Bloody Lip by Stephen J. Golds

Punk Noir Magazine

Note: This is a piece of flash fiction from the Golds’ Vaults. I wrote it when I was twenty years old. It’s interesting because I feel even 20 years later, I have kept a similar style with similar themes in my poetry. I still cringe at how bad my writing was at that time, but this is one of maybe twenty pieces I think are not so bad. Originally published at ZYGOTE IN MY COFFEE. Slightly edited here. Anyway, cheers for reading.

I had the taste of blood in my mouth.




She had hit me with a pretty good right hook. Who the hell had taught her to punch like that? Not me. I just didn’t know.

I went to the hallway mirror and she followed after. Her mouth, all teeth and rose petal lipped opening and closing — crazy obtuse shapes. I examined my own lower lip. There was a good long gash; my canine tooth had been forced into the flesh.

I stared at my reflection and thought of the wars, World War One, World War Two, Viet Nam.

She hadn’t looked the violent type at all, but I guess they never did. I decided not to clean the wound, I would let it bleed. The blood trickling down my chin, onto my vest and boxer shorts. It felt strangely heroic. I went into the living room and sat down on the settee. Placed a cigarette carefully in the side of my mouth that wasn’t bleeding.

“I said, get out of here, you piece of shit,” She screamed again from the hallway.

She threw my work boots into the living room, my work jacket followed soon after, flying past, a green, fluorescent bird crashing into the boots, covering their shame, their nakedness. 

I inhaled on my cigarette. Exhaled. Waited. Again I’d misunderstood something I was meant to have understood. Missed some kind of sign about what was wanted from me. Or something. I spent most of the time not understanding what the hell was going on with other people and what they wanted or needed.

“I told you to get the hell out. What are you waiting for? A quick fuck goodbye? Well, you can go to her for that now, can’t you”. She was in front of me waving her arms and stamping her bare feet. I think I flinched a few times.

It was the first time I ever realized there were negative consequences to my negative actions.

I’d never been punched by a woman before either. It wasn’t the last time. As a man it would be another thing never spoken of.  

I can still feel the smooth tightness of the scar with the tip of my tongue. Even now.

Can still remember her name.

It might’ve been the first time I hurt someone I might’ve loved.

It might’ve been the first time someone I might’ve loved hurt me.

Piece of Slime by Patrick Whitehurst

Punk Noir Magazine


Traffic on Sansome had to be noisy at this time of day. Just after closing time on a Monday, only in the back office of Mitchum and Associates, ten stories over downtown San Francisco, he couldn’t hear a damn thing. Just Albert Mitchum’s bitch-ass whiny voice.

He sat on the floor with his legs splayed out on the carpet. Had his head turned to one side. Sam kept his eyes on his right black canvas shoe. He could see spittle on it from where the overweight accountant hawked on him.

“No one talks to Albert Mitchum that way, you fucking piece of slime. No one!”

“Let me explain, Mitchum. I…” Sam started.

“You can keep that damn mouth shut and listen to me.” He kicked out his loafered foot, striking the mahogany wall inches from Sam’s head. Loafer scuffed the wood, not that Sam minded. As a rent-a-goon, he’d seen the bottom of plenty of shoes.

One look showed him a fishy, pale visage with a bushy gray mustache. Mitchum needed to get out more. Chubby cheeks, white as a corpse and ruddy with exertion. His heavy jowls wobbled like a rooster’swattles. He wore a charcoal gray business suit, the wide blazer opened to let his belly bulge over his silk slacks. Red suspenders kept the pants from falling. He’d combed over what little hair he had to confuse the baldness. A useless effort.

“You come here trying to extort money from me, threatening me, and you think I’ll just roll the fuck over?” A web of droolhung from the man’s skinny, purple lips.

“Please, Mitchum. If you’ll just…”

The numbers man wasn’t thinking figures. His loafers scuffed the wall again. Sam winced. Closer that time.

Weird he couldn’t hear a single car. These assholes were lucky to be this high above the world.

“Mister Mitchum to you, slime! Mister. Fucking. Mitchum!”

Albert asked Sam to swing by at five,when the staff were on their way to traffic jams. Man probably worked late most nights. On his heavy wooden desk were two monitors, each flanked by an assortment of framed photos. Most were kids, at least five of them. Another was of a woman with jowls heavier than Albert’s. Her hair, white as a sheet, was cut page boy style. Both had to be in their mid-fifties.

Mitchum’s walrus mustache made him look older. Thought about his heart a bit too, that guy, if the Web MD page on his computer screen were any indication. Symptoms of a stroke. Based on the fat ass vein popping out of his forehead, the reaper wouldn’t need to check his watchmuch longer.

Last thing Sam needed was a plump corpse landing on him.

“Listen to me and listen good, shit licker.” Mitchum wouldn’t shut up. “No one comes into my business and tells me what to do. You think you’re so fucking tough. You bastard cockroach whore!”

Not a bad put down.

Sam held up a hand. “Wasn’t trying to…”

The big man stepped back, grabbed one of the two leather chairs that faced his desk, and flipped it over. It landed against the bookshelf on the far side of the room.

“Keep talking mother fucker! I’ll shove a chair so far up your ass you’ll puke zippers and cotton balls until Christmas!”

The accountant dropped to his knees. Came down to Sam’s level. Brought his walrus, veined-out face within inches of Sam’s lips.

“Fuck you! You filthy fuck of shit!” Saliva rained on the hired thug’s exposed neck. He felt a drop hit his chin.

The phone in Sam’s Dockers vibrated. He reached under his blue flannel and checked it. The alarm. Thank God.

“Time’s up, Mitchum.” 

The jowls pulled away. “Already?

“Yeah. That’ll be five hundred. And hold back on the spit next time.”

Mitchum’s shoulders slumped. “Was just getting into it. Love the extortionist angle.”

“Story’s up to you. I’m just here to be a piece of shit. Make you feel better about crunching numbers for assholes.”

“When can I see you again?”

Sam sighed. “When rent’s due.”

Going Vegan by James Jenkins

Flash Fiction, James Jenkins

“Stop fucking judging me Jerry!”

“What? I didn’t. I didn’t say anything Alan,” he said, looking up from his half-chewed meal.

“You don’t have to,” said Alan taking another bite from his colossal burger. Meat fluids lined with cheese sweat and hot sauce oozed through his fingers. “Those beady little eyes, I can feel them all over me, judging my food.”

“I’m not Alan, honestly,” he said whilst pushing the reconstructed meat supplement around his plate.

Alan tore off another chunk of the mammoth brioche sandwich. Shreds of pulled pork and bacon tumbled wastefully from Alan’s greasy mouth. If the tasteless food on Jerry’s plate wasn’t enough not to be hungry, then the sight of Alan was. He watched the double patties leak blood red from their core before disappearing into Alan’s grinding teeth.

“How doph youph knoph a veganph a veganph?” Alan spat out through the un-swallowed mound of food in his mouth.

“Because it’s the first thing they tell you. Yes Alan, I know, you say it every time and it’s no funnier the more you say it,” Jerry sighed.

Alan finally swallowed his mouthful adding to an already bloated stomach destined for indigestion and a whole lot worse. “Oh, fuck off Jerry, you cunt.” He eyed Jerry’s plate and smiled. His teeth resembled a drying rack of meat. “What’s the matter Jerry? You’ve barely touched your food.”

Jerry gave in and pushed the oval plate to the side of the sticky pub table and scraped up the used vinegar sachets. “Great vegan options you said.”

“Jerry, you’re always such a prick about these things. I said they had a vegan option and that is great. You’re not the fucking messiah Jerry. Don’t forget you dragged us all to that Vegan only shite for your sister’s birthday.”

“I didn’t. That was Lauren’s choice, not mine.”

“Exactly!” Alan’s mouth jettisoned morsels of unchewed meat towards Jerry – The staff would have their work cut out more than earning the shit hourly pay. “We all made a sacrifice for you! Your sister ain’t no fucking vegan Jerry, I can promise you that,” Alan said grabbing his cock and balls along with the mass of excess fat.

Jerry held his tongue. Alan came from a generation too old to be meaningful but too young to die naturally anytime soon. It was like they’d all waited until their fifties to form an opinion and then boom – they had all the opinions. Youth and change were a constant threat to people like Alan. And Jerry represented both.

“Come on,” Jerry said. “We’ve only got a narrow window to get the job done.”

Alan stuffed the final piece of burger down his gullet and followed it with the last of his pint. Standing from his chair and pushing out that bulging gassy belly, he belched loud enough and long enough to attract the attention of the entire pub. He may as well of unplugged the jukebox and pool table for what it was worth. Jerry rolled his eyes in disgust. They didn’t need the extra attention. Not in their line of work.


“I mean, think about it Jerry. Everyone else is always making sacrifices for you, can’t you just do the same even just once in a while?”

“How so Alan?”

“Well, that meal was a perfect example. And then there’s the fucking shit cheese that your mum forced upon us all last Christmas, and the chocolate, and that abortion you call milk. How the fuck does one begin milking a fucking nut anyway?”

“Just leave it Alan,” Jerry answered bluntly – he’d heard enough.

“All I’m saying Jerry is, we had to eat your crap, isn’t it fair that you should make the compromise sometimes?”

“It’s not the same Alan.”

“The fuck it’s not!”

Jerry channelled pent-up anger through his grip of the steering wheel. The leather circle paid its price in his resolve not to react.

“Seriously though,” said Alan pissed and far from serious, “I don’t get it Jerry. You must miss the taste of meat.”

“Of course, I do,” said Jerry tightening his grip.

“Then why do you do it to yourself?”

“It’s not about me Alan. It’s about the suffering of an innocent animal. Grotesque treatment of living beings, their only purpose to serve our glutton. We don’t need to eat the flesh of other animals to survive. It’s merely a primordial urge that we haven’t learnt to evolve from. That learned pleasure of breaking through flesh with your bare teeth. A salty burst of greasy comfort food, flooded with iron as the blood breaches your pallet.”

Alan despite his current state saw the change in his future brother in-law’s eyes.

“No Alan. You’ve got it wrong, it is me making all of the sacrifices.”

“Eyes on the road!” shouted Alan as the car leaned towards the barrier.

Jerry’s intensity had become a worry for Alan. He hadn’t taken his eyes away from Alan in the last few miles and it was a wonder they hadn’t crashed already. The kid must be on something – Jerry was very tetchy today.

“Sorry Alan,” Jerry said turning his head between the road and his passenger.

“Just get us to the destination in one piece.”


“Good evening gentlemen!” beamed the jaw-dropping hostess. “Welcome to The Opa.” A nine with the heavy makeup, Alan guessed a six without. It would do for him. He’d done worse before now. “Do you have a booking with us?”

“Hi. Yes, we have a table for two under Bo…” Jerry began before Alan pushed him aside.

“Hello my darling,” he purred like a putrid toad. “Excuse my little friend here, he doesn’t know his way around a beautiful woman like I do.” Alan winked and the hostess returned his leering smile with a polite grin. Practised professionalism that was lost on Alan. “We’ll take a table for three if you fancy joining us?”

“Oh you,” she giggled to mask her repulsion.

“Cavendish,” Jerry interrupted. “Our table is booked under Bobby Cavendish.”

Jerry watched the plasticity drop from her face at the mention of his boss’ name.

“Of course, right this way gentlemen.”

The two men followed their host towards a pristine table. Alan salivated over her arse and jabbed Jerry with his elbow.

“For fucks sake Alan,” he muttered. “You’re engaged to my sister. Cut it out.”

“Oh Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. Grow a pair you wet cunt.”

The hostess bowed and flashed her generic smile before leaving the men to seat themselves.

“So, what now?” asked Alan.

“Boss said to wait for the target and then escort them home.” Jerry added speech quotations to the word home.

“How we going to know who they are?”

“Oh, we’ll know Alan. We’ll both know.”


Jerry watched Alan’s hungry eyes leering at any waitress to come within sight of the table. The way he’d purse his lips agreeably when they leaned down to retrieve the neighbouring table’s plates. The constant readjustment to his tight trousers as he swelled with lust.

“Don’t tut at me Jerry,” he said matching Jerry’s stare.

“I didn’t Alan.”

“You don’t fucking have to. I can hear your brain working you condescending prick.”

“Well stop eye-fucking every woman in the bar then.”

“Jerry! I’m doing my job.” Jerry doubted it. “We need to keep an eye out for the target remember?”

“The target isn’t a busty waitress Alan.”

“Well, how would I bloody know? You’ve kept them cards close to your bloody chest ain’t ya?”

“Mr Cavendish wanted it that way Alan. You’re here for the extra muscle.”

“Well, maybe I’m doing a bit of shopping for you Jerry. When was the last time you had a bit of skirt in your life? Or your bed for that matter. Your whole families worried about you Jerry. Not one of them are ya?” Alan held up a limp hand to ram the point home.

“That’s hardly your business Alan,” said Jerry before giving Alan the silent treatment.


Alan made the most of the bill that would be covered on expenses. The waiter could barely keep up with his demand for a constant supply of craft ale.

“Gar-sun! Gar-sun!” he bellowed to the busy member of staff.

“It’s garçon, Alan.”

“What-fucking-ever Jerry! Just get him to bring another. Those craft beers go right through ya. I’m going for a piss.”

Jerry watched his colleague disappear into the restrooms. The timing was perfect. The target had arrived. Jerry ordered the beer and waited for Alan to return.


“Do you need us to call an ambulance sir?” asked the worried hostess who’d been summoned to Jerry and Alan’s table by a worried member of her team.

“No. No, it’s quite alright, really,” said Jerry moving the collection of glasses away from Alan’s unconscious head. “He’s just had a bit too much I think.”

“Are you sure sir? It really would be no problem.”

“No, please don’t trouble yourselves. But if anyone could help me get him to my car then I’d be eternally grateful.”

“Anything for a friend of Mr Cavendish.” She snapped her fingers and two men stepped forward to help Jerry. Between the three of them they wrestled Alan’s bloated frame into the vehicle.


Alan woke up confused and paralysed. He still hadn’t lost the use of his mouth though.

“Jerry! What the fuck am I doing in bed?” he roared through the grogginess.

Jerry sat at a table by the foot of the bed with his back to Alan. He didn’t stir at the mention of his name.

“Jerry! What have you done to me? I can’t fucking move… turn around you cunt!”

Finally, Jerry did turn. And Alan wished he hadn’t, crimson paint spilled down Jerry’s jaws.

“What… what are you eating Jerry?” Alan almost laughed until he remembered his paralysis. “I thought you didn’t eat meat Jerry, you fucking fraud. Look… what’s going on with my body?”

“I poisoned you Alan,” Jerry said with a matter of fact.

“You… fuck!” Alan screamed willing his limbs to react as he sensed the atmosphere.

“Why Jerry? Why? If it’s about that hostess then stop being so fucking soft, you know I’ve only got eyes for your sister. I was just pissing around.”

Jerry’s knife and fork etched a screeching sound against the bone china. He lifted the dripping piece of raw meat up to his mouth and savoured the flavour.

“What are you eating Jerry? You’re a bloody vegan! You can’t eat that!” Alan for the first time noticed the small screen hiding his abdomen. He saw the claret sheets around him though and began to panic.

“Jerry! What the fuck is going on! What have you done to me?”

Jerry slowly finished his mouthful before wiping his bloody chin with a napkin. “Most people prefer steak, but not me Alan. No. I’m much more of a belly man.”

“Jerry! You don’t eat meat, what’s going on? What have you done?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t eat meat Alan, I’m just against the suffering of innocent animals. But when Mr Cavendish ordered the hit on you, I just thought it would be such a shame to let you go to waste.”


Alan forced the muscles in his eyes to their furthest reaches. He willed the hands that were no longer there to move and hyperventilated at the sight of the blood – his blood – so much blood. Jerry raised another chunk of flesh to his mouth.

“Don’t you do it Jerry! Put that fork down. What the fuck have you done to me?!”

Jerry popped the meat on his tongue and chewed. His eyes closed as he savoured the mouthful.

“You know it’s funny really Alan. I’ve never been able to stomach you. Couldn’t understand what my sister saw in you. But it turns out, you really are quite palatable after all.”

James Jenkins is a Suffolk UK based writer of gritty realism and noir. He has work published in Bristol Noir, Punch-Riot Mag, Bullshit Lit, Apocalypse Confidential, ROI Faineant, A Thin Slice of Anxiety and Punk Noir Magazine. One of his short stories appears in Grinning Skull Press Anthology – Deathlehem. His debut novel Parochial Pigs is available on Amazon and published by Alien Buddha Press. The sequel Sun Bleached Scarecrows is due for release by Anxiety Press in early 2023. 
Follow James @

The Weight by Jeff Boyd — a Punk Noir Book Review by Scott Cumming

Punk Noir Magazine

“I’m 27 and I don’t know who I am”

– boygenius – “Emily, I’m Sorry”

This line from one of the latest boygenius tracks really sums up what this book is about in part. Julian is only 26, the black drummer in a Portland band living hand to mouth and not without the generosity of his better off friends. Homeschooled and brought up ardently Christian, he finds himself out of place in a city populated by few other black people.

As is the case with anybody in there twenties, Julian is fucking around and figuring shit out. His affair ends as quick as it began with his lover getting engaged and as the band he plays in finds itself on the up, Julian is spiraling into crisis and taking out on those closest to him.

Boyd’s writing keeps you rapt throughout and never becomes melodramatic. He finds the perfect tone for living through your twenties and how you’ll spend too much just to get to hang out with friends or prospective lovers in the right night spot or the trendy cafe/bar.

He hits upon the way in which Christianity still holds major sway over the United States whereas here in Scotland, worship is a much more private thing compared with the garish displays of devotion written about in the novel with weekly workplace prayers.

I loved this novel, but I cannot profess to fully understand what it is to be a black man in America. One of the highlight scenes of the book is when Julian is driven by a police officer to get gas for a truck and it is at once hilarious and plain terrifying as Julian’s fears in this situation as well as the observers are at once tangible and in this case ridiculous, but the line is difficult to see when you are that close to it.

It is clear from the acknowledgements that this is an autobiographical novel and it is plain in the dialogue as things often become uncomfortable and acrimonious between the band members especially during their tour of the West Coast. It’s no different to any family dynamic where the boundaries disappear and the truth is more readily spoken.

There must be something in the water as my previous novel was a five star read from Joshua Ferris and he is listed as Boyd’s first writing teacher.

I adored this debut by Jeff Boyd highlighting the difficulty of being in your twenties with added barriers for working things out. At times, the character seems younger than he is, but a somewhat sheltered existence up to his divorce speaks for that lack of experience in the world. I’m excited to see what Boyd does next and urge you all to jump into this one.

Santa’s Cookie by Russell Thayer

Punk Noir Magazine

Gunselle leaned on the buzzer. It must be 2:00 am. Her bottom lip burned from biting back pain. Her left hand kept the side of her midsection together, blood chilling on her fingers. She wore an expensive fur coat she hadn’t had to pay for. It covered a holiday-red party dress with a wide black belt and white fur collar. The dress had a hole in it.

“Your boss sent me,” she mumbled to the man who opened the door. “Said you’d sew me up.”

“What boss?” said the man. He seemed perturbed about being roused from bed so early on Christmas morning. Or maybe it was the thought of his wide-eyed wife standing behind him holding her silk robe closed. Or the little girl on the stairs, a toy bear clutched against her chest.

“You know who,” said Gunselle. “Don’t be a fool.”

“Let her in if she’s hurt,” said the wife, twisting her brow into an anxious display.

“Jesus Christ,” said the man. “Get inside.”

Gunselle lifted one foot over the threshold before stopping. The wife hurried to pull Gunselle’s free arm over her shoulder, helping her into the entryway. A large Christmas tree glowed in the living room.

“Cozy scene,” said Gunselle. “Where do you want me to lie down?”

“This is a private clinic,” said the wife. “We have an examination room. Come.” She walked Gunselle down a short hallway. The little girl ran ahead to open a door and turn on alight. She stood to the side as her mother helped Gunselle out of her fur coat and got her seated on the padded table. The doctor washed his hands at a sink while his wife removed Gunselle’s pumps, then lifted her knees and swiveled her fully onto the leather pad with practiced ease. Gunselle grimaced as the woman removed her torn black stockings. The wife tried to ease Gunselle’s hand from the raw hole in her side, but Gunselle wouldn’t budge.

“Have you ever treated a gunshot wound?” The woman’s soft touch felt good. She had a narrow, plain face. Wispy blonde hair. 

“I was an army nurse in the Philippines,” she said, gently lifting Gunselle’s left foot. “These toes are broken,”

“You should see the jolly fucker’s nuts.”

“Go to bed, Jenny,” said her mother. “Now.”

The little girl moved to the door. No further. Gunselle could tell she was eyeing her comical costume with confusion.

“Sorry for the rough language,” said Gunselle, feeling the woman’s fingers creep around her waist. “The slug’s still in there. Probably a .32”

Out of the corner of her eye, the doctor appeared with a syringe.

“Let’s get it out,” he said.

* * *

Gunselle opened her eyes. Pink light filtered into the examination room through gauzy curtains. The stench of antiseptic filled the air. Gunselle lifted the blanket. The lower half of her costume had been cut away. She studied the bandage. A dull pain burned like a hot coal. The coal glowed brighterwhen she poked it.

“Ow. FUCK. I hate Christmas parties.”

“You’re pretty,” said a child’s voice beside her. “Are you Mrs. Claus?”

Gunselle lifted her head to look into the blue eyes of the child. Jenny.

“No, honey. I’m Santa’s cookie.”

“Santa didn’t eat his cookie last night,” said Jenny. “I don’t think he came at all.”

“Mrs. Claus must have gotten him, too.”


“You’ll figure it out someday. What time is it? It’s barely light outside.”

“Mommy and Daddy are sleeping. I have to wait to open my presents.”

“Mommy and Daddy had a long night,” said Gunselle. “Grab my purse. I don’t feel like getting up.”

Jenny retrieved the brown leather bag from a chair.

“See what you can find in there,” said Gunselle. “I’ve brought gifts.”

Jenny lay the purse next to Gunselle’s hip and popped the latch. She lifted one side and peered into the gloom. Reaching in she pulled out a thick wad of bills.

“That’s for your Daddy. Merry Christmas to him.”

Jenny lay the money aside and reached in again. She pulled out a large silver brooch. It held ten diamonds, all real, and the gems sparkled like a little girl’s eyes.

“That’s for your Mommy. Merry Christmas to her.”

Jenny set the brooch aside and dug in again. This time she pulled out a handful of short, brass, copper-tipped cartridges.

“I thought there was a candy bar in there,” said Gunselle as she collected them from the girl. “I really ought to get a second magazine instead of letting all these loose rounds roll around in my purse. Faster reload if more coppers are on the way. Right?”

“They’re pretty,” said Jenny, eyeing the cartridges, her hand in the bag again. “No candy bar.”

“You can keep these if you promise not to put them in your mouth.”

“I’m not a baby.”

“How old are you? Ten?”

“I’m six.”

“Then that’s how many you can have. Merry Christmas to you.”

“Thanks,” said Jenny, as Gunselle dropped six cartridges into the girl’s open palm.

“When you’re bigger, ask your Daddy to buy you a little pistol to keep in your purse to fend off tramps. Make sure it’s a Savage. Model 1907.” Gunselle remembered an ad she’d seen in a magazine. “William Pinkerton carries one. So does Buffalo Bill.”


“Yeah. And it holds eleven slugs if you pull one into the chamber.”

“That’s a lot.”

“Sometimes you need a lot,” said Gunselle.

“Is your gun in here?” Jenny dug to the bottom of the bag, pulling out a wrapped prophylactic. 

“I left it at home. Pretty dumb, huh? Put that back.”

“Did Mrs. Claus really shoot you?” asked Jenny, squeezing the little package.

“Yeah, but she was drunk and missed my big heart. Now I’m mad at her.”

“Don’t kill Santa.”

“Of course not, kiddo,” said Gunselle, stroking the girl’s hair. “Not our jolly Sugar Daddy.”


Russell Thayer’s work has appeared in The Phoenix, Evening Street Review, Cirque, Close to the Bone, Bristol Noir, Apocalypse Confidential, Hawaii Pacific Review, Shotgun Honey, Punk Noir, Pulp Modern, and Tough. He received his BA in English from the University of Washington, worked for decades at large printing companies, and currently lives in Missoula, Montana.


Punk Noir Magazine


Footsteps and a knock.

“Wallace,” the voice said, almost out of breath. It was Price.

I kept the four-inch Python aimed at the door.

“You got to let me in,” Price said. “The money’s gone.”

“Better keep moving,” I said. “Try upstairs. Maybe strongarm someone’s grandma.”

He bolted down the hall and climbed the creaky iron steps.

“Who was that?” Molly said. Her head rested on the window sill. In a week, she’d aged five years. “Where’d you tell him?”

“That’s a guy,” I said, “whose luck ran out. Old tenants live on the top floors. People who couldn’t afford to move. Or just couldn’t.”

“Where’s my works?”

“One last hit,” I told her. “Where we’re going, you can’t take that stuff. Once we arrive there’ll be plenty.”

Glass broke a few stories above us. Price’s body plummeted down the side of the tower. “Move away,” I told Molly, and closed the yellow blinds.

I felt bad; after all, it was Price’s cash I’d stolen. But he’d hardly been the first.

Molly stared at the mattress for hours. I threw out her gear, locked the door, and, once the police were gone, ventured beyond the tower. Dried blood caked the gravel. Under the WHALE GANG graffiti someone wrote DROP CITY.

The Whale himself would disapprove. He was out lighting matches in Vermont or the Merrimack Valley, due to return thatevening.

Price’s cash was buried in brownfields across the canal. Now that I’d contacted some friends in Montreal, I only needed to retrieve it and grab a motor before the Whale appeared. The gang had grown lazy and scattered in his absence, more concerned with parties and petty extortion than in keeping the cops downtown. At the homecoming, they would light up cars and bonfires—a perfect time to slip.

I found a sedan among the joyridden cars behind the building. A young man in sweatpants noticed me from the stoop and went inside. An hour later, I encountered him and two others in the brownfields.

“That him?” one said.

“Dead on,” said the young man. White scar tissue ringed his neck. “No secrets from the Whale.”

They rushed me. The young man slipped and tumbled down into the canal. The others froze when I pulled the Python. “Help your friend,” I said. “I heard stories about that water. Go in a dick and come out a pussy.”

“Fuck you, man.”

A bonfire flashed up and I shot the pair. Price’s fifties fit snug in my socks.

Back at the tower, police were parked six Buicks deep. The captain spoke through a megaphone: “Killing her won’t save you, Whale. One-way ticket to the pavement…What would Price say?”

Old tenants shivered in the courtyard. I tossed the Python. At once I saw where the pistols and shotguns were pointed: the second window on the sixth floor, my room with Molly.

“What happens now?” the captain bellowed. Through the blinds, I saw Molly wriggling against the Whale. He stood two heads taller and wore a black nylon stocking over his face. The Whale’s left arm squeezed her stomach; his right hand gripped an automatic. “You come down, tell us the story. Kick back a few beers. Nothing to do with jail…”

“Cops are all the same,” the Whale said. His voice echoed over the cinderblocks. “Never there when you need them.”

Molly was flung face-first through the window and landed on a cruiser’s roof. A volley followed from the police. One of the slugs hit the Whale’s left leg. He collapsed on the linoleum. After another volley, he stopped moving.

I stepped past the DROP CITY letters. As the cops led him out in handcuffs, the young man in sweatpants spotted me. “That’s the guy,” he said. “Fucker killed Tim and Roach.”

The officers took no chances. I tried to scale the fence but got tackled and dragged back to the van.

“Ran,” one told the captain. 

We sped away from the canal, bonfires dead and the lights growing brighter. The van jounced when it hit a pothole. 

“They called me in West Roxbury,” the cop said to the driver. “Thought this place got torn down.”

“Ran out of money,” the driver said. “Spent it all building the damn thing. May as well be cardboard now.”

“How are your wrists back there?” the cop called to us. He jingled his keys. “See if those rings are cardboard, too.”

They were not.

BIO: Max Thrax is fiction editor of Apocalypse Confidential. His novel God is a Killer is available from Close to the Bone.

Grinning by Christopher Aggett @CJAggett

Punk Noir Magazine

In the blackest depths of our souls, shadows consume all thought.

There, we struggle with

the darkest of demons

grinning throughout it all.

Christopher Aggett is an author, live streaming podcast host, and the founder of The Writing Community Chat Show. He has written two novellas and currently has his debut screenplay in the Screen Craft horror competition.

DECORATIONS NOT INCLUDED by Anthony Kane Evans @AnthonyKaneEva1

Punk Noir Magazine


I was getting nowhere fast with my article on the film soundtracks of Frank Skinner, so I thought I’d pop over to Colin’s, grab a beer with him and talk some football. When I got there, I found him reading an ad in his favourite paper, seems like they were giving away free Christmas trees. He seemed to be mulling it over. It was part of the Laura Ashley Winter Collection.

“Is it a costume?” I asked.

“No, it’s a genuine tree,” Colin replied. “Norwegian spruce.”

Carol came in from the kitchen, she was baking something out there, it smelt damn good, some kind of chicken tart, I pecked her on the cheek. She’s a Catholic, Carol, and rumour has it that her birth had been a tricky one. They thought they would lose her. They’d had to baptize her inside the womb but the priest who was called in hadn’t accepted the Resolution of the Doctors of Sorbonne (1733), which states that you can simply inject some holy water up inside the womb in case of possible miscarriage, so Carol’s mum’s midwife had had to fish around up there until she had caught hold of a limb. It was Carol’s left hand that was grabbed and subesequently baptized, and that’s maybe why she’s so good in the kichen.

“It says here,” Colin continued, “that the trees will be dispatched between December the sixth and the fifteenth.”

“Does that mean cut down or sent off?” I queried.

“That’s what I’m wondering,” Colin said. “It says they will arrive at your home neatly packaged in a sturdy box by December the nineteenth.”

“Well, that sounds alright.”

“Yeah, but there’s a footnote: After that date please call the delivery line during office hours with any queries relating to the delivery of your free tree.”

“But how can you do that if you’ve already got it?”

“It’s that bit that’s got me worried.”

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “How can it be a free tree if you have to pay for it?”

I’d just noticed those old runic symbols you’re supposed to fill out with your Visa/Access card number. It’s nice to know the Celts were good for something.

“It’s just the postage you have to pay for,” Carol put in.

So, it was her scheme, this Laura Ashley free tree. I’d bought Colin a DVD, The Osterman Weekend, for Christmas and I’d be damned if I was going to put that early Rutger Hauer classic under some Laura Ashley number.

“How much?” I asked.

“Four quid,” Colin replied.

“Three ninety-nine,” Carol put in.

“And what’s this then,” I had taken over the paper by this time, the printer’s ink besmirching my nice clean hands. “Token number fourteen?”

“Yeah, well you have to collect twelve tokens as well,” Colin said.

“Don’t tell me you’re buying this rag every day? I thought you just got it on the weekends?”

“It’s a good offer!” Carol exclaimed.

“Jesus!” I said. “This misbegotten excuse for a newspaper costs thirty-five p!”

Then I started to calculate: twelve tokens at thirty-five pence each made, hang on a sec, four pounds twenty plus four pounds for postage.

“That’s eight pounds and twenty pence you’re forking out for that free tree,” I said.

“Eight pounds and nineteen pence,” Carol corrected. “And besides our Col can keep up with the football results, can’t you Col.”

Colin nodded.

“And all that clipping out,” I said, my hand mimicking a pair of scissors. “Why you can get a good tree on the corner for twelve quid, and he’d probably throw in some ferns for nothing.”

“What about United losing to Sunderland in the Worthington Cup,” Colin said, shaking his head as though he had the football blues, as though he really cared about that second-rate competition; talk of desperately trying to change the subject.

“I’m not putting my Christmas present under no Laura Ashley tree,” I said, “and that’s final!”

“I’m in the kitchen if you want me, our Col,” Carol said, slamming the door hard behind her. It creaked back open again, they’d never got the hinges fixed since she’d thrown her last fit.

“Now look what you’ve gone and done,” Colin said. “If I end up having to eat burnt pie because of you …”

“Supposing that tree doesn’t arrive,” I said, getting back to the subject in hand. “You’re going to look a right unmanned berk when Carol’s parents come over on Christmas Eve, aren’t you? You should buy a tree on the corner, that’s what you should do, I’ll help you carry it.”

He ummed and arrhed a bit but there was no moving the bugger. He could be as stubborn as a mule when he was under Carol’s yoke.

​Two days later Colin rang my bell. My flats up on the second floor. I buzzed him in. It took him a surprisingly long time to get up those stairs. He had a black eye and was trailing an eight-foot tree.

“Jesus!” I said. “Whatever happened to you?”

“A combination of three things,” he began. “One, your lame-brained advice; two, my own inconceivable stupidy for following it; and, three, a boxing glove Carol brought for our Darren.”

Darren was Colin’s nephew. I saw, once again, in my mind’s eye, Carol’s premature, baby-sized left hand being baptized. The priest must have done a damn good job.

“Well, don’t just stand there! You better come in.”

I went into the kitchen and got us a couple of Sol beers from the fridge.

“I’ve only got the Mexicans left.” I said, “Merry Christmas!”

Colin sat down heavily on the sofa, I eased myself into an armchair. The tree lay between us, it had nice brown markings on the trunk. The genuine article. Colin looked up at me slowly.

“Decorations not included,” he said.