Powder Burn Flash # 384 - Christopher E. Long

Brotherly Love
by Christopher E. Long

Mick steps gingerly over the body of an unconscious man in the hallway, as if any unnecessary movement would awaken the drunk with matted hair and beard, lying in his own urine. He approaches the apartment with a crooked “8” hanging from the door. He knocks. Nothing. He knocks again, but harder. “Harvey, it’s—”

With the words still hanging in the air, an explosion blows a chunk of cheap particle board past his head. Mick crumples to the floor, shielding his head. “Jesus Christ!” he yells.

There is the unmistakable sound of a shotgun’s handgrip being pumped back, ejecting the spent shell and chambering a new one. “Goddamn sons of bitches!” a voice booms behind the door.

“Harvey, it’s your brother, for Christ’s sake!” Mick yells. He cowers on the grimy floor. Glancing up at the jagged hole in the door, he sees a pair of bloodshot eyes, suspiciously peering down at him.

“Mick?” a shaky voice calls.

He gets up and dusts off his shirt and pants. “Yeah.”

Harvey fumbles with the security chain and opens the door. He wears an untucked dress shirt that is heavily wrinkled and stained. The laces on his leather shoes are untied and he’s not wearing socks. His cheeks are sunken in, and his skin is ashen. “What the hell are you doing here? I could’ve killed you.” The double-barrel shotgun hangs at his side. “Hurry. Get in here. It’s not safe out in the open.” He steps aside and allows his brother to enter, then quickly pokes his head out the door, surveying the hallway before slamming the door shut and locking it.

Garbage and scraps of papers are strewn about the floor. All the furniture is overturned and stacked up in the living room like a berm. The stench of old food and decay is like a punch to the face. Mick grimaces and covers his nose with his hand. “What happened to you?” he asks. He staggers back when his brother points the twin barrels of the shotgun at his chest.

“Who sent you?” Harvey snaps.

“What?”

“Did Dirty Mike send you?” he says through clenched teeth.

“Who the hell is that?” Mick asks.

Harvey slowly lowers the gun. He stares at his younger brother for a moment, then moves past him into the living room. He wobbles as he bends over and picks up a half empty bottle of single-malt scotch, leaving the shotgun on the floor. He takes a plug, grimaces as he swallows, then takes another one.

“What did you get yourself into now?” Mick asks.

The alcohol sloshes in the bottle as Harvey staggers to the window. He pulls the curtain aside and peers outside. “I finally did it this time,” he says.

“What?”

“Got myself into a bind I can’t get out of,” Harvey says with a dry chuckle. He steps away from the window and takes another slug off the bottle. “I agreed to a job I had no right agreeing to. My employer—”

“Dirty Mike?”

Harvey nods his head, “Yeah. Well, he got mad, and, when he gets mad ….” Harvey struggles to finish the sentence, but he can’t.

“Who is Dirty Mike?”

Harvey’s eye water and he wipes them with the back of his hand. “Haven’t got a clue. Never met anybody who’s seen him face to face. Runs his business from the shadows. Might as well be a ghost.”

Mick looks helplessly at the shotgun lying at his feet. He picks it up. “It’s heavy,” he mutters.

His brother laughs, and says, “You have no idea.” He tips the bottle back and drains it dry. He throws the bottle against the wall, and it shatters into a cascade of glass shards. Harvey flashes a forced smile at his brother, but it fades as the little brother levels both barrels at him. “Mick?”

The boom of the shotgun makes Mick cringe. His ears ring as he stands over the corpse. He wiggles a finger in his ear, but it doesn’t do any good. “I always hated the name Dirty Mike,” he says to no one in particular, and his words echo in the barren room.

BIO: Christopher's writing for comic books has been published by a variety of publishers, including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, IDW Publishing and Image Comics. At this writing, he has eight people following him on twitter. If you'd like to be number nine, find him at @Celong1122.

Powder Burn Flash #383 - Travis Richardson

A Damn Good Dad
by Travis Richardson

How long has he been up, thirty-two, thirty-five hours? Don’t know and it don’t matter. He has been making batches of primo meth, and the product is goooood. He will testify to that. Sampling a little here and there, for quality control, of course. He’s always been a good cooker, but this is something special, an intense blast-your-brain-to-the-moon-and-back supreme awesomeness. He has a reason to be cooking. There’s always a reason -- dough, mullah, greenbacks – but this time it is important. It isn’t for him. It’s for somebody. Who is it again?

He hears a movement from behind him and twists quickly to see Jenny, Jenny-Penny-oh-so-skinny, waking up. Her sleepy soft blue eyes look at him. He guesses she’s smiling, but can’t tell because she wears that paper mask doctors wear, but hers has jagged hand-drawn vampire fangs and red magic marker blood dripping off of them.

See, I’m a good father, a damn good dad, he thinks. Not like Clyde McDonnell, tweaked out of his fucking gourd, put his newborn in a freezer. Or Jimmy Treat who left his toddler in a car for three days in ninety-degree heat. Or even worse that asshole Steve Hobbes who sold his daughter to pervs so he could buy more crank. Not me, no way no sir no how. I’ve got her with me so no harm will come and she is protected. I’m the best father in Okfuskee County. Other tweakers might…

“Daddy?” Jenny-Penny asks.

“Yes, honey-bunny?”

“When’s mommy coming back?”

He stops, holding a beaker full of steaming anhydrous ammonia. That’s the reason for this meth-rage cooking spree. Bail money for Gloria.

“Well funny-bunny, I gotta get this batch here done and maybe one more. Then we sell it to Uncle Blaine and then we get mommy out in no time flat.”

“Are you making Metha…methafetamins?”

“Oh no honey, this is… medicine for sick folks.” See, he’s protecting her from illegal activities.

She sits up. “Wha’s in it?”

”Well, a little of this, pseudoephedrine, and a little of that, sodium and then mix it with ammonia and let it boil an bubble while adding just the right amount of ethanol… without exploding and when the ammonia evaporates, we get these beautiful, sparkly crystals of meth… medicine.”

“Suuumo…. Sumodoctorine?”

Losing his concentration he looks over at her. What did she say? That mask is creeping him out. It looks like the blood is dripping off the mask on the floor. Those teeth chomping. He looks back at his chemistry project. What is he mixing again? He looks at the small kitchen crammed into this camping trailer. His lab. See, he keeps the chemicals out of the house next door. That way everybody’s safe. What a good man. No a good dad.

“Daddy?”

He feels a tug on his pants and looks down to see a two-foot creature with hungry fangs. He shouts and jumps back, tripping over a boot, and tosses the flask of whatever he was holding. A flame shoots up from the kitchen sink and the ceiling is engulfed in orange heat. The little creature screams a high pitched squeal.

Oh shit, oh shit. Fire. I’ve got to save ‘em. He turns, grabbing the tray of drying meth crystals off the dining table and hits the front door. It won’t open. He reaches for the door handle, the tray tilts, and a few crystals fall. NOOO! The fire is intense and he feels flames licking his neck and ears. He opens the door, telling himself he’ll come back later for them and sprints into the open air.

An explosion blasts him to his knees into the hard dirt, but he holds the tray steady. Only a few crystals fell. He smiles setting the tray down and arranging the crystals in precise order. He thinks, I’m a good cook. I take good care of my product. I’m the best damn… Then he realizes.

“Jenny, Jenny-Penny!”

Panicked, he scans the yard, but doesn’t see her. The camper is aflame, the roof totally blown off. No, no, no. He’s a good father, a damn good dad. Nothing bad can happen to Jenny. He runs to the door and the handle singes his hand, but he tugs and is engulfed by an ocean of flames.

BIO: Travis Richardson was born in Germany, raised in Oklahoma, and currently lives in Los Angeles. He has worked over 20 jobs in fields ranging from secret bus rider to television post production to university fundraising. He is editing his first crime novel "The Prodigal Detective". His story "The Movement" was published in the anthology Scoundrels: Tales of Greed, Murder and Financial Crimes (Down and Out Books) edited by Gary Phillips. He has a story in Shotgun Honey and will have one in All Due Respect in January. Find out more at http://tsrichardson.com

Powder Burn Flash # 382 - Tim Beverstock

Another Day at The Office
by Tim Beverstock


They were in Pimp’s car today. A solid square station wagon with enough legroom to hide a black market. Carmel sat in the back seat avoiding the day while the car fan belched warm air in her face. Down the street empty cans tumbled in the wind over long afternoon shadows. All they had was time.

Pimp lit up and Carmel breathed a lungful of smoke. She coughed, her throat not used to nicotine this soon in the piece.

“You ought to see someone about your allegies.” Deen smirked as Pimp offered her a vial of pills.

Carmel didn’t want to rise to the bait but lost the choice as she felt another throat spasm.

“When can we expect something?” she asked after dry swallowing two codeine.

“Relax. They‘ll be here soon,” Deen said.

His sepia coloured eyes exposed his life like a grainy film on constant re-run. Dusty motorcycle boots capped off his skinny threadbare legs.

Pimp, moulded from sandblasted granite, was the muscle to Deen’s bones. His eyes were chips of ice like two diamonds in the rough punctuated by a mood blacker than the ink on a suicide note. She couldn’t work out the relationship between the two, but sensed the uneasiness baking together in the confined space caused them.

“You look bored,” she said to Deen.

He shrugged.

“It’s all another day at the office to me.”

It wasn’t to her though. Three months on the job and the novelty remained. Carmel remembered her past life before she met them. How she fled the last town in a borrowed ride after calling the cops and telling them where to find the bodies. Then too many hours spent behind the wheel, crossing through too many states, physical and mental. She ditched the car when it died and crashed the night at the first cheap motel she found. Deen found her in the lobby the next morning, cellphone turning in his hand. She travelled fast. Her reputation faster. Carmel recalled how the callus on his index finger matched the trigger of the gun jammed in his belt and fell into line. The gang welcomed her with the familiarity of an ex-lover. The first three months were a test, running errands and surviving on tips like a truck stop waitress holding out for a lottery win.

Deen and Pimp took most of the work. Every so often this job would surface, usually recalled later over several beers as the easiest work they did with a payoff to keep them in spades for months. Pick up the suitcase left outside the depot. Swap it for another one in the lobby of a nearby apartment hotel. Take the money inside and don’t ask questions. It was her first time tagging along as a watcher. Tonight she might finally get to drink with the boys.

She moved over to the window and peered out into the street.

“Do we ever see who does the drop?”

“No. We wait here until one. Then we circle the block,” said Deen.

She looked around the empty neighbourhood and saw rows of buildings stiff with rigor mortis. Deen would sense trouble, his eyes sharper than the knife sheathed in his boot.

“And it’s there every single time?”

“I’ve never missed a pickup yet,” Deen said.

He glanced at Pimp.

“What’s the time?”

“1pm.”

“Drive.”

Pimp threw his butt out the window and started the engine. By the time they emerged from the block the suitcase had appeared. Pimp stashed it in the trunk and they drove halfway across the city to the drop off. Another exchange and home. She dumped the suitcase on the table as Deen tossed her a beer.

“Hope you liked the taste. You can have a turn next time.”

* * *

Two nights later she was on the way home from buying beer when she backtracked through the alley and found herself in a familiar spot. She jumped from sight as Deen and Pimp drove past. They parked, waited the allotted time and began the circuit. Nothing happened until a taxi swung by her in the opposite direction. She moved to the edge of the alley and watched it drop the suitcase off.

She ran across the road, heartbeat a roar in her head. Popped the suitcase lid and saw the rows of bound fifties. Nobody mentioned anything about an extra run when she got home and she ignored the empty cans in the trash.

* * *

Next time didn’t come soon enough and nobody suspected a thing. In the trunk was the second suitcase she had spent weeks searching for. An exact match for their pickup. Now they were a block from where the taxi made the drop. It was almost showtime. Pimp pulled to the curb and it was on. The suitcase bounced off her legs causing her to stagger and fall against the car as she loaded the trunk. She clambered into the back of the car. Pimp drove off like it was Sunday afternoon. She kept an eye out of the back window. No one followed.

Back in the house she cracked open a couple of beers and while Deen used the toilet, slipped the vial from her jacket and popped two pills on the back of a spoon. A quick grind and into the drinks. Dark beer to mask the taste.

They toasted and she watched Deen count and stack the money on the table. Two-thirds more than the last time. Ten minutes later the codeine kicked in. Deen let the gun dangle above the floor as he drifted off. She caught it before it fell. A heavy weight she would get used to in time.

She put the gun in the bag and the rope on the table and refilled the suitcase, counting from where Deen left off. He stirred as she finished up and did nothing except watch her through mail slot eyes, his fingers clutching at empty air.

She tied him up first. Though Pimp was more dangerous, Deen moved faster. Pimp’s breath talked for him. Snorting like an agitated bull preparing to charge. She double checked his knots to be sure before she made the phone call.

“So long guys. Thanks for the bonus.”

Outside she threw the bags in the back of the car, gunned it into first and shot down the driveway. As the cops blazed past in the opposite direction she hoped she would last the distance this time.


BIO: Tim Beverstock swears he's not a crime writer but his muse and and the pile of Ed McBain books on his nightstand suggest otherwise. He won't say no to a boutique beer or three. Keep up with his hit list via http://beverst.com

 

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