Table of Contents

Spring 2009

From The Editor

Letter from Jack Getze

Short Stories

Patrick Whittaker

9:03

Anthony Rainone

Fall to Pieces

Phil Beloin

Late, After Dinner

Jake Nantz

Midnight on the Links

Stephen D. Rogers

Queen Anne's Lace

Mike Sheeter

Blue Fugazzi

David Moss

The Sleepy Pines Nursing Home

Fiona Kay Crawford

Successful Surgeon

Graham Powell

The Ins and Outs

John Towler

The Fall

Damien Seaman

Thursday Night Blowout

Matthew Acheson

Writing on the Wall

Interviews

Sandra Ruttan with Russel D. McLean

Declan Burke with Brian McGilloway

Jim Napier with Phyllis Smallman

Brian Lindenmuth with Craig McDonald

Reviews by:

P.A. Brown

Mexican Heat

Gloria Feit

Friend of the Devil

Theodore Feit

Death Was in the Picture

A Beautiful Place to Die

Night and Day

Claire McManus

The Hanged Man

The Poisoner of Ptah

My Sister, My Love

The Cruelest Month

Jim Winter

Trigger City

The Fourth Victim

TKO

Bookspot Review Roundup

Book Excerpt

The Big O
by Declan Burke

Featured Article

Passing of the Torch - Celebrated crime novelist dies
by Jim Napier

Late, After Dinner

Tommy Philips couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant, only that it was in Westport along Route 1. Pasta hoarded his plate, the sauce so thick and creamy, he felt full after a few bites. His partner, Jack, gorged on everything the waiter brought. Sitting next to Jack, hardly touching her food, the reason for this business dinner: Barbara Stanton, cult movie actress from the 80’s.

Tommy had seen some of her films back then, remembering that they were pretty cheesy, except for when Barbara ran around sans wardrobe and drenched in fake blood. Her last film -- Tommy was pretty sure she was naked for most of the 83 minutes of screen time -- was so atrocious, Barbara vanished from the film world, but now eight years into the new millennium, she was making a comeback, though not as an actress. She wanted to produce. A friend of a friend knew Jack and a week later, here in Westport -- not all that far from Paul Newman’s home -- Tommy sat across from Barbara, marveling at how well she had aged.

Yeah, he was attracted to her; maybe since the first time he had seen her on the screen.

"Well," Jack said between humongous swallows, "we don’t actually have a script, yet. We’re looking for funding first."

"I can offer ten mil for production," Barbara said, "and another ten for post. Would that be enough?"

Tommy leaned forward, his tie just missing the white sauce encircling his tortellini. "I know some folks over at Sony Classic," he said. "That’s plenty for an art house piece."

"Or a sexy thriller," Jack said.

"Oh, please, gentlemen, I’ve had enough of those for a lifetime."

***

Barbara had come up from Manhattan with Jack, but he was training back to the city, while she needed a ride to her house in Fairfield. Tommy offered her a lift, and after dropping Jack off at the station, he jumped on 95, heading north, dodging potholes and late night motorists. Tommy hated Connecticut drivers, though he’d have to maneuver through a whole lot more of them to reach his house in Litchfield. But first, he had to get Barbara home. Barbara, potentially their new partner, after the lawyers were called and contracts drawn up. Barbara looking very nice in that dress.

Jesus, Tommy, you’ll drive into a Jersey barrier if you don’t knock it off. You’re at least ten years younger than her. Then he thought: So what?

Barbara’s house was huge, even though most of it was in shadow, Tommy hoping their partnership might lead to his own spread. A sensor light popped on as he swung around the driveway circle, stopping by the front door.

"Oh, damn," Barbara said. "I didn’t leave a light on. I hate going into a dark house, kind of scares me -- if you can believe that."

"You live alone?"

"Sure do."

The kitchen was large and immaculate, Tommy following Barbara into the next room, where she hit a wall switch, revealing an even larger space with plenty of furniture facing a flat paneled television.

"Sit," Barbara said. "I’ll pour us something, and I’ll tell you an idea I have for a script."

"Great," Tommy said, hoping it would be a short pitch -- maybe a sentence or two, or even better, just the tag line.

There was a mini-bar in the corner and Barbara came back with two glasses of dark liquid, the ice cubes rattling. She sat next to him, half a cushion apart.

"The main character is a woman," she said. "Nancy is making it on her own, but struggling -- not rich, no prospects of it."

"A little bit like Jackie Brown?" Tommy said, thinking of Tarantino’s fine film, named after the main character.

Barbara nodded. "The camera starts in a busy restaurant/bar in New York City. Nancy is with friends when she meets a very sophisticated gentlemen. Their first night together, he takes her to the South of France where they make love on his yacht. Within the week, they are married and return to the States."

Sipping his scotch, Tommy pondered her opening. Wasn’t bad. No conflict, yet, but the visuals could be enticing. A good director could handle that.

"Her husband is obviously very wealthy," Barbara said, "but Nancy doesn’t know what he does for a living. When she asks him about this, he becomes secretive, not answering her, taking phone calls in other rooms. Sometimes, he doesn’t bother to come home at all."

"It’s another woman?" Tommy said.

Barbara shook her head. "Picture this; thunder is shaking the house, rain flooding the streets, and yet, three men have come to see Nancy’s husband. They go into his office, and she overhears that her husband has had a man killed, the body dropped into the East River."

"He’s a crook," Tommy said.

"Nancy can’t believe it," Barbara said. "She’s in shock and gets caught outside the door. ‘Gentlemen,’ her husband says, ‘this is my wife’."

"That’s good," Tommy said, knowing how dramatic the scene would play.

"I wanted to ratchet up the tension some more," Barbara said, "so I decided Nancy’s husband should strike her, and this only encourages the other three other men to join in. Her blouse could get ripped away. Somehow, though, she pulls free."

Tommy sat forward. "That could be tough to watch."

"Can you image how shocked the audience will be?" Barbara said. "Nancy will run to her room, lock the door, pick up the phone. The line is dead. She opens her bedroom window, but there is a man outside. She can’t sleep that night and in the morning, there is a man standing outside her bedroom door. Another man waits downstairs."

"She’s trapped," Tommy said.

Barbara took the first sip of her drink. "But I think it should get worse, really hang the audience out there with Nancy."

"How so?"

"A few scenes later, let’s say, Nancy is working in the garden when footsteps approach from behind. Hands push her down, holding her face in the dirt. Shoes tear her flesh, crack a rib. They lacerate a kidney, bright red in her urine as she wets herself."

The story was more violent than one of her old films, Tommy thought. Way too graphic for the art house crowd.

Barbara moved closer to him. "We need to know that Nancy never feels safe." She was almost touching his shoulder now. "Like this idea; she is dragged from her home in the middle of the night, and brought on a boat. Her wrists are bound so tightly they leave scars."

Tommy was looking into his drink, and he noticed Barbara wore thick bracelets on both wrists.

Don’t be stupid, he thought.

"As the ocean splashes by," Barbara said, "we wonder if Nancy will get pushed overboard. Instead, the men put a pistol to her head and pull the trigger. A mock execution could be very intense."

Barbara raised her arm to drink and Tommy watched the bracelet slide away from her wrist. His heart thudded once -- like a warning shot.

"But clearly," Barbara went on, "the most dramatic moment in the film is when Nancy talks to a clerk in a grocery store, laughing at a small remark the clerk has made. The next time she goes to the market, the clerk is gone. No one knows what has happened to him. We know her husband’s men have killed him, but you never see that. Nancy learns never to talk to anyone after that."

Was this why Barbara Stanton had disappeared all those years ago? Tommy didn’t want to believe it, and yet...

Barbara took Tommy’s hand in hers. "Let me tell you how it should end, which is literally, by accident," she said. "Nancy is going through an intersection when her bumper is nudged by another car. The other driver is a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The lawyer has made a career of going after hoods, has even put some of her husband’s buddies in prison. He offers her protection, gets a restraining order against the husband, even a legal separation but even though there’s no divorce, Nancy is free to return to the life she had before she met this madman."

Jesus, she’s still married. Tommy knew he had to get away from Barbara Stanton, away from her life.

"Well, Barbara," he said. "Let me see what Jack thinks about your idea."

He wanted to call Jack from his car and tell him she’s not going to be their next partner.

"I’d better get going," Tommy said.

Barbara squeezed his hand. "Please don’t go," she said.

He removed his hand from her grip, trying not to touch the gouge on her wrist. "It’s getting late," he said. "Goodnight, Barbara."

Tommy stood and headed for the kitchen. He would drive away as fast as he could and not feel guilty about anything.

Barbara didn’t follow him through the house, and once outside, he felt like running to his car, but he took normal strides, his feet crunching the stones in the driveway. Once in the driver’s seat, he looked back, saw that Barbara had already shut the lights off.

Get going, boy. It’s a long ride home.

As he started the engine, Tommy felt a chill across his neck before a blade dug through his skin and into his throat.



The Forever Girl is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble