Table of Contents

Summer 2008

From The Editor

Letter from Sandra Ruttan

Short Stories

Amra Pajalic

The Game

The Old Man

The Vow

The Other Shoe

Patrick Shawn Bagley

Bank Job

John McFetridge

Overtime

Russel D. McLean

Her Cheating Heart

Steve Mosby

Fruits

Grant McKenzie

Out Of Order

Patricia Abbott

Pox

Leaving

Damien Seaman

Love In Vain

Ugly Duckling

Steve Allan

Hump The Stump

Stumpy's Revenge

You and Me and Stumpy Makes Three

Stephen D. Rogers

Head Shot

Richard Cooper

Simmer Time

Sandra Seamans

Predatory

Allan Guthrie

Freckles

Brian Lindenmuth

Gun

Tony Black

London Calling

Brian McGilloway

Spoonfull of Sugar

Interview

Damien Seaman with Tony Black

Reviews by:

Sandra Ruttan

Savage Night

The Cold Spot

Brian Lindenmuth

Kockroach

The Crimes of Dr. Watson

Half the Blood of Brooklyn

Crimson Orgy

Mad Dogs

The Resurrectionist

Sharp Teeth

Lawrence

Black Man

Tricia

Hip Flask: Concrete Jungle

Chadwick

At the City's Edge

Amber

Small Favor

Madhouse

Book Excerpts

Toros & Torsos
by Craig McDonald

Paying For It
by Tony Black

Dirty Sweeet
by John McFetridge

Feature

The Graveyard Shift: blog by Lee Ofland

A Spoonful of Sugar: An Inspector Devlin Story by Brian McGilloway

Jason Curran was dressed in a baggy Spiderman suit as he lay in the Casualty department of Letterkenny General Hospital. The spider emblem of his suit was stained with his vomiting, his skin clammy and pale, his lips tinged blue. His parents sat on the edge of the bed, holding a kidney shaped container to his mouth each time he retched.

Caroline Williams and I stood in the doorway, looking in at the five year-old, his body barely stretching half way down the trolley on which he lay. He had been admitted after suffering a seizure at home. A nurse, emptying his bedpan of vomit, noticed the remains of a blue diamond-shaped tablet. And she called us.

“I thought you should know,” she said, pushing her bangs back from her eyes.

“And it’s definitely Viagra?” Williams asked.

“It’s fairly recognisable.”

“Have you asked…?” I mouthed, gesturing behind the curtain towards Jason’s father.

“No,” she said sharply. “That’s why I called you.”

I turned to Williams. “Do you want to handle this?”

“I’d rather not,” she said. “Besides, this sounds more your area of expertise.”

“Thanks,” I said, unsure how to take her comment.

Jason’s father sat opposite me in the hospital cafeteria, not drinking the coffee I bought him. “I need to be back up there with Jason,” he said.

“I understand that, sir,” I said. “I just have a few questions. Best we talk down here, you know?”

He looked at me in bewilderment. His body was angled in his seat. I guessed he hadn’t deliberately poisoned the boy, but that didn’t excuse negligence.
“They seem to know what happened to Jason,” I said, stirring my tea, avoiding eye contact. “He ate a Viagra tablet,” I said. “He vomited out the remains.”

“What?” Martin Curran stammered, his mouth a twisted question mark.

“Do you use – I mean, do you have those types of tablets at home?” As if it were the most natural conversation to be having with a stranger in a hospital café. I realised I was still stirring my tea. Stopped. Picked up the cup and blew across the surface of the liquid instead.

“Of course I don’t. Where the hell did he get that?”

“That’s what I’m asking,” I said, putting down my cup again. “I can understand, he might have been playing around in the house, found them, thought they were sweets or something…”

“I don’t use Viagra,” he began, then realised that some of the other diners were turning to look. “I don’t need those,” he hissed. “How dare you?”

I raised my hand, attempting to placate the man. “Accidents happen at home. It would be understandable. Nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“I don’t use fucking Viagra. You can search the house if you like. In fact, I insist,” he spat, tossing his keys on the table between us.

We checked each room through, looking in medicine cabinets, bedroom drawers, without success. On the living room floor, the contents of a bag of sweets spilled onto the floor near a patch on the carpet where Jason Curran had soiled himself during his seizure.

As we were locking up to return to the hospital, our desk Sergeant, Burgess, radioed us to call into the Kandy Kabin, a shop at the edge of the estate. The owner, Mervyn Cole, had called to report a theft.

The shop was small and dingy and smelt of vegetables and washing powder. The same applied to the owner.

“What was taken, sir?” Williams asked Cole after we had introduced ourselves.
“It was his bloody lot,” the man spat, pointing at the shop assistant, a boy in his late teens, tanned, his hair dark and a little greasy, hanging in his eyes. He had been sweeping up, but now seemed to be trying to hide behind the brush shaft, with limited success.

“Romanians,” the man snarled. “They’re at it all the time. They keep doing it.”

“Doing what, Mr Cole?” I asked, nodding to Williams that she should speak with the shop hand.

“Stealing stuff,” he explained, as one might to a slow child.

“Why do you employ him?”

“He doesn’t do it,” the man said with exasperation. “His kind.”

“What exactly did they take?” I asked.

“Stetsons,” he said. “Fifty of them, from the back shelf.”

“Stetsons?” I repeated.

“Pink plastic ones, to be precise.”

“Fifty pink Stetsons?”

“That’s right,” he said. “And it’s not bloody funny.”

“Why had you fifty pink Stetsons?” I asked, poker faced.

“I ordered a batch of green ones for St Paddy’s Day last year and they sent a batch of pink ones as well, by mistake.”

“And you didn’t return them?”

“Their mistake, weren’t it,” he stated, pushing his glasses up his nose.

I assured him I would do all I could to get to the bottom of the theft, then nodded to Williams that it was time to leave. The shop boy, a Romanian named Pavel, had been unable to assist with our inquiries. Indeed, Williams said, he could hardly speak English at all.

“Time for home?” Williams asked when we got in the car.

“Are you in a hurry somewhere?” I asked.

“A friend’s hen party,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Another chance for them to match me up with some saddo pervert.”

After eleven that night I had to drive into town for milk. Passing our local night club, I noticed several immigrants standing outside, selling single red roses to the drunken revellers spilling onto the street. Further along the road I saw Caroline’s hen party group staggering, a few sporting pink wigs, Caroline herself wearing a pink feather boa.

I was making my way home when I spotted Pavel, the boy from Kandy Kabin, outside the club, a pile of pink Stetsons teetering in each arm. A hen party leaving the club crowded around the boy, each taking a pink hat. A girl put one of the hats on Pavel and kissed him on the cheek. The party laughed a collective cackle as they went, while Pavel counted his earnings.

I parked, and crossed the road, coming up behind him. “Very clever, son.”

The boy’s face turned a shade of green usually reserved for corpses. He tried to speak but nothing came out. He glanced over his shoulder, as if gauging whether to try to make a run for it, but I had his coat sleeve by then.

“He pays me nothing,” he said in considerably better English than he had led Williams to believe he possessed. “He stole these anyway.”

I nodded my head, lit a smoke, let him keep talking. “How did you do it?”

“My cousin’s kid comes in and asks for sweets. When Cole’s back is turned my cousin runs in and grabs what he can. I only get one pound for each. I’ll pay him back.”
“It’s still stealing,” I said.
Pavel looked about him more frantically. “They’ll send me back to Romania. I want to stay.” He licked his lips dryly. “I’ll tell you about his sweet box. What he keeps in it.”

I let go of his sleeve and offered him a smoke. “I’m all ears.”

Williams looked the worse for wear the following morning. Her breath was warm with mints and the smell of smoke clung to her hair.

“Good night?” I asked, offering her a cup of coffee.

She grunted a response and slumped into her chair, spilling the coffee onto her hand in so doing.

“What about you?” she managed, as she mopped the spillage from her desk with her sleeve.

“Cracked both cases. Our Romanian brush boy was selling pink cowboy hats outside your club last night. Fifty of them.”

“You’re kidding,” she said. “I didn’t see him.”

“No,” I smiled. “He and I went for a drink while he told me about his boss’ little sideline. Selling herbal Viagra under the counter from Kandy Kabin. Seems he keeps the tablets in a sweet box, under a pile of ten-pence mixes. Jason Curran bought a bag yesterday – one of the tabs must have got into the bag by accident.”

“Jesus. How’s the boy now?”

“Making a good recovery. Pavel’s keeping a low profile. Mr Cole is sitting in interview room one, waiting for that cup of coffee you’ve just spilt, getting ready to take some bitter medicine of his own. Do you fancy making him another?”

Williams rolled her eyes and struggled to her feet. “If I must. How does he take it?”

“White, no sugar,” I said, then stopped. “On second thoughts, maybe a spoonful. You know what they say…”

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