A Story For Sunday: IN THE (RESERVOIR)DOG HOUSE

Bonny is volcanic. She’s so angry that she can hardly speak but, unfortunately for me, hardly is the operative word. As she tries to scrub the blood stains from my best white shirt, she goes on and on about the meal she’d cooked the night before and how long it had taken her to cook it. She keeps asking me over and over again if I want to live on burgers all my life and why, if I’m going to spend all of my time hanging around a dirty warehouse with a bunch of psychos that look like Blues Brothers rejects, I can’t at least pick up the phone and call to say I’ll be home late.

My head is hurting, my stomach is rumbling and I’m tired. Bonny is starting to sound like a duck quack quack quacking, so I turn on the radio hoping it isn’t more ‘Sounds of the Seventies’, as I’ve really had my fill of that shit the last few days. The DJ’s monotone drone introduces some LA band destroying a Neil Diamond classic so I switch it off again.

Noticing that the heat from Bonny’s eruption has started to cool down, I present her with a bag containing the proceeds of my recent job. When she sees the rare coins in the bag, Bonny’s jaw drops so much you could scrape carpet fluff from it and she lets rip with a string of expletives, so strong that they would even make the young Eddie Murphy blush. Almost tearing off her nurse’s uniform, she runs toward me screaming like a banshee.

Afterwards, when I know that it’s safe, I suggest that maybe we could go out for something to eat. We could even try that Hawaiian burger joint that’s just opened up nearby. Hands on hips, Bonny laughs and says, okay, as long as I promise not to wear that dumb Speed Racer t-shirt that makes me look like a nerd.

Anything you say, I reply and start to walk into the bathroom before stopping and saying that, shit, if the service in that restaurant is any good today, I might even leave a tip.

A Story For Sunday: This Old House

Ten Sycamore Hill was, in Peter James’ mind, the font of all of his misfortunes. While women, work, cars and kids came and went, the only constant in Peter’s turbulent life – apart from the copious amounts of alcohol that he consumed, of course – was that weather-beaten Victorian detached house overlooking Hart Village; its increasingly battered facade and interior seeming to degenerate with each one of his trials and tribulations.

With every one of Peter’s disappointments, a window frame would crumble; with every disaster – romantic or otherwise – a door handle would come loose or slates would be ripped from the roof by an unsympathetic wind; when his health failed, so did the heating. And, as Peter’s bank account was slowly depleted, the wallpaper and paint seamed to peel itself free from the walls before his eyes.

Each night, as a drunken Peter staggered back from another interminable drinking session at the Raby Arms, he would look up at his home perched on the hill, looming over the village like a great black crow and, soaked in alcoholic self-pity, he would curse: ‘Fuck. Fuckin’…fucker…fuck.’ Or words to that effect.

And then, one October, as Halloween loomed, Peter had an idea so bright that it was positively incandescent.

*

The Raby Arms, an anonymous country pub amongst a cluster of anonymous country pubs, was always smoggy – despite the smoking ban – and, indeed, the interior, including the mirrors, the windows and the faces of most of the regulars, all seemed to have a nicotine sheen. As on most nights, the pub was half-empty.

‘You know, it’s actually possible to kill someone with a bottle of Pepsi and a packet of Mintoes?’ said JT, peeling an unlit pin-sized roll up from his bottom lip.

Peter nodded.

‘Oh, aye?’ said Peter, as he hung his camel coat on the moose head coat rack and sat opposite JT with a sigh. ‘Not a lot of people know that.’

‘Aye,’ said JT. ‘Well, it’s true. According to Big Jim. Reckons that he saw it on that YOU TUBE.’

JT, a gaunt, jaundiced-looking man with a spidery black quiff, was sat at his usual corner table, near a buzzing slot machine, drumming his fingers on his pint glass to The Shadow’s ‘Apache’, which played from to a crackly speaker.

Peter sipped his pint of Stella, gazed at the fading bat-wing tattoos on his hands and faded in on the memory of a drunken night at a Newcastle tattoo parlor that then segued into the time he first met his wife, Deborah, at Astros nightclub. Twenty five years ago now. There’d been a lot of booze under the bridge since then, he thought.

He looked at JT. A former hardman, just like him, and had a flashback to the night when it all started to go wrong. When they’d thrown a rowdy punter down the stairs at Astros with a little too much enthusiasm. The policemen on the scene had also shown a little too much enthusiasm for the arrest and the ensued injuries had, luckily for Peter and JT, resulted in a suspended sentence. But the stains remained.

There was a loud bang and Big Jim burst through the doors. Peter and JT both laughed as Jim stumbled into the toilets, his fly open, muttering to himself.

‘Here he is, the David Niven of Hart Village,’ smirked JT.

‘So you reckon it’s a non-starter then?’ said Peter, massaging his left arm.

JT took a swig of Stella.

‘Oh, aye. Great idea. Get Big Jim to burn down your house and then collect on the insurance. A foolproof plan, that. About as foolproof as that canoeist that did a Lord Lucan and ended up getting spotted in Rio or somewhere.’

JT had a point, thought Peter. Big Jim wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the box. He remembered the time in the pub quiz when Big Jim had answered a question about the largest Loch in Scotland with ‘Chub’. However, Jim was cheap and Peter really wanted rid of that house. The bills were mounting up and the Invalidity Benefit that he’s started getting after his first heart attack barely covered his drinking sessions.

Peter sighed again and slouched in his chair as he wiped his sweating brow with his ubiquitous tie.

‘Just think,’ he said. ‘Bonfire Night’s coming up. It’s like Full Matal Jacket out there some nights. This time of year, kids are always pushing bangers and fireworks through people letterboxes. It’s happened to me loads of times. Now, if I happen to leave some booze splashed around the place and work on my motorbike in the front room and it catches fire, well…’

They both looked up as Big Jim plonked down next to them.

‘Peter, I’m your man,’ said Big Jim.

‘I’ll take that with a mountain of Saxa,’ said JT.

*

The night stumbled on and JT and Big Jim left Peter propped up at the bar, tearing the label from a bottle of Newcastle Brown. He was watching Lewis, trying to ignore the numb feeling in his arm. It had been creeping up on him with greater regularity these days. Doctors were out of the question. Overpaid quacks, he thought. Well, he had thought that since Dr. Khan had misdiagnosed his dad’s cancer as ‘constipation’ a few years before. Feeling weak, he went to sit down when he heard the bang.

‘Bollox!’ he shouted. ‘He hasn’t… he…’

Hot, sweating and wheezing, Peter rushed out of the pub and up the cobbled path towards his burning home.

‘Tosser!’ he shouted at Big Jim, who was tripping, tumbling and stumbling down the path in a panic.

Peter was burning up with anger and the pain in his arm was getting worse. He suddenly heard a sound behind him, turned and saw a bedraggled bunch of vampires, werewolves and ghosts.

‘Trick or treat!’ they shouted.

‘Oh, bollox,’ whispered Peter and then he gasped and crumpled to the ground like a demolished building.

The weight of a mammoth was on Peter’s chest before the last stages of the coronary kicked in. The costumed kids deftly lifted his wallet and watch and, as they frisked him, Peter looked up at his burning house and saw its black silhouette against the waxing moon, his vision starting to fade.

Ten Sycamore Hill’s windows and front door seemed to light up a glowing red, like the eyes and mouth of a grinning Jack O’Lantern, the flames darting about like a lunatic’s tongue. And then he thought he heard a maniacal laugh.

A Story For Sunday: The Final Cut

They say that you can tell a lot about someone by the way that he looks and that you can always judge a man by his shoes. I thought about this as I looked down on my ancient, scuffed, brown brogues and immediately felt even more out of place in the trendy Soho bar than I had when I first came in. The bar was stiflingly hot and cluttered with a collection of hipsters and arseholes. I sat at a small table by the window watching the streamers of steam rise from my overpriced coffee. Beside me, a fading French film star with a sandblasted face slurped his espresso with all the enthusiasm of an ex-con in a bordello.

Coldplay were droning on over and over again and it took me all of my resolve not to run out of the place and keep on running. Fight or flight, I think they call it. Outside, the cloak of darkness had draped itself over the city and swallowed the moon. A tall, redhead woman in a screaming blue dress oozed into the bar like mercury and stood before me. She nodded and I stood and nervously held out a hand.

‘Patience,’ I said, shaking hands weakly. ‘Long time no see.’

‘Georgy Porgy,’ she said. She looked me up and down and grinned smugly. She clicked her fingers toward a waiter and sat down. I sipped at my coffee as she fiddled with a cigarette.

‘Were there many at the screening?’ I asked.

Mr Wu’s screening room was just up the street and I could see a murder of critics swooping past the window, crawing and cackling. Patience broke into a grin.

‘Oh, yes,’ she purred.

‘And?’ I said.

‘I’ll be back in a tick,’ said Patience, standing abruptly.

As she got up, she clicked on a zippo before walking outside into a bustling Dean Street. The flustered looking waiter, who only minutes before had looked at me like I was something a stray cat had dragged in, beamed at me as he placed a bottle of overpriced mineral water on the table. My stomach was churning. I knew Patience was loving every second of this. Patience had always had a sadistic side- which she’d regularly shown during our marriage – that had probably  helped her media career enormously.

‘Fuck it,’ I said, as I saw her yammering away into her mobile phone and holding court with a bunch of obsequious wannabe media stars. I went up to the bar and ordered a large scotch. Three years of sobriety down the Swannee river.

‘George Boy,’ slurred a voice behind me, as I gulped down my drink.

I turned to see a heavy-jowled, hangdog man in a well-worn tweed jacket and faded green combat trousers.

‘Blake,’ I said and nodded. ‘Were you at the screening?

‘Free food and drink, George Boy, of course I was there!’

In the past, it had grated on me when Blake called me George Boy but now it was welcome as a pair of old slippers.

‘G & T?’ I said.

‘Gin makes you sin, George Boy, so, why not?’ he replied.

I finished my drink and ordered another one before we sat down. Patience swept in from outside in hail of laughter before sitting down and eyeing my drink and Blake disapprovingly.

‘So, what’s the SP?’ I said. They say that directing your first film is more painful than giving birth but I think waiting for the first reviews is as excruciating as possible.

‘Puerile adolescent drivel,’ said George. ‘Mindless flash-trash worthy of Eighties Hollywood at its most vacuous. I absolutely adored it!’

He downed his drink in one and waved over to the barman. I felt relieved alright. Blake was a bit of a cult figure and had his acolytes who would go to see anything he recommended. However, a good review from Blake didn’t automatically go hand in hand with box office success, unfortunately, and I’d invested so much money in the film I really needed a smash. I had a handful of banks and a couple of dangerous loan sharks looming over me like vampires waiting to strike.

‘Patience? What did you think?’ I said, expecting the worst.

Patience’s opinion was much more important than Blake’s. She had a hugely influential weekly film show that she’d taken over after the long time host had been murdered by an embittered fading film star. It was said that she could make or break a film in twenty-five words or less. She downed her drink and patted my hand as she got up.

‘Don’t give up the day job, Porgy,’ she said and walked toward the door. ‘Oh, and remember that the school fees are due next week. Ta ta,’ she sang before blowing me a kiss.

That was it. I knew she’d scupper me. I ordered more booze and drowned in the well of misery.

*

‘They say an artist should diversify,’ I said, my voice echoing around the empty cosmetics factory. ‘Never get stuck ploughing the same furrow, they say, eh?’

I wiped my bleeding nose on the sleeve of my Concorde Security Services uniform and swigged from my bottle of Grant’s.

‘You need to be in touch with the Zeitgeist, they say.’

I pulled back the blinds. The factory car park was deserted as it always was late at night. That’s why I preferred working the night shift. It gave you time to think. To plan.

‘And the Internet has changed so much. They say that there are so many niche markets that have opened up in the last few years.’ I switched on the halogen light and checked the camera’s tripod. ‘But I’m sure that this is just like teaching your granny to suck eggs. You’ll know all about this, eh, Patience?’

Patience said nothing. I’d gagged her and strapped her to a metal chair in the middle of the room. The floor was covered in black bin liners that ripped as I paced up and down.

‘Take snuff films, for example,’ I said, before taking another swig. ‘I’d always assumed that they were urban legends and perhaps they were but not now. Not in this day and age. There isn’t a big market, I’ll admit, but there are those who are willing to pay a lot. And celebrity snuff? Well … even a B-list celebrity like you can attract an interested buyer.’

I paced, swigged. Paced. Swigged.

‘They say it’s a cut-throat game, the film business. It really is, too. Oh, sorry. I know how you hate puns. So, let’s go to work…’

I switched on the camera, pulled on the rubber Mel Gibson mask and walked towards Patience, knife in hand.

Cut.

A Story For Sunday: The Zodiac Club

The Zodiac Club, at 666 Casanova Street, loomed ominously over Silver City like a great black spider waiting to ensnare its prey. Once a full moon clung to the sky, a sickly stew of screams and howls clung to the wind and drifted down to the city, coaxing Victor Brown from an already fitful sleep.

Retired Police Detective Victor Brown was a discarded and crumpled tissue of a man who spent night after night on his soaking bed as dark dreams and worse memories lapped at the shore of his sleep. Until he awoke, drowning in sweat.

Each night, violent thoughts brewed and bubbled to boiling point until, at last, one cold winter night, thought congealed into action.

*

Just after midnight, Victor stumbled out of his clammy bed and into the migraine bright bathroom. He splashed his face with water and looked in the cracked mirror at his battle-scarred face with its furrowed brow and drinker’s nose.

He stumbled back into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. Wheezing, he poured himself a large Jack Daniels. His eyes filled up with tears as he looked at the dusty framed photo of his wife and child, on holiday outside Silver City. He picked it up and kissed it.

It had been ten years since their car had broken down and they had made the fatal mistake of going to The Zodiac Club for help.

Victor blamed himself, of course. He’d been on a stakeout and hadn’t answered the phone when his wife had called. He knew what went on behind the walls of the Zodiac Club once the moon was full and gibbous. The whole Police Department knew but what could they do? Nick Casanova owned the club and owned the whole stinking city.

He switched on the lone light bulb, which buzzed and flickered, revealing a room cluttered with wooden barrels and crates. And a large, battered, black suitcase.

Victor opened it wide. Inside were a Glock, three grenades,six silver bullets and a gleaming silver dagger. He said a silent prayer and guzzled from a bottle of bourbon before fastening a crucifix around his neck.

*

The moonlight oozed across Silver City’s shattered sidewalks like quicksilver; creeping between the cracks, crawling into the gutters. Victor slowly walked up the hill, his breath appearing in front of him like a spectre.

As he got closer to the Zodiac Club’s blinking neon sign, Victor could hear music and laughter. The screech of a woman suddenly sliced the air. Victor shivered, pulling the long black overcoat close to his flesh. He pulled out the pistol and carefully pushed open the large metal door. He paused and then stepped into the hallway.

Checking his pistol, Victor walked toward the sounds. He paused in front of a pair of wooden doors and kicked them open.

The room was suffocating in red velvet and leather. Half eaten corpses littered the marble floor and around them, feasting, were some sort of creatures – half man, half wolf.

Instinctively, Victor threw a grenade.

The next few moments were a flash of fireworks and explosions.

As the smoke subsided, the creatures crawled towards him.

There were about five of them. A couple of them ran toward Victor but he sprayed them with silver bullets. He threw another grenade and kept on firing as the wolf creatures pounced.

Then there was silence except for his heartbeat. And a snarling sound. Victor turned and saw the wolf behind him ready to attack. As he went for his revolver the wolf was on him, knocking him to the ground.

With a series of slashes from his silver Bowie knife, it was over and Victor was soaked with blood. Panting he struggled to move the werewolf’s corpse and blinked as a hand grenade rolled onto the ground. And then he looked into wolf’s bloody jaws. A grenade’s pin was attached to one of its incisors.

Victor gasped and started to say a prayer.

And then it all turned black.

THIS YARN FIRST APPEARED AT THE LATE, GREAT A TWIST OF NOIR.

I’m Interviewed By Chris Rhatigan

cover-brazill-last-years-man-5

Chris Rhatigan interviews me over at the All Due Respect blog:

‘Paul D. Brazill is one of the most entertaining and original voices in the independent crime fiction community. I recently spoke with him about Last Year’s Man, his latest book through All Due Respect about ageing hit man Tommy Bennett.

— When I first learned about the online crime fiction scene about ten years ago, you were one of the first writers I started following. How have things changed since then?

Those were great, fun times, weren’t they?

There seemed to be oodles of cool ezines out and about: Powder Burn Flash, Pulp Pusher, A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, Thuglit, Plots With Guns, Spinetingler, Death By Killing and more. What treasure troves! There seemed to be lots of strange voices telling stories with nodules and spikes. I’m sure I would never have started writing without them.’

Read the rest HERE.

#FRIDAY FLASH: THE ZODIAC CLUB

The Zodiac Club, at 666 Casanova Street, loomed ominously over Silver City like a great black spider waiting to ensnare its prey. Once a full moon clung to the sky, a sickly stew of screams and howls clung to the wind and drifted down to the city, coaxing Victor Brown from an already fitful sleep.

Retired Police Detective Victor Brown was a discarded and crumpled tissue of a man who spent night after night on his soaking bed as dark dreams and worse memories lapped at the shore of his sleep. Until he awoke, drowning in sweat.

Each night, violent thoughts brewed and bubbled to boiling point until, at last, one cold winter night, thought congealed into action.

*

Just after midnight, Victor stumbled out of his clammy bed and into the migraine bright bathroom. He splashed his face with water and looked in the cracked mirror at his battle-scarred face with its furrowed brow and drinker’s nose.

He stumbled back into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. Wheezing, he poured himself a large Jack Daniels. His eyes filled up with tears as he looked at the dusty framed photo of his wife and child, on holiday outside Silver City. He picked it up and kissed it.

It had been ten years since their car had broken down and they had made the fatal mistake of going to The Zodiac Club for help.

Victor blamed himself, of course. He’d been on a stakeout and hadn’t answered the phone when his wife had called. He knew what went on behind the walls of the Zodiac Club once the moon was full and gibbous. The whole Police Department knew but what could they do? Nick Casanova owned the club and owned the whole stinking city.

He switched on the lone light bulb, which buzzed and flickered, revealing a room cluttered with wooden barrels and crates. And a large, battered, black suitcase.

Victor opened it wide. Inside were a Glock, three grenades,six silver bullets and a gleaming silver dagger. He said a silent prayer and guzzled from a bottle of bourbon before fastening a crucifix around his neck.

*

The moonlight oozed across Silver City’s shattered sidewalks like quicksilver; creeping between the cracks, crawling into the gutters. Victor slowly walked up the hill, his breath appearing in front of him like a spectre.

As he got closer to the Zodiac Club’s blinking neon sign, Victor could hear music and laughter. The screech of a woman suddenly sliced the air. Victor shivered, pulling the long black overcoat close to his flesh. He pulled out the pistol and carefully pushed open the large metal door. He paused and then stepped into the hallway.

Checking his pistol, Victor walked toward the sounds. He paused in front of a pair of wooden doors and kicked them open.

The room was suffocating in red velvet and leather. Half eaten corpses littered the marble floor and around them, feasting, were some sort of creatures – half man, half wolf.

Instinctively, Victor threw a grenade.

The next few moments were a flash of fireworks and explosions.

As the smoke subsided, the creatures crawled towards him.

There were about five of them. A couple of them ran toward Victor but he sprayed them with silver bullets. He threw another grenade and kept on firing as the wolf creatures pounced.

Then there was silence except for his heartbeat. And a snarling sound. Victor turned and saw the wolf behind him ready to attack. As he went for his revolver the wolf was on him, knocking him to the ground.

With a series of slashes from his silver Bowie knife, it was over and Victor was soaked with blood. Panting he struggled to move the werewolf’s corpse and blinked as a hand grenade rolled onto the ground. And then he looked into wolf’s bloody jaws. A grenade’s pin was attached to one of its incisors.

Victor gasped and started to say a prayer.

And then it all turned black.

(This yarn first appeared at A Twist Of Noir)

A Story For Sunday: Copped It by Graham Wynd

The only sound in the squalid room was the relentless dripping, as if someone had neglected to turn the tap all the way round. Their breath filled the small space, too, but that was slowing, quieting. Dixon looked over at Burnett, worried by his lack of movement. He slumped on the pile of boxes on that side of the storeroom.
‘Hey, hey. You still alive, right?’

A cough, a gasp, then an oath. ‘Who were those guys?’

Read the rest at The All-New A Twist Of Noir.

I have a Twist Of Noir

I’m up at the all-new A TWIST OF NOIR with a little yarn called THINGS I USED TO LIKE.

‘I used to like playing football when I was a kid. Loved it, I did. I could spend hours kicking a ball around a muddy field or up and down a dirty back street. When I got older, I even played in goal for the local pub’s Sunday league team. But I put on weight because of all the beer and pork pies. I liked that bit too much, and it became hard work. A slog. No fun at all.

That was another thing, too. I used to like spending a few nights a week and the odd afternoon down the pub but heartburn, indigestion and ulcers soon put paid to that. Sitting sipping a mineral water when other folk got pissed wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, so I lost interest.  I began to fear I’d lost my capacity for joy, I really did.’

Read the rest here. 

Keep It Simple. Keep It Short.

black vintage typewriter
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

I think I’ve always liked singles more than LPs. Preferred the short, sharp burst of a 45 rpm vinyl to 33 and 1/3 rpm of a few decent tunes padded out with fillers. And maybe that’s why I was drawn to flash fiction.

I started off my crime writing ‘career’ – arf – submitting yarns to the late lamented Six Sentences website – short stories in just six sentences. Indeed, my first writing to appear in print was in the 6S volume 2 anthology.

Here’s an example of a 6S yarn:

A Cold Day in Helsinki

The January night had long since waned when Mika blasted Aki’s brains over the snow covered street, producing a more than passable Rorschach test. A murder of crows sliced through the whiteness as the purr of the passing motorcycle grew to a roar, masking the sound of the shotgun. When day eventually melted into night, the moon hung fat and gibbous, the bloodstains now black in the moonlight. Mika draped Aki’s cold, dead skin over his own pallid flesh as, shivering, he breathed in the scent of cheap aftershave, cigarettes and booze. Sour memories trampled over his thoughts with bloodstained feet. Together forever he rasped, as tears filled his bloodshot eyes.

Or:

Snap, Crackle & Pop! 

Snap went Larry’s index finger when Mo bent it back. Crackle went the cigar that Mo slammed into Larry’s face. Pop went the pistol that Mo shoved under Larry’s chin. Snap went the paparazzi when Mo was led into court. Crackle went the electric chair when Mo was sent to meet his maker. Pop went the champagne cork in Curly and Shemp’s hotel room.

And I’ve also enjoyed writing a few other forms of flash and micro fiction too, such as 6word stories a la Ernest Hemingway.

Quentin.

Blah blah. Bang bang. Ha ha.

Or there are stories limited to fifty words for magazines such as Blink Ink.

Old Town, midnight.

The moonlight oozed across the dank cobblestones like quicksilver; creeping between the cracks, crawling into the gutters. Howls sliced the silence. Lara shivered, pulling the fur close to her flesh. Each heartbeat was like the tick of a clock. As the limousine growled into view, heavy footsteps shuffled closer.

And flash fiction in 100 words, which is known as Drabble.

Swamplands

Elvis awoke in a cold, dank sweat, hungover from bourbon and bad dreams. The nightmares had consisted of him being hunted through a swamp by the murderous spectre of Jesse, his stillborn twin. His pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the mansion. He stumbled into the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face and looked in the mirror, only to be confronted by his own ashen reflection and that of his grinning doppelganger. Jesse tightly wrapped the umbilical cord around Elvis’ throat and pulled it until Elvis breathed no more. The king is dead, long live the king, he muttered.

Indeed, if you feel the urge to take the plunge into writing but just want to test the water, there are plenty of flash fiction sites online. Spelk Fiction, for example,’ limit you to 500 words and Shotgun Honey have a 700 word limit.  And it’s a great way for more experienced writers to practice disciplining their writing too.

So why not get flashing!

This post first appeared over at Debbi Mack’s blog.

ANGER MANAGEMENT

13 SHOTS OF NOIR BY PAUL D BRAZILLI used to get angry all the time. Especially when I was a teenager. The “difficult years,” doctors used to call it. As if there could ever be any other with a father like mine.

I’d see crimson, burn up like a volcano, rant, rave, spit, scream – the whole deal.

Sometimes I’d even black out and I’d fall through a trapdoor straight down into the deepest well. Darkness all around.

It was after one of those “episodes” that I came to with gigantic hands gripped around my throat, dangling me over the thirteenth-floor balcony of some grimy tower block somewhere in East London. No recollection of getting there.

So that was when I decided to channel my aggression. That’s when I joined The Squad.

First it was just the football; following the team to some hick northern town and screaming abuse at the bumpkins. But that was never enough. I knew there was more. I could smell it; taste it.

And then I met Tubeway, Slammer and Col. The Squad. They were a breakaway group from the mainstream hooligans. They called it “rucking and rolling.” Football hooliganism mixed with mugging. It made sense. This was the nineties and Cool Britannia had no place for the likes of us.

We were the dispossessed, according to Tubeway. He liked to use words like that; flaunt his vocabulary and GCSE in Philosophy. The same Tubeway who used to listen to Hitler’s speeches without understanding a word of German.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that they were tossers – just looking for excuses for being violent. I didn’t need an excuse, though. I knew that I liked to inflict pain; I needed to hurt. It was just a matter of when and who.

Then they introduced me to Mr Bettis – or Sweaty Betty, as he was known behind his back. He was like a giant pink slug. Col said he looked like Jabba the Hutt. I just nodded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t watch films. I didn’t read books – I could barely read – and I didn’t like music. What I liked was violence. Sweaty paid well. He told us to keep our noses clean. Become respectable. Invisible to the law. He’d contact us once a month with a name and a place. Maybe a picture. And we did what he asked. Sometimes we used Stanley knives. Or blowtorches. Or even guns.

I loved it. I was good. The best. I started to develop a sense of professional pride. I distanced myself from the others. They were a liability. Disasters waiting to happen, I thought. And I was right.

Tubeway had his neck broken by a transvestite in Clapham. Col died of a smack overdose in a piss-stained Wandsworth squat. And Slammer got locked up for life, which I found ironic once I’d learned that word at my adult literacy class.

Oh yes, I studied. Learned to read and write. Learned history – enough to put Tubeway in his place without batting an eyelid. I learned aikido and kung fu. I practiced yoga and I got married. And had kids.

I still worked for Sweaty but the jobs were few and far between; he only used me for the “prime cuts,” as he called them.

Everything seemed so right.

And then it all went pear-shaped as quick as spit disappears on hot pavement.

It’s been fifteen years since I joined The Squad and I suppose it’s taken its toll. I expect that I’m a tad jaded.

Which is why, I suppose, the sounds and the yells of the man strapped to the tree in front of me have no impact on me. Don’t even ruffle a feather.

The golf course is empty; it’s dusk and like in the film Alien – yes, I started watching films, too – no one can hear him scream.

Time to continue the interview.

***

It always rains in the dreams. Always. Pours down in sheets. But in reality it was a burning, brandy-brimmed, summer morning.

In the dreams, there are no kids, either. Just a sinister, grinning man who looks like my father, wearing a long black coat and carrying a carving knife.

And when I wake up, I feel released. Free. But then the cold light of day hits me between the eyes. Because there was no man in black. No pounding rain. Just two kids who got in the way of a hail of bullets. My own kids.

It all went black for a long time after that. Until I woke up drowning in sweat, booze, piss and tears. Stinking of shame, guilt and self-loathing.

And then it never went black again. It was an endless cold white.

I’ve heard it said that eighteen months of sleep deprivation can drive you crazy. Well, I was mad after that anyway.

So now there’s a dead man in front of me, dangling from a tree, in an exclusive golf course, in the fresh morning dew. A slug of a man who looks like Jabba the Hutt. And he’s given me the name of the man who ordered the hit. The hit that resulted in the death of my kids.

Oh, I know. It’s just an excuse. A way of avoiding culpability. Just a reason to inflict pain. A reason to hurt. And to kill. And to keep on killing.

The End.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

( Anger Management is included in 13 Shots Of Noir. Published by Untreed Reads.)

A Story For Sunday: A Twist Of Noir by Eric Beetner

Cormac Brown at A TWIST OF NOIRChristopher Grant‘s late great A Twist Of Noir was one of the first places to publish my yarns, and was the home to writing from all sorts of top crime crime writers. Including Eric Beetner who went all capricious when he came up with this:

‘Keith and Jake were two of the sorriest excuses for criminals you ever saw. Individually they couldn’t find their own asses with a flashlight and a map but together there was something about the yin and yang of the two opposites that held them together and made them a team.’

Read the rest HERE.

A Story For Sunday: A Red Lipstick by Cormac Brown

‘Gold, black, green and purple spots. When they are part of an Impressionist painting, they are beautiful, but Lara’s skin is not a canvas by Monet. No, in the dingy light of the diner bathroom, her arms and legs look like they’ve been touched by the brush of DeSade or Torquemada. She winces, not at her reflection, but at the pain in her sore jaw and the tenderness in her lips.’

A blast from the past at the late, great A TWIST OF NOIR.

Cormac Brown at A TWIST OF NOIR Check out A RED LIPSTICK BY CORMAC BROWN and check out the rest of the site.