Thursday, October 9, 2008


Yes, that's right, Powder Burn Flash now has its own url.

I did for several reasons, one being able to have more control over the site and being to add features. More importantly I'm hoping that when it comes down to awards for short fiction that when I submit stories from this site that it will be taken as a more professional and worthy site.

Hop on over to the new site and let me know what you think.

The stories posted here will remain. All 108 stories are also posted on the new site as well as their .pdf versions for your persual.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 108 - James C. Clar

Fish Food

All one hundred and forty-two acres of the freshwater lagoon pool at the Sheraton Maui Resort were crawling with Hawaii State Police and F.B.I. agents. Not one square foot of the facility – including the tropical gardens, quaint wooden bridges and numerous cascading waterfalls – had been neglected. Scuba divers and Coast Guard launches from Ma’alea swept the pristine waters that bordered the wide, sandy stretch of Ka’anapali Beach that nestled in the shadow of the famed lava formation known as Black Rock.

“I assure you, Mrs. Kennedy, we’ll do everything in our power to find your little boy,” FBI Special Agent Müller told the distraught mother. “Speaking bluntly, you understand,” the tall man with the lantern jaw and de rigueur dark sunglasses continued, “the good news is that we didn’t find him hurt, unconscious … or worse … anywhere in the pool.”

With that, Mary Kennedy began sobbing uncontrollably. She tried to respond but, in the place of coherent words, all that emerged was an inarticulate, almost animal-like keening. Her husband, more or less successfully fighting back tears of his own, put his arm around his wife and pulled her in close. The family’s dream vacation had become a nightmare.

“Billy was swimming, just like we said,” Mr. Kennedy offered for the hundredth time, “we looked away for a moment or two, no more, to order lunch from the waitress who was assigned poolside. The next thing you know, he was gone! We spent the next forty-five minutes in the water and scouring the grounds. By then, hotel security insisted that we notify the police. I can’t understand it. Billy was never anymore than fifteen feet away from us. There’s no way anyone could have taken him. And there just wasn’t enough time for him to climb out of the pool and make his way across the grass and then over all that sand to the ocean.”

Mr. Kennedy pointed weakly toward the waters of the Pailolo Channel that shimmered one hundred or one hundred-fifty yards in front of where he stood. The islands of Lana’i and Moloka’i were visible in the distance like emeralds strewn carelessly on a swatch of cerulean corduroy. Brightly colored para-sails floated in the cloudless sky, their operators surely becoming increasingly aware that some tense drama was playing itself out soundlessly beneath them. “Please,” Kennedy continued, “you have to bring our son back to us. He’s only five years old.”

“First of all,” Müller replied, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Not even the tropical heat could soften the crease in his trousers or dampen his starched white dress shirt. “I know it’s difficult, but you have to calm down. Whether it was your idea or not, calling the authorities as quickly as you did renders our job that much easier and increases our chances of finding Billy. I’ve been investigating this kind of thing now for nearly twenty years. Chances are very good that your son heard or saw something interesting and simply wandered off to check it out and got lost. You told me earlier that he was entranced by the koi in the pond over near the hotel restaurant and would spend hours feeding them if you allowed him to. This is a very spacious place with lots of lush vegetation and all kinds of things to capture the attention and spark the imagination of a little boy. He’s probably hiding somewhere now as we speak, afraid that he’s going to get in trouble. You certainly know how children think. In any case, and sooner rather than later, we’ll find someone who saw or remembers something that points us in the right direction.”

Müller spoke briefly into his phone and then turned back toward the anguished parents. “Mrs. Kennedy, I’d like you to stay here and work the area near the pool with Agent Benning. Mr. Kennedy, it would be best if you came with us while we searched the parking lots, tennis courts and areas in front of the hotel along Ka’anapali Parkway . I want both of you to call out Billy’s name and try to convince him that everything’s OK, that he’s not going to be punished.” The sounds of search and rescue helicopters could be heard overhead along with the static-laced strains of official radio traffic borne on the trade winds.

Agent Bennning, an attractive and fit young woman with stylishly short blonde hair, led Mrs. Kennedy gently toward the little hut where a small group of pool attendants had gathered to watch all the activity and to gossip about the most exciting thing that had happened on the beach since any of them had begun working at the Sheraton. Folding tables and chairs had been set up so that local police and FBI personnel could interview hotel guests and staff. Mr. Kennedy, for his part, accompanied Müller and the rest of the search party across the manicured lawn and out toward the parking structure that fronted the sumptuously landscaped hotel property. Before disappearing from view he glanced back over his shoulder and gave his wife what he hoped was a reassuring wave. She seemed barely to notice.

Meanwhile, the late afternoon Hawaiian sunshine turned the water of the pool that meandered over the grounds of the resort a scintillating, eye-straining blue. Little Billy’s inflatable shark, completely neglected in the hullabaloo that attended the boy’s disappearance, bobbed with a gentle poignancy on the ripples that spread outward from the base of a meticulously designed waterslide. If anyone had thought to examine the black, grey and white carcharian float more closely, however, they might have detected an especially contented and well-fed look playing across the exaggerated features of its toothy, smiling face.

The End

BIO: James C. Clar is a teacher and writer living in upstate New York. His short fiction has been published both in print as well as on the Internet. Most recently he has placed stories in publications as diverse as Taj Mahal Review, Orchard Press Mysteries, Everyday Fiction, Antipodean Sci-Fi, Long Story, Short, Shine: A Journal of Flash, the Magazine of Crime & Suspense, Flashshot and Word Catalyst. His criminal tendencies are sublimated in his writing. There's no money in that to speak of but it keeps him out of trouble.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 107 - Lydia Suarez

Honey I'm Home

On the evening of December 13th the Witherspoon family was found dead. Phone records revealed that the mother had spent the afternoon disputing an insurance claim for the eleven-year-old daughter’s strabismus surgery. The daughter’s last text, a homework question, had been sent at five. The father took his usual bus.

The nineteen-year-old son, and prime suspect, found their bludgeoned bodies around eight. He worked at House Despot part time while attending community college. A few weeks prior, he was proud of having, for the first time, passed a drug test.

The Witherspoon's bought the gutted and renovated colonial from a couple who flipped houses and were headed to A McMansion blasted from limestone. At the closing Mrs. Witherspoon had asked, “And who did you buy it from?” The sellers hesitated, "Phil and Nancy." Any more questions would require a lie. Forms awaited signatures. "Did they have kids?" Mrs. Witherspoon was curious about the names traced into soft concrete by the pool. “No,"” the sellers said without resting their pens.

Technically, they were truthful. Phil and Nancy 's daughter had been killed by her estranged husband. His initial ring left an imprint on her cheek. After strangling his wife, he returned to his apartment and hung himself. Their kids, who had been at school, moved away with their grandparents and spent the rest of their lives in therapy.

The ironic coincidence of two murders occurring in one house clouded proceedings.

Every town cop congregated on the night of the Witherspoon murder. They interrogated the son. In high school, he had hung with the troublemakers smoking weed by the creek. News leaked that the son worked in the carpeting department. Certainly, that gave him unparalleled access to a ball peen hammer.

The police chief rose to his fifteen minutes. He eloquently answered the Times reporter. It’s not often that murder comes to a New Jersey suburb. Surely, there was some tragic twist, a junkie son, sordid affair, pedophile dad: dirty little secrets protected by high taxes.

After the funeral, the son was arrested. Mr. Witherspoon's sister arrived from Vegas, hired an attorney, pocketed valuables and listed the house that had been sanitized with Clorox and coffee beans. Her interest waned when it was determined that the son a product of Mrs. Witherspoon's first marriage was sole beneficiary. The son, who had been in rehab, but who had finally turned around, started using again with a vengeance. Prior to getting clean, he had owed substantial sums. The kind of money everyone assumed could get your family killed.

The conviction of a young black male with a rap sheet for narcotics trafficking followed. Residents who boasted about their exemplary school system failed to recall the theme of To Kill a Mockingbird. An innocent criminal went away.

The mayor of the top ranked town, as featured in Soprano Monthly was elected County Executive . The realtor sold to an out of state family and made a tidy profit. Neighbors greeted the Witherspoon replacements, who moved in without the benefit of even a bottle of holy water, with extra good cheer. Property Values stayed up. The SCARE Program expanded to younger children and taught them about drug practices. Within six months, the Witherspoon son was dead. Order was restored.

At the town pool and drunken backyard barbeques, the fine residents opined, "The son did it" or the "dealer did it" depending on their political affiliation. The kids by the creek said, "That house is fucked up. It’s possessed."

A closer look at the curriculum would have revealed the enduing themes of humanity and proven all were wrong.

On the afternoon of December 13th, Jeanette McGinley boarded a bus at Penn Station where she would later discard the clothes. During the prior weeks, she had observed the family's routine. Walking down their street in her winter coat and backpack, she appeared another working Mom. Someone to be shunned at practices by stay at homes but otherwise invisible in this neighborhood.

At the door, she introduced herself to Mrs. Witherspoon. Jeanette thought her pretty but ordinary: Mrs. Witherspoon's unlined face betrayed no suffering, "Hi, you must be Doug's wife," she said. The wife relieved not to find a witness or kids hawking pledges shook hands after Jeanette explained how she and Doug were schoolmates. "He talked so much about you," Jeanette said. "He wanted a hard copy of the auction catalogue for the fund raiser. The wife knew of no such bulletin but let Jeanette in.

That summer, Jeanette and Doug’s reunion had been held in a third rate hotel in the town where they had grown up. For twenty years, Jeanette had imagined what her life with Doug would have been like. To be fair that's not all she did. Jeanette worked to be a successful professional, caring mother and loving wife. But she ruminated about what would have happened if Doug and she had not split, if he hadn’t left for college, if she had spoken the right words, if she had been bustier.

At the party, she cornered him by the crudités, "Doug, it’s me." Jeanette looked more or less the same. His pasty smile was not simply the embarrassment of a forgotten name. Jeanette felt like molten metal suddenly cooled. Doug's features were as vacant as if he were already dead.

Jeanette shyly asked Mrs. Witherspoon to use the powder room. She changed into sweats, sneakers and a tee. Mrs. Witherspoon managed to say, "What" before Jeanette landed the ping between her eyes. The next crack was to the back of the head.

She went upstairs. The daughter was at the desk. Jeanette felt proud that she had spared the mother the suffering of knowing. She took care of business swiftly. Jeanette was no monster afterall.

Doug however, she allowed to go through the house calling out. She heard him scream from downstairs and race up the stairs. When he walked into the master bedroom, Jeanette was ready for him. "Now you won't forget me," she said.

BIO: Lydia's stories and poems have appeared in ezines and journals including Quality Fiction, 971 Menu and Literary Tonic. She lives in Northern New Jersey where she does not open the door to strangers.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Powder Burn Flash #106 - Barry Baldwin


How could a grown man spend so much time playing with - he called it working with - puffballs on legs that slept all day and pounded around a wheel all night? Stupid hamsters. Mary wouuldn't have them in the house. So John set them up in the garage, which meant he was out there with them instead of indoors with her.

This had only started after they were married. He'd simply brought a pair home. She didn't argue, but looks speak volumes and she gave him one that had him hastily promising they'd be no trouble for her. Generations of hamsters slept and squeaked and died out there without Mary having even one proper baby to play or work with inside.

Mary asked her married girl friends what they thought of this hamster-induced apartheid. They all told her to get over it. Compared with car nuts or football freaks or Friday night poker players, a husband who got off on garage parties with a few furry rodents was to keep.

It wasn't that they did nothing together, simply that whenever there was a conflict of interest, the hamsters won. One Saturday, as John was getting ready to leave, she said, "You haven't forgotten Ted and Lorraine tonight?"


"So you'll be back for six ."

"I guess."

"I don't want that we should let them down again. Lorraine was pretty ticked off when we missed Ted's birthday dinner."

"Six sounds fine."

Just what did they do at hamster shows? John had once tried to explain: different varieties - Djungarian, Syrian, Teddy Bear; coats; confirmation...Mary hadn't really listened. "It'd better be."

"I'll be back."

He wasn't. Not by six. Mary was nodding over the eleven o'clock news when he edged in. "Hi."

"You did it again, didn't you?"

"I'm really sorry. Something came up. I had to stay back for an emergency and..."

How the hell could hamsters have an emergency? "So, my evening's down the bowl, as usual."

"Our evening..."

"Mine; you had yours. Screw it. Screw you."

"Is it too late to ring Ted and Lorraine?"

"I'll do it tomorrow. They'll either not be back or they'll be in bed. Together." Mary emphasised the last word. "Anyway, they aren't the point."

When John came cautiously back from his morning cage-cleaning session, Mary homed in like a Scud missile. "I just talked with them. Like a dope, I tried to cover for you. They let me yadder about flat tires and phones on the fritz before Lorraine said there was nothing on their machine and how come they'd seen you on a sidewalk with some woman? I said no way, but Lorraine didn't sound any too convinced, then Ted came on sniggering that he hoped so for my sake, that woman was sure a looker, so I just made myself laugh and rang off. I'll never be able to face them again."

"Some friends. Listen, I can explain."

"You didn't last night."

"No, because you said your piece and stomped off before I could say much of anything. The woman was Glenda Wood, the Hamster Society President. It was her made me stay back. Apparently some guy is complaining about the judging, plans to make a stink with the National Association, so Glenda figured we'd better work out how to head him off at the pass. By the time we'd done, she said I must be hungry, why don't we grab a bite some place, so we did."

"Don't they have phones in that part of town?"

"Of course, but I knew you'd be steaming, so I thought I'd just take my lumps when I got home."
"That's a crock, and even if it isn't, it still makes you a thoughtless bastard, so we end up where we were."

For the first time ever, John stood on his dignity in a hamster-fuelled spat. "If that's what you think, that's what you think. I'll pack a few things and be out of your hair. I can sack out at the office tonight. I'll collect the rest of my stuff tomorrow."

Had she wanted him to leave or stay? Mary prowled around, at one point leaving the house for a few minutes before retreating into its silence. Then she made a call.

Around midnight, Mary's hand was on the switch, when she heard the back door being carefully opened: what with everything, she'd forgotten the dead-bolt. She was about to wet herself when John's voice came up.

"It's only me."

"So what brings you back?" "No, don't tell me, what else but the late-night hamster patrol?"

"I...I ought to take a quick look at them, but I wanted to see you first. I feel so bad about everything. You were right to let me have it. Can't we make it right between us?"

Mary didn't, couldn't, answer his question, but said, "I was too quick on the draw over Glenda Wood. I found her number in your desk and gave her a line about how you were missing some Society file and had she seen you with it last night, you'd been called into the office, two emergency meetings in a row, what a life, and it was obvious from what she said that you'd told me the truth. Okay?"

John didn't answer either. He got onto the bed. They had a long hug. "I'm deep-sixing the hamsters. At least, after next month's big show, that's the Fur Bowl and a cash prize, if I win we could take a weekend away, kind of a second honeymoon."

He might mean it. After all their previous fights, he'd not once promised to give them up. But now, what did it matter? Genuine or not, his good intentions would never survive, nor to judge by the look on his face when he got back and the way he moved towards the bed would she, his going into the garage and finding the hamsters with their stupid little heads cut off.

BIO: 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).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 105 - BV Lawson


They stared at the rising orange-red flambé topped with a layer of black smoky icing, that was once a mobile home. By the time firefighters could make their way up the winding road in the dark through the maze of rusted wire fencing, bramble bush and downed hemlock branches, all that remained of the double-wide would be concrete block piers and a blanket of embers.

Barrow tried not to think about the body inside. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He'd seen his share of death before, in his line of work as a sheriff's deputy. But he doubted the woman beside him had.

"Are you all right, Sister?" he asked.

She nodded, never taking her eyes away from the flames, all the while fingering her rosary beads. He guessed it was a good thing her habit was black, but he wondered if the smoke would stain the white wimple.

"It's God’s will," she said.

He almost laughed out loud at that. Was it God's will Amos Scoggins should become the largest meth producer in McDowell County, cooking up twenty-five pounds of crank each year, luring in the downtrodden and desperate looking for a little high to get them through their miserable lives?

"I said a prayer for him," Sister Theresa added.

"Too little, too late, if you ask me. What about his victims?

She replied, softly, "I say prayers for them, too.

"They watched in silence for a few moments, as silent as two people can be standing upwind of a roaring fire full of crackling pops and the whooshing sounds of heated gas.

"Do you think he'll go to heaven or hell?" Barrow asked. He wasn't a theologian, and at this point didn't care what happened to Scoggins, as long as Amos wasn't still alive and breathing on this Earth. Still, he was curious.

"I'd like to think redemption is possible for everyone." She hesitated. "Yet I can't help but remember the Parker family. And the Marsten twins, and the Satterfield baby." She sniffed. "I held that baby the night he was born, then three days later...

He'd been first on the scene at the Satterfield place. The young parents were stoned so far out in Methville they hadn't even noticed when they forgot and left the baby in its carrier on the front step where it was mauled by the neighbor's Rottweiler. There wasn't much left to bury, but he'd gone to the graveside service, anyway. The parents had skipped out of town to avoid arrest.

He knew about the Marsten twins, too, who had suffered strokes after delivery due to the mother's heavy meth use. The woman didn't even know she was pregnant until she saw blood in the tub when starting to give birth.

As for the Parker family, they were so typical of the majority of users, they could be the poster family for the DEA. Rotted, blackened teeth, infected sores on their faces and arms from picking at imaginary crawling insects. Before Scoggins got hold of them, they were a decent family, hardly saints, but law-abiding folks who worked at the sawmill and sang in the church choir.

Yet Scoggins never touched the stuff himself.

When Barrow had taken Sister Theresa into the mobile home an hour earlier, she'd crossed herself several times and mumbled a couple of Hail Marys. The main lab had been located in the bedroom, if you could call it that. Sister Theresa had taken in the stained threadbare mattress piled high with trash, an antique chest of drawers laden with bottles of unidentifiable pungent orange, yellow, and green liquids, and various other paraphernalia--rubber gloves, plastic tubing, a camp stove--and promptly cried out,"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!"

They'd found Scoggins in a second bedroom, sprawled out naked on a single mattress on the floor, his eyes bulging outward as he gasped for breath. They'd stood there, watching him for a full two minutes before she'd asked, "Shouldn’t we do something?"

Do what? Lecture him, arrest him, put a bullet through his head? Barrow had waited and then did what he thought the sister might approve. He'd closed Scoggins' eyes as the man breathed his last.

Out in the kitchen they found marijuana, a .45 caliber pistol, and $5,400 in cash. He'd toyed with the idea of handing the money over to the Sister for her clinic, but thought better of it. He doubted even God wanted blood money.

Funny thing about meth labs. All those chemicals and solvents made for a rather combustible situation. It didn't take much to set them off, and a Molotov cocktail thrown inside an open door did the trick just fine.

When Barrow had thrown it, he'd thought about his little brother lying six-feet under and how meth often induced paranoia followed by suicide. He knew Sister Theresa would keep his secret and how she understood God's will sometimes needed a little human assist. After all, the poor little mauled Satterfield baby, Nicholas, had been her nephew.

Sister Theresa had breathed a prayer for the soul of Amos Scoggins, and then Sister Theresa herself had lighted the wick.

It was a cloudless night, and you could even see the Milky Way. She looked up at the stars and sighed. "The pancake breakfast for the women's shelter is tomorrow morning. They said it might rain, but I don't see any signs, do you?"

He guided her gently back toward the car. "It wouldn't dare. Besides, you've probably prayed long enough and loudly enough that God got the message and ordered up a perfect morning. Aren't you the one always saying God works in mysterious ways?"

"That He does, Bill. That he does."

Through the rearview mirror, the flames were still lighting up the darkness. He'd leave it to the firefighters now. He'd done what he had to do. Maybe even God's will, if you squinted a bit.

BIO: My short story honors include a Center Press Masters Literary Award, and contest honorable mentions for Deadly Ink (published in that anthology), Mysterical-E, Crime and Suspense, and the Press 53 Open Awards, and I was a finalist for the 2008 Derringer Awards. Other recent and upcoming publication credits include Mysterical-E, Great Mystery and Suspense, Cantaraville, ESC! Magazine, Mouth Full of Bullets, Northern Haunts: 100 Terrifying New England Tales, and Static Movement. In addition, I've written articles for Mystery Readers Journal and penned public radio and commercial television feature scripts and articles for The Washington Times and special-interest magazines. I’m currently working on a mystery series, including short stories, novellas, and novels, as well as general fiction. I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and American Independent Writers. My web site is, and I also operate the blog "In Reference to Murder,"

Friday, September 5, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 104 - Sandra Seamans


Folks hereabouts shy away from Baker's Quarry. Well, not everybody. There's always a stray couple or two looking for a private corner to cuddle naked in. And me.

I favor this torn up piece of earth. Relish the harshness of the flagstone walls that look straight down on the muddy, frog-infested pool of water that's cradled in the earth below. I come here for the aloneness of the place, embracing the solitude, finding a tiny shred of peace in its ragged beauty. But mostly I come because the Quarry shares my secrets, keeps them buried deep inside the fall of rocks that litter the base of her walls.

Ten miles west of here, in the little town of Sarah's Bend, folks whisper about the Quarry and her secrets. They whisper tales of death and tragedy, of ghosts that walk the flagstone cliffs at night, unable to rest. Those folks are wrong about the walking. The ghosts that haunt Baker's Quarry dance to the symphony of a million crickets singing in harmony with the sweet strains of the tree peepers. My ghosts sway on the gentle breezes of soft summer nights, bidding me to join them in their summer's waltz. But always, I walk away, returning to Sarah's Bend and the whispers that trail in my shadow.

Folks in town believe they know the truth of what happened that night, but they don't. Not really. People tend to weave a bit of romance into the telling of tragic stories in an effort to make them more palatable. Everyone wants to believe that my mother was there at the Quarry to meet a secret lover, their tangled gossip twisting my father into a killer who ran away in the face of what he'd done. In their foolish attempts to understand that horrifying night, they've stretched the truth into a romantic story of a ghost searching for her lost lover. But deep down? They don't want the truth because they know the truth is ugly.

I know. I was there on the cliffs that night. Watching. My mother, looking so beautiful in the soft moonlight, laughing and dancing with a man who wasn't my father. My daddy found them, too, stripped naked in the moonlight, the heat of their passion melting them into one being. He confronted them in that soft way he had, begging mother to come home with him, forgiving her deceit, instead of using the shotgun he carried.

I watched helplessly as they forced him to step back, closer to the edge. Horror holding my tongue silent as mother pushed him, the Quarry swallowing his screams, his gun falling to the ground, with never a shot fired to save himself. I can still feel the anger clutching at my heart, squeezing it into a throbbing ball of hatred for this woman who took my father's love and used it to kill him.

I crept to the edge as they made their way down the stone path to the bottom, my hands searching the grass for daddy's gun. Their laughter, caught on the updrafts, filled my ears as they pushed my father into the frog slimed pond, pushing his body deeper into the muddy bottom with rocks from the Quarry wall. Tears for my father flooded my eyes as I aimed for mother's heart, and in a perfect twist of fate, that's exactly what I hit.

Mother's ravaged face still haunts my troubled dreams. And nights, as I sit on the silent cliffs waiting for their moonlight dance to begin, I can once again hear the vile curses she heaped upon my head that night as she tried to pull the gun from my hands. Oh, how she wanted to kill me for stealing her happiness. I can still hear her screams as she stumbled backward, tripping over the edge to join her lover, and the deathly silence that echoed off the Quarry walls as the blood seeped from her twitching body.

I buried her lover that night, in a slide of rocks and dirt swept from the Quarry's bosom. And my dear, sweet, betraying mother? I left her naked and alone in the ragged arms of the Quarry, her sins laid bare for all the world to see. As for me? I treasure the town's whispers of ghosts and lost lovers. Their voices are a constant reminder of her betrayal, making it easier to live with the guilt of killing my own mother.


BIO: You can find Sandra's stories scattered around the internet in places like Spinetingler, Grim Graffiti, Thrilling Detective, and PulpPusher. Feel free to drop her a note at

Powder Burn Flash # 103 - Phil Beloin Jr.


One more stop. That’s all he had.

Jimmy didn’t like these unscheduled pickups, but he couldn’t do much about it. Two summers ago, he had broken into a house through an open window. Stupid, really, his first time, too, and all he had gotten was a few bucks and a ride in a passing police cruiser.

His cellmate turned out to be his future boss’ brother and as soon as Jimmy was paroled, he got hired driving a garbage truck. At first, he hated it, sitting on his ass all day, negotiating the never ending traffic, emptying rank dumpsters, but then he learned to appreciate the job most of the time. Driving around was perfect for a lazy man, his machine was one of the biggest on the road, and the smell never bothered him anymore.

Turning into the alley, Jimmy spotted the rusty container. He wondered what the guy in the dumpster had done to deserve his fate. What did it really matter anyway? If you crossed certain people, it could cost you your life.

Jimmy had avoided some trouble last month. While walking through the hall, he had overheard his boss and supervisor talking about a prominent State Senator. The two had seen Jimmy going by, but neither said a word to him. A few days later, the Senator couldn’t be found. Over the preceding weeks, the story had disappeared, much like the missing politician.

Lining up the mechanical forks, Jimmy maneuvered the controls to lift the dumpster off the ground, heave it over the cab, and empty the contents into the back of the truck. Got me a passenger now, he thought.

Ten minutes later, the garbage truck pulled through the gates of the landfill. Jimmy took the dirt road up and around the mounds of refuse and near the dump zone, he spotted a bright new Caddie, his boss and supervisor getting out of the car. What were they doing here? They never met him on these special runs.

Jimmy’s heart thudded in his chest. Adrenaline made his limbs quake. He guessed the body in back was that missing State Senator. His employers had been waiting for things to cool down before they got rid of the body.

Jimmy watched the two men cover over to the cab.

“Any problems?” the boss said.

“Nah,” Jimmy said. “A real milk run.”

“Now we just got to finish it,” the supervisor said.

“All right, kid,” the boss said. “Get out. I’ll empty this one.”

Jumping down, Jimmy stumbled into the supervisor. Something prodded Jimmy’s rib cage and then his chest exploded in pain. He looked down, saw the barrel of a pistol and blood spreading across his shirt.

“Take him in back ” the boss said. “And I’ll cover him up, too.”

The supervisor grabbed Jimmy and dragged him towards the rear of the truck.

“You shouldn’t have been listening in, Jimmy,” the supervisor said. “That was dumb. Real dumb.”

Just before the garbage buried him, Jimmy heard the supervisor say, “That’s the last loose end.”

BIO: Phil Beloin's fiction has appeared in such e-zines as: Spinetingler, Pulp Pusher, Amazing Adventures! Magazine, and soon in Mouth Full of Bullets. Love him, hate hit, at

Monday, September 1, 2008

Powder Flash Burn # 102 - Stephen D. Rogers


As soon as he answered the telephone, I said, "It's me, Cornelius."


"Don't hang up." I turned away from the FBI agents trying to stand close enough to overhear Harry's side of the conversation and focused on the man inside the house with a gun. "How are you doing?"

"I've been better."

"How is David?"

"He's sleeping like a log. This is his nap time."

"Harry, I missed you at the bowling alley last night. I had to accept Marvin as a partner. We were trounced."

"I was busy. Planning."

"Planning what, Harry?"


Harry was holed up with a gun and his three-year old boy, surrounded by local cops, state police, and the FBI. He perhaps should have spent a little more time planning.

Special Agent Davis hissed at me, "Send him out unarmed."

"Harry, this is not the best way to resolve your differences with Emilee."

"You should see him, Cornelius. David must weight fifty or sixty pounds. You know what he said he had for breakfast this morning? Chocolate pie. He ate two pieces and she finished the rest."

"Kidnapping your son is not a solution, and that's how the law sees what you've done."

"You know how I got away with him? I didn't want to run from the house because I thought it might scare him. I walked fast. Emilee couldn't keep up. She couldn't even scream, couldn't catch her breath."

"Harry, you need to come out."

"So they can return David to that monster?"

"Emilee has legal custody."

"She's killing him with that junk she eats, setting up eating habits that will stay with him forever. It's wrong."

"I understand what you're saying. You're concerned about your boy's health. You're a good father."

"I turned a blind eye to her food issues for as long as I could but this is different. He's just a child. It's abuse how she feeds him."

"Not according to the law. Since about sixty law enforcement officers are encircling the property, the law is what we need to keep in mind."

"What does the law know about raising a boy?"

"Not much. But sometimes the law is all we have."

"The price is too high if it comes at the cost of little David. Little. That's a laugh. I only have furniture in two rooms here. You think David wants to run around and whoop it up like a normal kid? He lays on the couch and complains that I don't have more channels."

A helicopter was flying overhead. I didn't look up to identify it, didn't want to break my concentration. "Perhaps he's fighting a cold or something."

"Perhaps he doesn't want to lug around all that extra weight." Harry sighed. "You remember Emilee from back when we were all in school together? She was as thin as a rail."

"Yes." I'd even dated her once or twice before she and Harry became an item. "She was."

"Her brother drank himself to death. He killed himself without breaking the law and Emilee is doing the same thing only she's taking David down with her."

"Harry. Why did you tell Officer Banks that you had a gun when she knocked on the door and announced herself?"

"I thought she should know."

"Your statement has been interpreted as a threat. Against the police officer. Against your son."

"I don't want to hurt anybody."

"That's good, Harry. We don't want to hurt anybody either. We need you to put down the gun and come out of the house with your hands in the air."

Special Agent Davis whispered urgently into his headset.

"And then what?"

"We'll take you into custody."

"What about David?"

"He'll go back to his mother. That's the law."

"It's not right."

"I'm not disagreeing with you, Harry, but we need to take this one step at a time. I can try to schedule a meeting between you and the judge so that you can state your case. But first you have to give yourself up."

"The judge didn't listen to me last time and now I'll be presented as a kidnapper. You can't really believe that anyone is going to switch over to my side."

"I'm on your side, Harry. I'm on David's side too."

"I thought you were on the law's side."

"I represent the law but the law is big enough to take care of itself. I'm here to help you and your boy."

Special Agent Davis grinned at me. "Marksmen are in position. Either send him out or move him towards a window."

"Harry, the FBI wants to wrap this situation right now. Unload the gun and place the ammunition in your pocket so that David won't be in danger if he wakes in the new few minutes. Place the unloaded gun on a flat, visible surface and come out of the house with your hands over your head. Ignore the other officer and walk straight towards me."

Special Agent Davis grabbed my arm. "What if he's wearing a bomb."I closed my eyes. "Harry, are you wearing a bomb?"

"A bomb? You know me better than that."

"I had to ask."

"Cornelius. Promise me that David will get to see a professional therapist to help him deal with his mother."

"I can try. I can't promise."

"That's what I thought. Chocolate pie for breakfast doesn't make him a victim. The judge won't order therapy just because the kid is obese."


The line went dead.

Seconds later, there was a single shot from inside the house.

David would get that therapy.

BIO: Over six hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than a hundred publications. His website,, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Powder Burn Flash #101 - James C. Clar


The moment Paul Blaine boarded the train in Delhi he felt an enormous sense of relief. No, that wasn’t quite accurate; it was more like elation. In fact, as they pulled out of the station he was ecstatic, almost giddy. Fifteen years in this wretched country as a mid-level colonial bureaucrat and he was finally going home. As far as he was able to size up the situation it was just in time too. He gave it maybe five more years, probably less, before the blighters were granted independence. And after that, well, he reckoned there would be chaos within a fortnight. Anyone who thought that these people could govern themselves was a bloody idiot. But, so far as he was concerned, it would be good riddance to bad rubbish. Not even the thought of the forty-eight-hour journey to Bombay or the long voyage from there to England by sea could dampen his spirits. He was on his way home and that’s all that mattered. Besides, if all went according to plan, he wouldn’t be sober long enough to remember much of the trip anyway.

Later that evening, Blaine entered the dining car. He was pleased to see the usual small army of liveried waiters bustling to and fro. There were linen napkins, heavy silver cutlery and crystal stemware on the tables, of course. The sun might be setting on the empire but damned if his people didn’t still know how to run a railway. There was no reason whatsoever why one shouldn’t continue to travel in comfort. He ordered a bottle of wine and the beef curry. There was precious little that he fancied more than a good curry. For his money it was the subcontinent’s only contribution to civilization. He understood from his various correspondents back home that there was plenty of good Indian food to be found in London these days. He’d be the judge of that for himself, thank you very much!

When his meal arrived he set to work with gusto. After four or five mouthfuls he pushed his plate aside. It was hard to tell owing to how heavily-spiced the dish was but the whole lot tasted a bit dickey. Blaine suspected that they had used an inferior cut of meat. He just hoped it wasn’t water buffalo or yak or some nonsense like that. He had heard horror stories of native cooks making do with whatever happened to be at hand. He had half a mind to complain but thought better of it. What did one expect in this country anyway? The jewel in the crown; what utter rot that was. There was no point in making a scene. He drank his wine, ate more of the bread that had come with his meal and finished with coffee and dessert. When he rose from the table he belched quietly to himself.

Paul Blaine passed the rest of the evening in the smoking car reading the newspapers and drinking whiskey and soda. When he left to turn in, he attributed his somewhat queasy feeling to the fact that he had consumed a fair amount of alcohol on what was, for all intents and purposes, an empty stomach. He tossed and turned in his berth. At some point during the early hours of the morning he became violently ill. He was not alone. It seems that anyone who had ordered the beef curry at dinner suffered from the same gastrointestinal distress. When the train eventually entered the station in Bombay a number of the passengers, in fact, had to be hospitalized. All things being equal, Blaine had been lucky. His symptoms passed quickly. He was weak and dehydrated for a day or two but by the time his ship sailed he felt none the worse for wear … and, besides, he had needed to lose a few pounds anyway.

The authorities conducted a rather perfunctory investigation. The kitchen staff was interrogated and the facilities aboard the train were inspected but to little effect. Everyone knew how ferociously difficult it was to keep meat from spoiling in this climate. Besides, as one of the ministers remarked, mysterious maladies were hardly a rarity in these parts.


Some days later when the train was making its scheduled return to Delhi , one of the supply stewards entered his quarters and locked the door. He pulled open a drawer and, reaching underneath, extracted an envelope which had been carefully secreted there. It contained a rather large sum of money. The man began counting. He knew it was all there, he had checked at least twice already today, but it never hurt to be sure. What a remarkably easy way to make a profit! He smiled when he thought of what his wife would say. He was well on his way to having the funds necessary so that he and his family could finally return home to Essex . But he had to be careful. He had to hold off for a bit now. No one had ever gotten sick before. There had been some complaints, to be sure, but that wasn’t at all unusual. If people fell ill again too soon, however, everyone would become suspicious and they might be forced to look into the matter much more closely. No matter, he and his native partners could afford to be patient. There was certainly no shortage of corpses in India … and there were more than a few overworked and underpaid functionaries desperate to dispose of the bodies in the most efficient manner possible. If someone took advantage of that deplorable situation, so be it. The British were always complaining that the people in this insane country weren’t enterprising enough. He wondered what they would think if they only knew. Next time he’d make certain that the shipment was packaged as chicken.

Paul Blaine, for his part, eventually arrived home safely. It was quite some time, however, before he fancied another curry.


BIO: James C. Clar teaches and writes in upstate New York. Most recently, his short fiction has been published in The Taj Mahal Review, The Magazine of Crime & Suspense, Orchard Press Mysteries, Shine: The Journal of Flash, Pen Pricks Micro-Fiction and Coffee Cramp Ezine.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 100!!!! - Robert Aquino Dollesin

Under the Aztec Sun

As he slowly regained consciousness, Martinez felt he was dreaming. Confined in a small dark space, he was being jostled up and down. It took several minutes for his head to clear, but once it did he was able to identify the steady humming noise as that of an automobile engine. In the dark he tried to stretch his legs, only to realize that someone had him hogtied.

Maria? He pictured his wife, Maria. God, why couldn’t he think straight? Straining to recall what had happened, Martinez drew a blank. He’d been angry with Maria. But angry about what? Each surfacing image was unclear. Like fragments of a faded photograph or puzzling scenes of a movie incorrectly stitched together.

Realizing he was in the trunk of a moving car was easy. Figuring out how he got there was not. He breathed in the hot musty air. Was he inside Maria’s Pinto. Wait. The Pinto was a hatchback. No trunk. By the roughness of the ride he easily determined the driver was speeding down some unpaved road. But headed where?

The bumping suddenly halted, the engine quieted. Martinez heard the driver’s side door being slammed shut. Footsteps crunched over gravel. Someone fumbled with a key. And then the trunk flew open and Martinez closed his eyes against the blinding sunlight. When he opened them again, he recognized the Indian blanket he sometimes spread out on park grass so Maria could sit without staining her clothes. He was in his own trunk. But who was outside? Martinez squinted, but only saw mottled colors floating against a dark silhouette. Maria? No. The silhouette belonged to a man. A large man.

Still unable to make out the shadowy figure, Martinez cleared his parched throat and said, “Who the hell are you? What the hell do you want?”

A solemn, low-pitched voice answered, “I’m the man whose life you destroyed.”

The big man slowly eased into focus. Martinez watched him pull a white handkerchief from an inside pocket of his black coat and wipe his pockmarked face. His hair was tucked beneath a tilted fedora. Behind the man, Saguaro cactuses stood apart at irregular distances with their limbs held up like scarecrows guarding an endless stretch of baked red earth.

“I don’t know you,” Martinez said, feeling dampness under his arms. He tried, but was unable to squirm free of his restraints.

Maria. Something about Maria filled his mind. A Taco Bell on Sepulveda. It grew clear. He remembered now that he had caught her coming out of the restaurant with another man. But it wasn’t this man who stood outside the trunk, was it? No. The man with Maria was much younger, much thinner. But who was that man with Maria? More importantly, who was this man in front of him?

The big man turned his back to Martinez and raised an arm. He removed his fedora and swiped a forearm across his forehead. For a long time he stared into the thick emptiness of the desert. When he finally turned around to face Martinez again, the man said, “It was my daughter’s fifteenth birthday.”

Martinez closed his eyes and tried to draw out the memory of this man. Nothing. All he could recollect was Maria. She and her companion had sat down beside each other at a patio table. They laughed and touched fingertips under the shade of a large green-and-white umbrella.

Martinez remembered the hurt he felt when seeing his wife with another man. The physical pain in his chest. The turning in his stomach. The wobbling of his legs. All that rushed back. But the man outside. Martinez had no recollection of him.

“She was all I had,” the big man said. He turned back around to face Martinez and slowly leaned his head into the trunk, so close that Martinez could smell the alcohol on the man’s breath.

“Who are you?” Martinez said.

The man pulled away and said, “I am a man with nothing left to live for."

“Oh, God,” Martinez murmured.

The big man shook his head. “You remember now, don’t you?”

Martinez remembered.

While he’d sat watching from his car, Maria had leaned into her companion. They kissed. Martinez had gripped the steering wheel. His vision blurred. He recalled with clarity how he reached beneath the seat and felt the cold steel of the pistol. Then everything happened quickly. He pointed the weapon out the window and kept squeezing the trigger until the magazine was empty. Maria was on the ground. Her lover, too. But it was the table behind Maria and her lover. That was where he’d seen him. Martinez’s eyes widened. “God. I didn’t mean to hurt your daughter.”

The big man closed his eyes and raised his head to face the blistering sun. He breathed in deeply as if he needed his lungs to hold every bit of the desert air. His eyes welled. Red flecks were visible on his pulsing neck and his twitching nose.

Closing his eyes again, Martinez replayed the final moment in the Taco Bell parking lot. The big man was weeping, holding his daughter in his arms. Then when the man spotted Martinez, he had carefully laid his child onto the ground. When the man got to his feet and started across the lot, Martinez squeezed the trigger. But the weapon had been empty. He could still hear the hollow clicks. He had tried to restart his car. Then the big man was upon him. Nothing after that.

“Don’t kill me,” Martinez said.

The big man shook his head. “I’m not going to kill you.”

Relieved, Martinez sighed.

Once again the big man raised his face to the sky. “The Aztec sun will take us both.” He then turned and started across the earth. Martinez screamed, but the man continued on until he reached the nearest Saguaro. There he sat and closed his eyes. While Martinez screamed, the big man removed his cap and set it in his lap.

*** End ***

BIO: Robert Aquino Dollesin was still a kid when he left the Philippines. He now resides in Sacramento, where he writes now and again. Among numerous other venues, some of his work can be found on Storyglossia, Nossa Morte, Big Stupid Review, Thug Lit.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 99 - Cormac Brown

Peanut Oil

It’s hot. Almost “ Death Valley kills the pioneers” hot. Which is no easy feat, considering that this is October in usually foggy San Francisco . But the Northern Californian version of Chandler ’s Santa Ana winds, the Diablo, is seeing to that, making everything as arid as the Sahara .

Kelly Boles has it in his head to take a week off…unpaid. Fuck the mounting pile of bills on the stand by the door; he feels a novel running through his head like a dam about to burst. Kelly though he would he would try “kickwriting” like Kerouac did with “On The Road,” minus the rolls of tracing paper taped together and the Benzedrine.

Nothing doing.

He over-caffeinated himself and as a result, every single thing is a distraction: the wailing cries of his computer’s overworked fan, his dying piece-of-shit refrigerator, his growling stomach, and the ambient noise of his neighbors that is bouncing off the heat and into his open windows.

The couple next door is particularly vexing, as they argue about how to prepare a dish.

“It’s not Szechwan beef if you cook it vegetable oil! You have to use peanut oil!”

“Then why don’t you go buy some fucking peanut oil, already?”

“I will!...uh, can you lend me some money?”

Kelly cannot believe that she tolerates this tool. She’s beautiful and she can cook? That idiot should be kissing the very ground that she walks on. Women like that might become extinct within his lifetime.

Kelly’s stomach is grumbling, so he drinks a glass of water to shut it up. He looks across the street and sees “Szechwan Beef” dash into the corner store. Kelly thinks about the wonderful aromas from next door that are to come and his stomach grumbles again. He gulps down another glass of water.

As he puts the glass in the sink, he notices a balding man in a trench coat dashing into the store. Who the hell wears a trench coat in this kind of weather? A flasher? The guy has to be a flasher, because porn theaters don’t exist anymore.

“Open the register now!”

“Jesus, that guy had a shotgun under that trench coat” whispers Kelly. The store’s owner reaches under the counter and oh shit, watch out Szechwan Beef! He didn’t see or hear “Trench Coat” and he panics, dropping the bottle of peanut oil and startling everyone.

The store’s owner brings his pistol up and “Trench Coat” pulls the trigger. Good God, the roar is deafening as the heat ricochets the sound all over the neighborhood. The store’s windows are peppered with blood, gore and holes. The store’s owner is nowhere to be seen. Trench Coat turns toward Szechwan Beef, but he already fled during the first shot.

Trench Coat pumps a shell into the chamber and takes a step. He slips, he disappears, a foot comes up, and there’s a muffled boom.

Kelly looks left and right, but there seems to be nobody in the store. He gets his phone and dials 911. He grabs a chair and stands up. Kelly can barely see Trench Coat’s feet twitching in the window and he sees what he guesses are teeth or bits of bone, right by the front door. It’s hard to tell from this distance.

As the 911 operator puts him on hold before he can say anything, Kelly shakes his head. Not because of the operator, but because this would’ve made a great story. Unfortunately, Kelly feels that just like stickups, crime fiction doesn’t pay enough.

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

Monday, July 28, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 98 - Michael A. Kechula


My thoughts of murdering Holly Spencer were interrupted by rowdy Skinheads, who plowed through Manhattan’s rush-hour crowds. One of them elbowed me in the ribs. He grinned when he saw me doubled up in pain. Enraged, I reached inside my gym bag to grab the silenced pistol. He slipped into the crowd before I could blow his brains out.

Rubbing my aching ribs, I headed up 42nd Street toward the movie theater where Holly worked. I paid a private detective plenty to find her. He said she sold tickets in one of those outdoor ticket booths, and took lunch at 11:30.

I figured I’d shoot her in the face, right through the ticket window. But there were too many people around. So, I decided to follow her at lunchtime and shoot her as she pushed food through her lying, thieving lips. Maybe I’d wound her in the stomach, so she’d suffer every day for the rest of her life. What a great way to get satisfying, never-ending revenge. It’d be like a royalty arrangement—do a piece of work once, and cash in on it for years.

I ducked behind a store window that gave a clear view of the ticket booth. My trigger finger twitched when I glimpsed Holly’s profile. The bitch stole $50,000 from me. Money I skimmed dealing blackjack for an illegal gambling operation. Being my fiancée, she knew where I stashed the money. The day before our wedding, she dug it up and disappeared.

Somebody arrived to relieve Holly for lunch. She left the booth and headed in my direction. Suddenly my plans collapsed. Thieving Holly was sharp enough to bilk me out of fifty grand, but not swift enough to avoid pregnancy. Dammit! I never figured on shooting a pregnant woman.

She waddled by in a puffy, sunflower covered, electric-blue dress that stuck out a mile. My gut urged me to forget her and go back to Dallas. Instead, I decided to confront her.

She entered an eatery, with me not far behind. It was a noisy, greasy dump, filled with down-and-outers. The electric dress was at a small table, way in the back. My stomach was in knots when I reached her table.

"Oh My God! Ed!” Her eyes bulged, her hands shook.

“Take it easy. I just wanna talk.”

She grabbed her stomach and yelled, “Ow! My baby!”

People looked our way. A waitress rushed over. "Are you all right, lady?"

“It hurts so bad. I feel like I’m gonna heave!”

“I’ll help you to the ladies room,” the waitress said.

Holly groaned loudly, as the waitress led her away.

Sonovabitch! How slick to pull that stunt. I wondered what she was telling the waitress. Maybe she’d lie and say I was threatening her. They might call the cops.

I rushed out, headed for the subway, and barely squeezed through the doors of a departing train.

As it sped through dark catacombs, I wondered what to do next. My plan had failed miserably. Holly was alive. She hadn’t even apologized, or asked forgiveness. I imagined her laughing her ass off and calling me a freakin’ loser.

I swore I’d get revenge, one way or another. Maybe I could dream up some dirty tricks to sting her, undermine her sense of security, erode her sanity.

I started to plan something rotten to pull on her. I didn’t get far—my intense, focused thoughts gave way to disconnected fantasies, as the repetitive clacking of the train’s wheels lulled my brain.

“Coney Island—last stop.” somebody said, jolting me awake.

“How do I get back to Manhattan?” I asked.

“Stay on this train.”

New passengers boarded. One was a mangy Skinhead with a swastika tattooed on his forehead. Sonovabitch! My grandpa died during World War Two ridding the world of Nazis.

Homicidal rage slammed my gut.

The Skinhead tried to panhandle a woman. She shooed him away. So did others. Then he asked me if I could spare a buck. I snickered when I realized fate had sent me a booby prize.

“I don’t give money away. But, if you’re hungry, I’m good for a burger and fries.”

“Yeah, I’m hungry. I ain’t et all day.”

“Where’s the nearest burger place?”

“Next stop.”

As the train sped toward our exit, I scribbled a few words in my little notebook, tore out the page, and stuck it in my pocket.

“This country’s turning into a third world shithouse,” Skinhead said, his mouth full of greasy fries. “Only the Master Race can save it. This is who should be running this country.” He tapped a photo of Adolf Hitler in his wallet. “He’d seal the borders, fire up the ovens, and get rid of all the mongrel vermin.”

I couldn’t stand much more of his looniness. I wanted to get him alone somewhere.

“I got some good desert,” I said. “Columbian Gold.”

“Yeah? Let’s go out back and smoke it.”

As he puffed away behind a dumpster, he asked if I wanted to join the Nazi Vengeance Brotherhood.

I answered him by firing one round into his chest and another into his head. Then I removed the slip of paper from my pocket, and stuffed it in his wallet behind Hitler’s picture.

I combed the morning papers for news about Skinhead, but found nothing. Maybe the cops killed the story. I wondered if they hit the panic button after reading the note I’d planted in Skinhead’s wallet.

A bit of disinformation can go a long way in New York these days, if the right words are used: ANTHRAX IN PLAYGROUNDS. BEN LADEN. NEW YORK CONTACT IS HOLLY SPENCER.

“Welcome to the world of dirty tricks, Holly,” I mumbled.

The End

BIO: Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in seven contests and second and third place in five others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 107 magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at and Paperback available at

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 97 - Sean Monaghan

Long Jump

Janice jumped at the sound. She lowered her key. Someone was inside the apartment. She stepped back from the door and reached into her shoulder bag for her phone.

Another thump, closer to the door this time. Someone inside throwing her stuff around.

Janice tapped the menu, called Alex. As it rang she went to the stairs, looked down towards his apartment.

‘Hey,’ Alex said.

‘Are you at home?’ she whispered.

'Sure. Sopranos marathon on-’

‘Get up here now.’

‘Why are you whisperi-’

‘Now. Someone’s in my place.’ She heard another thump, then something breaking. Mom’s bowl, she thought, imagining the carnival glass splintering across the tiles.

‘On my way,’ Alex said.

She heard his door open, then he was running up, still in his TV clothes, beer in one hand, phone in the other, Pringles crumbs on his sweater. He was nothing like the old days when they were doing track together, but it was good to have him close.

‘Okay,’ he said, puffing a little. ‘What’s up?’

‘Listen,’ she whispered.

But there was nothing. After a moment, Alex raised his eyebrows, widened his eyes, tilted his head. ‘And?’

‘Wait.’ Janice stepped closer to the door. Still nothing.

‘Fire escape?’ Alex said.

Janice grabbed her key and leapt at the door. A click and it was open. Glass on the floor from her trophy cabinet. She ran along the passage to the living room. Someone was there trying to get out the window. Wraparound sunglasses, hoodie, trackpants.


He looked up.

‘What the hell do you think-’

He sprinted at her. Straight at her.

Janice sidestepped and the intruder collided with Alex. Both of them tumbled to the floor. The man kicked at Alex and scrambled to his feet. Then he was heading down the passage to the door.

‘Alex?’ She went to him.

‘I’m okay.’ He started to get up. ‘Don’t let him get away.’

Janice dropped her bag and ran after the intruder. She realised that there was something missing from the cabinet as she flew past. Why the hell would anyone want to steal her old trophies. Gold plating worth fifty cents?

Mrs Hudson and her latest suitor were on the stairs just below the landing and the man had to head up. Janice followed.

‘Miss Echelle?’ Mrs Hudson called after her.

‘It’s under control Mrs Hudson,’ she called back.

‘Oh good dear.’

The man was fast, taking the stairs two and three at a time. Where was he going? Another apartment? It was five floors to the roof and the door was permanently jimmied. Surely he wouldn’t go to the roof. Where could he go from there?

She came around a landing and saw him standing on the next landing up, facing her. Something hit her chest and knocked her back. She stumbled and fell against an apartment door and he was gone, still running up.

On the floor one of her trophies, Louisville trials 1996, triple-jump, second place. He’d thrown it at her and now it was broken, the base snapped off at the gold-athlete’s legs.

She stared for a moment, then went after him again. Steps three, four at a time. Swinging around the balustrades, using her momentum on the landings to push herself on up. Four steps, push, four steps, three steps, landing swing around. Four steps. She got her rhythm. She could hear him pounding on the stairs above. Two more levels to the roof.

‘Get back here,’ she yelled.

‘Leave me alone,’ he shouted back’ A few more thumps, then she heard the door to the roof get kicked open.

Swing, four steps, four steps, three, swing, four, four, three and she was at the door.

She jumped out onto the gravel, saw his blur as he went over the side to the next building. She kept moving. The building was one storey lower and she dropped almost right behind him. She grabbed the hoodie, and he looked at her, glasses lost. Just a kid, fifteen or sixteen. He rolled away from her. Sprinting again.

Janice smiled. No next building, just the 21st street alley. Nowhere to go.

But he was still running. Still running. She followed, slower now. He kept going. Kept going. Jumped.

Janice ran again as he vanished from sight. The alley was narrow here, and the building across the street even lower, but he wouldn’t make it.

She came to the edge and looked out. Not dead. Hanging on to lip of the building over twenty feet away. One of his hands came away and he swung, feet scrambling again.

Janice turned back and focused on a mark. Turned at the mark and breathed. She ducked her head and pounded across the asphalt. Three, two, one and she put her foot right on the edge. Out and over. Spinning to grab as much air as she could. A car beneath, a siren in the distance. Lights in her eyes from the apartments. Out and out and over.

She came down on the roof. He foot slid out and she tumbled, rolled against an aircon fan.

To her feet and two quick steps and she grabbed his wrist. His other arm came up and she pulled him onto the roof. They sat together breathing. He was crying and he looked so young and small.

‘I dropped your trophies,’ he said. ‘Down there.’

Janice smiled a little, looking back across the alley. ‘Yeah, well. I’ll have to measure it, but I think that was my personal best.’

Copyright 2008 by Sean Monaghan

BIO: Sean Monaghan is a New Zealand writer who also tutors in creative writing, makes music and art and works in a busy public library. Sean’s affair with short stories is long, his first published story came out way back in 1987, with recent flash fiction stories on and More info about Sean and his writing is at his website

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Powder Flash Burn # 96 - Kieran Shea


The night Hurricane Chino made landfall, Stu Mason took forty feet of barbed wire and lashed Linda Cox to a Cypress tree.

Stu picked up Linda at the bar attached to DG’s Liquor Mart, a shit-colored concrete bunker about forty miles southeast of Olustee. Linda was bombed beyond repair and coming off a bad relationship with a Disney cruise puppeteer named Cal. So Stu made nice. He complimented her on her homemade jewelry, eyes, and bought her a trio of rocked, fizzed gins.

“I like you,” Linda slurred as her hand crept like a shaky creature up Stu’s thigh, “But I'm not so drunk or crazy to be messin’ with nobody just yet. I'm still tender inside, know what I mean?”

Later in the parking lot Stu sped things up with a sinker-filled sock. Actually he marveled at how simple it was this time around. Florida bar flies having their half-hearted hurricane party, the storm providing good cover for him taking Linda out clean. Didn’t hear jack shit. Fluke luck that.

In the front seat of his pick-up Stu caressed the puffy, belly flab that mushroomed out and over Linda’s unsnapped jeans. His groin itched and thickened, so Stu swallowed hard, fired the engine of his F-150, and tried to focus on the rain-hammered road.

Johnny Cash sang “Guess Things Happen That Way” as he plowed northwest across the state, the bands of Chino rocking his Ford from side to side as he struggled to stay between the lines. Weather Channel had said Category 3 back at the bar. Not as bad as Andrew or catastrophic as Katrina, but sure as hell a lollipop swirl of motherfucking doom.

The spot Stu picked out was at the bottom of Marion County, two hundred swamp acres off a sandy two track where a golf developer went tits up the year before. Stu knew it would be some time before anyone came looking back there. The wind screamed as he dragged Linda from the cab and worked the barbed wire around her tight with a pair of slip-joint pliers.

Once finished, Stu peered into the rain slashed dark. Probably take her feet first, he thought. Gators always lay low in weather like this.

Stu went back to his truck to get his digital camera.


Eight months later, Deputy Sheriff Walter Gates knocked on Stu Mason’s trailer.

Gates was conducting a routine follow up. Some old lady claimed Stu or someone with a black F-150 like his had clipped her van while leaving a Stuckey’s parking lot out near Lake Butler.

No answer from within prompted a quick peek through an adjacent window. A set of hairy bare feet forked in the hallway. Gates removed his sidearm and identified himself twice. He then slowly pulled open the trailer’s door.

Place was a wreck. Not from a struggle, but just from degenerate, white trash living. Above the dish-choked sink a couple of freaked out crickets bashed themselves to death against a rusty screen trying to escape.

Gates crept closer to the body. The stench of rum sweat, cigarettes, and sour garbage was prime in the Florida heat. Then Gates heard Stu Mason’s faint snore and he was relieved.

Mason’s jeans were wet with a long, dark patch that led from his crotch and halfway down his thigh. Christ. Dumb bastard must’ve passed out drunk and pissed himself. Gates holstered his gun, hitched up his belt, and went over to the sink. He ran some tap water into a faded plastic tumbler and spat with disgust. Man, this shit was getting old. Serving papers to welfare dads, giving bad news to car wreck victims’ families, shaking kids down all sparked up without a dime to their names, grunt work and then some. Not what he envisioned as an exciting career in law enforcement.

Gates was about to pour out the tumbler of water on Stu Mason’s forehead when he saw a laptop open on the kitchenette table. The computer was coal black and looked worse for wear, its keyboard flecked with flakes of ash. The screen-saver was hot and displayed a simulated lake bottom complete with fat bass, abandoned tires, and an oil drum with a leering toxic skull.

Half expecting some hardcore smut, Gates ran a damp fingertip on the touch pad. He nearly gasped out loud when dozens of tortured images of three unsolved homicides bloomed before his eyes. He knew about these women. Each body had been half eaten by alligators, rats, and assorted swamp feeders.

Quietly Gates snuck back out to his cruiser. He plucked up the radio mic from the dash thinking, sweet Jesus… and me just here just to check some pissant traffic complaint. Man oh man. Handle this right and I'm going places.

Fluke luck that.

BIO: Kieran Shea believes the quality of mercy is strain'd so you best back the fuck up, Portia . His short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Word Riot, Dogmatika, Pulp Pusher, Plots with Guns, and upcoming in both Demolition and Thrilling Detective.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 95 - Michael A. Kechula


“How much was in the safe, Honey?” Ann asked, while cleaning her pistol.

“Fifty thousand,” said Alex.

“No way!”

“It’s true,” he said. “Not only that. Look what I found in the safe.” He tossed a clump of papers on the motel bed.

“What’s this?”

“A plan for a coin shop heist. It’s supposed to happen in two days. That’s why so much money was in the safe. Probably pay for the driver, and whatever.”

“Oh Hell!” Ann yelled. “You musta robbed mob money. I don’t want my share.”

“But with this you can get that fur coat and diamond tennis bracelet you want so much. Well, that means more for me,” Alex said.

“Yeah. More bullets for you when they find out.”

“How the hell will they find out?” he asked. “We’re unknowns around here. Listen, I stopped for coffee and read the plan. It’s pure genius. Somebody’s gonna hit a coin shop that’s loaded with gold and silver ingots without serial numbers. So, I got a brilliant idea.”

“Like what?”

“We’ll use their plan and pull the robbery before they do.”

“Wait,” she said. “We’re talking heavy stuff here. You rob the safe of a company---probably one of the mob’s legit operations. You get fifty thou, plus a plan for a heist. Bad enough you took their cash, but you also took their plan. Wake up! We’re talking mob, here. They’ll go ballistic. They’ll turn this city upside down looking for us.”

“Let them. We’ll be in Mexico on our honeymoon.” He grabbed her and kissed her hard.

“I love you so much, Alex,” she said. “You know how protective I am about you. Listen to me. I got a bad feeling about this. Please…for me…for the sake of our future life together…take it all back. We got enough to live on for six months.”

“Are you crazy? You want me to go there, open the safe and put everything back?”

“Yeah. Right now.”

“You going soft on me, Love?”

“No way,” she said. “There’s plenty of other jobs to pull. Forget this one. Listen to what I’m saying.”

“Are you having one of your intuitions?”

“Yeah. It’s a bad one. Take it back. Real quick.”

Alex trusted Ann’s intuition. It’d gotten them out of a few pickles over the past few months. Without another word, he dropped everything into a black laundry bag, kissed her passionately, and left.

Intuition or no, Alex really hated to see a good plan go to waste. Why should somebody else get all them gold and silver ingots? Charlie in Fresno can melt them and cast them into palm-sized bars. They’ll be easy to sell. Plus we can use the extra money now that we’re gonna get married. I wanna get her that beautiful wedding band she likes so much.

Passing Kinko’s copy shop, he was struck with an idea.

* * *

Alex woke Ann. “Look, Sweetie. I copied the plan. Now there’s no link between the plan and us. So there’s nothing to worry about. We can pull the job tonight. And then we’ll head to Mexico and get married.”

Throwing her arms around him, she said, “I’m gonna marry the most brilliant crook in the whole world.”

She didn’t tell him her intuition nagged even worse.

They spent a few hours studying the plan. At noon, they drove downtown to check out the coin shop. Alex occupied the owner by buying a silver commemorative coin, while Ann looked the place over.

“It’s just like the drawings in the plan,” she said. “You were right. That plan is dynamite.”

“We’ll hit it at midnight,” Alex said.

* * *

“Rise and shine, Honey,” she said. “It’s time to get those sweet ingots.”

On the way to the coin shop, a dozen fire engines raced by.

“Wow. Must be a huge one,” Alex said.

Street barriers blocked them several blocks from the coin shop.

“What’s going on, Officer?” Alex asked.

“Whole block’s on fire.”

“Oh God, my uncle’s coin shop is up that way,” Ann said with faked alarm.

“That’s toast, along with a bunch of other stores,” the cop said.

“Sonovabitch!” Alex yelled as he turned the car toward the Interstate. “Talk about rotten luck. We get a chance to make a real killing, and this happens. It just ain’t right. I had fifty grand in my hands before you made me take it back. Now we got nothing for all that work.”

“Fate,” she said. “It wasn’t meant to be. Let’s leave for Mexico right now. Please.”

As they drove toward the border, Alex tuned the radio to a news station.

A newscaster was interviewing the Police Chief.

“We think it started in a coin dealer’s shop,” the Chief said. “The arsonist used a Molotov cocktail. That’s why the fire spread so fast. Right now, three people are dead, including a fireman who has a wife and four kids. And the fire isn’t out yet.”

“Hear that?” Alex asked.

“Yeah. Tough break”

“What’s that up ahead?”

“Looks like a roadblock,” she answered. “Must be a hundred cop cars.”

“No sweat. They ain’t got nothing on us,” Alex said, as they approached the barriers.

Suddenly, cops brandishing pistols ordered them out of the car.

“What the hell is this?” Alex yelled.

“You’re under arrest for suspicion of arson and murder.”

“You’re making a big mistake. I’m gonna sue you for false arrest!”

“We have a witness. He wrote down your license plate. You have the right to remain silent…”

* * *

While cyanide gas filled the chamber, Ann wished she’d never gone to the coin store an hour before they were supposed to rob it.

“I didn’t have a choice,” she muttered in the rising fog. “I hadda do it so we could get married and have children.”

Drawing her last breath, she screamed, “If I didn’t burn it down, we woulda got killed during the robbery!”

The End

BIO: Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in seven contests and second and third place in five others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 107 magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at and Paperback available at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 94 - Paul McGoran

The Lesser Evil

They took Harold down, blindfolded him, trussed him up from behind and tossed him in the car. He fainted. When he woke up, he lay face down in the dirt listening to a ragged squeal of car tires fading away.

Alone now. Highway noise. Must be the woods outside of town, close to the interstate. But why? Was it Chaz, the thug he hired to get rid of his wife Carmella? How could this happen?

Time passed. The smell of dirt and leaves filled his nostrils. Pain radiated from his neck clear down his arms. Finally, a car pulled in – twigs, branches and gravel popping beneath the tires.

With the blindfold pulled away, Harold looked up and saw the cynical smirk on Chaz’s hard face.

“Think it’s funny?” he sputtered. “You gotta be a freakin’ idiot to screw things up this bad. Now cut me loose.”

“Can it, shithead,” Chaz said. “Somebody wants to talk to you.”

The passenger side door of the car opened, and a long, tanned leg descended to the ground. Carmella! She picked her way over the littered ground and stood looking down at him while Chaz took a tightly coiled blanket out of the trunk and rolled it out to the side of the car.

“Thanks for bringing Chaz to town, Harold,” she said. “That was real thoughtful of you. We haven’t seen each other in ages.”

“Wha …?”

“Never told ya I had a brother, did I, honey? I used to be ashamed he was a mob guy.”

While she spoke, Carmella rummaged through her handbag. Finally, she pulled out a little gun. Just then Harold noticed a glint of sunlight playing over the butcher tools Chaz was arranging on the blanket.

“The gun!” Harold begged. “First, the gun.”

BIO: Paul McGoran lives in Newport, Rhode Island. In his life before fiction, he was a Russian interpreter for the U.S. Navy, a career marketing executive and a management consultant. He began writing crime fiction in 2005 and can't seem to stop. He has written two novels and a collection of shorter fiction -- all, alas, unpublished. Look for a short story of his called The Thanks You Get on the U.K. webzine Pulppusher.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 93 - Cormac Brown

Poker Face

Well, there are curveballs and there are curveballs. And this? This is like the other seven guys on the playing field have decided that they want to pitch too…

…All at once.

…While the catcher is tying the batter’s shoelaces together.

“This was supposed to be easy pickings,” Pratt curses. He knew from the other kids that went to the same privileged high school as he did, that almost half of this neighborhood was spending Christmas vacation in Tahoe and the other half was in Hawaii . Pratt guessed that nobody explained that to the man of this house, Dougray Hiatt, that he should be some 2,300 miles away in Kauai .

Why just a minute ago, Pratt was just mulling throwing a party in what he believed to be an empty house and now he is cursing himself for not checking first or even bothering to have a mask on. He knows that his partner John won’t care either way, which is bound to make this tenuous situation even worse.

“You’re supposed to be in Hawaii ” Pratt says out loud. “Because we wouldn’t be here or at least we would be wearing masks” he finishes in his head. His partner John comes into the room holding a laptop inside a gray Tumi bag and is just as startled as Pratt was seconds ago to find someone home.

There Dougray is, sitting in the combination computer and exercise room that was formerly the bedroom of his eldest daughter, Deborah, who was currently in college, but was now in Kauai with his youngest daughter, Dana. He was sitting the same spot some eleven hours ago, but something work-related came up and he had to cut short his vacation. He had four files out on his desk and until Pratt’s intrusion, he was typing away on his desktop computer.

Pratt is trying to figure out just what the fuck is this guy doing at home and why didn’t he heard them come in. The burglar alarm’s chime made an awful racket throughout the two times it took Pratt to disarm it, because he was so nervous, that he momentarily forgot the code. He knew the code well enough; he spent many a night spying on Deborah to have seen it. Then Pratt hears the washing machine and realizes that Dougray probably was putting a load in and didn’t hear them enter.

And when Deborah moved out for college, Pratt’s eyes moved onto Dana as she worked out in this very room, five days a week. He couldn’t help but overhear about the Kauai trip, because Dana’s friends called her about it every three minutes, cutting short her dance routine and his fun. Now Pratt’s fun is cut short again, with a complication that seems completely nonplussed at the fact that he and John are standing in his house at three in the morning.

The silence between them and Dougray’s cool exterior get to John. He thrusts his chest out and pulls his shirt up, exposing the cheap Glock knockoff that was in his waistband of his baggy jeans.

Dougray responds by merely sitting at his desk with a face that any poker champion wishes they could own. He doesn’t seem scared or particularly perturbed; he isn’t happy or grim-faced. As a matter of fact, he is just sitting there with his lips slightly clenched.

Pratt looks over in askance to John as to what should be their next move, and John answers back with a scowl. Pratt winces as John reaches under his shirt with a snarl and pulls the nine millimeter out. Pratt almost pulls his gun out too, but he doesn’t like the math behind this. He wants to run away, but he stands his ground and resigns himself to the fact that nothing good will come of this. Yet Dougray just sits there, blinking every so often.

Pratt wonders if this is just a case of Dougray being as scared as he is and that Dougray is simply too damn scared to move. Finally, Dougray’s nose twitches and a nervous John almost pulls his trigger. His nose twitches again and Dougray takes a few, long, large gasps.


Dougray sneezes hard and his dentures flew across the room, where they land inches away from John’s feet. John and Pratt both look down at the displaced false teeth and that’s when John flies backward into the wall with a crimson hole in his chest. Wide-eyed, Pratt looks at the last bit of life escaping John and turns around to see a still-seated Dougray. He had the same poker face, but it looks pathetic without any front teeth.

A small wisp of smoke escapes the barrel of the silver-plated hand cannon that Dougray has pointed at John and the last thing that John sees is that cannon roaring again.

Dougray shakes his head and thinks, there are sticky wickets and then there are sticky wickets. And this?

This is like the other nine fielders have decided that they want to be bowlers too…

…All at the same time.

…While the wicket-keeper bites your ankles.

Here he is a hit man of nearly thirty years of experience and he has let two amateur burglars get the drop on him as if he still was wet behind the ears. He has to be in Tahoe within the hour to take out somebody that is in the witness protection, before the mark moves to another safe house, and now? He has two bodies in his own house to contend with.

Well, he’ll have to tarp them and leave them in the garage; the paying job always takes precedence.

The End

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 92 - Keith Rawson


“Ya know he’s gonna kill you, right?”

“Shut up! Let me think a couple of minute, would ya?”

“What were you thinking when you and your asshole buddies came in there with your funny little masks and waving your big bad guns around?”

We were thinking that robbing a mall jewelry store would be an easy score. Four guys in dead President’s masks packing shotguns; we thought everyone in a quarter mile radius would hit the tiles and squirt their panties and we’d walk away with fifty or sixty thousand dollars worth of swag. We thought it would be a lot easier than the Mexican drug dealers we’d been ripping off for the past couple of months; yeah it was a shit load of fun busting down the front door of some beaner crack dealer and watching the taco benders scurry around thinking our crew was Border patrol getting ready to haul their dirty asses back down south. That shit was hilarious, and the scores weren’t that bad either, but it attracted the wrong kind of attention. Dealers didn’t report you to the cops, they gave you up to their distributors; the distributors were harder than hardcore who had no problem torturing you 2 or 3 days before putting a bullet in your head and dumping your dead ass out in the middle of the desert. The Mexican suppliers didn’t even care if the head of your crew was the son of the craziest crime czar in Arizona.

“What did your Dad tell you? He said lay low! He said don’t make any moves!”

“What he meant was to stop hitting the Mexicans.”

“Bullshit! He meant everything, Roger!”

Roger Raines led the crew. He was the only son of Clyde Raines. The senior Raines has been a prominent villain in Arizona for the past 20 years. He made his bones back in the day when the Italians were still trying to run things and the Indians and the Mormons were chopping the Wops into little bitty pieces. The senior Raines was fortunate enough to be there and have enough muscle and brains to carve out his own little empire. Clyde Raines was the last great white man in Arizona, and his son, Roger, was the great big hope with a capital H to continue the empire. The problem is that I’m pretty sure that Roger is mildly retarded and 100% insane. The only reason I’ve stuck it out with his dumb ass so long was the drugs, and after today, I’m starting to think it was a pretty lame reason to hang around with the kid.

“And what the fuck were you doing holding up my job?”

“I forgot you worked there!”

“You forgot? I’ve worked there for 15 years, Roger! I used to take you there when you were in diapers!”

The woman lecturing Roger is his Aunt Sarah. Normally she’s sweet as pie. She helped raise Roger and was as close to a mother as he had. She’d been working in the same branch of London Gold, like, forever, even though she didn’t have to work because of her little brother’s illicit businesses. But ever since I’ve known Roger, she’s been lecturing him, me, and anyone else around to hear her that you need to create your own success, your own place in the world. Roger took her philosophy to heart and decided to make Aunt Sarah’s little place in the world his own—at least for 3 minutes of bloodshed and hostage taking.

Despite what the little retard is saying, I’m pretty sure the kid knew walking in that we were boosting Aunt Sarah’s store. He was probably thinking that Aunt Sarah would recognize him—despite the fact that he was wearing a Ronald Reagan mask--when the four of us walked in and she’d just start shoveling merchandise into our pockets with a big, proud shit eating grin on her face and the rest of the staff and security would take the hint and play along nice.


We came in hard and face-to-face with two security guards packing MAJOR firepower. Within a minute and a half of walking into the store front, two of our crew were sporting sucking chest wounds, one of the guards looked like Dick Chaney’s best friend after hunting quail, two clerks minus heads, and Roger had his Sig Saur pressed hard into Aunt Sarah’s temple giggling like a kiddy fiddler in a locked room full of toddlers.

We booked out of there dragging Aunt Sarah by the neck. I thought for sure the Mall parking lot would be the last sight of the living world I’d ever lay eyes on; at the very least I thought there’d be sirens and a couple of dozen cops ready to drop us.


Nothing but blue burning summer sky and row upon row of mini-vans; but you could hear them coming. The distant sirens, the whoop-whoop of low flying helicopter blades. We jacked a retired couple’s Oldsmobile and burned it out of the lot, Aunt Sarah begging for her life; that is until we ditched the masks and then she started beating the shit out us. We lost the stolen wheels a few miles away from my folk’s place and switched over to Roger’s Lexus and drove back to my place to get our shit together.

Roger’s been pacing the kitchen the past hour, his Sig pressed tight against his hip, listening to Aunt Sarah nag and bitch about what a fucking idiot he is. I can’t help but agree, but even she’s starting to get on my nerves.

I zone, smoke a joint, I let my ears and brain check out, eyes down and focused on the off-white kitchen tiles. I barely flinch with the roar of the Sig. I look up, suck in a big lung full of cordite, and I see Aunt Sarah standing in the middle of the kitchen with what’s left of her head looking like the messiest taco ever made. The body drops limp and soundless.

“What the fuck did you do?” I know I say it, but I can’t hear the words.

“I didn’t do shit,” the Sig is right in my face; right there, the barrel’s hot. “You did.”


The drugs definitely weren’t worth it.

BIO: Keith Rawson lives in the Phoenix, Az. suburb of Gilbert with his wife, daughter, and dog. He works as an Education counselor and has been writing off and on for the past fifteen years. He love crime fiction and other such degenerate literature.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 91 - Dana C. Kabel

Fucked and Finished

McTeague jammed the barrel of the snub nosed .38 into Ferret’s mouth and shattered several of his teeth.

“Where’s my daughter?” He shouted.

Ferret mumbled something desperate and unintelligible.

McTeague pulled the gun out of the scrawny man’s mouth and pressed it against his temple before pulling back the hammer. A gob of blood and teeth shards drizzled down Ferret’s chin and the front of his pants grew dark as he pissed himself.

“Jesus Christ, Mac! Are you out of your head?” Billy jumped out from behind the bar and ran to the front door.

McTeague swung the gun around and aimed it at the bartender.

“The fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Relax!” Billy said. He turned the bolt on the door and flipped the sign to “CLOSED” before pulling the shade down behind it. In his head he thanked Christ that there were no other customers left in the bar.

Ferret started to wiggle and the gun pressed into his skull.

“Talk, you toothless fuck!” McTeague growled.

“You fucking idiot! I’m a cop.” Ferret said.

McTeague put his mouth close to Ferret’s ear. “I know. You’re the reason I spent the last five years in the can, you fuck!”

Then he bit down on Ferret’s ear and tore a mouthful of it away. Ferret screamed like a banshee as McTeague spit the piece of fleshy cartilage out on the floor.

“Whiskey!” McTeague barked at the bartender.

Billy reached behind the bar and handed him a bottle of Jack.

He took a swig to rinse his mouth out and another to swallow down. Then he tipped the bottle up and splashed a generous amount of the fiery liquid over the bloody mess on the side of Ferret’s head. The wounded man screamed louder.

McTeague repeatedly slapped the side of the man’s head where his ear used to be until his screams turned into tired whimpers. Then he let go and Ferret slumped to the ground and curled into a fetal position.

“Tell me where they took Michelle or I’m going to kill you.”

Ferret was shaking on the floor as McTeague raised a foot up over his head and let it hover there for a moment.

“Mac!” Billy put his hand on his old friend’s shoulder. “Michelle ran away from her step-father’s house after they convicted you of killing her mother.” He said.

McTeague brought his foot back down to the floor instead of stomping Ferret’s skull in. Then he bent down and grabbed the dirty cop by the throat and yanked him back up to his feet.

“Is that what this piece of shit told you, Billy? And did you really think I killed Evelyn?”

Ferret couldn’t stand on his own legs. McTeague held him by the throat as he choked and sputtered.

“Mac…please…he’s a cop! Don’t do this shit in here. Don’t bring this shit down on me!”

McTeague shook Billy’s hand off his shoulder.

“Then tell me where she is, cop! Tell me where she is and I won’t spill any more of your blood on Billy’s floor.”

Ferret gasped. His face turned blue.

“F-f-f-fuh…” Ferret sputtered.

McTeague released his iron grip on the man’s neck and let him drop back down to the floor.


He heeled back and kicked the cop in the ribs. There was a loud crack and Ferret coughed out a spray of blood. Then he started to laugh through the tears and snot and blood.

Fucked!” Ferret spat. “Fucked and finished! We fucked your little girl…and then we killed her.”

The blood boiled in McTeague’s head until his eyes looked like they would explode.

A gunshot ripped through the air and Ferret’s head turned into an unrecognizable pulp of shredded flesh and blood. McTeague’s face was wet with splashed gore. He wiped it from his eyes and looked at the gun that was in his own hand, thinking at first that he had instinctively pulled the trigger and hit the mark without consciously aiming.

But the little .38 couldn’t have caused the mutilated mess at his feet. He realized that his right ear was ringing and looked over that shoulder.

Billy stood there breathing hard through his flared nostrils and holding the smoking shotgun still aimed at the dead man on the floor. McTeague slowly took the weapon from the bartender’s shaking hands.

“Jesus, Billy…why did you do it?”

Billy’s mouth gaped open, but nothing came out. How could he tell Mac that he had betrayed him so many years ago? How could he tell him that Michelle was really his own daughter?

BIO: He has had other work published in Muzzleflash, and is currently seeking publication for my novel, Killing Is My Business. He can be contacted at,