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.