The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence’s Mate by Paul D. Brazill

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence’s Mate

Oliver Peacock had often thought that there was an art to being in the right place at the right time and that life was more than simply a matter of chance, of luck. He supposed he put it down to his late father repeatedly telling him that people made their own luck in the world or perhaps he put it down to experience. After all, Oliver was well aware that the few movers and shakers that he’d encountered over the years had been complete and utter bastards, rather than passive mellow fellows. Robert ‘Liberty’ Valance fit into the former category of course which was one of the reasons that Oliver decided to kill him. Dark clouds spread across the granite grey sky like a cancer as Liberty Valance left Duffy’s Bar, as drunk as a skunk and holding onto Big Barry – one of his regular drinking cronies – for support. Indeed, the inebriated Liberty Valance was the proverbial sitting duck and it really was unfortunate then that a loud thunder crack startled Oliver who accidently shot Big Barry in the buttocks although, as he reasoned to himself later that night, the fat man was a complete and utter bastard, too.

(c) Paul D. Brazill

The Man Behind The Curtain by Paul D. Brazill

THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN

It was shortly after the pitter-patter of tiny feet had been drowned out by the rat-a-tat-tat of the debt collector’s knocks that Carole Parker considered killing her husband. But it wasn’t until many years later, when her daughter Kate had grown up and flown the nest, that she actually decided to do it.

Carole had barely been out of her teens when Doctor James Parker, as glimmering and sophisticated as a Brandy Alexander, swept through her hum-drum life like a tornado, picked her up like Dorothy and plonked her in an Oz that bore more than a passing resemblance to Chiswick, West London.

As the years trundled on, however, James’s gambling and drinking habits ballooned to the size of the Hindenburg, his mood swings and behaviour grew more and more erratic and Oz turned out to be no place like home.

Carole’s initial, overriding feeling of disappointment eventually melded into a hate that slowly marinaded until it congealed into a cold, hard contempt.
*

Carole, who had been studying Chemistry at Durham University when she met James, found that she couldn’t safely rely on him for an income and she eventually took a part time job at Bogajski’s Veterinary Practice in Holland Park, an upmarket joint that pampered the pets of B and C-list celebrities. Over the years, a bottle of chloral hydrate that nestled on a shelf at work had stood out like the lone, beautiful whore in a rundown brothel, teasing and tempting Carole. The years had stretched out like a long summer shadow until, at last, she spiked a bottle of Mortlach – James’s favourite whisky – and headed home.
*

Carole got off the 94 bus at Turnham Green and glimpsed her reflection in the newsagent’s window. Her heart sank like the Titanic. As she looked at the frump in the window she remembered overhearing a couple of shiny, happy WAGs talking about her as they sat in the vet’s waiting room.

‘Not bad looking but a bit on the drab side’, the northern one had said.

‘Dowdy and past her sell-by date,’ commented the other, in a grating Estuary accent.

‘About time for a make-over,’ they giggled.

It had hurt but Carole could hardly disagree and she’d been depressed for days after. What had happened to the vivacious young woman who used to light up a room like a firework display? She’d been drowned in a flat cocktail of debt and drudgery but there was still a spark, she knew.

Well, she thought, with James out of the way – and his insurance money in the bank – there would be a rebirth. A phoenix from the ashes. A flush of excitement burst free like a champagne cork but by the time she stood at the gate of her semi-detached house that excitement was waning and being replaced with fear. Fear of prison if she was caught. Fear of what Kate would think. And then the guilt, the doubt and the panic hit her like a tsunami.

Then she saw the car. A big grey BMW that was parked outside her house looking like a shark that was waiting to strike.
*

‘There are, of course, myriad negotiation techniques,’ said Detective Sergent Frank Cook, in a voice not dissimilar to that of the tiger in the Jungle Book film. ‘One of the most popular is a two-hander, as it were, known as the good-cop/ bad-cop. But I, however, am here alone today and I am as far from a good cop as you can imagine so I think I’ll just stick to the Corleone method.’

Carole was focused now. She looked at James but he just looked pathetic, like a scolded schoolboy. His face was bleeding and snotty and the fingers of his left hand hung limp. With his shaking right hand, he signed the contract as Frank Cook hovered over him like Godzilla over a flattened Tokyo. James was a big man – he’d played prop forward for Durham University – but Frank was bigger, with a face that looked as if it had recently been scrubbed by a Brillo pad and big, big hands, one of which held a big, shiny bloodstained Glock 29. The moment that Carole signed the paper she could feel her life slipping away like dishwater down a plughole.

‘Congratulations,’ said Frank. ‘You are now the proud owners of ..well … life.’ He grinned like a game show host, pushed the deeds to the house in the pocket of his Armani jacket and then indifferently threw an IOU towards James.

‘I do believe we should have a little snifter to celebrate, don’t you?’ said Frank, putting a CD into the player. ‘I think Doctor James here is certainly in need of a little hair of the dog that fucked him up.’

Carole went over to the drinks cabinet. She took a swig of Glenfidich before passing the bottle over to James, who gulped it down like a drowning man gasping for the last breath of air.
Puccini’s Tosca blasted out as Frank looked at a photograph on the wall: Carole and Jimmy on honeymoon in Las Vegas, looking full of life and future.

‘Those were the days, my friends, eh?’ said Frank, turning and spotting Carole’s Sainsbury’s bag. ‘And is that a bottle of Mortlach, I spy? I hope you’re not keeping the good stuff for yourself.’

For the next few minutes, Carole seemed to step out of herself as if she were watching a film. She poured the Mortlach for Frank and let it all happen. About halfway through Tosca’s third act, as church bells rang, Frank started babbling, puking and convulsing and, by the late evening, he was dead.
*

Outside The City Barge, a bustling pub overlooking the Thames, the speakers were blasting out an old Eddie & The Hot Rods song. A jet ski cut across the water and Carole flashed back to the previous month when she and James had dumped Frank Cook’s body and BMW in the river’s murky water, somewhere near the Isle of Dogs.

A small aeroplane left a trail of white foam across the vivid blue sky. Carole smiled to herself as she showed her friends the shiny red shoes that she’d bought from Harvey Nichols with one of James’s many credit cards.

‘I think I saw your husband looking out of the window again today,’ said Sarah, a mousy woman with mousy hair. ‘Is that all he does these days? He seems to peek through the curtains whenever I park near you. Is he turning into a Peeping Tom?’

Carole laughed. That really was all James did now. Snoop. He was at the window day and night waiting for reprisals from Frank’s cronies. Reprisals that she doubted would come.

If anyone missed Frank Cook or thought that he’d been murdered, she doubted that they would suspect a boring suburban couple like her and James. And if they did, well, she had that big, shiny gun in her handbag, just in case.

‘Oh, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,’ chuckled Carole as she drained her glass of Pimms and lemonade. ‘Same again?

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

THE TUT BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

After enduring forty-five years of a marriage that was, at best, like wading through treacle, Oliver Beacock Robinson eventually had enough and smothered his wife with the beige corduroy cushion that he’d accidentally burned with a cigarette two fraught days before.

Oliver had been, for most of his life, a temperate man and he had survived the sexless marriage – its colourless cuisine and half-hearted holidays – with a stoicism that bordered on indifference. But his patience had been stretched to the breaking point by Gloria’s constant disapproval of almost everything he did.

And then there was the “tut.”

The tut invariably accompanied Gloria’s scowl whenever Oliver poured himself an evening drink or smoked a cigarette. She would tut loudly if he spilled the salt. Or swore. Or stayed up late to watch the snooker. The tut, tut, tut was like the rattle of a machine gun that seemed to echo through their West London home from dusk till dawn until he reached the end of his tether.

Wrapping his wife’s body in the fluffy white bedroom rug, Oliver supposed that he should have felt guilty, depressed or scared – but he didn’t. Far from it. In fact, he felt as free and as light as a multi-coloured helium balloon that had been set adrift to float above a brightly lit fun fair.

Oliver fastened the rug with gaffer tape and dragged the corpse down the steps to the basement. As the head bounced from every step, it made a sound not unlike a tut and he had to fight the urge to say sorry.

He’d done enough apologising.

***

Oliver poured himself a whisky – at eight o’clock in the morning! – and it tasted better than any whisky he had ever tasted before. Looking around his antiseptic home, the sofa still wrapped in the plastic coating that it came in, he smiled.

Savouring the silence, he resisted the temptation to clean Gloria’s puke from the scarred cushion that had been the catalyst of her death. Taking a Marlboro full strength from the secret supply that was hidden in a hollowed-out hardback copy of Jaws – Gloria didn’t approve of fiction and would never have found the stash there – he proceeded to burn holes in every cushion in the house.

And then he started on the sofa.

Oliver’s brief burst of pyromania was interrupted when he thought he heard a tut, tut, tut from the hallway. His heart seemed to skip a beat or two, but then he gave a relieved laugh when it was just the sound of the letter box, flapping in the wind.

***

Disposal of Gloria’s body proved much easier than Oliver would have expected. On a bright Sunday morning in April he hauled Gloria’s corpse into the back of his car, keeping an eye out for nosy neighbours, and drove towards Jed Bramble’s rundown farm, and the village of Innersmouth.

Jed was an old school friend and fellow Territorial Army member whom Oliver occasionally used to meet for a sly drink in the Innersmouth Arms’ smoky, pokey snug. He was also a phenomenal lush. The plan was to get him comatose and then feed Gloria’s body to his pigs. Oliver knew the farm was on its last legs, along with most of the livestock, so he felt sure that the poor emaciated creatures would be more than happy to tuck in to Gloria’s cadaver.

Perched on the passenger seat Oliver had a Sainsbury’s bag stuffed with six bottles of Grant’s Whisky. Just in case, he had a bottle of diazepam in his pocket, which he’d used to drug Gloria.

Just outside Innersmouth it started to rain. Tut, tut went the rain on the windscreen. At first it was only a shower but then it fell down in sheets. Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut.

Oliver switched on the windscreen wipers but every swish seemed to be replaced by a tut. He opened up a bottle of whisky and drank until the rain resumed sounding like rain.

Outside the dilapidated farmhouse, Jed stood with a rifle over his arm, looking more than a little weather-beaten himself. His straggly hair was long and greasy and his red eyes lit up like Xmas tree lights when he saw Oliver’s booze.

***

The cold Monday morning air tasted like tin to Oliver as, hungover and wheezing, he pulled Gloria’s body from the car and dumped it in the big sty. The starving wretches took to their meal with relish. Watching, Oliver vomited, but he didn’t try to stop the proceedings.

Back at the farmhouse Jed was still slumped over the kitchen table, snoring heavily. Oliver collapsed into a battered armchair and started to sweat and shake. He’d decided to stay with Jed for a few days, keeping him safely inebriated until Gloria’s remains were completely consumed. But as the days grew dark the tut returned.

The tick tock of Jed’s grandfather clock, for instance, was replaced by a tut, tut. The drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap kept him awake at night and became a tut, tut, tut. The postman’s bright and breezy rat-a-tat-tat on the front door seemed to pull the fillings right from his teeth. He turned on the radio but even Bob Dylan was tut, tut, tutting on heaven’s door.

***

The usually bustling Innersmouth High Street was almost deserted now. The majority of the local people were cowering indoors – in shops, pubs, fast food joints. Oliver walked down the street with Jed’s rifle over his shoulder. No matter how many people he shot he still couldn’t seem to escape the sound of Gloria’s disapprobation.

Tut went the gun when he shot the postman.

Tut, tut when he pressed the trigger and blew Harry the milkman’s brains out.

Tut, tut, tut when he blasted fat PC Thompson to smithereens as he attempted to escape by climbing over the infant school wall.

Oliver heard the sirens of approaching police cars in the distance and realised there was only one thing left to do.

Pushing the gun into his mouth he squeezed the trigger.

The last sound that he heard was a resounding TUT!

The End.

CHECK OUT PAUL D. BRAZILL’S BOOKS HERE IF YOU FANCY.

THE MAN WHOSE HEAD EXPANDED AND EVENTUALLY POPPED by Paul D. Brazill

THE MAN WHOSE HEAD EXPANDED AND EVENTUALLY POPPED

Lenny Cray had always thought that the quest for experience was a vital part of a man’s learning curve and so, throughout his life, whenever a window of opportunity opened up, he jumped straight through, headfirst if necessary. And at times he just kicked the bugger in. But teetering on the precipice of middle age, Lenny was slowly overcome with doubt, a pronounced lack of self-confidence, even a fear of the consequences of his actions. Which was around the time that Lenny discovered the writings of G.I. Gurdjieff a philosopher and mystic who believed that most people lived their lives in a ‘waking sleep’ that they needed to waken from. For Lenny it was as if the doors of perception had been opened wide for him and he devoured Gurdjieff’s works with all the enthusiasm of a Weightwatchers attendee in an all-you-can-eat buffet. Although he was well aware that it was a radical reaction to Gurdjieff’s work, Lenny decided to break free from his own ‘waking sleep’ by sitting at the top of a tall building and shooting passers-by, an experiment that proved remarkably successful, until he was fatally shot in the head by an insomniac police marksman that was just finishing his night shift.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving by Paul D. Brazill

ONE

Living well is the best revenge, or so my arthritic old grandmother used to say. And , for most of my life, I have lived very well – once I’d broken free of Seatown’s umbilical cord, which was strangling me like a noose.

Fame. Money. Drugs. Travel. Fast cars. Faster women. All of the above.And it felt good. Bloody good.

Or it used to.

TWO

The taxi crept along the coast road, past the worn-out Bed & Breakfasts, half-empty amusement arcades and deserted kebab shops. A shabby looking Santa Clause pissed against the side of a mangy looking Christmas Tree that was stood shaking in the wind outside the public toilets.

‘Do you get home much, these days, Mr Stroud?’ said the crumpled tissue of a taxi driver with the the big, bushy eyebrows.

‘Not so much, these days,’ I said, half yawning. The radio was playing a medley of Christmas carols at a volume so low it was sending me to sleep.

‘Bet it’s a fair bit different to life down the smoke, eh?’ said the taxi driver. ‘Bright lights, big city!’

He slowed down as a raggle-taggle group of rat boys staggered across the road.

‘Vive la différence,’ I said.

The taxi pulled up at a red light. It was early evening and allegedly rush hour but there weren’t too many cars on the road. The granite sky was filling with black, storm clouds.

I gazed out of the window at Booze n News, Seatown’s popular chain of newsagents and off-licences. Booze n News had been the brainchild of Frank Griffin, a local Conservative councillor and father of Craig, my childhood tormentor and font of all of my bile.

Outside the shop was a familiar looking woman being hassled by a whining toddler as she struggled to put a buggy into the back of a Renault Espace. Karen Griffin, Craig’s wife.

Once she’d been the glam of glams and now she was looking more than a little shop soiled. I smiled to myself with satisfaction. This is what I really came ‘home’ for. Bathing in the misery of the people that had caused me so much suffering. Taking pleasure from seeing any spark of life that they’d had dampened by the drab hand of domesticity.

Karen locked eyes with me and smiled but I just turned away and looked at the torn billboard outside the shop.

In red marker pen it proclaimed:

‘Best selling thriller author Julian Stroud to host Rotary Club Christmas Charity Lunch’.

‘Bet it’s gone downhill since you came here last time, eh, Mr Stroud?’ said the taxi driver.

‘Plus ca change,‘ I said, as I slowly let out a silent fart.

‘Aye,’ said the taxi driver, winding down the window.

THREE

I used to lay awake at night thinking of my childhood humiliations. How much I was ridiculed. Laughed at. And over the years I let my my hatred marinade. And congeal.

And then the doctor told me about my body’s uninvited guest. The plague that crawled through my veins. And then I had an idea.

FOUR

‘So, you never heard about Fast Eddy then?’ said Karen Griffin. She downed her fifth Baileys and her face flushed red and her eyes sparkled.

‘No, I hadn’t,’ I said. I looked out of the Carvery window. The sea was grey. Out at sea, a fishing trawler adorned with Christmas lights bobbed up and down on the waves.

‘They say he met a lass on the Internet. Was getting on really well, too, until he sent her his picture, that is, and then she blocked him,’ said Karen.

I remembered Fast Eddy and could understand the girls consternation. He was once described as being like a fatter version of Bernard Manning. Without the charm.

‘And what happened?’ I said, almost interested.

Karen was looking good, I had to admit. She’d dolled herself up pretty well. Her idiot husband had been in a drunken sleep on the sofa and hadn’t even noticed her sneak out.

The fatigue was behind her eyes though. I almost felt sorry for her. I was starting to wonder if I could go through with this nasty little plan that I’d hatched.‘Well , he had an idea of where she lived. Some village in Scotland.. And so he started to spend every weekend going up there on the train and walking around the place looking for her. Until he got picked up by the police for being drunk and disorderly. Thing is, though, he’d got the wrong village,anyway!’

And then she laughed.

Karen Griffin’s cruel cackle reminded me of my teenagers years and the agony of just living. And it made up my mind for me.

FIVE

The motel room was dimly lit. Outside, I could the heavy bass of an old Public Image song.

I finished my brandy, popped a viagra and crawled into the bed.

‘Speak French to me Julian, you know it really turns me on, ‘ said Karen, as she pulled me towards her.

I took out a condom that I’d pricked with a pin earlier and put it on.

‘Le Petit Mort,’ I said, with a smirk.

Well, Christmas is a time for sharing, after all.

(c) Paul D. Brazill

Steps by paul d. brazill

Steps

If the singer Eddy Cochrane is to be believed there are three steps to heaven and, according to Alcoholics Anonymous, the sum total of twelve steps are needed in order to set someone on the path to freedom from addiction.

Unfortunately for Melissa, however, no matter how many steps she took she never seemed to be able to free herself from the financial and emotional burden that was her husband, Keith, as every path she went down seemed to come to a dead end.

Until she met Alison, that is, the effect of which was akin to that of lightening hitting a plane.

Before meeting Alison, Melissa had barely been scuffed by the wear and tear of life but, as Autumn trudged on into Winter, Alison and Melissa’s meetings became more frequent and murderous thoughts hovered over them like a hawk ready to strike its prey.

Night was melting into day as they smashed Keith’s brains out on the doorstep producing a more than passable Rorschach test.

‘One Step Beyond!’ said Melissa, with a glint in her eye and a spring in her step.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

DRABBLE: SWAMPLANDS BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

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.

(C) Paul D. Brazill.

WARSAW MOON BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

Warsaw Moon: Part One

The night had crept up almost imperceptibly and smothered the granite coloured day with darkness. The winter moon hung fat and gibbous as Tomasz blasted Ricardo’s brains across the ground and produced a more than passable Rorschach test; the splashes of blood black in the stark moonlight. A murder of crows scattered and sliced through the whiteness, as the purr of an approaching motorcycle grew to a roar.

Snow began to fall like confetti and Tomasz took Ricardo by the ankles and hauled his massive corpse towards the dilapidated cottage, leaving a snaking trail of blood behind him. He paused and wiped his brow with his blood and sweat stained sleeve.

Tomasz gazed over at the Christmas tree in the distance which was lit up with shimmering, dancing multi-coloured lights. A wind chime that hung above the door tinkled.

The heavy wooden door creaked as Tomasz pushed it open. Ricardo’s head bounced off every concrete step as Tomasz dragged the body downstairs into the dark and dingy basement and onto a sheet of dirty green tarpaulin.

He switched on a lone light bulb, which buzzed and flickered, revealing a room cluttered with wooden barrels and crates exept for a bright orange formica table, a candy striped deckchair and a dirty, spiderweb cracked morror that hung above a rusted metal sink.

Tomasz knelt down and unstrapped a large hunting knife from his left leg. Slowy and carefully he began to cut the row of tiny red crescent tattoos from Ricardo’s right bicep.

‘Tried to escape again?’ said Dragan, as he came down the stairs.

He took off his black crash helmet and ran a hand through his short cropped hair.

Tomasz had been so engrossed in his work that he hadn’t noticed Dragan arrive; he paused for a moment, looked up at Dragan and nodded. Rising slowly, he dropped the pieces of skin into a jar of formaldehyde, fastened the top and put it in a red Adidas holdall.

Tomasz knelt back down and unfastened the bloodied handcuffs that hung loose from Ricardo’s right wrist.

‘Nothing to lose, I suppose,’ said Dragan, to himself, ‘apart from his balls.’ He sighed and lit up a large Havana cigar.

‘Did anyone see you?’ said Dragan, blowing a trio of smoke rings.

‘No,’ said Tomasz. ‘No spies. No mercenary eyes.’

‘Did he say anything?’ said Dragan, looking at the fat heap on the ground, his scraggly beard and unkempt hair matted with blood, he was overcome with disgust, remembering a younger Ricardo.

‘Yes,’ said Tomasz, his black, bullet hole eyes showing no amusement. ‘He cried for his mother.’

Dragan peeled off his boots and black leather jacket and sat cross legged on the dirty floor. He was wearing a black sleeveless T-shirt depicting Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’ and a pair of expensive denim jeans.

His muscular body was covered with tattoos and latticed with scars but his face–almost angelic and much younger looking than his forty years–was without a blemish except for a tiny bright red birth mark on his left cheek which was shaped like a crescent moon. He plucked a bottle of vodka from one of the wooden barrels that cluttered the room, his wedding ring glinting as it caught the light, and downed a third of the bottle in one.

‘Did he say anything about the others?’ he said, switching from Russian to English. Tomasz nodded using his whole upper torso. His wide, sandblasted face showed no expression. Dragan poured large measures of vodka into two pink glass tumblers and scooped a little snow into each glass. He was used to being patient with Tomasz but sometimes his patience was tested. He took a deep breath.

‘Well?’ said Dragan.

‘He said no,’ said Tomasz picking up a glass. ‘No others.’

Dragan was lost in thought for a moment. Tomasz stood motionless and not for the first time Dragan was reminded of the robot in the film The Day The Earth Stood Still, waiting for a sign from his master. The only noise was the buzz of the light and the sound of Dragan’s breathing.

Eventually, Dragan broke into a smile.

‘Well, we’ll see,’ he said.

He walked over to Ricardo’s corpse and shook his head.

‘Misguided loyalty, my friend,’ sighed Dragan.

He passed a tumbler of vodka to Tomasz .

‘Na zdrowie,’ said Tomasz, toasting Ricardo.

‘Okay, back to work my Polish brother,’ said Dragan, slamming down his glass on the table.

Tomasz nodded and dug in a darkened corner of the room and pulled out something heavy and metallic.

‘I think it’s time to sever Mr. Ricardo’s contract’ smirked Dragan as Tomasz started up the chainsaw.

_______________________________________________________________

Warsaw Moon: Part Two

The tall men in the black hats and long black overcoats looked like shadows as they cut through the snow smothered square.

A ghostly spiral of smoke drifted up from the husk of the burnt out car as Darko fell to his knees, the low hum that hovered in the distance growing louder.

He looked up, gasping, as the plane roared overhead. His fingers buzzed and tingled and the sensation spread through his hands and up his arms. The weight of an elephant was on his chest and then he felt the cold hard metal against his forehead.

Then the day dissolved to black.

* * *

First there were trickles and then there was a flood until what seemed to be hundreds of people spilled out over the square, like jackals searching for carrion. The men in the black overcoats slipped through the crowd as the approaching sirens screamed nearer.

Shuffling into the corner a nearby alleyway, Brendan pushed back the brim of his black fedora and plucked a battered packet of Galois from his raincoat pocket. He handed one to Arek, sweat peeling from his acne scarred face.

‘Another one bites the dust,’ growled Arek, his accent as thick as treacle.

‘Aye,’ said Brendan, the traces of a grin appearing at the corner of his mouth. ‘Just not the one we were after.’

He coughed and spat on the ground. He wiped his mouth, revealing the red tatto on his wrist.

‘Are you gonna call or am I?’ he said.

Arek inhaled deeply and looked up to heavens, at the stars and the moon, as if hoping for help from above.

* * *

The aquarium bubbled and gurgled, bathing the office in a sickly green light. The air in the room was warm and soupy and Dragan steadily sipped a glass of gin.

At a large desk, a raven haired woman was using a gold credit card to chop up a little heap of cocaine. She leaned forward and snorted through a Harrods pen.

‘Ay Caramba, mother fucker,’ she said, her Latino accent as thick and dark as an Irish coffee.

Dragan poured himself another large gin.

‘Gin makes you sin,’ said the woman, with a chuckle. Dragan glared a her.

She turned away, retouched her make up and stood up. Guilt rumbled inside Dragan like a thundercloud. He’d sworn that the previous time would be the last time but once again he’d broken his promise to himself.

The woman walked over to him. She was tall and in her early twenties with wan looking skin, red lipstick slashed across her full lips and her black hair cut into a Louise Brooks bob. She was wearing a red PVC raincoat and shiny black stiletto heels. Dragan took a wad of cash from his wallet and wearily handed it to her.

The James Bond theme began to play and Dragan took out his mobile phone.

‘Tak,’ he said and listened for a few moments before answering.

He slumped over the large oak desk .

‘And exactly how much of a bollocks is “a bit of a bollocks?”’ he said, his expression volcanic.

‘Maybe I’ll go?’ said the woman.

Dragan waved indifferently toward her and she walked out of the office door, her head held down but still watching.

And still listening.

_______________________________________________________________

Warsaw Moon: Part Three

Slumped in his blood red leather armchair, in a darkened corner of the office—like a spectre of the man he once was—Dragan disinterestedly watched the slow drips of wine trickle down from the bottle that dangled from his hand onto the wooden floorboards. His thoughts flashed back to September.

* * *

Dragan had snaked the black Jaguar XJ5 through the honey coloured Autumn morning and along the Old Town’s cobbled streets, listening to Bessie Smith. As he glided the car along the almost deserted Nowy Swiat, with its expensive shops, cafes and bars, he lit a cigar and felt like a king.

The High Priest Of Warszawa, a smirking, hyperactive American frat boy had called him, once upon a time. The rich American was being ironic, of course. At the time Dragan was just a speed freak. A jumped up Serbian car thief and drug dealer with ambitions. But now, well, the frat boy wouldn’t be smirking so much, if he were still alive.

Dragan turned right at the Palm tree sculpture and headed down Aleje Jarozolimskie, looking up at the blue sky.The Palace of Culture and Science loomed over the city like a giant gargoyle keeping danger at bay.

* * *

As he turned the corner toward the Euro Continental Hotel a big black SUV suddenly screeched in front of him and blocked his way. Dragan braked but his reactions were slow. Perhaps he’d been getting soft. One upon a time he would have jumped out of the car and beaten the driver to sludge, but he simply sighed and reversed . And then another turned the corner and slammed into him, stopping his exit.

Within seconds, a swarm of men in black balaclavas rushed out of the SUVs and started attacking the car with hammers, baseball bats, rocks. And then one pulled out a shotgun and blasted the windscreen which cracked like a spiderweb.

The car was bullet proof, of course, so they didn’t get very far, but as Dragan slammed his hand into his pocket for his Desert Eagle XIX, he froze as recognised the red crescent tattoo on one of the men’s wrists.

Within seconds the men were all back in their SUV’s and had driven off but Dragan just sat there stunned, the dropped cigar burning a hole into his leg. He looked down and brushed it away as if it were a mosquito.

Who would dare? Who, from his people, would dare?

And so the purge had begun.

* * *

Dragan smashed the bottle on the floor. The red stain crawled into the wood’s cracks and crevices. He stood up, lit a cigar and gazed out of the window.

The Old Town square was almost empty. Just the occasional little ant scuttling across the snow. He could hear the sound of the music from Klub Zodiak below him. He could feel the throb of the bass, thumping its message to him.

He pulled a bag of cocaine form his desk draw and trailed a line of powder along the window pane so he could watch out for the mercenary eyes.

* * *

Krystyna decided to swim one more length of the pool. It was just past midnight but she knew that Tomasz would stand guard over her all night if he had to. She loved the Euro Continental Hotel’s glass swimming pool and the floor to ceiling window that gave such a great view of the Warsaw skyline.

She would miss this, she thought, as she floated on her back and looked out at the constellation of lights that trailed away from the hotel toward the Palace Of Culture and Science, old Joe Stalin’s unwanted gift to the people of Warsaw.

As she got out of the pool Tomasz rose from his seat like the Golum and handed Krystyna the towel. She said nothing as she dried her iron muscled body and went into the changing room.

Krystyna dressed and switched on her Nokia. There were two missed calls from Dragan and three SMS written in a garbled mixture of Russian, English and Polish. She was reminded of the last words of Dutch Schulz and almost laughed but instead she shivered as she played with her loosening wedding ring.

_______________________________________________________________

Warsaw Moon: Part Four

Dark dreams and worse memories lapped at the shore of Krystyna’s sleep until she awoke drowning in sweat and stained by sour memories. It took her a moment to adjust to the surroundings; her bedroom looked unfamiliar in the wan light.

Krystyna lay for a moment, each heartbeat like the tick of a clock, and edged off the bed; her joints ached after the day spent working out in the gym. Moving like Robocop, she went to the window and peeled back the blinds.

A constellation of streetlights and a galaxy of Christmas decorations faded into the distance towards the Old Town. The street was almost deserted. She strained to listen. Someone, somewhere nearby was whistling. Was it Rhapsody In Blue? Or maybe she was imagining it.

She was exhausted and her mind was starting to play tricks on her again. Winter had crept up and smothered the days with darkness; flushing her memories to the forefront of her mind. Night after sleepless night her anxiety brewed and bubbled to boiling point.

Her sleep was becoming increasingly fitful, her days spectral. Guilty conscience, her mother back in Komorow used to say when her father couldn’t sleep. It was always easy for her mother to sleep, but for Krystyna it was like wading through molasses. Especially these days.

She looked at Dragan, half dressed and slumped across the bed. He was holding a bottle of vodka like a baby holds a teddy bear. She had a flashback to their first meeting.

Before she’d come to Warsaw, from her small town out in the sticks, she’d heard stories about ‘The Night Drivers’; amphetamine pumped young men who, each midnight, tied fishing wire around their necks, and the cars’ brakes, and then raced from one end of the city to the next.

When she’d seen the cut marks on the taxi driver’s neck and his red, red eyes she’d ben a little wary but excited. The Serbian was handsome and charming with his hybrid of languages.

But that was then and this is now, she thought. Just like the song that Dragan used to play in his first BMW.

Krystyna shook her head, took a deep breath and counted to ten. She walked into the migraine bright bathroom and looked in the mirror. She ran her fingers across the coin shaped scar on her right shoulder and grimaced at the memory it brought back.

Krystyna tied back her long black hair and checked the ten inch barrel Desert Eagle XIX that she kept hidden in the washing basket. It was just a matter of time, she thought.

She ran the shower as hot as bearable before she got in. Maybe it would wash away the past.

Maybe.

_______________________________________________________________

(c) Paul D. Brazill

Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England and is now on the lam in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

LATE NIGHT FILM BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

Late Night Film
by Paul D. Brazill

Fade in.

It’s spring and, teetering precariously at the precipice of middle age, I become a self-imposed exile from London and get drunk between the moon and New York City. I know it’s crazy but it’s true. I set off with a half-arsed plan to hit the road, like Jack and Tom, and like so many half arsed plans it all goes pear-shaped as quick as spit disappears on hot pavement.

Spring soon segues into a forty-two degree summer in Madrid. Close up on me burning my hand on the side of a taxi; falling into a fountain in Sol, as drunk as fuck; a row of prostitutes lined up outside a shop called Easy Everything, one of them blind; waking up in a shop doorway in the midday heat as a policeman goes for his gun. Freeze frame.

And then summer stumbles into autumn which tumbles into a winter in Warsaw’s snow smothered streets. More close ups: beer breakfasts in a twenty four hour pub; the football stadiums’ Russian market selling Nazi memorabilia; a Ukrainian lap dancer on her knees, snorting cocaine in the middle of Old Town square.

And then cut to a sparse apartment, walls splattered with blood that looks shitty in the pissy light. Then …

Fade Out.

(C) Paul D. Brazill.

OUT NOW! Shots In The Dark: A Short Story Sampler!

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of my yarns published on-line, in anthologies, in magazines, and I’ve even had a few collections of my own published by the likes of Untreed Reads, Near To The Knuckle, and All Due Respect.

With SHOTS IN THE DARK, I just wanted to give people an inexpensive taste of my stuff. A bit like those rough n’ ready punk samplers the music press used to put out in the 1970s. So have a gander, if you’re that way inclined. There’s short stories, flash fiction, supernatural noir, Brit Grit, and funny stuff, too. At least I think they’re funny! All stories (c) Paul D. Brazill

AMAZON.COM

AMAZON.CO.UK

A Packet Of Six

When I first started writing fiction, the first place I approached was Rob McEvily’s Six Sentence website. The site went dark for a while but now it’s back! So, check it out, if you have the chance.

So, here are 6 of my Six Sentence yarns that appeared on the site.

The Man Whose Head Expanded And Eventually Popped

Lenny Cray had always thought that the quest for experience was a vital part of a man’s learning curve and so, throughout his life, whenever a window of opportunity opened up, he jumped straight through, headfirst if necessary. And at times he just kicked the bugger in. But teetering on the precipice of middle age, Lenny was slowly overcome with doubt, a pronounced lack of self-confidence, even a fear of the consequences of his actions. Which was around the time that Lenny discovered the writings of G.I. Gurdjieff a philosopher and mystic who believed that most people lived their lives in a ‘waking sleep’ that they needed to waken from. For Lenny it was as if the doors of perception had been opened wide for him and he devoured Gurdjieff’s works with all the enthusiasm of a Weightwatchers attendee in an all-you-can-eat buffet. Although he was well aware that it was a radical reaction to Gurdjieff’s work, Lenny decided to break free from his own ‘waking sleep’ by sitting at the top of a tall building and shooting passers-by, an experiment that proved remarkably successful, until he was fatally shot in the head by an insomniac police marksman that was just finishing his night shift.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence’s Mate



Oliver Peacock had often thought that there was an art to being in the right place at the right time and that life was more than simply a matter of chance, of luck. He supposed he put it down to his late father repeatedly telling him that people made their own luck in the world or perhaps he put it down to experience. After all, Oliver was well aware that the few movers and shakers that he’d encountered over the years had been complete and utter bastards, rather than passive mellow fellows. Robert ‘Liberty’ Valance fit into the former category of course which was one of the reasons that Oliver decided to kill him. Dark clouds spread across the granite grey sky like a cancer as Liberty Valance left Duffy’s Bar, as drunk as a skunk and holding onto Big Barry – one of his regular drinking cronies – for support. Indeed, the inebriated Liberty Valance was the proverbial sitting duck and it really was unfortunate then that a loud thunder crack startled Oliver who accidently shot Big Barry in the buttocks although, as he reasoned to himself later that night, the fat man was a complete and utter bastard, too.

The Man Who Could Afford to Orgy But Didn’t


Despite it being the beginning of spring, a time when a young man’s fancy was said to turn… a tad carnal, Henry Becket was quite firm when he refused his friend’s offer to attend an orgy. He was well aware that Allan had made the suggestion out of a combination of pity – Henry had been divorced and single for many years – and pride at he himself being invited to the Bacchanalian event. But Henry said no. He justified his refusal in various ways, including faux-morality and a fake pride, but the truth of the matter was that Henry Becket didn’t want anyone to gaze upon on his fading, flabby body and burst out laughing. When it eventually transpired that the orgy’s actual attendees had been pistol whipped and robbed in flagrant by the Albanian gangsters that had organised the event, Henry was a tad ashamed to say that had wallowed in a brief moment of schadenfreude. But, still, it was nice to have been asked, anyway.

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.

The Pint of No Return


Angie and Peter had been joined at the waist for just over a year before the cracks started appearing in what Peter had, until then, considered to be, at least for him, a fairly solid relationship, despite it’s sporadically psychotic episodes, which were invariable acerbated by copious amounts of alcohol. It was as winter melted into spring that the foundations of the house of love started to shake, a time that coincided with the reappearance of a blast from Angie’s past in the corpulent shape of her erstwhile fiancé Billy Carr. As the months wore on, Peter’s temper was increasingly inflamed by Billy and Angie’s shameless flirting and so it was that one wet and windy night in May, after a particularly prolific drinking session, that he challenged Billy to what, once upon a time, would have been referred to as a duel and they both ended up in a dark and dingy alley, outside the Methodist church, stripped to the waist in the pouring rain, only illuminated by the light from a stained glass window. Billy bopped around like Mohammad Ali, albeit a fat white and wheezy Ali, as Peter took off his horn rimmed glasses and carefully placed them on a wheelie bin for safekeeping only to turn around and be sucker punched by a big pink blancmange which sent him hurtling into a pile of black bin bags that spilled their rancid contents across the alley. “And let that be a lesson to you,” Peter said to Billy who was towering over him like a gloating Godzilla over a demolished Tokyo. “Wanker,” replied puffing Billy before triumphantly waddling off, hand in glove with Angie, leaving Peter to light a cigarette, lay back, close his eyes and inhale deeply in a manner that he hoped was reminiscent of Jean-Paul Belmondo at the close of Jean-Luc Godard’s À Bout de Souffle.

Black & White & Red All Over



When I think about it, my most vivid and powerful memories of childhood are in black and white. The monochrome of the Saturday morning Odeon’s Kidz-Klub, and the Hollywood films on afternoon television, seemed so much more vibrant than anything that real life could come up with. And, as you would expect of someone who grew up living more fully in his imagination than in the day-to-day, adulthood proved to be a series of disappointments and non-events. Nightclubs, for example, were, in my mind, bustling with tough guys in pinstriped suits, wise-cracking cigarettes girls and sultry Femme Fatales belting out torch songs on a Chiaroscuro lit stage. So, when I eventually stumbled into the grim reality of sticky carpets, overflowing toilets and beer bellied men with no necks and faces like blackcurrant crumbles staggering around a smoky, pokey dance floor with leathery, bottle blondes, while has-been DJs played has-been tunes, my heart sank like the Titanic. And now, every weekend, with Sisyphean resignation, I drag myself to work behind the bar in Astros Nite-Spot where only the splashes of blood that the regulars spill as casually as their watery lager brighten up an otherwise dreary and uniform night and no, the irony of this situation has not escaped me.

In the Devil’s Name by Paul D. Brazill

Isabelle told the man with the porkpie hat that she had only stopped off at the bar for a couple of drinks to drown her sorrows and that it really wasn’t the sort of establishment that she usually frequented.

‘My father’s funeral, you know?’ she croaked, eyes down, as if she were playing bingo.

Since Spencer was a stranger in town, he was unaware that James Gowdie’s apparent burial was, in fact, pretty much a monthly occurrence. A fabricated sob story – stained with wishful thinking – that regularly coincided with Isabelle having boozed away most of her salary, teetering on the precipice of sobriety and the horrors that entailed. So, he took off his hat, placed it against his chest and offered her his condolences and, most importantly, a drink.

A Martini or ten later, the night corroded and he awoke in the wan light of an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the rumble of trucks from outside the window and the ghost of a blues song leak in from the next room. He expected to find Isabelle and his wallet gone, his bank account cleared out but the toilet flushed loudly and she walked out of the bathroom looking more than somewhat frayed around the edges but – he was relieved to find- not that bad looking at all.

‘Ready for another round, Trigger?’ she said.

She picked up a bottle of wine from a bedside table and finished it as she unsteadily plonked herself on the edge of the bed.

‘A little early for me,’ said Spencer, his voice like broken glass. ‘And I have a meeting in …’

‘Fair enough,’ she said, waving a hand dismissively.

Isabelle pulled on her long, black dress and pushed her swollen feet into her red, high-heeled shoes.

‘See you around,’ she said. She picked up her handbag and tottered through the door, leaving it open and letting in a cold, autumn breeze.

***

Rivulets of rain ponderously trailed down the windscreen as James Gowdie watched his daughter stagger out of the taxi and tumble toward The Swampsnake’s blinking neon sign. James lit a Marlborough with his Zippo as Isabelle headed down the steps and opened the metal door, a blast of hard rock bursting free for a moment. He slowly smoked his cigarette, his heart pounding.

A truck pulled into the car park and a skinhead in a tartan shirt got out of the truck and rushed into the bar.

James felt frozen. Trapped like one of the wasps he used to catch in jam jars when he was a kid. He eventually got out of his car and opened up the boot. He pulled out a long black leather coat and draped it over his paint splattered overalls. Put on a denim cap and took out a sawn-off shotgun.

***

Vambo could feel last night’s Vindaloo slicing through his guts. He rushed into The Swampsnake , through the crowded bar and straight into the graffiti splattered toilets. An old, wire-haired man leaned unsteadily against the urinals, smoking a pin-size roll up.

‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken,’ he said.

Vambo growled.

There were two cubicles and Vambo slammed hard against the first one. Locked.

‘Get a move on will you. I’m touching cloth here,’ he shouted.

Two male voices giggled and Vambo squirmed. He smashed a massive paw against the second door and it flew wide open. A woman was on her hands and knees, her face in the toilet bowl. Vambo dragged her by the hair and pulled her backwards, letting her slide on her back across the toilet’s sticky floor. Then he saw she wasn’t breathing.

As he leaned over and gave the woman CPR, his jeans filled with toxic smelling shit,

‘That is fucking foul,’ said the old man. He rushed out of the toilets, gagging.

The sound of Isabelle’s gasps melded with the sound of her father’s gunshot as he blasted Vambo’s brains like a Rorschach test across the toilet floor. She dragged herself into consciousness in time to see her father turn the gun on himself and then she closed her eyes and slept the sleep of the just.

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.

The Man Whose Head Expanded And Eventually Popped

I’m back over at Six Sentences with The Man Whose Head Expanded And Eventually Popped:

‘Lenny Cray had always thought that the quest for experience was a vital part of a man’s learning curve and so, throughout his life, whenever a window of opportunity opened up, he jumped straight through, headfirst if necessary.’

Read the rest here, if you fancy.