Thursday, May 31, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 27 - Barry Baldwin


"Dad, what's a degenerate?"

"Shut up. kid, and keep sucking."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anything else I should know?"

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

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

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

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

"No fashionista, he.

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

"Single stab through the heart. Death instantaneous."


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

Dickwise, the detective would have disagreed.

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

"Who'd want a titorama here?"

"There's more..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And no brownie points for smuggling in hookers."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You could try saying why you iced her."

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 26 - Alan Peden


The wake was over. Now all they had to do was wait for the day when Patrick would be buried.

It had been a closed casket affair. Kathy had wanted an open one, but there was only so much the funeral director could do. A shotgun under the chin didn't mess about.

We were in Kathy's house, and I sat at the back of the living room with a bottle of Bud in my hand. It had felt cold when Kathy had given it to me, but now it tasted warm when I had a drink from it.

Some friends had come round, invited by Kathy. She wanted to sit and chat about Patrick, to remember the good times, have a laugh, share a tear. Everybody had loved Patrick, and it was a shock that he had decided to take his own life. He had only just began the journey through his thirties. He was too young to die, they said. Kathy nodded, and looked away at times, trying to keep her composure.

There were faces from the neighborhood, faces that I knew, others that I didn't. There was another face there that I knew. One I didn't like.

Patrick's brother, Sean.

He walked over to me and stood in front of me looking down. 'Who the fuck are you?' he asked me.

I stood up. His eyes were level with mine and I looked right into them. The Bud was now my weapon of choice, should he decide to bear arms.

'My name's Andrew Dempster. I'm a neighbor. Who are you?' I tried not to smirk as I ran a scenario through my mind: the Bud being smashed off a table, the jagged edge rammed into Sean's face.

'I'm Patrick's brother, Sean. Don't you forget that." He turned and walked away. Staggered slightly as he went through to the kitchen. I put my beer down and went through to the kitchen to get another cold one.

I opened the fridge door. Sean was standing by the sink, looking out of the window. He turned when he heard the fridge being opened. The next thing, the fridge door was being pushed hard against my arm. I pulled it back before it got broken.

'You got a problem?' I asked Sean.

'Are you fucking her?'

'What?' I looked at him.

He stepped closer. 'I asked you if you were fucking her?'

'Enlighten me; who the hell are you talking about?'

'Kathy, who the fuck do you think I'm talking about?'

'Get a grip of yourself. I'm a neighbor.' I pushed past him, and he grabbed the collar of my jacket. Fast, but not fast enough. I grabbed his hand, and twisted it hard. He went round and down, falling on his ass. He started making noises as I let his hand go and knelt down beside him.
'You wish you were sleeping with her, am I right? Dirty bastard. She's your brother's wife, and he's not even cold in the ground. Well, I'm only going to tell you this once; if I ever hear you accuse me of fucking Kathy again, I'll rip your arms so badly, you'll need to open your fucking fly with your teeth. Got that?' I didn't wait for an answer, but got up and walked towards the kitchen door.

'You haven't seen the last of me,' he said, without any conviction.

Later that evening, the house was quiet again. Everybody had gone home, including Sean. I was helping Kathy clear up. When it was all done, we were alone in the kitchen. I walked up to her and held her tight. She kissed me hard, and I reached under her blouse and fondled her left breast. My other hand snaked round to cup her ass.

When we parted for breath, she smiled at me. 'I'll get the Champagne. We can drink it in bed.'

'Sounds good to me.' She opened the fridge door. The Champagne was lying beside the bottles of Bud. 'Before you take that out, we need to talk,' I said.

She looked round the door of the fridge. 'What's wrong?'

I picked a carving knife up out of the knife block. 'Sean thinks I'm sleeping with you. He's not going to let it go.' I smiled at her. 'If he keeps it up, he'll need to go the same way as Patrick.'

She took the Champagne out and smiled. 'Let's make it a car crash the next time. The roads round here can be so dangerous.'

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Powder Burn #25 - Christa Miller

Bad Influence

The little girl in the yard wore only a t-shirt and a diaper. Maria thought that was weird, because it was cold even though the sun was out. Cold enough that Maria had even gone back inside her house, without being told, to get her jacket.

"Hi," she said to the little girl, walking up the driveway and into the yard. "Where's your mommy?"

Sucking her thumb, the girl watched her. She didn't answer, didn't even make silly words like Maria's baby cousins would.

"Is your mommy using the computer?" Maria sat on a pink tricycle. "Mine is. Did she send you outside, too?" She pedaled the trike, but her knees kept hitting the handlebars. She got off and began to wander around the yard. "You sure don't have many toys. What's your name?"

Still the girl kept quiet. But she followed Maria, and that gave Maria an idea. She remembered her cousins liked to throw rocks in the little stream down the road. "Come with me," she told the girl. "Let's do something fun."

They walked together down the dusty dirt road. Maria made sure to hold the girl's hand, as she had seen her mommy and aunt do with her cousins. She wished Mommy could see what good care she was taking of the little girl. She always asked Mommy for a little sister to play with, but Mommy always said no. She asked if she could help with her cousins, who often came to visit, but Mommy said no to that too. "You're too little," she told Maria. Once Maria's Aunt Harriet had added, "Besides, she'll probably—" Maria hadn't heard what her aunt thought she would probably do, but Mommy had laughed and nodded. Neither of them would look at Maria.

She and the little girl reached the river. Maria remembered her cousins liked to stand on the huge rocks that kept cars from crashing down into the water. "Stand up here." She helped the little girl climb onto the biggest rock. "Now I'll find some rocks for you to throw."

The girl smiled when Maria returned with two fist-sized rocks, the size her cousins liked. "Now you throw them in the water, like this." Maria demonstrated with her hand.

The girl threw the first one. It landed somewhere among the grass below. The second plunked into the water among the bigger stones. "Yay!" Maria cheered the way Mommy and Aunt Harriet did.

The shout from behind them sounded like Mommy at first. Maria turned and waved, but the woman running toward them was not Mommy. "Look!" She flung out an arm to point. "Is that your—"

The woman screamed. She stopped where she was, put her hands to her face and screamed the scariest scream Maria had ever heard. Maria put her hands to her ears and tried not to cry.

That was when she noticed the little girl was gone from the rock.

She took her hands from her ears and looked around. No girl.

Then Maria remembered Aunt Harriet scolding her cousin Braden for jumping on the big rock. "Do you want to fall and smash your head on those rocks?" she'd screeched, and Braden cried so loud that they'd all gone home again.

Shaking, Maria looked down the gully.

The girl lay bent across the two big rocks her little rock had fallen between. She was face down in the water. Maria didn't know little kids could hold their breath, like big kids could. Something red spread in the water around the girl. Maria didn't remember her wearing anything red. Then she realized it was blood.

The woman in the road started to run toward her. She wasn't screaming anymore, but her face scared Maria. The woman looked as angry as Mommy had been the time Maria ruined her brother's science project. Mommy had spanked her so hard she couldn't sit for three days.

She didn't mean it this time, she wanted to say. She was only playing with the girl. Andrew hurt her when no one was looking; she wanted to hurt him back. But not the little girl, not her friend.

Instead of coming at Maria, the girl's mother plunged over the bank. She slid down toward the water on her butt. "My baby, my baby," Maria could hear her saying over and over, and finally she had to run, because "my baby" was what Mommy called Andrew and Maria had asked her once why she never called her baby and Mommy had said Maria would never be her real baby.

Sobbing now, Maria ran home. She would hide up in her room, where the girl's mommy could never find her and Andrew could never hurt her again and no one could tell her she wasn't their baby. She would fall asleep, and in her forever dreams she would play with her cousins and the little girl, and no one would ever get hurt again.

Christa M. Miller is a writer based in northern New England . Her work has appeared at Spinetingler, A Cruel World, and Flash Pan Alley. Visit her website at for more.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Powder Flash Burn #24 - Alan Peden

Alan Peden

The wind blew over the North Bridge like a bastard. Whoever said Edinburgh could be a faithful mistress was talking pish.
'Where the fuck is he?' Detective Inspector Mickey Ridge said, giving up trying to light his cigarette.
'Over there,' DS Ian Robertson said, pointing to near the top of the road.
It was eerily quiet. Usually by the afternoon, there were arseholes all over the place, cutting off buses, running red lights, and competing to see who could kill the most pedestrians in the least amount of time. But Christmas Day was different.
A patrol car sat with its blue lights flashing at the top of the road, while uniforms stopped what little traffic there was from the Princes Street end.
'The jumper's name is James. James don't-call-me-Jimmy Pierson,' Robertson said.
'Could the prick not have chosen a fucking warmer day to go sky-diving?'
'He's holding his dog as well.'
'Fuck me, a window licker. Let's go and see the bastard then.'
The two detectives walked down the road. A uniformed officer was standing in the bus lane where normally he would have been splattered by a number 33 by now. 'What's the script here?' Ridge asked the officer. He wondered if he could retire early and fuck off to Miami or something. Anywhere to get away from this fucking December chill.
'He said if he sees another uniform, he'll fucking jump. Wants to talk to a detective.'
'I wish those fuckers would just take a bottle of pills and be done with it.'
'I'm sure the Evening News would love to publish that comment. "Police spokeman says jumpers are a pain in the hole",' Robertson said.
'Fuck 'em. I'm freezing my nuts off here because some fucking half-wit decides to take his dog sky-surfing.'
'You said sky-diving a minute ago.'
'Fuck off.'
A box was laid against the side of the parapet. Did Jimmy put it there to climb over or did a uniform crew put it there? The fire brigade were standing by with their rock-climbing boys, the specialists who led the dozy bastards off Arthur's Seat who had got themselves stuck.
Ridge stood on the box and looked over the side. The wind blew over his shaved head. He wished he had a poofy haircut like Robertson at times, something to keep the chill off.
'So what's the score here, Jimmy?' Ridge said.
'My name's not Jimmy; it's James.'
Jimmy was holding onto a Jack Russel. The dog was shaking in his arms.
'So what's up Jimmy? Too big a line to get on the Ferris Wheel?' The Winter Wonderland had opened up for the Christmas Season, but today the fairground lay dead, the skating rink abandoned.
'You can fucking joke if you like, but I'm deadly serious here.'
Jimmy was dressed in a ragged pullover, dirty jeans and muddy shoes. His hair was being blown all over the place. The dog was wearing a harness and looked up at Ridge like it needed a pee. Or was about to shit itself.
'What's this all about, Jimmy?'
'My name's not Jimmy, it's James. And I'll tell you in good time.'
'You'll fucking well tell me now; I'm freezing my bollocks off here, and I've got a bottle of Becks sitting in the fridge with my name on it. So hurry up and tell me why you're fucking up my Christmas Day.'
'What, has the Police negotiator died or something? You the only one they could dig up at short notice?' He gritted his teeth at Ridge, his face trembling with cold and anger.
'Listen fuck face, you're getting yourself over this parapet in the next thirty seconds or you'll be the first man in history to have a Jack Russel surgical removed from his arsehole.'
'That's nice fucking talk.' He was bracing himself against the cold, concrete wall, but the ledge was wide, so Jimmy wasn't going anywhere fast.
'You got a problem, talk to me about it while I can still feel my balls,' Ridge said.
'That lassie they found in the harbour yesterday?'
'What about her?'
'I killed her. Cut her tits off and dumped her in the water.'
Ridge knew the tits thing was a detail the press had left out. 'Get over here and we'll talk.'
'They're going to stick me away for a long time for doing that to her. I'm not going to prison for that fuck. I didn't know what I was doing.' Then he smiled at Ridge, a dog-vomit kind of smile, full of teeth and lies. 'You're going to tell them I'm a nutter. That I wouldn't have been on this side of the bridge threatening to throw myself and my dog off if I was sane. You'll help me get a nice room in the psycho hospital or else I'll jump.'
Ridge looked back at Robertson. 'How old was that girl we found yesterday?'
He looked back down at Jimmy. 'Fuck you.'
'Yes you fucking well are, you cunt. Or else I'll come over there and stick you with the same blade I stuck her with.'
Ridge could see the blade in the front of his trousers, tucked into the waistband.
'Pull me fucking up now!' Jimmy snapped. He reached a hand up. Ridge reached down. Grabbed a hold of the dog's harness. Stepped down off the box as Jimmy's screams were cut short by the glass on the roof of Waverley Station.
'I missed the fucker's hand,' he said to Robertson. He passed the dog over to him.
'Merry Christmas.'

BIO: Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, but now living in the Hudson Valley, in New York State. Alan has had stories published in Flashin In The Gutters, and Crime Scene Scotland, under the pen name John Carson. He is currently working on a novel.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Powder Burn Flash #23 - Clair Dickson

A Bo Fexler Short Story
Clair Dickson

"Honest, I haven't seen him in, like, weeks," Amy tittered. She flashed a smile.
"When, exactly, was the last time you saw him?" I pressed again. I leaned in, using my several-inch height advantage for intimidation. I'm Bo Fexler, tenacious female private investigator. She was a woman I'd finally cornered outside a Taco Bell after several weeks of investigating.
"Well. Lemme think. I think it was back in April before spring break."
"Spring break?" I arched one eyebrow.
"I'm still in high school. Graduate this year."
"You don't look that young. How old were you started dating Ben?"
"Seventeen. We were pretty steady for a long while."
"That's what I hear."
"But we broke up. I don't even know where he's at."
"I don't buy that."
Her smile vanished and was replaced by a cold frown. "I don't care."
"You've been calling him and harassing him."
"No. No, I haven't."
I moved very close to her. "You didn't like that he broke up with you. That he got another girl. Except, you didn't realize he had the girl on the side most of the time he was dating you. You were the young girl he scored with, she was the girl he was going to settle down with."
"You don't know what you're talking about. You talk this shit, but you can't prove anything."
"I don't have to prove anything to you. You have to try to clear your name. I have enough circumstantial evidence to hang you with."
She shoved me. I allowed myself to tumble back and fall to the floor. She laughed cruelly. "You don't have anything."
"Maybe not. I guess I'll go." I gave up easy, starting to get to my feet. Because I already had what I needed. I had lifted her cell phone from her open, over-stuffed purse.
She didn't give up though. She lunged at me, knocking me back over. She pulled my hair and scratched at my face. I tried to shove her off but was limited because I clutched her phone in one hand. She punched me with a loose fist, so I grabbed her wrist and twisted it until she squealed and scrambled away from me. I thought she was leaving, but she came back for a heeled-kick to my head. I grabbed her ankle, twisted her to the ground beside me, and punched her good in the face. Her nose trickled blood. I got up and got away, finally.
I drove down the street, finally stopping at a gas station. I flipped open Amy's phone and wrote down each of the numbers dialed, noting when they were called. Two numbers were called frequently. One was my client's husband.
But that didn't prove that she was calling to harass like my client's husband claimed. Or that she was seeing the husband, like my client wanted evidence to prove. But I had an idea. I went to my car and took out my tape player. Then, I opened the phone, put it on speakerphone, and dialed.
After three things, a breathless voice answered.
"Hi!" I asked, forcing my voice to high giggly pitch.
"Amy? Is that you?"
"Uh-huh!" I giggled and drawled.
"You not supposed to call this early."
"No? Oh. Right. Forgot."
"Have you been drinking?"
"A little."
"A little?"
"But I wanted to hear you again."
"You must be drunk. You usually only call when you want money, pot, or sex."
"I know. I do. I knew there was a reason I called!" I giggled. This was degrading.
"Which do you want?"
"Can I get sex?"
"No. I told you. I gotta stay home with the baby."
I knew that. "How about pot. I'm out."
"How can you be out? I just sold you four ounces on Sunday."
"I'm starting to think you don't love me anymore."
"I never loved you. You know that. I liked your . . . kitty. You liked my plants."
"That's right. And the wife?"
"What about her? She has what she wants. The nice husband. The kids. The big house. She's got everything she wants. Doesn't suspect a thing."
I rolled my eyes. "Of course not. You're so smart," I said in my normal voice. And hung up. I returned the phone by placing it on Amy's windshield, wiped clean of course, and called my client on my own phone.
She took it in stride.
A few days later, it hit her. And hit Tom. With the weight of their minivan as my client pulled into the driveway after dropping the kids off at her parent's for an overnight visit. I was called to testify on motive.
I supplied the tape, reluctantly admitting that I picked up Amy's phone and pretended to be her. I almost didn't get anything for my trouble. Except I took it upon myself to contact the paper about my testimony-- free advertising.
And I called my client's parents, telling them they were responsible for their daughter's bill if she didn't pay.
I also called Amy and told her that she could have been next. She didn't thank me. Probably because I also set her up to buy pot off an undercover narcotics officer. My way of thanking her.


BIO: Clair Dickson writes Bo Fexler stories when she's not teaching her darling students at the Alternative Adult Education High School Program she's currently underpayed at. She also maintains a blog at, posting links to Bo's published stories there. Clair has a penchant for wordplay, including the title of this story. She can't help it-- it's like Kryptonite.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Powder Burn Flash #22 - Jarret Keene

By Jarret Keene

Peggy put on her make-up, her little zip-up biker jacket and leather pants and satin mules, and drove to Lechter’s. She selected the largest cleaver. She paid with cash, and because it wasn’t yet noon she took the bag into the mall’s Cineplex, where she watched a romantic comedy starring a washed-up soap star whose thinning hair made her think of Sloan’s infected scalp. Her husband had blown a small fortune on experimental implants in a last-ditch effort to stave off his genetic destiny, and the results were truly horrifying: Red, puffy patches of skin. Dandruff galore.

The few remaining healthy hairs Peggy had yanked out when he announced she wasn’t a woman with whom he imagined growing older. He said he wanted a woman with a passionate heart. A woman like the one he’d met at the office. A woman like the one he’d been sleeping with for the last three months, whose name was Cheri McMichaels, and who lived in a house he’d bought for them in Riverglen Gardens now that he was breaking up his marriage. But he was going away on business, his flight was leaving this afternoon, and so could he count on his soon-to-be ex-wife to take his messages and collect his mail until he was ready to move out?

And after ripping the last, precious follicles from his skull — essentially scalping him — she reached for the phone and pretended to talk to a lawyer as Sloan packed his suitcase and peeled out of the driveway in his Jaguar, and when he was gone she sat on the edge of the bed and cried and counted sleeping pills and contemplated razors and went so far as to load the .38 the cheating bastard had bought her last Christmas. It was a fine gun, perfectly suited for the task, but there was no way in hell she was going to give him the pleasure, and so when she settled on a plan she transferred the hairs in her clenched fist into a Ziploc and pushed the toy-sized gun through the sink’s black rubber mouth and switched on the disposal and packed her own suitcase and abandoned the half-million-dollar house amid the awful clamor of metal grinding metal.

Now she gnawed on popcorn. The movie was silly. It pretended love was effortless, redemptive, perpetual. The only thing real and true and eternal was the rage growing inside her. Sloan would never think like this during a movie. He always dozed off in theaters with the excuse that people should catch up on their sleep.

Peggy endured the movie all the way to the credits; each frame kindling the fires of vengeance. Once, she slipped her hand into the bag to stroke the flat part of the cleaver’s blade. She remembered reading an article in a magazine about scalping. Removing the scalp served as evidence of one’s violent prowess. Scalping supplied a portable trophy. Sloan had a trophy girlfriend he rubbing in Peggy’s face, but Peggy had other plans.

When ushers showed up to clean, she exited the theater and wandered through a mall throbbing with consumerism. Her eyes adjusted to the brightness, and she was soon browsing the clearance racks and jostling for position against other shoppers in the merchandise-crowded stores. She got her hair and nails done and searched the bookstore for a decent novel. On the surface, it was routine; she was hitting all her favorites.

She checked her watch, saw it was time and threaded the parking lot. She started up her rental, a red BMW convertible coupe, and set a course for Riverglen Gardens, one of the gated communities outside the city of Tampa. The mid-afternoon sun beat down on the palm trees lining the interstate, and she let the wind play with her new perm because, dammit, it felt good. The thrumming engine buoyed her. The moment was splendid.

She was a woman with a passionate heart.

She stopped the car a hundred yards from the gate and watched the guard sleeping in his booth, but she didn’t wait long because soon Sloan’s Jaguar was zooming out of Riverglen Gardens en route to the airport.

At the gate, she honked her horn, startling the guard. He straightened his tie and approached her car and said, “Well, hello there.”

“Hello,” she said, smiling from behind her sunglasses. She could still make men smile. “I’m the art dealer Ms. Spinoza invited over.”

“OK,” he said. After pressing a button to open the gate he asked, “Say, where are the paintings?”

“Miniatures,” she replied, indicating the shopping bag.

The guard shrugged, waved her through.

She cruised slowly down the upscale streets, and when she found the house she pulled into the driveway and slipped on her velvet gloves and took the bag from the back seat and carried it to the house and rang the doorbell.

Cheri McMichaels opened the door, furrowed her brow, and said, “Do I know you?”
“I’m Peggy.”

“Huh?” said Ms. McMichaels, who reeked of tequila. “Oh, I see, we must have an appointment! Come in.”

In the living room, Peggy glanced at the marble-topped bar and the animal-skin rug. The whore had taste.

“Can I get you a drink?”


When the home-wrecking bitch turned her back, Peggy removed the cleaver from the bag and hacked Cheri McMichaels in the neck.

There was some — but not too much — blood. The rubber gloves came in handy.

She took the Ziploc from her purse and, using tweezers, carefully placed her husband’s hair follicles underneath Cheri McMichaels’ dead fingernails. DNA evidence was still tough to beat.

Minutes later she calmly drove out of Riverglen Gardens.

Passing the sleeping guard, she grinned. Sleep was something people should catch up on.

BIO: Jarret Keene is author of the poetry collection MONSTER FASHION and the rock-band biography THE KILLERS: DESTINY IS CALLING ME, and editor of THE UNDERGROUND GUIDE TO LAS VEGAS. He lives in Las Vegas.