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Gun Buck Before Dawn-Fiction by j. brooke
Grunt-Fiction by Kevin Z. Garvey
A Stab in the Dark-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Run, Robby, Run, Part 2-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Surprise Me-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Here They Come-Captain Jack, Part 2-Fiction by Michael S. Stewart
Evolution=Crime-Fiction by Calvin Demmer
Bike Killer-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Home on the Range-Fiction by Liz McAdams
Tickets to Heaven-Fiction by Paul Heatley
Free-Flash Fiction by Andrew J. Hogan
I Hate Dave Matthews-Flash Fiction by Carolyn Smuts
The Journey-Flash Fiction by Oliver Lodge
Running-Poem by Meg Baird
in your shoes-Poem by J. J. Campbell
At Midnight-Poem by Sergio Ortiz
Roadkill-Poem by Rachel Doherty
Skinny Dendrix-Poem by Joe Balaz
poet-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Shy Dryad-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Someone Else's Cat-Poem by John Doyle
Sundays-Poem by John Doyle
Farewell, Bibi-Poem by David Spicer
Rolling Down the Highway...-Poem by David Spicer
No One Ever Asked Winslow This-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
The Adirondack Guide-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
Why Back to Gloucester, Boys?-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
Cartoons by Cartwright
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

Run, Robby, Run

Kenneth James Crist

Part 2


Pappy Ray and Tommy Beans got a call on Pappy Ray’s cell phone from the dealer, and he was not happy.

“I just got word that a white dude and a German Shepherd dog got picked up by the Feds in San Antonio. Where the fuck you guys at?”

“We not that far away,” Tommy answered. When the phone had beeped, Pappy had handed it to him. One of Pappy’s pet peeves was fuck-heads that talked on phones while they were driving. “We just comin’ outta Austin on I-35.”

“Well, kick it up, muthafuckahs, the name a the place is the Traveler’s Rest, and it’s right on the highway. Call me!”

Tommy Beans told Pappy Ray the news and the antique titty-pink Imperial kicked its fuel consumption up from its normal ten miles to the gallon to eight. Pappy figured his badge and retirement card and a tsunami of bullshit would take care of any trooper that might stop him.


Fuzzy looked out the window of the Gulfstream for about ten minutes, then he curled up in his seat and didn’t bother looking out again. One of the agents asked me, “Is your dog nervous about flying?”

“First of all,” I said, “he’s not my dog. We’re friends, but nobody owns Fuzzy. Second, he’s not any more nervous than if he was in a car or a boat, but when you’ve seen one section of Texas from thirty thousand feet, you’ve pretty much seen it all. Fuzzy and I believe you should eat when you can, because the next meal is never certain and you should sleep when you can, because you may not get another chance for a while.” With that, I kicked my seat back and took a nap, one hand resting on the dog that wasn’t mine.


In San Antonio, an hour later, the pink Imperial pulled into the lot at Traveler’s Rest and Pappy Ray and Tommy Beans got out. Pappy was pulling his slacks out of the crack of his ass as they walked toward the office.

In unit #34, Alice Ann Ackerman picked up the phone, dialed nine and then another ten digits. After a moment she said, “This is Ackerman. The two idiots in the Imperial just showed up. I’ll be making contact. Start me a backup.” She hung up the phone, pulled on her cowboy boots and unbuttoned another button on her blouse, grabbed her keys and stepped out, walking toward the office.

When she walked in, both the big dude and the little faggot came to attention like bird dogs on a scent. Evidently, they weren’t as gay or bi as they thought. She swung her ass a little more as she walked across to the cooler at one end of the office and pulled out a bottle of water, then came back to the counter and handed the clerk two bucks. She smiled at the two idiots and batted her eyelashes and swung back out.

They watched her all the way down to #34, then went back to questioning the clerk. In another forty seconds, they learned from the clerk that Metcalf had spent a goodly amount of time in #34 with the cowgirl chick and they headed down there. Knocked on the door.

Just as the door was opened, a voice behind them said, “Step right on in, gentlemen.” Pappy Ray glanced over his shoulder and saw a white guy in chinos and a leather jacket. He was holding a Glock 9mm with a suppressor and it was pointed at Tommy Beans’ neck. Pappy said, “Oh shit!” and the blonde cowgirl produced a silenced weapon of her own.

Pappy and Tommy stepped into the room and Pappy said, “What? What do you want?”

Alice said, “Nothing,” and shot him in the heart. He fell back across the bed. Tommy stared for one second and then turned to bolt for the door. He took a round from the other agent’s Glock through his forehead. Alice dug around in Tommy’s pockets and found the keys to the Imperial. Tossed them to the other agent and said, “Go get that pink piece of shit and back it up here.”

Ten minutes later, Pappy and Tommy were in the Imperial’s trunk and the agents were headed south, she in her Jeep, and him driving ol’ pinkie. They would meet a contact at the border, at Hidalgo, who would take the Imperial, dispose of the bodies and keep the car. It would soon be repainted and sold, probably to some Mexican politician or drug lord.


We landed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at about one in the afternoon. Lunch on the plane had been ham and cheese sandwiches and bottled water. I ate one sandwich and Fuzzy ate three.

When we stepped off the plane, a black limo with red and blue lights in the grille was waiting for us. We were ushered into the back, along with one agent, and the other sat up front. We went out a side gate and onto a minor service road, then onto a highway and things sped up.

By my watch, it was eighteen minutes later when we pulled into Fort Meade, Maryland. As we pulled in past the military at the gate, the agent in front turned around and asked, “Does Fuzzy normally stay in a kennel?”

“No, he sleeps with me. We live under a bridge. And by the way, whenever it’s convenient for you guys, I’d like all my stuff back that you took. That’s all personal property. I especially need my meds.”

“What are you being treated for?”

“I’m bipolar and I have PTSD. I also have pain meds for when my headaches come.”

“Do you get those often?”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No need to be hostile. I’ll get it taken care of.”


“Later. Right now we have a meeting.”


~   ~   ~   ~   ~

          Fuzzy was a bit nervous in the elevator. I could never remember us  using one before. They had elevators at the VA hospital, but Fuzzy always waited for me outside when we went there.

We had passed through security quickly and I had been issued a visitor’s badge. When we got on the elevator, it was crowded, and it made several stops before we got where we were going.

After the first stop, Fuzzy asked, “How do they do that, Boss?”

“Do what, Fuzz?”

“Change everything so quick. The doors close, the doors open, and everything is different.”

I patiently explained to him that the room we were in was moving down and we were seeing each successive floor as the doors opened. When we reached the proper floor, the agents stepped out first, then Fuzzy, then me. “How far underground are we?” I asked.

The older of the two agents smiled and said, “That’s classified.”

We walked forty feet down a plain poured concrete hall. The walls were a light green, the ceiling suspended white tile, the lighting fluorescent. The agent rapped on a door and went in, stepping aside to allow the rest of us in.

It was a small conference room containing a table large enough to seat eight people. There was one man in the room. He was short and partially bald and he was wearing an off-the-rack suit and a tie with a gravy stain. He stood and reached across the table to shake my hand and waved me to a seat. He introduced himself as Clyde Jensen and said he was the project director.

“So, now I’m a project?” I didn’t care for where this was going.

“More correctly,” he said, “your extraordinary ability with animals is the project. We will study what you do and how you do it and perhaps we will find ways to replicate the effect.”

“And why, exactly, would you want to be like me? Do you realize what it’s like to wake up in the morning to what you would perceive as birds chattering and be able to understand everything they say to each other? Bird talk gets to be boring as shit after about five minutes. And have you ever had a rat scoot around a corner and tell you your shoe’s untied?” Mr. Jensen’s smile was beginning to fade a bit.

“Don’t get me wrong, sir, I love the relationship I have with Fuzzy, and I even have a friend who’s a snake and we get along fine. But until I learned to control this, it very nearly drove me bat-shit crazy. I really wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

“Well, Mr. Metcalf, why don’t you just relax and work with us a while and we’ll see where it goes, okay?”

“So, we’re going to be held here against our will for however long this takes. Is that it?”

“In the interest of national security, Mr. Metcalf, I’m afraid that’s how it has to be.”

“I couldn’t just come back a couple times a week and meet with you guys and work on this ‘project?’ ”

“Afraid not, Mr. Metcalf. We’ve already had to chase you more than halfway across the country, and people have died for this. Now that we have taken an interest, there will be people from other countries interested, too.”

“Wait, what—people have died? Who? Who has died over this?”

“Doesn’t concern you, Robby. Mr. Metcalf.”

“Wait. There was a woman, back at that motel in San Antonio . . . did you fuckers kill her, just because I—”

“No, Mr. Metcalf, Alice Ackerman is fine.”

“So you know her name. You checked her out. You people are amazing! I can’t believe this shit. . . .”

“Alice Ann Ackerman is one of ours, Mr. Metcalf. Not her real name, by the way.”

“She’s . . . what, she’s an agent? You had her move on me, and all that was part of your planning?”

“She did . . . whatever she did, in order to keep you there, until other agents could arrive. We don’t know what all that involved and we don’t care. Our agents often improvise and use tactics that are . . . shall we say, convenient to the moment.”

“Convenient to the moment? Well, fuck!” I was beyond dumbfounded.

“You can discuss that with her if you like. She’s on her way here now. You’ll see her in the morning. For tonight, I’d advise you to get some sleep.”

“What about Fuzzy?”

“He’ll bunk with you, of course. Whenever he needs to . . . go out . . . an agent will take him out and walk him. He’ll be fine.”

With that, the project director got up and left. The agents walked me to my new home, which was on the same floor, a few hundred feet from the conference room.

When we got there, we found what looked exactly like thousands of motel rooms across the country. There were two double beds, a table and chairs, a sofa and a nice bathroom. All of my property was parked on one of the beds. I dug through it and found my cell phone and turned it on. No signal. Probably jammed or blacked out for the entire building.

There was a phone on the nightstand between the beds, but there was no keypad on it. I assumed it went to a switchboard somewhere in the complex. I wondered if there was room service.

I spread the sleeping bag on the floor, but Fuzzy said, “Nope. Think I’ll take this other bed, since you won’t be needing it.” He jumped up and made himself comfortable. I lay down on the other bed and stared at the ceiling for a while, then I picked up the phone.

There was an immediate answer. A low, feminine voice said, “Yes?”

“Um . . . this is Robby Metcalf in . . . um . . .”

“I know who you are, Sir, and I know where you are. What can I help you with?”

“I was thinking about some supper and my dog needs to go out and . . . do his business.”

“An agent will be right there, Mr. Metcalf.”

I hung up and in about thirty seconds, there was a knock, and an agent entered the room. He had a leash in one hand and a restaurant menu in the other.

Fuzzy looked at the leash being held by a stranger and said, “Ahhh, Boss . . .”

“Let the man walk you, Fuzz. It’ll be okay. I’ll be right here when you get back.” He snorted and stood while the agent hooked up the leash to his collar.

He turned and gave me The Look, and I said, “Don’t piss on the man’s foot, Fuzzy. Don’t even think about doing that.”

He sighed, and as they walked out, I heard him say, “What. Ever.”


~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Fourteen blocks from Robby’s old home at the 9th Street bridge, eleven agents of the NSA and DEA assembled a half block from Levi Espinoza’s house. They had already had their final briefing and the shooters had been designated, as had the man with the door-knocker, the interpreter, the video guy and all the rest.

They moved on the house at four in the morning, the time normal people are most vulnerable. Once they stepped into the yard, radio and verbal silence were strictly enforced, hand signals being the rule. There were no lookouts posted, the dealer being closed for the night.

At the front door, the team leader held up one hand, five fingers extended, then four, then three, then two and finally one. When his last finger dropped, the ram guy swung the door-knocker and, with one stroke, took the door completely down. Eleven guys charged through the door, screaming “Federal Agents! Search Warrant! On the floor! On the floor! Get down!”

Levi Espinoza met his end as he came up out of a deep sleep and reached for a Beretta 92F that was laying on the nightstand. The designated shooter said, “Perfect” under his breath and shot Espinoza in the head, killing him so quickly, he never knew for sure what was going on.

The rest of the raid was routine. Drugs and weapons were seized, lab people went over the house top to bottom, and the house was sealed.

Levi Espinoza took his last ride in the coroner’s wagon as the sun was coming up.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

They started me with rats. It was the following morning, and they already had seen enough of my communications skills with Fuzzy. They wanted to see more. Alice Ann Ackerman was the agent who took me to a lab on a different level, again, classified, and introduced me to a PhD named Justin Phillips.

She looked very different in a black suit and gray silk shirt and smart, low-heeled shoes. As we left my quarters, I said, “Agent Ackerman, nice to see you again.”

“Not as nice as the last time, though, right?” She grinned at me, flashing those pale blue, icy eyes at me.

“No, I’m sure this won’t be nearly as pleasant.”

“Well, don’t worry, pal. They won’t saw the top of your skull off. I don’t think. . . .” There was that grin again.

Justin Phillips was into all kinds of things, it seemed: behavioral science, abnormal psychology, nonverbal communications, etc. He would be studying me and attempting to figure out how I did what I did. I was looking forward to him giving up in despair and being able to say, “Told ya so.”

We walked into a lab room with three cages sitting on a table. Justin said, “Let me introduce you, Mr. Metcalf, this is . . .” I held my hand up and stopped him.

“Don’t tell me anything. Let them tell me.” Inside each cage was a standard white lab rat, a common mutation of the Norway rat, known in the scientific community as Rattus Norvegicus.

I slid one cage to the side and hopped up and sat on the table between it and the other two cages. I sat cross-legged and got comfortable. I started talking to the rats.

“Hi ladies. Gentlemen. I’m Robby. Who are you?”

“Fuck off, Man.” This was from the male. It was clear he had an attitude.

“Yeah, fuck. Off.” This was the smaller female. Kind of an attitude there, too. The larger female said, “I’m June. He’s Syd and she’s Lulu. The hell you want? Gonna stick more needles in our ass?”

“Nope. I’m not the needle type. I’m here just to talk to ya and see how yer doin’.”

The male stopped pacing and came to the wire and said, “Would you like it if you lived in this thing and in this place and they stuck ya alla time?”

“Nope. I don’t think I’d like that at all. I’d spring ya if I could, but I’m a prisoner here, too.”

“For real?” This was the smaller female, Lulu. “They stickin’ stuff in ya that makes ya sick, too?” Her whiskers were twitching in indignation.

“Not so far, but it could happen any time.”

Syd said, “You smell like dog, Dude.”

“Yeah, that’s my friend, Fuzzy. I’m afraid he wouldn’t like you, either.”

“Is he a big dog?”

“Yeah, pretty big. . . .”

“Time,” Justin said. “Tell me what you’ve learned so far.”

“That one is Syd and he has an attitude. That one is Lulu and she’s the friendliest. This one here is June and she talked to me first. They don’t like it here because you keep sticking needles in them and making them sick.” I turned and looked at Justin, and his mouth was hanging open. It was gratifying to see. Finally, his mouth snapped shut and he said, “How do you do that?” There was a sense of wonder and mystery in his voice.

“I really wish I knew,” I said, “I guess you could try getting blown up in a Humvee. This shit started right after I got my Purple Heart, and they let me outta the hospital.”

“We’ll need to get some X-rays and an EEG for starters. . . .” he said, and then he seemed to get lost in his own thoughts.

I wandered the lab a bit and found a lot more rats. Some were friendly, and some were not. Sort of like people. I found a couple guinea pigs, but all they wanted to talk about was food. I wandered on.

In a few minutes, Alice came into the lab and said, “I’m supposed to escort you over to the clinic. I think they’re ready to look inside your head.” She grinned at me evilly and said, “Maybe this is where they open up your skull.”

We started down a long hallway and I said, “You just love fuckin’ with me, don’tcha?”

“As a matter of fact . . .” She turned and reached up and slid both arms up around my neck and pushed me back against the wall. She kissed me long and deeply and when we broke apart, she said, “I’ve been assigned to keep you happy. I think they’re afraid you’ll figure out how to get away or cause an animal riot. They want me to keep you content.”

“I don’t think you’ll have any problem doin’ that,” I said.

“Good. I’ll see you at dinner tonight, then.” She reached and opened a door.

There were four people inside and an X-ray table, plus an MRI machine. The tech said, “We’ll need all metal objects off. Step in there and change into this gown, please, and leave all your clothing in one of the lockers.”

I didn’t argue. That would come later, when the shit started to get serious. I wanted them to remember I’d been cooperative all along, until it got stupid. Then I’d raise hell. Right now was too early to start screaming about my rights and all that.

When I got back from X-ray and all the other indignities, Fuzzy was all rested and ready to go out and take on the world. When I told him he might as well get used to being an inside dog for a while, he wasn’t happy with that. While I was trying to explain the situation, there was a knock on the door and Alice Ann stepped in. She was still in her professional clothes and she said, “Told you I’d see you at dinner. Are you ready?”

“Only if Fuzzy gets to come along. He’s restless and bored in here.”

She reached down to pet him and said, “Okay. Done deal. We’re gonna get outta here for a while.”

She had a typical government set of wheels. It was a black Ford Explorer with hidden red and blue lights built in. She drove and Fuzzy had the backseat all to himself. “Whataya think, boys? Burger night?” She smiled at us, as we cleared the gate and headed out into Maryland.

I looked back at Fuzzy and he was practically drooling. “I think that’ll work. But how do you get to just take us off the base? What if we tried to escape?”

She nodded her head toward her side mirror. “Another carload of agents right behind us. We’re not really alone.”

“Dang. I was hopin’ for some alone time.”

“Later, maybe. I’ve been designated as your handler.”

“Handler? Like a dog has a handler?” I glanced in the backseat and said, “No offense, Fuzz.”

“None taken, Boss.”

“Somebody has to be responsible for you. And a handler gets a lotta leeway. Other agents know what’s goin’ on, but they keep their yaps shut, because it may be them next and they like to have their leeway, too.”

Changing the subject, I said, “How long until the dweebs decide they wanna take my head apart?”

“Won’t happen, Robby. They know that whatever causes you to be able to do what you do, it could be ruined by messing around in there. You’re pretty safe.”

“Well, that’s good to know.”

“Actually, I expect whenever they get done with their little tests, they’re gonna offer you a job.”

While I thought about that, she found a fast-food joint and pulled in through the drive-through. “How much can Fuzzy put away?” She asked.

“Oh, trust me, you do not wanna know. When it comes down to burgers, he’s the world’s champ. He will make himself sick. Get him two triples plain and he’ll still be beggin’ fries from us.”

I dug in my pocket and pulled out two twenties. She said, “Let Uncle Sam get this, Robby.”

“Nope. It’s dope dealer money. Might as well let them buy . . .”

“Okay. That being the case, we’ll let the dead dealer buy dinner.”

“Dead? What happened?”

“The NSA and the DEA happened to the boy. There was a raid and he went for a weapon, and surprise, surprise, he got shot. Means there’s nobody gonna be lookin for ya, now.”

We got our food and Fuzzy was finished in about thirty seconds. Alice and I took our time, chucking the occasional French fry into the back. Finally, she asked, “Does it bother you? That the dealer died? Cause he’s not the only one.”

“No. You deal that poison and fuck up other people’s lives, ya deserve whatever ya get.” I was pretty casual and would never mention some things that had happened to dealers before, because of me.

Later, when we got back to the base, an agent took Fuzzy out for his evening stroll, and Alice and I spent the night together. Fuzzy still had command of the other bed.

There followed three more days of testing and experiments, after which I was taken “upstairs” to an office in the middle of the complex, and I was “put on retainer.” It was their way of keeping track of me, and keeping me handy for when they needed my services.

I was given a salary and an apartment less than three blocks from my bridge and a new cell phone to replace my old one. It was fancier and did a lot of shit I’d never use. I was sure it would be monitored at all times. They also offered a car, but I turned it down. Said maybe later. After we saw how things went for me. The apartment came furnished. All I needed was a key.

The evening of the day they turned me loose, I took a walk up to the bridge and sat down and waited until Lucille finally came out to talk.

I explained to her that I wouldn’t be living at the bridge anymore and told her where she could find me. I even offered to let her stay at my place. She asked if I had rats and I said I didn’t think so.

She slid off my lap and said, “Come by any time, Darlin. I’ll be right here. You’re a good friend, Robby. Be careful out there . . .”

Then she was gone, back into a hole under a freeway overpass.

The walk home seemed twice as long.


Part 3 in the next issue of Yellow Mama…

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 73 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