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!

You Have Reached Your Destination

Technology will take you anywhere.

Even if you act like an asshole.

You Have Reached Your Destination by Kurt Newton


Where do you wanna go now, Frankie? 

"What the hell is this?" The look on Gina's face was as if Frank had invited another woman along on their ride.

"It's my new GPS. Well, not new. I got it second-hand at Sammy's Discount Electronics. Get in."

Gina slipped into the passenger seat and closed the door. "So, where are we going? Or should I ask her?"

C'mon, Frankie Wankie, let’s move! I need to feel the wind in my hair.

"Seriously? What the hell kind of GPS talks like that?" Gina said.

"I don't know, babe, must be a limited edition or something. It gets me where I want to go, that's all that matters. And if it's got a sexy voice—hey, nothing I can do about that." Frank raised his eyebrows and grinned at Gina as he pulled away from the curb.

In half a mile, hang a louie.

This elicited another eye roll from Gina, but she had other things on her mind. Last she knew, she and Frank were basically over. "So, what's this all about, Frank? I thought I made myself clear. After you stood me up last night, there's nothing more to say."

"Well, I thought I'd make it up to you. Take you to a nicer joint uptown. Maybe go out dancing afterwards."

"Look, Frank—"

In 500 feet, turn right. And don't forget to signal, big boy.

Gina threw her hands up. "Do we have to listen to this?"

"Hey, you know how bad I am with directions. I need her. Just like I need you."

Gun it, Frankie, before the light turns. Oh, yes, that's it, baby.

"Did she just call you baby?"

"You're not jealous of a voice on a GPS, are you?"

All Gina knew was this was getting a bit too weird for her liking. "I'll tell you what, Frank, just take me home. This was a mistake. We're through."

"You don't mean that."

Turn right onto 16th Street.

Frank continued to follow the GPS's directions.

Gina tried to keep the panic out of her voice. "Stop the car. If you're not going to take me home, just let me out here."

Continue onto Rockaway Parkway South. Don't stop, Frankie, don't stop.

"Frank?" Gina eyed the GPS.

Frank had seen that look before. It was usually right before Gina took action to stop whatever it was that was annoying her. But then that's why he loved her.

"Frank!"

"Okay, okay." Frank slowed and pulled to the curb. "Let me take you home."

"No." Gina got out of the car.

Frank leaned over in his seat. "When will I see you again?"

She shook her head in disbelief and shut the door without answering.

Frank watched her walk to the nearest street corner. In no time, a cab appeared, swallowed her up, and swept her away. He pulled a half-empty bottle of whiskey out from under his seat and drank until it was empty. Now what? he thought.

C'mon, Frankie, let's move. We don't need her. It's just you and me now.

He was too upset and depressed—not to mention, a little bit buzzed—to pick up on the GPS's "unusual" friendliness. He stared at the empty whiskey bottle and tossed it onto the passenger side floor mat. He turned his attention to the GPS and punched in Points of Interest. He found the nearest bar and hit Go.

In one mile, turn left onto Sabin Street.

"Now we're talking," Frank said aloud as he pulled away from the curb, anger replacing his momentary sad sap feeling. "Bitch."

What's that, Frankie?

"Women. They're all bitches. They don't know what they want, but they want everything. Nothing's ever good enough. Can't please them. No way, no how. Why do I even try?"

That's not true, Frankie. I know what I want.

"What's that?" he asked. Then he caught himself. "Christ. I'm talking to a stupid machine. If only all women were like that. Just tell them what to do and they do it.

In five hundred feet, turn left.

Frank did as instructed and at the same time failed to pick up on the irony. He was taken to a part of the city he'd never been. He could almost see the stars up in the night sky. He saw what looked like warehouses on one side of the street and nothing but open space on the other. The ocean?

"This doesn't look right," he said.

It's okay, Frankie, just drive. We'll be there in no time.

"Stupid machine." Frank laughed. The whiskey he chugged earlier swirled in his brain.

In one hundred feet, turn right. Turn right.

"Okay, okay!" Frank turned the wheel and rolled into a narrow alley between two buildings. There didn't appear to be anyone in sight, let alone a bar where he could get hammered and forget his troubles.

You have reached your destination.

Frank rolled to a stop. "Perfect," he said. The alley opened up onto a garbage-choked backlot of loading docks and refuse containers.

You have reached your destination.

"I heard you the first time, you stupid piece of shit." He pounded his fist on the GPS and knocked it off its pedestal. The GPS screen landed on the passenger seat, disconnected from its cord. However, the miniature screen still glowed. 

Goodbye, Frankie, it said before shutting down. 

From out of the shadows approached several figures. One held a crowbar, another a baseball bat.

Before Frank could put the car in reverse, the side window burst in a shower of pieces and he was pulled from the car.

"Hey, wait! This is a mistake! I'm not supposed to be here!"

Frank's calls for help were swallowed by the night as he was unceremoniously beaten and left in a lifeless heap.

As the figures stripped Frank's car of its valuables, one grabbed the GPS and slipped it into his pocket.



Kurt Newton is no stranger to FFO. His stories appeared in 2011 and can be found in the archives. Where has he been these last six years? Try divorce, remarriage, being a proud father of a demanding three-year-old, and lots and lots of moving, like seven times moving! And, while off the literary grid, he still found time to write, and only recently began revisiting old haunts, knocking on old doors, asking once again to be let in where the fire's warm and the friends forgiving. You can check out his facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/kurt.newton.56

Two Nuns Walk Into A Bar

In the Gutter, even the best of habits are nasty.

Two Nuns Walk Into A Bar by Eric Beetner

“Listen up motherfuckers!”
Roy says it, but everyone in the bar was looking at us already. Six foot tall, scruffy beards, guns out and wearing nun’s habits from a costume store. Black robes thick as curtains and a headpiece that’s damn tight.
I held my .22 in one hand and Roy was beside me with the shotgun. Everyone in the bar was silent as if we were in church, which seemed appropriate.
Roy and me, we got mostly similar ideas on how to best accomplish a successful robbery, but there are a few areas of disagreement. One – go in quiet or go in loud. I’m in the quiet school. I think you go in and don’t say a word, don’t go flashing any hardware. You step up to the bar, hand a note to hand over the cash and you’re much more likely to get out clean. Roy disagrees. He wants to go in all shock and awe about it. Wave a piece around like he’s doing with the shotgun now, even though it ain’t loaded. Start screaming about how everybody better cooperate or you’ll kill them and skullfuck them after you blast a big hole in their head.
Second – disguises. I like the idea of wearing something for people to focus on. Even something as small as a hat or a fake mustache will get people to look at that rather than your face so when the cops come in after,  everyone starts with, “The guy had a crazy set of suspenders with all kinds of buttons on them and shit like he just got off a shift at TGI Fridays.” They’re not talking about your height or your weight or the color of your eyes.
Roy likes to go in wearing whatever he put on that morning and he figures they’ll all be looking at the gun in his hand and they won’t notice him at all.
So what we have here is a compromise. Disguises for me, screaming and gun waving for him.
Roy wasn’t happy when I showed up with two nun’s habits for us to wear. We fought like an old married couple about it for an hour. But you gotta admit, the first thing people are gonna say when they talk about this later is that two nuns tried to rob a bar. That description isn’t coming back on me and Roy any time soon.
So I handed the bartender my plastic grocery bag and said, “Fill ‘er up.” People didn’t even seem to notice the gun in my hand. They kept looking at the black headpiece pinching my face.
Roy stepped over to the pool table and kept up his shouting at people to get their hands up, lay out their wallets and open their purses. The usual routine.
But Roy, man, we also differ on the slapping people around thing. He likes to pick a victim early, lay them out and let everyone know he means business.
At the pool table were two women.
“C’mon you fuckin’ bitch, empty out that purse.”
He’s pointing the shotgun and really scaring the crap out of these ladies and it really rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was the costume cutting off the blood to my face, but Roy was pissing me off.
The bartender was dutifully filling my bag when I called to Roy, “Hey. Lay off.”
“These bitches better stop acting up.”
“They’re not acting up.”
Both women were in tears. One started to crumple to the floor, sobbing. Roy hit her across the cheek with the butt of the shotgun. The other bar patrons let out a gasp.
I left my post at the bar and went to Roy.
“Knock it the fuck off.”
“The fuck is your problem?”
“No one gets hurt.”
“Says you.”
“Yeah. Says me.”
“That dress is getting to you, man. You’re acting like a little bitch.”
I shot Roy in the stomach and just for having such a dumb, shocked look on his face, I shot him again. He fell, dropping the shotgun as he went down, and landed spread over the sobbing woman.
I leaned down and pulled him off her and was about to apologize when a deep, gravelly smoker’s voice sounded behind me.
“Drop it motherfucker.”
I turned slowly to see the bartender with a pistol in his hand that he must have gotten from under the bar. They always have one stashed under the bar.
I said, “Settle down now.”
One of the men at the bar, his hands still in the air, squeaked out a high pitched, “Settle down? You just shot a nun for Christ sake!”
I gave him a look like - Was he really that shit-all stupid or had the trauma just scrambled his brain for a second. Roy had a thicker coat of whiskers than I did.
“Nobody comes into my place and pulls a gun on me.”
Damn. The owner. That’s always rougher than just some bar back working for tips. He don’t give a shit what’s in the till, but the owner sees it as a personal slight when you try to rip them off.
“Maybe it’s the outfit,” I said, “but I seem to have found myself with a change of heart. You saw what I did to my partner there.” I pointed to Roy on the floor. The sobbing woman was trying to wipe Roy’s blood off her. “I do believe I have turned over a new leaf tonight. I think I may have even found God.”
My eyes darted around the room trying to see if my words were landing with anyone.
“Bull shit,” the bartender said.
“No. It’s true. It’s like a light came on in the dark. It was really Roy’s bad influence that got me to a place like this. He must be an instrument of Satan who led me down a–”
“I ought to kill you right now.”
“No,” said the woman at the bar. “You need to call the cops.”
“I need to shoot this motherfucker dead and then call the cops and say it was self defense.”
“I’m telling you, the light has turned on for me.”
“Prove it.”
I stared at the bartender a moment, not sure how he wanted me to prove my newly turned over leaf.
“Prove that I’ve changed? What else do I have to do?” I pointed again to Roy with the barrel of my gun.
“Jesus made his sacrifice. You make yours now.”
The bartender seemed to enjoy being in control with the big ol’ gun as much as Roy did.
“I assure you, once I leave here – and you can all have your money back of course – once I leave, I will dedicate my life to God.”
“Here’s what you’re gonna do.”
The bartender leveled me with a squint-eyed stare like he was trying to do Clint Eastwood for charades.
“Jesus got nailed to the cross through both hands. You need to bleed like him.”
I didn’t like where this was going.
“Take that little pea shooter you got and put a hole in your hand.”
The heavy black robes of the nun habit were goddamn hot and sweat ran down from under the headpiece over my face. I could see this guy was serious as shit so I figured getting out with a wound in one hand was better than ending up on the floor next to Roy.
I set my hand, palm up, on the pool table.
“Like this?”
The bartender nodded.
A moment like this, best not to think too long about it. I pulled the trigger and shot a hole through my left hand.
I screeched like a cat in a lawnmower. I felt real lucky I’d only brought my .22 with me. If I’d brought the .45 my hand would be ruined for good, but with the smaller round I had a chance of it healing up, mostly.
“Now the other.”
My eyes said it all. How the fuck am I supposed to do that?
The bartender nudged a guy at the bar. “Get over there and do it, Lyle.”
Lyle didn’t look any too pleased, but he was the only one in this conversation without a gun so he moved off his stool.
My hand was a mixture of numb and on fire, pulsing between the two. It was hard to concentrate. At least the blood didn’t show on the black fabric of the habit.
Lyle showed up to do the deed and I closed my eyes and let him. I set my hand down on the pool table again. I tried not to sway on my feet as Lyle pressed the barrel into my palm, dead center.
He tried to object. “I really don’t think–”
“Do it,” the bartender said.
Lyle pulled the trigger and he dropped the gun and ran back to his stool, squealing like a schoolgirl who’d seen a spider.
I held out my two bloody palms to show the room. Blood flowed from the twin wounds and tears fell from my eyes.
“Now get the fuck out and feel lucky about it. Go pray to Jesus or don’t, I don’t give a shit, but don’t ever come back here again. I’ll know who you are for damn sure.”
That was six years ago. My hands work about eighty percent as well as they used to. The scars get a lot of funny looks. I’d like to say it’s the last time I ever robbed any place, but that’d be a lie. It sure was the last time I ever dressed like a nun, though.


Eric Beetner has been described as "the James Brown of noir - the hardest working man in crime fiction" (Crime Fiction Lover) and "The 21st Century's answer to Jim Thompson" (LitReactor). He is the author of Rumrunners, Leadfoot (Anthony Award nominee), The Devil Doesn't Want Me, When The Devil Comes To Call, Criminal Economics, and many others. He is a 2017 International Thriller Award nominee and two-time 2017 Anthony Award nominee for best paperback original and best anthology for Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns which he edited and created. His award-winning short fiction has appeared in more than two dozen anthologies. Eric also co-hosts the podcast Writer Types along with writer SW Lauden and he hosts the popular Noir at the Bar reading series in Los Angeles for six years and counting. For more information visit ericbeetner.com

Baby Ruth

If you're going to hustle a king's ransom,

make sure the crown isn't cracked.

Baby Ruth by Mark Slade


Danny sat at the table, staring a hole in Rose. He sighed and reached into the left pocket of his hoodie. He produced a plastic bag and briefly flashed it to Rose. 

She saw the baggie contained finely cut white powder she desperately needed. Rose trembled, wiping tears dampening the dark circles under her eyes.

Danny looked around the café to make sure no one was watching. He laid the baggie on the table and pushed it toward her, clutching it tight when Rose reached for it. He had a devil-may-care smile on his face.

A smile Rose did not care for.

“Are you a good babysitter?” Danny asked.

Rose hesitated to answer. “Yes,” she said, trying hard not to fidget with her hair.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“What makes you so good?” Danny said, then chuckled.

“Can I have the stuff, please?”

“Tell me,” Danny insisted.

“Just give me what I paid for,” Rose said through clenched teeth. She tried to pull the baggie from Danny’s grip.

“Give me an answer, cunt.” Danny wasn’t smiling anymore. “Or I’ll take this and give it to another junkie……for free.”

Rose trembled again. Her whole body shook at the thought of not having her medicine. Then there was the thought of the shame she’d feel if her parents knew she’d become a junkie and was no longer in college; that she no longer lived in a dorm and was using her monthly allowance to buy drugs.

“Tell me.” Danny glared at her with a horrible, scummy smile returning to his ashen face.

“Because….” Rose tried to explain. “Because……”

“Yes?” Danny raised an eyebrow.  An almost demonic, high-pitched giggle followed.

“Because….I watch over people’s children. I’m attentive and caring. I take care of other’s children…..almost as if they were mine.”

Danny laughed.

“I never let anything bad happen,” Rose added.

Danny let go of the little baggie and Rose snatched it off the table. She quickly slipped the baggie down the front of her sweat pants.

Danny watched with an almost perverted stare. “Well,” he said after a lengthy silence.  “You’re about to let something bad happen.”

“How’s that?” Rose shot back. “What do you mean by that?”

“Me and Karl.” Danny sniffed the air, sat back confidently in his chair. “We’re branching out into other areas of opportunity.”

“Which are?”

“The Rosenblums,” Danny said. He watched a waitress bend down to clear a table of plates and glasses. Her skirt rose up to reveal no panties under her black tights. Danny was pleased with the view.

“What about them?”

“Rich. Right?”

“Looks that way.”

“They have a baby girl. Ruth is her name, I believe.”

Rose sighed. “You don’t want to do this.”

“Do what?” Danny laughed. “Go on. Tell me what I shouldn’t do.”

“Take that child,” Rose whispered. “And…what…sell it?”

“Don’t be stupid, you cunt,” Danny snarled. “What kind of monster do you think I am?” He leaned in. “We’re going to ransom the baby. All right? Sell a child? That’s just plain evil.”

“How are you going to get inside—”

“We aren’t.” Danny had that evil smile on his face again.

“No,” Rose shook her head. “No way.”

“You are going to bring the child to us.”

“No.”

“We’ve been watching. Karl and me. Every Saturday night. We sit outside that big house and watch Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblum leave while you sit there and take care of Baby Ruth.”

“Look….those people are not what you think…….they are a little….unusual….. the woman isn’t well……” Rose tried to reason with Danny. Suddenly, she realized she didn’t want, nor have, to reason with him. He was a natural born psychotic, working his way up the ladder of criminal activity. She could just get up and leave anytime. She had her medicine and didn’t need to listen to him rattle off his sick scheme.

Rose stood up and kicked her chair away from her.

Danny took a burner phone from the right pocket of his hoodie. He dialed. It rang a few times before a woman answered the phone.

Rose knew her mother’s voice very well.

“Hello?” Rose’s mother said.

“I’ll just tell your parents you’re a junkie,” Danny said, pleased with himself. "Or….you help Karl and me.”

“Hello? Hello? Who’s there?” Rose mother continued.

“How did you get her number?” Rose asked.

“Hello? Hello? Look….if you don’t answer I’m hanging up! I’ve heard about you silly telemarketers.” Her mother was screaming now.

“Wasn’t hard,” Danny said. “Karl looked her up on Google.”

“I’ll help you,” Rose blurted. 

Danny hung up and placed the phone back in his pocket.

“Good,” he said. “We’ll be parked outside the Rosenblum’s house tomorrow night. We’ll wait for them to leave and you bring us Baby Ruth. That simple.”


****

Karl and Danny sat in a beat up, four- door ‘99 Mazda. The blue paint had rusted off the front end and the driver’s side. They needed a car in a hurry and found a junkie on the north side of town who not only owed them money but was one hit away from death on a crack pipe. They entered the junkie’s house while his family slept. They ate his KFC leftovers and drank his Red stripe. He didn’t even know his car and keys were missing.

They watched the Rosenblums leave their house. Mr. Rosenblum led his frail, feeble-minded wife to their BMW and they sped off, haphazardly swerving to miss another car.

“Holy shit,” Karl said, shaking his head.

Danny laughed. “He’s been giving it to her in the ass too much. That’s her problem.”

A few minutes later, Rose came trotting from the house with the baby wrapped in a pink blanket.

Danny rolled the passenger-side window down and took Baby Ruth.

Rose stepped back from the curb and away from the car with a strange look on her face.

There was no baby wrapped in the pink blanket. Rather, a plastic baby doll with no eyes, no mouth, and no hair.

“What the fuck?” Danny yelled.

A car sped toward them.

It was the BMW, with just Mr. Rosenblum inside. He pulled up beside them, rolled his window down, and pulled a Glock. He fired twice and sped off, leaving Karl with no face and Danny with a hole in his neck, fighting for air.


Mark Slade has appeared in Dark Dreams, Schlock! Weirdbook #32, Detectives of the Fantastic, Stray Branch, and other publications. Recently, a story was read on Manor House podcast. He writes audio plays for 4077th productions and created the audio series The Sundowners and The Hangman's Dozen.

Here is the link for Manor House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpYII9bGbGg

His audio play "Olivia" will soon appear there. He has had stories read and forthcoming on Oddcast, That Horrible Woman, and Wicked Library. His website is: http://bloodydreadful.blogspot.com/. He lives in Williamsburg, Va with his wife, daughter, and a Pomeranian that uses mind control on humans.

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 

A short, sharp interview with hot new BRIT GRIT
author JACK STRANGE

PDB: What’s going on?

Right now I’m heavily into promoting my latest book – a noir crime thriller called Manchester Vice.

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?


No, I prefer silence and the view out the window. Plus the occasional low groan from the victims I keep chained up in my cellar. 

PDB: What makes you laugh?

The scrapes I get myself into – but only when I’ve gotten out of them. Like my near head-on collision with a truck in Spain a month ago. Brought me out in a sweat while it was happening, but afterwards I laughed a lot, and so did the Mrs.

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?

Getting another hangover.

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Where I live right now –  Huddersfield. I love my hometown and the close friends I have here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I guess I’m just a homeboy at heart.

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

No bucket list: I just aim to do good things right away rather than putting them off until some imagined better time comes along. Me and my wife have an agreement: whatever we want to do, we do it now – because we might not be around tomorrow.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

A large glass of red wine and a toast to future sales of my new book Manchester Vice. I do hope you’ll join me!


PDB: Anything else?

Well, now you come to mention it, there is something: I’m giving away a book free on Kobo. It’s called Dirty Noir and it’s packed with the sort of good stuff that crime fans love. You can get it here:  https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/dirty-noir


Bio: The mysterious Jack Strange hails from the town of Huddersfield, in West Yorkshire , England. He’s a man with a checkered past, having worked in a morgue, been a labourer, and a salesman. He’s dug holes… professionally (to what end, he refuses to say – sales? corpses? possibly both?),  even more terrifying – he’s a former Lawyer. He enjoys parties and keeps himself fit (the kind of fit that makes you think he may engage in fisticuffs with Vinnie Jones on a semi-regular basis, or possibly drink stout with both hands while also throwing  a perfect game of darts.) He is allegedly married with two adult daughters. They have yet to be located for comment. 

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.

Yellow Jackets

Protection means different things to different people. So does love. In the Gutter, it often comes down to the same thing. If you call that coming down.

Yellow Jackets by Geoffrey Philp

When the policeman opened the cell door, Georgie was relieved from the burden of his daughter’s memory. Her face had been so badly disfigured by the beating from her boyfriend that Georgie couldn’t bear to have an open casket funeral. Besides the rage at his powerlessness, Georgie didn’t want to remember her like that.
“Your lives are over! My lawyer will fix this.”
Georgie recognized Norman’s voice. Georgie had been Norman’s gardener at his home in Mandeville until Norman fired him for being “fresh” with Melissa, his stepdaughter, who, after her mother ran away to Miami, had changed into a sullen teenager.
Norman hadn’t even given Georgie a chance to explain why he had been hugging Melissa. Georgie tried to tell Norman that he had been protecting her from wasps when she tried to pick a mango from their neighbor’s tree. Georgie’s back was still pockmarked from their stings.
“But sir, I would never do anything to hurt Melissa. Before her mother left, I promise I would protect her.”
“Protect her? Take your ass out of my yard before I call the police.”
But now, Norman was in the lockup with Georgie, who had been arrested for weed just before he had found his daughter’s boyfriend.
“Cool down, boss. You’re here because you hit the sergeant. We aren’t arresting you because your daughter claims you’ve been raping her for years and now before her wedding ceremony,” said the policeman and walked away.
“Stepdaughter!”
Georgie rolled over on his side and looked over at Norman.
“Mr. Alexander?”
“Who are you?”
“I use to cut your grass.”
“You know how many people used to cut my grass? Why should I remember you?”

“When I am done with you, you going hope you can remember anything.”

Born in Jamaica, Geoffrey Philp is the author of the novel, Garvey’s Ghost. His work has been published in the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories and the Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. A graduate of the University of Miami, Geoffrey teaches English and creative writing at Miami Dade College.