Black Petals Issue #100 Summer, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-Chris Friend
BP Artists and Illustrators
Baby, You're the Best: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Darkest Day:Fiction by Richard Brown
They Feed on Light:Fiction by Kilmo
Step Eight: Fiction by Paul Lubaczewski
Reunion:Fiction by Gene Lass
Highwayman's Trousers:Fiction by Michael W. Clark
The Dutiful Hit:Fiction by Jay Flynn
Flight of Fantasy: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
He Asked Me to Do It: Fiction by R. A. Cathcart
Lagniappe: Fiction by Michael Stoll
No Spark, No Flame: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Bathroom Light: Fiction by Craig Shay
Dave Jenkins, Flayed: Flash Fiction by Brian Barnett
Beauty Sleep: Flash Fiction by Simeon Care
Head Games: Flash Fiction by Philip Perry
Hurry Home: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
You'll See, She Said: Flash Fiction by Robb White
Captain Yeah-Way: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Attic Notes: Poem by Michael S. Love
Exit Strategy: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
You Can Pretend: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Gold Star: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Conflict of Interest: Poem by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Recording: Poem by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Litha: Poem by Christopher Friend
Sleeping Beauty: Poem by Christopher Friend
It Began with Violence: Poem by Donna Dallas
Rocking Zebra Déjà vu: Poem by Donna Dallas
Circle: Poem by Donna Dallas
Love is a Ghost: Poem by Donna Dallas
Together: Poem by A. N. Rose
Silence: Poem by A. N. Rose
Dead at 21: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
House Centipede: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen

Jay Flynn: The Dutiful Hit

Art by Hillary Lyon © 2022

The Dutiful Hit


Jay Flynn



     Grim was sat on a wooden chair in the corner of his cramped studio flat when the message popped up on his computer. With a 9mm pistol in one hand, and an oilcloth and cotton swab in the other, he paused for a moment and looked over towards his desk.

     Frowning at the screen, he debated to himself whether it was even worth getting up for. It was probably going to be the same old story, the same as all the other messages he’d received on the dark web over the last few weeks: fake enquiries from timewasters, or a message from some disgruntled plastic gangster who didn’t even have the correct funds to pay him. It was only now and again, about once every two or three months let’s say, that a genuine customer came along.

     Intuition told him otherwise, however, some inkling that came from nowhere, and so he put down his piece and walked over to the PC. The message read: Services required. Can pay cash. Reply if interested.

     After going back and forth with a few more messages, gauging the authenticity of the client, Grim eventually tapped in the address of a discreet meeting place along with a set of code words. This client seemed genuine, and it was just as well, because the money from his last job was beginning to run low.


*          *          *


     Grim was not a man suited for daylight hours; the daytime world rejected him and discarded him like unwanted trash. The scars along his temples and cheeks were unsettling to normal folk and family crowds, eliciting nervous or acrimonious reactions. His burly gait turned heads and drew curious stares, and for a man of his profession this was very bad news, even if he was only on an innocent trip to the convenience store. If people began to know his face that meant he would have to move to a new town yet again, find yet another apartment, and get caught up in the kind of hassle that he didn’t want. Anonymity was his friend; reclusiveness was his soulmate.

     And so, it was for this reason that he was making his way through a series of dark, sodden backroads to get to the agreed meeting point, with the collar of his long trench coat pulled up over his muscled, vein-ridden neck, along with a greasy ski hat pulled over the dome of his scalp.

     When he arrived at the spot, a splintered bench over the road from a park, any doubts that he may have been harbouring vanished. Somebody was there on the bench, a slumped figure with his hands on his lap, apparently waiting for him. It was a man, a withdrawn-looking man, weathered, subdued, staring down towards his feet with resigned, puppy dog eyes and a hollow expression.

     ‘Which way does the crow fly?’ asked Grim, as he planted his bulk down next to him.

     The man slowly turned his head towards him, grudgingly almost, as though this small act required every bit of effort he could muster. Then, in a timid voice, opening the thin crease of his mouth, he said, ‘Downwards.’

     Upon hearing this familiar word, Grim got down to business. ‘Who do you want removed?’

     ‘One person. Male, mid-fifties. Weirdo type. Lives alone in a large house.’

     The contract killing business had its own rules of etiquette, just like any other business, and it went against etiquette for a hitman to ask his customers why they wanted their chosen victim removed. It just wasn’t a question that was asked. That never stopped Grim from wondering, though, and on most occasions he could make an accurate, educated guess. If a woman came to him it usually meant a cheating husband was on the prowl, if a young thug came to him it often meant a drug dealer was selling on someone else’s turf, and if a well-dressed business man came to him it probably meant a rival tycoon was undercutting him. With this particular customer, however, things weren’t so clear.

     The word “weirdo” had been used, along with a description of a lone man in a large house. A paedophile, perhaps? thought Grim. An internet troll who’d gone too far? He didn’t know, and at the end of the day, when it really came down to it, it didn’t matter either. Whatever monster awaited him in this house couldn’t be anywhere near as bad as the monsters he’d dealt with during his military operations as a younger man, nor could it offer him any sights as gruesome as those he’d seen on the prison wings over the years. Fear was now an alien emotion to big old Grim, a relic, a vestigial part of a former self. A hit was a hit, a job was a job, and money was money.

     ‘Any special request?’

     He always asked this question out of courtesy, even though he was not always willing to carry them out. There was one time, for example, when an angry wife wanted him to cut off her husband’s testicles on film before killing him, then send her the recording afterwards. He’d politely refused, on the grounds of it being too kinky.

     ‘Just make sure he dies,’ said the man. ‘A shot directly to the head.’


     ‘He’ll be at home tomorrow night.’

     ‘You got the cash?’

     An envelope appeared in the man’s frail, claw-like hands, and he passed it over to Grim, along with a slip of paper with an address on it. Both were tucked away inside Grim’s thick coat, then, after a brief nod, he rose and disappeared into the night, his footsteps echoing along the misty street.


*          *          *


     The house was large, as described, and the following night, as Grim approached it, its brick walls and dusty windows seemed to stare down at him with hollow disdain. It was 1:00 am, the moon bright in the sky, and the only sounds to be heard came from the foxes and crickets in the surrounding fields. Using a specialised lock pick that he’d acquired during his army days, he gained entry into the house via a side door, creating minimal noise.

     The interior was quiet, musty, and illuminated only by the moonlight that seeped in through the ground floor windows. It was likely that the target was asleep in an upstairs bedroom, but he could take no chances. He diligently checked every room, starting with the kitchen.

     The kitchen was a mess, with plates, cups, beer cans, leftover food and cutlery all over the worktops. And medicine bottles—lots of medicine bottles. As well as blister packs and piles of crushed powder here and there. Rapist? thought Grim. It wouldn’t have been the first time, that’s for sure. Were these tablets rohypnol? Or some other kind of date rape drug? It was too dark to tell, but the suspicion was there.

     Shrugging it off, Grim ventured into the living room. It looked neater than the kitchen, classy and ornate even, but then a reflection drew his attention over towards a coffee table to his right. A scalpel blade sat there on the tabletop, glistening in the quiet blue moonlight, its steel tip menacingly sharp. Further assumptions and suspicions then bubbled up to the forefront of his mind, pictures of torture and mutilations at the hands of whatever sicko awaited him upstairs. Pulling out his gun, he took one last look around the ground floor before making for the stairs.

     That’s when he saw the mirror.

     He’d walked straight past it at first, this mirror in the hallway that connected the kitchen and living room. It was a thin, tall mirror, cased in a varnished wooden frame, and upon first glance, the glass looked dirty and smeared. As Grim stepped closer to it, however, it became apparent that the smear marks were in fact a series of scratches. Somebody had scratched words into the glass of the mirror, many words in neat lines, and the more Grim squinted at them the more they resembled a poem.

     ‘What the hell is this?’ he grunted, leaning in towards the etched sentences.


     It’s all lies

     The nice pleasant smiles

     Decorations that go on for miles

     It’s all a fake display

     A mask for the endless putrid decay


     ‘An angry fuck up,’ hissed Grim, looking around him, checking there was no one lurking in the shadows. When he was sure that he was alone, he read the rest of the poem.


     Nice clothes and hairstyles

     Shiny cars and cash stacked in piles

     Genuine, it is not

     A smokescreen for the fetid rot


     The glammy TV shows

     The neon lights with the fanciful glows

     A form of denial

     A clever ruse for the planet’s bile


     It’s all lies

     Darkness in disguise

     It’s all lies


     Thinking that he might have a hard done by, disillusioned school shooter on his hands, Grim puffed out his barrel chest, flexed his muscles, and headed for the staircase.

     He tried to be quiet and stealthy, but the wooden steps creaked under his immense weight. Nevertheless, there didn’t seem to be any other movement in the house as he reached the first floor. In fact, the entire first floor hallway was empty except for…

     ‘What?’ he whispered, peering into the semi distance.

     A large wooden contraption was positioned at the far end of the hallway, resembling a bench or a giant chair. Stepping closer to it, creeping, squinting through the dim light, he tried to ascertain what he was looking at. Up close, it didn’t look like a chair at all, or a bench. The wooden beams were too long, and the circular hole at the end made no sense. To Grim’s eyes, it actually looked more like a…guillotine.

     ‘It’s a fucking guillotine,’ he muttered, gazing up at a chunky slanted blade a couple of feet above his head. But it wasn’t a normal guillotine, not by any standards. It was homemade for a start, and instead of having a pulldown chain or rope to activate the blade, there was a pedal at one end of it.

     Home executions? Who the fuck am I dealing with here?

     Backing away from the device with a growing sense of horror, he methodically searched all of the rooms on the first floor, ready to fire off a shot at the first sign of company. There was no one to be found, though, and so he climbed the stairs again to the second floor.


     There were no contraptions to be found on the second floor hallway. Grim was instead greeted by two closed doors. He chose the one on the left, just on a whim, and opened it with his free hand. Despite the darkness, he could see that it was a bedroom straightaway due to a single bed in the corner, and the bed appeared to be empty. But…

     What the fuck is that?

     A thin, scrawny, dangling object was suspended above the bed, hanging there in the dark. Grim’s first thought was that it was a corpse, but if it was a corpse it was an extremely small one, and a strangely formed one at that. It hung from the ceiling like a black tendril in the musty moonlight, directly above the pillows on the bed, its main shaft drooping but rigid.

     Stepping closer, then closer still, Grim reached the edge of the bed. The tendril-like object was in fact a double barrel shotgun fixed to a metal bracket on the ceiling. A mechanical contraption was also screwed to the wall next to the bed, with a round dial that could’ve been a clock or a timer.

     A house of horrors.

     Grim had heard about places like this, but he’d never been in one before. The lair of a warped fiend, the chamber of a demented, perverted sadist. Faced with this obscenity, he wondered again what his customer’s grievance was. A murdered relative? A kidnapped daughter? It could’ve been anything. But still, he could see no bodies.


     After traipsing back out to the hallway, he neared the last room, the final room of the house to be inspected. The door handle went down with a light click, the door itself opened with a creak, and there, by a window a few feet away, a figure sat with their back to him, perched on a chair, staring silently out towards the cold night sky.

     Stay calm, old boy. You’ve done this plenty of times.

     The room might’ve been a study. There were a couple of bookshelves and a desk and what have you, but Grim focused all of his attention and energy on the person by the window. They were still, unflinching, unmoving, seemingly oblivious to his presence. They could’ve been asleep, of course, but something told Grim that that wasn’t the case. Not that it mattered, anyway, for he was about to blow this piece of filth to kingdom come.

     Holding the gun at arm’s length, cocked, loaded, he crept towards his target and readied himself. As soon as he was close enough, the first bullet in the chamber was going straight into the scumbag’s cranium. He was three feet away from them, then two feet, but just as he began to squeeze down on the trigger a flash of light filled the room, just for a second, as a random car passed by outside. It was fleeting, very swift, but just long enough to illuminate the weathered countenance of the person sitting in the chair.

     The puppy dog eyes, the thin crease of the mouth, the hollow expression—he recognized them all at once. Confusion then flooded Grim’s mind like a tidal wave, a million thoughts rattling his head as he tried to fathom what his customer was doing there. For a moment, he wondered whether the man was being held captive in the house, or whether he’d arrived there before him so that he could witness the hit. But no, this certainly wasn’t the case. One look at that face, those eyes, those desolate pits, told him everything he needed to know. One close look at that desperate form in the chair, and the entire job suddenly became lucid and clicked into place like a seamless jigsaw puzzle. It was as though the man’s thoughts, torment and anguish were etched into the worry lines of his skin, printed across the contours of his sunken features, and stamped across his crater-like sockets.

     Like a premonition, or a waking hallucination, Grim could suddenly see his customer’s life swirl in front of him. There was nothing supernatural about it, nothing ghostly, it was more akin to an epiphany or a moment of extreme insight or observation. Standing by the frail man’s side, still holding the gun towards his head, he could simply see the individual’s past woes and tormented experiences as though they were being projected from his being.

     Stood by the chair, momentarily glued on the spot, Grim could see it all…

     The lonely nights; the even lonelier days; the overthinking; the failures; the failure to even try; the hours spent in extreme melancholy listening to the sounds of life outside; the anger and despair at having been born; the afternoons sat in the stinking gloom, uncomfortable in the knowledge that the rest of the world was going about its business without him, oblivious to him; the cold knowledge that after his death the world would not even remember him; the dreams of all the people he could have been, had luck or circumstance been more generous; the creeping onset of aging and decay; the loss of loved ones; life after the loss of loved ones; mundane jobs with despicable bosses; sleepless nights with thoughts full of bullying work colleagues and unpaid bills; the disappointment present in his parents’ eyes whenever his past, present or future was discussed; the countless hangovers; the groggy Monday mornings putting on a brave face; the mask he wore for the world, and the lies he told to fit in; the suspicious looks on fair weather friends’ faces after reeling off lies about sexual conquests; the relentless march of time and the unwanted changes it brings; comforts taken away; familiar culture becoming unfamiliar; the younger generation stripping away all traces of relevance or appeal; the stupid little mistakes of the past that proved themselves to be indelible upon his life; the bucket list that would never be ticked off; the heroes he would never meet; the heroes he didn’t even have anymore; the things he should’ve said; the things he shouldn’t have said; the awkward moments caused by lack of charisma and confidence; the nagging feeling that he should’ve been trying harder; the incessant grey skies; the humdrum routines; the anger at life; the rage at life; the fantasies of sick, cold revenge that swirled inside him during the most morbid moments; the tablets and pills that he was too cowardly to swallow; the scalpel blade that he was too wimpish to draw across his wrists; the bespoke guillotine he’d spent months making but couldn’t quite bring himself to use; the elaborate mechanism screwed to the ceiling above his bed that was designed to blow his head off during his sleep, but had never fired a single shot due to the lack of bravado required to switch on the countdown timer…

     Grim witnessed all of this and more as he stared into the emaciated face of the man in the chair, the man who’d paid him cash to carry out the hit.

     Most hits left Grim with a sense of emptiness at best, or disgust at worst. But this hit was different. This time, after pressing the barrel of the gun against the man’s head and watching, feeling, the bullet obliterate the skin and the bone and the brain tissue, after all of this, he was left with a sense of fulfilled duty.

Jay Flynn:  James Flynn grew up in Kent, England.


His ultimate dream as an author is to cause a reader to be confined to a mental institution and sectioned under the mental health act after reading one of his stories, although he admits that this is a bit optimistic.


James's work has appeared in Black Petals Magazine, Yellow Mama Magazine, The Scare Room Podcast, Weird Mask Magazine, Sugar Spice Erotica Review and the short story anthology Local Haunts.

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Personal website:

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