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Meet FFO Editor Jim Shaffer: It's Not the Pale Moon

Brit Grit Crime Author James "Jim" Shaffer became an FFO Editor on February 4, 2019 when writer Jesse Heels Rawlins and her merry band of murderous miscreants staged a bloody Gutter Coup. Sometimes known as "Gentleman Jim" this ex-pat American—who now bludgeons keyboards in the wilds of England—is "deadly with a pen" and owns a writer's license to kill. Suck on that 007. 

While Jim's a master of disguises and routinely practices spy-craft by keeping to the shadows, writer Mick Rose recently cornered Mr. Shaffer over at Center Stage, where they talked about Jims work. But ha! We're pleased to share a Gutter-side tale that neither one mentioned.

It's Not the Pale Moon by Jim Shaffer

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It was early November, evening, cold, but no snow predicted. Ellie sat in her chair by the window and watched a full moon rise in an already darkening sky, its mottled surface scarred by a web of black branches at the top of a tree that grew in the garden. A draft of air nudged the edge of the window, rattling the pane and puffing out the curtain. She pulled her blanket tighter across her legs and closed the top button of her sweater, never taking her eyes off the rising moon.
“Earl,” she called. “Earl, come on over here. Look at this moon. Ain't it a sight? Come on. Put your arms around me like you used to.”
She could almost feel his arms around her. Almost.
“Remember how you used to hold me? How we watched the moon together. Coming up full and bright like now. Oh, we used to love it. didn't we?”
Earl didn't answer. But she thought she could hear him.
“Yes. It's lovely. Just like we were. Remember? Holding each other, loving each other.”
She smiled at the memory. She stared at the moon.

“Loving our Cathy.”
Then the memory slipped. Fell from her face. From her eyes.
“You always thought she was a beauty. She was, wasn't she?”
Earl didn't answer.
“She was, wasn't she?”
Earl didn't answer.
The moon retreated behind a cloud. Ellie backed away from the window.
“I saw you, Earl. I saw you leaning over Cathy's bed. You didn't hear me, did you?”
Earl was silent.
“I watched you, Earl. The full moon outlined your dark, huddled shape. A crouched monster. You have nothing to say for yourself?”
Earl remained silent.
“I slammed that phone book so hard up the side of your head. Surprised you, didn't I? Knocked you clean off that bed. Cathy screamed. You remember?”
He couldn't answer.
“You hit your head on the corner of the night stand. Right in the temple. I couldn't have planned it better. Trust me, Earl. You're better off. I would have killed you.”
She looked up. Moonlight painted a window shape on the carpet. She moved closer to the light. Looked up at the moon just escaping the tips of the garden tree's dark branches. No longer a prisoner behind bars. Free now to forge its path through a clear, star-filled sky.
Ellie backed away from the window. She turned. She wheeled her chair through the doorway and down the hall to their room.
She pushed open the door and entered.
Their room offered no view of the moon. She wheeled her chair up next to her bed, locked the wheels, and shifted herself onto the bed's firm mattress. She lay back on the pillow and lifted her legs up and over so her body was aligned on the bed. Her bathrobe covered her like a thin blanket. She glanced over at the bed beside her.
The constant sucking rhythm of the respirator was like a lullaby. Tubes and needles, a comfort. The monitor displayed a reassuring normal pulse and blood pressure.
The comatose Earl was still holding on, alive and as well as could be expected. 
Ellie listened to the breathing machine, watched the green peaks and valleys on the monitor. They made her feel good, reassured her. Earl couldn't hurt anyone any more. But just in case.
“I'm watchin' you, Earl. You bastard. As long as you're alive, I'm keepin' you near me, real close.” 

James "Jim" Shaffer grew up in rural Pennsylvania, spending his early years on his grandparent's farmbut he's spent almost half his life living abroad since. Author of the novella Back To The World, Jim's most recent work appears in the Blunder Woman Productions mystery-thriller anthology Wrong Turn, and the Hardboiled anthology from Dead Guns Press. His free-to-read fiction can be found at online magazines Close to the Bone, Flash Fiction Offensive and Bewildering Stories. He's on Facebook at Jim Shaffer.

"It's Not the Pale Moon" first appeared at Close to the Bone.

The Hitter by Rob Pierce

When you work in The Gutter the cost of doing business can prove brutal. And business ain't always business as veteran Rob Pierce shows us.

The Hitter by Rob Pierce

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Swift looked down at me from his seat across the table. Felt like he’d look down at me if I was standing up. “If there’s a beer in it for me, I’ll do it,” he said.

It was never hard to get Swift to do a job. He liked to work, and he liked to get paid. He also liked to be treated as a friend. It was the hardest part of working with him.

“It’s a simple job,” I said. “You and me smash and run. Willie drives.”

“I’ll smash,” Swift said with a grin.

“Just glass, I hope.”

I’d have to fence what we stole and the fence would only see me, not Swift, not Willie. They had to take my word for it on their shares. I could lie, but I wouldn’t. Not worth it if word got back to Swift.

Willie double-parked up the block from the jeweler’s, and me and Swift got out. The place was appointment only. They knew I was coming. They thought they knew who I was.

There was a security gate between the sidewalk and the front door. Swift waited behind me on the sidewalk and I pressed the button on the wall.

“Yes?” said a voice through the intercom.

“This is Mister Shapiro,” I said.

I waited a few seconds, glanced back at Swift. He looked fine. I relaxed a little.

A few more seconds and the door opened. An armed guard in a security uniform stepped out, unlocked the gate and slid it open. He was almost as big as Swift. I stepped toward him.

“I have to pat you down,” he said.

The door remained open behind him. I shrugged. He started frisking under my arms.

“Turn around, please.”

I did, and as the guard’s hands reached my hips Swift stepped forward and reached around me. I spun and Swift threw the guard into the door. The guard landed on the floor inside and reached for his holster. Swift brought a knee down on his hand. The guard roared and Swift took his .45.

I stepped past them, pulled my pistol from my boot and shot out the main security camera, then the next. The alarm went off, a series of short electric screams. Swift took the .45 and slammed it against the guard’s temple. I shot out the last two cameras as Swift dragged the guard the rest of the way inside and slammed the door shut.

The jeweler lay down behind the counter without me saying a word. I opened fire on the security glass and Swift did the same to the other counter. We shoved everything we could into our coats and bolted out the door.
Willie rolled the car forward and we got in. He drove normal traffic speed until we hit the freeway. Then we flew.


I put the jewels in a grocery bag and met Maldov at the motel. I trusted Maldov as much as I trusted anyone I did business with. The pistol in my boot didn’t feel close enough. Me with a bag of jewelry in a place that looked like it charged by the hour. Twin thugs on either side of Maldov looked like the Hulk if the Hulk was two Russians in leather jackets. Maldov had a jeweler’s eyepiece, and a laptop on a small wooden table he must have brought with him. “Your goods?” he asked.

I passed him the grocery bag. He reached in and placed one item at a time on the table. He set the empty bag on the ground, picked up a necklace and examined it through the eyepiece. He set it back on the table and typed something on the laptop. He did this with each piece, then returned them all to the bag.

“I trust,” Maldov said, “security did not give you much trouble?”

I smiled a little. “It was loud,” I said, “but we got in and out.”

Maldov nodded. “Much of this,” he flipped his palm down at the bag, “is shit. Four thousand for the whole thing.”

“Four thousand? I coulda got shot.”

Maldov nodded again. “Do you want the money?”

“Shit.” I thought about explaining his share to Swift. “Maybe I shoulda got shot.”

I took the money.


I was going to keep half, but that wouldn’t leave enough for Swift. The job was almost over; we wouldn’t be friends any more. I called Willie first.

“I got paid,” I said. “But it ain’t what I thought.”

We couldn’t talk details over the phone. We met and he was pissed but he took a grand and stormed away. Like when Maldov offered me four. You can hate the money, but you can’t walk away from it.

I knew it wouldn’t go that smooth with Swift.

“We got fucked,” I said. We were at my place. I wanted to be somewhere where they’d recognize my body if it got thrown into the street.

“How fucked?” Swift said.

“Have a beer.” I set a bottle on the little table between us. “The fence gave me four thousand for the whole thing.”

“Four?” Swift gripped the bottle like he might break it in his fist.

“I gave Willie one. There’s three left. We can split it even.”

“Fifteen hundred?” Swift stood, bottle clenched. I stood with him, but he stood a lot taller and wider.

“That’s what there is,” I said.

“You said a lot more.”

I wished I had a drink too. He wasn’t touching his. “We got fucked,” I said.

Swift raised his bottle, drank, spoke softly. “You got fucked. I get three thousand.”

“Half of that’s mine,” I said.

Swift took another drink, sat down, set his bottle on the table.

I sat down too.

Swift picked up his bottle again, drank with his head tipped back, drained it. He smiled, turned the bottle in his hand and swung.

The bottle hit me on the side of the head and I fell sideways. I felt blood in my hair and reached for the pistol in my boot. Swift grabbed me under both arms and ran me into the wall. He let go of one arm and a fist slammed me in the gut. I was falling when his other fist hit me in the same place. I toppled forward, painfully conscious, needing air but I couldn’t even gasp.

I lay face down on the floor and Swift lay on top of me, his face next to mine. He whispered in my ear. “You give me all the money. Then we have a beer. Like friends.”

Rob Pierce wrote the novels Uncle Dust and With The Right Enemies, the novella Vern In The Heat, and the short story collection The Things I Love Will Kill Me Yet. Rob has also edited dozens of novels for All Due Respect and freelance, and has had stories published in numerous ugly magazines. His next novel, Tommy Shakes, will be published in July 2019. He lives and will probably die in Oakland, California.

Bar Stool Blues by Bill Baber

Who woulda thought ass-sitting on a bar stool minding your business could be dangerous. Well, belly up to the bar and Bill Baber will show you.

Because anything can happen in the gutter.

Bar Stool Blues by Bill Baber

It had been a while between jobs and that meant Gaff and I had been spending lots of time on bar stools. That was how our business worked. Sometimes we spent long stretches waiting for a phone call. Drinking was a way to pass the time.

At times we were really busy; a hit in Denver followed by another in Vegas then a job in Mexico. Some were quick; a day’s drive, locate the target, execute the kill and head back to Tucson. Other times we might have to hunt someone down. I liked those jobs the best. They kept you on your toes, kept the adrenaline pumping. We once spent two weeks and over twenty two hundred miles chasing some loser all over the southwest before we caught up with him in a cheap motel in Deming, New Mexico. Gaff slit his throat and left him to bleed out on a dirty mattress.

We used the Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson as a base. The rooms were cheap and decent. There was a good restaurant and the best bar in town. On top of all that Tucson was centrally located to most of the places we operated throughout the Southwest and northern Mexico.

It was the beginning of what passed for winter in Arizona. We were growing bored. Some nights Gaff and his turquoise Fender would sit in with a band that played locally. But mostly, we drank to in a futile attempt to keep boredom at bay.

That’s what we were doing when the desk clerk walked up to Gaff and handed him a slip of paper. He glanced at it.

“Vegas,” he said. He finished his Beam and water before heading to the pay phone in the lobby.

He returned a few minutes later visibly shaken. He signaled the bartender for another drink which he quickly downed and ordered another.

“Vegas had me call Sammy Giancana in Dallas. They offered us a hundred grand to kill the fucking president.”

“Holy shit, “I said. “Why do they want him dead?”

“For starters his brother Bobby is cracking down on the mob. And, after Castro shut down the gambling joints in Havana, the mob was in bed with the CIA. They were gonna take out Castro, make it look like a mob hit. Kennedy found out and squashed that plan. So the dagos ain’t happy with the president.”

“So what did you tell them?” I asked.

“I made an executive decision,” he said. “Told them to go get fucked.”

He took a long pull from his drink. “I might be crazy but I’m not nuts.”

We both finished our drinks and ordered another round.

“Here’s the thing,” Gaff said.  “They’re going to come after us because we know. They won’t leave any lose ends with something like this.”


The next day we were at Rillito Downs betting the ponies, figuring we would do something with a Sunday besides spending it drinking and smoking one cigarette after another. The day was blustery, the wind cold and biting. Neither of us were having much luck so we left after the sixth race.

I saw them first; a black Cadillac parked three spaces from Gaff’s Chrysler. One of the doors opened. I pulled my gun before shouting to Gaff to get down.  I got the first guy as soon as he stepped out of the passenger side door.

“Cover me, “Gaff yelled as he began belly crawling between cars. I fired three rounds keeping the driver busy.  Seconds later Gaff popped up behind him and shot him in the back of the head.

After an incident like that, we went back to drinking and didn’t let up for nearly a week.


Friday came around and we still had no prospects. We were getting antsy. We had finished breakfast and were drinking coffee. A television in the restaurant showed the president’s motorcade rolling through Dallas when something went terribly wrong. Kennedy had been shot.

Two days later, we watched as a nightclub owner and small time hood from Dallas named Jack Ruby shot Kennedy’s alleged assassin with a Colt .38 revolver in the basement of police headquarters. We knew of Ruby and we were aware of his underworld ties.

“They got him before he could talk.” Gaff said. “And I’ll bet you a bottle of Beam they get Ruby too.”

The next morning we got a call. Some pendejo who ran a string of brothels in Hermosillo was behind on his protection money. The jefe’s who controlled the city wanted to send a message. It was time to go back to work.

“Be good to drink tequila instead of bourbon for a while, “Gaff joked while we packed the car.

As the years passed, we heard a few things. A stripper we knew who had worked at one of Ruby’s joints told us he was involved. She said he hated Bobby Kennedy with a passion. When Castro threw the mob out of Cuba, Ruby started selling him guns. Word was that pissed Giancana off so they fingered him to keep Oswald from singing. Ruby got life but was granted a retrial. We heard he was going to talk. We also heard the mob poisoned him to keep him quiet.

The government said he died of cancer.

“Bullshit,” said Gaff. “The mob tied up loose ends.  The government is trying to cover their ass because they know what really happened. And you owe me a bottle of Beam.”

The mob only tried to take us that one time. But we never worked for them again either and that was fine with us. Like Gaff said, we might be crazy but we sure as hell weren’t nuts. We gladly kept our distance. There was plenty of work without them and between jobs we were more than happy to spend some time sitting on bar stools. Those bastards could do their own killing.

Inspired to write by Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss and the poems of Brautigan and Hugo, Bill Baber has worked as a ranch hand, bartender, truck driver and, for a while, as a sports columnist. His crime fiction has appeared at various sites on the net. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play was published by Berberis Press in 2011.He lives in Tucson with his wife Robin and a spoiled dog. He has been known to cross the border just for a cold Mexican brew. A novel in waiting can be found somewhere on his computer.

Drone On

Everyone's watching everyone these days. 

Question is, who has the best footage. . .

Drone On by Jonathan Brown

Sheila stood naked in front of the full-length mirror and admired the view. As she slowly slid her hand down her defined abs she caught something in her peripheral. She turned and faced the floor to ceiling window. A drone hovered outside, not three feet from the glass. And now, she’d just given someone a full frontal shot.

“Shit! Alex, the drone is back,” she called to her boyfriend.

She dove into the walk-in closet and began pulling on clothes. Alex ran in with binoculars.

“Where is the fucker?”

“South window, go.”

Alex locked on the drone. With his free hand, he slid his phone from his pocket and took a quick photo. The drone arced up and away from the house then descended south into the canyon. He tracked it to a red-tiled roof mansion below with an oval shaped pool. Sheila joined him.

“Laptop, Google earth, quick.”

“Already on it,” she said.

“Find our place then radiate out,” Alex said.

“Like you need to tell me that,” she snapped. “Ok, got it, trade ya.”

Alex showed her the house. Sheila went back to the computer and zoomed in. She got the address and plugged it into the WAZE app. Before closing up, she saw a wooden sign attached to the mailbox: The Jackons

“WAZE says six minutes—move!”

“Can I help you?”

“Are you Mr. Jackson?”

“I’m Richard Jackson what can I do for you?”

“Recognize this Richard?” Alex held up the drone photo.

“Yes, it’s–”

Sheila stepped forward and punched Mr. Jackson squarely in the nose. He fell hard on his tailbone. “What the hell?”

“Fucking peeping Tom,” Sheila said stepping into the home.

 “This is the third time,” she said. Alex pulled her back.

Richard regained his feet and put his hand to his bloody nose.

“I’m calling the cops, I’ve had it with you punk drug dealers.”

Alex mouthed, “How does he know?” to Sheila.

“Yeah I know how you afford that big place—whole God damn neighborhood knows,” he said heading toward his cell phone on the large granite topped island. Alex leapt into action and shoved him hard in the back. Mr. Jackson’s head struck the edge of the counter. He slumped to the floor and lay still.

“Pussy passed out,” Alex said.

Sheila checked for a pulse. “Nope, neck’s snapped, he’s gone.”

They were silent a moment.

“Fuck ‘im. Let’s go,” Alex said.

“What the fuck?” Cried a dark haired teen as he descended the stairs. He pulled his ear-buds out with one hand and carried a drone controller in the other. He shoved Alex aside and checked on the body.

“You dicks,” he shouted.

You’re the one’s been spying on me?” Sheila asked.

“I sure as shit ain’t watching him,” he said, glaring at Alex.

“This is what you call consequences, kid,” Alex said. “Let’s go, babe.”

“He’s a witness,” Sheila said.

“He’s a kid that’s seen what we’re capable of,” Alex sneered. “Ain’t that right kid?” Alex headed for the door.

Sheila walked up to the kid. She had three inches in height on him.

“He’s not fucking around,” she said, snatching the drone controller and stomping on it.

“Bitch,” the teen said to her, which got him a stiff slap across the face.


After the drug dealers left, the kid opened his laptop. He uploaded the drone video to Facebook, Youtube, and a short edit to Instagram, tag line: These fucks killed my dad. Turn on the news in the next hour… 

Next. he uploaded the security footage from his Nest III home security system and sent it to the L.A.P.D. with a note attached: My name is Caleb Jackson. These two drug-dealing dicks just killed my dad. Press play. He attached his cell number at the end. His phone rang eight minutes later.


“Caleb Jackson?”


“This is detective Sam Briggs with the L.A.P.D. we received your video. Are you hurt?”


“Are you still in the home?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Stay put, we’re on our way.”

“Do you want their address? The killers?”

“Already have it. We know who they are. Units on route.”

Jonathan Brown recently signed a two-book deal with Down & Out Books. THE BIG CRESCENDO...A Lou Crasher Mystery releases late 2019 and the follow up DON'T SHOOT THE DRUMMER in 2020. He also wrote a bio-fiction book: A BOXING TRAINER'S JOURNEY...A Novel based on the Life of Angelo Dundee on Mentoris Books. It drops February 2019. The often misunderstood rock and roll P.I. writer lives with his hot wife in sunny Southern California. He believes Bogey had it right when he said: "The problem with the world is that everybody is a few drinks behind..."

The Strong Arm of the Law

You can run, you can hide...

Until the law turns up at your side. 

The Strong Arm of the Law by Russell Johnson

It looked like a Satanic cavalry charge invading her little town. Sheriff Mary Beth Cain watched them cut through the fog, winding down the mountainside on steel horses, dressed in black leather with emblems of skulls and serpents and flames. She counted them as they passed by--40 in total, everyone armed--pulling up to a roadside bar called Lucky’s.

“I really think we just need to leave this alone, Sheriff.” Her chief deputy, Izzy, was still trying to talk her out of this but she’d worked too hard busting up the local meth dens to let this hoard of interlopers move in now.

“It’s like a whole army battalion of bikers over there,” Izzy continued. “How are we supposed to handle this with just six deputies?”

“You just stick to the plan,” Mary Beth said. “I’ve got a secret weapon.”

That weapon was her cousin Raelyn. More specifically, her ample cleavage, which she had on full display at Lucky’s, while balancing a tray of beers and walking with a switch so pronounced it’d make a street-corner hooker blush.

She’d been told to look for the alpha dog and he hadn’t been hard to spot: 6’ 3”, with tree-trunk arms and a long black beard twisted into braids. Raelynn zeroed in on Blackbeard and flirted shamelessly until provoking him into belting her across the cheek.

That’s when Mary Beth and her deputies went in, ratcheting their scatter guns. “Freeze! Anybody moves, shoot ‘em,” Mary Beth said. She shoved Blackbeard out the front door with the nose of her rifle.

Raelynn followed behind while the deputies kept the other bikers at bay.

There was a bench outside where Mary Beth told the man to sit. “Cuff yourself,” she said, tossing him the silver rings.

“What the hell is this?”

“It’s for your safety and mine, while we have a discussion. Do it!” Mary Beth
raised her shotgun.

“This is fucking bullshit,” the man said as he cuffed his wrists to the back of
the bench. Mary Beth patted him down and found a nine- millimeter Beretta.

“I got a permit for that.”

“I don’t really care.” Mary Beth unloaded the pistol and chucked it on
the ground.

“Listen, this bitch assaulted me. You should be arresting her.”

Mary Beth looked to her cousin. “That the way you remember it, Rae?”

“Nope,” she said. Mary Beth used her phone to take a picture of Raelynn’s cheek that was swelling up nicely.

“Fucking entrapment is what this is. You sent her in there to  provoke me.”

Mary Beth adjusted her Stetson like she was really thinking it over. “Entrapment,” she said. “That’s a big word.”

Blackbeard was shaking his head in disbelief, looking at Mary Beth like she was crazy, wondering what kind of two-bit backwoods operation he was dealing with.

“You know what, lady, go ahead and take me in. Little assault charge; my guys will have me bailed out by the end of the day.”

Mary Beth looked at him like a kid who just ate a booger. “Oh, Sweetie, you just don’t get what’s going on do ya? You see, this here is Raelynn Logan.”


“So, her father is James Edward Logan.”


“My Uncle Jimmy.”

Blackbeard shrugged.

Mary Beth pulled up a Wikipedia page on her smart phone and showed it to him as she read:

Gunnery Sergeant James “Jimmy” Edward Logan, U.S. Marines, Retired.
One of the most prolific snipers in American history, with 75 confirmed kills during the Vietnam conflict and a suspected 50 more officially listed as unconfirmed. In addition, because much of Logan’s service was highly classified, it has often been asserted that his true kill tally was well over 200, which, if true, would make him, by far, the deadliest American sniper of all time.

“Listen here,” Mary Beth said. “You’ll like this part.” 

Since returning to civilian life, Logan has also been accused of multiple assassinations over personal disputes but has never been formally charged.

“This is crazy,” Neko said, tugging at the cuffs.

“Crazy. You could say that about my Uncle Jimmy. Especially when it comes to his girls. Last one who laid a hand on Rae was a fella named Buck Davis. When Uncle Jimmy found out about it, he exploded Buck’s head like a fucking watermelon, using a Remington seven hundred bolt-action from over a thousand yards away.” 

Blackbeard squirmed, desperate to get away from this wiry strawberry blonde sheriff who he outweighed by a hundred pounds. “Look, if you’re going to arrest me, let’s go ahead and get this over with,” he said.

Beads of sweat had popped up on his forehead. Mary Beth wiped them gingerly with a handkerchief. “Honey, I’m not arresting you. I’m just gonna email a  picture of you to my Uncle Jimmy. Along with a picture of what you and your friends did to his baby girl.” Mary Beth snapped a photo of Blackbeard and a few of their bikes, then made a show of sending it off to a yahoo address. The whole time, Blackbeard struggling with the cuffs, telling her she was fucking nuts.

“How many guys you got in there?” Mary Beth asked. “Forty? Fity? That ain’t nothing to Uncle Jimmy. So many places to hide in these hills, so many good vantage points. You know he’s been really cranky since that American Sniper movie came out about that guy from Texas. Jimmy’s really been wanting to increase his numbers.”

As the last of the bikers roared off into the distance on their way out of town, Mary Beth gave them a little wave goodbye. Izzy laughed at how Blackbeard fell for the bogus Wikipedia page she cooked up.

“I guess that’s really your secret weapon, huh?” he said. “Your ability to bullshit.”

Mary Beth smiled. “You know what they say: it’s mightier than the sword.”

Russell W. Johnson is a North Carolina attorney who got so sick of billable hours he started writing crime fiction. His debut story, "Chung Ling Soo's Greatest Trick," won the Edgar Award's Robert L. Fish Memorial prize for best short story by a new author. Since then he’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was recently a finalist for the Claymore Award. More information at