Latest Flash

THE FLASH FICTION OFFENSIVE

Edited by Hector Duarte Jr. and Rob Pierce

Interviews and Updates

Gutter news and views!

BADASS REVIEWS

Books and flicks manhandled and/or caressed by the Gutter staff!

Of Dream, Scenarios, and Plans

Today in The Gutter:

A special flash piece directly from Beau Johnson's new book.

Of Dream, Scenarios, and Plans by Beau Johnson


Maurice and me, we are men of extremes. Some would suggest different, even over the top. Either way, the life we’d chosen to lead ensured we pretty much had to be something along these types of lines. Only when such traits spill over into things they shouldn’t do complications arise for people like us. With this comes thoughts of over-compensation and I can understand why some people defer to this kind of thinking. A misconception is what this becomes, as over-compensating and confidence are not much more than distant cousins once you’ve gotten under the hood.

This comparison is what I’m attempting to enlighten Maurice to when the snake begins to twitch. Meant his eyes would no longer meet mine, and it’s totally understandable why this occurs. I mean, the size of the thing Milligan hooked me up with is huge, taking three of us just to get it in the glass.

“You’ve always been big on fear, this we know,” I say. Nothing. Nada. His concentration beyond me, through the glass, and towards a situation which, for the time being, remained asleep. It slept because I’d tranquilized the thing six hours prior, secretly hoping today would become the day. “But do you recall telling me your greatest fear?” 

I know he didn’t, not in the way he should, but this is the thing, the difference between employer and employees. Us guys, the workers, we don’t forget. At least I don’t. When someone goes and lets you in on such a nugget, you go and squirrel that shit away. Never know when an opportunity may arise or a situation might present itself. It’s pragmatic is what it is. That and then some.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Realizing, I move forward, blocking Maurice’s sight line to the glass. I hold up both my hands. “What I want you concentrating on is this. No, come on now, I want you to take a good hard look at the shit you set in motion.” I flex what’s left of my fingers. “Used to be eight of these bad boys, right? Now you’d be hard pressed to say I have three. Used to have both ears too, Maurice, and this eye here, it never hung the way it does now. You think any of this is givin’ you a clue as to the reason we are here today?”

I didn’t require an answer, not really, and I tell the man so. “However, the place I do want to go is how we arrived here, as in our juncture. Translation being: you should have maybe sent someone a little more inclined as to how one goes about one’s job, I think. Double translation: they should have at least gone and checked for a pulse before they buried me.”  

Had his boys done that, I’d never get to show Maurice why I can no longer grow hair. The bullet that rode my skull from one temple to the next destroying the only part of my head I’d been able to comb since before the nineties.

“And you do realize how this makes you look? Not just for setting in motion what you did, but the reason as to why.” 

I go on, say my piece, Maurice looking more like an ugly Daddy Warbucks than ever before. “The way it looks to me is this: Janice never would have glanced my way if she were a woman being satisfied.” 

His eyes expand at this, a little more rage let out of the box. Seems I’d gone and hit a soft spot.  He double downs with snot bubbles, great big giant fuckers, which begin to foam above the gag.

“You tryin’ to tell me there’s more than scrap metal in yer pants there, Boss?”  I smile as I say this. I can only imagine the sight of me. Made me want to laugh and scream at the same fucking time. I mean, of all the things we’d done, all the jobs we’d pulled, that it would come down to a woman, a woman he’d already divorced.

Eighteen years gone in an instant, poof.

Laugh or scream. Shit or get off the pot. All told, I sometimes wish the grave had been a little less shallow.

“But what it comes down to, specifically, is this: how do you truly destroy a man? You obliterate that which he creates. Your words, Maurice. From your lips. Brings a whole new kind of light as to why I had junior join us here today.” 

Perfection. All of it. Especially the veins upon his neck, each one now popping like cords.

I go one step further and share what Milligan passed along: that if I could see my way to rearranging a shoulder or two, my selection, it didn’t much matter; python or anaconda, each would take a man. Done, it’s on to constriction, the application, and how it’s this which would come first. What impressed me more is when I found out how the feet would go last, the anaconda going on like a condom, its meal taken by the head into a digestive system unlike any other. Truth be told, it kind of made me wish Maurice had had other children. Or that his child had children. And I know how this makes me sound, I do. But I also know how I feel.

“It’s not like I had any kind of choice, Maurice. Not once I realized I was still alive.” 

His nostrils flare at this, flare again, but I pull him forward anyway. The legs of his chair screeching every inch of the way.

Four feet from the glass, I plant myself beside him, my backside into the very same chair his son had been strapped to not minutes before. As I sit, my dream scenario continues: Maurice unable to do anything but stare, nothing but remorse leaking from his eyes. I acknowledge this by placing an arm around his shoulder and squeezing it with fingers both phantom and real.

Twenty minutes on and junior’s eyes flash open, his struggles against his bonds causing an agitation I’d been anticipating since awakening last Fall. It brings a different type of panic to the festivities as well. 

I stand and cut the gag from Maurice’s mouth.

I tell him I do this because I can. Pragmatic or not, over the top or not, I'm confident I'm about to like what I hear.

Beau Johnson has been published before, always on the darker side of town. It appears he cannot escape the shadows there, where empathy and bad guys meet. Such fine establishments include HST, Shotgun Honey, Spelk, and this place right here, Out of the Gutter Online. Beau is the author of A Better Kind of Hate, published by Down and Out Books. He will see you when he sees you. Peace/out.

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 

Top BRIT GRIT writer  Nigel Bird currently has a few
of his books available for FREE.

Southsiders - That's All Right: Jesse Garon  #1 


Ray Spalding's had enough of his wife, Paula. He's left his home in Edinburgh's Southside and headed for Belfast. It's safer there. Unknown to Ray, Paula's also had enough of him. She's not going back home. Not now, not ever. Jesse Spalding wakes up one morning to find both his parents gone. And he can't tell anyone or he'll be taken into care. As time passes and bills need paying, all Jesse can rely on are his wits, his friend Archie and his dad's 1950s record collection. Southsiders is a powerful short novel that follows the spiralling fortunes of Ray and Jesse, pushing father and son to their limits while they struggle against the odds in the darker shadows of two of Britain's capital cities.

Southsiders - Jailhouse Rock: Jesse Garon #2


It doesn’t take long for Ray Spalding to realise that prison is nothing like an Elvis Presley movie. The warden has no intention of throwing a party and the only bands Ray encounters are gangs of hard men. When an old adversary seeks him out, Ray decides his only chance for survival is escape. Ray’s son, Jesse, is discovering that being on the run in the middle of winter is no fun. With his stamina stretched to the limits, he’s ready to surrender himself to social services. At least that way he can see his girlfriend again. Danny Boy is the man in the middle. He thinks he can break Ray from prison and reunite father and son. All he needs is an ambulance, a funeral, the help of some of his old friends and a big slice of good fortune. Southsiders: Jailhouse Rock takes you for an eventful ride on a Mystery Train where the destination is as likely to be the Heartbreak Hotel as the Promised Land.

Southsiders - By The Time I Get To Phoenix: Jesse Garon #3


Two Edinburgh PhD students head to the Phoenix Festival to sell legal highs. When a friend discovers that their Horn-E pills are poison, he faces a race against the clock to make sure that nobody comes to any harm. To complicate matters, the drugs were paid for with a loan from Edinburgh’s infamous Tony Fish. If they don’t have the cash to straighten their debt, there’ll be nowhere for them to hide. Jesse Garon’s obsession with Elvis Presley may be as strong ever, but as his hormones kick in he’s finding he has more in common with Jake Bugg. Jesse’s hoping that a weekend at the Phoenix Festival to see his new hero might thaw his girlfriend’s mood and allow him to take their relationship to the next level. Failing that, the Horn-E pills they’re selling on the strip might be perfect for the job. A tale of star-crossed love, tangled webs, gangsters, bloody men and a dog called Brandy.




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

Paul D. Brazill's books include A Case Of Noir, The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, 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. His blog is here.

Auditions

Romanticize bad girls all you want; try to romance one, you'd better be sure of your methods.

Auditions by Nick Kolakowski
On the twentieth floor of the everything-glass skyscraper where my father and his partners do their best to bend the human race over a table and screw it without benefit of lubricant, I sit at the receptionist’s desk, tasked with directing calls. I hate every moment of it. Once an hour or so, just to break the monotony, I answer a new caller with something like:
“Joe’s Morgue. You stab ‘em, we slab ‘em.”
Or: “Jane’s Leather Shop. We do have that teddy you ordered.”
People always talk about how nice I have it, the child of a big-shot lawyer who owns a couple of awesome mansions.
“Acquittals ‘R Us, Mass Murder Our Specialty, how can I help you?”
The first day of my new job, most callers who heard my witticisms hung up on me. Then word leaked among the capitalist ball-breakers that Harold’s daughter had turned his firm’s main phone into her personal shock-jock channel, and now I’m fending off all these titanic perverts who call because they want to step out on their trophy wives. 
My shrink would describe my behavior as a cry for help.
As in, please, Jesus, get me out of here.
This morning, like every morning, the waiting room is filled with scumsuckers wealthy enough to pay my father’s massive per-hour. I recognize the reality television star sniffling in one of the front seats. Behind her sits the one and only Rick King, money launderer to the rich and powerful, looking too cool for school with his round Lennon glasses and gray goatee. None of them give me a second glance—except for Dan Keegan. Lord help me, except for Dan.
This runt in a red hoodie is an arms dealer—sorry, alleged arms dealer—who made quite the career of shipping assault rifles to various gangs around Los Angeles. One morning the universe aligned just so, and the cops arrested him with four AK-47s in his trunk. He thinks the small fortune he pays my father also entitles him to stare at my legs while he waits for his meeting.
“Dan.” I flip him the finger. “Stop groping me with your eyes.”
Not only does Dan keep staring, he rises from his seat and saunters over. “I wasn’t,” he says. “But don’t tell me this isn’t game recognizing game.”
I keep my middle digit in the upright and locked position. “Sit your ass down.”
“Saw you on the news, girl,” he says. “Deal went bad? You killed a couple dudes?”
“Nobody proved anything,” I say.
“But that’s why you’re here, right?” Looming too close, Dan leans a hip against the side of my desk. “So your Dad can keep his thumb down, make sure his bad girl doesn’t get mixed up with the wrong people again?” His lips slather ‘bad girl’ with an extra helping of slime. 
I almost say something. I want to shout that the deal was my idea, that it was my crew in the bank. That I’m more than a soft trust-fund baby who had life presented to her on a silver tray.
Instead I tilt back in my chair and pretend my glare is about to burn a hole through his skull.
“Aw, did I hurt your feelings?” Dan tips forward, really invading my airspace. “How about I make it up to you, girl? We grab a drink after this?”
I bring my left foot down as hard as I can on one of his vintage Reebok S. Carter sneakers. The four-inch heel punches through the thin fabric. Lots of women have dreamed of doing this, I’m sure. Dan’s mouth snaps open wide as an opera singer about to launch into a showstopper. Wiggling my shoe free of his foot (it takes effort, like pulling an axe out of a tree trunk), I stand, press my hands against his chest, and shove him.
Dan tumbles off my desk, squawking in pain and surprise, and as soon as he hits the ground I have my wet heel pressed against his throat. His hands grip my ankle, his muscles tensing as he readies to shove me away, so I press my shoe down until he relaxes.
The waiting room is stunned silent except for Rick King, who looks up from his magazine and offers me a slow clap. Excellent.
Dan tries to choke out a witty bon mot, but he only manages to get out “c—” before I push my heel hard enough to cut off his windpipe. The phone on my desk rings, and I pick it up.
“Is Dan out there?” 
“Hi, Daddy,” I chirp. “How’s it going?”
“Is Dan out there?” Mister Personality asks. “Could you send him back?”
“Sure thing,” I say, and disconnect the call before looking down at Dan. “If I let you up, you going to be a good boy?”
Dan blows a spit bubble and nods.
“Do something stupid, and I’ll make your scrotum into a change purse.” I lift my foot, and Dan sucks down a big gulp of air before rising on shaky knees. We stare at each other for a long moment, until I say: “You failed your audition.”
His face scrunches in confusion. “What?”
“No fighting skills, poor risk assessment,” I tell him. “Audition’s over. My Dad will see you.”
Dan’s clearly had enough crazy in his life today, because he turns and limps down the hallway toward my father’s office without so much as a look back. I take my seat again, glancing at Rick King, who exhibited real calm in the face of violence. Throw in his finance skills, and he’s just the kind of man I need for my next score. As much as I hate this job, it does bring some great candidates right to me.   

Nick Kolakowski is the author of the novella “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps” (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out). His crime fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Plots with Guns, and, of course, Out of the Gutter.

Duke City Getaway

You can run, you can hide. 

In The Gutter, you're always back to where you started. 

Duke City Getaway by Bill Baber


It had been two days and three states since I’d showered. I had the speed sweats and could smell the stink coming from my body. And I could smell fear. Yeah, I was scared.

By now, Lester Morales knew his brother Eddie was dead. He also knew a quarter-million dollars of his money was missing. After taking inventory of his dealers, he’d know I was guilty on both counts. So I ran as fast as I could from Albuquerque.

I was betting Lester thought I’d head for El Paso, the only other place I had ever lived. But the Morales brothers had people there and I wouldn’t last as long as a six-pack on a summer Saturday night. I stole a car in the last hour before dawn and headed west on I -40. Just outside of Grants, as the sun lifted above the eastern horizon, I torched the car on a dead-end dirt reservation road just outside of town. I walked three miles to a used car dealer on the outskirts of town, waited an hour for the owner to show, and paid cash for a five-year-old Chevy pickup. Then, I dropped to the south through El Malpais: the badlands.

It was early on a Monday morning and a monsoon storm was raging. Lightning was right overhead and thunderous bursts of what sounded like the end of the world were synonymous with the flashes. Just like gunshots.

There was a light on at the house, Eddie’s Lincoln the only car in front. I walked in and threw the money on the table.

“You’re late, ese. Ain’t the first time. Ought to dock you,” Eddie said.

“See that storm out there? Damn, it was nasty out in Rio Rico. Closed roads and shit.”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about that. Drop’s supposed to by two, it’s three thirty. I don’t like it, Lester sure don’t like it. He gets nervous when some little pendejo is late with his cash. This don’t happen again. Comprende?

I never liked Eddie. I’d been loyal and never tried to fuck Lester over in the five years I’d worked for him. But Eddie, he wouldn’t be nothing without his big brother – and he tried to take advantage of it, always trying to be a hard ass. He just came off as a dick. Lester was a good cat to work for so I surprised myself when Eddie started to gather all the night’s take and I shot him in the back. Guess it was the sight of all that cash and the thought that I could be out of the life. I didn’t give it much thought, just did it. Loaded all the cash in his Lincoln and got the fuck out of there. I stole a car and left The Q in the rear-view.

I stuck to back roads through New Mexico, Arizona, and now Nevada, watching the rear-view constantly. I began to regret what I’d done instantly but I did it. So, scared or not, I would deal with what came my way. I passed Vegas and headed north on 93.

I was running with no end in sight. I had looked at a map, thought maybe I would be safe somewhere in Oregon or Montana.  But I knew Lester wouldn’t forget. Sooner or later he would find me.

So I did the only thing that seemed to make sense.

I took another hit of Lester’s speed and backtracked, made it to Flagstaff that night, got a room, and slept for twelve hours. 

By two the next afternoon, I pulled into Albuquerque. Lester hung out at a west-side dive called Leo’s. I circled the lot and didn’t see his car.

Other than Carl Vasquez behind the bar, the joint was empty. “You’re crazy,” he said with a smile. “Morales has his whole crew looking for you. And there’s a nice little price on your head. Ought to waste you myself.”

But Carl and me were tight. We bumped fists. “Man, can’t believe you had that bigga stones. Either that or you’re plain fucking loco,” he said.

“Look, man,” I said. “I’m gonna waste Lester. It’s my only play.”

He gave me a long look. “You are crazy. Vaya con Dios.”

I finished my beer and left.

Lester had put a guy named Carlos on my old route. When he collected at his last stop, I was waiting for him to walk out the door. I hit him in the back of the head with the butt of my gun, gagged him, tied him up, and left him in the backseat of his car.

It was a little after three when I pulled in front of the drop house. Lester’s car was in front. I opened the door, gun in hand.

“Damnit, you’re late,” Lester started before looking up from the stacks of money he was counting. He saw it was me. A thin smile parted his lips. 

I didn’t say a word, just pulled the trigger until it clicked. 

Just like a few nights earlier, I gathered up the money and left Duke City. This time I wasn’t scared of anything. I headed south toward El Paso. I might stop and say hello, but my final destination was farther south, much farther. And I didn’t plan on coming back.


BILL BABER’S crime fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in numerous anthologies. His writing has earned Derringer Prize and best of the Net consideration. 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 and a spoiled dog and has been known to cross the border for a cold beer. He is working on his first novel.

The Ensenada Incident

A little bit of love, a little bit of heroin, sometimes the going down gets mixed up with the coming down. Until you go too far.

The Ensenada Incident by Jesse Rawlins
My tits feeling tender, I woke alone on bedraggled sheets … handcuffed to the bedposts—smelling like rank pussy—but still basking in the afterglow … as early morning sun splashed filthy Venetian blinds. I would’ve found the cuffs enticing. But damn I needed to piss like a distraught racehorse.
I scanned the empty warehouse. My clothes remained scattered on the dust-caked checkered floor … its black-n-white tiles buckled and cracked … but blessedly varmint-free.
This glass-walled corner office had no door: and its full bathroom didn’t either. Leading me to assume my absent lover Carlos had left the keys to these cuffs on one of the nearby tables—then ventured out to buy us coffee.
But those tables proved as bare as my freshly-spanked ass—
And I didn’t see my purse ….
For three full months, I ‘d socialized with Carlos. Always in public. Never alone. So I’d never been to his place; he’d never been to mine. But I assumed that just like me, he lived in greater San Diego.
I’d bumped into him Friday evening (outside Better Buzz Coffee) … and heard myself gush: “Can you recommend a restaurant—somewhere out of town? Saturday’s my birthday. I wanna try something new.”
“Have you been to Ensenada?”
“Are you referring to the city—the one across the border?”
“Yes, Chiquita, I am. I’m heading down there shortly to see my mother for the weekend. Her place overlooks the beach—and she also has a guest room. I know a dozen lovely restaurants I believe you would enjoy.”
I didn’t go home to pack—
Just hopped in his Jeep: grabbing what I needed on the eighty-mile drive … and we arrived in Ensenada as a fiery August sun sank behind the low-slung mountains.
We dined leisurely on the waterfront; strolled to several bars. Shortly after midnight, he’d waltzed me to this warehouse.
Tired. Tipsy. Horny. I hadn’t really cared.
***
I spent two hours clenching; couldn’t withstand the pain—
Scooting my ass to the bedside-ledge … I peed lamely on the floor.
***
I tossed-n-dozed the entire day—then suddenly he rejoined me: “Thank god, Carlos. I thought you’d gotten mugged. Where have you been?”
He laid a familiar green travel bag gently on the bed … removed a Boston Bruins snow globe—and jauntily shook the trinket. “I’ve been to your condo, chica. Brought back some of your things. And I dropped by to see your mother while passing through Laguna. A very nice lady; my cousin and I offered to repair her damaged roof—at a very modest price.”
My heart had sunk-n-shattered as soon as I saw my snow globe … and the pistol in his waistband. “Thanks,” I simply told him, feigning nonchalance. Despite his passive-aggressive manner, I couldn’t be fooled again—no one knew I was in Mexico.
But beside my birth certificate … and a dress I wore to weddings … I also spied an item—that just might save my life.
Producing a decadent chocolate cupcake … Carlos held it to my lips; and sang me Happy Birthday: “I want to marry you, Chiquita. Here in Ensenada—once the paperwork is ready.”
Yippie-Kayeh!
That explained the dress …. His initial plans at least, didn’t involve killing me. Though shooting me full of dope—and selling my ass for cash—remained unwelcomed possibilities.
I lasciviously licked some icing: “Of course I’ll marry you, baby. I thought you’d never ask.”
Carlos smirked: “I admire you, Chiquita. Not prone to histrionics. And very good at math. I’m a lucky man to have you—and your mother’s lucky, too.”
He let me take a shower. I let the bastard fuck me.
***
Carlos left me every night ….
And every night he cuffed me.
But during daylight hours we two lovebirds kept quite busy. Blood tests. Chest x-rays. Trips to the U.S. Consulate. And the local Registry. Forms for the U.S. State Department. And the Mexican foreign office. Meanwhile, documents in English had to be transcribed into Spanish—by a certified Mexican translator—
This odyssey took a week ….
Only civil marriages performed by civil servants are valid in Mexico, and four witnesses are required. Three women and a gentleman silently stood at ours. I smiled at the groom: the groom groped my ass.
***
Our first morning as newlyweds, Mr. Romance fed me breakfast: twenty-five colored condoms—filled with brown-tar heroin … gently dipped in maple syrup (and ribbed for my pleasure).
Sometime after sunset, we’d head back to San Diego: I would drive his Jeep. Assuming my sweet Carlos had compadres in the states, I resolved to make my move soon after our border crossing—
I’d clipped the weapon to my wallet, and he hadn’t said a word.
My Taser looked exactly like a flashlight.
***
I tazed him. Tied him. Gagged him ….
Raped him with a lug wrench—
And eventually I drowned him.
I could’ve cut off his cojones ….
But I’m not prone to histrionics.
***
Social service workers meet a lot of lowlifes. Ex-lawyers. Ex-doctors. Ex-cops. Ex-cons. Most of them are addicts: making it hard to trust ’em as far as you can piss. But some will handle the currency I needed to dispense: the drugs inside my body—
Which frightened me half-to-death ….
Abandoning our homes—carrying new identities—my mother and I fled East … finally renting property out in the Bahamas.
***
The tuxedoed Latin gentleman approached unbidden … and bore some semblance to the witness at my marriage—
“I was heading to my yacht … when I saw you through the window. The night is far too lovely to spend it trapped indoors. Perhaps you’d care to join me.”
I planted my elbow on the bar. Waggled manicured nails—
“Ah, your husband is indeed a very lucky man.”
“He told me that once.”
“Truly? Only once? So what is your husband doing—while you sit here all alone?”
“He’s committed to his task—of swimming with the fishes.”
“A marine biologist, eh?”
Maybe I overreacted …. But I tazed him to the floor—
It was too fine a night … to get confined indoors.


Despite its scantily-clad acclaim, Jesse’s first published story (When the Pheromones Dance) wasn’t well-received by her orthodox Catholic mother.
The author wisely fled to Washington—and securing White House Press Credentials—covered Science Policy during the Clinton Administration. But infected by Lewinsky Lewdness—Jesse suddenly spiraled into a life of prostitution: and spent six orgiastic-years pretzling for Corporate America.
Now holed-away in Parts Unknown, she’s trying her hand at fiction. You can learn more here: https://www.facebook.com/Jesse-Rawlins-Fiction-Writer-472903656414539/

Justice

Is there justice in the gutter? All depends on who defines it. And how.

Justice by Jack Strange
My trial comes up next week and I could be facing a life sentence. My son’s dead worried about it, but I’m not. I can’t wait to see that bastard Sykes in court testifying against me, telling the world what I did to him. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when it’s over and he realises what I’ve done.
I’m a retired businessman. I shouldn’t have got drawn into committing a crime at my age, but when my grandson died, I had no choice. He was only four years old.
The wife was in bits, and as for my son, Alan, and my daughter-in-law, Beth, they’ll never get over it.
Have you ever seen a child’s coffin? They’re so tiny.  It breaks your heart, it really does.
It was how little Eddie died that got to me as much as anything.
He was riding his tricycle when a truck came up the road and took the corner too tight. The rear wheel mounted the pavement and ran over my little Eddie. He banged his head when he fell and never recovered.
People who saw the accident said the driver – Harry Sykes - laughed when he realised what he’d done.
He got prosecuted for it, and said he was sorry, but it was just an act. He might’ve pulled the wool over the judge’s eyes, but not mine. I knew he was saying it just to get off – and it worked.
The prosecution charged Sykes with causing death by careless driving.  It should’ve been murder, if you ask me.
It was his first offence, so he got a suspended sentence and walked out of court a free man.
What kind of justice is that?
He ought to have been banged up for years.
So I decided to do something about it.
I had a word with the wife. We agreed I should take the law into my own hands.
But I didn’t discuss it with my son. He wouldn’t have understood. Alan is a very different person to me. I’ve had to claw my way up from the gutter to get on in life, and he’s had all the privileges you can get from day one.
When he was growing up, I put an expensive roof over his head, made sure he had good food to eat, and paid for him to have the best education going.  He went to university and became a successful lawyer.  He doesn’t know anything about the sacrifices I’ve had to make on his behalf. I gave up everything for my family, including a few scruples along the way.
Once I’d decided to do something about Eddie’s death, I went out and bought a gun. A .38 snub nose revolver, a real Saturday night special.
Then I confronted Sykes in the street. He was with his girlfriend. He was a right coward. He grabbed her and used her as a shield.
I stuck my arm straight out with the gun in it and walked up close to him.
“Be a man,” I said, holding it against his temple.
But he cowered like a frightened little girl, got to his knees, and begged for mercy.
“Please, I don’t know why you’re doing this, let me live,” he said.
“It’s for my grandson, Eddie. The little boy you killed.  Remember him?”
I crouched down, put the muzzle to his thigh, and pulled the trigger.
There was a deafening noise as the gun went off.
The bullet shattered his thighbone.
When I pulled the gun away there was a big hole in the side of his leg with wisps of smoke coming out of it.
Very nasty.
His girlfriend screamed and he screamed even louder.
“Serves you right you cunt,” I told him.
I turned to his girlfriend.
“Sorry about that, love,” I said. “I didn’t mean to drag you into this, but I had no choice. If he was half a man, he wouldn’t have used you as a shield, and you wouldn’t have had to see this. You ought to finish with him. You’ve seen what he’s like. He’s no good.”
I put the gun in my waistband and walked away.
It wasn’t long before the coppers came round to my gaff and arrested me.
They charged me with causing Grievous Bodily Harm. The sentence for that is almost as bad as that for murder. So in some ways, I might as well have killed Sykes. But I wanted him to live, to feel the pain I felt.
I didn’t deny the charge. How could I? I did it in broad daylight on the high street. Lots of people saw me, and it was recorded on video.
It’s been hard on my son, of course.
“Dad, how could you?” he said. “Why did you take the law into your own hands? You should know better than that. You used to be a respected businessman. I’ve lost Eddie, and now I’m going to lose you. You’ll be locked up for this.”
“Sorry, son,” I said. “Don’t worry. I’ll get a good brief. He’ll get me off.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s an open and shut case. You’ll get sent down for years.”
“Suppose you’re right,” I said.
But I knew he wasn’t.
You see, my line of business was extortion and racketeering. I was very good at it.
And by the time my mates get through with the jury, they’ll be awarding me a medal, never mind letting me off.


Jack Strange has had a varied career. He’s worked in a morgue, dug holes for a living, shifted heavy things on and off trucks, sold advertising space, and was, for a while, a lawyer. Jack’s favorite authors include Rusell H. Greenan, Jerzy Kosinski, Jim Thompson, and William Burroughs. He’s married with two adult daughters. His noir crime thriller Manchester Vice is due out in November 2017. For more details see his author page with Coffin Hop Press: https://coffinhop.com/2017/07/08/noirvellas . If you want to get in touch with Jack, you can email him at : jack-strange@outlook.com . Visit his website: https://jackstrangewriter.blogspot.co.uk/

Review: Down on the Street, by Alec Cizak

It’s a sign of a great book when its grit and grime cover the reader to the point they need a shower when they finish the book. Down on the Street by Alec Cizak left me with not only the desire to scrub its grimy fingerprints from my body and mind, but to look into rereading Cizak’s short story collection, Crooked Roads, which initially put Cizak on my radar.

Back in the 80s there was a comedy that explored what would happen if two normal guys became pimps and entered the seedy underworld. In the movie, hijinks occurred and hilarity ensued. Cizak handles the same plot line here, but keeps it real and we see what transpires when an unprepared man, Lester Banks, decides to pimp out his neighbor, as they both need money to stay in their apartment building. Hilarity does not ensue in this book, instead violence, gang rapes, crooked cops, and death threats reign supreme and the dirty streets come to life in a manner which has the reader racing towards the final denouement. 

Eventually, Banks finds himself in over his head and desperate to find a way out of this world. As anyone would, he is willing to sink to startling depths to extricate himself and is willing to sacrifice whatever, and whoever, he needs to in order to accomplish this.

This slice of noir has a great storyline and tight editing which allows Cizak to flex his writing muscles and showcase his ability to keep it real. The plot gets pushed along at a rapid pace and the reality of the situation Banks finds himself in pulls the reader like a shot of heroin. The characters are unlikable, perfectly placed into the world Cizak creates.   


Highly Recommended.

Toll Violation

There comes a time when we must pay for our crimes. 

In The Gutter, the cheapest fee can have the biggest consequence.

Toll Violation by Patrick Cooper


Dead of winter and the trunk of the ’88 Chevy was an icebox. The temperature prevented the fat man’s body in the trunk from stinking up the car. Shelley and Kid Cub couldn’t smell a thing except the promise of all that money waiting for them in Jersey City.

“Know what I just thought?” Kid Cub said, picking at the dirt under his nails with a pocketknife.

Shelley sniffed behind the wheel. “What’s that?”

“In winter, know how some people drive around with sandbags in their trunk? Well, we got better than sandbags. With a man that fat, no way we’re skidding out.”

They both laughed.

From the forests of Sussex County to the Cape May boardwalk, Shelley, fifty-two, with a halo of grey hair under his ski cap, had taken care of business up and down the Garden State for two decades. Recently, management’s ambitions had bled out into the greater Philly area, which meant he’d be making interstate runs now. Bigelow, the fat man in the trunk, was his first Pennsie mark.

Kid Cub was dressed all in denim. At twenty-five, he was still in his probationary period. Just a couple more months rolling with Shelley and he could fly solo. “Oh shit,” he said. “Toll.”

“What?” Shelley replied.

“There’s a toll up ahead.”

The tollbooths were crowned with the tall, ominous letters of N-E-W-J-E-R-S-E-Y. Beyond the booths, the sun had started its slow crawl over the horizon as the morning commuters did their dutiful creep.

Shelley slowed the Chevy down behind all the traffic and said, “How much is it? Can you read it?”

Kid Cub leaned forward. “Looks like a buck twenty-five.”

Shelley nodded and looked at the kid. When Cub made no move for his pockets, Shelley said, “Well?”

“Well what?”

“My car, my gas. Least you could do is pay the toll.”

“I paid at the diner last night.”

Shelley stared at Cub with enough intention to let him know he wouldn’t budge.

Kid Cub said, “Fine. Cheap prick.” He fished around in his pockets. “We keep doing these interstate gigs, you’re gonna have to get an EZ Pass.”

“I’ll bring it up with management.” Shelley eased the car up a little more.

“Shit.”

“What?”

“I don’t got it. I gave that waitress all my scratch.”

“You and that goddamn waitress,” Shelley said.

“I thought we had something!”

“She’s a waitress. She has something with every cock walks through the door. Now do you have it?”

Kid Cub tossed his hands up in defeat, “I don’t!”

Shelley mumbled something about the “goddamn waitress” and searched his jeans. All he came up with was some hard candy and the photo of his daughter he kept for luck. He was ready to curse out Cub again for his lavish tipping when he thought of Bigelow. “Check the guy’s pockets.”

“What? Now?” Kid Cub said.

“Go on and check Bigelow’s pockets.”

“Hell no! Morbid bastard. Just tell the lady in the booth we don’t have it. They’ll mail you a ticket.”

Shelley shook his head. “You don’t got the stomach for it? That might be a problem if I was to tell management you got a sissy’s stomach.”

“They’ll mail you a ticket! I’ll pay it, but I’m not rifling around in that slob’s pockets.” Kid Cub bit at his bottom lip for a few seconds. “Fine. All right. Asshole. Pop the goddamn trunk.”

Shelley watched in the rearview as Cub walked around the Chevy and disappeared behind the open trunk. 

Kid Cub was only back there two seconds before he slammed it shut again and dashed back into the car.

“The hell?” Shelley said.

“He’s alive,” Kid Cub said.

“What?”

“Fucking guy’s still alive.”

“What?!” 

“Telling you, he’s alive. Nearly shit myself. He looked me right in the eyes. My eyes, Shelley!” Kid Cub said.

“Shit.”

“I’m never gonna forget that look.” Cub rubbed his palms into his eyes. “Got me all fucked up!”

Shelley looked at Kid Cub. “Give me your knife.”

“What?”

“Your knife. Give it to me.”

“For what?”

“Because I forgot to shave this morning. What the fuck do you think what for? I’m not gonna shoot the guy in fucking rush hour traffic.”

Kid Cub handed Shelley the pocketknife.

Shelley felt its weight – passing it from hand to hand. Then he popped the trunk and exited the car.

Bigelow’s manic eyes looked up at the knife and he tried to scream. The duct tape over his mouth kept it at a deep rumble.

Shelley leaned in with the knife.

Bigelow’s doughy neck erupted.

Hot blood cascaded over Shelley’s face. He swallowed some and gagged, quickly searching the man’s pockets. He came up with two bucks.

“Holy shit,” Kid Cub said as Shelley slid in behind the wheel. “You are soaked.”

“Resilient bastard’s double dead now.”

“Did he have the change?”

“Yeah. Two bucks.” Shelley looked at himself in the rearview mirror. Blood dripped off his hair. He used the sleeve of his down jacket to wipe his face. That’s when he noticed the police cruiser right behind them. “Fuck me.”

“What?” Kid Cub said.

“Cop.”

“Oh shit.”

“Just be easy,” Shelley said.

Shit, shit, shit.”

Shelley held the two bills up to the elderly woman inside the tollbooth.

Kid Cub glanced at the side view mirror.

The woman moved like molasses. After an eternity, she handed Shelley the change.

Shelley eased off the brake and pressed the gas.

The Chevy’s rear tires spun on the blood that had dripped and pooled beneath the trunk. Shelley stepped harder on the gas and the car veered forward, its rear tires spinning. The left side of the car smacked into the tollbooth’s concrete barrier and the Chevy spun out in half a circle with a loud squeal.

They were facing the cop now, who was out of his cruiser, looking down at the blood. His eyes followed the red, smeared tire tracks to the Chevy. He pulled his gun.

Shelley smacked the wheel. “You and that fucking waitress.”


Patrick Cooper lives in Trappe, PA with his wife, dog, and the spirit of a murdered Colonial orphan boy he just can’t seem to shake. His short fiction has appeared in a number of outlets, both print and online. Check out his stuff here: patrickgcooper.com