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What I Wish I'd Known Before I Killed My Brother

In The Gutter, there are plenty of reasons to kill a man. Reasons not to kill him may find you a little too late.

What I Wish I'd Known Before I Killed My Brother by Sophie Marie



 1.       I wish my incarcerated father had shared his experience. He punched a man who knocked his head and his life bled out. The cops were on the scene before my dad could process what happened and had him cuffed before his mouth had closed from shock. I wish he’d told me how it felt as he watched the man’s life leave his eyes. If he had told me the high you got from it, I would have killed my brother sooner.

2.      I wish I had read a ‘How to’ guide on disposing of a dead body. It took me five days to shift it and by that time, his body had expelled all of its fluids. You can imagine the smell. This was my first killing and I hadn’t perfected my technique. Blood spattered my wall from the hacksaw as it snapped against my brother’s femur. It took six blades to get him all chopped up. I wish someone had told me how tough the human body can be.

3.      In the ‘How to’ guide, I wish it would cover some tips on how not to get caught. I’m not completely stupid; I know I needed to wear gloves. What I didn’t anticipate was the sweat dripping off my forehead onto my brother’s dead face. Cutting up a body is hard work.

4.      I wish I had known not to take my mobile phone with me. The police always start with the victim’s close friends and family. When they checked our mobiles, the phone mast pinned me to where they found his body.

5.      I wish I’d known not to clean blood with bleach. When the cops came around with a warrant, they shined a UV light. There was blood smeared all over the walls. The bleach seemed to have multiplied the amount of blood by thousands. Add that to my mobile location and it’s game over for me.

6.      What I really wish – desperately – was that they found the cancer sooner. I suppose that was my fault, I kept putting off the dreaded visit to the doctor. And I’ll always hate myself that the time I wasted in going to the doctors caused me to have little time to waste before I die. I wish they’d caught the leukemia before I pierced my brother’s heart with a box-cutter knife. I wish I’d known he was a match – the only match – that could donate bone marrow to me. 



Sophie Marie is a mature student of Creative Writing. This is her first published story.

Lucky Dragon

Tattoos can be regretful decisions.

Luckily, in The Gutter, there's always someone willing to remove them.

Lucky Dragon by Ray Zacek


Bastards could not touch him. Bobby Haskell had a lucky tattoo. A fiery dragon rippled over his upper arm, vivid in pink, crimson, orange, and turquoise. It had been painfully, but the tattooist assured luck would always follow him. And it did.

Bobby suppressed a grin leaving federal bankruptcy court in Tampa. That was over, finally, and Bobby had won. The elevator descended to the lobby. He strolled past security guards and metal detectors, pausing on the steps outside to bask in the Florida sun.

Twenty months earlier, he’d filed Chapter 7, representing himself, lacking funds to retain counsel. Divested of assets and unemployed, Bobby owned absolutely nothing for the court-appointed trustee to liquidate. Creditors objected: “Mr. Haskell has concealed assets.” Blah, blah, blah. They deposed him, hammered him, investigated, and found zilch. 

Bobby secretly gloated: Go pound sand, bitches

The trustee called it quits. The judge concurred, overruling creditors, granting discharge and erasing a dog pile of debt including old income taxes. Stiffing the IRS was the icing on the cake.

His Ford Fiesta sat parked on Cass Street by the Hub Bar. Celebratory drinks beckoned. Bobby demurred: you just got off scot-free, don’t risk DUI. Bobby slid into the driver’s seat as a white panel van pulled alongside. 

The van’s panel door slid open. The blonde amazon who tasered him dragged Bobby inside and the van accelerated.

***

He awakened to the blonde slapping him. “Wake the fuck up!”

Groggy, head throbbing, grimy, and sweaty, Haskell found himself stripped to his jockey briefs and tied to a chair on a bare concrete floor. A rack of high intensity lights blinded him. He smelled motor oil. 

His assailant walked away. She wore a black leather corset and yoga pants. 

A skinny, scraggly-bearded rodent in gray coveralls pulled up a folding chair. “Howdy.”

“The fuck?!” Bobby said. He didn’t recognize this man. “Who hired you and how can we can work this out?”

“Nobody hired me. I’m self-employed. You owe me.”

“For what?”

“I sold you cocaine.”

“Lot of people did.”

“My squeeze, Mara. She was delivery,” the man said, motioning toward the woman glaring at both of them. “Don’t tell me you don’t remember her.”

Yes. Bobby did remember her then. The buzz-cut white blonde hair, hooked nose, dark eyes, and olive skin. 

Months ago, she hadn’t been as sullen and, after snorting coke, Bobby fucked her. From behind. He didn’t want to gaze on that face. She had said the sex was part of the service. But now, apparently, she held a grudge over it.

“You must be … Don?” Bobby said.

“Fucking A I’m Don. The one, the only. I’m owed, I calculate, with penalty, two grand and a half.”

“That’s not that much.”

“Like they say: principle of the thing.”

“I’ll level with you, Don. I’m broke. Tapped out to the max. I just got out of bankruptcy. When you and Mara grabbed me. Your timing is not good.”

Mara snorted and pulled out a small tan semi-automatic, brandished it, and pulled back the action to chamber a round. “He’s fuck’n lying!”

“No! I swear! Believe me, Don! You saw the piece of shit I’m driving. I lost the Tesla I used to have, lost the house in south Tampa. Lost everything!”

Mara strode forward and leveled the business end of the pistol at Bobby’s face. “Open your mouth.”

“No, don’t do this, Don! I get back on my feet, give you my word, I’ll pay you.”

Don held up a hand. “Wait,” he said. Mara scowled but lowered the weapon and replaced it under the waistband of the yoga pants at the small of her back.

Now I can manage the situation, Bobby thought, sweating copiously. My luck is going to hold. Yeah, always does. Always. He would talk to Don and, both of them being reasonable businessmen, they’d work this out.

“Give me two weeks. Just two weeks,” Bobby said.  “I’ll pay you. Starting a new job. Sales. And that, you know, is my forte. I can wrangle an advance.”

“Nope,” said Don. “And I’ll tell you why not. Because I’m a Scythian.”

Bobby looked at him, stupefied. “What the hell’s a Scythian?”

“Ancient warriors of Asia. Like Klingons. In a past life, I was a Scythian shaman. This was given to me to know.”

“In your dreams,” Mara sneered.

“Silence, bitch,” Don roared. “Think about which tit you want in the wringer.” He turned back to Bobby with a serene look. “I was granted a revelation. So I live this life Scythian-style. According to an unsparing code.”

“That’s cool, Don. That is absolutely cool beyond cool, Don,” Bobby said. “But listen to me. I. Can. Pay. You.  Given time. A smidge of time is all.”

Don’s attention was suddenly diverted, like a child’s. He pointed at the dragon tattoo. “I like the tat. Where’d you get it?”

“Uh, Thailand. Pattaya Beach. I was in the Navy.” 

“I’ll take it,” Don said.  

“What?”

“I’ll take the tat instead of the money and call it even. Not a pound, just a few ounces of flesh.” Don nodded sagely. “I think that’s fair. Mara, bring me the blade.”

“You’re not serious?” Bobby blurted out.

Don nodded. “Fuck yeah, I’m serious.”

“No! I’ll pay you!”

“I covet skin, Bob. Mara! Like, today with the blade!”

“I mean pay you immediately. Wire transfer. Money’s offshore. In the Caymans.”

Don stuffed a rag inside Bobby’s mouth. Mara sauntered over and handed Don a gleaming surgical-steel scalpel. She wrapped electrical tape around Bobby’s mouth and pressed him in a headlock.

“Take the money instead,” Mara said to Don.

“Scythians take trophies.” Don balanced the scalpel in his hand.

 “We need money, numb nuts,” Mara said.  

“Money’s nothing. Justice meted out. That’s important,” Don said.   

Bobby Haskell howled as Don, in ecstasy, pressed the cold edge of the blade to his taut, quivering skin.


 
Ray Zacek is a retired fed living in Tampa, Florida. Born in Chicago, he's sojourned in beaucoup places including Seattle, Santa Fe and Austin. His fiction has appeared in All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, and Creative Loafing Tampa, among others. The acting bug compelled him into several theater productions, fave role being Dave Moss in Glengarry Glen Ross. He's working on a novel about a witches' coven that takes over an HOA. His work is available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Ray-Zacek/e/B00D4C2H3E

Heart Beats

People sometimes take care of family because they're family.

And sometimes, vengeance is just an excuse for doing what you like best.

Heart Beats by Chase Whale

My knife has a lot of secrets, and I’m going to tell you one.

First I need to tell you about my Grandaddy. He served in Vietnam when he was only 18-years-old — was sent home shortly after it begun. During a fight, he caught a grenade from a Viet Cong and threw it away from his comrades. His reflex wasn’t swift enough — it blew up a few feet in front of him, taking his pinky, index, and pointer finger, and the shrapnel did a number on his face real good. Imagine that; he forever had to give the finger to the world. The war made it so.

When he got back, he made good on his promise and married my Memaw, Laverne. They sure did build a life together, those two. This very house we are in, my Grandpa created with seven fingers and six of his comrades. It took them a little under a year of non-stop work. Rain, snow, heat — my Grandpa was building his palace regardless.

He finished in 1971. They lived here happy, content, and blissfully in love, until three months ago, December 10, 2016, when you killed them.

You were good at murder. I bet you thought you’d never get caught, especially by the grandson, who also kills for sport, just like you. You must have had it well-planned out. No scent of you found, and the cops are still scratching their heads. But you and I are the same, and someone who kills for sport will always be in the crowd when the police, media, and the neighborhood show up, just for the thrill. To be there, hiding in plain sight. Hello, motherfuckers, it’s me, the one who killed the people you suckers are hoping to get a peek at. 

Hubris is our biggest flaw.

It was fun fucking with you in the beginning — showing up at your apartment while you were sound asleep, blindfolding you then slicing your tendons with this blade. You were clueless and so angry at the person responsible for dismembering your vessel. My favorite was choking you with a rope from behind your car until you passed out. How many times did I do that? Three?

You are a sluggish prey. It got boring. And here we are. I’m ready to end our relationship now.

As I push the knife—hush now, nobody can hear you scream with that used sock duck taped inside your mouth; you know how this works—as I push the knife into your heart, I want you to think of my Grandaddy and Memaw and the life you could have had but threw away. You ready?

It’s OK; you’ll bleed out and die, and I’ll be on my way. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll make it look like the guilt chewed and chewed at your heart for murdering two innocent elderlies. You snuck back in and stabbed yourself in the heart right where you murdered them. Cops will think it was one of those weird sacrifice rituals or just plain remorse. Doesn’t matter — you and I will know how you died: painfully, while someone watched. Me. That gives me chills just thinking about it. 

Good-bye, my dude. It’s been fun. 

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

The Caretaker of Lorne Field, by David Zeltserman

Dave Zeltserman’s awesome novel, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, defies the ability to be put into a standard genre and in many ways, defies the ability to be reviewed in a manner that does it justice. This novel has elements of horror, yet it isn’t standard horror. It is suspenseful, tension-filled, and may or may not contain monsters, but in my mind, it doesn’t fit into the horror genre. I can categorize it as a masterpiece, so that may have to suffice as the only label I can put on it.

This book is so hard to review because it is like an onion; it has many layers that you must peel through to get to its heart and to do that in a review is to spoil the manner in which Zeltserman ratchets up the suspense and seems to finally answer the big questions you have, only to suck you back in and have you wondering what is the truth behind the story. Each layer is peeled back slowly for maximum suspense and reader pleasure.

The jist of the story is Jack Durkin has a job in which he would rather not have; he saves the world from being destroyed every day. He does this by weeding Lorne Field from sunrise to sunset. Jack’s family has been doing this thankless chore for nine generations and Native Americans had the task before his family took it upon their shoulders. How does picking weeds save us you ask? Well, the weeds are actually Aukowies, which if left to grow undisturbed, would grow large enough to eviscerate all mankind with their sharp claws.

The beauty of the novel is Zeltserman weaves in the present day. Who would believe this story as real? Well not Jack’s wife, not his oldest son (who will be forced to become the caretaker when he is old enough), and not the town folk who pay Jack an annual salary for his task, not because they want to, but because of an old contract that Jack’s family has in their possession.

With each chapter, the reader will question if jack is delusional, or is this story on the up-and-up. Once you think you have it figured out, WHAM a new chapter flips you on your ass and you're back to square one in determining what the hell is going on. Zeltserman shows he is a craftsman who understands how to build a story and knows what to give a reader and what to hold back. He is a master at work and he will leave you rushing out to get some of his other works.

Dave Zeltserman is one of the best writers around and while this isn’t the typical noir I review, this is a book that should be studied by other writers and devoured by readers. I loved this book.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski. 

Good Little Hero

For some, a good night's rest doesn't come easy.

In The Gutter, a couple of bullets might help.

Good Little Hero by Kurt Reichenbaugh




His name was Bowzer. One of those mutt hounds that doesn’t actually bark but howls.

To Conrad, it was a bore that drilled through his walls and into his bedroom each night. A phone that wouldn’t stop ringing. A toothache that wouldn’t stop throbbing. 

Woowoowoo…Woowoowoo…Wooo.

Conrad did the neighborly thing. He approached the Greenfields directly. The Greenfields were a retired couple who collected UPS deliveries and let their overgrown yard smell like sun-baked dog shit. Conrad informed them that Bowzer barked at night, keeping him awake. Could they maybe bring him inside after dark?

“We can’t hear him bark,” Mrs. Greenfield told him. Bowzer sat at her feet and barked at Conrad though the screened door.

“Well, all I can tell you is your dog barks and it’s a nuisance for anyone trying to sleep.”

“No one else has said anything.” 

Mr. Greenfield hobbled to the door to stand next to his wife.

“I’m saying it now," Conrad said. "Can you do something about it?”

“Dogs bark!” Mrs. Greenfield said and then shut the door in his face.

That night, Bowzer continued baying.

Conrad thought about poisoned meatballs, but those were too slow. He pulled the 9mm handgun from the top shelf of his closet. The Greenfields—two deaf, old bats—wouldn’t even hear the shot. One dog plus one bullet equaled silence.

He waited until one in the morning before crossing the alley to the Greenfield’s back fence. He approached the chain-linked fence, gun in hand, and tried coaxing the dog to approach him. 

Instead, it sat somewhere in the shadows of the Greenfield’s overgrown back yard. Wooo…wooo…wooo…

“Over here you fucking mutt!” he said. Bowzer wasn’t that far away. If he could only see him, Conrad could peg him.

Woowoowoo…Woowoowoo…Wooo…

Conrad jumped the fence. He pointed the gun at the shadows on the back porch, toward the sound of the baying.

Woowoowoo…Woowoowoo…Wooo…

He fired at the sound. The shot was loud. His nerves jangled as the barking increased in intensity. The back porch light snapped on, blinding Conrad in yellow light.

Bowzer charged and clamped his teeth around Conrad’s left ankle. 

Conrad aimed to kick but slipped on a coil of dog shit.

Mr. Greenfield shouted at him from the back door.

Conrad misfired as he fell. The bullet went through Greenfield’s throat, hitting the brick wall behind him.

Mrs. Greenfield screamed inside the house while her husband flopped on the ground, flannel pajama-clad legs drumming the grass.

Conrad kicked at Bowzer and fired another round, shattering the back glass-door.

Screams continued from within the house.

Conrad crawled through the grass with teeth locked on his ankle, dragging Bowzer behind him. He felt the cool slick of dog shit on his elbows and knees.

“Help! Murder!” Mrs. Greenfield screamed from the house.

Conrad scrambled toward the back fence, firing a fourth time at Bowzer, and missing. It was like the fucking dog was somehow charmed. He hit the fence and managed to jump over, falling into the alley, feeling the hot stream of blood filling his shoe, the remnants of pain from Bowzer’s teeth tearing into the soft flesh of his ankle. Several porch lights lit up, lighting his way back home.

Conrad was unable to sleep at all that night, looking through his bedroom window at the police lights and news vans in front of the Greenfields’s house. A police chopper was sent up, casting a spotlight from the sky throughout the neighborhood. Someone knocked at his door, but he didn’t answer it. The knocking persisted for what seemed like hours. Not even the rest of his cheap bottle of gin would silence it. 

The next evening, Channel Ten had the report on TV. The suspects were described by Mrs. Greenfield as two Hispanic males in gray hoodies.

The county sheriff won his bid for re-election by promising to rid the state of the “illegals” that invaded his county. He promised to go after them all with every fiber in his being.

Thereafter, Bowzer was known throughout the neighborhood as the best little watchdog.



Kurt Reichenbaugh is the author or the novels SIRENS and LAST DANCE IN PHOENIX, published by PMMP. He’s also had stories appear in Phoenix Noir (the Noir series by Akashic Books), Hungur Magazine, Sounds of the Night, and the upcoming collection Stories from the Quill. He grew up in Florida and he currently lives in Phoenix, where he does time as an Accountant analyzing spreadsheets for a utility company.

It's All On You

Even in The Gutter, sometimes a guy needs a favor.

It's important to be careful who you ask.

It's All On You by Shane Simmons



What did you do?
No, don’t answer that. It’s pretty obvious what you did. And I’m sure you had your reasons. Jealousy, spite, temporary insanity, whatever. It’s not important, and I don’t really care.
What’s important is all this mess and how to deal with it. That’s why you called me. That and for moral support, maybe. But we both know people who are better at the touchy-feely stuff. Me, I just get dirty jobs done.
You know what you’re asking me, right? You’re asking me to be an accessory after the fact. That’s a twenty-year stretch in a cell right next to yours if we’re caught. It’s okay, I don’t mind you asking. That’s what friends are for. But if I’m going to do this thing for you, I need to know you’re not going to go soft on me. No offense, but you’re kinda soft. You can’t be soft now. Not now, not ever. You can’t start feeling guilty and call the cops to confess your sins. You can’t go and confide in your pals, your buddies, or whoever lands in bed next to you. You’ll feel better for a little while, like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders, but it won’t last. Twenty years in the can will pile that weight right back on, and you’ll spend it all wondering why you ever said anything to anyone after I got you off scot-free.
That’s right. I’m going to get you off scot-free, so long as you do what you’re told and keep your mouth shut.

You probably weren’t thinking straight at the time, but nice work. If you’re going to murder someone, doing it near a bathroom is a good idea. Help me drag the body in there and get it in the tub.
You might not want to watch this next part. Hand me the razor. I’m going to open up the neck, ear to ear like so. Now let it drain. Once the blood is out, the body will be much lighter to move, and a lot less likely to splash DNA evidence all over the place.
Don’t puke. Do not puke.
Take a breather and start mopping. The bloody soap and water can go down the drain next.
Don’t try to put this on me. I know what I said to you. I remember the quote exactly. I told you that if anyone ever talked to me like that, I’d shut them up permanently. That wasn’t advice. That was just me saying what I’d do if I were in your shoes. But you’re not me. Do you think I’d ever be this sloppy? No, I’d plan my every move carefully. I wouldn’t leave a trace. I certainly wouldn’t have to call anyone to help clean up my mess.
Nice job with the floor. It’s spotless, perfect. You’d never know what happened. So you’re done, right? Think again. Look up. See those speckles on the ceiling? You didn’t notice those, did you? That’s more blood. Spatter from when you caved your pal’s skull in. It happens when you keep bashing away. What was it, four, five times? You must have been so angry. Get a step ladder and scrub that down too. I don’t care if you ruin the paint. You can slap another coat on once you’re sure there’s nothing to see and nothing to scrape into an evidence bag.
The body goes with me, along with the murder weapon. It’s your own fault for using that pretty sandstone sculpture to do the deed. Expensive was it? Well it’s landfill now. Everything gets wrapped up tight in the shower curtain with duct tape so there are no leaks. Wash out the tub thoroughly, pour some bleach down the drain. And get a new shower curtain. If anybody comes by, they’ll wonder what happened to it.
That’s right. You’re staying here. Receiving guests, acting normal, being the neighbourly sort as always. And shrugging your shoulders like an ignorant idiot whenever someone asks after whatshisface. You don’t know where he is. And that’ll be the truth because I’ll never tell you.
What, you think you can’t live under the same roof with what you’ve done? Tough. Suck it up. You move away right after a disappearance like this, people will have questions. They’ll come looking. And they won’t need a warrant if you’re selling the house. All they’ll need is a real estate agent, and they’re a dime a dozen.
Just remember, we’re in this together now. Don’t say anything, don’t think of saying anything. Because you know what’ll have to happen if I suspect you’re getting loose with your lips, going soft, getting blabby.
You disappear next.

An award-winning screenwriter and comic-book artist, Shane Simmons is also the author of the darkly humorous crime novels, Filmography and Sex Tape. His work has appeared in international film festivals, museums and lectures about design and structure. Shane lives in Montreal with his wife and too many cats. Visit him at eyestrainproductions.com, or follow him on his Amazon author page, Facebook and Twitter @Shane_Eyestrain.

Cuffs

Revenge is a dish best served cold. 

In The Gutter, it pays the bills.

Cuffs by Paul Heatley




Sometimes, the correction officers forget to double-lock the cuffs.

If you behave yourself, keep your head down, and you’re no kind of threat to them, the cuffs are for little more than show while you’re being transported.

The links are easily popped. A comb will do the trick. A comb can be useful for a lot of things. Keep one end intact, use the wide teeth to get the cuffs open, and sharpen the other end to a point. Keep it on yourself at all times. Keep it fucking hidden.

They send me down for breaking and entering, for assault. It’s against my ex-wife, but I didn’t beat her as bad as we made it look. She knew about it. That’s why the kid, our kid, wasn’t home, but at her grandmother’s. The black eye, the split lip, and busted eyebrow were all for show. The screaming was so the neighbours would call the cops, which they did.

My ex pressed charges. I knew she would. I told her to. That was what we worked out.

See, now the family's cared for. The rest of their lives, money is no longer an issue.

The rest of my life, I’m gonna be behind bars. I’ve made my peace with that.

Big John was head of the Brotherhood. His son runs it now since Big John got locked up for conspiracy to kill an undercover cop.

Thing is, that cop has a brother. His brother’s a C.O. That C.O. has an issue with Big John.

The CO would shove and trip Big John, even threw him down some stairs once and busted up his ribs. Big John weathered it at first, but after a while he got sick of the shit. They came to blows. The rest of the officers came rushing in with riot gear, beating Big John within an inch of his life. He spent two months in a hospital cot.

Big John has toed the line since. He’s kept his head down, been all “Yes, sir. No, sir.” But he’s been waiting. He sent word to his son that the C.O. motherfucker had to go. No blowback.

No blowback on anyone but me.

Now it’s my turn to wait and bide my time.

They take me out of my cell. To the gym, to the yard, and the showers. I affiliate with no one. I behave. “Yes, sir. No, sir.” I’m polite. My eyes rarely leave the floor. I’m no threat to them. When they flip my cell, they don’t find a thing.

I’m not a threat, so my cuffs aren’t double-locked.

It’s almost time.

A comb. That’s all it takes. On one end, I snap off the teeth and sharpen it to a point. On the other end, I keep the teeth.  

My mom comes to visit. She knows why she’s here. She knows what’s going to happen.

Big John’s C.O. takes me to the visiting room.

“How’re you doing?” Mom says. I can see in her eyes she knows what’s coming. She’s not going to see me again for a long time. Her jaw is clenched and her chin is raised. She’s trying to stay strong.

I tell her I’m fine.

“Are you ready?” she asks.

I tell her I am. I’ve had a long time to get ready. Then I ask her if the Brotherhood is keeping up their end.

“Yeah,” she says. She clears her throat, fighting back tears. “They are.”

I nod and take a deep breath. It’s time.

On the way back, Big John’s C.O. single-clicks my cuffs. The comb is tucked in my waist. We’re up on the gangway, almost back to my cell, when I pull out the comb and pop the link. I spin and stick the comb in his neck.

The first shot takes him by surprise. He falls back against the railing, hands to his throat. Blood sprays down on the inmates below.

In the cells around us, men yell, scream, grab their bars, and jump up and down like they’re trying to tear loose and start a riot. Toilet paper flies.

I stick him in the stomach until he drops his hands from his throat, then go back to his neck. He has to die.

If he doesn’t die, the Brotherhood won’t take care of my ex or my kid. 

I stick his neck until I’m covered in his blood and his eyes roll back in his head.

Even though he’s dead, I keep sticking in the sharpened comb until the other officers arrive in their riot gear and beat me down with their clubs. 

When I’m down, they stomp me and break my bones. I probably won’t walk again without a limp. I don’t feel it because the C.O. is dead. It’s done. I curl up, close my eyes, and wait for it to be over.

Big John will keep his word. If he doesn’t, I’ll stick him in the fucking neck, too.



Paul Heatley has appeared online and in print for a variety of publications including Thuglit, Crime Syndicate, Horror Sleaze Trash, Shotgun Honey, and Spelk. He is the author of An Eye For An Eye, published by Near To The Knuckle, and has a novella due with All Due Respect in May. He lives in the north east of England.

Brit Grit Alley

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

By Paul D. Brazill 

Some recent crime fiction publications for your delectation:

The Blurb:The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners. With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene. Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer, was born Colin Sawyer. Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal...


The Watcher by Netta Newbound
The Blurb: Life couldn’t get much better for Hannah. She accepts her dream job in Manchester, and easily makes friends with her new neighbours. When she becomes romantically involved with her
boss, she can’t believe her luck. But things are about to take a grisly turn. As her colleagues and neighbours are killed off one by one, Hannah’s idyllic life starts to fall apart. But when her mother becomes the next victim, the connection to Hannah is all too real.

Who is watching her every move?
Will the police discover the real killer in time?
Hannah is about to learn that appearances can be deceptive.

No Safe Home by Tara Lyons
The Blurb: Detective Inspector Denis Hamilton is haunted when the suspicious death of a teenage girl triggers suppressed memories. With a stalker targeting vulnerable women in Central London, and his team rapidly diminishing, Hamilton must conquer his emotions before another family is destroyed.

In a sleepy town in Hertfordshire, Katy has worked hard to rebuild her life after leaving behind everything she knew. But when her past catches up with her, and her young son’s life is threatened, Katy must admit her true identity if she has any hope of surviving. A home should be a safe place, shouldn’t it? But sometimes it is hard to know who you can trust…
London’s murder investigations team returns in the second novel from the bestselling author of In the Shadows.

Prime Justice by M A Comley
The Blurb: A killer, an abductor, and a villain intent on revenge - just a normal week in the life of DI
Lorne Warner. When a wealthy woman is found murdered in a country lane, close to her home, it's up to Lorne to find the evidence to track down the rural killer. When another resident in the same vicinity is abducted, the evidence points Lorne to believe both cases are connected. However, Lorne's focus on the puzzling case is in jeopardy, when a criminal awaiting trial threatens her career in the force. Can Lorne restore the tranquillity in the once sleepy community? And will she still be a serving police officer in the Met by the end of the investigation?

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb
The Blurb: Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida
bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal. Breathtakingly fast-paced, both hard-boiled and heart-breaking, Deep Down Dead is a simply stunning debut from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.


And, of course, there’s also

Too Many Crooks by Paul D. Brazill
The Blurb: Too Many Crooks is a blackly comic Brit Grit romp from the author of Guns Of Brixton and Kill Me Quick! When high-class fence Leslie Hawkins meets Peter Rhatigan in a sleazy London pub, he offers her the chance to get her hands on the Totenkopfring, a legendary piece of World War Two memorabilia. However, after a violent encounter with a member of a biker gang, things soon spiral wildly and dangerously out of control. Meanwhile in Poland, Dr Anna Nowak finds an amnesiac Englishman half-dead in the snow... Too Many Crooks by Paul D. Brazill is a fast-moving and action-packed cocktail of bodies, bullets and death-black comedy.

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


Paul D. Brazill's books include Too Many Crooks, A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, 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.

Death Watch

You do something you shouldn't and you get caught, sometimes there's mercy for you.

Sometimes there's just death. And time, and you wait.

Death Watch by Steve Prusky



The dead man gazed through the narrow wire mesh glass opening in his cell pondering a life he would never live. Well past the triple rows of concertina wire, and the steep twenty-foot high earthen berm surrounding Ely State Prison, dim sunset flooded the snowcapped Nevada White Pine Mountains a darker desert fawn. Night crept up their rock-strewn slopes. The highest peaks turned shades of storm cloud gray, then darkness soon swallowed those too denying him one last glimpse of faint light.  
“Sliver of a Moon tonight, overcast too, not much to see past dusk,” the death watch said.
“Total darkness; a fitting end,” the dead man said. Stricken by a thousand-yard stare he gazed at the blinding formless night beyond the thick glass. The mountains slept as peaceful as the dead veiled in a burial shroud of gloom.
The death watch rose from his prison issue chair, turned his back to the dead man, and cast an eye upon the clock above his perch. He bent his upper torso forward so that it was parallel with the floor, clenched his hands behind his lower back and raised his arms as high as they could go. “Gotta limber up come times like these, takes my mind off what I gotta do.”
“I’ll try that some day when stress becomes too much to handle.”
Never seen a dead man so tranquil, so passive as you,” the death watch said.
“Kismet, I don’t fear it now.”
“Not sure I’d face my fate as serene as you.”
The flat black hands on the wall mount clock opposite the dead man’s cell circled toward his last hour. One minute stole the next, shortening a moment of his life a second at a time.
“I take solace knowing when it'll happen. The uncertainty of the moment is still a mystery to everyone that side of the bars,” the dead man said.
“Skimmed through your court files this morning,” the death watch said. 
“A litany I bet; lengthy as a Tolstoy novel.”
“More like a collection of Elmore Leonard’s best crime stories. Armed robbery, possession with intent, grand larceny, trafficking,” the death watch said. “Thirty out of your fifty-five years on this earth in prison. Now this?”
“Didn’t figure the jury to hand me the noose, I counted on life without like everyone else.”
“Locked down alone fifteen years between appeals you must have brooded on this day. Did the jury’s reasoning for so harsh a sentence ever occur to you?”
“Hadn’t considered it.”
“You’re not here for murdering a smack back whore, the jury condemned you for squandering your only chance at life.”
The death watch stood up, looked up at the time and broke out a ring strung with jangling jail keys. He unlocked the dead man’s cell door with a rattling brassy knell. The dead man peered through the slit glass opening beyond the slumbering mountains into the void of infinite moonless night.
Steve is a native Detroiter turned toughened Las Vegas citizen of the streets these past thirty years. His work has appeared here before as well as The Legendary, A Twist of Noir and others. Find Steve on Facebook.