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Hey, Aunt Libby-Poem by Alex Salinas
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Married Life-Poem by Michael Keshigian
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Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Henry Stanton © 2019



by Michael Stewart


Blood lined my mouth when I came to, lips crusted together. I took in air through one nostril, slow. Musty, stale air hit me. Then I remembered and sat still as a church-mouse.

Slumped over in a chair, hands tied behind me, I cracked my eyelid. The other swollen shut.

“---why would he come here and ask for a job?” a voice with a lisp said, I recognized it as Lucas Ingersoll. The man I came to see about a job.

Let me back up a bit and set the stage. About a week ago, a US Marshall, Agent Allen, set me up with false credentials as the prior manager of the Boddington mine in West Australia. This was to get me in, hired, so I could glean as much information about the murder of Lucas’s brother, Angus. Who Agent Allen liked for the murder.

Can’t say I really had a choice in the matter, it was either play along or let Frank, my father-in-law take my daughter from me in a court system he owned, lock stock and barrel.

You see, it was because of Frank the US Marshall came to know about me.

Good ‘ol dad-in-law. Frank Carmine. Never liked me, and really began to hate me when his daughter, love-of-my-life, died in a car accident after an argument I had with her.  She stormed out of the house and I watched her red mustang peel gravel down the driveway. Last time I saw her alive.

A mixture of emotion wells up inside me every time I think of her.

Love, regret, pain.

Distant voices came into focus. I must have faded again.

I heard a clock ticking; my one nostril began to whistle. And I felt eyes on me. Each tick stretched into eternity. Then a second voice:

“Information, I ‘spect.”  A raspy-smokers’ voice.

“He ain’t from Boddington,” Lucas said, “I met the manager, not even a year ago,” (tick—, tick—), “—and that ain’t him.”

 “No, I know who this is— and he didn’t come here alone, I guaran-fuckin-tee that,” the raspy smokers-voice again, I heard it before. “He’s got two big Samoan boyfriends, they cleaned the bar out the other night.”

“Yeah?” Lucas said, “Well, then, that is him! Frank told me he’d be with two big Samoans.” I heard panic in his voice, then footsteps. I peeked through my good eye and saw him staring out a big window, nervous. His eyes squinting. Trying to pierce the darkness outside.

A laugh bubbled up in me, but I sat still as roadkill.

He was right. I wasn’t alone. Henry was out there, somewhere, looking through his scope, drawing a bead on this asshole’s head, no doubt.

Lucas moved to the side of the window, his head on a swivel.

Good, I want him nervous. He’ll talk more that way, he’ll be a regular Chatty-Kathy.

“You’re sure that’s him?” raspy-smoker said.

“Oh yeah, that’s Frank’s son-in-law, for sure, Captain Jack. Frank sent me a picture,” his footsteps came near. “Couldn’t miss that face, could you?”

I kept my good eyelid shut.

Footsteps fell in front of me.

I could imagine him holding up the picture next to my swollen, bloody face.

I could feel their eyes on me. Palpable. Poking and prodding at me.

 “So—Frank hates his son-in-law that much?”  Raspy said with a girlish giggle.

 “Yeah, guess that’s what you get for marrying his daughter,” Lucas said, “But, none of my business—none of my business—Frank just wants his granddaughter back, and this guy’s keeping it from happening. Plus, once Rusty gets here and finds more evidence on him linking him to the murder of Angus, it’s a two-fer!”

“But, she’s this guy’s daughter, right?”

“Look dumb-shit, I’m only going to tell you one more time. He’s Frank’s son-in-law, use to be married to Louisa, Frank’s daughter, she’s dead now, Frank got custody because he’s Frank and Frank owns every fuckin’ judge in the L.A. area, probably most of California, the granddaughter ran away from Frank with daddy here, and he wants her back” he spat, “anyway, who fuckin’ cares?! I don’t! Frank gave us a heads up he was coming our way and to keep a look out, who the hell thought he’d come callin’ and apply for your job?!”

“One more reason for me to hate this guy,” Raspy-voice took a couple steps closer.

“Easy—easy—,   all we have to do is hand him over to the cops, he takes the rap for killing Angus and Frank gets his granddaughter back.  And our slate is wiped clean!”

There it is! A bolt of excitement ran through me and I struggled to sit still. Silence hung in the air like a steam-locomotive. Deafening. Electricity surged in every cell in my body.

I felt their eyes on me again. I played possum, breathing slow, whistling through my one nostril. My heart grew in my chest.

This is what I knew, folks. Lucas’s brother, Angus, had been murdered. Shot once in the head seven months ago. Left stiff as a board by the roadside.

Agent Allen, head of the investigation, sought an interview with me to help build a case into Frank’s involvement with the murder after Frank tried to pin it on me.

 Agent Allen told me during our interview:

 ‘Frank called the Marshalls office in Anchorage, ya know? When I hung up the phone, I had to ask myself, why would Frank interject himself into a murder investigation of a junior business partner?  I mean, Angus wasn’t worth his time.  He bankrolled him five years ago to get the mine going, ya know? Loan-sharked him ‘cause the guy couldn’t get a decent loan, probably. But Frank owns half the West Coast, what does he care about the owner of a startup mining operation, even if he does have a business tie. I mean it’s pretty small potatoes for a guy like Frank, ya know? Then it dawned on me. Why point a finger at his son-in-law? I don’t know, maybe to get you out of the way? A pure hatred for you? I don’t know.

‘But, once I verified you were in Mexico at the time of the Ingersoll murder, I knew he must be involved. Just—too fishy, ya know?  I’d like to know what he knows, and maybe you can help.”

So, he talked me into giving Lucas a call for a job interview and wearing the wire. I must admit, it wasn’t hard to talk me into it. If the US Government ends up filing charges against Frank, it’ll be a lot harder for him to gain custody of Karissa.

‘The risk is great, ya know,’ Agent Allen explained, ‘but we could get lucky. They could spill evidence of Franks involvement, and at the very least, he could be tied up for years in litigation making him ineligible for stewardship to gain custody of your daughter, and you’ll be free to go wherever you want.’

There it was, my weakness. A fairytale life. Left alone to raise my daughter.  And I said, ‘yes.’

So here I sit with a wire irritating my gonads and these two mooks, Lucas Ingersoll, the dead man’s brother and new sole owner of the Ingersoll Gold Mine and his stooge, Mr. Raspy-smoker voice bearing down on me like I ran their dog over when they were ten.

 I’d been wacked over the head while answering a question during the job interview. Lights out. Then kicked or punched a few more times judging by the blood in my mouth and puffy soreness on my face.

 “Is he Mafia?” raspy voice said, “like Frank?”

“This guy?”


“Maybe—I don’t know—I think so—but I don’t know for sure,” (he lisped and spat the more excited he became), “Frank has connections all over the west coast, shit, all over the world….  My brother never should have asked him for money, but we needed the seed money and no one else was going to give it to us— wasn’t my idea, no sir, but it’s done, and he’s dead leaving me with the debt. But we could wipe all that clean right fuckin’ now and be sitting on the richest gold vein in Alaska!”

He paced back and forth. I felt his stare and didn’t dare move. I barely drew a breath. They must have been looking at me for a while because no one spoke, not a sound, nothing disturbed the stillness except the clock ticking and a Pine Grosbeak outside in the still night. A singular bird song that seemed oddly peaceful and surreal for the moment.


Tick. That damn clock.

“Why did this son-of-a-bitch call and ask for an interview? That’s what I can’t figure.” Lucas spat.


“Do you think he’s awake?” raspy said.

“Check and see.”

Footsteps coming towards me, I heard the crackle of an electrical device with voltage.

I hitched a breath and opened my good eye.  There was raspy voice standing over me with a taser, sparks arching.

“Thought so,” he said and jabbed it into my chest.




Two days before, we walked up to the wood door of the Board of Trade Saloon off First Street in Nome, Alaska.

 Henry, the Tongan, swung the door open and we walked in, the music amplified. The inside bustled and had a heady beer smell. Old décor, right out of last century. Old pictures lined the walls and an ancient wood floor was littered with equally old wood tables and chairs. Miners, fishermen, games-men and locals. I expected to see Jack London wander through with a prospector’s pack on. People were smoking openly at the bar. Guess they hadn’t heard about the cancer scare. Local alcoholics parked at the counter. I felt instant shame for bringing Karissa and glanced at her, she smiled back and squeezed my hand, sensing my thoughts.

Agent Allen sat by the billiard tables. He stood and waved when he saw us.

He looked at Sam, then Henry, noting their size, and mass of black hair framing dark, Polynesian features.

“No beef, bruddah?” Sam smiled and stuck out his massive paw. Agent Allen eyed the Tongans with curiosity, took Sam’s hand and shook firmly.

“No, not at all.” Agent Allen said, taking Henry’s hand next.

 “This is my daughter, Karissa,” I said.

“Pleasure,” the agent said. She acted shy and shook his hand.

Karissa and I scoot into the booth and the Tongans grabbed chairs, hoisting their massive legs over the top before plopping down in unison. Agent Allen sat opposite in the booth.

“First drinks on me,” I said pointing to the cut above the agent’s eye. It looked puffy and the stitches were tight and angry and any man with a cut like that deserved a drink.

“Oh—,” his fingertips touched the stitches and his face twitched, “little accident with someone I was trying to arrest. Turns out he didn’t want to be arrested.

 “Look, Daniel—can I call you Captain Jack? It seems everyone else does.”


“I’m glad you came, it shows character.” He nodded. “I deal with—,” throwing his hands up, rolling his eyes, “with so many scumbags. It’s refreshing to find someone that says he’s going to do something and does it”

 He was serious.

 I laughed, embarrassed.

“Thanks, appreciate it.”

“Right, right,” his eyes were searching the table, gathering thoughts. “I was able to corroborate your story— ‘bout being in Mexico at the time of Mr. Ingersoll’s death. We were able to get ahold of the sheriff down there. Seems you made quite an impression on him.” He took out a note-pad and pencil and proceeded to go over his plan for me to wear the wire on a job interview. And he drew a small map of the office at the gold mine. Karissa ran off to the bathroom and I watched to make sure she made it.

“So, when I spoke with you again and you told me Frank wanted you to try and get a job at the Ingersoll mine and find out something about the murder of Angus, I near shit myself!” He looked around embarrassed, then relieved when he realized Karissa had left for the restroom.

“I thought, okayokay—this is great! We could use that, and help you get in there and gather information.”

I nodded.

He told me one of his deputies would be outside the office trailer listening to everything and loaded for bear.

“Good, makes me feel safe, but I think I’d like Henry in the tree line with his M40.” I said, pointing to his makeshift map. I explained he was in Afghanistan for two years, 9 months at a stretch, wreaking havoc on the Taliban, until the Marines had to send him back to the states, under his protest.

The waitress, a pretty twenty-something redhead with tattoo sleeves had our drinks on a tray. She put them down in front of us one at a time. A large iced tea for Karissa.

“Anything else?” She bounced, involuntarily while talking.  She caught my eye and smiled.

The waitress lingered, so I smiled and she lit up and shuffled backwards, whirled and almost walked into another waitress, walked to her station, looking back once more. 

Agent Allen had been talking, his words were coming back into focus.

“—grant it. Agent Mycroft won’t be with you when you go in. But he’ll be somewhere, close. And he’ll be listening, so, he won’t have to wonder what’s going on. Understood?”

I nodded ‘yes’.

That was when the fight broke out.



“Did’ja shit yourself Cap’n Jack?” raspy voice said through a yellow toothy grin. “I recognize ya—you were in the bar the other night—Lauree served ya drinks and you leered at her like a perverted sailor on shore leave. And your two sasquatch looking Samoans busted up my men! You remember dat?”

“They’re Tongans, you moron…”

He jabbed the tazer in my ribs again.

“You son-of-bitch!” I spat and kicked out but missed.


He was laughing and dancing around the trailer. Doing a jig like a drunken hillbilly.

“Lauree called me last night for a date, I told her to bring her onesie for a sleep over.” I barely had the breath to get the words out. “She said she sleeps in the nude. Bet you didn’t know that.”

He stopped and came at me again when Lucas stopped him with a hand to his chest.

“Whoa, Billy, stop! Hold up—Frank ‘aint going to like this. All he wanted us to do was hand him over to the cops, they have enough evidence to put him away for Angus’ murder.”

“What evidence?!” I wheezed, catching my breath.

“Wouldn’t you like to know, piece of shit!” Raspy Bill was getting animated and personal. “They’ve got the murder weapon already, a .45, with your prints on it—well, they’re not on there yet, but they will be.” He laughed with a high pitch. “And, oh! Looky here, you got his credit cards on ya!”

He slipped the cards in my breast pocket.

“So, who killed him?” I gasped.

“We did, asshole!” Raspy said.

“Damnit! Bill! Shutup!”

“Aww, come on, Lucas! What does it matter now? What’s he gonna do? Sheriff Rusty’s on our payroll! He can’t do nuthin’. No one’ll believe him anyway!” He kept running at the mouth, couldn’t stop if he wanted to, he was so proud of himself. “We caught a huge vein of gold, and Angus wanted to do it legitimate.  No one can touch us now!”

“What does that mean?”

“Just shut-up Bill! He don’t need to know!” Lucas picked up the phone. “I’m calling Rusty, now.”

Lucas spoke on the phone, looked out the window. First left, then right.

“Meaning, dumb-ass—,” Raspy couldn’t help himself, “We found a buyer for our gold that’s going to give us a much better price than local refineries. A buyer down south of the border, someone that sells an illegal substance for a living—matter o’ fact. They’ll buy our gold for more than the going rate, then they exchange it anywhere in the world. It’s non-traceable, a lot more liquid and we get to claim a loss for tax purposes ‘cause we don’t report it! Ha! A win-win asshole--- Enjoy your stay in prison while bubba’s soapin you up!” He smiled, proud of himself.

“God DAMN you, Bill, you son-of-a-bitch! I’ll shoot you myself you utter one more word!!” Lucas pulled a 9mm from behind him, stuck the barrel against his temple.

“Okay—okay—" Bill said, hands in the air in a mia culpa.

“So, you guys eighty-six Angus, I come along, a patsy, courtesy of Frank and you guys make a fortune with a cartel South of the border— then pretend your gold mine is losing money with a tax write-off?” I wanted to repeat it for posterity, make sure it was nice and clear on tape.

“Bingo! Cap’n Jack—ass!  Don’t bend over to pick up the soap!” He laughed in his hillbilly high pitch again.

“I won’t need a boyfriend, amigo, I’m sure Lauree will come for conjugal visits—”

He struck me with a left to the chops the second the words left my mouth. He went mad. Grabbed my shirt and threw me, chair and all, across the room. The chair and I separated. He came at me. Mad-dog look in his eyes. On my back, hands tied behind me. I lifted a foot, ready to kick. He grabbed a two by four on the table. Lifted it above his head to come down for the coup de gras.

“Bill! Stop!” Lucas said, holding the phone.

What followed was a moment I’ll never forget. It plays over in my dreams like a film on a loop.

He took another step, coming down with that piece of wood and a 7.62 caliber bullet ripped through the window and Bill’s head at the same time, back to front, taking off a good chunk of forehead, eye and cheek when it came out.

A siren came close outside. The door burst open seconds later and agent Mycroft, Agent Allen’s man, came in, gun drawn and pointed. First at me, then at Lucas who stood frozen in place. Lucas dropped his 9mm.

Mycroft assessed the situation.

Sure that Lucas and I were the only ones there, alive, he came in and let the door swing shut on its hinge, holstered his gun and cuffed Lucas with a zip-tie.

“You okay?” Mycroft said out of breath, then he sat Lucas in the chair he pulled out from the wall to the middle of the room.

“No, but thanks for asking.”

He cut my ties behind me, helped me to my feet and produced a hanky. I hadn’t the heart to ask if it had been used. So I let him dab my face, touching my swollen eye and bloody lips.

Sirens came closer.

“Sorry, I had to get enough on tape—,” he dabbed, “you did a damn good job getting it out of them. You’re a pro!”

“Thanks, it was easy when I found out what motivated him,” I nodded to raspy Bill, face down in a pool of blood and gore, becoming bigger every second.

Sirens pulled up outside, then stopped with a ‘whoop’.

The door burst open again, the local sheriff and deputy stood in the door jam, guns drawn.

“Rusty!” Lucas sounded relieved. His dirty Sheriff had arrived.

 Agent Mycroft faced the Sheriff, threw his hands up and announced he was a federal agent.

“I don’t give a god-damn who you are, agent. You’re under arrest for murder, or conspiracy to commit murder!”

An odd silence fell on the room, when normally the next step would have been to pat down Agent Mycroft, relieve him of his weapon and read him his rights. No one moved. It was as if Rusty and Barney Fife were contemplating getting themselves in any deeper and having second thoughts.

Just then, a metal bolt being slammed forward in its chamber made the Sheriff and deputy look behind them.

“Howzit bruddah, we have beef?” Henry’s way of asking, in pidgin, to politely put their hand-guns down unless they would like to argue about it. I tell you, his smooth voice was always a welcome sound at times like these. It never failed to calm me.

Another moment passed when no one said anything, or moved.

“I don’t miss, bruddah.” I could see 5 inches of steel barrel sticking through the door jam almost touching the back of the deputy. Something in Henry’s voice convinced the Sheriff and he nodded, the deputy lowered his weapon at the same time. When they were holstered, Mycroft moved.

He produced tie wraps and pulled the Deputy’s hands behind him while Henry kept the end of the barrel on them.

“You have some explaining to do,” Mycroft told the Sherriff and synched the tie-wrap with a loud zip. “You’ve been implicated in the murder of Angus Ingersoll.”

He glanced at Lucas who was setting in the chair in the middle of the room and Lucas looked away.

“Really—?” Sheriff said.

“Yes, I suggest you don’t say anything until your rights have been read Sheriff, there’s more agents on the way.” Mycroft led them over to the long table and sat both on the edge, so it looked like they were sitting on a tall chair. The Sheriff was big so his feet were flat on the floor. Not so for the deputy.

“Yeah—yeah, I know the drill.”

“Good, then I won’t have to repeat myself.” Mycroft read them their rights.

Soon, the room was full of agents in vests, medical personnel, a forensic unit. I saw one of the agents talking with Henry, taking notes on a pad with a pencil and afterwards he smiled and shook Henry’s hand. They looked chummy, like old friends.

My mind drifted as a pretty EMT dabbed my wounds, then thoughts of Karissa’s mother, Louisa clouded my mind.  I wondered how Karissa and Sam were doing at the boat, they were waiting for us.

And I imagined they’d be worried.




When Henry and I got back to the boat it was past midnight and they were waiting, sitting on deck with the fire pit between them, I could smell wood chips burning and saw flames dancing off their faces.

We climbed aboard and Karissa was on me like glue. Sam and Henry embraced.

“Daddy—Daddy, look at you! You’re a mess!” And I realized I must look horrible.

“I’m okay, its okay, hon—no don’t touch it—"

“Do we have to leave tonight?” She started, “Do we have to leave right now?” I felt her breath hitch and could feel her starting to panic.

“No, we can stay a while—and after that, we can go anywhere we want. It’s going to be okay.” She buried her face in my shirt. And I hugged her tight.

Sam and Henry came in close to the huddle, Henry grinning from ear to ear.

“What’re you so happy about?”

You—you alive, bra—", he slapped my shoulder “, and we rollin in it, bra,”

He produced a small cloth sack the size of a baseball. He pulled the rubber band off the top and opened it, spreading it open.

 “Fed-Agent, he bruddah Marine. He rememba, I kill two Taliban who pin down his platoon. He shake hands and slip in da pocket and say, ‘you lost sometin Henry?’”

We all stared at the shiny objects in disbelief. There were at least a dozen nuggets the size of raisins and two dozen more that were smaller. A small fortune in gold.

“He find in da desk, ya know, no one saw.” We stood mesmerized.

“Oh shit, what’re you going do with it, Henry?!” Karissa snapped out of her personal trauma.

“Karissa, language!” I said.

Henry shrugged, “Let’s get a mo’ betta boat, dis one a piece a shit.”

We laughed and pulled in the lines. And left that night.

Michael Stewart spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and held various
different jobs, including shoveling manure, working in an Animal Clinic, swamping in cherry orchards, driving a cab, digging ditches with a hand shovel. Currently he works in the high-tech industry in the Seattle, Washington area.

These are a few ways he's made a paycheck, but his passion is writing.

He's married to a wonderful woman who supports his writing: a nurse with years in the spotlight as a circus performer and fitness professional. Her son, Michael's stepson, has an adventurous spirit like his mother and is a mechanical engineer and captain on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea. He has two talented and beautiful daughters, one, with a  degree in psychology, the other graduating soon, with a degree in biology.

Michael is an animal lover and prolific daydreamer and believes the most important thing we can do in this life is to respect, if not love, others, tread lightly as we move through this life, making the biggest positive impact we can.

Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2019