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The whole point of a career change is to move up the ladder. 

But here in the Gutter, a job change means ending up in ... the gutter.

Gusher by Tom Leins

The rain is so heavy I can barely see the cop car.

Red and blue lights dance across the parking lot, like diseased ghosts, so I know they are out there. Fat cops in government-issue windcheaters, clutching pump-action shotguns worth more than my life insurance policy, are likely out there right now. Squinting at the Testament Savings & Loan Association, blinking away the greasy rain.

Walter convinced me to smash all of the strip-lights, in case one of those bastards out there wants to try a head-shot, and now we are sat in darkness.

Dumb fuck.


Walter ‘Waxwork’ Wallace is tall and gaunt. He is a man of degenerate appetites. He is the kind of guy who uses prostitutes as alibis. He quit wrestling after suffering a prolapsed rectum almost a decade ago, but stuck around Testament like a particularly virulent STD.

Walter was what is known in the trade as a gusher. A dude who would blade himself for shock value. Open up an old cut above his eye and wait until the blood was dripping off knuckles, boot-heels, turnbuckles. What with the blood-loss and his albino complexion, he would end up looking like something out of a fuckin’ snuff movie.

I only agreed to the bank caper to shut him up. He knew that I’d done bad shit south of the border. Hell, I’ve done bad shit north of the border too, I’m just less inclined to boast about it.

Walter smiles benignly, scratching at one of the fibrous boils on his neck. His hunting rifle is balanced across his shoulder.

“Are you having fun yet, Gringo?”

I scowl at him and spit on the linoleum at his feet.

Rotten motherfucker.


The great Gringo Starr: reduced to robbing banks. If my fans could see me now...

I could have been a contender, once upon a time, but I got greedy – like I always do. Wrestling paid well enough, but I followed the lure of the Peso down to Tijuana, and fought bare-knuckle for a man named Ballantine. He had thinning, sandy hair, and a face that was scarred up like a bar-room toilet seat. He set me against the worst of the worst: drug-addicted ex-cons and Tijuana Cartel enforcers. We would fight in a drained swimming pool out near the airport in Otay Centenario, while elderly gringos in open necked shirts got drunk and talked amongst themselves. Ballantine would pace the algae-streaked tiles, taking bets on a satellite phone. He smiled no matter who won. Either way he got paid.

Every few weeks I snagged a legitimate wrestling gig in Mexico City or Acapulco, but the crowds never warmed to me. I don’t blame them. My face and torso were ragged with scars from the unlicensed fights – and the fights after the fights. The ones with broken bottles and box-cutters. Most of the time I would just fight to the death in the T.J. swimming pool.

My stay in Mexico ground to a halt when I found out that Ballantine was trafficking eight-year-olds out of the slums to work in a boy brothel he co-owned Zona Norte. I snapped his neck so hard I almost dislocated my own shoulder. I left town that afternoon – my stash of Pesos crammed into a duffel bag and returned home to Testament.


The cashier is sat on a stool, playing with her rosary beads.

“What’s your name, darlin’?”

She looks up, eye makeup smudged with tears.


“Rosa. That’s a pretty name.”

“I guess. The nun’s gave it to me.”

I grunt, already bored. She reminds me of a girl I went to school with named Tupelo. She was a smart cookie – an academic compared to most – learned how to offer head in three languages before she was 15. She was around for a good time, not for a long time, and wound up dead in a dumpster, gutted with a hook before she turned 21.

I lean against the counter, and picture the cashier in transparent stilettos, working the afternoon shift at the Slop Shop, my greasy dollar bills stained with her pussy sweat, and the thought makes me hard underneath my stolen Testament Electric boiler suit. She looks at me and shudders, and I almost feel ashamed. Almost.


The elderly security guard is face down on the linoleum. In the darkness it looks like someone has spilled a bucket of red paint next to him. Only the ruptured mess where his guts used to be gives him away.

The triggerman was Walter’s estranged half-brother, Wade. The brain-trust reconvened at a halfway house in Testament Heights, and decided to plan a heist. Wade was a lanky streak of piss. He turned up shivering, despite the heat. The rent-a-cop shot him through the neck as soon as he saw the cheap nickel-plated pistol trembling in his junkie fist. Wade managed to put a slug in him, and the old bastard seemed to burst on impact.

Then Walter shot the bank manager in the face, just to prove a point. The only man with code to the fuckin’ vault…


I was working as a slaughter-hand when I signed my first pro-wrestling contract in Testament. I’m not afraid of a little blood, but Walter has traipsed it across the bank, and I find it distasteful – even in the dark.

He is next to the cashier, whispering sweet nothings into her pretty little ears. Cigarette-stained fingers wandering across the curves under her rayon blouse, playing with her hair.

“Hey, Walter…”

He turns around, diseased-looking smile between his thin lips.

“You ever miss the wrestling?”

He stops scratching his boils and runs a finger across the deep scar that stretches from jaw-to-ear.

“I guess not.”

I nod.

“Dumb fucking racket, right? You know what a smarter man than me once said?”

He shrugs again.

“Wrestling is just like show-business, but with more blood.”

He smiles, knowingly.

Then I squeeze the trigger and blow his brains all over the motherfucking counter.

Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, Near to the Knuckle and the Flash Fiction Offensive. He is currently working on a novella entitled Boneyard Dogs. Get your pound of flesh at