flipping my collar up.

"Santa Claus, of course."

"Of course. Stupid of me to have missed that, what with the red suit and all. So...what are you doin' at Smiley's? It ain't exactly a Santa hangout."

"Now that's a fact, but I had an interesting letter drop into my lap this afternoon. It wasn’t your every year request for a baby doll or a bicycle. As a matter of fact, it was such an unusual request, that I thought I'd check it out personally."


"Yeah, odd one, that. A gal named Chickie put in a request for a pair of jingle bell pasties."

"That's not an unusual request if you know Chickie."

"Now, there's the rub. I don't know Chickie. Thought I'd check out her act and see if she deserves a visit from Santa. I wanted to see for myself if she's naughty or nice."

"I can vouch for Chickie. She's very nice. A little flaky most of the time, but there ain't a mean bone in her body."

"Nice body?"

"What you might call voluptuous."

"Sounds delightful. Any chance I could catch her act?"

"Hate to say it, but she's refusin' to dance in front of Santa. Says it would be too naughty."

Santa sighed, "You know, there's a lot of drawbacks to being a jolly old elf."

He reached into the pocket of his red coat and pulled out a package, "Will you see that she gets this?"

"Anything to help out, Santa."

"You always were a good kid, Buck. Since I can't watch the show, I might as well shove off. Besides, the reindeer are doubled parked out back."

As Santa walked out of the club, Chickie came bouncing over. "Did Santa leave me a present?" she giggled.

I handed her the package, watching as she tore at the wrapping paper. Inside the box, laid out on a wad of dollar bills was a pair of holly red pasties with strands of golden bells. The customers jingled with glee as she walked through the crowd modeling her present.

Cheers echoed off the rafters when Chickie took center stage, rocking Smiley's House of Strippers with her own version of Jingle Bells. I wonder if Santa’s got an extra pair of those pasties he could drop in Irma’s stocking. Sure would make my Christmas.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 56 - John DuMond

Christmas Bonus

"Fay-leece nobby-job" Larry said.

"Ho, ho, ho, motherfucker," Marvin said.

Marvin was dressed as Santa Claus. He had spent the day standing in front of a grocery store ringing a bell, collecting charity donations for the Congregation of Salvation. At the end of his shift he planned on liberating a portion of his take for personal use.

"How's your Christmas bonus shaping up?" Larry asked.

"Pretty good. Buncha loose change, but there's a lotta green in that bucket, too. How's your Christmas Eve been going?"

"Great. Got four X-box 360s out the door over at Discount City."

"All at once?"

"Three trips." Larry said. "One each on the first two trips, two on the last trip. I got a hundred bucks for each." Larry said.

"Good haul, but boosting's too risky for me. Especially this time of year. Shit, last time I got arrested, it was on Christmas Eve."

"No shit. What happened?" Larry said.

Marvin told Larry the story of how he got caught boosting a bunch of PS2 games over at Discount City a few years ago. He had stuffed them down his pants, and when he walked out the door, the alarm went off. The store detective was on him before he got two steps.

"Yeah, I begged him to cut me a break, what with it being Christmas Eve and all. But he wouldn't. Said he makes it a point to lock up everyone he catches on Christmas eve.

"A smartly dressed woman walked past Marvin and put some money into the little red donation bucket as she walked into the store.

"Thank you ma'am, and have a merry Christmas" Marvin said.

"Schadenfreude," Larry said.

"What's that?" Marvin asked.

"It means taking satisfaction in the misery of others," Larry said.

"I just call it being a fuckin' prick," Marvin said.

Larry noticed a lock on the donation bucket and asked Marvin whether he had the key.

"No," he said. "Fuckers don't trust us. But it's a cheap-ass lock. I figure I can pick it without much trouble."

When Marvin's shift was over, Larry went to his car to wait while Marvin collected his bucket and the stand that held it. He got into the passenger side of Larry's car, reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of lock picks. He lifted the lock and looked at it. "Fuck!" he said.

"What's up?" Larry asked.

"There's glue in it. They put glue in the goddamn lock."

"You're right, they don't trust you," Larry said. "Hey, I know. We'll get a set of bolt cutters and cut it off. Then we get a new lock just like it, put glue in the keyhole. They'd have to cut it off anyway, so they'll never notice the difference. Builder's Depot is still open, we can boost the stuff we need there."

Marvin agreed, as long as Larry did the boosting. On the ride over, Marvin thought about the glue in the lock. Those bastards over at the Congregation didn't trust him. That's why they bought the cheap locks, they had planned on just cutting them off at the end of the shift anyway. The thought of them treating him like a thief pissed him off.

When they arrived at the Builder's Depot, Marvin waited in the car while Larry went inside to pick up the items they'd need. He came out a few minutes later carrying a plastic bag. He got into the car and removed the items from the bag.

"Here you go. Cutters, a lock, and some glue to keep those thieving Santas in check."

Marvin took the cutters and cut the lock off the donation bucket. He examined the lock and said "Fuck!"

"What now?" Larry said.

"There's numbers engraved on the back of the lock. '4-1-5-7,' like they're trying to make sure it's the same lock when it's turned in."

Larry laughed and said "Damn, Marv they really don't trust you guys."

"No shit, Sherlock. Now what am I gonna do?"

Larry told Marvin that they could engrave the numbers on the new lock, but they'd need an engraver, and Larry wasn't providing one. Marvin figured he could either buy one with some of the donation money, or he could swipe it from the store. He'd be damned if he was wasting his hard-earned money on an engraver, and decided on five-finger discount.

Marvin left Larry in the car and walked into the store. He still wore the Santa suit, beard and all. After all, who'd suspect that Kris Kringle would shoplift?

It took him a few minutes to find the engravers in aisle 7. He picked out one in a box that looked small enough to conceal. He looked left, no one there. He looked right, no one there either. He bellied up to the shelf and stuck the box down his pants. Then he walked out of the aisle and headed for the exit. As he walked out the door, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Excuse me sir, I'm with store security," said the voice attached to the hand on Marvin's shoulder. "Did you forget to pay for that item in your pants."

Marvin broke loose from the store detective's grip and ran for it. He got almost ten feet before he was tackled and handcuffed.


Larry watched as Marvin got snagged by the store dick. As Marvin was being led in handcuffs back into the store, Larry yelled out "Hey, you're not going to arrest Santa on Christmas eve, are you?"

The store detective smiled and yelled back "Haven't you heard, there is no Santa Claus."

After they disappeared into the store, Larry looked at the donation bucket on the front seat of his car. He reached in and took out the greenbacks, left the coins. He tossed the bucket out the driver's side window into a nearby shopping cart.

"Like hell there's no Santa," he said as he started the car and drove off.

Bio: John DuMond lives in Albany, NY. His short stories have appeared in Jake Magazine, Flashing in the Gutters, and Defenestration. He blogs at http://armedrobbery.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 55 - Pam Ward

Taking Candy From A Baby

He said it’d be easy. Like taking candy from a baby.

We were in a Seven Eleven near Santa Monica and the beach. I was stuffing a Sara Lee cheesecake under my skirt, inside the reliable knapsack of my panties. John spotted me in the oblong mirror and winked. He’d already palmed a Hustler, which took real finesse since the sex mag’s were stacked behind the counter.

We were thirteen and already burnt out on school and stole regularly to offset our boredom.

Joining John at the bus bench, I began panhandling the squares.

“I lost my bus fare, can you spare any change?” My lipgloss and pleated, Catholic school skirt worked wonders on that mean hungry street. I didn’t go to Catholic school but none of those fools knew that. I went to Emerson Junior high, this flesh colored shack, filled with sleazy teachers who were always being hauled off by cops and a riotous bell that rang all the time like someone trying to break in a bank. The principal thought uniforms would bring some swank to the place but all it brought was crazies who honked at our thighs and lots of eyes gawking at kids wearing navy.

My after school routine was always the same. I panhandled before the metro bus came. In twenty minutes I’d rake in three or four bills and then I’d go buy a Blowpop or a cheap pack of gum and take eight or nine bucks worth of stuff.

It was four o’clock and school, that thief of the sun, was finally over for good. I sat down and shared my cheesecake with John who gorged like a pigeon in your trash. His tongue licked the cream off his fingers with speed. I was impressed. I liked his cranberry lips. In two seconds we were kissing like a wild sex scene as cars whizzed past our knees. He had big football arms and a strong Kung Fu grip. I was a homely chick with thick glasses and prairie home braids. I could easily pass for eight.

“Listen,” John said. “I know how to make some money.”

John’s friends snickered in their palms. They were scamming me for something but I didn’t know what so I figured I’d at least listen to their scheme.

“How?” I said licking the cream off my lips.

“I work the ticket line at school. Tomorrow’s the dance. The box will be brimming with cash.”

I was interested. I sat up on the bench.

“We could make a couple of hundred easy,” he said.

I squinted at his face. If he was conning, he was good. His crystal eyes looked ocean blue and serene. He looked like a Catholic school priest.

“Why do you need me?” I asked, nonchalant.

“’Cause, no one suspects a pretty girl.”

One friend held his hand over his mouth trying to stifle a smile.

John kissed me again, “you’re so beautiful,” he said, sucking the side of my neck. His friend almost fell off the bench.

“All you have to do is show up at nine and I’ll give you an envelope of cash.”

So the next day, I wore a stretchy tube top. I saw John at the door and did exactly what we planned. He handed me a wad and told me to meet him out back. I smiled shoving the cash inside my bra, tapping it twice to let him know it was safe.

When I walked out my mom was still at the curb. I told her I was only going to peek in the door. She hadn’t even turned off the car.

The next thing I knew, I was back at the pad, counting fives and tens on my bed.

John waited but I didn’t go to school for a week. I ditched every day and baked out in the sun, buying candy and snow cones at the beach. I came back tanned and relaxed. As soon as I walked in I ran into John.

“The principal caught me,” I said looking down at my feet. “He suspended me for a week.”

A sad covered John’s innocent face. He swallowed the con, hook, line and sinker. I swear he looked just like a baby.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 54 - Sandra Seamans

by Sandra Seamans

Widmore Cemetery. I can feel the chilling thoughts of the dead creeping out of their graves and into the frigid air of a full moon midnight. You know the kind of night -- frost on the pumpkins, cold shimmering off granite headstones and ice in the blood.

While I was being released from prison this afternoon, they buried my childhood friend, Arnie Tate, somewhere in all this bleakness. Missing the funeral services didn’t bother me none. Arnie killed our friendship years ago.

I've managed to hang onto a few good memories. Me and Arnie riding our bikes out to Skidder's Pond, skinny dipping with the Anderson twins, sampling our first taste of a girl's body. Those were the growing up days. Days full of sunshine and wonderment. Good memories that I pushed aside to nurse the bruise of memories Arnie smashed into my skull. Arnie, my friend, whose appetite for sampling shredded my life.

For twenty years, I fondled those fetid memories, savoring the hatred knocking about in my brain. Prison years, spent honing my revenge on those Polaroid moments of my wife, in bed with my best friend. Arnie, screaming "sorry" as I shouldered the shotgun. Arnie, tripping as he tried to pull on his jeans. Arnie, running out of the house as I pulled the trigger. Arnie, leaving me alone to watch Cora Sue’s blood splatter across the soiled sheets.

Never once during my trial did I point a finger in Arnie's direction. My silence convicting me. What else could I do? Arnie was married to my kid sister, Emmy. I couldn't destroy Arnie without killing my sister’s happiness. Family is all the truth a man can count on in this world. Family is what roots a man, gives him hope, keeps him steady when he’s facing the storms of life.

Arnie never understood that the only reason he wasn't dead, was Emmy. I couldn't believe it when he came traipsing up to the prison, trying to beg my forgiveness. Telling me, he'd found Jesus. Jesus. Hell, every convict in a prison cell finds Jesus. He's the patron saint of parole board hearings. I held my temper, something prison life has taught me well, along with patience. I told Arnie that if he'd really found Jesus, he ought to be begging Emmy's forgiveness, not mine.

Arnie's grave ain't hard to find. The glare of the moonlight shining the way to a pile of hard scrabble dirt hidden by a crazy quilt of wilted florist's flowers. I ain't the only one who's come out for a midnight stroll in this cold bit of hell. Emmy's here, waiting for me, knowing I’d come when no one else was around. I wrap her in my arms, trying to warm us both.

“What Arnie did was wrong, Jesse,” said Emmy, breaking the silence that hung between us.

“You think I don’t know that?”

“You should have told me.”

“Yeah, right, Emmy. You were pregnant with Billy. Was I supposed to risk your baby just to even things up with Arnie?”

“No, I guess not. You know, I put up with Arnie’s skirting around for twenty years, Jesse. Him bedding every woman in the county, me forgiving him. When he got down on his knees and confessed that he'd slept with Cora Sue, well, I just couldn’t find it in me to forgive him anymore.”

“I guess it’s good he’s dead then.”

“I suppose so. I do find it comforting though, that Arnie found Jesus before he won that hunting trip. At least God could forgive him, even if we couldn’t," said Emmy. "Do you remember your friend, Carl, the prison guard who almost got killed in the prison riot? He came to the funeral today. Such a kind man, paying to have Arnie’s body shipped home. I tried to thank him, but he just shrugged it off. Said he owed you one, for saving his life."

Emmy took my hand as we walked toward the cemetery gate. “Don’t you find it strange that a friend of yours owned the hunting lodge where Arnie was killed?”

“Life’s pretty strange, all on its own, without trying to make sense of how the pieces fall together. There's just no way of knowing up front, how the twists in your life are gonna play out.”


BIO: Sandra's stories can be found in "The Ex Factor Anthology", Mouth Full of Bullets, and Crime and Suspense.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Powder Burn # 53 - Adam McFarlane


He stepped over empty milk bottles onto the welcome mat.

Knock, knock.

A woman opened the door. Blonde curls spiraled down her white T-shirt and spools held rolls of hair against her head. Smoke scattered off the tip of her cigarette into the wind.

“Good afternoon!” He brushed a hat from his scalp. “Is your husband home?”

“Not yet. Can I help you?”

“My name’s Wallace. And I’m going around the neighborhood to show families how they can save hours every day with a simple little gizmo from the Midwestern Machine Company. Want to see a free demonstration?”

She backed away from the door. Reaching behind her head to pull out a curler, she said, “Why not?”

Inside, an oatmeal davenport faced the picture window. Pewter lampshades stood on glass end tables. A cream sideboard sat against an empty stucco walls.

He unrobed the vacuum from its canvas bag, found an electrical outlet, then plugged it in. She stood beside him, removing her last curlers.

When he stomped on the button, the vacuum gave a loud, buzzing whine.

She jolted and grabbed his arm.

“Sorry.” He shouted. “The contraption’s a little loud, but that’s because of all the sucking power. I should have warned you.”

Nodding, she unclenched her grip on him. Then smiled.

He pulled the vacuum back and forth a couple times then turned it off. “See? It’s all right. Now, say you got a real mess on the floor?”


“In my hand I’ve got a can of coffee grounds and if it’s okay, I’m going to sprinkle a little on your carpet?”


“You’ll see: the Midwestern Machine Company vacuum takes it all away. You have the company guarantee on that.”

He cast a cloud of black grains onto the carpet. After it settled, he turned on the vacuum and ran it over the dark shape. Each sweep with the vacuum left a clean swath. “Good as new.”

She nodded. “I see that.”

“You like to give it a try?”

She shook her head. “No thanks.”

He smiled. “No, go on. It’s easy.”

When she held the handle, he saw her wedding ring. Its diamond looked like a square drop of water clung between metal pins.

“Okay?” He tapped the power button with his toe and when she jumped from the noise, he touched her arm and smiled.

She stretched her arm out and flexed back, drawing the vacuum over a patch of carpet.

“There you go,” he said, giving her shoulder a light squeeze with his hand then resting it there. “You got it.”

He watched her push and pull the vacuum again, his hand on her shoulder. She drew the vacuum upright and stood still. His toe tapped the vacuum off.

“Can I get you a drink?” She nodded to the sideboard.

“I’d love one.”

She walked to the sideboard and she stirred together two mai tais. Tropical juices seeped into rum, melting the ice cubes in the glass. Handing one to him she said, “Please. Call me Myrna. “

“Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.” He took a sip and winced.

“Where you from? Skokie? Cedar Rapids?” she asked, sitting beside him and touching his arm.

“Midwestern Machine Company. Don’t really have a home if the closest thing is my car or the nearest general delivery window.”

“Oh, you must be lonely.”

He put a hand on her shoulder. “A little.”

He reached over and hugged her. He smelled her soap and talcum powder scents.

Rubbing his cheek against hers, his lips brushed hers. Her lips pressed back.

“Do you want to go somewhere more comfortable?”

He nodded.

She took his hand and lead him down the hall to the bedroom. Once inside, she took his head in her hands and kissed him hard. Then she pulled his jacket off and started unbuttoning his shirt.

He pulled at her T-shirt, untucking it and lifting it away.

They were still undressing when they slid onto the bed.

Later, they rested in a snarl of blankets.

She rolled over, curving her spine to bend away from him and wrapping her arms and legs against her stomach.

“I’m a whore.”

“Please. Don’t say that.”

She flinched when he put his hand on her shoulder.

When she started to cry silently, the bed shook. The room was quiet except for her panting breath. “I was just so lonely, I took you in here.”

She stopped crying. Then she uncurled and snuggled up to him. “I’m sorry.”

“Where’s your husband?”

“At work.”

“Do you have kids?”

“She’s at Girl Scout camp.” She let him comb her hair with his fingers and dot her face with his kisses. “I should be cleaning the house while it’s empty. Instead, I want to just hold onto you.”

He touched her neck. A strawberry-speckled mark slashed her skin. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d leave a mark.”

She giggled. “Just like teenagers.”

“Will makeup hide it? Or maybe, could you cover it up with a bandage and say you cut yourself?”

“Don’t worry. Who’s going to notice?” She reached for her cigarette case and matches, then lit up. The match dropped into a teacup on the carpet. The cup was filled with blackheaded matchsticks. “What are you looking at?”

He smiled. “You.”

Rolling her eyes, she shook her head,

“You’re beautiful.”

She covered her eyes with a hand. “No, I’m not.”

“Your skin, it’s so beautiful.”

He reached out to touch her cheek, but she knocked his hand away.

“Stop,” she said then rolled over, turning her back to him. “This can’t be the first time you’ve done this. I’m not anything special to you.”

He looked out the bedroom window. Flowers wilted in the backyard garden and socks hung pinned halfway across a clothesline.

“When does your husband get home?”

“Tomorrow, probably late.”

“Tomorrow? Where is he?”

She bunched the sheet tightly around herself. “Working. He’s a traveling salesman.”

BIO: Last year, Adam was a judge for the PWA's Shamus award for best short story. This year, he was a panelist at Bouchercon. He eats, drinks, and is merry in the Twin Cities. Check out his website at www.adammcfarlane.com

Monday, November 12, 2007

We interrupt this program for

an important message.......

Greetings all.Over the past year I have recieved many submissions that were longer than the guideline for my flash fiction site - Powder Burn Flash.

So, after much thought I decided to open an additional venue for writers wishing to explore their stories more indepth. Tonight I have opened Darkest Before the Dawn. This site is open to short story submissions up 10,000 words in length.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 52 - Barry Baldwin

The Final Reel

Picture night was Tuesday. In a nissen hut left over from the war, price fourpence. It was run by a middle-aged bloke with some dreary girl supposed to be his daughter, though our gang leader Frank Blunt swore she was really his tart. This bloke drove around all the local villages with projector and reels bunged in the back of an old van. He always wore a penguin suit and bow tie. "Keeping up standards," he said when Frank Blunt once asked him why; we had no idea what he meant.The daughter-tart would try to flog us chocolate bars and crisps. Most of us brought our own, or had run out of pocket-money by Tuesday, and she had no sex-appeal by which to lure us, so her sales never amounted to much. The same stuff probably went round the villages week after week. I once lashed out on a bag of broken crisps; they tasted like fried sawdust.

The programme never varied. First, a newsreel, Movietone or Pathé, usually months old, showing some Royal opening a factory or Britain stunning the world with a new invention or the latest daring Paris fashions. We talked and jeered through them, except when there was a football or cricket clip. Then a stupid Disney cartoon. After that, a short Western with Tom Mix or Bill Boyd sorting out the villains, though they were too tame: nobody was ever killed in them. But at least they beat the ones with the singing cowboys, Gene Autry or Tex Ritter or Roy Rogers and Trigger the effing wonder Horse as Frank Blunt shouted out under the cover of darkness.

Between the Western and the big picture, there came the most popular item: the serial. The bloke was crafty. He knew we wouldn't miss an episode, so we'd be there every week even if we weren't bothered about the main film. The one I'll never forget was called The Scorpion. It was named after the villain, who for unknown reasons always went around in a black cape and mask with his left hand and arm held across his face. He never actually did much, except kidnap some millionaire's daughter for ransom or threaten to blow up half London if his latest demands were not met. He was regularly outwitted by a posh-talking hero with hair-oil and a cravat, helped by some twat of a boy assistant whom we always heckled.

After months and months, we were all there for the last episode. I'd had to steal the fourpence from my mother's purse. By now, it was clear to the thickest that the Scorpion was in fact the smiling know-it-all doctor to whom the hero always turned for help with bullet wounds or antidotes to poisons. When his picture was flashed up with the others in the opening credits, the other kids booed loudly, drowning out Frank Blunt's attempt at a rival cheer.

The Scorpion was finally cornered and unmasked on a roof-top somewhere in London - a lot of the serial seemed to take place on roof-tops there, very exotic to most of the audience who had never been to London, or on many roof-tops either. Right to the end, he had the arm and hand over his face. Just before this, he had captured the boy assistant and was about to order his associates to throw him off the roof, something I wish we'd have seen, if the hero didn't move back. But they got the arm down and the mask off, and the evil doctor got a final round of boos when carted away by some bobbies who'd materialised out of nowhere.

Not much of an ending, really. Frank Blunt swore there was a special adult version which showed the Scorpion being hung in his full outfit, and he would get his dad to buy a print and show it us. Nobody had much faith in this, especially since the Scorpion had never bumped anyone off. I'd be a liar if I said I didn't hope it was true, but of course no such special version ever appeared.

Anyway, Frank Blunt had been scooped. When the lights came on for the usual reel change between serial and big picture, a figure dashed through the hall got up to look like the Scorpion. We gave the bloke a good cheer for this gimmick. Except that it wasn't the bloke at all, since they found him dead in the projection room. The girl was soon arrested and in the dock for murder. From what the newspapers and the village bobby let on, he'd been knocked out and suffocated by the bow-tie stuck down his throat. Most sensationally, they'd found his wedding-tackle cut off and left on the projector.

It turned out that the girl was both his daughter and his tart, and she'd had enough. This was her lawyer's defence. We'd once heard a grown-up reckon she was this, but that sort of idea was too advanced for even Frank Blunt to take in. In those days, though, that didn't cut the ice the way it would now, and the judge was keen on the black wig and the "...Hanged by the neck until you are dead" speech, so the girl was sentenced to an eight am date with Albert Pierpoint the executioner. Along with Frank Blunt's speculations about what she wore on the gallows, there was a bit of sympathy for her in the gang hut, not a lot, since that was the end of our Tuesday pictures.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 51 - Barry Baldwin


"This Christmas is mine," said Mary Caster in a Don't Argue voice. "I deserve it, pregnant right through the hottest summer ever and looking like hell in those maternity tents. So, clothes, clothes, clothes, now the kid is off the tit and I've got a figure again."

"Yes, dear," replied Joe, his mock meekness concealing the real thing.

"Personally I'd settle for a roll in the hay. It's been a long time between drinks..."

"We'll see." Mary's tone implied that they wouldn't.

Joe thought he must be the first husband in history whose wife had gone straight from honeymoon hysterics through pregnancy panicking to post-partum blues.

The limousine stopped outside the Casters' house, an Eighties conversion from some old stables. Without turning his head, the driver said, "I was wondering if you'd be taking a cab back after? That way, I could get off home. I've got three brothers in from the East and..."

"Forget it," grunted his employer from the back. "Getting a cab on Christmas Eve is a mega-hassle. Call your brothers on the car phone. You'll be okay here, it's not a cold night."

The driver might have argued, but his employer had already switched targets. "Have you got the damn presents, Liz?" He was still churning over the bum who'd almost forced his way into the limo, whining for change. "Look, fella," he'd said, resisting the urge to signal the driver to show him the gun that was always ready, "We've just been to a hundred buck plate charity raiser for guys like you. What more do you want?"

"Yes, Gabe. Rolex for him, fancy perfume for her."

"Nothing for the damn kid?"Her laugh was partly genuine. "Damn kid? And you the President of Toys For Tots! No, of course not. He's only a tiny baby. He doesn't know it's Christmas. Mary won't be expecting us to bring him anything."

"Well, I hope you're right. From what Joe says, she's absolutely stuck on the little sucker."

"Joe has to say that."

They penetrated what was now the Casters' family room. The driver had been left in the car, the snowboots in the hall. Presents were exchanged to contrapuntal Oh, You Shouldn't Haves.

"Smell this perfume, Joe."

"Great. That'll cover a multitude. See this watch. Real gold, Gabe?"

"The best plastic can buy. Help you start getting to the office on time."

Gabe looked at Mary and Joe's other presents. "Jeez, you guys did well. Got the goods on Santa, or what?"

"No, she's got the goods on me. It's mostly hers. Still, I'll say it before she does. She deserves it, after the year she's had."

"Yeah, well, people deserve to get what they deserve."

"That reminds me, where is the little monster?"

"Isn't that him over there?" Gabe's tone would have sounded almost wistful to anyone who had been listening.

Finger over mouth, Mary led them to where a blue bundle lay supine in an otherwise empty playpen.

"See, he's fine. Now come and have a drink, or the food'll be ready before we are. Christmas, who invented it?" Mary glanced at the bundle whose chubby hands were now exploring a red bow tied around its neck.

"I tell you, we're only doing this for its sake."

"What's Christmas without children?" Three of the four knew that it was actually Gabe's child; none of them were sure if the fourth did.

"That's right," said Liz, who had discreetly aborted Joe's child on the very day blue bundle was born, "that's what it's all about. Come on, Mother Mary, where's that drink?"

When the driver burst into the room with gun in hand, just as the local churches were starting to ring out midnight, mad as hell and not going to take it any more, he wasn't sure if he was glad or sorry to find the job already done for him, thanks to the punch which had been lethally spiked by that fourth person.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 50 - Glenn Gray


Everything seemed pretty damn good. What didn't make sense to Johnny Boy though, until lately, was why this fucking stripper going by the name of Quilt took so long to give him the time of day.

Johnny Boy ratcheted out a front lat spread, his girth filling the mirror on the wall of his studio apartment in Bensonhurst. Wing-span like a goddamn pterodactyl. He held it a minute, started to tremor then relaxed, shook his hands out at his sides.

He adjusted his bulge in the tight knitting of the jockstrap. Yeah, he was still pretty damn solid, even at forty-nine. The abs were rock, still could see the washboard, six little knobs poking through a thin layer of fat. The couple strands of gray hair above the ears you could hardly even notice.

Had he gotten hitched he probably wouldn't have looked so good. He'd have a beer gut and a turkey-waddle chin. Probably get his ass kicked in a bar brawl. And no friggin' way could he be working the door at a titty bar. No way a wife would deal with that shit.

Johnny Boy grunted through sixty close grip push-ups, turned over and did twenty crunches, puffing out hard. He sprung up off the hardwood floor and turned the radio a little louder, getting in the mood for work. The disco beat cranked and he did a goofy dance move, rocking his pelvis. He caught a glimpse of his hairy ass in the mirror and laughed.

He slid into a choreographed posing routine to the beat; a performance that earned him third place in the heavyweight class at the Mr. East Coast eighteen years earlier. He eyed the trophy standing majestically on the top of the television and felt as if he were back on stage. Shredded to the hilt. He still had every move down. Every transition just right, like a goddamn ballet.

He muscled into the black tux, black cummerbund and black bow-tie, pulling and stretching. He stared at the mirror and raked a palmful of gel through the buzz cut.

The fuck could've been wrong with her anyway?

Not seeing the obvious.

A short time later he was in the Trans-Am. The T-tops were off, the cool air massaging his ears and face. He cruised the pot-hole ridden Belt Parkway toward Long Island, the road smoothing out a bit as he merged east onto Sunrise Highway, ending up at the Raven's Nest Tavern in North Bellmore.

He did the rounds of hellos and howyoudoins then planted himself at the door, checking ID cards and shaking hands with the regular assholes. He stood on the top step, way up high just inside the door, leaning on the thick chrome railing. He could see everything from there.

Quilt got in around seven, sporting a workout getup; black spandex pants that showed off her gorgeous bubble-ass, a baggy t-shirt draped over smooth mountains of silicone, a headband and ponytail. And those eyes -- the eyes glared at him, signaled to him as she strutted past.

He could swear she was giving him a secret code lately. Finally seeing it like he did. Like she wanted to marry him when she was done with this stripping gig, finally coming around.

He imagined them living together, nice new apartment, right in Bay Ridge, him cutting squares of fresh cantaloupe in the morning. There'd be awesome views of the Verrazano Bridge -- sun blasting through a huge bay window. She'd grind the coffee beans in her nightie. They'd sit at the kitchen table and eat, go workout, then come home and fuck all afternoon.

Of course, by then he'd have a different job, something other than the strip joint. Quilt wouldn't dance no more. Maybe she'd do interior decorating for some rich clients. He'd do construction or something, a good union job with a solid pension. Straight seven to three.

So tonight, like all the other nights, Johnny Boy watched. Making sure these fucking losers in suits didn't get too close. Grabbing Quilt and trying to cop an ass feel. He watched her work the smoke-filled room, doing it just to make cash, not caring about the parade of gawking sleazebags.

Occasionally, she'd look over and wink. He was sure now they finally had the connection. When she hung upside down off the pole, she glanced over his way and he could see that sexy-as-shit smile. He knew she was dancing for him. It was Johnny Boy's show now, baby.

Their little secret.

So, Johnny Boy thought it a little friggin' weird when he escorted Quilt to her car after work. When she said, "Thanks JB," and he pulled her close for a kiss and she pushed him away. Both her palms on his chest, pushing, Quilt saying, "The fuck you doing?"

What the fuck? He was sure she was keeping up their little game, in case somebody was spying. Sure, that was it. Everyone knew the doormen weren't supposed to bang the dancers -- against club rules.

She smelled so good though.

Just a whiff sent his mind reeling

Johnny Boy thought it was way too much though when she hammered his chest, clenched fists, hitting hard, now kicking him too, saying, "The fuck off, you freak!"

He reined her in, thick fingers circling her tiny neck, just to get better control, making her see the light, the kind of life they had in store -- husband and wife.

The cantaloupe.

The coffee.

She wouldn't listen.

He leaned in, his chest flattening the balloon-like tits.

Johnny Boy thought the knot in his stomach was a cramp, maybe low on potassium or something. The pain was funny though, took his breath. Funny enough that he let go of Quilt and had to step back and sit down on the pebbly blacktop.

And then Quilt saying, "The fuck didn't you just stop. Fucking choking me, asshole."

Johnny Boy looked up at Quilt, her purse hanging open, on a cell phone now, frantically punching in numbers, saying, "Shoulda stopped. Shoulda just stopped."

Johnny Boy then felt the thing protruding from his gut -- a smooth wooden knife handle. It jutted out just above the cummerbund, off the middle, at a little bit of an angle. Sticky warmth spread from its base, soaking the white shirt.

The pain got worse and Johnny Boy had to lie down, his head getting light, thinking of all the dirt and crunched glass that was getting in his hair and on his tux. From the ground, Quilt looked like a giant, the glow from the streetlight behind her head making him squint. He turned his head away and touched the wood handle again, then rubbed his abs, wondering if the washboard would ever be the same.


Glenn Gray is a Radiologist in private practice. His stories have appeared in Thuglit, Blazing Adventures Magazine, DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash, Bewildering Stories, Underground Voices and Out Of The Gutter 3. Reach him at gggray@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 49 - Patricia J. Hale

Things To Do

-buy potted plants, soy milk, orange juice, eggs, rat poison
-make Steven’s “breakfast”
-get shovel from basement
-locate old sheet (one with blue flowers)
-wait until evening, then unscrew porch light bulb
-dig hole out back
-take “garbage” out to hole
-fill in hole and top with potted plants
-soak sheet to get out grass stains
-wash sheet
-finish ironing

Bio: Patricia J. Hale has had stories published in Flashshot, Flash Pan Alley, and Fictional Musings. She writes because she can’t stop herself. Her husband can’t stop her either. See patriciahale.blogspot.com or reach her at patriciajhale@aol.com. Especially with paying gigs.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Powder Flash Burn # 48 - Christopher Grant


Dex was thinking of Claudia, his wife, when they pulled up to the house. He was thinking about how she was leaving him, not for another guy but for another life. A better one, she told him. He wondered what she would think of what he was doing right now. Dex hadn't had a job in over a year, legit or otherwise. Claudia was right to leave him.

Dex still couldn't get over the fact that Ryan had found this girl, that she was sixteen years old and that she wanted them to rob her parents' house. He couldn't believe that they had a week to do it and he couldn't believe that Ryan wanted to screw this girl and that he didn't understand the concept of statutory rape.

As he opened the door and slammed it shut, he watched the girl come bouncing (literally) from out of the house and jump into Ryan's arms, pushing his hair out of his face and french kissing him. Dex just rolled his eyes.

She grabbed Ryan by the hand and led them through the doorway and into a small foyer and then into the living room which was illuminated softly. A fire was going in the fireplace and that's when Dex saw them. The portraits.

There were dozens of them and Dex immediately thought them all unnecessary. And yet, he stood there, transfixed by the one above the fireplace. It was a man and a woman and a street scene behind them. They were oblivious to everything going on around them, enjoying this moment with each other.

For the second time, Dex thought about Claudia. Was it too late to stop her?

The girl led the both of them through the dining room, pointing to where the silverwear was and telling them that the vases on the upper shelf of the china cabinet were priceless. Through an arched doorway, they were now in the kitchen. She hopped up onto the counter, pulling a drawer open once she was seated. She swung her legs back and forth and told them to look inside the drawer.

A metal box sat in the center of the drawer, a keyhole on top of it.

She reached inside the collar of her shirt and produced a key on a chain. She took it off her neck, handed the chain to Dex. She told him to open the box. He fit the key, turned it and the box emitted a click noise. Ryan lifted the top and smiled at what he found inside.

Ryan lifted his hand and with it came a Rolex, a necklace and a pair of earrings. The girl told them that they were 24 Karat, probably worth a couple thousand dollars. Dex didn't know from gold and had no idea if what she said was true or not.

She opened a couple other drawers and the key Dex held opened the boxes inside, too, finding cash, finding jewels. The girl told him that there were furs upstairs, that there were suits that would look good on the both of them. She licked her lips in Ryan's direction.

Dex went back to the living room and his gaze fell once again upon the painting over the fireplace. He barely noticed when the girl and Ryan came tearing out of the kitchen and ran upstairs. He didn't want to know what was going to happen, though he had a good idea. He rolled his eyes for the second time this night.

Dex headed back for the kitchen and took a handful of cash and a handful of jewels. Again, he thought about Claudia. Would this do the trick? Could he keep her with this pile of cash and these stones? He heard a thump from the ceiling and he just shook his head. Two more thumps and he ran for the stairs. Ryan just didn't get it.

Dex opened the first door he came to and found nothingness. He reached around the side of the doorway and found the light switch on the side and found nothingness in the light.

He continued down the hallway, throwing open doors and finding nothing until finally, he found her. She was half-naked, her teenaged breasts uncovered. She was crying and Dex tried not to look at her. He asked where Ryan was and she gulped and looked at the side of the bed. Her shirt was on the floor, bloody and under Ryan's head. Ryan was staring at the ceiling. He had a hole in the middle of his forehead.

The girl sobbed uncontrollably and Dex asked her what happened. She mumbled that she didn't think it would go this far, that Ryan had shoved his hands up her shirt and down her shorts and that she had grabbed a gun and shot him in the head.

Dex felt this was going to be the dumbest thing he'd ever done. He grabbed the cash in his own pockets, grabbed the jewels and started to stuff them in Ryan's pockets. As he did this, he told the girl to go put a shirt on. Don't shower, he cautioned her. Call your parents, get them home now. Call the cops, get them here now.

Dex stood as he finished his task and was happy to see she had followed his orders about putting a new shirt on. She had her cell phone in her hand and was starting to dial. Dex told her again what she should tell her parents, tell the cops. She had taken a shower and was getting ready for bed when a man opened the door on her bedroom. He attacked her, she got away, got a gun and shot him.

Dex started to leave and she grabbed his arm, stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. Not the french kiss she'd given Ryan a little while ago. A kiss that said thank you for saving me.

And he left.

BIO: Christopher Grant is a writer of all kinds of fiction, not the least of which is the kind your reading right now, crime fiction. His blog is The-Not-So-Quiet American, where you can find links to other stories as well as his take on various other issues.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 47 - Scott Shewan


On nights like this, it was difficult to not howl at the moon. Full. Thick. Heavy. Impossible to look away from. Hanging in the air like a car wreck.

Logan made his rounds at the junkyard. Down the rust colored trails cut through mountains of fridges, toasters, dishwashers.

Logan stopped and stared up at the moon. It's funny how some things can flood you with random memories. First time you cut class, shoplifted, got locked in the trunk of an '86 Caprice Classic.



A bullet ripped into the trunk, the heat and speed peeled the metal inward. The bullet flew through, inches from Logan's head, landed in an empty jerry can sending sparks and tiny steel slivers everywhere.

First though: Oh fuck I'm dead.

But the bullet missed his head.

Second thought: Oh fuck, I'm going to get exploded.

But the gas can was empty.

Thank fuck. What a shitty way to go. Being tied up in the trunk of a shitbox sure was a motherfucker.

-You dead bro?

Bro? Who the fuck was this frat boy? What advanced psychological technique is asking if someone you just shot at is dead?

No I'm not you fucker. Ha ha. You missed.

Well thanks for the heads up, victim in the trunk. You fell for my plan thus proving I am a genius. Time to get shot and die.

Is that how he thought it would play out?

Logan struggled with the ropes. Unfortunately the rope was tearing the shit out of his forearms. Skin raw all the way up to his elbows. Persistance. Needed to get out. Claustrophobia handing him a beating. Being shot at sucked dicks. And, oh yeah, his Browning wasn't going to jump out of his waistband and into the palm of his hand by force of will.

So he wrestled. The pain made him grit his teeth. He bled and sweat. And bled some more. The rope loosened.

-Bro, I asked you a question.

Seriously, this guy was a fucking douche bag.

A little give. More blood. More give. More blood. The blood lubricated his escape from bondage. One last push.


The rope slid off faster than Logan thought. So fast in that he inadvertently stomped the inside of the trunk at about 60 km an hour.

Oh fuck.

Logan grabbed the Browning from his waist band and crouched in a corner of the trunk in the fetal position. The bullet hole looked like a full moon the way the street light seeped in. In his own little microcosm.



Three bullets ripped into the trunk. Had he been lying in the spot he was a second earlier he would've gotten one in the brain holder, one in the lung, and most likely, if he was lining up the angles properly, one right in his ball sack.

Thank fuck for that.

He stretched out and reached for the emergency release.

Had to bide his time. Hoped this fuck would slip up before he pumped more lead into the trunk.

-Bro, you're dead now right?

Logan would've rolled his eyes had he not trained them on the bullet holes. He waited, staring at the street light seeping in.

Rustling outside. Pacing maybe? Darkness overtook the trunk. The bullet holes stopped letting any light in. Logan flicked the latch and shoved his body upwards, blasting off. His shoulder connected with the inside of the trunk and sent the trunk lid sailing upwards.

Then he felt it. A connection. Rusted metal on soft flesh. Logan got out in a hurry. His kidnapper was on the ground cupping his bleeding forehead. Logan trained the gun on him.


He looks up at Logan.

-Oh fuck.

-Indeed. Get up and get in the fucking car.

Logan motioned him towards the car with business end of his gun.

-In. I'm driving. Give me the keys or I'll shoot you in half.

He handed over the keys.

After failed attempts to plead for his life, the once-predator panicked as he took in his new surroundings. Junkyard. Late, late night. No one for miles.

-So what the fuck did I do to you?

-Cause man you fucked my girl. You put your greasy weasel in my Amy.

Logan laughed.

-I guarantee that my "gentleman's situation" was nowhere near an Amy. It's attached to my body and I'm pretty sure that I'd know who I was putting my greasy weasel in.

-Fuck you bro. I know you did it ok. She fucking told me!

-She did, did she? Your old lady use any other names?

-No she doesn't. But whatever bro. Not the fucking point. She fucking told me! Fuck! Why would she lie? She fucking told me ok? She said, she fucking said 'I fucked Herman, I let Herman fuck the shit out of me'"

-I'm sorry, Herman? Is that what I heard?

-Yeah. Herman. Herman. Herman. Got that? She fucking said she fucked you!

-At some point did it ever strike you that I don't look like an 84 year old man?


-My fucking name's not Herman, you shit.


-Herman. My. Name. Is. Not. Herman. Although now I wish I were, your old lady sounds like she'd be a great roll in the hay.

-You're lying! Fuck you! Go to hell you fucking bastard.

-Hell? Look around college man. Where the fuck do you think you are?

Logan cocked his hand back and laid him the fuck out with handle of the gun. The nameless attacker mumbled a pearl necklace of curses as he collapsed face first into the trunk. Logan gave the rest of his limp body the helping hand it needed.


Logan looked away from the moon and continued his rounds. Past random piles of cutlery. Past stationary bikes and rowing machines. Past the crushed cars. Past a '54 Impala. Past a '96 Civic. Past a '91 Elantra. Past an '86 Caprice Classic.

It looked this Herman asshole was off the hook.

BIO: Scott Shewan was born and raised in Montreal where he still lives and continues to speak English despite the wishes of the Provincial Government. He is currently working on his first book, Crowbar, which he will never finish and no one will ever read. He also has a blog ( sshewan.blogspot.com) that no one reads as well. He is tall and wants to be your friend.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 46 - John McFetridge

In the Harbour
by John McFetridge

Gary Wilkes was standing on the deck of his brother-in-law’s lobster boat stacking the traps and running lines when he saw the black Hummer driving down to the dock. Gary’s brother-in-law, Alvin, decent guy and they loved him for marrying Annabelle, saw it too and said, “Not exactly sneaking up,” and Gary said, no, they want us to see, “Supposed to scare the shit out of us.”

Alvin said, yeah, well, it’s what they do, and went below.

Gary watched the Hummer stop and the two guys get out; early thirties, jeans and tee shirts, sunglasses and leather jackets, of course. They looked up and down the dock, a dozen boats, fishermen all minding their own business, and came up to Alvin’s, looking right at Gary.

One guy took off his sunglasses and said, “Didn’t waste any time, you right back at work.” French accent, they were from Montreal, Gary knew. Came all the way down to Shediac, New Brunswick just to talk to him.

Gary said, “Get the fuck off the dock.”

They looked at each other like he’d made a joke, like they were gonna laugh, but instead they came on the boat. The one that was taller than Gary said, “We gonna talk.”

They probably didn’t even know it, these two thugs, but that’s how this started for Gary, talking to some guy from Montreal. Gary had his own boat then, took over his father’s when the old man’s cancer moved into his bones and he was done. Had two cousins working for him, that was three families counting on him; three men, three women, seven kids and Gabrielle was pregnant again. And no fucking lobsters, or not nearly enough. Every season another guy lost his boat, lost his family, lost his will.

And Gary met this guy from Montreal, knew he was a biker right away. They don’t ride bikes anymore, they’re not about freedom and rebellion and the open road, no shit, it’s all business now. Now they drive Hummers. The guy Gary met had a plan. They were bringing coke up from Columbia and they were going to pack it in lobster traps, dump them in the water right off the coast and lobster fishermen would pick them up along with their other traps. The guy said to Gary, “You ever bring up a trap worth twenty grand?”

Of course they got busted. Started in Montreal, big organized crime investigation, surveillance, wire taps, they even had an informer, led all the way to Shediac and Gary’s boat. He was the one actually picked up with the coke in his hands.

Cop, local mountie out of Moncton, said to him, “These fucking federal lawyers are going to pressure you to give up names, but they won’t protect you for shit after.” One maritimer looking out for another.

Gary said, hey, I did the fucking crime, “I’ll do the time.” He gave them everything he had, names, dates, amounts in every shipment. All the money he made was in his boat, refitted engine, new navigation system, new traps. He was a couple months away from actually breaking even with just the lobsters, three families not going broke. They seized his boat, sold it at auction for a quarter of what it was worth to some guy from Cape Breton.

Now the tall one was saying, “You think this is done? You think you give up that many people, do two years in slam and it’s over?”

“It’s over for me.”

Two years in Dorchester Federal Penitentiary and now he was thankful to be crewing on Alvin’s boat, thankful his little sister Annabelle made her husband hire him.

But the bigshots in the deal, the top guys in Montreal, they were just coming up to trial now. Their rich fucking mob lawyers using every trick they had to delay it, to stall, question every piece of evidence, get to every witness, but now it was going to happen. And Gary was going to testify.

The short one opened his mouth for the first time, saying, “Don’t be so fucking stupid. It’s too easy for accidents to happen on boats.”

Gary said, yeah, “They happen all the time.”

The two bikers from Montreal staring at him, giving him their evil eyes.

Gary threw the trap he was holding, hit the tall one right in the face, staggered him back.

The short one was pulling a gun out of his belt and Alvin punched him the face, two, three times. Gary was on the tall one, spun him around, grabbed his greasy hair and smashed his face onto the rail, blood splattering everywhere.

Alvin had the short one’s gun and was smacking him with it, the guy was holding his arms over his head so Alvin kicked him in the balls, steel toes doing their job.

Gary grabbed the tall one by the belt and threw him off the boat and Alvin ran the small one over the side, the two assholes landing on the dock ten feet from their shiny Hummer. They stood up, legs shaking like they were standing on the deck in a storm, blood all over their faces, and tried to look tough. It was almost funny.

Gary looked down and said, “The next time I throw you off a fucking boat, it’ll be two miles out,” and he pointed at the north Atlantic.

Alvin was pointing the short one’s gun at them.

And up and down the dock, every other boat had two or three guys standing on deck holding something; pick axes, wrenches, big fucking knives.

The short one managed to say, “You’re fucking dead,” and pointed at Gary, but he got in the Hummer fast and they drove out like they were being chased.

Alvin looked at the trap that Gary threw at the tall one and said, “You have to fix that again?”

Gary said, no. “I was just starting that one, hadn’t done anything to it yet.”


Gary looked up and down the dock. Everybody else was back to work, too.


BIO: John McFetridge's first novel, Dirty Sweet, was published in 2006 and his second, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere will be published in 2008. He has had flash fiction published by Out of the Gutter and on Muzzle Flash. Check out his website at http://www.johnmcfetridge.ca/

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 45 - Clair Dickson

A Bo Fexler Story

"What happened to your face?" Axel pushed aside one of the peaks in the mountain range of papers on my dining table.

"Little dispute with my latest ex boyfriend."

"Oh? What about?"


"Say what?"

"The definition of the word 'privacy.'"

"Okay-- you know, girl, you have this tendency to stop before the end of a story. Keep going."

"Hm. He tried to tell me that asking his friends, neighbors, and coworkers about him was an invasion of privacy. I disagreed."

"And he hit you for that?"

"For disagreeing? No."

"Okay . . ."

"See, some of his friends informed me that he had a bit of a temper, so I actually kept my distance."

"So, he threw something."

"No. If you keep jumping to conclusions like this, I won't bother to correct you."

"All right."

"We argued about the meaning of privacy . . . with him telling me it was wrong to ask his ex-girlfriend why they broke up. I said it was acceptable because it was public knowledge."


"Anything that is told to another person cannot be considered private anymore. You can only control what you tell people yourself. If I want something to stay private, the only way to do that is to keep it to myself."

"So, you don't believe anything could be told to a person in confidence?"

"Not really. If that person comes to hate you . . ." The words got stuck for a moment. "Then they would easily break that confidence. An ex might admit that she faked orgasms. A former coworker might laugh at how you were oblivious to what everyone thought of you. People are fickle, Axel."

"But it's one thing to find these things out by accident, it's another thing to go sneaking around digging them up."


"So, even one's sex life isn't private, because it's share with someone?"


"I mean, something's should be private. You should be able to not worry about people saying things."

"I agree. But that fact is, you can't."

"Your world is a dark place."

"You live in the same world I do. I just don't turn on all the lights and pretend that it's not dark out."

Axel shook his head. "Well, I'd never tell anyone the things you've told me. Things you've said in confidence."

"Well, good for you!"

"Lemme guess-- you've asked about me."

"Of course. Just finished the background check the Monday."

His forehead scrunched up. "You called my landlady!"

I nodded. "She had good things to say about you."

"I don't fucking believe this! Bo-- you know, you have a really fucked up sense of privacy! You act like this is a good thing-- spying on people--!"

I sat back in my chair. "Would it help if I let you read the report I wrote up?"

"What? No!"


"I can't believe you did this!"

"Axel. Maybe you don't realize this-- I came across it while I was doing the background check on you-- but you don't seem to be able to conceive that people do bad things on purpose."

"Well, I guess you've showed me."

"Perhaps." I lit up a cigarette. "You asked how I got hurt."

Axel threw up his hands and muttered something.

I didn't let that faze me. "What happened was this-- my now ex informed me that he'd made a video tape of . . . one of our evenings together. He was sure his friends would get a kick out of it. He figured he'd invite everyone over and show them."

"If you don't mind my asking, what was on that tape?" Curiosity overtook anger. And his politeness almost me chuckle.

"Huh? Oh, I just talked dirty, gave him head. He came really fast. I mean, like, high school boy fast. That's all. I don't think I even took my shirt off. Not enough time."

"You gave him head?" He gaped like a boy who'd just run to his room with the lingerie ad from the newspaper like it was some sort of contraband.

"I'm sure the knowledge that I am a sexual being is a shock to your small town raising."

He shrugged, but the strange little smile on the edge of his mouth remained. "Do— do you swallow?"

"Please. That's only good for getting an STD."

"Oh. So, you use a condom?"

"Yes, Axel. Though I'm not big on the vanilla flavor."

"Okay. So, how exactly did you get hurt? I don't think I've gotten that yet."

"You haven't. See, like I said, one's sex life is hardly private. Part of mine will be broadcast. Hell, might even end up on the internet if any of them are technologically inclined that way. But that doesn't bother me."

"Oh? Because you already figured it was public information, right?"


"So, what bothers you?"

"I'm sure someone who watches that tape will make some comment about my speech."

"Your . . . your speech? Well, it's not like you're going to be there to hear it."

"I know. But that's not much of a consolation. I'd bet that someone makes a comment that with the way I talk, I'm better off with someone's cock in my mouth."

Axel's mouth hung open. Nothing intelligent came out.

"Between you and me, Axel, I hate my speech impairment. Fucking hate it. And I hate the things people say about it. So, hearing that he was going to show the tape made me so upset that when I opened the door, I hit myself with it."

"You did this to yourself?"

I nodded.

"Aren't you worried that I might spill what you've just said?"

"No. See, when I was doing the background check, I really got a sense of how honest . . . how honorable you are. Otherwise, I wouldn't have told you! Shit, I'd have lied about that, too."


"Huh? Oh, you don't want to know. Private stuff."


BIO: Clair Dickson writes between teaching Alternative High School students and her other three jobs. She primarily writes Bo Fexler short stories which have been published in places like MuzzleFlash, Out of the Gutter, Yellow Mama, Crime and Suspense, and PowderBurn. She keeps track of Bo Fexler at www.bofexler.blogspot.com. And she wrote this story after a comment from Mystery Dawg.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 44 - Christa M. Miller

Just Watching

Every afternoon during lunch, Brian drove to the park to watch the kids play. He liked them all, the little boys who chased each other around the equipment as they played superhero games, the little girls who dragged their dolls up the steps and down the slides.

His favorite, though, were the tomboys. These girls wore dirty jeans and had tangled hair and ran as hard as the boys. They were spring-loaded, flexible, athletic girls. They were the ones he wished into his car, so he could hear them slurp on their juice boxes and watch their tongues curl around the straws and feel--if not taste--the sweat left from their skin sliding across the leather seats.

But it was only a wish. That was all. However much he liked to watch,he could never, never take such a sweet creature. He wasn't worthy.

He reclined his seat partway to where his watching would be less obvious. Two girls cavorted around the slides now. One in green jeans.The other in pink capris. Playing spies or detectives or whatever it was that tomboys played. He settled down to watch them move.


The bandstand belonged to Donnie and his friends. Everyone knew better than to mess with it when they were there. Even the little kids in the park stayed clear. Occasionally some pig would come by to try and make a point, but that was the beauty of the bandstand. From up here, they could see everything: cops. Their parents' cars. Belongings, including open cars, that no one was paying attention to.

Bart was bragging to the girls about his most recent arrest when Donnie noticed the green Chevy. He'd seen it before. The driver was an old white guy. Always parked by the playground so he could watch the little kids. Donnie didn't think he was just a grandpa, though. "Hey,"he said to the others.

Bart pantomimed what he'd done. "I beat the shit out of him with my skateboard, but he didn't die. Would've been a manslaughter charge, too."

"Hey." Donnie spoke louder. "Bring your fucking skateboard, man. That perv's back."He nodded toward the green car.

One of the girls, Brandi, tittered. "Call the cops. There's a new law. They can't be at a park."

"Cops won't do nothin' except tell him to move." Donnie started down the steps. Brandi was a fuckin' stupid spaz. Always trying to play by the rules. "Let's get him."

"Yeah!" Bart practically skipped down the steps.

"I'm in." Angela followed him. "Don't call the fucking cops, Bran."

Brandi looked nervous. Donnie bet she'd call them anyway. He hoped so. Angela would beat the shit out of her. Then maybe she'd get a fuckin' clue.

He followed the others.


Brian had closed his eyes, dozy with the bright hot sun. He was dreaming of the two little girls in their tight pants. In his dream they ran toward his car, smiling their carefree smiles. They opened the car door and grabbed him by the clothes, pulled at him, tried to get him to come out and play. "Girls, stop," he chuckled.

Then a man screamed.

Brian shot upright, eyes wide. In his side rearview mirror he saw them: the group of teens from the gazebo. Normally he paid them no attention. They'd never bothered anyone before. But now they werebeating the shit out of some guy.

Shit, he needed to get out there. So he wasn't on duty. He was still in a city car, carrying the city's badge.

He called it in. Then he pulled the door handle, kicked the door open. "Police!" he shouted.

It looked as if the teens had dragged the man out of his car. He'd folded in on himself, but they kept kicking and stomping and punching. One of the boys whaled on the man with a skateboard.

Brian wondered whether they'd heard him. "Police!" he repeated. He started to run toward them.

A crowd had gathered. In the distance, Brian heard sirens.

"Get the fuck out of here!" one of the teens shouted. He took off. Then the girl. A girl, for Christ's sake, and not much older than the pixies he'd been watching.

He shook that thought right off. The kid with the skateboard kept beating the old man. One of the bystanders tackled the kid. Brian didn't look twice as he knelt over the victim.

The man held his arms over his head. He was bleeding from the nose and ears. "I was only watching," he sobbed. "I miss my grandsons. I was only watching."

"Fuckin' perv," Skateboard Kid snarled.

Perv? Brian's skin tingled.

"He's here every day. Watchin' the kids play. Fuckin' cops never do anything. It was time to get him."

Brian accepted a rolled-up sweater from a woman bystander and placed it under the victim's head. "Is that so."

"Yeah. You going to arrest him, or what?"

Brian wanted to kick the kid in the balls. Instead he simply stood and faced the sullen teen. "No. You're under arrest."

Reading the boy his rights, all he could think was, Just watching. Well, shit.

BIO: Christa M. Miller is a freelance writer. You can contact her at Writerchristammiller@gmail.com http://www.christammiller.com(Please remember to type two 'm's in the above URL.)http://freelancemother.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 43 - Christopher Grant


Mom always said never to pick up hitchhikers.

I had packed up and was moving from Tuscon to San Francisco, having landed a job with a security firm there, paying me almost half again what I was making in Arizona.

I had just left the diner and was taking the highway when I spotted her. The sun was starting to sink behind the mountains and I didn't think it was a great idea for a woman to out on the road by herself. She had her thumb up and out and I decided to be chivalrous and stopped.

She stuck her head in the window and asked how far I was going. I liked her voice, a smooth, syrupy kind of voice that could get you in trouble if you didn't play your cards right. Or perhaps, if you did.

I told her that I was heading for San Francisco and she said it sounded good. She opened the door and tossed her bag in the back, got in the front seat and buckled in. The skirt she was wearing rode up a bit and gave me a glimpse of nicely tanned thigh. She knew I'd looked and smiled back at me.

I figured I could drive for another couple of hours before I'd have to stop somewhere and asked her to look at the map and guess where we could pull off for the night. She found a little town about fifty miles from where we were right now and folded the map back.

The town was smaller than I figured but it had some place to sleep and some place to get gas and another to get something to eat and all three were on the one street that ran through its center and back out to the highway.

The motel was a bit of a dump but it would suit our needs and I took two rooms, handing my new traveling companion the keys to hers and opening the door, before saying goodnight, to mine.

The room was sparse, to say the least. A bed, a chair, a lamp on a table, a phone next to the lamp and a door that led to the bathroom, which had a toilet and a shower but no sink. Apparently you were supposed to wash your hands in the shower. I shrugged, put down my suitcases and relieved myself, turning the shower on afterwards and taking a good fifteen minutes to get myself clean before retiring for the night.

I had just begun to drift off when there was a knock at the door. I came fully awake on the second knock and started for the door when I realized that it might be the woman and I sleep nude. I grabbed the sheet and wrapped it around myself, went and answered the door, opening it a fraction. There she was, wearing a sheer nightgown and a smile. I smiled and then caught the door in the side of my face, falling to the floor.

A moment later, the woman was on top of me, straddling my chest, a gun in my face. This wasn't the way I had envisioned us ending up.

We weren't alone in the room. I became aware of at least one other person, standing to the left of my head, a pair of what looked like black work boots on its feet. It was dark. They might have been blue or brown for all I could tell.

I heard a gun's hammer cock back and moved my head slowly towards the woman. It wasn't her gun, though.

"Your wallet," the woman on top of me said, pressing her gun into my cheek. Hard.

"My pants pocket," I was barely able to say, what with the gun pushed into my face.

I heard rummaging and became aware of a third person, who was now checking to see if my story was true.

Then a disembodied voice came from above the work boots.

"We don't need the money but you'll understand if we take it." It was a man's voice, low, an edge to it. I figured him for the leader of this scheme.

"Find a cord or something," the woman said to the rummager. I heard the phone being ripped out of the wall. The woman exchanged the gun for the cord and set about binding my wrists. Again, kinky, but not the way I had thought it might go.

I felt the hands of the two others slide under my armpits, the woman getting off me and they dragged me to the bed. She continued her tying, this time roping me to the bed frame.

Once finished, she knelt beside me. She kissed me on the lips. Whether it was a taunt or not, I couldn't tell. At this point, it was futile to bother with the guess.

"Someone will eventually find you," the one that had been standing by my head said. "Thank you for your cooperation."

And then they were gone.

I should have listened closer to my mother.

BIO: Christopher Grant is a writer of various genres, including crime fiction, science fiction and comic books. His blog The Not-So-Quiet American His most recent stories have appeared right here on Powder Burn Flash and on DZ Allen'sMuzzle Flash.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 42 - Julie Wright

Easy Money

‘It’s sweet, Tommy. Easy money.’

Mickey’s words had a hollow ring to them now. Tommy pulled his knees in tighter to his chest, wrapped his arms around his legs. It was pitch black in the small space, warm, airless, and claustrophobic. He was having trouble breathing, panic making him take shallow sips of air. Tommy wondered if he would suffocate, wondered what would happen then. Would the old fella get done?

He could hear movement; a drawer opened and closed, then another.

‘Where are you, you little bastard! I know you’re up there. You’d better come down, now.’ The old man’s voice was high and frail, but showed no trace of fear. ‘I’ve got your mate.’

The plan was simple enough: there’s an old fella in March Avenue, lives alone. Bound to have money in the house, the oldies always do. Mickey hides round the corner. Tommy knocks, draws the old bloke out. Mickey nips in and goes through the place, lifts what he can. Tommy keeps the old bloke busy in the meantime. Sweet. Easy money. Even if he twigs, what’s he going to do? There’s two of them, young and fit, against one old coffin dodger.

Tommy hears Mickey thudding down the stairs, his footsteps amplified in the dark place. The only thing louder than Mickey’s feet is Tommy’s heartbeat drumming in his ears. Mickey crashes into the front room, full of bluff and bravado, no idea what’s gone down.

‘Fuck do you think you are, shouting the odds,’ he starts, bold and loud. Then Tommy hears him say: ‘Fucking hell, man! What you doing with that?’ Less confident. Surprised and scared is Tommy’s guess.

It had started out fine. Tommy knocked and spun a line about an injured cat in the bushes at the front. The old bloke went with him to look, and lo and behold, the cat’s nowhere to be seen, so they search for it. Meanwhile Mickey’s inside and is turning the place over. Then the old bloke asks a favour. Can Tommy come in and read his leccy meter? Even with the torch and his glasses, he can’t make out the numbers any more.

‘Stay where you are or I’ll shoot you, you little bastard. You wouldn’t be the first. I was in the war, you know. I shot a lot of little bastards in the war.’

‘Okay, gramps, what do you want to do?’ Mickey’s recovered well, trying to take control. ‘I haven’t got nothing. Didn’t find owt. Look.’ Tommy imagined Mickey turning out his pockets.

‘Thieving little bastard.’

‘Where’s Tommy?’

‘He’s where I want him. Now you get over there. Move.’

They went inside, into the sitting room. No worries: Mickey’s still got a clear run down the stairs to the front door. The old bloke gets Tommy to move the armchair away from the wall. There’s a little door behind, just half height, leads into the cupboard under the stairs. The meter’s in there. Tommy opens the door and gets down on his hands and knees, crawls part way in. Next thing he knows there’s a boot up his arse, he pitches forward into the small space and the door’s locked behind him. He hears the old bloke grunting as he pushes the chair back in front of the door.

Tommy heard what he presumed was Mickey doing as he’d been told, followed by a series of electronic beeps.

‘Hello? Police? I’m being burgled.’

Tommy felt sick. Bad enough to be caught, but to be caught robbing a war veteran…. They’d get the shit kicked out of them for that, and not just by the coppers.

‘Stay where you are! Stay where you are!’ There was panic in the old man’s voice. Mickey had evidently decided he wasn’t hanging around waiting to be arrested so he’d taken matters into his own hands. Tommy heard the clatter of the phone hitting the floor, then a noise like an explosion ripped through the house. Fear rose in his chest. He fought for breath then found his voice.

‘Mickey!’ he shouted, banging on the small door. ‘Mickey, what the fuck…?’

‘Where are you?’

‘Cupboard under the stairs. Move the armchair, there’s a door.’

Tommy heard furniture scraping, then the door opened, light blinding him temporarily. He crawled out of his prison, tried to get the circulation going in his legs.

The old man was sprawled on the floor, a big, raw, bloody mess where his chest had been.

‘Gun backfired,’ said Mickey. ‘Otherwise that would have been me.’ He gave Tommy a shaky smile.

A siren blared in the distance. The two boys headed for the door as one, sprinted round the corner and flung themselves into the Ford. As Tommy drove off, he swore to himself he would never do that, or anything like that, ever again. Nearly killed and not a penny to show for it. That was it, he was finished.

Mickey stuck his hand down his jeans and rummaged about. ‘Look!’ he exclaimed when he pulled his fist out. Tommy looked. He was clutching several bundles of notes, all banded up by the bank. ‘Four grand,’ he said. ‘Told you: easy money!’ He flipped through the fifties. ‘There’s an old wife lives down Southwick, goes to the bingo with me nan. Won a bundle the other week. You in?’

Tommy grinned. There was nothing like the allure of easy money. ‘Aye,’ he said, his decision to go straight melting like frost in the sun. ‘I’m in.’

Bio: Julie Wright has had stories published in Bullet, Flash Pan Alley, and Out of the Gutter. She lives by the seaside in the north east of England and hangs out on Crimespace http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/Julielew when she's supposed to be writing.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 41 - Joe Dixon

To The Sea

He was looking away when I told him. He didn't turn back right away but kept looking out over the motorway and all the way to the sea, he said. All I saw was the estate, grey and damp. It was raining that night. It always was actually.

He said he was going to kill her and I said I'd help if he needed. He told me I couldn't. Mum couldn't afford two of us in jail, not now dad was gone. I followed him anyway. They went where they always went, to the car park. I crouched between cars and watched as they kissed under the light. It was raining and I could feel my crotch getting wet. Even though I'd never seen anyone kill anyone else before I wasn't scared.They stopped kissing and started arguing. She slapped him and laughed in his face. Then he hit her hard across the cheek and she fell down. He stood over her, his shadow was huge, it stretched over four full cars and up the red brick wall of the attendants office. I wanted to get closer to see it happen but I couldn't move. He looked at her for a long time. I started to tremble all over though I wasn't cold. He called my name. I didn't respond. He called again. He shouted that he knew I was there. I came over and he told me to look at the bitch. I couldn't do it and I started to cry.

We walked home together after. He said she was lucky. He said if dad hadn't left mum she'd have been done for. I loved him most that night.

BIO: Joe Dixon is a part-time writer full time aspiring film director. He lives in London.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 40 - Cormac Brown

"Hot Ice And Cold Blood"

Who was that idiot who said “the meek shall inherit the Earth?” And really, who would want the moldy crumbs that would be left over, after everyone else had taken their fill?

Charlotte took enough crap off her parents to last three lifetimes, and she wasn’t meek. She was the good daughter, the patient daughter, the respectful daughter, and for what? The reading of the will was a slaughter.

Her widowed mother gave the entire estate to Krista, an older cousin she saw only at family reunions. Charlotte was so taken aback that her heart actually stopped for two beats. Her chest felt like a mule kicked it, and adding insult to injury, Charlotte swooned like some third-rate soap opera actress.

As far as Charlotte was concerned, that was it. This was to be the last public display of weakness on her part, because this near-stranger inheriting everything was the last straw. Even before she returned to full consciousness, Charlotte surveyed the room and she figured out half of her plan. As the executor of the will informed her that her mother wanted Charlotte to make her own way in life, Charlotte had her scheme all figured out.

How can you make your way in life when your parents never let you get a job and forced you to take care of them? How could they leave everything to an outsider who had already retired and had a house that’s paid for?

So Charlotte made the electrician that was working on the house believe that she would finally give into his advances, after turning this cretin down for several weeks. Then Charlotte had to look up her abusive ex-boyfriend, Elwood. Because he was the only man she knew who could steal, get a gun, or even kill if he had to.

But it turned out that all of Elwood’s bragging was just that, and Charlotte had seen water pistols that were scarier than the gun he scored. So the electrician altered the wiring like Charlotte asked, and half the house “accidentally” burned down before the firemen could save it.

As anticipated, Krista took the jewelry out of the safe and she was going to take them to the bank for safekeeping. But not as anticipated, the old woman hired two bodyguards.

Fuck it, time to make your own way in life, Charlotte. The old harpy screamed and both bodyguards whirled their heads around to her. Charlotte had a ski mask on and Elwood’s .25 pointed at Krista’s head, using her as a shield. The bodyguards couldn't get a clean shot.

“Put the guns down, or you'll both be unemployed in a split second with a big red blemish on your resumes!”

This part was easy enough, Charlotte found out that these idiots exercised every muscle except the one between their ears. They could’ve taken her, but they let drag her hostage all the way to the gardener’s 4X4 truck. They also pointed the cops in the wrong direction, as Charlotte made Krista detour the truck down a dirt back road.

Charlotte didn’t want to kill Krista, but she didn’t want her tipping the cops off as to which way she was going. Elwood’s gun wouldn’t fire, so Charlotte pushed Krista down a steep knoll.

“Give my regards to Jack and Jill, bitch.”

She got in the truck and finally took the stupid mask off, like no one would’ve guessed it was her. What the hell. She hated that town and there was now no home to go back to, anyway.

Elwood had recommended a fence named Joss in the city. Joss told her that he would give her only $20,000 for $780,000 worth of jewelry. What could she do, go to a pawn shop?

When she put them on the table, Joss didn’t even bother with the loupe that you see in the movies. He looked down and muttered, “you are screwed like an asthmatic with a two-pack-a-day habit.”


“These are fake. They’re completely worthless.”

“But they were appraised a month ago at nearly $800,000.”

Joss grabbed a rubber hammer and hit the jewels. They crumbled into powder and he shrugged with a scowl.

Charlotte made it 1,130 miles before she was captured.

A week later, Krista had two visitors at the hospital. The two bodyguards from the robbery were keeping her company. One of the bodyguards seized the visitors before they could give Krista a bouquet of roses and a box of candy.

“That’s okay, Junior, let them by. Elwood? Joss? My hospital bill is coming out of your cut of the insurance money.”

Bio: "Cormac Brown" is my pen name. I'm an up-and-slumming writer in the city of Saint Francis, and I'm following in the footsteps of Hammett...minus the TB and working for the Pinkerton Agency. A couple of stories that I've stapled and stitched together can be found at http://cormacwrites.blogspot.com