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Christmas with Stanley-Fiction by Robert Kokan
Gravedigger Sunrise-Fiction by Zach Wilhide
Billy at One O'clock-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Christine's Tune-Fiction by Andrew J. Kolarik
Paid in Full-Fiction by Bill Baber
Is Today the Day?-Fiction by Thomas X. Cross
Dead Bodies Everywhere-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Murphy's Law-Fiction by Edward Ahern
The Ghost in the Factory-Fiction by Jeremiah Minihan
Communication Breakdown-Fiction by Joe Surkiewicz
So Long, and Thanks for All the Texts-Fiction by Jay Adair
Time-Share-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
It's Xmas and Maureen Feels Like Death Warmed Over-Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Uncle Andrew-Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
In a Nearby Church-Flash Fiction by Bethany Cody
What Happened after His Head Oozed-Flash Fiction by Michael Dioguardi
Prospero's Last Party-Flash Fiction by Jacqueline Doyle
Slick-Poem by David Spicer
Word Cruncher-Poem by David Spicer
The Life that Lives on Man-Poem by John Short
Pet Shop Story-Poem by John Short
dear tom-Poem by Meg Baird
the canvas-Poem by Meg Baird
A Killing-Poem by Ian C. Smith
Green Grass-Poem by Ian C. Smith
No Joke-Poem by Ian C. Smith
a soft landing-Poem by JJ Campbell
going through the motions-Poem by JJ Campbell
the shotgun still rests in the corner-Poem by JJ Campbell
an earthy affair-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
death loves the deep-space pirate-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
robotic mistress-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
A November Morning-Poem by John D. Robinson
Hard & Heavy-Poem by John D. Robinson
The Storm-Poem by John D. Robinson
The Earth Keeps Sabbath-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Obituary-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Rock Whisperings-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Longing-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by John Thompson 2020

Paid in Full

Bill Baber


Danny Spagnoli tears into a second slice of pepperoni. Grease oozes its way off his chin like molten lava sliding down the side of a volcano. I have taken one bite from my first slice, burning the hell out of the roof of my mouth in the process. Danny says because I’m Irish I can’t eat hot pizza, the way an Italian can.

It’s after nine on a Thursday night.  We’re the only ones in the joint, Springsteen’s on the juke, singing Atlantic City. Danny’s drinking a Moretti; I’m slowly sipping a Yuengling. It’s been two weeks since Danny killed Rob McEvoy and Sean Reilly. Danny works for Joey Merlino and whacking a couple of micks over a meth deal made him his bones.

We are in the neighborhood where we grew up near Logan Square. It’s been gentrified and it sure ain’t the same as it was. Used to be a tough neighborhood, tough but nice if you know what I mean. Everybody knew one another and the beat cop would give you a swift kick in the ass or drag you home by your ear if he caught you screwing around. That is unless he was on a stool in Oscar’s Tavern knocking back a shot of Bushmill’s. Now it’s a bunch of wimpy-looking hipsters with their craft cocktails. Nothing stays the same, except for this old pizza joint, the only change here is some of the songs on the juke box. It’s why me and Danny come here, reminds us of the old days.

  Danny and me were pals from the day we fought each other in third grade at Holy Redeemer to see who was at the top of the pecking order. Turns out it was neither of us. Sister Mary Agnes, who was the biggest nun I ever saw, pulled us apart and laid into us with a ruler and the square-toed black shoes she wore. After we absorbed that beating, she sent us to Father Brannigan’s office where he took a belt to our bare butts.

 Our first bust came when we robbed the candy store around the corner from the row houses where we lived.  Twelve years old, couple of career crooks in the making. We went to juvie together, just like we did everything in those days. Danny was sixteen when he got out and the day after beat the shit out of Father Brannigan. He always said dreaming of that day got him through four years of lock up. He also said the good father liked our butts bare. There were rumors about him. Danny fixed his ass good.

Not long after, we held up a bar in Devil’s Pocket. Turns out it was owned by Lefty Shannon who fronted the Irish mob in Philly. Only took a day for some of his guys to round us up and deliver us to Lefty. He tells us he ought to just whack us and dump our remains in the Schuylkill River. Instead, a couple of his goons knock us around for a while then Lefty surprises the hell out of us by offering us jobs. Says we’re either the dumbest crooks ever or we got balls bigger than the Liberty Bell. But he makes sure to let us know that someday we will have to repay the debt we owe him.

Lefty and his crew had just expanded into the meth trade and he hires us to make deliveries to the Warlocks and Hell’s Angels, two biker gangs that are his biggest customers. It’s easy money and for a year or two we have no issues. Then a strung-out Angel who goes by the name Hard Rock tries to shake us down. When Danny told him to fuck off, Hard Rock took offense and pulled a blade. So, I put a hole in his chest with a .38. That stops him in a hurry. Guess he wasn’t so hard after all.

The charge gets pled down to manslaughter and Danny and me end up in Pine Grove. That’s a maximum-security joint for youthful offenders. That place was a goddamn jungle. Took a year before the cons there learned not to mess with us and believe it or not, after that we both stacked our time and kept our noses clean.

When we got out after five years, Joey Merlino had been released after serving a jolt on a RICO beef and was back running the Italian mob. One of Danny’s cousins was a lieutenant and recruited Danny. I went back to work for Lefty Shannon. I didn’t see much of Danny. We would occasionally have a beer or go to Penn National to bet the ponies.

Danny got caught hijacking trucks and that earned him a nickel in Rockview. I busted up a crooked lawyer who was behind on payments he owed Lefty and got sent to Albion. Doing time without my old running mate was tough but I got by.

Soon as I got out, I hooked back up with Lefty, started doing hits for him.  A while later I heard Danny was back on the street, doing the same for Joey Merlino. We still got together occasionally, and it was always like old times—that is until Merlino tried to muscle in on the meth trade. When Danny took out two guys that worked for Shannon, I knew the shit would hit the fan.

Lefty called me the night before, reminded me of my debt to him.

Danny’s stuffing his face with pizza. I’m still picking at my first slice. Under the table, a .357 is pointed at his gut.  I pull the trigger until the gun is empty, my debt paid.

Hope Danny enjoyed his last pizza; he always said if he ever got the death penalty that would be his request for a last meal. Besides, all those years ago when we held up Lefty’s bar? That was all Danny’s idea. So, he only has himself to blame.

Bill Baber’s crime fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in numerous anthologies. His writing has earned Derringer Prize and best of the Net consideration. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play, was published by Berberis Press in 2011. He lives in Tucson with his wife and a spoiled dog and has been known to cross the border for a cold beer. He is working on his first novel.

John L. Thompson currently lives in New Mexico with his wife of twenty-five years. 
When he is not searching for lost remnants of the old west, he can be found working on several writing projects. Thompson is known to have worked as a truck driver, heavy line diesel mechanic, armored truck guard, corrections, body guard, and a host of other professions.
His true passion is writing, collecting vintage books and is the current cover artist for the Casca the Eternal Mercenary series.  His novel 'Truck Stop' is due out 2017-18 by Dusty Desert Press.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020