Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Johnny Cash Killer by Chris Leek

I killed a man once, up in Reno. I did it just so I could watch him die. I was seventeen years old and now, twenty years on, I can still see the look on his face as his life ebbed away into the carpet of that cheap motel room.

He opened the door in his underwear. The child like scrawls of bad prison ink that covered his arms and chest told me I had found the right man. A $20 hooker sat naked on his bed, shooting the trick into her sewer vein. The defense said it made her an unreliable witness; the judge thought different.

“Who the fuck are you?” he said

I wanted to tell him, to scream I’m Pete Jones, motherfucker in his face, making sure it was the last thing he heard before his organs shut down and he shit his designer jockeys. But my name wouldn’t mean a damn thing to him and neither would hers. He didn’t stop to ask it when he dragged her off the street and into the backseat of his beat-up Pinto. The names didn’t matter. Names were for toe tags and arrest warrants, not for revenge.

I pulled out my old man’s service revolver, and when he’d finished begging, I put all six in him without saying a word.

***

I don’t regret what I did and if I had my time over, I’d still do things the same. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proud of it and, even after all this time, I still get nights when it plays out in my dreams and I wake up shaking like a dog shitting razor blades.

That’s when I’ll get up and go out on the back porch to smoke a cigarette or two. I just lean on the rail for a while and listen to the trucks rumbling by on the Interstate and the coyotes yelling back and forth up in the hills. It sort of helps me take the edge off things.

Mary knows what I did, but she has never once asked me why, and I never told her. I’d like to believe I did it for her, but if I’m honest it was all about me and the hate the chewed me up until I couldn’t think of anything else. I think maybe Mary and me will go the distance this time. Sure we fucked it up before, but we’re not young like we were back then. These days who is right and who is wrong doesn’t matter half as much as it used to. Hell, I know I’m nobody’s bargain and Mary might not make the cover of Cosmo, but she’s got this smile that just sort of lights her up. I guess I love her, but I haven’t told her that either.

***

The coyotes had gone quiet and it was getting late. The moon had long since dipped behind the old copper works and it was turning cold, it always did out in the desert right before dawn. I heard soft footsteps padding across the boards. I looked around and saw Mary, her face all puffy from sleep.

“Come back to bed, Pete,” she said slipping her arms around my neck.

She looked tired; kind of used up. I suppose I did too. I pitched my cigarette over the rail and gave her a hug. Her hair smelt of orange blossom, just like it had on that day twenty years ago when the cops came for me.

We stood there for a time just holding on to each other, Mary in her nightdress me in nothing but my shorts, bad prison ink on my arms and my chest. When you got down to it, each other is all we’ve ever had.

“The man I killed in Reno, he was the one that raped you,” I said.

She pulled back, just a little, and looked at me, brushing the hair back from my face.

“I know,” she said and kissed me.

“I love you Mary,” I said, trying it on for size.

She just smiled her pretty smile, took my hand and led me back in the house.

 

Chris_Leek_BWBio:  Chris Leek is an editor at the western fiction magazine, The Big Adios, and part of the team behind the genre fiction imprint, Zelmer Pulp. He also writes for the crime fiction website, Out Of The Gutter. His novella “Nevada Thunder” is forthcoming from Snubnose Press. You can find out more at his blog: www.nevadaroadkill.blogspot.co.uk

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The Unforgiving Storm by Dyer Wilk

He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. She didn’t flinch or stiffen up the way she usually did. That was good, he thought. She was getting comfortable with him, learning to trust again.

“Goodnight, Sophie,” he said. “Unless you’d like me to come in.”

She shook her head. “Not tonight, Danny. I’m…I’m tired. Okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah, of course. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She gave him a faint smile. “Tomorrow.”

“Goodnight.”

She closed the door. He stood there for a moment, listening as she engaged each of the five locks and slid the iron bar in place.

Danny turned away and walked back to his car. He drove to a 7-Eleven in Torrance where there was still a working payphone and dialed the number from memory.

A gruff voice answered: “Talk.”

“It’s me. Any word yet?”

“Yeah. Came in just this morning. Looks like it’s a match.”

“Conclusive?”

“Well, based on what you gave me, sure. But it’s not a hundred percent. Not unless you want her to come in and look at––”

“You know that’s not gonna happen. So how about you just give me the address?”

There was a groan. “I hope you know what you’re doing. It’s a place over on––”

Danny wrote the address down on a matchbook. The voice wished him good luck and hung up.

He got into his car and started to drive. At first the numbness was almost too much to handle. He got onto the freeway and headed north. The safe confines of South Bay disappeared, replaced by the ugly expanse of industrial districts and low-rent housing.

Just like that, he thought. One night, nothing. And tonight…

Tonight it was going to end.

He’d been waiting so long he had almost believed it would never happen. For two years, the unforgiving storm of guilt had been raging, making him revisit that night again and again. Sophie’s phone call suggesting dinner. Something romantic. Then the brush-off he’d given her, saying he had to work late at the station. That he couldn’t get out of it, even though he could have.

The memory played itself out, over and over again. Unchangeable.

He’d have given anything to go back, to make things different. If he’d clocked out a few minutes earlier, he could have prevented it. At least caught the guy in the act.

Why didn’t I?

His grip on the steering wheel tightened. His knuckles burned.

He got off the freeway in Vernon and drove another five minutes until he was in unincorporated territory. He forced himself to breathe, to not think so much about it. He needed to be sharp. He needed strength.

The trailer park was sandwiched between a substation and a self storage facility. Danny parked down the street, crossed a vacant lot, and jumped a chain-link fence. He walked between the rows of trailers resting on cinderblocks, eyes scanning the numbers.

He found the place quickly and knocked on the door. Somewhere on the other side of the trailer park a dog started barking. Two more joined in.

The curtain in the window next to the door moved aside, exposing a sliver of darkness. Someone began to work the flimsy lock. Danny checked the hinges to see which way the door swung. Outward. A shame. He wanted to kick it in.

The door opened a few inches. A man with pocked, leathery skin stuck his head out.

“What you want?”

“Carl Landers?”

“Yeah. Who the fuck are you?”

“The Carl Landers who did seven years in Pelican Bay for sexual assault?”

Carl’s eyebrows went up. “You been talking to my P.O.?”

Danny’s hand shot through the gap and pushed him back. He grabbed onto the door and wrenched it open all the way. Stepping inside, a rotten stink punished his nostrils. The place was tiny and unkempt, the sink in the small kitchenette filled with dirty dishes.

Carl was half-flung over the counter, trying to regain his balance. In a second, he was up again, his hand disappearing into the darkness beside the refrigerator.

Danny brought up his foot and drove it into Carl’s stomach, knocking him into the wall. He pulled the door shut and grabbed the bat from beside the fridge. It was surprisingly heavy.

“Motherfucker!” Carl moaned. “What the fuck did I do to you?”

“Not me, pal. My girlfriend.”

He tossed the bat aside and pulled out the gun.

Carl’s eyes became full moons. “Whoa. Wait a sec. Not me, man. I swear. I did my bit.”

Danny kept the gun leveled at his chest. He bent down and picked up a teddy bear off the floor.

“This yours?”

Carl blinked, thinking what Danny was thinking.

He shook his head. “No, man. Belongs to my girl’s kid. But I…I mean I would never think of…you know.”

Doing something.

“Yeah. I’m not like that. Been out three years. Working a job. Got a year left on my parole. I wouldn’t do nothing to screw that up.”

“So you’re reformed.”

“Yeah. When I was inside, Jesus saved me. I swear.”

Carl crossed himself and mumbled a prayer.

Danny wasn’t buying it.

He stuck the teddy bear under one arm and reached into his pocket, took out a folded sheet of paper and held it out to Carl.

“Take a look.”

Carl took it and unfolded it with shaking fingers. His eyes bulged as he looked at the police sketch, the rendering done from Sophie’s memory on the night it happened, perfect down to Carl’s acne scars.

Danny lifted the teddy bear to cover the gun’s muzzle. “I guess you’re not that reformed.”

***

On the way back home, he drove by Sophie’s apartment. He parked and sat a while, thinking about what he had done, looking up at her window and wondering.

The lights were still on. She hadn’t slept in the dark in a long time.

Hopefully that would change, he thought.

Hopefully it would get better now.

 

Dyer Wilk_dust jacketBio:  Dyer Wilk is a film school burnout who now spends his life trying to tell the truth while lying. He reads and writes constantly because he doesn’t know any better. He has no wife, no children, no agent, and he suspects he’s married to his stories. He can be found rambling nonsensically at his blog A Season of Dusk.

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Crown Vic: The First Kill by Paul Dabrowski

The road hummed underneath the Crown Vic as the night caressed him like an old lover. Yet he was still anxious, still on the hunt. Only one thing would take that feeling away, and it could not come soon enough.

Then, as if God had him on his mind, red tail lights appeared in the distance.

Prayers answered.

The red lights grew from dots to eyes as he jammed the accelerator to the floor. He reached over, grabbed a domed, rotating light he’d bought from the flea market and placed it on top of the dash. The light inside the car danced.

The glow from the bumper the Vic hugged intensified, as the car began to brake. The crunch of gravel replaced the hum of the blacktop as both cars pulled along the shoulder of the road.

His pulse quicken when the low wattage bulb from the overhead light tried to fill the interior as the driver reached for something out of view. What was he reaching for? raced through his mind. Only time would tell, and that time was now.

He took a deep breath, steadying his nerves. He didn’t want it to be too quick, but he didn’t want to linger either. He had to find the right rhythm of seconds and minutes that were between life and death.

The gravel crunched lightly under his feet as he walked up to the other car’s door. Before the man inside could react he snapped on the large flashlight he was carrying. The driver shielded his eyes from the intensity of light.

“Good evening officer. I didn…”

POP!

The pistol jerked in his hand as he squeezed the trigger. The sound of the gun discharging was louder than he thought it would be. Blood, bone and flesh exploded from the driver’s right arm as the bullet struck, spinning him around in his seat. The action was so swift that he thought he’d missed, that the driver was now reaching for a weapon of his own. He would not let him get the chance to use it. He stepped back onto the road and fired rapidly until the slide on the gun snapped back.

Stillness regained the night as he leaned over slightly to peer inside. The end result was satisfying. The man lay bloodied upon the front seat. Not quite dead, but nearly so. It would just be a matter of time.

Pleased, he walked back to the Crown Vic, leaving the man to dispel his last breath alone.

Headshot 2Bio:   Paul Dabrowski is a professional photographer, specializing in groups and parties (unfortunately this doesn’t include models). And while photography is his bread and butter he writes for a couple of blogs, including Creative Edge Music, and has recently been published in the Guardian Express.

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After The Storm by Chris Benton

Our heavenly father was horny last night and decided to fuck our trailer park into countless pieces. I was fine with such destruction; I despised most of my neighbors, especially the younger ones, whose faces were already bloated by endless streams of beer and screams. What I wasn’t fine with was that my son, David, was missing after the storm. David was about to turn ten this Good Friday and both of us were looking forward to eating shitty pizza and watching fuzzy robots singing for us inside a safe, dark space.

I woke up in a bed of cattails nodding proudly at me. The sun was smiling like a maniac through a true Carolina Blue and I was strangely content within these kind reeds. I wanted to linger there for another hour or two, but unfortunately, my son was waiting for me.

The only thing I was wearing was a Slayer T-shirt. My legs and bush were bright with blood. When I found a handful of balance, my body began screaming, so I screamed with it. My legs were already beginning to go bye-bye when I stepped on Kelly Paulson. She was beneath a mattress and moaning like she was freshly grudge fucked by her crack head husband who was executed last year. I didn’t feel bad stepping on her; she was beyond insult and injury. Something had taken the top of her head off, showing the world just how bad her memories were. I knelt beside her and told her, “It’s alright honey, just stay calm, help is on the way.” It was the greatest lie of our age, and I was amazed how hot my tongue was when I told it. I felt like telling it to the world, right then and there, felt like becoming a prophet of its absurdity, traveling through ravaged land after ravaged land, preaching the futile infinity of its gospel.

She opened her eyes and smiled at me and said. “Travis, South Dakota.” Her eyes got the fuck out of earth and I continued my search. I heard the wails of the fire department, but there were several long leaf pines dying on the street. It would be some time before help would arrive. There was a cheap, brown, round kitchen clock hanging from a branch of one of the downed pines. It must have still contained its batteries because it was still counting the seconds, seven forty eight, David would have been finishing up his scrambled eggs with toast and strawberry jelly.

My legs gave out, but I kept crawling, kept searching, throughout the shredded ghosts of laundry and strangely intact toys and beds whose broken hearts were laid bare at last. There were no signs of children. Not a single limb. I knew then, the demented wisdom of disaster, how our Heavenly Father used storms to steal children, inhaling them into the vast, black vacuum of his urethra, so he may reward the winged brains of his psychotic firstborn with our purest souls.

Such revelations demanded a drink. So I crawled over to the remaining pile of my neighbor, Alejandro Gomez. He was there, dead, but there. And he was clutching a miraculously intact bottle of Montezuma. His son, like mine, was nowhere to be found. He looked pretty bad, though not as worse as Kelly. Close though. His face was painted red, ready for sacrifice, but he was still smiling from the dream he was having beyond the storm. I smiled with him and when I tried to take the bottle of Montezuma from his hand, his arm came off with it. What does one do in such circumstances? One holds the heavy limb of a loving father, and illegal alien and drinks deeply in memory of all those who are trying to find their home.

I finished the bottle and began crawling once more. The world began to lose its final colors; the world began to lose its final children. I found the surviving pile of my trailer. There were several papers I was grading the night before, garnishing the bed of my beloved boy. The bed was whimpering. I lie beside it, find his trembling face beneath it, and smile at my terrified miracle until the world turns blind.

CHRIS PROFILE PICBio:  Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina where he still resides (though not for long, thank Christ). His stories have appeared in A TWIST OF NOIR, PLOTS WITH GUNS, THRILLER’S KILLER’S ‘N’ CHILLERS, BLACK HEART, CRIME FACTORY, and SHOTGUN HONEY. He can be found on FACEBOOK…

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