Powder Burn Flash # 372 - Edmond D. Smith

For Hanna
By Edmond D. Smith


It starts and ends with Hanna.

Hanna was…is my daughter. Twenty five years ago this month, Hanna, 7 years old, sunshine blonde, blue-eyed and filled with joy, mischief and hope died. No, not died. She was murdered. Her life, valuable and unique was brought to an end that was brutal, cruel and sick, by a monster. More than a monster, a freak, warped in the soul, empty and twisted and separated from humanity in every way but in body.

When she went missing, Mary, my wife called the police. They did what police do; they investigated, they chased down clues, they called in the media and spread the word to a scared and compassionate community. Mary and I stood before the cameras and begged, chins quivering, tears rolling down cheeks, for any information on where she might be. We pleaded for her to be returned to us safe and untainted. You’ve seen us, or people like us anyway a thousand times on the nightly news and you’ve held your own children close to you as you watched, as if that could keep the sickness and evil away from your door.

She was found, abused and discarded like waste in a dank and fouled wetland.

Within days the police had their suspect. He had worked at the convenience store down the block from our house. He was a drifter. He was a pedophile. A nothing. A freak and a monster. He had a long history of crimes against children. A guilty man. He was quickly tried and convicted and thrown into some cell to stagnate away his remaining years with others like himself, others with empty eyes and empty hearts. It is where monsters belong.

You could feel the community breathe a sigh of relief. They loosened their grips on their children just a bit and moved on until the next news cycle told them of some new horror that amplified their fears for awhile before abating once more. Their lives edged forward, leaving little nicks and scratches on their psyches but they still drove to work with music on the radio crowding out their thoughts, got fat and kept their secrets, even from themselves. But for Mary and me it was done. She left me the following year. I understand that this is not unusual after the death of a child. I lost touch with her some years ago. We parted telling ourselves that we had nothing left to say. I hope that she has managed to find some way of going through the years with something approaching what…? Peace? Resignation? But I know better.

I had been an accountant for years, a job that paid the bills and one that one that a normal person would hold. But I wasn’t normal anymore. There were things moving inside me that needed to be healed with action and movement, a battle that needed to be waged. I quit after some years that I no longer even remember. I joined the Police Academy. I was welcomed. I was the haunted man who had suffered and now looked for release in hunting for and punishing those who metaphorically had harmed me. In some way of course that was right.

I was a beat cop for years and was more than good. I worked hard and I worked long and when it became possible to take the Detective test I took it and passed it with a score that was unusually high. For some time I worked Narcotics and then Assaults. And then after much thought I requested and was granted a spot in Homicide. I was advised by fellow officers that this might be a bad idea, that it would rub me too raw. There was resistance from the brass but my record was too good, my commendations too many for them to stop me when I made my desire known. Their reservations faded in time as my performance proved me more than able.

I was relentless and I was smart. I looked at ordinary situations and events and people and saw into them. I saw things that others didn’t see, a “tell” that no one else could notice, a connection that the common eye couldn’t make. I wasn’t just a good cop, I was a resource the Department called on when the roads all dead ended, when the guilty looked like they would also forever remain the free. I was admired. But still the battle roiled on inside me seemingly without end. Still Hannah called out.

This year marks my twentieth year with the force. I have done my time, earned the Golden Ticket to retirement, maybe a nice sinecure bought by my notoriety and good work. It is time for this to end.

I knock on the Chief’s door.

“Come in, Detective.” He smiles and points to a chair.

“Are you here to tell me you’re finally handing in your papers? I would have thought you’d have gotten to this a few weeks ago, at least.”

I ignore the chair and stand before his desk. I remove my gun from its holster and place it and my badge on his desk. He looks at me quizzically.

“Well putting in your papers doesn’t mean you get to walk off the job today.” he says laughing more with confusion than humor.

“This is my last day.” I hold my hands out in front of me. “I’m turning myself in.”

“You’re not exactly known for your sense of humor, Detective. What’s going on?” All amusement is gone from his face now.

I open my mouth and say it, the only thing I can say, the words I should have said a long time ago.

“Twenty-five years ago I raped and murdered my daughter. I’m not who you think I am.”

Hannah has stopped calling at last and I know she will not call again as the years move on.

Today I will finally be going where monsters belong.


BIO: Edmond (Ed, please) has spent 20 of the last 21 years working as a social worker. The last year he has spent as a victim of the economy (read: unemployed). He has a lot of time on his hands and his thoughts are turning black so he figured he should either start writing crime fiction or start a life a crime. He chose crime fiction. He's smart that way.

Powder Burn Flash # 371 - J.B. Christopher

The Last Stand
by J.B. Christopher

And she took one look at him and said that he would never be cool and he never would understand.

She shook her head disdainfully, took one last drag off her cigarette, deep this time, and forced the smoke from her thin lips in a steady bluish stream at him, until her disgust was evident to those sitting near in the restaurant.  She unwrapped her long legs from beneath her, exposing six-inch stiletto heels.

She didn’t know why she hated him, but she just did, but that’s what made her job easy.  She wished he was cheating, wished he was a drunk, wished he was abusive.  But he wasn’t.  He was Drehfuss Randolph, handsome, wealthy, charming in his nonchalant detachment to the world about him.

Her last boyfriend said things like shudthefuckup and fuckoffbitch and he moved around their Bronx apartment like a caged lion in the heat of summer. He only screwed her from behind. Drehfuss was different from the start.

Tonight, she was making things happen in a low cut skin-tight red dress, but he was having none of it.  He just sipped at his water and reminded her it was time to go.  The award ceremony starts in 30 minutes, he cautioned.

*  *  *

“I thought you didn’t like guns.”

“I said I don’t carry one. That doesn’t mean I don’t own one or know how to use it.  Sometimes the situation requires it. This is one of those times.” Irritated, she said,  “See – you don’t listen. You never listened.”

“How much they pay you?”

“Nothing. I told him I would do it for free. I told’em I don’t like you and I’d enjoy watching you die.”  She let that sink in watching his face wrinkle in a quiet agony, like he just got he wind knocked out of him.

She was beautiful but in the way a designer chair or a Ferrari was beautiful.  Her perfection made her nearly untouchable. His eyes traced the shape of her svelte body in the dimly lit room back lit with glow of a flickering oversized television set in his study.

He stared at an oversized silver pistol aimed at his chest.  He didn’t know what to say, he remained sitting, while his fiancée stood beforehim, her legs shoulder width apart, her face rapt with anger – or was it confusion?

The voices came at her fast and harsh, until her mind couldn’t keep up with what was happening around her, and at once she felt like she was being ripped apart by the high frequency wail, the innards of her brain, she imagined, stirring in her skull, pressing and pressing a the spot right behind her eyes, until her eyes blinked with bright points of light.

“Let me help-“

“Sit the fuck down.” She touched the side of her head with her free hand.

“Just tell me what you want. I see you’re getting the headaches still.”

Her eyes jet like black coffee.  He started to get up.

“Sit down,” she screamed. Her voice startled her, edged with fear.

“I’ve always loved you.”

The gun, heavy, swaying left to right: she tried to steady it with both hands. He could see a single bead of sweat against her temple. She rubbed at it with the back of her hand.

“I have always loved you.  And I always knew.”

Her face wrinkled in concern.

“How much did they pay you?” He asked again.

“Shudddup,” she screeched.

“How much did they pay you to do all this?”

“I just want the prototype. And I’ll let you live.”  She swallowed the thick spit in her mouth, raised the gun one last time and said, “Give me the fucking prototype.”

Drehfuss did nothing.  This infuriated her even more. Even with a gun pointed to his head, he showed an absence of passion, of life, of anger. She wished he would just raise his voice just once…

Suddenly, her legs buckled and she collapsed, the gun clattering free, sliding across the parquet flooring until it stopped under the sofa. She hissed, “They’ll get you.”

He quickly moved to her side, checked her pulse, kissed her on the
check. Her eyes, no longer jet black, but cloudy, and inert.

“I knew they sent you from the moment we met. But I did love you.”

He brushed the hair from her brow, and kissed her one last time.

Out loud, he said, “If I saw you coming, surely I will see the others.”

THE END

BIO: JB has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in the Pacific Northwest. He has published short fiction at Twist of Noir, ShriekFreak Quarterly, Darkest Before the Dawn, Yellow Mama, and SNM Horror Magazine. He is currently at work on a crime novel set in Reno, Nevada.

When he is not writing, he can be found writing software and when he is not writing software, he can be found playing with his two small daughters.

Powder Burn Flash #370 - Jim Winter

Missing Sarah
By Jim Winter


My wife found our daughter in the garage one afternoon. She hung from the ceiling by a noose she fashioned from a belt. That was the beginning of the end for me.

At first, it baffled us. Sarah had a doting boyfriend, plenty of friends, and terrific grades. She’d just gotten her license, and Karen and I were in the process of buying her a car. She had just taken her SAT’s, and we’d scheduled a visit to Ohio State in a month.

All that ended that afternoon in the garage.

Once we cut her down and turned her over to the paramedics, we became numb. We stayed that way until after the funeral. And then…

Then the questions started. We asked her boyfriend, her friends, her teachers. What set our daughter off? Why would this beautiful young lady with everything ahead of her kill herself? No one seemed to know. Or if they did, they weren’t saying.

Finally, my nephew Brandon came over to get into her laptop for us. He hacked her Facebook account. That’s when it became apparent.

“Whoever these guys are,” he said, “they’re vicious.”

They were. Among the more polite terms they used included “slut” and “whore.” I knew some of the boys, and a couple of girls, who posted. Most were followers.

Not Kyle Harmon. He led the attacks. It seemed to start when Sarah began seeing her boyfriend, a nice kid from another school named Keith. Apparently, Harmon didn’t approve of my daughter dating Keith.

“Do you want to print this out?” Brandon asked me.

“Why?”

He looked up at me like I’d just asked him why I’d want an umbrella during a thunderstorm. “This is bullying.”

“My daughter’s dead, Brandon,” I said. “It’s bad enough I have to see this.”

“But the school hasn’t seen this. Schools go after bullies these days. If someone commits suicide, there might be criminal charges.”

I thought about that for a moment. Karen might not want to face the scrutiny of a trial, but our daughter deserved justice.

“Print it out. Print it all out.”

*    *   *

We took the hardcopies to Sarah’s principal the next day. She pulled up their Facebook pages using a dummy account she had created for just such an occasion. The boys had taken down their offending posts.

“I’m sorry,” said the principal. “I have to have actual proof.”

“The printouts are documented evidence,” I said. “What more proof do you need?”

“I sympathize, but the boys’ lawyers could simply say your printouts were Photoshopped.”

My wife broke down right there in the office.

She still sobbed as we sat in the car. I started the engine but could not drive. My knuckles whitened as I clenched the steering wheel. I just sat there with the car in drive, my foot on the brake, unaware I was even sitting there idling.

At least until I spotted Kyle Harmon walking across the parking lot.

They say he died the first time I ran him over.

BIO: Jim Winter is a computer programmer, middle-aged college student, and writer. He is the author of Road Rules and Northcoast Shakedown, both available on Amazon and Nook. His short stories have appeared in Spinetingler, Thug Lit, and West Coast Crime Wave. Jim lives in Cincinnati with his wife Nita and stepson AJ. Visit him at http://www.jamesrwinter.net

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