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Confidential Report on the Disturbance at Big Echo-Fiction by William Squirrell
Dwight-Fiction by Anthony Lukas
Snake Heaven-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Of the Blood-Fiction by Lela Marie De La Garza
The Liars of the Laughing City-Fiction by Richard Godwin
The Bull-Fiction by Oliver Lodge
Scratch Off-Fiction by Colt Leasure
...til I Wake Up-Fiction by Denis Bushlatov
Therapist-Fiction by Robert Petyo
Visitors-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Three Shots for a Dollar-Flash Fiction by Matthew J. Hockey
A Nun's Smile-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
911-Flash Fiction by Karen Heslop
The Faint of Heart Work for a Living-Flash Fiction by Lester L. Weil
Another Day, Another Death-Flash Fiction by Sandor Kovacs
Jim Dandy-Poem by g emil reutter
Blind Man's Bluff-Poem by Marc Carver
Closed-Poem by David Mac
The Voice Within-Poem by Michael Keshigian
green shoots-Poem by Meg Baird
jack and jill-Poem by Meg Baird
An Outlaw in the Making-Poem by John D. Robinson
Often She Says-Poem by John D. Robinson
rogue dragonflies-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
rogue drones-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
wind through the evergreens-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
My Phantoms Hang Neatly-Poem by A. J. Huffman
The Hour of the Cat-Poem by A. J. Huffman
Owlish Eyes in the Dark-Poem by A. J. Huffman
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Kevin Duncan © 2017

Snake Heaven


by Kenneth James Crist


The Eastern Black Rat Snake is common in most of the eastern United States from the Atlantic states through the Midwest and even into eastern Texas. They prefer wooded and rocky areas, but because of loss of habitat, especially in the east, it is not uncommon to find them in urban areas, especially areas with a high rodent population.

They will commonly take any rodent smaller than they are, along with lizards and frogs and the like. Depending upon availability of food, they can range over a large area, but they prefer one resting place and perhaps one or two “home” places to sun themselves.

They will often go several weeks without eating, as they are cold-blooded and their metabolism is correspondingly slow.

Being nonvenomous, they present little danger to man and in fact, make nice pets if they are captive-bred. In spite of that, they can deliver a nasty bite if approached when in a bad mood and should be handled only by persons familiar with snakes and their habits. . . .


The worst predator on the planet is not a jungle cat or a snake or even a shark or salt-water crocodile. The worst predator is man. He seldom hunts for food, as animals do, and he is not without conscience. Even those who profess to be mentally disturbed, usually have at least a rudimentary sense of right and wrong. In order to do what they do, human predators first must disregard all they know about love and fairness, closeness and respect for others. They use many excuses when caught, and in our own system of jurisprudence, they never truly get what they deserve. . . .

Nathan Rollie’s excuse was that he was an abused child. Even though thousands or even millions of kids grew up with daily beatings and were also commonly disrespected and mentally abused, Nathan was literally the one-in-a-million. He began torturing and killing animals at nine years old and by twelve, he had killed his first person, a sleeping homeless man. He sneaked up and cut the man’s throat and enjoyed immensely watching him die. He doted on the shock and panic when the man woke up to find himself cut nearly ear-to-ear and spurting blood. Nate dreamed at night of the man’s screams and often, after those best-of-all dreams, he would awake with an erection.

At fourteen, he began approaching and trying to molest younger kids. He was mostly fascinated with young girls, but the occasional smooth little boy would get his attention.

Now in his early 40’s, he could not remember all his adventures, and if questioned, he would not even be able to remember how many people he had killed. The basement of his home had been built into a soundproof dungeon, where he kept his little projects, some of them for months, if things worked out to his satisfaction.

The little project he had down there now probably wouldn’t go on that long. While she was one of the prettiest he’d ever caught, she wasn’t much fun. She seemed to spend most of her time crying and that wasn’t nearly as much fun as the ones who screamed. . . .


Lucille was an Eastern Black Rat Snake. Her territory was in an urban environment and encompassed about a square mile. She had her favorite sunning places and her own secure den, under a highway overpass. Her favorite resting place was very unusual, though. It was in a sleeping bag with a man named Robby Metcalf. Metcalf was a homeless veteran who had sustained injury in one of his country’s minor wars; specifically, he was blown out of a Humvee by a roadside IED that killed all but himself and one other of his crew. When he recovered from his wounds and was back stateside, he discovered almost by accident that he now possessed the ability to talk to animals. In his city, he was known as Crazy Robby and he was shunned by many, but that was fine by him. . . .

~     ~     ~

I woke up sweating, both because I had been involved in the dream again and because I was packed in animals. Fuzzy was on the windward side of me and the body heat of a 120-lb German Shepherd will keep you cozy. Lucille was packed against the other side. Snakes are cold-blooded and they enjoy any source of warmth. It speeds up their metabolism and makes them feisty. As I began to move around, Fuzzy scrambled and got up. I got the impression he hadn’t really been asleep anyway, and I knew he didn’t like Lucille. It wasn’t a personality thing. It was just the natural distrust that dogs and many other animals have for snakes.

Most times, when I decided to get up, Lucille would slither off to her den and I would have a discussion with Fuzzy about why he couldn’t kill her. This morning, though, she hissed at me that she needed to talk. I looked at Fuzzy and said, “Give us a minute, okay?” He snuffed out of his big nostrils and set about his morning run, checking the mail as he did every morning, finding where other dogs had peed on posts and hydrants and adding his own notifications to the grassy bulletin boards that were all over doggy-land.

I unzipped the sleeping bag and sat up, cross-legged like an Indian and Lucille slid into my lap and curled up.

“What’s on your mind, Sugar?” I asked.

If she’d had eyelashes, or eyelids for that matter, she would have been batting them at me. “When you call me Sugar, what does that mean? What is ‘sugar?’ ”

I was hard-pressed for a minute for an explanation that would make sense to a snake, but I tried. “It’s something humans put on food to make it taste better. Sweeter.”

“Awww . . . that’s nice, baby. But there’s nothin’ tastes better than a nest of baby mice.”

That was as far as I wanted that conversation to go, and I said, “What did you want to talk about?”

She curled a little tighter against the chill air of the fall morning. It wouldn’t be long and she’d be hibernating in her den and I wouldn’t see her again until Spring. “Is it common for humans to hang each other up and make each other scream?”

~     ~     ~

Nathan Rollie’s little project was awake and needing the potty. He donned his black leather mask and got the impressive black Colt semi-automatic pistol. Sometimes he used knives to intimidate her, but the Colt worked best. Like many city-dwellers, she had an innate fear of guns. Throughout her childhood she’d had it drummed into her head: guns are BAD. Guns are DANGEROUS. If you see a gun, DON’T TOUCH IT! Tell an adult . . . and blah blah blah. Rollie had to agree, the Colt was a badass-looking weapon, and if you had to shoot someone, it was a very final solution to a temporary problem. And Anne Marie nearly pissed herself every time she saw it.

It had allowed him complete control over one of the prettiest little projects he’d ever captured. Actually, she was a little old for his tastes, being twenty and a college student, but she was very small and delicate and easy to handle. The Colt allowed him to do anything he wanted to her and she remained very docile throughout every instance of rape and sodomy, throughout all the binding and whipping and various types of torture, the hot candle wax, the tiny cuts inflicted with a scalpel, the biting. And she was a good screamer, and that was always a plus.


Fuzzy and I went to breakfast, right after I’d had my talk with Lucille. She had agreed to show me the house where the girl screamed in the cellar later in the day, after it warmed up some more. She wanted to be able to move quickly and the autumn chill made her sluggish. It would warm into the 70s later on. Fuzzy couldn’t resist dicking with me a little.

“You and the reptile have a nice chat?”

“Hell, yeah, we did. We talked about the upcoming election and the federal trade deficit and the price of gas going up. . . .”

“Aw, c’mon, yer just pullin’ my tail now. . . .”

“Yeah, well, just ‘cause you can’t talk to her doesn’t mean you should discount her intellect.”

“Say whaaat. . . . ?”

Turning serious, I said, “She told me about a house we need to check out later today. She says there’s a girl in there, hung up in the basement and screaming a lot.”

Fuzzy stopped so quickly I almost stumbled over him. “Well . . . shouldn’t

 . . .  shouldn’t we go check that out now?”

“Nope. Gotta wait ‘til it warms up some, so Lucille can move better.”

“But . . . but Boss, if somebody’s hurt . . .”

“I know, Champ, but we’re gonna hafta wait. This could be a deal where people are just pretending. . . .” I stalled right there. How do you explain bondage and sadomasochism to a dog?

Breakfast was at Barney’s on Lindel and Second. The place had been there for years, but it had always been too hoity-toity for the likes of me and Fuzzy. Then, two months’ prior, a new guy took it over. From what I’d heard, the old guy who’d had it before was very ill and the place was going to close and then the new guy came along. He had been a cook in the Army. That’s what he told everybody. It sounded more down-to-earth. In reality, he’d been a chef in officer’s clubs all over the world. He turned a fine omelet and baked some of the best pies I’d ever had.

He didn’t like a lot of homeless people hanging around, but he took a shine to Fuzzy and me. He was about six-four and his head was shaved completely bald. He was also very black and pretty jolly most of the time.

There was an outdoor dining area behind the restaurant and that was where we got fed. We didn’t come there more than once a week, but I got the feeling we could have come there every day if we wanted.

Barney’s was just the name of the restaurant, which he had opted not to change. His name was Josie R. Malcombe. I’d bugged him about his middle name to the point that he’d finally told me one morning. He’d come at me with a cleaver and backed me up against his steam table and said, “It’s Rosebud, okay? And if you tell anyone, you little asshole, I’ll fuckin’ kill yer ass.”

His secret was safe with me. . . .

Later that morning, Fuzzy and I returned to our place under the freeway and found Lucille sunning in her favorite spot. She was maybe twelve feet from the opening to her den, which was a bad spot in the concrete apron that had cracked and washed out years ago. I hated to think what it might look like back under there and how badly compromised the actual structure of the bridge might really be. She was two feet from shade and twelve feet from safety and up high enough that anyone just walking by would hardly notice her. She was also out of the line of vision of anyone passing above on the freeway.

As we approached, she raised up and flicked her tongue at us and I felt Fuzzy press against my leg. “Steady there, big boy,” I said and then to Lucille, “You ready to show us this house?” I heard a muffled, “Follow me,” and we headed north, under the freeway, past an old warehouse and a junkyard and then into a rundown residential neighborhood. Lucille followed the paths she was used to taking and I was hard-pressed to keep her in sight. She flowed like water, over and under obstacles, through fences and around junk and litter. More than once I lost sight of her and then she would raise herself enough I would again catch sight of her shiny black head.

We travelled seven blocks and wound up in an alley behind an especially nasty old house. Lucille stopped and I told Fuzzy to sit and I walked up and knelt down, making a show of tying my shoe. As far as anyone watching was concerned, I was just a guy walking his dog. The back lot of the house was weedy and overgrown and Lucille was down in the high grass, completely invisible unless you knew right where to look.

“That’s the place,” she said, “I went in through that hole just above the ground. . . .” I looked the foundation over and spotted a missing chunk of concrete and reckoned it was big enough for Lucille to slide through.

“You were inside, then.”

“Well, yeah,” she said, as if humans were just too dumb for color TV, “you wanna catch rats, ya gotta go where the rats are.”

“Does it look like anyone actually lives there?”

“Not really, but who am I to judge where humans wanna live?”

“Okay. Fuzzy and I will come back tonight and check it out. Thanks, girl.”

“No problem, Lover.” Ten seconds later, she was gone.

~     ~     ~

Back at our digs, Fuzzy and I discussed plans for that night. He wasn’t much of a strategist. His plan would be: You kick the door in, I’ll bite anyone that gives us any shit. Too many years of being a police K-9 dog. By the time the officers put the dog in, the strategy part is long over. I decided maybe we should talk to Julius Tambar before we jumped off the deep end. I hauled my seldom-used cell phone out of my stash of valuable crap and fired it up. An hour later, Julius rolled in, driving a shiny new Dodge Charger slick-top. He was in a suit and grinning like a possum in a gum tree.

“What the fuck? They promoted you?”

“Damn right, My Man. They know who’s doin’ the job and crushin’ crime.”

We high-fived and smacked each other on the back and did the buddy-buddy shit for a minute, then I asked, “What division they got ya workin’, bicycle theft?”

“No, no, no! Big Daddy is in crimes against persons. Robbery, assault, homicide and all the good shit.”

“Oh, man! Mr. Big-time detective! All right, Mr. Big-time, gotta lead for ya.”

He abruptly turned serious. “This gonna be a he-said, she-said, or a dog-said, cat-said, or what?”

“Well . . . it’s kind of a snake-said. . . .”

“Aw, fuck! Come on, Man! Snakes now?”

“Hey, remember when Lucille crawled across that banger’s foot and he shot his toe off? Gotta give her some credit, right?”

He sighed heavily and cast his eyes up to the heavens and said, “Why me, Lawd?”

“Hey, here’s the deal. Lucille says there’s this house over north, I’ll show it to ya, and she says there’s this girl in there, hung up in the basement and she spends a lotta time crying and screaming. I think you should check it out.”

“Uh-huh. Okay, now you have my attention. Show me.”

I had Fuzzy wait. I was sure Julius didn’t really want dog hair all over the seats in his new ride. We drove over into the neighborhood and looked the house over. It looked worse from the front than from the back. The windows were all boarded up and there were signs from the health department tacked up, warning the property was unsafe and had been condemned. Julius parked, and we walked up on it and stepped up on the front porch.

“There are tracks in the dust here,” I said, pointing them out.

“Could be kids. Or Jehovah’s Witnesses, for all we know.” There was a shiny padlock and hasp securing the front door. “I can’t go in, Robby. Not without a warrant, or at least probable cause to believe someone’s in danger in there. And, no, the word of a snake is not gonna get me a warrant. Judges don’t like cops bothering them for warrants based on the word of reptiles.”

“Gotcha. Well, I just wanted to touch base with ya, so you’d be aware.”

“You’d best not go bustin’ in there, either. Although if ya did, that would only be a property crime. Not my department. . . .”

Julius dropped me back at my place and Fuzzy and I had another conference. “We’ll hafta do this on our own, Buddy. We’ll wait until dark and then go check it out.”

“Was the girl there? Was she screaming?” Fuzzy was very anxious and he kept pacing around.

“I don’t know, Fuzz. We didn’t hear anything.”

“I should have been there. I would know if she was there. . . .”

“I know you would. Funny you should suddenly believe the word of the reptile.”

“I never said she was a liar. . . .” He finally curled up and tried to rest.

~     ~     ~

When Robby and detective Tambar were standing on the porch of the nasty old house, the owner, one Nathan Rollie, was standing quietly a few feet inside watching them and listening to their conversation. The health department warnings were bogus. He had managed to get his hands on a real condemnation form and create a facsimile on his computer, which he had then posted after boarding the place up. He had managed to fit the boards just badly enough that there were small cracks he could still see out of. The electricity and gas were still on and the padlock on the front door was his. If the detective had gone to the back, he wouldn’t have seen any padlock back there. Nathan had just put his little project down to sleep when the detective and the other guy had shown up. He routinely placed a gun to her head and made her take a sleeping pill, sometimes two, if he needed to go out for a while. It allowed her to get some real sleep and it helped keep her strength up. And if he made her take two pills, he could do anything he wanted without her even waking up. . . .

~     ~     ~

It was fall, and it was getting dark earlier. Soon, we’d have to do that time-change thing, which really doesn’t mean much when you live under a bridge. By seven-thirty, Fuzzy and I were on the move. I wanted to watch the place for a while and see if there was any activity. Fuzzy wanted to chew the doors off and be a four-legged hero.

When we arrived at the old house, I selected a place back at the alley, tucked in between three 55-gallon steel drums that were being used as trash cans. Along with the weeds that grew around them, they actually made pretty good cover. I was not surprised to see a small amount of light oozing out around some plywood that was fastened over a basement window. Fuzzy was doing that almost inaudible whine he gets into when he’s keyed up. At least there were no bugs.

We watched for a while and then Fuzzy said, “What? This is it? We just gonna sit around and get cold?” Half a heartbeat later, he gave a jump and abruptly backed up about four feet. Out of the weeds, Lucille joined us, moving through the weeds as silently as oil running through a tube.

“Ssssup, Robby?” She raised her head and propped herself on my knee.

“Hey, girl. Kinda cold for you out here. . . .”

“Tell me about it. I’m a little slow, but I know you can warm me up, anytime.”

From behind me, I heard Fuzzy say, “What bullshit.”

“Since you’re here, ya wanna go have a look for us and see what’s goin’ on in there?” I absently ran my hand along Lucille’s smooth scales.

“Mmmmm . . . give ya ‘bout a half hour ta quit that. . . .”

“You don’t mind, do ya?”

She slid out from under my hand and whispered, “Be right back. . . .”

She disappeared into the dark of the backyard. In a minute, I saw her, a darker stripe against the dark concrete of the foundation, and then she was gone.

Fuzzy moved up and shoved his nose up under my arm. I reached to pet him and he shied away, saying, “Other hand, okay? That one smells like snake.”

Inside five minutes, Lucille was back. “The girl is sleeping. In the basement. I didn’t see the guy anywhere around.”

I turned to Fuzzy and said, “Might be a good time to go in, if he’s not there.”

“Yesss! ‘Bout goddamn time.”

No point in stealth, I figured, so we just walked across the backyard and stepped up onto a ramshackle porch and then up to the back door. Before I kicked it, I tried the knob. It was unlocked. I pushed the door open and stepped inside, with Fuzzy right at the “heel” position. It was pretty dark, but I could see enough to tell we were in a kitchen and there was a doorway and stairs to our right, leading down. Just as I started to turn, the lights came on.

I was momentarily dazzled, then, as my eyes adjusted, I saw a smallish man wearing hospital scrubs. I saw three eyes, two dark eyes under heavy black eyebrows and another dark eye, which was the end of a .45 caliber pistol barrel.

“Good evening, Mr. Metcalf. Welcome to my home. Who’s your friend?”

Nothing to do now but try and keep him talking. Maybe we’d get a chance to jump him. “This is Fuzzy. How do you know my name? Have we met?”

“A number of times, actually, Mr. Metcalf. I work at the VA hospital. I’m a phlebotomist there. I’ve drawn your blood a time or two.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t remember. . . .”

“Nate. That’s all you would know from my nametag. Doesn’t matter now. You won’t live to tell anyone anything about me. Of course, since you brought that cop here, I’ll have to move, but that’s okay. I’ve been here too long, anyway.”

My mind was racing and I said, “You probably know why I’m here, then.”

“Yes, of course. You’ve figured out my hobby. I’d like to know how, though.”

“Let’s just say a little bird told me.”

“Okay, I’ll leave that for now. Later, you’ll tell me whatever I want to know. Right now, let’s go downstairs.”

“I don’t think so. . . .”

“Move! Or I’ll shoot the dog.”

“Don’t do it, Boss!” Fuzzy whined.

“Relax, Fuzz, it’ll be okay.”

I led the way down into what turned out to be a very well-equipped dungeon. Nate turned on some lights and the small woman asleep on a bunk to our left never moved. I had to look close to even tell she was breathing. She slept under a rough wool olive drab army blanket, pulled up to her neck. Her wrists were handcuffed to the bar at the top of the bunk.

Nate casually reached over and whisked the blanket away. She was entirely nude and slightly built. She was about five-foot-nothing and probably weighed in at ninety-five pounds. She had small red burn spots and small cuts all over her body, especially on her breasts and around her lower stomach and pubic area. I assumed the burns were either from cigarettes or hot candle wax.

“Pretty nice stuff, huh?” Nate leered at me and then put the blanket back.

“She’s drugged, I suppose. Probably pretty easy for you to get something from the hospital.”

“Oh, you have no idea. Step over there, please.” He waved the .45, indicating the opposite wall, where a pair of high-quality chrome shackles were bolted to the wall.

“Boss? I can take him. . . .”

“At ease, Fuzz, it’s okay.”

Fuzzy sat down and cocked his head to one side, put a sappy, doggy grin on his face and let his tongue flop out. He looked like the canine version of the village idiot. “Good boy,” I said.

“Put your back to the wall, please, and snap the shackles around your wrists.”

I hesitated for a moment, and Nate turned slightly and aimed at Fuzzy. He cocked the hammer on the big, black gun. “Quickly, please. Haven’t got all night, here. . . .”

Behind him, Lucille slid silently down the wall and under the bunk. Fuzzy almost gave the game away at that point. His head snapped to his right as he caught sight of the six feet of blackness, but then he covered quickly by scratching his right ear with his hind foot. I snapped the cold steel around my wrists.

“Thank you,” Nate said, and then, “I’ll be right back.”

As he headed up the stairs, Fuzzy said, “Boss, what’s she doin’ here?”

“Helping. Now be quiet. And be ready.”

Nate was back in a couple of minutes with a rather large blue cylinder in one hand and a wire contraption in the other. I recognized the paraphernalia immediately. It was a propane torch and a lighter. He smiled at me and turned the valve on and snapped the lighter once, twice, then on the third try, the propane lit off with a pop and produced a blue flame three inches long. The .45 was stuffed down the front of his pants, partially covered by the top of his scrubs and his gut.

“Now, Mr. Metcalf, I’m going to ask you some questions and you’re going to provide answers. If you don’t, I’ll be using this torch to move things along. You understand?”

“Sure, no problem. I don’t know why you feel like you’d need that thing.”

He just smiled and said, “First question. How did you find out about me?”

“From a friend.”

“A friend. And who might that be?”

“Her name is Lucille.”

“Lucille. Lucille. Doesn’t ring any bells. Should I know her?” He was still jovial, still smiling.

“I think you should. She’s been right here in your little funhouse on several occasions. . . .”

“Um, no, I don’t think so. I know the names of every little friend I’ve ever had here and I recall no one named Lucille. Now, tell me the truth!”

He advanced toward me with the torch and I could tell he was just dying to light me up and hear me scream. I said, “I never said she was one of your friends or victims. I said she’d been in here. She’s here right now.”

Nate started to turn and look around, but then he caught himself. He wasn’t going to be suckered into turning around. Just as he turned back, Lucille slid neatly up his pants leg and the shit went down.

By the time he could react, two feet of Lucille had already made it up almost to his knee and she was going for sack. He dropped the torch and started screaming and yanking at his scrubs. I looked at Fuzzy, who was up and quivering, and, just as Nate got the gun out, I said, “Now.”

Fuzzy shot into the air and grabbed Nate’s gun hand and bit down hard. The German Shepherd is known to have over two thousand pounds of jaw pressure. Nate’s hand popped every bit as loud as the propane torch and the gun tumbled to the floor. Almost as though they had practiced, Fuzzy brought the hand down, still locked in his best grip, and then Lucille bit Mr. Rollie somewhere on his genitalia.

Nate’s screams became screeches, and Fuzzy loosed his grip just long enough to re-attack, taking Nate by the throat, and savaging his major arteries. It was not pretty. Lucille slid out onto the floor and moved across, coming nearer to me.

“Anything else we can do?”

“We need to find a key to these shackles.” I said.

She turned and looked around at Nate’s body. “Pockets?”

“He’s wearing scrubs, they don’t have pockets.” I was eyeing the torch, which had rolled across the floor and was now under the bunk where Lucille had been hiding. Fuzzy had backed away from the body and was avoiding a large blood pool and looking pretty proud of himself.

“What does this key look like?” Lucille had made her way around the room and was moving toward a doorway to another room.

“It’s small, shiny with a circle on one end.” Seriously, how do you explain a key to a snake?

In a minute she was back, with a small key ring in her mouth. I shook my head in disbelief. It held four handcuff and leg shackle keys.

“Will any of these work?” She sounded as smug as any snake could.

“Hell, yes! Perfect.” She brought me the keys and raised herself up high enough to put them in my hand. With some fumbling, I was free in short order. I went directly to the girl and unlocked her cuffs and set about trying to wake her up. I turned to Fuzzy and said, “You did great, Big Guy. Now we need to find this girl’s clothes.”

He came over and sniffed her, then took off, straight up the stairs. In a minute he was back with a pair of jeans and a bra. Then he made three more trips, bringing a white t-shirt, panties, and shoes, and a purse.

The girl was sitting up and she was groggy. “What’s your name, Hon?”

She looked around uncertainly and then she saw Nate’s body on the floor. I saw her swallow and I thought for a minute she would scream, but then she just turned back to me and said, “Anne Marie.”

“Okay, Anne, hurry and get dressed. We gotta split, okay?”

“Who the hell are you?”

“We’re the good guys. C’mon, get dressed.”

She needed no more urging. In about a minute flat, she was up and back in her clothes. The torch was still hissing under the bunk and that gave me an idea. I turned to Fuzzy and said, “Take Anne Marie and go up and wait in the backyard, I’ll be just a minute.”

The secret to successful arson is to never use a petroleum or chemical accelerant. You set up your fire with a plausible source of combustion and adequate fuel to get the structure started. I rambled through the house and found a lot of dirty clothing and rags and paper. Piled it all on the bunk and dropped the hot flaming torch in the pile and hauled ass up the stairs.

Lucille had already slithered out the same hole she came in, earlier. She was in the backyard, waiting with Fuzzy and the girl.

“We need to get as far away as we can; this place is gonna burn like a sumbitch.”

Fuzzy and Anne Marie and I started walking south. Lucille stayed right where she was. “Hang on a minute,” I said, and ran back.

I found her lying in wait along the foundation.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Waiting for supper,” she said, “In a couple minutes, everything that lives in there is gonna come running out. Time to eat.”

I shook my head in wonder and disbelief and then said, “Well, be careful…and bon appétit, my friend.”

Kenneth James Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop from Wichita Kansas. He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and has since written four more novels, several novellas and a butt-load of short stories. His publications have been seen in Bewildering Stories, Tales of the Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones, Twisted Sister and Kudzu Monthly, to name a few. Recently, he had three stories accepted by John Thompson at Hardboiled, for two anthologies that were published in April of 2014, The Undead War and Hardboiled, both available from Dead Guns Press.

He also has four books up in Kindle format, for sale on Amazon.com: Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction. One of his novellas, Surviving Montezuma, is being serialized by Anne Stickel at Black Petals.

Having turned 72 last June, he still rides his big Harley every day that weather permits and is now completely retired. He volunteers as a blood services driver for the American Red Cross and he is also a member of the American Legion Riders and the Kansas Patriot Guard.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2017