Small Town Creed by Paul D. Brazill

A golf club slammed into the side of Sammy Lee’s face. He fell to the ground and looked up at Crispin.

‘Is that the best you’ve got? You soft Southern shite,’ he said through broken teeth. He spat blood as he spoke and laughed, although he really felt like screaming.

Sammy Lee could see Piccadilly Circus’ neon lights through Em’s office window. Despite the pain he was in, he still thought it looked beautiful. He smiled.

Em sat behind her desk smoking an e-cigarette. She looked disgusted.

‘I hope some fucker is going to clean this up after you’re finished,’ she said.

‘Of course, darling,’ said Crispin.

Em cringed. Hearing his upper class accent was like getting massaged by sandpaper.

‘I’ll send The Five-foot Pole to sort it out,’ said Crispin. ‘It should be well within her capabilities, limited though they may be.’

He sniggered.

Sammy Lee tried to get up but he slipped back. He screamed with pain.

Crispin twirled the golf club like a cheerleader’s baton.

‘I’m getting a tad bored with this,’ he said. ‘If you wish to return to Hovis land with some of your teeth and all of your limbs intact you had better tell me where my fucking car is posthaste.’

‘I keep telling you. I don’t fucking know. The puff that sucked you off took it. He was supposed to come back with the dosh after he sold the car.’

Em stood. She checked her reflection in the wall mirror. Tall, blonde, thin. Same as ever. Maybe the odd worry lines around the eyes but that was it.

‘You know this is all your fucking fault, Crispy nuts,’ she said.

Crispin cringed at his nickname.

‘Why blame me?’ he said. ‘This Northern pleb stole the car. Not me.’

‘The car was your responsibility,’ said Em. ‘The car’s contents, more importantly.’

She walked toward Sammy Lee. Loomed over him.

‘How did you do it?’ she said. ‘How did you manage to rob that soft boy’s car? The security system is supposed to be top of the range. A Russian hacker set it up.’

Sammy Lee shuffled away from her. Suddenly scared.

‘Well?’ said Em.

‘Yeah, you see … I’m good,’ said Sammy Lee. ‘Really good. I can get into any car.’

‘Any?’ said Em.

‘Yeah. Any.’

‘No matter what the security system is?’

‘Yeah. I’m that good. That’s why I came down South, like. To make some dosh. I can do houses and offices too.’

Em smiled.

‘I like that,’ she said. ‘Initiative. I still remember arriving in London, trying  to make my fortune. The scrapes I got into, I could tell you. That’s why I have my office overlooking Piccadilly Circus. To remind me of how far I’ve come.’

She frowned as she looked at Crispin who was leaning against her desk, grinding his teeth.

‘That’s something the posh boy here wouldn’t understand,’ said Em. ‘Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and up his arse this one. He’s had his uses mind you. Well, once upon a time.’

She turned back to Sammy Lee.

‘Which particular homosexual are you talking about,’ said Em. ‘One of the ones that hangs around Eros? One of the rent boys. ’

She nodded toward her window.

‘Aye. One of them. He’s from Cornwall or somewhere,’ croaked Sammy Lee.

‘A little Cornish pasty, eh?’ said Em. ‘Just your type Crispin.’

‘Look,’ said Crispin. ‘All we need to do is …’

‘Shh,’ said Em ‘All we need is love.’

‘What are you taking about?’ said Crispin.

Em leaned close to Sammy Lee.

‘Do you think you could find this puff … with the right financial incentive?’ she said.

‘Yeah,’ said Sammy Lee. ‘Sure I could.’

Em smiled. She patted him on the head.

‘Tally ho, Crispin,’ said Em.

She pulled out a knife and stabbed Crispin in the throat. Twisted the knife until he collapsed gurgling to the floor.

‘Oh well,’ said Em.

She picked up her desk phone and spoke into it.

‘Lee, can you send in the five-foot Pole,’ she said.

She looked over at Sammy Lee. ‘And tell her to bring her first aid kit. I think we’ve got a new recruit.’

The Righteous Man by Paul D. Brazill

Lizzy Beachwell reclined on her sofa while her husband Tom fed her slices of pizza.  Lizzy had been such a svelte thing when she wrote for The Face magazine in the early ‘80s but the good life had taken its toll and she had more recently earned the nickname Lizzy Beached Whale.

‘Tintin Quarantino?’ said Lizzy. ‘Oh, he’s just Jim Jarmusch for thickos.’

‘Yes, but the paraphernalia from his films goes for a song on eBay,’ said Tom. ‘If this is real, it could pay the bills for a few months at least.’

Lizzie grimaced. She hadn’t been this short of cash since she was a teen. Her controversial views had been courted by many media for years. But the cacophonous din of internet trolls had all but drowned her out recently. They were obnoxious for free, after all.  Her novels were now out of print, too, and she refused to lower herself to the grubby level of self-publishing or eBooks.

Lizzy took the battered, bloodstained wallet from Tom.

‘And you say you just found it in the pub?’ she said.

‘Yep. Some old soak staggered out of the toilets and it dropped out of his raincoat pocket when he bumped into me,’ said Tom.

‘You do drink in some dives, darling,’ said Lizzy.

‘It’s research sweetie. You know that,’ said Tom.

‘I don’t need research. I have my imagination.’

Tom was tempted to say that was why she hadn’t written a decent novel this century but, as usual, he bit his tongue.

‘So, shall I phone Joolz?’ said Tom.

‘Ok. But don’t bring him here if you have to meet him. He’s such a piss taker.’

Hello Mrs Pot, I’d like to introduce you to Mr Kettle, thought Tom.

• • •

The players walked off the football pitch talking about which pub they were going to for the Sunday afternoon drinking session.

‘Jammy bastard,’ said the goalkeeper, grinning. ‘That was one of the luckiest goals I’ve ever seen.’

‘Divine intervention, mate,’ said Joolz Stroud.

Joolz showered and changed. He checked his iPhone and saw a text message and a missed call from his Tom Beachwell. He put on his black leather biker jacket and headed out of the changing rooms.

Joolz could see the stream of traffic heading in and out of the new Ikea car park. Ignoring the Sunday shopping zombies, he strolled down to the river. He stopped outside The City Barge, checked his watch and went into the crowded pub. He’d already slurped half of his pint of London Pride when Tom called him back.

‘Yeah,’ he said.  ‘What’s the story, old glory?’

He listened for a few minutes and a smile crept across his face.

‘I’ll be there in about an hour,’ said Joolz.

He hung up, grinned and reminded himself that although he didn’t believe in fate or karma, a window of opportunity had just opened wide.

• • •

Joolz looked so much like his late father, a best-selling thriller writer, that it made Tom uneasy.  Young Julian hadn’t inherited his father’s ability to churn out money making potboilers, however, and had decided to try his hand at film production.  Which is where he had made his Hollywood contacts. Tom and Joolz were leaning against the bar in The French House.

‘Naw, mate,’ said Joolz, with a mock cockney drawl. ‘It’s a phony for sure. There’s loads of them out there. Sam Jackson has the original. Never lets it out of his sight.’

Tom frowned.

‘But there’s a certificate of authenticity,’ he said.

‘And they’re even easier to fake.’

Tom sighed.

‘Oh, well. At least there was a ton in there. It’ll get us a few drinks,’ said Tom.

Joolz picked up the wallet.

‘Decent quality this, mind you. I could do with a new wallet. Mind if I pilfer it?

‘Feel free,’ said Tom ‘It’s no use to me.’

Joolz pushed the wallet into his pocket. He’d email Sam’s agent about it once he got rid of Tom and arrange a meeting to give it back. Hopefully he could interest the actor in the new action film he was putting together. He might even get a nice finder’s fee from Mr Jackson, too.

Dead Pimp in a Trunk by Paul D. Brazill

I was going to tell you about why I killed Lewis Quad and how he’d had it coming to him. How he’d asked for it and deserved everything he got. Tell you what an evil bastard he was and how many lives he’d destroyed over the years. All the shitty little things he’d done just because he could. Justify my actions, and the like. But then I realised that, well, if you knew Lewis Quad you’d know all of that anyway and if you didn’t know Lewis there was no way in heaven, hell or purgatory that I was ever going to be able to explain the whole thing to you. So I thought I’d just tell you what happened next.

I was going to tell you about why I killed Lewis Quad and how he’d had it coming to him. How he’d asked for it and deserved everything he got. Tell you what an evil bastard he was and how many lives he’d destroyed over the years. All the shitty little things he’d done just because he could. Justify my actions, and the like. But then I realised that, well, if you knew Lewis Quad you’d know all of that anyway and if you didn’t know Lewis there was no way in heaven, hell or purgatory that I was ever going to be able to explain the whole thing to you. So I thought I’d just tell you what happened next.

***

I wasn’t even close to Cyrus White’s farm when I realized I was running low on fuel. The last few hours had been a blur. I’d been so wrapped up in replaying the events of the last few days I’d been smothered by them, truth be told.

As I drove through the night, the streetlamps were yellow streaks across the darkness’ pallet. I’d been listening to a phone-in talk show about ghosts, hauntings and such, and though I’d never been superstitious, I sure was glad when the dawn eventually broke on through.

I saw a sign for a gas station off of a side road and turned off the radio so that I could concentrate. I followed the directions until I reached a small disused general store with a dusty, rusted gas pump in front and a battered old station wagon parked beside it. I parked my Dodge, lay my head on the steering wheel and groaned.

After a moment or so, I switched on the radio to wake myself up but it was as dead as the corpse in my trunk. I lay back in the seat and pulled out a quarter bottle of Wild Turkey. Sipped. As I watched the sun rise like a gold doubloon, I started to relax.

Then I heard the bang.

***

She was old, in her ‘80s, or something like that, carrying a sawn-off shotgun and wearing a ragged green-velvet ball gown. She staggered out of the store, tripping over her high heeled shoes and pulling a red beehive wig from her head as she raced toward the station wagon. I guessed she didn’t notice me at first because she threw the gun into the car and crawled in after it. She started up the station wagon with a struggle and reversed. Right into my car.

***

The sunny morning had melted into a granite gray day and the non-stop drizzle failed to wash away the pain in my head. It wasn’t the impact of the cars so much or even the hangover that was kicking in. It was Mathilda and the way she talked. And how much she talked.

I pulled up outside White’s farmhouse just as Mathilda was telling some long and winding anecdote about unpaid alimony, jailbait whores and a pawn shop.

‘And, you know, what would you do, if you were unlucky enough to have found yourself in my situation?’ she said. She scratched her bald head. Glared at me.

‘I know what you mean,’ I said. ‘I know exactly what you mean.’

Although I most certainly did not.

Cyrus came out of the door cradling a crossbow that I knew he had made himself. He was tall and gaunt, with a long white beard and a bald head. He was wearing a frayed black suit. He swayed a little as he walked toward the car.

‘You took your time,’ he said. ‘My babies are getting hungry.’

I heard the pigs scream and a chill skewered my soul.

‘Don’t worry,’ I said, as I got out of the Dodge. ‘I have a little extra snack for them.’

‘Then come on in, ladies,’ said Cyrus. He opened up the passenger door and winked at Mathilda. ‘You’re just in time for tiffin.’

I picked up my purse and slammed the car door. Straightened my skirt.

Mathilda was already hobbling alongside Cyrus, arm in arm with him.

It was going to be a long day.

In the Devil’s Name by Paul D. Brazill

Isabelle told the man with the porkpie hat that she had only stopped off at the bar for a couple of drinks to drown her sorrows and that it really wasn’t the sort of establishment that she usually frequented.

‘My father’s funeral, you know?’ she croaked, eyes down, as if she were playing bingo.

Since Spencer was a stranger in town, he was unaware that James Gowdie’s apparent burial was, in fact, pretty much a monthly occurrence. A fabricated sob story – stained with wishful thinking – that regularly coincided with Isabelle having boozed away most of her salary, teetering on the precipice of sobriety and the horrors that entailed. So, he took off his hat, placed it against his chest and offered her his condolences and, most importantly, a drink.

A Martini or ten later, the night corroded and he awoke in the wan light of an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the rumble of trucks from outside the window and the ghost of a blues song leak in from the next room. He expected to find Isabelle and his wallet gone, his bank account cleared out but the toilet flushed loudly and she walked out of the bathroom looking more than somewhat frayed around the edges but – he was relieved to find- not that bad looking at all.

‘Ready for another round, Trigger?’ she said.

She picked up a bottle of wine from a bedside table and finished it as she unsteadily plonked herself on the edge of the bed.

‘A little early for me,’ said Spencer, his voice like broken glass. ‘And I have a meeting in …’

‘Fair enough,’ she said, waving a hand dismissively.

Isabelle pulled on her long, black dress and pushed her swollen feet into her red, high-heeled shoes.

‘See you around,’ she said. She picked up her handbag and tottered through the door, leaving it open and letting in a cold, autumn breeze.

***

Rivulets of rain ponderously trailed down the windscreen as James Gowdie watched his daughter stagger out of the taxi and tumble toward The Swampsnake’s blinking neon sign. James lit a Marlborough with his Zippo as Isabelle headed down the steps and opened the metal door, a blast of hard rock bursting free for a moment. He slowly smoked his cigarette, his heart pounding.

A truck pulled into the car park and a skinhead in a tartan shirt got out of the truck and rushed into the bar.

James felt frozen. Trapped like one of the wasps he used to catch in jam jars when he was a kid. He eventually got out of his car and opened up the boot. He pulled out a long black leather coat and draped it over his paint splattered overalls. Put on a denim cap and took out a sawn-off shotgun.

***

Vambo could feel last night’s Vindaloo slicing through his guts. He rushed into The Swampsnake , through the crowded bar and straight into the graffiti splattered toilets. An old, wire-haired man leaned unsteadily against the urinals, smoking a pin-size roll up.

‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken,’ he said.

Vambo growled.

There were two cubicles and Vambo slammed hard against the first one. Locked.

‘Get a move on will you. I’m touching cloth here,’ he shouted.

Two male voices giggled and Vambo squirmed. He smashed a massive paw against the second door and it flew wide open. A woman was on her hands and knees, her face in the toilet bowl. Vambo dragged her by the hair and pulled her backwards, letting her slide on her back across the toilet’s sticky floor. Then he saw she wasn’t breathing.

As he leaned over and gave the woman CPR, his jeans filled with toxic smelling shit,

‘That is fucking foul,’ said the old man. He rushed out of the toilets, gagging.

The sound of Isabelle’s gasps melded with the sound of her father’s gunshot as he blasted Vambo’s brains like a Rorschach test across the toilet floor. She dragged herself into consciousness in time to see her father turn the gun on himself and then she closed her eyes and slept the sleep of the just.

Return of the Tingler by Paul D. Brazill

As the bright spring afternoon melted into evening, Dr Shearing’s office grew darker. As did Lee Madison’s thoughts.

‘13 Ghosts?’ said Dr Shearing. He pulled sharply at his shirt cuffs. ‘I can’t say that I’m familiar with that particular film, or Mr William Castle’s oeuvre as a director, to be honest.’

Lee Madison cringed as Shearing spoke. The psychiatrist whistled when he pronounced the letter‘s’ and the sound almost perforated Lee’s ear drums.

‘Oh it was massively popular at the time. There was even a remake a while back,’ said Lee. ‘All flash-trash and CGI, though.’

The egg stain on Dr Shearing’s paisley tie had distracted Lee so much he’d had to turn away to look at the silent television in the corner of the room. Images of corn fields rolled across the screen.

‘But The Tingler was his most famous film,’ continued Lee. ‘He set up a gadget in the cinema seats that gave people little electric shocks when The Tingler appeared on the screen.’ He turned to Shearing and grinned, beamed.

‘A monster that lives on fear, you say? Quite clever actually,’ said Dr Shearing, who was sweating even more than usual. ‘A slightly Freudian shadow cast, eh?’

He took his ballpoint pen and scribbled on a yellow post-it-note that he then stuck inside his worn brown briefcase. He clicked the briefcase closed and looked at Lee.

‘So, you said you were about seven when your own particular ‘Tingler.’ appeared?

Lee nodded to himself. Glanced at Shearing.

‘I think so. We were on a school day out . I was running down the side of a cliff with a group of other kids when I started to panic. Imagined myself crashing down to the ground below. My head smashed to pieces. And then the panic took control of me. So, I decided to see what would happen if I just let myself fall.’

‘And?’

 

‘Everything went black and red. I came to near a swimming pool and a teacher was shouting at me while she bathed my face in chlorine stinking water. I was off school for weeks. Never really got into the habit of going to school after that, to be honest.’

‘And The Tingle returned when?’

‘Off and on. When I saw the school bus turn the corner, for example. I just wanted to throw myself under it. Or if I saw a sharp knife, I felt the urge to run it across my tongue.’

Shearing repressed a grimace.

‘And when did this stop?’

‘Well, it didn’t. It got worse when I was a teenager. The Tingler was like a cowl wrapping itself around my head. Smothering my brain. My thoughts.’

‘And nothing could stop it? Ease it?’

‘Sex took the edge off for a while. But that didn’t last long.’

‘So, that is when you started drinking?’

‘Yes, the booze helped. And then the drugs.

‘But…’

‘Their affects wore off pretty quickly. And then, one night, just after Christmas, I was walking down a path, late at night. It was freezing. I saw an old man shuffling in front of me. Almost slipping over on the ice. In a flash, I realised that I could just kill him. And it wouldn’t matter. No one would know. I could get away with it without a problem. The Tingler almost strangled me.’

‘And.’

‘And so I picked up a brick , ran up to him and smashed his head to pieces like a soft boiled egg.’

Shearing gulped. His mouth arid.

‘And what happened to The Tingler after that,’ said Shearing, looking uncomfortable.

‘It was gone for aquite long time after that. But, it was always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Of course, it crept further forward. Until eventually it was at the front of my brain.’

‘And now?’

‘A singular truth, Doctor. There truly are no consequences.’

Lee swept up a pencil and stabbed it into Dr Shearing’s eye. Again and again. Pushing it up toward his brain.

And The Tingler slipped away from his body like a shadow during night time. Only waiting for the break of dawn.

White Ink by Paul D. Brazill

‘Words are our tools, Craig. Even our weapons, sometimes’ said Katy sipping her long glass of gin and leaning back against the switched-off cigarette machine.

‘They have no meaning within themselves but we give them meaning depending on our own experiences and prejudices. For example, if I describe a man as single it’s one thing –maybe he’s a bit of jack the lad, a lady-killer, like you…’

Craig smirked, his chubby lips looking even more rubbery.

‘But if I say that someone’s a bachelor then what do you think of?

Craig peeled the label from his bottle of Efes.

‘A bachelor gay? Lives with his mother? Kiddy fiddler, maybe?’ he said.

‘Aha. And what do you think of when you hear the word spinster?’

‘Oh, frigid, I suppose. Lesbian. A bit desperate. Gagging for it!’ He laughed and snorted beer through his nose.

‘You see, that’s why I don’t tell people that I’m a librarian. Because of the connotations.’

‘Yeah? I see what you mean,’ said Craig, who very clearly didn’t have a clue what Katy was talking about.

And she was loving it. Loving watching him squirm as he tried to concentrate on what she was saying and tear his gaze away from her cleavage. Especially when she accidently-on-purpose dropped the ice cube between her breasts.

‘But you don’t look anything like my idea of a librarian,’ he said. He almost licked his lips off  his face.

‘Well there you are. It’s a matter of perspective. For example two people could describe the same person in a different way, depending on their political bent. One man will say that someone’s a freedom fighter and another will call him a terrorist.’

‘One man’s fish is another one’s poisson?’ said Craig, crunching a mint between his shiny, white, teeth.

‘Exactly. One man could say, for example, that you’re well-built and others would say you’re fat.’ She winked.

Craig flushed and Katy patted his wrist.

‘But I don’t need to explain that to you, do I?’ She beamed at him. ‘You’re a successful estate agent. You put a spin on words all the time, eh? Make gold from lead. Turn shit to shinola?’

Craig laughed, seeing this as way out of the conversation and an inroad into talking about himself.

‘Well, the place I saw last week could only be described in one way- a goldmine! Bought it for a song, too. The daft old bird didn’t have a clue what she was signing over.’

‘You’re, wicked,’ said Katy, with a wink. She looked at her watch. ‘I’d better be going.’

‘Your chariot awaits!’ said Craig, holding his briefcase in front of his hard-on as he stood.

***

The night was inky black as Craig parked the car outside his Chelsea flat, eager to get Katy through the oak door.

‘And then there’s my hobby. It’s such a cliché for a librarian, such a stereotype,’ said Katy.

 

‘What’s that, then?’ Craig unfastened his seat belt and twisted round toward her.

‘Knitting!’ she said ‘Imagine! A librarian who likes knitting? Just think of those connotations. That’s why we have to be careful what we put in these online dating profiles, eh? Why I had to say I was a lawyer.’ She put her black handbag onto her knee and pulled out a ball of  wool, knitting needles skewering through it.

Craig grinned and leaned toward Katy.

‘Well, I prefer what I see in the flesh.’

Katy smiled as she took a black object from her bag and slammed it between Craig’s legs. It buzzed and he screamed.

The scream melded with the whine of the Taser as it started to charge up again. He sobbed as the sound grew louder and Katy jammed it up against the side of his neck..

‘And , of course, one man’s serial killer is another woman’s vigilante, eh?’ she said, slamming a  knitting needle into Craig’s ear.