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 remember to type two 'm's in the above URL.)

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 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

Powder Burn Flash # 39 - Eddie Ryan


A shrill cry shattered the evening air.

“Polly’s been murdered,” Alma gasped.

The Rector Robert Frost knelt beside the body. Apart from an incision at the base of neck, there was little sign that a felony had occured. Polly lay peacefully on her side, her deep Blue eyes staring at the ceiling.

“ We won’t have far to look for the culprits,Its time we paid those gentlemen a visit,” Robert said grimly.
They both walked forlornly to the sitting room, the door was slightly ajar.

“You did it,” Alma screamed as a dark pair of eyes swept over her.”

“Alma,” Robert said gently, “Its best not make an assumptions until we know the truth.”

Mr. Asner stared coldly out the window, unmoved by Alma’s outburst. Mr Barnum leaned casually against the oak table, if he had committed a murder; he showed no signs of it.
Mister Barnum scratched his head and opened his mouth, as if about to speak.
Robert sighed and put his arm around his shaking wife.

At that very moment a breathless Gertrude Geller entered the room.

“I heard the scream and came as quickly as I could,” the by now Red faced next door Neighbor panted.

The Rector paced over to Mr. Barnum and gave him a steely stare.

Mr. Barnum looked desperately at Mr. Asner as if seeking some help. Mr. Asner turned away, and ignored him.

“You’ve got a guilty look Mr. Barnum,” the Vicar contined.
Mr. Barnum shifted uneasily, his eyes began to blink faster, he felt trapped he wanted to make a run for it now.

“Wait,” Gertrude broke in, I think I know the killer.”

“I went for my nap about Four PM. I remember falling asleep quickly it was so warm and so very still. I was in a deep sleep. When I thought I heard a cry, it was Polly’s voice”...
“At first I thought I was dreaming and fell back to sleep. Now I realize it was Polly calling out the name of her Assailant.”

“She screamed, Murder, Murder, Mr......

Robert and Alma leaned forward as Gertrude unmasked a killer.

“Mr, Asner.”

The Reverend inhaled sharply.
“Oh no Gertrude,not Mr Asner.”

Robert shook his head sorrowfully.

Robert called out as Mr. Asner raced from the room.

“You wont get away this.”

Mr. Asner kept going. He knew it was time to disappear for a while,and ride out the storm.

A cold Autumn sun shone down as they layed Polly to rest. Robert and Alma read the inscription with misty eyes.


The Ginger Tom Cat emerged from the bushes and walked slowly back towards the house.

“Your a very very naughty boy,” Alma scolded as he marched away.

Mr. Asner kept walking. The storm was already abating, It was time for his favorite Arm chair. Murder after all, could be a very tiresome business!