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

Thursday Night Blowout

We’re in the pub on our third round before Dave tells me about his little problem. Should’ve guessed. He’s been shifty all evening, poking at his earwax like he always does when summat’s up. It’s his bird Jane of course – always is, in’t it? Only this time it is pretty much Dave’s fault for once.

Him and some other lads have just returned from a boozy weekend in foreign climes – just at a time when I had to be working ’n all, worst luck. Anyhow, there was some fit lass down there he says, arms waving fit to knock the drinks over. English too. I don’t need to know all that mate, I say. Just tell me what happened.

Well, he says, seemed like she was up for it, you know? He breaks off and goes on about how well him and Jane been getting on recently for a change. I imagine I pull a face at that, and you can hardly blame me either. Them two been at it cats and dogs since they moved to Dave’s new place, the one his parents helped him buy. Teething troubles, Dave calls it. He can call it what he likes. That Jane is one stuck up bitch, you ask me.

Anyhow, he’s waxing lyrical about how much he loves her and how well they been getting on, ’stead of getting on with the bloody story he’s s’posed to be telling me.

So this girl, I remind him. He fills me in. Saturday night, him and this bird been drinking and that and she’s givin’ him all the signs, he reckons. They end up back at the hotel where they both happen to be staying. They’re in her room drinking with a couple of the other lads, who drift away so’s Dave can have a go, try and snog her, like. Only when he goes for it she’s not up for it after all.

So far I’m thinking this in’t much of a story, but of course there’s more. Point is, Jane tries to call a couple of times or more on his mobile during this bold adventure. Dave, being otherwise occupied, doesn’t answer. And we all know how suspicious Jane gets don’t we?

Dave’s good as got his head in his hands at this point, ’cause he knows Jane’s gonna ask him what he was up to. He can’t lie to her neither ’cause she’ll see right through him. He lolls on the sticky table-top, third pint finished, face all splotchy and his eyes all red, and I see what he needs. Another pint. I tell him to get them in.

By the time he gets back with the next round, my brilliant idea is taking shape. He has a swig of beer and asks if he should call the lads, get their stories straight, ’cause he don’t want her calling them up to get the dirt. Which she just might once he’s flopped about under her interrogation like the wet fish he is.

You can do that mate, I say, but it still won’t solve owt. She’s always nagging at you, even when you ain’t done owt. You need to sort her out for good, stop all that chatter so’s she can’t ever come back at you.

He lubricates his little grey cells with more of the amber nectar as he waits for me to continue, and that’s when I hit him with the plan. I ask him what Jane thinks of me and get a snort as he tells me she knows I don’t like her. But do you reckon she’d snog me? I ask. Which, I admit, is maybe a bit out of the blue, far as questions go.

Dave goes red in the face, even spills some of his pint as he sets it down on the table, so course I have to calm him down. Nowt to get steamed up about. Need to teach her a lesson, is all. We should get her tipsy, get some of the old tonsil tennis going between her and me, then Dave can walk in on us, get angry as you like. Be yours for life then, I tell him.

He’s mulling it over. I ask when he’s s’posed to be seeing her next. He says tomorrow. Perfect. I tell him to think about it while I go for a slash.

By the time I get back from the pisser he’s got a big smile on his face.

I know what you’re thinking and, looking back, maybe it weren’t such a hot idea after all. But fuck it, we were on the Thursday night blowout, on our fourth round, and it looked good to us. And the more we drank the better it looked. You know how these things go.

Thursday night’s pay night in Spalding, on account of how most of us work down the factories. Probably not a coincidence that most of the trouble round here gets started on a Thursday.

***

Jane’s looking good, I have to admit. Blonde hair teased up to expose her neck, eye shadow making her brown eyes look even bigger. If there’s a time to back out, this might be it.

Thing is, she’s got a face like a smacked arse tonight, and I’m part of the reason why. Can’t help but feel a stab of summat – pride? Male solidarity? She’s alone in a crowded pub in her Friday night finery and Dave is late, as per the plan.

Some bloke tries his luck on her. Before she lets her anger loose on him I slide over, pint in hand, and tell him to bugger off. Lady’s got company. Blokey buggers off. I sit down.

What do you want? she says. I get the full force of those eyes. Not to mention a waft of summat spicy. Perfume I imagine, feminine wiles being what they are. Knocks me off balance for a sec.

Thought I’d come over and keep you company till Dave turns up, I say, leaning in with one of them stage whispers as I ask her to confirm that it is Dave she’s waiting for. Big grin on my face as I do it. Rubbing it in, you might say.

She plays with the lemon slice in her gin and tonic. Wanting to call him names, I reckon, only not in front of me. She looks up and asks if I know where he is.

I shrug and shake my head and gulp some of my pint all at the same time. I ask her how she’s settling in at the new place and she says can we avoid talking about her ’cause she’s really not in the mood. Hard day at work? I say, and she says if I’m gonna bother her at least I can come up with summat more interesting to talk about, can’t I?

Well shit, what do you say to that? I’ve always got birds to open up by talking about themselves. They love it. Most of them never think to ask you any questions back. They reckon you’re being sensitive by listening to the endless crap they come out with.

But I like a challenge. Start talking some old bollocks, buying her a few drinks, and before long she’s opening up a little. God knows how, ’cause you’d need more than the normal number of fingers and toes to count all the conversation topics I know nowt about, and my life is hardly the stuff of ripping yarns.

Still, whatever I’m saying, it works well enough to get a few smiles off her. Even the odd laugh. Course, she keeps disappearin’ off to the pisser to try Dave on her mobile and coming back with a gloomy face on. But after a while I see she’s doing that arse-wiggle walk when she goes – you know, the one they do to get you to notice how everything bounces just right?

We’re a few drinks in when she comes back from the bog for the third or fourth time and says she feels guilty. What about? I say. She shakes her head, won’t answer. Suddenly looks very drunk. The bell goes for time. I check my watch, realise I should’ve been doing more of that during the evening. S’posed to be keeping to a plan here. Anyway, it’s almost closing. Time to shift things along.

So, we’d better go, I say. She kind of shrugs. I ask if she’s all right. She shrugs again. I finish my drink, pick up her coat and hand it to her. Some of her hair’s gone in her eyes. I brush it back. She flinches from my touch.

Come on, I say, getting annoyed, we need to get you back home, okay? She mumbles summat about Dave and feeling bad.

So bad, it turns out, that she voms on the table.

Nowt big, just a little summat with garlic and veggies in it, from the smell. Small enough to go unnoticed for now. She’s got a pack of tissues on the table. I open a couple of them out to cover the puke. Give her a tissue to wipe her mouth.

Warning sign? Maybe, but it would’ve taken a cleverer man than me to see it, state I was in.

Takes another few minutes to get her out of the pub. Soon as the air hits, she starts to sag. I hold her up and we stumble off to Dave’s place. It’s raining, the drops whipping in my face and sobering me up somewhat by the time we get to the house. After a little fumbling for the keys in her purse, we’re in.

I put her on the sofa, look her in the eyes, ask if she wants a tea. She nods. I brush away more loose hair. She pulls away again, but less than before. She closes her eyes.

I’m undoing her coat buttons before stopping to think if that’s a good idea. She opens her eyes. I go to plant a kiss on her mouth, but she turns away. My lips land on her neck. She moans. The coat is off.

Before I know it, she’s pushed me onto the sofa and has my dick in her mouth. She’s making a lot of noise and so, I imagine, am I.

Course, that’s when Dave bursts in. He sees what’s going on and shouts summat I don’t catch before pushing Jane’s head down deeper on my old chap. Jane’s gagging, trying to pull off, but Dave pins her down and with all her struggling, God help me, I come in her mouth.

I keep asking Dave what the fuck he’s doing. He refuses to answer or look at me. Jane’s movements are getting weaker but she starts biting me. Shit, but it hurts, and I say so, asking Dave to stop before Jane bites my dick off.

Which doesn’t get me very far either. Jane’s definitely drawing blood down there, but she’s hardly moving now. My dick is on fire and I’m feeling woozy, light-headed. Hoping she hasn’t bitten too deep.

She stops moving and so do me and Dave, both of us panting and trying not to look each other in the eye.

Dave gets up and I pull Jane’s head off my lap. My dick is a mess of blood and spunk and spit. I rush to the bathroom to wash it all off. Those bite marks look deeper than the Cheddar fucking Gorge. I probe around a bit, get some more blood and a whole shitload more pain. I grit my teeth to avoid crying out.

I have to ask Dave twice if he’s got any antiseptic. He shouts back that it’s under the sink, which it is. I dig out some cotton wool pads and apply the antiseptic, and this time I can’t stop me’sen crying out.

When I get back to the front room, my lower half wrapped in one of Dave’s towels, he’s huddled over Jane, his whole body trembling. The sound he makes is halfway between chuckling and choking. When he looks up, his face is damp.

I ask if she’s dead and he nods. And there I was up till then thinking I couldn’t feel any worse. So I ask what we’re gonna do. Dave doesn’t like that. He repeats the question over and over, emphasising the “we” bit of it and saying that Jane was the woman he was gonna marry, didn’t I fucking realise?

You know sometimes you pull a face without meaning to, most times when it would be better not to show owt? Well, I reckon that’s what I must be doing right now, as Dave gets up off the floor and smacks me in the face. Not quite enough to knock me on my arse, but near as damn it.

I know a man in need of a tea when I see one. I go off to the kitchen to do the necessary, come back with two mugs of good strong brew to settle the shakes. I’m shaking pretty bad me’sen by this point. Dave takes his tea without a word. He’s not hunched over Jane any more. He’s moved to a chair a little ways off. But he’s gazing at her, and I can’t read what’s on his mind.

I ask if he’s all right and he doesn’t reply, which is fair enough. I leave it till we’ve both finished our tea and ask again what we’re gonna do. I also ask if he’s got any plasters for my dick, which is still bleeding like a bastard.

An hour or so later I leave Dave with a dead girlfriend and a blood-soaked towel in exchange for half a dozen plasters and Dave’s promise that he’ll “sort it”. Whichever way you slice it, that’s an uneven score sheet.

***

Week or so later, that score sheet evens up when the police come and haul me out of work halfway through a shift. We’re going on a nice little trip to the station, have a bit of a chat. All eyes on me as I’m escorted off the premises.

Immediately my dick starts playing up that little bit more. It’s been killing ever since that night, of course, and I’m wondering if I’ve got some sort of infection it hurts so bad, specially when I piss. Antiseptic doesn’t seem to be working. Or maybe I’m using too much. Shit, I don’t know. I should really see a doctor, go to the hospital or summat, but Christ, how do you explain that one away?

So we reach the station and they sit me in one of the sweating rooms with a DI McGuire and a DS Ethan Grange. McGuire’s a fifty-summat with dandruff and what looks like a permanent case of trapped wind. Smells a bit like it, too. Grange is thirtyish, likes coordinated shirts and ties and styling wax in his hair, far as I can see. Unusual name, Ethan, I say, and Grange pulls a face like maybe this is summat he hears more often than he’d like.

McGuire says they’re looking for David Hughes and would I happen to know his whereabouts. His whereabouts? What’s wrong with the words “Do you know where he is?” Bloody coppers and that weird language of theirs. And no, I don’t know his whereabouts, and as a matter of fact I’d been wondering about them me’sen since Dave’s not been returning my calls for a whole week. I tell them I haven’t seen him since last Friday night.

Grange asks where that was, pacing the room as McGuire stays rooted in a chair across from me.

His house, I say.

That be 52 Winslow Road? McGuire says.

Why yes it would, I say.

The same 52 Winslow Road where we found a blood-stained towel and trace amounts of semen? Grange says.

Blood and semen that matches some we found in the stomach of a dead woman dragged out of the canal yesterday morning? McGuire says.

A young woman matching the description – give or take a couple of days’ bloating in the water – of Jane Wood, David Hughes’s girlfriend? Grange says.

The same Jane Wood you were out with last Friday night, according to several witnesses? Which is the last time anyone saw her alive? McGuire says.

Oh shit, I say.

Grange stops pacing and pats down some hair at the back of his head as he says that before I say owt else I should know they also found bits of flesh in Jane’s teeth and that they’re expecting said flesh to match up with part of either mine or Dave’s anatomy. Or maybe both, Grange adds with a sneer.

McGuire says they already have enough evidence to search my home. And my body, for that matter. Another sneer. Or maybe this one’s more what you’d call a grimace.

Grange comes in close, not quite enough to appear too obviously intimidating, but he knows what he’s doing. McGuire as motionless as the bloody Buddha of Spalding.

Grange asks if I have owt to say now and I say yes, can I have a lawyer?

***

That fucker Dave. Try and do a bloke a favour and this is what you get? “Sort it” my arse. All he did was leave the evidence all around, chuck Jane in the canal where any fool and his dog could find her and then do a runner, leaving me to face the shit. He’s the one bloody killed her.

My head aches and I’m gagging for a cuppa, but the filth won’t let me have owt till I’ve finished my statement. My dick burns like fuck. They took samples off it already, then sent a doctor in to have a look and apply some ointment. So now it itches ’n all. And I just know Grange took great pleasure in arranging for the doctor to be a bird. Could see it on his face. Along with the disapproval on hers, the uptight bitch. Still, maybe she’s not getting enough at home, eh?

There’s a knock on the door. Grange. He comes in with a tea, sets it down on the table next to these notes. It looks weak but at least it’s tea. I tell him I an’t finished yet, so what’s the brew for?

By way of a celebration, Grange says, since Dave’s been found having driven his car into the canal a little way from where they found Jane’s body. He smiles, showing teeth that look like he has them bleached. And I swear I hear him whisper summat along the lines of “One down…” as he shuts the door on me.

Well, this is the last time I get involved in any lovers’ quarrel, I tell you. It’s just not worth it.




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