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That Song

Music, like smell, provides some of the strongest sensory memory there is. It's a powerful drug, a miracle healer, and a good friend.

But no matter how much you love that song, the jukebox eventually demands another quarter. 

That Song by J.J. Sinisi



That song is playing at night when I get in the car and crank the engine and blow on my hands and do all the things to get the chill out. The song doesn’t help. It quite honestly makes it worse, but there are other things I can do to stay warm. So for now, I listen to the jumping guitar and slow melody and I think about you.
              
The next day I dig out my gun from above the closet, still in a shoe box, still hidden from Hank even though he moved out eight years ago. I head to the hospital, the tune chiming between my ears. The halls are asleep and before you wake up I stand by your bed and watch you sleep. I know you used to say that was creepy, but I don’t think you meant it like that.
              
“Hey Tiger,” you say through eyes caked with snots and so many dried tears. If I weren’t me and you weren’t you, I would have no idea what you just said. But we are ourselves, at least for now.
              
I dab your lips with a damp cloth. You attempt to smack my hand away but your coordination has failed.
              
“I heard that song on the radio last night.”
              
“Yea?” after a struggle.
        
      
“Yea. I don’t think it’s mine anymore. I think it’s time for me to give it back.”
              
“It was the only thing,” you pause, words strangled. I’ve stopped asking myself if I had found you earlier would things be different. If I hadn’t had another, and another, and one more for the road, because Jimmy always has one for the road, if I would have seen you fall, seen the stroke happen and been able to do more than just the rough calculation that you’d been down for at least three hours.
              
I hold your limp hand. The doctor walks in. He is younger than both of us and his glasses look like fashion accessories.
              
“We’re early today, Jimmy.”
              
“Couldn’t sleep.”
              
He flips some charts, makes some notes, doesn’t look at his patient, doesn’t look at my wife.
              
“To be expected.”
              
“She told me last night she’s in a lot of pain still.”
              
He glances up through those designer metal frames, back down at his clipboard.
              
“Her Morphine is already maxed out. Can’t do much more than that. She’ll just have to stay comfortable.”
              
I don’t respond. I don’t tell him you’ve never been comfortable with anything in your life.
              
It’s six hours later and I’m sitting at Tommy’s. There’s no one there, just me and Tommy and a jukebox and an empty bar full of my regrets.
              
“How is she?”
              
“Barely talks. Can’t move. Trouble breathing without the tubes.”
              
“Shit.” Tommy rubs a glass. I don’t know if it’s dirty or if this is the secret source of a bartender’s divine spirit of conversation, summoned like a genie in a bottle. “Doctor’s say it’ll get better?”
              
“Not likely, no. She was out too long.”
              
He finishes the glass. Doesn’t say anything.
              
I swill my beer and he pours another. I shotgun it. Another. He’s long since stopped asking me and my tab bridges weeks. He gets a little every Tuesday when I get paid. But I haven’t driven the tow-truck since she went down. Won’t matter much after tonight.
              
Somewhere through my fourth that song pops on the juke’s auto-play.
              
“Well shit.”
              
He doesn’t respond. He’s losing interest.
              
I kill the fourth. Sit and wait for Tommy to stop wrangling eyes with me and pour my fifth. I kill half; wipe my mouth with a dirty sleeve.
              
“After her second stint in rehab, I told her to get the fuck out. To leave me, leave Hank. Told her I never wanted to see her again.”
              
Tommy rested his hands on the bar, leaned in, the other classic bartender pose. I’m convinced he never hears a word, just plays through the script. But I guess that’s what we’re all doing.
              
“What addictions do to a family.” I shake my head, let the song fill in the blanks, drink my beer and watch the sounds vibrate the bubbles. “Anyway, she heard this song and gave it to me. I took her back a few weeks later. That was eight years ago. I’m supposed to think of her when I hear it.”
              
“Do you?” A young couple walks in and sits down. He hands them a pair of menus. The bar will come to life now. He will move on. We all move on.
              
I tap the wood, slide my empty glass across.
              
“Well?” he asks, hands still on the menus.
              
“Nope. It just reminds me of her broken. So I told her this morning I’d give it back to her.”
              
“That’s cold shit, Jimmy.”
              
“I’ll see ya’ when I see ya’ Tommy.”
              
Back in my car I hold the steering wheel, let the alcohol wave in front of my eyes. I click through every station, but the song is gone. I scan and scan and absent those sounds, I settle on static, a whitewashing haze blocking the space I can’t reach.
              
I go home and call Hank. I don’t tell him that I love him because that’s not what sons need to hear from fathers. But I tell him I’m proud of him, even though I’m not, and his mother isn’t going to get better. He says he understands and will take the next flight home. I tell him not to rush.
              
The gun hasn’t been fired in ages, but it’s okay if it doesn’t work when I need it to. That’s what our marriage was like. It just has to look like what it is.
              

I finish a sixer before driving back. The hospital is nearly as empty as this morning. I show the night nurse the piece and tell her to call the doctor.
              
His eyes are bloodshot beneath the sleek glasses. I give him my ultimatum, right there in the hall, and I know he’ll do it. I know he’ll look at my gray beard, my loose skin, at the fragility of life and he’ll take his Hippocratic Oath and bury it next to all his other regrets.
              
We walk to your room and you’re sleeping. I want to kiss you but don’t. I cock the hammer and put it next to his temple, make sure he doesn’t get cold feet.
              
Little tears drip. He loads the syringe and doesn’t wait for me to ask again. The needle whistles as he depresses the plunger and I pretend it’s the closing note, of that song, of our life. You take a quick breath and fall silent. I put the gun to my chin and pull the trigger, but it misfires. He doesn’t do anything. He lets me try again and again, but it never works. Everything is broken.


J. J. Sinisi is a professional out of New York but spends what little free time he has strolling dark alleyways creating crime fiction. His work has appeared at All Due Respect, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Heater, and he received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters contest. His noir themed website www.thisdesperatecity.com recently relaunched and is meaner than ever.

Terminal C

Hmm. This is Out of the Gutter’s 666th post. Now I’m not that saying that means more than it does. It is, after all, just a number.

But as you read this latest offering, remember: everyone is the hero in his own story.

Terminal C by Frank Byrns




Jamaal stood at the urinal for a long while after finishing up, thinking about what he just saw.

The Human Trafficking Notice posted on the wall just inside the restroom had him thinking. In big, serious red letters: Are you or someone you know being sold for sex or made to work for little or no pay and cannot leave? 

Well, maybe not the sold for sex part, but all the rest seemed about right. That poster described his life these days pretty well.

He zipped up, then moved across the crowded restroom to the long wall of sinks. He waved his hands underneath one to turn on the water, then washed his hands—Happy Birthday to Me, three times, just like they taught him back when he went to school.

When he was done, he stood tall to check himself out in the mirror on the wall above the sink. He was checking out his hair, specifically—he was overdue for a trim, and there were a couple of wild strays that he wanted to check on, make sure they weren’t acting unruly back there. He needed to look good because there was a cute girl sitting at the gate around the corner—he was hoping she was on their flight. He had her pegged for fourteen, maybe fifteen, so she was probably too old for him anyway, but you never know. If there was one thing his dad was always right about, it was that it paid to be prepared. 
Satisfied with his ‘do, Jamaal shouldered his backpack and stepped back out into the busy terminal. He was excited; this was his first trip on a plane. As far back as Jamaal could remember, they drove everywhere. Because it’s cheaper, his dad always said. Easier. Less hassle. 
He fingered the luggage tag attached to his backpack, glanced down at it to remind himself of the name he was using this time—Jared. Jared, Jared, Jared, he repeated to himself. It was always a name that started with a J, a system his dad had cooked up a long time ago. That way, his dad could always just call him Jay—that helped a lot when Jamaal was real little. 
The old man was always doing stuff like that, taking extra steps to be extra careful. Jamaal thought a lot of it was pretty dumb, and probably unnecessary. But they hadn’t been picked up yet, so it must be working. He couldn’t remember what it was they said his dad had done, but it must have been something pretty bad to have to live like this. 
Leaning with his back against the bank of payphones that lined one wall of the terminal, Jamaal risked another peek at the girl sitting at the gate, then turned his attention back to the crowd of people flowing up and down the hall. Assessing the situation, his dad called it. He bent one leg to put the flat of one sneaker against the wall, trying for a casual look.

He saw his father across the hall, seated in that little aquarium they had for smokers. Looking through the smudged glass of the room’s sliding door, he could see that his dad had nearly finished his cigarette. The old man polished off two Marlboros during their short drive to the airport, and was now nearly down to the filter on the third. Jamaal knew that his dad only smoked when he was nervous, and he wished he could do something to help ease his mind. After all, Jamaal was the reason they were taking this trip. He was the one who registered online for that ticket lottery the NCAA held every year. He was the one who lied on the form and said he was eighteen and paid for the tickets with a PayPal account he filled by selling old sneakers on eBay. And he was the one who waited until the last minute to tell his dad they won the two tickets for the Final Four this weekend, all the way on the other side of the country. And he was the one who pushed all the right guilt buttons to get his father to finally agree to take this trip.

The molded plastic seats inside the smokers’ box were nearly empty. Jamaal watched as a woman gave his father the once-over as she stood and left the room. He barely gave her a second glance, but Jamaal did. She was tall, with taller heels and even taller hair. And as tall as all that was, her skirt was even shorter. His dad hardly noticed, but Jamaal’s eyes followed her, past the airport security officers huddled around a nearby trashcan in their blue shirts, fingers to their ears, listening intently to someone on the other end.

Jamaal watched the woman move on down the concourse—the view from this angle even better than the first. She passed a taco place, a newsstand, another half-dozen cops. This group was dressed in all black, SWAT-style automatic rifles slung around their necks, and they were coming hard in Jamaal’s direction, moving with a real purpose.

Jamaal’s chest tightened, his breath hard to come by as he assessed the situation unfolding in front of him. There were just two men remaining in the smokers’ lounge with his dad, sitting on opposite sides of the room. Something about them—their tight haircuts, the thick moustaches, the matching jackets they wore even though it was plenty warm in the terminal—something about them screamed trouble.

Why couldn’t his dad see that, too? What was going on with him?

His dad finally looked up, met Jamaal’s eyes across the concourse. His eyebrows narrowed immediately as he read his son’s face. The moustache to the left stood up and made a move towards his father, and a split second later the one on the right did the same.

His father’s shoulders lifted as he made his move to bolt. Then, just as quickly, they slumped again, and he didn’t move. 

He closed his eyes; he looked as tired as Jamaal had ever seen him.

The two moustaches reached him at the same time, and he opened his eyes as they placed their hands on his shoulders. The security guards gathered around the trashcan broke away and entered the smokers’ lounge, followed closely by the SWAT Team.

Jamaal met his father’s eyes one final time.

Run,” his father mouthed.


Frank Byrns’s previous crime fiction has been published in such places as Shotgun Honey, Plan B Magazine, Everyday Fiction, and Powder Burn Flash.

My Killer Heart

We see a lot of sibling rivalries over here in the Gutter. Sometimes it's jealousy, sometimes it's greed.

But today, it's something else driving the story. There's no tougher job than being my brother's keeper.

My Killer Heart by Benjamin Welton



The fat man slid a gun across the desk. It was a black semi-automatic. 9x18mm. Without question it had serial numbers that had been carefully etched off and a history that played hot potato between buyers and sellers in multiple warzones.

The fat man threw two clips at my chest and finally spoke.

“We need you to kill Jackie. $138,000. Vacation afterwards if you’re interested. You’re usual style is okay, but no funny stuff.”

The fat man was from Bosnia, but no one knew whether he was Muslim, Serb, or Croat. His English is herky-jerky at best, but even if he was a Slavic Shakespeare, he’d still abstain from unnecessary dialog. The fat man always does as little as possible.

“He made some very bad mistakes with some boys in Youngstown, and now they want him. I’m sure you can understand their anger.”

I nodded.

“Good. Call me in the morning when it’s done. And I don’t want to hear any excuses because of who it is.” 

On my way out, one of the fat man’s heavies handed me a envelope with an address on it. It led to a hotel in western Maryland. I knew it well - Jackie and I often stayed there when we were kids.

I waited until nightfall to get started. I loaded the car with food and water for the road, then packed a backup gun just in case. It was an Austrian 7.65mm that I had stolen from an antiques store in Harrisburg. “Parabellum” was written on the barrel.

Parabellum - “for war.” They call me that because I always treat every job like a firefight. I have a reputation for overkill. I do it on purpose because I like being the type of guy that only gets called in when the contract in question involves either a real loser or a real monster. Jackie was a loser. He was also my brother.



Everyone in the neighborhood knew that Jackie was “slow.” They used to say that word with wincing condescension. It was their way of being both nice and mean to the dirt poor Kresge boys. Since no one liked our father, a divorced drunk with a whispered reputation for touching baby girls inappropriately, few offered to help Jackie when the other boys would torment him. When they weren’t beating him half to death, they were forcing Jackie to blow them each by turn just in order to avoid another drubbing.

At that age, my response to Jackie was probably even worse. I was embarrassed by my older, cocksucking brother. The few pictures I have of us together show me looking away from the camera and away from him. My body language is that of someone who would rather be someplace else and next to someone else.

It wasn’t until Jackie tried to conduct our church choir in the nude when I finally wised up to reality. My older brother wasn’t fit to live in this world, and since the Germans gave gas chambers a bad name, I resolved to keep him at home and out of trouble.

Turns out that I’m a horrible guardian. Despite putting Jackie up in a townhouse with neighbors that I paid a pittance to keep eyes on him, he still managed to escape. Sometime six months ago, he ran off. By all accounts he wound up in Youngstown and stayed long enough to piss off the mob.

I arrived at the hotel at 2 A.M. Jackie was in room 100 just like the envelope said. He answered the door on the fourth knock.

“What are you doing here, Walt?”

Softcore pornography was playing on the TV near the foot of Jackie’s unmade bed. By the look of things, he hadn’t left the room in days.

“Came to see you, Jackie. Got a minute?”

“Sure. It’s real late, but there’s a diner I know that’s open 24 hours.”

“Don’t have that much time.”

When he heard my words stiffen, and when he noticed that my right hand hadn’t left my back pocket, he knew.

“You know, dad always said you were gun crazy. Said you love Smith & Wesson more than family. He loved you more, though. He was gun crazy too, I guess. He send you?”

“Dad’s been dead for years, Jackie. Don’t you remember?”

“Sure, I do. I haven’t forgotten who killed him either.” Jackie’s eyes narrowed.

“Then why ask me such a question?”

“Been seeing a lot of ghosts lately. Starting to think they’re real.”

I looked down at the rotten carpet because I could no longer look him in the eyes. I didn’t answer him. I just made sure the door was open behind me, pointed, and emptied. A woman down the hall screamed.


I threw the gun away somewhere dark on I-68 and resolved to never think about Jackie again. At 4 A.M., I called the fat man from somewhere in West Virginia.
“What the hell is this? I said morning.”

“He’s dead.”

“Good, but it’s four o’clock in the morning. The news could’ve waited.”

“I’m going to be on vacation for a while. Send the money to this address.”

I read him our old home address, which no longer existed. Jackie and I had burned the place down years before.

“Going anywhere nice?”

“No, nowhere nice.” 


Benjamin Welton is a freelance writer based in Burlington, Vermont. His articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Crime Magazine, The Crime Factory, and others. His short stories have appeared in Shotgun Honey, Sanitarium Magazine, The Lovecraft Ezine, and more. He has been a librarian, fast food morlock, sailor, military lawman, teacher, and software QA engineer.

Night Escape

Since becoming a dad I have learned a few things. You will do anything to keep your child safe, and there are only three reasons why a baby will cry.

Noel Osualdini stops by to remind us of those reasons.


Night Escape by Noel Osualdini





After the newspapers reported another mutilated body out on the old mill road, John decided it was no longer safe for his growing family to stay in the town where he and Laura had grown up, met, and married. Although she was almost at the end of the first trimester with their second child, they spent the afternoon packing and didn’t leave until after dark.

Just outside town, they passed an abandoned car with its bonnet up. A kilometer later, the headlights washed over a hitchhiker, a short-skirted young woman, whose wild red hair flared into a long ponytail that fell halfway down her back. The night was inky, and for all they knew the entire human population of the world might be on this short stretch of highway. John edged the car onto the road’s graveled shoulder.


“Do you think it wise to be picking up strangers?” Laura asked, but he pointed out there’d been no other cars along this road at all.


“John, she could be a hooker,” Laura warned. “All those … contacts.”


“Nobody else is going to stop for her,” he retorted, watching the stranger in the mirror as she quickened her pace to reach them.


Sitting next to their toddler’s booster chair, Laura eyed the woman suspiciously from the back seat, noting the wrinkled skin on the hand that reached for the door handle, the talon-like finger nails painted black and flecked with various colors. Despite the baby-doll face, with its caked makeup, it was obvious this was no young woman, and Laura had no doubt at all now about her profession.



“Hi, I’m Di,” said the hitchhiker.

She confirmed it was her car they’d seen farther back, but Laura doubted it; ever wary of these types, she assumed the woman was more likely to have been here trying out new ground.


“With all the murders lately,” asked Laura, “aren’t you worried about getting into strangers’ cars?”


“I know how to look after myself,” said Di, wriggling her rump in through the door, “but let me tell you: I was just so relieved when I saw you in the back with your baby. Aw, she’s so sweet. What’s her name?”


It was an obvious question, but Laura spotted John’s eyes in the mirror, watching her.


“Laura,” she said, “just like me.”
 
The eyes in the mirror frowned. He’d always warned her not to reveal too much to strangers, and now she’d given her own name. She smiled sweetly—just as much a taunt to John as it was meant to comfort Di.


A few kilometers out of the next town, the engine began to make an odd sound.
“There’s a 7-Eleven just up ahead,” said Di, “with a lonely boy working nights to pay his way through university. I met him on my way out—”


Laura had no doubt about what Di had done to ease the boy’s loneliness. To John, she said: “I brought some food for the baby, but maybe something for us?”


They didn’t quite reach the store. With a final cough, the car stalled with twenty meters to go. From the dark road, they could see a single person in the glare of light from the store. There was only one car in the park, an ancient Holden, the sort of car that might be owned by a poor student.
 

John popped the bonnet open.

“It’s okay, I can walk from here,” said Di. “It’s not that far now and I need to get a pack of cigarettes anyhow. Thanks for the lift.” She stepped onto the road.


John leaned over to the passenger’s side and eased open the glove box to retrieve a tool wrapped in a dark-stained rag. In the back seat, the baby was waking. The cooing sounds suddenly erupted into a wail of hunger as the stranger’s high heels crunched across the gravel. John, raising the bonnet, warned Di it was too dark for her to proceed on her own, even for such a short distance, and he jogged to catch up with her.


With the child now screaming in the back of the car, Laura offered a breast. For a few minutes, the baby suckled on the liquid that dribbled out, watching its mother. It pulled the breast towards itself.


“Ow!” said Laura. “Stop biting.”


“I think she’s getting old enough for more solid food,” said John, leaning in through the open window. He’d already closed the bonnet, and there were dark oily flecks on his face and hands. He picked a couple of stray reddish hairs from his shirt.


A drool of saliva and a thin trace of blood trailed from the breast as Laura withdrew it. It took a moment for the baby to realize her source of nourishment had been removed, and she continued to suck and chew quietly on air before suddenly screaming and reaching for the disappearing flesh.


John tapped the baby to attract her attention. She growled softly as he teased her playfully with a finger. She swiped at the gyrating digit, grasping it with a powerful little hand. She held the finger in her fist and guided it towards her mouth.



John watched the little mouth open, spied the tiny, sharp teeth inside. He pulled the finger away, but was surprised at her strength as she tugged it back.

“You stay with the baby,” said John, “while I go and see our friend in the store.”


“Freezer bags,” Laura reminded him. She dropped the breast, with its torn, ragged nipple and part of a rib still attached on the other side, into a bucket on the floor.


The baby was gnawing on the finger, and had already stripped a lot of the meat away, revealing bloodied bone. John, retrieving the knife he’d set on the roof of the car, went in to see the attendant while Laura cooed to the child.


The baby looked up, smiling, and spat out a black, color-flecked fingernail.

 
Noel Osualdini (pronounced Oswald-deeny) is a member of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association. Night Escape was originally published in anthology 100 Doors to Madness (USA); Noel’s other stories have appeared in anthologies Fear’s Accomplice, Unleash the Undead and Fear’s Accomplice: Halloween, as well as in online and print magazines. He lives southeast of Melbourne with his partner Joanne and their children. He never hitchhikes.

The Blonde on the Beach

Are you ready for summer? Not sure? Then take this helpful quiz, grab

yourself a roll of duct tape and some heavy plastic, and bring on the heat!

The Blonde on the Beach by JP Lundstrom



It was a time of joyous celebration.  He was sixteen years old, and it was almost summertime.  His fairly new driver’s license fit snugly into the billfold that swelled his right back pocket.  The family’s secondary, no, tertiary car, stationed in the seafront parking lot, had been his to drive whenever he wished for four months now.  The molten sunlight poured down on automobiles and people alike, and temperatures were rising.

1. The day would have been perfect, except
 a)    He needed a diversion.
 b)    There were no girls he knew on the beach.
 c)     He felt too lazy for volleyball.
 d)    All of the above.

2. He decided to work on his tan.  Girls love guys with a tan.  Last summer Kelly Brockman couldn’t keep her hands off him.
 a)    He pulled his cap over his face.
 b)    He crossed his arms behind his head.
 c)     He closed his eyes.
 d)    All of the above.

3. Lying in the sand, you can feel the vibration when someone is getting close.  Grains of sand kick up and make a swish! swish! then land with a barely discernible rattle.  He felt someone approaching, lifted his cap to see who it was.  She had beach-blonde hair, streaked by the sun.
 a)    She was tall and tan, with slender, firm legs.
 b)    She was about 28 or 29 years old.
 c)     She was not bad, for an older woman.
 d)    All of the above.

4. Her dark glasses covered her face.  She almost walked by him, but then she stopped, lifted her sunglasses and smiled at him.  She was beautiful.  She had a question.
“Can I borrow one of your cigarettes?”
 a)    He stammered when he tried to answer.
 b)    He spilled most of his cigarettes in the sand.
 c)     He felt the most primal of urges.
 d)    All of the above.

5. She sat down on the sand beside him.  They talked.  He told her he was seventeen, that he would be a senior come fall.  She told him that she had a beach house nearby.  She said her husband had left her there while he tended to business as usual in the city.  “Business as usual” meant his current girlfriend.
 a)    She traced the outline of his lips with her finger.
 b)    She said he had a beautiful mouth.
 c)     She asked him to kiss her.
 d)    All of the above.

6. She leaned into his kisses.  She kissed as if he were the most important thing in her life.
 a)    Her hands explored his body.
 b)    She pushed him back down into the sand.
 c)     She did things with her tongue he had never even thought of.
 d)    All of the above.

7. When they tired of kissing, she held his hand and they walked on the beach.  She asked him if he’d like to see her beach house.  He knew what she meant by that.
 a)    He said yes.
 b)    He tried not to act too nervous.
 c)     He tried not to act too excited.
 d)    All of the above.

8. When they got to the beach house, a lady was waiting in the kitchen.  A housekeeper.  Lou Ella, the blonde called her.  The blonde told her to come back tomorrow. The house keeper looked him over and raised an eyebrow.
 a)    He got embarrassed.
 b)    His face got hot.
 c)     He got sweaty.
 d)    All of the above.

9. The blonde led him into the bathroom.  She turned on the shower and water fell from the ceiling.  They stood in the falling water and kissed.  Then she took him into the bedroom.
 a)    They kissed some more.
 b)    They fucked.
 c)     They fucked some more.
 d)    All of the above.

10. She said they could play a game, where he was a serial rapist and she was his intended victim.  She said the rougher he treated her, the more exciting the sex would be.
 a)    He believed her.
 b)    He hit her.
 c)     He choked her.
 d)    All of the above.

11. A door slammed.  A voice called, “Honey!  I’m home!”  He heard someone sprinting up the stairs.  As the blonde’s husband appeared in the doorway,
 a)    He jumped out of the bed.
 b)    He grabbed his shorts.
 c)     He was still naked.
 d)    All of the above.

12. The blonde started laughing.  The husband laughed, too, and said, “Get lost, kid.  You’ve had your fun for the day.”  The blonde said, “Did you see his face?”
 a)    He was embarrassed.
 b)    He was scared.
 c)     He was mad.
 d)    All of the above.

13. That night he couldn’t sleep.  He went for a drive in his family’s tertiary car and wound up at the beach.  He got out and just walked.
 a)    He didn’t see anything.
 b)    He didn’t hear anything.
 c)     He didn’t know anything happened.
 d)    All of the above.

14. In the morning, a man and woman out for their usual walk on the beach spotted something.  It lay at the edge of the water, rocking back and forth with the waves.  It was the body of a woman.
 a)    She was blonde.
 b)    She had been tall, with slender, firm legs.
 c)     She was about 28 or 29 years old.
 d)    All of the above.

15. It was the blonde.  The housekeeper told the police about the young visitor she’d had.  When the police showed her some pictures from the high school yearbook, they had their man.
 a)    He was young.
 b)    He was stupid.
 c)     He was caught.
 d)    All of the above.

16. It was a speedy trial.  The prosecutor painted the picture of an innocent young housewife attacked, raped, and strangled by a sex-crazed, teenage psychopath.  The jury bought it hook, line, and sinker.
 a)    He would never be a senior.
 b)    He would never be a junior.
 c)     He would always be a jailbird.
 d)    All of the above.

17. It was too much.  He had to get out.  He woke up.
 a)    He was in class.
 b)    He’d been dreaming.
 c)     He’d slept through the final.
 d)    All of the above.

18. He sighed, glad to get that blonde out of his brain.  But he couldn’t.  She sat in front of him, grading test papers.  She asked him:
“Do you need more time?”
 a)    He said no.
He handed in a blank paper.
 b)    He got out of there, fast.
 c)     All of the above.

19. He got in his family’s tertiary car and waited for his hands to stop shaking.  Kelly Brockman waved to him as he drove out of the parking lot, but he didn’t stop.  He needed air.  He headed for the beach.
 a)    He pulled his cap over his face.
 b)    He lay back and crossed his arms behind his head.
 c)     He closed his eyes.
 d)    All of the above.

20. He felt someone approaching.  Grains of sand kicked up and made a swish! swish! landing with a barely discernible rattle.  He lifted his cap.  She had red hair, streaked by the sun.
 a)    She was tall and freckled, with slender, firm legs.
 b)    She was about 26 or 27 years old.
 c)     She was not bad, for an older woman.
 d)    All of the above.


This is the second of JP Lundstrom’s stories to appear in Out of the Gutter. She’s written many short stories and two and a half books, still unpublished. A novella, Adventures of a Young Girl, will be published soon. JP just decided to start writing stories a year ago—give it time.