Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Issue #38 -- October, 2012


Love is the most dangerous force on the planet, not hate.

More atrocious acts are perpetrated in its name than in the name of all the other gods that govern human behavior.

Jealousy corrodes.

Envy eats away at a man’s soul.

Hate makes men violent.

But love corrupts outwards from a wound. It may do so entirely.

The erosion is both silent and inevitable.

It is the stealth flower with seductive scent that kills.

For in its hallway of mirrors lie the thousand images of yourself you burned and burn to be and those who know how to caress those silent places steal in there and lie drinking the fresh blood from your soul.

For in all the songs that ooze from your radio, and all the depictions of love in all its forms, there is no common ground.

You enter the quicksand.


And so it was that Eduardo Silvestrone entered the newly adorned kitchen of his $5 million house and shot his wife and her sister through the head at point blank.

His hand did not tremble as he held the Glock, nor did he shake when he inspected them for a pulse.

He had spent everything on adorning his immaculate home which was admired by everyone. But no one knew him.

He had been shaking for a week before the incident, a fact observed by his employees at the car plant he owned and had started working at years ago before he acquired it to support a wife thought by many to be a mercenary whore.

He had been shaking that morning when he got up, opened a bottle of Tequila, poured it down the sink, and cursed everyone he could name in the short breath that held the oxygen in his lungs before he vomited bile at the cheap hotel where he had been hiding before he carried out what he later referred as Apocalypse One.

Apocalypse Two could wait.

Eduardo had waited long enough.

Waited wanting death.

Waited while his wife lied.

While she shopped and taunted him.

While he worked.

And watched.

And learned that love was a bruise that became infected.

And if the infection was a lie then the lie needed to be eliminated.

But what if the lie was embedded in his heart with silk knots?

Eduardo decided the name of love was not worth the parchment it was first written on and that humanity was a whore with a tattooed conscience that sold its soul for narcissism and flowers.

For the first time in years he considered himself.

He weighed himself up in all his propensities as he had been weighed up.

He had small brown eyes that lit up when he felt hope.

He had scars on his back from where his mother used to beat him.

Sometimes she would burn her cigarettes into his skin while her lovers watched and they would fuck in front of him as child.

That was before they broke his bones so badly in different places that he was taken to the home.

His mother would entertain different men at weekends after his father left them.

He didn’t remember him, just a face and a voice that he had no connection to. He wanted a father and would imagine him, drawing clear lines that etched a face into the darkness. But  they faded again and again until he gave up his childish doodling, knowing it was the indulgence of hopelessness. He was orphaned by men and was lost within the silent perplexity of his own gender and had no one to lean on. Eduardo hated Sundays.

They were worse at the home where he was treated with the dumb indifference reserved for animals by carers with not even the satisfaction of a decent salary.

He would often get a taste in his mouth that he thought was the memory of some exotic fruit he had eaten as a boy.

And he would try to identify the tang of it, but all he could remember were his mother’s beatings and hiding in the dark with a face so sticky with tears he wondered if his body had lost all its salt.

There was no fruit served at the table of the home, and he longed for the exotic taste to connect him to who he was. Even on the weekends the food was always tinned and cold.

And so it was he gave up on the thought of nourishment. And hated Sundays.

Until he met Mariella.

It was, he said, an epiphany.

He was walking in the park where the summer flowers were dying and he saw her in a lavender jacket.

And in that colour there seemed more life and vibrancy than any petal.

But it was her perfume that caught him.

Exotic and full of promise.

She seemed to reside in its smell, as if it was the signature of her being.

He did not even feel the small and slender hook pierce his skin.

She turned to look at him and in that instant that stretched to some infinity of knowledge and the sum of all he was. He felt trust for the first time.

And he could not name it nor his profound need for solace and so he fell into her trap.

She asked him for directions to a place he knew and in that knowledge he felt important and assured and he suggested a drink.

They sipped cool absinthe while the sun died and he held her in his shaking heart like a bird he had caught by the sea.

They conducted an old-fashioned courtship during which he would often enjoy Mariella’s smiles.

He later learned these were the glances of contempt.

He asked her to marry him.

And so began the only happiness he had ever known.

And it existed only by virtue of the fact that she was deluding him. For she had learned her ways at the hand of such a deep addiction to betrayal that she spun lies from a handheld loom.

She would often lick her lips, running a perfect tongue along their spotless contours, a gesture Eduardo thought seductive.

In time he understood it was nothing more than the anticipation of the pain she would inflict.

And Eduardo loved her deeply and Mariella used him and sank her hungry teeth into this soul.

They bought a house and soon Eduardo’s hard work benefited them enough for his avaricious wife to be fulfilled. They upgraded while he took on extra hours and she abused a series of lovers who she enjoyed humiliating at destinations from which she could never be traced to her home address.

Eduardo brought up two children who he loved dearly.

Everyone commented on what a loving father he was.

He seemed equipped with a deep ability to love them. Not for what he wanted from them but for who they were, as if he had intact within him a reservoir of giving he had never received.

Their real fathers never knew of their existence.

Mariella told her sister, the morning she died so unceremoniously, ‘Men do what I want. I always exploit a situation to its maximum.’

Her sister hated her but used her for her own means, listening to Mariella’s endless ostentation of her vices.

She was Mariella’s only confidante and never saw the gun coming.

Eduardo found out his wife’s poison by returning home early one day with a bunch of roses and hearing her talk to her lover on the phone.

He looked at the petals in his hand and he felt small and obvious and he realized there was nothing exotic in the flowers he bought and that he would only ever be an ordinary victim who was of no interest or use to anyone.

He hired a detective who found out the sordid details and handed him pictures of his wife in various compromising poses that showed Eduardo a side to her he had never seen, and he vowed to kill her there and then.

DNA tests proved he had been fathering the children of other men and that is what hurt him the most deeply.

He bought the Glock from a store on the way home from work one day.

He walked in through the back door, startled his wife and blew her brains two meters out of her open skull onto the new wallpaper.

Her sister’s open mouth reminded him of a cunt, and he opened her head like a rotten piece of meat.

Then he poured himself a beer.

He did not consider crying.

He did not even look at her prone body as she lay there and he stepped over her lifeless corpse and drove away into a deep blue skyline.

He thought about love, about its strange machinations.

He thought that it was a lie invented to manipulate and enslave and he decided to implement the second stage.

His children had to die.

They were staying with friends, which he had arranged as he planned this out.

He collected them without looking at them and drove them to the hotel where he had booked a room, and he ignored their questions about what was wrong with him.

But when he got to the hotel he looked at them and he felt love and knew he could not do it.

That was when he despised himself the most.

He thought of his father.

He tried to remember the distant smell he had once associated with him but it was like a faded dream.

As he sipped some beer the tang from his childhood filled his mouth and he knew what it was he used to taste. It was not exotic, it was the seepage of his childhood wounds dying in his throat.

He had been haunted by the familiar memory of pain all these years. And he had mistaken it for nourishment.

And Eduardo held his children in his arms knowing that they were not his and that ownership was the scorpion in a man’s soul and he walked into the bathroom where he shot himself in the head.

The last thing he heard as he lay there tasting blood was a love song on the radio.

One of his children had put it on and he tried to follow the words, but they were distant and he listened to his dying hart fade, knowing it had already died. 

Richard Godwin is the author of crime novels Mr. Glamour and Apostle Rising and is a widely published crime and horror writer. Mr. Glamour is his second novel and was published in paperback in April 2012. It is available online at Amazon and at all good retailers. Mr.Glamour is Hannibal Lecter in Gucci. The novel is about a glamorous world obsessed with designer labels with a predator in its midst and has received great reviews.  Apostle Rising, in which a serial killer crucifies politicians, is available here.
It is also available for the first time in e-book with some juicy extras, an excerpt from Mr. Glamour and four deliciously dark noir stories, like the finest handmade chocolate. 


Monday, October 1, 2012

Issue #37 -- October, 2012

Droppin' Plates
By Benoît Lelièvre

I never sucked dick to get where I am today, but almost. In boxing, there's a difference between wanting to make it and making it. Everybody wants to make it. Gyms are full of strong, fast and obedient kids who all want to be world champions. They're all poor and miserable, and they all have the eye of the tiger. But nobody can't make it in this business with talent alone. You need protection outside the ring. Boxing is a sport where you can't afford to lose too often. Who you are on paper is as important as who you are in the ring. It doesn't matter if you're the worst shmuck, if you can manage a 20-0 record, you will get championship fight offers and therefore make money. If you're not the second coming of Ray Robinson or the bastard son of Marvin Hagler, what puts you ahead of the pack is how smart you are.

So whenever Joe Piscano asked me to do something, I said “Sir, yes sir” without arguing. I wasn't a bad boxer, but I wasn't great either. My footwork was decent and I had a knack for working angles but like many tall guys, but I couldn't help myself in the pocket. Staying off the ropes was the key to my success. Because of Joe Piscano, my record read 9-0, with 6 knockouts. Only sixteen months after turning pro, I was already listen twelfth in the NABF rankings and fourteenth at the NABO. I owed it to Joe. He picked guys I could beat, so I could build up my confidence. He did a great job. In amateurs, I often fought backwards and spent way too much energy dancing around my opponents, trying not to get cornered. Now, I stood my ground and threw my punches with way more confidence because I knew I could hurt people. I finished my last three fights by knockout, all of them within three rounds. I had learned to drop some plates, like you say in the business.

Joe gave me odd jobs, sometimes. Left me an envelope in my locker with money and simple instructions. An address and an amount of cash meant I had to go collect somebody. An address only and a package meant I had to do a delivery. An address and a time meant I had to escort someone. Usually one of his daughters. It was a win-win situation, like he explained. I made a little, much needed extra money, while he had the loose ends of his business being wrapped up for him. A man of his stature had to call the shots, but couldn't afford to get his hands dirty. He was passed that. One day, I would also. We all found satisfaction in this deal. Two weeks before my NABO eliminator fight with Sergei Shismanov, I found an envelope under a brand new pair of yellow handwraps, on the top shelf of my locker. The note said 149 Hanover, 30 000. Quite a debt. The biggest I had seen yet.

I went very same night. I passed by a Taco Bell for a quick bite, got the last haircut of the day at Dylan's and stayed to chat with the boys about the Raiders' season, Pretty Boy Floyd and old P. Funk records until it was dark. It's always simpler at night. People are groggy from their day at work, afraid, they want to be left alone to find the courage to face another day, so it's rare that they look your way. People in the hood know how the game is played. They know that if someone fucked up, it's not on them to make it right. I hit Hanover Street at about 8:30 p.m. The first house I saw had plywoods on the windows and a foreclosure notice on the door.

149 didn't look any different. The lights were closed and the yard littered with cardboard boxes, see-through greasy fast food containers and other various thrash. It looked abandoned, just like the many other foreclosures on Hanover, but I knew better. I've been on the job long enough to know that fiends, gamblers and desperate people in general knew how to make themselves small. They lived in houses and apartments where electricity often had been cut, so they retreated to a bedroom with minimal lighting. Sometimes just a flashlight even. I found some paranoid freak dead once, because the only light he lived on was the flame from his miniature gas oven. He was locked in, windows sealed and all. The smell in there, when I busted in. Gave me an instant headache. I took a few photographs to send Joe and got out of there. The guy had been dead a few days, but the stove was still working. The small blue flame casted an eerie light on the worn-down studio. I still think about that guy sometimes. Gazing up, solemn, like everything was still fine.


Imagine my surprise when I kicked the door down and fell face to face with Dillon Hanshaw. The California Dream. Dillon the Drill. Ghetto Fabulous Dillon Hanshaw. The darling of the Californian boxing scene about a decade ago. He hadn't changed much. He was thinner, way under his fight weight of 168 lbs, he had lines on his face and a bit of gray hair at his temples. I couldn't contain my smile. Since I was little, my mom brought me to local boxing fights, where the crowd would go bananas for the local boys. There was beer flying, swears and sometimes small scale riots. Each time, my mom would be scared for my health, but she would never miss a chance to root for the local boys. In the Oakland of back then, we didn't have a football team to root for, and the Athletics were out of price for the locals, so our boxers were our superstars and Dillon Hanshaw was one of them.

He was a lot less happy to see me than I was to see him. He got up, tense, ready, like the last ten years stopped existing.

"Joe sent you?"


"What's the matter with you, son? Look like you've just busted on your parents doin' it."

Dillon was WBU and IBA champ for many years and fought for major titles twice, WBO and WBA, losing both times by decision. He was a fantastic boxer back then. A pure counter-attacker. Quick and smart. Stung like a scorpion, like a goddamn black widow and got out of the way. I saw him ice motherfuckers with single punches many times. He's one of the only boxers of the hood that made it to Pay Per View broadcasts. I loved that guy.

"Well...uh...I'm a big fan of you, sir. It's just too damn bad we meet under these circumstances."

"That's life," he said, fists clenched, standing tall, not intimidated. Not the typical client. "Tell Joe I don't have his fuckin' money. Unless he lets me work for him, I never will. Next time, he might wanna send his hit man. Gonna save him some time."

"Aw man. How did you end up owing thirty large to Joe anyway? I mean, it's not the first time I done this. Never seen a debt this large. Especially you? You were the fucking king of Oakland ten years ago."

"Yeah, you said it. That was some time ago."

"Come on, help me out here, man. I wanna understand."

"There's nothing to understand. I was young, dumb and believed everything Joe told me.  Just like you. I put my future in his hands and he washed it away. Next thing I knew, I was in the hole and I owed him."

"That's sad."

"Booh fucking hoo. Now get the fuck out of here before I kick your stupid ass."
I wouldn't get any money from him. Not even if I had the balls to shoot him. The place had been seized or rob, or maybe both. Hanshaw lived with spartan accommodations. A mini-fridge where a regular sized one used to be, a plastic patio table, two chairs. The other rooms were probably as empty as his kitchen. When there wasn't any money, Joe wanted some pictures. Satisfaction for his lower instincts. I pulled the chair and the table on the side, the empty beer bottle on it fell and spun around for a moment.

"If you know the game so well, you know I can't turn back and leave you alone."

"Your choice, kid. You got so much more to lose than me in this."

We circled in his empty kitchen for a little while, sizing each other up. He pulled up his guard and started bouncing. "C'mon," he said. "Show me what you got."

I had one advantage on him. I knew how he fought. He taunted me with his jabs, but I knew better than to counter and fall into his right hand. Power is the last thing a boxer loses. His cross was probably every bit as strong as when he fought. Instead, I kept faking the jab too and turned the corner, hoping to get a good angle. This had to be the most technical mugging in history.

He stepped in with a jab, cross combination, so I hooked and turned to get the angle. I could only graze the top of his skull with my hand. That combo was just a decoy, to see how I would react. Nonetheless he held a hand to his head and said:

"Nice. You hit hard, kid."

"Thank you, I train under Rudy Powers."

"Oh yea, did you beat Neil Mason last month at the Courtyard a month ago?" he said, out of the blue.

"Yeah, it was me. You were there?"

That's when he placed his first jab. Right on the nose, making my eyes water. He tried to double up and follow up with a right hand but I got out of the way and his fist went through the drywall. I clinched, bear hugged him for a moment to regain my spirits. I uppercutted him twice in the gut, but I had to break free because he kept pushing his thumbs into my eye sockets.

"You dirty-ass motherfucker," I said.

"You got some instincts, all right. You move good. But you're not under the spotlights here. Anything goes."

He took the beer bottle on the plastic table and swung at me. It crashed on my dome harder than any punch ever did. When the lights came back on, I was on all fours and Hanshaw's foot came down stomping on my right hand like the hammer of God. I heard it, felt it in my soul, let it resonate. It cracked. It was not even subtle. Not a hairline boxer fracture you can cover with a lot of tape in training. It was the kind of fracture that made you want to puke on impact. Hanshaw sat there in front of me, with a satisfied smile on his face. He knew it. The fallen king of Oakland was proud to have spread misery a little wider. To have smeared somebody else with it.

I fucking lost it.

Boxing, rules, civility and my last notion of human empathy flew right out the window and something else crept in. Call it rage. Call it blood lust. Call it temporary demonic possession, but for a moment, who I was and what I knew about boxing and life disappeared. I reached for Hanshaw's heel and pulled myself in, slamming my shoulder into his kneecap. I knew I had scored a lethal blow, because his feet were still at the same place and he was bending over me. And he screamed. That kind of scream, I had only heard in horror movies before. It's another thing to hear it in real life. The decibels, the immediacy of it, the knowledge you changed somebody's life forever reaches out to you.

Hanshaw's knees dropped and he crashed on the floor, hitting his head hard. I would've let a fiend off the hook on a normal job, but I wasn't done with him. I climbed on top of him, hit him with my left hand, one, twice, smashed his nose with my elbow. That woke him up a little. He gurgled, his mouth filled with blood. I stopped to admire my work. Pain had never gave me such satisfaction before. His crooked grimace echoed the throbbing I felt in my hand. I got up and snapped a photo for Joe with my cell phone. He'd love the work.

I don't know why I did it. I walked out by the back door and saw the cement block holding a bedroom door opened. Poor people stole them from construction sites all the time. Used them every possible way. I've seen night tables and coffee tables made out of them before. I picked it up with my good hand and walked back to the kitchen. Hanshaw hadn't moved a bit. He gazed at the ceiling with his terminal patient eyes and his blood soak teeth. I let the cement block dangle over his head a bit, hoping he would see it. But he didn't. He just kept gurgling like an idiot. He might have been in shock. But so was I. I let the block dangle and dangle, not sure I wanted to do this.

Then I did it. I swung it over my shoulder and slammed it down on his fucking face with all my weight behind. I went down so hard then it broke in half. Hanshaw's body tensed up, like he had a seizure or something. He breathed hard and made little squeaky sounds. I just left him there, getting his last thrill on his own. My blood lust was satisfied. 

That night, I walked back home playing a thousand scenarios in my head. About how I could fight Shismanov with one hand, how I could hide the injury to the doctor, to Joe. I thought about what I could say to him when someone would find Hanshaw in the morning or the day after. I walked back home cradling my hand like a confused child, trying to hold back all the ills of the world. My phone rang in my pocket, but I let it ring and ring. Boxing was all my life, but I needed a little more time. One night away from existence, with ice and a forty ounces. To hell with life. 

Benoît Lelièvre is 29 years old and lives in Montreal, Canada. He writes stories about people who fell off the deep end. His shorts have appeared in Needle Magazine, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive and multiple Beat to a Pulp anthologies. He loves noir, hockey, basketball, pop culture and his dog, Scarlett. He blogs out ofwww.deadendfollies.com