Thursday, May 22, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 83 - James C. Clar

Beach Rubble

With the crystal tones of Ella Fitzgerald trickling softly from the speakers tucked into the rafters above him, Ben Apana watched as the distinguished looking man with silver hair strode imperiously up the white coral steps and entered the Royal Hawaiian Coffee Company Café in the tower wing of the Moana Surfrider Hotel.

Ben was sitting at a table in front of an open window that looked out on Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki . Not even the high cost of living on Oahu could ever make Ben consider moving. It wasn't that Ben was rich, shit, far from it. But after retiring from the Honolulu Police Department, he had gone back to graduate school. For the past three years he'd been teaching English at the University of Hawaii . With that plus his pension and his work doing a little informal “private investigating” he made a decent living. And every morning he got to wake up in paradise. This particular morning, however, he had an appointment with a guy who reminded him that, even in paradise, there were still more than a few snakes slithering around in the sea grass.

“You better have something for me,” the man with the silver mane barked as he took a seat across from Ben. “I don't have any time to waste. So let’s get this over with.”

Ben slid a manila envelope across the table and took a sip of coffee. He noticed that, even in the July heat, his client was wearing a business suit instead of the ubiquitous aloha attire.

“So you got it, did you, proof that the bitch is cheating on me. As soon as we're finished I'm going to my lawyer.”

Ben slid a little further back in his chair. At the counter the young barista all but sang what might have passed for some weird litany in an arcane Latin ritual: “Vente latte double mocha … Dominus vobiscum … “

“You better take a look first, Councilman Brillande. It’s never a good thing to jump in until you know just how deep the water is. A Kama’aina like you should know better.”

“Don't lecture me,” the local politician spat. “I paid you to do a job and you’ve done it. And it damn well took you long enough.”

Ben took another sip. He was beginning to enjoy this. “Listen,” he said. “These things take time. Sometimes you never know what’s going to turn up in an investigation; dead ends, false starts and more than a few wasted hours. It all paid off, though. I can't wait for you to see what I have.”

Sensing something in the ex-cop’s tone, the councilman tore open the envelope and removed a series of five digital prints. Brillande took one look at the photos and, with a few furtive glances around him, began to tear the pictures into tiny pieces.

“How did you get these? I'm not the one I paid you to investigate.”

“You hired me to follow your wife. She’s actually quite nice. I can see why you two don't get along. Three months and I couldn't find one hint of infidelity. I can only speculate as to the causes, but it seems that she began to have her own doubts about your, um, appetites. She was actually following you … pretty good at it, too. I watched her, she watched you. ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’.”

Ben drank some more coffee. The over-dressed man across from him was beginning to perspire.

“How much money do you want? That’s what this is all about, isn’t it … blackmail? You bleed me dry to keep these pictures out of the papers.”

“The papers,” Ben answered with surprise. “Listen, no paper would print these things. We’re talking felony level offenses here. Besides, from what little I know about this sort of thing, it’s probably only the tip of the iceberg.”

“It was only the one time, I had no idea how old he ….”

“Please,” Ben interjected, “don't insult me. I don't want any more of your money. You're going to withdraw quietly from public life. Say you want to spend more time with your family. In the meantime, here’s the name of someone you're going to contact, someone who might be able to help you with your compulsion.”

Apana shoved a business card across the table. The councilman almost recoiled.

“You have no idea who you're playing with,” Brillande hissed. “I can make you disappear.”

“Sure. You probably could. But you won't. My lawyer has copies of all my notes and of those pictures. If I so much as stub my toe coming out of Mass at St. Augustine ’s, you're screwed. Take the card. Do what you've been told and get the hell away from me.”

“I can tolerate your insolent tone,” the man in the suit responded with the death throes of his old swagger, “but don't get sanctimonious on me.”

“Yeah, well, like most men I have my weaknesses but they're not criminal. If I don't read about your ‘retirement’ by Saturday and if my buddy on the card hasn't heard from you by Monday your reputation, and most probably your freedom, is a thing of the past.”

Brillande was beaten and he knew it. He grabbed the proffered business card as he stood up. “I hired you to do a job for me,” he said, “not ruin my life.”

“Hey, it’s like an ancient Greek poet said, ‘if you're squeamish, don't stir the beach rubble’. You stirred the beach rubble …‘Sucks to be you’.”

The councilman turned on his heel and walked away. He descended the steps and, within seconds, disappeared in the crowd of pedestrians as he headed off in the direction of Diamond Head and the intersection of Kaiulani Avenue . Ben’s Kona coffee had gotten cold. He finished it anyway. Something about the bitter taste in the beautiful tropical setting seemed somehow just right.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 82 - Robert Aquino Dollesin

Personal Business

Gil. Talk about a pancake. Guy finds out his wife’s getting hammered by a coworker and what’s the first thing he does? He calls me up to ask if he should apologize for neglecting her.

“Sure,” I say. “Buy her some roses, too. Hell, why not go all out and bring home a stone.”

“I’m serious,” Gil says. “She went outside the marriage because I never made time for her.”

So naturally, I want to know -- since he’s got a handle on his wife’s affair -- why he’s wasting his dime on me.

“I want Trixie’s lover offed,” he says.

“I don’t do domestic disputes.” Sure, I’m in the business of leveling the playing field, but I don’t get involved with domestics. Too crazy. Too unpredictable. Too emotional.

“But we’re practically brothers,” Gil says.

“If I do it for you . . . word gets out and next thing you know every jellybean whose wife spins a fling starts wanting a personal favor. It’s not good business to get involved in personal shit.”

Gil, after pausing on the phone for a few moments, says, “I’d do it for you.”

I shut my eyes and shake my head. “Would you?”

“You know I would.”

God damn pancake. Forced my fucking hand. “So you’re saying you’d off yourself for me.

“When Gil doesn’t answer right away, I can almost feel his fear bolting right through the phone line. What’d he think? That I didn’t know?

Charlotte, loafing on the living-room sofa, turns down the volume on the television. Good. She needs to hear this, too.

Gil finally breaks his silence, speaks: “I’m not sure I get what you’re saying.”

I try real hard to keep anger out of my tone. “So I’m what, Gil? A sap? You don‘t think I know you’ve been banging Charlotte?”

Charlotte glances up, wide-eyed. I narrow my eyes, can almost see beads of sweat bubbling up on her forehead.

“It’s not like that. I mean --” But Gil’s brain is spinning faster than he can slap the sentences together.

Charlotte’s still staring. She’s scratching an elbow and blinking a lot.

“I have to get going,” Gil says. In the earpiece, his voice is quavering.

“No.” I reply. “Not yet. Besides, Charlotte wants to say good-bye to you.”

On the sofa, Charlotte stiffens. Her eyes grow even rounder.

“Come on, Ricardo,” Gil says. “Let’s you and I talk about this.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing. Talking.” I raise my free hand, point to Charlotte, curl my finger to call her over. “Hold on. She’s coming.”

Charlotte shakes her head.“Oh. I guess she doesn’t want to talk right now. Too bad.” Then I tell Gil, whose breathing has grown quick, that Charlotte’s not going to say goodbye after all.”

“Come on, Ricardo,” Gil says again. “Don’t do anything hasty.”

I wait a minute before answering. Then I say, “You’re right Gil. Let me try your approach.”

Gil doesn’t say anything. Charlotte doesn’t move.

Still holding the phone, I address Charlotte, saying “Babe. Sorry I neglected to find time for you.” I reach inside my coat, withdraw my revolver, thumb the hammer back.

“Not like this,” Charlotte says, real soft. “Please, Ricky, not like this.”

“What’re you doing?” Gil says, his voice in a desperate panic. “What are you doing, Ricardo?”

I squeeze the trigger. Charlotte falls back into the coffee table. Shit crashes everywhere. I breathe in the sulfuric odor and place the revolver on the kitchen counter. Then I raise the receiver to my mouth, say to Gil, “No. Your way didn’t work so well. My way didn‘t either, but what the hell.”

The phone on the other end crashes down into its cradle. I go over to the sofa and sit down, grab the remote and start searching channels. Charlotte’s on top of the collapsed coffee table, a forearm over her face. The bullet entered her throat. Blood is still containing, arterial spray littering the whole damned place.

I check my watch. Gil. What a fucking pancake. He won’t be hard to find. Some pancakes -- they just don’t have the sense to listen. After all, I did try to convince him getting involved with domestic strife was too emotional.


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, and forthcoming in Thug Lit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Powder Flash Burn # 81 - Ed Lynskey

The Last Stakeout

“After tonight, no more stakeouts,” Gerald told me again.

I hugged my ribs for warmth. We sat in my car as unlikely partners: a PI and a bounty hunter.

Gerald tipped his chin. “Put on the damn heater.”

I shook my head. “Can’t risk it. He’ll see the exhaust.”

“Hercules ain’t returning here.”

“This is our best shot to grab him up.” I paused. “That’s some name, eh?”

“Yeah, Hercules . . . isn’t that some punk-ass rapper?”

“I don’t want any cut. This is a favor to you.”

“Frank, you earned it, the same as me.” Gerald fixed his eyes on the two-story apartment building. “Do we go toss his crib?”

“We better chill out for a while longer.”

Scraping my cold palms together, I thought back. Hercules skipping his court appearance was now a fled felon. Bad move. Gerald’s boss held the bond. What’s more, Latasha, Hercules’ latest human punching bag, was Gerald’s ex-girlfriend. He shifted in his seat and I heard a crinkly noise -- cellophane. My glance darted over at him.

“Man, you can’t fire up a smoke. He’ll see it.”

Repocketing the cigarette pack, Gerald gave me a snort. “I hate doing stakeouts.”

“You’ve had it worse. Anyway how’s Latasha?”

“That home girl is tough stuff, Frank.”

“Uh-huh. You’re still sweet on the said home girl?”

“All you PIs have big nose problems. Put on some bluegrass.”

My nod agreed with his point about PIs. “But no bluegrass tunes. You know you’re a walking contradiction, don’t you?”

“How so? Can’t a ten-ton brother dig listening to bluegrass music?”

“Yep, a walking contradiction.” My palms created more sandpapery sound to get them warm. I could see the puffs of my breath. “You can’t tune up Hercules either.”

“I already know it. My boss says I have to work harder and ‘establish a rapport with the bail jumper’. Her new touchy-feely approach is total bullshit. Sometimes it takes the application of due force.”

“Your boss is right. Look at it as a challenge.”

“Shut up, Frank.” Cracking his knuckles, Gerald stretched his legs. “Time?”

Squinting, I counted the luminous dial tips to my wristwatch. “Quarter past two.”

“After tonight, no more stakeouts.”

“Stakeouts go with your job.”

“This job is unpredictable. Dangerous. Fast.”

I gave a chuckle. “Sounds right up your alley.”

Gerald sat bolt upright. “Yo, who’s that?”

My pulse kicking into overdrive, I followed his head jerk and spotted the taillights to the car flashing red. I heard the distinctive two-note snick to a chambered niner. But my eyes stayed pinned on the car braking under a mercury vapor lamp. A man-form hauled out of the car and froze behind the open door, sniffing the air as if for any trouble.

“Tall, thin build. Yep, that’s our boy Hercules.”

Stirring, I reached for the door handle but Gerald’s huge pawmashed into my chest.

“No Frank, this one I do solo. Just keep the engine running.”

“You’ve never made a collar before without back-up. What’s going on here?”

His voice roughening into a growl, Gerald tightened his fingers and balled up my coat front to lift me from the car seat. “I said this is my party. You’re only the wheelman. Catch?”

I did my best to shrug at the big man. “Sure, whatever you say, Gerald.”

“All right, that sounds better.” Gerald turned lose his grip and I dropped back into the car seat. “Sorry to get rough with you. But you need to understand this thing.” Our eyes fixed on the man-form stalking back to stand by the car’s taillights. “Hercules won’t hurt Latasha again. I promised her. Okay, on my signal, I want you to crank up the engine.”

I looked confused. “What signal?”

“You’ll know it when you hear it.”

I didn’t like how that sounded. Gerald was too vague. “This better go down easy. Hear me?”

“Uh-huh. Just remember you’re the wheelman. That’s it.”

“Right. I’m Jeff Gordon.”

Satisfied, Gerald bounded out of my car, crouched in the knees, and padded across the pavement. My own niner remained on the dashboard. Too many damn guns, I brooded. By now Gerald had crossed the parking lot. The man-form giving us his back stood there, sizing up Latasha’s apartment building as if plotting away up to her apartment, bust her up, and sneak back out. Hercules was a real stand-up guy, all right.

My hand fumbled at the steering column. “Shit!” I’d dropped the keys to the dark floor mat. My eyes left Gerald as I groped my hands between my shoes, looking for the keys.


The gunshot belched out and my head snapped up. I saw Gerald’s silhouette in a classic Weaver’s stance not six paces away from the red-lit taillights. The shot Hercules had crumbled to sprawl across the trunk like a hunter’s trophy buck.

After flipping on the map light, I picked up the found keys. I slotted the right one into the ignition switch and rotated my wrist. The V-8 engine kindled to life. Just then a wad of bile flushed up into my mouth, but I didn’t look over at the cut down Hercules. I hadn’t seen a damn thing.

“Last stakeout, my ass,” I said, rattling down my window. “He just didn’t say whose last stakeout this one is.”

Gerald slammed open the door and vaulted into the shotgun seat. “Okay Frank, floor it.”

Hawking, I tried to spit out my disgust. My shoe goosed the gas pedal and the back tires smoked before we spurted down the street.

“You doing okay, Frank?” Gerald yelled over to me.

“I’m just the wheelman,” I said, my eyes riveted on the windshield. “I didn’t see a damn thing.”

Gerald nodded. “Right. And a promise is a promise.”

The End

BIO: Ed Lynskey's third title, PELHAM FELL HERE, will be published inJune 2008 from Mundania Press.