An Interview with Paramedic, Marine Vet and Author Ted Flanagan !!

Punk Noir Magazine

If you’re thriving in the indie writing community it’s important to try and put in as much as you take out. Help out where you can. Give advice. Support. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are just as supportive as they are talented. One of those people is Ted Flanagan. Author, editor, paramedic, Marine Veteran and all round nice guy. Ted Flanagan could be a character in any given novel. He’s certainly lived the life some people can only imagine. Ted’s always there on the scene to cheer someone on, offer kind advice or publish great stories. Naturally he was one of the authors I wanted to include in my interview series here at Punk Noir. If you don’t follow him yet or haven’t read his work yet go and say hello and check his stuff out!

Thanks a lot for agreeing to an interview, Ted. To kick things off, can you tell our readers a little about how you got started in the Literature scene?

I think I got here the same way most writers do – or at least, as I imagine they must have – as a reader first. I grew up in a house filled with books and newspapers, followed in the footsteps of most of my father’s side of the family and majored in English in college, and essentially have spent much of my life with my nose in a book.

Over time, I started putting words on paper. I wrote my first short stories in a Connex box on the hangar deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and even though the stories were horrible, it was a start. My time in the Marines was influential, if only for the simple reason that I discovered the work of Thom Jones, a guy who published one of the best short story collections of the 20th century (THE PUGILIST AT REST) while working as the night janitor at a high school in Washington state. Jones was a Marine, and he wrote incredibly intricate and masterful literary fiction about his time in the Corps (among many other things). Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the stories of the working class. My father sold Milwaukee Electric tools and my mother was a geriatric social worker, and I’ve punched a clock for almost all my working life, so I’ve always been interested in people who did the sorts of jobs that would have been invisible otherwise in fiction.

I always planned to write, but between working as a newspaper reporter then a Paramedic, coupled with raising three kids, I was busy doing other things. I eventually ended up enrolling in an MFA program – and I make no bones about it, absolutely no one needs an MFA to be a writer, but for me it turned into an incredible opportunity to accelerate learning and to connect with working writers I otherwise never would have met. Like most things in life, individual mileage may vary, but for me it was worth every penny.

Since then, I’ve been working on the novel that turned into EVERY HIDDEN THING, got an agent, and sold the book to Crooked Lane. Along the way, I’ve had the thrill of publishing with Shotgun Honey and a few other short story sites, come aboard as an editor at Tough, and generally worked daily to improve as a writer.

You have a forthcoming novel, EVERY HIDDEN THING, due in October. It looks awesome. How did that novel come into fruition and what were your inspirations for the story?

The novel is the coming together of a lot of ideas I’d been kicking around in my head, some of them for decades. I’d been fascinated-slash-horrified by the militia movement since the Oklahoma City bombing of the mid-90s, then by an experience I had while reporting for a small daily newspaper, which had assigned me three aggressively quiet communities to cover. One day, while wandering back roads in one of these towns looking for, well, anything, I came across the beat-down ranch house with a marquee sign in the driveway that said, “Fuck the IRS. Don’t pay taxes.” I knew there was something of note going on in there, so I banged on the door and introduced myself to this wiry and wired-looking middle-aged dude, who took me out back, put a Beretta pistol on the table between us (I’d just gotten out of the Marines, so no big whoop) and pounded Busch Lights while regaling me with antigovernment diatribes that would be pretty tame by 2021 standards, but for the time it seemed dangerous and unhinged. I never wrote about the guy, but I never forgot him either. Worst part, his real name was AMAZING and belongs in a novel, but sadly I changed it for the book. Maybe I’ll use it again.

I’d also always been fascinated by machine politics, by the way a single political party, usually contained within a specific ethnic enclave, can control every aspect of a city or community. John O’Toole, the fictional Worcester mayor in my book, presides over the corpse of a political machine whose best days are far behind it. 


And speaking of the end of things, as someone who loves journalism and thinks it’s essential to the proper functioning of a democracy, the slow death of daily print newspapers has been doubly heartbreaking for me. When I first conceived of Lu’s journey in the book, the outlook for digital journalism wasn’t as bright as it seems today, but challenges remain, and I wonder if whatever comes next will be able to muster the same power to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable that print newspapers possessed.

Having said all that, the very first scene I ever wrote in what became the novel was written in a room on the 9th floor of Children’s Hospital in Boston, during a blizzard. Sleepless, I grabbed a notebook and wrote a reminiscence of the only ambulance call in the novel that I was actually on. A guy got released from the local prison, got drunk, and headed over to the local porno theater, where he promptly stripped naked, puked, and passed out. When we came to assess the patient, the theater refused to turn on the light nor stop the movie. It was a memorable call, and writing about it is a big reason why I’m here today.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming indie writers?

I was a member of a special unit in the Marine Corps, one that lots of guys wanted to join but few are allowed. There is nothing visibly special about me. I was in great shape, but so was everyone there. Of all the guys who quit during the selection process, plenty were faster, stronger, tougher, smarter, and fitter than me. No one would mistake me for Rambo.

But I was stubborn, and I mean STUBBORN, unafraid of exhaustion, drowning, heights, physical and mental pain, whatever you could throw at me, so deep was my desire to be in this unit. They could kick me out, but I’d never willingly quit.


I think this same kind of stubbornness should be in the toolbox of every indie writer. I am blessed to have a book coming out, but I’d still write no matter whether anyone read a word of mine or not. Approach the keyboard or the notebook or the tablet or whatever tool you use with abandon, with the confidence and joy of someone with nothing to lose. Give yourself grace to write every day or to once a month or once a year. Be disciplined, be haphazard – whatever you decide to be, be true to yourself first. I don’t carry anyone else with me when I hit the keyboard, just an honest effort to be the best version of my writerly self as I can be. 

What are your plans for the future?

Mainly just to keep on writing! I’m working on a novel about the infamous Ribbon Creek Incident from 1956, when a Drill Instructor at Parris Island marched his platoon into a marsh, resulting in a tragedy that left six recruits dead at the bottom of the creek. The DI in question spent the last 45 years of his life in a large brick house around the corner from my own home, and every time I drive by, I think about him, and those recruits, and all the lives that single incident touched.

What is an issue you care about deeply?

Universal healthcare. I don’t have an easy proposal for this, but I will never understand how, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a catastrophic health condition can leave you penniless and homeless. I’m always troubled on ambulance calls when a patient will include the cost of their care in their calculus of whether to seek care in the first place. If you’re having chest pains and a possible heart attack, you shouldn’t have to worry about paying for the care that might save your life.

What novel are you reading right now?

I just picked up William Gay’s FUGITIVES OF THE HEART, which is magnificent so far, and Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL, which I should have read long ago. I just finished David Peace’s TOKYO REDUX, and I’ll say it again – READ DAVID PEACE!

What are you listening to at the moment?

As a dedicated U2 fan since October, I always have their music on my playlist. Other than that, think alternative music from the 80s and 90s, plus a healthy dose of Bruce Springsteen. I know I’m supposed to come up with some exotic bands that prove I’m cool lol, but I’d say my musical tastes are pretty pedestrian, and I’m okay with that.

What did you last eat?

PIZZA!! Sorry for yelling, it’s just that pizza is always exciting!

If you could go on a drinking binge with 5 writers living or dead, who would you choose?

Thom Jones, Virginia Woolf, Harry Crews, Andre Dubus, Leo Tolstoy. I know I picked all dead writers, but everyone in this group – all of whom are writers I deeply admire – have written books that were immensely important to me.

What would you like written on your tombstone?

He tried.

Ted Flanagan

Ted Flanagan is a Paramedic and former daily newspaper reporter from central Massachusetts whose writing has appeared on Shotgun Honey and Cognoscenti, among other places. In addition, he served as a Recon Marine with 2nd Recon Battalion. He lives with his wife and kids outside of Worcester, Mass.

Interview by Stephen J. Golds

Bin Day by JP Seabright

Punk Noir Magazine

Bin Day

 

Today is bin day it’s usually Tuesday and today is Thursday but that’s because it was Christmas Day on Tuesday and they didn’t come then as nothing happens on Christmas Daynormal service is cancelled I wish I’d known they were coming today I would have put out the rest of my recycling all those cardboard boxes I had so many for all the parcels they use far too much packaging these days and I cut myself onone of them I wonder what the binmen would think finding cardboard covered in blood it’s always binmen isn’t it never bin ladies at least I’ve never seen a bin lady before they probably wouldn’t be so bothered by the blood we deal with blood every month on fingers sheets and dripping down legs it’s easy to happen you can’t always catch the flow in time so I will have to find somewhere else to take all the recycling I could take it to the dump but it’s too far to walk and I don’t have a car anymore I could just stuff it in with the other rubbish but you’re not meant to do that and they fine you if you get caught although I’ve never known anyone to get a fine from doing that and I don’t see how they can check once it’s on the truck how do they know which sack is yours but they took both sets of bins this morning anyway I could hear them from my bedroom so I’ll just have to wait another week unless they come next Tuesday as usual then it’s only fivedays and that’s not so long perhaps the smell won’t be too bad by then it was to have been his first Christmas it was in a way first and last I don’t regret it I couldn’t have kept him wasn’t supposed to have it in the first place but these things happen I made him a manger like in the shop windows and laid him in it he looked so peaceful there I wanted to package him up and send him away to someone else who could look after him better but I didn’t know who and then I cut myself on the cardboard making his little box which made me cross so I packaged him up just for a little bit so I wouldn’t have to think about him for a while then I had to go and find a plaster and make a cup of tea and then I turned on the TV for the Queen’s speech.

JP Seabright word-wrangler / noise-maker / music-lover / life-liver

NO HOLDS BARRED out Feb 2022 with Lupercalia Press
GenderFux out soon with Nine Pens Press
https://jpseabright.wordpress.com
https://twitter.com/errormessage

Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk by Rob Pierce

Punk Noir Magazine

The joint was called Morty’s; it claimed to be a restaurant. I was from out of town and it sounded as likely a name as any. I needed food and I needed a drink so I stepped to the far end of the bar and grabbed a stool. It wasn’t a crowded bar but I wanted to be away from the other customers. Unfolded napkins sat on the bar. I sat beside them.

A waitress appeared. “Getcha somethin to eat, hon?”

“Gimme a menu, and one with the drinks on it too.”

She brought it but I swear she had to have been in hiding, waiting for me to approach. I’d walked right past the bartender and he hadn’t been eager to serve me. I was good with slow service and now I had this across from me. She was pretty, with a fat round face. Probably ate too much cattle.

I glanced at the menu and ordered a plate of fried chicken, a beer and a scotch. They had single malt, thank God.

She took my order. “You don’t mind if I stay down here, do ya?”

“That’s fine,” I said. Really I did mind but I didn’t want to get on the bad side of a woman who was at least talking to the kitchen staff and the bartender. I could always shut her down if she talked too much.

Which she started to do, but she still held my order ticket in her hand. She set it on the bar to her right, like it would magically run to the bartender and the kitchen. She started to fold the napkins.

“You know,” she said, like I gave a fuck, at least until my order was processed, “I love doing this. Working in a restaurant, I mean.”

Thank God, I’d thought she meant folding napkins.

“I had an office job. It only lasted a few months. Every day, by the end of my shift I was dozing off, staring at a computer and answering phones. But this? I could do this all day.”

Jesus, she thought this was a rush. If I told her about what I did…

She folded several napkins, started to talk about how her cable had gone out and she’d wound up watching some terrible movie with an Oscar winning actress whose name meant nothing to me, and she went into details on how abysmal it was. Suddenly she said, “Oh!” and grabbed my ticket, showed it to the bartender and dashed into the kitchen with it. Thank fucking God. I wondered how this place stayed in business (maybe just out-of-towners drawn to the name?) and damn near devoured my scotch when it came, ordered a second from the bartender and drank my beer while I waited for the chicken.

Still, there was something about the ditzy waitress, and I was glad I’d said nothing to upset her. She was nice, and I didn’t mind fat. Wouldn’t be the first time.

“So,” I said, as she started up folding again, “normally you have cable and watch better movies?”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “Usually they got somethin good on, like Fifty First Dates, Dreamgirls, and Miss Congeniality, the first one and the second.” Just mentioning the movies had her on the verge of coming.

“Chick flicks, huh?”

“Do I look like an adventure flick type of gal to you?”

“I could show you some adventure you’d like.”

She laughed like I was joking. Like I was too good-looking for her.

“I’m serious. When are you out of here?”

“Bar closes at twelve. Night like this, probably done by ten after.”

“So if I leave here after dinner and get back before closing, we can go somewhere.”

“Now Mister, I don’t know where you’re from but this is a small town. This is about the last place open.”

“Number one, the name’s Dale. And number two, there’s a bar around here open til two, I promise.”

“Well, Dale,” she smiled, self-conscious at calling a new customer by his first name, “I am not the kind of lady to go to a bar with a stranger. Tell me the place and where to find it, though, and maybe I’ll meetcha there.”

“Sure,” I said, “didn’t mean to imply nothing. But you gotta tell me your name.”

“Magdalene.”

My turn to smile now. Big name for a big gal. I got out my phone, looked up the place, handed my phone to her.

“We meet there,” I said. “It’s nearby. Maybe 12:30.”

She tore off a meal ticket, scrawled down the name and address, handed me my phone. “Funny, though, a place that close. Weird I never heard of it.”

Weirder if you had, I thought.


#

 

At 11:30 I left my room and drove to the bar. I bought a beer as soon as I got seated but had no concern about getting too drunk to drive back. For one, I could walk it if I had to. The other reason was the bar. Judgment Day, it was called. Like in the Robert Johnson song. Like the Hell I lived in now would not condemn me to anything worse. It would allow me to go on, doing as I did. Any woman involved was of little consequence, same as any man. Same as me, only I served a different role in these proceedings.

The beer I’d ordered bored me. I downed it fast, ordered another with a double scotch back. Doubling back was what I’d do when I left this town. The place too tiny to hold me, but certain as I was that Magdalene wasn’t large for a Texas woman, she was certainly large for a young one. And a damn sight more attractive than anyone else her size I was likely to find, certainly in this town.

She walked in, pulled up a stool beside me and sat down.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey.”

First date jitters? Not on my part. “What’re ya drinkin?”

I expected her to say something served with an umbrella.

“A margarita,” she said. “With salt.”

Better yet. I’d order one with extra tequila, impress her and get her drunk faster. The sooner we got out of here the better. Which meant I had to turn on the charm. I waved to the bartender, placed the order.

He stepped away.

“Extra tequila?” she said.

“Gotta catch you up. I got here a little while ago.”

“You knew when I was getting here.”

I shrugged. “Nervous, I guess. I didn’t expect you to say yes. Not without being coerced.”

It was an aw shucks moment, totally out of character.

“But you…” She grinned. Her mouth, already pretty, got prettier. She refrained from the compliment I knew was in her head. Probably scared I wouldn’t reciprocate.

“Look,” I said, “we barely met but there’s something about you. I had to get to know you better.”

“Funny. I felt the same way.”

Exactly what I wanted to hear. She was surprised a guy like me hit on a gal like her. “Hell,” I said, “ain’t nothin wrong with bein big. I like a big gal myself. One in particular right now.”

I took her hand. She let me until her drink arrived. She only needed one hand to drink. Maybe she needed both hands for balance. She placed the hand I’d held palm down on the bar. I didn’t cover it, didn’t want to overstep.

“If you weren’t here,” I said, “what would you be up to?”

“What would I be up to? Well, I ate at work and it’s too early to sleep when ya work late like me, ya know. Probably find a movie on cable. Or watch some Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Seen em all before, of course.”

“Yeah? Never seen it. What’s it about?”

“You know, it’s a mother-daughter thing. And it’s sweet and funny.”

“I’d like to see it. With you, of course.”

“Yeah, well, I’m in the middle of rewatching it.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “You can catch me up, I’m sure. You’re a natural born storyteller.”

I said it straight-faced.

“Thank you,” she said. She drank but I kept my mouth shut, let her continue. “Not everyone seems to appreciate it.”

God, she bought it. Never decline a compliment, I suppose. 

“Ain’t you drinkin?” she said.

It was true, I’d been talking and not drinking since she got here. I drank. “Better?”

“Depends how good the beer is, I suppose.”

“It’s good. Not as fascinating as you, but it’s good.” I chugged the rest of my shot.

She smiled thanks and finished her margarita. “Okay if I get another?”

“You see how slow I’m drinkin this beer? Of course it’s fine.”

I got out my wallet, waved to the bartender again, ordered one more for her and a fresh shot for me. I continued to nurse my beer and encouraged her to prattle on about her interests, all of which I responded to with curiosity and fascination. She drank between her words, and while she drank I sprinkled in basic questions that elicited new responses, each as vacuous as the one before. I moved a hand to her knee outside her dress. She didn’t move it away. After a couple of minutes I moved it to her thigh. Still no resistance, just a smile. I started rubbing up and down, not even a complaint about rumpling her dress. We kissed.

“We should finish our drinks,” she said.

I smiled and drank my beer faster. As she finished her margarita I reached for my shot and downed it.

We walked away from the bar, where I had known everyone all too well but spoke to only the bartender, who acted like we’d never met. We walked to my car, and as I drove I knew everything we’d just left would soon disappear.


#

 

I opened my door and followed her into the apartment, nearly walked into her when she stopped two steps in.

“Wow. This is so much nicer than my place. What do you do for a living?”

“Sales.” I brushed against her ass, lingered a moment before stepping beside her.

“Selling what?”

“Weed.”

Her eyebrows came together. “Marijuana.”

“I guess the weed and I have a slang relationship.”

“You can’t do that here.” She shook her head slow. “It’s against the law.”

“Makes for a more lucrative market.”

“Are you serious? You’re joshin me, ain’tcha.”

“You asked, I answered. You wanna continue the q and a, or should we get to why you came here.” I held out a hand, gently took her shoulder.

She didn’t move away, didn’t move toward me either.

I moved directly in front of her. Leaned in for a kiss.

Her face met mine.

I held the kiss until her mouth opened, then my tongue went inside. I pushed her back. “I also sell guns.”

More socially acceptable, I guessed, as she stepped into my arms and wrapped hers around me. She held the back of my head and we kissed again.

I groped her ass, let go and started to unbutton her blouse.

“Stop,” she said.

I kept going.

“No, stop. You’re too slow.” She finished the unbuttoning, threw her blouse behind her.

I didn’t know they made bras that big. I liked the educational experience, took her in my arms and unsnapped her bra, let it fall. I dropped to my knees and pulled her down sufficiently that it was convenient to suck her massive tits.

She groaned and we both lay on the carpet. We removed our shoes, our pants, our underwear.

I did love a big woman. And I loved what I was doing to her, licking her inner thighs, nipping at them, then her pussy. I got something right because her groans turned ecstatic. I grew hard, got onto my knees. She waited as I dipped in slowly, teasing her but I could tell it felt good. Then she was moving, me inside her, and I moved too. Until it was my turn to groan, and to spill inside her.

“You didn’t,” she started.

“Use a condom? No.” I pulled out then reentered her. I moved differently, and she got excited, made a lot of noises. She was really coming now. I wasn’t, had more to do first, changed my movement again.

She made a gurgling sound.

“Sorry, Magdalene. This is what I really do.”

Her head jerked, her hands raised up but without any effect on what I did. Dying did not need to be difficult. It could be easy. It could even be pleasant. 

I kept going, long after she was dead, and when I came again something indefinable happened to her. I stood, left her lying there, walked naked into the shower and left the bathroom door open. No one would have heard anything more than sex noises. I cleansed myself and sat on the floor, naked, my back against the tub.

I sat there, cold but not feeling guilty. Sure, she had been nice, but it was necessary that my life continue, whereas she added nothing positive to the potential human genetic pool. That wasn’t justification, it was a fucking fact.

I sat naked in the bathroom while she lay naked in the living room. I could save her, but then I would die. I sat there, getting colder by the second.

At last something moved.

I looked up, straight at her corpse, which had risen on my bidding though I hadn’t said a word.

“You killed me,” she said. “Why am I standing here?”

“I was made into this. I have no answers. The sex was excellent, am I right?”

“Yes,” she said, although at this point I thought I was generous thinking of her as a she instead of an it.

“Would you like it to happen again?”

It thought a moment. “I don’t want to die again.”

“The only way to fuck like that.”

“Maybe once more.”

I rose from the floor, but did not stand. She floated toward me. We remained naked.

My tongue was in her mouth again, my hands on her breasts. She grabbed my dick. It hardened immediately. Then it was inside her, and we gyrated above where we should have stood.

Our bodies remained where we had left them. They would collapse from the absence of our spirits soon enough. And we would fuck forever, in this eternal embrace. At last, someone had said yes to dying twice. She didn’t know it was all she would do for eternity. She didn’t know how many lives she had saved.

 

THE END

Lit Up by M.E. Proctor

Punk Noir Magazine


 

“I swear someday I’ll throw that piece of shit through the window,” Tom Keegan says. “And I won’t bother opening the damn window either.”

Al “Matt” Matteotti looks up from his stack of notes.“Threatening violence against an inanimate object again? Not to mention that this piece of shit is government property.”

“See if I care.” Tom’s hunched over the bulky Underwood, with his fingers in the basket, untangling the typebars, swearing a blue streak. It’s a familiar sight. So far, the Underwood’s winning.

“You know what’s wrong with you?” Matt says.

Tom slides the carriage, making the boxy thing go ding.“No, enlighten me.” He works the lever return aggressively to get back to the right spot in the document. “Fucking nuisance.”

“It jams because you type too fast. You’re too impatient. You confuse the stupid contraption. Me, on the contrary…” Matt raises his index finger, holds it up in the air until Tom turns to look at him “One finger. See.” He switches to the middle finger, flipping the bird. He talks as he types. “R – clack – O – clack – B – clack – E – clack – R – clack – Y – clack. No jam, no tangle. Slow and steady does it.”

“There’s 2 Bs in Robbery, you clod,” Tom says. “It’s written on the fucking door. Right there.” He points at the office door. “You go through it a hundred times a day.”

“So?” The phone on Matt’s desk rings and he stares at it. “What’s it gonna be today? Jumper, floater, skeleton in closet? These people we’re sworn to serve and protect are damn tiresome.” He picks up the phone. “Detective Matteotti.”

Tom is about to give the typewriter another try when Helen walks in, prim and put together, as always, in her no-nonsense brown suit. She’s on her way to the captain’s office with a stack of reports.

“Helen, honey,” he says. “A little help here.”

She turns on her sensible heels. “Like what?”

He points at the typewriter. “This clunker is driving me nuts.”

“Put in a requisition,” she says.

They both know that’s not going to go anywhere beyond the rim of a waste basket. “Sure. Listen, if I could…”

“Tom! Gotta go,” Matt yells, slamming the phone down. He’s out of his chair, at the coat rack, grabbing his jacket, stuffing a notepad in the pocket, giving his hat a good push down. “Andiamo, buster, we have a hot one.”

Tom gives Helen another pleading look. “My report’s here, babe. It’s clear, readable, pretty as sin. It would take you ten minutes tops, I promise.”

“You must be kidding,” she says, one fist on her hip, indignant.

Tom reaches up to catch his hat that Matt sent sailing through the room. “Dinner and a movie. On my dime. You pick the place. Please.” He shoots her his brightest smile and rushes after Matt who’s already in the corridor, halfway to the elevator.

“You have no shame,” Matt says. “Putting the moves on your own sister.”

#

Matt’s driving. The radio is squawking and they both ignore it. Matt always drives. He’s by far the better driver. He says all Italians are born with a steering wheel between their little mitts and a gear stick for a pacifier. Most cops hate riding shotgun with Matt. Tom finds it liberating. The ride is so hair rising, he has no time to think about anything else. It clears his head.

“Where are we going?”

“The Mission,” Matt says. “Something crispy.”

“Arson?”

“From what the trooper said, I doubt it. A roasted body, nothing else damaged.”

“Fuck, Matt! I hate those. You know that. It’s…” Tomcloses his eyes. A tight curve sends him slamming into the door. He ought to keep his eyes on the road. “You should have taken Orlov.”

“Dee-fective Orlov is a brick,” Matt says, tapping the side of his head with a knuckle. “And you’re my preferito, partner.” He flashes a big white-toothed grin. “It is a mistero. You like those, no?”

Not when it involves cremated bodies. Tom saw enough of those in the camps. It’s not been enough years for him to forget. As if that kind of thing could ever be forgotten. “If I barf all over your mistero, pal, it’s on your head.”

Matt reaches for the glove box, driving with one hand, and retrieves a little jar of Vicks. He drops it in Tom’s lap. “Never leave home without it.”

Spoken from experience. Tom has seen his partner lose his lunch a couple of times. Matt hates small, dark, enclosed spaces. Everybody has their own flavor of things that go bump in the night.

“The doc’s on the way. We’ll beat him to it,” Matt says.

That explains why he’s driving even more like Fangio than usual. Nothing pleases Matt more than being first on site. Considering how sloppily some cops treat crime scenes, he’s not wrong.

“Okay, what you got?” Tom says.

“Private residence. The housekeeper came in at ten. Her employer wasn’t home. She smelled something bad and found the body in the greenhouse.”

“A greenhouse? In town? That’s unusual. Who’s the employer, some kind of garden freak?” Tom says.

“Painter. Carlos Camacho. He lives alone.” Matt shrugged. “Lived. It’s likely he’s the corpse.”

Depending on the condition of the body, identification might take a while.

Matt slams on the brakes in front of a two-story white-painted house in the pleasant Spanish style that goes so well with clinging bougainvillea and lush shrubbery. The house is pretty, the landscaping is neat. Carlos Camacho isn’t a starving artist. There’s a police cruiser in the driveway. It’s clean and glossy and doesn’t look garishly out of place.

“How do you want to play it?” Matt says.

“Let’s look around while we have the place to ourselves,” Tom says. “Interviewing the housekeeper can wait.”

The trooper is in the hallway. He looks a little green, mouth clenched, forehead coated with sweat.

“I’m Detective Keegan,” Tom says. “This is Detective Matteotti. You spoke to him on the phone.”

“Yes, sir. Officer Brockwoods, sir. I was in the neighborhood when the call came in. I put Mrs. Dantonio in the sitting room. Uh, she’s the housekeeper, she’s shook up.”

“We’ll be with her soon,” Matt says. “You went through the house?”

“To make sure there wasn’t anybody. I didn’t touch anything, and I watched where I put my feet, sir.”

Commendable. Tom nods in approval. There’s a strong smell of paint and turpentine that overrides whatever else might be wafting through. “The housekeeper told you she smelled something bad and went to look. Where was she?”

“The kitchen, sir.” The trooper points to the back of the house. “The kitchen connects with the greenhouse.”

“Stay here,” Tom says. “You can let the medical examiner in, but nobody else unless I say so.”

The trooper looks uncomfortable. “Uh, I’ll try, sir.”

“Won’t be for long,” Matt says. “Tell them it’s that asshole Keegan having the vapors.”

As soon as they reach the kitchen, the stench is unmistakable. Tom claps a hand over his nose, knowing full well that it won’t do any good. His last two cups of coffee are roiling. The camphor goop from the jar helps a little.

The door between the kitchen and the greenhouse is open, a gate to what should be, what’s intended to be, a leafy and colorful Eden.

Matt goes down on one knee next to a double set of footprints. The big ones are to the side, the small ones are in the middle of the kitchen. All prints come from the greenhouse and point toward the hallway. “Dirt from the garden. Trooper Brockwoods and the housekeeper. They were too preoccupied to wipe their feet. We’ll have to take off our shoes or we’ll track in some more.”

Tom peeks outside the door. “The path is all torn up and there’s an empty bottle smack in the middle of it. ”

Three steps lead down from the kitchen to the floor of the greenhouse. A modest difference in level in rollercoaster San Francisco. Tom is careful to avoid treading over the footprints. The soil is damp from the run off from the beds. Vegetables, flowers, decorative stuff, all mixed up in a display of joy and abundance. Cornucopia. The word pops into his head.

“You think Camacho paints still lives?” Matt says. “Or is he one of these impressionist guys, all green and fuzzy?”

“Maybe he just likes fresh salads,” Tom says.

The greenhouse is packed with vegetation but it isn’t large. The greasy black thing in the middle of the path is hard to miss. They both step into the beds to approach the scene. They stand on both sides of what’s left of the body. A charred husk.

“He sure is fried,” Matt says.

It appears to be a man, from the remains of the sturdy, thick-soled boots. And the size of the corpse, even if it has shrunk in the blaze. There’s a tool next to the body, a tube with a cracked cylindric container attached to it, brass or copper, blackened with soot.

“My pop has one of these,” Tom says. “It’s an insect sprayer.” He points at the limp plants nearby. “For the tomatoes, I guess.”

“Accelerant?”

“Gasoline, possibly, various chemicals, all highly flammable. We should ask the housekeeper if Camacho is a smoker.”

“He sure liked his booze. Should check that empty bottle for prints,” Matt says. “Vodka.”

Tom retraces his steps to the kitchen door, to the discarded bottle. He stares at the steps, at the grooves in the path. “Wanna hear what I think, Matt?”

It’s rhetorical. Of course Matt wants to hear – the mistero, right?

Tom badly wants a cigarette but this is definitely not the place. “Okay. Here’s the theory. Camacho is stone drunk. He decides to take a stroll in his private paradise. He opens the kitchen door and tumbles down the greenhouse steps. See the nick on the edge here? He drops the bottle and lands hard on the path. You can see where his knees went, hands, feet. He scrambles to get up and makes a mess in the dirt.” It’s like a movie in Tom’s head, frame by frame. “He lights a cigarette. Then, for some unfathomable reason, he decides to spray his tomatoes.”

“And goes whoof,” Matt says. “He’s a painter and his clothes have all that crud on them. Red-hot-whoof.” He looks at Tom and smiles. “You’re good, you’re so goddam good.”

“Yeah,” Tom says. There are noises coming from the house. Voices raised. “Lots of assumptions in there. Can the heat of a cigarette cause a fire so massive the guy has no time to run?”

“Ask all the idiots who manage to burn to death, in bed, with a smoldering cigarette falling on the mattress,” Matt says.

True.

“If he used a lighter, that’s an open flame,” Matt says. “And if that insect sprayer leaked…”

Tom’s cogitations are interrupted by the medical examiner and a bunch of cops jamming the kitchen door.

“What’s that, Keegan?” a beefy officer in uniform barks. “You tell one of my men I can’t come in? You’re shitting above your commode, boy. The Mission is my turf.”

“Wouldn’t dream of using your bathroom, sir,” Tom says. He’s seen that comedian before. In news photos, with microphones in front of his wobbly triple chin. “Securing the scene for you, doc.” He glances at the medical examiner, who looks harried, as usual.

“Yes, thank you, Detective,” the doc says. “I’ll take it from here. Come see me later. We’ll compare notes. I’d like a moment alone with the victim, now.”

Matt pushes through the kitchen door, parting the throng, Tom on his heels. They’re all big shoulders, sharp elbows and shoes stepping on toes.

#

The housekeeper is still in the sitting room. OfficerBrockwoods is with her, not saying anything, just watching her cry, quietly.

“I tried to stop them,” he says.

“You did good.” Matt pats him on the shoulder. “We’ll put it in the report.”

Tom sits next to the housekeeper. “Mrs. Dantonio, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I have only a few questions. Is it okay to talk now?”

She nods, a hankie stuck to her face.

“Was Mr. Camacho a drinking man?”

She shakes her head.

“We found an empty bottle of vodka in the greenhouse,” Tom says.

She looks up. “That’s because he finished the big painting.” She points at the hallway door. “It’s in the studio. It’s wonderful. I went to look at it this morning before I started working.” A spasm overcomes her and she buries her face in her hands.

Tom waits for the crisis to pass.

“Mr. Camacho had a lot to drink because he completed his work?” Tom says.

“He does that,” she mutters. “Each time. A celebration.”She wipes her eyes. “This is terrible.” She sighs. “When he works, he only drinks water, maybe a glass of wine with dinner.”

“A disciplined man,” Tom says. “A smoker?”

“Cigarettes, like everybody.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Dantonio. Officer Brockwoods will take your information. We’ll contact you if we need to talk to you.”

She sits there, eyes on the carpet, hands folded in her lap,holding the wet and bunched hankie.

“Find somebody to take her home, will you, Brockwoods?” Tom says. He motions at Matt. “Let’s have a look at the studiobefore the horde invades.”

The studio is a large room, with a wide floor-to-ceiling window. It takes up the entire left side of the house. The painting Mrs. Dantonio mentioned is right there, a symphony of emerald greens with slashing bursts of sun. It’s the most beautiful thing Tom has ever seen.

Matt, not so much. “I know where he got his inspiration. From the cabbages out there.” He uses his handkerchief to pull two empty bottles of vodka from the dustbin. They’re nestled instained turpentine-reeking rags. “The man must have been so pickled he was swimming in it.”

Tom holds a crumpled pack of cigarettes. There are two left. He pops one out, looks around for a lighter. “You think the place would go up in flames if I lit up in here, Matt? See how fast that blowhard in blue and his minions can move?”

“That’s not funny.” Matt picks up a box of matches from a shelf and tosses it to Tom. “I need some clean air. Paint fumes are getting to me.”

They walk back to the front door and out toward their car. The place is swarming with cops now, most of them with no good reason to be there. The street is a parking lot. Neighbors are out on the sidewalk, in small groups, yakking.

“You write it up or I do?” Matt says. “Accidental incineration. Is that a category?”

“You do it, pal,” Tom says. “One finger at a time tapping on that fucking keyboard. Call it accidental death. It’s easier to spell.” He sticks the cigarette in his mouth and slides the match box open.

Freezes.

“I’ll be damned,” he says. “Look at that.”

There are five burnt matches in the box, side by side with a bunch of live ones.

“I’ve heard of guys doing that,” Matt says. “That’s one bad habit that’ll burn a hole in your pocket.” He takes a deep breath. “You think that did it?”

Tom shrugs, strikes a match, lights his cigarette, and blows out the flame. He lets the burnt match drop to the pavement, looks at it for a moment, pensive.

Then he crushes it under his heel.

 

###

@MEProctor3

An Interview with one of the realest writers on the indie scene ~ Tia Ja’nae.

Punk Noir Magazine

I’ve been on twitter nearly two years. For me, it’s a double edge sword. Scrolling through the tweets can be time consuming, stealing the little free time I should be writing. Often laughing or groaning at some of the inane bullshit people tweet (yes, my own past tweets included). However, twitter has been incredibly helpful in aiding my growth as a writer and enabling me to make great connections with great people I now call real friends. One of those folks is Tisa. She’s got a big heart, an acid tongue and a helluva lot of talent. I’m not talking about your run of the mill talent. I’m talking about the kind of talent that you feel is too big and too bright to be tied down in the indie scene. A very special voice. I feel that way about a special few people (got a list of ten). Tisa is one of those. Everything she writes hits a nerve, serves a point and sends a message.

We need more honest, no bullshit kind of writers like her on the indie writing scene for sure.

Tisa answered some of my questions for punk noir. If you don’t follow her yet, haven’t read her stuff, I hope you will by the end of the interview.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got started in the Literature scene?


I’ve been writing since I was eight, so I can say I’ve been in several scenes since before the internet became the thing that defined your work. My first serious literary works were poetry in high school, and that’s how I got into writing epic verse – it was my mission to outdo everybody I had to read in Middle English Literature. That’s what put me into slam poetry and spoken word poetry, because back then fans wanted to see your passion reading your stuff. My best memories are performing some of my work at Snaps N Taps in Columbus, OH.

I got started into Literature literally being an avid reader. As a kid/teenager I was reading about 25 books a month. And I read everything from Jackie Collins & Sidney Sheldon to Mumia Abu Jamal & George Jackson. Then when I ran out of things to read I started writing. Everything evolved from there.

Tell us about your most recent work?


Over at Uncle B. Publications I edited Now There’s A Story with Stephen J. Golds, Sister FM Diva: Poetry Inna Mi Yahd by Verna Hampton; I’m one of the featured writers in Pulp Modern 10th Anniversary and my debut novel Ghosts On The Block Never Sleep comes out October 16th, 2021.

Describe your writing style in 5 words?


A live unadulterated uncensored experience.

What and/or who are your inspirations?


In no particular order: Sidney Sheldon, Donald Goines, Jackie Collins, Tina McElroy Ansa, Danielle Steel, Bebe Moore Campbell, Dorothy Allison, April Sinclair, Rita Mae Brown, Dr. Bertice Berry, Shirley Conran, Sam Greenless and others, but this group for fiction were my go staples.

What advice would you give to up and coming indie authors?


Write what you feel. Don’t give into peer pressure about self-censorship. As long as you are true to your character and their story, everything else will fall into place. Don’t worry about an agent. Don’t worry about the fickleness of certain imprints. When your work is in the right hands you will feel it in the gut.

What are your plans for the future?


Releasing more novels. I have a collection of stuff itching to get out. Just all depends on the publishers.

What is an issue you care about deeply?


I care about all this forced totalitarian dictatorship going on about the virus which will not be named, and this cancel culture mentality that as seeped into every modern democracy known in the modern world. People need to get off the internet and chill in real time with real people.

What novel are you reading now?


Ghosts On The Block Never Sleep by me.

What music are you listening to now?


Deep Purple, The David Coverdale years.

Finish this sentence: Fuck __!


Fuck is that atomic waste particle smell of nauseous toxic gasses on the planet’s colon?

If you could go on a drinking binge with 5 writers alive or dead who would you choose?


Well, if we could drink tea it would be Jackie Collins, Sam Greenlee, George Jackson, Dr. Bertice Berry, and Mutabaruka. I know, what a collective.

If you could travel to a time and place in history what would it be?


Houston, 1976. I’m going to the Parliament Funkadelic Earth Tour and watch Glen Goins bring down the mothership.

What would you like written on your gravestone?


Nothing. Headstones are massively expensive in America and I probably won’t have one.

There are 10,768 bus stops in the entire Chicago metro area. 79th and Stony Island is one of them. For some, it is merely a weak shelter from the elements. For others, it’s just a way to get where they’re going. On the east side of chicago a bus stop has a deeper meaning. It’s a place of business, a political forum, a portable toilet, a church pulpit, a bed for weary bones, and occasionally a graveyard for the unforgiven. Rapid transit is always late on that side of town. In the dead of winter it’s cold as hell, giving no rest for the weary waiting for their bus to come. 

One thing is for certain… 

Loose Squares are just the glue that holds it all together.

https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3ATia+Ja%27nae&s=relevancerank&text=Tia+Ja%27nae&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1

Mokele-mbembe by Stephen J. Golds

Punk Noir Magazine

Submitted this story to a cryptids anthology. It didn’t make the cut. What the hell do you do with a story about a dinosaur still existing in the Congo? I don’t know. So here it is.

I swatted at a mosquito the size of a dime and stared off into the foliage. Had never seen so much green in all my life. Green on green on green. Sure I was going snow-blind. Jungle-blind, it had to be a thing. But I was a wedding photographer from New York, what the hell did I know about the jungle? I’d been relegated to the scientific group’s factotum, so evidently not a lot.

The tribe elders started going crazy, yammering on in their native tongue, sounding like the clicks and tuts of a pissed off ex-girlfriend. Clara and Karen were both big tutters. Bitches. The tribes people reminded me a lot of my exes. They seemed to get overexcited about almost anything. Pygmies. Taller than I’d been led to believe. Most of them were at least five foot. Vicious looking oompa loompa bastards. I glanced at the group huddled around a fire, bored out of my skull. Blake was holding up an A4 card with a sketch of a long-necked dinosaur on it. Bront-a-diplod-a-dick or some shit. The tribespeople were gestering to the card and then pointing back through the jungle towards the river.

Guttering, our kraut guide and translator, interpreted what they were yammering to Blake and Blake flashed a grin back across at Guttering, then at me. He frowned at the cigarette in my mouth, waving his hand in a quick gesture, I supposed was his way of saying ‘snub it out’. At this point in the expedition I didn’t know what was more annoying, the bugs, the constant screeching of animals and birds in the trees, or my cousin Blake. I flicked the smoke into the bush and lit up another.

The scrawny, little streak of piss, Guttering said was the chief of the tribe, shuffled over, reaching out for my Sterling Silver Zippo. I pushed his hand away gentle but firm. Smiling with all my pearly whites. You had to let these kinds of people know who was boss. Sure, you’re a chief of a tribe in the Congo but try getting loan credit writing that on an application form in a bank. Guttering had already bribed these people with half of our supplies. Gave them most of our toilet roll too. Hadn’t wiped my ass properly in days. Like they even needed toilet roll. I’d be damned if I was giving up my Zippo too. A birthday present from a woman I had actually loved who hated my guts the last time I’d checked. Before she’d blocked my cell number. Guttering said it was best not to offend any of the tribes folk, give them whatever they wanted. Sounded to me like we were being taken for a ride. I didn’t intend to give up all my shit. After the Zippo, they’d probably want the Rolex off my wrist. The boots off my feet. I didn’t intend to end up in a cauldron like on those old cartoons we all watched as kids, either. My mother didn’t raise no fool. Had a .44 Magnum I bought from a black market in Zaire a couple of days before we arrived in the Congo, tucked into the front pocket of my backpack. I’d give the little village in the middle of the jungle a little of the Dirty Harry treatment before I gave them all my stuff.

The chief shuffled back to the campfire, giving me the evil eyes as though I’d just deliberately took a shit in his mud hut and banged one of his wives. Blake flashed more cards of dinosaurs. T. Rex and the Velociraptors got nothing but stupefied silence. Evidently these people had never sat down and watched Jurassic Park. Primitives. They didn’t have basic cable. Or even televisions. So lame. My cousin, the Poindexter, returned to the old long neck dino card and started asking animated questions which Guttering clicked and tutted into translation. I wasn’t even listening. Itchy as Hell from paper cut insect bites all over my body. The bug repellent didn’t do shit. Was going to take it back to the store and get a goddamned refund as soon as I was back stateside. Back in the real world. The chief mumbled machine-gun tribal talk fingering the card. Mokele-mbembe, they called the creature. I couldn’t even pronounce the damn thing without a chicken bone stuck in my throat. Let alone believe in it. Blake believed. He’d sunk his entire trust-fund and inheritance into proving the existence of the dinosaur surviving and thriving in the Congo Basin. Judging on the equally frightened and excited spiel of the tribespeople it was probably safe to say they believed to. It was either that or they knew an idiot cash cow when they saw one and were intent on leading Blake on. Milking him dry. Would keep encouraging his fantasies until all our supplies were depleted and then they would eat us and wear our bones as jewelry. Similar to my ex-wife. I imagined my beautiful, shapely skull as a helmet worn on the head of some grinning fool and shivered. Took out my flask for a nip of vodka. Shook it. Empty. Dammit. A little girl or boy, I couldn’t tell which, came over and offered me some green fruits from a bowl made of leaves. I waved her or him away like one of the mosquitos. To think, I’d been foolish enough to let Blake talk me into this expedition. He’d sold it to me as a once in a lifetime trip, all expenses paid for by his trust fund and The National Geographic Society. It could be a big opportunity for me, he said. Just take some photographs, he said. Document. Record. National Geographic might bring me on as a staff photographer. I’d dropped my Nikon in the river as we crossed the boarder undercover of darkness, so that avenue of potential was currently closed. As for recording, I couldn’t even get Twitter and my cellphone was as useless as a brick once it had run out of battery anyway. #shitvacation. There were no hot babes either. I’d had images of Mutiny on the Bounty that movie with Mel Gibson, before he went crazy. Young girls strolling around butt naked. Most of these women were old and hadn’t worn a bra in their lives so their boobs looked like Snoopy’s nose, if Snoopy were depressed and suicidal. Luckily, the more ancient chicks were wearing clothes that were donated by bible-bashing missionaries probably so I didn’t have to bare witness to what eighty years of no bra looked like. Some old broad stumbled past me wearing a Bush/Cheney ’04 t-shirt with brown stains all over it. #WTF? I’d left Manhattan for this?

Guttering started packing up our supplies and Blake whistled me over like I was a Golden Retriever or something. Dick!

“They’re going to take us to the location on the riverbank they say the Mokele-mbembe basks and bathes,” he said excitedly. Breathlessly.

“Yeah, they say,” I said.


“I beg your pardon,” he pushed his spectacles up his nose and gave me another one of his condescending frowns.

​“My backpack is chafing my shoulders. You got anymore of that skin scream?”

“Cousin, we are on the very cusp of making scientific history. The first western people to witness and document an actual living, breathing dinosaur. A man-eater, they say! It will be groundbreaking. Richter-scale groundbreaking. Now, lets get all our equipment packed up, go and bag ourselves a gosh-darned dinosaur and not just one. They say there’s an entire family of the Mokele-mbembe,” he put his hand on my chafed shoulder and smiled. He had tears of joy in his eyes. It was gross. I shook the weight of his spindly claw off like a case of the crabs.

“Cool. Whatevers. I need to go pinch a loaf,” I said. The suckers. Blake and Guttering hadn’t caught onto the fact I needed to take a long-ass toilet break every time there was actual work to be done. The trusty old call of nature. Had been helping me avoid serious manual labor for years. I did actually need a piss, so it wasn’t lying entirely. 

I cut around a small hut that had piles of fruits and flowers piled up onto miniature tables and cut loose on a mossy tree trunk. I noticed a bunch of statues carved out of a dark wood, crudely painted in red and white with large gaping holes for mouths. Probably that weird kid’s toys or something. It was too tempting. I directed my stream of dark, yellow piss at the statues faces. Getting the mouths was one hundred points. I was at around two thousand points and coming to the end of my stream when Bush/Cheney ’04 came around the hut and started screaming and wailing like someone was trying to fuck her. Maybe she hadn’t seen a white dick before. I didn’t know. I was zipping myself up quickly when Blake, Guttering and the Elders swarmed around me worse than the mosquitos pulling at my shirt and cramping my style completely. Someone knocked my Gucci shades on the dirty forest floor.

“What have you done?!” You idiot!” my cousin shouted. All up in my grill. He was lucky I didn’t knock him out, right then and there. I could’ve but I didn’t want to. I was above all that. #toxicmasculinity.

The chief started bellowing like he was constipated. Still salty he didn’t get my Zippo. Guttering wiped sweat from his face with a crusty bandana and swallowed.

“You have desecrated their Gods,” he said.

“Desecrated is taking it a little far. Jesus, it was only a little piss. Rain’ll wash it right off,” I said. 

“I think we are in very deep trouble here, gents,” Blake said, his eyes popping out over the massing crowds of pygmies surrounding us. Most had spears, some had machetes. Reminded me of a movie but I couldn’t remember the title and it bugged me.

“Listen to me very carefully…” Guttering hissed under his breath. He opened his mouth to say something else as a four-foot spear impaled him dead center in the chest and all that came out of his lips were puffed and panted death murmurs.

The chief was going apeshit — jumping up and down and pointing his finger at me and Blake as I yanked the Magnum from my backpack and let the old-timer have it right in the face. His head disappeared in a soupy spray of red, white and blue. USA! USA! USA! I thanked my lucky stars I’d bought the gun. Those Republicans finally got something right. The tribe scattered like cockroaches, and I was running, falling, sliding, sprinting back through the forest, down a hunting trail towards the river and the raft we’d arrived in days before.

Blake’s screamed my name and it echoed through the treetops. War drums and chanting following after. He was my cousin but I’m not ashamed to say as I sprinted through the foliage, jumped over dead trees, I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in that the tribe would catch him first. That way it would slow them down. Give me a better chance of making it. I ignored Blake’s shrieks for help and told myself he was heroically sacrificing himself for me. Decided that was the story I’d tell as soon as I got back stateside. Hell, maybe I’d even write a book about it.

Blakes screaming and screeching finally gurgled to a slightly sickening stop, the war drums faded out, and the rush of the river overwhelmed my senses. I’d made it. Against all the odds. My determined self-belief to prove the existence of the Congo dinosaur, Mbebeb-whatever-the-fuck. Guttering’s drunken attack on the cannibalistic tribe I had befriended and endeared to me with kindness and compassion. An escape through treacherous terrain. Dodging poison darts and spears. My cousins brave self-sacrifice so I may live. And the river escape on a dinghy. I’d survived it all. But… The goddamned raft was gone. Those no-good savages had stolen it probably. I slipped on my ass down the muddy bank and splashed into the river. My Armani cargo pants completely ruined. The drums started again. Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum. Made me remember that movie with Robin Williams about a board-game, something about the jungle in a suburb. Tried to recollect how that film had finished. All I could think about was Robin Williams killing himself.

Shouts. Calls. Hooting. Close. The tribe. So damn close. Thanks a lot for slowing them down, Blake. Not! 

I slung off my backpack and tossed it into the green, murky water. Feeling lighter, I waded out into the soft current. The water was warm. I pushed myself out, walking along the bottom like an astronaut on the moon. 

Halfway. Up to my neck, feet barely touching the riverbed. Trying to paddle, the Magnum still grasped in my fist. I felt something in the water change. The current suddenly seemed to get slower. Stiller. I felt something brush against my calf and let out an embarrassing high-pitched shriek. Just a fish. Weeds. Nothing, it was nothing, I told myself, looking down into the rancid smelling water. When I twisted my neck back towards the riverbank I spotted members of the tribe watching my progress with interest from the trees. The child that had offered me fruit just stood there with his small spear stabbed into the mud, watching with his beady little eyes.

“Ha ha ha, you little shits. Didn’t count on Dirty Harry, did ya? Huh? See you in Hell!” I lifted the magnum up out of the water, aiming at the kid’s leg. I wouldn’t kill him. Just maim the little bastard. After all, they murdered my cousin. 

The Magnum clicked, clicked, clicked damply. Dammit. I tossed it hard towards to the jungle, it splashed harmlessly in the water about a meter before the kid. I cursed. 

“Well, so long suckers!” I called out as I turned to swim to the other side. 

Freezing. Dead still. Eyes wide. An arm’s length in front of me, blocking my way was what looked like the top of a boulder protruding from the water. The boulder had dark shark-like eyes. I glimpsed a nostril twitch. Then it was rising up, growing. A crocodile-like mouth with crocodile-like teeth. A long neck grew longer. Another larger boulder appeared. Its back. And then it was towering over me. Craning its neck down to peer into my eyes. A real-life dinosaur. Its mouth became longer. The teeth sharper. I thought about the fisherman Quint from the movie Jaws. The drums started up again and I screamed.

Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.

He writes primarily in the noir and dirty realism genres and is the co-editor of Punk Noir Magazine.

He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once, Cut-throat & Tongue-tied, Bullet Riddled & Gun Shy and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.

Car Crash Lullaby by S.M. Fedor

Punk Noir Magazine

 

“Holy shit,” I mutter in disbelief.

At a loss for what to do, I toggle the windshield wipers on. They make a sickly grinding noise as they struggle to start. Breaking free, they make five passes back and forth before I switch them off with a sigh. The windshield remains covered in blood. The blades only helped to push the blood deeper into corners it had not initially reached. I press the button on the end of the controls. I’m rewarded with a light spritzing of wiper fluid on top of the broken glass. The now bubbly blood interacts with the wipers once more. The frothy mix navigates its way through the cracks in the windshield, seeping in and dripping onto the tan interior dash.

I look across to my passenger, Retarded Joey. His eyes are wide in befuddlement, mouth open and gaping like some sorta damn fish drowning on the docks. I can’t tell if he’s in shock from what just happened. He doesn’t appear much different from his usual simpleminded, mouth-breathing look.

I look in the rear-view mirror, praying to myself I did not see what I know I had. Please be a deer. Please be some upright walking two-legged animal that’s not a human girl. Bigfoot. We’re in the northern woods of Washington. There’s always reports of Bigfoot on these wooded back roads, right?

The mirror reflects the reality that my mind does not wish to accept. There, framed in that small rectangle, is a limp body. A tangled swirl of blonde hair wrapped around limbs that jut out in directions they were not originally designed for, illuminated in the red glow of the brake lights that came on way too late.

Turning my attention back to my partner, I ask, “R.J., you all good, man?”

He shifts to look at me. Well, the eye that’s capable of looking in the right direction does, at least. Goddamn cousin fucking. Will these backwoods yokels never learn?

“Joey’s good. Was that a people?”

“Yeah, R.J., I’m afraid that was a people,” I reply. Damn, I hope the past year working with Retarded Joey doesn’t leave me speaking like him. “Look, you stay here, OK? I’m gonna go check on the girl.”

I pull the metal car door handle and pop open the driver’s side door with a gentle shove from my shoulder. I get out, feeling the stretch in my legs as I release the tension from a couple of hours of driving. I take a moment to breathe in the night air and then belch it out, tainting the area with the aroma of drive-through onions and grease.

I glance past the rear of the car and see the body still lying there, unmoved, except for the blonde hair flapping in the wind like a tattered flag. Confident that there’s not much to be done there, I cast my gaze upon the more important body—that of my ’88 Oldsmobile Cutlass.

As I walk to the front of the car, glass crunches underfoot and grinds into a powder upon the black asphalt. The right headlight is gone, and there is an indentation in the grille. We must have been going close to 70 mph at the time. In the battle of steel versus flesh, steel always wins out.

I sense movement behind me and whirl around.

Lit by the solitary headlight, my shadow casts a long, lonely figure down the empty highway. As the light falls off, the road curves into the darkness and it’s impossible to tell where shadow ends and night begins. There is no noise, save for the rustling of leaves across the fall ground and the slow churning pistons of the idling Oldsmobile.

Content that there is no oncoming vehicle, an unlikely scenario on this back highway, I return to assessing the damage. The dirt-brown hood of the car is remarkably clean. The girl must have been lifted straight over it. The windshield, well, that was a lost cause. A large impact point released circular waves outward before splintering into thinner lines that appear to have been created by a spider on a liberal dose of LSD.  Through the bloody mess of glass, I see Retarded Joey has turned the car’s dome light on and is bobbing his head up and down to the sound of Depeche Mode in the tape deck. The brainless grin on his face is a disturbing picture as it refracts through the shattered glass. People are people, my ass. Apparently, Depeche Mode didn’t spend much time with the mentals.

Shaking the image of R.J. out of my head, I continue my inspection of the car. The roof has become a shallow bowl. At the bottom of the bowl is the leftovers of someone’s tomato soup. Descending the rear of the car is an almost perfectly straight red stripe, about six inches across. It begins halfway down the back window and continues across and over the trunk as if a paint roller had smoothly rolled across. I stare at the trunk of the car. I place my hand upon it and feel the chill of the metal in my fingertips. I glance to R.J. inside the car, still happily dancing away to his music. I give a soft rap on the trunk and place my ear to it. What I hear satisfies me for now.

Taking a deep breath, I decide it’s time to take a look at the non-metallic damage. I walk the 30-foot distance behind the car, following the trail of black scorch marks the tires left behind when the brakes slammed on.

The woman’s body is a modern Picasso sculpture, one of those pieces where he stopped giving a fuck if the anatomy was in the correct position or shape. Genius, whatever. “Hey lady, you alive?” I ask rhetorically.

I give her body a gentle kick with my brown cowboy boot. The flesh gives way with a shplorg sucking noise, and the toe of the boot submerges inside her abdomen. “God fuckin’ damn!” I scream out, jumping back from the body. The blonde strands of hair whip after me in mockery.

There’s a creaking sound of a car door, and the night briefly fills with the twinkling of synthesizers before becoming muffled once more as the door crunches back shut. R.J.’s heavy feet shuffle their way over to me. His 6-foot-tall, lean farmer’s body is wrapped in a tan workman’s coat and dark jeans. He’s also wearing the green trucker hat I got him last year. Across it reads the band name The Specials. He never got that joke, unsurprisingly.

“She OK?”

“No, Joey, she’s not OK. You grab her head, and I’ll grab her legs. We can chuck her off into the woods over there and be on our way. Who knows what the hell she was doing out here, and we don’t need to stick around any longer. ’Kay?”

R.J. kneels by her head and wipes the hair away from her face. Her left eye hangs halfway out. The flesh of her cheek is scraped away to reveal shattered bone. Nothing left but tenderized road rash meat.

“She was pretty,” he says.

“Jesus! You look at that and think sexy, huh? I guess it’s better than the chicken fuckin’ back home, but come on!”

Joey moves on me with unexpected speed. His nose is touching the tip of mine. His eyes are pure black, like the night, and for a change, both focus in the same direction. “Don’t talk about Jesus. I ain’t never done nothing with no chicken.” And like that, it’s over. His eyes glass over to their usual dullard state. The lazy eye slowly drifts off to the corner. “She was pretty.” There’s a bittersweet empathy that wavers in his quiet voice.

“Yeah, all right, R.J., but she’s not now, so let’s get her moving.”

We lift the body up, and I try not to notice how much of her sticks behind to the road. We have her moved not a foot off the road when I hear the sound I’ve been dreading the whole time. It’s faint. It’s distant still, but there is no denying that a car is fast approaching.

“Fuck me,” I mutter and weigh the options. We can’t risk being seen carrying a body off into the woods. I look toward the trunk of the car and then at R.J. Yeah, fuck me hard, I think to myself. “The trunk, Joey. Quick!”

He nods in affirmation and we shuffle step to the back of the car. The body folds between us into a U shape. I cast a furtive glance and see the white glow beginning to cut through the forest. The purr of the approaching vehicle grows louder.

Setting my side of the body down, I race to the driver’s side door and throw it open. Melodic voices sing at me and then die as I remove the key from the ignition. I run back to the trunk and insert the key. Before turning it, I peek back once more. The headlights begin to crest the last curve.

“Joey, be cool, OK?” I say, and before I have a chance to get an answer or second-guess myself, I pop the trunk and throw it open. Inside, gagged with a bandana and bound in duct tape, is the boss’s 23-year-old daughter, Myra Torres.

R.J. releases his grip on the body in surprise. The already destroyed face bounces off the lip of the trunk, the chrome bumper, and finally the ground in a series of grotesque splats. R.J.’s one good eye wavers back and forth between the woman in the trunk and myself. His mind tries its feeble best to comprehend.

I throw the legs of the body into the trunk. The feet land on the head of the bound woman. Myra screams through her gag, a white foam of saliva coating the edge of her brown lips. Her eyes speak in tones of murder.

“Look, R.J., I’ll explain later! Right now we gotta get this closed up!”

He takes another look at Myra and then back at myself before bending down, picking up the body, and gently setting it inside the vehicle. I wipe my bloody hands clean on Myra’s green evening dress and R.J. follows suit. With that, I slam the trunk closed.

The headlights of the approaching car slow. They come to a complete stop 40 feet behind us. The lights are bright, blinding me. I put my forearm up to shield my eyes and attempt to make out the vehicle. It sits there, idly watching R.J. and myself. We wait, frozen in a moment of time.

The forest erupts in hues of blue and red as the rotating emergency lights of the highway patrol vehicle turn on. My luck today is truly astounding.  I hear the driver’s side door open and then close. Still blinded by the lights, I can just make out the state trooper approaching in silhouette. Damn Yogi Bear hat and all.

“You boys having car trouble?” a gruff, yet sincere voice calls out.

“A deer jumped out at us, Officer. We’re just about to get back on the road,” I reply.

The trooper crosses the distance between us. He’s an older black man. He looks me over and then studies R.J. who’s leaning uncomfortably on the trunk of the car, swaying back and forth in a slow grind.

“Any injuries?”

“No, no, we’re all good.”

“Yeah? And how about you?” he asks Retarded Joey.

“Joey’s good,” he answers. I sigh a breath of relief.

The officer gives R.J. a brief stare before beginning a walk around the Cutlass. “Well boys, I’m afraid that windshield is done for. I can’t let you drive with it damaged like that, especially at night. Where’s the deer at?”

“It must have wandered off into the woods. I hear they do that. But, I’m sure the windshield isn’t that much trouble. I’ll just get it fixed when we’re in town tomorrow. No need to concern yourself.”

“Sorry, sir, but I have to call out the tow truck. If you could please hand me your license and registration, I will call in the truck for you. I’ll need to see your ID as well. Joey, was it?”

“Joey,” I ask, “would you mind getting the officer the papers out of the glove box?”

Joey gives a slight nod. He moves to the passenger door, opening it once more, and rummages in the glove box.

The trooper wanders to the spot where the deer’s body had landed in the road. He looks from the bloody spot to the woods and back. He squats down, his black-gloved hand reaching to the asphalt, and picks up a long strand of blonde hair, dyed with spots of red. He springs up and turns back to us with surprising speed for a man his age. His right hand has unclipped his sidearm and brought it bearing on me at the same time.

“Fuckin’ niggers!” R.J. screams out from beside the car. In his hand is the pistol he retrieved from the glove box. He sprints at the state trooper in his lurching manner, firing wildly as each heavy footstep takes him closer. The officer takes a hit in his right shoulder before squeezing off two shots in return. The first shot shatters the rear window of the Oldsmobile. It’s unclear where the second lands, but a loud metallic ring hints at the car taking the damage from that shot as well. Joey, on his fifth shot, plants a bullet in the trooper’s gut, sending him to the ground. The Yogi Bear hat blows off his head and rolls to the tire of the patrol car. I walk up to the downed officer and remove the gun from his fingertips.

“Please…,” he groans out. The writhing pain of the gut shot reverberates through his voice.

R.J. lays the tip of his pistol to the back of the trooper’s head. He pulls the trigger. “Niggers,” he says with a smile.

I sigh. I’ll never understand how they can’t get basic math to stick in these Southern bastards’ heads, but niggers, now that they have no problem learning.

“Well, what else can go wrong tonight?” I ask aloud to no one. God gives me a reply anyway. I notice where the trooper’s second shot went. In the trunk of the car is a newly formed round hole.

“No,” I shout while running over to the car. With shaking hands, I scrape the keys into the lock and twist.

The trunk lifts partially. I throw it open wide. Inside, there are now two bodies. The first, the mangled corpse of a blonde woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. The second, Myra Torres, who has a gaping hole in her forehead where the misfired shot found home.

I hang my head in disbelief. That shot would have been impossible if the trooper had been trying to make it. But here I am, with the dead daughter of one of the biggest crime bosses in western America. Kidnapping her and seeking a ransom from the man may not have been the smartest of my plans, but I had Retarded Joey set to take the fall and I’d have been able to disappear with millions in cash. Now everything is fucked. Think, Eugene, think. Keep it simple.

“Hey, R.J., come here for a moment, will you?”

I hear the lame legs dragging their way over to me. My grip on the trooper’s gun tightens.

“I got some bad news, R.J.,” I say.  “It’s a shame that trooper shot you.”

I turn to face R.J. To my surprise, he’s inches away from me, his gun at the ready. The focused black eyes of a killer have returned. He smiles.

“Joey may be slow,” he says, “but I’m not retarded.”

I’ll never know who pulled their trigger first. In the end, it would not matter for either of us.

S.M. Fedor has previously appeared in Punk Noir Magazine, Burning Love & Bleeding Hearts, and will be in the forthcoming Mickey Finn vol. 2 from Down & Out Books. Scott splits his time between writing neo-noir & new-weird influenced crime/horror thrillers and creating award-winning VFX for film/TV. He resides in Montreal and is currently at work on his debut novel. @s_m_fedor & smfedor.com

An Interview with New Poet on the Block Wayne Jermin

Punk Noir Magazine

As of 2020 there has been an influx of talented new poets flooding the indie scene. One such poet is Wayne Jermin who, like his cohorts, mix a Molotov cocktail of noir stylings into their confessional, lyrical poetry. Punk Noir was lucky enough to catch Wayne to get him on board for our interview series!

Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got started in the Literature scene?

I’m a 36 year old father and husband and grass roots football coach from Swansea, Wales.

I’ve always written. Whether that be poetry, short stories even football match reports at school, I’ve always enjoyed writing. Creating stories and different characters has always been a hobby since I was around 11 when we I got to high school.

Tell us about your recent work?

I have recently had a chapbook published by Alien Buddha Press (thanks Red) called Hang The Sad Pictures. It’s a mixture of dark, personal poems about my struggles with Mental health, depression, suicide mixed with noir.

Describe your writing style in 5 words?

Honest, Devastating, Pure, Emotional, Real

What and/or who are your inspirations?

Music has been a real influence. It’s definitely a passion of mine much like writing and football. I’d have to go to The Beatles, Rolling Stones right uo to Oasis and Stone Roses as musical inspiration.

I’ve started reading at more recently, especially through lockdown so some of my favourite writers and authors are currently churning out some phenomenal work. HLR has definitely been an inspiration. Her chapbook, History of Present Complaint is phenomenal, and it definitely gave me the courage to write my own book about my own struggles. Steve Golds, B.F. Jones, James Lilley, Scott Cummings and Max Thrax are all recent favourites of mine.

What advice would you give to up and coming indie authors?

Advice? Just be honest in your writing. Write for you and not what a magazine or publisher wants you to write about. Be yourself, listen to your own voice and don’t be afraid of rejection. You sometimes learn more about your writing after a rejection.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, I’m still new to the writing community. I’ve only started submitting work through lock down so my plan is to try and get more work out there to different magazines and publishers. I want to explore short stories and hopefully a Novella at some point. That would be biblical.

What is an issue you care about deeply?

Mental Helath. I suffer with anxiety, depression, Bipolar so Mental health is a very close and personal issue for me. It took me too long to reach out for help and seek medical advice. I’ve been in some very dark situations but I’m so happy I’m still hear to write about it.

What novel are you reading now?

I’m reading Steve Golds ‘I’ll Pray When I’m dying’. I was hooked immediately from the cover never mind the first page. It really is a modern day masterpiece.

What music are you listening to now?

I love indie music and 90s britpop. So anything from that genre or era. Noel Gallaghers High Flying Birds were on in the car this morning but again, I’d go back to the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, absolutely iconic.

What did you last eat?

Bacon Double cheese burger and fries.

If you could go on a drinking binge with 5 writers alive or dead who would you choose?

Definitely the Punk Noir family….. and Liam Gallagher!

Finish this sentence: Fuck_____________________!

Fuck, don’t blame me I wasn’t there, honest!

If you could travel to a time and place in history what would it be?

This is gonna sound fucking sad, but I’d go back to Knebworth to watch Oasis in 1996, Either that or to the scene of the JFK assassination.

What would you like written on your gravestone?

Wayne Jermin – Live forever!

Wayne is 36 years old. A husband and father from Swansea, Wales. He started writing poetry a few years ago to help with his mental health. He’s always enjoyed poetry and writes almost every day. It’s helped him through some dark times and finds writing down those thoughts really helps his state of mind. You can find Wayne and his work on twitter @waynejermin

WIN SOME LOSE SOME by Mark Atley

Punk Noir Magazine

Detective Danny Rocco ends the phone call and opens the Ford Taurus driver’s side door to get in the car, which is in the Walmart parking lot a mile down the road from the trailer belonging to the guy Danny was talking with on the phone. Once in the car, he tilts his slim frame to his right and shuts the door. Settles behind the steering wheel. 

The detective in the passenger seat looks over at him. “What he say?” 

“He’s leaving work,” Danny says. His hand hangs over the plastic and leather arch of the wheel. The car smells like sweat—Carl’s sweat. “Said he would rather do this at his house than at work. Which I guess I understand, but I don’t know, I’d rather not do it there. I’d like to get the guns back but going to his house… I don’t know. Lots of moving pieces when we stop making the decisions and they do. I don’t like it. Dangerous.”

The passenger, Carl Sweeney, doesn’t say anything, which is unusual for him. The guy never shuts up. Talks. Interrupts consistently. If it weren’t for his ability to make cases from nothing he’d been booted from the Major Crimes task force a long time ago. 

Carl pushes his compressed bulk back in the seat, places his hands on the dash, and straightens his arms. He asks, “Does he know why you called him?” 

“Aren’t you hot, sitting in here without the air on?” Danny ignores Carl’s question because sweat trickles down his back, between his shoulder blades, moistening the fabric pressed against the seatback. 

He runs his hand through his thinning hair. Lushness is not an Italian trait he’s inherited. Instead, he’s hanging on to the last vestiges of his youthful looks. Sweating won’t make him feel any better about it. He turns the car on to get some air going. 

When Danny parked the car to take the call, he asked Carl if he wanted to leave it running but Carl shook his head and said, no, let the sweat take some weight off. 

“Jesus, it’s hot in here.”

“The windows are down, ” Carl says like the heat doesn’tbother him and the window is enough ventilation to satisfy hisneeds. Danny can see Carl’s a sweaty mess. “I’m like a dog, all you got to do is roll the windows down, leave me in here. I’ll be fine.” Pants like a dog and lifts his hands to his chin, fingers down as if he’s looking over a wall or hanging off a window. 

“Well, the law says you have to leave the car running with dogs inside.”

Carl grins and Danny realizes his mistake too late. “Yeah, but not kids.”

“That’s morbid,” Danny says, trying to dismiss the upcoming speech.

“It’s the truth,” Carl says. “Look I’m an adult. If I want to sit here like it’s a sauna, I get the choice to do so. My body, my choice.”

“I don’t think that’s what it was intended for.”

“No it was intended to kill children and you know what, that’s what people do but how do they do it: that’s the question. How do they leave kids in cars? Go in the house, go to work, the store, the bar—God the bar’s got to be the worse—leave little ole Timmy sitting in the car, strapped to the car seat, the kid doesn’t have a say in the matter, no choice, can’t fight back. Read in the paper the other day, some family put a kid in the trunk.”

“You read the paper? Who reads papers?”

“Online article,” Carl says, flat. “No one reads papers, we read on the computer looking like we’re working. Like we’re doing cases. You’re over there working hard on this trying to find leads.” Carl taps his fingers on the dashboard to simulate Danny working the computer, wearing his blue-light glasses, and biting his tongue, Carl even throws that bit in, bites his tongue to make his point, a pink bud at the corner of his mouth, looks like a toad about to strike a fly. “Spinning your wheels, did this guy pawn these guns. Did this other guy steal them? All the while, I’m over here reading about current events, studying, educating myself, because knowing the world is important. Knowledge is power, you know. But you, you’re over there in your little square box killing yourself, working, and to do what? Nothing, because it’s a phone call from the victim that gives you this lead.”

Danny doesn’t speak. It’s true. 

Carl puts his index finger and thumb to the side of his face, eyeing Danny. “Hey, this guy’s selling these guns online, I think two of them belong to me, what can we do, that’s what the victim told you.” Doing the victim in a voice like Nicholas Cage trying to play against type. 

“That’s not exactly what he said.”

Carl twists in the seat, putting an arm against Danny’s headrest. “Oh yeah, what’d he say?”

Danny sighs. “He said he set up a buy with this guy and bought two of his guns back. Took pictures so I could compare them with the case file. Said the guy said something about having thirty more back at his house and wondered if the victim might be interested in buying them.”

“We both know the victim’s interested in buying his guns back, they’re his guns, but you think we should just let him buy each piece back from the guy like a punishment for being a fuck-stick?”

“Why, because he left them in his car?”

“Well, that too, but because the guy’s truck gets broken into—couple of kids out car hopping and riding around in stolen cars, the ones they find with keys in them, and we chase these kids, and they crash—and then we recover these guns from the kids. They busted the back windshield of his camper shell to get in to take the merchandise, but this guy, what’s he do? Puts the guns back in the camper shell and tapes it with plastic. You and I both know he’s a retard. He should know better.”

Danny blinks once. “You can’t say that.”

“Say what?”

“Never mind,”— Danny shakes his head considering not getting into it with Carl—“No, you know what, you can’t go calling people retards.” 

“The guy’s staying at a motel, in town for a gun show, and you’re telling me I can’t make fun of the guy because he leaves his antique, rare, firearms in an unsecured vehicle overnight; a vehicle that’s already been busted into once?”

“I’m not saying you can’t make fun of the guy, give him a hard time, I’m saying you can’t use that word. Retard.”

“What do I call him?”

“I don’t know, something not so offensive.”

Carl chuckles. “You want me to use something like potato head, on account, he’s soft in the head, like a baby, that sound better to you, sound more po-litically correct?”

“No, that’s not any better.”

“How about Tater Tot? You got a problem with Tater Tot? No, good, cause that’s what I’m going to call him, a Tater Tot, they’re delicious but sorta useless, I mean what is it, hash brown or French fry, why’s it got to be both but neither.”

Danny groans in frustration. “You know what, never mind, I’ll call the guy back and tell him not today.”

“Then the guns will disappear. You don’t want the guns to disappear.”

“No, you just think the owner should have to buy them back for being stupid.”

“Oh so I can’t say the R-word,” Carl says. “But you can call him stupid. I sense a double standard here, isn’t that right,detective?” Carl pauses long enough to regain his original train of thought or one of the many threads that all go on at the same time inside his ADD mind. “But the guy calls, that’s the point. Not you finding the perpetrator—funny how all them TV shows call people perps, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever called someone a perp; perv maybe—and what do you do, you set up a meeting with him, except you play it straight, tell the guy, we need to talk. So he says sure but not at his work, which is his choice. So like I was saying, why in the trunk. In Alabama, like what the hell. What did the kid do to deserve to be hot boxed in an Alabama summer? Like that’s some Cool Hand Luke bullshit, and even then, you’re sitting there watching the movie, wondering, how those guys don’t die. Did someone bring them water? I mean, hell I’d need water. Sweat it all out of me.”

“I haven’t seen the movie.”

Carl makes a disgusted face like he can’t believe it and shakes his head. “Well, you bring me any water? I’ve been sitting in here sweating.”

“No. You could have gotten out and gone inside the store.”

“That’s the point, I could have gotten out, but I chose not to. I’m trying to lose weight, new diet, working out. I’m not fat, I’m not obese, I’m just a little heavier than my frame allows. I already have no neck and I’m built like a brick.” He adds, “It’s from years of weightlifting and martial arts, not eating ding dongs and honey buns.”

“I like honey buns.”

“I do too, but you are missing the point. You don’t get this wonderful physique, eating them. Besides, the sweat brings me back to my high school wrestling days when I had to cut weight. Did that wearing trash bags. This type of heat, it’s nothing, certainly not like a sauna. You can say I’m the older detective, but you can’t call me obese. But that’s what you think.”

“That’s not what I think.”

“Sure it is. You’re thinking, Carl, he’s heavy and stocky…so much so it gives him the appearance of fat, but I’m not fat.”

“No one called you fat,” Danny says. 

Carl goes on defending himself even though he doesn’t have to. “But I’m trying to lose weight and get back out there, inthe dating game. Get back in shape. But my problem isn’t lack of will but cartilage. Years of lifting weights, martial arts, wrestling, and police work, have broken me down into a creaking stiff-jointed mess. I’ve been shot, beat down, divorced, and suspended. Now I’m back baby.”

Carl’s back from his administrative leave. He did shoot someone. Something Danny’s never done. 

Danny slips the car into gear and pulls from the parking spot. He receives word over the radio the target’s close to their location. The OSU orange F250 passes them, the driver staring straight ahead, intent on getting home before the cops do, but there are cops already at his house. Their backup, Gracie, passes them before Danny can pull into traffic behind the F250.

Carl says, “I got a taste of what my future looks like—retirement. It looks good.”

Danny and Carl share a love of Seinfeld, bonding by throwing quotes at each other and naming the bits from specific episodes like Trekkies talking about their favorite show. Carl likes to think he’s a Kramer, the goofy fun-loving guy, or Joe Pesci from Goodfellas, frightening but funny. Instead, he’s more a George Costanza. “Yeah, and the office was finally silent—we got a taste of that too.”

Carl frowns. “That hurts. What, you didn’t get your Dunkin today?”

“I bought you some.”

“That you did,” Carl says, “that you did. Did you know, I had to do nothing all day long and since I’m divorced, I mentioned that earlier, and you know all about it, no one was over there bitching at me about what I needed to do. Carl do this. Carl do that. No one doing nothing. That’s what I was doing, course, I thought like most people when they finally find themselves with a ton of time on their hands that I’d get to working on the house, do some remodeling, housework, or something, I did but not what I thought I would do. I did loseweight, that’s something. That’s not something you can take away from me. You know how much weight we gain just sitting behind a desk and driving in cars every day. Being on our feet. You wouldn’t believe it, but I didn’t always look like this. I usedto be something.” 

Carl pauses, lifts his head, and seemingly enjoys the cool air hitting his squat neck. He pulls at his collar as Danny rolls the windows up, the air whipping the papers around in the backseat. 

“Weren’t you hot out there? Look at you, you’re sweating. Your shirt’s nearly soaked through. At least in here, I’m comfortable getting out of the sun, enjoy the breeze, sit down… It’s the middle of an Oklahoma freakin’ summer and the humidity makes the heat hotter, it’s the type that sticks to you, making sweat, and turning shirts into Saran wrap.”

Danny shakes his head. “You wouldn’t stop talking long enough to let me make the call. You kept going on about ask him this and ask him that, it was all very distracting”

Carl says. “Look at you, you talk like you’re from New Jersey—”

“Providence—”

“And you came to us via Atlanta, bearing a horse, who’s dead by the way, which gives you a certain quality these guys out here—”

“Rednecks”

“These guys out here—yes they’re freaking rednecks with all your interrupting why don’ you let me talk—these guys they don’t know how to handle you, but I do. With them, they’re mesmerized by your accent and agree to whatever it is you’re telling them. Do stupid stuff like that one guy who told you about the weed in his pocket because he thought it was legal and you were so nice and Officer Friendly towards him, smiling, but it was a park, and the law hadn’t changed yet. This guy’s no different, I bet, so what’d you say to him to get him to meet you at home?”

“I told him he had sold the two guns but didn’t mention anything else.”

“What did he say to that?” 

Danny gives Carl a look. “That he’d like to talk about it atthe house.”

Carl thinks it over for a moment and then says, “that makes sense. I once got a guy fired from his job. He worked over at the paper plant over on the Bixby Jenks line. I’m there with another detective, it’s her case, and we’re there to ask him about a rape.We weren’t going to do nothing to him, see what he had to say, maybe see if he’d give us some DNA,” pausing to see if Danny says something—“a swab, you sicko.”

Danny shuts his eyes and shakes his head. 

“But when we’re waiting to get through security, we get word from one of the managers. The guy left, said his girlfriend called and told him the cops were at his house. We were, we went there first, but we left when the girlfriend told us he was at work. So we’re standing there kind of processing this when the manager goes: and when you do make contact with him at home, tell him not to come back to work, he’s fired. We inquired about why, and they said it’s because they can’t have the police here all the time asking about this guy. Told us there were sheriff deputies around the week prior and the local jurisdiction the week before that. Management said it looked bad.”

“It does look bad.”

“Says something about the quality of the employee. If you can’t hire the right people to make shit paper, then who are the right people?”

The F250 pulls off the road and into a gravel driveway. Gracie’s chase vehicle shoots past the house. Danny pulls into the target’s drive behind him, and both Danny and Carl are up and out of the Taurus in no time. The retirement was really good for Carl; he is losing weight. 

Danny says, “Harold.”

Harold, the target, turns his head to look at them as he exits the F250. “You’re the guy I talked to on the phone.” 

Carl can’t help himself. “Anyone else promise to meet you at your house?” And when the guy doesn’t answer, Carl says, “We’re here, where are the guns?”

Harold’s eyes pop open wide. “What guns?”

“The thirty more you were going to sell to…” Danny reads the victim’s name off a piece of paper he’s holding in his left hand. 

Harold considers his options. Danny watches the debateplay across the man’s features, thick brow narrowing, flat nose scrunching, lips, hidden in a thick bushy unkempt beard, twisting, before the guy drops his eyes and says, “They’re in the house.”

“You want us to go inside with you to get them?” Carl asks. 

Harold closes the F250’s driver’s side door and jams his fists onto his hips. He looks back at the house and then at the two detectives. “My wife’s inside.”

“She want to bring them out to us?” Carl asks before Danny can respond. 

“She know they’re stolen?” Danny asks. 

Shaking his head, Harold says she doesn’t. “I bought them from a friend.” Harold turns, ushering them up the steps of the trailer. At the door, he stops and blocks the doorway. Two more police cars, detectives, pull up, and bodies exit. Harold looks beyond Danny and Carl at the others arriving, and then at Danny and Carl. “If we’re going to talk, can we talk out here?”

“What you don’t want your wife knowing you have stolen guns?” Carl says. 

“That’s not it,” Harold says. 

But that is it. Danny tells him it’s fine as a voice shouts from inside the house, beyond the screen door. “What’s going on?”

Harold, not turning to talk to his wife, shouts back, “There’s just some people here over a misunderstanding.” Then Harold’s talking to them. “It’s just a misunderstanding, guys. I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

“So you did something?” Carl asks but Harold doesn’t get it.

Harold’s wife comes to the door. She’s a large woman, dressed in pajama pants. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“I found some guys to take those guns off our hands. Only we got the days messed up and they had to do it today.” 

Her tone stretches the word out in disbelief. “Now?”

“Now.”

The wife stares her husband down hard and shrugs, evaporating back into the trailer. 

Danny asks, “Who you get the guns from?”

“A friend,” Harold says, and he gives the friend’s name while driving his hand down into his pocket to fish out his phone. He pulls out the phone and starts searching for the friend’s number. 

“How much did you pay for the guns?” Danny asks. 

Harold pauses looking for the friend’s number and sheepishly admits. “Three thousand.”

Carl scoffs. “Three thousand for thirty rifles?” 

“And two handguns,” Harold says. “My friend wanted to see if I could sell them. Said I’d make back my money.”

“Your friend’s wrong,” Danny says. “We’re going to have to take those rifles from you.”

“And the two handguns,” Carl adds, smiling. 

“Okay,” Harold says without pause. 

“Okay?” both Danny and Carl say at the same time. 

Danny says, “You’ve paid three thousand dollars for some guns, which we’re going to take.”

“Seize,” Carl adds. 

“Seize from you,” Danny says, “and all you have to say is okay? You don’t even sound upset about it.”

Harold shrugs. “Sometimes you win some and lose some.”

Through a daisy chain of bodies, Danny and the other detectives collect all the rifles from inside the house, Danny taking them from Harold, handing them to Carl, who hands them to Gracie and the others, so on and so on, throwing them in Danny’s trunk like he’s running guns for the Rebellion. 

After they are all finished and about to leave, Carl stares into the trunk. “Jesus that’s a lot of rifles.”

Danny snaps a couple of photos with his phone. “You’re telling me. Think the victim’s going to be happy to get them back?” 

Carl looks to Danny and then back to the trailer. “About as happy as Harold’s going to be losing three thousand dollars.” He helps Danny shut the trunk. “Although I still say you should have told his wife what it was all about.”

“He was helping us, being cooperative, I didn’t feel like it was right.”

“That’s the Yankee in you,” Carl says. “We could’ve watched a show. Coulda seen how mad she was at him. That guy spent three grand to buy them just to have the cops come take them.” Carl steps around the car and opens the passenger side door. “Hey, I didn’t ask you, what’s Harold’s full name, you know for my memoirs.” 

Danny knows Carl means his report.

Danny stands at the driver’s side door. “Gouch.”

“His name’s Harold Gouch—as in Harry Gouch—Jesus,” Carl says. “He was right, sometimes you do win some and lose some.”

WIN SOME LOSE SOME by Mark Atley

Punk Noir Magazine

Detective Danny Rocco ends the phone call and opens the Ford Taurus driver’s side door to get in the car, which is in the Walmart parking lot a mile down the road from the trailer belonging to the guy Danny was talking with on the phone. Once in the car, he tilts his slim frame to his right and shuts the door. Settles behind the steering wheel. 

The detective in the passenger seat looks over at him. “What he say?” 

“He’s leaving work,” Danny says. His hand hangs over the plastic and leather arch of the wheel. The car smells like sweat—Carl’s sweat. “Said he would rather do this at his house than at work. Which I guess I understand, but I don’t know, I’d rather not do it there. I’d like to get the guns back but going to his house… I don’t know. Lots of moving pieces when we stop making the decisions and they do. I don’t like it. Dangerous.”

The passenger, Carl Sweeney, doesn’t say anything, which is unusual for him. The guy never shuts up. Talks. Interrupts consistently. If it weren’t for his ability to make cases from nothing he’d been booted from the Major Crimes task force a long time ago. 

Carl pushes his compressed bulk back in the seat, places his hands on the dash, and straightens his arms. He asks, “Does he know why you called him?” 

“Aren’t you hot, sitting in here without the air on?” Danny ignores Carl’s question because sweat trickles down his back, between his shoulder blades, moistening the fabric pressed against the seatback. 

He runs his hand through his thinning hair. Lushness is not an Italian trait he’s inherited. Instead, he’s hanging on to the last vestiges of his youthful looks. Sweating won’t make him feel any better about it. He turns the car on to get some air going. 

When Danny parked the car to take the call, he asked Carl if he wanted to leave it running but Carl shook his head and said, no, let the sweat take some weight off. 

“Jesus, it’s hot in here.”

“The windows are down, ” Carl says like the heat doesn’tbother him and the window is enough ventilation to satisfy hisneeds. Danny can see Carl’s a sweaty mess. “I’m like a dog, all you got to do is roll the windows down, leave me in here. I’ll be fine.” Pants like a dog and lifts his hands to his chin, fingers down as if he’s looking over a wall or hanging off a window. 

“Well, the law says you have to leave the car running with dogs inside.”

Carl grins and Danny realizes his mistake too late. “Yeah, but not kids.”

“That’s morbid,” Danny says, trying to dismiss the upcoming speech.

“It’s the truth,” Carl says. “Look I’m an adult. If I want to sit here like it’s a sauna, I get the choice to do so. My body, my choice.”

“I don’t think that’s what it was intended for.”

“No it was intended to kill children and you know what, that’s what people do but how do they do it: that’s the question. How do they leave kids in cars? Go in the house, go to work, the store, the bar—God the bar’s got to be the worse—leave little ole Timmy sitting in the car, strapped to the car seat, the kid doesn’t have a say in the matter, no choice, can’t fight back. Read in the paper the other day, some family put a kid in the trunk.”

“You read the paper? Who reads papers?”

“Online article,” Carl says, flat. “No one reads papers, we read on the computer looking like we’re working. Like we’re doing cases. You’re over there working hard on this trying to find leads.” Carl taps his fingers on the dashboard to simulate Danny working the computer, wearing his blue-light glasses, and biting his tongue, Carl even throws that bit in, bites his tongue to make his point, a pink bud at the corner of his mouth, looks like a toad about to strike a fly. “Spinning your wheels, did this guy pawn these guns. Did this other guy steal them? All the while, I’m over here reading about current events, studying, educating myself, because knowing the world is important. Knowledge is power, you know. But you, you’re over there in your little square box killing yourself, working, and to do what? Nothing, because it’s a phone call from the victim that gives you this lead.”

Danny doesn’t speak. It’s true. 

Carl puts his index finger and thumb to the side of his face, eyeing Danny. “Hey, this guy’s selling these guns online, I think two of them belong to me, what can we do, that’s what the victim told you.” Doing the victim in a voice like Nicholas Cage trying to play against type. 

“That’s not exactly what he said.”

Carl twists in the seat, putting an arm against Danny’s headrest. “Oh yeah, what’d he say?”

Danny sighs. “He said he set up a buy with this guy and bought two of his guns back. Took pictures so I could compare them with the case file. Said the guy said something about having thirty more back at his house and wondered if the victim might be interested in buying them.”

“We both know the victim’s interested in buying his guns back, they’re his guns, but you think we should just let him buy each piece back from the guy like a punishment for being a fuck-stick?”

“Why, because he left them in his car?”

“Well, that too, but because the guy’s truck gets broken into—couple of kids out car hopping and riding around in stolen cars, the ones they find with keys in them, and we chase these kids, and they crash—and then we recover these guns from the kids. They busted the back windshield of his camper shell to get in to take the merchandise, but this guy, what’s he do? Puts the guns back in the camper shell and tapes it with plastic. You and I both know he’s a retard. He should know better.”

Danny blinks once. “You can’t say that.”

“Say what?”

“Never mind,”— Danny shakes his head considering not getting into it with Carl—“No, you know what, you can’t go calling people retards.” 

“The guy’s staying at a motel, in town for a gun show, and you’re telling me I can’t make fun of the guy because he leaves his antique, rare, firearms in an unsecured vehicle overnight; a vehicle that’s already been busted into once?”

“I’m not saying you can’t make fun of the guy, give him a hard time, I’m saying you can’t use that word. Retard.”

“What do I call him?”

“I don’t know, something not so offensive.”

Carl chuckles. “You want me to use something like potato head, on account, he’s soft in the head, like a baby, that sound better to you, sound more po-litically correct?”

“No, that’s not any better.”

“How about Tater Tot? You got a problem with Tater Tot? No, good, cause that’s what I’m going to call him, a Tater Tot, they’re delicious but sorta useless, I mean what is it, hash brown or French fry, why’s it got to be both but neither.”

Danny groans in frustration. “You know what, never mind, I’ll call the guy back and tell him not today.”

“Then the guns will disappear. You don’t want the guns to disappear.”

“No, you just think the owner should have to buy them back for being stupid.”

“Oh so I can’t say the R-word,” Carl says. “But you can call him stupid. I sense a double standard here, isn’t that right,detective?” Carl pauses long enough to regain his original train of thought or one of the many threads that all go on at the same time inside his ADD mind. “But the guy calls, that’s the point. Not you finding the perpetrator—funny how all them TV shows call people perps, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever called someone a perp; perv maybe—and what do you do, you set up a meeting with him, except you play it straight, tell the guy, we need to talk. So he says sure but not at his work, which is his choice. So like I was saying, why in the trunk. In Alabama, like what the hell. What did the kid do to deserve to be hot boxed in an Alabama summer? Like that’s some Cool Hand Luke bullshit, and even then, you’re sitting there watching the movie, wondering, how those guys don’t die. Did someone bring them water? I mean, hell I’d need water. Sweat it all out of me.”

“I haven’t seen the movie.”

Carl makes a disgusted face like he can’t believe it and shakes his head. “Well, you bring me any water? I’ve been sitting in here sweating.”

“No. You could have gotten out and gone inside the store.”

“That’s the point, I could have gotten out, but I chose not to. I’m trying to lose weight, new diet, working out. I’m not fat, I’m not obese, I’m just a little heavier than my frame allows. I already have no neck and I’m built like a brick.” He adds, “It’s from years of weightlifting and martial arts, not eating ding dongs and honey buns.”

“I like honey buns.”

“I do too, but you are missing the point. You don’t get this wonderful physique, eating them. Besides, the sweat brings me back to my high school wrestling days when I had to cut weight. Did that wearing trash bags. This type of heat, it’s nothing, certainly not like a sauna. You can say I’m the older detective, but you can’t call me obese. But that’s what you think.”

“That’s not what I think.”

“Sure it is. You’re thinking, Carl, he’s heavy and stocky…so much so it gives him the appearance of fat, but I’m not fat.”

“No one called you fat,” Danny says. 

Carl goes on defending himself even though he doesn’t have to. “But I’m trying to lose weight and get back out there, inthe dating game. Get back in shape. But my problem isn’t lack of will but cartilage. Years of lifting weights, martial arts, wrestling, and police work, have broken me down into a creaking stiff-jointed mess. I’ve been shot, beat down, divorced, and suspended. Now I’m back baby.”

Carl’s back from his administrative leave. He did shoot someone. Something Danny’s never done. 

Danny slips the car into gear and pulls from the parking spot. He receives word over the radio the target’s close to their location. The OSU orange F250 passes them, the driver staring straight ahead, intent on getting home before the cops do, but there are cops already at his house. Their backup, Gracie, passes them before Danny can pull into traffic behind the F250.

Carl says, “I got a taste of what my future looks like—retirement. It looks good.”

Danny and Carl share a love of Seinfeld, bonding by throwing quotes at each other and naming the bits from specific episodes like Trekkies talking about their favorite show. Carl likes to think he’s a Kramer, the goofy fun-loving guy, or Joe Pesci from Goodfellas, frightening but funny. Instead, he’s more a George Costanza. “Yeah, and the office was finally silent—we got a taste of that too.”

Carl frowns. “That hurts. What, you didn’t get your Dunkin today?”

“I bought you some.”

“That you did,” Carl says, “that you did. Did you know, I had to do nothing all day long and since I’m divorced, I mentioned that earlier, and you know all about it, no one was over there bitching at me about what I needed to do. Carl do this. Carl do that. No one doing nothing. That’s what I was doing, course, I thought like most people when they finally find themselves with a ton of time on their hands that I’d get to working on the house, do some remodeling, housework, or something, I did but not what I thought I would do. I did loseweight, that’s something. That’s not something you can take away from me. You know how much weight we gain just sitting behind a desk and driving in cars every day. Being on our feet. You wouldn’t believe it, but I didn’t always look like this. I usedto be something.” 

Carl pauses, lifts his head, and seemingly enjoys the cool air hitting his squat neck. He pulls at his collar as Danny rolls the windows up, the air whipping the papers around in the backseat. 

“Weren’t you hot out there? Look at you, you’re sweating. Your shirt’s nearly soaked through. At least in here, I’m comfortable getting out of the sun, enjoy the breeze, sit down… It’s the middle of an Oklahoma freakin’ summer and the humidity makes the heat hotter, it’s the type that sticks to you, making sweat, and turning shirts into Saran wrap.”

Danny shakes his head. “You wouldn’t stop talking long enough to let me make the call. You kept going on about ask him this and ask him that, it was all very distracting”

Carl says. “Look at you, you talk like you’re from New Jersey—”

“Providence—”

“And you came to us via Atlanta, bearing a horse, who’s dead by the way, which gives you a certain quality these guys out here—”

“Rednecks”

“These guys out here—yes they’re freaking rednecks with all your interrupting why don’ you let me talk—these guys they don’t know how to handle you, but I do. With them, they’re mesmerized by your accent and agree to whatever it is you’re telling them. Do stupid stuff like that one guy who told you about the weed in his pocket because he thought it was legal and you were so nice and Officer Friendly towards him, smiling, but it was a park, and the law hadn’t changed yet. This guy’s no different, I bet, so what’d you say to him to get him to meet you at home?”

“I told him he had sold the two guns but didn’t mention anything else.”

“What did he say to that?” 

Danny gives Carl a look. “That he’d like to talk about it atthe house.”

Carl thinks it over for a moment and then says, “that makes sense. I once got a guy fired from his job. He worked over at the paper plant over on the Bixby Jenks line. I’m there with another detective, it’s her case, and we’re there to ask him about a rape.We weren’t going to do nothing to him, see what he had to say, maybe see if he’d give us some DNA,” pausing to see if Danny says something—“a swab, you sicko.”

Danny shuts his eyes and shakes his head. 

“But when we’re waiting to get through security, we get word from one of the managers. The guy left, said his girlfriend called and told him the cops were at his house. We were, we went there first, but we left when the girlfriend told us he was at work. So we’re standing there kind of processing this when the manager goes: and when you do make contact with him at home, tell him not to come back to work, he’s fired. We inquired about why, and they said it’s because they can’t have the police here all the time asking about this guy. Told us there were sheriff deputies around the week prior and the local jurisdiction the week before that. Management said it looked bad.”

“It does look bad.”

“Says something about the quality of the employee. If you can’t hire the right people to make shit paper, then who are the right people?”

The F250 pulls off the road and into a gravel driveway. Gracie’s chase vehicle shoots past the house. Danny pulls into the target’s drive behind him, and both Danny and Carl are up and out of the Taurus in no time. The retirement was really good for Carl; he is losing weight. 

Danny says, “Harold.”

Harold, the target, turns his head to look at them as he exits the F250. “You’re the guy I talked to on the phone.” 

Carl can’t help himself. “Anyone else promise to meet you at your house?” And when the guy doesn’t answer, Carl says, “We’re here, where are the guns?”

Harold’s eyes pop open wide. “What guns?”

“The thirty more you were going to sell to…” Danny reads the victim’s name off a piece of paper he’s holding in his left hand. 

Harold considers his options. Danny watches the debateplay across the man’s features, thick brow narrowing, flat nose scrunching, lips, hidden in a thick bushy unkempt beard, twisting, before the guy drops his eyes and says, “They’re in the house.”

“You want us to go inside with you to get them?” Carl asks. 

Harold closes the F250’s driver’s side door and jams his fists onto his hips. He looks back at the house and then at the two detectives. “My wife’s inside.”

“She want to bring them out to us?” Carl asks before Danny can respond. 

“She know they’re stolen?” Danny asks. 

Shaking his head, Harold says she doesn’t. “I bought them from a friend.” Harold turns, ushering them up the steps of the trailer. At the door, he stops and blocks the doorway. Two more police cars, detectives, pull up, and bodies exit. Harold looks beyond Danny and Carl at the others arriving, and then at Danny and Carl. “If we’re going to talk, can we talk out here?”

“What you don’t want your wife knowing you have stolen guns?” Carl says. 

“That’s not it,” Harold says. 

But that is it. Danny tells him it’s fine as a voice shouts from inside the house, beyond the screen door. “What’s going on?”

Harold, not turning to talk to his wife, shouts back, “There’s just some people here over a misunderstanding.” Then Harold’s talking to them. “It’s just a misunderstanding, guys. I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

“So you did something?” Carl asks but Harold doesn’t get it.

Harold’s wife comes to the door. She’s a large woman, dressed in pajama pants. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“I found some guys to take those guns off our hands. Only we got the days messed up and they had to do it today.” 

Her tone stretches the word out in disbelief. “Now?”

“Now.”

The wife stares her husband down hard and shrugs, evaporating back into the trailer. 

Danny asks, “Who you get the guns from?”

“A friend,” Harold says, and he gives the friend’s name while driving his hand down into his pocket to fish out his phone. He pulls out the phone and starts searching for the friend’s number. 

“How much did you pay for the guns?” Danny asks. 

Harold pauses looking for the friend’s number and sheepishly admits. “Three thousand.”

Carl scoffs. “Three thousand for thirty rifles?” 

“And two handguns,” Harold says. “My friend wanted to see if I could sell them. Said I’d make back my money.”

“Your friend’s wrong,” Danny says. “We’re going to have to take those rifles from you.”

“And the two handguns,” Carl adds, smiling. 

“Okay,” Harold says without pause. 

“Okay?” both Danny and Carl say at the same time. 

Danny says, “You’ve paid three thousand dollars for some guns, which we’re going to take.”

“Seize,” Carl adds. 

“Seize from you,” Danny says, “and all you have to say is okay? You don’t even sound upset about it.”

Harold shrugs. “Sometimes you win some and lose some.”

Through a daisy chain of bodies, Danny and the other detectives collect all the rifles from inside the house, Danny taking them from Harold, handing them to Carl, who hands them to Gracie and the others, so on and so on, throwing them in Danny’s trunk like he’s running guns for the Rebellion. 

After they are all finished and about to leave, Carl stares into the trunk. “Jesus that’s a lot of rifles.”

Danny snaps a couple of photos with his phone. “You’re telling me. Think the victim’s going to be happy to get them back?” 

Carl looks to Danny and then back to the trailer. “About as happy as Harold’s going to be losing three thousand dollars.” He helps Danny shut the trunk. “Although I still say you should have told his wife what it was all about.”

“He was helping us, being cooperative, I didn’t feel like it was right.”

“That’s the Yankee in you,” Carl says. “We could’ve watched a show. Coulda seen how mad she was at him. That guy spent three grand to buy them just to have the cops come take them.” Carl steps around the car and opens the passenger side door. “Hey, I didn’t ask you, what’s Harold’s full name, you know for my memoirs.” 

Danny knows Carl means his report.

Danny stands at the driver’s side door. “Gouch.”

“His name’s Harold Gouch—as in Harry Gouch—Jesus,” Carl says. “He was right, sometimes you do win some and lose some.”