Saturday, June 28, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 89 - Clair Dickson

A Bo Fexler Story

"I know you had something to do with those photos!" she hissed, her face close enough that I could smell her lunch.

I smirked. "What makes you so sure about that?"

"You—you're that kind of… trouble-maker."

"Trouble-maker? That's not really fair, is it? Really, we both know that I'm far more of a bitch than just a mere trouble-maker."

She slapped me.

My cheek flushed with the blow, but I stood deadly still. The smirk remained. It takes more than a girly slap to take the edge off my attitude.

"You—how dare you?"

"What reason do I have?" I asked.

There was a small crowd bunching up around us. Officers and staff members in the PD come to see if the former-file-clerk turned PI was really going to duke it out with the secretary. Some tsked. Someone asked if we could move it outside where there was construction being done. It had just rained, after all, and it was nice and muddy.

Sherry shot a dirty look at the cop who said that. I laughed and fanned the flames by saying, "No one wants to see her naked. Her boobs hang like a basset hound's ears."

She went to slap me again, but I snatched her wrist mid-blow.

"You could lose your job."

"No one here would testify on your behalf."

"No? Ruiz still wants to fuck me on all fours. And Leopold wants to show me how big his cock is. There are others who would back me just for a fuck."

"Whore," she spat.

"No shit, Sherlock!"

"You'll regret this."

"Will I? No. I don't think so. I'm enjoying it far too much to regret it."

She blinked back the tears of hurt and rage. "Why are you doing this?"

"No one fucks with Bo Fexler. Don't you get that?"

"This—this is because I told that woman not to hire you, isn't it?"

"Yeah. It is. And all the nasty things you've been saying about me. You've affected my ability to earn a living. But I can't afford a lawyer. I can only afford photographs."

"So you admit it?"

"I can't really deny it. I'm in those photos."

Her face turned a badass shade of red that I didn't think humanly possible. She pushed past me and through the crowd to the 11x17 photo I'd hung on the bulletin board. Me and her hubby playing tonsil hockey. Him with his hands up my shirt. Most of my face was blocked by his head, but it was pretty obvious which green-eyed, blond haired woman her hubby was enjoying.

She couldn't blink the tears away anymore. They spilled over. She grabbed the photo, tore it down and stormed away.

"Don't you think that's a little over the top?" one of the older cops muttered. He gave me a shake of his head.

"No. Over the top would have been getting a picture of me giving him head."

He closed his eyes. Probably imaging that scene. On himself. "Yeah—it's harder to pretend the rumor are lies when you have photographic proof, isn't it?"

"Who says I'd go down on someone just for fun? Anyone who says that, I'll take them down, too."

"I don't doubt that. Now, go on, Fexler, get out of here. Go read a book on ethics or something. It might come in handy."

"Yeah, but it might also get in the way of revenge."


BIO: More than 50 Bo Fexler stories have been published. Visit for links to those stories and more. The first Bo Fexler novel 'Sex and Violence' is complete and currently looking for agent to love it and feed it and find it nice home. I've done all this while teaching alternative high school and working three other part time jobs.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 88 - James C. Clar

Amazing Grace

“How did you find me, Nick?”

“Shit, Jack. I’m over here doing a little job for Mr. S. He told me about this place so I stop in to light a candle for my mother – not many churches left with those little votive candles – and there you are puttering around the altar. What were the chances? I couldn’t believe it.”

Fr. John Byrne sat in a pew next to his old friend and former protégé. He thought for a few moments before responding. The sound of the ocean just across Kalakaua Avenue and the equally relentless hustle and bustle of Waikiki’s busiest sidewalks were muted by the wood and concrete of St. Augustine ’s-by-the Sea. The French-Gothic structure with the distinctive green copper roof also provided some welcome relief from the midday heat and humidity. Fr. Byrne knew that was the real reason why so many visitors stopped into the church each day. Even so, he sometimes deluded himself that his numerous guests were actually seeking spiritual renewal amid the tourist juggernaut that roared on the streets of the area day and night. Many of those same guests were surprised to learn that the church, built back in 1901, actually pre-dated the rabid development of the 70’s and 80’s.

Byrne’s rugged features were highlighted by the ocean-teal and sky- blue light streaming in through the giant stained glass window depicting the church’s namesake high over his left shoulder.

“What are you going to do about this Nicky? You know there’s still a price on my head, right?”

“No kidding … $50,000. Mr. Salvatore hasn’t forgiven you for refusing to do that last hit or for taking off like that. Besides, you’re a real liability out here ‘in the cold’. If the Feds ever got to you, hey, you could put a lot of people away … including me. Finding you like this was ‘the luck o’ the Irish’ I guess. Hiding out as a priest, shit! You’re a genius.”

“Listen, this wasn’t a scam. My conversion was real. I’ve found a home here and I’m doing good work. Nothing will ever make up for the way I led my life before but at least I’m making a positive contribution now.”

Nick Amaroso looked at his one time partner. He took a pack of cigarettes out of his breast pocket then, remembering where he was, put them back.

“Sure. Sure. The thing is … that’s personal. I have to make a professional decision here, Jack.”

“Well, I’m not running. If you want me, you know where to find me.”

“Take it easy, Jack. I need some time to think. The truth is Mr. S. and I haven’t been getting along too well lately. Besides, I owe you. You taught me everything I know about the business. If it weren’t for you there’s no telling where I might have ended up. Hey, you want to hear something freaky? Last month I notched number eighteen. That’s your record, right? One more and I have you beat.”

Before Fr. Byrne could express his shame and regret, the two men were interrupted by the arrival of a noisy flock of Japanese tourists chattering away like birds. The clicking of their digital cameras added an even more pronounced avian note. As soon as the group left, Amaroso continued.

“I’m going to go for a walk, Jack. Do some thinking. You know in this same situation, if it were anybody else, I’d take care of things right now. Maybe I’ll be back … maybe not. Either way, it’s just business, right?”

“It’s never ‘just business’, Nicky. Remember? That was Lesson Number One. Anyhow, it was good to see you again, I guess. You always were a good soldier. Maybe you don’t know it, but you’ve already made your decision. See you around.”


Byrne spent the rest of the afternoon working on his homily for the coming Sunday. Around three o’clock he walked across the street and went for a swim. He came back, showered and then took up his position in the confessional. The rich scent of the varnished Koa wood was comforting. Forty minutes later, after the usual revelations concerning “impure thoughts” and affairs real or imagined, he recognized his old friend’s voice from the other side of the screen.

“I knew you’d be back, Nicky. It was inevitable.”

“What choice do I have, Jack? I can use the money and, maybe, this will get me back in Mr. Salvatore’s good graces.”

“You always have choices, Nick. But do you have enough courage to live with the results? As far, as grace goes, well, I’ve learned a lot about that during the last ten years.”

Before Nick Amaroso could respond, he heard the unmistakable “fupp,” “fupp” sound of two silenced rounds. The bullets tore through the thin partition separating the two sides of the confessional and struck him in the chest. He was alive just long enough to realize what had happened. “Damn,” he thought with his dying breath, “that was number nineteen.”

Fr. John Byrne never moved. He quickly punched a number into his cell phone.

“Salvatore? It’s Byrne. I did what you wanted. That wipes the slate clean, right? OK. Listen; put her on … I need to be sure … Máthair … are you alright?”

“Johnny? Of course I’m alright. Why wouldn’t I be? That nice Mr. Salvatore and his staff have been treating me like royalty. He’s even putting me on a plane tonight so that I can come visit you in Hawaii . You’ll be there to pick me up at the airport, won’t you?”

Satisfied, Byrne ended the call after reassuring his mother. He had two hours before the parish council meeting. That was plenty of time to clean things up … after all he had considerable experience in such matters. What really worried him was the thought of entertaining his elderly mother for two weeks. Maybe Salvatore was still out to get him after all.


Updated BIO: James C. Clar lives and writes in upstate New York. His short fiction has been published in print and on the Internet. Most recently his work has appeared in The Taj Mahal Review, Everyday Fiction, Orchard Press Mysteries,, Long Story Short, Word Catalyst and Bewildering Stories.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 87 - Julie Morgan

God's Chorister

'My laptop's been stolen.'

'Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry to hear that. But hey – you'd had it a while anyway.' He shifted in his seat, switched the phone to his other ear. 'Tell you what, I'll buy you a new one.'

'It's not that. You don't understand.'

'What is it, then?'

'We're on it.'

With those three words, Gabriel Priest's world crumbled. 'We're on it.' That she had been so stupid, so careless, that they could be exposed in this way, was unthinkable. He had warned her time and again about storing images and files securely. 'Don't leave anything on your hard drive. Get it off there, encrypt it, keep the data in a safe or something…' She'd laughed at him, thought him paranoid.

Gabriel took a series of deep breaths, tried to steady himself.

'What happened?'

She didn't reply immediately. He heard her breathing. Then, finally, she said; 'I left it on a train.'

'You stupid… anybody could have it! Anybody at all.' He pressed his fist to his forehead. 'Wait a minute. You said it had been stolen.'

'Soon as I was on the platform, I realised I didn't have it. I got straight back on once the crowd had cleared and went back to my seat.' He heard her swallow. 'It wasn't there.'

'When you say "We were on it", just how much…?'

'Everything. Us. And everything else.' He heard the doorbell ringing in the background. 'Gabe, I have to go. I'll call you back as soon as I can.'



'When did this happen?'

'Last night, coming back down from Manchester.' She hung up.

Gabriel sat and stared at the handset in disbelief. Hands shaking, he put the phone down on the rest.

The damn thing could be anywhere by now. It could be on eBay! Right now, some thieving little toerag could be beating the password protection, assuming there even was any password protection, and looking at…

He started to hyperventilate. Christ, this couldn't be happening, not to him! He was God's chorister, he had the primetime Sunday evening slot on television. Not one of those do-it-yourself channels either: even in his distress he sneered at the thought of Peter Stone, the cheap sets, the second rate backing singers. Gabriel had only the best; Gabriel was on the BBC.

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Images danced through his brain, images that were very likely stored on Rebecca's laptop. It wasn't just the two of them, although that was bad enough. He was a pillar of the community, a paragon of virtue, a holy paradigm. If video footage of the things he and Rebecca got up to was made public… even in the mask, it was obviously him. In some of the clips, he was singing 'Jerusalem'. Then there were the boys from the choir, his trumpeting angels, as Rebecca called them, young and fresh-faced, doing his bidding because they trusted him, believed in him. How could he ever explain that! No-one at the BBC would understand that.

The BBC! What if someone gave the laptop to the BBC? It would be a major news story, for all he was one of their own, they would show him no mercy. He imagined the announcer, his voice deep, his expression grave, telling the nation of the downfall of Gabriel Priest. There'd be reporters chasing Faith down the street. She'd laughed about it when they pursued her before the wedding. He doubted she'd be laughing when this came out. If, he reminded himself. If this came out. He'd think of something.

The phone rang and he seized it. 'Rebecca!'

'Mr Priest?' It was a voice Gabriel didn't recognise. 'Gabriel Priest? That is you, isn't it?'

Gabriel's heart was in his mouth.

'My name is George Woodward. I'm the senior investigative reporter with The Sun newspaper. I have a laptop computer in my possession…'

Gabriel shrieked and threw down the phone. The Sun! The tabloids would have a field day, they loved nothing better than a fallen hero. It was so cruel, so unfair. They'd chase the kids, his mother, they'd hound the whole family.

And they would crucify him.

He realised he was standing up, arms out to the sides. He sat back down. He would go to prison. He would go to prison for a long time. There were people there who would… do things to him. Hurt him. Well, he wouldn't let it happen. He wouldn't. They weren't going to get him. He still had some choice in the matter. Tears were streaming down his face, but his mind was made up. Gabriel went out to the garage and quickly found what he was looking for. Within minutes, he was working the rope into a noose, looping the end over the roof beams in the loft. He stood at the edge of the hatch and eyed the drop; more than enough for his purposes.


Rebecca raised a glass of champagne in a gesture of salute to her companion. 'Cheers!' she said.

'Cheers, sweetheart.' Peter Stone drank deeply from the glass in his hand, then lay back against the pillows with a satisfied sigh. 'That was beautiful.'

She smiled, not sure whether he meant the sex or the meeting he'd just attended at the BBC when he had reluctantly accepted the recently vacated primetime religious programme slot. 'Do the voice again,' she urged him.

He obliged. 'My name is George Woodward. I'm the senior investigative reporter with The Sun newspaper. I have a laptop computer in my possession…'

They both cracked up laughing. Rebecca stood and retrieved the bottle of champagne from the ice bucket on the sideboard. She refilled their glasses, then as an afterthought moved her laptop to the desk, out of harm's way.

BIO: Julie Morgan lives by the seaside in the north east of England. She has previously been published on Muzzle Flash and (as Julie Wright) in Out of the Gutter, Flash Pan Alley and here on Powder Burn Flash.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 86 - Gay Kinman


"Hello, Ms. Sinclair. I'm Lt. Charles Blossom. I never worked with your husband, but you have my sincere condolences."

That's it! she thought, I'll name my character, Blossom...Lt. Lotus Blossom.

"I'm following up on some questions about his murder."

Ah--at this point she could bring in the goodgal/badguy, and then--

"Your husband was not living here?."

She noted his expression, a slight tightening of the muscles around the eyebrows. She could use that.

"We haven't lived together for seven months." And three days. Oh, poo, that's not what her heroine would say. She'd say...hmm what would she say? Maybe nothing. That's not right either. Couldn't have a story where the heroine said nothing. He made a note in his small notepad.

"I understand you're a mystery writer."

Casually said, like you have to keep busy with a hobby while your husband's at work. At work a lot. Supposedly.


"You've made a fair amount of money?" As though he considered anyone daft to pay for her words.

"I'm not starving." Good line for her heroine. It showed a little spunk.

"And your husband wanted half in the divorce proceedings?"

"My latest book became a best seller while we were married so under California community property law, he claimed half of that income. Now my other books are picking up considerably in sales."

He wanted half of that, too. Even the ones written B.V. Before Vince.

"What's puzzling me is that he was killed exactly the way the victim was killed in your latest book, the antique sword--everything."

She backed away. Bad cop. "This is not a casual visit to offer your condolences. This is an interrogation."

"Forgive me, Mrs. Sinclaire, I've not been known for my good manners. All I want to do is clear up a few things."

Good cop?

She didn't think so. "I know the spouse is the first person to be suspected. And me, probably more than anyone. I mean I wrote the book on it." She spurted a laugh. Was she babbling? Maybe she was putting a noose around her neck. No, in California it was a lethal injection.

"Killing your husband in the same manner and circumstances does seem like someone was trying to be sure you were the prime suspect." His eyes stared into hers. Beautiful sea green.

A love interest for her heroine? She glanced at his hand. No wedding ring. She knew most cops didn't wear them. Vince's excuse had been that his ring might get caught on something and rip off his finger. Ha!

"Do you have any idea who might want to frame you?"

She shook her head. She knew she had to come up with someone for the book she was writing now.

"The other thing that puzzles me is the fact that your husband had been here--dead--for possibly ten hours before his partner found him. How do you explain that?"

"I didn't know he was here. I've kept the door of the den closed ever since he left." Ever since I kicked him out. "I never go in there."

That's where Vince spent all of his time--whenever he decided to come home. Watching TV, drinking a case of beer and acting like the obnoxious pig he turned out to be.

"He still had a key?"

She nodded. Locking him out was the first thing her attorney told her to do when she filed for divorce. She hadn't gotten around to it. Sometimes procrastination paid off.

"Who else has a key?"

"My cleaning lady, my housesitter--I can't think of anyone else."

"Is there someone who might have had access to your keys?"

"I have one hidden in the car." Every thief in the world would know where to look.

More notes.

"Tell me your schedule on the day of the murder."

"I left about eleven, dropped of my car for service--"

"Did you leave your house keys?"

"Oh. Yes."

"And then what?"

"I met a friend for lunch, but you already have her name and number."

"Then what did you do?"

"I picked up my car, came home at about three and worked on my novel--I'm quite close to the deadline. I wrote until about one in the morning and then went to bed."

Until awakened by Vince's partner who was looking for him as he hadn't shown up work. And found him. In the den. The front door wide open.

Actually she had been in the hall earlier. She heard the key in the front door and there he was, walking in like he owned the place, like he still lived there, with her family's heirloom civil war sword in its scabbard clutched in his hand. The one he had taken with him, knowing what it meant to her. Drunk, smelling like the floor of the worst beer joint in the world. He'd gone into the den and turned on the TV. Just like old times.

"I'm moving back in," he had said.

"Oh, has your latest girlfriend thrown you out? Did you think you could return anytime? Kudos to the chickie who had enough sense to dump you." But her sarcasm had been lost on him.

"Whose prints are on the sword?" Time for her to ask a few questions. Who wanted a passive heroine.

"Wiped clean."

"How many times was he stabbed?"

"Just the once."

Every mystery writers knows than once indicated the murderer was involved emotionally with the victim, so stabbed many times to vent hostility and anger. Once only indicated that the murderer wanted him dead, nothing personal. Could have been a burglar, especially since the front door was wide open.

"Another thing I found curious was you stated you were working in your office while your husband was being murdered and you didn't hear anything--no cries for help, no voices. According to the Coroner, the death occurred between 6 and 10 pm."

Actually it was 7:08.

BIO: Dr. Gay Toltl Kinman has eight award nominations for her writing, including three Agatha Award nominations; several short stories in American and English magazines and anthologies; eight children's books; a Y.A. gothic novel; two adult mysteries; several short plays produced; over one hundred and fifty articles in professional journals and newspapers; co-edited two non-fiction books; and writes three book review columns, and articles for two newspapers. Kinman has library and law degrees.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 85 - Michael Knowles

The New Face of Terror

MacDonald stood beside his Ford in the middle of a field. He had found a path leading off Highland Road just minutes away from the car wash. He was in the shade of a tree watching the car, moving his eyes only to check the second hand on his watch.

Birds had settled near MacDonald and the car. They ventured closer and closer to the still figures until a series of pops sounded from under the hood. Smoke billowed out from the car obscuring the birds as they flew away.

“Eight minutes twenty-three seconds,” he said to himself before opening the driver side door, turning off the engine, and walking to another nearby tree. He sat in the shade and opened the plastic wrapper on a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. MacDonald relaxed in the shade chain chewing the gum. As soon as the flavour was pounded out of the piece in his mouth, he spit it out and started on another. He finished seven pieces under the tree before he got up to feel the hood of the car; it was cool. He popped the hood and reached into the engine; his hand disappeared into a cavern that was just big enough for his fist. He dragged a tinfoil pouch from the warm cave and dusted away the spent smoke bombs inside. He pulled eight more of the smoke bombs he had bought at a nearby convenience store out of his pocket, put them inside the dusty pouch, and slid the pouch back under the hood.

MacDonald slammed the hood, set his watch for eight minutes, and got behind the wheel. He drove the Ford out of the field and onto the road making sure to stir up as much dust as possible.
One minute and eight seconds later, he felt the tires bounce over the curb of the Hamilton mosque parking lot. The mosque was set back from the street and shared its parking lot with Hamilton Mountain Bowl. On any other day, the building was quiet and unassuming. Today, the building was a hub of activity.

Young children held signs decorated with cartoon bubbles and prices. Fourten dollars, the children would wash a car; SUVs cost five dollars extra. It was an expensive car wash but another sign, designed by an adult hand, explained that all proceeds went towards a private Muslim school in Hamilton. Only the public and Catholic schools in Ontario received provincial funding, so the other faith based schools had to drum up financial support any way they could. It wasn’t unusual to see children on the streets raising money for some activity or cause every weekend of the year. None of the children working the car wash looked to be in need of money themselves. The hijabs on the young girls were made of expensive fabrics with intricate patterns, and they boys all wore high-end running shoes. They beamed perfect orthodontic smiles at him through the windshield as they waved him in.

MacDonald pulled up to the rabble of children and got out of the Ford, leaving the engine running.

“Your car is still on,” a young girl in a red hijab said.

MacDonald bent to the tiny girl and smiled. “I don’t want it to get hot while I wait.”

“We can wash it?” She smiled a little brighter at the prospect of a sale.

“That depends little lady. What is my money going towards?”

“We are trying to raise five thousand dollars for new uniforms. All our teams need new ones. When we play the other teams from Burlington and Mississauga, we look so gross. I had to wear number five last time and it…”

“Little lady, school uniforms are important and I would be happy to help. Give the car the works.”

“Yes, sir.” She flashed one last hundred-watt smile then motioned the crowd of waiting children over. They attacked the car like jackals on an antelope. Some of the children were even bold enough to climb on top of the trunk to reach the roof.

MacDonald checked his watch; four minutes eighteen seconds had elapsed. He caught the attention of the girl in the red hijab and motioned her over.

“Do you know a Mr. Zarar?”

The little girl shook her head. “Not Mr. Zarar, Mrs. Zarar. She is in charge of our car wash. She runs all of our fundraising. She’s so nice.”

MacDonald stared at the girl for a second until he noticed that his mouth was hanging open. He closed his mouth and asked the girl, “Could you point her out?”

The little girl pointed with a tiny finger. “She’s over there. In that lawn chair.”

MacDonald followed the pointing finger and saw an old woman alone in a lawn chair. She was beside the building so that she was shielded from the midday sun.

“Thank you, little lady.” He looked over her head at the Ford. “The car is looking better already.”

“We’re not even done yet. You just wait!”

The little girl ran back to the car while MacDonald walked over to the woman in the lawn chair. As he approached, the old woman caught sight of him and raised a hand to shield her eyes from the glare coming off the wet car. When she could see him clearly, she squinted at him as though she were deciphering an eye-test chart.

“Yes?” Her tone was serious.

“Ma’am, I hear you’re the one in charge of this event. I just wanted to pay up for the car wash.”

She squinted a little less. “I’m sorry young man, these hands aren’t nimble enough to count money anymore. The children’s teacher will collect your money when you leave.” She gestured to a woman in her thirties watching the children from a shady patch of pavement.

“I will do that ma’am. If I can’t pay you, I’d just like to tell you what a good job I think you’re doing. It’s a shame the government doesn’t give you more funding. Sometimes I hate my bosses; they can be so unfair.”

“You work for the government then?”


“Yes, they can be unfair.” She was squinting again and her tone was quiet and distant as though it were trying to follow her mind to whatever memory it had gone to.

“Fundraising like this is hard to do, but sometimes people have to take it upon themselves to make things right. I am a firm believer that the government isn’t perfect, and that on occasion people have to take things into their own hands to do what’s right.”

“You are very right, young man; very right indeed.”

“Don’t I know it. I hear this isn’t even your first fundraiser. Six months back you almost made ten thousand selling chocolate door-to-door all over the city. Those poor kids must have worked hard for that. Before that, you raised a couple thousand by having a walk-a-thon. I bet everyone must have walked plenty for that kind of money.”

“It seems little Jameela told you many things about our charities.”

“Oh, I already knew some things. I also know that things can be expensive these days. Gas is up, grain is up, heck water is a dollar twenty-five a bottle. You know what I’m talking about, I mean school uniforms are five thousand dollars these days. That kind of money could buy an African village food for a year. It could even buy a crate of RPG’s for a group of rebels in Afghanistan.”

Mrs. Zarar squinted harder at MacDonald and her lips moved a silent curse.

“Yep, five grand will get you a crate of circa 1980’s rocket propelled grenades. Perfect for cooking soldiers and dignitaries inside their Humvees. The Afghan rebels don’t have government funding, so they have to beg, barrow, and steal. And they’re not picky about who they get their money from.”

MacDonald turned his head to look back at the car wash. The car was being hosed off. Little Jameela waved to him and he waved back. His sleeve rode up his arm as he waved and he saw seven minutes had passed.

“They are not rebels.”

MacDonald turned back to Mrs. Zarar.

“They are soldiers fighting an unjust occupation. Afghanistan is a sovereign land and your country tramples it in order to install its own Western puppet regime. We Afghani people have never surrendered to anyone. My husband died forcing the Soviets off the sand and back to the Russian snow. And when the West crushed our homeland under its boot, my son went home to make sure his father did not die just to see another superpower take our home. I will not let my son perish as his father did; in the mountains, hiding like a rat. I do what needs to be done. I raise funds so that he and the other Mujahideen can make sure our land remains ours.”

“My teacher says it is time to pay.”

Both MacDonald and Mrs. Zarar turned to look at the young girl who had snuck up behind them.
MacDonald slid his hand inside his suit jacket. “I got my wallet right here little lady. But I need your help. I have to leave pretty soon. Can you go back over there and supervise your crew? I need you to make sure they hurry up and dry off the car.”

“Okay,” Jameela said as she ran, screaming orders, back to the other workers. “Hurry up everybody!”

MacDonald looked back at Mrs. Zarar and watched her stare at the little girl running back to the car. He kept his hand inside his jacket.

“I met your boy.”

“Faisal?” Her eyes found MacDonald. There was no squinting anymore; they were open in terror.

“Yeah, I caught up with him after he took out a convoy I was in with a mortar your walk-a-thon paid for. Those mortars took out a high-ranking government official and four soldiers; the kids would be so proud. I tracked down your boy and he and I got to talking. It took some sweating…”


“It’s a technical term Mrs. Zarar. I put some effort into getting your boy’s story.”

“Oh, God.”

“Like I said, it took some sweating, but he eventually told me that he was the one who paid for the mortars; he even let slip that he had funded some RPG’s that were on the way. Faisal showed me that the battlefield was much bigger than I thought. Long story short, I had some time off after your mortars did their job, so I decided to follow the money. I gotta admit, I didn’t see you or this car wash coming, but that’s the wholepoint isn’t it? You’re part of the new face of terrorism.”

“I am no terrorist.”

“But your not honest either. How many bake sales went towards killing infidels instead of books? You might not consider yourself a terrorist, but I think you’re smart enough to know what side of the board you’re on.”

“Then I am to be arrested?”

“No, no arrests. Just a new game, and a new face for our side.”

Low pops came from the car and the kids screamed. Mrs. Zarar shot a worried glance to the children. The final pops made the FUPP, from ten feet in front of her, inaudible. She barely felt the bullet enter her heart.

MacDonald holstered the gun and jogged back to the car. He had his phone in his hand by the time he reached the Ford.

“Get the kids inside the mosque! I don’t know what that smoke is, but it doesn’t look safe. I’ll call for help. Move!”

The children and their teacher ran into the mosque as MacDonald slid behind the wheel. None of the children noticed the body slumped in the lawn chair in the shadow of the building. The smoke dissipated as the Ford picked up speed. Rapidly disappearing in the rear view mirror, MacDonald saw the empty lot littered with hoses, buckets, and the lone body of Mrs.Zarar.

He was on the expressway within two minutes; moving away from the car wash and onto the next name.

BIO: Mike Knowles is a Canadian writer. His first book, Darwin's Nightmare, is out this year under ECW press.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shifting Gears Flash Challenge

Hi All,

Listed below are a few of the Shifting Gears Flash Challenge put together by Patti Abbott and Gerald So. After you read John McAuley's and Sandra Seaman's flashes check out the list below. Hope you enjoy reading these instead of putting $4 plus gas in your vehicle......

Flash Fiction Challenge-The challenge was to use the line "With gas/ (diesel/petrol) prices rising, our (their) plans had to change" in a 750 word or less flash fiction piece.
Here are the takers.

Shifting Gears Flash - John McAuley


With gas prices rising, their plans had to change.

They were down to sawing off Danny's legs when they heard the helicopter.

"Fuck. I bet they ain't just looking for our crop."

"Godamnit Eddie! I told you we shouldn't do this on our own property. We should'a spent the fifty bucks to drive him up north and do it."

The End

My third novel and my first decent advance payment. My publisher thinks this book is the big one. Most of the money will go to pay my medical bills. I'll keep what's left for myself. It should come out to a couple of thousand dollars for each bruise and broken bone.

The waste of DNA I'd married already had the check in hand. "So when you cash this we can go to the casino?"

"Sure. You've never been across the Mackinac Bridge to the upper peninsula have you?"

"Nope. They got casino's up there?"

"Sure do."

"Long way from Detroit ain't it? I don't wanna' piss away any more cash on gas than we have too. It'll cut in to the slot money."

" It will only be about fifty dollars. "

Shifting Gears Flash - Sandra Seamans

by Sandra Seamans

Cindi felt the plaster and lath walls of her cage creeping closer, squeezing the air from her lungs. She grabbed the television remote, punching up the volume until the sound waves forced the encroaching walls to retreat. Another hour and her husband, Jim, would be home and their apartment wouldn't feel so claustrophobic.

"Breathe, girl, you've got to breathe," she muttered. In and out. In and out until her heartbeats slowed and the sweat dried cold on her body.

A fist pounding on the door slammed her heart back into high gear. She hit mute on the remote, trying to pretend she wasn’t there, praying the door wouldn’t surrender to the assault on its wooden panels. Today was the first Friday of the month, and the landlord was busy ambushing paychecks before they got swilled back at the local bar or pumped into some monster 4X4's gas tank.

Cindi shuddered. She couldn't stand how the man looked at her. Booley Jackson made her feel like she was walking around naked, his leering eyes slowly raping her. She needed to breathe. In and out. Her heartbeats slowing with the sound of Jim’s truck wheeling into the driveway.

Jim was the hub of her world. Without him, she didn't exist. His vague promise of a nice little doublewide was the only dream she permitted herself, but even that dream was fading. After buying gas, beer and accessories for Jim's toys there was barely enough left to pay the rent let alone buy a house. With the price of gas rising, their plans had to change. Shivering, she remembered Booley's lewd jokes about a flat-backing exchange.

A key scratched in the lock. Cindi ran to her husband, throwing her arms around his grease-streaked coveralls, the scent of gasoline wrapping around her like a snare.

Leaning back, she looked up into his face, "Booley stopped by for the rent."

He pushed her away. "Yeah, I talked to him when I came in. We settled on a payment plan." Jim didn't look at her, just started jamming clothes into his duffle bag. "Don't bother fixing supper, I'm outta here for the weekend."

"What kind of payments?" she asked.

"Don't go pitching one of your hissy fits. You know how things are. I've sold damn near everything we own. You'd best be nice to Booley this weekend or we'll find ourselves living in a briar patch."

“You ain’t sold everything.”

“You expect me to sell my truck? Maybe walk to work?”

“No, not the truck. You could sell your motorcycle, the boat, and the four wheeler. If you sold those gas guzzlers we could afford to buy a house.”

“A house? We’re barely making ends meet and you want to buy a house?”

“I could get a job, help pay the bills.”

“You ain't getting a job. I seen them wives who work, thinkin’ they’re better’n their husbands just because they make a few dollars. Out there strutting their goods, looking to step up in the world. I won’t have no wife of mine looking down her nose at me.”

“I can’t get a job but I can spread my legs to pay the rent?”

“If you really love me, you'll take care of Booley without making a fuss.”

Jim slammed out of the apartment. Cindi heard his motorcycle kick to life, heard him roar off down the road, then Booley came knocking.

“Breathe, girl. In and out. In and out,” screamed her brain as Booley's heavy body pounded her into the mattress.

Rent collecting done, Booley said, “You ain’t much, are you?”

Cindi trembled beneath the sheets, relief flooding through her body as Booley zipped his pants and crossed the room to leave. His parting shot shattered her life.

“You’d best get used to me, girl, cause your husband and I made a deal. You’re mine for the weekend and I’m guessing this’ll be his regular method of payment from here on in. Oh, and don't bother getting dressed, I'll be back."

Tears bubbled up in Cindi's eyes, her world exploding with the realization that she was nothing more than an untapped piggy bank to her husband. Her hands fumbled under the mattress, searching for the gun Jim kept hidden there.

The sound of Boolie’s returning footsteps in the hall gave her courage. “Breathe deep, girl, you can do this,” she muttered. Her heart shifted down as she slid the barrel of the gun into her mouth.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 84 - Bradley Mason Hamlin


Otis set down his beer can on the park bench, took a moment to feel the sun on his neck, and turned to look at his friend Floyd. “I’m gonna kill somebody,” he said, “just you know, to feel ‘em die.”

Floyd chuckled. “Ya mean, like that Johnny Cash song?”

“No, duckweed. I said feel, not watch.”

“In Reno ?” Floyd asked. “Ya gonna do it in Reno ?”

“Fuck Reno . What’s in Reno ? You’d have to kill somebody just to make something happen in Reno .”

“Well,” said Floyd, “this is Sacramento . There’s lots to do. Sunny fuckin California . Have another beer. You don’t have to kill anybody.”

Otis drained his can and opened another. “A man gets tired of being brave,” he said.

“Who said that?” Floyd asked. “You didn’t think that, somebody else …”

Otis grabbed Floyd around the fat skin of the throat and squeezed. He dug his fingers into the sickly softness and watched the eyes bulge like baby balloons as smelly beer gurgled out of Floyd’s mouth.

He tried to pull away, tried to force off Otis’s hands, tried to kick at Otis’s gut. He even scratched at Otis’s face, but Otis felt more determined than Floyd, felt more determined on the inside and didn’t care about superficial wounds to the outer being.

Otis squeezed, fiercely, waiting, waiting and watching Floyd die …

Floyd’s body shuddered as if in some secret wonderful orgasm; his bloated tongue stuck out his fat lips like a wet parking ticket, and it was over.

Otis let out a long sigh, more out of boredom than relief. He just didn’t feel as much as he thought he might. He remembered watching his cat give birth to a litter of kittens in the garage and that carried much more feeling than this. He felt something stir inside his gut watching those little cats pop out all new and fresh and gooey like oven-baked cookies, just a little underdone. Floyd’s eyes popping out in a dead blank fishy stare and the snarl on his white face felt more like an inconvenience than anything else.

Otis finished his beer, then finished Floyd’s. The Greyhound bus station was just a few blocks downtown and a ticket to Reno didn’t cost that much.


Mystery Island Publications