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Baby Idiots

These days it is not always easy to be a man. What, with all the mixed signals you get.

Of course in the Gutter, most of those mixed signals are the wires crossed in your own brain...

Baby Idiots by Carl Robinette



You know when it seems like basically everyone is a full-on butthole?

You know.

Like everyone you know or meet is just out to win. Cheat. Cut in line. Like baby idiots, all dumb and drooling like they don’t even care.

And then you go to some pretty cool bar or someplace and you’re still basically bummed at the world, but you have to admit—this place ain’t half-bad. Then you meet the bartender and she’s about a bazillion levels of hotness.

She goes, What can I get you?

You’re all, Um double Macallan … cutie. Because you want to impress her, but you’re embarrassed right-off for saying it. Also, you have to change your drink order because you can’t really afford Macallan.

But she’s basically the coolest babe ever, and it’s obvious by the beautiful way she looks at you that she doesn’t even care if you don’t have beaucoup bucks, and she maybe even liked it when you called her cutie.

Of course she liked it. Women.

And finally you’re feeling pretty good. Like, no worries baby-boo. Then some stooge walks in.

And he’s not even losing his hair at all.

Sure he has big arms and a flat stomach and straight teeth and if you like all of those things then maybe you would’ve liked this guy. But he’s probably just some USMC reject who couldn’t clear the psyche evaluation, which is way more embarrassing than being rejected because you couldn’t pass the physical, probably.

Even though the guy doesn’t call the bartender cutie or anything, you can tell he’s flirting with her, and she was already falling for you. And you’re so tired of all of these buttholes going along, pushing people around to get what they want. And if you don’t defend beautiful maidens, then who will?

So you go, Hey, bozo, don’t be a stooge. The lady and I were discussing scotch.

The stooge is like, What the fuck, dude?

You tell him, I said scram fart-knocker.

He’s all, Oh? Why don’t we go outside?

No. Let’s fight instead.

And sometimes you just have make up your mind right there. Maybe this guy’s taller and stronger and looks like he has more MMA training than you, but you’re taking a stand against all the rude baby idiots. Right here. Right now.

When he shoves your chest and nearly knocks you off your bar stool, you’re already ready.

*

You know when you’re about to smash someone over the head with a beer bottle? And you picture it like the movies where the dumb-dumb gets hit and he just goes cross-eyed and sits down after the bottle explodes into a million tiny green pebbles?

And then you do it in real life and the bottle just bounces off the dumb-dumb’s skull, and he actually really goes cross-eyed, only there's way more blood than the movies.

It’s pretty disappointing because hearing that glass-smashing sound would have been so satisfying and you think, maybe you just didn’t do it right. But even two or three hits won’t break the bottle.

Hollywood can be so fake.

The bartender, she starts screaming and crying and everything, probably because what you just did was so romantic she can’t even control herself.

But instead of kissing you she goes, Rick? Rick? To the stooge. Then she looks at you and goes, You killed my boyfriend.

Boyfriend?

Women can be pretty friggin’ fake too. Believe me.

You tell her, No, no. He’s not dead. He’s probably just in a light coma or something.

When she says she’s calling the cops, you’re pretty bummed to leave, because you probably still had a chance with her if you just apologized right and got her some romantic gift. Like a Precious Moments figurine.

Also, even though you’re bummed, you’re like, Sweet. At least I didn’t have to pay for my beer.

And it’s just so typical because nobody really wants you to be happy. Everybody just wants what’s best for them. So what if the bartender-slash-cutie of your dreams only likes guys who are gorgeous and buff with cool tattoos?

Basically, she definitely would’ve probably just turned out to be a drooling baby idiot like all the rest anyway.


Carl Robinette is a journalist and author bent on saving the world from people who don’t agree with him. His fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Shotgun Honey. When he is not writing fiction he poses as a reporter for The Star News and several other San Diego publications. www.carlrobinette.com

The Drop

A reasonable expectation of privacy. I don't think that's too much to ask. 

Especially if you're a pair of panties.

The Drop by Tess Makovesky



I'm on the high street when the woman drops her mobile phone.  Small black box on a hard paving slab, but it doesn't break, and the Red Sea of shoppers' legs parts to where she walks.  A skinny thing in black trousers and a padded top, hardly enough to get a handful of, but I'm not one to turn the opportunity down. 

I've done this before.  Women get careless, lose sight of their handbags, spill their cash or phones.  And I'm the Good Samaritan, always on hand to help.  I follow them and hand their goodies back.  They're always grateful enough to give me my reward.  A hand between their legs, a quick squeeze of boobs.  Most don't even protest.


She's getting faster, heels rat-tatting as she runs.  I hurry after her, not wanting to lose her amongst the crowds.  She glances back; I grin.  The chase is half the fun.  Watching them watching me, watching them getting scared.  I gain on her past Marks and Sparks.  There's alleyways round the back, nice and dark, where I can say hello.

Oddly, she's had the same thought.  She's waiting for me, panting, wallet in her hand.  Probably thinks I'm going to mug her, I think, and laugh. 

"You dropped this, luv."  I sidle in for a feel.

"I know," she says, and oh crap, I see it isn't a wallet after all.  "We've been watching you.  You're under arrest!"


Liverpool lass Tess is now settled in the far north of England where she roams the fells with a brolly, dreaming up new stories and startling the occasional sheep. Her gritty stories, however, tend to reflect the dark and dingy back streets of her former home of Birmingham. You can follow her ramblings at http://tessmakovesky.wordpress.com

Review: The Fury of Blacky Jaguar, by Angel Luis Colon.

Most purveyors of noir fiction have probably heard of Angel Luis Colon, and most would probably say they've really enjoyed the wide array of short stories he's published in almost every well-known noir short story collection, noir webzine, or noir website around. His stories are tight, well-written pieces of literature that both entertain and leave readers begging for him to tackle a longer piece of fiction. Well that time has come, as he's penned a novella entitled, The Fury of Blacky Jaguar, published by One Eye Press. The only question was, would his talent be able to transcend the short story and stay intact as he tackles a longer story?

No suspense here . . . of course he knocked it out of the ballpark! This is one hell of a blast to read. This novella is violent, like a punch to the gut, and will leave you gasping for air. This is everything that is right with the seemingly new push to publish novellas. Colon wastes not a word and delivers a story that has no filler, just action packed scenes with witty dialogue. Every page, paragraph, and word is stripped down to only include parts that are vital to the story and that pays dividends, as the reader never has a chance to pause to catch their breath.

This pulpy little tale centers on Daniel Clarkswho nicknames himself Blacky Jaguar—as his prize possession, a Plymouth Fury is stolen. There's no way in hell Blacky will sit by silently and take this slight without extracting full and violent revenge. Blacky, an ex-IRA hardman, goes into full bone breaking, murderous mode to find answers to where he can find his car and who needs to pay for taking what’s his. We follow him through the boroughs on New York as he leaves a trail of bloody carnage in his wake.

Hot on his tail is Special Agent Iris Delgado of the FBI. She has been searching for Blacky for over two years without finding a trace of him. Now she has him in her sights again, she is determined to get her man. Her quest is complicated by some unfinished business from a shared past. She's well aware of the destruction Blacky is capable of, and knows time is not on her side to bring him to justice.

There's no doubt in my mind that Colon has a great character in Blacky Jaguar and I am confident I will not be the only one who will beg him for another Blacky Jaguar book. Blacky is everything a noir character should be and Angel Luis Colon is everything a noir author should be. I look forward to his next novella and his first novel, which should both be forthcoming in the near future.


Highly Recommended       
      Review by Derrick Horodyski      
Link to Amazon: Blacky Jaguar

Instant Karma

The Universe strives for balance. Tit, meet tat. Up, time to get down.

Instant karma gonna get ya all right. John Lennon wasnt fucking around.

Instant Karma by Paul Greenberg




This is the neighborhood where shopping carts go to die. That was the thought I had as I sat in my Chevy, casing the Quick Mart across from the park. If you could call it a park; it was big as a donkey’s dick and there was one broken bench to sit on. The other adornments were cigarette butts, lottery tickets and dog shit. The triumvirate of the working poor. I’m sure that if dog shit were redeemable for a nickel someone would be out here picking it up.

I had watched a steady flow of customers come in and out of the Quick Mart for the past three hours. Mostly carrying what looked like twelve packs and pint bottles in paper bags, along with the occasional carton of cigs. When I had mentally calculated $800 I pulled the car in front of the store in a space closest to the door and readied myself for my pregame ritual.

I took a deep breath and had a good fucking cry. The girl from the Quick Mart was giving me the big eye from the window, but who gives a fuck. A good cry cleanses my soul and rids me of all my bullshit. A good cry is better than going to confession or Zen or TM or primal scream therapy. For me a good ten minutes of bone-shaking, gut-wrenching weeping makes all the difference. I do it and then I’m ready for the task at hand.

I exited my car, put a finger to one nostril and shot off a gigantic snot rocket. Then I entered the Quick Mart. I looked around, swung to my right and put a bullet in the head of the maggot flipping through the pornos, swung to my left and the gal at the register was already loading a bag with cash for me.

I took the cash and a couple of protein bars for the ride. Listened to the silence for a few seconds, gave the gal a two fingered salute and hit the road.

I don’t know how the cops got onto me so soon but I had two cruisers surrounding me by the time I got to the first traffic light out of town.

I gave it up and they brought me to jail, booked me and walked me to my cell. I had a lot to think about. This wasn’t one of my smartest heists. I’m probably not getting out of this one. Maybe I’ve popped my last big boner. Shit, I’m going to Hell, that’s one thing that I did know. That’s where I’ll finally get my taste of karma.

I was about to stretch out on the cot when I heard two sets of feet slapping the concrete. My cell opened and the guard pushed in a six-foot-seven, four-hundred pound-bruiser, uglier than my mother’s tits.

The guard said, “Here you go Hymie, meet Mr. Sensitive. He likes to sit in his car and cry right before blowing someone’s head off. Nice guy. You’ll love him.” The cop locked the cell and walked off. Hymie stood over me kind of swaying back and forth until he finally said, “Sensitive huh? That’s so sweet.” And he pulled down the fly of his pants. Talk about instant karma. I couldn’t help but cry.

Paul's crime fiction can be found at Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect and Thrills, Kills and Chaos. This is his sixth story for Out of the Gutter. He will be reading at Noir at the Bar-Boston August 27, 2015.

Review: Bitter Water Blues, by Patrick Shawn Bagley.

I just read the closing paragraph of Bitter Water Blues written by Patrick Shawn Bagley and I am already awaiting the next novel from Bagley. Bitter Water Blues is proof that Bagley has a wonderful career ahead of him as a noir writer and is sure to pen noir tales that will be deemed as “must reads” by lovers of noir, and dare I say, all lovers of great books.

Bagley has created a great cast of characters within this book. They come to life as the story evolves and he really fleshes them out and allows the reader to become attached to them. Their motivations are well explained and that allows the reader to understand them and become connected to the story.

Joey Kotex is a former mob enforcer who has decided to forgo the life of criminal enterprise and instead open a blues bar in Chicago and live out his life playing harmonica and listening to blues classics. But when the leader of the mob family he walked out on needs one more job completed, Joey finds his best friend kidnapped and his choice of a quiet life pulled out from under him.

Joey finds himself in the small town of Wesserunsett, on the lookout for a mob turncoat who holds a sex tape of the mob leader's niece. Joey must find the tape, and kill the turncoat, or his friend will not live to see another day.

As the story evolves, Bagley introduces a wonderful set of secondary characters that are fun to read about and help propel the story forward.

Wanda is a police officer within the small town. She is happily stuck in the rut of her job, but has a pull deep within herself that tells her it may be time to move onto bigger and better things. But being torn between her desire for a fresh start and keeping watch over her parents leads her to spin her wheels and never really make a true effort to move forward.  She has a nose for crime and upon meeting Joey, senses something strange is happening. Her curiosity may hamper Joey’s ability to perform his job and make a quick getaway, which sets up a great showdown between a cop with a sense of honor and duty, and a former crook that just wants to get back to the peaceful life he has created.

This small, quiet town has its own set of undesirables. Hag is the local thug, fresh from jail on a drug charge and looking to set up his own empire through contract killings. He's come to realize he needs to take what he wants and damn the consequences. He shows no mercy for anyone who gets in his way, even his best friend, Earl. Earl wants nothing more than to spend his life on a couch watching television and eating snacks that will add to his 300 pound plus frame. He has no desire to lead a life of crime, but his sense of loyalty to Hag makes it impossible for him to pull away from him.

The plot of the book begins to ratchet up as the chapters fly by. The inevitable conflict between the cast of characters feels like a slow burn throughout the book and that serves the reader well. Bagley lights a slow burning fuse in the opening chapter and the reader is on pins and needles waiting for the big explosion they know is coming. Bagley has a great knack for letting you feel the flame and anticipate the burn you know is forthcoming.

I loved the simplicity of the book. The bad guys are bad, the good guys are good, and the conflict seems straightforward in that regard. But the complexities of Joey Kotex, a man torn between the violence that simmers below the surface and the dream of living a simple life, allows this book to have a depth that lifts the book above the average noir offering. Bagley has penned a great book and if this book is any indication, seems destined for big things in the future. A lover of noir would be served well to jump on this train right out of the station and enjoy the ride Bagley is sure to take them on in the upcoming years. This is a strong offering right out of the station.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski.  Link to Amazon: Bitter Water Blues

A True Friend

You don't need a James Taylor song or a Sesame Street skit to test a friendship.

No, what you need is a crisis. A real crisis.

A True Friend by Jeffery C. Gibson



"A friend will help you move, but a true friend will help you move a body." – Unknown

Daryl Saunter was a true friend of mine. He was with me the day I killed Johnny Renzo for trying to steal my motorcycle. Johnny snuck into my garage and fired it up while me and Daryl were in the house getting high, but he fucked up and stalled the engine. I ran out and cracked his head with a baseball bat and kept hitting him until he stopped moving. Dumb son of a bitch should have worn a helmet.

Daryl nudged Johnny with his toe. “Clear case of self defense,” he said. “Besides, he had it coming.”

“Damn right.” Johnny fucked me on a heroin deal a while back. It was mostly milk sugar and wouldn’t get a puppy high, so I refused to pay him. And he thought he deserved my motorcycle in return? Heh.



We took a look outside. “I don’t see his truck. He must have walked here from town,” I said. The road was clear for at least a mile. It dead-ended at my driveway and only the cops ever came that far uninvited.

It was Daryl’s idea to wrap him up with a shower curtain. The curtain wasn’t long enough but I put a plastic garbage bag over Johnny’s head and used a lot of duct tape and it worked fine. We dumped him in the back of Daryl’s pickup and covered him with an old piece of carpeting.

I hosed down the garage floor. Daryl took a shovel off the wall and put it in the back with Johnny. “Where to?” he said.

“I know a place down Route 27. It’s mostly swamp. Nobody ever goes there.”

“Works for me.”

We turned off 27 onto an old dirt road and stopped at a clearing about a half mile in. Daryl grabbed Johnny’s feet and I took the head, and I was damn glad I had Daryl along because that Johnny sure was a fat fuck. It ain’t fun dragging a body through the woods by yourself.

I dug the hole, most of it. I was four feet down when Daryl volunteered take over while I took a breather. That’s the kind of friend he was.

“I owe you big time, Daryl,” I said.

Daryl leaned on the shovel. “Hell, I figure I owe you, after you gave me that alibi.” Daryl got busted for robbery again last month. He’d just gotten out of prison after his second stretch and wasn’t anxious to go back. But I testified at the hearing that he was with me when the robbery took place. Not that I had a sterling reputation with the courts, but it was enough to get him out on bail. That’s what friends were for.

I took the shovel back and kept digging until I hit seven feet, and we rolled Johnny in. Daryl said the last rites: “Johnny, you poor schmuck.” I didn’t know what a schmuck was but I said “Amen” anyway.



Daryl was still looking down at the body when I hit him over the head with the shovel. He collapsed like an empty gunny sack, face first into the grave. I jumped in and rifled through his pockets and laid him flat on top of Johnny, head to toe.

I was filling in the hole when the mound of dirt over the bodies started to heave upward. Shit, my fault, I should have finished him off. I sat down and smoked two of Daryl’s cigarettes, watching the mound. Eventually it stopped moving and I shoveled in the rest of the dirt.

Now it was my turn to say the last rites. “Here lies Daryl Saunter, a true friend. I’m sorry I had to kill him, but he saw me murder Johnny Renzo and I just couldn’t take the chance of him ratting me out for a reduced sentence. Hell, if I was facing a third strike, I’d do it. Anybody would. Rest in peace, Daryl.” I scattered leaves over the mound and headed back to the truck. 

The drive home sure was lonely with no one to talk to.

Jeffery C. Gibson has been writing professionally for over 30 years in the software industry. He's a movie nut, reads a lot history and crime fiction, and likes to play the ponies. His work appears in Short-story.me, Over My Dead Body, and Out of the Gutter magazines. He lives in San Jose, CA, and is currently writing a novel. You can follow him on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jeffcgibson).

A Seat in the Big Chair: Jordan Harper

In addition to being one of the best short story writers going today, Jordan Harper also pens scripts for television, including one of my new favorites, Gotham.

Today Jordan sits down with us to talk about his new collection (Love and Other Wounds), Batman, Gutter-fav Brian Panowich, and the new novel.

A Seat in the Big ChairJordan Harper



1.)    Many of these stories in Love and Other Wounds are carried over from (the excellent but now out of print) American Death Songs. Kinda like a band making its big label debut from an EP. Did you feel pressure to go back in and tweak any of these pieces? And I ask this while considering ADS one of the best collections I’ve ever read.

One of the benefits of going with traditional publishing is exposing your work to an editor. In my case, it was the great Megan Lynch. While we didn’t change very much at all, there are changes to some of the stories. The most improved stories are probably “Always Thirsty,” which is shorter for the better, and “Ad Hominem Attack,” which is more fully rounded. There were also a couple of trims to other stories, but not much people will notice, I think.

2.)    One of the new pieces, “Prove It All Night,” was included in last year’s Gutter anthology Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen. Now I might be biased, considering I edited the fucking thing, but “Prove It” was a highlight for me. And part of that is the punch of that final image. Without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it, I’m wondering where that motif originated, in terms of the writing. Was it an image you had before you began writing?

That was one of those things that occurred during the writing of literally the last line. I felt pretty clever when I got there, though. The stories I write that have “twists” to them are rarely planned that way. If you create a story with enough dramatic tension, I think that the endings tend to resolve themselves on their own. Of course, sometimes they don’t.

3.)    You write for Gotham, which is one of my favorite shows. I’m a huge Batman fan, so this is purely selfish, but what kind of latitude do you get with the mythology? Is there a mutually agreed upon direction you can and can’t go? I’m fascinated by the process to a storyline like that. Especially one that is so well known.

Thanks! We’re given a lot of leeway, but of course DC gives input when needed. There are, unsurprisingly, things we cannot do—to give an absurd example, I don’t think we could kill Bruce Wayne (not that we’d want to). But without giving away spoilers, my next episode of Gotham introduces a DC villain who has been thoroughly reimagined. So we’re not just regurgitating stories the audience already knows, which would get boring, I think.

4.)    How’s the novel coming?

Just got notes on the first draft from my agent, the legendary Nat Sobel. I’m just about ready to dive into the second draft. It’s called If All Roads Were Blind, which is a quote from a poem by Bonnie Parker. It’s about an eleven-year-old girl and her armed-robber father, on the run from Aryan gang killers who have marked them for death. There’s also a teddy bear who is a main character. So there’s a lot going on. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, I’m starting to look to the next thing. Maybe another novel, or a TV pilot. I want to write something long-ish about a pro-level armed robbery crew. I want to write something based on a murder that occurred in my teenage years, when a biology teacher at my high school was charged with murdering his whole family. It led to the revelation of teacher wife-swapping and teachers sleeping with students. I also want to write something about the Young Brother’s Massacre, a shootout in my hometown that killed seven cops in 1932. One of them was my great-grand-uncle, so it’s always been a big part of my family lore.

5.)    What are your plans to support Love and Other Wounds?

If you’ve got any tips, let me know. As I’m sure you know, once a book is out in the wild there’s a certain feeling of helplessness. I am doing a reading this weekend down in Orange County with Brian Panowich, whose great first novel Bull Mountain came out the same day as Love and Other Wounds.

Born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks, Jordan Harper has worked as a movie critic, a rock journalist, and a television writer. His pilot Surf City Hardcore, about punk rock and police corruption in Orange County during the crack era, has been optioned by Warner Bros., and his short stories have appeared in Out of the Gutter, Thuglit, and Trouble in the Heartland. With former residences in Colorado and Brooklyn, he currently lives in Los Angeles, and is working on a novel.

Bedtime Story

There're monsters.  And then there're monsters.

If the boogeyman under your bed even scares your protectors, it's time to pull that sheet up to your chin and pray.

Bedtime Story by Eryk Pruitt



There's but a sliver of light in the hallway and you frown, because she was long ago told to shut off the light. But that frown melts quickly away, because you love her and everything that makes her what she is and, more likely, what she will be. So softly you open the door and mind the little creak in the hinge, the one that makes her look up, see you, and smile.
              
"Mommy," she says.
              
"Honey," you say, "you are supposed to be asleep. Why is your light still on?"
              
"I can't sleep," she says. "I'm scared."


"There's nothing to be afraid of," you tell her.
              
"I'm afraid of Big Jack Caro." She whispers the name, as if there were more than the two of you in the house.
    
You only take half a breath. "What—How do you know about Jack Caro, honey?"
              
"I hear you and Daddy talking," she says. "They talk about him everywhere. At school. Is it true Big Jack Caro killed Suzy Egan's daddy?"
              
You hold onto that half-breath for dear life. Children will talk. Hide what you will, they will find it. For years, you have secreted Christmas presents about the house, always in a new spot, and hasn't she ferreted them out, each and every time? How can this be different?
              
"Mr. Caro is a sick man, sweetie." You say it as you bring the covers up tighter around the bottom of her chin. As if the blanket were made of chain mail or chicken soup. "He's not well."
              
"They say he's mad because his little boy died. Is that right, Mommy?"
              
"He's very upset," you say, "but that doesn't make it right, what he's doing."
              
No matter what they say on the news, you want to tell her. You want to tell her that all those people protesting outside the courthouse and the state capitol and the job sites popping up around the county... all those people are just as sick as Mr. Jack Caro and, no matter how bad a hand he'd been dealt, there still existed Ten Commandments and a Bill of Rights and a Golden Rule, all of whom still heralded to the heavens Thou Shalt Not Kill.
     
         
That Mr. Jack Caro was a nut. An environmental wingnut. The type of guy the two of you would have laughed at on the news or a one-hour drama on TV when he tied himself to a tree about to get cut down or a bulldozer about to raze a copse of withered pines. The kind of guy who made more than enough noise when he didn't have a job, but Mr. Caro had a job. He worked at the school until he got fired for bringing his politics into the building, then lost it after his little boy—
              
"Why are you crying, Mommy?"
          
You can still see Mr. Caro holding the signs. That look of mad desperation on his face. The pictures of his boy, missing teeth. Missing hair. The pictures of flames shooting from the taps and faucets and wells around the county. The vitriol and vengeance he spouted as his boy grew sicker and sicker. As if he spent less time pointing fingers and more time tending to his own family... But you can't blame him. The horror he must have endured watching his boy die slowly in front of him. You can't imagine, but it is no excuse.
              
Bill Egan – Suzy's father – found in the office trailer up at the job site off Highway 42. It, being the first murder, had a spin of mystery about it, but everyone knew who'd done it. Jack Caro, less cryptic about the next one: the lawyer found shot to death in his car at the parking garage downtown. Or the representative sent down by the energy company, the man who helped all those families negotiate the mineral rights, helped them get the most money for their land. They were still looking for his head.
              
These are the things you can't tell your daughter. Instead, you focus on the things you can tell her.
              
"Mr. Caro won't be coming here, sweetie."
              
"Is that we put in all those alarms?"
              
You brush away a lock of golden hair from her forehead. You pick away a strand from her cheek.
              
"We put those in to keep you safe."
              
"From Mr. Caro?"
              
"From everything."
              
Lance had them installed not after the three lawyers that were found dead near the hydraulic equipment, but after the pair that weren't. Those two sent down from the corporate offices that were last known to have checked into the hotel downtown, but then mysteriously vanished from the face of the planet. How every law enforcement agency from here to Washington had sent resources, yet still nothing. You'd never seen him so rattled.
              
"He's not so stupid to come after a senator," your husband had told you over and over again. Still, the next day he had bars fitted into the windows and bought each of them a gun.
              
With your daughter, you have more room to negotiate.
              
"How about I leave open the door," you reason, "just a little?"
              
"And leave on the light?"
              
"And leave on the light."
              
She smiles sweetly and closes her eyes. She makes likes she's sleeping, but you know better. You wrap the blanket around her even tighter, then kiss her forehead.
        
      
You kiss it again for good measure.
              
And once outside her bedroom door, you reach into the pocket of your robe and hold fast to the tiny revolver, feeling warmer knowing it is there. You doublecheck the alarms, then check them yet again. You inspect each lock one more time.
              
You take vigil on your ottoman, the one facing the door. The third night in a row. Fresh pot of coffee. Eight rounds ready to go.              

For you are not like Mr. Jack Caro. You will stop at nothing to protect your child.

Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author and filmmaker living in Durham, NC with his wife Lana and cat Busey. His short films FOODIE and LIYANA, ON COMMAND have won several awards at film festivals across the US. His fiction appears in The Avalon Literary Review, Pulp Modern, Thuglit, and Zymbol, to name a few. In 2013, he was a finalist for Best Short Fiction in Short Story America and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Derringer for 2014. His novel Dirtbags was published in April 2014, and HASHTAG is available now from 280 Steps. A full list of credits can be found at erykpruitt.com