Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Issue #24: March, 2012

by Christopher Grant

The first thing you'd notice about her is her afro. Black with pink and gold running through it somehow. Not highlights. Just born that way, I guess. Her purple sunglasses hiding eyes that no doubt burn with her untamed fire. The bikini top she wears hints at chocolate breasts topped with chocolate-chip nipples. The low-rise jeans hang just below the purple waistband of a thong resting on her hips. When she bends over, you can see ass-crack heaven.

Thing is, this woman, her name's Deviation Jones.

And she's an assassin of some repute.

The rifle in her hands is right now aimed at the hover-parade coming around the corner.

The City celebrates the latest debacle known as the presidential election.

Funny that this president, just like the last one, didn't actually win. The same thing has happened ever since The City took over the counting duties twelve years ago.

But it's always been this way, hasn't it? Just trading trash for shit.

Deviation rests her eye on the scope and says, "Adjust," and the scope does as it's told, honing in on the front of the car carrying the new president.

The goal is to get him out of the protective bubble that surrounds him. Literal bubble, too; it's made out of pure latex. How appropriate that the guy that's gonna fuck us for the next four years is being protected by a condom.

Her finger touches the trigger and the bolt hits the hood, penetrating it and connecting with the engine block, effectively killing the car. It's a literal bolt, just like the literal bubble, fired at something like the speed of sound that flies through the air, through the hood, through the engine block.

At that rate of speed, no one saw it and thus Deviation doesn't have to run for her fucking life. She can, instead, set up for the kill shot. A bolt right through the president's skull, bursting through the cranium, hitting the brainpan. Squish.

Just then, as the new car pulls up and they ready the president to make his move, the door of the roof entrance behind Deviation opens and a black-shaded behemoth comes through.

"Fuck me," Deviation says.

We'd love to do just that, Deviation, believe us. But it looks like you might have something else to take care of first.

by Christopher Grant

The guy's, what, like three-fifty, well over six-and-a-half feet tall. The seams on the dark suit that he wears are screaming as they attempt to hold together. The sunglasses on his face are tiny.

Deviation Jones, she's got that gun of hers and she raises it now, sighting on the behemoth. She doesn't have the chance to say, "Adjust"," before the gun's barrel is in his ham hock of a hand. He snaps the barrel in half and tosses the gun aside.

"Shit," Deviation says. No kidding, babe.

The guy's other hand comes this close to punching a hole through her head. Or at least her considerable afro. Instead, he smashes right through the ledge behind Deviation and now he's stuck.

That's one way to get off a roof the simplest way possible.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple and Deviation, lady, you should have just run the fuck through that door.

The blob flexes his muscles, doing a curl, and busts through the brick and mortar, causing all kinds of debris to tumble to the street, sixty-some stories below. We'd hate to be the guy that doesn't have his umbrella handy down there. 

Now it's a race up there, sixty-some stories above the street, both of them going for the door. Come on, girl, you can make it if you try.

The Punch does it.

Punch: a drug of choice, not of habit, can be snorted or ingested. Punch Gives You Pep (cue smiling blonde beautiful bikini-clad woman). Use only as directed.

Deviation's through the door ten seconds before the behemoth and down to the fortieth floor before he even clears the fiftieth.

She's in the hallway of the twenty-ninth floor, looking for another exit, when he catches up with her. You're not the only one with Punch onboard, baby. Grab a weapon and get ready to rock.

Deviation smashes the glass on the In Case Of Emergency box with her bare fist. Damn that stings. She grabs the fire ax and a wide stance and waits for the goon to make the first move. He does the same, except grabbing a fire ax. One to a hallway, sorry, pal.

They circle each other. The suspense is terrible. We hope it lasts.

A door behind Deviation opens up and this dweeb in a bowtie steps right into the fist of the behemoth, who was thinking the distraction would catch Deviation off-guard. Silly behemoth, tricks are for kids.

Deviation swings the ax and buries it in the blob's side. The impact of the blow rattles her purple sunglasses, sending them askew across her nose. She has trouble yanking the ax free, stuck in the gristle, muscle and bone the way it is. Finally, it comes loose with a torrent of blood and she takes another hack, catching him in the neck. Jugular. Done. He chokes on his own blood.

Deviation adjusts her sunglasses and drops the ax. Then she gets the idea to drag the dweeb over and set the ax in his hands. Waste not, want not.

by Christopher Grant

The undulating hips of the topless four-armed dancer make a man want to do naughty things to her indeed. Her breasts swaying back and forth ain't half-bad, either.

She gyrates and swivels and shakes and erections pop up everywhere around the room. Thank god for pants.

The air is thick with opium smoke and you could get high without even trying. Those who have partaken laze about without cares or fears.

There is a horn of some kind blowing from somewhere but Deviation Jones cannot see it as she steps into the tent.

There are vid-screens all over the place showing the president's car breaking down in the middle of his celebratory hover-parade.

Oh, so that's how they transfer someone from one hovercar to another. Good to know.

In the middle of this circus sits one of the fattest men she's ever laid her eyes on. Go on a diet, buddy.

The dancer approaches Deviation and, with one of her hands, pulls her forward for a kiss. Deviation lets herself go for a moment. Who can blame her?

"He's still sucking down air," the corpulent one says leering at the two women. The dancer moves away from Deviation and shakes her generous ass in Fatty's face.

"Not my fault," Deviation says. You tell him, baby. "I hit the engine block and just as they..."

"I don't care what happened," the fat man says, starting to lose his patience. "All I know is that he's still alive. And, if he's still alive, that means the rest of us are living on borrowed time. Especially you."

"So what the fuck am I supposed to do?" Deviation asks the obvious question.

"Duck," the fat man says.

Four guns materialize out of nowhere, hanging in midair momentarily. The dancer plucks them with her four hands and trains them on Deviation, then squeezes the triggers all at the same time.

Somehow, Deviation avoids getting hit but her pleather jacket isn't so lucky, taking two in the left sleeve, down by the wrist, the bullets going through cleanly. The four-armed topless bitch wouldn't know high fashion if it came up and slapped her across the face and now she's gone and murdered it.

The other two bullets perforate the spleens of two of the lazing opium addicts. The rest don't even seem to notice. Can't understand why not. Oh, yeah, the opium.

Deviation doesn't waste a second and, at the risk of being shot point-blank, grabs the dancer by the head and snaps her neck. The dancer screams, nearly deafening anyone within a couple blocks. Seriously, her voice breaks windows up to five hundred feet away. Her four arms beat wildly at the carpet and it takes her body over a minute to register that this is death. Bye-bye.

Guess who's next?

The fat man can't get out of his chair. How'd he get into it in the first place?

Deviation smiles as she pulls the knife from her boot.

"Now, I did a job," Deviation says.

"You didn't complete it," the fat man says, sweat rolling down into the folds around his chin. Er, chins. Gotta hand it to him—even when faced with death, even when his voice squeaks higher than a soprano's, he's got balls.

"Who was the goon?" Deviation says.

The silence says it all. The silence is followed by the scream of a fat man. A fat man who doesn't have balls anymore, if the scrotum that Deviation tosses aside is anything to judge by.

Good for you, girl. Proves money isn't everything.

Christopher Grant is a writer of crime/noir and experimental fiction like the trilogy above. He is also the editor/publisher of A Twist Of NoirEaten Alive (zombie fiction) and Alternate Endings.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Issue #23, March 2012

By Phil Beloin, Jr.

The bus ride to Missouri was a mishmash of beautiful scenery and cheery passengers that left me with a dull headache and a surly disposition. As we crossed the mud stained Mississippi, I thought of the man who was already dead, his head bashed by the tip of a ball peen hammer. Eyeing my fellow travelers, I wanted to kill again.

I got off the hell-bound express in a middling city expanding with new construction. I had to walk from the bus station back to the outskirts, off the main roads until I found the site for the new industrial park. I asked the foreman if he needed any day labor.  
He pushed his eyeglasses up to get a better look at me. "What can you do?"
"I can operate a dozer, backhoe."
"Prove it. Dig me a drainage ditch, south side of those stakes."
"You got it, boss."
"I ain't your boss. He is."
He pointed at a suited fellow bounding down the steps of the office trailer. His threads were pricey and so was the weight machine he used to stay fit. He looked forty, which was a stitch younger than the Corvette he took off in, shooting dust and gravel at his peons. What kind of guy brings a vintage sports car to a construction site?
"Mr. Clark's an arrogant jerk," the foreman said, "but he's got so much money he don't give a shit."
So what I had read about Brendan Clark was true.


At the end of the day, I filled out some paperwork. It meant they were keeping me.

"You left your address blank," the foreman said.
"I just rolled into town today."
"Come on. I'll show you a place to stay."
He dropped me off at the only motel that had weekly rates and mini-kitchens. He said he'd pick me up at quarter to seven the next morning.
I grabbed my duffle bag out of the truck's bed. "Thanks, man."
"I'm Vinny."
"Vinny," I said, shaking his hand, "I'm Bud."
At least, that was the name I had put on the job application.


I don't know of any cheap motel that doesn't have a watering hole nearby. Heck, I could see a dive right across the street, a neon sign flashing my name: BUD, BUD, BUD!
I was sipping my tasty beverage and playing with the cellophane of my cigarette pack when Babs strolled in. I hadn't even thought about scouring the bars for her scent that night. Bumping into her was gonna save some me serious time and liver strain. 
She looked just like the photographs I had seen. Her figure wasn't stunning, but what she had, she showed, wearing a tight halter top and a skimpy little skirt that had whole bunch of necks cracking. Her hair was short and bouncy and the different textures of brown matched the freckles covering her like sprinkles on a sweet cake. She scoped the joint out before deciding on a stool near me. A surge of energy coursed through my system when she sat down.
"Buy you a drink, honey?" I said.
She swiveled toward her inquisitor. Her eyes grew when she saw my pecs, or maybe she dug the spider and skull tattoos hacked into my upper arms.
"You don't waste any time, do you?" she said.
"Hey, no sweat if I'm bothering you."
She took out a cigarette. "I never said you were."
That first night we tore the bed and each other apart. Babs left after midnight while I was in the can. I felt used and cheap and fell asleep smiling.
The next evening she knocked on my room door.
"I never told you my name," she said.
"It's the inner you that really counts, honey," I replied.
"It's Babs."
I wanted to say, I know that, you dummy, but I kept my yap shut.
Babs wanted her loving slower, and I feigned intimacy better than I thought I could. Afterwards, she started talking about her hubby.
"You're married?" I feigned shock.
What a lowdown bastard he turned out to be!  He fornicated outside of marriage, and after a few too many cocktails, he liked to slap Babs around. Golly, what terrible news. I was glad when she left so I could get some shuteye.


Vinny had me clearing deadwood from the site and digging more ditches around the stakes marking out the factory's location. We'd have to wait for the drainage stone to be delivered before I could fill all those trenches in.
During my lunch breaks, I'd snooze. A week of late nights with Babs was taking its toll, but also relieving the pressures a working man faced. I was dreaming of my delicious honey when Vinny tapped on the window of my bulldozer, sunlight bouncing off his big eyeglasses and blinding me for a sec.
"Boss wants to see you," he said. "In the trailer."
"Did I do something wrong, Vinny?"
"Not that I know of, Bud."
I checked out the boss man's fancy wheels heading over. Probably a '63, shiny silver, a sweet interior, topless on that fine summer day. I could see myself tooling around in the sucker.
When I walked into the trailer, a voice said, "Over here."
The boss stood at the far end of the rectangular room. I admired the perfect cut of his suit, and the light pin stripes, which showed off his physique and tan. His eyes were sunken and hidden behind thick brows. Never play poker with this dude.
"We haven't been properly introduced," he said. "I'm Brendan Clark."
His grip was firm, and I let him have the harder squeeze. "Bud Carson."
"Sit down, Bud."
We sat, and he tapped his fingers on an open file folder.
"What's this about, Mr. Clark?" I said.
"Vinny says you're working out."
"I grew up working on my granddad's heavy equipment," I said.
"Still, I like to know who I got working on my crew," he said. "I took a look at your paperwork here." He lifted up my job application and the W-2 from the folder.
"So Bud you never told me you were an ex-con."
"How'd you find..."
He held up his hand, and I shushed. It was his play, and he had the home field.
"I could fire you for lying on your application. I mean, Bud, you did five years for manslaughter, and only got out four months ago."
"I'll be quitting now, Mr. Clark." I stood and turned.
"Hold on there, Bud. Sit back down."
"What for?"
"I'll get to it. Just park it, son."
This guy was good; he'd knock you to the canvas and then help you up.
"You want to know how I found out?" he said.
Smart guys liked their ego stroked. "Uh-huh."
"Those tattoos, the spider web and skull, mean you spent time in prison. The poor ink work suggests they were done there, too."
"You hit the weights inside, Bud?"
"Yeah. What about you?"
"Got a complete gym set in my hacienda."
"Looks like you use it," I said.
"Every day," he replied, then looked at my paperwork. "Says here, Bud, your last employment was putting together prefab horse stables in New York, around Syracuse. I went to school there, University of Syracuse."
"Small world," I mumbled. 
"That's right. So I made some calls, still got all sorts of friends back there."
Do you really?
"And you know what my old buddies tell me?"
Please tell me, you conceited prick.
"They say Bud Carson is still on probation for that manslaughter conviction, and he isn't supposed to leave New York State unless he asks for permission. You ask for permission, Bud?"
I squirmed in my chair. "I forgot, Mr. Clark."
"You forgot. Well, what am I suppose to do with you, Bud?"
I grinned big. This was working out better than I thought. "You're about to tell me or the lawmen would have been here already."
Clark laughed. "I picked right. You're a wise-ass, but that keeps it interesting."
"And what's so interesting, Brendan?"
"Bud, I got a problem. And I believe you're the man that's going to help me."


That night I was so distraught by my encounter with Brendan Clark, I could only make love to my honey three times. She asked me what was wrong.
"Oh, nothing, baby," I said.
"You love me, don't you?"
"Oh, baby, I do."
"Can I tell you a secret?"
I sat up in bed. "You said you were taking something."
"It's not that."
"Oh, okay."
"Bud, I got a problem."
That was the first time Babs asked me to kill her husband. I said no of course, but you know how women are. They get some silly idea in their little noggin, and it don't leave no matter what you say.


Brendan believed his wife was cheating on him. Hey, who was I to disagree? He wanted her out of his life, but without losing fifty percent of his stuff. I was to eliminate his problem. The way Brendan saw it, I could skedaddle, and he'd sick the dogs on me, or I could make some green and then catch the first plane to Mexico. The idiot actually gave me a day to mull it over.


"You ever done that before?" I said.

"My husband does it to hurt me." Babs already had one of my cigarettes in her mouth. So much for cuddling. "Will you kill him for me?"
"Gee, I don't know," I said.
She had a tender bruise under her eye where her hubby had struck. "You're a drifter."
"True, but I kinda like the spot I'm in," I said, squeezing her close. "Thought about settling down."
"Bud, that's sweet and all, but let's be practical. I'm married to an abusive alcoholic."
"I heard that part before, baby."
"You've been in the big house, haven't you?"
"No, I grew up poor, darling."
"I meant prison, Bud."
"How'd you figure that?"
She touched the jailhouse tattoos gouged into my arms. "Those are a dead giveaway."
"You people sure are smart around here."
"So what are you drifting from, Bud?"
"You can't tell a soul, baby cakes."
"I promise, Bud."
"I kinda' had some trouble back east."
"What happened?"
I told her Bud Carson was a convicted killer and had violated his parole.


"You didn't take off, Bud." This from my newest chum Brendan Clark, classic car enthusiast, real estate developer, and now accomplished blackmailer. He was swallowing bourbon in enormous gulps, but didn't look a bit stinko.

"Not yet," I said.
"You'll kill my wife?"
"I'll need a few things first."
"Such as?"
"I want twenty-five thousand dollars."
"Whoa, that's more than I offered, Bud."
"Sell them styling wheels."
Brendan chuckled. "My 'Vette? Not a chance, sport."
"I'll need a gun that can't be traced to me or you. That's gonna cost some major sawbucks. I'm gonna have to hit the road again and that costs money too."
He crunched on a booze saturated ice cube while reaching for the phone. "I think I'll be calling the sheriff's department now."
"What for?" I reached into my pocket and pulled out a tape recorder, its spindles still turning. "So they can listen to this here recording?"
Brendan looked like he wanted to throw his bottle of bourbon my way, but considering his thirst, he decided against it. "You're a bastard, Bud."
"I ain't the one who wants my honey bee killed," I said.
He sat down, pouring more amber liquid into his glass. "I pay after I see her body."
I started to go.
"And, Bud, I'll want that tape back."
"That'll cost ya another five large, sport."

"He keeps hurting me," Babs said. She now had a black and blue mark below her shoulder blade courtesy of her spouse.  "You've killed before, Bud."

"If I do this, sweetie-pie," I said, "I'm gonna need something from you."
"Like what?"
"Like twenty-five thousand."
"That much, Bud?"
"I'm sorry 'bout that, sugar."
"How am I gonna scrape that together without my husband noticing its missing?"
"I got something for you, baby."
"Not again, Bud. I'm sore."
I showed her my revolving tape recorder.


 I got to the construction site just after sunset and re-dug a drainage ditch that I had filled in earlier in the day. I took out my gun and waited. I watched the clouds floating by a half-moon, the light falling on the trailer. Something twinkled in one of Brendan's office windows.
You can't ever trust a blackmailer, especially one that's getting blackmailed. Brendan figured I would be bleeding him dry with that tape and had planted someone to take me out.
I waited for the clouds to obscure the dull bulb in the sky and then got down off the dozer. I worked my way to the back side of the trailer and crawled underneath it. Heavy feet walked on the floor above me. I rolled out by the front stairs. Whoever was in there kept moving around, and I listened until he was away from the door. I took a deep breath and burst inside.
He was crunched down, peering out a window, looking for me, but now I was behind him. He jumped around, getting his weapon up. I fired first. He didn't even groan—he just collapsed like a detonated building. 
I was surprised that Brendan's foreman worked for him in more than one capacity. If the moonlight hadn''t caught Vinny's eyeglasses, I never would have caught him.


Babs was next to stop by. She got out of her car, holding a briefcase.

"Bud, are you here?"
"Yeah," I said.
I came around the bulldozer. Her figure was a shadow coming forward and when we were side by side, she didn't even give me a smooch.
"Where's Brendan?" she said.
"In the bottom of that hole."
"I want to see him."
"Is that my money?"
"Yeah. You'll bury him after I leave?"
"You have the tape?"
"Honey bunny, you got trust issues."
I followed her up the mound of earth surrounding the hole. She was out of breath and off-balance when we reached the summit.
She looked down. "That doesn't look like Brendan."
"It's Vinny, actually."
"Who's that?"
"You're about to meet him, baby-doll."


Brendan wasn't on time. Guys like him never are. He showed up in the 'Vette while I waited by the dozer, its engine idling. He came over to the machine, peering at the trailer once. Like his dearly departed wife, he held a briefcase by his side.

"Is it done?" he said, his breath reeking of hooch.
"She's in the hole," I said. "Let's see my dough."
"Let's see the tape."
He looked over his shoulder again as he opened the briefcase. It was filled with stacked bills.
I handed him the tape. "There you go, Brendan. Now go take a look at your wife, then I'll cover her up."
"Yeah, all right."
He climbed up the pile while I climbed into the dozer. When he made it to the top, he looked back at the trailer.
"Now, Vinny!" he said.
I moved the dozer forward, the blade catching the mound just below Brendan's legs. He fell backwards into the hole, and I pushed some more dirt on top of him.
I wanted to keep his Corvette, but it would have been too easy to spot. I put that classic automobile on top of Brendan, Babs, and Vinny, and finished covering the hole. When I was done, the ground looked exactly like it had that afternoon. I drove Babs' car to the bus station where I opened my two briefcases and counted to an even sixty thousand.


Bud Carson was my cellmate at Attica, and we were paroled within the same week. He was in for killing a man during a bar fight, and I had been nabbed for a money-laundering scam. Bud and I had a similar philosophy: there were suckers everywhere.
Bud and I had settled on the Clarks, a dysfunctional couple that we had heard about in the joint. We spent our first months on the outside browsing alumni newsletters at Syracuse, and reading online issues of the Clark's hometown paper. Every scrap of info we needed was available: Brendan's narcissism, the new construction project, rumors of Babs' barhopping and infidelity. Those two were ripe for a guy like me.
I had always felt this was a solo job, and to make it work, I would need Bud's identification. He had an unfortunate accident with my hammer on some lonely road near Utica. After I had buried him, I jumped on the first bus going west.

Phil Beloin Jr., aka, lives in New England.  His novel, The Big Bad, is published by Hilliard and Harris.