False Prophets by Chris Benton

False ProphetsFalse Prophets wander everywhere, through everything, through every-body. A few may remember these midnight poles of magnetism. A few may remember and go mad, but a few may simply remember.  I remember the night Holland came into our home, our father had called him. It was nearly one in the morning, deep inside a sweltering summer, and our mother was completely catatonic, convinced somewhere in the black mountain of her mind that my sister, her daughter was dead… dead and forgotten.

Holland was our local Pastor, who had inherited the mantle from the late Richard Gaines, who baptized my sister. I want to talk about Holland tonight because the first night he came into our home, the first time he came into our home, nothing was the same or sane again. I want to talk about Holland because I’m driving very fast right now, searching for that fateful tree or a telephone pole, dying from a brain tumor.

I want to talk about Holland because he was alone with my mother for over an hour, but they weren’t truly alone. I was there beside the shut bedroom door, yet I could hear, and see, feebly through the ragged hole my father had punched through six months ago the night my sister found her true voice with a bread knife.

I was listening through the Minotaur hole in the bedroom door. I was listening to this:

“My daughter, my first-born is dead, dead, DEAD, Christopher. Can you lay down with me now, so we can dream together?”

Holland spoke very softly to my mother, “Your daughter is alive, Marie, because I have seen her,” he bent over and whispered something, the only word I could catch was again.

My mother began laughing, a sort of sibilant cackle – she sounded like a bride of Dracula.

“Is she home again?” I heard my mother hiss. I couldn’t see her face, and was grateful. Holland blessed her with his certainty that she was home again, and indeed she was. On her way home to confirm the prophecy, but something happened then, something I couldn’t comprehend through the Minotaur’s hole in the bedroom door.

Twenty-five years later I met Holland again, in the Barbary Coast, the bar my father dropped dead in ten years earlier. He was exactly the same; he looked twenty nine years old though his black curly crown was completely white. I was what I am now, a fully functioning disaster with his front teeth still intact, but bearing the blue eye-bags of a hobo clown. I bullied my glaucoma, truly focusing on what I thought was a hallucination, but it was him, it was the Preacher who brought my sister back from the grave. I got off my stool and walked a thousand miles before I gazed away – a moronic child who was about to open his hole to him.

He recognized me instantly and smiled warmly. I detected plastic surgery, head transplantations, black magic, invisible Calcutta clinics. I sat beside him and he offered to buy me a beer.

“A dollar Icehouse tonight, Christopher. Please allow me.”

I accepted, because Icehouses were a dollar that night.

I drank my beer in four swallows and met his eyes, and his eyes didn’t own any pupils, they were pure beast-green, and I was ready to drink them dry.

“How have you been Christopher? Not too well, I imagine.”

I could see now, I’d been falling face-first into the holes of destroyed wives my entire life, seeking the riddle of a single night, and here it was, before me, and its name was HOLLAND. He saw me truly see him and cleared his throat, spitting something large and dark into his palm, swiftly fisting it, and putting it into his pocket.

“It’s been awhile, Christopher, how the hell are you?”

“How the hell,” I echoed.

“How are your sister and mother, still everlasting?”

“Everlasting, yes, always.”

“Not too many tears in the etheric plane?”

“Many tears in the etheric plane.”

“I’m sorry son, I did the best I could that night. I’ve gotten so much better though, please, believe me. There is 70-80 percent less sadness from the lingering, they go back so much more faster now, it all depends on the sensitivity of the vestigials. Are you still mourning?”

I looked at Holland, and my mother and sister were trying to devour his head with glorious maws grown from the dream of their resurrection. It was a futile feast, they consumed nothing. And nothingness looked like a blessed relief, for I was consumed every evening by their bottomless, wordless wishing wells and within them I looked toward the buried stars like a doomed explorer, and found the murdered moon of my mother’s face, remembered the red amnesia of my sister’s smile.

“I have a confession to make,” I declared. And it was true.

“I’m all ears, son, I’m all ears.”

“I need it under the stars, under the moon, under the Milky Way.”

“Okay.”

We walked out the back door of the Barbary, into the alley of between Cracked Street Oyster Bar and Hellashiss Deli. A light rain was falling.

“On your knees now son, beneath the god that is weeping for us now.”

I got on my knees, and felt everything, felt the cool wet puddle my knees were drinking, felt the needles of the rain on my neck, felt the cold density of my mother and sister flanking my flesh.

“Tell me now, my son, tell me now.”

And I did. My dead sister’s bread knife break-danced between his ribs, finding the ass of his heart, or what I thought was his heart, a core that screamed like a spider. Holland was smiling the entire time.

And here I am, and fuck you Bill Bacon, because you were always a shitty sponsor, and fuck you Holland, I guess this old oak will finally unlock every secret for us now.

CHRIS PROFILE PICBio:  Chris Benton’s tales have appeared in A Twist Of Noir, Plot’s With Guns, Thriller’s Killers ‘N’ Chillers, Black Heart Noir, Crimefactory, Thrill’s Kills ‘N’ Chaos, and Shotgun Honey. He lives in North Carolina.

 

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Gruesome Like Nard by James Zahardis

Detection CentreGrady was the oldest kid on the tier and close to being shipped to an adult facility downstate. Being tier-rep—the fuck-boy go-between for the staff and inmates—had perks: the Youth Counselors shot him a leftover fast-food burger on occasion, and twice, in yard, dropped the tail-end of a blunt by him. Grady’s favorite YC was Swenson. Word on the compound was he came to Mastic Park Juvenile Correctional Facility after a run-in at Attica with a shit-coated shiv. Or some shit like that. Swenson was respected, being a stand-up guy, and not giving a flying fuck when you rolled the bones for cee-lo or staged a death-match between two black widows in a Dixie cup.

But Swenson was a slightly sadistic fuck, and got off betting on how long it would take a newbie to catch a beat-down, or worse.

“That fish, Ronald Something-or-other-O-Witz: he’s not only a Jew-Boy, but a rich, Long Island Jew-boy,” Swenson said, planted on his ass in the YC station. He tossed Grady a confiscated copy of Playboy. The centerfold was a Latina with an ass rounder than the moon, so he figured Grady would give him the inside scoop.

Grady stood in the cage-like vestibule between the YC station and the tier. It was lockdown, just after count, so he didn’t have to worry about being overheard. And being the quintessential snitch, he’d mastered the art of coupling talebearing with reticence. “Word on the ‘pound is he’s short-eyes. That true, Mr. Swenson?”

“You know I can’t divulge what’s on his papers. But I hate kiddie-diddlers. There’s no chance of rehabing perverts. So, I’m taking extra-long smoke breaks when that kid showers, if you know what I mean.”

“Nard housed the kid yesterday morning. Rolled up to him at breakfast. Nard just looked at his scrambled eggs and was like, ‘Run that shit, punk-ass motherfucker,’ and Jew-Boy just slid them eggs onto Nard’s tray. Didn’t even look up, so fucking soft.”

“Yeah, I give him a week,” Swenson interjected. The overhead fluorescent lights flickered as if on cue.

“Bet you he won’t make it three days, Mr. Swenson. Three, if lucky.”

“Ah, too short. Nard’ll take at least seven to do it. You gotta understand the mindset of a psychopath. Nard likes to savor the torment, like a sado-fucking cat with a mouse. Work the nerves before going in for the kill. Like when he knocked out One-Eyed-Dennis’ glass eye. He waited eight days to sucker punch him. Nard’s a buck-40 soaking wet, if that, but has mitts made of cast-iron, and is gorilla-strong, I swear. Fucking psychopath. And the more scared the fish, the longer he makes ‘em sweat it out wondering ‘when?’ Yep, nobody in this rat-hole gets gruesome like Nard.”

Wagering with Swenson made Grady feel like a big shot. Not to mention there was that Latina to rub one out to after lights-out. “I bet a week of double broom-duty to that Playboy it will be three days or less.”

“Bet. Whoever’s closer to D-Day wins. Any rate, my station needs a good sweep.”

#

Mastic Park Juvenile Correctional Facility was an old fortress pinioned between the foothills of the Adirondacks and the filthy little waves of Lake Ontario—a gray husk wrought of steel and cinderblock under grayer skies, which enshrouded 300-some-odd sullen youthful offenders who rotted away there.

Ronald had been at Mastic five days, spending most of his time in the rec yard, blending into the crumbled remnant of a wall that stretched from the weight pit to the chin-and-dip bars. The older YC’s, including Swenson, said the old wall was left behind as a reminder that Mastic had history, a real history beyond shank fights and riots, dating back to the Civil War. (But this was refuted by the volunteer history teacher Mr. Larry. He claimed the War Between the States never made it that far north, and concluded the state was simply too cheap to remove the wall.)

It was just another day at Mastic. Two games of basketball were running, and three punks, their pants worn backwards, cheered at the black flesh streaming up and down the courts. Righteous Wisdom Allah stood in mid-yard surrounded by his Five-Percenter followers, listening as he explained how the white man was grafted to be a race of devils. And several yards away, two Puerto Rican boys huddled under the guard tower, swapping secrets on how to render by fire newspaper to ink for stick-and-poke tattoos. It was an afternoon in which chaos seemed to blend fluidly into the drone of the rec yard. It was the afternoon Nard confronted Ronald as he sat on the crumbled wall, staring obliviously, staring past the guard tower,  past the clouds, into the limitless inane beyond the razor-taped walls.

Righteous Wisdom Allah stated, on record, that, “Nard was just being Nard. You know, playing the hard-role, biffing the white boy upside his head like, ‘What up, motherfucker? Now do something, punk-bitch!’ White boy just sat there looking soft and then…the shit happened so fast—he just ghosted Nard. He stood all calm-cool-collective-like and stuck him in his neck. The shit happened so fast.”

Nard was interred after a cursory autopsy; Ronald was shipped to an adult correctional facility that had a 24/7 lockdown accommodating minors. NY State Youth Division officials inspected the rec yard thoroughly and ordered the immediate removal of the old wall and its hidden rebar steel that weaved snakelike through its core. “Just a stockpile of shanks,” a senior official remarked, leaving the yard.

Swenson declared the wager a draw and snuck the Playboy with the bubble-butt Latina into Grady’s lockbox for the hell of it. Unfortunately, Grady didn’t get a lot of time to enjoy the magazine; he was shipped downstate two days later.

James ZBio: James Zahardis has recently begun to write genre fiction. His stories have been published in 365 Tomorrows and Flashes in the Dark.  He holds a PhD from the University of Vermont in Chemistry (2008) where he is currently employed as a research scientist and lecturer.

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Apologies And Some Exciting News…

Ok, we’ve been here before but this time it’s different. Why? Well, I started a new job, a lot of the work I’m doing was new to me and getting my head around stuff was time consuming. I’m getting there now so things aren’t on top so much.

Anyway, enough of that. “What’s the exciting news?” I hear you say. Well, I’ve been in discussions with someone regarding the magazine and I’ve convinced them that getting involved with TKnC is the way forward. The person in question is a fantastic writer, an excellent editor (he won an award a few years ago – he told me to say) and has been a friend of mine most of my life.

So, it is with great pleasure that I announce Col Bury as co-editor of Thrills, Kills ‘n’ Chaos. *loud cheers and clapping*

Col B

 

Down to the finer details. There are stories in the inbox and everyone will get a response as to the availability of their story. We will be publishing fortnightly so there will be a wait before your story is published. There will be a different format when stories are published so the mag will take a different look. Comments will be open so please do leave some feedback if you read a story. Writers are sensitive souls and feedback/reviews are great medicine.

We’re hoping to start publishing stories within the next couple of weeks so keep an eye out. If you’re not already following us on Facebook and Twitter please do. Links are top left under “Follow Us”.

We will also be looking into doing a short story collection later in the year. This will include longer stories and will be an “open” submission. Details of this are in the “heavy petting” stage so more information will follow.

That’s it. Thanks for all your continued support.

Submissions are still open…

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Red and the Jesuit by Frank Sonderborg

Loud banging on my apartment door is always a bad sign. Even with a door that had steel reinforced pins to stop any sudden entry. I was positioned between the legs of a six foot Russian, red haired model. Naked and feeling very vulnerable. I knew the red was direct from a bottle, as my mouth was full of blond snatch.

“They found me,” she said, from somewhere up beyond her towering twin peaks.

The door was holding up well to the battering and I could hear a stream of Russian curses as the goons tried to smash it down. I was off the bed and in my cloths, quicker than you can say “Putin on my Top Hat.”  Red was pulling on her panties, long jeans and T-shirt.

“Who the fuck is it?” I asked.

“Max. He wants his blood money.”

I said, “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

In my line of work you do need a Plan B. And a Plan C, D and if possible an E. The door was coming apart as we scuttled through my Narnia escape cupboard and into the next apartment. We left by a side fire escape. The backup Dodge fired up and we headed for the Jesuit’s place. He had texted me the night before to say he was in town and we should meet up.

“Gimli,” she said, “I’m afraid.”

The reason a four foot nothing ex-soldier was doing the beast with two backs with a stunning six feet of red headed sex was simple – I knew no fear. Angry, always. Touching the insanity pad, frequently. Afraid, never.

On my special adapted muscle car seat we blasted on and into the night.

Cal was a retired Jesuit. An enforcer for the old Lord of the Dance, a lapsed Papal assassin and a good friend. Dressed in his trademark all black outfit, he let us into his town house.

“Indians on the warpath?” he asked, as I ushered Red into his home.

“Yeah, Russian in, where Archangels fear to tread. They’re after Red.”

He laughed at my bad joke.

“So how is Gimli? No, don’t answer. Pissed off as usual?”

“Pissed at the idea that these tattooed Russian circus fuckers are ruining my day.”

Red was staring at Cal.

I said, “Sorry, Red, this is Cal – the original Man in Black.”

Cal looked at Red. “This isn’t about money, is it?”

She looked at me. “It’s about ownership.”

“OK, Gimli the Dwarf,” said Cal, looking at the close circuit TV, “the bad guys have arrived. Its kick ass time, again.”

I knew he wanted me mean. So I obliged. “I’m no fucking Dwarf, goddamnit. I’m a man.”

“Can you use a gun?” Cal asked Red, ignoring me. She just put out her hand and took the offered Glock.

“We’ll need to kill them all,” I said. “It’s the only thing they seem to understand.”

The front door exploded in a shower of glass and wood, as the goons left subtlety to another day. Three masked, armed military guys came pouring through the door, throwing flash bangs as they came forward.

Cal ran at them, hacking his axe, aiming for the neck. His speed was blistering as he motored towards the door.

They were also breaching through the upstairs windows. I headed their way.

Red was terrified but she held it tight, along with the Glock.

There was three black masked, body armoured guys, moving through the flash bang smoke. I darted through them with speed, axe in one hand and sticking them with their impending demise. Cal had access to a lot of deathly toys and sticky explosives was just one of them.

I was flat on the floor when the plop of death went off and three healthy men expired.

I got up, grabbed the rope outside the window and was on the roof in seconds, chasing the backup.

I saw Cal was killing his way out through the front.

The two guys on the hoist weren’t expecting a mad, axe-wielding mini-man to come back up. They died very quickly as I hacked them apart. I looked down at Cal advancing on the two darkened SUV’s. The Russians had had enough and were trying to make a getaway.

Cal was shooting his sticky bombs at the SUV’s. They blew apart almost immediately. The short war was over. Long live the long war.

We gathered up Red and drove away in Cal’s Range Rover to the wailing oncoming sound of the NYPD.

“Why?” was all he asked Red.

“Because he’s fucking crazy that’s why.”

“Nobody’s that crazy,” was his answer, as he headed out of town.

“His name is Roman Solonik, nicknamed Max. An ex-KGB boy from Moscow. Lots of things about this guy but crazy is not one,” I said.

“He’s my husband,” she said quietly.

Cal hit the brakes and pulled over.

He looked straight ahead as his knuckles tightened on the wheel.

“We wiped out a complete Speznaz assault team because of a fucking domestic dispute.

Have you never heard of counselling?”

“So,” I said, “Do you think Max will be upset?”

Cal thought this was funny and smiled.

“Why Gimli?” Cal asked her.

“Because everybody is terrified of Max. Even me.”

“So get a fucking divorce.”

“I tried and this is the result.”

“I think he’s got the message. You can go back to him now,” I said.

We dropped her off near her apartment. It was the price of love and a possible armistice.

I had convinced her she would be safe. Or I would be coming for his head.

Between Max and Cal’s contacts, the encounter would be swept under the NYPD Russian File carpet. Cal headed for the nearest Jesuit safe house.

“Gimli,” he said, “next time can you stick it to an unmarried Dwarf Princess?”

B&WFrankSBio:  Frank Sonderborg lives in the UK and does his best to write interesting stories.
His stories have appeared in: Action: Pulse Pounding Tales 2, Noir Nation 3, Noir Nation 5, Pulp Modern JFK Issue #6, Shadows and Light, 100 Words 100 Books – (The O’Brien Press), TheBigAdios, Thrills, Kills ‘n’ Chaos, Shotgunhoney, Near2TheKnuckle.
Amazon page: amazon.co.uk/Frank-Sonderborg/e/B00F8P3AX6
Blog: franksonderborg.blogspot.co.uk/

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Scorpio by Tess Makovesky

Ed had a bad feeling about this. He stroked his bald head as three men approached across the tarmac apron. Two in uniform and one in prison drabs, with his hands behind his back.

Stroke. Why had he agreed? It wasn’t as though he needed the money. Stroke. Perhaps it had been sheer curiosity – the desire to experience something new. He hoped it wouldn’t kill the cat. Or him.

Close up the prisoner was rat-like, with furtive eyes that never looked in one direction for long. No wonder he’d been nick-named Squinty Jim. Ed met his gaze for a second and got chills. Those eyes. They were dead. No thought, no feeling. A predator’s eyes, intent on his prey. Ed hoped that wasn’t him.

“Strap him in the second seat,” he said to the cops, nodding towards the plane. “You’ll have to un-cuff him, though.”

“You sure that’s wise?” The younger cop scratched the end of his nose. “He’s not doing life for nothing.”

“He’ll need his hands free in case of an emergency. I can’t have a passenger who can’t look after himself.”

“Fair enough.  Your funeral.” The cops deposited the guy in the plane, unfastening the cuffs at the last second before hurrying off. “We’ll wait here with the car. Best of luck.”

Ed showed the guy – he refused to think of him as Jim, it personalised him way too much – how to fasten his belt. Then he strapped himself in and went through the standard routine.

“Don’t we get helmets or life jackets?” said the guy.

“In a crate like this? Get real.”

“Yeah? Like the man said, it’s your funeral.”

Ed stroked his head again. If one more person mentioned funerals he was going to change his mind. Favour to the chief constable or not.  Stroke. He fired the engine, the clatter of the prop shockingly loud. That should shut the guy up, especially as he hadn’t shown him where the intercom was.

It might have worked, but didn’t. The guy found it anyway, and switched it on. “Do I call you Biggles?”

Ed gritted his teeth. “I may have offered to do this but I don’t have to like it. So sit back, shut up, and let me concentrate. And if you get any lurid ideas about murdering me, let me remind you we don’t have parachutes on board. So it’ll be your funeral too.”

“Whatever.” The guy drew one hand across his throat and grinned.

Ed concentrated on getting into the air. The trundle to the runway, the steady gain of power, the rush and lurch as the wheels left the ground. It never ceased to get to him, in a way little else in this mad world did. He steadied the throttle, checked the coordinates, and settled down to fly.

Ten minutes later they were over the red-hatched area on the map. “Okay, here we are.  Do your worst.”

He hoped the guy would cooperate. For the sake of the victim’s family, of course, but also for the guy himself. Ed couldn’t imagine having that weight on your conscience for years. Everyone, even Squinty Jim, deserved a second chance.

The guy peered down, watching the tiny trees and walls, the bronze and purple of the moors. “Dunno,” he said at last. “It all looks the same from up here.”

“I can’t go much lower without getting tangled up in power lines. Isn’t there anything you recognise?”

“Yeah,” said the guy, breathing deep. “I recognise the smell of fear. The way your Adam’s apple bobs. And the tremor in your eye.”

Ed banked the plane and took another pass. “Never mind all that. There’s an old farmhouse down there – does that bring anything back?”

“Only the way she struggled. And the need to do it again.”

Ed had been watching the ground. Too late he switched his gaze, saw the glint of the razor blade in the guy’s clenched fist. “What are you doing? No! You can’t.”

“I can, and I will.” The guy brought his hand crashing down, over Ed’s balding head, across one ear, until the blade bit deep in his neck.  “Ah. That’s better.” He dabbled his fingers in the blood.

Ed felt things go cold. He fought to hold the plane, but the throttle slid out of his numbing grasp. “Why?” he breathed. “You’ll die too. Why did you do that?”

“It’s in my nature,” said Squinty Jim, and smiled a cold, dead smile.

TessBio:  Liverpool lass Tess moved away to work at a tender age. Since then her movements around the country have resembled a game of ‘Pong’, but she’s now settled in the far north of England, where she roams the fells with a brolly, dreaming up new stories and startling the occasional sheep.

Although officially a history graduate, Tess has long been a student of the darker side of human nature, and one of her favourite hobbies is watching and listening to the people around her. Many of her stories feature revenge, but she’s never been tempted to get her own back on anyone herself. Except, of course, by writing them into her stories.  You can follow her ramblings, both figurative and literal, at her website www.tessmakovesky.com.

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Peeper by Dave Jaggers

Barry knew it wasn’t right what he did, but he couldn’t help himself. Ever since he and Brody Thurman discovered that loose vent cover in the girls bathroom in fifth grade, he’d been hooked, he’d been a peeper. The thrill he got, knowing he was witnessing someone else’s private moment, and committing a forbidden act, was better than any drug.

Now that he was all grown up, he had perfected his skills. When his mother died three years ago, Barry took the insurance money and bought the duplex they had lived in together. He rented out the other side and after some modifications, including a webcam and some old fashion peep holes, he had a pretty nice setup.

The hard part was finding the right kind of renter. He didn’t want families, or dudes, but that seemed to be the only applications he’d gotten in the last couple of months. His most recent tenant had been a slightly overweight college student named Sandy. Sandy turned out to be a real sleeper, a bookworm who spent most of her time in bed with her cat. Barry had been disappointed, but he did get some good video of her in the shower. He still replayed those clips at least twice a week when he needed a fix. Problem with Sandy was she couldn’t pay her rent and eventually she had to go.

Things started looking up for Barry a week ago when a new girl moved in. Kila was a hot little firecracker with a full sleeve of tattoos and more piercings than Barry could count. He nearly melted into his loafers when she came over the first time to look around. She was rocking a set of fuchsia pigtails, and wore a tattered Misfits tee shirt over fishnet stockings. She was so close to the fantasy that Barry had a hard time believing his luck.

He had watched her through the webcam as she unpacked and set up the bathroom, L7 blasting from her IPod. There were times when it almost seemed like she knew he was watching, playing it up for him, but Barry knew better, he had gone through great pains to conceal the camera in the light fixture and none of the previous renters ever noticed it.

Although he liked the webcam, Barry felt that it was too sterile, it put too much distance between him and his victim. For the really intense high, he needed to be close, just a layer of sheetrock away. The danger of getting caught intensified the rush, and he needed to hear them breathing. He had placed a tiny peep hole in the corner of the bedroom at waist level that looked out right onto Kila’s futon. On his side of the building it was in the hall closet where he had taken out all the shelves to make room for a chair so he could be comfortable. He had it down to a science.

Barry pushed his eye to the hole and peered in. Kila was lying on the bed in a pair of black skull panties and a blood red pushup bra. Barry felt his pulse kick up a notch as she idly stroked her milky thigh with a single black fingernail while scribbling something in a yellow legal pad with an ornate silver pen. He remembered her saying she was a freelance writer when she signed the lease.

Barry watched as Kila’s nail traced lazy circles on her pale, flawless skin, creeping up toward the edge of her panties. Beads of sweat started forming on Barry’s bald head, and his breathing grew shallow and loud inside the small closet. Just as she hooked her finger under the hem of her underwear, Kila’s cell phone started vibrating on the nightstand and she got up to get it. Barry pressed his eye harder against the hole, trying to widen his view. He could feel the full body flush wash over him. It was so intoxicating that he didn’t want it to stop, it had been so long. For a moment he lost track of her, seeing only her shadow on the opposite wall. She was talking to someone and laughing. Barry caught a flash of her smooth leg from the corner of his eye, then the hole went black.

Barry’s brain could barely register the lightning bolt of pain that ripped through his face. He jerked back, falling out of the chair onto the floor of the narrow hallway. He reached up with a trembling hand and pulled at something metal protruding from his eye, it was Kila’s silver pen. The world had gone half black and a wave of intense agony exploded between his ears as he lay there writhing on the hardwoods. Through the fog of shock, he could hear Kila’s voice coming from the blood soaked peephole. It had a taunting lilt.

“Hey Barry, that was Sandy, she wanted me to tell you hello.”

DavePicBio:  J. David Jaggers lives in fly over country where he spends his days in the white collar world and his nights feeding the thugs, pimps and enforcers he keeps caged in his basement. He has been published in the usual places, including Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Spelk and Out of the Gutter magazines.

 

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Barbershop Vagrant by Aidan Thorn

Frank had meant to make the place more secure, he just kept forgetting. But every time he opened up his barbershop and found one of the local bums sleeping on his floor it was a reminder that he had to do something about it. He had shutters that pulled over the front of the shop which he unlocked and lifted every morning – as he’d done today. It was the rear where there was a problem. The back door was just secured – or not as the regular break-ins suggested – with a padlock. He’d call someone today, he promised himself – get a proper door ordered, with built-in locks . But first he was going to have to kick another vagrant out and fumigate the place before his first customer rolled in looking for a pre-work short-back and sides.

The guy on Frank’s floor looked rough and smelled even worse – like something had crawled into his pocket and started rotting. His face was washed out white; another drunk with problems who thought Frank should share them.

‘OK pal, wake up, you can’t sleep here.’

Frank gave his uninvited guest a gentle tap with his foot to rouse him.

The sleeping man bolted upright and stared at Frank with vacant eyes, his long lifeless hair stuck to his face. If drink was the only poison he was under the influence of Frank would be surprised.

From his upright position the vagrant didn’t move. He was alert, like a guard dog woken by a sound at the window. Tense arms held him up like he was ready to pounce. Frank half expected him to start growling.

‘Come on, pal, you’re going to have to leave. I’ll have customers coming in any minute.’

‘Is it morning?’

The voice surprised Frank. It wasn’t that of a man sleeping rough. There was authority to it. He’d asked his question in a way that suggested he demanded an answer – it was more than a mere enquiry about the time of day.

‘Yes, it’s almost eight o’clock.’

Hearing the time seemed to root the visitor to the floor, he stiffened.

‘I’m staying here. You’ll just have to pretend I’m a customer.’

Frank was starting to get spooked by the man on his floor. There was no way he could stay in the salon – the smell was going to be tough enough to get rid of once he’d left, there was no way of masking it with him there.

‘You can’t stay.’ Frank was wary, but it had to be said. ‘The smell alone will put the customers off. If you’re not going to leave by yourself, I’m going to have to call the police.’

‘I really don’t want you to do that.’

Frank was spooked by the vagrant’s tone. It didn’t suggest he was concerned about the police but more the consequences for Frank if they were called.

‘Really? So… you’ll go then?’ Frank was nervous now, stumbling over his words. He couldn’t work out what, but there was something different about this guy. He’d kicked out rough sleepers in the past – plenty of them. He’d never really thought about it. There’d never been an issue – most had gone without so much as a word. He’d even given a couple a few coins for food as he’d sent them on their way. This guy was different.

‘I can’t go, not right now.’

‘Look, it’s quiet outside. Whoever you’re hiding from isn’t out there. I need to open my shop in a few minutes. Now if you’re on the run from the police or hiding from someone, do you really want my customers coming in and finding you? Better to go now and find somewhere quiet. Right?’

The vagrant was on Frank in a flash. There had been no time to move and yet he’d somehow closed the gap between them. Frank felt his eyes widen and his pulse quicken. The vagrant’s breath was putrid as he stood large over the barbershop owner.

‘I can’t leave now.’

The demanding voice now boomed at ear shattering volume. Before Frank knew anything about it, the vagrant had snapped his neck like he was twisting the lid from a jar, letting his body slump to the ground.

The vagrant looked to the front of the shop. Shutters up and door still open from Frank’s entrance. Frank had been right – the street outside was quiet. The vagrant walked with caution to the shop front. With one quick yank he pulled the shutters down leaving the unit in darkness. He slammed the door and the glass shattered.

The skin on his hands and face smouldered with blackened burn marks. His face contorted in pain. He had a minute at most. He bent to his knees, the pain reaching his core and radiating from there.

Was there time?

He crawled to Frank’s lifeless form. He’d been dead for just a few seconds. There was hope. He sank his teeth into the dead barber’s throat and drank. The blood was still warm… still alive.

The vagrant’s skin healed. He slumped against Frank’s lifeless body and slept. He’d move again when it was dark outside.

Aidan ThornBio: Aidan Thorn’s short fiction has appeared in Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthologies Gloves Off and Rogue, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, The Big Adios Western Digest and Shadows & Light as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Near to the Knuckle, Pulp Metal Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Spelk and The Flash Fiction Offensive. His second short story collection, Urban Decay, is published by Grit Fiction and out now.

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