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Short Timer

If you're going to get in someone's face, 

don't mess with someone who's got nothing to lose.

Short Timer by William E. Wallace




The mark was snoozing on one of those new benches in the southeast corner of the park, lolling his head forward so he almost seemed to be studying his lap. He'd been in that position so long a passerby might have thought him dead.

Bobby Joe McClarity knew better. He had been squatting in a brushy stand of aspens on a gentle rise a few yards away for the last half hour, watching the sap and checking how often strollers passed by him.

McClarity had excellent vision, plenty of patience, and dressed more like a strong-arm victim than most of his targets. That’s how he’d managed to mug sixty-seven people in the last two years without once drawing the attention of police.

He eyeballed his prey like a lion in one of those nature shows he loved to watch. Standing up, he slipped his hands out of his coat’s side-entry pockets and held his flick knife low in his right with the razor-sharp blade folded closed. His eyes swept the area for witnesses as he made his way down the knoll, moving quietly to avoid disturbing the sleeping man.

As he drew alongside, McClarity's initial impression was confirmed. The mark was an old man.

He wore a military surplus pea jacket on his lap that hid his right hand and a handkerchief on top of the garment in his left. His T-shirt showed the goose flab of his upper arms. Coarse gray hair curled under the sweatband of his Marine Corps cap. The loose skin on his bicep creased his faded eagle, globe, and anchor tattoo.

McClarity guessed the mark might be seventy, maybe even older. He grinned. This would be a piece of cake.

Looming over his victim aggressively, McClarity snapped open the knife’s blade next to the old man’s face. The bright metal gleamed as it caught a ray of sunshine.

Roused by the sound, the mark raised his head and glared at McClarity with one eye.

“Wake up, pops!” McClarity said, prodding the man’s cheek with the knife. “Give me your wallet and everything in your pocket or I’ll cut your fucking throat and leave you here to bleed.”

The mark yawned without a hint of fear in his pale, watery eyes then erupted in a rattling cough that seemed to last several minutes. He spat a nasty looking brick red oyster on the sidewalk and wiped spittle from his mouth with the handkerchief. “Go fuck yourself, kid,” he said in a raspy voice. “I’m taking a nap. Find some other duffer to annoy.”

For an instant, McClarity was speechless. The old man was the first victim to resist him. The rest of them always complied immediately. McClarity drew himself up and bared his teeth angrily. “Listen, pops. I’m not just fucking around here,” he growled, poking the old timer’s cheek again. This time hard enough to draw a few drops of red. “Give me all your shit or I’ll kill you!”

Incredibly, the mark slowly wiped the blood away with the hanky and gave McClarity a dismissive look.

“Shit is all you’re going to get from me, dipstick,” the old man said, nonchalantly. “I have inoperable lung cancer. I’ve been zapped with so much radiation, I glow in the dark. It don’t matter, though. The crab’s already in my lymph nodes, liver, and just about everywhere else. Hell, they have to put me on a kidney pump twice a week to keep me from drowning in my own piss.

“I’m the ultimate short-timer. I’ll probably croak in a couple months. The only thing keeping me from checking out earlier is the morphine I’m taking for the pain. If you killed me, you’d be doing me a favor.”

McClarity set his jaw as he drew back his blade. “Consider this a favor then, pops,” he said grimly, preparing to perforate the old man’s chest. “I’m going to be around a lot more than three months and I need money to get by.”

As McClarity started his upward swing, there was a deafening explosion and a half-inch hole appeared in the front of his jacket. A second blast bored a duplicate alongside. McClarity dropped his knife and struggled to block the openings as blood pumped out and sucked back in. Moving his mouth as if he was trying to say something, he toppled to the ground, staring at the old man with sightless eyes. 

“Guess you aren’t going to be around as long as you thought,” the old man said, exposing  the antique military model Colt .45 he had under his pea coat. In the distance, he heard the siren of an approaching police car followed by a second one nearby.

“I may be a short-timer,” he said to McClarity. “But I’m damned if some stupid punk is going to punch my clock before my time is up.”

Former San Francisco Chronicle reporter William E. Wallace's most recent book, Face Value: An Eddie Pax Novella, was released as a Shotgun Honey Single in July 2016. His earlier books, Hangman’s Dozen (2016) and Dead Heat with the Reaper (2015) were published by All Due Respect books. His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Out of the Gutter Online, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Beat to a Pulp, Plan B and Spinetingler. He blogs hardboiled crime fiction at www.pulphackconfession.com.

Dead Presidents

It's funny how life sometimes imitates art.

But in the Gutter, art is a relative term.

Dead Presidents by Chase Whale



Charlie loves Point Break. I swear he owns 18 copies on VHS. His favorite character is Bodhi because the dude surfs, skydives, and robs banks. A real tough guy. My favorite is Johnny Utah because he’s an honest cop who goes undercover to infiltrate Bodhi’s crew. You’ve seen the movie. Keanu Reeves’ best role.
                        
Last Monday, Charlie had me, Andy, and Lee over for a viewing. After, he gave us each a copy and told us to watch it religiously for a week. Said he was going to quiz us on it. Said it was for a big project he was working on. Nobody thought much of it.

***

Once the weekend hit, I headed to Charlie’s, as usual. When I got there, Andy and Lee were in the living room laughing their heads off. What’s so funny?” I asked.

You’ll…” Andy said with a stupid grin, Charlie has planned an adventure for us.” Shit. I hate when Charlie has an adventure for us” planned. It always means trouble.

Relax. Shit. Shit. Shit. Relax. Shit.

Out of the bathroom and into the living room came Charlie. Hey, President Reagan finally made it.”

“Huh?” I wasn’t following.

Sit down, man. Did you study the movie like I asked?”

Of course. Watched it every day.” I lied but have seen it enough to recite every damn line.

A maniacal smile that I’d never seen before split open Charlie’s sun-burnt face. It frightened me. Awesome,” he said. Let’s get down to it.”

I pretended to not be entirely lost in translation. The big project became clear when Charlie said these horrifying words: we’re going to rob a bank. A pang of dread lit up inside me.

Now I kn0w why Andy and Lee were laughing their heads off. Those two half-brained goons would do anything for Charlie. I would too…but this? This was foolish.

I’m not robbing a bank,” I barked. I don’t even own a gun.”

I’ve got that covered,” said Charlie with that evil grin. C’mon, dude. Look how easy it is in Point Break: they execute a well-planned robbery and rack up a fat loot.”

That’s because it’s fiction,” I hissed. It’s not real. Also, they all die at the end. ‘Ja forget?”

Not real? What about Bonnie and Clyde? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? They’re real.

Do you know what happened to them?” I snapped back.

Charlie knew I needed convincing. Yeah, they became legends!” He high-fived Andy and Lee.

I couldn’t say no. Charlie has gotten me out of hot water many times. I owed him. I’m fucked.

Pros. Money. Lots of money. Cons. Arrested and possible death.All…all right,” I said. I’ll do it once, that’s it.”

Yes!” Charlie howled. Trust me; this is going to be a blast.”

It turns out, the week we were supposed to be watching Point Break on repeat, Charlie was staking out a bank, blueprinting our in and out. Boy, he has a bit of a wild side. There are always stories circulating about him but I’ve never seen it first-hand. I heard three no-goods tried to rob him at a city bus stop once. Word has it Charlie lit them up, plunging his switchblade into any flesh they had to offer. Charlie takes pride in that moment. Nobody has tried to steal from him since.

As Charlie was going over the plan, I knew it wasn’t going to end well. A plan is just a list of things that never happen. Especially in Charlie’s world. He may feel invincible, but he’s got a death wish. 

***

We met up at noon, as planned. Charlie showed up with two large bags: one empty and the other containing three small guns and one giant shotgun.

I’m taking the shotgun,” Charlie said. You three can fight over the rest.”

I grabbed what was left from the pile.

Charlie managed to get the infamous president masks from the movie, which kind of impressed me. He tossed one at each of us. Andy, you’re Nixon.” Andy laughed and threw up peace signs. Lee, you’re Carter; I’ll be Johnson. And here’s yours,” Charlie said, tossing a mask at me. Ronald Reagan. Great, I thought, the president who got popped in real life.

Let’s go over the plan one more time,” Charlie yapped.

My anxiety was on fire.

***

Charlie put the plan in motion and we followed. Into the bank we went.

Everybody freeze!” Charlie wailed. This is a robbery!” Instead of the panic and screaming you see in the movies, everyone turned, looked at us, and then went about their business like we were invisible.

I said freeze!” Charlie reinforced. He walked up to a bank teller, shoving the customer aside. I followed and tossed the empty bag to the teller. Charlie demanded him to fill it up to the top.

The teller balked. You can’t be serious,” he said. What are you, twelve?”

Thirteen, motherfucker. Vaya con Dios.”

That's all it took. Charlie turned and looked at me. Through that droopy Johnson mask, I could see the madness in his eyes — it cut right through my soul.

And that’s when Charlie pointed the giant shotgun up at the teller and pulled the trigger. Where the man’s head used to be was now red mist. His skull decorated the back wall.

When the 437.5 grains of lead from the slug exploded the man’s head, it felt like the world stopped. You never really think about death until it sprays you right in the face.

Once the panic set in, my numb brain caught up with frenetic energy from the horrified crowd. Instead of dropping to the floor, they all ran straight towards the two swinging front doors, shoving one another to get out. Zero compassion for each other.

Andy and Lee didn’t seem to know how to use their guns because they were smacking them with their palms, looking stumped as to how to get them to shoot. I just stood there, slack-jawed in my stupid mask. There wasn’t talk of shooting people. Charlie said if they wouldn’t give us the money, we’d leg it out.

He lied.

Charlie started firing away, plugging as many people as he could. He was a natural. This was not his first time shooting a real shotgun. This was not his first time shooting a real giant shotgun at people.

What are you doing?” I yelled. This isn’t we talked about.”

Before Charlie could say anything, an off-duty cop lying on the floor buried four bullets deep into Charlie’s chest. He fell to the ground, screaming.

I had dropped my gun minutes ago and never realized it, but I threw my hands up anyway. The man told me not to move. I stood as still as the dead air and pee started to trickle down my leg. I began to cry, hard. Everything was blurry; I didn’t see Andy and Lee sneak up behind the man and stab him to death in the neck with a couple bank pens. The man bled out where he lay.

Leaving this place safely became a dream.

Within minutes, the place was surrounded by cops.

I didn’t hear Charlie’s screams anymore, and that’s because he was dead. Andy and Lee took off out one of the front swinging doors, masks on, and all I heard was gunfire. I guess they’re dead, too.

I don’t want to die.

I took off my Reagan mask, kept my hands up high like in the movies, and walked out slow, yelling, I’m unarmed!” Didn’t matter. Some trigger-happy yahoo popped me in the chest as soon as I got outside. 

I splayed on the ground as if I were making a snow angel as my shirt drank up the blood pouring out of me. The shock stole the glory from me feeling anything, from me hearing the policeman who was holding my wound tell me to breathe, that I was going to be OK.

I just looked up at the sky, watching a flock of birds fly over.

What a day

Chase Whale is a graduate of the University of North Texas' Creative Writing B.A. program. He's a film critic and crime fiction writer, and you can find his work on Out of the Gutter, ScreenAnarchy, Indiewire, MTV, Flaunt Magazine, and other places. More on http://www.chasewhale.com

Review: The Backlist, by Eric Beetner and Frank Zafiro

Seeing how Eric Beetner is one hell of a prolific author, it is a bit tough to keep up with all his new books. But that’s okay right now, because I find myself in the enviable position of being able to read The Backlist and soon thereafter, jump into its sequel. Both this offering and its sequel are coauthored with Frank Zafiro, who is a new author to me. Some authors just seem to have a knack…no matter what book you pick up from their library you recognize that their books are always fun to read, the books flow with a natural pace, the characters come to life, and the reader always feels satisfied. Beetner is one such author and I was anticipating this being a worthwhile read and it sure was.

The Backlist, coauthored with Frank Zafiro, has alternating chapters, narrated by two hitmen; Bricks, a woman who finds herself fighting for a spot in a man’s world, and Cam, a hitman who can’t seem to keep a simple job simple. The two hitmen find themselves each taking orders that are simple…eliminate some loose ends for their handlers, or find themselves eliminated. Knowing they must keep their handlers happy to keep their jobs, and maybe their lives, each are put to the test. But when their handlers push them into jobs that set them on a collision course, they need to determine if a friend can really be an enemy, does it stand to reason that an enemy can be a friend?

I thought the alternating chapters were seamless and I was left wondering who wrote which parts. But in the end it doesn’t matter because the book was a fun, engaging read that begs for a sequel…isn’t it great that I have it locked and loaded and I am ready to jump in.

Recommended. 
Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski.

Retribution

When throwing someone in the water,

make sure those concrete shoes are a good fit.

Retribution by James Candiloro




Never mind the fact that cement shoes are a fucking cliché. If you don't let 'em cure, you end up with a body that doesn't sink.

Getting cute with the methods just invites ways for things to go sideways. I know first-hand that if you need info you gotta use your imagination. But, you try to kill me, you better make fuck-sure my body sinks.

Take Nicky Peaches as an example. He needed to live long enough to talk so I took half-a-dozen of those plastic bouncy house stakes, tied them to his arms and legs, and pounded them into the ground. For this I go taut-line hitch every time, it's a simple knot that always does the job. Boy scouts and astronauts can't be wrong. He was half unconscious, so there was plenty of time to let the lawn mower warm up while he came to.

His old lady had one of them sweet, quick-turn jobbies - twenty horse power, fifty-four-inch cutting deck. A machine like that doesn't even drop RPMs when you run over Nicky Peaches’ arm. It sprayed red gobs, white bits, and strips of blue-white Hawaiian shirt a good eight feet across the stone patio. Red, white, and blue. I almost saluted.

He told me the day's password while his blood soaked the grass. A ragged, twitching stump where his left arm used to be. Don't think I felt bad about the tire marks I left across his neck and face, that pig-fucker had it coming.

The cement shoes were his idea.

Then there's Vinny, the door guy at Joey's place. It would've been in everyone's interest if Vinny had just taken the chromed .38 he kept in his waist band and put it to his temple years ago.

Instead, there I was knocking on the door, answering his challenge with the password. He recognized my fuckin' voice and still opened the damn door. As soon as it unlatched, my weight went against it and Vinny's eyes widened while he fumbled for his piece.

He was still trying to form words while I put my Glock in his face and my finger brushed the grooves on the trigger. Once you're close to the five-pound trigger pull, you don't feel those grooves anymore.

Everything in the room, including the cheap-ass wood paneling, vibrated from the movie blasting upstairs and I realized nobody was going to hear shit.

The wall behind Vinny got painted like a Pollock.

The new paint job was done in shades of red, white, and gray, reminding me of a shitty band poster the way the arrangement of the white sort of made like a Soviet hammer and sickle.

What was left of Vinny, from the nose down, toppled back over his black stool. A glob of gray paint hung out the back of his head.

In all honesty, that's when my throat closed up and my mouth got all slick, but that simpleton shit-head had it coming. He was the one that bought the cement.

Upstairs, I took my time looking around, waving the barrel of my Glock into each room until I was satisfied Nicky Peaches's info was good, and that Vinny was working security alone.

In the movie room, Joey was sprawled out on a leather couch, empties piled on the floor.

I let myself think maybe he was trying to drink away the guilt. Fill up the space that hollows out under your ribs when you waste your own friend. That beat-dog look almost made me turn back.

Almost.

Sneaking around a couch littered with empties—when you want nothing more than to shoot the fucker lying on it in the face—is a challenge all its own. Joey watched the damn movie until I was half in front of the screen. He just laid there, mumbling the word, “Ghost.” Then I saw the pills spilled across his chest. Half a handful of vikes forgotten on his shirt.

I don't know what it was that snapped him back to reality enough to draw his Smith and Wesson. 

Two shots—one to the shoulder and one to the upper thigh—put an end to that shit. The shoulder shot would have been enough to keep him from wasting me again. The shot to the thigh was, well, because I wanted him to bleed out.

Joey, he convinced the others to keep me alive until they threw me in the river.

Watching the black spread across his groin, I told him I forgave him. After all, I had it coming.


James Candiloro lives just outside Albany, New York, with his wife, two kids, labmaraner (it’s a real thing), and chickens. When he’s not putting kids in time-out, James works as an environmental engineer.

Counterblow

Regrets can provide important life lessons.

The most important lesson in The Gutter? Don't push the wrong buttons.

Counterblow by María C. Domínguez




Saturday night and I was off doing the pub rounds with Sarah. I wanted to celebrate my new status. I was no longer a failure, an outcast, becoming a father had changed it. Besides, I really needed to wind down. Working all day and doing night shifts to keep Sarah happy was killing me. Everything has a price, I guess.

She was sweet and chatty, as always, before drinking. Dressed in a tight transparent top and revealing mini skirt that I hated, she started her incessant chatter. Telling me how she had bumped into her ex a few days ago and how attractive he was. A true gentleman, a self-made man, who had a chain of lottery shops across the country. He was rolling in money.

“I´d have been better off if I´d settled with him, Georgie. He´d have made a queen of me eh,” she said, pinching me fiercely.

She really knew how to take a stab at me. We were already in our fourth pub when she started her usual arguments. Her swearing would end in a full-blown wrestling match, between me, the bottle, and whoever got in our way. Until we´d be thrown out.

But this night Sarah was different. Her eyes were fiery, her body tense as if ready to pounce. She hurled a bottle at me, giggled hysterically at my stammering white face, and yelled, “You’re crap, Georgie, look at him, he´s not even half a man….”

Dumped in the street, I could take it no more. Swaggering and drunk, I forced her back home. She gave in despite her unflagging strength and continued laughing.

“Guess what, you´ll never be a father now, ye know, ye know. I’ve done with it.” She fell on the floor once we crossed the front door, so inebriated that she crawled to the stairs and stayed put on the bottom step.

“Hey, get up, will ye? What did you say?” I said, incredulous to her last words.

“The baby, it’s n-o-t-t-h-e-r-e,” she replicated, slurring her words. Her eyes were two black smudges. She swiped at a trickle of saliva that was falling off her chin.

“Poor little baby,” she said, looking pathetically at me.

“What the? It can´t be…..”

“Oh, never mind, Georgie. The baby wasn´t yours anyway.” She said, throwing off her black stilettos with virulence.

I couldn´t face it. Failure thudded in my head. I felt an acrid taste pricking my tongue. My eyes, wet and burning, couldn´t focus. My life aborted in a second. This woman—my lover, a murderer—had fucked me up.

I slapped her face. I could feel her tentacles trying to grab me. “Go up,” I said.

“No, I won´t. What are you going to do? Hit me? Eh eh? Kill me?” she began to sob insistently.

Before I knew it, I had dragged that thing all the way up, slammed the door shut, and pushed her with all my strength. She fell and hit her head against a sharp edge. Blood gushed from her mouth. She whimpered loudly.

I felt powerful now. The monster would get what it deserved. My son would be avenged. With yet another powerful blow, the body, just flesh and bone bathed in red, was silenced forever.


María Castro Domínguez was born and raised in London. She has a book of poetry titled "Four Hands” (A Cuatro Manos) with Jacobo Valcárcel, and has contributed to several newspapers and magazines, including Blaze Vox, Retort, The Argotist, Message in a Bottle, Bareknuckle Poet and StepAway Magazine among others. Maria is a freelance writer and translator with a Bachelor´s Degree in English Philology.

Brit Grit Alley

Brit Grit Alley features interviews, news and updates on what's happening down British crime fiction's booze and blood soaked alleyways.

By Paul D. Brazill 

Some recent BRIT GRIT publications for your delectation.


Radio Moscow, and Other Stories by David Malcolm

Here’s the BLURB:

Radio Moscow, and Other Stories is a collection of international noir short stories written by a truly international writer.
 
Raise The Blade by Tess Makovesky

Here’s the BLURB:

Like a spider wrapping flies...

When psychopath Duncan leaves a trail of duct-tape-wrapped bodies scattered across the suburbs of Birmingham, there’s nothing to link the victims except his own name and address, carefully placed on each new corpse. Six very different people follow his clues, each convinced they can use Duncan to further their own selfish or naïve ends. Is there a reason Duncan’s driven to target these particular individuals, or does their very nature contribute to their fate? Will any of them be strong enough to break the cycle and escape a painful death? Or will Duncan reel them in and rearrange them to his own insane ideal?

"Raise the Blade is a gloriously gruesome read, riven with the very blackest of humour. And I loved it.”Ian Ayris, author of ‘Abide With Me’ and ‘April Skies’.

Fun City Punch by James Newman

Here’s the BLURB:

Imagine a world without cash. A world with surveillance on every street. A City where nobody trusts one another. Welcome to Fun City. It is corrupt to the bone and under the ever watchful surveillance system known as the Eye. Money has been abandoned in favor of the credit system. All citizens are required by law to carry hand held devises. Joe Dylan is recovering from the government attitude adjustment program known as the Punch since his credits reached zero. His adopted son Jimmy is missing presumed dead and his basement office is infested with contrarian rats. When Dylan is assigned the task of keeping socialite artist Trixie Sloane on the straight and narrow his pursuit of her leads him down into a sub-culture beneath the city where a vigilante Resistance force plan to strike out against the city before the last drop of human will and dignity is drained away.

An Eye For An Eye by Paul Heatley

Here’s the BLURB:

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. When it comes to Neil Doyle’s daughter, Gandhi had no idea. An accident leaves Jasmine Doyle permanently disfigured, and the patriarch of one of Newcastle’s crime families goes on the warpath to find the perpetrator. He doesn’t care who gets in his way, or what he has to do to them, to get his hands on the man responsible. Graeme Taylor and ‘Tracksuit’ Tony Gordon find themselves dragged into this brutal quest for vengeance, pushed physically and mentally to the breaking point by all that they see, and all that they are forced to do. By the end, the streets will run with blood, and no one walks away unscarred.

Matching The Evidence by Graham Smith

Here’s the BLURB: The Major Crimes Team - Vol 2

Featuring DI Harry Evans. Carlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson. Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them. Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers. Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime.

Close To The Boneyard: Near To The Knuckle 2012 Compendium: Volume 1 (Near To The Knuckle Compendium)

Here’s the BLURB: 

Near To The Knuckle presents Close To The Boneyard. A collection of 30 tales that were published on the site in 2012. There's murder, deceit, revenge, and blood.

There'll be more carryings on down Brit Grit Alley very soon, sorta kinda thing, like.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.



Stolen

For some, family is a group of people you love but can't stand.

But in the Gutter, blood is always thicker than water.

Stolen by Cal Marcius



Dean makes the guy eat shit. A whole bowl full. He takes him into the field, finds the biggest pile of sheep shit, and tells him to fill the bowl up. My brother has come prepared, from the clothes down to the camping equipment, unlike me. I’m wearing £300 shoes and Givenchy trousers, stepping into shit, cussing up a storm.

None of this would’ve happened if Tessie had stayed home like she was supposed to. Dad had grounded her for helping herself to his wallet. Spending almost a thousand pound on new clothes, and a night out with her friends. Wasn’t the first time she’d taken things that didn’t belong to her, and it won’t be the last.

She’s been playing up ever since mum left a year ago. When she decided she liked girls and had no time to be a mother anymore. And while dad was off jetting from one business trip to another, we were in charge. As if Tessie would listen to us. Try arguing with a nineteen-year-old rich girl who knows it all. I’ve got scratch marks to prove it. 

I knew as soon as she walked in the next morning that something was off. Maybe it was the look in her eyes, or the dishevelled clothes, the bruises on her arms.

“What the fuck happened to you?” I said.

“Nothing.”

Tessie tried to push past me.

“Yeah, I can see that. So, what’s up?”

Tessie looked up at me and burst into tears. Slowly started telling me about her night out. When she finished I went into the kitchen and grabbed the biggest knife I could find.

Dean walked in, looked from me to Tessie.

“What’s with the knife?” he said.

“Some fucker hurt Tessie.”

Tessie started crying again. And I told him what Tessie had told me.

Now we’re standing over the guy, watching him gag down pellet after pellet. Every time he drops one we make him pick it up. Dean tells him if he pukes he’ll make him eat it all over again.

Dean has more imagination than me. He’s always been a bit of a psycho. Watches the sickest horror films, and laughs all the way through. As far as I know we had the same parents, but sometimes I have my doubts. Me, I just wanted to get the little cunt and teach him a lesson. But Dean said that wasn’t good enough. Not for someone like him. No, he was in for a whole lot of hurt.

After the guy finishes his meal of shit Dean makes him walk farther into the field. On the other side are the woods. It’s a full moon and we walk without the flash light my brother brought along. The guy keeps tripping and retching. He’s crying, and keeps asking us to let him go home.

“No,” Dean says.

“Please, I won’t tell anyone.”

“No.”

“I’m sorry. Okay. I didn’t-”

“NO,” Dean shouts. “See how it works? If someone says no, you don’t keep going. You crossed that line. Now you pay for it.”

In the woods Dean tells the guy to strip, but he’s reluctant and just stands there, shaking his head.

“Strip,” I say. “He’ll cut off your balls if you don’t.”

The guy gets to it, takes off his clothes, starting with the top. One by one it all comes off, until he’s standing there in his boxers.

“All of it,” Dean says.

The guy shakes his head again, and Dean punches him in the gut. He doubles over and Dean knees him in the face, sends him sprawling.

My brother takes a Stanley knife out of his pocket. The guy’s eyes go wide, and he starts sobbing. I turn away. I don’t want to watch Dean snuff out another man’s life, as much as I wanted to do it myself after Tessie had told me.

I hear the guy scream, and Dean shouting, “Stay the fuck down.”

More screaming and sobbing and then all is quiet.

“Is he dead?” I say. I can’t even look, just stare at my £300 shoes, smeared in shit.

“No, passed out. Fucker pissed all over me.”

Dean comes up beside me and puts his arm around my shoulder. I can smell the guy’s piss on him.

“Like my work?”

I turn around, step closer. Dean’s carved ‘I’M A RAPIST’ on the guy’s chest.

“Got a lighter?” he says.

“He’s had enough.”

Dean holds out his hand. “Give me the lighter.”

“I thought we-”

“Give me the fucking lighter.”

I hand him my Zippo, the one Tessie’d bought me for my birthday. The one that has the word Stolen printed on the front.

Dean leans in, puts the flame to the letters. The guy never moves, but I can smell the burnt flesh.

“You sure he isn’t dead?” I say.

“He’ll wish he was.”

Dean gets up and gives the guy another kick for good measure. He throws the lighter into the dirt next to him.


“He can have it,” he says. “As a reminder.”

Cal Marcius is a freelance writer who lives in the frozen wastes of of northern England. He has been published in Yellow Mama, Spelk, Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle. He also has a story in Near to the Knuckle's "Rogue" anthology and Aidan Thorn's "Paladins" anthology. You can find Cal on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.