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

Midnight on the Links

A fine mist hung in the air as I walked up to meet Dad at the driving range. The lush grass made a soft, wispy sound against my spikes. I knew the course didn’t allow spikes anymore; no golf course did. But it was near midnight, and I didn’t think anyone was out there to stop me, so why not? Besides, I had always worn spikes when Dad and I played golf. Why should we change just because the world moved on?

He stood smiling as always when I came out to meet him. It was the only time we could see each other these days, but this time belonged only to us and that made it okay.

He had that same glow about him when we spent time together. We had a special relationship. ‘Cut from the same cloth’, he used to say. I loved my mother, but Dad and I were always closest. I just didn’t get to see him very much anymore. And he wasn’t going to like what I had to tell him.

“Ready to hit some?” he asked, waving down the open expanse of the range. “I’ve been practicing since last time, and I’m in rare form tonight.” He flashed a grin, and I couldn’t help but grin back. I couldn’t tell him yet, it would break his heart.

The old routine came easily. “Come on. You know I’m too young and strong for you, Old Man.”

He smirked.

He had always been a better golfer than me, no matter how far I could hit the ball. He would just take his time and knock it down the fairway while I’d step up to the tee and hit it as hard as I could. Couldn’t help it. It just felt good to let go of whatever was bothering me and crank it. I never even worried where it went. Dad could find a golf ball in a swamp. We always ended up leaving the course with more balls than we started.

I put my bag down and took out my driver. A pile of range balls sat next to my dad, and I knew he’d been hard at work. I could never figure out how he did it with the pro shop being closed, but he always had range balls waiting for me. I nodded to him and teed one up.

The grips felt cold and a little moist in my hands. I steadied myself and addressed the ball.

“Driver, huh?” he said. “Gonna make me work to follow it tonight. I see how it is...out here to test the old man.” I smiled up at him. He loved it, even more than he liked giving me a hard time about it.

My swing was never as fluid or pretty as Dad’s. It didn’t feel crisp when I hit the ball, the way the TV commentators always said it should. Still, I felt a release every time I caught one good, and that was enough for me. I reached back for some power and let it go.

Dad’s head whipped around, following its trajectory into the night. “About two-eighty, but slicing off to the right,” he said in a hushed voice. He would never come right out and tell me I needed to hit it differently, like he understood why I swung as hard as I could. But he always added a little commentary like this. Just hoping I’d catch on and try to swing straighter, I guess. But I didn’t come out here to work on my swing.

His shots were much easier to follow. He hit his own instead of the range balls, and they were a piece of cake to track. Straight as an arrow in flight. He stepped up, a lefty hitting right-handed because he’d had to learn with right-handed clubs.

“Only two-ten? My, but you are getting old.” I grinned.
He looked sidelong at me, but smiled. “Yep, but mine would be in the fairway. Yours would be wet or out of bounds, Sport.”

Nothing I could say to that. He was right, but that wasn’t why he’d said it. Our nights began that way when we met out here. Talk never got serious until time to go, and I was okay with that. I didn’t want tonight to get serious until I knew it had to.

We stood there, hitting balls down the range and joking for a while. We talked about sports and how our beloved Wolfpack was doing. We talked about my kids, and how they were doing in school. He missed them. He told me my sister was doing well, and missed me a great deal. I asked him to say hello for me. But for the most part, the talk never led directly to my wife. That was a tender subject. He asked how my ‘home life’ was. I said things were fine. I told him Terri was doing well at the hospital, which was part of the reason we could afford the house we were in. Anesthesiologists did pretty well. He nodded, but didn’t say anything.

After an hour or so on the driving range, him hitting it straight while I continued to slice it right, he gave me a funny look. “Son, would you play a round with me tonight?”
I couldn’t, and I told him so. I had to make sure she didn’t know I was out of bed, so I couldn’t be gone that long. “I think she’s beginning to suspect that I’m cheating on her or something, because she woke up last time when I got back in bed. I had a hell of a time convincing her I had just gone to the bathroom. I’m sorry Dad. I just don’t think I can.”

“I know, Bud, but I think this is going to be our last time, and I would like to play one more round with you. We haven’t gotten to play since before…well, just before.” He must have sensed something in the way I acted to think that this might be our last chance. “I miss you, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to see you after tonight. Please, it’s important to me.”

There it was. He was making it easier on me. Somehow he must have known that I wouldn't be coming out with him anymore, and he was taking the heat for it instead of making me say it. How could I possibly turn him down?

“Okay, how about we play nine holes?” I said. “If this has to be our final goodbye, let’s at least play nine. Will that work?”

He frowned as he thought about it. Finally his face cleared and he said, “Okay, but I’d like to play the back nine. I haven’t played the back since, you know....”

Yeah. Since the day my whole world got turned upside down. Now I was saying goodbye, and if he wanted to play the back, that’s what we’d do.

“You’re going to have to watch where my shots go for me. I can’t see shit out here,” I said.

He smiled. “I always do it on the range, why wouldn’t I on the course? I’ll meet you on the tenth tee, okay?”

“Okay, Dad. Be there in a minute.” He was gone in a
flash.

I really couldn’t see out there. When he was around it made things easier, but there was only a thin sliver of moon. The night sky must’ve been clouded over, because there weren’t a lot of stars out either. I knew we weren’t supposed to be here, so I had to wait until we were off the first hole before I used my flashlight. Not that I’d need it. Dad could see much better than I could at night. Of course he could. He could see anything.

He stood on the tee box, grinning like a kid on Christmas morning when I approached. My heart ached knowing this was the last time I’d get to play with him, but he was almost giddy because he loved golfing with me so much. It had always been our time. Now it was our last time. I smiled weakly at him and put my clubs down.

“You’re up first, Youngster,” he said. He’d always made me tee off first. He told me once that he liked to watch my swing, but I think he just knew I didn’t handle the pressure well, and he wanted the edge on me. Not that it would have mattered. I set up and swung hard, and the club made a sharp ‘tink’ sound. I shook my head.

“Slice,” he confirmed. Not malicious or spiteful, just matter-of-fact so that I’d know what I did wrong and work on it.

He didn’t crush it, just sort of popped it down the middle of the fairway, and we were off. I walked with him to his second shot, and he walked me over to find mine. As we played each hole we talked. It was time for the serious stuff, and he didn’t hold back.

“Why do you think Terri never liked me?” he asked. The question both shocked and saddened me. I could never really understand why my wife had such a problem with my father. How could I possibly explain it to him? The best I could do was try to smooth things out.

“She didn’t dislike you, Dad. I don’t know. She just never got us, I guess.”

He looked skeptical.

“Maybe it’s my fault, like I made her feel second best or something,” I added.

“That’s bullshit Son, and you know it.” Yeah, I knew he wouldn’t buy it, but it was the best excuse I could think of. “She never understood our relationship, that’s true. But you never, ever made her feel second to us. She was the same way with your mother. You and Mom didn’t have anything like the relationship we had, and Terri didn’t like her either. Mom says ‘Hi’, by the way.”

“I don’t know Dad. I think she tried, though.” I could see in his eyes that he was hurt, but it’s tough having to defend your wife to your parents. “I mean, she tried to come to the range in the early evenings with us, back when we’d sneak out here and it was still light out. She even got me to teach her the game so she could be involved when you and I’d play eighteen after the course had closed for the day. And it was her idea to come out golfing with you that day. That suggestion was all hers. She said you guys were having fun. At least until…”

“Yeah. Maybe someday I’ll get the chance to tell you how much fun ‘until…’ was.” It stung, and maybe he saw that when he said it. “I’m sorry Bud. That wasn’t fair. I guess it just frustrates me that even now we have to sneak out just to pal around like this. My God, you can’t even tell her the truth, you have to creep out of bed and hope she doesn’t think there’s another woman. My own grandchildren once told me what a horrible person their mommy said I am. What the hell is that?”

“I know, Dad. I mean, I didn’t know about that, but I know some of the other stuff. I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say. We played two more holes, making small talk and an occasional ‘Good shot!’ to fill the silence. This man had been everything to me before Terri and the kids had come along. What could I say?

Standing on the fifteenth tee, Dad looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, Son. I really am.”

“You don’t have to be sorry, Dad. I am. I’m sorry I let her push us apart then, and I’m sorry it’s happening now. But I still love you. I always will.”

“I know you do, Son, and I love you. I’m just really sorry, that’s all.” He had a weird look on his face, but he didn’t say anything. He just stood there shaking his head, brow furrowed.

I stepped up to the tee box, reached back, and swung hard. My frustration and sadness struck the ball full force. And for the first time since I was a kid, the ball I’d struck hooked and went sailing off to the left.

“Damn!” I couldn’t believe it. I never hook the ball. That’s usually Terri’s problem.

I thought Dad would be laughing uncontrollably by that point, but he just seemed sad. He shook his head again and said, “Don’t worry, Son. I’ll help you find it. I know right where it went.”

He hit his drive down the fairway, then we started walking to the left. I let him lead the way, so I would know what was ahead of me. He looked back over his shoulder and asked, “Do you have your glove on still?”

I told him I did. “Why?”

“Oh, no particular reason,” he said. “Just keep it on in case…I don’t know. In case of thorns or something.” I never took it off when I played, so I just nodded and kept walking.

The ball sat deep in the brush. On a smaller course, it might have carried over to another hole, but not here. The woods here were thick and dark. There was no telling what secrets these trees kept. Dad sped up, but he was the only thing I could see out here so I wasn’t exactly afraid of losing him.

A ways back in the woods he came to a halt. It was quiet, a place apart from the rest of the world. At his feet was a white golf ball, but there was something else catching a glint of light. He stared at the small glimmer, a somber look about him. I bent down to examine it.

“Be careful!”

“Why? What’s the problem?”

“If you’re going to pick that up,” he said. “Use your gloved hand, and do it very, very carefully.”

“Why? What the hell is it?” He freaked me out, and that glow about him seemed darker. Not dimmer, just a darker shade. Spooked me a little bit.

“Take a look, just be easy, and don’t smudge it or touch the tip, okay?”

I moved aside some of the leaves and saw that it was an empty syringe. I wasn’t sure what was so dangerous about it, but he was never wrong about these things. I picked the syringe up by the plunger, noting some dried blood on the needle. “How did this get here, you reckon?”

He sighed. Until that moment, I hadn’t known a ghost could sigh. It was the saddest sound I had ever heard. “It was left there after it was used on me, son.”

I wasn’t sure I understood what he meant. “Dad, you had a heart attack, remember?”

“Yes, I remember very vividly. But I was in pretty good shape when it hit, wouldn’t you say? I took my blood pressure medicine. I ate right. What on earth makes you think I would be ripe for a heart attack?”

I thought about it. This all seemed wrong to me. “Wait a minute,” I said. “You mean this hole is the one where you had your heart attack?”

“Yep. Your lovely wife hooked her tee shot over into the woods, and asked me if I would help her find her ball,” he said. “Well, the main reason I did this was to build some good will between us, so I said sure. She followed me into the woods, I assumed to help look for it. Then something stung me in the butt. You’re holding it in your hand now.”

I looked at the syringe in my hand. I couldn’t comprehend it, but he didn’t give me time to adjust or ask questions. Just kept charging ahead with his story.

“Next thing I know, it got real cold,” Dad continued. “The whole left side of my body got numb, and my chest hurt. I tried to cry out, but nothing worked right, even my voice. I fell down on my back, and there she was standing over me. Indifferent, like she was waiting for a bus or something.”

“You’re telling me that my wife killed you?” I could feel my hands shaking, but inside I felt calm. I should have gone straight to the police, but the idea didn’t even occur to me. If it had, things would probably have turned out a lot better. “Is that why you brought me out here, Dad?”
“I’m sorry son,” he said. I really believed he was. “I love you, but I wanted you to know about the evil bitch you married before it was too late.”

“Oh, it’s not too late,” I told him, smiling. “It’s not too late at all.” I wasn’t sure at that point what I was going to do, but I think Dad already knew that the round of golf was over. I had something a little more important to tend to.

***

Sitting here now, waiting for the police and the questions, I’m not sure what I’m going to tell the kids. Explaining to them that Grandpa is a ghost that’s been talking to Daddy may actually be easier than explaining the syringe now jutting out from between Terri’s glazed, unblinking eyes. I don’t know who will take care of them while I’m in prison, but I know this: Terri will never tell them another lie about my father. Who knows?  Maybe I’ll get the chair, see him sooner than expected.



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